I’m filthy as a tomcat on the muelle. Smeared with mustard and dirt. Sitting in a cramped dive at the foot of Park Güell. Puffing on a near-dead Ducado. I knock back my third shot of Mascaró, reach for my wallet. It’s gone.
Just like I thought.
The gypmeister got the fake one.
Thing is, earlier today I got the dope on some lousy crooks in Park Güell. Taking advantage of people getting crapped on by pigeons. What they do is offer to wipe the crap off, then somehow swipe the victim’s dough.
So I was up in the park, walking by a fancy-schmancy gingerbread house. Guiris without a clue everywhere. Photos here. Photos there. If I was a gypmeister, I thought, I’d start here. I followed flagstones through a pretty fairytale garden. Windchimes went tinkly tinkly.
There was a foliaged arc overhead, and bunches of palomas. But I stopped eyeballing the flying shit machines when I saw suspicious activity … right past the arc was a man with tissue poised. He was about to wipe bird goo off a poor old lady. He was dressed in green cargo shorts. Wore a fisherman’s cap. A camera hung from his neck. I thought he was trying to fool me. Into thinking he’s a guiri, that is.
I tackled him. He whelped like a sickly puppy. We were in the dust. My hat flew off. Then screaming. Hysterical screaming. “TONY!!!!” I rolled the perp over and he was blinking, stunned. The lady screamed, “MY HUSBAND!!!”
I got up, my face dripping egg. I gallantly helped Tony up, then bent down to pick up my dusty hat. Little Tony was in a daze. I’m a big guy. Relleno as they say here. My locomotive force must’ve knocked his wind out.
“My apologies, mam.” I did my best to genuflect, despite my buddha paunch.
I handed her a business card. Larry Kovaks, P.I.
“You need anything. Call me.”
People were staring. The lady kept screaming. I got the hell out.
Walking away, down a dirt path, I heard funny-sounding English.
“Mister. Have sumting on coat.”
I turned and saw this levantine midget in a dimestore suit. He had tissue poised.
I whipped my coat off. Sure enough there was a piss-yellow stain streaking it. Looked like mustard. The guy stepped in with the tissue. But he made it worse, smearing the mustard substance with the dirt. I told him to bug off. He leered, spit out:
“I just try to help. Bug off to you!”
My cover was blown. I walked away, down to the city.
So now I’m in this dive. Scratch in hand, despite the attempt at crookery.
See, I knew I was going to get fleeced again. The creep in the dimestore suit must have squirted mustard on me. That’s his m.o. He squirts crap, then offers to clean it so he can lift your wallet.
But this time he got a fake wallet, with a love letter I left inside:
Lousy gypmeisters. Kovaks is on your ass.
Sometimes I amaze myself. I knock back my fourth shot of Mascaró and order another … beer back.