We pulled up to the Meckler estate security gate, told the guard who we were and were immediately passed through. As we were about to drive on, the security guard on duty stopped me and said simply, “I don’t believe your grandfather would steal a handful of potting soil much less a bag of cash. Something ain’t right, Miss Wallace,” and waved us through.
“My God,” I thought as I drove up the long driveway, “they’re accusing Grandpa of stealing a bag of cash?”
“Mom,” said Jackie, who I had completely forgotten about in the back seat with Benny, “quite frankly I think that is one of the most absurd stories I have ever heard, Great Granddad making off with a bag of cash. That wouldn’t even make a good skit for Saturday Night Live.”
I told you she was precocious. My response of course was, “What do you know about Saturday Night Live?”
She never got the chance to answer because we were met by a Sheriff’s Deputy, but a different one than Deputy Agnes Keeler. How did I know, you ask? Well, this deputy was about sixty pounds overweight, slow, slouchy and … male.
“Miss Wallace?” he asked. To which he received a “Yes,” from me, a “Yes,” from Jackie and no response at all from Benny.
It was amusing to watch his confusion but I had no time to waste. “Where is my grandfather, Arthur Wallace?” I asked in my most lawyer like voice.
“If you’ll park here, Miss Wallace, I’ll take you and… and… eh… Miss Wallace to him. He’s in the back with my boss, Deputy Chief Inspector, Agnes Keeler.” And he led the way around the rather enormous house.
There was my eighty-six year old grandfather in his gardener’s uniform of plaid shirt, overalls work boots and straw hat, sitting on a fieldstone wall his hands cuffed behind him.
Standing to one side was the officer I assumed to be Deputy Keeler; to her left was a plumpish woman of about fifty-five and in front of my Granddad was an even more plumpish…no make that a fat guy, in his late fifties or early sixties, screaming at Granddad, “Where is it? Where did you hide my money, where is it? Tell me now and it will be better for you, old man. Maybe you’ll get out of prison before you die. Tell me now old man.”
This crude slug just kept screaming these or similar words at my grandfather over and over.
I looked at him, looked at the deputy then turned to my grandfather and said quietly, “Don’t say a word; I trust you haven’t said anything.”
He nodded indicating he had not, then added “Except to tell the rather emotional Mr. Meckler here that I have no idea what he is talking about.”
“Good! Deputy Keeler, can you tell me what is going on here and what my grandfather is being charged with and finally, why an eighty-six year old man is in handcuffs?”
Deputy Keeler stepped away from the plumpish woman to a more neutral position, turned to me and said, “I’m Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Inspector Agnes Keeler, would you please identify yourself.”
“I’m Ruth Wallace, granddaughter of the man in handcuffs, Mr. Arthur Wallace and this is my daughter and Mr. Wallace’s great granddaughter, Jacqueline Wallace.” Catching her looking with a smile at the black Lab being held on a short leash by Jackie I added, “And the black Lab is my daughter’s puppy, Benny.”
“Thank you for getting here so quickly, Ms. Wallace,” said Deputy Keeler. “This is Mr. Ira Meckler,” she said, indicating the fat loud mouth yelling at Gramps, “and this is his wife, Kathy Meckler,” she said nodding to the plump woman who seemed to be cringing in embarrassment at her husband’s demeanor.
“Now to answer your questions,” she continued, “Mr. Meckler has leveled a formal charge of felony/burglary against Mr. Arthur Wallace and in so doing, I must follow required protocol. That calls for accused felons to be restrained to prevent their causing harm to themselves or others.
“The formal charge Mr. Meckler…” at this point Meckler began shouting, “I’ll show the old man who will do harm to whom, if he doesn’t tell me where he hid my fifty-thousand bucks.”
“Ira, please…,” said Mrs. Meckler, obviously disturbed at her husband threatening an eighty-six year old man with his hands cuffed behind his back.
“Mr. Meckler,” interrupted Deputy Keeler, “if you continue to threaten Mr. Wallace I will have to cuff you also.”
I’d had enough of this charade, it was time for me to get to the bottom of this Meckler guy’s claims.
“Mr. Meckler, just what is it that my grandfather is supposed to have stolen?”
“None of your business, you can wait for the District Attorney to indict the old crook to find out. I don’t have to tell you a thing. And who the hell are you to be asking…”
But he never got a chance to finish, suddenly Mrs. Meckler, stepped towards me. “I’ll tell you the whole story, Ms. Wallace. I, for one, do not believe your grandfather stole my husband’s fifty-thousand dollars…”
This time it was Mrs. Meckler that was interrupted, but far more violently. Mr. Meckler swung his arm and hit Mrs. Meckler on her shoulder with the back of his hand, simultaneously screaming, “You shut your mouth, Kathy, before I shut it for you. What, are you in cahoots with this old crook to steal my money?”
Ira Meckler never knew what hit him. Deputy Keeler, all one hundred twenty or so pounds of her, kicked Meckler behind his right knee which resulted in Ira collapsing to the ground and falling forward on his face in the grass.
“Now you stay there and be quiet, Mr. Meckler, until Mrs. Meckler is finished telling Ms. Wallace the whole story. Quite frankly I’m interested in hearing the whole story from someone other than you.” Afterwards we will determine if Mrs. Meckler wants to bring charges against you for assault. Go ahead, Mrs. Meckler, continue.”
“Wow,” I thought, “this is turning into quite the circus.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Meckler, “it all began last night. Ira came home about 9:30 clutching a small blue canvas satchel under his arm. I asked if he wanted something to eat and all he wanted was a beer. I got him the beer, which he drank, never letting go of the blue satchel.
“We watched TV for about an hour, saying very little, all the while Ira clutched this blue satchel as if his life depended on it.
“At about 10:45 we went up to bed and when Ira got in his pajamas and into bed, there it was the blue satchel and Ira still hanging onto it for dear life.
“I finally asked him what was with the satchel and what was in it that was so important that he intended to sleep with it. ‘Fifty-thousand bucks cash, now shut up and go to sleep,’ he answered.
“As I obediently shut up and turned on my side I thought to myself, ‘what is Ira doing with fifty-thousand bucks cash?’
“The next morning Ira got up and, as was his daily routine when the weather was good, he took a cup of coffee and the morning paper went down to the pool to read. This morning he also took the satchel, clutched close to him.
“After about an hour I went to check on him and he had taken off his windbreaker and had fallen asleep. The windbreaker lay on the ground next to the chaise lounge, but the little blue satchel was nowhere in sight. Mr. Wallace had not yet arrived.
“About twenty minutes later, I heard Ira burst into the kitchen screaming ‘where is it, where’s my money. Kathy, what did you do with my money, where is it?’ He just kept stomping around screaming that over and over.
“At about the same time Mr. Wallace drove up the drive in his pick-up. He parked on the side near the gardening shed and had no sooner stepped out of the pickup when Ira came running at him screaming, ‘you took it, you stole my money you miserable old crook,’ and Ira started pulling everything out of Mr. Wallace’s truck.
“When he didn’t find what he was looking for, he came storming into the house and called the Sheriff’s office.
“During the half hour we waited for Sheriff Keeler to arrive, Ira grabbed old Mr. Wallace and began searching him. All the time poor Mr. Wallace kept saying, ‘Mr. Meckler, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just got here and I know nothing of any money’.
“Ira just kept screaming and when Deputy Keeler arrived he argued that Mr. Wallace stole a satchel with fifty-thousand dollars cash in it and insisted that Deputy Keeler arrest him.
“Sheriff Keeler argued with Ira for about twenty minutes, pointing out that an investigation should be conducted before anyone was arrested. Ira said he was the injured party, he had been robbed by Mr. Wallace and he wanted him arrested and carted off to jail.
“Deputy Keeler pointed out if Ira was wrong, he would be open to major litigation and it was a bad idea to make such an absolute accusation without substantiation. She advised against it.
“Ira would hear nothing of it, so Deputy Keeler had no choice but to read Mr. Wallace his rights and put handcuffs on him. Mr. Wallace asked Deputy Keeler to please call you before they left for the Sheriff’s office and jail. That’s the story, Ms. Wallace, you know the rest.”
Halfway through the tale, Jackie, with Benny in tow, moved closer and closer to Mr. Meckler. As they got next to him, Jackie whispered something into Benny’s ear. The puppy black Labrador looked at Jackie and I’d swear he smiled and nodded. Jackie let out the leash enough for Benny to get right next to Mr. Meckler and sniff all around him which resulted in a lot of shouting and cursing from Mr. Meckler.
Benny moved back to Jackie who in one flowing movement unclipped the leash from Benny’s collar.
Benny made straight for the pool area which prompted Mr. Meckler to shout, “If he jumps into my pool, you’re paying to empty it and clean it of dog hair.”
This prompted Deputy Keeler to point out, not too gently, that if he opened his mouth again he was going into the Sheriff’s car.
Benny ran like a shot as only a Lab puppy can. We all watched in silence as he nuzzled away Mr. Meckler’s windbreaker, which lay next to the chaise lounge. Grabbing a blue satchel from under it, in his teeth, Benny raced back to Jackie dropping the satchel at her feet.
The assembled group reacted.
Deputy Keeler said, “I’ll take that; it is evidence in any number of offenses, but obviously not its theft by Mr. Wallace.”
Jackie, hugging Benny said, “Good boy, Benny, good, good dog,” and gave him a treat from the pocket of her jacket.
Grandpa Wallace simply laughed as Deputy Keeler undid the handcuffs.
…and I, with a bit of a tear in my eye, could only say, “Benny, oh Benny.”