Is coming along… Thanks for the emails, and I ‘do’ have a full time job… Just sayin… 🙂
But, here’s another piece from the new book, with a new character…
Eddie Guilfoile walked out of the Walls unit and down the steps in a fog. His mind was reeling between freedom and hatred for those who killed his son, and in no small measure, disbelief that the Warden had given him money and they’d let him go after cutting up that enforcer. Knowing Iris was not waiting as he watched the others run across street to meet loved ones, he turned and started the long walk down to the bus station. Wrapped up in his own mind he ignored a horn honking after he looked up and made sure he was still on the sidewalk. The car honked again, and he continued to ignore it, trying to wrap his mind around the fact that he’d never see Junior again, and that Iris was a lot stronger than he’d thought. Suddenly he heard a siren burp, and looked over in irritation, only to see Ranger Clay Boone. He walked over after the ranger motioned to him, “What do you want Mister Clay?”
Clay replied, “Eddie, I’m truly sorry to hear about Junior, and I was over here on business and thought I’d see if you wanted a ride back home. It’d beat riding the bus all night.”
Eddie straightened up and looked around, weighing his options. He wasn’t really sure he wanted to spend nine hours in a car with the Ranger, but it would get him home a lot faster than riding that damn bus. And if he saved the money, maybe he could get Iris a dress to wear for the funeral and maybe pay some for a stone for Junior. He leaned over, “Sure Mister Clay, if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it.”
Clay unlocked the door as Eddie walked around the front of the car, heading toward the back door. Clay motioned him to the front seat and Eddie shook his head then opened the front door and sat gingerly in the front, trying to not bang into the radio and computer stack in the center of the car. “Mister Clay, do you know what happened to Junior?”
Clay glanced over trying to decide how to answer, he finally said, “Yeah, I do. Everything points to a cartel hit on Junior. They killed him but at least he wasn’t tortured.”
Eddie ducked his head, “But Iris said the sheriff took something out of the mailbox and out of the car.” Steeling himself he turned to the ranger, “That was his head wasn’t it, and maybe his hands?”
Clay just nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
Eddie slumped back in the seat and turned toward the door. Clay continued driving and they passed almost two hours without a word being said. Clay pulled through the gate at the Austin airport and into the Ranger’s hangar parking area, waking Eddie up as he drove over the FOD shaker. Eddie looked around in curiosity, “What are we doing here, Mister Clay?”
Clay opened his door, “You didn’t really think I drove all the way here did you? Come on, our trusty steed awaits!” He said, with a smile.
Eddie grabbed his possibles bag with his few possessions out of the back seat and followed Ranger Boone into the hangar as Clay flipped the car keys to the sergeant sitting behind the counter, “Thanks Mike, did you gas up the sky pig out there?”
The sergeant reached up and caught the keys, “Yep, you’re good to go Clay, topped off both the internal and the bladder so you’ve got enough go juice to get home. And I still want to know how in hell you got a five-hundred ND when we’re stuck with the A-Stars…”
Clay chuckled, “Just gotta know which buttons to push with DEA to get that support, and being in the middle of nowhere on the border doesn’t hurt.” Signing the fuel chit, he filled out the a-sheet with his name as the helicopter pilot in command and filled in Eddie’s name as the observer. “Okay, we’re outta here, I want to get home before dark, and the Loach ain’t the fastest thing in the air.”
Eddie followed Clay through the hangar to the little Hughes 500ND sitting in front of the hangar, and let Clay buckle him in the back seat, taking the headset Clay offered him. Clay settled himself in the right seat, strapped in, put his hat in the retainer on the co-pilot’s seat, put on his headset and started the checklist. Eddie watched in amazement, as he hadn’t known the ranger knew how to fly, much less had his own helicopter. Clay turned master power on, and started the turbine as Eddie heard a pop in his headset, followed by Clay’s voice, “Okay Eddie, I’ve got you set up for intercom only to talk, but you’ll also hear the radios as I talk to various folks. Just set back and enjoy the ride. To answer me, click that red button on the handset in your hand.”
Eddie fumbled with the handset, and then Clay heard a click followed by Eddie’s response, “Yes sir Mister Clay, but I didn’t know you knew how to fly.”
As the turbine spooled up, Clay said, “Oh just one of those little things they teach us that we don’t always tell folks Eddie. Here we go.”
Clay wiped out the controls, and came up on Ground, “Austin Ground, november niner fife tango romeo at ranger’s hangar, taxi for takeoff with Hotel.”
Austin ground came back, “Fife tango romeo, you’re cleared to air-taxi to tree-fife right hold short. Cleared climb straight ahead to two thousand fife hundred, left turn to intercept victor fife-fife-zero to Pinch, cleared GPS direct Alpine, squawk fife-two-tree-zero. Contact tower one two one dot zero.”
“Roger, readback climb straight ahead to two thousand fife hundred, left turn to intercept victor fife-fife-zero to Pinch, cleared GPS direct Alpine, squawk fife-two-tree-zero; light on the skids, switching two one dot zero.” Eddie heard popping through his headset and felt the helicopter lift and teeter as Clay keyed the mic again, “Tower, november niner fife tango romeo taxiing tree fife right.” They picked up and smoothly began air-taxiing out to the runway.
Austin tower replied, “Fife tango romeo, intersection takeoff approved.”
Clay air-taxied onto the runway, aligned the helo and smoothly added power. Eddie felt a sinking sensation as the helo climbed but he ignored it as he stared fascinated out the window watching the airport fall away below him. As the helo banked, he grabbed the seat, thinking they were going to fall, but they continued to climb. Eddie fumbled with his handset and keyed it, “Mister Clay, what was all that gobbledy-gook on the radio?”
Clay glanced back, “That was how we get home Eddie, I just thought of something, have you ever flown?”
“No sir, never have till just now…”
“Well, just sit back and enjoy the ride. I’m gonna be talking to folks as we fly home to let them know where we are, so try not to ask me something when I’m talking to them okay?”
Eddie sat back and watched west Texas go by as he considered what he was going to say to Iris, and how he would face the days to come. Unbidden, tears rolled down his face, and he idly clicked the handset without realizing it. Clay looked around, saw the tears, and said nothing.
Eddie clicked the handset again and said, “Mister Clay, what should I do?”
Clay answered, “Eddie, I really don’t know what to tell you, other than just do what you can to be strong because Iris is going to need to you be there for her. I know y’all don’t have any family close, and I know the sheriff has had folks going by and checking on her.”
“Yes sir, but dammit, I want the bastards that killed Junior!” Eddie burst out.
Gently the ranger said, “Eddie, we don’t know who did it. Pecos County was where Junior was found, and their best investigator has been working it, but honestly Junior was only dropped there. We haven’t and maybe never will find where he was actually killed or who did it. All the sheriff has been able to find out is Junior didn’t get on the bus after practice last Wednesday.”
Eddie said, “I’ll find out, I swear I’ll find out!”
Clay replied, “Eddie if you do, you damn well better tell me and not do something stupid like take the law into your own hands. You’ve got enough stuff hanging over your head, and Iris needs you now, more than ever!”
Ducking his head Eddie answered, “Yes sir Mister Clay. I promise I will. I know things gotta change, and I gotta go straight. I’m hoping I can get hired to do some horse work now that I’ve proven I can do that.”
Clay nodded as Eddie slumped back in his seat and stared out the window. Eddie slept most of the way back to Alpine, only waking up as they descended on final into the little local airport. After landing, Clay air-taxied over to his hangar and put the helo down on its mobile pad to Eddie’s amazement. Clay smiled but didn’t say a word as he finished the shutdown procedures for the Loach, and after everything was off, he turned telling Eddie to unbuckle and climb out. Once they were on the ground, Eddie helped Clay push the Loach back into the hangar. By the time they’d finished securing the hangar, it was dark and Eddie was wondering how he was going to get home.
Clay motioned Eddie toward the Ranger’s Jeep as a pair of headlights pulled into the parking area. Moments later, the car pulled up next to the Jeep and Ronni, Clay’s wife hopped out. “Boy am I glad I caught you Clay Boone! You’ve got your damn phone turned off again and I’ve got a cooler of food in the trunk for you to take down to the Guilfoile’s and I was not about to chase you down the damn highway!”
Holding up his hands in self-defense, Clay said, “Ronni, we just got here and I literally just walked out of the hangar, I haven’t even got the Jeep unlocked or had a chance to turn the damn phone on, so cut me some slack, okay?”
Eddie leaned around the back of the Jeep, “Mister Clay, if it’s a problem, I can walk to a pay phone and get a taxi…”
Ronni looked over a Eddie, “No sir, he’s going to give you a ride home, if he doesn’t he’s gonna be parkin’ his ass on the couch for a while. We’re an old married couple, and we fight like one, so just ignore us please. I’ve put some food up for y’all and please tell Iris I’ll try to get back down there before the funeral and help her with the house.”
Eddie nodded dumbly, not trusting himself to speak as Clay grabbed the cooler out of the back of the car and he and Ronni talked quietly. Clay kissed Ronni and she got back in the car and left. Clay loaded the cooler in the back hatch and Eddie threw his possibles bag in beside it, motioning Eddie to jump in up front. Clay started the Jeep, turned on the radios and hit the road for Eddie’s house in the south part of the county.
Eddie was quiet for most of the ride, but finally turned and asked, “Mister Clay, why are y’all giving us food? I mean, I’m a criminal and all, it sounds like your wife…”
Clay held up his hand, “Eddie, you and I may not go to church every Sunday, but our wives do. And it is the Christian thing to help out in times like this, and yes Ronni’s been down a couple of times to help Iris out. They don’t really give a damn that we’re on different sides of the law, all they see is a family in need. And that’s also the way I look at it, which is one of the reasons I gave you a ride home. I didn’t have to, and I probably violated quite a few procedures by flying you in a government helicopter, but I’ve seen enough death and destruction that if I can do a simple thing like this get you home quicker, I’m going to do it. You may not realize it, but your family is well liked down here, because of Iris and how Junior behaved. It didn’t hurt that he was a good athlete; it was the fact that Junior was an all-around good kid. And folks knew that Eddie, and they know that deep down you’re not a bad man. You’ve always been polite to folks, never drunk and a troublemaker. You just made the mistake of trying to smuggle drugs through this county, and that ain’t gonna fly.”
Eddie nodded, “Thank you for that. I’m scared, ‘cause I don’t know… I just don’t know if I can hold up… I mean…”
Compassionately Clay said softly, “Eddie, there’s no shame in crying. That’s bullshit that grown men can’t cry. And remember Iris is gonna be as scared as you are, and she’s going to be afraid you’re gonna blame her for Junior getting killed.”
“NO! It’s not her fault. Oh God, how could she even think that… If I’d let that Mex kill me, Junior would probably still be alive… So I guess it’s really my fault.” Eddie put his head in his hands and sobbed.
A few minutes later, Clay pulled into the ramshackle old house that Eddie and Iris owned, thanks to Eddie’s parents having paid it off years ago. It needed work, but Clay could see where somebody had been doing a little bit here and there and he wondered if that had been Junior or Iris. He knew Iris worked in town, but he’d never had occasion to cross paths with her. The porch light came on as Eddie got out and Clay saw the front door crack open. He heard a wail of anguish, but didn’t know which one it came from as they met at the top of the steps. Clay eased out and got the cooler and Eddie’s possibles bag out of the hatch and set them on the steps. Neither Eddie nor Iris even noticed, and rather than interrupt Clay walked back to the Jeep, closed the hatch and left them standing on the porch in an embrace.
That’s all for now…
Thanks to those who continue to post reviews, and thanks to those in Britain and Canada who’ve bought The Grey Man. It’s appreciated!!!