Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Beginning 567

It sounded like a gunshot, muffled and distant, but none of Lacey’s companions looked up. Neither did the high-bred horses in the paddock. A groom closed the barn door behind the group. As Lacey thankfully breathed the fresher, less horsey air outside, another pop came, louder this time.

She looked for the source. It could be a starter pistol from Spruce Meadows, the international-class horse show place just down the hill. If show jumping used starter pistols. But she didn’t think it did.

“From the mansion to the south,” said Ryan Branson, the yuppie owner of Sundance Stables. “Construction noise. They’ve been renovating for over a year. We try to think of it as crowd-conditioning for the horses, instead of a bloody nuisance. Now, I’ve got a lunch date. Leah will help you with anything else.”

He turned away, his impeccably office-casual clothing at odds with the staff’s smudged riding gear.

A dark stain marred the back of his otherwise impeccable dress shirt. As Lacey watched, the stain spread. Ryan gave a little squeak and fell over.

The rumors were true, then! Somebody -- somebody nearby -- had a gun with ultra-slow-moving bullets!

Lacey whirled around, trying to look in all directions at once, wondering: What about that second gunshot?

Opening: Jeb.....Continuation: Ellie


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

"Cut! Cut!" yelled a man with a megaphone improbably clasped against his chest. He dropped it, then stomped forward, startling the horses, and grabbed Lacey and Ryan by the arms. "Guys, think, think! Did nobody read the script? You're the Seventh Cavalry. You hear gunshots, you get on your horses and ride out of here. Gottit?"

Lacey shook herself out of his grip and sighed. Construction noise was one thing, but for how long did Ryan think she could put up his crazy uncle John "John Ford" Ford?


1) The back of Branson's head blossomed into a bloody flower as he collapsed over a pile of horse dung. More shots rang out as the other guests fell. A grim-faced groom and a grubby stable-boy strode up to Lacey, clutching rifles. "Welcome, comrades," she said quickly. Damn, why couldn't the revolution have come last week, when she was dressed for it?


2) Leah smiled sympathetically at Lacey. "We're all a little grumpy because of the noise. But once Mr. Ryan's finished assassinating the rest of the neighbours, he'll be in a better mood for your interview."


Evil Editor said...

Even brief phrases can be info dumps, phrases like: "the international-class horse show place just down the hill," and "the yuppie owner of Sundance Stables."

She already knows this information, and she's not telling anyone else. Work it in using thoughts she might have:

She looked for the source. A starter pistol from down at Spruce Meadows? No, she was pretty sure show jumping didn't use starter pistols.

We'll get the idea Ryan is not a ranch hand from his clothing and dialogue; you can let us know he's the owner some other way. Possibly just calling the staff "his" staff.

Dave Fragments said...

I live in an area where people hunt deer and a single gunshot does not attract attention. Why? because it only takes one shot to kill the deer and 99% of hunters do it in one shot. That sounds bumper-stickerish but I assure you it is true. Wounded dear run far away.

Multiple shots in quick order attract attention because that when someone is missing and shooting a moving target. That happens during bear hunts and varmint exterminations (rocky raccoon running away, that gopher is dead or something like that)...

So by hearing the gunshot and not reacting, this bunch is sapping all the tension out of the opening.

Also, although I try not to be around a stable, you get used to the "horsey" odor. Horses are big, smelly beasts and I know my nose gets used to whatever that aroma is unless is it freshly and recently expelled. That's why when the tail goes up, you move away, real fast.

To go back to the first point, I think you have to do a little work and get the characters to react a bit more obviously to the two gunshots. I'm guessing someone's dead and they're going to remember the shots.

BTW - I used to work on a "reservation" where one group tested explosives and when the airhorn went off, we'd wait thirty seconds and hear the boom, watch the drapes shake in the shock wave and then go back to our work. No one commented or even reacted unless the explosion was particularly big. Which happened once a year.
These weren't tiny explosions, once they blew a mining car out of a test mine. It landed about 100 feet away from the mine mouth. Just a bit of dust and methane. And the other really memorable "boom" was a coal dust explosion where flames blew 200 feet out of the mine mouth. That's a sight!

andie said...

Hm - but Spruce Meadows is on the edge of one of the largest cities in North America (by urban sprawl, anyway) - Calgary.

I'd think twice about hearing gunshots so close to the city (and the racetracks...) Not a lot of acreage owners are out hunting deer and bear between show-jumping events...

Wes said...

The writing is smoooth and polished, but the info dumps EE points out detract from it.

Good start though.

EB said...

Are the purported gunshots from the construction site? That's how I read this, but it's unclear. Why is Lacey the only one looking up (blocking question: what are they looking AT that they're not looking up from?).

There's much too much telling here. The "yuppie" bit particularly stuck in my craw. Branson (any relation to Richard?) a) owns the stables (any affiliation with the internationally renowned film festival?) and b) is wearing impeccable office-casual. I don't assume he's hog-ridin' biker dude. "Office casual" is likewise weak; a crisp blue blazer with an open-necked pinpoint oxford?

If the gunshot/construction noise is meant to evoke tension, Lacey's response to it doesn't.

If Sir R. Branson's dismissive snottiness is an opening into his character, you need to dial him up a bit.

And there any job you haven't had? I fully expect to one of these days read comments from you about driving a nuclear submarine under the polar ice cap.

Dave Fragments said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Fragments said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Fragments said...

One more thing...
I've never been in the military.

talpianna said...

Ever been a hooker, Dave?

EB said...

Oh, that's where I know him from...

Dave Fragments said...

Good grief Tal, of course not.