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.
Mark calls Bud looking for a load. When Bud asks where Mark has been, Mark tells him about the cash deal. Bud can’t believe Mark has been so gullible and reads him an article about construction equipment being stolen in and around the GTA. Mark had a feeling the deal was crooked, but was willing to look the other way for $500. Now he’s feeling guilty and is sure the police are onto him. In fact, he gets stopped by two men in a black Crown Victoria, but when they get out of their car, he’s not so sure they’re police anymore…
“Step out of your truck, please,” one of the men said.
Mark was about to open the door, but stopped. The first thing police ask you is for your licence and registration, not to step out of your vehicle…So Mark remained where he was.
But then the door next to him suddenly opened up and a hand was on his elbow, pulling him down and out of Mother Load. He hit the ground hard, scraping his right hand and banging up one knee.
“Who are you guys?” Mark asked.
“Shaddup!” said one of the suits, emphasizing his word with a hard slap across Mark’s cheek. “We’ll ask the questions, here!”
Mark was silent.
“Where’s our excavator?”
“What are you talking about?” Mark asked.
Another hand, this time closed into a fist, caught Mark across the mouth, loosening several teeth.
“This is the last time I’ll ask you,” the suit said, “so think about what you say…Where’s our excavator?”
Before he answered, Mark thought about how Bud had told him that he was too smart to play dumb very well.
“I don’t know exactly,” he said. “I did a job for a guy named Gus. He led me to a place north of the city, I’m not sure where exactly.”
“Gus?” one of the suits said to the other. “You think he means Gus Carbone, or Gus Iacabucci?”
“Could be Mario Gustavo,” said the other one, “or maybe Gustav Marino.”
“What’d he look like?”
Mark gave them a description, but not a very good one. Gus had been shady character with features that were hard to pin down.
“He’s lying,” one of them said. “He’s just giving us a name.”
“I don’t know. It sounds like he’s talking about Augusto Trevisano, the guy they sometimes call him ‘Gus the Noodle?'”
“Nah, Gus the Noodle’s in Milan. This guys talking through his ass.”
The second suit looked at Mark. “So he’s a smartass, then.”
The first one nodded.
“I hate smartasses.”
Eventually, after what seemed like forever, it stopped.
“We want our excavator back…and if we don’t get it back, we’ll be paying you another visit. Understand?”
It hurt to nod his head, but Mark did it.
They placed a white card with a phone number written on it in Mark’s hand. “You call us when you have the excavator. If you don’t we’ll be calling on you.”
They walked away and Mark turned the card over. There was a name on the other side of it…Reggie.
Mark just managed to deliver his load, since a sharp stab of pain shot through his ribs each time he shifted gears. ‘I should have known better,’ he thought. ‘How could I have been be so stupid to think that someone would be willing to hand me hundreds of dollars in cash without a single catch? The excavator was stolen. No, even worse than that, I helped steal the excavator for this guy, this Gus. It was a perfect set-up really. Find some patsy to steal the machine for you, and if the idiot gets caught, you’re just some ‘name’ that he was working for.’
How could he have been so stupid? Easy…he’d been greedy. It wasn’t good enough for him to make an honest wage by doing things the right way. Oh no, he had to try and make some easy money, cut a few corners and pocket a few extra dollars. So what if he was beaten half to death.
After making his delivery, Mark stopped at a Tim Hortons for a coffee. While he was fishing inside his pocket for some change, he came across the slip of paper with Gus’s name on it. He looked at the paper, read the number and started thinking. He could get in touch with Gus if he wanted to… And that’s when the seeds of an idea began to take root inside Mark’s brain.
Mark pulled a quarter out of his pocket and found a pay phone outside the coffee shop. With the slip of paper in his hand, Mark dialed up Gus.
The phone rang seven times before anyone answered.
“Who wants to know?”
“This is Mark…you know the guy who delivered that excavator for you.”
The line was silent for several seconds. “Oh yeah, okay…what do you want?”
Mark smiled. He might be too smart to play dumb, but that also meant he was really good at being smart. “I’m actually looking to do more work for you. It was a sweet deal and I uh, could use some more cash, you know. And you know I know how to keep my mouth shut, right?”
Gus listened patiently for a while, then said, “Okay, sure. Hang around town for a few days and I’ll give you a call when I have another order.”
“Another order, right, okay,” Mark said, making sure to sound grateful for getting another chance to maybe have his head bashed in. “Thanks, Gus. I’ll be waiting for you call.”
Gus hung up without another word.
Mark was content to do a string of city loads for a couple days, and since that was all Bud had at the moment, it was a good fit. However, on the morning of the third day, Mark got a call from Gus. Apparently, there was a need for an asphalt layer on a job site outside of Simcoe, Ontario.
“And where am I supposed to get this…thing?” Mark asked.
Gus gave Mark a set of directions to the site of some roadwork being done near Hamilton. “Meet me after seven,” he said. “And keep your mouth shut.”
Mark was about to answer, but decided it would be best to say nothing…at least for now.
A few hours later, Mark was on the half-completed roadway near Hamilton with a rented lowboy hooked up to Mother Load. There were a dozen or more construction machines parked around the site, but Gus had his eye on a big awkward machine that took in bulk asphalt at one end and laid it out in an even ribbon at the other. There was a company logo on the side of the machine, Gazzola Paving, and a phone number. Mark copied down the phone number and began loading the rig onto the lowboy.
When he was done, Gus handed him a piece of paper with directions to the site in Simcoe. “Aren’t you coming?” Mark wondered. If Gus wasn’t there, his plan might not work.
“You call me just before you arrive. I’ll meet you on the site?”
“With the cash?” Mark couldn’t help asking, just to make it look good.
“Of course with the cash. What do you think I am, a crook or something?”
Mark smiled inside. ‘I don’t think,’ he thought, ‘I know.’
As he headed to Simcoe, Mark had his cell phone out and was busy making some calls. The first one was to Gazzola Paving to tell them that one of their machines had been stolen and where and when they could find it. Then he called up Reggie and told him that he’d found the excavator at
a construction site outside of Simcoe. Next came a call to the police. Mark wasn’t sure if his destination was serviced by the O.P.P. or there was a Simcoe Police Department, but he decided on the O.P.P. since the area in which machinery had been stolen and dumped of late covered more than half the province.
Mark reached his destination 20 minutes early, dropping the asphalt layer and leaving the site as quickly as he could. Then, he parked Mother Load some distance away on a road overlooking the site…and gave Gus a call.
“Yeah, it’s me Mark,” he said. “I’ll meet you there…” He glanced at his watch, it was 10 minutes to seven. “…in 10 minutes.”
Then he hung up and watched.
Gus was the first to arrive. He was checking out the machine when a pickup truck from Gazzola Paving showed up with four men riding in the back. The truck stopped and the men jumped out, surrounding Gus in seconds. Then a black Crown Victoria skidded to a stop next to the pickup truck. The two suits got out, guns drawn, preventing Gus from getting the crap beat out of him. The suits looked to be in control for a while, but appeared to be confused as to where their excavator was. Finally, the O.P.P. arrived on the scene with the lights and sirens of six cruisers blazing and blaring all the way in. There were two policemen in each car, all swarming out of the vehicles like a tactical squad. The suits dropped their guns, and everyone, it seemed, was under arrest.
Mark laughed a little, breathed a sigh of relief, then started up Mother Load, and said, “My work here is done.”
– Mark Dalton returns next month with another exciting adventure.