In which Bond and Moneypenny keep their appointment



Mr Bond

As I exit the double doors of Palacio Haedo, I spot Raul waiting in the Bentley by the crossing on Av Santa Fe. In contrast to our last sortie to Peru 1826, I have dressed down, choosing a simple black shirt, casual chinos and a dab of cologne. Raul, as ever, sports his old gardening shirt and sun-beaten straw hat. Having arrived in good time for once, in the off-side seat sits Moneypenny, her cool slim legs crossed against the leather upholstery as she leans forward to kiss my cheek.

“Mr Bond, do we go to collect Senora Sabrina?”, Raul enquires. “No, she doesn’t trust your driving”, I retort with a grin that he spots in the rear view mirror. ”Bueno, let’s go”, he adds, feigning indifference. It is clear that Sabrina’s historic allure still retains some of its magic.

We head east in Marcelo Torcuado Alvear to 9 de Julio, then due south towards Av San Juan, beneath 25 de Mayo and into Barracas. I glance at Moneypenny. Tonight she is quiet and pensive. Gone - the incessant chatter and questions. In one way it is a relief to feel the summer evening silence; in another I am missing her youthful exuberance.  Leaving the flyover at Herreras, Raul navigates the Bentley down Alvarado, left into Salom and two blocks later to Av Gral Iriate. Just beyond the railway arches we arrive at our destination, Bar Los Laureles.

As I nudge the door of the Bentley I hear the sound of Hugo Diaz on the evening air, and a small wheelchair containing a diminutive frame comes into view along Concalves Diaz. Raul nods in its direction, and slips a manila envelope under a wiper blade.


It is about to turn eight o’clock as we enter Laureles. Following Raul, I glance around the bar in search of Sabrina. As expected, she is already at our table by the window, her jet black hair catching the fading light. Lines to her face reveal a slight scowl.

“Don’t get up”, I quip, smiling down at her, which she ignores as she offers a cheek to both Moneypenny and Raul. “What kept you?”, she asks with sarcasm, remembering her last dash in the Bentley with Raul at the wheel.

Bar Los Laureles still bears its 1893 credentials, and some of its paintwork. It has not changed in 125 years. The waiters bequeath their jobs from father to son, so even their appearance remains reminiscent of years gone by. Tonight they clatter from table to table, polishing glasses and checking salt cellars, with the occasional instruction called from the bar.

At one such shout a young waiter rushes to the back of the restaurant to pull open a door leading from the kitchen. And ‘M’ appears in the room from behind the bar.

Wearing a light cape and cloche, there is no doubting Maria Cristina’s significance and status, yet somehow she seems at home here, just as she does everywhere. She removes her hat, shakes her blonde hair to her shoulders and folds a silk scarf in her gloved hands. At the same moment a departing motorcycle and side-car bearing government insignia growls past the front of the building, its single headlamp penetrating the gathering gloom.

“Good evening everyone”, she announces, glancing in turn at Sabrina, Raul and me. “Bond, are you recovered from your trip to the cemetery?”, she adds with a superior smile. At which she turns to Moneypenny and says, “how good to meet you at last, Miss Moneypenny; it has been a while since Recoleta”.




Moneypenny

‘It’s out of the question old girl”, he said to me, “You can’t go back. Lucia arrived as you left. It seems she has a key to Alvero’s apartment. Fortunately, she didn’t see you leave - her taxi was apparently blocked by a wheelchair”, he added with a smile.

Those were his instructions, which in one blow destroyed my original plan of returning to Alvaro’s with a handful of La Viruta’s famous medialunas and café con leche to convince him that we had just spent the night together - that we were working on the same side to ‘seduce’ Jay, each for their own purpose. Perhaps I could tell him that I ran off when I heard Lucia making her way into his apartment? I wonder how gullible he is…..I have the feeling that a little flattery and promise of money and sex will go a very long way with Alvero.  I could also have disobeyed Bond, but as they say, ‘those that don’t follow instructions are often the most intolerant of disobedience’.

Anyhow, tonight is about meeting the mysterious ‘M’ for the first time. I have no idea how I should act. With Bond I know a little flirtation works allowing me to get away with almost anything, but this was going to be different, The silent card is probably the best one to play - speak only when spoken to, and see how things develop.

“Buenas tardes Miss Moneypenny”, says Raul as he holds open the rear door of the Bentley and I climb aboard.  He calls me ‘Miss’ because he knows I hate being called ‘señora’. I’ve demanded that he call me by my first name, but he won’t hear of it.

“Buenas tardes Raul, es la primera vez en mi vida que alguien viene a buscarme con una Bentley, que suerte tengo!” I reply, and he smiles, appreciating my efforts to master Castillano.

We drive through the city towards Recoleta. Why would Bond have Raul pick me up first and then return for him, since Barracas is in my neck of the woods? Did he think I may be late, or worse, didn’t he trust me to come?

Bond gets into the car and gives me his usual up and down look; ‘Dress casually’, he had instructed, so I followed his example by sporting black shorts and a black sleeveless shirt. We look as if we’re going to a funeral or impersonating Yoko and John during their black phase.

Bond is silent, and I have no inclination for chit chat, so it suits me perfectly. I stare out the window as Raul swirls the Bentley through the avenidas and calles of Buenos Aires towards Barracas.  These streets hold so many memories. I feel I’m watching the end of a Woody Allen film - scenes empty of people to a haunting violin that makes you question if it had all been a dream. Who I was when I came here first? The things which have happened since? I still can’t believe it at times…

I love Barracas. The best way to describe the barrio is that it’s ‘haunting’, ‘bewitching’ -  grand old houses in large avenues that reveal a certain sadness about the city and it’s dwellers, a sadness with which I identify.

“We’re here, old girl,” Bond says, pulling me from my daydream.  “Bar Los Laureles, you’re going to love it!”




It is as if we’ve stepped into the time capsule, or that the clock has been wound back 130 years. The walls are filled with pictures of famous historic clientele. Between the pictures, time has chipped away the paint. The checkered floors on which dancers sway to Gardel are cracked, yet it doesn’t seem to bother them.  Waiters whisk from the cluttered bar to impatient customers carrying everything from bottles of wine to obscenely large pieces of meat.

Sabrina is seated in the far corner of the room, looking incredible as always. As we enter she looks up, ignores Bond, and beckons me. I feel vulnerable. For some unknown reason her presence here comforts me.

We kiss, take our seats and await the arrival of ‘M’.



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