The story so far…While recovering from a near-death experience in a blizzard on the way to Timmins, Mark’s dispatcher Bud gives Mark a ticket to an all-inclusive resort on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. After his luggage is temporarily lost, Mark looks for a ride to the resort. He balks at the $40 a cabbie asks for the trip, then hitches a ride with a truck driver for $10 Canadian. However, the truck driver – Jose Hernandez – doesn’t take the money for himself, but rather as a “toll” for the bandits who demand it in exchange for passage along the road. Mark thinks this is wrong and offers to help remedy the situation.
Mark had wanted to get an early start on the day, but it was nearly 10 a.m. when his eyes finally fluttered open and he glanced at his watch. I’ve already missed breakfast and an hour on the beach, he thought, scrambling out of bed. But somewhere between the bedroom and the bathroom, Mark realized that hey, he was on vacation. If he wanted to sleep away the morning in bed, that was fine. If he spent all day in the bar drinking Corona and Tequila shots, well, cool. And if he did nothing but lie in the sun and watch the clouds roll by, then that would be quite alright too. He rolled over, closed his eyes and slept another couple of hours.
It was mid-afternoon by the time he made it down to the beach, where the majority of vacationers had already staked out their patch of sand. Although the beach wasn’t marked in any way, everyone seemed to have appropriated a piece of beach around their blanket roughly 10 feet by 10 feet. Add to that a couple of feet of buffer between each one of the patches and there was little room left for a Johnny-come-lately to stretch out and soak up the sun.
He’d have to get someone to share their space with him. Normally, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but most of the people at the resort were seniors. Not so surprising since seniors had time to vacation and the money to pay for all-inclusive resorts. Of course, a singles resort would have been ideal, but Mark wasn’t complaining. If Bud hadn’t bought the ticket for him, Mark never would have taken the trip on his own, and even if he didn’t meet anyone his own age, a week in the sun was just what the doctor ordered.
Mark was about to lay his towel down between an elderly couple arguing about picnic sausage, and an elderly woman who was eying him rather coyly, when he saw her…a young woman, well, youngish in her mid-to-late 30s, with a killer body that was showed off rather nicely by a skimpy red bikini. Her hair was full and silky, and her nails looked as if they’d been manicured that morning. She radiated class and in any other situation Mark would consider her out of his league, but she was alone, and more importantly, looked as if she needed help applying suntan lotion to her back. Mark thought “What the hell,” and decided to introduce himself. “Uh, excuse me,” he said.
She raised her head, then lowered her sunglasses to get a better look at him. Her body language suggested to Mark that she was unimpressed, but he continued on, undaunted.
“I can’t help noticing that you’re, well…so much younger than everyone else, and I thought you might appreciate someone, you know…your own age to talk to.”
She continued to look down her nose at him.
Mark could feel himself crashing and burning, but decided to soldier on. After all, he had nothing to lose, and if it did work out, then he’d rather it happen now instead of the last day of his vacation.
“Of course,” he cleared his throat. “If you’d rather talk about Lawrence Welk, Polident and Depends, I’ll be on my way.”
She said nothing for a moment, but then she smiled at him and said, “I could use some help with my back.”
Mark felt his heart skip a beat, but didn’t let that stop him from joining her on the sand and warming up a squirt of suntan lotion between his hands.
“My name’s Mark,” he said. “Mark Dalton.”
“I’m Lana DeAngelis.”
Even her name was classy. “Lana of the angels,” he said. “The woman of my dreams.”
She laughed at that, which was a good sign. If he played his cards right, he’d be able to spend the week with her and maybe even — with a bottle of wine, some moonlight and a bit of luck — he might even get lucky.
“What do you do for a living, Mark?”
…Or not. Mark could feel his chances with her fading fast. He was tempted to lie, to say he was an architect or a lawyer, or at the very least, the owner of a fleet of trucks, but he decided against it. Mark was never the type to try and be something he wasn’t, and he wasn’t about to start now. “I’m an owner/operator,” he sighed.
“So you’re a businessman,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that. But mostly, I drive a truck.”
Mark had tried to say the words with pride, but there was something about this woman that made him feel like driving a truck wasn’t good enough for her. Maybe if he was an airline pilot or a ship’s captain he’d have a chance, but a truck driver?
“That must be so fascinating…I work for politicians which is stressful, but pretty boring.” She smiled and moved closer to him. “I bet you’ve had all kinds of interesting adventures.”
“As a matter of fact, I have,” said Mark, suddenly confident enough to place an oily hand onto the small of her back.
“Have you ever been stranded in a blizzard with no heat and no way to contact anyone?” she laughed.
“It’s funny you should ask that…” Mark began to spread the suntan lotion evenly across her back and shoulders. “Just last week I was driving a company vehicle instead of my own, which was my first mistake…”
And so Mark told her the story of how he nearly froze to death on the way to Timmins, and other tales of daring-do over the course of the afternoon. Later, they had dinner together, after which she asked, “Your cabana, or mine?”
Mark could hardly believe what he was hearing, but answered her question immediately before she changed her mind. “Mine’s closer.”
Mark woke up the next morning totally drained. He was expecting to find Lana lying in the bed next to him, but there was only an empty space.
“I knew it was too good to be true,” Mark said aloud. Sex with Lana had been some of the best he’d ever had, and even though they’d hit it off so well, there was still a gnawing feeling in the back of Mark’s mind that it would never last. She was smart and classy, had a great job and probably more education than Mark could ever hope for. She was pretty too, hell, gorgeous was the word for her, and she could have any man she pleased. Why Mark? It didn’t make sense. Mark stretched and let out a long sigh. But even if it had been a one-night-stand then that was still better than nothing. What was the saying? “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Yeah, when you looked at it that way, things weren’t all that bad.
Mark was about to roll over and sleep for another hour when there was a knock at the door. Mark stumbled out of bed and headed for the door. The knocking had become a pounding and Mark wondered if it might be Lana wanting back in.
“Good morning,” he said, pulling open the door. But instead of Lana, Jose Hernandez was standing in the doorway, his face bloody and his body hunched over as if he’d suffered a few broken ribs. “What happened?” Mark said letting the man into the room.
“The banditos,” he said through clenched teeth. “When they found out I carried a passenger yesterday, they wanted more money. I told them I didn’t have any, and they did this.”
“Man, they really did a number on you.”
“I will heal,” Jose said. “But my truck. They shot it full of holes.”
“Let’s go take a look.” Mark headed for the door. The truck was parked out by the road, but even at a distance he could see it had been trashed. Smashed windows, broken headlights, and both the tractor and trailer had been riddled with bullet holes.
“I would drive 50 extra miles if I could go around them, but there are not many roads and they control the good ones.”
“You have insurance?”
“Yes,” Jose said without much conviction. “They will pay some, but not enough for a new truck…or a used one.”
Mark could feel the anger beginning to well up inside him. Jose was an honest truck driver struggling to make a living, and here were pirates not only making it hard for him, but taking away his whole business. It wasn’t right.
“I didn’t want to bother you, but you said you could help and…” He shrugged. “I don’t know what else to do.”
“You did the right thing,” Mark said. “I just need some time to come up with a plan.” He paused a moment to think. “How about tomorrow?”
“I will be here.”
“Good. Bring me some of your clothes, and a hat, the older the better.”
“Si, senor, but–“
“No.” Mark cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Tomorrow.”
Just then Lana appeared jogging up the road toward them. So she hadn’t left after all. He was a little sorry now that he’d agreed to help Jose when it would take time away from Lana, but Jose was a fellow trucker in trouble and Mark couldn’t possibly turn his back on him, even for a pretty girl.
“What’s going on?” Lana asked, slightly out of breath. “Did I miss something.”
“Not at all,” said Mark. “In fact, you’re just in time.” He paused a moment to think, then said, “I wonder if you could make a few phone calls for me.”
Part 3 of The Last Resort will appear in the next issue of Truck West.
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