The Devil's Freight

Discussion in 'The Drivers Lounge' started by RickyRicardo, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Have you ever known anyone who blamed all of their problems on everybody else? The type of person that never took a good hard look in the mirror? Well Buddy is one of those folks. Things just seem to be piling up on him and he might just want to accept a little responsibility.

    Now an offer of easy money has fallen into his lap. He thinks $10,000 will make all of his problems disappear and is willing to do the wrong thing to get it. He doesn't realize what is truly at stake here and it will be too late before he discovers the reality of his situation. As they say, the Devil is in the details.

    This sordid little tale will be spread out in several installments, so be patient, and as always-Enjoy!


    Buddy Hinton eased into a parking space at the old Mountain Top truckstop near Dexter, Tennessee. After spending four hours getting loaded at a nearby distillery he was ready for a decent meal before starting on his trip to Brooklyn, New York, where he was sure some thirsty folks awaited his liquid bounty. And maybe getting out of the truck for a bit would be a distraction for his son who was getting increasingly cranky from the tedium of so much inactivity of sitting and waiting. Hopefully getting the little lad’s belly full would trigger a long nap once the wheels got rolling.

    Buddy was beginning to question the wisdom of taking his son along on these extended summer trips. He told himself that the time spent bonding with his seven year old son was an important, if not invaluable, aspect of the child’s development into a well rounded adult. He kept the truth buried in one of the small, dark recesses of his conscience; he only took the boy along to annoy his ex-wife, to exercise his parental rights. She would have him arrested if she knew he wasn’t allowed to have a passenger in the truck under any conditions and he put his job in jeopardy by doing so. To make matters worse, the company wouldn’t be liable for any harm incurred upon her son in the event of an accident.

    The driver of the truck parked next to Buddy’s waited patiently for Buddy to exit his truck, climbing down from his own at the same time. He was an odd looking little man. His jeans were neatly pressed, as was his denim shirt which was buttoned at the cuffs, as well as the collar. His black, flat brimmed hat could best be described as one worn by a Quaker. At first glance one would possibly think he was an old country preacher, but one look into his face, his eyes in particular, served to dispel that notion.

    The clean shaven face and neatly trimmed hair complemented the almost military attire. His eyebrows were dark and abundant, but like everything else about the man, neat and orderly. He smiled as he spoke to Buddy, revealing gleaming white teeth. Buddy would recall later that the canines were unusually pointed.

    As Buddy was helping his son down from the passenger seat of the big rig the small man with the black hat stepped around the hood of Buddy’s truck. “Need some help there, podna?”

    Far from being a sociable person, Buddy’s first inclination was to tell the little creep to buzz off and mind his own business, but one look into the man’s hawk like eyes quelled that notion. Having been in his share of bar room brawls, Buddy knew a menacing glare when he saw one, the look that telegraphed imminent danger. This was something else. This was akin to the look of a Marine drill instructor commanding obedience, offering no alternative. There was also the indication of some secret knowledge that would be best left unrevealed.

    “I got it, but appreciate the offer,” Buddy said, surprising himself with his own politeness.

    “My name is Isaac,” the stranger said with a smile that didn’t extend to his eyes, offering his hand.

    Buddy accepted the hand shake, at once surprised at the strength of a hand that small, and frightened by its coldness. “I’m Buddy and this here is my son, Matt.”

    “You’re fortunate to be able to spend time with your son. I have children that I’m rarely able to see,” Isaac said. He spoke with an accent Buddy couldn’t place. He thought it was Appalachian, but maybe from another time, which made no sense considering he’d never heard anyone from another time speak except in movies. There was also something refined in the way each syllable was enunciated, as if this truck driver had a formal education.

    “Actually, I’m sneaking him along. We’re not allowed to have passengers,” Buddy replied, shocked at his own admission. He would never reveal that sort of information, especially to a total stranger.

    “It’s a shame isn’t it?” Isaac responded. “A travesty that these companies work us like dogs and not allow us time with our own kin. I’m sure the Lord frowns upon the practice.”

    “You got that right,” Buddy answered, instantly liking the man. “I never thought of it like that, but you hit the nail on the head.”

    “I am merely a man making an observation. May I treat you and Matt to dinner? It would be a pleasure to break bread with fellow travelers,” Isaac asked, almost humbly.

    Buddy accepted the offer without hesitating, forgetting the icy handshake and evil glare for the moment. Truth be told, he was nearly broke and wondered how he would feed two mouths for the rest of the week, having taken the maximum allowable pay advance for the week already. He conveniently dismissed what he had spent on lottery tickets and cigarettes this week.

  2. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    As predicted, Matt was asleep within minutes as Buddy pointed the semi toward Chattanooga and his thoughts turned inward. Although he hadn’t formally decided to make the call, he was already spending the ten thousand dollars in his head. He had no illusions about being asked to do anything legal to obtain a sum of that size; nor did he believe for a second Isaac was the religious man he portrayed himself to be. A man of God or not, Isaac was right about one thing; Buddy deserved more than what life was handing him.

    His last job paid him nearly twice the money for less work and the only reason he was working for these cut throats was because he lost the gravy job over an undeserved DUI. Everybody leaving that concert was drunk or high. What did they expect at a Kid Rock show? He was driving fine and the only reason the black cop stopped him was because of the Confederate flag on the back window of his pickup truck. It was discrimination, plain and simple.

    Lorna was a cool chick when he married her but she sure did change after a couple of years, always on his back about something, usually money. He couldn’t walk in the house with a twelve-pack without getting the stinkeye. Did she think he was supposed to quit drinking over a stupid DUI? It wasn’t like he was an alcoholic or something. And she gave him grief over buying a few lottery tickets. What’s twenty bucks when it could make you a millionaire? How did she think people got rich? It sure didn’t happen working some dead end job.

    Buddy couldn’t guess what Isaac wanted him to do for the ten grand, but he planned to do whatever it took to make a good impression in hopes of being offered more jobs for maybe even more money.
  3. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    It has been said that children will recognize the evil among us before we do, perhaps by virtue of their own innocence. Matt saw something in Isaac, perhaps not evil, but something, that his father, in his greed and selfishness, didn't.

    If Buddy had an inkling of who (or what) he was dealing with, he would have ran the other way and never looked back. Isaac had no interest in a stolen load of whiskey other than as a gateway to a much larger prize and Buddy would pay with his very soul.

    This chapter gives us some insight on Isaac, the embodiment of pure evil.


    Jeremiah Hill was an Old Testament preacher; the epitome of Fire & Brimstone, a believer of an angry, wrathful God. As the founder of the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church of Alda, Kentucky, Jeremiah incorporated snake handling into each and every service. That included the Sunday morning and evening services, the Wednesday night Prayer Meeting, and practically any other time he opened a Bible and spoke before a group of people needing to hear the word of God.

    It is safe to say Jeremiah handled the deadly serpents a few hundred times per year and was bitten at least half of those times. It had become so routine over the years that nobody kept count anymore. Both sides of his forearms had scars on top of scars from the elbows to the wrists. Some would say he had merely developed an immunity to the venom but anyone who dared to express that sentiment within earshot of the Reverend Hill would be severely chastised for such blasphemy.

    Jeremiah fathered three sons; his wife, Athena, died giving birth to the third, and largest of the boys, whom he named Samson.

    The elder son was named Paul. Paul became a reverend himself, although of a milder variety. Though he didn’t allow it to show on the surface, Jeremiah was proud of his son being the pastor of a medium sized Methodist church in Lexington, Kentucky. There were whispers the boy wanted to get far away from his father, knowing he would never travel that far to visit, especially to such a large, and most assuredly sinful, city such as Lexington.

    Samson was a disappointment to say the least. Dumb as an ox and as stubborn as a mule his father would say. The boy’s biggest sin in his father’s eyes was his refusal to read. How could he ever study the word of God if he didn’t learn to read? The boy had to be spiteful for the Lord would never create a living creature this defective.

    After nearly twelve years of scolding and screaming, praying and beating, the old man gave up on his son having any mental, emotional, or spiritual value. At the age of eleven Samson was nearly six feet tall with another foot to grow.

    Jeremiah came to see the wisdom of God’s plan and cursed his own stupidity for not seeing it earlier. He prayed nearly nonstop for days, begging God’s forgiveness and offering any penance required of him. When a white dove appeared on his window sill on the third morning of his praying and fasting, Jeremiah knew all was forgiven.

    Samson was pulled from school, something Jeremiah now understood the Lord wanted him to do years earlier and began leasing the boy out for labor, a somewhat common practice in those days, albeit not with kids so young. But age notwithstanding, Samson’s physical abilities were impressive. He worked tirelessly and without complaint, as one indoctrinated by a father not known for sparing the rod. Loading the 300 pound casks of whiskey onto wagons and trucks was child’s play for him, as was hanging thousands of pounds of tobacco per day in the curing barns. Jeremiah felt the Lord was pleased with this arrangement and donated a portion of the boy’s earnings to the church. The rest he kept for himself.

    And there was the middle son, Isaac. If Samson was a giant, Isaac was almost a dwarf, barely topping five feet by the time he was an adult. His full, slightly overhanging brow and sharp, knifelike nose gave him the appearance of an animal, though it could be argued whether he most resembled a rodent or a fowl. Despite his diminutive stature and odd appearance, Isaac was never physically bullied or verbally assaulted by the other boys, which was an oddity itself. Alda was in the heart of Appalachia, where Harlan was considered a major metropolis. Unless they were highly motivated to alter the course of their lives, or just plain lucky, most males were destined for a brutal, and somewhat short life in the coal mines. The more entrepreneurial types might try a less demanding career in the moonshine business and risk a shortened life by a revenuer’s bullet rather than black lung disease.

    These were the type of kids who normally didn’t shy away from passing out a beat down to an odd looking boy simply for entertainment. It was the natural order of things. But they never messed with Isaac. They not only spared him any butt kickings, they gave him a wide berth, almost treating him with a reluctant reverence. Some say it was because he was the preacher’s son, but that had never earned anyone special treatment in the past; in fact, it may have provided extra incentive.

    Most agree it was his eyes, his dark piercing stare, that deterred his potential attackers from any contact. And his serious demeanor. Isaac appeared to be in deep thought, about what, nobody could fathom, but he was enigmatic enough to stir apprehension amongst the bravest of his would be enemies.

    Unlike Samson, Isaac was not only literate, he was something of a prodigy, able to quote Bible verses effortlessly. He was a constant source of irritation to his brother Paul, who studied the scriptures relentlessly in an effort to please their demanding father. Isaac felt that if Paul was meant to be a preacher, it would come naturally to him and he wouldn’t have to work so #### hard at it. But then, Isaac underestimated his own gifts.

    Isaac developed a powerful hatred for his father. It stemmed mostly from his treatment of his brother Samson. Isaac kept his own counsel however, not anxious to bring down beatings upon himself. When his father let Samson out like a slave for hire, Isaac decided that was his breaking point. By then Isaac and learned the mind was a far more powerful tool than the body. He had watched the moonshiners risk their lives to sell their poison in the very county they lived. When somebody died from drinking the vile brew, his relatives, if they cared enough, went after the maker of the product or they sent the law to his front door. Isaac saw this as a dumb way to do business, especially since nobody became wealthy doing it, and was amazed at how the fruitless cycle continued.

    Well, he had plans of his own. He had done the math and worked out the logistics in his head. His plans involved the labor and risks of others and the profit for himself. The first step of his plan was to get the hell out of this place, something he wouldn’t do without first safeguarding the welfare of his baby brother, the only human Isaac ever harbored any compassion for.

  4. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    It was Easter Sunday and Reverend Jeremiah Hill had planned more fire and brimstone than usual, sending home the message of the painful sacrifice made by God’s only son. He even had a special snake in the basket beneath the podium. With some of the extra cash derived from Samson’s labors, he ordered a new poisonous monster just for this occasion. A man in a sleek, black sedan delivered the big Timber Rattler all the way from West Virginia just before daybreak this very morning. It was as beautiful and menacing as promised. He knew his congregation would be impressed, and more importantly would be his Lord God.

    What is he doing here? Isaac quit attending services a few years ago at the age of fifteen when his father finally saw something in the boy’s eyes that made him not want to push the issue anymore. Though he would never admit fearing his own son, he accepted the fact that the boy had chose, surely under Satan’s advisement, to no longer obey him. He had done his best to bring his son to God and now the matter was out of his hands, or so he tried to convince himself.

    It was startling enough to see his son here, but the fact that he was in the center of the first pew was particularly unsettling. He never sat up front before. And he never smiled either.

    After getting over the shock of seeing Isaac, Jeremiah finally noticed his other son, Samson, seated next to him. He never allowed that big oaf to sit up front blocking everyone else’s view of the pulpit and Isaac knows this as he sits there with his mocking little grin. How dare he!

    It was eleven sharp and the Reverend Hill never began a late sermon. Never! He would not allow his service to be delayed, especially on Easter. His flock looked at him expectantly as the hand stood straight up on the big wall clock. He raised his worn Bible above his head, and with eyes closed, tilted his head back and began the opening prayer, building up to a crescendo before exhaling a mighty AMEN!

    Jeremiah couldn’t seem to hit his stride. Even avoiding looking at his sons, his awareness of their presence in the church nagged at the edge of his consciousness. The crowd didn’t seem to notice. Their enthusiasm rocked the old building as hands went into the air and feet stomped the wood plank floor.

    Twenty minutes in, Jeremiah began quoting Mark 16:17-18 and as improbable as it seemed, the volume of the worshippers increased to a deafening level, for they knew what happened next, even before the preacher reached for one of the burlap sacks by his feet.

    Jeremiah unwittingly made eye contact with Isaac as he bent for the sack. Isaac lipped synced something to the old man through smiling lips. What? Jeremiah’s mind screamed as he reached for the sack, fumbling it and almost releasing the snake onto the stage. Cursing his own clumsiness, he pulled the sack up with a tight grip, not trusting himself to look away from it as he reached inside.

    He planned to save the monster from West Virginia for his grand finale. He would start with a local rattler he had used before, then blow their minds with his latest acquisition. And as if this hadn’t been a strange enough day already, it just got weirder.

    The snake, though docile enough, had no movement as he pulled it from the sack. What the hell? The #### thing was dead! Isaac was now smiling broadly as he clapped his hands above his head, joining the congregation in their fervor. Jeremiah began speaking in tongues as he shook the deceased reptile with anger, as if it had brought its fate upon itself before tossing it into a corner. Isaac never knew for sure if that was a ruse to cover his confusion or if the Holy Spirit actually stepped in at that moment. In any case, the spectators seemed not to notice, nor care.

    Jeremiah uncharacteristically paused to take some deep breaths, allowing the bewildered crowd to quieten. Without making eye contact with anyone, he spoke of an evil presence amongst them, a messenger of Satan right here in this sacred service! This brought about oohs and ahs and shouts of anger. A perfect opening for what remained in the second burlap sack below.

    There were looks of unabashed awe as he withdrew the monstrous Timber Rattler followed by a screeching HALLEJEAUH! from the back row. The mighty serpent wrapped itself from Jeremiah’s wrist to his upper arm with several feet left over, dangling toward the floor. The old preacher fell into his practiced rhythm, not intimidated by the additional size. He moved the snake from arm to arm and later draped it around his neck, delivering his sermon and never breaking stride.

    As if by magnetic pull, he turned to Isaac, who was mouthing words to him again. And once again he couldn’t decipher them.

    Jeremiah had been bitten hundreds of times, but never in the face. The Timber Rattler turned slowly, almost gracefully, to face his handler before striking, slamming, into the man’s face. The predator’s fangs were an inch and a half long. In a tenth of a second they had penetrated the soft flesh of Jeremiah’s left eyelid before inserting themselves into the eyeball. The fraction of a second was all that was required for the deadly venom to enter the brain cavity through the soft membrane. The preacher reflexively yanked back on the serpent’s head, feeling the moist eyeball land on his cheek as he did so. All sound seemed to evaporate from the room as he turned again to Isaac. He still couldn’t read his son’s lips, but there was no need. The words in his ears were soft but distinct, as if Isaac’s mouth was an inch away. It’s time to die.

    The rattler fell to the floor, causing mayhem as it went through the congregation, eyeball still attached to a fang. Women and men alike fainted and others erupted into tongues, certain this was an omen of the most serious nature. The big snake, who never asked to be here, almost made it to the door when a man withdrew a long barreled .44 Magnum from his work boot and shot it through the head.

    Within a few days the dark rumors circulated in earnest. A deacon reportedly observed Isaac talking to the snakes before the service began. Not just talking at them, but seriously speaking to them as if they were actually communicating. It was never ascertained if this actually occurred but Isaac was soon known as a minion of the Devil himself.

    The big rattler was dead on the spot but the old preacher survived that fateful Easter Sunday, though he never preached another sermon, nor did he ever speak another coherent sentence. He spent the remainder of his days mumbling to himself at the State Hospital for the Insane in Lexington, where his son Paul was his only visitor.

    Isaac was never seen or heard from again in the town of Alda. He walked away, virtually disappearing, amidst the confusion that afternoon, hand in hand with his brother Samson. Some say he was whisked away by the Devil himself. An old woman claims he dropped into the old dry well behind the chapel, surely a direct route to hell.
  5. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    “Daddy, where are we going to eat tonight?” Matt asked his father as they rolled into the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia.

    “I figured you’d still be full from that fine meal that fella bought us today,” Buddy answered, knowing how lame it sounded even as the words came out of his mouth. That meal was eight hours ago and his son knew it was his habit to stop for a light meal later in the evening, but what his son didn’t know was how little cash there was on board. Buddy stopped for fuel while Matt was napping. Besides fueling he bought a large Snickers bar, a Mountain Dew, a pack of Marlboro Red 100s, and five Powerball tickets (it would have been foolish not to with a $290 million jackpot) leaving him a grand total of twenty dollars and change and it was only Tuesday.

    “Sure, Dad, it was great, but I was hoping we could at least get a little snack or something. I’m gettin’ sorta hungry.”

    Maybe Lorna is right. I’m just a sack of #### who has no business calling myself a father. But I’ll be ###### if I let my own son feel that way about me.

    For just a second he thought of calling her, asking her to send him some money via Western Union. He could come up with some excuse, but no, she would see right through it. In the end she would call him a loser and forbid him from ever seeing Matt again. He was lucky to get him for this trip as it was, and he suspected she relented only to have a free week with her new boyfriend. The smug ####### with his Corvette and lake house. Guys like that made him sick, probably had everything handed to him without ever having to earn anything like he did.

    Buddy only had a vague idea of a plan as he pulled into the rest area shortly after sunset, thinking he could figure it out as he went along. He eased through the center drive of the truck parking area where the big rigs parked in diagonal spaces, over fifty slots on either side. To his right, the side facing away from the interstate and the convenience center, he noticed a trucker on his knees beside the cab of his truck. He held a flashlight and there seemed to be tools scattered about on the pavement, along with what appeared to be the battery box cover. The man was obviously having a problem. Buddy found an unoccupied space just three slots down from there. After walking with Matt to the restroom he told him to wait in the truck for just a few minutes and they would be soon stopping for some cheeseburgers and fries, cheering the boy up considerably.

    “Howdy there driver,” Buddy said as he approached the driver of the apparently disabled truck.
    “Anything I can help you with? “

    “I got a connection problem here,” the driver answered. “I believe I could fix it myself if I had the proper sized wrench. I just can’t get a good fit on this bolt with this dang adjustable wrench or these pliers.” Just as he said that his wrench slipped resulting in a loud crackle accompanied by a shower of sparks causing both men to jump back.

    “Watch out there driver. You don’t want to short something out. Hang on and I’ll look in my tool box. I believe I got the right size wrench you need for that,” Buddy told him as he headed back to his truck.

    You can do this you can do this you can do this. He’s a little guy half your size. Just a solid whack behind the ear puts him out cold. Not too much. Don’t want to kill him. That would be wrong and you’re not a bad guy. Just need to feed your kid is all.

    Buddy rummaged around in his tool box until he found the half inch wrench that would fit the battery cable clamps, slipping it into his pants pocket. He touched the bat hesitantly, as if it would strike out at him like an angry wildcat. Just pick it up. This will only take a minute and you will be on your way. The bat was an miniature version of an authentic Louisville Slugger, made from premium hardwood, purchased at a souvenir shop in Kentucky. It was eighteen inches long and as effective as a police officer’s night stick.

    Rather than wait for Buddy to return with the proper tool, the unsuspecting driver continued to work on his truck, however ineptly. Buddy eased silently around the hood of the rig to find his prey bent over the battery box, conveniently facing away from him as he raised the bat to shoulder height, preparing for swift, solid, sidearm swing. Just do it just do it.

    Rinnnggg…rinnnggg…rinnnggg. Buddy’s cell phone, ringer set on high volume, and in his front pocket, abruptly broke the silence and startled both men; the driver with the broken truck dropped his pliers across a battery terminal creating another shower of sparks as Buddy dropped his Louisville Slugger, sending it rolling beneath a neighboring truck.

    The driver spun around as Buddy withdrew the phone from his pocket, looking at it as if were an alien from outer space. Answer it! Don’t just stand there like a dummy.

    “Uh, hello?” he said hesitantly.

    “Hello indeed. How are you doing Buddy? Doing a good deed are you?” Isaac intoned, his voice at once comforting and chilling.

    “Well, actually yes. I was helping out another trucker.” How the hell did he know?

    “That’s good, Buddy, very good. That’s what you should be doing, helping folks, not harming them. It would be a terrible shame if you were to do something that caused you to be taken away. Then what would become of Matt? He is surely a precious little boy and it is your duty to safeguard him. A duty in which you have been sorely lax.”

    “I know. I’m sorry,” Buddy said, not understanding why he had become subservient to this stranger and not questioning it either.

    “No time to feel sorry for yourself, Lord knows you have been doing enough of that already. Now go to the Travelers Rest Truckstop on I-81. You are only twelve miles from it. Go to the Western Union counter and identify yourself. Tell them you have five hundred dollars waiting for you. It has all been arranged. Now go.” The call abruptly ended.

    Buddy looked at his phone, dumbfounded, unable to process what just happened. The other driver spoke up, breaking his reverie. “Hey, mister? You alright? And what the hell was that all about?” he said, pointing toward the broken bat. The truck it had rolled under had since left, snapping the bat in half as it did. Buddy never even noticed.

    Buddy made no attempt to explain anything. He merely handed the man the half inch wrench. “That oughta be what you need. I gotta go. Good luck.”
  6. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Buddy approached the Western Union counter hesitantly, still believing this unexpected windfall too good to be true. His apprehension quickly dissolved as the clerk counted out five crisp hundred dollar bills into his palm.

    “There you go, Mr. Hinton,” she cheerfully told him. “The service charge has been pre-paid by the sender. Have a wonderful evening!”

    It wasn’t until he was filling his plate on his second trip at the buffet counter when he wondered how Isaac knew his last name. Surely at least that much information was required to wire money? And how the hell did he know his phone number? Surely he gave it to him in Tennessee and just don't remember. No matter, for Buddy had a hand to mouth mentality; a pocket full of cash and a full belly trumped any of life's mysteries or misgivings.

    Matt was playing a video game on his iPad when his father’s cell phone rang. Thinking it might be Mom, he answered it without looking at the incoming number.

    “Hello?” he said.

    “Hello, Matt. How are you this evening? I trust you had an enjoyable meal?”

    “Yes, sir, I sure did. Is this Mr. Isaac?”

    “Indeed it is, and just call me Isaac. Did you have some vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup on top?”

    “You bet I did and it was yummy! How did you know that anyway?”

    “Oh, just a wild guess. Where is your father?”

    “Back in the sleeper with the curtain zipped up. I’m pretty sure he’s watching some dumb movie on his laptop with sound turned down. He does that sometimes.”

    “That’s too bad. I bet you wish you had company sometime, don’t you?”

    “Yes, sir, I do,” Matt answered with a touch of sadness.

    “How about when your home with Mom? Is it better then?” Isaac asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

    “Well, sometimes it is,” he answered uncertainly.

    “What do you mean by that, Matt?”

    “Mom goes out with Gary a lot. I don’t really like him. He’s nice to me I guess, but he acts like he’s real important or something.”

    “Like he’s better than you?” Isaac prompted.

    “Yeah, like that. And I have to stay at my dumb cousin’s house whenever they’re gone and I hate it. I wish I had a real family.”

    “I understand, Matt. I really do. I have a feeling things will get better for you, sooner than you realize.”

    “You really think so?” Matt asked, hopefully.

    “Like I said, my friend, just a feeling. I have to go now, so have a good night and sweet dreams.” Before Matt could respond the line had gone dead and by the time he woke up the next morning he wasn’t sure the phone call ever happened at all.
  7. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Buddy arrived on schedule for his Thursday morning delivery, despite horrendous traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and some near undecipherable directions. Even his dispatcher seemed mildly surprised, based on Buddy’s past performance.

    “Good job driver, and do I have a load for you,” the dispatcher said over the phone.

    “Lay it on me boss,” Buddy said, prepared for the worst, not accustomed to getting “good” loads very often.

    “We have a shipper right back across the river in Paterson, New Jersey who will load you anytime you can get there. It’s a light load of plastic containers and he says he can have you loaded in twenty minutes. The load is going to Louisville, Kentucky and delivers anytime we can get there. But if there is any way possible, we need to get it off before noon so we can load some liquor in Crittenden just down the road from Louisville.”

    Buddy found it amusing when his dispatcher used the phrase “we” whenever it was a hot load, as if he were actually in the truck helping out with the driving.

    “Where is the liquor load going?” Buddy asked.

    “Plano, Texas, and by getting loaded Friday you will have all weekend to be there by Monday and even catch up on some rest.”

    Which I will need after running all ###### night tonight, Buddy thought, but only said, “Will do, boss. Just give me an address and a pick-up number and I will be on my way.”

    Buddy experienced his usual feeling of relief and a mission accomplished upon taking the Cross Bronx Expressway out to the George Washington Bridge, putting New York City in his rear view mirrors. God only knew how much he hated that place.

    The two upcoming loads would make for a good payday next week but that was chicken feed as far as Buddy was concerned. His mind was on the ten grand and how soon before he could get his fingers on it. Just having the few hundred bucks currently in his pocket made him feel like more of a man and the thought of the thick stack of hundreds awaiting him brought him pleasure he had never before known.

    The load in Paterson did prove to be a breeze. The warehouse was mere blocks from the interstate exit and the nice guy on the forklift loaded him up in fifteen minutes allowing Buddy to be riding south by southwest well before noon.

    The Angel on his left shoulder whispered to him. Things are going pretty good lately. Easy loads. Good miles, good paycheck on the way. Are you sure you want to screw up a good thing for a short term gain? You know you will get caught like your ####### always does. Except this time you will lose more than your job. You’ll go to prison and even if you don’t get shanked to death you will probably never see your son again.

    As he usually did, Buddy ignored any worthwhile advice, regardless of its source, Heavenly or not.
  8. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    The meal at the old Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant on the outskirts of Allentown was as good as it gets, frequented by tourists, truckers, and locals alike. Matt was especially enamored with his dessert; Dutch apple pie, a genuine treat on its own, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top and a dash of caramel on top.

    Buddy nearly forgot his own pie watching his son eat. The boy seemed happy lately and Buddy was convinced it was of his own doing. He was a good father, just a little short on cash is all. And things were about to get a whole lot better. Even Lorna didn’t bust his ### over the phone today after talking to Matt. She said the boy sounded like he was doing well, a first for her. Maybe she was finally coming to the realization that he wasn’t such an ogre after all.

    By the time they were heading back down through northern Virginia on I-81 Matt had been asleep for an hour or more, satiated from the fine meal, the ear bud connected to the the new iPod his father bought him that day in New Jersey still in his ear.

    Buddy was in a rare, satisfied mood himself. The cool night air gave a little extra pep to the big diesel power plant. The full moon sat high in the sky, casting an ethereal glow upon the majestic Appalachian mountains. The hills seemed to unroll beneath the truck rather than the truck having to climb them.

    He stumbled across a Nirvana song he liked on the radio, hell he loved it, turned it up some and turned off the CB. In the zone now, thinking how much a nice fat joint would hit the spot. If only he hadn’t been so broke when he left home that wouldn’t have been a problem. Well, it soon wouldn’t be a problem again, by God.

    Maybe buy a pound he thought. Hell, make that a few pounds. He had a friend in Grand Rapids who could be his distributor. Even after his cut Buddy figured he could easily triple his investment, thinking like a business man now. It takes money to make money and he just needed a little push start.

    Nirvana led to Green Day, followed by Radiohead and then came Pearl Jam as Buddy’s thoughts of his soon to be herbal empire flowed with his favorite music. After a few of these runs at ten grand a pop he would soon be parking this truck for good and telling his boss where to stick it.

    Sheryl Crow was extolling the virtues of a morning beer when Buddy’s cell phone brought his thoughts back to the present. A tingle ran from his spine to the base of his skull. He knew who the caller was before he looked at the screen that would inform him the call was from an unknown number.

    “Hello, Buddy. You’re enjoying the late evening air I suppose. I enjoy the night myself, so few interruptions,” Isaac said, not allowing Buddy an opportunity to speak first.

    “Uh, yeah, it’s a nice night for driving,” Buddy replied lamely, unable to explain his sudden apprehension. The big plans he was so recently concocting now seemed like foolish pipe dreams as he knew the reality of what would be demanded of him would soon reveal itself.

    It’s not too late to say no. Forget your lame brained plans which will land you in prison if you even survive what he expects from you. As usual, Buddy tried to exorcise the voice from his head and would have screamed out loud had Isaac not been on the phone.

    Perhaps even Angels know a lost cause when they see one. Okay, I won’t be bothering you again.

    “Indeed it is, young man. Indeed it is. You are on schedule I presume?”

    “Yes, sir, cruisin’ right on along.”

    “Excellent! The load you’re picking up at Crittenden couldn’t be more perfect for our needs.” Isaac sounded absolutely delighted and Buddy no longer wondered where the man got his information. Best not to question the freakiness of the whole situation as long as the payday is as promised.

    “The distillery at Crittenden bottles Knob Creek bourbon, top shelf stuff. Some of Kentucky’s finest product, or so I’m told. I’m an abstainer myself, being brought up in the church and all. I don’t begrudge a man a drink, no sir, but I would hate to show up at the gates of Heaven with alcohol on my breath, and you don’t know when He’s going to call for you.”

    “No, sir, you sure don’t,” was all Buddy could think to say, having no idea where this conversation was leading.

    “You’re a good man, Buddy. Just stay on course and you will be hearing from me tomorrow.”

  9. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Buddy made good time through the night despite the steep grades through West Virginia on I-64 thanks to the light cargo in the trailer. His only stop was in Grayson, Kentucky for fuel and a coffee to go. He envied Matt sleeping soundly in the bunk and longed for the day when he could sleep every night and keep his own schedule. Soon, he thought, soon.

    Upon delivering the load in Louisville Buddy received new instructions informing him that the Crittenden load could be picked up any time before midnight. As tired as he was from working over thirty hours without so much as a brief nap this was good news indeed.

    After securing a parking space in a small truckstop south of town, Buddy and Matt went inside for a fast food meal of roast beef sandwiches and potato cakes, Matt getting a large chocolate milk shake to take back to the truck.

    Buddy was so exhausted he didn’t bother to undress, but did manage to kick off his shoes before flopping onto the bed.

    Matt sat in the driver seat as he was prone to do when his father was in bed. He imagined he was piloting the big rig as he had imaginary conversations on the CB with his fellow drivers. He longed to tug on the cord for the air horn but knew that wouldn’t go over well at all.

    Buddy’s cell phone, left in the cup holder again, rand and Matt answered it quickly, lest it wake his dad.

    “Hello, Matt,” Isaac said, as if they were old friends by now.

    “Oh, hi Isaac!” Matt replied, happy to have company.

    “What are you doing besides enjoying that big old chocolate shake?”

    “Not much. Just pretending like I’m drivin’ and listening to my new iPod.”

    “You call that ‘not much’? When I was your age we didn’t have those nice things to occupy ourselves with so you know what we did?”

    “No, what?” Matt answered, hoping for another story from the farm, and he wasn’t disappointed.

    “Well, sometimes we would play cowboy on the pigs.”

    “Now how would you do that?” Matt asked, clearly intrigued.

    “Easy. We just climbed on and rode ‘em like horses. Sometimes we would have our own little rodeos. My cousin even made a saddle for his favorite pig.”

    “Wow, Isaac! That sounds like a whole lotta fun. Did you ever get hurt on them pigs?”

    “That’s a right fair question, Matt. The only time any of us ever got hurt was for coming home with our clothes all muddy from when them pigs would throw us off like buckin’ broncos and we’d land smack in the mud. We’d get our bottoms wore out for that. One time my Daddy told me if I wanted to act like a pig I could live like one and made me spend the whole night in the pig sty.”

    Matt squealed with delight imagining such a scene. “That sounds awesome. I wish I could’ve grown up in a place like that.”

    “It’s not too late, Matt.”

    “What do you mean by that?”

    “I mean you could visit a place like that, maybe spend the summer. How does that sound to you?”

    “Oh man, that would be the best ever!”

    “I was hoping you would say that. Just don’t say anything to your father yet. Give me a chance to talk to him first, okay?”

    “I promise I won’t. Geez, Isaac, I won’t be able to think about anything else now.”

    “Don’t fret, young man. It will all happen sooner than you could imagine.”
  10. Mrclean091

    Mrclean091 Member

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    Well. Waiting. I like you discriptions of the people, I feel like I know them.
  11. Big Dave

    Big Dave What?! A low bridge and boardwalk at same time?!!

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    Awwwwwwe man. I thought RR had another chapter..:17:
  12. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    I do, just for you Big Dave. I wasn't sure anybody was paying attention. Thanks to everybody that's reading!
  13. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Buddy slept hard for three hours, wanting more but knew he had to get the load picked up, exhibiting a sense of duty he rarely felt before. But ten thousand dollars was a motivation he never had before either.

    After a brief drive to the distillery the loading went smoothly, the entire time spent at the facility was less than an hour.

    Travelling south on the interstate, Buddy stared at his phone, willing it to ring, nervously checking to insure the battery was charged or to make sure the ringer hadn’t been inadvertently turned off.

    Paranoia set in and he wondered if this was all a ruse, just some cruel trick. But he tried to reassure himself that nobody in his right mind would have given him the five hundred just for kicks. Nobody would, that’s who. Unless Isaac was just some crazy old man who liked having fun with total strangers. Just stop it right now, he told himself, quit it. It will all work out.

    An hour down the road, nearing Elizabethtown, he had finally settled down, accepting the fact that it was probably too good to be true and he had no control over the situation at this point anyway.

    That’s when his phone rang. He picked it up as if it might bite him. The display read Unknown caller, but he knew. #### right he knew.

    “Good evening, Buddy. I trust all is well and you are prepared to do business?” Was there a sinister undertone? Buddy didn’t think he could trust his own sanity lately, much less detect a subtle nuance in one’s speech pattern.

    “All going as planned,” was all he said. That was enough he was sure.

    “I knew I could count on you. Now listen carefully and follow my instructions to the letter.” Without waiting for confirmation, Isaac continued speaking.

    “I want to take the exit coming up.” Before he could ask what exit that would be a sign appeared in his headlights, State Route 224 Hammonville and Millerstown. What the heck could be there he wondered?

    Isaac went silent, remaining on the line until Buddy was on the exit ramp. “Now I want you to turn left. As soon as you cross back over the interstate you will see a small shopping center on your right. Turn into it. There is a sign warning truckers not to park but don’t worry about that. Just drive over to the far east side of the lot by the big blue dumpster and you won’t be bothered. Have you got that so far?”

    “Yes, I see the dumpster now.”

    “Excellent. A few hundred feet in front of you is the Dairy Freeze. It’s a fine establishment. I’ve been there myself many times. I want you and Matt to take a walk up there. Take your time. I know you could use a cup of coffee and I want you to get Matt a banana split. They are simply to die for. After you finish, return to your truck and we will take it from there.”

    “But what does this have to do with anything,” Buddy protested.

    “Just do it. I won’t ask again,” Isaac retorted in a tone that put ice in Buddy’s veins.

    Buddy’s truck was equipped with a device known as a Quallcom. It provided his company with precise, up to the minute information regarding the movements of the rig. They could find out with a keystroke not only the location of the truck, but whether or not the engine was running. If the truck was moving, they knew how fast it was going, what direction it was travelling and even what gear it was in.

    The Quallcom also served as a communications device used to send load assignments and any other pertinent information for the driver. Conversely, the driver could send information regarding the load; weight and quantity of product, destination, ETA, etc.

    Driver and dispatcher could send text messages back and forth just like with a cell phone as well. In short, it was the life blood of the operation.

    Matt and Buddy had seated themselves in the Dairy Freeze when the man appeared from behind the blue dumpster. Moving under the cover of darkness, this being the only area of the shopping center without overhead lighting, he was on the tractor deck plate in seconds. This was the platform between the back of the tractor and the front of the trailer.

    The Qualcomm unit was mounted on a bracket near the roof of the cab. A series of cables went from the unit, beneath the cab, and found their way to the control panel on the dash.

    The dark clad figure used a large set of electricians snips to cut neatly through the cluster of wires taking the truck out of the electronic loop, effectively making it the proverbial ship lost at sea.
  14. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Rather than return to his hideout behind the dumpster, the man walked casually to the center of the shopping center parking lot to an awaiting automobile.

    “Hey, buddy! Excuse me sir, you plan on leaving that rig out here overnight?” The questioner was the manager of the PayLess shoe store. Having just closed for the night he happened to notice the man walking away from the tractor trailer. He didn’t mind if the drivers stopped long enough to eat but knew from experience that once you started let them park overnight it wouldn’t take long before there would be a dozen out here one morning. The man ignored him and picked up his pace getting to his car.

    As he started the car the shoe store manager was writing down the tag number before the car sped away. He then had to ask himself why he bothered writing down the car tag number since the truck was sitting right there. Oh well, he was tired and ready to go home. He decided to let it go and if the truck was still there in the morning he would talk to the police then.

    Matt somehow sensed Isaac was behind the banana split without having to be told. The man just had a knack for knowing about the things he liked. Buddy wasn’t as pleased with the unexplained delay, the coffee turning to acid in his stomach as he realized how close he was to committing a felony. The little Angel, as promised, was not to be heard from.


    Isaac instructed him to continue east on the state highway which soon became narrow and curvy. Twice he was startled by small groups of deer standing along the shoulder of the road. Buddy could have sworn they gave him foreboding looks as he passed by them.

    After fourteen miles of the dreary road Isaac had him turn south on another state highway which was somewhat hillier and curvier, but only for half the distance, where he found himself in the town of Hope.

    Despite the late hour, it was obvious that many of the businesses with the lights out were not simply closed for the night, but closed for good. Not exactly a ghost town but surely on the downhill side of thriving.

    The town of Hope came into being during the 1960s as a result of several major coal veins being discovered at that time in the surrounding mountains. The 1970s were the boom years followed by a leveling out during the next decade. The 1990s weren’t so bad until a series of seemingly unrelated events combined to have a crippling effect, like a man with a kidney infection tripping over a log and breaking his leg, only to be bitten by vampire bats while lying in the forest overnight, unable to summon help.

    New EPA regulations began eating away at profits while nervous lenders began calling in loans. The Union was demanding better pay and conditions while management was asking for concessions. The DOT, in a movement to collect more revenue from trucking violations, began cracking down on the coal trucks which had previously been allowed to operate with impunity. In short, everything just went to hell in a hand basket, as the old folks were fond of saying.
  15. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    The light manufacturing plants in town employed a few hundred people. The small county hospital had a staff of sixty-four for all three shifts. The government jobs comprised a police department of seven officers, the post office and a water treatment plant. All in all they considered themselves fortunate compared to other towns that ceased to exist when the coal went away.

    Warehouse space made available by abandoned businesses was cheap and plentiful, by the month, or in this case, by the day. Isaac needed only short term storage for it had already been arranged for his product to be moving on to varying destinations in several smaller trucks long before sunrise.

    Buddy turned left onto Industrial Avenue just a hundred yards beyond the eastern city limits sign. A truck and trailer repair service occupied one corner and a lumber supply business sat on the other for the folks unwilling to drive forty miles to the nearest Home Depot.

    He pulled down into a lower gear as he lumbered along searching for an old wooden sign that read Millis Textile. He almost passed it up as it was leaning badly with the painted lettering nearly faded completely away.

    As promised, a metal gate was swung open on his left, a chain with a heavy padlock on its end hung loose from the gate. A flashlight blinked once. The figure holding the light was barely visible in the shadows of the barnlike structure a hundred feet inside the gate.

    Buddy searched for a loading dock as he was being motioned inside the vacant lot. He did as instructed, which was to drive directly toward the building. The voice from the shadows ordered him to kill his headlights, making him feel foolish for not doing it earlier. He was still wondering where he was going to back up to when the huge door before him rolled to one side revealing a dimly lit cavernous space with enough room to park several tractor-trailers.

    Another man stood inside the opening and without speaking motioned Buddy to follow him forward. After only thirty feet or so the man held up his fist in the universal stop gesture. Before the parking brakes were even set the trailer doors were being swung open and a portable steel ramp was being wheeled up behind the trailer.

    As he walked to the rear of the trailer Buddy saw the size of the steel ramp, wondering how one man could have maneuvered it at all, much less so quickly. There must be at least another man here that he hasn’t seen yet.

    Then he saw Samson emerge from the depths of the trailer where he had been inspecting the cases of whiskey for damage. Jesus, would you look at that, Buddy all but blurted out. That fellow must be seven feet tall and check out those hands.

    He was so much in awe by Samson that he almost allowed himself to be run over by the silent, electric fork lift the other man had driven from another part of the building.

    “Watch out fella!” the lift driver warned good naturedly. “He’s a bigun ain’t he? Why, ole Sam there could pick up one of them pallets of whiskey and wouldn’t even need no fork lift. Ain’t that right Sam?”

    Samson just stood still and stared in their direction with neither humor nor animosity. There was something in his eyes though, maybe a secret knowledge? Buddy didn’t dwell on it and he sure didn’t want to be accused of rudeness and focused his eyes elsewhere.

    “Ole Sam, he don’t talk so much, but he can be a good fella to have around. Long as you stay on his good side, that is. Now you just step aside and let me get this trailer unloaded so we can get you the hell outa here. The less time we hang around here the better.”

    The eighteen pallets of liquor was off the trailer in twelve minutes and the barn style door was being rolled open by Samson for Buddy to back out.

    “What about my money?” Buddy asked the lift driver, not willing to leave empty handed.

    “What about it?” the fellow answered.

    “Come on now, don’t be messing around here,” Buddy pleaded.

    “Ain’t nobody messin’ around, mister. I ain’t got no money for you.”

    So this is how my miserable life ends, in some abandoned warehouse in some ######## town that probably isn’t even on the map. That big Lurch looking dude from the Addam’s family will smash my head on the concrete while this creepy little guy with a jaw full of chaw does God knows what to my son.

    He almost wished the little Angel would show up on his shoulder one last time if only to say I told you so. Then he could apologize for not listening. No wonder Isaac was so loose with the five hundred bucks. Small price to pay for about fifty grand worth of whiskey and whatever he can get for a two year old tractor-trailer rig after it’s been repainted and the serial numbers altered.

    Just like my Daddy told me and my Marine Drill Instructor screamed at me and my ex-wife wouldn’t let me forget; I ain’t nothing but a God ###### fool and now I’m paying for it in the worst way. If he had a pistol in his hand he would have used it on himself.

    “But I was promised and I delivered,” Buddy said, trying unsuccessfully not to whine.

    “I’m just ######’ with ya,” the man said and broke out a big smile before spitting a stream of tobacco juice onto the dusty floor. Samson laughed silently causing Buddy to think maybe the giant was a mute.

    “You city fellers sure can’t take a joke, that’s fer dang sure. Now you just back on outa here and quit wastin’ time. If the cops show up me and ole Sam will be haulin’ ### out the back door leaving you with every bit of this ####, which I reckon is worth at least twenty years federal time. Now git on outa here. Isaac will tell you what to do cause he don’t tell us more than we need to know,” the lift driver said, no longer smiling.
  16. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Buddy couldn’t refrain from trembling as he started the rig and started backing from the warehouse. There was no room to turn around, forcing him to back across the street into an empty lot on the other side with no traffic at this hour to hinder him. He doubted if there was traffic at any hour. He left his lights off until he reached the end of the block at the main road. It was only then that he realized his Quallcom unit on the dash was dark, which, after a moment’s consideration, he decided was a stroke of luck that would play in his favor.

    His plan was to act as if his trailer had been robbed while he slept. Not the best story but how could they prove otherwise? He would spend the night at that shopping center and say it happened there and there would be no electronic trail of him having ever left. If he got fired, so what? Screw ‘em, he would have his little fortune to start his new life. The boy will never learn thought the Angel but kept it to herself.

    The phone rang as he rolled up to the stop sign. “I trust you can find your way back to the interstate. Return to where you were parked before and I will be seeing you soon,” and after a moment’s hesitation, “and Buddy, thanks for doing a good job. Now the reward is yours.”
  17. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    The ride back out to the shopping center on the mountain roads was an easier one without the forty plus thousand pounds of liquor on board and a lighter load on his mind.

    “That sure was a short load, wasn’t it?” Matt asked, coming out of the sleeper.

    “Yeah, that happens every now and then.”

    “Where are we going now?”

    “Back to where we took that break. I imagine we will be spending the night there. It’s too late to get another load tonight.”

    “Are we going to see Isaac?”

    “Maybe, why did you ask me that?”

    “I don’t know. Maybe I just dreamed it or something.”

    The shopping center was all closed down for the night, even the Dairy Freeze was dark. There were no vehicles in the parking lot which worked out perfectly for Buddy’s plan, for it was imperative that there would be no witnesses to discredit his story.

    His ploy was to get up around four A.M. and open the trailer doors. He would then call 911 and tell the operator some movement woke him up and when he crawled out of bed he saw another semi taking off across the lot. The bandits had obviously backed up to his trailer and transferred the merchandise.

    Buddy was delusional to think his absurd story would be even remotely believable but it was all he had. His other option, as he saw it, would be to simply abandon the truck. He figured he could rent a car and disappear for a while and wait for things to cool down. The more he considered that, the more he liked it.

    The silver Ford Crown Victoria was late nineties vintage but was impeccable, most likely from spending most of its life in a garage.

    The man behind the wheel was dressed nothing like the trucker they met in Dexter, Tennessee just days before. Isaac was dressed in a perfectly fitting dark suit accompanied by gray tie with dark pinstripes against a starched white shirt. His black Oxford shoes gleamed in the night.

    Buddy and Matt climbed from the truck to meet Isaac as he got out of the automobile. Buddy was somewhat unnerved by Isaac’s change in appearance but chose not to make an issue of it. His son showed no such discretion however.

    “Wow, Isaac, you sure are looking sharp! You been to church or something?” Matt asked.

    “Why thank-you, Matt. And no, I haven’t been to church. I’ve just had some business to attend to. Speaking of which, I have some business with your father. I need to ask you to remain here with the truck until we return. I promise it won’t take long at all.”

    Buddy was expecting Isaac to just deliver the cash and be on his way and was now suspicious of this new development. But before he could voice an objection Matt responded to Isaac.

    “Sure thing Isaac, I don’t mind. I know you will take good care of my Dad.”

    “I sure will, Matt. I sure will.”
  18. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Matt was sitting on the edge of the bunk, involved with a game of colorful ducks on his iPad when he sensed the figure sitting beside him although he felt no movement from the mattress whatsoever.

    It was a little girl wearing the prettiest white dress he had ever seen, although as a seven year old boy he honestly didn’t pay much attention to those things.

    Her shoes were also white with tiny silver buckles. Her blonde hair had the suggestion of gold and fell perfectly even with her chin, eyes the faintest blue. She looked to be about ten years old.

    “Hello, Matt,” she said in a voice as light as air.

    “Hi, what’s your name?” he responded, barely registering any surprise at having a visitor emerge virtually from nowhere.

    “You can just call me Angel. We don’t really have names.”

    “Wow, so you’re like a real Angel? Do you have wings back there?” Matt asked, playing along, because by now he was convinced this was but a dream, like when Isaac talked to him.

    “If I show you my wings will you take me seriously? I’m not a dream, you know, and neither are your conversations with Isaac.”

    Matt didn’t make an effort to conceal his surprise. Kids that age are generally too honest to hide their feelings anyway. “Oh, wow, you can read my mind? I’m sorry I didn’t take you seriously. You seem real nice.”

    Her laugh reminded Matt of delicate bells tinkling. He had never heard a more delightful sound emitted from another human being. “You say that a lot don’t you? And please don’t be sorry for anything. I know you have never met anyone like me before.”

    “No, I sure haven’t. And what do I say a lot?”

    “You say wow a lot but that’s okay. It doesn’t bother a thing. It’s just you being you.”

    “I’m sure glad it doesn’t bother you. I like the way you laugh. It sounds way cool.”

    “Thank-you Matt, but time is short and I have things to tell you, okay? But since I promised I will show you the wings; not such a big deal really, more for show than anything,” she said as she turned ninety degrees, putting her back toward Matt.

    “Oh wow! That is so totally awesome!” he exclaimed, more exuberant about this revelation than anything he’d ever seen before.

    A half-moon shaped section was fashioned from the back of her dress, dropping down six inches and the width reaching to the center of each shoulder blade. This allowed the stalks to protrude freely from the dress. They were folded up neatly against her back when she turned. A sweater or jacket would neatly cover them if desired. The tips reached almost to her waist.

    When she knew Matt was really focused on her wings she showed off a little, flexing her shoulders, allowing them to spread, although not entirely, due to the confines of the cab. They moved outward and upward in a fluid motion, as effortlessly as one would turn their head or wiggle their fingers.

    “WOW! WAY COOL!” Matt nearly shouted. “Can you fly with those things?”

    “Of, course, that’s what wings are for, silly,” she said, laughing precociously. “But seriously, Matt, no more questions for now. Maybe one day we will have time to talk, but now isn’t the time. I’m afraid you may never see your father again, and your life is most likely in danger as well.”

    “What are you saying? That can’t be true. Isaac wouldn’t hurt him,” Matt said, alarmed at this revelation.

    “He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Matt. I have been trying to warn your Dad, but he is very stubborn. He just kept ignoring me.”

    “Yeah, he’s like that. He’s not a totally bad guy, but he sure does some dumb stuff. You’re not the only one he wouldn’t listen to. Maybe if he had listened to Mom we would all still be together. Wait a minute, you mean you’ve been talking to him already? I would think he would pay attention to a real life Angel.”

    “Well not exactly like this,” she explained. “You are actually the first person I’ve talked to face to face. I’m kinda new at this, you see, and I just figured this part out. This is my first assignment.”

    “Wow, you mean you were just a kid when you died and went up to heaven?”

    Her lack of experience with earthly treks allowed the black Ford Expedition to ride up beside the big truck unnoticed, easing into the unlit area between the rig and the dumpster.

    “I, or we, rather, don’t have time for this now. You need to go, go anywhere. Just don’t let them find you.”

    “What did you mean about a wolf in sheep’s clothing?”

    Before she could answer the passenger door opened. Angel vanished like a vapor as the big head peered in. She could only present herself to the one she was assigned to assist. That was a rule she operated under and was helpless to do otherwise. Now she could only observe and it pained her to be unable to intervene.

  19. RacerX69

    RacerX69 Retired Gear Jammer/IBEW Retired/Wingnut

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    Ricky, your mini stories here are a feature that I thoroughly enjoy. Your work is captivating and interesting. The compositions are well thought out and draw the reader in to the story.

    I look forward to every one you create and share on this forum. It is one of the many things that make Truckingboards great!

    Don't ever stop.

    You are very welcome my friend!

  20. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Isaac drove west, back over the interstate for seven miles before turning south onto a county road whose sign had not been visible for several years due to the proliferation of kudzu vines which nobody cared enough about to remove.

    A mile down the road another sign, this one visible, proclaimed they were entering the village of Wales. Wales was merely a loose collection of homes, some with farms and others without, that comprised a particular zip code. There was a combination store/post office/barber shop/flag pole at some point in history but only the remaining residents that were around during the second world war remember exactly when that was. The location of that establishment is now occupied by a grain silo emblazoned with the village name and an American flag, both faded nearly beyond recognition.

    Issac turned the silver Crown Vic into a gravel driveway a hundred yards beyond the silo and drove another two hundred to the farmhouse sitting among ancient oak, maple, and elm trees. A covered stone well sat to one side of the frame house, a frayed rope holding on to a steel bucket, rusty from disuse, long since replaced by an electric pump.

    The house itself was in good repair, the gloss black shutters stood out in contrast to the white structure which was obviously freshly painted or recently pressure washed.

    A stand-alone two car garage sat to one side, its color scheme complementing the house perfectly. A covered concrete walkway led from the garage to the side entrance of the house. One of the garage doors rose as Isaac pressed a button on a control panel mounted on the sun visor.

    Buddy wondered why this trip was necessary. Why couldn’t Isaac have simply given him an envelope at the shopping center? Maybe he wanted to do this as a formal business affair, toast some champagne or something. Or maybe he wanted to discuss a future endeavor. Buddy had the memory of a mosquito. An hour ago he was fearing for his life and now eager to get involved in the same sordid business all over again. At least that pesky Angel wasn’t nagging him anymore. He took that as a sign that the danger had passed.

    “Sure is a nice place you have here Isaac. Looks nice and private too,” Buddy said.

    “Oh, it is very private. My nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away,” Isaac told him.

    “Been living here long?”

    “Oh, no. This is a recent acquisition,” Isaac answered absent mindedly as he made a show of patting down his jacket pockets.

    “I seem to have misplaced something. Could you be so kind as to go back to the car and see if there is an envelope on the seat while I unlock the house? Just use the walk-in door. It isn’t locked.” Isaac asked Buddy. As soon as Buddy turned to walk back to the garage he slipped on a pair of ultra thin latex gloves, nearly invisible over his pallid complexion.

    “I see you found it,” he said as Buddy came into the kitchen bearing a thick business size envelope.
    “Yeah, it was stuck down in between the seat and the console.”

    “How clumsy of me to almost lose something so valuable. Just hang on to it and make yourself comfortable in the living room. May I offer you a beverage? I know it has been a tiring day for you.”

    Buddy realized at that moment just how parched he was. “Just cold water would be great,” he answered as he entered the living room, not pausing to wonder who the people were in the various framed photographs on the walls and end tables, nor why Isaac was in none of them. Nor did he wonder how this “recent acquisition” was furnished so well and appeared to have been that way for many years, so focused was he on the bulky envelope in his hands.

    Isaac was not surprised to find no bottled water in the refrigerator. The home’s former inhabitants were of an age who surely found it foolish to pay for something in a bottle that they could obtain from their well.

    There was an icemaker in the door of the fridge however. He placed a few cubes in an apparently clean glass before filling the glass from the kitchen sink.

    Buddy downed half the glass in one long gulp before setting it down on one of the four coasters arranged neatly on the polished hardwood coffee table. Only then did he realize he was still holding the envelope from the car; actually he was holding it in a death grip.

    “Oh, sorry,” he said as he passed the envelope to Isaac.

    “It’s yours, Buddy,” Isaac said in the tone of a kindly grandfather. “Go ahead, open it.”

    Buddy’s hands shook as he tore open one end of the bulky envelope, eyes widening as he withdrew the stack of hundred dollar bills, more than he had ever seen in one place except in the movies.

    “Count it,” Isaac said in the same soft voice he used before. “I decided to put something extra in there for you. Well, for Matt really. He’s a special boy and I wish for you to take special care of him.”

    As Buddy hit what he was sure was the ten thousand dollar mark he still has a considerable sheaf of bills remaining. His expression transformed from bewilderment to joy as he counted an additional four thousand dollars.

    “I don’t know what to say, Isaac,” Buddy said, clearly overwhelmed.

    “You earned it. Now let’s get you back to your truck. And your son.”

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