As we reached the church, it began to rain. Inside, it was pitch black, and we could hear some movement in the darkness. Then the vicar emerged. 'I was just turning out the lights,' he said. 'What can I do for you?'
'We need someone to perform an exorcism,' Eddie said calmly.
'An exorcism,' the vicar replied, his voice rising an octave. 'Of what?'
'My car,' said Eddie.
'I see,' said the vicar, 'you'd better come into my office.'
My friend Eddie has never had much luck with his cars. His latest purchase looked more hopeful. He had picked a large blue diesel Rover. The AA checked the car over and gave it the thumbs up, and Eddie was extremely pleased with it, at least, for the first week. Then things started to go wrong - little things at first. The locks on the front door and the boot would stop working, and the electric windows would jam and work again at their own discretion. One day the driver's door jammed fast, and a garage mechanic spent an hour trying to lever it open, to no avail. Eddie contacted the AA to demand the car inspection fee back. The AA sent their chief inspector round and, sure enough, all the locks, doors and windows behaved themselves.
Soon after that clutch fluid began to leak on to the floor, leaving a sticky green slime that would get on to Eddie's shoes and make his feet slip off the control pedals. One day, water leaked into the glove compartment, destroying the car manuals and documents.
Gradually, the defects became so bad that it was dangerous to drive the car. If the heater was on, the interior of the car would fill with sickly diesel fumes. Sometimes the power steering would wrench itself free from the driver and jerk the car across the road. One evening this happened as the car was approaching a set of traffic lights and it ran into a pedestrian who was crossing on a green light. Eddie screeched to a halt and we jumped out to see if the man was all right, but he just got up and ran off, a look of terror on his face when he glanced at the car. This was the final straw - Eddie contacted the AA again, and they obviously didn't like the sound of the symptoms and washed their hands of the affair - they refunded the inspection fee.
Begrudgingly, Eddie booked the car into a garage. One day soon after this we were approaching the car, when Eddie paled and asked me to look at something. Sure enough, it did look bent in the middle. We drove to the garage - slowly - and left it in the hands of the mechanic.
After 10 minutes, the mechanic rushed into the waiting room. 'Quick]' he cried, 'come and look]' We ran after him to the forecourt, where he pointed to the open bonnet. The engine was jerking and bouncing inside the car like a rodeo horse.
'I don't know what's wrong with your motor,' he said. 'I've never seen anything like this before.'
We managed to get the car home, and later in the pub sat despondently, trying to figure out what to do. I suggested that the car might be possessed. Eddie thought that this was very likely. After all, the man he had brought it from did act rather strangely, and he had paid for it in unusual circumstances - at 11 o'clock at night, in a McDonald's drive-through.
Eddie suggested we contact the local priest and have an exorcism performed. We decided to walk to the church.
The vicar jotted down the details of Eddie's story on a pad. He spoke out loud as he wrote, 'believes car is possessed by devil'. After a long silence, he told us to return the next day, at midday, with the car. We returned, on time, and parked the car in front of the church, and the vicar got in and sat in the front seat. He read a few verses from the Bible. The vicar made up a prayer for Eddie, which he recited clutching Eddie's shoulders, making him repeat sections. The vicar then gripped the dashboard and bid the demons to leave the car, a chant we had to join in also, after which he sprinkled the dashboard and upholstery with holy water.
On the drive home after the ceremony, I put the heater on, and for once, it didn't fill the car with diesel fumes.
But the car didn't get any better after that. A few weeks later the engine went completely. The mechanic told him that the engine would probably go again in a few months' time. On getting the car home, the lights didn't work.
Eddie still has the car, and has learnt to live with it - rather a case of 'better the devil you know'. Whether it is possessed by evil or just a case of bad workmanship is uncertain, but part of the number plate reads 'GLC', so it was probably doomed from the outset.