Grey Man snippet…

The usual caveats, comments/recommendations appreciated. Getting close to the end of this novella!

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Morgan stuck his head in the door of the dispensary where the doctor and Chief Corpsman were working on Cronin, “DepSec and the Ambassador said we can use the VC-one forty. I’ve got the crew on the way to the airplane. Where do want them to take him?”

Doc Anderson rubbed an itch on his forehead with the back of a glove and thought for a minute. “The best place would be Brooke in Texas, if they can get there. They’ve done a lot of trauma surgery and I’m afraid he,” pointing at the unconscious body in front of him, “is probably going to need some on this shoulder. I think I’ve got it cleaned out, but there is one deep bleeder that I can’t get to without opening him up.”

“You want to operate down here?”

Doc shook his head. “Hell no. It would probably take two days to get a surgery scheduled where I could actually do it, and I’m not about to turn him over to the tender mercies of a local doctor or surgeon.”

Morgan winced. “Okay. You going with him?”

Chief DeAngelis said, “I’m going. I can do everything Doc can do, and probably better and faster.”

Doc laughed. “And that is why the Chief is going. He’s handled more gun shot and shrapnel wounds, and traumatic amputations than I’ll probably ever see, and all he’s going to do is pump blood, plasma, and keep him sedated.”

DeAngelis saw the skeptical look on Morgan’s face and replied, “Independent duty corpsman, I was with the Marines for three tours in ‘Nam, including at Khe Sanh. This one’s easy, it’s only one hole, and he ain’t bleeding out on me.” He turned back to the doctor. “Let’s package him and I’ll get on the road. I’d rather use the van to take him to the airport than an ambulance.”

Morgan nodded. “Brooke in Texas, and van. I’ll make that happen.”

Menendez climbed into the van as the chief started to shut the door. “I’ll ride to the airport with you, in case there are any problems with the crew.”

DeAngelis looked at him sharply, “You look like shit, but you’re moving, so I’m assuming that blood isn’t yours?”

“It’s Cronin’s. I screwed up and he saved my life. Can’t believe—”

DeAngelis interrupted, “Y’all kept him alive for two hours, long enough to get him here. He’ll live, but he needs surgery and that will actually be quicker in Texas than here, due to the fucking politics.”

Menendez nodded and slumped against the side of the van as the chief checked Cronin’s blood pressure and the IVs running in both arms. He didn’t touch the bandages on his shoulder, noting the blood slowly seeping into the outer bandage in his wheel book.

When they pulled up at the VC-140, they were met by the pilot, a lieutenant colonel, his copilot, and a crew chief. When the back door of the van opened, Menendez and the chief slid the stretcher out and looked at the crew chief. “How do you want to load him?”

The lieutenant colonel stopped them. “This is most irregular. I still don’t have permission from Washington for this flight, and San Antonio, Texas is outside the maximum range of the airplane. Until I get some answers, nobody is—”

Menendez grabbed the lieutenant colonel by the front of the flight suit and dragged him aside as he said, “Get him loaded.”

The chief smiled and looked at the copilot and crew chief, “Y’all want to give me a hand? Your boss is fixin’ to get out ranked.”

By the time they had Cronin strapped into the folded down seats, new IVs started, and the oxygen tank secured, the red faced lieutenant colonel climbed into the cockpit and slammed the door, then came on the PA, “Bring up the ladder and secure the airplane for takeoff.”

The crew chief shrugged and said, “Chief, take a seat and strap in. I’ll get the door and take the front seat.”


Four and a half hours later, the VC-140 landed at Kelly AFB in San Antonio and was met by an Army ambulance from Brooke Army Medical Center. The copilot came out of the cockpit and said, “Chief, we have to crew rest for twelve hours after we finish putting the airplane to bed, if you are going back with us, you need to be here at zero four hundred.”

He nodded as the crew chief dropped the cabin door and the Army medics came on board with a gurney. “Not going to work,” DeAngelis said, “Gonna have to manhandle him out.” He handed over the medical treatment record, x-rays, and unhooked the IVs. “He’s going to need some blood. He’s got an internal bleed in the shoulder. I pushed two units of O positive, and one of plasma just to keep his BP up.”

The medic whistled. “No wonder they want him taken directly to the OR.” He handed the paperwork to someone outside the airplane and asked, “How did you get him in here?”

“Sheet and bent him around the door. I’ll take the head if you guys can get the feet and hips.”

Two hours later, Cronin was wheeled into a recovery room and the surgeon came out to talk to Chief DeAngelis. “He’s one lucky son of a bitch. That was a through and through that barely clipped the subclavian artery, frayed the lateral cord, and wiggled between the clavicle and scapula. An eighth of an inch in any direction and he would have been screwed. Any idea what he was shot with?”

“We think it was either a three eighty or a nine. Probably an FMJ.”

“Yep, we didn’t see any indication of expansion at all. We cleaned it up, went ahead and sewed up the artery just to be on the safe side, and flushed the wound channel. How long has he been out?”

DeAngelis looked at the ceiling, biting his tongue. “Uh, two…three…five, plus two. Probably twelve hours, but we didn’t sedate him with Thiopental until just prior to the flight. He was unconscious when they brought him in.”

“Well, let’s hope he doesn’t get addicted. But looking at him, this wasn’t his first rodeo. He’s been shot before. He was Army in Vietnam, according to the records we could access.”

The chief held up his hands, “I don’t know what he’s doing now. I just helped treat him and brought him to y’all.”

The surgeon laughed. “One of those guys. Gotcha. What am I supposed to do with him?”

“Um, I’m guessing you’ll get a phone call? From somebody.

The surgeon hung his head. “Well, it’s going to be at least a day or so before we will release him. And that’s if nothing goes wrong.”

The chief nodded and headed for the door.


Cronin picked up the phone gingerly, punched in the access code he’d been given and dialed his home phone number. After a couple of rings, he heard Amy, “Cronin residence.”

“Amy,” his voice broke for a second and he swallowed, “Amy, it’s John. Can you come get me? I’m over a Brooke in San Antone.”

There was silence for a few seconds, and she said softly, “I’ll be there as soon as I can. I’ll ask Hank to watch Jack for me. Are you…hurt?”

“Not too bad. I love you, Amy.”

“Love you too, I’ll be there soon.”

She hung up and he put the phone back in the cradle carefully, then lay back and sighed. Well, that didn’t go well at all. She’s going to rip me a new one, especially since I told her I was out of the field. He went to sit up and winced as he put pressure on his shoulder. This is going to be…inconvenient. He finally got to a sitting position, reached over a grabbed the pain pill that had been left for him, and took it with a swallow of water.

A female aide came in the room smiling, bright and cheerful, and asked, “Ready to get dressed?”

Cronin grumped, “Sooner the better. Can’t figure out how I’m going to do my boots.”

“Oh, I’ll do them for you. Let’s get that gown off and—” She looked around in puzzlement. “Find your clothes.”

“I think there is a bag in the locker over there with some clothes in it. I just hope they fit.”

She walked over, opened the locker and found the bag. Taking it out, she opened it as sniffed. “Oh lovely. All new clothes. They’re going to be scratchy!” She started taking the tags off and rummaging around. She finally came up with one pair of underwear, a pair of socks, a shirt, and a pair of pants. There was a pair of jungle boots in the bottom of the locker, and she looked at him questioningly. “No belt?”

He shrugged. “Beats the hell outta me. How are we going to do the shirt? I can’t lift my arm to put it on.”

“We’ll figure it out. Let’s get this done.”

Twenty minutes later, Cronin was sitting in a wheelchair in the cafeteria, eating the first really solid food he’d had in a couple of days. Okay, hospital food sucks, whether it’s in the room or down here. I’ve never understood how somebody can screw up bacon and eggs, but these people apparently manage to do it every damn day! And I’ve seen spackle that was less lumpy than these grits. He looked at the toast and sighed, then picked it up and ate it dry, since he knew he couldn’t hold the bread and a knife to butter it or put jelly on it. He pushed back from the table with his feet, and managed to turn the chair around, then started ‘walking’ the chair toward the door. An aide took him back to his room, and he spent the next four hours reading a Louis L’Amour novel, until Amy walked into the room.

He jumped up and said, “Hi, honey.”

Amy looked him up and down, then came to him, her blue eyes ice cold. “You…damn you, John Cronin!” Tears rolled down her face as she tentatively hugged him, then stepped back. “Third assistant whatever, my ass.”

“I can explain. Really, I can explain. I love you.”

“I know you do, and I love you, you son of a bitch. But you said you were working in an office!”

He took a step and pulled her into his good side, then said softly, “Let’s get out of here, and I’ll tell you what I can.”

An aide with a wheelchair knocked on the door, interrupting them. “Are you ready to go, Sir?”

Cronin snapped, “I can walk.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Hospital rules require that we take you to do the door in a wheelchair.”

He threw up his arm in disgust as Amy smiled. “Just get in the wheelchair, John.”

Grumbling, he sat down as she patted his arm. “Thank you. I’ll go get the truck and meet you at the door.”


When they cleared San Antonio, Amy looked over at him. “Well, you were going to explain. So start!”

He shifted a little and turned toward her. “Well, I don’t do all my time at the desk. We were…involved in a little operation against some drug labs up in the hills. The guy with me missed the chemist pulling a gun, and I shoved him out of the way. It saved his life, but I…got plinked before I could take him down.”

“Plinked? Is that what you call getting shot?”

He went to shrug and winced at the pain in his shoulder. “It’s not like it’s a major injury.”

Amy, steel in her voice said, “So, getting shot is minor? Is that what you’re saying?

Defensively, he replied, “But it went through and didn’t hit anything. It’s not a flesh wound, but it’s minor. Nothing broken, nothing missing, yeah it hurts. But…I’m sorry. Maybe—”

“John, don’t even say it. At least this time you told me you got shot. Unlike the last three times when you were overseas.”

He nodded and leaned back, trying to come up with a good answer. Four hours later, Amy touched him lightly, “John, wake up. We’re home.”

Jerking awake, he mumbled, “Home? How? Did I?”

“Yes, you went to sleep.” She unlocked his seatbelt and said, “Wait until I get around the truck to help you.”

“Yes, dear.” He swung the door opened and squirmed around until he had his feet on the running board and put his hand on her shoulder as she stood by the door. Easing down, he weaved for a second, then got his balance. “Okay, I think I can do this.”

Hank came around the corner of the house, “Mr. C! You need a hand? Get your bag?”

“Hello Hank. No bag, just me. I can make it to the house with Amy’s help. Legs are fine, the shoulder not so much. Jack?”

Hank smiled. “In the house, got his radio turned up, supposed to be doing his homework. Mizz Amy told me to make sure he got on that as soon as he got home. He ain’t happy about that.”

They all laughed, and Amy said, “Nothing new there. You’d think it was the end of the world when he can’t go riding, or watch TV, or go to four H. He’s turning into a teenager, including the hormones are kicking in. He’s been hanging around Patricia at church, and I think at school, too.”

“Maybe she’ll be a good example for him. She still a straight A student?”

“She is. And turning into a championship barrel racer. She’s been working with that little Arabian of hers, Belle, and they finally meshed a few months ago.”

As they walked down the hall, Jack came out of his room, heading to the kitchen. He looked up and yelled, “Dad!” Pelting down the hall, he slid to a stop. “You’re—”

Amy said, “Yes, he’s hurt, but not badly. But your daddy is going to be home for a while.”
Cronin interrupted, “I got shot, Jack. I’m going to be fine.”

Jack gulped. “You got…shot? Where?” He tentatively reached out, and Cronin pulled him into a one armed embrace.

“In the shoulder.”

“Does it…hurt?”

Cronin chuckled. “Yes, Jack. It hurts. Not like when you broke your arm, but it hurts.”

Jack winced, then hugged him softly saying, “I’m glad you’re home.”

Amy put her hand on his back, and he leaned into her. “So am I, son. So am I.”

Amy went into the kitchen and started rattling pots and pans as he started reheating food. “You’re getting leftovers. Ham, some potatoes, and some greens. And biscuits. If you had bothered to call earlier, I could have done something else.” Jack took one look at his mother’s back and scampered back down the hall, leaving Cronin standing in the doorway by himself.


Three weeks later, with life back to as normal as possible around the ranch, John and Amy sat over coffee on the porch early in the morning, enjoying the sunrise and the first chill promise of fall weather. Amy smiled as she asked, “What’s next?”

Cronin glanced at her. “Well, after Jack goes to school we could always—”

Amy rolled her eyes. “What’s gotten into you? You’ve been horny as…you used to be!”

He laughed. “Well, I have been gone for a while. And it’s kinda hard to do anything when my shoulder pretty much stops anything athletic.” He turned to face her squarely. “But I do have to go back. Probably next week. I called in yesterday and they want me to fly up to DC before I go back south. Something about discussing field operations in the context of the multinational teaming effort.”

“What the hell does that even mean,” Amy asked shaking her head.

“I’m guessing the brass is not getting the feedback they think they should be getting and want to talk to somebody that has been in the field without any filters from his chain of command. I’m guessing somebody back there is getting mixed signals, or somebody is feeding them shit direct from the field, contrary to what we’ve been told to do.”

Amy reached over and took his hand. “That’s not going to cause you any problems, is it?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. Menendez and Morgan, or at least I think Morgan is also sending reports.” He looked at his cup and chuckled. “I wonder…if Morgan’s reports are significantly…nah, those two get along. But I can damn well see that happening in Colombia. I know Mason doesn’t get along with the station chief over there. Shit.”

“What is it with all the M names? Is that a management requirement or something?”

He burst out laughing. “I never thought about it, maybe…I don’t know. Screw ‘em. I’ll just go up there and tell them the truth.”

Jack banged out the screen door, hurrying down the steps as the bus pulled to a stop at the driveway. “Love you Mom, Dad. Four H after school, I’ll be home late.”

Amy shook her head, then yelled after him, “One of us will pick you up.” She got up and continued softly, “I swear, that boy purely hates to get up in the morning, unless he’s working the cows with Hank, or going fishing or hunting. Now you were talking about something after Jack left?”

John left his coffee cup sitting on the rocker and followed Amy into the house with a smile.


A week later, John called from DC. When Amy answered, he said, “Hey, Hon. I’m heading back down south tomorrow morning. I was told I’ll get a…leave, but they don’t call it that, in three months. I’m going to be back in Ecuador, so the same number you had for me before will still work.”

“How did your meetings go?”

He laughed. “Remember what I guessed was going on?”

She thought for a second. “Um, yes, I think so.”

“That was it. Somebody is or was feeding stuff back outside the chain of command. Appears there is a pissing contest between the agencies up here.”

“What’s that going to do to you?”

“Nothing. My bosses get along, and their reports were matching up. Anything going on down there?”

She chuckled. “Other than missing the warm spot in bed, and Jack’s hormones definitely waking up, oh, and the JA calling about wanting a cow to diversify their bloodline a little, nothing.”

He groaned. “What did Jack do this time? And do I need to talk to him again? I did that before I left.”

“I know you did. He’s growing again. I swear I just bought him new shirts and pants, and they are already getting too small. And he smarted back to Hank, who made him clean out the stalls by himself. He came whining to me and I didn’t support him, so he’s pouting right now.”

“Okay. What’s the deal with JA?”

“Hank and I decided to sell them that three year old chestnut cow. She’s got a mind of her own, especially when she has a calf, but we’ve got the pedigree documents on her, and JA agreed to five hundred and they will come get her.”

He laughed. “Good!” He paused for a second, then continued softly, “I’m going to miss you…hell, I miss you already. I love you, Amy. I’ll try to call you every week, like I did before.”

“I love you too, John Cronin. And you better call, and you damned well better come home in three months!”

“I will. I love you. Good night.”

“Love you. Night.” He heard the dial tone and hung the phone up with a sigh, turning the light off, he crawled into the bed and tried to go to sleep.


Grey Man snippet… — 13 Comments

  1. Nice time warp sequence. Its going to be good getting the ‘Pro Grey Man’ and find out more about people now gone but not forgotten.

    Thanks for the tease – it too appears to be a good read.

  2. Smooth reading except that I didn’t know what a VC-140 was, (now I know).

    as jrg said I’m looking forward to reading the novella.

  3. Hey Old NFO;

    Enjoying the snippits….Now hurry up. I will read it again in a few to see if anything “jumps out” at me.

  4. Nice teaser, indeed.

    Two things jumped out at me:

    DepSec and the Ambassador authorizing the VC-140: would this be DipSec, Diplomatic Security, or the Deputy Sec State for Latin America? My guess is the local security detachment as part if the local loop. Getting a DepSec of State involved on a clandestine matter means you’re reading about it all in the previous day’s Washington Post.

    John leaping to his feet when Amy enters his hospital room: almost a year later, and my shoulder purely HATES sudden jolts, like jumping. That soon after surgery the shoulder will say stand up, or I’m filing charges again.

    Also nice to read something about Jack, and how the independent and bullish streak runs right down the family line. Jesse and Jace inherited it by the bucket.

  5. Jrg/Bob/John- Thanks!

    Pk- Good point, I didn’t write that correctly, and no he wouldn’t jump up. Re the VC-140, Deputy Sec State, maybe I need to ‘splain that better.

    Rev- Gettin’ there… 🙂

  6. Only things I can see are
    Where do ^you want them to take him?”

    four H is written as 4-H

    Thanks for the tidbit!

  7. I should have looked up the bird first. VC was the giveaway. Yeah, that would take at least a Deputy Secretary to get tasked. Probably add a high level aweek-long mission to cover the extraction.

    Leftover ham instead of meatloaf means he’s in real le. Run, Jack, don’t get caught in the blast!

  8. When he tells his wife he is at Brooke, your line reads ” a Brooke” instead of ” at Brooke…”

    And a couple paragraphs down, starting with the paragraph “She hung up…” Cronin “reached over a grabbed the pain pill…” should be “reached over and…”

    Other than that, which I think is your word processor trying to think for you, not actual mistakes you made, well, pretty darned good.

    Cronin is lucky she didn’t frying pan the back of his head for getting shot.

  9. Good stuff!

    “Amy went into the kitchen and started rattling pots and pans as he started reheating food.” Should that be “she” or is John One-Arm trying to feed himself?

    Googled VC-140. Good thing I did- was picturing a C-130-ish craft.

    Future reference for the next unfortunate who ends up one-armed and in a wheelchair: doesn’t apply in a hospital setting, but, you can get a manual wheelchair that may be moved using only one arm. Picture two independent grab rails on the same good-arm-side each driving a wheel. The “good” wheel has a hollow axle with the “bad” wheel’s axle running through it to the ‘bad” side. Makes for a path that is canted left-right-left-right-etc. but progress is made. I hope this wasn’t too wordy.

  10. Robert- Thanks! I’ve never seen one of those wheelchairs. (research)… And fixed the other issue.

  11. Good call on hitting the subclavian artery when shot through the left upper thorax near the shoulder under the collar bone. That artery makes a big loop in that area and you can bleed out quickly if that is opened up.

    It ticks me off watching the old westerns on TV when someone takes a round in that area and they say, “It’s just a shoulder wound.” If it was a shoulder wound it would destroy the A/C joint (ask me how I know). Inboard a few inches from that you risk hitting that major artery.

    In Bellavia’s book “House to House” he kills an attacker in a face-to-face fight by shoving the blade of a Gerber multi-tool under the clavicle (collar bone) and wiggling it around until he cuts an artery. The subclavean would be the one.

    Keep reseachin’ and writin’ and I ‘ll keep buyin’.
    Thanks to your muse.