In which Moneypenny starts to think about her future
Sabrina’s resolve not to travel with Raul at the wheel of the Bentley evaporated in the evening air, impelled no doubt by the prospect of locating a taxi at this time of night, and I suspect, a desire to reassure Moneypenny whose hand she held as they slid into the rear seat. Once underway through the darkened calles of Barracas I heard a sigh from Moneypenny, but otherwise our journey silent, but for the clinking of Raul’s bottle of Malbec as it rolled in the boot.
Back at my Recoleta apartment I found my mind turning over the evening’s events, and the need to sleep seemed secondary to the desire for a single malt and the chance to think. My old arm chair beckoned from the terrace, and that is where I found myself, with moonlight glinting through a bottle of Talisker, and Cleo the cat arching gently against my leg.
Recoleta, so busy and bustling during the day, settles into a state of suspended animation at night, only the tops of tall trees in Plaza San Martin showing signs of a breeze. In the distance, unseen and almost unheard, the sound of a taxi as it turns into Santa Fe, and nearer, the beat of wings from a startled dove as it settles in a Jacaranda tree below the terrace.
‘Moneypenny is certainly a strange fish’, I think to myself. She played M like a professional. With each question and at every turn of the conversation she seemed ahead of the game. There was clearly more to Moneypenny than first appeared. Maria Cristina must have logged her consummate performance. Was it too good to be true? With this plan, M was about to allow Moneypenny, a relative stranger, inside access to our plans and concerns regarding Dr Richard Alvarez and his dealings. This could amount to a very dangerous strategy.
Returning from the terrace to the study, I pull out my old Olympia typewriter and wind in a sheet of plain paper -
‘M, I have worries about Moneypenny. She seems to know precisely what we want before we do - it is as if she has been briefed - but not by me. I think we need to meet, and maybe do a few more checks (unless you have another plan)’.
Folding the sheet into a brown envelope, I leave it in the rack for Raul and, pouring myself another malt, retire to bed for the few hours that remain before morning.
It has been light for a couple of hours when I wake to the sound of Rosa the maid clattering in the kitchen.
“It’s alright, Rosa, I am awake. How about coffee?”, I say, trying to smile and look vaguely refreshed. Raul has already collected the envelope and left a stack of morning papers on the table, just flown in from London. Down below, I hear the clack of lattice doors and the bump of a wheelchair as it negotiates its way out of the lift.
As I finish reading the last Times obituary, the telephone rings.
“Bond, are you up yet”, comes the voice. “You up for lunch? I’m starving. That shared milanesa last night was not enough to feed a mouse”.
“Moneypenny; good of you to ask how I am doing”, I reply facetiously. “So, what about Convento San Ramon Nonato in Calle Reconquista?”, I suggest, feeling the need for proper food. “You know where it is, I take it”, I inquire. “Isn’t it behind the Bank of Argentina or somewhere?”, she replies with a vagueness that is in stark contrast to last night. “Yes, I think I know it. Meet midday on the steps? Oh, and how are you today, Bond?”, she adds, “Have you recovered from the effects of all that Malbec?”
As I replace the receiver I hear the sound of a click on the line. It is faint, but clear. ‘We were not alone in that conversation’, I think to myself, and my mind returns to the turmoil of the previous night.
“You did well tonight, just like I expected you to”, Sabrina utters while pouring me a cup of jasmine tea. “All I did was follow your advice”, I retort. “I just don’t want you to get sucked in the way I did, you need to watch out for yourself; make sure you have a safety net; because once they no longer need you, you’ll be left with nothing but a pair of fancy shoes and a lifetime of secrets”, she adds. “I’m still not really sure what all of this is, but are we doing the right thing?”, I attempt to ask, hoping she’ll give me something more concrete to go on.
“There is no right and wrong, no good or bad really, peace and safety are assured by one thing and one thing only, balance, no one can have absolute power, it would ruin us all, even if intentions are good, are they rarely are, it wouldn’t work. But that’s enough for now, have your tea and go sleep in the guest room”, she replies, not giving the information I was hoping for, but I know tonight, a cup of hot tea is the only favour she’ll grant me.
Sleep wasn’t on the agenda tonight it would seem, the events of the evening just kept playing over and over in my head, like a broken record; Richard…. Infiltrate….secrets... Alvaro….working together… working for what.. Balance of power...? For whom? Once ‘M’ left, silence dominated our a table, not one superfluous word was spoken; Bond just smiled and twirled me about the very uncomfortable dance floor and Sabrina sat there in a deep ponder, sipping her Malbec.
If I were reading a novel, I wouldn’t be able to put it down at this stage, but now when everything seems to be materialising and playing out exactly according to plan; all I seem to want to do is run away…. My usual reaction.
I wonder what Alvaro must have thought when he woke up to find me missing, I shouldn’t have listened to Bond and I should have gone back like I had intended, what did it matter that Lucia went there? Why did she matter in any of this anyway?
I look over to the dresser and notice the outside light hitting the side of my silver Comme il Faut’s, casting a beam of light onto my bed; my shoes are calling me and their call is much stronger than the call of sleep.
I get up, put on some jeans, grab my shoes and discreetly make my way out of the apartment, if hurry I can make it for the first batch of media lunas at La Viruta.
Mr Bond There are some days when Buenos Aires is so hot and humid that San Telmo streets hum with the sound of the air conditione...
Moneypenny 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...
Mr Bond I flash a smile towards Nancy the waitress, and without a word she arrives with a second champagne glass for Moneypenny, who...