Flights across the Atlantic are, at very best, boring. Fortunately, most flights going east are scheduled so that one can sleep through the night and arrive in Europe in early morning. However, sleeping on any plane is extremely difficult so I took a Benadryl shortly before my flight left New York and was able to sleep virtually the entire crossing. I couldn’t help thinking of the days when crossing the Atlantic was almost always done by ship. No doubt it was far more comfortable — though much longer — than an overnight flight.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is a bustling hub, handling hundreds of flights daily from all over Europe and back and forth to America.
Collecting my one bag (I always travel light) I headed to the bus that would carry me over to the Sixt car rental agency. Checking in to get my vehicle, I asked the clerk if he knew of a small hotel in The Hague that he could recommend as I had not made any previous reservations and wanted to get a room on the spur of the moment.
He let me know that he had a friend who worked in reservations at a small hotel named Hotel Sebel in the heart of the city and that he would be glad to give him a call to see if he had a room available for tonight. While I waited for the delivery of my BMW he made the call and beckoned me over to the desk with a smile to let me know that a room had been reserved in my name.
With the usual efficiency of most such operations in Europe, the BMW I had reserved was quickly delivered to the pick-up area and I was on my way to the FedEx center to retrieve my waiting package.
After providing the proper identification using my forged English driver’s license in the name of Michael Tallent — to whom the package had been addressed — I politely inquired as to the quickest route from Amsterdam to The Hague, which I was told was only about thirty-five miles distant. Before heading off, I set the car’s GPS to Prins Hendrikplein 20, waited for it to calibrate, and dialed the car’s radio to find some classical music to accompany me on my trip south.
I decided to make my way on to The Hague even though seeing some of the more “notorious” sights of Amsterdam might have been fun. Ah, well, who knew. I might have been able to get back to Amsterdam after the assignment was completed although my plans right then were to fly back to the States from Paris.
The trip took less than an hour and the GPS accurately guided me to the Hotel Sebel, a somewhat quaint and small hotel not far from the International Court of Justice, which I would soon be reconnoitering.
After finding an appropriate parking spot near the hotel, I checked in and was directed to a cozy room on the second floor. It was not plush by any means, but comfortable, and I did not expect that I would be spending a great deal of time there anyway. I needed to be scouting the area for my upcoming assignment.
I advised the desk clerk that I might be staying for several days and inquired if that posed any problem for other reservations they had made. He cheerfully let me know that an extended stay would be no problem at all. Following my usual routine, I also inquired as to recommendations for local eating places as the hotel did not have a restaurant. His list included Bacco Perbacco Cucina Italiana for Italian food and Lieverd, Het Gouden Kalf and Restaurant Alexander if I wanted to indulge in European and Dutch cuisine. He provided me with a city map and marked each of his recommendations.
I thanked him for his kindness and, making my way to my room, knew that I could also utilize the map he had given me to locate a couple of the spots I had previously determined might be suitable should I decide to make use of the sniper rifle.
Since I had stopped along the road south to grab a bite to eat, I now had the afternoon to explore the neighborhood of the hotel, take in some sights, look for other likely spots to eat and just generally enjoy the city. Tomorrow would be time enough to begin checking other locales for my job.
Donning casual wear, my camera and binoculars, I left the hotel mid-morning looking all the world like any ordinary tourist and headed to a small nearby café I had spotted the previous day for a light breakfast of local fresh-baked bread topped with appelstroop or honey or hazelnut-chocolate spread and coffee, the latter of which was some of the strongest I have ever had. I felt that, after two cups which I managed to down without sugar or cream, I would be wired for a full day of exploration.
First stop, the International Court of Justice at the Peace Palace. It was easy to blend in with other tourists in the area as I utilized the camera to get images of the entrance and the surrounding grounds. It was not necessary to venture into the building as I knew that I would not be able to generate any opportunities within that confined space.
Using the binoculars, I determined that my earlier assessment of the lack of a safe and reasonable firing position from this location was accurate. No tall buildings within a safe getaway distance and too many intervening buildings which would defeat a low-angle shot.
After meandering around the grounds for a time, I headed to my nearby car for the trip to the prison at Scheveningen.
Again, as I suspected, there were no opportunities here for a long-distance shot. Not only were the surroundings inhospitable for the job, it was clear that the transfer of Stenolic from here to the court would be done within the confines of the prison, leaving me no chance for a clear shot.
It was on to plan B.