Mentor Name: Rebecca Wells
Mentee Name: Jenn Brisendine
Title: UNDER THE DUST OF RANSOM
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Historical Mystery
Word Count: 50,000
A Roma girl traveling dust-swept Kansas, twelve-year-old Zora senses the darkness covering the town of Ransom. When townspeople discover a murder, they’re quick to whisper “Gypsy!”—and Zora’s beloved guardian is jailed. To save her, Zora must reveal Ransom’s secrets… and uncover a few of her own.
Western Kansas, 1934
The wolf was at the door again, but it wasn’t a wolf you could shoot with Kat’s rifle. And even though the sky should’ve been lit up, you couldn’t see this wolf; its dark body spread miles and swallowed the full moon.
But you could hear it.
Scrit scrit scrit of a thousand gritty claws on the wagon steps, and Ohhhhwhhuuul from an ancient, bitter throat.
“Zora.” Kat’s voice slipped across our wagon’s tiny inside, big enough for two skinny beds and Kat’s old trunk between. The wagon stood strong, a little one-room house on wheels with a driver’s seat and horse hitch, a good vardon built to caravan long travels—though it rode lonely these days, just me and Kat. “You got Beast and Girl into the shed, yes?”
“Sure did, and got the feed bags on them too,” I whispered. We’d been using an abandoned shed, west of Ransom by a mile, for a week now, the dust ever drifting into dunes against the walls.
The wolf let out another howl, set the wagon rocking. It stirred the night pictures in my head: fiddles, dancing, fire.
“Someone coming.” The words flashed out of me before I knew they were on the rise. I pulled Kat’s old night wrap round my gown, heard her step quick from her bed. Yellow light burst from the oil lamp as she twisted the knob.
“Soon?” she said all sharp-like.
“Now,” I said.
Hard raps on the wagon door.