Like a Boy Scout, I’m always prepared. Or at least I try to be. After all, I’m forty years old and have been in charge of at least fifteen Thanksgiving celebrations to date. I’m certainly not lacking in Thanksgiving expertise. But how can you prepare for an attempted robbery, a smackdown undertaken by an old lady, and interviews with police — all in one day. Especially when that day is Thanksgiving. But that was what my husband and I faced yesterday in our home. And it wasn’t pretty. Not at all.
My late father’s favorite saying was “Ya never know.” Bingo! It sure applied to yesterday’s happenings.
“Anna,” I told myself this morning, “Thanksgiving won’t be coming around for another year. So just forget about yesterday and relax.” Ha! Easier said than done.
I just can’t help reviewing it in my mind………..
With only ten of us making up yesterday’s party, my husband Matt and I were expecting a nice relaxing day. Our condo apartment in Bronxville wasn’t huge, but it was plenty big enough for this size gathering. We had a good group of guests: my 90-year-old grandmother Katie, “sprung” for the day from her “assisted living” prison (her words, not mine), my sister Rebecca, her hubby Bob, and their 11-year-old twin sons (Rob and Evan). Completing the party were our neighbors Jackson and Janet, accompanied by Charlotte, their teenaged daughter. Charlotte is a little nerdy but very nice.
We enjoyed our drinks and appetizers in the living room. Looking back on it, that turned out to be just the most peaceful part of the day. When we drifted into the dining room to eat, I asked Charlotte to lead us in prayer, because she always chooses the short but effective Grace Before Meals, “Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts……..,” a prayer we traditionalists love. I’ve found from experience that, as far as Grace goes, some like to improvise and wander at great length from the script. It gets boring, especially when the turkey and all the goodies await, and the guests are starving. Charlotte quickly did her “thing,” we unbowed our heads, and started yakking as we passed around the plates of turkey and all the trimmings.
After about twenty minutes an insistent buzzing at the front door startled us all. We laughed at my sister Rebecca’s reaction, fresh out of Dorothy Parker‘s playbook: “What fresh hell is this?
But looking back on it now, maybe we shouldn’t have laughed. Perhaps Rebecca could see into the future?
I went to the the door and there was Henry, a heavyset young handyman who sometimes did odd jobs for our condo. Toolbox in hand, he said he needed access to the master bedroom for a few minutes to do an emergency radiator repair. I asked couldn’t it wait but he said no, that there was imminent danger of a leak developing that would create a problem for our downstairs neighbors. He smiled apologetically and I stepped aside to let him pass to make his way down the nearby hallway to the master bedroom.
A few minutes later Grandma said she was cold and needed to get her sweater which she had left with her coat in the master bedroom. The twins jumped up and offered to get it for her but she said no, explaining that she needed “to take her old bones for a walk.” As she walked down the hallway, I smiled to myself noting that as usual, she carried her purse. A huge black one. Grandma never left her purse behind. Like Mary and her little lamb, everywhere that Grandma went her purse was sure to go. In this instance, it turned out to be a very good thing indeed.
All of a sudden we were startled to hear a scream and the sound of running feet. Grandma shouted, “Thief, thief,” as Henry the handyman, still carrying his toolbox, ran through the dining room on his way to the front door. Before any of us could get our act together, Grandma had the situation well in hand. Showing an amazing amount of strength for her age, she flung her heavy purse at the departing back of the perp. He was so shocked he lost his footing and slid right up to the dining room table and fell forward. His face landed in the bowl of sweet potatoes at the end of the table. Splat!
And that wasn’t his only problem. His “toolbox” had burst open, its contents scattered on the dining room floor. No tools, but several wallets were in evidence. In addition to a few pieces of valuable jewelry.
When Henry struggled up from the bowl of sweet potatoes, his hair was matted with clumps of the potatoes. Mini marshmallow garnishes, like unique earrings, hung precariously from his ears.
He was wildly flailing his arms and this caused him to slip and land on the floor. He must have hurt his back, because he couldn’t get up. He was like a poster boy for that TV ad. Y’know the one: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
And thank goodness he couldn’t, since we didn’t have to deal with him as we called the police to report the crime and also to request an ambulance.
Grandma pointed at the perp with an accusing finger. “Forget radiator repair. He was grabbing the wallets from the purses in there. And valuable jewelry too.” She pointed back toward the master bedroom.
She shook her head from side to side as she glanced around the table. Then she continued. “I know what I’m talking about. Ladies should keep their purses with them at all times.” I grinned, biting my tongue to prevent myself from adding, “especially when they can serve effectively as weapons!”
The perp was unrepentant. From his spread-out position on the floor, he proclaimed his innocence. “It’s the old lady’s word against mine. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” Then he pointed at Matt and me. “And I hope you have insurance. She really hurt me with that big purse of hers. That’s a weapon of mass destruction.” There was, of course, no explanation of the wallets and jewelry in his toolbox. Talk about turning the tables!
Scary to think about, but no matter how strong the evidence, thugs often get away with their crimes these days, as long as they have good lawyers.
Matt and I looked at each other and shrugged. I had a little smile on my face. My guess is that each of us knew what the other one was thinking. That’s what happens when you’ve been married for fifteen years.
When the detectives arrived — their names were Rivera (a young, hefty woman) and Flaherty (a slender middle-aged man), Matt and I asked to be interviewed first, as we had some important info to pass along, Rivera said she would take the victim statements and Flaherty would supervise the handling of Henry the perp (who was at that point loudly demanding representation by a lawyer).
We had brought a few extra chairs into the master bedroom for interviews. We explained to the detective that our guests had used the bed as a repository for their personal effects. A gold mine for a thief like Henry.
Matt and I sat across from Detective Rivera. Wishing that our interview were over, I took a deep breath. A really deep one. “Here’s the thing, Detective,” I said. “The whole incident must have been recorded. See that lamp on the dresser over there. It just looks like a lamp. It’s actually a hidden camera.” I paused and Matt took up the narrative. “You see, we like to fool around a little once in a while and make some…uh…sex tapes. Just the two of us, just for fun,” he added, continuing, “The motion sensor must have activated the camera, so the theft must have been caught on tape.”
Detective Rivera, looking totally nonchalant, was taking notes, I remember thinking at the time that she’d heard all this kind of stuff before. Like a priest in a confessional, I guess she was unshockable. And this was probably pretty mild in comparison to what she was used to hearing.
Anyway, talk about uncomfortable, Matt and I were delighted when that interview was over. We only hoped it was all worth it and that Henry the perp would suffer some consequences of his misdeeds.
About an hour later we were all glad to see the detectives make their exit and Henry carted off in an ambulance.
Dessert time! Out came the chocolate mousse cake, the apple pie, and ice cream. Yum!
When it came time to say good-bye, we all hugged each other and promised to do it all again next year. Without the attempted robbery of course. Henry the handyman hadn’t spoiled our Thanksgiving. Oh, he put a little wrinkle in it, but that’s about it.
At the door, just before she left, to be driven back to her place by my sister, Grandma gave me an extra-tight hug, winked, and whispered in my ear, “Who would have thought my little Anna had such an exciting life?”
Was it my imagination, or were her eyes looking in the direction of the hallway and the master bedroom? Was I right when I had the feeling that someone had been listening at the door a little while ago when Matt and I were being interviewed by the police? I looked back at my grandmother. She was grinning. “You go girl,” she said. Yikes!
“Whatever you say, Grandma,” I told her. I felt myself blushing.
She clearly was the grandma who knew too much. But that’s okay.
As long as she doesn’t spill the beans. Grandmas don’t do that, do they? DO THEY???
Author Gail Farrelly grew up in The Bronx and now resides in Bronxville, NY. Having a doctorate in accounting from George Washington University, she’s taught in several universities and published numerous articles in business and academic journals. Learning about the murderous politics of academic life turned her mind to crime. The fictional kind, of course!
Her first mystery, “Beaned In Boston,” in which a lecherous professor perishes even though he was well published, was named to the Washington Irving Book Selection List. Her short story, “Even Steven,” was nominated for a Derringer Award. Gail writes spoofs for the Yonkers Tribune Webpaper, YonkersTribune.com, and for a British website, TheSpoof.com. Gail shares a Website, http://www.farrellysistersonline.com/, with her sister Rita, also a mystery writer.