Even when we think we have it all figured out, we don’t
Fernando Araujo’s pipe dream is to rob the Banco Río in Buenos Aires. But he is an idea man, not an engineer. So the high-grade marijuana grower hits up his old high-school friend Sebastián García Bolster, now a family man who tinkers in his spare time.
Bolster is game, and they hatch a plan (detailed in a 2020 GQ article) to enter the financial institution through one of the underground storm drains that honeycomb the city and empty into the river. Faced with the problem of how to disable the bank’s night alarm system, they decide on a daytime heist.
Since the duo are after the basement safe-deposit boxes where Argentinians distrustful of their national banking system increasingly keep their valuables, they will stage a phony first-floor robbery to distract from the real crime scene below. Araujo recruits two veteran bank robbers out of mothballs, Doc and Beto. A legendary Uruguayan thief named Vitette agrees to be an investor.
With the patience of an ant, Bolster drives nightly to Perú Beach and splashes through the labyrinth of tunnels in the direction of the bank. But how to dig a passageway at just the right angle to reach the building’s foundation? One night he bicycles to the bank and feeds a weight on a string through a storm drain, ascertaining the vertical distance from street to canal floor.
To get the horizontal distance to the tunnel without being conspicuous, he measures the perimeter of his bike tire, walks it from the manhole cover just above what will be his starting point, and counts the tire revolutions. Thus he ascertains the two sides of the triangle, and simple math will give him the hypotenuse.
At a nearby branch of Banco Río, Araujo pretends to be interested in renting a safe-deposit box, takes note of the brand name, and buys several from the manufacturer for Bolster to practice cracking. The tinkerer devises a quiet jackhammer he can transport in pieces and reassemble on-site. How to carry away their booty from the plundered boxes? Inflatable Zodiac boats.
But what if the dinghy’s contents bog down in the shallow canal effluvium? Build a dam to raise the water’s depth! Exit at Perú Beach? No, the cops will expect that: Flee in the opposite direction, and surface somewhere else in town, with a getaway van at the ready sitting on top of a designated manhole.
On the big day, their fingertips glue-tipped to ensure no prints, a band of seven sets out in three stolen vehicles. Doc and Beto enter the bank, Beto flashing a toy gun. Meanwhile, Vitette and another Uruguayan drive into the underground bank garage, barricade the door, and join their team upstairs. The third car, nails and oil cans in the back seat as if prepared to slow pursuing police, is a decoy getaway car.
Vitette will deal with the police encircling the building. Playing the part of charming negotiator, he drags out a hostage release drama (making the officers feel they have the upper hand) long enough for Doc downstairs to break through the attenuated wall behind which patient Bolster waits in darkness. On the signal from Araujo, Vitette has the police order six pizzas. Meanwhile the gang hurriedly stuffs bags with booty, bleaches the room of DNA evidence, and scatters hair sweepings from a barbershop.
Five men in a Zodiac tugging bags containing $20 million of loot swoosh through the bowels of a captivated city whose attention is misdirected to a building they no longer occupy. The dinghy engine motor floods, but Araujo has thought of that too, and dispenses paddles. Heavy bags are hoisted up to the getaway van with a pulley system, and the air-filled conveyance, having served its purpose, floats away. Credit cards from the boxes are strewn here and there on streets to keep the lawmen busy for a while.
Except it’s not. Five weeks later, Beto’s wife, fed up with her husband cheating on her, rats him out. Moral of the story: “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30).
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