The drive to Lexington passed mostly in silence. I guess we were both immersed in ideas and thoughts about what the next few days or weeks might bring. I was going over scheme after scheme to come to grips with Panghurst and discarding them almost as quickly as they popped up. I was concentrating so intently on that part of the operation that little thought of the consequences of an EMP explosion in D.C. hardly crossed my mind. No doubt there were others who were wrestling with that prospect. My job was more focused. I had to figure a way to try to prevent it.
We dropped the car off at the rental agency, completed the usual paperwork, and hopped a shuttle to the general aviation area of the airport, where L.T.‘s Cessna Citation CJ3 was waiting to whisk us to Washington. The small jet was probably overkill for just two people flying only a little over 400 miles — it can carry nine passengers and has a range of just over two thousand nautical miles — but who am I to question the government’s reasons for how they apportion aircraft?
The cabins of small private aircraft are cramped, but the seating is arranged to be comfortable, not like the sardine seating one gets on a commercial flight in economy class. There was liquor available, but both of us realized that we needed to keep our senses about us and so consumed only a single mixed drink apiece on the flight.
By the time we had touched down at Washington International a little over an hour and a half later, the germ of an idea had begun to take shape in my mind. I had hopes that, by the time we reached the hotel, that germ would have developed into something more concrete, and I would be able to go over it with L.T. to get some feedback and that we could probe it for weaknesses.
It was getting on toward evening when the cab dropped us off at the Hay-Adams. Entering the lobby of the hotel is like stepping back in time somewhat. With the highly polished wood accoutrements, the ornate ceilings, and luxury finishes, I was almost afraid to put my luggage down for fear of marring the highly polished floor.
L.T. suggested that I just wait a moment as he approached the front desk and completed the arrangements for my stay, returning with my room key.
“Let’s go up and get you settled in, and then we’ll come back down for some dinner. I’ve got a private dining room reserved so we can discuss whatever we need to without concern for being overheard.”
We headed over to the elevators, L.T. helping with one of the bags, and rode up to the fourth floor, emerging into a carpeted and immaculate corridor that looked like it had just been painted that day and new carpet laid. It was a short walk to room 410, and we unceremoniously tossed the bags onto the bed, an action that seemed almost sacrilegious considering the dignity of the room.
I asked L.T. if he needed to freshen up before dinner. He declined, and I entered the marble-clad bathroom to relieve myself and throw some water on my face as a quick way to revive somewhat from the trip.
We left the room, took the elevator back down to the ground floor level, and were escorted to the private dining room that L.T. had reserved.
The appointments of the room were as elaborate as the rest of the hotel, with linen tablecloth and napkins and a fine dinnerware laid out for the both of us along with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. As we sat down, the waiter, in black slacks and a black jacket with a white shirt and black bow tie stated that dinner would be served shortly.
At this point, I could only surmise that L.T. had ordered the wine and dinner for us both before leaving the room and while I was freshening up.
He had just finished pouring us both a glass of wine when the waiter returned with the serving cart containing two covered dishes which he dutifully placed before us and, removing the silver-domed covers, revealed a delicious-looking red snapper, stalks of asparagus, and new potatoes. The snapper sat on a thin bed of rice with two lemon slices and a cloth-covered basket of sliced, freshly-baked bread was placed between the two of us.
I was pretty hungry after a long day, including the traveling, and quickly picked out a slice of the still-warm bread, squeezed the lemon slices over the snapper, and proceeded to dig in, interspersing eager mouthfuls with sips of a wonderfully smooth white wine.
“Good choices, L.T.,” I mumbled between bites. “Couldn’t have done better myself.”
“I imagine you’re just extremely hungry, Michael,” he responded. “Still, the hotel kitchen does turn out a pretty good meal.”
“Yeah, well, the snapper is done perfectly. It practically falls apart on my fork.” I eagerly mouthed another morsel.
Most of the dinner was accompanied by small talk, things of no importance, but as we cleaned our plates and settled to sipping the wine, the conversation became more serious as we examined strategy.
“Well, Michael. You’ve had some time to think about it. Any ideas on how to proceed?”
“Yeah, I think so, L.T. How does this sound?”