flip phone on desk
This arti­cle is part 6 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

Wednesday, September 21st.

Headache!  Not too bad a one, but it’s like­ly that half a bot­tle of wine and good Scotch whisky don’t real­ly mix all that well.  Fortunately, I always car­ry a phar­ma­cy with me for just such occa­sions, aspirin for headaches, antacids for upset stom­ach, the usual. 

Washing down two aspirin with a glass of water, I fol­lowed with a quick shave and show­er.  By the time the show­er was over, the headache was gone, and I was anx­ious to get some break­fast and hoped that I’d hear from L.T. before long.  Much as I’d like to get a chance to see some of Washington’s land­marks, I also want­ed to get this caper under­way and fin­ished.  Business before pleasure.

Before part­ing last night, L.T. had giv­en me a cell phone with his per­son­al num­ber pro­grammed in.  He said that all his con­tact with me would be through that phone so I need­ed to car­ry it with me at all times.

I dressed in kha­ki trousers, a light blue cham­bray shirt, and a blue blaz­er with­out a tie.  I put the phone in the left inside breast pock­et and head­ed down­stairs to seek out some break­fast in the Lafayette Room, the hotel’s din­ing room.

By the time I reached the din­ing room, it was 9:30 and the room was sparse­ly occu­pied.  I guess the hotel guests were most­ly either about their busi­ness or already out sight­see­ing.  I was ush­ered to a two-per­son table near the win­dows look­ing out onto 16th Street and ordered up three eggs over medi­um, sausage links, four slices of toast with mar­malade, half a grape­fruit, and a carafe of cof­fee.  I quaffed the first cup of cof­fee right off the bat and refilled the cup to sip until the order arrived.  My wait was only about fif­teen min­utes when the wait­er reap­peared with a tray. I was­n’t hes­i­tant in attack­ing the meal before me, down­ing swigs of cof­fee between bites.

As I ate, I fre­quent­ly glanced out the win­dow and quite sud­den­ly real­ized that there was very lit­tle pedes­tri­an traf­fic con­sid­er­ing the size of the city.  Sixteenth Street is not a tourist mec­ca by any means, so I assumed that every­one who was work­ing in the city was prob­a­bly in some office some­where and the tourists were else­where tak­ing in the sights around the mall and the var­i­ous memorials.

Just as I fin­ished the last slice of toast and had reached to drain the last of the third cup of cof­fee, the phone in my pock­et vibrat­ed.  Unsurprisingly it showed the caller to be L.T., although it came up as “Trane.”

The voice at the oth­er end was a bit too cheer­ful for me at this time of morn­ing, but that was L.T.‘s way.  Despite the seri­ous­ness of the work he was engaged in, he always seemed to be some­what chip­per about it all.  I’m not sure if that out­look amused or annoyed me.

“You up, Michael?”

“Oh yeah,” I respond­ed.  “Been up for a while.  Just fin­ished break­fast.  What’s up?”

“Looks like you’re not going to get much of a chance to take in the D.C. sights.  Got word ear­ly this morn­ing that Panghurst’s trip is immi­nent.  He’ll be arriv­ing here in three days.  He’s booked out of Heathrow to the Bahamas, non­stop, on British Airways and from there on to Washington with one stop in Atlanta.  Of course, he’s fly­ing out of Nassau on Delta, so it’s inevitable that he’d stop in Atlanta.  If Delta had flights booked to Hell, they’d still have to stop in Atlanta.

“I also got a pho­to attached as an email.  Picture of him tak­en by an MI‑6 oper­a­tive day before yes­ter­day.  I’ll have it with me when we meet.  He’s grown a beard, so it’s a good thing we asked for the pho­to — oth­er­wise, you might not have rec­og­nized him.  The beard’s as white as his hair.  Almost makes him look professorial.”

“Yeah, with a Ph.D. in mur­der,” I interrupted.

L.T. con­tin­ued as if I had­n’t said any­thing.  “Can’t quite fig­ure out why he’s tak­ing the route to the Bahamas, though.  It’d be short­er for him to fly into New York or maybe even Canada, but we don’t have any­thing on the where­abouts of Milikan, so the Bahamas thing may have some­thing to do with them meet­ing, espe­cial­ly since we can’t con­firm that Panghurst has the device right now.  He could be pick­ing it up from Milikan there.”

“Well, L.T., if he’s not due here for three days, that still leaves me some time to get a look around.  My plan on meet­ing him is about all I’ve got right now, so I don’t real­ly have much to do to flesh it out.  I just need for you to get me that board­ing pass on a flight com­ing into Dulles about the same time as his flight from the Bahamas.  This whole thing is going to depend to a great extent on serendip­i­ty, so we can’t plan it down to the nth degree.”

“I’m sure you’re right, my friend.  Look, you want to see some D.C. sights, right?  Why don’t we meet at Arlington, and I’ll pass along his pho­to and act as your tour guide.  Arlington’s a big place.  Lots of room to talk with­out fear of being over­heard and a beau­ti­ful place to relax and absorb some his­to­ry as well.  Meet me at the wel­come cen­ter about thir­teen hun­dred.  We’ll grab a sand­wich in the snack bar and just walk around a bit.  I think you’ll be impressed.”

“Sounds fine.  See you then.”

The con­ver­sa­tion end­ed. I placed the phone back in my pock­et and sat back to fin­ish one last cup of cof­fee.  I still had over two hours left before meet­ing L.T., so I decid­ed to walk over to the near­by Lafayette Square, view the White House, and watch the tourists before catch­ing a cab to Arlington.

After reliev­ing myself of some of the coffee.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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