Ghost Marina on the Mississippi

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Chapter 22 – Swapping Notes, Opening the Safe – Modern Day

Jason did indeed accept David’s kind offer and left the jewelry in his safe hands while they looked forward to hearing any news from Raymons’ successors. On the way back to Jason’s boat Chuck suggested they retrieve the safe and they could go onto the pub and have lunch there and await the others. The safe wasn’t so heavy that Jason couldn’t carry it a little way, but the thought of walking up the incline for about half of a mile to the pub with it in his arms may be a bit of a stretch, so he suggested driving up there. But Chuck wouldn’t hear of it, instead, he walked down to the dock and returned with a beat-up dolly to save Jason’s exertions. When they arrived at the pub, Jason carried the safe into the bar and placed it carefully on the counter, while Chuck wheeled the dolly around to the back of the building to where the deliveries came in. As soon as Jason walked into the bar, Dexter began pouring drinks, one for Jason and one for Chuck, who had yet to enter. No sooner had Jason set the box down, Dexter produced the two beers and began scrutinizing the safe, paying close attention to the lock. From under the bar, Dexter then produced a neatly folded black cloth package tied up with a black ribbon. He untied the ribbon and opened-up the cloth to reveal an assortment of locksmith tools, including a penlight. He also produced a small hammer and with one deft swing he knocked the lock covering to one side. He then took the small flashlight and shone it into the keyhole while he squinted his eyes in order to get a good look at the mechanism inside. Then, Dexter, selected one of the picks and began probing the inside, while still aiming his penlight in the keyhole.

“Not surprisingly, it’s a bit rusty in there,” Dexter said although he didn’t look perturbed. Once more, Dexter reached underneath the bar and came up with a small can of WD40 with the small red tube attached to its nozzle. He gave a liberal spray into the lock then left it to let the solution work its magic.

“Do you think you can crack it?” Chuck asked as he walked up to the bar.

“Absolutely, but don’t you want to wait for the others to arrive before we open it?” Dexter asked, looking at Jason for an answer. “We can let that spray soak for a little while.”

“Sure, we’ll have some lunch while we wait,” Jason replied. Jason ordered a burger and fries while Chuck settled for fish and chips. By the time their food arrived the other pair of the investigative team had arrived.

“Whoa lookee here!” Archie said as he spotted the safe at the end of the bar.

“Leave it be Archie, we’re going to open it after lunch,” Dexter warned as he began pouring beers for the newcomers.

“No, I wasn’t going to touch it,” Archie said as he did that routine with his glasses. “No sir, leave that to the experts,” Archie said quietly as he walked to a vacant seat at the bar, without taking his eyes off the object of their discussion.

“What did you find out about the jewelry?” Bill asked as he climbed onto a bar-stool. Jason and Chuck explained what David had told them about the history of the pieces but when they told the others the value, their mouths physically dropped open.

“See, I told you they were worth a bit.” Dexter said, “I’ve been around too many safe-openings to know value when I see it. Bet you’ll get three-quarters of a mil for them.”

“I doubt it, they’re not mine,” Jason replied dejectedly.

“Why not, ‘finders keepers’ rule applies here, they’re yours,” Dexter said confidently.

“Nah, I think I have to go through due diligence to find the original owner, or in this case the person’s estate before I can even think about taking the money.” Jason replied, “anyway, not so worried about the money I just want to get to the bottom of this, sorry, poor choice of words under the circumstances.”

“So, did you get to meet up with Rusty?” Chuck asked in between a mouthful of fish, trying to change the subject.

“Sure did,” Bill replied, “he says hi.”

“Good, how’s he doing?” Chuck asked.

“Looks great, doesn’t he Bill? Still building radios.” Archie chimed in.

“So, what did you learn about the radio?” Chuck asked, again, trying to change the subject, Jason stopped eating and Dexter was fully attentive.

“Strangest thing, Rusty said that this type of radio never went commercial, well not in this form, it was basically the forerunner for CB radio,” Bill replied, taking the radio out of his jacket pocket to give back to Jason.

“Well, what do you know?” Dexter said, turning the object over and over.

“According to Rusty the system was called the Joan-Eleanor system, it didn’t come into operation until 1944 and was not de-classified until 1976,” Bill added.

“The Joan-Eleanor system?” Dexter added surprisingly, “was it named after Roosevelt’s wife?”

“Close,” Archie replied. “Rusty said it was named after the inventor’s wife, Eleanor Goddard, the inventor was Alfred Gross.”

“I’ve heard of him, he grew up in Cleveland,” Jason interjected before Archie continued. “Well, it used frequencies much higher than the Germans or Japanese could pick-up at that time, so it was mainly used by agents in the field. They would talk to planes flying overhead to communicate.”

“That’s right,” Bill said, “but here’s the thing, Rusty figured if your grandfather had one of these onboard in May’44 he was probably one of the first people to ever be using the system, so he must have been doing something so clandestine that the authorities didn’t want anyone to know about it.”

“Wow, no wonder your grandfather didn’t want me to set foot on board his boat!” Chuck exclaimed, “it all makes sense now.”

“Well, I’m glad it makes sense to you because I’m as confused as all get out.” Jason said, then continued, “what possible earth-shattering operation could my grandfather have been caught up in? He was just an ordinary seaman.”

“Well that’s what we have to find out,” Dexter said calmly and patted Jason sympathetically on the arm. “Maybe this little baby may help us,” Dexter added as he walked to the end of the bar, picked up the safe and brought it to where the four men were sitting.

“Before I start to open this safe, I just want to warn you,” Dexter said, “although this is a military grade, waterproof, fireproof safe, after being in the water for as long as this one has, the contents may have suffered. We should expect the worst but hope for the best.” The others nodded their heads in agreement, not that there was anything else they could do but to acquiesce to Dexter’s comment. Jason noted that Dexter’s wife, Helen, had now entered the bar and was pulling pints and seeing to the other customers. Helen was a typical no-nonsense lady you would expect to see behind a bar. She was also a tall, blonde, buxom, attractive lady but actually had a heart of gold.

Dexter selected a couple of tools from his collection of instruments and began probing inside the lock. At one point he had four of the instruments sticking out of the lock like some metal form of acupuncture. It didn’t take long before there was an audible click and the lid of the safe jumped a fraction. Dexter removed the probes from the lock, turned the safe around to face Jason and held out his hand to invite him to open the lid. He looked first at Dexter, then to the others, placed a hand on both sides of the safe and slowly lifted the lid.

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