Slate today is taking the rare step of publishing a letter someone sent us from inside an ongoing bank robbery. We have done so at the request of the author, who is currently robbing a bank, but would like to minimize his exposure to criminal charges from this whole bank robbery thing now that it seems to be going south. We invite you to submit a question about this essay or our vetting process here.
“Machine Gun” Bill McGuire, the leader of the gang of hardened criminals currently robbing the First National Bank, is facing a test to his leadership unlike any faced by a modern American bank robber.
It’s not just that the building is surrounded by police officers. Or that he’s running out of hostages to bargain with. Or even that the sentries he posted in the loading dock don’t seem to be responding over their walkie-talkies anymore.
The dilemma—which he does not fully grasp—is that many of the senior henchmen inside his own gang are working diligently from within the bank to paint ourselves as heroes in the press while continuing to stuff our duffel bags with as much money as we can grab.
I would know. I am one of them.
To be clear, ours is not the popular “police department” of the government, the one that enforces the laws against robbing banks. We want the robbery to succeed and think that the part where we made the bank clerks hand over all the money in their drawers at gunpoint was a step in the right direction.
But we believe our first duty is to make it out of the bank alive so we can spend the money we have stolen, and “Machine Gun” McGuire continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to our escape.
That is why many members of the “Gratuitously Murder All the Bank Tellers, Even If They Are Out Sick on the Day of the Robbery” Gang have vowed to do what we can to murder slightly fewer bank tellers during this particular robbery, while blaming as much of the whole crime spree as possible on “Machine Gun” McGuire as we shoot our way to the getaway vehicle. In this sense, we, too, are police officers.
The root of the problem is “Machine Gun” McGuire’s collection of machine guns. It’s the kind of thing you might think would have sent up some red flags for us back in the job interview stage, or when we saw just how many machine guns “Machine Gun” McGuire considers normal to take to go on a Starbucks run (a lot of machine guns, it turns out), or when everyone who had ever met “Machine Gun” McGuire told us in no uncertain terms that he was a murderous, monumentally stupid lunatic and nothing but disaster would befall anyone who agreed to work for him. But you have to understand: Robbing banks pays very, very well. And until quite recently, we believed we were going to be able to continue traipsing up and down the west coast in a sort of endless summer of crime, lazily trying to catch the perfect robbery and the perfect wave, and all without hurting anyone but the banks, who’ve kind of had it coming since the 2008 financial crisis, so who’s really the villain here? But then we forgot to disable the silent alarm at First National, and before we knew it there were flashing blue lights everywhere we looked, and suddenly we realized that stealing was wrong and “Machine Gun” McGuire was a bad, bad man.
Although we, personally, had hoped not to machine gun anyone we didn’t have to, we have to regretfully report that “Machine Gun” McGuire shows little affinity for not shooting people with machine guns. We’re going to keep emphasizing “Machine Gun” McGuire’s outsized personality and big, attention-grabbing nickname, so you pay less attention to the way we’re edging toward the back stairwell with these tasteful, understated black duffel bags. Come to think of it, it looks like “Machine Gun” McGuire is preparing for a last-ditch shootout in the main lobby of the bank, so you should probably all be looking over in that direction, don’t you think?
The result is a two-track bank robbery.
Take the lobby: “Machine Gun” McGuire is hollering, “Eat lead, coppers!” and rat-a-tat-tatting his way off the planet in a demented blaze of glory, which means he’s also going to be stepping down from his leadership position in our gang, in which—and we cannot mention this enough—he made all the important decisions. It’s really entertaining to watch!
Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of “Machine Gun” McGuire’s gang is operating on another track, moving smoothly up the stairs while everyone watches their erstwhile leader do his best Butch Cassidy imitation in the lobby.
Cody Jarrett put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and quit worrying about who stole what from whom, or who killed which bank tellers when, or who’s trying to convince you that they’re some kind of a secret hero now that they’re afraid they’re going to get caught and miss out on the wingnut lecture circuit, all with the high aim of, uh, unifying our country, I guess? I’m sorry, I’m not snickering at you, I was just thinking of something funny that happened earlier today.
There is a quiet resistance within this bank robbery of people choosing to put country—no, humanity!—first. These heroes should be allowed to make their way to the roof, where there’s a fully-fueled helicopter “Machine Gun” McGuire didn’t know about, ready to take off for an indeterminate location in the Pacific northwest along with all the money we can carry. It’s hard to overstate how brave our selfless, tireless service as informal, freelance police officers inside this bank robbery has been, or how grateful the nation should feel about everything we’ve accomplished here. Because despite the fact that we’re essentially the greatest patriots in human history, we know that the real difference will be made when everyday citizens rise above politics, reach across the aisle, and resolve, with tears in their eyes, that we get to keep everything we stole.