Sound Of Silence
Author: Rose Hala

Chapter 12
Sound Of Silence by Rose Hala

CHAPTER 12

 

Maria almost spat the coffee back in the cup. Why the hell hadn’t she waited the extra forty minutes it would have taken to get to her regular truck stop? The answer was simple. Her vice was coffee; specifically, the double latte kind. Hell, in forty minutes, it would be almost time for another one. She added another spoonful of sugar to the cup of rubbish in front of her, and took another sip. Ahhhh-yuki!!  No one was looking so this time she did spit back into the cup. She had only succeeded in creating a disgusting form of coffee syrup.

A movement out by her truck caught her eye. Someone walked around the front from the far side, put something in his pocket, and kicked the tires. She laughed when the guy limped away. Why did guys always have to kick the tires? Maria shook her head at the stupidity of some men. That's what the pressure gauge was for.

There was a lot of country to cover before Canada. She would spend the night with Bev who owned The Country Inn in Denver. Maria was a regular there. When she was thirty minutes out she would radio her order of steak, eggs, and fries so it would be ready when she arrived. Bev took good care of her with a clean bed, a pot of coffee, and a side order of gossip.

Maria had taken over the route three years ago after the previous company damaged some equipment and Sonic Muzic Corporation terminated their contract. Maria liked hauling for Sonic as the haul was relatively simple. It was mostly stage sets and lighting. These were loaded and offloaded by a team of professionals each end accompanied by a team of security guards. Instruments always went with the musicians. They were a superstitious bunch and kept a close eye on their tools of the trade.

“Breaker, breaker, this is Caffeina Maria calling The Country Inn. Come in please.”

“Yo there, C.M. What the hell kept ya? You get smoked babe?”

“Nope, just a real badass cup of something just short of Grand Junction that caused me more than a little grief.”

“You want your normal set up, Maria?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Bev. And do me a helping of your famous apple pie. I’ve gotta have something to get that bloody awful taste out of my mouth. Over & out.”

Hammer was pleased. The job was done. Well, kind of. The chick drove slow and steady so she would be just this side of Denver when the job was really done.

He’d be long gone to Mexico by then. He had $2000. thanks to the gas station he had robbed about an hour ago. With a stash like that, he could go anywhere but Mexico was his best bet. Mickey had contacts all over the States so staying around wasn’t an option. Hammer was part Native American. He would easily blend in well with Mexicans.

 

It was during dinner at the homestead when there was a knock at the door. Maguilita walked from the kitchen to answer it. It wasn’t until the conversation got loud that those around the table got up to see who was giving Maggie a hard time. Before they could make it to the front door, a man strode into the dinning room, with Maggie on his heels.

“Will someone,” he said, looked directly at Mac, “explain to the hired help just who the hell I am?”

Before there was an answer Daniel and Utah took their places beside Maggie. Carl and Bruce went to Annie, and Samuel put his hand on Rachel’s shoulder. At the same time the agents and Debbie headed for Steven who was sitting near Mac.

Maggie, with reinforcements on either side, put her hands on her hips.

“What did you call me? Well? If you’re going to be a smart mouth, I’m going to fix you good! I have rat bait in the kitchen and I ain’t afraid to use it.”

Daniel lowered a hand to her shoulder, more for restraint than comfort. He had seen her ‘rat bait’ when she had showed him where she had stashed his old baseball bat earlier.

Sometimes it was difficult to know whether she was serious or not about carrying out one of her threats. A lot depended on how mad she was and she looked pretty darn mad right now.

“I’m sorry, everyone.” Mac said. “ I thought this gentleman wouldn’t get here until tomorrow, but it seems I’ve misjudged things.”

“It’s not the first time you’ve made a mess of things, McDonald. We can do this now in front of everybody, or we can discuss it in private. The choice is yours.”

Mac had known it would come to this. It had been on the cards from the moment he’d made the decision to drive up here from Vegas.

“Allow me to introduce the Head of the F.B.I. and my boss Peter Sands.”

This guy was the Head of The F.B.I.? Debbie, never at a loss for words, voiced the thoughts of the others.

“You’re a Federal Agent? But you don’t look like a Federal Agent.”

An embarrassing flush crept up on Peter’s portly face. It had been a number of years since he had actively performed any agent activities. Paper pushing, little activity, and too many power lunches, had taken their toll. He had packed on the pounds and was now very overweight. The encroaching balding spot, which he fastidiously gelled a hunk of hair over, he blamed solely on Mac.

“ Who are you? And how many Federal Agents do you know?”

“I’m the pilot of the plane that some nutter blew all to hell. And the only agents I know are in this room, and none of them look anything like you.”

Mac could see that it was time for him to step in even though his job was on the line for assembling his team in Denver. Peter could be an obnoxious S.O.B. Any one of them could be fired at any moment or, worse, arrested.

“Come on, Sands. Lets get this over with.” Mac led his boss into Bruce’s study and shut the door. Within two minutes the door opened.

“That was a quick,” Annie said quietly.

The agents knew something was up. The fact that it had been a short meeting, wasn’t a good sign. Mac returned to the room alone and put his hand on Maggie’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry, he was rude to you.” He told her before turning to his hosts. “ Bruce, Annie, I apologize. Thank you for your hospitality. Daniel, Utah , Carl, Samuel, thank you for your co-operation and good luck. As of now I’m no longer involved with the FBI, but I wish you all the best.”

When Mac extended his hand to Steven he felt something press into his palm. Steven’s note was brief.

"Meet me in one hour at your car."

“Damn it, Mac. This shouldn’t be happening,” Angie exclaimed, jumping to her feet. “If you’re going, then so am I. I’m not going to work for him if you’re not here.”

“Yeah, Mac. We’ve got your back.”

“Ditto, Mac.”
“We are right behind you, Mac.”

“Nooo!” Debbie cried. “You all can’t just leave. What about us?” She wasn’t about to let the best thing in her life at the moment just walk out the door. Stan looked down at his red head and touched her cheek. He didn’t want to loose this woman who, in such a short time, had come to mean so much to him.

“I have to, Debbie. None of us will work for that idiot. If we aren’t involved in this case, then staying here compromises the evidence we collected today. We have to be hands off everything. Besides, Sweetheart, we’re a team and, if our boss gets fired, then we’re all fired.” He pulled her to him as unshed tears glistened in her lovely eyes.

Steven had heard enough. He wouldn’t need that meeting with Mac in the car after all. A man who inspired such loyalty was worth having on the payroll and there was still someone out there using his band to transport drugs in and out of the country.

“Mac, would you and your team consider working for me?” Steven held up his hand as it looked like Mac would protest. “This isn’t some charity suggestion. Trust me, I don’t do charity suggestions.” The Choir Boys nodded vigorously, a testimony to that statement.

“ My band is being used to transport drugs. You stand a better chance of finding out what’s going on since you’re already here and we’re going to need protection.”

Mac looked at Steven hard. If this was anything other than a genuine offer, he was out of here. He knew Steven had a bit of a reputation but Mac liked him. Steven was an honest man who spoke his mind.

“Ok, but on two conditions. Firstly, you pay us the same as what we were already earning, no more. Secondly, we start to pay our way here because the F.B.I. is done picking up the tab.” He added to Bruce and Annie. “Work out what we owe you for board and be honest about the price. No concessions.”

Steven let out an audible sigh of relief.

“ Welcome to the official world of the Choir Boys,” he said to the team.

Mac called his players back to the table.

“I’ve got to stay completely away from all the evidence, but we’ll need our own copies of as much as we can get. Stan, take some more shots of the wreckage and anything collected by you and Debbie. Be discreet. Peter doesn’t know you’ve all quit yet and we need to keep it that way until we gather evidence of our own. You'll be getting copies of the interview transcripts, Steven, so we don't have to worry about those." Mac looked at each of his agents in turn. “ I want to tell you, I’m glad you’ll be working with me. There’s no one else I’d rather have by my side than you guys. Thanks for watching my back and keep an eye on each others’. This could get nasty.”

 

Rachel stood on the balcony looking out over the ranch. They had just come from the main house and, although it was quite late, she wasn’t tired yet. Her body clock was still on European time but she was feeling unsettled from a the premonition of something bad happening. Her family in Australia was fine and Antoinette was still with Samuel’s mother. Everybody was fine. Still, the feeling was so strong. Rachel shook her head.

“God, I’m going mad,” she thought.

Two arms slowly encircled her and she took a deep breath, inhaling the intoxicating scent of the freshly showered Samuel as rubbed his smoothly shaven cheek against hers.

“Hmm, you smell sooo good.” She turned her head to kiss him and followed with her body, putting her arms around his neck. One hand she ran through his damp hair, so thick and glorious. With the fingertips of her other hand, she rubbed his neck in slow, sensual circles. She knew how much he loved the way she did that.

“Oh, God,” he groaned, his whole body coming alive with desire. Rachel knew the little touches that gave him so much pleasure.

Mind you, two could play that game…

Samuel lowered his mouth to hers and rubbed the tip of his tongue against the roof of her mouth.

“God, she tastes sweet.” Sam thought, pleased at the way this always made her arch against him. With one arm around her waist he pulled her to him. He plunged the other into her beautiful, wavy hair to deepen their kiss.

As they made their way to the bedroom, Rachel placed her hand over the gold cross on the chain around her neck.

In light of the bad feelings she’d had, a little help from above wouldn’t go astray.

Samuel placed his hand over hers as she held the cross. He was glad he had bought it for her. It hadn’t cost him that much, yet Rachel absolutely loved it and wore it every day. At first he had thought it was to please him but then he noticed how often she touched it. Whenever she held it, Samuel found his heart tighten with love for her.

Their love making, since Sam had been shot, was passionate and sensual. Life was all the more precious and just too damn short and fragile. It was made for living and loving. They had rediscovered in each other a zest and joy for living that they hadn’t even realized was missing.

 

Maria could almost taste Bev’s coffee and the apple pie, legendary amongst truckers, reminded Maria of the ones her mother used to make. Only fifteen minutes to go and, with a downhill run, this would be a piece of cake. In the dark cab of the truck, Maria’s chuckle at her little joke sounded a bit spooky. She shook her head. Lack of caffeine was giving her weird thoughts.

She smiled as she started her cruise down the hill but it quickly faded as the brake pedal went to the floor.

“ What the hell?” Maria pumped the pedal, trying not panic. She had to keep her wits about her. Her life was at stake, not to mention the truck or the contents. She resisted the instinctive urge to pull the hand brake. That would just result in jack-knifing the truck all together. She had to slow gradually to a safe stop.

Thankfully the hill didn’t have too many curves. There were a few, then a straight stretch. Maria knew this road like she knew her own drive way; better, probably, because she was here more than she was there.

The truck had fifteen gears and Maria gently downshifted through the first few but rounded the first bend just barely in control. The road was straight for about a mile then there was another curve. The trouble was the truck, despite being in the lower gears, had maintained it’s speed on the stretch. A full load gave it far too much momentum to slow in such a short stretch of road. There was no way she could round that next bend upright; not a snowball’s chance in hell.

Honk!, Honk!, Honk! Maria shot a look in her sideview to see who was behind her. She recognized the truck. It belonged to Chris Nolan, a driver from San Francisco. They often met up enroute and had shared many a story over a cup of coffee.

At least she would have immediate assistance when the truck overturned. That it was going to tip was a fact. There was no getting away from it. That bend half a mile up the road was just too acute to take at her current speed and now the brake pedal went to the floor with no resistance at all. But her foot was on it anyway, more to do with instinct and habit than the good it would do her.

They were down to a half a mile when Chris made his move. He put his foot to the floor and sped past Maria. When he pulled back in line in front of her, he eased his foot off the accelerator. He could see her gaining on him through his sideview, and braced himself for the impact.

Maria said a fast prayer that what Chris was doing would work. It might be the only chance she’d have of walking away from this. As she gained on him, she pulled the wheel so that her rig would make a straight, direct connect. Off kilter could be disastrous for both of them.

She wrapped her hands around the steering wheel, one on the outer wheel and the other hand gripping center bar. The impact could jolt the wheel from her hands and she’d stand little chance of regaining it back.

The impact was stronger than either of them expected. It all looked terribly easy in the movies. In reality, it was two tons of solid metal kissing the behind of another two tons of solid metal. Chris was jolted forward, then back, but somehow retained control of the wheel while his truck was shunted forward a good ninety feet.

The noise was nothing like anything Maria had ever heard. Like Chris, she pitched forward, then back, but wrenched her arm in the process. Her hand had locked around the center bar of steering wheel, and her shoulder took the full force of the backward motion. Her whole arm was useless and the one good one was all she had to get her through the next impact.

Luckily, Maria didn’t feel anything thanks to the adrenalin coursing through her veins.

Gripping the wheel as best she could, Maria braced for the second hit. She was jolted, but it wasn’t as bad as the first. The second impact bounced Chris’s truck forward another thirty feet. Miraculously, the truck was slowing. After the third hit, the trucks stayed together but there was no way they could stop in time for the curve ahead. They were going to have to ride it nose-to-tail.

Chris concentrated on holding his truck’s speed to match Maria’s. He didn’t want her to push him into a jack-knife. With the curve just ahead, he downshifted one gear, then another, and held on. They were moving at a decent clip but things were looking better than they had.

Maria felt it for the first time since the brakes had failed; hope. Real hope, that the truck could make the curve without tipping.

The screeching of eighteen wheels makes one hell of a noise. When multiplied by two, chalk on a blackboard sounds like opera.

The burning rubber made their eyes water and noses run but, when both rigs rounded that bend upright, it was Christmas, New Year’s and Thanksgiving all rolled into one. It had worked.

On the straightaway beyond, Chris stopped both rigs on the shoulder of the highway.

He put it in Reverse and pulled the hand brake before he jumped out to see if Maria was okay. On his way towards her he took a quick tally of the damage to his truck and winced but he would do it again in a heartbeat.

Maria’s front end had revealed very little damage. The large bumper-grill in the front had done its job. A crack in the windscreen and a dented grill, was all the damage the truck sustained.

Chris opened Maria’s door. One look at the lack of color in her face and he grabbed for his mobile phone. Weakly, smiled at him.

“I owe you a few coffees and steak dinners now, huh? Seriously, Chris, you did one hell of a job and, probably saved my life today. I’ll never forget that.”

“You’re welcome, C.M. Now, get your ass out of that truck and go sit on the grass, I’m going to call a smokie then I’ll see what I’ve got in the way of a sling for your arm. Come here.”

She leaned into him and he literally lifted her out of the truck and lowered her to the ground. He could never understand it. They’d shared many a meal at Bev’s diner. He’d seen her eat, it was a complete mystery to him how she ate so much and weighed so little?

They sat on the grass and waited. Maria expected to see the local police, but Chris’s 911 call had gone directly through to Vegas and he had spoken with someone named Pete who’d told him to sit tight, and that help was heading toward them now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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