Marlon Wells and Rudy Presser arrived at the convenience store. Almost immediately, Rudy was called to a scene farther down the highway. Marlon was almost glad to see him go.
Having been struck by lightning a few months ago, Marlon had found that everything about him had sped up tremendously. He could process a scene in minutes instead of the normal hours. He hadn’t wanted anyone knowing about it, so he hid his speed when possible.
As he looked the store over, Marlon realized that the killer had left no clues other than the bullets in the dead men. Prints on the door had been wiped clean. Prints were everywhere else, but Marlon knew they could belong to anybody within three counties. He expected to find prints. Identifying the killer from those prints was a different story.
Marlon rechecked the store to see if he missed anything. He was not surprised to see that the tape in the security video recorder was gone. He looked around until he found it unwound in the dumpster. He bagged it so he could get an expert to try to piece it back together. No clues, no suspects, he liked to say.
He sat on the hood of his car, filling out his paperwork and checking the evidence. He rubbed his face as he considered his options. Then he decided to call Roo and check in with him. Maybe he had some type of clue where he was.
“FV-12,” the forensics man said in his radio. “Go.”
“FV-10,” Marlon said. “No traces here. Maybe a recording needs to go to the A.V. people. Stop.”
“Got a hair,” said Presser. “Survivor said his attacker was an Annie Oakley in a Patrol uniform. Stop.”
“Could be from our D.B. in his underwear,” said Marlon. “Will advise H.P. and see if we can get an identification. Stop.”
“Right,” said Presser, signing off.
Marlon finished what he was doing. He called the nearest patrol station to see if they knew the one unknown victim. He then got into his van and headed down the highway to see if he could help Roo with his own crime scene.
Presser walked him through the scene, asking him what he thought. Marlon was impressed with the mobile lighting setup so the scene could be processed. They would have to come back in the daylight to really do a good job on the whole area. But it looked like Rudy had covered the bases.
Marlon walked the scene. His impression was the Porsche had gone off the road first, then the patrol car had skidded to a stop on the shoulder. He saw that Roo had found a partial footprint from a boot and had poured plaster in it in the hopes they would match it with something else. He was struck that the patrol car had so little blood in it, but there were two wide splotches on the shoulder of the road.
He agreed with his colleague. The elderly couple had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. At least all the bodies had been taken away without marring the scene too much. They needed all the help they could get.
Willie White Raven changed back when he reached the first hotel. No need to alarm people with his alternate personality. All he needed to do was check each of the cars and see who went with which one. Now how could he do that?
He felt each of their hoods and found one was hotter than the rest. It was a gold El Dorado. Now all he had to do was find out who drove this car. Seemed simple enough.
He went to the hotel’s office and saw that the clerk was gone from the office. He went inside, muffling the doorbell with his hand. He searched the registry and discovered that the El Dorado belonged to a woman named Smith, the most common name in the world. Still, what had happened to the clerk? Shouldn’t he have been on the job in case someone came in to get a room?
Willie checked which room Miss Smith had checked into. He left the office, muffling the bell with his hand again. He then walked down to the room that was opposite the office and noticed that the El Dorado was not even close to the room.
He went to the door but paused, trying to think of some opening gambit. He couldn’t just knock on the door and ask if she had seen the clerk, could he? Still, it was better than standing on the threshold, frozen by indecision. It might not be the woman from the wreck. Plenty of people drove this highway all the time. Willie knocked anyway. If he was wrong, no harm, no foul.
The door opened warily to a crack. “What can I do for you?” said the woman, just exposing part of her body.
Willie White Raven looked at the woman before he said anything. She had an unlined face framed by short, dark hair. One slender arm stood out in relief against the darkened interior of the hotel room. A pretty thing, Willie decided. Not a murderer at all. His ring laughed unnoticed on his hand.
“I was looking for the clerk,” Willie said, launching into his half-truth. “Have you seen him?”
“Not since I checked in,” she said.
As she closed the door, Willie saw something slide down the door frame. He placed his hand on the door to stop its motion as he looked more closely at whatever it was. He had just decided it was blood when thunder rolled next to his head.
Marlon Wells had helped Rudy Presser check in the evidence after they had gone over the second crime scene. They would return in the morning to do a more careful check. Rudy went back to the lab after they were done. Marlon decided to cruise the highway.
He left his van, went home, and changed into a jogging suit and running shoes. Then he streaked back to the highway. An evening run was just what he needed to get the brain working right. No one saw him, but some maybe felt a draft if they drove too close to the shoulder. A real speed demon, Marlon was quicker than the eye could follow.
Marlon cruised down the highway, just running. He could easily run across the state line over to Four Corners or maybe out to Jack Weston’s diner, the Minute Man Cafe. He didn’t have a purpose or a special destination. He just wanted to stretch his legs.
He heard a gunshot and skidded to a halt. A hotel was the only thing close by. He decided to check there, then widen his search pattern.
As Marlon cruised into the parking lot, he froze in amazement as a fiery, dog-like man and a beautiful naked woman faced each other in the parking lot. The woman gestured, ring glowing on her hand. A wave shuddered through the lot, smashing cars left and right. The dog man gestured, and a wall of steel appeared.
“Set commands that you die!” the woman said, gesturing the blood on her body into clothing.
“Coyote says I owe him money, and I can’t die until I pay up,” said the fiery dog, taking to the air. He gestured a stream of taffy to fall out of the sky, balloons and confetti accompanying the candy.
Marlon ran to the open door of the hotel that he saw. He was glad the customers had decided to hide inside from the weird combat. He looked inside as the woman blocked the candy with some type of shield. A young man lay on the bed. Marlon didn’t need to get closer to see the man had his heart ripped out forcefully. He frowned as he turned back to the fight in the lot.
The Coyote and the servant of Set exchanged strange flows of light. The fiery caninoid fell behind a wrecked car. The woman smiled as she went to finish the strange creature off.
“Bad-tempered, isn’t she?” said a voice behind Marlon Wells. He whirled at the sudden sound, finding himself facing the laughing Coyote.
“Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” Marlon asked.
“How much fun would that be?” asked the Coyote. “Remind me not to let her take me to get some loving.”
“Tell me about it,” said Marlon, glancing at the corpse laying in bed. “I guess we should arrest her.”
“What we, white man?” said the Coyote. “I always wanted to say that.”
“Who are you calling white man?” said Marlon, one eyebrow raised. “I’m a light-skinned brother, is all.” Willie shrugged as an apology, and Marlon continued. “I’ll distract her, and when she is focused on me, you zap her from behind. No fuss, no muss.”
“Let’s see it in action,” said the caninoid with a motion of his clawed hand.
Marlon slipped on some Oakleys to partially hide his features and partially protect his eyes. He seemed to flicker, then he stood right behind the agent of Set, swinging with all of his might. His fist impacted on the glowing shield she was enveloped in. He flew to the ground as the field repelled him.
Cory Ferris turned on him, eyes cold. She raised her hand, utterly intent on destroying her phantom attacker.
A metal box surrounded the ring, and the deadly glow faded around the killer. She seemed astonished at the change of events. Still, the gap in her concentration was enough to allow Marlon to get to his feet and deck her as hard as he could. She slammed into a car and lay still.
Marlon looked around for his helper and found that the Coyote had left as mysteriously as he had appeared.