I’m delighted to feature an excerpt from The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Math Girls by Tom Durwood.
Gunfight in the Mogollons
“These Colorado coaches,” lectured the solicitor, Aynsley, “are a larger, more rugged version of the Kinnear design. Wells Fargo uses them widely.
“This is a Concorde model, if I’m not mistaken,” he added. “Capacious.”
Johnny glared at the talkative lawyer.
“More useless information,” snorted the militia man, Morgan. He rubbed his bandaged hand sullenly.
The stagecoach’s constant motion cast a bad mood within its large interior, but it was more than just the motion. The day had turned to dusk. Only an hour further to Folsom. The mountain trail was clear, the horses making good time.
“Leather-strap suspension,” offered Aynsley to his captive audience, “is what gives the carriage its swinging movemen– ”
It happened so fast.
All in the same moment–
They heard a thunderous crash, followed by three loud gunshots.
The horses whined their objection in a panic –
One of the brake levers snapped.
The stagecoach screeched to a halt.
The stagecoach passengers heard a hard, painful scream from the driver’s seat –
“I’m hit! I’m hit!”
The stage door flew open and half of the passengers spilled falling out onto the trial –
“Shut up,” came a woman’s voice. A pause, and then, “Morgan! You there?”
The passengers stood. Now they could see that a great, bulky deadfall had been placed across the trail to block the stage.
Angie and Drew, from the saloon in Silver City, sat astride two horses, guns drawn.
“Hands up! All of you!” proclaimed Drew. “This here’s a robbery!”
He held his pistol on the stage driver, who had his hands up. Beside him, the rifleman clutched at his arm, where had been shot.
Now Morgan smirked as he trained a gun on Johnny’s stomach.
“What the devil — ” sputtered Aynsley.
“You- you’re bandits?” demanded the startled Mrs. Aynsley.
“The money belts,” commanded Morgan. “That deed! Now!”
One of the drivers groaned for mercy.
Angie stopped placing the saddle on the lead horse, turned and shot him
“Money belts,” spat Drew.
“But you’re such a nice boy — ”
“I’ll shoot you, hey,” shouted Drew, trembling.
“You’ll never get away with it,” warned the lawyer.
“Easy …” said Johnny.
“Sorry, bub,” Morgan said, half-smiling, to Johnny as he raised the weapon. “We can’t leave witnesses now, can we?”
Ma yelled ‘No!’ and lunged for the militia man —
“Hey. Morgan,” said Casey.
Morgan turned in time to see Casey’s hand sweep to her side and emerge with a gleaming pistol, one of the Colt Rainmaker’s, nickel-plated and deadly fast.
In a liquid motion, she raised the Colt and fanned the hammer —
Three rounds sunk deep into Morgan’s chest, all at once.
Casey swiveled and sent three more rounds slamming into anxious young Drew, jerking him clean from his saddle —
With a curse, Angie jammed her spurs into her horse and rode off —
Casey dropped the Colt and ran to grab the Enfield rifle from the passenger racks.
She shucked the rifle sheath and ran to the edge of the trail.
She stood on an outcrop facing northeast. She could see the sweep of the basin and range, to her right, where Angie was escaping —
She was galloping unseen, along the high-walled Mogollon limestone.
But there was a break in the wall, very distant …
It was that opening to which Casey devoted her attention.
They could hear the horse’s canter, moving away …
Casey thumbed in three big, heavy cartridges.
“Eleven hundred meters … ” said Johnny.
Johnny held the rangefinder like binoculars.
He counted off a sequence of numbers.
Casey scribbled the calculations.
Distance … curvature … target point … origin point
Now she watched through the Enfield’s telescopic sight, following the horse-and-rider trajectory, as she imagined it.
John called out a second sequence of numbers, distance in meters.
“Twenty …” said Johnny.
“Fifteen,,, ten .. five …”
The Enfield let go a sharp crack —
The firearm echoed in the great solemn quiet along the southern section of the Mogollons …
Angie’s body slumped and fell from the saddle.
What we see are objects in refracted light. A thing itself does not change, just the ways in which we experience it. It is the light which changes.
A blue moon looks blue because of shifts in light, the suspended volcano dust in the air. The way that light refracts can make everything look new, and not as we thought it to be.
It alters how things appear to us, does the immense cloud of fine dust and ash from the Krakatoa Volcano, supplemented by forest fires in Sweden and Canada. When the quality of the air changes, so does the quality of light. On a Blue Moon night, the thing itself does not change, just the ways we experience it.
Casey turned to Ma.
“Why don’t you take the money back to Mister Torgeson, Ma?”
She indicated the currency that had spilled from the lawyer’s satchel onto the trail, when Johnny had shot Morgan.
“Back to Silver City.”
Ma looked long and still at her daughter.
“I’m sure he’d appreciate it,” said Casey.
She slung the Enfield over her shoulder, like it had always been there, like it belonged attached to her.
“Johnny and me can run the clinic in Folsom. Then we’ll head straight for Albuquerque.
“You come join us, soon as you can.”
The horses fell quiet. A silence vast and deep seemed to descend, all along the southeastern section of the Mogollon Rim. The little grouping around the stagecoach listened, as though they could all feel, or somehow hear, the rotation of the earth.
No man or woman could put an adjective to the look that appeared on Ma’s face. It was sad and accepting, almost relieved and almost embarrassed, and several more emotions as well, all at the same time.
“And so the child,” intoned Aynsley, “is father to the man.”
“What, are you the effing chorus now?” Johnny raised his pistol to shoot the lawyer. “You two-faced shill — ”
“No! Please!” Mrs. Aynsley began to cry —
“They were robbing us, too,” she reminded Johnny.
Now Mrs. Aysnley’s cry turned into a scream, a hideous, feral sound, for such a cultured woman —
Johnny lowered the gun. “Just as soon,” he murmured.
“All right, Case,” said Ma. “All good.”
Ma’s face had gone white. She gripped the hem of her skirt tightly
“You two …take …” Ma choked. “Ah! Me! Take good care, Johnny –”
“The Fort Stanton stage should be by here in an hour or so,” said Casey. “That about right, Whip?” she called to the driver.
“Yup,” came the reply.
Casey looked out over the basin lowlands. She closed eyes, for a moment.
“I don’t know what we’ll find in Albuquerque,” Casey said to her brother as she swung into the saddle of the horse Drew had been riding.
“But we got a real-life deed to some damn thing.”
“We got two hundred bucks.”
She patted the horse’s neck.
“And we can make an honest living fixin’ guns.”
“We should be all right,” Johnny nodded.
He finished cinching the saddle of the lead stage horse and checked the horse’s underbelly. The bay was ready to trade all this gunplay and confusion among the humans for an open run along a clear path.
“Let’s light a shuck — “
Here’s the blurb
A collection of adventure stories featuring young heroines at turning points in history who use math to solve colossal problems. Smart girls take on buried secrets, villains, tanks, mysteries, codes, and economics to save their people “Stories, mystery and math go well together… a welcome addition.”
(~ Jeannine Atkins, author of “Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math”)
Amazon UK: Amazon US: Amazon CA: Amazon AU:
Meet the author
Tom Durwood is a teacher, writer and editor with an interest in history. Tom most recently taught English Composition and Empire and Literature at Valley Forge Military College, where he won the Teacher of the Year Award five times. Tom has taught Public Speaking and Basic Communications as guest lecturer for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group at the Dam’s Neck Annex of the Naval War College.
Tom’s ebook Empire and Literature matches global works of film and fiction to specific quadrants of empire, finding surprising parallels. Literature, film, art and architecture are viewed against the rise and fall of empire. In a foreword to Empire and Literature, postcolonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty of the University of Chicago calls it “imaginative and innovative.” Prof. Chakrabarty writes that “Durwood has given us a thought-provoking introduction to the humanities.” His subsequent book “Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism” has been well-reviewed. “My favorite nonfiction book of the year,” writes The Literary Apothecary (Goodreads).
Early reader response to Tom’s historical fiction adventures has been promising. “A true pleasure … the richness of the layers of Tom’s novel is compelling,” writes Fatima Sharrafedine in her foreword to “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter.” The Midwest Book Review calls that same adventure “uniformly gripping and educational … pairing action and adventure with social issues.” Adds Prairie Review, “A deeply intriguing, ambitious historical fiction series.”
Tom briefly ran his own children’s book imprint, Calico Books (Contemporary Books, Chicago). Tom’s newspaper column “Shelter” appeared in the North County Times for seven years. Tom earned a Masters in English Literature in San Diego, where he also served as Executive Director of San Diego Habitat for Humanity.
Two of Tom’s books, “Kid Lit” and “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter,” were selected “Best of the New” by Julie Sara Porter’s Bookworm Book Alert
Connect with Tom
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Thank you so much for hosting Tom Durwood today. Much appreciated. xx
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