A WICKED DECEPTIONA bugle call shattered the stillness. Melanie flattened herself against the outside walls. Yelling and shooting wildly, the red coats charged forward. Shots rang out from within the stockade as the diggers fought back. Soldiers swarmed in from everywhere. Her ears rang from the noise of the guns. Worse still were the screams and cries of wounded men.
A man bent double and clutching his stomach, staggered out of a broken down portion of the stockade. A redcoat set upon him, clubbing him with his rifle butt. Melanie grabbed a piece of wood, crept up behind the soldier and hit him on the head. As he dropped to the ground she heard the miner gasp, “God bless you, Miss,” before he crawled off into the darkness.
She had to get inside the stockade and find Robbie, but how? If the redcoats didn’t shoot her, the miners probably would. Everything had become chaotic. Think woman. Foolish heroics wouldn’t do her or Robbie any good now. “Oh, God. Help me.”
The battle raged fiercely for about twenty minutes. Sometimes volleys of shots rang out, but gradually the shooting eased off to spasmodic firing. A wall of flame shot upwards as troopers set fire to the tents.
Men converged from everywhere. Horrendous cries and screams rent the air. A digger raced outside the stockade, only to be run down and bayoneted to the ground by a soldier on horseback. Carnage. Utter carnage.
She dashed forward. It was a sickening scene, even in the pale dawn light. “Stop it,” she screamed. Too late, the man on the ground now lay still, all life snuffed out of him.
The soldier reached down to grab her. “You beast, let me go!” She kicked and screamed, frantically twisting and turning.
A bullet whistling through the air just missed him. The horse reared in fright, sending the soldier crashing to the ground.
“Melanie? Quick, help me.” Robbie swayed like a drunk. One of his arms hung uselessly at his side, the other held a pistol. “Help me. I’m a dead man if I’m caught.” He almost collapsed as he tried to mount the redcoat’s horse.
“Robbie!” She grabbed the pistol from his trembling hand and held it while he tried to mount. It took three attempts before he succeeded. The redcoat groggily climbed to his feet.
“You’re under military arrest,” he growled. “Both of you.”
“Stay where you are. I’ll shoot.” She pointed the pistol at him, grasping it with both hands so it wouldn’t waver.
“Can you ride, Robbie?” Stupid question, he slumped in the saddle like a loosely tied sack of spuds. “Get your foot out of the stirrups! Now!” Although dazed, he did as she ordered when she screamed at him a second time.
The redcoat lurched forward.
“Don’t come any closer or I’ll shoot. I mean it. I know how to use this thing.” She threatened, loading her voice with menace.” What a lie. She had never discharged a gun in her whole life.
“You’ll regret this, Miss. It’s a serious crime aiding and abetting a criminal and assaulting an officer of Her Majesty’s forces.”
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