Easing off the frontage road pavement, Dale Randal steered his rig back around the lot and lined up with the Pilot fuel pumps, only one of which was in use at this hour.
Big Dale locked the door and started for an outdoor bathroom, located halfway between a long row of pumps the truckers used to fuel up when they pulled in off the highway and the store proper.
A skinny kid - who looked strung out - asked, “Ten dollars man?”
Dale Randal - known as Reverend Dale on the CB due to his soft spoken demeanor - continued to walk past. His friends called him Trig, short for Trigger.
“Come on man,” the skinny kid said. “Five bucks man. I need to get something to eat.”
Randal stopped and retrieved a five spot from his wallet and handed it over. “Get out of here kid,” he said.
The kid smiled and took off, stuffing the five dollar bill down in a pair of tight jeans.
Wasn’t it always like a truck stop where you could run into a junkie kid willing to suck your dick for five bucks while you pumped fuel, or some skanky chick wanting to sell her pussy if the price was right, or some other trucker willing to make a deal on some pills?
With the kid long gone, Randal did what he’d come to do. He pissed like it was going out of style. There wouldn’t be time to rest or shower up. His load was expected at the dock in a few hours. It was just past three in the morning and he still had the Grapevine to contend with on the drive down.
Although cold, the weather was good and traffic light on the interstate. Trucks idled in the back lot with their drivers stretched out in the sleeper or nodding against the door glass. The smell of burning diesel drifted away on unseen currents of early morning air. Randal liked the smell of diesel exhaust. It was in his blood.
A car pulled in off the highway. Its occupants spilled out onto the dirty concrete in the dim light from the overhead canopy. The driver fought with the card reader at the gas pump as his two friends walked inside playing grab-ass like young kids will do from time to time.
After finishing up in the bathroom, Randal continued on with a thermos in hand. The morning didn’t allow the time for breakfast - but coffee - he had time to refill the thermos before continuing on.
It seemed like he’d been behind the wheel for the last two days. Randal was tired. Two sets of logbooks in the sleeper allowed him to skirt the law somewhat. Big Dale Randal was old school by today’s standards.
The kids were inside mulling around a cooler in the back of the store. Randal looked out the window. The driver of the car was already behind the wheel.
“Hey, hey,” a young gentleman behind the counter said with a thick middle-eastern accent. “Where are you going? You have to pay for that.”
Randal looked up to see the two kids storming out the door and right past the young man behind the counter.
“Fuck you Taliban,” one of the boys said running by.
Instantly the kids were in the vehicle and the driver was speeding away from the gas pump.
“Fucking assholes,” the young man behind the counter said out loud.
Randal smiled and continued to fill the thermos. Someday those boys would run into the wrong man. They’d know to fear God when they did.
“Are you going to buy fuel?” the young man asked when Randal approached the counter with the thermos in hand.
Randal smiled. “Four fifty on pump six,” he said. “Ain’t got no cameras in here huh?”
“No, you may as well just walk out with your coffee,” the young man behind the counter said.
“That’s not the way it is,” Randal said, placing five one hundred dollar bills on the counter. “How about a can of that Copenhagen you got back there?”
The store clerk smiled and turned for the tobacco. “Four fifty three for the fuel and tobacco,” he said. “The coffee is on the house this morning.”
“Thanks son,” Randal said stepping back out into the chilly morning air. He looked around to see if the boys from earlier were still around, out there in the darkness somewhere.
That trucker that was filling up when Randal pulled off the road was pulling away himself now. The trailer brakes were dragging and he figured the fellow wouldn’t get very far down the interstate before sliding off onto the shoulder.
Opening the pump, Randal started to fill the thirsty tanks with needed fuel. Another trucker pulled off into the back lot and switched his headlights off for the night. The trailer groaned under a load of heavy equipment crossing a gutter in the concrete.
It would take a few minutes to pump a hundred and fifty gallons of diesel. Randal unlocked his door and reached under the seat for a piece of pipe. He could check the tires while he waited.
Fifty feet back from the cab of the truck and well out of sight of the young man inside the store, Randal heard footsteps crunching gravel as they approached.
Looking up, Randal recognized the two boys from the store. The driver remained behind the wheel for another quick getaway.
Randal kept a .45 under the mattress for times just like this, but there had been no one in the lot when he walked around the trailer. Go figure?
“Gimme yo money motherfucker,” one of the boys said, walking closer. The other just laughed.
Everyone knew that these guys stood to have a roll of cash on them. Sure they used credit cards, but when they found an ATM that didn’t charge a fee, they’d pull out a couple hundred to keep them on the road.
“Wait,” Randal said. “Are you talking to me?”
“Yeah motherfucker,” the second kid said, “You don’t understand English or what?”
Randal let the pipe down along his right leg. “Okay,” he said. “Look, I don’t want any trouble. My wallet’s up front on my seat.” He started along the trailer in the dark with the two boys in tow. One of the kids had a small pistol when he walked up. Maybe some old relic that had been bought and sold on the streets a hundred times since World War II?
“Now I give you all the money I got,” Randal said, “and you boys will leave me be right?”
The boys laughed. “Yeah maybe,” one of them said. “Maybe they find you dead out here in a couple of hours?”
Randal had no intention of giving anyone money. He choked up on the pipe for maximum effect and turned, swinging for the sound of the nearest voice.
The black pipe struck pay dirt and the boy standing closest went down to the concrete hard. His skull had cracked like a rotten egg. One of the kid’s eyes now hung down on his cheek closer to his mouth than the battered and vacant eye socket it had once been in.
The second kid stood still with his eyes widening at the recent turn of events. Water puddled under his shoes. Randal smiled. Like his big mouth buddy, he’d soon enough know to fear God.
Randal swung for all he was worth and the second boy dropped like an unwanted stone to the concrete in the still morning air.
The tanks were now full. Dale Randal climbed back up into the warm cab thankful that he’d paid for the diesel in cash. He eased the transmission into gear and pulled away slowly as to not gain any unwanted attention. The bodies of the two thugs lay next to the fuel island. Hopefully no one would discover them for an hour or so.
Once back out on the interstate, Randal stepped down on the accelerator and the big Caterpillar under the hood out front roared. Motorhead came on the radio. Thank God for XM he thought to himself.
Randal smiled looking back in the mirror, back toward the Pilot where he had just come from. Those boys back down the road had just found some truck stop religion.