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. Earl Purcell is beaten badly and his account of the story gives no reason why three men would attack in such a vicious way. He’s vowed to stop driving and Mark is saddened by this because it was something the man obviously enjoyed. Mark tells Earl he’ll do what he can to see the men pay for their actions…
Mark headed north to Prince George as soon as his visit with Earl Purcell was over. But despite the load being overdue, he wasn’t in any particular hurry to pick it up. Instead, he stopped at just about every truck stop along the way, buying coffees for the truckers stopped there, or anyone else who drove the highway on a regular basis.
At one Husky on the northbound side of the highway, he spotted a school bus parked in the lot and pulled in to use the facilities. He didn’t really have to go, but the chance to talk to the driver of the bus would make the lost time on the stop more than worth his while. As he entered the coffee shop, he scanned the patrons scattered about and figured the woman with a toddler in tow was more than likely the driver of the bus. It was a job where women were allowed, if not encouraged, to take their kids with them on their route, giving stay-at-home moms a job without having to put their kids in daycare.
“Hi there,” Mark said, approaching her table.
“Hello,” she said, suspiciously.
“Can I buy you a coffee?”
“I’ve already got a man, mister,” she snapped. “And believe me, one’s plenty.”
Mark smiled. He could see how she might get the wrong idea, so he did his best to explain. “Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. My name’s Mark and I’m a truck driver…” He took a breath and started again. “Did you hear about Earl Purcell?”
“A truck driver, he stopped to help someone on the side of the road and was beaten up for his trouble.”
“Is that his name?”
“Yeah, he’s a friend of mine and I’m trying to find the guys who did it to him.”
“You and everybody else around here.” Just then, her son finished his chocolate milk and started whining about going home. “In a minute sweetie, the man’s telling mommy something.”
Mark nodded in the boy’s direction, then looked the woman in the eye.
“You drive this highway every day and I’d appreciate it if you called me if you saw anything suspicious.”
“Like a Buick on the side of the road with its hood open, one guy on the road, two guys in the car.”
Her lips pulled up on one side in a sneer. “You want me to get their names for you too?”
“That’d be nice,” Mark said, without skipping a beat. “What I’m thinking is, if these guys do it again they’ll probably do it around here because they know this highway. So, if you see them, give me a call.”
“Why should I call you and not the police?”
It was a fair question, and she might not like his answer, but he decided to tell her the truth just the same. “Because the police will just arrest them and put them in jail.”
“Isn’t that enough?”
Normally it would be, Mark thought, but…”Not in this case.” He gave her a card. “Call me.”
She looked at him, nodded, and said, “Maybe, I will.”
He was about to turn and leave when she said, “I’ll have a large regular. My son could use another chocolate milk.”
Mark was confused a minute, then remembered the offer he’d made to break the ice. “Coming right up.”
Mark reached the yard in Prince George by nightfall. There was a security guard waiting for him in the tiny kiosk at the entrance to the yard. Mark got out of Mother Load, walked up to the kiosk and knocked on the door. The guard unlocked the door and Mark stepped inside. “I’m the guy picking up Earl Purcell’s load.”
“What took you so long? You were supposed to be here hours ago.”
“I was visiting Earl.”
With that, all the anger was gone from the guard’s face. “How is he?”
“Pretty beaten up. He’ll be in the hospital for a few weeks, but he’ll recover.”
“That’s good news. I’m looking forward to seeing him again.”
Mark shook his head. “I don’t think he’ll be driving anymore.”
The security guard looked down at the dirty concrete floor. “That’s too bad. He was a good driver, good guy too. You know that expression, ‘It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy?'”
“Well that’s him, in a weird reverse sort of way.”
“I get what you’re saying.”
“Who would do something like that, and why?”
“Who knows?” Mark said. “People do most criminal activity for one of two reasons, money or sex. But there’s no telling what a crazy person might do, or someone who’s off their medication. Then again, some people are just bad.”
“Well I hope they find the guys who did it.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Mark was just over an hour out of Prince George, heading south toward Vancouver, when he came upon a sight he’d hoped he wouldn’t see for a while. There, caught in the light from his headlamps, in the middle of a long dark stretch of desolate highway, was a car pulled over onto the side of the road. The hood was up and a woman was standing next to the car waving her arms.
“Damn!” Mark said.
He took his foot off the accelerator to give himself time to think.
“What should I do?” he said aloud.
Mark didn’t want to stop. For one of the very few times in his life, he was afraid of what might happen to him. Sure, there was a woman in distress, but what if there were men in the car… or hiding in the ditch beside the road? What if he stopped to help the woman, only to be beaten to within an inch of his life, his rig stolen, his load hijacked?
It could happen. It had happened!
He’d be taking a risk. And for what? A thank-you from a pretty lady and a warm fuzzy feeling inside over a job well done? Sure, it was the right thing to do, but considering all that could happen, it wasn’t worth pulling over and offering assistance. Easier, not to mention safer, just to keep on going and mind your own business. After all, someone else would stop to help sooner or later, wouldn’t they?
As Mark passed the woman, still frantically waving her arms, he saw the look of despair on her face and knew that she was in trouble. Or at least, he was pretty sure she was. Finally, with a sigh, Mark hit the brakes.
“I hope I don’t regret this,” he said, engaging the parking brake and exiting the comfort of a warm Mother Load for the uncertainty of a cold, dark B.C. night.