This arti­cle is part 12 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

It was near­ly 1400 when we got to the Hay-Adams.  Panghurst insist­ed on pay­ing the cab­bie’s tab and we entered the hotel trailed by a bell­hop with our two bags, each of us car­ry­ing our own car­ry-on.  We approached the desk and pro­ceed­ed to reg­is­ter.  The desk clerk looked at me but was­n’t puz­zled by the fact that I had already checked in and been liv­ing there for three days and now was appar­ent­ly check­ing in again.  I then real­ized that this was­n’t a clerk that I had seen pre­vi­ous­ly man­ning the desk, though I had been through the area at dif­fer­ent times of the day.  I could only con­clude that he was a plant, put there by L.T. or his “peo­ple” to per­pet­u­ate the cha­rade.  I’m glad he thought of it.  I would have hat­ed to hear a desk clerk greet me by name as this was sup­posed to be my first time here.

Panghurst was giv­en a room one floor below me and we both squeezed into the ele­va­tor, which stopped at his floor, where I asked if he want­ed to get some lunch.  He respond­ed that he was­n’t all that hun­gry and sug­gest­ed that we get togeth­er for din­ner.   I agreed, said that I would ring him up lat­er, and con­tin­ued up one floor to my room.

I tossed the car­ry-on into the clos­et and set my L.T.-provided bag in a cor­ner of the room where it would be con­spic­u­ous should Panghurst come call­ing.  I also made sure that my own bag was con­cealed in the clos­et where it would­n’t be vis­i­ble.  It would­n’t do for him to ques­tion why I had a bag that I did­n’t have at the airport.

At this point, I had still not worked out the method by which I could either broach the sub­ject of his vis­it or arrange to forcibly extract infor­ma­tion from him, although the lat­ter pos­si­bil­i­ty appeared to me to be remote.  I felt that con­sid­er­ing the mag­ni­tude of the dam­age that could be done by this device, some intel­li­gence ser­vice would have con­coct­ed a way to ren­di­tion him and secure the infor­ma­tion.  It seemed obvi­ous that the option had prob­a­bly been con­sid­ered and aban­doned, per­haps because his dis­ap­pear­ance might sim­ply prod Milikan to take some oth­er route to facil­i­tate his scheme, one which would set back the efforts of the ser­vice.  That left me the only option avail­able; to try and worm the infor­ma­tion out of him by play­ing on our past rela­tion­ship or con­vince him that I har­bored the same resent­ments that he did and want­ed to get in on the caper.

At a lit­tle after 1700, I called his room to set up arrange­ments for din­ner.  Oddly he did­n’t answer, and as there was no rea­son­able way to leave a mes­sage for him to return my call, I deter­mined to call him back about every thir­ty min­utes until I could con­nect.  In the mean­time, I opt­ed for anoth­er show­er and a quick shave, changed into attire suit­able for the Lafayette Room, and bus­ied myself with read­ing some more of the mag­a­zines which had been put in my car­ry-on.  I don’t remem­ber much about the arti­cles I was read­ing, how­ev­er, because of the var­i­ous and sundry thoughts going through my mind about the next few days.

I called again at 1730.  Still no answer, but final­ly, at 1800, he picked up his phone just as I was about to put mine down.

“That you, Mikel?”

“Yeah, Armin.  Where you been?”

“Ah, just decid­ed to walk around the neigh­bor­hood for a bit.  Went over and checked out the White House and watched the tourists for a while.  You know, it’s amaz­ing how many peo­ple rely on their cell phones to take pic­tures these days.  I can remem­ber the days when every tourist had a 35-mil­lime­ter cam­era hang­ing around his neck.  We used to make a joke about how all the peo­ple with Japanese cam­eras were also Japanese.”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “I still use a cam­era myself, even though it’s dig­i­tal.  Those bloody cell­phones aren’t worth a tin­ker’s damn when they don’t have a sig­nal, but I guess the cam­era part still works.”

“I sup­pose.  Anyway, what’s the din­ner plan?”

“Thought we might as well eat here at the hotel.  The Lafayette Room is nice, and the food, unlike most hotel din­ing, is quite good.  At least that’s what I’ve been told,” I hasti­ly inject­ed, real­iz­ing that I’d almost slipped up by let­ting him know that I was famil­iar with the hotel.

“I checked a while ago and they said that a jack­et was the desired attire, but that ties were option­al.  I don’t plan on wear­ing one myself.”

“Sounds fine.  How about I meet you at the restau­rant, say 1900?”

“Sure, that’s fine.  I noticed some lob­by seat­ing near the restau­rant entrance.  We can meet there.”

“Okay, see you then.”

I heard the famil­iar click at the oth­er end and the line went dead.

With about an hour to kill, I decid­ed to go on down to the lob­by, get the day’s copy of the Post and read until Panghurst arrived.  In the back of my mind was also the idea that, if Panghurst planned on leav­ing the hotel again before our din­ner engage­ment, I would be able to spot him doing so, although I did­n’t know what good it might do.  Regardless, I real­ly did­n’t expect to see him in the lob­by until our sched­uled din­ner time.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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