The Triggernometry series mixes the grit of the west with a cast of mathematicians from across history to create a truly unique and unforgettable adventure.
The second instalment – Advanced Triggernometry – finds Malago Browne riding out to defend a besieged town, along with six unlikely allies. Read on for an exclusive extract…
Chapter One: Alternative Denial
Esther eyed me uncertainly over her spectacles. I saw myself reflected there, eyeglass to eyeglass, as if we were two creatures studying one another from opposite ends of a microscope.
‘Yes?’ I started to gather the slates, intending to wipe away the careful, clumsy arithmetic, only to find it had already been done. How long had I stood dreaming of the past?
‘There are some ladies here to see you,’ Esther said, with her infinite patience. ‘Shall I show them in?’
I looked up. In the doorway of the schoolhouse, three figures waited, silhouetted by the noon sun. Beyond them, children ran, hooting and hollering and kicking at a ball. My hand crept towards my hip and encountered only cloth. Schoolmistresses were not in the habit of carrying guns.
‘Thank you, Esther. Close the door behind you.’
The young woman left with a final frown. She wished to say more, but we’d long ago reached a silent agreement. No questions about the other’s past. Until today, it had served us well.
The women came forwards, slowly, shoulders hunched as if they were demons walking into a consecrated place, afraid the hand of God might reach in and pluck them out. Their coats and skirts were thick with road-dust. The lead woman wore a rifle on her back.
Civilians. They stared at the children’s sums on the walls as if they were written in blood. Poor folk. Ordinary folk. So why was my neck crawling with ants?
Slowly, I opened the desk drawer. The instrument was there, ready. I rested my fingers upon it. ‘Can I help you?’
One of the women jumped, her cheeks hot. Another stared, her grey eyes like scraped flint.
‘We’re looking for Malago Browne,’ the lead woman called.
‘No one by that name here.’
The woman frowned at me, then down at the books upon my desk. The title of the topmost volume glinted in the sun.
NEW TRIGONOMETRY FOR SCHOOLS
‘It’s her,’ the woman with grey eyes said, lip curling.
‘You are mistaken. I’m Mrs Grey, the schoolteacher.’
The woman with the rifle took a step closer. She was older than the others, wrinkles like intricate designs tooled into leather. A tarnished tin star hung from her vest. When her hand went for her pocket, I tensed, but she only brought out a piece of paper, grimy and much-handled.
The poster flopped over the stack of books. My own face, roughly sketched with malicious intent. And above it that old word, like a brand. WANTED.
I smiled. ‘A remarkable likeness, if an unfortunate one. Several other Capitol marshals have made the same mistake in the past. They all regretted pressing the issue.’
‘We ain’t here to take you in.’ She shifted uncomfortably. ‘We’re here on business.’
‘Don’t say you wish me to teach your children—’
‘You’d be dead before you tried,’ the grey-eyed woman spat, before clamping her lips closed.
‘We don’t want teaching,’ the third woman said. She was round-faced, ruddy-cheeked. ‘We want fighting. I mean, we want fighters. Like you.’
‘You want people desperate enough to do some dirty-work,’ I accused, knowing that five years ago I would’ve done it. Would’ve taken almost any job, so long as there was pay, or food, or a chance to use the skills that drove and haunted me. I shook my head. ‘I’m a teacher. That’s all.’
‘I told you she wouldn’t help,’ the grey-eyed woman said. ‘I told you it was useless.’
‘Then I wonder that you came at all, Lydia,’ the older woman snapped, before turning her gaze back to me. ‘It’s true, it ain’t an easy job. Ain’t a clean one either, depending on who you ask. We’re from a place called Summerville, day or so’s ride north of the border, but unless we do something soon, there ain’t going to be a town much longer.’ She worked her mouth. ‘We need help and we got nowhere else to turn.’
‘Turn to the Capitol.’
‘We can’t!’ the third woman burst. ‘It’s their man, Sheriff Austin; he poisons our young, he’s bleeding us dry. We need people who aren’t afraid of him. We can pay…’
I laughed. Bitterness was a deep well and it poured from my mouth. ‘The beast you made has snapped its leash and now you want the ones you called monsters?’ I flicked the poster onto the floor. ‘You’re on your own. As we were.’
The hard-eyed woman took the other’s arm. ‘Let’s go Minnie,’ she muttered. ‘This place is making me itch.’
They left the poster on the floor, where it had fallen. I looked down. In the open desk drawer, the old protractor glinted silver.
When she reached the doors, the marshal turned. ‘That gold you stole is burning a hole in your heart,’ she said.
Advanced Triggernometry is released in ebook on April 8th on Amazon and Gumroad. You can read the first instalment, Triggernometry, for free or pay-what-you-want via Gumroad or for £0.99p on Kindle for a limited time.
Release date: 8th April 2021
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