The Accomplice NYC tour is part scavenger hunt and part theater. Credit: Sam Lundin/Accomplice
When I signed up for the Accomplice tour, endorsed by Neil Patrick Harris, I had no idea what I was in for. The day before the tour, I received a strange voicemail from a man with a thick 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!” After the hilarious voicemail, the man instructed me to get rid of my phone because we didn’t want anyone tailing me. Already I felt like an accomplice. There was no backing out now.
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 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 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 could not easily be found.
He handed the tickets to a sweet-looking teenage girl carrying a backpack of suspicious belongings and gave a tape recorder to a British man wearing neon blue sneakers (he looked like he could run fast). He told another man, the muscle of the group, to wear a green hat (this is how the men would know we were the gang) and he gave me a manila envelope.
“Don’t open the envelope until yous gets below that 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 got below the underpass, blue shoes turned on the tape recorder, which began playing loud classical music. It was a distraction to the passersby so they wouldn’t hear our conversation. Inside the envelope was a picture of a particular 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 an opened box of cigarettes toward her. “No, thank you,” she said. “Go on. Take it,” sketchy man said. She looked him in the eye this time. “You got something for me?”
“Just a cigarette,” he said. She reached for the nicotine box and pulled out a cigarette half sticking out. I stood nearby, shocked by her actions, knowing she wasn’t a smoker. She turned to me and unraveled the note. She gave a head nod to the man and we proceeded. The cigarette 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, and we knew that was our guy. 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-like qualities, but opening that box of his was not easy. The code to unlock the box was written on a plaque beside the bridge. After cracking the code, we unlocked the treasure containing a map, three dollars and a Chinese fortune cookie we needed to have translated.
I don’t want to give away all aspects of my 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. My former accomplices and I completed the risky task then went our separate ways. But every grimy job comes with a great reward and I found that my hard work paid off.