The Grey Man- Tease…

As always, unedited, at 60K words… Getting there…

Missed Opportunity

Aaron was bored to tears, glancing at the clock on the dash, it showed 2215, meaning he had another fifteen minutes before he could head back to Fort Stockton and call it a night. Sector six was fourteen kinds of boring, especially on a weeknight, and even worse since he was sitting north of Imperial, on FM 1053, running radar and looking for anything unusual in vehicles coming across the county line. Damn druggies, those assholes are why I’m out here. I know the sheriff wants to catch ‘em, and it’s pretty much a known fact that…

The radar alert beeped as he saw a set of headlights coming north, it locked at 78mph, and he u-turned across the road as the blur of an oilfield truck went blowing by. He keyed the mic, “Dispatch, two-oh-two, northbound ten fifty-three north of Imperial, pursuit of a white oilfield truck, speeding seventy-eight miles an hour.” Flipping on the lights, he said, “Lights, siren” for the body camera to pick it up and wiggled himself more deeply in the seat as he accelerated hard after the truck.

Dispatch came back with a laconic, “Roger, two-oh-two.”

A couple of minutes later, he still hadn’t gotten the truck to pull over, and he’d crossed into Crane County, keying up again, he said, “Dispatch, two-oh-two, in Crane County, still on ten fifty-three north, vehicle is not stopping. Standby for Texas plate.”

“Roger, two-oh-two. I’ll landline Crane dispatch. You want to go up Law One?”

“Ten-four, switching.” He reached down and changed the channel, passed the plate number and heard a Crane County deputy respond.

“Two-oh-two, one-fifty-one. I’m west out of Crane on three twenty-nine. You there yet?”

“Coming up on it, still running about eighty. I’ve got ‘em lit up, but they… Just blew the stop sign at three twenty-nine. Still north on ten fifty-three.” Aaron slammed on his brakes, scanned both ways and accelerated through the intersection.

“Roger, see your lights.”

Dispatch came up on Law One, “Two-oh-two, plate comes back to twenty-sixteen white Dodge thirty-five hundred. Registered to TPO.” Aaron double clicked his mic in response.

Aaron glanced to the right and saw the blue and red lights, “Got you.” He glanced back to see the truck slowing and signaling as it pulled off the road. “And they’re stopping. Quarter mile north of three twenty-nine on ten fifty-three. I’ll be out on the stop.”

The Crane deputy pulled in behind Aaron, “One-fifty-one is out on assist for Pecos County.”

Aaron got out and waited for the Crane deputy, as he walked up, Aaron stuck out his hand, “Aaron Miller, thanks for the backup. You want driver or passenger’s side?”

“Hector Ramos, I’ll take passenger. It’s your stop.”

“Okay, let’s do this.” They walked up to the truck together, and Aaron reached down pressing his fingers on the taillight, as he glanced over. Ramos was doing the same thing and Aaron chuckled. He shined his light in the flat bed, seeing the normal detritus of oil field equipment, a welder and five gallon cooler. He unconsciously checked his pistol moved freely in the holster as he got to the driver’s door and gently tapped on the window. Turning his light, he saw a bleary eyed, unshaven face staring back at him, “Roll the windows down and turn off the truck please.”

The window came down slowly, and the truck was shut off, as a strong odor of alcohol wafted out of the cab, “License and registration, please.”

The driver hiccupped, and slurred, “I… Wall… Billfol? Regishrashun? Whhaazat?” as he fumbled his wallet out of his back pocket, fighting with the seatbelt. He dug through the wallet for a few seconds, spilling items all over the cab, as Ramos looked at the passed out passenger and reached in feeling for a pulse to make sure he was still alive.

He finally handed his license to Aaron, and Aaron said, “Ramos, can you check the glove box for the registration?”

“Will do, this one is alive, but drunk as hell.”

Aaron glanced at the license, saw that it was an occupational license, and sighed, Shit, this is all I need. I’m screwed for getting home anywhere near on time. “Mr. White, I pulled you over for speeding, but I see you are driving a commercial vehicle on an occupational license, and I need you to step out of the truck, please. I would like to have you do some tests for me.”

White looked at him, “Tesh? Wha kinda tesh? We… Joe too ineb… druck to dribe… Gott go work.”

“Sir, you need to get out of the truck, please.”

White fumbled with the door handle, and finally got the door open, then tried to get out without unfastening the seatbelt. Ramos came around the back of the truck, “Need a hand?”

Aaron grinned ruefully, “Please. I was supposed to be getting off right now.”

Ramos grinned, “Sucks to be you. You want me to do the SFST[1]?”

“Am I going to screw you over?”

“Nah, I came on early tonight. If you want to write the speeding, I’ll do the SFST and haul them in. I’m a lot closer than you are.”

Aaron smiled, “Thanks, I owe ya one!”

As they were trying to get Mr. White to comply with any of the tests, a black motorcycle whizzed past, turning down the dirt road into the oil patch. Aaron heard the bike slow, then nothing, then start up again.  A niggling thought was running around his hind brain, but he couldn’t get it to surface, as they finally had to wrestle Mr. White into Ramos’ Tahoe, then haul the unconscious drunk over and deposit him in the back with White. After profusely thanking Ramos, Aaron hopped back in his Tahoe and pulled around the now locked oilfield truck. He turned into the same dirt road he thought the bike had gone down, and saw a reflector hanging from a single bar gate.

He shrugged and backed out, keyed his mic, and said, “Dispatch, Two-oh-two, headed for the barn. Crane has the DUI in custody. ETA is twenty minutes.”

“Roger two-oh-one. Status on speeding ticket?”

Aaron shook his head, and keyed the mic, “Roger, wrote it, but he was too drunk to sign it. Also driving commercial vehicle on an occupational license. I’ll run that when I get back.”



Sunday morning, everyone gathered around the kitchen table for their weekly breakfast together. As the old man pulled the biscuits out of the oven, and set them on the island, he asked, “Anything more on the Deen killing?”

Matt shook his head, “Nope, nothing but dead ends. But I still wonder about how that motorcycle rider got through that gate. I still think…”

Aaron exploded, “Dammit!”

Everybody stopped at looked at him, including the kids. He looked around ashamedly, “Uh, sorry. I just remembered something from that stop the other night.” Turning to the old man he said, “We stopped a drunk up in Crane, just north of three twenty-nine, and I saw a big bike go by, then turn down the first oilfield road up there. I turned around in that road, and there was a gate, but I didn’t check to see if it was locked or where the motor went.

The old man looked up, “Well shit. It rained last night, so probably no tracks. Do you… That was the one you got an assist on, right?”

“Yes, sir. Deputy Hector Ramos. He was just coming on, and he took the drunks.”

“I’ll call up there tomorrow, and maybe go pay them a visit. You said it was the first road to the right, north of three twenty-nine, right?”


“Do you remember who the truck was registered to?”

“Trans Pecos.”

Matt and Jesse both looked up at that, and Matt asked, “Do you know which part of the patch they were heading for?”

Aaron shook his head, “No, the driver was too drunk to answer anything coherently, and I never got anything from the passenger. But if they were with TPO, I think that road I turned down was one of their leases.”

Matt glanced at the old man, “Can I go with you, if you go up there?” The old man nodded, and Matt turned to Jesse, “You think Alton would want to work the store tomorrow? And maybe RO if anybody wants to shoot?”

Jesse shrugged, “Probably. If he doesn’t, I’m sure one of the others will. I wonder if that supervisor… Jim Owens, yeah, him. I wonder if he’s in charge of those leases too?”

Matt answered, “I’ll call him tomorrow. If he’s not, he probably knows who is.”

The old man cautioned, “Let’s wait until we talk to Pete, over in Crane and see if he’s got anything. Also, I want to make sure we know which lease Aaron saw the bike go down. It might not have been a TPO lease, since Apache is also up in Crane and north to Midland.”

Aaron sighed, “Sorry folks. I fu… screwed that one up.”

Jace piped up, “Daddy, you screw up?”

Everybody broke out laughing, startling Yogi and Boo Boo, who started barking, setting off another round of laughter.


The old man pulled into the sheriff’s department, let Yogi visit his tree, grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed to his office. Booting his computer, he searched for a google map of Crane County. Hitting the speaker, he dialed the phone and waited through three rings, “Crane County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Esposito. May I help you?”

“Pete, John Cronin. How are you doing?”

“JAFM, you know the drill.”

The old man laughed, “Heard that. Got a minute?”

“As long as it doesn’t involve me working, sure!”

“You got a DUI up there named White? Picked up last Tuesday? It was an assist to one of our deputies, Miller.”

He heard typing and a laugh on the other end, “Nope, he bonded out Thursday. That’s all you needed, right?”

“Okay, Pete, I get it. You’re having a Monday. But I’m trying to work out a murder down here, and it’s possible this guy or his buddy have a clue or two. Can I take a ride up there and talk to you?”

Pete came back, “Sure, let us get the usual Monday BS out of the way. Say eleven?”

“Sounds good. I’m bringing one of my reserves that’s been chasing this case since he was in on the original response. He’s a retired Marine, got his shit together.”

“Okay, see y’all then. Lunch is on you.”


Lisa stuck her head in the door, “Morning, Captain. It’s that time…”

The old man growled, “Gah, one thing I’m not going to miss is these damn Monday morning meetings.” Getting up, he grabbed his wheel book, went by the break room and got a refill on the coffee. Stumping into the conference room, he took his accustomed seat on the far side of the table, nodding to the jail captain and Attorney Randall.

A half hour into the meeting, it was finally his turn, “Status is basically no change on the Deen murder investigation. One possible lead I’ll be checking out this morning. Did hear back from the Rangers, one Ernesto Rivas is gone. He took a plea bargain for thirty years, and he’s rolling on the cartel.” A round of hand claps, and a few laughs followed that, and the old man continued, “Anybody interested in my job, come see me. I’m getting short and I need to start a turnover, right sheriff?”

Jose nodded, “Yep. Otherwise I’m gonna appoint somebody.” Another round of laughter followed that, and the old man motioned toward the door with his head. The sheriff nodded, and he slipped quietly out of the meeting.

Matt was waiting in his office, playing with Yogi and laughing at his antics as he ‘fought’ with the Kong toy full of treats. “What did you do to him, Matt?”

“Stuffed some peanut butter in there.”

“Dammit, he’s gonna be going nuts all day with that thing. That means we gotta take him with us.” Grabbing his hat, he snatched the toy, “Com’on Yogi, let’s go.”

Thirty minutes later, the old man turned into the first dirt road north of three twenty-nine, sure enough, there was a bar across the road, and a reflector. Pulling up to it, he nodded, “TPO fifty-three.” Backing up, he headed for Crane as Matt dialed his cell.

The old man could only hear one side of the conversation, but what he was hearing he didn’t like. Matt was saying, “No, sir. I understand your firing all of them, but we’d really like…” A pause, then, “Yes, sir. Could we get access, maybe in an hour?” Matt looked over at him, mouthing, “Thirteen hundred,” and the old man nodded. “Yes, sir. One o’clock would work. TPO fifty-three. Thank you, sir.”

Matt sighed in disgust, “That was Owens, he’s the district manager for all these sites. He fired everybody up there when he came in to get the truck and found them, quote, all fucked up, unquote. He said he fired all of them on the spot, and there wasn’t a motorcycle there.”

The old man shook his head and murmured, “Another day at the orifice.” Minutes later, he pulled into the Crane County Sheriff’s Office. They walked through the door, Yogi on his leash, and Chief Deputy Pete Esposito met them at the counter. Shaking hands, the old man said, “Pete, Matt Carter. He’s been working the Deen murder for the last month or so.”

Esposito shook Matt’s hand and said, “That’s gotta suck. Whole lot of nothing for evidence, right?”


Both the old man and Matt shook their heads, and the old man said, “Nope. And what we have is so damn generic it fits probably two thirds of the motorcycles, and at least that many people with nineteen-elevens.”

Esposito whistled, “Damn, I didn‘t realize it was that bad.”

“Even the Rangers are drawing a blank on this one. It’s just a one off that nobody… Well, lets just say none of the patterns fit for this one.” The old man stood up, “We’re going to meet the district manager out at the site, see if maybe there is something out there that might tie in.”

Jim Owens was waiting for them at TPO 53, with the gate unlocked. Matt nodded to him as they pulled up, and Owens waved half-heartedly, then walked over to the car, papers in hand, as they got out. “Thanks for meeting us Mr. Owens, I know you’re busy…”

Owens replied, “I… I fired everyone of those assholes that was working out here with White. They were all screwed up. Here’s the contact information I’ve got on them, for what it’s worth. I can’t explain the motorcycle, much less his having access. I’m in the process of changing all the gate codes this week.”

Matt took the papers and handed them to the old man, “Mr. Owens, this is Captain Cronin, he’s the actual investigator for the county.”

“Cronin? Up off eighteen?”

Shaking Owen’s hand, the old man replied, “Yep. That’s me.”

“You were two years ahead of me at school. I remember you now. I thought you’d gone off to the Army and the government.”

“I did, for a few years.” Glancing at the paperwork, he asked, “How good do you think these addresses are?”

Owens scratched his ear, “Not sure. Phone numbers are probably good. Most of these guys are floaters, don’t necessarily even live in Texas. They might be catching on with somebody else, or working off the books.”


“The one sketchy guy, that I’d bet was the biggest druggie, is Jeff Smythe, he’s a Brit ex-pat, left the North Sea a couple of years ago, ended up here about a year ago. Knows drilling, but he’s… Twitchy… I think he’s got a crash pad over in El Paso, and he called yesterday looking for his last check, so that address is probably good.”

Matt and the old man looked at each other, and the old man smiled, “Thank you! I know some people that can go lean on him. Is it worth talking to any of the guys here now?”

“Nah, this is one of my old crews, pulled them back early to man up this rig. They may drink, but that’s it.”

“Okay, well thanks for the info. I haven’t given up on finding the perp on this one.”

Owens looked up at the clouds, “I’d appreciate it. Rick was one of the good guys.”

They shook hands around and Matt and the old man headed back to the car. The old man said, “You drive, I need to make some phone calls.”

Surprised, Matt headed for the driver’s side, and said, “You know I’m gonna screw up your mirrors and everything else, right?”

“Yeah, fine. I can fix that.” Pulling out his cell, he dialed and waited. “Bucky? John. You got anybody you can lay hands on in El Paso?” The old man listened for a minute, “Yeah, I got somebody I need to have questioned in a murder case I’ve got…”

[1] Standard Field Sobriety Test


The Grey Man- Tease… — 12 Comments

  1. I know you’re going as fast as time permits, but waiting to turn dollars into digits, out here…

  2. sigh…another day when I have to skip reading your blog post. I just wait to read the story when the book is published. Keep up the great work – you’re a wonderful story-teller! I really enjoy the Grey Man series.

    PS – Rimworld is pretty fun too.

  3. One minor suggestion, traffic stops in Texas generally ask for license and proof of insurance since we are not required to keep proof of registration in the vehicle. I presume this is because the officer gets the registration info over the radio via license plate check. Not a LEO, so I can’t confirm that last part.

  4. The Grey Man series is by far my favorite, I hope it continues for a good long time.

  5. The Minion and I are waiting patiently (yeah, right) for the ebook and/or the dead tree version. Really, we are!

  6. Drang- You’ll eventually get caught up… LOL

    RS- Yes, sir… I be writin’ boss! 😀

    • Have you considered an Audible version? I know The Boss would love it, especially if you read it. Just an idea….

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