THE STORY SO FAR
Mark is transporting a load of high-end farm tractors to P.E.I. and has a major breakdown at the junction of Hwys. 400 and 401. He gets off the highway and pulls onto a side street only to have Mother Load unable to move. A mobile mechanic can’t get him going and a tow’s not available until the next morning. He’s forced to spend the night in a rough part of the city…
With plenty of time to kill, Mark stepped into the convenience store to buy a soda pop, a couple of ready-made pre-wrapped sandwiches and a magazine forecasting the upcoming NHL season.
“You know, you can’t park there,” said the man behind the counter. He was a middle-aged man and by the looks of the things he had close at hand, spent a lot of time in the store.
Most likely he was the owner.
“I’m not parked,” Mark said. “I’m broken down and a tow truck can’t come by until morning.”
“This isn’t the kind of neighborhood where you should leave your truck overnight.”
“Yeah, I kind of got that impression.”
“What have you got on board?”
Mark thought about answering the man’s question with a lie, like, “I’m empty,” or, “scrap metal,” but he didn’t think he could be convincing enough. Besides, the truth was almost just as good. “Farm tractors,” he said.
“That might save you.”
“What do you mean?”
“What are people around here going to do with farm tractors?”
“They could sell them.”
“To who? No one around here knows any farmers.”
“So, I should be alright, then?”
“No. The cops will be by soon. There’s no parking in front of my store. It’s a loading zone.”
Mark had an idea where the man was going with this and decided to get to the point first. “I could always say I’m making a delivery to your store.”
“But you aren’t.”
“But you could say I am.”
“And what’s in it for me?”
“Fifty bucks,” Mark said. No response. “Seventy-five?” Nothing. “How about $100?”
“That’ll do it.”
And so, Mark wouldn’t be lying if he told a police officer he was making a delivery. He was making a delivery of a crisp new $100 bill – the one he’d kept in his wallet for months for just such a circumstance. Mark handed over the money. “Have a good night,” he said.
“I will be here until midnight,” the store owner said. “After that you’re on your own.”
Mark was sorry to see the $100 go, but he felt better knowing someone would be around for at least part of the night. Inside Mother Load, Mark got behind the wheel and tried to take a nap. It didn’t seem to be working until…there was a knock at the door.
“Evening,” said a Toronto police constable through the window.
Mark turned the key in the ignition and powered down the window. “Hey, how are you?”
“You can’t park here.”
“I’m not parked. I’m making a delivery.”
“With your eyes closed, sitting behind the wheel?”
“I am,” Mark insisted. “Check with the owner of the store.”
The officer looked at Mark skeptically, but after a long pause, he stepped down and walked around the front of Mother Load to get to the convenience store. After a minute had passed, Mark got out of the truck and went inside the store where the officer was talking to the owner.
“Yes, I am waiting for him,” the owner said. “Ah, there you are! Hurry up! The police are here now. You can’t take all night.”
Mark realized what was going on and decided to play along. “Me? I was waiting for you!”
“For me?” the man said angrily. “Don’t give me excuses. You are lazy!”
“Okay. Okay,” said the officer. “I’m out of here. Just make sure I’m not called back here tonight for an assault.”
“If he starts working there will be no problem,” the store owner said.
The officer waved goodbye and left the store. When Mark was sure the man was in his cruiser and gone, he said, “Thank you.”
“It worked once. Let’s hope he doesn’t come back.”
It was 3 a.m. when there was another knock at the window. Mark looked but couldn’t see anyone there. But then he heard voices. He scanned his rearview mirrors and saw several dark figures lingering around his truck. Mark usually kept a small baseball bat in his cab, primarily for doing thump checks on his tires, but also for situations just like this. He grabbed the bat, got into the driver’s seat for a moment, then quickly jumped out of the truck. “Get lost!” he shouted, rushing around the back of the trailer, banging the side of it the entire way. Behind the truck, there were two men who looked surprised to see Mark, but that was it. There was absolutely no panic on their faces.
Mark raised the bat, ready to swing, when it was suddenly gone from his hands.
He turned around to see two more men, one holding his bat and the other holding a knife out to Mark’s chest.
“What’s in the truck?” the one with the knife said.
Mark looked up and down the street in search of someone – anyone – to notice what was going on and call the police. But the street was deserted as if everyone but Mark knew this was not a street you wanted to be on in the middle of the night. “Nothing you’d be interested in,” he said at last.
The knife moved closer to Mark’s neck. “I’ll be the judge of that. Open it up.”
Mark struggled with the seal on the trailer, but a moment later there was a knife there and the seal was sliced open.
Mark opened the first door, and even before he had the second door open, three flashlights were shining into the back of the trailer.
“Tractors?” said one of the men.
“They’re no good,” said another.
“But they’re worth a lot of money,” said a third.
“Trust me,” the one holding the knife said. “They’re not worth it. Now let’s get out of here before someone calls the cops.”
In a moment, they were gone and Mark was left alone in the street under the dim light of the convenience store sign. The word must have gotten out on the street about Mark’s load because he didn’t see another soul the rest of the night.
Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 3 of Dalton has a breakdown.