Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bonnie and Clyde: Romeo and Juliet in a Getaway Car

No Way Back

"Why stop to think of whether
This little dream might fade?
Let's put our hearts together
Now we are one, I'm not afraid."
I'm In the Mood For Love

J. McHugh, D. Fields

In evaluating Clyde Barrow's ability to side-step the police and humiliate every roadblock and trap along the thousands of miles of highway he traveled, one must consider the expedient arrest of every accomplice once away from Clyde's uncanny navigation. Ralph Fults was immediately apprehended after the Kauffman, Texas, affair and Ray Hamilton, having bid Clyde an adieu to visit his father in Michigan was forthwith taken in that state.

Clyde Barrow fully understood his position. If caught, he would surely die in the electric chair. While this knowledge inspired his sagacity, speed and aggressiveness, it sometimes caused him ill-temper and self-chastisement. In short, he was beginning to feel weighed down by his crimes. He would often turn darkly irrepressible.

He was in such a mood when he and Bonnie robbed the Little Food Store in Sherman, Texas. When proprietor Howard Hill sarcastically smart-mouthed him, Clyde found himself yanking the trigger in anger. Witnesses who had seen the pair emerge from the grocery Clyde's gun barrel still smoking as well as a counter clerk who had stood beside Hall when he fell, all identified the killer.

Bonnie and Clyde were now front-page material, but they rarely stopped in any town long enough to read what was beginning to be their lives' story. For them, it was back in the car and off again on a zig-zag, never-ending auto marathon. The police who pursued found Clyde stealthy and they found him smart. Because he methodically worked many border towns, he was able to pull across the state lines where the local constables couldn't pursue.

Tired of the penny-ante nickel-and-dime stuff that garnered few bucks and another notch in his gun, he decided to hit a few banks. After a roulette of store holdups in and around Carthage, Missouri, where they hid out in a deserted backwoods cabin, Clyde eyed the what-seemed-to-be prosperous Oswego Bank on Nov. 30, 1932. Bonnie had gone in the previous day, pretending to be interested in opening an account, merely to case the layout. She had returned with an excellent description. Now, while Bonnie waited at the wheel, Clyde approached a teller and being none too conspicuous, flashed a .38 in her face and demanded money from her drawer. An alert guard saw the gun and popped a shot at the robber, but missed. Realizing his predicament, Clyde grabbed the only money available in a flash, some $80 lying open at the teller's cage, and left, ducking the shots of the intent but poorly aimed guard.

Their first bank job was a failure, but not so much as the small-town bank he chose to stickup the following day. Rushing into its foyer, this time brandishing his guns and yawping like a savage to discourage any would-be guard, he encountered a deserted building. He glowered at the empty teller grids, the desks carpeted with dust and the wall clock that had long quit working, and left in a huff feeling like Fortune's fool.

They returned to Texas to spend Christmas with their families, even if it meant a brief reunion in one of a number of out-of-the-way groves around Dallas. Clyde felt that he needed to add another member to his gang. Since Ray Hamilton had left there had been no one to stand watch while he and Bonnie slept at whatever river bed, backroad or orchard they decided to nod a head when they became weary.

Clyde had known the Jones family since childhood and had always considered their boy, William Daniel, a kid with moxie. Quite a few years younger than Clyde, W.D. as he was called noticeably idolized Clyde and now made overtures to join his famous gang. The latter needed to consider Jones was only 16 years old and still somewhat "wet behind the ears" but then again he could handle a car and, being tall and exceedingly muscular for his age, might come in handy if brute force were needed. When Bonnie and Clyde departed Dallas on Christmas Eve, their ranks had risen.

W.D. Jones, photo by gang member
W.D. Jones, photo by gang member

The following day, on Christmas, 1932, Jones' recruitment proved lethal. It was time to steal another car and Clyde figured that W.D. would be good at that after all, he had stolen many in his youth or so he told Clyde. Driving through the little postcard town of Temple, Texas, the gang spotted a new Ford Coupe V-8 parked out front a frame house at 606 S. 13th Street. Having by now driven an assortment of automobiles, Clyde had become a good judge of motorworks; he particularly liked the trigger-pin acceleration and roominess of that particular model Ford.

It was broad daylight on 13th Street as Clyde drew up alongside their mark. He instructed W.D. to jump out to see if the keys had been left in the ignition and, if so, follow him and Bonnie out of town where they could transfer their gear from one car to another. But, the boy was nervous; this being his first assignment for the indomitable Barrow Gang. Nervous fingers could not turn over the car.

"You have to pump the gas!" Clyde yelled. "Just a couple times pump it!"

W.D.'s intermittent attempts to spark the motor merely awoke the neighbors who looked out their front windows at the annoying sputter. From his parlor window John Doyle looked out to find strangers berthed in the front seat of his new pride and joy. By this time Clyde had shoved Jones aside and was trying himself to start the auto. The engine flooded, the air reeked of gasoline fumes. Several more sporadic twists of the key finally ignited the buggy. Kicking in, rumbling, the engine calmed and purred.

However, car-owner Doyle had reached the running board. One hand grabbed Clyde by the tie knot, while the other groped for the key from the dashboard. Clyde couldn't shake the aggressor. Residents began spilling onto their front porches, pointing, yelling, accusing. From the other car, Bonnie cried, "Forget about the car, Clyde, leave him alone and let's get out of here!" W.D., not knowing what else to do, sat beside Clyde and whimpered.

Clyde had his gun out and swung to butt his attacker from him, but Doyle in turn grabbed the revolver. In doing so, one finger plucked the sensitive trigger. The weapon roared. Clyde felt the grip on his neck loosen as the other's expression drastically altered. The clumsy angle of the gun had sent a bullet into Doyle's chest. Pushing the now lifeless form onto the curb, Clyde accelerated off 13th Street, Bonnie behind him in the other car. And W.D. still whimpered.

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