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Part II. - Rest in Peace

Previously: On a recent Monday morning, the usual daily routine at Faded Glory Farm has been compromised by some strange events. Homer chases a large black cat that disappears before his very eyes. Isabel's car is sitting in the shed with four flat tires, and her Sunday night's sleep is disrupted by an uninvited, nocturnal visitor. Isabel awakens to discover that her desk in the front foyer was been rifled.

Sheriff Kenny Payne's arrival at the Inn on Monday afternoon was more of a courtesy to Micah and Isabel than an official duty of his office. Certainly, no crime had occurred here, but Micah Davenport was visibly shaken by his examination of Isabel's Silver Spur. Because our front door to the Inn is rarely locked, there could be many plausible explanations for the rifling of Isabel's desk, but the deflation of all four tires on Isabel's car was nothing less than senseless and weird. Kenny couldn't come up with any theory to explain the incident, and he drove away still shaking his head.

Later, on Monday afternoon, Isabel placed a call to Ed Hightower at his bank in Hiawassee but was not able to get in contact with him until he finally called her back after 5 p.m.

"Isabel, I'm sorry to be so long getting back to you, but this place has been crawling with Diebold service technicians since 10 a.m. this morning, and they are still running around here as I speak."

"Have you been robbed? Are you all right?" Isabel asked, fearing the worst.

"No, we haven't been robbed, and yes, I'm fine," Ed replied, "but the main vault isn't doing so well. We haven't been able to get into the safe since we closed it up on Friday. The time lock isn't working, and the combination lock is not responding to the combination that we have used for the past ten years!" We had to hire an armored car to bring in cash from our sister bank in Jasper so that our tellers could function. For most of the day, we have been a bank without money!"

"Do you know who did this? Was anything taken? " asked Isabel.

"No, nothing seems to have been taken, and we don't see any evidence of an actual break-in, but the Diebold folks have never had anything like this to happen. Hopefully, we will have the vault open sometime tonight. I will probably be here very late this evening, Isabel. Once we get the vault open, we need to make sure that the saferoom and none of the safety deposit boxes have been tampered with. There are some weird things happening here."

Isabel hung up her phone with a deep sense of foreboding. Although her safety deposit box key was still safe and sound on her keychain, she couldn't help but wonder if her stash of gold coins, Ray's gold wedding band, various passports, birth certificates and family photographs might have been compromised at the bank in the last 24 hours. Isabel began to wonder if the valued keepsakes in her safety deposit box were still safe.

Isabel's fingers virtually flew as she redialed Ed's private number at the bank. After six or seven rings, Ed finally answered. "Ed, can you use some company?"

Ed hesitated; "Now?" he answered.

"Yes, now . . . I'll bring one of your favorite liverwurst sandwiches to get you through. Have you eaten?"

"Haven't had time, but I sure am hungry. Are you sure you want to come way up here at this time of day?" he countered.

"I'll be there in one hour, so be watching out for me." replied Isabel; "I think I might have something you might want to hear."

"Ed is such a workaholic," she murmured as she sliced liverwurst, "but that is another subject for another time."

Isabel arrived at the employees' entrance of Ed's bank less than an hour later.

"Sometime around 2 a.m. this morning something tripped the alarm at the bank, and I got a call from Allied Security," Ed recounted. " I headed for the office, arriving there at the same time as the Allied folks and just ahead of the Towns County Sheriff's Office. This alarm system has never 'coded out' with a false alarm since it was installed more than ten years ago," Ed elaborated, as he wolfed down his sandwich. " Strange thing is, nothing came up on our surveillance video, none of the doors were touched, there was no power loss in the area, but all of the inside motion detectors in the main office had been triggered simultaneously. Simultaneously! It's bank policy to open and inspect the vault anytime we experience an alarm "positive," and that is when we first realized that we had lost access. When we attempted to go into "system override," we were immediately denied access. That was at 2:30 a.m. this morning. As of right now, we still haven't gotten into the vault."

Scott Trevarthin, one of the Diebold techs, stuck his head into Ed's office to report "We just got a hit on the bypass code, and the door should be open in five minutes!" Five mnutes later a loud cheer was heard as the technicians acknowledged the telltale "beep" that announced the "open" status of the huge stainless-clad, concrete door. The gigantic Diebold D-4800 door was now ready to be opened . . .

Ed disappeared through his office doorway, with Isabel close behind, making a beeline for the small cluster of exhausted technicians gathered in front of the highly-polished door of the vault. Without flourish or fanfare, Ed spun the huge wheel three times counter-clockwise and, with little or no effort, guided the perfectly balanced door to it's normal open position. After careful examination, nothing appeared to be disturbed in the strong-room, and Ed was relieved when he realized that the vault had apparently remained uncompromised.

Returning with Isabel to his office, Ed noticed a small piece of notepaper lying face-down on his desk blotter. It appeared to be a piece of high quality parchment, about the size of a business card. He stooped slightly to pick it up, and as he turned it over, he was startled to see the three words written in an elegant cursive hand; "Dawson Paul Tate;" a man who had passed away forty-two years ago, in 1944, and the last of the Tate family who owned what later became Faded Glory Inn.

To be continued . . .

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