By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1135
Patrick Lawson panned another load of silt and grit in his rusted, weather beaten tray. It was the end of another fruitless day, gold prospecting the tranquil and peaceful creek on the outskirts of Gympie. While he found no gold that day, he still smiled to himself. Tonight, he would meet with Mrs Jones, the local constable’s wife for another evening of prospecting.
He packed his gear and bathed in the creek, downstream from his camp save polluting the water for drinking. Patrick pulled on his clean moleskin trousers and heavy, dark blue cotton shirt and walked towards town. By the time he reached Gympie’s main street, it was dusk and Constable Jones was already on duty, doing the rounds near the Royal Hotel.
“Quickly, come in before anyone sees you,” Elizabeth Jones said to Patrick.
Patrick scurried in the back door of the cottage, looking from side to side to make sure no one saw him. Inside, Elizabeth grabbed him by the waist and pulled his muscled torso toward her soft cotton skirt, kissing him passionately.
Patrick unbuttoned her blouse and cupped her soft, lily-white breast in his hand. If felt tender to his weather beaten hands, better than anything he handled during the day. She unbuckled his belt, harshly pushed his trousers down below his knees and began stroking him tenderly.
“Away from the window,” Elizabeth gasped, breathing deeply and panting with lusty excitement.
“I can’t wait,” Patrick said. “It’s been a week since we met.”
Elizabeth scampered to the bedroom, pulling her blouse and skirt off when she got to the brass bed and fell backwards with her legs spread invitingly at Patrick. He pulled his trousers off the rest of the way, kicking them to the side, and unbuttoned his shirt as he walked quickly to his lover.
“I wish we could run away together, Patrick.” Elizabeth said after they made love, resting contently on Patrick’s tanned and muscular chest.
“Aye, so do I.”
“Let’s do it, tomorrow.”
“I’ve nothing to keep me here, but I don’t know how we’d survive if we up’d and moved south. You’re probably to used to the luxury of a roof over your head and warm meal every night. I can’t provide that.”
“But you can provide me with all the satisfaction and love I desire. Not like this cold relationship my marriage has turned in to.”
“Aye, can’t imagine the constable being to tender in the sack.” Patrick cupped her breast gently and kissed her on the neck softly.
“Let’s go, Patrick. I can’t handle all of this sneaking around and waiting for him, to leave for long enough for us to meet.”
“If you’re sure,” he said, kissing her on the cheek. “Then I’ll meet you down by the river tomorrow night. We’ll ride out of Gympie under the moonlight. By the time they start looking for you we’ll have a good day’s head start.”
“I’ll leave a note saying I’m going to stay with my sister at Bundaberg for a few weeks.”
“And if we head towards New South Wales, they’ll never find us.”
They made love again twice before Patrick had to leave and Elizabeth had to fix the bed and other disrupted furniture around the small workers’ cottage.
That night, neither of them slept well. Both excited about the prospect of being together forever, not more sneaking around or hiding their feelings towards each other. Patrick was still half-awake at daybreak when a voice boomed through his tent in a deep, authoritive voice.
“Patrick Lawson, you will come out of your tent with your hands on your head.”
Patrick slowly rose from his uncomfortable bed on the hard rocky ground and poked his head out of the tent.
“What’s this about?” he said to the five troopers standing with carbines pointed at him.
“Please come out where we can see your entire person. Slowly as it does now, we don’t want any trouble from you.”
Patrick did not recognise four of the troopers, but did know the face of the fifth, Constable Jones. He did not know if this had anything to do with last night, but did not want to give them reason to gun him down. Slowly, he left his tent and stood in his faded red, long johns before the armed men.
“What’s going on?”
“Patrick Lawson,” Constable Jones said harshly. “You are under arrest for the murder of William Baxter.”
“Put your hands behind your back slowly.”
Patrick did not react immediately and received a heavy blow to the kidneys from the butt of an army carbine. He fell to the ground, winded and clutching his side. Three troopers fell on his heavily and roughly pulled his arms behind his back, forcing his face into the rocky ground with more effort than needed. The fourth trooper locked a pair of heavy manacle tightly around Patrick’s wrists, cutting into the thick leathery skin with the rough edges.
The troopers hoped off Patrick and pulled him to his feet, almost dislocating his right arm when jerking him up.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Patrick started to say.” You must have the wrong man.”
“Oh, we’ve got the right man, Mr Lawson,” Constable Jones said harshly, leading Patrick towards the five horses grazing a few feet from the tent.
* * * *
“Is this your pistol, Mr Lawson?” Sergeant Williamson said to Patrick.
The sergeant held up a battered old revolver in front of the cell Patrick sat in on a rickety iron bed. Patrick looked at it carefully and could tell the worn handle and barrel was definitely his.
“I can’t be sure,” he replied. “It looks like any old pistol to me.”
“Aren’t these your initials on the grip?”
“P.L. They look like mine. Where did you find it?”
“It was found next to the body of William Baxter last night at nine o clock behind the Royal Hotel.”
“But I wasn’t at the Royal last night.”
“Do you have anyone that can back that statement for you?”
Patrick thought deeply. He sure did have someone who could verify his story, but at what cost? He wondered what would happen if he told them that, he was shagging the constable’s wife at the time of the murder.
“No,” he said sadly. “I live in the tent the troopers found me in this morning. Unfortunately, by myself.”
“Then you have no proof of just where you were last night, do you?”
“No,” Patrick said, shaking her head in defeat. “No, I don’t.”
“Then the trial will be held in two weeks at the Gympie court house.”
Patrick hung his head low in sorrow. He could not get a message to Elizabeth and he would not implicate her in her infidelity to save himself from the gallows. It was more disgrace than she deserved.
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