Barcelona, Spain—We’re walking along Carrer de Ferran, a block off La Rambla. Instead of paying attention to the street scene, I’m looking for a wine shop. Ana is cooking dinner for us and we’re already anticipating the cozy evening. (Dinner turned out to include a sensational artichoke risotto, the cheesy sort that begs for overindulgence.)
So we’re ambling among the eclectic mob on Ferran when half a block ahead I notice a boy unfurl a piece of paper. It could have been a folded brochure or magazine page. He unfurls it with purpose, turns and walks toward me, but on the other side of the street. He’s got my attention. In a few seconds, he reaches the bar directly across the street from me, where people sit behind small tables at the open front. The boy lays his paper on top of a table, waits half a beat, then picks up his paper and scuttles back to the corner where I first noticed him. I see an empty spot on the table.
I grab Bob, who is ten feet ahead of me. “Postcard thief,” I say, “let’s follow!” I don’t mean someone who steals postcards. I’m referring to the method Kharem demonstrated years ago.
Meanwhile, the thief has met a girl on the corner, and he gives her something. We rush to catch up with them, pulling out cameras that had been retired for the evening. The boy and girl turn down an alley. Bob and I trot to get close, then stay ten or so feet behind them as we strategize. I want to confront them right away since I know they just took something. We close in and I come around the girl’s side.
The girl looks at me like I’m crazy, her fingers to her chest, shoulders hunched. “No have,” she says, or something like that. I put my hand on her. She immediately twirls out of my grasp so I turn to the boy.
“Give it to me,” I say. “I saw you take the wallet.” I hold up my camera. “I have photos,” I lied. “He has video.” I point to Bob, who is filming.
I reach for the boy, and they both take off, full-speed. “Cartaristas!” Bob shouts, mostly as an experiment. His Swedish-accented Spanish reverberates throughout the land. Every head in the plaÃ§a turns to look at us. No one seems to look at the fleeing thieves. We let them go.
Backtracking, we return to the bar. The victim is clearly looking for something. He’s only just discovered his loss.
“No, my mobile is gone,” he said. “It was right here.”
Shit! If I had demanded they give me the phone I would probably have gotten it back!
This is a follow-up to my recent overview Barcelona Street Crime Today.