A friend, name of Pauline, came to Renato and me for help after her purse was snatched and she subsequently received a note offering to return it if she went to the Morro Santa Teresa in the north end of the city. Morro Santa Teresa was a tree-covered hill in a somewhat dubious neighborhood, and Pauline was reluctant to go up there alone.
To avoid looking like a possibly wealthy foreigner, Renato duly changed into workingman’s clothes, paint-spattered jeans and an old shirt. For added panache he fashioned a hat out of newsprint as painters were wont to wear. I had trouble finding something “poor-looking” to wear but eventually settled for a plain cotton shift.
And so the three of us drove there in my little Beetle, following directions to the thieves’ hideout at the top of the Morro. Renato told me to turn the car around facing downward before we got out and proceeded into the shack.
The two men inside were ever so polite, giving us a story of how they were trying to install electricity for the poor people living on the hill, etc. etc. They said they were not the people who had stolen Pauline’s purse but had found the empty wallet on the ground, and since her ID papers were still in it and it would be so troublesome to replace them, they didn’t doubt she would want it back. It was now Renato’s turn to make his speech.
Since it was obvious we three were foreigners regardless of his clothing, Renato explained that he wasn’t rich but would be glad to donate some funds toward their worthy project. He then handed over some cruzeiros equal to about $40 and received the wallet in return. We said cordial goodbyes and walked back to my Beetle at a casual saunter, got in and drove out of there with dispatch.
I have used this episode in a story or two but this version is the absolute, purest, unembellished, straight truth.