THE STORY SO FAR: Mark is heading to Vancouver when he gets a call. One of Bud's drivers was attacked while helping a supposedly stranded motorist on the highway to Prince George. Mark takes the load, but drives to Vancouver first to drop off...
THE STORY SO FAR: Mark is heading to Vancouver when he gets a call. One of Bud’s drivers was attacked while helping a supposedly stranded motorist on the highway to Prince George. Mark takes the load, but drives to Vancouver first to drop off his load and visit the driver in the hospital…
Mark knew he’d found the right hospital when he saw the line-up of rigs parked on the street out front. They looked out of place in the city and took up several parking spots each, but there’d be more and more of them arriving over the next few days.
Inside the hospital, Mark approached the front desk. But before he could say a word, the woman staffing it said, “Are you a truck driver?”
Mark wondered if it was written on him somewhere like a word on his forehead. “Yes,” he said. “I’m looking for…”
“Earl Purcell?” she asked.
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“He’s in 302. Take the elevator and make a right when you get off.”
Mark nodded his thanks and headed for the elevators. When he got out on the third floor and turned right, he was surprised to see several drivers milling about in the lounge area just off the hallway.
Mark didn’t know why he knew they were drivers, he just knew, probably the same way the woman at the information desk knew he drove a truck for a living just by looking at him.
The drivers all looked over at him as he started down the hallway, seeming to immediately recognize him as a driver as well.
Mark nodded at each of them in turn and without a word being exchanged, one of the men pointed in the direction of Earl’s room. He headed that way and passed a policeman who may or may not have been there for Earl, then stopped just before the entrance to the hospital room.
It was quiet in the room, except for the regular beeping of some machine and the slight wheeze of Earl drawing breath.
Mark took a step through the doorway and saw Earl lying on the bed. There were tubes running into his arms that were connected to bottles hung up on hangers next to the bed. There was another tube that went from a nozzle on the wall to his nose, no doubt providing oxygen for him and making breathing easier on his cracked ribs. There was a bag hanging from the foot of the bed so Earl wouldn’t have to go through the ordeal of getting out of bed to relieve himself.
Mark let out a sigh, seeing that. ‘Imagine,’ he thought, ‘having to go through the pain and discomfort of having a catheter installed to make life easier.’
Inside the room and closer to the bed, Mark could hear more mechanical beeping and ticking, as a bunch of tiny machines and computers kept everything on an even keel for Earl as his body struggled to heal itself.
Then there were the bandages. There were a couple on his arms, probably covering cuts or scrapes he got in the beat down, but it was the one big bandage that was wrapped around his head and half of his face with blood seeping through it that was most disconcerting.
‘Man,’ Mark thought. ‘They really did a number on ol’ Earl.’ Somebody… somebody would be held accountable for this.
“Hello,” Mark said, coming to a stop next to Earl’s bed and putting a hand on the rail fencing of the bed.
“Hi,” Earl responded in a gravelly whisper, lifting the fingers of his right hand in a kind of wave.
“I got a call from Bud. I’ll be taking your load over for you.”
“Good,” he said with obvious relief. “That’s good.” While it looked as if a weight had been taken off his chest, many seemed to remain. “The trailer’s a bit twitchy…keep it around a hundred, anything more and she seems to want to pull to the right.”
“I’ll figure it out,” Mark said. Then, after a long pause, “What happened?”
“If you’re not up to it, I understand.”
“It’s not that,” he said. “I’ll tell it to as many people as want to hear it, but it takes some effort.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I heard about it on the news.”
He nodded his approval, then began the account. “I was driving on the Yellowhead Highway just north of Blue River…I saw this grey Buick pulled over on the side of the road, and this guy’s got the hood open, looking down at the engine. That’s not the busiest of highways so I figured I’d help him out…You know, a boost or a ride, maybe a call on a cell phone.”
The retelling had winded the man so he paused to catch his breath. Mark waited patiently.
“As I walked toward the guy,” he continued, “two other guys get out of the car… I thought it was strange, you know, why were they waiting in the car?” He paused and his shoulders hiccupped in a sort of shrug.
Mark didn’t say a word.
“When I got to the car, I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ The guy just stared at me and said, ‘You guys are all the same.'” Earl winced in pain, maybe at the memory or maybe it was hurting him to breathe. “Then he hit me…Sucker punch left side of my face.”
Mark checked and it was indeed the left side that was wrapped up in bandages. Bloody bandages.
“They all hit me after that…All three of them. Kicked me too. Next thing I know I was here. The doctors tell me I’ll recover well enough to drive again, but there’s no way… I’m done, to hell with it!”
Mark was incensed by what he heard. It was bad enough Earl was beaten for no reason, but the incident had also taken something from him that he wasn’t quite ready to give up. He was 67 for cryin’ out loud, probably still loved driving. Kept him busy. Something to do. Extra money for the grandkids. Whatever reason he was still driving, it was supposed to be his choice when to quit, not that of three thugs on the side of the road.
Mark vowed that he would do everything he could to ensure these men paid for what they did. After all, for all Mark knew, it could have just as easily been him lying in that hospital bed instead of Earl.
“Just so you know,” he said, putting a hand on Earl’s arm. “I’ll do whatever I can to see these guys get what they deserve.”
Earl laughed slightly, then grimaced as his body reacted to the pain that was brought on by his laughter.
“What’s so funny?”
“The trucking associations put up rewards, the cops told me they’d get them, and every driver who’s been here told me they’re gonna help… but you’re the first one I feel might actually do something.” A pause, then, “I don’t know why.”