The sherry brought a warm glow as we drained our glasses, each analyzing the other, me trying to gauge the truthfulness of what Panghurst had told me — and him trying to determine if I was going to believe his story.
I finally broke the silence. “Armin, let’s assume for a moment that I believe all that you’ve told me. I’ve been hired to do a specific job. How can I go to my employer and convince them that my job is over, that nothing catastrophic is going to overtake Washington and that they can all go back to doing whatever they normally do? I can’t just walk away.”
“Hmm… yes, I see your dilemma. So here’s what I propose.
“Arrange a meeting between you, me, and your employer. I’ll tell him exactly what I’ve told you, minus the part about leaking the information to Wikileaks. I really do want to see more of Washington now that I’m here, so I want to stay a few more days. While I’m here, I will make myself accessible at all times to whomever your employer wants to watch me. At the end of those few days, I head back to England and let Milikan know that he can start the bargaining process.
“Does that sound reasonable? Hey, you could stay over as well, and we could tour the city together. You probably know all the good places to see and can be my guide!”
“Well, I’m not sure I want to stay over, but I’m sure I can arrange a meeting and turn things over to my handler.”
“My God, Armin. How did you know that?”
“You forget, Mikel. I used to work for MI‑6. I left them with a lot of information.”
“One more question, Armin. When you and I worked together, you seemed quite sadistic. I watched you murder that one guy by cutting his throat. This seems totally out of character for you. What changed?”
“Everybody gets old, Mikel. Including me. And that streak of sadism you saw was a momentary thing. That thug whose throat I cut had just raped and murdered an eleven-year-old girl. I tried to stop him but was too late. I just went crackers. Ever since that time, I’ve been doing non-wet security work for private companies. Haven’t killed anyone in years.”
“Okay. I’ll set up a meeting. How about tomorrow? I’ll get L.T. to reserve a private dining room for lunch. That sound okay?”
“Fine. Oh, and Mikel, ask L.T. to order a good bottle of Chenin Blanc. As a government employee, he probably doesn’t know squat about good wine.”
I smiled. He was probably right.
We left the restaurant and retired to our rooms. At least I did. I was still cautious about Panghurst but hoped that he was as satiated as I was after a great meal and a sufficient quantity of wine. But before going to bed, I gave L.T. a call. He was incredulous and as dubious as I had been, but he agreed to the meeting and said he would make the arrangements. I didn’t bother to pass along Armin’s comments about him not knowing anything about fine wine. I told him I was going to bed and that it would be up to his people to make sure Panghurst wasn’t going to pull anything tonight.
I pulled the plug. So to speak. It had been a busy day, and the wine was calling me to sleep. I stripped down to my skivvies, plopped into bed, and extinguished the lights. No reading tonight. I didn’t need anything to see me off to slumber. I quickly eased into a deep sleep, devoid of nightmares about chaos in the streets, secret agents, explosive devices, or any other nerve-shattering happenstances. My subconscious must have been telling me that Panghurst was on the level.