Mother Load is in need of her annual safety inspection and while Mark is talking about that with another driver, a third man approaches and tells Mark he knows a mechanic that does inspections for $500.
Mark checks out Ralph’s shop and isn’t impressed. There are no trucks, no mechanics, and little equipment. On top of that, he says the inspection will be done in an hour. Mark tells him he’s leaving the truck overnight.
Mark picks up his truck and sees that it has a new safety sticker. However, none of the repairs Mark knew the truck needed have been done. Mark knows he’s part of an illegal operation now, and wants to make things right…
After thinking about it for a day or so, Mark decided he had to do the right thing and inform the police about this scam operation. If he went along with it and said nothing, then he would be just as guilty as the mechanics were for allowing it to continue on. It was a dangerous thing to falsify a safety inspection and someone could end up paying with their life.
Mark called up OPP headquarters in Barrie and asked to speak to someone in frauds. Then, when he had an officer on the line, he began explaining what had happened, but was cut off.
“Hold on,” the officer said. “This sounds like something that Peterson is working on. He’s on duty right now and he’ll want to talk to you.”
After less than a minute’s wait, he was on the line with another officer.
“Constable Peterson,” he said. “How can I help you?”
“My name is Mark Dalton,” Mark began, then continued on to explain what had happened with his safety inspection. “So, I basically ended up paying for a safety sticker. No repairs were made. I don’t even think they took a look at the truck.”
“But you gave him the money and went through with it all?”
“Yes,” Mark said. “They took the money before I got to see my truck. All through this I was hoping that they were legit and were really truck mechanics and it would all work out okay in the end, but that’s not how it turned out.”
“You got your sticker, though.”
“That’s not the point,” Mark pressed on. “I’ve already booked my truck in for the repairs it needs anyway, but I know there are other drivers who won’t bother doing that. All they’ll worry about is if they have their sticker. Who cares if the truck is actually safe?”
“Okay,” the officer said. “I just wanted to make sure you were calling in for the right reasons and you were willing to go the distance. And by that, I mean testify in court about all this if it comes to it.”
Mark had testified in court plenty of times. He didn’t like it much, but he realized that there was no use in calling the police if you weren’t willing to help them do their job. “I don’t mind going to court, if it stops these guys from putting dangerous trucks out on the road.”
“Alright, then,” the officer said, staying on the line to take down all of Mark’s contact information and all the info on the shop’s location and a good description of “Ralph.”
Mark had the repairs done to Mother Load over the next couple of days and was happy to get them over with. In the end, he’d saved about $300, but it wasn’t worth the worry he’d experienced over being part of something that was both illegal and dangerous.
On the afternoon of the third day, Const. Peterson called him back with disappointing news. “We’ve been calling the shop day and night, but no one is answering our calls. And when we went by, the shop was closed and no one was inside.” A pause. “I don’t think they knew we were police, but I think they aren’t very trusting of strangers.”
“I could call them back and see if I can bring a friend by for a safety inspection.”
“Could you do that for us?” the officer asked. “That would be great.”
“All I can do is try.”
So later that day Mark called the number he had for Ralph. Just like with the OPP, there was no answer. However, after an hour or so, Mark’s phone rang and Ralph was on the other end.
“You called me,” said Ralph.
“Hey, where you been?”
“On vacation, why?”
“A couple of my friends were calling you for an inspection, but you never answered.”
“I’ve got to be careful, you know. A lot of people want to see me, so I gotta know they’re legit.”
“Well, I was so happy with the safety inspection you did for me that I told a couple of my trucker friends and they want to get their trucks inspected by you too.”
“Your friends. If you vouch for them, then sure, I can do a few more.”
Mark wondered just how many more safety stickers he had on hand, and that was probably why he could only do a few more.
“How much did you tell them it would cost?”
“Five hundred, just as much as you charged me.”
“Yeah, okay. You bring them by tomorrow with the cash, and I’ll give you $50 as a, uh, finder’s fee. Okay?”
“Sure, sure,” Mark said. “I’ll bring them by.”
The next day, Mark drove Mother Load to Ralph’s shop followed by Const. Peterson in a very old, and very broken Freightliner. They could have easily gotten a newer truck for the sting, but they had to make it obvious that the safety inspection hadn’t been done and the best way to do that was to use a truck that needed a lot of work. After parking their trucks, Mark led Const. Peterson – dressed in dirty oil-stained jeans, a plaid shirt and an old Argos ball cap – into the shop. “Hey, Ralph,” he said. “This is Pete.”
Const. Peterson reached out and shook Ralph’s hand.
“You got the money?” Ralph said.
“Hey,” said Mark. “I didn’t pay until I picked up the truck.”
“New policy,” Ralph said.
Const. Peterson nodded and money quickly changed hands. After a quick count of the money, Ralph peeled off a $50 bill and handed it to Mark. Mark took it without a word.
“I heard you can do the inspection fast,” Const. Peterson said. “I need my truck this afternoon.”
“Come back in an hour.”
Mark shook both their hands, left the shop and hopped back into Mother Load. He started her up then, and without any warm-up quickly left the shop parking lot and headed for the highway. Within an hour he’d be well past Barrie and on his way out of the province. In an hour-and-a-half, Ralph would probably be in handcuffs and on his way to the nearest OPP detachment. With that thought in his mind, Mark fished into his pocket for the $50 Ralph had given him. He pulled the red bill out and looked at it. And then he said aloud,
“Who says crime doesn’t pay?”
***Mark Dalton returns next month in another adventure.