I knew the moment I squeezed the trigger that something had gone wrong.
The recoil of the rifle didn't deliver the customary hard, crisp jolt to my shoulder. The sound was dirty and muffled. I immediately knew from all the hours I had spent practicing that something wasn't right.
A fraction of a second later, I saw what I had just felt.
He was still alive.
The voice in my radio earpiece screamed, "Green light! Green light!" Out of the lower left corner of my non-shooting eye, I could see the motion down on the curb. The open, black umbrella mechanically pumped up and down in our prearranged signal.
He was still alive.
Through my telescopic sight, I saw both of his hands turn into fists as his arms flew up to protect his throat—my bullet's errant trajectory apparently caught him in the Adam's apple. A range of emotions swept over his face—he didn't know what the hell had hit him.
His survival instinct kicked into motion. He was having trouble breathing. He was alive for now, but he was doomed.
I calmly and quickly racked another round into the bolt-action chamber of my rifle. I again reacquired my target through the precision gun-sight. The head of the man sitting in front briefly blocked my view when he turned toward the commotion in the backseat. Instantly, a fusillade of bullets from Lucien and Ruger cut down the momentary obstruction—flinging him into his wife's lap and out of my way.
I heard the anxious "Green light! Green light!" as I searched to place my target's face in my crosshairs.
I felt a reassuring pat on my shoulder by my spotter, who kept his eyes peeled for anyone who might have observed us. He undoubtedly felt time was running out, but for me, time was standing still. My target was still alive—I had a job to finish.
The first shot I squeezed off had to have been a misfire. It wasn't my aim; I knew that. The sabot must have had a bad powder charge or had been incorrectly loaded in its firing sleeve. I knew that such an error wouldn't occur again—the second bullet in my chamber was a full-charge cartridge without a sabot.
I had meticulously used Lucien's jewelers saw to cut a small 'x' into the tip of all my bullets. That tiny 'x' would insure that the bullets would fragment immediately upon impact. The result would be a devastating wound.
It had to be. We were to kill him.
I watched through the optical precision of the expensive Zeiss gun-sight as the big 1961 Lincoln convertible parade limousine came to a halt directly in front of me. I brought my crosshairs to bear, centering upon his right eye in my sight. He was barely ninety feet away—so close that I felt I could reach out and touch him. I smiled to myself and thought: Jesus, he's no farther away than the first baseman would be if I were throwing a double-play ball from second base. Instead, I was delivering a bullet at over 2,000 feet per second at a distance of ninety feet. It would get there pretty damn fast and pretty damn hard.
I paused to study the familiar face in my sight. Fear had clearly taken hold of him. He knew he was helpless—sheer panic enveloped his face. I had prepared myself for any possible equipment failure or operational disruption—but I had never thought about how I would feel as I completed my assigned task.
"Green light! Green light!"
The voice in my earpiece persistently chanted. That was fine—it was his job to call out as long as our man was still alive. It was an annoying reminder of my team's combined failure up to this point.
Roscoe's breath panted in my ear. "Come on, Patrick. You can do it." His voice rose at the end with coiled tension. The crowd below had begun to panic, but I was completely at ease.
His eyes wildly swept his surroundings; then, they locked onto mine through the telescopic gun-sight. I felt my adrenaline surge. Experienced shooters had warned me that seeing the eyes of my victim would shock the hell out of me.
I'd never shot a man before.
I knew that he couldn't see my eyes, but I sure couldn't miss his. His eyes frantically searched for answers.
"Goodbye, Jack!" I whispered, squeezing the trigger gently a second time. This time the rifle's recoil felt crisp and firm as it kicked back into my braced right shoulder. I saw my bullet's impact instantly. I was so close to where he sat—upright, wounded, vulnerable, and frozen in shock.
The full force of my shot took off the top of his head. I saw it explode in a pink cloud of blood, brain matter, scalp, vaporized skull bone, and gristle. There was no question about it. He was dead now.
The voice in my earpiece shouted, "Red Light! Red Light! Red Light! Red Light! Red!" I tore the annoyance out of my ear. The umbrella man on the sidewalk signaled that the President was dead. Our ambush had worked as planned.
I withdrew the rifle from the top of the slats of the white picket fencing and handed it to my spotter, Roscoe. He threw it into the open trunk of the sedan parked directly behind me.
I saw Jackie desperately try to crawl across the Lincoln's broad trunk only to be shoved back into her seat by a Secret Service agent who threw himself on top of her to protect her as he was trained to do. It hadn't registered with me that she had been sitting next to Jack the entire time
I solemnly watched the big Presidential limousine accelerate out of DealeyPlaza—its wounded occupants slumped in their seats. I turned away as the rest of the presidential motorcade raced underneath the triple underpass in a panicked pursuit of the President's car.
Roscoe adjusted his Dallas police uniform and drew his service revolver out of his holster. I pulled my fake Secret Service credentials out of my pocket and held them in my clenched fist, ready for display.
We descended into the horrified crowd, pretending to be just as shocked and alarmed.
It was how we had planned our escape.
It was hard, however, not to be too elated—our plan had worked.