What Tangled Tails Woven

The four Ghostbusters tromped in, weary and aching. They were all jetlagged and thinking nearly identical thoughts of hot showers and beds. Actually, two were thinking of exactly identical shower and bed. Unfortunately, the job came first and there were ghosts to be contained before anything else was done.

With four pleading expressions, they left their packs near Janine's desk and hauled the traps to the stairs. Behind them Janine muttered under her breath about the duties of a real secretary and why she should get a promotion to Assistant Ghostbuster with appropriate raise in pay.

Peter looked over his shoulder and said, "Then we'd have to hire you a secretary."

"And what would be wrong with that? I could use some help around here!" She gave him a fiery glare.

"Oh yeah? What have you been doing the last two weeks while we were gone?"

"Catching up on all the work I can't do when you guys are here, asking me to re-charge your proton packs!"

Peter rolled his eyes. He didn't say anything in reply, however, because he had a feeling she was right. He turned and headed downstairs after the guys, who had left him alone to face Janine. "Some friends," he muttered.

He found them standing beside a pile of traps. Egon was consulting a set of notes while Ray and Winston sorted through the traps. Peter added his to the pile.

"Do we have them all? Didn't leave any in baggage claim did we?" They'd just arrived from the airport -- flying all over the country on jobs that had all come in at once. Scheduling them by degree of apparent urgency, they'd barely been able to catch any sleep except while in the air. Each client had willingly paid for their travel, and Peter had -- two weeks ago, before he exhausted himself -- chortled about getting the reimbursements for flights home they never took, as they hadn't come home til after the final job.

He had a sneaking suspicion now that it hadn't worked out that way, but he was more interested in getting upstairs to bed than he was in going over invoices. It was just as well, as he'd have felt guilty about the overcharges after he'd had a chance to calm down a bit.

"We appear to have the same number we left with but I can't tell from the state of these notes whether we have as many full traps as we should." Egon stared at the paper in his hand, then looked up to give Peter a brief glare.

Peter shrugged. "Just because you can't read my handwriting..."

"If I thought these were hieroglyphs I would have an easier time deciphering the writing."

"Oh yeah? Maybe you just need your glasses checked." He went over and took the paper from Egon, and quickly scanned it. The first two entries were clearly written in Ray's handwriting. The last several were scrawled, and Peter found even he had a tough time figuring them out. He didn't say so, of course.

"Let's just go through them in order. We can get them contained, and checked off the list while we do it." Ray suggested.

"Right," Peter nodded. "The first gooper we did was that possession in New Mexico. Trap number 1."

Winston hauled a trap out, and held it up. "Trap number one." They could all see the blinking light, indicating the trap was full.

"Hey guys!" Janine called out as she appeared at the door above them. "There's a Navy Admiral here to see you -- says it's urgent."

Before anyone could say a word, a man in a white dress uniform stepped up beside her. He saw the traps, and his eyes went wide. "You haven't put those away have you?"

"No," Egon answered, eyes narrowing. "What seems to be the problem?"

The admiral came rushing down the stairs. "You got the one from Taos?"

"Yeah, man, it's right here. What's wrong, we catch something that belonged to you fellas?" Winston waved the trap he was still holding.

The admiral, surprisingly, nodded. "Yeah. Don't ask me what -- it's classified. But I give you my word it isn't dangerous." His composed, commanding, expression changed. "Could you let him go?" He looked sincerely worried.

Egon cleared his throat. "We have a responsibility not to allow anything dangerous to escape. This ghost, or demon, was in possession of a human body. If we let it out--"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. But it's... well it's classified. But I assure you he wasn't there to hurt anybody. He was there to help."

"Help what? No offense, but I didn't know the Navy was into demonic possession in order to help people." Peter spoke up.

"It isn't the Navy... not exactly. I mean, it's our project but they're not in charge. It's... oh, hell. Look, you can't tell anybody." He gave them each a pleading, and very serious look. One by one they nodded. "That's not a demon in there. It's a human being. He was... well it's technical. He jumped in and the other person's soul is back in his body for safe keeping. If you don't let Sam go then he can't fix Morton's life and Morton can't ever get home."

"Sam?" Egon repeated.

The admiral just nodded. He was looking more and more worried.

Egon looked at his teammates. Ray shrugged. "I don't see why not. It would explain the strange readings we were getting. Class 2 overlaid with class 11. If it were a human..."

Winston nodded. "He did try to tell us he wasn't hurting anyone."

Egon looked to Peter. After a moment of looking thoughtful, Peter nodded as well. "I believe him. Don't ask me why -- but I believe him. OK, Winston, let the gooper -- er, Sam -- go."

Winston set the trap down, and stepped on the release. The trapdoors opened, and out of the stream of white light appeared the thing they'd trapped. A ball of bright blue light flew up, hovered for a moment, then vanished in a flash of blue.

The admiral stared after it, a funny look on his face. Relief and satisfaction, but something else as well. He thanked them and left quickly before they could ask anymore questions.

Peter glanced over at the PKE meter Egon was holding. "What'd you get, Spengs?"

"It was a human spirit. Not a ghost... but not demonic, either. I don't understand how we missed it."

"The class 11 readings were confusing things, remember?" Ray pointed out. "It was a honest mistake, and the admiral didn't seem too upset."

"He certainly didn't stick around to threaten us for false entrapment." Peter grinned.

"Let's take care of the rest of these," Winston said, ignoring Peter.

Peter looked at the list. "Trap number two. Hostile class 7 from--"

"Guys!" Janine appeared again. Two men were behind her, and when they saw the traps, the taller one pushed past Janine. He gave them all a fierce glare; the other man hurried down the stairs and grabbed the first man's arm before he could voice the threat in his eyes.

"Can we help you?" Peter frowned.

"Let him go."

The Ghostbusters exchanged surprised looks. "Let who go?" Peter asked.

"The panther. He's mine."

"Jim, calm down," the second man said softly.

"I'll calm down when they release him. If you've put him in that thing," he pointed at the containment unit.

"We haven't," Egon spoke up. Jim's demeanor calmed only slightly. "Although I don't see why we should release it. It was causing a great deal of damage and I suspect -- if he in fact belongs to you -- that you wanted him to." The Ghostbusters faced the two men, standing between them and the trap.

Jim growled, and advanced a step towards him. The other man shouted, "Jim!" and stepped in front of him. "Chill out! You're not going to convince them you're one of the good guys if you try to throw them against the wall." He turned and faced the Ghostbusters, holding Jim back apparently by simply standing in his way. "Jim's a cop, and that panther you grabbed is his spirit guide. It was trashing the station because Jim wouldn't listen to him." He gave Jim a glare, as fierce as the one Jim had been giving them. To the Ghostbusters' surprise, Jim wilted almost immediately. "If you'd heeded his warning he wouldn't have had to get your attention like that."

Obviously defeated, Jim only nodded. Then he looked at the Ghostbusters again. "Blair's right. The damage was my fault."

Blair added, "He didn't hurt anyone, just desks. You have to let him go," he gave Jim a glance. "We need him."

"A spirit guide? Trashing desks? Explain that one to me." Peter shook his head.

Ray answered, "It's been known to happen. A spirit guide, if sufficiently motivated, can become solid for short periods of time. You must have really been ignoring it for it to do that," he added in amazement.

Jim looked embarrassed. "Does that mean you'll let him go?"

"I don't see why not," Ray replied. But he looked to the others to make sure. "The police captain only wanted it out of his office and not hurting anything. He didn't say it needed to be contained permanently."

"Look, we promise to keep him under control. Well, as much as we can." Blair said. He gave his partner another look. "Don't we?"

Jim sighed. "Yeah, I promise. Next time I'll listen."

Ray waited until he got agreeing nods from the rest of the Ghostbusters, then Winston again released the trap. A large black figure appeared, and vanished instantly with a loud panther's yell.

With a curious look, Peter asked Jim, "What was he trying to tell you, anyway?"

"None of your business," Jim growled.

"Anniversary celebration," Blair answered. "I wanted to go to--" he stopped as Jim clapped a hand over his mouth.

"They don't need to know, Chief."

When he removed his hand, Blair said, "If you'd agreed to buy the tickets I wouldn't have had to resort to asking for help. It's my first anniversary and I want it done right. Not stay home where Simon can call every hour asking for our help on yet another strange case."

They watched Jim start herding Blair towards the stairs, and listened in amusement as the man not only agreed with everything his mate said, but conceded what sounded like a great deal more than he would have originally been asked for. A trip to Hawaii for two weeks, and something about a detailing on a Volvo was all they heard before the two men vanished upstairs.

With a shake of her head, Janine left as well. Peter watched them go, smirking -- until he caught Egon looking at him. "What?"

"That reminds me..." Egon began.

"Oh no! Remember, we just spent two weeks flying all over creation. I'm not getting on another plane for a month! Two, even!"

"It isn't for another eight weeks, Peter. I'm sure you can find something appropriate by then."

"Me?" Peter's eyebrows rose. "Why do I always have to make the travel arrangements?"

"Because you get cheap tickets, and every time Egon does it you complain about it not being romantic." Ray said, looking innocent. His eyes were gleaming, though, and Winston was grinning as well.

Peter shook his head, and gave Egon a look. "Actually, Ohio wasn't so bad once I got Egon outside."

Egon blushed faintly. "We should return to work. We have several traps yet to get into the containment unit."

"Whatever you say, Egon." Peter said, and his tone made Egon blush further.

"Trap number three. Wasn't that the one from San Francisco?" Winston pulled the trap from the pile.

"Are you sure? I thought we were in Vancouver." Ray frowned.

"Nah, man, it was California." Winston shook his head. He frowned, as well. "At least it was supposed to be."

"Whatever. That was the demon -- an actual demon this time. Class 7, real nasty. He was trashing that temple and making a mess of things."

"Actually, it wasn't." The voice surprised them all, and they whirled. There were two men standing at the foot of the stairs.

"How did you get past Janine?" Peter demanded.

"Relax, guys. I'm a cop--"

"Oh, that makes us feel better," Peter interrupted sarcastically.

"Peter, hush," Egon said. Peter hushed.

"I'm Shaolin, that's how I got in here." The man didn't seem threatening, in any way. He was collected and confident, as was the man beside him.

"And what about him?" Peter demanded.

"He's specially trained," the cop answered with a slight grin. The second man just watched them, from behind his dark shades.

"What did you mean that it was not destroying the temple we found it in?" Egon asked, before Peter could distract them further with his questions.

"The demon wasn't there any longer. It had been fighting my father, see, and it managed to trade places with him. Pop got rid of it but was stuck in the demon's... well, it wasn't his body really. It's kind of technical. But the person you trapped was my father."

The four Ghostbusters stared at him, then looked at each other. "Well, should we ask? Or just let him go?" Ray finally asked.

"If we do, we're gonna be here all day asking questions," Winston said resolutely. "Let's just see what's in there."

Egon aimed the PKE meter at the third trap. The readings surprised him. "It is a human. Class three, possibly four." He looked up at the cop. "When we arrived at the temple we were getting readings of a class seven demon."

"Yeah, apparently pop kicked his butt out of there right before you guys showed up."

"Why didn't you say anything then?" Peter asked.

The man looked uncomfortable as he began, "Kermit and I weren't there. We were..." He looked at his companion.

"Out of town," the man said in a gravelly voice.

The cop nodded. "Out of town. Didn't know what had happened until we got out of be-- back in town. We came as soon as we could. Uh, fellas, pop's body's getting cold back home. We put him on ice and Skalany promised to take him out as soon as he woke up but..."

The Ghostbusters knew there was something suspicious about the excuse, but there was no denying the trapped entity was no longer -- or never had been -- a demon. "Go ahead, Winston. Whatever had been in that temple, it isn't what we now have in the trap."

"You got it, m'man."

The trap opened, and whatever was inside, vanished nearly as soon as it appeared free of the beam. The cop smiled. "Thanks. Look, you can keep the fee they paid you. That guy who called has been harassing my father for months."

Before any of the Ghostbusters could protest -- or not -- the two men left.

They looked down at the much smaller pile. "What's next?" Winston asked. Ray pulled out the trap marked number four, and look at Peter.

"Chicago," he read. "We trapped--"

"My father."

Peter groaned before he looked up. "Didn't we just do this?" He was surprised to see a Canadian Mountie, in full uniform, standing there. From Janine's expression it was obvious why she hadn't yelled down at them this time. The man beside her was glaring at her.

"Back off, lady. He's spoken for."

Janine gave him a matching glare. "Watch it, buster, or I'll have you thrown out of here."

"Oh yeah?" The guy pulled something out of his pocket, and showed her a badge. "You wanna get arrested for interfering with a police investigation?"

"Ray," the Mountie interrupted.

"Sorry, Frase." Ray subsided. Janine gave him a dirty look with he returned, before proceeding to ignore her.

The Mountie turned back to the Ghostbusters. "I apologise for Ray's rudeness--"

"Why apologise to them? They're the ones who stole your father." Ray interrupted.

"Ray, please," the man gave him a politely quelling look. He turned back to the Ghostbusters.

"He was causing a disturbance," Egon explained, before the man -- their third cop of the day -- could distract his partner again.

"Yes," the Mountie looked uncomfortable. "I'm afraid he was arguing with my grandmother again. It got out of hand. I apologise for his behavior."

"You're so polite," Janine said, staring up at him. The Mountie gave her a smile and nod, and got a 'thwap' on the arm from Ray.

"Stop that."

"Sorry, Ray." From his tone it was clear the Mountie wasn't entirely sure what he was apologising for.

"So," Peter interrupted. "This was the ghost, right? Regular class 2, picked him up for yelling, throwing things...?"

"Normally he's... well, somewhat better behaved. Usually he simply goes on about how he used to do things when he was alive, and criticize my performance. He's never done anything like this before."

Peter sighed. "Well, guys?"

Ray didn't even look at the others. He opened the trap's release. A ghost emerged, dressed in an identical Mountie uniform. He walked over to the first Mountie. "Hello, Benton. Took your time, didn't you?"

"Hello, father." Benton frowned slightly.

Ray sneered mildly at him. "Be glad we got you at all." When the Mountie beside him looked at him, he shrugged another apology.

Janine continued staring wide-eyed at the live Mountie as they made their departure. She followed them out, and the guys heard her offering coffee before they left.

For a moment the Ghostbusters simply stood there. Then Winston spoke up. "Well that was weird. You don't suppose we oughtta try putting the last one away?"

All four Ghostbusters looked down at the last full trap. For a moment no one said anything.

"Perhaps if we waited a few moments to give any... interested parties the chance to arrive," Egon began tentatively.

"Interested parties, huh?" Peter repeated. "You think some old guy's gonna show up, give us his card and introduce himself as Elwood P. Dowd?"

Egon gave him a flat look. "Anything's possible, Peter."

Peter just rolled his eyes, but remained where he was, not making a move to pick up the trap. They stared a bit longer, fidgeting quietly.

Finally Winston said, "I don't think anyone's coming."

"Maybe they won't come until we actually try to put it in the containment unit," Ray suggested.

"That's just silly, Ray," Peter said. He suddenly bent over and scooped up the trap. "I'm putting this thing away and heading for bed." He shot a look at Egon, who did not blush. The look that was returned, however, made Peter blush. Ray and Winston giggled. Peter frowned at them and held up the trap. "Last chance!" he called out.

There was no response. Satisfied, Peter turned and headed for the containment unit. As he approached, Ray cried out, "Peter, wait!"

Peter turned, a look of patient suffering on his face. "Yes, Ray?"

"What if it really is the Easter Bunny?"