After a long day on the road, Mark turns in for the night. Since it’s cold that evening, he turns on his auxiliary power unit to keep his cab warm. In the morning, he finds his fuel tanks empty and realizes he’d been robbed during the night. To comfort himself, Mark has a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and spends some time watching “stupid trucker” videos on YouTube, then he heads back out on the road.
The next night, Mark goes to bed without the assistance of his APU. Nevertheless he wakes up in the night to the sound of something humming nearby. He checks it out and discovers a huge, tattooed biker type pumping fuel from his tanks. Rather than confront the man, Mark captures his image on his cell phone, then makes some noise inside the cab to scare the bandit away…
Mark pulled in for the night at a truck stop outside Swift Current, Saskatchewan. He had a couple more days to reach the port of Vancouver so there was no reason to push his mileage and hours of service to get there. Besides, this stop was one of the better ones along the route with all the modern conveniences and Mark could sure use a shower before dinner.
But as he pulled into the lot, he was struck by a familiar sight. At the far end, parked in the wrong direction right next to a Hunt truck was the light green and blue “Dobb and Ithaca” trailer of the bandit.
“We meet again,” Mark said under his breath as he guided Mother Load toward that end of the lot.
From the way the bandit was parked, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out what was going on. Obviously, the bandit was stealing fuel again, and some anonymous owner/operator was going to be ripped off and have trouble making next month’s payments. “Not if I can help it,” thought Mark.
He parked opposite the bandit so he could have a clear view of the space between the two trucks. Hopefully, if the light was good, Mark might be able to get another bit of footage of the bandit stealing fuel, but as he eased Mother Load into position it was clear that the bandit had already done his business. There were several wet spots on the pavement between the trucks where fuel had been spilled. And since the stains still looked fresh, there was a chance that the bandit himself would be inside the truck stop for a while.
If that were true, then maybe Mark could catch the man and bring him to justice. Mark shook his head at that, thinking it made him sound like some comic book hero. He decided instead to head into the restaurant and see what was going on. As he walked across the lot, Mark made sure he had his cell phone with him, and that it was fully charged since a clear picture of the man’s face might be a good thing to have.
The restaurant was half full with patrons scattered about the room one or two to a table. However there was one table that held six men, the bandit among them. Mark sat down at an empty table next to the men so that he was sitting directly across from the bandit.
“What’ll you have?” asked the waitress before Mark was settled in.
She smiled at him and repeated the words as if they’d been prerecorded and played a hundred times a day. “What’ll you have?”
“Oh, how about an empty fuel tank.”
Now it was the waitress’s turn to say, “Huh?”
Mark smiled, glanced at the menu and
said, “Steak sandwich and salad.”
She poured Mark a cup of coffee and was gone.
As Mark stirred sugar and cream into
his coffee, he studied the other men sitting around the table with the bandit. If he’d had hopes of catching the man and turning him into police before, those thoughts were gone now. While the bandit was a mean looking piece of work on his own, every other guy at the table had either fewer teeth or more tattoos than he did.
And they all seemed to be good friends, laughing and slapping each other on the back as if it were old-home week. If Mark approached the bandit here, in front of all his buddies, he’d likely get his ass kicked…or worse. No, this was a situation that required more thought and cunning.
The prospect of a challenge brought a smile to Mark’s face. In fact, he had an idea.
When the waitress returned with his sandwich and salad, Mark asked if he could have them to go. Then he got out his phone and pretended to make a call. But instead of punching in phone numbers, Mark held the phone in front of him and pressed a button the moment the camera had put the proper image onto the screen. That done, he met the waitress at the cash and paid for his dinner. Then went to the truck stop’s Internet cafe to enjoy his sandwich and spend a little time on the Web.
The first site Mark visited was Google, the Internet’s biggest and best search engine, which he used to find a half-dozen different e-mail addresses. When he was satisfied he had enough addresses, he brought out his phone and a cable that connected the phone to one of the computer’s USB ports.
But before he did anything further, he got up from his seat and walked over to the entrance of the restaurant to make sure the bandit was still swapping stories with his buddies and wouldn’t be getting up for a while. When the waitress brought the men a new round of beers, Mark smiled knowing he’d have more
than enough time to get things done.
He returned to the computer, keyed in the first address, then began typing:
I’m writing to inform you about…
It took Mark over an hour to write to everyone on his list, but when he signed off the last e-mail with:
A Concerned Trucker.
He felt as if he’d done a full day’s work.
Still, the day was not over yet. On Mark’s way out he stopped by the cash to pick up a mint, but before he could pick one up he noticed there was a stand next to the cash where they kept all the fixin’s for coffees to go. Instinctively, he picked up a few napkins since you could never have too many of those, but it wasn’t long before his attention shifted to the sugar. Sugar, he thought. Does terrible things to an engine once it gets into the tanks. But how does sugar get into fuel tanks in the first place? Well, someone had to put it there…someone like, well, Mark Dalton.
A quick look left and right, and Mark jammed two handfuls of sugar into his pockets. Then, as he headed for the door, he checked one last time on the bandit. The man was busy buying another round for the table.
Must be nice to be able to afford a few rounds, Mark thought. Then again, if you’re not paying for fuel what’s the price of a few beers? That made Mark even angrier, and as he headed out toward the bandit’s truck, sugar in his fuel tank suddenly wasn’t enough anymore. Surely he could think of something better – or worse – that would punish the man and the not the truck he was driving.
Then, as he walked past the fuel pumps, it came to him. This truck stop, like most others in rural areas on the Prairies, sold two kinds of fuel – regular diesel for trucks, and coloured diesel for use in agricultural vehicles.
Instead of heading for the bandit’s truck, Mark went to Mother Load and used his key to open up a storage compartment on the outside of the cab. In it was a Jerry can he kept for filling reefer tanks, and for added insurance when he travelled to unfamiliar destinations. He’d never used the Jerry can to exact revenge on a fellow trucker, but there was always a first time for everything. Mark walked the Jerry can over to the fuel pumps and filled it up. The can was heavy on the way back, but Mark bore the burden gladly. He also didn’t mind stopping off at the bandit’s rig before continuing on toward Mother Load. It delayed Mark’s departure from the truck stop a few minutes, but he considered it time well spent since the little pit stop would probably ensure that the bandit’s days of thieving would soon be over for good.
-Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Dalton and the Bandit