Any suspicion that Panghurst might be planning on leaving the hotel proved to be unfounded, and a couple of minutes before 1900, my reading of the Post was interrupted by his familiar voice, “Ready for dinner, Mikel?” He was nattily attired in gray trousers and a tweed jacket over a button-down collar light gray shirt. The jacket had leather patches at the elbows, which I thought had gone out of style years ago, but his white hair and beard complimented his clothes extremely well. He could easily be taken for a well-heeled businessman or lobbyist, a look that certainly fit in in Washington D.C.
I asked him if he wanted to take the paper to look through later. When he declined, I folded it and placed it on the small table beside the chair I had been occupying. I expected that some other hotel patron might want to look through it and would be thankful for not having to purchase a copy.
We entered the restaurant together, and the waiting maître d’ ushered us to a small table, once again near a window. Panghurst asked if we could take one of the other tables located adjacent to one of the interior walls of the restaurant. The maître d’ readily obliged, letting us know that our waiter would be along shortly. I realized that Panghurst’s penchant for dining away from windows may have had something to do with wanting to avoid being under surveillance from the street, or perhaps he had had some unpleasant experience before while being so exposed. It was of no import to me. I enjoy watching passersby while eating, but my emphasis usually is on enjoying the meal, not dealing with outside distractions.
Our waiter appeared a short time later, filling our water glasses and asking if we would like something to drink before dinner. Panghurst suggested a glass of plum wine. I typically don’t have plum wine except with oriental cuisine but had no reason to decline. We agreed to tell the waiter we would order dinner a bit later, after enjoying the wine for a little while. We eased into our chairs for small talk while sampling the sweet, fruity liquor.
“So, Armin, how long will you be in Washington?” I began.
“Not really sure. As long as it takes. I don’t have a definite schedule right now and since I’m on an expense account, I really don’t have any reason to rush things. How about you?”
“Just a couple more days. I’ll be doing lectures on security on both days to small groups made up of people from various businesses headquartered here. If they go back and give good reports, I’ll probably get some additional calls to address those specific businesses. These first two lectures will be kinda generic, just enough to whet their appetites, I hope.
“What about you? What kinda business brings you here?”
“Arms. I’m a roving sales representative for BFR Fabrique, a fairly new company that specializes in small arms and rifles. They’re heavily into new designs utilizing composite materials and are interested in trying to market their products to police forces and military units. They’ve got some pretty innovative stuff and I’m hoping I can get a foot in with the Pentagon here. But it’s going to be extremely hard, seeing as how so many established manufacturers have ‘bought in’ so heavily. It’s a hard market to crack.”
He emphasized the term “bought in,” so I’d understand that the people who make decisions about which weapons get bought usually are in the pockets of those from whom such weapons are bought, whether it’s a new fighter jet or a gas mask.
“Of course,” he continued, “one of the difficulties with my business is that I can’t just haul my wares onto a plane and fly into another country. Carrying weapons anywhere in the world now is really difficult unless you’re a smuggler.”
“So, how can you demonstrate your wares?”
“We ship samples and ammo ahead of wherever I’m going and arrangements are made for me to collect the packages at some location in-country.”
Although I was fairly certain that Panghurst was lying about his business, his explanation for moving weapons around the world may be a clue as to how the EMP device was handled. He undoubtedly knew that he was under constant surveillance, and being separated from the device until he was ready to use it made the most sense.
The more I kept him talking, the more I might be able to glean from him without his knowing it.
When our waiter returned, we both ordered artisan greens appetizers. Panghurst opted for the black angus beef tenderloin Rosini, medium rare, and I went for blackened grilled rockfish. With fish and beef, different wines might have been appropriate but we settled on a bottle of Chardonnay for the both of us and, in short order, were basking in a sumptuous meal, expertly done. We didn’t finish the bottle of wine but, at the end of the meal, decided to enjoy the quiet refined atmosphere of the restaurant with a glass of sherry, rather than experience the noisome Off the Record bar nearby.
As we were sipping the sherry, Panghurst surprised me.