Mark is on the Rock, behind schedule with a load of fresh fish headed for Montreal. He’s got to go to the bathroom something awful, but doesn’t really want to stop. Not only is he late, there’s a maniac on the loose and he doesn’t want to risk a chance encounter. But eventually he just has to go and he looks for some newspaper to do his business, only to hit a moose lumbering onto the highway.
The front end of Mother Load is ruined, but the engine still runs fine. Mark can’t get the moose free and must cut it loose with an axe. It’s a messy job but he gets it done and is back on his way. On the radio, the police are still looking for the killer…
• With all the delays, he had getting underway, and the time he’d lost from the collision with the moose, Mark had missed the ferry and had time to kill before the next one was scheduled to depart. Despite looking like she’d gone a few rounds with a championship fighter, Mother Load had been running well and Mark was confident he could make it to Ontario and get his truck repaired there by mechanics he knew well and trusted.
So all that was left for Mark to do was get a bite to eat and clean up a bit before the next ferry left for the mainland. Once he was on the ferry he’d be able to do his laundry and have a shower during the more than six hours it took the ship to travel to North Sydney, Nova Scotia.
He found a truck stop about five kilometres from the dock that had plenty of fast food outlets. He decided to get something to eat first, then clean up his truck while still in his dirty clothes, then make a fresh change before heading to the ferry. After parking his truck, Mark entered the truck stop and took up a place in line to order his food. The burgers smelled good on the grille and for a moment he wondered if they served any moose here, but decided for chicken and a salad in the end.
“Can I take your…” the girl behind the counter said, her words suddenly getting caught in her throat as if she’d choked on them.
“Grilled chicken breast,” Mark said. “And a garden salad with oil and vinegar dressing.”
She said nothing in response, but her eyes told a different story. They were as wide as serving trays and tinged with a hint of fear. ’Wow,’ thought Mark, this place is really on edge with this killer on the loose and all.
“Will…will that be for here or to g-go?”
“For here,” Mark said, not really wanting to eat in his truck since it was so dirty and smelly.
Mark paid in cash was soon carrying his food to a table.
As he made his way across the floor, Mark could feel a roomful of eyes upon him. People were staring at him and it was making him self-conscious.
“Never seen a driver from Ontario, I guess,” he said under his breath.
He picked a spot in the corner and purposefully sat with his back to the rest of the restaurant so he could eat in peace and not have to see dozens of people gawking at him. But while he couldn’t see anyone, he could still hear them talking in hushed tones like there was some big secret going around that he wasn’t supposed to know about.
Mark dug into his food. At least that was good. He ate quickly and as he did the throbbing pangs of hunger that had been gnawing at him subsided. And as his belly filled, he became more at ease with his surroundings, no longer feeling that all eyes were on him. The place was quieter too, like everyone had gone back to minding their own business, or maybe finished eating and left the restaurant altogether.
Whatever the reason, Mark was able to relax. But even that didn’t last.
The red dot appeared on the wall in front of him in an instant, then moved slowly left until it disappeared behind the shadow cast by his head.
“What the…” he whispered, wondering if some kid was playing with a laser pointer. But then the sound of a gun being racked very close to his head…
“Police, don’t move!”
Mark wanted to remain still, but couldn’t resist the temptation to turn his head and see what the hell was going on. Police. At least a dozen of them, most in tactical gear and looking ready to go to war.
“Raise your hands and get down on the floor!” came the instruction.
Mark raised his hands, saw how much blood there was still on them and realized who the police thought he was. “I’m not the guy,” he said.
“Get on the floor!”
“I didn’t kill anybody. I hit a moose.”
But then hands were on him, pulling him to the ground and holding him there until they had him cuffed and secure. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I can explain.”
• It took almost an hour, but the police were finally convinced they had the wrong guy. They hadn’t been buying any of Mark’s story until one of the officers came into the interrogation room after doing a check of the parking lot.
“That your Peterbilt out there?”
“Yes,” Mark said with a sigh.
“He hit a moose alright,” the officer said to the one in charge. “Pretty messy. Probably had to cut it free.”
“Like I’ve been saying, I used an axe.” The officer in charge left Mark for a moment to check out Mother Load himself, and when he got back, he couldn’t apologize fast enough.
“Sorry, Mr. Dalton,” he said, unlocking the handcuffs. “We got some pretty frantic phone calls saying you were all covered in blood…which was true. Everyone thought you were the killer, and so did we.”
“I would have thought the same,” Mark said, massaging his wrists.
“Just do us a favour. Clean yourself up before you get on the ferry. We don’t need any more panic, especially now.”
“Understood,” Mark said, shaking all their hands.
Then he headed straight to the washroom to wash his face and hands before he had any more trouble. “Oh my God!” he exclaimed, as he caught sight of himself in the mirror. His face was streaked and spattered with blood and it had caked in the creases of his ears and nose. “No wonder they thought it was me.”
Mark took off his jacket and shirt and began washing up. As he pumped soap into his palm, another man entered the washroom looked very much like Mark with blood on his clothes, hands and face.
“You hit a moose too?” Mark asked.
“I, uh…” The man seemed lost for a moment, unsure how to answer.
“I hit one a bunch of miles back. Went through my grille like a cannonball.”
“Oh, yeah?” the man says. “Uh, that’s what happened to me too.”
Mark only had to study the man for a second before the realization hit him like an ice-cold slap in the face.
’It’s him,’ he thought. ‘He’s the one.’
Mark dried off quickly, but not like he was in any hurry. “See you later,” he said. “Sure, see you.”
’Yeah,’ thought Mark. ‘I’ll be seeing you…in court.’ He exited the washroom, and made a call. Hopefully the police weren’t too far down the road.
– Mark Dalton returns next month in another exciting adventure.