The work wasn’t hard or bad, but for some reason, it was hard for Rabbit to really settle into this new job. Ghostbusting was a strange occupation. He had wanted to primarily be the navigator for the touring team, losing himself in the maps and the open road, but they required that he also bust as well, so he had sighed and signed the contract. After Jo had gotten her tornado data, there wasn’t much need for a man with maps to put you in the path of a storm anymore, and Rabbit had bills to pay, so now he traveled the central part of the country, living out of hotels, and helping rid the world of ghosts.
But, truth be told, sometimes he wondered if all the ghosts really needed to go.
The team had split up. All they had were the word of the owners that there was a ghost on property. Apparently, she had been seen all over, and there was residue everywhere, so the normal tracking tricks aren't working. They had to split up and hunt her the old-fashioned way.
He was sweeping the barn when he heard her.
“What is that?” She was just to his left. Her head was tilted to the side as she looked at the proton pack rod in his hand. Her hair cascaded down past her shoulders, and he was surprised how she looked both solid and translucent at the same time. He could mostly see through her, but there was also remarkable detail in her red lipstick and her plaid flannel shirt that was unbuttoned with the tails tied under her breasts.
“It’s a tool for capturing ghosts,” he said. The others never talked to the ghosts, but he did whenever he got the chance. He wondered about their stories. Maybe that’s why he was the only one that thought not all ghosts needed to be captured.
She frowned slightly. “Does it hurt?”
It was his turn to frown. “I actually don’t know. I’ve never had a chance to ask a ghost after it’s been used on them.”
“I see,” she said. Her voice was so soft, that he knew he did understand. “You’re here for me then? I knew they didn’t like me, but I don't know how to leave. I tried to stay out of their way, but time is so strange on this side.”
She shrugged. “I apparently will disappear for some time, but I’m never aware of that. But I do know that I’ll hide somewhere, like this barn, and no one will be here, and then I blink and suddenly there are people here and they are looking at me and screaming. I promise I’m not trying to haunt them. It seems, though, that the circumstances of being a ghost are that you haunt whether you want to or not.”
That sounded terrible to him; to not have control in your afterlife. “You’ve tried to leave?”
She nodded. “I tried to leave the property, but it’s like there’s a block. I get thrown back to what I assume is the property line.” She paused. “You know, I’ve never had this long off a conversation. I once talked to the daughter, but I only got out three sentences before I must have faded.”
“I wonder why you can talk to me.”
“Maybe you’re special? I don’t really know.” There was a sound outside the barn door. Her eyes went wide. “Your friends are coming.” Her voice was panicked. “I hope it doesn’t hurt. I can’t imagine how I would process pain in this form, but I’m sure it’s its own sort of horrific.”
Rabbit heard the team calling for him. “Hide,” he said, looking back at the doors. “Hide. Don’t let them find you. The owners already said that you move all over the property, and our gadgets weren’t able to pinpoint your location.”
“You… you’re worried about me?”
“You’re the first ghost that tried to talk to me and not scare me. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that we might be hurting ghosts when we trap them. I just….I can’t let them get you. Hide!”
He saw her close her eyes and furrow her brow, but nothing happened. “Okay. Looks like I can't will myself incorporeal. I’ll have to just… go over there.” He watched her float into the hayloft and behind some bales.
“You find the ghost?” the team leader called to him.
“It’s not here,” he said, heading back toward the yard. “Didn’t you guys find it?”
“No,” the captain spat the word. “We’ve wasted time here. We don’t get paid if we don’t get the ghost. No sense sticking around. We’ll just move to the next one on the call sheet.”
“Won’t they complain?” one of the others asked.
The captain shrugged. We’ve been on false calls before.”
They packed up and drove back off, Rabbit coordinating the best route to their next call, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the pretty ghost that didn’t want to be there.
That night he was relieved to be back in the station instead of another hotel. Here he had his own room and could get some space from the rest of the team. This team had nothing on his old storm chasing team, and he knew he spent more time than was healthy comparing the two groups. Tonight, though, he was happy to be able to shut the door and think about the ghost that got away.
“Hey,” a voice called from across the room, startling him.
He fell off the bed. When he peered back up over it, there she was. “I thought you couldn’t leave,” he said.
“I’ve never been able to before. I don’t know how I got here. I hid like you said, and then I blinked and was here. I wasn’t even aware I had left.”
He pulled himself back up off the floor and came around the bed. “I can’t let any of the others see you. They’ll try to catch you.”
She gave a soft smile. “It’s sweet that you don’t want them to take me.”
“Err… I can’t keep calling you ‘ghost girl’ in my head. Do you have a name? Do you remember it?”
“Darcy,” she said with a smile. “Darcy Lewis.”
The name pinged something in the back of his mind, but he wasn’t sure what. “I’m Rabbit,” he said. “Well, really, Robert, but my friends call me Rabbit.”
“And which do I get to call you?”
“Whatever you like,” he said. Then he flushed, realizing he might have implied more than he meant to.
She laughed, and it was almost musical. He found himself wondering if her voice had always been like that or if it was a ghostly aftereffect. “I like you, Rabbit,” she said.
There was a banging on the door before he could respond. His eyes darted to hers, and she moved to hide in the closet, drifting right through the door.
“What?” Rabbit asked as he threw open the door.
“You didn’t smuggle someone in here, did you?” the captain asked.
“No. When would I have even had time for that?” he asked, truly flummoxed.
“I heard you talking to someone, so if there’s no one in here, you won’t mind me looking around.”
Rabbit minded very much, but he couldn’t say that. Instead, he opened the door wider and made room for the man to walk in.
The captain looked under the bed and behind the small chair before making his way to the closet. Rabbit held his breath, waiting for Darcy to be caught. The captain flung open the door and Rabbit saw Darcy’s surprised eyes. Shockingly, the captain reached right through her and moved the clothes around. Finally, he closed the door again.
“I didn’t think you had anyone here. Not sure who you could get to come back with you.” There was a nasty gleam in his eye, and not for the first time, Rabbit wondered if perhaps anything was better than what he was doing now. “Get to bed. We have a long call list for tomorrow.”
Rabbit nodded but said nothing as he followed the captain to the door and shut and locked it behind him. Darcy floated through the closet door once the locks engaged.
“Did he not see me?” Her voice sounded breathless, and he wondered if that was literally true since a ghost wouldn’t need breath.
“He must not have. There’s no way he would have ignored it if he had seen you.”
“How is that possible?” she asked. She was pacing now. “The entire Monroe family could see me. You see me. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” he told her honestly.
She frowned but said nothing before blinking out of existence.
Over the next week Darcy would appear, often when others were about, and no one but Rabbit could see her. She could be right in front of a member of the team and not only could they not see her, but the equipment didn’t seem to register her either.
“I don’t get it,” she said to Rabbit one night as he sat in the parking lot of the hotel. He didn’t want to go back to the room he was sharing with a team member just yet. “I couldn’t leave that farm for who knows how long, and then you appeared and now I seem to be wherever you are.”
“Are you disappointed?”
“Of course not,” she said, settling into the passenger seat, even though she couldn’t actually sit on it. “But I’m sure you don’t want to be haunted for the rest of your life.”
“If I’m going to be haunted by you, I don’t think I’d mind,” he said more to himself than her.
“You can’t mean that.” He was surprised she had been able to hear his quiet words.
“Of course I can. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, and you seem to put up with me.”
“But I’m a ghost, not a woman.”
“You’re perfect,” he countered, staring at her intently.
Suddenly her lips were on his and he could feel them. He didn’t know how that was possible. His hands went to either side of her face and found purchase instead of empty air. His fingers digging into her curls while his thumbs traced lightly over her cheekbones. And he could feel her hands fisting in his shirt and pulling him close, and there was a pressure that wasn’t quite warmth but wasn’t not warmth either.
He wasn’t sure how long they kissed, but when he pulled away Darcy was looking at him with horror. “Rabbit,” she said, her voice breaking over his name. “I didn’t know. How could I have known? I’m so sorry!”
“Didn’t know what?” he asked.
Instead of responding, she grasped his hand in hers and pulled it into his view. His hand was the same translucent he had associated with her. He looked at the rearview mirror and saw his face also had the see-through quality. He looked back to Darcy and saw her eyes shining with concern.
“I’m not mad,” he tried to soothe.
“How couldn’t you be? Look what I did to you! I don’t know how, but I know it has to be my fault.
“Darcy,” he said, grabbing her hands in his own, taking a moment to marvel at how it felt to be able to feel her. “You’ve freed me. I hated that job, and now I don’t need it.”
“But I’ve cursed you.”
“If my curse is an eternity with you, I think I might survive.”
“I’m not sure ‘survive’ is the right word,” she smirked. “What if you’re only here for a moment and then one of us wakes up somewhere else alone?”
“Not happening,” he said, having just figured it out. “I remembered who you are. I thought it was an urban legend. Some sort of spooky local story, but clearly it’s true. When I was young, I heard the story of Darcy Lewis, the girl who was killed while on a date with the hometown high school hero. He killed her on the farm of an old witch, which cursed or saved her depending on your views. She would haunt there for as long as it took for love to find her, and then she would bind him to her with a kiss.” He paused, giving her a moment to take this all in. “What year was the last you remember living?”
She scrunched up her nose and thought. “1962. I was born in 1939.”
“Darcy, it’s 2001.”
Her eyes widened. “I thought the Monroes had not always been the people at the farm.” She looked down at her clothes. “I never thought about the fact that my clothes changed every now and then.”
“The curse must have tried to keep you looking contemporary.”
“That doesn’t change that I cursed you too.”
“Saved me,” he said before pressing a kiss to her cheek. “And now we're both rewarded with all the time we want together.”
“Shall we test the limits of our reward?” she asked with a smirk.
“Yes.” The word was barely out of his mouth before her lips were on hers again. So he was a ghost. At least he was a happy one, and he liked that much better than the unhappy man he had been.