Category Archives: Novels

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixty-One

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Lamon and Baker join forces to bring down Stanton.Johnson reluctantly joins in.
Boston Corbett stood before a congregation of Methodist Episcopalians in a rural church set among a stand of cottonwood trees outside of Camden, New Jersey. He in fine voice and form, ready to give his testimony of a life lived as a “Glory to God” man.
“Brothers and sisters, I stand before you tonight not as a proud man, but a man who walked the streets of hell before seeing the light and moving into the sweet arms of Jesus.”
Corbett paused because he knew a chorus of “Amen!” and “Preach on, Brother!” was about to shake the rafters. And he was right.
“God had blessed me with a righteous wife, valued more than pearls and rubies, and, in His own wisdom which we do not understand, he took her away from me as she gave birth to our precious daughter who only spent a moment on this Earth before going home to be with Jesus and all the saints and archangels.”
“Poor baby girl!” erupted among the womenfolk worshipers.
“Faced with such sorrow, I believed the false promise of Satan himself that I could find comfort in the demon liquors. My life sank. My soul shrank. And I drank and drank. All for naught. All in obedience to the devil himself.”
“No, no, no.” This was more of a mere whisper wafting through the pews.
“But God did not allow it!” Corbett bellowed. The crowd cowered in apprehension. “God grabbed me by my collar and said, “Boy, you will not waste this life I gave you! You will not dismay your wife and child who are by My side at this very moment! You will repent and spread the Gospel throughout this land. Yes, this land is on the verge of war, but you must let the people know that I will prevail!”
The folks sprang from their seats, shouting hallelujah and clapping. Their usual pastor, a man of small stature and graying hair, motioned for them to sit and be quiet.
“And from that moment on, I became a soldier in the army of the Lord. Preaching on every street corner, singing in every choir and glorifying God in every church. When my country sent me to war to end the evil that was slavery, I continued to fight for Jehovah too. Even when I was captured at Culpepper Court House in Virginia and was sent to that horrible plot of land called Andersonville Prison in Georgia, I continued to shout, I continued to pray, I continued to praise until the devil’s legions themselves could not take it any longer, and they traded me back north to home.”
Another round of hallelujahs and amens interrupted his preaching.
“After I returned the Army of Righteousness, I continued my crusade for my Heavenly Father. Then came that moment which has brought me to the attention of all you God-fearing American saints. That evil practitioner of the devil’s art of theater killed our Father Abraham.”
Corbett was thrown off his timing as he heard a man turn to the fellow next to him and say, “I don’t know if I don’t enjoy going to a good show, every now and again.”
“We trapped him at that barn in Virginia. I was ordered not to shoot and kill him but I obeyed a Higher Authority. I did shoot! And I killed him!”
More amens and hallelujahs.
Staring at the congregation for a long moment, Corbett lowered his voice and continued, “But evil did not die that night. Evil never dies! Evil will lurk in our hearts forever! Be ever vigilant against evil!”
The general mood of the people was to jump up and applaud, but the hand of the good, gray-haired pastor kept them in their seats.
“For, you see, God came to me that night. He told me John Wilkes Booth must not die at that time. He came to me in the form of a powerfully built short man with red hair and divine inspiration in his eyes.”
A murmur rose among the people. Women fluttered their fans wildly in the August heat, and the men shifted uneasily in the pews.
“He offered a substitute sacrifice for the nation, the corpse of a young man who looked like Booth but who was not Booth. Perhaps he was Jesus Christ come down to atone for our sins once again—“
Almost in unison, a moan rolled through the room as each man, woman and child stood and without further hesitation left the church, hurriedly returning to their homes.
Corbett had seen this before. For some reason, the sheep of this Earth were not ready for the kindly shepherd to herd them on the path of righteousness. He would not be discouraged though.
“Brother Corbett,” the elderly minister said to him in uncertain tones, “I don’t understand the meaning of your parable there at the end, and neither, evidently, did my parishioners. The saddest aspect of this, it seems, is that we had not taken the offering yet so I have nothing to pay you for your—for the most part—excellent testimony.”
Corbett smiled and patted him on the back. “Don’t worry, brother, the Lord will pay me much more richly than you ever could.”
As he had learned in previous encounters with retreating admirers, it was best that he leave town that night and find lodgings a few miles down the road. The cool night air felt good against his warm face as he rode his handsome little horse, the very mount that took him to the Virginia farm three years ago. A small inn appeared on the road side as he expected. Rapping at the door and rousing the keeper from his sleep, Corbett asked for lodging for the night, and the owner yawned, scratched his head and showed him to a small room in the back. The next morning at breakfast, he read the Camden newspaper.
On the front page was a story from Washington City. President Andrew Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, calling him a “fountain of mischief.” The president requested Stanton’s resignation and, when the letter was not forthcoming, dismissed him a week later. The story quoted Johnson as saying he conformed to the letter of the law as laid out in the new Tenure of Office Act. The newspaper also reported that the president had selected Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as Stanton’s replacement. The article ended with the statement that Stanton relented, leaving his job under protest.
As he sipped his coffee, Corbett looked out the inn’s dining room window to see dogs seek shade beneath a stand of oak trees. Something was awry, he told himself. God was on the verge of calling him again to save the soul of the United States of America. In his saddlebag, he had several letters from churches in faraway Kansas, beseeching him to share his testimony. Corbett shook his head. He must delay his trip out west because the Lord would be calling him to Washington City soon.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixty

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Lamon goes home to his family in Illinois. Baker arrives on his doorstep offering his help to bring down Stanton. They go to Washington to tell Johnson.
Lamon told Cleotis and Phebe to go upstairs right now to tell President Johnson their entire story. When the president’s secretary Massey came up the stairs, he turned to go into his private bedroom across the hall from the presidential offices. Lamon had to convince Johnson that Baker could be trusted, which was no mean feat. Lamon tapped on the office door and then opened it, leading the group in.
At first, Johnson beamed from his desk when he saw Lamon. “Why, Mr. Lamon, I thought you had gone home to Illinois.” When he caught sight of Baker, he stood and wagged a finger at him. “What the hell is he doing here? I fired his ass for spying on me!” When he looked beyond Baker to see Phebe with her little boy in tow, he added, “Oh, I’m sorry for the language, Missy Phebe, but this is a very bad man.”
“You’re not telling me nothing I don’t already know.” She picked up her son and wedged him on her hip. “But my old man Cleotis, though, says Mr. Baker here has found Jesus and that you should listen to him.”
Johnson wrinkled his brow and looked at Lamon. “What’s this all about?”
“Remember the story I told you the day of the executions? Well, Baker can confirm every bit of it and more.”
As the president sat at his desk, he motioned to Lamon and Baker. “Gentlemen, have a seat.” As they sat, Johnson viewed Cleotis and Phebe with askance. “Now what can these two add to the conversation?”
“They can corroborate the story. They were here in the basement during the whole thing,” Lamon said.
“Not the whole thing, sir,” Cleotis interrupted. “There was another butler before me when all this mess started.”
“His name was Neal,” Phebe added. “That soldier boy done killed him that night, and this man—“ she paused to point at Baker “—took the body out. Told me if I said anything I’d end up dead too. Cleotis showed up the next morning, and nothing’s been the same ever since. The soldier boy killed himself the night they said the president died. And that man took his body away.” Her large black eyes focused on Johnson. “You better watch out, Mr. President. You could be the next person they kill.”
“Don’t worry about that, Mr. President,” Baker interjected. “Mr. Stanton knows he pushed too far in killing Mr. Lincoln. He doesn’t want to risk killing you, but he does want you removed from office and sent back to Tennessee so no one ever finds out.”
Johnson leaned back in his chair and exhaled in exasperation. “And what can I do about it? What do we know now that you didn’t tell me two years when the conspirators were hanged?”
Baker waved his hand. “We have them now, ready to testify about what happened.”
“Testify before who?” Johnson nodded toward Cleotis and Phebe. “Are you sure they would own up in court of law?”
“We are brave people, Mr. President,” Cleotis whispered. “We will do what’s right.”
“And him.” Johnson sneered at Baker. “Everybody knows what a jackass he is. Nobody likes him. They won’t believe him.”
“You don’t have to get everyone to believe me.” Baker leaned forward in earnest. “I only have to convince a handful in Congress to allow you to fire Mr. Stanton. Then he can be the one to go home and rot. We can’t punish him, but we can keep him from doing any more harm.”
Johnson paused before asking, “So you expect me to believe that you got religion, and you’re now willing to put your life on the line to get Stanton out of office?”
Baker opened his mouth but nothing came out.
“You have to believe him. I know I believe him,” Lamon stressed. “We can’t let Stanton feel he can try to overthrow the government again.”
Johnson put his hand to his head. “Dammit, you’re right. I’ll get rid of him. And I hope Jesus will save all of us.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Nine

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Lamon goes home to his family in Illinois. Baker arrives on his doorstep offering his help to bring down Stanton.
For the next several days, Baker moved into a boarding house down the street. The two men took long walks along the tree-lined streets of Danville. When townsfolk stopped to talk with them, they asked Lamon to introduce his friend. He described Baker as a friendly acquaintance from his years in Washington City. Sometimes he added that Baker was the man who started the federal Secret Service. The neighbors smiled, nodded with respect and left the men to their intense conversations. At times, they stepped into wooded areas so Baker could break down in tears. As time passed, the bouts of crying actually moved Lamon to put his large arm around the shorter man to comfort him.
Everything was as Lamon expected. The entire operation was an expression of Stanton’s vaunted ego. Now Stanton was intent on avoiding exposure as a traitor. If caught he would be hanged in the same prison yard as Mrs. Surratt. After a while, Baker became the voice of reason as Lamon vowed to break into Stanton’s War Department office and shoot him between the eyes with his revolver.
“To hell with conventional justice,” Lamon fumed. “The bastard deserves to die.”
“Then you’ll take the same path to hell that I took.” Baker’s voice was soft but firm. “I don’t recommend it. The personal hell you create is much worse than the hell Stanton created. No, we must make sure he is separated from the power that he abused without letting the nation know its republic disappeared during the war.”
“We must present valid, compelling evidence to President Johnson to endure the firestorm which will most certainly be unleashed if he tried to fire Stanton,” Lamon said. “I’ve already shared my suspicions with him, and he issued a postponement to Mrs. Surratt’s execution, though Stanton’s henchmen blocked it.. No, we need more than your word.”
“My word isn’t worth a damn with the president,” Baker spat. “But I know two people right in the Executive Mansion whom he might believe.”
They spent the entire summer writing and rewriting their statement to Johnson, which included names to verify their allegations. The two people in the Executive Mansion were butler Cleotis and his wife, the cook Phebe. Lamon then added Gabby Zook’s name to the list because he lived a captive’s life in the basement along with the Lincolns.
Baker shook his head. “The last time I saw Zook was the night Lincoln was assassinated. He was wandering down the street in the rain. I don’t know where to find him now.”
“I do,” Lamon replied. “He’s living with the family of Walt Whitman in Brooklyn.”
“I don’t know if I approve of that.” Baker wrinkled his brow. “Have you read any of that man’s poetry? He’s a crackpot. Linking him to this will discredit our efforts.”
“We’ll have a hard enough time convincing Johnson that Gabby is a viable witness, but we still have to try.”
“I’ve someone too who could confirm our allegations, but he’s mad also.” Baker paused before he said the name. “Boston Corbett.”
“The man who shot Booth?”
“He didn’t kill Booth. The body that came out of the burning barn was Adam Christy. I convinced Corbett to lie for the good of the nation. Booth escaped.”
Lamon shook his head in disbelief. “You allowed the man who killed Abraham Lincoln go free?”
“I—I wanted the killing to stop,” Baker tried to explain. “No more killing, not even John Wilkes Booth.”
Lamon came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the street. “Go back to the boarding house. I have to deal with this slowly, at my own speed. I’ll contact you in a few days.” He paused. “This is another reason why the details of this plot can never be revealed to the public. Hell, I don’t even know how I’m going to come to grips with it.”
A week passed before Lamon knocked on Baker’s door at the boarding house. They resumed their walks around town. Neither man said anything about the case. Finally, Lamon asked, “Where did you tell Booth to go? Out of the country?”
“I told him to take the horse I had provided him and ride away in the middle of the night. The military posse concentrated on the burning barn. They didn’t notice a lone horseman riding away in the darkness. My cousin knew the man pulled out of the flames and placed on the farmhouse porch was not Booth, but he pretended it was the assassin, leaning over and hearing last words which were never spoken.”
“Where’s Booth now?”
“I have no idea.” Baker sighed and shook his head. “Hopefully he went out west, disguised himself and blended in with all the other men who ran away from the war to start a new life.”
By the time August presented its oppressive, stultifying heat to the Illinois countryside, Lamon and Baker had their statement ready for President Johnson to read. Their first stop when they reached the Executive Mansion in Washington City was the basement where Cleotis and his wife Phebe lived and worked. When they entered the musty kitchen through the service entrance on the ground floor, the two men noticed Phebe stiffen and swoop up into her arms a toddler playing on the floor. Cleotis, on the other hand, smiled with a butler’s professional grace. If he had recognized them, he showed no signs of apprehension.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” he said. “What can we do for you today?”
“Do you remember who we are?” Baker asked, with all undertones of intimidation erased from his voice.
“Of course, we do,” Phebe replied. Each word dripped with resentment. “We’re not stupid, you know.”
“Good.” Lamon smiled. “We were counting on your intelligence.” He stepped forward. “You must know you’re both living on borrowed time. You know if you don’t help us remove Stanton from power, it’ll only be a matter of time before he sends someone else to this basement in the middle of the night to kill you.”
Phebe pointed at Baker. “If anyone’s coming to kill us, it’s that man right there.”
“I don’t think so, dear.” Cleotis walked to Phebe and put his arm around her. “The way that man cried that night, he’s never going to hurt anyone again.” His big black eyes were soft and sympathetic. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he’s found Jesus.”
She grunted and pulled away from her husband. “Not even Jesus would want to save his dark soul from the devil.”
“This is a waste of time, Lamon,” Baker whispered. “I can’t ever expect them to trust me, not after what I’ve done.”
“You must believe that working with us will save your little family from being murdered,” Lamon pressed his case. “If you can’t trust us, then trust in Jesus for sending us here today.”
“Go away.” Her voice was a forbidding growl, like a tigress protecting her young.
Cleotis studied Baker’s face and then Lamon’s. “I trust you, gentlemen. What is it you want us to do?”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Eight

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Lamon goes home to his family in Illinois.
Lamon lounged back on the sofa and began to read the Springfield newspaper when he heard a knock at the front door. When he looked up to see who it was, Lamon’s face flushed with anger. Lafayette Baker stood on his porch. This was Gabby’s mean man with the red hair. Lamon stood and marched to the door.
“What the hell are you doing here?” He growled in low tones so his wife and child couldn’t hear.
“May I come in?” Baker asked. “I’ve brought an autographed copy of my book.”
“Hell no,” Lamon spat as he opened the screen door, stepped out on the porch and threw a punch which landed on Baker’s jaw.
Baker tumbled backwards and clattered down the front porch steps; his book flew from his hand, landing on the ground by his side. Lamon threw his large body onto him and continued to pummel his face, neck and chest. He vaguely became aware that Baker wasn’t fighting back, but Lamon didn’t care. He continued his assault, even though he could see Baker’s face began to swell and blood dribbled from his mouth. In a few seconds, Baker tried to roll away.
“No, stop, please. I have to tell you something. Please, don’t kill me yet.”
Disregarding Baker’s pleas, Lamon continued his thrashing as they both tumbled down a slight grade toward Sally’s flower garden. Lamon didn’t notice they were hurling themselves downhill. All he knew was that the man who had been responsible for misery in the last two and a half years of Abraham Lincoln’s life was under his control and he was exacting revenge.
“No, please! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Baker screamed.
Lamon bellowed like an enraged bull. The noise drew Sally and Dorothy out on the porch. Sally picked up the book and threw it at the two men.
“Don’t you dare ruin my flower bed! Stop it! Stop it right this moment!” Sally howled louder than either of the two men, which caused Lamon to stop his fist in mid-air. “For heaven’s sake, Ward! You’ve got the neighbors peeking out of their windows!”
When Lamon looked behind him he saw Sally with her hands on Dorothy’s shaking shoulders. He glanced around at the surrounding houses where he saw curtains close in quick succession. Lamon returned his gaze to Baker, who had pulled a handkerchief from his coat pocket and was wiping blood from his swollen nose.
“Please give me a chance to explain what happened,” Baker whispered. “Yes, I’ve been a monster. I’ve done terrible things because Edwin Stanton told me to. But I repent of all that.”
Lamon noticed Baker wince as tears rolled down his battered cheeks.
Please help a sinner repent,” Baker pleaded
Lamon still couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Was it possible all the pieces of the conspiracy puzzle were coming together right there in his front yard? Could it be that the man whom he had always held in the highest contempt was about to become his most trusted ally? His eyes fluttered in bewilderment.
Sally smiled in bemusement. “I presume this gentleman will not be joining us for supper.”
“I don’t see why not.” Lamon stood and helped Baker to his feet. “Do you have other plans for this evening?”
Baker swallowed hard as he found his voice. “I might need to see a doctor first, but I’d love to have a home-cooked meal.”
“Good.” A smile found its way across Lamon’s lips. “Our family doctor lives just down the street. I’ll take you there myself.” He surveyed his handiwork on Baker’s face. “You’ll need to wash up first.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Six

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Lamon meets Walt Whitman.
His conversation with Walt Whitman gave Lamon a measure of hope to sustain him into the New Year when Johnson vetoed the black suffrage act. How could Lamon help this man and through him bring the assassination conspirators to justice? Johnson, on the one hand, was a man of strong personal integrity who defied his own state to remain loyal to the union. On the other, however, he was an unrepentant racist, intent on restricting the freedoms of the people he fought to liberate. Lamon always considered himself a simple, straightforward man. Lincoln was complicated yet understandable; Johnson was complicated and frustrating. Lamon’s instinct was to go over to the Executive Mansion and lecture the President about compromising on some issues to win the important battle.
Johnson followed his veto of the black suffrage bill with another veto, this time the infamous Tenure of Office bill. Within days, Missouri Rep. Benjamin Logan called for Johnson’s impeachment. By March Congress clarified the bill by adding if President Lincoln had appointed the secretary, then Johnson could not remove the appointee without approval from the Senate. Johnson could fire anyone he had personally hired. The changes did not impress the president, and he vetoed it again. The House immediately overrode it.
In the middle of all this insanity, Lamon read in the newspapers about another sideshow. Lafayette Baker, the short, red-haired mean man that intimidated Gabby Zook, published his biography in which he claimed to have established the Secret Service all by himself. “Braggadoccio and nonsense,” Lamon thought. “It takes a man of unbounded ego to make such a preposterous claim.”
Baker also wrote in extensive detail about his role in the search, capture and death of John Wilkes Booth. The most controversial detail of his book, however, was the claim that he received a diary retrieved from the dying Booth detailing the assassin’s days from the time he shot the president to his own death. Baker alleged someone had torn eighteen pages from the diary.
This information prompted a congressional hearing on April 2, 1867. Lamon followed the proceedings in the newspapers. He bought several, pulling together facts found in one account but not another. News articles quoted Benjamin Butler at length during a hearing at which Baker testified.
“That diary, as now produced, had eighteen pages cut out, the pages prior to the time when Abraham Lincoln was massacred, although the margins show they had all been written over. Now, what I want to know, was that diary whole? Who spoliated that book?”
The newspaper accounts reported that Baker swore no pages were missing from the diary when he turned it over to Edwin Stanton.
“Do you mean to say at the time you gave the book to the Secretary of War there were no leaves gone?” Butler asked.
“I do,” Baker responded.
“Did you examine it pretty carefully?”
“I examined the book quite thoroughly, and I am very sure that if any leaves had been gone I should have noticed it.”
In the following days, Lamon reached for his newspaper in anticipation of reading new revelations about the diary, but none were forthcoming. He became sick at heart of the conflicts on Capitol Hill and unable to see any appropriate resolution. More and more, his mind wandered back to his home in Danville, Illinois, and to his dear family who waited for his return. He acknowledged how fine a woman his second wife, Sally, was. She didn’t hesitate to open her arms to his daughter Dorothy and loved her as her own. His first wife Angelina had died of natural causes only a few years earlier. He remembered the letter from Sally that described her joy when his ten-year-old child without any prompting hugged her and called her “Mommy.” How many more warm family moments would he miss because of his vaunted conviction that the nation needed him to save it? He didn’t know the answer, but he knew it was a cost that he was increasingly unwilling and unable to pay.
So when summer arrived in Washington City and Congress continued to butt heads with Johnson over reconstruction legislation, Lamon left the battle to the politicians. A sense of relief overcame him as he boarded the train to Danville in early June, and every mile closer to home convinced him that he had made the right decision. Sally and Dorothy welcomed him with hugs and kisses. He reopened his law practice and focused on civil suits about property disputes and contract negotiations.
Barely a week had passed when he received a letter from Lincoln’s former law partner William Herndon who requested permission to visit his office as soon as was convenient. Herndon had always appeared to be an affable man, though not possessed of the highest intellect, so Lamon agreed to the visit. When the Springfield attorney arrived, Lamon noticed he had gained quite a bit of weight. Coffee and food stained his wrinkled clothing.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Five

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Whitman tells Gabby all the news from Washington. Someone threatens a key witness in a corn field.
Ward Hill Lamon decided after the hangings in the summer of 1865 that the best course he could take would be to continue in his duties as Marshal for the District of Columbia. He intended to go about his ordinary chores while discreetly probing the dealings of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, whom he considered the linchpin in the entire conspiracy.
Weeks passed into months without progress in his investigation. The deaths of Preston King in New York and James Lane in Kansas did not pass without his notice. Local coroners declared both had been suicides, but Lamon had his doubts, remembering the roles they played in blocking Mrs. Surratt’s reprieve. He also learned that Louis Weichmann left his government job to live in Indiana. Obtaining Weichmann’s new address, Lamon sent letters, asking to speak with to him. Weichmann never replied to any of the letters; in fact, the last one returned with “Refused” scrawled across it.
The man writes like a damned schoolboy. He’s scared to death.
Meanwhile Lamon searched all the local newspapers for political developments. By late August, four different mid-term conventions met to select candidates for the House of Representatives. Delegates at one convention urged Johnson to fire Secretary of War Stanton, while participants at other conventions called for the president’s impeachment. In fact, impeachment was the central issue in congressional elections around the country.
When Johnson announced plans to go on a speaking tour in the fall, Lamon’s first instinct was to offer his services as a personal bodyguard. Johnson’s traveling companion was William Seward, who had sufficiently recovered from his knife wounds to continue his duties as Secretary of State.
Seward was too weak to defend Johnson against any attack.
After many nights of late drinking, Lamon dissuaded himself from making the offer. As long as Stanton obsessed over impeachment, Lamon knew Johnson’s life was not in danger. Stanton’s faction carried enough seats in the November mid-term elections to maintain its lead in the House.
Lamon spent the week before Christmas ensconced in one of his favorite taverns in Washington City reading newspapers. He sighed as he considered the ongoing battles between Congress and the President on one piece of legislation after another. The new session began in December of 1866, and the House passed a bill giving Black men in the District of Columbia the right to vote. Representatives then passed the Tenure of Office Bill.
That bill looks tame enough but it could raise a lot of hell. Thaddeus Stevens had a hand in it.
The tenure bill stated the President couldn’t fire a member of his cabinet without permission of Congress. Another bill called for Johnson’s impeachment if the President did fire anyone.
The New Year will only bring more presidential vetoes and more congressional overrides.
“Excuse me.” A soft voice of easy manner interrupted Lamon’s thoughts. “Are you not Marshal of the District of Columbia Ward Hill Lamon?”
“Yes, I am.” He wrinkled his brow trying to make out the figure of the man standing over him. He was older than Lamon, somewhat shorter and less stout, and his shoulders sloped in such a way to render his presence benign.
“I thought so.” The man smiled through his full gray beard. “I’m Walt Whitman. You visited my home in Brooklyn last year. You spoke to my mother and my dear friend Gabby Zook.”
Lamon’s eyes widened and he stood to shake Whitman’s hand. “An honor, sir. I’ve been trying to make your acquaintance for some time. Every time I go to the Office of Indian Affairs I’m told you’re away for a few days.”
“Yes, I don’t make a good employee, it seems. But they have a good nature and overlook my shortcomings.”
“Please, have a seat.”
“Thank you.”
“Would you like ale?”
“Another hot tea would be pleasant,” Whitman said as he sat. I’ve witnessed in my family what alcohol can do to one’s constitution, but I do enjoy the company of men who enjoy their liquor.”
Lamon ordered another tea for Whitman and a large pewter mug of ale for himself. After taking a deep gulp, he leaned back and smiled. “So, do you agree with your mother’s assessment that Gabby Zook is insane?”
“Insane is a complicated word.” Whitman furrowed his brow. “I’ve observed insanity first hand in my own family. My colleagues in journalism have called me insane. Mr. Gabby has an extremely high degree of anxiety. Such anxiety cannot be created merely from the wild imagination of an insane man but rather from harsh, stark reality.”
Lamon nodded. “I agree with you.” After another draught, he leaned forward so no one standing nearby in the noisy tavern might eavesdrop. “I’ve proof—well, eyewitness testimony for whatever that’s worth—that Gabby Zook, President Lincoln and his wife were held captive in the Executive Mansion basement.”
“And a private Adam Christy attended to their needs,” Whitman added. “Mr. Gabby thought he heard Christy murder the butler in the middle of the night. He also said an intimidating short man with red hair killed the private. Mr. Gabby fears the man might kill him.”
“So he told you the same stories. Do you think you could convince him to tell President Johnson what he knows?”
Whitman shook his head. “I’m a gentle man, Mr. Lamon. Mr. Gabby feels secure around me and opens his heart to me. You and President Johnson, on the other hand, are rough, crude men. You scare him.” He put down his cup and rose. “Thank you so much for the refreshment.” Patting Lamon on the shoulder, he added, “I’ll do all in my power to convince Mr. Gabby to trust you. Have patience. Our Captain must be avenged.”
“Our Captain?” Lamon was confused. “Who’s our Captain?”
“Our Captain,” Whitman repeated. “Mr. Lincoln, dear sir. We must avenge our Captain.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Four

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Whitman tells Gabby all the news from Washington. Someone murders Senator Lane.
By summer of 1866, the political climate was stultifyingly hot. Johnson and Congress continued to battle over the shape of the post-war government. Sharp, ugly words intensified the dark mood in Washington City. Louis Weichmann, whose testimony was a linchpin in the conspiracy case against Mrs. Surratt, return to his clerk’s job in the War Department. A day didn’t go by without a stranger accusing him of being responsible for her death. Faceless members of the crowd pushed and shoved him along busy streets. Weichmann received letters containing death threats. He developed tics and jerks, which brought more attention to him.
Walking to his boardinghouse one day, he saw standing on his building stoop a woman who waved at him. Weichmann waved back.
“No! No! Run!” she screamed pointing to the other side of the street.
He turned to see a man wearing a large hat shading his face. The stranger aimed a revolver at him. Just as he crossed the threshold of the boardinghouse, Weichmann heard a bang. He saw a bullet hole in the door, only inches from his head.
“They almost got you that time, Mr. Weichmann,” the neighbor lady said.
“This is driving me mad,” he whispered.
“Get out, get out while you can.” Her voice was firm. “Go to your family. Family has to take you in during times like this.”
The next day Weichmann tapped at Stanton’s office door but didn’t wait for an invitation to enter.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Stanton looked up with a scowl. “Well, come in and shut the door before anybody sees you.”
He did as he was told and sat. His shoulder began to twitch.
“You’ve got to get me another job, out of town. Someone shot at me last evening.”
“I can’t do anything right now. All the job openings I have are still in this building.” Stanton paused, then gestured at the young man’s face, his left eye winked out of control. “Don’t be so nervous. That’s been your problem all along. You’re too nervous.”
“If I’m shot at again, I’m going to the newspapers. I’ll tell them you personally put a noose around my neck and threatened to hang me if I didn’t say Mrs. Surratt told me things about the plot I knew she never had a part in. Get me a job in Philadelphia. My father and mother live there. I could live with them.” He thought a moment then shook his head. “No, everyone knows I’m from Philadelphia. They’ll just follow me up there.” He put his head in his hands. “God, I’m so scared I can’t think straight.”
“Do you have any place to go for just a month or so until I can find a good job for you?” Stanton spoke in soft, conspiratorial tones. “Customs office. They always have clerk openings up and down the coast. Even out West.” He leaned over the desk. “And the customs office pays a good wage. Maybe the money will make you braver.” A cynical smile creased his thin lips.
Weichmann looked up. “My brother is a priest. He recently took a post in Anderson, Indiana, a small town in the middle of cornfields. No one would suspect me living there.”
Stanton leaned back. “Then go visit the good Father Weichmann for a while. It’ll be good for your soul.”
During his first week in Anderson, Weichmann indeed felt the heavy burden vanish. It took countless visits to the confession booth where his brother leant a sympathetic ear. His nerves settled down, and sleep came easier at long last. Most townspeople didn’t even make the connection between their beloved padre Weichmann and the witness Weichmann in the conspiracy trial. Then, on Sunday night of the second week, all that changed.
As he lay in bed in the spare room of the parsonage, Weichmann heard a voice from outside the open window.
“Run for your life!”
His eyes opened wide, and he looked around. It was a moonless night so he had trouble defining shadows in the inky blackness. A slight breeze blew through the lacey curtains. He rose from his bed and went to the window, pausing a moment before sticking his head out. Just as he observed the yard’s gloom, a rock struck a pane. Shards of glass pricked the back of his head.
“Run!” the disembodied voice repeated.
All reason escaped his mind as he rolled out of the window onto the ground, not remembering he wore only ill-fitting long johns. Another rock hit the small of his back.
Looking around him, his shoulder spasmed. Weichmann considered which way to scurry. To the left was downtown Anderson, deserted by that hour of night. Straight ahead of him was the town’s livery stable, probably locked up. To the right were the countryside and a farmer’s full field of cornstalks. Another stone flew at him. This time it hit his butt, causing him to wince in pain.
“I said run!” The voice became angrier.
His lips quivering in fear, Weichmann ran toward the cornfield, hoping to find some measure of protection among the stalks. No matter how fast he ran, the voice seemed to stay close, now laughing in insanity. Taking an abrupt left into the cornfield, Weichmann hoped he had eluded his pursuer and slowed down to catch his breath. As soon as he did, he felt a body throwing itself against his back, knocking him to the ground.
A hand grabbed locks of his curly hair and slammed his face into the loosened soil of the field. Weichmann tasted blood on his lips. All he could comprehend was that he was about to be murdered.
“You deserve to die,” the voice hissed into his ear. Many people deserve to die for what they did to Mrs. Surratt.”
Weichmann felt spittle on his cheek as the man spoke. The voice was familiar. If his wits had not left him, he could identify it. Its tone had a certain melodious quality to it. Shuddering as the name came to him, Weichmann could not believe that a dead man was back from the grave and lying on top of him muttering threats into his ear.
“I should kill you tonight, you craven, lily-livered coward. How should I accomplish the good deed? Perhaps I should twist your head until your neck snaps. Or push your face down into the ground, forcing you to inhale dirt until you choke to death. I have a knife. I could slit your throat. No, I think I shall save that execution for a person far more evil than yourself. I know. I could impale you on a spiked wooden pole, and let the good citizens of Anderson find you in the morning in the cornfield, hanging there like a human scarecrow.”
Weichmann began to cry. “Please, please, don’t kill me. They made me lie about Mrs. Surratt. They were going to hang me right then and there if I didn’t agree to lie.”
“Who were they?” the voice demanded.
“Stanton. Secretary Stanton.”
“I’m not surprised.” The man eased up, allowing Weichmann to breathe. “I don’t think I’ll kill you now after all. Watch the newspapers for mysterious deaths of some famous people. Do you know who James Lane and Preston King are?” He slapped the back of Weichmann’s head. “Answer me!”
“Uh, uh, they’re congressmen, aren’t they?” he mumbled.
“Something like that. They’re nothing at all now. They’re dead. As Lafayette Baker will be dead.”
“Him? He scares me. He’s mean.”
“Well, you won’t have to be scared of him very much longer. He’s going to die soon.” He paused to lean down to Weichmann’s ear again. “And Edwin Stanton.”
“Good.” His voice was small and scared. “I hate him too.”
“Don’t think you have nothing to worry about. Your execution has been merely postponed. One day, perhaps when you are an old man and no one really cares whether you live or die, I will appear to put you out of your misery. Or maybe not.” He slapped Weichmann in the head again. “Can you count to one hundred?” He paused, but there was no response. “Can you count to a hundred?”
“Yes. Yes, sir.”
“Do it. Then you may go back to your bed. Pleasant dreams.”
Weichmann didn’t want to take any chances so he counted slowly—very slowly—to two hundred. When he finished, he stood to look around the cornfield. He crept back to the narrow lane leading into Anderson. No one was there.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Three

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Whitman tells Gabby all the news from Washington. Gabby wonders why everyone can’t just get along.
One story of the crisis-ridden spring of 1866 did not appear in a New York newspaper which Walt Whitman could read to Gabby. That story was the internal moral battle going on within Sen. James Lane of Kansas. In 1865 he ingratiated himself to Secretary of War Stanton by agreeing to monitor President Johnson’s behavior and, when discretion allowed it, lead the president back into old habits of drinking.
As one who had hardened his scruples during the bloody conflict of slave and free factions in Kansas of the 1850s, Lane didn’t question Stanton’s motives because of the overriding goal of total equality for black people. Now he feared the civil rights battle lost its focus and degenerated into a simple exercise of impeaching President Johnson.
Several times during the spring when Stanton felt Lane’s resolve waning, he stiffened it with hard cash, in untraceable small denominations of currency. Several newspapers ran stories based on vague government sources that claimed substantial amounts of money had appeared in Lane’s financial portfolio. They were true and eroded Lane’s sense of honor and self-respect. Rumors of bribery ran amok on Capitol Hill. Finally, the stress of placating Stanton and battling for his inner core of decency forced Lane to take a few weeks rest back in his hometown of Leavenworth in June.
Abolitionist editor of the Kansas Tribune Edmund Ross denied him that rest. Ross left his prosperous Wisconsin newspaper during the 1850s to move to Kansas and advocate the free-state movement. At the outbreak of the war, Ross joined the northern forces to combat slavery and rose to the rank of major. Lane didn’t want to talk to Ross because he was a tough, courageous man who had two horses shot from underneath him during one battle. Lane cringed every time Ross wagged his finger in his face.
“Sen. Lane,” Ross began in his blustering baritone when he cornered him in a livery stable in Leavenworth, “you, sir, still have not adequately explained your vote to uphold Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill! I asked you about that vote at the town hall meeting not a week ago. Again I asked you on the courthouse steps when you were dedicating the plaque to the dead and still you evaded. My God, man, you stood with me when I first came to Kansas to fight for the cause of abolition. What has happened to you?”
“Well, if you wouldn’t talk constantly and I could get a word in edgewise, I could make you understand what so many other thoughtful men found self-evident.”
A groom approached the men. “Mr. Lane, sir, your carriage is ready for your daily ride.”
“He’s not going anywhere until he explains why he supported Johnson in blocking a colored man’s rights. The war is over. Slavery is dead. What would it serve to fight civil rights now?”
“We have enough laws to protect colored rights.” Lane’s face turned crimson. “We don’t need laws on top of laws on top of laws.”
“Sen. Lane,” the young man pushed his way into the conversation. “This horse and carriage have to be back to take the mayor and his wife to supper.”
“Boy,” Ross turned to bellow at the groom, “I said this would take only a second!”
“You talk about rights? What about this young man’s rights? How can you think of the colored when you don’t treat a simple white stable boy with respect?” Lane fought back.
“You’re changing the topic again. You’re trying to put me on the defensive, and I just won’t have it!”
Lane turned away, put his arm around the groom’s shoulder. “Maybe you want to get rid of me so you can become senator!”
“I might just do that!” Ross yelled to no avail.
As Lane mounted the carriage, he noticed the boy seemed stooped over on purpose to hide his true height. Probably the result of a war wound, he decided, and didn’t press the matter as he climbed into the carriage. Long carriage rides were among the few activities that alleviated his melancholia. The dry winds of the prairie seemed to clear his mind.
“Where you hankerin’ to visit today, Sen. Lane?” the carriage driver asked as they lost their view of town through the trees. The boy had indiscernible features. He wore an oversized duster and an enormous flop hat.
Lane frowned. “You’re not Joe, my usual driver. He knows my favorite routes.”
“No, I’m not Joe. Sorry to inconvenience you, sir.”
“Well, just head north.” Lane waved his hand without conviction. “It makes no difference.”
A few miles passed in silence before the driver spoke again. “Make way! Presidential pardon! Make way!”
Lane sat up. “What the hell did you say?”
“You know very well what I said, Sen. Lane. They were my words from just a year ago in the prison yard where Mrs. Surratt and the others were about to be hanged.”
“Your words? Who the hell are you?”
The driver turned and smiled. His features were young and pleasant enough, but Lane couldn’t quite place him.
“You stood in our way so that those foul soldiers could hang a good and honorable woman.”
Lane’s flinty eyes lit in indignation. “That woman was as guilty as sin! She had to die to restore peace to our nation!”
“And you have to die to restore peace to my nation.” The driver pulled a gun from an inside pocket of his duster.
Lane jumped from the carriage, but before his body reached the ground, the driver put a bullet through his skull. The shooter hopped from the carriage seat and watched the horse pick up speed, turn and head back to the livery stable in Leavenworth. He placed the gun a few inches from Lane’s hand where his body lay on the road. Then he ambled South, with a slight limp to his gait.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Two

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Whitman tells Gabby all the news from Washington.
Gabby Zook became accustomed to the Whitman family chaos. They lived in the basement of their Brooklyn brownstone. Tranquility came down upon the residence during the Christmas season of 1865, and remained during the first cold months of the New Year.
Mr. Walt, as Gabby called the poet, found him a job sweeping floors at a mercantile establishment a couple of blocks from home. Mrs. Walt—that was the name Gabby gave Whitman’s mother Louisa–walked him to the store of a morning and back home that night. Gabby particularly liked Louisa who seemed to have a large, loving heart, even though she complained of being sick all the time. He looked forward to the weekends because Whitman came home from Washington where he worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Gabby liked Mr. Walt’s stories of peculiar things happening in the government.
After Whitman told him President Johnson fired head of the Secret Service Lafayette Baker, Gabby leaned forward and wrinkled his brow.
“What does this Mr. Baker look like?”
“Well, let me see.” Whitman scratched his chin whiskers. “I’ve seen him many times myself around Washington City, and I must say I didn’t like the look of him. Which is very unusual for me. I can talk for hours with any common laborer on the street, but I never had a desire to even meet Mr. Baker. He’s not a big man, perhaps your height, Mr. Gabby. Not quite as old, and with a thick shock of red hair. He walks into a room, and you’d think he hated everyone in it and was determined to shoot and kill them all.”
Gabby’s eyes widened. “A short red-headed mean man.”
Whitman cocked his head. “Yes, I suppose you could call him mean. Yes, that would be a good word to describe him.”
“That’s him.” Gabby’s hands began to tremble. “That’s the man I’ve told you about. The man who killed Adam Christy.”
“Of course he is.” Whitman smiled and patted Gabby’s quivering hands. “Well. Let’s talk of more pleasant things. What else is happening in the capital that might amuse you?” Over the next few months, he only had more troubling news to tell Gabby.
In March, President Johnson vetoed the formation of the Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction, claiming it would impede elected Southern representatives from taking their seats in Congress. Soon afterwards, Johnson vetoed a Civil Rights Bill and asserted it contained portions of the previously vetoed Freedman Bureau bill and predicted the legislation would create a “terrible engine of wrongdoing, corruption and fraud.
“What do you think about that, Mr. Gabby?”
“Mr. Walt, all that talk about rights and corruption confuses me,” he admitted, shaking his head.
“Me too.”
“I feel I want to be on President Johnson’s side, but I don’t like the idea of keeping black people from having their rights. I didn’t have any rights when I was in the basement of the White House, and it made me feel bad.” After a pause, he added, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think the President likes black people very much. And that makes him bad. But Mr. Stanton doesn’t like him, and I know for sure that he’s a bad man. Isn’t there anyone good in the Capital anymore?”
In early April the Senate overturned the President’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill. After that, Johnson vetoed a bill to admit Colorado to the Union because many of the Southern states had yet to have their sovereign rights restored.
“Why can’t they all just find a way to get along with each other and stop butting heads?” Gabby asked.
“I agree.” Whitman smiled and looked out the window as he sipped his coffee.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-One

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Baker tries to get dirt on Johnson.
The next evening Baker dropped by the Executive Mansion. President Johnson was pushing his wife’s wheelchair out of the private family dining room on the main floor. Behind them were their daughter Martha and her husband David Patterson. The President smiled when he saw him.
“Mr. Baker, so good to see you. You’ve met my family, I believe. Not only is my son-in-law the new senator from Tennessee, he’s the only man in this blasted place I trust to carry my wife up to our private quarters. She suffers from consumption. But she’s a fighter. She’s not giving up to her ailments.”
Patterson picked up the First Lady and with grace led the way up the staircase.
“At some point I’m afraid Eliza will have to return to our home in Greeneville. This big city living is not good for her health, it seems; but my daughter Martha will act as hostess when the time comes. Please join us upstairs.”
Baker nodded as they began up the staircase. Johnson leaned into him to whisper.
“Wait for me in my office. I have some documents to show you. It doesn’t look good for Stanton.”
“Yes, sir.”
On the second floor, the Johnson family turned toward the bedroom.
“We must get Eliza into bed before she sprains my poor son-in-law’s back.” He smiled again at Baker and motioned to his office at the end of the hall. “Go ahead. I’ll join you momentarily.”
Baker found himself alone in the president’s office. First he looked back down the hall to make sure no staff members lingered after hours. He returned to Johnson’s desk which was a jumbled mess of papers. On top of the heap was what he was expecting from Johnson’s comments—an investigation into the private affairs of Edwin Masters Stanton, Secretary of War. Pushing the report aside, Baker dug deeper into the stack where he found another report—alternatives to the Freedman’s Bureau, achieving dissolution with minimum political impact.
Taking a small notebook from his inner coat pocket, he began scribbling notes from the report. This would be information Stanton and his friends in Congress would want to see. Johnson grumbled about his displeasure with the agency for months, but no one knew what his plan of attack might be.
When the door creaked open, Baker twitched and looked up to see the president glowering at him. This was not the first time he had been caught in the act of spying. The Confederates had walked in on him often during his war years in Richmond where he pretended to be a photographer. A ready smile flashed across his face.
“I found that report you told me about, the one exposing Stanton’s background. I was just making a few notes so I might help in furthering your investigation.”
Johnson walked to him with his right hand extended. “Oh really. May I see what information impressed you so much?”
“It’s nothing much, actually.” Baker’s voice weakened.
“Nevertheless, I want to see it.” The President paused and added in a growl, “I said, hand it over.”
Baker knew he had been sloppy. He should have moved more quickly. He should have brought a second notebook, to make non-incriminating notes, which he could hand over in a situation like this, keeping the real notations hidden.
How had I forgotten the art of espionage? Did I allow myself to be caught in such a compromising situation? Did I create an excuse for Johnson to throw me out? Did I think this episode would extricate me from this ongoing political nightmare? Yes. I am tired. I want to go home to Jennie.
The President grabbed the notebook and began reading. First his eyebrows went up and then he pursed his lips before returning his gaze to Baker.
“I don’t see anything in here about Mr. Stanton.”
“Well, you see, I have devised a special code for my private purposes—“
“Interesting. You chose the words Freedman’s Bureau as code for Edwin Stanton?” He walked over to the stove, opened the iron door and threw the notebook into the flames.
“I am not a smart man, Mr. Baker. Not anywhere as smart as Mr. Lincoln, but remember this one fact: he’s dead, and I’m still alive. After years of living in poverty in the Tennessee mountains, I have developed a keen sense of smelling bullshit. I could have you thrown in prison, tried and executed for treason, but to maintain a façade of unity for the citizens of these United States I’ll simply say your services are no longer needed. Now get the hell out of here.”
Baker left without saying a word and returned to his hotel room where he slept more soundly than he had in years. His termination had lifted the awesome burden of being an evil embodiment of political expediency. Private Adam Christy’s pale, ghostly face smeared with blood no longer haunted his dreams.
The next morning he took the train back to his home in Philadelphia. He walked up the steps to his front porch. The house was not large. When he entered, he smelled bread baking.
“Who’s there?” Jennie’s voice called out. She stopped short when she entered the parlor and saw her husband. She hugged him and wouldn’t let him go. “What are you doing here? Do you have to leave on another one of your trips?”
“There’s not going to be any more trips.”
“Good.” She pulled away. “Why not?”
“President Johnson said my services were no longer needed.”
“Well, you didn’t like him anyway.” She hugged him again. “I’ve prayed for this day for a long time.”
“”I want to be in the one place where I know I’m loved.” He shut up before he started crying.
“Yes, thank God. We’re free.”
His face snuggled in her brown hair. Baker realized he was not completely free, even now.
To ensure my future safety I have to write my own version of the Lincoln assassination, as I’m sure everyone else involved will eventually do. I’ll make the book’s main subject my role in the creation of the Secret Service, a topic of interest but not daunting. By the end of the manuscript, I’ll reveal that John Wilkes Booth kept a journal from the time of the assassination to his own supposed death. I’ll also reveal I immediately handed the notebook over to Secretary of War Stanton. Eighteen pages are missing. I know there are eighteen pages missing because I was there when Stanton tore them out.