CHAPTER TEN 3RD WEDNESDAY As the sun first strikes the mountains and glaciers around Jasper, a CPX Kenworth makes its way into those mountains with a box full of goods for Vanderhoof. Mike starts working the gears again for the grades and Trudy crawls out through the curtain to curl up by him on the console. He watches her out of the corner of his eye and says, "You better put something on.
It's getting light.
How'd you sleep?" She yawns and stretches almost causing an accident with an oncoming car full of tourists. She reaches through the curtain and pulls out the cowboy hat. "Not that. We're leaving the prairie now. You got a fur lined one?" She laughs and pulls out her robe as well.
She perches beside him with her feet up against the windshield. "Can we stop for a pee, soon?" "I'll find a spot. Cross your legs for a while." Mike watches for a wide shoulder with brush near the road. Soon she has her way. They push on along Jasper Lake and soon reach the town of Jasper.
On they're way west out of town they have to slow for big horn sheep on the road. Then it's over the Yellowhead Pass and west on the Yellowhead Highway.
Near Tete Jaune Cache they see tourists out taking pictures of a bear and her two cubs by the roadside. Mike shudders and says, "Don't look, Trudy. Those idiots don't realize what danger they're putting themselves in. We'll just keep on trucking." "Don't people read signs?" "Sometimes you wonder." At Tete Jaune Cache junction they are flagged down by another big blue rig.
It's one of the trucks from Prince George and he tells them he will take their load on in. They are to head south to Kamloops then over to Sicamous for the long box that's going back down to the coast. Mike uses his cell phone to confirm with Toronto then drops the trailer. The other guy grins at him as Trudy peeks over his shoulder and he looks quickly to see what she has on.
She winks at him and says, "Don't you trust me to not embarrass you, Mike?" She's overdressed for Trudy and he has nothing to worry about. They both wave as they pull away and bob tail south. They have a picnic lunch in the pullover by the campground in Clearwater. After lunch they stroll hand in hand along the river for a ways then return to the truck.
The atmosphere has taken on a holiday feeling without a trailer to tow. They spend an hour in the sleeper "Getting a rest" as Mike calls it. "Just because you made me do all the work." Trudy is not really complaining, just kidding around.
"You had to work off that lunch, didn't you," is Mike's comeback. They roll through the edge of Kamloops and head east to Sicamous for supper at the Husky. Mike hooks on to the long box and checks his fuel. Soon they are heading south down the Okanagan.
Trudy pipes up, "Don't you think I should work off some of that supper?" Mike grins and says, "Later." The lakes are gray and misty in places in the sunset.
"With any luck we'll be in Kelowna before dark." "Will we be home before midnight?" "Don't think so. Want to stop for another night?" "I can take it if you can." "I'll ease back on her then, and we'll stop at the truck stop in Keremeos for the night.
You want to call home?" "I better." Mike pulls the cell phone out of the charger and hands it to her. "Should be able to call from anywhere here in the Okanagan. Give it a try." Trudy calls her baby sitter then puts her hand over the mike and says, "Will we be in by noon?" "You going to let me out of bed in the morning?" She gets back on the phone, "Sometime in the afternoon, I guess." She glances at Mike as she continues to chatter and winks.
When she gets off the phone she says, "They want me in at work tomorrow around six. They've changed my schedule." "We can push on through tonight if you want." "No. I want one more night with you." Mike parks at the truck stop around ten PM. They go in for coffee then retire to their love nest.
Mike is heard to murmur, "I hope they're in no hurry for this long box." Around five Mike wakes with Trudy half on top of him. He lays quiet listening to her even breathing. She murmurs something in her sleep and moves her leg that is flung over his, bringing her groin closer to his. He holds his breath as he feels desire mounting. The shoulder her head is on starts to tingle and he moves that hand to get circulation going on that side.
She stirs a bit and nestles her head into his chest. They are both naked and she has flung back the cover sometime during the night. It still covers her ass and their legs, but that's all. He lifts his arm and checks his watch. She feels his movement and comes awake slowly, stretching and rolling up on top of him.
She presents her mouth for a kiss and he obliges. Lying there on top of him she feels him stir and grins, "Is that for me?" "No, I was thinking about Marlene." She swats him one as he tries to duck.
She swings again. "Thinking about her, are you? I'll ruin you so you won't be any good for her or anyone else!" She reaches down and gets a firm grip on his sack.
"Uncle! Uncle! I give up! Enough. I wasn't thinking about Marlene, I wasn't! I was thinking only about you and how beautiful you are first thing in the morning.
Whew." "That's better. Now, let's fuck!" When they've finished, have used the washrooms and had a bite of breakfast they head west again through Princeton and on to Manning Park.
Trudy is in her usual perch, on the padded console beside him. "Are you going to be working evenings the rest of the week?" "It looks that way. I can go with you to question those suspects during the day. Crystal can go right to the baby sitter's from school." "Okay. I'll probably pick you up tomorrow morning if nothing else comes up." "Do you want to take my paperwork or do you want me to hang onto it." "I'd better take it with me." "That's okay.
I have another copy on my computer. Have you still got the RCMP file?" "Yeah, but I have it hidden. I was afraid they might come looking for it when they discovered I was seeing their secretary. They still might." "How could they legally do that?" "Put two and two together and convince a judge. They know I have their suspects list.
They don't know what else I have. I suspect that's how they stopped Nina and I and searched her vehicle." "Why don't you bring the file down to me? Do they know about me?" "Oh, I'm pretty sure they do by now." "You mean they might come and search my place?" "It's possible." "Shit!" "Do you have anything to hide? The work you've been doing for me on the suspects list is legal.
I wouldn't worry. Just tell them you never heard of any RCMP file, if they ask. They can't prove otherwise." Around noon Mike pulls in by her bungalow in Hope.
He parks and Crystal comes running to greet her mother. The baby sitter steps out on the porch. Trudy catches Crystal up in her arms and says, "Hi there honey, why aren't you in school?" "I'm sick. Melaney said I could stay home this morning." The baby sitter nods. Trudy grabs Mike to give him a big kiss before he leaves then sends him on his way with a wave.
Crystal calls, "Bye Mike, Bye." Mike drives back through Hope and out the Haig Connection to Agassiz. Then it's the Lougheed to Mission and POCO. AS he enters the yard the spotter pulls in beside him. "Put it in door three, Mike." He speaks into his mic with the office then says, "Never mind, just put it in the lineup. They want another one in three.
See ya." He guns the diesel and wheels away across the yard looking for another trailer. Mike pulls ahead and backs the trailer into the lineup of arrivals. He jumps down, cranks down the dollies and pulls the pin. Jumping back up behind the cab he pulls the airlines and swings around the edge of the tractor on the foot and hand holds to the door. He eases ahead and watches the trailer settle on the dollies in his mirror. All clear he pulls his tractor around to the wash rack.
He starts by washing down the windshield with the long handled water brush then steam and detergents the cab and scrubs with the long brush. He changes over to water only and starts rinsing. When done he waits for the water to stop dripping then climbs up and opens the sleeper curtain. He pulls out the bedding and his gear, piling it on the passenger seat.
Next he gets the long hosed vacuum going and cleans out the sleeper. He uses it to clean the floor in the cab as well then climbs down to put away the vacuum.
His garbage bag goes into the can. He hauls his bedding out to air, hanging it on the fence. Dirty sheets and pillowcases are tossed into a laundry bag to go home for washing. He goes back up into the sleeper and tidies up, puts fresh linen on the bed.
When everything is tidy he brings the bedding back off the fence and makes up the bed. He puts his luggage and laundry by the corner of the shop and pulls his sparkling baby back to the truck line. He parks it and bleeds the air lines.
Mike then goes into the terminal and checks to see if Tony's in. Before he can check he runs into him in the coffee room. "Hey Mike, long time no see? How you been?" "I been trying to locate you for a week. Wanted to ask you about that gal that got killed. You went out with her a few times, I heard. Sorry she died." "Yeah, that was tragic: and Ray, of all people!
Who ever would have guessed it?" "Yeah, that's hard to believe too, isn't it? If you don't mind my asking, what was she like? I never met her." "Oh, she was just a girl, nothing out of the ordinary. I took her out twice. Met her at The Gardens. She worked there, you know." "Yeah, I heard.
Suppose the cops wanted to ask you and anyone else that knew her, a lot of questions. They bug you much?" "Naw, they only questioned me for a half hour and I haven't heard from them since." "You must have had a good alibi, I guess." "Yeah, I did." "I don't believe Ray did it. How about helping me clear his name? You know which locker is his?" "Sure, it's next to mine.
I'll show you. What do you expect to find there?" "Won't know until I take a look." "Come on then." They go across to the washrooms and lockers. Tony points to one without a padlock, a bent nail holds the hasp closed. "Tony, doesn't Ray have a lock for his?" "Never has had since I remember. Always used that nail." Mike opens the locker and inspects the interior.
Two dirty work socks litter the floor, some magazines on trucking are on the shelf and a razor. There's also a hard hat and some earplugs. Hanging from a peg at the back of the locker is a yellow pair of rubberized pants with heavy suspenders. He pulls them out and checks for pockets. There are none. "Wonder where his waterproof top is?
He must have been using it when he washed the truck that night. Guess I'll check his tractor." "What's the diff? What will that prove?" "It will help substantiate his story of what he was doing that night. Might improve his credibility. Do you know if he's been back to work yet?" "He was back yesterday, but they didn't let him go out. He was laid off and sent home, I guess." "Did he go to his truck?" "Nope. He came straight in to the coffee room from his car then up to the office." "Thanks, Tony, I'm going to check his truck.
You got a set of Mac keys on you?" "Yeah, I got mine. Want to borrow them?" "Yeah. Thanks Tony, I'll bring them back when I'm done. If I can't find you, do you want me to slip them through the grill on the front of your locker? Which one?" "It's this one next to Ray's but I'll still be here. The local drivers have a meeting with the wheels later. That's what we're waiting for." "Okay. I'll see you later." Mike goes out and can see the yellow material before he opens the cab.
It's on a hanger behind the seat. The cab is as neat as a pin. He checks the glove box and finds the paperwork for the tractor and a city map. There's also a box of Kleenex and a flashlight. Under the seat is a rag that has been used to clean the dipstick when checking oil.
That's all he can find. He checks inside the Kleenex box. Just tissues. He looks behind the visors and seat but nothing. The truck is clean enough it could go out on a sales lot. He goes back into the terminal and sees the meeting has started in the lunchroom. He slips in and gives Tony his keys. He thanks him again and leaves. Jim nods at him as he's leaving and points upstairs then goes on talking to the group. Mike goes upstairs to dispatch and asks if they want to see him.
Jerry is busy on the phone but points to a chair. Mike wait's patiently until Jerry's finished. "Jim wants to see you when he gets done with the meeting downstairs.
Did you have a female riding with you on this run?" "Oh, for God's sakes! Don't tell me someone reported us? Shit!" "I guess that answers my question. I think that's what Jim wants to see you about. The word was around the lunch room last night that you had a naked woman riding around in your truck." He grins, "Did you?" "Oh hell, the other guys are just jealous." "CP Express and Transport, can I help you?" Jerry is back on the phone talking into his lip mic with headphones on his ears.
Jim comes in and says, "Come on into my office, Mike" Mike follows him in and Jim waves at a chair in front of his desk as he pulls some paperwork out of a file. He turns and looks at Mike. "Did you check the seals on that long box you pulled out of Edmonton for Vanderhoof." "I sure did and I made sure the driver who took it from me at Tete Jaune Cache junction checked them as well.
What's wrong." "Some freight is missing. Prince George claims it was sealed when they got it and they never changed the seal, but the seal number is not the same as the one on the bill of lading. Somebody pulled a fast one. It was Canadian Tire stuff, highly desirable for small thefts. Damn! You're sure you checked it? You weren't distracted?" "Alright, I knew that was going to come up. No. I was not distracted by the naked woman in my truck!" "Take it easy.
I know you well enough to know you didn't screw up.
I figure someone in Prince George got the goods. We'll have to honor their claim. If you assure me you checked it, that's good enough for me. Thanks, Mike." "You're not going to say anything about the rider." "What rider?
You know we're not allowed to take riders in our trucks. Is there a rider in your truck?" "No. It's parked out in the yard." "That's what I thought." "Is that everything then?" "How are you making out clearing Ray's name? I heard you were helping in the investigation.
He didn't do it, did he?" "I don't believe he did. I'm still working on it." "Clear him if you can. He's a good man and a good company man with the customers." "I'm trying, Jim. I better get to it." Mike goes out to the parking lot and starts the Mustang.
He pulls in by the side of the shops and loads up his laundry, luggage and briefcase then heads home. It's Thursday and he doesn't have any more runs this week.
He drives out through Mission and home to Abbotsford.
He glances over at Jeff's but all is quiet. It's nearly suppertime so he smells food cooking before he goes up into the kitchen. Marlene come to the door and cautions him to be quiet as he climbs the steps to her. He kisses her then whispers, "Kids asleep?" She points at the living room door and whispers "Nina." She beckons for him to follow her outside so he goes down the steps to the side door and goes out with her.
"I might as well tell you right off the bat. I've been sleeping over with Jeff since you left. Nina's been sleeping in our bed." "What? How come?" "The police came with a search warrant on Tuesday and went through the house then went over and went through Jeff's place too.
He is furious. I don't think they found what they were looking for but they brought back your briefcase. They didn't seem too happy. Jeff doesn't know what they were looking for but Nina told me.
Jeff doesn't know she told me. She went in to work yesterday and said they did nothing to her. She says it was the same today." "So why's she here?" "She doesn't know where else to go. Jeff won't leave her alone. He keeps insisting she tell him what is going on and she won't say anything because he might report you both. I've been sleeping over there to try and soften him up, but no luck so far." "Sounds like you've had a fun week.
Does she go home to change." "She brought a bunch of her stuff over. It's in our bedroom. I suppose she'll want to sleep with you tonight." "Might be a good idea. She'll need some comforting." "If I know you, she won't get much sleep. You better comfort her as well." "What do the kids think is happening?" "I go over after they've gone to bed and try to get back early.
So far, no problem." "When do I get a chance to sleep with my wife again?" "Right now, if you want? I can turn supper down." "I think you mean more than sleep, don't you?" "It would be nice.
I miss you and your ways. Jeff is so nicey, nicey, if you know what I mean? You still have a lot of the savage beast in you." "So, did the gendarmes leave any message for me, other than the obvious keep out of our business?" "Nothing.
I was surprised they didn't have anything to say to Nina. She thinks you destroyed all the papers, but I know you better.
You've still got them, haven't you?" "The less you know, the less they can get out of you." "You've got them. Somewhere." Mike goes back into the house and Marlene follows. They find Nina in the kitchen at the table with a cup of coffee. "Marlene has told you? Jeff was threatening me with divorce yesterday. This morning he was a little calmer but when I came in tonight he just glared at me. He won't talk." Mike sits beside her and says, "Nina, I can't see you two going through this because of me.
We are going to have to tell him about the file." "Because of you? He's putting me through this because he feels so guilty about having an affair. He's just a big baby in many ways. He's pouting because he was caught. He's such a sensitive man, not at all Marlene's type. I still love him dearly and he will get over this in a few days, I'm sure.
Marlene is good at soothing him down, anyway. Are you finished for this week? I expected you home last night?" "Yeah, I don't think I'll have any more runs this week. I can get some work done on this case tomorrow, maybe." "You're still going to work on the murder? I thought they might have scared you off. Would you like some coffee?" "Sure, thanks. They never said anything at work?
Are they still allowing you to do the work for the investigation team?" "No changes, yet. I'm sure they're watching me.
Have you heard anything new? I guess you couldn't. You've been on the road." "I talked with one of the suspects this afternoon, but not a real intensive interview, although he told me some things that I didn't know before." Marlene is setting the table around them so they go to the living room and sit on the couch side by side with their coffee.
"You talked to Tony, right?" "Yeah, I finally caught him but only for a few minutes before a meeting. Do you ever have access to drug investigations?" "Routinely." "Has Tony's name ever come up in conjunction with drugs or the Vietnamese drug connections in Vancouver?" "I don't recall it, but if he was a secret informant or under investigation undercover, the files are kept by the investigating officer under lock and key. They do their best to protect their sources.
You think he's involved with drugs?" "I have a report that suggests that." "RCMP report?" "No. I don't think so." "How can you rely on it then?" "There are other reliable sources than your bosses." "Oh." "I'll be checking it out tomorrow." "Please be careful." Marlene comes in and says supper is ready. She calls Richard from his room and sends him to find Shelly and Janet.
By the time Mike gets washed the rest are at the table. He sits down and has supper at home. "I wonder what Jeff's eating tonight?" Marlene speaks up, "He's dining out regularly now." Nina says, "Probably steak and baked potatoes. His favorite food." Richard pipes up, "We should go and eat with him." Shelly says, "I want steak." Janet doesn't say anything.
Mike says, "I'm sorry I asked." The food is great. Marlene is a marvelous cook. Some light chatter occurs during the meal but not much. Everyone is busy eating. After supper Mike retires to his office to plan strategy for tomorrow while the ladies do up the dishes.
Marlene brings him a cup of coffee. "Why didn't you tell me you were working on this case?" "I was never officially hired to work on it. I'm doing the work for nothing to help Ray out.
Also I didn't want you to worry about me out chasing a murderer. It sounds so much worse than it is." "I know you have always been able to take care of yourself and us. I have a lot of faith in your abilities. If Ray is innocent you will find the killer and have him arrested." "Well, thank you, honey. That's good to hear." "Your going out tomorrow to speak with those suspects then? Good luck. I hope you find the guilty party quickly." She goes out of the office and Mike ponders his good luck he already has with such a fine wife, albeit a bit unfaithful, and a trio of kids he adores.
He plans to pick up Trudy in the morning and they will interview some of Scanlon's harem. He also thinks it might be wise to meet with Ray and let Trudy meet him.
She's got a head for noticing small character flaws so her opinion of his guilt or innocence means a lot to him. He wants her to talk to a few of the other female staff at The Gardens and would like to try to get into Flo's old apartment. Should be a full day if he is going to get her back home to go to work by five.
He calls her at the cafe and asks if she can be ready at six in the morning.
He explains the ground he wants to cover. "I have to head back out to your place by three thirty to get you back for work." "I'll be waiting. How are things at home?" "I'll tell you in the morning. See you then." "Bye, Master." "Mistress." He chuckles as he hangs up. He drinks his coffee and relaxes, poring over some tax papers. Finally curiosity gets the better of him and he stands, tips his chair and studies the bottom of it.
It does not appear to have been changed. He reaches for the panel then changes his mind. Better to leave well enough alone. He rights the chair and sits again.
He spends an hour putting everything back in its original place. The searchers didn't try to hide the fact they had been there. It's still fairly early so he decides to go over to The Gardens in POCO.
He grabs his briefcase, now back in his service and sorted out, and tells Marlene he will be late. He climbs into the Mustang and heads for POCO. An hour later he pulls into the lot of the popular pub in POCO.
He walks inside and seats himself at the bar. He looks around the room and sees another driver from CPX talking with Tony near the far wall. The crowd is noisy and he doesn't hear the cute barkeep until she jostles his elbow. "What you having, love?" "What you offering?" "Come on, I ain't got all night?" "I ain't asking for all night. Were you here the night Flo Hanson got killed?" "Flatfoot! Haven't you guys got your fill of us yet?" "Private flatfoot to you, my love." He flashes his I.D.
card and says he's investigating the case for a separate party." He winks and says, "Whoever did it is still out there, and can you give me a hand?" "They got him locked up." Mike sadly shakes his head, "Out on bail. And he may not have been the one." "What you want to know?" "Which staff members were on that night?" "I'll get you the list we gave the cops. Be right back." She hurries away into an interior office behind the bar and returns with a list of seven names.
Mike studies it and asks for a beer. "All of these here until closing time?" "All except Flo and Manuel. That's Manuel over by the door. He's our bouncer. Go easy with him, if you know what I mean." "Any of these others on tonight?" "Corrie in the kitchen and me, I'm Meloney." That left three girls names.
"How can I contact these other three?" "Two of them will be here tomorrow at two. We won't be open yet, but rap at the side door. I'll let you in. The other girl quit when she heard about Flo. That's Georgette.
I'll see if I can find her address for you." Again she slips away and soon comes back with the address and phone number. "So, how about you? Did you see who she left with?" "She went out with Manuel." "Did she say if she was meeting anyone later?" "Cops asked me that.
I don't recall her saying anything other than she had to go early. She only took off a half hour early at one thirty. Everyone thought she was trying to get out of clean up." "Thanks for your help. How do I get to speak with Corrie?" "Drink up and I'll take you back." Mike downs his beer and follows her back to the kitchen. The cook is there with a young boy who is doing dishes.
Mike says, "I don't see his name on the list?" Meloney says, "This is Pedro, Manuel's son. He was sick that night and stayed home. Corrie, this is a private dick working on Flo's case. When you have a moment, he wants to talk with you. Help him all you can, eh?" "Right, boss. I'll be right with you." Mike leans back against the wall by the sink.
"So Pedro, what do you think happened to Flo? Did you like her?" "I think she went out with too many men. I liked her and never could figure why she wanted to go out with all those guys." "Different guys met her after work every night, eh?" "All the guys who come in know her. I think they've all been out with her. She was so nice but she was sad.
I saw her crying behind the washroom many times." "Get busy with those dishes, young man." Corrie says, "Okay, what can I tell you. Flo was a knock out with the guys and she's sorely missed. Her absence may affect business. She was that popular. I guess it was her downfall. Some pervert decided to help himself. No one is safe any more." "Did you get a chance to speak to her that night before she left?" "Yes, the coats are back here.
She came back for hers just before she left with Manuel." "Did she say she was going out later?" "Yes, she did." "What did she say?" "I got a heavy date with a light fella. I remember it well.
She was laughing and flew out of here like she was going to a dance. She loved to dance." "No hint who the date was, eh?" "She didn't say but I think it was somebody she had been talking with here. That's just an impression I got. I'm not sure why." "Thanks a lot, Corrie.
If anything else occurs to you, call me at the number on this card." Mike goes out front and seeks the bouncer. He's not too far from the door but now he's involved in a card game.
Mike steps along side his chair and flashes his I.D. "You going to be here at two tomorrow afternoon?" Manuel looks up at him and says, "Si." "I'll talk with you then." Real slow he says, "Maybe." and goes back to his cards.
Mike goes back to check with Meloney. She says she told Manuel who he was and to expect questions. Mike thanks her again for her help and says he'll see her tomorrow. He leaves the pub and checks his watch. It's after ten so he heads home. When he gets there the house is in darkness. He lets himself in the side door and locks it again.
He slips off his shoes and goes up into the kitchen. Sounds like everyone has gone to bed, so he goes down to his office. When he's done there he goes to take a shower. He tip toes through the bedroom so as to not wake Marlene and enjoys a hot cascade in the bathroom.
Thinking about Trudy, he sneaks back into the bedroom and slips into bed. He stretches and cuddles his wife's form to him then remembers because of the weight and build, that it's not his wife. It's Nina. She snuggles against him and whispers, "I thought you'd never get home." She reaches her lips to his and they taste like honey.
He pulls her roughly against him then starts to strip away the flannel pajamas.