by Danny Cohen
At 10:15AM on December 12, 1977, four men walked into the Wells Fargo Bank on the 1700 block of Haight Street in San Francisco and began their robbery. At 2:00am the following morning, the robbery was over and five people were dead.
10:13AM – 0 DEAD, 0 INJURED
Casey Trek pulled up in his 1975 AMC Matador in front of the Wells Fargo Bank. Casey was chosen as the driver because he was good at the Night Racer video game by Micronetics and he was the youngest of the group. In the car were Casey’s older brother, Mark, and his Army buddies Alvy Green, Warren Sawner and Oren Plotzky. All were trained in jungle combat and were confident in their use of the shotguns they were holding.
Casey complained that he needed to pee as the Army vets stepped out of the car. “Hold it for ten minutes,” Mark told his younger brother. The gunmen nodded to each other, slipped on their ski masks, and walked into the bank brandishing shotguns.
Working at the bank that day were four clerks, the bank manager, and the old black security guard Franklin O’Shane. Jean Rickenzie, an elderly independent-woman, was there to request several cashier's checks for her grandchildren. Matt Rebed was stopping in to cash his paycheck for his work as an organ transplant deliveryman, with cooler in tow. Ms. Katherine Klein had brought in her third grade class to learn about banking.
There is a certain amount of chaos that occurs when holding up a bank. Alvy put his gun to the old black security guard’s back; Warren and Oren screamed at the customers, including the students; Mark made his way to the back to the bank manager, Mr. Issac R. Whisken. Everyone was on the ground. It was at that time Warren’s PTSD kicked in.
He had focused his gun on the group of young children. In Vietnam, he had seen and done horrific things, and one of the students triggered a flashback.
“No, Sergeant, I won’t do it!” Warren screamed.
“Hey, man, keep it together.” Oren yelled back.
“No, Sergeant, I’m done with your Army.” He then turned his shotgun on Oren.
What sounded like a cannon blast echoed through the high-ceilinged bank, followed by screams. Oren lay on the ground with a hole in his stomach, bleeding out. The old black security guard spoke knowingly: “No one plans on rain.”
10:17AM – 1 DEAD, O INJURED
Before heading off to Vietnam, Warren had been in love with Stacey, a girl from his hometown of Worcester. The night before he left for basic training, Warren confessed his love to her.
“Oh, Warren, thank you for the present,” said Stacey, working behind the counter at the Friendly’s Ice Cream Shop.
“It’s a pinwheel I made, because we’re in love,” said Warren.
Stacey look around at her giggling friends. “Warren, we can’t be in love…” started Stacey.
“I know, I know, I’m about to head off to Vietnam—” said Warren.
“No, I— Warren, I’m going steady with someone else.” said Stacey.
Warren started to tear up as Stacey gave him a free scoop of butterscotch and wished him well in the Army. As Warren sprinted out of the ice cream shop, crying, he tripped and the butterscotch scoop fell onto the sidewalk.
Vietnam wasn’t easy on Warren. He would spend nights in the jungle imagining that Stacey was just trying to protect both of them in case he didn’t come back. On leave, Warren spent time in Cam Rahn Bay at an ice cream shop where he became enamored with a girl behind the counter. He couldn’t remember her real name, but he called her Stacey, which she giggled at. Warren would bring Vietnamese Stacey presents and go for walks. One evening, she initiated a kiss and it was the happiest moment of his entire life.
Back in his fatigues, the outlook was not as cheery. Warren was involved in some of the most horrific acts of the war, including the burning of villages and murdering of women and children. He began to have nightmares, and wanted to confide in Vietnamese Stacey, but she had disappeared and the ice cream shop had been boarded up. Warren got into a fight in the mess hall when a fellow soldier innocently commented that he didn’t like ice cream. The war was over for Warren, and he was shipped back to Massachusetts.
He went looking for Stacey at Friendly’s and ended up in the North County Pilot the next day for “punching through the thick glass of the ice cream case.” Warren learned that Stacey had married someone else, a fact that he justified was to protect both of them. Warren met up with his Army pal Alvy Green in The Old Neighborhood for a few days, then both decided to take Mark Trek up on his offer to come to San Francisco to work at the bakery he was starting up.
Four months later, Mark’s bakery was not going as well as he had hoped and needed money. A second loan fell through. A foolish bet with a tricky bookie on the Miami Dolphins to win the World Series drained him further. Eventually, a bank robbery seemed like the only option. The men walked in. Chaos ensued. Warren saw the face of a young boy he had killed in Vietnam and shot Oren in the stomach. He then sat down against a wall and said nothing.
Mark came out of the back room with Whisken, the bank manager. All the hostages in the bank were now huddled in the lobby on the ground. Mark tried to get a word out of Warren, but it was’t happening.
Alvy had been behind the counter, having the clerks gather up all the money. It didn’t amount to much.
“There’s only three grand here!” Alvy shouted as he walked over to Mark.
Mark turned to Whisken and said it was “time to open up the vault.”
“I’m sorry, that's impossible. The vault canÂ only unlock one hour before we open and right when we close. And that’s not for another six hours.” explained Whisken.
“Are we fucked?” Alvy asked as he helped get Warren into a chair.
Mark wasn’t quite sure of the answer.
“Pardon me, gentlemen,” said Franklin O’Shane, the security guard, “but sometimes waiting for cookies to bake makes them taste all the sweeter.” Then O’Shane winked his eye and made his way back to the crowd huddled in the lobby.
One of the students, nervous, bit his tongue.
10:40AM – 1 DEAD, 1 INJURED
Outside in the car, Casey Trek had heard the gun shot go off, and now really needed to pee. He couldn’t take it anymore. He kept the car running and dashed off to the coffee shop down the street. Casey returned to right outside the bank just in time to see his AMC Matador turning the corner onto Cole Street.
Casey ran after his car, but it was already gone around the corner. He scoped around, knowing he needed wheels, and started checking the doors on every car. Someone noticed him, shouted “hey!” and Casey ran off around the corner again, spraining his ankle in the process.
10:42AM – 1 DEAD, 2 INJURED
Back inside the bank, Mark and Alvy decided it was time to cut their losses and leave. Alvy went to the front door to tell Casey to get ready. Alvy didn’t see the car so he stepped outside, with his shotgun, and startled a woman about to enter the bank. The woman ran off and Alvy slunk back into the bank.
“What was that scream?” asked Mark as he tried to get Warren up.
“The car is gone and some lady saw my shotgun!” replied Alvy.
“That little fucking pissant!” Mark had reservations about Casey. He knew he could trust him, but he also knew he wasn’t the bravest.
Mark and Alvy knew they couldn’t take a nearly comatose Warren anywhere and decided they were going to wait it out for six hours until the vault could be opened again. Alvy would watch the hostages as Mark explained the situation to Whisken.
“Can you please stop pointing that gun at my students?” asked Ms. Katherine Klein.
“You a teacher?” Alvy lowered his gun.
“Yes. I brought my students to learn about banking.”
“So, you’re a good teacher, huh?”
“I try my best.”
Alvy dragged a chair over and offered it to her. “You teachers work too hard to be sitting on the ground.” Ms. Katherine Klein thanked Alvy and took a seat.
Aside from his tour of duty, Alvy spent his entire life in The Old Neighborhood in New York City with his father, a city electrician, and his mother, a teacher. The Old Neighborhood was a melting pot of all the immigrants: Irish, Polish, Czech, Mozambiquianizans. They all had their place in The Old Neighboorhood. On his way to school, Alvy would encounter men selling rugs next to fried fish and morning bar fights next to pÃ£ozinho.
When Alvy returned from the war, he found that The Old Neighboorhood had fallen on hard times. Hot crime and cool drugs were on the rise. They had to close the school that his mother worked at because rats had taken over and started using it as an efficient rat school. His father would have to commute two hours each way every day on a variety of trains, ferries and subway cars. When Warren came to visit Alvy, the two decided that San Francisco and Mark’s bakery would be what they needed.
Mark finished up explaining the situation, and he and Whisken walked into the lobby to tell the hostages.
“We are going to wait,” said Whisken, “and as long as we cooperate, we will all be fine.”
“You’re bad people.” said the independent-woman Jean Rickenzie.
“Mrs. Rickenzie, please.” said Whisken.
“I’m gonna call in for some pizza,” said Mark, “and we’re just going to sit here. You got a closed sign or anything like that?” Whisken nodded and motioned for O’Shane to turn the sign.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” said Ms. Katherine Klein.
“I’ll take her,” quickly offered Alvy.
Alvy escorted Ms. Katherine Klein to the bathroom. Alvy leaned against a wall while Ms. Katherine Klein sat in the stall. She came out and washed her hands.
“Thank you for getting me that chair,” said Ms. Katherine Klein.
“This whole thing ain’t about you sitting on some floor,” replied Alvy.
Ms. Katherine Klein moved closer to Alvy.
“What is this about?” asked Ms. Katherine Klein.
They started making out.
Back in the lobby, things were getting tense.
“Yes, I’ll have ten cheese pizzas,” said Mark into a phone.
“I want pepperoni,” one of the students said.
Mark placed his hand on the receiver. “What?”
“I want pepperoni.”
“You don’t get pepperoni.”
“But I want it.”
“I don’t care.”
“But I want it.”
“What you want doesn’t matter to me.”
“But I want it.”
“Fine! Make one of those pepperonis. Ok, we’re at—”
“I want pineapple,” said another one of the students.
“No, no, I am not taking requests.”
“If he gets pineapple, I want tomatoes.” another one of the students spoke up.
“There’s already tomato sauce on it.”
“No, no sauce, only tomatoes.”
“Pardon me, sir,” said O’Shane, “but I remember when I was only twelve, and it was my birthday, and my momma, she was a great big old lady, and we were very poor, and it was my birthday, and she baked me a cake with the most richest chocolate frosting I had ever had and have had since. Made me forget about our problems for a ‘lil while.” O’Shane then tipped his security guard hat.
Mark set down the receiver. “Ok, who wants what?”
Out on the street, Casey had returned to his search for a car. His sprained ankle slowed him down, and he had stopped underneath a large air conditioning unit that was dripping on him. He moved out of the way, inadvertently stepping in a puddle, soaking his shoes. Then he moved back onto the street, only to have a pail of water thrown on him by a dishwasher. Now completely soaked and with no other alternative, Casey made a bold decision: he peed his pants.
“Ok, ok, ok. I have two pepperonis. One pineapple. One pineapple and pepperoni. One green peppers, olives, onions. And one tomatoes, no cheese, no sauce… Is this really what you want? You just want tomatoes on bread?”
“It’s how my mommy makes it.”
“And what do you want?” Mark asked independent-woman Jean Rickenzie.
“I’ll have a saltine,” replied the elderly.
“They won’t have saltines. It’s a pizza place.”
“Then why did you even ask me?” Mark’s stress levels were rising.
It was at that time that a customer had come to the door, trying to pull it open.
“You,” Mark motioned to O’Shane, “tell that guy you’re closed!”
O’Shane walked with purpose to the door, but the bespectacled man in a pinstripe suit had already pressed his face up to the glass door and saw everything: A bleeding Oren, Warren sitting against a wall, a group of hostages, and Mark holding a shotgun. The man quickly ran away.
“FUCK!” shouted Mark.
“I’m hungry,” said one of the kids.
Ms. Katherine Klein removed her glasses and let down her long auburn hair. She was a wild lioness, Queen of Animalia. She placed her palms on Alvy’s chest, feeling between the buttons a body that war had chiseled like a Michelangelo to a David.
Alvy’s rough hands caused a run in Ms. Katherine Klein’s stockings. Alvy wasn’t sure if he heard “take” or “rip,” but the stockings soon found themselves in a pile on the bathroom floor that would soon grow with Alvy’s shirt and Ms. Katherine Klein’s glasses. The pile was not the only mound growing.
Matt Rebed, the organ deliveryman, had noticed the cooler he had with him was considerably less cooler now. “There's a little boy in Potrero Hill who isn't going to see tomorrow,” said Rebed.
12:05PM – 2 DEAD, 2 INJURED
A strange thing happens when police get involved. Telephones are diverted. Electricity is cut. There are barricades. A crowd appears.
Casey, having returned to the bank sopping wet and smelling of pee, stood in the crowd watching the action unfold. Amongst the cops and squad cars, Police Lieutenant Dan Ben assessed the situation. Lieutenant Ben was a 14 years veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, the last five of which had been on the Hostage Negotiation Team. He had saved kids from long-haired junkies, diminutive white ladies from radical Black Power groups; now he was here to stop four Vietnam vets from robbing a bank. Lt. Ben was well known for having an eye-patch over his left eye, wearing fingerless leather gloves and a sleeveless leather jacket.
Unfortunately, the pizza arrived after the police, and Mark was forced to negotiate away two hostages for the pies. Matt Rebed and independent-woman Jean Rickenzie were freed. Rickenzie would live another five years and die in her sleep in her son’s apartment. Rebed pursued his dream of creating the “Re-Bed,” a claw-like device that would help the elderly get back into bed after they fall out. If only he ever invented it before independent-woman Jean Rickenzie had fatally rolled out of bed.
While the kids went to work eating the pizza, Mark got on the phone with Lt. Ben.
“I want to walk out of here with twenty thousand dollars and a plane to Argentina,” said Mark.
“You want that, I need the kids,” said Lt. Ben, chewing on that lollypop stick he always had.
“I give you the kids, you have no reason to not bust in here and take us,” said Mark.
“Then—What? What is going on?” asked Lt. Ben as the crowd behind him made a collective gasp.
One of the officers, overwhelmed by the crowd control work, was having a heart attack. Inside, things weren't any better.
“Mister! Mister! Help!” said one of the huskier kids, while running up to Mark.
Whisken the Bank Manager was clutching his throat, a half eaten slice of pizza on the floor next to him.
“Was… there… pineapple… in… this?” Whisken said with what would be his last breaths.
2:15PM – 4 DEAD, 2 INJURED
Ms. Katherine Klein mounted Alvy like a cowgirl to a wild steer. He-haw. He-haw. She bucked on top of him with the force of a twister coming through the dusty plains of America. Her long hair twirled and danced above him. The emergency exit light draped the two unkempt souls in a deep crimson as Ms. Katherine Klein rocked back and forth on Alvy’s horn.
2:16PM – 4 DEAD, 2 INJURED, 1 CREATED
Mark stood in the lobby of the bank with a group of children, a useless Warren, a dead Oren, a dead bank manager and O’Shane the security guard. The phone rang. It was Lt. Ben.
“Mark, I have someone here who wants to speak with you.” said Lt. Ben.
Mark dragged the phone and walked to the front doors of the bank. He looked out and saw see who it was: Casey.
“Casey, what the hell are you doing?!” Mark was fuming.
“I– I wanted to talk to you, but they were blocking the entrance and, so, I told them I was your brother and–” Casey struggled to get his words out.
“What do you want!?”
“I need a ride home. I can’t find the car, and my bus pass is soaked, and I… I… I peed my pants.” The crowd outside roared with laughter, and the news reverberated throughout San Francisco as television and radio news relayed his humiliation.
Mark slammed the phone down. It was finally closing time and the bank vault could be opened. He walked over to Warren and slapped him to attention. Warren stirred.
“Warren, you need to hold things down. OK?” said Casey while he pushed a shotgun into Warren’s hands.
Warren nodded and rose to his feet. “I'm a one man army now, Sergeant.”
Mark grabbed O’Shane by the arm and the two walked into the bank vault. Mark was relieved at the sight of all the bags of money.
“What are you gonna do, son?” asked O’Shane.
“Well, I’m gonna go to Argentina. That’s where people go to hide and get new identities and spend the rest of their lives.” said Mark while stuffing cash into his own bags.
“Sounds like a fine trip, but that ain’t no life,” said O’Shane “You can take the money, but what’s the money gonna take?” O’Shane turned a corner in the bank vault and was gone, never to be seen again. Funny thing is, police have never been able to confirm that a Franklin O'Shane ever worked at the bank in the first place.
5:41PM – 5 DEAD, 2 INJURED, 1 CREATED
Mark returned upstairs, passing by the bathroom where he could hear the heavy breathing of Alvy and Ms. Katherine Klein. He walked into the lobby, where it was just him, Warren and a bunch of school children. Mark spent the next eight hours thinking over his plan, occasionally talking to Lt. Ben.
At 2 am, Lt. Ben decided it was enough and the police stormed into the bank. Mark was gone and so were $83,000.
Ms. Katherine Klein still visits Alvy in San Quentin, and brings along their son Oren. Warren, who now prefers to go by Stacey, was institutionalized and loves to spend his time scooping ice cream for his fellow patients. Casey also got fifteen years in San Quentin where he was never hurt by a single inmate, but was constantly asked if he had pissed himself, which he did on occasion.
Mark had always been good at special ops. It was his skill of ropes that helped him scale the bank and get over to the next building, disappearing into the San Francisco night. His skill of sneaking helped him get across the border at Mexico and continue onto Argentina. There he has lived the past 35 years, working as a baker near Parque Saavedra. The bakery doesn't do well, but money never seems to be an issue.
And how do I know what happened in that bank and to all that money? I guess you could call me insightful, but the men I play chess with in the park just call me…Â Franklin O'Shane. ♦
(Ed. note: please play “Oh Yeah” by Yello)