Grey Man snippet…

Usual caveats and a specific question- Is there too much info dump and not enough story line?

Comments appreciated, and this one is probably going to get reworked, not really happy with the flow right now.


Ranger Michaels, Aaron, and the sheriff sat in the sheriff’s office, cups of coffee in hand as Levi glanced down at his notebook. “This is…I really don’t know how to describe it. Pathetic comes to mind.”

Jose asked, “The kid?”

“Yeah, Taequan No-Middle-Name Williams. Sixteen. No mother or father. Basically homeless since Katrina hit New Orleans. Never knew his father, mother dumped them on ‘Uncle’ Brent last name either Williams or Wilson. Uncle took them to Houston, hooked up with some female over there, and the three boys lived in one room in section eight housing. Apparently got kicked out in twenty fifteen, never put them back in school, and they basically lived on the street since. Last grade attended was seventh grade. Small time robbery, drug running. The Uncle went down for Meth last year, and Shaquan the oldest one, who was all of eighteen, upped their game to armed robbery, home invasions, and selling drugs they stole. Tareque, the middle boy, was the aggressive one, apparently multiple mental issues, always fighting and beating up Taequan and anybody else he could beat. Apparently smart enough to not take on the ones that would have given him an educational beat down.”

Aaron shook his head. “Damn, that is bad. Dumped at what, three years old? Doesn’t make what they did right, but I’ve gotta wonder how they survived.”

Levi flipped a page. “Not well, apparently. And they were aged three, four, and five. The mother popped them out in short order, apparently. Lots of dumpster diving until they started the armed robberies and home invasions. HPD has multiple warrants for all three of them, but apparently their homelessness actually kept the PD from catching them.”

Jose rocked back in his chair. “Any idea why they picked the gun store?”

“Apparently heard somebody at the truck stop talking about it. Figured out it was remote, and perfect for their MO. Taequan said they had filled up the car, but didn’t have enough money for anything but candy bars. They were going to hit the shop, then make a run for El Paso and dump the guns for enough to eat and more gas. Apparently Shaquan had cooked up a deal out west to run drugs for somebody.”

Aaron said bitterly, “And now Tom is dead, Shaquan, and what’s his name is dead, and Ed’s nursing a gunshot wound that almost killed him. All for what? Not a fucking thing.”

Jose replied, “Which is why you are not doing the investigation, and neither am I. This one is a little too close to home, and when Taequan goes to trial for murder, I want to make damn sure there isn’t a reason in the world for the defense to move for a mistrial or anything else because of us, or anything we did or didn’t do.”

Levi nodded. “And I almost ended up not being the investigating officer because I know y’all, but the Major said do it. Is there any word on when Tom’s funeral will be and where?”

“Tuesday, he’ll be buried in the family plot on the ranch. We found a… well, Billy found a sister in El Paso in a nursing home, and she said she would be happy to have him buried here. Apparently she is the only surviving relative, and she’s in her late sixties. Billy is going to take the airplane and go get her Monday afternoon and bring her back.”

“Ouch. No other surviving family?”

The sheriff replied, “None. I went down and inventoried his room that he rented in town with LT Alvarez. Neat as a pin, not much there, but we did find a suppressed thirty-eight revolver, and a suppressed High Standard twenty-two.”

Levi chuckled, “Really? A suppressed revolver, that’s about as useless as—”

Jose interrupted. “No, this was a real one, an S&W Model Ten that actually has a modified forcing cone to close the cylinder gap as much as possible, and the loads in it were light. Maybe half the powder. Apparently both were Vietnam bring backs. Seems Tom was an Army tunnel rat at Cu Chi from sixty-six to sixty-seven, according to some paperwork we found. He was also a disabled vet, bad PTSD from that experience in ‘Nam. Landlady said he always slept with the light on. He was also apparently supporting his sister in the nursing home.”

“That might explain why he became a cowboy, always outside in the sunshine and open spaces,” Aaron said thoughtfully.

“Possibly, no…probably. He spent over twenty years as a working cowboy, from the JA up in the Panhandle to Borrego’s over in New Mexico. He had a saddle and bridle in his little storage area, along with a riata and a set of horns from a longhorn. The sister said he visited her about once a month or so, and she said her parents had died in a car wreck in sixty-seven, when she was eighteen. She got married, went on to teach school up in Colorado, and retired to some place north of El Paso, some retirement community with her husband. He passed three or four years ago, I think she said.”

Levi asked, “What did you do with the two pistols?”

“John has them. They were actually registered correctly under NFA, and John immediately knew what they were. He’s already got suppressed weapons, and since he’s still a special deputy, I figured he’d be the best one to hold them for now.”

Aaron mumbled, “Why am I not surprised he knew what they were.”

The sheriff laughed. “Probably because he might have used one in Vietnam. John was one scary individual thirty years ago.”

“Was? Shit. That man is a stone cold killer. Matt and I have talked about it, John won’t really go into what he did in ‘Nam other than generalities, won’t really talk about his time with the DEA either, but we’re both pretty sure there are more than a few graveyards in his past. Hell, in his seventies, he still outshoots us, and we’re both trained snipers!”

The sheriff just nodded as Levi looked thoughtfully at Aaron. “You and Matt are both Marine snipers?”

“Yep. Three tours for me, four for Matt. He and I were a team in Fallujah.”

“Damn. I didn’t know that.”

Aaron shrugged. “Not something either of us broadcast. Sheriff here knows. Major Wilson knows. Michelle knows. I figured you’d been told.”

“Nah. Back on the subject, when is Williams’ magistration?”

“Tomorrow morning. Judge Cotton at ten.”

“Huh, the district judge?”

“He’s the available judge. It’s his turn on the wheel.”

“And he’ll probably be the trial judge too. This could be interesting.” Levi got up. “I’m heading for the house. I need to sleep in my own bed for a change.”

Aaron and the sheriff both got up, and the sheriff said, “Thanks for doing the investigation, Levi. See you tomorrow.”


Judge Cotton banged his gavel. “Taequan No-Middle-Name Williams, you are charged with murder in the death of Thomas Edward Kline. There are sworn statements and video of the event. I find these to be probable cause for you to be remanded to custody pending your arraignment. Do you have an attorney or would you like one appointed for you?”

Taequan looked up at the judge, “Judge, I didn’t kill anybody! I dun tol the man wit the badge everthing. And I answered his questions too!”

“Son, that is immaterial. Do you want an attorney appointed for you?”

“Yes, sir. I ax for an attorney, please.”

“Okay, a public defender will be appointed to defend you. You have the right to remain silent. Were you given your Miranda Rights?”

“Yes, sir. But I answered his questions.”

Judge Cotton held up a hand, “Alright, I’m going to give them to you again, but I’m sure your public defender will want you to stop that. Due to the evidence already present, I do not find a requirement for an examining trial, and due to the nature of the offense you’re charged with, I will not set a bond at this time. Do you understand?”

Taequan bowed his head, “Yes, sir. I’ze going back to jail, ain’t I.”

“I’m afraid so, son.” He banged the gavel and said, “Sheriff, Ranger, my office, please.” He got up and headed for chambers, leaving the door open for them.

Once they were seated and the judge had a cigar going, he looked at Levi, “How bad is it, Ranger?”

“Open and shut, Judge.” Levi shook his head, “All caught on video, and the only reason he’s not dead is he dropped his gun when the first round was fired, dropped to the floor, and proned out. Jesse was already drawing down on him as the closest threat. Shaquan was the ringleader/planner, and he’s the one that got Tom Kline, but Tom also took him out. Tom drew and fired in under half a second with that old Single Action and nailed Shaquan dead center. Sadly Shaquan already had his pistol trained on Tom and he shot first by less than a tenth of a second.”

The judge shook his head and grumbled, “So probably the first thing the PD is going to go for is a change of venue.”

The sheriff replied, “Where? El Paso?”

“If he’s smart, El Paso. Try to get lost in the system over there. Cut the kid’s hair, clean him up, make him look like a kid, influenced by older siblings, learning disabled, and, and…”

Levi shook his head, “I don’t think they’ll buy it. Not when that video gets shown. I’m betting the public defender will try to get it thrown out as prejudicial.”

“Yep. You can bet on that. When is the funeral?”

“Tomorrow, two o’clock at the Cowboy Church, with burial in the family plot on John’s place.”

“I won’t attend, since I’m going to be hearing this case, and a smart PD would force me to recuse myself if I did that. Please pass along my condolences.”

“Will do, Judge.”

“Alright, you two get out of here. I got work to do.”


Anita Lawrence sat at the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee with Ed and Joe, as Billy and the old man came in. She looked at the flag laying on the table then up at them and said, “Thank you. I can’t thank you enough for what you did for Tommy. That was a beautiful funeral, and very touching.” She gestured at the flag. “And that was special. Please thank the men that did the military funeral.” She took a sip of coffee and continued, “I don’t think you knew how much y’all meant to him.”

The old man poured two cups of coffee and handed one to Billy, “Toad is the one to thank for the military funeral. He knew Tom and is a member of that post. What do you mean, what we meant to him?”

“I haven’t…hadn’t seen him happier in a long time. He said working for your daughter was keeping the demons at bay.”

“Actually, she’s my granddaughter, Anita. Tom never really told us much about his background other than that he’d been a cowboy. I was surprised to find out that he’d been a tunnel rat in ‘Nam.”

“He didn’t like to talk about it. The only thing Tommy ever really told me was that he hated the dark. I remember coming home and he’d had every light in the house on all night long. I thought…well…I guess I thought he was a little crazy. I guess that was the PTSD, even if they didn’t call it that back then. You were both there too, correct?”

Billy nodded. “We did something different, but yes, we were there.”

The old man said, “I’ve got two pistols that belonged to Tom, I need to get them to—”

She interrupted, “I don’t want them. I’ve got my little thirty-eight and I know they were special to him. I’d rather you have them.”

“I can sell them and forward the money to you, they’re both rather unusual—”

“No, you keep them. Tommy brought them back with him, and y’all helped him, so you deserve to have them. But I would like to have his saddle. That’s my real memory of him, smiling from the, as he called it, hurricane deck of the bronc.”

Billy said, “I hate to bring it up, but didn’t Tom…Tommy send you money every month?”

Anita chuckled sadly. “He did. He was always worried about me not having enough to live on. That went back to the bad old days after our parents died. He couldn’t get it through his thick head that my Tom was an engineer and we had invested our money well. When Tom died, I sold the house and moved into the assisted living facility with enough money to last at least twenty years. Every time Tommy sent me money, I invested it, thinking one day he would need it. He never really cared about much more than a roof over his head and a full belly. Now…” A tear coursed slowly down her cheek and she dabbed it away with a napkin. “Now I…don’t know what to do with it.”

Billy said gently, “Anita, we need to go if you want to get home tonight. I’m more than happy to talk to you about your options on that money.

She set the coffee cup down and got up slowly, “Thank you all. You made Tommy happy, I couldn’t ask for more.” She picked up the flag then hugged everyone before walking slowly to the front door, escorted by the old man and Billy.


A week later, Taequan Williams, with a young public defender from Alpine, was back in front of Judge Cotton for arraignment on the charges. Matt Quinn, the Assistant District Attorney, stood up. “Judge we are ready to present the county’s case.”


“Taequan No-Middle-Name Williams, hereafter named defendant, in the county of Pecos, in the state of Texas did commit a felony to-wit: murder in the first degree against Thomas Edward Klein on Thursday the fourteenth, at one oh seven in the afternoon, at The Ranch Gun Shop located at twenty-one forty-three Highway Eighteen. Defendant was one of three gunmen that entered said premises with the intent to rob said premises and in the process Thomas Edward Klein was killed by one Shaquan No-Middle-Name Williams.”

Judge Cotton peered over his glasses, “Taequan No-Middle-Name Williams, how do you plead?”

Taequan huddled with his public defender, and finally said, “I pleads not guilty. I—”

The young public defender put his hand on Taequan’s arm and whispered urgently to him, causing him to shut his mouth and stand silent.

The judge replied, “Due to the nature of the charges, defendant will be remanded to custody without bail, pending a trial to occur in this district court.” He started to rap his gavel when the public defender stood up, “Yes?”

“Judge, I move that there be a change of venue.”

“Son, it’s a little early in the process for that.”

Determined, the public defender said, “There is no way my client will get a fair trial here. I move for a change of venue immediately.”

“I heard you the first time, son. Put it in writing as a motion.” Judge Cotton rapped his gavel and got up as the baliff told everyone to rise.

The sheriff, Aaron, and Ranger Michaels walked out of the courtroom and stood on the sidewalk by the parking lot. The sheriff said, “Well, step one is done.”

Aaron fiddled with his sock as he thought for a second. “But sounds like this PD is going to press for a change of venue from the git-go. Where would they move the trial?”

Levi replied, “Probably El Paso. I’m guessing they are hoping to get lost in the system and get a jury that won’t know anything about it. That PD is young, but he seems pretty sharp. I’m betting his going to move to disallow the video too.”

The sheriff laughed. “Oh no, Quinn will fight that tooth and nail. That’s a slam dunk.”

Aaron asked, “Would Quinn still prosecute it?”

“Sure. We did the indictment, so we’d prosecute it, regardless of where it goes. The pain in the ass will be for the witnesses. Hotel and all the crap that goes with that.”

“Who pays for that?”

“The county, probably. I know they will for the officers that get called as witnesses.”

Levi replied, “Most of the time they schedule it pretty well. The most they would end up with is maybe one night in a hotel. Depending on the timing, they might not even need a hotel. Drive over, testify, and drive home.”

The sheriff waggled his hand, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I don’t know if Judge Cotton will go for a change of venue or not, and that won’t play out anytime soon.” He turned toward the car, “C’mon Aaron, there’s work to be done. Levi, thanks for coming up.”

Levi gave a sketchy salute, “You’re welcome, Sheriff. We shall see what we shall see.”



Grey Man snippet… — 26 Comments

  1. it looks good to me, as long as the robbery is described earlier in the book and not just here after the fact.

  2. This snippet is one where we needed more backstory, to keep up with the back and forth. The excursion into Tom’s story is heartbreaking and heroic, at the same time. Probably the way he’d want to go, bringing another honor guard with him; met a few of his type. I know a couple former Marines who had experiences like that in Nam, and remained at least a little “on” for decades afterward. Great guys that’d do anything for you, but you needed to give them a little more care and space.

    Very nice, and lots of tie-ins that add to the whole story line.

  3. I think I need to reread it, as the first time through it seems to not be your usually style…

    • Most people don’t know about the suppressed High Standards used in ‘Nam. A few of them made it home. I saw one many years ago with a Jerry-Rigged shell catcher. The owner (long since deceased) claimed he had worked in Project Phoenix. I had no reason to doubt him.
      Like the Tom in your story there are some very interesting people out there.

  4. Not too much infodump, for me. I may have a lot of infodump tolerance.

    My emotional reaction is tears in my eyes.

    Intellectual reaction, well put together.

  5. Actually, she’s my granddaughter, Lisa.

    Am I missing something? I thought the old man’s granddaughter was Jesse.

  6. Not too much infodump for me either.

    Levi certainly likes the word “apparently”.

    Who is the “Lisa” where Billy and John are talking with Anita?

    • Didn’t Lisa sneak into the last GM snippet, too?

      As to info dump… maybe instead of

      “No, this was a real one, an S&W Model Ten that actually has a modified forcing cone to close the cylinder gap as much as possible, and the loads in it were light. Maybe half the powder.”

      Something like:

      “No, this was a real one, an S&W Model Ten with a modified forcing cone to close the cylinder gap and light loads. Maybe half the powder.”

      Enough info for gunnies and if you don’t really care about the subject you can get the general idea from the context.

  7. This reads very smoothly.
    I would have liked a little more on how young these kids were when they were dumped by their mother. Katrina may be a significant reference to you but not to me.
    As PK mentioned, Anita got swapped for Lisa.

  8. Actually, I like the lack of backstory and tie-in to previous tales, kind of a ‘Grey Man Universe’ story. The tie-in to John was very neat.

    As to the story, and the prosecution from both sides, it rings very true. Though the El Paso DA will want to get his/her/its claws into the case and plead it down so he/she/it can placate his/her/its hoodrat population just in time for re-election (if DA/Prosecutor/State’s Attorney/whatever you have in Texas is an elected position.)

    Saw too much jockeying around for the right judge, circuit court and prosecuting attorney when I was following the trials from my job with drug enforcement (as a glorified staff ass(istant) shoe clerkish person.)

    I positively hate the gaming of the system by both defense and prosecuting attorneys (and judges, mustn’t forget the judges) in order to garner the public’s support (said public being the public entertained by bread and circuses and supported by the public dole, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant right there.)

    More, please. More on the trial. I want to watch the judge and prosecutor go up against the SJWs as they attempt to derail and co-opt the trial (if’n that’s where you are leading…)

  9. All- Thanks for the catch on Lisa/Anita… sigh… fixed. Appreciate the other comments too.

    Beans- I’ve thought about that too, still not sure how I’m going to write it yet.

    Posted from my iPhone.

  10. The second mention of the change of venue to El Paso seemed repetitive to me. I know they aren’t the same, but they are so close together. Especially with Levi saying it both times.

    But, in other news, New Grey Man fiction! Woot! When can you take my money?


  12. Only hitch I saw was in the paragraph “Levi replied…” That last sentence should say “he is, or he’s” not “his”…only hiccup I saw.

    And I didn’t think it was too much info dump at all. I liked it.

  13. I’m not sure the suppressed Model 10 could have been registered in the NFA. But that’s a gunny gripe. I like it.

  14. Hey Old NFO;

    Good story, we will wait for the book 🙂 Now feed your muse some beer and chips and keep going.

  15. Suz- Thanks, fixed

    SPE- Actually I think it could be since it’s a ‘unit’…

    Bob- Working on it!

  16. There was an NFA amnesty in 1968. Lots of stuff
    could have been registered at that time.
    I remember seeing the poster in the Post Office,
    but was too young, and dumb, to take advantage of it.

  17. “…hurricane deck of a bronc…” I LIKE that.

    You started with “Kline”; later it’s “Klein”.

    “Levi replied, “Probably El Paso. I’m guessing they are hoping to get lost in the system and get a jury that won’t know anything about it. That PD is young, but he seems pretty sharp. I’m betting *****his******* going to move to disallow the video too.”

  18. Joses’ section about Tom seem akward, and not as I seem to expect his “voice / word choice” to be. The section from “… half the powder.” could switch yo lead with”Tom was (Nam vet)” then “, and these were Vietnam bring-backs.” Then switch next section to lead with “According to papers we found, Tom was a tunnel rat … and disabled with bad PTSD from his time in those holes.”
    Just me pissing in the report, like a damn staff officer.
    I love it, and want to send w you money for it NOW.

  19. I like it on the strength of the story. Tom is not just credible, you can almost see him in front of you.

    The datadump does need some polishing, polishing,

  20. Sorry sad situation about the bad guy kids but realistic, I was a substitute teacher in South Dallas the first time I retired, I wanted to give back to the community a bit and boy was it an eye opener. I thought I knew a lot of the answers about education and underprivileged youngsters and I found out I had no idea of the questions. A lot of those ferrel kids are so adrift with no real family anchors except what their mid 30’s grandma tells them. Totally fractured families and while they might not be the brightest they are not stupid at all. After three months I had my fill when one kid turned out the lights, another threw a book into the fluorescent light tubes and the black good looking assistance principal who drove a Porsche came in and chewed me out I went in and told the principal who was an accomplished very smart black woman that I was done and not coming back.

    Later my wife asked me if we could try to help any individual kids and I told her the next time I saw any of them I would be on a jury. These youngsters have a sense of fairness and justice, as it relates to what they think they are entitled to and it has nothing to do with caring for others outside of their group, they are pirates.

    Your set up and the names are excellent because I was alway corrected for not pronouncing names with strange spellings correctly. Excellent story so far and with each new book I start rereading the series of books because they are some of the finest writing I have seen in years. Comparable to John Sanford when he was doing his own work before the last few which were mailed in.

  21. Leon/Sam/John- Thanks, I’ll fix that.

    Claudio- THank you.

    OldTexan- Taken from real life… sadly.

  22. Sorry I’m late to the party; it’s a great installment. Had no problem following it, but perhaps (as others have said) my background, while not as intensive as yours, gives me some insight.

    I await this new tome as patiently as I can.