In which Bond and Moneypenny return to Buenos Aires
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?”.
‘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’.
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...