Once again, Marrok found himself at his laptop with the email open. He had begun composing a new message, as he had two nights before. This time, he had managed to put her name on it. Emma. He had not progressed any further than her name though. The defeated man sat back in his chair with his arms crossed. Pathetic. He was better than this. While he played a game of Russian roulette in his head, deciding whether or not to continue the note to her, his phone buzzed.
“Ranger Marrok?” Dr. Elder was on the other end.
“Hello Dr. Elder.”
“I received your message, apologies for the delay my friend. Can you make time to stop by tomorrow?”
“Perfect, I shall expect you.”
“When are your classes?” Marrok did not want to submit himself to the campus population again just to arrive when the doctor was out of his office.
“I canceled them. Come when you like.”
“…Alright.” The doctor’s response was unexpected.
“Good, see you tomorrow.” Dr. Elder hung up.
What did that mean? The doctor had canceled his classes to accommodate him, or perhaps there was some other matter which had caused the cancellation. It was curious. At the least, Dr. Elder must have stumbled upon something significant. Hopefully it would lead him to Drake.
Wednesday. It was the middle of the week, the dreaded but necessary hump. On any other Wednesday, Marrok probably would have been slowed by the discouragement brought on by too much consideration for the number of Wednesdays he may have left to endure. His career had led him to chase bad men, and women, whose actions seemed despicable to him even though he could often grasp the “why” of their crimes. He could never bring himself to agree with what some people had done. He knew that particular neighborhoods, particular incomes, particular social circles, particular circumstances, and even on occasion particular genes, would pull so heavily on souls that they would be hollowed out and re-purposed for bad intentions despite hiding behind good ones. He had seen it plenty of times over the past decade. Thinking about it could put a man in a strange position emotionally. What was the point of coming to work when the real problem existed so deeply rooted in the homes and in the psyche that it was nearly impossible to fix? He was not sure anymore. He had thought about leaving several times. Leaving the profession that was, the law enforcement field of work. Each of these short-lived schemes had ended in similar fashion. He browsed available jobs as a window shopper might scan items in a store. In the end, the item was not worth the price, he had never pulled the trigger on another job. And so, Kasey Marrok had come to accept that his later-in-life career would amount to nothing but a collection of discouraging Wednesdays for which he had no resolution.
But today was not like other Wednesdays. The drive to Blackbrew seemed to pass by in a breeze of anticipation. What did Dr. Elder have in store for him? Marrok already knew this case would be different from the rest. The change, the unknown…the hunt excited him. Whether he would choose to show it was a different matter, but he definitely felt it.
Marci was behind the counter and greeted him as he walked through the door, jingling the bell overhead alerting the small building that a customer had entered.
“Good morning Kasey!” Marci smiled.
Marrok gave a smile and a nod in return. Marci was often of a very jubilant demeanor which Marrok could not match. He found smiling and giving the nod of acknowledgement worked best. Marci did not bother asking him what he wanted, she went right to work getting a big cup of black coffee poured, snapping a lid on it, and writing his name around the side in black marker as she usually did.
Marci handed the cup to him and he quickly exchanged bills for the drink, tip included. As he turned away from the counter, his elbow struck something. His heart pumped blood at reckless speed while time seemed to stop, allowing his senses to burst to life. Whomever it was, he or she was shorter than him. The obstacle had felt like a shoulder, a small one. His hand let go of the coffee and cemented down into a fist. His big left hand was on the woman’s shoulder before his eyes could identify her. She was falling backwards. He held her up, recognizing that he had merely been a klutz and knocked the poor woman practically out of her shoes. He had not even known she was there. Careless.
Immediately he blushed, an involuntary act which he had not experienced in a long time. She was beautiful. Short, jet black hair hung straight down just enough to reach the base of her neck. Her face was smooth and inviting yet pointed and exact as if she had been chiseled from a diamond. Her eyes were a dark green like the bottom of an underground pool. The yellow sundress seemed to purify the room with her in it. It hung loosely on her shoulders, fitting her form as it hugged her down to its abrupt end just above her knees.
“Excuse me,” the words seemed like the beginning to a song as they danced away from her lips. His eyes were drawn down into hers. She was magnetic in every way.
“Does it always take you this long to catch a lady?” she asked. There was only the faintest hint of a smile, but even that was overwhelming to him.
His heart practically stopped. His hands were still on her shoulders. How long had he stood there gawking at her like that? The realization of his embarrassment quickly took over and he pulled his arms down to his sides. His pants were wet, why were they wet? Oh yeah, the coffee he dropped. And now they felt hot too. Great.
“Kasey dear, I’ll get you another cup. Don’t worry!” Marci broke the weight of the room from behind the counter. Or rather, she would have broken up the weight had she not giggled at what she had just witnessed. The normally straight-faced customer of several years had been awestruck by a lady. How could she not laugh a little?
Marrok searched for words, any words. His eyes widened, his mouth creaked open a little, but nothing came out.
“Are you alright?” the woman asked him, tilting her head.
Marrok jostled his head as if he were shaking off a punch. “Uh, yeah. Yes. Yep. Thank you.” He strode towards the door.
“Kasey! Your coffee!” Marci called out across the shop. Marrok hung his head, shook it again, and returned to the counter. He reached into his pocket for a few dollars.
“You already paid dear.” Marci smiled at him.
Marrok sighed, “Thanks.” It came out as a quick whisper. Coffee in hand again, he walked towards the door. The bell above the door teased him as he left.
In the university parking lot, his hands still trembled as they rested on the wheel of the SUV. His breathing was off, his heart seemed to skip beats here and there, tripping over itself at a sprint. He had not even sipped out of the coffee which now rested in the drink holder. He sat there for several minutes, he did not even turn the radio on. The SUV was a vacuum soaking up his overflow.
Finally having collected himself, Marrok had made the walk to Dr. Elder’s office. The door was ajar, but he knocked anyway.
“Come in Mr. Marrok!” Elder’s voice was one of professionally dampened excitement. “Please,” he continued, “sit down.” He motioned for Marrok to sit at the desk in a chair across from his. Elder was standing off to the side of the desk. “Coffee? Tea?” The doctor asked. Marrok held up his plastic cup of coffee, signaling that he had what he needed and hoped Elder would get on with his findings.
“Ah,” Elder said as he moved towards his own chair behind the desk and sat down, “straight to business then.” Marrok took notice of the many books which now littered the professor’s desk. They had not been there just a few days ago. There were also what appeared to be printed pages of long texts scattered about the space. There was a yellow legal pad at the corner of the desk flipped half way through, it appeared to be completely full of notes which had been turned through time and again. Whatever Dr. Elder had been doing over the past few days, he had gotten well into it.
“Fascinating isn’t it?” Elder asked. His head now resting against folded hands under his chin.
“What is?” replied Marrok. As excited and proud of himself as the older man seemed, it appeared to Marrok that he simply had a stack of paper on his desk. Hopefully he was not in for a lecture.
“The spark which ignites the flame.” Elder’s face was inquisitive, excited, and mystical even. Clearly, the professor had stumbled upon something which had enveloped his time over the past day or so.
“I do not follow.” Marrok’s face was hard and less than revealing, as it usually was.
“Very well, let’s start from the beginning.” Dr. Elder leaned forward in his chair, his hands remaining folded but now resting upon the desk. “You asked about magical dirt if I remember correctly…well, I must say that it was more of an obstacle than a hint with which you started me on this journey, but I believe I have righted the ship so to speak. Let’s see, where best to start…Have you read Dracula?”
Marrok leaned back in his chair. Had he read Dracula? What kind of question was that? The man seemed serious though, there would not likely be any harm in answering him.
“I have not.”
“Of course not,” replied Elder rather frustrated. “Well, have you any knowledge concerning vampires and the like?”
“They suck blood.” Marrok seemed unimpressed and uninterested.
“Right,” Elder sighed, leaning back in his own chair. “I might as well be waffling on to a bloody twit.” He mumbled under his breath to himself, staring at the floor.
“What?” Marrok was not sure he understood the phrase completely, but he was fairly certain an insult had been passed to him.
“Nothing,” Elder shook off his frustrations and leaned back into the desk. “I believe you know more than you show interest for. Regardless, I shall educate you.” Dr. Elder paused for a moment to collect his thoughts before continuing on. “Vampires, yes…they ‘suck blood’ as you say. But they also possess alleged supernatural qualities should one believe fairy tales, historical mythos, etc. Now, these abilities include transformation, super strength, invincibility to common weaponry, various takes on invisibility, faster than human speed, and several varieties of retaining one’s youth or a particular age…immortality if you like.”
Marrok had set down his coffee, his arms were crossed. Dr. Elder knew how to read a student during a lecture. Crossed arms meant the pupil was not completely receptive to the idea being presented, if at all. However, the Ranger had maintained eye contact throughout, suggesting that he was attentive despite the obstacle of his beliefs. He decided to move along to the point of his explanation.
“Now you may be wondering to yourself, ‘what does this have to do with the magic dirt I asked about?’ Interestingly, it seems that soil from Transylvania, the historically accepted geographical origin of the vampire legend, is credited with allowing Dracula to use these powers all those centuries ago. Think of it as one of those invisible dog fences. Dracula, perhaps…if he existed at all…would have been prevented from exercising his supernatural abilities outside of Transylvania.”
Marrok did not have an initial response. He sat quietly in his chair for a minute or two as Dr. Elder continued to speak further about where he had gotten this information. He was listing off books, archives belonging to the Mythology Department at the school, but Marrok tuned him out. Vampire, the word was taboo for this sort of thing. There were plenty of movies and novels out there glamorizing or vilifying vampires in popular culture, but would that sort of thing motivate someone to kill those men at the gas station and do what Drake had done? Maybe. Oddly enough, however, the explanation of the soil combined with the mention of invisibility had struck a chord with Marrok. He was not willing to advertise it to the doctor, but he was beginning to think he was dealing with “something else,” perhaps something supernatural.
“Assuming any of that is factual-,” Marrok interrupted the doctor’s long-winded verbal citation for his work, “-I wonder if this Transylvania dirt, if carried on one’s person, would hypothetically allow the wearer to exercise these abilities you talked about?” Dr. Elder’s face could hardly contain or find a way to express accurately his interest in the Ranger’s statement.
“Oh…oh my…To be sure, the theory is fascinating! I have not come across such a thing, I would not even know on what base to begin the foundation for an accurate answer.” The scientific method was making its way through Dr. Elder’s mind as he tried to wrap his head around what Marrok was suggesting to him. Marrok, on the other hand, remained seemingly indifferent in his chair.
“Hmm,” Marrok grumbled as he stood up, “Well Dr. Elder, it has been enlightening, thank you for your help.”
“But you can’t possibly leave now!” Dr. Elder stood up in an animated fashion, “we’ve only just begun!”
“There is no ‘we’ doctor.” Marrok walked to the door.
“But who is this fellow?! What is he?! You need to know what you are actually dealing with!” Elder remained standing at his desk, gesturing his frustration. Marrok stopped at the doorway and turned to the sprightly professor.
“I imagine he is misled, ill-intentioned, and strange. Thanks again for the help.” With that, Marrok walked out the door, leaving it ajar as he had found it. The sound of his boots striking the hallway floor reported back to Dr. Elder that the conversation had ended. He sat back down in his chair. The excitement had drained from him, an act put on to judge the inquisitive Ranger’s mind. A faint smile crossed his face.