First and foremost, thanks to Larry Correia for the book bomb! And thanks to those who parted with their hard earned shekels for Rimworld- Militia Up. I was also heartened to see folks picking up the first story and the novella too. THANK YOU!
Y’all almost got it to #1, but not quite. I’m particularly impressed that it got as high as it did in Hard SF! Considering that I was languishing around 220,000 seller rank, to come up 218,000 isn’t too shabby either!
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,021 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
- #4 in Space Marine Science Fiction
- #4 in Space Marine Science Fiction eBooks
- #5 in Hard Science Fiction (Kindle Store)
Today is still holding pretty good! Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,439 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
- #20 in Space Marine Science Fiction
- #20 in Space Marine Science Fiction eBooks
- #18 in Hard Science Fiction (Kindle Store)
I would appreciate good honest reviews, when you get around to reading them.
TGM- Down South is at the editor now, and the cover is almost done, so it will probably be released in the next two weeks. Again many thanks to the alpha and beta readers, and Miggy G. for correcting my lousy attempts at Spanish (even if I’m STILL trying to translate a couple of things he called me). 🙂
And finally a snippet from the last Grey Man book. All the usual caveats, comments/recommendations appreciated, as always.
After the morning’s nightmare, the old man decided it was time for some shooting and moving. Felicia had the kids, and Jesse was sitting at the kitchen table, working on her computer when he walked in. “Want to do some shooting this morning?”
“How about the trail down to the pumphouse?”
“Oh, we haven’t done that one in…a year, maybe more. I’ll go get some of the cardboard IDPA targets.”
The old man smiled. “While you do that, I’ll take a couple of the ARs down to the pumphouse and make sure the calliope still works. Meet me at the picnic table.”
“How many targets do you want me to set, Papa?”
“Up to you, and don’t forget the pasters.”
Jesse smiled gleefully. “Oh, this is gonna be fun!”
A half hour later, the old man gathered them at the picnic table behind the corral. “Okay, we’re it. Everybody else is gone. One blow out kit here, one down at the pumphouse, and one on the Gator. We haven’t done this in a while, so one more round on the rules. Shoot the targets on the way down, shoot two rounds or however many are left in your mag at the calliope, then patch the targets as you come back up the arroyo. Next person goes when the person gets back.”
“How many shots per target,” asked Matt.
The old man thought for a second, “Let’s do ‘em Mozambique, two to the body, one to the head. That should make everybody change magazines.”
Aaron asked, “What’s the calliope set on?”
The old man laughed. “Who’s first?”
Matt got up and slipped his ear protection muffs down, then adjusted his glasses. “Eyes and ears?” Everybody put their hearing protection on, and eye protection. Once he saw that, he checked that his pistol was free in the holster and hit the timer on his watch as he started down into the arroyo.
Aaron reached down and hit his timer as Matt quickly dropped down into the arroyo that formed the creek bottom. They heard 27 shots, then two rapid flurries of shots and Aaron said, “That’s gotta be the calliope.” He checked his timer. “A minute thirty. That’s pretty quick.”
The old man nodded and glanced at Jesse, who was grinning, Oh you little…you snuck another target or two in there, didn’t you. He had a sudden image of Juanita laughing at he and Francisco for missing a target that almost brought tears to his eyes. He swiped his hand across his eyes, and Jesse looked at him curiously. He shook his head and stared at the ground, getting himself back under control.
A couple of minutes later, Matt came tromping back up, shaking his head. “Tricky, Jesse, tricky.” He smiled and said, “Next.”
Aaron got up with a grin. “My turn. Watch and learn! He rechecked his pistol and started down the arroyo jogging a little faster than Matt did. They heard three round bursts of fire, then heard cussing and a pause. Just as they started up, more three round bursts started, and culminated with the rounds on the calliope.
Matt glanced at his timer. “Got him. Two minutes. I wonder what happened.”
Five minutes later, Aaron climbed out of the arroyo, still cussing. “Mother humping tree roots,” he was brushing dirt off his shirt and pants, as blood was ran down his forearm. He sat down and Jesse lifted his elbow as he said, “Damn prosthetic. I guess I hung it on a root and never felt it, until it didn’t move when it was supposed to. Didn’t expect that at all.”
Jesse pulled the first aid kit over and got out a sterile wipe. “Well, you’re supposed to look where you’re going!”
Aaron grumbled, “Or I could look for targets. Binary solution set there.” Jesse swabbed his elbow and he yelped, “Ouch! That…stings!”
Everybody laughed and the old man got up. “My turn.” He moved off not quite jogging and Matt hit his timer as he noticed the old man only had two magazines on his belt.
“John must not be going to shoot three at each target, he’s only got twenty-one rounds.”
Aaron shrugged and winced as Jesse continued cleaning his scrapes. “That’s on him.” They heard three rounds, then three more, another two, a pause then one round. “Damn, that was a quick reload.”
Jesse grinned. “I think he’s done that a time or two thousand.” They heard another single round, then three rounds, two rounds, and another reload. By the time he got to the calliope, he’d shot 31 times, and Matt and Aaron looked at each other, then at Jesse. Aaron asked, “Hon, how many targets were there?”
Jesse grinned. “Ten. Apparently Papa didn’t miss a one.” They heard another seven rounds, and Jesse added, “And that was a reload. So, Papa had at least five magazines on him.”
Matt shook his head, “Oh damn…that ain’t—”
Aaron said piously, “All’s fair in…” and the other two chimed in, “Love and war, and this isn’t love.” They all laughed and waited as the old man climbed back up to the picnic bench.
He looked at Jesse, “Tricky, girl. Tricky. Aaron you want to bring the Gator down, and we’ll shoot the ARs next. I put some steel out at a hundred earlier. We can collect the targets on the way down.”
Aaron said, “I can do that. At least I can’t trip over a root this way. By the way, John, how many mags did you have?”
The old man grinned. “Enough. Now let’s go get the targets and meet at the pump house.”
Matt asked, “What was the single shot for?” The old man held up a hand, as he stepped into the scrub and pulled a target, letting Jesse get the next and Matt the one after that.
He pointed just off the trail. “That.” Jesse jumped back and Matt was reaching for his pistol when he realized the rattlesnake was dead. “I heard him about the same time I saw him,” the old man said as he picked the rattler up. Walking further down, he turned to Jesse. “I’m going to let you go get that one,” as he pointed off to the right.
Matt looked around but didn’t see anything, but as Jesse tromped through the brush, he saw a target in the ‘y’ of a cottonwood ten yards off the trail. The old man said, “I damn near missed it, but Juanita liked to screw with us by putting one back there occasionally. If it hadn’t been for the brown shirt, I’d never has seen it.”
Matt just shook his head saying, “I never saw that target at all!”
They pulled down the rest of the targets as they worked their way down the arroyo. At the bottom they walked to the table next to the old rock building and the old man laid them out. Aaron looked at the one in the brown shirt and started cussing, “Where was that sumbitch?” The old man described the location and Aaron just shook his head as he glared at Jesse. “That…Argghhh!”
Aaron and Matt went over to the covered bench sitting behind the house. “Okay, let’s shoot these poodle shooters and call it a day. Matt, Aaron, there are steels out there at a hundred yards.”
They checked the weapons safe, reset their eye and hearing protection and picked up the M-16s on the bench. They looked around as the old man said loudly, “One magazine each. It’s been a couple of months since these have been out of the safe.”
Aaron said, “I should have grabbed mine out of the trunk.” Then he thought for a minute and continued, “But these are all identical, right?”
The old man nodded. “Yep, everyone in the department is identical. Only difference is how clean they are, and the serial numbers.”
Jesse chimed in, “I think Papa’s giving you a hint, Aaron.”
Matt said sonorously, “A clean weapon is a Marine’s best friend. A Marine cleans—”
Aaron smiled. “Oh, shut up. I get it, I get it. I’ll clean mine today too!”
After they finished shooting, They policed up the area, disconnected the calliope, and loaded the rifles in the Gator. Aaron said, “I want you to show me where you hid that damn target.”
Jesse smiled sweetly, “Of course, Honey. I’ll be glad to, Honey. And you can pick up the rattlesnake too. I know Jace wants the rattles off it.”
Matt shook his head. “I think I’ll ride up with John.” As they pulled off, he added, “That way we’re clear of the blast radius.”
The old man laughed, shook his head, and drove back up to the barn, parked the Gator in its stall, then checked on the horses as Matt carried the rifles to the house. After a half hour, he whistled up Yogi and headed for the house, figuring Aaron and Jesse would have sorted out their issues by now. He walked in and smelled Hoppes, finding all of them sitting at the table, cleaning guns on the newspapers spread out on the table. He turned and unloaded his 1911, pointed out the back door as cleared it for the second time. Laying the magazines on the counter, he walked over to the table and took a seat, disassembled the 1911, and set to cleaning.
The four of them were bantering back and forth, and Aaron was once again taking the brunt of the jokes for tripping and missing the hidden target Jesse had snuck in. “Aaron, you want to clean the rattler? Or do you just want to clip the rattles and give them to Jace when they dry out?”
“Lemme get these cleaned,” he mumbled, pointing to the pistol and rifle sitting on the table, “And I’ll do it out back. I just want to make damn sure this time neither of the dogs can get to the skin.”
Jesse looked up from scrubbing the AR bolt carrier. “Papa, do we have any glycerin left?”
The old man scrunched his face up, thinking. “Probably. Maybe enough isopropyl alcohol too. I will get some of both at the feed store.”
Aaron smiled and shook his head. “I still can’t get over buying glycerin by the gallon.”
Matt and the old man laughed. “If you’ve got to stick half an arm up a cow’s ass, lubrication helps.”
Felicia stood in the kitchen door, “What?”
Everybody laughed, and Jesse said, “Men. And lubrication for cows. And tanning rattlesnake hides.”
Jace ran in and latched onto Aaron. “You got me wattlesnek, Daddy?”
Aaron shook his head, “No, your Papa got him. We have clean to him, then tan the skin after I cut the rattles off.”
Jace bounced back and forth. “Oh boy, oh boy,” as the adults laughed and Yogi and Boo Boo barked.
Kaya asked, “Pet snek?”
Aaron said, “No pet snek…er…snake Kaya. We don’t pet snakes. They bite!”
Kaya cocked her head. “But we pet Boo Boo and Yogi, and they bite,” she said with all the assurance of a three year old that knows exactly what she’s saying.
The old man coughed to cover a laugh and Matt snorted, as Jesse tried to rescue Aaron from that logic. “No honey, we don’t pet everything that bites. Boo Boo and Yogi bite to keep us safe. Snakes bite to keep themselves safe. What did we teach you to do if you see a snake?”
Kaya put her fingers on her lips and squinted, then caroled, “Run away, run away,” with a big smile.
“Okay, so if you run away, you can’t pet the snake, correct?”
Kaya sniffed, looked up at Jesse and pouted. “Wanna pet snek.” She turned and marched out of the kitchen, back stiff, as Jesse covered her mouth, and there was a spate of coughing from the men.
The old man said, “Heh, she almost got you there, Jesse. We’ll let her watch the skinning, and see how long she lasts.” He looked up at Felicia, “How was the good Padre today?”
She smiled, “As always, wondering where you were. He asks every Sunday.”
“He just wants to argue some more. We used to do a lot of that.”
Felicia put her hand over her mouth in horror. “You argued with a priest? How could you?”
The old man grinned. “Well, he wasn’t a priest at the time, and we were doing other things that were much less Christian. Just sayin’.”
Jesse shook her head. “Felicia, let it go. You really don’t want to know. You know Papa is not a nice man. Don’t make him upset your world.”
Felicia threw up her hands. “Men!” She stomped out the back door, leaving Esmerelda and Matt, Junior with Matt.
Matt looked around with a bewildered look. “Um, what the hell do I do now?”
The old man started to say something, but Jesse held up a hand. “We’ll watch the kids. Go spend some quiet time with your wife. She’s going to vent, and you’ll be the target. Let her, and don’t take anything she says personally. Hispanic. Remember that. And when she wants to make up later, don’t turn her down.”
Matt quickly reassembled his pistol, function checked it, shoved it in his belt, and grabbed the magazines. “Thanks. And Aaron, if I don’t survive, this is all your fault.” Matt got up and headed for the back door before Aaron could come up with an answer.
Esme tugged on Jesse’s sleeve. “Mommy mad? Mommy mad at me?”
Jesse chuckled as she picked Esme up. “Your mommy is being mommy. She’s not mad at you, and she will be alright. She just needs…a little time with your daddy.”
Esme smiled and hugged her. “What you doing?”
“Holding you,” Jesse said and tickled her. Esme giggled and snuggled into her arms.
Aaron sighed. “I’ll finish cleaning your gun. You’ve obviously got your hands full.” Later that evening, after the old man had cleaned the rattlesnake’s skin and put it in the glycerin and alcohol mix, cleaned the meat, and shoved it in the back of the fridge, they sat around the table munching on pecan pies and sipping coffee. Matt, with a dazed expression, leaned over to Aaron and said softly, “Damn…This afternoon was…interesting…to put it mildly.”
The old man snorted coffee, started coughing and laughing. “First real argument?”
“I’m not…sure what to call it.” He was interrupted by two screaming little girls, being chased by Jace, furiously rattling the rattles the old man had cut off and given him.
The old man snatched the rattles out of Jace’s hand as he went by. “That’s enough boy. You don’t use these to scare people.”
Jace pouted, “We wuz playin’, Papa.”
“Not a play toy, Jace. Mine now.” The old man shook his head as Jace ran to Jesse crying. She talked quietly with him for a minute, then swatted his butt, and sent him to bed. The old man dropped the rattles on the table and contemplated them for a minute, then smiled as Jesse and Felicia sat down after finishing the dishes.
He picked them up and shook them. “Funny story. Many years ago, back when Bucky was still a kid, he was my trainee down on the border. We were down between Esperanza and old Fort Quitman, on old Raoul Gonzales place.”
Aaron asked, “Bucky, as in DEA supervisor Grant?”
The old man laughed. “One and the same, except he was a wet behind the ears kid, fresh out of college. Anyway, old Raoul occasionally gave us ‘tips’ on people smuggling mary jane across the border.”
“Dope, marijuana primarily. It used to be called mary jane. Since Raoul’s cousin farmed the land across the river, I think the only time Raoul called us was when his cousin didn’t get the right bribe. Anyway, we had cueing, and we had a pretty good idea of which arroyo they would use to cross on the American side. There were three of us from DEA, a trooper, and two old boys from Hudspeth County. Now, one of them was old Bear Bullis. Bear had played defensive line at A&M, and was a big ol’ boy. He went about six five, and probably two forty-five. Not fat, just big. They called him Bear, because he didn’t just have hair, that ol’ boy had a pelt. He had a big ol’ black beard, out to about here,” holding his hands about six inches away from his face.
“Now y’all are too young to remember, but there used to be these wind-up toys, a pair of teeth, that chattered. I’d killed a good sized rattler early that week, and one of the agents had a pair of those wind up teeth on his desk. Now knowing we were going to be working this stop at night, I grabbed those teeth off his desk, and some electric tape I had in my truck.”
Jesse put her head in her hands, trying to muffle the laughs as Felicia looked on with her head cocked. Matt and Aaron were both shaking their heads and smiling, as the old man continued, “So this coyote was pretty good. He never showed himself during the daylight, so we didn’t either. We parked up on 192 in a grove of trees and sat there till the sun was going down. Now I knew where the arroyo was, and it was about ten feet deep at the north end. I knew there was another one that basically paralleled it about ten yards away on one side, and another about fifteen yards way on the other side that were just about six feet deep, with shallower sides. Then there was a six or seven foot high little hump, fifty, maybe seventy-five feet away to the west. I had Bucky carrying one of those God awful heavy early infrared scopes, and as soon as it got dark, I had him go hide on the back side of the little hump, just low enough that he could barely see the crossing.”
The took a sip of coffee and rattled the rattle. “Now these, I taped to the teeth.”
Felicia put her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide, as Matt and Aaron broke out in guffaws. “Then I crawled over into that arroyo right where the trail narrowed to come up out of it between a couple of mesquite bushes. I rigged the wound up teeth in the mesquite bush, set a trip wire, and skedaddled back to the arroyo we were hiding in.”
Jesse just looked at him. “No wonder you were hated, Papa,” she said with a smile.
He chuckled again, and said, “So we sit quiet until Bucky comes on the radio and says they’re crossing and heading for the arroyo. As soon as the last one, and there were nine of them was in, he called on the radio and we all climbed out of our arroyos and lined both sides of the target. Now it was pitch black, and I’d briefed everybody to not do anything until they heard the rattles.”
“Oh shit,” Aaron said with a laugh.
The old man grinned evilly. “That was later, but yes. Anyway, we all had those big old lanterns with the six volt battery for power. So we hear the rattles go off, and cussing in Spanish. And we light them up.” He took a sip of coffee and smiled. “And two of them tried to run. What I didn’t know was Bear had decided to plug the far end of the arroyo.”
Matt and Aaron were smiling and chuckling as he said, “Now those two runners got about twenty feet and ran slap into Bear. They screamed, he roared and grabbed both of them. Now I’m not going to say he knocked heads, but they were both unconscious with knots on their heads by the time it was all over. We got a hundred sixty kilos of high grade marijuana and nine smugglers that night. Had to wait six hours for transport, and the coyote and one of the smugglers went down for ten years. Another one admitted they were hired by the Gulf Cartel, and were being paid a hundred green to make the trip. The irony was, their drop point was the very grove of trees we were parked in. So we got the pickup driver too. That led us to a dealer in El Paso, and another bust of both cocaine and more marijuana, so it was a good night. All because of a little rattle…”
Felicia shook her head. “You…that…Arggghh! Men! Matt, it is time for us to take our children home.”
They all got up, and the old man smiled as he said, “Yep, I’m a mean old man, Felicia. But I’m on the good guys side.”
She looked at him ruefully, the laughed softly as she nodded. “Good night, Señor John. I am glad you are on our side.”