by Sheila Paulson
See notes and disclaimer on part one.
"Hey, guy, this is crazy. Where are you taking us?" Peter demanded. The huge, hairy being who dragged him and Blair along at such a rapid clip ignored him, and Peter had to save most of his breath for keeping up. He had a feeling he'd have been dragged if he lost his balance, and the idea was unappealing.
Bigfoot! It was really Bigfoot. Ray would just love to be in Peter's place, but Peter was glad his buddy wasn't there, that none of them were there. He might get out of this on his own, but he didn't want his pals in danger.
The creature didn't come close to Jill Claypool's claim of eight feet tall. It was more like seven feet, Peter estimated; just about right for the NBA, with long arms and legs and gigantic hands and feet. Its stride was longer than Egon's, all right, but it had slowed to allow them to keep up. Peter couldn't see the footprints it was leaving, to tell if this was the being who had abducted Andy, but when he looked up he saw a huge, hairy face that was not quite apelike, with wide, almost human eyes. To Peter's surprise, they were blue, and held what seemed like infinite sadness. Whether it was just the creature's habitual expression or if it was upset there was no way to tell.
"He probably doesn't speak English." Blair didn't sound any happier than Peter felt. "But don't worry, Jim will find us."
"He'll do his Sentinel number, huh?" Peter asked. The giant creature didn't seem to mind if they talked, but it didn't like them to speak above low murmurs. Attempts to yell for help had been met with a tightening of the giant hands around their upper arms in warning. There was enough strength in the grip to shatter the bones without effort, so Peter had complied.
Sandburg was shocked at Peter's words. "He's gonna kill me," Blair mourned.
"Look, it was the P.K.E. meter that started Egon going. After that, and once Ray started talking about that article you did, it was pretty easy to figure out especially when I saw your buddy had that first sniper's position pinned down so quick. Ordinary people probably wouldn't pick up on it, but we're the Ghostbusters. We're trained to guess the unexpected without many clues and we're used to taking things at face value that most people don't. What do you think they pay us for?"
Blair seemed to accept that. "What about our friend here?" he asked, clearly scared, but not panicked to the point where he couldn't handle himself. He was steering Peter away from the subject of his buddy's Sentinel abilities, in spite of his fear. If it came to that, Peter was scared himself, but he was used to functioning when he was scared. Otherwise the sight of their nastier ghosts would have sent him running like he, Egon, and Ray had when they'd seen their very first ghost at the New York Public Library. "I can't believe we really found Bigfoot. Or he found us. Jim will never believe a word of it."
"I don't know if he can understand us or not," Peter said. "And I haven't figured out if he's taking us home for lunch--or home to *be* lunch."
Blair grimaced. "You had to say that, didn't you?"
"I've seen a lot of weird entities," Peter said, probably a little less freaked by the experience than Sandburg was. "But check him out. He's not a carnivore. His teeth are a lot like ours. Not a fang in sight. I'd bet he's omnivorous." When Blair registered surprise, he added, "One of the first things you learn when you deal with nasty spooks and specters is to check out how sharp their teeth are. Being a ghost's happy meal has never been right up there in my choice of fun things to do."
"Like the Dish of the Day in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?" Blair asked with a wry grin.
"Yeah. It may be an honor but it's one I'd decline."
The creature made a sudden rumbling sound deep inside, not quite a growl, and the two men eyed each other uneasily.
"If we're lucky," Blair said hopefully, "it's laughing at us."
"Then let's hope it has a great sense of humor."
"If we're not lucky," the anthropology student continued, "that's its stomach growling, and it's hungry."
"You had to say it, didn't you? The guys are gonna find us." He said it with great determination; he had to convince himself before he could convince Blair. After all, it was a given they'd hunt for him. They'd tear the forest apart to find him just like he would for them. What he worried about was them coming too late.
"Jim will lead them right to us," Blair said positively. He shook his head, not to deny his own words but to pull the hair back from his face.
"You known him long?"
"About a year."
"And you're using him for your guinea pig? Lab experiments and the like?" Peter asked.
"It started out that way. It was a kick to find a real Sentinel with all the senses enhanced." He caught himself, a guilty expression on his face, then he gave a wry shrug. "Look, you know about it, but don't talk about it. Don't give him away, please. If people found out, there'd probably be reporters and scientists hip deep around him and he'd hate that. His life would never be his own again."
"And he's your buddy and you want to help him out if you can," Peter said knowingly.
Blair nodded. "You didn't really get to know him. He and I are about as different as night and day. But--he's my friend. I guess you'd say he's the best friend I ever had, even if we bug each other half the time. Naomi, that's my mom, came to stay with us once." He grinned. "Mom never stopped being a hippie."
"More power to her," Peter said with a return grin. "I was at Woodstock. Course I was just a kid, almost thirteen, but it was mind-blowing, in more ways than one."
"I bet. Imagine Jim with a hippie. He's a little stiff sometimes; I can't always read what he's thinking or where he's coming from, but he's a good guy. Naomi told me later she thought Jim was good for me, but she told him that I was good for him, too."
"Yeah," Peter agreed, casting a slanting glance up at Bigfoot to see if the creature was interested in their conversation. He found a pair of blue eyes regarding him with great fascination and had to turn his gaze away before he saw himself reflected there--in a stewpot. "I've gotta say there's a lot to recommend having a friend who's practically your opposite. Look at Egon and me. Hard to picture two guys more different, yet I'd jump in front of a runaway train for Egon. For Ray and Winston, too."
"Jim's the cop. He watches out for me, but there are ways I have to watch out for him, too." He didn't go into detail, but Peter didn't expect him to. He still seemed pretty chagrined about the Sentinel thing coming out in the open.
"So they're gonna be after us," Peter said. "My buddies would track me to the ends of the earth. We watch out for each other. We went into the Netherworld after Egon once, and he'd've done the same for us." He glanced up again, afraid he was giving his friends away, but if the creature had any smarts at all, he had to know that. Peter only hoped they weren't being led into ambush. He didn't know how many of the Sasquatch were wandering around the woods here, but he didn't think there could be too many or they would have been spotted before this. He wasn't even sure why this one had suddenly started snatching people; if it had done it before, there would have been all sorts of lunatics with guns out here trying to bag themselves a Bigfoot, not to mention reporters, possibly even the government, and neither Blair nor Jim had mentioned anything like that.
"Hey," Peter tried speaking to the creature. "You. Size twenty-ones. Can you understand us?"
Bigfoot made that weird coughing noise again. Maybe it was the creature's language.
"Either he's laughing at us or he doesn't have a clue," said Blair. Being a lot shorter than Peter he needed to practically run to keep up and his breathing had quickened. "Come on, Harry," he urged the creature. "Can't we slow down now."
"Harry?" Peter asked. "That's not fair, I missed the formal introductions. No, 'me Peter, you Harry' kind of thing."
"Yeah, ever see a movie called Harry and the Hendersons? This family had Bigfoot move right into their house. They named it Harry. It really trashed the place, too."
"Well, I need to call him something. Come on, we're out of range of the bad guys with guns. Can't we slow down?"
'Harry' made a barking noise that sounded impatient and tugged harder at their arms.
"Guess we can't," Peter said. "Hang in there, a kid like you, you should have plenty of energy. Don't have to worry about the big four-oh for years." Peter hadn't welcomed that event with any degree of enthusiasm, and occasionally, even for a guy in as great a shape as he was, the pack grew a little heavy at the end of an hour-long battle with a really tough ghost. Still, wearing one regularly gave him an edge. He was in great shape and could go on as long as he had to. He just wished he didn't have to, not when every step was taking him further and further away from his buddies.
Then 'Harry' finally slowed down, and paused before a thicket. He made a different coughing noise; maybe it really was a language; certainly it was a warning sound. A second later, the bushes parted and a second Sasquatch looked out. This one was a little smaller than the first-- younger? female?--and it stared at Peter and Blair with evident alarm. A confabulation took place between the two creatures. Peter was pretty sure they had a language of their own and were comparing notes, or maybe 'Harry' was explaining to the wife why he'd brought home unwelcome guests. Then the smaller creature took Blair's arm and yanked him into the thicket, and 'Harry' shoved Peter in after him.
They emerged into a cave, lit in part by the size of the opening and in part by a fire that burned against the far wall, a neat, efficient fire made with dry wood that gave off very little obvious smoke.
"It looks like we have discovered fire." Blair studied the scene with an anthropologist's eye.
"You mean they really are intelligent?" Peter asked, intrigued, though he'd rather have made the discovery from a distance and in the company of his friends. "Don't build up your hopes, kid. The natives who welcome missionaries with stewpots are intelligent, too, remember?"
Harry went off in a whole spasm of 'coughing', pausing to bark at the smaller Sasquatch, who chortled too. If they didn't understand English, maybe they'd understood the tone.
"Hey!" said a voice from the shadows at the rear of the cave. "It's about damn time!"
Peter jerked, stunned to be addressed in English, but only for a second, because he recognized the voice of the speaker. Andy Claypool bounded to his feet and hurried to meet them, intact and uninjured.
"At least he isn't dinner," Peter said to Blair in an undertone.
"They eat leaves and little animals and birds," Claypool said. "They gave me a bowl of stew in a clay pot just now. It was awful." He frowned. "Is Jill all right, Peter?"
"She's worried about you, but she's holding up. Feisty lady. We could have sworn the footprints we saw on the lake shore were fake. But these guys are real."
"I watched it walk on the way here," Blair said. "I think we were so quick to prove none of us were gullible enough to buy the Bigfoot concept that we wouldn't accept genuine tracks."
Andy Claypool chuckled. "Are you kidding me. Check out their feet!"
Peter did, and then did a double take. It hadn't been obvious in their haste through the forest; the hair on 'Harry's' legs had concealed the sight, but as Peter and Blair watched in disbelief, Harry sat down on the hard-packed dirt floor and proceeded to take off his 'shoes', a pair of Bigfoot-shaped foot coverings. The foot beneath was big enough to crush a ton of grapes in one stomp, but it was also shaped a little differently and would probably produce a much more natural spoor than the gizmo he'd just pulled off. What was more, the 'shoe' appeared as if it had been made with leather and latex--and high tech equipment--to give any inadvertent footprints a phony appearance.
"Holy shit," Peter muttered.
"Is this when they open the back of the cave and reveal a hidden computer center or the door to their spaceship?" Blair asked, his mind evidently going in the same direction as Peter's.
"They really are primitive," Claypool said. "I've been watching them. None of this is my field; I work with computers. But I have to be observant for that and I've been putting it to good use here. They didn't hurt me on the way here. They tried to explain why they have me here, and from gestures, I think they're going to let me go later. Crazy as it sounds, I think they brought me here to protect me."
"You didn't maybe see two guys in a boat diving with wetsuits, did you?" Peter asked.
"Yeah," Andy replied. "Well, two guys in a boat anyway. I thought it was weird for him to be out fishing in the fog, I'm no fisherman; maybe that's when they're biting best."
"I hate to break it to you but he was probably retrieving a drug shipment that had been accidentally dropped in the lake from a light plane," Blair said. "We think you saw a pair of drug dealers."
"Andy Claypool, Blair Sandburg," Peter introduced.
For some reason, that excited 'Harry'. He edged closer and made weird noises that almost sounded like Blair's name. The anthropology student forgot all about Claypool and turned to the Sasquatch. "Hey, you guys know me?" he asked eagerly.
Peter said, "Yeah, and I'm Peter Venkman. I'm famous."
Evidently he wasn't famous to the Sasquatch. Disappointed, he shrugged his shoulders. "We think you were brought here because there are drug dealers who didn't want a witness, probably the fishermen you saw in the boat; maybe they thought you'd seen them clearly enough to identify them."
"If you mean the guys in the boat, one of them had his arms full of something big and bulky, and the other one had his back to me," said Andy. "I couldn't recognize them in a million years. But if they were really dealers they might not have taken the chance. I went down to the shore while Jill was away and called out to them; I asked how the fishing was. And that's when the--the Bigfoot grabbed me. I thought the guys in the boat would help, but they didn't do anything at all, though one of them had a gun."
"They've been shooting at us up in the woods," Blair said. "Maybe 'Harry' thought they were going to shoot at you." He gestured at the taller of the two Sasquatch.
Andy mopped his brow. "You mean Bigfoot saved my life?"
"Probably," said Peter.
"My god, Jill was just coming back. I heard her scream. They didn't hurt her, did they?"
"She ran for help," Peter said. "She showed up in our camp yelling like crazy and we went back with her. She wasn't left alone for a minute. Blair's connected with the police in Cascade. His partner's a cop, and he'll be following us here." He gestured at the two hairy creatures who were watching them with interest. "These characters saved all three of us from major bullet holes. In about an hour these woods are gonna be full of search parties, cops, rangers, whatever, and the next thing you know it's gonna be all over the headlines about Bigfoot."
"Yeah, a great discovery," Blair started. Peter could see the eager scientist in him, probably already planning papers. "It's going to be so incredible. I can do a whole string of papers on their lifestyle, their family groups, the whole bit. I'm just the one to do it. I've done a lot of field work with primitive tribes, and this seems pretty well paleolithic to me."
"Hey, yeah. I can do the talk shows, have Egon talk about how he can detect them with the P.K.E. meters. We can introduce them to civilization. Think what they're missing. Boom boxes, pizza, Michelle Pfeiffer. Besides, what if they get sick out here all alone. We can bring them help if they need it. They wouldn't have to live in caves. I bet there are places that'd pay for them to have a penthouse on Fifth Avenue. Harry and I can do the talk shows together. After all, if Jay and Letterman can put up with the spud, they can sure take Bigfoot. Can you imagine us on Letterman? There wouldn't be a college in the world that wouldn't automatically give you tenure. Fame and fortune, big bucks. There's this reporter I know at the National Register, and I think he could weasel a major advance out of his editor for a story like this."
"I'm gonna do a monograph, study them, find out what kind of tribal culture they have, how many of them are there, how they've managed to avoid discovery all these years," Blair said exultantly. "I'm on the scene and I have the experience. I'm just the person to do this."
"Then I can handle the PR," Peter said. "I do that for the Ghostbusters and I can take this on, too. Egon will go nuts, wanting to run tests, and Ray will be in seventh heaven."
"We can set up a study group to make sure there aren't any problems," Blair began, then the younger man's face fell. "Seems like a pretty lousy way to pay them back for helping, doesn't it? I've seen it before with remote tribes who had no contact with the modern world. Suddenly, if they survive at all, they survive as second-class citizens. The kids all sprout tee shirts with pictures of rock groups or Darth Vader, the adults wind up experiencing booze and not knowing how to cope with it. It's not a pretty picture." Depression spread across his face. "They won't stand a chance in civilization, if we give them away."
Peter stared up at 'Harry', who watched him with eyes that seemed sad and ageless. He couldn't help thinking the Sasquatch had at least a rudimentary understanding of what Blair had just said, of what he and Blair had planned in an attempt to exploit them. Mentally he tried to erase the word 'exploit' but it wouldn't go away.
"Maybe they'd be protected," he said hopefully.
"Are you kidding?" Blair raked his shaggy hair back out of his eyes. "Crazy hunters would want to blast them and science types would want to dissect them. There are guys at Rainier who would have them on the dissection table before I could turn around. We can't let that happen. We have an obligation here. They haven't hurt Andy, and he thinks they were going to let him go. They saved us from being shot. So they're good guys. We can't sell them out, no matter what it would do for our careers."
Peter's first instinct was to point out how much Bigfoot would gain; modern civilization, junk food, VCR's, but the more he thought about it the more he realized primitive tribes scored pretty low when they ran into the modern world. Blair was right. Why did they need computers and sports cars? They appeared healthy and contented here. But that would only last as long as no one really believed in them. As long as they remained a myth, only a few lunatics would accept their reality, and they'd be able to hide, safe and protected, in the forest. But once the news leaked out, this place would shame Grand Central Station. Deep down, Peter was a fair man, and he had a hidden sympathy for people in trouble and for the underdog. The research, the fame and glory, would put Bigfoot in the worst trouble he'd ever known.
"Yeah," he said reluctantly. "I see what you mean. That'd be a lousy thing to do to somebody who never meant us any harm."
"All they did was try to help us. They risked their own lives in the process, and not just their lives, their way of life," Blair insisted. "I'd love to study them; but if I do, I'll make it worse. For all we know even this much contact has exposed them to diseases they're not resistant to. I mean, finding them is great; it's one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me, but I don't think I could live with myself if I was responsible for making them extinct."
Peter reluctantly abandoned the idea of talk shows and interviews with the press. He'd feel pretty bad if 'Harry' wound up as a fur rug, or stuffed in a museum. If Bigfoot was the missing link, or had just taken an alternate evolutionary path, the knowledge of his development would serve mankind (not to mention a few scientists determined to make names for themselves) but it would also destroy the creatures. They had to be intelligent; they made tools, like the clay bowl Andy had mentioned. Their hands were very human, with an opposable thumb. Peter had never given much credence to the idea of Bigfoot before, even after the being they'd encountered on their last camping trip. That wasn't an actual Sasquatch, though; it was clearly of a different species than these.
"Yeah, I gotcha," he agreed. "We have to convince them we won't blow their cover and make them let us go. If we can decoy the guys away from here and you can make up a story for Ellison...."
"He's probably following the tracks right now," Blair said. "He's...a great tracker." From the way his voice altered, Peter knew he didn't want to talk about the Sentinel concept in front of Andy. If anyone could find a long-hidden Sasquatch, it was a Sentinel.
"You mean don't tell anybody what happened?" Andy asked in disbelief. "What am I going to tell Jill? We don't lie to each other."
"The more people that know, the more chance there is of giving it all away," said Peter. "Come on, Andy, these guys saved our lives. Let's not throw them to the wolves as a reward."
Andy frowned. "She'd know I wasn't telling her the truth," he said miserably. "Besides, how do we know they just aren't a species of animals."
"You're the one who pointed out they had fake Bigfoot feet over their own," Blair reminded him. "Come on, that's pretty smart. They're not just animals. You said they had a clay pot. That means they knew the concept of making a clay pot, which raises them above the animal category in my book. How many bears do you know who can throw pots? It's not right up there in the list of animal skills. Not even gorillas and chimps do that."
Andy lowered his eyes. "Okay, I see what you mean," he said. "But they just went off and left Jill."
"Jill hadn't seen the guys in the boat," Peter reminded him. "And she said they just took off. If you'd stayed there to be shot, she'd have run down to the shore and they'd have shot her too. Instead, when they saw 'Harry', they took off. He saved Jill, too."
"Well, when you put it like that...." the computer programmer agreed.
"I'm glad you all agreed, gentlemen," said a new voice in fluent English from the dark reaches of the cave. "I couldn't have stopped you if you'd tried to go public, but I'm glad you reached your decision on your own."
"Yikes, they talk," Peter blurted.
"No they don't," Blair corrected as a figure emerged from the shadows, a human figure wearing khaki pants, a plaid shirt--and Bigfoot fake feet. "That's no Bigfoot. It's Professor Malkovich." The newcomer was tall, probably six feet six, and red-haired, with a scruffy, greying beard and an air of absent-minded asceticism about him.
"Sandburg," he greeted.
Before Peter could react to the unexpected arrival, a rattle of distant shots rang out, causing both of the Sasquatches to tense. "The guys," Peter said, starting for the door at a dead run. "They're shooting at the guys!"
'Harry' stepped directly into his path. "Get out of the way," Peter insisted frantically, struggling to push past the huge creature. "I've gotta go help my friends."
"You have to stay here," Malkovich insisted. "Muh-ala will go." He gestured at 'Harry.' "Blair, tell him. You can't lead those gunmen here."
"But they're shooting at Jim," Blair cried, as alarmed as Peter. "Come on, Prof, we have to *do* something. Our friends are in trouble."
"Neither of you has a gun. If you stay here and let us deal with it, everything will work out."
"Sure, if my buddies aren't lying out there dead," Peter snarled. He took a step toward Muh-ala, determined to reach his friends if it killed him. "Besides, I *am* armed." He pulled his thrower in one swift motion.
The creature looked him right in the eye and said in a grumbly, raspy voice, "Stay," and bent to don the fake feet again.
"Omigosh, it talks," gasped Blair, reeling back in reaction. "This is so great! But you don't understand, Professor. I've got to get to Jim."
"No. Whatever you do, we can't lead those criminals here. I've fought for years to help Muh-ala and Sah-loa to stay safe. I won't give it up now."
"And I won't give up my friends," Peter said. "Muh-ala can come if he wants to, but I'm going." He circled around the huge, hairy being and stormed toward the door. Blair gulped and followed him, giving the Sasquatch a very wide berth.
"You'll ruin everything," hollered Malkovich.
"Fine, but I won't leave my friends hanging out to dry," Peter insisted. He started out of the cave only to feel a huge hand clamp down on his shoulder.
"I wouldn't either," Malkovich said. "Muh-ala will help them, just like he helped you."
Peter and Blair struggled in the grip of the second creature while the first one eased out of the cave and vanished into the thicket. Venkman's eyes found those of the professor and he growled, "If any of my friends are killed out there, I'm going to hold you personally responsible."
"He's sending help, Peter," Blair said in the tones of one who agrees with him completely but doesn't see any way around it.
"Well, then, the help better show up in time, or you'll face the wrath of Venkman."
Jim had led the way after the footprints he alone could discern clearly, grateful for Egon's understanding and his presence at his side, though he desperately missed Blair as his guide. Egon did his best, but he didn't understand the Sentinel concept the way Sandburg did. The kid had become his friend--Ellison would fight Simon to keep the partnership intact on the strength of that--and a far better friend than Jim had believed when Sandburg had first approached him at the hospital, all gung ho to make Ellison his pet guinea pig. But he was also essential to Ellison's abilities. With Sandburg there, it was far easier to focus, knowing he understood what was going on and knew when to coach him, when to pull him back from going in too deep.
He was worried about Blair's safety, too. The prints proved he was moving under his own steam, but who knew what would happen to him when the creature moving with him reached his destination. They hadn't yet found Andy Claypool; Jim hoped they didn't find him dead and Blair with him. He had too much experience as a police officer and in the military before that to allow his worry to take over during the search. That wouldn't help Sandburg and it might interfere with Ellison's concentration. But the worry was there, evident in the sensation deep in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't help worrying about what would happen to him if he lost his guide, but even stronger was the thought of life without Blair's presence. The kid had edged his way into Jim's life, wrapped himself around the Sentinel's routine, made himself indispensable. If he'd done anything as stupid as getting killed...
A sharp sound intruded, too faint for the others to hear, but Jim knew it for what it was, the sound of pursuit, the sound of a weapon about to be fired. "*Down*!" he bellowed, grabbing at Spengler, who was the only one close enough to him to pull down. As the sound of shots rang out, Winston and Ray reacted immediately, diving flat and wiggling into cover, while Riley, who was in the most exposed position dropped like a stone. Jim didn't like the look of that.
The trooper didn't respond. Egon, who had a clearer view, said grimly, "He's hit."
"It looks bad," Winston called out. "I'm going to work my way over to him."
"Stay here, I'll do it," Ellison ordered, but Winston shook his head.
"No, I can reach him easier without being as exposed as you would be. If you can give me covering fire, I'll work my way over. Ray. Stay put. I mean it."
Ray's eyes were huge with shock at the sight of the downed Riley, but he must have heard the authority in his teammate's voice because he wiggled closer to the boulder that shielded him and Winston and gave a quick nod of agreement.
"They must have followed us," Egon said. "If it weren't for the readings I've been detecting, I'd suspect they were the ones who made off with Peter and Blair."
Ellison aimed in the direction the shots had come from and fired quickly. Winston braced himself and ran for Riley at a dodging run, keeping low, his thrower in his hand. Dropping down prone beside the trooper just as the drug dealers fired again, he propped himself up on his elbows and sent off a burst of crackling energy from his thrower in the direction the shots had come from. In the distance there was a yelp of astonishment and the firing stopped. Lowering his thrower, Winston pressed his fingers against the side of Riley's neck, feeling for a pulse. Ellison could tell he didn't find it by the way his shoulders slumped. He rolled the man onto his back, then shook his head. "Oh, man," he muttered, his dismay carrying clearly to Jim. As if he'd realized, too, that he didn't need to be loud to be heard he said in an undertone, "It took him right in the heart. I think there's only one of them out there. I saw movement, but it was just one man, probably the original sniper." He moved his hands over Riley's eyes, closing them, and the motion evoked a cry of distress from Ray.
"We need to find better cover," Winston added. "They can take pot shots at us at their leisure out here."
Ellison spoke just loudly enough for his own party to hear him. "I'm going to stop him. I can't let him follow us and take us out one by one. When they were pinned on the ridge going after Sandburg and Venkman was the right move, but now they're after us. The one Ted took out is probably waiting where we left him but the other one means to pick us off. Egon. Can your meter track them?"
The physicist held it up. "Yes. As soon as I realized what was happening, I filtered out our group's biorhythms. Anything I detect now should be the sniper. He really doesn't want any witnesses. Maybe it was more than a drug drop. Maybe he's been hiding bodies in the lake, weighing them down. Maybe what Andy Claypool actually saw was these men tossing in another one. Maybe they were interrupted last time, before they could dispose of Wyatt's body. Dumping him where he could be easily found doesn't seem entirely practical."
"That just might make the most sense yet," Ellison said. "They could have dumped a dozen of their enemies out here and as long as the bodies were weighted down, they'd be able to get away free. If they were interrupted when they were trying to dispose of Wyatt, they may have cut their losses with him. When Claypool called out to them today, it probably gave them the shock of their lives. After all, the campground was almost deserted this morning and there was a thick fog earlier."
Egon concentrated on the screen. "That way," he said, pointing. "Focus on it, and I'll monitor you."
Ellison concentrated his hearing on that particular direction, eyes closed. The shot that dug a chip out of the boulder that concealed Ray was like a clap of thunder in his head and he jerked, clapping his hands over his ears, reeling back.
"Easy, easy," Egon said quickly, supporting him by a grip on his shoulders. "He's pinpointed now. Winston. Twenty degrees to your left."
"Gotcha," Winston called back, aiming and firing between the trees directly on the line Egon had given him. Shots came back, forcing him to fling himself flat behind Riley's body. The pain in his ears receding, Ellison saw the body jerk as shots dug into it.
"Winston!" screamed Ray, popping up and firing in the same direction. The gunman returned fire and Ray yelped, squawked, and slid down behind the stone.
"Raymond!" Egon's horrified shout directly into Ellison's ear made the Sentinel flinch again. He glared up balefully into the physicist's face and saw him pale as he waited for Stantz's response.
Then Ray sat up, one hand clasped to his left arm. "I'm okay, Egon," he called. "It's only a graze." Blood was visible between his fingers, but Ellison didn't think it could be a serious wound; there wasn't that much blood. They'd need to dress it quickly, but first, they had to stop the crazed gunman.
"Spengler," he said, catching the physicist's arm. "I need the three of you to give me covering fire. I'm going to circle around and take him down. You and I are out of his angle of fire. If you shift about five feet to your left, you'll pull his attention away from me, but I don't think he'll have a clear shot at you. Use your meter to pin him down and if there's any way to narrow the focus and extend the range, do it. Once he's down, I'll circle. I've focused on his heartbeat; I can find him."
"Be careful of overload if he fires," Egon warned, half his attention on Ray, who had taken a handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped it around his arm and who was attempting to tie it using his good hand, the other end caught between his teeth.
"Now," Ellison urged. Egon rolled over once, then scuttled sideways on his hands and knees to the assigned spot. One shot followed him but came no closer than a few feet away.
Bringing up his meter, he checked the reading, then shifted the angle. "Ray, to the left of your last position. Winston, don't move much but if you can raise the thrower and point it--yes, just like that. All right, fire."
The minute the three energy weapons fired, Ellison slid backward, placing a thick tree trunk between himself and the gunman, then worked his way down the slope. When he was out of sight, he started up at an angle, listening, blocking out the sound of shots and the thrum of the throwers. Sandburg always told him to control his breathing and concentrate, so he did that, knowing even if Sandburg had been here, he'd have left him with the Ghostbusters while he circled around.
Drawing on every ability he possessed, the tracking skills he'd honed in the jungles of Peru, and the long, hard hours he'd spent with Sandburg's coaching, he was able to pin down the location of the man with the gun, toning down the sound of his sporadic shots so they didn't deafen him. Focusing on the gunman's heartbeat, he went for him like an arrow to the target, circling to get the drop on the man. He knew he had more skills in the woods than the shooter did, and adding to that his Sentinel abilities made it easy.
Five minutes later he edged up behind a thick tree and saw the man about twenty feet away. Lying flat behind a fallen log, he took periodic potshots at the Ghostbusters, whose position was clearly marked by the shimmer of the throwers and their emissions of proton energy. The glowing, golden streams were jagged and irregular, throwing him off a little, but he had a pretty clear focus on them, well enough to keep them pinned down.
Ellison stood behind the tree, concentrating on the sound of heartbeats, making sure the second man hadn't come too, in spite of his wound. If he was here, his heart had stopped. Confident the sniper didn't have any immediate backup, Jim started up the slope, keeping trees and bushes between him and the gunman as long as he could, until he was standing not five feet away.
"Freeze! Drop it!"
The man with the rifle whirled automatically, bringing up the rifle as he wiggled over the log, and fired a shot that missed Ellison by a good six inches. Jim ducked and fired at the same time, also missing. At once he ducked behind a tree and fired a second shot that couldn't quite reach the correct angle. He leaned around the other side of the tree just as the gunman fired at the spot where he'd been seconds before. Jim's shot took the man in the shoulder just as a beam of glowing energy shot out and caught the man full in the back. Stiffening as if he'd received an electric shock, he jerked, twitched, and fell to the ground.
Running feet heralded the arrival of the Ghostbusters, Winston in the lead. "He was quick," the black man said. "I thought he was gonna hit you."
"So did I," Ellison replied, scooping up the rifle and moving it out of range of the downed criminal. "Thanks for the backup." He drew the unconscious man's hands behind his back and cuffed him.
"There's still one more of them at large." Egon holstered his thrower as he joined them and moved his P.K.E. meter around the forest. "But he isn't here right now. I think he had a bad shoulder wound. He probably couldn't keep up."
Suddenly distant yells rang through the forest. Jim concentrated on them and heard one he recognized: Captain Simon Banks. "That's backup," he said.
"Then we'll have help finding Peter," cried Ray. His wound was so slight that it didn't appear to daunt him, but Ellison hoped the backup had brought a first aid kit just to be on the safe side.
"We'll send a few of them back to the place we were ambushed," Ellison decided. "There's still one man at liberty. This one," and he nudged the downed man with his toe, "is in big trouble now. He's a cop killer. He won't get any mercy."
Ray's eyes widened with misery. "Poor Riley," he said.
"Yeah," agreed Winston. Jim realized all three Ghostbusters were distressed at the man's death. Their line of work didn't exactly bring them in contact with killers, though it was obviously dangerous. Not sure he could buy the concept of blasting ghosts with lasers, even now, Jim was willing to give these three the benefit of the doubt. They'd handled themselves well under fire and worked together with a comfortable economy that spoke of teamwork.
He raised his voice. "Over here, Simon!"
Two minutes later the rescue party arrived, a collection of Cascade police including Brown and Rafe, county sheriff's officials, state Troopers and a forest ranger or two. Banks stared down at the handcuffed man, then his eyes narrowed at the sight of the proton packs Egon, Ray, and Winston wore over their civilian clothes. "Omigod, the Ghostbusters. My kid will never forgive me if I don't bring him autographs. Where's the other one?"
"We're just about to go after him now," Jim stated, pausing when he realized he'd heard a strange sound above the comments of the bunched men. Could it be the Sasquatch. "And there's another of them back that way. Riley took him out him when he was shooting at us. He's got a shoulder wound and we figure this one left him when he came after us."
"Any trace of the missing man?" Simon asked. "And where's Sandburg?"
"He and Peter were taken away by Bigfoot," Ray volunteered, winning skeptical chuckles from the search party.
"We were separated when we were under fire," Ellison corrected. "We were following their tracks when that one jumped us. He took out Riley, the state trooper who was with us. Anybody have a first aid kit? Ray got grazed." He nodded at Ray's arm, his tone managing to convey the possibility that Ray was slightly delirious.
Simon took charge, gesturing over a man with an aid kit and urging him to check out Ray's minor wound, splitting the party and sending one group led by Brown back to the first ambush site; Winston volunteered to show them the way. Simon chose to stay with Jim, looking down at the gunman.
"Ralph Kramer," he said. "Works for Jimmy Scaletti. They think Scaletti had Wyatt taken out."
"And I think Scaletti's been dumping inconvenient bodies in the lake," Ellison replied. "We think maybe they were interrupted last time and didn't have time to get rid of Wyatt's body. We think maybe they were dumping another body today and Claypool saw them and realized they weren't fishermen, and that's why he was grabbed."
"In other words, Scaletti's men are running around in fur suits?" Simon lifted an eyebrow skeptically.
"Someone is," Egon replied. He exchanged a wary glance with Jim. Neither of the gunmen had been wearing Bigfoot gear; Jim could tell Spengler suspected as he did that there were two sets of people running around in the woods. If one set was Sasquatch rather than human, it might be benevolent and, if it was, giving it away to a herd of men with guns wasn't a good idea. If it wasn't, there would be plenty of time to blow the whistle on it.
"Just a natural protector of the forest?" Simon asked skeptically. "Come on, Jim, Sandburg would go nuts over the possibility of Bigfoot. Are you sure he didn't take off voluntarily if he thought there might be one nearby?"
"It's a possibility," Jim admitted. "We're tracking him now. Egon's meter can read his biorhythms. So he and I are going after them."
"I'm coming too," cried Ray, bolting to his feet, trailing gauze from his partially bandaged arm.
"No, Ray," Egon said. "I know it's not a serious wound, but you are injured. I want you to wait here. Jim and I will bring them back."
"You want backup in case you run into old Sasquatch?" Simon asked.
"How likely do you think that is?" asked Ellison.
Simon's eyes narrowed as if he suspected he was being snowed. He knew Jim pretty well, after all. But then he shrugged. "At least we can take a statement from Ray while we wait," he said.
"And an autograph for Daryl," Jim responded knowingly. "Everybody else can spread out and search for Claypool."
Simon organized them to do just that, reminding them to keep in touch with walkie talkies. Everyone scattered in teams of two, leaving Egon and Ellison the path the Sentinel had pointed out.
"Make sure Peter's okay, Egon," Ray urged worriedly.
"You can bank on that." Egon gave his teammate's shoulder a reassuring pat, then he set off in Ellison's wake.
They hadn't taken two steps when a yell of greeting made them jump and Peter Venkman and Blair Sandburg emerged from the forest, a hairy being held between them, trailed by a third man who must be Andy Claypool.
"*Peter*!" screeched Ray, jumping up again and running for him. Egon was closer and reached Peter first, grasping his free arm, checking him up and down for injuries, then shaking him sternly. In their relief, neither man did more than automatically register the being he and Blair held between them.
"How dare you scare us like that, Dr. Venkman!" His grip tightened as if he didn't mean to let go until he was sure Peter was completely intact.
"I see you managed to survive in the woods," Ellison said to Blair, giving him the same thorough perusal Egon had given Peter, followed by a relieved clap on the shoulder. "I should have known you couldn't stay where you were told. You gave me a helluva scare, Chief."
That won a delighted grin from Sandburg. "Come on, Jim, I'm good in the woods. I've been on enough expeditions in the jungle. You aren't the only one who can handle it." He glanced around and spotted Banks. "Hey, Simon."
"Should have known you'd land on your feet, Sandburg. And that's *Captain* Banks to you."
"Peter, gosh, Peter, you're okay." Ray galloped up to join them, slapping Peter enthusiastically on the back. "We were really worried."
"What about you, Tex?" Peter's eyes widened in alarm as he checked out the neat dressing on Ray's arm. Catching Ray's wrist, he studied the bandage as if he could see right through it.
"Just a scratch. I don't even have to go to the ER to be checked out. I'm fine, Peter, really." Stantz, waved away any need for concern, eying the hairy creature with wide, fascinated eyes, for all of two seconds, then he groaned, "Oh, no, it was a hoax all along."
"A hoax?" Ellison studied the tall figure, frowning. He had to admit it didn't look like a Bigfoot, really. The fur suit had a sense of 'gorilla' to it, and the head--it was a mask, and what's more Ellison had seen one just like it, more than once, all those times Sandburg had wanted to watch Star Wars on the VCR.
"It's a Wookiee!" Egon blurted. He shot out a long arm and plucked away the mask that pulled right off, revealing a red-haired, middle-aged man, who stared at them with a stubborn defiance. "I thought the tracks we found were false," he said, winning an encouraging grin from Peter.
"So you're the one who grabbed Mr. Claypool?" Ellison said quickly to the stranger. "And you must be Claypool?" He turned to the third man.
"I'm Claypool," Andy confirmed. "This character just grabbed me on the shore. Turns out he'd been hanging around out in the woods, hunting for a real Bigfoot; he's a scientist at the university here, and he figured if he wore a matching outfit, maybe Bigfoot wouldn't run away from him. He knew there were drug dealers out here but he didn't know they were dumping bodies. He saw them do it, and before he could warn me not to attract their attention, I called a greeting to them. The only thing the professor could do was grab me and run, hoping the bad guys would be so confused they wouldn't follow right away."
Egon and Jim exchanged a doubtful glance. It was an excellent story and it made sense, but it didn't explain Egon's peculiar readings. And neither did it explain Jill Claypool's claim that the entity was eight feet tall.
"Jim, this is Professor Malkovich, the one I told you about," Blair said excitedly. "He set up a Bigfoot blind to watch for them, you know, like Jane Goodall did with chimps and Dian Fossey with gorillas. Maybe they didn't put on chimp or gorilla suits, but the great apes weren't hiding from man either. He figured if there was really a Bigfoot out here, he'd have to gradually win its confidence, so he's been coming out here for years. He learned how to blend in, to hide in plain sight, and he's been watching the drug dealers for about six months. He didn't know who they were at first, but then he saw them dump something in the lake he thought might have been a body."
"And you didn't report it to the police?" Simon asked the professor.
"I wasn't sure what I'd seen and I wasn't sure who the men were," Malkovich said. "So I waited, and watched, hoping to see more. I think I must have interrupted them last time, because I heard people taking off and then I found a body. You'll find in your records that I am the one who called that in. You're Captain Banks, aren't you? I thought once your people knew about that murdered man, there'd be surveillance out here, so I went back into the forest."
"Cooperating with the police means telling them everything you witnessed, not editing it for your convenience," Simon told him sternly.
"He did save Andy, Captain," Peter defended the professor. "When he grabbed us and dragged us away just before the shooting started, I thought I'd struck it lucky. I was planning fame and fortune--Peter Venkman, discoverer of the legendary Bigfoot. I was going to do all the talk shows. It would have been great publicity for the Ghostbusters, and I planned to sell the story to the National Register and rake in the bucks, and Blair was going to write it all up for the scholarly journals, and get tenure."
"That's when the professor took off the Wookiee mask," Blair said gleefully, sounding only mildly disappointed about his vanished fame.
"Yeah, Peter, you've seen Star Wars about twenty times," Ray said, grinning. "You should know what Chewbacca looks like. The mask isn't even quite the same color as the ape suit."
Peter shrugged, embarrassed. "Look, Ray, a hairy ape in the woods grabs you, and I bet the first thing you'd notice isn't that it's Han Solo's best buddy either."
"About the time the Professor took off the mask, Peter and I figured it out," explained Blair, "but by that time we'd reached the cave where he'd left Claypool. He made Andy wait in the cave when he came out to help us because we heard shooting. But Peter and I wouldn't stay. We had friends in danger, so when we reached the cave and found Andy, we decided it was time to make our great reappearance." He gazed up at his partner. "Sorry I worried you, Jim, but at first I thought it was the find of a lifetime--a career maker. And then we heard more shooting and the only thing Peter and I wanted to do was head back here."
"We managed to stop the man," Jim replied. "Winston and I took him down. He'll revive shortly from the proton blast. We had some bad luck, though."
"Winston?" Peter stared around in alarm. "Where's Winston? Is he hurt?"
"He went to show the rest of the search party where we'd been ambushed before, so they could arrest the other man," Ellison reassured him. "But that one," he gestured at the handcuffed gunman, "killed Riley."
Blair's face registered shock and dismay, and Peter's mouth drew a tight, angry line. "He was a decent guy," said the Ghostbuster. "I'm glad you busted that scumbag."
Ray glanced in the direction of the trooper's body then away again, and Peter reached out and dropped a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Sorry, Ray," he said softly. Ray gave him a grateful smile.
"You didn't actually find a Sasquatch, then?" Egon asked, his eyes locking with Peter's.
"Just the prof," Peter said quickly. A look passed between them; Ellison could practically hear the shared mental link that existed between the two men. Peter was warning Egon not to press it. Sandburg cast a quick, querying glance at Jim, then dropped his eyes. It was a dead giveaway to Ellison, who could read every minute twitch of Blair's face and angle of his posture. Something unusual had happened, but the two men, and Claypool, weren't talking about it, at least not publicly. He knew he could pry it out of Blair when they were alone together. Sandburg couldn't usually keep a secret from him to save his life, though he fondly imagined he could be inscrutable. There were times when he wouldn't talk about what was bothering him, but Jim had come to know his partner so well that he could always tell when something was wrong. This time nothing precisely was wrong, but Blair was just the kind of man to try to protect a real Sasquatch, if the professor had found one living in these woods. It would explain all too well why the professor hadn't called the police until he'd found an actual body. He might be protecting the Sasquatch.
Simon didn't pick up on that. He was too busy reading Malkovich a lecture on his civic duty, and Jim was glad. As far as he could tell, Bigfoot hadn't done any harm to anyone. The harm had all been done by Scaletti's people. If Malkovich had really found Bigfoot and chose to hide and protect the creature instead of claiming academic fame and glory, Jim wouldn't give him away. He had his own secrets and knew far too well how hard it would be for a Sasquatch to face the modern world, much harder than it would be for a Sentinel.
Egon clearly read as much in Peter's meaningful glance, but he, too, chose to say nothing. Instead he led Peter off a slight distance and checked him over once again for injuries while Ray followed, teasing Peter about the Wookiee mask.
Fifteen minutes later the rest of the search party returned, the other gunman in tow, a makeshift bandage on his shoulder. The first man had awakened and been read his Miranda rights, and with the arrival of his partner, identified by Simon and one of the other detectives as Tony McBride, another of Scaletti's men, both criminals were taken away. Winston pounced on Peter for a happy reunion, Rafe and Brown stared at Malkovich, still clad in most of his fake Bigfoot outfit, and Simon stepped in and organized things. Everyone, including Malkovich, fell in to return to the campsite, the professor pausing to shed his gorilla suit and false feet. He displayed them to anyone who would listen to him, going into great detail about his Bigfoot blind and the invaluable work he would do the minute he found one of the creatures.
Peter listened for a few minutes then he edged over to Egon and lowered his voice to talk to him privately. He must have forgotten about Jim's abilities, if he had ever known.
"Spengs, listen to me, I know you with your readings. You picked up something, didn't you?"
Egon cast a wary glance sideways at Ellison, then he nodded. The detective realized the physicist's reaction meant one thing, that Spengler trusted him, and he felt good about that, though he didn't stop listening.
"Malkovich is taking the rap," Peter continued earnestly. "He's playing the fool for the sake of Bigfoot. It was really Bigfoot who rescued Andy when the guys in the boat were going to shoot him. They've been dumping their enemies in the lake wearing cement overshoes. Bigfoot found out, and he couldn't do anything for the dead guys, but he started hanging around. I don't know how smart he is, but he knew enough to pull Andy out of there. And to grab Blair and me right before we would have been turned into human sieves. Bigfoot's a good guy, Egon. I'd sure like to rake in the bucks for finding him, but I won't because it'd kill him. He's safe enough here with Malkovich keeping an eye on him. Out there he'd only be in major trouble."
"So you and Sandburg convinced Claypool not to give him away?" Egon's expression was approving. "I'm not surprised, Peter. You always have a care for the underdog. But I'm very proud of you."
Peter's face lit up as if Egon's praise made up for all the major fame and fortune he had foregone.
"I know it's tough on you, Spengs," Peter said. "Giving up all that scientific study, but maybe we can ask Malkovich to send you reports. I have a sneaky feeling Blair's gonna start advocating to get a P.K.E. meter so he can run tests on the big guy over there." He gestured at Jim, grinned as he realized Ellison was listening to their conversation, and gave him a conspiratorial wink. "After all, we have a lot of secrets to share."
"I hope you'll tell me all about it," Egon said with interest.
"Yeah, but only you three. Nobody else, and that's a deal, right?"
Egon eyed Peter thoughtfully, realized he meant what he said, and nodded. "Of course, Peter." Peter took his word without hesitation.
Peter hesitated, then he stared off into the trees. "We heard shooting out there, Egon," he said with difficulty.
"The second ambush," replied Egon. He waited, knowing Peter had something more to say that might be harder to express.
Peter bobbed his head in confirmation. "God, Spengs, I thought you guys were being taken out. I nearly brained Bigfoot, trying to get out of that cave and come to rescue you. But the big guy's huge, and stronger than the average bear. He held both of us back and wouldn't let us go out."
"Both of you?"
"Sandburg was going as nuts as I was, trying to get to Ellison, make sure he wasn't belly up. That's a weird team, isn't it?" He caught himself. "So there I was, stuck in the cave, and Malkovich sent out Bigfoot to see what was happening. Right after he left, I heard throwers and I knew you were okay, 'cause it sounded like all three of you were firing, but I hope I don't have to sit one like that out again. Then Bigfoot came back and let us go."
"I remind you," said Egon as if sensing how tightly strung Peter was at that memory, "that you and Blair had disappeared as well, and that my meters showed extremely unusual readings. We had no guarantees either, Peter."
That made Venkman eye the taller man knowingly, and suddenly he grinned. "Give me a ghost or demon any time," he said, his relief at his friends' survival and his understanding of their worry vivid on his face. "At least when the enemy's ectoplasmic, we know where we stand."
"I quite agree, Peter," Egon replied. "I quite agree."
Jim frowned, inordinately pleased at Peter's words about Blair wanting to rush to his rescue, and at that timely moment, Blair fell into step beside him. "Snooping, huh?" he asked, nodding in the direction of Peter and Egon.
"I have to keep up with you, Chief, especially when you're hiding secrets," Ellison replied.
Sandburg's face fell. "I'm sorry, Jim," he said with such hangdog earnestness that Ellison shook his head. Guilt was spelled out in every line of his Guide's body. Sandburg was too easy to read, but it could be tough to figure out where he was coming from, and this was one of those times.
"Sorry about what?" he prompted.
Blair's head was bent forward so his mane of thick hair concealed his face. "Giving you away to the Ghostbusters," he admitted in a reluctant mumble.
"You didn't give me away to the Ghostbusters," Ellison reassured him, surprised that Blair would have even considered that possibility, let alone take the blame for it. "Sure Ray knew who you were and that you had been doing Sentinel stories, but it was the situation, and Egon's P.K.E. meter being set the way it was. Once Egon saw those readings, he was bound to figure out what was going on. I spent a little more time with him than you did. He's the type of scientist that holds onto things like a dog with a bone. Once he picks up a lead, he doesn't give up on it. Remind you of anybody, Sandburg?" He grabbed the shorter man by the scruff of the neck and shook him lightly.
Blair's head lifted a little and when Jim let go he raised a hand to rake back the hair from his face. "Me?" he asked in pure delight. "Come on, Egon Spengler is a legitimate genius, one of the smartest guys going."
"And *you're* intellectually challenged? I don't think so. You didn't screw up, Chief. We were both a little more open than usual this time around but we had to be. First we had an abducted man to rescue, and then we were under heavy fire. I *had* to use my senses on this one; Claypool or one of the Ghostbusters could have died if I didn't, just like Riley did. I didn't have the luxury of watching what I did and said, and neither did you. Come on, Blair, I'm not mad at you."
"You're not?" Blair asked hopefully, straightening up a little more, his enthusiasm returning.
"At least not if you tell me what really happened to you and Venkman," Jim concluded.
Blair stared up at him in astonishment, then the light dawned and he looked over at Peter and Egon, who were still discussing the subject. "No fair, you cheated," he argued. "You've got an unfair advantage here." Then a smile spread across his face, his excitement growing until he was bouncing along at Jim's side with a spring in his step. "It was *great*, Jim. Just wait till you hear about it. But you've gotta promise not to spread the story. I figure you'll be great at that, 'cause you know how to keep a secret, and you know what it's like trying not to be found out."
"I think you're starting to get above yourself," Jim declared, and made a grab for his Guide. Blair ducked but too late to evade the bigger man, and it took a second for Jim to pin him in a headlock, Sandburg sputtering ineffectual protests that he didn't really mean. He was enjoying himself.
Simon turned around and stared at them. "That's what I like to see," he remarked to the entire group of searchers. "The professional decorum of my men."
Jim let go immediately and busied himself straightening his clothes, and Blair pranced over in Simon's direction, his expression too smug for words. "I did good, huh, Simon?" he asked.
"If I answered that honestly, Sandburg, you wouldn't like the answer." Blair's face fell.
Jim couldn't help laughing, and Ray and Winston, who were walking nearby, joined in.
A few minutes later they reached the campsite. Jill Claypool spotted Andy, screamed his name, and ran for him like an arrow going into the gold.
At that, Peter turned, smiled broadly at Egon, who returned the smile. "We do good work, don't we," Peter said, well content.
"And what did you do in particular to save the day, Peter?" Egon asked him, quirking an eyebrow at him expectantly.
"Contributed my shining presence, my wit, my good looks...."
The other three Ghostbusters fell on him and wrestled him to the ground, still bragging.
Police divers found nine bodies in Eagle Lake including the one Scaletti's men had been dropping over the side when Andy Claypool had called out a friendly greeting to the 'fishermen'. Malkovich was able to identify Kramer as one of the men he saw with Wyatt's body, and Kramer, realizing he didn't have a hope, tried to cut a deal by squealing on Scaletti. Jim spent a busy week, totally caught up in his police work, arresting various members of Scaletti's gang. When the dust cleared, there was not a member of it still at liberty. Although Scaletti instantly tried to post bail, Kramer had claimed he'd shot Wyatt personally and bail was denied. His lawyers were still working on it.
Blair spent a lot of the week with Malkovich, going over his notes, thrilled to be in on the secret. Rainier University wasn't pleased with Malkovich's story but they rode out the weird publicity and kept the older man on the staff. Bigfoot hunters popped up out of the woodwork, reporters from all the tabloids filled the local hotels, including Edgar Benedek of the National Register, who was p.o.ed at the Ghostbusters because they wouldn't give him and his professor buddy MacKensie an inside story. Detailed searches of the forest revealed only the anthro prof's 'fake' footprints, though, and by the end of the week, the campground was returning to normal.
The Ghostbusters had a much more public vacation than they'd planned; reporters converged on them, and Peter took center stage, thriving on the attention and keeping the reporters away from Egon and Ray, who were meeting daily with Blair and Malkovich to discuss what would be the best way of dealing with the Sasquatch. Peter handled Benedek personally, thriving on the give and take, letting out all sorts of unimportant tidbits that didn't take the Sasquatch story one inch further ahead.
Malkovich offered Blair a position with him in his Sasquatch research.
"That's a good deal, Sandburg," Jim said when Blair told him. He said it in such a flat voice that Blair stared at him in astonishment.
"Come on, Jim, you don't think I'm going to *take* it, do you? I mean, it's a great opportunity. Really ground-breaking stuff. Just think of the possibilities." He saw that Jim was thinking of them, and plunged on. "Oh, come on, Jim. Tag on to Malkovich's work when I've got the best deal in the universe going for me here? Come on, my job's being your guide. Think I'd run out on you?"
Ellison shook his head. "It *is* a good deal, Sandburg."
"Not as good as the one I've got." Blair beamed at him. "We okay on this?"
"If you are."
"Give up all this?" Sandburg gestured expansively around the loft, at his strewn possessions that Jim had been riding him about only moments earlier. "The house rules and color-coding the leftovers and never enough hot water? How could I stand to throw all that away."
"Sandburg," Jim growled and got him in a headlock.
That resolved, Blair called Malkovich and turned down his offer.
Using P.K.E. meters, Egon and Ray took a great deal of readings and spent hours gathering together all the information they'd been able to detect. That part of the project was top secret; no word of it was leaked to the press. It was agreed that a P.K.E. meter might well help Blair and Jim in their Sentinel exercises, and Egon agreed to loan a meter to Sandburg for a three month period.
On the night before the Ghostbusters vacation ended, the four New Yorkers came into Cascade and had dinner with Blair and Jim at a restaurant the two natives liked. They had a good time, laughing and talking, comparing notes.
"So does it happen all the time?" Jim asked the Ghostbusters as the meal was winding down.
"Does what happen?" asked Egon, interested in the question. He forked up his last piece of pie and ate it with relish.
"Weird things happening wherever you go," Ellison remarked, pushing aside his empty plate. "Ghosts, Sasquatch, that type of thing."
"You called that right," Peter said, pausing to ogle the waitress and ask for an extra scoop of ice cream for his pie. "Egon and Ray are an absolute magnet for trouble. We can't even leave town without our throwers any more. I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't wear one on my dates."
"Wicked," Blair murmured, amused. "What weird things are you into when you're out playing the swinging single, Pete?"
"You're too young to know, Sandburg," returned Peter sententiously. "Way too young to know."
"Well, I'll say one thing," Winston put in, grinning. He raised his glass of beer in preparation for a toast. "Jim's right. Ever since I got into this job, I've encountered weird things. Including three of them who are sitting at this table with me right now."
Peter made a face at Winston, Ray called a protest, but Egon triumphed, raising his glass to click with Zeddemore's. "Now, Winston, I don't think you should pick on Jim or Blair like that. Peter and Ray, yes, certainly, but not our hosts."
Blair grimaced, and Jim said, "Sorry, Egon. You're nominated."
"See, Spengs," Peter said. "Respect. We never get it. Save the world fourteen times and what happens? We go outside the city and nobody values us. I think it's time to go back to New York. I feel my powers waning."
"Powers?" echoed Blair with exaggerated disbelief. "This guy has *powers*?"
"If I didn't know Ellison could squash you whenever he wanted to, I'd do it for him to prove it," Peter told the younger man.
"Got a present for you," Blair said, digging into a pocket and producing a package so tastefully wrapped he must have had someone else do it for him. He passed it to Peter, and waited with an expectant twinkle in his eyes. "You can wear this on your next date, along with your proton pack. Give your girlfriend something new to think about."
Peter received it with all the enthusiasm of a man expecting to be gifted with a dead frog, and pulled the paper away, then stopped, staring open mouthed at a pair of Malkovich's fake Bigfoot shoes.
"It's you, Peter, it's definitely you," Egon said before he gave way to laughter.
"Are you kidding," Peter said. "I'm a fashion leader back in the city. Once I step outside the firehall in these, everybody in New York will want a pair of their own."