Mark was driving north on Hwy. 400 in Ontario on his way to delivering a trailer load of dry goods to a distributor in Sudbury when his cell phone rang. He’d been playing around with ringtones the past few weeks and had been able to customize the tone for several people who called him most often.
For his dispatcher Bud, Mark had managed to get a music clip from a 1980 Budweiser commercial. So, whenever Bud called him now, this is what Mark heard: This Bud’s for you, For all you do, The King of Beers Is coming through.
“Hey Bud,” Mark said as he answered the phone.
“How’d you know it was me?”
“A beer commercial told me.”
“Never mind. What’s up?”
“Well,” Bud hesitated.
“I’ve called to tell you that you’re a marked man.”
“Marked man. What are you talking about?”
Bud took a deep breath, then said, “I got a call from a Constable Camacho of the OPP. He’s looking for you. Says he wants to talk to you.”
“To me? Why? About what?”
“He wouldn’t say. What he did say was, ‘This is something I’d rather talk to him about myself.’ If you ask me I think he didn’t want me to tip you off.”
“But that’s what you’re doing.”
“Maybe, but what am I tipping you off about?” Bud asked.
“I don’t know.”
“I thought maybe you’d have an idea about why he wanted to speak to you.
”“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mark wanted to know.
“I don’t know. You get yourself in trouble all the time. Maybe something happened recently you’re not talking about.”
Mark thought about that for a little while, thinking of the last few weeks – months, even – and what he’d done that would attract the interest of the police. It was a daunting task trying to remember everything, especially since this could stem from an incident from any one of a dozen police jurisdictions across the country. Sure, the OPP were making the call, but the originating service could be anything from the RCMP, the CBSA or a municipal service halfway across the country. But even with such a wide realm of possibilities, Mark couldn’t think of anything illegal he’d done in the last few months.
“No,” he said at last. “At least nothing the police would have to get involved with.”
“He seemed pretty determined.”
“How did you leave it off with him?”
“I said I’d let you know he was looking for you. And then I gave him your number.”
“You did what?…”
“What was I supposed to do? If you’re in trouble, I don’t want to be an accessory after the fact.”
“That’s how little faith you have in me?”
“I have no doubt you’d come out of this smelling like roses. But I also know that before that happens you’re gonna sweat and squirm.”
Mark couldn’t argue with Bud’s logic.
“That’s probably right.”
“He gave me his number,” Bud said. “Do you want it?”
“Are you going to call him?”
Bud gave him the number anyway, then said, “Let me know what happens.”
“Sure. I’ll call you from jail. Maybe you could bail me out.”
“Keep a good thought.”
And with that Mark hung up the phone.
An hour later Mark’s cell phone rang again. He picked it up off the console and looked at the number. Unknown number.Mark could feel his pores open up on his forehead and the moisture begin to build on his skin. Unknown number was the way many police services’ number showed up on telephones with caller identification. This was obviously Constable Camacho of the OPP trying to contact him and deliver him the bad news.
“To hell with that,” Mark said, ignoring the call and shutting off his phone. “I’ve got a load to deliver.”
Later that day Mark pulled off the highway outside of Sudbury and headed for the warehouse he’d be delivering to. As he pulled onto the first city street off the highway, he saw the menacing blue, red, and white swoosh of the Greater Sudbury Police on the side of a police cruiser. It was sitting in the parking lot of a Tim Hortons shop a hundred meters up the road.
“Dammit!” he said. “They’re just waiting for me to get off the highway.”
Without even making a signal, Mark turned left onto the first cross street he came upon.
“Recalculating,” said his GPS.The turn would put him out of his way and he’d have to double back to get to the warehouse, but at least he’d avoid the police. A small price to pay for a few liters of diesel and half an hour of his time.
Heading south with an empty trailer late in the day, Mark noticed an OPP cruiser following him along the highway. Mark’s heart began to thump in his chest and his fingers tightened on the steering wheel as his eyes darted from one rearview mirror to the other. Surely he was found now. The officer in the cruiser was probably running his licence plate on the computer and in minutes the car’s emergency lights would flare up and he’d be pulled over and taken away.
But the minutes stretched into 10, 12, 15 and still no flashing lights.They’re just playing with me, Mark thought. Or maybe he’s arranging for back-up so when they pull me over there’ll be plenty of police around to keep me from getting away. Or maybe there’ll be a roadblock up ahead and Mark would have no choice but to stop and allow himself to be taken into custody.But then for a moment, the OPP cruiser was gone.
“Where’d you go?” Mark said aloud.And then the cruiser was pulling out from behind Mark into the passing lane. Mark took his foot off the accelerator and began to slow down.
Still, the cruiser crept up the side of Mark’s trailer slowly, as if he was in no hurry to pull Mark over.
“He’s making this last,” Mark said. “Torturing me.”
And then the cruiser was side-by-side and Mark could see that there were two officers in the car. And then a strange thing happened. The officer in the passenger seat saw Mark was looking down at her and she waved back at him. Waved, to say hello. And then the cruiser sped up, passed Mark and raced up the highway out of sight.
“What the hell is going on?” Mark said aloud.
Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Canada’s Most Wanted.