Bud convinces Mark to go undercover at a trucking firm to see if he can help stop cargo thefts from the company. Mark is hired by Chenai Trucking and shows up to take on his first load for the company.
He makes it known he’s in need of money and is soon approached by a driver with instructions on how and where to leave his truck so it can be stolen. Mark leaves the truck unattended and when he returns he finds Mother Load stolen and learns the trailer never had a load in it to begin with. A real inside job.
Mark had been driving a Chenai Trucking company truck for four days when the call came. “Is this Mark Dalton?” the voice on the other end asked. Mark considered playing the Mark who? game with the caller but he couldn’t be sure just who was on the other end of the line. “Yes, I’m Mark Dalton.”
It was the police calling to say they’d located his truck abandoned in a truck yard in Vaughan just north of Toronto. After he was given the directions to the yard Mark asked if the police needed him for anything or wanted any information from him.
“Not necessary,” the officer said. “But you will need the occurrence report for your insurance company.”
“For your claim.”
“Oh, yeah, right,” Mark said. Surely it was just a formality in case there was some minor damage that needed to be repaired…like a broken door lock or smashed ignition switch. He wrote down the number on the same page as the directions to his truck and then bobtailed it to Vaughan straight away. But when he arrived, he wondered why he’d been in such a hurry. Obviously, Mother Load wasn’t going anywhere. The truck showed signs of being run hard and put away wet. There were all kinds of things that had been broken on her from mirrors and windows and countless items missing, both personal stuff from the sleeper and parts of her engine.
Of course, the thieves had to have known that the trailer he’d been hauling was empty and that made the real prize Mother Load. She’d been stripped of a half-dozen or more valuable parts and everything that had made her unique and Mark Dalton’s truck. For a fleeting moment Mark thought about trading what was left of her in on a new model, but that would be a terrible way for such a noble lady to go. She had given him excellent service over the years, done everything he’d ever asked of her and she deserved a much better fate than the scrap heap. Now he knew why the police had insisted he take down the occurrence number. This would be a serious and costly insurance claim, but that’s what insurance was for, right? He would get Mother Load fixed, no expense spared. And if the insurance didn’t cover it all, he’d make up the difference in cash. He called and arranged for a tow. Then he called Chenai Trucking and asked for an appointment to see the boss.
“I heard the police found your truck,” said Sunny, the man who was running his father-in-law’s trucking company while the older man was undergoing cancer treatment. “That’s great news.”
“Not really,” Mark said. “There was a lot of damage.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Of course, you can keep driving one of our trucks until you get yours back. We’ll give you a few loads, you know, to avoid suspicion before you are part of another sting operation.”
You mean be the patsy of another sting, Mark thought.
“I was wondering,” Mark said, “if you might contribute to the cost of some of the repairs to my truck. After all, the only reason it was stolen and chopped was because I was working for you to deliberately put me in a position where my truck could be stolen.”
Sunny smiled, but it wasn’t a very friendly smile. “Trucks and trailers get stolen all the time,” he said. “If we helped with money to people who have their trucks stolen we’d be out of business in a week. Besides, you have insurance. That’s what it’s for. Make a claim.”
Mark just nodded, not liking what he was hearing one bit. Sure, he could make a claim, and in the meantime his rates would go up and so would the insurance rates of every other driver on the road. It’s bad enough these guys are having cargo stolen, they’re counting on insurance companies to underwrite their whole operation. Something wasn’t right here. The only way the thieves knew the trailer was empty was if Sunny told them. The man had arranged for Mother Load to be stolen, then counted on Mark’s insurance to cover the loss. That made Mark wonder about how good a job Sunny was doing running the company for his cancer-fighting father-in-law. The next time Mark was in the yard, he decided to chat up some of the other drivers. After a few tries, he finally found a driver willing to talk.
“You like working for Sunny?” Mark asked a long-time Chenai driver named Narinder.
“No,” was all he said.
“Why not? He’s a smart guy.”
“Yes, smart. Very smart.”
“Is he honest?” Mark asked.
Narinder shook his head. “His father-in-law Premal is a good man. I liked working for him. Sunny is smart…and has made a lot of money since he took over.”
“He must be doing something right,” Mark said.
Narinder looked at him for a while, then said, “He makes money from this company three ways.” Then a pause. “I have to go.”
Mark wanted to ask another question but Narinder was gone, leaving Mark with some questions. How do you make money three ways with a trucking company? Well, you run the company for one, then you steal the goods you’re carrying and sell them on the black market, and then you get insurance companies to cover the losses. And to convince the police and insurers you were doing everything you could to stop the losses, you hire Mark Dalton, a former private investigator to go undercover and even he gets robbed.
Obviously, Sunny needed a taste of his own medicine and the police needed to be informed about what was going on. All that came together a few days later when Mark got a sweetheart load of electronics worth close to half a million dollars. He first contacted Sunny and arranged a time and place to leave the truck for another sting, then he began making plans for a theft of his own. In his cell phone, Mark had a list of numbers for people he vowed never to speak to again. This was a time for reconnection. The man was listed in his contacts under the name “Butter” and that’s the only name Mark knew him by.
“I’ve got a deal for you,” Mark said when Butter answered the phone.
“Half a mill in electronics.”
“What do you want for it?”
Mark had thought about it and had decided that $5,000 would cover the extras needed to repair Mother Load just right. “Five thousand.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“I’ll throw in the tractor too. Even leave it running with the cab unlocked.”
“Tell me where…”
And Mark told him.
The next night, after the truck and trailer had been stolen, and Mark was richer by $5,000 in cash, Mark called Sunny to give him the good news. “The truck’s been stolen,” he said. “But I didn’t see who did it.”
“That’s okay,” Sunny said. “We’re insured. Just don’t forget to call the cops.”
“Don’t worry,” Mark said. “I plan to tell them everything.”
“Hold on,” said Sunny. “I have another call.”
Mark waited a couple minutes. When Sunny came back on the line, he was an angry man. “Where was the truck stolen?”
Mark told him.
“That’s not where we arranged for it to go down.”
“You’re right,” Mark said. “It’s where I arranged for it to go down… And you right along with it.”
There was shouting on the line after that, but Mark didn’t listen to it. Instead he hung up and called the police. There were people he needed to talk to in the auto theft bureau, frauds…and then maybe a man in hospital who needed to know what was really going on.