The stagecoach was gilded and glorious. A work of art it seemed, and old. No doubt its owner came from ancient stock, a family of centuries who knew the worth of blood exceeded the embarrassment of ransom. If the devil paid his due tonight this could be Jack Harrington’s last robbery.
Jack spurred his horse out from behind a crop of gorse, riding at speed. They usually tried to flee, these puffed up nobility, but this one knew the futility of trying to escape. The coach slowed to a halt, its lantern swaying like a gibbet, beckoning Jack like a moth to its flame.
The coachman paid Jack no heed, probably too terrified to intercede on his master’s behalf. Drawing up to a shuttered window, jack drew his pistol and rapped three times.
‘Let’s be quick about it friend, you know the way. Hand out that fat purse of yours.’
Growing frustrated Jack unhooked the shutters with his dagger. They yawned open to an interior as black as night. He couldn’t see a soul inside.
‘Now look, you perfumed popinjay,’ spoke Jack, ‘I’m not one for games. Stand and deliver, or the devil take your life!’
A voice replied, cold as stone.
‘The Devil … why good sir, the Devil took my life long ago. Perhaps you are better to answer such questions. What is it your kind say … your money, or your life? Although if you insist on demanding my wealth, you must have none of your own. Plenty of life though … yes?’
A fine, white smile spread wide in the gloom. Jack paid for it.