Specter felt his body prickling with aggravation, and he breathed in deeply. “Specter,” he said carefully. Professor Samuel Everett just looked at him as if he had spoke some sort of foreign language. “Dad. You know I legally changed my name. It’s not…”
“Jareth,” Everett said, waving his hand in dismissal. “How did the Miller contract go?”
“Very good,” Specter said, deciding not to push the name thing. For ten years now he had made it clear he disliked his birth name. And for nine years, it had legally been Specter. Not that Samuel cared.
After a few seconds, Samuel shook his head. “Jareth,” he said once more, and Specter grit his teeth. Now Samuel was doing it on purpose. “Just tell me? Don’t stand there and make me drag it out of you.”
“Sorry, Dad.” Specter’s fingers twitched along his beard, hoping that Samuel wouldn’t automatically know everything. “Um. There’s evidence of a haunting… I’m not completely sure what kind. I thought at first it was a residual haunting but after looking over my findings I am more convinced it is an intelligent haunting.” He paused, and Samuel sighed impatiently. “I believe it’s the entity referred to as the little girl. I’ve not been able to find anything conclusive as to age of the deceased. I have reason to believe this entity is–“
“Jareth?” Specter closed his mouth, dreading what was about to come. “I’m asking about the supposedly evil entity. That’s who you were sent after.”
Specter fixated his gaze on Samuel’s eyes. If he looked anywhere else, showed any sign of dishonesty… it’d be bad. What do I tell him? There were two options. A lie and a lie. Lie number one: No other entities in the Miller house. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Lie number two: there had been one, but he was sent to the Netherworld. “There is only one entity there,” he said, trying to buy some time.
“Because… there’s always been just one? We have reports of physical aggression.”
Specter pushed back his bangs. “Yes. There was another one.”
Samuel wrenched open a desk drawer and in one smooth movement lit a cigarette and put it between his lips. “Watcher, why the hell do you have to play these games? You’re not a kid anymore, Jareth. Grow. Up.”
A puff of smoke wafted into Specter’s face and he tried not to let it get to him, but his throat tightened and he began coughing. “Ah–yeah. There was another entity there. I have removed him. The Miller house only has the unknown haunting there now… and I do believe it’s benevolent.”
“Believe…? Or assume?” Samuel flicked the cig at a dish on his desk, the ashes drifting down. “You’re here a lot earlier than I expected. How many hours did you spend? No, don’t tell me. Let me guess.” Another flick of ashes. “One hour? Two, at most? Watcher, Jareth. You’re the best hunter here but your attitude has got to change. You’re so damn cocky… and it’s showing. Unless…” Suddenly Samuel’s eyes were narrowed. “Are you hiding something?”
“What would I be hiding?” Specter asked.
Then there was one of those moments. The two of them had these often. Their eyes were locked and there was this tensity in the air… some unspoken storm. Then Samuel’s muscles loosened up and he smiled. “Oh, I don’t know. I’m sorry. Things have been really… difficult lately. You’re my shooting star, Jareth. I simply worry about the day you’ve reached your peak and start falling.”
“That day has not been reached, sir,” Specter said, straightening his shoulders and lifting his chin a bit. “I was only there a few hours, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean I did a bad job. I am very efficient, and good at what I do.” The storm was clearing up with no rain or lightning strikes. As it always did.
“Yes. You are good. The best. I could run this place with just you as a hunter and still be the best in the biz.” Samuel smiled at that, looking quite pleased. “Then again… I am the only in the biz with this sort of technology.” Specter just remained silent. There really wasn’t much else to say in this conversation and he wanted to go. Work. Zap some ghosts to relieve his stress. But Samuel just lit up another cigarette and smiled. “Just fill out the paperwork, Jareth. I don’t have anything else for you tonight.”
Specter gave a curt nod and swept out of the room, his overcoat flapping behind him. He got in the elevator and went down to the main employee floor, striding past everyone, ignoring their looks. He didn’t want to go home early. He’d have to deal with that… ghost. But he really didn’t want to stay late at the office with nothing to do. Especially when he got to his desk and saw a collar and leash sitting there. His jaw muscles tightened as he picked these up, looking around at the other people in the room. Nobody would meet his eyes but he could see their smirks.
“There’s a difference between doing a good job, and being the teacher’s pet,” he said, directing this towards the person he know put the stuff there.
Kristen Maverick gave him a dark look in return. “It’s easy to be good at your job when you’re the boss’s kid,” she replied haughtily.
“And it’s easy to do a bad job when you’re so obsessed with focusing on other employees.” He threw the collar and leash in the trash then sat at the desk. He did his paperwork, writing slowly… then he did some research, cleaned up his desk (which was so tidy it didn’t need cleaning anyway) and finally took some of his work stuff to the launderers in the basement. That left him with nothing to do so he gave him, and headed home, dreading a bit dealing with the idiotic ghost.
I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting… maybe a warning sign, like before. Or hearing a car pull up. Maybe I was just too lost in the movie playing. But Specter came home without me realizing it until he was standing over me with his arms folded an an angry look on his face. I stared guiltily up at his face then forced a small smile. “Um. H-hi.” I got up off the couch, sliding a bit away from him.
“Did the TV magically turn on by itself?” he asked through clenched teeth.
I just shook my head, feeling teary-eyed and scared. He’s going to kill me now! “N-no, I just… w-was bored… There’s nothing for me to do. I d-don’t want to sleep all the time and–and–I miss my piano–and I’m just bored you should have given me something to do!” I added, turning the accusation to him.
“You’re a ghost,” he said, sounding all exaspera… exgasper… exhaster… hmm.
“That doesn’t mean a thing,” I sniffled. “I get bored. I miss my piano. I want a piano. Or something to play music. Or watch TV. Or play video games.”
“You can’t do any of that.”
“Yes I can.” I tried not to sound whiny. I instead got all big-eyed and tried to look cute. It seemed to have some sort of reaction with him before and indeed this time he looked more annoyed than angry. “I’m sorry I touched the TV remote. I was just really bored.”
Specter just continued to focus his eyes on me then slowly he reached into his pocket and I was worried he was gonna get his gun and shoot me but instead he pulled out a strange looking plastic bag, like a storage bag. He walked closer, unzipping the top. “Put the remote in here,” he said, holding out the open end.
I picked up the remote and dropped it in. I heard a very faint zappy sound and jumped back. “What is that?” I asked as he zipped it back up.
“It will help disinfect the remote,” Specter said, holding the bag up and giving it a little shake. “Get rid of some of the spiritual residue.” He then pulled out something I thought looked like a can of spray something like hairspray or spray paint and then he began spraying the couch down. I heard little light zapping sounds, so I backed up away from him and the thingiemabob.
“What happens if you spray that on me? Will it kill me?” I inquired.
Specter pursed his lips together. “When you were alive, did you ever scrub yourself so hard in the bath or shower that you felt a bit raw?”
“No, I’ve never been alive,” I responded and his eyes got all narrowed. “Well. I haven’t.”
Specter swiftly moved closer to me and sprayed my arm. I yelped and screeched as I felt a faint flash of pain. Then it felt all weird on my arm where he sprayed, a light ache that didn’t hurt too much but it felt so weird and… okay, so the word he used about scrubbing–‘raw’–seemed like the best description. “Owww…” I rubbed the spot with my hand and scowled. “That hurt.” But Specter was smiling now, well more of a smirk really. But close to a smile. And when I tilted my head to one side and studied him with his lips turned upwards slightly, I decided he really wasn’t all that bad to look at. Especially with that beard. Since he had done something to me just to do it, I decided to do something in return.
I lurched forward, pressed all ten fingertips into his beard and began rubbing furiously. Specter cried out and jerked backwards so much he tumbled over the couch. I giggled as he went head-over-heels to the floor. He got up to knees and glowered furiously at me but I just kept giggling. “Your face!” I laughed. “Ohhh! Worth it!”
“Worth your demise?” he snarled, getting to his feet.
I just grinned back at him. “You sprayed that zappy cleaner on me. Are you gonna spray it on your beard now?”
His eyes bugged out a bit. “You–are–GRRR! As soon as I can, ghost, you are dead. Deader than dead. Double dead. Not just dead from being dead but the deadest dead a dead can–” He stopped as someone knocked on the door. “Oh… damnitall. Go!” he hissed pointing at his bathroom. “Go! Hide! Don’t you dare come out!”
I went un-solid and floated into the bathroom as he went for the front door. I was very curious so I went completely invisible and, after checking in the mirror I was indeed invisible, I peeked out the wall. The old lady he had been talking to earlier was there, hugging the black cat. “Mrs. Penstone. Can I help you?”
“I heard screaming and loud thumps,” she said, looking around all suspiciously as the cat focused its eyes on me. “Do you have a young lady here with you, Specter? You know the rules… You agreed, you signed. No one of the opposite sex overnight unless–“
“I know the rules. I don’t have a young lady here, I can assure you,” Specter replied with a grunt. “I tripped, that’s all.”
“I heard a girl giggling,” she said, looking up at him.
I pouted at that. Did I really sound like a girl when I giggled? I could see Specter’s mouth moving, and figured he was trying not to laugh. “TV,” he said. “I’m sorry to cause any disruption, Mrs. Penstone.” He reached down and began scratching the cat behind the ears, The cat turned its head towards his hand, eyes closing. Good. I felt kinda nervous with it looking at me like that. Could it see me? Cats were strange creatures.
“How come you’re not at work? It’s getting late…”
“Already been and back,” he said. “Is there anything else…?”
Now she was looking around again, as if expecting to see someone. “No,” she said slowly and suspiciously. “Good night, Specter.”
“Night, Mrs. Penstone.” She left and he shut the door. I quickly pulled back into the bathroom and waited for him to come in. I smiled up at him and asked who had been at the door. “My landlady,” he said. “Which you saw. Otherwise, you’d be visible.”
Shoooot. I went visible again and gave one more smile. “Uhhh, I didn’t… I wasn’t… Okay. I saw. Your landlady?”
“Yes, she lives below.” He pointed at the floor. “And she’s as nosy as hell so be quiet, all right? I don’t want her suspicious.”
“No young ladies overnight. Is that a common problem?” I teased. Specter’s nostrils flared and he turned, walking away. I followed him out of the bathroom and watched as he went into the kitchen to make some food. “Can I eat something too?”
“You don’t need to.”
“Yes but… I like food…” I watched as he threw an egg into a frying pan and noticed there was a bit of shell. “Have you been a bachelor long?”
“None of your business, you–jerk.”
“Well you can’t cook.”
He spun around, a spatula pointed at me. “What the hell is your problem? It’s like you are purposely trying to be annoying! You want to die, I think you do! You just… push my… buttons. Keep pushing them, ghost. Cause soon you’ll push the one connected to my gun.” He froze up then his face got all red. “Not–like–that.”
He blinked then his brow dove down. “Like–… I mean, you didn’t… take anything… uh, perv… perverted from…?” He was struggling with his words and stopped there.
“Perverted?” I asked, kinda confused. “About what?”
“Nothing.” He turned back to his egg which looked kinda gross. “Just shut up and leave me alone. I am really tempted to just kill you.”
I leaned back against the counter, watching his back. Soon I smelled burnt eggs and when he dumped them from the pan to a plate I saw they looked just awful. “Those look gross,” I said as he began shoveling the eggs into his mouth. “If you want, I could fix some eggs. I think I remember how to fix some really yummy ones my aunt–“
“I want you to shut up,” Specter snarled. “And stop staring at me like that. Look. I have many important things to do, so just go and… haunt the corner of the room.” He flapped one hand and I turned, looking at the corner he was indicating. I floated over and sat down, hugging my knees and watching him. He tossed his dishes in the sink then went to the couch. I figured he’d turn on the TV but he just picked up a book to read. I remained sitting and staring, getting very bored very quickly. I coughed. He kept reading. I coughed louder. He kept reading. I began hacking and finally he slammed his book down and turned towards me, eyes glowing with anger. “WHAT?!”
“C-could you turn the TV on?” I asked meekly. “Or something? I’m bored.”
“How about a trip?” he asked, grabbing his book again. “To the Nether? That cure you of your boredom, ghost?”
“My name is Chance.”
His eyes were like slits, his mouth a very tiny, narrow strip beneath his hair. “Ghosts are merely memories. You do not have a name. If I turn on the TV, will you shut up?” I nodded excitedly and so with a heavy sigh, he turned the TV on. I scootched a bit closer towards the couch and TV, then a bit closer, and closer until finally I was kneeling next to the couch, next to him. I watched the TV since there really was nothing better to do, occasionally glancing at Specter–trying to figure him out. Obviously he wanted to kill me but what was holding him back so much? Not that I wasn’t GRATEFUL he was being held back but… was it really the experiment-thing he had talked about? Or maybe somewhere, deep down inside him, he really didn’t completely hate–
“Keep staring at me ghost, and I’ll spray you all over with the anti-spiritual residue spray.”
….Then again, maybe not.
Because I didn’t want to infuriate him more than I already had, when he went to bed I didn’t ask him to keep the TV on. So since he was sleeping, I decided to sleep too. Nothing else to do after all so I curled up on the ground and eventually drifted into a deep sleep. I wasn’t sure how long I was asleep but I had horrible nightmares that jerked me out of the sleep. I was dimly aware that I was screaming and trashing about and then something horrific was standing over me, hands pressing down. I screamed more and went not-solid except for my feet since I tried to kick away the monster. The monster fell into me and thrashed about as well, cussing and–cussing… cussing?
I froze up as awareness came crashing into my brain. Oh. Oh dear. Now I’ve done it. I rolled away from Specter and sat on the floor, watching him with very fearful eyes. He rose to his knees, chest heaving as his anger boiled over. “What the hell happened?” he hissed. “What was that?”
“I’m sorry!” The tears came out and I was crying hard now. “I’m s-sorry! I had a n-nightmare, I am so sorry, I didn’t mean–I didn’t–I’m sorry. Please don’t kill me! Please–I’m s-sorry, I’m–sorry–please…”
“Now I am going to have to… bathe in that… cleanser!” He was looking at his arms as if expecting them to just fall off. “And ghosts do not have nightmares! You did that–on PURPOSE! You little–” He was cut off as the doorbell rang. Swearing as he grabbed for a blanket to wrap around his body, he pointed at the bathroom and I quickly zoomed in, quivering with fear. I could hear him talking to Mrs. Penstone, assuring her all was fine. He had just tripped. No he was fine. No he didn’t have anyone in. No, no young ladies. The front door was shut and the next thing I knew he was coming into the bathroom. When the light was turned on I realized just how little he was wearing. Just boxers. He was quite… muscular. And hairy. And was that a tattoo? Blushing, I turned my head away.
“The least you can do is start pouring these into the tub.” Something hit me as he tossed something at me. It was a bottle of the spray stuff. “Twist off the top and pour it in.” He bent over the side of the tub, plugging up the drain and turning the water on. “Then put the bottle on that towel there, don’t touch anything else. Dump three bottles in.” He tossed two more bottles and I managed to catch one of them. I fiddled with the cap until the top came off and I began pouring it into the tub. I yelped in pain as a few droplets touched my body, zapping me. Once the bottle was empty I emptied the second, then the third bottle in. Specter turned off the water as I put the bottles on the towel.
“You’re going to get in that?” I looked at the slightly green water. It looked all… creepy.
“You covered me in that–in your–If I don’t get cleaned off… just–shut up. Go. Just leave me alone. Go!”
As he was stripping off his boxers, I decided I should go and give him privacy so I drifted through the wall and sat on the floor. I felt terrible about what had happened, especially when I heard zappy sounds from the bathroom. To his credit I heard no sounds of pain from him though I knew it had to hurt. Sighing, I checked the clock and saw it was late morning. As a ghost-hunter this must be his usual schedule. Sleep during the day, work in the night. Water’s draining, I realized after a few seconds of listening to a strange gurgling sound. I got up and put on my most pleading, innocent, upset face I could muster which was wiped away when he stepped out naked other than a towel drying his hair.
I spun around quickly. “Um–Mr. Specter, uh, sir–I just want to say again how sorry I am. I haven’t had nightmares in a while and–and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… cause so much of a ruck… ruck… um, problem.” This wasn’t as effective looking away from him.
“Ruckus. You know, we have technology to just… suck you into a little bottle. It’s how most ghost hunting businesses work.”
“Like the movie!” I exclaimed, turning around then going red (well, if I were alive I’d be red, I wasn’t sure if I was showing any difference in my face as a ghost) and continuing the spin as he was still naked. “Ghostbusters. They don’t kill the ghosts, they just sort of trap them. Except when streams are crossed I think. Oh now I can’t remember. You know, Zuul. And the marshmallow man. And–“
“Ghost!” he snarled. “Repeat after me.” And then he was silent.
“You didn’t say anything.”
“Exactly.” He stormed in front of me and I gave a yelp, focusing on his face. “You need to stay as silent as…” He trailed off and tilted his head. “Is there a problem?”
“You’re naked,” I whispered.
“And that’s a problem?”
“Most people are all embarrassed about nakedity.”
He folded his arms and stood there, eyes boring holes into me. “I’m going back to bed. If you wake me up again, you will be sent into a little jar for an unknown period. Got it?”
“Y-yes sir.” I bowed my head, looking at the floor now. “Um. I was wondering if um. Maybe um. I could sleep in… on your floor… in your bedroom…? Um. If there’s someone nearby I might not have… um. Night… day… uh… bad dreams…”
“Fine. Just don’t touch anything. Just the floor.” He turned and walked off. I followed him, still looking at the floor and feeling a bit better about sleeping now. Still naked, Specter threw himself into his bed and began flinging sheets around until he was under the covers. I sank down onto the floor and curled up.
“Night! Sleep we–“
I pressed my lips together then closed my eyes, eventually falling asleep once more and thankfully this time not having any bad dreams.