After eating breakfast in the hotel coffee shop, Mark spent the morning doing a load of laundry at the laundromat near the hotel. When all his clothes were dry, neatly folded and back into his overnight bag, he had lunch back at the hotel, then walked over to Rick’s Rigs to pick up Mother Load.
As he neared the shop, he noticed his truck was parked outside of the garage and in the lot, a good sign that the clutch might be adjusted and ready for him.
“Is it ready?” he asked as he stepped into the office.
He was met by Rick, who was sipping a cup of coffee out of a paper cup. Rick nodded, blew on the coffee and took another sip.
“Everything go all right?”
Rick shook his head.
Mark suddenly got a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“We had some problems with the bearings when we tried to make the adjustment. Once we took those out to replace them, we found a problem with the whole clutch and we had to replace it with a rebuild.”
“But the clutch is guaranteed for a year, so you won’t have to worry about it for a while.”
“But I just had the clutch replaced about 100,000 kilometres ago. It’s supposed to be good for half a million clicks or more.”
“Depends on how you drive it.”
Mark didn’t like the insinuation. While he wasn’t as gentle with his rig as Harry was, he never rode the clutch… never popped it either. There was no way he’d used up a rebuilt clutch in such a short period of time. Either the clutch he’d had installed back in Toronto was bad to begin with, or Rick here was trying to rip him off. It wasn’t too hard to believe it was the latter.
“First of all, there was nothing wrong with the clutch – all it needed was an adjustment. Second, even if it did need replacing, you shouldn’t have done anything without getting my OK on it first.”
Rick shrugged. “Tried to get a hold of you, but you didn’t leave us a number. You said you needed the truck by Friday and if we waited, we might not have got the parts on time.
“Comes to $2,386.30,” said Rick. “And I gave you a deal on the clutch. My cost.” He produced a receipt for the clutch showing the amount he had supposedly paid for it.
“Well, I’m not paying for any rebuilt clutch.”
Rick shrugged again, this time shaking his head as well.
“Then you won’t be getting your truck back.”
Mark felt anger rising inside of him. That truck was his business, his home, his life. He’d worked damn hard for it and there was no way he was going to let some rip-off repair shop just take it from him for a measly two grand. Sure he could pay the bill, write it off as an expense and barely notice it by the end of the year, but there were a lot of other things he could do with $2,000.
Mark just stood there, looking at Rick and wanting to knock that stupid smile right off the man’s face. But while he was sure he could take Rick, the office suddenly seemed full of greasy, big-armed mechanics, each holding a steel wrench in his hand. Even the shop’s dog, an old Doberman that looked as if it had gotten under a few wheels in its lifetime, hobbled into the office, sat down on the floor next to Mark and bared its teeth.
“I’ll be back,” he said, then turned to leave.
“This guy’s trying to rip me off for $2,000,” said Mark.
Constable Rob Quentin nodded as if he’d heard similar complaints before. “He probably is,” he said. “Did he show you a receipt for the clutch, told you he was charging you his cost for it?”
“Well, Rick DeLuca of Rick’s Rigs also owns a truck parts company. Unfortunately, most of what he supplies through that company is receipts to his repair shop.”
“You know this and you haven’t shut him down?”
“We are currently investigating DeLuca, but we’ve got a week or two to go to get the rest of what we need to make all the charges stick.”
“None of which helps me any,” Mark said in frustration. “And why me, anyway?”
“I’m afraid they saw you coming.”
The constable ran a hand over his chin and across his cheek. “You’ve got a late model, well-maintained truck, which means you’ve got some money to spend on repairs. You’ve got out-of-province plates, meaning you’re probably homesick being out here on the coast and you want to get back home as soon as you can. And, you’ve got a load waiting for you, which means you’re probably in a hurry.” Quentin folded his hands on the desk before him. “You see, they didn’t expect any problems from you. What you were supposed to do is pay the bill and be on your merry way.”
“Well, they’re going to be having some real problems now.”
Quentin’s eyes narrowed and he looked at Mark curiously. “What do you mean by that?”
“I’m not paying that bill, and I’m not leaving my truck there.”
The constable took a deep breath and let out a sigh. Perhaps he was worried about how it might look after the fact that a trucker had come to the police with a problem and they did nothing to help him .”I tell you what,” he said. “Why don’t I meet you there this afternoon and we can work this thing out so you can get your truck back and you can be on your way.”
“I’m not paying that bill.”
“We’ll see what we can work out.”
Mark was back in the Rick’s Rigs office at four that afternoon.
“I’ve come for my truck,” he said.
“Cash, credit card, debit card, or money order.”
In the distance, Mark could hear the cry of police sirens approaching. It sounded as if there was more than one siren, as if a half-dozen patrol cars were on their way to back up Quentin’s attempts to get Mark’s rig back.
“I’m not paying for parts and repairs that were a) unnecessary, b) unapproved and c) probably not even done. And even if you did replace the clutch like you say, you’re still charging me twice what the repair should actually cost.”
“Are you saying that I’m trying to rip you off?” asked Rick.
The sirens were growing louder.
Mark smiled. “That’s exactly what I’m saying, Rick. Maybe the sign should read, Rick’s Rip-Offs, instead of Rick’s Rigs.”
Rick looked angry. So did the mechanics who had stepped into the office. Even the dog was there, growling angrily near Mark’s feet.
The sound of the sirens began to fade.
“You guys all look pretty tough, stealing money out of the pockets of hard-working truckers,” Mark continued. “What do you do for kicks on the weekends, roll old ladies for bingo money?”
And then the sound of the sirens was gone.
The office was silent except for the growling of the dog, and the scrape of work boots on concrete as Rick and his mechanics moved in on Mark. n
– Next month: In for ‘Ripair’, Part 4
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