The deer is tangled up in the grille and bumper of Mother Load, forcing Mark to take an axe to the animal to cut it free. It takes him over an hour to complete the job and when he’s done, he’s covered in blood. He rests, then heads back out on the road, stopping later at a restaurant for some food. Everyone looks at him strangely, and after he settles in to eat, the police arrive and arrest him, asking why he’s covered in blood.
“What are you laughing at?” the police officer said, pressing Mark’s face hard against the floor.
Suddenly Mark didn’t think anything was funny. There were four or five men on him (hard to tell from where he was) and he could feel the dirt and grit of the floor pressing into the side of his face.
“Nothing officer,” he said through squished lips.
The hold on him relaxed slightly. Mark took a breath. Handcuffs were snapped onto his wrists, then squeezed tight enough to hurt. He was lifted roughly to his feet and searched. His pockets were emptied and he was led out of the now empty restaurant. Mark was put into the back of an RCMP cruiser.
“Can you tell me what I did wrong?” he said.
The door slammed shut, leaving Mark alone. Minutes later a sergeant, judging by the stripes on the arms of his jacket, opened the car door and poked his head inside.
“So Mark how you doing tonight?”
“Am I under arrest?”
“What did I do?”
“We’re not sure yet.”
“Then why am I under arrest?”
“So we could detain you while we conduct an investigation.”
“Can you do that?”
“All right, then why am I being detained?”
“Why are you covered in blood?”
Mark let out a sigh. “Because I hit a deer about 15 kilometres back and I had to cut it free of my rig with an axe. You can send one of your men to check out the deer, but my rig still has antler bits in the grille.”
“Which truck’s yours?”
“It’s the Pete 379 over there in the corner of the lot.”
The sergeant closed the door without a word and headed off toward Mother Load. Minutes later he returned and opened the door. “Sorry, Mr. Dalton,” he said.
That’s more like it, thought Mark.
“Let me help you out of the car.” The sergeant reached in and grabbed Mark’s arm. After Mark put a foot on the ground, there were other hands on him, this time easing him up onto his feet.
“Well?” Mark said, figuring that would be enough to solicit an explanation from the man.
The sergeant sighed, then said, “We’re looking for a man, possibly a trucker, that’s suspected of kidnapping a little girl in Banff.”
Mark nodded. “I read about that in the paper a couple days ago.”
“We had information that the man might be travelling east…The time to get from Banff to here is about right and you did have blood all over you.”
“To tell you the truth, after cutting the deer free I was so tired I fell asleep and forgot about the blood.”
“Yeah, well, the way we figured it, you were either our guy, or someone who’d been involved in a bar fight at a road house up the road.”
“Negative on both counts.”
“Still, you are covered in blood.”
“You got me there,” Mark said. “I should have cleaned up before heading into the restaurant.”
“And you should have called us to let us know about the deer.”
“I was going to, but forgot to do that, too.”
The sergeant nodded. “Sorry to have interrupted your meal.”
“These things happen.”
He handed Mark his wallet and the other things they’d taken from his pockets. “I suggest you clean up before heading back into the restaurant. Or better yet, hit the road and stop up the highway.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that.”
The sergeant tipped his hat and turned to walk away, but there was more Mark wanted to know.
“Uh, excuse me, officer…This guy you’re looking for, what else do you know about him?”
“I really can’t tell you any more than I have already.”
“But I’m driving the same route and direction you think this guy is travelling. Wouldn’t hurt to have an extra set of eyes out there, right?”
The sergeant thought about that a moment.
The sergeant nodded. “We’re pretty sure it’s the same guy who’s taken all three girls. We found the bodies of the first two girls outside of small towns off the highway, always thousands of kilometres from where they were picked up. It seems he likes to keep them alive a few days before he kills them…” The sergeant’s voice trailed off. Obviously even recounting the details in the case left him unsettled.
“Thanks,” Mark said. “I hope you catch him.”
“Yeah,” the sergeant said, then turned to leave.
Mark watched the last of the RCMP cruisers drive away, then headed for the bathroom inside the restaurant to clean himself up. “Holy shit!” he said, when he looked at himself in the mirror. There was blood everywhere: streaked across his clothes, smeared over his face, even caked in his hair. No wonder they thought I was a maniac.
He washed himself off as best he could, then did his best to clean the blood off Mother Load. When he was satisfied both he and his truck were as clean as the situation allowed, he got back onto the highway.
As Mark worked his way up through the gears, his mind began to wonder about why the police would think he might be a child abductor.
Sure he’d been covered in blood, but someone who’d avoided capture by the police for this long would never be so careless as to drive around in public covered in blood. Those kinds of killers were always successful because they were quiet, shy and reserved. They lived life below the radar, and people were rarely suspicious of them, especially the police. Whenever they caught one of these guys, didn’t their friends and neighbours always say the same things about them?
He was such a nice guy, kept to himself and never bothered anybody. Yeah, nice guy, except for those half-dozen people he killed without anyone ever even noticing he was a God-damn psychopath. These killers always looked harmless, and were maybe even a bit goofy in the way they interacted with the rest of the world.
Like that guy in the McDonald’s back in Swift Current.Now there was a guy who fit the bill… Suddenly, Mark’s blood ran cold as something deep down in the pit of his stomach told him he was onto something.
The guy had bought a Happy Meal, even though it was late and there was no kid in sight, and there were plenty other places to eat, even other McDonald’s further up the highway.
He drove a dark Peterbilt 379 just like Mark did, which might have been one of the reasons the police had suspected Mark. And the guy was genuinely creepy. Mark took a moment to clear his head.Mark’s instincts were rarely wrong on this kind of thing.
Now, Mark tried to recall, where did he say he was going?
Morden, he’d said.
Isn’t that strange? Morden, sounds a little like Morbid, or Mort…which is another word for Death. Suddenly, Mark was sure.
He pulled over onto the side of the highway to check the map. Morden was a small town south of Winnipeg well off the Trans-Canada. Just the sort of place the police said he liked to dump bodies.
Mark grabbed his cell and called the RCMP. He wanted to speak to the sergeant he’d just talked to, but couldn’t remember the man’s name.
He was passed along to another sergeant.
“I think I know who abducted that girl in Banff,” he said.
“Oh, do you now,” came the response. Judging by the man’s tone, Mark could already tell he didn’t believe him.
“He’s driving east,” Mark said.
“I think he’s headed for a town called Morden.”
“How do you know that?”
“He told me.”
“So you know him?”
“Yeah, I met him.”
“What’s his name?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is this a crank?”
Mark hung up the phone.
It was obvious he couldn’t back up any of his conclusions.It was obvious to Mark what needed to be done. He had to get to Morden as fast as he could, so when the killer arrived, Mark would be waiting for him.
– See next month’s Truck West for the final instalment of Lost and Found.
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