The wizards of the Cold War must uncover a secret cabal responsible for the Kennedy assassination in The Shadow Commission, New York Times bestselling author David Mack’s globe-spanning historical fantasy sequel to The Iron Codex.
November 1963. Cade and Anja have lived in hiding for a decade, training new mages. Then the assassination of President Kennedy trigger a series of murders whose victims are all magicians—with Cade, Anja, and their allies as its prime targets. Their only hope of survival: learning how to fight back against the sinister cabal known as the Shadow Commission.
A glance at his watch told Secret Service Agent Clark Warden the president’s motorcade was a few minutes behind schedule. It was 12:29 p.m. as the lead car approached the intersection of Elm and North Houston streets in down- town Dallas, en route to Kennedy’s speech at the Trade Mart. The joyful noise from the crowds that lined the parade route was deafening.
Jogging alongside the slow-moving vehicles, Clark stole a look at the digital clock mounted atop the corner of the Texas Book Depository, dead ahead. It displayed the current temperature as 67 degrees Fahrenheit. The moderate weather, coupled with a light breeze that fluttered onlookers’ pennants and rustled the still-green leaves on their boughs, made for nearly ideal conditions: neither too hot to make it hard to keep pace with the motorcade nor so cold as to require the agents to wear cumbersome layers over their trademark dark suits.
It had rained in Dallas earlier that morning, but the storm was well past and had left the city looking as if it had just been rinsed clean in preparation for the president’s arrival.
The lead car, an unmarked police vehicle driven by the city’s chief of police, and which served as a rolling command center for the motorcade, crossed the intersection and headed for the Stemmons Freeway on-ramp, several car-lengths ahead of the president’s black Lincoln convertible limousine. In a few moments Clark and the other agents currently on foot would need to get back inside their assigned vehicles, before they accelerated onto the highway.
In the limousine, President John F. Kennedy sat in the rear passenger seat, his dark gray suit a stark contrast to the pink dress and matching pillbox hat of his wife, Jacqueline. The First Couple’s seats had been raised a few inches to make them more visible to the public as they drove past. Sitting in front of them, in the middle jump seats, were Texas governor John Connally, on the right, and his wife, Nellie, on the left.
The exposed quality of the convertible had been cited by several members of the president’s protection detail as cause for concern, but President Kennedy had insisted it would be a shame to squander a day with such postcard- perfect weather. Wanting to feel the wind and the sun on his face, he had decided they would make the drive from Love Field to the Trade Mart without the car’s protective Plexiglas dome. Objections overruled, the agents had complied.
The quartet of Dallas Police motorcycle officers that flanked the limo held their formation as they crossed the intersection toward the Stemmons Freeway ramp. Clark looked over his shoulder, expecting to be ushered back in- side his assigned transport.
A crack echoed off of the office buildings, and Clark became a hunter seeking its source.
Untrained ears might have mistaken that sound for a firecracker or a car’s backfire. But Clark and the other agents knew a rifle’s report when they heard one.
A strange electricity in the air prickled the back of Clark’s neck. He engaged the magickal vision of Velar, casting the world around him into a blue monochrome. His enhanced awareness led to panic: the multiple spheres of magickal defense that should have surrounded the president’s limousine had all vanished at once—a calamity he’d thought impossible.
But that would mean—
Another sharp crack of rifle fire.
Blood sprayed from the president’s throat. He clutched his wound with both hands as Governor Connally slumped sideways, also hit. The First Lady reached for her husband as Connally turned toward the president. Frightened voices filled Dealey Plaza.
Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent in the limo’s front passenger seat, looked back to see what had happened. Governor Connally leaned into his wife’s arms, much as the president had come to rest in Jackie’s shocked embrace.
Too late, Clark’s training—from both the Secret Service and the top- secret magickal defense group based beneath the Pentagon—kicked in. He marshaled the talent of his yoked spirit Xolus to raise a new invisible shield of protection around the president’s car—
A third rifle shot exploded Clark’s nascent shield as if it were a soap bubble. Kennedy’s head erupted in a crimson spray. Bone shrapnel and bloodied hunks of brain spattered the limousine’s interior, freckling the First Lady as well as Governor Connally and his wife. Amid the carnage, Clark glimpsed falling bouquets of red and yellow roses as the Connallys ducked low in their seats. To his confusion and alarm, Mrs. Kennedy climbed out of her seat to crawl awkwardly onto the long trunk of the limousine.
At the same time, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill tried to clamber onto the back of the limo. Kellerman ordered the driver, Agent Bill Greer, to rush the president to the nearest hospital. The car sped up. Hill lost his footing, but on his second attempt he climbed over the limo’s trunk and guided Mrs. Kennedy back into her seat beside the president.
Feeling lost and overwhelmed, Clark looked back, scanned the crowd and all of Dealey Plaza with the Sight, hoping to flush out the assassin. There was nothing but mayhem on the ground—people running for cover, fleeing the gunfire and bloodshed—despite the best efforts of the Dallas Police Department and the Secret Service to restore calm and secure witnesses.
The shooter wouldn’t have been in the crowd. He’d have sought a clear vantage—
His eyes turned upward, toward the Texas Book Depository.
An open window on the sixth floor, at the corner above the intersection. Pushing his perception past the building’s exterior, Clark spied the shooter.
It was too dark for Clark to discern the man’s features, but the shooter was lean of build and scrambling to abandon his sniper’s nest. Within seconds, he had retreated into the building’s core, out of sight.
Voices crackled over radios. The agent in the motorcade’s lead car ordered Vice President Johnson’s vehicle diverted off the parade route and back to Love Field, where Air Force One stood waiting. All around Clark Warden was chaos. His only chance to prevent the assassin’s escape was to get to the Book Depository and order it locked down before—
Someone seized Clark’s arm and whipped him around.
It was another agent, Daniel Jurow. “Hey! We need to help Dallas PD round up anyone who saw anything. That means anybody who was standing curbside.”
Clark pulled his arm free and pointed at the Book Depository. “We need to lock down that building, now. I think the shooter hit us from the sixth- floor, corner window.”
Jurow squinted at the Book Depository. “From all the way up there? Are you nuts?” He waved off Clark’s plea. “Orders from the secretary. Witness roundup.”
Frustration welled up inside Clark, like a fireball raging to burst from his chest. He couldn’t explain how he knew the president’s killer was still inside that building without violating operational security or exposing the existence of the U.S. Occult Defense Program. He also had no means of passing along his intel in time for anyone else to act upon it. In the interest of preserving his cover, he had to follow his orders in hand and let the assassin escape.
He purged the rage from his countenance and followed Jurow toward the nearest cluster of civilians, all of whom Clark was certain couldn’t be less helpful had they all been born blind, deaf, and mute.
Less than an hour later, he heard the news over the radio. President Kennedy was dead.
Before the day was over, someone would burn for this. Clark Warden promised himself that he would do whatever was necessary to make sure that someone was not him.
Copyright © David Mack 2020
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