Monthly Archives: January 2019

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-One

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. Cecelia woos Billy. There’s a whole lot of wooing going on.
Before Cecelia could finish her proposition, Tent, Bedelia, Millicent, Eddie and Andy enter from the ballroom, swinging and swaying to a ragtime beat. After Andy closed the door, the music faded away, and the gang settled into more sedentary forms of partying.

“Billy! Come here!”

Everyone jumped because the inspector forgot to use his inside voice.

“Just a minute, boss.” He gobbled down the last canapé. “You sure do know how to cook, Lady Chatalot.”

Cecelia smiled seductively. “Oh, that’s just one of my many talents.”

“Billy!” Tent was losing his patience, if he had any in the first place.

“You can cook some more for me later.” He licked his thick lips and then stood. “Comin’, boss.”

Tent led Billy over to the window to discuss their business matters away from prying eyes. Andy, Eddie and Millicent joined Cecelia at the chaise lounge to compare notes while Bedelia took a devil-may-care pose by the fireplace and tried to keep an eye on everyone.

“Did everything go according to plan?” Tent whispered.

“Aye, boss.” Billy nodded and handed Tent a packet.

“What’s this?” He opened the packet, expecting to find a wad of bills but came a letter along with the payoff dough.

“A note from the merchant,” Billy replied.

Tent’s eyes widened as he read the letter. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Billy was right on his heels as they began their escape. “Aye, boss.”

When Tent opened the door, a rousing rodeo hoedown blared through, knocking them back on their heels. Eddie jumped on the lounge and clapped his hands.

“Hey that’s my kind of music! I love that sound! Let’s go to town with the rodeo hoedown!”

Cecelia grabbed Billy, Millicent took Tent by the elbow, Andy put his arm around Bedelia, and they began to prance around the room, following Eddie’s every command.

We git real low down, go round and round! Do si do the rodeo hoedown!
Yell yee haw, like your ma and pa with all your might!
Stomp your feet, clap your hands and hoedown through the night!
Gals line up to one side ‘cause that’s what you do.
Gents line up facing gals, even Billy too.
We’ve had fun, but now it’s done. Tune out the racket.
I’ll tell you just when to try to grab that packet!
Go Milly, boo Billy, why don’t you get bent!
Go Andy, you’re dandy! Stop that Inspector Tent!
Milly’s mom, you’re the bomb! Stay by Billy’s hide!
The packet, we got the packet! Hooray for our side!

At one point or another during the reel, every participant had hold of the incriminating packet. When Bedelia snatched it from Andy, Cecelia–like a bat out of hell—swooped in, grabbed it and handed it forthwith to Eddie on the lounge. Cecelia planted a huge wet kiss on Billy, distracting him from knocking Eddie from his perch and retrieving the object of everyone’s desire at that moment. Bedelia, in her misguided allegiance to the chief inspector, tried to go after the packet again as well, but Andy wrapped his arms around her and smothered her in smooches.

“Curses!” Tent thundered.

“Yes, I know!” Millicent retorted in triumph. “Foiled again!”

Eddie jumped down from the furniture and waved to Millicent and Cecelia. “Come on, Millie! You and yo’r maw help me figger this stuff out!”

Reluctantly Cecelia pulled away from Billy, whose eyes had taken on a romantic glow which probably had never been there before. “I’m sorry, my dear. I’m needed elsewhere. I shall return.”

“Yes, me Lady Chatalot.” He attempted a deep bow which did not come across as suavely as he might have hoped.

Millicent stopped in her tracks and looked quizzically at her mother. “What did he call you?”

“Never mind.” She waved at Eddie. “Look in the packet.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Four

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Stanton and henchman Baker clean up the mess.
“I want my breakfast!” Gabby insisted, pounding on the door.
Stopping with the key in the lock, Adam shuddered at the tone of Gabby’s voice, the same tone he had used in October to demand that Adam stop hurting people. It was now April, and Adam had stopped hurting people. He also had stopped having dreams, goals, love, pain, or anger. His spirit was dead; his body barely functioned. Steeling himself, he finished unlocking the door and entered.
“It’s about time,” Gabby said. “You’re starving people in here.”
“Be quiet,” Mrs. Lincoln snapped, looking at Gabby with loathing. “Mr. Lincoln didn’t sleep well last night. Nightmares.”
“I have nightmares.” Gabby took his plate and headed for his corner. “Every night I see Joe dead under that wagon. If Mr. Lincoln can’t take nightmares, he shouldn’t be president.”
“Crazy old man,” Mrs. Lincoln sneered.
“Liar,” Gabby retorted. He looked at Adam. “Next time you beat up somebody, beat her up, the old liar.” He continued to mumble as he rounded the corner of crates and barrels.
“My husband’s nightmares are more important because he’s still president, and still makes decisions.” Mrs. Lincoln sat at the billiards table and began eating. “For several weeks he’s dreamed that Tad and I were on a shopping trip to Philadelphia and Tad, for some reason, pulled out a gun and started shooting people. He kept mumbling, ‘I didn’t pay enough attention to the body.’ I know he’s worried about how those people have treated Tad.”
Tad was just fine, Adam thought, no longer running amok, tearing at things, and kicking people as he did before. Now he was kind and loving, respectful of everyone. Mrs. Lincoln will be pleased, he decided, if she can ever be pleased with anything again.
“Then last night he dreamed of being awakened by loud sobbing. He found a casket surrounded by soldiers in the East Room. He asked, ‘Who has died in the White House?’ The soldier replied, ‘The president.’”
Not wanting to consider what Stanton had in mind for the president, Adam gathered the chamber pots.
“Don’t walk away while I’m talking to you,” Mrs. Lincoln ordered. “What’s that man doing in Richmond? He went down the same day the city fell, and he hasn’t returned.”
“I don’t know, ma’am.” Adam hated answering her questions. “You’ll have to ask Mr. Stanton.”
“You always say that.” Mrs. Lincoln took a long sip of coffee. “The last drop of coffee was cold.” Putting down her cup, she turned to stare at him. “I want to know when this war will end. Since their capital fell, the rebels can’t go on.”
“Jefferson Davis said being relieved of defending a capital has left the army free to roam at large and stage preemptive attacks on the Union.”
“So he thinks he can still win the war?”
“I don’t know, ma’am.”
“You don’t know,” she snidely replied. “Is there anything you do know?”
“Tad’s having fun in Richmond.”
“Tad’s in Richmond?”
Closing his eyes, Adam wished he had not told her.
“Who allowed my child into a war zone?”
“I don’t know.”
“That woman,” Mrs. Lincoln said. “She’s ruined everything.”
“The army made a thorough sweep of the city, making it safe for the president.”
“But that man’s not the president!” she blustered. She took a deep breath and returning her attention to the toast. “At least my other son is safe in law school.”
“Robert joined the army in January.” Adam did not know if he had slipped again, or if he had told her on purpose to hurt her and to allow her to hurt him. He wanted to be punished for his sins.
“Oh my God!”
“He’s on General Grant’s staff.”
“That butcher!” She put her head in her hands. “If I could only write him. If only he could write me.”
“I’m sure his fiancée has been writing him.”
“Fiancée!” Her face reddened. “When did this happen? And who?”
“February. She’s Mary Harlan, daughter of Senator James Harlan of Iowa.”
“That little mouse.” She rubbed her eyes. “At least her parents are respectable.”
“I must go now, ma’am.”
“Very well.” Mrs. Lincoln sighed. “I’m not asking questions anymore.”
“Yes, ma’am.” As Adam turned, he found himself confronted by Gabby, whose eyes were wide with anger and his mouth smeared with egg yolk.
“I want to know about Cordie,” he demanded. “I want to know how Cordie is.”
“She’s fine. I see her every day.”
“Liar!” Gabby slapped Adam hard across the face.
“Now, now, Mr. Gabby,” Lincoln said, walking through his curtain. “There’s no need to hit Private Christy.”
“He hit me!”
“That was last fall. It’s time to forgive and forget. Isn’t that right, Private Christy?”
“Yes, sir.” He hung his head.
“Go about your duties.” Lincoln looked at Gabby. “Why don’t you finish your breakfast?”
“My coffee’s cold.”
“The coffee’s always cold,” Mrs. Lincoln added.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia.
A part of Bedelia was pleased to have aroused such a high level of jealousy in Andy, although she was dismayed with the way he articulated it. She was sure she had never heard the word “oodles” escape his lips before today. Brushing her concerns aside, Bedelia decided to press on with the jealousy ploy. “There’s more to marriage than mere physical attraction.”

“Of course. Like friendship. Friendships formed when nothing else mattered except being friends.” He paused to stare into her lovely eyes, but quickly giggled and looked away. “But I really don’t remember things like that.” Unable to resist temptation he turned back to her and whispered, “But if I were in love, I would want to be in love with you.” Andy was going in for a kiss when he heard the unmistakable clip-clop of Inspector Tent’s boots. “Wouldn’t it be peachy if we could go shopping together? I’d just love to pick out some material to make you a dress. He scrutinized her. “I don’t think pastels.”

“Would you care for another dance, Miss Smart-Astin?” Tent asked in a tone quite unsuited for the content of his proposition.

“Yes, inspector, that would be— “Her voice trailed off in unrequited longing.

Tent opened the door just as a male voice rang out, “Not another bloody tango!”

Both Bedelia and Tent beamed as they go into verse.

Let’s do the Russian tango! Let’s go as far as we can go!
Oh go girl go! Oh go man go! Let’s do the Russian tango!

They slinked out of the library in a sultry embrace. Andy glanced at the others and shrugged before engaging Cecelia in a dance clutch and followed them. Eddie and Millicent grabbed each other to join the crowd. The community spirit of ballroom dance did not last long, however, as Cecelia noticed Billy entering the front door. She quickly greeted him and led him into the library, shutting the door behind her, breathing deeply from the exertion of the sensual frolic.

“Where’s me boss, ducks?” Billy asked.

“You didn’t see him in the ballroom?” Cecelia approached him, like a cougar entrapping its prey. “He was dancing with Miss Smart-Astin.”

“Naw. I didn’t see nobody.”

“May I offer you a—“she hesitated provocatively “–glass of wine, Mr. Canine-erel?

“Naw,I don’t want no sissy wine.” He stood his ground, even stepping closer. “And stop callin’ me that stupid name. Me name’s Billy Doggerel, and I’m proud of it. If you can’t call me Billy then go—“he offered his own pregnant pause “–fly a kite.”

“All right, Billy.” She smiled seductively. “I just love it when a man is forceful. My late husband Sampson Elias Johnson could be quite forceful.” Cecelia nearly swooned from the aroma of his breath. “Would you care for some beer? I’m sure the servants have some in the kitchen, somewhere.”

“Not now, ducks. I’m on business.” He stepped toward the door. “Maybe later, if yer lucky. Now where’s me boss?”

“Yes, your business.” Cecelia sat on the lounge and patted the cushion next to her. “Please, Billy, come sit with me. I’d like to talk to you about your business.”

Billy rolled his massive shoulders forward with indifference and smiled. “Well, if me boss ain’t around, I wouldn’t mind takin’ a load off me feet.” He sat next to her on the lounge.

“You know, Billy, it’s never too late to turn from a life of crime.” Cecelia leaned in to inhale the full luxuriance of street rabble stench, which almost made her swoon.

“Who says I lead a life of crime?” He winked and smiled, revealing a mouth filled with yellowed teeth.

“Of course, you don’t.” Cecelia hit at his bulk playfully. “But if you did, you might prefer working for me instead.”

“That sounds like fun.” He paused to give her the once over. “Maybe I could call you Lady Chatalot, ‘cause you do like to chat a lot, doncha ducks?”

“You know me all too well, Billy.”

“So what would you have me doin’, Lady Chatalot?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe taking care of my chess board, my checkers and mah jong tiles.” Her hands made a pass across her ample bosom. “You know, all the things people like to play with.”

“You mean I’d be Lady Chatalot’s gameskeeper?”

“Yes, lover, what a novel idea.” Curiously enough, Cecelia caught the reference to this novel which hadn’t been written yet. Perhaps she connected telepathically better with Billy than Inspector Tent. “Of course, I’d have to bathe you first.”

“This is a big body, Lady Chatalot.” He puffed out his chest. “There’s a lot of dirt on it.”

“Oh, Billy!” The sexual badinage overwhelmed her, and she grabbed Billy and thrust her tongue into his mouth.

He aggressively leaned into her as though they were going for two-out-of-three falls when his foot wandered under the lounge and bumped into the previously hidden tray of liver-tinged delights.

“Me foot’s stuck on somethin’.” He leaned down to pull out the damaged goods.

“The canapés!” Cecelia gasped. Of all times to be reminded of her horrible culinary skills.

Billy shoved one into his mouth and started chewing. “Not bad. Did you make these, Lady Chatalot?”

“Yes I did.” She looked at tray.” But it looks like someone stepped on them.”

“Didn’t hurt ‘em none.” He stuffed in another one.

“You really like my canapés?” Cecelia’s face lit.

“Do I detect a ‘int of marjoram?”

“Why, yes.” Her hand impulsively went to his face to stroke his stubbly chin. “My, my, you do have a sophisticated palate, Billy!”

“Me ol’ mum used marjoram in everythin’ she cooked.” He swallowed hard as his eyes filled with tears. “I miss ‘er.”

“Oh, did your mother pass away recently?” She then stroked his cheek.

“Yeah, me ol’ man shot ‘er.”

Cecelia sat up in surprise. “How dreadful!”

“She tried slippin’ arsenic into ‘is meat pie. ‘E tasted it and blew ‘er brains out. I got me delicate palate from me ol’ man. Now ‘e’s in prison and I’m all alone.” Billy dissolved into sobs, hiding his head into her bosom.

Cecelia rocked back and forth as though she were comforting a baby. She whispered a spontaneously composed lullaby.

Billy dirty Billy, now don’t you dare cry.
Your own lady will make your eyes dry.

Even though she was romantically aroused, she had not forgotten her purpose and her allegiance to Lillie Langtry. “Um, Billy dear—you don’t mind if I call you dear, do you?”

He pulled a stained handkerchief from his back pocket to blow his nose. When he finished he looked soulfully into her eyes. “Me Lady Chatalot can call me anythin’ she wants.”

“Billy, dear, I have a business proposition for you.”

He looked around conspiratorially. “I’m all ears.”

“Frankly, I know that you have a packet to give to Chief Inspector Tent tonight. Now, if you give it to me instead—“

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Fifty-Seven

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. On their honeymoon they derail a train. Leon is now a spy par excellent.
Wallis finished her packing their grand tour of Germany. Then she counted the trunks. Too many, she knew, but everyone would be expecting to see a spectacular gown for each of their eleven days, and Wallis did not want to disappoint. Finally, she double checked her jewelry box ensconced in one of the larger pieces of luggage. She sighed in relief when she saw the large opal ring with the secret compartment for her Blue Ridge Mountains poison, which, much to her displeasure, had not arrived yet. Wallis did not like for things to go harem-scarem. A place for everything and everything in its place. This time, “it” had not even arrived yet. She hear someone at the door of their Paris suite. Perhaps the delivery from America arrived. Unfortunately, it was only David returning from a meeting with Lord Beaverbrook at the British embassy.
“You look gloomy.” It was only an observation, not an expression of concern.
David walked to a small cabinet stocked with his favorite liquors and splashed some whiskey into a short glass. “Lord Beaverbrook told me once again how displeased my brother the king was that you and I were launching on this –oh, what did he call it?—yes, this lark to Germany. Most inconvenient, he added.”
“Well, isn’t that what we want them to think?” Wallis pulled out a cigarette and lit it. These moods of David were absolutely taking the fun out of murder and espionage.
“I suppose.” His muttering was on the verge of indiscernibility.
“You know I hate it when you look like a lost dog.”
“The doctors call it schwermut,” David replied.
‘Well, when I visit my friends in the Blue Ridge Mountains they say you can call it manure or fertilizer but it still smells like shit.”
He slumped into an ornate stuffed arm chair and didn’t say a word. He must really be in the dumps. Usually when I use American vulgarities around him they bring the giggles out of him. David also plopped one leg across one of the arms, putting his crotch on full display, a bad habit he had picked up from Ernest; however, Wallis had to admit, Ernest had more to display than the duke.
David gazed out of the window of their Paris suite as he sipped his whiskey. “I don’t think you understand the dynamics of the Windsor family. It is true I hated my father. Never shed a tear when he died. Hard-hearted stupid man and proud of it. Mother’s just about as bad but not quite. I would be quite sad if I didn’t see her at least one more time before she died. My brothers and sister are a different matter. We all got along well. I think our youngest brother John who was epileptic and died in his early teens brought us together as human beings. But even that’s all over now, isn’t it? They can’t be part of our lives and we can’t be part of theirs. No more big family Christmas celebrations. No reunions at weddings and birthdays. And I have to pretend I don’t care. But, dammit all, I do care. At first I didn’t think I would, but I do care, and there’s not a whit I can do about it.”
Wallis could not decipher what all that meant. Her closest relative was Aunt Bessie who was pleasant company but could hardly be called a solace to the heart. Whatever a heart really meant. She snuffed out her cigarette as though she were crushing all of David’s maudlin mish mash of moods. Surely he was in one of his melancholia—life was just a pile of shit so what the hell difference did anything make? That posit of existence bored Wallis to tears. Life was just too damn exciting, prickling nerve ending to the point of orgasm.
Her missing package from America numbed her sensory pleasures of espionage. She couldn’t compete her mission without her package, and completing a mission was one of the main ecstasies of her life. The mission she had been given would the greatest challenge of her career at MI6.
The assassination of Adolf Hitler.
Wallis had several options at her disposal. One favorite involved a proper, sturdy long hat pin. It was most effective, quick, left few marks and blood stains and, if administered at coitus, evoked orgasm at the exact moment of death. It didn’t do anything for her personally, but Wallis enjoyed witnessing a man die with a smile on his face. The one drawback to this method was that it linked Wallis to the scene of death, bereft of any alibis. As much of being a master of charming banter Wallis could not talk her way out of murder.
Another favorite reminded her of the good old days of torturing Uncle Sol—the needle up the manhood. Joachim Von Ribbentrop did not consider it torture at all however. His eyes rolled up to the back of his head. He moaned like an enraptured bull. One extra thrust of the hat pin or quick jerks of the pin back and forth would tear into veins and arteries, causing intense bleeding and inevitable death. Ah, but there was the rub. Too much blood left the possibility of too many clues and they would all lead directly back to Wallis.
Therefore, she decided to fall back on an old reliable source which she used for Uncle Sol’s final dispatch—the strange, tiny herb she found during one of her long walks through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia when she was about twelve years old. She often visited family in Warrenton to escape the evil of Uncle Sol. She didn’t even know the name for it nor what other plants it might be related to. All those scientific names sounded too much like botany and school, and she wanted no more formal education.
The pretty little blossom hid among the longer more impressive vines draping the tall oaks and spruces. Its delicacy lured young Wallis to pinch a bloom off and sniff it. Suddenly she experienced a strange dryness to her throat. While not particularly painful she realized within minutes she could not speak at all. Twenty-four hours later she developed a horrid headache which kept her in bed for the next three days. By that time she had returned to Baltimore and no one had a clue what had happened.
Every doctor who examined her questioned her mother about her activities of the last twenty-four hours. They never knew she had been in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Eventually Wallis recovered, and she had no doubts about the cause of her illness—the strange little flower hiding behind the big heavy vines deep in mysterious corners of the ancient Appalachians.
On her next holiday to Warrenton, Wallis wandered into the Blue Ridge Mountains in search of her new little friend. When she found the blossoms, Wallis snapped several of them off their stems and put them into a small brown paper bag and folded it tightly. She did not smell them. When she returned to her host’s home she put the bag into another sack, repeating the process. Then she washed her hands with hot soapy water.
In Baltimore she left the bag in a dark corner of her closet. After about a month or two, she checked the bag to find the flowers withered to a point of disintegrating. Next she pounded the bag so the contents became a fine powder which she poured into an empty pill bottles.
Wallis had one week before leaving for boarding school. She was quite excited her last night home. She did not go to bed before midnight. What the others in the house did not know was Wallis went outside, extended her arm through the slats of the white picket fence where the neighbor’s dog—known for its incessant barking—licked a white powder from her palm.
The next morning, rested from a long quiet sleep, Wallis kissed everyone good-bye—even Uncle Sol—and mounted a carriage which took her to the train station. In her first letter to her daughter, Wallis’ mother wrote the neighbor’s dog was silent and moping around. Three weeks later Wallis received news the dog died. Wallis knew she had a winning recipe.
When they received the official invitation to Germany, she contacted General Trotter, using one of their usual circuitous routes to ask for her poison from the American mountainsides. She wrote meticulous descriptions of what the plant looked like and where it could be found. Wallis knew MI6 had connections with the American government which could find the flower, diminish it into a powder and send it on its way. She anxiously awaited its arrival. Without it she could not complete her mission.
Moments after David freshened his drink, there was a knock at the door. Wallis answered it and took a small box from a courier arrived. Stamped on the box were the words “United States Department of Agriculture”. Wallis opened it to find a vial of white powder. With great care she transferred the powder to the secret compartment of her opal ring.
Now she was ready to meet Herr Hitler.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Three

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Stanton and henchman Baker clean up the mess.
Stanton awaited the November presidential election results with pride and anticipation in the War Department telegraph room. Others around him paced with uncertainty, because some states were late in reporting. In his gut he knew it was won for Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Stanton smirked at the thought of Johnson, a known alcoholic who had been taught to read and write by his wife, being sworn in as vice president. The man would be manipulated without any difficulty. That was why Stanton had influenced the Republican Party to drop Hannibal Hamlin as vice president and nominate Johnson.
“Don’t worry, Mr. President.” Lamon patted Duff on the back. “The country’s behind you.”
“Mr. Lincoln, we’ve the latest results,” Noah Brooks said with a glint in his eyes. “You’ve won.”
Brooks replaced Nicolay, who in late October resigned to become United States consul in Paris. Hay took time off to finish personal business before going to Paris as secretary to the legation. Stanton did not care, relegating Nicolay and Hay to the category of small potatoes, and he saw Brooks as just as innocuous. He had been a correspondent from the Sacramento Union. Some thought the young reporter was politically astute, but Stanton doubted it.
“These telegrams are from Andrew Johnson,” Brooks said, handing one to Duff and one to Stanton.
Stanton read his message from Johnson:
Mr. Stanton,
My Washington sources tell me of your omnipresence around Mr. Lincoln
and of your reprehensible behavior toward him. Let me warn you I will be
Mr. Lincoln’s champion in all matters. Your reputation is that of a bully and
a coward. Let me assure you that you shall not bully me and that I shall make
it my mission to reveal your craven cowardice to all.
Vice President-elect
Andrew Johnson
“What does Mr. Johnson say, Father?” Alethia asked, squeezing Duff’s arm.
“‘Dear Mr. President,’” Duff began. “‘It is with great humility I acknowledge the will of the nation for you to proceed with the preservation of our Union and the task of healing. I do not understand why you chose me to be by your side, but I pledge to be your champion in all matters.’”
“Hear, hear,” Brooks said.
“Sounds like my kind of man,” Lamon said with a laugh.
Stanton could feel his neck burn red, yet he said nothing. He was not ready to return power to Lincoln, even though the end of the war was nearing.
“How nice,” Alethia said. “I knew he was a Southern gentleman.”
“And articulate,” Duff said. “I hope he doesn’t drink as much as they say he does.”
Everyone chuckled, except Stanton, who wadded his telegram tightly in his fist.
“What did your telegram say, Mr. Stanton?” Lamon asked.
“Basically the same thing,” he lied. “He said he looked forward to working with me for the next four years.”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Nineteen

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. The good guys let Cecelia in on the plot.
Inspector Tent and Bedelia entered from the ballroom, breaking up the conspiratorial atmosphere in the library. The fearless foursome huddled around the chaise lounge.

“Lady Snob-Johnson,” Tent announced, “I’d be more careful about the household help if I were you. Your butler turned out to be the Man in the Red Underwear.”

She fluttered her eyes ingenuously. “You’re quite mistaken. My butler is seventy years old and weighs two hundred and fifty pounds.”

“I didn’t mean your real butler was the Man in the Red Underwear. But the Man in the Red Underwear was masquerading as your butler.” He paused a moment, thinking of a pun and congratulating himself for being so clever. “A sort of red butler.”

“He’d have to use a lot of padding.” Cecelia didn’t catch the joke because she rarely read American novels that hadn’t been written yet.

“Has a packet been delivered for me in the last few minutes while I was dancing with Miss Smart-Astin?” the inspector asked.

The quartet exchanged knowing glances.

“No,” she replied, her eyes all aflutter again.

“May I pour myself a glass of wine? The dancing has made me quite thirsty, and the rum punch being served in the ballroom is a bit too sweet.”

Cecelia’s left eyebrow went up. She was not accustomed to her guests being so totally honest. Decent people lied about the quality of refreshments. Recovering, she managed a wan smile. “Help yourself.”

“Miss Smart-Astin, would you care for a glass wine?” Tent inquired as he pointed to the cabinet of beverages.

“Why, I think I would, inspector.”

“Do you mind if I pour out white?” His eyes strayed. “There’s been way too much red this evening for my satisfaction.”


After handing Bedelia her drink, Tent held up his own in a mild toast. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed our dance.”

“Thank you.” She blushed, like a shy rosé. “You’re much too kind.”

His crooked smile took on a predatory slant. “Do you know you’re even more beautiful up close?”

“Oh my. Are you trying to sweep me off my feet?”

“That’s not a bad idea.” He leaned in to press his advantage. “I know our ages are vastly different, but there are such things as May-December romances.”

Taken aback from this tactic, Bedelia was left with no recourse but to break out in verse.

You don’t look old, dear Malcolm Tent. You have no gray hairs on your head.
You took care of that problem by applying dye on them instead.
You don’t look old, oh no not you, the fittest at Scotland Yard.
But when you look across the room your eyes are squinting hard.
Don’t mind that you are just a few years younger than my Dad.
And all your family members now are dying off, how sad.
But you’re not old, inspector dear, that’s one thing you can never fear.
So catch your breath, ignore that Mister Death is lingering near.
I can’t accept your marriage plea. I really need more time.
And is it wise to compromise to wed one past his prime?
In truth, I’m drawn to one who has more physical attraction.
I can’t deny he drives me to the edge of mad distraction.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact your character is strong.
It’s just that I can’t risk the chance your life won’t be that long.
But you’re not old, inspector dear, that’s one thing you can never fear.
So catch your breath, ignore that Mister Death is lingering near.

Andy, from his position near the lounge, noticed how intimate Tent and Bedelia were acting, and he felt compelled to cross the room so he could break up the apparent tryst. “Bedelia, darling! Have you seen the grenadine?”

Tent’s eyes wandered beyond Andy to focus on Cecelia, Millicent and the young shirtless prince. “What are they huddling about?”

“I have no idea. Why don’t you join them?” He pushed the inspector in their direction. “I’m sure they’d just love your company.”

With his erstwhile competition now distracted by the others by the lounge, Andy smiled ingratiatingly at Bedelia.

“You wanted a drink with grenadine?”

“Grenadine?” He was taken aback. “I hate grenadine—I mean, I adore grenadine but not just right now.”

“You don’t want a drink?” Her instinctive skills to analyze bizarre situations left her for the moment.

“No, I’m afraid that was a ruse to talk to you.” Andy glanced at the inspector. “To keep you from that other man.”

“He proposed.” She took a quick sip, her head poised with confidence.

“Proposed what?” He too succumbed to dull comprehension.

“Marriage, sort of.”

Andy’s mouth flew open. “You turned him down, I hope.”

“And why should I?” Her tone was couched with a challenge for Andy to make a counteroffer.

“Because—because he’s old and has oodles and oodles of wrinkles.” Even though he knew that sounded ridiculous, Andy tried valiantly to disguise his embarrassment.


When we moved to Florida about 20 years ago, my family and I exposed ourselves to family dinner conversation dominated by my wife’s Uncle Sydney.
My mother-in-law retired to Florida a couple of years earlier to be near her relatives and suffered a heart attack, which is why we transplanted our children and ourselves here to be closer for the next medical emergency. This meant when we all gathered to sup together, for whatever reason, we had to brace for Uncle Sydney’s “Actually…”
This happened when one of us made a statement, any innocuous statement, and Uncle Sydney would correct us with “Actually, that isn’t so.” And off he went uninterrupted because my mother-in-law thought it was impolite to interrupt her brother’s exercises of enlightenment. At one meal, someone mentioned how much they enjoyed a certain current song.
“Actually,” Uncle Sydney began, “no good music has been written since the 1940s.”
I believed Uncle Sydney was full of gas, but had the good sense not to say so in front of the family. Both my mother-in-law and Uncle Sydney have long since passed on, but recently I learned something from the internet that might actually explain why there hasn’t been any good music since he was a young man.
Several websites have been discussing the theory that all musical instruments, as dictated by the British Standards Institute, changed the official tuning pitch of music from 432Hz to 440Hz at the request of the corporate entity of the American Rockefeller family and—grab your hats, folks—Adolph Hitler.
The great classical composers wrote in 432, and Stradivarius developed his violin to resonate at 432. Tones of 432 are beautiful, warm and relaxing. Tones of 440 create anxiety, anger and aggression. One supposes a capitalist institution could more easily convince a disgruntled buying public into adopting new spending patterns. One could also see how Hitler’s inflammatory oratory could incite an already dissatisfied public to support a war against its own citizenry as well as the world in general.
After the war, the British Standards Institute continued its support for 440Hz by voting to keep it, the last vote coming as late as the 1970s. This could explain why the generation which grew up listening to music to the 432Hz frequency found the new rock ‘n’ roll sound attuned to 440Hz to be awful noise. Come to think of it, hasn’t the general public been generally ticked off the last 60 years? Don’t political movements begin because, as the man said in the 1976 movie “Network”, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore?”
Granted, all this can sound a bit paranoid, and there are no conclusive scientific studies to confirm the connection between the dissonance of music’s 440Hz and the general malaise that hangs over the world. Dr. Leonard Horowitz wrote in his investigation of this phenomenon that the effect of 440Hz goes beyond mere mood but to harming physical and mental health to the point of subduing spirituality and creativity.
To be fair, the British Standards Institute cannot legally dictate what frequency is used to tune musical instruments. If you own a violin or piano, you can tune it to anything you want. You can calibrate your tuning fork anyway you want. But in general the music establishment around the world uses 440Hz.
A good measure of how the general public has reacted to this bit of information can be found in the comments section following the internet article. One person wrote, “These articles are too superficial to be taken seriously.” Another writer wrote than from his own experimentation with 432Hz, he found it to be more soothing and harmonious, urging people to contact radio stations to go back to the original frequency.
Am I personally ready to jump on a 432Hz bandwagon? Do I want to believe there’s an international conspiracy to manipulate our emotions? Am I willing to accept the fact that Uncle Sydney wasn’t just full of gas?

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Fifty-Six

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. On their honeymoon they derail a train. Leon is now a spy par excellent.
Leon watched the sun set from the balcony of the Hotel du Palais on the beach at Biarritz in southern France. He had a newspaper tucked under his left arm. Taking one last puff on his cigarette, he flicked the butt over the railing. Senor Battisti and his two bodyguards should be leaving his penthouse suite at any moment. Leon waited for them outside the elevator. When the doors opened, Leon stepped aside to allow the other three to enter first. After he stepped in, he opened the newspaper and began to read. The Spanish guerrillas were making new inroads in their insurrection against General Franco. However, the dictator blocked funds from being deposited in Spanish banks. This action infuriated Soviet Russia officials and leftist sympathizers in the United States.
When Battisti and his guards exited on the ground floor, Leon stayed on the elevator to go down to the parking garage and kitchen level. He walked into the waiters’ locker room where he had arranged to rent an employee’s uniform.
Leon slipped into the spare waiter’s uniform, and slipped his contact a couple of bills. “Anyone else new on the staff?”
“Oh no, monsieur,” he gushed. “I would have noticed.”
“But of course.” Leon smiled. “Many years of service, I imagine.”
“Mais oui, monsieur.” The man chuckled. As he looked away.
“And well paid for it.” Leon eyed him carefully as he extended another bill which the man grabbed.
Leon smiled in mild amusement. “Por nada.”
The man looked down, bowed and walked away. Leon stopped in the locker room door to tie his shoe laces so he could keep the waiter in his line of sight. Leon’s contact stopped at the servants’ elevator to the casino level, holding the door for a blond waiter who cocked his head as the man whispered to him as the doors closed. Leon took his time, looking into the mirror counted to the locker room door. He made sure the two servers had time to separate on the casino floor. His hand slid into the top of his right shoe to touch his stiletto. He then checked himself again in the mirror to ensure his one-shot revolver did not make his jacket bulge. Leon sauntered to the service elevator.
When he reached the casino a buzz already circulated on the floor that Senor Amletto Battisti had won two spectacular rounds of blackjack against the house dealer. Leon paused to take an order of martinis and deliver them before making his way over to the corner table where Battisti sat and his bodyguards stood behind him. The stolid Latin rarely moved but Leon could tell he searched the room with an unrelenting regularity. The darker guard shifted his weight from foot to foot and wiped sweat from his brow. The dealer, a small man with thick silver hair, hunched over and from time to time his left shoulder twitched. An unfortunate tell, Leon decided.
Leon also observed the blond waiter place a Cuba Libre in front of Battisti who slid it out of the way. When the waiter deftly pushed it back, the Latin bodyguard intervened. He handed the drink back to the waiter who retreated into the crowd. As the guard resumed his place, his dark companion leaned in to whisper. The Latin shook his head. His partner moved to track down the blond, but the Latin stopped him. The Latin was smart not to dilute his defense by chasing down an assassin who had already failed in his mission.
After taking a couple more drink orders, Leon felt a manicured hand clutch his right buttock. He turned to see a smiling red head.
“Hey, handsome,” she slurred. “You look like you need a break.” She held up a drink.
Leon saw a Cuba Libre with slightly melted ice.
“You’ve had a few drinks yourself,” he replied. “I can’t quite make out your accent.”
She smiled. “Does it make any difference?’
“Why are you being so nice to me? I’m just a regular working guy.”
She held the drink to his lips. “I think us working types should take care of each other.” She glanced at his crotch. “Looks like you could take good care of me, say, after midnight?”
Leon took the drink from her and sniffed it. “Is this Cuba Libre made with “Coca Cola?”
“What difference does it make?”
“It reeks of Royal Crown Cola.”
“Like I said, what difference does it make?”
“I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking Royal Crown Cola.” He pushed it toward her mouth. “You drink it.”
Her eyes widened. “I’m not thirsty.”
“Oh come now.” Leon reached around her neck with his free hand and clutched her nape. “Your friend blondie will be very upset if someone doesn’t die from the drink, and it’s not going to be me.”
“Please.” Her heavily mascaraed lashes fluttered. “I don’t even know him. He paid me to give you this drink.”
“I usually draw the line at killing women, he whispered, “but in your case I’ll make an exception.” He forced her mouth open and pulled back on her neck, dumping in the drink. Half of it trickled down her ample bosom, but enough made its way down her throat. “I detected the poison when I smelled it. Unfortunately for you, the bartender used the cheaper Royal Crown Cola instead of Coca Cola which, by the way, would have covered the odor of the poison.” Leon put down the glass, removed the handkerchief from his pocket to wipe her lips dry. “You have time to make it to the powder room before you drop dead. After all, I don’t want you to lose all your dignity.”
As she staggered away, the crowd around Battisti’s table broke into applause. A bald man with an immaculately trimmed moustache stumbled up to Leon.
“I take it Senor Battisti has won again,” Leon said to the man though he kept his eyes on the red-head who had reached the casino door.
“Yeah, I’m downing a Cuba Libre each time Amletto takes a hand.” He pointed at the glass on the table. “Does that belong to anybody?”
Leon put it on his tray and began to turn away. “I think you’d be better off ordering a fresh one.”
“You’re right. Tell the barkeep I want a Cuba Libre—oh, and make it with Royal Crown Cola.”
The red head crashed into the casino door. Blondie must be really hard-hearted. He didn’t even look her way when other waiters carried her body out. Leon would have helped carry her out, but he had an order of Cuba Libre—with Royal Crown Cola—to place with the bartender.
“I saw what you did,” a child-like voice whispered.
Leon turned to see a brown-haired, fair-faced young man smile at him. He looked like he should have been in his late teens but his manner made him seem young. And the voice sounded familiar. Leon had an ear for peculiar accents.
“You just killed that woman.” The boy had the good sense to keep his voice subdued so no one else in the casino crowd would hear his secret. “Oh, don’t worry. It doesn’t bother me. I killed my own father. I admire people like us who can get away with murder.” He smiled. “But I still like to stir up a little trouble, just to be mean.”
The boy reached out to flip the tray from Leon’s hand. With the skilled agility of a dancer, Leon kept control of the tray, grabbed the glass before it could reach the floor and shatter and delivered a swift knee to the boy’s crotch. Leon leaned over in solicitation. “Don’t mess with me, kid. If I could kill the broad, I could kill you too.”
He doubled over in pain and emitted a high-pitched moan.
Leon walked away and behind him heard an old woman cackle. “Jimmy, are you getting into trouble.? I swear, I can’t take you out around decent people without you making a fuss. Now come over here and stand by mommy and tell her which cards to keep.”
Another couple of hours passed without incident. Leon kept surveillance on the blond assassin who from time to time tried to become intimate with Senor Battisti, but both bodyguards kept him at bay.
If I had this assignment, I would try to take out one of the bodyguards to improve my odds of getting close to the don. Leon considered the two guards. The Latin, like his boss, had a bladder made of iron. On the other hand, the fidgety dark guard looked like he was about to leak massive amounts of urine at any moment.
he guard in question leaned over to his partner. As he whispered, the Latin nodded and looked around. Hurrying through the crowd the dark one left the casino floor and headed for the men’s room. Leon noticed the blond waiter wasted no time following him, and the mercenary was soon in tow.
When Leon entered the toilet, the guard hugged a urinal, and the blond waiter slipped a knife from his jacket. Leon spun him around, stuffed him in the nearest stall, took out his pistol and shot the man between the eyes. As the body slumped down on the commode, Leon dropped the gun into the water tank.
The black guard had his own revolver pulled out and twirling around the room trying to figure out where the shot came from.
“Hold on, cowboy,” Leon said as he stepped from the stall, pretending to be zipping his pants. “Haven’t you ever heard a car backfire before?”
“Not from inside a damn john.”
Leon nodded toward the door. “The street’s just out there.”
“Oh. Yeah.” He cleared his throat and shook his shoulders. “Well, you better get back to work.” He sniffed. “You don’t want to get into trouble.”
“You got that right, boss.” Leon straightened his bow tie and left.
By the time he returned to the casino, a man with a Van Dyke beard and slicked back pepper-gray hair and wearing a handsome tuxedo stood next to Senor Battisti and raised his arms.
Mesdammes et monsieurs, s’il vous plait. I have an important announcement.”
The room went quiet, and the black guard stumbled into the casino.
“The casino has closed as of this moment.” The man paused long enough for the murmuring to dissipate. “Senor Amleto Battisti has broken the bank of the Biarritz Hotel de Palais Casino.”
The customers broke into applause. Battisti’s Latin bodyguard pushed the crowd aside as the successful gambler walked out. The other guard merely fell in line behind him.
Leon unobtrusively headed to the service elevator down to the waiters’ locker room. He had changed into his white linen suit by the time the other waiter–whom he had paid for the uniform–showed up. Leon slipped to the door to see if anyone else were coming. When he was certain he would have a few minutes alone with the waiter, he walked up behind the man who had opened his locker door.
“It seems you were wrong about new staff,” Leon whispered.
Leon rammed his stiletto up under the waiter’s rib cage.
Gracias.” He shoved the man’s body into the locker and shut the door. “Por nada.”


Green is my favorite color. It goes back to the fifties and the Davy Crockett craze—movies, songs, television shows, coonskin caps, the whole bit.
I’m the great-great-great grandson of Crockett so all that attention was like it was for me. There was a skip in my step every time I heard, “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free.”
I may have been born in Texas, which was the biggest state at that time, but my heart was in the greenest state. Any time I had a choice in clothing, food, you name it, I picked green, spinach, lettuce, lime sherbet, and a lot of green shirts. After I graduated from college and I could live anywhere I wanted I bought a green Ford Torino and drove to Tennessee and fell in love with the trees, the mountains and my wife. She was actually from Virginia but her last name was Hawkins, the same as the county in Tennessee where Crockett’s grandparents are buried.
My bedroom has always been painted green. It’s really a restful color to look at as I close my eyes in sleep. Green represents good things too—serenity, ecology, renewal, hope, guacamole, pistachios, Jolly Green Giant, Kermit the Frog, Green Eggs and Ham, freshly mowed grass which smells like watermelon, also green, and the best traffic light, green which means let’s go.
Nothing reduces my blood pressure better than a drive down a road with tall trees whose branches hover over the pavement with green leaves in all shades from chartreuse to forest, and everything in between, olive, celery, sage, parsley and Kelly. The green trees are filled with life, squirrels, birds, insects and tiny microbes.
Christmas trees are green, and what can be better than Christmas trees? They have presents underneath them. Children gather around them to giggle and play. And when the children go to bed, parents can sit by the Christmas tree to kiss and cuddle.
Green goes well with other colors too. Who doesn’t like to see a blue sky peeking through the trees? And at night, when the sky is black and speckled with tiny white lights, green tones down its shade to blend in. Green with orange in the fall says it’s time for harvest, and green with red means it’s time for Santa Claus. Green with yellow is the time of spring. Green with purple means it’s time to have the color adjusted on the television.
And, of course, green is the color of money. Who doesn’t like money? Getting a check is nice. Checking the bank account and seeing new deposits is great. But nothing beats seeing green bills being handed over, lots of them with pictures of Jackson, Grant and Franklin. It would be fun to jump into a pool filled with green bills, especially if I knew all those bills were mine.
The nicest thing about green is that it doesn’t have to be money to make you happy. Green leaves work just as well, which is good because it’s easier to be surrounded by leaves than dollar bills. Green food, like guacamole and lime sherbet tastes better than dollar bills too. I haven’t tried it but common sense tells me money tastes terrible and has little nutritional value.
As they say, the best things in life are free. And many of those things are green.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Two

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Stanton and henchman Baker clean up the mess.
Jessie sat at a small table covered by a red-and-white checkered cloth in the back of a small, busy café. She tapped her fingers awaiting Adam. He broke their engagement last night, and she was not happy. Jessie was in love, but sensed something terrible had gone wrong. As much as she cared for Adam, his honesty about what was going on at the Executive Mansion disturbed her.
Her face lit when Adam first walked through the door, but it darkened as she watched him weave between the tables. He had not changed his clothes, shaved, or washed. When he plopped down in the chair next to her, Adam tried to kiss her, but she turned away.
“Ye stink and look terrible.”
“I’m a man, a soldier.” Adam leaned back in his chair and looked ahead.
The waiter came up.
“What do ye crave for supper?”
After the waiter pulled out his pad, Jessie leaned to Adam and said, “I want a bowl of beef stew and a glass of milk.”
When Adam did not respond, she looked up at the waiter who nodded.
“And for the gentleman?”
“Whiskey,” Adam demanded.
“We don’t serve hard liquor.”
“Nothing, then.”
“Very well, sir,” the waiter said and turned away.
“Me darlin’, what’s wrong?”
“I’ve been given the awesome knowledge of life and death.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s terrible to give a young man the awesome knowledge of life and death.” Adam said nothing more because the waiter arrived with Jessie’s bowl of soup and glass of milk.
“Ye need to talk to a priest.” Her voice was soft. “Somebody who can help ye.”
“It’s too late.” Avoiding Jessie’s eyes, he shook his head. “The awesome knowledge of life and death changes a man forever. A woman will never know the awesome knowledge of life and death.”
“Will ye stop that ‘awesome knowledge of life and death’?” She pushed away her soup bowl. “I lost me hunger. Take me home.”
Adam bolted for the door. Jessie paid the waiter and scurried after him. He was already in his seat on the omnibus when she climbed on board and passed the fare slot.
“Sorry, miss, I need your coin,” the driver said.
“I’m with the gentleman,” she replied, motioning to Adam in the back.
“Oh. Him. He just paid for himself.”
Searching her reticule in frustration, Jessie finally found the right coin, deposited it, and walked to the back. She debated whether to sit next to Adam, who left her humiliated in his wake. The bus started with a jerk, causing her to fall into the seat by him.
“Where were ye last night?”
Adam stared into the night.
“I think your actions are despicable,” Jessie said in a low, intense voice. “And don’t give me any more of that knowledge of life and death foolishness. Ye are a better man than this, me laddie.”
Turning toward her, Adam smiled with a touch of the devil in its curl. Jessie shuddered. When her street came up, She stood to leave; Adam began to follow her.
“I don’t need an escort.”
Again he smiled like a devil’s slave, which caused her to hasten to the omnibus door, where she jumped to the road and trotted toward her boardinghouse. Not looking behind her, Jessie sensed Adam was staggering behind her. At the door, she rummaged through her reticule, trying to find the key, until she smelled foul breath over her shoulder.
“Adam, please go away before I tell ye to go away forever.” She did not look at him, but spoke in a soft yet solemn voice. “Now.”
Spinning her around, Adam planted a moist, open-mouthed kiss on her lips. His teeth smashed her lips against her own teeth, causing them to bleed. The taste of his tongue was acrid and repellent. His body odor crawled up her nostrils, making her gag. Finally her hand, still fumbling through her reticule, found the key. Grasping it tightly, she scraped the key on Adam’s temple. He moaned as his hand went to the bleeding gash. Jessie unlocked the door, rushed in, and locked it. Adam lunged forward, banging his hand on it.
“Jessie!” he screamed.