Saturday, September 24th.
Saturdays are abustle in Washington only for the tourists. Most government workers are on their weekend, but the city is still crowded around all the usual attractions.
Dawn may have come early for some, but not for me. I was unusually lazy and didn’t arise until nearly 1030.
I ordered up some coffee and a sweet roll from room service and asked them to include a copy of the Post, determined to take it easy until our noon appointment. I had no reason to be out and about until then.
As I worked my way through the carafe of coffee and perused the paper, it seemed that everything that was being reported was so very trivial. Governments accusing one another of some misdemeanor or other, border encroachments, market and currency manipulations, Wall Street skullduggery, murders on the streets just a few blocks away, another terrorist attack with an IED killing six and wounding thirty-four, Israel and Syria arguing (interminably), France upset with England, England upset with Germany. And so many people totally unaware of what might have been. How would all those little worlds be different if the device had been real and had been set off? And how will it change, if at all, if such a device ever gets developed and one country has complete control over it?
Well, a lot of questions too complex for one little ol’ assassin. Those are for others to deal with.
By the time I finished the Post, it was time to shower and get dressed for our appointment. This was going to be interesting.
As the elevator descended, it stopped at the third floor and Panghurst was waiting as the doors parted.
“Mornin’ Armin,” I greeted him with a smile.
He too was smiling as he entered the elevator and the doors swooshed closed behind him. “Mornin’ Mikel. Beautiful day.”
“Weatherwise, yeah. We’ll see how the rest of it goes.”
We both retained our smiles as the elevator reached the lobby floor, the doors opened and we simultaneously headed for the private dining room. Both of us noted a couple of suited gentlemen seated in the lobby pretending to be reading the daily paper and we each smiled at one another knowingly. L.T. wanted us to be aware of the presence of his people
L.T. was waiting in the private room and greeted us as cheerily as he could probably muster, “Good morning, Michael. Good morning, Mr. Panghurst.”
“Good morning to you, Mr. Trane,” replied Armin before I could say anything. I smiled inwardly, noting that L.T. seemed a bit flustered as we all arranged ourselves at the waiting table. A bottle of Domaine Huet Moelleux Clos du Bourg Chenin Blanc was also waiting to be uncorked and served.
“A good choice of wine, Mr. Trane,” began Panghurst. “Not the best, but good nevertheless.” There was a little baiting going on and I resolved to sit back and enjoy it.
“Depends on the year, Mr. Panghurst,” responded L.T. The Loire valley doesn’t produce a high-quality grape every single year. A lot depends on rainfall. I think you’ll find this one was a good year.”
One for L.T.
It was friendly sparring but I could tell that L.T. still harbored some doubts as to Panghurst’s sincerity and was being cautious… and reserved.
Lunch was served quickly as L.T. had ordered for everyone, perhaps taking a chance that all would be pleased with the selections. We began with the Hay-Adams Cobb Salad and followed with the grilled organic chicken breast. It was a light lunch, eaten mostly in silence.
When we had finished and the table was cleared and a carafe of coffee had been left, L.T. invited Panghurst to fill him in. Armin repeated virtually everything he had told me the night before, and, as the story unfolded, I could see L.T. beginning to buy into it, despite his professional skepticism. His gaze occasionally shifted to me as if to question whether the version he was hearing was the same as what was told to me. Each time I gave him a knowing look of affirmation.
When Panghurst had finished, he leaned back in his chair as if to say that’s it and took a sip from his coffee cup.
After a very brief silence, L.T. looked at me and asked, “You believe this story, Michael?”
“L.T., you remember our meeting on Oahu when I came to see you and you had to convince me that you weren’t responsible for placing a bomb on my scheduled flight. That the plane going down was just a horrible accident — though we later found out it wasn’t?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“I believed you then, L.T. I believe Armin now. And his offer leaves the door wide open for your agency to verify the truth. Watch over him. Keep him under surveillance as he’s agreed and see him off to England where MI‑6 will follow up to further prove his truthfulness. I don’t think you’ve got anything to lose.”
L.T. then leaned back in his chair, becoming somewhat more casual. “Mr. Panghurst. I think you’ll understand when I say that I still don’t trust you… entirely. But I trust Michael. So I’m going to buy into this… for the time being. But let me be perfectly clear. If you make one false move before you leave for England, you may well find yourself someplace where you’re unlikely ever to see sunlight again.”
“You’ve made yourself abundantly clear, Mr. Trane. And I have already made long-range plans for my retirement, so you have nothing to fear from me, I assure you.”
“My assurance will come when you board that plane and it’s well out over the Atlantic heading east.”
“Well, then, gentlemen. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take advantage of this lovely day and take in some of the sights nearby. Mikel, will you be joining me today or later?”
“Afraid not, Armin. I’ve got other plans. So I’ll say goodbye for now. I hope we meet again.”
“As do I, ol’ boy. Take care of yourself.”
With that, Panghurst turned and left L.T. and me to ourselves. I noticed one of the seated suits follow him as he left the hotel.