In which Bond is back in San Telmo



Mr Bond

Dear reader, the two of us were standing together in the living room contemplating life in my rented apartment in Defensa, San Telmo, my Panama hat in its new home on an ancient brass hook, and about to unload my worldly possessions from my trunk; when the sound of the door buzzer breaks the spell.

“Bond, you are back”, a voice squeals. “And it seems, so are you Moneypenny”, I reply, pressing the intercom door release to street level.

After the ascent of fifty two stairs Moneypenny is a little out of breath. Since we last met so many weeks ago at Bar Laureles, Barracas, she has cropped her hair, it now forms a tiny golden halo around her head. She smiles.  “I understand that you have been a bad girl and disobeyed M, fleeing to Bolivia and meeting up with Richard Alvarez?”, I state with a grin.

“It’s really not for me, this cloak and dagger agent’s life”, she replies, “it’s far too stressful for I am never sure who is who, and on what side. I am done with it. From now on I propose to dedicate my time to tango. What about you, James? Sabrina said you were back, but then clammed up for some reason”.

“Well, if it is of any interest, I too have escaped the clutches of MI6 and just arrived under the radar on the cargo ship Hanjin”, I reply. “It seems that we are both fugitives”.

“Who, apart from Sabrina, and your friends Hammond and Paul knows we are in Buenos Aires?”, she inquires, frowning. “Only Nick Compton, captain of the Hanjin, and his little dog Simon”, I reply jovially.

With that, Moneypenny throws herself onto the sofa and stares at the ceiling. “James, are we safe here?”, she asks, “and what are you going to do now you are no longer working for the ministry?”

“Safe enough, I reckon. It is just a matter of time for them to recruit our replacements and then forget that we ever existed. It happens all the time. No-one is indispensable”, I add, regretting the words as soon as I said them. “Life is like a film; you’re in the action, then you’re on the cutting room floor”. “And I too am going to take this opportunity to dance Argentine tango”, I add. “Club Gricel tonight, do you reckon?”.

As I am crouching to unfasten the leather strap from the trunk that dominates the centre of the room, Moneypenny stretches out a long creamy leg and levers herself up from the sofa. Squatting alongside with her left hand across my shoulder, she whispers, “Dance with me now, James”.

We rise into a close embrace as she hums ‘La Cumparasita’. We dance. Sunlight glances through the open doors from the veranda. A light breeze disturbs the foliage of the lemon tree which taps rhythmically to her song. Her breath is warm and moist on my neck, and the fragrance of Lolita Lempicka drifts from her soft skin.

“So, James, are you pleased to be back?”, she questions. “Do you realise, Moneypenny - Buenos Aires is the only place in the world where you can dance proper tango and drink a decent cup of coffee?”, I retort, adding with a smile, “of course I am old girl, and it is great that we are together again as a tango team”.




Miss Moneypenny

I rush through Defensa, through the  Sunday Tam Tam players and the orange juice stands; through the shoes and bong sellers; pushing my way through the hoards of people who have made the pilgrimage to San Telmo’s market day; all the way to the corner of Independencia and stare up at the tall white building.

“Bond, it’s me!  I’m back! You’re back’, I utter into the buzzer.  “Yes I’m back and so are you it seems”, he replies with much less apparent enthusiasm; the British just don't do enthusiasm I remind myself.

Within the following 15 minutes, I find out Bond went back to London and has essentially left MI6, or so he says, and wants to devote himself completely to tango. “How ironic” I say to him.  “Ironic, why would you say that?” he asks me.  “Because I’ve decided that I’ve spent too much time stepping on cats in cemeteries and chasing after secret societies, while my tango shoes have been collecting dust” I reply.

“Yes we should get back on track with tango, plan a milonga soon” Bond answers back.  “Well there’s no time like the present, dance with me here!” I say.

With that, Bond puts a disk on gramophone, ‘La Cumparasita’, an odd choice for a living room tanda, I suspect he heard me humming it while I was stretched out on his sofa.  We embrace and sway left to right, it doesn’t feel like it did before; maybe we’re both a little rusty; or maybe we’re just not as comfortable with each other as we used to be.

Once the music dies down, I remove myself from his embrace, a little hastily perhaps, but I also remember that he is the reason I am in this mess in the first place.  He used tango before to get me to do what he wanted, how do I know it’s any different now?  Can anyone ever leave MI6?  What proof do I have except his word?

“Thank you for the tanda” I whisper in his ear as I lean in to kiss his cheek, “I’ll see you tonight.  I love Gricel” and make my way down the 52 stairs which had left Bond so out of breath on our way up.

In which Bond and Moneypenny return to Buenos Aires



Mr Bond

If you want to know about life on a transatlantic cargo ship, you will have to book a cabin and experience it for yourself - the solitary times when the hum of engines and the creaking of decks provide the only company, the monotony as a day slips towards evening, long views to a watery horizon, and the moment that a new dawn arrives in the east with the rising sun.

After leaving Dakar in Senegal, accompanied by Mireille’s lively French Canadian chatter, twenty days slipped past quicker than expected. We met for breakfast, joined by Simon the miniature schnauzer, and the occasional member of the Filipino crew. In the evening we would watch the sunset across the western horizon and dance tango to orchestras of the Golden Age on deck. On lazy afternoons schools of dolphins would gather alongside to race the ship whilst flying-fish tore ahead of the bow, and keen eyes could spot turtles, sea snakes and the illusive shark.

As we enter the busy shipping lane on our approach to Buenos Aires, I join Captain Nick Compton on the bridge, his greying beard matching that of his ageing schnauzer. His deep baritone voice booms instructions to the first mate. At the horizon the city shimmers in summer heat. Soon, we make out the tall towers of Puerto Madero just to the south of commercial dock Darsena D. None of the quiet, sleepy restraint of Tilbury - voices call out and figures dart amongst the moorings. Within moments the dock erupts with activity, overhead cranes grind out above our port side, ropes are thrown by the Filipino crew, whilst lines of huge Argentine transporter trucks await, their swarthy drivers leaning nonchalantly in the shade.  

Ahead of me, Compton addresses the migraciones officer in Castillano and nods in my direction. As I arrive at his desk he glances over half glasses momentarily before vigorously stamping my passport. “Bienvenido a Buenos Aires, Snr Bond. Tres meses”. Three months? Without the British government visa, it seems that I am now a tourist. It takes a moment to register. At first I sense a loss of status, ‘Cpt Bond’ it seems remaining somewhere on deck between London and Santos Itapoa. Then I realise what I have gained - the freedom to recover both life and identity from the department.

Mireille heads off to the leafy bario of Palermo, whilst my taxi takes me towards Recoleta for the last time, stopping in Santa Fe just short of the grace-and-favour MOD apartment on the roof of Palacio Haedo. Raul is waiting alongside a large trunk bound with a leather strap. “James, let me give you a hand with this”, he greets, ”I think that’s the lot”, adding, “mum’s the word, but you know what, I am going to miss you, old boy”.

Minutes later, a half-open boot tied down with rope, the taxi leaves Raul standing on the footway, his hand raised in a half-hearted wave; and heads out on 9 de Julio towards San Telmo, ten minutes later cutting down the cobbles of Estados Unidos to turn back north to Defensa and my new home in the city.

Eva, the housekeeper, is there to greet me. “Mr Bond, here are your keys - and a spare set just in case you have a visitor”, she announces. “The terrace is upstairs, and beyond, the roof has fine views. Enjoy your stay”. And with that, she descends the fifty two steps to the street and disappears into the crowds of Calle Defensa.

San Telmo is one of the oldest barios in the city. A fresh start. I hang my Panama hat on the brass hook and look around me. ‘Coffee, I think’, I say to myself as I start to open the trunk, but within moments the buzzer sounds and a light pitched voice calls over the intercom, “Bond, are you there yet?”.


Moneypenny

‘Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires’, the signs say although there is nothing welcoming about crossing customs in Ezeiza Airport, they seem to consider everyone guilty until proven innocent, maybe they’re right now that I think of it.  As I step out the customs checkpoint, passed all the Tienda Leon ticket sellers, I notice Sabrina in the distance, she has come to pick me up. I won’t even ask how she knew I was arriving today.

“Welcome back, I’m glad to see you” she mutters nervously.  “Yes, I am back and don’t worry. If anything this trip has convinced me of one thing, there is no right or wrong side, the only thing I am sure of is that I want to go back to why I came here in the first place, for tango,” I say knowing it will reassure her, and at the same time not 100% convinced myself this was the end of everything else. Just as those creeped into my head I notice Richard Hammond and Paul in the distance walking to a taxi.

“Have you heard from James?”, I ask Sabrina.  “Yes I have,” she responds in a way that I know I had better not push for more information.

“Come, you must be tired, let’s go home. I’ve taken the liberty of moving your things from your apartment into my guest room; I’ve decided that you should live with me for a while.  You may come and go as you chose, no questions asked, but you will live with me,” she says affirmatively. “Alright, then I guess there isn’t much I can say then is there?,” I respond.

Sabrina’s hired limousine takes us to the streets of San Telmo where I would once again, start a new life.  The smell of Sabrina’s place was familiar and I unconsciously sigh with relief, feeling that I could give up the reigns to take time to breathe.  I make my way up to my room, when I notice a note near the telephone ‘Defensa 893 3C’. ’What could this mean’, I ask myself, but resolve to save that for later, for now all I wanted was a warm bath and a glass of Malbec.

“Everything is upstairs, go rest and we can chat later,” Sabrina says, adding as she hands me a glass of wine, “and I’ve missed you”.  

I open the doors to my new room. It was always ‘a little’ mine actually but now, dressed with all my possessions, it feels more official. As I open the closet I notice the red dress I had worn at Richard Alvarez’ party - along with all the other clothes from the Sucre suite. How had this happened?  Was I really out of all this? Bond! I knew I had to see him and said to myself ‘I must do it right now’.

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