Critical distinctions among fine tango orchestras of the 40s were interests that Charlotte and Felix shared, but these were yet to surface in their conversation. They were having lunch on the shaded South Wing terrace of the Presidential Palace. A mild breeze carried faint sounds of city traffic, and muted tango songs diffused from speakers hidden in the garden. Charlotte was composed and serene, the severity of her crisp white blouse and charcoal skirt softened by her café au lait complexion, expressive eyes, and the mother-of-pearl brooch on her breast. Felix scooped an oyster from its shell and chased it with a sip of champagne.
“Mademoiselle Quiroga,” he said, “Dolores was a tanguera at the Hotel Fakir in Charleston. She became my tango instructor, and she guides my preferences for classical orchestral tango. Dolores drilled me for our delightful Inaugural Ball dance.”
Charlotte sliced delicately into her salmon empanada.
“The pleasure was all mine. She taught you well. Desde el Alma, was it not? Osvaldo Pugliese’s. The most haunting yet joyous vals of all. But tell me, why was Dolores at the Hotel Fakir?”
“We’re not certain,” Felix replied, inclining his head respectfully. “Ignatio Quiroga opposed the military junta. Dolores acquired high value when she came to the White House to teach me tango.”
“Tango does that,” Charlotte said with a smile. “We know that Dolores was abducted by an extremist splinter group, Septima Infanteria, which agitates for indicted junta generals. We have a well-trained rescue team poised to attack as we speak.”
Felix fought down alarm. He scooped another oyster and sipped his champagne tentatively.
“I’d like to see your rescue plan,” he said.
“Of course.” Charlotte patted her perfect chignon and met Felix’s eye. “I’d prefer that we do things together.”
She gestured discreetly to an aide posted by the tall French doors opening onto the terrace.
“Nestor is my eyes and ears on Septima; he’ll cooperate fully with your people. We need to move promptly; Dolores may be a skilled tanguera, but she’s helpless in their hands.”
Her evocation of tango brought a light to Charlotte’s eye and sharpened Felix’s mind. They regarded each other forthrightly. In less dire circumstances, their thoughts may have culminated in a simple embrace fueled by tango’s complex insinuations.
“My aide Amancio oversees investigation of your father’s death,” Felix said with tact. “He’s resourceful, he knows Dolores, and his understanding of Tango may be helpful.”
A commotion at the French doors distracted them. Amancio appeared on the terrace. He conferred briefly with Nestor, and bowed in deference to Mme. Quiroga. He was flushed and breathless as he addressed the President.
“Sir, I’m sorry to interrupt. Dolores got her phone to stream us a video of her dancing with her guard Federico. We found her in a cellar on Calle Copernico in Recoleta. We blew down the door. Dolores is safe at the Four Seasons, Federico is at the Hospital Italiano; he may respond to interrogation in a day or two.”
Charlotte and Felix sat speechless. After a moment, Felix raised his glass.
“Thank you, Amancio,” he said. He turned to Charlotte, resting his fingers on the silver bracelet encircling her wrist.
“Septima has to be shut down for good, I’m sure you’ll agree. But first, let’s celebrate with your favorite vals.”
He stood, waved casually at the hidden speakers, and offered his hand to Charlotte.