The Grey Man snippet…

The usual caveats, and comments/corrections welcome. 🙂

A Weird One

Aaron came in as the sun was setting, dropped his gun belt on the hat rack in the office and groaned. “Oh my aching ass,” as he rubbed his back and butt. He gave Jesse a peck on the cheek and added, “I need to hit the head. Sorry I’m running late.”

Jesse smiled. “It’s been one of those days anyway.”


“Sold eleven guns today, and everyone that didn’t have a CHL got pended. Don’t know what the hell was going on with NICS, but there was a lot of grumbling, and some unhappy folks. How was your little ride down to Hondo? Worth the time?”

“Dunno, I need to talk to John, this dude was truly squirrely, but obviously scared shitless. I gotta go piss.”

Jesse pushed him. “Go, I’m not cleaning the floors again today.”

Aaron laughed as he headed down the hall, picking up Jace on the way, and tickling him. The high pitched giggles made Jesse smile as she walked into the kitchen. Kaya was hanging onto Boo Boo, and tottering along with her as she walked patiently toward the back door. “You want out, Boo Boo?”

Yogi, hearing the word out, came charging around the corner, and Kaya giggled as she tried to grab onto him. He didn’t slow down, and Kaya’s giggles turned to cries as she landed on her butt, causing both Boo Boo and Yogi to turn around and start licking her. Jesse shook her head,
opened the back door and sternly said, “Out you two mangy mutts. Out!”

Yogi pranced to the door, jumping down the steps and barking as he took off after something, but Boo Boo slunk to the door, thinking her mama was mad at her. Then she looked back and took off after Yogi. Jesse swung the door closed and sighed. “Some days…”

“Some days, what,” the old man asked from the door.

Jesse jumped. “Dammit Papa, stop sneaking up on me!”

The old man put his hand on his chest. “Moi? Sneak up on you?”

Jesse grumped, “Yes, you! It’s… just been a long day. Lots of pended gun sales, grumpy people, and school getting ready to be out for the summer. How are the new hands working out?”

“They know cattle, and we moved the cows today with no problem. Felipe isn’t sure what they want to do, but his sister apparently can’t support them until he can find something, so I think they will stay at least for a few months. Thankfully the truck was a fairly easy fix, and not too expensive. He wanted me to take all of it out of their first check, but I wasn’t going to leave them with nothing for two weeks.”

“How is Ernesto handling it?”

The old man shrugged. “He seems happy to have the help, and they’ve come to an agreement on what to watch on TV. Apparently Cruz and Ernesto outvoted Felipe,” he said with a smile.

Aaron came in. “Who got outvoted?”

The old man told him, and he laughed. “Figures. Kids these days…”

Jesse blew the hair out of her eyes as she pulled the meatloaf out of the oven. “Matt, Felicia, and the kids should be here in a minute. Aaron, can you whip the potatoes while I make gravy?”

Aaron laughed. “I get to beat things? Sure!”

Matt came in the back door carrying Esmerelda, followed by Felicia and Matt, junior. “Who are you beating up this time?”

Jace echoed him, “Daddy beat somebody up?”

“No, I didn’t beat anybody up, I get to beat the potatoes.”

Felicia took the hand mixer away from him. “Shoo. Go sit. The last time you tried to do this, we were scraping potatoes off the cabinets for a week.”

Jesse laughed. “You can get the tea, Aaron. And put the kids in their chairs. And get out of our hair.”

Aaron said dolefully, “Yes, dear.” He pulled the tea out of the fridge and poured the glasses and sippy cups as Matt got the kids in their chairs, while the old man leaned against the door frame smiling.

Once everyone was finally seated, the old man said a short prayer and they dug in. Jesse finally said, “So you went down to what, Hondo today?”

Aaron nodded. “Yep, Torres Unit.” He turned to the old man. “Remember that kid we picked up on the stolen car and he ended up getting one to three? Juan Ortega?”

“Sorta. That was the one that had paperwork saying he was delivering the car, right?”

“Yeah, that’s him. But this is where it gets interesting. He’s scared shitless down there.”

The old man cocked his head, “Really? Did he say why?”

“He claims the cartel boys down there want to talk to his daddy. And he gave me a name, after he told me how the cartel boys keep serving him café au lait every morning.”

The old man made a come on gesture. “The name?”

“Apparently his dad was the number three in the Gulf Cartel under Osiel Cárdenas, he says his dad’s real name is Eduardo Sanchez, and his real name is Juan Eduardo Sanchez Ortega.”

“Bullshit. Sanchez was killed years ago,” the old man shook his head, “He went down in two thousand three, right after we got Cárdenas.”

Aaron shook his head, “Not according to him. His dad came across the border and set up in Rio Grande City, then moved to Oklahoma City in two thousand six. He claims something scared his dad, and his dad told his mother and he they needed to disappear. She moved them to San Antonio in oh six, when he was twelve. He claims he hasn’t seen or talked to his dad since then, but they still get a check every month. One interesting point, he claims the reason for the café au lait is that his dad is part black and part Mexican. He said that’s something not many people know.”

“Hang on,” the old man got up and disappeared into the office as Jesse and Felicia herded the kids off to bed. He came back a couple of minutes later, holding a dog eared manila folder about two inches thick. Flopping it down on the table, he continued, “You didn’t see this,” as he flipped through the folder. He finally came up with what he was looking for, and slid a photograph across the table. “Look familiar?”

Aaron looked at it and slid it to Matt. “Definitely a family resemblance.”

Matt chimed in, “John, gotta remember, intel is only as good as the information at hand. Fluid situations tend to get details confused at best, and fucked up at worst. And it sounds like that was pretty fluid.”

The old man snorted. “You don’t know the half of it. DEA, FBI, everybody and their brothers were up our asses down here. And most of that was taking place in Starr County, down around McAllen, so all we were getting was second and third hand.” Slapping the file in front of him. “This is my private file from my DEA days, updated when I could get reports out of the Rangers or Bucky. So what the hell does this kid want?”

Aaron leaned back. “He wants out of there. He says he’s willing to give us the entire car theft ring, at least from LA to New Orleans. And what he knows about how they are moving cars. He also gave me two names there. Apparently there is a Brit ex-pat running the New Orleans end, named Stephen Hines, and the west coast/LA end by a Wong Pi.”

Matt said, “Damn. He’s pretty serious then!”

Aaron nodded. “He thinks they will kill him if he doesn’t cough up his dad’s info, but he was crying when he told me he doesn’t know how to contact his dad. Bottom line, get him out, and he rolls. So my question is, where do I go from here?”

The old man leaned forward. “You believe him?”

Aaron played with his coffee cup, and finally looked up. “I think I do. But I’m not sure…”

The old man cut him off. “Hang on.” He pulled out his wheel book, flipped through it, then pulled out his phone and dialed a number. After a few seconds, he said, “Rene, John Cronin. Got a question for you.” He paused. “You guys still trying to run that high end stolen car ring to ground down there?” A longer pause. “Does the name Hines ring a bell? Ex-pat Brit?”

The old man held the phone away from his ear, and Aaron and Matt could hear the man on the other end at high volume and not happy. Ironically, the old man was grinning as he put the phone back to his ear. “How about Wong Pi in LA?” More loud noises were heard, and he said, “Tell you what Rene, run that down and give me a call back tomorrow on this number. There is a possible CI that is willing to roll ‘em all up just to get out of where he is now.” Another pause. “Okay, I’ll expect to hear from you in the morning.” He hung up and laughed. “That’s gonna be interesting.”

Matt and Aaron both looked at him. “Who was that,” Aaron asked.

“Rene Lacoste, he’s the SAC down in New Orleans. Apparently he does recognize the name, maybe both names.”

“So, do we turn him over to the Fibbies?”

“Oh hell no. Talk to the sheriff tomorrow morning, tell him what you’ve got, and that you want to pull him back here for questioning after we hear back from Rene. Then when he says okay, go to Mrs. Randall and get her to do the legal mumbo jumbo to pull him back, say something like a witness to lawsuit over something that happened in the jail. She can do that in a couple of hours.”

“Then what?”

“Have a transport officer ready to go Friday morning, and go get him. I’m betting you’ll have a Fibbie sitting in your office Monday morning, salivating over wanting to talk to this guy.”



The old man was enjoying another cup of coffee as he ruffed Yogi’s fur when his cell phone rang. He pulled it out and hit speaker. “Cronin.”

“John, its Rene. Got a minute?”


“I pulsed our folks that are working the car theft ring, and they are definitely interested in talking to this CI you’ve got. When can I get somebody with him? And how the hell did you get in the middle of this?”

The old man laughed. “You remember Jesse, right?”

“Yeah, your… granddaughter. Didn’t she marry a Marine?”

“She did, and he was medically retired. He came on with the sheriff’s office a few years ago, and he’s now the investigator. But we talk pretty much every day.”

“Ah… the bulb glows dimly now. So you reached out to me because?”

This CI brought up a name out of the past as his cred. Aaron had no way to know if the name was real, but I could confirm it. Then giving the two names he did, prompted me to believe he might be the real deal.”

“Yeah, those two names are on our radar too. Hines especially. He’s a slick one, got his fingers in a lot of pies around NOLA and Houston, but nothing we could definitely trace directly back to him.”

“One of those, huh?”

“Yep. I’ll have somebody in your… old office Monday morning, probably around eleven.”

“I’ll let Aaron know. Good talking to you as always Rene.”

Lacoste laughed, “Damn you John, you keep stirring the shit, even when you’re gone. But if this does what it might to break that ring, somebody will get major atta boy out of it.”

“That’ll be Aaron, not me.”

“Whatever, take care of yourself, John.” The buzz of a dialtone came through the speaker as Lacoste hung up and the old man laughed as he dialed Aaron’s office.

When Aaron answered, he said, “The Fibbies will have somebody in your office Monday morning, so go get him.” He hung up and leaned back in the chair, Another good deed done.


Monday dawned clear and cold, as Aaron drove slowly into the office, I don’t know how this is going to go, but my ass is sure hanging out to dry if it doesn’t go well. And I kinda put John’s reputation on the line too. Not sure I like that, but I wouldn’t have known about Sanchez, nor who to call. I really need to go back and read those old case files…

The sheriff called him into his office as soon as he got in the door. Aaron walked down the hall and knocked. “You wanted to see me, Sheriff?”

“Come in, Aaron,” Aaron dropped into a chair in front of the desk. “Everything ready to go with Ortega?”

“Yes, sir. Mrs. Randall had it set up real nice, and transport brought him back Friday afternoon. They put him in Ad Seg over the weekend, so he’s had no interaction with any other prisoners, and the word put out was he was pulled back for questioning in a pending case.”

“Where are you going to do the questioning?”

“I figured the conference room. That way we can get audio recordings.”

“Not sure that’s legal. The Fibbies do something called a three-oh-two memo. But what they don’t know…”

Aaron smiled, “Gotcha, sheriff.”

“Get out of here, I’ve got work to do. Don’t give ‘em too much rope.”

Aaron got up, “I’m planning on sitting in on it. Guarding the prisoner, dontcha know.”

Two hours later, Aaron was heading back to his office when Lisa stepped out of dispatch. “Lieutenant, there’s an FBI guy wanting to see you.”

“Where is he?”

“At the front desk.”

“Okay, I’ll go get him.” Aaron walked up front and saw a small man with glasses and advanced male pattern baldness sitting in one of the chairs, a briefcase next to his foot. “Are you the Fi… FBI agent?”

The man got up, slipped a badge holder out of his jacket and said, “Jason Osborne. FBI office out of New Orleans. I’m here…”

Aaron interrupted. “Come on back, Mr. Osborne. You need a cup of coffee?”

“I’d cheerfully kill for one. We left at zero five hundred on the shuttle this morning. They are planning to pick me up at fifteen hundred on the way back.”

Aaron led him through the door and down to the kitchen. “That sucks. Here ya go. It’s not great coffee, but it’s drinkable.”

Osborne sniffed the pot, sighed, and said, “I’ve had worse,” as he poured a cup of black coffee.

Aaron pointed down the hall. “My office is right down here, I’ll call from there to have the prisoner brought up. I figured we could interview him in the conference room, that way the other prisoners aren’t aware of what’s going on.”

They walked into Aaron’s office and he gestured to a chair as he flopped into his and picked up the phone, dialed the jail, and asked them to bring Ortega to the conference room. Osborne chuckled, “Jarhead, huh? Eighty-five forty-one by chance?

Aaron bristled. “Yeah, why?”

“You saw some shit, I take it?”

Aaron cocked his head. “Yeah, what’s it to you?”

“I was Army for my sins. Eleven Bravo with an ASI B four on top of that. First ID, all the way to Baghdad. I’m Jason.”

“Aaron. First ID, that had to suck. And you’ll pardon me if I say you don’t look like a sniper.”

“Army wasn’t as picky as the Corps is,” he said as he sipped his coffee. “But I did find out you can get a sunburn through your BDUs.”

Aaron winced, “Ouch. You guys were remoted out a lot, weren’t you?”

“Yep, a lot of that.” He picked up his briefcase, “So, who’s this CI?”

Aaron riffled through the files on his desk and said, “Juan Ortega, he’s doing one to three in Torres, scared shitless they’re going to kill him.” He slid the evidence envelope across the desk, “Here’s what he had on him, including the contract to deliver the car.”

Osborne quickly perused the evidence, looked at the contract a second time, and said, “Interesting. Haven’t seen one of these.” He read it. “Pick up in El Paso, deliver to Charity in New Orleans for Doctor Curole? What was he going to do, drop it in the parking lot?”

Aaron replied, “He said he was supposed to park it, go in and give the key to the ER desk, that doctor was supposedly working when he was to deliver it.”

“Did y’all follow up on that?”

“Yes, but there was no Doctor Curole on the list for Charity Hospital, or at least not one we could find. And none listed in Louisiana period.”

“Why’d y’all pick him up?”

Aaron chuckled. “He got tagged for speeding. The plate came back to a different car. The VIN came back stolen in Los Angeles.”

Aaron’s phone rang and he picked it up. “Okay, we’ll be right there.” He hung up and got up. “Ortega is in the conference room, shall we?”

“Can we stop for coffee on the way? I need a refill. You going to sit in?”

Aaron nodded, “I’ll be the guard. That way the jailer doesn’t have tales to tell.”

“Okay. I’d prefer to interview him alone, but under the circumstances…”


Four hours later, Juan Ortega was returned to the jail and Osborne and Aaron were once again in his office.

Osborne looked over his glasses. “If this proves out…” He shook his head. “I can’t believe how much Ortega knows about the internals of both ends of the operation, and the fact that he’s been doing this for… six years. Having an actual address to surveil at the port may help us break this thing wide open! And tying Pi and Hines together through those email addresses… I don’t know how we missed that.”

“Shit happens when you’re shooting in the dark. You want us to ship him back to Torres?”

“Can you hold him a couple of more days? I need to bump this up the chain and try to correlate some of the info he’s given me. If we can, we’ll want him.”

Aaron nodded, “We probably can, I’ll need to run it by the sheriff first.” Aaron cocked his head, “What would y’all do with him? Protective custody?”

Osborne smiled. “That’s not something we can talk about.”

Aaron rolled his eyes. “Really? Is this if you tell me, you gotta kill me shit?”

Osborne sighed, “Actually pretty damn close, Aaron. If we do that, I won’t even know where he is.” His phone beeped and he looked down, then looked sheepishly at Aaron, “Uh, could I get a ride to the airport? The shuttle just landed and they want to know where I am.”

Aaron shook his head, “I swear, you guys do match your reputations. Since I’m a good Marine, I’ll take care of the Army one more time.” He got up and headed for the door, waving Osborne ahead of him. On the way out, he stuck his head in dispatch. “Lisa, I’m going to run our guest back to the airport, then go to the house.”

On the way to the airport, they compared war stories from their respective times in service, and Aaron invited him back to shoot at the ranch. He watched Osborne get on the shuttle flight, and remembered he was going to call the sheriff about holding Ortega a couple of extra days. He pulled out his cell with a sigh, and started dialing the office.

Y’all have a good weekend!!!


The Grey Man snippet… — 20 Comments

  1. It’s nice to keep track of family.

    “For my sins,” isn’t a typically American idiom, maybe Lawdog and Peter Grant have been bending your ear.

    I usually start conversations with Marines by saying, “So you were a jarhead?” And just as you described they bristle. Then I say, “I was a squid.” After that we get along fine.

    Good read, and of course you leave me wanting more.

  2. Excellent snippet. Nothing constructive to add – good job !

  3. and his dad told his mother and he they needed to disappear
    Him not he. Object not subject.

  4. I’d disagree about “for my sins” having heard it all my life. Also when Cronin gets the return call from Rene Lacoste, he puts it in speaker, so it’s probably a cell phone. When Rene hangs up there would be no dial tone to hear as cells are by definition digital.
    Otherwise, it’s good. Already got money set aside for the book, please take it!

    • Office phones usually have speaker functions. I know lots of people who routinely take calls on speaker, so they can use both hands to type during the call.

      • The passage identifies the phone as a cell…no dial tone.

  5. Great snippet.

    Old Man to Jesse: “Moi? Sneak up on you?”. sounds like an Uncle Billy phrase; only thing missing would be a flick of the ponytail. I’m thinking another phrase like “No situational awareness? Where’re the eyes in the back of your head?”. Sounds more like what he’d say to the granddaughter spotter, and mother of his much-loved great-grandchildren.

    Osborne should also look at some of the memorabilia in Aaron’s office before making the jarhead connection. With him saying ‘First ID, all the way to Baghdad.’, I’d expect Big Red One instead – Aaron wouldn’t recognize battalion or brigade, but would recognize division. At that point of commiseration, Aron’s response after Baghdad can be his time of suckage in Fallujah.

  6. Hey Old NFO;

    YOu must be able to work through the cold medicine…or the Nyquil has really stirred up your creativity. Looks good 🙂

  7. Gets better and better. Only one niggle and one error found:-

    ‘dropped his gun belt on the hat rack’ ‘hung’ surely?

    Missing opening quotes:- ‘This CI brought up a name’

    Can’t wait for the finished book, but it looks like there’s more to come.

  8. Great peek.
    Is “pending” a Texas term in background checks, instead of “delayed” on the 4473?