Miss Marple had at first been afraid the two gentlemen were going to return too soon; now she was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to arrive at all. It didn’t matter that much, of course. She had finished everything satisfactorily, if not entirely happily.
Then, even as she started on her next row of the sock she was busying herself with in the meantime, they burst in through the window.
“Miss Marple!” Dr Seward stopped only half into the room, startled at seeing her. “Whatever are you doing here? Are you hurt?”
The professor, however, strode in. “My dear lady, this reckless, foolish behaviour – you cannot comprehend –”
“Oh, I believe I can,” Miss Marple said, setting her knitting aside to give them her full attention. “And if you are wondering where the Count is, he is over there.” She pointed to an unsightly pile of dust on the carpet. “I would be ever so grateful if you could have him swept up and disposed of as soon as possible – I’m sure you will know best how that can be done, Professor.”
They both stared at the remains of the immortal monster.
“Good God!” said Dr Seward. “But – how –?”
Van Helsing had turned to examine the strings of garlic flowers that were draped around the room, a circle they had only now broken by entering through the window. “An excellent question, my friend. Miss Marple?”
Miss Marple had hoped it would be obvious to the professor if not to Dr Seward, but she explained patiently nevertheless: “I knew, of course, that I was no match for him in terms of strength, so I employed a little deception. I left the circle of garlic flowers uncompleted, and then I hid behind the curtain and waited. Once he entered, I finished the circle, trapping him in the room. Then, naturally, it was merely a matter of waiting until sunrise.”
“But my dear lady,” protested Van Helsing, “this cannot be – to withstand his influence for so long would require a formidable strength of will and of the mind!”
Miss Marple nodded. “I confess I do feel a little, well, worn,” she said. “I would very much like some tea presently, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“Tea?” said Dr Seward, sounding dazed. “Is that all?”
Miss Marple continued her account: “I took every precaution I could, of course, and the experience of being trapped seemed to make the Count quite unwell.” (Yes, she had taken measures: an un-Anglican crucifix that she was ashamed of resorting to, and her Bible, chiefly, not to mention applying her concentration to turning the heel rather than his threats and promises). “And, really, one does tire rapidly of blood and death as a topic. It’s all so very predictable in the end, isn’t it? As it happens, I was reminded very strongly of that unpleasant Mr Alsopp who lived near to the vicarage for a while. He used to be somewhat nocturnal in his habits as well, although for quite different reasons.”
“But Lucy –” said Dr Seward, moving across to examine the unfortunate girl. “You were too late?”
Miss Marple nodded. “I’m afraid so,” she said, very gently – and hoped that she had put the mallet and stake well out of sight. Gentlemen, as she had often found, were apt to be more sentimental than was practical and, after all, one had to think of the living and not those who were already lost.
“I am astounded,” said Van Helsing, offering her his hand. “Simply astounded, Miss Marple. I congratulate you! I could not have done better myself.”
Miss Marple felt certain he could not have done, but she took his hand and gave him a grateful smile as he helped her to stand, finding that she was feeling more unsteady than she had expected after the efforts of the night.
“And now, dear lady,” he said, gallantly, “we shall certainly find you some tea.” He paused, turning his head. “John -?”
Miss Marple increased the pressure of her hand on his arm lightly. “One must have time to grieve,” she said, as she and the professor left the room. Poor child, she thought, and gave a slight sigh. It would have been so much more helpful if Mrs Westenra had asked for her help sooner. Yes, it was really very sad, but she did feel sure that at least now Mrs Harker would be quite safe, and the world was finally rid of an even worse evil than Mr Alsopp had proved to be.