This arti­cle is part 2 of 8 in the series The Hague Massage

I reached into the refrig­er­a­tor, select­ed a bot­tle of cit­rus-fla­vored green tea, and wan­dered into the den where I sat in my favorite slouch chair near the win­dow and tossed the bot­tle cap into the near­by trash can.

Taking a sip of tea from the bot­tle, I opened the enve­lope and read the following:

Dear Mr. Tate:
I hope this letter finds you well and able to take on a painting project for me.  I should like to meet with you to discuss the details of the project and hope that August 6th might be convenient for you.  If so, I will arrange to be in Lexington, Kentucky on that date and staying at the Hilton downtown.  I know this is close to your home and should be a convenient location.  I would prefer the Marriott there, but there are so many nice places to meet and eat in the downtown area.  If some other date is more suitable for you, please  call the number in this packet and we will arrange another time.  If I do not hear from you by July 27th, I will assume the above arrangement is acceptable.
Thank you for your consideration.
Andrew Marsden

I always require any sec­ond con­tact regard­ing an assign­ment to be in per­son. “Mr. Marsden” had planned this meet­ing to be very con­ve­nient for me.  Not only would I not be forced to grab a plane or dri­ve to some remote loca­tion, but the writer of the let­ter had also very art­ful­ly con­cealed where his home base was locat­ed.  Still, it was a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment in that I would not have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it some city that I had not yet seen.

Oh, well — a job is a job.  One must put aside the minor dis­ap­point­ments that some­times come with accept­ing work.

August 6th was still two and a half weeks away. 

I set­tled into the chair, sipped the tea, and gazed out the win­dow at the lay­er of heat that seemed to hang over the field out­side, inter­rupt­ed only briefly as pass­ing clouds blocked the hot July after­noon sun.

The next two and a half weeks were spent as was most of my time when not actu­al­ly work­ing.  I bus­ied myself with read­ing and painting.

The local library is a won­der­ful place to vis­it, and who can com­plain about get­ting a book for free, even if it’s only for two weeks.  I had long ago deter­mined that I would nev­er resort to read­ing a book on Kindle.  There’s some­thing very sat­is­fy­ing about actu­al­ly hold­ing a phys­i­cal book in your hand and, some­times, even smelling (at least in one’s mind) the aro­ma of the paper and the ink as a sto­ry unfolds before you. 

I’ve been told that it’s pos­si­ble to high­light pas­sages of a book on a Kindle and to go back and forth as one desires to find a sen­tence or para­graph already read.  Still, the plea­sure of hold­ing the print­ed word in one’s hand is some­how very sat­is­fy­ing — and if the process of the print­ed word has been good enough for almost six hun­dred years, it’s cer­tain­ly good enough for me.

My replen­ished sup­ply of paints and brush­es that I had pur­chased while in Cincinnati was rapid­ly becom­ing deplet­ed, as I had plunged back into my long-neglect­ed hob­by for sev­er­al months and was attack­ing can­vass­es with some vigor. 

Being a bach­e­lor, I feel no com­punc­tions about leav­ing com­plet­ed paint­ings lay­ing about wher­ev­er it’s con­ve­nient at the moment.  Thus, my den was some­what clut­tered with var­i­ous size paint­ings, all com­plet­ed, lean­ing against fur­ni­ture and walls and book­cas­es, wait­ing to be placed in stor­age slots that had been specif­i­cal­ly designed for them in a spe­cial room of the house.

I paint in the den because the light there is so good and it allows me to more eas­i­ly get to the phone or the front door.

The room where the paint­ings are housed does dou­ble duty.  Being lit­tle more than a stor­age room, and one to which vis­i­tors are nev­er escort­ed, it also hous­es my weapons col­lec­tion and what few bot­tles of wine that I keep on hand.

And, truth be told, the weapons col­lec­tion is not an espe­cial­ly large one.  Several weapons are those which I use in my work, such as the Remington Model 700, type M40, .308 cal­iber rifle with a Schmidt & Bender 12x scope.  This is the stan­dard Marine Corps sniper rifle and is well suit­ed for some of the jobs I do.  I also have set­tled on Sig Sauer pis­tols and have three, a P238, .380 ACP — which is one of the small­est pis­tols made, being only 5−1÷2 inch­es long and weigh­ing a mere 15.2 ounces.  It’s easy to con­ceal and has enough pow­er for short-range work.  I also have a Mosquito, which is a .22 cal­iber pis­tol and can be effec­tive­ly used at short range, and a 1911, which is a copy of the famous M1911 .45 cal­iber pis­tol which served the U.S. armed forces for almost fifty years.  This pis­tol has a great deal of stop­ping pow­er with its heavy round.

The oth­er guns and weapons I have on dis­play are mil­i­tary col­lectibles and are rarely fired or used.  They are beau­ti­ful col­lec­tor items.

Of course, I did­n’t know which of these weapons, if any, would be required for this com­mis­sion. There’s always the chance that some oth­er eso­teric form of weapon may be required, like the one used in Cincinnati.

I guessed I would find out on the sixth.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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