Without turning on any light in the dark jail, Tacher would quietly pass by the 25 or so inmates in Housing Unit Number Four on his way to the four individual cells in the back. There he'd find the inmate with her finger on the button, a tall, darkly pretty Colombian named Dina Mora. And Tacher would remain quietly with Mora, an accused heroin trafficker, for half an hour or more.
This daily Pavlovian routine didn't go unnoticed. Other jail deputies knew Tacher was letting down his guard with Mora, and a couple of inmates claimed they saw Tacher letting down his pants with Mora, too. Tacher and Mora have denied those allegations. (For Tacher to admit it, he'd be confessing to a third-degree felony.) True or not, everyone living or working in Housing Unit Number Four knew something was going on between the two, especially when Mora would sit in front of the control room window and make eyes at Tacher. All day long they'd stare lovingly at each other, occasionally sighing or giggling.
It was like they were falling in love.
Some of the deputies suspected that Mora was using Tacher, a simple case of a femme fatale exercising her sexual power for jail favors. She could definitely play that part. Mora is 25 years younger than the aging Tacher, who is heading into his late fifties and was recuperating from his third divorce when the relationship began. Maybe he was making one last stab at youth.
But that didn't make sense, either. Tacher was a veteran deputy with 15 years of solid service under his belt, a respected professional whose work had been commended many times. So why would he so carelessly and openly romance a suspected criminal who, if convicted, was facing up to 25 years in prison? Why would he risk his career, his $40,000 salary, his reputation?
The answer is simple.
"I'm in love with Dina," explains Tacher. "Nobody can content me like she does. I don't know why. There is something in her that has been able to reach inside to a place in me that no one else has ever been. She fulfills me."
But that kind of fulfillment, of course, isn't allowed in Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) jails, or in any other jail in America for that matter. Such relationships can only lead to security breaches, breakdowns of authority, and ultimately chaos, says Lt. Col. Patrick Tighe, the director of BSO's Department of Detention. Tighe sums it up: "You just can't have that going on between the keepers and the kept."
So when rumors started going around about Tacher and Mora, investigations followed. Tacher didn't wait to get fired. Instead he resigned, declared his love for Mora to BSO investigators, and said he and Mora planned to marry and retire to Costa Rica. Then he made a bold request: Would it be OK if the jail chaplain would marry them inside the jail?
Tighe unceremoniously denied that request and made it quite clear to Tacher that he'd never be wed inside a Broward County jail. At least not on Tighe's watch.
But much to Tighe's chagrin, love found a way. How Tacher managed to marry Mora is a small and incredible part of an unlikely love story that somehow still endures. The ending, though, has yet to be written. Mora remains in jail, where she's been for more than two years, unable to post a $500,000 bond. And if the heroin case goes against Mora, that Costa Rican dream might be deferred for a very long time.
"We knew from the beginning what we were up against," Tacher says. "It takes its toll, but we're trying to keep our spirits high. And I tell her I will love her pase lo que pase."
Pase lo que pase. No matter what happens.
Al Tacher's orange hues are slowly turning to gray: His carrot-color hair is retreating and going salty; ashes seem to be mixing with the orange color of his freckled skin. He used to guard prisoners, now he guards his own youth. Dressed casually in jeans, pink golf shirt, and leather loafers without socks, Tacher is the picture of a man standing on the cusp between middle and old age, and his footing isn't quite what it used to be.
Tacher, whose almost Asian-looking eyes peer over his large, blunt nose, was born in Cuba 56 years ago. At age 17 Tacher went to New York to get away from Fidel Castro, and there he started working menial jobs. He learned English and took computer courses, which gave him entrée to better jobs. At 20 years of age, he had a "mistake" marriage that lasted only three months. He soon married again, and that one lasted 20 years and produced three children. At age 29 he brought his family to Florida when he took a data-processing job in a bank. When the bank went out of business, Tacher went after his dream job: law enforcement. "It just always appealed to me, the human nature of it," says Tacher, who has a deep voice and easy manner. "I guess I looked at it like, if I was a police officer, there is always going to be a victim that will need my help." On October 31, 1983, BSO hired him at age 40 as a rookie jail deputy, and Tacher speaks of that day as if it were the first one of his life.