This excerpt is from Ghosthunters and the Gruesome Invincible Lightning Ghost, by Cornelia Funke.
It's always the same with dangerous adventures: They start off quite harmlessly.
One fine autumn day, the famous ghosthunter Hetty Hyssop received a letter. It was from a certain Alvin Bigshot, manager of a posh seaside hotel that appeared to be suffering from a couple of small but unpleasant problems; problems that could only be explained as ghostly. Mr. Bigshot was therefore asking the experts at Hyssop & Co. for immediate — and above all discreet — help.
"Oh, yet another boring old routine job!" Hetty Hyssop sighed. "But a seaside hotel doesn't sound too bad. It's always nice to have a weekend by the sea."
Unfortunately in this case she was hugely mistaken. Hetty Hyssop passed on the news to her assistants, Tom and Higo the ASG, packed her basic ghosthuntering gear, and met the pair of them on Saturday on the train to Bumblebeach.
As I said before, it all started off quite harmlessly, Hetty Hyssop had reserved an entire compartment on account of Hugo. After all, not everyone can cope with a train journey spent face-to-face with an ASG, even though these ghosts are among the most harmless of their species. Once in the compartment, Tom immediately shut all the curtains: ASGs, like most ghosts, can't stand bright daylight.
"You can come out, Hugo," he said, dumping his backpack on the seat.
"Oooooww! Be a bit more careful, please!" came a muffled grumble as Hugo wobbled out of the backpack.
"Oooooh my," he moaned. "I hate traveling. Dreadful business!"
"My dear Hugo," said Hetty Hyssop as she lifted her suitcase onto the luggage rack and put her thermos of tea onto the foldaway table to the side of her. "You certainly didn't have to come. I told you that already. Your help is definitely not necessary in this case. And I'm quite sure you don't want to spend your time sunbathing on the beach, do you?"
"Very fuuuuuunny!" Hugo turned his bluish sulky color and disappeared up onto the luggage rack.
"I told him we didn't need him, too," said Tom, plonking himself down on the seat. "But he was dead set on coming."
"Typical," said Hetty Hyssop. "All ASGs are unbearably nosy!"
She took two plastic mugs out of her handbag, and handed Tom four packets of sugar and a crumpled letter. "There you go, young friend," she said, pouring the tea.
Curious, Hugo leaned down from the luggage rack.
"Take your stinky feet off my head," growled Tom, trying to make out in the dim light what the letter said. The ASG tickled Tom's neck with icy fingers.
"Hugo, for heaven's sake, stop it!" cried Tom. Irritated, he took off his glasses and cleaned them. "Get lost! Your stupid moldy breath's steaming up my glasses!"
Mooooldy breath? Mooooldy breath?" Hugo wobbled up to the ceiling, looking deeply offended. "Your rotten tea's to blame!"
Tom just shook his head, put his glasses back on, and read aloud: "Dear Mr. Hyssop!" He raised his head. "Why 'Mr.'?"
"Well, that's typical, too!" Hetty Hyssop replied.
"People think of a professional ghosthunter, and they imagine a man. Stupid, but very common - unfortunately!"
"Dear Mr. Hyssop,'" Tom read again. "For some days now, peculiar things have been going on in our hotel, things that I'm sorry to say can't be explained by common sense.
Hot water has come out the taps quite abruptly and our air-conditioning system is behaving more and more erratically. Moreover, the most annoying and unpleasant noises can be heard at night, and some of my staff have observed some rather strange things. Since you have an excellent reputation, and are obviously the most renowned expert in the field of ghosthunting, I should like to ask you to free us from these tiresome disturbances. However, I do have to consider the good name of our hotel, so I must ask you for the utmost discretion. With best wishes, Alvin Bigshot."