Tattoo of dagger piercing skin
This arti­cle is part 2 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

(Image cred­it: Tattoo Designs )

“I flew into Lexington in a pri­vate plane,” began L.T.

“As I said, this is an urgent assign­ment and by com­ing direct­ly to you by pri­vate plane, we can go back the same way with­out all the has­sle of check­ing through secu­ri­ty at the air­port.  That way, if you need to take any spe­cial “tools” along, it’s no prob­lem.  If you accept this assign­ment, that is.”

“Sounds pret­ty seri­ous, L.T.  What’s so spe­cial this time?”

“We’re get­ting snip­pets of data that sug­gest that some­thing big may be com­ing down the pike pret­ty soon.  Information from a num­ber of var­ied sources indi­cates that an indi­vid­ual is plan­ning a cyber attack in Washington and that it’s going to hap­pen quickly.”

“A cyber attack?  But I thought that stuff was han­dled by the com­put­er geeks in the back rooms glued to their com­put­er screens.  Why are you — and why would I — be involved?”

“This isn’t a nor­mal cyber attack where some for­eign hack­er is prob­ing secure data­bas­es and try­ing to pull infor­ma­tion out of them.

“What we’re hear­ing is that a lone indi­vid­ual will be trav­el­ing to Washington with a device that, when set off, will dis­rupt every­thing elec­tron­ic with­in a five-mile radius.  It would be like set­ting off a nuclear bomb and cre­at­ing an EMP that knocks out every­thing elec­tri­cal.  Except this device alleged­ly does­n’t pro­duce an explo­sion or radi­a­tion.  It, again alleged­ly, just cre­ates an elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse that accom­plish­es the same thing with­out dam­ag­ing build­ings or harm­ing people.

“You can imag­ine what such a dis­rup­tion would do in Washington.  It would shut down gov­ern­ment for God knows how long.  And though a lot of peo­ple might think a non-oper­at­ing fed­er­al gov­ern­ment could be a good thing, the pan­ic that would ensue could also cause a stock mar­ket crash unlike any we’ve ever seen. And the rip­ple effects would extend to every state gov­ern­ment in the coun­try, as well as to all our inter­na­tion­al busi­ness and polit­i­cal deal­ings.  The effects of some­thing like this suc­ceed­ing would be pos­i­tive­ly cat­a­stroph­ic and the impli­ca­tions would be glob­al.  And if the five-mile radius thing is accu­rate, it could be set off just about any­where in D.C. and still affect the Capitol, the White House, and the Pentagon, includ­ing every­thing in between.”

“Well, L.T. I don’t know how I fit into this.  I’m cer­tain­ly no expert on elec­tron­ics or cyber­crime or any­thing like that.”

“Yeah, but you know the guy who’s sup­posed to be prepar­ing to do this.  Armin Panghurst.”

“Panghurst!  Sure, I remem­ber him.  We worked a caper about ten years ago in Bosnia.  I got along with him alright, but he struck me as being par­tic­u­lar­ly bru­tal and with­out much sense of pur­pose to what he was doing.”

“You may not know much of his back­ground. He’s of German-English her­itage.  Served in the British armed forces and lat­er in MI‑6, their secret ser­vice. Left unex­pect­ed­ly.  We have infor­ma­tion that links him up with a Lithuanian dis­si­dent named Vlasic Milikan, a nuclear sci­en­tist who’s real­ly pissed off at the Russians and who is the guy who alleged­ly devel­oped this device.  And Panghurst isn’t enam­ored with the U.S. either.  He links our CIA with his MI‑6 and holds us equal­ly account­able for the shod­dy treat­ment he believes he received there.”

“I remem­ber a few things about Panghurst.” I offered.  “He had pre­ma­ture­ly white hair and a small scar run­ning down from the cor­ner of his left eye.  Said he got it in a knife fight.  He also had a tat­too on his right wrist, a dag­ger that looked like it was actu­al­ly going through a piece of his skin.  I know he was par­tial to knives because I saw him carve up a guy in Bosnia when he could have just shot the dude and been done with it.  That’s why I say he had a bru­tal streak.  He also has a slight limp.  Born with one leg a few mil­lime­ters short­er than the other.

“But I sure did­n’t know that he was into elec­tron­ics.  Everything we did over there was wet work.”

“It would seem that he’s high­ly intel­li­gent and has picked up a good deal of knowl­edge about EMPs over the years.  Between Milikan and Panghurst we have two guys who are col­lec­tive­ly pissed at the U.S., Russia, and England.  Their prob­lems are that Panghurst is too well known in England to be able to accom­plish any­thing there, and he prob­a­bly knows that MI‑6 is keep­ing con­stant sur­veil­lance on him.  And Russia is such a tight soci­ety that nei­ther of them sees much chance of doing some­thing there since they would like­ly be under scruti­ny as soon as they entered the coun­try.  But they both real­ize that a cat­a­stroph­ic event in the U.S. would cer­tain­ly affect the economies of both Russia and England and, since nei­ther of them is known here, they appar­ent­ly see their mis­sion as being more like­ly to suc­ceed here.  And if the U.S. econ­o­my goes down the tubes, it will also take down England’s and Russia’s.  Collateral damage.”

“But why Panghurst?  Does he have some­thing against us or the Russians?”

“Not that we can tell.  But he does loathe the British gov­ern­ment and feels that he was unfair­ly treat­ed dur­ing and after his ser­vice.  He’s homo­sex­u­al and he took a lot of grief for that while in ser­vice, sort of like Alan Turing dur­ing and after the war.  He knows that a huge hit like this on the U.S. would also take down Her Majesty’s gov­ern­ment as well and he’s up for that.”

“What are you proposing?”

“I want to take you back to Washington with me.  We’ll put you up at Hay-Adams while you’re there.  We want to be in con­stant touch with you as we try to track Panghurst com­ing here and, when we do, we’ll turn it over to you to deal with him as you see fit.  Since we don’t know his exact sched­ule, you could be in Washington for some time.

“Anything we can use to give us an edge is going to be help­ful and, right now, you’re the best edge we’ve got.

“He’s been watched for weeks but has­n’t giv­en up any clues as to where the device is locat­ed.  That’s why we haven’t already picked him up.  Could be that it’s already in this coun­try.  We’ve got to have that device and to make sure that no one else has one.  As soon as we secure it, we’ll take Panghurst and Milikan and get them out of cir­cu­la­tion, espe­cial­ly Milikan so he won’t be able to pro­duce anoth­er one.”

  • Chuck Witt

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

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