Before his morning drive with Elliott Price from Fleece Industrial, Ray Purvis had already made considerable progress with the shopping centre proposal. His company had purchased nearly all the land when, with what might pass as a stroke of genius in the opportunistic world of the property developer, he found a way to hasten the often drawn out process of obtaining planning permission from the local council.
The death of the local Mayor, in strange and messy circumstances, presented Purvis with a golden opportunity. The Mayor had been a big man with the physical and political attributes necessary for finding a compromise in the most difficult of situations. Born into the right wing of the labour movement and nurtured in the vitriolic sand-pit of local government, Mr Mayor was not liked by many fellow councillors, and hated by those he called ‘mate’. Not one for the modern touchy-feely, MBA School of Management approach, his negotiating skills were nonetheless legendary. Even the staunchest opponents usually came around to his point of view after a short walk in the quiet council gardens during which some of the finer things in life, such as limbs, were often discussed.
The newspapers reported that he had been killed in an accident involving one of the council’s own garbage trucks, but there were no witnesses so no-one could be sure about what actually happened. There had been some speculation, but few were foolish enough to dwell on the likely significance or involvement of the guinea pig, rooster and quart of rum found at the scene.
The other council members were keen for the deeds of their big ‘mate’ to be remembered, rather than his odoriferous departure. Nothing is more liberating and useful for the body politic than the unexpected death of a leader. Skeletons of the past can be interred with their bones, while that which is deemed to be good is allowed to soar, carried ever upwards on puffs of self-praise from the remaining souls who wait with outstretched arms for the rain of benefits that will surely follow.
Seizing the moment, Ray Purvis offered to incorporate a memorial courtyard in memory of the recently departed into the shopping centre complex. It was the prefect sweetener for the project, the sort of offer grief-stricken councillors just couldn’t miss. Obstacles of the past fell away and in less than two weeks Purvis Holdings had got permission to develop the site.
On the shopping centre plans submitted to the council, the courtyard looked good. It was a reasonable size and located in the centre of the complex, with seats, shrubs and trees, all sketched in by the architect under the watchful eye of Ray Purvis: A space for quite reflection away from the bustle of everyday life; a fitting memorial for the late Mayor.
The health department’s copy of the plans, which had been submitted sometime earlier, however told a different story. There were no drawings of seats or trees, which was hardly surprising since on these plans the area was labelled not a memorial reflection park but a refuse collection point.
Purvis was not troubled by this apparent contradiction, confident that by the time the shopping centre was built those councillors who continued to be haunted by the memory of the former mayor would see the refuse collection point as a totally appropriate memorial.
In the next episode, “Playing with Debt”, Ray Purvis needs cash urgently, but instead of going sub-prime he eyes off a nursing home.