Five A.M. Tuesday morning. The rain had relented, but the clouds remained, low, threatening more precipitation as Brand drove past the Foothills Industrial Park to the address where Worenko had his semi parked. Brand roamed the east side industrial park, past the meeting place, then circled back and parked on the street a block from where the truck waited. He was early, not wanting the trucker to leave with out him.
Half an hour later he noticed the beat up Chevy pull along side the tractor-trailer unit. Brand waited as the man loaded a duffle bag into the cab and then watched him walk around the truck checking the tires and equipment. Brand grabbed a ball cap off the truck seat and stuck it on his head, the cigarette he was smoking, he threw to the ground and squashed under his foot as he walked from the street, across the lot and made his way down the block.
In the opposite direction from where Brand’s truck was parked, a grey Toyota Forerunner sat idling. The detective inside was watching the trucker when he noticed a man walking down the block in the direction of the semi. It took the detective a couple of seconds to recognize the man walking down the sidewalk. Damn. It was that bastard Coldstream. What was he doing here? How did he know about the trucker? He was sure that this wasn’t a coincidence. Not certain what to do, he sat and observed the two men.
Approaching the tractor-trailer, Brand called a greeting to the driver. The man looked at him and glared in return. Not going to be a pleasant trip, Brand decided. Waiting for the driver to finish the inspection of his rig, Brand opened the passenger door on the big truck settling into the comfortable bucket seat.
Shortly, the trucker joined him inside the cab and started the truck. The tractor-trailer unit crawled out of the parking compound; turned on the street in south direction and drove past the grey Forerunner.
Traffic was light. Thee driver wove his eighteen-wheeler through the nearly deserted industrial area and onto the busier city streets toward Highway Twenty-Two before merging onto Highway Two south. The four-lane highway was starting to fill with vehicles as they passed the city limits and drove, the occupants in the cab silent. The driver, scowling, his eyes never leaving the road and Brand's thoughts occupied with the destination at the end of the trip.
Gazing out the windshield, Brand watched as the eighteen-wheeler rolled passed Okotoks and then High River. At the south end of Nanton, the driver turned on to a secondary highway crossing the Porcupine Hills and meeting up with Highway Twenty-Two X. From there it was south once again to the Crowsnest pass and then west into British Columbia.
The skies had cleared, bright sunlight streaming into the cab of the truck when they neared Fernie. Cranbrook lay an hour west and south of them before the route snaked its way down to Creston before the road climbed over a low mountain pass and on toward Castlegar.
At points, the highway came close to the U.S. border. Brand was starting to understand the reason the cartel and the Warriors chose Castlegar for an exchange warehouse to move their drugs. Access from the shipping waters off the B.C. coast and the near proximity to the United States made the city a perfect transitioning place, small, off the beaten path and with out the usual suspicions.
Mid afternoon, the town of Castlegar appeared on the horizon. Brand idly watched as Chad shifted gears steering the semi past the final overpass into town. The two hadn’t exchanged more than a half dozen words on the eight-hour trip.
“Where’s the warehouse located? Here in town?” Brand asked.
Chad Worenko glanced at Brand but continued to ignore his unwanted passenger. The lack of conversation on the trip, Brand appreciated, his time spent plotting a course of action once the two arrived at the warehouse, but the time for cooperating was fast approaching. What he needed was to have the trucker pull his head out of his ass and play along.
“This little jaunt of ours is going to go either one of two ways.” Brand stated, breaking the silence. He studied the driver, the town of Castlegar unfolding before them. “You can play along and maybe, just maybe you will come out of this alright, or you can sit and sulk, and I’ll leave you to your own devices. The state of your health is not a big concern to me, so decide which way you want this to go.”
“The warehouse is a few miles west of town, a small industrial area off by its self.” Meekly came the reply. Chad looked at Brand, confusion written all over his face. Chad’s mood soured. The guy sitting in his passenger seat works for the damn bikers, and he doesn’t even know the location of the flippin' warehouse. What kind of mess did I get myself involved in, he wondered?
Clearing his throat, the driver hesitated. “How and the hell can I get out of this. I'm indebted to your damn boss, and undoubtedly, I’ll be hauling this shit until my services are no longer needed. Which, I'm sure, will be, never," Chad spat out sarcastically. " Or when the cops bust me and throw me in jail.” He went back to staring out the windshield. Sections of highway disappeared under the front of the truck as it motored on, his head sagging in defeat.
Brand chose his next words carefully. He wanted an ally when they arrived at the biker's warehouse. Time to tell the truth, besides, the trucker would find out Brand didn't work for the bikers soon enough. If Chad were scared shitless by the bikers, he would likely turn Brand in when confronted.
“I lied to you the other night.” Brand decided to take the chance. “I don’t work for the Warriors. They attacked my house, killed a friend of mine and sent another to the hospital.” Brand shared a short version of the shootings and the path that led to his sitting inside the west bound truck.
“What the hell are you going to do?” Chad Worenko asked. “I’m not looking to get myself killed. They said if I haul their goods, they’d scrub my debts. I don’t need to get tangled up in some crazy scheme of revenge.”
“Do you honestly think the Warriors will let you make one delivery and then …what. You guys become the best of friends. Give your head a shake. They’ve got you by the short and curlies. You make this trip, and then they’ll ask for another, and another, because then they’ll have evidence of you hauling illegal cargo.”
Brand regarded the truck driver. The man’s eyes grew moist; his head sunk lower on his chest.
“What else can I do? All I’ve got left is this truck,” the driver mumbled, his voice edged with fear and desperation.
“Help me out. Maybe we can make this go away. Give you a way out.” Brand replied. His plan was weak, mostly involving timing and a fair share of luck, but he'd dealt with worse.
Brand swung his head letting his words sink in. He gazed at the countryside rolling by outside the cab window. Chad Worenko anchored his eyes to the twin lanes of asphalt being gobbled up by the rolling eighteen-wheeler. Both men fell silent.
"What kind of help?" the Chad asked.
“Tell the men at the warehouse that I’m your swamper, draw suspicion away from me. That's all. Otherwise, do what they say. If Warriors discover that I’m tagging along, I don’t think that either of us will leave unharmed.” Brand looked at the driver as he spoke. A range of emotions played across Chad's face.
“How long will it take to load the trailer?” Brand inquired.
“I have no idea. I was told to show up this afternoon. The truck will be loaded, and I’m not supposed to ask questions. The men at the warehouse will provide me with the return location.”