NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
The phone rang at 10:10 a.m., and I figured it was probably another robo-call, making it the third of the day, which was right on time; I average 15 such nuisance calls a day. Usually I check the origin of the call—Anaheim, Brea, Dendron (wherever that may be)—and hang up, before the seven seconds of silence ends with a dial tone.
“Private caller,” it read.
I didn’t hang up. It might be someone I knew.
“Grandpa, it’s Steve,* I’m in trouble, and I really have to talk to you. Pardon the voice. I’m fighting a cold.”
I was surprised to hear from my grandson, a college senior due to graduate next June, so early in the morning…and in trouble. “What’s wrong?”
“I want to keep this between us. Don’t get my Mom or Dad involved…. You know my friend Michael?”
“I don’t think so, why?”
“Well I was in Mike’s car this morning, and he was high and drove through a stop sign. A cop pulled us over and Mike got in argument with him, so they searched the car and found cocaine under my seat. It wasn’t mine…I didn’t know it was there, but they’ve taken us to the Burbank police station.”
I was confused, tongue-tied, slow to respond. My wife, sensing something wrong, joined me to listen in.
“What can I do, Steve?” I finally asked.
“I’ve got to go now,” he said in a rushed and hushed tone. “Here’s my public defender—he’ll fill you in.”
My wife wrote out a note for me: Doesn’t sound like Steve. That’s a Midwestern accent.
“Mr. Meyer? I’m Nicholas Keca. I’m defending Steve. As he told you, he’s innocent. He took a drug test and passed. Now we’ve got to get him out of jail. Can you post bail? It’s $5000.”
“I don’t have that kind of ready cash,” I said, feeling utterly lost. My wife scribbled me a note: Lawyer? Sounds like a bail bondsman to me.
“Have you contacted his father?” I asked.
“Steve doesn’t want to do that, as he told you. He had one call to make and you were his choice. Besides, the judge has issued a gag order. And he can’t make another call for 12 hours. That means he’ll have to spend the night in jail.”
Gag order? Denied another phone call? It didn’t make sense to me, but I’ve never been in jail and know next to nothing about jailhouse procedures. My wife wrote another note to me: He’s trying to scare you.
“I have a credit card, but I don’t know how to—”
“You can wire the money,” said Mr. Keca, “It’s very easy to do. And by law, you are guaranteed to get your money back. Here’s how you….” There followed directions for fund-transfer directions that I couldn’t begin to follow.
Before I could ask him to explain the process more slowly, in more detail, my wife slipped me another note: Get his name, company, phone number.
Good advice. “What’s your name again? Nicholas…last name?”
“How do you spell that?”
“And your phone number?”
Hesitation on the other end. “Are you asking me for it because you’re going to call me back?”
“No” came out of my mouth on its own.
What? Why? Was it all bogus? A scam?
I couldn’t be sure, and my grandson still might be in the Burbank jail for days, waiting for bail to be posted.
So I broke a confidence and phoned his dad, my son Ken, and repeated the story I’d been told by the mysterious public defender with the odd name of Keca.
I didn’t get to finish. He burst into emotional concern, cut me off, left work in a rush, and headed for the Burbank hoosegow.
About an hour later my son phoned me back, his voice teeming with relief and jollity. The Burbank police had laughed when he came to claim his son. It had even happened to one of the officer’s parents. Yes, it was an everyday scam, perpetrated mainly on the aged.
“But how did they know Steve’s name and my name and the relationship?” I asked.
My son chuckled. “Dad, this is the digital age: Facebook, Twitter…there’s any number of ways they could have figured it out. There’s no privacy anymore. You’re from a different time.”
Apparently so, based on the day’s evidence. I had been gullible. Had shown myself an easy mark. And I felt a lot older than I had the day before.
“All’s well that ends well,” the wise Bard wrote. It did for my son, who after the jailhouse stop drove directly to Steve’s apartment, woke him from sleep, and hugged him with elation.
As for me, I’m starting to feel there is no guarantee of it ending well. Without my wife’s guardianship, I’d already be dubbed the Duke of Dupedom.
*Names changed for reasons of privacy.