From the shoals of restless thoughts that swam through Dolores’s mind in the far corner of the dank cellar where she’d been for the last six hours, Tango rose slowly to the surface. By the cellar door, Federico sipped a glass of wine, involuntarily tapped his feet, and swayed gently to Anibal Troilo’s “Sonar y Nada Mas” on the radio. The rope that bound her hands was poorly knotted; she had already loosened her wrists and was massaging them in readiness for the next step. Federico was no older than nineteen, his slender body barely filling his grey T-shirt and jeans, his face earnest and focused, outlined by straight black eyebrows and a sharply trimmed beard. His eyes were large, brown, and meditative, and every now and again he turned towards her, regarding her with forthright interest and tacit understanding that all the initiative lay with others; he was simply her temporary jailer, and anything beyond that was unimaginable.
Nevertheless, Federico listened attentively to the staccato bandoneon and mournful violins diffusing from the radio, and thought of close embrace with Dolores and of intuitive steps that would paint his sense of the music. He glanced at his watch, and then at Dolores. She caught his eye, and her invitation was unmistakable; he was reminded of cabeceos in Buenos Aires milongas, and before he knew it, he was on his feet and crossing the damp flagstones to her side.
“Can I get you anything?” he asked politely, “I’m sorry you’re so miserable, but I’m sure it’s only temporary, and in any case, it’s probably all a terrible mistake.”
Dolores regarded him intently, then cast her eyes downwards, despairingly, shrugging off the obvious inconvenience of her tied hands, and letting a tear flow down her cheek.
“Perhaps you could loosen the rope a little,” she said, “The music’s so lovely, time passes more quickly. What’s your name?”
Federico thought momentarily of the elderly grey army veterans around his father, who together had contrived his own recruitment to the cause, whatever that was, and the improbable abduction of Dolores. He knew all this related to ancient betrayals that lived on and sullied the life of everyone they touched.
“My name is Federico,” he said, “I like Troilo, my favorites are Di Sarli and Pugliese, and best of all is Piazzolla’s “Regreso al Amor.”
Dolores was intrigued. “What about D’Arienzo? Don’t you love his songs?”
Their eyes met as he knelt before her to adjust the cord that bound her wrists. Federico remembered, too late, advice he’d read in a Dear Abby column in the Buenos Aires Tribune: if a woman desires to be kissed, she will come close, and then a little closer, and then just wait; within seconds a man will sense the inevitable, let his tongue touch her ear lobe, murmur a word or two, and seek her slightly parted lips. And so, kneeling before her, Federico was gently swept away on tides of desire. He caressed Dolores’s bruised wrists, brought his face close to hers, brushed her cheek with his, and murmured seductive words of consolation. Dolores saw her phone lying on the packing case by the cellar door, next to a bottle of cheap Malbec, the radio, and a guttering candle. They had probably reset the phone, but maybe not, and the camera and GPS would do the rest.
“Federico,” she said, “isn’t that Troilo on the radio? Let’s dance!”