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Return Engagements (Book One) PART 18… in which my special friends arrive

Picking up from Part 17, in which I told Michael the truth about what I was doing.

Three days before the assassination, November 19, I had all the hardware – cameras, film, lenses, tripods and carrying cases – ready and laid out. I was prepared for entry, filming and egress. And that night I put two rolls of clothing, with a gold coin inside, in the main room of my suite.

The next morning I woke early, not really expecting Jim and Robert to arrive so quickly but in expectation anyway. They hadn’t arrived, but it was a perfect time to take a long walk. So I hustled out of the hotel, picked up a coffee at a nearby restaurant, and took a leisurely walk up to Dealey Plaza like a tourist. (I had to assume the Secret Service was watching.) At this point I wasn’t looking to learn anything new, only to get comfortable with the location. I wanted the comfort that comes through repetition.

On the way back I stopped at the restaurant again, this time sitting down for breakfast and reading the local papers, which were half devoted to the president’s upcoming visit. There was nothing to learn, but it did connect me to the people of Dallas… or so it seemed.

Back at the hotel, I began writing my scripts: first for myself operating solo, then for the three of us working as a team. In the afternoon I was called downstairs to take delivery of a bicycle I ordered and chained it up in the basement. Then I went back to my scripts, and by sunset I had them completed, triple-verified and rewritten for clear penmanship. I was as ready as I could be.

Michael and I had agreed on no phone calls between Dallas and Chicago, just in case someone decided to check me out. We needed a clean firewall. Nonetheless, I wrote Mike a letter that I was confident he’d get the day after the assassination. I wrote the letter with that in mind, then I walked down to the lobby and got it into the mail.

Tomorrow would be a day for preparing myself: some light exercise in the morning, nourishing meals, a nap if at all possible, and an early bedtime. Whether my friends showed up or not, I’d be in the game the day after, and it would be intense.

* * * * *

At about 11:00 I heard rustling in the other room. I had been sleeping well and more or less ignored it at first. But it continued.

Then I heard a voice saying, “Do you think we should wake him?”

“I think you already did,” I said in a half-awake voice.

The door opened and I saw the two of them, radiant in their expressions. They apologized for the late hour, saying that it was the best they could do. I told them not to worry about it, showed them the scripts, and excused myself to go to the bathroom.

I was still incompletely awake when I reemerged, but these two were like 10-year-old boys eager to play some awesome game.

“Is there anything we can do now?” they asked.

I sat on the couch and pulled up my mental overview of the mission.

“Do you know how to use a camera?” I asked.

“No,” Robert quickly responded, “but if you give Jim a quick explanation, he’ll be able to. He’s very good at such things.”

Jim nodded enthusiastically.

And so I began giving Jim a quick overview. (Professional-level cameras in 1963 required the proper use of f-stops and exposure settings.) He asked no questions, then declared that he was ready.

I must have stared at him for a while, because I could see Robert, who was sitting a few feet to my right, gesturing ever so slightly to Jim, telling him to be still and let me sort things.

I turned to Robert with my conclusion: “That’s not hyper-intelligence as much as it is unhindered intelligence, right?”

“Yes,” he said. “Your people have a lot of background confusion in you… background noise; more than you generally perceive. As you drop it, you’ll become much more efficient at such things.”

“Thanks,” I said, then got back to the mission they were so excited about.

I gave them the address of the Carousel Club, explained what kind of place it was, and described both Oswald and Ruby in some detail. In just five minutes I think they understood almost as well as I did.

Then I gave them a key to the room, some cash, a backpack to hide the camera, and told them I was going back to bed.

They were excited, but I was sleepy.

* * * * *

I woke the next morning to silence in the suite. I looked at the clock and it showed almost eight o’clock, a late morning for me. I walked quietly to the door between my bedroom and the main area of the suite and peaked out. They were crashed on the couches like a couple of college kids.

And so I went forward with my routine. I did my stretches and exercises, then shaved and showered. When I stuck my head back out an hour later, they were still asleep. And so I lay back down myself.

It was after eleven when I heard Jim tiptoeing into the bathroom. I rolled out of bed and walked to the main room, where I found Robert rolling out of bed himself.

“What time did you guys get back?” I asked, half reminding myself that these were beings from another world.

“Almost three AM,” he said, then broke into a smile. “And we got photos of your guys.”

“You did!?” I was instantly fully awake.

If they had photos of Oswald and Ruby together, that changed everything.

He smiled more broadly. “We definitely did. It took a long time…”

I involuntarily shook my head, imagining advanced beings in a burlesque house.

“Yeah,” he said, obviously inferring my thoughts, “not our usual. We acted as if we had drinking problems and got drinks without liquor.”

“Good idea.”

“Thanks.” Then he smiled with slightly humorous intent. “The women were very pretty of course.”

At that we both laughed and I added, “Thank God some things never change, huh?”

“Indeed,” he said, “indeed.” Then he got somber. “All of them were wounded, though. That’s fairly standard for this era?”

“As best I know, yes.”

We both paused a few beats, mourning.

“But what happened after the girls?”

“Well, we waited a long time, and then we saw them walk inside. Right away Jim went out with the camera and found a good spot just around the corner. He waited there until they emerged a good while later.”

I stood and started pacing.

“Wow.”

“He got four clear shots of them talking, two more that may or may not be useful because of the angle, and then a few of Oswald getting into a car driven by a third man.”

“It was a man, not a lady?”

That would mean it wasn’t his wife or Mrs. Paine. With just this I had enough to blow the official story out of the water.

“Definitely a middle-aged man,” he said.

I paced the room more, muttering a little and calming myself.

“We pulled the film from the camera, marked it O-slash-R and put it in the travel bag you seemed to have dedicated to that,” he said pointing.

“You guys are wonderful,” I said. “This is a really good start.”

I quickly debated mailing the film to Michael for safekeeping but decided instead just to stay with the plan.

Simple, simple, simple, I repeated to myself.

* * * * *

“You’re going to need one of us in the office at the Records building.”

I turned to look at Robert. “You’re that certain?”

“It’s your plan of course. We’ll help you either way, but if anything goes wrong, you’re not likely to emerge from that building very well without one of us.”

I looked at Jim, who was nodding.

“Besides, it would be useful to have someone to use the movie camera intelligently, not just to leave it in one position.”

I started nodding my own head, thinking that he was right.

“Then let’s rewrite the scripts, I suppose.”

“I’ll come with you,” Jim said. “If that’s okay. Robert will do better in the crowd than I will.”

And so it was decided. Jim would shoot the School Book Depository windows and then the front of the building with the 16mm movie camera. I’d cover the car, the grassy knoll and the pergola with my telephoto-equipped Nikon. Robert would be on his own with another camera, working by feel.

I spent another hour telling them everything I could think of about who would be in the area: the Umbrella Man, the Babushka Lady, the Newmans, Abe Zapruder, and so on.

* * * * *

I normally sleep very well. On this night, however, sleep didn’t come to me, for obvious reasons.

We’d had a calm evening. All our plans had been made, reviewed multiple times and put aside till show time. The three of us shared a nice dinner in the room and even watched some TV. (They were curious about it.) All of that should have led me directly to sleep, but again, for obvious reasons, it did not.

After I had lain in bed awake for some time, I heard a knock on my door.

“Feels to me like you could use some help sleeping.”

It was Robert, whom I was learning to recognize as a somewhat more advanced being than Jim… and wondered whether that was why I felt a bit more kinship with Jim, his being closer to me in that way.

“Come on in, Robert. You are quite right. I’ll take the help.”

He walked in, grinning slightly and carrying the small desk chair. And then he sat next to my bed and started telling me what it’s like to travel through interstellar space.

I wish I could recount here what he told me, but it was said not just with words, but with impressions… impressions I was able to sense. That made remembering the words by themselves difficult. In fact, I had a hard time retaining very much of the experience. The reason, I think, is that it was something I had no prior experience with. It had no root to hold to in me… or at least not a lot.

He explained that in deep space “pressures” upon us are gone… that our bodies, our minds, and even our DNA slowly relax toward more ideal forms. The impression I got with this description, however, was profound: that my progress would be less about pushing and striving and more about extracting myself from contrary forces and circumstances… that the good is already in me… I don’t need to find it, I merely need to unpack it and engage it.

He described the black of deep space and the pinpoint stars at unfathomable distances, and the clear sense of looking into the black… not just into distance, but into eternity.

I sensed him leaving the room from behind closed eyes and dreamed of flying.

* * * * *

(Available now on Kindle)

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