Trivia in Berlin

Ernst and Ludwig walked down their Berlin street as was their morning custom three days after New Year’s in 1966. Daily they celebrated their survival the reign of that crazy bastard Adolph Hitler. Friends since childhood, Ernst and Ludwig knew they had entered into a suicide pact when they joined the military as young men. It was enlist or be gunned down on the streets for being cowards and disloyal to the Fuerher.
Now they were in their twilight years and did exactly as they damn well pleased without regard to what their wives and their neighbors thought. Since their retirement from the sanitation department where they disposed of garbage, side by side, for twenty years, Ernst and Ludwig played trivia games to see who would pay for their coffee and cinnamon roll. Picking a topic they asked each other questions and the first to miss an answer treated the other. This worked out to be as fair a way of determining the morning host as they were equally knowledgeable or ignorant on most topics.
This morning they walked a furious pace because the wintry wind was particularly nippy. Their hands were in their pockets, shoulders hunched and heads down.
“Arithmetic,” Ernst announced out of the blue.
Nein.
Und why not?”
“It’s too cold to calculate numbers in mein head, that’s why.” After a pause, Ludwig offered, “Opera.”
“There’s only one answer to an opera question und that is Wagner.”
“That is true. Then you pick.”
“America.”
Ach, gudt.Name three famous Americans with the initials M.M.,” Ludwig announced loudly. He chose not to notice that two young women walking the other way on the sidewalk glanced at them and then laughed.
“Mickey Mouse, Marilyn Monroe and Margery Main.”
“You’re not getting off that easy,” Ernt said. “I have a hard question.”
“Ask away,” Ludwig challenged him. “I love America.”
“Where do Americans go when they want to lose most of their money?” Ernst asked.
Ach! Las Vegas in the desert known as Nevada! You have to do better than that!”
“Bet you can’t do any better!” Ernest huffed furiously.
“What is the name of the American president?”
“Lyndon Baines Johnson! Und his beautiful daughters are Lucy Baines and Lynda Bird.”
“Not fair!” Ludwig bumped Enst’s shoulder. “That was going to be my next question.”
They both looked up to see their favorite little restaurant on the corner two blocks away. They increased their speed.
“We’re almost there. If we arrive und no one has missed a question then the person with the last correct answer wins,” Ernst offered.
“That’s fair,” Ludwig conceded but he added, “talk faster.”
“In what month of the year do Americans celebrate the landing of Christopher Columbus?”
“Hmm…you’ve been watching the American television channel again. Give me a moment.”
“You said to make it fast, so make it fast,” Ludwig said with glee. “Only one more block to go!”
As they crossed the last street before the restaurant, Ludwig’s foot rammed into the curb.
Ach!” He lifted his leg to grab his injured foot, winced and pointed at his shoe. “Toe!” The wind picked up, and Ludwig said with a shudder, “Brr!”
Ernst’s mouth flew open. “But how did you know?”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Thirty-One

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold escape across the river into Maryland where they hide in the Zekiah Swamp. Baker enlists his cousin’s help to save Booth’s life. Booth arrives at Garrett’s farm.
The hour approached 11 p.m. when Luther Baker and his troops arrived in front of the Star Hotel in Bowling Green. Earlier in the evening, they visited the Trappe Tavern where they learned from the hostesses that Ruggles and Bainbridge had visited them the previous night. They had not seen a lame man at all.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay for some refreshments?” the madam extended the coy invitation as her girls tittered.
Luther declined but asked how to find the Star Hotel.
“Oh, you won’t have any fun there,” the madam said, but when he insisted she gave him directions.
Before Luther rapped on the Star Hotel door, he told the men to wait there, that he, Doherty and Conger would bring out the informant. The door shuddered as he banged his fist against it. Before long, it opened and a portly middle-aged woman wearing a housecoat answered. In her right hand, she held an oil lamp; with her left hand, she clutched the housecoat, keeping it modestly secured around her neck.
“Are you the proprietor of this establishment?” Luther asked brusquely.
“I am Mrs. Gouldman, yes.”
“Is Willie Jett here?”
“I believe he is, yes.”
“Take us to his room immediately.”
“I cannot believe Mr. Jett could be the subject of any criminal investigation. He is such a fine young man.”
“We think he has information concerning the whereabouts of the Lincoln assassins.”
“That cannot be—“
“If you do not take us to his room you will be charged with being a member of the conspiracy,” Luther interrupted.
Mrs. Gouldman fluttered her eyes. “In that case, follow me.”
She led the three men up the stairs and went to a door at the far end of the hall. She tapped lightly. “Willie, dear, there are gentlemen here to see you.”
“Is the door locked?” Luther asked.
“We only rent rooms to gentlefolk, sir. There’s no need for locked doors.”
At that, Luther pushed past her, opened the door and stormed the bed, followed by Conger and Doherty. “Where’s John Wilkes Booth? You know! Tell us!” he yelled as he jostled Jett from a deep sleep.
“I swear, gentlemen!” Mrs. Gouldman said, “this is not proper!”
Doherty took her elbow, ushered her out of the room, shut the door and stood guard as Luther jerked Jett up by the armpit.
“Where is he? Tell us, or by God, we’ll charge you with conspiracy!” Luther continued.
“All right, all right,” Jett replied, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “I’ll tell you if you will lower your voice.”
“Very well.” Calm returned to Luther’s voice. “Where is he?”
“The Garrett farm, about half-way between here and Port Royal. You must have passed it. We met them on the ferry. He told us exactly what he did. And we saw you crossing on the ferry. We went back and told him before coming here. He may be gone already.”
“Can we find it in the dark?” Luther asked.
“I’ll take you there myself but you got to promise not to tell anyone I did it,” Jett said. Especially Mr. and Mrs. Gouldman. I love their daughter Izora. I want to marry her.” He paused and lowered his voice. “I want to be their son-in-law so I can eventually own this hotel. If I help you, please don’t ruin my future.”
Luther smirked. “Your future is in your own hands. You can tell the Gouldmans anything you want and we won’t contradict it. You have a horse?”
“Yes, sir. Right outside.”
“Well, get dressed and mount up. We’re on the road back to Garrett’s farm.”
In a few minutes, they were all mounted in front of the Star Hotel, waiting for Willie Jett to explain to Mrs. Gouldman about how the Yankees were commandeering him to search for a man he swore he did not know. He asked her to pray for his safe return by morning. After Jett mounted his horse, a private clopped up.
“Sir, Sgt. Boston Corbett has disappeared. Do you think there are rebel snipers around here? I didn’t hear any shots.”
“Corbett?” Luther paused. “Oh yes, Corbett. Don’t worry about it. He’s probably found a church where he can pray a few moments for the success of our mission. He’ll be back before you know it.”
“But how will he know where to find us?” the private insisted. “You told us the destination only minutes ago.”
“God will tell him,” Luther replied.
“Sir?”
“Very well, I’ll stay behind and find him. Doherty and Conger know what to do. This young man knows the way,” he said motioning toward Jett.
Luther sat astride his horse, watching his detail ride away down the dark road to the Garrett farm until the galloping hooves were only a mere vibration. Then he heard a whistle from across the road in a patch of trees. Following it, he found his cousin Lafayette Baker, the sergeant and a corpse across an extra horse.
“I thought your men would never leave,” Baker stated in a drone. “I could not quite make out where we are going.”
“Garrett’s farm,” Luther replied. “It’s halfway back to Port Royal.”
“Then we must be on our way.” Baker urged his horse forward. “This is the most crucial point of our mission. The switch from Booth to the corpse must be smooth and undetectable.”
“God will provide a way,” Corbett assured them.
Luther looked at the sergeant and decided he looked as crazy as reported to him. “This mission does not seem strange to you, Sgt. Corbett?”
“Nothing is strange if it is the will of God.”
***
Denied the comfortable beds in the main house, Booth and Herold slept restlessly in Garrett’s tobacco barn. Booth’s dreams were of standing on a stage, having just completed the greatest of Shakespeare’s soliloquys, waiting for thunderous applause but hearing nothing but silence. Breaking the hush were catcalls and declarations of ridicule, shouts that he would never be the actor his father and brother were. Sounds of horses coming down the road alerted Garrett’s dogs, which began a great commotion of barking, howling and snarling as they caromed off each other in the darkness.
“Davey, go see what that is!” Booth ordered, nudging his sleeping companion.
Herold stumbled to his feet, went to the barn door, and pushed on it but it did not open.
“It’s barricaded!”
“Look through the slats! What do you see?”
“I don’t see nothing. It’s too dark. I hear horses for sure now. A whole passel of them. They’re real loud now. They’re coming through the gate!”
Booth struggled to his feet, hobbled on his crutches to the barn door and shook it. “Damn the man! Why would he lock us in like this?” He paused and turned for his guns. “He knows. When he went looking for a wagon, he was actually turning us in to the Federals! And I thought the man had honor!”
“I see some lanterns now,” Herold said. “The whole damn family is on the porch and they’re pointing toward the barn!” He turned and went to his fellow traveler. “Mr. Booth, sir, I want to go home to my mama and sisters now, sir.”
“Time has long passed for that, Davey. Here take this rifle. We’ll shoot our way out of this.”
“That ain’t going to work! We had better give up!”
“No, no. I will suffer death first.” Booth turned to the barn door as he heard the wooden bar being lifted. “Shh. Be silent.”
The door opened, and the old man lurched into the barn, as though he had been pushed. The door slammed behind him. “The place is surrounded by Yankee troops,” Garrett said in a trembling voice. “Resistance is useless. You better come out and deliver yourself up.”
“Traitor!” Booth screamed. He lifted his rifle and aimed it at Garrett. “You, sir, are no gentleman.”
“Help!” Garrett bawled. “He’s going to shoot me!” The old man ran for the door. “Let me out!”
Herold sprang from Booth’s side and banged on the door. “Let me out too! I want my mama!”
The door flung open and Herold and Garrett rushed out, allowing Booth a glance at the crowd of soldiers gathered there, holding their weapons, some holding lanterns. He was now alone.
“To whom am I speaking?” he called out. “Are you Union or Confederate?”
A loud baritone replied, “You know who we are! We are here to arrest you for assassination of President Abraham Lincoln!”
A crack in the wood planking of the back barn wall drew Booth’s attention. When he turned he saw the new opening in the wall, and lantern light was filling the barn with an eerie, shifting glow. Coming through the new hole in the wall was a short stocky man. Booth squinted. He looked mildly familiar. Yes! He knew. It was man from beneath the Aqueduct Bridge. But what was he doing here?
“Shh,” the man hissed. “Ask for time to consider your options,” he whispered.
“I—I want a few minutes to think about what to do.” Booth fought to keep his voice from wavering. He was confused. So much was happening so fast. He needed time to think, to figure it all out.
“Don’t say anything,” the man said intensely. “I am here to save your life. You were chosen to fulfill another man’s will. I cannot give details. But do as I tell you, and your life will be spared.”
A short, thin man came through the opening dragging a corpse, about his age and build, with black hair.
“The troop leader will say this corpse is you. Take off your clothes while the sergeant strips the corpse. Now! No time to waste!”
Booth, feeling bewildered, obeyed, although his instincts told him not to trust the man.
“There is a horse out there waiting for you. In the excitement, you will be able to get away. I will give you three hundred dollars in cash. That will be enough to take you to Mexico and beyond. Never come back.”
As Booth put on the Union private’s clothes the sergeant dressed the corpse in Booth’s suit.
The stocky man from the Aquedect Bridge handed him a wallet with the money.
“Your time is up!” the officer outside yelled. “Come out or we’ll set fire to the barn!”
“Say something!” the man whispered. “Buy us time!”
“I am a cripple on crutches,” Booth called out. “If you are an honorable man you will pull your men back fifty yards from the door and I’ll come out and fight you. Give me a chance to fight for my life!”
“No! Come out now and surrender and we will spare your life!” the officer shouted.
“Well, my brave boys, prepare a stretcher for me!” Booth reached down for his rifle.
“No, leave the guns. Go now!” the short stocky man hissed.
Booth hobbled to the hole and looked back to see the sergeant shoot the corpse in the back of the neck before the man and the sergeant followed Booth out the narrow opening. Booth motioned to them that he needed help mounting the horse. As they lifted him, they heard soldiers’ firing into the barn in response to Corbett’s shot. Soon flames flickered in the barn as dried straw and the curing tobacco caught fire, and smoke flowed out from gaps between the boards.
As Booth adjusted himself on the saddle, the man slapped the hindquarters of the horse. He galloped out gate and turned south, not knowing exactly where he would go. In one last look back, he saw the aqueduct man mount his horse and ride after him. He also noticed the thin sergeant run around the corner of the barn, yelling. Booth sped away, still bothered by the question of who was the man who had seduced him into killing the president and then went to extraordinary means to save his life?

Resolution

Bob and Madge sat in the Mexican restaurant, sharing a large plate of nachos, and each sipped on their margaritas.
“Remember the time Susie smeared the queso in her hair?” Madge laughed as she crunched on a tortilla chip.
“Yeah, when the waitress came up, we asked what we should do,” Bob replied, “She replied, ‘I don’t know. If I had a camera I’d take a picture of it.”
They both laughed and took another big slurp of the margaritas.
“That’s one thing we did wrong with Joey.” Madge scooped up some guacamole. “We always bought him a hamburger, no matter where we ate. Remember when we got in late at the beach and went to the restaurant where the waitress walked up with the wrong order and Joey started screaming when she walked away.”
“We shouldn’t have let him go hungry like that.”
“And then the next night we went to the hamburger joint late and he toddled down the aisle as fast as his two little legs would carry him. And the line was backed up.”
“They should have taken that little boy away from us, the way we starved him.” Bob stuffed another nacho in his mouth.
“No wonder he ate all the chocolate doughnuts in the back seat.” After Madge took another swig of her margarita she twisted her face. “But that was another trip, wasn’t it?” She shook her head and pushed her salt-rimmed glass over to Bob. “You better have the rest of my margarita. I’m not making any sense.”
Bob was about to take her glass when he pointed to the last nacho on the platter. “Do you want that?”
“No, you can have it.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Then why did you ask if I wanted it?”
“I was just making conversation.”
“I don’t think you need the rest of the margarita.” She pulled the glass back across the table.
“If that’s the way you feel about it….” Bob reached for the last nacho and ate it.
Madge started laughing, her face turned red and she coughed.
“Okay, that settles it,” Bob resolved. “We must never leave each other. No one else could ever understand us.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Thirty

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold escape across the river into Maryland where they hide in the Zekiah Swamp. Baker enlists his cousin’s help to save Booth’s life. Booth arrives at Garrett’s farm.
Luther Baker felt confident the next morning, April 25. As soon as the 16th New York Cavalry arrived in Port Conway, he spotted a black ferry operator, sweeping the deck of his boat. Riding up to the dock Luther called out to him.
“Hey you! I got some questions!”
The man put his broom aside and walked down the gangplank. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“We’re on the hunt for the men who assassinated the President.”
“What can I do to help?”
“Have you seen two men, one of them with a broken leg?”
“I seen a man with a lame leg but there was five of them, though. They wasn’t too pleasant, if you ask me. Didn’t even pay the toll. I took them across to Port Royal.”
“Five men?”
“Three Confederates, sir.”
“So they’ve enlisted help,” Luther said almost to himself.
“I don’t think so, sir. I know the boys, and they’re all local. I know one in particular real well, Willie Jett. He comes through here all the time.”
“Then we want to go to Port Royal,” Luther replied. What’s your name, boy?”
“James Thornton, sir. My boss, Mr. Champe Thornton, has instructed me to operate his boat while he attends to other matters. You and your men can board right now if you like, sir, but all your men have to get down off your horses for the trip. And it’s gonna take three trips to get you all across. That’s two whole hours. You got a problem with that?”
“Why no. It’s still the fastest way to get to Port Royal. And who would want to ride their horse on a boat?” Luther asked.
“The man with the lame leg.”
Luther rode back and forth on the ferry three times, staying by Thornton’s side asking him more questions about the Confederates.
“The other two are Mortimer Ruggles and Absalom Bainridge. Those gentlemen like to visit a tavern called the Trappe for the horizontal entertainments, if you know what I mean. It’s on the road between Port Royal and Bowling Green. Now the first gentleman, Mr. Willie Jett, don’t indulge in such activities because he’s courting a right nice young lady by the name of Izora Gouldman whose father runs a very respectable hotel in Bowling Green. Any time you want to find Mr. Willie you go to the Bowling Green hotel and that’s where he’s likely to be. The Star, that’s name of Mr. Gouldman’s place, the Star Hotel.”
After the third trip across the Rappahannock, Baker leaned into Thornton to whisper, “I wouldn’t be surprised if when you return you find a solitary gentleman on horseback waiting for you. He’s my cousin. A short, husky man with red hair. Most important of all, he will have a second horse carrying an unusual bundle. Do not ask anything about it, but deliver him to Port Royal as quickly as possible.” He handed Thornton a fist of silver coins. “Here’s the toll, and a little extra to take care of my cousin.”
***
Booth and Herold slept late the morning of April 25. The Garretts had given them the best bedroom in the house. Supper the night earlier was satisfying, excellent food, and the family around the table was very attentive as Booth regaled them with an invented story of how he was wounded at Petersburg as part of A.P. Hill’s division. On his trip home to Maryland he encountered a troop of Yankees. He cursed them and shot at them, causing the troops to chase him back into the hinterlands of Virginia. Booth warned the family that Union soldiers might be arriving at the farm to inquire as to his whereabouts. Garrett’s three young daughters, Lillian, Cora and Henrietta were particularly enthralled with Mr. Boyd, as Booth called himself. Afterwards he sat on the porch with the old man smoking a pipe with tobacco cured in Garrett’s own barn. The three girls lingered by the screen door and giggled.
Booth spent late morning lying under an apple tree telling stories to the sisters and teaching them how to read a compass. Garrett’s eldest son was late for lunch, and when he sat at the table with the family he announced the Richmond newspapers reported the reward for Lincoln’s assassin had risen to $140,000.”
“Well,” Lillian commented, “I suppose the man was paid to kill the president.”
Booth, swallowing hard on his potatoes, replied, “It is my opinion, he was not paid a cent but instead did it for notoriety’s sake.”
“Notoriety’s sake?” Coral repeated with a laugh. “Any man who would commit murder for notoriety’s sake must be insane!”
The family laughed long and hard at Cora’s comment, giving Booth the opportunity to tamp down his anger. He could tell Herold wanted to reply, but he caught the young man’s attention and shook his head no. Herold remained silent.
After lunch, Booth and his companion adjourned to the front porch where they luxuriated most of the afternoon, drinking in the vista of rolling green hills, salted with white-petalled Dogwood trees. A brilliant red Cardinal and his mate were building their nest in an oak tree at the corner of the farmhouse veranda, keeping the men company and providing them conversation fodder as they discussed the birds’ progress. In the distance a cow lowed peacefully. It was idyllic.
Late in the day, Garrett walked out with a well-worn school map of the Southern states and sat next to them.
“I’m sure you gentlemen will want to be on your way soon. Here’s a map so you may plot your journey back to Maryland.”
“That’s right neighborly of you, sir,” Herold replied with a crooked grin. “I imagine we could waste a bunch of time going up and down the countryside looking for home if left to our own devices.”
As the three of them pored over the map, noise from the road interrupted their study, causing them to gape in the direction of the sound.
“There goes some of your party right now,” Garrett commented pleasantly.
“Please get my pistols in the bedroom.” Booth voice was tense.
“Why would you want your pistols?” the old man asked.
“You go and get my pistols!” Booth bellowed.
Garrett pulled back and frowned a moment before rising to go into the house. Booth ordered Herold to help him to his feet and hand him his crutches, saying they should hide in the woods behind the tobacco barn until the riders pass. They had only made it halfway to the trees when they realized the riders were Jett, Ruggles and Bainbridge.
“Marylanders, you’d better watch out!” Jett yelled. “There are forty Yankees coming up the hill!”
“How do you know that?” Herold asked, fear tinging his voice.
“We saw them from a bluff overlooking the ferry landing. Half the soldiers are across and the last bunch ain’t far behind,” Ruggles said, huffing. “I think they saw us.”
“Maybe we ought to go with you right now,” Herold suggested.
“No, we’re better off here,” Booth countered.
“I suggest hiding out so they won’t see you,” Bainbridge warned. “They’ll be coming down this same road. We’re going to lay low in Bowling Green until they pass.”
“Good luck!” Ruggles shouted, as the three Confederates turned their horses and continued on the road to Bowling Green.
By this time, Garrett returned with the guns. Booth hobbled to him followed by Herold.
“My apologies, sir,” Booth said in his best sincere tones. “You were right. Those were our companions from yesterday. They were just paying their respects before moving on.”
Garrett studied Booth’s face before replying, “I’d never seen a man turn so passionate so fast as you did when you saw the men on horseback.”
“I told you when we arrived we had Federals chasing us,” Booth said in defense.
“Yeah, we don’t want to see those damn Yankees again,” Herold interjected. “I don’t rightly know if mounted cavalry could travel that fast to get to Port Conway and beyond. What do you think, Mr. Garrett?”
“Oh, I don’t think so.” Garrett looked off and scratched his head. “It might be good if you caught up with your friends, where ever they might be going.”
“We intend on staying here all night.” An ill-tempered edge crept back into Booth’s voice.
“I’ll be honest with you, gentlemen. My suspicions have been aroused in the last hour. We are peaceable citizens, and we don’t want to get into any trouble with the government.”
“Oh, there ain’t no chance we’ll bring any danger to you and your family,” Herold said with a laugh. “Hmm, what does the missus have planned for supper? I’m beginning to get hungry.”
Before Garrett could answer, a thunderous rumble arose beyond the rise toward Port Royal. Dust lifted along the horizon.
“Now, that has to be the Yankee troops coming,” Garrett announced in irritation.
“Let’s skedaddle!” Herold yelped, turning to run to the woods.
Booth grabbed his arm. “We don’t have time. If they see us running, they will know something is awry.” He dropped his crutches and put his hand on Herold’s shoulder to balance himself. “Now we are merely three men standing in the farmyard having a leisurely conversation.”
Calmly they watched forty mounted cavalry gallop by on their way to Bowling Green. After they passed, Garrett wagged a finger at them.
“This is the last straw! You men must leave now!”
“Davey, pick up my crutches,” Booth said calmly. After Herold retrieved them and Booth was standing on his own, he continued in a soft voice, “If that is your wish, but we must have a wagon. The pain in my leg is intolerable. I cannot continue on horseback. We have money. We will buy a wagon ride.”
“I know a man about a mile away. He might take you anywhere,” Garrett replied.
Herold fumbled in his pockets and pulled out a bill, “Here’s a Secretary Chase note. Will this do?”
Garrett grabbed it. “I’ll make sure it’ll do.” He turned to the stable for his horse. “I’ll be back with the wagon in no time.”
They settled back on the porch. Booth pulled out the pouch of Garrett’s tobacco and filled his pipe.
“Tell me again how you cut that Army officer at the theater,” Herold said with a puppy-dog look in his eyes.
A couple of hours passed, and the sun began to dip below the skyline when Garrett rode back down the road. When he dismounted, he frowned. “The man wasn’t home. His wife didn’t know when he’d be back. She also said the troops stopped at her house to ask if she had seen a couple of white men, one of them lame.” He handed the bill back to Herold. “I’ll drive you in my wagon any place you want to go immediately. No charge.”
Booth smiled slightly and shook his head. “It’s too late now. It’d look suspicious if the Federals caught you out at night in a wagon. Feed us, give us a bed one more time and we’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
Garrett scowled. “You get supper, but I’ll be damned if I’ll give up my bed to you again. You and your brother—if that’s who he really is—can sleep in the tobacco barn.”

So Proud I Restrained Myself

I always say I love being an old fart. Of course, that does come with one qualification—all those medical tests I have to endure to make sure some nasty disease isn’t trying to sneak up on me.
Recently I went in for my semi-annual blood pressure measurement, thumping on my chest and back, and breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Yes, I was relieved to know I could still breathe. Then the doctor said it was time for another stool test and he started filling out the prescription sheet.
This confused me because I hadn’t had a school test in almost 50 years and I didn’t know why I needed to take one now. Before I could say anything I realized he said stool and not school and it wasn’t the kind of stool I sat on. Well, I could sit on it, but it would be rather uncomfortable, messy and stink.
He told me to go right over to the hospital to the outpatient care desk, hand the clerk the prescription, and the clerk would hand me the packet. I’d take it home, follow the instructions and return it to be analyzed. I am thoroughly versed on this procedure so not only did I hand in the prescription but also my insurance cards and driver’s license.
Of course, a line of other old people were in front of me, ready to get stuck, x-rayed and worse. The receptionist took my prescription and other required documents and told me to sit down and wait to be called. I made myself comfortable and was halfway through checking my Facebook account (I hate missing out on the latest cute kitty photo) when I heard my name being called. Sitting in the cubicle I filled out the paperwork, signing my name and initialing all the necessary boxes.
Up to this point I had dealt with volunteers and clerks trained in expediting paper, and they had all done their jobs amazingly well. Then the clerk handed the paperwork to someone who actually knew something about medicine. That person immediately recognized what procedure was ordered and knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish the test right then and there, on the premises at that exact moment. The clerk had to tear up the paperwork, take the prescription to the lab where a technician would surrender a plastic kit to be brought back to me. At a future undetermined date I would return the kit, a little less for wear, deliver it to the clerk who would then have me fill out the paperwork and afterwards deliver the plastic package to the lab.
I was not surprised. I had played this game before. Unfortunately, the medical staffer must have had a stressful morning up to that point and became a little confused about the situation.
“Does he have the sample with him?”
Several inappropriate and somewhat tasteless responses formed in my brain. I smiled at the clerk and said, “Thank me for not saying what first came to me.”
She smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Twenty-Nine

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold escape across the river into Maryland where they hide in the Zekiah Swamp. Baker enlists his cousin’s help to save Booth’s life.
The crossing did not go at all as Booth had planned. The strong current forced the rowboat back to the Maryland shore, where they had to hide until the next night when once again the boat ended up on the wrong side of the Potomac. On the third night, Booth and Herold finally arrived on the Virginia coast at Gambo Creek, one mile from sanctuary at the home of a Mrs. Elizabeth Quesenberry. Jones had highly recommended her. Because of his injury, Booth decided to stay with the boat while Herold walked to the Quesenberry home. The sun set before Herold returned with a large broad-shouldered man and two saddled horses.
As they came closer, Booth recognized the man. He was Thomas Harbin, Cox’s brother-in-law whom he had met when visiting Mudd in Bryantown in December of 1864. Booth was glad. Harbin had a kinder disposition than Cox.
“We got us some food,” Herold said with a smile, handing a bag to Booth. “You’ll like it. Mrs. Quesenberry’s a good cook.”
“She’s not taking us in?”
“Mrs. Quesenberry is a very intelligent woman who has been an effective agent for the South,” Harbin explained. “She will do what she can to send you in the right direction but also give herself the ability to tell Union soldiers that she had never met you.”
“So where do we go from here?” Booth bit into a pone of corn.
“Down the road to Dr. Stuart’s house. You ought to have a doctor look at that leg,” Harbin said. “If it gets infected, there’ll be the devil to pay.”
With that, Harbin left them with the two horses, and, with difficulty, Herold helped Booth into the saddle. They hoped to reach the doctor’s house before he retired for the night. A lamp still flickered in his window when they arrived. Herold jumped down from his horse and knocked at the door.
“Who’s there?” a voice called out.
“Two Confederate soldiers from Maryland looking for shelter.”
“Go away. I don’t take in stragglers.”
“But my brother, he’s in pain,” Herold persisted. “A broken leg.”
Stuart opened the door to peer out. “I don’t know anything about broken bones. Go to the Yankees, get your paroles and they will take care of your brother.”
“But we ain’t givin’ up,” Herold explained with a big smile. “We’re joinin’ up with Mosby and keep fightin’. No damn Yankees are goin’ to stop us.”
“Mosby?” Stuart ventured out onto the porch with his lantern, squinting toward Booth. “Mosby has surrendered. I read it in the newspaper.” He walked closer to the horse raising his lantern to appraise the rider. “Yep, I can tell you’re in pain but you sit erect on the horse, your posture’s that of a well-bred gentleman. Even though you’re in dirty clothes and need a shave, I can tell you’re not a common foot soldier.”
“Kind sir,” Booth finally spoke, “if you would indulge us a few moments and listen to the circumstances of our case—of who we actually are—you will be more than willing, as a loyal son of the South, to help us out.”
“You don’t speak like a common soldier either,” Stuart added. His eyes widened. “As I recall the news of the assassination and the description of the desperadoes, one was an actor of good breeding and the other an ignorant youth of modest background. This leaves me with the inevitable conclusion I am courting disaster by even talking to you.” He turned back to his door. “I don’t want to know anything about you.”
“Have pity upon us, sir. Can’t you at least help us find our way to Fredericksburg?” Booth asked.
Before he closed the door, he stuck his head out. “A colored man by the name of Willie Lucas lives in a cabin down the road. I rent his wagon from time to time. He might help you, might not.”
After the door slammed shut, Booth looked at Herold and shook his head. “Oh, the cold hand they extend to me.”
Herold mounted his horse, and they followed the road until they reached a small, primitive cabin. By this time, it was midnight and the lights were out.
“Lucas!” Herold called out.
“Who is it?” Lucas asked.
“We need to stay here tonight!”
Lucas cracked his door. “I’m just an old colored man. Ain’t proper for me to take in white folks. I just got the one room here, and my wife is sick.”
“We’re Confederate soldiers, and we’ve been fightin’ for three years!” Herold yelled at the old man. “We’ve been knockin’ about all night, and we ain’t goin’ one step more!”
By this time, Booth had eased off the horse and was limping toward the cabin on his crutches. Bumping past Lucas he entered the cabin and with his crutches whacked at the two beds where Lucas’s wife and son slept.
“Get out of here! We’re taking these beds tonight!”
Lucas’ grown son tumbled from the bed and stalked Booth, who pulled out his knife and waved it in the air.
“God almighty, he got a knife, Charlie! Come on, Mama, let’s sleep under the wagon tonight,” Lucas cried, ushering his family out the door.
The next morning Booth ordered Lucas to have his son take them in his wagon to Port Conway on the Rappahannock River. When Lucas hesitated, Booth pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and handed it to Mrs. Lucas. Mollified, Charlie tied the bridles of the strangers’ two horses to the back of the wagon, mounted and drove the pair to the river city where they could catch the ferryboat. They rode in silence most of the way, with Charlie clicking reassurances to his horses to break the quiet. At the dock, Charlie wordlessly untied the horses, helped Booth out of the wagon then sped off back home, creating a cloud of dust in his wake.
Waiting to board the ferry with them was a group of Confederate soldiers.
“Who did you belong to?” Herold asked with a raffish grin.
“Mosby,” one of them answered.
“Where are you goin’?” Herold asked again.
“None of your business,” another one replied. “And who are you?”
“We’re the Boyd brothers. Just like you. Confederate soldiers on our way to Mexico to regroup with others like you to launch an invasion.”
“Why would any man even have a thought like that?”
Herold leaned into the group and whispered, “Then I’ll tell you the truth.” He turned and pointed to Booth. “Yonder, the man on the crutches, he’s the assassinator. Yonder is J. Wilkes Booth, the man who killed the president.”
They gazed in his direction. Booth hobbled over to them and said, “I supposed you have been told who I am?”
The black ferry operator called out, “Boarding time!”
Booth looked up sharply. “And who are you to be yelling at a group of gentlemen?”
“James Thornton, sir. It’s the only way I know to let folks know it’s time to get on the boat.”
“Is this your boat?”
“No, sir, it belongs to my boss, Mr. Champe Thornton.”
“Then why isn’t he giving the orders?”
“Well, sir, Mr. Champe, he used to own me and he taught me how to operate this boat so he could attend to other matters. I hope that meets with your approval, sir.”
Booth ignored Thornton’s last comment to look at Herold and say he had to mount on the horse first. He could not stand on his leg for the trip across the Rappahannock. The soldiers volunteered to hoist him upon his horse. As they guided the horse across the ramp, Thornton raised his hand.
“It’s against the rules to ride a horse on the ferryboat,” he said. “Made the ferry top heavy and the boss don’t like it.”
Booth’s face turned crimson because a black man dared to tell him what to do. “I’m injured! Can’t you see that?”
The three Confederates echoed his sentiments, putting their hands on their guns. Thornton backed up.
“I guess I can let it pass this time,” he mumbled as he retreated to the pilothouse.
The entire group gathered near the bow to continue talking after the boat cast off. The Confederates introduced themselves—Willie Jett, Mortimer Ruggles and Absalom Bainbridge—and vowed safe passage to Booth and Herold. No payment. The three men said they did not take blood money. By the time the ferry landed on the other side, Booth’s florid description of the assassination had completely enthralled them. He even showed them his knife, still stained by Rathbone’s blood.
On the other side as they debarked at Port Royal, Booth smiled broadly and announced, “I’m safe in glorious old Virginia, thank God!”
“Shouldn’t we pay the ferry pilot?” Herold asked.
“After he disrespected me? Absolutely not!” Booth replied.
“And I know just where you can spend the night,” Willie Jett said as he mounted his horse. “My friend Randolph Peyton lives on the other side of town with his two sisters. He will be glad to help you.”
Booth nodded. “Very good. Please continue our ruse. We are brothers returning home from the war.”
After a short twenty-minute ride, they reached the Peyton house. The group waited on the dirt street as Jett knocked at the door. The Peyton sisters joined him on the porch. Booth watched as Jett gestured toward the men. At first, one of the sisters nodded yes but the other leaned into the first one and whispered. The second sister then grabbed Jett by the arm and shook her head. Booth did not like the looks of the situation. Jett motioned again, but Booth sensed he was pointing beyond them to the house across the street. The young Confederate returned.
“Randolph’s not home, and the ladies feel uncomfortable having strange men in the house,” he explained. “I asked them about the Catlitts across the road there. She said it wouldn’t hurt to ask.”
Once more Jett knocked on a door, and once more a woman answered and shook her head. Booth clenched his jaw.
“They know exactly who I am,” he muttered. “They are too cowardly to give me shelter! This is not the reception I expected.”
“I’m sure they’re doing the best they can,” Herold countered in a soft voice. “You know, we kinda have to take what we get.”
Jett walked back with a smile. “Her husband ain’t home neither. You can’t blame her, really. But she says she knows for sure the Garretts will take you in. They’re just three miles down the road. She says they got a real nice house.”
It was three in the afternoon by the time the group arrived at Garrett’s farm. An old man stood on the porch. Jett waved at him, and he waved back and smiled.
“We got two Confederate brothers returning home here. The Boyds. The older one has a broken leg. We want you to take care of them for a day or so. Can you put them up it?”
“My boys just got home from the war,” Garrett repied, stepping forward. “Of course. I’d be honored to help you.”
With a sigh, Booth slid off his horse with difficulty. “I greatly appreciate your kindness, sir. It seems you and these three gentlemen are the only true Southerners who appreciate what we have done.”

Letters

Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado
July 8, 1895
123 Main St.
Enid, Oklahoma

My Dear Wife,
I miss you terribly and hope the company will soon recognize my talents and promote me to vice president in charge of sales so I may enjoy your company more often. With luck, I shall return to you by the middle of August. The weather in Colorado is pleasant enough but I would sacrifice my comfort to be under the torrid Oklahoma sun with you and the children. Tell the children I shall take them on a great camping adventure before school starts. How is Edward Junior recuperating from his bout of chicken pox? I must be off to my next appointment soon in a small town called Golden. It reminds me of your lovely locks.
With love,
Your Husband

Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

July 8, 1895

321 Main St.
Waxahachie, Texas

My Dear Wife,
I miss you terribly and hope the company will soon recognize my talents and promote me to vice president in charge of sales so I may enjoy your company more often. With luck, I shall return to you by the first of August. The weather in Colorado is please enough but I would sacrifice my comfort to be under the torrid Texas sun with you and the children. Tell the children I shall take them on a great camping adventure before school starts. How is Edwina recuperating from her bout of measles? I must be off to my next appointment in a nearby town called Red Bud. It reminds me of your lovely locks.
With Love,
Your Husband

321 Main St.
Waxahachie, Texas

July 18, 1895
Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

My Dear Husband,
I am quite confused. We live in Texas, not Oklahoma and we have a daughter Edwina, not a son Edward Junior. I have red hair, not blonde. Edwina is terribly afraid of the outdoors and the little creatures that inhabit it so she would not enjoy a camping trip. She had chicken pox, not measles. I reread your letter several times thinking I must have misunderstood it. As you have pointed out to me several times I do have a tendency to misunderstand the simplest of statements. I will continue my sessions with Dr. Fitzmorgan in Dallas. I’m sure he will straighten this out for me.
With Love,
Your Wife

123 Main St.
Enid, Oklahoma

Aug. 4, 1895

Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

To My Soon-To-Be Former Husband,
Don’t bother to come home, you lying, cheating scoundrel. You should have realized you were not clever enough to have two wives at one time. To refresh your memory, I am the blonde-haired woman living in Oklahoma with our son Edward Junior, who by the way had measles not chicken pox. I exchanged several telegraphs with the lady residing in Waxahachie, Texas. She has canceled all her appointments with her doctor in Dallas and has engaged a lawyer. I have also hired a lawyer. Please expect a letter from the main office of your company stating you have been dismissed from your job because of a complete lack of morals. I must be off now to visit my mother and to apologize. She was right about you.
With absolutely no love,
Your Soon-To-Be Former Wife

Author’s Note

I have been hit with an especially bad case of winter crud so I won’t be posting David, Wallis and the Mercenary for the next two weeks. We are down to the last two chapters, and I want to make sure they are just right. Monday and Wednesday postings will continue as usual. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Twenty-Eight

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold escape across the river into Maryland where they hide in the Zekiah Swamp.
Lafayette Baker was desperate. No one knew Booth’s hideout. If anyone else apprehended him first, Baker could not save the assassin’s life would be lost. And the plot would be disclosed. Baker cringed with shame when he thought of his role in the abduction of Lincoln and the subsequent murders. He did not want the nation or his family to know how evil lurked in his soul. Each day he wandered the Department of War halls, listening for any snippets he might overhear about the location of Booth. If anyone seemed on the verge of breaking a lead in the investigation, Baker created an excuse to have that man arrested. He ordered two men to Montreal, Canada, to follow up on reports Booth had accomplices there.
Finally, on April 24, Baker read a telegram from General Grant’s cipher clerk Samuel Beckwith to Major Eckert on the sighting of two men crossing the Potomac to White Point, Virginia. Perhaps this was the break he wanted. Before anyone else had a chance to read it, Baker grabbed the telegram and took it back to his investigation headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. When he walked in his office door office, he saw his cousin Luther Baker sitting back in a chair smoking a cigar.
“Put that damn thing out,” Baker huffed as he stormed in. “We’ve got work to do!”
Luther looked up, his brow furrowed, and tapped out the cigar. “What’s going on?”
Baker sat behind his heavy wooden desk and pushed the telegram across to his cousin. “We’ve got good proof Booth and his man are in Virginia.”
“Are you sure?” Luther picked up the paper to read it, moving his lips silently.
“Dammit, man, nobody’s sure about anything, but I know—I know in my gut this has to be Booth.” He paused to allow his cousin to finish taking in the contents of the telegram. “Luther, do you trust me?”
His cousin looked at him with a wicked, twisted grin. “Hell, no. I know you too well.”
“If I told you the whole damned country would go to hell if you didn’t do exactly as I said, would you do it?”
Luther sobered and looked into Baker’s eyes. “Lafe, are you going crazy again?”
Baker leaned back in his chair and steepled his hands together as though in prayer. “I may be, but I swear to you the future of the United States rests on your faith in me.”
“All right,” Luther replied after a long pause. “What is it?”
“John Wilkes Booth must escape. He must not be captured or killed. If he went to trial information will come out that will destroy the government. All that we have fought for in the last four years will be for naught. If he is killed, God’s justice will be subverted.”
“God’s justice—what the hell are you talking about?”
“This is where you have to trust me,” Baker whispered. “Too many people have died. The killing must stop.” He stood and went to the door to make sure no one was lingering in the hall. Once he was sure they were alone, he shut it firmly. Returning, he sat on the edge of the desk, looming over his seated cousin. “I want you to lead the search party into Virginia. Select your officers carefully. Choose men who will accept the fact that secrecy and fabrication are essential. The other men in the unit must be chosen for their unquestioning loyalty. Among them will be a soldier who will participate in the manufactured assassination of John Wilkes Booth. Is this possible? Remember, there is a generous reward for the assassin.”
“Of course, Lafe,” his cousin replied soberly. “Anything is possible.”
They spent the rest of the day assembling the entourage, Col. Everton Conger and lst Lt. Edward Doherty. They decided on the twenty-six men from the 16th New York Cavalry, battle-forged veterans. As for the person who would swear he shot Booth, Luther suggested a sergeant who was the topic of many drunken conversations in the barracks, a man named Boston Corbett.
“He’s older than most, thirty-four and recognized for bravery so you can be sure he won’t shirk from duty in any situation,” Luther said, “but he’s crazy as a loon. His wife died while carrying their first child and that seemed to drive him over the edge. He found religion, let his hair grow out so he’d look like Jesus and swore off ever being with a woman again. He even cut off his balls with scissors. Spent two weeks in the hospital recovering. Tough as nails. He survived Andersonville.”
“Good, very good,” Baker replied. He stared into his cousin’s face. “I have one other detail you must accept without question. I have a corpse I will bring to the scene. No one must know, but I will be shadowing your movements so that when you corner Booth, I will be there to substitute the body for him.”
“Dammit, Lafe. How the hell are you going to be able to plan this operation down to the last detail so you can even substitute a corpse that people will believe is John Wilkes Booth?”
Baker leaned back and smiled. “If you knew what I had contrived in the last two and a half years and succeeded in keeping secret, you would not ask that question.”

Love

“Ugh.” Ralph sat up in his recliner.
“Uh?” Gertie lowered her newspaper.
“Ugh.” He waved in the direction of the television remote control.
“Oh.” She stretched her arm across the sofa to retrieve it. “Here.”
“Uhum.”
“Ah.” She returned her attention to the newspaper.
Ralph clicked the television on and turned to professional wrestling.
“Wha?”
“Uh?”
“Nuh uh.”
“Aww.”
“Nuh uh!”
“Sheez.” Ralph began to channel surf. He stopped on a station showing NASCAR. “Hmm?”
“Nuh uh.”
“Shee.”
Ralph continued to click until Home Shopping Network showed up.
“Unh! Unh!” Gertie bounced on the sofa.
“Oh shee no!”
“Bthpt!” Gertie glared at Ralph and then jerked the newspaper up to cover her face, almost ripping it.
“Hmph!” Ralph turned off the television and threw the remote control down. He looked up at the ceiling. After a moment he sighed and started tapping his fingers on the arm of the recliner. He looked over at Gertie. “Hmm?” He paused, waiting for a reply. “Hmm?”
Finally he stood and walked over to the sofa and sat next to Gertie, leaning into her. “Hmm?”
“Nuh uh!” Gertie kept her newspaper between her and Ralph.
He nudged her again. When he received no response he put his lips up to her ear.
“Boogly woogly,” he whispered.
“Nuh uh!”
“Oh, boogly woogly.” His voice took on a pitiful tone as Ralph scooted closer.
“Meh!” Gertie elbowed him in the gut.
Bending over, Ralph let out, “Ow!” He wiggled back a little. “Boogly woogly?” Again she ignored him. “Oh boo hoo, boo hoo hoo.”
“Oh sheez.” She put down her newspaper to look at him.
“Boogly woogly?”
She smiled. “Oh poopy doopy.”
Ralph put his arms around Gertie. “Boogly woogly! Boogly woogly!”