Grey Man snippet…

It’s been a while, so another snippet. The usual caveats apply.

Comments/recommendations appreciated, as always!

Instructing again

SAC Coleman led Bucky and the old man into the instructor’s lounge saying, “You can hang out here. We’ve got another hour before you’re on. There’s coffee, and there might be a Danish or two left. The bathroom is down the hall on the left.”

Coleman left and Bucky said, “I need to hit the bathroom. Be back in a minute,” as he followed him out. The old man made a bee line for the coffee, and poked through the remaining Danishes, What happened to the donuts? How hard is that… Crème cheese, crème cheese, dunno what the hell that one is…

He took the cup of coffee and wandered around the room, looking at the pictures and plaques on the wall, chuckling to himself at the pats on the back some of the plaques displayed. As he walked back to the coffee pot, he heard, “Hey, what are you doing in here? This area isn’t for visitors, it’s only for instructors.”

He turned and look at a youngish, dark haired, slightly pudgy man standing belligerently in the doorway. “Who said I wasn’t an instructor?”

“You’re wearing a visitor badge, that doesn’t allow access back here. You need to leave!”

The old man grinned. “You gonna make me, boy?” Noting a different badge hanging from the man’s jacket, he switched the coffee cup to his left hand and dropped his right hand to the hem of his jacket, as he bladed up on the man.

Something in the old man’s eyes stopped the young man, and he took off without another word as Bucky came strolling back in. “What the hell was that all about?”

The old man shrugged. “Beats the hell outta me. Some punk didn’t like me being in here with a visitor’s badge on. I invited him to throw me out.”

Bucky shook his head and laughed. “Dammit John, you’re getting grouchy in your old age.” Reaching for his belt, he pulled his badge off, and slipped it into the front pocket of his jacket, “The shit I gotta do to keep you out of trouble. You could have just shown him your badge.”

“Why spoil his fun? If he’d asked politely…”

Coleman came in shaking his head, “Fucking students. One just came up and said that there was an old man… Ah crap, Captain, what did you do?”

Bucky laughed as the old man said, “Didn’t like his asshole attitude, so I invited him to throw me out.”

Coleman burst out laughing. “Oh lovely. You bruised that poor baby agent’s ego and his sense of invulnerability. He’ll probably have to have a timeout in his safe space now.”

The old man shook his head. “Has it gotten that bad?”

“Damn near. We’re having to teach more touchy feely crap now than ever before. And we can no longer post grades. That’s demeaning to the lower scoring agents. Speaking of which, I talked to the baby agent’s instructor, and he’s going to have them sit in on your lecture to the NA class.”

“I ain’t going to sugarcoat things. And some of the pictures are pretty nasty. Maybe your babies don’t want to see it, but the cops on the streets need to.”

“Show it, they need a dose of reality.”

***

SAC Coleman finished introducing the old man. “Having said that, Captain Cronin has over forty years in the field as a deputy sheriff in South Texas, in addition to his tour with DEA. He graduated from National Academy twenty-eight years ago. He and Supervisor Grant will give the presentation as a tag team. Now for you agents in training, this is outside your normal curriculum, but we felt it was worth your time to get a brief from people on the front lines of the drug and human smuggling battle.”

Bucky ran through the recent operations the DEA had conducted, and gave an overview of the Laredo border crossing, noting that all of the southern border crossings used similar procedures. He turned to the old man. “And now for the meat, so to speak, I’ll turn it over to Captain Cronin. He’s old, he’s grumpy, and he personally has been responsible for twenty-two tons, yes tons of product taken off the street, and untold lives saved. John?”

The old man walked to the lectern, advanced the slide, and looked out over the auditorium. He nodded to Aaron, and was surprised to see Matt sitting next to him. How did, ah not going to bother. Guess the girls and kids are shopping. “Contrary to what you see in the media and in the reports, we’re pretty much losing the battle with the smugglers. We get one, two, maybe three of ten shipments. And it’s not just coke and marijuana, it’s now heroin, meth, and Fentanyl. They are creative, they are ruthless, and they will use any tactic at their disposal to get whatever they are smuggling across the border.” He advanced through a number of vehicle slides, showing the hidden compartments, and more slides with the cocaine, heroin, and Fentanyl hidden in various things, from furniture to watermelons.

“Now I want to talk about human trafficking. It’s not just Hispanics coming across the border, nor is it adults. It’s all nationalities. And some truly bad people, including terrorists.” He clicked the money slide. “Five thousand dollars is the basic fee charged per person. Now you might get a discount if you agree to be a mule and carry a twenty kilo pack of cocaine across when you come, but you might not. And if you die in route, too bad, so sad. Hundreds of bodies are found each year in the desert in the southwest. Many of them are female or young, including a week old baby.”

He advanced to the line of bodies after the incident at Monahans, and there were groans from the audience. “This was a seventy-five thousand dollar haul for the coyotes. The truck driver did not know what was in the trailer, it’s called no touch freight. It was a sealed trailer pickup in El Paso, with a drop at a yard in Oklahoma City. It was over one hundred degrees in the trailer, and the illegals had been stuffed in the trailer for at least two days. Seven of them died either in the trailer or at the hospital later, including another baby. And the FBI didn’t know a single thing about this group.”

He turned to the agents in training. “Y’all don’t really do a lot with human trafficking on this scale, or the day to day drug runners. You like to run two or three year investigations, then swoop in and arrest as many as you can.” He shrugged. “Granted it gets you good press, but it doesn’t endear you to the folks on the street.”

The same youngish man stood up. “But you’re supposed to cooperate with federal law enforcement. That’s the law!”

Laughter from the NA students gave him time to frame his answer, and he asked, “Where did you go to law school, son?”

“Harvard Law, if you must know. And I’m not your son!”

The old man grimaced. “Thankfully.” Which prompted a laugh from the NA students again. “Son, lemme give you a little real world advice. You may know the law inside and out, but if you go out on the street with that attitude, you’re never going to get cooperation from the locals on the ground. You try to tell a career officer what to do, he or she is going to ignore you. And the whole department will ostracize you and the local office. Don’t believe me?” He pointed to the NA students. “Ask any of them. Hell, ask any of them what their current level of cooperation with the FBI is.”

That prompted another round of laughter, and Bucky got up to stand beside him. “Any questions on smuggling or human trafficking? We’ve got ten minutes left.” After a few more questions, Coleman dismissed the group, and the old man said. “Sorry about that. But that little asshole needs to get an education before he hits the street. You’ve got enough problems out there today without people like him adding to it.”

Coleman grinned. “Hell, I thought it was great! Personally I doubt that he will survive the basic course. He’s got an attitude problem, not just with the other students, but also with some of the staff instructors that aren’t lawyers. You guys did a great job, and I’d appreciate copies of your presentation, if I could get it.”

Bucky pulled a thumb drive out of the computer and handed it to him, “Voila! With all the background material, including John’s papers that were done for the DEA, FBI, and the Academy here.”

***

Aaron and Matt came out of the dorm, saw the old man leaning on his rental and walked quickly over. Aaron said, “I was showing Matt the dorm. I figured you didn’t need to see them again, since they’re the same ones you lived in, apparently.

“Yep, same brown building, same entry. We were on the second and third floors, with the baby agents on the fourth. Don’t miss that a bit!”

Matt looked around. “Any idea where the girls are?”

“Jesse said something about the exchange, bathrooms, and lunch.” Pulling his sleeve back, he glanced at his watch, “They said they’d be back by two. And it’s now two-thirty.”

Aaron shook his head. “I swear, she’ll be late to her own funeral. I guess we wait, since you can’t use phones on base.”

Matt chimed in, “Do we want to go to the museum today, or go by the Batt today and museum tomorrow? And Felicia said we’re taking the kids tonight so you and Jesse can have a little private time.”

The old man coughed to cover a laugh. “The bat?”

Aaron laughed. “Weapons battalion. That’s where we worked out of for range training. Some pretty neat things over there, and that’s also where the rifle and pistol teams are out of.”

Jesse, Felicia, and the kids pulled up in the van, and Jesse called out, “Sorry. Took a little longer than we thought. Where are we going?”

The men looked at each other and Aaron said, “Let’s go to Weapons Battalion. That’ll be fairly quick.”

The old man flipped him the keys. “You drive. You know the base better than I do.” He climbed in the back seat, laughing as he continued, “Bout damn time I had a driver!”

Aaron mumbled something that Matt laughed at as they got in the car, and Aaron drove through the base to the battalion. Parking in the lot, they piled out and Aaron led the way, holding hands with Jace, as Jesse carried Kaya. Matt had Esmerelda by the hand and Felecia carried Matt, junior, with the old man bringing up the rear and shaking his head.

Aaron stopped at the desk, and the sergeant on duty asked, “Can I help you?”

Aaron said, “Just wanted to look around, Sarge. We,” pointing to Matt, “used to be instructors here. Doesn’t look like much has changed up front.”

The sergeant laughed. “It’s the Corps, sir. Nothing changes.”

They all laughed, and a voice came out of the back of the building, “I know that gahdamn voice!”

The sergeant popped to attention and whispered, “Master Guns.”

Aaron and Matt looked at each other, until Master Gunnery Sergeant ‘Snake’ Venman strode into the front office. A grin split his face, and he came around the counter, grabbed Aaron in a bear hug and laughed. “You sumbitch! Where have you been hiding?”

Aaron pounded him on the back, “Snake! Master Guns? Is the Corps in that bad a shape that they promoted you?”

Snake laughed. “Desperation makes strange things happen. Mizz Miller, it’s nice to see you.” He knelt and looked at Jace, “And you must be Jace! Last time I saw you, you were a baby!”

Jace piped up, “I not a baby.”

Everyone laughed and Snake replied, “Not anymore,” as he got up.

Aaron said, “Snake, this is Matt Carter, his wife Felicia, Esmerelda, and Matt, junior.”

Jesse added, shifting Kaya. “And this is Kaya. Good to see you, too.”

Snake shook hands with Matt. “I remember you. You ran the range at Pendleton, with Moretti.” He nodded to Felicia, “You and Matt weren’t married when you were at Pendleton, were you?”

Felicia smiled. “Not originally, we got married in Texas, then came back to Pendleton.”

He turned to the old man. “And you must be John Cronin. Aaron talked about you a lot.”

They shook hands and the old man said, “I’m pretty sure they were lies.”

Snake laughed. “I doubt that. So what the hell are y’all doing up here?”

Aaron replied, “I’m going through the FBI’s National Academy for law enforcement, and John came up to give a presentation on smuggling. Matt and Felicia just came along for the ride, since Felicia has never seen this place. Wish I’d known you were here.”

“Well, now you know. I’ll tell the old lady. She’ll be happy to see you, and cook something you and me can maybe eat. Or I’ll do a BBQ. Y’all want to look around?”

Aaron glanced at everyone and saw heads nodding, and Snake told the sergeant, “If the colonel starts looking for me, I’m giving some old farts a tour. Be back in a while.”

Snake grabbed his cover, and led them through the facilities, including the armory, classrooms, and the marksmanship unit’s spaces, where a copy of the National Team and National Infantry Team trophies were centered in the display case. Snake said, “We won both this year. The kids are damn good.”

Felicia asked, pointing to the targets on the walls. “What are those?”

Snake looked around, and said, “Those are match winning or perfect targets. They go back years.”

“But they are so big.”

All the men laughed, and Matt said, “Not at a thousand yards,” as he hugged her.

Felicia smiled ruefully. “I didn’t think about that.”

They piled back into the cars and Snake directed them over to the 1000 yard range, where a class was shooting. Felicia elected to stay in the car with the kids, but everyone else got out and Snake passed out earplugs. “This is the sniper class that’s about to graduate. They’re shooting the different weaps to see which ones they are best on, and famming on the M82s.”

The old man asked, “What calibers?”

“Three-oh-eight, three-thirty-eight, and fifty.”

The range officer called, “Cold range. Cold range. Safe your weapons, open bolts. Standby until released by the instructor.”

Jesse asked curiously, “Break time?”

“That and switching shooter and spotter. Both need to get experience on the guns and spotting.”

The old man commented, “Very nice range. And some interesting winds.” Snake looked at him and he continued, “Different wind at what, six hundred, than at the pits.”

Snake grinned. “Yeah, it is a challenge. Think you could hit the target?”

The old man laughed. “Ain’t that much of a challenge. But you got kids to teach.”

“Oh we can spare a few minutes. Three-oh-eight or three-thirty-eight?”

“Either one.”

“Want me to spot?”

“Nah, my spotter is here.” He turned and got Jesse’s attention. “Spot for me?”

“Papa what the hell are you doing?”

Shoving a thumb at Snake he said, “The master guns here doesn’t think I can hit the target from here.” He took his jacket off, handing it to Aaron with a wink, “Hold this. Looks like I got some more instructing to do.

Jesse rolled her eyes. “Oh my God. Yes, I’ll spot for you.  Men!”

Snake called out, “Gunny Suarez, what target were you on with your students?”

A squat lean Gunny stood up, “Nine, Master Guns.”

“Gonna have a little demonstration. Mr. Cronin is going to show these kids how an old man shoots. Meet him at the gun, please.”

The gunny met the old man and Jesse at the rifle, and the old man asked, “Where is it zeroed?”

Gunny Suarez said, “It was zeroed at three hundred. Corporal Hines was on with it as set at a thousand. He was center punching the silhouette. You familiar with an MRAD, sir?”

The old man chuckled. “A little bit. Thanks Gunny.” Turning to Snake, he said, “One sighter, then I’m good.”

“Only one?”

“One.”

Jesse grumbled, “Glad I’m not in a skirt. What got you spun up?”

The old man grinned. “I’ve always heard about this place, never got to shoot here. Now I can say I did shoot here.”

Jesse sighed. “Papa, you are crazy. Just… Gah…”

“Let’s do this.”

The range officer called, “Eyes and ears, hot range. Hot range. Target nine, you are clear to fire.”

He snuggled down behind the gun, got his position and said, “Target nine, correct?”

Jesse swung the spotting scope slightly, “Nine.”

He ran the bolt, dry fired, and ran the bolt again, dry firing a second time, “Nice trigger. I like mine better, but I can shoot this. One round, sighter.”

“Wait, let me see where the other impacts are. Okay, got them. If you shoot high center, it’s clean.”

The old man wiggled again, then said, “Target.”

“Send it.”

BOOM. Ting. Jesse said, “One half MOA down from the shoulder, half MOA right.”

“Got it.” He reached over and grabbed a magazine, checking to make sure it was fully loaded and slammed it home. “Here we go.”

“Target.”

“Send it.”

BOOM. Ting. BOOM, ting four more times, and he said, “Okay, head shots.”

Jesse sighed. “You sure?”

“Yep, target.”

“Send it.”

BOOM. Ting. “Center of the head. Hold what you’ve got.”

Four more rounds went down range, each one a hit. He dropped the mag, opened the bolt and rolled off the gun grinning, and Jesse said, “You’re safe. Papa, I… you… are nuts.”

“Hon, I’m an old man. Lemme have my fun. You want to try it, there’s another full mag sitting here.”

Jesse looked back at Aaron, who was standing with Snake and Matt, and she saw him roll his eyes. The old man said, “She should get to shoot it, since that’s the way y’all train, right?”

Snake shook his head and smiled. “Go ahead Mizz Miller.”

Jesse switched positions with the old man, grumbling, “I must be as crazy as you are. Dammit Papa, I’m not… Oh to hell with it. Where were you holding?”

“Center, one dot right for wind. Same wind. Load and go.” He turned, “Going hot.”

Snake echoed, “Going hot, aye!”

One of the gunnies standing behind the line snarked, “Bet she gets less than two hits. She’s shooting wrong handed, she’ll never get that bolt…”

Matt leaned over, “I’ve got a hundred says she goes ten for ten.”

The gunny snapped around, looked at Matt and grinned. “You’re on.”

Another gunny laughed and said, “Damn, I should’a thought of that.”

Aaron chuckled. “I’ve got another hundred for you, Gunny.”

The gunny looked at Aaron and back to the Jesse, “Hell, why not. She ain’t got any graveyards I’ve seen.”

Aaron smiled. “I’ve seen ‘em. They’re real. He turned to Snake, you want in?”

“Nah, I’ll pass. I heard about her shooting a Pendleton. And she taught my wife, remember?”

“Smart man.”

Jesse wiggled down, unaware of what was going on behind her, and said, “Target on nine.”

“Send it.”

BOOM. Ting. “Center. Hold what you’ve got.”

Nine more times Jesse sent rounds down range, with nine more hits. She dropped the mag, opened the bolt and said, “Safe.”

The old man said, “Safe.”

She rolled off the gun and got up, brushing off her blouse and pants. “Oh well, I can change when I get back to the hotel. She looked up to see Matt and Aaron collecting money, with Snake laughing and she shook her head. “Men. They bet on me, didn’t they?”

The old man laughed. “Probably.”

As they walked back up to Snake, the young troops gathered round, and they heard the susurration of multiple comments, “Damn, I can’t shoot that good the first time on a gun! Did you see her shoot…”

Snake held up a hand, “Marines, let this be a lesson. Mr. Cronin here has been a sniper for how long?”

The old man cocked his head, “Oh, about forty-five years, give or take.”

“And Mizz Miller?”

Jesse said, “I’m not, not really. I’ve been Papa’s spotter for… twelve years.”

“Marines, this is why you never underestimate anyone in the field. If you get in combat. The sniper you may be facing might be just like either one of these folks. Do not, I repeat, do not underestimate your opponents. Break is over, back on your guns.”

The old man looked at him. “Teaching point, eh?”

Snake grinned. “And to knock some of the smart ass out of them. They’re good, but they need to be humbled on occasion. And I was pretty damn sure you’d do that.”

The old man laughed. “You used us, and I used you. Fair trade.”

Jesse smiled. “And I need to go to the bathroom. Are we through with the dick beating now? Aaron, since you won that money on me, you are buying everybody dinner.”

Everyone laughed as she headed for the van, and Snake wrapped his arms around Aaron saying, “Y’all have fun. Aaron, give me a call when you get time off. Same number.”

Aaron pounded him on the back, “Will do, thanks for the tour, Snake.”

Comments

Grey Man snippet… — 17 Comments

  1. I think I smelled a bit of burned rifle powder when I was reading the tail end of the story.

    Good writing and I will cruise through again later with my mind set on nitpick.

    Right now I’m just enjoying the mental image of the range and hearing about what’s going on with friends.

  2. Keep it rolling, OLD NFO! I feel that I am a fly on the wall as your characters move through the story. That’s good story telling.

  3. Excellent, sir, just two suggestions.

    “Aaron smiled. “I’ve seen ‘em. They’re real. He turned to Snake, you want in?””

    missing two ”

    “Nah, I’ll pass. I heard about her shooting a Pendleton.”

    ahould be “at”

  4. Define Pendleton = “civilian lady shows up at a military firing range and outshoots everybody there.”

    Jesse is now rated as two Pendletons.

  5. Thanks, keep ’em coming.
    Just did a quick read – gut reaction to the HLS fella’s
    “Harvard Law, if you must know,” reply is that while it’s possible as a reply, the more likely reaction comes in two flavors:

    1. outright arrogance, and presumption that the listener cares and will be impressed, i.e.”Harvard Law, of course.”

    2. fake humility laced with sarcasm, “Oh, little place in Cambridge. But you probably wouldn’t know it.” Which would set the Old Man up for a deadpan reply.

    • Option 1 seems more believable, but Rule of Funny says option 2.

  6. Still a great piece of writing.
    Found a few typos and niggles.
    *****
    ‘He turned and looked at’
    OR
    ‘He turned to look at’
    *****
    ‘Bucky got up to stand beside him.’
    Suggest –
    ‘to stand beside the old man.’
    *****
    ‘“Nah, I’ll pass. I heard about her shooting at (?) Pendleton.’
    *****
    ‘she shook her head. “Men! They bet on me, didn’t they?”’
    *****
    Just to shift the emphsis to admiration –
    ‘Did you see her shoot…”’

  7. Harvard Law grads never can get basic legal principles correct ….

  8. NICE! Skipped any typos that others saw. This makes a nice recap vignette the books 1 and 2. Poor jarheads never knew what hit them. Master Gunner Snake just ate up the training opportunity.

  9. Hey Old NFO which book is this, #6, or #7. I am just starting #5. Hooked!