Washington, DC – Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, 12:30 a.m. EST
Nou Channarong jaywalked across Pennsylvania and 18th toward the World Bank. In the intersection, he glanced over his shoulder. Traffic was thin after midnight, even two blocks from the White House. A lone taxi slowed as it approached, but Channarong shook his head. The taxi sailed onward.
The main entrance of the Bank lay on H Street, a half a block more. When Channarong entered, he greeted the night guards and raised his hands to show he had no bags. Engrossed in a conversation, they ushered him through the metal detector. An Executive Director, he was one of the most important people in the building, and they knew who the tall, impeccably dressed man was. The guards bid him goodnight, failing to note the mild alteration in his gait, the result of too much scotch.
Channarong traversed the empty lobby and rode the elevator upstairs. As soon as he arrived on his floor, he heard vacuums growling. The cleaning team was still at work.
A janitor darted out of one of the doorways. Wearing grey coveralls and sturdy construction boots, he was carrying a bag of trash. “Oh. Good evening, Professor Channarong,” he said. “Sorry we aren’t finished. We can come back later. Please,” he added, gesturing for Channarong to walk by. “We’ll be heading downstairs shortly.”
“Wonderful,” Channarong said, mustering a smile for the kind, bear-like man. “Thank you, Mike.”
Channarong unlocked his office, entered and loosened his tie. Then he poured himself another scotch from a bottle he kept stowed in his coat closet and sat at his desk. Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on the blotter and perched his forehead on his fingertips. His slumped posture bore no resemblance to the confident swagger of his public persona. His thick, straight black hair lay tousled, while sweat shimmered on his neck and cheeks. He sat back. Swirling the amber drink, he stared out the wall of glass. After a few minutes, he downed the more-than-double shot. His wrist shook as he returned the empty glass to its coaster.
He opened the top desk drawer and removed his fountain pen. Out of a side drawer, he pulled two sheets of letterhead and proceeded to write two letters. When he was finished, he folded the letters neatly in thirds, sealed them in World Bank envelopes, addressed them and placed them in his out box. More satisfied than he had felt in months, Channarong gazed at the city lights once more. He finally knew what to do.
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