Continuing our one day road trip packed with five days of fun, we journeyed down to Ulmarra, a lovely picturesque old village that is jam packed full of antique shops and oozing history. We decided not to go into the town itself, but to pop into Old Codgers Antique shop at the Old Butchery and its next door neighbour that always has a good range of retro items.
On entering 'Old Codgers', we struck up a converstation with the owner of the establishment. He seemed like an affable bloke, so I made eye contact. Almost immediately we were informed that he had been an undercover detective in a group formed in 1962 called "The Shadow Squad,"and that his nickname was Sluggo. The Squad he explained was super elite, super secret and only two of the original eight members was still alive. The remaining members met every year in some place like Bathurst. This was further reinforced by the impressive (new) tattoos that he showed to us on his inner arms.
He went on to tell us numerous stories of his "underbelly" type life, throwing in names that I didn't recognise and describing the glamorous life of laying in the sun in Queensland with the crooks during their 'down' times. A couple of times I asked where he worked out of, and he replied enigmatically CIB. OK, thought I, maybe he is not allowed to say where he worked from, though, I recalled that I had gone through 'Armed Hold-up Training' with a former Detective from Redfern who regailed us with exciting tales of Neddy Smith. (Best training I have ever attended, I may add. He wasn't afraid to say where he was from!)
Sluggo showed us a 'bullet' hole in the front window and wove tales of drive by shootings and bikies, and the local police chief and Grafton jail and a whole mess of names.
At this point in time, Sparky quickly skidaddled leaving me to deal with Sluggo. Clance, in the meantime being the ultimate 'Masters Apprentice', had succeeded in finding this cute little egg cup in the bottom of a box. Asking Sluggo for its price, he made a gift of said egg cup to her. Protocol meant we had to continue conversing to ex Undercover Elite Forces Detective from unknown sqad. Before too long, I had got some unfortunate truths out of the "man who wanted to talk."
Sluggo the egg cup boy, butter wouldn't melt in your mouth!
Why did he confide in me? I couldn't shake him. I am nothing to look at. Was it the fact that I made eye contact? I think there was a bit of desperation in his eyes. Was he looking to be absolved? There was such a feeling of desperation from this individual. Why did he offload all of his life to me?
Some new customers entered the shop and we made our escape to pop in next door and look at the retro items. I passed up on four metres of retro printed linen for $48. Pristine condition.
Now here is the funny thing. Whilst purusing the wares, I felt that I was being followed. I was aware of eyes upon me. I didn't mention my paranoia...one doesn't, but it was there. Oh yes, it was there! I didn't attach too much importance to it...until later.
Closeup of Sluggo
Getting back to the car, I didn't want to say too much. One likes to think the best about a person and not jump to conclusions. Saying that, I have found Sparky to have a pretty good bull**** meter. Ofcourse we had an argument about the integrity of Sluggo, and in the end I had to begrudgingly agree.
I decided to look critically at what had transpired. Looking up 'The Shadow Squad' on the net I found it was a TV show in the 50's. Some of Sluggo's reminiscences brought scenes from Underbelly to mind. The bullet hole we suspect was a stone from the highway. Some of his recollections had a lyrical and poetical, dare I say, rehearsed, quality to them. Plus, he basically confessed a few things to me which to me are pretty shameful. Was he living in a dream world, mixing up bits of reality with TV drama, had he been a corrupt cop or was he a bumbling wannabe, living on the fringes of organised crime?
Is this man telling the truth?
Regardless, the shop is a good little antique shop. If you are time short, do not, I repeat do not make eye contact. If you do, you will lose forty minutes of your life that you will never get back again. xxNick