Friday, September 23rd.
Flight 5888 from Nassau was due into Dulles at 1150. I arose at 0700, being awakened by the phone ringing as I had left a wake-up call for that time. As politely as is possible for me at that time of morning, I thanked the hotel operator and walked sleepily to the bathroom for a shower and shave. I wanted to get an early breakfast and get on out to the airport. In my business, it’s always better to be too early than too late. While it’s unlikely for any flight from anywhere to reach its destination earlier than expected, preparedness is a key to success.
I dressed as I would expect to if I were actually going to be flying, grabbed the carry-on that L.T. had provided, and headed down to the Lafayette Room for breakfast. Not knowing when I might get the chance to eat again, I ordered two eggs, sausage patties, toast and marmalade, and a stack of pancakes, along with a glass of milk and the usual carafe of coffee. I wolfed it all down rather unceremoniously, signed the tab, picked up the carry-on which had been under my chair, and left to make a stop at the lobby men’s room.
I guess it’s funny how we all fall into certain patterns. One of mine has always been to make a toilet call right before heading out for a day’s sojourn. There are places where one never knows where a restroom facility will be available and I sure didn’t want to have an urgent call at the wrong time while waiting for Panghurst.
Relieved of most of the morning’s coffee, I exited the hotel lobby and asked the doorman to hail a cab for me.
“Mr. Tate?” he inquired.
“There’s a car waiting for you there, sir,” he said, pointing a few yards down H Street.
It was a typical black government sedan, sans any markings, and I realized that L.T. had made it available so I wouldn’t have to resort to a cab.
Well, that was nice of him, I said to myself as I opened the rear door and entered.
L.T. wasn’t in the car.
“Mr. Trane said to deliver you to Dulles, Mr. Tate,” came from the driver as I eased myself into the seat.
“I appreciate it. You my backup, too?”
“Oh, no sir. I’m just a driver. Someone else will be at the airport for that duty. Maybe more than one person. I’m not really sure.”
“That’s okay. I appreciate the ride.”
“Sure thing, sir. Do you need to stop anywhere on the way?”
“Nope. I guess I’m good to go.”
The trip to Dulles was passed mostly in silence. I assumed that L.T.‘s man knew not to ask too many questions during an operation, and I really couldn’t think of much to talk about with him either. I was still going over the scenario in my mind, trying to draw out any possible wrinkles or unforeseen possibilities.
It was about 1015 when the car pulled up to the drop-off area of Dulles. Not knowing what to really say, I simply thanked the driver for the lift and headed into the terminal and straight to the security area, where I obediently took off my shoes, emptied my pockets, and placed the carry-on on the conveyor belt. I guess whoever packed the carry-on had forgotten that TSA officers are required to remove any liquid container holding more than a certain amount of fluid — and the bottle of green tea was taken and deposited in a nearby container.
I walked through the metal detector with no problem and gathered my items at the opposite end of the conveyor, heading to the gate area where Panghurst was scheduled to arrive. I stopped on the way to check one of the flight boards to make sure flight 5888 was still coming into the same gate. It was, so I hustled on to the nearby area that I had previously staked out and took a seat, much as any waiting passenger would. I had no doubts that I fit in and would cause no suspicion from any security personnel.
The area I had chosen to wait in was opposite the gate where Panghurst would de-plane. I picked a seat that gave me a good viewing point to that gate but was sufficiently back that I would not draw notice from him. Putting my carry-on on the floor beside my seat, I extracted one of the magazines and made as though reading, while keeping an eye on the comings and goings around me.
By this time, it was nearly 1100 so I had nearly an hour’s wait but was fortunate that passengers scheduled to leave from the gate where I was seated were beginning to arrive and fill in the seats. This was an advantage as it would make me less conspicuous with a crowd around me.
Time seemed to pass excruciatingly slowly, and 1150 came and went. It was only a short time later, however, that the public address system announced that flight 5888 was arriving. It was 1208. I guess that’s not too bad considering air travel these days.
I placed the magazine back into the carry-on, stood up and moved out into the concourse area, but to a position I considered would be “upstream” from the direction that Panghurst would be moving. With him moving away from me, I would have a better shot at making an “accidental” bump into him from behind.
The deplaning crowd began to erupt through the doorway, most of them heading to the baggage claim area, some going toward various snack bars or restrooms. After seventy or eighty passengers had come through the doorway, I was beginning to wonder if Panghurst was even aboard this flight when I noticed the white hair and beard that gave him away.
I was preparing myself to move behind him when he turned in my direction! The best-laid plans, etc.
Where the hell was he going?!