In which Moneypenny meets and impresses ‘M’


Mr Bond

Looking back on it, I have rarely seen Moneypenny look more uncomfortable than when ‘M’ addressed her in the bar at Los Laureles. It was as if Moneypenny realised that her insatiable curiosity in entering the cemetery had sealed her fate.

She smiled limply and cast her eyes down in a coy way. Was this the real Moneypenny, or an act put on for Maria Cristina’s benefit? But a few nights ago Moneypenny had been quick to seize the initiative and suggest what could only be described as an outrageous plan to seduce Alvero and access Dr Richard Alvarez.

“Well, you are now with us, like it or not - and I have a little job for you”, ‘M’ continued.

Raul leaned back in his chair as a 1931 vinyl recording of ‘Amargamente’ from Orquesta Tipica Brunswick played and lights from a passing car flickered across the wall. A waiter slid a fresh bottle of high altitude Malbec onto the table, and I picked up the last piece of queso milanesa. Sabrina, seeking to rescue Moneypenny ventured, “It seems that she has already made a good start”.

“So, tell me about it”, said ‘M’ as she looked intently into Moneypenny’s eyes. “What have you been up to, chica?”

It was over an hour later that Maria Cristina picked up her scarf from her lap, pushed her blonde hair beneath her cloche hat and opened her handbag to retrieve her gloves. On doing so, a yellow light spun across the wall and a motorcycle turned outside the bar in Av Gral Iriate. A waiter, not hitherto noticed, stepped forward and led M the way she had entered, behind the counter, disappearing as quickly and unseen as she had arrived.

Raul whistled softly, ‘phew, Moneypenny, I would never have guessed you had it in you. How on earth did you work out that plan?”, added Sabrina, “you make Mr Bond look like an amateur!”

Never the master of the understatement, Sabrina was spot on for once - although in fairness neither Moneypenny nor I had shared with ‘M’ details of her reckless plan to return to Alvero’s apartment.

“I think another bottle of Sottano Judas Malbec 2012 is warranted”, I ventured, “no point in having the Ministry’s gold card and not making full use of it”, I added. Raul looked across disconsolate - driving the Bentley had its disadvantages. “So, let’s get a couple of bottles then Raul can enjoy his at his leisure”, I continued with a wry smile and a nod.

As we prepared to leave Moneypenny tipped her head to one side and glanced over to the small dance floor. “Oh I adore Di Sarli”, she slurred, “just one last dance”. After her tour de force earlier I could not deny her this trophy, so propping her against my arm, I led her to onto the pista. “I know the words, Bond, ‘Esta Noche Luna’, I know the words”, she repeated, and resting her head against my chest we danced as she sung,

“Acércate a mí y oirás mi corazón
Contento latir como un brujo reloj,
La noche es azul, convida a soñar
El cielo ha encendido su faro mejor.
Si un beso te doy, pecado no ha de ser
Culpable es la noche que incita a querer,
Me tienta el amor, acércate ya
El credo de un sueño, nos redimirá”.

Moments later, we stepped out into the cool night air. On leaving, the waiters slid the windows down along the front of the bar and shot the bolt on the doors. The sound of Di Sarli faded, to be replaced by Hugo Diaz’s  ‘Mi Noche Triste’- receding from beneath the railway arches where I could just discern the glint of moonlight on the wheels of a chair.





Moneypenny

“I didn’t want you to end up here, it’s not too late to say no…..it’s not too late yet”, Sabrina whispers in my ear.  I don’t have an answer for her, few are the times when I am at a loss for words and it seems this was one of them. At first, I thought it was fun running around the city following Bond; mysterious cemetery meetings, secret milonga parties, even sleeping with Alvaro didn’t bother me too much, but now… I have to prove myself, prove my worth towards something I’m not even sure I want to be a part of.

Suddenly, I feel Sabrina and Bond tense up as the bar doors open and a blonde woman. dressed in black, walks in.  It’s the woman from the cemetery, it’s the illusive ‘M’.

“Good evening, James, Sabrina, Raul”, she says as she removes her hat and lets her golden hair cascade over the shoulders.  “Now let’s see what the two of you have been up to”, she says with a smirk, addressing Bond and Sabrina casually avoiding me.  She then turns her gaze towards me and adds: “You both left out how incredibly….what’s the word, not beautiful, beautiful is too plain, too generic, no not beautiful -  but seductive she is. Although, I should hardly be surprised, I have known you for what over…..well let’s just say some years now haven’t I James?”. I assumed this was also eluding to how Sabrina got caught up with them.

“Indeed M, good of you to conceal the exact number of years”, Bond retorts with a smile.  “Don’t flatter yourself Bond, I did it more for me, and because I simply can’t count that high!”, she responds with a burst of laughter.

“Now enough of this nonsense; Sabrina I trust that everything is in order”, she questions, giving Sabrina no chance to repond. “And now Moneypenny, James tells me you’re quite something, says you figured out the riddle we planted for you without too much difficulty, Bond himself would have taken years to solve it”, she says looking directly at me with her piercing eyes.  “How did you do it?”

“Well, it was quite elementary”, I started.  “James, I mean Bond, and Sabrina for that matter, always seem to speak in riddles, so I’ve had a fair amount of practice when it comes to deciphering things. I know Bond is fascinated by Argentine history so I knew it had to be a historical reference.  And the rest just followed: brothers in arms, high the sky… had to be Peru or Lima up in the Andes; freed from the same shackles, had to be the year of independence, and then I realized it was an address”, I respond, trying to conceal my nerves.

“Impressive, and what did you think of the party my dear?” she asks, again looking directly into my eyes.

“I’m not sure what to think, the standard of tango wasn’t very good and the floor was too slippery -  but the champagne and the orchestra were excellent. Other than that I have no opinion”, I retort.

“I like her”, she says to Bond, “she doesn’t venture to talk about what she doesn’t know. It’s a good quality. However, don’t take me for a fool, I know you have more to say than a comment on the type of polish Richard uses on his floor.  I also know you took matters into your own little hands with Alvaro”, she adds with an inkling of criticism. “ So tell me, what have you been up to, chica? What was your plan that you so boldly took on by yourself?”

I wasn’t sure what to answer her. I hadn’t really thought things through properly, I had just acted, I couldn’t tell her that though.  “Well, I thought that the most direct way to Richard, assuming Richard is our target, is through his lover. Margaretta is clearly useless in this area, so the most obvious choice is Jay, which gives me at least one degree of separation from Richard should anything happen. But I thought Jay wouldn’t be too easily swayed by me, he’s a profiteer and I had nothing to offer him. It could make him doubt my motives for getting close to him. I needed something else to spark his interest. And then it came to be, who would do almost anything for a little fame and glory? Alvaro is perfect, he’s beautiful and fairly stupid. Not to mention that the man is obsessed with himself; a little flattery of his ego goes a very long way.  Thus, I wanted to ‘seduce’ him and convince him that he and I had a lot to gain from a connection with Richard. I made up some cockamamie story about my dreams of being a tango dancer and how he and I could benefit from Richard’s connections around the world. How, by infiltrating his inner circle, by infiltrating Jay, we could have it all. Alvaro is too stupid and too preoccupied with moisturizing his chest to put two and two together”, I respond almost surprised at how easily the words flooded from my lips.

‘M’ smiles, pulls her hat down and slips her gloves onto her slim hands. “That’ll do for now”, she replies, “don’t do anything else until you’re told to”.  “James, Sabrina I trust the two of you can work together on this”. Just as she got up, a waiter arrived, picked up the glass from which she had been sipping her Malbec and led her away. Not a trace of her was left behind, even her napkin had disappeared.

The four of us just stood there in silence as James opened another bottle of Malbec.  “Don’t say anything, put your shoes on and go dance”, Sabrina instructs me.

As soon as I manage to hook my shoe strap on, struggling with it as usual, Bond cabeceo’s me and swooshes me away to the dance floor.  We dance to one of my all time Pugliese favorites as moonlight beams through the windows of Bar Las Laureles.

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