By David Lee
“Do you know how many banks get robbed on a daily basis in this city? And you never hear about it. You wanna know why?”
I look at Tommy across the table. It doesn’t matter if I want to know why or not: Tommy’s gonna tell me. He’s got that look. I’ve known Tommy since sixth grade, and I’ve seen that look many times. It’s the look that says, “Don’t worry, kid, I got this all figured out.” And the hell of it is, ninety-nine percent of the time, he’s right.
“Why?” I say.
“’Cause they don’t want the publicity, that’s why. You think any sane human being would ever set foot into a bank if they knew there was a good chance it was gonna get robbed?”
I shake my head.
“That’s why it never hits the papers, Jack. The tellers won’t fight you, ‘cause it’s not their money. The rent-a-cop just wants to see his family at the end of the day, so he ain’t gonna play the hero.”
I continue to shake my head.
“When it’s all over, the bank files a claim with their insurance, and whatever’s left they sock it to their customers in those ridiculous fees they’re always charging.”
“You make it sound easy.”
“It is easy, Jack. Easy money.”
“I don’t know. What about guns and stuff. I don’t think I could live with myself if I had to shoot somebody.”
“What are we going to use? Harsh language?”
Tommy reaches under the table and pulls out what looks like a soft, greasy, gray brick, only it’s about half as wide, and it’s wrapped in a muted brown paper, all except for the very ends where the shiny gray sticks out.
“It’s modeling clay, Jack. But to the untrained eye…” Tommy fixes his gaze on me. “Say you was to get one of them fishing vests, the kind with all the pockets all over ‘em. You stuff some of this in the pockets, run a few wires here and there. Eh?” Tommy’s eyebrows go up.
His plan is beginning to crystallize in my mind. “But it’s not real,” I say, “so nobody’s gonna get hurt?”
“’Cept they don’t know that. You go in with a ski mask, a vest fulla these, and a crazed look in your eyes… Cha-ching!”
“You really think it’ll work?”
“I know it will. Easy money, Jack. Easy money.”
“What about the alarm?”
“What about it? All we have to do is ditch our vests and masks in the alley, and then find a nice quiet place to sit and wait it out. Then, when the evening rush comes along, we blend in with the crowd and head home.”
I nod. The way Tommy describes it, this could work.
The big day arrives. We picked Wednesday. Not as lucrative as a payday Friday, but we’re counting on less customer traffic in the bank, and therefore less chance of some shmoe deciding to be a hero.
Outside the door, Tommy and I take one last look at each other and pull our masks down.
“Everybody down, this is a fucking robbery!”
Tommy says we gotta swear, so that people know we’re serious. That, and look a little crazy in the eyes.
I head to the group of tellers on the left, and Tommy locks the door behind him. He’s standing between the customers and their now-cut-off exit, just like we planned. I pull back my jacket to show the ten pounds of modeling clay and fifteen feet of copper wire that I have stuffed in my vest. I don’t even have to speak, I just distribute the duffle bags and let the tellers do the rest.
Tommy’s job is a little harder. He’s shaking down the customers for any money or jewelry they might have on them. I told him I didn’t want to do it, to scare people like that—regular Joes, nice old ladies. Tommy told me some of those nice old ladies keep hundreds of dollars in their purses, and he wasn’t about to miss out on that.
“Everything out on the floor!” Tommy pulls back his jacket and displays his own fishing vest. “Wallets, purses, everything. Don’t make me ask again!”
It’s all over, faster than I expected. I toss my mask into a dumpster in the alley, thankful to be rid of the hot, itchy polyester against my skin. The fishing vest is next. Tommy does the same.
“All we gotta do now is lay low,” he says. “You done good, Jack. Real good.”
Now, we sit in the diner, an all-day breakfast kind of place, eating eggs and bacon while sipping coffee, duffel bags at our feet. Personally, I could’ve gone for a nice, juicy prime rib somewhere uptown, but Tommy says we gotta keep it real quiet, at least for a couple of weeks. “Soon as you go spendin’ big, they’re gonna find out it was you,” he said.
So I sit here and quietly, push my remaining eggs into the little puddle of hot sauce on my plate, dreaming that it’s prime rib.
“We did it, Jack,” Tommy says, grinning. “What’d I tell ya. Easy money.”
“We did it,” I say, and blow out a long sigh. I keep thinking about prime rib, and wondering if I can make it for two weeks, when I hear the muted chime of the diner’s door.
We look over and watch two men walk in wearing oversized jackets. It’s not until I see they’re also wearing ski masks that I realize what we’re in for.
“Everybody down, this is a fucking robbery!” the first one says. He’s got a crazed look in his eye.
“Purses and wallets out on the tables! Everything!” says the second one. “Don’t make me ask again.”
“How many times a day do you suppose diners get robbed, Tommy? I bet it never makes the papers. You wanna know why?”
“Shut up, Jack.”