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.
On his way to pick up the load Mark makes stops along the way asking people who drive the highway regularly to give him a call if they see anything suspicious. Later, driving the load south, he sees a woman in trouble on the side of the road. He’s afraid to stop at first, but in the end he stops to help, hoping it’s the right thing to do…
It turned out that Mark had nothing to fear at all. The woman was a hockey mom who’d gotten a flat on the way home from her kid’s game. Mark changed the tire for her and refused when she offered him money…at first.
“I insist,” she said, sticking a $20 bill in his palm.
“Alright,” Mark said. “I’ll make sure it goes to a good cause.”
Then with a handshake and a nod, Mark was soon back behind the wheel of Mother Load. Somehow, he was riding higher in the seat now, with his shoulders back and his chest thrust out. Although he’d been hesitant about helping the woman out, it felt good now that he’d done it. After all, it was still the right thing to do, no matter how many bad things happened to drivers on the side of the road.
He drove through the night and crossed the border at five in the morning, driving on for several more hours to make his delivery in Eugene, Oregon. He was a day overdue and there were people on the loading dock in a hurry to get the truck unloaded, but no one seemed too upset by his lateness. Everyone knew the situation and wanted to know how Earl was doing. With all the questions and talk, it was an hour and a half before Mark was able to pull Mother Load away from the dock.
Back on the road, Mark called up Bud to make sure that the money for the load would go to Earl and his family.
Bud laughed at the suggestion. “I was probably going to do that anyway.”
“And add an extra $20 to it.”
“Where’s that money coming from?”
“A lady in distress,” Mark said. “You can take it off my next load.”
“Will do,” Bud said, giving Mark a choice of three loads, two heading back to Ontario and one going from Seattle to Prince George.
“That’s the one,” Mark said.
“I figured it would be.”
It was two days since Mark had been through central British Columbia and five days since the roadside attack on Earl Purcell but no one had called with any information about the thugs. Mark figured he’d spoke with more than 20 people and they must have spread the word to at least 20 or 30 more, but Mark’s cell phone had been silent. Even the CB radio, awash with talk about the attacks just a few days before, had moved on to talk about the Canucks and Flames and when, if ever, the Stanley Cup might come back to Canada.
At a truck stop two hours north of Vancouver Mark made the rounds, but no one had any news other than it looked like Earl was going to make a full recovery. Even so, he still had no plans to get back on the road.
“It’s a shame,” one driver said, a bearded man in black-rimmed glasses. “A man like that should at least be able to decide when he wants to quit.”
“Could be worse,” Mark said.
“He could have died.”
“Sure, but you can say that about anything.”
Mark had no response to that. After all, how bad does a situation have to be when death is the only thing that’s worse? Just then, someone’s cell phone rang a few tables over. An older driver – the kind you’d think wouldn’t even have a cell phone – reached into his pocket and pulled out a Blackberry. No one paid much attention at first, but when the old-timer said, “And they’re there right now?” the coffee shop fell silent and everyone tried to listen in.
“You sure it’s them? Same grey Buick?”
The shop was so quiet Mark heard someone fart at the other end of the room. Obviously other drivers had spread the word just like Mark had, putting thousands of eyes out on the B.C. highways looking for three thugs in a grey Buick. The man hung up his phone.
Everyone in the place waited in silence.
“That was a buddy of mine,” he said. “He says the guys who did Earl are out on the highway again. Same car, hood up and two guys in the back seat.”
He didn’t have to say anything more. The coffee shop was suddenly awash with movement as every driver in the room jumped from his seat and headed for the door. It was a mob, Mark realized, an angry mob and someone was going to get hurt, maybe even killed.
That wasn’t what Mark had had in mind. He’d wanted justice, not a lynching. If these angry drivers wound up killing one of these thugs, it would be bad news all around…for the trucking industry, for the justice system, even for humankind.
Something had to be done, if not to stop the mob, then to at least slow it down a little. Mark made a phone call, then ran to Mother Load.
He knew he was in the right place when just five miles up the road he came across a long line of trucks parked on the shoulder. There were pick-ups and big rigs, and everything in between, but Mark managed to find a spot for Mother Load on the opposite side of the highway, allowing him to be on the scene quicker than those parked further away.
Mark ran across the highway and came upon the angry mob. The truckers were standing in a rough semi-circle around one thug who was holding the crowd back with a tire iron. There was a look of fear on his face, sheer terror, but he didn’t seem to be backing down any. He was slashing his tire iron wildly at the encroaching drivers, intent on hurting a few of them before they closed in. The other two thugs had wisely decided to remain in the car, looking like frightened children hiding from a monster.
‘This is not going to end well,’ Mark thought. Given enough time the mob would beat the three men to death leaving a stain on the highway far darker and bloodier than that of the original incident. Mark heard police sirens approaching.
‘Thank God,’ he thought.
But as much as he wanted the police to intervene and for the justice system to take over, he didn’t want all that to happen too quickly.
And so when the RCMP officers got out of their cruiser Mark was there to meet them.
“Thank God you’re here,” he said. “I’m the guy who called for you, do you need my name or contact information?”
The officers tried to brush Mark off, but he was having none of it. “My name is Mark Dalton,” he said. “My mailing address is…”
“Later,” said one of the officers, trying to brush past.
Mark moved to the side, blocking the policeman’s way.
“Stand aside!” the second officer said. Mark moved, but not much. Some of the other drivers must have realized what Mark was doing because they joined in beside him, forming a wall of men between the police and the thugs.
“I called too,” said one of the drivers.
“Me too. I need to give my name.”
The blockade continued on for several more seconds with the police getting frustrated to the point where they might use force to break through the line. But then Mark heard the unmistakable ting of a tire iron hitting the pavement, followed by the satisfying sound of a fist striking flesh. Again and again. Then a car door opened and someone was being dragged over the asphalt. Mark could hear boots hitting bodies and then the distinctive snap of ribs