The drive to Company C seemed too short a time to think about his new acquaintance. A doctor, well-traveled, kind, friendly, genuine, beautiful, Alice seemed to have it all. He wondered if he had done well on their first ‘date.’ Had he looked alright? Did he come off as a gentleman? Did he talk enough? Had he talked too much? The back and forth between how wonderful Alice was and whether or not he had left a good impression made the drive pass by in a flash.
Major Lance was already in his office and waiting when Marrok glanced through the doorway. “Come in Marrok,” he said in his laid back tone. Marrok stepped into the quaint office and took a seat on the small sofa against the wall opposite the Major’s desk. The two of them were not particularly friends and so it was a rare occasion that Marrok had more to do with his boss’ office than just standing in the doorway. It was a well-kept room with enough to look at if one had to distract oneself. The sofa Marrok sat upon was leather, spotless, and had room for two occupants comfortably. To the right of the sofa was a small stand with a lamp on it. The bookshelf on the right wall had more trinkets than books, a few horse models, a few framed photos standing upright, and then the few books including what appeared to be every page of Sherlock Holmes stories, a few ‘Leadership’ titles, and an unlabeled volume or two. Various framed documents were hung around the walls. There was a college diploma, a few awards, a letter, and a few prized photographs with Lance in them. Directly behind his desk and three quarters of the way up the wall there was a sword displayed horizontally with a tapestry hanging from the blade. The tapestry was of simple design, a white shield was woven into the center and three red stripes, spread equally apart, ran diagonally from the top left to the bottom right of the shield.
Major Lance remained seated and maintained eye contact with Marrok for a moment. He appeared to be contemplating a few things, hopefully Marrok’s encounter with Drake would take a backseat to some other problem on his boss’ mind. Doubtful.
“So tell me Ranger Marrok, what happened yesterday?”
Marrok relayed the events in Robert Lee to Lance just as they had occurred, including the story former detective Colby had shared with him and Hawk. Major Lance listened intently, but did not seem surprised or confused. Even the recounting of Drake’s disappearing act could not raise the Major’s eyebrow. Lance was quiet for a moment, the same silent pensiveness which had been displayed when Marrok had arrived.
“I do not approve of you firing, how many did you say?”
“Seventeen,” Marrok’s reply was quick.
“Seventeen? I do not approve of you firing all but one of the rounds from your firearm, at a fleeing suspect no less…and you did not recover the revolver?” The major leaned forward across his desk. “I cannot imagine that I would have done any differently though under the circumstances…What’s your next move?”
“You don’t think I’m crazy?” Marrok had thought for sure the Major’s response would have leaned towards questioning his sanity.
“Of course I do. But there is some crazy shit out there Marrok and I trust that my Rangers can sort it out and explain it when they’re finished. Now, what’s your next move?”
Marrok let out a sigh of relief, “I need to speak with Dr. Elder again.”
“You think Colby’s helper and your professor are one in the same?”
“Do you know Elder well?”
“Not well it enough it seems.”
“Alright.” Major Lance leaned back in his chair again. “Be careful.”
Marrok read this as a dismissal from the Major’s office and left immediately. He did not want the discussion to resume, he already felt too lucky to escape with the result he had gotten. In a few strides he had reached his desk. Dr. Elder had not returned his call yet. Marrok pulled the professor’s card from a drawer, the office hours were listed from nine o'clock in the morning until noon during the weekdays. He logged into the computer and pulled up one of the state databases from the desktop. A quick search for Elder turned up nothing of significance. Not even a speeding ticket. It was 8:32 a.m. Marrok decided to drive to the university.
Hawk called him during the short drive. The Deputy Marshal had been pulled from the case and had to complete a psychological evaluation before returning to work, Deputy Ryan would be taking over for him. Hawk expressed his regret for having told his boss the whole story. “This is bullshit!” he had said into the phone with animation. Despite this new obstacle, Hawk vowed that he was not against “volunteer work” if Marrok should decide he needed help of any kind. Marrok thanked him for the offer and said that he would keep the marshal in the loop.
Soon, Marrok was walking across the university campus. Thoughts of Hawk being benched and of his morning coffee with Alice fell to the wayside as he drew closer to the man who might have played him. He had not mentioned Drake’s name to the doctor, but surely his jaw jacking a couple of days earlier about vampires could have been because he knew what Marrok was up against. There was no other way for Marrok to explain it, Dr. Elder was a part of this mess somehow and he was going to figure it out.
As it had been on his last visit, Elder’s office door was slightly ajar. Marrok knocked anyway. “Come in Ranger Marrok!” the doctor’s voice was almost jubilant. “Yes, come in.” Doctor Elder waved him invitingly into the room as the door opened and motioned for Marrok to sit across from him at the desk. “Have you caught your man yet?”
“Matter of fact, I have not.” Marrok said sternly.
“Oh my. Well that is a shame,” replied Elder. “Well, you must have at least laid eyes on the fellow by now?”
“I have seen him,” replied Marrok.
“And I also spoke with Mark Colby.” Marrok saw a subtle change in the older man’s expression. It was barely noticeable, but it was there.
“I see. Well, that is unexpected. How did you stumble into him?”
“I am thorough.”
“So it would seem.” Dr. Elder stood up from his chair and took a few steps to a window in the corner behind his desk. His hands relaxed into the pockets of his trousers and he stared out into the yard below. “How is the detective these days?” he asked. “Still living in Robert Lee I presume?”
“When it’s home, it’s home I suppose,” Elder sighed. “You know, in Chernobyl-“
“-Let’s stay on track doctor,” Marrok interrupted.
“Very well.” Dr. Elder returned his attention to Marrok. His gaze was different now, strong and piercing. Marrok, sensing a sudden tension, let his hand slide down near his hip. Elder’s hands were still in his pockets. The two men stared at each other in a confrontational manner for a moment, neither of them seemed uncomfortable with the sudden weight of the room. It was Dr. Elder who breached the silence. “I have done my homework as well Ranger.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Marrok asked.
“Oh my,” the doctor chuckled. “You are a showman. Very well sir, I will be blunt.” Dr. Elder leaned forward, “I know what you are.” The quiet which enveloped the room was nearly oppressive. Dr. Elder still had one hand concealed in a pocket, the other hung loosely at his side. Marrok’s gun had crept from its holster and now rested in his lap, firmly gripped in the Ranger’s right hand.
Dr. Elder returned to the window, looking away from his visitor. “You do not seem to be hungover this morning, but there was a full moon last night. That combined with what I have noted of your temperament and habits in our short visits together suggests two breeds are likely, or maybe you’re a shapeshifter. I find the latter unlikely given your tracking ability, in fact I would wager you are of the lykanthropos variety if I had to choose.
Marrok did nothing.
“Oh, come now Ranger Marrok,” the professor’s tone had changed to one he might use towards a pupil who was arguing against what had been proven fact. Marrok did not respond, instead he stood up from his chair stoically, and began walking towards the door. Slowly, the door shut in front of him before he reached it. Marrok stopped for a moment. When he turned back towards Dr. Elder, his gun was out again, this time pointing at the professor intently.
“You sure you got this figured out?” Marrok growled.
“Oh I think so,” Elder began, taking a step forward. “What are you going to do? Shoot me?”
“Jury’s out. It’s an option.” The intuitive hunter was gone, it was a dark and angry man standing across the room from the professor holding the gun.
“Let me present another option, if I may.” Elder had remained calm despite the threat of death.
“I am listening.” Marrok’s eyes were fixed on the professor. The shot he wanted to take was already aimed, he was a simple twitch away.
“I know a great deal Ranger, far more than you could imagine I wager. Yes, I know what you are, but I’m not interested in telling the world if that’s what you’re thinking. No my friend, I want to help you.”
“Help me?” Marrok was unconvinced.
“Yes, help you. I expect that what you are makes you incredibly good at what you do. It is a wonderful use of your gift, many have done worse. I am not so naive as to think Korbin Drake is the first unnatural being you have dealt with, but I daresay he is your first of the bloodsucking heathens based on the difficulties you have encountered thus far. Am I correct?”
Marrok’s posture remained rigid, the gun was still steadied towards Elder. The Ranger was seemingly unconvinced. Elder’s gaze remained on the Ranger momentarily until a sudden change in his expression occurred. Another possibility, an unexpected one, overtook the professor’s thoughts.
“Blast!” Elder’s hands were put to his hips in disbelief. “Are you so blinkered as to think your lot are the only strangers wandering about the world?” Marrok tried to remain unmoved, but the professor’s words had affected him if only slightly. Elder noticed.
“Oh dear.” Dr. Elder considered the seemingly surprising turn of events for a moment. “Have a seat Ranger Marrok, it would seem wise to get you sorted. Come now, put the gun away. You are in no danger here, I assure you. That’s right, thank you. Now, where to begin? This is, as I said, quite unexpected. Why don’t you tell me what you have found so far and I shall endeavor to fill in the blanks.”
Marrok was seated again, gun holstered, but hesitant. “How can you help me?”
“Once again, please trust me. You will need my help, that much is obvious if your knowledge is as nil as you have shown. You mustn’t worry Ranger, I have a special interest in the capture of this particular fiend and wish you success in the matter. Furthermore, werewolves are a hobby of mine. I have befriended several in my time and may yet consider you one of them. Now then, what do you know?”
“What are you?” Marrok asked.
“Ah, an understandable question my dear boy, but another time perhaps. Please, let me help you. What do you know so far?”
Marrok let out a breath. What did he have to lose? He relayed what he had read in the book he had purchased the evening before. Dr. Elder nodded, smiled once, and overall seemed in agreement with the information Marrok had learned in his research combined with what he had witnessed first-hand in his encounter with and investigation of Drake.
“You are quite right, he is an Eastern European bastard. And so now you must understand what is in the necklace that he wears around his neck.”
“Soil from Transylvania?” Marrok was not sure of his answer but the theory had crossed his mind during the reading the night before.
“Precisely. The children of Dracula are not quite the specimen of their father. Their appearances are more obvious, their strengths are of a lesser extent, and their weaknesses are exaggerated. It is uncommon for their kind to leave the borders which constrict them, but a few have been known to do so under similar circumstances. The necklace undoubtedly contains soil from the cursed land. I must admit my surprise that this has worked for Drake as well as it has. I should have noticed and taken it from him when I assisted Mark Colby in his arrest, but the thrill of the event dampened my mind to it.”
“How did you manage to restrain him then?”
“A story for another time. What’s important right now is to find him. Are your leads exhausted?”
“I mean to return to Robert Lee and try to track him.”
“Don’t bother,” Elder shook his head. “He’s had his abilities back for some time now, his teleporting will have covered a longer distance than your sense of smell can compensate for. No, he is too strong now to do it your way.” Elder leaned back in his chair. “Let’s go to the prison.”
“Who said you’re going anywhere?”
Soon Marrok found himself driving east on state highway 62 towards Childress with Dr. Elder in the passenger seat. The professor seemed content with the silence of the first few miles but it was not to last.
“It was not a proper question before, but I’ll ask now. Is Korbin Drake your first?” Elder’s tone was inquisitive.
“First what?” Marrok grumbled.
“Come now, it’s quite a drive to pass in silence. Have you met others?” the doctor asked slightly annoyed.
“No.” Marrok’s answer was reluctant.
“Indeed. Other werewolves at least?”
“My father and brother. One other one.”
“Fascinating. Generally speaking, folks of our nature do not live in such solitude as to be disengaged with the rest in some fashion or another, much less unaware of each other.” Dr. Elder seemed to be enveloped in surprise.
“What others? You mean all of those vampires in the book are real?” Marrok asked. He was becoming visibly curious.
“The vampires! My God lad, there’s more than just the bloodsuckers! There are hundreds of Fabula around the world, vampires and werewolves being only two of them.”
“Right, Fabula is Latin. It’s the word for myth or fable. Fabula were known to the Romans but were not being documented regularly per say until somewhere between 1000 B.C. and 800 B.C. As they were the ones to begin writing about such things, their naming convention stuck, thus Fabula. Obviously, well generally anyway, there are variations of everything. Bloodlines if you will.”
"What kinds of monsters?” asked Marrok. The doctor seemed to have finally peaked the Ranger’s interest.
“I know how very new this must be, how very interesting as well, but shall we stay on task for the moment and broaden your education another time perhaps?” Marrok gave no answer. “Very well, now are you or are you not a lykanthropos?”
“I don’t know what that means.” Marrok replied.
“Hmmm. Well what form do you take?”
“A big one.” Marrok was guarded.
“Willingly?” Elder countered.
“And I presume that you retain, how shall I put it, animal-like abilities when in human form?”
“And that’s how you have managed to track Drake up until now?”
“Fascinating. I would love to see it sometime. As I said before, I’ve met-“
“-I’m not some circus show.” Marrok cut the professor off. He was beginning to find the older man’s prodding annoying, maybe even suspicious.
“No indeed. Of course you’re not. I only meant to say that your abilities are fascinating. Of the four traditionally accepted varieties of werewolves in the world, I’ve always found myself partial to, and drawn towards the study of the lykanthropos. You are all far more interesting than the others I believe.” Marrok seemed unmoved. “My dear boy!” a new energy had enveloped Dr. Elder. “Have you not the least bit of interest in the origins by which you came to possess your gift?” Marrok said nothing. “Pish posh!” exclaimed the professor. “I will tell you anyway. I know there is wonder behind that oppressive bore you put forth.”