This is an excerpt from Effie's Outlaw.
When the train jolted to a stop, the door slammed open, bouncing off the wooden paneling with a loud clang and shattering Effie’s slumber. She vaulted upright in the hard leather seat, eyes blinking in confusion and the right side of her face tingling from being pressed against the window frame.
A man dressed all in black, the lower portion of his face covered by a bandanna, stood in the doorway of the passenger car. Effie recoiled. Sooty smoke whipped behind his shoulders, creating an illusion that he’d stepped straight out of the gates of hell.
“Hands up!” His bellow was backed up by the gun clutched in his fist.
Her breath tangled in her throat as she gripped her reticule so tight her knuckles hurt. A man two rows ahead of her jumped up and yanked out his pistol. She ducked and slapped a shaky hand over her mouth as the boom of multiple gunshots echoed in her ears.
Blood streaked the man’s shirt as he slumped over the seat. Effie stifled the scream that bubbled in her throat. Only a small squeak came out, but it was enough to bring the wicked man’s gaze her way.
“Any other fools wanna die?” a voice from behind her snarled the question.
Effie swiveled and peered at the rear of the car. Two more bandits, hats pulled low and red bandannas tied just below their eyes, brandished guns.
“Get your valuables out and no one else gets hurt.” The beefy man in front growled the threat, leaving little doubt that any hesitation would be met with swift, violent action.
A brief silence ensued before rustles of movement stirred amongst the passengers. Effie shrank into her seat, shocked, and pinned a gaze on the closest man up front. The acrid smell of gunpowder stung her nose as wisps of gray smoke swirled in the coach, lazily wafting past the lamps lining the windows above.
The towering hulk advanced down the aisle, coming closer with each spur-jingling step. At every row, he stuffed jewelry and money into his waiting bag. Any who hesitated were punched, kicked, or had a gun shoved to their temple.
Angry glares and muttered curses filled the car. Mothers clung tight to crying children and husbands attempted to shield their wives.
Effie sat alone. Vulnerable.
When the brutish outlaw stopped by her seat and leered through cold black eyes, she shivered. He grabbed a handful of her hair and wrenched her to her feet.
“Come along, missy, you can keep me warm tonight.” Hot, smelly breath brushed her exposed neck.
The significance of the outlaw’s words crept into her terror-filled mind and Effie clamped her mouth tight against a wave of nausea. As he tugged her into the aisle, she frantically swatted at his meaty arm. “Let go!”
Cold steel pressed against her jaw as his fingers knotted tighter in her hair. “Hand over the goods, lady.”
Her heart beat erratically, her breath stalled in her throat, while tremors struck her knees. “No!” Her cry ripped past quivering lips.
Laughter rumbled in the man’s belly, flabby folds of skin shaking beneath his stained and worn vest. He yanked her reticule from between her clenched fingers then crammed it into his canvas sack.
Shouts of outrage erupted from several passengers. Gunshots exploded, glass shattered, and wood splintered. The outlaw shoved her forward. She grabbed at the seats, the frightened passengers, anything to stop before she reached the dreaded exit. Heart in her throat and eyes riveted on the rapidly approaching door, Effie slammed an elbow into her captor’s stomach.
“Easy, missy, save some of that feistiness for later.”
Unable to gain purchase on the blood-slick floor as she dodged around the brave young man that had tried to stop the criminals, she skidded wildly. The outlaw’s grip on her arm kept her upright. She stomped on his foot. “Let. Me. Go.” Her words came out in gasps. A vicious tug on her hair slanted her head at an awkward angle. Tears welled.
“Don’t try that again.”
The open door loomed.
Another loud crack exploded in the dimly lit passenger car. The bandit convulsed violently. Warm, sticky drops of moisture splattered Effie’s cheek. The brute that held her lunged forward and spat out a vile curse as his gun bounced off her hip and discharged at her feet. Her ears rang from the gun’s report and his clasp on her hair loosened as his tumbling mass propelled her out the open car door.
Overwhelmed by terror, Effie screamed as she fell. I’m too young to die. Before she could have another thought, the ground rose up and slammed her into oblivion.