This arti­cle is part 2 of 10 in the series The Chicago/Watseka Payback

The pack­age that Jim had brought to the door was noth­ing more than an over­sized book I had ordered deal­ing with col­lectible knives.  While in Hawaii I had pur­chased an authen­tic Sykes-Fairbairn com­man­do knife, intend­ing to use it for some­thing oth­er than col­lect­ing.  But not hav­ing to use the knife for its intend­ed pur­pose, it now hung on the wall along­side my gun col­lec­tion.  Of course, the gun col­lec­tion is not one that is expand­ing, due both to the cost of col­lect­ing guns and because those I have were pro­cured specif­i­cal­ly for my work.

an antique knife

It’s far less expen­sive to col­lect knives — and this book would give me some bad­ly need­ed guid­ance about what to look for.  Maybe my next col­lectible will be either a Marine Corps K Bar or a World War One trench knife.  The larg­er blade weapons like the Japanese Katana and Wakizashi also looked inter­est­ing, although authen­tic antique weapons of this sort can cost thou­sands of dollars.

an antique knife

The remain­ing mail was the usu­al col­lec­tion of adver­tise­ments, bills, and cruise offers.  I’ve yet to fig­ure out how so many cruise lines have come to assume that I’m inter­est­ed in cruis­ing.  Still, a leisure­ly trip on a com­fort­able ship is much more invit­ing than a long, cramped air­plane ride.  I could prob­a­bly find some enjoy­ment aboard a ship — being wait­ed on hand and foot — with fine din­ing, a wide choice of enter­tain­ment, and a good drink any time of the day.

an antique knife

The one piece of mail that got my imme­di­ate atten­tion was the plain num­ber ten enve­lope with my address rough­ly scrawled across it and the return address list­ed as “L.T., 100 State Street, Topeka, KS 66605.”

I had to laugh inward­ly.  L.T. was con­fi­dent enough not to use a full name on his return address label and I was pret­ty damn sure that he was­n’t actu­al­ly in Kansas.  And then the humor of the whole return address struck me.  The first three dig­its in the Topeka zip code were six-six-six… the sign of the beast!

L.T. sure has a warped sense of humor, espe­cial­ly added to his assumed names of Lionel Trane and Clark Barr.

The let­ter was, as usu­al, some­what cryp­tic.  It’s best not to give away too much infor­ma­tion even in secure com­mu­ni­ca­tions like the U.S. mail.

Michael,

2620 was not an acci­dent. Meet me in Chicago on the 26th. I’ll be reg­is­tered at Millennium          Knickerbocker Hotel under L.T.  Suggest you dri­ve rather than fly, as you may wish to bring along some of your work tools.

The 26th was four days away and he was telling me that he would be using the name Lionel Trane.  It was obvi­ous that he real­ized the rev­e­la­tion that the down­ing of Flight 2620 was not an acci­dent would be suf­fi­cient to gain my atten­tion and have me head­ing to Chicago.  He was also let­ting me know that I should bring along some of my weapons, which would not eas­i­ly pass through air­port secu­ri­ty had I attempt­ed to use the air­lines to get there.

With the alleged rev­e­la­tion that the destruc­tion of Flight 2620 was not an acci­dent after all, doubts began to emerge once again.  Despite the appar­ent rap­port that had been re-estab­lished between L.T. and me, I could not help but won­der if he was pro­vid­ing me with truth­ful infor­ma­tion. Maybe he was, in real­i­ty, the cul­prit and was lur­ing me to a ren­dezvous with the intent of fin­ish­ing a job that he had botched.

With cus­tom­ary cau­tion, I deter­mined that I would go to Chicago pre­pared to car­ry out an assign­ment. But I would also pre­pare myself for the pos­si­bil­i­ty that I would have to deal with a sur­prise assault from the very per­son who was sum­mon­ing me.

With all these thoughts going through my mind, I decid­ed to take along the Remington .308 which could be used if a long shot was required, and the Sig P38, which is small enough to be eas­i­ly con­cealed and used for close-range work.

I also decid­ed that I would head to Chicago as quick­ly as I could get ready.  When con­front­ed with def­i­nite times for meet­ings, I always arrange to get to the pro­posed meet­ing loca­tion much ear­li­er.  This allows me time to thor­ough­ly exam­ine the envi­rons and to poten­tial­ly spot any ear­ly prepa­ra­tions by the oth­er par­ty of an attempt to sur­prise me. 

On more than one occa­sion this pol­i­cy worked in my favor. During one par­tic­u­lar­ly hairy sit­u­a­tion, my ear­ly arrival allowed me to wit­ness an ambush being set up for me.  The arranged meet­ing nev­er mate­ri­al­ized, but I man­aged to neu­tral­ize two snipers whose sights would have been on me had I not been on site ear­li­er than they were.

Speaking of snipers, I’ve fre­quent­ly thought of how nice it would be to own a Barrett M107 .50 cal­iber sniper rifle.  This is a beau­ty of a weapon and can reach out to a mile-and-a-half with superb accuracy.

Unfortunately, it’s damnably expen­sive, very heavy, and thus hard to con­ceal — and the ammo is expen­sive also.  Maybe I’m just too much of a skin­flint to invest in that piece of equip­ment.  If I ever get the chance to fire one, maybe I’ll change my mind.

Anyway, the day after receiv­ing the let­ter, I loaded the Lexus with every­thing I thought I’d need and head­ed to Chicago.  I called and made reser­va­tions at The Drake, which is only a few doors from the Millennium.  In the time I had before meet­ing L.T. I could check out that hotel and also deter­mine whether there might be oth­ers con­gre­gat­ing there whom I might rec­og­nize as some­one not play­ing on my team.

a military firearm

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.

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