Absolutely Historical – Chapter 3
Princeton Prof. Henry Nickels, his T.A. Josh Styles and grad student Mary Winthrop go on adventures to discover the true origins of America…
Chapter 3 – JFK’s Killer
Professor: JFK is not dead.
(A couple students glance up at the pacing Prof. Henry Nickels as TA Josh Styles nods over-confidently from his tiny corner desk…)
Professor: The former President is alive and well, retired in an undisclosed location.
Student: (raises hand) Is this going to be on the test?
(Prof. Nickels’ steely eyes narrow and glint under the fluorescent lights…)
(Grad student Mary Winthrop is having lunch at a local Princeton, NJ bistro with her father, wealthy investment banker Robert Allen Winthrop…)
Mr. Winthrop: You’re simply not applying yourself, Mary Louise. You could be doing so much more than digging up old relics and running around with that madman professor. Please, come work with me at my firm.
Mary: For the last time dad, I’m not interested in investment banking. I’m interested in history. Discovering new ideas, new theories, seeing how the world works. Once you understand the past, you begin to more better understand the present and the future. It all fits together. And Prof. Nickels might have some…unorthodox views; but he’s a good professor and I can learn a lot from him.
Mr. Winthrop: He’s a madman and he’s dangerous. He’s filling my baby girl’s head with crazy ideas.
Mary: You know dad, it’s a wonder why mother left you, seeing how understanding and reasonable you are.
Mr. Winthrop: That’s a low blow, Mary. Now, can you handle the check? I left my wallet at the office.
(The next morning Prof. Nickels, Josh and Mary are on a small charter plane heading north up the coast. Mary leans across the aisle to the professor…)
Mary: (smirks) So JFK is alive and living in a beach house on Martha’s Vineyard, huh?
Professor: (nods) A ripe ninety-six years old.
Mary: Professor, this might be your most far-fetched theory yet. Hundreds of witnesses saw the President get his head blown off in broad daylight.
Professor: (holds up a finger) Correction, Winthrop. Hundreds of witnesses saw a man who looked like the President get his head blown off.
Josh: (frowns) A body double?
Professor: (nods) During the Cold War era, all the world leaders utilized political decoys for security. Khrushchev. Castro. Hitler had dozens of decoys during WWII. Saddam during the Gulf War. It’s common practice among those who may be the targets of would-be assassins.
Mary: So Kennedy knew he was gonna get shot.
Professor: Not quite. By 1963, Kennedy was sick of the grind. Being the leader of the free world wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Sure, the women and the power were nice. But his marriage was falling apart, his health was drastically deteriorating and the pressure was mounting on all sides. The job was running him into an early grave.
Mary: Which it did. When he was shot. In the head.
Professor: Kennedy got to the point where he didn’t want to run for re-election. But he knew the power brokers in Washington would have none of that. So he figured another way out. Unbeknownst to Secret Service, he took one of his doubles aside and said he needed a day off. He promised the double a night with Jackie if he took JFK’s place in the parade.
Mary: Class act.
Professor: The double had had state-of-the-art facial reconstruction surgery so no one would be the wiser. When the motorcade turned onto Dealey Plaza, the real President Kennedy was stationed with a rifle on the sixth floor of the book depository.
Mary: Wait. Hold up. Your theory is that JFK assassinated himself?
Mary: That’s insane.
Josh: That’s awesome.
Professor: That’s historical.
Stewardess: That’s seven dollars.
Josh: For a soda?!
(The three are walking along the beach on the eastern shore of Martha’s Vineyard, waves gently lapping the beach on one side, exquisite mansions and tranquil beach houses dotting the countryside on the other. The professor stops and beams at a small cottage quietly nestled into the reeds…)
Professor: There it is. The final resting place of our oldest living President.
(An older man with a familiar quaff of hair is sauntering around a small garden in the front yard…)
Mary: Oh my god, professor.
(Prof. Nickels strides toward the nonagenarian and Mary and Josh quickly follow suit…)
Professor: Good morning, Mr. President.
Kennedy: I, er, uh…pahdon?
Professor: Mr. President, my name is Henry Nickels. I’m a history professor at Princeton University and I must say it is an honor to meet you. I’m not here to expose you to the world, I merely want my best student to meet a piece of walking history.
(Josh puffs out his chest, pops his collar and winks at Mary who rolls her eyes. President Kennedy’s face sinks, knowing he’s been found out…)
Kennedy: Well then, er, uh…come in.
(Over tea and brandy in his cozy living room, the ninety-six year old President John F. Kennedy is telling Josh, Mary and Prof. Nickels the greatest secret ever revealed…)
Kennedy: I have a, er, uh…Colombian girl who comes by every couple days to clean up the house. Doesn’t speak a lick of English or know who I, er, uh…am. Great ass, though.
Mary: Mr. President, don’t you ever regret…leaving office the way you did, when you did? There’s so much you could have done. Ended the Vietnam War. Accelerated the Civil Rights movement. Peace talks with the Soviets.
Kennedy: (waves a wrinkled old hand) Those things were gonna happen the way they did whether I was in office or not. There are men out there more powerful than the, er, uh…President.
Mary: But you’ve had to live the last fifty years in seclusion, all holed up in this cottage; albeit a gorgeous one, I might add.
Kennedy: Not true. I, er, uh…winter in Ibiza. You should see the broads out there, professor.
Mary: And no one’s ever recognized you?
Kennedy: (shrugs, swigs brandy) They never think to look. I’m dead. As the professor here will certainly tell you, I’m living every conspiracy nut’s dream. I know who really killed Kennedy.
Josh: (nods) Nobody.
Kennedy: (frowns at the pudgy TA) No. Me. I did. Have you even been listening, son?
Josh: Right. Sorry. You did. Sorry, Mr. Nixon.
Kennedy: It’s Kennedy.
Mary: (knits brow at Josh) What’s the matter with you?
Josh: I’m very nervous.
Professor: Well Mr. President, it’s truly been an honor. Josh, Winthrop, if you don’t mind I’d like to have one final word with the President in private.
(Josh and Mary head back out to the choppy Vineyard shores…)
(Prof. Nickels is walking briskly back down the beach with Josh and Mary in tow. Mary reaches into her dress pocket and freezes…)
Mary: Shoot. Josh, I think I left my phone on the President’s coffee table. I’ll catch up with you guys back at the car.
(Mary rushes back to the cottage and into the living room where President Kennedy is still seated with his head slumped down against his chest…)
Mary: (smiles) We must have tuckered the old tiger out.
(Mary tiptoes to the coffee table, picks up her phone and sneaks back to the door, only stopping after hearing a loud thump behind her. She turns to see the former President crumpled on the ground, shrieks and races out the door and back down the beach…)
(Mary sprints to the car and grabs Prof. Nickels by the coat…)
Mary: Professor, the President. I think he’s dead!
Professor: (staring out at the rolling ocean waves) Well, it’s like Kennedy said: It’s every conspiracy theorist’s dream to know who really killed Kennedy. (turns back to Mary with an odd grin) And now I know.
(Mary backs away and climbs into the back seat, warily glancing back at her professor…)
Josh: (turning back to Mary from driver’s seat) Why’s your face so white, Mary? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. (chortles) Get it? Because everybody thinks JFK’s dead? Like a ghost? Hahah, ohhhhh but he’s alive.
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