Thursday, 16 May 2019

Judgement Day

The multitude chattered animatedly as it waited for something to happen. Then, from the mist, a stranger appeared. He was dressed in formal evening wear, his bow tie having that slightly less than perfect quality that real ones possess. He said nothing as the crowd hushed. The silence was broken by a lone voice. 
“Who are you?”
“God,” replied the stranger.
A low murmur rippled through the crowd.
“Yeah, I know. You thought I’d have a long beard, flowing hair, one of those dress things that your priests like to wear. I’ve read your stories. Nope, not me. I prefer to dress appropriately for the occasion and the occasion is... Judgement Day.”
There was another murmur amongst the throng, but this time tinged with some apprehension.
God smiled. “Yes, Judgement Day. Don’t look so surprised. I know you’ve been expecting it. You’ve been banging on about it in your stories for centuries. So today’s the day.” He turned to his right and indicated a tall, young woman who appeared to be dressed for the occasion too, in a fine gold trimmed red dress. “This is Gaby... Gabriel’s her proper name. I guess you were all expecting a bloke but blokes don’t get called Gabr -“
There was yet another murmur.
“What?” God said. “Oh, yeah. I get it. That angel stuff you made up. You were expecting some weird looking bloke with wings!” He laughed. “Wings! That’s funny. Actually, one of the bits you did get right in your books was the God made man in his own image thing. Take a look at yourselves. I didn’t give any of you guys wings did I? I mean, that’s why you invented airplanes, wasn’t it? Anyway, we’re wasting time here... uh, not that it matters as we have plenty of it, eternity in fact... whatever that is. I don’t do time. So, yeah, Judgement Day. Gaby here is helping out with the processing. She’ll direct you to the appropriate place for judgement.” God noticed some of the crowd shuffling and getting agitated. “Hey, don’t look so worried. It’s straightforward, simple even. I like to keep things simple, unlike some of you lot.” He smiled and then raised a hand. “Okay, step forward all you who have... let’s see, given up things for Lent. Like... say, chocolate. Or, I dunno... fasted.”
A whole host of people stepped forward. Gabriel led them to one side. A voice came from the crowd. “What about semolina?”
“Semolina?” God said. “What about it?”
“I gave up semolina for lent, not chocolate.”
“Blimey, that must’ve been a hardship. Come and join these guys. I didn’t mean just chocolate.” God then turned back to the rest. “Okay, step forward all you who went to church on a Sunday or your other places of worship on whatever day of the week you decided was good.”
A whole raft of people moved forward so that the crowd diminished dramatically. Gabriel moved them to one side.
God turned to them and said. “Good. Now, we need to sub-divide you all further. So... step forward if you prayed to me and kept asking me for ‘stuff.’”
A bunch of people did so.
God continued. “Now, go over there to the right if you declared undying love for me in your prayers.” Gabriel beckoned and another bunch of people went towards her. 
“Great. Right, now go over there to the left if you regularly sang those dreary... sorry, those tuneless... I mean... if you regularly sang all those hymns in church that said how fabulously wonderful I am and used words like ‘ye’ and ‘triumphant’ and ‘adore’ and the like.” Nearly all of the remaining crowd in that section moved forward but Gabriel singled out a whole bunch of them and directed them to stand to one side.
God addressed them. “You guys, you go through that door over there. It’s marked ‘priests, vicars, evangelists, born agains, holy men’ ... and a whole lot of other titles too.”
There were barely a few people left by then and God looked at them. “I know who you guys are. You’re the ones who declared war, destruction and damnation in my name. Cool. Gabriel will show you where to go.”
When everyone had gone, God turned to the small group that was left, the group that hadn’t been able to step forward with any of the others. They were all silent, a look of trepidation on many faces. One of them, an older man, raised his hand. God spotted him and said. “Yes, what can I do for you?”
In a shaky voice he said, “What’s to become of us?” He indicated the group around him. “It seems none us has given up chocolate or semolina for Lent or fasted. None of us worshipped you at churches and things or praised you. We don’t seem to have sung a single hymn between us and I can see none of us are priests or holy men. And we don’t seem to have promoted you much... err, well, at all. And none of us went to war for you. We’re just... ordinary people. I guess we’re for the... the chop... the everlasting flame thing that we didn’t believe existed. Is that what’s to become of us?”
God laughed. “Relax my friend. The ‘everlasting flame’ thing doesn’t exist. Do you think a God who made mankind would think up such an evil punishment?”
“Well, no, I didn’t,” the man replied, “but Gabriel has taken all those people away who did all that good stuff and we’re left here.”
“Good stuff? Those people have been taken away to be judged. Judged on their deeds, not their religions. You guys get a straight pass into the place they called ‘heaven.’ And you know why?”
The man looked puzzled but relieved, as did many of the remaining crowd. “No... why?”
“I’ll tell you why. Because you are good people. You led good lives. You looked out for other people. You didn’t go larging it up with all that charity stuff but when a helping hand was needed, you offered it; when a word or two of comfort was required, you said it; and sometimes you went out of your way to help; sometimes you just smiled at your fellow human and made them smile too; you made them laugh and you helped when they had a tear. And best of all... you used the brain I gave you to think for yourself; you didn’t blindly, unquestioningly follow all that man-made religion nonsense that the deluded created to keep you in check. And you certainly didn’t try to impose beliefs on others. You were free spirits, giving rein to that spirit whilst remembering your place in the big scheme. Sure, you you all screwed up a few times - Gaby’s got your rap sheets - but then I never intended to make robots. I gave you humanity and I applied a heavy dose of nature that allows your humanity to flourish, not be controlled. And because you used all of that in the right way you’re A-list up here. Come in, grab a drink.”

Friday, 26 April 2019

What if... Dallas, Texas

Friday, 22nd November 1963
The bullet severed Jackie Kennedy’s right carotid artery before anyone had even heard the shot ring round the Plaza. The President lunged to his left as his wife pitched forward, catching her in an instinctive reaction to the unexpected. Blood spattered his suit jacket. Within seconds a secret service agent had grabbed onto the back of the limousine and hauled himself onto the trunk.
“Get the fuck back, Clint, there’s nothing you can do,” the President screamed.
“Get down, you get down... now!” Clint Hill screamed back. “It’s you they’re after.” He lunged forward grabbing at the President’s jacket, trying to pull him below the seat level.
The bullet came from the right side, from above street level across a green expanse of grass. It hit Clint Hill in the right shoulder sending him sprawling into a violent roll across the back of the car. He hit the carriageway in a heap causing the police follow up bike to swerve hard across to the far side kerb.
A third shot sent a fragment of concrete kerb into the face of a bystander, blood instantly seeping from his cheek.
“It’s a fuckin’ ambush, they’re gonna kill us all,” Roy Kellerman shouted. “Get outta here.” Bill Greer hit the accelerator just as a fourth shot pierced the windshield narrowly missing Governor Connally’s wife. Behind the limousine, the secret service’s follow up car swerved to a stop, two agents running to drag the stricken Clint Hill off the road. Agent Hickey leapt from the car, scanning his AR-15 rifle around the Plaza to give cover. With the exposure to crossfire in what was now a kill-zone urging their actions, the two agents manhandled their colleague into the back of the car.
“Evacuate! Go. Go,” yelled Hickey, once Hill was in the car. The driver floored the gas and in a smoking screech of tyres, accelerated down Elm Street through the triple underpass after the Presidential limousine.

Eighty minutes after the attack, a shaken and visibly distressed John F Kennedy, blood on his jacket and shirt, emerged from Parkland Hospital. He made his way across to a podium that had been set up with three microphones, outside the emergency entrance. He took hold of the lectern in both hands, hesitated while he cleared his throat and then raised his head.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you, my fellow Americans, that my wife Jackie has been murdered by an assassin’s bullet.” The President’s voice faltered, struggling with the words, for he knew that he had no words, no words that could ever give vent to his rage, his anger, his sorrow or his dismay. He swallowed the choke that caught his throat and said, “Today... today, my wife has paid the price for... for being my wife, for being the First Lady. Nobody wanted to kill such a sweet and innocent woman... a woman with a good heart, a woman with a soul that reached out to people. Nobody wanted... no. She paid the price for my actions. For my desire to bring peace, equality and opportunity to America. The desire to end war, to stop unnecessary bloodshed just because people think or look different. To end the cult of self-interest in this country at the expense of others. To stop those who would gain from bloodshed and the suffering of others, those who make material gain from the spoils of war. They know who they are.
“Today, an atrocity has been committed. That bullet was meant for me. If I could have stopped a good woman dying, I would have been happy to be in the firing line. But fate has decreed otherwise. Spared me from those that put their self-interest before the common good of the American people. But I promise you today, even as I have to look at the blood of my wife on my hands... on my clothes, they shall not gain, not prosper. My brother, the Attorney General, and I will renew our resolve and will continue the fight... the fight against crime, corruption and the corporate leeches that suck and drain our society. We shall not be diverted from our aims.”

Ninety minutes after the attack, a young man carrying an ID card naming him as Alek Hidell, is arrested at the Texas Theatre. He is rushed to the Dallas Police Department where he is formally identified as Lee Oswald, former US Marine. He is questioned by homicide detective Jim Leavelle and charged with the murder of a police officer, patrolman J D Tippit. Oswald denies the charge. Later that day he is interrogated by FBI Special Agent James P. Hosty and Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz about the murder of Jackie Kennedy. Oswald denies any involvement and requests legal assistance. None is forthcoming, and he is held at the Dallas Police Headquarters. By midnight, he is charged with the murder of the First Lady.

Sunday, 24th November 1963

The prisoner looked straight ahead, his gaze fixed but seeing nothing. His pace was dictated by the two detectives bundling him past the throng of reporters and bystanders. A narrow corridor opened up as the trio moved ahead, trying to avoid the jostling crowd. The detectives hustled the prisoner forward. They were focussed on the task and didn’t notice the sudden movement to their left. No one did. Eyes were on the prisoner. The movement was quick. A surge forward, right hand held out. The prisoner caught a fleeting glimpse, a moment’s recognition, the grey hat, the dark suit. Instantly he recoiled. The detectives lost step. The gun clicked. Pointed at the prisoner’s gut and it just clicked. The prisoner twisted and jerked, trying to get away from the gun, pulling the detectives with him. The man in the hat squeezed the trigger again. Another click, no explosion. It was the last thing he did. In a hectic flurry of uncoordinated activity that contrasted with their earlier shocked stupor, a group of bystanders piled onto the gunman flinging him to the floor, face down. A uniformed cop pushed his way through and pinned the gunmen to the floor, a knee firmly in the small of his back.
“What the fuck you doin’, Jack?” he screamed as he clipped the cuffs onto the gunman’s wrists so that his arms stretched out behind his back.
The prisoner only had time for one backward glance as the two detectives manhandled him away from the scene. Ahead, a steep ramp led out to the street. An armoured truck, its exhaust sending plumes of blue smoke into the confined space, reversed fast down the ramp. The detective on the prisoner’s right pulled open the door, spun round and dragged the prisoner by the arm. A firm push from his colleague sent the prisoner headlong onto the vehicle’s floor. In an instant the two detectives jumped in the back, either side of him as the truck accelerated up the ramp, its tyres screeching, rubber burning against cold concrete.

Monday, 6th July 1964, a.m.

Lee Oswald scanned the courtroom, his eyes alighting on no-one in particular. In the overcrowded room faces blurred into one staring entity. His moment of absence was cut through by the raised voice of the prosecutor.
“The curtain rods, what happened to them?”
“You said it was curtain rods in the brown paper package that you were carrying into work that morning.”
“Uh, that’s right, Sir. I... uh, left them under the fire escape. My locker was full... with stuff that I took with me when I... left Marina. I was going to put up curtains at the weekend.”
“But when your apartment was searched no new curtains were found?”
“Because I hadn’t bought them yet, Sir. I was going to do that on Saturday.”
The prosecutor glanced at his notes. “Did you purchase an Italian bolt action Mannlicher–Carcano rifle through mail order in March 1963, using the alias Alek J Hidell?”
“Yes, I did.”
“For what purpose did you purchase this rifle?”
Oswald paused and stared out across the courtroom.
“Mr Oswald?”
“Uh.., Sir?”
“I asked you, for what purpose did you purchase this rifle… the Mannlicher–Carcano?”
“I intended to join a gun club… I’m a former marine… and I wanted to join a club for sport and recreation.”
“Is it not true that the package you were carrying on the morning of Friday, 22nd November 1963 when you entered the Texas School Book Depository, contained the  Mannlicher–Carcano rifle and that you intended to assassinate the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy?”
Oswald blinked. A voice broke the moment. “Objection. Intention is not the reason we are in this courtroom. The facts are, my client has been charged with the murder of Jacqueline Kennedy and is here to answer that charge. No charge has been levied regarding intent to assassinate the President.”
The judge raised his head, his gaze directed over the rim of his spectacles. “Objection sustained. Proceed.”
Oswald turned to look at the judge. “Sir, if I may answer the point about the rifle?”
The judge nodded.
“You have heard from my colleague, Wesley Frazier, that I told him the package I had with me on that day when he drove me to work… uh, Friday, contained curtain rods. You heard him say too that I carried it to the Depository building, in a vertical position, with one end tucked under my armpit and the other end cupped in my hand. If you do your research properly, you will find that the Mannlicher–Carcano M91/38 rifle is just over forty inches long when assembled. If it was disassembled, the longest piece is just over thirty-four inches long. In both cases, it would not be possible to carry it in that way as it would be too long.”
There was a murmur around the courtroom. The judge banged his gavel. Silence was restored. The prosecutor gathered his notes and continued.
“Mr Oswald, do you know or have you ever met Jack Rubenstein?”
Oswald smiled and said. “Jack Ruby, yes, Sir, I have met him, but I didn’t know him. He was no more than an acquaintance.”
“An acquaintance? And how did he become an acquaintance?”
“Everybody downtown knows Mr Ruby. From his club mostly… the Carousel. I went there a few times. I saw him there. He mixed with the regulars. Maybe we spoke… I can’t recall, Sir.”
“Why do you think Jack Rubenstein attempted to shoot you in the Dallas Police Headquarters on Sunday, 24th November 1963?”
“I don’t know, Sir. You will have to ask him that.”
“Were you aware that he had connections to organised crime and that he has been linked to Sam Giancana, Joe Campisi and Carlos Marcello?”
“Objection. Calls for speculation. The question asks the witness to speculate rather than to rely on known facts.”
The judge turned to the prosecutor and asked the reason for the question.
“Your honor, I am attempting to ascertain whether there is a link to organised crime sources that may establish a motive for the attack in Dallas for which Mr Oswald stands accused.”
“Objection overruled.” The judge nodded for the prosecutor to proceed.
“Mr Oswald, were you aware that Jack Rubenstein had connections to the aforementioned organised crime persons?
Oswald shook his head. “I wouldn’t know that Sir, no.”
The judge then called for a recess.

Monday, 6th July 1964, p.m.

On returning to the courtroom, the prosecutor resumed his questions.
“Mr Oswald, on the afternoon of 22nd November 1963, the Presidential motorcade passed directly in front of your workplace, the Texas School Book Depository. Many of your colleagues came out of the building to watch. Did you?”
“No, Sir, I did not.”
“Why not?”
“I was having lunch on the first floor.”
“Lunch? The President of the United States is passing your front door, and you decide to go to lunch? Isn’t that unusual behaviour?”
“Objection. Leading the witness.”
Oswald intervened. “I would like to say, Sir, that I have two witnesses that will testify that they saw me in the lunchroom on the first floor that day. James Jarman and Harold Norman saw me there, and I believe they will testify to that when my defence calls them.”
The prosecutor ignored Oswald’s comment and continued, trying a different tack. “Mr Oswald, you were arrested at the Texas Theatre on the afternoon of 22nd November 1963. It would seem odd that after the incident that took place outside your workplace, an attempt to assassinate the President of the United States, that you should immediately leave the building and go to a movie house. Can you explain this?” 
Oswald smiled, stared around the courtroom and took a deep breath. “Sir, there is something that you should know. I have been unable to reveal this up until now, but I believe I am being set up here… a patsy. Set up to take the rap for others who had another motive.” The court fell silent. Oswald continued. “I am not prepared to be silent any longer. Not prepared to be the patsy. And so…” Oswald pursed his lips and looked down at his hands. Then he raised his head and stared straight ahead. “For many years now I have been a CIA asset.”
There was an audible intake of breath from the packed courtroom.
“I was recruited while I was in the Marines, trained in intelligence and sent to Russia as an agent. You will know that I was involved in the ‘Fair Play for Cuba’ movement. This was a cover, a cover so that I could infiltrate Cuban intelligence. You ask why I left the Depository and went to the movie house. Okay… at 11.45 on that morning I made a call from the first floor… you have already heard from my colleague, William Shelley, that he saw me do this… well, that call was to my CIA handler. I was told to go to the Texas Theatre where I would be given further information relating to a visit to Cuba. I was supposed to be flown out that day from Red Bird Airport by my New Orleans contact, David Ferrie, to Cuba for the start of a CIA undercover operation against Fidel Castro. I was told to meet Officer J D Tippit and - ”
The hushed courtroom erupted in a cacophony of noise. A single shout rose above the din. “Liar, you shot Officer Tippit.”
The judge slammed his gavel onto the wooden sound block several times until order was restored. “Mr Oswald, continue your evidence,” he said.
Oswald turned his gaze in the direction of the shout. “I’m no liar, Sir. I didn’t shoot anyone. I was told to meet Officer Tippit who would furnish me with specific instructions for the meet at Red Bird. I was meeting Officer Tippit a block away from my rooming house and – ”
“Officer Tippit? J D Tippit? Who was murdered that day?”
“Yes, Sir. He arrived at my rooming house in his patrol car... car 10, as identified by my landlady. He was a go-between with the CIA operative I was told to meet. He drove me to the Texas Theatre. I arrived there about 1.20. I was supposed to meet this person at 1.30. I had a box top with me that would match a box carried by the contact, which was a method used so we could be sure it was the right person. I paid for a ticket and went in as I had been told to do in the call. By 1.40 the contact hadn’t showed so I went back out on the street to see if anyone was coming. I saw nothing so went back in. That's when your witness, Mr Brewer, said that he saw me dodge into the movie house and called the police. But, as I told you, I had already been inside. About five minutes later the house lights went up and I was arrested.” 
Once again a murmur flowed through the courtroom. The judge banged the gavel twice.
“Mr Oswald,” the prosecutor continued, “when you were arrested you were armed, carrying a .38 revolver. For what purpose did you have a firearm with you?”
“I took it with me from my rooming house. A precaution. Undercover CIA work can be dangerous. I did not know who I was scheduled to meet at the theatre. I was aware that there might be a risk to my safety. So, I took the revolver.”
The prosecutor cleared his throat and glanced at the jury before returning his focus on Oswald. “You are aware that a bullet taken from Officer Tippit’s body and cartridges found at the scene of his murder match those from your .38 revolver and – ”
“Objection,” called Oswald’s defence attorney. “The question assumes facts, not in evidence and it is a leading question.”
Oswald turned in the direction of the jury. “I did not know that Officer Tippit had been shot until I was arrested. My defence will show that the cartridges mentioned were planted. Revolvers do not eject cartridges.”

Wednesday, 5th August 1964

After four days of deliberation, the jury returned to the courtroom at 3.15pm to deliver their verdict on whether Lee Oswald was guilty of the murder of Jaqueline Kennedy. When asked by the judge if they had reached a unanimous verdict the foreman replied, “Yes.” A verdict form was handed to the Clerk of the Court who read aloud the verdict. 
 “Not guilty.”


Lee Harvey Oswald was given a new identity by the United States government. His further revelations about the illegal activities of the CIA - its involvement in covert operations in Cuba that were not sanctioned by the White House and its willingness to work with the Mafia on mutually beneficial projects – put his life at risk. His precise whereabouts were never uncovered, but many believe that he emigrated to Russia with his Russian wife, Marina, and their young daughter.

Jack Ruby was tried and convicted of the attempted murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. He admitted the charge (the attempt having taken place in a live broadcast of Oswald’s jail transfer, in full view of the American television public). He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was released after serving seven years. On his release, he went back to the nightclub business and his notoriety attracted many visitors to his clubs. Over the next ten years he was able to open a string of night spots in Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio and run a highly successful business.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy won a landslide victory in the 1964 election. His popularity enabled him to pass much of the legislation that he put before Congress and to enact the political strategy that he had embarked upon following his election in 1962. At the end of his Presidency in 1968, his brother Robert, the Attorney General, who had decided to run for the office of President was elected 36th President of the United States. Three years after his second Presidential term, John F Kennedy remarried.

The shooters in Dealey Plaza, believed to be French assassins, were never found.
As a result of the Kennedy administration:

American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the war never escalated; the lives of 58,000 American military personnel were spared along with hundreds of thousands of civilians on both sides.

America and Russia signed a binding peace agreement, initiated by Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev that included a nuclear test ban treaty. The Cold War diminished and the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961, was gradually dismantled.

The power of the Central Banking System of the United States of America (the Federal Reserve) was reined in and transferred to the United States Department of the Treasury, thus blunting the power of independent banks and their ability to control the economy and interest rates.

Richard Nixon was never elected to power and faced corruption charges through association with Mafia connections. Watergate never happened.

Martin Luther King went on to become a US Senator as the Kennedys rolled out their Civil Rights reform legislation across America. Malcom X became an advisor to the programme.

Organised crime lost much of its influence in the United States. The empires built by mob leaders such as Giancana, Marcello and Trafficante, were relentlessly pursued and whilst it was impossible to wipe them out, they were significantly reduced losing most of the influence they had over government officials.

The CIA was dismantled into smaller manageable sections with direct accountability to the US Government. It was renamed The USIA (United States Intelligence Agency). J Edgar Hoover was removed from the FBI.

Texan oil businesses were targeted to root out corruption and the secret societies that had many of the oil tycoons as members. Lyndon Johnson was dropped from JFK’s 1964 Presidential campaign and subsequently left politics.

Muhammad Ali did not have his heavyweight title removed for refusing the draft and went on to hold the heavyweight championship of the world for a full ten years, until 1974 when he retired unbeaten.

A single bullet theory…

Authors Note: The above text is a work of fiction, produced for the purposes of reader entertainment and interaction only. Whilst the text is based on a real, historical incident and contains the names of real people, there is no intent to suggest that any named person was actually involved in any of the incidents or scenarios depicted and no intent to suggest either guilt or innocence where any act or criminal activity is portrayed.