"So you believe in ghosts." The way he spoke the word led Avery to believe he did too. "Not many people admit that."
"Well, I do. I've seen tons. I worked for a ghost tracker while in college. Unfortunately, no matter how many I've seen or talked to or run from, they still scare the hell out of me."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
His concern made her smile. As if she'd agree to him coming along. "No. I'll be fine."
"Let me give you my number just in case. If you need me, call. No matter how late it is."
She added his number to her contacts. "I promise I'll be fine."
He regarded her closely. "Aren't you nervous?"
"As a cat in a room full of rocking chairs." Immediately, she kicked herself for being so honest. Didn't want him to think she was weak?
He laughed, clearly taking her little joke as an attempt to ease the tension.
Though Avery would've loved to hang around, she knew it would be a long night driving down that old dirt road, back and forth, trying to lure the ghost. Worse, if the legend weren't true, she'd have wasted a whole night and might have to try again later.
"I have to go. Rudy Mack's ghost awaits."
Cody trailed after her. "Be careful, okay? Those roads are deserted, and I'm pretty sure it's a dead zone. You won't be able to get any phone signal."
"Please don't say the D word." She faked a big shiver. "It might jinx me."
"Are you sure you'll be okay?"
"Yes." His doubt irritated her a little. Though last night had been a fiasco, she really wasn't a dunce or a fraidy cat. Couldn't he just accept that he could handle it? "I'll talk to you...tomorrow?" She didn't want to sound too forward, but definitely wanted to see him when they had more time.
Cody didn't hesitate. "Yes. I'll call you."
"Good." Avery gave him a smile from the heart. "See ya later." She turned away, which wasn't easy, but she had to do it. Part of her rush stemmed from the fact that she hated driving curvy roads. Motion sickness always caught up with her, no matter what. As a kid, she never liked riding rides at the fair. Instead, Avery stuck to the games and foot-long corn dogs smothered in mustard. Tonight just the thought made her mouth water. Once in the car, she fought it. There just wasn't time to eat.
When she did consider stopping an hour down the road, it was only to pee. In the distance Avery spotted a run-down gas station. The closer she got, the more visible the small sign became. Mercury's Station didn't look too inviting, but as badly as she needed a bathroom, it would work just fine. She whipped into the run-down lot and parked under the tattered awning, as close as possible to the front door.
Behind the counter sat a skinny, wrinkled old man. He didn't even look up as the door chimed.
Wrinkling her nose at the smell of dust and sour milk, she approached him. "Excuse me, where's your restroom?" She kept a tight hold on her purse.
The clerk slowly raised his head. He had one glass eye and the other was muddy brown.
She was totally creeped out. Wanting to kick herself for being such a wuss, Avery focused on the only tooth.
He pointed with a crooked finger. "Rut through thar."
The one door, unlabeled, smelled like sewer. Carefully she reached in and felt along the wall. Her stomach lurched as something scuttled across her hand. She flipped the light switch. Nothing happened.
Being unable to see the toilet made her really uneasy. Did it need to be flushed? Were there spiders inside?