"OK. As you wish." She took the little wad and put each note down on to the table just as he had done.
"One, two, three... seven, eight...nine."
Spas's grin grew wider. Yana counted again to check. The same result.
"You see. You are way too trusting."
He picked up the notes, pulled another blue 100 mark bill from his notecase, and counted them back out to ten again on the table with exaggerated flips of his thumb. Yana put the money away again with a laugh.
"No! no! no!" yelled the gypsy. Sighing, Yana counted the wad for a third time, pedantically thumping each note on the table.
"Five...six...seven." 300 marks short.
Spas watched smugly then roared with laughter.
"How did you do that? Where did they go?"
As if out of thin air three more notes appeared in Spas's fingers. He handed them over with a flourish.
"Is this how you make your living? Is this what you are going to be doing to those poor Americans?"
He wouldn't tell us. "Where shall we go to celebrate?" he asked.
The issue of crime and the Roma minority in Bulgaria reveals human nature at its worst. Most of the country's gypsies live in squalor in ghettos on the edge of major towns or villages. The streets are rarely paved and turn into muddy quagmires in the wet. Most dwellings are extremely poor quality, very crowded and often without running water. Unemployment is more than 90 percent. The provision of schooling is patchy and often resented by parents who are more interested in sending their children to work in a trade, or worse as beggars, thieves and prostitutes.
The Bulgarians like to think of themselves as a nation of almost unique tolerance in the Balkans. But they cannot abide gypsies and the result is massive discrimination. They may have refused to send their Jews to Hitler's death camps (there was a genuine national revulsion against this idea). They may have reached a political accommodation with the Turkish minority, avoiding Yugoslavian type strife in the immediate post-Communist years. But gypsies have been ruthlessly excluded from Bulgarian society. They are hated because they are dirty, untrustworthy, clannish and all to frequently involved in crime. But for many gypsies, living in slums with no facilities, no education and no jobs, there is no choice. It is an appalling catch-22.
This is an ever growing problem. Literally. The official census says that 370,908 gypsies were living in Bulgaria in 2001. Their number increased by one-fifth in ten years. There may, in fact, be even more than this. An unofficial census carried out by the government in 1989 said there were more than 570,000 gypsies. Some anthropologists estimate that the number of people of gypsy origin could be as many as 800,000 or more than ten percent of the population.
While the number of gypsies is growing, the ethnically Bulgarian part of the population is shrinking rapidly. Overall the country suffers from a negative birth rate, compounded by massive emigration (an estimated 750,000 have left the country over the past ten years. The population is one million less than it was in 1985). These figures only make Bulgarians more worried about gypsies. No one has any idea how to solve the problem.
A few weeks before Yana introduced me to Spas, I had been arrested. It was the only time I was ever arrested in Bulgaria. The only reason was because I was in the company of a gypsy. I had gone to Stara Zagora to a Roma pop folk festival and was staying at the home of Petko Emilov, the mayor of Lozenec, the town's gypsy quarter.
The first thing I noticed when he met me off the train in Stara Zagora was that he carried a stubby black pistol in a little brown leather holster on his belt.
"I am tsiganin. I have to look after myself and my family," he said when I ask him about it.
He drove me round the city in his blue Lada. Half of its insides were stripped out. The windows were jammed shut. At the top of every hill he would turn off the engine and free-wheel down the bumpy streets until he ran out of momentum. When it got too hot, he opened his door for ventilation.
At the bottom of one hill, we were stopped by a pair of policemen.
"Kakvo?" demanded one of them, gesturing with one hand. The one word enquiry said it all.
In other words, explain yourself and what you are doing. Justify your presence here and your existence. What is a gypsy doing driving around with a foreigner in his car?
The policeman snapped his fingers: "Documenti?"
I handed over my passport for inspection. But Petko had left his identity papers at home. We were taken to the police station. That day at lunch we had argued about this very thing.
"In Britain we enjoy great liberty," I had told him, proudly. "We don't need to carry identity cards. Everyone has the right to go about their business unhindered."
Petko could not understand this.
"So how do you prove who you are?"
"I don't need to."
"But say the police think you have committed a crime. How do you prove they have got the wrong man?"
His question had opened a different perspective on the issue for me. In Bulgaria, gypsies are automatically regarded as criminals (As is anyone in their company, regardless of origin.) Petko thought he needed his card to safeguard his civil liberties, not to undermine them.
"My identity card is the only proof that I am a good citizen," he told me as we sat on the hard bench in the lock-up. "I don't know why I left it at home today. It's something I normally never do."
He telephoned his wife from the police station and we waited for one of his sons to bring the documents down the hill. I could see the force of his argument even if I could not get rid of the idea that an identity card was an instrument of repression.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers