Charlotte Quiroga, President of Argentina, listened as her Cabinet discussed the kidnapping. The Minister of Security said that Dolores’s abduction was simply drug cartel extortion. The Minister of Foreign Affairs proposed a program of crisis management endorsed by the U.S. government. Charlotte, a general’s daughter, knew all about crisis, and realized that her self-important ministers were floundering. She tuned them out and recalled moments of fine connection with the President two nights before. She may have mis-stepped here and there in “Desde el Alma”, but Felix, well-trained by Dolores, had gracefully adapted. Dolores was key; Felix would suffer if she were harmed.

Charlotte’s father, Ignatio Quiroga, was also key. Back in the 70s, as an officer in the Argentine army, he’d fallen in love with the wife of a subordinate officer. She had borne his child, Charlotte. A decade later, Ignatio was commanding an infantry brigade fighting British occupation of the Falkland Islands. Fatefully, his adjudant was the same officer, secretly surveilling leftist officers in the 7th regiment. The adjutant was obsessed with revenge against Ignatio.

As casualties mounted, Ignatio Quiroga was arrested on spurious charges of treasonous conspiracy. A summary court martial sentenced him to death by firing squad. Before dawn, loyal 7th Infantry commandos overpowered Ignatio’s guards and smuggled him to the mainland on a military transport. He sought asylum in the United States, and eventually founded the Hotel Fakir in Charleston. He decorated the transom over the hotel’s black-lacquered door with an etched-glass hooded cobra, mascot of the 7th Infantry. And now he was dead, victim of an unsolved arson in downtown Charleston.

Charlotte had politically engaged with the mothers of the Desaparecidos, students who had defied the military junta back in the 80s. Thousands had been arrested, drugged, loaded onto Air Force transports, and thrown out 10,000 feet over the Rio de la Plata. Truly disappeared. Ever since, bereaved mothers had clamored for justice in the Plaza de Mayo, together with leftist veterans of the Falklands War and activists with the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons. Entrenched elites obstructed all investigation.

An old acquaintance of her father had told Charlotte that Dolores’s kidnappers would show no mercy. And so, as she adjourned the Cabinet meeting, Charlotte was well prepared when her phone delivered a few bars of Pugliese’s “Manos Adoradas”, followed by a concise text. “No mailed fingers if the arson investigation stops now.”

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