It is Sunday the 20th of January 1974 and we are back at the Ampol Service Station in Waterworks Road, The Gap, where Detective-Sergeant Basil Hicks, aged 45, is meeting with his criminal informant Billy McCulkin, aged 34, who is telling him all about the alleged disappearance, abduction and murder of his children.
Or at least that’s what DS Baz and Billy wish us to believe.
Billy has just told DS Baz that he believes that Vincent O’Dempsey and Garry Dubois went to his ex-wife Barbara’s house on the evening of 16 January 1974 with the intention of raping and murdering his wife and 2 children, and in fact did so. It’s a staggering allegation given that Billy wasn’t there – he says he was drunk and slept at his girlfriend’s house, more of that later – and that there is no physical evidence whatsoever that any of the three female McCulkin’s have been abducted at all, let alone raped or murdered.
It is an absolutely pivotal claim though, because in the year 2016 Billy’s rape allegation will come to form the basis of the charges that presently see a 77-year-old O’Demspey and a 68-year-old Dubois locked in a prison cell after being denied bail – twice in Dubois’ case – and facing trial on charges that if they are convicted of will see them spend the rest of their lives in that very same cell, and die there too.
DS Basil Hickes does not of course know this on the day he is talking to Billy – or at least we don’t think he does – and his failure to probe McCulkin on the quite extraordinary claims that he has just made are now simply a matter ro be dealt wih between he and his maker, given that DS Baz is presently a long-term resident in heaven or hell or somewhere in between, having fallen off his earthly perch in the year nineteen hundred and ninety seven.
His failure to adopt policing techniques does not prevent DS Baz from running unquestioningly with Billy’s story however, and is doesn’t prevent Billy from telling the police officer that he intends to maim and murder the two men that he claims have harmed his family.
In fact he tells DS Baz that if he does not find out in the next 5 days what has happened to his (former) wife and kids he is going to abduct Dubois and shoot one of his feet off with a shotgun.
Remember that shotgun, for it has a central role to play later in the story, or perhaps fairy tale may well be a better description of things, as will become clear in the fullness of time, this author’s health and ongoing liberty to write such things permitting.
Billy then tells DS Baz that if Dubois does not tell him what he wishes to know – he doesn’t tell us exactly what it is that he desires to hear, but the truth may be a good start, whatever that truth may be – then he (Billy) is going to shoot Dubois’ other foot off with the aforementioned shotgun.
If the now footless Dubois still won’t tell Billy what happened to his ex and the tin lids then he is going to blow his goddamn head off with the shottie. Full stop. And don’t you worry about that, or about whether Dubois actually knows anything at all about what happened to the McCulkin Three. He is brown bread if he doesn’t talk.
Billy then takes his threats of violence, murder and mayhem even a step further, and tells DS Baz that if he finds out that Dubois and O’Dempsey have done anything to Barbara and the kids he ‘will f*cking blow them both apart’.
He ‘won’t do them one at a time’, but instead ‘will fucking blow them apart at one time’ Billy tells DS Baz.
Now of course this may be a wee bit difficult, given that by this time Billy will already have blown off both of Dubois feet and shot him in the head, but when it comes to all things McCulkin you quickly learn not to let the truth get in the way of the tale, for then you will have nothing left to read on the dunny at night.
But surely some alarm bells must be ringing for DS Baz by now, and you would expect him to be reaching for his police issue notebook and his pistol and his handcuffs so that he may put the collar on Billy for making such clearly illegal threats to harm two people who at this juncture are innocents when it comes to the matter of the McCulkin Three, and remain still, and will until such time as proven by law to be otherwise, innocence rather than guilt being the foundation stone of our system of law.
Of course though DS Baz reaches for none of the above police-issued items, and in Billy’s very next breath we learn the reason why – or why not, as the case may be – for this is what Billy says to DS Baz.
I’m telling you now, I don’t want it to go any further than you….I am telling you this because I have known you for 26 years.
Billy has known the investigating officer since he was 8 years old.
Oh my f*cking God.