The Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium was originally known as the 'Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds and Lunatics'. Built in the late 1800's, the Victorian era the building was a large impending stone building that once sat on several acres. The lawn around the facility was a landscaped garden, thought to have a calming effect on the patients. By the 1940's there was widespread public anxiety over such places.
A for profit entity bought it from the state and changed the name to The Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium. Very enterprising, the investors let it be known that the Sanatorium was more than just a place of relaxation and emotional care for loved ones of the well to do. They benefited from well placed rumors of the healing powers of a spring on the grounds. It was said that those who soaked in it, experienced new found youth. The sanatorium became a destination for those with money seeking the fountain of youth. All was going well, until a curious Scientist checked in under false pretenses. The Scientist claimed he was suffering from exhaustion and needed a calm place to rest and gather his nerves.
He was able to con the medical staff that he was truly suffering from this 'condition'. When the truth was he was studying the spring, its chemical makeup, and the true effects it had on the patients. He was truly amazed at the resurgence of energy and general good karma exhibited by those who took advantage of the magical powers of the springs waters. That was until he discovered that as soon as a patient started soaking in the springs waters, the medical staff added doses of super vitamins to their diets and their daily medications.
Once the truth of the springs' waters was revealed, the Sanatorium's reputation and business went from a very profitable venture to a money losing failure. For years the facility went through many iterations including an orphanage, a Flower Power Commune, and a homeless shelter until it was finally abandoned. In the 80's the state took it over and once again it became a Psychiatric hospital. The change of the government's funding for the mentally ill took its toll, the hospital was closed. Like so many other times, the building was once again abandoned. The facility however was doomed before the federal cut backs, due to the unfortunate deaths of several patients for unknown reasons.
Just 2 years ago, another for profit group bought the property from the state for almost nothing, restoring the name - The Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium. They established a Psychiatric hospital that had issues keeping qualified staff from its conception and was unable to get a decent certification from the state.
Thanks to payoffs to state officials, the facility avoided being closed. However, its status of being "on probation" kept it just weeks away from its status changing to 'on probation' to 'condemned' at anytime.
And so the large stone building sat on unkempt grounds, looming on a hill just outside of Bay Minette. Life went on in the town without much thought to the sanatorium. The patients in the sanatorium hung on in a type of purgatory cut off from the rest of the world. The patient mortality rate was high, but families were not notified for several months after a relative's demise. Even patients no longer living could continue to collect the meager state funds the sanatorium relied on.
The Sheriff and Mike discussed a plan of action. The Sheriff said he would call the law enforcement in Bay Minette and see what he could find out about the Sanatorium. Mary Lou had checked her resources and learned, sure enough, there was no nephew of the Barker's. Mike had a missing persons report put out for the Widow Barker.
The Sheriff called the church secretary and asked if she knew anything about the Barker's investments. He explained it was an emergency. The secretary gave the Sheriff the name, Merry Money Funds, the investment firm in Mobile and the account numbers. Mary Lou contacted the Merry Money Funds, and explained the situation. They said that they did have a young man, a John Dean, matching that description who had recently quit. Mary Lou was able to get this John's name, home address, and phone number. The investment firm put a hold on the accounts until further notice from the Sheriff.
The Sheriff learned he could not get access to the Sanatorium nor a list of patients without an order of the court. Unfortunately by that time it was past 5 on Friday afternoon. Of course, they were only going on a thin hunch from a line of Shakespeare that vaguely led them to the Sanatorium. Could they follow this lead based on a necromantic mystic and a Tarot card? However, luck was on their side.
Luther Sweeney called,"I have the Widow Barker's nephew in my office. Mrs. Barker has granted him her power of attorney. That being the case, I am sending him over to get whatever effects you have from the burned house."
"She appointed him?"
"I have the signed and notarized paper right here."
"Luther, are we on speaker phone?"
"No, should we be?"
"No. If I were you, I would check carefully. There is no such nephew and no one named Frederick Barker. I suspect he name of that young man in your office is John Dean. It is a long story. Did he bother to tell you that his dear Aunt is missing?"
"No....?" Luther said slowly.
"Yes, disappeared in thin air, conveniently the same time he was visiting her." The Sheriff paused,"By all means send the young man over."
He told Mary Lou and Mike what was going on. Mike asked,"How are you going to handle this Sheriff?"
"I'm going to punt and hope the Widow is still alive. Call on the Judge at home, explain the situation, the whole situation, and get him to issue us an order for us to be able to get into the Sanatorium." With that Mike was off.
Sure enough 'Frederick' was at the station in less than 10 minutes. He had his signed Power of Attorney and a haughty attitude. "Well, now that I have all of this under control, I'll just get everything and move on."
"No so fast, we will need to inventory the items and check the Power of Attorney," said the Sheriff buying time.
"The paperwork is all signed and notarized. My attorney, Mr. Sweeney, looked at it and assured me everything is in order."
Mary Lou asked,"Son, you saw your Aunt? How is she?
"She was OK, a little rattled, and I'm afraid not sane."
"Did she recognize you?"
"Oh she did. She was so happy to see me. She reached up and gave me a big hug."
"Really? How is her broken arm? It was in a cast that the doctors said would be on there for a month or two."
"Oh, much better"
"And the burns on her face?"
John Dean looked at her, then caught himself,"Oh, the burns! They are so bad, but the doctors say they are healing. She may have some scarring but they will not know for weeks."
"Oh dear," Mary Lou said referring more to his Aunt's situation more than her condition. There were no burns, no broken arm. "Well, while the Sheriff is gathering the items that were saved from the fire, can I see the Power of Attorney to make sure everything is in order?"
Just as John (aka Frederick) was handing it to her, Bunny walked in. "Good afternoon Mary Lou."
Then she saw John. "I don't want to interrupt anything. I was looking for Mike, is he here?
"No, sweetie, he has gone somewhere for the Sheriff."
"Well, do you mind if I just sit here and wait for him?"
"Of course not."
Mary Lou turned back the John. She unfolded the piece of paper. At first instance, she could see that the Widow's handwriting was a forgery. She set the paper down on her desk face up."You know, I think I have some other personal things of your Aunt's." As she opened her desk drawer, Mary Lou continued, "Whenever we get items in that I fear will get lost or ruined while being held as evidence, I keep them in here,"she rambled around in her desk, "for safe keeping," she paused, "Oh, here they are."
She pulled out notes Mrs Barker had made for her Sunday school class. As she handed them to 'Frederick' she dropped one. When she picked it up, she looked at it and at the signature on the document. They were not even close. " 'Frederick', are you sure your Aunt signed this, her handwriting doesn't match. These signatures are not even close. " Mary Lou handed to note to 'Frederick'.
"Of course she signed this," 'Frederick' said referring to the Power of Attorney. "But she didn't sign these notes. I do not know for sure who they belong to?" He looked at the note."Anyone could have written this."
"True." She reached back into her drawer. "I think I have something else," once again Mary Lou went through her desk drawer. "Oh, here is a packet of notes she wrote your Uncle. No doubt she signed these."
Mary Lou put one the notes down next to the Power of Attorney. 'Frederick's' face went pale. "These signatures do not match either,"said Mary Lou looking up at 'Fredrick'.
Quickly 'Frederick' said,"You know she is sick and naturally her signature would be different now, much weaker."
Mary Lou looked at the signatures again. "That probably would be true, except the signature on the Power of Attorney is actually stronger and much more legible. And the Notary did not emboss his signature with his official stamp."
"He said that was not necessary since the document was being used in state," said 'Fredrick' emphatically.
That was the law, Mary Lou could not argue with that.
The Sheriff walked back into the room carrying a box of the Widow's things. He saw Bunny. "What can we do for you, Miss Bunny?"
"I'm just waiting for Mike."
"Sit tight, he is on his way back here," the Sheriff said. Then he thought it was good that she was here. It never hurt to have another witness to Mary Lou's 'Interrogation'.
Just then Bunny stood up and introduced herself to the 'nephew'. "I'm not sure why you are here, but I can assure you that everyone will take good care of you."
John quickly introduced himself as Frederick, the Widow's nephew.
"Really?" Bunny asked, I was not aware she had any close relatives. "I would have thought Dr. Magill would have called you first. It is just horrible what happened to her. And, we all miss your Uncle."
John was trying not to lose patience. All he think was, 'Who was this bimbo? And why was she asking him all these questions.'
Bunny stopped, "I've seen you. You were at Smith and Wells several weeks ago buying a knife." She paused. Out of innocent curiosity she asked, "Did you find that game processor you were looking for, I finally remembered their name, Liggett's Wild Game Company."
Taking note of Bunny and John's conversation, the Sheriff walked up to Mary Lou's desk and saw the paperwork there. "Problems?"
"I'm afraid so."
The Sheriff picked up the Power of Attorney and the Widow's note to her late husband. "Son, I think we need to talk."