Keith stepped out of the Land Rover and looked across at the low wooden building. He unfolded a map and spread it on the bonnet. He frowned when he couldn't find the building, but the hollow was clearly marked. He returned to the vehicle and pulled out a small but rugged laptop. He poured himself a cap of coffee from a flask as he waited for the laptop to boot up. A couple of minutes later he was peering at Forestry Commission maps, site plans, the asset database, and other resources. He could find no mention of the building anywhere. As far as the Ordnance Survey and the Forestry Commission were concerned - the building did not exist.
He put the laptop away, refolded the map, and finished his coffee while he stared at the non-existent building. Despite what the computer and the maps had said, Keith could see it, and he did not doubt that it existed. He thought it had probably been built sometime early last century, probably illegally. He shook that last few drops of coffee from the cap, screwed it back onto the top of the flask, and tossed the flask through the window onto the passenger seat.
As he strode down towards the building he reviewed what he remembered of last week's budget meeting, and what work gangs he had in the vicinity. The building would have to come down, and he'd have to organise it. Fortunately, last years under-spend had left plenty of cash in the kitty, and there was even a sizeable unofficial pot where previous heads of department had stored spare under-spends to give them some flexibility in the future. It wasn't exactly legitimate, but it was very useful. This just meant that if a particular piece of work had been budgeted at fifty-thousand pounds, and it had actually cost forty-eight thousand, the accounts would show a fifty-thousand pound spend, and the extra two-thousand would be set aside for 'contingencies'. There was no corruption involved, the money was all spent on legitimate projects, but it meant that they had spare cash for jobs that they either couldn't get official funding for, or the application process would take too much time and trouble to bother with.
Demolishing a building that didn't exist would be exactly the sort of project that would be almost impossible to get done through official channels. Keith wondered briefly if there was anyone in the world who was allowed to just get on and do their job without having to battle an army or bureaucrats who were trying to stop them.
Keith entered the building cautiously, concerned about the structure and whether it might collapse at any moment. It was gloomy inside, and he was surprised when he heard what he thought was quiet conversation. He wondered if he should call for backup, just in case this was a drug dealers' den or a training camp for Al Qaeda or something. He briefly imagined himself receiving a medal or commendation for discovering a major terrorist camp as he entered the room ready to issue a challenge.
His jaw dropped when he saw Victoria and Emily sat drinking tea and chatting about fashion. Paul, Ben, Alan, and Dave were discussing Bond movies. Alison, Amy and Wendy were talking about school. If Keith hadn't been so surprised he might have suspected that the whole scene looked just a little bit staged.
"Hi, Dad" said Amy cheerfully and she leapt up and ran over to her father to give him a hug. "Do you want a cup of tea?"
"Um, no thanks, I just had a cup of coffee" he said. There were other greetings. Mostly "Hello, Mr Davison" as Keith kept trying to persuade them to call him Keith.
"What's going on here?" he asked.
"It's our den" said Ben.
"I'm sorry, Keith" said Victoria "If we're trespassing, but we've been using this place as a den for years. There aren't many places we can play safely like this" she said sweetly.
Keith nodded and looked round. He well remembered being their ages and he knew full well how amazing a den like this would have been for him and his friends. He was mildly jealous.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Mr Double's Palisade
A MrDouble Production:
Changes last made on: Sunday, April 08, 2018