Antonia had never felt more creeped out in her entire life, and Valerie's slow-and-eerie rendition of the Ghostbusters theme was really not helping.
"If there's something strange," Valerie sang slowly, her high voice reverberating off the walls. "In your neighbourhood. Who ya gonna call?"
Antonia froze as Valerie cut off her singing. She turned round and immediately leapt backwards as Valerie got right in her face and theatrically whispered, "GHOSTBUSTERS!"
"Cut it out!" Antonia hissed. "There are evil ghosts everywhere, apparently!"
"Well, the sensor's currently showing about eight," Valerie responded, fiddling with the aforementioned sensor. "So not "everywhere"."
"Sorry for not being specific," snapped Antonia. "What are you doing?"
Valerie was now putting on a pair of metal gauntlets that looked like the type that medieval knights would wear, except these ones hummed and fizzled with electricity.
"Putting on a pair of highly sensitive electrogloves that are only dangerous to ghosts. Duck."
Antonia cocked her head on one side but as she was about to ask what Valerie meant, she looked up and spotted a transparent figure flying in the air, diving right towards her. She screamed and dived to the ground as the ghost-thing flew over her head.
Valerie, however, reacted in a different way. She leapt into the air, backflipped over the ghost, landed like a cat, and grabbed the tail end of the ghost with the glove, which sparked and glowed when she made contact with it.
Antonia watched, astonished. Valerie was holding a ghost. HOLDING a GHOST. That must be what the gloves were doing; allowing her to touch that which couldn't normally be touched.
The ghost was pulling hard against Valerie's grip, shrieking and wiggling. Valerie turned her body towards Antonia, pulling in the opposite direction to the way the ghost was pulling. She couldn't tell which one of them was stronger; they seemed to be at a stalemate for a while.
But then the ghost let out a horrific noise and disintegrated, causing Valerie to fall forwards onto her hands and knees. She hopped to her feet, took one glance at Antonia, who was using the wall to help her stand up, and then turned to where the ghost was.
Standing there was a woman with wavy blue hair down to her shoulders. She wore a white sleeveless crop top under a denim jacket, white shorts, and a pair of cowboy boots. Valerie put her hands on her hips. Even if she hadn't recognised the woman's face or clothes, she would have known immediately who it was by the large white cowboy hat on the woman's head.
"Valerie Saint," the woman said coldly, a disdainful smirk on her face. "I should have known you'd be here."
Valerie drew herself up. "That was my ghost. You had no right to interfere."
Then they heard an awed gasp from behind Valerie: "Oh my gosh! You're Kassidy Bell, the famous ghost hunter!"
Valerie rolled her eyes. Of COURSE Antonia had heard of her.
Kassidy tipped her hat to the mayor's daughter. "Always nice to meet a fan."
"She's MY fan, not yours," Valerie said irritably. "Now go away and leave this case to me."
Kassidy gave a chuckle. "If anything, it's YOU who should be leaving this to ME; I've got officially permission from the mayor to investigate. Whereas YOU…well, that was a nice entrance you made earlier."
Valerie shut her mouth and scowled.
Antonia, sensing that things between them were rapidly sliding, quickly hurried to intervene. "As much as I like you, Kassidy Bell, we were here first."
"I was given permission by the mayor to investigate," Kassidy said, looking down on Antonia. "And who are you?"
"Antonia Addams, the mayor's daughter," Antonia snapped, quickly becoming annoyed by Kassidy's reaction to her. "Leave us alone and let us do our work."
"Your work?" Kassidy chuckled. "What work? Look, Miss Addams, don't waste your time with Valerie Saint. She's unprofessional, inexperienced, and facetious."
"As true as that last one is," Antonia said, shooting a raised eyebrow look at Valerie, "I still maintain that Valerie has as much right to be here as you do. You may have been asked by the mayor, but Valerie is being accompanied by the mayor's daughter, so that is just as much of a right."
"She couldn't even handle one spirit, Miss Addams. I doubt she-."
"Ghost," Valerie interjected suddenly. "You of all people should know the difference between a ghost and a spirit, Kassidy."
The ghost hunter folded her arms and narrowed her eyes at Valerie's half-smug face. "Alright, Saint, I'll play it your way. I'm not going to leave, but I won't make you leave either. Just stay out of my way when I-."
She broke off and leant against the wall, suddenly looking pale and ill. She seemed to be having trouble breathing.
To Antonia's surprise, Valerie reached out with her hands to steady Kassidy. "What are you feeling?" she urged.
"I'm finding it hard to breathe," Kassidy replied, her voice sounding strained. "My chest and throat feel really constricted."
"What's going on?" Antonia asked, somewhat nervously.
"Kassidy is a Sensitive," explained Valerie. "That means she feels things like this when spirits are nearby."
Antonia hesitated. "W-What's the difference between ghosts and spirits?"
"Ghosts are like the thing I caught just now," Valerie said. "They were formed in the Underworld, so they never existed on Earth. They're shapeless and hardly dangerous. But spirits actually used to exist; spirits are the souls of deceased people who once lived on Earth. While ghosts can't really affect the Overworld—where we live—spirits can, which makes them a lot more dangerous. The reason Sensitives can't sense ghosts is because they're not anchored to the Overworld, and therefore can't do any damage."
"But spirits…can?" Antonia's nerves were mounting.
"Yes," Kassidy said, taking over the explanation despite her ill complexion. "Ghosts are a lot more common than spirits. And spirits can-."
Again, she broke off her sentence. But this time, she let out a low cry of pain and wrapped her arm around her stomach, as if trying to squeeze something out of it.
"Sensitives are also more susceptible to possession," Valerie told Antonia sincerely.
"That's not important right now!" Kassidy snapped.
Valerie gave Antonia a wink. "We can only hope."
Kassidy glared at Valerie. "Hey, Miss Facetious, do you think you can take this seriously for a MINUTE?"
Valerie nodded once and held up her fists, which were still inside the metal gauntlets. "Yes. How many spirits are you sensing?"
"I don't know; I'm not a thermometer!" Kassidy growled, crying out again in pain.
"Okay… Judging by the amount of pain, I'd say it's within the realm of three or four." Valerie turned to Antonia. "I'm gonna need you to go and disintegrate some ghosts."
Antonia's eyes widened. "Wait, what…?!"
Valerie took off the gauntlets and pressed them into Antonia's hands. "Just do what I did earlier."
"I can't do backflips, though!" Antonia panicked. "Am I going to die if I can't do a backflip?!"
"No, I meant…"
She trailed off and grimaced at Kassidy, who managed a smug look back. "You're right; she's YOUR fan."
Valerie rolled her eyes and turned back to Antonia. "No, just put on the gauntlets and all you need to do is catch the ghost in one or both of your hands. Once you do that, the electricity will slowly build up in the gauntlets until, after about ten seconds, it evaporates the ghost."
"Why didn't you use the electricity on that other ghost before Kassidy interfered, then?" Antonia asked. "You just played tug-of-war with the ghost."
Ignoring Kassidy's snicker, Valerie said, "Because the electricity hadn't had enough time to warm up yet. Now it's fully charged and ready."
"Oh, okay." Antonia glanced at Kassidy, who was now doubled over so much that her head was almost touching her knees. "Is she going to be okay?"
"She'll be fine," Valerie said dismissively. "I'm just gonna enjoy watching her suffer a bit longer, then we're going spirit hunting."
Kassidy let out a hoarse stream of swear words and insults, causing Antonia to clap her hands over her mouth in shock. Valerie snickered and patted Kassidy on the back. "I kid. Oh, and you should probably take this as well, Ant." She handed the paranormal sensor to Antonia. "It's useless for spirits, so you may as well use it for yourself."
…what am I getting myself into? Antonia groaned in her head. I REALLY should have just gone back to my paper round. But aloud, she only managed a weak sigh and, "Alright."
"Good luck," Valerie called cheerfully after her as she set off down the corridor.
"Where'd you find that one?" Kassidy grumbled, standing up straighter as the pain lessened.
"I literally pulled her away from her newspaper delivery round and she just rolled with it from there." Valerie watched Antonia round the corner and disappear. "I like her." She turned back to Kassidy, her eyes flickering to the woman's hair. "I like your hair as well, by the way. Blue is a nice colour for you."
Kassidy eyed Valerie. "Thanks. What's with your outfit? Bit different from the matronly dresses you used to wear."
Valerie put her hands on her hips. She was wearing a black halter-neck crop top, a short black skirt, and black high-heeled boots. "That was my school uniform, Bell. This is who I really am, so embrace it. Anyway, we'd better get going and round up some spirits before you get all frail again."
Kassidy clenched her fists. "I'll show you who's frail, Saint."
"I'm sure you will." Valerie ducked under Kassidy's arm and skipped a few steps away from her. "Come on, best foot forward."
Kassidy rolled her eyes and slid her gun out of the belt around her waist.
"I like the proton pistol thing, by the way," Valerie said, indicating the aforementioned gun. "I personally preferred the proton sword, though. Looked much cooler."
"Then you can use it," Kassidy responded unexpectedly, reaching over her shoulder.
That was when Valerie realised for the first time that there was a scabbard strapped to Kassidy's back. She jiggled with excitement as Kassidy drew the beautiful bejewelled broadsword out of its sheath and handed it to her. She immediately stroked the hilt, feeling the soft buzz of electricity under her fingers, and almost exploded with excitement.
"YEEEEEESSSSS!" she hollered.
A tiny grin appeared on Kassidy's face. "Come on. We need to get going."
Valerie held the sword in front of her with both hands, grinning. "I love this sword. Can I keep it?"
"Why? You've got your pistol now."
"Because it's MY sword," Kassidy replied, moving off in the opposite direction to Antonia.
Valerie rolled her eyes and trotted after the older woman. "But you've got your gun now."
"I made the sword."
"I'll pay you for the sword."
"Nobody likes a whiner, Saint."
Valerie scowled. "Shut up."