The Private Sale

By Brian Robinson.

The test drive.

As a rule, I never go to a main dealer when I want to buy a car. I prefer to search for them privately, not only to get a better deal, but to know the history; the service history; the personal history.

But the trade ad in the paper looked too good to pass up: one owner; low mileage; showroom condition. I was expecting to find a garage when I arrived, instead, I found the seller to be a one-man-band operating from a friends house. I would have turned on the spot if the car hadn’t looked so good.

He had all the spiel, some would call it bullshit, but he was good. I like people who are good at what they do. He was friendly; had an easy manner; and didn’t wince when I told him I wanted to trade my old car in.

But he didn’t have the document that proves ownership. That was a bit of a blow. He promised to forward the log book on. I wasn’t surprised when it never turned up. More promises came over the phone but they soon morphed into lies. Something was wrong? I couldn’t fault the car, and trust me I tried, but there was a bad smell about it.

I noticed the driver’s sun-visor had two elastic bands stretched around it. When lowered, I found a piece of cardboard with a list of phone numbers on it. Why would you have that in the car? Why would you leave that in the car? Perhaps the driver was an elderly person with memory issues?

And in a small compartment next to the driver’s seat, I found several other items had been left: some pens; scraps of paper with the names of horses written on them; and a pair of prescription glasses. That too seemed strange.

If they had been sun glasses I wouldn’t have bothered. But these were reading glasses. Why would you leave them in the car? I rang the first number on the piece of cardboard.

“Hi, I think I’ve just bought your old car and I’ve found some personal things left inside.”

“Oh the Honda! No no, that was my dad’s car.”

“Would you like me to post them on? I’m sure he must be missing the glasses.”

“Well, er, no, not really. I’m afraid my dad has just recently passed away.”

“Oh I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I hope I haven’t upset you by phoning.”

“No, don’t worry, really, it’s fine.”

“You know it’s funny, I can’t explain it, but I had a strange feeling about the car.”

“Well actually, my dad took his own life in his car. We found him in his garage. He had connected a hose to the exhaust and trailed it back in through the window.”

“Goodness! How terrible for you. I am so sorry. Have you any idea why?”

“He was a very private person. We have no clue.”

Horse racing: there are always more losers than winners.

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