Marrok’s life was on fast forward and autopilot for most of the morning. He went to his cabin, fed the horses, exercised, spoiled Merlin for his mistreatment the night before, raced to Blackbrew, got to work, and found himself at his desk spinning a pencil in his hand and doing absolutely nothing constructive. He was still thinking about Alice. His desk phone rang. Strange. It hardly ever did.
“Ranger Marrok,” he answered the phone.
“Come over here,” said a familiar voice. Marrok looked up and saw Daley across the bullpen holding his own phone to his ear and staring at him. Marrok set the phone back and walked across to Daley’s desk.
“Hope you weren’t busy over there,” said Daley.
“What is it?” Marrok asked.
“Jen called. Your boy Drake bought a one way ticket from Mexico to Bucharest, Romania. Laid over twice on the way, he landed just a little while ago.”
Marrok did not respond. The hunting cogs began turning, he had to figure out what to do.
“Marrok, are you hearing me?” Daly said. “He landed just a while ago, he’s gone. It’s INTERPOL’s problem now.”
“No one is ever gone.” Marrok said.
“I think you mean forgotten.”
Marrok stared for a moment, considering his options.
“Jen has started with the INTERPOL process, whatever that is. You could help her with that.” Daly suggested.
“Tell her I’ll get back to her soon,” Marrok said. He turned to leave.
“Where are you going?” asked Daley.
“Following a hunch.” He returned to his desk for his coat and his hat. Daley followed him that far.
“You want company?” Daley asked.
“No, thanks though.”
“Call me if you need me,” Daley said. Marrok walked out the door.
Dr. Mark Elder was on his mind again. He had been too involved and not forthcoming enough. Perhaps he was part of Drake’s escape, perhaps not. He had, however, withheld information and somehow knew that Drake would fly from Mexico. Maybe obstruction, maybe even aiding and abetting. It was enough to start with anyway. He drove to the university, parked his car where he had on the previous visits. Walked across the campus. Found Elder’s office with the door cracked open as it had been before. He knocked.
“Come in Ranger Marrok, what a pleasant surprise.”
“How’d you know he would fly out of Mexico?” Marrok asked pointedly.
“Good to see you too Ranger, have a seat won’t you.”
“How did you know I was in Mexico?” Marrok asked.
“Would you care for some tea, I just brewed some up not-“
“I won’t ask again.” Marrok growled.
“Oh, it’s like that is it? Very well Mr. Marrok, have a seat won’t you.”
Marrok flipped his coat back behind his holstered handgun and rested his hand there. “You do not seem to understand.” Marrok gritted his teeth.
“Indeed,” replied Elder. “Neither do you I’m afraid.” Elder held his hand out and Marrok’s handgun was ripped from the holster. It flew across the room where Elder caught it, still standing behind his desk. The door slammed behind Marrok, the shades drew and the lights seemed to dim themselves. Marrok braced for the wolf.
“If you change in here Kasey Marrok, it will be the last time you do so.” Elder’s voice was more authoritative than it had been before. Marrok looked up at him. “Now have a seat and control yourself or I’ll break your body and soul beyond mending.” Marrok wanted to kill him, but the old man’s eyes were not bluffing. What was he? Marrok heeded the warning reluctantly and took the seat opposite of Elder’s across the desk. He stared at Elder angrily as he did what he had been asked, albeit slowly.
“Thank you,” said Elder. “My, sometimes your kind does try my patience to its end,” he added. “Now then, you did not answer me. Would you like some tea? It’s just been made.”
“Very well.” Elder sat at his chair with cup in hand and leaned back comfortably. “Let me review, I am an old man after all. Drake is gone and you want to know how I knew about Mexico.”
Marrok stared at him.
“Typical. So hostile, it really is remarkable you’ve made it in the professional field as long as you have. Well then, Mexico. I know a lot of people Ranger Marrok, some of them happen to live in Mexico. I also know that any fool running from someone like you will get as far away as possible as quickly as possible. There you have it. Simple explanations really.”
“Are you helping him?” Marrok asked.
“Of course not, what a preposterous thing. What gave you that idea?”
“You seem to know a lot about him.”
“I know a great deal about a lot of things,” Elder said.
“Do you know where he is going?” Marrok asked.
“Don’t you? I thought you would have checked into his flight by now.”
“He landed in Bucharest this morning.”
“Ah yes, Romania. Well that is logical. He is from there given our earlier discoveries. It’s a wonderful place. Uniquely beautiful. Lovely people. Scenic views. I don’t blame him at all.”
Marrok did not know what to say. Elder was a freak of some kind, a dangerous one. Drake was getting farther away with every passing second. Never before had he found himself in a position such as this one. He did not know what to ask, he didn’t know if asking anything would do any good. The old man was cryptic. Maybe it would be better if he left and never saw Elder again. The professor put him off.
“I can see you’re thinking about what to do,” Elder said.
“What are you?” Each word came slowly from Marrok as he studied the old man closely.
“I told you before, I am a friend.” Elder took a sip of his tea. “Now then, when are you leaving?”
“What?” asked Marrok.
“Leaving, you know, to go after him.”
Marrok looked at him blankly.
“Don’t be so coy,” Elder said, “I know you will, and you know it too. You cannot help yourself. The hunt. You have to catch him or it will drive you mad. When are you going?”
“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” Marrok’s answer surprised himself. He did not want to engage in this conversation, it just slipped out.
“Well,” Elder began as he stood up from his chair, “you’re going to need a few things so you don’t bugger the whole thing up. We do not need a repeat of Mexico do we?” Elder walked across the room to an older looking cabinet.
“I didn’t try to kill him if that’s what you mean.” Marrok defended the incident.
“Precisely. A mistake we’ve both made now, but I trust you understand the situation better this time.”
“You want me to kill him?” Marrok asked. Elder turned back to face him with a few items in his hands.
“I want you to do what you want to do,” Elder said it as a parent might coach a child. He held out the items for Marrok to see. “This is a gun,” Elder said. It was a small Glock, a concealed carry weapon by the size of it.
“I have a gun.” Marrok retorted.
“Check the weapon,” suggested Elder. Marrok released the magazine and saw that the rounds were very chrome, silver even in appearance.
“Yes they are, good eye,” Elder teased. “And they are quite expensive so be conservative with them. Keep in mind that some of Drake’s kind are unaffected by silver though. No telling if they’ll work or not. They would, however, work on you, so don’t let this get taken from you.”
“Right,” Marrok said as he took the gun.
“Now this is a genuine piece of work.” Elder held out a dagger-like piece of wood. A hilt of sorts on one end was wrapped in leather strips with the remainder of the piece shaped and sharpened like a thick blade. “Hawthorne. I bartered for this in England with a very particular collector. He in turn had it crafted from a tree in the…well that is a story for another time. This will kill him, undoubtedly.”
Marrok took the Hawthorne dagger and slid it into his jacket. “Is there anything else?”
“No, that is all I have for you. Good luck.”
“Um. Alright, well I’ll take my gun back too.”
“Right, sorry about that.” Elder produced the gun from his own coat. “Remember your manners next time you drop by.”
“Sure,” Marrok said. The office door opened wide by itself.
“Do be careful Ranger Marrok, things always get complicated in foreign territory.”
“Things are complicated here,” Marrok said as he walked out the door.
He took the long way back to Company C. He stopped by Blackbrew, which was out of the way. He ended up sitting in the parking lot for a while too. Marrok was not sure how the whole scenario was going to play out. He would probably have to get a plane ticket, some time off of work, and then go commit a homicide in a foreign country. Nothing about this felt right. But he could not let Drake get away with what he had done, nor could he let him run away just to risk more deaths in the future. There was a lot of turmoil in him, but it finally came down to what would make him feel worse. He was going to Romania.
Marrok walked back in to Company C and sat at his desk. Daley was there, watching him. The older Ranger could see the aged look, the heavy steps, the grimacing of a difficult decision on Marrok’s face. He invited himself across the bullpen to talk to his younger counterpart.
“So?” asked Daley.
“So?” Marrok returned.
“What’d you find out?”
“I need a break,” Marrok sighed.
“A break?” Daley crossed his arms.
“Yeah,” Marrok said. “I’ve got some time to burn, I need a breather.”
“Uh-huh,” Daley said. “Because you’re getting burnt out?”
“You could say that. I just need some time. I stopped by admin on the way in, I’ll have two weeks.”
“Huh. Well, I imagine you’ll do some traveling, you know, fresh air and all that.” Daley eyed Marrok.
“Yeah, I might do that,” replied Marrok.
“By yourself?” Daley asked.
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
“Right. Well um, you take care of yourself.” Daley held out a hand to Marrok. The two gripped in a handshake. “I mean that,” Dale said heavily, “take care of yourself son.”
“I’ll be fine.” Marrok smiled, locked up his laptop and his desk drawer. He picked up the phone from his desk and dialed the Coke County Sheriff line as he had the week before. Bridget answered again, he had hoped she would. He reminded her of their previous conversation and asked how Colby was doing. She had heard he was making a speedy recovery and thanked him for being there when it happened. Marrok brushed it off as just part of the job and asked if she was particularly busy at the moment. She wasn’t. He asked Bridget if there was a booking sheet left from when Drake had been arrested back in ’98. She said it would be in the file cabinets because ‘they weren’t digital back then.’ Marrok said he understood and asked if she would be able to fax a copy of it to him. She said it wouldn’t be hard to do and she would take care of it. He was very grateful and asked her to pass along well wishes to Colby. She said she would. He waited impatiently at his desk, but finally he heard the sound of the fax machine coming to life in the corner of the bullpen. He walked over and pulled the sheets from it. He scanned the blocks quickly until he found what he was looking for in the old booking sheet. Birth city and state. The block read “Cheia, Romania.” He folded the sheet into his pocket, grabbed his hat and coat and walked towards the door. Major Lance walked in just then and stopped Marrok before he could leave the bullpen.
“Early day isn’t it?” Lance asked him. It was barely after two o’clock.
“Took some leave.” Marrok said.
“Huh. How long is that?” Lance asked.
“How’d the fugitive turn out?” Lance asked.
“Fled the country.”
“Did he?” Lance raised an eyebrow. “Where’d he go?”
“Mexico, then Romania.”
“Huh. And you’re taking leave then?”
“I need some time.”
“I see. Your Marshal friend know what’s going on?” Lance asked. Marrok had not really endeavored to keep Hawk in the loop after the shooting in Robert Lee. He had figured Hawk had been moved onto something else.
“I guess not, he was pulled back to Dallas, figured he was out.”
“Huh. And what are you doing with two weeks of leave then?”
“I don’t know yet, relaxing.”
“Sure. Alright then Marrok, enjoy your leave.”
“Thank you Sir.” Marrok walked out the door.
Major Lance walked through the bullpen and shot Daley a look. Daley raised an eyebrow back and then returned to something on his computer. Lance continued to his office, unlocked the door, flipped on the lights, and then shut it behind him. Daley saw him pick up the phone. The Major had been gone a while and probably had a lot of missed calls.