JFK Redux: An Episodic Micro-Fiction Series

JFK Redux

Episode 1:

We killed him because we wanted to, because he obstructed us. He wanted one thing and we wanted another and he knew that and planned to remove us and to eliminate us and he had the power to do that. So we killed him.

Episode 2:

In broad daylight for everyone to see. To the north, at places off Cape Cod along Nantucket Sound named Martha’s Vineyard and Hyannis Port and in places to the south, first in San Antonio and then Ft. Worth, and in Palm Beach, we could sense the dread of his presence. But over Dallas, we would be king and with gunmen en route, the sun began to gleam.

Episode 3:

Dallas, Texas

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

6:47 AM, EST / 7:47 AM, CST

There are the six of them, now fully operational, each fully authorized and deadly. There will be two more, hidden, directly across from him and under the street, sight on, aligned with the x we marked in the street. And another will search out and gun down Tippit, the one who could be his double, our default if we blow his head off, and I will be on the street close to the depository.

Episode 4:

CBS News

524 West 57th Street

Hell’s Kitchen

Manhattan, NY

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

7:47 AM, EST / 8:47 AM, CST

As he enters the nearly block-long facility on E. 57th, outside temperatures throughout the day will range from the low 50’s to the low 60’s. In the lobby before catching the elevator, he takes a moment to adjust his thick black-rimmed glasses, tucks the NY Times under his right arm and, slipping his left arm across his body, fumbles for his pipe in a side pocket. For an instance, for a brief moment, he stands there, still like a granite statue, implacable, unmovable, arms crossed as if nothing in the world can move him.

Episode 5:

His name is Walter Cronkite.

He is forty-six years old and a stickler for accuracy. And he brings with him a title from his newspaper days, MANAGING EDITOR, a title that gives him absolute control of the newsroom, a title that means that he, and him only, can pick and choose what he reports and the stories that will air, a title he secures in negotiations when he tailors the job to suit his unnerving drive to be trustworthy.

Episode 6:

Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana

Home of the Assiniboine or Nakoda, and the Gros Ventre, the A’aninin or “People of the White Clay.”

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

8:47 AM, EST/ 7:47 AM, CST /6:47 AM, MST

“In this world, time comes upon all of us,” the White Clay man said to him in Great Falls, when they met Sept 26, 1963, on the tarmac when the President came to Montana on the Presidential plane, the first of two things he wanted to tell him, the second he senses he should tell him today.

This that now overwhelms him he wanted to say, “A balancing shall come in lightning to you and make you light.”

But he is in Montana and the President he knows in Texas and he will talk to the tribal old man and he will know how to get the words to him.

Episode 7:

Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana

Home of the Assiniboine or Nakoda, and the Gros Ventre, the  A’aninin or “People of the White Clay”

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

9:47 AM, EST /8:47 AM, CST / 7:47 AM, MST

The old man holds the flint and points the flint at the tree, a lone cottonwood, dried and bare, at the edge of the riverbank, a good quarter of a mile, maybe a half or more where the grassland ends.

Something happens in the air, something goes out of the flint and as the White Clay man watches the tree explodes branches and timber and disappears where the grassland ends at the edge of riverbank.

I will send this message, he says to the White Clay man, “The great day of many balancing in which you shall be light and lightened is this day, and this message I will send to his heart.”

Episode 8:

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

10:47 AM, EST / 9:47 AM, CST / 8: 47 AM, MST / 7:47 AM, PST

Oberlin College, Oberlin Ohio a little southwest of Cleveland, on about 440 acres, a little less than 3,000 students and I love speaking in the Finney Chapel, I’ve done so one time previously and I’m to receive an honorary degree on November 14, 1963, Roy Wilkins from the NAACP and Malcolm X from the Black Muslims would speak later in the month, when I get the flu and can only give a two-minute speech at Oberlin in the Chapel that November 14th.

And I’m feeling a little low yet this morning in Atlanta but get to feeling better when I get the idea to think of the Pacific Ocean, big and wild and free and I say to Coretta that we ought to go out there sometime but today I’m going to lay low and stay quiet.

And she says now Martin, that’s all right, we can take time and I can’t stop thinking about the Pacific and freedom and how the waves slap hard and over time wear down everything and how that if you’re free you can work your life out and that you can climb a mountain when you’re free and how when you’re up above everything and free, everything comes clear to you and you know what to do, above all other things, and how that one thing to do fits like mortar between rocks and makes you who you are, free and standing upright with no bend in your legs, and for no reason at all, I remember that President Kennedy will be in Dallas today, and something passes in front of my eyes like a bolt of lightning, quick and fast, micro-second fast like I never experienced before, so fast and with no sound at all.

Episode 9:

CBS News

524 West 57th Street

Hell’s Kitchen

Manhattan, NY

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

10:47 AM, EST / 9:47 AM, CST / 8: 47 AM, MST / 7:47 AM, PST

After a long, hot summer, late Autumn cools, the sycamore, maples and oaks that surround the island earlier in the month in brilliant reds and oranges, look muddy, washed out, left out in the sun too long and, if the original inhabitants, the native Lenape, continued to trade with the early French, English and Dutch settlers, The Wickquasgeck Trail, which ran fifteen miles north and south through thick forest and swampland across the island, would be packed with harvest, melons and squash, potatoes, thick, leafy beets the size of a blacksmith’s hammer and green and yellow and red, purple colored corn, kernels bursting sweet, ripened in deep, moist soils and onions as big as a hound’s head.

Unlike summer, mid-morning is clear and crisp without a drop of precipitation and out along the ocean, beyond Long Beach, the boats and yachts clearly visible at more than three miles under a clear sky and a light 5 to 7 mile an hour breeze that will peak at 12 miles an hour while up above Manhattan, Cronkite finishes a brief conversation with a Dallas affiliate and asks an assistant to get New Orleans Bureau Chief Dan Rather, coordinating locations sites in Dallas, on the line before Kennedy’s scheduled arrival at Love Field.

Like everyone who knows Cronkite’s command of the newsroom, his assistant jumps, moving with purpose, moved by something unseen that propels the day forward less than a week before the great national feast, Thanksgiving.

Episode 10:

Washington, D.C.

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

10:47 AM, EST / 9:47 AM, CST / 8: 47 AM, MST / 7:47 AM, PST

Like the Algonquian, the Piscataway built log houses, living near and round, farming mostly, nurturing the soil and the waterway in kindness to the earth mother, what would become known as the Potomac and Washington, the successor invader capitol and though unknown to most, though photographed, the President’s son John-John and his sister Caroline played in the oval office hiding under the big desk, a long house of their own.

Their birthdays, within days of one another, Caroline’s on Nov. 27th and John-John’s, the 25th, the two Kennedy kids, Caroline going on 6 and John John nearing three, mean presents and family when Jack and Jackie return from Dallas. Playful and inquisitive, a bit on the serious side, Caroline readies for her first sleepover at best friend Agatha Pozen’s whose mother will pick her up a little before noon accompanied by Secret Service agent Tom Wells, part of the round-the-clock Kennedy “kiddie detail” and Mrs. Shaw, Maud Shaw, John-John’s nanny since birth, gets a smile on her face when John-John says ‘look at me, I’m an airplane’ and goes racing across the floor, his little legs churning, his arms outstretched like wings, pushing air through his lips, a secret pilot on a secret mission, a gleam in his eyes that lightens her face like something wispy passes.

Episode 11:

Dallas

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

10:49 AM, EST / 9:49 AM, CST / 8: 49 AM, MST / 7:49 AM, PST

We’ve got six of them covering the motorcade and two more hidden under the manhole cover directly across the X we marked on the street will make eight.

Deputy Sheriff Harry Weatherford will be on top of the County Records Building, from the US Air Force, marksman Jack Lawrence will be at the south end of the Triple Underpass, my boy Tony “Nestor” Izquierdo will fire non-silenced bullets from the Dal-Tex building and being non-silenced making our cover story, those three shots everyone will hear and will be key to cover story build out, everyone else, Weatherford, Lawrence, we make sure will use silencers, and Mac Wallace, Lyndon’s boy from the School Book Depository, Sturgis at the north end of the Triple Bypass and Roscoe White with the CIA firing from the Grassy Knoll will use silencers.

Then we’ve got the two under the street lined up for the head shot and they’ll use silencers and Oswald will fall into the cover story and I’ll be on the street watching with everything waiting at Parkland after Liddy takes Tippit and this is all going to happen today, necessary to fulfill our larger goal and in service to our higher purpose.

Episode 12:

At Hickory Hill, McLean Virginia

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

10:52 AM, EST / 9:52 AM, CST / 8: 52 AM, MST / 7:52 AM, PST

He’s had his 38th birthday on the 20th, two days earlier, and after the battles in the early summer, he’s got Mafioso Carlos Marcello where he wants him – in a New Orleans courtroom and about to be deported – and awaits US Attorney Robert Morgenthau and an aide for lunch, back-yard patio styled tuna-fish sandwiches.

For Robert F. Kennedy, the nation’s Attorney General who insists that Hoover, head of the FBI, call him the “General”, a final task before Jack’s 2nd term – getting rid of the unsavory Vice-President, Lyndon Baines Johnson – remains.

Unseasonably warm this late in November, the air sticky and heavy along the Potomac like New Orleans he imagines, another area of McLean known as Langley hosts the Central Intelligence Agency, where inside the sprawling complex the air is cool, almost cold, almost dead cold like a morgue.

Episode 13:

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

10:55 AM, EST / 9:55 AM, CST / 8: 55 AM, MST / 7:55 AM, PST

As notes bleed into the next, combined notes linger become past present become present past become future present become symphony, trees root and footsteps cover the earth settling as Wampanoag in what becomes known as Hyannis Port, as Ciboney in what becomes known as Cuba, as Saami in what becomes known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, past in present and present in future, an unspoken root language, earth destiny, a human earth path unfurls.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. Hyannis Port, Mass, 44th United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Kennedy family patriarch, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, Republica de Cuba, Premier, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Chairman of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian SFR and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Premier, without knowing but bound to a path walked by the Wampanoag, the Ciboney and the Saami, face an unfolding destiny, a common alchemy’s past, present and future symphony.

In Hyannis Port, hope, in Cuba, possible reconciliation with the U.S advanced by secret negotiation, in the Kremlin, an ending of the Cold War, these stakes blend, carried by the footsteps of the Wampanoag, the Ciboney, the Sammi and the unknown, a message of the heart cutting across the high plains towards the south central part of the country, carried by the wind and the fervent intent of an old and wise man in Montana.

Episode 14:

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

10:59 AM, EST / 9:59 AM, CST / 8: 59 AM, MST / 7:59 AM, PST

The morning is dreary and rain-flecked in Ft Worth, Texas when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy gives an impromptu speech to more than 2,000 people in a parking lot at the Hotel Texas.

U.S. Rep Jim Wright, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, U.S. Senator Ralph W. Yarborough, Texas Governor John Connally, in beige-colored raincoats watch as the sky clears, the sun beams when President Kennedy, in suit and tie only, says, “I appreciate you being here this morning. Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself … It takes longer but of course she looks better than we do when she’s done.”

In Suite 850 at the Hotel Texas the night before, as patrons unveil An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. Kennedy that features 16 works by Europeans Vincent Van Gogh, Raoul Dufy, Claude Monet, Henry Moore, Eros Pellini, Pablo Picasso and Americans Thomas Eakins, Marsden Hartley, Franz Kline, Charles Russell and ex-pat Lyonel Feininger, FBI Chief Hoover, LBJ, ex V.P Nixon, Dallas politicos and lawmen, CIA insiders, Mafioso, corporate insiders, military higher-ups and big dollar oil men begin a private celebration under cover of night, wind beginning to pick up, about 10 miles an hour, strange for this time of year and one of them, aloof from the others, stands back and marvels at what will be his and his family’s.

Episode 15:

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

11:04 AM, EST / 10:04 AM, CST / 9:04 AM, MST / 8:04 AM, PST

Everything timed, military precise. Departure from Ft. Worth, 13 minutes flight time, arrival in Dallas, Houston St onto Elm, open fire, 16 shots, to the X we marked on Elm, simultaneous head shots, to Parkland, disposal of Tippit, arrival of plastic surgeon, capture Oswald, switch caskets, transport to Bethesda.

Everything fast in the newsrooms, get the story out, one story, same story, 3 shots, ABC in the bag, NBC in the bag, 3 shots, 3 shots, Cronkite will fall in line at CBS, the secret – get the story out fast, build that story, get the 3 shots into the minds of the people, 3 shots, 3 shots, 3 shots, Oswald, Oswald, Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald, communist agitator, connected to Cuba, to the USSR, and I’ll coordinate from the street, clock’s ticking, countdown, follow Bernays, T minus.

Episode 16:

CBS News

524 West 57th Street

Hell’s Kitchen

Manhattan, NY

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

11:10 AM, EST / 10:10 AM, CST / 9:10 AM, MST / 8:10 AM, PST

Thumbing through a White House press release, waiting for Rather to check in, this a day after they run the first-ever feature about the Brit singing group The Beatles, Cronkite finds himself reflecting on his interview, the inaugural CBS half-hour nightly news broadcast, with the President September 2nd on the lawn outside Brambletyde house, off the ocean at Squaw Island, Hyannis Port.

Mary Elizabeth was with him that day. Married on March 30, 1940, they’d been inseparable and in seeing the President and Jackie that day he remembered Jack’s infectious smile, the brightness in his eyes, when he talked about Jackie and Caroline and John John before the cameras started rolling.

Episode 17:

CBS News

524 West 57th Street

Hell’s Kitchen

Manhattan, NY

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

11:15 AM, EST / 10:15 AM, CST / 9:15 AM, MST / 8:15 AM, PST

Someone says Rather’s on one and Mary Elizabeth’s on two and Cronkite instinctively reaches for two.

“I’ve got it,” she says, “just the one we wanted and we can wrap it together when you get home” and he thanks her and as he jumps on line one an aide passes by, gives him a thumbs up, saying, “The Beatles are gonna be big. You made the right call on that!”

Before he can ask, Rather says, “The crowds could be bigger than we imagined.”

Episode 18:

Hotel Texas, Suite 850

Fort Worth

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

11:25 AM, EST / 10:25 AM, CST / 9:25 AM, MST / 8:25 AM, PST

“Sir,” George Thomas, the President’s valet since his days in the Senate, says, “If you’re sure, we’ll have to hurry. By my clock, motorcade’s leaving for Carswell in fifteen minutes.”

With that, the President says, “I feel good, I feel light today,” and Thomas begins unhitching the straps, coarse white fiber, stays and buckles and steel ramrods that fashion the back brace, a corset really, that wraps around him, chest to hips, keeping an eye on the clock as the President keeps talking, telling George that he’s going to make sure he returns to Montana during his 2nd term, that he wants Jackie to see the high mountains and the native people.

Episode 19:

CBS News

524 West 57th Street

Hell’s Kitchen

Manhattan, NY

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

11:40 AM, EST / 10:40 AM, CST / 9:40 AM, MST / 8:40 AM, PST

“How many” Walter Cronkite says and Rather strings words together, “Fifty at least, fifty thousand and more, we’ll top out over a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty by the time the motorcade gets close to the Adolphus Hotel on Commerce, right by Dealey Plaza, there’s people everywhere.”

Walter grabs a piece of paper and scribbles, Do the story right, Walter. Find the story, stay with this, something’s happening.

Episode 20:

Dallas

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963

12:38 PM, EST / 11:38 AM, CST / 10:38 AM, MST / 9:38 AM, PST

This place Dallas, known by the Wichita, Comanche, Caddo, Cherokee and smaller tribes, not home to any, instead acted as a crossroads and today, as Air Force One rests on the tarmac at Love Field, The President and the 1st Lady mingling with welcoming crowds, Dallas Deputy Sheriff Harry Weatherford, atop the Dallas County Records Building, slips a silencer onto his Mannlicher-Carcano, from the south end of the Triple Bypass, U.S. Air Force marksman Jack Lawrence adjusts a riflescope, Tony “Nestor” Izquierdo fiddles with a Mannlicher-Carcano from inside the Dal-Tex Building, a CIA front, and Mac Wallace at the Texas School Book Depository, Frank Sturgis at the north end of the Triple Bypass and Roscoe White at the Grassy Knoll locate triangulated shooting positions while two solitary figures, lugging rifles, work their way through a drainage tunnel.

Despite the crowds and warming temperatures under a clear sky, a light cool breeze brushes against the President causing him to remember his earlier campaign stop in Great Falls, Montana.

As he turns to Jackie, pivoting with ease, unrestrained by his cumbersome back brace, he ingests the breeze, feeling better than he has for years.

Episode 21:

1:25 PM, EST / 12:25 PM, CST / 11:25 AM, MST / 10:25 AM, PST

Standing on the front steps of the Texas School Book Depository, Lee Oswald watches the Presidential motorcade approach on Houston St as Dallas Deputy Sheriff Harry Weatherford, atop the Dallas County Records Building, prepares his first shot.

Up the street from Oswald, toward Main, a slim, lanky man, white-shirted with a tie, stands impassively, eyes slightly downward and then toward the Depository and the Records Building and then towards the curve where Houston turns into Elm, straining to see beyond, in the general direction of the Triple Overpass and the Grassy Knoll as William Greer, piloting the Presidential limousine, gleaming in the sun, the President and the 1st Lady sitting behind Texas Governor John Connally waving to the cheering crowds, feels a sudden chill when a gust of cool air, somehow in the midst of the crowds and the cheering and applauding and the sunshine, brushes against his face and seems to settle behind him, as if part of the car possesses a lazy self-assured coolness.

And this comes to pass, the lanky man thinks, this day, as he watches the Presidential limousine pass in front of him, his eyes now steadily down cast, this time and I shall become head of intelligence and I shall become President and my sons shall become Presidents and we shall turn the world this day he thinks as Mary Elizabeth Cronkite surprises Walter, deciding impulsively to show him the gift she purchased on their behalf, knowing in three days the birthday gift will be perfect and surprise all of them, and sees Walter sitting there in the middle of the horseshoe shaped newsdesk, scanning copy and then looking up, happy to see her.

Episode 22:

1:26 PM, EST / 12:26 PM, CST / 11:26 AM, MST / 10:26 AM, PST

As William Greer makes the slow turn from Houston onto Elm, Abraham Zapruder stands on a concrete pedestal on the east side of Elm just off Dealey Plaza, nearly opposite a indiscrete X marked onto the street, and focuses his 414 PD Bell & Howell Zoomatic on the Presidential Limousine.

In Washington, Aggie Ponzer’s mother flips on the car radio, glancing in her rearview, watching 6 year old Aggie and best friend Caroline Kennedy playing hand games in the backseat, Secret Service Agent Tom Wells next to her, his right arm drawn across his body, his right hand resting against something inside his jacket.

In Manhattan, Bill Paley and Jim Aubrey Jr. CBS upper level management, Paley, owner and chief executive, Aubrey, network president spot the waiting Fred Friendly and Don Hewitt, both of CBS News, Friendly the news division president and Hewitt, the same division’s producer, at a back table, anxious to discuss chief competitor NBC’s nightly news broadcast, The Huntley-Brinkley report anchored by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, expanded from fifteen to thirty minutes two months earlier and surging in the ratings.

Episode 23:

1:28 PM, EST / 12:28 PM, CST / 11:28 AM, MST / 10:28 AM, PST

John John says, “I’m flying,” as he dashes to Maud Shaw, as in Hickory Hill in McLean, Bobby Kennedy tells Bob Morgenthau about Jean Daniel’s secret meeting, as they speak, with Castro in Havana, saying, “Things are thawing with Cuba,” as Joe Kennedy watches waves pile up off Hyannis Port, as Martin Luther King runs through a sermon, his voice soaring, his wife listening, as Nikita Krushchev in Moscow, after meeting with his generals, tells an aide, “The Americans and their nuclear missiles, sitting in silos in Mallstrom in Montana, Great Falls, can turn day into night on the Kremlin, 5,000 miles in twenty minutes,” and Bill Paley, serious and getting ready to pitch them hard, says to Jim Aubrey, Fred Friendly and Don Hewitt, “ABC, we don’t have to worry about, unless they get a gimmick they’ll always be No. 3, but NBC, look at their sponsorship, look at Texaco, look at ownership, Rockefeller and GE, big-time oil and guns, look at Huntley-Brinkley, we go thirty minutes prime time news, they follow, they go thirty minutes prime time news, I’m telling you, if we let them get out in front, get in front of us, go first on anything, we won’t catch up,” not one of them knowing that another message, this one aimed straight at a heart, a distance a hair under 1600 miles, Montana to Dallas and exactly on time, settles on a man in a limousine as Weatherford aims his 30.6, the first bullet fitted with a plastic collar, a sabot and Jack Lawrence, at the south end of the Triple Underpass, steadies himself, his hands shaking, sweat dribbling off his forehead as high above Manhattan, Mary Elizabeth hands a package to Walter.

And all of this while in The CITY of London, financiers combine longer range with dictates from a man unknown to the world whose allegiance rests upon the heart of Inigo de Loyola born 1491 and in the U.S., at Georgetown University, founded 1789 by John Carroll, a member of the Society of Jesus whose founder known at birth as Inigo de Loyola becomes commonly known as Ignatius of Loyola, where Professor Caroll Quigley articulates those dictates as he authors a sentence he will later edit and elongate in his 1,400 page magnum opus, Tragedy and Hope.

Puffing on a cigarette, Quigley writes, “The Radical Hidden has no aversion to cooperating with any group or numbers of groups, and frequently does so with an aim to create worldwide chaos and backs those who do.”

Episode 24:

1:30 PM, EST / 12:30 PM, CST / 11:30 AM, MST / 10:30 AM, PST

Jean Daniel smiles, thinking, there is going to be rapprochement with Cuba, Fidel Castro across from him, President Kennedy was right, there is going to be rapprochement Daniel marvels, as the first bullet to hit the President, moving at 2000 ft per second, hitting near his spine drives him forward, his back unrestrained, forcing him downwards, as other bullets explode, as Lawrence, Izquierdo, Wallace, Sturgis and White unload, bullets bouncing off curbs, fragments flying across Dealey Plaza, grazing up against curbs, flicking into bystanders, and William Greer calculating distance when Connally turning to his left as the President, the upper half of his body now leaning frontwards into Connally, sees a piece of glass lodged in the President’s throat, blood gushing and thinking his carotid, this is his carotid, when Greer stops the limousine and Connally saying no, no and from a storm drain, directly across the embedded X on Elm, two shots converge into a single blast, coming up from underground and Connally’s head spins, this way, that way, blood pouring out his head, covering the jump seats, his wife, a river of life fluid draining onto the President and the thump of a secret service agent, Clint Hill, pouncing onto the rear of the limo.

And then the screaming, the crowd, at first a few, and then en masse, walking onto the street, kneeling, praying, in shock, some running toward the Grassy Knoll, others pointing to the Dallas County Records Building, others to the Triple Bypass, some to the School Book Depository, but none to the storm drain, no one at the lanky man flipping on a sport coat and melting away, unsure whether to abort nor what to abort, while in the limo, the President struggles to breathe, tasting blood and hearing bubbles come out of his throat but remembering, his life flowing backward, the morning, the day before, individual events like lightning flowing and in the same space thinking of Jackie and Caroline and John John and his birthday and reaching back and feeling the grasp of Jackie’s hand and knowing the force against him will not stop, not with their reach or their power or their desire for endless war and who will they go after next and none of his family will be safe.

And the one the boys call JFK, J.D. Tippit, Dallas patrolman, who could pass as a double for the real JFK, hears dispatcher Murray Jackson order him and his partner R.C. Nelson to the Central Oak Cliff area, near 10th and Patton, close by the Texas Theatre and Dan Rather, disheveled, his tie loose, shirtsleeves rolled up, says, “Where will they take him” and hearing Parkland, jumps into a car.

Episode 25:

1:34 PM, EST / 12:34 PM, CST / 11:34 AM, MST / 10:34 AM, PST

Wilborn Hampton, twenty three years old, born in Dallas, a cub reporter in the Dallas office for United Press International, picks up the phone and hears Merriman Smith, UPI White House reporter shout, “3 Shots fired!”

At the same time, after being called aside by the maître d, Paley will return to the back table, taking long strides and say to Aubrey and Friendly and Hewitt, “Kennedy’s been shot, now’s our chance” while upstairs, Walter says to Mary Elizabeth, holding up the replica, “John John will love it.”

In two minutes, at 12:36 PM CST, the Presidential Limousine will arrive at Parkland Memorial Hospital and the best plastic surgeon in Dallas will receive a call ordering him to the hospital and in eleven minutes, at 12:45 PM CST, Hoover will call Bobby Kennedy and all this while in Havana the radio screams El Presidente Kennedy es muerto and Fidel Castro looks up at Daniel and says, “They’ll blame this on us and they’ll restart Vietnam” and all this while a lanky man, a sport coat over his white shirt and tie scurries up Houston, content, thinking clearly now, to abort not an option, knowing that fallback awaits at Parkland, that if they didn’t get him on the street, they’d get him in the hospital and Liddy nears 10th and Patton, waiting for Tippit, part of the fallback and in Moscow, 9 hours difference, Nikita Krushchev begins his favorite novel, Tolstoy’s War and Peace and in Washington, Aggie Ponzer’s mother turns off the car radio and does a U-turn, Caroline and Aggie in the backseat playing, Secret Service Agent Tom Allen pulling something out from under his jacket while John F. Kennedy Jr, his little legs exhausted, known as John John, lands in Maud Shaw’s waiting arms.

Episode 26:

1:47 PM, EST / 12:47 PM, CST / 11:47 AM, MST / 10:47 AM, PST

And so it comes to this, this unfathomable fallback conceived by an unknown man, the dominoes falling, first Cronkite, pushed and prodded by Paley announcing to the American public, interrupting the daytime soap As The World Turns, the network cutting away at 12:40 PM, CST, that there’s been a shooting in Dallas, that first reports indicate the President’s been shot.

Then ABC, the placemat, within minutes, the also-ran going further saying the President’s been killed, then NBC, the more authoritative, the nearly definitive, echoing those words, until there’s only Cronkite, Mary Elizabeth watching, holding the model plane, a replica Air Force One, and the name Captain John F. Kennedy Jr emblazoned just below the cockpit window, a birthday gift intended for John John, set in motion during Cronkite’s interview with the President in early September, until there’s only Cronkite holding back, not wanting to go further, not wanting to believe, telling Paley and Aubrey and Hewitt not to push him, that he will not go further.

And all of that in place, all of that moving when Bobby Kennedy, gripping the phone, hears Jackie Kennedy say, “The wound was in his throat, there and on his back and those wounds couldn’t have killed him, his pulse was strong” and realizes, his mind clicking, they have a fallback, a last man, they will send a last man, someone in the hospital, thinking, Bobby thinking, they have a fallback, someone, someone, think Bobby, think, a last man as Liddy, waiting, sights Tippit and the best plastic surgeon in Dallas slips into Parkland, and Rather, now at the hospital, the corridors overflowing with half the Dallas Police Force, sheriffs and deputies and guns, military, press, White House staffers and gowned surgeons, nurses, edging closer to a cordoned section hears a voice, a cacophony of voices shouting, “Clear the way, clear the way, clear the room, the priest is here to give last rites, clear the way, out of the room, clear the way, let the priest through, give him space, the priest only, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let the man through.”

Episode 27:

1:49 PM, EST / 12:49 PM, CST / 11:49 AM, MST / 10:49 AM, PST

Bobby Kennedy, on line with Jackie, hearing ABC then NBC declare his brother dead, 3 shots fired, a lone assassin on the loose, direct dials Cronkite on line 2 and says, “He’s alive, injured in the throat but will survive, will lose his voice.”

And Cronkite, sure, steady at his desk, his hands unshaken, in the middle of the horseshoe, linetype flying, Paley standing over him, Aubrey and Hewitt in conference with staffers, Mary Elizabeth standing near, says, “I need 3 independent confirmations and I’ve got Rather on-site who’s following the priest.”

And Bobby responds, not to Cronkite, but to Jackie, “Tell Hill to keep the priest out of the room and you go in there with Hill and Rather and call this number,” giving her Walter’s direct line, “and tell Hill to use every means to keep the priest out of the room, trust no one,” as the minutes advance on the big oval clock, mounted on the wall behind Cronkite, 12:55 … 56 … 57 …  the second hand ticking each second, the past blending into the present, the present the future past, 1:00 PM Central approaching and Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr., the son of Helen Lena and the dentist, Dr. Walter Leland Cronkite Sr. of St. Joseph, Missouri waits because he can, because his nature is to get it right.

Episode 28:

2:00 PM, EST / 1:00 PM, CST / 12:00 AM, MST / 11:00 AM, PST

“Father,” Clint Hill says into his ear, dried blood caked on his suit coat, says to the black-robed Jesuit, a long rosary wrapped around his waist, dangling to mid-thigh, says, taking the priest, one hand against his back, the other pressed against a pressure point at the base of his spine, catching him as first his legs go, then his back collapsing, a small hypodermic slipping out of his robe, taking the priest and stiff-legging him through the door, Jackie ahead of them, Rather trailing where they see the President, conscious, awake, a tube in his throat, a tracheotomy, a surgeon saying, “Crushed larynx and voice box, voiceless but he’ll live,” and already Bobby racing to the airport, giving orders, knowing he’s got to get him out of the hospital, got to move him out of the country with LBJ taking the reins and more to come, battle lines will be drawn.

And this hidden one, a practitioner of Sun Tzu and the deception in war, this follower of The Exercises first conceived of by Loyola, four weeks of intense prayer, meditation and dialogue with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus and God the Father, contemplating sins, envisioning Hell, the Passion Week, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, knowing that to bring humanity upon their knees requires worldwide chaos, this hidden one and his consorts, lawyers and doctors, university heads, politicians and military men, media, all of them educated at his schools of higher learning, at the Georgetowns, the Boston Colleges, the Loyolas, all sworn unto secrecy through The Exercises, through the constant prayer, Blood of Christ, inebriate me, on the line with The City of London, owned by those that through the eyes of the world appear as natural enemy, those children seemingly of Abraham, revels in the deeds believed complete at Parkland and a lanky man, fleeing still from Dealey Plaza, out of spite, fearing everything bungled, gives the ahead to Liddy, that even a look-alike will act as a trophy to forever shock those opposed to them and their plans.

And as Walter Cronkite waits, implacable, unmovable, Paley and Aubrey and Hewitt marveling, Bobby Kennedy whispers flight coordinates, speaks with Martin Luther King Jr. a 3rd time and Maud Shaw whisks Caroline and John John out the door and in Hyannis Port, Joe Kennedy and his wife Rose deep breathe, Rose pointing to a spot on map on the other side of the Atlantic, home country this Ireland, she says and in Montana an old wise man to himself prays a light and lightning on this first day of the great balancing and bows to the earth and as Cronkite gets the call from Hill, Rather joining in and Jackie saying yes, he rolls up his shirt sleeves, adjusts his heavy, black-rimmed glasses, Mary Elizabeth watching, holding the replica Air Force One emblazoned with John-John’s name and says, looking straight into the camera, “Today at 1:00 PM Central, CNS News can confirm that President Kennedy has survived an assassination attempt in Dallas.”


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