Gravel plumed behind the squad car as it turned right, roaring through the pines toward the light in the distance. The radio crackled. “Lyd. Lyddie, honey. Stop the car. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but stop the goddamn car and answer me.”
The driver ignored it. She slowed only to fumble with the shells. It wasn't easy, loading a shotgun while driving. “You’re gonna get yourself killed,” the radio squawked.
A pothole sent the car lurching. Shells poured out of the box and rolled onto the floor, wedging themselves into the shadows under the pedals. Sweat ran down the valley between her shoulder blades. Her foot drove the accelerator to the floor.
The voice on the radio changed. “Officer Kelly. Special Control is en route to the scene. This is their baby, not ours. I expect you back here in—”
“Baby,” mouthed Lyd. She let go of the shotgun long enough to switch off the radio. It was a lot quieter.
She burned into the old quarry and stopped in a tornado of dust. But she was too late. Surrounded by a half dozen scruffy males, Maisie was being taken by the meanest-looking one of all. The first shot burst over their heads and scattered the onlookers, leaving only the rapist with his shit-eating grin. Could Lyddie take him down from here without hitting Maisie? Not with a shotgun. She dropped it and fumbled for her sidearm.
"Drop the weapon," came from behind her. She whirled, looking deep into the eyes of the Special Control team leader. “You were told,” he said. “Now hand over the weapon and your badge and your car keys, Lyddie. Do you know how much paperwork you’ve caused the department? How many tax dollars? And all for your damned dog?”
Continuation: J.E. Barnard
I loved the add-on! LOL.
On the opening page--
Do police ride around in squad cars with shotguns? Fumbling with shells? No partner?
I didn't buy into this. I also didn't like the dispater calling this cop "honey" or the description of sweat in the "valley." And after she turns off the radio, it's "quieter", but isn't she driving on gravel? Where's the crunch?
I didn't believe it, so I wouldn't keep reading.
Have never heard police disptach this informal.
Is it an American thing?
Before going on, if I were the writer I'd read some background on police procedures, specifically here, use of radio 10-codes and securing fire arms in the car. (Sometimes called a unit or commission)
Especially if the lead character is a cop you'll have to do a lot more research to make her world seem authentic and up-to-date.
After research the story will probably take off.
I got the impression that she was a civilian who'd stolen a dear friend's/lover's patrol car, with all the shell-fumbling, the cruiser nearly out of control, and the total lack of formality in the radio exchanges.
So I was way off, eh?
First off, great add-on.
This one was mine - hullo!
Self-indulgent explanation: this is a modern-day fantasy novel, and the night in question is a full moon. There's been a call in about a werewolf attack. In my little world, regular police don't answer those calls - werewolves being nasty beasties more easily handled by teams of folks with silver bullets - but hey, Lyd does, because she's just lost her child and pretty much wants to die. She ditches her partner, grabs a weapon that's really too heavy for her to use (but better than a sidearm for stopping power), and takes off. I'm trying to convey that she's scared as heck while doing this, too.
I'll take the note on looking at the language with the first person over the radio; since their relationship doesn't get a lot of page time, I think it might work better to have him sound more official (they are good friends, though, so I was originally aiming for a more emotional appeal). Lyd actually isn't the lead character, but the werewolf attack is really fun to start out with.
Also, the gravel does crunch, but it makes for better tension-building under feet than wheels - I wanted to save the sound for the on foot approach. :)
Thanks for comments!
I wanted to keep reading and find out why the dispatches were so atypical. I presumed there was a good reason, though my guess was that the POV was a civilian, with a cop lover or father trying to get to her before people who might be more formal. (With a werewolf on the cover, of course, I might have had a guess closer to the truth.)
Make this sound like a typical police dispatch, and you lose the hook.
It was not immediately clear that the radio was the entity doing the talking. Not until the second time.
POV starts off omniscient ("the driver") but then falls into Lyd's head. Would be better to start in close third.
Who did the informal first voice belong to? That's never clarified.
In fact, clarity is an issue with this opening throughout.
I didn't have trouble with the police details in the opening. To me, it communicated a small rural setting -- something a la Twin Peaks or Castle Rock -- where there are only a few law officers and they all know each other well. Certainly, all those details pointed out above would be out of place in New York or even smaller cities, but that informality can communicate as much about your setting as any expository information.
Liked this - lots of tension.
The only jarring moment for me was the 2nd sentence - "The driver..." Rather than that, I thought maybe going with her name was better here (since the dispatcher's already said it).
Just my 2 cents, naturally. :-) Oh, and don't forget to throw in zombies and maybe some militant eunuchs, too. ;-)
I made the same assumption that Barbara did, that we're dealing with a small-town police force. Other details (gravel roads, pine trees, even the pothole) supported this in my reading.
I agree with jerseygirl about "the driver" in paragraph 2. I also had a slight problem with the imagery in paragraph 3. I couldn't picture something "wedging" itself into a shadow. And if the shells were wedged under the pedals, how could she push the accelerator down to the floor?
In the first paragraph, I'd cut "toward the light in the distance." It's just extra words that don't add a lot. A shorter sentence conveys more tension, I think.
Minor stuff. Learning that she's going after a werewolf certainly added something to her response to the word "baby." I wonder if you could work something in here about the shotgun shells being silver.
About small town cops -- don't believe everythign you see on TV -- dispatches are recorded and can be transcripted for evidence in a trial.
The dispatcher might say something like "Unit 100, Jones County dispatch ... status?"
Also, gravel roars under a vehicle. It's difficult to drive fast on a gravel road, takes two hands to keep it between the ditches.
IMHO if you have this solidly grounded in reality the paranormal aspects will be highlighted.
Well, I thought, that the voice on the radio was the husband's. And, hey, the 'emotional' part worked for me. I was getting all tense, and then that crack about the dogs got me compleately off guard.
Good luck, novelust.
Police shotguns are stored in the car already loaded. Something that would increase the realism a little bit, and maybe indicate that something unusual was going would be having Lyd change the ammo.
Swapping the standard issue buckshot for say shot soaked in rat poison or strychnine, or a flachhete round, would be a tip off that something way out of the ordinary is about to go down.
OH! I like anon's suggestion about switching the ammo - great opportunity to put the silver in the opening.
I understand and support everyone's notes about procedural but I liked your voice so I hope you find a happy medium.
novelust: Werewolves! My favourite thing - ahead even of zombies and sharks. Having read your comment here, I'm much more intrigued about this story. I am a bit worried about Lyd driving and loading a shotgun at the same time - seems to me that loading a shotgun needs two hands, as does steering a car.
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