This arti­cle is part 3 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

L.T. and I con­tin­ued to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion as he tried to con­vince me of the seri­ous­ness of it.  I was still dubi­ous about my abil­i­ty to find Panghurst and what, if any­thing, I could do to stop him beyond try­ing to kill the guy.

L.T. informed me that his peo­ple (to this day, I don’t real­ly know who “his peo­ple” are) were mon­i­tor­ing every incom­ing flight to the U.S. from Europe and watch­ing the Canadian crossings.

By a process of elim­i­na­tion, they were dis­card­ing any con­cern for women and chil­dren under the age of six­teen, con­cen­trat­ing on track­ing all oth­er males over that age.  Despite what seemed to me to be a rather daunt­ing task, he explained that it was vast­ly more sim­ple when cer­tain pro­filed groups were tak­en out of the mix — although it still left thou­sands of indi­vid­u­als to be vet­ted every day.

“L.T., I see a pos­si­ble flaw in your sce­nario,” I inter­ject­ed. “How like­ly do you think it is that Panghurst is sim­ply going to believe that he and I are in Washington at the same time and ‘just hap­pen’ to run into one another?”

“You’re right, Michael.  That’s a kick­er in the equa­tion.  You may have to avoid direct con­tact with him for as long as pos­si­ble.  I expect that you and our peo­ple will be fol­low­ing him from the moment he sets foot in D.C.  We’ll have to bide our time until we dis­cern a pat­tern to his move­ments or until we can deter­mine where the device is stashed.  At that point, one of two things will hap­pen.  Either we’ll nab him and the device at the same time, or you’ll have to find some pre­tense to make con­tact with him, at which point the whole show will rest on your shoul­ders to come up with a way to find what we’re look­ing for or to take him out.  If we elim­i­nate him with­out the pack­age, we’ll also have to be sure that no one else knows where it is.  We sure as hell would­n’t want anoth­er accom­plice or Milikan to have access to it and wind up set­ting it off.  That seems to be Panghurst’s sole func­tion here.”

white ceramic pitcher on black table

I was still skep­ti­cal about this whole deal and had a lot of unan­swered ques­tions about how this was all going to sort out.  But the com­plex­i­ty of the prob­lem was intrigu­ing, and com­ing face to face — if that was the ulti­mate out­come — with Panghurst again posed some inter­est­ing scenarios.

“Well, L.T.  I’m not sure just how much help I can be this time, but let me get my stuff togeth­er.  Perhaps on the way to Washington, one of us can come up with some strat­e­gy that we can put to work.

“I assume your peo­ple are stay­ing in touch with you, so there’s no chance of Panghurst get­ting to Washington with­out you know­ing about it before we get back.”

“No chance,” respond­ed L.T.  “If you’ll bring that pot of Kona in, I’ll make myself com­fort­able here while you get your things togeth­er.  The plane’s ready and wait­ing at Bluegrass Field. We can head back to D.C. when­ev­er we get there.”

In the kitchen, I poured the remain­der of the cof­fee into an insu­lat­ed carafe, took it to the den, and left it for L.T.  He seemed to be com­fort­ably ensconced in the big easy chair as I left to pack a bag and col­lect some “tools.”

Returning to the den about half an hour lat­er, I found L.T. snooz­ing away in the chair, a half-fin­ished cup of cof­fee on the table in front of him.  A short wispy snort escaped his slight­ly open mouth every so often, and it seemed a shame to wake him.  It was almost a plea­sure to see him so at ease here.  I doubt­ed that he often had the chance to relax so com­plete­ly in his line of work.

Giving him a gen­tle shove on the shoul­der, I soft­ly coaxed him awake.  “Come on, L.T.  Sorry to wake you but I guess we need to be off.”

He slow­ly came to aware­ness, stretched a bit, and sat up, rub­bing his eyes for just a sec­ond to bring him­self ful­ly awake.  He reached over to the table, picked up the half-emp­ty cof­fee cup and took a drink which emp­tied it, stood up with a swift move­ment, and said, “All set.  Let’s go.”

I was some­what amazed at his abil­i­ty to arouse him­self so quick­ly, but even more aston­ished at his abil­i­ty to so eas­i­ly quaff half a cup of cold cof­fee since I could nev­er stand to drink the stuff unless it was pret­ty hot.  Cold cof­fee, to me, has always been as anti­thet­i­cal as hot ice cream.

I made sure every­thing was ship­shape in the house, all the lights turned off, and no water run­ning. I pulled the front door closed behind me as I fol­lowed L.T. to his car.

As L.T. pulled onto the road from my dri­ve­way, I called my neigh­bor on my cell phone and let him know that I was leav­ing and did­n’t know exact­ly when I would be back.  I knew he’d keep an eye on things while I was gone, and noti­fy­ing him auto­mat­i­cal­ly gave him per­mis­sion to enter the house as he felt nec­es­sary to check on things inside.

We were about an hour from Bluegrass Field.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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