The End of Camelot 2017-03-30T20:48:59+00:00

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The End of Camelot

The End of Camelot

Book Three of The New York Saga

The Wild Rose Press

Synopsis

November 22, 1963, a day that changed America forever. Who killed President Kennedy?

I’ve been a HUGE JFK assassination buff since that very day. Everyone who was alive on November 22, 1963 knew exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. I was in my first grade classroom. The teacher got a call on the classroom phone and told us ‘the president was shot.’ A collective gasp went around the room. I was 6 years old and in first grade. It was ten years before I saw the footage of Ruby shooting Oswald, on an anniversary documentary.

But it was my grandmother who got me interested in the biggest mystery since ‘who killed the princes in the Tower?’ (I’m a Ricardian; that’s for another post). She got me embroiled right along with her.

She listened to all the radio talk shows (those who lived in the New York area might remember Long John Nebel, on WOR, WNBC, and WMCA, all on AM radio (FM was really ‘out there’ at that time).

She recorded all the radio talk shows. She bought whatever books came out over the years, along with the Warren Commission Report, which I couldn’t lift at the time, it was so heavy. But my interest never waned in the 51 years that followed.

In 2000, I began the third book of my New York Saga, set in 1963. The heroine is Vikki McGlory Ward, daughter of Billy McGlory, hero of the second book, BOOTLEG BROADWAY, set during Prohibition. This was my opportunity to write a novel showcasing all my current theories, and continue the saga. It took a minimum of research, since I remember all the 60’s brands, (Bosco, Yum Berry, Mr. Bubble…), the fashions, the songs, and I even included a scene set on that unforgettable night when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964.

About THE END OF CAMELOT

The third in the New York Saga, The End of Camelot centers on Billy McGlory’s daughter Vikki, whose husband is murdered trying to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Vikki uses her detective skills to trace the conspiracy, from New York to New Orleans to Dallas, and at the same time, tricks her husband’s murderer into a confession. A romance with her bodyguard makes her life complete.

November 22, 1963: The assassination of a president devastates America. But a phone call brings even more tragic news to Vikki Ward—her TV reporter husband was found dead in his Dallas hotel room that morning.

Finding his notes, Vikki realizes her husband was embroiled in the plot to kill JFK—but his mission was to prevent it. When the Dallas police rule his death accidental, Vikki vows to find out who was behind the murders of JFK and her husband. With the help of her father and godfather, she sets out to uncover the truth.

Aldobrandi Po , the bodyguard hired to protect Vikki, falls in love with her almost as soon as he sets eyes on her. But he’s engaged to be married, and she’s still mourning her husband. Can they ever hope to find happiness in the wake of all this tragedy?

Excerpt

It was New Year’s Eve, they were alone, and he was harmless. So far. So she took the necessary two paces over to him and placed the honey ball between his custom-made choppers.

He closed his eyes, and she watched him savoring the sweetness. She didn’t dare say another word as she ran her index finger over a glob of cream on the cannoli plate, raised it to her lips and licked. “Mmmm,” she voiced, wishing she hadn’t.

Their eyes met and locked. Faster than lightning, they came together like magnets. Their lips met, sweet and sticky and hot. She didn’t want him to stop, but her inner voice screamed how wrong it was—It’s forbidden!—echoing the nuns in Saint Gustina’s. She shooed it away like an annoying fly. Leave me alone, I’m not a kid anymore. Her arms circled his neck, and his hands slid down to the curve of her back. Dare she move in closer, pelvis to pelvis, an unthinkable act three seconds ago? Her body was betraying her, betraying Jack, taking on a will of its own as she crushed herself to him. The kiss intensified. She tasted cannoli, and her fogged mind told her he’d been sampling them all day. She breathed in his cologne, so foreign it repelled her, so new it aroused her even further. Her tiara slipped off her head. She caught it just as he pulled away.

He held her at arm’s length as in a tango. “Oh, cara mia,” he growled—and if he said another word in Italian, she knew she’d explode. A passion long dormant stirred inside her.

My favorite passage from the book

Billy came down the stairs for a nightcap and glanced into the living room. He noticed the glow in the fireplace, Vikki’s eyeglasses and the anisette bottle on the table. The couch faced the other way, but nobody was sitting on it. “Where’d they go?” Then he realized they hadn’t gone anywhere—and they were on the couch, but not sitting. Before he got out of their way, he placed a long-playing record on the phonograph. Jackie Gleason’s “For Lovers Only.”

Bonus Scene

Like an aging matron, The Dallas County Jail needed a facelift. Stark and uninviting, it reflected all the misery within its institutional gray cinderblock walls. As Vikki and Rosie approached the warden, he sized them up, giving her an extra once-over.

“I’m Morton Horwitz and this is my associate, Sheila Horwitz. We’re Horwitz and Horwitz, of Horwitz and Horwitz—and Associates.” Rosie spoke in his authoritative business-is-business tone. She’d heard him speak like this only a few times—when he gave numbers to his bookie and when he ordered a custom Cadillac. “I called in advance for a consultation with Mr. Jacob Rubenstein.” Using Jack Ruby’s real name, he flashed a business card he’d had printed as a rush job the day before. “We’re his attorneys for his upcoming retrial which he’s awaiting.”

As the warden took the card, Vikki got out a tissue and wiped off her lipstick. Pale as it was, it was probably something Attorney Sheila Horwitz wouldn’t wear to visit a client in prison.

The warden nodded, signed them in, another official gave them passes, and a third guard ushered them down a dank, echoing corridor to a mess-hall type of room lined with long tables and metal folding chairs. “Your client will be out momentarily,” the warden announced. He about-faced and exited. They sat alone with another sentry stationed at a metal door. Although it wasn’t cold, Vikki shivered. She wished Al were here with her, but he and Angelo had stayed in their rental car. “I can live without seein’ the inside of another hoosegow,” Angelo had said, and Vikki didn’t ask him to elaborate on that.

Rosie leaned over to her and whispered, “Now remember, if Ruby comes out manacled to a jail guard, just follow my lead—Sheila.”

“Yes, sir—Mensch.”

She started cracking her knuckles, but it echoed, so she stopped herself. “I remember my grandmother telling me about visiting her father in The Tombs,” she told Rosie, just for something to say, to put her nervous energy to use. “He was falsely accused of murder.”

“Yeah, that was a horrible place. Never saw it myself, but heard it was a real dungeon. This joint’s a country club compared to that.”

Glancing around at the concrete block walls and the bars on the tiny windows, and remembering the stonefaced sentry posted at the metal outer door, she felt a pang of sympathy for the poor souls locked up here.

After a few more tense moments, echoing footsteps preceded two figures in gray that halted across the table.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Rubenstein.” Again using Ruby’s real name and his business-is-business tone, Rosie stood to shake hands with the pale, nondescript convict as Ruby’s guard kept a tight clamp around his other arm. Vikki also stood, ready for a formal lawyerly greeting.

As Ruby opened his mouth to speak, Rosie cut right in: “Excuse me, Mr. Prison Guard, sir, I’m Morton Horwitz, of Horwitz and Horwitz and Associates, Mr. Rubenstein’s attorneys, and as we’re representing him in his upcoming retrial, we need to maintain client confidentiality,” he articulated. “So I’d appreciate it if you’d please step out of the room for approximately thirty or so minutes.”

Ruby’s eyes brightened as if to say Okay, I get it, and he turned to his guard. “Yes, Ray, I need to consult with my attorney, Mr. Horwitz, and his assistant, er—”

“Associate. Attorney Sheila Horwitz,” she saved the moment for Jack Ruby.

“Yeah. Attorneys Horwitz, this is Captain Ray Abner, my personal guard,” he proclaimed, like it was a heroic feat to be so infamous as to require a personal prison guard.

Abner gave a curt nod, touched the brim of his cap, and after a warning of “Thirty minutes,” saw himself out and clanged the door shut.

Now Ruby broke into a big grin as Rosie held out his hand for a hearty shake and said, “Put ’er there, Sparky!”

“Hey, Rosie. Put on a coupla pounds in the last few decades since you been practicin’ criminal defense law, hah?”

“You look pretty well-fed yourself, Spark, for a jailbird. How ya doin’, pal?”

“Just as I expected.” They all sat. “I knew I’d end up in here sooner or later, Ro.” His resigned tone dragged down his Chicago accent.

“This here’s my goddaughter Victoria,” Rosie introduced her. She leaned across the table and shook hands with Ruby.

The most notorious man alive met her fascinated gaze with pouchy eyes. His hand was clammy, his handshake weak. “Pleased to meet ’cha, Victoria.”

This is unrealthe man who closed the case of the presidential assassination forever, in the most astonishing sequence ever broadcast, and here I am shaking hands with him.

Now that she was here, she couldn’t think of a word to ask the man before her, although she’d rehearsed dozens of questions on the way. She sat tongue-tied, her insides churning. Mercifully, Rosie led the conversation.

“So, Sparky, they let you have booze and broads up here?”

“The nosh is dreck. I thought I could get special attention, ya know, have ’em prepare my meals the way I want ’em, but Abner there”—he jerked his thumb towards the closed door—“he won’t let me. Says he’s gotta eat jail food, I gotta eat it, too. But I get a few bottles of Scotch brung up to me. They don’t let me have any broads, but I’m workin’ on it.”

They shared a laugh, but Vikki remained quiet, out of lingering shock that she was actually here.

Rosie said, “I’ll send ya some of my homemade wine.”

“Passover’s comin’. Could you make it Manischewitz? I’m not too hot on that dago red.”

“I’ll get a broad to sneak in some plonk,” Rosie said. “Think they’ll letcha have both?”

Ruby shook his head. “One of my gals from the Carousel Club showed up the day I got booked. Was packin’ a Beretta in her scarf to give me. They arrested her at the entrance.”

“Ah, too bad.” Rosie shook his head. “She get out on bail, or what?”

Ruby cast his eyes downwards and dabbed at them with his shirtsleeve. “She’s dead. A week ago Friday.”

“Aah, jeez, I’m sorry, Spark,” Rosie muttered.

Vikki shivered.

“I was readin’ the paper and always turn to the obits first, ya know? I see the name ‘Theresa Norton’ and I says, nah, it can’t be, it’s gotta be another Theresa Norton, then I see the relatives’ names, her age—yeah, it’s her, a’right. Nineteen years old. Then a couple gals from the Carousel come to visit, told me she was shot.” Ruby pressed his lips together, and they all sat for a few seconds without talking.

Rosie finally broke the silence. “So what are the rest of the chickadees doin’ now?”

“A few of ’em got jobs at Madame De Luce’s in Turtle Creek, but that’s just a whorehouse. I never allowed any hanky panky in the Carousel. That was a fuckin’ high-class place.” He looked at Vikki and put his hand up to his mouth like a naughty boy. “Oops. Sorry, my dear.”

“It’s quite all right.” How about that, a murderer with manners.

Ruby leaned back and crossed his arms. “So, what’s goin’ down, Ro?”

“We need to find out a few things, Sparky. Vikki’s husband, Jack Ward, was the television reporter. He was found drowned in his tub at the Dallas Hilton on—ya know. That same day.”

“Yeah, I used to watch him all the time. I heard about your husband, and I’m sorry. Damn shame.” He looked at Vikki and recognition lit up his face. “I seen pictures of you, too.” Ruby aimed his trigger finger at her. She couldn’t help staring—that same finger fired the shot in that startling scene beamed around the world the instant it happened.

“Oh—” She quickly averted her eyes. “That’s the spread they did on Jack in Look magazine. After Jack won his first Emmy, they interviewed him at home and insisted I pose with him for a few photos.” She didn’t relish that fleeting exposure; it happened only because of her famous husband. To her, it was an invasion of their privacy. But it was enough to stick in Ruby’s memory for two years.

“Yeah, you looked all right.” Ruby nodded in approval, and she remembered he was the owner of a strip club, accustomed to being surrounded by beautiful women. For some strange reason, she felt flattered. His look wasn’t lecherous. He was like any other male appreciating female beauty.

She didn’t wait for Rosie to moderate; she plowed right in. “Mr. Ruby, I need to know what happened to Jack that day. I found some notes he’d made, saying he was onto someone called Cassius, who Jack thought was planning to assassinate the president. Later, I found some of Jack’s tapes mentioning a Cassius, then more tapes mentioning a Brutus and a Marc Antony. I found out they’re agents who do political assassinations and mob hits. We’re wondering if you can tell us anything about these people, anything at all. Anything. I’m convinced Jack was killed, and I need to know who killed him.” She fought back tears, not wanting to start blubbering in front of Jack Ruby; she tried to retain the Sheila Horwitz comportment, in her black suit, her Coke bottle glasses, her hair slicked back into a tight bun. She couldn’t let any emotions creep up on her now, in one of the most important conversations of her life.

Ruby crossed one leg over the other and grabbed his shoe. He shook his head, and she felt her heart plummet to the depths of her soul. Please, Jack, think, she pleaded silently.

“I don’t know nobody by them names. Any descriptions?”

“In one of his tapes, he said Cassius was wearing a diamond pinkie ring. But I found out Cassius got killed in New Orleans—his real name was Rino Tieri.”

Ruby guffawed. “Diamond pinkie ring, hah? That narrows it down. What was that eye-talian name you said?”

“Rino Tieri.”

He shook his head. “Don’t ring a bell.”

“How well did you know Oswald?” Rosie broke in.

“He was an acquaintance, not like we went slummin’ together or nothin’ like that. I knew his uncle, Dutz Murret, pretty well. We worked together a few times. Lee used to come in the Embassy Club and hit on the broads.” He nodded. “Damned if he didn’t score most nights,” he added with a trace of resentment.

“Maybe it was the gun in his pocket,” Rosie suggested.

“Dutz was one of Marcello’s lieutenants in New Orleans, and Lee was a runner for his uncle,” Ruby explained, and then turned back to Vikki. “But that don’t help you, does it?”

She wished she’d been allowed to bring the notebooks and tapes, because she had a hunch Ruby could’ve picked up on some clues. But she only had her memory to rely on. She wondered whether to tell Ruby that Detective Frost had been murdered going after Cassius, and they’d found Brutus dead themselves.

Before she could speak again, Ruby said, “Well, I’ll tell ya what I know and what I couldn’t tell Gerald Ford and Earl Warren when they came here. But I don’t know everything. So I’ll tell ya what I do know, and you do your own diggin’ on the outside.” He turned to Rosie. “There was a guy, Ro, remember Giovedi or Giovanni or whatever his name was, Bati? The guy who ran the scrap iron and junk handlers union and fixed the races?”

“Gio Bati. Yeah, he wore a jacket made of doghair ’cause he loved dogs so much.”

“He moved to New Orleans after the war and hooked up with Marcello’s outfit. He had a son, Benzo, and when the kid was about seventeen, he wanted to get into the rackets, but his old man told him if he did, he’d kill him. Then the old man got whacked, and the kid joined the Army Marksmanship Unit. He did some hits that I heard about, on a South American tin pot dictator, some African bishop or other, various political hits. In a few years, he was a world-class marksman.” He looked at Vikki. “The Bati family are originally from New Orleans, but Marcello kicked ’em out, and they snuck back in about a year later. Now, Lee Oswald was involved with the CIA, but never told me how. He did tell me that a group of three assassins is sometimes given contracts by the Cuban Revolutionary Council, an arm of the CIA. This trio of gunmen has a high turnover, but it’s always three hit men doing high-powered hits. Whoever needed a hit like that, they’d hire one of ’em out, or two, or all three. They call themselves the Triumvirate. I don’t know who they are, but some of the higher-ups in New Orleans’ll know. It might be them guys you said with the Roman names, three of ’em. I was never high up enough to know code names and stuff like that. But Ben Bati’s old man, Gio, used to be one of the three, and there’s a chance Ben might’ve taken over the position when the old man died.”

“The CIA?” she thought out loud. Hmmm…

“Maybe Benzo Bati is one of the Triumvirate.” Ruby shrugged. “But—I dunno.”

“How long has this group of three guys been around?” Rosie asked.

“At least since the war.” Ruby reached around to scratch his back. “The FBI knew about them, and Hoover looked the other way. I never knew anybody else named Bati, though, in Chicago or anyplace else. That’s why I think you should try to look Ben up in New Orleans.” Ruby stopped and squinted in thought. “His boss used to be Nappy Dibrizzi, years ago, but I don’t know if they still keep in touch. Remember Nappy? He didn’t learn how to read till after he had four kids. He’s outta the rackets now. Did fifteen in the Hothouse, an’ now he’s clean. Used to be one of Marcello’s soldiers, then worked his way up, got his button, was a made man before he was twenty-five.”

“Yeah, Nappy and me used to hang out together, too, run numbers, when I first started out,” Rosie said. “Hell, I haven’t seen him in prob’ly forty-five years. So he was a made man, huh?” He chuckled. “Little snot-nosed kid with his button. I’ll be damned.”

“Yeah, good ol’ Nappy. He went back to New Orleans when Marcello got deported. But even when Marcello snuck back into New Orleans, Nappy stayed there, and they never seemed to get inna each other’s way anymore.” Ruby smiled, and to Vikki he seemed such an ordinary, congenial man sitting and reminiscing with an old friend. It chilled her to remember who he actually was. “Well, if anybody knows where Bati would be, or if them three guys wit’ the Roman names are the Triumvirate, it should be Nappy. He owns a restaurant in the French Quarter there, il Tantino, I et there a few times. He got the only genuine eye-talian restaurant in New Orleans. Serves up the best fried eggplant I ever et, and I ain’t even eye-talian.”

“You might as well be,” Rosie joshed.

Vikki sat forward, spurred by a glimmer of hope. “This could be what we’re looking for. Ben Bati could be the Marc Antony of the Triumvirate.”

“I can’t be sure, but it sounds more like him than anybody else I know,” Ruby said. “Worth a shot. No pun intended, heh, heh.”

Rosie let out an appreciative chuckle, seeming to find humor in the slip of tongue that Vikki didn’t care to acknowledge. “So Bati’s still there in the Crescent City?” he asked.

“Dunno where he is now. He went to work directly for Marcello when Nappy went inna pen. Started as a runner, then graduated to one of his hired guns. But he mighta taken over his old man’s job as one of those three top hit men after the old man kicked over. Nappy can tell you all that, and maybe where Bati is now. He could still be in New Orleans, mighta skipped town. I just don’t know.”

“Do you know how many assassins were in Dealey Plaza that day?” Vikki asked, knowing she was treading on dangerous ground here.

Ruby pressed his lips together and ran a finger around the inside of his collar. “I don’t know who was behind this plot, my dear. I don’t know the assassin, or assassins, however many there were. All I know is there’s a right-wing organization here, a bunch of Nazis, and they’re very powerful. If they have connections to Marcello or Castro or anybody else, I don’t know.”

“You should at least tell Warren that this Triumvirate might’ve been behind it,” Rosie said.

“Even if I was sure, he don’t want to know nothin’ but one thing: Oswald did it. Alone.” Ruby stopped talking and pressed his lips together.

“How about if you write him a letter, like a written testimony, or a deposition?” Rosie pressed on. Now he sounded like a lawyer.

“I can write it, I can say it, I can sing it to the tune of Hava Nagila while spinning a dreidel—they don’t wanna hear it. They won’t even let me testify what I just told ya. I can’t say nothin’ to nobody here. I couldn’t say nothin’ to Judge Warren or Gerald Ford here. I want to testify in Washington, but they won’t let me. They said I wouldn’t be safe in Washington. Now that’s a load of dreck; I’m in a lot more danger here. My whole family is in jeopardy, my sisters’ lives—at this moment, Lee Harvey Oswald isn’t guilty of committing the crime of assassinating President Kennedy. Jack Ruby is. I’m a scapegoat. If Warren wanted me to talk, he could get me to Washington. I begged them to bring me to Washington. They won’t.” He shut his eyes and shook his head. “Won’t even let me take a lie detector test. Don’tcha see? They want to keep this whole thing simple, make it look like Oswald killed JFK and I killed Oswald ’cause he killed JFK. Case closed. And I can tell you as sure as God makes little green apples, I’ve been used for a purpose, and there will be a tragic occurrence if they don’t take my testimony and vindicate me.” He pointed his trigger finger for emphasis. “Otherwise, I’m gonna croak here, Ro—four hundred million people saw me shoot Lee.” He started rubbing his eyes, and at first Vikki thought he was just tired or had allergies, but she saw actual tears. “I hate myself for this…I hate them all for doing this! I wish they’d all get wiped out! I felt so bad for Mrs. Kennedy, with them two little kids, and you know she lost a baby, too—” Now he was sobbing openly. “Lee’s wife, the Soviet gal, has two babies, too—that poor thing. She’s got nothin’ now. I sent her some money—I felt so bad for her—at least the Kennedys got dough, but she’s got nothin’ now.” Tears rolled down his cheeks and spilled onto his faded gray prison-issue shirt. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and sniffed loudly.

Rosie leaned over and laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Spark. You did what you hadda do.”

“How the hell’d I get into this mess? I was just a nice Jewish boy from the Chicago ghetto, tryin’ to make a living, earn some bread. How’d they suck me into this, those filthy bastards? I got my orders, I said okay—’cause I thought I’d rather die in the chair than die at the hand of a vengeful enforcer for a screwed-up job. But now—”

Rosie handed Ruby his handkerchief. Ruby blew his nose into it. “I didn’t mean to—never wanted to kill nobody—Lee was a good kid, he loved Kennedy as much as I did, he never hurt nobody! He was just a putz. I didn’t wanna kill him, but I had to…I had to! I hate myself. I keep askin’ myself, ‘Why’d ya do it, Jack?’ I shoulda let Lee live and let them whack me for screwin’ up the job. I caved in to them, and I’ll never make peace with myself!”

Vikki took a deep breath and held back tears of her own. Ruby’s sorrow, with his days numbered, tore her heart out.

“They’ll never let me tell the truth. They’re all rotten, all of ’em. The government is worse than the damn crime bosses. They’re all stinkin’ rotten lowlife bastards.” He pounded his fist on the table. It echoed through the room.

Vikki reached over to take Ruby’s hand. “Please, Jack, it’s over; there’s nothing you can do about it now,” she said gently.

This seemed to calm him down. “I know.” He looked at Vikki through his tears and smiled. “Everybody caught up in this, I feel so sorry for. You, Jackie Kennedy, Marina Oswald, all their families, all the Americans who loved him, everybody all over the world. Just ’cause a couple rotten eggs hadda knock Jack Kennedy off the throne. They think they’re better off with Lyndon Johnson? Oish!” He started to stuff the crumpled handkerchief into his pocket, but pulled it out again. “Oh, sorry, Ro, this is yours.”

Rosie held up his hand. “Nah, Spark, you keep it.”

They sat in silence for a moment while Ruby composed himself.

“Look, Sparky, don’t your lawyer give you any hope of beatin’ this rap?” Rosie asked.

“Yeah,” he sighed, nodding. “Joe’s good. He makes a good impression. I dunno how the retrial’s gonna come out, but when I asked him if he thought I’d get the chair, he said, ‘Jack, if you get it, don’t sit down in it.’ Broke me up.” He exploded into a fit of uncontrollable giggles. It amazed her, such a contrast to his heart-wrenching outburst of a minute ago. He certainly was an emotional wreck.

Rosie and Vikki exchanged glances.

Rosie said, “I been askin’ all around Miami but couldn’t get any real reliable answers. I went clean—well, almost—when I moved to Palm Beach, so I ain’t on the inside no more. First I heard it wasn’t one nut killing JFK, it involved other people. Then Castro’s name come up, along with Edgar Hoover. I heard so many stories, I don’t know who the hell’s reliable and who’s talkin’ out their behind no more.”

“Truth is, neither do I.” Ruby folded his hands on the table. “And that’s why they don’t want me to testify. They think I know a lot more than I do. They think I’m a lot more important and highfalutin’ than I am. I’m just a hard-working Dallas nightclub owner. Hell, I was used. I’m just a schmuck.”

“That’s ’cause you’re the only one they caught so far,” Rosie said.

“Besides the right-wingers, Marcello wanted JFK taken out, to get Bobby outta his hair,” Ruby said. “He wanted to set it up ‘to make a nut take the blame’ he put it. Can you find a better nut than that Commie ex-defector Lee Oswald? And them other kooks he hung out with? That right-wing militant segregationist David Ferrie, with the glued-on eyebrows? What a cast of idiots.”

“You’re one of ’em now, Sparky.”

Vikki couldn’t help breaking in. “Glued-on eyebrows?”

Ruby turned to her. “Yeah, he has some disease that makes you lose all your hair. He wears these hairy wigs and glues on his eyebrows. Looks like Bozo the damn clown.”

If they were such a cast of idiots, how did they pull off the crime of the century? She didn’t say it. Instead, “What’s his involvement?” she asked Ruby.

“I dunno for sure. He’s a CIA operative and used to work for Marcello in New Orleans. I met him and Lee around the same time. He lived in Dallas a while, but scrammed to New Orleans. I dunno why. He was an Eastern Airlines pilot, of all things. Kinda makes you think twice about flying, with him at the wheel.”

“He still alive?” Rosie asked.

“Yeah, but mark my words, before long all them guys’ll be pushin’ up daisies,” Ruby replied. “Now, Marcello—I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he was behind it, but I have no proof of nothing. Nobody does. He threatened to take JFK out all the time. I dunno if he went through with it or somebody else beat him to it. I’m not high enough up to know any of that. I never met the man. But Warren don’t wanna hear nobody else was involved but Lee Harvey Oswald—and me.” He looked at Vikki. “But as to who killed your husband, my dear, I don’t know any hard facts, I’m just guessin’ here myself.”

“Who gave you your orders to hit Oswald?” Rosie asked, in a gentle, persuasive tone. “You can tell me.”

Ruby’s expression belied mixed emotions. “One of Marcello’s lieutenants. Wouldn’t tell me his name. Or his nickname. He just told me enough so I wouldn’t dare turn him down. But try and find Benzo Bati. He’s a good bet. He might be back in New Orleans now, on Marcello’s turf. He always done hits for Marcello. But that’s no guarantee he killed your husband. The place was swarming with Marcello’s gang in Dallas that day. But that still don’t give no proof. Don’t give no proof they were behind the JFK shooting, either.”

“Still, that’s something to go by.” Hope welled up in her as she clasped her hands in a quick prayer. “Thank you so much, Jack. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your talking to us about this.”

“Anything to help a sweet kid like you. Besides, I ain’t too busy these days.”

A man in a white coat came in with Captain Abner and tapped his watch. Ruby twisted around, saw the guards, and dashed to the far corner, covering his face with his hands, as if warding off a blow. “No, I don’t want it! Keep away from me!”

“Time for your medicine, Mr. Ruby,” the white-coated man said, like a babysitter enticing a kid to drink all his milk. Captain Abner approached Ruby and grasped his arm. “C’mon, Jack. We go through this every time.”

Flanked by both men, each clutching an arm, Ruby turned back to Rosie and Vikki, shouting over his shoulder, “See what they’re doin’ to me? They’re tryin’a kill me! This is cancer they shoot into me! I tell you, they’re killin’ me!”

Vikki sat there, stunned, as his pathetic shouts echoed through the room and died out as they dragged him away.

Emotionally drained, she dropped her head in her hands.

“He always went off the deep end, even when I knew him in Chicago,” Rosie said. “That’s why we called him Sparky. Short fuse. Always jumpin’ around, babblin’ about the end of the world and the oppression of the Jews and somebody was always out to kill him.”

“But this time it’s probably true.” She opened her eyes and stared at the empty room now devoid of all sound.

“Let’s get outta here.” He helped her to her feet. “We’ll get the hell outta Dallas and head to The City That Care Forgot. It’ll be good to go back there. I spent a good part of my wayward youth there,” Rosie said. “Loved them muffulettas.”

A guard led them back outside, clanged the door shut behind them, and she took a much-needed gulp of fresh air. “What are muffulettas? I’m almost afraid to ask. It sounds like something obscene.”

Rosie took a deep breath of his own and smiled. “You’ll see. Good thing New Orleans ain’t far from here.” He squeezed her arm and she met his hand with hers. “We’ll take the train this time.”

Her godfather hated flying.