Coffee Break: Thick as thieves – Part 2
The story so far…
Mark takes on a load of spirits from the Bacardi Distillery in Brampton, but is hijacked before he makes it to the highway. As a precaution the shipper had asked that he call every 15 minutes while on the road, but he never made his first call. The thieves also cut the wires on his Global Positioning Satellite transmitter, removing all links Mark had with the outside world. He’s eventually knocked unconscious and is found hours later tied up in the back of his trailer.
“Let’s hear it one more time,” the detective said. “From the top.”
Mark let out a sigh.
He was exhausted.
He’d told them his story at least a dozen times already and since he was telling the truth, his story hadn’t changed once over all that time.
“My dispatcher told me to pick up a load from the Bacardi Distillery, the shipper there gave me a schedule to call in… every 15 minutes or so. I left the distillery and was going to get on the 410, but there was an accident on the on-ramp so I decided I’d go south on Kennedy and get on the 410 at Derry Road.”
“There you go with that car accident again.”
The detective was an older man, late 40s, early 50s, bald on top, and judging by the length of what was left, seriously considering a comb over to cover his pate.
He had told Mark his name earlier in the day, but Mark had forgotten it hours ago.
“Yeah, and if there wasn’t an accident, I would’ve gotten on the 410 and probably would have been in Winnipeg by now.”
“See, the problem is… we checked all the patrols from this morning and no one remembers anything about an accident on the on-ramp.”
“So you think I made that up?” Mark asked.
The detective just stared at him.
“There was an accident, I swear it.”
Mark paused a moment, thinking back to the morning.
Then it dawned on him.
“They must have been in on it.”
“The people who had the accident. Maybe they staged the thing so I’d change my route and the others could grab me before I reached Kennedy Road.” Mark was smiling now, proud of himself for putting that piece of the puzzle into place.
“It took you this long to figure that out, Dalton?”
The smile suddenly disappeared from Mark’s face. The detective decided to change tact. “You’ve got money problems, right?”
Mark was caught off guard. The detective had phrased the question like a statement, to which Mark should have answered, “Doesn’t everybody?”
But the truth was that Mark was doing all right financially since he didn’t have a lot of expenses apart from the upkeep on Mother Load.
So he said, “No, actually I’m all right for money.”
“But trucks are expensive things to keep on the road. A lot of guys would do anything to hold onto their ride.”
“Yeah, well I own my rig outright.”
This seemed to catch the detective by surprise. “That’s quite a feat, a young guy like you.”
Mark laughed under his breath. “Not when it’s the only thing in the world that’s yours.”
“So then what’s your problem, Dalton. Booze? Drugs? Gambling maybe?”
A smile broke across the detective’s face. “Women, right?”
Mark was also smiling again, but it was closer to a grimace than an expression of pride.
“I’m recently divorced. I’ve had my fill of women for a while. As for the other stuff … I wouldn’t be able to drive if I was addicted to anything, and the only thing I’ve gambled within the past few months has been my life.”
The detective nodded. “Yeah, seems there are police departments all across the country who know about you. Hell, even the Customs people put in a good word.”
Mark was confused. He’d been questioned like a suspect for the last few hours, and now the detective was telling him that police forces – not private individuals, but police forces – were vouching for him, and he was still stuck in this office under interrogation.
“Look! If you want to arrest me, then do it. If you want to hold me for a while, then put me in a cell because I could use the rest. But if you’ve got nothing on me, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me be on my way.”
“Don’t you want to catch the guys that did this to you?”
“Of course I do… And who says I won’t?”
“Somebody told me that about you. You like working on your own.”
“How would you like to work on this with someone else?”
“You mean like a sting, or something?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
Mark thought about it for all of half a second.
Two days later Mark had himself another load of Bacardi spirits to deliver, except this time there were several key differences in the way he was to deliver the goods. First of all, he wouldn’t be travelling to Winnipeg.
This load was going from Brampton to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario distribution centre on Enterprise Road in Malton.
It wasn’t much of a drive – little more than half an hour – but the last time Mark had been hijacked it had happened less than a kilometre from the distillery.
Secondly, there were only two pallets of empty Bacardi boxes in the back of the trailer Mark would be hauling.
Hiding in behind the empty boxes would be six members of the Peel Regional Police emergency task force, fully armed and ready to spring on any unsuspecting hijackers.
Finally, rather than placing a call to a specific telephone number every 15 minutes to maintain contact, Mark would be continuously on the phone with the police in unmarked vehicles that would be travelling the route in front of and behind him.
With all of these precautions and safety measures, Mark was sure that the risk he was taking was minimal, and that if there were hijackers on the prowl today, the chances of catching them were excellent.
“Why me?” Mark asked the detective after they went over the plan one last time.
The detective’s name was Monahan and he’d turned out to be an all right guy.
“You really want to know?”
“Well, everything went so well for the thieves the first time they robbed you, they probably figure you’re an easy mark.
“Your name on a shipping list probably sets off all kinds of bells and whistles. They probably think stealing from you is like taking candy from a baby.”
Mark was sorry he’d asked.
“Good luck,” Detective Monahan said.
“Thanks,” Mark said, giving the detective a polite smile.
The police all hurried into their vehicles and Mark got behind the wheel of Mother Load.
At exactly 10:30 a.m. he called Monahan on the phone and kept the line open while he drove.
“Leaving the yard,” he said, turning onto Steeles.
A few minutes later he was turning onto the on-ramp for the southbound lanes of Highway 410. “No accident this time.”
He headed south on the 410, then picked up the 401 heading east.
“See anything suspicious?” Monahan asked.
“There’s a couple in front of me looks to be having a wicked argument.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“Sorry,” Mark said, smiling. “It’s just that this ride is so, I don’t know…routine.”
Minutes later he was exiting the 401 at Dixie Road.
He turned north on Dixie and the second street on his right was Enterprise Road.
“Almost there,” he said. “And not a bad guy in sight.”
“That’s just great,” Monahan said. “Too bad you didn’t have a trailer full of booze while you were at it.”
Mark backed his trailer up to an empty loading dock.
He hurried out of Mother Load and into the receiving area so the guys on the dock wouldn’t get any surprises when they opened the barn doors at the back of Mark’s trailer.
“Here, let me get that,” he said to one of them.
“Suit yourself, pal.”
Mark broke the seal, unlatched the barn doors and pulled one of them open.
Within seconds of the door opening up, several gun barrels were pointed directly at Mark’s skull.
“Sorry boys,” Mark said. “Seems we made it here without a hitch.” n
– Next month, Mark Dalton returns in Thick as thieves Part 3.
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