After a tense day of fast-traveling speculation about the Washington Monument takeover by a man or men threatening with explosives, it was Vice President George Bush who delivered the final news to the cream of the capital.
At a black-tie dinner in his honor, hosted by Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, the vice president first noted that Zia had managed to see a little bit of everything on this trip, including the siege of the Washington Monument.
"I would only like to express to our Pakistani friends that although we seemed relaxed, the Washington Monument is a symbol for all of us," Bush told the several hundred hushed guests at the Madison Hotel. "So we're relieved that the person has been taken care of.
"I don't know how to delicately put this -- the person is no longer with us."
The crowd at first started to laugh, apparently not realizing that Bush was saying that a man officials believed had threatened to blow up the Monument had been killed. But within a few seconds, most of the guests were consulting their dinner partners about what Bush meant.
"Was he shot?" former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski whispered across his table.
Talk of the crisis at the Monument dominated the two parties Zia hosted last night, the last leg of his first state visit here: native dress and chicken kebobs at 5 for some of the diplomatic corps, black tie and fancy salmon at 8 for the vice president.
At one point during the evening it appeared that Zia's travel plans might have to be rerouted since his helicopter was scheduled to leave this morning from the Monument grounds for Andrews Air Force Base.
"I got calls from my personnel office all day asking that we let the staff off," said OAS Secretary General Alejandro Orfila. "Our building is the same distance from the Monument as the departments of Agriculture and Commerce. But I said no. I was right, too, because nothing happened."
As Zia kissed his friends and greeted hundreds of acquaintainces at the first party, an international subdrama was being played out in the wings. Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin -- known to pick and choose his social appearances with diplomatic precision -- and Pakistani Foreign Minister Yaqub-Khan stood locked in conversation in the middle of the Washington Sheraton ballroom.
"We talked about Afghanistan," said Yaqub-Khan later, referring to the international dispute over the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan and 2.8 million Afghan refugees who have migrated to Pakistan because of it. "I told him about our proposal for indirect negotiations with the U.N. for seeking a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. One should be hopeful, but it's too early to tell. The Soviet Union takes a positive view of indirect U.N. negotiations . . . Dobrynin said it was a productive step."
Dobrynin didn't attend the Bush dinner, predominantly a gathering of Washington officials, members of Congress and cabinet members. Among those included in the traditional reciprocal event given by heads of state were Attorney General William French Smith, Labor Secretary Ray Donovan, Health and Human Services Secretary Richard Schweiker, senators John Warner (R-Va.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.) and Henry Jackson (D-Wash.)