Hanging out at work on a fine non-school evening wasn’t Eduardo Riviera’s idea of fun. Especially in the great city of New York, Fridays were for slacking off, for checking out the new club down the street, for hanging out with friends and playing pickup games of soccer in the park.
None of which he was going to be doing anytime soon, given his after-class job as a Ghostbuster and current GPA. The good professor Spengler was lenient enough to consider said after-school job for credit in lieu of essay questions and reading chapter four by Monday, but his other professors weren't as forgiving. So, instead of heading into SoHo from the Canal Street subway stop, here he was, on his way to the Ghostbusters' HQ for some time well-spent hitting the books before the December exams started.
As he rounded the corner from West Broad onto Moore Street, he saw another, familiar figure approaching from the north, quick and purposeful. “Kylie, is that you?” he called out.
“Eduardo.” The short figure paused and looked in his direction, pale face standing out in the uncertain light. She didn’t sound happy to see him. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” he returned. “It’s Friday night - don’t you have a séance to star in, or something?”
Kylie shot him a dirty look. “Egon has the best occult library in the city, maybe in the world. I was coming in to do some research for class. You know, that place where you go to learn things.”
“Hey, I got exams next week, same as you. I came here to study, because it’s quiet here and my apartment isn’t.” Eduardo tried the door to the firehouse. “That’s weird. This door isn’t usually locked.”
“It’s not usually ten o’clock on a Friday when we’re checking in, either,” Kylie reminded him. She rummaged in her bag, pushing books and papers around. “Oh, damn. I don’t have the key with me.”
Eduardo held up his keychain, the Ghostbusters logo on the fob twinkling in the streetlight. “Then it’s a good thing you ran into me, isn’t it? Otherwise, it’d be a long trip home for you.”
“Don’t be smug.” Kylie paced back and forth on the sidewalk while her fellow Ghostbuster fumbled with the lock. “Eduardo, did Janine drive in today?”
“How should I know?” he said, unlocking and opening the door. “Does it matter?”
Kylie peered around the corner of the firehouse, puzzled. “I could swear that’s her Civic parked on the street.” She shrugged and hitched her bag back up onto her shoulder. “I guess there are a lot of ’93 hatchbacks in New York.”
Inside, the only light on was over Janine’s desk, and the firehouse was deserted. Eduardo scratched his head. “Yo. Kylie. Where’s the spud? Slimer is always here when someone walks in, especially if he thinks Garrett’s got food.”
“How should I know?” she mimicked, hands on hips. “Go study, brainiac. I’m going down to the library.” Kylie swung her coat off her shoulders and went to the closet to hang it up. Eduardo rolled his eyes and muttered something about creepy goth chicks with an attitude before starting for the second floor.
He was halfway to the stairs when a sudden harsh whisper stopped him in his tracks. “Hey. Eduardo. Come here.”
“What is it now?” Annoyed, Eduardo glanced over at Kylie. “Ghosts in the closet?”
“No. And be quiet.” Kylie held up a garment. “This is Janine’s coat. I’m sure of it.” She turned around, slowly. “Her blazer is on the chair, too. What’s she still doing here?”
Eduardo shrugged. “Maybe she and Egon went out to dinner, and they’re not back yet. It would explain why Slimer isn’t here. Probably hanging around looking for a handout.”
“Yeah, but then her coat wouldn’t be in the closet, it’d be on her, genius,” Kylie said, arching an eyebrow.
“You think maybe she’s in trouble or something?” Eduardo advanced stealthily up the stairs. “Anyone who messes with Janine will have the professor on his ass, for sure. He’s kinda protective of his office manager when he thinks no one’s looking.” He stopped at the landing. “Whoa. Something is definitely out of place.”
“I’m starting to get the feeling that we shouldn’t be here,” Kylie murmured, following him in her stocking feet, quiet as a cat. She picked her way up the stairs to the kitchen, peering over the landing. The faint strains of a brilliant soprano aria drifted from the direction of the stereo, and one nearby light was turned on, illuminating a glass perched on the edge of the coffee table.
Kylie cocked an ear, listening. “That sounds like La Bohème. It’s one of Egon’s favorites.”
“How do you know this stuff?” Eduardo stood next to her, arms crossed.
“Some of us have culture. My Grandma Rose liked opera, especially Puccini.” Kylie sighed, exasperated. “Anyway, it looks like Egon was relaxing on a Friday with a glass of wine, same as anyone else. He’s probably gone to bed by now. All the more reason to shut up.” She looked daggers at Eduardo.
“Relaxing with two glasses?” Eduardo sneaked to the coffee table and held a glass up, the remnants of red wine still swirling in the bowl. “He’s not exactly the type to be double-fisting it.”
“You’ve got a point.” Kylie surveyed the sofa. “It almost looks like someone left in a hurry.” She picked up a discarded pillow, then thought the better of it and put it back on the floor. “Wait a minute. Look, Eduardo – Janine’s hair clip. I found it under the couch.”
“You can put it with her shoes.” Eduardo nodded towards the discarded pumps, which were scattered on the floor in a clear trail towards the spiral staircase that led to the third floor. Their combined gaze followed the path upwards, where a dark shape lay huddled on one of the risers.
“Hey, Kylie.” Eduardo kept his voice low. “There’s something on the stairs over there. Can you make it out?”
“No.” The two of them tiptoed closer, hyperaware of every tiny creak of the old floorboards. Above them, a very familiar blue sweater was caught in the spiral staircase, one sleeve draped over the rail. Kylie clapped her hand over her mouth and blushed visibly in the low light.
“Now I know we shouldn’t be around,” she groaned. “Eduardo, you’re definitely not studying here tonight.”
“Why not?” Eduardo peered upstairs into the darkness. “What do you think is going on up there?”
“Nothing that shouldn’t have happened a long time ago.” Kylie grabbed Eduardo’s arm and yanked. “Are you dense? We have to leave!”
“What are you talking about? I have an exam!” He pulled back, and stopped dead in his tracks as a moan echoed down from upstairs. “That was… not a ghost.”
“And Egon and Janine are…”
Kylie rolled her eyes. “Yes, you idiot.”
Eduardo looked up the spiral staircase in horrified fascination. “He’s loud.”
“Not tonight he isn’t.” Eduardo put his hands over his ears. “Aw man, I’d have to come here the one night Egon gets lucky.”
“I think it’s more Janine that got lucky.” Kylie grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. “Move it, you pervert. We’re going.”
“Oh yeah?” Eduardo grinned, letting Kylie drag him down the stairs to the first floor. “And where are ‘we’ going?”
Kylie gritted her teeth. “Anywhere that will get you out of this firehouse!”
“Salsa dancing, then,” Eduardo said.
Kylie stared at him, bemused. “I’m sorry, what was that exactly?”
“It’s Friday night, you said you’d go anywhere, and you might actually have fun. Or is it standard for goth chicks to sit around with candles and bad poetry instead?”
“You really are a jerk sometimes, Eduardo.” She stalked over to the closet and yanked out her coat. “If you want to go out and do something, you could start by not insulting me.”
Contritely, Eduardo offered Kylie her bag. “Sorry. No more ‘goth chick’ jokes, I promise. So, are you gonna let me show you some merengue? Do you like reggaetón?”
“Sure, whatever.” Kylie looked back towards the stairs and gave Eduardo a little half-smile. “It sounds stupid, but I’m happy for them, you know? I get the feeling this was a long time coming.”
“Let’s hope it’s not a short time, or Janine’s gonna be pissed. Ow!” he yelped, as Kylie punched him in the arm. “What was that for?”
“You’re being disgusting.” Kylie’s face was the picture of outrage, but it looked like she was trying to hide a laugh.
“He’s a scientist. He might be into… experimentation.” Eduardo waggled his fingers suggestively.
“Eduardo!” Now she was trying not to giggle, and failing.
“Amazing, she can smile.” Eduardo grandly held the firehouse door open for Kylie, and she stepped through, still sputtering.
On her way out, Kylie turned around and gave Eduardo a hard stare. “I just want you to know,” she informed him, “that this is not a date.” She turned north towards SoHo, disappearing into the bustling New York night.
Eduardo glanced up at the third floor, dark but (he was sure) not silent, and chuckled. “All things in good time,” he said to the night air, and followed.