Mark was bobtailing along the Trans-Canada just outside Ottawa with a full tank of fuel and no load to burn it on. It wasn't a good situation, especially since he'd paid dearly to top up his tanks and...
Mark was bobtailing along the Trans-Canada just outside Ottawa with a full tank of fuel and no load to burn it on. It wasn’t a good situation, especially since he’d paid dearly to top up his tanks and business expenses without any actual business to cover them didn’t make good business sense. He needed a load, now. Bud’s number was the first on Mark’s speed dial and it took just a couple of touches of the cell phone’s key pad to make the call to his long-time dispatcher.
“Hello?” said Bud.
“Hey Bud, this is Mark,” he said, knowing full well what was coming. While the ongoing joke between the two had gone stale a long time ago, neither of them had tired of it.
“Marked down,” answered Mark. “Expenses are going up, work is getting harder to find, the competition is fiercer than ever and I feel like I’ve got to slash my prices just to keep my head above water.”
“Times are tough all over,” Bud said. “Do you know how many big-time CEOs had to take a $10 million bonus instead of a $20 million bonus, just because their companies lost a billion dollars instead of only $500 million.”
Mark laughed. “What was your bonus this year, Bud?”
“Pretty much the same as it is every year,” Bud said. “I got to keep my job.”
“That’s a pretty good bonus.” “Yeah, so maybe I’ll make my millions next year.”
“Not if you’re working for a living, you won’t.”
It was Bud’s turn to laugh. “We all gotta do what we can. Which reminds me, you looking for a load or what?”
“Do rich people screw the poor?”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Bud said. “I’ve got a load of pre-fab roof trusses made in Ottawa going to a new ski resort going up in Ste. Veronique…that’s in the Mont Tremblant area of Quebec.”
“Quebec, eh?” Mark said. “I haven’t been there in a while.”
“I’ll give you the details.
Mark had passed Mont Tremblant 20 minutes ago and was weaving his way north through some of the country’s most majestic scenery when the car ahead of him suddenly swerved across the highway into oncoming traffic.
“Look out!” he said under his breath as the early model Toyota turned hard to the right and skidded back into the lane just in time to avoid an approaching minivan.
Mark, who had been holding his breath, finally breathed in. ‘What the hell happened there?’ he wondered. Although he’d seen drunks on the road at all times of the day and night, this one didn’t look like a drunk driver. The man was driving steady now with hardly even a wobble between the lines. It was possible the driver was diabetic and was experiencing hypoglycemia – or low blood sugar – but those sorts of episodes had all the appearances of someone who’d been drinking, and that didn’t look to be the case.
On closer inspection, Mark noticed there were not one but two people in the car, the driver and someone in the back seat. The driver kept turning around and reaching back for the other person while struggling to keep his other hand on the wheel. If Mark didn’t know any better, he’d say the two were having a fight.
Mark took out his cell phone. Whether the driver was drunk, diabetic, or fighting with his passenger, it was something the police needed to know about before the car drove off the road or directly into the path of some innocent person.
But just as he was about to dial 911, the Toyota’s brake lights came on and the car slowed.
Mark eased back on the throttle giving him some time and distance to better assess the situation.
The Toyota skidded onto the highway’s shoulder and before it even came to a complete stop the driver had jumped out of the car and dancing around on the pavement as if it were on fire. But the man didn’t run away from the car, nor did he try to get the passenger out of the backseat.
Mark geared down, slowing further, almost to a crawl.
Now the man opened the rear door and climbed into the back seat, leaving his legs sticking out the open door in total disregard for his safety or the dangers of oncoming traffic — like one Mark Dalton and Mother Load.
Mark’s thoughts now veered in a totally different direction. Maybe instead of a fight, the man in the front and the woman in the back were about to enjoy some roadside tryst which would easily explain the legs sticking out the open door and the urgency with which this was all going down.
But that wasn’t it either.
Just as Mark was about to overtake the car, the man climbed out of the vehicle again and began waving his arms frantically over his head in an attempt to flag Mark down.
Mark thought about that for a moment.
It had been his experience that the side of the highway was a very dangerous place indeed.
Once, when he came to the rescue of a woman being attacked on the roadside, he’d been beaten up by a bunch of thugs for his trouble and Mother Load was trashed almost beyond repair.
Another time he got stuck by the side of the road in the middle of winter and nearly froze to death before any kind of help arrived.
Then there was the chance that he might be robbed or hijacked – those things had happened to him before too – and this was all some sort of elaborate act to get him to stop in the middle of nowhere so he could be separated from his truck like candy from a baby.
But as Mark eased past the car, he realized it was none of those things. There was a young woman in the back seat of the Toyota and she looked to be in quite a bit of pain. However, this was no romantic interlude, nor was it a sexual assault. And neither was it a fight, or an elaborate ruse intended to help rob an unsuspecting trucker of his load.
While it was possible the woman in the rear of the car was acting, there could be no mistaking the look on her face and the distress her body was in.
She was lying in the back of the car with her right leg over the driver’s seat and her left leg hooked over the backseat’s headrest.
Obviously, the woman was about to have a baby. •
– Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 2 of ‘Special Delivery.’