The rest of the night and the following morning took too long. Marrok went home and rejoiced some more, much to Merlin’s excitement. Had dinner. Fed the horses. Read some. Laid in bed waiting to fall asleep. Fell asleep. Woke up too early. Fell asleep again. Woke up when he meant to. Worked out. Had breakfast with Merlin. Fed the horses. Every second after these well established and scheduled events tick-tocked on as if it were meant to be torturous. After a few hours of a repeating cycle of reading, staring at Merlin, and pacing the cabin, late afternoon had finally arrived. He jumped into his truck, the non-duty vehicle he kept, and sped off towards town.
He was a few minutes early, but that did not stop him from bounding out of the pickup and onto the sidewalk towards her front door. Her house was nice. It was a one story ranch, blue, with a small yard in the front, maybe a back yard. There were a few flowers and some lawn ornaments, the place looked quaint and well kept. Marrok only had to knock twice before the door opened. They both stood in the doorway for a moment, smiling at each other.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” she replied.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yes,” she smiled.
Alice followed him out to the truck, he got the door for her. The first leg of the journey was a short one. Marrok had decided to take her to Card’s Supper Club. It was a local place, owned by an older couple. The food was good, the service was great, and the atmosphere was inviting.
“So how did you become a doctor?” Marrok asked. They had talked more about him than her last time and he wanted very badly to get to know her.
“I went to medical school.” She said with a straight face. They both laughed.
“Alright,” Marrok said, “why did you want to be a doctor?”
“Well,” she began. “my dad was a doctor for a while, I wanted to be like him I guess. I look up to him, he is such a good man.”
“That’s a good reason.” Marrok said.
“Yeah, I thought so too.”
Their small talk continued. She had grown up an only child in a single-parent household. Her father never talked about her mother except to say that she was from New York. Her father was from the UK, they had met when she had studied abroad during college. Eventually, he had come to live with her in New York and they had gotten married. She died when Alice was just a toddler. The rest of her childhood was spent with her father or in school. He had made a valiant and relentless effort to spend every waking moment with her that he could spare, but sometimes work had pulled him away. When she reached the end of her teenage years, her dad gave up being a doctor to teach so he could pick his own hours and be there for her when she needed him. The man was a hero to his little girl, there was no doubt about it.
“Where is he now?” Marrok asked.
“He died, just a few years ago actually.” She masked the pain but Marrok could see it lingering on her.
“I am sorry to hear that, I would have loved to meet him.” His response was sincere.
“I think he would like you.” Her perky demeanor returned with a sly grin. Something about her was reassuring, even though he did not need it.
Dinner ended, but the date did not. Marrok took her to a drive-in theater, the one Bill Dally had told him about earlier in the week. It was an old film, a western, but they did not mind. Marrok liked westerns and Alice did not seem to be against it. The movie seemed to end too soon and it had become time to take her home.
The drive back to the little blue house also passed too quickly. They guessed at each other’s middle names to no avail for several minutes until the urge to know a little more about Alice overtook Marrok and he began blurting out questions. What was her favorite color? Purple. What was her favorite film? Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. What was her favorite food? Ice cream. What flavor? Neopolitan. What was her favorite type of music? Oldies rock. Did she have any pets? A dog. What kind of dog?
“Well maybe next time you’ll have to come in and meet him.” She said with a smile. They had meandered from the car up to the doorstep.
“Ok. Sure. Alright, I’ll call you.”
“I hope so,” she smiled again. “Thank you for tonight, I had a great time.”
“Me too.” He grinned.
She let herself into the house, waving her phone at him. “Don’t forget!” The door shut. Marrok was on cloud nine.
The next day’s drive to work was a blur. He had exercised, fed Merlin and the horses, drove to Blackbrew, and somehow had ended up in the Company C parking lot without memory of the trip. He was still drunk on Alice’s smile from the night before. Major Lance noticed something was different when he saw Marrok stroll into the bullpen with half of a grin on his face.
“Marrok? What’s gotten into you?” Lance asked.
“What? Nothing boss.”
“Come in here for a second.” Marrok heeded the Major’s command and went into the office. “Have a seat.” Marrok sat down.
“What’s up?” Marrok asked.
“I’m leaving for a bit, not sure when I’ll be back,” Lance began. “In the meantime, I want you to stay on this Drake fella. I prefer you catch him before I get back.” Lance’s expression had become stern.
“Ok.” Marrok leaned forward in his seat. “What happens when you get back?”
“I just don’t like where this thing is going. Catch him before I get back.”
“And you don’t know when that will be.” Marrok wasn’t asking a question, but he was confused by the solemn change in Lance's demeanor.
“I do not.” Lance replied. “So be quick about it.”
“Alright,” Marrok stood up from his seat and went to the door. He stopped and turned back towards Major Lance. “Everything alright boss?”
“Yeah,” Lance grumbled, “fine.” Lance sat back in his chair. “Shut the door behind you please.” Marrok nodded in acknowledgement and did as he had been asked.
Back at his desk, Marrok could see just enough through Lance’s office window to know that he was on the phone with someone for several minutes. Shortly after this phone call, he had stepped into an adjoining office to speak with Captain Salvo, but it was a short conversation. Then Lance walked out of the building without so much as a word to anyone else. He had locked his office door, a sure sign he was going to be gone for longer than the day.
Marrok wanted to know where Major Lance was going, but more than that he wanted to catch Drake as he had been told to do. The problem was he had no idea where Drake had gone. Dr. Elder had said he would find out where the vampire was heading. It had been less than 24 hours, but maybe Elder had made some progress.
Elder’s phone rang several times before offering Marrok the option to leave a voicemail. Marrok hung up, he was too impatient to wait on the doctor. He rolled back from the desk, grabbed his suit coat and hat, and walked out the door into the parking lot. He was going back to Robert Lee.
Two and a half hours later, Marrok’s SUV rolled into Robert Lee for the second time. The town was just as dead as he had remembered it. It did not take him long to locate the vacant intersection where he had lost Drake on his previous visit. Marrok thought back to what he had read and his conversation with Dr. Elder about Drake’s supposed abilities. It was unlikely that Drake was familiar with the area, he must have teleported to somewhere close by. Maybe even somewhere visible from the intersection itself. Marrok pulled over and got out of the SUV. As far as he was concerned, his only responsibility was to find Drake even if it meant walking around the all but forgotten town all day.
Marrok walked up and down 4th Street with no luck. There was not even a remote leftover of a scent for him to find. Returning to the intersection, the only option left to search was south on Chadbourne Street. The Ranger began walking. It was an uncommon sight for a few onlookers as the brick tower of a man in a suit and hat strode down the empty street at a slow, seemingly lackadaisical pace. The sight became even less common to the few watching out their window as the Ranger turned his head and began wandering around the vacant park on the north side of the street. It was mostly uncut grass with a few trees sprouting up in the corners, but just a few steps into the unkept lot, there was a strange matted down section of grass. Someone had laid here for a little while, and then began walking west through the park. Marrok turned back towards the intersection, he could see where he had probably stood before when Drake had disappeared. This had to be the spot the fugitive had disappeared to. He knelt down and took in a deep, heavy breath. It was Drake alright. The scent of rot and blood was strong, even for being a few days old.
Marrok began following the scent. His pace was a brisk one and his breathing was purposefully heavy as he heaved in Drake’s dirty scent and walked along. The trail went south through the small park, entering the wood line on what could barely have been considered a dirt road. The ad hoc road led him to what may have passed for a bridge and he found himself crossing the Colorado River and then turning westward. The trees in this area were without leaves and there was more sage brush than trees as he continued walking. Drake’s trail led Marrok back onto a makeshift road that weaved through the dead trees and bushes, passing by a small, dirty green pond, and stretching further south and west. He recognized that he was paralleling a paved road, he could see the cars going by in either direction to his left. The vampire’s scent led him across a star-shaped intersection of several dirt roads and finally to a road which was paved. The trail turned north and Marrok found himself in an RV park on the southern shoreline of a lake.
Drake had wondered from side to side through the RV park, he had been looking for something. A way out, a car perhaps. The scent ended at a vacated site, freshly vacant though. The stench of gasoline and sewage and burnt logs was still detectable. Site number seventeen. Marrok looked around and quickly located what appeared to be the park’s office. It was a small square structure with a deck and a sign above the door that read, “South Shore RV Park” in neon red. Marrok was not particularly familiar with the economics and business of running an RV park, but he thought as he read the sign that this was just under the average of establishments for campers.
Marrok walked through the door and a small bell rang overhead, alerting the yet to be seen attendant of his presence. The counter was straight ahead and unoccupied. The remaining three walls were filled with last minute purchases for campers to make. Small gasoline jugs, lighters, a freezer section of various burgers, brats, and the like. A few clothing items hung sporting an image of the place’s neon red sign from outside. The floor was old hardwood, possibly reclaimed from a deck somewhere nearby. The walls were similarly built. The place felt like an old cowboy cabin put together with whatever had been handy.
A young man bolted into the room from a side door and slid over the top of the counter Dukes of Hazard style before whipping around to face him. The guy could not have been more than nineteen or twenty by the looks of him. Disheveled dark hair, awkwardly built, thin, and a smile that advertised a blind naivety of the adult world. He had on a token t-shirt from one of the walls and a pair of roughed up blue jeans. Not what a customer might expect on the other side of the counter.
“Hey there, welcome to South Shore! What can I do for ya?” the boy asked.
“What’s your name son?”
“Donnie sir, name’s Donnie.”
“Ok Donnie, is the manager in?”
“Yessir, why that’d be me,” Donnie smiled.
“You are the manager?” Marrok asked.
“Yessir, manager, owner, sole employee matter of fact,” Donnie beamed with pride.
“Interesting,” Marrok said. “Well then Donnie, I have a question about site number seventeen.”
“Oh, you working with Mike?”
“Who is Mike?” Marrok asked.
“The other Sheriff Deputy fella that stopped by.”
“For a stolen car I presume.” Marrok leaned down onto the counter.
“See, I knew you were a copper. Yep, Mike was here earlier and talked to the folks that camped out there before they left.”
“I see,” Marrok began. “Well do you know what kind of car it was?”
“No sir, just like I told Mike when he came over here, I have no idea about the whole thing. Just the folks camping down there, they called the cops in the first place.”
“Did he leave a card with you?” Marrok asked.
“Did who leave a card?”
“The Deputy, Mike, did he leave a card with you?”
“Ah, gee I’m not sure sir. If ya’ll work together, don’t you know him anyway?”
“Right, well thanks Donnie.”
“Sure thing boss, thanks for stopping by!”
Donnie was quite the character, and an unhelpful one at that. Marrok pulled his cellphone from a pocket and dialed the Coke County Sheriff’s Office as he began his walk back towards town. Bridget answered the phone again, just as professionally as she had last time he called. He asked her if a Deputy had been sent out to South Shore RV Park. She said that a Deputy had been sent out earlier that morning on a stolen auto call. Marrok asked if the Deputy was still on shift. He was. Marrok asked if the Deputy could meet him and Bridget said she was sure that he could. Marrok explained where his SUV was parked and gave himself a good chunk of time to return to it before the Deputy was expected to arrive there. Marrok thanked Bridget and hung up the phone. He had about twenty minutes, it was long enough.
Deputy Mike Collins pulled up just as Marrok had returned to his SUV. Collins was a short man, and stout but not pudgy. His graying hair and weathered face showed experience and his haircut with the clean shaven face suggested that he was very professional in his work. His posture was straight and he had a matter of fact look on his face as he approached.
“Ranger Marrok?” the Deputy asked.
“Mike Collins. What can I do for you?”
“You took the report out at South Shore RV Park about the stolen auto?”
“What kind of car was it?”
Deputy Collins pulled a notepad from his pocket and thumbed through it for a moment. “It was a 2001 Mercury. Grand Marquis. White. Texas plate CD6 Y590. About half a tank of gas left, no bumper stickers.”
“Did the owners see the thief leave in it?”
“They did not. Sounded like whoever it was must have taken the car after three in the morning, that’s when the campfire ended and they scuttled off to bed for the night.”
Not too shabby. He could do a lot with a license plate and a car description, as long as Drake didn’t ditch it somewhere shortly after stealing it. It was not the vampire’s first time on the run, he probably would not hold onto the car for long.
“Ranger Marrok, do you know the suspect?”
“His name is Korbin Drake, he is a fugitive.”
“I saw that on the news. You’re the one that’s tracking him?” Deputy Collins asked.
“Among others.” Marrok nodded.
“Damn. Well I put an alert out over the radio this morning. Made a few passes through Robert Lee and Edith and Sanco. If he ditched it, it’s nowhere in the open,” Collins said.
“Thanks. I appreciate the help.” The two exchanged a head nod and a handshake. Marrok climbed back into his SUV and began making his way east through town, toward highway 208. The highway ran through the center of town, he turned south onto it.
He was three and a half hours away from Mexico. Drake had tried getting there back when Colby caught him. No reason for him not to head that way again, especially when it was a straight shot on 208 the entire way to the Rio Grande, and then Ciudad Acuna on the other side. It was going to be a long day.
Marrok picked up the cellphone again and dialed the number of a neighbor boy, Dillon. As he sometimes had reason to, Marrok asked Dillon to stop by his house that night and feed Merlin and the horses. Dillon was delighted and asked if he could take Merlin home with him for the night. Marrok suggested asking his parents first, but had no problem with it. Dillon agreed and hung up too excited about doing the Ranger’s chores. That would wear off a few years from now, but for the present Marrok was happy to have such a bored kid living nearby.
He scrolled through his contacts in his cellphone until he came to Hawk. Should he let the Marshal know where he was going? A short internal debate decided that he would not and so he set the phone down in the passenger seat. No reason to include Hawk. He could handle this and it would be easier if he was not having to look out for someone else the entire time.