Mark is on his way to a huge truck yard near Vancouver. He calls Bud, but his dispatcher has no loads for him and none on the horizon. When Mark reaches the yard, there are cops everywhere investigating a murder. Mark parks his trailer and manages to wedge it into a very tight spot. The yard manager sees Mark park his trailer and is so impressed, he offers Mark a job as shunt driver to replace the driver who’d recently been killed in the yard.
Mark gets checked out on the controls of the Ottawa shunt truck he’ll be driving and gets some instruction from another of the shunt drivers in the yard. With time, he gets the hang of the job and begins to enjoy the work. At break time, he buys a coffee and sandwich from the catering truck that visits the yard and the coffee man on the truck tells him a bit about the shunt driver, who Mark now thinks was murdered…
Mark had settled in nicely to the job of shunt driver and began to realize that there were a lot of things that made shunt driving a very attractive job. For example, even if you did shift work, those shifts were regular and you could plan on being home every day, every night, or on weekends. You also never had to worry about a weigh scale or border crossing again and those were things Mark found most appealing.
Another thing he liked was the fact that there were a lot of challenges to the job, especially getting trailers to their required destinations in the least amount of time possible. Mark was proud of the fact that no-one in the yard had ever had to wait on him yet. He knew the time would come when the shipper would be standing on the dock waiting for him -a yard this size couldn’t possibly operate without a few snags -but so far so good. Mark also took pride in his ability to spot trailers within just a few inches of each other. In fact in one section of the yard, where there had once been 11 trailers, Mark had been able to fit 12. There was also something to be said about organizing the entire yard and ensuring everything was in order for the driver who took over from you. If you left him a mess you could be sure that he’d leave you a similar mess in the morning. It was like being part of a team and that was something Mark missed being on the road so much.
But as well as Mark was doing the job, he was still confounded by a few sections of the yard that housed rogue trailers that never showed up on his assignment screen. They were all relatively new trailers, but they just sat there doing nothing. That didn’t seem right, especially in such a busy yard. He was about to get out of his truck and check out a section of rogue trailers when a truck pulled up beside him and the driver rolled down his window.
“What’s going on?” the driver said, sitting behind the wheel of a seemingly brand new Freightliner.
“Can I help you with something?” Mark asked, not liking the man’s tone. As good as the job was, you still had to deal with a wide variety of drivers and not all of them were friendly. In fact, Mark was beginning to feel like all he would ever run into on this job were angry and bitter drivers who hated their work and were one load away from losing their trucks.
“You the new shunt driver they hired to replace Billy?”
“Yeah. Who are you?”
“Just a driver that delivers to the yard.” “Did you know Billy?” Mark asked. “I knew him to see him, but other drivers I know knew him better.”
‘What was that supposed to mean?’ Mark wondered. “Too bad about him, eh? I mean, he had a wife and kid and another one on the way.”
The driver shrugged. “Sometimes people are too stupid for their own good and they get what they get.”
With that, Mark knew he was talking to someone who knew exactly what had happened to Billy. Mark thought carefully about what he should say next. “So he didn’t play ball, is that it?”
“Exactly. All he had to do was say ‘yes’ and it would have worked out great for everybody.”
Mark shook his head, playing along. “What are you gonna do? Some guys don’t know a good thing when they see it.”
The man’s expression suddenly changed and he was now dark and threatening. “And you do?”
Mark didn’t let the man’s mood swing affect him. “I don’t want to work all my life, if you know what I mean.”
“So you might be open to…an arrangement?”
“What, with you?”
“No. I’m a sort of courier. You talk to me, I pass the information along.”
“Well, I’ve got an open mind.” “Very good.”
“What do I have to do?”
“Not much.” A pause. “For example. Say I brought you a trailer tomorrow and it’s missing some paperwork. You might park it in this yard for a day or two while you do up the papers for it. Then you give the trailer back to me when the paper-work’s all in order and the load is squeaky clean.”
“Sounds easy enough. What’s in it for me?”
“A few grand to start. After six months, maybe a few more.”
“Could turn out to be a lot of money,” Mark said. “Do I want to know what’s in the trailers?”
“It’s better you don’t.” “So, Billy didn’t go for this?”
“He did at first, then he changed his mind. Said he was going to the police.”
Mark laughed under his breath. “Idiot.”
“Yeah, well, he had plenty of warnings.”
“If the money’s as good as you say, I’m in.”
The man smiled. “Good. Very good.
I’ll be back in a couple of days with the money. In the meantime, I’m looking for a trailer that was brought in when Billy was still driving.” The man got out and climbed down from his truck and handed Mark a business card with his contact information on one side, and the handwritten code number of a trailer on the other. “You find that trai
ler in the yard and the money’s yours.”
“I’ll find it,” Mark said. “And when I do, I’ll call you.”
“Ah, you’ll do fine,” he said as he climbed back into his truck. “I knew the next driver wouldn’t be as stupid as Billy was.”
“You don’t have to worry about me,” Mark said. “I’m smart. Real smart.”
“Good,” the man said, rolling up his window. “I’ll see you in a couple of days.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” Mark said under his breath.
This job just kept getting better and better and better.
Mark thought a long time about what the man had told him about trailers in the yard and Billy’s death. Obviously, there were a number of trailers in the yard that shouldn’t be there and weren’t in any-one’s record books. And it went without saying that the items in those trailers were highly illegal and anyone implicated in their transport or storage would likely face some serious jail time.
But where were those trailers? And what would Mark do if he found one? He’d thought a lot about that too in the last little while. He had an idea, but it was better not to think about such things until he had to … like when he actually found one of the trailers.
Later in his shift, with all of his assigned moves completed and the yard slowing down for the weekend, Mark had an hour or so to scour the lot for the missing trailer. He decided to start in one of the sections where the trailers didn’t seem to move. Beginning with the farthest trailer on the left, he pulled out a blank sheet of paper so he could write down the identification numbers on the trailers and containers so he could check them with the master list of trailers in the office. He began copying down the numbers.
Mark stared at the paper in front of him for the longest time, noticing something strange about the identification codes, but not sure what it was. And then it hit him. If he took the first letter of each code, they spelled the words, “IN HERE.”
It was strange, to be sure, but there were so many letters used in ID codes, it could still be nothing more than a curious coincidence. But the thing that convinced Mark that this was a message from the previous shunt driver, Billy, was that the last trailer on the right belonged to a forwarding company that had a huge arrow on the side of it. In effect, the trailers all joined together to create one huge sign revealing the location of the missing trailer.
Intrigued, Mark parked his Ottawa out of the way and went for a walk to investigate. When he reached the trailer that the arrow pointed to, he pulled a small pair of bolt cutters from a jacket pocket and cut the seal. Then he set about opening the trailer’s barn doors for a quick look inside.
And there, standing in front of him like some castle fortress was a wall of tightly packed cellophane bricks. Hash, thought Mark, or cocaine or marijuana, or something similarly illegal and worth a lot of money. They must want this stuff real bad, thought Mark. And that gave him an idea about what to do about it.
-Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion.