Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Prey and the Bandito

Last night we went to eat at Nauticos, the restaurant at the end of the marginal. Since Christmas they’d put in a patio that connects the main dining room with the riverbank. It’s the first place in Quelimane that takes full and unashamed advantage of the beauty of the city’s waterfront. There were maybe 20 of us in our group so we effectively took over the entire staff and facility.

But I’m not writing about what we did last night. Today, I’m writing about a crime. A shocking trespass against humanity that will change the way you look at southern Africa. It involves deception, intrigue, violence, ransom, and just enough sex to ask that parents read it in its entirety before deciding whether allowing the kids a peek. Also, it’s hysterical.

Truth be told, this is all hearsay. Troy told us this story as his guard told it to him. It all happened late one night on Troy’s street when he was asleep. Long-time readers will remember that Troy’s street used to be our street.

Jacinto, Troy’s guard, had been noticing some peculiar activity as of late. Apparently, a young woman was luring men down the dark alley at the wee hours of the morning with the chance of taking part in the oldest economic activity in the world. Her victims would saunter down the end of the alley and find a nice comfortable spot. What he didn’t know was that his companion’s bandito accomplice was hiding in the shadows near the site of the illicit transaction.

At the moment at which her victim was most vulnerable (usually with his pants around his ankles) the accomplice would jump out of the shadows. In mock fear, the young lady runs off. Flashing a knife, the bandito shakes down the victim for all the money on his trembling body. Later the pair split the booty at a separate location.

Remember, the source of this story is a security guard. Why didn’t he help the poor fellows? Didn’t he feel bad for them? As it turns out, he is only responsible for malfeasance within the boundaries of the property he protects. Luckily (for the purposes of this story), he is required to thoroughly observe any crimes committed nearby in case he has to report anything to the police.

On one particular night, Jacinto saw our antagonist up to her same tricks. But this time she had picked out a prey that was larger than your average Mozambican. One can only imagine the sinking feeling in the bandito’s heart as he saw a lion caught in his rabbit snare.

At the appointed time, the bandito sprang the trap. However, much to the evil-doer’s dismay, the prey did not frighten, and instead decided to stand his ground. In the ensuing scuffle, the prey quickly gained the upper hand, our lady friend long gone.

According to Jacinto, the prey had wrestled the bandito to the ground near a mud puddle. With one arm around his neck and the other on the back of his head, he forced the bandito’s face into the mud. He held him there for a moment, and when he allowed him a breath the bandito’s first utterance was a call to his gang.

His face was back in the mud when his gang finally appeared. Seeing that he was larger than any two of the gang combined, the prey immediately recognized his continued advantage.

“If you want your friend back,” said the prey, “bring me 500 meticais.” An ambush had been parleyed into a hostage situation.

500 meticais is a lot of money in Mozambique, and the gang didn’t have nearly that much on them even after rifling the bandito’s pockets. The prey callously insisted that they go find it while he waited by the bubbling puddle of muck and the bandito’s face. After what must have been an agonizing wait, the gang returned with the ransom for their comrade.

This, I feel, is good news and bad news. Yes, there is petty crime in Mozambique, but most of it is perpetrated by small-minded, small-bodied idiots. I guess that’s the same anywhere. And, as in this example, maybe every once in a while the criminals get what’s coming to them. But I know that I’ll never look at a Quelimane mud puddle the same way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree its a great story, I have a hard time believing its all true. The only witness likely to repeat the story is the 'prey' & I doubt very much any gang of petty thieves would 1. have 500 Mets readily handy & 2. be willing to hand it over. More likely the other gang members abandoned their pal & the 'prey' got tired of waiting & roughed the 'bandit' up some before letting him go. But hey . . . the modified story makes the 'prey' look much better & who is going to know the truth?!

February 11, 2008 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Laine said...

This story makes me realize how experiences and how we retell them are similar all over the world.

February 13, 2008 at 8:26 AM  

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