Off the Record bar in Washington, D.C.
This arti­cle is part 5 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

“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.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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