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.