It was a cold and rainy day. My heart raced as I zoomed around dirty snow banks in my shiny Mini Cooper, across the Roosevelt Bridge, past Watergate and stoic memorials, with the nation’s Capitol looming large in the fog ahead. When I reached D.C.’s resurgent Chinatown, I met another operative at our pre-designated location. It had been over a decade since our last joint mission, but I spotted her, at the bar, of course, in a trench coat and leather boots. She had a new disguise, replete with long, blonde tresses. We caught up over martinis (liquid courage), avoiding discussion of what we’d been working on since we’d last met. Instead, we reminisced in a sort of cryptic code: “Remember that cockfight in Tijuana?”
Most of the above is true. Only it wasn’t a fancy sports car; more like a mommy wagon. We had caipirhinas instead of martinis, followed by a mighty fine lunch at one of Chinatown’s latest hotspots. We hadn’t really been to Tijuana, but that was an old joke from years ago that came in handy for this write-up. The rest of it is true though.
My real mission that day was research for today’s blog. Washington, D.C., has so many interesting cultural attractions, it was difficult to narrow it down to just one for this piece. But there was a relatively new offering I’d been wanting to check out for some time.
The International Spy Museum is a sleek new museum in D.C.'s Penn Quarter, nestled among the National Science Museum, the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, the Newseum (devoted exclusively to news media), and Madame Tussauds. As a crime writer, one of the offerings at the Spy Museum that attracted me was the opportunity to actually experience being a spy. The museum offers several “sightseeing” packages that for an additional price above regular admission equip visitors with a COBRA-brand GPS device and clears them to take part in a two-hour counterintelligence operation. Oh, what fun!
We were supposed to be on the lookout for another operative, someone leaning against a subway sign reading a newspaper, but we sort of sidelined at the memorial. It really was a cold and rainy day, which I thought quite enhanced the experience until my hands froze, as did my GPS. We returned to the museum to turn in our devices, disappointed that we hadn’t completed our spy missions but ready to return for another visit. Then we zipped over to Zola, the sleek bar adjacent to the museum. Amid its elegant décor of secret code, foreign scripts, and red velvet, we downed smooth martinis (the real thing, this time), surrounded by windows overlooking a grand Smithsonian building.
All in all, a worthwhile day in one of the world’s truly most mysterious cities.