Bob Arno and Bambi in a den of thieves—16

Bob Arno and Bambi in a den of thieves—16

Anticipation. Frank has RSVPed by email, with enthusiasm. But what about the others? Will they come to our dinner? I wonder about the restaurant chosen by Andy. Is it owned by a relative? Is it a regular thieves’ den? Will the food be appetizing and safe to eat? Is it a dive, or has he taken advantage of our offer to select an outrageously expensive place?

It’s in a rough neighborhood, is all we are told. Later, our crew go there to scout the lighting needs and see how they’ll set up cameras, but the place is closed.

At the dinner, we hope to exchange pickpocketing techniques. Bob is particularly interested in learning the moves involved in a slow, steady extraction from the front pants pocket. To be on the safe side, we decide to buy a pair of pants with the kind of pocket we know will work.

We go shopping, camera crew in tow. And given the neighborhood, given the mass of equipment that surrounds us on this excursion, we have police protection. Not one, but two cops escort us into the alley of cheap clothing, where we find what we think are the perfect pants. Michele shouts as a man runs toward Van, who has the Red on his shoulder; Van can only see what’s in his frame. One of our cops steers the man away.

Waiting for the dinner, we feel we must stay off the buses. We don’t want our pickpocket friends to think we’re looking for their competitors. Neither do we want to infringe on their work—we’re not law enforcement, we remind ourselves. This city could put a dent in thievery if it wanted to, but criminal activity is an innate and intrinsic part of society here; our values are outsiders’ ethics.

We feel it’s safe, so-to-speak, to research another territory. We make a morning trip to a huge outdoor market where we’re told a few female pickpockets work plucking wallets out of women’s purses. Bob and I wander the aisles of clothing, shoes, hardware, luggage, housewares, and electronics. I’m totally, naturally, distracted by the shoes—of top quality and bottom price. A fabulous pair of tall, lace-up boots costs €25, about $30—10% of regular retail! I want to try them on but I’m supposed to be thiefhunting. Our crew is following us with their hidden cameras. Kun is using an exposed Canon D5 for stills, but it also shoots gorgeous video. We have undercover police guards tailing us at the ends of each aisle. Nothing happens. I try on shoes, I set down my purse, I turn my back on it. Nothing. No takers.

Bob Arno and Bambi in a den of thieves—16

Back in the police office we dissect our failure to attract thieves. Kun’s camera was too obvious, the police say. Shouts were heard warning of cameras. The books containing hidden cameras were held unnaturally, raising suspicion. My purse was carried too carelessly, they say, no local woman would hold it like that.

While we’re debriefing in the police office, three separate victims come to report thefts from their purses. The thieves are there. They’re working. But they’re savvy, and they don’t like me as a victim.

The market is closing now; each vendor is packing up and loading boxes onto trucks. Our dinner with thieves is nearing.

Part one of this story.  —  Next installment

© Copyright 2008-2010 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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  • y e l m and Gina: Alas, I did not get the boots. I didn’t try them on because there was no crowd in that corner of the market, and I was supposed to be tempting bag-dippers. I planned to go back to the market but, as you can tell, every minute has been crazy-busy. You know how it is when you see something perfect and don’t buy it… it’s hard to forget and the disappointment lingers. But I will for sure go back there and I’ll find something else just as good.

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