The metro station of Plaça Catalunya. There’s a gypmeister who fleeces tourists and unvigilant locals. His m.o. is mysterious but one of my contacts provided me with good leads. I knock back some Mascaró and grab my hat. I’m preparing myself. Mentally, that is.

He dresses in shabby blue suits, has peppery hair, is badly shaven. Has a distinct smell. Bad. At least that’s what his frantic victims have said. His zone of choice is the escalators that lead out from the train platform to the main hub at Plaça Catalunya.

His marks are varied. This throws me off. Small timers usually pick easy prey like abuelas and overweight tourists. He doesn’t discriminate. Old and young. Guiris and locals. Chicas, chicos. He gets them all, this fellow.

3 on the dot. The escalators going down to the train tracks. No one fitting the gypmeister’s description. A bum, lushed up, sprawled at the foot of the stairs; midday stragglers drift in and out. Just common folk. He’s probably lurking somewhere, waiting for the next shipment of guiris from El Prat. Or he could be on the train himself.

I drag my Ducado. Stamp it out with my Spanish leather. Descend the stairs. Next train arrives at 3:11. So I wait. Puff another Ducado. I’m a negrophiliac.

Out they step, impatient as hell. I file behind a chica with legs up to here. I mean they’re nice. Exposed tanga. Incredible the liberality of parents nowadays.

There’s an invisible force herding us in. Everybody, whining kids with chocolate stains on their mouths, guiris with darting eyes, chicas, chicas. I follow the chica en tanga and am about to board the escalator when I notice the bum is gone from his spot.

Then I see him, at the escalator, going up. He’s ahead by a couple people. I can’t get around. I can’t get to him.

I’m sure this is the guy. He’s no longer in a bad way. I mean, he looks alert and calm at the same time. A deadly black mamba about to strike. Mid-journey he starts rifling his pockets. I don’t know what he’s doing, but it’s suspicious. I pardon myself and push my girth past the chica en tanga. Sometimes you have to be forceful. It’s my job.

The gypster is it at the top. A stray, bent cigarette tumbles from his pocket. He bends down to pick it up and blocks us in. We’re smashing up against him like screaming kids against the railing at an OT concert. Then I smell it, a powerful stench of allioli and vino. The chica en tanga elbows me, hard, and wriggles past, off the escalator platform.

Finally off, I rub my side. That was unnecessary. Little puta.

The guy I thought was the con was just a common drunk, I guess. He waddles off, disappears in the crowd.

I walk out, head to café Zurich for a quick one. Then I notice something essential is missing. My wallet, that is. My buzzer my pasta. Nada.

It hits me. It was the chica en tanga and the smelly bum in cahoots. He blocked me in and she snaked my goods when she elbowed me. Rat bastards …

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