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Cash Only: Part 3

The story so far:


The story so far:

Looking to make some extra money, Mark agrees to move an excavator for a man named Gus. Gus isn’t sure where the excavator’s going, and doesn’t have keys for it, but he’s offering Mark $500 cash for the job, so Mark is willing to give the guy some slack. Mark picks up the machine, but gets it caught up in overhead wires as he tries to make his way out of the city. Free of the wires, he almost gets stuck under a bridge, but manages to get free.

Mark makes the delivery. Gus asks if there were any problems with the load and Mark tells him of the overhead wires and the bridge. Each time, Gus wants to know if the police were around. Mark tells him no and Gus is pleased, giving Mark an extra $50 for his troubles. Then Mark starts asking Gus what kind of construction they’ll be doing on the site and Gus gets bothered by all the questions, giving Mark an extra $100 just to shut his mouth.

*

With some extra cash in his pocket and a free night on his hands, Mark decided to pamper himself with a night in a hotel. He chose an established “name” hotel outside of the city that had a parking lot big enough for Mother Load, and which offered an exercise room, swimming pool, sauna and whirlpool. In the morning, well after 10 a.m., Mark awoke relaxed and refreshed, and ready to take on a load the old-fashioned way.

Outside in the parking lot, after doing a thorough circle check of Mother Load to make sure it wasn’t vandalized in the night, Mark called up Bud looking for a load.

“Hello?”

“Hey Bud it’s Mark.”

“Mark who?” Bud said as usual, playing games with a driver who’d been driving for him for over six years.

“Deutshe mark, your new German driver.”

“Hey Dalton,” Bud said. “Where’ve you been? I was expecting a call from you yesterday.”

Mark wanted to ask Bud if he had been expecting a call, then why the “Mark who?” routine, but decided he’d only be wasting his time. Instead, he told Bud the truth, which he knew would upset the man big time. “I was out doing a private job.”

“A private job?” Bud said. “You mean like for cash?”

“That’s right. I made $650 for just a few hours work.”

Bud was silent on the other end of the phone.

“Bud are you there?”

“What kind of load were you hauling?”

“All I had to do was float an excavator from one job site to another.”

“Oh Mark,” said Bud. “Don’t tell me…What did you do? What have you gotten yourself into?”

“What? What’s wrong. I just made myself a few extra bucks. That’s all. No harm done.”

“That’s all, huh,” Bud said. “Don’t you read the paper?”

Mark shrugged. “When I can.”

“But not lately, right?”

“No,” Mark said. “Haven’t had much time.”

“Well, make the time.” Bud began reading a newspaper article about construction equipment being stolen in and around the Greater Toronto Area. Bulldozers, backhoes and all kinds of other machines were being lifted every day, some of them stolen two or three times before finally being stolen back by their original owners. Several people had even landed in the hospital after being caught by construction bosses in the middle of stealing their equipment.

As Bud read the article, Mark felt a lump beginning to grow in his stomach and it was making him sick. It had been there before – Mark wasn’t so stupid as to think that everything he’d done had been on the level – but it had been a small enough nugget of doubt that he could ignore it, even forget about it when he thought about how much easy money he was making. But now he knew he’d done something foolish and he wanted nothing more to do with the construction business, and to put this entire episode behind him.

“No harm done, right?” Bud said when he finished reading the article.

“How was I supposed to know? A guy offered me money to haul something from one point to another. That’s what I do, so I said, ‘Yes.'”

Bud was silent a moment, then said. “Mark the problem with being such a good smart-ass is that you don’t do dumb very well. I don’t believe a word of it.”

Bud was right, of course. “Okay, so I got greedy. Give me a load so I can get out of this town…the farther the better.”

“Sorry, pal. I’ve only got local loads for the next few days.” He gave Mark his choice of three different in-town loads.

“I’ll take the one into Oakville,” he said, deciding the growing city west of Toronto was the lesser of three evils.

“Fine,” said Bud. “It’s a load of wooden doors for a new subdivision going up there.”

Doors for a construction site. Mark laughed under his breath, thinking, out of the frying pan, and into the fire.

*

The door company’s name was Veritas – Veritas Doors and Windows. Their trailers were new and bright, with huge graphics on the side that showed off their products at four times their normal size. The company’s motto was “Our doors hang straight and true” and was written on the side of their trailers in four-foot high letters. There were others words written on the trailers, words like “Honest Value,” “Built with Integrity” and “Trust in our Quality.” Finally, another motto on the roll up door on the back of the trailer read, “Our doors open to a brighter future.”

Mark saw all that advertising and felt sick to his stomach. How could he pull a trailer with words like, Honest, Integrity, Trust, Straight and True, written all over it. Everyone would see him in front of that trailer and they would KNOW he’d been up to no good. Done something dishonest. Was a big fat liar!

“You Mark Dalton?” somebody asked.

“I didn’t do anything wrong!” Mark chirped.

“Hey, relax buddy,” said the man, quite possibly the shipper for Veritas Doors. “I just wanted to make sure you’re the guy driving this load to Oakville.”

“Oh, yeah. Ha! Geez I don’t know what I was thinking there for a minute.”

The guy seemed unconvinced and looked at Mark like he was…well, like he was a criminal. Mark shook his head. He had to get out of there. Get on the road and just drive for a while.

“Leave the trailer on-site. I’ll get it picked up at the end of the week. When you get there, check with the security guard and he’ll tell you where to park it. And if you can, try and put it by the road so everyone can see the side of the trailer.”

Mark nodded, “Sure thing.” He grabbed the bill of lading and hooked Mother Load to the trailer.

But even driving wasn’t helping matters. He was still convinced people were looking at him, watching him drive the Trailer of Truth while knowing full well he was a total fraud.

At a light just before the highway, a black Crown Victoria pulled up beside him and two men in dark suits were looking up at him and pointing at his rig.

Cops, Mark thought. Had to be in a car like that, even though the suits they were wearing looking pretty cheesy. Maybe they were on to him.

That’s it, Mark figured. I’m fried. For a fleeting moment he considered making a run for it, but the thought of Mother Load outrunning a police package Crown Victoria was comical. Might get him on the news, or an episode of Cops. But really, what could the police do to him? He hadn’t done anything wrong knowingly. Sure, there had been some suspicion in the back of his mind, but as far as he knew he’d just done a guy a favour and was paid cash for his troubles. Simple as that.

“How was I supposed to know the excavator was stolen?”

He said that aloud several times to see if he could make it sound convincing. By the third time through it sounded pretty good. He decided to add a, “Tell me officers…” to the beginning of it. With that, Mark was satisfied he’d be telling what seemed like the truth.

The light changed and Mark drove a short distance before pulling over to the side of the road just before the highway on-ramp. He watched the black Crown Victoria in his mirrors. There was no flashing red lights to be seen. In fact, there were no flashing lights of any colour anywhere on the ca
r.

Not a good sign.

The men got out of the car. Their hair was long, too long. Of course they could be part of some undercover bureau, like street crime or vice, but somehow Mark didn’t think that was the case. And then there were their sunglasses.

They both had on a pair of Oakleys. Nothing strange about that since plenty of police officers wore shades.

However, the sky was covered with clouds and the sun hadn’t been out all day.As the two men near Mother Load Mark saw they had guns tucked into the waistbands of their pants, and that was when Mark had a sneaking suspicion that they weren’t the police at all.

Next month’s issue will contain the conclusion of Cash Only.


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