We used to scour the estate for abandoned cars, joyridden to ruin, dumped, and picked apart by scavengers looking for parts to sell. The longer they’d been there, the more parts they were missing. Stripped down to skeletons, decaying over time like the remains of mechanic beasts. We’d sit in the carcasses, smoke a spliff or two, and try to get them running. None of them ever worked. Then we’d trash them. Throw rocks through the windows, kick off the wing-mirrors, smash the headlights. It was fun.
The last time we did it, Michael decided to take it one step further. He squirted lighter fluid over the seats and set the car alight. ‘Now that’s a hotbox,’ he said as it filled with thick, black smoke. The body creaked and crackled, and the windows blew out in a burst of orange flame. That’s when we ran, scared that it might explode, or the police might come and catch us, elated and beaming with mischief.
The next day all that was left was a burnt and blackened shell. The fire brigade hadn’t even bothered to come put it out, or else they hand’t been called. It was a week or so later that I saw it on the news, the abandoned car we’d burnt. The area was cordoned off with police tape, people in hooded white boiler suits examining the wreckage. I felt a lump rise in my throat. Surely they weren’t doing all this for some petty vandalism.
They weren’t. They had found a body in the boot. This was a murder investigation.