A 1961 or ‘62 white Plymouth convertible traveling lazily on a stretch of Texas highway. The morning sun was new and low on the horizon. The air was cooler than expected.

“What say we open the top?”

The driver, “No, it’s still too cold. Besides, I feel more comfortable with it up.”

“But I’ve never been in a convertible before and . . .”

“Miguel, no. It’s not a good idea today.” He was thinking the less the two men were seen the better.

For the next half hour or so neither man spoke. Miguel, the younger of the two, spent most of the time traveling up and down the AM dial. The red station indicator made frequent stops on Latin beats. Miguel drummed the dash in perfect rhythm. The incessant tapping bothered Carlos, but he didn’t say anything. He thought it best that the boy lose some of his nervous energy.

Music was the boy’s first love, percussion his second, women his passion, and marksmanship his religion. There was no doubt that he was the man for this job. He was twenty-six years old and for the last six of those he was an undefeated marksman. The slight, handsome Hispanic could shoot a gun — any gun — with alarming accuracy. He knew it and so did everyone else.

In contrast to his protege, Carlos was older. Gray and balding, slightly overweight with a face rounder than his body would let on. In his late fifties, he could easily pass for Miguel’s father. One thought was he may have to.

Carlos was a career military man. He started digging latrine ditches during the revolution and has elevated himself to one of his president’s most trusted and able field men. They battled, literally, side-by-side in The Revolution. Carlos was a younger man then. He had helped win his country’s liberty. Some would say he was an instrumental, integral piece to this new era. Now Carlos is older and he isn’t going to hand that liberty over to the first country who, with gun in hand, demanded it. As a youth Carlos proved, day after day, his loyalty and bravery. Today he will reaffirm it.

“Scared?” He asked his passenger.

‘Scared’ wasn’t the word he would have like to have used. ‘Nervous’, maybe, ‘scared’ — no — maybe. “Not at all,” Miguel answered, rapping the dash with a new intensity.

“It’s all right to be scared. Sometimes saying so helps calm the jitters. Have you ever shot –”, he paused, “– killed a man before?”

“I’ve shot at men; I’ve shot men. I’ve never stuck around long enough to know if they died.” He stopped tapping and searched the dial for a new sound. He wanted to ask Carlos if he’d ever killed anyone. But he knew the answer, he was just looking for an opportunity to turn the conversation off him and on to other things.

“This will be different. You will know if this man dies. The whole world will know. You will be a hero.”

“I don’t want to be a hero and I certainly don’t want to be a martyr.”

“Who said anything about being a martyr?”

“Are you prepared to die for this, Carlos? I am not.”

“Miguel, you offend me. Sure, we are taking risks for this. But this is OUR country. This is our lives.

“I am prepared to die for my country, OUR country. I have been since a young man. If you are not prepared to die for your country, for its leaders and caretakers, you should not be privileged to live in it. We must hold strong to those things that are dear to us. We must protect them with our lives.”

“Remember your brother, Miguel. He died in his last battle, his only battle — a battle for his country. He died for you and me and your mother. Your father, who breathed his last in my arms, died the same. They died for their country, our country. Your brother died repelling this PIG’s invasion.” His voice took on an intense, blood certainty as he recalled glorious battlefield days. “The man you will kill, killed your brother as certainly as if he pulled the trigger. You must remember that, Miguel; you must remember that. That same man with that same gun tried to kill your country. Don’t ever forget that, Miguel. Don’t ever forget that.” He seemed to be reassuring himself as much as galvanizing Miguel.

“I’m sorry, Carlos. A slip of the tongue I did not mean it. I mean only that I am young and do not wish to die. I have much to live for.” He thought of his fiancé. He thought of his mother. He thought of his brother and his father. He turned the music down.

“I don’t think we will die, my friend. There are things greater than us in motion right now. We are destiny.”

They drove a few more miles in silence. Carlos was content to watching the pavement run to his car, Miguel less so.

“Carlos, what makes such a large country invade a small, impoverished country like ours?” He wanted to know why his older brother had died.

“Who’s to say? I believe that many leaders desire to lead more people. It’s a power lust. They want to control. It feeds their egos and their needs for more and more. Maybe it’s an arrogance of self righteousness. A desire to caste stones before you are pummeled by flying rocks yourself. Imperialism. Meddling. A fear of those who are different. Power lust. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s all of those reasons — maybe none.” He paused in introspection.

“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter,” he continued. “War has been declared on us, a covert war, a coward’s war. And our choice is to fight or die. Today we fight so that tomorrow we can live.”

They were quiet for a long time. Miguel turned off the radio. He was somewhere inside himself. Lost in thought.

Carlos broke the silence like a bullet at dawn, “I’d like to go through this thing once more.”

The words kindled a nervousness in Miguel. His muscles tensed. He looked over his shoulder at the case on the back seat. His jaw relaxed. Carlos looked at him. Miguel nodded.

“This time you tell me.”

Miguel began, “You get me there and I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Miguel, this is no time for the bravado of youth. This goes beyond that. It is even more important than us. God and country.”

“God and country,” Miguel returned.

Carlos went through the upcoming drama with the best detail he could. His words painted pictures in Miguel’s mind. The comfort of the known. He did not want Miguel to be surprised by anything. His total relaxation and confidence was a priority. One could say that was Carlos’ mission: Get the boy to the right place at the right time in the right frame of mind, and then let the boy do what he does best.

“And for your part . . .”

“I told you, my part is easy. Just like target practice. Carlos, this is what I do. This is why I’m here. I understand that. I know what I have to do.” Again he looked back at the case. He wanted to grab it and open it. He wanted to feel the confidence of the cold, black steel.

“Timing is critical, Miguel.”

“I know, but the timing is easy for me.

“I’ll have the sights on him when he first comes into view. There will be a lazy curve and I should be prepared to fire. I’ll hear a shot and BANG! I squeeze off as many as it takes to get the job done.”

“From there it’s all me,” Carlos added. “You do your job. Don’t panic and I’ll get you out.” I’ll get us out, Carlos added in his mind.

Miguel took a deep breath. “God and country,” he reassured himself.

“God and country,” Carlos answered.

And they smiled at each other. Reassuring smiles.

A crowd had gathered on the mall. Every person there to see the man of the hour. The man of the year, maybe the man of the decade. The man Carlos call the “PIG”.

Carlos and Miguel were outside the crowd and somewhat above it. They weren’t there for the same reasons as the rest of the throng, but their passions were just as intense. Moreso. If they were looking for a good view, they couldn’t have found a worse one. Behind the crowd, behind a fence, and at quite a distance. Obscured by trees.

Miguel was the first out of the car. Almost out before the automobile stopped. He didn’t grab his case and didn’t wait for Carlos. He leaned against the wooden fence. “Sturdy,” he mumbled to himself in Spanish. From his knees he surveyed the road beyond the trees.

He seemed satisfied as he passed Carlos on the way back to the car. Carlos gave him a nervous questioning glance. He didn’t realize the distance involved.

“Duck shoot,” Miguel told him.

Miguel pushed the front seat of the two door Plymouth forward and took out the black matte case. It was much heavier than it appeared, but Miguel was used to its heft. Its weight made Miguel feel lighter. Unconsciously, Miguel patted the case.

He met Carlos at the fence. “It looks tough. Perhaps we should …,” Carlos said to himself more than to Miguel.

Miguel just looked at him. Confidence burned in his young eyes. “God and country.”

“We have one chance to get out of it,” Carlos looked at his watch, “and that time is now.”

Miguel moved a branch and looked down into the plaza and then back at Carlos. With a smile he repeated, “Duck shoot. You got me here, now it’s my turn.” He opened the case exposing a rifle in four pieces.

“We have time, Miguel.”

“Just taking inventory,” he said to Carlos and then repeated it under his breath.

:::

A half hour, maybe forty-five minutes later, the crowd became animated and then a black convertible Cadillac appeared from around a corner. It was traveling at a modest walking pace. There were five passengers and a driver. In the rear seat was the “PIG”, just as Carlos said, to his left, a woman, maybe his wife. The crowd cheered. Trotting security guards. Police motorcycles.

Miguel smiled confidently as he put his eye to the rifle’s scope. The scene appeared ten times closer. It was like he could reach out and shake the PIG’s hand.

Carlos looked around nervously, bit his lip and then a nail. He couldn’t get himself to look beyond the trees; he turned his back to the man with the rifle. It was not his job to watch Miguel. His concentration was needed elsewhere.

Miguel readjusted the barrel on the fence, took a deep breath and relaxed. He could feel his heart slow.

Carlos tensed when he heard the crowd cheer again. He felt his heart race. He wanted to light a cigarette but he dared not be distracted.

Through the rifle’s scope, Miguel saw the PIG waving his hand to the anxious crowd. He could see the breeze billow the PIG’s thick hair. He saw the gleam of his toothy smile. What he couldn’t see, because he would not take the cross-hairs off the man’s forehead, was the woman’s, his wife’s, adoring and admiring smile.

Carlos jumped when he heard the shot. Miguel saw the “PIG” grab his throat and made his rifle respond. Three quick shots — BANGBANGBANG!

The rifle was broken down before Miguel was half way to the car. The barrel burned his hand. The air smelled of spent gun powder. Carlos grabbed the case and threw it into the car. Miguel took his time. The car’s engine was already running by the time he slid in the passenger seat. The rifle, in its case, found the rear seat. The car was back on the main road. Neither man said a word.

Both men’s hearts were jumping. Carlos was drenched with sweat. The color was just returning to his face.

“Did you get him?”

“Did I get him? I blew his fucking head all over the trunk of his car! I blew his brains into his woman’s lap!”

“Viva Cuba!” Carlos cried, fist to the heavens.

“Viva Castro!”

Miguel turned the radio on and found his Latin beat. He started drumming the dash. Carlos smiled and fell back into the driver’s seat.

:::

An announcer broke in: “We have terrible news from Dallas. The President and Governor Connoly have been shot in Dealy Plaza. It is believed that the wounds to President Kennedy may be fatal . . .”