"Got any ciggies...?" He asked. I shook my head. "Shite." He said. The wind was biting at my fingers as I'd forgotten my gloves, and the rain was making holding onto my rifle some hell of difficult. I'd stepped in a huge puddle on the trek over, and my right foot was drenched right up to my bindings with brown water and mud. The grass felt like tiny icicles, and I dared not touch my trigger in case my hand froze.
"This is fuckin' shite." I observed, peering over the verge and onto the empty road. Nothing was coming either way, so I popped my head back down. Water was streaming off the peak of my cap, dripping down my front all over my coat, which had long since lost its wax. I checked my rifle again; the bolt was forward, ready.
"Rory..." he started "...when did he say they'd be here?"
I checked my watch. Eleven fourty-seven PM.
"Quarter to." I said, peering back over the verge. Still I could see nothing.
"There's still nothing." I said.
"Right. I'm off for a piss." He said, standing up and making his way behind a nearby bush. Whenever they turned up, I remember thinking, I was gonna slot that cunt O'Rourke. I knew he'd be at the front, with his daft mustache and his shiny Webley. It was him first, and then his boys. After all, this was war. No time for remorse.
I took another quick look over the verge. I could see lights away in the distance. "Seamus!" I hissed, as he came round the corner doing up his britches. I nodded down the road, and his eyes flicked toward the lights. We both lowered ourselves until our chests were resting in the sodden lumps of turf on the verge.
"Check your rifle." I ordered. He checked it, and the bolt was forward and the sight zeroed. We were ready. The horses approached, and we could hear the clop of hooves as they neared. We looked at each other for a moment and then back at the road.
"Here," I whispered, "the fucker with the tea strainer's mine." Seamus nodded, and we lay still and silent. I'd counted three horses, one pulling a Vickers. They couldn't have been more than fifty feet away now. I crossed myself for protection, and gripped my rifle. Twenty feet. Fifteen. Ten...
I tapped Seamus, and we finally stood to meet them, shouldering our rifles. They didn't even have time to draw sidearms. With a crack of gunfire and a couple of shouts, all three were unhorsed. Seamus ran to calm down the steed pulling the machine gun, and I made my way into the road to make sure they were dead. Shiny boots. Clean weapons. Badges and medals. Typical Regulars. They knew everything apart from how to win a war. O'Rourke was still alive, hacking his lifeblood all over the road.
"F...f...Fuckin' cowards!" he spat through a blood-stained mustache. "You'll swing for this, Murphy! Mark my words, you'll fucking swing, you hear?" I stood over him and put a foot on his chest as it wheezed in and out. I drew his bayonet from his belt, and looked him dead in the eye.
"This is for me brother." I said, through gritted teeth. I leaned in, and he braced his arms against me, pushing away in a pathetic attempt to save himself. I pinned one down with my knees, and the other with my free hand. I stuck him with the bayonet, pushed it right through his neck. His gaze never left mine until the last of the life deserted him. I stood once more when he'd stopped twitching, and spat on the corpse.
"Have that, you murderin' fucker." I took his prized Webley out of its holster, and pocketed the heavy piece. Seamus was stood next to me afterward.
"By God..." He said, the blood from the bayonet dripping onto the road. "I'll get the horses sorted." He finished, turning and briskly walking back to the transport. An evil bastard and godless heathen had died this night, and the Regulars had lost a commander. I'd even say it was easy.
I got onto O'Rourke's horse, and dumped his saddlebags at the side of the road, before spurring the horse onward into the blackness. It'd be a long ride home, but the deed was done.
"Rory..." Seamus said.
"Hmm?" I replied.
"...nothin'." He said.