In which Moneypenny interrogates Bond about Sabrina at Guerrin
If Moneypenny were a bird, she would be one of those little, bright finches that live on the edge of the forest, that dart out, flutter their wings, peck at a flower, dance, sing a phrase, then dart back for cover.
It was a surprise to see her as she walked into Guerrin; but Moneypenny always tends to be surprising. Was her choice of Guerrin accidental, for it was too long for her to have followed me there? Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires, with a population of nearly three million is in fact a small place. Yet with a density of thirteen and a half thousand people per square kilometer, it is quite hard to bump into friends. Without success I wracked my mind to remember ever telling her that Guerrin was on my list of favourite haunts.
When she returned from the banos Moneypenny was composed, the tear and its tell-tale run of mascara having been wiped expertly away. Her mood was jaunty as she allowed her free hand to float across my smooth head, but beneath her mood I sensed a darker side.
“So Moneypenny, tell me about it”, I ventured, hoping to draw her out. “Have some moscato, be a good girl and tell Mr Bond all”, I added, not thinking how condescending this sounded until the words were out of my mouth. I glanced at her brow, then to her lips looking for disapproval. But having recovered her composure, she was not for revelation of any thoughts, let alone feelings.
That moment a waiter clattered by with a tray of clinking glasses and bottles, and the opportunity to explore the tear was lost. “I didn’t know you frequented Guerrin”, I said after a short pause. “I don’t...it's just...well never mind”, she replied, bending to stroke the arch of her foot from which she had slipped a shoe. “Now, what are we eating?”, she enquired, turning the menu sheet in her dainty hands. “This looks good”, she said, pointing to the jamon queso y cebolla pizza. “Mozo” she called to the only good-looking waiter at our end of the salon, at which he turned and smiled a youthful smile that reminds you of your age.
“Tell me about you and Sabrina”, she added almost as an afterthought, slipping in the question without so much as a moment’s warning. “Moneypenny, are you quizzing my reckless past?”, I quipped, feeling the spotlight change from my intrusion to her’s. “Yes, actually, I am”, she replied. “It’s an old story, and a long one I warn you”, I said, seeking to distract her once more; but she was not for diverting.
So, with hot pizza, cold Quilmes, tepid moscato, and the buzz of Guerrin life all around us, I told all.
I took a bite of pizza and washed it down with some Moscato, it was sweet and soft and created the perfect contrast to the salty hot pizza, which was heavy and perfect for my empty stomach which had been dancing for 5 hours. I had food, I had drink, (I had just peed) and now nothing could divert my attention from the story I had wanted to hear for so long. Sabrina never budged on the subject; all I had were small fragments of their story pieced together from hundreds of conversations, but never the full story, like a roman mosaic unearthed one centimeter at a time, but now he was going to tell me everything! Or not - but it’ll be more than I’ve gotten so far.
Mr Bond: ‘I won’t tell you everything, you know, not the parts that disgrace me, I don’t want to ruin my perfect image.’
Me: ‘There’s no risk of that, your perfect image was shattered when you couldn’t quite get the step during our last class, so go ahead and tell it all.’
Mr Bond: ‘Sometimes you’re too clever for your own good you know, Moneypenny, except when it comes to men.’
Me: ‘And you’re too mysterious for your own good, you need to let go a little…. .’
Mr Bond: ‘Well, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was an age of wisdom, it was an age of foolishness….. Once upon a time in a mysterious land of endless beauty and infamous danger…... It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen…Ah Sabrina, light of my life, fire of my loins…. Is that the type of start you had in mind? Are you expecting a grand story? What if it’s dull? What if our problems turn out to be just like everyone else’s?’
Me: ‘No, I’ve already taken many literature classes, I don’t need the start of every Dickens, Nabokov, Orwell and whatever novel, tell me your story, in your words, and don’t worry about boring me with it. If I don’t like reality I’ll change it in my head. Tell me all!’
Mr Bond: ‘You don’t want to know it all, trust me, you’ll be disappointed…
Me: ‘Disappointed is the theme of my night.’
Mr Bond: ‘You’ll have to expand on that later but anyhow, here I go, but keep in mind I only give half of the story so I can’t tell it all, you’ll have to get her version as well to understand it all.
Where to start I’m not sure, at the beginning I guess would be the best place. I came here once, a long time ago. The British government had some vested interests in Argentina at the time, it always has really, but during this period of change in the government, we saw an opportunity for a new way of working and exchanging information with the Argentine. Many things were happening in South America, the US had their interests and their methods, and we had ours.
I was sent here to explore some of these opportunities and to blend in with the well-to-dos of the time. We say that Argentina is not longer the rich country it once was, that the wealthy have left; well they haven’t left, the money is just in the pockets of fewer people.
I was at the private dinner party given by Dr Richard Alvarez - not Ricardo, but Richard as he was at pains to point out, boasting English ancestry. He was ludicrously rich and wanted everyone to know. He was hosting a grand event at his hacienda just outside of Buenos Aires. His mansion in the capital, he told us, could not have accommodated all of his guests and all of his horses.
The display of wealth was almost scandalous, imported French champagne, Russian caviar, French cheeses, English Gin (and English tonic), Scottish scotch, Belgian pralines, Italian hams and sparkling water, no luxury was spared. And just like the imported delicacies that were intended to tempt us, there was a harem of imported women - blondes, brunettes, tall, short, thin, voluptuous, one (or two) for every taste. And there was Sabrina. She wasn’t the most beautiful nor the most lavish, but there was something about her, drawing your gaze. She wasn’t just enchanting, she was bewitching, and she cast her spell over all the guests that night.
She was, of course Richard’s mistress. Richard was, of course married, and Richard had many mistresses, of course. But of all of them Sabrina was his favourite, of course, and she knew it (of course). She was about your age, maybe a little older, but unlike you, Sabrina understood the power she had over men (and women as well) and she understood how to use it. She had been a hired performer - a tango dancer at one of Richard’s parties and like the little unknown performer called Evita, Sabrina, used Richard, like her own version of Peron to climb the socialite food chain. Within a few months she was at the top of it.
She had other men in her life, but they all knew that she was Richard’s. But what no one knew was that Richard was actually her’s more than she was his, the man was crazy about her.
From the moment I noticed her, I knew she had to be mine, so I started as I always start. I observed her from the other side of the room - usually whilst speaking to other women. I watched her fastidiously, deciphering her favourite drink. Champagne seemed to be her poison of choice so I grabbed a bottle of ‘Gout de Diamant’, so elaborately displayed amongst the other bottles, and walked towards her. ‘Your glass seems to be on the empty side, may I oblige?’ I said, to which she responded ‘I’ve been drinking this pompous drink all night, every Tom, Dick and Harry has been trying to impress me by filling my glass. You do realize I’m already sleeping with the man who paid for this?’ she responded. Her response took me by surprise and amused me at the same time, I had underestimated her. ‘If you really want to make me happy, get me dirty a dirty martini, one olive, Gin not Vodka, Hendrick’s.’ she said. ‘I’m on it’ I replied to which she added, ‘Oh and one more thing - I want it shaken not stirred.’
And that’s how we met, and I think maybe the rest should be for another day, another pizza, another bottle of wine, or maybe even part 2 of this story calls for an asado.’
Me: ‘ What!!! What, do you mean that’s it? You haven’t told me anything, you’ve basically written the script for another movie, better than Fleming himself, I might add, but you haven’t told me anything! I might as well go home and read a book!’
I could see the satisfaction in his smile, he had me hooked. It could all be a joke, maybe they had one drunken night after a milonga and he was just pulling my leg. Although I didn’t want him to know, my leg did enjoy the pull.
Mr Bond: ‘Right Moneypenny, enough storytelling for one dinner, the night - just like you, is still relatively young, so where should we go next?’
Mr Bond There are some days when Buenos Aires is so hot and humid that San Telmo streets hum with the sound of the air conditione...
Moneypenny I take the note, start to walk towards San Telmo while trying to make sense of what I had just seen. Was this a secret...
Mr Bond I flash a smile towards Nancy the waitress, and without a word she arrives with a second champagne glass for Moneypenny, who...