The Cobra Strikes

Dolores woke to a chirped text alert and a snippet of Di Sarli’s “Don Juan”. Could only be Amancio. Swathed in warm goose down and Four Seasons Egyptian cotton, 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 silent 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 completely 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. A second chirp awoke 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 called 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 Willis 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, two men in dark glasses inspected the crisp folded linens, silver warming platters, baskets of fresh-baked breads, jugs of exotic juices, then settled for coffee and medialunas. Their ears, like Willis’s, sprouted tiny telltale wires. She smiled, and they looked away. A text came in from Amancio, followed by thirty seconds 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 linen napkins were cast aside and chairs scraped back on the patio paving. A liveried doorman signaled for a cab as she came through the revolving doors. She waited, gazing 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. Willis, 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. Willis 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. Dolores felt a little bump, and then a hard concussion blasted away her door. Someone grabbed her. Coughing and choking on acrid smoke, her eyes streaming, she was dragged out of the limo onto the rear seat of a Ducati crotch rocket and trussed to the hunched rider with two or three loops of bungee cord. His black mirrored crash helmet had a stick-on 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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