('I' hereinunder = Peter Venkman) (See GBA#0 'Our Equipment' for notes)

As we rely on the general public for work, we try to avoid getting in the way of other people's desires; but from time to time we come across other people's tragedies, and sometimes clashes occur despite our precautions. In the disused fire station which is our base the phone rang. It was an upset-sounding man in Ticonderoga who said that his family had had a succession of poltergeist incidents in their house, objects thrown about, and so on, which had injured people, and finally their eldest son died when a table went flying and knocked his head against a wall. Then, while the body was lying-in at the house, the poltergeisting happened again, tearing up the wreaths and throwing the messages of condolence about. They had had enough of it, and they called us in.

When we got there, we put on helmets and riotshields and spectro-visors. "That last lot happened in this room. I left it as it was." the husband said, "Yes - you'll be needing that kit, the way it throws stuff about. Call me Robert if you want me in a hurry.". The ghosts were quiescent, but a PKE meter found them. I could imagine the words 'We've put up with it so far. The Ghostbusters cost.' being often said in arguments over what was to be done, until the last incident forced action at last.

"We've got a spare shield and helmet and spectro-visor, that's a device to see normally invisible ghosts with, for you, if you want to stay in with us. There are ghosts here: probably five class 4's. They're quiescent in the concrete slab under the floor down there." Egon said to the husband, "Sorry, but if these ghosts act like you say, we'll have to take out everything that's too heavy for our shields to stop, even that big table, before we start. And all valuable objects. Once we try to catch the ghosts, they'll be active.".

"Yes - including that big table." he said, and his eyes went wet.

We removed the table, and its chairs, and then picked up the coffin.

"No - let the dead rest - those ghost things wouldn't use ..." he started.

"Sorry, all heavy objects. I know poltergeists all too well." I said. We took the coffin also into their garage, and put what was left of the flowers and messages round it.

We opened ghost traps against the floor and switched them on. One of the ghosts vanished struggling inside with an almost audible "fwop!", but the others, aroused, dodged the traps and came into the room, where we saw them through our spectro-visors, like animated seaweed with eyes on the ends of some of the fronds. We had seen that sort of thing much too often to be noticeably disgusted, but the husband, seeing his old enemies for the first time, recoiled in shock. We were glad of our shields and helmets, for the four remaining ghosts threw a constant barrage of more objects than I would have thought possible to find in an ordinary suburban house. The house resounded to the ugly clattering of rioters' missiles against riotshields. A large bottle of champagne came flying at me. The husband pleaded "No! That bottle! It was a present that time from ...". I by now had some skill with a shield and deflected the bottle at a cushion to save it, but one of the ghosts re-deflected it at the hearth surround, where it splattered. As the ghost shook all its fronds in glee at its clever trick, Ray fired at it and held it in a cage of branching atomic particle tracks, but in the hail of missiles none of us could throw a trap out without dropping his shield or his gun. The beam hit the ghost from the start and did not burn anything in the room. Winston fired and held another ghost, but a third (unusually brave) ghost held a clock in the way of the beam. The clock melted and the beam hit the wall; Egon fired and again held the second ghost, and Winston held the third. The fourth ghost darted up and then down behind me, but while it was finding how to unfasten my proton pack straps Ray shot several of its fronds off: but he had had to leave the first ghost. After more of this we eventually despite their quick darting about each held one of the ghosts, and pulled them together until the cages of beam tracks round each ghost coalesced into one big cage.

"Come up to me and take one of my [ghost] traps, then do what I say!" Egon called frantically to the husband, who obeyed. The middle of action is not the best place to learn about unfamiliar equipment, but it had to be done. The trap fell a yard short and on its side. The husband frantically pulled the trap in and tried again, this time successfully. By now the ghosts had seen the trap and guessed its purpose, and struggled frantically to break the cage. When Egon pressed the edge of his shield on the trap's pedal the trap's suction field pulled at the ghosts, strained like an inshore patrol capture-sub which has scooped up too many unauthorized shellfish-poaching sport scuba divers at once and is trying to pump them into its storage tank, freed itself, and sucked the ghosts inside. Trailing ectoplasmic eyed fronds vanished behind the trap's lid as it closed with a final-sounding "tchyenn" noise and its red 'occupied' flashing light came on. The trap made a few electronic crackles. I felt the usual feeling of a job finished as I felt the troublesome five at last squirming in vain in traps clipped to my belt. But they still had to be got to our base; it was a long time after that that we finally made a ghost-destructor that could steadily work through our containment's contents and be towed to busts, ridding us of frantic rushes back to base with overfull traps and of expensive containment electricity bills, except for such ghosts as we need to keep.

We checked around, but there were no more ghosts there, and there have been no more there since. "It's OK, we won't charge you more than you want to pay, after what this and a bereavement have caused." I said. I had no sympathy for the five ghosts as individuals; like many ghosts they were blindly instinctive deformed ecto-copies of merely a part of the human mind, usually of one of the less useful parts.

The incidents there had attracted the press, and while we were inside the word went round. As we were packing our kit away and helping to tidy up, I heard cars arriving, and as we went out to the Ecto-1 at least a dozen newspaper reporters forced their way in, hard set on their stories and pictures like hounds after a fox and no thought for anything else. They were surprised to see us there, but carried on. They started firing endless questions at the household and at us. They ordered the family's children upstairs out of the way. They argued and fought for first access. Those left to wait went into the kitchen and took food. The couple stammered incoherently under the interrogation and were obviously in distress. Some of them came at me and asked me "how I felt", and I said so, truthfully and not politely.

"Clear off, and then come one at a time and not until they want you in!" I said, "How do they feel? Distressed, obviously, plus you barging in like this. Get out!".

"Where's the table that was involved?" a reporter asked.

More of this followed.

"Please get that lot out of here." the wife pleaded desperately at Ray among the din, and poked at his gun as if telling him to use it.

"Wuwway [= Mummy]! They've taken my drawing book and they're tearing it up." a child's voice said pathetically from the stairs, and started crying.

"Back to your room now! We need it. Mummy's busy." a man's voice, not the husband, replied quickly and roughly.

This was enough. I said a codeword usually used as an order to forcibly break up a black magic ceremony that we may come across, and another codeword.

Winston pushed into the hall and saw a man dictating a long news message into the house's phone and referring to notes scrawled on a page torn from a child's drawing book. He wore a lapel press badge of a Los Angeles newspaper. That is a very long way from Ticonderoga, and a lot more when multiplied by all the reporters there. For us at least, other people's food and phone bills are not fair game. Winston prodded him on the left funnybone with the muzzle of his proton gun, which he, like the rest of us, had set to electric prod mode. The reporter yowled and clutched the arm with his other hand, dropping the receiver, which Winston grabbed and shouted "Goodbye." into and slammed down.

"No, please, boss said this story or my job." the reporter pleaded.

"I don't care, bozo. Get out and leave people alone." said Winston, opened the front door, and with two more proddings pushed the reporter out.

Meanwhile the other three of us formed up around the couple and in the same way systematically cleared the house. The reporters started to accuse us.

"We give you four a lot of good free publicity, then you electric prod us out like cattle." said one.

"We aren't ghosts! You aren't the cops!" said another.

"Poltergeisting, a death, more poltergeisting of a very 'sick' type, and then all you ghouls push in shouting at them pinching things!" I replied, "They obviously wanted to be left alone or proper sympathy! Next time one at a time and knock the door and wait, and accept that the first 'no' means 'no'! And shift those two cars that are blocking the Ecto-1 in, before we shove them aside. And don't call us 'proton gunpoint terror etc', or we'll sue for libel like we've had to before. You're the terror here, barging in in a horde.".

The drivers of the two cars saw the Ecto-1's reinforced front and rear ends, and obeyed promptly. Next door's dog barked at something. Egon went out back, setting his PKE meter to 'detect living brain' mode. It read something over the garden wall that side. A camera and the fingers of two hands appeared over the wall. He quickly unslung his proton gun, changed mode, aimed, and incinerated the camera. The owner of the fingers saw the flash, wondered what had happened, blamed his camera's electronics, and went back to the rest of the reporters.

Police came, as was to be expected.

"Arrest these four, concerted assault with electric prods ... freedom of the press ... we're not ghosts ..." some of the reporters demanded angrily.

"No!" I exclaimed, and quickly said what had happened, "Barging in all at once and questioning him and her hard nonstop like the KGB. They did the assaulting first. Arrest them for riot. We used what force was necessary to clear then out: the household here asked us to clear them out.".

"No, they didn't, and they let us in." a reporter said.

"The wife here asked me to get them out. They pushed in when we opened the door to leave after we'd finished here." said Ray.

"We've had the same round our station, and at incidents, $%& press." said the police sergeant.

"We've got jobs to do, same as you and those &%$ 'Busters have." a reporter said, "Electric prodded me on the elbow, my arm's still half numb.".

"He was phoning Los Angeles on their phone bill, and all the rest were going to and no idea of paying for it. And pinching their food. And they took his small daughter's drawing book and tore it up for scratch paper and made her cry. Some people call that 'stealing'. The household hadn't done anything against the law or against any group that I know of. Only had a lot of poltergeist trouble and a death in the family." Winston countered.

"And we call it 'harassment and obstruction'" said the sergeant, and then to the reporters: "Right. Drop all your films and tapes and notebooks, and find $100 between you to give to them [= the household] for what you've spoilt and used. Then %$& off and leave them alone.". The reporters had to obey.

"Don't bother charging them. The publicity'd only get the press yet another bad name." a reporter said, "If I never went after people, I'd get nothing off them. If I ask the 'Busters, all I get is a terse little report copied out of their files with no story appeal, or brushed off by that flippant redhead Janine Melnitz of theirs. My boss said this story properly with pictures, or my job.".

"That's between you and your boss and your union. Leave people alone." said the sergeant, and looked to see how far his men had got in ticketing the reporters' cars for obstructive parking. The reporters left, complaining. We helped the couple to tidy up. We put the coffin back in their back room, and bought replacement wreaths for it. Back at base the squirming trapful of ghosts was pumped into our containment, and I faxed our version of events to some major newspapers and news agencies. The event caused a public media controversy about the freedom of the press versus people's rights to privacy. Life went on.

Next job for me to do when we got back was yet another tedious bit of office work: writing to a firm whose advertizing brochure had been sent on to me. "to: The Manager, ..." I typed, "Dear Sir, ... your brochure still says 'Our new range of 'Proton Pack'-type backpack petrol-driven generators to run power tools off ... versatility ... up ladders ...', etc: the name 'Proton Pack' is a registered trade name of a type of equipment that we make for our own use, and is certainly not intended for use as a generic for every sort of industrial device that runs off a backpack. I admit that our popularity has caused words associated with us to be used by workmen as slang for other things; but that does not justify sanctifying in print these inaccurate usages. Also, this sort of usage, sometimes in spoken slang and sometimes on paper, of the name 'Proton Pack' has already caused us to be unfairly blamed for damage and injury caused by various devices not made or supplied by us. It should also be noted that our Proton Packs are not internal combustion powered ...". I signed it, got Louis Tully (a lawyer who I know) to countersign it to give it more apparent weight, and mailed it. I wondered what to do about a health food maker who was calling a product of his a 'protein pack': I get tired of such silly perversions of our name and of the names of our kit.

Later that month the phone rang when Janine was out shopping in her lunch break, so I answered. A Mr.Stephen Jamieson was on the line, and described what sounded like a routine voices and noises haunting, except that it was from an address which we had had four calls from before and every time found nothing after thorough search. Now, after a thankful interval of silence from him, he had rung us again. I rang the 'call to action' bell. Egon left a fungus experiment. Winston dropped a baseball book. The two slid down the firemen's pole to where Ray was crawling out from under the Ecto-1 (the converted Cadillac ambulance that we use), luckily just before he could start dismantling its rear axle assembly.

I said where we were going and what for, and then to Ray: "When are you going to get a proper right rear halfshaft instead of that ecto-metal thing that it's been running on for the last seven weeks? Ghost-world matter's funny stuff at the best of times, and it means that we've got to be careful when running a ghost-trap near the Ecto-1 until it's back to being all normal matter again.".

"When I get the time to find a good one scrap. The dealers want a fortune for a new one." he replied, "The old one sounded funny when I tapped it with a hammer, and I found that it was cracking across. I was hoping for at least enough time to see how the Enampa that I put on its ends is holding out. It was a bit of the Nekkdasgeddon scrap {GBA#0} that was just right as a replacement, when I'd shortened it and machined it down. Do we need to go? That Stephen Jamieson's flat in Queens [a suburb of New York] is getting like a second home for us, and we've never been paid for his calls so far.".

"We better. Always a chance it's a free-roamer that keeps skipping off when it sees us coming." I said.

We reached the place with less traffic delay than usual. Stephen Jamieson's uncle Robert met us outside the block of flats. "Oh, it's you again." he said, "Sorry, I had to go out to buy food and he got to a phone. He imagines things. I'm sorry you've been troubled again. Next door was on rota to watch him, but he got flu, or so he said, and my brother that I called off a scubadiving holiday to fill in said 'yes, he'd fill in' to shut me up but went on his holiday anyway and I'm left alone with Stephen ...".

I listened for a while to the tedious details of trying to nurse an apparently insane relative at home, then a neighbour of Stephen's interrupted: "It's time he was put away. This is the Ghostbusters 5 times, and the cops 7 times, and those private detectives 4 times, and there's never anything there. You start paying them for their time, keeping on harbouring him shouting the place down half the night. Those people that you rope in on your rota as unpaid asylum attendants have their own lives to lead. He belongs in Bellevue [a mental hospital]. So your brother went on his holiday anyway: good for him!".

"I couldn't help it." Robert pleaded, "I ran out of food and had to buy more. People keep making excuses. I'll %$& that brother of mine playing at frogmen and expecting Stephen to be put away among strangers 'out of sight, out of mind' instead of looking after his own.".

"If Stephen is like you say, sorry but this is not the place to keep him." I said, "Like he said, they have their own lives to lead. In proper hospitals they can give him better treatment. Never mind trying to keep saddling people with jobs that there are proper public services for.".

The neighbour, handing me some opened letters, said: "Look at these! Stuff that Stephen wrote to people and the postman brought them back as 'no such address' and I got them out of Robert's dustbin. Letters to TOXIC and UNCLE and BADGE and umpteen other imaginary bodies of that sort out of comics and stories; and @#& knows how many he's written to real ones like the CIA and the FBI.".

"Oh has he been ringing different people?" said Winston angrily, "The cops also are busy and don't want their time wasting. Last time he called us, we got another call when we were here all this distance the wrong side of our base and we got stuck in the rush hour getting across.".

I took some details down and handed Robert a bill for our time.

"Not guilty." he said angrily, "Charge it to that AWOL brother of mine and his diving club. Stephen can't help it, and anyway he's still out somewhere.".

"No. People have their own lives to lead. So have we. We better get back before we get caught in the rush hour again." I said.

As we drove away, Egon saw Stephen in a phone box on a corner. We surrounded it. He was frantically arguing with Directory Enquiries trying to find TOXIC's phone number while fending off something invisible. My spectro-goggles and Egon's PKE meter showed absolutely nothing. We switched on cassette recorders that we had inside our uniforms, to record what happened in case of any accusations or lawsuits.

"If you mean the 'Terribly Outrageous eXtravagant Idiotic and Costly', too late! A toxic chemical waste destructor firm came and took them all away!" Ray wisecracked into the phone box.

"Oh no! Another one shut down! Is there help anywhere?" Stephen howled, and ran out, gabbling a mixture of bits of sentences that included pleas for help against ghosts which he said were attacking him right then.

I know well how to humour the deluded to keep them quiet, but I had lost patience with his false-alarm calls. "There - is - no - ghost - here." I said, pointing to our instruments, which still all read zero.

"I knew it! You send the ghosts and deny it! You're in league with 'Them'!" he said, and with a loud snarl like an angry dog jumped at me holding a long kitchen knife, which I at once shot out of his hand. Our target accuracy with proton guns has greatly improved since our first ever ghost bust when we all too destructively caught Slimer in the Sedgewick Hotel {GBF1}. Egon and Winston kept far enough away from him to avoid judo throws and threw a weighted net over him. When he tripped over the net, we fell on top of him and I handcuffed him. We took several weapons out of his pockets and slung him in the Ecto-1 and roared away towards Bellevue, ringing them and the abovementioned police station and detectives on the Ecto-1's car phone. It felt strange having to organize a real 'conspiracy' against a paranoid schizophrenic who already had a complicated imaginary conspiracy to keep track of.

In Bellevue, a Dr.Harlinger met us. I recognized him from before and knew that he did not believe in ghosts or like our activities. He led us into a room, and had Stephen carried in. Robert, who had followed in his car, ran in after us. Egon stayed with the attendants that came, to ensure that we got our net and handcuffs back, as the cost of that sort of small item repeatedly lost adds up. We settled down. Stephen was interviewed in another room.

"You said over the phone that there's a conspiracy to have him put away. Tell me about it." Dr.Harlinger said to me.

I remembered making some such annoyed quip over the car phone. Irritated by the words 'Tell me about ...' as if I was a patient, I replied: "Yes, there's a conspiracy. Who's in it? Me, because he's wasted our time 5 times on unpaid wild goose chases to get his delusions taken away. I've humoured him and his uncle long enough. The local police station, because he's wasted their time 9 times. A private detective firm down the road from him, because he's wasted their time 4 times and they've never been paid for it. If you don't believe them, ring them. Several of his neighbours, because they're sick of him pestering people and keeping them awake at night shouting arguing with his head voices. Unless that uncle of his keeps him properly confined soundproof away from a phone, this'll keep on happening. I'm sick of schizos wasting our time and we don't get paid. We've been over him and his flat and the block with a toothcomb with all our instruments and there's no ghost there! He keeps writing silly letters, I've got a bunch of them here that the postman brought back. He's got no shrapnel in his brain: I once heard of a case of that acting as a radio receiver. We can't simply ignore calls from him: like the cops etc we have a rule to answer all calls, like one day soon after the {GBF1} Gozer affair we had {GBM1:WD} three false alarms in a row in one day, but the next call was genuine. I excuse genuine mistakes, and insanity can't be helped; but keeping an insane man about to the public nuisance isn't necessary. Stephen Jamieson belong here.".

Dr.Harlinger telephoned another room. "We've been interviewing Stephen Jamieson," he said, "and he seems quite sane, although naturally angry. Tell me more about why you think he's insane.".

"Oh, he's managed to pull himself together for long enough to get let out of here again, has he?, what you call a 'lucid period'. Well, see how he explains this!" I said, opened my uniform to show the cassette recorder, and started to play it back.

"OK, OK." Dr.Harlinger said tiredly, "You mean there's a conspiracy against me, to saddle us back with him after I thought I'd safely offloaded him onto a willing relative. He's been in here before. He has lucid periods and bad periods. I thought his condition was under control. It seems he's not been bothering to take his tablets [here, a 'major tranquillizer']: schizos do that sometimes. But tell me more of your plan to reform society.".

"Erh??" I said, wondering what on earth subject he had suddenly changed to.

"Like your plans on controlling journalists." he said.

I realized now what incident he was referring to. "Look." I said, "I've got no such plans, I've never mentioned any such plans, and if I did I'd have neither the time nor the means to carry them out. Despite whatever stray remarks I may have made in moments of annoyance. We've got our own work to do without wasting time telling everybody else what to do also. Before you or anyone else accuses us of any more signs of insanity, let us see the actual witnesses and let us defend ourselves and cross-examine them like in a proper law court. OK, so in the incident that you're probably referring to, and a few other times, in the heat of the moment I spoke my mind, as anyone's entitled to. If you must know," I said, and described the Ticonderoga poltergeist job. "I'd have thought that you'd have agreed with me what reporters are like, the amount of bad press publicity mental hospitals get sometimes. What'd you have done if you'd had the same happen here, if you didn't have your walls and bars and guards to keep such pests out?" I added.

"All right, reporters can go too far sometimes. But you mentioned ghosts. Tell me about ghosts." he said.

He was still treating me more than half like a patient. This time I had easier proof than was needed to convince Judge Wexler who tried us during the Vigo affair {GBF2}, when his too-furious diatribe against us in the presence of a jarful of very ecto-active ghost-slime created two dangerous ghosts on the spot and left him to be a frightened unintended witness of a spectacular ghost bust in his courtroom. I took out of a kitbag what looked like two docker's hooks; except for their handles, they glowed oddly. As I moved them about, their handles behaved normally, but their metal parts and his table went through each other without damaging each other. "One of us made these to handle ghost-objects with." I said.

"You don't fool me with a holograph. I've seen holographs." he said.

"You can't see a holograph image unless your eye's in a beam that's been through something transparent that the holograph's stored in. A lot of science fiction authors make that mistake. Try this." I said. I held the hooks hooked through each other, and pulled at the handles. The hooks held each other and did not pass through each other as they had passed through the table before.

"Have you come merely to show me an illusion show?" he said annoyedly.

In reply I offered him the handle of one of the hooks, keeping the two hooked in each other. He pulled against me with it, and the hooks held and behaved to each other like ordinary metal. Then I put my other hand without resistance and without harm through the hooks; but his pull against me held. He looked puzzled, then scared, then dropped the hook in alarm, muttering bits of Latin exorcism. The hook still dangled from my hook. Such was his first experience of ecto-metal or of any sort of ghost matter. He hurriedly dropped that line of investigation and merely asked me more about Stephen Jamieson.

I told him what I knew, and Ray, who had come in looking for me said: "Oh, here you are. Do you let any of the patients ride bicycles round the grounds?".

"We do sometimes. Where does that come into it?" Dr.Harlinger said.

"Then you've got a psychopathic cycle path." said Ray, ever one for jokes.

Dr.Harlinger made an irritated noise and said "All right, all right, we'll admit Stephen Jamieson again. You four can go.".

Robert was not pleased, but his neighbours were thankful. We went back to base.

(The reinterpretation of the initials 'TOXIC' is from GBN#25:8.1)
(Judge Wexler was Judge Beane in the book & comic versions of {GBF2})