The story so far...After an inspection, a young Customs officer Mark calls High School finds that Mark isn't just carrying carpet like his paperwork says, but carpet laying tools as well. After a brie...
After an inspection, a young Customs officer Mark calls High School finds that Mark isn’t just carrying carpet like his paperwork says, but carpet laying tools as well. After a brief check, High School finds out that Mark has a criminal record, not only from his days as a private investigator, but a drug possession charge from his college days.
Customs officers end up disassembling Mother Load as High School looks to be trying to make his mark in the service by nailing Mark to the wall. Mark feels sick to his stomach and goes to the washroom where he overhears two guys talking about how they are able to bring illegal substances into the U.S. without the Customs officers catching on.
When Mark returned from the washroom he found mechanics working on Mother Load and parts of her laying all over the place.
Mark felt like crying. That was his whole life sitting there in pieces on the asphalt. There was no way he deserved any of this … but he checked himself before he thought that life wasn’t fair. Kids with brain tumors, now that wasn’t fair.
Like it or not, this was just part of the business he was in. This time he got stopped crossing the border and he was suffering the full extent of the law. Next time, he could sail through without as much as a nod from the Customs officer. It was like rolling the dice.
He’d lost the first round, but maybe he could win the next.
On the left of Mother Load was a box trailer pulled by an early model Black and Yellow Western Star. On the right was a late model white Volvo with a President’s Choice trailer behind it. Mark couldn’t be sure which rig belonged to the men he’d overheard in the washroom, but his guess was that it wasn’t the PC trailer. That one was probably driven by an oldtimer who’d been at the wheel with the same company for years.
And as he watched the rigs, he saw a grey-haired man with a pronounced belly come out of the Customs office.
Minutes after the oldtimer drove off, two men came out of the customs office and climbed into the black and yellow Western Star. Mark thought they were the ones from the washroom, but he couldn’t be sure. The fuel tanks on their truck looked normal enough, but Mark knew that if someone went to the trouble to trick the tanks, they’d probably have taken the time to do an expert job of it.
Mark’s only chance was to talk to them and listen to them speak.
He walked over to the Western Star, shaking his head.
“I hope you guys didn’t get screwed over too,” he said, climbing up onto the side of the Western Star.
“What?” said the guy behind the wheel.
Mark gestured to Mother Load lying in pieces behind him.
“That’s your truck?”
“Yeah, it used to be,” said Mark.
“That’s too bad, man.” The guy behind the wheel seemed to be in a hurry to leave. The one in the passenger seat was saying nothing, even looking the other way out the window.
“And all I was carrying was carpet, you know. You’d think a few rolls of carpet would be no sweat.”
“Yeah, sorry. Better luck next time, eh?”
He began shifting, looking for first gear, but Mark wasn’t about to let him go.
“So what are you guys hauling that Customs was so interested in?”
“Glass, empty bottles.”
Empty bottles. That’s what the guy in the washroom said they would find if they checked their trailer. “They pulled you over for that?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” He put it into gear. “Look, I gotta get going so if you don’t mind…”
“Oh, sorry.” Mark climbed down off the rig, then took a few steps back, and waved.
Mark turned and went looking for High School. He didn’t want to give the kid such a gift, but it was the best chance he had for getting Mother Load back on the road today.
“Hi there,” Mark said, when he found him at a desk behind the counter of the Customs office.
“What do you want now?”
High School seemed pissed off and Mark wondered if the guy would believe anything he had to say. Still, he had to give it a try. “Is this a bad time?”
High School put down his pen. “What is it?”
“Well, you know that black and yellow Western Star that just pulled out of the lot.”
“What about it?”
“I think they’ve smuggled something into your country.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah, they’ve got something done to their fuel tanks so that the top carries fuel and the bottom is carrying something else.”
“No, I heard them…”
“Look, you already lied to me about what you had on the back of your truck and now because your truck’s lying in pieces you want me to go chasing after someone else.”
“No, that’s not…”
“Well, I’ll tell you something, I’m busy enough at the moment nailing your ass to the wall, so if you don’t mind, go tell your story to the wind and let me get my work done.”
Mark just looked at High School for several moments. Then he said, “You know, I envy you.”
High School looked at him with a perplexed sort of look on his face.
“Losing my virginity was one of the best moments of my life, and you obviously still have that to look forward to.”
High School suddenly looked incensed. Mark knew he’d probably just gotten himself into a whole lot more trouble – if that was possible – but he couldn’t stop himself. The guy was a little too high on the ladder and needed to be taken down a few rungs.
Only Mark wasn’t really in a position to bring him down.
“You asshole!” High School said. “You’re going to pay for that…”
He said a bunch of other words, but Mark left the office without hearing most of them.
Outside, he found an older Customs officer having a cigarette by one of those outdoor Butt Stop ashtrays. The guy was bald on top, white around the edges and looked as if he’d been there since Packards and DeSotos ruled the road.
“Hey, how you doing?” Mark said.
“Making a living.”
“Been out here long?”
He looked at his smoke. “A few minutes.”
“Did you see that black and yellow Western Star that pulled out of here a little while ago?”
“What about it?”
“Well, when I was in the washroom…”
The old guy listened intently, not interrupting Mark until he was finished telling his story.
Mark was watching the mechanics disassembling Mother Load when he was joined by the older Customs officer.
“State troopers pulled them over,” he said.
Mark held his breath, “And?”
“Checked one of the fuel tanks with a dipstick and it only went down eight inches … and the tank’s about 30 inches deep.”
“And what’s in the bottom of the tank, drugs?”
“Don’t know yet. They’re towing the tractor to an impound yard and will be opening up the tanks there. My guess is they’ll find cocaine.”
“We’ve known there’s been drugs coming through our crossing for the past six months but we couldn’t figure out how it was being carried.” He gave a little smile.
Mark nodded toward Mother Load.
“So is that what High School’s looking for in my rig.”
“High School… the young officer; looks like he just graduated and desperately needs to pop his cherry.”
“Oh, Myron, yeah, he’s a real nut-buster. We’ve told him to lay off and relax, but he’s slow getting the message.”
“Sure would appreciate it if you told him to tell these guys to put my truck back together for me.”
“The way you helped us out, it’d be my pleasure. In fact it’s the least we could do.”
“If it’s the least you could do, I have another request.”
“Sure, what is it?”
“I’d like High School to be the one to put my truck back together, personally.”
“But he’s not a mechanic, and I don’t think he knows much about trucks.”
“No problem,” said Mark. “I’ll supervise him.” A wry smile appeared on the old guy’s face as if he might just watch, too.
– Mark Dalton will return next month in a new adventure.