A nicely dressed young man walked into the Sheriff's office. Mary Lou asked,"Good morning, how can I help you?"
"My name is Frederick Barker. I am, or was, the nephew of the Reverend and Mrs. John Barker. I just learned that my Uncle died under questionable circumstances, their home burned, and my Aunt is missing. Do you know anything about this?"
"Let me get the Sheriff for you."
Mary Lou called the Sheriff, he immediately came out of his office, and introduced himself. The young man introduced himself and asked his questions. The sheriff invited him back to his office. After they were seated, the Sheriff started,"First of all, son, your Aunt is not missing, she is in a hospital in Montgomery."
"Is she sick? Was she injured in the fire?"
"No. We are not sure exactly what happened to her. Since your Uncle died she has never been quiet the same. She may have had a nervous breakdown. Dr. Magill, our doctor here who treated her, can answer those questions for you and get you all the contact information for the hospital in Montgomery."
"Well, that is a relief. What about her estate?"
"Her estate? She is in the hospital, she is not deceased."
"But, if she has had a nervous break down, then someone needs to take care of her affairs. I am her only relative, therefore I assume it will be me."
"That may be, but she has not been deemed legally incompetent that I know about. I think she can still take care of her own affairs."
"Well, no offense Sheriff, but as her only relative, I think that decision should be up to me. Can you tell me how I can get in touch with this Dr. Magill."
The Sheriff wrote down Mercer's phone number and address on a sheet of paper and handed it to the young man. "Also, do you know anything about her assets?" Frederick asked.
"Assets? The house was a complete loss. I'm afraid she lost everything in the fire."
"No, not those assets, her financial assets - you know investments, stocks, bank accounts?"
"Son, I would have no way of knowing about that."
Frederick stood up thanked the Sheriff for his help. The Sheriff shook his hand and told him if he could help in any way, please call. Frederick left.
As soon as he was out of the door, the Sheriff called Mike, gave him a short version of Frederick Barker's visit, and asked him to see where he went. Mike said he was on it. Then the Sheriff called Mercer and told him about the visitor. "I just found it a little suspect."
"Well, first let me tell you, I spoke with the hospital this morning and the Widow Barker is doing extremely well. She is no longer despondent and is acting more normal. The doctors feel she can be released in a day or two," said Mercer.
"Hum," said the Sheriff thoughtfully."Do you know anything about her having any significant financial assets?"
"No, but then that is something that would have nothing to do with my care of her."
"Well, just out of curiosity, how are her medical bills being paid?"
"The Baptist Church Convention takes care of the widows and orphans of their ministers as well as any disabled ministers unable to work anymore. The bills are going straight to the Convention."
Meanwhile young Frederick was walking into the law firm of Marlboro, Winston, McGregor, and Sweeny. Mike had watched him enter the law firm from a bench across the street. Frederick approached the receptionist's desk, "I need an attorney."
The receptionist called Mr. Sweeney who came out to lobby and introduced himself to Fredrick. They went back to Luther's office. Frederick explained his situation. "I need to be appointed her Power of Attorney so I can take care of her and manage her affairs."
"Has your Aunt requested this?"
"Not yet", he hesitated. "In fact, I'm not sure she can. She may have been deemed incompetent by the state. In that case, it is my understanding she would have to have a legal guardian. Since I am her only living relative, that responsibility would fall on me."
Luther thought for a moment. "When was the last time you saw her?"
Without thinking Frederick said,"It has been years."
"So you are not close."
"Oh, we are very close."
"But you haven't seen each other in years?" Luther continued. "Were you here for your Uncle's funeral?"
"No, no one told me about it. And I was grief stricken to have missed it."
"So your Aunt, whom you are 'very' close to, did not notify her only relative that his Uncle had died and give him the details of the funeral arrangements?"
"I move a lot, I guess she did not have my newest address." Frederick was losing patience. "Mr. Sweeney, all this is irrelevant. I am here now to care for my Aunt and her affairs. Can you please assist me with this?"
"Well, the first thing we will need is a signed, notarized statement from her doctor stating her mental ability - is she of sound and free mind or is she deemed incompetent? If she is of free mind, then we will need a notarized statement from her appointing you as her Power of Attorney, should that be her wish."
Luther paused and took a long look at the young man sitting before him.
"If she has been deemed incompetent, then we will need to petition the state for your appointment as her guardian."
"And how long will this take?"
"If she is of sound mind, just a matter of days to get the paperwork signed, notarized, and filed. If she incompetent, perhaps several weeks."
"Weeks, I don't have weeks. I mean she doesn't need to go that long with someone to take care of her."
"Well, from what I understand, she is in a very safe place and is being well cared for. So whatever the diagnosis is, she is OK for now. We have time."
Luther stood up, "Give Lucy, my paralegal, your email address and phone number. I can either get her to send you the appropriate forms and directions and you can go to Montgomery and see what the situation is yourself. Or, if you want, I can go and get it settled for you."
"Oh, that will not be necessary. If you can give me the papers, I can handle this."
"OK, let me get you to Lucy. It was nice meeting you. As soon as you find out what the situation is, let me know, and we will proceed from there. Remember, if you need any assistance from me, please call."
Luther took him to Lucy's desk, introduced them, told Lucy what he needed her to do, shook hands with Frederick, and returned to his office.
Mike was in an unmarked car ready to follow Frederick when he left the law firm. He had located the only rental car in town and made a guess that that was the car Frederick was driving. From where he sat he could he see the entrance to the law firm and the rental car. Sure enough Mr. Barker got into the rental car and drove off. Mike followed a ways behind.
Back at his desk, Luther reflected on the past 10 minutes or so. This young man was a curious sort. Due to attorney client privilege, he could not discuss this with anyone but Luther could work his ways to see what he could find out. He found this fishy at best.
Meanwhile the Sheriff kept thinking about Reeza's prediction, the Knight of Cups, and the prodigal son returning after a long estrangement and the evil he brings with him. He called Dr. Magill. "Mercer, I have a sneaking suspicion about this mystery nephew from nowhere and the Widow Barker. Can you call the hospital in Montgomery and give them a head's up that he is coming and that we have no verification that he is indeed who he says he is. And that the Widow never told us about a nephew. I'll fill you in later."
It was then that the Sheriff saw a plain envelope sitting on his desk. There were no words on it, only the pencil etching of one eye - as if staring at him. He opened the envelope and a Tarot card fell out - "What the Hell?"
By this time Mary Lou was in his office."Sir, what is going on. You do not seem happy."
The Sheriff held up the Tarot card so Mary Lou could see it. "Do you know what this is?"
"A Tarot card?"
"Yes, it's a Tarot card." He said impatiently. "Was Reeza here today?"
"Have you been here all day?"
"Yes sir, I haven't left my desk - even to go to the ladies room."
"I think I'm loosing it now."
Mary Lou looked at the card and went to her desk. In a minute or two, she returned. "That is the '3 of Wands', the card representing somebody missing."
Mercer called Montgomery and made sure the Widow's doctors understood the situation as soon as he ended his conversation with the Sheriff. They assured Mercer they would stay of top of the situation, after all they had dealt with these family messes and the law many times.
Sure enough, 2 and a half hours later, Mike called the Sheriff to let him know they were driving into the entrance of the hospital in Montgomery. The Sheriff told Mike to watch the car and Fredrick. If he entered the hospital, wait about 30 minutes. If there was no sign of him leaving, Mike should just come back to Gallagher. The Doctors had been alerted and could take it from there.
Just to cover his bases, Mike waited 45 minutes. From where he sat, he could see the hospital entrance and Frederick's car. There was no sign of Frederick at either. Mike returned to Gallagher.
An hour or so later, Mercer received a phone call from the doctor in Montgomery. "Mrs. Barker is gone."
"Gone, as dismissed, released from the hospital?"
"No, gone - as in missing. We cannot locate her anywhere. The patients' ID wrist bands also have micro chips that act as tracking devices for cases just like this. We found her wrist band in a trash can in the hall. We checked with all our security people and looked over all the video feeds from the almost 100 cameras we have here - and there was nothing."
"Did you see her nephew?"
"No, we never did."
"That's funny because we followed him to the hospital and saw him enter it."
"We have called the authorities and will keep you abreast of the situation."
"Thanks for letting me know. I'll call our Sheriff and tell him." They rang off.
Mercer called the Sheriff, "You won't believe this, but the Widow Barker is missing again - vanished into thin. She was able to get through all the hospital security systems, was not even captured on any of the 100's of camera's they have in the hospital and around the campus."
"Damn, damn, damn!" said the Sheriff. They discussed the situation some more and rang off. The Sheriff just looked at the Tarot card sitting on his desk.