Heart of the Vampire : (Episode 3) by Tasha Black





1





Dru stood frozen, feeling the world around her spinning out of control.

Everything that had been charming about the Victorian hotel and the snow-covered grounds now seemed menacing to her.

It turned out that even the groundskeeper’s cottage had an entrance to the underground tunnels beneath the hotel. And now the murderer had escaped down into them.

The forest all around gave cover, if Johnny had made it that far. If not, the nooks and crannies of the old hotel would provide ample hiding spots. And the rumble of the generator that was now powering the place would cover the sound of quiet footsteps.

The killer on the loose had every advantage.

And Dru was a sitting duck.

A hand closed over her shoulder.

She gasped, and then realized it was only Hugh Channing, the local theatre director, who up until now had been the amateur detective in charge of the case.

“Sorry I scared you,” he said. “It’s just that we need to talk.”

“Sure,” she said, swallowing and willing her heart to stop pounding in fear.

“Walk with me,” he suggested.

She glanced back at Officer Wagner, who was conferring with Chester and Zander.

“I feel like we should stay with the group,” she said.

“We won’t go out of their sight,” Channing offered. “But I don’t think you want to discuss this in their earshot.”

Dru turned back to him.

His expression was wary, but serious.

“Fine,” she said, wondering what he could possibly have to say that she didn’t know already.

The killer is mad at you, because you figured this out?

He was about to kill you before we ran him off?

Your life is in danger?

Dru was well aware of all those things.

“I know about Viktor,” Channing said, throwing her completely off balance.

“Wh-what about him?” she hedged.

Maybe Channing just meant that he knew she had been seeing Viktor. There was probably some policy to stop staff and guests from fraternizing.

“I know…what he is,” Channing said, his voice dropping.

Dru’s heart dropped to her stomach.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said coldly, breaking eye contact.

“I saw the way he moved when he went to help you, and what happened to him in the sun. And I stayed outside his door after you shut yourselves in,” Channing said quietly. “I wanted to make sure he was going to be okay. He shouldn’t have been okay. He was very badly wounded.”

“I don’t know what you think you saw—” Dru began.

“I’m going to be starring in a musical version of The Lost Boys next fall,” Channing said. “You can’t fool me. I’ve already been doing my research.”

“What do you want me to say?” Dru asked. “What you’re suggesting is ridiculous.”

“I’m trying to say that I know he’s a good man, in spite of being… you know,” Channing said. “He risked his life to save yours. I saw it.”

Relief flooded Dru’s veins.

“You know he didn’t have anything to do with Thompson’s murder,” she said quickly.

“Of course I know that,” Channing told her. “But things are going to get intense now that there’s a real officer of the law here.”

Dru nodded, feeling deflated.

“I wanted you to know that I won’t reveal his secret,” Channing told her. “And if there’s anything I can do to help you, let me know.”

“Thank you,” Dru said earnestly, though she doubted there was anything he could do to help.

“I wonder if he would chat with me after all this blows over,” Channing said dreamily. “His input might give me a real edge at the Lakey Awards this year. I’ve been nominated and denied seventeen years in a row. They say I’m the Susan Lucci of the Poconos regional theatre.”

“Let’s hope this is your year,” Dru said, wondering how he could think about anything beyond getting out of this hotel alive.

They had stopped about halfway between the abandoned wing of the hotel and the groundskeeper’s cottage, and Dru could see that the others were heading their way.

“Hold up,” Officer Wagner called.

She and Channing stayed where they were as they approached.

“Let’s try to stick together,” Wagner said sternly.