The police thought Mark might have been the child abductor, or someone who’d been in a bar fight, but are very apologetic when they learn he’s bloody because he’d hit a deer. They fill him in a bit on the search for the missing child and Mark recalls the guy he met in the McDonald’s in Swift Current. The more Mark thinks about it, the more he’s certain that that guy is the one the police are looking for. Furthermore, the guy told Mark he was heading to Morden, Manitoba. Mark decides to get to Morden first and wait for the killer to arrive.
Mark drove straight on through the night, constantly keeping his speed 20 kilometres over the limit, and sometimes more when he could get away with it.
All the while he kept his eyes peeled for a dark Pete 379 with the words Power Trucking on the side of it. But for all his efforts, Mark was unable to spot anything even closely resembling the rig he’d seen in Swift Current.
It was possible, of course, that the guy had just been giving Mark a line about heading to Morden. After all, why would a killer tell someone – anyone – his plans, especially if he had killed two people and knew police across the country were looking for him?
Because the guy was crazy, that’s why. It was either that he was so confident that the police would never catch him, or he actually told people where he was going just to prove how smart he was. Or maybe he wanted to be caught and dropping clues to unsuspecting truckers would ensure that eventually police would be able to piece the puzzle together and arrest him at some point down the road. Maybe he was just careless and didn’t care one way or another if he ever got caught or not.
Or maybe Mark was full of crap and this guy was just a creepy trucker who liked eating cold Happy Meals for his midnight snack.
That last one was a possibility, but Mark was confident that he was right about the guy. He’d told him the story about the Happy Meal, told Mark he was headed for Morden, and all the while he’d probably been laughing inside knowing he had a little girl imprisoned inside his truck. That would explain the reason why Mark had been so unsettled after talking to him.
If only he’d done something then…
Mark reached Morden around six in the evening without spotting the guy’s rig.
Mark had turned south at Brandon, but there were a half-dozen different ways of getting down from the Trans-Canada, it was entirely possible that Mark had made it to Morden before him. He drove through the small town of a few thousand souls once, garnering stares from the locals every inch of the way, then doubled back to the west end of town to park Mother Load in an inconspicuous spot by the side of the road.
And then he waited.
It had been exciting driving fast and hurrying along in order to get to Morden in time, but now time seemed to stand still for Mark. Since there was really only one decent road that headed into Morden, it wouldn’t be that hard to spot the guy as he drove into town, but staying awake to see it happen was another matter entirely. Mark had been driving hard for a full day and the kilometres were starting to catch up with him.
A few times during his vigil, he felt himself nodding off, only to be awakened by the soft ‘thud’ of his head hitting the steering wheel or window. Once he drifted off and dreamed about being asleep as the killer drove past, but was abruptly awakened from the dream by the sound of a Cummins engine-braking as it slowed on the approach to town.
He glanced at his watch. Two-thirty in the morning. Well, thought Mark, if there was ever a time to sneak into Morden and drop a body onto the side of the road, this was it.
Then, almost as if on cue, two pinprick points of light appeared in Mark’s driver-side rearview mirror.
Mark’s pulse quickened.
And then as the rig drove by, Mark saw the words Power Trucking written on the door.
Mark started his rig, but waited until the killer was far enough ahead that he wouldn’t notice Mark pulling out onto the highway. As an extra precaution, Mark also refrained from switching on his running lights until a curve or rise in the road obscured him from the killer’s view.
As they headed into Morden, Mark experienced a moment of doubt where he wondered if the guy actually had a delivery to make in town, but they drove on through Morden as if the town wasn’t even there, and that’s when Mark was sure he was right.
The game of cat and mouse continued for several more kilometres until they reached a truck stop near the southbound highway that lead into the United States and hooked up with Interstate-29 south of the border. Obviously, the guy planned to fuel up, get a bite to eat, then drop the girl’s body off somewhere between here and the border, then cross the border and be hours into the States before the body had even been discovered.
Mark hung well back, at the very edges of the truck stop’s parking lot. Fortunately the lot was well lit and Mark was able to watch the guy exit his truck and walk across the lot toward the restaurant.
“That’s him,” Mark muttered under his breath. “But he won’t be buying a Happy Meal this time ’round.”
When the guy had been inside the restaurant for a few minutes, Mark pulled closer to the man’s rig. It was black, which seemed appropriate for a child-killer, but other than the colour there was nothing particularly ominous about the truck. Mark decided to check it out.
He left Mother Load running, and took the long way around the back of his trailer so he wouldn’t be seen from inside the restaurant. He approached the black Pete 379 from the rear, listening intently to see if he could hear any sound coming from inside…Nothing.
He checked the door handle… Locked.
He wrapped a knuckle softly against the side of the sleeper… Nothing, at first, then a soft bump in response.
He knocked on the sleeper again, waited, and this time there was a louder, more forceful answering thump.
“Hey, anyone in there?” he shouted, slapping on the side of the door with his open palm.
A faint, almost imperceptible scream from inside.
Mark couldn’t be sure he’d heard it.
He pounded on the door again.
The scream was louder this time, although still faint through the airtight seals of the tractor’s cab.
Nevertheless, it was all Mark needed to hear.
He turned toward Mother Load, knowing he could easily break a window with his axe and get inside to the girl. The whole thing would take less than 30 seconds.
The guy had exited the restaurant and was running toward Mark.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he shouted. “Leave my truck alone.”
Mark didn’t panic. Instead, he kept walking toward Mother Load, intent on getting his axe and rescuing the girl. “I know she’s in there,” he said, “and I’m getting her out.”
That’s when the guy reached into his jacket and pulled out a small handgun, most likely a .22 judging by the size of it.
“Shit!” Mark said.
What to do now?
Only an idiot brought an axe to a gunfight, but besides a Louisville Slugger under his seat, Mark didn’t have a cache of weapons to defend himself with.
What was a single brass bullet against tons of rolling steel?
Mark climbed up into Mother Load, threw her in gear and popped the clutch. The big Pete leaped forward, stopping the killer in his tracks. For a moment there was real fear on the man’s face as he realized his .22 was going to have little stopping power against a 379.
Still, he leveled the gun at Mark, and fired.
Mark kept on rolling.
The man turned and started to run.
But instead of running him down, Mark turned the wheel sharply right and drove the right-front corner of Mother Load into the killer’s rig.
It was a hard crash, and the girl inside the rig would be shaken up, but at least now she wouldn’t be going anywhere. Sure, the killer would be running, but there weren’t a lot of places for him to hide in rural Manitoba. Chances are he’d be picked up by the cops within the hour.
Mark turned off Mother Load, ran around to the passeng
er side of the other rig and smashed in the window with his axe.
Suddenly, he could clearly hear the girl inside crying.
Mark felt his heart leap up into his throat.
If she was crying, she was alive.
For the second time in as many days, Mark was having a long conversation with a policeman. This time however, the tone of the talk was much more pleasant.
“So how did you know he was the guy?” the officer asked for the third time, as if he still didn’t quite believe it.
“He just rubbed me the wrong way. And then when the cops told me what they were looking for when they nabbed me in Saskatchewan, I don’t know… Everything sort of clicked.”
“Well, you’ll be happy to know we caught up with him just before the border.”
“And the girl?”
“She’s messed up, as you’d expect. But physically, she’s going to be fine.”
Mark was silent. Sure, she’d live, but her life was going to be hell for a long, long time.
“And you’ll be happy to know that you’re being recommended for a civilian citation.”
“Thanks,” said Mark. He wasn’t sure what a civilian citation was, but it sounded like something he could mention to police if he was ever arrested again. Still, there was something a bit more practical the police could do for him right now.
The collision with the guy’s truck had left the front of Mother Load a wreck, with damage likely up in the $10,000 range. Sure, he could put in an insurance claim, but his premiums would be sure to go up the following year.
“The citation thing would be nice, but I’m wondering if there’s something you could do for me today?”
The officer shrugged. “If I’m able.”
“In your report, do you think you could say that he hit me with his truck, instead of the other way around?” That way, Mark could put a claim in to the other guy’s insurance. After all, what did he care if his insurance premiums went up a couple hundred per cent next year? That guy wouldn’t be driving again for a long, long time.
The officer rubbed his chin, thought about it, then said, “Sure, I could word it that way.”
“Appreciate it,” Mark said, suddenly feeling less like a sucker and more like a hero with each passing moment.
– Join Mark Dalton next month for more exciting adventures.
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