I got back to County Seat late on a Sunday night. Just in time to start a new week. I was pretty well rested, since all I had been doing was watching the perimeter a few hours a day for the last week. I also watched a lot of TV news. The country was going to hell in a hand basket, but someone or some group always thought that way. I did have to admit that the country had changed, but that is what happens in a democracy, one man one vote. All you have to do is make enough people depend on the government. Then you get a self perpetuating government in control. When you get that far down the road to socialism you have European style governments. Governments that tell the Dependant masses what to do in order to keep their dependency lifestyle in tact. Then one day you have Greece.
When I got back to County seat, I found enough things to keep me busy and ways to stay off the government’s radar. Or at least activities that did not make them suspicious. On my return I found my crazy landlady was even more crazy, or maybe she wasn’t. She said to me the morning of the first full day back, “Sylvia, if that cable man damaged anything, you are going to pay for it,” then she slammed her door in my face.
I had only checked to see that my bike and trike were in place the night before then fell into bed. Since my crazy landlady mentioned a cable man around my apartment, one I hadn’t called, I decided a more thorough examination of the place was in order.
I knew I probably should call in an expert, but the only ones I knew could well be the ones bugging me. It was possible that Swamp thing had lost faith in me. I took a look at the cable TV and the telephone lines coming into the house. Inside the phone box was a device which had no apparent reason to be there. I had been paranoid even before the old lady’s outburst. Because I was a little paranoid I recognized the device as the most common type RF transmitter. It would pickup wireless microphones or cameras, then transmit the signal to a remote location. It was only a temporary device, since it’s range was less than a mile.
I decided to leave it in place. So I left my bicycle and uncovered the motor trike. I climbed on to it and rode through the downtown. I continued on until I got to the plaza. At the Plaza I went into the Walmart wearing my baseball cap and sunglasses disguise. I bought a couple of new burn phones, then I activated them. I also bought a vacuum cleaner before I left. I had to tie it on the trike, but It wasn’t hard to do.
I rode the trike back to the downtown. “Hi there Mary Ellen,” I said once I was inside her boutique and upscale antique store. “Come on out let me show you my new trike sear.”
“Sure, “ She said following me outside. “So whats going on?”
“Are you all paid up on your taxes from the movie industry?” I said.
“Hell, I don’t know, why?” she asked.
My landlady said some stranger was hanging around outside my house. I don’t think it was about my time with you, but just keep an eye out anyway. This is my new number just in case they tapped my phone. I gave her the newly activated number on one of the phones. I had bought one for her just in case but she appeared not to have noticed anything so I chose not to alert her just in case.
The reason I had chosen the trike for my trip to the plaza was it goes only twenty five miles and hour. If anyone tailed it, they would stand out like a sore thumb in traffic. No one seemed to have been following me. So it seemed as thought I had only passive surveillance. Something someone did who thought I might be a problem, but didn’t want to run a full time hardcore surveillance.
When I left Mary Ellen’s boutique and high end antique store, I went home and checked to see what all had been disturbed. I would bet my ass the place had been searched. If so, they no doubt found several minor things, but probably not my bug out money because it wasn’t in the apartment. I moved it around from time to time. I did that because the classic story about gray money. It was about the fellow who had a hundred grand in the spare tire of his old truck. He had an accident in the truck, while he was in the hospital the insurance company paid off his wife, who knew nothing of the money, and then after a string of hand changes, the truck bearing the cash got crushed.
Other gray money items have been delivered to Goodwill by spouses over the years. Some of the finds even made the Internet news services, but since the gifts are anonymous the stories ended with the new owner of a piece of art or fancy jewelry. I made sure mine didn’t stay in one place too long.
So it looked as though I might need to move faster than I had planned. It was February first and I had already missed two jewelry making classes. I had to be realistic in my plans to move. If it was swamp thing, they just wanted to be sure I hadn’t lost it and decided to tell the cops everything. If it was some kind of cop, I needed to keep them in the dark.
I didn’t need to use the phone to call Swamp Thing, they had a code when they wanted to get in touch with me. They sent me a spam on the computer. I was probably the only one who opened spam that had no subject line. Well the truth is, I only opened it, if the sender was named Lucy Martin. When I got that message, I went to a secure phone and called them.
So a move would take care of the bugs. In the meantime, if anyone showed up to discuss business, which hardly ever happened, I would turn on the vacuum cleaner. The best damn low tech bug jammer ever made. Well the best that could be used in court. Any jury would have a reasonable doubt about me trying to jam the bug. Any bug in the would get only the white noise of the vacuum. Sure they knew you were onto them, but they couldn’t prove a thing in court.
I planned to move anyway so finding a new place to live moved to the top of my list of things to do. Otherwise I was going to continue my life as usual, but keep the bug out kit close. It was true that the money was the number one thing in the kit, but it also held fake IDs.
“So you are looking for a house?” the Realtor asked.
“Yes, I most definitely am,” I replied. “There is no urgency, but if the right one comes along I’m all in for it.”
“You know I offer a mortgage application service as well as just plain Realty,” she said.
“Yes Lori, that’s why I am here rather than with someone else,” I replied.
“Good then you want mind me asking what kind of payment you can afford,” she almost demanded of me.
“Well, I would be comfortable with four hundred a month,” I said.
“You are kidding. I realize the Real Estate market in County Seat and Warren county is depressed, but four hundred a month will get you a mobile home and a small one at that,” Lori said with a laugh.”
“Well to be honest, if my sideline business goes down the tube, it is all I can afford comfortably,” I said. It really wasn’t. I had almost no other expenses. The pension was fifteen hundred so I could have squeezed out eight hundred maybe, but I wasn’t comfortable with it. And I couldn’t use the gray money for any of it. “So if that won’t work, I would have to rethink the whole thing.”
“Well you do that and let me know what you come up with. But a nice two bedroom house in town is going to run at least eight hundred. Out side of town, maybe six hundred in this market would do it. But trust me a mobile home on land is all you would get for four hundred.
With all that in mind, I put off making a decision till after I finished the jewelry course at least. While I was finishing up there I was also running the storage scam, We would actually have turned a small profit from the storage lockers, but now and then we would have taken a loss. There was no income coming in form the illegal business and only losses over all, on the conversion to legit money, I made a another decision, I was going out of the whiskey business on the scale I was involved presently. If I cut back to my two best customers, I could probably do enough business to stock pile enough cash to wash half of it easily, and use the other half for cash purchases that needed no explanations.
With that in mind when the jewelry course ended, I signed up for a course in jewelry appraisals. I wanted to know what the costume jewelry in the storage units was worth. The course was actually an ongoing newsletter rather than a specific course of study. It was also a set of CDs with examples of good costume jewelry. I found that I could look up the pieces, I didn’t know about. The newsletter taught me the rule to guessing the value of an unknown piece of costume jewelry. It more or less seemed to be construction materials, weight, and artistic flair that gave it value. With my new found knowledge of how to test material and a guild to gems, I had a basic knowledge. Certainly enough to cut down on the missed opportunities. I wasn’t planning to go legit or anything, but I thought I might could use the money laundry to actually make money, if I knew enough.
It was May when I read the article on line about ‘tiny houses’. I had been living for four months in the bugged apartment by that time.The ‘tiny houses’ were mostly in big cities and they were always in unconventional places and built with unconventional materials. The best advice from the builders was, step one: read the zoning laws.
The first thing I learned was Warren county had no zoning laws, but County Seat did. In County Seat’s residential areas, a house had to have 900 square feet or more, and had to be built on side. That prevented mobile homes in the residential areas. I decided that I would have to move into the county to build what I had in mind.
I had to go before the county commissioners to get a variance, but it was just a formality. As I expected, when I showed up with plans, drawings, and precedence, the commissioners folded easily and approved it. Of course it was conditional upon me getting all the usual inspections. So according to the county commissioners, I could build my house anywhere I wanted except in County Seat Zoning areas.
Next morning I called Lori the Realtor back. “Lori this is Sylvia Porter. I would like you to find me a lot outside the city’s zoning area but close by. Something with county water and sewer available. I would like no less than an acre and not in any development.”
“Well hello to you too. I wasn’t sure I would ever hear from you again. I will check my files and get back to you.” Lori said.
“Fine, I look forward to hearing from you,” I said. It had taken me over two months but I was ready to start moving ahead with the plan.