Ghost-gums creaked and cockatoos screamed as they filled the sky with white. The bush watched as Two Guns O’Grady trained one weapon, then the other, on the red-faced man at the carriage window. The portly little toad wore more rings on his fingers than the women beside him—rings that would feed Two-Gun's men for weeks. “D-Don’t be rash, old boy,” stuttered Red-Face.
“A life of wealth, privilege, and education gone to waste there, lads!” exclaimed O’Grady to riotous laughter and applause.
Lachy O’Leary—brewer of barely drinkable ale and lover of women—trotted over to his friend and leader’s side. “A lass each. Talk about the luck of the proverbial!”
“You and I know you’ll woo them both, me old mucker. I’ll just cry into me coin.”
“It’s time we evened up the divvy, don’t you think?”
“Lachy. You know I can’t count.” O’Leary twitched and his mount hoofed the dirt.
“You barbarians must cease this devilish talk at once! My wife and daughter are not spoils to be enjoyed by apes of your ilk! You certainly won’t be spending the wealth of a man of my station!” Red-Face's outburst served as a chance to send a boot in search of his muskat.
“This man here...” began Lachy, “... can barely read or write. He can’t tell left from right. Up from down. Yet he’ll soon own everything you’ve got on you. What do you say to that, you fat little potato?”
“Now, wait just one moment! I am friend to the Governor of this New South Wales! I will be seeing him a fortnight from this very day!”
Two-Guns tucked one pistol into his belt and took the hand of the younger woman on Red-Face's flank. “And that’s meant to send us veering from our criminal path, boys!” More laughter. O’Grady kissed the lady’s hand, his lips lingering longer than decency would dictate. “Would you come with us, Mo Ghrá. Keep a lonely bush-ranger company as he wanders the face of this terrible desert island?”
Lachy cleared his throat. “Best take their weapons, mate. Sneaky buggers, these travelers.” Red-Face shuddered, the gun sliding off his foot and hitting the carriage floor with a loud thud.
Two-Guns tapped his chest, the steel there answering stoutly. “I’m ready for anything, Lachy.” He’d heard tell of an outlaw—a knight in armor—in the country’s far south and he’d wanted so much to have a steel suit of his own. Raw material was hard to come by. He’d been afforded the smallest amount so far—the blade of a hoe—from a farmer they’d robbed on the way north. A smith, at the business end of a rifle, forged it into a single, flat plate. It would cover his heart and little more, that is until he could oversee his suit’s completion. Sir Two-Guns, they’d call him then. What a thing.
He turned to the dark-haired woman, hiding the blush in her cheek behind a silken fan. Lachy muttered something in the tongue of Éireann. Red-Face fumed. “Dolores! You will not encourage this beastly behavior!”
“Dolores? Your name means sorrow. Now, what would a girl as pretty as you know about sorrow?” O’Grady stroked his beard.
“Keep both barrels up, Cat-lick. You don’t want the ale-house gossips calling you One-Gun, now.”
Horses nickered and a roo took off across the scrub. Ravens fought over fetid meat as the sun edged away—streams of frosty air coursing between the white trees. Two-Guns' hand found the grip at his waist as the bullet from Lachy’s gun found his heart. “Plate’s on the wrong side. Guess I’ll cry into me coin about it.”
Ghost-gums creaked and cockatoos screamed as they filled the sky with white and Dolores felt sorrow’s sting. Two-Guns O’Grady lay on the ground—his weapons on either side of his lifeless corpse—a suit of dirt awaiting him and nothing more.