This arti­cle is part 16 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

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.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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