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Return Engagements (Book One) PART 25… in which I survive exposure

Picking up from Part 24, in which I prepared for my most dangerous moment.

I walked down the stairway toward chaos, which was useful. From the stairway I spotted Dorothy. And while I did my best to look like a confused businessman, I made my way almost directly toward her. I looked at my watch along the way. It was 11:59.

“Take this please.” I handed her two small reels of movie film. “And please get this started immediately.”

Then I handed my rucksack to the man with her. He nodded his agreement to hold it.

She smiled, then stepped in front of the cameras and started talking. I noticed that a young man standing near me was Joel Daley, one of the nightly newsreaders of my youth. I slid over to him and discretely handed him my last reel of film.

“And now,” I heard her say, “here is my source. He has a statement to make and will then answer your questions.”

Game time.

* * * * *

I began by telling the cameras the same thing I told the Roundtable: that I was told in advance and that I went to Dallas with a small team.

And I added, “I have done these things as a private citizen, not as an agent of the US government and certainly not as the agent of any foreign government.

“I’m here to tell you the truth of what happened. But more important than that, I am advising you not to turn dark, angry and hateful. You’ve been lied to and an innocent man, John Kennedy, has been murdered. Clearly anger is understandable. But if you dwell in it, you poison yourselves and you poison the future.

“Please understand I’m not advising you to ignore these crimes or to let anyone off the hook – clearly the men behind this are evil, and passing over their crimes would lead to disaster – but I don’t want you to become hateful. The American people should learn from this, not descend into a hate-filled mob. I encourage you to do what is right for the sake of justice, safety and posterity and not out of hate and revenge. Not because the killers deserve it, but because your children deserve that example.”

I was very pleased with that statement. I had written it beforehand of course, but I said it from the heart, not from notes.

After a pause, I asked for questions. In the face of at least a dozen half-screaming reporters, I realized that I’d have to choose, and so I started with Joel Daley, to whom I had just handed the film.

“What’s on the film?”

“The film begins, Mr. Daley,” (I realized that I had no explicable way of knowing his name, but confident that would be lost in the general confusion) “with Mr. Oswald sitting in what’s called the ‘sniper’s nest,’ setting up to shoot into Houston Street. If you check the view from there, you’ll see that this was a ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ situation. It is clearly the shot that any assassin would choose.”

Pens were scribbling all across the room.

I continued, “Mr. Oswald waits for a good while and then leans back from his scope, which sends Mr. Wallace into a rage. I can’t really make out his words from the film, but perhaps an expert can.

“Then Mr. Oswald retracts the rifle altogether, prompting Mr. Wallace, a much larger man, to toss him out of the sniper’s nest bodily. Mr. Wallace is hard to see for a few seconds and Mr. Oswald disappears.

“And then Wallace returns with what looks to me like another rifle. He squats down uncomfortably in front of the window and fires off two or three shots, as the motorcade drives away down Elm Street. Then he runs out of our camera’s view. It appears to me that he tosses his rifle on top of some boxes, but again, experts may see it differently. The film continues and ends with images from the front of the Book Depository.”

I quickly pointed to someone else.

“When can we get this film?”

“Which news organization are you with?” I asked.

“NBC,” he said.

This was the moment I had been waiting for.

“Ah, your network already has the film. It was delivered to them this morning.”

That was followed by representatives of the other networks screaming.

“NBC, ABC, CBS and even WGN have all received it.”

Then I watched for the feds in the room to rush for telephones, which several did.

Today confusion is my friend.

I was going to ask for one more question when a young lady looked directly at me and said, “Who did this?”

Everyone else heard it too and instinctively stopped. Her plaintive tone of voice and sincerity were perfect.

“I can’t tell you for sure, Miss, and this is for all of you to solve, not me… but the obvious instigator is Lyndon Johnson. He had the presidency to gain and probable disgrace to avoid. Furthermore, you should know that as a human being, he is despicable. There are people all through Washington and Texas who can give you disturbing details if they care to… if they’re not too terrified… and I’ll leave them to rise to the occasion. You can start by looking into Mr. Wallace.

“And you can also look at the vaunted Mr. Hoover. How and when he came into this crime I don’t know, but he has clearly gone wild trying to kill this story. He wouldn’t do that if he didn’t have a great deal to lose. And I will also suggest that you consider why he hasn’t gone after or even acknowledged the criminal organizations Mr. Robert Kennedy has pursued. Let’s just say that Mr. Hoover has skeletons in his closet, that there are many people who know but that they also have been terrified of speaking.

“Now, one last statement, please… a request… two requests…

“First, please remember what I said about hate. It is a poison that America does not need… that the future does not need. And second, my life is in jeopardy because of this. I really have nothing else to say about the assassination, but the criminals and their friends are likely to seek revenge.

“So, please do me a favor and begin milling about vigorously, moving outside, and milling about vigorously there. Be careful not to hurt each other, but please help me get away without being kidnapped or killed. Thank you.”

* * * * *

And mill about, they did. I gave Dorothy a quick kiss on the cheek, took the bag from her friend and knelt down as if tying my shoes. Then I walked on my knees through the crowd while tossing off my jacket and tie, donning a hat and glasses and putting on a greenish nylon jacket.

In the thickest part of the crowd I stood, tossed my bag to the wall and made my way out and down the stairs to the Illinois Central station. I went immediately toward the side entry – the one only regular riders know – and caught the first train available. (All trains head south from that station.)

I had to take a circuitous route to get back to La Villita, but 90 minutes later I was ordering tacos, tostadas and horchata at a local diner. I went to my apartment, turned on the TV and pulled out some good brandy. I toasted all my friends in abstentia and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. I had done the job and I had survived.

Wow.

* * * * *

(Available now on Kindle)

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