Crime Motto of the Week: Take Time for Prep Time

The crook didn’t display a weapon at any point during the incident; when you’re that well prepared, you don’t need to.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the key to success in life is practice, as in “practice, practice, practice.” However, the true secret to getting what you want may actually lie in preparation a subtle distinction, as was made clear by the profitable visit one bank robber paid to the Greenpoint Savings Bank at 1010 Third Avenue on Feb. 28.

The robber obviously couldn’t drop by the bank and pretend he was holding it up a few times until he got his moves down, so he did the next best thing: He arrived at the institution approximately an hour before he pulled his heist, took a chair, got comfortable and chatted on his cell phone. All that time, he was actually casing the joint, bank officials realized in retrospect.

The thief left and then returned a short time later, waited in line and, when his turn came, presented a teller with a deposit slip on which were written what the police described as “robbery instructions.”

The teller handed over $4,040 in $20 and $50 denominations along with a bank dye pack, which is designed to explode after the perp departs and make him readily identifiable to the police. The bandit fled the premises in an unknown direction. It wasn’t known whether the dye pack exploded.

A description of the thief, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound white male with blond hair, was broadcast over the police radio. The cops canvassed the nearest subway station but didn’t find him. The countertops at the bank and the perp’s note were secured for fingerprint analysis. And the NYPD’s Major Case Squad responded to the scene and took the note and the bank’s security video for further investigation.

The crook didn’t display a weapon at any point during the incident when you’re that well prepared, you don’t need to and there were no injuries.

Tipping Not Optional

How much to tip service providers is a perennial, almost philosophical question confronted by New Yorkers. Those whose compensation gives us the most angst include bartenders, takeout delivery men (do they really deserve the 15 to 20 percent we normally tip waiters at restaurants?), sales clerks at places like Starbucks (who apparently expect a gratuity merely for doing their jobs) and, of course, cabbies.

One driver apparently offered a female passenger guidelines for what he considered an appropriate tip when he dropped her off at 72nd Street and First Avenue around 1 p.m. on March 4. She didn’t appreciate his suggestion, and an argument ensued. It ended not in happy compromise but in him exiting the vehicle, opening the passenger’s door and dragging her out of his cab by her neck and hair. The passenger later said her head had hit the door frame, though there were no signs of physical injury when the police and Emergency Medical Service technicians arrived.

By that time, the perp had apparently fled the scene but not before his victim got his name and hack license number. She told the cops she felt threatened by the cabby’s actions and filed a harassment complaint against him with the 19th Precinct.

The S&M Life

Artists, writers and poets employ a multitude of metaphors for death. But Amy Gutman, the author of Equivocal Death (Little, Brown), may be the first author to employ a white-shoe law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore as the Grim Reaper’s handmaiden.

Of course, Ms. Gutman doesn’t identify her old employer, where she labored as an associate for a couple of years after graduating from Harvard and Harvard Law School, by name in her book People magazine’s “Page-Turner of the Week” for March 5. She wisely changed it to Samson & Mills (“S&M” for short), but she says that former colleagues at the firm weren’t fooled. In fact, they rather enjoyed the send-up of their workplace.

“My friends have all been really excited about it and love it,” said Ms. Gutman, who received a six-figure advance for this, her first novel. “It’s hard for me to say what the partners think.”

Equivocal Death is the story of Kate Paine, a 26-year-old (you guessed it) Harvard Law graduate who lands an assignment working with the firm’s top partners on a sexual harassment case, defending the publisher of a snarky men’s magazine called Catch.

Kate seems to be on the fast track to making partner herself until the senior female partner on the case turns up dead giving Kate, who fears she may be next, severe doubts about her chosen career path. The suspects include Catch’s lascivious editor; the firm’s senior partner, who was rumored to have had an affair with the victim, Madeleine Waters; and Madeleine’s former hair- dresser, who now insists on giving all her former colleagues the same bob he gave her.

To Ms. Gutman, the scariest parts of her book don’t involve the hushed violence that treads Samson & Mills’ thick-carpeted hallways, but simply being forced to work at a place you really don’t like. “The term ‘equivocal death’ has two meanings,” the author explained. “It’s a term used by homicide detectives when a crime scene is ambiguous, when they’re not sure whether it was a homicide or suicide. But it also goes to the idea of the firm being a false life, and what happens to people when they’re working in this all-consuming environment.”

Ms. Gutman concedes there are those though she doesn’t count herself among them who revel in the practice of the law. “In litigation, it’s this very high-stakes sport, and if that’s what you’re drawn to and what makes you feel energized and alive, then it’s a good choice for you,” she said.

For her part, Ms. Gutman discovered that researching case law held less allure than viewing pictures of corpses, which is how she spent part of last summer, at a forensics convention in Maine.

“I watched these incredibly grisly slides of violent deaths with all these forensic pathologists who were very blasé about everything,” she recalled. “You find certain images are really haunting. It’s interesting to think why a certain image among all the different kinds of violent deaths is particularly arresting.”

She politely declined to describe the image that most disturbed her. “I’m probably using it in my next book,” she explained.