"Meet Me at the Grassy Knoll" was originally published in 4 Star Stories in the spring on 2011.
The older man was looking around. “Where exactly are we?”
“The railroad parking lot. The triple underpass is up there.” He pointed ahead and to the left. “That white picket fence is behind the grassy knoll.”
As they walked across the lot, the signalman in the second story of the train tower nodded. Hurtt smiled back.
“That’s Lee Bowers,” he said through thin lips. “He had a view of the whole deal. He’s the one who said he saw two men at the fence that day who he didn’t recognize.”
Dimitri nodded to a railroad cop. “I better keep my mouth shut,” he said as they passed. “I forgot what they might think if they heard my accent.”
“I’m sure someone would have reported it, if they heard a Roos-kie at Dealey Plaza that day!” said Hurtt.
The two men had only met the day before. The young Russian man had sat behind an expensive mahogany desk.
“Well, H.W. Hurtt was quite a character,” said Dimitri with a thin smile.
“My grandfather was what he was. He didn’t care about celebrity. He didn’t give a damn about what people thought of him.”
“But I did. That’s why I’m here.”
The young dark-haired man smiled nervously at him across the desk. “I don’t mean to be rude, Mr. Hurtt, but are you sure you can afford my services?”
“Don’t be fooled by what happened to my family,” the older man said. “Yes, dad blew the family fortune, and I grew up poor--very poor. But I assure you, I’ve made it all back on my own.”
The young Russian man stroked his thick dark beard. “Yes, I’ve read that your father tried to corner the platinum market back… oh, God, when was it?”
The older man leaned back in his chair and stared hard at the young Russian. “Long before you were born, back in the 1980s. I was a little boy when it happened. Life sucked after that.”
Dimitri grimaced. “Sounds like you have some baggage, Mr. Hurtt.”
“My dad grew up under a double cloud. He was a rich man’s son, and he was also the son of the man who ‘killed Kennedy’. Lots of people thought my granddad was behind the assassination.”
“He was very right wing.”
“My father felt he had so much to prove. That’s probably why he went and tried to do something as stupid as corner the world market on a precious metal. He wanted to prove himself.”
Dimitri sat forward and looked at the gray-haired man, who had begun to sweat. “I’m sorry, I can’t imagine how far your family fell--But what are you trying to prove now?
Hurtt stood up and grabbed the back of the chair. “I understand that if you give me what I want, I can’t change history. Any idiot knows that. I’m not trying to exonerate my grandfather. I know he had nothing to do with it!”
He leaned over the back of the chair and stared at the Russian. “I was a teenager, my grandfather was almost 90, when I asked him straight out, looked him in the eye, and asked him--just like I’m talking to you--if he had anything to do with it. You know what he said?”
Dimitri shook his head slightly.
“He said, ‘Marty, I hated the liberal Yankee sonofabitch, but I wouldn’t done a thing to touch a hair on his head--because I knew I’d be blamed!”
Hurtt sat back down. “His health was failing. He knew was on the way out. Why would he have lied? More importantly, I knew he wasn’t lying?”
He wiped his brow. “He died a week later.”
“So what is it you want? If I were to agree to use the technology and take you back, you can’t interfere,” said Dimitri. “You can’t change anything. You certainly can’t tell anybody.”
Hurtt leaned on the edge of the chair and stabbed the air with his finger. “There was some-fucking-body on that grassy knoll! Someone else was there to shoot Kennedy. A backup in case Oswald folded. That would tell us who was really behind the killing. Remember what Oswald said the last time he spoke to the press.”
“Yes, I do,” said Dimitri. “He said he was a patsy.”
“Yes, who was he a patsy for? I want to know. I want to know who was responsible to putting all that pain on my family for so many years. You want to know, Mister Krasney, the reason why I spent all these years working so hard to build the Hurtt fortune back up? Do you want to know why I never married, worked twenty-hour days, seven days a week? Because as time went by, I knew that as technology developed, there would be a way, some day, to learn the truth.”
He sat back. “Of course, I was thinking forensics, not…”
“But even if you learned what you wanted, you couldn’t tell anyone,” said Dimitri.
Hurtt jumped up again. “I would know! That’s enough. I would know that I was right and my granddad was right and every-fucking-body else was wrong! That’s what I want. I want to find out who was on that grassy knoll! I want to know who the second gunman was!”
Dimitri steepled his fingers. “Twenty million dollars. Half up front in a Caymans bank account. I have a lot of palms to grease, and security to arrange. We can only be gone a half hour, at most, in real time. Otherwise the problems of quantum cascade become insurmountable.”
Hurtt snorted. “Twenty million dollars, eh?”
“If you think…”
Hurtt held up a hand. “For what I want, that’s cheap. I’ve waited fifty years for this. Push your laptop towards me.”
Hurtt turned to Dimitri in the back seat of the taxi as they rode past rows of palm trees. “Nice place to hide the operation.”
“They don’t ask too many questions here. Believe me, a lot of your money never left this island.”
The taxi pulled into a rather neglected industrial park. Dimitri paid and tipped the cabby.
“I wanted to take the taxi, in case someone is looking for my car,” said Dimitri. “It’s already parked inside.”
He walked up to a rusting metal warehouse and unlocked a door. When he turned on the lights, they saw a small platform in the middle of the room.
Hurtt walked over. “This is it, huh? Looks like a big version of the rock’em sock’em robots boxing ring.”
“I didn’t grow up in the U.S. I think that was some kind of toy?”
“Uh-huh. Where’s the equipment?”
“Most of it’s in the next room. The crucial component, the gravitational lens, is beneath the platform.”
“I knew gravity could warp light. I didn’t know it could also warp time.”
“Yes, Doctor Molnar proved that.”
“I bet this requires a lot of power.”
“Not as much as you would think. While the time field takes some, the teleportation field uses most of it. We’re 800 miles from Dallas.”
“The old stomping grounds. When I started grade school, we lived in North Dallas--the rich part of town--but I was in the third grade when dad blew all his money in his little precious metal scheme,” said Hurtt.
“You know what it’s like to get thrown into a public school in North Dallas?” asked Hurtt. “I went to school with the children of the servants who worked for my parents’ former friends.
“You have a lot of bitterness,” said Dimitri.
“At least $20 million worth,” said Hurtt. “I remember sitting there in history class in high school when we went over the Kennedy assassination, and how the kids would stare or whisper. Fuckers!”
Hurtt rubbed his hands. “I remember staring hard down at the history book, and just thinking, ‘history’s a bitch!”
“Yeah, well, remember, no interference, and no anachronisms,” said Dimitri.
Hurtt knited his brow. “I forgot I have a cell phone.” He patted a pocket. “It’s turned off.”
“Just keep it hidden. Ready to go?”
Dimitri pushed over a small stepstool, and the pair stepped into a gap of the “ropes”.
“These piezoelectric bands keep the warp fields from causing any electrical disturbance that would give us away.”
He took a small remote control device from his jacket pocket. Hurtt smiled.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh, I’m just getting a load of that plaid jacket and narrow tie.”
“Hey, I’ll blend in.”
“I just went for plain white shirt and navy slacks,” said Hurtt. ”Won’t draw attention.”
Dimitri held out the remote. “Nobody will be looking at us.”
“This thing’s on auto,” he continued, “so we’ll be snapped back no matter where we are in 25 minutes.”
He slipped a small chip into Hurtt’s shirt. “This will insure you come along.”
He activated the device. It was like being inside a glass elevator, but they stood still and the world whirred by. The outlines of the platform disappeared as the world came into focus again.
They were in the parking lot of the railroad yard.
They now stood behind the fence on the grassy knoll and looked around.
“Nobody back here,” Hurtt muttered.
A dumpy man with thinning hair in a cheap blue suit held an 8mm camera and stood next to a column. Hurtt nudged the Russian.
“That’s Abraham Zapruder. He got that famous footage.”
Dimitri looked around. “This is an excellent viewpoint.”
Hurtt looked up Elm Street, where the six-story schoolbook depository sat on the left. “It’s amazing how little this area has changed. Then again, it is a historic site.”
They walked around the fence. At the end of the colonnade, a young black couple sat at a picnic table eating a sack lunch.
“If they only knew what’s about to break loose,” Hurtt said in a whisper. “What do we do now?”
Dimitri looked around. “We wait.”
They walked into the colonnade. “I assumed this was a memorial to Kennedy. I didn’t know it was here beforehand.”
“This is a memorial to the founder of Dallas, John Bryan,” said Hurtt. “His cabin stood near here. This plaza was a city park years before the shooting.”
He winced as a pair of women walked past on the sidewalk below them. “Lord, I forgot how much women’s fashions have changed. And look at that hair.”
Fifty feet away, a young man and woman with a small child had a picnic lunch spread out on a blanket. A portable transistor radio played “Sugar Shack”.
Dimitri looked past them towards downtown Dallas. “The motorcade should be coming along any minute.”
He turned and realized Hurtt wasn’t there. He ran down the colonnade and back around the fence.
“Dammit, what are you doing?”
“I wanted to see if anybody was here.”
“There’s obviously nobody here, get back.” He gestured broadly. “If there is a sniper, you’ll scare him off.”
Hurtt came back around and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Well, I’m sure there was somebody on this knoll behind that fence.”
Dimitri looked at his wrist. “Well, if there was a sniper, he’d better set up fast. There’s just ten minutes to go.”
Hurtt glanced backwards.
It was a beautiful late autumn day. People on the grass and sidewalks chatted and smiled, as they waited to get a glimpse of the handsome young president and his pretty wife.
The radio played “Telstar”.
There was a distant wail, echoing of the walls of the downtown Dallas canyon. Hurtt stiffened. Dimitri exhaled.
A minute later, a police motorcycle entered the plaza and began the slide down towards the triple overpass. Zapruder climbed on a pedestal at the end of the colonnade.
“I’m keeping an eye on that fence,” said Hurtt.
“Don’t gawk, huh? Might be too obvious.”
He stood transfixed for a moment as the motorcade entered the plaza.
“You see anyone at the fence?”
He turned and realized no one was standing next to him. “Goddammit!”
He stood still for a moment as he realized the president’s dark blue Lincoln Continental limousine had come into view at the far end of the block.
He turned and ran out the colonnade and up the steps back around the fence.
Hurtt stood there--alone.
“What the fuck’s wrong’s with you!” hissed Dimitri.
“There’s no one here,” Hurtt said distantly.
“That’s not our problem.”
It sounded like a firecracker. Below them, people looked puzzled. The two men turned and saw the limousine halfway down the block.
They saw the man in the back seat reach for his throat as the limo passed out of view behind a traffic sign. Dimitri tried to say something, but his jaw wouldn’t work. “We shouldn’t have done this,” he thought, “this is too intense.”
The limo cleared the traffic sign. It was obvious there was something wrong with the president. Dimitri knew what was coming, and he looked away.
He saw Hurtt had reached into his pocket and pulled out a small gun.
Hurtt’s face was contorted with rage. He pointed the gun towards the window in the far corner of the book depository’s sixth floor.
He rasped. “Goddamn you!”
His shot almost overlapped Oswald’s coup de grace. Dimitri turned quickly to see a pink mist spreading in front of the limo. The president’s glistening head slumped back.
Hurtt was still pointing towards the book depository, trying to get off a second shot. The Russian went at him with a flying tackle. The older man crumpled as Dimitri slammed the palm of his hand against his jacket pocket and he activated the remote control.
The world changed again. Dimitri’s momentum carried them over the edge of the platform and onto the hard warehouse floor. Hurtt’s body cushioned his impact, but Dimitri pitched forward and hit his forehead on the concrete.
Dimitri rolled over and pulled his arm out from under Hurtt. He looked at his watch. He’d only been unconscious for a few minutes.
Hurtt’s eyes flickered. Dimitri stood up and nudged him with his foot.
Hurtt groaned. “Stupid bastard,” muttered the Russian.
Dimitri was a little unsteady, but he lurched over to the platform, where on a corner a small box with a green light hung. He leaned with both arms on the edge of the platform and stared down at the quantum indicator.
“Thank fucking God,” he thought. There were more groans. “You’re alive, you fucking idiot,” Dimitri shouted.
He walked over to where the Texan sprawled, and yelled in his face. “Twenty million or no twenty million, I can’t believe you did that!”
Hurtt opened an eye. “I think I need a hospital.” He held out a hand.
Dimitri pulled him up to a sitting position. “You’re lucky, the quantum indicator says history was not changed.” He got down into his face. “What were you trying to do?”
Hurtt looked up at him. “Nothing. I lost my temper, dammit. I always carry a gun.”
He leaned forward onto his knees. “I forgot I had it. When I got out of the cab, I felt it in my pocket. I just thought if I patted the pocket and mentioned a cell phone, you’d make the assumption.”
“You mean you didn’t plan to take the gun?”
“No. But then, when I saw it all happening in front of me, I lost it.”
“Yeah, well, it tore me up, too. It was a bad idea to go.”
Hurtt stood up. “I just lost it. I went blind with rage. I knew that motherfucker was up there in his sniper’s nest.”
“You would never had hit him in a million years.”
“I know.” Hurtt held his chest and groaned. “I think you cracked a rib.” He ran this fingers through his gray hair. “What went wrong? There’s testimony that there were two men behind the fence, behind the grassy knoll, when Kennedy was shot-- but I never saw anyone.”
Dimitri raised his head.
“Yes, and people saw a puff of smoke--but when they looked, there was no one there,” said Hurtt. “I wonder what happened?”
Dimitri began to laugh softly.
“What’s so funny?”
“No one saw anyone when they looked because I had already tackled you.”
“I don’t understand…”
“Idiot! Don’t you see? WE were the two men behind the fence! You found out what you were after, after all.”
“Yes, there was a second gunman. It was you, you fool! And that’s why there is such a mystery! Because the second gunman didn’t shoot at Kennedy. He shot at Oswald.”
Dimitri nodded at Hurtt. “We created the mystery of the second gunman.”
Hurtt winced as he straightened up. “You said your car is inside here. Let’s get to a hospital.”
As they rolled over the speed bump on the way out of the industrial park, Hurtt groaned--and then began to chuckle.
Dimitri leaned over. “What’s so funny?”
Hurtt smiled at him. “I got what I wanted--after pissing away twenty million dollars--and it sure wasn’t what I expected. But I did learn I was always right about one thing.”
“I still don’t like history.”
Dimitri looked at him, a bit shocked, then saw his pained grin, and laughed.
“Hold on,” he said, “we’ll get you patched up at the hospital. Once your ribs are healed, then we can laugh about the ironies of fate all we want.”
“A very Russian attitude towards history,” said Hurtt, still clutching his chest.
“A very practical one, I would add,” said Dimitri. “It’s a lesson you should learn.”
“I just did,” said Hurtt. “That lesson cost me $20 million. Watch out for that pothole.”