Deputy United States Marshal James Hawk waited patiently outside the front door of the T.L. Roach Jr. Unit (which was a few minutes from Childress) for Marrok to arrive. He had been staring off into nothing for a while, daydreaming perhaps, avoiding the fanfare of Sheriff’s Deputies, prison guards, a few of his coworkers, and so he did not see the “new guy” walk up to his side.
“Deputy Hawk.” The younger Deputy was as new as new could be. Clean shaven, military haircut, exaggeratedly good posture, recently purchased clothing, an un-weathered holster, and a spark of curiosity and fire that would have made any instructor proud. Hawk, however, was not an instructor searching for attractive pupils. Quite the opposite of the young Deputy, Hawk had grown a neatly trimmed beard, left his hair only slightly un-kept and a bit long, wore jeans and a t-shirt, and looked as though he had been away from civilization, perhaps only recently reintegrating with other human beings. Despite all that he had seen, Deputy Hawk had a sense of humor and a dry wit that made him popular with everyone, coworkers or otherwise.
“Deputy Ryan.” Hawk faced the young man in a matter of fact fashion.
“Ah-” Ryan began to speak but Hawk cut him off.
“Hold on padawan. First, never start a sentence with ah, um, duh, err, or any other sounds which cause concern for your mental functions.” Hawk maintained his matter of fact stare. Deputy Ryan did not respond. Hawk crossed his arms, “Words are usually a good start Ryan.” Ryan let out a quick breath and looked away. Clearly, the young man could not take a joke. Hawk turned back towards the parking lot, “Thin skin doesn’t suit you Ryan, shed it.”
“I was-” Again, Hawk cut him off.
“You were wondering why I’m out here instead of breaking my back in there.” Ryan did not respond. Hawk turned to him again, “It’s alright Ryan, question authority. It’s good for you.” Hawk sighed before continuing, “I’m out here because there is an uncomfortably rugged Texas Ranger on his way who will probably find this guy before the dogs do.”
“A Texas Ranger?” Ryan asked.
“Yes,” Hawk replied.
“Is he on the task force? I haven’t met any Rangers yet.” Ryan seemed puzzled.
“He should be. The man is a bloodhound, a thirsty one.” Hawk smirked a little at his own description of his friend. Ryan continued to display a quizzical look. “You’ll see what I mean,” Hawk assured him.
As if on cue, Marrok’s black Ford Explorer pulled in. The two Deputies watched as the tall Ranger eased out of the vehicle, put on his Stetson, and walked with an imposing stride that carried him up the steps to the small concrete patio where they stood.
“Hello Kasey,” Hawk held out his hand.
“Hello Jim,” Marrok accepted the handshake.
“I’m glad to see you.” Hawk’s comment was only met with a nod. Hawk led Marrok into the prison, navigating several hallways and two staircases guiding them to the cell of recently escaped inmate Korbin Drake. During their walk, Hawk explained that Drake had been discovered missing at cell inspection earlier that morning. Described as a male, white, thirty-six years old, thin build, average height, black hair almost shoulder length, brown eyes, paled complexion, various tattoos (one of which had been removed in prison – the scar on his back made it obvious supposedly), and a “quiet inmate,” with “some kind of European accent,” Drake did not stick out particularly to any of the guards except for one. A female guard had noted that Drake’s hair was always combed back, but “too greasy.” Drake was serving a life sentence for a 1998 homicide.
When they arrived to Drake’s cell, Hawk stepped to the side and motioned for Ryan to do the same allowing Marrok to walk in. The Ranger stood just inside of the cell door and observed the space silently. Directly in front of him was a concrete bench which served as a bed and ran along most of the back wall of the cell. There was an average looking prison mattress on top of the concrete with a folded sheet and blanket on the left side. Tucked between the bed and the wall on the right was a plastic bin. Marrok walked over to it and knelt down. The bin contained what must have been Drake’s property which was empty save for a brown napkin with the word, “Goodbye” written on it. The rest of the wall on the right-hand side was taken up by a toilet and a sink in the immediate right corner, both stations were rounded with not even the slightest hint of an edge and crafted of stainless steel. There was nothing on the floor, nothing on the walls, and nothing on the ceiling. Marrok took a step back towards the bed, lifted up the blanket and sheets, shook them, and dropped them back onto the mattress. There seemed to be no sign of anyone even having occupied the cell except for the napkin. Marrok took in a deep breathe, let it out slowly, and returned his attention back to Deputy Hawk.
“What do you think?” Hawk asked him.
“I think nobody knows how Mr. Drake got out of this cell.” Marrok’s voice was nonchalant with a faint smirk.
“But you might.” Hawk’s smile was much more obvious.
“Bring me a guard,” Marrok said.
“I can answer any questions you have Sir.” A man stepped forward. He was middle-aged in a neatly pressed uniform. It looked like a supervisor’s uniform. The man was most likely a little further up the chain of command than a guard.
“Do you normally work this wing?” Marrok asked, his voice had not changed.
“Yes sir, I’m the shift supervisor for the building.” The man’s voice was confident. Marrok stared at him. The supervisor shifted his weight, trying to keep eye contact with Marrok but it was too uncomfortable. “We can talk in my office if you like.” The man’s suggestion fell flat and Marrok’s stare continued. The man was not sure what to say and he became visibly uneasy. Hawk noticed the failing scenario and broke the silence.
“So, about that guard,” Hawk began, patting the supervisor on the shoulder, “we’ll need to talk to someone who had regular interactions down here. Thanks for the help though, you’ve been great.”
“Yes sir, I’ll send someone down.” The supervisor’s smile returned and he walked away hurriedly. Hawk turned to Ryan and nudged him.
“See what I mean,” Hawk murmured to the younger Deputy.
It was not long before a college-aged guard arrived to the cell. He announced himself as being sent down to talk about the inmate and was quickly directed to Marrok who now stood in the hallway with the two Deputies. The young guard asked the three of them what they wanted to know.
“What does he normally wear?” Marrok asked.
“Jumpsuit,” the guard said, “same as the rest of ’em.”
“No jewelry?” Marrok tilted his head a little.
“Uhmmm…” the guard seemed hesitant to answer.
“Look kid,” Hawk interrupted, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t choke on your words there and explain this to you. There is an inmate gone. Poof.” Hawk made an animated motion with his hands. “We want to find him for you, but that requires some information on your part. We’re not going to go tell Daddy that you might have messed up and had someone in here with contraband items, but for God’s sake let’s have some honesty.” Hawk ended with his arms crossed and closer to the guard than when he had started. The guard waited a second or two before responding.
“He wears a necklace,” the guard muttered.
“What’s in it?” Marrok asked. At this question, Hawk gave a puzzled look as if he had tasted something he didn’t quite like.
“Ashes,” the guard responded.
“Ashes?” Marrok did not seem convinced. The guard sighed before continuing.
“We let him wear the necklace because he said his dad’s ashes were in there. He seemed pretty tore up and pale about the whole thing, so we drew them out of property for him. Since then he’s been, I don’t know…easier to deal with.”
Marrok turned away from the group and walked back into the cell. He took a deep breath again, sighing just as deeply as he let it out. He looked back over his shoulder at Hawk. “Alright.”
Hawk thanked the guard for his help, although it had been of no help to him, and ushered him off. He was quite confused and he could see that Ryan did not have a good idea of what was going on either, but he had become accustomed to not understanding Marrok’s logic. He had, however, grown to understand the way Marrok worked. Hawk knew what he wanted just by watching him, he knew when to step in and get things on track, he knew when to talk, he knew when not to talk, and he knew when to get out of the way. He thought Marrok must have been a Ranger for three or four years by now, but they had only known each other for two. Despite the short friendship, if it could be called that, Marrok had proven to be extremely productive at finding people. Thus, the nickname Hawk often used to refer to him when he was not around – the bloodhound.
Marrok was back in the hallway, looking left then right, as if he was lingering over a decision. His breathing had changed. Hawk noticed, Ryan did not. There were still plenty of extra law enforcement personnel around, going through the cell as if something had been missed, interviewing guards, interviewing inmates, and reviewing camera footage, but all of that seemed to disappear as Marrok began walking down the hallway in the direction they had come with Hawk and Ryan close behind him. They followed Marrok as he strode down the hallways, stopping every so often as if he were thinking, but then continuing on until finally they had returned to the concrete patio outside. Marrok stopped again, this time at the bottom of the staircase leading to the parking lot. He looked off to the northwest, sighed, and then began walking towards his Explorer.
“Where is he going?” Ryan asked Hawk. The two of them were still on the patio.
“Probably to get comfortable,” Hawk replied. “Wait here, we’ll call you.”
“What?” Ryan felt left out. “Where are you going?”
“For a walk.” Hawk began walking down the steps.
“Hey-” Ryan started after him. Hawk turned around, his face was stern but his tone remained calm and polite.
“Stay here Ryan. Don’t leave until I call you. Understand?”
“Got it,” Ryan surrendered his effort to go with. Hawk joined Marrok in the parking lot, Marrok was now without his coat and Stetson. The two of them walked northwest out of the parking lot and slowly disappeared into the flat farm fields.
With Marrok in front, the two of them slowly made their way through patches of farmland, covering just over a mile. Marrok’s pace was not like it had been in the prison, or in the parking lot. His steps were less deliberate, his head was more on a swivel, but he had continued the pattern of saying little, if anything. Hawk did not mind the silence. This was not the first time he had followed the Ranger off and away from a scene. He certainly did not mind that this time it had been into flat fields. On previous occasions the environment was not always a safe one. Hawk also thought to himself that of their previous walk-offs, this seemed like the easiest situation in which they had been for following someone. As he looked around at the ground, however, he saw no footprints. There had been no footprints, or signs of any kind, in the prison either. In fact, of every occasion he and Marrok had worked together, there never seemed to be anything physical to go on. Somehow, the Ranger just found people. Maybe it was just skill or insight that Hawk did not have, maybe it was voodoo or magic, maybe Marrok really was part bloodhound.
Twenty minutes had not yet passed when the pair walked through a ditch and onto, according to a nearby road sign, County Highway W. Marrok crossed the road and stood on the other side for a moment, looking towards a nearby farmhouse. He began walking down the road.
“Yep,” Hawk said, “that’s where I would go. Maybe they’ve got coffee on.”
They walked up the driveway together, both more alert to their surroundings than they had been before. The house was to the left, a garage was attached. There was a large barn behind the house and to the right was a handful of sheds speckling the large mowed lot. Drake could be hiding in any of these places, or in none of them. Perhaps he had obtained a firearm by now. Marrok stopped by the corner of the house allowing him to see the front of the house, the front of the barn, and enough space to make him as comfortable as he could be for the moment. Hawk continued up to the porch, stood to the non-hinged side of the door, and held his Glock in the small of his back as he knocked on the door.
There was a delay, then footsteps, and shortly an older woman came to the door. She did not say anything.
“Hello ma’am. U.S. Marshals Service, are you alone in this house?”
“My husband is out back.”
“Anyone else around?”
“Should there be?” The woman looked puzzled. “Is this about the car?”
“Aren’t you the police?” The woman looked at him questioningly.
“Yes ma’am, but I am looking for a fugitive…what happened to your car?”
“Come on in and sit a while,” the woman lost her edge. “Just might be that your fugitive stole the car.”
The two lawmen holstered their weapons, but retained a cautious and inquisitive demeanor as they entered the old woman’s residence. She walked towards the kitchen after letting them both in, rattling on about every subject except for their fugitive as she moved from the counter top to the coffee pot to the cabinet to the table. She covered everything from her grandson’s career as a police officer to her husband’s manhood to believing they had been Jehovah’s witnesses knocking at the door instead of…she had forgotten who they worked for.
“I’m sorry boys, who did you say you were?” She had put filled mugs down for both of them at a quaint little table in the corner of the kitchen.
“U.S. Marshal’s Service,” Hawk answered. “You were telling us about your car being stolen.”
“Yes,” the woman replied as she sat down to drink a mug she had poured for herself. She went on to tell them of her maroon Oldsmobile and how she had discovered it missing earlier in the morning. She guessed that it must have been taken while she and her husband were asleep putting the time between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. that morning. She could only remember that there was a Z on her license plate, but luckily her husband had written it down for the Sheriff’s Deputy who had been by to investigate earlier. The woman gave Hawk the slip of paper with the license on it.
“We’ll see what we can do about your car ma’am.” Hawk said as he put the paper into his pocket.
“Is he dangerous?” the woman asked.
“I suspect he won’t come back here. Now that he has a car he’ll be trying to get as far from here as possible. I don’t think you need to be worried.” Hawk’s response was kind and helped along by a slight smile.
“Well thank you boys for stopping by,” the woman was quick to collect their mugs and return them to the kitchen before seeing the two men out.
Back in the driveway, Hawk called Deputy Ryan. “Swing around to Highway W…Address? Ryan, we’ll be at the end of the driveway waiting for you…it will be the only house with two men standing at the driveway… We’re less than a mile away, you’ll find us.” Hawk shook his head as he ended the call.
Deputy Ryan arrived shortly after and the three men returned to the prison. Everything that could be done at the prison had been, the Marshals had a lead, and the late morning had turned to late afternoon. Hawk and Ryan would speak to the Sheriff’s Department about the stolen car and see about finding it. Marrok had served his usual purpose for Hawk. He generally was not involved past finding that first stop on the fugitive’s getaway, but he had taken a particular interest in Korbin Drake.
“How did you know to go to that house?” Ryan asked Marrok. Marrok did not have to respond as Hawk slid himself into the matter first.
“He’s like a magician, don’t ask him to reveal his tricks, that’s the court’s problem.” Hawk’s expression made it difficult for Ryan to decipher if his statement was in jest. Regardless, Ryan found pursuit of the answer worthless and left to get in his own car.
“I think I’ll stick around for this one.” Marrok told Hawk. The two of them were standing in the parking lot getting ready to depart with the rest of the cavalry. A puzzled look made its way onto Hawk’s face.
“Uh, sure,” came Hawk’s delayed reply. “What are you thinking?”
“Something about this guy is not right.” Marrok’s voice did not show his interest.
“None of them are right.” Hawk smiled. “He is a criminal.” He said it as if he was pointing out that Drake’s status was not expected to “be right.” Marrok did not say anything, he just maintained his gaze at Hawk.
“Alright,” Hawk said, “you’re in.” Deputy Ryan left the prison solo while Hawk and Marrok drove into Childress to find out more about the stolen car. The Sheriff’s Department had taken the report as expected, but the trail ended there. The car had not been located. Further, there had not been a robbery or burglary reported county-wide during the day that lent itself to the escaped fugitive.
It seemed that they had struck bedrock for the day. Hawk suggested getting a fresh start tomorrow and that Drake was bound to do something in the next several hours that would help them find him. Marrok had not voiced opposition and so they began making their way back towards the hotel Hawk was staying in. Hawk found himself bothered by curiosity and with Marrok trapped in the cab it seemed a good time to ask.
“So, how’d you figure the necklace?” Hawk had turned himself in the passenger seat so that he was facing Marrok. Marrok’s response was just as Hawk expected it might be.
“I did not know it was a necklace, I suspected jewelry.” Marrok was nonchalant.
“Ok, got me there. How did you know there was jewelry?” Hawk’s voice leaked a bit of satire.
“Do you believe that an inmate could escape such an institution with nothing but wit?” Marrok continued watching the road, not once turning towards Hawk.
“Doesn’t explain the jewelry.” Hawk retorted.
“Drake had something extra with him with which to execute his escape. Perhaps a lock picking tool of some kind. Such a tool would have to be less than obvious in its storage form. Most likely jewelry given the size of such tools. Jewelry also seems the most likely item which would be looked over by guards. Some jewelry pieces have sentimental value, and if such things bring some calm to an inmate’s demeanor it would seem tempting for him to be allowed such an item.”
Hawk leaned back in his seat. It seemed to be a logical explanation legitimized by Marrok’s professorial manner of speaking, a longshot of sorts, but logical. Hawk wondered, as he had often, where Marrok had come from. The Ranger seemed to have a lot of knowledge, a deep and well utilized vocabulary, a detective’s intuition, tactical expertise, and a way with people that made him very effective in his work. It occurred to the Deputy as he sat in the cab of Marrok’s Explorer that the pair had not spoken much of their histories.
“Mind if I ask you a question Kasey?” Hawk asked.
“I do not,” came the response.
“What did you do before the Rangers?” Marrok turned to Hawk for the first time during the drive.
“I was a state trooper.” Marrok stated.
“You have to be.” Marrok was surprised that Hawk did not know this prerequisite to his current job, but his surprise did not show through in his response.
“How long were you there?” Hawk’s mouth cringed a little as he heard himself ask. Rule number one among men he had known was “no girl talk.” Did this qualify as girl talk? He considered Marrok a friend, so what was wrong with asking him some stuff besides, “how did you do that?” Perhaps "friend" was a strong term for what they had. He had never been to Marrok’s house, wasn’t even sure where the man lived. He didn’t know if he had a dog, a cat, a wife, a kid, a hobby, none of that. Maybe they were more of close work acquaintances? All he actually knew about the guy was that he was damn good at his job, highly praised by his co-workers concerning his grit and investigatory abilities, and that he drank more coffee than what may be considered healthy for human consumption.
“Six years and some change I guess.” Marrok had to consider the time he had spent in the Texas Department of Public Safety which had given Hawk time to doubt their friendship. Six years was a while, but not long enough to be Marrok’s only work experience. Hawk guessed that Marrok was late thirties or early forties. With this in mind, there was at least another decade of time Marrok had spent doing something before being a state trooper. As he worked up the gumption to ask what that might have been, his phone buzzed in his pocket. Hawk fished the cellphone from his jeans, the caller ID read “New Guy Ryan.”
“Deputy Ryan, what can I do for you?” Hawk grinned his greeting through the phone. The response was inaudible but Hawk’s nods and “yeps” suggested that Ryan had been working on something in their absence and may have stumbled onto another lead.
“Got it buddy, good work….Hey hey hey, you still there? Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask, what is your first name?” Again, the response was inaudible. “What?” Hawk looked out the window to share his appeasement with the countryside. “You know that means I can’t trust you right?” There was another pause, “Because, you know what? Never mind, I’ll explain it later. Gotta go.” Hawk ended the call and replaced the phone in his pocket. He looked over to Marrok, “The guy has two first names.”
“Ah,” Marrok did not acknowledge the joke as funny, more so that he understood the sarcasm of it.
“Ryan says the office is coordinating the search from the court house here now, so you can drop me there.” Hawk ran a hand through his hair. It was going to be a long night, maybe a long couple of days, longer if he was unlucky.
“Drop you off?”
“Yeah man, get home for the night. You can join the hunt tomorrow. My boss probably has to talk to your boss if your loan is for longer than today. You know, bureaucracy and the like.”
“Lance will not mind.” Marrok was sure of it. He was by no means close with the Major, but he knew that Lance was a “do what you can” kind of man when it came to mutual aid functions.
“I know, but take the night anyway man. Sometimes this stuff gets drawn out.” Marrok did not argue, there did not seem to be a point. The rest of the trip was quiet. Hawk’s mind swam with whatever Ryan might have said to him and Marrok stared at the center line as it raced under his driver side window. He had never been good at taking time off.