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Authors: Kathryn Bonella

Hotel Kerobokan (9 page)

BOOK: Hotel Kerobokan
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You know how Kerobokan is, it’s a joke. You can bring an elephant inside if you want!

– Ruggiero

Ruggiero realised he needed an accomplice to help him cut the bars. When Italian Ferrari checked in, it was a lucky break. By chance, he cut metal bars as part of his job at home as a mechanic. Ferrari had been on his honeymoon in Bali when he bought a little straw of smack from a Balinese kid at the hotel pool. It was a police set-up. As soon as the kid left, officers pounced. It turned into an expensive honeymoon. Ferrari paid $70,000 and got just four months in Hotel K – enough time to help Ruggiero, and get out. So, for a daily fee of a couple of straws of smack, Ferrari began to saw his way through the bars. Night after night, Ruggiero and Ferrari would sing and saw in a rhythm. Before morning, they would glue the bars back into place and wait for lockup to continue the job.

Ruggiero spent about $18,000 on setting up his escape, investing in a false French passport, green contact lenses and a long-haired wig – ‘I looked like a fucking freak but it was the only one my girlfriend could find’. He thought of everything. He’d even procured a syringe with snakebite anti-venom, in case he was bitten by a cobra in the grassy passage between the inner and outer jail walls. He had a long rope with large knots tied into it for footholds. He had a little hammer to smash the jagged glass stuck on the top of the wall, and a bent metal tray to throw over it like a saddle so he didn’t get cut.

Ruggiero knew that once he got onto the wall and jumped into the real world again, his next move would be crucial. Many prisoners had been dragged back inside after their feet had hit free soil. Neglecting to plan the getaway was the flaw in countless failed escapes. Ruggiero had no intention of failing. Two friends would be outside on standby to phone him when the coast was clear. Parked just outside would be a tiger motorbike he’d already hired; the key hanging like a lucky charm around his neck. He planned to leap onto the seat of the motorbike and roar off down the potholed Kerobokan streets, riding for thirty minutes to a waiting boat at Turtle Island, which would whisk him across to Java. He’d already organised for an immigration official there to stamp his passport with an entry stamp and tourist visa, so he could leave Jakarta Airport without suspicion. It was the perfect plan.

Ruggiero had worked hard at this chance for freedom. He needed it. He was suffocating. His impulsive nature hadn’t served him well inside Hotel K. He’d been badly beaten many times. Now, he believed, this was it. He felt sure he’d soon be inhaling the fresh air of real life and was convinced he’d be free for Christmas. Mentally, he already had one foot outside the jail. He felt the Bali gods were finally smiling down on him.

He had only one move left to make before he climbed out of his cell window in his wig, saddled up the wall with his metal tray and threw himself over it like a drunken cowboy. He needed a clip to hook over the wall, to which he’d attach his rope and haul himself up. So, very early one morning, after his cellblock had been unlocked but most inmates were still asleep, he slunk behind the medical clinic and started cutting a metal bar off the roof, which he could bend into a clip. He sawed almost right through and then snapped it off. This was a fatal mistake. The bar made a loud clunk. A local prisoner heard it and started screaming, ‘
Malang, Malang
[Satan, Devil]’.

One Balinese guy snitched on me. He was the biggest motorcycle thief there. The Balinese hate foreigners, they are so jealous. He was just a piece of shit. The guards came running. I got back to my cell and threw the bar outside the window and hid my hand phone. But they found the bar. They asked, ‘What are you doing with this?’ ‘Oh, people are threatening me, it’s for self-protection,’ I told them. They didn’t even know yet the window was cut because I made a beautiful work of gluing it, so they didn’t know. But they said, ‘You can kill someone with that bar’. That was enough. They put me in solitary
.

– Ruggiero

An anguished and desperate Ruggiero was dragged to cell
tikus
after being bashed by the guards. He spent the first 48 hours without food or water, lying on the concrete floor of the small concrete box. It was hot, and he was hungry and hurting. They’d stripped him down to his underpants. The cell was dark, with only a small barred window high up on one side. The Brazilian surfer who loved life, wine, women and poetry wondered for the millionth time how his life had come to this.

I fell down from heaven to hell in a blink of an eye. I was so confused. I didn’t even know if I was in jail. When I woke up I was like, ‘Am I in jail?’
.

– Ruggiero

Ruggiero had been living the good life for many years, following his dreams of surfing the best waves at the best beaches around the globe. The fast-talking dark-haired Latino was always a player; he quickly made friends, had many lovers, got married to and then divorced an Australian woman, and surfed endlessly. In Bali, he worked hard and played hard. He started to build a lucrative business renting and selling luxury villas, mostly in the expensive areas around Hotel K. Business was doing well, but, as part of the surfing culture, he dabbled in drugs. For years he’d subsidised his surfing by selling drugs on a small scale, usually by being a middleman and taking a cut. He’d done a week in jail in Brazil once, but paid his way out. Another time he’d been taken off a plane at Heathrow Airport and X-rayed when officials suspected him of carrying drugs, but they found nothing. He was no angel, but he’d just started to throw all his energy into his legitimate business when his world exploded.

I could never have dreamed what the gods of Bali had in store for me. I was driving my bike home after another amazingly beautiful sunset, wondering what to cook, when all of a sudden I was blocked by two bikes with four men, while a car with five more stopped me. Screaming, ‘Police, police’, they pushed me against the car and tried to start a body search. I was shocked, powerless, and they searched me, finding a small plastic container with 3.8 grams of hashish in my shorts pocket. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They got euphoric, and started hugging each other, saying to me: ‘You see? What is this? You’re going to jail.’

– Ruggiero

Police raided his girlfriend’s hotel room in Kuta, and allegedly found one hundred and forty-six grams of hashish, forty-three grams of cocaine and one green ecstasy pill. In court, Ruggiero disputed the amounts, claiming they were a lot smaller. But he knew it wasn’t about the evidence, but about getting the right lawyer. He knew his way around the system a little and called the best negotiator in town, a lawyer whose clients got sentences other prisoners only dreamed of. He told Ruggiero that for three hundred million rupiah ($43,000), he could have the ecstasy taken out and the other amounts made almost insignificant. But it wasn’t to be. During their first meeting, the lawyer got a phone call. He had to leave, but would be back.

The lawyer didn’t return for eighteen days, a period that felt like a lifetime to Ruggiero. As Ruggiero hadn’t signed him up and his court date was getting closer, he made the rash decision to switch lawyers. He met with the new guy, was showered with promises of being free in six months, and signed him up on the spot for the same fee. The first lawyer, coincidentally, returned the next day, but it was too late.

Biggest mistake I ever did. I cancelled the good one, I kept the shit one. He kept coming to see me always saying, ‘So far, so good’. He kept saying six months, six months. It might be a year if you’re not lucky. Then he came to see me right before I got my sentence and he says, ‘Listen, there’s a problem.’ I said, you promised me six months. He says, ‘They don’t want the money anymore and they’re even considering asking for a life sentence’. I said, ‘What? Sorry, can you repeat that?’ He said, ‘Life’. I felt the earth shake. ‘So far, so good a couple of days ago, now life. Why you even talking to me, man? If I get a life sentence, you will get a death sentence because I’m going to kill you.’ He still had the guts to say, ‘You know what, if you pay two hundred million rupiah to one guy I know, we can get it down to five but it has to be by Tuesday’. He was a thief
.

And the day finally came. Eleven years and $43,000 fine. It seemed to be an endless nightmare. What to do? Well, I decided: I have to escape
.

– Ruggiero

Ruggiero had spent weeks imagining himself back in his old life; eating delicious food at fine restaurants with a bunch of friends, drinking a perfectly chilled bottle of wine, beautiful women, blazing sunsets. He imagined catching the perfect wave, slicing his board through the crystal-clear ocean waters, feeling as free as a bird and gazing into the horizon. This was his old life. He ached to get it back. But now it was just an unattainable fantasy in a parallel universe that was devastatingly close, just the other side of the Hotel K walls. Ruggiero knew all too well that the beauty was intangibly near, but all he could see was blackness.

His world was now the dark, claustrophobic concrete box of cell
tikus
; hot and airless with a sickening stench of stale piss. The only amenities were at one end of the cell: a filthy hole-in-the-ground toilet caked with dried shit, and a concrete trough full of slimy, putrid water with a cloud of mosquitoes hovering above it.

Cell
tikus
was disgusting, disgusting. The toilet was filled up with dry shit. I found out why it’s called cell
tikus
[rat cell] because the first time I went in I had to take a pee and I took it on the hole. The dry shit became soft and the rats came out of there, so in the dark I listened to them
.

– Ruggiero

This was Ruggiero’s third time in cell
tikus
; his hot temper had landed him there twice before. Experience made it easier only in that he knew what to expect. The first time he was incarcerated in cell
tikus
, he went ballistic, gripping the barred door and smashing it hard back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until he ripped it off its hinges. He was angry and hurting. He punched the concrete walls over and over, screaming abuse at the top of his lungs: ‘Motherfuckers, let me out! Fucking motherfuckers!’

The first night they put me there I broke the door, it was rusted, you know when iron gets rusty – eaten by the moisture of the ocean. I bend it back and forth hard. I was so furious. I broke the whole door. They beat me a bit more, they beat me a lot. I was screaming anything … any bad word you know in your life was part of it. Fuck, motherfucker, shit people, Muslim fanatic. I don’t know how many times I punched the wall, but I hurt my hand, I was a madman, I was totally possessed. I was scary
.

The first 48 hours, I didn’t eat. I didn’t drink water. I refused to eat the stuff they gave me. And then, on the third day, I see Benoit … bad guy Benoit … a huge black guy from Cameroon. He was my best friend … I hear the voice of that gorilla, ‘I’m going to kill everyone; you have to give him food’. And then he managed to get there, he pushed the guards and then he opened the door and gave me some water, apples, a plastic bag because I refused to go to the toilet in the hole. I used the plastic bag. But the thing is: where am I going to get rid of it? I go like this with my foot against the wall for leverage and throw it out the small window up high. The funny thing was, the plastic bag I threw landed right on the edge of the mosque and the shit was flying into the mosque
.

– Ruggiero

Hurling a bag of shit out the window each day gave him fleeting sense of rebellion, but mostly it saved him from the stench of his own waste as he languished in the cell. Days and nights passed in such a blur that Ruggiero lost track of the time he’d spent in there. There was virtually nothing to do, though some days he’d do a marathon burst of one thousand sit-ups. Finally, after being in there for a long stretch of time, a guard opened the door to release him back into the jail. He was like a man taking his first steps after being in a deep coma, walking out dazed and confused, squinting hard as the blinding rays of light pierced his eyes. It was Christmas Eve.

The next morning started off cheerfully enough when he was called to his first visit in weeks, to enjoy a heavily spiked fruit salad with a couple of friends. But he was still edgy and angry; he desperately needed the whisky to numb his frayed nerves. He was still being punished; the only difference was that he was now in an ordinary cell twenty-four hours a day and was allowed out to visits again. Unfortunately, they hadn’t returned him to his former cell, where the cut bars remained tantalisingly undiscovered. Instead, he’d been thrown in a cell with two local prisoners; one of whom was notorious for his grizzly crimes of digging up graves and stealing from the dead.

After the visit, Ruggiero returned to his cell a bit drunk from the fruit salad. It was good. Being drunk helped to blot out the world. He was ready to plummet further into the familiar comfort of an alcoholic stupor after buying a crate of cold beer from another prisoner. But, already fractious, pissed and bitterly unhappy, his hot temper flared when he discovered his mobile phone, which he’d managed to retrieve and slip under his mattress, had been stolen while he was out. His knew the grave robber had swiped it. He was outraged by his own situation, and the fact that this pathetic little piece of shit was walking around with his phone made his blood boil further. The grave robber was standing outside the window, and Ruggiero turned and screamed abuse, ‘I’m going to kill you, give me back my fucking phone!’ The grave robber threw back a taunting response, simply telling the foreigner to pass him a cold beer. Ruggiero went nuts. ‘I’m going to kill you. You come in here, you will be locked in here later and I will kill you,’ he screamed, grabbing a stick and stabbing it through the bars, trying to gauge out his eye. He missed. But the scene had been set; they were both ready to fight.

Just before the 5.30 pm lockup, the grave digger entered the cell accompanied by a back-up crew. He was not going to let the aggressive Brazilian attack first. At least ten men armed with pieces of wood and a solid wooden bench circled Ruggiero, then tore into him, kicking and slamming the wooden bench into his head and knocking him off his feet. His attempts to defend himself were futile. He was bloody and bruised on the floor, but the beating continued. They kicked him, and stomped on his face until
tamping
Ketut Dana turned up and called them off, undoubtedly saving Ruggiero’s life.

BOOK: Hotel Kerobokan
10.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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