This is a bit more detailed account of my meeting with Henry and Maria.
I wrote this final chapter some years after the event of the Great Bookie Robbery Catastrophe, but at least it brings things to a close and with any luck I can get on with my life.
When I was discharged from the Army I wasn’t in the greatest condition emotionally. I went to live with my parents in the Dandenong Ranges and to keep myself occupied I opened a small bookshop and tried to forget the whole affair.
It was a nice little shop although I didn’t sell many books. I spent most of my time making coffee for anyone who dropped in. This wasn’t a sales gimmick – I just liked an excuse to sit and talk with anyone who would sit and talk back to me.
But one day the whole thing changed.
I noticed a couple walking up the hill and back down again. They hesitated before finally coming in. They browsed superficially at the books and when I at last made eye contact I asked if they would like a cup of coffee. They would like one they said. They spoke with an unfamiliar accent, his a little more difficult to understand than hers. We made small talk. He was Henry. She was Maria and they were from Denmark. Good. My mother’s family was from Denmark and now we had something solid to talk about. Henry had a cousin who had migrated to Australia some years ago.
“Perhaps you may have met her?” Why do all tourists expect every Australian to know the name of every body who has ever come from overseas. I did not say anything, I just shook my head and smiled.
“May I ask you a serious question?” said Henry.
“Of course you may. I may not be able to answer it though.”
“What ever happened to the Smarmy Bastard?” I slumped back in my chair as if I’d been shot.
“How on earth do you know about him?” I spluttered.
“Ramona told us,” said Maria. “Ramona was Henry’s cousin. A few days before she was killed she wrote to us about her work and about her boss. She hated him. She wrote about you. She didn’t hate you. Actually the opposite.”
“But what happened to Hutton?” Henry interrupted.
So I closed the door of the shop, made another cup of coffee and I told them all I could.
As the shot that killed Ramona echoed, it seemed to destroy all my sense of understanding. In fact I was in hospital for the next two months with a severe breakdown.
Hutton was taken before a Military Inquiry. I wasn’t there because Hutton’s lawyers convinced the Court of Inquiry that I was unfit to give testimony. It is fairly clear that the Army believed that Hutton was as guilty as sin. The Colonel and the Sergeant had been used by him, but the real evidence that would have convicted him was with Ramona and O’Hanlin, both very conveniently dead.
Without any concrete evidence Hutton was promoted and a position created for him in Campbell Park which, with the Russell Offices, makes up the headquarters of the Australian Defence Forces. It was a position with little relevance to anything and with any luck it was so mind killing he would have died of boredom.
The one good thing that came from the inquiry was the belief that Ramona was coerced in some way and although she believed that Hutton was onto something very big she was always very protective of my safety. Unfortunately she was never to learn the truth. I haven’t explained that clearly enough – I don’t think I can put what I really think into words.
I never really recovered. I was always most hurt by my belief that Ramona had betrayed me. Maybe she had but Maria implied that her feelings toward me were something else. I suppose that made everything better. But actually it made it a lot worse. I thought I had put the whole thing behind me.
But now I will have it with me forever.