Chapter 23 – Safe Contents – Modern Day
Amazingly, it appeared to Jason that the contents of the safe were still bone dry. On top was a log-book of some kind, he took that out and placed it to the left of the safe as he began to rummage through the remainder of the contents. There were two envelopes, one marked ’Ray’, the other ’Tony’. Jason emptied the contents of the envelope marked ’Ray’ onto the bar. A few old photographs fell out of the packet, most of the photos Jason had seen before from his father’s collection, but there were one or two of his grandmother that were new to him.
“She was a beautiful woman,” Chuck said, leaning in to view the contents.
There were also a couple of old letters from his grandmother that he would probably read later, at his leisure, but for now, he wanted to continue foraging through the contents of the safe, to see if they could uncover any new information. Jason placed all the items back into the envelope marked ’Ray’ and placed it on top of the log-book. Jason now turned his attention to the envelope marked ‘Tony’ and repeated the emptying of the packet. There were no letters in Tony’s collection, just a few photographs of what could have been a sibling and a portrait of what they thought must be Tony with his parents.
That just left one final object in the safe, another, slightly larger envelope. This envelope had no writing on it, Jason tipped the contents onto the bar. What fell out was a bundle of U.S. notes of various dominations all wrapped in an elastic band, which broke as the wad hit the counter.
“Jesus, there’s got to be at least $2000 there!” Archie shouted. At that commotion, just about everyone in the pub looked across in an attempt to see what was going on at the bar.
“Jeez Archie, keep it down, will you?” Chuck reprimanded his friend.
“Sorry guys,” Archie said, now whispering, “but that would have been worth at least twenty-five grand in today’s money.”
“They’re old notes though,” Jason said.
“Doesn’t matter, still legal tender,” Dexter said. “U.S. notes, no matter how old are still legal.”
“Really?” Jason said.
“Not only that, some of them may be collector pieces, they look in mint condition, you need to have them checked out,” Dexter added.
“But this doesn’t really tell us anything does it?” Jason said, a little disappointed. “I was hoping there would be more here but that’s it, we’re stymied once again.”
“What about the log-book? Anything in there that might help?” Bill asked. Jason placed all the artifacts, except the log-book back into the safe and closed the lid. He placed the log-book on top of the safe’s lid and gingerly lifted open the brittle hard-cover. On the inside cover was written a list of the two men on board the vessel:
Captain: Ray Clifford
Crew: Tony Lawless
Jason then quietly read the first item in the log to the other men:
5/1/44 - Mystery man gave us money, charts, and a boat, we are to meet him in St. Louis. Also supplied a radio to be used only in an emergency or when we arrive at St. L.
5/2/44 – Leaving Clinch River, now on Tennessee
“Where in hell’s name is the Clinch River?” Jason looked up and asked.
“Tennessee,” Chuck answered almost instantaneously.
“Where specifically?” Jason asked.
“Not far from Knoxville,” Chuck replied casually. Jason took out his phone and using his maps app. he keyed in Clinch River and there indeed was Knoxville, not far from the river. That made perfect sense considering, by all accounts, that was where his grandfather was flown to. Jason continued to carefully flip through the pages of the log, it certainly represented a roundabout route to arrive at St. Louis. There were the references to planes overhead and his grandfather even noted his disappointment in not allowing a young lad onboard the boat, which brought a nostalgic smile to Chuck. Then, there was the final entry where the mystery man was mentioned again when they noticed the oil coming from the bottom of the boat and that was the last entry.
So, the five men in the bar were indeed stymied, where does their investigation go from there? It all seemed an innocent trip, according to the log, nothing untoward happened on the journey, but who was the mystery man? He was only mentioned at the beginning of the log and at the end, he’s the man who holds the key to the puzzle. The only thing was to go to the authorities with the information they have and the proof of the bodies in the marina. They would either open a new inquiry or another veil of secrecy would descend on their facts to continue the cover-up. None of them said anything for a while until Chuck had a thought.
“Read that last item in the log again, please Jason,” Chuck said. Jason went to the last page in the log and quoted:
“05/20/44 – MM shone a light underneath the boat, frwd, thin line of oil leaking down, guess engine shot, looks like our journey is over.”
“MM?” Dexter asked.
“Mystery Man, I suppose, he didn’t want to write it out in full, so he just used initials,” Jason suggested.
“But that’s not what’s bothering me,” Chuck said to no one in particular. “What possible reason could there be for oil leaking out from the front of the boat?”