Part 11

Aye, the blood of Amazons and Celtic Queens of old flowed fast and merry through the veins of these Connolly girls.

The shocked and defeated Paudhaun now tore himself loose from Barker’s jaws, and made a mad bust into the bushes under the salley tree. Gone! Behind Molly, watching to the rear for any other enemy – but hardly able to keep her eyes away from the riotous conflict out front – was ‘Babsie’ – a wilful and warlike wee missy – all of a sharp-edged ten summers old. This most un-babyish of girls had been cheering and shrieking “hop off ‘im, Barker!” – in between throwing fast looks to their rear…..

Now, one of those swift glances stopped her yelling! She perceived, back at the limits of her vision in the fading moondusk, a sinister shape steadily advancing out of the milky gloom! And right up on the edge of the Moller’s stated ‘thirty yards limit!’ “Cripes – another one!” she muttered grimly – still holding her nerve, but not wanting to distract the ‘gunwoman’ until the line was actually breached. But then – just in case – she gave her big sister a sharp nudge in the back – avoiding, of course, the hanging bag containing the ever-slumbering MeeMee mouser.

The icy-cool girl with the Four Ten whirled around – seeing that she now, urgently, had ‘another fish to fry’. The deadly .410 gun, in the cool grip of its fearless handler, was now up at the military ‘port arms’ position. Fortuitously, Moll could safely ignore the winged and dounced would-be swain – he was out of the game. And the strange ‘Barker’ would stand guard against his unlikely return. Babsie, like a soldier, now read the battle situation straight away – and transferred her hard gaze to Barker – and the bushes – leaving Molly free to deal with who or whatever was moving up on them from the rear.

In the faint illumination of the dying moonglow off the frostrime, Molly could now confirm what she instinctively knew the identity of the hunter. The one she’d been half-expecting – but also fervently hoping against. This pursuer had stopped instantly the gunshot rang out. In their {earlier} tumbling thoughts and emotions, on this strange and violent night, neither she nor Babsie would be entirely surprised if Old Nick, The Tub ‘o Guts, or Jack the Giant Killer tried to nab them! But then again, it might even be Queen Maebh, racing along in flumes of magic smoke, riding to their rescue in her brazen car, pulled by two golden mules… But, not so.

Now, the quarry and the hunter were face to face. Only thirty or so yards separated them. Only thirty steps between daughter and father, for it was he. Thirty short paces to the daughter he’d so despicably tried to barter away. His little first-born, whom he’d sold to the foulest brute imaginable.

As Kilkenny people are wont to say – there was now ‘no love lost’ between them. Molly had foreseen this situation. {Otherwise she wouldn’t have armed herself – would she?} That she might falter in her resolve was a possibility. Being hit by a meteor is also a possibility. As I said – she’d considered the ‘might falter’ scenario. And placed it in the ‘meteor’ department…

‘Click’ – went the hammer behind the choke barrel. A sideways-stance was adopted, weight transferred to her leading left foot. In those few flying – yet frozen – seconds in time, Molly Connolly never shifted her cold stare from the once-upon-a-time father. That the gun was in her hands was no stroke of luck: as said – she’d foreseen its vital importance – while hoping it wouldn’t be needed…

But without that walnut and cold-steel ‘equaliser’ which she wielded so firmly and efficiently, it would have been ‘goodnight nurse’ for both sisters already. For her, horrible wedlock, forever, to a moron. And captivity in a semi-prison of a dreary home for Babsie – who would be bartered off herself in but a few years – to prevent any more of these present ‘shenanigans.’ {As I’ve said several times, folks – back in those 18s80s days, a girl could be legally dragged to the altar, at the tender age of twelve.} Most parents and girls worked things out well, and many’s the happy union that ensued. But tied to Paudhaun? Even the phantom Witch of Blackbog would have flown from that …

The father had been too far down the ditch, and the light too dim, for him to see the brawl between Barker and Paudhaun, and the girl’s bodies had also been in the way.

At the gunshot, he’d stopped, stock still. At first he thought Paudhaun had fired, but in a flash he knew it was the four Ten – the only one in the locality. This was a complete shock to him. He hadn’t gone near the kitchen to get the weapon – had seen absolutely no need for it. A man didn’t chase his little girls with a shotgun; not even cads such as he was.

Now, he stood silently, and so did his daughter. She could hear little sis, behind her, saying to the dog: “G’won, Barker, bite the bloody divil if he makes a move, chaw his other leg off!” which made her smile coldly. Exactly her own sentiments – and if Barker felt like a big jaw full of the horrible P – then let him. But the dog wouldn’t dirty his nice long fangs anymore than he’d had to do. The Paudhaun was ‘bet.’ A goner. A busted flush. History. Goodbye, P?

Still silence reigned between father and daughter. He didn’t know what to say. She knew she had nothing to say. Quietly, then, without a change in her expression, Molly raised the weapon, ever so slowly, calmly, deliberately. The barrels were elevated at snail’s pace, until they were trained on the heart of Mikey Connolly.

Daughter wouldn’t dream of a ‘heart shot’ – she’d only ever have winged him. Same as her thwarted would-be intended. But daddy Connolly didn’t know that. He’d heard the flat crack of the Four Ten, then a few howls. He could only {rightly} guess it was his ‘dowry man.’ For all he knew, the P was mortally wounded. He’d seen the hatred on his girls face in the kitchen, when the Dacent Boy had lifted his jam jar and candle lantern up along her form, ogling her flowering body. He knew his girl, knew she was a tougher nut than ever her poor mother had been. But he really didn’t know much more than that. What she wanted known – she let be known.

Now he wasn’t at all sure that she wouldn’t ‘pull’ on him. Although Molly couldn’t see it, his features turned a dirty shade of grey, and his body started trembling. Still she held the gun on him, staying completely and frighteningly still and silent. Now he was sure that his doom had arrived. That his time had come. That it was payback time for his ill treatment of his wife. That this daughter – whose tender body and future he had so despicably bargained away – was now going to exact retribution……….

To be continued….


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