This arti­cle is part 13 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

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.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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