The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own. I smiled into the rearview mirror at the Corporal, quickly returning my attention to highway driving. It is 2023, late March, and my thoughts are on future car rallies, show and shine events and many car-related ideas.
I turn to the writer sitting next to me;" The Corporal and his family seem to be alright with the idea, so I will begin when I first meet Freddie."
The writer pressed the record button on his phone as he stretched as I began to tell my fable.
I was looking through Craigslist, Facebook and other platforms for something different. I was an apprentice mechanic at a large dealership, but like his father and nana, he loved the older vehicles, but they were getting harder and harder to find. I saw this ad showing two large older tarps covering some vehicle in a large shed.
"Big Old Car left in my care, but I am going in a home now" the ad included a telephone number and an address.
I was curious, so I called the number. I spoke to a pleasant elderly lady; she did not know much about the car but said it belonged to her grandson. The car was in her name, and she knew little about the vehicle and avoided the shed where the vehicle was as much as possible. She did mention that was where her deceased husband and her grandson worked on vehicles and had all sorts of exciting dreams.
I decided to place all the cash I had in my wallet. I found two of my friends to go find this small property in the hills behind the City of Mission. The house looked unkept, and you could tell whoever took over the property would bulldoze everything. The old lady came out of the house slowly with papers, an older set of keys, and a polite greeted the four of us.
The writer paused his recording, "Four; I thought you said two friends?"
"Sorry, my Dad came along."
"I won't go into the shed myself, have a look. The greedy relatives are coming to take me away tomorrow or the next day. Gonna plow everything done, so take whatever you want with the car." she said kindly as she waved her left arm.
The lock on the shed was broken, and the old rusty chain was quickly removed. The three young men walked over toward the old leaning building. My dad came up behind us, looking all around as he went.
We pulled the old wooden doors open wide as we did; loud, cracking noises echoed. They all stood back and looked in the messy shadowy building. Thick dust clouds, old chicken poop, and nasty stuff filled the air for several minutes. The dirt floor was littered with items that must have been twenty years old lying around. The garage was full of mechanic books, some very mouldy tires, auto parts, tools, two Canadian flags, one very old and a German Nazi Flag with several holes. Many articles appeared to have been left in some order, like a mechanic halfway through a project but called away for a while. I asked my friend Ritchie to help remove the old filthy green tarp pulling. We pulled the tarp out of the shed and left it in the yard. My friend Sid ventured first into the shed with a bright flashlight. The flashlight pierced the floating filth and darkness in the rear of the shed.
We quickly noticed that a second less dirty tarp was covering an interesting shaped auto. Without moving the tarp we all doubted that a muscle car from the past was under this tarp. As Ritchie helped me pull the second tarp off Sid turned and bellowed out, "Holy Shat!"
Everyone moved quickly toward the vehicle; men moved in quickly with thoughts of Wayne's World as they gazed at the 1979 Green AMC Pacer. I slowly opened the driver's door staring inside at the dusty but near-perfect automobile interior. I slowly climbed behind the wheel, and that is when I saw the piece of bent cardboard on the dash. I blew the dust off and wiped it for a moment and read the note aloud:
"Grandma, if this is you, I promise I will remove this car and my stuff from your shed once I return to Canada.
If this is anyone else, I guess I never made it back from deployment. The car is yours now, be good to Freddy for me."
I handed the note to my father, leaning in the passenger door. door. I slowly got out of the car and walked out of the shed. The others silently followed me as he walked to the old lady waiting halfway across the yard.
"Well, take it, and anything else inside is yours too; damn, developers deserve nothing," she said as she looked towards him.
"Your grandson?" I said.
"Yha, I am over it; he had to go off and die in some place called Kandahar." She said as she fought back the tears. "Then, just like his father left all his crap lying around." She handed him the papers, "Thousand dollars, you take everything," she said, trying to grin.
I felt guilty, the car was worth more than that, and the tools and other items were worth even more. I slowly handed her the money and tried to offer her some more. "I have two thousand here with me; please take it."
"No sense; they won't let me keep it, besides it is good to see the look." She said with a hint of a smile.
Ritchie blurted out, "Mark, you got the look."
She laughed suddenly, "You all got that glazed Car look. I have missed it for so very long. Everything left to me, be kind boys; don't leave it to your mommas and grandmas to dispose of.' There is a car puller thingy on the back side of the shed; I gave you the paperwork for that too."
Ritchie was sure his little Ford Ranger could tow the Pacer with few problems. The three young men drove to an insurance office. A half-hour later, they returned with two permits. As we prepared to put the car in tow, we found the name "Freddie" etched on the large back window.
All this time, my dad spoke to the old lady before rejoining us. He said he asked her about the flags and old military gear. She told him that the old Canadian flag belonged to her deceased husband. He had proudly taken it home from Korea. The old Nazi flag was taken from a Dutch city near the end of the war by her old Uncle Samuel. He offered to find them a good home. She was pleased that her family legacy in the military might be remembered.
I was not sure why, but I knew from this point on it was Freddie the Pacer, and it would never be called anything else. Ritchie got into his truck as the other two prepared for the vehicle to leave. My father followed in an aging Honda Civic filled with all sorts of items we retrieved from the shed.
The old woman exited the house as the truck slowly towed the car towards the front gate. Sid waved to show her he would open and close her entrance for her, but she did not seem to notice. She walked to the passenger side of the truck.
"Master Corporal John Peter Stewart, First Battalion, was the young man who loved Freddie before you. Before him, my husband Fred Henry Stewart bought this ugly little monster from the Dealership down on Broadway in Vancouver," she said. Her hand quivered ever so slightly as she handed Mark two photos. The first showed John in his uniform somewhere in Afghanistan. The second photo was of a young teenage John standing beside his grandfather and Freddie.
"I cannot take those," I told her as I saw the raw emotion on her face.
"I have many pictures; it will help when you see them in the car occasionally. The car is a little haunted, sweetie." With that, she laughed and headed back to the house.
While driving toward my home, Ritchie cracked jokes about the haunted Pacer. Sid sat uncomfortably in the tiny jump seat; twice he was convinced he saw someone moving around in the Pacer, but with Ritchie cracking enough jokes, he stayed silent.
One afternoon while test-driving a customer's car, an unusual event occurred that involved Freddie. Within a week, I had the vehicle running very rough, I managed to get it to my Dealership, and all the mechanics and some of the sales staff swarmed around it. At lunchtime, I often worked on the vehicle and was surprised at how many other staff skipped part of their lunch break to help work on Freddie.
That afternoon the Sales Manager had a challenging meeting with the owners of the dealership group. He was frustrated and went for a walk around the property. He noticed a young man in military desert attire looking into Freddie's window.
"Say that was is not for sale at the moment," he said in a friendly tone. "We just got in this nice looking 1980 Camaro on trade if that interests you."
He motioned toward the front of the lot and turned around, but the young man was gone. Some might have considered it a stress problem or even too much sun. But he swore he saw the young man on the property.
That night I left Freddie in the rear of the Dealership while waiting for a parts delivery for him. Late into that evening, a patrolling security vehicle patrolling the property saw the same man in military attire. They quickly turned into the lot but could not find where the young soldier had gone.
I still did not believe in any of this stuff, as I placed a new muffler onto Freddie the next day at lunch. Freddie purred to life, almost enjoying the new lease on life. As I drove home and prepared to argue for a place in the garage for Freddie, he looked in the rear-view mirror and saw an elderly man sitting there. I stopped the car suddenly. I looked all around but saw no one in the back seat. I exited the car and searched the rear seat, but no one was there. As I began to pull back into traffic and entered the highway towards home, an elderly male voice said, "Freddie does not like tickets."
In shock, I slowed the car down just as he drove past an unmarked RCMP highway patrol vehicle; once he was home, I decided it was best to leave the two photos in the car, at least for the moment. I was shaken as I looked at the pictures and thought the face looked like the older man in the one photo.
Over the next few weeks, I occasionally saw the grandfather in the back seat and the Master Corporal in the front seat. I decided to look at military records online about the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan. I discovered he had died a day after a big Canadian attack in Afghanistan called "Operation Medusa." The guy lived through the battle, and his vehicle was blown up from under him.
Freddie had been a family member for about three weeks when two events happened almost simultaneously. A courier arrived with a small parcel for me; as the courier truck was preparing to leave, Bustin Dave's Auto Wrecked came with a surprise.
Dave laughed as I looked at the dirty red Pacer on his flat deck wrecker. "Didn't that damn paperwork arrive already?"
With members of his family present and neighbours staring at the Pacer on the flat deck, Mark opened the parcel. It was from the law firm of Able, Anderson and Whiddle. It informed him that Mrs. Marge Helen Stewart had died recently but had changed her will and left him this car with the following note.
"Mark never told you my husband bought two Pacers from those people on Broadway back in the day. I never drove this much and hated a car that was so wide it barely fit in a parking space. It is yours as well. Oh, yha, don't worry; I don't plan to haunt it, but that might change. Sincerely Marge..."
Mark had the extra Pacer parked in the rear of the property, and a shelter was built around it, so it was not an eyesore for the family. I really was sure what to do precisely with this second Pacer, so it sat there for six months.
I drove with some friends in the Pacer to a Car Show & Shine downtown in Chilliwack, Freddie's first car show. As I was driving, everyone heard a loud shriek, "BRAKE!" I saw a rugged look on the old man's face in the rearview mirror.
I pressed the peddle to the floorboards as a pickup truck ran through the traffic light. The large Ford Pick Up struck Freddie in the front left fender. Freddie spun in a circle and struck a power pole. The three of us were stunned as smoke and steam poured from under the hood. In the cracked rearview mirror, I could see the Corporal and the old man's faces.
The three of us were trapped in Freddie as we choked on the fumes entering the car's interior. At that moment, I was sure I was going to die.
A man in uniform came out of the smoke to direct members of the crowd to push on the right front fender, freeing the car from the pole and allowing people to get us out of the vehicle. As I passed out, I thought I saw this military man smile at me.
I awoke after some hours in the hospital, and an RCMP officer told him I was lucky to be alive.
"Witnesses said you tried to stop; did you see the truck moving so fast." Asked the officer.
Stunned, Mark replied, "No, a voice in my head told me too."
"Wish I had more people with voices in their head," said the officer, "You are lucky, a little further ahead, and the truck would have rolled right through you all."
Despite feeling the various effects of medication, I looked into the glint on a machine and knew Marge was looking over me. He heard her voice in his head.
"I am an old lady. I know things like you would need my car for parts before long" a moment later, she was gone.
Once out of the hospital, I spent weeks rebuilding Freddie from the two vehicles, I had lots of help from others, and a few months later, Freddie was back on the road again.
The Police officially never found the military corporal that had been so helpful at the accident scene; they could not say "A good Samaritan ghost."
After this time, whoever entered the car always said hello to the ghosts, some eventually by name, and both the grandfather's and his grandson's names were often mentioned at auto shows and events.
Freddie would be parked near a war memorial every November, the Eleventh, to honour the Canadians who gave so much. My family and friends celebrated the brave memories of the one hundred and fifty-eight Canadians who died in Afghanistan.
"Are either of them here now?" asked the writer as he looked towards the rearview mirror.
I looked briefly in the rearview mirror, already knowing what I would see. "Master Corporal John Peter Stewart is sitting in the rear seat, watching over us," I said with a halfway grin.
Thank you for reading this story that tries to honour the memories of the brave men and women that served Canada in foreign lands. Please feel free to comment.
Between 2001 and 2014, the Canadian military and civilian authorities assisted in Afghanistan. No real people were used in this story; the Military Operation mentioned, as was the Canadian 1st Battalion, was very real.
We owe an outstanding debt to over 40,000 Canadians who spent time assisting and rebuilding Afghanistan.
About the Creator
A Fifty something male that enjoys writing short stories, scripts and poetry. I have had many different types of work over my lifetime and consider myself fairly open minded and able to speak on many topics.