Tantalizing moments passed as Fabio and Maurice played tangos that sang of passionate lives and fruitless love. At last Dolores eased onto the barstool next to Amancio and whispered in his ear.
“How about a red-eye to Buenos Aires?”
He rested his eyes on hers, contemplated the perfect symmetry of her face, and thought fast. Willis had left his post at the other end of the bar, and was coming towards them.
“Of course,” he said, “we’ll lift the rugs in the cabin and stream Di Sarli to the speakers.”
Dolores threw her hands to her face and gasped in glee.
“Amancio, you’re ridiculous!” she cried.
Willis stood before them, listening to voices in his ear, his eyes watchful.
“I need to check with State…” he said in a tolerant tone.
Dolores took Amancio’s hand, blew Fabio a kiss, and made for the door. She called over her beautiful bare shoulder.
“The President has spoken, his wish is my command, to hear is to obey.” She laughed, and her blond curls danced around her face like an angel’s halo.
Amancio made some calls while a soundless limousine sped them to Reagan National. In the dead of night, the federal bureaucracy stirred, schedules were re-arranged, and authorizations were signed. Their sleek Gulfstream IV accelerated smoothly, lifted off and climbed, tilting gracefully toward southern constellations. Dolores sipped ice-cold champagne and swayed in his embrace to Di Sarli’s dramatic tangos. Later, dozing through the stratospheric moonlit night, he dreamed of long-limbed cranes flying south in elegant V-formations. In his mind’s eye, hummingbirds, yellow wagtails, and small sparrows nestled in the warm down of the cranes’ backs and relieved the tedium of migration with exuberant birdsong.
He crashed in the Sofitel Buenos Aires, and was sleeping off the songbirds when a text alert sounded. The moon was waning in the west, feathery clouds raced across the horizon, and a cool dawn approached. He stirred and slowly focused. “Staff meeting at 7 am, Four Seasons.” He left a voicemail for Dolores, and shaved while musing over their spellbound tangos at TuTu’s. He summoned a car from the Chief of Staff motor pool, and snoozed as they sped through the leafy boulevards of Buenos Aires to the Presidential suite in Recoleta. He strode through security to the elevators. The lobby breakfast buffet was in redolent full swing and he paused for a cappuccino and two Panuelitos de Grasa. A Presidential aide appeared and escorted him to the penthouse suite, where the Chief of Staff paced back and forth, frowning into his hand-held. The aide’s murmured introduction elicited a bright smile from the Chief of Staff.
“The dramatic tangos of Di Sarli!” he said. “I’m told the Gulfstream surfed the stratosphere with great poise.”
Birds chirped in the atrium beneath his window.
“Yes, sir. A good trip, uneventful.”
Amancio waited, Blackberry in hand, for instructions. Dolores was probably up by now, but hadn’t called.
“Good,” the Chief of Staff said, “keep Dolly busy and happy till morning, then get her back to Washington.”
“Yes, sir,” said Amancio, “and if the President asks for her…?”
The Chief of Staff contemplated a sparrow flitting through the palm fronds in the lobby.
“Be there to bring her home.”
At the back of his mind Amancio heard the lyrical cadences of Canaro’s “Poema” and saw himself dancing again with Dolores, her brow resting against his cheek as their bodies sought stratospheric synchrony.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
As he turned to go, the President strolled into the room, relaxed and urbane, and their eyes met. He put an arm across Amancio’s shoulder and drew him aside.
“Amancio. Good to see you,” he said quietly. “What do you know about the Hotel Fakir?”
Amancio thought for a moment. “Mr. President, the Hotel Fakir was a tango salon in Charleston, South Carolina, destroyed by arson some months ago. Dolores was a dance instructor down there; we met at the Hotel Fakir.”
“Yes,” said the President, “Mademoiselle Quiroga told me her father tended bar at the Fakir. He died in the blaze. The FBI and State are on the case, now reporting through you. You will tell me what’s going on. And Amancio,” he added, lowering his voice, “Like you, I like Dolores. Keep her out of this if you can.”
Amancio nodded, and his phone buzzed as the President moved on. The screen said Dolores. Amancio thought for a moment, and by the time he picked up, she was gone. He texted “6 pm, Four Seasons.” First thing next morning, back on the Gulfstream, songbirds paid off, Charleston would be front and center. He was on the case.