“I love this car, I really really love it.”
Robin Gargle, our local vicar, was delighted with his purchase. He’d bought the estate car from Dean Smithers, a car dealer in town that my friend Stuart and I knew to be handier at breaking legs than doing an honest deal.
The three of us had enjoyed a pint at the Dog and Duck, and we were in the pub’s car park, admiring Robin’s new pride and joy. Stuart exchanged a glance with me when Robin told us the price he’d paid, which we knew to be way above its market value.
“Did you listen to the engine?” I asked, staring into the open bonnet, which was awash with oil stains and grime.
“Yes, I did,” Robin went on enthusiastically. “Funny there was this strange knocking noise, but Dean told me it didn’t matter.”
“Can you start her up?” Stuart asked.
Sure enough below the throaty roar, Stuart and I could hear the tell-tale knocking noise that indicated an engine on its last legs.
“What’s good about it being an estate,” Robin went on cheerfully, “is I can pack in the donated clothes for the homeless shelter, plus I can help delivering food to the soup kitchen. Dean seemed such a nice guy too, so kind and helpful.”
Stuart and I exchanged another glance, and I squatted down to look at the tyres. Three of them were almost bald, and the car’s underside looked badly corroded.
Robin is no fool, but he’s the kind of character that if he met Hitler he’d say he was a nice guy who’d made a few mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, slightly-built bespectacled Robin was the kind of person who could certainly stand up for himself. He physically attacked a man who he’d seen being cruel to a dog and he’d once almost come to blows with a counsellor who refused to allow funding for one of his soup kitchens. Oddly enough, even though he looked as if he couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag, if it came to a fight I’d rather have dear old Robin in my corner than any number of tough guys.
So Robin drove off in his beloved car, to the accompaniment of pops and bangs from the exhaust and a haze of blue fumes of burning oil, leaving Stuart and I to return to the pub.
“I suppose we could put in a new engine for him when it goes,” Stuart mused gloomily, “I’ve seen pretty good recon units on the internet.”
“And how about three new tyres and the body rot in the floor? The best place for that wreck is the scrapyard. For what he paid he could have got a decent runabout.” I was angry at the way smooth-talking Dean Smithers had conned our friend.
“So what are we going to do?”
“How about if we tell Robin the truth about the damned car, and persuade him to go back to Dean Smithers and demand his money back?”
“Money back? The last bloke who tried to get his money back from Dean Smithers was found beaten up in an alley with smashed kneecaps.”
“Hmm. Well we’ve got to do something.”
“We could threaten him.”
“Got a death wish, have you Stuart?”
A couple of days later Robin drove into the car park of the Dog and Duck in a fairly new people carrier. Just as before, he seemed delighted with it.
This was a very different vehicle to the wretched clunker he’d had. Clean, not many miles on the clock: a good reliable-looking car.
“I told you Dean was a nice guy,” Robin told Stuart and me when we’d got the drinks in. “In fact he came round to the vicarage this morning, full of apologies, explaining that he’d realised that the car he’d sold me had a few problems, and in conscience he felt he had to replace it within another one. And this car’s the same price, newer, and it’s even bigger than the other – much more room for food and clothing, it’s even big enough to lend it to the children’s home for their weekend outings!”
“I can’t believe Dean would do that,” Stuart said, bemused.
“Yes, it was funny,” Robin went on, “Dean reminded me that I’d met his wife, Sally, at the centre in the hospital I got going for the mums with toddlers with cerebral palsy – Dean’s daughter and his grandaughter are members. Just a coffee morning group with a crèche, where the harassed mums can meet up and discuss their problems and make friends. She told him about my work there just after he’d sold me that first car. He seemed touched somehow. What a nice man he is.”