When I signed up for the Accomplice Tour, endorsed by Neil Patrick Harris, I had no idea what I was in for. The night before the tour, I received a strange voicemail from a man with a thick Italian accent saying, “I need yous to be at Wata Street. Wata as in H2O. I’m gonna send a fella there to meet yous at exactly 1:30 sharp. Do not be late!” He concluded the message by instructing me to get rid of my phone because he didn’t want anyone tailing me. There was no backing out now. I was already an accomplice.
At 1:30 sharp on a Sunday afternoon in spring, the plot began. My roommate and I met a gang of eight beside the Brooklyn Bridge. They may have looked like your average teachers, bankers or clerks but we were all there for the same reason, and no one was to be trusted. A few minutes later, a man carrying a briefcase speaking loudly into his cell phone said, “Follow me.” That was our cue.
We huddled casually yet closely around him as he used the decoy to display information. We were chosen, he said, because we were a bunch of nobodies – average citizens who looked like tourists that no one would suspect. He told us that his crew did a very big job for a very big man and soon they would receive a very big reward. They were going to escape to an island that night. But first, the six men involved needed to get their plane tickets – that’s where we came in. We had less than three hours to distribute six tickets to men who were hiding all over lower Manhattan.
He handed the tickets to a teenage girl carrying a backpack of suspicious belongings and gave a tape recorder to a British man wearing neon blue sneakers (he looked like a fast runner). He gave another man (the muscles of the group) a green hat to wear so that the six men could identify us and he gave me a manila envelope.
“Don’t open the envelope until yous gets below the underpass,” he said. “And before you opens it, hit play on the tape recorder.” These were his last words before he picked up the cell phone, to which there was no ring, and walked away. Once we were safe below the underpass, blue shoes turned on the tape recorder, which began playing loud classical music. It was simply a distraction so that nearby pedestrians couldn’t hear our conversation. Inside the envelope was a picture of a bar and a note that read, “Ask for Milton.” When we arrived at the bar full of women’s undergarments hanging from the ceiling, the bartender told us Milton stopped by earlier to buy us a round of drinks and left us a note. As we consumed our beverages, we decoded the letter.
It led us to a car rental shop next to a sketchy vendor selling knickknacks at a table. “You want a smoke?” the man asked my roommate, motioning to an opened box of cigarettes. “No, thank you,” she said. “Go on. Take it,” sketchy man insisted. She looked him in the eye this time. “You got somethin’ for me?”
“Just a cigarette,” he said. She reached for the nicotine box and pulled out a cigarette half sticking out. There was a note rolled into the wrapper. She gave a head nod to the man and we proceeded. The tiny note told us what to say to the men once we found them. We went on to meet our first guy at the park.
This man was a difficult find, not because we couldn’t see him, but because he couldn’t see us. That’s right, a blind man sitting in a park was one of the six. He was holding a sign that read green hats. After we read the ticket details to him and handed him the goods, he gave us a peak inside his suitcase. Our next target was a man sitting at the end of the Brooklyn Bridge with a box.
Guy #2 was a lot easier to talk to, aside from his schizophrenia and turrets syndrome, but opening that box of his was not so easy. The code to the box was written on a plaque beside the bridge. Muscles took the man’s bike to retrieve it for us. After cracking the code, we unlocked the treasure containing a map, three dollars and a Chinese fortune cookie we needed to translate.
Oh, shucks. I may have said too much already.
I don’t want to give away all aspects of the mission because I have to cover my tracks. But I will say this: the remainder of the job included buying a live frog, chatting with a questionable construction worker, and having a nice Italian meal with a not-so-nice Italian man. Then, just when I thought the gig was up and I was out, they pulled me back in.
I’m proud to say my former accomplices and I completed the risky task before going our separate ways. It may have ended in a dicey situation with an undercover cop, but every grimy job comes with a great reward.