Beatrice 1963: Part Two
Young Jonathan Kennedy from lower west side of Glenover, came barreling up behind Henry in his junk heap of an Oldsmobile.
Dec swore later that Jonathan Kennedy didn’t even brake or even try to steer out around Henry’s shiny new Pontiac in front of him. I, for argument’s sake, swore that Jonathan pumped his brakes twice, and then threw his hands in the air like a man who knew it was too late.
But Dec and I both agreed later that Jonathan Kennedy’s old beat-up Olds slammed into the back end of Henry’s brand new Pontiac with devastating force. Quite a bit devastating force, for he not only dented in Henry’s trunk, but sent Henry’s Pontiac flying out into the middle of Elk Street, where he proceeded through the intersection and came to a stop only after striking the elm tree just west of the Presbyterian church. Which did considerable damage to the front end of Henry’s new Pontiac.
Dec and I exchanged glances as we witnessed this first part of the incident, which led to the fatal shooting. Dec raised his eyebrows the way he always did when he was impressed or surprised by something. He simply looked down at Jonathan Kennedy who was climbing out of his Olds, looking dazed and confused. I looked between the leafy branches in front of us to Henry McGinn, who sat there in his wrecked Pontiac, staring straight ahead like a boxer who was punch-drunk from taking too many shots to the head.
I was just switching my gaze to Jonathan Kennedy, who was now standing beside his car, his eyes fastened on the trunk, when Dec beside me whispered, “Holy Moses!”
Dec and I both stared down to the street in stunned amazement. Henry was now coming across Elk Street armed with a big, black pistol.
It never occured to Dec and I how odd that seemed. What Henry McGinn was doing driving around town armed with a gun was later speculated about during the investigation that followed. It was discovered that three days prior to this chance accident at the intersection of Elk, some dark, sinister man had followed Henry’s two young daughters home from the movie theater late at night. Henry had reported the incident to Sheriff Mac, and he’d told Mac that he’d actually locked his doors that night, an almost unheard of precaution for our small town.
But evidently, Henry had felt his daughters were being stalked by someone up to no good, and the .38 Smith and Wesson was considered just a precaution to keep his daughters safe.
It just happened to be at hand when Henry literally snapped there on Friday, November 23, 1963.
“Is he,” I quietly asked, “going to shoot Kennedy?”
Dec just as quietly replied, “Don’t think so. Sure is gonna scare the hell outta him, though!”
Scared is not what Jonathan Kennedy was, however, as Henry came walking up to him. No, Jonathan, in those few minutes of his life, looked to be terrified. He didn’t say anything. Didn’t beg for his life. Or ask Henry what he thought he was doing. Neither of them spoke at all.
They both just started to struggle over the pistol. Henry began pulling the trigger. Jonathan twisted, dodged, and managed with lots of effort to evade all of the first five shots.
One bullet took out the side mirror of Kennedy’s Olds. Another shattered the back passenger’s window. Two more made hollow thunking sounds as they plowed into the hood of Kennedy’s junk-heap Olds.
Before the fifth shot was fired, Jonathan Kennedy almost managed to wrestle the pistol out of Henry’s grasp. Almost. But Jonathan’s struggle was fueled by terror, while Henry’s was fueled by rage. And rage beats terror any day. At least, that’s what Dec said later. He must have been right, too. Because at the end of the battle between Henry and Jonathan, it was Henry’s rage that won out.
Who knows where that fifth bullet flew? The sixth slug, though, that was the magic bullet. Because it not only burrowed a hole into Jonathan Kennedy’s left shoulder, but it ricocheted off his collar bone, passed his lungs, hit and struck his lowest rib, and shot back up and plowed a hole clean through his heart. Killing him instantly.
Dec and I knew it had been a magic bullet, because when we snooped through his dad’s files later, we were amazed when we read the coroner’s report. The path of that sixth bullet had been nothing short of a miracle. That’s what Dec said about it anyway.
I told him it wasn’t right to call it a miracle when it resulted in Jon Kennedy’s death, and after giving it some thought Dec agreed with me. But magic? Yes, that was something we both could agree upon when we snooped through those files and learned how that lead slug missed so many vital organs. And then, struck like lightning, taking Jonathan Kennedy out of his life, out of this world, and onto the beyond.