This arti­cle is part 11 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

While I was won­der­ing if he would spot me, and rec­og­nize me if he did, he turned into the door­way of the men’s room on the oppo­site side of the con­course from where I was standing.

Whew!  I guess it’s true that the Good Lord looks out for drunk­ards, Americans… and occa­sion­al­ly, an errant assassin.

It was only about five min­utes lat­er when Panghurst emerged from the men’s room, turned, and head­ed the way most pas­sen­gers had gone, toward the bag­gage area.

I fell into step behind him, aim­ing to close the dis­tance between us slow­ly and, at the right time, quick­en my pace like a typ­i­cal pas­sen­ger anx­ious to get his bags and leave — and that’s when I would bump into him.

His limp was bare­ly notice­able, but it slowed him a bit and made my job eas­i­er in keep­ing up with him.  After a cou­ple of hun­dred meters, I sped up and came up behind him quick­ly, walk­ing delib­er­ate­ly into the back of his left side.  The bump was suf­fi­cient­ly hard that it pushed him some­what off bal­ance for a sec­ond as he turned to say some­thing.  I pre­tend­ed to have been grop­ing for some­thing in my car­ry-on and imme­di­ate­ly began to offer pro­found apolo­gies for my clum­si­ness and then feigned recognition.

“Armin?  Armin Panghurst?  Is that real­ly you?” I asked incred­u­lous­ly, try­ing to sound like one might if he had not seen an old acquain­tance for many years.

“Yes, I…” he start­ed and then real­ized that his antag­o­nist was some­one he knew. “Mikel? No, it can’t be!”  He grinned and extend­ed his hand to shake mine.  “How long has it been?  Eight, nine years?”

“More like ten, I’d say.”  I shook his hand eager­ly and smiled.  I had used the name Mikel Tsaronov when we were work­ing togeth­er and even though he knew my real name, he con­tin­ued to refer to me as the per­son he knew then.

“What the hel­l’re you doing here in Washington?” he inquired.

“Just flew in from Boston.  I have a cou­ple of days’ work to do here and then home,” I lied.

“Yeah, me too.  Maybe we can get togeth­er and talk over old times.”

“I’m not sure our old times are the sub­ject for polite con­ver­sa­tion, but it would be good just to sit and chat some.  Where are you staying?”

“Not sure yet.  Thought I’d ask the cab­bie to rec­om­mend some place.  How about you?”

“I’ve got reser­va­tions at the Hay-Adams.  It’s kin­da pricey but has a good rep­u­ta­tion.  If you’d like, I can call the hotel and see if they might have some­thing available.”

“Hey, that would be great.  I’m not wor­ried about the price.  I’m on an expense account.”

“Well, I’ve got the hotel num­ber in my phone.  Let’s get a cup of cof­fee and sit for a minute while I call.”

“Tell you what.  There’s some seat­ing over there,” he said, point­ing to a vacant gate area.  “I’ll grab two cups of cof­fee while you make the call.”

“Right.  Put your bag there by the seat.  I’ll watch it while you get the coffee.”

He walked across the con­course to the near­by snack shop and got in the end of a short line of peo­ple wait­ing to pur­chase sand­wich­es or drinks.  That was good.  It would give me enough time to ring up L.T. on the phone he had provided.

“L.T.,” I began, “I’ve sug­gest­ed to Panghurst that he stay at the Hay.  He had no oth­er accom­mo­da­tions arranged, so I thought we might be bet­ter able to keep an eye on him there.”

“Good think­ing.  What do you need from me?”

“Can you arrange to get him a room?  I assume the hotel is usu­al­ly booked sol­id but expect that you might have some pull to arrange something.”

“Shouldn’t be a prob­lem.  I’ll get to work on it right now.  Where are you?’

“Still at the air­port.  We’ll be head­ing down to col­lect his lug­gage in just a few min­utes.  Crap!  I for­got to ask.  What does mine look like?  You haven’t told me yet.”

“Dark blue fab­ric pull­man with brown han­dles.  We also marked it with small white tape cross­es on a cou­ple of cor­ners so it’ll be easy to spot.  It’s filled with a bunch of old clothes that we picked up at Goodwill, so don’t let him get a peek inside, or he’ll prob­a­bly real­ize it isn’t yours.  We had to fill it with some­thing to get the weight up correctly.”

“I guess the only way he’d be like­ly to see the con­tents is if I drop it and it flies open.  Thanks.  I’ll be in touch.”

Panghurst approached with two cups of cof­fee just as I was ter­mi­nat­ing the call.  “Black, right?” he asked, extend­ing one of the cups to me.

“Right. You’re in luck.  The hotel still had rooms avail­able.  I think you’ll like it.  Nice restau­rant and bar, too.”

“Sounds fine.  Shall we col­lect our lug­gage and grab a cab?”

We walked on down the con­course, sip­ping cof­fee as we went.  So far, so good.  In fact, things were work­ing out even bet­ter than antic­i­pat­ed.  Now all I had to wor­ry about was what could go wrong and how I was going to get the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion out of him.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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