Ronnie and Marty
“Ronnie, honey, take my gun, give me yours.” I pulled her close, gave her a quick hug and loaded her gun. I could see she didn't hear me. Her ears were ringing, too, but we'd done this before. It was still a mystery to me, the way she loved that cannon. I have no idea how she squeezed off seven rounds and managed to keep her feet. We traded guns again. Somewhere in the store the sound system was still playing the same soothing samba I heard when we came in. What was it? "The Girl from Ipanema"?
Ronnie was still trembling but she held the gun level with both hands as she swept the store, turning a full 360. Then she walked the aisles, looking for anyone who might be moving or hiding. I cleaned out the cash register and looked for the safe, hoping it might be open, but no such luck.
“Here, Ronnie, get whatever you need,” I said, holding out some plastic bags. “What's going on out there, anyone moving?”
“Uh-uh, everyone's behaving.” She took the bags from my hand and walked behind the counter while I moved to the front of the store. She grabbed some bottles off the shelf and took a last, quick look to see if there was anything else she wanted.
“OK, honey, are we ready?” She nodded to me. She was calm now; it never took long. Ronnie quickly walked through the front door and I stood on the threshold. I told everyone to stay down while I waited to hear the car start. We left the car at the side of the store, in the shadows. Finding a store where there was no walk-in business, only drive through, where we could completely hide the car, that was the single biggest problem in picking a store to hit. Switching cars was too complicated. When I heard the car start, I sprinted around the corner and jumped in. No one ever followed. We headed down the dark side road and that was that.
I liked our Bentley. We had a Rolls before that but Carol didn't care for it. We both agreed that for a liquor store holdup, the Bentley was perfect. What cop would ever pull over a Bentley as a suspected getaway car? They never stopped us. In fact, they usually stopped other drivers to wave us through. Ronnie, by the way, was the name Carol used on our jobs. My alias was Marty.
“Honey, did you notice the music they were playing when we went in? Was that 'The Girl from Ipanema'?”
“I don't know, but I think it was a samba...or a bossa nova...I'm not sure,” she said, laughing a little bit. We both love Latin music.
There was no other traffic on the road so I opened the bag and started counting.
“How'd we do?”
“Three-hundred.” I opened Carol's bags: Dewar's.
“Didn't they have anything better?”
“It was Greenfields, you idiot! Don't worry, we'll just put the Dewar's in a decanter and we'll be fine.” Carol was laughing now at my little joke; it was almost a ritual. Every time we hit a Greenfields, Carol would load up on Dewar's and I would ask her why she couldn't find anything better.
“Can we pour it into an empty Glenlivet bottle?”
“Oh, please Lou, who can't tell the difference between Glenlivet and Dewar's? Honestly!” As if I hadn't made the same suggestion a hundred times before....
“How's your shoulder, honey?”
“It's just fine, sweetie, no pain at all.”
“I think you're doing a lot better since you changed your grip,” I told her. Carol had problems hitting her target when she held the wrist of her shooting hand. Once she started holding her gun with both hands, she began scoring and she didn't have any more shoulder pain. She loved her .45 and there was no changing that. Heaven knows I tried!
“Did you see that old hippy slam into the freezer?”
“That was a nice shot, honey. If that was a cartoon, you'd see little birds flying around in a circle over his head, ” I told her.
We were both laughing heartily now. What a night! I popped the cashier and his helper. Carol got the old hippy character and the man who was with him. The cashier had no excuse; when I saw the butt of his scatter gun coming up from behind the counter, he became fair game. The man Carol hit first was reaching under his jacket. They might have been getting ready to rob the place, too; in fact, I'm sure they were. Either way, Carol didn't take any chances; she took care of the second man right after the first. We both emptied our clips. The other three people in the store did what they were told; they got down, stayed down and shut the hell up. Now they were telling the police all about it and probably the reporters, too. They'll go home tonight, safe and sound, with a story they'll tell for years.
We were still a good 50 miles from home. Sycamore Hill was a beautiful new townhouse development. The worst car in the neighborhood was a two-year old Jag. Probably belonged to somebody's housekeeper. We'd been here five years, since it was brand new. It was our first home together. We'd both been married before. I was living in a nice condo, my first and only post-divorce home. Carol was still living in the house she won in her divorce—way too much house for a single woman who didn't have kids and wasn't terribly social. I'd love to be able to say Carol and I met very romantically, that we both showed up at the same store at the same time to rob it, that would be perfect. But the first time we met was still magical; how many couples meet for the first time at the shooting range? Well, in Texas, fairly often, I suppose.
I can't say I remember it like it was yesterday but I remember it well enough. There she was, in her booth, headset on, struggling to load a revolver. The range attendant was nowhere to be seen and there was nobody else around, either. I had just walked through the main door and happened to see her. I tapped her on the shoulder and waited till she took off the headset before I asked her if I could help. As it turned out, she was trying to load .38s into a .32. Obviously, she was brand new to shooting. One thing led to another, as they say, and before long we were dating.
We started out with quite a bit in common: both divorced, both bored, no kids, both shooting enthusiasts. We never had dinner dates; we were thrill seekers and were always trying something new and exhilarating, something fun, even a little dangerous. Carol didn't work. She had a few hobbies to keep her busy. One of her hobbies was a jewelry business, buying and selling supposedly rare items she found here and there. It was more trouble than it than it was worth, I thought, but she enjoyed it. I was semi-retired. I made my fortune in the stock market but still pursued my career in social services. That's right. Social services.
Everything was going along great for a while. We were having a lot of fun together and had progressed to the point that we were rarely apart. That's when we bought the townhouse; it was less space for her, which was what she needed and more space for me, which was what I needed. We were completely happy together, blissful, even. We kept as much distance from our neighbors as we could without getting a reputation for being antisocial. Besides, I knew too many of them from synagogue. That's who got the Dewar's, and none of them complained.
We'd been there in the townhouse for about three years when Carol got her hands on a book about the North Ridge bank robbery, more properly the North Hollywood bank robbery. She was fascinated by the story and before long I was captivated, too. She would read aloud to me while I was making dinner or while we were on the patio having drinks or in the bedroom at night. But she never read aloud in front of company. In fact, we never even talked about it in front of company. It was our secret.
We learned what there was to learn about Phillips and Matasareanu, the two robbers. Carol's questions were all about their planning and execution. I began to sense where her line of inquiry was leading her because it was taking me there, too. In her mind, somewhere, she was planning our first robbery.
By the time she finished reading about North Ridge, she realized what she wanted to do. And at the same time, naturally, she had grown just a bit complacent, a bit bored with our life together. Something was missing, Carol complained. In my experience, women never complain about something missing in a relationship before they knew exactly what it is and can frame the solution to their greatest advantage. In our case, it was a life or death fire fight over an insignificant amount of cash. And blended scotch, as it turned out.
How did we cross that first bridge, I wondered. I was lost in my thoughts and so was Carol. We were only a few miles from home. We were in our nice little suburb outside of Dallas; it was late at night by suburban standards. The traffic picked up once we left the interstate and were back on the surface roads. Carol was always quiet just about now; first there was the excitement of the gunfight, then there was the re-cap of events in the car while I counted the cash and then there was calm. Calm until we got to bed, that is. Our little escapades were very stimulating. This became the pattern almost from the start, two years ago, on our first job.
How did we get to that first job, I continued to ask myself. Carol wanted to go big the first time out. I remember suggesting we hit a casino and it took me the rest of the day to convince her I just kidding. I explained to her that we weren't the same kind of people as the North Ridge boys. Their first known job was a Brinks truck. A Brinks truck! Then they moved on to hit two BankAmerica branches in LA on the same day! Who knew how many other jobs they pulled off without getting caught or recognized. I managed to persuade her to think less ambitiously. After all, we weren't desperate. We didn't need the money. We were just in it for fun. Did we really want to die in a shoot out?
The first job was a let down. The store was empty and the cashier just handed over the money without putting up a fuss. On the next two jobs, we picked stores that were busier. We planned to rob the customers, too, but they all looked broke. It wasn't until the fourth job that we finally got a fight. A tiny old lady standing at the counter turned around and pointed the longest revolver in Texas at me, dead center. Carol fired two rounds and that old lady flew over the counter and landed in a heap! She looked like a pile of rags on the floor. It would have been hard for me to keep a straight face after that but the cashier came up with a sawed off. I hit him square in the middle with a couple of rounds from my .9 before he could empty the first barrel. Well, that did it, we were hooked. And the funny thing was, we had been so disappointed by the first three jobs we were ready to pack it in if this job didn't turn out better. It just goes to show how persistence pays off.
“Hey, honey, remember Plano?” I asked her.
“Do I remember Plano? Do I remember Plano?” She grabbed my hand and squeezed hard. The Plano job was the most exciting job of all.
“I think everybody in that store had a gun.”
“And I don't think we shot more than three of them,” I interrupted, “I think the others all got hit by crossfire.”
“Or maybe one or two grudges got settled!” We were laughing again, almost out of control. That was the job that launched “Ronnie and Marty.” Carol was fretting that we'd get called 'Bonnie and Clyde' but the news media picked up on the aliases right from the get go. I was glad for that; there would've been no living with her otherwise.
The laughing stopped and silence was threatening to take hold again.
“Hey, honey, did I tell you what happened in the gym today?”
“Is this another one of your silly jokes, sweetheart?”
“No no no, this really happened. I was on the treadmill and this guy got onto the one next to me. So we're both just walking along, minding our business and some old geezer comes over and starts talking to the guy next to me. Are you listening?”
“Course I am, sweetie, I'm fascinated, please go on.”
“So the older guy is asking the guy on the treadmill a million questions about dentures and Medicaid. Ok, so now I understand that the guy next to me is a dentist. The old guy just keeps going at it with the denture questions, but the dentist is friendly and doesn't discourage the guy or, you know, tell him to take a hike.”
“Well, I'm getting a little annoyed with the old guy by now, so I say to them, very politely, 'May I interrupt you for just a moment?' and they both look at me and say, 'Sure.' So I look at the dentist and say, 'I couldn't help overhearing your conversation and I just want to say, I am so glad you're not a proctologist!'”
“Is that it?”
“Whaddaya mean, is that it? That's a joke, don't you get it?”
“I think you left the funny part out, sweetie,” but she was smiling at me: she got it.
We went through the front gate and reached the townhouse two minutes later. Carol pulled into our driveway and waited for the garage to open. A moment later we pulled in. Before I could open my door completely, a hand reached in and pulled me out.
“Good evening, Rabbi Sternberg. I'm Sergeant Claymoore, Texas Rangers. Would you mind stepping out of your vehicle so we can ask you just a few questions? You can leave those items there on the seat, we'll look after them.”
I looked around quickly and desperately. Out of nowhere, patrol cars had our driveway blocked. A helicopter appeared overhead. We were trapped. Carol was already in handcuffs. I looked at Sergeant Claymore and said to him, “I'm so glad you're not a proctologist.”