The Grey Man…

Since I’ve had quite a few requests…

Here’s a rough map of the Cronin spread, not to scale, but to give you sense of the layout…

Cronin Ranch Main

And yes, I’m AM working on volume #2…

Here’s a sample chapter, uneditied… so no comments about my lousy punctuation ;-P

Another Day at the Office

The old man, Sheriff Rodriguez, Texas Ranger Clay Boone, and Bucky Hendrix from DHS were taking a break and brainstorming who might be lying in the bar ditch when the old man suddenly cussed and trotted over to his car.  Reaching in, he pulled out a file from his gear bag and flipped through it rapidly. He pulled one piece of paper out and hurried back to the group, “I knew something about this was bugging me, it was that damn BOLO from Brewster County that came out Tuesday morning.  Jose you need to make a call, I think we’ve found Eddie Guilfoile junior.”

Clay started cussing viciously, startling all the others, “Gahdammit, this ain’t good at all, his old man is in Huntsville doing three to five for smuggling marijuana and this has all the signs of a cartel hit.  I need to make some calls.”

The sheriff looked at the BOLO and walked back to the body, “Yeah, red and white striped shirt, blue jeans, six-one.  Let’s measure what we’ve got and see.”

The sheriff held the tape against the bottom of the left foot, which had set pretty straight, and the old man measured to the top of the body then added another eight inches. “Yep, six-one or two. Let’s go ahead and release the body to the coroner and you make the call.  I’d have Sheriff Garcia send a car out to the house and see if the head or hands are in the mailbox or on the front porch, or hell, maybe sitting in the car seat.”

Bucky came over, “None of the pocket lint tests positive for anything, shoes are clean; I think this is a payback killing.”

Jose hung up and said, “Hector is going to send a unit and he’s going personally to see if he can get a better description of the shirt and pants.  Turns out the kid was an athlete, starting tight end on the football team and point guard on the basketball team.  He was pretty much the opposite of his old man.”

The Sheriff motioned to the ambulance crew that had been standing by, “Go ahead and bag the body, we’ll be taking it to the Coroner in Brewster County since it’s closer and Doc Truesdale is out of town.  If it is the Guilfoile kid, then so much the better.”

The crew bagged the body, loaded it on the stretcher and eased back on the road heading to Alpine.

Clay and Bucky came back to the car, with Clay saying, “Looks like the old man got in a beef with a cartel type in the Goree block last week.  That whole situation is screwed up, Goree is used for non-violent offenders to train horses, but they run all the illegals through there on the way to deportation.  Apparently the cartel types sent an enforcer to take care of him, but he cut the enforcer up with his own shiv.  Apparently the enforcer was known as Smiley, so Guilfoile gave him an ear to ear smile, then dared any of the rest of them to come get him.  As soon as the guards came on the yard, he dropped the knife and just stood there.  They rolled him up over to the Walls unit and his parole hearing was supposed to be today.  I think they’re gonna let him out in the next day or two, probably Monday.

Bucky chimed in, “Yeah Fast Eddie, as he’s known, is a Cedar chopper and he’s always been on the fringes of whatever illegal stuff needs to be moved.  Low level type, just wants to put food on the table.  But he’s one of those cat quick little shits and apparently has quite the temper.

The old man asked, “If he’s a little shit, how do you explain a six-one kid?  And they’re gonna let him out?

Clay kicked at a rock, “Well, he’s married to an Irish girl named Iris that came over from the old country and apparently she tops him by at least four or five inches.  I’m thinking her side of the genes won.  As far as letting him out, he’d had a perfect record for the last three years, and was a trustee.  Hell, he’s the one that trained my buckskin Dusty!”

The old man shook his head, “Well, Bucky I think this one is going to fall into your and Clay’s bailiwick as a cartel job, and it appears we’ve got a hit team working this side of the border. Normally that crap stays out in Arizona, but if it’s coming here, there must be some indicators we’re missing.”

Clay said, “That’s the problem, we’ve had no indications of anything out of the ordinary. I’m going to Huntsville on Monday to see if I can tease out who and what cartel group this guy that Guilfoile had the beef with is associated with. Bucky, can you check with EPIC and see if they’ve got anything?”

Bucky nodded and made a note on his pad.

The old man looked at his watch and decided to head back to town for lunch rather than go home, since he figured the women were all still there.  He hit the truck stop on I-10 and grabbed a burger, then went to the office and worked on the report from the crime scene.  He downloaded the pictures and formatted them into the document and thanked his stars they’d gone digital.  Ten years ago, he’d have had to go to the lab, print the pictures; wait for them to dry, cut and paste them into the report; and if somebody wanted another copy, he’d have to do it all over again.   By the time he had all the forms filled out, the evidence logged and the reports emailed to the various agencies, it was almost 6:00 PM.

He got up and groaned, rolled his shoulders and tried to get the kinks out, John Cronin you’re getting too old for this shit he thought.  Halfway succeeding, he stopped by dispatch on the way out and told them he was going home, and that he would be out of town Monday and Tuesday.  Lisa noted the information in the log and wished him a good evening.

As he drove home he debated how much to tell Jesse; then decided what the hell, she needed to know and he was tired of her bitching about not being in the loop.  He also made a mental note to get Francisco to make sure all the rear accesses to the property were locked all the time.  He figured he’d better let the neighbors know too, since Hwy 18 was a major cut through from I-10 to I-20.

The old man pulled into the drive and was relieved to see the driveway was empty.  His thoughts bounced wildly from subject to subject has he drove down the driveway, Jack I wish you and Pat could see your little girl now, and I’m sorry she got hooked up with a Marine, but he’s a good kid and he loves her.  This whole wedding is getting out of hand, and thankfully there isn’t a coven of damn women here again.  How are they going to explain that kid’s death…

As the old man walked in the house and Rex slunk out of the office to come see him, “Yeah Rex, it’s me and you against all of them ain’t it.”  Rex wagged his tail and whuffed in agreement.  The old man took off his hat, gun and handcuffs and hung the belt on the hat rack next to the desk.  He looked at the desk and realized Jesse hadn’t even been in the office all afternoon.  Shaking his head, he headed for the kitchen with Rex following close behind.

Juanita and Jesse were sitting at the table, looking at one of what looked like a six-inch stack of books, and laughing.  He took that as a good sign saying, “I take it y’all made some progress today?”

Jesse looked up, “Papa, there is no such thing.  At this point I think we’re in a holding action, and I’m about to tell every one of the bridesmaids to wear what the hell they want!  I swear, I thought we all got along, but now I’m beginning to wonder if eloping might make more sense!”

He laughed and took the cup of coffee Juanita handed him, “Well, that would certainly be a lot cheaper!  Damn church is going to cost me a mint, and both the Padre and the Preacher are trying to hit me up to donate a little extra to the churches.”

Juanita slapped him lightly on the arm, “John, do not profane the church, you know the Padre is just doing what he does.

Francisco and Toby walked in and Francisco said, “Now what did the Padre do?”

The old man laughed again, earning glares from both Juanita and Jesse, “Oh the usual, trying to scam me out of my money!”

Exclamations of “John!” and “Papa!” sounded in chorus as the two women rounded on him.  He held up his hands, “Just joking, just joking!”

Francisco snuck up behind Juanita and kissed her on the neck, prompting her to jokingly say, “You smell like a horse, you will take a bath before you come to bed, otherwise it’s the couch for you!

Toby just smiled shyly and eased around to sit and pet Rex as the old man jumped in, “Juanita, you know I’m only paying for one bath a week for him, so I guess…

Juanita interrupted, “You want to be fed or not John Cronin?”

The old man bowed in defeat, and everyone laughed.  Juanita bustled around the kitchen with Jesse helping get dinner ready, and quickly the meal was on the table; they enjoyed chatting as they ate, and Toby reported he’d finished the two horses Ellington wanted broken.

As Juanita was dishing up the left over cobbler and adding ice cream, the old man decided now was as good as any time to update them on what had gone on today.  Some might find it strange to be discussing dead bodies over dessert, but Francisco was a reserve deputy sheriff as was Jesse, Juanita was an RN although not working as one, and Toby was a Montegnard from a family that had escaped from Vietnam so none of them so much as turned a hair at the change of subject.

They discussed lighting changes, including reactivating the motion sensors at the driveway and the back gate, and putting the sodiums down by the bunkhouse back on line.  The old man decided to reactivate the motion lights at the corners of the house and just live with the occasional animal that wandered by at night and tripped them.  He and Francisco decided to close the back gate and open up the honey pot north of the house just in case somebody tried to sneak in that way. Opening the gate at the cattle guard, and putting down a couple of feed lot panels cum punji stakes just inside the cattle guard would stop any car or person stupid enough to try that entry.  On the south side, just in case anybody tried to come across the pasture, they’d stake out some tag ends of barbed wire rolls across the likely lines of approach to the pasture gate at front of the house.  The old man reminded Toby that he would have to be more careful in both those pastures in the future.

After dinner he adjourned to the office and saved a copy of the incident report from earlier onto his hard drive and copied it to one of those ‘thumb’ drives as people were calling them.  He figured with multiple copies, his butt was covered.

Going back for another cup of coffee, he casually threw out, “Oh, DEA and CBP want me down at Laredo to assist with another class of new officers, so I’m going down tomorrow and will be down there Monday and Tuesday teaching.

Francisco smiled and nodded, while both Juanita and Jesse glared at him again, “Hey, they asked me, I didn’t ask them, besides Charlie’s on vacation and if I don’t do it that leaves Bucky and you know how bad an instructor he is.”

Jesse nodded ruefully, “Yeah, for somebody that knows as much as he does, he couldn’t instruct his way out of a paper bag.  You would think they’d send him to school or something!”

The old man said, “Well he is a sector supervisor, so technically he’s not supposed to be teaching just management.  But if you stuck Bucky in an office, he’d go nuts.  Anyway, with this new administration, they’re trying to revise the instructional courses to make them politically correct; so if we’re going to tell the newbies the truth, now is the time to do it.”

Francisco said, “Truth is good, politics is not.  But we know that don’t we?”

Jesse giggled, “Oh God, I can’t imagine Bucky as politically correct, nor Aaron or Matt!  Felicia called today the Marines have been heard from!  Matt heard from Aaron and they are still on track to be back in thirty-eight days.  Felicia said Matt already has his leave approved, and she’s put in for vacation, so the three of them will drive here in Aaron’s truck then Matt and Felicia will fly back.”

The old man teased, “So double wedding? Is that the hold up?”

Juanita laughed, but Jesse just cocked her head, “Uh, probably not, but I think they’re getting serious, although they both say they’re only friends.  But I know from Angelina that Felicia is pretty damn serious about Matt.  She’s asking Angelina what the family would think, so I’m betting if there aren’t any problems we’ll be doing this again in a year for her and Matt.”

Juanita said, “That would be good, Felicia needs to remarry and Matt needs a good woman.  I think you’re right Jesse.  Do you know yet how many Marines are coming for the wedding yet?”

Jesse said, “I think three plus Matt to match the number of bridesmaids.  When we add Trey and Beverly that gives us five of each; that’s supposed to be lucky, so that’s what we’re going with.

Juanita said, “In that case, we’ll put Trey and Beverly in the guest room here, and give the girls the old house.  We can clean up the bunkhouse and put all the Marines there.”

The women went back to chatting about details and the old man made a graceful exit to go pack.

At breakfast the next morning Toby was wearing the Gerber Bowie that the old man had given him for Christmas, so he understood what was going on.  Francisco was still working with Toby on both English and Spanish, but it was a slow process, and Francisco realized he was learning Degar almost as fast as Toby was learning Spanish.  Their conversations now veered through three languages and he envied John for the ability to speak Degar as fluently as he did.

Jesse had switched to jeans and had her Python on her hip, the old man looked at Juanita and she just patted her apron with a smile.  Francisco and the old man discussed ranch business and they decided that either Francisco or Toby would be around the ranch at all times.  Juanita and Jesse decided to split up the off ranch requirements like shopping and Jesse’s work by having Juanita vary her times into town and where she shopped, and Jesse decided to vary her times to and from work and use the Suburban instead of the GTO for the time being.

The old man ruffled Rex’s fur and said, “And don’t forget Rex, he knows friends and he’s not a bad watch dog as long as he’s not getting fed by the bad guys.  In this case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

Everbody laughed at Rex, who looked at the old man with an injured expression.  The old man said, “Okay, I’ll be back late Tuesday, and I’ll call before I come into the driveway.”



The Grey Man… — 19 Comments

  1. More more more! Srsly, that’s good stuff. It’s hard to do, but you make it look easy, sir – keep it up!

  2. I love your writing style and cannot wait for the new book.

  3. Truly glad there’s a sequel to Grey Man. Don’t know where it’s going, but I’ll follow it.

  4. Nice!

    Glad to see you’re working on another volume.

    I’m gonna have to get you to sign my copy next weekend.

  5. Sundance- Thank you!

    Murph- So you’re saying you want a centerfold??? 😉

    Frank- Thanks!

    xS3- And she’s even a lefty! 😀

    Murph- LOL

    Jack- Will do!

  6. Hey Old NFO;

    Now you had to tease us with a snippet…dangit…now we have to hound you until you are done…
    Seriously, it reads very well and I cannot wait for the sequel.

  7. Oops 🙁 Should be “Picture of Jesse?”…..

    Thanks for the update. Excellent as usual. Anxiously awaiting the next sequel.

  8. Pingback: Book Review – The Grey Man – Vignettes | DaddyBear's Den