Some get a thrill in a plane:
Flying too high with some guy in the sky is my idea of nothing to do,
But I get a kick out of you."I Get A Kick" by Cole Porter
Make someone happy, make just one someone happy,
And you will be happy, too."Make Someone Happy" by Betty Camden & Adolph Green
"It may have escaped your notice, Dr. V, but you're probably bleeding to death under that wall."
"No, actually, Janine, I had noticed that."
"Then stay quiet," I ordered him. Not that I figured he would. It wasn't really that he was just an obnoxious jerk with problems with authoritynot entirelyit was that he was whistling in the dark. Dr. Vand I knew a lot more about him than he thoughtwas prone to using sarcasm like a deadly weapon when he was scared. And he had to be really, really scared right now. But still, he needed to stay quiet.
See, it really started when Egon left for MIT. There was a physics conference up there, and he was personally invited by an old friend of his from his grad student days, Michaela Gundersen, to come and participate in a panel and a seminar. These invitations didn't come along as often as they should havesomething about being a founding partner of Ghostbusters. I told Egon once they should have called themselves some alphabet soup like ORPKEE (Organization for the Removal of Psycho-Kinetic and Ectoplasmic Entities). It would have sounded classier. His lips had twitched as he contemplated Dr. V wrapping his tongue around that four or five times a day. But the point was, Egon was excited about this conference, and about seeing Michaela Gundersen again, and the chance to poke around in some of MIT's facilities wasn't exactly chopped liver, either.
I knew Egon had almost gone to MIT; it was where his father had wanted him to go. He'd chosen Columbia for its parapsychology department (MIT, being thoroughly hardcore, wouldn't have dreamed of such a thing), and I wondered what all our lives would have been like if he'd gone there.
Rationally speaking, I guess we'd all be dead. Gozer, I mean. But I wondered if he'd have met someone who wasn't as messed-up as Dr. V, and been settled and happy in Boston, which was kind of a liberal town in a lot of ways. Not that I'd want to live there, myself. But Egon was from Ohio, for God's sake. Even Boston had to look like civilization after Ohio. And maybe I'd have settled for some nice guy. Like Danny. Or Nathan... nah. Ma liked Nathan way too much.
But if ifs and buts were candies and nuts we'd all have a merry Christmas Ma used to say, and of all sad words of tongue and pen the saddest are, it might have been. I mean, if I was thinking if only, I could sit around all day and never get anything done. If only isn't my style.
Sounds good anyway.
Ray was all excited for Egon. I guess engineers aren't quite as picky as physicists. Ray told me once that engineers really only care if what you're doing works, not if it makes sense. I told him, sure, why else would anybody build the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge? He laughed for ten minutes. But Dr. Vmy God, that man grumped around for three days about Egon going to MIT for a whole week.
After Egon left.
Which means we had to put up with his bad temper. And the one thing we really need when Dr. V goes into his Egon's-got-no-business-to-go-away tantrums is Egon, 'cause Egon is the only one who can make Dr. V shape up when he's really in a funk.
But of course Egon wasn't here (if he had been he wouldn't have had to be), so Dr. V just grumped and groused, and eventually Winston decided to spend a long weekend at a vintage car show out on the Island just to get away from him. Ray didn't go quite that far, but he did get up real early Friday and go to Bayonne for the day. There was a convention there, BayConne, and Ray thought he might be able to find some of his earlier Captain Steels in better condition.
So it was just me and Dr. V. Of course, Dr. V could have decided to close down and give me the day off, but instead he decided to show Ray and Winston how wrong they were about him. He decreed that today, he and I would go through all the outstanding invoices and figure out what to do about the people who weren't showing any signs of paying. Dr. V's always wanted to figure out a way to segregate the containment unit so ghosts don't get dumped in the main section until the check clears, so he could put them back if the clients don't pay. I suggested a good lawyer is scarier than most ghosts. That led to a long discussion about the relative terror factor in trial lawyers and class fives... which actually put him into a good mood, especially when we branched out into college administrators and government bureaucrats.
Which is when the phone rang.
"Ghostbusters, we're ready to believe you," I said. The voice on the other end told me about his problemsounded like a simple fixed repeaterand I told him, "I'm sorry but they're booked solid for today. Tomorrow at Saturday rates, or I could see what we have on Monday?"
Monday was fine with him, so I put him on hold while I went to get the schedule book. But when I picked up the other line, I found Dr. V setting up to go do the bust that afternoon. "Have you lost your mind?" I demanded as soon as he hung up the phone.
He looked very satisfied with himself. "Ah, this is a nothing bust, Janine," he said. "I can handle it with one hand tied behind my back." I must have looked very skeptical, because he elaborated: "Tossing out the trap only takes one hand."
"Using the proton pack takes two," I pointed out.
"Ah, Janine," he said, "I'm telling you this is the kind that just drifts back and forth. It'll go right on top of the trap all by itself. Thing's been there for years, decades even, never hurt anyone, but the new tenant wants it gone."
"That's hardly necessary," he protested.
"If you think I intend to explain to Ray or Winston how you went off by yourself," I said. "Not to mention Egon."
"No explanations will be needed," he said.
We faced off for a few minutes. But I was right and he knew it, so he backed down. In true Venkman fashion. "Okay, you can drive then. It's up in Hamilton Heights."
Which meant he was going to sleep for the hour it would take us to get up there this time of day. Well, it was better than hoping he hadn't underestimated the ghost and having to call Egon in Boston.
I found a place to park a block away, near City College. I'd taken Dr. V's word so far that I hadn't changed into a jumpsuit, partly because I figured he'd make me carry the proton pack if I had, so I'd feel included. This way, I carried the trap. The house was one of those nice old 1890s Gothics on Convent Avenue, certainly old enough to have had a ghost for decades.
It was too bad, really.
There was a guy out on the little piece of lawn. He made straight for Dr. V, hand held out and salesman's smile plastered on his face. Two of a kind. They did the little 'what can you do for me' dance and I looked at the house. It was the kind of place I'd like to live, someday, though not necessarily in Hamilton Heights. Some days, anyway. Others, I wanted a penthouse apartment Midtown with a view that wasn't Jersey.
"Okay, Janine," Dr. V said. "Mr. Holston here says the spook's in the basement. If you're coming, come on. Intern," he tossed over his shoulder at the real estate agent.
I didn't bother to say anything, just followed him.
On the way up, while he was sleeping, I'd decided the best thing would be if he was right about the ghost. Sure, it would be nice if he needed my help, but in the long term it would be better if he was still in a good mood when Ray came back that evening. So I was relieved to see this shadowy dog-shaped thing just pacing back and forth along one of the walls in the half-finished basement. It didn't seem to notice us at all, just moved six feet up and then turned around and moved six feet back. I couldn't help but wonder why: was it really a ghost dog? was its master buried down here?
Dr. V watched it pace back and forth a few times. Although his self-preservation instinct was as strong as anybody else's, he could be reckless as hell if it meant he was getting between the other guys and, well, anything. It was really one of his attractive qualities, even if it did drive Egon up a wall. When it wasn't driving him to despair, since it often ended with Dr. V in the hospital... But he took care of himself just fine when the guys weren't around, as long as he wasn't trying to prove something. Right now, I could tell I hadn't needed to come. If it had been more than he could handle, he'd've backed away from it.
He put the proton pack, which he'd been carrying by its straps, down on the floor and held out his hand. "Give me the trap, Janine."
While he tossed it lightly at the near end of the ghost's circuitif it had been real, it would have worn a rut into the basement floor by now, I guessedI walked over to the picture hanging on the far wall. It was the only thing down here, and I was curious. It was one of those old samplers, not finished, its crooked stitches somehow very sad. I wondered why it was down here.
"Watch your eyes, Janine," Dr. V was ready to trap the ghost. For some reason, I didn't want to watch, so I kept my eyes on the glassed-in sampler. I heard him step on the trigger, heard the trap open
My head hurt. Someone was calling me, over and over again. God, did I have too much to drink last night, or what? I opened my eyes and realized I was passed out on somebody's floor. Must have been some party...
Wait a minute. That was Dr. V's voice. I definitely did not party with him. And he sounded stressed. Worried. I sat up, which didn't help my headache, and felt around for my glasses. I put my hand on a broken picture frame... the sampler. Suddenly the whole day came back to me, right up to Dr. V opening the trap.
I scrambled to my feet, ignoring the headacheI've had worseand looked for him. The basement was a shambles. It had been divided into a couple of rooms; now it was just one big room. The interior wall had come down in a couple of big slabs, and several chunks of ceiling had come down, too. One of them had just missed me as far as I could tell. Dr. V hadn't been so lucky. He'd been right beside the wall. Now he was right under it.
"Dr. V?" I ran over to him. He looked very bad, pale and with bits of masonry and cement in his hair and a trickle, no, a stream of blood from a scalp cut. His green eyes, usually bright and lively, were dark and dull with pain. I couldn't see much more of him than his head, neck, and one shoulder. "Not having a good day?" I asked gently.
"Gee, Janine, what was your first clue?" He sounded normal, anyway.
"Are you all right?"
"Not really," he answered. "You?"
"I'm fine," I said automatically. "What the hell happened?"
"It wasn't my fault," he said as automatically. Ray used to tease Dr. V that he should sue George Lucas for copyright infringement over that phrase. He swallowed and added, calmly, "The ghost was already in the trap. I think a gas main blew."
Oh, God. I started sniffing, but I didn't smell any gas. So we probably weren't in imminent danger of blowing up, again, or going up in a fireball.
"Either that, or a bomb," he added. "You were unconscious for a while, that's why you don't remember the actual explosion."
"Well, whatever, it can wait," I said. "Will you be okay while I get help?"
He swallowed again. "Sure."
I patted his visible shoulder gently, stood up, and headed for the stairs at a brisk trot. Whatever he said, he didn't look like he could wait a long time. Lord only knew what that wall had broken when it landed on him.
The stairs weren't there anymore. That whole section of the basement had sort of collapsed on itself. I couldn't see any daylight through the chunks of house at all. I wasted a minute wishing Slimer had tagged along.
"We have a small problem," I told Dr. V.
"Can't get out?"
"Nope," I said. "Let me see if I can shift you."
"That's probably not a good idea," he said reluctantly.
I stared at him a minute, and then bent down and peered under the wall along his body. His light-colored jumpsuit was dark all along the side and front for as far as I could see in the shadows. I slid my hand in, as carefully as I could. He hissed in pain. "Sorry," I apologized and pulled my hand out. It was covered in blood.
Our eyes met. This is gonna kill Egon. I straightened up. The hell it is. "I'm gonna get you out of here, Dr. V," I said firmly. "You just sit tight."
"Like I have a choice? Janine, keep looking around. There might be a way for you to get out."
"Nope," I said as cheerfully as I could. "I think I need to get you out from under there. I don't smell any gas, so I'm okay."
"Janine, for once in your life will you just do what you're told? Find a way to get out of here. There's no need for both of us to"
"It may have escaped your notice, Dr. V, but you're probably bleeding to death under that wall."
"No, actually, Janine, I had noticed that."
"Then stay quiet," I ordered him. "Don't make it worse."
He mumbled something, but I ignored him and pulled experimentally on the edge of the wall. That wasn't going to work. Silence fell for a minute, and I heard his breathing, shallow and hitched with pain. I almost started stroking his hair, but then I realized that the more I fussed and worried over him, the worse he'd know it was, since I never, but never, did that sort of thing. Over him, anyway. Over Ray, sure, but the whole world fussed and worried over Ray. And Winston just never seemed to need it.
And Egon...well, Egon and I had our own dynamic, as psychiatrists like to say. It wasn't exactly the healthiest thing in the world, but we made it work.
But Dr. V? I'd never fussed over him except when he was in the Critical Care Unit, which happened a bit more often than anybody who was even just passingly fond of him could like. And even though he annoyed the hell out of me most of the time, I was more than just a little bit fond of him.
Not that that was anything I wanted to get out. After all, I have my reputation to think of.
Just like he does...
Something about that thought nagged at me. But I didn't have time to pursue it. He was probably bleeding to death under there, and I couldn't do a damned thing about it as long as he was under there. So, my job was pretty simple: get him out.
I just wasn't sure how to do it.
And then I spotted a long, heavy piece of pipe lying near the opposite wall. Who knows what it was there for, bathroom remodeling probably. But if I could wedge it under the slab of wall on top of Dr. V, and then find something to use as a, what-did-you-call-it, fulcrum, maybe I could lift the wall enough to get him out from under it.
I dragged it over and pushed it against the slab. It didn't quite fit. Okay, so I was going to have to work at it. Nothing worth having is easy to get, right, Ma?
"Janine," he said after a minute. "That's never going to work."
"Have you got a better idea?" There was no way to keep him from talking, short of gagging him, so I gave up on the idea. Besides, as long he was talking, he was conscious. I just kept pushing and shoving the pipe at the slab of wall on top of him.
"I do," he said. "Get over to the stairs and start trying to dig your way out."
"Are you sure you didn't get a concussion, Dr. V?" I asked. "Because you're talking like a crazy man, here."
"Janine," he said in ultra-patient tones. "Put that damned thing down and listen to me. You can't stay here. If it's a gas leak, the whole house could go up. Even if it wasn't, the whole house could come down at any minute. If you stay here, you could die."
"I'm not leaving you," I said. "Egon would never forgive me."
There was a short silence, during which I felt the pipe take a small nick out of the wall.
"What's the matter with you, anyway, Janine?" he asked.
"How graciously put," I responded. "And what do you mean, anyway?"
"I've known Egon Spengler for fifteen years," he said. "He's a compulsive note-maker. I'm not saying that he doesn't think things are true unless they're written down, but I will say that he doesn't remember them if he didn't read them somewhere, even in his own handwriting."
"You have a point in there somewhere?" I said, feeling a moment of triumph as I managed to get the end of the pipe under the masonry.
"Yeah," he said. "If you and Egon had a date, it would be in his calendar. And it never is."
I paused a moment to look at him. His green eyes were even darker. I'd thought it was pain, but now I wasn't sure. Geeze, if this was going where I thought it might, I really had to save his sorry butt. But I didn't let up on him. "You read his calendar?"
"He's my friend," he answered. "Friends watch out for each other."
"Friends don't run each other's lives, though, Dr. V," I said, shoving as hard as I could. The pipe was well and truly under there. Now, all I needed was a fulcrum and a place to stand... I almost giggled. Get a hold of yourself, Melnitz, I ordered myself, and started looking for a good-sized piece of ceiling. There had to be one.
"Look, Janine," he said, sounding almost plaintive. "All I'm saying is, why can't you make up your mind?"
That wasn't anything I'd expected from him. I turned around and stared at him. "Make up my mind?" I asked. "About what?"
"Egon." He said that quietly, like it was the most important thing in the world.
And Lord knows I agreed with him, but... what the hell was he talking about?
I must have said that out loud, because he sighed, the way he does sometimes when things suddenly get very serious and he's not joking any more. "Egon doesn't date," he said. "There's that woman he goes to the opera with, but she's married and just wants someone to go to the opera with. And there's that professor from MIT he's visiting this week, but I've known her as long as he has, almost, and she's as lesbian as Sappho."
I had just spotted a block behind him that would work or I might not have said what I did. "Sappho had a husband and a daughter."
It distracted him. "She did?"
"Sure," I said, and quoted at him: "I have a small daughter called Cleis, who is like a golden flower. I wouldn't take all Croesus' kingdom with love thrown in, for her." I stepped over him to get at the block. It didn't even occur to me to tell him to keep his eyes where they belonged.
"With love thrown in," he echoed softly.
"Yep," I said. "Not," I added, "that there's anything wrong with being a lesbian."
He didn't answer that, which was too bad, because it might have given me a clue as to whether I was right or not. Instead, he tried to reach for the corner of the block with the arm he sort of had free. "Do you need help with that?"
I slapped at his arm. "I can get it," I told him. It would have helped to have some help, but not his. All I needed was for him to really start bleeding and die on me just when I had a shot at saving him. That would kill Egon.
And that would probably kill me.
Okay, maybe not. I am Janine Melnitz, after all; I'm tougher than that. Aren't I? Don't even start thinking about that, Melnitz, I told myself. Just pick up this damned block of concrete and get it over him without dropping it. On him, anyway. I decided maybe he needed to be distracted from that possibility, so I returned to the topic. "So, according to you, Egon doesn't date because he doesn't write it in his calendar."
His eyes snapped at me. "Egon doesn't do anything that he doesn't write down. He doesn't plan on going out with you. You walk into the office and say, 'Egon, let's go', and he gets up and goes." He stopped, like maybe he'd said too much.
"So you think he jumps when I whistle?"
"That's what it looks like."
Maybe it did. It also made me mad enough that I just picked up that damned block of concrete like it only weighed twenty pounds. After I got it on the right side of him and shoved it into position, I took a moment to rest before I tried to get the pipe in place. Sitting on the block, I looked at him. "And you have a problem with him going out with me?"
He looked back at me, flatly. No jokes. No smokescreens. "I have a problem with you using him. Because you're not exclusive."
From Dr. V that should have been a laugh riot. But I knew what he meant. Egon was an exclusive kind of guy. If he hadn't been, he wouldn't have been hurting all the time.
So, this stupid, incredibly wrong, totally doesn't-have-a-clue scenario made a lot of sense. In a sick sort of way. And I guess if you're a shrink you kind of get used to looking for that, like cops get used to looking for criminals and wise guys get used to looking for traitors. But it didn't make me feel any better about being cast as the alpha-bitch in this psychodrama.
"So you think I'm the one tossing bones?" I glared at him.
"Oh, crap," he said. "You heard that?"
"I heard it," I said. I got to my feet. Time was wasting, and much as I'd like to explore this little comedy with him, with especial emphasis on just exactly where he thought he got off, I didn't have time.
"I was just trying to make him think," he said.
"Make Egon think?" I said, shoving on the pipe. "What was your encore gonna be, making Ray enthusiastic?"
"Janine," he said, very seriously. "You have to know what I meant. Think about his feelings."
Well, it was true that Egon doesn't talk about his feelings, not to many people. But the tragedy here was that Egon thought about what he was feeling all the damn time. If he just felt, maybe... especially if there was any chance at all that Dr. V was pissed off at me for toying with Egon. Because normally there isn't a thing on this earthor any other plane of existence eitherthat Dr. V wouldn't front right up to to protect Egon. Any of them (maybe even me, too, down in fourth place), but Egon most of all. And maybe he'd been kidding himself that Egon was a big boy who knew how to take care of himself, and maybe pigs could fly, too. This sounded personal. This sounded... noble.
From Dr. V, that was scary.
And then the pipe slid in and I was ready to shift the wall. It would have been great to have another person there, to yank Dr. V out, but we didn't have another person. Anyway, yanking probably wouldn't have been good for him. So what I figured was if I shoved the pipe in far enough, it would give me a few inches clearance and I could sort of pull him out to where I could get at him.
I took a deep breath and tightened my grip.
"Hold it, Janine," he said.
"Dr. V," I told him, "you don't have the time for me to hold it. You're in bad shape"
"I'm dying, Janine," he said.
That was so probably true that I didn't want to hear it. "You are not," I told him.
"Janine, I don't even hurt any more. That's not good. I'm bleeding like a stuck pig, here. There's not a damn thing you can do, except pray the rest of this ceiling doesn't come down and take you out, too, because I don't want to think what that would do to Egon, losing both of us."
Oh, I couldn't get into that discussion right now. He was not going to die, not if I could help it, but I couldn't help it if he stopped me from moving that wall off of him. He would die if I just left it alone. I told him so.
"I'll probably start bleeding worse as soon as the pressure's off," he said, sounding very reasonable. "I want to talk to you about Egon before I die."
"Would you quit it with the damn dying already," I said, "I don't want to hear it anymore. You're not going to die, so shut up. We can talk about Egon after I get you out." And before he could say anything else, I hauled down on the pipe with all my strength.
I couldn't believe it. It worked. The wall shifted upwards, the pipe slid in, and when I let go, the wall stayed where it was. My God, Melnitz, you did it.
I ran over to him. He seemed as surprised as I was, though he had the grace not to say so. "What now, Janine?" he asked quietly.
"Now," I said, taking a deep breath, "I pull you out of there."
"Uh, is there a plan B?"
"Sure," I said, feeling for a good hold on his collar. "You die."
"Let's go with plan A." He moved his head a little, trying to give me a better purchase.
"Hold still, now. Because this is probably going to hurt like hell, Dr. V."
"Don't you think you could call me 'Peter'?" he asked. "Consider it my dying request."
I could, of course. I never had... probably I'd always felt that he was my ... what, rival? I don't know what. What the hell, though. "You're not going to die, Peter," I said, and took hold of the dark green collar of his jumpsuit. "Feel free to swear," I added, and started pulling.
I'd really rather not think about what he looked like when I unzipped that sodden jumpsuit. It's bad enough that it shows up in my dreams. I didn't know a person could have that much blood in him. Or rather, not in him. And still be alive. Bits of bone shone through his arm and ...
I used my blouse and my skirt to bandage him up. The way his arm looked, I couldn't wrap anything around it, like I did that hole in his guts, but I took off my pantyhose and tied them, real tight, around his arm just next to his shoulder, using a twisted bit of rebar that was lying on the floor. That stopped the bleeding. I tucked his hand inside his jumpsuit in place of a sling. And then there wasn't anything else I could do. I had to stay with him, if only to loosen the tourniquet so he didn't lose his arm. Plus, the look in his eyes, even if he didn't say anything... no, I couldn't leave him.
I sat down cross-legged and settled his head in my lap. I brushed the masonry and the dust away as best as I could and smoothed his hair. "You're gonna be okay, Peter," I promised him.
"Like hell," he said, closing his eyes. "Death's right around the corner. I gotta talk to you."
"If Death shows his face around here, I'm gonna spit in it," I said. "I worked too hard on this. Plus, that blouse came from Bergdorf's."
He chuckled slightly and opened his eyes to look up at me. "You know something, Janine?" he asked seriously.
"You're missing an earring."
So then we both lost it. After we calmed down, he reached his good hand up to my face and very gently brushed away tears I didn't even know were there. "Janine," he said, quietly, seriously, with a thin thread of pain and some other tension in his voice. "I really, really need to talk with you about Egon."
"Okay," I said.
"Okay?" he blinked at me.
"Okay. You said you had a problem with me using him. If he doesn't have a problem with it" That was deliberate.
"Oh, forI can't figure you, Janine," he said. He didn't sound angry, just tired. Very tired.
"Maybe you're too close to the problem," I said. "Egon's a grown man, he knows how to say 'no'. Why does it bother you that he says 'yes' instead?"
He started to answer, but I put my hand on his lips. If we were going to have this conversation, I wanted us to really have it, not just throw words back and forth. There were enough hints, flashes of things unsaid, in what he'd been saying earlier, that I was starting to think that he and Egon had wasted a long time, hurting themselves unnecessarily. I didn't know it, I just suspected it, and I knew I had to be careful. I'd never forget Joey Leibknitz shooting himself because someone stuck a copy of Playgirl in his locker at school. You can't just drag someone outside of the boundaries, the roles, they've set up for themselves. They have to walk out on their own.
And they have to want to be walking. Personally, I'd crawl through fire over broken glass to get to Egon. And I've always thought that Dr. VPeterloved him even more than I did. In his own way of course, which I was beginning to understand a lot better. But that didn't mean he was ready to become somebody he'd never thought of himself as being.
I wondered for a minute, does it hurt caterpillars to come out of their cocoons? It sure kills them if they don't, though.
I looked down into his eyes, smoky with pain but still a beautiful tourmaline green, and said, "What do you want, Peter? Do you want me to stop going out with my friends, to stop seeing other guys? Do you want me to marry him?"
I hadn't moved my hand yet, but he nodded. Just once.
"Really?" I asked. "Do you want him to marry me?"
If he hadn't been hurt, so that he didn't have control over his emotions like he usually did; if he hadn't been so dependent on me right then; if I hadn't been only inches away I might have missed it. But I didn't. And he knew I hadn't. So I took my hand away and put it back in his hair.
It was a long time before he said anything. When he did, it was about what I was expecting him to say. "Egon... he deserves the best."
"He does," I agreed. "He doesn't seem to want that, though." I couldn't resist saying that. I mean, old habits...
He blinked up at me perplexedly. "If he wants youand he does, Janine, you're the only woman he dates and it's not for lack of choicesthen you are the best."
Oh, God, life just wasn't fair. I was never going to be able to use that on him. I sighed. "Let's agree that he deserves to get what he wants," I said. "And that by definition what he wants is the best."
"What he wants is you," he said. "The way he jumps when you say, 'Let's go'..."
"Peter," I said patiently, "I love Egon so much it hurts. If he wanted me, I'd settle down with him in a New York minute. Egon does not want me. He never has. You know that."
He started to say something, but I kept talking. "You always knew it. That's why you used to be smug and superior about me. Now you're not, because you've missed an important development."
"What do you mean?" he asked, quietly.
"I mean," I said, swallowing hard and remembering... remembering tucking Egon up under my grandma's quilt on my sofa after he'd spent hours talking about Peter to me, remembering watching Egon watch Peter walk out the door on his way to another beautiful woman, remembering riding the Staten Island Ferry on Valentine's Day, next to Egon, surrounded by people at least momentarily lucky in love... "I mean, Egon's not in love with me. We don't date. Every now and then, he just needs a shoulder to cry on and someone to talk to. That's it. That's what I'm giving him now. A sofa, Peter. Not a bed."
He didn't say anything at all. Things were moving in his eyes, he was thinking and thinking hard, but I wasn't sure about what. I stroked his hair and waited. Finally he said, so softly I almost missed it, "What does he talk about?"
"It's who," I answered. "And it's you."
Again a long silence. He found my hand with his good one and held it. His grip was weak and his fingers so cold it scared me, but he held on. "I thought I'd let him all the way in," he said. "Guess not, huh?" His eyes were begging.
"You couldn't drive him away with a stick, Peter," I said.
He closed his eyes with a long sigh.
"Janine," he said, "I really think I'm dying, here. Just my luck, right?"
"You are not. Stop talking like that."
"Listen, Janine." He looked at me. "You've got to tell him..."
"You'll tell him yourself," I said. I wasn't sure if that was a promise or a threat. I meant it, though.
"I love him," he said. "I've loved him for a long time. I don't even know. It feels like forever. Like I was born loving him, and just had to wait till I met him. Tell him that."
"Tell him. Tell him I've been such a coward, so afraid of losing being able to hear his voice, to see him... Janine, promise me you'll tell him. Promise me."
"I promise," I said, because he was getting agitated. "But you are not dying. Do you hear me, Peter Venkman?"
His eyes closed.
"Don't you dare," I said. "Peter. Come back here."
The firemen broke through twenty minutes after that. It was easily the worst twenty minutes of my life. But they were encouraging as they took over CPR and hooked him up to plasma and carried him up to the ambulance. They let me ride with him. I held his hand all the way to the hospital.
It had been a gas main. That wasn't the only house damaged, but it was the last house they'd checked, since it was supposed to be empty. One of the police dogs alerted them that we were there. It was a good day for dogs all around; the firemen found a little skeleton in the wall that turned out to belong to Maddy Cantwell, missing since 1915... along with her dog Prince Charming. I cried like a baby when I heard that the next day. And Ray and I let Prince out of the trap. I hope he found his way home to her...
Apparently I'd done all the right things for Peter. The ER docs told me he'd be fine once he got filled up with blood again (okay, not in those words), and his broken arm healed.
I left messages for Winston at the motel and the car show. I did the same for Ray at the convention. He'd left a message on the machine at Central that he'd met somebody he knew and was going to be spending the night in Bayonne, so he could see the films they had at the convention and then do something else that we didn't hear because his message was so long the time ran out on it. We also didn't get the friend's name or phone number; I didn't have to work at believing that Ray had provided both, at the end of his spiel, but it didn't help me find him.
So Egon actually got to the hospital before either of them. He was right where he was supposed to be, at Dr. Gundersen's house. And when he explained to her what had happened, she put her private jet at his disposal, and he was home in only a couple of hours.
I saw him heading down the corridor. I was sure he had talked to the desk before he got this far; armed with the power of attorney they all had for each other, he'd have gotten all the facts he needed.
All the medical facts, anyway.
He spotted me and changed direction. I stood up and he wrapped me in his arms. "Janine," he said, "are you all right?"
I'd forgotten how bad I looked. At least I'd gotten some scrubs to put on over my slip. "I'm fine, Egon," I said. "I got a few bruises and broke a couple of nails. I was really lucky."
"Peter was, too," he said heavily, rubbing his hand in small circles on my back. "They told me you saved his life."
"I was afraid I hadn't been able to do enough," I admitted.
"You're an extremely capable woman," Egon said. "I can think of no one I'd rather have trying to save my life than you."
At that moment, he meant it. Maybe he mostly would have meant it, anyway. I hugged him, and then stepped back. "Egon," I said.
He looked down at me. His eyes were filled with the kind of despair that comes from nearly losing something you can't ever lose, but don't really have, and can't do anything about. It's... it was like looking at original sorrow. But even as I looked he shuttered them, closing that emotion neatly away where Spenglers put untidy things like pain. Despair. Hope.
"Egon." I'd given this some thought. How to say it, I mean. Not whether to say it. There was no way I couldn't have. "He thought he was dying. He thought nobody would ever reach us in time. So, he chewed me out."
Those blue eyes kindled back to life. "Indeed?" His tone was acerbic. "For what?"
I smiled at him. "Treating you badly."
He blinked at me. "What could he possibly have meant by that?"
"Well, you have to remember he thought you were straight," I pointed out. "He was mad at me for toying with your affections." I smiled, and then got very serious. "Egon, he was jealousno, he was past jealous. He wanted me to settle down with you and raise lots of little Spenglers and make you the happiest man on earth. Because that's what he thinks you ought to be."
He wasn't blinking any more. He was just staring.
"So of course I had to set him straight, you'll pardon the expression."
His eyeglasses were sliding down his nose. For the firstand lasttime I reached out and pushed them back into place.
"Peter's in love with you," I said. "He told me so. A deathbed confession. It'd hold up in any court in the country."
"Go in there," I said. "Don't waste any more time. Don't wait for him to get scared. Don'tjust don't." I pushed open the door to Peter's room and looked at him, still standing there in shock. Or something. "Ah, gowan, Egon," I said in my best at-home accent.
That broke the spell. It started in his eyes, where the shutters just fell off and absolute radiance blazed out so, so luminously it should have been blinding. Looking at him was like swimming in joy. He took a step towards the door, and then stopped and put his hands on my shoulders. "Janine," he said, his voice soft, "thank you." He kissed my forehead.
I couldn't help it, I grabbed him and hugged him like I was never gonna see him again. "Mazel tov, Egon," I said.
"Thank you, Janine," he repeated, returning my hug. Then I let him go and he went through the door.
"Peter?" he said; I could just hear it.
The dark head turned on the pillow. "Egon?"
"I can't even go away for a week?" Egon asked. His voice was roughened with emotion, emotion I knew from countless evenings at my place talking about Peter. Finally it was being shown to the right person.
"No, Spengs," Peter said, and I'd never heard him sound like that before. Not even in that basement. He sounded like he was safe for the first time in his life. "You can't. Okay?"
Egon dropped his head onto Peter's arm. "I won't," he promised.
It was really too bad Valentine's Day was two weeks ago. I'd bet Egon never got such a great present before in his life.
And as I stood there in the doorway and watched them, I knew I'd never given such a great present. Never would again.
I let the door swing shut as Peter's hand pulled Egon's head closer.
I knew I'd never gotten such a good present, either.
So why the hell was I crying so hard I had to lean on the wall to find my way to the ladies' room?
You've got to win a little, lose a little,
And always have the blues a little.
That's the story of, that's the glory of, love."Glory of Love" by Billy Hill
"I Get A Kick" by Cole Porter
|Part one||Part two||Part three|
|Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans|
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