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Interview With a Ghost

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Unlike many of the eating establishments in Amity Park, Cecilia's Diner didn't cater to ghost-hunting tourists (To be technical, they didn't cater at all. It was a strictly sit-down establishment. They didn't even do take out.). Its clientele was strictly local. Pointedly so. The proprietress maintained a strict policy of banning all ghost hunting paraphernalia from the premises. A tourist could, theoretically, come in and order a sandwich, but if they gave any sign that they were there to hunt ghosts, they were summarily ejected.

There was a reason for this: Cecilia's Diner had the dubious distinction of sitting across the street from the cemetery. No one wanted ghost hunters watching them while burying a loved one, and Cecilia refused to add to what she considered to be a veritable plague.

The diner was not Danny's usual haunt. But it was useful, and gave him a good vantage point to watch the comings and goings in the cemetery. Of which there were many, even if the funeral had ended over an hour ago.

"Danny?"

"Hm?" said Danny, not taking his eyes off the window.

"Are you going to finish your fries?"

"Tucker!" scolded Jazz.

"What?" said Tucker.

Danny finally turned back to his friends. Jazz was giving Tucker a rather severe glare.

"It's fine," said Danny, "I don't want them."

Tucker reached out, but Jazz intercepted him. "Danny," she said, "you've hardly eaten all day." She nodded significantly at his plate full of fries and the sandwich he'd only taken two bites out of.

"I'm not hungry," he mumbled.

"You need your strength."

"I don't want to throw up all over myself when I do this," said Danny.

"You are doing it, then?" asked Sam. She hadn't eaten much, either. Then again, the diner didn't have a lot of vegetarian options. "Telling your parents, I mean."

"I don't really have any choice," said Danny. He picked up a french fry, and let it hang limply between his fingers. "I have to, don't I?"

"You do have a choice," said Sam. "I know you want to stay with your parents, and I like them too, but..." She drummed her fingers on the table. "I'm worried about how they'll react."

"I know," said Danny. He looked back out the window. "This is so weird. People are mourning for me, but I'm right here."

Sam and Tucker exchanged a glance. "Well, you get to do what you want," said Tucker. "It is your fune-" There was a meaty thump, and Tucker fell over, clutching at something beneath the table.

"I guess so," said Danny. He closed his eyes and sighed. He did feel calmer, now, with his body safely beneath the earth. Vlad might try to steal it again, six feet of soil and a couple inches of wood didn't do much to deter a person who could simply phase through them, but between the layer of Ghost-Zone-sourced paint Danny had stealthily applied to the inside of the coffin and the continuing threats and disdain of the ghostly community, Danny didn't think that he'd be terribly successful.

Danny would know if he was, anyway.

Tucker straightened out and pulled his PDA from his pocket. "When are those officers supposed to come get you again?"

"Detectives," corrected Danny. "Any minute now."

As if Danny's words had summoned them, the bell on the diner's door rang. They looked up to see the detectives walking in.

Jazz slid out of the booth, followed shortly by Danny.

"We'll call when it's over," said Jazz. Danny tried to smile and gave them a little wave, before turning to greet the detectives.

.

The ride to Fentonworks in the detectives car was long and mostly silent. Mostly.

"Can you stop staring at me?" asked Danny.

"Sorry," said Paterson.

"Mhm," said Collins, who, as he was the one driving, had much less of an excuse for staring.

Danny sighed.

The car pulled up in front of Fentonworks.

.

"During our investigation last week," started Collins, undertaking to explain why their children had been brought home by the police, "we came across certain facts that made us, and our captain, concerned for the safety of Jazz and Danny. Especially Danny." Of course, Collins was only doing the initial explanation. Danny was going to do the big reveal himself.

"What kind of facts?" asked Maddie.

"Facts about Phantom?" exclaimed Jack.

"Well, yes-" started Collins.

"That no good spook!" roared Jack, pulling a wicked-looking gun from... somewhere. "I'll teach him to mess with Fentons!"

"Whoa!" said Collins, leaping to his feet and holding out both his hands. He did not miss Paterson reflexively reaching for her own weapon. "No! There's no threatening going on! No threats! Let's put down the guns!"

"Don't worry, detective," said Maddie. "It's designed to only hurt ghosts."

Collins took a deep breath, and kept himself from glancing at Danny. "Why don't we continue this conversation once you've put all the ghost weapons away," he said.

Jack frowned. "Why?" he asked.

"I just think it'll make everyone involved more comfortable," said Collins. "Just as a general proposal."

.

It took some time for Jack and Maddie to divest themselves of all their weaponry, and every second just made Danny more nervous. He wanted to just get this over with. He wanted it to be done. His mind whirred, trying to come up with the best way to start explaining, and, oh, he should have decided earlier. He should have written a script, or a letter, but he didn't, thinking that the right words would just come to him.

So when Jack and Maddie came back into the room, Danny blurted out, "It was my corpse."

Jack and Maddie stared at him. Jazz put her head in her hands.

"What?" asked Jack. "What was your corpse?"

"That they found, in the park." Danny waved his hand in Collins and Paterson's direction. "The body." They still looked bewildered. "I've been dead, sort of, for two years."

Maddie stepped forward. "Danny... I don't know what's going on, but you're just- You're confused. You have a pulse, Danny. You're alive." She turned on the detectives. "And you! You know he's alive. How could you-?"

"Mom," said Danny. "I'm not lying. Look." He held up his hand and slowly rendered it invisible. "When I turned the portal on," he said, "I was- The button was inside. I was inside. It turned on right on top of me."

"Oh, Danno," said Jack, eyes wide.

"The best I can figure is, ectoplasm replaced half of the mass in my body and the other half... just sort of..." He made a splitting gesture with his hands. "Fell out. I kind of freaked out and buried it in the park. I didn't know what else to do."

Maddie sat down heavily on the couch, one hand over her mouth.

"So, like, the parts of my body that are still there, they all work fine," said Danny. "So, you know, pulse and stuff. And the ectoplasm is pretty well integrated. It's, you know, the thing keeping me together. But I'm not one-hundred-percent dead. Just, like, half." He paused. "Also, I'm Phantom."

"What?"

Collins cleared his throat. "This being the case," he said, "we're going to have to ask you to make some changes to your home and behavior."

.

A week later, Danny sat in the same booth at Cecilia's Diner, looking out the window again. The cemetery was much quieter this week, but he could still see people stopping by his grave.

How bizarre.

"Have you decided what you want yet, Danno?" asked Jack. Danny turned away from the window, to smile at his family.

"No," he said. "Not yet."