After an accident in which he ran himself down with his own car - fatally - rally driver Paddy Hopkirk is condemned to drive the earth for a hundred years. He elects to spend this time to track down the people who rigged his car in order for him to lose a race and ended up killing him. He teams up with his friend private detective Jill Randall (gender swapped version of the character) serving as her driver.
They Fight Crime.
The Col de Turini is a nasty, twisty pass, high in the mountains, and at this time of year it is covered in ice and snow. Harder to drive, and much more to the liking of the man at the wheel of the little Mini Cooper. It is by way of a challenge and he could never resist a challenge, so the red car with the white roof positively flies along the road. The modified 1071cc engine spits and roars and the driver's reactions, fine-tuned by years of high-level rally driving, guide the car at improbably high speed for such a tiny vehicle, along the winding twisty curves, grey rock rising to the left, a low barrier to the right beyond which there is only air, and mist, and rocks a long way down. There are gaps in the wall. At one point the road curves hard to the left and the wall becomes a wooden barrier.
As he shifts down to go into the corner and power out of it something breaks with a chilling bang and the car spins, into the barrier, smashes through the barrier and for a few perfect seconds it dives, its angle becoming steeper every instant, the driver still hanging on to the steering wheel by reflex although this is now futile. He can see trees ahead of him, trees and rock.
Then they are much too close and there is a sudden impact and only silence.
Jill Randall lights a cigarette with quivering hands. It is a cold day in early February. Crows wheel up from the trees in the distance, at the edge of the cemetery. Jill is dressed all in black - black coat over black dress, black scarf, black toque hat with a veil to hide the tears that come erratically, like sudden squalls at sea.
After the commitment she regains her composure a little, but makes her way to the green Triumph convertible, her pride and joy. Though as she says, she can drive but her friend could drive. She doesn't think it was an accident; nor mechanical failure. Someone killed him and his co-driver.
She drives home, long half-empty roads, the A5 southwards, and on that road, the trees flickring past monotonously, the horizon never changing, she wonders if she shouldn't go the same way her friend did. All it would take. A turn of the wheel, into the trees, trees snapping, bones breaking, fire and death. She lets the Triumph pick up speed towards the crest of a bridge. Now, she thinks.
Change down, says a voice to her left. Bridge there.
She shifts down, obediently. Hits the apex of the bridge.
Now, the voice says. Take your line.
And she does. The long rightward curve is hers, picking up speed.
Shift up, it says.
No thoughts of death now. Just of making the best time she can. Somewhere near Market Harborough the inevitable blue flashing lights appear in the mirror and she, reluctantly, slows and pulls over.
After the police have taken her details and gone she looks to her left and her blood runs cold.
Paddy is sitting there, in his white Nomex overalls, looking at her with concern.
But, she says. You're dead.
That's right, he says.
But I can see you, says Jill. That means you're a ...
A ghost, Paddy says. Yes, I suppose I am. Good driving, by the way.
But why? she says.
I was murdered, he says. Me and Harry. Someone did something to the car. I want to find out who.
But we buried you, she says.
Like I say, Paddy answers. I seem to be a ghost.
The police car is still sitting there and the policeman walks over to the Triumph again.
Is everything all right, madam? he asks.
Yes, officer, Jill says. Fine.
But she doubts that it is.
Have you been drinking, madam? he says. You seem distressed.
No, she says, fairly sure she hasn't had a drink for a few hours. I've been to a friend's funeral.
Last night she had a drink of course, and the night before that, and the night before that. Even before Paddy was killed two weeks ago, the bottle was open most evenings and the gin and tonics kept coming.
Very sorry to hear it ma'am, the cop says.
Can you see him? she asks, pointing to Paddy who is still sitting in the co-pilot's seat, head lowered, apparently lost in contemplation.
Who, madam? the policeman says. You are alone in the car.
Ah, yes, says Jill. I'm sorry, I am upset about my friend.
Of course madam, says the police officer. He salutes with two fingers to the peak of his cap.
Please drive carefully, madam, he says.
When the police car has driven away she turns back to Paddy.
He couldn't see me, Paddy says. No point my talking to him, he wouldn't hear.
Jill nods and switches the engine back on.
What do you want, she asks him as they enter London from the north.
To find my killer, he says. I'd like you to help me. Randall Detective Services can spare the manpower, er, person-power, I'm sure.
Jill Randall nods again. She is beyond words and wonders if the ghost can read her mind, but apparently it can't.
And of course, says Paddy, I can't pay you but I will help you as much as I can.
How, she asks.
Deadworking, Paddy says. I wouldn't say I'm enjoying being dead but there are compensations. For example - no, you can take this bit faster, look, there's your exit line - for example most people can't see me, so I can sneak around and report back. For example. Does that sound like a good idea?
It does, says Jill Randall,
Whatever I can do, says Paddy. But bear in mind that I have to find out who killed Harry and me. Because someone did. That's why I was brought back and why I am here.
We'll find them, says Jill.