“You said that your people and MI6 were watching Panghurst.”
“So, you probably have some confidence that you’ll know when he plans to come here and how.”
“Most likely, yeah.”
“He’s obviously going to have to fly into D.C. Unless, of course, he chooses to come by train or bus, both of which are unlikely if I know him at all. He might consider the trains if they were convenient enough and as comfortable as the trains in Europe.
“Let’s assume, for now, that he’ll come by plane. I really believe that’s a ninety percent certainty.
“When we know what flight he’s coming in on, I can arrange to be at the airport during that time. I’ll go with baggage, under the pretense that I’ve just arrived myself.
“I assume you can fix me up with some fake boarding passes just in case I need them?”
“I also assume you can do this in pretty quick time because, in order for it to be authentic, I’ll need passes that match some other flight that has just landed from somewhere else.”
“Sure. No problem.”
“Okay. Once we have his arrival worked out, I’ll work it out to ‘accidentally’ bump into him. I’ll have to make it obvious enough that he’ll stop long enough to recognize me. Hopefully, he’ll take it as a weird coincidence — and I’ll take it from there and play it by ear.
“My hope is that he’ll be willing to re-connect and that we can move around together for a bit. If not, I’ll just have to arrange to tail him until we get what we need. I’m just hoping he’ll buy the coincidence of meeting up again.”
“Well, Michael, it sounds like a long shot — no pun intended due to your reputation — but I haven’t been able to come up with any scenario that is any more sound than that.
“I’ll get all our people on board so that we can be alerted as soon as he leaves England, and I’ll also request a current picture of the guy since you haven’t seen him in ten years. He may have changed his appearance during that time. Possibly deliberately.”
“Good idea. I’d hate for him to walk right past me without me noticing him.”
“Okay. Look, let’s head over to Off the Record for a nightcap. We can get details worked out tomorrow or in the next few days, depending on what we hear about Panghurst’s itinerary.”
“ ‘Off the Record?’ What’s that?”
“Oh, that’s the hotel bar. Swanky place. Guess it got that name because it’s so close to the White House, and all the correspondents and reporters eventually wind up here for a drink. But imbibing on media time is ‘off the record.’ Get it?”
“Yeah. But if the place’s crowded with news hounds, we’d better watch our conversation.”
“No worry. No business talk. We’ll just keep our comments to the lack of pulchritude amongst the ladies who choose to be reporters. Remember Helen Thomas? We should fit right in ’cause that’s what all the other men there talk about anyway. Unless there’s some big story that’s just broken,” L.T. finished with a smile.
We entered the dimly-lit, ornately furnished Off the Record and managed to find a couple of stools at the bar after asking one gentleman if he wouldn’t mind sliding over one seat so we could sit side by side. L.T. ordered up a Manhattan, and I ordered my usual Whiskey Sour (no ice).
I noticed, when the bartender was mixing my drink, that he pulled down a bottle of Glenlivet Scotch Whisky. One can tell a classy bar when they use the best brand of alcohol to mix the drinks. Off the Record was definitely a classy bar.
The bar was not too crowded, but whiffs of conversation drifted our way from time to time, mostly about politics, although occasionally mixed with comments about the terrible traffic in the city. Pretty typical for virtually any bar.
L.T. and I engaged in more small talk and listened to the comments of those around us, frequently smiling at one another at the trivial topics being discussed while we thought of the implications of what could possibly happen should Panghurst be successful.
“Well, Michael, I’ve got a good deal to get underway. I guess we’d best call it a night. I’m sure you’ve got some additional planning to do, and the next few days could prove to be very busy.” L.T. paid the bar tab, and the two of us sauntered from the room, mildly inebriated from the wine and after-dinner drink. We said our goodbyes in the hotel lobby, L.T. heading out into the Washington night and me making my way to the elevators to the lift back to the fourth floor.
I guess I didn’t realize how tired I really was when I entered the room, but I kicked off my shoes, removed my socks and other clothing items down to my skivvies, and plopped onto the bed. Turning out the room light, I was deep in slumber within five minutes.
Total exhaustion can sometimes lead to fitful sleep, and the next morning found me wrapped in a crazy configuration of twisted bedding. I don’t remember what I may have dreamed that night, but it must have agitated me considerably.