23: Unusual Visitors
I Am a Patsy! by George de Mohrenschildt
The photograph we found in the record album is identical to the one Life magazine published shortly after the assassination. I think Marina took it, at least she so testified. Only the dedication to me and the inscription by Marina constitute new elements. This picture, unquestionably did a lot of damage to Lee. It shows him in a militaristic pose, holding a rifle, a pistol on his side.
But let’s not forget that Lee was trained by the Marine Corps to hold, show and respect weapons. The Beretta we saw in his apartment was well oiled and immaculately clean. Another bow to the United States Marine Corps. But whatever later testimony tried to prove, I knew that he was not a particulary good shot. He did not have that cold stare in his eyes — incidentally he had rather attractive gray eyes — he did not have a very steady hand and a stiff stance which indicate to anyone familiar with things military a good marksman. To Jeanne and I he did to have an ugly expression of a killer, and we knew professional killers, Jeanne in China during the Japanese occupation, I in other parts of the world. He owned a pistol but we never discussed why, I assumed for self defence, he lived in a very disreputable part of Dallas. Maybe Lee liked to shoot at the leaves, but he did not have a decisive, self–assured, automatic attitude of a sharpshooter. On the contrary, he was nervous, jittery, poorly coordinated type, and, as I said before completely unathletic. Also devoid of any mechanical ability. I had observed boys and men of that type in my own regiment and the were totally unfit for military performance — and usually very poor shots.
‘Smith’ and ‘Fernandez’ of Life Magazine
We had tried to keep the existence of Lee’s photograph as secret as possible, just a few friends saw it and Life’s reporter knew of it. Something, however, leaked out and about two weeks after my conversations with Life’s writers, I received a strange telephone call. A slightly accented voice said, and I quote: “we are from Life Magazine,” and he mentioned the name of the reporter I had spoken to, “we are here in Dallas and would like to see you.”
“Certainly,” I agreed immediately. “Come over.”
They knew the address and an hour later two men appeared in our house. A strange pair; one slight, Latin–American type fellow, the other a big bruizer, beefy, powerful, Anglo type. They sat down, announced that they represented Life Magazine, the Latin mentioned his reportorial qualifications, the beefy character said he was a photographer. Indeed he was loaded with cameras of all types. The names were respectively — Smith and Fernandez. Smith mentioned also that he was a staff photographer for Fortune Magazine, which put me completely at ease.
“We would like to ask you a few questions the other Life reporter failed to discuss with you,” said Fernandez.
I obliged him. These questions were unimportant, mostly about Lee’s habits and his character. Then they became more specific. “Was he sociable? Whom did he know well? What were his relations with fellow workers in this country and in USSR? Did he have many friends in addition to us? What did he do in Mexico? Whom did he meet there? Could he speak Spanish? Why did he go to New Orleans? Could he drive a car?” And many other questions, which I do not recall now.
I answered these questions to the best of my ability, but naturally many had to remain unanswered, since I was out of the country and did not have any contacts with Lee during that time.
The question may arise; why was I so frank with Life Magazine people and let myself pumped out so naively. The answer is that one of my most admired friends used to be a staff writer for Life and he had performed an extremely kind and difficult intervention of behalf of my father stranded in Europe during the war. Incidentally, I felt very much at ease with these two character because I had a visitor at the time, an economist from the East, a very athletic fellow and a good friend and he was there all the time.
Later in the afternoon Jeanne arrived, very surprised to see the unusual guests. I explained who they were. “But you have a very strong Spanish accent?” she asked Fernandez.
“Yes, of course, I am of Spanish origin and I had worked as a reporter for Life mostly in Latin America. So, excuse my poor English.”
This sounded reasonable enough.
Then Smith, “the photographer”, producer a series of excellent, very clear photos of some twenty men, mostly of Latin appearance and asked pointedly if we had ever met any of them.
We both looked carefully at these strange, sometimes brutal, faces.
“I am not sorry not to have met any of them,” I quipped. “They look rather disreputable. Who are they?”
Somehow this question remained unanswered.
“I have an excellent memory for faces and I am positive not to have ever seen any of them,” I added.
Jeanne, in a more cheerful and confident mood pointed out three better–looking ones: “This one has a cute moustache! That one has an interesting look about him. And this one is so handsome! Oh, I would like to meet these three men,” she concluded laughingly.
This cheerfulness was met by a stony silence, a kind of hostile attitude. Fernandez did not say a word. He seemed disappointed. Smith broke the awkard silence and asked: “May I take a few pictures of you and the dogs?”
The mentioning of the dogs conquered Jeanne and we obliged again. Many photographs were taken.
The conversation lingered for a while longer. Fernandez became more amiable and called our dog Nero in the Spanish manner “Señor Neron” which pleased Jeanne to no end. Finally the two strangers left, promising to contact us again from New York, to give our regards to my friend there and to send us copies of the pictures.
The Life Journalists Were Imposters
A few days went by. We both were busy and didn’t have time or occasion to discuss this visit. One evening, lying in bed, I asked Jeanne: “What did you think of those two characters who came to visit us the other day?”
“Rather suspicious,” she said. “I was thinking of them at this very moment. This is ESP. How did you know they were from Life?” She asked. “Did they have any identification?”
“None,” I mused. “And I did not ask for any. But they knew exactly what I was talking about with the Life reporter in New York. Fernandez remembered all the questions and all my answers.”
“You were very careless,” said Jeanne convincingly. “Don’t you know that the house has been bugged on and off. More on than off.”
She was absolutely right. These men were imposters. Next day I checked with the Life office in New York. Smith and Fernandez did not exist as far as Life was concerned.
But it is very possible that my naiveté and the very certainty that we did not know any of the men on the photographs, put these two men at ease, otherwise we might have joined the other twenty or thirty people who had died mysteriously just because of their accidental knowledge of some details or people which might have affected the official version of Oswald’s guilt.
We never communicated to anyone, except to a few very selected and faithful friends, what had occurred. The Government agencies would have made a usual mess out of this situation and we might have become victims of an eventual revenge.
But to our minds, this visit was very significant: people at whom we glanced so casually, were unquestionably involved in some way in President Kennedy’s assassination. New they have disappeared swallowed in the mass of our population or, possibly, they had left the country altogether. It’s a mystery to solve but not for clods from our bureaucratic mass of officials, unsophisticated, under–educated, and like the Englishmen said during the war of our GI’s: “overpaid, over–fed, over–sexed and … over here.”
And Lee’s opinion comes clearly to my mind: “the bureaucrats all over the world are the same …” And I am adding my own definition: most of them would not be able to make an honest living in the world of business and free competition.