Duncan Curry was a brilliant thief. Banks, trains––anything with money was a job for him, and he did it well. During his years fighting for the Confederacy, he honed his skills in the name of a greater good. But now the Union is whole again, and Duncan Curry needs a job. When a man from his past approaches him asking if he will use his unique skills to guard the railroads, Curry cannot refuse.
It is the ultimate form of justice, as the one-time train robber now sees life from an entirely new perspective, protecting the rails that he once preyed upon. Now he is the private law in a time when every train is a big, fat target for opportunists with a gun and little gumption. Now Curry must learn to dodge bullets, instead of letting them fly, and find a way to keep his not-so-savory past from catching up with him as well.
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The Guardian: Derailers
By Tobias Cole
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Tobias Cole
All right reserved.
Fortune has been good to me in many ways throughout life, giving me a fine family in boyhood, a hardworking father and mother with wisdom beyond their limited schooling, and youthful years that included plenty of time spent roaming fields and forests and stringing trotlines across fish-rich streams. But in one area--women--I'd never had extraordinary luck, mostly because the circumstances of my young manhood had precluded much opportunity for courting.
Add to that that I was a reticent fellow when a boy. Growing up, I was evermore quiet and shy by nature, too much so to pursue the ladies with the vigor I should have. And though I was told more than once that I was a decent-looking figure of a fellow, my quietness had tended to keep some distance between me and the female world at large.
I tell all that to make it clear why it is noteworthy that, at the point I enter this narrative, I was in the company of the most beautiful woman in all Missouri. And it was by her own choosing she was with me, for it was she who had sat down across from me in the passenger compartment of this train on the Gullytown line, and she who had pursued conversation. She'd introduced herself as "Miss Seabury." The odd thing about it was that she had upon her knee a pad of paper and inher hand a pencil, and seemed intent on writing down everything I said to her. I had no idea why.
She scribbled so intently that she'd already broken the lead from two pencils and was working hard on a third. Her tablet was propped on her leg at an angle that kept me from seeing the words. She gave the pencil a great flourishing sweep, as if underlining something, and broke that third lead, muttering something that might have been a curse, but was too softly spoken to truly hear.
"Are you always so hard on pencils, Miss Seabury?" I asked.
She turned her beautiful face to me and laughed softly. "Oh, it's just bad penmanship, I suppose. I bear down too hard on the lead. I used to break chalk against my slate when I was in school, so I guess it has been a lifelong habit."
"Where was school for you, Miss Seabury? Where did you grow up?"
"Oh, uh . . . Delaware. Have you ever been there?"
"Never been to Delaware, no."
She looked relieved, oddly. "It's small enough that even if you aim to go there, you might miss it," she said.
She leaned over and from the crumpled bag at her feet produced a fourth pencil. She evaluated the sharpened end and wrote again, I had to ask. "Why are you writing? I feel as if I'm being interviewed."
She laid the pencil and pad to the side for the moment, and turned a frank gaze upon me. "I owe you an explanation. My note-taking habit is one I've been taught to develop. 'A good journalist lives by his . . . or her . . . notepad.' That's what my mentor and teacher tells me. You never know when you might need to remember something you've been told, he says."
"So you're a journalist?"
"Yes . . . well, sort of. I've had a small amount of work published . . . but I guess the real truth is I'm still a journalist in training."
"By this 'mentor' you mentioned."
She wrote something else down, frowned at it, then looked up and nodded. "Yes. His name is J.P. Brannigan. He lives in St. Louis, but travels widely. He is one of the most noted writers for the Monthly American Review. Are you familiar with that magazine?"
Of course I was. A story about a particular railroad exploit of mine had graced the Review's pages in a recent edition and brought me the closest thing to fame I'd ever experienced . . . though fame wasn't something I'd been looking for, and the story had appeared without my advance knowledge it was coming. "I've seen the Review. In fact, there's a boy reading a copy of one now, sitting over in that direction. And I've seen the Brannigan name in it, I think."
"So you do read. You are able."
Ouch. "Do I look illiterate?"
"I wasn't trying to imply you 'look' one way or another. One can't tell such things by appearances. It's a simple fact that many people cannot read."
"I'm not one of them. I've been able to read since I attended old Grover Academy back in White County, Tennessee."
"I think I might have offended you, Mr. . . ." She paused, embarrassed by a memory lapse, and flipped back quickly through her pages of scribbled notes. "Mr. Curry," she said. "Yes. Mr. Dylan Curry. A good name. A strong name." She looked up and smiled at me in flattering fashion, trying hard to cover any offense caused by forgetting my name, but the smile soon trembled away and the look of embarrassment returned. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm too forgetful sometimes. I don't know why. I should not have forgotten your name."
"Think nothing of it. I do the same thing all the time. Anyway, you just proved the value of your note-taking habit. And by the way, I'd be honored if you'd drop the 'Mister' and simply call me Dylan."
"Dylan Curry," she said, nodding. "I like the ring of that."
She was a big one on names, obviously. "And you, I know, are Miss Seabury. Your first name, though"
"Amanda Seabury. A lot of poetry there. See? I am literate! I even know what poetry is." I grinned broadly at her and she grinned back. Lord, she was beautiful! The very personification of the word. I'd never seen such a face, such a smile.
She laughed. "You are funny, Dylan. I mean that in a good way. You amuse me."
"Well, I can't imagine a higher calling in life than amusing you, Miss Seabury."
Excerpted from The Guardian: Derailers by Tobias Cole Copyright © 2006 by Tobias Cole. Excerpted by permission.
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