Mother Load was running as well as it ever had, but it hadn’t looked so good in years, probably since he’d first driven off the lot more than ten years ago.
After his run-in with a deer in Southern Manitoba, the right front fender and much of his front grille had been bashed in. He’d thought about driving it all the way into Toronto so his regular mechanic could fix it, but he’d heard good things about a shop outside of Winnipeg and decided to give them a try. They did the work in a couple of days and had done a great job straightening everything out, matching paint, and polishing the rest of the truck so the new paint wouldn’t be that obvious compared to the old.
Although he loved his rig and he’d been through all sorts of adventures with Mother Load, she was getting a bit long in the tooth. With the advances that had been made in truck design and engine development, he could probably be driving some computer monitored wonder machine that would be more fuel-efficient, more comfortable to drive, and safer than what he had now.
He loved his truck and there were still plenty of miles – not to mention adventures – left in her, but that also meant that it might be a good time to sell. Obviously, it was a big decision and one he’d have to think about over the next few weeks.
Mark had spent the layover in Winnipeg in a motel on the outskirts of town. On the second day he’d rented a car and headed north for some fishing, catching a few bass, but enjoying the time away from his rig. He loved driving as much as the next guy, but every once in a while it was good idea to do not much of anything so the body and mind could unwind.
On the third day, Mark picked up his truck and spent a few hours making sure the bill would be covered by the insurance company of that scumbag child molester he’d run into near Morden, Manitoba in his last adventure. Sure most of the damage to his truck had been caused by the deer, but he had collided with the pervert’s truck, and where he was going, he’d be too busy watching his back – and his ass – to worry about an increase in his insurance rates. When he was done at the shop, and with the insurance company, Mark picked up a trailer load of theater sets and props headed for Toronto. Mark hadn’t been aware of it, but apparently Winnipeg had quite the theater scene and a show that had been playing there for weeks was on its way to Toronto for a three-week run at the Elgin Theater in downtown.
Mark was traveling east along Highway 11. He’d chosen that route because it was flatter and safer than the shorter, but much more twisted Highway 17. This was a big event for this theater troupe and Mark didn’t want to take any chances with their livelihood. The drive was pretty uneventful until he passed through Moonbeam, a small town on the highway between Kapuskasing and Smooth Rock Falls.
Up ahead in the road, Mark saw some commotion on the right-hand shoulder. He slowed his rig to get a better look and saw a car pulled over onto the side of the road – parked at a funny angle, as if it had stopped in a hurry – and a man and a woman arguing outside of the car. The woman, blonde and dressed in jeans and a fitted jacket, appeared as if she wanted to get away but the man wouldn’t let her. He pulled on her jacket, yanking her backwards, then poked a finger hard into her shoulder.
Mark couldn’t let that pass. It didn’t matter what they were arguing about, there was no way a guy should be pushing a woman around like that. He pulled over and came to a stop behind the car and got out of his truck.
“What’s going on?” Mark said, loud enough for them both to hear. “Are you all right, ma’am?”
The woman just looked at him, eyes wide with fear.
“Get lost, buddy,” the guy said. He wore a grimy black ball cap that had a Holly Carburetor logo on it. His denim jacket was faded and dirty, his jeans torn at the knees and his boots had once been black, but were now scuffed and grey. “Get back in your truck and mind your own business.”
Mark wished he could mind his own business, but he couldn’t. He just wasn’t wired up that way, and most of the truckers he knew weren’t either. If someone was in trouble, he had to help. And if someone was in trouble and couldn’t fight back, he felt as if it was his responsibility to do something about it. He couldn’t just get back in his truck and leave the scene knowing that the woman would be hurt by the man as soon as he left.
“I’m not leaving until I’m sure she’s going to be all right,” Mark said, making sure his voice was confident and strong. He didn’t want to get into a fight with this guy, and if he remained confident, there was a good chance this scene would sort itself out.
“She’s fine,” Holly said, “now get the hell out of here.”
Mark glanced over at the girl and she was shaking her head.
“Would you like to come with me, miss?” Mark asked.
She started in his direction, but then the guy stepped between them. “She ain’t going anywhere.” Then he turned to face Mark. “And you’re either going away, or going down.”
With the threat the situation suddenly got more intense. Mark took out his cell phone and dialed 911.
He dialed the number again, but when nothing happened for the second time, Mark realized that his phone was out of power. Dead. He looked at it in his hand, then tried a few buttons, but nothing was going to make it work.
“What’s the matter, buddy?” said the man. “Forget to pay your bill?”
Mark held the phone up to his ear. “Yes, I’d like to report an assault on a young girl,” he said into the dead phone. As long as he acted like it was working, the guy might believe that he’d called the cops.
The ploy worked, for about five seconds, but when Mark hesitated, the guy knew he was bluffing.
“Nice try, asshole,” Holly said, giving Mark a push that sent him reeling backwards. He managed to stay on his feet, but only because he’d backed up all the way to Mother Load and was now leaning against her front grille.
A truck passed by then, heading east. It didn’t slow and honk its horn, and Mark wondered if the driver had even noticed that something wasn’t right with this little scene at the side of the road.
“You should have been smart like that guy,” the man said, slowly stepping toward Mark. “Stayed in his truck and kept right on going. Instead you want to be a hero, sticking your nose in other people’s business.” He paused. “Well, now I’m going to break that nose of yours… and a few other bones while I’m at it.” Just then the girl started to run, not down the road but out into the middle of it.
At the same time, a car pulled up to the scene. It was an old Caprice four-door, light blue with rust accents. The Caprice screeched to a halt, but not in time to avoid hitting the girl. She was hit squarely by the front end of the car and was sent airborne, flying over the hood, then striking the windshield before rolling off the roof of the car onto the pavement.
For a moment, everything was still and quiet, as everyone there on the side of the road looked at the girl for any sign of movement. She groaned once, moved her legs, then lay still.
Five guys, obviously a bunch of Holly’s friends, piled out of the car.
“See what you did,” said Holly.
Mark didn’t answer. No matter what he said, this guy was going to take it as an admission of guilt and use it as an excuse to beat Mark up.
“Now we’re going to have to make you pay.” Mark did a quick head count – six against one.
“Sure you’ve got enough help,” he said. “Mister,” Holly said, holding up a fist. “I think you’re the one who needs some help.”
Taking a look around, with the girl lying on the road out cold and six punks surrounding him, Mark thought the guy had a valid point. But as much as he’d like some help, Mark knew he was on his own. n
– Join Mark Dalton next month for Part Two of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.