Secret of the Century: Excerpt

I. The Setting

click-to-purchaseI wasn’t always in the government witness protection program. Certainly not on that sunny Dallas morning in November of ’63 when my grandfather took me down to Dealey Plaza to  see the President.  Poppa stood on an elevated step to boost his tiny frame and braced himself against his secretary Marilyn to steady the movie camera.  I held Marilyn’s hand and clutched a little Instamatic camera in my other hand.  The crowd started buzzing as the head of the motorcade turned off Main Street and onto Houston.  I caught a glimpse of pink as I recognized the familiar form of Jackie Kennedy waving in the distance, and then disappearing from view.  The motorcade slowed for the wide turn that would bring the President down Elm Street past the School Book Depository Building where Poppa and I were waiting to see him.
The crowd started clapping wildly as the limousine emerged from the turn.  There he was!  Bronzed, handsome, like a god.  My heart beat madly, adrenaline pumping on all cylinders.  Poppa braced his movie camera as the President rolled down Elm and waved in our direction.  I thought I was going to pee my pants.
Pop!  Pop!  A firecracker went off and then another.  The President clutched his throat and rolled toward Jackie.  Poppa jerked with each blast as he kept his finger on the Bell & Howell.  I turned as I heard a crack to my right.  I saw a man poke a gun over the top of a fence and blow the head off the President of the United States.

The velvety tongue slid lovingly down the shaft, the soft blond curls moving slowly in rhythmical splendor.  Oh, that shaft.  That famous elongated quiver of delight.  How many women had there been?  Two thousand?  Twenty-five hundred?  He had lost count somewhere over 1500, but for sure there must have been over 500 since then.  The constraints of marriage had slowed things considerably, but the rigors of political travel insured that the shaft would be exercised religiously.  A vigorous workout three times a week.  Isn’t that what the doctor had said?  Yes, great vigor, indeed.
The warm sucking lips had completely engulfed the golden prod, the soft hanging orbs dangling pendulously in slow motion from above, brushing lightly against his aching loins, now perched on the edge of sweet release.  It should have been a moment of uninterrupted, unmitigated bliss.  After all, how often did one get nominated to be the presidential candidate of a major American political party?  The nimble tongue continued working its moist wonderful magic, spreading paroxysms of delight in its wake.  The moaning grew louder.  “And so, my fellow Americans (Ooh, God!), ask not what your President can do for you, but (OOOOH, slurp, slurp) what you can do for your President.”
The grainy film danced majestically against the hotel wall, but the nominee had seen enough.
“I think, ah, Edgar, we get the point.”
The stolid Director ambled slowly to the projection machine and switched off the motor, sparing the exhausted brothers the anti-climax of the climax.
“This is OUTRAGEOUS!  It’s nothing but blackmail, that’s all it is,” screeched the shorter one.
“Calm down, Bobby.  I think, ah, gentlemen, we are all in agreement as to what it is.  The only thing we are negotiating is the price.  Am I not right, Mr. Hoover?”
The impassive figure stared blankly back at the Golden Boy and savored this moment of clandestine triumph.  It would not be the last.
“It’s not money that I seek, Mr. Kennedy.”
Not money?  Impossible!  What could the crusty old fuck want?  Women?  Did he want the keys to the Augean stable of sensual delights that lay in the grasp of the Senator’s beck and  call?  I thought the old cocksucker was gay.  Surely he doesn’t think I can be of any use to him there.  What does he mean not money?  The candidate’s bewildered gaze was brought back from the ceiling by the riveted icy stare of his antagonist.
“Then what is it, might I ask, Mr. Director, that you do want?”
“I want you to nominate Lyndon Johnson as your vice president.”
“IMPOSSIBLE!,” bellowed the younger brother, as he moved menacingly toward the rock-like presence and then swiftly brushed by, continuing on to a corner of the room, as if to protect himself from his own anger.  He wheeled back on his heels and began shaking his fist at the monolith across the room.
“Who the fuck are you to dictate to us who we can and can’t nominate for anything we goddamn please?  Where the hell do you get off telling the NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES what to do?  Huh?”  A silence.  The anger rippled under Bobby’s boiling red skin, the veins in both temples visibly pounding.  “Well, answer me, you fucking pervert!”
The block of ice stared back at the slumping candidate and rolled his eyeballs as if to say, “Can’t you control this untoward youth?”  The Senator half-grinned back.
“Bobby, let’s not be too quick in our judgment.  Let’s see if we can give Mr. Hoover the benefit of the doubt.  I must say though, Edgar, it does seem a rather strange request.  Would you mind if I inquired as to why?”
The master of the monotone shifted slowly on his haunches.  “That, Mr. Kennedy, is for me to know and you to find out.”
Bobby lost it.  “I can’t believe you’re going to let him get away with this horseshit, Jack.  I mean, is this what we worked so hard for?”
The nominee drew a slash across his mouth with his left hand and indicated with his waggling right index finger that he had had enough of his emotional sibling’s outbursts.
“But, Jesus, Jack, it’s just that…………”
“Can it Bobby, NOW.”  He then turned his frosty blue-gray eyes back to Hoover.
“And suppose we do as you ask.  What then?”
“Then, Mr. Kennedy, you have to win the election or the whole thing is moot.  But if you should be so fortunate to prevail, then you would be assured of my complete cooperation and discretion during the course of your presidency.”
“How generous of you,” snorted the nominee.  The Director bristled at the Senator’s sarcasm.
“And if we should not choose to follow your sage advice?”
“That, Senator,” shot back the sawed-off stump of a man, as he started packing up the projector, “is your decision.  Which, if you could let me know in the next six hours, would be appreciated.”  With that, the shadowy presence moved slowly toward the door, and opening it a crack, looked back at the newly compliant duo.
“I bid you adieu, gentlemen,” he whispered, as he slithered out into the hallway.  The brothers fixed their discomfited gazes upon the shutting door.
“He can’t get away with this,” yelled a seething Bobby, as he crossed back through the room and over to the window.  Jack sat at the edge of the bed, chin resting on clenched fist.
“Oh, he can, and he will; I can assure you of that.”
The crestfallen Robert slunk back to the bed where his brother was sitting, and, pulling a chair across from it, slumped down like a decompressing bean-bag.  Jack just shook his head, which was now nestled in his cupped hands.
“But all we’ve worked for, Jack.  Lyndon Johnson?  That snake-in-the-grass?  I’d sooner nominate Mamie Eisenhower.”
The candidate chuckled.  He was quickly adapting to his newly compromised position.
“Think about it, Bobby.  Maybe it won’t be so bad.  After all, it’ll balance the ticket geographically and ideologically.”
“Ideologically?  Johnson has no ideology!”
“Yes, but neither do we.”  Hmm.  Good point.
A knock on the door.  UPI was by for an earlier promised picture.  The two brothers hung their heads low in mulled silence, as the photographer snapped away and caught the hauntingly eerie scene of the practically touching foreheads, for eternity.  If only the public could know what was currently transpiring in those weighted-down frontal lobes.  The cameraman thanked them for their time and made a quick exit.  The soon-to-be President mused.
“You know Bobby, I could make you Attorney General.  You’d be the old slimeball’s boss.”  Jack chuckled to himself.
“You can’t do a thing like that.  Congress would have a shit fit.”
“I know,” mumbled the candidate.  “Just a thought.”  He could never pull it off.  But it would sure be nice to have somebody he could trust in the Cabinet.  Of course, he’d have to get elected first.
The Senator lay back on the bed and felt the full pounding of his eternally aching spine pulsing through his entire upper torso.  He was exhausted.  “Lyndon Fucking Johnson,” he kept mumbling to himself.  Of all people, why Johnson?  What did Hoover have to gain from it?
“Maybe he thinks he can control Johnson and through that, can control us,” speculated a now calming Bobby.
“And maybe,” responded the pondering political master, “he isn’t wrong about that.”  He smiled to himself.  The eyes of Texas are upon you.
Texas.  I hate fucking Texas.  If I never have to go to Texas again, it’ll be all too soon.  The goddamned place is cursed.  And now its favorite son was to be thrust upon them, festooned like a fatted pig to their steamrollering express, to be dragged across the political landscape of America like a festering boil, to be tolerated and endured.  Ominous, thought the future progenitor of Camelot, but also equally necessary.  Of that he was certain.
Bobby sat dour in the chair in front of him.
“So Jack?”
“What now, Bobby?,” winced the candidate.  He was too tired to sit through another outburst, his younger brother’s alter ego status notwithstanding.
“How was she?”
Jack stared calmly up at the ceiling and smiled.
“She was great, Bobby.  Just great.”

The cigarette burned low in his fingers.   From a distance he could hear the noise of the crowd picking up, a sure sign that the motorcade was right on schedule.  A few more quick turns and they’d be upon him.  He crouched lower behind the picket fence.
What was it that the Organization had told him?  Not to worry, that was it.  Everything had been taken care of.  A patsy in an overlooking building was all lined up, a rifle had been planted, and even photos had been doctored, incriminating the unsuspecting foil.  Not to worry.  Just be there and shoot, one shot, maybe two, at point blank range; then duck into the getaway car parked five feet behind, and be gone.  The lookout beside him would scoop the shells and quickly follow him into the idling vehicle.  By the time anybody knew what happened, they’d be on their way.  Not to worry, he told his pounding heart.
It wasn’t as if he hadn’t killed before.  Many times, in fact.  Coolly, methodically, scientifically, with panache.  He loved the danger, the excitement, the living on the edge.  Which was why they had chosen him to begin with.  He was the best.  But this was beyond danger.  If gunning down the president of the country in broad daylight, downtown in one of the nation’s  largest cities wasn’t living on the edge, then he wasn’t sure what was.  Yes, he was the best and that’s why he was there.  He softly cradled the stock of the leveled rifle and rolled the barrel gently to and fro between two beveled edges of the upright posts.  He would engage the picket fence in a little foreplay while waiting for the approaching motorcade, presaging the orgasm of the blast.
And, oh, the money!  The contract of a lifetime.  Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for one well-placed bullet, for an eighteenth-second of work.  What did that figure per hour?  The thought made him giddy.
But there were so many questions.  What about security?  What about the Secret Service?  It would be light, he was assured.  Ever since the President’s trip to the South had been announced several months earlier, details had been meticulously monitored.  The motorcade route had been gone over with a fine toothcomb.  Security, at this stretch, would not be a problem.
The direction of the bullets?  An autopsy report?  Details, strictly details.  Besides, as the Organization had pointed out, that’s our problem, not yours.  Let us worry about it.  You just be there and shoot, that’s all.  We’ll take care of the logistics.  Okay, fine. That’s my specialty, after all.  But it’s usually pimps and pushers, not presidents.  The rifle started shaking in his tightly gripping hands.
The motorcade came into view and the noise from the crowd ricocheted off the surrounding buildings as the long procession negotiated its final turn.  It was just a job, he reminded himself.  A very big job, but still a job, just the same.  The big limo started the slow descent that would bring it to within fifty feet of the impending blast.
He caught his first glance of the stately, tall President, seated next to his wife, the feel of monarchy expansively emanating from the confining borders of the open-topped vehicle.  What a life of achievement this man had had!  From war hero to president.  Too bad it would have to end so soon, so suddenly.  Just a job, it’s just a job.  The dying cigarette hit the ground.
He turned for one last look at the get-away driver.  A half grin and thumbs up, the same that he got from the lookout.  The President was twenty-five yards from the kill zone.  The motorcade was moving at a snail’s pace.
He caught the erect bearing in the cross hairs.  Right temple, lock on; fifteen, ten, five, NOW! A flick of the index finger.
Click!  What the hell?  NOTHING; SILENCE.  THE GOD DAMN GUN HAD JAMMED!  Get the hell out of here, now!  A mad scramble to the car, and tear ass out.  The getaway was perfect, just like they had planned.  Only they forgot to kill the President.
Down on the road below, a beaming Charles DeGaulle moved peacefully by.  Now basking in the triumph of his Marseille reception, he would never know how he had come to within a whisper of his death.  That twit Kennedy thought the people loved him?  Voila, pretty boy, you are no match for the icy titan!  Visions of Charlemagne filled his surprisingly still-attached head.
Speeding to the distance and safety of the countryside, the failed assassin beat his fists in fury upon the back of the driver’s seat.  The little Renault bounced rhythmically in response.  He had checked the rifle just the day before, and the day before that, as well.  No problem.  Hair trigger response.  Why now of all times?  Was it fate?  Why would fate want to spare DeGaulle?  It was inexplicable, just one of those things.  An exceedingly big just one of those things.
The contract of a lifetime, lost in the bat of an eye, a jam of a chamber.  Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, down the tubes, just like that.  Would he get a second chance?  Not likely.  It would be too risky.  The Organization would lose trust.  No, you only get one shot at the big time.  Literally.
But he had done what he could.  Hadn’t he?  He was the best.  They had told him so themselves.  The driver, the lookout, they knew, they saw it all.  They’d defend him.  And yet, in spite of the pep talk, the mental bravado, he had failed, plain and simple.  It didn’t really matter why.  Failure was failure.
He would plead for redemption.  But with all the months of planning, just for this one brief encounter, what were the odds of it happening again?  Pretty damned slim.  Well, maybe a different victim, another big shot that the Organization needed to take care of.  But who could be bigger than DeGaulle, leader of one of the most powerful nations on earth?  There would never be anything as big as this, and even if there was, would the Organization give it to him?  Highly unlikely.
He slumped back in his seat, a gray gloom cloud of depression engulfing him.  The driver and the lookout tried to cheer him, to no avail.  He was inconsolable.
He had pictured the headlines: DEGAULLE SHOT DEAD; WAREHOUSE CLERK HELD.  His own private little triumph, a secret of incredible magnitude, to be basked in along with the comforts of 250K.  Gone in a heartbeat.
As the crowded Renault bumped along the winding country road, the soft misting rain cleared and a bright powerful rainbow spread in the valley before them.  The driver turned and smiled.  “It is a sign of fortune, of good things to come; you shall see.”
Rainbows?  Fortune?  I don’t think so.  One crack at the big time, one shot at the show.  Right?  The darkness quickly descended.

Everything about Lyndon Johnson was larger than life.  His ears, his nose, his ego, his energy, his ambition.  No question about it, he was larger-than-life Lyndon.
Johnson had taken that energy and used it to bounce out of the hills of southwest Texas into the U.S. Congress.  He hitched his star to the New Deal of FDR who had taken a liking to this exceptional young man.  After several years in the House, Lyndon ran for the Senate in l940 against savvy Texas Governor, Coke Stevenson.  Despite having won a solid and published victory, Lyndon watched the election mysteriously snatched away from him in a major heist, outrageous even by Texas standards.  Licking his wounds, Lyndon prepared for the 1948 race, and this time he was not a man to be fucked with.  Recruiting the tombstones of scores of departed Mexicans, he won a smashing victory of 87 votes, earning him the sobriquet “Landslide Lyndon.”
Ole Landslide took the Senate by storm and under the guidance of fellow Texan and House Speaker, Sam Rayburn, forged connections and alliances that would take him to Majority Leader.
Lyndon ate, breathed and slept politics.  Armed with a phone in each hand, cartons of cigarettes and cases of Cutty Sark, he was a whirlwind of activity.   Wheedling, cajoling, entreating, Lyndon was a horse trader nonpareil.  Politics was his mistress and Lyndon would smear his oversized body with oil and roll around naked on the Senate floor with her, immersing and consuming this passionate lady through every pore in his being.
Lyndon loved the Senate, loved every little thing about it.  Except for The Boy.  The Boy stuck in his craw.
The Boy had an easy grace about him that Lyndon, with all his furious energy, could never match.  The Boy got laid.  Regularly.  With different women.  Scores of them.  The Boy was a nonentity, but somehow, he managed to stay above the fray.  The Boy was usually absent, and when he was there, he might as well not have been.
Lyndon didn’t understand why The Boy existed, and much less, what he was doing in the Senate.  The Boy had national aspirations, or at least his father did, and Lyndon decided that The Boy must be a test of God’s will on earth for him.  Yes, indeed, that must be why The Boy existed, and Ole Landslide was never one to walk away from a challenge.
But Lyndon was no match for The Boy’s charm or his daddy’s money, and slowed by a heart attack, Johnson was forced to concede ignominious defeat at the 1960 convention.  Things looked pretty bleak for Lyndon, what with The Boy ascending and all, and his own future uncertain.  It wasn’t that The Boy didn’t like Lyndon; it was just that the two were totally different and The Boy had never had any need for him.  Until now.
In a strange twist of fate, The Boy had decided that Ole Lyndon would be the perfect man to balance the ticket, philosophically and geographically.  Despite knowing his ancient fellow Texan, John Nance Garner’s maxim, that the vice presidency wasn’t worth “a warm pitcher of spit,” Lyndon said he would consider the offer; he just needed time to think about it.  After three or four minutes, longer than the introspective Johnson usually took on such matters, he accepted.  Lyndon figured that one in every four presidents had died in office, and even though The Boy was only 43, you never knew.  He’d take the odds.
The deal was done.  Lyndon sat in his hotel outside the convention and relaxed, for the first time in ages.  He loosened his tie, took off his shoes, put his feet up on the table and sipped his Cutty Sark.  No phone was attached to his ear.  Perhaps there was something to this acceptance of fate, after all.
Lyndon had started slipping into a blissful dream when he heard a loud rapping at the door.  What could this rude interruption be at such a moment of peace?  He got up, slowly walked across the room, and opened the door a crack.  There he was.  The Boy’s little brother.  The Infant.  The Infant was full of fury as he pushed his way into the room.  Who did this impudent little bastard think he was?
The Infant paced back and forth and without warning blurted out, “My brother wants you off the ticket, now!”  Lyndon could hardly believe his gargantuan ears. Wasn’t it less than twenty-four hours ago that The Boy had asked him on to the ticket, invited him of his own free will?  No, this would not do. The Infant just did not compute.
The Infant demanded, The Infant bellowed, The Infant threatened, The Infant was inconsolable.  Lyndon watched in amazement, and though repulsed by him, decided that The Infant was more of a kindred soul than The Boy would ever be.  But Lyndon had not gotten to be where he was by being bullied by petty tyrants or their self-appointed emissaries.  If The Boy wanted him off the ticket, then The Boy would have to tell him himself.  Lyndon made this quite clear to The Infant as the latter stomped out of the room.  The call never came.
And so it was that Lyndon, The Boy and The Infant joined forces in the summer of 1960 for a bumpy voyage that would change the course of history.

I wasn’t always in the government witness protection program. Certainly not on that sunny Dallas morning in November of ’63 when my grandfather took me down to Dealey Plaza to  see the President.  Poppa stood on an elevated step to boost his tiny frame and braced himself against his secretary Marilyn to steady the movie camera.  I held Marilyn’s hand and clutched a little Instamatic camera in my other hand.  The crowd started buzzing as the head of the motorcade turned off Main Street and onto Houston.  I caught a glimpse of pink as I recognized the familiar form of Jackie Kennedy waving in the distance, and then disappearing from view.  The motorcade slowed for the wide turn that would bring the President down Elm Street past the School Book Depository Building where Poppa and I were waiting to see him.
The crowd started clapping wildly as the limousine emerged from the turn.  There he was!  Bronzed, handsome, like a god.  My heart beat madly, adrenaline pumping on all cylinders.  Poppa braced his movie camera as the President rolled down Elm and waved in our direction.  I thought I was going to pee my pants.
Pop!  Pop!  A firecracker went off and then another.  The President clutched his throat and rolled toward Jackie.  Poppa jerked with each blast as he kept his finger on the Bell & Howell.  I turned as I heard a crack to my right.  I saw a man poke a gun over the top of a fence and blow the head off the President of the United States.

The velvety tongue slid lovingly down the shaft, the soft blond curls moving slowly in rhythmical splendor.  Oh, that shaft.  That famous elongated quiver of delight.  How many women had there been?  Two thousand?  Twenty-five hundred?  He had lost count somewhere over 1500, but for sure there must have been over 500 since then.  The constraints of marriage had slowed things considerably, but the rigors of political travel insured that the shaft would be exercised religiously.  A vigorous workout three times a week.  Isn’t that what the doctor had said?  Yes, great vigor, indeed.
The warm sucking lips had completely engulfed the golden prod, the soft hanging orbs dangling pendulously in slow motion from above, brushing lightly against his aching loins, now perched on the edge of sweet release.  It should have been a moment of uninterrupted, unmitigated bliss.  After all, how often did one get nominated to be the presidential candidate of a major American political party?  The nimble tongue continued working its moist wonderful magic, spreading paroxysms of delight in its wake.  The moaning grew louder.  “And so, my fellow Americans (Ooh, God!), ask not what your President can do for you, but (OOOOH, slurp, slurp) what you can do for your President.”
The grainy film danced majestically against the hotel wall, but the nominee had seen enough.
“I think, ah, Edgar, we get the point.”
The stolid Director ambled slowly to the projection machine and switched off the motor, sparing the exhausted brothers the anti-climax of the climax.
“This is OUTRAGEOUS!  It’s nothing but blackmail, that’s all it is,” screeched the shorter one.
“Calm down, Bobby.  I think, ah, gentlemen, we are all in agreement as to what it is.  The only thing we are negotiating is the price.  Am I not right, Mr. Hoover?”
The impassive figure stared blankly back at the Golden Boy and savored this moment of clandestine triumph.  It would not be the last.
“It’s not money that I seek, Mr. Kennedy.”
Not money?  Impossible!  What could the crusty old fuck want?  Women?  Did he want the keys to the Augean stable of sensual delights that lay in the grasp of the Senator’s beck and  call?  I thought the old cocksucker was gay.  Surely he doesn’t think I can be of any use to him there.  What does he mean not money?  The candidate’s bewildered gaze was brought back from the ceiling by the riveted icy stare of his antagonist.
“Then what is it, might I ask, Mr. Director, that you do want?”
“I want you to nominate Lyndon Johnson as your vice president.”
“IMPOSSIBLE!,” bellowed the younger brother, as he moved menacingly toward the rock-like presence and then swiftly brushed by, continuing on to a corner of the room, as if to protect himself from his own anger.  He wheeled back on his heels and began shaking his fist at the monolith across the room.
“Who the fuck are you to dictate to us who we can and can’t nominate for anything we goddamn please?  Where the hell do you get off telling the NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES what to do?  Huh?”  A silence.  The anger rippled under Bobby’s boiling red skin, the veins in both temples visibly pounding.  “Well, answer me, you fucking pervert!”
The block of ice stared back at the slumping candidate and rolled his eyeballs as if to say, “Can’t you control this untoward youth?”  The Senator half-grinned back.
“Bobby, let’s not be too quick in our judgment.  Let’s see if we can give Mr. Hoover the benefit of the doubt.  I must say though, Edgar, it does seem a rather strange request.  Would you mind if I inquired as to why?”
The master of the monotone shifted slowly on his haunches.  “That, Mr. Kennedy, is for me to know and you to find out.”
Bobby lost it.  “I can’t believe you’re going to let him get away with this horseshit, Jack.  I mean, is this what we worked so hard for?”
The nominee drew a slash across his mouth with his left hand and indicated with his waggling right index finger that he had had enough of his emotional sibling’s outbursts.
“But, Jesus, Jack, it’s just that…………”
“Can it Bobby, NOW.”  He then turned his frosty blue-gray eyes back to Hoover.
“And suppose we do as you ask.  What then?”
“Then, Mr. Kennedy, you have to win the election or the whole thing is moot.  But if you should be so fortunate to prevail, then you would be assured of my complete cooperation and discretion during the course of your presidency.”
“How generous of you,” snorted the nominee.  The Director bristled at the Senator’s sarcasm.
“And if we should not choose to follow your sage advice?”
“That, Senator,” shot back the sawed-off stump of a man, as he started packing up the projector, “is your decision.  Which, if you could let me know in the next six hours, would be appreciated.”  With that, the shadowy presence moved slowly toward the door, and opening it a crack, looked back at the newly compliant duo.
“I bid you adieu, gentlemen,” he whispered, as he slithered out into the hallway.  The brothers fixed their discomfited gazes upon the shutting door.
“He can’t get away with this,” yelled a seething Bobby, as he crossed back through the room and over to the window.  Jack sat at the edge of the bed, chin resting on clenched fist.
“Oh, he can, and he will; I can assure you of that.”
The crestfallen Robert slunk back to the bed where his brother was sitting, and, pulling a chair across from it, slumped down like a decompressing bean-bag.  Jack just shook his head, which was now nestled in his cupped hands.
“But all we’ve worked for, Jack.  Lyndon Johnson?  That snake-in-the-grass?  I’d sooner nominate Mamie Eisenhower.”
The candidate chuckled.  He was quickly adapting to his newly compromised position.
“Think about it, Bobby.  Maybe it won’t be so bad.  After all, it’ll balance the ticket geographically and ideologically.”
“Ideologically?  Johnson has no ideology!”
“Yes, but neither do we.”  Hmm.  Good point.
A knock on the door.  UPI was by for an earlier promised picture.  The two brothers hung their heads low in mulled silence, as the photographer snapped away and caught the hauntingly eerie scene of the practically touching foreheads, for eternity.  If only the public could know what was currently transpiring in those weighted-down frontal lobes.  The cameraman thanked them for their time and made a quick exit.  The soon-to-be President mused.
“You know Bobby, I could make you Attorney General.  You’d be the old slimeball’s boss.”  Jack chuckled to himself.
“You can’t do a thing like that.  Congress would have a shit fit.”
“I know,” mumbled the candidate.  “Just a thought.”  He could never pull it off.  But it would sure be nice to have somebody he could trust in the Cabinet.  Of course, he’d have to get elected first.
The Senator lay back on the bed and felt the full pounding of his eternally aching spine pulsing through his entire upper torso.  He was exhausted.  “Lyndon Fucking Johnson,” he kept mumbling to himself.  Of all people, why Johnson?  What did Hoover have to gain from it?
“Maybe he thinks he can control Johnson and through that, can control us,” speculated a now calming Bobby.
“And maybe,” responded the pondering political master, “he isn’t wrong about that.”  He smiled to himself.  The eyes of Texas are upon you.
Texas.  I hate fucking Texas.  If I never have to go to Texas again, it’ll be all too soon.  The goddamned place is cursed.  And now its favorite son was to be thrust upon them, festooned like a fatted pig to their steamrollering express, to be dragged across the political landscape of America like a festering boil, to be tolerated and endured.  Ominous, thought the future progenitor of Camelot, but also equally necessary.  Of that he was certain.
Bobby sat dour in the chair in front of him.
“So Jack?”
“What now, Bobby?,” winced the candidate.  He was too tired to sit through another outburst, his younger brother’s alter ego status notwithstanding.
“How was she?”
Jack stared calmly up at the ceiling and smiled.
“She was great, Bobby.  Just great.”

The cigarette burned low in his fingers.   From a distance he could hear the noise of the crowd picking up, a sure sign that the motorcade was right on schedule.  A few more quick turns and they’d be upon him.  He crouched lower behind the picket fence.
What was it that the Organization had told him?  Not to worry, that was it.  Everything had been taken care of.  A patsy in an overlooking building was all lined up, a rifle had been planted, and even photos had been doctored, incriminating the unsuspecting foil.  Not to worry.  Just be there and shoot, one shot, maybe two, at point blank range; then duck into the getaway car parked five feet behind, and be gone.  The lookout beside him would scoop the shells and quickly follow him into the idling vehicle.  By the time anybody knew what happened, they’d be on their way.  Not to worry, he told his pounding heart.
It wasn’t as if he hadn’t killed before.  Many times, in fact.  Coolly, methodically, scientifically, with panache.  He loved the danger, the excitement, the living on the edge.  Which was why they had chosen him to begin with.  He was the best.  But this was beyond danger.  If gunning down the president of the country in broad daylight, downtown in one of the nation’s  largest cities wasn’t living on the edge, then he wasn’t sure what was.  Yes, he was the best and that’s why he was there.  He softly cradled the stock of the leveled rifle and rolled the barrel gently to and fro between two beveled edges of the upright posts.  He would engage the picket fence in a little foreplay while waiting for the approaching motorcade, presaging the orgasm of the blast.
And, oh, the money!  The contract of a lifetime.  Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for one well-placed bullet, for an eighteenth-second of work.  What did that figure per hour?  The thought made him giddy.
But there were so many questions.  What about security?  What about the Secret Service?  It would be light, he was assured.  Ever since the President’s trip to the South had been announced several months earlier, details had been meticulously monitored.  The motorcade route had been gone over with a fine toothcomb.  Security, at this stretch, would not be a problem.
The direction of the bullets?  An autopsy report?  Details, strictly details.  Besides, as the Organization had pointed out, that’s our problem, not yours.  Let us worry about it.  You just be there and shoot, that’s all.  We’ll take care of the logistics.  Okay, fine. That’s my specialty, after all.  But it’s usually pimps and pushers, not presidents.  The rifle started shaking in his tightly gripping hands.
The motorcade came into view and the noise from the crowd ricocheted off the surrounding buildings as the long procession negotiated its final turn.  It was just a job, he reminded himself.  A very big job, but still a job, just the same.  The big limo started the slow descent that would bring it to within fifty feet of the impending blast.
He caught his first glance of the stately, tall President, seated next to his wife, the feel of monarchy expansively emanating from the confining borders of the open-topped vehicle.  What a life of achievement this man had had!  From war hero to president.  Too bad it would have to end so soon, so suddenly.  Just a job, it’s just a job.  The dying cigarette hit the ground.
He turned for one last look at the get-away driver.  A half grin and thumbs up, the same that he got from the lookout.  The President was twenty-five yards from the kill zone.  The motorcade was moving at a snail’s pace.
He caught the erect bearing in the cross hairs.  Right temple, lock on; fifteen, ten, five, NOW! A flick of the index finger.
Click!  What the hell?  NOTHING; SILENCE.  THE GOD DAMN GUN HAD JAMMED!  Get the hell out of here, now!  A mad scramble to the car, and tear ass out.  The getaway was perfect, just like they had planned.  Only they forgot to kill the President.
Down on the road below, a beaming Charles DeGaulle moved peacefully by.  Now basking in the triumph of his Marseille reception, he would never know how he had come to within a whisper of his death.  That twit Kennedy thought the people loved him?  Voila, pretty boy, you are no match for the icy titan!  Visions of Charlemagne filled his surprisingly still-attached head.
Speeding to the distance and safety of the countryside, the failed assassin beat his fists in fury upon the back of the driver’s seat.  The little Renault bounced rhythmically in response.  He had checked the rifle just the day before, and the day before that, as well.  No problem.  Hair trigger response.  Why now of all times?  Was it fate?  Why would fate want to spare DeGaulle?  It was inexplicable, just one of those things.  An exceedingly big just one of those things.
The contract of a lifetime, lost in the bat of an eye, a jam of a chamber.  Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, down the tubes, just like that.  Would he get a second chance?  Not likely.  It would be too risky.  The Organization would lose trust.  No, you only get one shot at the big time.  Literally.
But he had done what he could.  Hadn’t he?  He was the best.  They had told him so themselves.  The driver, the lookout, they knew, they saw it all.  They’d defend him.  And yet, in spite of the pep talk, the mental bravado, he had failed, plain and simple.  It didn’t really matter why.  Failure was failure.
He would plead for redemption.  But with all the months of planning, just for this one brief encounter, what were the odds of it happening again?  Pretty damned slim.  Well, maybe a different victim, another big shot that the Organization needed to take care of.  But who could be bigger than DeGaulle, leader of one of the most powerful nations on earth?  There would never be anything as big as this, and even if there was, would the Organization give it to him?  Highly unlikely.
He slumped back in his seat, a gray gloom cloud of depression engulfing him.  The driver and the lookout tried to cheer him, to no avail.  He was inconsolable.
He had pictured the headlines: DEGAULLE SHOT DEAD; WAREHOUSE CLERK HELD.  His own private little triumph, a secret of incredible magnitude, to be basked in along with the comforts of 250K.  Gone in a heartbeat.
As the crowded Renault bumped along the winding country road, the soft misting rain cleared and a bright powerful rainbow spread in the valley before them.  The driver turned and smiled.  “It is a sign of fortune, of good things to come; you shall see.”
Rainbows?  Fortune?  I don’t think so.  One crack at the big time, one shot at the show.  Right?  The darkness quickly descended.

Everything about Lyndon Johnson was larger than life.  His ears, his nose, his ego, his energy, his ambition.  No question about it, he was larger-than-life Lyndon.
Johnson had taken that energy and used it to bounce out of the hills of southwest Texas into the U.S. Congress.  He hitched his star to the New Deal of FDR who had taken a liking to this exceptional young man.  After several years in the House, Lyndon ran for the Senate in l940 against savvy Texas Governor, Coke Stevenson.  Despite having won a solid and published victory, Lyndon watched the election mysteriously snatched away from him in a major heist, outrageous even by Texas standards.  Licking his wounds, Lyndon prepared for the 1948 race, and this time he was not a man to be fucked with.  Recruiting the tombstones of scores of departed Mexicans, he won a smashing victory of 87 votes, earning him the sobriquet “Landslide Lyndon.”
Ole Landslide took the Senate by storm and under the guidance of fellow Texan and House Speaker, Sam Rayburn, forged connections and alliances that would take him to Majority Leader.
Lyndon ate, breathed and slept politics.  Armed with a phone in each hand, cartons of cigarettes and cases of Cutty Sark, he was a whirlwind of activity.   Wheedling, cajoling, entreating, Lyndon was a horse trader nonpareil.  Politics was his mistress and Lyndon would smear his oversized body with oil and roll around naked on the Senate floor with her, immersing and consuming this passionate lady through every pore in his being.
Lyndon loved the Senate, loved every little thing about it.  Except for The Boy.  The Boy stuck in his craw.
The Boy had an easy grace about him that Lyndon, with all his furious energy, could never match.  The Boy got laid.  Regularly.  With different women.  Scores of them.  The Boy was a nonentity, but somehow, he managed to stay above the fray.  The Boy was usually absent, and when he was there, he might as well not have been.
Lyndon didn’t understand why The Boy existed, and much less, what he was doing in the Senate.  The Boy had national aspirations, or at least his father did, and Lyndon decided that The Boy must be a test of God’s will on earth for him.  Yes, indeed, that must be why The Boy existed, and Ole Landslide was never one to walk away from a challenge.
But Lyndon was no match for The Boy’s charm or his daddy’s money, and slowed by a heart attack, Johnson was forced to concede ignominious defeat at the 1960 convention.  Things looked pretty bleak for Lyndon, what with The Boy ascending and all, and his own future uncertain.  It wasn’t that The Boy didn’t like Lyndon; it was just that the two were totally different and The Boy had never had any need for him.  Until now.
In a strange twist of fate, The Boy had decided that Ole Lyndon would be the perfect man to balance the ticket, philosophically and geographically.  Despite knowing his ancient fellow Texan, John Nance Garner’s maxim, that the vice presidency wasn’t worth “a warm pitcher of spit,” Lyndon said he would consider the offer; he just needed time to think about it.  After three or four minutes, longer than the introspective Johnson usually took on such matters, he accepted.  Lyndon figured that one in every four presidents had died in office, and even though The Boy was only 43, you never knew.  He’d take the odds.
The deal was done.  Lyndon sat in his hotel outside the convention and relaxed, for the first time in ages.  He loosened his tie, took off his shoes, put his feet up on the table and sipped his Cutty Sark.  No phone was attached to his ear.  Perhaps there was something to this acceptance of fate, after all.
Lyndon had started slipping into a blissful dream when he heard a loud rapping at the door.  What could this rude interruption be at such a moment of peace?  He got up, slowly walked across the room, and opened the door a crack.  There he was.  The Boy’s little brother.  The Infant.  The Infant was full of fury as he pushed his way into the room.  Who did this impudent little bastard think he was?
The Infant paced back and forth and without warning blurted out, “My brother wants you off the ticket, now!”  Lyndon could hardly believe his gargantuan ears. Wasn’t it less than twenty-four hours ago that The Boy had asked him on to the ticket, invited him of his own free will?  No, this would not do. The Infant just did not compute.
The Infant demanded, The Infant bellowed, The Infant threatened, The Infant was inconsolable.  Lyndon watched in amazement, and though repulsed by him, decided that The Infant was more of a kindred soul than The Boy would ever be.  But Lyndon had not gotten to be where he was by being bullied by petty tyrants or their self-appointed emissaries.  If The Boy wanted him off the ticket, then The Boy would have to tell him himself.  Lyndon made this quite clear to The Infant as the latter stomped out of the room.  The call never came.
And so it was that Lyndon, The Boy and The Infant joined forces in the summer of 1960 for a bumpy voyage that would change the course of history.

 

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