Handiwork Ch. 05

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This is a work of fiction and any resemblance by any character or situation to any actual person or event is purely coincidental. All characters presented in this narrative are over the age of 18.

Chapter Five

My hunch on the gold Nissan proved right. Eason Masters told me the guy was a small-time hood named Farley Houton who had a string of misdemeanor and felonies going back to the early 1990s when he was in his early twenties. He’d done a year in Tennessee’s Fort Pillow prison for a burglary and selling stolen property conviction in 1998. Before that, he’d served probation and a few months in regional jails in both Tennessee and Mississippi for misdemeanor and minor felony convictions.

“Candace didn’t hire him, so he’s not targeting you,” Masters told me. Houton’s rap sheet, his lowbrow tactics and his continuing underworld made his work inadmissible in court. The only lawyers who would touch him were already just one step away from disbarment, and they would try to get incriminating, illegally obtained video to blackmail an adversarial client into a settlement. Mostly, Houton just dealt with other lowlifes looking to shake someone down, particularly in divorces.

“You know Kimberly Rainey?” Masters asked me. I paused a moment as images of her beautiful nakedness silhouetted in the soft light of her backyard flashed through my brain.

“Sure. She and her husband Roger lived next to me for the past seven years until she kicked his worthless ass out several months ago. He attacked her and she got a restraining order against him and filed for divorce,” I said.

“Uh huh,” Masters said. “How well do you know her, Gordon? Are the two of you sexually involved?”

Oh shit. The question I dreaded.

“I haven’t touched her,” I said truthfully. “But we have seen each other naked from a distance.” I explained that each time, we had been either in our own houses or in our separate, heavily secluded backyards tens of feet from each other at all times.

“Well, I hope he hasn’t been able to get you on camera,” Masters said.

Houton was an unlicensed snoop — essentially a peeping tom for profit — who operated out of his car, all cash, nothing in writing. His base of operations was a sleazy truckstop just off Interstate 22 near Byhalia, Mississippi, and the seedy titty bars near the airport in Memphis. That’s where he met Roger Rainey’s worthless ass and convinced him he could get dirt on Kim. He knew just enough about tech and gadgetry to be dangerous to himself and others. He borrowed from his career as a burglar to jimmy locks, break into homes or businesses and hide tiny wireless, battery-operated video cameras that he would try to link up to a router in his car. That wasn’t sustainable long-term because it tended to drain a car battery, so he would look for unsecured wi-fi routers in the home of his victim or a house nextdoor to establish a fulltime portal onto the Internet bahis siteleri that would allow him to monitor the cameras anywhere anytime.

“Gordon, there’s real risk here to you and Kim. This Houton is under investigation right now by police in all three states, but also by the FBI because he’s part of a major stolen property fencing operation active across all three state lines. While he’s watching Kim, they’re watching him. They don’t think he’s gotten inside Kim’s house yet, but they’re pretty sure he’s got a camera hidden in a potted plant on her deck aimed at a hot tub and another one just monitoring her front door.”

I swallowed hard. I told him that Kim sometimes likes to get into her hot tub naked at night after a long day, so if the camera was running last night, he probably got a pretty good show, I told him.

“Damn, Gordo. Y’all got to be careful, man. Please tell me you’re not in any of those videos,” he said.

“No, as I said, I stay in my own yard, but I could hear her clear over on my deck,” I said.

“Here’s the most important part, and you’ve got to follow what I tell you to the letter. I know you’re dying to warn Kim right now, but you can’t breathe a word of this to her or you could get you, me and my sources in some serious trouble with the feds. You’ve got to keep doing just as you have — keep your distance from her, don’t do anything to spook Houton and interfere with these investigations,” he said.

“Got it, Eason,” I said. “I hope nothing bad happens to Kim.”

“Well, the best chance for both of you getting out of this undamaged is to keep your mouth shut and let her go about life until whenever the task force springs the trap on Houton. Most likely, they’re going to catch him trying to actually break and enter and use the state charge and a long state prison stay as a habitual offender to turn him as an informant for the feds to break up the multi-state ring and put its leaders in prison.”


“Once they take him into custody, the FBI will seize everything he’s got and they’ll be able to tell how much exposure, if any, you had to his illegal surveillance. That’s what we want because it means he will never have access to any of those files and can’t sell them. The cops believe that besides his black bag work, he’s bugged several hotel rooms with hidden cams and sold videos of unsuspecting people having sex to porn sites. That’s why it’s vial for you but particularly for Kim not to tip Houton’s hand.”

We hung up and I was filled with anger, fear and dread. What if something goes wrong and this video gets out? It could destroy Kim’s life. How long before law enforcement sprung this trap? Would it make the papers when they did, and would Kim be named?

Then it occurred to me that all my concerns and fears centered around Kim. I was desperate that no harm come to her. Every instinct wanted to go take her out of there and protect her, safe from the disgusting, criminal canlı bahis siteleri voyeurism of Farley Houton underwritten by her pathetic ex, Roger.

Holy shit, Gordo, you’re falling in love with Kim. A defining moment of clarity and realization that was at once reassuring and unsettling. Much as I didn’t want to be out there, here I am, assurances to my two grown daughters notwithstanding. Didn’t matter that I had never kissed her, never exchanged a glancing touch beyond taking from a hand a cold beer she was offering. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Outside, the squeak of her Lexus unlocking, her closing its door, starting the engine and driving away for another long day of women in labor. She drove right by the dingy gold Nissan with who knows what sort of technology concealed inside working against her interests.

Two hours later, I was on a Zoom conference call with one of my regional business clients when I heard voices in my back yard. I excused myself and looked out my home office rear window to see two men in jeans and wearing black windbreakers with the bright, yellow letters FBI stenciled on the back. The younger of the two cleared the four-foot fence from into the Rainey’s back yard like an Olympic high-hurdler and didn’t miss a step as he pulled a handgun and shouted at something in the Leyland Cypress trees on the other side of Kim’s property.

“Hands, motherfucker, hands! Let me see them or I end you,” the athletic FBI agent screamed as he trained his semiautomatic pistol at a commotion in the foliage. A man with long, greasy hair and dirty, blue coveralls emerged from the evergreen boughs as more men in black fatigues and baseball caps converged on the opposite corner of Kim’s back yard, all of them with weapons drawn.

Following the officer’s instructions, the man lowered himself face-down onto Kim’s thick grass and put his hands behind his head. One of the men with TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) emblazoned on his Kevlar vest yanked both of the man’s hands behind his back and cuffed them together at the wrists before helping him to his feet.

I scurried back to my desk, positioned myself back in front of the laptop cam and apologized to my clients, told them that there appeared to be some emergency in the neighborhood, that a cop was knocking on my door. We agreed to resume the call later in the afternoon.

I answered the door and a FBI special agent and a technician showed me their credentials. I welcomed them inside. They explained that they had reason to believe that someone was attempting to use my wireless local area network to commit a crime, that I was not in any way a suspect, but asked if I could provide them the password to access my wireless router. I found it, the tech quickly typed it in and ran some sort of script that sent lines of code cascading down the screen of his tablet.

“He’s been trying for at least a week go get in, Bill, but he hasn’t made canlı bahis it,” the tech told the senior agent, then turned to me. “Be thankful you’ve got a really strong password, Mr. Tierney. If he had gotten in, we’d have to seize your router and all your attached devices.”

“Thanks, Turk,” the agent said. “Mr. Tierney, it’s important that you not discuss what just happened. It could mess up an undercover federal and state investigation and subject you to possible obstruction of justice charges. Your neighbors will certainly see some commotion and they’ll gossip. Just tell them the cops chased some random vandalism suspect into your neighbor’s yard and arrested him.”

I assured him my full cooperation and gave him my business card with the invitation to call me if I could help further. Then I asked him if this guy was connected to the faded gold car that had been lurking in the neighborhood. The agent grinned.

“I can’t discuss details of the case, but I can assure you that the vehicle you referenced will not be a problem for you or your neighbors going forward,” he said.

“Was that guy trying to break into the house next door when y’all caught him?” I said.

Agent Bill eyed me warily. “Sir, do you have any information about this case?”

“No, other than I saw from my home office window that y’all found him hiding in those evergreens in Kim’s back yard.”

“Mr. Tierney, we will tell Mrs. Rainey what she needs to know when she needs to know it. You and she will both be under the government’s protection should the need arise if that is a concern to you. But again, I repeat in strongest terms, do not discuss what we just told you. OK?”

“OK,” I said, shaking his hand. “I wish you success.”

“Thank you. Good day, Mr. Tierney,” he said.

Remarkably, for all the commotion behind Kim’s and my house, there was almost nothing to be seen out front. The stringy-haired man in the dirty, blue coveralls was put in an unmarked gray Chevy Impala and driven away — no lights, no sirens, nothing. There were no police cruisers or black government SUVs visible on the street. Behind Kim’s house, evidence technicians could be seen on and around the deck taking measurements, photos and fingerprints. But out front, the agents just seemed to disperse inconspicuously into the neighborhood, some getting into random cars that seemed to casually stop and pick them up.

Kim had made a short day of it, arriving back home in the early afternoon. By that time, everyone had left, and evidence of the morning’s commotion was gone. She saw me standing in my driveway and I could see as she approached she was terrified and trembling.

“Gordo, what the fuck is going on?”

I opened my arms and she walked into them, as though to hide herself in me.

“I can’t say anything, Kimmy, but I hope you’ll believe me that the best thing that could have happened for both of us happened here this morning,” I said as I hugged her reassuringly. “You trust me on that?”

She silently sobbed and nodded; her face pressed hard against my chest. It was the first time I had ever embraced her, and as I did, I felt the warmth a tear soak through my golf shirt.

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