In which Moneypenny solves a riddle and acts on a hunch


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 meeting?  Was he involved in something illegal?  I was expecting to catch him having a romantic rendezvous with another woman (I mean with a woman, not another woman) but instead I saw something else; something I couldn’t put together at all. Secret keys to hidden notes in crypts? None of it made sense; only a few hours earlier we were having coffee and I was teasing him about his love life, but now this?

After over an hour of walking, I reach San Telmo. I circumvent the market streets where I am bound to meet someone I know, and walk towards Sabrina’s to collect the shoes I left there this morning. I just hope I won’t have to answer too many questions.

As I reach the corner of Humberto Primo and Balcarce, I see Lucia walking directly towards me, I had forgotten all about her.  She looks up, sees me and crosses the street as if to avoid me.  But I won’t give her that satisfaction, so I cross over to come face-to-face with her.  ‘Hola, Lucia, you seem to have recovered from last night I see. Recovered your clothes as well, I’m glad to see.’ I said.  ‘Um, I… I, it was, I mean, I had a lot to drink…’ ‘she mumbled,  ‘Don’t worry, I don’t really care who you play tit-for-tat with in the bathrooms, he’s really all yours...really, enjoy!’ I replied and walked off.

As I reach for my key to unlock Sabrina’s door, the handle was pulled from my grip and a woman tumbles towards me . ‘Ah, it’s you; you again,’ she exclaimed in a tone of annoyance.  Adrianna, was a regular visitor to Buenos Aires and and habitu√© of Sabrina’s dance school. She, like so many, came here for the tango; and maybe more specifically for the tangeros.  She doesn’t seem to like me very much; according to Sabrina resents the loss her youth and inevitably those who remind her of it.  

At a very posh milonga last year she mistook Alvaro’s cabeceo, which he intended for me, and she still hasn’t forgiven me for being picked over her.  It baffles me how it’s me and not Alvaro that she hates, but I guess that’s how ‘jealous’ combined with ‘insecurity’ works.

‘Sabrina, is out’, she continued, assuming that this was the reason for my visit. ‘No, it’s not her I want, it’s my tango shoes - I left them in her apartment earlier today’, I answered, realizing that I didn’t owe her an explanation. 

She reluctantly let me in, knowing full well what Sabrina would do to her if she had refused.  As she was about to step out, she turned, ‘You know I’ve been meaning to ask you, how come you’re here for so long?  I mean don’t you need to work? Don’t you have a proper life somewhere else?  Don’t you have obligations?,’ she asked, almost aggressively.  

It was as if she desperately wanted a reason to resent me, one which was more easily justifiable than my age, my potential as dancer, the attention Alvaro gives me, or my very pretty Comme Il Faut’s. She wanted me to be a spoiled brat who had been spoon fed everything without having to lift so much as a pinky for it.  This would elevate her hatred of me to more than just jealousy; she wanted something that she could openly criticize and maybe even rally others to her cause.

‘A few years ago, I started, I married a very wealthy older man, and last year I got tired of waiting for him to die, so one night I poisoned his brandy.  And I’ve inherited all of his money.’ I said triumphantly.  ‘We should go for coffee when you’re free, talk about the latest milonga gossip,’ I added and walked into Sabrina’s apartment before she could reply. 

'Go ahead, hate me, for whatever reason you want, hate me.’ I thought to myself, ‘But if you push me, I’ll give you a real  reason to hate me.’

I grab my shoes and run home to rest before deciphering what to do tonight.

As I lay in bed I take the note out of my purse:

‘Reveal yourself tonight at Our brother in arms, dweller of the skies; celebrate his liberation from the imperial shackles to which we were both bound.  Speak the word of our founder and enter.’

‘At our brother in arms….’ Is it Shakespeare? Was it a play that might be playing somewhere in the city?  No, that seems too predictable… and it’s not theatre season just yet. ‘Dweller of the skies’  - a Greek god?  A bar named after a deity? There are thousands of bars in Buenos Aires, I’ll never find the right one before tonight… 

I close my eyes and repeat the words ‘Brother in arms, Brother in arms… that Dwells in the sky…. Imperial shackles’.  Bond is always speaking in riddles this must be a joke to him. He’s re-written his entire history in the form of riddles - chocolate boxes and shaken Martinis....Wait, history!!  History in riddles!… Yes that’s it!!!

I glance at my watch; midnight; I’m standing in front of an iron cast gate behind which lies what appears to be an old mansion that I had never noticed before. I’m on Calle Peru - Argentina’s brother in arms during the fight for independence from the spanish crown - they fought high in the Andes, high in the sky where they dwell, against the imperial shackles of their common oppressor, Spain. 1826 Calle Peru. 1826, the year Peru officially acquired independence or liberation from their common motherland.

I ring the intercom: ‘Yes’, a low distant voice responds.  ‘Yes hello, I would like to….’ I could barely get the words out when the voice says ‘No’, and hangs up.  No?  No to what? I hadn’t asked anything. I ring again: ‘Yes’ says the same Edgar Allan Poe-like voice, that you might imagine saying  ‘The raven rapping at my chamber door’, to which this time I reply, ‘San Martin’.  I hear a click and the gate opens inwards.

Mr Bond

Buenos tardes, my dear reader - it is early evening here in Buenos Aires, and I hope whatever time it is where you are, proves the right moment for you to read the next episode. 

After my meeting in Recoleta, I returned to my apartment at Haedo, to rest. ‘I’m getting too old for this pace’, I tell myself, as the last drop of evening sun catches the drapes, and a silence settles over the city. This is the moment when shop and office workers have returned home, but revellers are yet to stir.

A lifetime of secrecy makes it hard for me to share my life, events, and feelings. Suffice it to say that the meeting with Maria Cristina went according to plan. Yet where she is involved, life does become more complicated. Her role has never been to make things simple - she looks for hidden agendas and the unexpected. But that is her job and maybe this particular skill is why ‘M’ is held in such regard here in Buenos Aires.

There is that which I am not at liberty to reveal; but I can confess that our meeting created more tasks than it settled. One of them I must resolve tonight.

Raul calls from the terrace, “Senor Bond, I got your note. You want me to drive you?”, he inquires in a thick Argentine accent. “If you would be so kind, old boy”, I reply, knowing that the extra pesos of a night’s work will be of use to him. “I will bring the car round at 2200 hrs”, he replies, revealing the discipline of his former military life.

Touching his forelock, Raul and his rake disappear towards the end of the terrace, followed in hot pursuit by Cleo the cat.

Tonight calls for more than a jacket - but less than tails. Rosa the maid, has laid out an evening suit, white shirt and bow tie - the sort one ties oneself, rather than the abominations that come ready tied. I pick up a silk scarf, only to discard it as perhaps too formal for the occasion.

When I descend to street level Raul is waiting by the maroon and cream Bentley S2 Continental. It was left behind when an ambassador died and remained garaged despite private motorcars being less than useful here in the capital. By habit, Raul opens the rear door, then offers a hand. “No need for that yet”, I exclaim, aware that age is catching up fast, but not that fast. I smell leather upholstery and note reflections of the street lights on the walnut. ‘I must be mad to keep her”, I say to myself, whilst simultaneously settling back into the familiar comfort of the 1960 standard sedan, the only one in CABA.

From Santa Fe we drop down to Leandro N Alem and then, via Casa Rosada, onto Paseo Colon. Our destination is Barracas, bohemian barrio of Buenos Aires.

Having turned in Martin Garcia, Raul pulls up the Bentley outside Peru 1826. With the engine running, he leaves the car momentarily to press the intercom. As a trustee, he knows the SM code. The metal gates open inward, allowing us to enter.

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Moneypenny from Berlin to Buenos Aires Part I

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