Mark is attending Truxpo Can, his favourite truck show of all. While he’s at a booth he overhears two men talking. One tells a story about how a driver got him in trouble with the police, while the other says a driver put colored diesel into his tanks. Both men would sure like to find the guy. Mark knows they are talking about him and slinks away.
Then, as Mark is having a bite at the food court, he overhears two other drivers talking about how some guy got him in trouble with the law, one with the Canada Border Services Agency, the other with police. Mark knows for sure they’re talking about him because he knows one of them by name. He needs to get away and calls Bud for a load…
When the coast was clear and the two drivers who’d been talking about him had left the food court, Mark decided it was probably a good time to leave the show. He could just as easily wait for Bud’s call in Mother Load as he could moving from booth to booth waiting for someone to tap him on the shoulder and say, “I always hoped I’d run into you somewhere,” and punch him in the mouth.
Just then, someone in the crowd bumped him from behind. Mark gasped spun around and took on a half-fight/half-cower sort of stance.
“Hi there,” said a woman pushing a stroller.
“Hey,” Mark responded awkwardly as he stood up and straightened his shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
Mark tried to smile. “Nice bumping into you.”
The woman returned the smile, but her attention was drawn to the child in the stroller.
Mark took it as his cue, turned away and headed for a quiet corner of the show hoping he’d be able to sneak out one of the smaller exit doors and make his way to Mother Load without any more delays.
In the northwest corner of the hall there was a display of 20 or so antique trucks, most of them serving as rolling advertisements for the companies that owned them. There were a couple of vintage dump trucks from the 60s, a couple of milk delivery vans from the 50s and no less than three flatbed delivery trucks from the 1930s. Normally Mark would spend an hour going from truck to truck checking to see if each vehicle had been restored to original or updated with modern upgrades that would allow them to keep up to traffic on today’s roads. Mark liked trucks that were kept as close to original as possible and there were probably a few at the show that were concourse caliber, but he didn’t have time to appreciate their beauty. He was more concerned about preserving himself and keeping all his own parts totally original.
He got out of the exhibit hall easy enough and found himself at the opposite end of the parking lot from Mother Load. But that was a small price to pay in exchange for getting out of the exhibit hall unnoticed.
Mark checked his phone for any messages or missed calls, but there were none. He started walking south through the lot, keeping his head down and turning away any time anyone drove or walked past him.
He realized he was acting a little paranoid and doing things that were counterproductive to his own safety, but he couldn’t help himself. After all, which was safer…walking alone through a desolate parking lot, or getting lost in the crowd inside the show. How many times had he actually looked for someone he knew, spending hours searching and never finding the person at the show? Still, here he was walking by himself and constantly looking over his shoulder. It wasn’t a good feeling.
Mark turned the corner outside the exhibit hall and saw Mother Load in the distance. She was parked in the back row of the lot in a line of maybe two dozen tractors. He was glad to see she was still there, but there was also something troubling about the scene.
Standing in front of Mother Load were five men, two in one group, three in another. Their talk was spirited, with wild arm gestures and plenty of body language. One guy, Mark could just make out, was pounding a fist into his palm. Mark wasn’t an expert in sign language, but this guy’s gesture left no doubt in Mark’s mind that someone was going to get hurt…real bad.
Mark moved more slowly now between the cars, careful not to expose himself in a clear line of sight to the men milling about his truck.
Obviously they’d recognized Mother Load from their dealings with Mark on the road. Then, after checking out the truck, they saw the words “Mother Load” painted on the rear of the sleeper and anyone with a brain would come to the conclusion that – “Hey, this is the truck of the guy that screwed me over. I bet he’s at the show.” Then it was another small leap of logic that if they waited long enough, the guy who owns that truck is bound to show up.
Mark was about 10 cars away now, partially hidden by the rear end of a Hummer. He used to wonder why anyone needed to drive such huge gas-guzzling cars, but not anymore. Sure they used a lot of gas, but they were perfect for hiding behind.
Of the five men, Mark recognized two of them from his dealings with them on the road. The other three men appeared to be buddies with the first two and were likely there for support, and back-up if things turned violent.
Mark took a quick look around to see who he had with him. Nobody. He checked his phone. Not even a call from Bud.
What to do?
He could try to outwait them, but there were five of them and they could easily take shifts watching his truck for hours. Besides that, at least one of them might have a truck of his own on the lot and could easily wait and watch for him throughout the night.
He could call the police, but what would he tell them. “I think someone wants to hurt me.” And when they asked why he thought that, it wouldn’t take long before he sounded crazy and paranoid enough for the police to come looking for him.
Maybe he could take a cab to a nearby hotel and pick up Mother Load on Monday. If he were lucky, all of his tires would still have air in them and all of the windows would be free of cracks and clear enough to see through.
Or, he could go back inside the show, spend a few hours looking around and maybe these guys would lose interest by then and go home. That seemed like a plan. If the coast wasn’t clear in a couple of hours, then he could try one of his other ideas.
So, without a sound, Mark turned and headed back to the main entrance, hooking up with two teenage boys to make it look as if he were attending the show with them, his two sons.
“Hey mister,” one of the boys said when it was obvious Mark was walking with them. “Do we know you?”