“You mean that car has come back to us for auction again?”
“Yes, there’s no mistake. That’s the third time we’ve sold it, the third new owner who wants to get rid of it after only a couple of weeks.”
“So what the hell is wrong with it?”
I’ve been the owner of Grenaby Car Auctions for twenty years now and seen virtually everything there is for a motor trader to see. Stolen cars that we’ve alerted the police about, cars with outstanding finance, plus some right old lemons – that’s an American term meaning an unreliable ‘bad luck’ car that’s always going wrong, plus every old wreck under the sun.
At Grenaby, we go over and above to be fair and we’ll never do anything knowingly dishonest. Buyer Beware is our motto of course, but, as I say, we do our best to be upfront about problems. We’ve even sold cars that don’t have engines or wheels! But whatever sort of clapped out banger we put up on the stand, runner or restoration project, there’s always some bloke who takes pot luck that the price he bids is worth the work it needs to get it going.
Even though we’ve got lots of competition, what with the Ebay and the online guys, there’s always folk who just love buying and selling cars in person at auction, and hope to make a few quid by snagging a bargain on the day.
But this is the first time that we’ve had a car that nobody wants to keep, that goes on being given back to us to auction off again and again, like a sort of car boomerang.
This white Range Rover, I tell you no lies, it was a right old mystery and a half. Me and my business partner, Steve, are experienced mechanics and we’d both gone over it thoroughly several times now, and there was no mistake: it was a peach, with an engine that was sweet as a nut, silky smooth gearbox, clean body, interior you could eat your dinner off, and we paid an arm and a leg to get a main dealer to plug in the old computer fault finder, and even that couldn’t find any faults. So believe you me it was a good clean motor.
So why did three separate people buy it, then pretty much immediately put it back into the auction to be sold on?
I decided to phone the latest guy who was selling it.
“Mr Marshall,” I began after introducing myself. “Do you mind my asking you why you want to sell the car after only a fortnight? See, we try to be honest, so if there’s something wrong with it we’d like to know.”
“Oh no, there’s nothing at all wrong with it,” he assured me. “It’s a lovely car. At least there’s nothing wrong with it mechanically.”
“So you just don’t need it for some reason?”
“No, no, it’s not that. It’s my wife, you see. She uses the car for running around, taking the children to school, shopping and so on, and she just hates it. She hates even getting inside it, makes her feel scared. I’ve got her another car, a little Datsun, and she’s fine with that, and it’s nowhere near such a classy motor as that lovely Range Rover, but what can you do?” There was a pause. “Mind you, I’m not saying Beryl’s stupid or over imaginative or anything, she’s a perfectly normal sensible person – got more sense than I have to be honest. And actually I do admit, there was one time I drove it on my own when I did feel a bit weird. The car kind of creeped me out, you know? One time I glanced in the rear-view mirror and I thought I saw something.”
“It was only there for a second, fleeting like. I must have imagined it. It’s just that even though I was on my own in the car I felt as if there was someone else there, if you know what I mean? Almost as if there was someone who was already in the car. A bit like that feeling you get when you go in a room and everyone turns to look at you, and you feel as if you’re not welcome, that you ought to leave.”
“Sorry, mate, sounds ridiculous, I know, but I can’t put it more clearly than that. Probably just me having the heeby-jeepies, being stupid. But there’s nothing wrong with the car, I promise you. Let’s hope you find a good home for it.”
Out of curiosity I contacted an old mate, who is a private detective, and gave him the details of the last five owners I could find listed on the net, for XYZ 1234, (which is not the registration number of course, but the one I’ll use here). I asked him to see if he could find anything out about any of these owners, by snooping around a bit, the way he knows how to poke about. He phoned me back next day:
“John? That white Range Rover you were asking about, XYZ 1234. One of the owner’s names threw up something interesting. I found an article in an Edinburgh newspaper, about a young couple who committed suicide together in a white Range Rover, the old ‘hosepipe from the exhaust through the window’ method. One of the registered owner’s names, Eddie Stephens, had an address in Edinburgh, and is the same name as the suicide guy and the date predates the next sale of the car by a week, so it looks as if after this young couple died in the Range Rover, whoever inherited the car took it down to London and sold it on, hoping no one was any the wiser.”
“Wow, blimmin’ heck.” I gulped. “Stands to reason. Who on earth would want to own a car where two people have done themselves in?”
“Bit of a facer, isn’t it? Mind, if you didn’t know about it why on earth would you care? What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.”
Our local vicar is a mate of mine, and I asked him about my problem and he offered to come and have a look at the car.
“I don’t believe in ghosts or any of that mumbo jumbo,” Trevor, my vicar pal, reassured me as he opened the passenger door of the car and looked inside, inhaling the lovely clean leathery smell. “At least I’ve never had any supernatural experiences myself, but I’m sure my bishop would have a more open mind – the church does have a very few ministers who specialise in what we call deliverance, that is dealing with places, or people that appear to be troubled by supernatural occurrences. . . I tell you what though, John, it’s very sad to think of that unhappy young couple who died in this car. How about if I say a few prayers for them? Can’t do any harm, can it?”
So he got in the passenger seat and I climbed into the driver’s side. I felt a bit of a prat as he mumbled some prayers and made the sign of the cross, but then when he mentioned the young couple’s names, it seemed kind of respectful and appropriate. Then he took out a tiny crucifix from his pocket and held it above the dashboard, moving it from side to side as he recited the Lord’s Prayer.
Then, for some reason, just as he said the final Amen, he dropped it. We searched everywhere, but the thing just seemed to have vanished.
“Oh well, no harm done,” Trevor said, smiling as he got out of the car and stretched. “It must have slipped down a crack or something. Maybe it’s a good thing to leave a little piece of Christianity in there. Perhaps a bit of positive karma will make it into a happy car again.”
Anyway, after that we sold the car, and Mr Marshall got a reasonable price for it, and that was that.
Or so I thought.
A few weeks later, my eye was drawn to the article on the front page of our local paper. It seemed that XYZ 1234 was no more. It had been stolen from outside the new owner’s house and used for a ram raid on a jewellers’ shop. The police gave chase, and the car ended up crashing into a wall, turning onto its roof, bursting into flames and killing all the occupants.
Brrrr! It made me shiver, I don’t mind saying. A suicide car that ends up killing people in a wall of flame! Trevor’s blessing certainly hadn’t been much help, had it?
But even that wasn’t the end of the story.
A week later my detective friend Reg was chatting about this and that on the phone, when he brought up the subject of the white Range Rover again.
“Oh, John, I think I led you up the garden path about that car belonging to the suicide couple. Yesterday I found a few more details, and it turns out that the man who owned the car was a Mr Stevens with a v, and not a Stephens with a ph, so it seems I got it all wrong, and the suicide couple died in another Range Rover, not yours. I guess that the car that the young couple died in is being used quite happily by someone who hasn’t got a clue as to its history.”
“But as it goes, I did find a little bit of information about another of the early owners of that car. There was this woman in Pendle, Lancashire, who according to an article I found on the net, was supposed to be a witch – into black magic, Satanism or something, and she died unexpectedly after an orgy of all things! And the husband got rid of her car sharpish. I dunno, honestly, black magic, witchcraft, Satanism?” He laughed. “What of load of rubbish. Can you credit it? The things some people believe in!”
(Image courtesy of Min Soo Ein, from Pixabay)