He’d been looking forward to it for months, and now it was finally here – Truxpo Can. It was a biannual tradeshow for the trucking industry in which every manufacturer and service provider in and around the edges of the business came together to show off their new products, get people familiar with their name, and hopefully drum up business for their companies.
Mark liked seeing what was new and – like every other owner/operator on the road – was interested in knowing about anything he could do or buy to improve his bottom line. He also liked the show because he attended it for two days and those two days were like a mini-vacation for him, taking a relaxing look at new ideas and innovations and every once in a while meeting up with an old friend or two.
It wasn’t unusual for him to meet someone at the show who he’d worked with or for, then head off to the licensed area to swap stories over a few beers for the rest of the show. The fact that he was sleeping in Mother Load and she was parked in the lot outside the convention centre made it easy for him to enjoy himself without any worries about drinking and driving.
But this show wasn’t proving to be a reunion of old friends. Mark had been walking the show floor for some two hours and hadn’t seen a single familiar face.
But all that was about to change. And not in a good way.
He ran into his first acquaintance, quite by accident. He was checking out the booth of a company that made and sold all manner of truck lighting, from headlights to turn signals, from interior lights to the kind of high-tech show lights that could cover your truck without the need of a second alternator and a bank of batteries.
The flash and glare from all the blinking lights reminded Mark of some disco or dance hall. There was also a constant hum, click and clatter from the lights themselves as they shone brightly or blinked on and off.
But despite the din, Mark could still hear a man behind him telling a very animated story.
“So I’m driving east on the 401 and this Peterbilt is matching me kilometre for kilometre. Maybe some car cut him off, but I don’t think so. The guy was probably asleep at the wheel – a real prick, you know what I mean.”
“Anyway, he cuts me off and I’m lucky to stay on the road and hang onto my load.” A pause. “So I start following him, cuz you know, I need to talk to him and set him straight.”
“Set him straight, yeah.”
“But you know what the guy does, he tells the MTO officer at the next weigh station that I’ve been waving a gun around.”
Mark’s eyes went wide. The man wasn’t just talking about some guy, he was talking about him. Mark remembered that episode as if it were yesterday. He’d cut off the truck by accident, tried to apologize and tell the guy what had happened, but he never got the chance. The driver ended up stalking him and the only way he could get away was to hold his rig up at the weigh station. Telling officers that he had a gun on him might have been much but it was the best he could come up under the stress of the situation.
“If I ever meet up with that guy, man am I going to even the score.”
Mark took a quick look around and saw there was no chance of getting away without walking right past the guy. He’d have to busy himself with some flashing lights for a while till the guy went away.
“That sounds an awful lot like the guy I had a problem with one time,” said the other man. “Green Peterbilt, calls it “Mother Load.”
“Yeah, that’s it. I forgot his truck had a name. What’d he do to you?”
“The damn guy put dyed diesel in my tanks, then sic’d the RCMP on me.”
Mark remembered that incident too, but the man’s version of the story differed quite a bit from his own. Mark hadn’t put diesel in the man’s fuel tanks, but rather he’d put diesel into his own tanks and then videotaped the man he called “bandit” siphoning fuel out of Mother Load. Then he posted the footage on YouTube and notified the authorities that the bandit was travelling west across Canada. After that, it was only a matter of time before the law caught up with the guy.
“Worst of it was,” the bandit continued, “the joker faked some video of me online stealing fuel from his tanks.”
“That was you?”
“Exactly. I had no choice but to plead guilty if I wanted to stay out of jail. Then I had to get a haircut, new rig and try and find a new company to drive for.”
Mark could feel his clothes beginning to dampen and stick to his skin. He wiped a sleeve across his brow and did his best to keep his back toward the two men.
Just then a salesman from the lighting company approached Mark and said, “Are you looking for anything in particular?”
“No, not really,” Mark said under his breath, determined to be as inconspicuous as possible.
“Okay, then…maybe if you told me what kind of truck you drive I can show you some of the possible upgrades we have available.”
“Mack,” Mark said. “Mack Truck.”
“Fantastic, we have a whole like of aftermarket Mack accessories.”
The salesman moved Mark closer to where the two men were chatting.
“Too bad we don’t know who he is,” said the first man, the one Mark had said had a gun.
“But I do know,” said the second.
“It wasn’t enough for the guy to get me in trouble with the cops…While the guy is passing by me as I’m being arrested, he rolls down his window and says, ‘That’s what you get when you steal from Mark Dalton!”
“So his name’s Mark Dalton, eh?” said the first man. “That’s good to know. I’ll keep my eyes open. Who knows? Maybe the guy’s even at this show.”
Mark turned to the salesmen, feeling faint as the blood drained away from his face. “But I’m thinking of buying a Hino.”
“Ah, we keep those on the other side of the booth.”
Mark followed the salesman, awkwardly sidestepping his way across the carpet so he wouldn’t have to turn around and reveal his face.
“This way sir.”
Mark just nodded and kept walking sideways.
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