"And then," said Christopher, enjoying himself, "I come jogging up out of the dark to find Jenny screaming her head off in the middle of the road."
Jenny herself scowled. "You took me by surprise that's all. I thought..."
"Practically crying, she was," said Christopher jokingly. "Must have thought I was the bogeyman." He stuck his tongue out and Jenny, who responded in kind.
The four of them sat around one of the hotel rooms. As well as the ancient wooden fittings that filled the rooms, Jenny had been pleased to find a tiny electric kettle. Everyone was now drinking hot chocolate, apart from Mark, who had decided that the ancient-looking powder sachets provided by the hotel were not worth the risk. Out of pity Jenny had given him her giant soda cup to drink.
"Did you see the hotel keeper on your way up?" asked Winter, who was holding her cup with both hands while she perched on the edge of the bed.
"No," said Mark. "Must have missed him. What's he like?"
Winter pulled a face. "Creepy. Quite an old guy, but he freaks me out."
"Creepy old man, huh?" said Mark. "Sounds about right for this place. I can't believe we're stuck out here till morning."
"Tell them about the nails," said Jenny. "You guys want creepy, listen to this." Mark told them about the nails he'd found embedded in the tyres. For a minute after he finished speaking there was a shocked silence.
"Someone put them there deliberately?" said Christopher eventually. "Huh."
"I know!" said Jenny. "Psycho or what?"
There was another brief silence while the group all considered the idea of someone out there actually trying to cause an accident. It was not a pleasant thought.
Winter said, "What if it's him? The hotel keeper. What if he put the nails there?"
Jenny raised her eyebrows. "Pretty extreme way to get more business, isn't it?"
"Like you say, some people are psycho."
There was another silence, but this one altogether more uncomfortable. Christopher found himself wondering where in the building the strange old man was right now. Was he behind reception still? Or in one of the rooms? Was he perhaps standing in the room next door with a glass pressed up against the wall listening to their conversation. He shuddered.
"Actually," Jenny said thoughtfully, "I heard this story one time. About a guy who used to run a boarding house. He'd trap people there and use them for medical experiments and stuff like that."
"You said the guy was like seventy, right?" said Mark.
"Well, I don't think a seventy-year-old is much of a threat to the four of us. He's the only one here, isn't he?"
"I guess," said Christopher. "We're the only guests, I know that. The car park was empty when we came up."
"And he was talking as if he was the only one," said Winter. "His daughter used to run this place, but she died and he took over."
"Well then I'm not too worried," said Mark. "If he tries anything I think we can take him."
They all finished their drinks and Mark and Jenny headed off to their room down the hall. As they got ready for bed, Jenny said, "What kind of stupid hotel doesn't have a phone anyway?" She kissed Mark and rolled into bed. "It's like living the dark ages."