Amancio, entrusted with Dolores’s care and safety, was the last to know. He was strolling back to the Sofitel, taking a circuitous route past the Obelisk and the Malvinas War Memorial, when his Blackberry went into serial spasms of vibration. Willis’s ID flashed onto the screen. While he was keying a reply, another text peremptorily ordered him back to the Four Seasons. And then Dolores messaged him: “Black Ducati, Cobra helmet”. Confused, and feeling the first gropings of alarm in his gut, Amancio sent Dolores an interrogative question mark. Gathering his scattered thoughts, he saw smoke rising beyond the office towers out towards the Recoleta Cemetery. Minutes passed; Dolores’s phone was dead. Two black-and-white police cruisers shot past him, sirens shrieking, riot lights ablaze. Amancio waved down a cab, and saw a new text from Willis: “Dolores taken; motorbike northbound on Libertador.”
Leaning forward in the cab, Amancio keyed ID codes into his phone and shrank inwardly as he remembered the President’s admonition: “Keep her out of this.” He forwarded Dolores’s message to Willis, and moments later, for the second time that day, he was striding through the Four Seasons lobby to the elevators. Before him, tight-skirted young women holding furry mikes shouted questions. Behind them, stepping steadily backwards, were silent shaven-head men, TV cameras propped on their shoulders, red LEDs blinking. Amancio pushed past them, smiling politely. Green and yellow parakeets argued noisily in the palm fronds overhead, and sparrows foraged among the starched-linen lunch tables.
In the penthouse operations suite, the President and his advisors were watching a giant plasma screen. A high-zoom view of stalled traffic on Avenida del Libertador was dominated by smoke towering into a crystalline blue sky.
“Where were you, Amancio?” said the Chief of Staff, “There are maybe 15,000 Ducatis in Buenos Aires; how many are black we don’t know, not yet. What about the cobra?”
Startled by the rebuke, Amancio contemplated the blemished digital skies of Buenos Aires and feigned professional poise.
“It’s unclear, sir. I was asked to arrange some Tango lessons for the White House. Online searches detected unusual Tango fervor in Charleston, South Carolina, focused in the Hotel Fakir, which happened to have an etched-glass cobra over the door. I met Dolores there; she was a skilled tanguera, she checked out well, and we made her a temporary Cultural Attaché.”
The President had been listening intently, hands under his chin.
“How is it,” he now said, “just when I’m visiting BA, we suddenly learn that the Hotel Fakir was run by the Argentine President’s father, commander of the Malvinas 7th Infantry, exiled conscience of the Argentine people, and recently mysteriously deceased? Not to mention the ubiquitous cobra? What next, Amancio?”
“That’s an accurate summary, Mr. President,” said Amancio. “I assume her phone has been reset or destroyed, and we’re probably already asking for check-points on every major highway leaving BA. The cobra tattoo on the bike helmet implicates the 7th infantry. We can get details of veteran political activities from Mme. Quiroga’s office. Google and the NSA will give us everything else; location, names, addresses…”
Amancio paused, imagining the integration of all these data. Knowledge is power, he thought, and an image of Dolores folding into his embrace came to mind. A stab of anxiety ran through him, rousing again the crippling fear that Dolores was in terrible danger. Some phrases of Piazzolla’s “Regreso al Amor” drifted across his thoughts, and he saw in a flash that the answer lay in Tango; everyone was listening to Tango’s invitation.