This arti­cle is part 3 of 8 in the series The Hague Massage

It was a typ­i­cal August in Kentucky: hot and dry.  It had­n’t rained for the past twelve days and things on the farm were begin­ning to dry out rather dras­ti­cal­ly.  I awoke to a morn­ing tem­per­a­ture of sev­en­ty-five degrees and the weath­er fore­cast indi­cat­ed that we would reach the nineties before the end of the day.

Accordingly, I decid­ed to dress light­ly for my meet­ing with Mr. Marsden, not know­ing if he would select an indoor or out­door venue for our discussions.

It was 10:30 by the time I had com­plet­ed my morn­ing rit­u­als and was leav­ing the dri­ve­way in my trust­wor­thy Lexus.

Since I live south of Winchester, I decid­ed to head to Lexington along the back roads where the views are not only more pleas­ant but the shade pro­vid­ed by the many trees along the way helps mit­i­gate the heat.

Heading south on KY 627, I crossed onto high­way 418 which would take me into the south­east side of Lexington and straight down to Main Street and to the Hilton.  I made the required U‑turn from Main onto Vine Street head­ed east and, after cross­ing Broadway, turned into the park­ing garage of the Hilton.  Leaving the car with the valet, I entered the hotel and eas­i­ly found the front desk.

“Hi.  My name is Michael Tate.  I believe Andrew Marsden is stay­ing with you and is expect­ing me,” I smiled at the desk atten­dant, a well-dressed mid­dle-aged gen­tle­man who seemed per­fect­ly made for the role of hotel desk man­ag­er.  His name tag read “David Willoughby.”

“Mr. Marsden?  Let me check.  Yes sir, Mr. Marsden is in room 609.  If you’d like to go up, the ele­va­tors are just there to your left, Mr. Tate.”  His smile seemed almost gen­uine, but I could­n’t help feel­ing that it was prac­ticed and meant to dis­arm the most annoy­ing person.

“I think I’d pre­fer that you ring his room to see if he’s in.  We did­n’t set a spe­cif­ic time to meet, so he may be out and about at the moment,” I replied, try­ing to match his pleasantness.

“Of course, sir.  Just a moment.”

Willoughby turned aside, picked up the house phone, and dialed room 609.  I could hear the ring­ing of the phone on the oth­er end and, after the sec­ond ring, a voice could faint­ly be heard.

“Mr. Marsden.  This is the desk man­ag­er.  There’s a Mr. Tate here to see you and he asked me to ring you up to make sure you were in.”  Even Willoughby’s voice exud­ed the smarmy charm of his smile.

After some mut­ter­ings from the oth­er end of the con­ver­sa­tion, Willoughby hung up the phone and turned to me.  “Mr. Marsden said to thank you for ring­ing up and that he will be down to meet with you in just a few min­utes if you’d care to wait in the lob­by rest area.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that.  Thanks, David,” I said as I turned to find a chair and await the arrival of Marsden.

“You’re quite wel­come, Mr. Tate.  Have a good day.”

I was almost anx­ious to leave the vicin­i­ty of David Willoughby.  I was afraid his feigned friend­li­ness would begin to rub off and I did­n’t think I could deal with too much of it.

“Mr. Tate, I pre­sume.”  The gen­tle­man speak­ing to me had just walked over from the ele­va­tor and was extend­ing his hand to offer a hand­shake.  I stood as I took his hand ever so briefly and he moved to the emp­ty chair beside me and beck­oned me to sit as he did so.

“Glad to meet you, Mr. Marsden,” I said as I with­drew my hand and sat down, turn­ing slight­ly to face him.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll call you Michael and you can call me Andy.  No need or for­mal­i­ties at this point.” 

I won­dered if he had been prac­tic­ing smil­ing with David Willoughby, but Marsden’s smile seemed some­how more gen­uine and we were both quick­ly at ease with one another.

Marsden con­tin­ued, “I thought we might wan­der over to Triangle Park and con­tin­ue our dis­cus­sion there.  Even though it’s get­ting pret­ty warm out, there is plen­ty of shade there and we can talk more privately.

“Sounds fine.  Shall we go?”

Arising simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, we walked to the Broadway side doors of the hotel.  Exiting from the cool inte­ri­or of the hotel into the mid­day heat was some­what of a shock, but the tem­per­a­ture had not yet reached the mid-80s.  We walked to the near­est street inter­sec­tion to cross over to the park, exchang­ing mun­dane pleas­antries on the way: How do you like Kentucky? How was your trip? Etc.

Entering the small park, we both instinc­tive­ly knew that we would have to find a spot to con­verse that would not be too near oth­ers in the park and we found an emp­ty bench not far from the cas­cad­ing foun­tain that is a main fea­ture of the park.  The back­ground noise of the foun­tain would also serve to mask our conversation.

“Michael, the man I will be ask­ing you to deal with is Yahkuli Stenolic.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him, but he’s a ruth­less Serbian sep­a­ratist who not only runs a ter­ror­ist oper­a­tion against his coun­try’s gov­ern­ment, he’s also a slave traf­fick­er, which is how he rais­es the funds to run his anti-gov­ern­ment oper­a­tions.  His orga­ni­za­tion has abduct­ed hun­dreds of young girls and put them into pros­ti­tu­tion.  It is not uncom­mon for him to kill the fam­i­lies of the girls he abducts, even includ­ing young chil­dren in the family.

“He’s on tri­al now at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.”

“If he’s on tri­al, why do you need me?” I asked, puzzled.

“He’ll nev­er be con­vict­ed.  He’s a very pow­er­ful man and has oper­a­tives with­in the Court who have been bought off.  The lives of those he could­n’t buy have been threat­ened by his hench­men.  He even has priv­i­leges while he’s being held in prison dur­ing the tri­al.  Whatever he asks for, he gets.  And he’s begin­ning to form an orga­ni­za­tion with­in the prison itself, while he con­tin­ues to run his oper­a­tion at home.”

“And he gets away with all this?  With impunity?”

“Exactly.  But if we can assure that he does­n’t make it back to Serbia, it will send a mes­sage to his hench­men that their days are num­bered.  Without Stenolic, the gov­ern­ment has a greater chance of break­ing up his car­tel.  And if he is acquit­ted by the court, but dies by oth­er cir­cum­stances, the mes­sage will be loud and clear.”

As Marsden con­tin­ued to fill me in on the crimes of Stenolic, my mind was already racing.

“What the hell do I know about The Hague?” I asked myself.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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