This piece was contributed by Christopher K, a Bogota blogger who got locked up in a Brazilian penitentiary last year. Here’s his story:
Something’s not right in front of the tienda bar. It’s not too late at night and Sam’s just purchased an arepa con chorizo. We’re talking with two friends on the sidewalk when a mendigo asks for money – perfectly normal in La Candelaria, but there’s something off about this particular bum. His eyes are too focused, too searching. It’s so subtle I wonder if I’m the only one who notices. All four of us fuck him off and he wanders away. We’re involved in an animated discussion , but I make a note to keep an eye on this guy. He’s distinctively short.
A few minutes later a one-armed mendigo rudely breaks into our chat to beg. We fuck him off as well. A minute later I notice him standing with the short guy. They’re looking at us while talking – planning something maybe.
I look away and a minute later, the one-armed guy comes back begging. I look around for Shorty, but he’s gone. I step forward and raise my hand in the middle of our group to stop the conversation. “Hey, something’s up” … and then I spot Shorty. He’s crept along the wall next to Sam. In that instant, he barely taps Sam on the waist, then turns and runs. Sam responds without hesitation, “Motherfucker!” He sprints after Shorty. We all follow.
Shorty’s got a 10-yard lead on Sam. Sam’s yelling after him, “‘¡Hijueputa, no voy a dejar!” Without breaking stride, with a shot that’d make an NFL quarterback’s father weep with pride, Sam chucks his arepa at Shorty and the half-eaten sandwich explodes across the back of his head. “I’m not gonna stop!” Sam reminds him.
Shorty hesitates at a corner and Sam tackles him, hitting him right in the ribs. “Gimme back my cell phone!” Sam demands in Spanish. Shorty cries he hasn’t got it, which turns out to be true. All Shorty managed to get out of Sam’s pocket was a few small bills, maybe 6000 pesos. Sam doesn’t realize this yet and and beats on Shorty with his fists.
A fat Colombian guy wanders by and asks going on. ‘Caught a thief,’ someone explains, and the fat guy says (all in Spanish), ‘Oh yea? Step aside.’ He kicks Shorty in the head a few times, then goes on his way.
Improbably, a lone uniformed police officer turns up. Sam doesn’t stop his pummeling. Once the cop’s been told what happened, he tells Sam in Spanish, “OK, that’s enough.” He pulls out his baton and taps his palm saying, “I’ll take over from here.”
Sam got his money back and is relieved to find his cell phone safely tucked in another pocket. The cop cuffs Shorty and drags him up to his feet, leading him away. Every few steps the cop cracks him across the head or shoulders with his baton. Safe bet: the cop in only warming up.
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