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Stealing home – Part 3 (November 01, 2002)

The story so far...Mark is watching a baseball game in a bar outside Toronto. He's got several choice loads lined up on a run to the West Coast and back again.Best of all, when he returns to Toronto, ...


The story so far…

Mark is watching a baseball game in a bar outside Toronto. He’s got several choice loads lined up on a run to the West Coast and back again.

Best of all, when he returns to Toronto, he’s got a ticket to a Blue Jays’ game against the New York Yankees.

In the bar, Mark is met by Randy Reynolds who knows Mark.

Mark, however, doesn’t remember Randy very well. They talk for a while and it’s obvious to Mark that Randy is a lazy bum.

Mark does his best to ignore the man and eventually he goes away. Later, Mark gets a call from Bud, who asks him why he’s driving so erratically on the 401.

Mark thinks Bud’s mistaken, but it turns out that Mark’s truck, ‘Mother Load,’ has been stolen.

Mark hung up on Bud and dialed the number for the Ontario Provincial Police, the police agency that had jurisdiction over Highway 401. And he wanted to report Mother Load stolen…wanted to tell someone the truck was on the 401 right now and they could catch the thief if they dispatched an officer right now, but things weren’t moving as quickly as he’d hoped.

First off, he was put on hold.

Not briefly.

Not momentarily.

But for five freaking minutes.

“Hello,” someone said at last. “This is Constable Hadley speaking. You wanted to report a stolen vehicle?”

“Yes!” Mark shouted into the phone.

There was no response for several moments.

“Just let me say, sir, things will go a lot smoother for you if you take it easy and keep your voice down.”

“My truck was just stolen,” Mark said.

“Make?”

“It’s a Peterbilt 379…It’s on the 401 right now…”

“Year?”

“1985, but what’s that got to do with…”

“Where was it stolen from?”

“I’m here at Turtle Jack’s in Brampton, it was stolen from the parking lot by a guy named…”

“Brampton?”

“That’s right.”

“Then maybe you should be reporting this to the Peel Regional Police. I think I have their number, hold on…”

Mark held his cellphone away from his ear and blinked at it several times. The officer had put him on hold.

“He’s getting away, dammit!” Mark shouted.

Several people just entering the bar looked at Mark strangely, then turned right around and left.

The officer came back on the phone.

“Here’s their number, 905…”

“Listen, the guy who stole my truck is eastbound on the 401 right now. And he’s driving like a crazy man.”

“How do you know that?”

Finally, he’d caught the officer’s attention.

“Because some…citizen noticed the truck being driven erratically and called the 1-800 number on the truck to tell my dispatcher that one of his driver’s was going to get somebody killed.”

He was almost out of breath.

“And you’re not driving the truck at the moment?”

Gee, this guy was quick. “Exactly!” The word came out of Mark’s mouth in a rush, like a huge sigh of relief.

“And what’s this citizen doing now?”

Mark was unsure, but didn’t really see why that mattered.

“Uh, I don’t know. I think he’s still on the phone with my dispatcher, following the truck.”

“We don’t approve of citizens taking the law into their own hands.”

Mark was incredulous.

Were they at all interested in catching this guy or not?

“Then send a cruiser out onto the highway right now and stop him!”

The officer sighed. “All right, where is he exactly? And what’s the truck look like.”

Mark gave the officer the information he needed, doing his best to stay calm, which was almost impossible under the circumstances.

“Is that it?” asked the officer.

“What more do you need?”

“Just checking…We’ll dispatch someone if there isn’t already an officer out on the highway.”

Mark felt drained. “Thank you,” he said. “I’ll be waiting at this number for your call.”

The officer hung up.

Mark pressed the end button on his phone and slipped it into his pocket.

Then he caught the attention of his waitress.

“Another beer please.”

“Coming right up.”

“Thanks.”

Mark looked up at the screen. The Jays had lost to the Red Sox 7-4.

The OPP Officer, Constable Hadley, called back an hour later to tell Mark that their officers didn’t see any truck on the 401 matching the description he’d given them.

“He must have gotten off the highway before we could dispatch our officers.”

“You think?” Mark said, not caring if he came across as sarcastic or not. If they’d acted more quickly there would have been an excellent chance to catch Randy Reynolds red-handed. Mark could have picked up his truck – none the worse for wear – and still have been able to make his first pick-up in the morning.

Now…

He didn’t know what the hell he was going to do.

“You’re going to have to make a statement to the Peel Police on the truck…”

“But I already told you it was stolen.”

“True, but since it was stolen in Brampton you’ll have to file a report with them as well…you know, for insurance purposes.”

Mark ran his fingers through his hair. Driving a truck was a tough enough job as it was. He needed this extra hassle like he needed four flat tires and a shifting load. “All right,” he said, at last. “I’ll file a report.”

“And give them this occurrence number,” the officer said. “So we can cross-reference reports if we have to.”

“Fine,” Mark said, his arms and shoulders feeling heavy as he wrote down the number on a slip of paper.

“You know,” the officer said, the brightness of his voice out of synch with Mark’s foul mood. “There’s a good chance we’ll find your truck in a few days in some shipping yard. Usually there’s not a lot of damage in cases like this.”

Damage? Mark thought. Mother Load was his life. The thought of her being returned to him damaged in some way…Or broken. Well, it made him sick to his stomach.

He hung up the phone without saying good-bye.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me…anything else you can think of?”

The Peel Regional Police Officer, Constable Sharma, was an attractive young East-Indian woman, probably no more than a year or two on the job.

She seemed sorry for Mark’s situation, but she was doing a good job of keeping neutral on the subject.

“Just that my entire life revolves around that truck.”

She smiled at that. “What do you do, live out of your truck or something?” Mark wondered if telling her the truth would help intensify the search for Mother Load.

He didn’t think so, and gave her a half-truth instead. “Just about, officer.”

Her smile became strained. “Well, we’ll make sure other police forces in the GTA are aware of the theft and with any luck your vehicle will probably turn up in a day or two.”

“With not too much damage, right?” Mark could feel the anger creeping into his voice and he didn’t like it.

“That’s right,” she answered, turning away like she suddenly had other things to do.

Mark said good-bye to her and walked out of the station, finding himself on Highway 10 across from the provincial courthouse.

He could call another cab, this one to take him to a hotel for the night, but he decided to walk for a bit…walk and think.

He headed south for the new Best Western Admiral Hotel that had recently been built on Highway 10 between Brampton and Mississauga.

It had been built to cater to business trade in and around the industrial area there, but so far it hadn’t caught on with truckers even with a major warehouse facility just down the street.

As Mark walked, his thoughts kept revolving around a single question. What would somebody like Randy Reynolds do with a stolen truck?

He could sell it, but getting rid of a tractor wasn’t easy, especially when it was so personalized the way Mother Load was.

It could be stripped for parts, but that took tools and a place to do business from, neither of which Mark imagined Randy Reynolds had.

He could take on a load and deliver it, but the guy wasn’t doing that under the best of circumstances, it was unlikely he’d do that with a stolen truck. Stolen! The word echoed in Mark’s head as if it were screamed at him through a tunnel.

If he’d already stolen a truck, then why the hell not steal a load too? It wouldn’t have to be delivered, and if it was a good load of consumer product
s, selling items out of the back of a trailer could be done just about anywhere.

But what load?

And that’s when Mark felt his knees go weak as he realized it was his own damned fault.

All of it. If he hadn’t been so full of himself in the bar and talking about all the great loads he had lined up, then maybe Randy wouldn’t have gotten it into his head to steal Mother Load in the first place.

But if he hadn’t told Randy about the loads, then he might not have had a chance to get his truck back from the guy in the morning.

Mark took his cellphone out of his pocket and called for a cab. As he waited for the taxi to arrive, he called the hotel and arranged for both a room, and a rental car to be waiting for him in the morning.

Randy Reynolds might have Mother Load, but if Mark had anything to do with it, the man wouldn’t have her for long.

Edo van Belkom’s latest book is BE VERY AFRAID! To order it, or any of his other titles, visit www.vanbelkom.com. Meanwhile, Mark Dalton returns next month in Stealing Home – Part Three.

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