After dropping his load off in Toronto, Mark urges Bud to give him a load to Halifax. Mark is eager to head back east, because on his way west, Mother Load was broken into and he’s determined to find the thief. At a truck stop in Belleville, Mark talks to other drivers and concludes that lot lizards – prostitutes who haunt truck stops and parking lots – are to blame. He vows to find the lizard who ripped him off and bring her to justice…
Once the round table discussion was over and all of the drivers were on their way, Mark returned to Mother Load for the night. He’d been aware of lot lizards for years, but since he was never on the lookout for any “commercial company” he’d never really given them much thought. Out of sight, out of mind. Now that he’d likely been robbed by one of them, he was acutely aware of their existence.
On his way back to his truck he noticed a few rigs with big “NO LOT LIZARDS” signs in their windows. In other trucks, he saw bras and pantyhose hanging in the driver’s window, signaling to any working girls that the driver already had company for the night. Mark liked that idea, and considered hanging onto a piece of clothing the next time he was intimate with a woman. Hell, it might even be worth buying a frilly bra or a pair of panties to hang from his visor just to avoid being bothered in the middle of the night.
That had certainly happened to him enough times. It would be late, around three in the morning – it was always three in the morning – when some woman would knock on his door asking, “You need any company, sugar?”
Sure, some of these lizards were good looking women, so it wasn’t surprising that drivers opened their doors for them. Just being awakened in the middle of the night was pretty unnerving since lot lizards were know to carry knives, pepper spray or other weapons. But it wasn’t just the women you had to wary of. A lizard might be the one who knocked on your door, but that was just so the brute she was working for could muscle his way into your truck and rob you blind. Other times a lizard would provide you her services so someone else could steal from your trailer while you were…indisposed. And even if you had sex with a lizard and intended to pay for it fair and square, there was no guarantee she wouldn’t rob you while you had your wallet out, taking you for every penny you had.
It was almost enough to stay away from truck stops altogether.
When Mark reached Mother Load, he climbed in and sat in the driver’s seat for a while watching the lot for any signs of lizards. It took a few minutes for him to realize that he was facing the restaurant and gas station, which was the wrong direction if he wanted to see anything. Most lot lizard activity went on at the back of the lot, as far away from the truck stop’s main facility as possible. If he wanted to watch the lizards in their natural habitat, he’d have to turn his truck around and park in the fringes of the lot.
He started up Mother Load and drove around the lot a couple of times until he found a spot in the middle that faced the opposite direction. As he pulled into the spot, he realized he had a great view of the row of trucks lined up under the burnt-out bulbs of the street lamps dotting that end of the lot.
“Perfect,” he said, shutting down his rig and locking the doors. He knew he was pretty safe from the lizards snaking their way between the trucks in search of some unsuspecting prey, but he still wished he had some added protection with him, like a woman’s name painted on the passenger side door, or a barking dog who didn’t like anybody other than his master, or even an “I love my wife bumper sticker.” Mark wasn’t married, of course, but drastic times required drastic measures.
Mark took a deep breath and prepared for a long night, but it wasn’t long before he saw what he’d been waiting for. A young blonde girl was walking up and down the line of trucks, hesitating in front of one, then another, before finally knocking on the door of an blue International. The door opened, she smiled up at the driver and a hand appeared from inside the cab, helping her up into the truck.
Moments later the passenger door of a white Volvo opened up and an older, raven-haired woman in a pair of jeans, her shirt unbuttoned to the waist and a cigarette dangling from her mouth, got out of the truck, and walked four trucks down the line. Then she knocked on the window of a Western Star, waited a few seconds, then hopped right into the truck.
She must have regular customers, Mark thought with a shake of his head. Or maybe she prefers to call them her clientele.
And on and on it went. Trucks arrived, trucks left, and all the while the lizards plied their trade, moving between the rigs and the restaurant like it was a routine that played out the same way night after night after night.
“They’re out there,” Mark said aloud. “No doubt about it. But which one of you took my stuff?”
The answer to the question would have to wait for another day. Mark was beat, and he needed his sleep. After all, it’s the early bird that catches the lizard.
Mark was up early the next morning, eager to get away from this lizard-infested lot and start his investigation in earnest at the truck stops closer to where he was robbed.
“You’re rippin’ me off!” a man said in a deep-throated, gravel and sand sort of voice.
“You got everything you paid for,” said a woman. The voice was confident, strong, with only the slightest hint of fear.
“For that? You must be out of your mind.”
“Hey mister, I held up my end of the bargain…It’s not my fault your load got delivered early.”
“Why you little…”
The woman let out a shriek, followed by footsteps, as if she were running away…And then she was there, turning the corner of Mark’s trailer, and barreling toward him as if her life depended on it.
Mark knew what she was and what she’d done, but he also knew that she was in danger and he was in a position to help her.
He opened the door to Mother Load and said, “Get in!”
She climbed up into the cab without hesitation.
A split-second later, a large bald-headed man wearing a denim jacket with the sleeves cut off came around the rear of Mark’s rig. He was walking…fast, probably because he couldn’t run all that well, and he had a length of two-by-two in his hand. The wood was for checking his tires, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be used to crack a skull or two. Mark saw the man coming at him like a rhino and knew he couldn’t fight him, so he tried something else. He reached into his pocket and fished around for his keys. When he found them, he slid a key into the lock on the door, making it look like he’d just returned from breakfast at the restaurant.
“Hey,” the bald man said. “You see a lizard run by here?”
Mark hesitated, as if thinking, then said. “Wearing a yellow top, pink pants and running shoes?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
Mark pointed to the restaurant. “Went that way.”
“Thanks, brother,” he said, and lumbered off.
Mark breathed a deep sigh of relief, for himself and for the girl. That reminded him, the girl was inside Mother Load by herself, and that meant nothing was safe in there. Mark looked over his shoulder and then climbed into the cab. The girl froze, her clenched hand full of coins she’d taken from the cup of loose change Mark kept on the center console for toll charges and coffee.
“I probably just saved you from a beating, and quite possibly a rape,” he said. “The least you could do is show your appreciation by not stealing from me.”
She smiled at him – cute girl, he thought, but no older than 18 or 19 – and put the money into her bag.
“Sorry,” she said, her voice all low and sugary. “But I thought I could show you my appreciation another way.”
– Mark Dalton returns next month with Part 3 of Mark Dalton vs t
he Lot Lizard.