Dulles International Airport
This arti­cle is part 9 of 17 in the series The D.C. Reunion

Thursday, September 22nd.

Panghurst was due in tomor­row.  Today I would make a trip to Dulles to check out the gates where he — and I — were sched­uled to arrive.  I real­ly did­n’t know what to expect at the ter­mi­nal, but it’s always a good tac­tic to scope out an oper­a­tional area when possible.

There was noth­ing unusu­al about the ter­mi­nal and I decid­ed that I would try to arrange our “chance” meet­ing on con­course B, where his flight would be arriv­ing.  Since it was near­ing noon, I grabbed a sand­wich and a bot­tle of ener­gy water at one of the con­course snack bars and set­tled into a wait­ing area across from his sched­uled arrival gate for a while to see how arriv­ing pas­sen­gers tend­ed to fan out once they entered the concourse. 

I would have to remem­ber to arrive ear­ly tomor­row and ver­i­fy his arrival gate.  Sometimes the air­lines or the air­port change sched­uled gates at the last minute depend­ing on air traf­fic.  It was nat­ur­al that the vast major­i­ty of pas­sen­gers turned to head in the direc­tion of the bag­gage retrieval area.  After check­ing out the imme­di­ate area near the gate, the restau­rants, toi­lets, snack shops, etc., I head­ed to the bag­gage area.  If worse came to worst, it might be nec­es­sary to make the meet­ing hap­pen there — and that would be the last resort — before leav­ing the airport. 

L.T. had arranged for a dum­my bag with my name to be pre­pared and ready to be placed on what­ev­er carousel Panghurst’s bag­gage would be on.  After all this time doing busi­ness with L.T., I still did­n’t know for sure what agency he worked for, but it was obvi­ous that he had some clout if he could so eas­i­ly manip­u­late air­line procedures.

 I was also rehears­ing in my mind the rou­tine I would rely on to explain my pres­ence in Washington.  It was pos­si­ble that the rou­tine would have to be adapt­ed depend­ing on where we met and how the con­ver­sa­tion might go.  I hoped I would be pre­pared for any unusu­al ques­tions.  I also famil­iar­ized myself with the cab and pub­lic trans­porta­tion areas, the pub­lic park­ing, and the rental car areas — espe­cial­ly the rental car kiosks.  I could­n’t imag­ine Panghurst try­ing to rely on a rental car if he was­n’t famil­iar with the street lay­out of Washington.  It seemed far more like­ly that he would hail a cab, as I also could­n’t visu­al­ize him tak­ing a bus; his tastes were far too extrav­a­gant for that.

Feeling that I had done all the recon­noi­ter­ing that I could, I left the ter­mi­nal, hailed a cab, and head­ed back to the hotel, arriv­ing short­ly before 1600 hours.  When I got to my room, a car­ry-on bag with all the usu­al accou­ter­ments one might expect to tote with them on a short air­plane hop was wait­ing on the bed. The con­tents includ­ed a change of under­wear, a pair of socks, a paper­back nov­el, a cou­ple of mag­a­zines, a book of log­ic puz­zles, a bot­tle of aspirin, a small dig­i­tal cam­era, some extra bat­ter­ies, and a bot­tle of cit­rus green tea. I might have expect­ed a weapon of some sort but get­ting into the secure area of the air­port with a weapon was not only iffy, even for L.T., but there could­n’t be any ques­tion of poten­tial­ly ter­mi­nat­ing Panghurst before the where­abouts of the device had been determined.

It’s kind of fun­ny now that I think back about it.  The two mag­a­zines in the car­ry-on were Guns and Ammo and Skeptic, two mag­a­zines that I real­ly like.  I won­dered how L.T. could pos­si­bly know that.  And on top of that, I occa­sion­al­ly enjoy work­ing log­ic puz­zles; they help sharp­en my mind.  Since it would be a while before din­ner, I sat down in the lounge chair and read through the two mag­a­zines.  The arti­cle in Skeptic about Scientology was espe­cial­ly fas­ci­nat­ing.  As I worked my way through the sec­ond mag­a­zine, I dozed off and awoke about forty-five min­utes lat­er, ful­ly refreshed.

I show­ered again and changed into anoth­er casu­al out­fit, sans jacket.

It was a pleas­ant evening so I decid­ed to scout a bit for anoth­er restau­rant, as I like to sam­ple local fla­vor when­ev­er I’m off on a job.  I asked the concierge if he could rec­om­mend some­thing and he direct­ed me to the Old Ebbitt Grill, which was a short dis­tance away on 15th Street.  Upon being asked, he assured me that my attire would be per­fect­ly fit­ting for the place.

At din­ner­time in Washington, the streets are quite peace­ful and a stroll can be a pleas­ant expe­ri­ence, so I skirt­ed Lafayette Square and found the place between F and G Streets.  It’s not a large restau­rant but nice­ly appoint­ed.  It looked like it catered more to the noon­day crowds than din­ner, but the menu was rea­son­ably var­ied and after being ush­ered to a small table about halfway back in the place, I ordered Lemon Pepper Chicken Fettuccini with oven-roast­ed pota­toes with Vidalia onions and Romano cheese with hazel­nuts pesto.  The wine list was­n’t too exten­sive but I did order a glass of Yellowtail Riesling to go with the dinner.

Dinner was unevent­ful but fill­ing, and I topped it off with a slice of black­ber­ry pie, served warm with ice cream.

I paid the tab in cash as L.T. obvi­ous­ly did­n’t have an account set up in every restau­rant in D.C., and he could­n’t pos­si­bly have known that I’d be hav­ing din­ner there.  Could he?

The evening was even nicer than the after­noon.  A light breeze enveloped the city, pos­si­bly hint­ing of impend­ing rain as I leisure­ly walked back to the hotel, admir­ing the illu­mi­nat­ed night land­scape and the most­ly gov­ern­men­tal architecture.

“How was the meal, Michael?” came a famil­iar voice from behind me.  I rec­og­nized the voice right away and so did­n’t react as I might have under omi­nous circumstances.

“Hell’s bells, L.T., have you been tail­ing me?”

“Well, yes and no. Not me per­son­al­ly, but I’ve assigned a crew to watch over you and pro­vide any help you may need.  Don’t be mad.  We’re keep­ing our dis­tance and leav­ing things to you.  No harm intended.”

“I guess I can under­stand that.  I prob­a­bly should have antic­i­pat­ed it.  Did your guys enjoy the muse­um tour?”

“Oh, they did­n’t fol­low that close­ly.  You’ve got a long leash as far as I’m con­cerned.  Besides, I expect these guys have already toured the muse­ums,” he chuckled.

“You set for tomorrow?”

“As much as I can be, I guess.  I got the car­ry-on.  How the hell did you know what I like to read?”

“Professional secret, my friend.”

We arrived at the hotel and L.T. said his good­byes and hopped into a wait­ing car.

I must remem­ber to quit under­es­ti­mat­ing him, I mum­bled to myself.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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