The drive seemed to take forever. He stopped in San Angelo for a drive thru coffee before pushing on. His mind wandered as the highway slowly brought him towards Mexico. What would he do after he got to the border? There was not a solid way of knowing where Drake was heading, or even if he had gone to Mexico for certain. It had come to be late afternoon by the time he reached the border. Luckily, by then he had come up with half of a plan.
Marrok pulled into the employee lot instead of going on to the border itself. He parked and made his way to the small station that was just a short distance from the border gates. There was a small entry gate to get into the lot and it was manned by a border patrol agent.
“Good evening,” the agent said. He looked like a strong guy. Big jaw, broad shoulders, thick arms, and a rifle slung ready across his chest. He seemed to have the perfect temperament for watching a gate.
“Evening,” Marrok replied.
“Do you have a reason to be in here?”
“Matter of fact, I do,” began Marrok, hanging his badge out the window. “My name is Kasey Marrok. I am a Texas Ranger and I was hoping you gentleman could help me catch a fugitive.” The agent’s eyes lit up. Oh yes, he was a manhunter at heart, but stuck at a gate. Here was his chance. Marrok knew the type and would play that card to get what he needed.
“A fugitive?” the agent asked.
“Yes sir, a bonafide fugitive from the State of Texas. Seems he escaped prison and intends to hide himself away in Mexico.”
“Damn,” the agent said. “You think he came through here?”
“I most certainly do. I don’t suppose you gentleman have a way of knowing if he did or not?”
“Oh, we’d be able to find out sir, if you know what he’s driving.”
“It just so happens that I do.”
The agent was ecstatic. He made a call over the radio and a supervisor came out. Marrok re-explained his presence and the urgency of the situation to which the supervisor who was more than happy to aide in the hunt. Marrok was allowed through the gate and then escorted into the station and seated at a table in front of cameras covering every gate with every lane of traffic moving into and out of Texas.
“This is great,” Marrok overdid his appreciation to keep his hosts excited. “I just need the lanes heading into Mexico.” A younger agent pushed some buttons and brought eight cameras into focus. It was too many for one man to watch, but the supervisor and the younger agent were quite willing to assist him. They began the footage at 6 o’clock of that morning, Marrok figured he could not have crossed earlier than that if he had stolen the car after 3 a.m.
Marrok sipped on what was left of his coffee as he watched three of the eight cameras for a white car. With each white car, he would get the younger agent to pause the footage and zoom in. The license plates never matched and he would return to watching. The border patrol guys watched in the same manner. The supervisor slurped out of a big gas station soda cup with a straw and the younger agent slammed a few cans of an energy drink. It was getting dark outside, it must be. He had been there for at least two hours.
“That’s it!” shouted the younger agent. He brought a camera into focus and zoomed in on a white car. The license plate read CD6 Y590. The car stopped at the gate as every other car did. An agent spoke with the driver, and then the driver eased through the gate and over the Rio Grande into Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. The timestamp read 10:54 a.m.
Marrok leaned back in his chair as the two border patrol agents rejoiced in the find. He considered his options. Call back to Lubbock and get a conversation started between the United States and Mexico about Mr. Drake? The process would be a long and bureaucratic one. By the time an arrangement was made, Drake could be hiding anywhere. No, he would have to go after him. Tonight. Any other way was going to give Drake too much time.
“Thank you gentleman for your help. I’ll be on my way.” Marrok stood up.
“Are you crossing after him?” the younger agent asked.
“Can’t do that,” lied Marrok. “International laws get messy and I did not bring my passport. But don’t worry, we will get him.” It was a convincing look to follow his statement.
“That’s a shame,” retorted the younger man.
“Yes it is.” Marrok half grinned.
Marrok’s SUV eased out of the parking lot and he waved to the agent as he headed back north long enough to convince anyone who was watching. He wandered far enough into Del Rio to find a strip mall. It was small enough that he would remember it, but large enough that nobody would notice his vehicle parked there after hours. He took his badge and gun off, carefully sliding them into the glove box, at the same time removing an identical in appearance but smaller Sig Sauer from the glove box and placing it onto his belt in a concealed fashion. Marrok slid off his suit coat and laid it down across the back seat along with his hat. He grabbed an empty backpack from the rear seat and began walking south, slowly finding his way into vacant, unlit lots, and then a field with unkept grass. Finally he was close enough. Even in the dark, the fence was visible from where he sat crouched down. Lights illuminated the top of it and shown down in both directions, calling attention to any shadows that may move north or south.
He took off his button up first, then the undershirt, folding them neatly onto the bag. Then his boots. He put those down into the bag and then slid the two shirts down onto them. Next his socks and slacks. He folded them neatly and placed them in the bag, and finally his boxers. His gun went into the front pocket. He stayed crouched there, naked, waiting for the right moment. He could smell the two agents that were nearby. They were close to the fence. He waited a few more minutes. They began to move farther away, he could tell by the distant feel of their scent. Marrok took one more deep breath. It was only the two agents and a stray dog nearby, none of them were close enough to matter. Now was as good a time as any.
He crouched low, bent forward, and closed his eyes. He let the wolf come. It was a quicker change than it used to be. There were a few loud pops and cracks, but they were more muffled than earlier changes. He did not scream like he used to. It still hurt, but it was a known pain, he was accustomed to it. His bones got thick and stretched. His muscles exploded outwards. The hair pushed out, his form rearranged. His face always hurt more than the rest of him. The headache that would follow far outweighed any aches from his limbs or torso. In just a few seconds, where a naked man had crouched, now a giant wolf-like figure sat crouched in the grass.
Even low to the ground, the werewolf was easily bigger than the man, but he did not want to be seen and so he did not want to be big. It was the strength he needed this time, to get over the wall. He was still a shadow and he wanted to remain that way if he could help it. The big wolf head turned and the yellow eyes crept around for the bag beside him. He grabbed it with a monstrous left paw and closed his claws around it. The fence was still there, still lit, but less daunting. The two agents were still walking away, the stray dog had gotten a whiff of him and run off. Smart dog.
He began moving towards the fence, a large shadow slowly stalking its way forward. He waited until he was right at the edge of the light’s reach to make his move. It was still thirty yards, maybe a little more to the fence. The fence itself was maybe twelve feet high and sharp at the top. Even as a child he could have leaped over it. He readied himself, he wanted to be quick.
Like lightning he burst forward from the shadows, bounding towards the light on his two powerful legs, pumping his arms as fast as they could go. The agents must have heard him, but they did not turn around fast enough. In three steps, he was airborne, flying over the fence like a hurdle. There was a loud thud as he came down on the other side and rolled back into a sprint. They had not seen him. Nobody would. He was moving too fast and it was too dark. A distant splash confirmed that the agents had not hallucinated the earlier noise. Someone had done something, but what was done? They were unsure. A few miles away, a wet naked man crawled out of the Rio Grande on the Mexican side with a backpack.
It was an awkward few minutes as Marrok pulled his dry clothes onto his wet body. They stuck a bit and felt just uncomfortable enough for him to wish he had a towel to dry off with. It didn’t matter. He had a job to do. Wishing for a towel was a waste. Quickly, he pulled his boots on and began walking. The badge was shoved down into his pocket and the holstered gun was now in the small of his back concealed by the untucked button up shirt.
He walked at a brisk pace, looking for another mode of transportation, a bike, an unattended car, anything would do. He needed to get back to the east side of Ciudad Acuna, which was where the bridge crossed the river. He had crossed west of it by maybe a mile or so. There seemed to be no bikes or cars as he walked along, the street was much emptier than he had anticipated. As long as no one was there to watch, he would risk a jog.
The jog only lasted for a minute or two. There were street lamps now and a few pedestrians making their way from one place to another. Cars began to flow in various directions as he journeyed farther into the city. He kept to the sidewalk, close to the buildings. His gaze remained hard and forward, his walk purposeful, and his posture tall. He did not want any extra attention from the locals. He wasn’t supposed to be here and so the less interaction the better.
Finally the bridge was in sight in the distance, off to the north. The road that was highway 208 on the Texas side was right in front of him. Drake would have had to come at least to this intersection. There were a few police cars parked across the street, cars zooming by in every direction, but not many pedestrians. He knew he would look out of place to the policeman if he had not already. He began walking south along the road, wondering where Drake would have gone after crossing into Mexico. His eyes scanned each sign and building he saw. Drake had been on the road for a few hours when he crossed the border, what would he potentially stop for? Would he have stopped at all? Was there a particular destination he had in mind? Maybe he should have done this the legal way. Walking south through the city, he realized how much information he needed and did not have.
A gas station was off to his left. Drake had half a tank when he left the RV Park. He probably topped it off on the way to the border. If he had a long distance to go yet, maybe he had stopped to fill it here. It was a long shot, but it was better than no shot at all. Marrok crossed the street and walked through the parking lot. There was no sign of the white car. He walked inside and smiled at the late night attendant. The attendant gave him a nod and then ignored him. Marrok breathed in, there was no trace of the vampire. It had been a long shot after all. He walked out and the attendant stared after him.
Marrok sighed as he returned to the street. He was tired and he was unsure of what to do next. Drake was now the proverbial needle in the haystack. He began walking back towards the Rio Grande. There would be other ways to track Drake down, but nothing he could do from where he was. He had jumped the gun. At least nobody would know.
Something white caught his attention as he waited to cross the street. It was a white car pulling into a residential driveway. Off to his right. He turned towards it as it disappeared behind a house of some kind. Something stirred inside of him. He might be in the right city. Maybe he was in the right part of it too. He risked the walk in a somewhat easterly direction into the residential area. The houses were packed tight together, some of them were townhouses. It was not a rich neighborhood. There were a few dogs running around, the smell of alcohol was in the air, and a hint of something familiar as he drew closer to where he had seen the car.
It came into view again as he continued on. The white car was three houses down. He could not make out the make or model of it, nor the license plate. But there was that scent again, only a hint of it. He walked on. There it was, a Texas plate. Then it was the same Texas plate. Then it was a Grand Marquis. Marrok walked right up to it, he did not care who might be watching. He cracked open the door and took a sniff. Drake had been driving it.
The house was on a gravel road, but still in town. It was green with a bunch of pillars supporting an overhanging deck from the second floor. There was a door on the right side of the first floor and a staircase leading up to the overhang farther to the left, maybe fifty feet away. There were two other cars parked there. Did Drake know the occupants? It was possible. He thought about knocking on the door. Then he decided against it. He was already there illegally. He did not speak enough Spanish to be suave if someone other than Drake answered the door. He did not want to get shot through the door if the owners were friends with Drake either. No, he would not be knocking.
Marrok eased the Sig Sauer from its holster and tried the door, standing to the left of it. It was locked. He made his way to the staircase, being careful to duck his hulking form under each of the three windows as he moved along. The stairs creaked a little as he crept up them, but nobody came running at their quiet alarm. At the top he found what he had expected, a long deck with a table and chairs in the middle. There was a door next to the staircase and a patio door towards the middle of the deck. He tried the closer door first, it was locked. As he had done below, he crept along towards the patio door, watching for any sign of the occupants. The patio door was a slider and glass. A dull light shone from within, maybe from a lamp. He could only peer in enough to see most but not all of the room on the other side. It was too dark to make out the floor plan, but there was some furniture in there and he could see half of a bed. Master bedroom maybe. Very quietly and carefully, Marrok tried the door. It moved.
Marrok slid the door open slowly, just wide enough for him to inch through it. He looked to the left, the whole bed was visible. There was a man and a woman in it, sleeping. The man was not Drake. Both of them were vampires though, or something close to it. They smelled like him, but with a slight variation. He stared at them for a moment, wondering what he should do, but the urge to find Drake first won and he moved along. There was a door to the hallway which creaked as the stairs had, but neither person in the bed moved as he eased into the hallway. There was another door on his left and a staircase ahead. Drake’s scent was in the hallway, he had come and go several times in the past few hours. He tried the door. It was locked. Certainly, this was Drake’s room. If he kicked the door in and Drake was downstairs, he would be gone. If he went downstairs and Drake was in the bedroom, maybe Drake would realize his presence and get away. He must choose carefully.
Marrok knelt against the wall and closed his eyes. He needed the wolf again, but only a small part. Changing here in the hallway would certainly alert the house to his presence. Then there would be a real fight. He did not need a fight. He needed to catch a fugitive. Maybe if he was younger it would have gone differently. His eyes opened, they burned yellow in the dark space. He could see the scents, see the history of the hallway. He peered at the door as if he might burn through it with a look. Drake was in there, he could feel him, sense his murdering corpse trying to rest. Marrok blinked his eyes back to their normal blue and stood tall in front of the door. He did not want to fight, but there would be a real fight anyway.
It was a swift movement that Marrok made as he kicked the bedroom door off its hinges and across the floor. In two steps he had grasped Drake by the throat and pressed the gun to his head. Drake tensed and reached for Marrok’s arms. Marrok pulled the trigger. The bullet zipped through the vampire’s head and through the mattress into the floor below. Drake went limp, but he would not stay that way. Marrok was not even sure that the lead bullet was going to work. Lucky guess. He was not sure how long he had. Certainly, the two in the other bedroom had heard the shot.
Marrok heaved Drake over his shoulder and turned towards the door. The man and the woman came through it and he emptied the rest of the magazine. They were too fast for the head shots, but they both were struck a few times in the torso. They laughed.
“Not even if they were silver!” the man laughed in Spanish.
The woman flashed across the room to him and with two open hands, she struck him in the sternum. Marrok and Drake flew backwards through the room and crashed through the plaster walls of the bedroom out onto the deck. The wind had left his lungs and his vision blurred for a moment. He groaned as he began to roll onto all fours. He glanced over at Drake who was looking at him.
“Good luck,” the fugitive whispered. He disappeared. Again.
Marrok got up.
“A strong one,” the woman said in Spanish. “What is he?” she asked the man.
“Death,” Marrok answered them in their native tongue. His eyes flashed yellow.
The change was quicker than what he generally allowed, but he needed the wolf, the whole thing this time. The two waited, that was their first mistake. In seconds he towered over both of them as they looked through the hole in the wall. He stood up straight more than eight feet of quivering muscle carpeted in a golden fur. His eyes fixed on them, a strange shade of red and yellow. His claws extended from his arms and he growled a soul grabbing, gravelly sort of retched noise. They both assumed a stance. They intended to fight. That was their second mistake.
He came through the wall before they could react, blasting the hole into a larger one. The man died first. Marrok lunged directly into him and ripped his head from his shoulders before the man could have so much as blinked. There was a strange light from his body as his head bounced across the floor. The woman shrieked and turned a shade of green and lifted from the floor. Not quick enough. Marrok was sinking his claws into her next, but she whipped him through the wall and down the staircase before he could tear her apart. He shook it off and bounded back up the staircase. She tried to escape out onto the deck, still levitating. He reached the deck just as she began to raise up off of it into the sky and tore her leg from the rest of her. She squealed again, this time in pain as she drifted sideways. Marrok leaped at her from the side, and again sunk his claws straight through her torso and bit down on her shoulder like a sledgehammer of saw blades. They plummeted down onto the street.
The woman was stunned and her light faded. He was conscious of where they were and with his teeth still halfway through her, he dragged her back into the house. He laid her out on her back, one set of claws still practically through her chest, the other holding down her neck enough to prevent any defensive action. She gasped for air.
“Where has he gone?” Marrok growled the sound of fear itself at her.
The woman did not answer, tears began and her breathing quickened.
“I will not ask again, where has he gone... or you die.”
“Home,” she sniveled. “Home.”
He tried to think. It was hard in this form, to think. So many urges. So many senses.
“Next time,” it was almost a whisper as he said it, “you die.” He let his weight off of her. She immediately raised back from the floor and flew out the door. He waited for a few minutes. She was gone, probably not coming back. He tried again to think. It was challenging. He needed to leave. He needed to return to the States. He glanced around, his clothes would be ruined from the change. He lurked around long enough to find the gun he had dropped in Drake’s bedroom. With it clutched in one claw, he began running west, but not before getting outside of the city limits and making a loop south around it. He was fast as the wolf, nobody would see him, and if they did, he would be gone before they rubbed their eyes.
Dawn was just beginning to break as Marrok snuck back into the SUV. He had been incredibly careful changing back, and then creeping across the deserted lot with nothing on. He did not want to be seen, especially now. A naked man traversing a parking lot and getting into a car would raise suspicion, no doubt. There was a pair of jeans under the seat he kept and a t-shirt for just such occasions, no boots though. He felt out of place behind the wheel, barefoot, a pair of jeans he never wore, an old t-shirt that had the new car smell on it. It wasn’t really his style. It was better than being naked though.
The drive back was physically awkward and mentally exhausting. He hated driving barefoot. He knew he was being watched with a raised eyebrow or two as he gassed up the SUV barefoot on the pavement. His mind wandered as the miles began to separate him from Mexico. At first, he had spent some time wondering what the ghoulish beings in the home had been. But soon, his focus narrowed back on to Drake, his prey. Outside of plainly killing him, there seemed to be no way to avoid the disappearing act. Where had he gone to? Most likely somewhere Marrok could not have followed anyway. Surely, he had plans to move on from Ciudad Acuna, but where? And who could help him figure this out now? He could not just tell anyone where he had been. He certainly could not be truthful with anyone about what had happened. It was a tight spot for sure if he wanted to keep up the hunt.