The next morning found Dr. Drusilla Zero staring at a grisly scene in the county morgue.
“The body was identified as that of a teacher named John Brown,” she said into the speaker she carried. “He was the science teacher at the high school. In fact, I used his absence to enter the school as a substitute. I had little idea that he was another victim of our murderer.”
She stood before a table on which a corpse had been place. The body was intact and showed no sign of damage, with one glaring exception. The head had been sliced off of the body and was wrapped in a separate sheet nearby.
Running one gloved hand across the severed head, she fingered the mouth gently. “Garlic residue — fascinating,” she said softly. “This is in keeping with the manner in which the other bodies were found. Two had wooden stakes driven through their hearts, while a third had been damaged by the running waters of the nearby Drake River.” She removed the gloves and pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Fascinating, indeed.”
Meanwhile, Steffie Jennings yelped as her alarm clock rang and her mother called up from below. She rolled out of bed and tossed her yellow princess-type nightshirt aside. “Great,” she groaned. “I’m late and I’m tired from last night’s patrol. No doubt I’m going to flunk the English Lit test, too.”
“Steffie!” shouted her mother from the foot of the stairs. “Get a move on, or you’ll be late!”
Showering and dressing quickly, Steffie reached the door in record time.
“Young lady,” said her mother as she prepared to exit the house. “You have to get home at a decent hour. I heard the creak on the steps last night, or should I say this morning, when you came home.”
Steffie turned around and said, “Mom, can this wait? You know I’m late already. I was studying with Tammy and fell asleep.”
“I hope I can believe you,” said Mrs. Jennings. “I’m none too happy with your grades since we moved here four months ago.”
Steffie nodded and hurried to school, arriving late. Immediately sent to the principal’s office, she was waiting outside his door when she noticed that the new science substitute, Miss Jones, was making a few copies on the office machine.
Well, it looks like Miss Jones is getting ready to hand out a test in class, she mused. I needed another shiny bright red F.
Indeed, Drusilla was preparing copies of a test for her class, and she was doing so while pondering the real reason she had arrived in Springdale. The strange deaths started occurring around four months ago, she thought. All of them involve the traditional rituals used in the slaying of the undead. If vampires have settled in this community, then I shall stop them at any cost. My poor father has suffered enough at the hands of those nocturnal predators.
Steffie was summoned into the office, and Principal Muncy offered her a seat. He failed to shut the door completely as he ushered the blonde teen inside. Thus, Drusilla heard their conversation while she made copies.
“Miss Jennings, your record is poor,” he said grimly. “You miss class. You fail tests. You do not complete assignments. You have been cited for violation of school property codes on more than one occasion. Now you compound that record by arriving late for the fifth time in two weeks.”
“I’m sorry,” said Steffie. “I oversleep a lot.”
“No excuse,” replied Mr. Muncy. “You have a clock in your home. Use it. I won’t warn you again. Shape up, or I’ll ship you out.”
Steffie fought her urge to click her heels together and give a mock salute. Instead, she said, “I understand. I know what I need to do.”
That evening, Dr. Drusilla Zero waited in the town graveyard. She was tired from her day’s work and was not pleased with her progress on the case. Her father, the famed ghost detective, had warned her that their work could be boring at times. However, Drusilla’s keen mind was far more restless than that of her elder. She sat in the darkness and felt no chill, but she was very irritated.
I detected no manifestation of a ghost, she thought. My innate power to do so is as accurate as ever was my father’s Z machine. That does not mean I can also detect vampires, although they too are restless spirits. Still, I know their habits and their signs. I find nothing here. I wonder if my earlier suspicions are correct.
Hearing a scream, she raced forward through the black night toward the direction of the cry. She made her way down a slope past tombstones and willow trees until she spotted an old man with a flashlight. Approaching him carefully in her typically deliberate manner, she said, “I see you are unhurt. I assume your cry was due to finding the body in the shrubs.”
The old man nodded. “Yes, it’s horrible! He was impaled. Is that the word? Impaled? That old wooden fence picket is in his chest!”
“The term is correct,” Dr. Zero replied. “Now calm yourself. I have work to do here.” She bent low to inspect the body, ignoring the way her long skirt trailed in the mud. “Footprints of a small man or a woman,” she noted. “That imprint suggests much to me.”
She looked at the body’s head and nodded grimly. Principal Muncy, she realized. That makes my suspicions all too certain.
The next day, Dr. Drusilla Zero spoke with the school guidance counselor. The older woman was talkative, and for once Drusilla suppressed her innate desire to silence the gabby woman.
“Mickey Carlyle was found impaled,” the counselor said. “He was a real animal with the ladies here, and he played basketball well. Ramona Harris was also found impaled. She was a cheerleader, and she was very popular, too. Mr. Jones was found in the river. He was a math teacher, and I think he was not very well liked here. Mr. Brown was the science teacher. He was found with his head cut off. Now Principal Muncy is dead. It’s so frightening. I know the attendance records show two more pupils are missing: Rog Hammerstrom and Andrea Wayne.”
“I thank you for allowing me to check the files,” said Dr. Zero. “I found what I needed.”
The guidance counselor said, “Good. We do so want to make a difference in the lives of the children.”
“I am certain what I have learned will have exactly such an effect,” Drusilla replied.
Coach Reynolds was moving along the hall when he saw Steffie Jennings adjusting a shoelace. He swatted the girl on the bottom as he passed. “Heads up, Jennings,” he said with a leering grin.
Noticing the hall was empty and no one had seen the coach’s action, Steffie ignored him. Pig! she thought. I know all gym teachers aren’t pigs, since good old Coach McCartney taught me martial arts back at my old school, and he was great. Still, Reynolds gives a bad name to his profession.
That night, as a drunken Coach Reynolds staggered out of Duffy’s Bar and Grill, Steffie approached him.
“Well, what are you doing out so late on a school night?” he said. “Need a ride?”
Steffie smiled demurely. “Oh, I like to be in the driver’s seat.” Moving swiftly, she kicked him in the face with a sudden graceful attack. He grunted and fell backward into the parking lot, where she followed and stood over him with a wooden stake in her hands.
“You’ve taken your last lap,” she said with a hiss as she lowered the lethal stake.
Suddenly, a purple ray blazed out of the night to shatter the weapon. As Steffie looked up, Dr. Drusilla Zero stepped out of the shadows.
“I fear your zeal is so consuming that you are rather careless about who follows you,” she said.
“Miss Jones?” Steffie said. “Stay back. This animal tried to rape me!”
Drusilla shook her head. “That lie will not work. He is a predatory male, but not a criminal of that type.”
“OK,” Steffie said, “I’ll tell you the truth. He’s a vampire, and I am the slayer. I was chosen for my generation to kill such monsters. Now let me do my job.”
As Reynolds crawled backward, Dr. Zero raised her gun. “Child, you are ill. None of the people you killed were undead. They were not vampires; they were merely humans who wronged you in various ways. You are deluded. No one selected you to be a vampire slayer. You are in need of help.”
“No!” Steffie cried out. “You’re wrong! I am the chosen one. It’s my sacred crusade to slay vampires. You — you must be one, too. You’re definitely pale enough.” She rushed at Dr. Zero, only to be stopped by a high kick to the chin.
As Steffie rolled aside and flipped through the air, Dr. Zero shouted, “Reynolds, flee!” The coach nodded and ran away panting.
Dr. Zero ducked Steffie’s next punch and gripped her wrist. With a rapid twist, she pinned the girl to the ground.
“You are wearing Marvel tennis shoes, and you left your imprint from the logo on the sole when you killed Muncy,” she explained. “I now knew the killer was a girl. I soon learned that all of the victims had either mocked you, rejected you romantically, or scolded you for your academic failures. Thus, I followed you here.”
Steffie began to weep. “I’m the chosen. I’m the slayer. It’s what makes me special. It’s all I have. Don’t you see? That’s all I have to offer. ”
Dr. Zero spoke into her small communications device. “Father, as you heard, I have our killer,” she said sadly. “Summon aid. She is a very troubled girl.”