Although I won NaNoWriMo 2016 (with the original version of Two Guns, ironically), I had yet to win a Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a bit silly, because you can set your own word count AND there aren’t any major holidays (except Independence Day, which doesn’t tend to sprawl as much as Thanksgiving). I prefer Camp NaNo, because the cabins, the care packages, and the website – although the functionality is more limited – feels much warmer than NaNoWriMo.org.
For April CampNaNo, I tasked myself to rewrite Two Guns, the concurrent sequel to COLOSSUS. I set my goal for 50,000 words, although I knew the book should be much longer. I was able to cheat a little bit, because there are some scenes from Two Guns that
can be pulled directly from the original version. Others were rewritten with minor POV adjustments. (The original version, btw, is completed at about 61,000, and had been revised, gone to beta readers and editors, who said it was fine, but it just didn’t feel right.)
I hit my word count goal, just barely. The novel is nowhere near finished, but it is polishing up much better than the original, which felt disjointed. For this version, I learned a lot of new information about fleet vehicle GPS trackers, emergency dispatching, cadaver dogs, and digital forensics. These forced me to change a few scenes more than I wanted, but authenticity is important in what is turning out to be a procedural novel.
Not sure how I feel about that. COLOSSUS is a psychological horror; Can Two Guns really be *just* a crime novel?
I guess we’ll find out when it’s finished.
“It’s you again,” Steyer said with a smile as Young opened the hatch of her Jeep Wrangler and unloaded her golden Labradors. “Don’t Cheatham Hill officers ever clock out?”
“Clock out?” Young laughed. “Oh, I clocked out. I’m just takin’ my dogs for a walk!” The animals wiggled excitedly and rounded her legs until she motioned for them to sit with a closed fist. One by one, she strapped the neon orange SEARCH vests on them. The wiggling stopped immediately, and they sat at attention.
The corner of Remington’s mouth turned up. He had never had a dog, but had always wanted one. He reached out and scratched between the ears of the one nearest him. He could see himself and Wickes getting a service dog…
“There’ll be plenty of time to visit the puppies once they’re done,” Young said with a slight scold to her tone. “Right now, they’re at work.”
“Apologies,” Remington said, stepping back.
Leaving a few rangers to barricade the trailhead, Young led the dogs across the street to Cheatham Hill, which was really just a grassy slope surrounded and crowned by woods. Remington and Steyer followed behind at a leisurely pace. Unlike the previous few days, there was a slight breeze to counteract the sticky heat. Remington wondered if that would aid the dogs, or hinder their search.
Young paused at the gap where the trail ran into the woods. The dogs sat down. The one Remington had scratched turned and looked at him, wondering why they were walking so slowly. Sighing, Remington hastened his step. He couldn’t believe he was being judged by a dog.
Removing their leashes, Young took a deep breath and called, “OK, go find them!”
Standing, they sniffed the ground around their feet, then lifted their busy noses into the air. The breeze picked up and they both froze. In complete accord, they bayed and took off running, first up the trail, then straight into the woods.
“I think they smell something,” Remington said.
“Yep!” Young replied. “Let’s go!”
They followed the dogs, who bayed at intervals, into the woods. They were not particularly thick, but the terrain was rocky and uneven. Remington was beginning to wish he had worn more suitable shoes when the breeze slapped him with the same scent the dogs must be following. The dogs bayed once more, then fell silent.
Their pace slowed with a good idea of which direction they were heading. Before them was a clearing and a track leading away from it. The dogs were lying on the ground on either side of a tree. Their tails wagged hesitantly as the three approached.
The stench of rotting flesh grew stronger. Remington’s lip curled and he put a hand over his nose and mouth. They gave the tree a wide berth as they parted to circle it.
“Animals got to him,” Steyer said, slipping his hands into his pockets.
The remaining remains sitting against the base of the tree were barely recognizable as male. The face was largely missing, and its jaw hung loosely from one side. The rest of the skull was cracked and caved from blunt force trauma. The fingers and toes had been gnawed off, as well as the genitals. Chunks had been torn loose from his thighs, belly, and arms.
Young swallowed hard and put an arm across her stomach. She nodded solemnly, walked a few feet away, then bent over and heaved. The dogs whined. Remington grimaced. Steyer closed his eyes at the wet sound and cleared his throat.
“He’s naked,” he observed.
“Mm-hm.” Remington turned to attempt to catch a breath of fresh air, but the smell was pervasive. “Beaten to death,” he said quickly.
“Looks like it.” Steyer nodded.
“His wild hare turned on him.”
Steyer pursed his lips, waiting for the moment of inappropriate amusement to pass. He pulled out his phone and flipped it open. “Let’s tell Sheriff Hutson he can call off the dogs.”
The labs turned upon hearing themselves discussed. Smart things. Too smart for their own good, wagging their tails at completing their task so quickly.
Remington decided he didn’t want a service dog after all.
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