The mist was heavier than a broken heart, and the front garden was only smears of grey beyond the front windows, now broken and admitting damp, chill air. This was the end of the line. The grip of the pistol was warm under clammy fingers. None of the gang had slept. It had been hours since the last shots had been fired, but none of them doubted the police were still out there.
"Sir Peter?" One of the hostages had finally summoned the courage to speak, his voice a hushed whisper while the others slept. There were five of them in all - three men, one young woman and a child. Only one of the men had been injured so far, which was a miracle with all the shooting that had happened last night.
The leader turned to face him, a thin figure with the iconic green silk scarf wound around his neck. Dark eyes studied him, but the gun stayed loose at the outlaw's side, pointing down at the rough wood floor.
"Are we all going to die?" The hostage had a three-day growth of beard and the cracked voice of a man frightened half to death.
"Not if I can help it," answered Sir Peter, and looked back at the window again. "Jon?"
"Want me t' call for a parlay?" Jon was a steady fellow, level-headed in even the worst situations, but the night had taken its toll on all of them.
"Do it. I won't have anyone say we let innocents die where we might have stopped it." Sir Peter's voice was unusually high, but smooth and calm. Despite the wounds sustained the previous day, the outlaw stood firm, most of the thin body's weight balanced on one leg. The other had been shot twice, and though it had been bound as well as they could, it would bear no weight.
"Somebody got a white shirt on?" asked Jon, looking wearily around at the hostages, and the other three men in the gang. "Need a flag so they don' shoot."
One of the hostages gave up his shirt, and though it was stained with sweat and blood (Sir Peter's blood, as it happened) it would do. Jon tied it to a broomstick handle and cautiously poked it out the door, waving it up and down.
"Parlay!" he shouted. "Let the hostages go, an' we won't shoot 'til they're gone."
There was a long silence, pregnant with the hope of their hostages. The young woman clung to her child, newly awake and whimpering quietly.
"Send 'em out!"
The mist was still too heavy to see anything, but it sounded like one of the men that had been shouting at them the previous night. Sir Peter turned to the hostages, then looked down, as though the impending danger were too heavy to be borne.
"Be safe, my friends. And remember us, if not fondly, then with respect." With a final nod, the outlaw limped back to the window and drew a pistol from the heavy leather belt. The hostages gripped one another's hands and shuffled toward the door.
"Here they come!" shouted Jon, then withdrew away from the door. "Good luck," he murmured, and touched his brow lightly as though saluting. The hostages gathered in the doorway, peering out at the mist for a minute before finally creeping out into the open. A shot rang out. One of the men jumped with a yelp and bolted. The woman screamed. Another shot, then an angry curse from somewhere out in the garden.
The gang opened fire, trying to protect the hostages. One had already fallen. Something arced out of the mist and slammed into the battered wall of the cabin before exploding into a roar of green flames. The fumes brought on violent coughing as the gang tried to hold their positions. The hostages were either fled or dying.
Bellowing with rage, Sir Peter stormed out of the cabin, a gun in each hand, firing repeatedly until the bullets were spent.
It wasn't until the body was gathered afterward for the autopsy that anyone knew that Sir Peter, the famous outlaw and terror of the countryside for more than 7 years was a woman.
Inspired by the story of Ned Kelly.