BAIL UP

Chapter 1

The sun threw long shadows onto the road, striping the dirt with the narrow trunks of the trees. Dan crouched, waiting, listening for the sounds of wheels and hooves pounding that dirt. The land about was quiet, as if the weight of morning dulled sounds. There, the warble of a magpie, and there, a cow calling to its friends, and when he listened carefully, the nearby creek splashing over–

“Dan, I need to piss.”

He looked at Harry crouched beside him. “Right now?”

“Yeah, I’ve been waiting and waiting.”

Dan frowned. He knew how this worked. As soon as Harry moved out of position, the mail coach would appear. If he told him to wait, the coach wouldn’t come. Dan pulled out his watch. Ten past five. Still? Possibly he’d forgotten to wind it.

“Dan?”

“All right, but don’t leave your spot.”

“But–“

“There’s no one to see you.”

“What about you and Joe?”

“If we were in camp, you wouldn’t care.”

“But we’re not, we’re on the road and mail coach is coming.”

If it hadn’t already been. Dan pushed his hat back and scruffed his hair. The mail coach carried gold, or money, or at the very least something of value they could sell to buy things they needed: like shoes with no holes, and flour, and maybe even a proper meal with mutton, thick enough you had to chew your way through it, covered with gravy and roasted potatoes and peas. Dan’s stomach rumbled. He could almost taste the gravy-covered peas.


(Image: Arrival of the Police at Wantabadgery Station, from the State Library of Victoria.)

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