The story so far...Mark takes a reefer load of frozen beef from a company called BETTER BEEF in Regina Saskatchewan. As he heads for the docks in Vancouver, he notices he's being following by a truck ...
Mark takes a reefer load of frozen beef from a company called BETTER BEEF in Regina Saskatchewan. As he heads for the docks in Vancouver, he notices he’s being following by a truck belonging to BEST BEEF, one of BETTER BEEF’s bitter rivals.
Each time Mark stops for a bite, or to sleep, something goes wrong with his reefer. Mark blames another trucker for the vandalism, but the man claims someone else did the damage during the middle of the night.
During a quick stop for food, an old-timer joins Mark and explains that the company he’s hauling for, BETTER BEEF, is having an old-fashioned range war with BEST BEEF. What’s worse is that BEST BEEF isn’t averse to sabotaging innocent driver’s rigs to help put BETTER BEEF out of business. Mark is furious to learn this, even more so when he learns that his diesel generator’s fuel tank was drained while he was having breakfast.
Mark could have gone further, but he decided to stop in Kamloops well before sundown to give himself enough time to make sure he had everything he needed and everything in place.
Years ago, before Mark bought Mother Load and headed out onto the open road, he’d worked as a private detective specializing in divorce cases. The money had been pretty good, but the job entailed a lot of nights and weekends videotaping wives and husbands through motel windows so the tapes could later be used in court as evidence, or as leverage for a better settlement. Most of the time it was a simple matter of setting up the camera, making sure he got a few clear images of the party in question and then packing up and collecting a check.
Then one night – the last he ever worked as a private detective – Mark was following the wife of a bank manager. But instead of learning that the bank manager’s wife was meeting with some young stud, he discovered that the person in bed with the woman was none other than Mark’s own wife Jenny.
That was enough of the detective business for him. After that night, he knew he’d never be able to videotape another cheating spouse as long as he lived. So, he quit the business and got a divorce.
Then he sold almost everything he had and bought his beloved Mother Load – the only woman in his life who had yet to let him down. There were a few things Mark hung onto…like his set of 1972 hockey cards, his ceramic Batman piggy bank and his Sony Digital Handycam.
It was an excellent tool for private detectives because it was small, lightweight, and had a “nightshot” feature which made it possible to record images in the dark. The cameras could also be hooked up to sensors, which turned on the recorder only when there was something moving in the frame. That feature, and infolithium batteries that lasted over four hours each, and the Handycam was an invaluable tool for catching someone in the act.
Someone like a BEST BEEF driver vandalizing a BETTER BEEF truck.
Mark scouted the truck stop parking lot for the best location and decided on a spot directly behind the fuel station that had everything he needed.
To the right were some bushes and a stand of trees where he could set up the camera and tripod without them being seen from the lot. In addition there was a huge overhead light sitting atop a pole about 50 feet over the truck.
Although he could tape in darkness, it was always better to have some light to record by. In the dark, smart lawyers argued that it wasn’t their client on the tape, while light removed all shadow of a doubt.
He set up the camera at dusk, trying to spend as little time in the bushes to avoid suspicion. When a driver did walk by, Mark took a step back from the bushes and pretended to be relieving himself against a tree.
“No,” Mark said, as if the relief felt great.
When the man was gone, Mark finished setting up the camera, making sure to get all of his rig in the frame. When he was satisfied that he was set up as well as possible under the circumstances, he stepped out from the bushes and pretended to be zipping up his pants…just in case someone had been watching him and wondered what the hell he’d been doing.
After that, it was just a matter of waiting for the sun to go down. He headed into the restaurant for a coffee and picked up a copy of the Kamloops Daily News. When he’d finished his second cup of coffee and was done reading the paper, the sun had fully set behind the mountains to the west. That meant it was time for Mark to take a little tour of the parking lot.
As he expected, the big black BEST BEEF trailer was parked at the opposite end of the lot, tucked in behind a row of tankers. Mark didn’t know if the driver was in the cab or not, but it really didn’t matter. In fact, it would suit Mark’s purposes even better if the driver was in his truck and knew Mark was checking him out.
Mark walked around the BEST BEEF rig twice, taking his time and looking for something he could do as a sort of payback for all the grief he’d been given since leaving Regina. He could switch off his reefer, change the set point, maybe even let the air out of his tires, but all of those things could be easily fixed. Mark needed something better, something that would cause the driver some real trouble.
He checked the seal on the back of the trailer and saw that it was the thin metal band type that clicked into place and rusted over on trips across the ocean. This type of seal was a lot easier to break than the ceramic button type BETTER BEEF used on their trucks. Button types required a pair of bolt cutters and drivers didn’t usually carry those with them on their runs.
Of course, the BEST BEEF driver just might have bolt cutters in his truck, but Mark was willing to bet he didn’t. After a quick look left and right, Mark took out his pocketknife and set about cutting the seal on the BEST BEEF rig.
It took some time, but eventually he was able to hack through the metal and pull the seal from the trailer. His pocketknife was ruined, but thinking of the damage he’d done, the cost of a knife was a small price to pay.
First of all, without the proper seal, the load could be turned back by the customer and that would hurt BEST BEEF in the pocketbook, right where they’d feel it most. And secondly, a missing seal would probably infuriate the BEST BEEF driver and provoke him into doing something extreme in retaliation.
And that was exactly what Mark wanted.
So Mark returned to Mother Load, and noted that the reefer unit was running perfectly. Then he climbed into the cab and stretched out in his sleeper, looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
He was not disappointed.
Mark awoke the next morning to utter silence.
His plan seemed to have worked, but he had to be sure. He climbed out of his truck and made a quick inspection of the trailer. The seals on the doors were still in tact, but the unit had shut down because all of its oil lines had been cut at some point during the night.
He ran into the bushes and checked the tape made during the night. There were various shots of people walking past on their way to the restaurant, and then an extended segment in which a man in black (wearing a BEST BEEF T-shirt, no less) climbed all over his rig, working furiously on the hoses connected to the reefer.
The images were so good that Mark could even see the oil spurt and spray as he cut the lines that were under pressure.
Mark’s grin was from ear to ear. Hopefully the guy’s got a change of clothes with him, he thought, as he packed up the camera and loaded it into his truck.
Of course, he’d need to get the reefer repaired, but as much of a hassle as it was, it was probably the last trouble he and BETTER BEEF would ever have with their BEST BEEF rivals.
When he was all ready to leave, Mark pulled out of the lot without breakfast. On the way to Vancouver, Mark was on his cell phone constantly, first calling Wojek, then asking directory assistance for numbers in both the City of Vancouver and the surrounding suburbs.
It would take a couple of hours for Wojek to send a repairman to service the reefer and it had
probably been two or three hours since the unit had shut down.
That meant that Mark needed to keep the entire thing cool until it was up and running again and the best way to do that was to put the reefer inside another refrigerated container.
Luckily for Mark, all of this was happening during the day when most community arenas were unoccupied and available for rent. When he arrived at the Newton Arena in Surrey, the arena attendant was waiting outside for him.
“You the guy wanting to rent the rink?”
“Yes,” answered Mark. “Is it still available?”
“$100 an hour.”
Mark didn’t like the sounds of that at all, but he hoped that when he explained the whole story to Wojek, BETTER BEEF would help him with some of the cost. “A hundred dollars is fine.”
“You got skates?”
“No,” answered Mark. “Actually, could you open the big doors at the end of the rink for me please?”
The attendant scratched his head, but after a shrug, he opened the doors for Mark.
Mark drove into the arena and parked Mother Load at centre ice where the temperature at ice level was near freezing. It wasn’t cold enough to chill the reefer by many degrees, but at least this way the air creeping into it would be cold and the deterioration rate of the load, if any, would be reduced. Not a foolproof plan by any means, but the best Mark could come up with on the fly.
“You gonna leave that truck there for very long?”
Mark explained to the attendant what was going on. Then, when he was done, he asked the man to call him a cab to take him to the Surrey RCMP detachment.
Mark finally reached the docks by mid-afternoon, the temperature and the set point on his reefer matching perfectly.
At the entrance to the yard, Mark saw the BEST BEEF truck parked by the side of the road, the driver talking heatedly to a couple of constables from the RCMP.
Mark gave the men a toot on his air horn.
The officers waved back at him, one of them holding Mark’s tape in his hand.
The BEST BEEF driver waved as well, but his wave consisted of just a single finger.
Instead of returning the salute, Mark just laughed.