I’m back at the writing on Grey Man #5, here’s one from this week.
Jesse and Felicia loaded up the Suburban with the kids, Felicia hopped in the back seat and they headed to town, leaving the men in the South Forty with the Gonzales brothers, a Cat D-8, a backhoe, a dump truck, and the dogs getting underfoot at every opportunity, “Damn, they’re a bunch of assholes this morning,” Jesse sighed.
Felicia laughed, “They want the work done and over with. Matt was grumpy last night, more so after Matt Junior woke up at three, screaming at the top of his lungs. Matt tried to get him to calm down, but he finally admitted defeat and gave him to me.”
“I remember those days, both with Jace and Kaya. But it’s all pretty much a blur to Aaron. I swear that man could sleep through a damn tornado hitting the house!”
“Speaking of that, I brought the shopping list. What are we going to do first?”
Jesse chuckled, “First is get rid of the kids. We’re going to drop them at Cherie Lynn’s and then shop at our leisure. I’ve got to go get something done with this hair, and Melaina said she could get me in before noon.”
“Yep, she took over the day care center. She’s got a couple of Abuelas in there, along with some of the good high school kids. Remember, Lucy is working there.”
“Si, she’s working there to save money for college.”
“And it’s spring break, so Cherie Lynn’s son is home from college.”
Felicia cocked her head, “And this means something?”
Jesse laughed, “Apparently Khalil is a budding basketball star at Sul Ross. He’s six feet something, great with the little ones and apparently the girls are falling all over him.”
Rolling her eyes, Felicia asked, “Are you sure the kids will be okay?”
“Oh yes, she rules that place with an iron hand. Hormones will not interfere with the kids care.”
“How did you find out about her?”
“Angelina. She told me if we needed a break, she was a good one with the kids. Accredited, and all the folks in town that don’t have other child care use her. She isn’t an ass about it if you’re late, or have to pick up early.”
Pulling into the covered drive, she stopped the Suburban and started taking kids from Felicia as she unlatched them from their car seats. Telling Jace and Kaya to hold hands, she took Esme’s hand and led them to the door, being held open by a tall young man, “You must be Khalil.”
“Yes, ma’am. You need any help with anything else?”
Jesse glanced over her shoulder, seeing Felicia with Matt Junior she replied, “I don’t think so.”
Khalil held the door for them, then followed them into the lobby, “Did y’all schedule a drop off today?”
Lucy came around the corner and Jace bolted for her, “Uci, Uci!”
She scooped him up and blew a raspberry in his neck, causing Jace to giggle, “Hi, Jesse, Aunt Felicia.” Coming behind the counter, she sat Jace on it saying, “I’ll check them in. I’ve babysat all four of them.”
Khalil smiled and handed over the pen, then disappeared around the corner.
Back at the ranch, Aaron and Matt stood over spread out plans on the dozer’s tracks, going over with Miguel Gonzales what they wanted and pointing out the various stakes they’d driven to mark the corners of the various ranges. The old man leaned against the backhoe chatting with Miguel’s brother Pedro, “So, business is going pretty good for y’all?”
Pedro grinned, “Oh yes, Señor! We start Monday up north of Rankin off twenty-four oh-one putting in cuts for them to start drilling up there, when we finish that one, we’ve got two more. One north of Garden City and one south of Big Spring.”
“They all for TPO?”
“They sure are betting on the come, guess they went whole hog on the reports that Wolfcamp is the real deal.”
Pedro shrugged and grinned, “We don’t care, Señor, we’re getting work. And good paying work at that. It’s not going to buy us new equipment, but it will give us a float for the bad months.”
“What do you think about what the boys are doing up here?”
Pedro laughed, “Everybody is excited! A nice place to shoot, out of the sun? What’s not to like! And your family has always been fair to us, more than fair. Jesus told us what you did with them on the steer.”
The old man waved it off, “Not a big thing. They came out in the rain and got it, least I could do.”
Miguel climbed into the driver’s seat of the big D-8, fired it up, then trundled down the lane they had decided would be the thousand yard range. Aaron jogged down to a point about six hundred yards out, marking the point where they wanted Miguel to start flattening the ground. Pedro looked over and saw Matt waving at him, “Well, I guess I better get to work. We’ll knock as much of this out today as we can, Señor.”
“Gracias, Pedro,” the old man said, as he stepped away from the backhoe and called the dogs to him. Since he was nothing but a fifth wheel in this evolution, he decided another cup of coffee and a leftover cinnamon roll sounded good. He strode back up toward the house, dogs in tow, leaving Matt and Aaron to do their thing.
Jesse pulled into the strip center with the Spa in it and Felicia said, “Oh, Second Hand Rose! I’ve heard about that place. I may go see what they have while you get your hair done.”
“Go ahead. I’m probably going to be a least forty-five minutes, maybe an hour,” Jesse parked one row out from the Spa and hopped out, “If you get bored, come on down and sit with me.”
Felicia waved, “Okay.”
Jesse smiled to herself as she walked across the parking lot to the Spa, glancing around before she walked through the door, stepping quickly to the side. It wasn’t all that dark inside, but coming from the bright sun took her a second to see everything. Mrs. Halvorson was in the first chair by the door, with Linda working on her perm. Rebecca was sitting in her chair, sipping a cup of coffee and Melaina was just ringing up an older lady Jesse didn’t recognize.
Melaina waved to Jesse, “Have a seat, I’ll be with you in a minute.”
Jesse nodded and sat in the chair, spinning it around so she could see the door, “Take your time. We’re kid free this morning. Hi, Mrs. Halvorson, how are you doing?”
Mrs. Halvorson, in her mid-80s, and a bird like little lady smiled, “Good Jesse. I’m above ground and I give thanks for that every day. Linda is doing her best with this rag mop I call a head of hair.”
Linda chimed in, “Well, if you’d come in more than once every three months…”
Mrs. Halvorson chuckled, “Honey, at my age, I’m happy to make it three months.”
Melaina picked up the drape and placed it around Jesse’s neck, fluffed her hair and asked, “What do you want me to do, Jesse?”
Well, it’s coming on spring, so maybe shoulder length, clean up the bangs, and that should do it.”
Melaina fluffed it again, “Any color?”
Jesse huffed, “No,” reaching up, she touched her temple where the white hair covered her scar from being shot, “This never colors right, and it makes me look stupid until it washes out. I’m stuck with what I have.”
Melaina replied, “Okay, trim, bangs and a wash it is.” Picking up her scissors, she started trimming Jesse’s hair as they chatted about the everyday trials and tribulations of raising kids. Melaina laughed at Jesse’s comments about Jace and Kaya, reminding Jesse she was almost a grandmother, and Jesse had a long way to go.
Suddenly the door was banged open, a skinny white male charged through the door, waving a pistol erratically, “This is a holdup bitches! Gimme your money!” The man turned first toward Rebecca, then saw Mrs. Halvorson and Linda, “Give it up bitches! Money, jewelry, credit cards. I want it now!” He scraped the hand holding the pistol up and down the other arm, then glanced over his shoulder, seeing Melaina and Jesse basically frozen in position, “Don’t you two move. I’ll get you in a minute.”
Jesse slipped her hands under the drape and started easing her purse open as he turned back to Mrs. Halvorson and Linda he yelled, “I said move! Give it up!”
Linda, hands in the air, said, “I don’t have any money on me. It’s…”
He viciously slapped her with the pistol, causing it to fire a round into the ceiling. Linda collapsed without a word, and he reached for Mrs. Halvorson, “Pretty ear rings, bet those are real diamonds, aren’t they bitch?”
He jerked one out of her right ear, causing Mrs. Halvorson to yelp. Jesse yelled, “You, leave her alone, you bastard,” as she pulled her Python from her purse and started bringing it out from under the drape. Fucking meth heads, Jesse thought as she got a good look at the man as he turned, No teeth, what looks like a bad case of acne, and I’m going to have to shoot that poor sonofabitch!
Spinning toward her, he popped off another round that went into the wall just to Melaina’s left. Jesse leaned right to make sure her line of fire was clear and the brick front wall was behind her shot. As she fired the first round to his center of mass, she heard a pop and saw a flash of light off to the side. As he continued to turn she thought, Damn that was loud! This sonofabitch is higher than hell. That didn’t even phase him. I wonder if this is where I die? She put a second round through his chin that angled up and took out the back of his head as he crumpled between the chairs, still twitching.
Jesse bolted out of the chair, stomping on his gun hand as she yelled, “Everybody okay?”
She dimly heard responses, and looked around to physically check. She saw Mrs. Halvorson holding a snub nosed .38 in a two-handed grip, and shaking. Linda sat up slowly, bleeding from her cheek and moaning. Rebecca still sat with her hands up, and she finally glanced at Melaina, who had grabbed her 20ga from wherever she’d had it stashed, “Are you okay?” When Melaina nodded she said, “Call 911. Tell them shots fired, officer involved shooting, one down, and give your address, okay? And tell them to send an ambulance.”
Melaina nodded and picked up the portable phone off the counter, as Felicia burst through the door, her pistol in hand. Jesse started swinging her pistol and jerked it up, “Dammit, Felicia! You almost got shot!”
Felicia looked at the body, Jesse still standing on his hand and sobbed, “I was afraid you were…”
“I’m not. Now put your pistol up. Mrs. Halvorson, put yours up too.” Jesse heard the rising wail of sirens, looked at Felicia and said, “Go call Papa and Aaron. Let them know we’re alright and… And, I had to shoot. Nothing else.”
Felicia nodded and stepped back out the door as Mrs. Halvorson put her pistol back in her purse, “Is that bastard dead?”
Jesse leaned down and felt for a pulse, not feeling one, she took her foot off his hand and slowly removed the pistol from it. “Yes ma’am, I think he is. Melaina, can you help Linda, please? Rebecca, can you prop the door open?”
Jesse laid her pistol in the chair, careful to point it away from anyone with the cylinder open, “I don’t know who is responding, so everyone stay where you are. I’m going to go stand outside the door.”
Jesse had just stepped outside, waving to Felicia when the first city car slid to a stop two doors up from the Spa. Sergeant Alvarez jumped out, running toward the front door, gun drawn. Jesse held up her hands, “It’s all over Miguel. One probable meth head down. He’s ten-seven.”
A second car slid to a stop and another city officer jumped out followed by one of the county Tahoes, driven by Deputy Johnny Hart. Sergeant Alvarez waved at them, “Scene is secure.” Turning to Jesse he said, “You want to show me? And who needed the ambulance?” Over his shoulder he said, “Jordan, call the coroner. He’ll need to pronounce this one, here.”
Officer Jordan spoke quietly into his radio as Hart caught up with them, “You okay, Jesse?”
She shrugged, “I don’t know yet. But the adrenalin dump has given me one hell of a headache.”
Alvarez asked, “You want a lawyer present, Jesse?”
“Not right now. There are witnesses a plenty.”
The ambulance crew rolled in a stretcher, checking both Linda and Mrs. Halvorson as Jesse walked all three officers through what had happened. Doc Truesdale came through the door, asking, “What have we got?”
Alvarez pointed to the body on the floor, “Probable Meth Head.”
Doc Truesdale nodded, as he pulled out his gloves, “You got your basic pics? I’ll need to roll him.”
Jordan replied, “I’ve got enough to start. Let me chalk him, then you can do what you need to do.”
Doc looked at the body then asked curiously, “Who shot him in the side?”
Jesse started, “What?”
Doc pointed to a hole in the shirt with some blackening around it, “Somebody got a round into him from a short distance.”
Mrs. Halvorson, now being treated by the medics said, “That was me. I couldn’t get my gun out any sooner. When he started turning away, I didn’t want him to shoot Jesse, so I shot him first.”
That reminded Jesse of the round that had gone through the wall, “Need to send somebody next door, one round went through the wall just about head high, between these two stations.”
Deputy Hart said, “I’ll take care of that,” as he stalked out the door.
Doc Truesdale and the EMT turned the body, and he looked up at Jesse, “Two rounds?”
Jesse nodded, “One to center mass but he kept coming. Figured he was high, so I went to the head shot.”
Doc nodded and said, “Yep, he’s DRT. Massive head trauma due to interacting with a, what, one fifty-eight grain Jesse?” She nodded, “One fifty-eight grain JHP to the brain pan. Once y’all get done, I’ll haul him and do a full autopsy. And with that, I’m outta here, I’ve got patients waiting!”
As the medics put the body in a body bag, Melaina said, “Now I gotta get the blood up, dammit.”
Mrs. Halvorson replied, “Bleach. Just be glad it’s not on carpet. That is a real bitch.”
“I can do that. We use bleach every two weeks on the floor as a disinfectant.”
Johnny Hart came back in shaking his head, “It’s all good next door, nobody hit. The round just broke a mirror.”
Alvarez chuckled, “Well, at least he won’t have seven years of bad luck, as he dropped both Mrs. Halvorson’s and Jesse’s unloaded pistols in evidence bags. “There shouldn’t be an issues with you getting them back pretty quick, okay ladies?” He then proceeded to bag up the white male’s pistol and his pocket lint.
“No ID,” asked Jesse. Alvarez shook his head and started loading his evidence kit and camera back in the bag.
Two hours later, Aaron and Mr. Halvorson were finally allowed to pick Jesse and Mrs. Halvorson up from the Police Department. After hugging Aaron, the first question Jesse asked was, “Did Felicia pick up Jace and Kaya?”
“Yes, they’re at home now. How are you doing?”
“I killed a man today. How do you think I feel?”
Aaron hugged her hard, “It’s okay. Let’s get you home, then we’ll talk.”
Jesse leaned into Aaron as they walked slowly to the truck, arms around each other.