We touched down at Dallas Love Field at 7:18 in the evening. The sun had set nearly three hours earlier, but the thick clouds reflected back the light from the city, creating a silvery sheen overhead.
Our tiny plane shuddered to a halt just outside the Bureau hanger bay. The logo on the side of the building was a garish red and larger than the plane’s propeller: an unblinking, all-seeing eye with a lightning bolt striking through the center of the pupil.
Not comforting, and it got the point across.
A fleet of cars waited for us, along with a host of agents in suits and ties. The man standing at the forefront had to be AD Chimansky. And he was wearing a blue suit.
I hadn’t gotten a clear view of the man kneeling over Jacqueline. I had been focused on her and the blood on her gown and the pearls scattered across the floor. But he had the right build, the right hair color, the right head shape.
Captain Sanchez, now on his twelfth cigarette, cut the engine. Twisting around in his seat, he fixed me with a speculative look. “You gonna need a ride back?”
Barnaby cracked open the clamshell door and kicked the little set of airsteps into place. “No, thank you, Captain. But you’ll need to stick around to sign some paperwork.” He hopped out, not waiting for a response.
The pilot scowled around his cigarette. “Non-disclosure, go to jail if I talk type paperwork?”
I clasped Barnaby’s extended hand — “‘Fraid so” — and clambered down the steps and onto the tarmac. Behind me, I heard Franklin extend another thanks to Sanchez, along with a second reminder that he needed to stay put.
I straightened my jacket. It was warmer than I had expected (or hoped); probably close to sixty degrees. Was it too much to ask for some cool weather?
“Clairvoyant Green. Agent Franklin. Agent Barnaby. Welcome to Dallas. Finally.”
I looked up, returning Assistant Director Chimansky’s frown with a smile. “Thank you, sir.”
“As of two hours ago, you are the only standing clairvoyant in the entire city.”
Blinking, I eventually managed a confused “Sir?”
Chimansky spun on his heel and made for the nearest car. Another agent was already waiting with the door open. “I told you they were freaking out. Half-a-dozen experienced clairvoyants, all in tune with the city and one another. Then they start getting apocalyptic visions. Flashes of light, burning buildings, mushroom clouds. The works.”
He climbed into the car and I had to scramble to keep up, not wanting to miss a single word. I dropped into the back seat, Barnaby and Franklin climbed in after me, and the door closed with a thunk.
“So I put in a call to DC. DC tells me to call you for a secondary reading.” He frowned again. “But then you’re late. You call me from Tucson and tell me that you’re having apocalyptic visions, too, and that the President is going to be assassinated and that if we don’t stop the assassination the world will burn.”
“Succinctly put, sir.”
He snorted. “And right after I hang up with you, my stable of clairvoyants collectively go catatonic, but not before drawing this.”
Chimansky reached over to a briefcase sitting on the seat beside him. He entered the code, popped the lock, and handed me a crunched up roll of butcher paper.
I hadn’t used one of these since Camp Delphi. Some clairvoyants worked better in groups. Not me. But I had still been tested to see if I could be part of a Multi-Sensory Unit. Rolls of butcher paper allowed such groups to work together, to build on each other’s Seeings, to illustrate what could not be spoken aloud and that had to be communicated quickly; sometimes in the middle of a Seeing.
I unrolled the first few inches of the paper. Barnaby took the loose end, stretching it until Franklin could grab it; all the way across the back seat.
Red and black. Ink and crayon. The paper was heavy with mad scribbles and squiggles, layer upon layer of them.
Bodies. Crumbled buildings. Birds — or maybe planes — falling from the sky. Forests burning.
But nothing … wait ….
White circles. One or more of the Dallas clairvoyants had drawn thick black circles, creating a string of tiny white spheres. And … was that a smear of pink? Red and white crayon mixed together, drawn one atop the other again and again, creating something like pink.
Their collective Seeing had overwhelmingly focused on the nuclear holocaust. But they had Seen hints of how it began, the tipping point that led to war and annihilation.
The assassination of President Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. In Dallas. In two days.
I continued to scroll through the butcher paper. The illustrations grew more frantic, more manic. Less coherent. Globs of ink. The crayon was so thick in places that it cracked and slid off the paper in sheets.
The entire last six inches of the paper was solid black.
I let go, and the paper made a soft shooshing sound as it rolled shut. Franklin handed it back to Chimansky.
“Now I’m starting to get calls from the ADs in New York and San Francisco. Their Multi-Sensory Units and even their lone clairvoyants are starting to See” — he waved the paper — “this. But you’ve apparently Seen more and better than anyone else thanks to your stay at the White House. You saw how it started. So, how do we keep it from starting?”
I opened my mouth, closed it.
There was a knock at the window.
Chimansky scowled harder and hit the button to roll it down. “What is it, Collins?”
A woman with her hair up in a tight bun was waiting on the other side. Her gaze skipped across me to Chimansky. “Apologies, sir. Three more messages routed over from the office.”
She held out folded slips of paper and backed away. Chimansky rolled the window back into place, then flicked open the notes. He grunted. “Miami. Seattle. And this one comes courtesy of our British friends. It’s spreading, hitting more clairvoyants.” He shoved the notes into a jacket pocket. “Word is going to get out. People are going to slip up and alert their family, friends, and then it will be everywhere and we’ll have a full-blown panic on our hands.” He fixed me with a hard look. “So, I ask again, Clairvoyant Green, where do we start? How do we save the world?”
A ballroom. A pink gown. Pearls.
“The Adolphus,” I said. “We begin where she dies.”
The Grand Ballroom of The Adolphus Hotel was already being prepared for the President’s arrival. The large dance space had been swept and polished until it gleamed. Bags of balloons waited to be filled by the army of nitrogen tanks that lined the wall. The dozens of tables had already been moved into position; a few had chairs, but most of those were stacked up next to the nitrogen tanks. Massive carts filled with just-laundered table clothes and napkins sat to one side, while three large tables were covered in empty vases that would be filled with fresh flowers.
Even the chandeliers had been dusted, and there wasn’t a single dim or dead lightbulb to be seen.
The clerk at the front desk had watched wide-eyed as the horde of Federal agents marched through the front doors and up the sweeping staircase. The patrons in the lobby followed our progress, goggle-eyed. I heard the whispers start before we even reached the top of the stairs. And the night manager came running up to AD Chimansky, panting heavily, before we were halfway down the wide hallway.
“Collins, take care of this.” Chimansky waved a hand at the manager and kept walking.
I had to trot to keep up and I was starting to pant a little myself by the time we reached the Grand Ballroom.
I paused on the threshold, blinking. My brain jumped, flickering between what I had Seen and what I saw before me now. The images overlaid one another, and I could hear screams and smell blood and gunpowder. I shuddered, then felt Barnaby’s hand on my lower back. Steadying. Supportive.
I blinked again and moved further into the room, orienting myself, trying to remember where Jacqueline had been standing, how, what had been around her.
The wall. Some of the walls were painted white. Others were covered in textured wallpaper designed to look like trees. So, that side of the room. She had been close to a textured wall, not a plain white one.
I moved across the wide space. Footsteps paced along behind me, beside me. Outside the ballroom, the hotel manager was getting agitated and beginning to argue with poor Agent Collins.
The tables. Would they be moved again, or were they set in place? Most of them were round, but — there — that table was long and rectangular. Probably for the VIPs, like Jacqueline. In my Seeing, that table had been … to my left. Jacqueline’s right. And maybe … what … ten? Fifteen feet back?
I backed up, moved left, right.
Raised my arm, pointed my hand, finger out, thumb up. Heart thudding.
“Bang,” I whispered.
Jacqueline was on the ground, pearls scattered. A man in a blue suit — Chimansky, I was sure of it now — kneeling over her, pushing Jack away.
I turned slowly on my toes, eyes tracing over an event, people, things that weren’t there, hadn’t happened yet.
A man with a gun running. Running through the mass of panicked tuxedos and ballgowns. More shots, so many. Falling.
That way. He was running along the far wall, past the tables of food, towards the rear exit. Shoving people out of his way. He tripped, stumbled on a tablecloth. The first bullet caught him in the right shoulder. He kept running, stumbling. Shoved a waiter, and then a woman in a green dress. Another shot, this time hitting his lower left back. Kidney. Kill shot.
I knelt, touching the carpeted floor with my fingertips. I could see blood that wasn’t there yet.
Inhale, hold, exhale.
Reach. Inhale, hold, exhale. Whole hand against the carpet, feeling for the warm, sticky fibers. The body. The man. The man who had killed Jac —
Fire. My back is on fire. I’m drowning. Bitch. Dead. Deaddeaddead. Funny. Said I would be a hero. Hero. Me. I did it. Me. I’ll be a hero. He’ll tell everyone. Tell everyone what I did.
I was on my butt, breathing hard, Barnaby holding me upright. Sweat ran down my back and somehow I had lost one of my shoes. At least I hadn’t vomited this time.
Chimansky loomed over me. “Well?”
I sucked in another breath and wiped my arm across my forehead. “I Saw him. I can give you a description. Get a sketch made.”
The AD nodded once, hard. “We’ll get it passed out to every agent, police, hotel staff. Someone will know him. And, if they don’t, he won’t get anywhere near the President. Hell, he won’t get within a mile of this hotel.”
Chimansky started to turn away. I frantically reached out and snagged the leg of his pants. He blinked down at me in surprise.
“There’s more. He was hired. Or, not hired, exactly.” I pushed myself to my feet, Barnaby’s hands under my arms. I wobbled for a second, still missing one shoe. “He was told that assassinating President Kennedy would make him a hero. That everyone would know. That he would tell them.”
“He? Can you identify him, too?”
I smiled at Franklin as he handed over my shoe. I was still smiling when I turned back to Chimansky. “Oh, yes sir. I most definitely can. Has Captain Sanchez left yet? We need to go to Alabama.”
Montgomery had no Bureau field office. The FBI had a small presence, which had grown larger as civil unrest threatened. The Governor was not fond of the changes Jacqueline had been making, particularly her support and expansion of policies from the Roosevelt administration.
No, Governor Wallace did not like seeing black and brown children sitting at school desks next to white children. And he liked seeing their parents and grandparents in the voting booth even less.
Sanchez was up front in the cockpit, working his way through yet another cigarette. But he had a bigger plane this time. For some reason, that seemed to make him happy. I had a feeling that he would be flying more big planes in the future, courtesy of a job with the Bureau.
Chimansky had taken a second look at the tiny aircraft that we had flown from Tucson, scowled, and stomped into the Bureau’s hanger, yelling for all of us to follow him. A larger Beechcraft was waiting inside, with more than enough room for myself, Barnaby, Franklin, Chimansky, poor Agent Collins, and the three other agents he ordered on board.
I had no idea what sort of personal protective detail Wallace had at the Governor’s Mansion. Hopefully none. Or the few present would be intimidated enough by the sight of Federal badges and suits to stay out of the way.
Barnaby sat next to me again. Not holding my hand, not in front of so many strangers and a superior. But he was close. And, for now, that was enough.
It was after eleven when we finally touched down at the Montgomery Regional Airport. It was only slightly cooler here, but I was grateful for the reprieve from the heat. There was no fleet of cars waiting this time. Instead, Chimansky sent Collins out to commandeer every taxi cab she could find, making it nearly midnight by the time we pulled up in front of the Governor’s Mansion.
The very confused cab drivers held open the doors for us and watched us pile out and march over to the front gate. It was closed tight, with one thick-jawed guard on duty. State police uniform. Not happy to see us.
Chimansky flashed his badge and yelled for a solid thirty seconds before the guard finally wilted and unlocked the gate. We proceeded up the driveway, aware the entire time of the dozen uniformed shadows that watched us from various points on the lawn and even the roof of the Mansion.
The walls and front columns gleamed in the moonlight. No overcast here. Clear skies.
One of the uniformed shadows moved. Barnaby flipped back his jacket and pulled out his pistol, holding it down by his leg. The shadow backed off.
The door was already open by the time we passed beneath the columns and crossed the porch. A maid in a neatly pressed apron and dress waved us through, pointing around the wide staircase to a door at the rear of the entry hall. “Governor Wallace is waiting for you in his office.”
The Governor was, indeed, waiting for us. Hands neatly folded on his desk blotter. Grim little smile stretching his mouth. Thinning hair slicked back.
He didn’t stand, instead leaning back in his chair. “And what can I do for you folks this evening? What is so important that you had to invade my home in the middle of the night?”
“It won’t happen.” Me. I spoke first, not thinking.
Chimansky glowered at me over his shoulder, then moved to the side. Wallace just raised his eyebrows in mock confusion.
“We know what he looks like. He won’t get anywhere near her.”
I lowered myself into one of the plush chairs that faced the Governor’s desk. Franklin moved up next to me while Barnaby circled the room. “I Saw it. All of it. I felt it, too. You think you’re saving this country, but you’re dooming the world.”
Wallace huffed and looked to Chimansky. “What is this nonsense?”
The Assistant Director pointed at me. The Governor curled his lip and reluctantly returned his attention.
I smiled. “Will you consent to a physical reading?”
Wallace pushed himself to his feet, all confusion gone from his face. His expression was hard now, angry. “No. No, I most definitely will not.”
“That’s all right. It doesn’t matter. I’ll get a reading off him — whoever he is — after we arrest him. It will all be there. Where and when you recruited him. Promising him fame, respect, recognition.” I ran my hand over the velvety arm of the chair. “I highly doubt that you met with him here. But we’ll find that location, and I’ll get more readings. I’ll See everything that happened there, too. And people like him — so desperate for acceptance, for greatness — well, people like him. They like to brag. They like to talk. And everything he says will just verify what I See.”
The corner of Wallace’s eye twitched.
“You must be very angry. You’ve been angry for decades. Did it start during the war, after FDR died and Eleanor Roosevelt pushed through her husband’s plan to desegregate the military? Were you passed over for a promotion that thought you had earned? Forced to work under someone you considered your inferior?” I leaned forward. “Is that what you see when you look at me?”
Another eye twitch.
“And here we are again. Another woman in charge. Another woman meddling, upsetting the natural order. How terrible for you.”
I stood so that I was eye level with Wallace. “Your anger would have burned the world. But not now. Not ever.” I turned away and walked slowly towards the door. “Enjoy your last days of freedom, Governor.”
[End Part Three. Read the Epilogue.]
[Written by Rebecca Buchanan.]