Although it can be read a stand-alone story. My story "Hindsight" set the scene for this story. I would suggest that story is read before this one. I thank LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proof reading, editing skills and of course encouragement
My editors, who hail from across the pond kindly pointed out a couple of things that could well confuse some readers. The hero refers to the girl in this story as a "mystery" the significance of this is explained slightly later in the text. "On the game" and "Working girl" are terms used in England to refer to hookers or prostitutes.
"Bollocks," I thought as I walked back to my truck "Some bastards been snooping around my bloody load!"
I'd stopped in the motorway services for a meal. I don't normally go for motorway food, as it's of questionable quality and too damned expensive. But I was short of driving hours on this run and there wasn't a transport café handy that would be open at that time of night.
While I'd been away from the vehicle someone had been at my sheets - the tarpaulins that we cover the load with - I could see that several of the tie down ropes had been unfastened. Whoever it was had wasted his bleeding time as the machines I had on the truck were far too big for anyone to walk off with. So after checking the tie-down straps were still secure, I set about re-tying the sheet down again. As I did so I became aware of a guy walking around amongst the other trucks who looked as if he had lost something.
"Got a problem, Squire?" I asked as he came close to me. I figured it could well have been him who had nosed around my truck. By talking to him, he would realise I had spotted him and he'd probably leave the other trucks and trailers alone.
"You haven't seen a blond bit around here, have you mate? About five-four, black skirt and white top."
"No, I haven't seen anyone, I've just come out of the restaurant. What have you done, lost her?"
"Yeah, we had a row and the stupid little bitch ran off on me. I thought she came this way."
With that, the guy wondered off. But then an idea struck me; before I tied the last sheet rope down, I lifted the edge and looked under the canvas. There were two of the bluest eyes I've ever seen looking right back at me. A hushed voice pleaded, "Please don't tell him I'm here?"
Shit, that was some beautiful face from what I could see of it. Why she was hiding under there I didn't care. If she wanted a lift away from this guy; I had no intention of refusing her request.
"All right, but you're in for a long cold ride I wont be stopping now until I hit Plymouth."
"That's fine with me, as long as I get away from him." She whispered back to me.
"Hold on tight girl, here we go."
I drove out of the services and back onto the M5 motorway. I wondered what this was all about. Why was this young mystery running away from the guy? The only thing I could come up with was that maybe he was her pimp or something. But from what I had seen, she didn't look like a working girl and I got the feeling he wasn't the type to be a pimp. I can't say I liked the look of him but he struck me as more of a travelling salesman or businessman.
Perhaps he picked her up hitch hiking thinking he was going to get lucky and she hadn't wanted to play. But if that was the case why hadn't she just gone into the restaurant; there were too many people around for him to get smart with her in there.
Three hours was going to be a long time under that canvas and it wasn't too warm that night so after about forty minutes or so I pulled on a slip road, stopped on the hard shoulder and let her out from under the sheet. She looked frozen.
"Okay, mystery, jump in the cab. You'll soon warm up in there." She gave me a strange look and I realised that my statement could be taken two ways. "Get a move on girl! I can't leave you standing out here alone at this time of night. Anything could happen to you. Now get a move on, I'm short of time."
She looked a little apprehensive but she climbed into the cab without saying anything. I pulled back onto the M5, checking the clock, I thought with luck I'd just about make it to my delivery on time.
The mystery soon warmed up in the cab; she lent against the passenger door and looked to me like she was falling asleep. She was quite a pretty girl, I'd say about twenty. Thin by most people's standards but that was the fashion.
"If you're tired girl, climb in the bunk and get your head down we'll be another couple of hours or so yet."
She gave me another quizzical look.
"Go on girl, you're quite safe. I've got to drive this bloody thing, haven't I?"
She appeared to think about it for a few moments and then said, "Thanks, I will if you don't mind. I'm pretty shattered."
She climbed onto the bunk behind the seats and covered herself with the blanket that I keep back there. Very quickly she was in the land of nod.
About three hours later I pulled into the factory where I was delivering the machinery. The mystery didn't stir as I drove the truck right inside the building. I almost forgot her as I removed the sheets and straps from my load, then watched as the guys craned off the three machines I was carrying. In little more than twenty minutes the truck was empty. After I had folded my sheets and stowed them, I pulled my truck out into the factory yard with the intention of getting my own head down for a few hours. I needed to log a legal break, that would trap me where I was for most of the day.
Then I remembered that the mystery was using my bunk. As I climbed into the cab I could see she was dead to the world. She didn't even stir as I lowered the upper bunk above her - quite a noisy and complicated operation - I hit the button to close the electric curtains and climbed into the upper berth.
It must have been about noon when I was awakened by the sound of the mystery quietly sobbing in the bunk below. I waited a few minutes trying to think what I should do with this young lady. God, how do I get myself in these situations? I couldn't just drop her off somewhere; I would forever be wondering what had become of her. She had nothing but a small handbag with her and no extra clothing.
I climbed out of the bunk and I could feel her watching me as I did so.
"Hungry?" I asked.
"Yes, very!" she replied. I could still hear the tears as she spoke.
"The factory toilets are just through that entrance. The second door on the right is the lady's. Go and wash your face. You've made one hell of a mess of your makeup. Then we'll go and get something to eat."
As she climbed out of the bunk, I got a little too much of a good look at a pair of beautiful legs. Her short skirt rode up higher than was decent but I don't think she noticed. Ten minutes later she returned. Her make up was fresh but her clothes were screwed up, showing the signs that she had slept in them. I'd washed my face in the sink mounted on the side of the truck and changed into a clean boiler suite.
She said nothing as we walked down the road to a nearby café where she showed me that for her small size she could put away a considerable amount of food.
"So little Miss Mystery," I said as we finished eating, "Are you going to tell me who you are and what last night was all about?"
She looked at me thoughtfully for a few minutes.
"Why do you want to know? I'm nothing to you, just someone you gave a lift to."
"Come off it. I give lifts to hitch hikers. You were hiding in my truck from someone. That tells me you're in some kind of trouble and I need to know what that trouble is. I don't want to read in the papers that you were found dead in a back alley somewhere. So come on Misty, let's have chapter and verse. You never know, I might be able to help."
"He's my brother," she said, as if that was all I needed to know.
I just sat there with an expectant look on my face.
"Well, my half brother actually. My parents were killed in a road accident when I was twelve. Jeff is eight years older than I am. He brought me up."
"So why were you running away from him." I had the feeling that I had just asked a stupid question. This was one hot looking young woman; it could be that the brother had been abusing her.
"Jeff is a businessman. Well, he thinks he is. He's never had a proper job that I know of. He buys and sells things. He's always got some big deal in the works. I don't know, he always spends money like he's got loads of it. But there are always unpaid bills lying around at home and we have had to move around a lot. I think he was running away from his debts."
Misty went quiet again and her eyes looked down at the half-empty tea mug in front of her. I got the feeling she really didn't want to say anymore. Then I think she suddenly changed her mind.
"He's in debt to some man and he can't pay it back. The guy wanted me to work off some interest. Do I need to tell you how?
"No, I think I can guess!"
"I told my brother I wouldn't do it. God! The guy's an old man and I've never...
Her voice faded away and she began to cry again. I signalled the waitress for a couple more mugs of tea.
"What am I going to do now? I've got no one I can turn to?"
"Rubbish, girl. You've turned to me, haven't you?"
She looked up at me with a quizzical look on her face.
"Listen, Misty, I'm a truck driver, as was my father before me, and I think my father's father drove a bloody horse and cart or something. Anyway being on the road is in my blood. Do you know what they used to call us lorry driver's a few years back? I'll tell you. 'Knights of the Road'. All right, there ain't as many of us out there who are still old school. But you happened to pick one who is.
"Misty, you're a damsel in distress. I will do what I can to help you. You've just got to decide what you want to do."
"I can't go back to Jeff. He'll want me to go to that man, I know it."
"Then don't go back to Jeff. Let's see what alternatives we have. You could get a job and live on your own, can't you?"
"But where will I stay in the mean time? I've only got a couple of pounds."
"Have you ever worked in a hotel?"
"No, the only jobs I've ever had were in shops. But I'll try anything."
"Okay, I know a couple of folk who have a little hotel up in Torquay. Their daughter used to help run the place but she went off to university last month. They were complaining they couldn't find anyone suitable to replace her. I don't think they can pay too much. That's probably why they are having trouble. But it's all-found so you wouldn't have any expenses."
"You think they will take me on? I don't now anything about hotels."
"Oh, yeah, I'm sure Mac and Jenny will take you on. Mac's old-school behind the wheel, just like me. But they will want their money's worth. You know in a small hotel you have to be a jack of all trades and work around the bloody clock, don't you?"
"I don't mind that and I'm a quick learner."
"Right, sit tight, I'll give them a call." I went over to the payphone and called up, Jenny as it turned out. I gave her the low down and she said that I should drop Misty up there ASAP; Misty would be serving breakfasts in the morning.
When I told Misty I saw the first real smile on her face since I had met her. I really wished I were a few years younger. But I had gathered she was about twenty. I'm thirty-eight, almost old enough to be her dad.
We couldn't leave Plymouth until four in the afternoon as I had to have my legal break before I could drive again. So we walked to a nearby Supermarket that luckily had a clothing department; Misty had nothing but the clothes she stood up in. Two hours later with a couple of hundred pounds clocked up on my credit card, we got a taxi back to the truck.
I had to almost force Misty to let me buy her the clothes. I know she felt she was taking advantage. She insisted on taking the bills because she wanted to pay me back. To be honest I didn't really expect her to since I knew she wasn't going to be earning much in Mac's hotel.
Hey, look, I didn't need the money. Since my wife left me, taking the kids with her I had nothing to spend my cash on. She and her fancy man never asked for maintenance for the kids although I had offered it. No, they drove a bleeding great wedge between me and my kids. The bloody family courts would do nothing to help me get the access to the children that I should have had.
Now the three of them wouldn't know me if they bumped into me in the bloody street. One day they might find out about the money I've been investing for them. But I doubt they will ever know how much I missed them and cared about them.
As I drove from Plymouth to Torquay, Misty told me her name was Ashley Gordon, although I continued to call her Misty. I learnt that she was actually twenty-two and from what she said she had been completely under her brother's influence until the previous evening when he pushed her too far. I really don't think she'd ever had to think for herself until that night. But she was trying the best she knew now.
Mac and Jenny were impressed with her. We arrived as they were preparing the evening meal. Misty pitched straight in and helped with preparing the vegetables in the kitchen. I left them to it and made myself comfy in the lounge dosing for a while. A little later whilst the food was cooking, Jenny took Misty up to her room to let her get settled.
Then Mac and Jenny joined me in the lounge. I didn't have too much time as I had to get back on the road for the drive up country for my next load.
"Where did you pick the mystery up then, Al?" Mac asked.
"What do you mean mystery?" Jenny butted in.
"Ah, there used to be lots of them in the old days." Mac told her, "They would be hanging around the transport café's most nights, trying to cadge a lift somewhere, anywhere. The mystery was where they came from and where they were going too. They were most likely runaways. There were very few motorways back then, once they got out of town they could disappear forever. I expect most of them finished up on the game, once they got to the big cities.
"You're a soft touch like your dad, Al. You couldn't take the risk of it happening to her could you? Ashley made you think of your daughters, didn't she?" Mac said. Mac knew all about me and my troubles; he had been a friend of my father before he died.
"Christ, I hope my daughter never finds herself in the kind of position that Misty found herself in. That's what her brother wanted her to do, you know. The bastard was planning on pimping her out. Christ knows where she would have finished up, if he'd had his way."
"Well, we'll look after her for you don't worry," Mac said. "Jenny, you better warn her about the guests. Some of the sales guy's have the gift of the gab."
"I think the fact she ran away and hid in Al's truck shows she's not the dumb blond her brother took her for. I should think she'll know how to keep the Casanovas' at arms length, but I'll have a word just in case." Jenny assured me.
I said my goodbyes and resumed my journey back up country. Misty gave me a hug and thanked me before I left. It was an affectionate hug. I took it as the kind that of hug a daughter would give her father. That was the first time she had actually touched me. It felt good and I wondered just what I had missed with my own daughters.
It was a month before I saw the three of them again. I'd planned to stay the weekend at the hotel so I had dropped my load on the Friday afternoon and parked the truck up in the lorry-park. At that time it was where the coach station in Torquay is today. I parked up and paid for the weekend, then took a taxi to the hotel.
Mac and Jenny were out when I arrived and Misty was on reception alone. As I walked in the door, she ran over to me and gave me a hug and kiss like I was her long lost brother. Once Mac and Jenny returned, Misty hardly ever left my side most of the time I was there. Except when I went to bed, that is.
I began to think Mac would be annoyed, as there must have been plenty of work to be done. But Jenny told me that Misty hadn't taken one day off since she had arrived. She had told them she would have her time off when I visited.
It was a change of routine for me. Usually I just chill out in the hotel lounge when I visited Mac and Jenny. But this time Misty and I explored the town. Misty hung on my arm as if she thought I'd get lost or something as she showed me around the town. She was obviously enjoying showing me around so I didn't tell her I'd known the place for years. I was aware of getting some funny looks; I know I was only thirty-eight but I looked like an old man, next to Misty.
It appeared that Misty had adopted me as a father figure. So that's the part I carefully played from then on. Obviously her brother had been her father figure but he had let her down badly. As she was now looking to me, I intended to give her the support she needed. Mind, I did wish I were fifteen years younger. I had developed strong feelings for the girl.
The weekend went all too quickly. But when it was over I decided I would change my routine and spend more of my weekends in Torquay. Driver's hours, rest periods and compulsory two day 48 hour rest breaks are tightly enforced in the UK. Having no reason to spend my rest weekends at home, I had tended to stop over at a series of friend's places around the country, on a kind of rota basis. Having Misty in Torquay was a reason to go there. I felt needed, that was something I hadn't felt for a long time.