Countess, the leader of the four burlesque ghosts Willy had inadvertently obtained when he bought the Rialto a few months ago, said: "Guess that makes us even. I'm not used to your girlfriend. I'm not sure she's good for you."
"Teensy?" Willy said in disbelief. "I've known her all my life! We've been going together since junior high!"
"I know," Countess said. Like all the girl ghosts, she was strikingly attractive. The other girls were Jean, Sally, and the stripper, Dottie. "But still, something bothers me about her."
Willy eyed Countess. "Could it be. . .nah, forget it."
Countess cocked her head. "Come on, come on; what is it, Willy?"
Looking down, with an ashamed expression, Willy replied, "It's something silly. Never mind."
"Now you know that won't work!" Countess said, sharply. Tell me!"
Still looking embarrassed, Willy turned his gaze to her. "Well, I. . .it just occurred to me. . . I mean, I thought you might be jealous. But, with you a ghost and all . . ." His words trailed away.
The ghost glared at him coldly. "No, yes, and but," she said firmly.
Willy's eyes widened in surprise. "Huh? That's not, well, much of an answer."
With a grim smile, Countess said, "Just getting even for having to pull it out of you. 'No', I'm not jealous; 'Yes,' I am a ghost, and 'but' -- don't you think ghosts have feelings? That we can't love and laugh and -- yes -- feel jealous?"
"I know. . .I mean, I can see you have fun and stuff," Willy managed. "I just -- well, the idea of you feeling jealous of me seemed. . .well, stupid! That's what got me all embarrassed. Still, as far as Teensy goes, I just . . . well, there's no way. . . oh, forget it!" he finished lamely.
Shrugging, Countess said, "Okay," and faded away.
Later, Willy received an intriguing electronic invitation. Reading it, he thought, "Doesn't anyone use paper any more?" It began, "You Are Invited to be GUEST OF HONOR," with 'Guest of Honor' centered, "at our Grand Re-opening as Creepy Exhibitions Nite Club", with the name in large and ghostly green letters that flickered, "November 10 at Midnite! You are invited to bring a guest."
"Impressive,"Willy thought, "but it still isn't paper." It went on to explain it had once been Premier Night Club, but -- inspired by the success of Willy's Haunted Rialto -- they had decided to rebuild and change their operation. At the end was the usual RSVP.
"First," Willy said to himself, "I've gotta check the date. Better not be a Friday the Thirteenth weekend." He had decided to reopen Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday every Friday the Thirteenth weekend -- charging, of course, thirteen dollars admission.
That settled, he sent an electronic acceptance, then called Teensy Willis. "Hey, how'd you like to attend the Grand Opening of a nightclub -- everything paid in advance?" "You are successful!" Teensy said, gleefully. "Sure, I'd be glad to go!"
+ + +
Willy and Teensy were seated at a table in Creepy Experience Nite Club. Teensy lifted her glass of champagne, smiled at Willy, and toasted, "To the passing of 'Loser' Lawson! May he never return." She lifted the glass to her lips -- and her arm wiggled, as if it had been bumped. Champagne dripped from her chin.
"Oh, no!" Willy thought, sensing trouble. "Surely Countess wouldn't. . . ." He let the thought drift away. He saw no good reason for Countess to interfere. He and Teensy were just celebrating the opening of the nightclub and the end of an extraordinary two weeks of Haunted Rialto.
Teensy dabbed her chin with a napkin. "Doesn't look like my luck has changed that much!" she said, woefully.
"Hey, you ended up being a staight-A student through high school," Willy told her. "You were valedictorian at college!" He didn't mention that the main reason they got together was that both of them had bad luck.
Teensy was short; the top of her head barely came to Willy's chin. She had earned the 'Teensy" nickname in junior high, when she got laughed out of the cheerleader's class. But she was highly intelligent and pretty. Willy was glad to have her as girlfriend. No one else would have a thing to do with 'Loser' Lawson.
"Guess you'll be moving outta that dump of an apartment, now that you're rolling in dough, huh?" Teensy asked.
"Well, uh, yes and no," Willy said. "I mean, I'm not rolling in dough. Using most of the income to pay ahead on my mortgage. I am moving -- but to a remodeled office at the Rialto. I mean, since I own the place, made sense for me to live there."
Teensy seemed disappointed. "I guess," she said.
"Hey, I thought you'd appreciate the conservative way I'm handling money! You're smart; you must know I'm doing a good thing."
Alerted, Willy was watching as Teensy reached for a glass -- and it started to topple. His hand barely caught the glass in time. "Watch it!" he hissed at Countess. He was sure it had to be Countess.
"What?" Teensy asked. Then she said, "Oh, dammit. I was about to spill another one, wasn't I? . . . But were you blaming me? You know how unlucky I am!"
Willy shook his head. "No, I wasn't blaming you. It. . .well, it has something to do with the way we did tricks at the Haunted Rialto. It's hard to explain." He pushed his chair back. "Look, I've gotta go back and straighten this out," he said, getting to his feet. "The bill's paid for, including two meals and more champagne. You stay and eat."
"No way!" Teensy said, pushing back her own chair.
"Don't --" Willy started, but saw it was already too late. Teensy's chair moved so one leg caught her ankle, and she sprawled and her bottom hit the floor.
"What. . . what do you have, the invisible man?"
Not knowing what else to say, Willy sputtered, "Kinda! Look," he added, turning away. "You eat. I'll see you later." Being in a hurry to get away, he didn't even help Teensy back to her feet.
Since no one was around when he got outside, he snapped, "Okay! Okay! Show yourself, Countess!"
A beautiful brunette solidified in front of him. "How did you know it was me?" she asked.
"Certainly wasn't Dottie's style!" Willy said, angrily. "Beside, you pretty much lead the girls into everything. Now, what was that all about?"
"She's not good for you," Countess said, as Willy hailed a cab.
"I've known her since grammar school!" Willy said. "Both of us kept having bad luck. When we started sticking together, we were called The Bad News Bears!" The taxi rolled to a stop. "Are you coming?" he asked Countess, "Or --"
"'Or'!" the ghost snapped.
When Willy got into the cab and ordered, "The Rialto!" the cabbie said, "Where's the lady?"
"She's no lady. And she's going another way."
+ + +
Slamming into his 'new' apartment, Willy barked, "Countess!"
"She's no good for you!" Countess insisted, as she solidified. "She's just after your money, your success."
"Bull!" Willy responded. "I've known her since we were kids!"
"So? Jean did the brain-thing on her! That's what she found out."
Willy remembered the time Jean had entered his mind, but he shook his head in full denial. "A minute in her brain isn't the same as having known her for years! We've been going together since. . .well, since forever, almost."
"She only goes with you because nobody else would go with her!" Countess declared.
"Tell me something new!" Willy shot back. "The whole school knew that! Just," he added, "as no one else would go with me!"
"She wants to see your apartment," Countess mentioned. "Bring her out, and we'll show you!"
"No way! I know you girls too well; Teensy would never survive!"
"Have we ever hurt anyone?" Countess objected.
"Well, I remember Big Frank, the gangster," Willy started.
"That was different! He was trying to burn the place down."
"Still, it shows what you're capable of," Willy said. "Teensy is very. . . touchy, I guess I'm trying to say. She's delicate, used to being put aside. You ghosts would shake her up, I'm afraid. She has never had much self-confidence."
Countess shook her head. "Not according to Jean. She says your little friend glories in her academic success, and feels she's superior to everyone!"
"That's what I mean about you not understanding!" Willy said. "Academics is all she's good at, so it's only natural she feels superior. She is superior academically. No wonder she's proud of it!"
The brunette ghost was still shaking her head. "You are the one who doesn't understand! It isn't just that she's glad she's smart -- she really feels superior to everyone in every way. She thinks she has fooled the people into ignoring her. You've got to let me prove it!"
Willy finally admitted that Countess was sincere, but he wasn't certain what to do about it. At last he said, "Look -- I'll need your word you won't pull anything if I invite her over. Swear it by the ghost rules, okay?"
"No problem!" Countess said. "I swear it by the ghost rules!" Since she was solid, Willy couldn't see that, behind her back, her fingers were crossed. Then Countess flickered, was gone a second, then solidified again. "She's still at the nightclub," she reported. "Eating. Hasn't gotten to dessert yet."
"Sounds like Teensy," Willy said, nodding. "She never has liked wasting money." He pulled out his cellphone. "I'll call the club and ask for her. I'll apologize, ask her over, and tell her I'll have a cab there in thirty minutes."
Later, when Willy met the cab, he helped Teensy out and led her inside. "Over here to the stairs," he said. "It's on the third floor."
"Why don't you put in an elevator?" Teensy asked, following him up.
Willy shrugged. "Too pretentious," he said. "Besides, it's good exercise."
He paused at the door to his apartment. "Like I said, Teensy, it's not really an improvement." Opening the door, he led her in.
"I see," Teensy said, looking around. "But at least this time it's yours!"
"Mine and the bank's," Willy said, grinning. He pulled a chair out at a small table. "Here, have a seat. We can catch up on old times."
"We need some champagne," Teensy said as she sat -- although it was obvious she had already downed quite a bit of the bubbly.
There was a knock on the door, and then it opened. Dottie, the strip-tease artist ghost, stood there with champagne -- and not much else. Her entire wardrobe consisted of g-string and tassels. "No!" Willy shouted. Then he noted Teensy calmly eying tho voluptuous -- and nearly naked -- ghost.
"I see you have made use of your success," she murmured. Then she added, "Well, if that's what it takes, Willy. . . ." and started unbuttoning her blouse.
"Teensy, you don't understand!" Willy declared, hopelessly. "It isn't what it looks like! I mean, I didn't. . .I haven't. . . ." As he watched helplessly, Teensy pulled the tail of her blouse out from under her skirt. It was all because she was drunk! Desperately, Willy resorted to slapping Teensy.
First Teensy was startled, then she gave him an appraising look. "So the rough stuff turns you on, huh? For money and success, I can take that!" She eyed him again. "I'll bet you'd like to spank me, hmmm?" She pulled off her blouse, revealing surprisingly large breasts for one so small. Her bra could scarcely hold them in.
Quickly, Willy snatched a raincoat off the coatrack by the door. It wasn't until he wrapped it around Teensy that he realized it was one of those transparent ones.
Teensy's skirt fell to the floor.
"Countess!" Willy screamed.
Countess, Sally and Jean -- the remaining burlesque ghosts -- came through the door to join Dottie and Teensy.
All were naked.
Slipping out of the raincoat, Teensy squealed, "Ooooh! The gang's all here!" She beamed at Willy, as she slipped her arms around the shoulders of Countess and Dottie. "How much of your success does that buy, Willy?" An unladylike hiccup underlined her question.
Willy sank into a chair and put his head in his hands as he moaned, "Okay, okay; you were right! Send her home!"
+ + +
Afterward, Willy and Countess sat alone on his ratty couch. Willy shook his head. "I'd never have believed it!"
"I know," Countess said, trying to sound more consoling that triumphant. She patted Willy on his back. "I'm sorry we had to do that, but -- you needed to know."
"You swore on the ghost rules," Willy objected.
Countess grinned. "I had my fingers crossed," she said.
Later, as Willy was settling down for the night, he found a memento.
Teensy's bra was lying on the floor.