In which Bond gets a telephone call and takes a trip

Mr Bond

Dawn over Recoleta. The sun barely catches the tops of the trees, gold fronds flickering on a morning breeze. Beneath in the gardens of San Martin the cartoneros wake from their benches and leaning against their trolleys await their timber-framed truck to carry away a haul of cardboard and plastic.

Here in my apartment the telephone rings. I stir and reach out for the receiver. “Mr Bond, you are needed in London”, says the voice, “there will be an envelope for you in the post room by first delivery”, the voice continues, and the phone goes dead.

I do not recognise the voice. It is certainly neither a familiar M nor Q. It is of a deeper timbre, British, with a military edge. Walking to the windows, I gaze out onto the square in time to see a small wheelchair disappear behind the statue of Jose Francisco de San Martin.

As the coffee pot comes to heat, Raul raps his distinctive knock on the apartment door. “This has just come for you, Mr Bond”, he proclaims as he enters closely followed by Cleo the cat, “it is marked urgent and confidential, so I thought I would bring it up straight away”.

The manila envelope is clearly MOD, and the typeface typical of the department. Slitting it open with my silver penknife, I find inside a single flight pass to RAF Northolt London, together with travel instructions to Whitehall. There are no further details. The message could not be clearer...or more obscure.

Flying the long route via the RAF station on Ascension Island, the military aircraft touches down in a grey north west London as early morning light struggles through a deep blanket of cold cloud. I wheel my small overnight case through the bare reception area and touch in to confirm my arrival. My designated car - no 67 driven by my favourite driver Mireille, who for over twenty years has collected me from airfields around Britain. “Bonjour, James”, she greets, her French Canadian accent still joyously vibrant. “So, Mireille, no gold watch, you haven’t retired yet?”, I reply, winking a bleary eye. “How dare you suggest that I might be so old”, she rejoins, “Get in the car and let’s quit this dump”. With that, probably to make a point, she seizes my case, throws it onto the back seat, shakes her blonde-grey hair and slips into the drivers side.

South Ruislip passes quickly as we join the A40 and on to the raised Westway. A morning London streams past like a silent film, overlayed only by passing small-talk. “How are the cats, MIreille? How are Richard and Paul doing with the allotment?”, I ask, stifling a yawn and thinking about coffee. “Will you be going back to Buenos Aires?”, she asks eventually. “It depends why I have been pulled out”, I reply, “You never know with the powers-that-be, they rarely tell you anything unless you need to know, and it seems, presently I don’t. I reckon they get off on their surprises”.

With road works and a diversion the 43 minute journey has taken nearly an hour. On the roofs of Whitehall the early light is still thin. A double kiss from Mirelle and she is gone. The corridors of MI5 await. “It’s going to be a long day’, I say to myself as I divert towards the canteen.

“Hey Bond”, comes a call, “what are you doing back? I thought you had gone for good. How’s the tango?”

Q smiles but looks faintly ridiculous. A container clipped to his belt sways as he simulates a tango gancho. “Ah, do you like it Bond? It’s my new design for a hands-free, non-spill cup. You see - no hands. And it tastes much better than the biodegradable cardboard ones they dish out here”, he adds.

“Have you any idea what’s going on, Q?”, I ask. One minute I am dancing tango in San Telmo; the next I am on that dreadful plane back to blighty”. “Not a clue, Bond, but why would they tell me unless they wanted something from me? And at the moment, old boy, it seems my time is filled with inventing cups”.

I am now waiting in the anteroom, the smell of fresh lilies and furniture polish competing with the receptionist’s cologne. “They will see you now”, says Tom, adding “you can leave the case here if you wish Mr Bond”. I recognise this as the voice on the phone from London as I walk towards the mahogany doors.

Behind the table sits a panel of three. “M is worried about you, Bond. It’s the usual problem”, the chair begins. “This girl - what’s her name - the one you seem to have been spending time with in Buenos Aires”.

The department always start this way. Disarmingly probing. Catching off-guard. Straight to a point - but not necessarily the point. “So, tell us about your new tango life and this...whatever-her-name is?”.

“Bond, we have her under surveillance, you know. According to M she seems to be close to retired agent S - that Sabrina woman who worked with you on ‘les desaparecidos’. “Didn’t you have a thing with her, Bond?”, a wing member questions.

“Well, we are concerned about Sabrina as it seems she has rekindled her friendship with Dr Richard Alvarez. Did you know about this, Bond?”. We have been following her to a regular meeting place - what is it now…”. My principal interrogator tails off as she shuffles through a file of papers. “Ah, yes, Peru 1824 in Constitucion”.

“I think you mean Peru 1826, Barracas”, don’t you?”, I reply. “That is where he and his Peruvian lover Jay spend their time”. “But I thought Sabrina was still on side from what M told me”, I added inquiringly.

“It seems not. She may have been compromised”, the third member explains. “Which also means that we are worried about this girl. According to M she knows too much. We need to know that she is on side - or not”, he adds ominously.

“We are keeping you here in London for the next ten days whilst we run a few more checks. Then we will fly you back to Buenos Aires in time for your next tango lesson”, the lead continues. “You can go now, Bond. Enjoy your holiday”.

With that, I close the door behind me, pick up my case from Tom and head off towards my tiny apartment in Ormond Yard, St James. I cut across St James’ Park under a line of plane trees and reflect back on Sabrina’s responses and Moneypenny’s recent transformation. ‘Maybe they have a point’, I say to myself as I slip my key into the outdoor latch and climb the stairs to Flat B.

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