"That was wonderful." Peter Venkman leaned back in his chair and smiled at his host.
"I'm glad you liked it, Peter," Agatha Faversham replied. "Would you like any dessert?"
Peter held up one hand. "Uh, no, thanks. As much as I love your desserts, I'm stuffed." He patted his stomach. "Next time we go ghost hunting down 5th avenue I'd roll after the guys. Imagine how that would look on TV!"
Mrs. Faversham laughed. "You're right, Peter." She started to carry the dishes over to her kitchen.
Peter jumped up. "Let me," he offered and carried the heaviest of the dishes himself.
"Peter." Mrs. Faversham looked a bit hesitant as she put the dishes into her dishwasher.
"I think I have to ask you a favor."
Peter smiled and spread his hands. "Anything."
The older woman smiled. "Don't say it until you heard me out. The daughter of an old friend of mine is running the latest exhibition in the Museum of Natural History. Her name is Ann-Marie Mato. My friend called me a few days ago. It was a social call, just to relive old times, but he also mentioned that his daughter was having trouble with her exhibition."
"What kind of trouble?" Peter wanted to know, leaning back against the kitchen table.
"Daniel, my friend, said Ann-Marie told him there was something strange going on in the exhibition; something unexplainable. She said she knows it sounds crazy, but she believes there is a ghost in the museum."
Peter raised an eyebrow. "Why didn't she call us?"
Mrs. Faversham chuckled. "Ann-Marie is a proud woman, Peter. Her mother was Hawaiian and the daughter of one of the kahuna, a priest. She died soon after Ann-Marie's birth. She was raised in Hawaii and when Daniel left for the New York again she remained behind. She was twenty then. Ann-Marie would never confess to anyone outside the family that she couldn't handle something."
"And now you want us to have a look at things?"
She nodded. "If you don't mind ...."
Peter smiled. "Not at all. Egon and Winston aren't here right now, but I bet Ray would love to
go and visit an exhibition, especially if there is a possible ghost hiding there."
The older woman looked relieved. "Thank you so much."
"Hey, anything for my all-time favorite customer." Peter laid an arm around her thin shoulders and guided her back into the living room. "Now, didn't you want to go through those boxes I carried down from the attic, nearly breaking my spine in the process?"
Mrs. Faversham chuckled. "Of course, dear."
* * *
It had been a slow day, which had stretched into an even slower afternoon. At Ghostbuster Central everything was quiet and seemed deserted. Only the soft hacking noises from the third floor told of someone still present. Ray Stantz, Ghostbuster and occultist, sat at the computer and typed away like mad. Now and then he waited for the program to catch up with his commands, as he accessed the OccultNet, then keyed in more commands, most of the time saving what he found immediately to a disk. Right now he was the only one present in Central. Egon Spengler had flown out to Ohio to visit his uncle, Winston Zeddemore had taken a two-day leave to see his parents, though he had said to call him if anything urgent came up, and Peter Venkman was out on a date. Ray grinned. Yeah, well, date was a bit too vague a word for it. Peter had gone over to Mrs. Faversham's to help her sort through the stuff in the attic they had cleaned of a very nasty ghost several months ago.
A door opened and closed downstairs. Ray could clearly hear it because everything else was so quiet around here, but he wasn't bothered by it. Central was locked and it was either Peter or Janine coming in. A few minutes later he knew it was Peter. The psychologist poked his head into the lab.
"Yo, Ray, still busy?" he called cheerily.
Ray looked up from his work. "Nearly done with the downloading, Peter. How was your visit?"
Peter grinned widely. "Fun," he said and walked over to the work space. "Lots of fun. You should have seen her, Ray; she was so happy to see all her childhood toys and pictures again. The stuff that's up there is really amazing! You should come over one day and see it."
Ray smiled as he saw the sparkle in Peter's eyes. The psychologist had really had fun today.
"And what have you been up to?" Peter asked, peering at the screen.
"Oh, this and that, but mostly I'm researching the apparent rise in the magical level in the last few months."
Ray keyed in some commands and a graph appeared on the screen. "You know that Egon and I constructed a device that picks up unusual energy readings, right?"
Peter nodded. "The Magic Meter," he replied, remembering with a grin how Egon hated that term.
"Yeah, that. It picks up those unusual readings and I research them. Some are related to magic being actively used in this area. Now," Ray changed the graph and Peter saw that the lines were rising in a steep angle, "the last six months were very busy in this 'magic' area. It's not frequent, but it's also not a low enough level not to worry."
"I don't like the sound of that," Peter muttered.
"What I tried to find out in the last few days was, what triggered this rise in magic," Ray went on. "I researched every book and computer file and there are some leads I have." He keyed in more commands. A microfilm archive picture appeared.
DAVID XANATOS DONATES EYE OF ODIN, was the headline of this newspaper. It dated back several months.
"The Eye of Odin is believed to be a very powerful talisman," Ray explained. "And it was stolen from the museum the night it was donated."
Peter raised an eyebrow. "Let me guess, they didn't find the thief?"
"Good guess. They really didn't." Ray changed files. This time the date on the newspaper was the first of November. "Remember the disturbance we picked up at Halloween?"
"We picked up a lot of disturbances, Ray," Peter said sourly. "And some of those disturbances were nasty."
"Yes, but there was one we never got to investigate because it appeared and disappeared too fast. The only thing Egon and I found were some rumors about monsters, but then that's nothing new at Halloween."
"Okay, Ray, what's the point?" Venkman asked. "We got a Halloween ghost on the loose who doesn't know it's already March?"
The occultist shook his head. "No. I did some cross-referencing concerning the Eye of Odin and found some interesting information about what happened at Halloween, concerning this one apparition we never saw. A friend of mine, who is a member of the occult community and was also present when the monsters were seen, said he saw a werewolf and several winged creatures fighting it. And he also reported that the werewolf wore the Eye of Odin."
Peter shook his head. "Ray, that was months ago! We haven't had a case involving were-whatevers for more than a year! Someone would have called if that thing was real!"
"It was real," Ray insisted. "We have the readings. And it was connected to the Eye of Odin. And then there are the other magical distortions." He used the computer to show Peter yet another picture. This time it was a map. "See? I marked every distortions' center. And they all appear very close to this building."
Peter raised an eyebrow. "The Xanatos Tower?"
"Yes, Xanatos, as in David Xanatos, the guy who donated the Eye to the museum." Ray's eyes glowed with enthusiasm.
Peter held up a hand. "Whoa, Ray, just a second. You know who Xanatos is? One if the rich guys of this li'l town. Don't tell me you wanna waltz into his office and accuse him of black magic!"
Ray shook his head. "No, Peter, of course not. But maybe Mr. Xanatos has an idea of what is causing the distortions. Maybe he needs our help."
"Then he'd have called us, buddy." The psychologist stretched. "Listen, how do you feel about a little stroll to a museum?"
Ray looked at him in surprise. "A museum?"
"Yeah, you know. The big old buildings with even older stuff inside display cases lined up for people to gawk at?"
The occultist grinned. "I know what a museum is, Peter. Why do you want to visit one?"
Peter relayed the story Mrs. Faversham had told him to his friend. As expected, Ray's eyes lit up with enthusiasm.
"Wow! That's great. Give me a second and I'll pack the necessary things." He jumped from the chair and started to run around in the lab and collect various devices.
"Take it easy, Tex," Peter laughed. "We don't want to scare the people away! This is a covert operation."
Fifteen minutes later they were on their way.
* * *
-- Light ... flashing --
-- Pain .... injury .... madness --
-- Triumph, victory, death --
He stirred in his sleep, troubled by what others would call bad dreams. But these were nightmares for him, nightmares, which shouldn't plague him here in this restful place.
-- Rebirth, victory --
-- Laughter --
-- Challenge --
He jerked awake and immediately stretched his senses. Yes, he was still in his resting place, nothing had changed about that. But everything around him had apparently changed. Nothing was what it had been ... such a long time ago.
He began to stretch out even further, taking in everything in his immediate area, but it didn't tell him much. Then he felt it again, the strange energy that had given him the nightmares.
-- Death --
-- Victory --
-- Laughter --
And he recognized it.
Kanaloa! he thought and anger swelled up inside of him. But how could he have come back? He was dead! He had killed him!
Well, he was dead as well. He allowed himself a smile, then turned his full attention on his current situation. He had to awaken fully and leave this place. Concentrating he searched for the exit, which he had installed in his resting place himself.
He felt a living presence close to him and aimed for it.
* * *
The Museum of Natural History was rather crowded, and Peter and Ray had no difficulty making out where the Hawaiian exhibition was. A lot of people were going straight there and they simply drifted along. Ray had hidden his P.K.E. meter in a knapsack he was carrying by the straps. Peter looked around and let his eyes wander over the various exhibits. There were models, ancient sculptures, maps to show where everything had been found, explanations concerning the myths and rites of the Hawaiians, drawings and lots of other items.
His eyes came to rest on a young woman standing beside a particularly ugly statue of some kind of god. She was a red-head, with a slightly tanned skin, which made her appear somewhat unusual. Most red-heads Peter knew were rather pale. Her eyes were dark and she had a somewhat exotic look. Something made Peter think that she had dyed her hair.
Suddenly Ray grabbed his arm and gave a low exclamation of surprise. Peter turned his attention immediately to his friend. "What is it?" he asked, looking around in case someone had taken notice of their actions. No one did.
"We just passed something that set the P.K.E. meter off," Ray said in a low voice, turning in a full circle to get a fix. "There." He walked over to a display case and Peter followed.
It was some kind of a scepter or a staff covered with ornaments and stones. It wasn't large and neither was it particularly beautiful in the psychologist's eyes. The staff was a deep black, as if the wood had darkened with age. Someone had carved complicated figures into the staff and adorned it with splinters of red and green stones. On top of the staff sat an orange-colored stone, which could be a fake or a real gem, either of which was possible.
"The scepter of Pele," Peter read and frowned. "Well?"
Ray was busy taking readings with his concealed meter. "It's giving off enough magical energy to set off the alarm," the occultist told him several seconds later. "But I can't tell if it is only the stone or the whole scepter." He quickly hid the meter as a couple approached and stopped on the other side of the display case to look at the piece of Hawaiian culture. Ray read the explanation on a little white card attached to the display case.
"The scepter of Pele is believed to be a powerful tool of lapaau, medicine, by the Hawaiian kahuna, the priests. The stones adorning the staff are pieces of colored lava and the stone on the top is a rare kind of gem, which is worthless, but in the myths of Hawaii believed to hold magical powers. Wow!" He turned to Peter as the couple left. "If this is true, and the meter tells me there is definitely something here, then we might have found something incredible. We have to talk to Mrs. Faversham's friend."
"Mrs. Mato is the daughter of a close friend of hers," Peter reminded him. "We should approach her carefully so we don't scare her off." He was taking all of this very seriously because Mrs. Faversham had been the one to ask. He didn't want her to have to play mediator if Mrs. Mato decided their approach had been somewhat unprofessional and kicked them out.
"Sure, Peter. Do you think we should wait until the exhibition is closed for today?"
Peter nodded and suddenly caught eye of the red-head again. She was looking their way, her dark eyes intense and nothing like Peter had expected. He looked quickly away and focused entirely on Ray.
"Yes. The museum closes early today, but we still have two more hours to kill." He looked at his watch. It was close to five.
"We could drive by the Xanatos Tower," Ray said. "You know, I wanted to take some readings of the neighborhood."
Peter shrugged. Why not? The Tower wasn't that far away and they could be back in time to talk to Mrs. Mato. "Lead on," he told his friend and they left the museum.
She watched the two men walk away and followed them outside the exhibition room. With a bit of disappointment she witnessed them leave the museum. Were they already giving up? It couldn't be! Following them outside she just caught a glimpse of their car driving away in the approaching darkness. She was sure they had detected something about the scepter and she was sure they would report it to Mato, but now they were gone. Maybe it had been wrong to rely on the humans to help her defeat the threat. Maybe she had to handle it alone.
* * *
The sun set early this time of the year and when Elisa Maza looked at her watch it was only ten to six. She climbed the last of the stairs to the clock tower and when she opened the trap door she was welcomed by the noise of a TV already running.
"Hello, Hudson," she greeted the aged gargoyle, who sat in the easy chair, Bronx at his side, watching the evening news.
"Hello, lass," he returned the greeting. Bronx gave a grunt, then laid his head down and watched the program with as much interest as was possible for a watch dog.
"Elisa, how nice to see you again." The deep voice belonged to Goliath, who stood on the walkway, looking down at her.
"Hi," she called back. "I just wanted to pay you a quick visit. My shift begins in a few minutes and Matt and I plan to do some real detective work." She grimaced. "We have to write our reports."
Goliath smiled. "You won't go out tonight?"
She shook her head. "Not the way it looks. We're ways behind on our reports and Captain Chavez wants them by this time tomorrow or we won't see the streets again in our life-time." She looked around. "Where are Lex, Broadway and Brooklyn?"
"They already left to do some 'scouting'. And as far as I can recall they also plan to watch another of those movies tonight." The leader of the gargoyles looked a bit confused. He had never been able to understand what fascinated the younger of his clan when it came to moving pictures. Then again, Hudson, the oldest one, was also quite taken by the TV. Goliath was more of a reader and he spent most of his time in the library.
Elisa nodded knowingly. Then she waved. "Bye, guys. See you tomorrow if I can."
The dark-haired detective climbed down the stairs again and walked off to find her partner. She was determined to finish those reports tonight, even if it meant sleeping here.
* * *
"Yes, Paul, I know. I'll be there."
Maren Jennifer Shrevnitz, head of Lightspeed Inc., one of the largest programming companies in the United States, hung up the phone and sighed. She was a tall woman, with dark hair, green eyes and an athletic figure. Right now she didn't really look like the chief of staff of programmers, holding two doctorates in engineering and programming; she had just come out from under the shower, her hair wet.
"Can't do anything without him calling to tell me what's next on the agenda," she complained, though no one was listening. Maybe she should take Carla up on her offer and let her give her one or two of her kittens.
She dried her hair, then closed her bathrobe firmly and stepped into the living room of her apartment. The apartment was large, though she was the only one living here. Walking through the living room she went into the kitchen and started to fix herself something edible. Suddenly she felt weird. It was as if she was far away, floating in space, looking down on the world.... only that the world seemed to made of red ruby. She gasped and her eyes fixed on the ring on her finger. It was a golden ring with a red ruby in the middle. The stone pulsed like it had a life of its own. It was a hypnotic pulse, gentle, calling... calling.
Maren inhaled deeply and closed her eyes, forcing herself not to look. But even though she couldn't see anything because of her closed eyes, she 'saw' the red ruby. And then everything was gone. Between one second and the next she felt overwhelmed by something, as if she were drowning in nothingness. The feeling lasted for about a second, then it was gone, leaving her standing in her own kitchen, a slice of bread in one hand. She put the bread on the counter and stared at her ring. The stone didn't pulse any more.
"What the hell.....?"
Maybe she had really been working too hard lately. Taking a few steps out of the kitchen she sank down on a chair and tried a relaxation exercise. It worked, but only until she sensed someone was in her apartment. Her eyes flew open and she looked around, but she couldn't see anyone.
"And now I'm starting to hallucinate or what?" she muttered, shaking her head. "Great."
She was just about to return to the kitchen when she again sensed the presence, this time ten times stronger. She whirled around, but there was no one. And then she felt it, like something creeping up her spine -- inside her. Something seemed to try and take control of her, shoving her away from what was her body, her control, her mind. Maren was stunned for a moment, feeling the alien presence move inside her, make itself acquainted with her body, then her mind screamed at her to do something. She fought back and felt how the stranger stopped, apparently surprised.
"Who are you?" she asked the empty room, anger flooding through her.
She wasn't so much scared as she was outraged. Somebody taking over her mind wasn't exactly normal, but she had been brought up by her grandfather, who had told and shown her curious and strange things, things not even her mother and father had ever heard about. She had kept the secrets her grandfather had told her, just as she had always hidden the fact that she was psychic. When she had been younger she had been trained by a friend of her grandfather, but after taking over the corporation and after her grandfather had died she had had no time to practice. Now it came all back to her.
"Don't resist," a voice inside her said and she shivered at the coldness it spread.
"You bet I'm resisting, buddy! This is my body and my mind, so get the hell out of there!"
There was a moment of silence, then the voice came back, this time sounding a bit more human. "Who are you?" The speaker seemed slightly confused.
"You first," she said forcefully, feeling a bit foolish talking to herself in an empty room.
"My name would mean nothing to you," was the cool answer.
"Okay, buddy, then you won't get an introduction from me either."
There was a short silence. "You are a woman," the voice then said and Maren thought it was now clearly male.
"So?" A dangerous tone crept into her voice.
The one inside of her had used a tone she was only too familiar with. She was a woman, an intelligent woman, who had her own company, which was also very successful. Some men just couldn't cope with that.
"What is your name?" he asked again.
She sighed. "Maren Shrevnitz. Any more questions? Do you also want to know my birthday, my size and my weight?"
"Hey? You still there?"
Again nothing but silence.
"All right, Mister, either you say a word right now or I'll...."
"Shrevnitz?" he asked, sounding stunned. "Are you related to Moe Shrevnitz?"
She blinked. "Yes."
"He is ... was my grandfather," she corrected.
"He died?" The voice sounded suddenly subdued.
"Over five years ago. Are you done now? How about answering a few of my questions? Like, who are you? Where did you come from? What do you want?"
"Okay, let me get something out in the open in here, in case you aren't reading my mind just now and I hope you don't because then I'd be really pissed: I hate possessions! I want to know what you're doing inside of me, buddy, and don't give me any crap about 'you turned thirty, it was time'!"
"I couldn't choose who would be my host," he said slowly. "You wore the ring, you were the only one."
Maren looked at the ring on her left hand, the ring with the ruby. "All right," she said. "And would you please tell me just who you are? I'd love to know who is sharing my body." She tried not to be sarcastic.
"My name is Lamont Cranston," the voice finally said, getting back some of its coldness. "And I need your help to stop a great evil."
* * *
Brooklyn, Broadway and Lexington were soaring high above New York on the currents of wind where nobody could see them; as long as no one stared up into the sky and puzzled at the sight of those large, winged shapes.
"See you later, guys!" Broadway called and veered to the left, descending to the roof of some building.
Brooklyn and Lexington waved a good-bye and continued to where they wanted to spend the night. Broadway had planned to watch one of the many new releases in the theater and since neither Brooklyn nor Lexington had shown any interest, he had gone alone. The other two young gargoyles had heard about the new exhibition in the Museum of Natural History and wanted to pay it a visit.
"Here we are," Brooklyn announced and landed on the roof of the museum.
Lexington looked around and pointed at the skylight. "There's our entrance." He ran over to it and peered intently at the glass. "No alarms that I can see," he told his larger friend. "Let's try it."
Silently the two gargoyles opened the skylight. There was no alarm and no one was yelling, so they had not been seen yet. Both descended into the room below, stopping briefly to make sure they were still undetected, then slipped through the exhibition rooms until they arrived at their destination: the Hawaiian room.
"Wow!" Lexington breathed. "Look at this!" He went over to a display case full of maps. His large eyes widened even further and seconds later he was totally immersed in reading the maps and tracing routes with his claws.
Brooklyn grinned and walked through the room, looking at everything. When they had heard that there was this new exhibition, and of a place where they had never been before, both had been very enthusiastic to see it. Goliath had warned them not to be too careless for there were guards in this museum. They had promised to keep a low profile. The bronze-colored gargoyle stopped in front of another display case and looked at the staff inside. It was unfamiliar to him, but somehow he was attracted to it. Frowning he read the little card explaining what it was he saw, then shrugged. Just a staff.
Suddenly voices could be heard.
"Lex!" he hissed, but the smaller gargoyle was already running for cover, a life-sized statue of some kind of creature. Lexington climbed the fake and cowered down on its top.
Brooklyn took cover as well, choosing an assortment of fake plants which were supposed to be native plants from Hawaii. Seconds later two humans entered the room. To Brooklyn they didn't look like guards, though they wore some kind of uniform and something what looked like a weapon on their back. The stockier of the two had a device in his hands, which blinked and gave off odd sounds. They began to search the room, the stocky one keeping his eyes on the device as if it told him something. Brooklyn felt cold inside as his mind made a giant leap as to what they were doing and what this device was. Could they know that there were gargoyles here? Could it be that they could find them with that device?
* * *
The alleyway was dark and full of garbage. Maren grimaced and tried not to breathe too deeply. The overall stench was overwhelming.
"I hope this isn't a joke," she muttered as she walked under an archway and then into a box canyon whose rear wall was a brick building.
There were barred windows overlooking the alleyway and a rusting fire escape went up the right-hand wall of the canyon.
"The fire escape," Cranston said inside her head, though it didn't really feel like he was only in her head. It was more as if he was standing beside her. "Pull at the steel stair bracket."
Maren followed the order and was surprised by a rusty creak. The center portion of the grating on the ground, littered with wet newspapers and things she didn't even want to think about, dropped to create three stairs leading into the ground. She could see a door at the bottom of the stairs, which now swung slightly open. Carefully she stepped down.
"Turn left after the door," Cranston said. "There is an L-shaped metal bracket. Pull it to yourself and the door will close."
And the door closed after her, leaving her in the dark. "Oh, great. Should have brought a flash light."
"Walk ten steps straight ahead."
"Why should I?" she asked in a mutter, but walked ten steps ahead.
She had just made the last step when a faint, blue light came up. Surprised she stopped, discovering that she was standing at a wrought-iron stairway, leading down into an octagonal room, which had seen better days. The walls had been beige limestone once; now it was grey and looked as it had been overrun by moss and fungus cultures. The lamps in the room were full of cobwebs and dust had settled on the floor, which had been treated to water dripping from above. The carpet was soggy and faded, as was the wallpaper, which showed a healthy colony of fungus. Maren walked slowly down the stairs, fascinated by the secret room. She felt that Cranston seemed a bit stunned by the state of the room. There were Oriental wall tapestries, bronzes, some very old machines, which had been modern in the 1920s and a large world globe, which had to be worth quite a lot of money today. A shelf running floor to ceiling was crammed full of books and she read over some of the titles. Criminology, sciences, cryptography, the occult, law, magic and more. This was quite a collection.
She walked over to a desk, which looked on the verge of a breakdown. There was a control panel on the desk, as were several stacks of old books, all full of dust, and yellowed paper. Maren carefully dusted off the control panel and waited for Cranston to say something. When he didn't come up with any advice she simply flipped some switches. Nothing happened. The thing was dead.
"What now?" she asked.
Cranston seemed to snap out of his stunned and shocked silence. "There is a panel beside the statue left of you," he said and she walked over to the little statue. "Push it."
A part of the wall slid back and revealed a hidden wardrobe. She whistled as she saw what was inside, then took out the large, black cloak.
"The Shadow," she said, chuckling a bit. "I knew I recognized your name, but grandfather always talked of you as either The Boss or something like that. He never mentioned your name."
"He talked about me?" There was disapproval in his voice.
"Only now and then. Mostly I didn't know who he was talking about, but he spoke highly of you. He said you died. Most of the times he told your adventures to me; it was better than all the stories I heard anywhere else." She smiled. "It took me a long time before I realized that they were true stories and you had really existed. I think when Margo showed up one day I really believed it."
Something inside of her twinged. "Margo Lane?"
"Her name was Margo DeVries when I met her. She had married." Maren was silent for a minute and thought whether to add that Margo DeVries had died a few months ago. After a second thought she did. The reaction was even more subdued.
Maren felt him sadden a bit, then he seemed to shove those feelings back. She decided not to prod any further and took the cloak and a red scarf out of the wardrobe.
"This evil you talked about," she said to take his mind off the subject, trying on the cloak and the scarf. "Who is this Kanaloa?"
"Kanaloa called himself many names, but his real name was Kel Asaad, using the name of the Hawaiian squid god, Kanaloa, as his pseudonym. The squid go represents men's trouble and sickness in the Hawaiian mythology. Asaad is partly of Hawaiian origin and he discovered his psychic powers in his early teens, and he decided to use them for his own evil purposes. He tracked down Hawaiian mythical artifacts and used their powers for his own. I defeated him."
"You killed him?" she asked.
Maren sighed and looked around. A little box, covered with dust, stood on a small table. She walked over and opened it. Inside lay a dagger with a sharp tip that spread up into three blades. The knob of the dagger's handle was a carved face, wearing what looked like a crown. Its eyes were closed, its mouth a thin line. The face looked incredibly real and held a barbaric, almost savage look, appearing so lifelike that Maren thought it was a sleeping man. It had Asian features.
She carefully took the dagger out of the box, fascinated by the intricately fabricated hilt. As she held it in her hands it seemed to come to life, vibrating, pulsating. And then the eyes of the Asian face opened, staring at her. The lips curled back into a snarl, but nothing else happened. Maren stared into the metal gleaming eyes.
"What ...?" she whispered, unable to let go of the dagger or turn her eyes away from the face.
"It's a phurba," Cranston said inside of her, sounding a bit surprised, though she guessed that this surprise wasn't aimed at the presence of the phurba.
"A what?" she asked, licking her dry lips.
"A ritual, Tibetan dagger. It reacts to you, the one holding it. It's magical."
"What should I do?" she whispered.
"Nothing. It reacts to the passive state of mind, the non-aggressive way. The yin. Don't do anything. Just center."
And as if the phurba had heard him, it seemed to quiet down, almost purring at her. Its cold eyes regarded her curiously and she wondered if it felt the presence of Cranston inside of her. When nothing more happened, Maren allowed herself to breathe again and carefully laid the dagger back into the box.
"No, take it with you," Cranston said all of a sudden.
"What?!" she nearly cried.
"It will serve you.... me..... in my fight."
Maren hesitated, then took the knife again. This time it didn't vibrate and the eyes remained closed. She wrapped it in the cloth that had been inside the box, then carried it over to a chair. As she passed a mirror she looked inside. The black cloak and the red scarf suited her, she decided. Something inside of her stirred and she was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of raw power racing up and down her spine. She gasped as she saw her eyes turn a silvery black. She thought she could feel Cranston's presence. And it was very strong. She fought back out of instinct and the presence retreated.
"What ... what was that?" she whispered, touching her head, which was now aching.
"I ... lost control."
"More like you tried to gain it!" Maren replied angrily and shook her head. "Don't do that again," she said firmly. When he didn't say anything she asked, "What now?"
"I don't know yet."
She sat down in one of the armchairs after she had dusted it off as best as she had been able to. "All right. Tell me when you know."
* * *
Peter and Ray had returned shortly before the museum closed for the day. There were only a few people left in the building and they were told by the loudspeakers that the museum would soon close. Peter walked over to the guard and told them who they were and what their business was. The guard called Ann-Marie Mato and a few minutes later they were led up the stairs to the second floor where she had her office.
Ann-Marie Mato was clearly of Hawaiian heritage. She had the typical facial features, the dark skin and the black hair, though the Western influence was visible as well. She greeted the two Ghostbusters and then sat down behind her cluttered desk.
"What can I do for you, gentlemen? I don't remember calling the Ghostbusters."
Peter smiled at her, noticing the slight accent. "We came because of a request of a good friend of your father's. Mrs. Agatha Faversham."
Ann-Marie's eyes went wide. "Agatha? I haven't seen her for ages! How is she doing?"
Peter smile broadened. "She's fine, Ms. Mato. She told me to drop by and ask if you needed our help. She said your father called her and mentioned something happening here."
The woman's eyes went dark for a second. "Well, in a way," she confessed. "But it's nothing in ways of ghosts or demons, I assure you. And I don't want any headlines coming out of this."
"We won't make a big deal out of it," Ray assured her. "We visited your exhibition today and there was something there. I picked it up with the P.K.E. meter," he held up the device. "It happened when we were scanning the scepter."
Varying emotions and expressions flashed over Ann-Marie's face as she looked at them. "The scepter?" she finally repeated.
Both Ghostbuster nodded.
"Has anything ever happened with the scepter?" Peter asked quietly.
She bit her lip, then shrugged. "When we began planning for the exhibition and were given the scepter we received warnings from several kahuna."
"Priests," Ray translated, and she nodded.
"They told us it would be foolish to try and move the scepter away from Hawaii. They didn't threaten us and neither were they very specific as to what might happen if we continued with our plans. As you see, we did move the scepter."
"And what happened?"
Ann-Marie looked visibly hesitant. "It may sound crazy to you ...."
"Believe me, Ms. Mato, we hear all kinds of strange things and see even more in our line of work," Ray told her with a smile.
She smiled back. "Well, I had the feeling that someone was watching us, all the time. It was never something specific, just the feeling of a presence. And then someone believed he saw a shape once. We were just setting up the second room and he was alone. He said there was something there for a second, then it was gone."
"What was it?" Ray asked eagerly. "Could he describe it?"
"He said it was a human shape, but he couldn't make anything out."
"Has anything moved?" Peter wanted to know. "Were there ever any unexplained lights or sounds"
Ann-Marie shook her head. "Only the shape and the feeling of being watched."
"We would like to make an open scan of the rooms, Ms. Mato," Ray said. "When we were here this afternoon we had to hide our device so nobody would be alarmed."
"I don't see any problem in letting you do so."
Peter rose from his chair and Ray did likewise. "I think we should get our packs, Ray," he told his younger friend. "Better be on the safe side."
"Please refrain from destroying any of our exhibits," Ann-Marie said quickly.
Peter grinned. "We'd never do such a thing, Ms. Mato."
She grimaced. "Why is it I don't really believe you?"
Peter decided to ignore the comment and they went back to Ecto-1 to get their packs. Peter didn't really want to take on anything big, bad and ugly with only the two of them there to fight it, but if the ghost decided to attack they needed to defend themselves.
About ten minutes later they were scanning the exhibition rooms. Peter switched on the lights and Ray walked straight to the scepter, his P.K.E. meter ready.
"Strange," he muttered after some time.
Peter, who had kept an eye on everything so not to be surprised by a sudden attack, turned his head. "What?"
"The readings ... they are somehow different." Ray shook his head and adjusted some dials. "Very strange."
Peter came over and frowned. "How different?"
"It looks like there's something else here as well, something influenced by magic. See," Ray pointed at a straight, red line on the display screen, "that is the scepter and what I read from it. It's a steady and strong magical output. But this here," Ray turned a dial and a new line appeared. This one was white and wavering, "wasn't there before. It isn't as strong and from the looks of it I guess it isn't real magic either. It must be something that was touched by magic and the effects have worn off, except on a basic level."
Peter scratched his head. "So what do you want to tell me, Ray? That there's something here that wasn't here before? Something was added?"
"More like: something arrived....." Ray turned in a circle and watched the display screen. He pointed at the decoration in the far corner of the room, some plastic palms and bushes.
"You mean we have a magic plastic tree?" Peter joked, though he was readying his thrower and aiming it the way Ray had pointed.
"No, more like something is hiding there." Ray made another scan and frowned. "There's something there as well," he suddenly said and turned halfway to point at a life-sized statue of a Hawaiian god.
"Oh, goody," Peter muttered.
"But this one is stronger," Ray added and gestured at the trees.
"I love it, Ray. So we're facing something magical and something that has been touched by magic. Any idea what kind of thing it is?" He approached the plastic plants, warily narrowing his eyes, expecting something to jump at him any minute.
"No. It isn't ghost; it looks more like a corporeal being. Be careful, Peter."
"I'm always careful." Suddenly the psychologist tensed. Something had moved in there. "Okay, buddy, whoever you are you better come out now!" He aimed his thrower at the plants.
"Peter ...." Ray wasn't able to finish his sentence because suddenly they could hear an angry growl, like that of a wild cat. But the growl didn't come from the plastic plants, it came from behind them.
Ray whirled around, just in time to see something sitting atop the fake statue. White glowing eyes fixed on the two Ghostbusters and then the thing jumped at Ray.
"Watch out!" Peter shouted and tried to shove Ray aside, but simultaneously as the creature jumped, something hit Peter and he tumbled toward the display case holding the scepter.
Peter's eyes went wide as he saw what had hit him. It was large, that was the first thing he saw; and it wasn't human. True, it had two arms and two legs, but it also had a pair of leathery wings, a long tail, and it's face held no human features. Whitish blond hair topped his head. White glowing eyes regarded the Ghostbuster with anger and the gleaming, sharp teeth did nothing to calm Peter. Instinctively he aimed at the thing and fired. The creature jumped aside as the stream of ionized protons shot at it. Half turning it lashed out with his tail. Peter yelped in pain as the muscular tail hit his wrist and he had to let go of the thrower. The impact made him stagger further and when the thing jumped at him, he lost his last inch of balance and crashed into the display case. Both Ghostbuster and winged creature went down in a heap of glass fragments and wood.
Ray had fared better. He hadn't fired at the approaching being, simply jumped back. He regarded the small, but still dangerous looking creature with curiosity and surprise. It had a mustard colored skin, two arms and legs and its only means of clothing was a loincloth, fastened to its slim body with a broad belt. The wings were attached to its legs and arms, reminding the occultist of the fruit bats he had seen in a documentary once. Its rather large eyes were glowing in a whitish color and it snarled warningly.
"I won't hurt you," Ray tried to communicate with it, though he wasn't sure it understood him. He stowed the P.K.E. meter and held his hands away from his body to signal his good intent.
The glow in the eyes faded and suddenly Ray was regarded by two very human dark eyes. That was when something crashed and he turned.
"Peter!" he called in surprise and fear as he saw how his dark-haired friend lay in the middle of a mess of glass and wood, threatened by the bronze-colored creature.
"Brooklyn, no!" The clear voice rang through the room and the bronze-colored being stopped, turning its head to look at its smaller companion.
"You can talk!" Ray cried in delight.
Peter gave a groan and tried to pick himself up without getting cut by the glass fragments. He still sustained a few minor cuts.
"Of course we can!" the smaller one said with a note of disdain.
"Who are they?" the bronze asked, eyeing them warily, but Ray noticed that the white, angry light had vanished from his eyes.
"We're the Ghostbusters," Ray explained quickly. "My name's Ray Stantz, and this is my friend Peter Venkman." He gestured at Peter, who had put some distance between himself and the bronze creature.
The small one gave a delighted "Wow!" He came over to Ray, who noticed that he was using both arms and legs to walk, unlike his larger friend, who seemed content to walk upright.
"I saw you on TV! You trap ghosts, don't you? By the way, my name's Lexington, and that's Brooklyn." He gestured at the bronze.
"You watch TV?" Peter asked, finally finding his voice and carefully joining Ray. He was still keeping an eye on his attacker, but Brooklyn made no further threatening moves.
"Yes, we have a TV, but the movies are much more fun," Lexington explained enthusiastically. "You're really the Ghostbusters! This is great!"
"Yeah, yeah, right, Lex," Brooklyn said, leaning a bit against the wall. "But what now?"
"Huh?" Ray and Lexington nearly asked simultaneously.
Peter smiled slightly. Though this wasn't a defused situation he was beginning to enjoy this surprise meeting. Somehow Lexington reminded him of Ray.
"They found us," Brooklyn explained with a painstakingly slow voice, gesturing at Peter and Ray. "With devices. Ring any bells what this might do to us?"
"Oh." Realization dawned on the smaller one.
"We won't hurt you," Ray said quickly. "You simply surprised us. We were looking for a ghost."
"Great!" Lexington's eyes seemed to glow with enthusiasm. "We could help you!"
"No, we can't!" Brooklyn objected. "This is too dangerous. We'll just go home."
"What are you two?" Ray asked Lexington. "You aren't ghosts, but you still have a somewhat magical aura."
"We do?" Brooklyn asked, his face displaying surprise.
"We are gargoyles," Lexington explained proudly.
"Wow!" Ray now called, excited. "Gargoyles!"
"Uhm, just a second," Peter interjected. "I thought gargoyles were stone statues on roof tops, not burglars."
"We are not burglars!" Lexington objected hotly. "We just wanted to see the exhibition!"
Peter held up a hand. "Uh, easy there." He wasn't wild on getting thrown somewhere again. Uneasily he looked over to Brooklyn, but the bronze gargoyle didn't look like he was going to jump him.
"Gargoyles," Ray repeated. "This is so great! Do you mind if I take a few readings? It won't hurt."
Both gargoyles exchanged a quick look. "I'd rather you wouldn't," Lexington said slowly. "Though I'd like to trust you we still have our clan to protect. You might use these readings against us and ..."
Ray shook his head. "No, we won't."
"Of course we won't," Peter added with a nod. "We bust ghosts, not gargoyles .... as long as you behave and don't frighten anybody."
"We don't frighten humans on purpose," Brooklyn said. "They get a fright when they glimpse us but we keep hidden most of the time." He looked at his friend. "Lex, it's time to go. You know ... the others will worry."
Lexington nodded. "Yeah." He smiled at Ray. "Bye. It was nice meeting you."
Ray looked a bit disappointed that the gargoyles were leaving. "Likewise."
Peter gave Brooklyn a wary smile, his thrower still firmly in both hands. He wasn't about to let his guard down only because the two gargoyles were intelligent and talking beings; they were still dangerous and able to harm them if angered.
"Dr. Venkman? Dr. Stantz?"
"Ups, Ms. Mato," Peter said and suddenly became aware of the damage they had done.
Half a minute later the woman entered the room and her eyes flew directly to the shattered display case. "Oh, no!" she moaned, then regarded the two Ghostbusters sternly. "What happened?"
"Uhm, we thought we had seen a ghost," Peter explained, out of the corner of his eyes noticing that the two gargoyles were gone.
The woman sighed and went over to the broken display case, picking up the exhibit. With a surprised exclamation she let go of it as if she had burned her fingers.
"What is it?" Ray wanted to know, whipping out the P.K.E. meter and immediately pointing it at the scepter.
"It tingled!" Ann-Marie Mato said with amazement in her voice.
"There's a faint reading, but nothing stronger than a strong residue," Ray explained after a minute. He frowned. "We need to run more tests to be sure that this staff isn't dangerous. It gave off magical energy this afternoon and right now it looks like something powerful touched it some time ago. This isn't normal."
"When is anything ever normal in our business, Ray?" Peter reminded him with a smile.
"You can't take the scepter with you!" Ann-Marie protested. "It's a priceless antique!"
"We won't break it," Peter promised. "We've handled priceless antiques before.
The dark-haired woman looked pointedly at the broken display case.
"That was neither priceless, nor was it antique," Peter said quickly. "But if you insist, we'll stay here and you have to explain to the people why the Ghostbusters have set up their housekeeping in you museum."
"That's blackmail, Dr. Venkman."
"It is, isn't it?" The psychologist grinned brightly.
Ann-Marie inhaled deeply, then nodded. "Okay, take it with you, but I want to have it back by Tuesday."
"That gives us more than 36 hours, thanks," Ray said earnestly. He walked carefully over to where the scepter lay and picked it up with even more care. It didn't react in any way, not even a slight tingle.
"You okay?" Peter asked with a slightly worried tone in his voice.
"Everything's fine," Ray said and smiled. "Let's go."
"And leave me with the cleaning up," Ann-Marie muttered, but she was smiling.
"See you on Tuesday morning," Peter called, then they were gone.
* * *
"If you had told me that you wanted to visit an exhibition I could have arranged for a better time," Maren muttered as she crouched down beside the skylight of the Museum of Natural History. The Shadow's cloak, which she still wore, fell around her, covering her like a big, black blanket. Somehow it felt natural to wear the cloak, as if it belonged to her..... had belonged to her all along. Maybe it was because of the possession. "Like tomorrow morning when it's open."
"We have no time to waste," Cranston said coldly.
"What do I tell the police when I get caught? 'I'm sorry guys, but I'm possessed by the ghost of Lamont Cranston and he told me to break into the museum'?"
Maren felt something inside of her stir with anger. Being possessed, because that was exactly what she was, was not as bad as she had thought, but it also wasn't fun. Lamont Cranston was a chauvinist, as far as she was concerned. He used her as if she were merely a tool, not an individual with a mind of her own. And that she was a woman made it even worse. He would have changed into a male body if he had had any choice, but he hadn't. Maren had been the one wearing the ring with the stone, the stone he had chosen to store his energies in when he had died. Now he was stuck in her. It wasn't her first choice either. She knew about Lamont Cranston, mostly from her grandfather's stories, but she hadn't a clue who he really was and what he had been, beside the fact that he had disguised himself as The Shadow and had hunted down criminals. She didn't even know what he looked like.
"Okay, okay, lighten up." Maren pried the skylight open with the ritual dagger and then slipped inside. She put the phurba into a leather sheath. "Last time I did a stunt like this was when we had this training exercise," she muttered as she climbed down a rope she had fastened at the skylight.
"Training exercise?" Cranston asked, suddenly curious.
"You know.... a game." She looked around and saw that no one was here. "Those manager types love to play war and action games, and as a woman I was judged as an easy target when they invited me." A grim smile crossed her lips. "They didn't know that I come well-trained." She crept past some very interesting looking exhibitions, wondering why the museum wasn't under heavy guard.
"Who trained you?"
"Ethan. My friend."
Maren grinned. Score. Though she wouldn't tell him that she and Ethan were nothing but platonic friends and that he was seldom in New York, because he was always away because the army commandeered him from one base to another.
Then she asked, "Okay, where to?"
She sensed him move inside her, then he said, "Straight ahead. I will guide you when we come closer." After they had passed another exhibition he said, "Left."
She arrived in what looked like a Hawaiian exhibition and was immediately fascinated by what she saw. All those artifacts seemed to capture her. Maren had always loved museums, though she had been more in love with dinosaur bones than broken vases and sculptures. This here was different.
"It's gone," Cranston suddenly said, startling her a bit.
"What is?" she asked.
"The energy source. The thing I felt. Whatever Kanaloa is after, it is gone. We have to find it!"
Maren felt herself take several steps back to the skylight. "Hey!" she protested in a hiss. "Stop it!"
"We need to go!" Cranston said, not relinquishing control of her.
"This is my body, Cranston! It goes where I want it to go!" He pulled back all of a sudden. "That's better." Maren snorted. "Now let's leave."
* * *
The tall man in the black turtle neck and trousers looked at the blond with a mixture of anger and surprise.
"The scepter has been removed from the exhibition, Mr. Xanatos," Owen Burnett, right hand and personal assistant of David Xanatos, answered calmly. "It was taken by two men this evening. Ms. Mato seemed to have no objections."
Xanatos frowned in displeasure.... and something else. Owen couldn't quite place it. It was just strange, something really strange.
"Who were those two men?" Xanatos asked.
"As far as I could confirm this their names are Dr. Peter Venkman and Dr. Ray Stantz."
"Those names ring a bell, Owen." Xanatos steepled his fingers in front of his face.
"They are Ghostbusters," Owen helped out, trying to place this feeling he had about his employer.
Xanatos' eyebrows shot up. "Ghostbusters? What do the Ghostbusters want with a Hawaiian relic?"
Owen shrugged. "I do not know." He could ask Xanatos the same. Ever since the billionaire had decided that he needed that staff -- two days ago -- Owen had tried to find out exactly why he wanted it. He had had no success. David Xanatos evaded every question.
Now he shook his head. "It must be a coincidence."
"A coincidence that might throw us back with our original plans," Burnett reminded him.
"Nonsense, Owen. This might even be better. A museum has alarms and guards, but the Ghostbusters don't." Xanatos smiled. "We'll proceed as planned. Get their address and prepare the Steel Clan. We'll go out tomorrow evening."
"It won't be easy to blame the robbery on the gargoyles," Burnett reminded him. "Especially if the Ghostbusters see the robots."
Xanatos shrugged. "But they won't connect the robots to me, so what?"
Owen kept his silence. Xanatos stood and smiled confidently. "We'll have the scepter by this time tomorrow, Owen."
"If you say so, sir."
With that Burnett left the office, walking down the long corridor, deeply in thought. He nearly collided with someone because he wasn't paying attention.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Xanatos," he apologized immediately.
Fox Xanatos shook her head. "No harm done, Owen. Is David here?"
He nodded. "He's in his office."
Fox looked down the corridor, a thoughtful and worried look on her beautiful face. "Owen, may I ask you a question?"
"Do you notice anything different about my husband lately?"
Owen blinked, his own observations rising in his mind. "Lately as in the last two or three days?" he asked carefully.
She nodded. "You noticed it too, didn't you?" she said, taking his question as a confirmation. "He's different, Owen. Somehow. It's like he's a different person." She looked very worried now. "And he's so obsessed with the scepter, like it's his only means of future survival. Not even when he wanted the Phoenix Gate was he so intense, so ..... single-minded."
"I noticed." And Owen had. Something was very different about David Xanatos, worryingly different.
"What do you think we should do?" Fox asked.
"I don't know."
* * *
She noticed the strong psychic presence the moment it came out in the open, but she didn't know what to do about it. It didn't threaten her, but neither was she overly comforted by it. It was bad enough that her old enemy was back and after her scepter, now there was also an unknown factor in the game. She had to act. She had to talk to the ones ready to help her.
* * *
It was late when they returned. Peter felt a bit tired, though he was still running on adrenaline from their encounter with the gargoyles.
"Wasn't this great?" Ray asked for the nth time. "Real gargoyles!"
"Yeah, Ray, it was fantastic getting attacked by a six foot tall, snarling and enraged creature with glowing white eyes," the psychologist muttered.
"Aw, Peter, that was a misunderstanding." Ray walked up the stairs to the lab. "And besides, even though they didn't want me to take readings, I got some readings from before they revealed themselves."
"So what? You want to search for them? If you do, count me out!" Peter shook his head. "Next time they might not be so friendly, especially when we find them because we're looking for them."
Ray looked a bit disappointed. "Wouldn't it be great to see where they live?"
The occultist sighed in defeat as they entered the lab. Peter, feeling adrenaline leave his system and tiredness increase, was tempted to just fall into his bed, but he was also a bit curious as to what Ray wanted to do with the readings.
"See, that's what I found when we were making our rounds through the neighborhood of the Xanatos Tower," the auburn-haired man said and pointed at the computer screen.
Peter could make out some wobbly lines.
"And this," Ray continued, "is what I read just before Brooklyn and Lexington attacked."
Another wobbly line joined the first one. They were nearly identical as far as Peter could see.
"You wanna tell me that those two came from the Xanatos Tower?" Peter asked.
"No, they didn't come from there. The readings aren't strong enough for that. But they were there some time ago. I also found some other readings very close to the Tower and some more gargoyle magic residue further away, leading to the library."
"Now you've lost me, Ray. Are there gargoyles on the Tower or not?" Peter was mentally going through a scenario where he offered to rid Xanatos of the gargoyles for a large amount of money; then again, Ray would never go for it. He liked those creatures; and Peter had to confess that they had sounded less hostile in the end than he had expected.
"I'm not sure yet. I want to go through all of this again and I need some reference books, especially where those gargoyles are concerned. Though they are extraordinary creatures I don't believe they are magical, which makes the amount of magical residue a mystery."
And Ray loved mysteries. Peter smiled and yawned. "You do that. I'll crash for today. By the way, what do you want to do with that scepter. Remember, that was our primary reason for going through all of this."
Ray's eyes widened. Through his fascination with the gargoyles he had completely forgotten about the Hawaiian antique.
"Oh," he muttered. "I'll put it into the scanner Egon finished last months."
"You mean the microwave oven?" Peter joked.
The scanner really looked like of a microwave oven and Egon had been a bit annoyed when one day Peter had come in with some leftovers, announcing he wanted to heat them in the new device.
"Just be glad that Egon isn't around," Ray replied with a good-natured smile. "You know how proud he is of the scanner.
Peter knew that and he also knew that the device was a big addition, since it could do a three-dimensional scan of an object placed inside the boxy machine. Ray walked over to the scanner and put the scepter carefully inside; then he closed the door and punched some buttons.
"That'll take some time," the occultist explained to his waiting friend. "I'll research the gargoyles in the meantime."
Peter yawned again. "You do that. Just remember that the night's for sleeping, not sitting blurry eyed in front of the computer."
Ray nodded, but he was already deeply absorbed in his work. Peter shook his head and ventured into the bedroom. He was just glad that Slimer had gone with Winston, who had planned to visit an orphanage in his parents' neighborhood. Slimer would be the right addition to a visit from one of the Ghostbusters. Children somehow didn't mind being slimed by the green ghost, though Peter didn't understand that. The ectoplasm was cold, sticky and tended to cling to him like chewing gum. Well, kids .... who understood their likes and dislikes anyway?
With that last thought he fell into his bed, dreaming of gargoyles and magic monsters.
* * *
Maren lay in her bed, sleeping a dreamless sleep. The black cloak of the Shadow had been draped over a chair along with the red scarf. She had also taken some other clothes, but had refused to wear the automatics. Lamont Cranston had not even tried to argue with her. Even if she knew how to use them, and he wasn't so sure she did know, she'd never fire them. And carrying around a weapon you didn't want to use was pointless. While the woman, Moe Shrevnitz's granddaughter, was sleeping he pondered his current situation. He had never imagined that he would end up in a woman's body when he had emerged from his sleep, but here he was, inside Maren's body and mind, five decades after his death. It was a weird feeling, but he was used to weird. What he wasn't used to was the strong-minded quality of his host. She truly was a Shrevnitz and had probably inherited those character streaks from her grandfather. Cranston had fond memories of his driver and close friend Moe Shrevnitz, feeling sorry that he wasn't around any longer. Well, the past was a long gone time....
Not disturbing her sleep he emerged from her body. He wasn't a very substantial ghost, but he was a full torso apparition and he still had some of his original powers, though they were ten times stronger inside a living body. And since Maren was a psychic she enhanced his powers still further. She also presented a nearly perfect link, which surprised him a bit.
Cranston walked slowly through the apartment, looking at his new home for at least the next few days. Maren had not yet told him what her job was, but he guessed from her remarks that she had a high position, or, judging from the expensive apartment, she either had a lot of money or a very generous friend. As he passed a mirror he looked inside. The reflection was partly that of Lamont Cranston and partly that of his alter ego, The Shadow. He was dressed in black, the cloak flowing around him, his hands covered by gloves. His scarf was missing, as was his hat, and his face was that of Lamont Cranston, smooth, handsome .... human. He turned away from the mirror, reminded of what he had been, and he hated reminiscing..
He found some papers, the head reading LIGHTSPEED INC, COMPUTER PROGRAMS MADE FOR YOU. There was a high tech computer in one room and a shelf full of engineering books and stuff about computer programs. Several diplomas lined one wall and he realized with surprise that Maren Jennifer Shrevnitz held two doctorates and had been one of the top five of her class. Judging from her date of birth she had to be a whiz kid. She had been quite young when she had received her doctorates, as far as he could judge.
Cranston returned to the living room and found some pictures on the wall. Several showed Maren in various stages of her youth, mostly together with a man Cranston immediately recognized: Moe Shrevnitz. The former cabby had aged, but there still was the same old spirit in his eyes. There was a graduation picture with Maren's parents and her grandfather, all of them beaming proudly.
"He died a few months after the picture was taken," a soft, female voice said and he turned, noticing to his surprise that Maren was up, though not quite awake, dressed in her robe. She was leaning against the door frame, looking at him. "He was very proud when I received my first doctorate. He wasn't around to celebrate the second one."
"Why?" Cranston asked.
"Cancer. He was already in the hospital the day I graduated a second time and I visited him to tell him about it." Maren's green eyes clouded with the emotional memories. "I know he heard me and I know he smiled, but he couldn't talk to me anymore. He was a strong man, who gave me more than I could ever thank him for...." She shook her head, inhaling deeply. "I see you're up and around," she said with a forced smile.
Cranston looked at her, once again revising his general opinion about the weaker sex. These were different times, he reminded himself, women had changed their status, had taken control of their lives and no longer saw getting married as their primary objective in life. Maren was strong, he knew that, he had felt it, and she was his friend's granddaughter, someone who was his only way to stop Kanaloa.
"Yes," was all he said.
"If you can leave my body, why all the possession stuff?"
"I can't act with all my powers while outside a living body," he confessed, feeling a strange safety inside of him to tell her that. "I have yet to find all my powers."
"What y'do? Misplace them?" she teased.
He grimaced a bit.
"Okay, okay, bad joke." Maren walked over to the armchair and curled into it. "Cranston?"
"How did you die?"
It was a straight question; something that could be given a straight answer, but it wasn't so easy. He looked at her for a long time, unable to come up with an answer. When he didn't say anything, she merely sighed softly.
"All right, no answer is an answer as well. So, Mr. Shadow, what do you want to do now?"
He raised an eyebrow. "It's still early in the morning, so I'd propose you go back to sleep."
She mimicked his gesture. "All alone on my own?"
Cranston had to smile, then shook his head. Maren chuckled and walked back into the bedroom. He remained in the living room for some more time, then followed her, merging with her sleeping body once more.
* * *
"That was the most stupid stunt I've ever seen!" Brooklyn told Lexington.
The smaller gargoyle looked surprised. "What? Why?"
"You nearly told that human everything! Why didn't you give him our address as well?"
Lexington stared at him. "Oh, now it's my fault! You were the one jumping the Ghostbuster!"
"Because he was pointing his weapon at me!" Brooklyn retorted.
"What's all the noise, guys?" Broadway asked and walked out on the balcony of the clock tower where Lex and Brooklyn were having their argument. "How was the exhibition?"
"Very ..... uhm .... interesting," Lexington answered, shooting Brooklyn a warning look.
"Lots of unusual things," the bronze gargoyle added with a frown toward Lexington.
"Aw, gee, maybe I'll have a look at it tomorrow night then," Broadway mused aloud. "The movie wasn't that good."
"So you won't see it two dozen times this once?" Lex teased.
Broadway grinned. "I think I'll adopt Hudson's philosophy just this once and wait till it's on TV."
"You have returned." The calm statement let the three young gargoyles quiet down. Goliath, followed by Bronx and Hudson, stepped outside. It was close to sunrise.
"We had a great time," Brooklyn told his leader, but there was much of the usual enthusiasm missing.
Goliath frowned, but he let the subject drop, mainly because the sun would rise soon. The six gargoyles took their usual places at the clock tower's front side and struck a fear-inspiring pose. Lexington glanced sideways to Brooklyn, warning him through his look not to spill anything of what had happened tonight. Then the sun's first rays touched them and they turned to stone.
* * *
He was a in a steamy jungle. Large trees grew all around him, blocking out a lot of the sunlight with their leaves. Animals cried far away and noises could be heard. He turned, frowning. How had he arrived here? Why was he here?
"Welcome," a voice floated over to him.
He looked at the woman in surprise. She had straight, long red hair, a tanned skin and dark brown eyes. Her exotic facial features revealed a smile. She was dressed in some kind of robe and wearing a headdress made of plants. In her left hand she held a scepter. His eyes widened as he recognized the scepter; it was the one they had taken along from the museum!
"Who are you?" he asked.
"My name is Pele," the woman answered. "You guard my scepter and guard it well, for there are evil forces at work trying to take it from you. Its power should not be used to give in to temptation."
"What?" He was confused. "Somebody wants to steal the scepter? Is the thief the dark shape that has been watching the exhibition?"
"No, for the dark shape is the guardian, a gentle-minded spirit that will never be a danger to you." Pele lifted the staff. The orange gem glowed lightly. "Be wary, dangers await."
In front of his eyes the beautiful young woman changed into an old hag, her hair still as fiery red, but her face wrinkled.
Stunned, he stared at her. "Dangers? What dangers?"
"Of the mortal and immortal kind, unpredictable and greedy," the old woman replied. Her dark eyes still glowed with the life of her much younger self. Then she disappeared.
Confused he turned to see if she had moved somewhere, but he was alone again. The jungle's noises seemed to swell in volume and the heat suddenly became oppressive and nauseating. He was sweating, feeling a bit strange all of a sudden. And then, from one second to the next, the whole world collapsed into blackness.
He woke with a start and gasped for air. His neck muscles twinged from the unaccustomed position of his body. He had fallen asleep at the work bench, his head resting on his arms. Ray groaned slightly as he massaged his neck. Then he remembered the dream. It had been weird and a bit surprising, if not even frightening in the end, as he had felt the sickening pressure of the jungle collapse over him. He rose from his chair and stretched, grimacing as his tight shoulders protested.
A blinking light caught his attention and he walked over to the scanner. The scan had been completed hours ago, but since he had fallen asleep he hadn't been able to take out the scepter. Yawning, he decided to refresh himself first with a quick shower. It was the reasonable thing to do; besides, he needed to run the results of the scan through the computer first to get a clear picture. While the computer was working on the problem he'd splash some water into his face and change his clothes.
As he entered the bedroom he noticed Peter, still sleeping. It was close to eight, a time Peter never roused from his bed, so this was normal. Ray grabbed some clean clothes, then headed over to the bathroom. When he emerged ten minutes later and entered the bedroom again to dump his other clothes, he found Peter sitting up and yawning mightily.
"Morning, Ray," the psychologist mumbled around another yawn. "How'd the microwaving go?"
The occultist was a bit surprised to find his friend in any mood to speak coherently, let alone upright with eyes open and looking awake.
"I'm running the results through Egon's computer program. Peter, why are you already up?" Ray frowned a bit, clearly surprised.
Peter ran a hand through his tangled hair. "Don't know. I had the weirdest dream and suddenly I was wide awake."
"What dream?" the auburn-haired Ghostbuster wanted to know, somehow reminded of his own dream, which had been not quite a nightmare.
"Weird one. I was standing in some kind of castle or temple or something like that. And there was this woman. She looked like the red-head from the museum I noticed. She said we are to guard that scepter and that someone would try to steal it."
Ray's eyes went wide. "That's nearly the same thing I dreamed!" he exclaimed. "I was in a jungle and a red-haired woman named Pele talked to me. She said someone was after the scepter and that we had to stop him."
Peter frowned. "What do you make of it? Somebody invading our dreams, Tex?"
Ray thoughtfully chewed his lower lip. "Maybe. But maybe it has something to do with the scepter. I'll have to do some experiments concerning that."
"I hope those experiments don't include little Ghostbusters dreaming of red-haired women," Peter muttered and began to search for clean clothes to wear.
"Uhm, well, since we are the ones dreaming about her ...." Ray began.
"Argh, you're just as bad as Egon. I won't volunteer for any experiments, Ray. That's final!" With that the dark-haired Ghostbuster walked off to the bathroom.
Ray, left on his own, shrugged and returned to the lab. He still had to go over the results of the three-dimensional scan of the scepter, and there were also the gargoyles.....
* * *
Maren had canceled all her appointments for today, except for the most important one. The meeting had just ended and she had made another contract, getting her company a few million bucks if she could deliver the wanted program. And that would be easy. Cranston had been very quiet throughout her deals and only now that she was alone in her office, sipping some coffee, did he stir a bit.
"What?" she asked, looking out of the large window, studying the afternoon skyline. Even though she and Cranston had 'met' only last night, she had become quite good at reading those faint stirs and flurries, as if butterflies touched her body. Right now he was feeling nervous.
"We are losing time,"
"I have a life, Cranston, and I have a company to run. This deal was important," she informed him. "I'm not about to go bankrupt because of you, understood?"
"We are still loosing time. Kanaloa is even now trying to get to the power focus. We have to stop him."
"And how do you want to do this? Let me run around the city until you get a scent?" Maren shook her head. "Forget it."
"While you were busy with your business I had some time to search for the focus. I have a rough idea where it might be."
"Ah." Maren thought hard, then sighed. Either she acted to help him or he'd try to take over her body again. "All right. I'll tell my associates that I'm taking the rest of the day off and we can go and search for your focus."
Standing, she smoothed her plain, light beige skirt and arranged her dark blouse. Taking her equally beige jacket she went for the door. As she passed the door she looked at herself again, then, when she was pleased that she looked perfect, she asked, "Is that all right with you?"
He didn't answer and she grimaced. So much for a thank you. An hour later she had changed her outfit and was on the street, following his directions.
* * *
Peter lounged in one chair of the lab, watching Ray work. He himself was doing his own research, concentrating on the book of Hawaiian mythology Ray had dug up from somewhere. Trust the kid to have such a book. If they ever stumbled upon something Ray didn't have a reference book for, then Peter would be really surprised. The occultist was busy with the scepter in the meantime, muttering things under his breath every now and then. Peter was used to that and so he didn't listen to any of the things Ray uttered.
When he had read through the last of the chapters Ray had marked in the table of contents he rose from his chair and walked over to Ray's work place. It was already past noon and except for a sandwich and several cups of coffee, neither of the two Ghostbusters had eaten anything. Though Peter loved to get out of any work as long as he could, avoiding research enterprises and work on strange and mysterious devices, he was able to concentrate on serious research if he was interested in it. Since Mrs. Faversham had asked him this favor he wanted to do as much as possible.
"Well, anything?" he asked.
"Hm," Ray muttered, then looked up. "The scepter isn't anything I've ever seen before. The staff isn't made of wood and the stone at its top isn't any gem I've ever seen either. The structure of the wood is unknown and it is incredibly dense and hard. The stone looks like glass, but it isn't and it's just as hard and dense. I can't find an explanation as to why its color is orange."
"I can't find anything on the scepter now except for an unusual dense structure."
Peter stared at him. "But I thought you said it was magical? We had a reading yesterday and Ms. Mato said she felt it tingle in her hands."
Ray shrugged helplessly. "I don't know what it is, Peter, but whatever made our meter react to it, it's gone now."
"So we bring it back to the museum and tell the lady we destroyed her property for no apparent reason?" Peter leaned back against the work bench. "No good, Ray. What about the dream?"
The younger man looked thoughtful again. "Hm, that's the only thing we still have, together with the readings we picked up the first time. What did you find in the book? Anything about the scepter or why anyone would steal it?"
Peter shook his head, walking over to where he had dropped the book. He opened it and withdrew some pages of notes. "I found something about the lady we saw in our dreams. Pele is the Fire Goddess in the Hawaiian myths and she is supposed to be the one who gave birth to the island. The story of her life is in here and she has quite a history." He grinned. "Better than 'Dynasty', with love, hatred, betrayal and things like that. She can apparently bring people back to life because it says here she brought some guy named Lohi'au back for him to decide whether he wanted her or her sister as a lover. He decided he loved her sister more than her. The Hawaiians believe she lives in her home, Halema'uma'u, and rules there as a Fire Goddess, being responsible for volcanic eruptions and fires. She's apparently one of the good guys."
"And the staff?" Ray wanted to know.
"Nope, no staff. But remember what the staff is supposed to be? It said it's for healing. There was a Hawaiian word written next to it and I looked it up in this book."
Ray raised an eyebrow at that. Of course he knew that Peter, when interested in something, was a very thorough researcher, but it always came as a surprise nevertheless.
"Well, the word was lapaau, medicine ... or healing," Peter said with a triumphant smile. "It also has a lot of other meanings, but when I took a closer look I stumbled upon a god named Kane. He's believed to be the life-giver, a god who respects life and forbids human sacrifice, something uncommon for the other gods. He's something of a supreme deity. It says in one brief chapter that he was also believed to be the one god choosing specific kahunas to serve him for more than one lifetime. He would grant them near immortality."
Ray looked fascinated by all this.
"And now for the good part: the orange stone on top of the scepter ... there's a drawing in this book of yours." Peter opened the book on one page and gave it to Ray.
The occultist took it and looked at the hand drawn picture of a stone. "It says here that this was the stone with which Kane gave the chosen man life energy to last for more than one lifetime," he read. He turned his head and stared at the scepter. "You think that's what the staff does? It prolongs life? That would be great!" He walked over to the work bench again and picked up the scepter. Nothing happened, no tingling, no sudden flashes of steamy jungles. It was a dead weight in his hands. "But how can we find out? I mean, I can't detect anything and whatever was there before is gone now."
Peter closed the book and scratched his chin. "I don't know, Ray. Why don't we grab a bite to eat first and ponder that problem later? I'm starving!"
Reluctantly Ray nodded, but he followed Peter down to the kitchen, bringing the scepter along.
She was pleased. Both humans had seen and heard her in their dreams and both seemed to know that it was more than a dream, though neither was aware of the real danger lurking just beyond their home's wall. The one seeking to steal the stone, the one in possession of her old enemy, was still there and though the scepter had been removed from the museum it wouldn't stop him from his task. She had to keep on watching.
* * *
Another day turned into an evening and the two Ghostbusters were no further than before. Ray had long since lain the scepter aside and was reading reference book after reference book -- without much success. Peter had alternated between keeping his younger friend company and taking readings from the area around the Xanatos Tower. Ray had come up with the idea of getting some more readings by day and Peter had only too happily complied. It beat reading dry books all the time. He was just returning home now, weary and without much enthusiasm left. He kept telling himself that they were doing this for Mrs. Faversham, but that wasn't going anywhere at all. They had two strange cases, one with gargoyles, the other one with weird dreams and foreign staffs.
"Yo, Ray," he greeted the occultist, who had apparently not left the lab. He still sat where Peter had last seen him when he had left Central.
"Hello, Peter," Ray returned. "Anything new?"
"Nothing. No gargoyles, no magic readings."
Ray sighed. "I wish Egon was here. I'd like to hear his theory about the staff -- and the gargoyles."
"What about your research?"
"Not much. I could recite most Hawaiian mythology to you, but no story ever mentioned the staff. It's as if it never existed."
"What about the dreams?"
Ray shook his head again. "Nothing there either. It's frustrating."
Peter had to agree. "So all we know about the scepter is that its make-up is strange and that the stone at the top is thought to be a healing stone."
"Or something to prolong life," Ray added as he left the lab and headed over to the bedroom.
"Which might be a reason for someone to steal it, but we're not the police. We should take the scepter back to Ms. Mato." The dark-haired psychologist followed him
Ray didn't look very approving as he searched for his shoes and sweater. "Peter, we know that this staff isn't normal; we both had warning dreams; and there is someone out there who wants to steal it, maybe a ghost. We can't give it back now."
Before Peter could say something a loud noise alerted the two men. It was the noise of glass splintering under heavy weight. Peter shot Ray a questioning look, then ran to the door and opened it cautiously. No one was outside. Nobody had ever broken into Ghostbuster Central. A lot of burglars were afraid of the ghosts and the others seemed to know that there was nothing to steal here except for Egon's fungus experiments, some of Ray's comics, probably some old laundry and Ecto-1.
When Peter opened the door to the lab, which had been only slightly ajar, he stopped, his eyes widening. What he saw couldn't be real!
"Peter, what ...?"
Ray looked past him and his eyes went just as wide as Peter's, probably even wider. "Gosh! What are those?"
The objects of their fascination and surprise were two large, silver robots, with wings, tails and claws. The latter made Peter shiver a bit as he imagined what those claws could do to him. The skylight in the ceiling of Egon's lab was in ruins, lots of splinters decorating the floor. The robots looked around, then their optics focused on the staff lying openly on the work bench. One robot reached out and took the staff.
"What the ....." Anger swelled up inside Peter as he witnessed the theft. Not only were they dropping by uninvited, now those two metal things were stealing something that wasn't even the Ghostbuster's property!
A hand on his arm kept him from storming into the lab, confronting the robots -- which would have taken him apart with ease.
"Peter, no!" Ray whispered.
But the robots had seen the movement. One of them lifted an arm, pointing at them. Peter saw in horror as a part of the forearm of the robot turned into a weapon.
"Down!" he yelled and shoved Ray to the floor.
Something hit the wall behind them, turning wallpaper into a smoldering mass. Peter's head whipped around to stare at the wall, then back to the robots. Ray was crawling for cover. One robot stayed put while the other advanced a bit. Peter's eyes fastened on the proton pack Egon had assembled just three days ago. He didn't know if it worked, but it was worth a try. With a movement borne out of anger, fear and a real deep craving for life he jumped for the pack, which was leaning beside the table close to the door. The robot's optics followed him and he aimed for the hapless psychologist. Peter grabbed the thrower, punched the ready button and then the fire button nearly in one movement. A whine told Peter that the pack was ready and he grinned evilly.
Ray yelled a warning and the psychologist saw in cold terror that the second robot had aimed his weapon at him as well. It was still holding on to the scepter.
Then the remainders of the skylight caved in, glass raining to the floor again. And with the cave-in came three large figures. Two were familiar to Peter, one was a stranger. The robots were momentarily distracted and Peter took his chance to shoot at the nearest one. The crackling stream of ionized protons hit the robot's face and Peter saw to his astonishment how the optics broke in a shower of red plastic and how the metal singed slightly. The robot staggered away, turning a bit, and Peter shot again, this time hitting the wings. With a screech of metal the back of the robot burst open and the large metal being crashed to the floor.
Peter gave a whoop of triumph and turned to take out the second robots. He saw how Lexington was thrown into the small shelf of reference books Egon kept always handy and everything, books and gargoyle, fell to the floor in one large heap. Brooklyn and the other gargoyle charged the robot, but the machine decided to retreat. It fired its booster rocket and shot through the open skylight, disappearing into the night. Brooklyn made moves to follow, but his green skinned friend stopped him.
"You won't be able to follow him," the green gargoyle said and shook his head.
Brooklyn looked angry, but he nodded. Then he turned to Peter, who still sat on the floor, back to the table, thrower in hand. A smile crossed the beaked face and Peter surpressed a shudder as he saw the gleaming teeth. A groan caught their attention. Lexington surfaced from the stack of books, rubbing his bald head. He looked around.
"Where'd it go?" he asked.
The green gargoyle pointed toward the skylight. "It fled."
"Yeah, couldn't prevent it," Brooklyn added. Then he walked over to Peter's position and stretched out his taloned hand.
Peter eyed it dubiously, then sighed and took the offered hand. Brooklyn hauled him to his feet.
"What happened?" he wanted to know.
Ray, who had entered the lab just shortly before the second robot had left, stared at the mess. "Uh, Egon's gonna be pretty annoyed when he sees this," he commented.
"Not to speak of Ms Mato. We lost her staff."
Ray's face fell into a guilty expression, then he caught sight of the downed robot and the gargoyles. "Wow! You're back!"
"You know them?" the green gargoyle asked.
Peter had his first good look at the newcomer and just as Brooklyn and Lexington looked completely different from each other, this one was no exception. He was chubbier than the other two, with a large protruding belly, had fan-like ears and a bald head. His light green skin was a nice addition to the bronze color of Brooklyn and Lexington's mustard body.
"It's a long story," Brooklyn began.
"Good!" the green gargoyle enthused. "I love stories, especially if they go along hand in hand with food."
Lexington rolled his eyes. "Hope your fridge is stocked," he told Ray.
The occultist smiled. "No problem. Say, what brought you here? Did you follow those robots?"
"We saw them by accident," Lexington explained. "And since the Steel Clan is never up to something good we decided it might be a good idea to see where they were going."
"And they came here," Peter said sourly. "Who are they? Why did they want the scepter?"
"Scepter?" Lexington piped. "What scepter?"
"This is getting us nowhere," Ray decided. "Let's all go downstairs." He left the lab, followed by Peter and the gargoyles.
"What a mess," Venkman muttered.
"The Ghostbusters." Maren looked at the firehouse in disbelief. "You want to tell me that the Ghostbusters stole your focus? Gimme a break!"
"The focus is here," Cranston merely said. "I didn't imply that they stole it. But if Kanaloa has possessed one of them, anything is possible."
"So this guy also goes around and possesses people like you do?" She hadn't wanted to sound it like an accusation, but that was how it was apparently perceived.
Cranston was silent for several seconds, then said, "If I could use another body I'd do it."
"That wasn't aimed at you," Maren said with a sigh. "Don't be so sensitive! What do we do now?"
Before Cranston could answer they heard the whine of jet engines. Two large, gleaming figures passed overhead, followed by the sound of something breaking.
"What the hell is that?" Maren exclaimed.
Three more figures appeared several seconds later and descended toward the fire house.
"Get inside!" Cranston ordered. "We have to stop them!"
"That's breaking and entering!" she protested.
"How? I'm not a lockpick, Cranston!"
Maren suddenly lifted her hand, though she hadn't willed it to do it, and then she felt something like electricity travel through her. The lock of the door was blown out and the door swung open.
"Neat," she commented, then entered gingerly.
"Upstairs," Cranston ordered, sounding nervous.
Maren decided that if this was really a theft going on up there they could discuss her little breaking in later. She raced up the stairs and heard the sounds of battle coming from the third floor. There was a high whining sound and also a lot of noise as if something was breaking. Before she could get up the spiral staircase there was another whine of jet engines, then silence.
"Cranston?" she asked softly.
"It's gone," he said, his anger and rage barely contained. She felt the rage rush through her and had to inhale deeply not to lose herself in that strong emotion.
And then she heard voices. She was about to retreat when the first of the men came down the stairs. He was a dark-haired man in a sweat-shirt and jeans, followed by an auburn-haired guy and .... Maren gaped. What the hell were those creatures?
The dark-haired man stopped in surprise and the auburn-haired one bumped into him.
"Uh, hi," Maren stuttered, smiling a bit.
"Hello," the dark-haired one said, equally surprised. "Would you mind telling me what you are doing here, Miss....?"
"Ah, Shrevnitz. I was just ... visiting ....."
He looked at the watch. "It's past our business hours, Ms Shrevnitz, and even though I'm delighted by the presence of a beautiful woman, even if she wears a black cloak," he looked her over and she became aware that she was wearing the Shadow's cloak, "I'd like to know what you are doing here."
"I have come for the focus," Maren heard herself say, but it wasn't herself. It was Cranston. Anger flooded through her as she pushed him back out of her mind. How could he dare!
She sighed. "Listen, it's a long story....." She glanced at the three strange creatures behind the Ghostbusters.
The dark-haired one smiled. "We have time."
"Wow!" Ray breathed as he looked up from the P.K.E. meter. "That's the strongest reading I ever had from a possession."
"How many have you seen?" Maren asked dryly.
"More than I'd have liked to see," Ray said earnestly. "Possessions are never fun for the hosts."
"Tell me about it." The young woman sighed. "Now that you've verified that part of my story, how about telling me what's this with the focus."
"I thought you knew about it," Peter pointed out and raised an eyebrow. He was wary of the woman, who had broken into Ghostbuster Central by blowing out the lock and now claimed she was possessed by someone who was after the thief of the scepter.
Maren Shrevnitz would have been his kind of woman. She was beautiful, with reddish-brown, wavy hair that hung down between her shoulder blades in a pony tail, green eyes and a stunning figure. From her whole behavior she wasn't an airhead either and under different circumstances he would have liked to ask her out for a date.
"I don't, but apparently Cranston does," she answered. She waited for a second, apparently listening for something, then shrugged. "But he isn't very forthcoming with information. I guess he's a bit cross because I told you about him."
Peter and Ray exchanged a look, then glanced at the three gargoyles, who sat or stood in the living room, listening to the three humans. They were apparently as confused about Maren Shrevnitz as the Ghostbusters.
"You can hear him talk?" Ray asked.
She nodded. "I can. But all I know is that Cranston is after a guy called Kanaloa and that this Kanaloa is after a focus, whatever that is."
"The scepter!" Lexington exclaimed and received a sharp look from Brooklyn.
"Scepter?" the woman echoed.
Peter sighed. No use playing hide and seek now. "Tell her Ray."
Ray nodded and relayed his information about the scepter of Pele and its powerful stone to Maren Shrevnitz. Maren's face assumed an expression of interest and suddenly Peter thought he could see her green eyes darken into a nearly black color. But the effect passed within a second.
"Okay, so this scepter might be the focus, but it sounds like it's a benevolent power."
"You can use benevolent powers for malevolent acts," Ray informed her. "Legend has it that the stone has healing powers and also extends life."
"Could it bring back the dead?" she asked suddenly.
"Uh, I don't know, why?"
"Because like Cranston, Kanaloa is a ghost too, possessing someone else's body. If he made this someone steal the scepter, maybe he wants it to come back to life." She looked expectantly at them.
Stantz nodded thoughtfully. "It might be possible." He grabbed for the laptop and called up Tobin's Spirit Guide. "Kanaloa, Kanaloa ... he muttered. "Here it is!" he then called. "Kanaloa, the squid God. God of the sea and in some parts of Hawaii a rival of Kane. Kanaloa was the leader of the first spirits placed on earth after earth was separated from heaven. These spirits, spit out by the Gods, were not allowed to drink awa, that's the Hawaiian word for an intoxicating liquor, and rebelled. They were defeated and cast down into the underworld, land of Po, region of departed spirits. Kanaloa seduced the wife, Ke-aka-huli-lani, of the first man made by Kane. For this, man and woman are banished from Mokapu. That's Eden in our language," Ray added as an explanation. "Kanaloa is responsible for man's troubles and sickness and looked upon with distrust."
"So he isn't a ghost, but a god," Peter said levelly. "I hate it already."
Maren shook her head. "No, no, Kanaloa is the name someone else chose as an alias. The guy had many names, but he liked to call himself Kanaloa."
"And I guess he had some reason to do it," Venkman muttered. "No one names himself after a god and doesn't show the least bit of maniacal tendencies, like sacrifices and cults and stuff." He looked questioningly at their guest.
She shrugged. "Sorry, Cranston doesn't talk a lot about it. Right now he's as silent as a grave."
"Okay, so Kanaloa is both a name of a god and the name of an apparent madman ghost," Peter summoned up what they knew. "This Kanaloa guy wants the scepter, but what happened here wasn't the work of a ghost. The question is who stole the scepter?"
"Xanatos," Brooklyn answered darkly.
"What?" Peter asked incredulously. "You wanna tell me that Xanatos, a multi-millionaire, stole the scepter? That's ridiculous!"
Lexington sadly shook his head. "No, it isn't. Xanatos has done a lot of things, and his latest deed is merely a petty theft compared to what he usually plans."
Ray thoughtfully looked at the gargoyles. "And maybe he is really possessed by Kanaloa's ghost. Why did you help us? You could have gotten hurt .... "
Brooklyn smiled. "We protect the city, as Hudson continuously reminds us. Since we saw the Steel Clan, and they're never up to anything good, we decided it was worth a try to stop them."
"But you failed," Peter reminded him, not unkindly.
The three gargoyles nodded. Broadway, the green gargoyle, ate the rest of the large sandwich he had found in the fridge. Before that he had eaten the remainder of Ray's latest cooking experiment and right now he looked like he wanted more. Peter wondered how Slimer would take it that someone was raiding 'his' fridge.
"We have to get the staff back," Lexington said forcefully.
"Agreed," Peter nodded. "We only borrowed it for some research. Ms. Mato will be thoroughly pissed if we tell her we lost it. She wasn't pleased about the broken display case in the first place ......"
Brooklyn looked a bit sheepish. "Sorry."
Peter shrugged. He had forgiven the gargoyle; it had been a misunderstanding.
"So, how do we get the staff back?" Broadway asked. He had found the rest of the popcorn and was chewing happily.
"Xanatos will most likely have his Steel Clan warrior bring it back to the castle. That's where we start," Brooklyn decided.
"Goliath won't like that," Lexington interjected.
"And I don't like it that this guy breaks into my home and wrecks havoc in my buddy's lab!" Peter growled. He rose from the couch.
"Peter, we can't just storm into Xanatos' office and demand he give back the staff!" Ray objected. "We don't even know if he really has it."
"He has," Brooklyn rumbled darkly.
"Then let's get it!" Broadway exclaimed.
"But we can't just walk in there with no good reason....." Ray said slowly.
"If Kanaloa possessed Xanatos, then we have a good reason, Ray," Peter reminded him.
"And just how do we get in?" Ray asked. They all looked at each other. "There has to be a lot of security all over the place," the occultist went on. "We can't break in there."
"We can," Maren entered the conversation after she had been silent for a long time, only listening to the gargoyles and Ghostbusters arguing.
"Oh, and how?"
"How about circumventing the security program for starters?" She raised an eyebrow, a small smile starting on her lips.
"And you're just the expert to do it, right?" Peter asked sarcastically.
"I am, Dr. Venkman. Because my company developed the security control system for the Xanatos Tower. I have all the details in my computer."
They all gaped at her.
"Say what?" Lexington breathed.
"I know how to get in," she said simply. "Give me access to the Net and I can do it."
* * *
"Scold me if I'm wrong, but I think it's madness," Peter muttered as he looked around.
He was standing in the court yard of an ancient, Scottish castle, wind whipping through his hair. Ray was at his side, as were Maren Shrevnitz and the three gargoyles, who had flown them here and who now looked nervously around. They were alone so far, and it didn't look like they had been discovered yet.
Maren looked at the gargoyles. "You said you knew a way inside," she said.
Brooklyn nodded and walked over to a wooden door, opening it. Peter noted the cameras everywhere.
"Don't worry," the woman said with a slight smile. "They are in an endless loop, showing the security guards nothing at all."
"Well, I have to take your word for it."
Ray was studying his P.K.E. meter, frowning. "I can detect a faint reading from the scepter," he reported. "As well as a stronger presence, possibly class eight."
Peter looked a bit sick all of a sudden. "Class eight?"
The occultist nodded unhappily. "This might be a bit big."
"You can say that again!"
"What's a class eight?" Lexington wanted to know as they descended a flight of stairs, arriving in a large room with a fireplace and tapestries. No one was in sight.
"A very strong ghost or demon," Ray explained.
"Oh, wow!" Lex breathed with excitement. "Isn't that neat!"
Brooklyn grimaced. "Yeah, sure." Then he gestured at a metal door. "That's the elevator." He clawed the doors open and gestured at the empty shaft, where only the strong steel cables could be seen.
Peter looked cautiously down. It was very deep. He swallowed a bit. "You want us to go down there?" he asked, his voice a bit too high.
Brooklyn smiled. "Why not?" He jumped and clung easily to the cables.
"Oh, boy," Peter whispered.
"Why don't we humans take the stairs?" Maren asked reasonably. "That way we can approach from two sides."
"Good idea," Venkman immediately approved. "We can find the scepter with the P.K.E. meter."
"If the ghost doesn't find us first," Ray added.
But Brooklyn nodded. "Good idea. Xanatos office is only a few floors down and we know the way. If he has the scepter he most likely keeps it there."
With their plan made up the gargoyles jumped into the elevator shaft while the three humans took the stairs.
Kanaloa felt the energies around him shift, telling him of the dangers to come. He turned away from his study of the skyline of the city he had lived and died in such a long time ago. One of the energies approaching his position was well-known to him. It was his old enemy, The Shadow. How the crimefighter had managed to survive for such a long time was beyond his imagination. But even if he had lived so long, he would be an old man by now. He smiled cruelly. And old men died quickly.
The other source of energy was slightly puzzling, vibrating in a spectrum he had never encountered before. But he decided to ignore them. The Shadow was the more dangerous threat right now. If he disturbed him in his attempt to regain his life..... Kanaloa's eyes narrowed. Well, they weren't his eyes but the eyes of the body he had possessed. He liked the strong, young body, but he still preferred his own. Soon he'd have it .... Soon.....
That someone had disarmed his security systems didn't worry him. He didn't need guards to defeat an old man and the two humans called the Ghostbusters.
* * *
Pele frowned and watched the humans and gargoyles split up. One of the humans was the bearer of the strange energy she was feeling, the others had no such aura. The Hawaiian goddess couldn't judge whether the energy was benevolent or just using the human female for its purposes, probably to get to the scepter. She decided she had to keep an eye on the woman, though her main focus was on the man possessed by her enemy. That a human could represent a god was nothing new, but Kel Asaad had long ago evoked an ancient ritual, effectively shaping his body into a perfect vessel for Kanaloa. The squid god had taken his chance to walk among Man again and had merged with the human, though it had meant that when the human died, he died as well. No one, not even Pele, had even imagined that the human was such a strong psychic his hatred for his executioner would keep his essence alive.
Kanaloa had once again merged with the essence of Kel Asaad and both had possessed the man named David Xanatos. They needed the living body because otherwise they might have dispersed once again. If Asaad managed to use her scepter to restore himself a body, Kanaloa would walk among Man once again.... Pele didn't even want to think about the damage he could do.
As gods she and Kanaloa were bound to rules, mainly that they couldn't act out their will. They needed willing servants to do it. Kel Asaad was very willing to let the god instruct him what to do; he didn't even need bribing or taunting. Gods weren't allow to possess people and make them do things that went against their will, which was why Pele had not yet possessed a living body herself. The two men, the Ghostbusters, the gargoyles and the strange woman were her, acting out what she would have done in a living body herself.
With a sigh she sat back and waited. There was nothing else she could do .... yet.
* * *
Brooklyn, Lexington and Broadway had arrived at the floor where Xanatos' office was located and Broadway broke open the elevator's doors. There was no security personal and though the cameras had to pick them up, there was no alarm.
"Looks like we're still under cover," the chubby gargoyle smiled and gestured at the cameras.
Lexington looked closely at the lens, then nodded. "Maren really knew what she was doing," he agreed.
"Then let's go and get the scepter," Brooklyn decided and walked down the corridor toward the office.
They knew exactly where the office was located. They knew quite a lot about the Xanatos Tower, since they had spent considerable time here after they had wakened from their thousand-year sleep.
"Somehow this feels wrong," Brooklyn muttered when they had arrived at the door to the office and had opened it.
The office was empty, the lights turned down. The desk was illuminated by a spotlight from above and the skyline was a picturesque background motif. It too quiet. Even if the security cameras and all the other security measures didn't pick them up, there should have been guards. He had also expected Xanatos to be here.
"There it is," Lexington said and pointed to the right.
Yes, there it was. The scepter. It lay on a pedestal, illuminated by yet another spotlight. The orange gem glittered in the artificial light and the black wood, decorated with ancient script, seemed to be alive, the writing writhing and twisting. Brooklyn didn't like it at all!
"Let's get it," Broadway said and walked toward the scepter.
Brooklyn lunged for him, grabbing his shoulder. "Wait!" he hissed.
But it was too late. The doors closed after them with a loud sound and the lights went on.
"Well, well, well," a well-known voice said and the tall form of a man stepped out of the shadows. "Just why am I not surprised?"
"Xanatos!" Brooklyn growled.
The man bowed a bit. "No, not really." A reddish light appeared in the eyes of the billionaire. "This body is but a vessel," he said theatrically. "For I am but an essence."
Lexington stared at him. "Then it's true. "Xanatos is possessed by a ghost."
The man grimaced. "Ghost? Oh, please. I am more than just a ghost. I am the essence of a god, the spirit of a man..... I'm Kanaloa!"
Two Steel Clan gargoyles flanked him, their weapons ready, their optics focused on the three gargoyles.
"And you're a thief!" Brooklyn accused. "You stole the scepter!"
Xanatos/Kanaloa's eyes glowed a deep red. "Nobody accuses me of stealing!" he hissed angrily and held up a hand as if to strike.
Lightning crackled through the room, straight at Brooklyn, who jumped out of the way. Still, part of the lightning bolt hit his wing and he gasped with pain, rolling away.
"Brooklyn!" Lexington and Broadway cried nearly simultaneously.
The bronze gargoyle rose to his knees, his left wing drooping a bit. "I'm all right," he ground out between clenched teeth.
"But you won't stay that way!" Kanaloa prophesied. He raised his hand again and the gargoyles tensed. "Prepare to die!"
"He is close," Cranston said, but only Maren could hear him.
"So what do you want me to do?" she whispered so quietly that the two Ghostbusters couldn't hear her.
Peter Venkman was in the front, Ray Stantz behind her. Ray was holding the P.K.E. meter, which was beeping continuously, after giving a shrill screech only seconds after they had arrived on the floor. Stantz had told her that the class-eight was close.
"Let me act when we meet Kanaloa," he said.
Maren didn't like it, especially since that meant giving her body over to him. She didn't know what would happen with her and that was what frightened her the most. What if he didn't retreat after they had defeated this Kanaloa? What if he decided he wanted her to stay in the back of her mind, a watcher to what he did with her body.... and mind.
"Maren," Cranston said softly into her silence, calling her by her first name for the first time, "I understand your fear, but believe me, I won't rape your body in any way. All I want is control over it for a short time, because otherwise I won't be able to act with my full powers. You are untrained and can't act for me. I promise, no, I swear, that I won't keep you prisoner in your own body. You will get back control after Kanaloa is defeated. Please?"
She inhaled deeply, still not answering. She was aware of the dangers for herself, but she also knew that if she didn't do it, the others might get hurt. "All right," she whispered.
There was a loud noise, like lightning hitting something, not far away. Ray's P.K.E. meter went wild and he looked up with alarm. "Oh, no!" he breathed.
Peter looked at him. "What is it?" he asked briskly.
"The readings just went up ten times!"
"Uh, what does that mean?" Maren wanted to know.
"The entity is loose," Ray said seriously. "We have to stop it."
Peter nodded grimly and readied his thrower. "Then let's go."
A few feet later they were stopped by a closed door. Behind the door they heard growls, loud bangs and the crackle of energy set loose. Ray tried the door, but it was locked tightly.
"Stand back," Peter ordered and leveled his thrower at the door.
Ray followed the advise immediately and Maren moved back from the Ghostbuster. Venkman fired his thrower and the ray of ionized particles hit the heavy, wooden door, first only scorching it, then blasting through. Maren stared at the smoking hole with amazement. She had never thought this strange-looking machine could do such damage to physical things, though she knew that wherever the Ghostbusters went, damage was bound to appear. She had always thought it was partly because of the ghosts.
The door swung open and they faced an only partly expected scene. David Xanatos stood in front of the large window, New York's skyline in his back. Orange and yellow energy crackled around his hands. Two robots were at his side, standing like statues, but their weapons were out. The gargoyles were in various states of consciousness. Broadway lay in a large heap near a gigantic computer screen, Lexington crouched close to some plants, which had seen better days because they were now burned by lightning, and Brooklyn knelt not far away from them in front of the door, his left wing badly burned and partly torn, and a deep cut in his left thigh. As the door opened, Xanatos/Kanaloa turned his attention away from the gargoyles and looked at the three humans.
"Welcome," he called with an evil smile, the energy around his hands increasing in strength.
"Ray?" Peter asked, never taking his eyes off the black clad man.
"He's really possessed," the occultist reported. "And the readings are rising continually. This is bad."
"I hate bad," Peter breathed softly, getting ready to fire.
Xanatos/Kanaloa only chuckled. "You want to fight me with those puny weapons, mortal?"
Peter's lips became a thin line. He knew the throwers, at least two of them, were too weak to fight an entity as strong as class eight and whose readings were getting stronger every second. And there was also the fact that the ghost hid inside a living, breathing man. They couldn't separate the ghost from the man unless they knew at least one frequency. He didn't even want to think of the two robots, who were under the madman's command.
"No," Maren suddenly said and stepped past the Ghostbusters. "I intend to fight you, Kanaloa." She stepped past Brooklyn, who stared at her in puzzlement.
Xanatos/Kanaloa's eyes narrowed and he lowered his hands. "Who are you?" he asked, his voice suddenly holding a cautious note as if he had an idea who was facing him, but wasn't sure.
"You know me," Maren answered, her voice unnaturally cold, as if it belonged to someone else.
Peter shot Ray a look and the occultist fiddled with the dials. When he got a reading his eyes widened. "He took over, Peter. His readings have strengthened so much that Maren was taken over completely."
The psychologist looked at the young woman, dressed in a black outfit.
"No," Xanatos/Kanaloa growled. "This can't be!"
Maren took a battle ready stance and when she turned her head a bit, Peter saw that her iris had turned completely black, shining with silver. He shuddered as he saw her cold expression. He just hoped that the take-over was a good sign.
"I will kill you," Xanatos/Kanaloa hissed. "I will scatter your very last molecule over the seven plains!"
He raised his hands and the energy appeared again. A lightning bolt sped at Maren, who didn't move. Peter was about to jump at her to shove her out of the way when she raised a hand herself, deflecting the bolt.
"You have slept too long, Kanaloa," Maren/Cranston said coolly. "Else you'd remember that this weak display of psychic energy can't harm me."
Kanaloa/Xanatos bristled and his eyes glowed red. "Weak?" he raged. "This time I will utterly destroy you, Shadow!"
And then all hell exploded.
Pele decided it was time to choose. Kanaloa was a fearsome enemy, but together with the human psychic he was most likely too strong for the woman with the strange aura. She knew that the woman had been possessed, but she didn't know the entity inside her, though it had to be an old enemy of the human Kel Asaad. She was about to move and take part in the battle when the entity inside the woman seemed to rise in strength. The raw energy blazed around her and Pele drew back with a gasp. The energy was as strong as it was painful. Whoever the entity was, it wasn't exactly one that got his power from the Good Side.
Lamont Cranston had forgotten everything around him, even that he was not inside his own body, but using a woman's. The body was well-trained and responded to his impulses, so he never thought about what exactly he was doing with it. It felt too much like his own. His whole energy and concentration was focused on the man in front of him as he countered every strike and blow with one of his own. He knew he had to separate the ghost from the man and also from the god-entity, so that the Ghostbusters could trap him. As The Shadow he couldn't kill Kanaloa because the man was already dead. He also didn't want to kill Xanatos, who was only an innocent victim himself.
Drawing all his power into one blow he shot a ball of psychic energy at the man in front of him. Kanaloa was thrown back against the desk and gave a groan of pain.
"You choose a weak body, Kanaloa," The Shadow taunted him.
With red glowing eyes the other man erupted into a firing frenzy, but The Shadow dodged every single one of them.
A cold, evil laugh echoed through the room. The large cloak seemed to grow in size, billowing around the slim woman.
Xanatos/Kanaloa screamed in rage and one of his energy bolts went wide, hitting the window ..... travelling along the reflective surface, then shattering -- inwards! --, raining glass shreds at the unprotected gargoyles and Ghostbusters. Ray gave a yelp of pain as a shard cut his arm, but the cut wasn't very deep. Peter had gone for cover. Cold evening wind rushed through the room. The possessed man spared the window only a glance, then he jumped for the scepter. He was too fast for anyone to intercept and as his hand curled around the black staff he gave a howl of triumph, brandishing the scepter in front of his like a sword.
Maren/Cranston, who had whipped the cloak up to protect her face, looked at him with cold, black eyes. "You haven't won yet, Kanaloa."
Xanatos/Kanaloa laughed. "But I have, Shadow. But I have!!" And before anyone could stop him he jumped -- through the window. The two Steel Clan gargoyles ignited their thrusters and followed him.
"After him!" Lexington cried and went through the window as well.
Brooklyn groaned as he staggered to his feet and stumbled over to the window.
"You better stay here," Broadway advised his badly injured friend. "That wing won't hold for long."
Brooklyn slumped against the frame of the window, staring at the small figure that was Lexington, searching for the fugitive. He was really in no shape to glide, with his wing and shoulder aching. He nodded at Broadway and the larger gargoyle gave a smile, then followed Lexington. As Brooklyn turned he saw the two Ghostbusters, looking a bit at a loss at what to do. They couldn't glide and they didn't know where the possessed Xanatos was going.
"We have to do something!" Peter ground out, his nervous energy displayed by the clenching and unclenching of his hand around the thrower.
The woman in black, who had battled Xanatos/Kanaloa and who had been called The Shadow by him, was gone. No one had noticed her disappear.
"He can't have gone far," Brooklyn mused out aloud, staring through the broken window. Below him, very far below him, was nothing but the city. He doubted that Xanatos/Kanaloa had committed suicide. He was out there ... somewhere.
This somewhere was several floors up, right in the court yard of the castle. Kanaloa had used his control over the robots to make them carry the body he possessed up to the castle. It had drained him a bit, but he didn't want to kill his host .... not yet anyway. He needed Xanatos as long as he didn't have a body for himself, which he planned to construct with the scepter. He just needed a few peaceful moments to evoke the powers inside the orange stone, the Healer's Stone, to do it. But those quiet moments weren't anywhere in sight. With not only the Ghostbusters and those creatures right on his tail, but also The Shadow -- curse his essence all the way to hell -- he had to find a safe haven. The helicopter standing right in the court yard would provide him with a less exhausting means of flight. He knew from what he had found in Xanatos' mind that the billionaire had an exo-suit that served him as an armor and a transport, but he had no time to search for it and then figure out how it worked.
The voice was female, booming over the empty castle as if amplified by loudspeakers, but Kanaloa knew it wasn't the woman speaking, it was The Shadow. He turned and looked at the figure in black, imposing even if the body was not The Shadow's. The black eyes, glittering with a silver light, seemed to drill through him, taking him apart bit by bit until they found the center piece, ready to utterly destroy it.
"I'd never taken you for such a ladies' man, Shadow," Kanaloa mocked, turning his back on the helicopter. He didn't notice a small, mustard colored gargoyle landing noiselessly behind it. "Were you too weak to possess another body?"
"I had never thought you would be foolish enough to believe that you could win," The Shadow answered coldly.
"I know I can win," Kanaloa called. "For I walk with the power of a god!"
"You act with the power of the foolish," The Shadow informed him and approached a bit, never getting too close. "I defeated and killed you once. What makes you believe I won't do it again?"
Kanaloa brandished the scepter. "I have the scepter of Pele, the mightiest weapon of all. You have only a weak female body and not even all your powers! You are as puny as that body!"
The Shadow didn't twitch a muscle. "You'd be surprised," he said in a near whisper, "at the strength of the host I choose."
Kanaloa laughed, mockingly, loudly. Then he pointed his hand at his enemy and a psychic energy bolt lashed toward the woman. The Shadow jumped, performing a flawless somersault and landing gracefully several feet ahead in a crouch, the cloak falling over him.
"Is that all you can do?" he asked as he straightened.
Kanaloa seethed with anger. "You haven't even begun to taste my power, Shadow!" he hissed between gritted teeth.
He accessed the robotic minds of the two Steel Clan gargoyles and told them to attack. Their thrusters roared to life, the wings snapped open and they took off. They circled around the court yard from two sides and then flew into an attack vector, their weapons blazing deadly laser fire. Kanaloa laughed as he saw The Shadow dodge them, then he decided to join the attack. Bolt after bolt shot at The Shadow, but he dodged, deflected or evaded every single one of them. He didn't even seem to break into a sweat as he evaded three attackers, two of which were mindless creations. Laughter rang through the court, cold, deep, sinister, seeming to come from every direction at once.
"Like I told you before," The Shadow said. "You choose wrongly when you possessed this man. Your insanity combined with his unfamiliar body, which you can't control, will be your downfall. His mind resists you even though you neutralized him!"
Kanaloa screamed with rage, lifting both hands and summoning all his remaining powers. "Stop this!" he demanded and then unleashed the energy. It crackled through the court yard, scorching the grass growing here, obliterating the vines covering one wall, and blackening the stone. In the center of the energy storm was The Shadow, a dark, sinister figure, his eyes aglow in blackness.
One of the Steel Clan robots was caught in the fiery wave. He was thrown back against a wall, denting it severely before he exploded, spreading metal shards all over the yard.
When the storm had passed there was nothing left but black stone and smoking plants. Kanaloa laughed triumphantly, throwing back his head and lifting the scepter high up into the air. His laughter bordered to the insane and his eyes were alight with the red glow that told Xanatos was not his own man.
"I win, Shadow!" he yelled. "I win!!" He laughed again. "I WIN!! And you die....." The last was a mad whisper. Then he laughed again.
"Oh, no, you don't!" Lexington cried and jumped up behind the helicopter, where he had hidden all the time, waiting out the battle between the two powerful enemies. He made a dash for the scepter, ripping it out of Kanaloa's hand. Kanaloa howled in rage and shot a fire bolt at him. Lexington barely got out of the way. And then the last remaining Steel Clan gargoyle was upon him and he had his hands full. He jumped from the castle's walls and glided into the clouds, the robot hot on his trail.
"That belongs to me, creature!" the possessed man shouted, his body surrounded by an orange aura.
"No, it doesn't!" Broadway called and slammed into him.
Xanatos/Kanaloa growled and, with an incredible strength no one would have thought a human could possess, he threw the much heavier gargoyle away. Broadway crashed into a wall and slid to the ground, only half-conscious.
"Why don't you take on someone your own size?"
Kanaloa whirled around, his mouth opening, but no sound came out. There, right before him, stood The Shadow .... alive .... unmarked. His black cloak was torn in places, as were the black clothes beneath it, but he was alive.
"How ....?" he whispered.
"I told you, Kanaloa, you can't kill me," The Shadow informed him. "Not while you are inside a mortal body of a man you possessed against his will.
"I don't need his body!" the other one screamed.
Kanaloa shot out of Xanatos' body like a fiery devil. He looked just as he had the day The Shadow had last seen him, the day of Kanaloa's death. Long, stringy black hair fell down his shoulders. His body was clad in what looked like a traditional, Hawaiian costume and his dark eyes glowed with an unnatural fire. A strong orange aura shone around him. David Xanatos collapsed unceremoniously onto the ground, unconscious.
"I will smash you!" Kanaloa hissed and his hands turned into claws, striking at The Shadow.
The Shadow jumped back, but the talons still caught him, leaving not very deep, but still bleeding cuts on his upper arm. He ignored them, blocking more blows and readying himself to deliver another psychic blow.
"Go get him!" a voice suddenly cried and a stream of crackling energy shot at the ghost, but Kanaloa evaded it easily, though the second stream brushed him a bit.
The Ghostbusters had arrived. Cavalry.
The Shadow reached for every source of psychic energy he had, realizing that he could access Maren's own powers, which lay sleeping, deep in her subconscious mind. He hesitated for just a second, then used them as well, building up an incredible energy bolt. While Kanaloa was busy with the Ghostbusters, dodging their proton streams, he had his chance. He took aim and then released the energy.
"Fire your weapons!" he commanded and the Ghostbusters complied without hesitation.
Kanaloa was caught by the psychic bolt and was momentarily stunned, then the two proton streams caught him and he began to struggle. The Shadow concentrated on the ghostly creature in front of him and shot another bolt, this one much weaker, but it still hurt.
"We need a trap!" Venkman yelled, his thrower bucking wildly. He must have had it on full power. It took both his hands to hold the rifle and he couldn't let go to get a trap lest he let the ghost get free.
Broadway had come around during the fight and now reached for the small box attached to Ray Stantz's proton pack. He tossed it out and when Ray gave a nod he stepped on the trigger. A brilliant white light shot up and engulfed the struggling ghost. It screeched, tugging at the streams to get free. The Shadow shot one last bolt at him, staggering mildly as he did so. He suddenly felt incredibly weak, he noticed with surprise.
The white light sucked at Kanaloa and he was no longer strong enough to resist. He disappeared into the trap and the doors of the box closed. White smoke curled out of the trap. The Ghostbusters relaxed a bit, wiping sweat off their brows while the gargoyles looked in amazement at the trap. Lexington landed in the yard, still holding the scepter.
"You caught him!" he called.
"Yeah, we did," Peter said with a tired, but satisfied smile.
"Where's the Steel Clan robot?" Brooklyn asked, limping towards them. He had had to watch the battle, unable to join in.
"I dunno." Lexington shrugged. "Suddenly he dropped to the ground, as if his program of how to fly had been wiped."
Ray nodded. "That must have been the moment we trapped the ghost. He had control over the robots, so when he went into containment, the robot didn't know what it was doing."
Suddenly the P.K.E. meter screeched.
"Ray?" Venkman asked.
Stantz looked at the small device and his face whitened a bit. "There's a new entity here," he reported. "Wow! The readings are totally off the scale!"
He had barely finished the sentence when something materialized above the supine body of David Xanatos, who had not yet regained consciousness. It was a man with dark skin and black hair, who was only dressed in a richly ornamented loin cloth. His bare, hairless chest was covered by an intricate tattoo of a squid. Its tentacles seemed to squirm and twitch over the dark skin.
"Ra-hay......" Peter said nervously.
The Shadow stared at the new arrival. Something deep inside of him told him that he wouldn't be able to call up the strength to fight this entity. This wasn't a ghost of a psycho madman, this was a god. This was the real Kanaloa.
The Hawaiian god drifted over to where Lexington crouched beside the helicopter. "Give me the scepter," he demanded.
Lexington moved away from him. "No way. Who are you?"
"I am Kanaloa, God of the Sea, Supreme Ruler of the Underworld!" the spirit being declared. "Now give me the scepter!"
"No," Lexington answered and stared bravely at him.
"Then prepare to die, creature!" the god hissed. He pointed one finger at the mustard colored gargoyle.
"You will do no such thing!" a female voice suddenly declared.
Everyone turned and stared at the speaker. It was a woman, clearly of the same heritage as Kanaloa, but she had flaming red hair. She was dressed in a richly ornamented, long skirt and top, and she floated in the air, her head held up high, looking fearlessly at Kanaloa.
"That's the woman I saw in my dreams!" Ray whispered in awe. "That's Pele!"
Peter only nodded, clearly as stunned as his friend.
"You forget, Kanaloa," Pele told her enemy, "we are bound by the Supreme Rules of the Deity Court not to act in the world of mortals. If you kill him," she pointed at Lexington, who gaped at her, "then you will be tried by the Supreme Court of Deities. You know the punishment."
Kanaloa looked enraged, but he didn't do anything. "You will pay for this, Pele!" he hissed.
The goddess only smiled. Then the squid god popped out of existence, leaving the humans, gargoyles and the Hawaiian goddess alone in a partly-destroyed court yard. As silence descended upon them, they heard a soft groan. David Xanatos was coming around.
"What happened here?" a new voice asked and they all turned to look at the new arrival.
The blond man in the dark suit looked at them from behind a pair of thin glasses. His eyes took in the destruction, the gargoyles, the goddess and the more or less conscious form of David Xanatos.
"It's a long story," Peter said wearily and shoulder his thrower.
The blond folded his arms across his chest. "I have time."
* * *
"I still think we should have billed him for the removal of the ghost possessing him," Peter grumbled as they returned home. He looked worn out and tired, his uniform slightly singed and torn in places.
Ray, looking just as tired, but still displaying an unbearable enthusiasm, grinned. "Aw, gee, Peter, I think letting us get away with breaking and entering, as well as destroying part of his office was enough."
Peter grimaced. David Xanatos, badly shaken and still a bit confused about what exactly had happened, had taken one look around the castle's court yard, taking in the Ghostbusters and the gargoyles, as well as the woman in black, and had asked one simple question: what the hell had been going on around here? They had explained everything as best they could and in the end Xanatos had simply nodded, even letting them take the scepter, though from the look in his eyes he hadn't been very enthused about it. Owen Burnett had taken his employer down to get some medical attention, advising the gargoyles to disappear now. His eyes had held the same message for the Ghostbusters.
The gargoyles had taken off to wherever they lived, looking a bit the worse for wear, but assuring the Ghostbusters that they would be fine tomorrow night. Brooklyn had to be partly carried by Broadway because his wings wouldn't support his full weight. Ray was still intent on researching the gargoyles, but Peter suspected that the occultist would fall into his bed tonight and sleep like the dead. Well, this morning, Peter corrected himself ruefully. It was close to five already.
Maren Shrevnitz had disappeared all of a sudden and nobody had noticed it. And with her the strange entity possessing her had disappeared as well. Peter wasn't sure what to do about it and he planned to talk about it with Ray when they had a good night's ... day's sleep behind them. He dropped the proton pack at the foot of the stairs and while Ray took the trap down to the containment unit to empty it, he climbed the stairs, his feet feeling like lead weights. God, he was so tired.
Half an hour later both Ghostbusters lay in their beds, sleeping deeply, untroubled by any dreams. Neither of them heard when Janine came to work or Winston arrived back at the firehouse. They didn't even wake when he came into the bedroom. Winston decided not to wake them. He had seen the packs and the emptied trap, drawing his own conclusions, willing to wait for an explanation when they woke, especially concerning the strange staff in the lab.....
* * *
Maren Shrevnitz woke slowly, her mind a woozy mess, her body aching in all the wrong places. She was used to exercising and the muscle aches following those exercises, but this felt different. Her shoulders hurt, as did her neck and head, especially her head. It was throbbing dully. Her right arm throbbed as well, but much more painfully. She carefully opened her eyes and groaned as the bright light coming through her window hurt her all-of-a-sudden sensitive eyes. She closed them and tried the same procedure after a few minutes of just lying there again. This time it didn't hurt as much, but her head still pounded.
"Oh, damn," she whispered as she tried to sit up and her whole world tilted sideways. She grabbed onto the mattress to steady her.
"You should take it easy," a male voice said and she squinted into the direction it had come from: the door to the living room.
"Cranston?" she asked, her voice far from stable.
He walked over to her, his body no longer translucent like the last time she had seen him. He was wearing black, just like last time, but now she saw his features much more clearly and she had to confess she liked what she saw. He was tall, had thick black hair and striking blue eyes. His handsome face showed some hard angles and he looked like he wasn't used to showing a lot of emotions, but Maren thought that if she weren't feeling so absolutely miserable and weak, she'd have felt the urgency to swoon. Damn, he looked good!
She inhaled, wincing at the pain she felt, and tried to concentrated on something beside the handsome man in front of her. Reminding herself that he was, in fact, not alive, though he wasn't really dead either, helped a bit.
"What happened to you?" she asked, frowning a bit, though even such little movement of her facial muscles brought new throbs.
He smiled a bit and she thought he had a nice smile -- if he decided to be human. "The fight gave me access to my old powers.... nearly all of it. I can materialize fully now, even touch."
As if to demonstrate he sat down beside her and touched her hand. His fingers felt cool, but not uncomfortably cold, and very real. They interlaced with hers and she felt energy pass between them, not metaphorically, but literally.
"So you won't need me as a host anymore?" she asked.
He looked indecisive.
"Spill it," she growled. "I'm feeling like someone ran me over with a horde of eighteen-wheelers and I have a headache the size of the Grand Canyon! I can be very irritated when I have a headache." She gave him the meanest look she was able to muster.
He smiled a bit, but his eyes showed no humor. "I still need you .... from time to time."
"What for?" The way Cranston had put it this could mean a lot of things, some of them she wasn't about to deny him if he asked very nicely. "I'm not a motel, Cranston. I don't rent rooms." She massaged her temples.
"I will search for another host," Cranston said. "I won't bother you for very much longer."
Maren groaned, but not because of her headache. "There you go being sensitive again!" she sighed. "Listen, as long as you inform me that you are inside me, as long as you let me live my own life, and as long as you don't try to control me I'm fine with the arrangement, okay?" Maren looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
He nodded. "Okay."
Suddenly he tensed. His eyes narrowed and he seemed to be listening to something. Maren wanted to ask what was going on when she felt it too, a faint tingle, as if something was coming. It was the same feeling a person got when he were out in the open while a thunderstorm approached.
"Cranston?" she asked quietly.
He rose from his position and looked around. She saw how his eyes changed, but his face stayed the same. Her grandfather had told her once how every time he changed into The Shadow his face seemed to rearrange itself, but she could see no such thing happening now.
"Do not fear," a female voice floated through the room. "I have not come to harm you."
At the window something materialized. It was the woman Cranston had seen in the court yard, the woman with the flaming red hair. Pele. She held the scepter all the fuss had been about in one hand.
Cranston took a battle ready stance between Maren and Pele, not about to believe her word. "What do you want?" he asked, his voice cold.
Pele smiled, not the least offended by his tone. "Foremost I have come to thank you for your help, Kent Allard."
He flinched as she addressed him by his real name.
"You risked your essence to battle Kel Asaad," the Hawaiian goddess went on. "And you, Maren Shrevnitz," she turned to Maren, who sat in her bed, warily watching her, "have risked your mortal body to defeat my enemy and return the scepter. For that I am thankful." She looked back at Cranston. "Your help has been invaluable, Kent Allard, and I would like you to offer my gratitude. This scepter has the power to give back life, not only to a dead body, but also to a bodiless soul."
Cranston stepped away from her all of a sudden, his eyes widening. Maren slipped out of the bed, coming unsteadily to her feet. "You want to tell us that you could give him back his body?" she asked, incredulous.
"Yes, as a sign of my gratitude." The goddess smiled and the smile held no second thoughts.
"I ..." Cranston stuttered, looking suddenly a bit panicky.
Maren touched his arm, amazed at how real the man felt, though he was essentially a ghost. "Why are you hesitating?" she asked softly. "You could live again."
He closed his eyes. "No. My life ended five decades ago," he whispered. "My time is over."
"Bullshit!" she hissed. "You are still here, or aren't you?"
He smiled sadly at her. "Yes, I am. I am here because I was needed and I will continue to be here ... if you want me to, but I can never go back to being what I was. The Shadow is dead and his place has been taken by others. If one of my old enemies rises again, I will be ready to battle him, but until then I will be content to exist ... somewhere."
Maren mulled this over. He was right, she knew. If he came back to life ... who was he then? Lamont Cranston had been declared dead five decades ago, his property ... only God knew what had happened to it. She might be able to find out in time where everything had gone. The Shadow no longer had any agents, most of them were either dead or too old to be of service any longer, and even if he choose to build a new net of Shadow agents .... operating in these 'modern' times would prove to be very difficult.
"I understand," she finally said, smiling and gently squeezing his arm.
He smiled back, the sadness still in his eyes. Then he turned to Pele. "Your offer is a gracious one, but I can't accept it."
The goddess nodded. "I will not withdraw my offer, Kent Allard," she said. "It will stand for all eternity." With that she disappeared.
Maren's knees suddenly felt weak and she collapsed back onto the bed with a sigh. Cranston, as physical as he could be, sat down beside her. She looked at him, studying his features for a long time. He looked back at her, his blue eyes holding an indecipherable expression. After some time Maren smiled.
"Now ... care to tell me what you did to my body while I was out cold in some recess of my mind?" she asked, letting just enough of a scowl creep into her voice to make him look a bit .... guilty? Well, it was a word for it, but she guessed that Lamont Cranston, The Shadow, seldom felt real guilt. It was more the look of someone caught with his hand in the cookie jar, doing something he had been told not to do.
"I'm waiting," she informed him as he looked uncomfortably at her. Somehow she savored that look ... "And while you're at it, care to tell me who Kent Allard is?"
"Well....." he began hesitantly. "It's a long story...."
* * *
David Xanatos had a headache. He lay back in his leather chair and closed his eyes, wishing the aspirin he had taken some time ago would finally decide to work their magic.
"Possession, Owen?" he asked.
"Apparently you were possessed by the spirit of a man who had a bond with an ancient Hawaiian god," Burnett explained. "We believe that the possession took place three or four days ago."
Xanatos opened his eyes and squinted at his assistant. "I purchased this sculpture at that time," he said slowly.
"Indeed. The sculpture of Kanaloa, the Hawaiian squid god." Owen's voice was level and implied nothing.
"Get rid of it," the billionaire ordered.
"I already took the liberty of sealing it away, Mr. Xanatos."
Xanatos smiled a bit. "This scepter..... what happened to it?"
"You let the Ghostbusters take it back to the Museum of Natural History, Sir."
"I did?" He frowned.
Owen nodded. "You might not remember it very clearly, since you were still suffering from shock at that time."
"I guess I was." Xanatos closed his eyes again. "Owen, get me a full report on that scepter. This might be of interest to me in the future."
Owen Burnett allowed himself a smile. "As you wish, Mr. Xanatos."
* * *
Egon leaned back in his chair and regarded his two friends. "This was very risky, Peter," he informed his dark-haired friend. "You could have been seriously hurt, taking on not only a class eight, but also a god."
"Hey, we didn't know it was a god!" Peter protested half-heartedly. He still felt tired, but he had dragged himself out of his bed by late afternoon, finding Ray and Egon in the lab, studying the scepter, which they had to return to the museum tomorrow.
Winston shook his head. "Still was pretty dangerous," he agreed with Egon.
"But we did it!" Ray said enthusiastically. "And we also met those gargoyles. You should have seen them, Winston! They are fascinating! We have to study them!"
"And we have to take the scepter back to Ms. Mato," Peter added. "Either that or we'll get into a bit more trouble, this time with the museum. We promised to get it back by tomorrow."
"Oh, yeah." Ray looked a bit disappointed.
"Why don't you and Egon make the best of it," Peter informed him brightly, "while I saunter downstairs and ....."
"Sleep," Winston finished wryly.
Peter stuck out his tongue and left the room, head high, shoulders squared. Winston could only chuckle. As he turned he saw that Egon and Ray had taken Peter's advice and were already starting to work on the scepter. With another smile he left the room, leaving them to their research and experiments.
* * *
Goliath looked at the three young gargoyles sitting in front of him with a deep scowl. Brooklyn looked pretty battered and his wing was drooping. Dried blood covered the cut on the shoulder. Broadway appeared to be only bruised, though he had taken quite a lot of bruising as it appeared. Lexington looked the best of all three, though, like his two friends, he wore a guilty expression.
The trio had returned only a few minutes earlier and had alarmed Hudson, Goliath and Bronx when they had seen the extent of injury Brooklyn had sustained. Lexington and Broadway had relayed most of the story and with each new development Goliath's expression darkened further. Now that he knew the whole story he was torn between shouting at them for their foolish risk-taking and feeling proud that his three warriors had defeated the threat. In the end he decided only to scowl.
"I hope this has been a lesson," he added to the scowl. "You should not have gone off alone. You of all should know, Brooklyn."
Brooklyn nodded guiltily. As the second-in-command of the clan he should have informed his leader, but he had not. "Yes, Goliath," he muttered.
Goliath smiled a bit. "But you did well and you averted a great threat to human and gargoyle kind."
The trio beamed.
"Let's sleep," Goliath decided, looking through the open door of the clock tower where he could see the horizon turn a golden red in the approaching sun. He could feel the urgency to seek a safe place to roost, an instinct every gargoyle had. It was needed to survive.
The six gargoyles went out onto the balcony, taking their places. The sun struck them and their skin turned to stone, engulfing them in a nearly dreamless sleep.
A red-haired woman stepped onto the balcony and regarded the stone gargoyles with a fond smile.
* * *
Ann-Marie Mato took the scepter carefully from Ray's outstretched hands and turned it over, scrutinizing it. Then, after some time, she looked at the four Ghostbuster, visibly surprised. "It's not even scratched."
Peter, who had been surprised about that fact last night, only grinned brightly. "Hey, we said we'd return it to you!"
The scepter had looked a bit worse for wear last night, but when they had taken it back to the museum this morning it had been miraculously unharmed. Egon had scanned the scepter, but had found no evidence of supernatural tempering. It was a mystery, but it was a mystery that saved them a lot of trouble.
"Yes, but I doubted in what state," the curator answered, then placed the scepter on her table.
"Oh, ye of little faith," Peter moaned, then smiled at Ann-Marie again.
"So, what about it?"
Peter looked puzzled. "What about what?"
"The scepter. What did you find about this strange shape people saw?"
That was Ray's key. "We believe it was residue energy, not a real apparition."
The Ghostbusters had had a long talk about whether or not to tell Ann-Marie about what had really gone on, but possessions, gargoyles and psychic battles weren't exactly what she would believe in. Hawaiian gods were more her line of work, but telling her about Pele and Kanaloa appearing would simply make her doubt their sanity even more. So Ray and Egon had decided only to tell her about the energies they had found stored in the scepter and which now seemed to be all gone.
"The energies have dissipated in the last 24 hours," Egon explained. "There is no residue left and the remaining P.K. levels should be of no danger to the visitors or the museum."
Ann-Marie looked at the scepter. "All right," she said slowly, "but why did it happen in the first place? I don't believe in ancient curses or souls trapped in stones."
"You don't, but the ancient tribes did," Ray said with a smile. "We might never know what it was that was in the scepter. All we know now is that it is gone."
The curator nodded. "Okay, so forget about the whole thing and the exhibition will open on time on Thursday. Thank you for your help, gentlemen, even if it was somewhat unusual."
Peter smiled charmingly. "Anything for Mrs. Faversham's friends."
Ann-Marie smiled back, though it was clear that she didn't react to his charm the slightest bit. "I'll have to get this ready for Thursday, so if you'll excuse me.....?"
Peter looked a bit disappointed that his approach hadn't worked, but he caught himself quickly and grinned. "See you at the opening?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Maybe." Then she left the office and the Ghostbusters followed her. They said good-bye at the exit and the four men walked down the stairs to Ecto-1.
As the white car disappeared in the New York traffic, a red-haired woman rose from one of the many benches. She smiled as she watched the Ghostbusters drive home.
"May the spirits guide you."