Hawk pulled into the lot at 7:42 a.m., three minutes to spare. Marrok had arrived long before, sipping on his coffee while he waited. There had been a faint hope that the marshal would not show and he would be left with an unaccompanied trip to visit the retired detective in Robert Lee. There was no such luck though as Hawk climbed into the passenger seat of Marrok’s SUV, his own coffee in hand. It was just over 150 miles to Robert Lee, roughly two hours and some change. It would have been a nice drive by himself.
Hawk started with his chatting almost immediately. It was not annoying by any means, on the contrary, Hawk was most often a funny guy and entertaining if time allowed. Marrok, however, was no conversationalist in any sense of the term. He did not have any stories of hilarity to share, no short mockeries of co-workers or shared acquaintances to knock about, nothing. The silence of a tomb would be more welcome to him than the threat presented by a back and forth that did not revolve around work.
“You’re not listening are you?” Hawk asked.
Marrok hesitated for a moment, he had not been. “No.”
“I said ’did you need another coffee before we get out of town?’”
Marrok considered it, his was almost empty and Blackbrew was on the way out. “I think so,” he replied in matter of fact fashion.
Shortly, the men were at Blackbrew, it was a much later time of day than Marrok was usually in the place but he did not mind getting a second cup from the place. Marci did not seem to mind either, especially to see the ranger in the shop with company.
“Who’s your friend?” she asked.
“Work friend,” came Marrok’s reply.
“Only friend,” smirked Hawk.
“Not true,” Marrok let a slight glare fire to the marshal. Marci seemed entertained, and slightly surprised to know that Marrok tolerated company of any kind. She continued putting together two cups of coffee, but suddenly turned back towards them.
“Honey, about the other day-“ Marrok shook his head ever so slightly and grimaced at her, begging her not to let the incident from earlier in the week be known to Hawk. Half a smile erupted from her face and she went back to the coffee. She had gotten the hint.
“What about the other day?” Hawk asked the ranger.
“It’s nothing,” Marrok brushed it off just in time for the two to receive their cups, pay their bill, and walk out the door.
They walked back out to the SUV, got in, and began again towards Robert Lee. Hawk stared out the window for a few minutes and Marrok kept his eyes to the road. He scanned each vehicle that passed. The license plates, the makes, models, colors, number of passengers, the information jumped at him naturally. Being a trooper had lent the ability to him, an ability which had not faded.
“So who are your other friends?” Hawk asked. The marshal seemed bored, his usual spark was not behind the question.
“What?” Marrok pulled his eyes from the license plates and shot a glance in Hawk’s direction.
“Who are your other friends? You said I was not the only one, never seen you talk to anybody else or mention anyone.”
Marrok returned his gaze to the road and thought about it. “Bill.”
“Work friend.” Hawk retorted.
Shit. Who else was there? “Merlin,” Marrok rebounded. Hawk’s expression became one of comedy as he turned to face the ranger.
“Merlin is your dog,” Hawk smiled.
Damn it. Marrok searched every conversation and memory of the past several months. There must be someone to mention that Hawk had not met, but he could think of no one.
“Not even a girl you’re sweet on huh?” Hawk seemed disappointed. Marrok could feel a slight melancholy floating through the cab. His ‘work friend’ felt shut out. Perhaps Hawk suspected that Marrok purposefully kept a persona life away from him barring any sort of friendship in the first place. This was not Marrok’s intent. He was alone all of the time, he was accustomed to it. Rarely, if ever, did he feel the need to share anything with anybody. It had not always been that way though.
The rest of the drive was quiet, two hours of the engine’s whispering hum droned Hawk to sleep eventually. The marshal woke up again as they exited the interstate and began weaving their way through the rural portion of their drive to Robert Lee.
Robert Lee was as plain a town as any other, maybe less so. The roads were paved, although it had been decades since anything further had been done to them. There were a few trees here and there, a few worn dirt alleyways serving as shortcuts between side streets. The houses were plain, one story, one color, no yard work. Detective Colby’s house was no different. Plain white, patches of dirt in the yard, it blended right in with the rest of town. Marrok pulled to the side of the street as they passed a church, bringing the black SUV to a stop just short of Colby’s residence.
The old detective answered after their first knock on the door. “Come in boys,” he said. “Been expectin’ ya.” He did not ask for their names or to see their IDs. Colby just invited them in like they had known each other for years.
“Don’t you want to make sure we’re not burglars?” Hawk joked to the older man. Colby stiffened up for a moment, he scrutinized both of them for a second or two before continuing into the house.
“That one’s a Ranger,” he said gruffly, pointing at Marrok. “Good enough for me.” He brought them through the doorway and into the house.
The house was as small as it had looked from the outside. The front door brought them to a sparse entryway. Then there was a small kitchen, a combined living and dining area, a bedroom off to the side and a breezeway towards the back door. The bathroom was probably connected the bedroom, out of sight. What the place lacked in size and décor, it made up for in cleanliness. The entire home was old, but well kept. It could have used a paint job, a few planks of the wood floor could use some work, the fridge was far outdated, but it did not look bad.
“Have a seat,” said Colby, gesturing to the dining table. It was round with four chairs, all wood with no tablecloth. “What are ya boys drinking?”
“Actually, we’re working,” replied Hawk.
“Sure, sure,” the retired detective said, “well I’ve got cola.” He grabbed three soda cans from the old fridge and slid them onto the table. Marrok noticed a revolver stuffed into the back of Colby’s pants. Carrying a firearm was a hard habit to get out of even in retirement. The old man popped the top of his own can and sat down before starting the conversation. “I expect you want to talk about that young fella Drake.”
“Yes sir, we do,” replied Marrok.
“Suppose you tell me what’s going on first, it’ll point me in the right direction.” Colby said. Hawk began to speak, but Marrok cut him off.
“Sounds fair,” Marrok said. The ranger relayed to Colby the events that had transpired over the last few days. He was exact in each description, leaving nothing to the old man’s imagination. The detective smiled when Marrok mentioned the gas station in Dalhart but otherwise remained stoic, nodding his head once or twice and grunting here and there as if in deep thought. Finally, Marrok finished his tale with the mention of his conversation with Bridget and placing the wine bottle onto the table which he had collected the night before.
“Bridget always knew me,” the man mumbled as he grasped the wine bottle. “Well, I’ll tell you one thing, the boy isn’t going north.”
“How do you know?” asked Hawk.
“He did the same thing to me as he did to you in Dalhart.” Colby said. “He went north first, made a mess to throw folks off I reckon, then came back south. Probably on his way to Mexico if we hadn’t got him first.”
“How’d that go?” Hawk leaned forward in his chair.
“Well boys, I’ll lay the facts straight and you’ll tell me in the end if you’ve got what you need. And you’ll also forgive me if I include the particulars which may seem obscure. I am cursed with an inability to forget. It is a curse boys, you’ll find that in the end.”