Marrok felt great, walking towards the baggage claim. He was home. He pulled out his phone and found Alice in the contact list. He had promised she would be the first to know when he returned, and he was going to follow through on that.
“Kasey!” A familiar voice demanded he look up from the phone. It was Hawk. Hawk was standing there in a suit, his U.S. Marshal’s badge hanging from a chain around his neck, the tail of his suit coat pulled back behind his holstered gun. Major Lance was standing next to him, his firearm also showing. Neither of them looked happy to see him.
“Hello boss,” Marrok addressed Lance because he was in charge.
“Don’t ‘boss’ me son. We know where you went and what you did. I didn’t think you were that stupid.”
Marrok stared at the Major. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
“So here’s how this is gonna go,” began Lance. “You’re gonna walk out to the car with us and get in. We have a lot to talk about.”
Marrok stared for a minute, “What if I didn’t want to?”
Lance reached into his pocket, grabbed something small, and tossed it to Marrok. It burned him as he caught it and he dropped it to the floor. It was a bullet, a silver one.
“I have seventeen of those in the mag and one in the chamber,” Lance said. Marrok looked over to Hawk.
“Mine too,” Hawk said, although he looked like he was sorry for it.
The airport was full of people. Nobody really seemed to be paying the three of them any attention. No reason to, it was just two men talking to another. He could certainly get away if he wanted to, maybe. The discomfort of his boss and another man whom he considered his friend threatening him swayed him from the effort. How did they know? How long had they known? Would they really follow through with their threat?
It had been a long time since anyone had known his secret, the most recent exception being Dr. Elder. There had always been a lingering fear that he would be discovered, especially since the first time it had happened. The first time, it destroyed his life. Marrok thought back to just a few weeks earlier, when he had been attempting an email to her while the rain pattered on his roof. Things could have been very different.
“I can’t remember the last time you didn’t have your mind made up,” Lance interrupted his train of thought. “You’re acting like there’s options here.”
“C’mon man,” it was almost a plea as the phrase escaped Hawk.
Marrok continued staring at the two of them, wondering what he should do, but nothing came to mind. “Where are we going?”
“Somewhere we can talk,” answered Lance.
“About what?” Marrok asked.
“You know damn well about what,” Lance’s voice mumbled with an authority.
Marrok let out a sigh. He had done the right thing, Drake would have continued killing. There had only been one way to stop him. He had stopped him.
Marrok looked straight into Lance’s eyes, “I’m not going in handcuffs.”
“I imagine they wouldn’t hold you anyway.” Lance stated.
Marrok continued on towards the baggage claim at a slower walk and the two lawmen fell in behind him, following. It was an awkward wait as the bags slowly came out onto the carousel and made their way through the large area, winding left and right. Eventually his duffle bag came into view. He reached out for it, but was interrupted in his thoughts when another hand brushed by him and took it. Marrok turned towards the thief, intending to regain the luggage.
“Hey pal, that’s my-”
“Yes indeed,” the responding voice was familiar in its low English accent, “I’ll take it for you. It was Mark Elder. He was not dressed in his usual, professorial style of clothing. Rather, he now sported a pair of sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up over his head. The only smart looking thing about him was the glasses.
“What are you doing?” Marrok asked quietly.
“I believe valet is the correct term,” Elder smiled.
“Marrok!” came a voice from behind, “Who is that?”
Elder smiled when he heard it, he turned back towards Hawk and Lance with the bag in his hand. There was a look of recognition on both of their faces as Elder grinned at them. Lance took a step forward.
Then, the strangest thing that Marrok had ever experienced happened. Elder had dropped the bag and grabbed him by the arm, with his other hand reaching into a pocket. Suddenly, the entire room had come to a stop. People were frozen in place, the carousel was motionless, and Lance’s foot had not yet touched the floor as he had stepped forward. Time had stopped.
Marrok shivered with discomfort. He looked over to Elder, who still had a grin on his face. “Right then,” Elder beamed, “let’s go shall we?”
“What’s going on?” Marrok’s voice was not its usual gravelly tone.
“We’re leaving,” came Elder’s matter of fact answer.
“No, what happened? Everything’s stopped. What’s going on?”
“My dear boy,” began Elder, “let’s get out of here first and talk later please. This is a difficult and exhausting hat trick, I must admit. Now come along.” Elder’s voice was parental in his ‘explanation,’ but it was eerily comforting at the same time.
And so Elder picked up the bag he had dropped, and began walking away. Marrok followed hesitantly and wide-eyed. Elder weaved around people whose lives had simply paused somehow, and he did so without as much as batting an eye or admiring the phenomena that had somehow been enacted. For the first time in a long time, Marrok recognized a feeling which had not often gripped him. Fear.
Despite Marrok’s hesitance, the pace was quick as they made their way out of the airport, across a street that would have been busy with traffic, and into a parking garage. There were two flights of stairs to climb, which Elder accomplished with youthful spring, and a long walk to the end of an aisle where a grey Audi was parked. Elder popped the trunk and tossed the duffel bag into it. There was a sound of door locks undoing themselves and the headlights flashed.
Marrok hesitated. His eyes were wide, cautious, and indecisive.
“I get it,” Dr. Elder shrugged his shoulders and wrinkled his cheeks a bit. “One of them is your friend, the other your boss. Who am I but a stranger continuously interrupting your life these past few weeks? I understand. But there is something you must also understand. If you stay here, if you go back with Mr. Hawk and Mr. Lance, I have absolutely no idea what will happen to you. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. But if you come with me, you will be safe…well for the time being anyway.” The professor shoved his hands into the single pocket of the hoodie and tilted his head inquisitively. “What will you have then Ranger Marrok? Surety or the unknown?”
Marrok stared for a moment longer. He did not like being told what to do, but these were unusual circumstances. He let out a long sigh. “Where are you taking me?”
“Now that’s better!” exclaimed Elder. “Come along, we can speak more on the way.” The professor maneuvered around to the driver’s side of the Audi and got in.
Marrok walked slowly to the passenger side of the car. His reflection looked back at him from the tinted window. It was a look that two strangers might give each other on a city street. He barely recognized his own face. What had he gotten himself into? He opened the door and sat down in the uncomfortably low seat, his frame bending awfully to fit inside.
Deputy Hawk and Major Lance had blinked, both Kasey Marrok and the man in the hoodie had vanished before their eyes. The two men looked at each other blankly for a moment.
“What was that?” asked Hawk.
“That,” began Lance rather annoyed, “was Dr. Mark Elder.”
“Elder? As in Sapienti, Elder, Sowka, and LaChance? Like the four lines Elder?” Hawk seemed unbelieving.
“Yeah,” replied Lance, putting his hands to his hips.
“Well shit,” said Hawk, beginning the walk back out to the parking lot.
“Yeah,” agreed Lance.
The grey Audi had already left the parking garage and was well on its way down North Martin L. King Boulevard. The professor looked over towards the passenger seat where Marrok was still attempting to get comfortable, the Ranger’s bulking figure was barely packed into the front of the car.
“Be sure to adjust the seat my friend,” began Elder, “it’s a bit of a drive.”
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