Mark had made the trip east back across the country and was parked overnight in a large truck yard in Barrie, Ontario waiting for the warehouse to open in the morning so he could get his load heading north. It was just after 11 p.m. and Mark...
Mark had made the trip east back across the country and was parked overnight in a large truck yard in Barrie, Ontario waiting for the warehouse to open in the morning so he could get his load heading north. It was just after 11 p.m. and Mark was about to bed down for the night when he heard a noise outside.
The yard was full of long-haulers with overnight cabs so it wasn’t unusual for someone to be out and about at this time of night. Still, it was late and there were only a few overhead lights illuminating the yard, so anyone working outside now was either in trouble or up to no good. Mark decided to check it out.
Four trucks down the line there was an old Chevy van parked in front of a late model Western Star. The back of the van was wide open and full of tools. There were cables and hoses running from inside the van to underneath the Western Star and a faint light was aglow under the truck.
“Midnight repair service?” Mark said under his breath as he approached.
The closer he got, the clearer he could hear the sounds of someone at work. There was the familiar sound of a hammer battering a wrench and then the grunt of someone struggling to get something loose.
Mark knelt down and peered under the truck. “Hello,” he said.
“Ugh,” the mechanic responded.
Mark sympathized with the man. It was the middle of the night, he was lying flat on his back on the cold hard ground and there was a nut or bolt that just didn’t want to let go. There were probably a hundred places the man would rather be.
“Making a house call, eh?” Mark said.
The mechanic grunted, obviously into his work.
Mark took a long look at the man, finding it hard to make out much detail in the faint light he was working by. He was dressed in a dirty pair of coveralls that had a name, ‘Joe’ over the left breast pocket. His face was just as dirty as his clothes with a pair of light blue vinyl gloves on his hands.
“I’ve got a rechargeable flashlight in my truck,” Mark said. “It’s pretty bright. Might help you.”
Mark wanted to chat, but this guy didn’t seem to want to have any part of it… which was strange since he obviously wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Mark gave it another shot. “Starter motor, huh?”
“They’re expensive, no?”
“Few hundred buck at least.”
“You’d think at that price they’d last a bit longer. This truck couldn’t be more than what, three or four years old?”
“You got a replacement, or can you fix that one?”
“Don’t know till I get it back to the shop.”
Mark said nothing for a while, watching the man work. He was fast, with few wasted movements. He had just a few tools with him under the truck but they were all he needed. That made sense, because he couldn’t afford to be crawling in and out from under the truck all night long looking for tools. Mark liked the way the mechanic worked and if he had his own shop, maybe Mark could take Mother Load there if she ever broke down in this part of the country.
“Where’s your shop?” he asked. “Maybe I come to you the next time I need service.”
“It’s near here.”
Mark waited for the man to elaborate, but he didn’t. Instead he just kept on working and never once looked back in Mark’s direction. Mark wondered if the man was intent on his work, or avoiding looking Mark in the eye.
“If you gave me a card, I could call you, then.”
“Don’t need any more work. Got enough as it is.”
“Maybe, but times change. Everyone can always use more work.” He looked at the man’s beat up old van. “More work and you could buy a new truck, hire on another mechanic…maybe take on an apprentice.”
The man stopped working for the first time since Mark had arrived. “Listen mister, if I give you a number will you leave me alone and let me do my work?”
“Yeah, sure,” Mark said, thinking that maybe he was being a bit pushy. “I didn’t realize I was bothering you. I always think everybody is just like me, you know… happy to have someone to talk to.”
“You thought wrong. I got another truck to do before I go home tonight.” He stopped working, and with his back still to Mark, scribbled something onto a piece of paper. Then he stretched out his arm behind him to pass Mark a slip of paper tucked between two of his fingers.
Mark took it. “Thanks.”
Mark got up off the pavement and headed back to Mother Load. He knew that big-rig mechanics were a special breed – a breed apart – but this guy was odd… and just a little unfriendly. The more he thought about it, the more he concluded that maybe this mechanic wasn’t the type of guy he wanted wrenching Mother Load.
Mark awoke early the next morning to the sounds of people outside his truck. There were several voices, including ones that were coming over a radio. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, Mark got out of bed and looked out the window. Just down the lot, about the spot where the Western Star was parked, were a pair of police cars. One officer was talking with a man, maybe the owner of the truck, while another officer was crouched down close to the ground, looking under it.
“Wonder what that’s all about?” Mark said under his breath.
He got dressed and quickly exited Mother Load.
“What happened?” Mark said as he neared the police.
“Where did you just come from?” one of the officers said.
“That’s my truck right there,” he said, pointing to Mother Load.
“You were here all night?”
Mark nodded. “Why? What happened?”
“The starter motor was stolen off that truck.”
Mark shook his head. “No, it was taken to be repaired. I talked to the mechanic last night.”
“No,” the officer said. “This truck’s practically brand new. The starter was stolen.”
“I thought he was legit,” Mark said. “He even gave me his number.”
The cop’s face brightened.
Mark fished the number out of his pocket and handed it over.
The policeman smiled.
“What is it?”
“This number,” he said. “It’s for one of the radio stations in town.”
“Oh,” Mark said, feeling like a horse’s rear-end for being so easily duped. “Then I guess I won’t be calling it for service.”
– Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 2 of Till Theft Do Us Part.