you were the understanding branch manager who let me make a cash withdrawal without my bank card or id (at 386 knickerbocker avenue and himrod street) – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)
*by someone who believes
ignorance can be bliss*
(frankie leone, just a man)
*he always sits by himself on a bench in the corner of the yard. i watch him with a musing curiosity.
about twenty pounds overweight. white, probably italian. full head of thick gray hair slicked back with water. his uniform always fresh and clean. rarely mixes with the rest of us. usually doesn’t speak much. always eats and smokes like a king. his commissary fund must have thousands in it.
we speak occasionally. eaten together a few times. there’s a superficial friendly rapport between us. he even laughed and smiled once, saying i reminded him of him when he was young. we usually chat about writing and movies.
he avoids every personal question i ask him so i know he’s got a story.
i want it.*
*i approach him and watch him draw the last cigarette out of a soft pack of marlboro reds. my brand too.
sitting down next to him i ask, “is that your last one?”
“yeah, didn’t get my commissary request in on time,” he answers, voice deep and scratchy.
“i could spot you until you get in your next one. i know you’re good for it.”
“what the fuck do you want kid?”
i smile. he’s smart and hard.
“yeah,” he replies drawing in a lungful of marlboro.
“yeah,” i reply.
“you’re not going to get it. tell you what though. you spot me until next week i’ll teach you something worth thousands of what you’re giving me.”
“deal,” i respond without thinking.
something tells me i might not get ripped off. i settle in to listen, resolving not to interrupt.
he starts speaking in a low relaxed voice.*
*”never run into a check-cashing place. those guys are armed to the teeth and can physically lock down a place in a second. they can trap you in a box of bulletproof glass and shoot your crew and you like fish in a barrel. hit corporate bank branches. worst you’ll have to deal with is ink bags, homing devices, and alarms.
“the key to it is not hitting the place hard, it’s to guide the flow of the cops elsewhere.
“do your research beforehand. count the squad cars of the town precinct. see how many can respond. if another town’s station is near your target scope that out too.
“don’t bother with a city bank. look for small towns. response times are slower. multiple precincts won’t respond to an alarm trip.
“get professional disguises. no rubber masks. fake beards, mustaches, wigs, costume scars, sunglasses, and hats are smart. anything that can conceal your face and confuse your identity.
“don’t leave any souvenirs for the cops. take a good hot shower before hand to get out loose skin and hair. wear a hairnet under your hat or wig. wear surgical latex gloves. unpowdered ones.
“when the time comes to approach the target, put in a 911 call about the town school. say there’s an armed intruder in there. all units will respond, and at most one car will respond to an alarm tripped at the bank. that makes it easier to blast on your way out.
“in that case if only one car comes with a single officer he won’t get out of the car until back up comes. don’t aim for the driver’s side windshield. light up the front tires of his squad car so he can’t follow your exit. most cop cars are front wheel drive. no one has to die.
“come prepared. it’s not about how big your gun is, or how flashy your mask is. that’s for amateurs. a clean fast exit is most important. get two stolen cars, make sure the plates are stolen and changed too. park one a mile from the bank. roll up with your crew in the other one. make sure to burn the second you switched into later. don’t leave any prints or hair in the first. those kind of forensics can put you away for life.
“get a small police scanner that receives all channels. one you can clip to your belt. crank it loud so you’re sure to hear if you’re getting company.
“get in there on the first of the month. the place will be fully stocked with cash money for all the people coming in with social security or social services checks.
“don’t get there at opening. armored car deliveries could be there or coming soon. the men with those are strapped and will blast like soldiers of fortune. right before the bank staff is supposed to go on lunch break is the best time.
“no one inside the bank but the manager has the key to open the teller’s cage. don’t rush in guns out. keep your pieces concealed and ask for the bank manager. once he comes out of the teller’s cage to greet you pull the pin and pull out metal. have him open the teller’s cage and go in yourself.
“never let bank staff handle money or count on them to fill bags from outside the cage. that’s a sure way to get an ink bomb or homing beacon in your cash. an ink bomb will at the very least ruin a heist. the money will be useless and the ink won’t come off your skin for months.
“don’t worry about the teller’s drawers. that’s small potatoes for amateurs. hit the central cash drawer where the tellers fill their drawers from. there’s three large drawers and no time to empty them all. hit the drawer second from the top. that usually has the largest denominations and most money.
“the vault is a different kind of operation. you need a crew of three guys inside for that, plus the given one waiting in the car. only one guy in the vault at a time. if all three of you go inside they can hit a switch that will swing the door closed and you’ll all be locked inside until s.w.a.t. comes to pick you up. make sure only the second barred gate is closed before you try for it. it’s on a timer so if the main door is closed it’s just a no-go.
“only hitting the tellers cage is usually around an 80K score. the vault is usually 300K plus.
“when having the manager open anything don’t yell at him. speak normally and assertively. if you shout his hand can shake while he’s fiddling with keys or locks. and that can cost a lot of valuable seconds. time is more precious than platinum.
“when it comes to guns, you don’t have to look like rambo, but you should make an impression. if you go with handguns make sure you bring a larger sporting model, not a compact one. like, a glock 17 instead of a glock 16, or a 1911 colt .45 automatic instead of a colt commander. if you go with shotguns or assault rifles make sure to saw off the barrels and stocks. easier to conceal and ditch.
“for ammunition go with hallow points. if you fire a warning shot, hit a body, or throw one onto a vest the cops can do ballistics much easier on a slug. you don’t want to make it easy for them to put you in a cage.
“don’t get fancy when it comes to your words. communicate what you have to when you have to. when you set things off a simple ‘get away from your desks and don’t even think of touching a smart phone. no alarms, no ink bags, no heroes. we’ll be out of here in a minute. no one hast to get hurt.’
“if you’re unlucky enough to get in a gun fight make sure to dispose of weapons properly afterward. disassemble them as much as possible. run steel wool through the barrels to change ballistics markings. dump each piece of each gun in a different place. sewer drains and off bridges are best.
“get out in under four minutes after you’ve set things off inside. three is ideal. don’t waste time. response times to robbery calls are usually under five minutes.
“the bills could be marked or the serial numbers recorded. at least some of them. you need to clean all of them. go to ac or vegas. buy eight grand in chips at a time and cash them in after the casino’s shift change. that amount won’t attract attention. don’t gamble while you’re there. that’s a way to have to hit another bank as soon as you get back.
“that’s about a packs-worth of knowledge. hope you enjoyed bank robbery one-oh-one kid.”*
*i don’t say anything for a few seconds as a digest everything he’s told me. he smiles and lights another one.
finally i ask, “what are you in for?”
i laugh and whisper, “strange world.”
“you’re damn right,” he answers.
“i think i’m going to stick to writing.”
“probably a good idea. i get out next year. i’ll give you the address of where i’ll be. just in case you change your mind. i could use a smart kid.”
“i’m good,” i respond.
“yeah, it’s nothing personal. just don’t want to spend the rest of my life here.”
“you’re smarter than i thought.”
“have my moments,” i reply and put my hand out to shake.
he grins and grips it. his pointer and middle finger are extended, touching my wrist. a roman legionaries’ handshake.
“you take care of yourself,” he finishes.
“i’ll do what i can,” i conclude.*