Jazz was surprised to find the door to her parents' bedroom was closed that morning.
It was the kind of thing many people wouldn't notice, or they'd probably brush off as inconsequential, but Jazz had always had an eye for spotting things that weren't quite as they should be. Danny used to even make a game out of moving things around the house to see if she would notice. She always did.
Jazz knew that the door to her parents' room was always left open during the day, which meant something had disturbed her mother's usual routine. She stood outside the room and listened carefully to the sounds of shuffling feet coming from inside.
It was halfway through the morning, her mother should have been in the lab or out hunting by now.
She carefully grasped the door handle and slowly turned it, cracking open the door to peek through. Maddie was definitely in there, moving back and forth through the room.
She opened the door wider, and watched silently as her mother placed another ecto-gun into the suitcase on her bed.
There was a tingling thrill of panic ringing somewhere in the back of her brain.
Maddie noticed her daughter in the doorway and paused, a pair of neatly folded pyjamas in her hands.
"Oh, Jazz, honey. I didn't hear you come in."
She continued to pack, tight lipped and tense now that she had an audience.
Jazz opened her mouth to ask her what she was doing, but something else tumbled forth.
"Please don't tell me this is about him." Jazz could hear the strain in her own voice as it forced its way past the lump in her throat. "Please mom you can't do this to Danny, not now."
"Jazz," Maddie heaved a heavy sigh and sat down on the edge of the bed, patting the sheets beside her.
Jazz took a seat and let her mother run her fingers through her hair, she hated it, the strands kept getting caught on her gloves and tugged uncomfortably at her scalp. She let her continue anyway.
"Sweetheart, it's just a ghost hunting mission, that's all." Maddie said softly. "Vlad's Wisconsin estate has just finished being rebuilt after that gas leak, and he needs me to make sure the ghosts that used to haunt the castle aren't still there."
"Can't he hire the Guys in White to do it?" Jazz asked, coldly.
"Oh honey, you know that they're incompetent." Maddie put her arm around Jazz's shoulders, squeezing gently. "They'd probably end up blowing the place up all over again."
"Look I get it mom, work is work I just... does it have to be right now?" Jazz asked, a pleading edge to her voice. "It's not like he's living there, can't it wait?"
"Well that's the thing honey," Maddie chewed on her lower lip, she had been doing that a lot lately, it was raw and cracked. "He's stepping down as Mayor, he'll be announcing it officially tomorrow. This whole thing has shaken him up and he just wants to go home."
Jazz stared at her hands, blinking rapidly as tears prickled at the edge of her vision.
Of course Vlad had been moving in the shadows, setting up the pieces, playing the perfect pathetic victim.
She should have been keeping a closer eye on her mother, could have checked her phone for recent calls, could have checked in with her on her hunts. Jazz had left Maddie alone and vulnerable, a perfect target.
How could she have been so stupid?
Because she trusted her, Jazz reminded herself, she trusted her not to go behind their backs. She trusted her to be honest with them, she trusted her to respect Danny's need for time, and space away from Vlad.
But Jazz had failed to consider one thing, behind their recent rocky history, Maddie and Vlad had been friends.
Good, close friends, she wasn't seeing a manipulative snake taking advantage of her, she was seeing a man who she'd known for years, who she used to spend so much of her time with, and he was hurting.
At least, he acted like he was hurting.
He'd known Maddie for just as long, he knew how to pull her strings, how to take her caring, protective nature and twist it into getting what he wanted.
"When do you leave?" Jazz asked in a small voice.
"Tomorrow afternoon." said Maddie.
"Are you going to tell Danny?"
Maddie was quiet for a moment, before answering slowly.
"I thought it might be best if you told him after I left."
Jazz felt the hairs on her neck bristle. How could she think that was okay? Going behind her child's back to spend who knew how many days away with the man who murdered his father?
Of course, she knew that Maddie didn't believe Vlad was truly responsible, she thought Danny was the one being unreasonable. In her mind she was choosing between helping an old friend or being bound by her son's irrational scapegoating.
Jazz couldn't blame her for the decision she made, she couldn't help but think that, had she been just as in the dark about Vlad's true nature, she'd have likely taken her mother's side.
"I understand why you're doing this." Jazz started, carefully. "But if you go behind Danny's back, he will never forgive you. You will lose his trust and you will not get it back."
Maddie got up from the bed, and continued to pack her suitcase.
"I don't want to hurt him." she said, as she began dismantling a particularly large weapon into transportable pieces, tucking them in between her toiletry bag and her spare hazmat suit. "But I don't want to hurt Vlad either, Danny has to understand that he's not dangerous. He won't hurt me, and he'll realise that when I finally catch the ghost that did this."
She yanked on the zipper of the case roughly, catching it on a glove that was still sticking out.
"So this isn't just about Vlad." said Jazz. "It's about the Wisconsin Ghost."
"His first sighting was in Vlad's castle." Maddie confirmed, wrestling with the stuck zipper. "The castle is gone but that doesn't necessarily mean the ghost is, he could be attached to the location rather than the building."
"You really think you're going to find him there?"
"I'm counting on it." Maddie finally tugged the zipper free and closed up the bag. "Once I bring that monster back, Danny will finally be able to stop projecting his anger onto Vlad. I might even string the creature up and give Danny some target practice, he's always been an awful aim."
Jazz tried not to shudder at her mother's ruthless words, she also tried not to think about how much she would enjoy shooting a pathetic and defenceless Vlad in his insufferable, smirking face.
"Wait, mom! That's a great idea!" Jazz shot up, clapping excitedly. "Why don't you bring Danny with you? You can take down the Wisconsin Ghost together!"
Maddie stared at Jazz, a thoughtful look on her face.
"I... I don't know Jazz." she folded her arms, lowering her gaze. "As much as I would love to teach him to hunt he's... I don't want him to get hurt. This ghost has taken enough from me."
"Then give him the Fenton Peeler!" Jazz pressed. "He'll be fully armoured, and he won't have to rely on aim, he can punch the crap out of a ghost in that thing."
A look of pain briefly flashed across Maddie's face, and it wasn't difficult for Jazz to guess what image was going through her mother's mind. She had seen the beatdown Danny had dealt Vlad that night too, it wasn't the kind of thing one could easily forget.
"I'll have to think about it." said Maddie. "There is a lot to weigh up, but it's not a bad idea."
She gave Jazz a tight hug, and a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Just don't mention anything to him until tomorrow, please?"
"Don't worry, I won't." Jazz lied.