This arti­cle is part 5 of 8 in the series The Hague Massage

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.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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