7:00 AM, December 21st.
Erin woke once again on the right side of her bed in the firehouse. She sighed, rolling over to the night table on the left side to turn her alarm off.
She refused to move the clock from Jillian’s side, even though she was gone, the left side of the bed glaringly empty in the grey morning light.
“It has to go on my side, Ez. I’ve got faster reflexes.”
“I can turn it off before it hurts your cute lil’ ears.”
“You want to tinker with it while I’m asleep.”
A month ago, she would’ve been woken up ten minutes prior to the alarm for soft, sleepy kisses in bed, but all of that changed a month ago. One full month, sleeping by herself. It shouldn’t have been so cold and empty, she was used to it after 40 years of sleeping alone. But it was almost like the 4 brief months she had been with Jillian had reset her entire system.
5 months, technically, the physicist grumbled to herself. She wasn’t one to wallow in self pity, she told herself as she got out of her lonely bed to put on her lonely slippers and make herself a lonely cup of coffee. Yup, not wallowing at all. Score one for Gilbert, Score Zero for nobody because she was alone.
Not true Erin, she chastised. You have Patty here to keep you company. Abby, of course, was also absent. Due to that damn phone call they got the day after Thanksgiving.
10:30 AM, November 25th
“Hello? Is this the Ghostbusters?”
“Yes, Conductors of the Metaphysical Examination, how may I help you?”
Kevin had gotten lost on the way to work for the 3rd time this month, so Erin was stuck answering the phones. She patiently waited for the shaky voice to continue.
“My-my name is Andrew Chesterfield, and I doubt you’ll be hearing from me again-“
Erin straightened in her seat immediately. “Sir, if you are dealing with a malevolent spirit, we can be there right away, you’ll be alright-“
“No, no, I mean… I’m quitting my job.”
Erin frowned. “Okay?” She began to doubt this guy knew what they did here. Or was it another prank call?
The man continued: “I just thought you might want to know… I think my old office building is haunted. It’s out of state, but, I feel like you should know… everyone in HR keeps getting these creepy phone calls all day, threatening messages, but... the caller ID never traces back to anything.” Erin could hear the man’s breath shudder over the phone. “Please, it.. it says it wants to burn the building to the ground. I can’t take it anymore, but I don’t want people to get hurt. We have hundreds of employees-“
Erin cut the man off in a soothing voice. “Sir, you did the right thing by calling this in. My colleagues and I will be right over to investigate.”
“You don’t understand, miss. The CEO won’t have any of it. She wouldn’t even let the Chief Technical Officer call the police, some bullshit about the company not needing any scandals, with quarterlies coming up. She’s always threatening to shut the branch down, so of course her word is final. She’ll never let you guys in there."
Erin rubbed her temples, putting the man on speaker. Of course investigating a major paranormal threat was going to be hindered by corporate bullshit. “Very well, sir. I will talk this out with the team. Do you have anyone I can contact in your former place of employment.?”
“Yes, his name is Josh Parker, and you’re looking for Zenotek’s Chicago branch.”
Erin breathed into her steaming cup of coffee. She had gotten off to a great start that morning, making a second mug with extra extra cream and sugar without even thinking about it. Hopefully Patty would be interested in the Jillian Holtzmann special.
She and the historian had been called on a few busts a week in the last month, and had worked fairly well together, all things considered. Not only were they working with half of their usual manpower, but Erin’s moral had been at an all time low. Patty had walked in on her crying just yesterday morning because she misjudged the distance from the milk carton to her cereal bowl and splashed some on the floor. She was literally crying over spilled milk. When Patty pointed this out to her, she only cried harder.
“Girl, I know you miss her, but you actin’ like she dead or somethin’. She’s gonna be back.”
Erin had sniffled. “But when?”
Patty couldn’t answer.
“Carol, I- Carol could you please just…” Erin grew more and more frustrated with the CEO on the other end of the line, as her fellow Ghostbusters strained to listen to what was being said over in Chicago.
“I’m all for powerful women in business, but this bitch sounds stone cold,” Abby whispered. “She has to let us investigate, right? She wouldn’t just endanger the entire branch to avoid a scandal.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure Abby.” Holtz’s mischievous smile grew wider as she recognized the look on her girlfriend’s face. “Aaaand in three…two…one…”
“CAROL! GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, CAROL!” Erin slammed the phone back into the receiver after losing her patience with the obstinate CEO. Her shoulders slumped, and she trudged over to where Holtz’s arms were waiting with a soothing hug. “She won’t do it. She refuses. That Josh guy warned me she would be like this.”
“Well, we can’t just let the building stay haunted,” Abby insisted. “From what Andrew was saying, I think this entity, or entities, is after this whole company.”
Holtz snickered: “I love entities,” earning herself a smack on the arm from Erin, and a look that said really, with the fifth grader humor?
Patty looked thoughtful. “Is there a way we could sneak in there without them noticing? Maybe we could dress up like cleaning ladies, put on some silly accents or something, so we won’t get recognized.”
Erin shook her head. “It won’t work. A place like that, everyone has name tags, security officers… we’d need to actually work there to get in.”
Holtzmann had been quiet this whole time, leaning against Erin’s desk while fiddling with a couple of wires. An idea had been slowly growing in her mind, and she didn’t want to kill it by speaking too soon. But as her fellow ghostbusters looked stumped, she tentatively piped up:
“What if one of us did work there?”
Erin glanced up. “What do you mean, Jill?”
Holtz spoke slowly: “Well, Josh mentioned that the head of HR was going on maternity leave. Perfect time for a substitute to come swooping in, don’t you think? And I did some acting in college, so I could possibly… be the HR lady.”
Abby perked up, a grin lighting up her face. “Holtz, you’re talking about a real infiltration, that is… that is perfect! We can get in, find the ghosts, and noone will suspect a thing!”
Patty seemed less sure. “I dunno Holtzy, you have a pretty signature look. I think it’d be pretty easy for them to figure out who you are, and you don’t exactly… come off, as an HR person, per-say.”
A wicked grin overtook Holtz’s features. “ Oh Patty, my sweet, sweet Patty. You won’t even recognize me.”