In for ‘Ripair’, Part 4

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Although he has a load of wind machines bound for the Collingwood, Ont. set of the new Shannon Tweed movie, Snowflakes, Mark can’t pick up his load because of an owner/operators strike at the port of Vancouver. With a vote on the latest strike offer set for Thursday night, Mark decides to use the down time to get a clutch adjustment made on his truck, “Mother Load”. With the Peterbilt dealership booked solid because of the strike, Mark decides to go to an independent shop, thinking it’s only an adjustment, what could go wrong?

The promised adjustment isn’t done on time, and as a result, Mark is forced to spend a night in a nearby hotel. It doesn’t alter his plans any, and in fact he’s happy to get a good night’s rest before heading back out on the road. He’s given a ride to the hotel by Harry, a gentle trucker who gets his repairs done at Rick’s Rigs all the time. Although Harry’s truck is new, he’s had all kinds of major work done to it. Mark gets a bad feeling about the shop and the kind of work they do there.

The next day, Mark’s truck is ready. But instead of just a clutch adjustment, Rick’s Rigs has replaced the entire clutch and wants more than $2,000 before Mark can have his rig back. Mark refuses to pay for unnecessary repairs and pays a visit to Const. Rob Quentin, who had helped him in his last little adventure at BC Place. The police are investigating the shop and know all about its questionable business practices and are close to laying charges. But since Mark needs his truck right away, the constable reluctantly offers to help Mark get it back for him. However, despite agreeing to meet Mark at the shop at a specific time, the police never show up, which leaves Mark in a rather bad situation.

By Edo van Belkom

“What the hell happened?” Dalton asked, a tea-bag sized shiner under his right eye.

“Sorry about that,” said Const. Quentin. “We got diverted.”

“Sale on donuts you couldn’t pass up?” said Mark, regretting the comment, but unable to stop himself from making it.

Quentin stared at Mark with a look that could melt a glacier. “No, an officer was getting shot at, so we went to give him a hand.”

Mark suddenly felt small inside his clothes. “Is he all right?”

“He took a shot in the leg,” said the constable. “But it’s sure not much compared to what you went through last night, is it?”

Mark hadn’t thought he could feel any smaller, but he could. “Sorry, it’s just that I have a load that I have to have on the road tomorrow morning… Shannon Tweed’s waiting.”

“What?” said Quentin.

Mark shook his head. “Nevermind.”

“I’ll meet you there tomorrow morning and get you on your way.”

“Sure, OK,” Mark lied. He had no intention of picking up his truck in the morning. When the sun came up he’d be at the port, picking up his load. “Do you have a card, you know, in case I want to get in touch with you.”

“Of course,” said the constable.

“Can I have two?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“See you tomorrow, then.”

When Mark got back to his hotel room, he turned on the TV to catch up on the news. According to the CBC, the owner/operators had agreed to the port’s offer of an hourly wage. Furthermore, the port would be open for business tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. That was good news since it meant he could pick up his load in the morning. However, without his rig, he wouldn’t be picking up anything and with the port open there was no reason for them to hold the load for him. All of which meant he had to do something tonight.

Mark checked out of the hotel after dinner and walked a couple of blocks before he found a bunch of stores that carried what he needed. At the supermarket he picked up a roast, and at the hardware store he bought 50 metres of nylon cord, a can of silver spray paint, a heavy-duty lock, and a pair of bolt cutters.

After a few hours in the mall’s coffee shop he set out for Rick’s Rigs around 11 p.m. When he got there he saw that his truck has been left out in the lot. That was good. Another lucky break was that there were no security cameras around. The only security device in the yard, other than the fence, was the dog.

Mark hadn’t seen him yet, but he’d be coming around any minute.

Mark walked around to the back of the shop where it was dark and found a white cube van parked against the fence. He climbed the fence there, just reaching the top of it when he heard the garage door open. That sound was followed by the clicking of the dog’s claws as it ambled over to see what was going on. Before the dog could start barking, Mark grabbed the roast from his bag, broke the seal on it and threw it to the ground.

The dog sniffed at the meat, then began working at it, trying to get it out of the plastic. While the dog was busy with that, Mark climbed down the fence. When his feet hit the pavement, the dog looked at him, knowing what it was supposed to do, but not wanting to give up the meat. Mark waited until the dog went back to the roast, then moved around the cube van. When he reached the back of it, he rolled up the door of the box. Then with the dog still on the roast, he took one of the keys to the padlock he’d bought and attached it to the dog’s collar.

Then, in one swift motion he tossed the roast into the back of the van. The dog followed the meat inside and Mark pulled the door down behind it. The dog barked a few times, but it wasn’t long before the noise died down and it was back chomping on the roast.

Mark reached into his bag again and took out the nylon cord. He tied the cord to the door handle at the back of the van, then tossed the rope over top of the van’s box, and over the fence.

That done, he went behind the garage to the dumpster where they threw all the old parts. He didn’t really expect to find his old clutch there – those were sent away for rebuilds – but he did find something that looked a little like a clutch and that’s all he needed.

He took the can of silver paint from his bag and pulled the old part out of the pile. Then he snapped the cap off the can and began painting the old part until it was all silver and looking like new. He left it there to dry and went to check on his truck.

He used his key to unlock Mother Load and was relieved to see the cab light come on when he opened the door. He climbed in, and tried the key… Nothing.

He’d expected that. If Rick’s Rigs had been treating customers like this for a while then they probably disabled trucks all the time. Luckily there were a couple ways to disable Peterbilt 379s, and he knew both of them.

First, inside the cab, he checked the ECM wires behind the dash panel. All the fuses had been undone. Mark reconnected them, then tried starting the truck. This time it turned over, but wouldn’t catch. That meant they’d done something to the engine like disconnect the oil pressure sensor plug.

He got out of the truck and undid the hood latches. In the distance he could hear the muted barks of the dog, which was probably finished with the roast. Mark climbed up on the front bumper and pulled on the hood. Using a penlight to peer into the engine compartment, Mark saw that the plug was undone. In seconds he had it back in place and the hood lowered over the engine. Now, the truck would turn over and start, and he’d be gone.

But before that could happen, there were a few things he needed to do. First, Mark went to the gate and cut the lock with his new bolt cutters. He opened the gate, ran back and got into his truck, and put his hand on the key.

After waiting for the glow plugs to warm up, he turned the key. The engine turned over a few times, then roared to life.

Mark let out a sigh of relief, then slowly released the clutch. There was just the right amount of play in the pedal’s swing and the engagement of engine and transmission was smooth as silk. At least they did a good job with that, thought Mark, as he drove out of the yard and parked on the road across the street. Then he jumped out of the truck, ran into the yard and around to the back of the garage.

He picked up the silver-painted “clutch” and brought it around
front to the spot where Mother Load had been parked. Reaching inside his jacket, Mark produced a business envelope with the word “Rick” written on the outside. He placed the envelope on the ground, then put the clutch on top of it. That done, he ran to the gate, pulled it closed, then locked it up with the new lock he’d bought.

Now, one last thing to be done.

He walked around to the back of the lot where the nylon cord hung from the top of the fence like a tassel. He pulled on the cord and the dog’s barking rose in volume. The dog ran to the fence, barking and snarling at Mark as if it knew it had been made a fool.

“Say hello to Rick for me,” said Mark.

The dog’s barking continued for several minutes, but it was eventually drowned out by the sound of Mark’s diesel running up through the gears.

Rick DeLuca couldn’t get the lock to open. He tried the key a few more times before realizing the lock was brand new.

“What do you know about this, Max?” he said, noticing the dog walking toward him with a key attached to its collar.

“Come here, boy.”

When the dog came up against the fence, Rick reached through a hole in the links and removed the key from its collar. Then he tried the key and the lock snicked open.

Max barked a couple times. Rick took a few steps into the lot and saw it. Someone had painted a torque converter off a school bus silver and left it lying in the lot. There was an envelope under the thing with his name on it. There was a letter inside.

“Dear Rick,

I picked up my truck last night. Clutch works great now. Thanks! Payment for the adjustment is enclosed.

I know you said you installed a rebuilt clutch, but seeing as I didn’t need it, I’m leaving you this one. Although it isn’t like the one you said you installed in my truck, it actually exists so that puts you one up on me. If you want to report any of this, I’ve enclosed the card of Const. Rob Quentin. He’s familiar with your operation and wants to speak with you about it anyway. This might be a good chance for you two to finally meet. Anyway, I’ll be back on the coast in a few months, and I’ll see you then. I’ll be the one at the courthouse, in the witness stand…

But first, I’ve got a date with Shannon Tweed.

All the best, Mark Dalton”

Rick looked up from the letter and said, “Shannon Tweed?” n

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