Some Juicy Gossip From Vikki McGlory Ward in Dallas
The day President Kennedy was assassinated, my husband Jack also died mysteriously. They ruled it a drowning—in a Dallas bathtub. But he wasn’t supposed to be in Dallas that day, and he never took baths. Determined to find out who killed Jack, because I wouldn’t accept the Dallas Police’s lame drowning ruling and shutting his case, I went from grieving widow to sleuth—and along the way, fell in love with the bodyguard my godfather hired to protect me. His name is Aldobrandi Po, a Sicilian who looks like Michelangelo chiseled him out of Carrera marble.
My journey as a sleuth brought me to a wide range of venues, from the Dallas County Jail to speak with Jack Ruby to a Plaza Hotel suite to confront a reptile by the name of Gio Bati, a lowlife gangster who just might have murdered my Jack.
I went to his suite with Al and my friend Polly, Bati’s ex. But I couldn’t meet him as Vikki Ward. Because we’d gone there on the pretense of offering him a business venture, I had to take on an assumed name and play a role. I’m no actress, and I could have been the next victim to drown in a bathtub if I blew this, but I did it for Jack.
We approached the double doors of Bati’s suite. Polly rang the doorbell, and I held my breath for the six seconds it took him to answer it. The door opened and there he stood—the bastard who’d plunged me into the agony of grief and changed my life.
He didn’t flaunt a greasy gangster look. His eyes weren’t shifty or beady; his lips weren’t fixed into a sneer. He was clean shaven, his shirt was crisp, his pants creased, his tie silk. Everything about his appearance reflected respectability and breeding. He stepped aside and swept his hand through the air in a welcome gesture.
I tried to keep my hatred in check. It wasn’t easy. This was an acting role in more ways than one.
“Hiya, mon cher,” Polly greeted him and Bati gave her a swat on the ass like an old married couple.
“You’re lookin’ good, vamp.” After a quick scan of Polly’s upper anatomy, he turned to me. “And this is Miz Daisy?” His eyes lingered on my décolletage. I tried not to let it repulse me.
“Right you are, but just plain Daisy to you.” Getting into character, I gracefully placed a cigarette in a diamond-inlaid holder and waited for him to light it. He plucked a lighter from his monogrammed shirt pocket. “Allow me. Hey, you’re one right purty filly, dawlin’.”
Al stepped between us and stuck out his hand. I expected his fist. “Aldobrandi Po. I’ll be a silent partner in our venture.”
Polly stood to leave and I knew we had to get down to business. As I fought down nausea, I silently vowed, I’m doing this for you, Jack.
“So—Ben—I hope this venture will be profitable for all of us. I purchased the personal telephone directory of a retiring Park Avenue madam. I caught some high-powered names in there. If this pans out, I’d like to start a male escort service, too.” Stay in character! I silently urged.
We clinked glasses and I made a sipping gesture but didn’t drink. He sank into an easy chair and took a sip of his drink, running his tongue over his lips. “Sounds like a noble way to make a living. But I’m hoping to make a hefty profit on this venture without having to do much physical labor.”
“You will,” I assured him. “That’s why Polly looked you up for this venture. Said you’d be a great asset to the business.”
“Well, I always steered business Polly’s way and never asked for a finder’s fee.” He stretched his legs out.
“You’re very generous.”
He looked down. “It’s just the way I’m sitting.”
“No, I mean—not wanting to be compensated.” I took another bogus sip. Al stood within shooting range of Bati’s head.
“So—take a seat, Al, and Daisy, was it? Cute.” He snickered. “Not too original, but cute. So drop the curtain and tell me your real name.”
I swept off the hat, making sure the wig stayed on. “My real name’s Cynthia Van Meegeren.”
Bati stood, reached for my hand, and brought me to my feet. “You’re a living doll.”
Al patted the pistol under his jacket.
I told myself to stay in character! “I wouldn’t kick you out of the boudoir, either, Ben.” I felt around until I touched the reassuring coolness of my .22. “You’d make a good male escort, too, if you’re, uh—up to it.”
“So, what brought you to this field of endeavor?” He refilled his glass.
“Well, I don’t know if Polly told you, but I was a call girl a while back, in Washington, D.C.” I recited my rehearsed lines. “I still maintain some contacts in Washington and entertain them when they come this way. Never did get to meet the Kennedy brothers, though. Isn’t it one of the blackest marks on our country’s history the way Kennedy was killed, right there in the open, with his wife right next to him?” I forced nonchalance into my tone, when in reality the memories tore my heart apart.
“Depends on who you’re askin’.” Bati dropped ice cubes into his glass with tongs.
This segue into Jack’s murder was easier than I’d rehearsed it. I pushed the excruciating memories away. Stay in character! “Jack Ward was far better than that youngster at the anchor desk now. Isn’t it terrible how he drowned?” I sallied forth, in agony reciting these lines. But it’s all for you, Jack.
Bati didn’t respond, just unlaced his spit-shined shoes and slid out of them. Like a snake, I kept thinking. A cold-blooded reptile.
“Did you know Jack Ward at all, Ben?” I ventured, going for broke now.
“How would I know him?” Bati glanced at his watch.
“I thought you might’ve traveled in the same circles.”
“They’re pretty big circles. If you ask me, Ward was a nosy sumbitch. Did the world a favor by croaking.” His tone remained detached, like he was talking about some historical figure he’d read about in American Heritage.
I wanted to choke him. Staying in character like this pushed me to the limit of human endurance. “I ask because Ward was one of my best clients. He told me he was onto the JFK plot.”
Bati shot me a quizzical glance. Now he looked interested.
I ventured on, “Ward was on the inside of the whole thing. Do you think he was silenced because of what he knew? Like Dorothy Kilgallen and all those other poor victims?”
“Yeah, so were a few whores with big mouths. I knew a few of ’em personally: Kandi Kane from N’awlins, who threatened to write a book about it, and Theresa Norton, one of Ruby’s gals.” His answer tore through me like a bullet.
On one level, I reveled in self-satisfaction at how well I was pulling this off. On a deeper level, I shuddered in revulsion at who this man actually was. Goosebumps sprouted on my arms. The hairs stood on the back of my neck. Dear God, how did actors do it? Stay in character!
Bati strode up to me and stood so close, I could smell the booze on his breath. “I hope you’re not always all business, Cyn, or sis, or whoever you are.” He bent his head over mine to kiss me. I couldn’t stop him. I tried to push him away, but it was like trying to move a rock.
Al yanked him off me, spun him around, and slugged him in the jaw. Knuckle cracked against bone.
Bati held his jaw with one hand, reaching inside his jacket with the other. Faster than she could blink, he whipped out a gun and aimed it at Al’s heart.
“No, don’t shoot him, please!” I pleaded.
“All right, let’s have it.” His voice grated like steel on concrete. “You might be a whore, but now I know—” He pointed at Al, “—he’s no goddamn pimp. You two and Polly are up to somethin’ no good, and I wanna know what it is.”
The jig is up. “Put the gun down, and I’ll tell you.”
His mirthless laugh made my skin crawl. “Nothin’ doin’. I know you’re both packin’, Bonnie and Clyde. Now tell me what’s goin’ on, and if I don’t believe it, he gets it first, then you.”
“Tell him everything, Vikki,” Al said as Bati raised his gun and aimed it at Al’s heart.
“All right, I’ll tell you!” I shook so hard my jewelry rattled. “Just please don’t shoot him!”
Bati kept a steady aim on Al as I trembled. “Having us followed, shooting at us in New Orleans…” I gulped air. “You killed the detective I hired and you drowned my husband. I had a lot of brushes with death finding out what happened. I want you to spare Al—please—he’s just my bodyguard. But you know what? Right now I don’t give a damn if I die, because I’ll be with Jack again. But first just tell me why you killed him. Tell me!” Hands outstretched, I grasped Bati’s lapels and shook him.
He didn’t make a move to push me away. I opened my palm and smacked him across the face. “You heartless, murdering bastard!”
Bati stared me down without a blink. “What in the holy name of hell are you babbling about, woman?” His voice stayed calm and even.
“My husband, Jack Ward.” I gritted my teeth. “Tell me what happened. For once, just find a shred of decency in that sick mind of yours and tell me why you had to drown Jack!” I raised my fists to pound at him. This time he caught them in one hand and threw them to my sides.
“I didn’t drown your husband, you fruitcake.” His tone was as calm as if he were telling the time.
“Stop denying it, you damn liar!” My breaths came in gasps. “I took a long time to track you down. You followed my husband to Dallas and drowned him in that bathtub. Now, if you kill me, I can accept that. But just tell me why you killed Jack. Why?” So desperate for the truth, I was willing to die for it.
“I don’t know what you’re yip-yappin’ about, and I didn’t drown your husband in no bathtub.” He looked down at me as if I were insane. “I never even met your husband.”
For a crazed instant, I almost believed him. His voice said it all.
“Okay, I’ll tell you.” His voice gentled, but his hand didn’t waver. “Your husband started showing up at JFK rallies and things, and following me and my associates around. I figgered he was onto us. He was a nosy, like I said. Typical vulture reporter. I work for whoever’ll hire me. For the Kennedy hit it was a branch of the CIA in cahoots with the New Orleans mob. I never met your husband, don’t know how the hell he got into a bathtub and drowned or what happened to him, I swear it.” He raised his right hand as if taking an oath on the witness stand.
“Look. Look at me!” Struggling to keep the trembling out of my voice, I tried to get him to take his attention off Al and onto me. Now I shook with fury, not fear. “Don’t you know me? You’ve never seen me before?”
I yanked off the wig and my hair tumbled to my shoulders. “Now do you recognize me, Jack Ward’s widow? You’ve never seen my picture?”
“You ever pose for Playboy?” He leered, his eyes on my cleavage again.
A wild, brash idea hit me like lightning. “Then maybe you’ll recognize me from the photo you took out of Jack’s wallet.” With one fluid motion, I ripped my blouse open and thrust out my bared breasts. Buttons flew across the room. “Now do you recognize me?”
He blinked, startled. His eyes bugged out. His mouth fell open.
Al lunged for him and knocked him off his feet with a karate kick. As Al grabbed Bati’s gun, I pulled out my .22, aimed, and fired. The silenced gunshot pierced Bati’s chest. He gurgled and gasped. Blood gushed from the wound. The metallic odor stung my nose and throat.
His lifeless body pitched forward. As he crumpled to the floor, I jumped aside and reached for Al.
“My God, Vikki, you saved my life.” His voice cracked.
“I’m glad you kept your wits about you when I yanked my dress open.” I swept my bra off the floor.
“I’m more of an ass man, myself.”
To this day, I don’t know what made me think to whip off my blouse and bare my breasts to distract that monster. I thought he’d seen a topless photo of me in Jack’s wallet. But I was in such a daze, I don’t think I remembered that, at that instant. We never told a soul, and his murder remains unsolved. But all these years later, as I’m in my 80s now, I told my grandkids about it. They trawl the internet for juicy gossip, and now they’ve heard the most salacious gossip of all, from their own Nana. And they promised not to Tweet about it or post it on Facebook.
By the way, I finally found Jack’s killer and he went to prison for life. But that’s juicy gossip for another day.
An Interview with Our Source, Vikki Ward
Vikki, what is your family like?
A bit crazier than others, mainly because my father was in the rackets in the 1930s and he’s a composer of Broadway show tunes. I had an unforgettable childhood. My father took me to every Broadway musical that came out. We had famous people to the house all the time for dinner and cocktails, and to me, they were just folks, I didn’t care how famous they were, or if their albums played in the background. Dad gave me piano lessons, although it wasn’t my calling the way it was his—I preferred painting, sewing and designing fashions as a creative outlet. I never knew my mom, she died tragically and suddenly when I was an infant. But my father’s second wife Greta treated me like her own daughter. We went everywhere together, museums, hair salons, shopping, for long strolls through Central Park. But in school nobody cared whose kid I was. It was a strict Catholic school and I was in a uniform like everybody else. My family is Roman Catholic and we still have all the saints’ statues in the hallways and backyards
Do you have any hobbies? What do you enjoy doing?
Designing costumes, going for bicycle rides with my husband and kids. I love to sing opera arias, although I’m not trained, and I make sure I’m alone when I do it. Fortunately, Al and I share a lot of interests – opera, painting, fashion—and one that most couples don’t share—guns. We have contests at the shooting range to see who’s the best shot. He also likes to hunt, which I don’t. But I’m good at cooking the venison he brings home
What is your greatest dream?
To write my father’s memoirs with the notes he won’t let me see until, as he says, “I’m planted.”
What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?
I want to be more introspective, to look within and find my spiritual path. But I’m always out there doing something with the kids—it never ends. I’m too exhausted at night to meditate or do any soul-searching.
About The Book
The third in the New York Saga, The End of Camelot centers on Billy McGlory’s daughter Vikki, whose husband is murdered trying to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Vikki uses her detective skills to trace the conspiracy, from New York to New Orleans to Dallas, and at the same time, tricks her husband’s murderer into a confession. A romance with her bodyguard makes her life complete.
November 22, 1963: The assassination of a president devastates America. But a phone call brings even more tragic news to Vikki Ward—her TV reporter husband was found dead in his Dallas hotel room that morning.
Finding his notes, Vikki realizes her husband was embroiled in the plot to kill JFK—but his mission was to prevent it. When the Dallas police rule his death accidental, Vikki vows to find out who was behind the murders of JFK and her husband. With the help of her father and godfather, she sets out to uncover the truth.
Aldobrandi Po , the bodyguard hired to protect Vikki, falls in love with her almost as soon as he sets eyes on her. But he’s engaged to be married, and she’s still mourning her husband. Can they ever hope to find happiness in the wake of all this tragedy?
An excerpt from The End of Camelot
November 22, 1963
Larchmont, New York
Vikki entered her foyer and dropped her shopping bags on the floor. As she locked the door and kicked off her alligator pumps, the phone rang. She answered it in the kitchen, so she could raid the pastry box while she chatted.
“Vikki, it’s Linc Benjamin.” His ragged voice came over the line. “I have terrible news. Jack is dead.”
“What?” She couldn’t have heard right. “What did you say?”
“Jack was found in the bathtub of his hotel room this morning—”
She dropped the phone and slid down against the wall. Her glasses fell off her face. The room spun. Sunlight glared. She smelled the new coat of wax on the kitchen floor.
“Vikki? Vikki?” came faintly from the dangling receiver. She crawled over and grasped it. He would tell her it was a mistake, they had the wrong man, or it was another of Jack’s practical jokes.
“My Jack?” she whispered.
“Vikki, I’m so sorry,” he sobbed.
“Linc—no, please. Tell me it wasn’t Jack. Are you sure? There must be a mistake. Not Jack.” Her heart thudded like a hammer. A stabbing pain pierced her chest. She held the receiver away from her ear.
“Vikki, are you there?” His voice came through the earpiece. “If you want, I’ll be right over. I can tell you everything when I get there, or right now, whatever you want.”
“Now!” she demanded.
“The Dallas police found him drowned in his hotel bathtub—”
“Dallas? What was he doing in Dallas? He’s supposed to be in Chicago doing a story on the FBI!” she screeched, beyond rational thought. No, this had to be a mistake!
“I don’t know, Vikki. The maid found him. The Dallas police tried to call you all morning, but you weren’t home, so they called here, at the network. Do you want me to come over and—”
“Wait!” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Now—where is he now?”
“Parkland Hospital. They’re going to bring the bod—er, bring him back to New York after the autopsy.” His voice broke again. “God, Vikki, I’m so sorry. I feel like I lost my brother.”
She went blank, too stunned to think. Her hands shook so much she could hardly hold the phone.
“Vikki, do you want me to come over—”
“No.” She released the receiver. It swung away and banged against the wall. She curled up on the floor as the ticking clock echoed the thudding of her heart.
She wept in unbearable grief. Shutting her eyes tight, she cradled her head in her arms. A jumble of thoughts rendered her helpless.
“Please, God,” she prayed, “Let it be a mistake and Jack will come walking through the door.”
The doorbell rang. “Jack?” She forced her eyes open.
Her head throbbed with each pound on the door.
“Vikki! Are you okay? Can you hear me?”
The voice was her father’s, and as much as she wanted him with her, holding her, rocking her, the present was too much to bear. She wanted one last visit to the past with Jack, happy and alive and free from harm.
But the raw truth seared her soul: The past is gone, and so is your beloved Jack!
Too weak to walk, she crawled to the door, reached up, and unlocked it.
Her father rushed in and knelt beside her. “Vikki, honey?”
She collapsed into his arms, heaving gut-wrenching sobs.
“It’s okay, I’m here,” he crooned, like he was singing the songs he wrote for her.
“I know.” He nodded. “JFK was shot in the head. The governor of Texas was shot, too.”
“No. My Jack! They found him—” Sobs burst from the depths of her soul.
“Huh? What…your Jack?”
Unable to speak any further, she nodded.
“Something happened to him?” He sat her down on the couch.
She drew in a ragged breath and he grasped her hands.
“Oh, God.” He held her and stroked her hair as she sobbed, her tears staining his scarf. “Okay, Dad’s here, I’ll stay with you. I’m sorry, I thought you were talking about President Kennedy. He just got shot.”
“President Kennedy?” She shook her head in disbelief. “No. Jack’s friend from the network called, and—” She couldn’t go on.
“Don’t talk. I’ll get you a brandy or something.” He glanced over at her liquor cabinet.
She didn’t even want him leaving her for a few seconds. He hung her phone up and it started ringing instantly. She heard spurts of conversation. His voice sounded like an echo in a marble tomb. He finally stopped talking and came back with a brandy bottle, a snifter, and her eyeglasses. “I found your glasses on the floor.” He took her into his arms and rocked her back and forth. “You’ll be okay, you’re strong, you’re my girl,” he murmured, and she wished he’d sing to her.
Instead he explained that President Kennedy had been shot on the motorcade route in Dallas.
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About the Author
Diana Rubino says, “My passion for history has taken me to every setting of my historicals. The “Yorkist Saga” and two time travels are set in England. My contemporary fantasy “Fakin’ It”, set in Manhattan, won a Romantic Times Top Pick award. My Italian vampire romance “A Bloody Good Cruise” is set on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.
When I’m not writing, I’m running my engineering business, CostPro Inc., with my husband Chris. I’m a golfer, racquetballer, work out with weights, enjoy bicycling and playing my piano.
I spend as much time as possible just livin’ the dream on my beloved Cape Cod.