Lilly ran all the way back to Jackson’s car. She bypassed the road this time and sprinted blindly through the cornfield, until she emerged onto the dirt road, and spotted the silver Kia, right where Jackson had parked it. Jackson nearly had a heart attack, and jumped out of the driver’s seat, banging his knee hard on the bottom of the steering wheel, when Lilly passed through the passenger side door.
“Fuck!” Jackson screamed, grabbing his knee. “You gotta give me a head’s up or something, you can’t just pop in like that!”
“Drive,” was all she said, and Jackson could tell by the expression on her face, that she was rattled.
Jackson put the car in gear and stepped on the gas. After several silent miles, Jackson let his foot up on the accelerator just enough, that the car started to slow. “So?”
“He’s got another girl in the basement.”
Jackson slammed on the brakes, causing the Kia to stop abruptly in the middle of the road. “So why are we driving away?”
“Because, things just became complicated.”
“Complicated? Like how? Like he’s gonna kill that girl if we don’t do something complicated?”
“No, complicated like the ghost of his first victim, Tracy Lafond, was in the house complicated,” said Lilly, dropping yet another bombshell on to Jackson’s lap.
“We can’t just drive away and do nothing,” Jackson insisted. “I can call the cops and tell them what’s going on. Get them out here and stop him.”
“Because that worked out so well for you the last time the cops got involved?” Lilly reminded him. “We don’t have any hard evidence, remember, and what was it you said about telling them that you can see dead people? Something about the loony bin? Besides, there’s another problem.”
“Great, just what I need. More problems. Now what?”
“If we stop him right now, Tracy and I will be the only ones to cross over.”
“Wait a minute. Did you just say the only ones? That means that there’s more victims out there?”
“This guy’s a real piece of work, isn’t he?”
“Tracy said that he’ll keep this new girl alive for a while, so that gives us some time. She wants us to find the others and to bring them back here. That’s the only way that all of us will be able to get out of Purgatory. We all have to be here when he’s brought to justice, otherwise they’ll be trapped here forever.”
“I really don’t like the idea of leaving that girl in there with that monster,” Jackson confessed. “I can only imagine the things that guy’ll do to her.”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, but I can’t fathom spending an eternity in Purgatory. From what I’ve been seeing, it seems rather rare that a ghost actually completes their unfinished business. Just look at how many spirits were lined up outside your door. And now I have a chance to help four other girls get out of this hell.”
“You gotta take it. I can’t blame you for wanting to at least try. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“I know,” Lilly replied. “And I know that I can’t do this without you, so if you want to save the girl now, I can’t blame you for that either.”
Jackson looked out to the road and weighed the options before him. He could see the desperation on Lilly’s face. It looked just like the desperation on the faces of all the other ghosts that had been following him around the casino. “Where we headed?”
“North,” Lilly answered. “Sault Ste-Marie.”
“The fucking U.P.”
“The others are in Ohio and Indiana.”
“The U.P. it is,” Jackson said, stepping on the gas, and putting as much distance between him and Mark Karle as he could.
* * *
They had been driving in silence for nearly one hundred miles. The sun was just starting to set, and a heavy rain poured from the sky, as they passed a sign showing that the Mackinaw Bridge was forty miles away. The Kia’s windshield wipers were on high, but Jackson could barely see the road in front of him. “I need to get off the highway,” he said. “My eyes are bugging out, and we need some gas.”
Jackson took the next exit ramp, and they found themselves in the small town of Indian River. It wasn’t hard to find the only gas station in town. After a quick fill up, an even quicker piss, and a slow relaxing smoke, Jackson headed back toward the highway. The rain hadn’t let up even a bit, so when he saw a guy hitch hiking, he felt obligated to stop. He, himself, had been in this man’s shoes a number of times, and he always was amazed at the number of cars that always sped past him, not giving him a second thought.
“Hop in the back,” he told Lilly, as he pulled the car over in front of the hitch hiker.
“What?” Lilly asked, not believing that he was punishing her to the back seat.
“You don’t want the gut sitting on you, do you?”
“Why are we even picking him up?” Lilly asked. “We don’t have time for this.”
“Listen, I’ve spent the last week with having my entire life filled with dead people. No offense, but I just want to talk to some whose alive for a bit, if that’s ok with you.”
Lilly saw his point, and couldn’t fault him for that. She still wasn’t thrilled about being banished to the back seat, but Jackson had made another good point about her not wanting to be sat on. She started to make her way into the back, when the hitch hiker passed through the door and took a seat in the back.
“Dude! What the fuck!” Jackson exclaimed.
“What?” the hitch hiker asked. “Didn’t you stop to pick me up?”
“Yeah, but I thought you were…”
“Alive,” the ghost asked, his facial expression telling Jackson that he was rather offended.
“Hey! Wait a minute, you can see me can’t you,” the ghost exclaimed. “Of course you can see me. You stopped for me, and now we’re having this conversation. You’re that seer everyone’s talking about aren’t you?” he added, sitting forward and pointing at Jackson.
Jackson let out a loud sigh and put the car in gear and pulled back out on the road.
“I’m Lilly,” she said, offering her hand.
“Joshua,” the dead man stated, reaching out and shaking Lilly’s hand. He was somewhere in his early thirties, Lilly guessed. He had light brown hair, and green eyes, and was wearing a pair of jeans and a black hooded sweat shirt. His color hadn’t faded much, so she knew he was a fresh Purg, like herself. He also looked normal, as far as she could tell, meaning that she couldn’t see an apparent cause of death.
“This is Jackson,” Lilly said, motioning toward the only living person in the car. “Where are you headed?” she asked, deciding not to ask the man how he had died. Things like that might be more personal to some than to others.
“No way!” Lilly exclaimed. “Us too.”
“Were you summoned too?” Joshua asked
“I’m not sure what that means,” Lilly replied, looking to Jackson for the answer.
“Don’t look at me.”
“Do you mean your unfinished business?” Lilly asked.
“I’ve been trying for some time now to complete that, but I just don’t see how I can when nobody can see or hear me, except for people like you,” Joshua said, directing the last part of his comment toward Jackson. “No offense.”
“Am I supposed to be offended?” Jackson asked. “Cursed…maybe,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “But offended…?
“Well, that’s all about to change,” Joshua declared with a big smile.
“Because you’ve been summoned?” Lilly inquired, still not knowing what the dead man was talking about.
“Dude, what the hell are you talking about?” Jackson asked. “We’re a couple of newbies up here.”
“Oh, my bad. I mean that I’ve been summoned for a séance.”
“Good luck with that,” Jackson laughed. “Make sure to get your palm read too. Those things are all fake.”
“Says the person talking to a ghost,” Lilly pointed out.
“No, I don’t blame you for being skeptical,” Joshua said. “I never believed in that mumbo jumbo either, but then I received this letter,” he added, pulling out an envelope from his pants pocket with his name on it, which he handed to Lilly.
“Dear Joshua,” Lilly read. “Your presence is being requested by Lilith Rogers at Madam Denesha’s House of Spiritual Healing, in Sault Ste Marie. The séance will be held in one week, at exactly one hour before midnight. This will be your only chance to communicate with the living, so please do your best to attend. Sincerely Madam Denesha.”
“See,” Joshua said.
“How do you even know this is legit?” Jackson asked, trying his best to read the letter in Lilly’s hands and stay on the road at the same time.
“I asked around,” Joshua answered. “All the other ghosts said that this is the standard protocol for being summoned to one of these things.”
“Who’s Lilith Rogers?” Lilly asked.
“That’s my mom. I died kinda of suddenly,” Joshua replied. “Brain aneurism. I had just gotten a really good paying job, with great benefits. I took the company’s life insurance and listed her as my beneficiary. The only problem was I didn’t have time to tell her, and she could really use the money. She’s on a pretty fixed income ever since my dad died.”
“I’ll make sure you get there,” Jackson promised.
“You know, maybe you can talk to this Madam Denesha,” Lilly said, as an idea popped into her head.
“I was thinking the same thing,” Jackson responded, giving the young girl a quick smirk. “If we can get her to summon all three of the girls, that would save us a whole lot of time and hassle.”
“And the quicker we can find them, the quicker we can get back and save Norma Jean,” Lilly added, as she could feel the momentum of the car surging forward.