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Like a lamb to slaughter: Part 1

Mark headed west, the collision in Ontario well behind him. While it hadn’t been his fault, and he’d actually helped the insurance company route out an organized fraud ring that had obviously been operating with impunity for years,...


Mark headed west, the collision in Ontario well behind him. While it hadn’t been his fault, and he’d actually helped the insurance company route out an organized fraud ring that had obviously been operating with impunity for years, he’d still been victimized by the accident.

In exchange for all his efforts, Mark had hoped for some sort of break on his insurance bill, but there’d been none of that. Despite him personally saving the insurance company thousands – perhaps even tens of thousands of dollars  – his bill had still gone up because of other scams and frauds going on in the Greater Toronto Area.

Mark needed to get out of the city and a long drive across the country was just what he needed. And while the accident was thousands of kilometres ago, the sour taste of the city still wasn’t out of his system and he wouldn’t mind another long-haul back east that would have him avoiding city driving for another few days at least.

And so, after Mark delivered a container of snowmobile parts to the docks in Vancouver, he decided to contact his dispatcher Bud, and see what the man could do for him.

Mark reached for his phone, made sure his hands-free device was working, then used the contacts list to find Bud.

It rang six times before there was an answer.

“Hello?”

“Catch you at a bad time?”

“I was in the bathroom. What do you want?”

“It’s Mark.”

A second’s delay, then, “Mark who?”

Mark sighed and shook his head slightly. Didn’t this every get old? “Marxism.”

“What?”

“You know, the ideas and writings of Karl Marx that laid the foundation for the creation of communism.”

“Oh, that guy,” Bud said.

“Yeah, you know, ‘Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains’.”

“You feel chained, do you?”

“’If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist.’ He said that too.”

“No kidding?”

“Yes, he did.”

“All right,” Bud sighed. “Besides giving me a history lesson, what do you want from me, Dalton?”

“A load would be nice.”

“You want to be one of those worker-types, do you?”

“Yes,” Mark said. “It’s what I do, and I do enjoy eating my meals indoors.”

“What?”

“You know…regular meals, a roof over my head. Only in this case it’s a truck.”

“Okay,” Bud said. “You’re in British Columbia right now?”

“Just got out of port.”

“Then how about a load of livestock to Quebec?”

Mark didn’t answer right away. B.C. to Quebec was a sweet load, but to be honest he didn’t know anything about livestock other than he liked his bacon crispy and his steak medium-rare.

“Don’t you need a licence or something to drive that stuff? I mean…the product is alive and I’ll just bet the receiver wants it that way on delivery.”

“Yeah, well, I asked the customer about that and apparently there’s a quality assurance program in Canada for hogs, but not for beef, chicken or sheep. There are courses you can take for those animals and they’ve been offering them for the last five or six years, but there is no official requirement in order to drive them.”

Okay, Mark thought. Bud had done his homework. And while it would be a great adventure, it sounded like something for which you’d need some experience in order to know what you were doing. After all, it didn’t take much imagination to think of something that might go wrong.

“I don’t know if it’s for me, Bud. Seems like an awful lot of responsibility. I like driving and being on my own because – outside of shippers and receivers – I don’t have anyone depending on me…which includes animals. I mean, it’s not like you can just pull off the road if it starts snowing or the weather turns bad. And if you have a breakdown, there’s probably all sorts of pressure to ensure the animals are safe and comfortable.”

“You’re probably right on all counts,” Bud laughed under his breath. “But I’m disappointed in you, Dalton. Do you really think I would offer you a load that you couldn’t handle?”

Mark thought about it, then said, “Yes, I do. I think you would do exactly that. In fact, I imagine you giggling in delight over this load and all the trouble I could get into.”

Silence for a moment. “Okay,” Bud said. “You know me too well. All that’s probably been true in the past, but not this time around.”

“Oh, yeah. Why’s that?”

“You won’t be driving on your own.”

“Oh no?”

“No. You’ll be with two other drivers and they’ll have more than enough experience to go around.”

“Ah,” Mark said. This was an interesting twist. By driving in a convoy with drivers who knew what they were doing, he could learn from their experience instead by the seat of his pants. He didn’t have to think about it much longer. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

“Great,” Bud said. “But I have to tell you it’s just not a trip east. It also includes a return load back west after you reach Quebec.”

“More livestock?”

“Nope, regular goods,” Bud said. “Apparently the trailers get cleaned out after every delivery of livestock. Steamed, disinfected, the whole nine yards. They’re probably cleaner than your average goods trailer on the road.”

Mark didn’t have any trouble believing that. While most drivers took pride in their work, he remembered once seeing a driver urinate inside his trailer because he didn’t have time to get to a bathroom before his turn to get loaded. That incident aside, he’d seen the inside of some trailers that might as well have been used as a latrine. The animals, on the other hand, probably had it good. “So this isn’t just one long-haul, it’s two.”

“Exactly. The company will set up the load west. They just asked me to provide them with a driver.”

“So why am I so lucky?”

“I like you, Dalton.”

“But you don’t even know my name.”

Bud ignored Mark’s comment for the moment, then said. “I look at it this way, Mark: when someone calls with a load or asks me for a driver, they do it because I deliver…just like my drivers do. So, say something does go wrong with this load and the driver I sent these guys is a wet noodle and can’t handle a problem or cracks at the first sign of adversity.”

“It’s not good for you?” Mark guessed.

“No, it’s not good. It’s terrible. I need to send someone who can handle the job and not make me look bad.”

Mark took a deep breath, his chest swelling with pride. “I’m wondering how you were able to make this all about you…but I’m still touched.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Dalton. The three guys ahead of you on the list all turned me down.”

Mark shook his head. “You’re a jerk!”

“Maybe, but I’m the jerk who gives you good loads. Now don’t let me down.”

– Mark returns next month in Part 2 of Like a lamb to slaughter.


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