The hdden room

Out of sight out of mind.

Justin is an Architect, not in the grand manner of famous artists like Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe but more in a low key way of designing and documenting buildings people want. He is a very small cog in a large commercial conglomerate of Architects, Engineers, and Planners.

Justin works on contract and although the company does not always have work available for him when they do call him in for a project, he is well paid.

He is pretty pleased this morning as he receives a call from Jim the partner he usually deals with and who tells him, “Justin I have a job for you. We have a client who owns an old building facing Flinders Lane and he wants to upgrade. I want you to measure up and draw the existing conditions. Take Charley my young nephew with you to hold the other end of the tape. The hourly rate will be pretty good but I want you to get on with it smartly as the client is in a hurry.” Justin does not disguise his contentment in getting some work going and replies, “Jim I’ll get onto it straight away. Give me the details and I can start now.”

Justin calls into the office and picks up Charley and the gear they need and they are away to the building site. When they arrive at Flinders Lane there is no space to park in the street but fortunately they discover a disused very narrow loading bay within the building where they squeeze in Justin’s pride and joy his vintage ‘MG TD;’

They fleetingly wonder why the loading bay is so narrow, but decide to get on with the survey of this 3 storey Victorian red brick building designed and built to last for all eternity. As the building is almost entirely without internal walls or partitions the survey is finished pretty quickly and Justin sets out the next day to put everything on paper.

It is then that he discovers that the building measures a fair bit larger on the outside than it does on the inside.

Justin throws an architectural tantrum and naturally blames Charley thinking the boy has held the tape the wrong way round, but he really has no choice but to go back and check the measurements.

So Justin picks up the gear and Charley again and parks the MG once more in the narrow loading bay but this time pays more attention to his surroundings as it seems odd that a building designed for horse and cart can have such inadequate access. They now see that a much newer brick wall has reduced the width and Justin soon realises that there is another room that has been created within the building’s interior. The odd thing is there does not seem to be any access to the room until he discovers that there is the external door which they originally thought was an electrical substation, is really a securely locked steel door giving access to the hidden room. Justin has no key and ponders over his next step. He remembers then that his next door neighbour Bruce is a retired policeman who might be able to help as Bruce no doubt has had experience in the opening of locked doors without the key. Justin and Charley complete the survey and Justin returns home to ask for help ‘Bruce,’ he says I have this little problem with a locked steel door in a building in town. Can you help, there is a bit of a fee

at stake here. “Not a problem Justin” Bruce replies, “Wait till I get my tools.” Justin and Bruce cram into the MG and return to Flinders Lane. Justin parks the MG outside the door to hide what is going on and Bruce gets to work with his probes, his hooks, and his stethoscope until he hears the pins tumble and the door opens. They enter the room and they are totally amazed at what they find. There are 3 levels of space stocked with military hardware of all descriptions; from small arms to machine guns on the ground floor, rocket launchers of all shapes and sizes on the second floor, and on the third floor enough explosives to blow the top of every building in the city. When they reach the top floor they are so overcome that Bruce announces, “I have to stop for a smoke to settle my nerves. Justin I am shaking all over.”

Justin replies, “Bruce lighting a ciggie amongst all this stuff may not be such a great idea, let’s get out of here and think of a plan.”

They are still shaking when they reach the lane where Justin discovers to his dismay a parking ticket under the windscreen wiper plus an additional note with a succinct message; ‘If you tell anyone about this you are dead meat.  We know where you live.’

On the way home they discuss who could own all this stuff and what they are planning to do with it.

Bruce with his razor-sharp policeman’s mind and his love of old Charley Chan movies figures out the three possibilities.

A group of white supremacists bent on taking over the government.

A group of religious cranks seeking glory and martyrdom for their Supreme Being.

A group of local parking inspectors planning to take over the City.

“Bruce,” Justin reflects after some serious thoughts, “it has to be those parking inspectors. They have ready access to the car owners’ database and the inspector who wrote the parking ticket is the logical person to have left the note. How can they afford all that gear? Where did they get the money?’ Bruce considers these questions and thinks he has the answers: “Justin they only have to cream a bit off the top of and they can just about buy anything. I wonder who is organising this and what’s more why?”

“Bruce it has to a group with a grudge against society and parking inspectors are constantly abused and could easily end up hating motorists and their cars. Perhaps they plan to take out any parking rage turkey with a bazooka.”

 Well Justin that would soon clear the roads of any riffraff. It would add a new dimension to the law and order debate,” Bruce says, ”the important question is, are we going to do anything about this?”

“Bruce we have to weigh the consequences,” Justin answers, “ I have been threatened; they know my car; it is very conspicuous; and when I complete the survey the room will show up, Charley knows it is there. I think we should contact their head honcho and tell him to move the stuff somewhere else. We may come to some sort of a deal that lets me off the hook and allows me to pick up the fee. Bruce you are a former policeman you must be able to find out who it is.”

After a day or so Bruce comes back to Justin with the information and an appointment date and a warning to make sure they are on time. They arrive absolutely on time and are led into a grand office and face the all powerful town clerk or the city of Melbourne. She is known as the CEO who must be obeyed.

After a somewhat nervous start by Justin they get their case together and Bruce gives the final summary, “please move all the gear and we will stay silent, but if there is any damage to Justin’s MG the deal is off. The CEO is offended by Bruce’s summing up and says “I have no knowledge of any of this; your story sounds like a fantasy and if you know what is good for you, you should both leave now.” Shattered by this set-back Bruce and Justin set off for home and a stiff G and T.

The next day Justin reluctantly returns to his measured drawing while Bruce gets out the revolver that he acquired at his retirement and keeps a close eye on the MG, but then after another day of nervous tension a courier arrives at Justin’s place with an envelope that contains a certificate for Justin’s MG allowing the car to be parked for free anywhere in the City of Melbourne for any length of time.

The two nervous wrecks rush over to the City and the building and find the hidden room empty. With renewed confidence Justin hands in his survey, collects the generous fee, and the next night celebrates with Bruce and a couple of bottles of Veuve Clicquot.

They never stop to wonder why the building owner offered such a generous fee.

They just share the fee and put the whole thing out of their minds.

Out of their minds, even when some months later a series of explosions in various privately owned car parks followed by exchanges of machine gun fire break out across the CBD.

Out of their minds, even when the Lord Mayor is curiously removed and the CEO takes over the City.

Out of their minds, as long as Justin’s MG is safe.