Category Archives: Novels

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Eleven


Felipe Espil, one of Wallis’s lovers
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be Edward the Prince of Wales. Soon to join the world of espionage is Wallis Spencer, an up-and-coming Baltimore socialite.
Wallis stopped abruptly when she heard his subtle mention the words “hat pin.” Now how the hell would some little bastard from England know about that? She fumbled with her purse as she pulled out another cigarette. For the first time in her life, her fingers trembled. The man offered her a light.
“What did you say?”
After lighting her cigarette, he remained uncomfortably close and whispered, “We’ve read the military dossier on you and Win. The American jackasses don’t believe it, but we do. Also we’ve had collaboration from the Argentinian Embassy. Don’t worry. Felipe Espil is very discreet, but he did think we’d be interested in your many talents. And we are.”
“I’m sorry. You’re confusing the hell out of me. I am an American in Paris who is attending a party at the American Embassy. You tell me you know about my—shall we say friendship with an ambassador from Argentina. So just the hell are you?” She blew smoke in his face.
He took her by the elbow. “Let’s take a stroll in the gardens. Americans are very clever at growing flowering bushes, if not anything else.”
Wallis yanked her arm away and resisted the temptation to inflict permanent harm on his little British body. “You have some bollocks to manhandle me like this!” she spat.
“His Majesty’s secret service.”
They maneuvered their way through the crowd, onto a broad balcony and down marble steps to a garden reeking with lilacs and filled with dark shadows perfect for talking espionage.
“Let me properly introduce myself. I am Gerry Greene and officially a member of the diplomatic corps, but my actual affiliation is with MI-6. You do know what MI-6 is, don’t you?”
“Why should I?” She blew smoke in his face again.
“Oh dear. I have to be blunter with you than I had wished.”
“I prefer it that way.”
“The British Empire has two sections to its intelligence organization. Domestic cases are handled by MI-5. International cases are handled by MI-6. And MI-6 wants you to spy for Britain.”
Her high pitched guffawing broke the proper atmosphere of the embassy garden as if a firecracker exploded. “You must be kidding!”
“We know about your Uncle Sol, Winfield Spencer and many others. You have invented a new singular use for a hat pin that will never be patented. Life in the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains taught you what can be accomplished with exotic plants. Your memorable methods of mayhem are quite impressive. The finest part is like a deadly virus. You are uniquely bereft of morals.”
“That’s a nasty way of putting it.”
“But still true.”
Wallis threw down her cigarette and smashed into the garden dirt. She took an extra moment to find the best words to respond.
“I’m American. I’d love to be British but sadly I’m not.”
“It makes no difference to us. Your country clings to old-fashioned ideas about patriotism and a woman’s place—“
“But I’m not a woman,” she interrupted.
“We know. That’s why you captivate us.”
His smile annoyed Wallis. “What’s in it for me?” She didn’t know if she were tiring of the conversation or being sucked into the possibilities of an even more glamorous and profitable lifestyle.
“Money unlimited. Enough to buy all the pretty things you love. Living in the finest hotels and mansions in the world is possible.”
The word money hooked Wallis’s attention. “When does this money start showing up in my bank account?”
“Immediately. Greene stepped closer. “And more important than money, this job offers you the opportunity to torture and kill men to satiate your intrinsic hatred and lust.”
She loathed this man for knowing what lurked inside. Like a peeping tom he saw into her soul. “So what do I have to do? Pass some dreadful test or something?”
“First you have to reconcile with Win and move with him to China. Don’t worry. We have a more suitable cover for you. In a couple of years you can divorce your husband. Marry someone else but eventually you will marry the man who will become your partner.”
“You’re choosing the men I will marry?”
“Does it make any difference? You haven’t done that well on your own.”
“How rude of you to remind me.”
“I must impress upon you. This is a life-long commitment which requires enormous amounts of patience. And that life time may be very short.”
“Thank God. I’d hate to be bored.” Wallis shrugged her shoulders and glanced around the garden as if she were bored right now.
“Then listen carefully.” Greene lowered his voice close to a whisper. “You will receive a telegram from Win begging for reconciliation. Don’t ask how but recently someone has convinced him an impressive promotion would be his if he proved himself to be happily married.”
“Is it really true? About the promotion, I mean?”
“Do you care?”
“No.”
“Once you join Win in China you will meet a charming man by the name of Robbie who will offer you a guided tour of China’s most fascinating—and might I add, most sinful—cities where you will be taught the most intricate of oriental martial arts.”
“I hope it involves something kinky.”
“The Chinese do not have a word for kinky. “
“Oh.”
“Just because they don’t talk about it doesn’t mean they don’t know what it means.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary, Chapter Ten


What went on behind that mysterious gaze?
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be Edward the Prince of Wales. Soon to join the world of espionage is Wallis Spencer, an up-and-coming Baltimore socialite.
Wallis had now been married five years to Win Spencer and was having a marvelous time. Whenever she walked into the room she was certain Win peed himself a bit. He had learned the hard way he could never assert himself with her. If he forgot himself and tried to slap her, she would dodge his hand and thrust a knee into his crotch, then ram the base of her palm under his chin, causing him to bite his lip and bleed. Wallis followed that action with a hard kiss on his lips, transferring his blood to her mouth. Immediately she ran out of the house screaming. A few times the Army almost gave Win a dishonorable discharge for abusing his wife, but Wallis pleaded through tears to save his job.
“After all, Win is the best pilot you have. It would be unpatriotic of me to deprive my country of one of its best simply because he can’t handle his liquor and knocks me around a bit.”
“You have quite a wife there, Spencer,” his commanding officer lectured him. “You should be grateful she hasn’t pressed charges.”
Sometimes Wallis amused herself with her hat pin up a delicate portion of Win’s anatomy. She had grown more sophisticated since her days with Uncle Sollie. She lost quite a bit of respect for Win; after all, a man should be able to endure a certain amount of inconvenient pain without tears.
By 1921, Win pleaded with Wallis for a divorce because he could no longer take the physical abuse. “I am actually becoming an alcoholic,” he told her from the dining table one night. He had tears in his brown eyes.
“What of it?” she asked, blowing cigarette smoke out of the side of her mouth. “Everybody thinks you’re a drunk anyway.”
“Please give me a divorce,” he whimpered. “I don’t care if it does ruin my career.”
She hated him all the more for his begging. Wallis didn’t want to stay with him, but she needed the money. Designer dresses didn’t come cheap.
“I have a compromise,” she said with a smile and another puff on her cigarette. “Pay me two hundred twenty-five dollars a month and I’ll move out and leave you alone.”
Win’s eyes widened. “Two hundred twenty-five dollars? Why, that’s most of my salary.”
“You don’t need it. Without me you can live on base and eat in the mess hall. Don’t tell me you have a clever palate. I’ve seen what you eat.”
Win sat dumbfounded, staring at her. Within a month, Wallis and her aunt Bessie were living in Washington on the monthly stipend. And quite well. Wallis began an affair with Felipe Espil, secretary at the Argentine Embassy. He was quite worldly and adapted quickly to a romance which did not include traditional aspects of lovemaking. More importantly, his family was wealthy, and he shared money with ease and grace.
Wallis feared that she confided too much as they lay in bed during early morning hours. They passed a cigarette between them, and she described her unconventional marriage with Win including its more sadistic aspects. Espil briefly considered the hat pin experience but declined.
“No one really likes it,” Wallis warned him, “except me.”
Eventually, Espil’s wealthy family informed him they expected an heir, a duty Wallis was ill equipped to execute. Her heart broke a bit. Espil was the first man who truly gained her respect and his family’s wealth could not be easily discounted either. At the end, however, she got over the romance but the doubts of Espil’s discretion lingered. She didn’t need the truth wafting about the cocktail party circuit where it might be heard by the wrong people.
A whirlwind of social activities across America and then on the continent made Wallis forget about Espil completely over the next three years. In 1924, she and Aunt Bessie invaded France and captured the hearts of Paris upper crust. Sir Cecil Beaton, the famed photographer, took her on as his greatest challenge–how to capture her image without making her face look like a horse and how to keep her hands from looking like they belonged to a longshoreman.
One evening at the American Embassy, Wallis sat languidly in an open window puffing on a cigarette for no particular reason, other than she thought it made her look mysteriously glamorous. A handsome young man approached her. He wore a tuxedo and his hair was slicked back. Oh God, she thought, not another one.
“You’re Wallis Spencer, aren’t you?” he asked with a seductive upper-class British accent.
She barely managed a smile. “Have we met?”
“No. You’re quite well known. The wife of America’s ace military aviator.”
Wallis blew smoke in his face. “I can’t believe poor little Win Spencer is an international celebrity. He just teaches others to fly. And I’m a country girl from Baltimore.”
“Oh, you’re much more than that.” His eyes twinkled. “Everyone knows about your uncle Sol Warfield. He’s quite an inventor, isn’t he?”
“I was being ironic.” She flicked her cigarette out the window. “You may think you’re debonair in your rented tuxedo, but you are nothing. I have thrown away better men than you will ever be.” She paused and became quite irritated when he continued to smile at her. “How rude must I be?”
“Oh, I’m hoping for much, much worse.”
Wallis stood and prepared to march away when the young man said just two words.
“Hat pin.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Thirty-Four


Lincoln and secretaries, Hay and Nicolay
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. He guided his substitute Lincoln through his first Cabinet meeting. Then he told Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon into believing Lincoln and his wife were in hiding because of death threats. Lamon comes to the White House to find out for himself.

Nicolay and Hay have not changed, Lamon thought, as he entered the room. Hay looked up from his desk where he was addressing envelopes, and smiled broadly.
“Hello, Ward.”
“Ward, we haven’t seen you in a while.” Nicolay said as he looked up from his letter opening. He smiled only briefly, yet Lamon took it as a warm reception since it came from the cold, bland Bavarian.
Lamon sat near Hay, throwing his feet up on the desk, as was his wont during Lincoln’s first year, when all was normal. He liked the secretaries immensely, Hay’s boyish charm and Nicolay’s reserved intelligence; still, Lamon had to learn what they knew about the president’s disappearance.
“Marshal’s office has been keeping me busy.” He looked from one to the other. “You two look no worse for the wear.”
“Thank you,” Hay replied, “and same to you.”
Taking a deep breath, Lamon continued, “I wish I could say the same about the old man.” His observation was met with silence. Perhaps he was being too subtle, so he turned directly to Hay, whom he considered the weak link. “Johnny, haven’t you noticed a difference in Mr. Lincoln?”
“Remember when we used to have booger-flicking contests?” Putting a finger up one nostril, Hay innocently returned Lamon’s gaze. “You always won.”
Lamon could not help but laugh, realizing, however, that Hay had not answered his question, deliberately or not, so he turned his attention to the inscrutable Nicolay.
“And you, John, have you noticed any changes in the president?”
“Mr. Lincoln hasn’t changed since those days in Springfield when we all first met him.” Ripping open a letter, Nicolay studiously read the contents.
“Those were the good old days with the president, weren’t they?” Lamon asked.
“Yes, Mr. Lincoln smiled more then,” Nicolay replied.
“Even the first year in the White House, the president made a few jokes,” Lamon continued.
“That was when we all, including Mr. Lincoln, still had hopes of an early resolution to the war.”
Narrowing his eyes at Nicolay, who kept his attention on the letters, Lamon then asked, “But since the time I saw him last, two months ago, Mr. Lincoln seems to have lost his spirit.”
“The president has had good days this fall. You just haven’t seen them.”
“Well, I guess I’ve been lazy long enough,” Lamon announced, putting his feet down and standing.
“Don’t be a stranger,” Hay cheerfully said.
Ja, come back soon,” Nicolay added, finally raising his eyes.
Lamon walked out, very proud of himself, feeling he had outfoxed Nicolay, who did not want to tell a lie, yet did not want to betray a confidence, but by playing his word games had revealed what Lamon wanted to know. In talking about Lincoln, Nicolay called him by his name; however, when Lamon referred to the man in the president’s office as Mr. Lincoln, Nicolay followed up by calling the man Mr. President. That proved they knew the current president was not Mr. Lincoln; what Lamon still did not know was if they knew this was the plan of Mr. Lincoln, the man they called Mr. President, or, worst of all, Mr. Stanton.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Nine


Eleuthera at night
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be Edward the Prince of Wales. As his voyage home to the Bahamas, he recalls his early life, including his father’s death and working for the mysterious Ribbentrops.
(Author’s note: this chapter contains mature situations.)
For the next few weeks Leon spent hours wandering the grounds. His first suggestion was to replace the gate of iron bars with thick wooden doors. No one could shoot through wooden doors and make a quick getaway. Mr. Ribbentrop agreed and promptly made the changes; however, when Leon also recommended cementing broken bottles to the top of the wall, the master rejected it because he thought the house would look more like a prison than a home.
One day Mrs. Ribbentrop told Leon she felt like going to the market and asked him to accompany her. As they walked among the stalls of fruits and vegetables, she said, “I hope I didn’t put you in an uncomfortable position. I mean, you indeed have many admirable qualities but …you’re so young. What do you know of self-defense? Fighting and such things.”
“You don’t know the heritage of the Johnson family, even going back to a time and place where we weren’t even Johnsons. Back in Africa, we were warriors, not very good warriors. We lost and were sold into slavery. Each man in every generation taught his sons ancient tribal skills. My father taught me secret techniques to protect myself and to kill. Your concerns, fortunately, are unfounded. I might appear young and naïve but I am capable of being a very bad little boy.”
That night Leon awoke with a start. His bedroom was just down the hall from the Ribbentrops’ suite. Instinctively he jumped from his bed and instead of putting on his pants Leon ran naked toward their room though he heard no sounds or saw any lights. Just as he entered two men come through the open window from the courtyard. He dove at them as if he were a rock from a slingshot.
His body rammed into the first intruder, the impact sent all three to the floor. Leon leapt up and saw the throat of one of the men, exposed like a turkey neck on a chopping block. He stomped on it with his bare heel until he heard the larynx crack. Then he pressed down with his full weight until the man’s face turned blue and his last breath escaped his lips.
“For God’s sake, boy!” Ribbentrop yelled as he lumbered from bed. “What the hell are you doing? Have you lost your mind?”
“Heinrich?” his wife murmured as she stirred from a deep sleep. “What’s going on?”
Ribbentrop stormed around the corner of the bed. The second intruder scrambled to his feet and lunged at him with a knife. Ribbentrop’s eyes bulged as the blade slid upward under his ribcage.
Leon turned and kicked the attacker in the back of his knee. He crumbled and dropped the knife. Leon picked it up and rammed it into the intruder’s jugular and twisted.
Both Ribbentrop and his assailant gurgled blood before falling over dead. Leon spun to the window to make sure there were not others waiting outside.
“Leon,” the wife whispered, reaching over to turn on the lamp on the nightstand, “are you all right?”
“Yes.” Caring more about what money he could find than about the life of his boss, Leon knelt by the two strangers searching their pockets. He found a few guineas and took them. “My father taught me well.” He checked her husband for a pulse. “I’m afraid Mr. Ribbentrop is dead. Your husband should have agreed to the bottle shards. They came over the wall.”
Mrs. Ribbentrop rose from the bed and neglected to put on her bathrobe on a nearby chair. A silky nightgown clung to her body. “My husband was a fool. He killed himself. Besides, they came for me. Have you heard of the Romanovs?”
“Yes, my father read the newspaper to me every day.”
“I am a cousin to the czar. We’re a ruthless family. We’ve never had a high regard for anyone’s life, except our own. Heinrich offered to marry me and take me away for a substantial dowery. So what are we going to do now?”
Leon rolled the men onto the bedroom rug. “I hope this was not special to you.”
“That’s the shame of it. Nothing is special to me. Sometimes I wish I could be horrified by blood and death.”
“I have to wrap up the assassins. I have a friend who can help me dispose of them at sea.”
“God, you are a cold-hearted bastard,” she said with twisted humor. “Do you even care the Bolsheviks are after me?”
“The Freeport authorities aren’t accustomed to triple homicides. They will bungle the investigation and be more concerned that a black boy killed two white men than the fact they killed your husband.”
“I’d explain it to them.”
‘Really? Make international headlines so the Bolsheviks will know where you are? I think you care about your own life more than mine.”
“You’re probably right.”
“I’m concerned with body disposal now.” Leon began tugging the carpet toward the door.
“What do we do about Heinrich?”
“Do you have a family physician who would rule his death a heart attack? Remember, you don’t want to make headlines.”
She smirked. “For enough money our doctor will say anything. And how did you come up with a heart attack?”
“Well, his heart was certainly attacked.” He paused. “You better call him tonight.” Leon smiled. “And yes, I’m glad I at least saved you.”
“I think I’ll move to the American West. They know how to handle Bolsheviks there.”
Leon stood and moved to the door. “I have to fetch my friend.”
She stepped over the bodies and went to him. “I’m sorry this means your job is gone. I have a large purse of gold coins in the safe. They’re yours.” She paused to mull a weighty matter on her mind. “I was wrong about you. You are a bad boy. There are jobs for bad boys. Don’t ask me how I know, but I do know. Sometime—maybe soon, maybe later—someone will approach you to do evil things for large amounts of money. That way you can support your family.” She shook her head. “I don’t know if I am doing you a favor or not.”
“Believe me. It is a favor.”
“After tonight we must never see each other again.” She paused to keep tears from forming. “I have one last request as your employer.”
“Of course. Anything.” His mind was a blank as to what she might want.
She put her hands to his cheeks, pausing to consider her white skin against his black face. She pushed her lips against his.
“God, I am a Bolshevik,” she murmured.
Leon felt a surge in his body. She put her arms around his neck. He picked her up and carried her to the bed.
Leon shook his head to stop the memory even though it was very pleasurable. Coming back to the present, he sat up in old Joe’s boat to see the Eleuthera dock. Standing on the keel, he anticipated the landing. As the boat thunked against the dock, Leon bounded ashore.
“Thank you, Joe!”
“Anytime, boy. Give your ma a hug for me!”
He ran down the dusty road, passing the now-empty Ribbentrop mansion. When he reached his family’s little house his mother greeted him at the door with an embrace.
“My little boy! How good you look!”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Thirty-Three


Ward Hill Lamon
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. He guided his substitute Lincoln through his first Cabinet meeting. Then he told Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon into believing Lincoln and his wife were in hiding because of death threats. Lincoln’s secretaries realize something is wrong but are afraid to say anything. Janitor Gabby Zook, caught in the basement room with the Lincolns, begins to think he is president. Mrs. Lincoln decides to befriend him.

One mid-afternoon, after two months of ruminations about his confrontation with Secretary of War Stanton and his henchman Lafayette Baker over the disappearance of Abraham Lincoln and the substitution of a double, Ward Lamon climbed the steps of the Executive Mansion,. Entering the door, he nodded at guard John Parker, who, he noticed, was already glazed of eye from an early beer. Coming down the stairs was Stanton; Lamon quickened his step. Stopping abruptly when he saw Lamon, Stanton pursed his lips.
“Mr. Lamon, what are you doing here?”
“Remember, it was your idea I come back,” Lamon replied. “After all, Abraham Lincoln is a personal friend of mine. He allowed me to pretend I was his law partner once. Even if I don’t work for him anymore, I’m still his friend.”
“Lamon…”
“And people might wonder why I never visit my old friend anymore.”
Stanton puffed, stammered, but ultimately walked away. Lamon mounted the grand stairway, skipping every other step, eager to meet the impostor. Going down the hall, Lamon looked around and spotted the new Mrs. Lincoln, obviously a double because she had kinder eyes than the real Mary Lincoln. Opening the door, Tad smiled at Lamon.
“Mr. Lamon! I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age!”
“Good to see you, Tad.” He patted the boy’s shoulder. Despite the opinions of others, Lamon liked Lincoln’s rambunctious son, because he reminded Lamon of himself as a child. If Tad survived his childhood, he would make a good bodyguard or policeman. “The marshal’s office has kept me busy. I promise not to be a stranger anymore.”
“Good.” Tad ran down the hall. “Tom Pen! Tom Pen!”
Continuing the other way, Lamon was eager to see the double, wondering if he measured up to the original. He went through the glass panels and turned right into the first office. The bearded man at the desk looked up, momentarily went blank, then smiled in recognition.
“Mr. Lamon, so good to see you again.”
Frowning, Lamon carefully shut the door, pulled a chair close to the president’s desk, then sat and leaned close the double.
“You’ve never met me before in your life and you know it.”
“I—I don’t know what you mean.”
“I know you’re a fraud, supposedly because my Mr. Lincoln is hiding out somewhere. I don’t believe it. Abraham Lincoln never hid from anybody.” He paused to examine the man’s eyes to detect what lurked behind them. “Where’s Mr. Lincoln?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Why not?”
“Mr. Stanton wouldn’t like it.”
“I don’t care what Mr. Stanton likes. What would Mr. Lincoln like?”
“I assume Mr. Lincoln wouldn’t like it either. After all, this entire situation is Mr. Lincoln’s idea. If he wanted Mr. Stanton to tell you, you’d know.”
Fluttering eyelashes betrayed him. Lamon decided the double was afraid of Stanton and couldn’t tell the truth. Standing, Lamon patted him on the shoulder.
“Well, we shall be friends then,” he said. “Don’t be bothered if I drop in from time to time for an aimless chat. I visited Mr. Lincoln often, and he enjoyed it.”
“Then I shall enjoy your visits too.”
Lamon left and went to the secretaries’ office. He had known Nicolay and Hay since the carefree days in Illinois. Lingering at their door, he listened to their conversation.
“…and she’s a senator’s daughter, in addition to being attractive and extremely well-mannered,” Hay said. “I think she’s potential matrimonial material.”
“Ja,” Nicolay replied. “And the president can give you away.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Thirty-Two


Tad Lincoln
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. He guided his substitute Lincoln through his first Cabinet meeting. Then he told Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon into believing Lincoln and his wife were in hiding because of death threats. Lincoln’s secretaries realize something is wrong but are afraid to say anything. Janitor Gabby Zook, caught in the basement room with the Lincolns, begins to think he is president. Stanton rips Gabby’s quilt from his sister Cordie and then proceeds with a strategy meeting with the President.

“You haven’t told us how Taddie is doing,” Mrs. Lincoln said impulsively, her hand reaching for Stanton’s sleeve but pulling back quickly.
“He’s fine.”
“Are his lessons going well? Is Mr. Williamson still his tutor? Has Tad learned to understand his Scottish accent better?”
“I really don’t have time.”
“Take time.” Lincoln stepped forward. “This is our son. We’ve a right to know about him. Even you have to concede that.”
“As far as I’ve observed, Master Tad’s lessons are proceeding as usual in the oval family room with Alexander Williamson. Whether he understands Mr. Williamson’s brogue is beyond my interest.”
“Why don’t you make it your interest?” Lincoln leaned forward, his hollowed eyes narrowing with contained anger.
He said that well, Gabby observed from his seat by the billiards table. If he ever returned to the president’s office, he must remember to use that tone when giving orders to whomever the president gives orders. Under his breath he tried to sound imposing in an unthreatening way. It would take practice.
“Very well.”
“Is he happy?” Mrs. Lincoln tried to smile. “Is Tom Pen keeping him amused?”
“Tom Pen?” Stanton asked.
“Thomas Pendel,” Lincoln explained. “He’s the doorman, and kind enough to play with Taddie.”
“Oh yes, Pendel. I seem to remember seeing them running in the garden together. He’s a bit old to be participating in such games.”
“Some people put the feelings for others ahead of their own interests,” Mrs. Lincoln said, with a hint of reproof in her voice. “Also Mr. Forbes. He’s been Taddie’s companion around town.”
“The coachman,” Lincoln offered.
“Between Mr. Williamson’s Scottish and Mr. Forbes’s Irish accent, it’s no wonder the poor boy can’t speak properly.” Mrs. Lincoln giggled.
“Well, Molly, I think we should allow Mr. Stanton to go.” Lincoln turned her shoulders away. “I’m sure he’ll make a greater effort to keep us informed about Tad.”
As the Lincolns walked away, Gabby noticed Stanton’s gaze fixed on him, which caused his legs to twitch. That man made him nervous, and he wanted to escape to his little corner behind the crates and barrels. He stood, and was almost to his Promised Land when Stanton called out. Gabby clutched Cordie’s quilt tightly.
“Mr. Zook. Come over here.”
“Yes, sir?” Slowly Gabby turned and shuffled to him. “Yes, sir?”
“Will you swear your sister didn’t sew a secret message into one of the squares?” Stanton tapped the quilt with his index finger.
“If she did, I haven’t found it.”
“Very well.” Stanton sniffed in derision.
Gabby heard keys jangling at the door which opened suddenly, hitting Stanton in the back.
“Be careful when you open that door,” Stanton said in a huff. “I always knock first.”
Walking away, Gabby heard Stanton mutter to Adam, “Be sure to tell me everything—and I mean everything—that the sister wants you to tell her brother.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Good.” Stanton left, shutting the door with more force than was necessary.
“Mr. Zook?” Adam asked.
Being called Mr. Zook was still unusual for Gabby. Mr. Zook was his father. General Zook was his uncle. It was good he had not finished West Point, or else he might be a general too.
“Call me Mr. Gabby, like the Lincolns do.” He smiled at Adam, trying to make the troubled-looking soldier feel better.
“Um, your chamber pot. Does it need cleaning?”
“Not that I know of. Let me go look.”
Going through the curtain, Gabby heard Adam walk across the room.
“Mr. Lincoln? Mrs. Lincoln?” he said.
“Yes?” Mrs. Lincoln replied.
“Chamber pots, ma’am?”
“Here they are,” Lincoln said. “I’ll carry them to the door for you.”
“Oh. I don’t think Mr. Stanton locked it,” Adam said with a stammer.
“Young man, I don’t think I’m going to bolt out the door after two months,” Lincoln said. “It’d be too disconcerting for Mr. Stanton.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Private Christy,” Mrs. Lincoln said.
“Yes, ma’am?”
“I want to apologize for my attitude,” she said. “Mr. Gabby pointed out to me you’re good at heart.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Gabby looked in his chamber pot to find it empty. He came around the curtain just as Adam opened the door and was scooting the pots out into the hall.
“Private, it’s clean as a whistle. Sorry. Maybe I’ll have something for you by lunchtime.”
“Thank you, Mr. Gabby.” Adam smiled.
Gabby was glad his presidential skills were working and lifting the young man’s spirits. Adam was about to close the door when Gabby stuck his hand out.
“Will you tell Cordie to make another quilt? It’s for Mrs. Lincoln. You know, a Gabby quilt is good for the soul.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Seven


Leon comes home to Eleuthera
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be Edward the Prince of Wales.

Leon Johnson walked down the gangplank of an ancient freighter. In his pocket was most of the British pound sterling the mysterious young man in black had given him in the depths of Canterbury Castle. He told Leon to go home to his mum and be a good boy. Taking the coins from his pocket and tossing them in his palm, Leon smiled. He knew how to save his money. He worked in the boiler room of the freighter to pay for his passage. He was not afraid to work hard. He saved the coins to support his family for the rest of 1916 on Eleuthera. Leon followed the first part of the man’s advice to save his money and go home to his mum. As for being a good boy, well, being bad was more profitable.
Walking the docks of Freeport, Leon saw a fisherman unloading his catch for the day and waved at him. He was old Joe from Eleuthera and lived down the road from the Johnson family. Leon had found free transport to his mother’s door.
“Where did you go, boy? Joe asked as Leon jumped into the boat.
“No place special.” He reached for the ropes. “Here, let me help you. I want to get home to Mum.”
“It won’t be long now,” Joe assured him. “Sit back. Relax.”
Leon reclined as the fishing boat headed toward Eleuthera. He thought again about the advice from the Canterbury stranger—find another way to make money. Sadly, Leon knew that decision had been made centuries ago, when his ancestors lost a war to a neighboring African tribe which sold his early family members into slavery.
Initial history of his family was fuzzy but by the time of the American Revolution, the stories took form. His great grandfather Moses had taken the name of his owner, a successful American sea captain named Johnson. Moses served as butler in the captain’s Baltimore mansion in the colony of Maryland and sensed during the growing turmoil that his master was a Tory.
And why shouldn’t he be, Moses reasoned to the other slaves in the cook house. “My family has been elevated from a primitive existence in Africa to an affluent lifestyle which the Britons have given us,” he declared.
“Primitive existence?” A footman sat in a corner polishing boots. “What can be more primitive than being owned by white men who treat you like you ain’t even human? They treat their damned dogs better than us!”
Moses snorted. “Your ma and pa should be horsewhipped if they didn’t tell you it was other black folks that sold us into slavery in the first place!”
“And what difference does that make?” The footman threw a boot across the cook house. “You’re still a damn slave either way!”
When Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown and American independence became secure, Captain Johnson loaded his family and slaves onto his ship and relocated to Freeport in the Bahamas. Except for the footman who, according to family lore, escaped and was never heard from again.
Moses jumped the broom with a lovely young lady who was Mrs. Johnson’s personal maid. She gave birth to one son and several daughters. Moses name his son Cyrus and indoctrinated him into the life of a good and loyal slave to the Johnson family. Moses, probably most probably, died before the British Parliament abolished slavery. While most of the servants discreetly slipped away to take up lives of their own purpose, Cyrus informed his kindred that they would remain servants of the household accepting the wages the Johnsons deigned to pay.
The next generation listened patiently as Cyrus lectured on the superiority of the British system during the brutal American civil war which ended slavery on the continent. Perhaps because his youngest son Jedidiah had not been born yet to hear the dissertations, Jed announced in adulthood he was leaving the employment of the Johnson family, which was on its last legs anyway. Cyrus was appalled. The third generation of white Johnsons preferred a life of dissolution made possible through the hard work of the original sea captain. Soon there would be no money left for the white Johnsons to waste.
Jed set forth to find an acceptable black fisherman to work for, learned fishing skills and saved his money to buy his own boat. After obtaining the skills and the boat, he searched for a woman to marry who was not too delicate for hard work by her husband’s side. When he found Dorothy, and a fine woman she was, they married in a proper church. After the ceremony his father Cyrus doddered towards him.
“I’m disappointed you did not have the traditional jumping of the broom.”
“Dorothy decided—and I agreed—we did not want to commemorate a time when our families were slaves,” Jed whispered so his bride did not hear.
“It’s our family tradition and has nothing to do with slavery. Your grandfather jumped the broom. You think you are better than him?” Cyrus protested. “Your mother, God rest her soul, agreed with me. Why would you want to desecrate her memory like this?”
Jed knew better than to argue with his father so he merely smiled. Dorothy came up and hooked her hand around his elbow. She nodded curtly to her new father-in-law.
“Excuse us, we have to leave now to reach our new home in Eleuthera by dark.”
Cyrus’s eyes widened. “Eleuthera? I didn’t know you were moving to Eleuthera. I have a job all lined up for you in the kitchen at the hotel.”
The Johnson estate had finally been sold at auction after the last son of the family died falling off the balcony in a drunken stupor. The new owners told Cyrus his services were no longer needed. So he found a job as a butler at a hotel catering to wealthy British families on holiday in the Bahamas.
“Father,” Jed began slowly, choosing his words carefully, “I appreciate your effort but I have been successful as a fisherman for the past couple of years and I’ve bought my own boat. Dorothy and I will be our own bosses.”
“You come from a long proud line of house servants,” Cyrus said. “Now you’re going to catch fish all day? That is not suitable for the Johnson family!”
Dorothy stood between the two men. “All right. I’ve taken enough of this nonsense. I know the Bible says to honor thy father and thy mother, but God didn’t know how stupid some of those fathers were going to be!” Then she dragged Jed away. She was a very strong woman.
“If you leave with that woman, I will never speak to you again!” Cyrus shouted at Jed’s back.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Four


Young David in a spiffy turtleneck
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be Edward the Prince of Wales.

No one seemed to notice the young prince enter the gymnasium and leave a few moments later to resume his run. David was quite pleased with himself—to murder someone who deserved to die. Even by his teen-aged years he learned the world was a dirty, rotten, stinking place where truth, compassion and honor and lying, dominance and greed were equally worshipped to the point of idolatry without any ambivalence. And there was nothing a good decent person could do anything about it. Well, he had some done something about it. His action stirred passions within him that rivaled even sexual ecstasy.
The rest of his time at Osborne was uneventful. Without their leader the other bullies lost interest in torturing the prince. He never developed any deep friendships but what of that? Part of his brooding view of life had no room for the fantasies of lasting friendship and the even more absurd concept of true love. He moved on to Dartmouth to continue his studies so he could enter the Royal Navy, leaving his sordid past behind and forgotten.
One day as he left his military tactics class, two gentlemen in unassuming navy blue business suits intercepted him and guided him to an awaiting sedan.
“Don’t be alarmed, Your Highness,” one of them assured him. “We are loyal subjects of the Crown. Very loyal subjects.” He paused to smile. “I’m sure you have heard of MI-6, his majesty’s, shall we say, secret service.”
David shifted uneasily. After all, he was a mere lad of fourteen. Yet he should have had the confidence of knowing one day he would be the king of England and therefore above reproach of the law. David still knew he had committed cold blooded murder.
“Please do not feel intimidated that you find yourself seated between two men in the back of a large black sedan. We at the agency have spent the last two months trying to arrange our meeting to be as private and inconspicuous as possible.” He paused to smile again. “So there you have it.”
“So there we have what?” David surprised himself by the assertive tone in his voice.
“Ah.” The second man patted the prince’s thin shoulder. “Good for you. You have cut to the chase.”
“And what might this chase be?” The back of David’s neck burned as he feared his secret may have been found out.
“As we told you, Your Highness,” the first man continued, “you’ve nothing to fear. We have nothing but high regard for you. Of course, as you may well have surmised by now, we are spies. More bluntly put, we murder in allegiance to crown and country.”
They knew. David should have never never assumed he would not have been found out. Have courage, he told himself. They did say they had high regard for him.
“Two years ago you attended the Royal Naval Academy at Osborne. While there you underwent intense hazing by a group of upperclassmen led by the brawny son of a car dealer named—“He looked over at his comrade and then at David before he pulled out a notepad and flipped through it. “Oh dear. I don’t seem to have his name here.”
“I won’t be able to help you with that,” David interrupted coldly. “I don’t remember the names of people I hate.”
The other man patted David’s shoulder again. “You see, I told you we made the right decision with this one here.” He nudged the prince. “I bet you haven’t lost a night’s sleep since then, have you?”
“No, I haven’t.”
The first man leaned in. “Your work was brilliant. Sudden. Cruel. You saw the fear in his eyes, didn’t you? Yet subtle. Spectacularly common. The case sat a full year in the Osborne magistrate’s office gathering dust. It was just by chance it came to the attention of MI-5. That’s our domestic agency. But you knew that, didn’t you? And what if you didn’t? You’ll know everything soon enough.”
Every muscle in David’s body relaxed as he realized what was being laid out before him. “Does the King know of this?” he asked, his tone still cold.
“Oh no,” the second man replied. “He doesn’t know anything. You know your old grandpapa’s piss has tuned to gin, don’t you?”
“Gin? I thought it would have been scotch.” David quickly added. “My father, the Prince of Wales, does he know?”

“Oh no. Not him either.” The first man wrinkled his brow. “No one in your family can ever know.”
David smiled. “That makes it all rather worthwhile, doesn’t it?”
The second man cleared his throat. “Please take a moment to consider the seriousness of this assignment, Your Highness. Spies rarely live long enough to see old age.”
The boy turned to look at him and raised an eyebrow. “You mean I’ll be killed? What of it? They have four more to take the crown if I die.”
The car ride lasted another hour or two. They explained to David that after he finished his studies at Dartmouth, he would enter a training mission in the fall of 1911 on the battleship Hindustan. And the world would know of it. The session was already planned. But he would learn things no king of England ever knew before. Next he would enroll in Magdalen College in Oxford, again with a special line of instruction. By 1912, David would embark on a tour of Europe, visiting relatives and learning new languages officially and extending his spy craft away from the public eye. Eventually, he would join the Grenadier Guards.
“And I cannot stress strongly enough, Your Majesty, all this will take time. You may not even hear from us for six months or a year at a time. You must have patience. This is a life time commitment.”
“However long that lifetime might be.” David relaxed into his new circumstances.
The second man asked, “Excuse the impertinence, Your Highness, but you have not been contacted by anyone else, have you?”
“Anyone else? You mean like the enemy, whatever nation that might be?”
“No, sir—I can’t continue this deference. Attracts too much attention. May I call you David, like your family does?”
“Of course you may. I rather like it. David the spy.”
“All kidding aside,” the first man interceded, “what my friend is trying to inform you is that we need not fear only a political enemy but an enemy that is far more sinister—an enemy that fights you for money, like a common whore giving herself up for sixpence.”
David sobered. “I would rather die.”
The memory was fresh on his mind, though it had been eight years filled with training, discipline, pain, fear and the inexplicable thrill of murder.
“David! David!” his father bellowed down the dining table at him. “What the blazes are you thinking about? Some common whore?”
“George!” Queen Mary was quite indignant. “If you continue to behave in such a boorish manner I will retire to my quarters immediately!”
The Prince of Wales smiled and murmured in a tone only his sister Mary and brother George could hear, “Common whore? Hardly. I only bed respectable wives of wealthy gentlemen.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Twenty-Nine


General Samuel Zook, Gabby’s uncle

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. He guided his substitute Lincoln through his first Cabinet meeting. Then he told Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon into believing Lincoln and his wife were in hiding because of death threats. Lincoln’s secretaries realize something is wrong but are afraid to say anything. Janitor Gabby Zook, caught in the basement room with the Lincolns, begins to think he is president.

“I used to like the military,” Gabby said, watching Lincoln retreat behind the curtain with his newspaper. “Uncle Sammy went to West Point first. He was the smart one in the family. He’s a general now.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Lincoln said in friendly agreement. “I’ve heard of General Samuel Zook. He may have his turn as commander of the Army of the Potomac before this war is over.”
“Now I don’t like the military anymore.” He paused to look down and bite his lip. “They said I killed my best friend Joe.”
“Oh no,” she gasped.
“That colonel said the whole thing was my fault. He said I was the one driving the team. I was supposed to be in charge of the horses, and I didn’t control the horses, and the colonel was hurt and Joe was killed.”
“But he ordered you to drive the carriage over your objections.”
“It didn’t make any difference, they said.” Gabby shook his head. “I was the one driving the team so I was the one responsible, they said. They said I was a murderer. They said they were doing me a favor by just throwing me out of West Point and not hanging me. They said—”
“Please, Mr. Gabby, no more,” Mrs. Lincoln said, holding her handkerchief to her face. “I can’t stand to hear anymore.”
“They told Mama and Cordie I was no use to them and for them to take me home.”
“That’s dreadful,” she said. “I’m sorry I had you tell me.”
“That’s all right.” Gabby tried to smile as he wiped a tear from his eyes. “Most days, I don’t even remember what happened. I just know I don’t think as good as I used to.” He shrugged. “I don’t know why I remembered everything today.”
“I’m so sorry for my behavior.” Mrs. Lincoln reached across the billiards table to touch Gabby’s hand. “If I’d known what caused your misery, I’d have been kinder.”
“I know.” He found the courage to squeeze her hand before withdrawing it. “I think—and please don’t get mad at me—you’re a little like me. Sometimes we can’t help the way we act.”
“Mr. Gabby, I do declare I think you’re more perceptive than many of the intelligent men running this war at this very moment.” She cocked her head coquettishly.
“Oh yes, I know I’m smart, except when I forget to be—smart, that is.”
“You must spend more time out here in the room with us, Mr. Gabby.” Mrs. Lincoln laughed as she stood. “You really must.”
“Thank you,” he said. “But I think that would make me too nervous.”
“I know all about being nervous. Well, as you wish.” She turned to go to her cot.
“Would you like a quilt?” Gabby asked.
“A what?” She turned to smile at him.
“A quilt,” Gabby explained. “My sister Cordie makes them. She made me one. Just a minute, I’ll show it to you.” Quickly padding to his corner, Gabby grabbed the quilt and brought it out, proudly displaying a crudely sewn composition of rumpled squares of old cloth of different colors, textures, and patterns. “Cordie calls them Gabby quilts. She named them for me.”
“How nice.” Mrs. Lincoln smiled as she touched it.
“She cuts squares out of old dresses, shirts, and things she has around, and sews two of them together with an old sock in the middle, and then she sews the squares together, and you got a Gabby quilt.”
“So each square is a memory of a loved one.” Her eyes sparkled as she stroked it.
He pointed to a square of dark brown. “Mama wore this dress all the time. And this,” he said, tapping a swatch of gabardine, “was part of Papa’s best suit when he was a lawyer.”
“How wonderful.”
“Oh, they’re really not worth much. Used to, Cordie would make fancy patterns with the squares. Now she just sews them up any old way. That way you can really use it. If you’re sick and feel like you need to throw up, you can just let it go on a Gabby quilt. It doesn’t make any difference.”
Mrs. Lincoln withdrew her hand.
“I haven’t been sick on this one.”
“Oh.”
“Cordie used to say Gabby quilts were like love. Love isn’t something pretty to look at. Love is for everyday use. When you get sick you can wrap up in love—like an old Gabby quilt—and feel better.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Three

A very young Prince of Wales

Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, was foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black.

The Prince of Wales was bored. It was one of those de riguere dinners with the family at Windsor Castle, not one of his favorite royal residences: too drafty, too remote, and too filled of the pomposity that was his father. He thought his brothers and his sister would have to stand forever until the parents royale entered the dark dining hall lit by tall, elegant flickering candles.
Finally George V and Queen Mary appeared in the door and dramatically approached their seats. Servants pulled back the chairs. As they sat, the servants standing behind the princes and princess seated them with smooth precision.
Attendants, in unison, approached each royal personage on the left with the soup course. No one dared to lift a spoon until King George took his utensil and swiped it through the consommé.
“We are honored by the presence of the Prince of Wales,” he announced while a few droplets fell through his whiskers. “What? Couldn’t find a strumpet to occupy your weekend?”
Ignoring his father’s question, the prince returned with his own inquiry. “Is your sciatica acting up, Papa? There’s some rain in the forecast. It has been a year since you fell off your horse while reviewing the troops in France.”
“Most inappropriate,” Queen Mary intoned.
David sipped a bit of consommé and smiled. “At least I don’t dribble my soup.”
“At least I visited the front,” his father huffed. “You haven’t made it out of headquarters.”
“A few times. I have seen the wounded. The piles of discarded arms and legs.”
“David!” Mary’s voice raised above her usual respectful murmur. “That’s quite enough!”
That was what they called him. David. He did not know why, though he did rather like it. The name David did not reek of proper putrefaction like George, Edward or Henry. The next eldest son was called Bertie. How refreshing. Then came their sister Mary and brothers George and Henry. Boring. Again boring. Oh, how David hated to be bored.
“You missed all the excitement last week,” George V continued, evidently choosing to ignore his son’s remarks on dismembered body parts. “The archbishop almost missed our monthly prayer breakfast at Buckingham. It seemed these rotters from Scotland had plans to spirit him away.”
“”George! Language!” the queen protested.
“But one way or another someone in secret service caught wind of the plan. The bloody little blighters wanted to exchange the archbishop for one of those horrid anarchists we have imprisoned. I can’t quite remember his name….”
David smiled to himself. The man’s name is Jack Smith. He is from Glasgow. He leads a group protesting the war. Well, let Papa glory in his ignorance. At least I know the truth.
Yes, the truth, which could not be shared with the royal family nor could it be comprehended by them. George and Mary and the siblings had never understood David, because he was not like any other Prince of Wales in history.
He retreated unto himself as his father continued to ramble. The prince concentrated on his beefsteak—medium rare per his personal preference. The oozing red juices both excited and soothed him. He remembered when that particular fascination came over him.
He was twelve years old when he entered the Royal Naval Academy in Osborne. It was his first time to live away from home. No servants waited on him, ready to cater to his every caprice. David was noticeable shorter than the other boys and slight of build. His voice had not yet mellowed into a respectable baritone.
Frankly, David was surprised to find out anyone considered his countenance anything less than regal and elegant. He was shocked to discover the others did not immediately acknowledge his natural superiority. Within a few weeks of his arrival David began to restrict his diet and began a vigorous exercise regimen which went beyond the demands of the required training of the other boys.
He interrupted his thoughts to pull out and light a cigarette. He was only vaguely aware of his mother’s remonstrations. He ignored her rules about smoking at the dining table. What was she going to do, ban him from being crowned King of the British Empire? Take away his title of Prince of Wales? What a relief that would be.
Retreating back into his memories, David went to the day a group of his fellow students grabbed him in the showers. The gang leader was several inches taller than the average boy and seemed overly endowed with hormonal secretions. His claim to higher class entitlement came from his father who owned the largest automobile dealership of imported continental luxury motor cars. A few moments passed as David tried to remember the boy’s name. Nope. Couldn’t remember it. Thank God. Absolutely hated the little bastard.
On the day of the incident in the shower the car dealer’s son told the other cadets to hold David down. He poured an entire bottle of red ink on his head.
“I hereby crown you Queen Mary!”
After they left him, David washed it out the best he could and then carefully shaved the rest of the red hairs off. He was quite pleased with his skill at creating a new distinctive coiffure.
The car dealer’s son was not pleased. Within a few weeks the same cadre of cadets pulled David from his bed at midnight, stuck his head out of a window and let it go. As the window frame crashed down on his neck, he heard the motor car boy shout, “Long live the King!”
Of course, David did not let a whimper escape his lips nor did a tear fall down his cheek. Secretly he wished his neck would have snapped and he would die. At least he would be spared listening to his father’s ramblings. Neither did he report the incident to the academy commandant. The royal family always handled its problems its own private way. He stayed within his circle of friends and avoided situations where he might be alone with the bullies.
Apparently the guillotine gang leader was content that he had broken the spirit of the future king of England. What he did not know was that David was quietly observing his every move. He knew the bully’s routine, when he was alone and left unprotected by his gang. Only David knew the car dealer’s son went to the gymnasium each morning at the same time David went on his early jogs around the campus.
One morning as he ran past the gymnasium he slipped in the back door and found motor car boy on his back on the weight bench struggling with one of the heavier bar bells. Without any ado David walked over, forcefully lowered the bar down on the bully’s throat and held it there until the boy’s eyes bulged, his face turned a deep purple and saliva drippled from his lips.