Publish Novellas 3 August 2022
EPISODE 4 – TRUCKING
A young protégé picks up a new moniker while learning how to protect valuable cargo from highway pirates.
Did you skip prior episode?
Diana continues with Emma Jean’s roadworthy facts-of-life education.
“Trucking has its beautiful moments. You get to see the sunrises and sunsets against scenic landscapes across the country. But being a trucker makes you a target.”
“Target? For what?” asks youthful Emma.
“Ya mean with eye patches and parrots? I thought day’s only in da ocean.”
“Pirates are anywhere treasure can be found. And truckers haul treasure.”
“Really! What we haulin’?”
“I don’t really want to know. I receive a manifest that list some items. It may be true but it’s not my place to police what people ship.”
“How day steal’da treasure?”
“Sometimes it’s a stop and grab. When the truck stops at train tracks, a team of pirates who have been following jump out of another truck. They cut the lock on the back and carry away a few television sets before the driver realizes it.”
“How do’ya know if a pirate stole yer cargo?”
“I have side and rear mounted cameras, both inside and outside of the trailer.”
“That’s sweeter than my auntie Lou Ann’s cellmate!”
“Another trick they use is to act like a driver on the side of the road needs help. It’s usually a stolen vehicle with the front hood raised. The pirate or a pretty accomplice waves down a trucker. When he gets out, they steal the entire truck. Another variation is to climb into the cab like a hitchhiker and hijack the truck by forcing the driver to a destination at gunpoint.”
“How’d’ya know I weren’t no pirate? Ya picked me up.”
“That was a rescue mission. I saw a young girl destined for trouble.”
“So how we keep pirates from scammin’ us?”
“Truckers communicate with each other over shortwave radios and satellite phones.”
“Satellites? In outer space?”
“A regular cellphone needs to get a signal from a nearby cell tower. Many stretches of highway have no cell towers or the signal can be blocked by mountains. Satellites can provide cellular connection virtually anywhere in the world.”
“Do’ya got a satellite phone?”
“I sure do. More importantly, I have a common name over the airwaves. With a distress signal, a team of armed truckers can block the path of a hijacker. They can also warn of areas with potential trouble to avoid.”
“What if pirates block’da road wit’ guns an’ stuff?”
“This truck has some of the same features as the presidential vehicle. It’s bullet proof and can fire bullets forward and backwards if necessary.”
“Yer like 007. Blade… Lady Blade.”
“I can tell you enjoy movies. You need to start reading more educational books.”
“If somebody cuts da lock on da back door. Ya can see dem, but how’d’ya stop them? Do’ya shoot bullets at dem?”
“Those are good questions. I have a special trailer. In addition to the external padlock, the doors require a hydraulic release from inside the cab. So after breaching the first door, they find another one sealed shut without a padlock to cut. Many customers want me to haul their pre-loaded trailers. But when they see how state-of-the-art mine is, they have workers load their product into mine.”
“Has ya ever had a gunfight?”
“Keep in mind that the cargo is not mine. It’s insured, but it’s to my advantage to deliver it on time. So the main thing I’m protecting is my life. The pink Lady Blade has a reputation for security. I’ve had failed attempts and fortunately no gunfights.”
“So’ya really need to watch out when drivin’.”
“That’s right, especially when you’re hauling; when you stop to fuel up and eat too. Never reveal what you’re hauling or how much protection you’re carrying. It’s best to get back on the road as soon as possible.
“Speaking of which, it’s time to refuel. Stay in the cab with the doors locked while I do so. There’s a truck stop up ahead that also serves food. After filling up the tank, I’ll pull the truck around so we can have a good view of it in the diner.”
“Can we get my clothes dere?”
“We won’t shop until after we deliver the cargo in a couple more days.”
In the diner, Emma goes to the bathroom. When she exits a large man in the hallway blocks her path.
“Hey, cute young thing. You here alone?”
He grabs her left shoulder. So she places both of her hands on his waist and slowly turns him 180° facing the booth where Diana is seated. She then scrapes her heel down his shin. He lets go and starts cursing. Emma slides into the booth under Diana’s arm and kisses her on the mouth.
As she continues pouring a packet of sugar in her coffee, Diana quietly asks, “Is there something going on I should know about?”
Softly, Carly says, “I’m acting. Dat man by da bathroom grabbed yer Carly. But I took care of it like’ya taught.”
“Good girl. Now get on the other side of the table so I can have room to handle further trouble if necessary. Remember, you don’t have to act queer. Just keep people guessing.”
“Ya ain’t exaggeratin’ about trouble out here.”
“It should lessen a bit when we get you some clothes that don’t beg for truck stop attention. In fact, I should have you eat in the truck until we go shopping.”
“But I ta need get out an’ go to’da bathroom. I’ll be good. Can I have a cheeseburger and fries?”
“Sure thing, Em.”
“Em? I like that better than ‘Jean.’ Di and Em, or ‘Diem,’ sounds cool right?”
“Do you know what carpe diem means?”
“Naw, tell me!”
“It means to make full use of life without regard for the future.”
“Wow, maybe dat can be my new name.”
“You need to add a little variation to make it interesting. Hint at the phrase without being so obvious… something like, ‘Carly Diem.’”
“Dat’s perfect. I love it. Diem… Carly Diem. Start callin’ me Carly!”
Diane pulls the truck over to a secluded area and turns off the engine. She then faces her passenger.
“Carly Diem, it’s time you climb in the back and take off your clothes.”
After staring for half a minute, Carly responds, “Really? Dang it, I knew it!” She climbs behind the seats, removes her top and begins undoing her pants. I figured’ya was just waitin’ fer the right time.”
Diane interrupts, “What are you doing? After all my teaching, you’re not even putting up a struggle!”
“I dunno what we gonna do. I figure’ya gonna show me. Ya should know, I ain’t ever gonna fight’ya ’bout nothin’. It best be here than gettin’ dragged off in some bushes.”
“I said stop! Nothing’s happening between us. It was only a test. You failed. Put your clothes back on!”
As Carly dresses, she makes excuses. “Ya keep confusin’ me. I been thinkin’ dis is why’ya picked me up and everythin’ else ya taught me was for other people. How’s I supposed to know when’ya testin’ me or when’ya expectin’ me to do what’ya say?”
“I’m trying to teach you to be careful of strangers who want to get into your pants! Remember, I’m still a stranger.”
After days on the road acting like a couple when entering truck stops, Diana reaches the Colorado cargo destination. The air is crisp in the spring. She and Carly admire the beautiful mountains for a moment.
Diana warns, “Let’s not get too distracted, keep an eye on the workers as they unload. The number of crates must match the manifest. Then we can get signature confirmation of delivery so I can receive payment from the shipper…. Everything checks out.”
“What’s next?” asks Carly.
“I don’t like hauling an empty trailer. Without the weight, a gust of wind can tip it over. So when I don’t have anything to haul, I prefer to park my trailer in a garage and drive around in the semi truck. We get better fuel mileage too.”
“Ya gotta garage nearby?”
“Actually, there are places to rent storage. I keep trailers in various states for convenience.”
“Ya must make a lot of money as a trucker.”
“I don’t do too bad. It helps that I sold some property to get into the business. Let’s go unhitch this trailer somewhere. Do you want to shop for clothes here in Colorado or in California?”
“California? Does ya mean Hollywood?” Carly asks with excitement.
“Not quite. I know someone in San Diego who can make you up a good ID card, passport, and birth certificate. We’re a little more than a thousand miles from San Diego. That’s about four days away.
“I’ll put a rush on it, but it might take a day or two for your new ID. We’ll continue taking turns sleeping in the truck until I can get you in a motel. Hollywood is a little more than a hundred miles north of San Diego.”
Carly files the troubling words ‘get you in a motel’ in the back of her mind with the distraction of the opportunity to visit her dream destination. “Do we have time to go to Hollywood while we in California?”
“It’s not as glamorous as it seems on television. But since it’s a dream of yours, we will try to make it happen.”
Diana unhitches the trailer and begins making good time en route to California.