The heels of Joe’s polished bluchers clip over the cobblestones as he walks up along Camp Street toward Bray’s Photographic Studio. His pipe hangs lazily from the corner of his lips, swirls of tobacco smoke drifting into the crisp autumn air. Feeling proud in his appearance, in tweed jacket and trousers, waistcoat and a crisp white shirt, Joe holds his head high, his blue eyes focused firmly ahead at the bustling cross roads.
Hobbling Music in the thick scrub of the gully, Joe begins untying the rope that secures the rolled up overcoat to the pommel of the saddle and unfurls it, revealing the shotgun that has been hidden within the fabric. The bitting chill of winter sends a shiver from his lips and he wraps the coat around himself, turning up the collar to hide the bushy beard that frames his face. Slinging the weapon across his shoulder, Joe unbuckles the girth and removes the saddle from Music’s back, resting it against the rotted stump of a pine tree. He strokes his hand along the glistening mark at her side, causing her to twitch and flatten her ears in response. Aware of what has made the bloody wound, Joe lifts his leg behind himself and rubs a finger against the pointed tip of his spur, the iron smeared with blood. He shakes his head and removes her bridle, the tom thumb bit falling from her mouth with a clatter. Music grinds her teeth and rubs her forehead against his shoulder, leaving a speckled patch of white on his woollen overcoat. “Enough of that,” Joe says, pushing her head away. Laying the bridle on the stump, he begins his descent down to the flat of Sebastopol in search of rest.
Dear Sir, You think yourself to be very high and mighty for the work you are doing in hunting for the Kelly Gang. But I must inform you that your days are truly numbered unless you stop bothering yourself about Beechworth and the surrounding districts. The Kellys are informed of your every move and you cannot visit Sebastopol without someone watching. You are a brave cove, I’ll grant you that, for it is only foolishness to believe your life will continue to be spared. The great boasting you have done at the Hibernian Hotel about being the only cove to ever gaol Joe Byrne has made it to the ears of the outlaws and as you can well imagine, they are itching to get their hands on you. I must warn you Detective, you and your great chum Mullane are now wanted men. A reward of £8000 has been issued for your apprehension and delivery up into the ranges. I trust you fully consider the peril you gentlemen now find yourselves in. There is great mischief to come, so prepare yourself for your latter end.
The honking of geese ring in Joe’s ears as he rubs, tiredly, at his sleep crusted eyes. Turning onto his back, Joe ties his fingers behind his head and stares up at the sheet of calico above him. From behind the partition, Mary snuffles and coughs. The rattle of the bedframe sounding as she wiggles out of bed, the patter of small footsteps edging closer to the curtain.
For Elizabeth Sherritt Sheepstation Creek, Reid's Creek P.O Near Beechworth. (H.R.M. Gaol. Beechworth) My dear Bessie, I write the following lines to you to let you know how I am at present. You must be careful with these few bits of paper, for I have written them on the sly and had them posted out … Continue reading A Letter to Bessie
Darkness folds around Joe, memories flickering, painfully, to the surface, while he waits for the train that Ned promises will come… I pour another glass full of whiskey and reach into my pocket, the small packet of opium powder ruffles beneath my fingers. I think this is my third dose, but I cannot be sure. Nothing will be strong enough to blur the vision of Aaron, lying dead at my feet. I have long been haunted by the blood that was spilled at Stringybark Creek, but nothing could have prepared me for the blood that leeched out of Aaron. Christ. The way it spurted between his fingers in a wild arc of crimson, as he clutched at his throat and staggered backwards. But I aimed again and pulled the trigger, the shot shredded through his shirt and skin, instantly shattering his ribs, which exploded out from underneath his favourite cotton shirt. Aaron gargled and spluttered, falling backwards, he smashed his head against an old potato box. Then came the screaming and wailing of Belle, piercing my ears worse than the blast of the bloody shotgun. I looked down at what I had caused, my eyesight blurred, the bashing of Dan’s fist on the door seemed a hundred miles away.
The wind battered limbs of Eucalyptus trees roar loudly in Joe’s ears as he makes his way down the moonlit slope of Byrnes Gully. Ahead of him, Aaron leads his chestnut mare, Chloe, through the scrub. Hessian bags, bulging with freshly slaughtered meat, swing from the saddle as his mare negotiates the loose ground. Clasped … Continue reading Severed Ties
In the fading light, she took the flowers from their wrapping while the horses in the nearby paddock edged closer. She pushed the rusty gate open. It squeaked a welcome as she entered the cemetery.
The honking of geese ring in Joe’s ears as he rubs, tiredly, at his sleep crusted eyes. Turning onto his back, Joe ties his fingers behind his head and stares up at the calico above him. From behind the partition, eight year old Mary snuffles and coughs. The rattle of the bedframe sounds as she wiggles out of bed, the patter of small footsteps edging closer to the curtain. Mary presses her face into the fabric. “Are you still in bed Joe?” Joe sits up and buttons his undershirt, “Just wait a minute while I get my shirt on.” Swinging his tweed clad legs out from under the covers, Joe retrieves his shirt from the iron bedpost and hastily pulls it over his head.
The full moon shines, luminously, through the drifting veil of cloud, as Joe and Ned ride along the sandy bank of Billabong Creek, the soft plod of hooves resounding from the summer cracked earth. Joe clasps his fingers around the buttons of his tweed jacket, the February heat pressing, mercilessly, against him. “Eff this heat!” Joe hisses, tearing the buttons open. “It’s been dark for the last hour and it’s still bloody stifling.” “Aye, it’s not pleasant weather for riding in.” Ned sighs, taking a swig from his flask before nodding to Joe. “Care for a drop?” Joe eyes the flask in Ned’s hand, moonlight glinting from its pewter cap. “What’s in it?” “Some of Steve’s brandy.” Ned replies, passing the leather bound flask to Joe. Unscrewing the cap, Joe lifts it to his lips and takes a mouthful of the liquor, scrunching his face at its sourness. “Liquid mullock is all that is.” Joe spits, wiping his sleeve across the brandy resin that clings to his strawberry blonde moustache. “You been smoking too much of that brown stuff?” Ned laughs, edging his black mare into a trot. “The taste ain’t that bad.” Joe glowers at his mate and clicks his tongue, rising out of the saddle as Music springs into a trot.