“El Once” reminded me of the last, eleventh celebration of the annual Gran Baile del Internado in Buenos Aires in 1924, where an innocent prank had provoked the gunning down of a medical student named Ernesto O’Farrell. Civic outrage over the killing was fueled by its association with scandalous Tango. And here was I, seeking solace in Tango, in possession of apparent contraband, possibly risking death if tracked down by whoever was missing an ice-chest. More thoughtful now, safely ensconced in Maria’s hidden creek, my heartbeat back to normal, I reconsidered my options. Best was to report at once my discovery to 911, but I was wary of involving Maria. Not to mention explaining a questionable nocturnal kayak crossing of a river where just recently two men were drowned in a freak thunderstorm while fishing on an ebb-tide for spot-tail bass. Second-best was simply to return the champagne and baggies to the ice-chest, and to get on with my life, questionable though it might be.
As I loosened the kayak’s line and reached for the paddle, the final bars of “El Once” played out. The ensuing silence was broken by the low rumble of an outboard motor and I saw the red and green bow light of a small boat nosing its way up the creek. I muted my phone and held my breath. Maria had doused the candles ranged around her rooftop, and her silhouette leaning on the parapet was etched against racing clouds. And now came the first somber chords of “First Kill”, from the movie “Assassination Tango”. Instantly, the motor and the running light shut down. I crept incognito beneath the dock. I marveled at Maria’s sixth sense that had intuitively caught and sound-tracked the drama being enacted at the bottom of her garden. All I could see were dark shadows fringed in moonlight filtering down through the water oaks and conifers that lined the creek. An owl called from distant woods, bull-frogs croaked occasionally from the marsh, and fireflies flashed here and there.
The motor-boat bumped gently into my kayak, and a flash-light swept briefly over it and the deserted dock. Minutes ticked off as someone stepped silently ashore, paused, and then set off at a crouch towards the house. I messaged Maria, “Lock the doors, don’t open them to anyone…” Matters were quickly getting out of hand. I could return my stash to the ice-chest, if I could find it, but first I’d have to disable the motor-boat to avoid pursuit. That would mean leaving Maria to deal with whoever was prowling around her home. Going to her rescue, a white knight on a charger, was laudable but useless, given that I was unarmed and that my martial triumphs happened only on chess-boards, and then infrequently. More and more, a call to 911 was mandatory. While dialling, rehearsing my story, I heard a cacophony of dog barks, a stifled scream, and someone stumbling in a frenzy back to the dock. I ducked out of sight. The moon re-emerged from a bank of clouds. “First Kill” seguéd easily into “El Cielo en Tus Ojos”.
Writer from Charleston in USA