It is Friday morning, after midnight. Checking my fountain pen, I pull on my jacket but decide against the black polished shoes, favouring a pair in suede. La Viruta Milonga is far from formal and I want to do my best to blend in.
There are some things that you should know about La Viruta. Situated in the Asociación Cultural Armenia in Palermo, La Viruta is a tango club with a difference. Whilst tango tourists arrive before midnight, the true milongueros - the professional dancers, teachers and organisers do not appear before two or three o’clock and stay until six in the morning after the tourists have gone, for a breakfast of coffee and medialunas.
My taxi drops me in Armenia and, being early, I saunter diagonally up the wide Asociacón stairs, turning to descend to the salon. From above, the ceiling appears low, giving the place a ‘club-like’ feel. Horacio Godoy’s bald head glints as he purports to conduct a small tango orchestra to the amusement of his tanguero followers. I glance to the far corners of the room in search of Moneypenny. As expected, she is not here yet. When a departing couple leave their table near the piano the waitress nods and I take my place to await Moneypenny’s arrival.
It is nearly 5 am when a breathless Moneypenny stumbles down the stairs to the salon. It is hard to know whether she is fearful, excited or both. She spots me and trots quickly towards my table. “Moneypenny, old girl, what kept you?”, I say jovially. She looks strained and exhausted. “Come, let’s dance and you can tell me all about it”, I continue, glancing down at her little red Katrinski flats.
Out on the crowded floor Moneypenny recounts her encounter with Alvero, and that she has made a discovery. As we dance she slips her hand under her shirt to withdraw a slim diary. “Bond, I found this in his pocket and from what I could see in the taxi coming here, it may hold the key to Jay”. “I am sure there will be more there if only I can get back. Will you come with me?”
“It’s out of the question, old girl”, I reply, adding, “apparently, Lucia arrived just as you left”. “We don’t know why, but it seems she has a key to Alvero’s apartment. Fortunately, she did not see you leave, thanks to the door of her taxi being blocked by a wheelchair”.
I take the diary from her fingers and slip it into my jacket pocket. El pibe de La Paternal - Fresedo’s ‘Buscandote’ swirls us into a close embrace.
“I have had a phone call from my handler ‘M’ here in Buenos Aires”, I breathe. “And she requires to meet you. It seems that from here on she will be pulling the strings for both of us”.
Returning to our table, I take the diary and pen from my pocket, and rip out a blank page on which I scribble an address. “This, old girl, is where we are to meet. Eight o’clock on Thursday night. For heaven’s sake, don’t be late”.
Were it not for my ‘grace-and-favour’ apartment on the top floor of Palacio Haedo, I would live in Barracas; an area that lies to the south west of San Telmo with the river Matanza at its feet, and La Boca to the east. Considered by many to be a ‘risky area’, for me it combines aging splendour with the historic home of true Portenos.
Sabrina was strangely quiet when I phoned to pass on Maria Cristina’s directions for a meeting. Her matter-of-fact response had me questioning the whole plan, and in particular, which of us was really handling Moneypenny. These days, Sabrina’s bitterness often conceals her true feelings, and drawns a curtain of mistrust. “Fine”, she replied, “I will meet you there for I don’t want to suffer Raul’s driving after last time”, she added abruptly, referring to her rescue from Belgrano two years earlier.
Bar Los Laureles is located in Av Gral Iriate, deep in Barracas. It is one of the oldest bars in Buenos Aires, dating back to 1893, and is steeped in the traditions of politics and tango. It was here in 1940 that the famous tango singer Angel Vargas gathered and seduced his first followers. Well chosen by M, it is so distant from the Recoleta’s Embassy community as to be a safe, discreet and private meeting place.
“We could get there by taxi, Mr Bond, but it is doubtful that we will find a cab to bring us back”, said Raul, knowing of Barracas’ night time reputation. “I will get the Bentley out on Thursday”, he continued, drumming his garden-gloved fingers on the side his watering can. “We can bribe one of those cartonero kids to watch it for us”, he added with a grin.