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Cologne

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Eduardo and Kylie were in a basement with a foosball table, a pool table, several comfortable chairs arranged in one corner, two machines with the Coca-Cola logo on them and a payphone. Eduardo was leaning against the foosball table and swigging Sprite from a glass bottle while Kylie jabbed impatiently at the payphone.

'I don't think that's gonna help,' said Eduardo.

'No?' said Kylie, hanging up the receiver violently. 'So what the hell am I supposed to do?'

'Can you tell somebody on reception that it's broken?'

'Um.' Kylie frowned thoughtfully as she pulled a card out of a slot in the phone. 'Yeah, I think I can probably stretch to that.'

'Your German's not half bad, Ky,' said Eduardo. 'I mean, people always give you what you meant to ask for.'

'Yeah, sure, if you don't mind drinking cola the entire time.'

'Not always – only when you ask a human being. The machines have been very good to us,' and he waggled his almost empty Sprite bottle to prove it.

'They sure do have a lot of them here, don't they?' said Kylie. 'Anyway, let's go upstairs and see if I can tell them the phone doesn't work.'

'Hold on a second,' said Eduardo. 'I wanna get my five pfennigs.'

So saying, he swallowed the last of his Sprite and then took the bottle over to the pair of Coca-Cola machines. He fed the bottle into one of them, and in return it spat out a small silver coin.

'I don't know what we're going to do with all those fünf pfennigs they give us,' said Kylie. 'It's not like we can exchange them.'

'Maybe we can spend them before we go,' said Eduardo. 'And if we can't, there's charities back home that accept foreign currency, right? I mean, I hope so – we have some coins in other currencies left over too.'

'Yeah,' said Kylie, and she looked a little downcast. 'That's where we'll be tomorrow. Back home.'

Eduardo gave her a sympathetic smile, put his arm around her and said, 'Come on, let's do this.'

*

Up in the youth hostel foyer, Kylie approached the reception desk while Eduardo mooched around in the background. There was no one manning the desk, but there was a service bell, so Kylie rang that. Moments later, a young man came through from the office at the back, smiling politely.

'Guten Tag, Fräulein,' he said. 'Kann ich Ihnen helfen?'

'Ja, danke,' said Kylie, and for a moment she looked completely blank. Then her expression cleared, and she said confidently, 'Das Telefon ist kaput.'

'Ach,' said the receptionist, rolling his eyes, and in heavily accented but distinct English he added, 'Bloody thing.' Then he smiled at Kylie and reeled off some rapid German.

Kylie smiled politely back, said 'Danke,' then went to join Eduardo, whom she found sniggering into his hand. She smacked him lightly on the arm and said smilingly, 'What's so funny?'

'Das Telefon ist kaput!' he said. 'Oh, I don't know – it's just funny. So, do you have any idea what the guy said?'

'Apart from “Bloody thing”,' said Kylie, with a little laugh, 'no, but I'm gonna assume he said he'd get it fixed.'

'I'm sure he did,' said Eduardo, 'but when? He could've been giving you directions to the next nearest payphone or something.'

'Maybe, but we can probably find that ourselves if the one here's not fixed in time. Let's give it 'til this evening.'

'What are we gonna do in the meantime?'

'I don't know. I didn't want the stress of a schedule on our last day, and besides, when I was reading about this place everywhere seemed to be closed Sundays. I guess we'll just have to... I don't know, walk around and see what we can find.'

'Sounds like fun,' said Eduardo. 'I mean, even if we don't find anything in particular, it'll just be nice to walk around together, won't it?'

'Yeah,' said Kylie, smiling and linking her arm through his. 'It will.'

*

The streets of Cologne were almost deserted as Eduardo and Kylie strolled through them. A few other people were walking around, and some were standing outside the cathedral admiring what appeared to be a statue made in the style of an Egyptian sarcophagus, until it moved. After standing still through a lot of pointing and giggling, it suddenly jerked its body towards a sniggering young woman who was peering closely at it. The woman shrieked in surprise and jumped back, then she and everybody else in the group laughed heartily.

'So the living statues don't take Sundays off, then,' said Kylie. 'Or that one doesn't, anyway.'

'There's another one over there,' said Eduardo, indicating what appeared to be a copper statue of a cowboy. 'Maybe we could share out all our five pfennigs between them.'

Just then, a boy of about ten ran up to the living copper statue and said giggling, in an English accent, 'Hello, I've got a condom on!' He then ran away, flailing his arms around and laughing hysterically.

Eduardo and Kylie both stared at the statue as he stayed quite still, then Kylie tittered and said, 'That guy sure deserves to make something today. You could tell your brother about it next time you want to annoy him – I bet he doesn't approve of giving money to street performers.'

'You're right, he doesn't,' said Eduardo, then he looked at the sky. 'I think there's a little rain coming down.'

'Oh, it's hardly anything,' Kylie said dismissively, in the moment before the few drops of rain suddenly became a torrential downpour. The copper statue at once ran for cover into the cathedral; the Egyptian statue stayed where it was while its audience ran away from it and the rain, shrieking and giggling.

Kylie grabbed Eduardo's hand, and they began walking rapidly.

'Maybe we should give all our five pfennigs to that one,' said Eduardo, as they walked past the more resilient living statue. 'This rain is worse than that kid if you ask me.'

'Don't be so hard on the other guy,' said Kylie. 'He was covered in body paint; he had to run or it would've washed off.'

'Yeah, I guess. So, where are you taking me – anywhere in particular?'

'No. I'm just hoping we can find someplace that's open. I don't want to walk around in the rain, but more than that I don't want to go back to the youth hostel yet.'

'We could go into the cathedral,' said Eduardo.

'Let's look for somewhere else first,' said Kylie. 'Somewhere we haven't already been.'

'I don't know, Ky. It really seems like everywhere's closed.'

'Yeah, it seems that way. It's weird, isn't it? All the other cities we've been to, most places were open Sundays.'

'That is so true,' said Eduardo. 'Are they very religious around here or something?'

'I don't know, maybe,' said Kylie. 'Oh, look over there – that mall-looking place seems to be open.'

They walked briskly over to the building Kylie had indicated, and in through the open double doors. They found themselves on a gallery level, surrounded by closed shops and looking down on a large gathering of people, all arranged around tables and chairs on the lower level walkway.

'What the hell is going on here?' said Eduardo.

'Let's see,' said Kylie, and led the way down the staircase to the lower level. They found an empty table and sat down; they were immediately approached by a woman with a notepad and pen.

'Was möchten Sie trinken?' the woman asked pointedly.

Kylie smiled politely at her and said, 'Zwei Colas, bitte.'

'Normalerweise Cola?' said the waitress, looking cross and impatient.

'Ja,' said Kylie.

'Sieben Mark.'

Kylie found seven Deutschmarks and handed them to the waitress, who then walked off.

'What a bitch,' said Kylie.

'Maybe we weren't supposed to just walk in and sit down like that,' said Eduardo. 'But I guess she didn't have to be rude about it.'

'No, she didn't,' said Kylie. 'And when I say I want cola, what would I mean except normal cola? She's just making problems.'

'C'mon, babe, don't let it get to you,' said Eduardo, taking Kylie's hand across the table. 'We don't wanna waste this time being mad about some rude waitress. Let's enjoy... whatever this is.'

'I wonder what it could be,' said Kylie.

'I don't know, but I think there's some kind of stage set up over there.' He pointed. 'See it?'

Kylie craned her neck to look, then sank back down and shook her head. 'Guess I'm too short.'

'No, querida, you're perfect,' said Eduardo, and kissed her hand, just in time for the waitress to return with their colas and give them a disapproving look.

'Danke,' said Eduardo, seeing Kylie's face fall into a scowl as the waitress put their drinks on the table. She then left them without a word.

'Total bitch,' said Kylie. 'Make that last, babe, won't you? I don't want to see her again, and I don't want to give her another seven Deutschmarks.'

'You didn't tip, huh?'

'Tip her? Absolutely not! I, er... hope they don't rely on tips to get up to minimum wage,' she added, suddenly sounding worried.

'Oh, they can't!' said Eduardo. 'That would be even more wrong in Europe than back home, with the money they make you spend on drinks here. Hey, that's one thing it'll be nice to get back to, huh?' he added, with a bracing smile. 'Bottomless drinks.'

'Sure,' said Kylie, 'along with hard work and money worries and real grown-up responsibilities...'

'And Pagan.'

'Oh yeah,' said Kylie, her features suddenly melting into a wistful smile. 'I've really missed Pagan. I sure hope he hasn't forgotten me.'

'Never.'

'He'll be really mad at me for leaving him with my dad all this time.'

'He'll soon get over it,' said Eduardo. 'When he starts wanting his dinner, he'll forgive you.'

'It'll be nice to see everyone, really. Well, almost everyone.'

'You mean apart from Carlos?'

'Actually,' said Kylie, smiling slightly, 'I was thinking of how we won't get to see Roland. He must be pretty much settled in California by now.'

'Yeah,' said Eduardo, 'but it's not like we'll never see him again.'

'Do you think he's okay? I mean, do you think he's finding it all too much, living away from his parents and so close to finally starting his doctorate – the same one that he had all that worry over?'

'I really don't know. I guess it's always scary starting something new, but then before you know it, it's just the norm and you forget you were ever worried about it in the first place.'

'Hopefully,' said Kylie. 'Or else you realise it was a horrible mistake and you're miserable.'

'In that case,' said Eduardo, 'you get out of it as fast as you can and try something else.'

'Yeah, I guess. So, are you worried about mentoring a new team of Ghostbusters?'

'I don't know, kinda. I mean, you don't wanna mess up when you're in a position of responsibility.'

'You won't mess up, sweetie, I know it.'

'Thanks, babe. And you'll be a real asset to the Parapsychology Foundation – I know that.'

'I hope so,' said Kylie. 'I mean, I'd have to be complete crap if I disgraced myself to start off with, since they're going to ease me in with filing and stuff.'

'Yeah, I remember,' said Eduardo. 'Carlos made you tell him about it when we were talking about our plans for Dad's money. He said it sounded like a huge step down.'

'Right,' said Kylie, beginning to chuckle, 'and you said he must think really badly of the whole thing since he thought the Ghostbusters were... oh, what was it again?'

'Lower than snake pussy.'

Eduardo kept a straight face as he said this, but Kylie exploded with laughter. A minute later, as she was trying to regain control of herself, the area was suddenly filled with the sound of upbeat music and a male voice speaking in rapid German. Eduardo looked enquiringly at Kylie, and she shook her head, still giggling.

Eight people ran onto the stage in the middle of the space; four of them sat down on swivel chairs, and the other four stood behind them, one to a chair. Eduardo craned his neck to get a better view, and Kylie actually got to her feet. The voice on the speaker said a few more words and then, with the upbeat music still playing, the people standing on the stage all produced scissors and various other paraphernalia, and began cutting the hair of the sitters. Kylie burst out laughing again, then covered her mouth and sat down hastily. Eduardo turned back to look at her, smiling in amusement.

'You couldn't make it up, could you?' he said.

Kylie shook her head, laughing helplessly.

*

The young male receptionist to whom Kylie had reported the telephone fault was manning the desk. When he saw Kylie and Eduardo entering the youth hostel foyer, he called out, 'Entschuldigen Sie, Fräulein! Wir haben das Telefon repariert.'

'Oh,' said Kylie, looking quite delighted, 'danke schön!'

'Bitte schön.'

Kylie then turned to Eduardo. 'I said they'd get the phone fixed, didn't I?'

'I don't know if that's exactly what you said,' Eduardo answered.

'Well, anyway, they did,' said Kylie. 'Let's go call Beth.'

*

Down in the basement once again, Eduardo sat in one of the armchairs while Kylie stood frowning with the telephone receiver pressed to her ear and ringing merrily away.

'There's no answer,' she said, then hung up very abruptly. 'I don't want to let the machine get it or it'll charge my card. It'll charge it a lot. So... I guess I'll try the firehouse. Beth could be there. I mean...' She looked thoughtful. 'Well, she really could be there, couldn't she? Has Janine started her maternity leave yet?'

'You expect me to know?' said Eduardo. 'I'm hopeless at that stuff. When are the babies due?'

'A couple of months, I think,' said Kylie. 'Anyway, I'll try calling... if I can remember the number.'

She remembered it all right, and added it to the dialling code for the USA. After a couple of rings, there came a click and then a cheery voice saying, 'Hello, Ghostbusters. How can I help you?'

'Beth, is that you?' Kylie said joyously.

'Yes, it's me,' said Beth. 'Kylie, is that you?'

'It is me!' said Kylie. 'Oh, I'm so glad I got through to you! Earlier the phone was broken, and just now there was no answer at your house.'

'Really?' said Beth. 'I wonder where Kevin's gotten to. Wait – what?' Kylie waited while someone talked in the background, and then Beth came back with, 'Oh, of course, I forgot – he's helping Oscar settle into the new house. Whatever that means.' There came some more indistinct speaking in the background, then Beth burst out laughing and said, 'Peter, stop it!'

'Oh, Dr Venkman's there?' said Kylie.

'As always,' said Beth. 'He actually came here a few weeks ahead of the rest of the family to cover for you and Eduardo.'

This time, Peter's response was quite loud and Kylie heard it: 'I'm covering for Roland too now!'

'Right,' said Beth, with a laugh in her voice, 'he's doing the work of three people. Egon and Garrett aren't helping at all.'

'Is that all the Ghostbusters you have now?' asked Kylie. 'Just those three?'

'Well, yes,' said Beth, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world.

'I thought you'd have hired some new people by now.'

'Oh, no – Egon's adamant that Eduardo should be involved in the hiring process.'

'Which,' said Peter, now so close to Beth that Kylie could hear him distinctly, 'had better be soon. I have another job to go to, you know.'

'Yeah?' said Kylie. 'What's that?'

'Lecturing,' said Peter, sounding even more distinct as he took the phone from Beth. 'Egon put in a word for me and I've got, like, six college classes to plan for!'

'Wow, Peter,' said Kylie, with a wry smile, 'you sound like you intend to do more than a half-assed job on that.'

'I'm starting out with good intentions,' said Peter. 'We'll see. It'd sure help me out if our head field Ghostbuster was here to get things moving. You are going to release him from your web of sexual ecstasy soon and let him come back here, right?'

'Yeah, we're coming home tomorrow,' said Kylie. Then she glanced at the small display screen on the phone, which said her card was down to its last Deutschmark, and said hastily, 'Oh shit... um... ten thirty at JFK. Tell Beth!'

She just had time to blurt this out before her card ran out of credit and she was cut off.

'Dr Venkman hijacked the call,' she said irritably, scowling at the receiver in her hand.

'Oh well,' said Eduardo. 'He'll tell Beth what you said. He'll have told her like two seconds ago.'

'But I don't know if she's meeting us or not.'

'I think she will. And if she can't, she'll get somebody else to do it. Somebody we both like.'

'Yeah, I guess,' said Kylie, mooching across the room and sitting down on a chair arm. 'Hey, did you know you have an impressive new job title?'

'No,' said Eduardo. 'Tell me.'

'Head Field Ghostbuster. Sounds pretty good, huh?'

'I don't know. I don't wanna be one of those people who get all puffed up just because of an impressive-sounding job title.'

'It's not just words for the sake of words, though, is it?' said Kylie. 'I mean, it accurately describes what you're going to do. And besides, you're not the kind of guy who gets puffed up like that.'

'Yeah, I guess so,' Eduardo said impassively.

She looked at him for a moment, then got off her chair arm and climbed onto his lap. He smiled and put his arms around her as she said, 'I've had such a great time with you on this trip, sweetie.'

'Yeah?' said Eduardo. 'In spite of those, um... adventures that we had?'

'Well,' said Kylie, 'nothing's ever perfect. But we did have some perfect moments... or at least I thought so.'

'So did I. Every moment I spend with you is perfect.'

'Don't exaggerate.'

'It's true!'

'It is not!' said Kylie. 'What about when you were being possessed by Captain Gaspar?'

'I meant every moment I spend alone with you.'

'Oh yeah? What about walking up Butt Lane?'

'That was... an experience,' said Eduardo. 'I probably won't do it again.'

Kylie laughed and snuggled into him, slotting her head underneath his chin.

'We won't be able to stop the world and jump off another time,' she said, 'but I guess that's okay. I'm going to love living with you.'

'I hope so.'

'And maybe we can do something like this again someday... when we're old.'

'You're planning on being with me until we're old, huh?'

'Eduardo,' said Kylie, 'don't start that again.'

'Sorry,' he said. 'I just can't believe I haven't blown it yet.'

'You're not going to blow it. You have to stop thinking like that.'

'Yeah, okay, I'll try.'

Kylie raised her head to look at him. 'I love you, sweetie.'

'I love you too, querida,' said Eduardo, and they kissed.