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«It’s a really good bargain,» said the man in the showroom ; and as far as Shafi could tell, he was telling the truth.
«It’s yours for just £5,000!» he continued. «You won’t find a better buy anywhere else in the North; and what’s more, we’ll give you a year’s insurance with it. Free!»
Shafi eyed the vehicle longingly; it was bright red, and just over a year old – and inside it had that smell of polish that comes with a new car. There was just the matter of the price – it was more than he had planned to spend on his first car, and more than he actually had available.
«Five thousand?» he asked, hoping rather hopelessly that he had somehow misheard.
«Five grand! That’s it. But you can ‘ave it for three in cash now, and the rest in three months. You can get a loan from the bank!»
Ever since he’d taken his first job at the burger bar at the age of 17, he’d been saving up for a nice car; of course, he could have made do with a cheap wreck years ago – but that was not what he wanted. Shafi wanted a good car, a nice car, one that would make him feel as if he had achieved something better in life than serving in a restaurant.
He handed over the crisp fifty pound notes. Even if the insurance was only third-party, he reckoned it was a good buy at the price.
Settling in to the driving seat, he adjusted it for position, and turned the key. Within minutes, he had passed the outskirts of Leeds, and was headed for Gemma’s house in Frampton. After all, she’d been badgering him to get a car, ever since he’d first mentioned the idea to her a month or so earlier
He knew that she’d be impressed.
«So you bought it at last!» she exclaimed. «Great!» Now we can go places!»
«Yes. And it goes like a dream!»
«Let’s take it over to Sawby tonight,» she suggested. «Jess is on the door, he’ll let us in free.»
Sawby was only sixteen miles away, but the quickest way to get there was to take the motorway ; and besides Shafi was keen to see how fast he could get the new car up to.
«Hey, take it easy,» said Gemma, as the speedometer edged up towards the 100 m.p.h. mark. «You don’t want to get done for speeding on the very first day!»
Shafi slowed down; the exit to Sawby was coming up fast.
As luck would have it, there was a space just opposite the club as Shafi proudly arrived in the shining new car. A group of young men watched from the pavement opposite as he carefully parked by the kerbside.
Jess wasn’t on the door after all, and they had to pay to get in; but the atmosphere in the club was hot and exciting as usual. It was a popular place, and with some of the best D.J’s in the region, it attracted people from all round, even from Manchester.
«So you’ve got your car at last, eh Shafi, boy!» said a voice in the semi-darkness.
Shafi looked round. He recognised the speaker at once, and was not pleased. It was Rooksby, Gemma’s former boyfriend. The three of them had worked together a year ago in a restaurant, until Rooksby was sacked for insulting a group of foreign tourists.
«Hello,» said Shafi.
«Smart job, ain’t it!» said Rooksby.
«Yes,» he answered. «Very nice thankyou….»
«A bit too smart for someone like you, ain’t it?»
«Oh give over!» said Gemma.
Rooksby gave a sarcastic laugh, and moved away.
It was almost 3 a.m. as they emerged from the club.
«Hey!» exclaimed Shafi, looking across the street. «Where’s the car? We left it there, didn’t we?.»
«Yes, I think so,» said Gemma.
«Oh no, don’t say someone’s gone an’ nicked it already,» Shafi groaned. The tears were already beginning to well up in his eyes.
«What did you do with the keys?» asked Gemma.
«They’re here,» he answered, rummaging in his pocket. «Or at least I think they are.»
Then he frowned. «They’ve gone…. They can’t have…. I must have put them down somewhere…. No! this is ridiculous.»
He was looking increasingly desperate.
At that moment, a red car roared past them, and disappeared up the road.
«But that’s the car,» Shafi exclaimed. «It’s my car! Come back!»
«No good yelling after ’em,» said a voice from behind, «Looks like you’ve lost it, doesn’t it, Shafi boy!»
They turned and saw Rooksby again, a wry smile on his twisted lips.
«That’s brilliant!» said Gemma. «You bring me out here, then the car gets nicked. How’m I goin’ to get home?»
«I’ll get call a taxi,» said Shafi.
«I’ll run you home if you like,» said Rooksby. «I’ve just got room for one!»
«You?» said Gemma. «Well I suppose it’s better ‘n nothing.»
Two weeks later, the police called Shafi’s employer, asking for the owner of a red car.
Shafi eagerly took the phone; «You’ve found it?» he asked excitedly.
«Yes Sir,» said the voice on the other end of the phone. «It’s in the pound in Birmingham…. but I’m afraid you can’t have it back now.»
«What? Why not?»
«Well Sir, you see it’s a write-off.»
Shafi felt a lump rising in his throat. «You mean….»
«Fatal accident, Sir. The driver was killed, and the passenger’s in intensive care. She’s just told us you were the owner of the car.»
«What? Who was it then?»
«She won’t give us her name. She just says she wants to see you. She says she’s sorry. Perhaps you can help us with our enquiries.»