Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Novel by Elina Castro

Inspired by True Events


It was the bloodiest political divorce in Argentina’s history.

Outside a nondescript house, thirteen men milled around a Torino sedan, some pacing the sidewalk, wary and watchful, shoulders squared, eyes darting left and right. Others stood still, sniffed the air and rapidly scanned the buildings for what danger might lurk. The small battalion, whose boss shifted quarters with careful irregularity, was the most practiced in Buenos Aires.

Standing by the front door of the house, a bodyguard checked his watch and nodded. Instantly, a young man slid into the driver’s seat and the powerful engine roared to life.

Hidden inside the house next door, three youths watched without blinking as the driver slammed the Torino's door.

Sierra, twenty, cocked a nine-millimetre pistol. “I got the driver.” 

“I’ll deal with the gorillas,” growled Víctor, twenty, aiming an Ithaca rifle at the bodyguards.

“Fat Cat´s mine.” Twenty-two-year-old Oscar trained his FAL rifle on the front door of the target’s home.

The Fat Cat was union boss José Rucci, forty-nine, confidence man of president Juan Perón. After long years in exile, Perón returned to Argentina to become the first constitutional president in fifteen years. Rucci, the federation of labour boss, played a key role in his return.

Juan Perón (left) with a jubilant Jose Rucci 

At twelve noon, the bells of the San José de Flores basilica began to toll. 

At home, Rucci finished editing a speech for national television. Ten minutes later, he kissed his wife goodbye, opened the door of his house, nodded at his men, and walked towards the idling Torino. 

From the house next door, Oscar squeezed the trigger.

The bullet shattered Rucci’s neck, killing him instantly. His body arced away from the car, bounced on the house wall, and crumbled on the sidewalk. His bodyguards were quickly gunned down by the marksmen next door.

While the men bled out in the street, Oscar’s relentless sniper fire turned Rucci´s body into pulp.

The driver slid out of the Torino, his face covered in blood and, using the heavy chassis as a shield, he crawled on the pavement, towards the school across the way.

Near the school gates, weak and desperate, he drew a final breath, and screamed. “Open up, my brother! I’m dying.” 

Minutes earlier, having heard the first shots, the school caretaker raced to the gates and locked them. At the sight of the dying man, he could not contain his grief.

“I can’t!” He sobbed.

Above him, children pressed their noses to the windows, while terrified teachers scrambled to prevent them from seeing the carnage.

On the street, the driver gasped once and lay still. Operación Traviata was over.

Oscar, Sierra and Víctor, confident as tomcats, scampered over the neighbours’ roofs to their vehicles. While the others went on their way, Oscar slipped into the passenger seat of a compact car.

Driving slowly and carefully away from there, Gaby de Agostino, code name Bravo, prompted with a glint of mischief in the eye.

“I was wondering—” Bravo was handpicked as Oscar´s driver, but had no knowledge of the guts of the operation.

“Why we called it Traviata?” Oscar frowned. “The deal was that Montoneros would help Perón in return for Cabinet posts. While he was in exile, Perón hailed us as his marvellous youth, but as soon as he got back on the throne, he rolled his bedroom eyes towards Rucci. Perón kicked us in the ass.”

“And the boot belonged to Rucci.”

Oscar chuckled. “You know the Traviata cookies advertised as having twenty-three holes punched through them?” 

“My children love them.”

“Rucci´s body is a treat for our great leader, courtesy of his marvellous youth.”


Early next morning, while the authorities scoured the city for Rucci’s assassins, Oscar slung a satchel over his shoulder and drove to a shabby bungalow tucked in a suburban cul-de-sac.


Huddling in the foliage of centenary trees, two sentinels watched the man with the satchel approaching. 

A lanky youth in his early twenties, Carlos Hastings, code name Charlie, peered through the branches at the approaching man.

“Looks like him.”

His comrade yawned. “You sure?”

“I’ll be sure in a sec.” Charlie watched a moment longer at the light, economical gait of the muscular youth bouncing up the path. 

“Yep. That’s him. Let him through.”

Charlie’s comrade grunted. “A man to remember.” Moments later he was asleep.


Inside the bungalow, the windows were blacked out, the light was dim. Two chairs, and a table stacked with U.S. dollar bills, were its only decor. Seated at the table, a young man counted the money. At the rapping on the door the youth tiptoed to a side window built incongruously close to the ground. You can always tell by their shoes, the supreme commander of Montoneros thought as he acknowledged his comrade’s scruffy sneakers. 

Over a scant four years, Mario Russovich code named Alpha, a devout catholic and brilliant student, transformed a group of reckless, mutinous youths into Montoneros, a cold, efficient killing machine; just as Che ordered in 1967, the year of his death.

Alpha, twenty-six, opened the door wide enough for Oscar to slip through. Pumped with a deep sense of accomplishment, Oscar entered the navel of Montonero covert operations. After prowling around the table, he sat down and waited patiently for the bag man to speak.

Without preamble, Alpha asked, “What is your greatest fear?” His dark eyes glittered while he gathered the money with rubber bands.

Oscar fired back. “Being caged. Some years back, my father and I drove to the Formosa wild animal reserve. The locals had caught a puma which had been ravaging their livestock, and there it was, wounded, pacing around in a cage. Suddenly it stopped and stared at me, and I saw the light of hope extinguished in those amber eyes.” 

Oscar leaped from his chair and paced the floor. “Despite the heat, I shivered. My father thought I was ill and wanted to take me to a doctor. But I wasn’t ill. What I needed was the key to the cage.”

Alpha motioned for Oscar to return to his chair. “With operations like Traviata, we shall destroy the oligarchs, the armed forces and the police. Once we have taken control of the government and institutions, and set up a democracy with rights and freedoms and justice for all, the anguish of captivity will end.” Alpha resumed counting the money. 

Alpha stacked several bundles of bills and, with a glint of approval, he handed Oscar the money.

Oscar stuffed the bills in the satchel. 

Alpha stood up, and the men shook hands. “Congratulations, Commander.”

Oscar saluted, military style, and delivered Che Guevara´s slogan: “Hasta la victoria siempre.” Until victory, always.


The safe house was a brightly lit apartment in a middle class neighbourhood, with a large living and dining area, and a long hall with baths and bedrooms at the end. Along the living room wall, bookshelves buckled under the weight of thick almanacs, directories and guides. A large scale city map with notations in red covered another wall. A worn couch stood near the French windows, and there was a long table with eight chairs in the dining area. It was a lived-in place which served large groups of people. A base of operations. Who it belonged to was anyone’s guess; cell members were not informed of such arrangements. 

Oscar walked into the safe house, and propped the satchel on the table. He acknowledged his comrades with a curt nod, opened the zipper and showed them a thick stack of bills.

“Comrades, we are operational.”

“Commander.” Sierra hurried to shake hands with Oscar. 

In the kitchen Víctor uncorked a bottle of wine. Bravo and Sierra poured the wine into mismatched glasses.

Oscar raised his glass. “Today we celebrate the birth of cell Evita. We shall destroy the government without fear, remorse or regret.”

Bravo raised her glass. “Evita will annihilate the fascists and the oligarchs, no matter the cost.”
Oscar saluted his operatives. “Until victory, always.”

José Rucci, assassinated by Montoneros on September 23, 1973.
The snipers kept shooting until his body was riddled with bullets.

Mayhem at Rucci's home in Flores, moments after the killing. Buenos Aires recoiled in stunned silence, as people realized that the killing of Rucci was a declaration of war.

Plaza de Mayo, May Day, 1974. President Juan Perón expelled radical group, Montoneros, from the celebrations. His rejection of Montoneros triggered Argentina's descent into hell.

Montoneros' mission was to destroy the government, the armed forces, the oligarchy, and anyone who was not a sympathizer. In those days, everyone was a target.

Children were caught in the crossfire, bombings, debris and fallout of our war of annihilation. 
The caption above says: "Assassinated by terrorists.
Look into their eyes, and explain that their assassins 
were 'young idealists'."


  1. Neat story. Are you putting together a novel?

    1. Yes indeed, it's a novel. Hope to be done this summer.

  2. It's great that you have found an outlet to tell your story. Can't wait to read the rest. Good luck!

    1. Thank you, Unknown. I do appreciate your comments, always and for ever.

  3. Is this going to be turned into a whole novel? I love the story, way to go! I decided to try and comment again today :)!

    1. Yes indeed, Allyson. It's a novel, and I'm hoping to be ready this summer. Thank you for not giving up on me! I really appreciate it.

  4. Highly interesting, informative and also heartbreaking.

    1. Thank you, Rose. It is heartbreaking but I hope to be done this summer.

    2. Then the heartbreak can be everybody else's, right?

  5. This is really intriguing! This would make for a great novel! Maybe an idea for the future?

    1. It is a novel, Katrina. Thank you for encouraging words.