The Cobra Strikes

Swathed in Egyptian cotton and goose down in her Buenos Aires hotel suite, Dolores woke to a snippet of Di Sarli’s “Don Juan”. Could only be Amancio. She stretched languidly, and must have dozed off, because her thoughts were hijacked by flights of geese descending through low-lying mists over a Carolina sea-marsh. They glided easily on widespread wings and then flared and alighted with barely a splash on a warm tidal lagoon. Without surprise, she saw that Felix, so eager to get things right, alert to the slightest misstep, and Amancio, ensnared and enraptured, had flown in just behind her. What more did she need? She paused at the edge of the marsh grass and gazed fondly upon her fine ganders paddling dutifully in her wake, avoiding each other. Insistent chirps from her phone awakened her, and the dream dissolved into irretrievable wisps. For some minutes she studied the lazy rotation of the ceiling fan, and then got going.

She texted Amancio while sipping a cappuccino under a palm tree in the atrium. A sparrow perched for a second on the edge of the glass-topped table. She noticed Bruce a few tables over with an open newspaper, watching over everything. He ignored her little wave and resumed reading. The sparrow shot her a petulant glance and took off. Further back, by the breakfast buffet, men in dark glasses inspected the silver warming platters, baskets of fresh-baked bagels, and freezing jugs of exotic juices. Their ears, like Bruce’s, sprouted tiny wires. She smiled, and they looked away. Amancio replied with the opening bars of Calo’s “Milonga Antigua”. He was a quick study, her Amancio; he knew that tango exerts a narcotic grip. She finished her cappuccino, then rose and stepped out, as if invited to dance.

Behind her crisp linen napkins were cast aside and chairs scraped back on the patio paving. A liveried doorman waved down a cab as she emerged from the revolving door. Waiting, she gazed across the boulevard to a small park where ducks dabbled in a pond shaded by Tipa trees. Her sketchy entourage caught up with her and stared into the middle distance, feigning anonymity. A limo turned onto the concourse and stopped beside her. Bruce, right there, opened the door, took her arm and steered her gently into the back seat. He told the driver Recoleta Cemetery and they accelerated into bright sunlight and fast-moving traffic on Posadas. Bruce touched the wire in his ear. “Sorry, ma’am. The President needs a few minutes with you.”

On Avenida del Libertador, the limo slowed and stopped momentarily, caught in gridlock. Ragged boys wielding squeegees darted in and out of traffic. Dolores felt something grate against the limo and then an explosive concussion blew open her door. Someone grabbed her arm. Coughing and choking on acrid smoke, her eyes streaming, she was dragged out of the limo onto a motorcycle and trussed to the hunched rider with loops of bungee cord. His black mirrored crash helmet sported a hooded cobra tattoo. They took off with a shrill high-powered snarl, weaving across lanes of stalled cars. Behind them were blaring horns, confused shouts and apocalyptic roiling clouds of smoke. No protective ganders…

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