Murder on Site: Part One
The drive back east across the Prairies was uneventful, and considering the string of adventures he’d experienced of late, Mark Dalton was grateful for the respite.
When he reached Sudbury, Ont. he made a call on his cell phone to find out exactly where he was supposed to deliver the wind machines, and to make sure there would be someone to meet him when he got there later in the day. The movie was being shot in and around Collingwood, Ont. and the cast and crew had taken over an inn just a few miles away, in a town called Nottawa. That’s where he was supposed to deliver his load.
When he arrived at the inn at around 3 p.m., he parked on the road out in front of the place and headed inside.
He was on the lookout for Shannon Tweed, the sexy star of the movie, but figured she was probably on the set somewhere, acting up a storm. Still, maybe he’d get lucky.
The production company had taken over the inn’s lobby, using it like a command centre. There was a storyboard on one wall, filming schedules on another, and a few tables with clipboards and other items that looked like they helped keep track of things. But for all the clutter in the room, there wasn’t a soul in sight.
“Hello?” said Mark. “Anybody here?”
“Hello?” Mark called again, this time louder.
From a room off the lobby, he could hear someone talking, probably on the phone because the shouts were punctuated by long pauses. Mark headed for the sound of the voice, and ended up in the inn’s bar. There was a young man sitting on a stool with a cell phone to his ear. He was talking about a lot of things Mark didn’t understand, or care about, since none of the words he was saying were “Shannon Tweed”.
Mark lingered on the periphery, waiting for the guy to get off the phone. When he did, Mark cleared his throat and the guy finally noticed him. “What do you want?”
“My name’s Mark Dalton, I’ve got your wind machines in my trailer.”
The guy didn’t answer. Instead he flipped open his cell phone and pressed a few digits. “Nevermind,” he said into the phone. “The guy’s here right now.” He snapped the phone shut and turned to Mark. “What took you so long?”
Mark didn’t understand what the guy was talking about, and he didn’t like his tone. “Bill of lading said Friday. Today’s Friday.”
“Yeah, well I could have used them this morning.”
“Then you should have asked for them on Thursday.”
The guy nodded.
“Are you the director?” asked Mark.
“Sort of, I’m the second-unit director, Steve Zacks. I’m directing all the snowstorm scenes.”
Mark nodded. “Where do you want me to bring the wind machines, then?”
“I’ll draw you a map,” he said. Mark went over to the bar where Steve drew a simple map that would take him to the site of tomorrow’s shoot, a tree-lined hill midway between Collingwood and Stayner. “There are a few trucks on the road now waiting for the site to be cleared. Pull in behind the last one in the line and wait there. I’ll be up later to supervise the set-up.”
“Can you sign for the load?”
“No, the production manager is up there. He’ll sign when the machines are in position.”
Mark nodded, then lingered for a moment, one last question on his mind.
The guy must have noticed something amiss because he looked at Mark as if he were annoyed. “Is there a problem?”
“Not really…” Mark hesitated, then said, “Well, I hear Shannon Tweed is in this movie.”
“Will she be there.”
The guy smiled and shook his head. “She did two days on location a week ago. Then she did two weeks in studio in Toronto. She’s probably back in L.A. by now, working on her tan.”
Mark sighed. No Shannon Tweed. “Thanks,” he said. He was suddenly even more eager to get this load delivered and be on his way.
It was a short drive to the location shoot, and Mark had no trouble finding the other trucks parked on the side of the road that led to the site. There was a tractor-trailer up front and a Kenworth medium-duty cabover directly in front of him. The engines were running on both trucks, so Mark decided to let his Peterbilt idle while he caught up on the local news with a copy of the Barrie Examiner he’d picked up at a coffee shop about a half hour outside of Collingwood. Apparently, the movie production was big news, what with the ski-season just about over and still a few months to go before the summer crowd descended on the area.
A few cars drove by in both directions while Mark read the paper, but there was no sign of movement from the lead truck, so Mark lost himself in the news. He’d made it halfway through the paper when he heard the familiar rumble of a Cummins, then looked up to see the lead truck pull away. Mark released the parking brakes, shifted into gear and waited for the truck in front of him to start moving. The lead truck disappeared around a curve in the road, but the truck directly in front of him didn’t budge.
Mark yanked on the lanyard, giving the guy a good blast on the air horn. Still nothing. Worried he’d be left behind if he waited any longer, Mark re-applied the parking brakes, climbed out of his cab, walked up to the Kenworth and pounded on the driver’s door. No response. He rap-ped on the glass, but the driver seemed to ignore him. Finally, Mark opened the door and poked the guy in the side. “Hey, pal… The clutch is on the left and you shift gears with that long stick on the right that has a knob on the end of it.”
Pleased with his own joke, Mark waited for a response, but didn’t get one. He tried again, this time reaching up and grabbing the driver’s jacket sleeve, hoping to attract his attention.
“Listen buddy-” But Mark’s words were cut short.
The driver tumbled out of the open cab, into Mark’s arms.
His eyes were wide open and glassy, and his face was pale white, as if it had been drained of blood.
Mark eased the driver to the ground, and it was then that he saw the knife handle sticking out of a bloody hole in the man’s chest. Mark looked up at the blood that had smeared down the side of the driver’s seat.
Suddenly the guy was gasping for air, trying to catch his breath. He was also reaching for the knife, like he wanted it out of his body. Mark gave him a hand, pulling the knife out of his chest.
That seemed to help, because the guy was suddenly able to speak.
“Aidee,” he gasped. “Aidee. Aidee…”
“Hang on pal,” Mark said. “I’ll call for an ambulance.”
He got up to head back to his rig where he’d left his cell phone, but he didn’t even manage a step before a voice halted him.
Parked next to his rig was an Ontario Provincial Police cruiser, its lights flashing.
“Put down the knife!” shouted the cop, his gun pointed directly at Mark’s chest.
Mark wanted to say something, to tell the cop things weren’t how they looked, but he decided it wasn’t the time to be difficult with the police. He put down the knife.
Moments later he was in handcuffs. n
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