Moneypenny from Berlin to Buenos Aires Part I

Bond and Sabrina freeze and gaze at me in terror.  What happened? I feel lightheaded, everything is hazy; I feel as if I were floating above everyone.  I look down, onto the steps where my body lies, Bond is panicked as Mireille tries to calm him, Sabrina is motionless, petrified; I can’t make out where the others are; I’m just lying there motionless….

I have this overwhelming urge to float away…… To follow the breeze…. Go towards the sunlight…… but something pulls me back, faint in the distance, I hear Bond’s voice “You stay awake, you come back, do you hear me”, and abruptly the floating stops and I can feel a deep pain in my abdomen and a weakening of my body.

I close my eyes; darkness comes over me, and then, unexpectedly, a flicker of light appears in the distance;  I see myself; myself 6 months ago in Brussels, about to give my speech on health-care issues in the European Union and new regulations for the big pharma which have been dictating rather than following the rules lately. I’m back, back to that moment that started the chain of event that led me back here, that led me to this moment which might be my last.

6 months ago…..

I had left BA after the G20; after yet another encounter with my mysterious Argentine; after Bond; after Sabrina… when I had had enough of all of it.  I came back to Brussels, went back to work as if none of it had ever happened.

"Madame, madame c’est à vous de parler.  Andiamo!!! Presto!", said M Rasi, Guido I should say, the executive director of EMA, the European Medicine Agency, and my boss.  So I stood up and gave my speech, like I had many times before, on the importance of unity in the face of division, on the importance of our common goals, our strife for the people of Europe, and the world, to have the highest quality of medication to preserve, improve and prolong life….yes preserve, improve and prolong life…Yes all of those values, those values I used to believe in so strongly....before I knew any better.

"Hai fatto bene, come sempre", Guido told me.  "You think so?  We’re planning our move from London to Amsterdam; half of Europe is no longer European, you think talking about unity makes a difference now?" I responded in an almost irritated tone.  "Ah che passione!" he responded and paused as he looked directly into my eyes.  I knew that look all too well, he wanted something from me, and something I wouldn't really want to do.

“My dear I need you to go to Berlin, to attend a conference next Wednesday; given by a very influential Russian genetic engineer.  You’ll need to pay close attention; we think the Russians are trying to play God and are trying to create some sort of super Siberian humans along with mutated vaccines against their own new engineered biological weapons.  You need to take notes, talk to people, see who is there, who is interested, make friends." He said as he gazed at the speaker’s chair at the front of the auditorium.

“Anyhow, you leave tonight, and you will spend the week in Berlin.  You will stay at Hotel di Roma, in the center, near the university library.  It’s the only place you can get descent pasta, I will not have you eating German food for seven days straight! No one deserves that, not even the Germans!” He said as he burst out laughing at his own joke.
“One week, why one week if the seminar is on Wednesday?” I asked with a hint of annoyment, as if I had no life of my own and could just get up and go according to everyone whims and desires. “Perche e cosi.  All your things are ready, you just need to take the taxi to the airport and enjoy.  Antonella packed your things and whatever is missing you can just put on your expense report. Grazie mille cara mia."

So just like that I was off to Berlin on the 7PM flight.  9PM I arrived at hotel Roma, in the heart of Berlin, on the very spot which was the scene of the very infamous 1933 Nazi book burning.  No matter how much we move forward, Germany’s past will forever haunt her, like a shadow that follows you even on the sunniest of days.

“Welcome madame” said the concierge, “we are very pleased to have you with us, Pierre will escort you to our best room, on the top floor, for your stay with us", he continued.

Penthouse and a week in Berlin, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all I thought to myself, why was I complaining?

Pierre opened my door, placed my suitcase on it’s dedicated stand and handed me an envelope; “C’est pour ce soir, amusez-vous bien mademoiselle”, he said before disappearing. Why an Italian hotel in Berlin had a French speaking busboy, I wasn't sure, but it is why I love Europe and believe in her so profoundly. 

The envelope contained one handwritten note: ‘Das Kaffeehaus Dallmayr and bring your shoes. Grazie mille cara mia.’

The place was 3 blocks from my hotel, the coffee house of the Communication Museum of Berlin, I could hear the music from outside, and like it always does, it drew me in, like a firefly to light.

Does she survive?

Important update: from Mr Bond

We met at 'Monumento Al Plus Ultra' against the entrance of the Reserva Ecologica on the eastern side of Buenos Aires where land meets La Plata. Savident, Hammond, Mireille, Norm, Sabrina, and Moneypenny were waiting for me on the steps just as the afternoon temperature dropped beneath the thick canopy of Jacaranda trees that borders the reserve.

The Jose Lorda sculpted monument commemorates a hydroplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1926 from Madrid to Buenos Aires. This was a riverbank area from which over time the River Plata retreated from the popular bathing point where the statue still stands.

Maria Cristina (known as M) arrives with London's new Head of Service Sue Boothroyd; unconventionally but not unexpected from what we know of M's quirky transport choices.

It is the first time that I have encountered Ms Boothroyd, MI6's first transgender Head. She is Theresa May's last appointment before a new Prime Minister takes up residence in London's Downing Street. She is younger than I had expected, powerful, beautiful and smart, her blonde hair pulled into a pony tail. The two women walk purposefully and without urgency along the avenue towards our group. Paul Savident, Hammond and Mireille chat quietly to one side. Norm continues to snap photographs of Sabrina and Moneypenny. I  stand alone against the plinth.

When they reach a point twenty metres from the monument, Ms Boothroyd stops and turns. I can hear the sound of a phone as she reaches into her hand bag to retrieve her mobile. The distance is just too far away to hear her words. Almost immediately Moneypenny's phone rings out. She steps down from the marble steps to take the call. At the same moment a shot rings out, recognisable as from a single-action semi-automatic M1911 pistol.

Moneypenny stands for an instant but the phone drops from her hand. Within a second she crumples to the ground. For what seems an eternity no-one moves.

The events that followed fall seemingly into time-lapse. Norm steps back into the shadows followed by Savident, Mireille and Hammond. I rush forward to where Moneypenny is lying. She does not move. Her breathing is feint and rattling. A pool of blood creeps across the stone and she whispers indistict words in my ear. I turn to see the steel-clad dustcart depart into Rosario Vero Penazola.

Sabrina calls 107 for an ambulance and whilst waiting with her I instinctively seize Moneypenny's phone from where it had landed in the dust. Paramedics rush down the avenue. Arriving, they attempt to stem the flow of blood whilst delivering oxygen. Departing, they say that they will go to the Hospital Britanico in Av Caseros, Constitucion, and that Sabrina should accompany them.

I remain seated on the monument steps staring at my blood-stained hands. Distant at the reserve entrance I notice the glint of sunshine on the spokes of a wheelchair as it retreats into the shadow.

Nine of Ten

Mr Bond

That I should encounter Moneypenny in Buenos Aires would not be surprising. Visit the city and you will understand why immediately. The tiny electrical charge that surrounds all humans is somehow magnified here, and strangely transmitted. You may be walking in a crowded calle, only to have a friend or acquaintance approach or wave furiously from a passing collectivo.

But that Moneypenny should find me within two hours of touchdown was spooky. On meeting, her demeanour was even more unusual. Gone, the carefree, fun-loving tanguera; now a subdued young woman on whom her smile appeared strained.

“James, I haven’t got much time”, she said breathlessly. “Take this, it contains your instructions. Oh, and don’t be late!”

With that Moneypenny pushes a data card into my palm and disappears up the staircase into the crowds of Calle Florida.

The astute reader will recall from a previous chapter - ‘Bond Recalled to Buenos Aires’, the MI6 voice on the phone that made it perfectly clear that the Palacio Haedo apartment in Recoleta and the 1960 Bentley S2 Continental came on the condition that I should carry the department’s phone with me at all times. In one demand I was propelled from the twentieth century into the twenty first, necessitating a return to Whitehall to collect my kit.

“Bond, you here again? I thought you were retired?”, had jabbered ‘Q’ as he opened a sealed case. “Now I have something to help you with your tango”, he continued with a laugh, “ask it anything...what is an ocho?....look, it makes Siri look like a child”. “And this is where you slot in your data card. No, Bond, don’t ask why you would need one of those; all will become clear”.

With that ‘Q’ had slipped the phone into my jacket breast pocket and spun on his heel. “See Bond, I have been practicing tango too,” he joked as he chasséd from the room.

Tracked by my phone? I inserted the data card and clicked ‘read’. ‘Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sud: Martes 1500 hrs para conocer a tus amigos, saludos, ‘B’. 

But why the ecology park? And who is this ‘B’?

Breakfast at the galleria seemed to lose its appeal. ‘There is no such thing as a free meal, or even a quiet one these days’, I thought to myself. It seemed no sooner than I had set foot in Buenos Aires than I was being set to work.

I enter the press of humanity in Calle Florida and continue my route north to Santa Fé, turning left before Plaza General San Martin. Ahead, Palacio Haedo is looking both tired and splendid, the last traces of repairing scaffold being removed. Behind the glass reception screen sits Diego, his eyes fixed on a television screen. “Senôr Bond, nice to see you back in Bueno Aires”, he says with a frowning smile. “Here your key”.

Thirty minutes later I return to the street to hail a radio cab. “Puerto Madero, Fuente Monumental Las Nereidas”, I say, so as not to reveal my true destination. The taxi chases along the new Paseo del Bajo cutting minutes from the journey.

For 33 years, 350 hectares of marshland has served the Portenos as their last remaining wilderness. This is the Reserva Ecologica, where rough tracks lead you past swamps skirted by large iguana, eventually to the banks of the La Plata estuary.

My phone pings. ‘Monumento Al Plus Ultra’, reads the message. I squint ahead into the sunshine. On the steps is a collection of familiar faces.

“James, good of you to join us”, calls a voice. Two groups stand informally around the monument. In one group, Savident smiles, Mireille traces a lapise on the marble flags and Richard Hammond blows a kiss in my direction. In the other, Sabrina scowls at my approach , and Norm photographs Moneypenny as she shrugs her knees. “So we are The secret seven”, I observe tallying a head count.

“No, Bond, we are the nasty nine”, says Savident authoritatively, “we have been told to wait here for M and B”.

Maria Cristina (M) runs the government’s secret service operations in South America from her hidden office in Avenida Gral. Las Heras in Buenos Aires. “But who is this B?”, I ask, glancing around at the group.

“You’ve got to be joking, Bond”, replies Savident, “or you’re seriously out of touch, old man”. “B is the new Head of MI6, appointed yesterday by Theresa May as her last political act before her escape to obscurity”.

“So, this B, where’s he from?”, I continue.

“Not he, Bond…. She....our first transgender Ministry chief. And her name is Boothroyd”.

On cue, a shiny new dust cart pulls up at the end of the avenue, and from the side door descend two blonde women, M turning to lend a hand to the other as she steps down to the street.

At that moment, behind us, the haunting sound of a harmonica emanating from beneath the Jacaranda fades, as a tiny wheelchair disappears into the distance.

Jorge Luis Borges and Galerias Pacifico

Mr Bond

From the Tienda Leon bus station I can either wait for a taxi, or walk the twenty minute journey to Palacio Haedo in Santa Fe. The day is fair, and after 13 hours of long-haul flight, the stroll would be preferable to a shared taxi.

Skirting Luna Park I pace to Av Corrientes and ascend to the pedestrianised Calle Florida where I turn north. It is still early, but the street is already busy with traders. Voices call out ‘cambio, cambio’ advertising currency exchange. I tuck my leather bag firmly under my arm for security as I pass intersections and open doorways.

Crossing Lavalle, Florida 537 appears on my right, a gloomy 1960’s building designed as a mall, now accommodating but a handful of trading units. I descend the escalator (inoperable as long as I can remember) to the lower ground level, heading down the sloping ramp to Argenper’s office. Smoked glass doors give access a deserted seating area backed by screens to hide the tellers. It is early. I am a queue of one, and a voice calls ‘siguiente’.

Whilst the foreign office will arrange currency transfers, they track every transaction. So I prefer to access pesos myself, making funds transfers from my bank to the English company ‘Azimo’, who arrange for peso collection here at the Argenper kiosk.

For proof of identity I present my passport which is scanned and returned. Horacio’s eyebrows raise as I write my address, Santa Fe 690. “Isn’t that the ancient palacio? I thought it was boarded up for renovation?”

I reply that in Buenos Aires you have to get accommodation wherever you can, at which he smiles, handing me a large roll of notes that have drummed from the auto-counter and enclosed with an elastic band.

With cash tucked into my body-wallet, my mind turns to thoughts of breakfast. I know that Raul, Haedo’s caretaker, will be on his rounds, and Maria the housekeeper has Tuesdays off.

Galerias Pacifico at Florida, just before Av Cordoba is the ‘shopfront’ of the Centro Cultural Borges. Jorge Luis Borges 1889-1986 was a writer and thinker, sharing with Samuel Beckett in 1961 the first Prix International. He was an opponent of the Nazi fascism of Adolph Hitler, which he described as ‘a chaotic descent into darkness’; and of the Peronism of Juan and Evita Peron which he called ‘the lies of conceal or justify sordid or atrocious realities’. He was above all else, a nationalist for Argentina, one who loved tango, writing, ‘el infinito tango me lleva hacia todo’ -  ‘infinite tango takes me towards everything’. Without doubt he would have approved of ‘Escuela Argentina de tango’, the famous tango school hidden away on the top floor of the building bearing his name.

The street-side Galerias Pacifico however, is the zenith of retail, and a few steps to the lower ground level leads the visitor to the food hall where breakfast can be whatever you wish it to be. This is now my destination.

As I descend the stairs a voice calls, “Bond, esperarme...wait for me”. I glance behind me to see a young slim, fair haired figure pushing through a crowd of tourists.

“Moneypenny, what on earth are you doing here? And how did you know that I was back in Buenos Aires?”

Finding ‘C’ - the back story

Mr Bond

Dear Reader,
I must interrupt the story at this point before Mireille and I disembark the Manuel Tienda Leon bus into Buenos Aires, to tell you about ‘C’.

At the mention of her name, it all became clear. For good reason, few people on the planet knew about her. For a special reason, I was one of the few. And evidently, that was why I was here.

Recruited over a decade earlier in Buenos Aires by Maria Cristina (known in the department as ‘M’) with the help of M’s assistant Paul Savident, Cecilia was to become one of the UK government’s most important South American assets. When I was informed of my first posting to Buenos Aires, it seemed just one of those random places that the Ministry insists upon. After months trapped in Whitehall, I saw it as the dream job - for climate, wine, culture, and tango. Yet very soon it became clear why I had been sent. My task was to train ‘C’, the latest, and most talented MI6 acquisition in years.

My first meeting with ‘C’ was arranged to take place at Convento San Ramon Nonato in Calle Reconquista, behind the huge Bank of Argentina in downtown Buenos Aires. The convent is an oasis in the heart of the city, with shaded pavement cafes beneath the cloisters, surrounding sun-kissed terraces. During weekdays, lunch is served by ancient waiters at linen covered tables, away from the hubbub of city sounds. In the gardens whilst the bells of the convent are silent, you can hear the vibration of hummingbird wings as they flit from flower to flower. It is the one place in the city where meeting can be discrete and unnoticed.

Our first encounter remains a vivid memory. Approaching, a woman of both beauty and bearing, Spanish waves of black hair cascading down her back. Remarkable was her gaze, her penetrating dark brown eyes displaying immediate intelligence.

Cecila had trained as a psychologist, then turned to the camera to become Buenos Aires’ most fashionable portrait photographer. It was this combination of skills that had caught Savident’s eagle-eyed attention when visiting her gallery in Plaza Serrano, Palermo. Through her work, not only did she know and photograph Argentina’s leading politicians and influencers, but she had an immediate understanding of the working of their minds, delving into innermost thoughts, like an Annie Leibovitz, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, or Yousuf Karsh.

Since then years had passed and ‘C’, as expected, had risen in the ranks to be one of the most useful, effective and charismatic agents in the field. And now she had suddenly disappeared.

The alarm was raised by her friend Norm Keilty, Northern Ireland’s international photographer. His emails had gone unanswered, texts unread and phone messages ignored. That traffic, or the lack of it, was picked up by MI5, and her loss became immediately evident.

As the coach pulls into the Tienda Leon guarded station and we prepare for our transfer, Mireille looks strained. “James, I know how this looks; I should have said something earlier. You should have been told”. There follows one of Mireille’s famous French pauses, “but we needed your support and assistance. The truth is, James, we know all about you and C, and how hard this will be for you”.

“You will be joined by Norm, Hammond and Moneypenny, if we can locate her. You are the team. Savident is your handler, and Raul and I will be available if you need support. We part here. Perhaps we may meet at the new Club Gricel if you have news?”

With that, Mireille stepped down from the coach, a fifty peso note imperceptibly exchanged hands with the coach driver, and she disappeared wheeling her case into the crowds of Retiro.

Finding ‘C’

Mr Bond 

BA flight 245, “We have an announcement”.

Entering Argentine airspace from Brasil, the cabin staff walk briskly down the aisles to spray DDT or perhaps less noctious insecticide. “It is required under regulation”,we are informed, “if you do not wish to inhale, cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief”.

There follows the descent into Buenos Aires. In early morning sunshine the Boeing 777 circles the city, as it turns capturing views down to Puerto Madero and the wide river Plata estuary beyond. ‘Is that La Boca Juniors stadium?’, I ask myself, seeing the morning light glinting on glass and recalling secret walks there at dusk.

It is half a kilometre from the plane to baggage reclaim, where the carousel is spinning cases through plastic strips. With my single leather bag, I pass by the feverish tourists and proceed to ‘Migraciones’. Already the queues for non-residents are snaking back towards the access routes. Unlike my arrival on the ‘Hanjin’, this time I have a UK government pre-registered visa in the name of Cpt Bond, recorded fingermarks and digital photograph. I follow aircrew along the restricted special visa lane and a surly immigration officer waves me through.

The next hurdle is the customs check. Those with special visas are shown no favour, but my bag slips easily from the scanner. Beyond is the final flight-side point before freedom, the currency exchange and taxi booking services hall.

Mireille is somehow already positioned at the Manuel Tienda Leon desk, speaking rapidly in a confusing combination of French and Spanish. “Oh, James, I’ve got your ticket. We’re getting the autobus”. Before I can complain, she pushes forward towards the electronic doors which open with a whoosh. Beyond are the familiar scents and sounds of Argentina. A press of drivers wait with cardboard signs, and families gather in groups with flasks and ‘Mate’. Children run, porters shout, and outside taxis hoot impatiently. And the heat - a wall of hot air gushes forward to melt the moment of arrival.

“Follow me, James, I really know what I am doing”, calls Mireille, without glancing behind her. Through the covered walkway, we arrive at the bus stop where she waves two tickets, logs her case and receives in exchange a raffle ticket numbered 006. “Climb aboard, James. This way we get the best entry to the Capital Federal”, she continues, as we sidle between the worn coach seats. “Slide that curtain back, James, don’t screen the sun; we don’t want to miss anything on the journey”.

The Manuel Tienda Leon coach pulls forward into a line of taxis, and jolts as it forces its way onto the departure road. A clock, which at one point told the time, hangs limply from its wires and swings against the dashboard. The driver breathes heavily and waves a fist at the driver of a pickup calling out ‘boludos’.

As we pass through the two motorway tolls, and the roofs of Boedo and Barracas stream to our right, Mireille turns abruptly in her seat.

“James, I haven’t levelled with you”. “You know I told you I was here for the change of PM. That is not true. And neither are you here for that purpose. The message M sent was simply to force your hand to come back to Buenos Aires”.

“What are you saying, Mireille? In that case, what on earth are we doing here?”

“James, we are here to find a missing agent. Our mission is called ‘Finding C’. And we are not to leave until it is done”.

Bond in for a shock at Heathrow

Mr Bond

Heathrow Terminal 5, the champagne bar, a plate of Balik smoked salmon, mozzarella and caviar, and glass of Lombard Grand Cru Brut Nature. At my feet, my possessions contained in one leather bag. In my lap, my trusted Panama. On the shelf to my right, the bill.

I glance at the Bremont. It has turned 2130 hours and BA flight 245 has blinked onto the overhead monitor for gate B46. I pay with notes. Now to start the long walk.

Ahead, a crowd is littered across the departure lounge. Some laze with their trainered feet across the bench; others wait expectantly as if for the arrival of some celebrity. British Airways staff trot and dive beneath barriers, preparing to perform. The countdown begins, first with wheelchairs and buggies, followed by the suits and shades, and finally the teaming public who scatter down the passenger boarding bridge as if their favoured seat depended on their earliest arrival.

Three of us remain. He, by his look, demeanour and case, must be a retired pilot. She has been motionless, but at the last minute stirs as feet clatter in the distance towards the plane. She turns and smiles.  “Alors Bond, comment ça va?”

Mireille, what on earth are you doing here? I thought you were still in Buenos Aires?”.

Dear reader, you will recall that Mireille, a French Canadian agent with MI6, stowed away on the ‘Hanjin Buenos Aires’ in her bid for freedom. On board ship, for twenty two nights we had danced to old recordings from the Golden Age of tango - Canaro, Laurenz, Biagi, Troilo, Calo, d’Arienzo, Rodriguez, Fresedo, Demare. Once in Buenos Aires, she had disappeared to Palermo Soho, only to be seen from time to time dancing Argentine tango at midnight in the milongas of Canning or Villa Malcolm.

“James, they brought me back to Blighty to keep un oeil sur toi. I’m surprised that you haven’t noticed me before. I had to report your every move”. “And now, they want me back in Buenos Aires in readiness for the change of PM”.

“Does that mean that I am off the hook?”, I reply frowning at the thought that I have been followed in London for months without noticing. “Yes James, I gave you a good bill de sante with Hammond, although I definitely got grilling from his friend, that Paul Savident. He behaves like un espion, plutot que un boss!”

I look at her momentarily and say to myself, ‘yes, he most certainly is a spy. And I sense, quite a dangerous one at that’.

Mireille disappears to starboard, and I settle into my clubclass couchette with the better class of blanket. It’s ‘no’ to more champagne, but a ‘yes’ to a Martini, even if it is stirred and the olive tastes rather like plastic.

Later, trays are cleared and the lights dim. From aft, the buzz of turbofan engines. From fore, the tinny sound of the inflight movie. And then 13 hours of fitful sleep before the descent into Ezeiza Airport, Buenos Aires.

Bond recalled to Buenos Aires

Mr Bond

‘Well, that is an end of that’, I mutter as I glance half-spectacled over my copy of today’s Times. ‘Theresa is gone.  Without Brexit; and it seems she didn’t even get the trade deal from Macri at the G20’, I continue to myself. ‘But at least she got to dance tango with Gerry and Lucia!’

Readers will gather that several months have elapsed since I escorted Theresa and Philip May to their Argentine tango lesson in Balcarce just before the Buenos Aires G20. Perhaps my services may be needed again by Boris and his children Lara, Cassia, Milo and Theodore in June? After all, Argentine tango is also popular in Japan.

My muse is interrupted by the ringing of the phone, an ancient black Bakelite rectangle with a bell and a dial - like everything else in my Ormond Yard apartment, just past the brink of redundancy. “Bond, isn’t it time you got a mobile, old chap?”, says the voice. “Sorry to interrupt your retirement, but we have another little job, and there’s no one else who will go to there at such short notice”. There follows a pause. “You will, of course, be paid, plus club class BA flight 245 rather than the ship. Oh, and we’ll give you a brand new mobile phone”, the voice teases. “What’s more, if you are really good you can have the Bentley and the grace-and-favour apartment at Santa Fe, after all they’re just catching dust since you left Buenos Aires”.

This last offer sends my mind racing back to long, lazy, sun-filled days at Palacio Haedo, the department’s almost forgotten accommodation in Argentina’s Capital Federal. Built in 1860, it is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Untouched since 1923, the apartment provides home from home antiquity with Ormond Yard, but with the added value of high ceilings and tall doors leading to shaded terraces tended by caretaker Raul and his cat Cleo. Somehow HM Government managed to get their hands on the top two floors in the 1950’s and despite the Malvinas, never relinquished their hold.

“So, what have you in mind?”, I ask casually, trying not to disclose my interest. “It’s the same as ever, old chap. New PM, so new trip to grab trade from Macri...or will it be Cristina’s mob if they get back in power?”.

With first rounds imminent in the Presidential campaign, former President Cristina Fernandes de Kirchner and Alberto Fernandez lead the current incumbent Mauricio Macri by four points. Here too the perennial division: whilst the West favours the economist Macri, the people remain seduced by Fernandez socialism. The only candidate that could topple both would be Evita, long dead, but always present in the Argentine heart and psyche.

“And who will I get to show around?”, I ask with a failed attempt at humour. “Will it be Johnson, Gove, Leadsom, Raab - or one of the other tailenders?”.

‘So, you’ll do it”, the voice cuts in curtly. “I’ll tell M that you’re in”, it continues. Then the phone goes dead.

I heave myself from the chair and walk to a rain-drenched window, with its ‘almost view’ over the roof-tops of distant Whitehall. ‘Now look what you’ve done, James’, I say to myself as I turn the brim of my old panama between my palms. But deep down I feel the bubble of excitement of a new challenge, a return to Buenos Aires, and of course, Argentine tango.

‘I wonder whatever happened to Moneypenny?’, I continue. And with that, a smile returns to my face for the first time since I left Buenos Aires.

Moneypenny's stranger returns


Corner of Balcarce and Defensa

‘Bond is standing in front of a Bentley; the window lowers and…. I can’t believe it, but it would seem that Bond was with Theresa May!!!!  She’s no doubt in town for the G20, trying to make a plea for her post-Brexit Britain, just one more amongst the other lost causes of this year’s gathering of the ‘Great forces’.   The window rolls up, Bond takes a step back and the Bentley drives off.

Bonds looks up and just as I am about to cross the street to meet him, I feel a hand on my shoulder.

“Don’t run away from me again”, he says, in that unmistakable Argentine accent. “It’s you, how did you find me?  I mean what are you doing here?” I utter in shear shock.

“I have a friend who lives near by, I was just leaving his apartment when I saw you standing here; I told myself I couldn’t let you get away yet again.  You’ve already escaped me twice, after La Viruta and then again after Gricel last week”, he responds with a slight smile.

“You seemed in ‘good hands’ when you left Gricel”, I retort, half mockingly.   I turn towards where Bond was standing only to notice that he’s disappeared.  “You also seemed to be in good hands if I recall correctly”, he responds.

“I was there with a friend”, I say in a very affirmative voice.  “Well so was I, with a friend”, he replies.  “Really, it seemed as if you had just met her?” I continue.  “Well she was a ‘new’ friend, but enough of this friend nonsense, come home with me now!” He says in a determined voice.  And before I can even attempt to respond, he takes my hand and we start waking up Defensa, we turn and walk through the market, passed the coffee shops and fruit stands to Bolivar; then up Bolivar to Plaza de Mayo; we go in complete silence, a silence that matches the calmest of the city on that day.  

Taking all precautions possible, president Macri has ordered a complete shut down of the city during the G20 summit.  All public transport is cut, people were told to stay home, shops to keep closed, Buenos Aires is a ghost town today.  Never have I experienced silence in this city before, everything else yes, but never silence.  The streets are quiet, no colectivos rushing by, no one shouting, no one running, no one pushing, it’s as if we had traveled to an alternate universe.
“Come, we’ll take Avenida de Mayo and cross 9 de Julio to take a taxi to Palermo, to my apartment”, he says as it suddenly starts to drizzle. I love it when it rains here, especially this time of year, it gives one a break from the scorching heat and washes away some of the filth that accumulates with time to reveal a new, more hopeful Buenos Aires.  We walk along the grand Avenida de Mayo and the drizzle now turns into rain, but neither of us seem to notice. We’re soaked but we keep walking in silence, trying not to break the meditative state of the city.  20 minutes later, we arrive at his apartment, penthouse in one of the modern buildings of Palermo.  “The first thing I want to do is get you out of those wet close”, he whispers in my ear while gently fondling my neck.

I feel hopeless, he was such power over me....and then I suddenly remember that all my troubles seem to have started in the penthouse suite…..and not too far off from here come to think of it……

Moneypenny from Berlin to Buenos Aires Part I

Bond and Sabrina freeze and gaze at me in terror.  What happened? I feel lightheaded, everything is hazy; I feel as if I were floati...