They called themselves H&C. The only people who knew what H&C stood for were H&C themselves—that is, Bob Hayes and Steve Clinton. Not even those who worked for H&C knew what it stood for.
People outside of H&C often attempted to guess what the initials stood for. Members of the organization were encouraged to drop hints to outsiders as to what H&C meant, which usually ended with some astronomically wrong answer to the proposed question, such as “Heists and Criminal activity” or “Henchmen and Commanders.” Hayes and Clinton rewarded those who spread these comedic rumors with large amounts of money—mere dents in the infinite pockets of these leaders.
They were a criminal organization; in fact, they were the best criminal organization in New York City at the time. Hayes and Clinton were two criminal geniuses, and they devised a system of signals and notes that could be sent to their “employees” at any given time. Throughout the years they had perfected this system, and it involved many things: a member who owned a coffee shop would sell certain things that meant different things. Once the member who was a policeman—and there were many secret admirers of H&C within groups of policemen—noticed, he would wear a watch different than his usual one, which a member who was a rather elderly man would watch for. This man would then place a pot of geraniums outside of his house for another member to watch for, and so on. In this way, H&C was able to rob many of the best museums for jewels, art, and antiques. They never bothered with “petty” robberies—when they robbed a building, it was done at the most difficult times, and with great pains. The men particularly loved stealing precious gemstones right out from beneath the museum curators’ noses, which led to great bewilderment and hatred toward H&C in the artistic world. They had never been unsuccessful, and both Hayes and Clinton lived in great wealth and elegance.
Hayes was the actual head of the operation. He was just over six feet tall and grotesquely thin. His features were sharp and his nose long and hooked. A pair of rectangular glasses that settled upon the tip of his nose provided him with the sight that he required. He had a thinning amount of gray hair atop his head, which he daily parted on the left side and combed into perfect position. He had twenty suits, each of them black, which he rotated through, and ten pairs of shiny black shoes, which he rotated through as well. He was a journalist and reporter, and wrote a weekly column for The New York Times newspaper, which talked about criminal activity in the area and touched on the topic of the infamous H&C—a rather ironic situation, for he had insight into the group that none of the other reporters could boast.
Hayes’ column was in fact an inconvenience to those that ran the very places that H&C stole from. The owners of these museums and such never wanted the public to find out about the robberies and thefts. If a diamond or jewel was stolen, most would have simply preferred to have an exact replica of it made and keep the public ignorant. But telling the public of these ordeals was exactly how Hayes was made successful and wealthy. Since he was such an influential member of the community, the owners kept silent of their inner annoyances. They always knew it was H&C who ruined their status because a paper was always placed in the exact spot that the stolen item was taken from, and on it, written in a thick, elegant, hand, it was always said the same thing:
There will be no charge for the removal of this item.
Of course, these words fueled much hatred for the group, but since no one could catch them, nothing could be done about it.
Clinton was exactly the opposite. He stood at five feet eight inches in his patent leather shoes, had a potbelly and a double chin, and had the sort of deep, booming voice that commanded attention. He was a lawyer—and a very good one—and was the C in Clinton & Ferguson, the prestigious law firm. He chose to defend criminals—again, rather ironic—and always won. He had a way with the jury and judges and knew how to plant the right information into their minds. He liked to wear expensive Italian suits—preferably purple, although red and black were fine as well—and had a walking stick that was encrusted with diamonds. His hair was thick and dark, and he wore it tucked underneath of a top hat; he thought that the hat would create the illusion of height. He had a very distinctive smell—that of tobacco smoke and mint. The former was from the fat cigars that he was very often chewing on between yellowed teeth, the latter from the small glass jar of mints that sat on his desk. He was known for his descriptive and eloquent tales of his childhood. Most of the things that he told his captive audience weren’t true; he preferred to make up details that added to the uniqueness of his stories.
At one point, Steve Clinton had a rather enchanted audience as he told of his youth in the country. With pride, he began to tell the story of his battle with a bear—a definite crowd-pleaser, and one that he told often. As he laid down the setting and background, he could feel his audience settling in for the ride.
The story began with a young Steve tending to his family’s livestock in the rural country. The sky began to darken with the night, and Steve hurriedly gathered his animals to take back to the farm. It was a good ten minute walk in the dark back to the safe haven of his home.
Clinton could feel the tension and anticipation of his audience, waiting for the moment the bear would appear.
“We were halfway home, when the bear appeared. It came up right in front of us, and one of the sheep bleated in terror! I couldn’t do anything but fight—it was dark already, and I had to do something.” He leaned in closer to his audience; so close that they could see his nostrils flaring and the sweat running down his doughy cheeks. “I raised my fists and struck the creature, and it roared at me.”
At this, Clinton raised his voice and imitated the creatures call, causing one of the women in the audience to titter softly, “Oh, my, that’s frightening!”
Clinton lowered his voice for the climax and the audience leaned in, even closer. “It struck me with its paw, breaking my arm. I had only one arm with which to defend myself. Glancing around, my eyes landed on a stick, about ten yards away through the trees. I made a break for it, the bear right behind me.” He paused and stood. His audience stared in fierce captivation, waiting for him to continue.
Clinton quickly decided to end the story, instead of prolonging it even more. Of course, he had never met this bear, but his audience loved stories of beasts and adventure.
Clearing his throat, he continued. “I reached the branch and grabbed it. Spinning around, I hit the beast on its head! It reared and roared at me, but I hit it again and again. Finally, falling to its haunches, it crashed through the undergrowth and disappeared.” Steve looked at the faces of his audience. “I never did see that bear again.”
With a sense of satisfaction, he watched the members of his audience slowly disperse across the room. It was this same sense of satisfaction and pleasure that motivated Clinton to head the most prestigious criminal group in New York. Steve loved the thrill that he got from tricking one of the best cities in the United States—and having no one suspect him of doing it.
Bob Hayes led the group for an entirely different reason: he loved the complex puzzle of getting past security measures and law enforcers. To him, all it took was a bit of logic and some elbow grease and anyone could accomplish anything. After all, here he was, successful and well-liked, but also leading a group of misfits and criminals in his spare time.
For twenty years, these two interesting characters led a rather exclusive criminal organization, entitled H&C, and during those twenty years they committed some of the most ingenious crimes that New York had ever seen. But then: the organization fell apart. It started slowly, then grew in catastrophic speed, then collapsed entirely, leaving nothing but Bob Hayes and Steve Clinton perched precariously atop a pile of lies and broken laws.
It started in the fall. A note was found on Hayes’ desk at the newspaper headquarters, which said simply this: Meet me at Morgan Park at noon. Being a rather intelligent man, and one of great skepticism from his years of criminal activity, he went to his secretary, a young woman by the name of Ella, and asked her if she knew who had left the note on his desk.
“I can’t say,” she told him. “Mr. Walker went into your office last night after you left. I don’t know if he left a note or not.”
Mr. Walker was the editor of The New York Times, and he was a large, strong man with an obvious past of athletic achievement. He was hard on his employees, yet preferred them to be content. When he told an employee to do something, he or she did it.
“Yes, I left the note for you,” Mr. Walker said. “I’ll expect to see you there.”
Bob Hayes arrived at Morgan Park at five minutes to noon. He parked his car—a small, outdated Ford—and left the gravel parking lot. He walked through the woods, pausing to admire the trees’ colorful leaves, and then through the graveyard. A cold wind blew across the gravestones, and he shivered and pulled the collar of his black suit coat up.
He waited at the picnic tables for half an hour, but Mr. Walker never arrived. Irritated and disgusted, he left.
When he arrived back at the newspaper headquarters, his confidential file marked “hobby” was gone.
He didn’t notice.
Mr. Walker was not at the newspaper headquarters when he got back, and he asked Ella where the editor had gone.
“He had some business to attend to, but he didn’t specify what it was,” Ella said.
Hayes didn’t go to work the next couple of days, preferring to stay at home and tend to his rising temper.
Two days later, Steve Clinton received a letter in the mail that went as follows:
To Mr. Steve Clinton;
Mr. and Mrs. James Albert cordially invite you to the wedding of their daughter, Elizabeth Marie Albert, to Bennett Ashton, on Wednesday, the twenty-fifth of September. The ceremony will take place at one o’clock, with reception to follow, at Morgan Park, 23 Williams Lane, New York, New York.
Clinton did not remember a Mr. and Mrs. James Albert, but this occasionally happened to him, and being a man of extreme confidence and taking pride in his social achievements, he accepted the invitation and went, on September twenty-fifth, to Morgan Park.
Bob Hayes had received a similar letter, and he too decided to attend the wedding. They slightly acknowledged each other, but if anyone saw them, they wouldn’t assume their relationship to be anything more than a slight acquaintance, if that.
At first the ceremony seemed to be typical, but halfway through Hayes noticed a slip of paper on the ground next to his foot. Glancing one way, and then the other, and seeing no one of suspicion, he picked it up.
We found you.
Thus began the end of H&C.