The story so far:Mark gets a regular run between Toronto and Montreal that gives him two round-trips every three days. He ends up staying overnight at a truck stop near Kingston once every three days and notices the lot lizards working the lot....
The story so far: Mark gets a regular run between Toronto and Montreal that gives him two round-trips every three days. He ends up staying overnight at a truck stop near Kingston once every three days and notices the lot lizards working the lot. He hadn’t thought human trafficking was a problem in Canada, but now he knows it’s a problem everywhere…
• Three days later Mark was back at the truck stop outside Kingston. This time he’d stayed away from Party Row and had been able to get a good night’s sleep. But that didn’t mean the lot lizards hadn’t been out working the lot. They were being quiet about it, but he could still hear truck doors opening and closing throughout the night. As he prepared for breakfast, Mark kept an eye out for the van that would be coming by to pick up the girls.
Although he never took his eye off the lot, the van never appeared. “Maybe he was early today,” Mark said under his breath. He left Mother Load and headed over to the restaurant. Inside, Mark ordered breakfast, then looked over the tables for a place to sit down. There wasn’t anyone he recognized in the place, but he did see something that caught his eye.
There was a young girl – a very young girl – sitting alone at a table by the windows overlooking the lot. She was by herself, no food or coffee cup in front of her and she was staring out the window as if waiting for someone.
Mark had a pretty good idea who she was waiting for.
He walked over, put his tray down on the table and pulled up a chair. “Hi there,” he said. “My name’s Mark.”
She nodded in his direction. “Hey.”
“You mind if I sit down?” he said, already in his seat.
“Make yourself at home. I’m just leaving.”
“Did he forget about you? Or is he running late?”
“Yes,” she said quickly, then, “No.” Then, “What are you talking about?”
“Your boyfriend. The one that picks you up every morning.”
She sneered and looked away like she didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Or maybe he’s more than just a boyfriend,” Mark continued. “Maybe he’s your pimp?”
Her head snapped around and she glared at him like she’d never heard the word pimp used to describe him before.
“That’s it, isn’t it?”
“Look, I don’t know who you are…“
“My name’s Mark.”
“And I don’t know what your problem is, but if he sees me here talking to you he’s going to get mad.”
“But you talk to men all the time. All night long you’re looking for men to talk to…and more.”
“That’s different. It’s work. He doesn’t want me talking to anyone outside of work.” She was desperately looking across the lot and around the restaurant now and there was a look of fear on her face.
“I could be a customer,” Mark said. He imagined there were several men in the restaurant at that moment who’d been a customers of her’s last night. But that was last night, in the dark back on Party Row. If any of those men were looking at her now they were looking right through her, like she wasn’t even there.
“Give it a rest.” She had begun to nibble at her fingernails now. “You don’t know what you’re doing. You could get hurt real bad sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.”
Mark had been sticking his nose where it didn’t belong for years and he was no worse for wear. “How am I going to get hurt?” he asked. “Who’s going to hurt me?”
She looked at him one last time, then sighed and looked away in disgust.
Mark wondered, if she were so worried about what might happen to him, then why didn’t she get up and walk away? Maybe, he thought, she wanted someone to help her, but was too afraid to reach out or ask. Mark decided he would try and make the offer. “Why don’t you let me buy you a coffee?”
No answer. Maybe a different tact. “You’ve got family somewhere, right,” he said. “I bet they’re wondering where you are.”
She glanced over at him and for a moment her face looked like the scared little girl Mark knew that she was deep down inside.
“What are your parents’ names? Tell me where they’re from and I’ll call them for you. I’ll tell them you’re alright and that you miss them.”
“Mister, please.” She seemed on the verge of tears.
“Hey, I’m only trying to…”
“Leave her alone,” said a man’s voice behind him.
Mark turned and saw a young dark-haired, clean-shaven man in a leather Ottawa Senators jacket. He was average height with a thin build and to be honest, didn’t look all that dangerous. His face was all business, however and the way he stared at her made Mark think he could stop her heart with a single look.
Her face had turned white.
“Who is this guy?” he asked.
“I don’t know. He just sat down and…”
“I was just making conversation, trying to buy her breakfast…That’s not against the law, is it?”
“It is if she don’t want you to.”
“Ah, that’s right,” Mark said. “I could sit here all day trying to talk to this young lady and that wouldn’t be against the law. But the moment she says she doesn’t want me to be here, then it becomes harassment. And that is against the law.”
“So what are you still doing here?”
“She hasn’t asked me to leave.”
He glared at her. Mark went on. “It’s funny, but there’s another thing that kind of is and is not against the law here.”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“Well, prostitution isn’t illegal in this country. After all, it’s a woman’s body and she has the right to decide what she does with it…But living off the avails of prostitution, now that is against the law. So, if she spent all night working in the lot, that wouldn’t be illegal, but if she were forced to give you the money she earned, then that would make you a criminal.”
The man stepped forward, put his hands on the table and lowered his body so he could speak softly to Mark. “You’ve got a big mouth, you know that?”
“You’re not the first one to say,” Mark said, taking a bite of his breakfast sandwich.
“It’d be awful hard to talk out of it with a broken jaw, fat lip and a bunch of missing teeth.”
“Uttering threats,” Mark said coolly. “Also against the law.”
The man stood up straight now, smiling a devilish sort of grin, as if round one of the battle had gone to Mark.
“I’d still like to buy her breakfast,” Mark said. “She looks hungry.”
“She’s not hungry,” he said. Then he turned toward her, “Are you?” She shook her head. “Then let’s go.”
“Maybe she wants to stay,” Mark said. He didn’t think she would, but it was worth a try.
“How ’bout it?” he said. “You want to stay?”
Without a word she gathered up her stuff and left. He turned to follow her, but not before he shot Mark a grin that said he knew she would always be leaving with him, no matter what.
“We’ll see,” Mark said under his breath. “We’ll see.”
–Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 3 of Human Traffic on the Road.