This Week’s Issue: People from all walks of life come to Faded Glory Farm to relax. Unfortunately, Clifford Abernathy from Atlanta, was not expecting such a “relaxing” visit. Sometimes our dreams can intrude on our reality. He will be missed.
Darkness was falling quickly, and the outside temperature was plunging as Clifford Abernathy pushed back from his antique roll-top desk and prepared to close up his small tobacco shop on Courtland Street. Thelma was preparing liver, bacon, and onions – his favorite – for dinner this evening, and Clifford wasn’t about to be late for this meal. He quickly emptied his cash register and crammed it’s contents into his well-worn canvas bag for his trip home, making sure to leave the cash drawer open to discourage burglaries after hours.
Clifford shut off the lights, punched his “away code” into his security alarm, pulled on his coat, grabbed his keys and exited the main entrance as his alarm system beeped menacingly – heralding his swift departure. He smiled as he left “Tobacco Road” and began the two block walk to his car; it had been a good day! His new line of imported pipe tobacco was really beginning to take off.
As he crossed Trinity Avenue, he heard someone cough and saw three shadows materialize out of the semi-darkness behind him. With only one half a block to go, Cliff immediately began to walk faster and hugged the small canvas bag closer to his chest as he hastily navigated the cracked, uneven cement sidewalk beneath his feet.
Suddenly, he could hear the shuffle of running feet immediately behind him, and even Clifford was street-wise enough to realize that an attack was imminent. He stopped and turned to face three dark figures who were closing on him quickly. As the lead assailant exploded into full view, he could see the large wooden bat in his attacker’s right hand . . .
In the pitch darkness of suite #6, Thelma Abernathy recognized the scream and moved quickly to turn on the bedside light and wake Clifford from his latest nightmare. This night, however, was different; in the stark glare of the bedside lamp, her husband Clifford was now motionless — his lips still frozen in the grimace of a fearful cry. But, it was Thelma’s blood-curdling scream that brought Isabel and several of our guests to the door of her bedroom. Clifford Abernathy was, indeed, already dead.
Being awakened at 2:30 a.m. in the morning isn’t my idea of Nirvana, but the actual scream didn’t wake me up. I must have slept right through it. When I finally did shake myself awake, I was surrounded by activity. Sheriff Kenny Payne had just arrived, and the Fannin County Coroner was already on his way – somewhere between Mineral Bluff and the Inn.
I guess Sheriff Kenny has seen enough deceased folks in his career to realize that Mr. Abernathy wasn’t going to wake up anytime soon, and he ‘called off’ the Fannin County Rescue Squad before they could awaken all of the eastern end of Fannin County with their flashing lights and sirens.
Believe it or not, several of our guests slept through the entire drama, or, at least, they faked it so that they wouldn’t have to come to grips with the fact that some folks actually die while enjoying a great vacation.
Isabel gently guided Thelma Abernathy downstairs to a comfortable chair in the common area, and she sat quietly and handed Thelma tissues while trying to determine what she could say to ease her grief.
Isabel was able to learn that Thelma and Clifford, both in their late 50s, were celebrating their 28th wedding anniversary at the Inn over that weekend. Thelma told the coroner that Clifford had a long history of heart disease and had been fitted for a pacemaker almost ten years earlier. She also related the fact that Clifford is known to wake up frequently at night with recurring nightmares going all the way back to his childhood, and that he was currently being medicated for severe anxiety. Thelma had thought that a short vacation away from his business might “help him recharge his batteries.”
Sheriff Payne regarded Clifford’s cause of death to be from natural causes, and suggested to Fannin’s Coroner, Paula Postele, that she sign off on the death certificate citing “death by natural causes.” Sheriff Kenny reasoned that if Abernathy’s cardiologist wanted to probe further into the cause of death, he was welcome to initiate an autopsy down in Dekalb County at a future date. Paula Postele, a political appointee having no medical experience beyond that of being an ex-EMT, was relieved to have this decision made for her, and she signed off on the death certificate without further ado.
Isabel was beside herself with worry. Because she had never experienced a situation like this before as an innkeeper, she was deeply conflicted as to handling this event in regard to current guests, future guests, public relations and the like. Without Micah present to help Isabel through this situation, Sheriff Payne sat down with her and helped her over the hurdles that she perceived to be ahead of her.
Kenny explained that if all else failed, the Sheriff’s Department would find someone from a local church who would volunteer to drive Mrs. Abernathy home if no existing family member could be located to do so. As it turned out, one of the Abernathy’s daughters living in Canton drove up with her husband before dawn and took Thelma and her car back to Atlanta.
Paula Postele, Fannin’s Coroner, made arrangements with a local funeral home for transport of Clifford’s remains to a funeral home in Dekalb County near the Abernathy’s home.
Thankfully, the ‘transport’ was carried out before 6 a.m. when the majority of the Inn’s guests would begin stirring. Of course, word spread quickly throughout the Inn, and the breakfast room buzzed with facts and speculation until almost noon on Sunday.
Even though there was no physical evidence of Clifford’s passing remaining in Suite #6. Isabel brought Pauline and Rita in to ‘deep clean’ the room, and she swiftly replaced the box spring and mattress as well. Sheriff Kenny was quick to remind Isabel that these actions, although laudable, were indeed, not necessary. However, they made Isabel feel much better in her own mind about the tragedy. That’s just Isabel being – Isabel.
The incident was mentioned briefly in the local paper, but like most things, the event didn’t linger long in peoples’ memories. In this day and age, people come and go, and unless they are famous, notorious, or politically incorrect, they are usually forgotten in an instant.
That being said, I’m certainly not superstitious, but I think that it will be a long while before I again wander into Suite #6.