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George Montgomery was the aging uncle of Clive Montgomery, the all-round-good guy, Horse Trainer extraordinaire, Racehorse and Stable Owner and a Property Owner of some repute.
For as long as people could remember, George Montgomery had been the Concierge of the beautiful three-storey building where Clem “Lofty” Hills had his residence and Office in a former Broom Closet on the third floor of said property. Old George’s dwelling was the rear former Stables building tucked away behind said building.
Old George was said to have dabbled on both sides of the street in his younger days and was the ‘Protector’ and Confidante of many secrets, all of which had been dutifully recorded into an inches thick Diary which he kept in a large ancient old safe that took pride of place in his tiny Lounge Room. It was rumoured that many secrets were safely kept in this steel monstrosity along with a King’s Ransom in diamonds and other precious gems. The rightful Owners? Anyone’s guess.
On the death of old George, the secrets of the Safe died with him as no-one else knew the combination…or did they.
An elderly Socialite died a horrible death. Her links to Clem Hills, Old George and the contents of the safe the only clues that the Police had. While Detective Sergeant John Church laboured with this line of enquiry, Clem Hills wasn’t too sure of the link to the Safe contents, except for several photographs that hinted at familial connections and a family secret that went back to the old woman’s teenage years spent at an exclusive Private Boarding School. Links to former State and Federal Parliamentarians, Leaders of Commerce and Leading Crime Lords of the City portrayed a different side to this well-known Philanthropist and Society Lady.
I’d settled into Old George’s upgraded accommodation.
The ‘main’ three storeys building had to have been built prior to the Crimean War.
The Stable building behind it, was older still, so went the rumour!
It now felt like home.
One that I was comfortable in.
The impressive large safe now resided in my little Study.
The Study a product of the make-over that my former employer, Horse Trainer extraordinaire and Property Owner, Claude Montgomery undertook after Old George Montgomery, his ancient uncle, and I guess the closest I had to one, had passed away.
The Study, in fact the entire internal 'make-over', carried out around the ancient, old Safe as it was way too heavy to move. It sat there as the rest of the Stables remodelling works continued around it. The Work turning the old, quaint building into quite a salubrious dwelling. Why I should have been the ultimate resident in this beautiful 'make-over', I have no idea. Sure, I guess I was like a son to Claude who had been my mentor and benefactor but that hardly explained his largesse in my favour. I wasn't about to complain or even ask why I was held in such high esteem, instead just accepting what fell my way.
Old George had been like the weather.
It hung around.
You were always certain that to-morrow would produce some weather.
Old George had been like that!
Guaranteed to be there. Every day.
He was the Concierge (if you wanted to put a fancy name on his responsibilities. If not, he was the ‘live-in’ Care-taker) of the old historical building that I had had tenancy in for about a five-year lease. On the uppermost floor. The third. A one-room living quarters attached to my small office. Claustrophobic. Dim and stuffy. A magnificent view of a dirty, dingy, tiny light-well and a small square patch of sky. If you were ever game enough to lean out far enough from either window in each of the two-room residence!
The living quarters totally illegal in the commercial hub of the city. In that old building, anyhow!
But I saved on fares.
Claude Montgomery had been fully aware of my previous abode conditions. It was he who, once I proudly obtained my Investigation Licence, suggested the option of quietly taking up residence on the third floor using an adjacent room to the Office suite that he provided for me that was once the Cleaner’s Store.
It had plumbing already installed!
A local joker said that George had worn out five timber seats.
The stools made of hardwood!
That’s how long he had been in the cramped little space that was his Office under the stairs beside that rickety, screeching, original two-man lift. The counter only large enough to allow a telephone, a Daily Log Book in which he recorded the comings and goings of the tenants and their visitors, a message board, and enough space under the counter to store the postal items dropped off each morning. Also, the occasional items requested in whispered tones, to be secreted in George’s huge safe.
You couldn’t really have called the space an Office.
More of a niche. A small cupboard with the doors removed!
Old George never complained though, thinking that there were a lot of people worse off than he. At least he had comfortable accommodation. A roof over his head. Warm as toast in winter. Cool in summer.
He would keep a look out on the comings and goings of the tenants of the building. And their visitors and guests. And he was the sentinel watching over that huge, ancient safe that seemed to have sat for-ever in the corner of his Stable ’digs’. Too big and too heavy to be moved elsewhere. So the rumours went.
More secure than the Bank of England.
Every-one who used that Safe from time to time, believed in its security.
After Old George’s passing, his former Stable accommodation given a make-over. Claude offered it to me at the same rate I paid for my former cramped, dingy quarters on the third floor of the old building across the cobblestone courtyard.
I jumped at the offer. Who wouldn't?
The old historic blue-stone cobbles that could not be so much as removed, defaced, or scratched, which by the way was nigh on impossible as they were harder than diamonds, was now a cramped car parking area for the tenants of the building.
That is how I came to be sitting outside my quarters on a Spring morning. At a set of outdoor furniture under a small pergola that gave some protection for my new Webber BBQ. A small courtyard itself directly accessed from two sets of double doors of multi-panelled glass from my sunny Lounge Room. I would sit out there when-ever the day was fine and warm.... and I had little to do. Perusing the Form Guide and making calls to a couple of jockeys who may have been riding one or two on the day.
In a semi-prone position as the sun rose.
Sipping on my first coffee of the day. Scanning the form guide. I was not a betting man, though I loved the horses which were in my blood. Me a former jockey who had a couple of bad falls one after the other. The nerve to mount those giant balls of wound up muscle evaporating quick smart! That’s how I became a Private Investigator.
There is some connection there! Truly!
I lay snoozing; the morning sun a balm on my body.
I felt more than heard the quiet purr of an expensive vehicle crawl slowly past my lounging form. I opened one eye to follow the car as it did the rounds of the courtyard. Parking positions would have been at a premium in another hour or two, but now there may have been only a half dozen cars parked in their allotted spots. It kept doing the ‘rounds’ so to speak, to eventually come to a slow stop near where I rested in a semi-prone position. One eye open. The vehicle in stopping at that spot, was blocking the main marked ingress lane onto the property from the outside public roadway.
The driver obviously ignorant of that fact or else thinking that she had some right over the access-way and its frustrated morning drivers.
A woman alighted from the driver’s side door.
Around the 1960’s vintage.
Her car; not her!
A beautiful early model Bentley.
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
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