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Not all it's cracked up to be

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Seeing ghosts, Jeff thought, and not for the first time, was no walk in the park. Seeing nervous ghosts was a punishment none but arch criminals should ever have to endure. And the best friend of said nervous ghosts certainly shouldn't be expected to.

"I'm telling you, Jeff, Jeannie is in danger!" Marty insisted for the tenth time in as many minutes.

Jeff was glad the drive from his house to Jeannie's didn't take them right across London. He wasn't sure how much worried wailing he could endure. "And I'm telling you, Marty, that you've got to stop worrying about Jeannie! She can look after herself. Besides..." Jeff pulled over to the side of the road in front of Jeannie's house and stopped the car. "Besides...if she was in trouble, she'd have called me."

"Ha!" Marty exclaimed. "This just proves my point. She wasn't able to call, so clearly, she's in real trouble. Unable to make it to the phone!" Sounding more agitated than ever, he said, "Quickly, Jeff, come on." With that, he popped out of existence, only to materialise in the middle of the footpath.

Jeff stared at him, wondering as he often did whether dying played merry hell with everyone's nerves or whether Marty was just special. He knew, of course, that he'd never get any peace until he investigated, so he sighed, climbed out of the car, and followed his agitated ghostly friend to the house. There, he unlocked the front door with his own key and trailed Marty up the stairs. "Tell me again why you think something's wrong?"

"Well.." Marty didn't look back. "I just--"

"Marty?" Jeff bellowed, stopping in his tracks.

"I just *know*, Jeff! I can sense when Jeannie's in trouble."

"All right, that's it. Marty, you're a ghost, not a medium." Jeff turned on his heels mid-staircase and started back down. "I'm going back home, back to bed, back under my now freezing cold blankets, back to sleep, back to dreaming about... steak and kidney pudding. You can float about in front of Jeannie's door and keep watch, if you like."

"Jeff!" Marty was outraged. "I don't float about."

"You should try it once in a while." Jeff glared back up at him; Marty was following him down the stairs at a few steps' distance. "It might relax you." He kept walking while still glaring back at Marty, and promptly missed his footing and took the next few steps on his backside.

Marty cringed when Jeff came to an abrupt stop by way of banging his head into the rails.

"Jeff... Jeff? Jeff! Jeff!"

"Will you stop screaming at me, Marty!" Jeff groaned, pulling himself up by the rails and rubbing his head.

"You should watch where you're going, Jeff. That's bloody dangerous." Unsure whether a death glare could harm a ghost, Marty nevertheless kept a safe distance from Jeff as his friend started back upstairs, firmly holding on to the railing on the way. "Where are you going, Jeff?"

"To ask Jeannie for an icepack."

"You can't wake her up this time of night. It's not even 3 o'clock!"

"And just how did you expect me to check whether she was in trouble without waking her up?" Jeff grumbled.

"Um... well, you could have used your key and sneaked in, and just checked quietly."

Jeff stopped to blink at Marty. "I never thought I'd see the day when you'd suggest I sneak into your wife's flat while she's asleep."

Marty frowned. "When you put it that way..." He rushed ahead of Jeff, placing his ear to the door. "Not a sound from inside, Jeff. I'm sure everything's fine. Let's just go back to your place."

"Out of my way, Marty."

"Now, Jeff..."

"Let me get at that door!" Jeff snapped, a little louder than he'd intended. "I'm going in there, whether you like it or not." Before he could quite figure out what was happening - after all, it was very nearly dark in the staircase - Jeannie's door had opened and an arm had reached out past Marty. And then....

Oblivion.

"Jeff? Jeff? Oh my God, what have I done? Jeff!"

Jeff groaned, wondering why his bed was so hard and cold, why he had a throbbing migraine, and why Jeannie was waving a frying pan at him. When he spotted a very guilty-looking Marty in the corner of his blurred vision, it all came rushing back to him.

"I thought you were a burglar, about to break into my flat," Jeannie hurried to explain. "I heard raised voices, and someone insisting they were coming in, and I panicked, thinking I'd get them out here, where the neighbours might at least be able to come and help." She sighed. "I'm so sorry, Jeff, I had no idea."

With a whimper of pain, Jeff allowed her to help him sit up. Standing took a lot longer, with Jeannie having quite a struggle getting Jeff up on his rather long, wobbly legs.

"Are you all right, Jeannie?" he asked wearily, rubbing the quickly forming lump on his head.

"Am I all right?" Jeannie looked at him as if she thought he was thoroughly mad. "Jeff, I just bashed you over the head with a frying pan, and you're worried about whether I'm all right?"

"Good point." Jeff glared in Marty's direction.

Marty gulped. "Now Jeff, anyone can get things a little mixed up." He frowned. "Maybe I was sensing that you were in danger, but I thought it was Jeannie..."

"Come inside, I'll put an icepack on your head," Jeannie offered while Marty was still rambling, putting her arm under Jeff's elbow.

"Thanks, Jeannie."

"Hey, wait a minute! It's the middle of the night, Jeff. You can't go in there. Jeannie is feeling guilty, and she'll be fussing over you like mad."

Jeff grinned, happy to at last be getting his own back. "That's right."

"What is?" Jeannie asked, baffled. She followed Jeff's line of sight to the staircase, where Marty was standing and sulking and waving a fist in the air.

Jeff smiled at her. "Seeing ghosts is not all it's cracked up to be."

Jeannie raised a brow at him. "Cracked up? Right." When he grinned at her broadly, she said, "You'd better come and sit down. I'll do the best I can for that head of yours. But all I have is an icepack."

"Thanks, Jeannie." He gave Marty another triumphant look before he was ushered inside. "You're a pal."

 

THE END