“We should rob a bank,” said Madison Clyde.
I put down my fork, picked up the bottle of wine and pretended to study the label. “I knew we should’ve ordered a Vouvray. This pinot noir has gone to your head.”
Madison laughed. “I’m serious. Bonnie and Clyde. It’s fate. La puissance du destin.”
“It’s silly,” I said.
“Might not seem so silly when the check comes.”
I had to chuckle at that. We were dining at Le Bernardin, one of New York City’s finest–and most expensive–restaurants.
“I think we can manage the bill without having to resort to committing felonies.”
The waiter arrived with our entrees. Crispy black bass for me, Scottish salmon for Madison.
The food was delicious, as was the wine. The conversation, however, was less than scintillating. Madison had been obsessing over our names lately. The fact that my last name was Bonnie and hers was Clyde seemed to hold some great cosmic significance for her. Our destinies, in her mind at least, apparently included robbing banks. It was getting on my nerves.
Madison, a bank vice president, had actually gone so far as to case her own place of business. And then she’d laid down a blueprint on how to rob it.
“Did you even read my business plan, Tyler? It would be a cakewalk.”
I laughed. I had glanced at it, but only to stop Madison from nagging me about it. And I had to admit, the parts I read were pretty good. Madison knew the ins and outs of bank security, and her plan included a perfectly written stick-up note, one that wouldn’t require the use of a weapon. But the very idea itself was absurd. We were a successful power couple, not bank robbers.
“I have a feeling the real Bonnie and Clyde didn’t utilize a business plan,” I said. “They winged it.”
Madison smiled. “Right. But we’re the opposite of Bonnie and Clyde. Like our names. Meticulous planning is the order of the day.”
“Speaking of orders, how’s the salmon?”
“Perfect. Like my business plan.”
I refilled our wine glasses. “Bon appetit.”
“Just read it and tell me what you think.”
I groaned. “Not this again, Maddy.”
We were relaxing in our apartment on the Upper East Side after a hard day’s work. I’d slogged through my day as VP of mergers and acquisitions, and the last thing I wanted to talk about was robbing banks. I did enough of that sort of thing at work. Only legally.
“It would be fun,” Madison said. “A thrill.”
I shot her a look. “Sometimes I think the only reason you married me is because of my name. Yes, our names are Bonnie and Clyde. But we’re not Bonnie and Clyde, okay?”
“Of course not. We’re the opposite of Bonnie and Clyde. Think about it. They were poor; we’re rich. They were uneducated; we’re college grads. They used guns; we’d be unarmed.”
“They were shot to pieces by the police.”
“And we’d get away. The opposite of Bonnie and Clyde.”
I got off the couch, went to the liquor cabinet and poured a drink.
“I have a better idea,” I said, returning to the sofa. “Since our names are Tyler and Madison, why don’t we run for office? Presidents Madison and Tyler, just like in the 1800s. Only we’re the opposite because Tyler and Madison are our first names. We could rule the nation. How’s that sound?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Exactly,” I said, and took a sip of my cognac.
On the cab ride home from a house party downtown, I was feeling pretty good. I had a nice buzz going, and Madison looked fantastic. I couldn’t wait to get home and ravish her.
She hadn’t brought up the bank robbing issue for a few days, which was nice. I thought maybe she’d forgotten about it, but of course that was too much to hope for. As we passed a branch of her bank on Third Avenue, she turned to me and said, “That’s the one we’ll hit.” As if the plan was a go.
I ignored the remark, and watched the people on the street. It was November, and the first flurries of the season were falling. I loved New York City in the winter.
“It’s the perfect crime,” Madison said. “An inside job from the outside.”
I looked at her in the dim light of the cab and wondered what was going on in that pretty little head of hers. It had to be some kind of game. A bizarre thought experiment. There was no way she could really be considering this idea. Then again, in my five years of marriage, if I’d learned one thing about Madison it was that when she put her mind to something, it got done. But this? No. No way.
Madison chattered on while the cab made its way uptown, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was trying to figure out a way to make her stop with this Bonnie and Clyde nonsense. As I mulled it over, it occurred to me that maybe if I went along with the idea, she’d see how ridiculous the whole thing really was. I decided to call her bluff.
“So you think we can really pull this thing off, huh?”
Madison’s eyes lit up. “I know it. And even if we did get caught, we’d be fine. No weapons, an expensive lawyer…we’d never see the inside of a prison cell.”
“Well, when you put it like that, what could possibly go wrong? Maybe we should change careers, become full time bank robbers.”
She laughed. “Nope. This is a once in a lifetime thing. Something we can tell our grandchildren.”
“We need children first.”
She smile seductively. “Maybe we can work on that tonight. Or at least go through the motions.”
I laughed. “I’ll have to read the plan again. Do you have it in your purse?”
“No, silly. That’s too incriminating. I’ll show it to you when we get home.”
I looked into her eyes. “You’ll have to show me something else first.”
“Deal!” she said instantly, and extended her hand. “Let’s shake on it.”
We shook hands, and then she went a step further, moving in to seal the deal with a kiss.
At home, I poured a couple of drinks. Madison put the business plan on the coffee table and went off to the bedroom to change. I sipped my drink as I read over the blueprint. At three pages, it was well thought out. One thing that caught my eye was the bank security protocol that called for tellers to comply with bank robbers, no questions asked. They were instructed to simply hand over the money, which was why there was no need for a weapon. The only part of the plan I found weak was where it called for us to be in disguise. There were cameras everywhere, both inside the bank and outside. Cameras were the undoing of most bank robbers, and I didn’t see a way around that. But before I could give the matter any serious thought, an old lady in a bathrobe appeared in front of me.
I stared at the stranger in my home, wondering how she’d gotten in. Was it an elderly neighbor who had lost her bearings? A new cleaning lady who had accidently locked herself in? What was going on here?
As I was about to call out to Madison, the old lady shrugged off her robe, letting it fall on the floor. Now she was standing there, nude. Only it wasn’t an old lady. It was Madison, wearing a hyper-realistic mask.
“My God,” I said, looking from Madison’s face to her body.
“Amazing, isn’t it?”
“It’s creeping me out, Maddy.”
She laughed. “Can’t even recognize me, can you?”
“Not the face, that’s for sure. Where did you get that thing?”
“I bought it a few months ago, when I first came up with my idea. It’s been sitting in the closet ever since. I have one for you too.”
“It’s very realistic. Amazingly so.”
“It’s silicone. These are same types of masks they use in movies. They cost a fortune.”
“Isn’t that cutting into our profit margin?”
Madison put her hands on her hips. “I can see that you haven’t given my plan a careful reading, because you obviously missed the part about us not being in it for the money.”
“Wait a second,” I said. “We’re robbing a bank, but not for the money?”
“We can’t keep the money, Tyler. It’s too risky.”
“Well, then it’s not much of a business plan, is it?”
“It’s not about the money, Ty. It’s about the thrill of the chase. You know, like catch and release fishermen. Except we’re fishing for greenbacks.”
“Catch and release fishermen don’t go to prison for twenty years.”
“The bigger the game, the bigger the thrill, my darling.”
I smiled. “Yeah, well, speaking of thrills…how about you take off that mask, grandma. And leave the bathrobe where it is.”
“This is nice, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, and the mask is warm. I don’t even need my hat.”
Madison and I were out for a stroll, an elderly married couple walking through Central Park, hand in hand. We were testing our masks, getting used to playing old folks. The day was clear and cold, and as we walked we imagined what it would be like to be this old in real life.
“This is us in fifty years,” Madison said. “Isn’t it romantic?”
“Sure. If you consider being two wrinkled up old prunes romantic.”
I laughed. “Me too.”
People smiled at us as we strolled through the park. The disguises were truly remarkable.
“Still worried about the cameras?” Madison said.
“Nope. Looks like we’ve got them beat.”
I was still indulging Madison’s Bonnie and Clyde fantasy, and was actually getting into it. Because I’d come to believe that that was all it was–a silly fantasy. An escape from the drudgery of our daily lives. It was a fun thing to think about, to plot and plan and mull over. We’d even set a date for the heist. A week and a day from today. On a Monday morning.
But of course I knew it would never happen.
In the run up to the big day, Madison talked about her plan ad nauseam. I tuned much of it out, but pretended that I was listening closely. It was important to show Madison that I was as serious as she was. It had turned into a kind of a dare between us, and I wasn’t going to back down. Not yet, anyway. But I knew that if I had to, I would put an end to this thing, even if I had to drag Madison kicking and screaming out of the bank.
I still believed it wouldn’t get that far however. I wasn’t quite sure when Madison would call it off, but I believed she would. Knowing her, it would probably be at the last minute.
D-day, or B-and-C-Day, as Madison called it, was upon us. We’d both arranged our work schedules so we’d have today off. I was still pretending to be gung-ho about the plan, still waiting to see when Madison would end the charade. But it seemed that she was going to play it right down to the wire. Neither one of us was nervous, which I took to be a sign that this was just a silly game. I expected to be laughing about it at dinner tonight.
Madison had gotten up early and prepared breakfast. Bacon and eggs with toast and coffee. It smelled delicious.
“We’ll need energy,” she said as she loaded my plate.
To fortify ourselves even further, Madison had poured a couple of Bloody Marys. We were allowed only one each though, since we needed to be sharp.
The plan called for us to hit the bank at precisely 10 a.m. Madison’s research into bank security showed that this was the best time–or worst, if you were the bank–for a robbery.
“Are you sure we can’t keep the money?” I asked, playing my role.
“Positive. There’ll be at least one dye pack in the stack of bills and/or a transmitter. We don’t want any part of that.”
“How do they work again?”
“The dye packs? By radio. Once somebody takes one out of the bank, the pack picks up the bank’s radio frequency. Then ten seconds later, boom. But we won’t have to worry about that because I’m dumping the cash into a trash bin just outside the bank.”
“Can’t you just remove them?”
She shook her head. “They’re tiny, like another bill in the stack. It would take too long.”
“Seems like such a waste.”
She shrugged. “The memories will be priceless. Now drink up, Bonnie, it’s almost time.”
I smiled. We’d taken to calling each other by our last names lately. And it was kind of fun. Still, I was looking forward to us being Tyler and Madison again.
I finished off my Bloody Mary and smacked my lips. “Ready when you are, Clyde.”
We cabbed it to midtown, getting out a few blocks away from the bank, and grabbed some coffee. We were in full costume. It was a little tricky drinking coffee with the masks on, but we’d had enough practice to make it look natural. We stood on the sidewalk, going over the plan for the final time.
“So you’ll walk to the bank and mill around outside, waiting for me,” Madison said. “Then I’ll take a cab from here and tell the driver to wait while I run in.”
“You follow me in and wait in the lobby. I’ll get to the teller’s window, pass the note, grab the loot and head outside. As soon as I exit, you start to leave, doddering like an old man. Security will probably attempt to follow me out and you’ll need to slow them down, just enough for me to hop back into the cab. I’ll have the driver head downtown for a few blocks, then hit the subway and go home.”
“And I’ll meet you there.”
“Correct. Then we celebrate.”
“You know, it’s a good thing we don’t live in a doorman building. The masks would be a problem.”
Madison looked at her watch. “It’s time. Ready, Bonnie?”
“Let’s do this!”
I stood in the bank, pretending to fill out a deposit slip, and watched as Madison got on line at the teller’s window. This thing had become an epic dare, and she was going all the way with it. When she turned and looked at me, I tried to get a read on her eyes. It was hard to tell with her mask on, but they appeared to be calm and confident. This confirmed my feelings that she had no intention of slipping that note to the teller.
When she was next in line, I thought about making my move. I could have simply walked up to her, grabbed her by the arm, and pulled her out of there. But I didn’t. Because deep down, I still believed that she wouldn’t really go through with it.
She turned to me again and we stared into each other’s eyes. It was a test. We were seeing which one of us would blink first. But neither one of us blinked.
And then it was too late to blink.
It didn’t seem real. Even when she passed the note, I was thinking that it wasn’t the real note, that it was a fake, a deposit slip or something. Only when I saw the teller’s eyes go wide did I realize that I had waited too long. I had let it happen. And now there was no turning back.
There is a definitive line between fantasy and reality, and Madison had just crossed it, something I truly believed she would never do. We were criminals now, bank robbers. For real. I could barely wrap my head around it. I felt a surge of adrenaline course through my veins, felt my knees go weak. A thousand thoughts ran jumbled through my mind.
Then I snapped out of it. Now wasn’t the time to think, it was time to act. I had a job to do. Taking a deep breath, I felt my confidence return, and it was at that moment I realized that, on some level, I had wanted Madison to go through with it. I wanted to rob a bank with her, to share the thrill of doing something that bold and daring and reckless.
I watched as the teller complied with the stick up note, sliding stacks of bills under the window into Madison’s hands. Madison picked up the cash and dropped it into her shopping bag, cool as ice. She headed towards the exit.
I saw the teller hit a button, saw her turn and say something to the teller next to her.
I turned and looked towards Madison. She’d made it to the exit, and so far the plan was working as designed. As expected, two security guards were now hustling to the door. I shuffled like an old man into their path, and one of them nearly knocked me down. From behind me I heard a woman scream. I had no idea why.
Until I saw the gun.
It wasn’t the security guard’s gun. It was in the hand of a man, a bystander.
“Stop! Police!” the man shouted as he ran to the door and pointed the gun towards Madison, who was climbing into the cab.
Everything was happening in slow motion. The man with the gun had assumed a firing stance. It appeared as though he was going to shoot Madison in the back. I couldn’t let that happen. “No!” I screamed as I lunged at him, reaching out and knocking his gun hand away.
A shot rang out.
A security guard fell.
My ears were ringing. Blue smoke hung in the air. There was blood on the floor. People were screaming.
It was all over.
The case didn’t go to trial. There was no point. No lawyer, no matter how expensive, could have saved us from the mess we were in. In addition to bank robbery, we’d been hit with a murder charge. Despite neither of us being armed, a man was killed during the commission of a felony, and Madison and I were on the hook for it.
The prosecutor had wanted the death penalty. We plea-bargained it down to life in prison.
Lucky us, right?
We’re serving out our sentences at a pair of federal penitentiaries, me at Allenwood in Pennsylvania, Madison at Hazelton in West Virginia. The prisons are only about 250 miles apart, but it may as well be a million miles.
I still love Madison. I love her more than anything in this world. And I don’t blame her for what happened. Sure, it was her idea. But I had enabled her to see it through. I was supposed to have been the failsafe, the lifeline, but I had failed to act. I got caught up in the romance of it, and let it happen. And now an innocent man was dead, and there was nothing either one of us could do to bring him back.
The news media had a field day with the story: a young, successful power couple named Bonnie and Clyde attempting to rob a bank–with tragic results. They’ll probably make a movie about it someday. But I wouldn’t want to see it. Because that movie, the real one, plays in my head over and over again, day after day, whether I want it to or not.
Prison is pretty much what you’d expect. It’s harsh at times, but mostly just boring. I have a lot of time to think–nothing but time, in fact–and I often think back to that dinner date at Le Bernardin. “La puissance du destin,” Madison had said. The power of fate. She believed that we were destined to be the opposite of Bonnie and Clyde. But what we both failed to realize was that, in a way, we already were. As successful business people, we were putting money into banks, legally, not taking it out illegally. Maybe if I had seen that then, I could have made the argument and squashed this thing right then and there. But I didn’t see it then. I see it now. But now’s too late.
The case haunts me of course. As I lie on my cot staring at the ceiling, day after day, night after night, I dwell on various aspects of the robbery and its aftermath. I thought the death of the security guard would be the thing that haunts me the most, but oddly, it’s not. What haunts me the most are the masks. Madison and I had walked around the city disguised as an old married couple, wearing those masks. And we had every intention of growing old together in real life, of becoming those doting old lovebirds that we pretended to be. But now, not only will we not grow old together, we’ll never see one another again. And that, more than anything, torments me no end.
It’s funny, because if you think about it, that too fulfills the destiny Madison had envisioned. Our namesakes had gone out in a blaze of glory, dying together in a hail of bullets. But Madison and I, we didn’t die together. No. We’re doing life in prison, isolated and alone, separated, forever apart.
The opposite of Bonnie and Clyde.
Originally published in Thuglit Magazine. Available at Amazon.