Only in New York City

by Sue K

 

 

To think I thought I had seen everything in New York City…. You live and learn, thought Jake Benning, bartender extraordinaire. He had seen some strange customers; heard some weird conversations, but this day had to be the strangest, weirdest and kookiest experience he had ever found himself in. It had been mid-afternoon, well before the after-work crowd, so there weren’t many people in the bar. In fact at the beginning there had only been the one guy. He was in an off-white T-shirt and blue jeans, nothing to distinguish him from anyone else off the street. Dark hair, dark eyes. He had come in with a disgusted look on his face, checking over his shoulder and up toward the ceiling, as though something might be following him. But what, other than a bird would follow along the ceiling, Jake thought? Other than that, at first there had been nothing uncommon about him. He muttered a great deal to himself, but, Jake thought, a lot of his customers talked to themselves, especially after a couple of drinks under their belts. Then Jake had made the mistake of asking him if he had wanted to unload.

“Me, unload?” the guy asked. “Yeah, you want an obnoxious green ghost? One that seems to take a great deal of sadistic pleasure in sliming me whenever I’m not looking? I’ll unload him on you.”

Jake raised an eyebrow about two stories. “You hit a couple of other places before coming here, pal?” Didn’t do to have someone already sloshed coming in and starting something.

“Name’s Peter and no, but I almost wish I had.”

Jake would have said something else, but another man came in. This one was dark-haired, like the first guy, but was taller and thinner in build. He, too, looked disgusted, and just plain tired. “What can I get for you, mister?” Jake asked the newcomer.

“A beer,” the man said, sitting down next to Peter. Despite his fatigue and dispirited demeanor, he had the bearing of a military man. Peter had the look of a college playboy, surprising since he wasn’t all that young. Not old, just not that young. Maybe a college professor?

Jake placed a beer in front of the newcomer and then finished drying the mugs and glasses from the lunch crowd. He kept an ear open for the conversation. It wasn’t that he was nosy, just that he was interested in keeping up with things.

“You look like someone just killed your dog, friend,” Peter said to the newcomer. He sucked on his beer, downing about a third of it before setting it back down to further study the other man.

“Were that it was that easy to deal with,” the tall man said morosely, unbuttoning the collar of his dark blue shirt.

“Name’s Peter, what’s yours?”

The newcomer gazed at Peter, sizing him up and presumably thinking him harmless, said, “Lee.”

“Welcome, Lee, to the far side of weirdness.”

Lee laughed sardonically and then sighed. “You believe in paranormal entities?”

Jake almost dropped the glass he was wiping. Juggling it, he finally got control and put it away under the counter. The first guy talks about green ghosts and the second about poltergeists?

Peter laughed uproariously and continued laughing until he had to wipe his eyes with his napkin. He got control of himself and gazed meaningfully at the man next to him.

Lee was looking rather annoyed. “Forget it.”

“No, no, Lee, sorry, I just . . . well, you probably have asked the question to the guy who’s seen more paranormal entities than anyone else in this fair, er, fairly crazy city.”

Lee took a haul on his beer and then set it down, wiping the foam off his lip. “I doubt it,” he said seriously.

Peter, still chuckling, smiled. “You?”

“Yeah, me.”

“You’re on, my friend. Whoever tops the other one gets to pay for the next round of drinks,” Peter said.

Lee smiled softly, but the smile didn’t reach his amber-hued brown eyes. “Okay. I’ll start. Leprechauns.”

Jake almost swallowed his teeth.

“You’ve actually dealt with leprechauns? Plural?” Peter asked. Lee nodded and raised two fingers. “Egon would love to hear about that one.” He paused, took a deep breath and then said simply, “Trolls. Whole clan of them. They wanted to take over the Brooklyn Bridge. Real heavy negotiating there.”

Lee stared at him. “You pulling my leg, Peter?”

“Nope. Are you?” Peter studied his companion and then shrugged. “No, don’t think you are.”

Lee shook his head and handed over two ones. “Then there was the ghost of my boss’s ancestor. A slave trader, wanted the admiral to make a bargain with him so he could be free of his ghostly confinement.”

“Admiral?”

“My boss.”

Jake was fair-thee-well ogling by this time. These guys were talking the way fishermen talked about the one that got away. He couldn’t believe it. Trolls on the Brooklyn Bridge? Of course, he supposed, there were times when he could believe it.

Peter whistled. “Good one. A real good one. I am assuming he didn’t succeed.”

Again, Lee shook his head.

“We had to deal with a bunch of ghosts once. One of them inhabited the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man display. When we nailed him, he blew marshmallow fluff all over the place. Had marshmallow in my hair for a month.”

Jake had to admit that was a good one, too. He vaguely remembered that incident. So far, Lee was behind two to nothing.

“Got me on that one, too, Peter,” Lee admitted and handed over a couple more dollars. He took another swig of beer and then said, “You go first now.”

“There was the time we chased the boogieman through a bunch of kids’ closets.”

“So there really is a boogieman?” Lee asked, incredulous.

“Yup,” Peter said. “He was after Egon.”

Lee raised one eyebrow. “Egon?”

“Partner.”

“Oh,” Lee said, looking like he was thinking hard. Then a curious flush came to his cheeks. He took another swig of beer. “Mermaid.”

Jake was really not even pretending to do anything right now. He leaned against the bar listening.

“Mermaid?” Peter said with a note of curiosity. “Was she pretty?”

“Gorgeous. Must have been part Siren. Um, I kind of left my post and went after her.” Jake could tell that the incident was embarrassing to Lee. It also confirmed what he had thought about the taller man being in the military. So maybe this admiral was a real admiral and it wasn’t just some nom-de-plume?

“Get her?”

“Yeah, but didn’t keep her.”

“Nah, wouldn’t work. Interspecies relationships usually don’t, you know,” Peter quipped, finishing his beer. He took a couple of the bills on the counter and handed them back to Lee. “But you got me on that one.”

They both sat gazing at their beers for a moment.

“Well, there was the time that I was possessed by a demon,” Peter ventured. “He wanted me to free other ghosts. Really nasty guy, posed as a sweet little old lady. Had a fire-breathing bird. Egon figured it out and destroyed him.”

Lee took a deep breath, but not a swig of beer. He seemed really serious now. “There was Krueger.” Peter looked at him but didn’t say anything. “He came on board not once but twice. He was the ghost of a WWI U-boat captain. He wanted my body so he could use me to find a suitable girl for his dead lady-love. Almost succeeded the second time. Forced the admiral to shoot me.” Lee rubbed what was apparently an old scar on his abdomen and grimaced. “Thankfully, his girl didn’t want to go along and the admiral figured out how to get rid of Krueger for good, and I pulled through--barely.”

Peter shoved the other two dollars across the bar. “Wow, that one was a corker. The next one determines the winner.”

Before Lee could say anything, a bright green, blobby ghost materialized and began blubbering and imploring Peter in some kind of weird sing-song. “Please, please, Peter. Please…,” it whined.

Jake’s eyes bulged almost from their sockets. The little ghost wrung its spectral hands and continued its whining, dripping small dollops of green goo into Peter’s empty mug.

Lee gaped at the snaggle-toothed, lumpy ghost and promptly shoved all the money across the counter, placing it into Peter’s hand. “I’m not even going to try to top that one, my friend. Okay, I’ll admit it, you really do have lots of experience with paranormal entities.”

Peter’s face turned red and Jake realized this was what the guy had been wanting to get rid of when he first came in.

“Slimer!!! Get out of here! I won’t forgive you for ruining my pillow! I don’t want to even see you right now! OUT!!” Peter bellowed. With a whimper of despair, the little ghost shot out of the bar through the wall, leaving a trail of slime slowly running down the wallpaper. Peter sighed and handed Lee a business card.

Looking at it, Lee read aloud, “Real Ghostbusters. Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddmore. We investigate all paranormal activities. Work guaranteed. 555-2368.” He looked at Peter in surprise. “The way my luck’s been lately, I should have known.” Then he smiled. “You make house calls out of the city?”

“Sure, if it’s not too far or you’re willing to pay expenses.”

“No problem,” Lee said, finishing his beer. “Just the harbor. My boat is coming to pick me up tomorrow afternoon. I’ve been on shore leave for the past few days while she was getting some repair work done in Richmond.” He shoved the mug toward Jake. “Relax, said the CMO. Watch a show on Broadway; go to Times Square. So what does my travel agent get me? A ticket to Phantom of the Opera.” Lee sighed.

“Just one boat has had all that phenomena?” Peter asked, incredulous, ignoring the other comments.

“Sure, I’ll call you tomorrow morning. You can bring your friends and see what they can find. The Seaview seems to be a magnet for the paranormal, extraterrestrial and other things that go bump in the water,” Lee said sardonically. “But leave the little green guy home, would you? Don’t think the admiral would appreciate the residue.”

“THE Seaview?

Lee smiled and tossed a five on the counter to Jake. “I’m paying.” He got up to leave.

Jake shook his head and handed the bill back. “Oh, no. It’s on me. This is more entertainment than I have gotten in a decade.”

“Well, do me a favor, will you? Don’t spread this all around, especially the one about the mermaid,” Lee said.

“No problem,” Jake said. The submariner smiled his thanks and walked toward the door.

Peter put the bills in his pocket and slowly got to his feet. “The guys aren’t going to believe this either.” He, too, left.

Jake turned and looked at the slime trail still oozing down the wall. His wife wasn’t going to believe it, either, even if this was Brooklyn. Live and learn, he thought again.

Fin

 

(Author’s note: I have been to New York City several times. I love the city, I love the people, so this is no slur against NYC. It was just easier for the purposes of the story for Lee to be in NYC than for Peter Venkman to be in Santa Barbara or Los Angeles. I realize that the time line for Real Ghostbusters and Voyage don’t quite coincide, but—well, this is author’s prerogative and I am exercising it. This came out of a discussion on one of the Voyage lists about crossovers and someone mentioned a crossover between the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters and Voyage. So with tongue very, very much in cheek, I am taking the plunge….. Thanks, Elizabeth!)




 

 

 

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