Moneypenny, the colectivo, and a stab in the dark
Mr BondI get the impression that Moneypenny thinks this is my first time - my virgin voyage. In the early days I introduced her to my maroon and cream Bentley Continental S2. She thinks that, and the radio taxi is all I know.
Since escaping the clutches of MI6, Raul has kept the Bentley hidden under dust covers beneath Palacio Haedo. There is also the little issue of my stipend. No sooner had I left London aboard the ‘Hanjin Buenos Aires’, than the ministry stopped my pay cheque.
The great thing about ‘el colectivo’ is the cost. When I first came to Buenos Aires I learned to say ‘ochenta’ as I boarded, receiving twenty centivos in change from my peso. Now I have one of those touch cards but with inflation am charged a resounding ten pesos.
Moneypenny has already dashed to the back of the bus to claim two seats. It is approaching three in the morning, yet the atmosphere is carnival. Alongside, a group of revelers laugh and tease, ahead two lovers engage in a long kiss, whilst beyond grey clothed passengers, at the front sit two office cleaners and an eighty year old woman with her shopping trolley pulled into her side. What brings us here together on the colectivo?
We speed along Av San Juan towards San Telmo, shuttered shops and restaurants flashing past as we race the lights. Our bus driver has perfected the art - red-to-green as we approach without the slightest hint of braking, his progress only interrupted when forced to drop a passenger, after which he accelerates at break-neck speed to make up for lost time. At each stop we brace together to avoid sliding forward from shiny seats, and on departure bump our heads on the boarding behind.
Our colectivo swings left into Peru and heads down towards Independencia. The transition from bright San Juan to the dusky calles of San Telmo is stark. We alight between tall buildings that crowd both sides of the street. Recessed doorways lead to long passages, and further down to the hidden apartments of the bario. Two figures follow us, previously inconspicuously seated on opposite sides of the bus, unnoticed, but now walking quickly together.
I hear the sound of a blade, then of a snap. Before my hand can seize it, Moneypenny’s ‘Comme il Faut’ dance bag disappears into the darkness. “Oh my God”, she screams, but her voice is lost on the night air. We stand numbed in the moment. It was so sudden; so unexpected; we were so unprepared.
“What was in the bag?”, I ask lamely, as if it could make a difference. “Just my shoes - fortunately not my best Katrinskis”, she adds. “But wait, I think my keys were there too”, she murmurs desperately checking her pockets. “They have gone”, she concludes, “and forty pesos which I saved from sharing your bottle of champagne”, she adds.
“There is nothing to do now”, I reply peering forwards into a deserted street, “spend the night at Defensa - tomorrow is another day”, I continue, failing to account for the rising light in the east.
Moneypenny is pale, her normally lively face has become drawn. Without a word she reaches round to take my arm, snuggling close for comfort. Our footsteps tap in unison in empty streets as we walk in silence towards the lights.
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