Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since I sat in a hotel room near Auderly House, contemplating suicide. Needless to say, I did not pull the trigger, although I seriously contemplated ending my life. There seemed so little left to live for, yet I knew I had a duty to go on, with tasks I still had to perform before I could truly contemplate ending my life. I have spent the two and a half decades since that day fulfilling those tasks, watching what has happened to the others whose lives mine has touched upon.
Private Francis Cleary never recovered from the brain damage he suffered travelling back from 1963. Occasionally a muttered word or two would be thrown clear from the wreckage of his mind, like someone talking in their sleep. The young soldier would grow into a middle-aged soldier and finally into an old soldier. He was shifted from hospital to hospital and finally through a series of institutions. UNIT kept supplying his full wage-packet to his family in Liverpool every month, and all Cleary's hospital costs were paid for by an outside benefactor, whose cheques were drawn from Coutts Bank in the name of R.J. SMITH.
I visited Cleary in hospital each week of his life. Just before he died on 5 April 1995, he achieved a rare moment of lucidity. Recognizing me, he spoke his first sentence in more than two decades. ‘James, promise me - promise me you'll write about what really happened.’ I made him that promise. He died in his mother's arms a few hours later. It was she who supplied me with Private Cleary's letters home from UNIT that are interspersed throughout this book.
UNIT itself continued to be active on the fringes of Britain well into the 1970s but went underground during the 1980s when Government cut-backs started to affect the military. It has recently re-emerged as a truly international force after the global upheavals in Africa and the Balkans proved the need for the United Nations to field something stronger than just a peace-keeping force.
C19 was the subject of several purges in the late 1970s to remove the darker, more dangerous elements from within its ranks. It is rarely if ever mentioned now but survives as a shadowy presence at the edge of society.
Henry Spencer died in 1983, one of the first British men to be killed by complications due to AIDS. His wit and flair for publishing are still sorely missed by his industry.
Cassandra, my friend within the intelligence services, is still active in that field. When he heard I was writing this book, he came to my home in person and officially asked me not to go ahead with it. He warned me the Government would do anything to stop it coming out. Privately, he wished me well and we shared a drink together for old time's sake.
Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart retired from UNIT without fanfare in the mid-1970s, and took up teaching mathematics at a minor public school for boys. Friends in high places tell me he is occasionally wheeled out when things are going very wrong somewhere in the world. Old soldiers, it seems, never fade away...
The Master (or Victor Magister as his criminal record called him) escaped from his special prison cell in the autumn of 1971, causing a great scandal in the prison service. He was blamed for several more incidents involving matters of national security but seemed to slip from view as the years passed by. His terrorist activities are a distant memory for most people today, but the intelligence services maintain an active file on him.
The Doctor continues to reappear at the scenes of crisis and great disasters. The title is still used by a variety of individuals, each accompanied by different assistants, although the person I consider to be the Doctor has not been seen publicly since 1973.
I have spent the past 25 years trying to repair some of the mess I had made of my life. I have supported myself by working as a journalism tutor, trying to instil young reporters and cadets with a crusading spirit to go beyond what people tell them is true, to search for their own truths. Among the pupils of which I am most proud, my favourites are Ruby and Sarah Jane.
In my spare time I have campaigned for better recognition of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on Britain's armed forces and set up a charitable trust to help that cause. Two halfway houses have been established by the trust for those leaving the army, to give them a safe transitional home as they move back into society. I named the charitable foundation the Francis Cleary Trust.
I never married again but after her father died in 1986, I managed to get Natasha to talk to me. She had remarried but was willing to let me see my son, William. We gradually grew to be friends and I watched with some pride his progress through law school.
It has taken me more than eight months to complete this book, and then only thanks to the help of David Bishop. The notes I kept in the safety deposit box at the bank have proved invaluable in trying to piece together the elements of the past, along with Francis's own letters. I have written the book as I remember events happening. If some of my dates are wrong or my interpretations of events seem inaccurate, I apologize. I have tried to write this volume as events seemed to me at the time they were happening, rather than with the benefit of 25 years' hindsight.
It is unlikely this book will ever see print in Britain: many of the incidents it recalls are still considered highly classified by the Government. But I made a promise to Francis Cleary that I would make sure the truth was published somewhere, some day. Once this manuscript is finished, I will be sending it to William who has already got a partnership in a publishing law firm. If anyone will able to get this story into print, he will. He tells me there is a big market for conspiracy books in America, and the Kennedy angle is bound to pick up a few extra sales. He reminds me of Henry when he says things like that. This is the book I was writing for Henry nearly quarter of a century ago - now it is nearly finished.
I know what really happened that day in Dallas, on 22 November 1963. I know who fired the fateful, fatal shot. I saw the sad face of John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassin. The face was old, worn and weary. The hair was grey and thinning on top, and just after the bullets were fired, the killer turned and looked up at the east window on the sixth floor of the Book Depository building - looked up at me.
I recognized the assassin because his face was my own, aged and lined, the face of a fifty-year-old man. I shot the fatal bullet.
For nearly 25 years I have lived with this secret, every morning getting up to see my features get older and ever closer to resembling the face I saw through the telescopic sights of Oswald's rifle that day in Dallas.
For nearly 25 years I have kept the Time Ring in my safety deposit box at a bank in London, ready and waiting for one final journey. Now I have reclaimed the metal bracelet and have it beside me as I type these words, along with the rifle I will take back with me.
I know I will probably never return from this journey. The Time Ring only just got myself and Cleary back before, and it cost Francis his sanity. Now I must trust the Master's invention has enough energy still stored within it to take me on one final trip.
The weight of destiny has hung heavy around my shoulders for nearly quarter of a century. It is a relief to finally face up to what I have to do, to exorcize the ghosts of my past and of my future.
Although this book has no question mark in its title, the very name begs the question: Who Killed Kennedy? Now, you know the answer - I killed JFK. But I believe John Fitzgerald Kennedy's own words give me hope for redemption: