“I did it!” Kane sat back in the seat and waved the pass papers at Andy. “I passed my test! Thank you!”
Andy grinned. “I told you that you could do it. Now all you need to do is keep checking your mirrors and get some practice in.” His face clouded over. “I wish I could come with you to find a car.”
Kane smiled awkwardly at the ghost of the driving instructor. “I wish you could as well. I don’t know where to start.”
“Well, your friend Den will know a few people, but don’t let him talk you into something that’s not absolutely on the level,” Andy said. “Check online for all the papers that they should have, and don’t accept any excuses.”
“You can’t leave the car, can you?” Kane said. He frowned. “I wish there was some way to help you.”
April interrupted them, walking over from the test centre and sticking her head into the car. “I’m getting a lift home now,” she said, grinning at Kane. “You can drive the car back. Take your time.” She put her hand on her pregnancy bump. “I need a long nap, and I don’t want to be disturbed.”
Kane watched her get into her husband’s car and smiled. “She’s just being kind, really.” He turned to look at Andy. “So what now?”
“I’ve been thinking,” Andy said. “When you realise that you’re a ghost, you find yourself wondering where you went wrong, what you did and how to put it right.” He forced a grin. “I couldn’t go out and look for answers, but I’ve done a lot of thinking. It’s unfinished business.”
Kane nodded. In his experience, ghosts usually hung around because they were too stubborn to go or were too attached to a place or person. He’d seen a few cases where the ghost couldn’t let go because of a guilty conscience, though, or, as Andy had said, unfinished business. “I haven’t seen a haunted car before.”
Andy sighed. “I think I know what it is,” he said. There was a brief shift as he was suddenly in the passenger seat, seatbelt fastened and clipboard in hand. “Why don’t you drive us out to the park. We can talk there.” He grinned again. “Your first trip as an independent driver. Off you go. Don’t forget to check your mirrors.”
“You did a good job saving April, you know,” Andy said as they drove. “It means a lot to her.”
Kane smiled. “It was you that saved her really, telling me what to do. She says that she may give him Andrew as a middle name. And I’m going to be a godfather.”
“That’s nice,” Andy said gruffly. “I haven’t got any kids.” Uncharacteristically, he looked out of the window and made no comment as Kane made a mess of a left turn. “I think it’s that holding me back.”
“That you have no kids?” Kane asked. “I don’t think that can be changed.”
“No,” Andy said. “It’s just…” He looked down at his ghostly clipboard. “I was a copper, then I was a driving instructor. I banged up a few bad lads in my time. I was straight, and I did my best, but when I got hurt holding a shield wall in a riot, I left.” Andy glanced across to Kane who was concentrating on an awkward junction. “It’s okay, take your time and then keep to the right. That’s it, well done. Anyway, just before I snuffed it, I took on a lad for lessons, and I recognised his name. I’d put away his dad.”
“Was he angry?” Kane asked.
Andy shook his head. “He said that I’d done everyone a favour. Take it from someone who’s seen it – there are some dark places in this world.” He looked at Kane. “I don’t suppose I need to tell you, not after you were in care.”
Kane shook his head and carefully changed up into third gear. “So what happened?”
“He said he was okay with the lessons, and I gave him a bit of a discount,” Andy said. “He was a nice lad. He didn’t take after his father, that’s for sure. We would talk as we drove, like you and I have, and I put him in the way of an apprenticeship I knew was coming up. I thought it was the least I could do, as it was my fault that he didn’t have a dad speaking up for him.”
“Did he get it?” Kane asked.
“The apprenticeship? Yeah, and from what I heard he was doing well.” Andy looked down again at the clipboard. “He was keeping his head down and working hard. I was helping him out, giving him lessons without him having to worry about paying straight away. And he was doing well.” Andy paused. “Why don’t you pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Kane checked his mirrors, indicated and stopped. He turned the engine off and turned to look at the ghost. “You were becoming a father figure to him, weren’t you?”
“He wasn’t much older than you,” Andy said. “And he was doing his best. I could give him some ideas, help him out a little. I took him and his girlfriend out for a meal once. She was nice as well. Quiet, but calm, you know.” He sighed. “Anyway, we came to the test. He failed the first two times, but that wasn’t a problem. I was poorly on the day of the third test, but I wasn’t going to let him down.” Andy turned away from Kane and stared straight ahead. I was waiting in the office when I was taken ill. I died before I got to the hospital.”
There was a long silence. Kane wished he knew what to say. Even after the last few years of helping spirits, negotiating with them and, at times, telling them off, he never knew what to do when faced with emotional pain, from either the dead or the living. “Did you ever find out?”
Andy shook his head. “I thought he’d do it this time. He was turning out to be a great driver – very calm in a crisis. I can’t seem to let go of it.”
“You haven’t been dead long, have you?” Kane asked. “Because he probably still lives in the same place. I can go and ask, if you like?”
“That would be a bit weird, wouldn’t it?” Andy said.
“You’d be surprised,” Kane said. “But I could at least take a message.”
Kane came back to the car from the tiny flat above the shops and slid into the driving seat. The ghost next to him didn’t even turn his head. Every translucent inch of him was rigid. Kane wished that he could at least put a friendly hand on Andy’s shoulder.
“It’s okay, he believed me,” Kane said. “Especially when I reminded him about the crumpets and the parking bollard.”
Andy managed a chuckle. “That’s a story that you couldn’t make up. So, what was it? Did he do it?”
Kane nodded. “He passed, Andy, he passed! He said it was the best and worst time as he came in to tell you and you were gone.”
“I knew he would do it,” Andy started to fade.
“And he said that once the house you left him gets transferred over, he’s going to propose to his girlfriend. He says that you made it possible.”
As the ghost faded, Kane could see a hint of a tear in Andy’s eye. “That’s wonderful news. She’s a good lass and they’ll look after each other.”
“Andy, listen, he said that you were like a dad to him, and that he’ll never forget you.” Kane said quickly.
There was just the faintest trace of the old driving instructor in the air but a soft ‘thank you’ drifted out before Andy was gone.
Kane sat for a moment and stared at the space where Andy had been. Then, taking all of his courage in his hands, he drove off, fully alone in the car for the first time.