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The Edinburgh Castle Pub, circa 1929
Billy and Wild leaves Dubois’ house, and it has to by now be at the earliest 11.45 am.
Presumably they hook down Kitchener Rd past the cemetery that is later to house their criminal associate John Andrew Stuart, and turn right into Lutwyche Rd, travelling past the Edinburgh Castle Hotel where I did my arse on the punt yesterday arvo, flying by my dying Mum’s doctor’s office next to where Farmer Joes fruit shop once stood, and bending around the corner and up the hill past where in the 70’s Billy the Simpleton used to stand on Lutwyche Road near the church with the big fig trees – now callously chopped down, in breach of every environmental regulation known to mankind – holding his ancient transistor radio and dancing to the tunes in his head that only he could hear, for the trannie hadn’t held a battery for at least a decade, but it didn’t matter to Billy because he was having a whale of a time bopping along to the silent grooves and waving to the passing parade of trucks and cars, and laughing like a hyena all the while
I wonder whatever happened to Billy?
I wonder what happened to Barbara McCulkin and the kids?
I wonder if we’ll ever know?
Let’s turn back to Billy’s statement and see if we can find out, and we discover that after they’ve driven past Dancing Billy, Norm and the other Billy -the Mouse – are driving up Lutwyche Road and fast approaching the Crown Hotel.
It’s the one-time slaughterhouse turned early-opening, housewives purse-emptying pokie palace, where my old mate Johnny – whose Dad also grew up with Dubois and the lads and ran with them as a pack in the Housing Commission ghetto at Wavell Heights bordered by Newman Rd, Hamilton Road, Downfall Creek and the west side of 7th Brigade Park – once took on all comers in the public bar and beat them hands down.
Johnny watched my back too all the while as I lifted the wallet from the now-unconscious fight-picker with poor judgement and a sadly inflated opinion of their own ability that he had kindly put to sleep for a few minutes with a left, right, barstool to the head combination, and ensured by way of a subtle banana kick to the head that the sleeping beauty did not stir as I passed the gently extracted said leather item to Sharky the Fence (now deceased – that old brown sugar not being so sweet when ingested via a dirty shared needle).
The Crown Hotel Lutwyche, circa 1881
Of course the reason that I passed the leather to Sharky was not simply that he was far more skilled than I at the art of determining the requisite quantum of compensation that must be paid by the prone punter for damaging Johnny’s fist, and spilling blood upon his shoes – although to be frank he certainly was, and due to his close association with various musicians and magicians could make those ATM cards sing, PIN or no PIN – but more so because although I may have been handy and quick, I was but 15 and proud of my pretty looks and keen to keep them, and Sharky had a bad temper and 4 inches and 10 years on me, so discretion was always in my view the better part of valour.
Plus Johnny told me to always slip the dough and the cards to Sharky, to make sure that if the bloke on the ground’s mates turned up unexpectedly I would appear as pure as the driven snow, and Sharky could take the blows until he could pick them off one by one, for he only had two hands and two feet, and thus could only manage four at a time, even when armed with bottles or bar stools.
I won’t say that it was always fun, but it was always profitable, and you never went without a bed or a safe bunk for the night, and for a young rape victim stalking the mean streets such things were somewhat important. It all ended a couple of years before Johnny’s reign as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the North did though, because I got my sh*t together for a brief period and returned to high school and did my best to pretend to be normal, and steer clear of the old crowd as best I could, with no disrespect intended and none taken, because the boys had a high opinion of my intellectual capacities and had plans to fund me through law school so I could become their beak and keep them forever out of pokey, but it all came crashing down the day that after a big win at the Doomben races, and an even bigger night down at the Hammo, Johnny drunkenly stumbled out across Racecourse Road to buy a packet of smokes at the 7-Eleven and got flattened by a truck driven by a d*ckhead running through a red light.
He got pretty badly damaged, and spent the better part of a year in the RBH, but they breed ’em tough out our way and he’s still around and kicking old Johnny, and back living in the old Wavell Heights hood from whence he came. But these days he’s a bit like a fish out of water, for there are only a few Housing Commission joints left now after the Beattie Government flogged most of them off in a wholesale con to redirect public housing funds to their big-donor property developer mates, the triumvirate – lobbyists like the Branch Stacker being the limp third leg – who have turned the ALP from a silk purse into a sow’s ear in the 40 years since Col Bennett represented the McCulkin’s as their local Labor MP, and used to have a fair dinkum crack at kicking arse for the working class, until his world fell apart after his kid drowned in the West End pool anyway.
I still see Johnny from time to time – he pops up in all manner of strange places, but usually at a pub or racetrack or TAB – and although he’s never been the same since the accident, and has the bones out of his arse after a bunch of so-called friends all named C*nt exploited him and sucked the marrow out of his compo money, then f*cked off out of town before his real mates like me found out and went after them. We’re still looking, don’t you worry about that, and will be until we join Johnny Stuart under the grass as Lutwyche, so if any of the thieving dogs are reading, be warned.
The Royal Hotel Nundah, circa 1868
The last time Johnny and I shared a pink lemonade was at the Deagon picnic races in November last year, when I slung him a few bucks as I always try to do when I have a few in my pocket over and above the minimum requirements of a decently armed punting bank, and then he jagged a trifecta at Murtoa and slung me straight back in the fine ‘keep your credit clean so you’re good for a sling again’ manner his old man drilled into him down at the Royal Hotel (run at the time by the Branch Stacker’s grand-dad) when he and my own grandpa taught us to punt SP at a very early age, while my Uncle Bert – once Queensland’s champion middleweight, but now a few years past his prime and earning his living the bare-knuckled way – stood guard by our well-respected local bookmaker Mr Bax and taught the young Johnny a few moves and told him to always look out for me, while Mr Bax taught me the fine art of calculating the odds and working the percentages in the house’s favor.
Horses for courses and all that, and the pair of them firmly believed in the division of labor and the specialisation of roles long before it became trendy.
Anyway, being the responsible sober driver I became when the role was forced onto me post-rehab a few years ago, after the last at Deagon I filled up the 5-seater Falcon with 8 drunken mates and acquaintances, and offloaded 7 of the drunks at various locales before dropping Johnny back to his state-owned and subsidy-rented family mansion in Unmack Street – a name that will feature prominently in later stories to follow – and lo and behold who should be putting the washing out on the line next door but Romelda bloody Aitken, the long-limbed, lithe goddess who pots them from all over the circle for the Firebirds in the ANZ Netball League, and whose large brown hands can grab my netballs and shoot them anywhere she likes on any day of the week, and don’t you worry about that.
Discovering such a famous beauty across the chain-metal Government issue fence wouldn’t have happened back in Shorty Dubois’ day, but since the gentrification hit the half-moneyed middle class have moved in, and Johnny explained to me that the Firebirds bought the joint next door a few years ago and bunked in a bunch of players there to share the joint as part of their meager annual contract salaries each year.
Of course the girls – who are far better to look at than the fellas from the Broncos, yet equally as talented athletes; the former in my opinion, the latter beyond dispute – earn only about a tenth of the amount pocketed by their male footy playing equivalents, hence their local being the Geebung RSL rather than the Paddo Tavern of the RE; but once day they’ll realise how lucky the have in fact been by being deposited in the Geebung Garden of Eden, and when they finally achieve fair and equal pay there is no doubt that they’ll be flocking back to the Bung to buy up all the houses and turn them into mansions with netball hoops and half-courts in the backyard.
Archies dream Queensland double-team – sorry Anna, three’s a crowd
Kevvie will probably end up their groundsman, for all the girls have a soft spot for Kev, and he keeps a good wicket, and anyone in the land of Apples and Serpents and naked birds like Eve will attest to that, and curse bloody Adam for causing the First Lady to be forced to put her kit back on at the same time.
That Adam prick’s clearly from Zillmere, and probably played Aerial Ping Pomng with the Former Spandex-Wearing Rockstar and his crowd, because Bunger boys go to a lot of effort -and spend a fortune on Bacardi and Cokes – to get a gal to don her birthday suit, and don’t look fondly upon fella’s whose tight shorts prevent them from doing the business well enough to stop the drunken sheila from straying and looking for their sweet fruit in other orchards, where omnipotent oddballs insist they wear clothes rather than let their natural beauty hand out for all the boys at the Bunger to see.
Well I’ve gone a mile off beam here, but that’s what happens when blokes who give false police statements drive past the landmarks of your youth and set the old memory fondly racing, so I make no apologies and say blame bloody Billy McCulkin not me.
But anyway, back to the action, and Billy and Norm are trundling up Lutwyche Road and nearing the Crown Hotel.
Did I ever tell you my eldest kid went to primary school just up the road at Holy Rosary, or that the Bead-Twirler and I shagged on our first date back at my then joint around the corner in Stoneleigh Street, or that the bird who made our wedding cake and later sacked me when I had a break down due to the childhood abuse lived and died young of leukemia in the same street? Or about the time as a kid in Felix Street when Clemmy Kilshaw – who also ran with Dubois and the boys as a lad – left his ex-missus, my great mate Justin’s mum and …..
Ah. memories! The Lutwyche bedroom where Archie and the Bead-Twirler first shagged
Stop it Archie! Get back to the story.
They spot Vince O’Dempsey’s distinctive Valiant Charger parked across on the other side of the road. just down from Tom Wallace Cycles, which makes sense because that’s where his brothel Polonia was, but you have to wonder why they didn’t go and see O’Dempsey first rather than Dubois don’t you, given that Vince was Billy’s old mate and Shorty Dubois just a peripheral figure?
But Rocket Ron Redmond didn’t ask, and he’s a copper and therefore smarter than me, so I’m sure there’s a damn good reason, just as there’s without doubt an explanation for the rest of the absolute failures of reason and logic that he displayed when taking and signing Billy McCulkin’s police statement without a blink.
I’m just not so sure that certain people want you to know exactly what is was.
What’s that noise outside? And where’s Johnny when you need him?
Thank God for Gorgeous George and the Harley Davidson’s lining my Geebung street, that’s all I have to say about the matter.