Handiwork Ch. 06

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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 Six

I wish I had more information for the trembling, frightened woman whose only shelter at such a fearful time was in my arms. What little I knew I was forbidden from sharing with her under pain of criminal prosecution. I could only tell her to trust me. So what I offered her was a chest to lean against, a place to cry.

Right after Agent Bill had left my house, I had called Eason Masters to let him know how uncannily prescient he had been. He said he knew it wouldn’t be long before the task force swooped in on Houton but was shocked it happened so fast. I asked him what I should do, and he repeated what the agent said: keep my mouth shut.

I asked him what would happen to Kim, and he told me to urge her to do what I had just done: contact her lawyer and let him interact with the authorities. This was a very sensitive matter and one of the few safe channels for communication was the privilege that exists between attorneys and their clients.

He told me he’d check with his contacts in the U.S. attorney’s office and the District Attorney’s office to see if I had any legal exposure from today’s events and to find out what, if anything, Houton had given up in terms of evidence that might influence my divorce proceedings. Kim should ask her attorney to do the same. But as frustrating as it might be, it could be days before there was any development from Houton’s arrest today that might answer the questions that had turned Kim’s life upside down right now.

“Kimmy, let’s go somewhere so we can talk. Can I get you some water, a Coke, cranberry juice?” She nodded and I put my arm around her as I led her into my front door. If comforting a traumatized neighbor after a life-changing event turns my divorce litigation on its ear, so be it.

She sat on my sofa wiping her eyes trying to make sense of the past couple of hours since she was told while in a delivery room helping a woman who was about to give birth that an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation needed to speak to her just down the hall.

“I told the orderly to tell him I was in the middle of a difficult delivery, we were a nurse short, and I couldn’t abandon my patient, so I’d get to him as soon as possible. So I finally get out there still in my mask and gown and he’s all pissy because he had to wait half an hour. He tells me there’s been an ‘incident’ at my house and that a person was arrested, quote, ‘in or on my premises.'” Kim said, stopping for a sip of water.

“So I ask him what that means: was this person inside my house, was it my ex, did this person take anything, Beylikdüzü Escort should I be worried?” she says. “The agent tells me that it’s part of a broader investigation and he can’t talk about it, but that I’ll probably have to go down to talk to some task force, to be interviewed. Finally I ask him if I am a suspect and if I could go to jail and he says I’m not but that that evidence material to this investigation was removed from my property. He won’t say what it was, where they found it, whether it was from inside the house or what. It makes you feel violated to be told something like that.”

“Then he tells me that I can’t talk about anything I was just told — and he didn’t tell me shit! — with anybody except the investigators, so I don’t know what to do,” she said, her voice quavering again. “For all I know I could go to jail for what I just told you.”

“I’m scared shitless, Gordo, and I got no place to turn, I’m even scared to go back in my house,” she said as she buried her face in her hands and wept.

I sat on the sofa beside her, put one arm around her shoulders and held her close while I smoothed her hair with the other.

“I know it’s hard to believe right now but you’re going to be fine,” I said barely above a whisper. “And you do have someplace to turn. It’s where you are right now, with me. You’re safe here.”

She leaned into me and remained there for as long she needed to cry out all her fear and pain and uncertainty and loss — loss of her sense of security and confidence.

Gone was the brassy, sassy sex goddess and mistress of her domain from our prior, distanced libidinous pursuits. Here was a vulnerable young woman, fifteen years my junior, looking for someone who could help her face what lay ahead.

“I know you’re not looking just for soothing words, Kim, so I do have one concrete recommendation for an action you can and should take: call your lawyer. Tell him what happened today …,” Kim interrupted me.

“Her,” she said. “My lawyer’s a woman.”

“Shame on me: her. Tell her what happened today, everything you were told by the FBI or anyone else in law enforcement. What you tell your lawyer is legally protected from disclosure and you can’t be prosecuted for it because of attorney-client privilege,” I told her. “She needs to know, both because of how this affects your divorce case, and so she can guide you on how to deal with the cops and protect yourself.”

“Your lawyer can act as your go-between with the government and take all that worry off of you. She is also more likely than you are to learn from the prosecutors what’s going on with the guy they arrested. And I’d call her right now. That’s what my lawyer advised me to tell you,” I said.

Kim looked at me hopefully and wiped her Beylikdüzü Escort Bayan still-wet cheeks.

“Sorry to be such a hot mess right now, but thank you, Gordon,” she said. “Since this is my first time in your house, could you show me where the restroom is and, if you don’t mind, can you get my phone out of the center console of my car? Here’s the fob to unlock it.”

I showed Kim up to my home office and shut the door where she could sit and make notes if necessary as she talked privately with Serena Wilkinson, her lawyer. The conversation lasted about an hour, and it was nearly five in the afternoon before she came back downstairs. She managed a smile.

“She doesn’t think I have anything to worry about, but won’t know for sure for a few days until she can reach out to the cops and prosecutors and see where things stand for sure,” Kim said. “She was shocked at what happened and wonders if this was some lowlife Roger hired to bug my house, but what’s throwing her is why the feds are involved.”

I smiled at Kim and nodded. She picked up on it.

“OK, what do you know, Gordo. What aren’t you telling me,” she said.

“Kim, I don’t know anything for sure, and I can’t say anything for a couple of powerful legal reasons, but I can tell you this: what happened today, what’s happening right now, it’s scary and it’s not something anyone would choose to go through, but considering how things could have gone, this is all in our favor — for you and me. Trust me.”

Kim wasn’t good at the whole trust thing. Years ago, when Candace and I sipped beer around her fire pit with Kim and Roger, Kim told us about growing up poor, in a rundown “white trash” section of Covington, Tennessee, less than an hour north of Memphis.

Her dad was a truck driver who died in a fiery crash just before she turned two. Her mother suffered a mental breakdown, and Kim was entrusted to the care of her paternal grandmother when she was just seven. She wore second-hand and hand-me-downs and got free lunches through middle school, but consistently was among the top students. A fever when she was nine left her unable to have her own children. Then, when she was 13, her grandmother died of cancer and she became a ward of the state, living with four foster families before graduating as the class of 1995 salutatorian. She earned a full academic scholarship to a community college in Memphis where her first-year 4.0-plus GPA qualified her for a full-ride at the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Because of the unfair hand fate illness had dealt her, she chose obstetrics as her specialty: if she couldn’t bear children, she would devote her working life to bringing others’ babies into the world. She has become the supervising Escort Beylikdüzü nurse in the obstetrics department of the tri-state region’s dominant hospital.

Now, sitting outside beside me on my deck as we watched the sky darken from blue to pink to purple to indigo, she was tender, honest, sweet and sad.

“I’ve been a big girl since I was a little girl. I had to be. I didn’t get to be a kid. I grew up fast and learned how to take care of myself even faster, so what the world sees is the bad-ass, self-assured, unsinkable woman named Kim. I wear that like a shield,” she said. Then she turned and looked at me directly.

“What you saw tonight was the scared little girl, Kimberly, who I buried, way down here,” she said, her palm patting her chest, her chin quivering. “It’s been a long time since anybody cared about or looked out for Kimberly. You did that tonight, Gordo. And you will never know how much that means to me.”

We sat for a moment in silence.

“Guess I got to go back inside my house sooner or later and and see what they’ve done. Mind walking with me?” she said.

She found her key and we walked to her front door. She turned the key, cautiously pushed open the door, flipped on the lights and looked around. Nothing seemed out of place except a few books that had been removed from a shelf and stacked on a dining room table. Residue of what looked like black graphite powder smudged the cabinet where the books had been removed.

“They dusted for fingerprints there,” I told her.

She walked down the first-floor hallway to the master bedroom where she found more evidence of dark dust to one side of her television and still more on top of a dresser where a vase had sat.

“Dear God, was this creep watching me sleep?” she muttered.

We went upstairs, through the guest suite and another room and found nothing amiss. Then we went back downstairs and out the French doors and saw where quite a bit had been rearranged and more evidence of dark powder on a series of steel shelves used to store outdoor seat cushions and keep grilling utensils in the summers. It was perhaps 10 steps from Kim’s hot tub. A sick look overcame her.

“Last night? Did he see? Please, no …” she said. “Who else has seen it? Oh …”

“Kim we don’t know ’til we know. It could be that they caught him in the act of planting these devices. And if he did capture anything, the feds will get it and lock it down and it will never see the light of day,” I said. “Either way, you’ve overcome worse.”

She turned and locked her arms tightly around my chest.

“You promise, Gordo? Will you promise me?” she said, again the shaken Kimberly.

“Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work with the law,” I said. “And outside of each other, the law’s the best we have right now. But the part I can and do promise you is that you’ve got me here with you, Kim. I’m not abandoning you.”

I ran my arms reassuringly up and down the tense muscles of her back coiled just under her blue hospital scrubs.

“I’m holding you to that, Gordo,” she said. Then she looked up and softly kissed my lips.

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