SHADOW OF THE INQUISITORS
By Fritz Baugh and OgreBBQ<!40803t>
GBI Case File GBNY-1991-9/271 <!-F3271-102103t>
"Ray, I keep telling you, there's nothing wrong here..." Peter C. Venkman, Ph.D responded, glancing over at the restroom himself. Venkman was a handsome man with slightly boyish features, green eyes, and brown hair. "Wonder if she wants some company..."
The large man of African ancestry sitting next to him, Winston Zeddemore, smacked Venkman in the arm. "Be sure that goes in the report next time Dana calls the firehouse...you're just dazzled by her blue eyes, blonde hair, and well-rounded...personality."
"Heh heh...and you noticing those too will be mentioned to a certain museum curator. Hey, y'know Doctor Vee likes all types, blonde, brunette, everything but redheads--I haven't been able to stand those for the last eight years..." with that Venkman threw a mischievous smirk at the direction of the last member of the group.
Egon Spengler, PhD, had certainly heard the remark and knew it was intended to incite a reaction. But the tall, blond man was was determined not to give Venkman the satisfaction of one, and continued to peruse the stack of books he'd been passing time with the whole trip. His blue eyes didn't move from the book even as he adjusted his red-rimmed glasses.
"Didn't work, Pete..." Winston chuckled.
"He's just pissed off because this guy paid for the flight and he didn't get the chance to fly half across the world in the ECTO-4..." Venkman retorted, taking another swig of the wine that had been provided them.
The door to the bathroom opened and the "hostess" Ray had mentioned reemerged. She was indeed, blonde, and quite attractive, and dressed in a conservative business suit that couldn't completely hide the fact that she had a some very...desirable curves to her body. Especially not to a trained eye like Peter Venkman's...
She slammed the phone down and took her green-rimmed, triangular eyeglasses off, dropping them to the desk in frustration. "I swear if I get one more moron calling me today..."
"Excuse me? This is the Ghostbusters?" a voice broke in. It belonged to a blonde woman in a business suit.
"Yes...it is. May we help you?"
Peter Venkman promptly materialized and put his arm around the woman. "I'm Peter Venkman...Doctor Peter Venkman...and how may we help you?"
Adonai, here we go again... Janine thought to herself, rolling her eyes...
"My name is Lydia Van Horn , Doctor Venkman. And I have been told that I can offer Ghostbusters Inc. a very lucrative fee for a service rendered."
"You got a ghost?" Venkman smirked, having enough decorum to not say or do you just want me to father your children for you?...though not enough to not think it.
"My employer has instructed me to present the proposal to all four of the Ghostbusters at once..." Lydia said firmly, gently removing Venkman's arm from her shoulder.
"Janine...get the others down here, would you?"
"Sure, Doctor Venkman, no problem." She turned to the firepole and shouted throught the access port "RAY!!! WINSTON!!! EEEEGON!!! WE GOT A CLIENT!!!"
Venkman shook his head, and gave Lydia a sheepish grin. "She was raised in Brooklyn--what can you do?"
Ray arrived first, coming down the fire pole in full hot-scramble mode. Winston and Egon made a more leisurely descent down the staircase.
After a round of introductions, the woman opened the briefcase she was carrying, and pulled out a check. "This is a check for two and a half million dollars. Made out to Ghostbusters Inc."
Four sets of jaws dropped. And even Egon's eyebrow shot up.
"This will be given to you immediately, should you choose to accept the contract. Another check for the same amount will be given to you upon the completion of the task my employer has in mind for you."
Venkman, his mind addled by both hormones and greed, was practically drooling. Winston reached out to restrain him. Egon was far less shell-shocked by the offer. "I'm afraid we can't give you an answer without more information--you haven't even told us who your employer is nor the nature of the...'task' he wants to contract us for."
"Does it matter!?!?" Venkman broke in. "We're talking five million bucks here, Spengs. I'd go hand to hand with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for five million bucks!!!"
"Some fair questions, Doctor Spengler--my employer expected you to respond like that. Here is the situation: I represent Josiah Nodus, the President and CEO of Nodus International. You may have heard of it?"
Ray started to talk, then looked at Janine and Egon for a second. "Um, yeah..." he said, looking back at Lydia. "They bought out all of the assets, contracts, and patents from Grossjuck Industries...they even own Grossjuck Plaza off 40th Street..."
Janine groaned audibly, as mention of Grossjuck brought to mind the second largest embarrassment of her romantic life--the former CEO of Grossjuck, Paul Smart, had wined and dined her for a chance to get into GB Central and steal confidential information on Ghostbuster technology, to the end of creating a robot Ghostbuster to drive them out of business.<!-102103t>
"So is that what this concerns?" Egon asked, eyes narrowing. "This...Nodus wants to get into the business now?"
"If so take it and shove it, Lady." Winston said simply and firmly.
"Nothing of the sort, Mister Zeddemore, I assure you. Nodus is bound by the same court orders against utilizing equipment derived from stolen patents as Grossjuck was." Van Horn said with practiced ease--she had undoubtedly been expecting that issue to be raised.
"Mister Nodus is interested in expanding his activities, and has approached several companies in Asia and Europe with the goal of entering into distribution contracts. One company of interest to him is the Vashnivski group in Romania--but the company owner, one Baron Igor Vashnivski, refuses to communicate with him. Mister Nodus has thus authorized me to go to Romania to deliver a proposal to Baron Vashnivski in person. He wants to hire the four of you to accompany me."
The five Ghostbusters looked at each other. "I still got a question about all of this, though..." Ray said first. "Why does he want the Ghostbusters to provide bodyguard service to one of his employees? It doesn't make any sense--unless there's something else you're not telling us?"
"Quite correct, Doctor Stantz. You see, to put it simply, Mister Nodus suspects that Baron Vashnivski is a vampire."
"Vampire?" Venkman repeated. "As in Dracula, turn into a bat, I vant to put on a vaiter's outfit and suck your blood bleah bleah vampire?"
"It's not like we haven't dealt with vampires before..." Ray pointed out. "I still have the setting information to make the proton packs simulate sunlight like back in Lupusville..."
"On what does Mister Nodus base his accusation?" Egon queried simply.
"Baron Vashnivski is a notorious recluse. There are no accounts of him ever attending a meeting of the board of his company--he always acts through his proxy. And there is other information that Mister Nodus will provide--once you study it, you will have a greater understanding of his concerns."
"Miss Van Horn, I think my colleagues and I need to discuss this privately for a moment..." Egon said, gesturing toward Venkman's office.
Van Horn signaled her assent, and the five went back there to confer.
"Five. Million. Bucks." Venkman said simply. "And what are the chances the guy is really a vampire, anyway?"
"We have to consider the possibility that Miss Van Horn's suspicions are correct." Egon countered.
"Then we'll deal with it when we get there." Venkman responded.
"I don't like this..." Winston said. "But if this guy really is a vampire, well, we know that they can be bad news...not just for us, for everyone."
"Egon, if you want to go then go..." Janine said, looking into his eyes. "I know you can't pass up a mystery like this. And things will be fine here--I can call the Crime Patrol, one of the franchises, or even Louis in a pinch if we run into any problem here."
"You're just sucking up because you know Egon could buy you a really nice birthday present with his share..." Venkman smirked mischievously. Janine elbowed him in the gut.
"It sounds like it's decided then!!!" Ray said excitedly. Ray getting excited always worried Venkman.
"Nodus makes a strong, if circumstantial, case on the matter..." Egon admitted, having spent the plane trip over reviewing the information Josiah Nodus provided. "The Vashnivski family has owned the castle for over eight hundred years, when the first Baron Igor Vashnivski built it, as one of the chroniclers put it metaphorically, 'out of the bones of his enemies'."
"Vigo probably read bedtime stories about this guy, and got inspired." Ray commented.
"Him and of course Vlad Tepes, the Impaler..." Egon added.
"Oh, yeah...we are awful close to Viggy's old stomping grounds...that weird you out any, Ray?"
"No. Why should it?"
"You only got possessed by the guy..."
"For thirty whole seconds..." Ray replied, rolling his eyes.
"The name Igor appears very common in the genealogy...and several portraits of the barons do have a conspicuous resemblance..."
"But that doesn't mean anything necessarily either, does it?" Winston asked. "Like look how much Egon looks like Eli Spengler from the Seventeenth Century..."
"Precisely. So that, in itself, proves nothing. Remember that all of the evidence is sketchy and circumstantial--easily explained by mundane means..."
"Yeah, but also don't forget Ockham's Razor." Venkman retorted. "Simplest explanation: the guy tanks up on blood and gets along vith the children of de night..."
After several hours on the road, the forbidding expanse of Castle Vashnivski appeared before them.
The castle was, frankly, every bit the stereotype vampire castle. Gothic in style, darkened, with craggy parapets and stone gargoyles casting an ominous gaze over the keep.
"This place wouldn't just scare Steven King, it'd make him crap his pants..."Venkman quipped.<!-102403f>
<!-begin 102903w> "And just think--tomorrow morning, we get to go there..." Winston whistled, sounding just a tad daunted about it."
"At least it'll be daylight." Venkman nodded. "Less chance of having my plasma withdrawn..."
The car drove to the nearby town of Vashniv<!-name subject to change>, again something of the typical Eastern European village. The four Ghostbusters and Miss Van Horn checked into a somewhat quaint--but more than comfortable--hotel.
"Y'know, if they're short a room for us I can always bunk with Lydia..." Venkman offered helpfully.
"Mister Nodus has seen to the arrangements. There are five rooms available." Lydia responded, rolling her eyes.
Egon pulled out his PKE meter. "The background PK level in this area is much higher than normal...not 'Big Twinkie' levels..." he said as he noticed a box of said treats, sporting a Post-it note inscribed with a smiley face, some hearts, and the letter "J". "But high enough that I cannot say with any certainty, from the distance we passed the castle, that there is any paranormal activity. We shall have to go inside to be sure."
"And that's the plan." Winston nodded as Egon unstowed his proton pack. "So Pete and Ray checked in?"
"I believe so...Peter said he was going to, um, case the bars..." Egon replied, rolling his eyes. "I asked Ray to go along to chaperon."
"...Better be some decent vodka in this place--I'm in the middle of Eastern Europe for cryin' out loud..."
He looked around and about to find the source of the talk, and saw a man of about Winston's size and build, with black hair and a bushy mustache. The man was wearing a dark shirt and what had to be the gaudiest pair of green and yellow plaid pants he'd ever seen...that somehow, on this man, looked incredibly cool
"Wow...cool pants..." Venkman heard Ray agree outloud.
A larger, beefier man--standing a good two inches taller than even Egon--glared at the speaker. They couldn't see much of the man's clothing, as he was wearing a dark trenchcoat, but he had short, buzzcut hair--and an expression of intense disdain. "Do as you will." the man grumbled in a deep voice. "I have no time for this nonsense--I must be ready when it comes time to stalk my prey. See that you are not addled when the time comes." With that, the large man turned and left the bar room. Venkman could swear the temperature rose two degrees when he did.
"There goes a wonderful guy..." the man in the cool pants muttered when the taller dude was safely out of earshot.
"So...you got anything to recommend?" Venkman said, going up the guy at the bar.
"What? Is that real talk I hear?" the man looked up. "Welcome to Transylvania, dude..." He shook Venkman's hand. "Arsene Lupin IV, but my friends call me Barney..."
Ray did a double take. " 'Arsene Lu...' You're kidding!!!"
"Yeah. My real name's Barnard Lupin--ain't related to thieves or nothing as far as I know. But the Barney part is right..." With that he shook Ray's hand.<!-102903w>
"Pete Venkman. But you may have heard of me..."
"Nope. Can't say I have. Never heard of the Ghostbusters or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Don't know a thing about Brooklyn being sucked into Hell or the Statue of Liberty takin'a walk though Times Square. So what do you do for a living?"
"Game show host".
"I figured you were the type. So this guy over here must not be Ray Stantz, then?"
"Didn't think so."
Ray looked at the mustachioed man with a jaundiced eye. "But I am Ray Stantz..."
"So what's an American dude with cool pants like yours doing here in the middle of Transylvania? Business or pleasure?"
"Mostly the former. But what about you? This just your idea of a vacation?"
"I'm more of a Tahiti type--and the lady who brought us here isn't accommodating me yet on the 'pleasure' part, so I guess it would have to be business." Venkman looked around furtively. "That character who was with you ain't coming back, is he?"
Barney shook his head. "Nah...this is too much like enjoying himself. Not his thing."
The barmaid came over and gave Barney a vodka. He smiled beatifically, gave her some money, and goosed her. She smacked him.
"Are you sure this guy isn't your long lost brother, Peter?" Ray rolled his eyes.
"With my Dad, anything's possible...but I..." Venkman stopped abruptly. Looking over Ray's shoulder.
"What? " Ray looked around, and knew in an instant what had drawn Venkman's attention. She was of normal height, about five-six, and her dark brown hair spilled over a red band circling her brow; a dark blue cloak covered a loose burgundy dress that went down to below her knees. She wore short boots that matched the dress color, while her tights matched the cloak, as did the pack slung over her right shoulder and hanging at her left hip.
Ray Stantz generally avoided staring at women--they never started back at him anyway, either getting snared in Venkman's web or developing one-sided fixations on Egon, but he allowed himself a few seconds more...her features were small and refined, almost elfin...he found the brooch she wore interesting, apparently gold, and engraved with a symbol that resembled a backwards capitol "P".
He found her eyes even more interesting--deep and blue. Hinting at hidden depth and mystery...it reminded him vaguely of the intensity in Egon's eyes, but with greater warmth.
He realized he was starting to blush badly, and looked away.
Beside the woman, almost unnoticed, was a small teenage girl with very wide eyes and light brown hair gathered into two ponytails. She wore a green vest and pleated skirt, and she also wore a cloak. She looked very very nervous and uncomfortable.
Venkman, in typical Venkman fashion, had virtually teleported over to the woman, and had put his arm around her shoulders. "Guten Tag, Fraulein, Mine Deutsche is sehr sehr schlecht...Kanst I buy you a drink?"
She removed Venkman's arm. "I speak English quite well, sir. And most of the natives speak a Slavic language more resembling Russian than German, anyway. I'm not thirsty in any case."
She walked over to the bar. "I understand you saw Kalashnikov..."
Barney answered her. Causing Venkman's jaw to drop. "Yeah.." Barney replied. "I'm gonna be glad when this is over with--I can't stand that jerk..."
"We have our orders, Barnard. Unfortunately, he is part of them--he's the expert on our...objective."
"Doesn't mean I have to like it, Lady E..." Barney grumbled, taking a swig of his vodka. "Pull up a chair and get a drink--hey, Lil...what about you?"
The younger girl blushed with embarrassment. "I..I believe I'm too young for that, Mister Lupin..."
"I don't believe we had the honor of meeting properly..." Venkman said, stepping in front of the woman again. "I'm Peter Venkman. Doctor Peter Venkman. The rich and world famous Peter Venkman."
"I am at not at liberty to tell you my true name, Doctor Venkman, but I'm known in some circles as Lady Enlightenment...and I find this turn of events fascinating..."
Oh yeah...I still got it... Venkman smirked to himself. I wonder how far I'll let her go before I have to tell her I'm engaged...
"Because if you're Peter Venkman, I have to assume the fellow behind you is Ray Stantz."
Ray suddenly started sweating for some reason he couldn't identify.
<!-110203u> "Huh?" Venkman sputtered, completely caught off guard.
"You...are Ray Stantz, correct?" she asked, as she went over to him.
"Um..yeah..."Why can't I talk???
She shook his hand. Ray hoped she didn't notice how profusely he was sweating..."It is an honor to meet you, Doctor Stantz."
"Doctor, you are only one of the preeminent occultists on the planet. I quite enjoyed the intro you wrote for the 1989 reissue of Tobin's Spirit Guide--I'd be fascinated to find out more about your adventures..."
Ray gulped. He was still sweating, still felt his cheeks were hot and blushed, but somehow he was getting used to the sensation. And was starting to kinda like it. "Um...call me Ray...you're interested in the occult?"
"I'm a Ghostbuster too!!! I fought all those primal gods and stuff too!!!" Venkman broke in. She didn't seem to notice.
"Quite interested, Doctor Stantz...you might say a study of the supernatural has been a family concern for quite a long time..."
Venkman was beginning to feel very slighted. "Cool" is all he can come up with--and she's talking to him instead of me???
"Perhaps we can talk about it at greater length...there's a quaint little eatery down the street."
"Don't stay out too late, E..." Barney broke in, a huge smirk on his face. "We have a job to do tomorrow..."
She gave Ray an enigmatic smile. "Perhaps Barney's right...this wouldn't be a good time for that--how long will you be here?"
"Yeah, I still got jet lag anyway..." Ray responded, feeling relieved and strangely...disappointed at the same time. "We should be here a few days."
"Another time, then...a pleasure to meet you Ray. And you also, Doctor Venkman..." she turned to her younger companion. "Lilly, I'm going back to my room--are you staying here?"
Lilly looked around, and blushed. "I think...I had better do likewise, Milady..." She curtsied to Ray and Venkman. "I enjoyed meeting you both." With that, the two women left.
Venkman grabbed Ray and began to noogie him vigorously. "I thought we had a deal!!! I get the chicks, you do the science stuff!!! She was totally totally ignoring Doctor V!!! That is improper!!! I'm used to this from Egon, but not you!!!"
"Ow!!! You're reading too much into it, Peter!!! She said she was an occultist--I'm an occultist, you're a parapsychologist--she maybe just thought our interests would mesh better!!!"
"Or somethin'..." Barney chuckled. "Hey, chin up, Pete...I think Lilly liked you...."
"Lilly is like what, thirteen???" Venkman sputtered. "Ray, she only asked you out to dinner...This just isn't fair..."