Driving home from my psychic circle last night was not a pleasant journey on country roads and in heavy drizzle which made the darkness deep and unforgiving. Even the grass verges were colourless with pity for me. I was tired anyway after a long day during which I had already driven over two hundred miles on business for a meeting. My ability to concentrate was stretched to the limit as the white line became my only guide to safety - everything else was turned into a neutral grey soup.
I had been driving between Hornsea and Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire, normally an attractive green and gentle landscape when I came to awell known old fashioned mile marker stone set near the left hand hedge. Sat on it was an old man, hunched over, cap dripping his pale skin picked out in the halogen headlights. He raised a hand and struggled to stand. I braked hard even though I wasn't travelling fast, then reversed a few yards to where I has seen him.
He shuffled to the window and I wound it down. I asked if I could help, was he okay? His face was in shadow and he mumbled his response, and I managed to grasp the fact that he had broken down and would like a lift to the nearest garage to obtain some assistance. I looked at the clock and told him that it was past midnight and there were no garages open but that I could drop him off at home or at the local police station. He moved to the back of the car, opened the door and with some effort struggled in. The pervading smell of dampness and a feeling of cold filled the warm cab and I imagined his wet clothing on the leather upholstery and cringed - the car's got less than 600 miles on the clock!
"Are you in the AA or the RAC?" I asked. He didn't look at me directly, in fact I couldn't see much of his face at all because his cap was worn over his eyes and his head was bowed, but I could make out a stubbly chin and a distinctive scar across his chin which slightly disfigured it. "No lad," came the reply. He was dripping wet. My poor car!
"I'll drop you off at the local nick, they should be able to help you out." I enquired after his health and he said he felt as well as could be expected, just a little chest pain and the slow journey provided some time to ask him his circumstances although he was monotone and brief in his responses. Shock might be the explanation perhaps, he had come off the road in his car apparantly. He was a doctor and was on his way to see his daughter-in-law who had sent word that she was not well and she had received some bad news.
As we approached the orange mercury glow of the streets of Beverley, I heard him crying, quietly, but very distinctively. He said he was alright just cold and tired. He asked if he could give me anything for my kindness. I felt strangely emotional and chided him gently for the suggestion and turned down his offer. After a couple of minutes I drove into the police station yard turned off the ignition and turned to my passenger to see... he was not there. What the hell? Where had he gone? The cab light hadn't come on that I could remember nor had I heard the door.
I ran into the police station foyer and blurted to the officer that I had picked up the old man and he must have fallen out of the car without me realising it probably only just down the road. The officer immediately called to his unseen colleague behind the screen and they both came running out in their shirt sleeves, reassured me that they would find him and set off down the glistening wet road shouting into their radios. I started to shake and sat heavily on the seat.
After several minutes, the officers came back, breathing heavily and stated they could not see anyone on the road. I retold the story, more than once and then to the Sergeant and then the Inspector. I could tell they were becoming sceptical and we trudged out to the car, 'for a closer look' at the back seat where the old man had sat and cried with quiet dignity. I couldn't believe my eyes, the back seat was as dry as a bone, the carpet was equally as unsoiled and dry, in fact in pristine condition in the officers torchlight. A piece of paper was sticking out between the seats and the Sergeant took hold of it and we all looked at it in the light of his lamp. I have kept that piece of paper and I've copied it for you to look at below. I have no idea how it got there and I've never seen the like before.
The Inspector invited me to his office and offered me a cup of tea seeing my obvious distress and bewilderment. He was kindly if not verging on patronising me, but as I took the welcome cup from him, I stared at an old photograph on the wall. It was black and white and showed two men, one in uniform and one in a tweed suit smoking a pipe. I stood slowly and looking closely at the photograph, I could see the man in the tweed outfit had... a scar on his chin.
The inscription underneath it read: "Certificate of long service presented to Dr Kenneth Peppiatt, Police Surgeon by Senior Inspector Stannard, 15 October 1942."
I spilt the tea down my front; the man in the photograph, Doctor Peppiatt WAS the man in my car tonight! I started to shake all over again as I saw the date, 67 years ago this very night.
The Inspector took some minutes to calm me down and eventually explained that Doctor John, as he was affectionately known was killed this night all those years ago while he was on his way to his daughter-in-laws house where he was to receive news of his sons death aboard a bomber in a raid over Germany. He had suffered a heart attack and died at the wheel of his car which was found early morning next to the mile marker on the road to Hornsea. It was the Inspector's grandfather who was a police officer during the war years who had found him. I couldn't believe it. The Inspector said that I had not been the first to see him and I wouldn't be the last.
I bade the officer goodnight and thanked him profusely for his trouble and asked for his forgiveness for the embarrassment I had caused his staff.
Even as I sit here writing this, as someone who is well versed in the paranormal, I still find it difficult to comprehend; the physical appearance of the man, his voice, the smell of the dampness, dripping of water.
The note? This is what I found. You might want to look at the name of the chief cashier on the bottom right - click on it to enlarge it.
Story the intellectual property of Rarelesserspotted