So I got robbed. And there was a gun involved. But I'm okay. And my stuff's okay too. But there might be a Costa Rican youth behind bars this very evening (if the justice system's worth a flip) as a result of some very helpful friends of mine.
So I'll explain.
The setting takes us to a neighboring town called Alajuelita. Not overly interesting. But certainly a name I'll never forget. Our younger kids soccer team had a match there on Saturday morning, so that's where we were when the robbery went down.
If you'll entertain my high-tech diagramming, then please, continue reading. Two guys approached me and roommate Steve from behind (dotted line). We were sitting under the little awning thing (circled), just absorbing a beautiful Costa Rican Saturday morning. Robber No. 1 grabbed ahold of my camera bag, eternally slung round my neck. Thinking this was a child I became annoyed and looked behind for an explanation. The revolver of the other robber stationed nearby did the explaining. Steve jumped back and shouted something at the gunman along the lines of "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BUDDY?!" Sadly I don't think it rattled him.
So robber No. 1 deslung my camera bag and Flo Jo' ed it toward a nearby neighborhood as means of escape (solid arrow). The armed robber remounted his bike and rode in an opposite direction. A decision that would lead to the capture of his cohort. But let's not get ahead.
So I stood there for three quick breaths, stunned that I'd just been robbed and had a Bang-bang pointed in my immediate direction in the process. And then I turned to see a flash run past me. And that flash was my roommate, giving chase to the swiftly retreating camera thief. Oh my, I thought, as I watched the sprinting males disappear around a corner in the distance. Certainly these are interesting times.
And as I reached down to pick up my video camera that had fallen in the mud (fortunately Robber No. 1 didn't take this one too) there came a thunder. And it was the footfalls of 20 young soccer warriors who had just figured out what happened. So the whole of our soccer team ceased regulation play and without a single formal request, took to the streets after Steve and the robber and my Canon 30D. A few kids from the other team took up the cross too, bless them.
And so we flash back to Steve.
He rounded the corner after the robber. Running down the unknown street Steve thought he lost him. Steve came upon a church and entered, thinking the robber might have ducked inside. No robber there, but a wedding was in progress. No lie. I think we were all just reading a movie script or something. I think I got a pretty humdrum part though, so I'm going to talk to the writers...
Anyway, Steve didn't find the criminal inside the church. Dang. So he exited (perhaps around the time of the wedding vows, we'll say). But the winds of providence gusted. Just as Steve excited the church doors, the robber ran past. Both men were surprised at the other's presence and the chase was on again.
The robber jumped down a slight ledge from sidewalk to street. A crucial error. He landed with a falter and didn't recover. Steve vaulted the ledge and took him to the ground. There was some brief scuffling and then Steve constricted and the arm lock was clasped tight.
So the cops appeared shortly after, with help from the children who were on the scene moments after apprehension. So the metallic clink of the cuffs held Robber No. 1 fast and the cop-car door slammed shut with him inside. And Steve too. He needed a ride also you see.
But what happened to the camera?
Well, the robber feared his impending capture after rounding the first corner with Steve on his heels. Using low-tech methods he hid the camera in some bushes and then hid himself. It worked and Steve galloped past his hiding place, unawheres.
But then the robber didn't count on Steve entering the church and so ran past him at the church entrance, and the rest you know.
So, post-capture, the robber fessed up where the bag was. And we (they, actually. i was still clueless back at the soccer pitch just following the script plot cues) recovered everything and returned my prized burgundy man-bag to me with a mint and a toothpick.
But just to be sure we had to test the camera to be certain it worked. So we did. And the robber seemed like a good test subject to photograph. So we did. And here's what we got.
Robber No. 1 was just a kid. Probably not 20 years old and barely tipping the scales at 120 lbs, I'd say. Steve acted as an honorary Marshall temporarily.
The cops asked me to write my name and passport number on a ratty notebook they excavated from the bowels of the squad-car glovebox. Who knows where that information will end up or accomplish.
The robber asked the cops for some water. They laughed him off. So we gave him some from our soccer bottles. Steve also offered him a quick word on the fact that Jesus loves him despite his mistakes. But also that he is in need of some serious repentance.
The whole chase scene lasted probably 20 minutes (but the film editor is thinking of shortening it, the jerk).
The robber with the gun got away. He's probably still pedaling about somewhere, looking for a place to hide. Who knows.
After the robbery the game was decidedly OVER. But the kids were amazingly pumped up about the capture. And along with Steve, the team was solely responsible for finding the robber and recovering my equipment. These kids were raised in La Carpio. They know how things work on the street. Here's the celebration in the bus on the way back to La Carpio.
The plain-clothes officers.
The shoes of the man who chased down the robber.
Once back in La Carpio I got The Man a special donut pastry thing for his efforts. Thanks, Steve. You were awesome. My camera would be on its way to the shadetree market right now without your feats. Word on street is that The Academy has you on their short list of potential little gold man recipients for your performance.
And for the team, a cake sounded good. So I offered it as a means of saying thanks. The lady at the local pastry shop even put a special message on it for me (Para mis amigos de Juan). "For my friends of John." Not perfect, but it got the point across. The 20 adolescent mouths didn't care either way. And not a crumb was left over.
So that's the story of robbery, recovery and retribution. I feel incredibly fortunate that all goods were returned (including my measly mechanical pencil that one of the kids found in the bushes near the soccer pitch). I was/am truly moved that my roommate and fellow soccer playing friends would go to such lengths to help me. They are loyal friends indeed.
And things could've gone differently and it could've been a lot worse with the whole firearm business. I'll certainly be more careful in the future. I'm forever a skeptic now, I think. And that's probably a good thing.
I'm pretty much fine about the event. It was scary initially, but having captured one of the bad guys and seeing his humanity up close and his feebleness has removed a lot of the fearful intrigue. He was just a punk kid trying to make a fast score. He scored his way to the local P.D. in the end.
But I'll say I hope it doesn't happen again. And I hope you never experience a robbery such as this. Not overly fun. But who knows, it could be a stepping stone to landing me a major role in the next action-packed Costa Rican screenplay. Only time will tell.