Monthly Archives: September 2019

The Answer Is Yes; Next Question

I recently ran into a friend I had not seen in a year or so. This person is very kind and supportive, so I assumed this question was asked without malice:
“Are you still writing?”
I smiled and said yes. I write and post stories on my blog three times a week.
To be quite honest, I don’t receive this question kindly every time it has been asked, and it has been asked more often than I like. I don’t reply in a snippy way. I usually plaster on a smile and say as cheerfully as possible, “Oh, yes.”
The tone of this question implies, “You mean you haven’t accepted the fact that you’re a failure and will never be a professional writer?”
Of course, this is a battle I have fought within myself for years. I’ve had more rejection slips than I can count. Once I submitted the first three chapters of one novel to a top publisher and received word from one of its editors he wanted to see the rest of it. By the time I got it to him he had retired and the person who took his place didn’t like it.
I’ve had other close-but-no-prize experiences on other projects. My wife assured me not to worry until I turned fifty years old. Well, fifty years came and went and I still was not a full-fledged professional creative writer. I’m older than Johnny Cash was when he died, and he wrote hit songs right to the end. I’ve considered quitting but I couldn’t think of anything else to do with my time.
I decided to try self-publishing a novel about Abraham Lincoln being stuck in the White House basement and lost money on it. When I sold my book at street fairs, Civil War re-enactments and book festivals, people told me if the book was as half as good as I made it sound they’d buy it.
So I concentrated on storytelling. I enjoyed writing stories that could be told in five-to-six minutes. Just me talking to three or four people at a time. Hopefully one of them would throw a dollar or two into my tip basket. I wasn’t going to get rich, but I liked doing it anyway.
Then I discovered the internet. For a nominal monthly fee I could blog everything I’ve ever written. I don’t make any money but I get nice comments from time to time so it seemed worth it to me. And I still write original stories and novels, which I serialize one chapter a week. It’s come to me if I quit writing I would die.
So to the people who ask, “Are you STILL writing?” I reply:
“Am I above dirt? Then, yes, I’m still writing.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Eighty-Eight

Previously: Mercenary Leon meets MI6 spies David, the Prince of Wales and socialite Wallis Spencer. David becomes king then abdicates to marry Wallis. He becomes Bahamas governor. Leon dies and his son Sidney becomes a mercenary. Sidney saves David in a riot.
A couple of weeks passed before normalcy returned to Nassau. Wallis arrived by ocean liner from New York City. David met her on the pier, hugged her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips as the newsreel cameras captured the expression of endearment for the whole world to see.
It wasn’t a bad kiss. Why they didn’t do that sort of thing more often? MI6 would mind. What it didn’t know wouldn’t hurt it. Oh yes. The damned newsreel cameras. They recorded everything.
They even captured his actions on the night of the riot. Now the whole world knew him to be the heroic prince of action. Except he wasn’t a prince anymore.
Wallis’s first appearance was at Red Cross headquarters, checking on how the children and elderly were faring after the riot. She gathered all the volunteers into a bus and with a contingent of police drove over the hills to the shanties and camps to hand out food, drink and hugs.
A knock at his office door in the Governor’s Palace broke into David’s thoughts. Before he could say come in, Wallis entered with a young black man looking well-groomed and wearing white slacks and a crisp white shirt open at the neck.
“David, darling, here’s someone who says you want to see him,” Wallis announced. “The girls and I went to one of the shanty towns. This young man waiting for us when the bus stopped. He told me you had invited him to the palace.”
His mind was a blank, but he composed himself enough to smile, stand and walk around the desk, his hand extended.
“No need to rise,” the young man said in a humble voice. “It was nothing, really. I didn’t think at all. It just seemed to me you needed to be pushed out of the way of all the confusion.”
The incident flashed through David’s mind. The young man lifted him and carried him to safety during the riot.
“I’m glad you remembered my request to visit so I could thank you properly.” He shook he boy’s hand. “You have quite a strong grip. And you must be strong because you didn’t just shove me out of danger but actually lifted me.”
“I’m a fisherman. It’s quite strenuous work.”
“You haven’t told us your name.” Wallis didn’t smile.
“Sidney Johnson.”
“Well, Sidney, she continued, “I don’t think I would have taken your request seriously if you weren’t so smartly dressed. ”
“My father said just because we are fishermen doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know proper dress for the proper occasion.”
“Well-spoken too,” David added.
“My father read the newspaper to me every day. I still read the paper every day. That’s how I knew the Duchess would be in the northern hills today.”
“He must be very proud of you,” David said.
“He’s dead.” Sidney paused. “Fishing can be a very dangerous business.”
“Where do you live?” David asked.
“Eleuthera, although I visit my friends in the hills north of Nassau often.”
David arched an eyebrow. “Eleuthera. What a coincidence. I had a cousin—a member of the Romanov family—who lived in a large house on Eleuthera around the time of the Russian revolution. Her husband died of a heart attack rumor had it, and she was never heard from again.” He paused to light a cigarette. “Are you familiar with any large houses on Eleuthera?”
Sidney didn’t pause. “Yes, hacienda style. I pass by it every day.”
Wallis wore her tight smile she used when speaking to someone who didn’t really interest her. “Do you live with your mother?”
“She died shortly after my father passed.”
David stared at Sidney.
He looks like an older man I’ve seen before but I can’t place him.
“I need a valet.” Something in his gut told him he needed to learn more about this young man.
Wallis arched an eyebrow at Sidney. “You know what a valet is, don’t you?”
“Of course,” he replied. “A valet takes care of his gentleman.”
“Well put.” David turned to his wife. “So what do you think, Wallis?”
She shrugged. “He’ll be your valet.”
“Being a governor and a member of the royal family, I am privy to a great amount of knowledge the general public doesn’t need to know,” David explained. “Do you know how to keep a secret?”
A shadow of a smile crossed Sidney’s face. “You’d be surprised how well I can keep a secret.”
There was another knock, and David yelled, “Come in.”
The butler opened the door. “Mr. Harry Oakes is here to see you, Your Highness.”
Wallis turned and led Sidney to the door. “It’s just as well. I need to find a place in the palace for this young man to sleep.” She stopped to nod to the new visitor. “Harry, have you lost weight?”
“Why no.” His eyes widened.
“You should, you know.” Then she and Sidney left.
David tried not to smile as Harry looked down at his expansive stomach. With him was a blonde who wore too much makeup in a vain attempt to look young. He could not help but notice that when they passed Wallis and Sidney, the blonde snapped her head toward the Bahamian for a moment.
Harry stuck out his hand to David. “Sorry for the interruption, Your Highness, but I wanted to drop by to thank you for the way you handled those bums a couple of weeks ago.”
“They’re not bums, Harry,” the blonde corrected him. They’re black Bahamians who are tired of getting paid less than the white guys.”
David didn’t know who this blonde was, but he liked her already.
She stuck out her hand. She had a firm handshake. David was certain he liked her now.
“My name is Aline. Harry promoted me from poker dealer to his personal assistant. We have a long history together. He owes me, for a lot of things he wouldn’t want me to mention here. “
Harry’s face reddened. “You and your jokes, Aline. The Duke might get the wrong idea.”
“Both of you have a seat.” David waved at two padded chairs.
“Harry, I want you to call a meeting of the Bay Street boys,” David began as he sat, “and announce Bahamian workers on the RAF project will receive a forty percent raise. They’ll know it’s still less than the whites make but at least it’s a start. Hell, throw in free lunches.”
Harry puffed out his red cheeks. “I will not! Why, it’ll be like rewarding them for the riot!”
“Listen to the man,” Aline muttered. “He was the King of England. He knows what he’s talking about.”
David couldn’t keep his eyes off her.
“Okay. I’ll call the meeting and suggest it to them, but I can tell you right now they won’t go for it.”
“Listen to the Duke, Harry,” Aline responded. “They’ll go for it.”
David felt his heart beat faster. As he walked them to the door, he found his right hand touch the blonde’s back. She didn’t pull away.
The exhilaration of meeting new fascinating people ended for David with the arrival of a telegram a few days later.
Prince George had died in a plane crash on his way to inspect a RAF airfield in Greenland. David sent a letter of condolence to George’s wife Marina. He didn’t know if the Royal Household would allow her to see it, but David wrote it anyway. A sense of loss overwhelmed David. He slopped around in his pajamas and slippers the rest of the day. Getting dressed seemed like too big a chore.
Wallis stayed particularly close to David—coming up behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist, snuggling on a sofa and putting her head on his shoulder, but not saying a word.
In the next few days public kisses became more frequent whenever they went out.
A week later Wallis announced concern for Aunt Bessie’s health and Wallis wanted to spend time with her before it was too late. David understood. Sometimes people find themselves closer to one family member than others and mourn the time when they won’t be there.
One evening David decided a night cap at home would not suffice. Wallis was gone, and he was not sure when she would return. He felt drawn to the Rialto. David needed to hear laughter and clinking of glasses. Also, he was certain he would be left alone. Etiquette demanded one not speak to royalty until the royal spoke to them.
He sat at the bar nursing a scotch when he felt a woman’s arm slip through his arm and around his chest. The only person to do that was Wallis, and she was in Baltimore.
“You look lonely.”
David recognized Aline’s voice.
“May I join you?”
“Of course.”
She sat unconventionally close and held one of those reddish orange concoctions with a small umbrella on top. Aline’s dress was scarlet and strapless, allowing David to notice ample cleavage.
“Where’s the Duchess?” Aline asked.
“Visiting a sick aunt in the states.”
“Oh, so you are lonely.”
“More than lonely.” David didn’t understand why he said that.
“Yes, I saw in the newspaper you brother Prince George died. Are you going to the funeral?”
“No. Current royal protocol forbids it.”
“I’m sorry I mentioned it.” Aline leaned in to David, touching his shoulder. “It isn’t easy being royalty, is it?”
“I know.” She paused. “You see, my name is actually Alina. It is a Russian name.”
He wrinkled his brow. “I had a cousin who lived in the Bahamas for a while.”
“She was my mother.” Aline looked down. “I’ve said too much already.”
“I’ve heard the stories about her, but I never knew if they were true.” Interest entered David’s voice. “Was she really married to a Ribbentrop?”
“That’s what she told me.”
“Where did she go? Is she still alive? I don’t mean to be inquisitive, but this does make us distant relatives, doesn’t it?”
Aline looked straight ahead. “She moved to Montana and worked in a brothel. She didn’t think the Bolsheviks would find her there. She died when I was twelve. It was a hard life.”
“Do you even know who your father was?”
“Yes. But if I told you his name you wouldn’t believe it.”
“Harry Oakes.” David was quick. “That’s why you’re in the Bahamas working for him. I could tell by the way you talked to him you hate him.”
Aline shrugged. “He’s not so bad, for a rat.”
“I hated my father too.”
“It gives us something in common, don’t you think?” Her hand strayed to his leg and squeezed. “Your thighs are strong.”
David stared at her. “This conversation is becoming inappropriate.”
“It was inappropriate for Lenin to kill my relatives. It was inappropriate for England to force you to abdicate. Life is inappropriate.” She squeezed his thigh again. “How long will your wife be away?”
“I don’t know.”
Aline smiled. “I have a lovely secluded apartment not far from here. And the neighbors are very discreet.”
“You’re making me think of the days when I was a young prince with no responsibilities.” He leaned in but stopped short of kissing her. “I enjoyed those days.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Thirteen

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape.Stanton goes to Seward’s house when he hears of the stabbing. Someone tries to shoot Andrew Johnson. Gabby runs away from the basement in the rain. Lincoln friend Ward Lamon tries to find him.
Finally, his train pulled into Baltimore station, and Lamon dashed to a carriage, shouting at the driver-for-hire, “To Fort McHenry! Fast!” He shoved a fistful of bills into the driver’s hand and took his seat inside. The horses lunged forward down the street to Point Whetstone, the peninsula sticking out into harbor. Lamon braced himself as the wheels bounced along the rough, deep trenches, splashing mud everywhere.
How ironic that Stanton would have chosen Fort McHenry for the place to enslave Lincoln, Lamon thought. American soldiers had repulsed the British in 1814 from this historic fort. The military converted it into a prison at the start of the Civil War. Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, paving the way for the arrest of the mayor, the police marshal, a former Maryland governor, a congressman and even the grandson of Francis Scott Key for being Confederate sympathizers. They never had trials. The government just locked them away. Like Stanton locked away the president. But tonight was the last night, Lamon vowed.
He hoped Stanton instructed the prison officials to give Lincoln better treatment than most prisoners received. Reports said the prison denied inmates bedding, chairs, stools, washbasins and eating utensils. The food was usually rancid. Even Stanton would have made sure Lincoln spent the last two and a half years in quarters suitable for the president of the United States.
Lamon’s carriage pulled up to the Fort McHenry compound gate. A soldier in a raincoat stepped through the puddles to stick his head under the canopy.
“Who goes there?” he asked.
“Ward Lamon, personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln and the Federal Marshal of the District of Columbia!”
“What is your business, sir?”
“Just let me in, dammit!”
The sentry blinked a couple of times and stepped back, allowing the carriage to pass onto a wide gravel road. Lamon tapped the driver’s shoulder and pointed to the right at a two-story building which had a wide covered verandah on three sides.
“Over there!”
The driver pulled the carriage as close to the verandah as possible before Lamon leapt out and stormed across the porch. Several guards were huddled against the wall trying to stay out of the rain. He barged through the door into a small reception area. A second lieutenant sat at desk writing in a large ledger.
“I want to see the president of the United States of America!”
The officer looked up, nonplussed, and returned his attention to his work. “I believe he resides in Washington City, sir.”
“You know that’s a lie!”
The second lieutenant turned toward the door behind him. “Captain, I think this is a matter for you to handle.”
As a portly, graying man entered the room putting on his captain’s jacket, he asked, “Lt. Mayfield, what is going on here?”
Lamon stopped himself and realized he must have sounded like a madman. A Federal Marshal must behave as a gentleman at all times, he lectured himself. Looking down at the desk, he forced himself to smile at the younger officer.
“I’m sorry, Lt. Mayfield. I should not have spoken to you like that. I hope you can accept my apologies.”
“I am a junior officer,” Mayfield said without emotion. “No apologies are necessary.”
“What is this—I believe you said your name was Ward Lamon?” the captain asked as he finished buttoning his jacket.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Lamon backtracked into civility. “And I have the honor of addressing…?”
“Captain Thomas Dunne, assistant commandant of Fort McHenry,” the officer replied. “And I know who you are, sir. You are the great friend of our president. Your loyalty to Mr. Lincoln has been reported by the newspapers.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Commandant General Walker is not here at this time. Perhaps I may be able to assist you. Did I understand you correctly? You think Mr. Lincoln is here at Fort McHenry?”
“If you know who I am then you must understand,” Lamon explained, trying to speak in a softer tone. “You do not have to lie—“he stopped, correcting himself again. “You do not have to continue the subterfuge. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton personally told me President Lincoln had been put under secret military protection after threats had been made on his life. I only found out today that he was here at Fort McHenry.”
“And when did Secretary Stanton tell you this?” Dunne asked in a calm voice.
“It was September of 1862.”
Mayfield put his quill pen on the table and stood.
“And he has been here ever since?” the captain continued.
“You know very well—“again Lamon stopped himself in mid-sentence. “Yes, sir. That is correct, sir. Perhaps the Commandant did not share this information with you. Perhaps he felt the fewer people who knew of Mr. Lincoln’s presence here the better.”
“I have the complete confidence of General Walker, sir,” the colonel replied. “Nothing goes on here at Fort McHenry without my knowledge, sir.”
“The war is over, sir. There is no need to protect the president. That is my job. I am here to return the president to Washington City.” Lamon felt his hands trembling. “Please, sir, tell me which building Mr. Lincoln is in.”
“Captain Dunne,” Mayfield interjected, “should I—“
Dunne put his hand up in front of the second lieutenant. Lamon took this as a sign to silence the junior officer, and tantamount to acknowledging they knew Lincoln was on the premises.
Lamon lunged toward the younger officer. “You know!” Lamon grabbed his collar. “Tell me, dammit! Tell me where the president is!”
“Guards! Guards!” Mayfield yelled.
“Mr. Lamon! Control yourself!” Dunne ordered in a firm voice as the guards ran through the door. Lamon turned and threw a couple of wild punches at them before escaping outside into the rain. Looking around, he spotted a row of barracks across the wide gravel path. Splattering through puddles, he ran into the first barracks and past the guards.
“Mr. President! Mr. President! Where are you?” Something was terribly wrong, he told himself. Wiping raindrops from his face, Lamon ran down a long hall, looking through the bars at the inmates whose dull eyes stared vacantly back at him.
“Sir, you must come with us,” one of the two guard said who came up behind him.
Swinging around Lamon shoved the first guard into the second as he ran back down the hall. “No! I must find the president!”
Just as Lamon opened the door to the courtyard, the guards from the other building barged through and knocked him to the floor. He looked up to see their rifles pointed at him. Dunne and Mayfield knelt beside him.
“Your penchant for hard liquor is as well-known as your loyalty to the president,” Dunne whispered into his ear. “I shall dismiss your behavior as the result of too much whiskey. Leave calmly, and we shall consider this incident at an end.”
Exhausted but out of options Lamon cried, “I cannot have failed the president so completely!”
“You have not failed the president,” Dunne corrected him. “You may have failed yourself, but you have not failed the president. Do you understand?”
Lamon stared at the captain and then swallowed hard. “Yes, I must control my drinking.”
The officers stood.
“Guards, will you be so kind as to escort Mr. Lamon to his carriage?” Dunne asked.
They wrenched Lamon up and shoved him through the door.
Dunne added, “And please make sure he makes it safely out the front gate.”
Lamon did not resist as the guards pushed him into the carriage. As the driver turned the team around, the Lamon looked at the five-pointed star building in the distance, the site of the 1815 battle that saved the nation. How could he have been so wrong? How could he have been so gullible to believe all the lies?
“Where do you wish to go, sir?” the driver asked, bending over to the inside of the carriage. “The train depot?”
“No,” Lamon replied. “To the nearest tavern.”
At the dimly lit bar a block from the train station, Lamon sipped on a glass of whiskey and considered what had happened. Obviously, the Lincoln imposter had lied to him. Lincoln was not in Baltimore. The only reason to send Lamon to Baltimore was to get the woman impersonating Mary Todd Lincoln back to her home. Of course, Stanton would have never shared the location of the president with a mere imposter. Lamon berated himself for not thinking clearly.
But if Lincoln were not at Fort McHenry, then where was he? Taking another sip of whiskey, he considered the possibilities. Perhaps the president did not leave Washington City at all. Perhaps he did not even leave the Executive Mansion. What if Lincoln and his wife had been somewhere in the building the entire time? Lamon felt his arm being jostled.
“Oh, excuse me, sir,” a man said, breathing hard.
The Lamon noticed the crowd milling. “What’s going on?”
“The word just came in from the telegraph office. The president has been shot.”
“The president?” Lamon stood and threw some coins at the barkeeper. Pushing his way through the tavern door, he ran down the street to the telegraph office where men and women gathered in the rain.
“Let me through! I’m the president’s friend!” he shouted as he shoved to the front of the mob. He stopped short as he saw a clerk hold up a hand-lettered sign scrawled with a charcoal stick on a piece of paper, which was quickly disintegrating in the rain.
“President shot at Ford’s Theater.”
Another clerk came out the door with another sign and held it up.
“President near death.”
“No! No!” rumbled from the depths of the soaked crowd.
“No! Hurrah! Hurrah! The tyrant is dead!” other voices screeched.
“The South is avenged!”
From the back came a loud cry, “Damned rebels! Hang ‘em all!”
“Damn all you rebels!”
Men began attacking each other, falling down and rolling in the mud. Women hit at them with their umbrellas.
A clerk thrust a third sign into the air.
“Attempt made on life of Vice-President.”
A knot formed in Lamon’s stomach. All this was his fault. He should have never submitted meekly to the orders of Stanton. He should have known Stanton was lying to him from the very beginning. If he had only stayed vigilant, Stanton and Baker would have never gotten their hands on Lincoln in the first place.
Another clerk lifted a sign.
“Secretary of State almost stabbed to death.”
Lamon could take no more. He turned and made his way back through the crowd and down the street to the train station. Inside the depot, he stamped his feet and shook his shoulders, trying to toss the raindrops from his body. Lamon walked to the window where he bought a ticket on the next train back to the Capital. He felt exhausted, hopeless. He wanted a drink. He wanted to sleep. He wanted things to be different. But all he could do was wait for the train to come, and after an eternity it did come, finally. He found his seat in the passenger car, and he stared out the window, not even having the energy to tap on it as he had done on the trip to Baltimore.
He was defeated. Lamon sacrificed everything in his life he held dear, his wife and daughter, for the President and now the President—his long-time friend– was near death. He had failed all of them. Failed.
Wrinkling his brow and narrowing his eyes, he paused. But was Abraham Lincoln? He gasped at the audacity of the thought. The signs at the telegraph office said the President was shot. Perhaps it had been the imposter who was shot. After all, the imposter said he had to stay so the people could see their president.
If the Lincoln look-alike had gone to Ford’s Theater to be seen by the people then the assassin could have shot him instead. However, if that were so, then where was Abraham Lincoln? What had Edwin Stanton done with him?
Reinvigorated, Lamon pounded his fist against the glass pane. He still had a chance to redeem himself. If he could not save the president, he could at least bring Edwin Stanton to justice.

Wheezes in the Dark

I hate August in Florida. And it’s not because of what you think. Sure it’s hot, but I never minded that. I grew up in Texas where it was still 99 degrees at midnight in August.
No, what I hate about August in Florida are all of the disgusting plants in the swamp decide to pollinate and release their nasty little pollen spores whose only purpose in life is to find their way up my nose.
Once ensconced in my nasal cavities, they begin to work their magic. I should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of sneezes in a row—and no little choo-choos but ACHOO, ACHOOs.
Invariably I would also get an infection wanting to join the party so then I have to include a doctor in the game who supplies the drugs—antibiotics, I mean. I thought I was smart enough to end the party when it wanted to travel down to the lungs because that can lead to pneumonia which can end in death even now in the 21st century.
Which brings me to where the real story begins. A few weeks ago I was hosting another mucous gala when I realized that the infection arrived. For whatever reason I decided not to go to my doctor for an antibiotic. Maybe I thought this time the routine would be different. At age seventy-one I should have known better.
I noticed in the quiet of the night I could hear the wheezing from the lowest recesses of my lungs, and those wheezes began to sound like voices. This was not new to me. I have a REM sleep disorder which means I stay in the dream state all the time. I think I see things and hear things in that nether world between dreams and reality.
At first I thought they were clever and cute. I had never heard these voices before. They were like new friends at the mucous party. They stayed for several more evenings and I kept feeling worse. I dragged through the days and lost more of the little sleep I did get.
Then one night the voice changed. It shouldn’t be called a voice at all. It was just wheezing from the bottom of my lungs which no one else could hear. But this voice was very clear and recognizable. It was my five-year-old granddaughter.
“Papa, please call home.”
At first I thought of the line from the movie ET but she sounded scared instead of motivated.
“Papa, please call home, please.”
It was so real I actually woke up, so concerned now I almost considered call my daughter in the middle of the night to make sure everyone was all right. Then I thought the phone call itself would upset her more than any upset she might be in. And if everything was all right there, then she would assume there was something wrong with me. And there was nothing wrong with me.
Cough. Cough.
The next day I called my doctor who checked me out and prescribed an antibiotic and prednisone. The mucous party is over, and I really do feel better.
All I’ve got to say now is if my granddaughter wants to talk to me through my wheezes in the dark, she has my loving permission.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Eighty-Seven

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails a mission because of David, the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer is also a spy. David becomes king. David abdicates, they marry and he becomes Bahamas governor. Leon dies and his son Leon becomes a mercenary. MI6 briefs the Windsors on the situation in the Bahamas.
Sidney bought a newspaper before he started walking across the northern hills to meet up with Jimbo. Word had made it over to Eleuthera that some trouble was expected tonight. It was a long time coming and not a secret. Details of the air field construction projects began to leak. Whites imported from the United States were to receive four times the pay for the same work black Bahamians would do. All of the crew leader jobs were going to be offered to white Bahamians.
A story on the front page of the paper stated the Duke of Windsor had cut his diplomatic tour of the Eastern United States short and had returned to the Bahamas to address certain government issues. Sidney grunted.
I guess they didn’t want to admit a race riot was about to break out.
As he entered the village, Sidney wadded the newspaper and threw it in the brush alongside of the road. Two fears held his attention: first, he didn’t want the Duke to be involved in any way. Sidney’s contact with the organization made it clear there would be hell to pay if any harm came to the island governor. Second, he didn’t like the way Jimbo was getting involved in the situation. He was a big boy, for sure, but he was still just a boy, much less grown up than Sidney.
He didn’t want to see his new friend hurt. Even though Sidney was only sixteen himself, he felt like a father figure to Jimbo. He was family. And Sidney knew families’ bellies must be filled.
By the time he arrived at the campground, Leonard Green was already preaching to the crowd.
“We are tired of feeling like second-class citizens.” Green’s voice was loud and intense. “We are the majority in the Bahamas, but we are treated like the minority! It’s not fair, and it ends tonight!”
“I’se a man!” a voice in the crowd called out.
“That’s right!” Green agreed. “I’se a man!”
The chant rolled through the crowd as they held their torches high. Sidney searched the mob for some time before he found Jimbo. He didn’t like the glint in his friend’s eyes highlighted by in the torch flames.
“Now pick up a stick, a rock, anything,” Green ordered. “We’re going to the Public Square right now!”
Sidney stayed right by Jimbo’s side as they marched back over the hills to the town square where the Governor’s House sat alongside the Parliament building and the Colonial Secretary’s Office. When they arrived, Green conferred with a group of older black men in suits who stood at the top of the steps which led to a plaza connecting the three buildings. He turned to address the crowd.
“I have been informed by this group of gentlemen that a representative of our new Bahamas Federation of Labor is meeting at this very moment with the Duke of Windsor about our concerns.”
A white man stepped in front. “I am Attorney General Eric Halliman, and I assure you the Duke is very interested in your concerns and will act on them within the fullest measure the law will allow.”
A low moan of disbelief went through the crowd.
“Now I ask you, most kindly, to go home and not to spoil the good impression you have made.”
Most of the men did as they were told and in due time turned back towards home.
A woman’s voice rang out, “Cheap talk! That’s all it is!”
“Let’s go shoppin’ down on that Bay Street they’re always talkin’ about!” a man shouted.
“We never even seen it before!”
“Yeah! They won’t even let us walk down the street!”
“Let’s see what they got down there!”
“Yeah!” Jimbo chimed in.
Oh crap. How am I going to keep him from getting killed?”
Before Sidney knew it he and Jimbo were being shoved downtown. Stones shattered windows. Rioters flung torches in the shops. The night sky glowed in orange and yellow. Women spurred the men on.
“Get me some of that expensive perfume!”
“I want a fancy radio!”
Small children danced through the ransacked stores, laughing as though they didn’t understand the dire circumstances of the insurrection.
“We declare war on the conchy joe!” another voice erupted from the crowd.
“No white man is passin’ here tonight!”
Sidney grabbed Jimbo’s arm. “Come on, buddy. Let’s get out of here!”
“No!” Jimbo replied in a shrill snarl. “They right! They right!”
Sidney looked around when he heard the thudding of soldiers’ boots on the cobblestones. The governor had called out the troops.
Jerking on his friends arm, Sidney hissed, “It doesn’t make any difference if they’re right if the soldiers shoot us dead on the street!”
Now Sidney heard the bells on the firetrucks arriving to stop the shop burning. His worst fears came true when his eyes focused down the street where a slender white man silhouetted against the flames stood directing the action. Sidney decided the Duke left the negotiations when he was informed of the rioting.
Damn. Who knew he was going to be a hero tonight?”
The situation exacerbated when he saw Jimbo pick up a shard of glass in front of the stores.
“Damn white governor,” Jimbo growled. “It’s all his fault.” He started stalking toward the Duke.
Jimbo’s not thinking straight. He should know the Duke was really on their side. It’s too late to explain it to him now. He’s hot under the collar. How can I stop this without killing anybody?
He ran to catch up to Jimbo and kicked him several times in the back of the knees, which caused the boy to collapse on the street moaning.
Sidney looked behind him and saw a gray-haired black man who looked as scared as Sidney felt. He pointed to his friend on the ground.
“He done got sick. Take him back to the camp, please.”
The older man nodded, leaned down to help up Jimbo, and they disappeared in the crowd. As soon as he was sure they were gone, Sidney looked back at the Duke and saw several black men creeping up behind him.
Sidney ran to the Duke, grabbed him around the waist and dragged him to one of the firetrucks. He shoved him into the arms of a firefighter.
“He’ll be safer over here.” Sidney told the firefighter as he began to walk away.
“Who are you?” a fireman asked.
“One of the good guys—whatever the hell that means.”
The Duke turned around, shook his head and looked at Sidney. “Come by the Governor’s Palace when everything calms down. I want to thank you, properly.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Twelve

Previously: Just before shooting Lincoln, Booth thinks of the events leading to this moment.Stanton goes to Seward’s house when he hears of the stabbing. Someone tries to shoot Andrew Johnson. Gabby runs away from the basement in the rain.
Ward Lamon tapped the window of the train car as the engine chugged its way from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. Rain streamed down the pane blurring the passing dark landscape. Lamon did not notice. He was anxious to see his friend Abraham Lincoln after an absence of two and a half years.
They had been friends in Springfield, Il. Part of that time Lamon was Lincoln’s law partner. When Lincoln became president, he asked Lamon to be his bodyguard on the trip to the capital. Later Lamon served officially as Federal District Marshal and unofficially as the president’s protector. Many nights he slept on the floor outside Lincoln’s bedroom door to ward off assassins. Then one day in September of 1862, Lamon rode to a meeting on Capitol Hill in the carriage of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Stanton told him the president had gone into hiding because of threats on his life. Doubles replaced both Lincoln and his wife. To insure the protection of the president, Stanton told him, Lamon had to pretend Lincoln was still living in the Executive Mansion.
Lamon never trusted Stanton, nor his personal bodyguard Lafayette Baker. Both of them were short men who bullied people to make themselves feel bigger. Since he himself was well over six feet in stature and burly in appearance, he had no need to bully people for respect.
Stanton told him that night to mind his own business and leave well enough alone. Baker smirked, which irritated Lamon to no end. He hated the man. Rumors circulated throughout Washington City about Baker’s nefarious history in California. The little man worked for companies that paid him to beat men to death who did not fall in line and accept low wages and stinking living conditions. Lamon believed every story.
He had pressed the Lincoln impersonator to tell him the truth during those two and a half years, but the impersonator had revealed little. Sitting in the railroad car staring out at the dark, Lamon remembered another train trip. He and the imposter were coming back from Gettysburg after the cemetery dedication. They looked out of the window as the train pulled into Washington City station.
Placing his hand over the double’s fist he whispered, “Say nothing but continue to wave. I’ll ask you questions, and you’ll respond by making a fist under my palm for yes. If the answer is no, flatten it. Is this plan really the plan of Mr. Stanton?”
The hand shook but did not change configuration.
“Is Mr. Stanton acting on the orders of Mr. Lincoln?”
He again made a quick fist, but his hand trembled.
“So Mr. Lincoln is not being held against his will?”
The hand went flat.
“Are you afraid?”
The hand stayed flat, but Lamon could sense beads of sweat popping up on the knuckles. Lamon wanted to jerk the man up by his shoulders and shake him. Be a man and tell the truth, he wanted to scream at him. You are not worthy even to pretend you are Abraham Lincoln, he wanted to yell. But, Lamon reminded himself, they were surrounded by people who did not need to know this man was not their commander-in-chief. Instead he patted the man’s hand. “Wave to the people, Mr. President.”
Cowardice was another personality trait the federal marshal did not understand. Lamon had never been afraid of anything, at least until this day as he rode the train to Baltimore. Now he feared he would not find President Lincoln in time to save his life. Shifting uncomfortably in the wooden bench seat on the train, he thought back to going to the Executive Mansion earlier that day. It was Good Friday morning, and he had implored the double to tell him where the real Lincoln was being held.
“Mr. Lincoln is going to die despite what I can do. I’m already dead.” After a pause the imposter added, “But we all don’t have to die.”
“That’s right,” Lamon told him. “Nobody has to die. Where is Mr. Lincoln?”
“Baltimore. Fort McHenry.”
“I’ll leave right now.”
The man grabbed Lamon’s arm. “Take the woman with you. I want her out of here tonight. I don’t trust Mr. Stanton.” Lamon offered to take him, but the man replied, “No, I have meetings to attend. People still have need to see their president.”
Lamon frowned as he recalled walking into Mrs. Lincoln’s bedroom where the woman sat by the window. “I’m leaving for Baltimore tonight. There’s no reason for you to stay.”
“I don’t want Tad to be alone. He’s been through so much, and he’s come to depend on me. I can’t let him down.”
As Lincoln’s friend continued to stare out of the rain-stained window, he decided he had been wrong about the imposters. At first, he thought they were despicable for participating in such a deception, but now he realized they were in the final analysis ordinary people forced into a terrible situation. And when the end was near, only thought of the good of others. Lamon hoped he would return from Baltimore with the president in time to save the couple. He realized their lives were in danger also. If Stanton were capable of kidnapping, he was capable of murder. Shaking his head to clear his mind, Lamon decided he would feel better once he had rescued Lincoln from Fort McHenry. The world would be set aright once he could look into the president’s eyes.
But what about looking into the eyes of his own wife back in Springfield? Lamon felt the back of his neck burn with guilt as he acknowledged he had set aside the needs of his own family when Lincoln became president. His first wife Angeline died in 1859. Two daughters, Kate and Julia, died in 1853 and 1854 respectively. Lamon asked his sister to raise his surviving daughter Dorothy. Right at the same time as the election in 1860, he married Sally Logan and immediately left his daughter and new wife to serve Lincoln in Washington City.
Sally and Dorothy saw him only occasionally in the first two years. After all, the nation and the president needed him. When Fort Sumter was under siege, the president sent him to Charleston as his special representative. Republicans criticized him for his failure to save the fort from falling. His wife and daughter never mentioned the war in their letters. They only said they wanted to see him again.
After September of 1862 when Lincoln allegedly went into hiding and an imposter took his place in the Executive Mansion, however, Lamon rarely made the train trip home to see his wife and daughter. He had to be in the White House constantly, looking for clues about the location of the real Lincoln and pushing the imposter for information. He even cancelled plans for his wedding anniversary with his wife to go with the imposter to Gettysburg. Her letters did not speak of her disappointment, but he could tell by her stiff penmanship she was in emotional pain.
Once the president was safe, Lamon told himself, once the crisis was officially over, he would return to his law practice in Springfield and be the proper husband to his wife and father to his dutiful daughters.

Portrait of a Ballerina, Part Two

Previously, twin sisters become estranged when one of them does not correct a ballet director’s decision.
Upon La Vieja’s death, she willed the dance school to Nina. Jose became a master electrician and settled down into a satisfying prosperous life. They had two sons. Jorge played soccer and Miguel became a dancer. In the meantime, Nina continued to read stories in the newspapers about Maria’s successful career and her disastrous private life. Maria had several affairs with prominent men, but none of them married her. Maria’s lowest point was a miscarriage of a baby whose father was a local politician who refused to divorce his wife. Nina never shed a tear for her.
The years passed, and Nina took an assistant to demonstrate new steps to her students. Again she read in the papers about her sister when she broke her leg attempting a difficult leap. The ballet company urged her to teach, but she refused and instead retired to concentrate on her oil painting.
When he grew up, Miguel auditioned for the French National Ballet and was accepted. Jorge joined his father’s expanding electrical company.
Over time Nina’s students learned, grew and often returned to thank her for the training and for being like a second mother. Some of them actually became professional dancers, accepted by companies across Europe.
When Nina read Maria had a painting accepted by the national gallery, she only grunted and raised an eyebrow. She told her sons she was too happy being abuela to her own grandchildren to be concerned with her sister. Nina didn’t show any grief when she read Maria died, collapsed on the museum floor in front of her painting.
A few days later she received a phone call from the executive director of the Prado who informed her Maria put in her will that her sister and family be invited to a memorial service at her painting in the gallery. It was Maria’s wish, the director said, for the rope to be removed and for Nina to be the first to observe the painting up close.
Nina was adamant until her husband Jose and her grown sons hugged her and reminded her there was no reward in heaven for holding a grudge. They didn’t knew what the bitterness was, they told her, and that they didn’t want to know what it was. But, they added, her heart would heal if she relented and looked at the painting as her sister wanted. Against her will of steel, Nina conceded to call the museum and agreed to attend the ceremony.
On the day of the event Nina and her family arrived exactly on time. She didn’t want to be early and subject herself to questions that were none of the reporters’ business. With great pomp the museum officials removed the red rope, and the Prado director led Nina to the picture. She looked at it but only saw globs of black and white.
“Mama,” Jorge whispered, “Look at the face of the ballerina. It looks exactly like you.”
“Of course it does,” Nina snapped. “We were twins.”
“No, I’ve lived with that face for forty-five years,” Jose interceded. “That’s you, Nina.”
“Look again, Mama,” Miguel urged. “Look closer.”
As Nina focused on the face she had to admit it was her chin, her nose, her eyes, her mouth. There were the slight differences only a twin could detect. So, yes, it was she as a young ballerina, almost ten feet tall.
Miguel stepped closer to the shadows behind the ballerina. “Mama, look at this.”
Nina stood next to him and saw in varying shades of black, gray and dark blue, other dancers cowering, pulling away. The faces on them were that of Maria. The closest figure to the dancer in the spotlight was definitely Maria on the day of the audition. Her face bared shock, disappointment and shame.
As the spotlight’s glow faded more figures appeared, each of the same dancer, aging in despair the further she went from the star until she was a hunched-over vieja. Many of them cried. Others moaned. Still more pulled at their hair in loneliness and self-loathing. The last figure, in the farthest corner, was a barely detectable body, collapsed on the floor, like a pile of dirty rags.
Nina remembered reading in the morning newspaper that Maria was found with a small can of black paint and a tiny brush in her hand, as though she died applying the final stroke.
“Nina, my chica, will you finally tell us what all this is all about?” Jose asked in tenderness.
“No.” She clinched her jaw. “I have never spoken of it and neither did Maria. In all the interviews, if someone asked her about her audition for the ballet she would leave the room. It said so in the newspapers and magazines. So no, it is a secret we shall both take to our graves. And perhaps in death we may finally forgive each other.”
“But Mama,” Jorge begged. “We are your family. We have always loved you, respected your wishes, and will be by your side when you leave this life.”
“Yes, Mama,” Miguel took up the case. “Don’t you think we deserve to know? After all, we love you more than we can say.”
Nina smiled as her wrinkled face found grace and peace. She waved her shriveled hand across the vast expanse of the canvas.
“You want to know the truth. It’s all right there in front of you. All you have to do is discover what it means.”

Portrait of a Ballerina

Nina Carmen de Seguin read in the morning newspaper on the front page that Spain’s greatest prima ballerina Maria Consuelo Rodriguez—her sister—died.
She did not cry.
Nina further read that Maria’s body had been found on the floor of the Prado Museum in front of her classic self-portrait, which Maria previously proclaimed would never be finished. She began the painting early in her career and art critics judged it to be a masterpiece comparable to eighteenth century giants in light and composition. It was of a ballerina in a spotlight, on pointe with her arms outstretched. Behind her were indiscernible dark shapes. Maria eventually conceded to have the painting displayed on the stipulation that no one be allowed to stand closer than thirty feet away from the twelve-by-eight foot oil painting behind a red velvet cord. She also demanded that she be allowed to continue work on it at night and at her discretion. Now that Maria had passed, Prado officials announced the rope would be removed so museum visitors at last could behold the masterpiece up close.
Wadding the newspaper, Nina threw it across the room.
“It’s so like her to remain the center of attention even after death,” she muttered.
Nina hated her sister and had not spoken to her in fifty years since the day they both auditioned for the Spanish National Ballet company. The sisters were twin sixteen-year-olds. They swore to each other that the ultimate dream would be for both of them to chosen. But if only one were selected, the other would be fully supportive. They walked on the stage, holding hands and wearing matching costumes for good luck.
The company director looked grim. “I must tell you now we can only take one of you, even though we have been informed that you are both equally talented. The least mistake may be the deciding factor. I sincerely apologize.”
The girls squeezed hands and smiled at each other with love. Then the music began. Nina and Maria squared their shoulders and extended their arms as though they were wings. Each performed leaps, pirouettes and lunges. At one point they held hands and twirled on pointe, their backs arched and their heads looking up into the heavens. Nina’s heart broke a bit as she noticed Maria lose her balance and waver. They broke the position and went into their final bows.
Holding hands they watched the company director and his staff confer. Finally the director spoke.
“A wonderful performance by both of you. Of course, the stumble at the end ultimately cemented our decision, but we must be blunt. The winning performance was far superior from the very beginning. The one who stumbled never showed the spirit of the winner.”
Nina’s breathing became labored as she realized her dearest dreams were about to come true. The director came to her and gave her a full embrace.
“Do not be discouraged,” he whispered. “You have great technical skills. Please consider opening your own ballet school when you are older and hope someday a dancer you trained will join your sister at the national ballet.”
Nina went numb and lost her ability to speak as the director turned to Maria and shook her hand.
“Congratulations. Your audition shows you will be the greatest ballerina of your generation.”
Nina waited for her sister to correct the director, to tell him she was the one who stumbled. All Maria could do was smile and mumble thank you. Once Nina realized Maria was not going to reveal to the director he had been confused because they were twins, she made a quick exit. When she arrived home Nina informed her mother she was going to live with her aunt in Barcelona. Her mother was caught off guard.
“Call Tia Rosa now, and I’ll be on the next bus to her house.”
Tia Rosa often confided Nina was her favorite niece so she knew her aunt would welcome her. She packed with efficiency and was out the door.
When she arrived in Barcelona, Nina ran and fell into Tia Rosa’s arms. Her aunt never asked the reason for the move. Nina enrolled in the local parochial school so she could finish her education. Then she found a dance studio owned by an elderly woman who in her youth had been in the corps de ballet with the national company.
One day Nina worked up the courage to talk about her past with La Vieja, but the teacher raised her hand.
“All you have to say is that you auditioned for the Ballet Espana. Say nothing more. Be assured you will always be loved here.”
Nina’s family never communicated with her. All Tia Rosa would reveal from the letters she received from her sister, Nina’s mother, was that the family thought she had failed to support her sister Maria. As the years passed Nina was content to have Rosa as her only family. She read the newspapers about the rise of a new ballerina named Maria but never dwelt on the news’ secret meaning to her.
She became too enamored of La Vieja’s handsome grandson Jose de Seguin who was an apprentice electrician. His dark eyes sparkled every time he saw her and refused to kiss her good night until she had danced for him. When they married, she even danced down the aisle to everyone’s delight. Of course, no one from the Madrid family attended, but Nina didn’t mind. Now she had La Vieja as her abuela.
(To be continued)

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Eighty-Six

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails a mission because of David, the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer is also a spy. David becomes king. David abdicates, they marry and he becomes Bahamas governor. Leon dies and his son Leon becomes a mercenary. Woolworth heiress invites them to dinner.
The Windsors returned to the Bahamas just in time for the sultry season of summer; and, oh, how Wallis loathed it. Social life centered on dinners with the Bay Street Boys and their poorly dressed wives who fawned over her to excess. The wife of Harry Oates, the only one with anything of interest to say, had the good sense to go north during the dog days. An idea kept buzzing in Wallis like an irritating house fly while local gossip flourished in the after dinner social hour.
Wouldn’t I be put to better use somewhere else around the world killing a Nazi or someone else equally unpleasant?
Wallis did find a satisfying usefulness in her afternoons with the Red Cross ladies. On any given day she could be found at the hospitals caring for sick babies, counseling unwed mothers, darning socks, distributing clothing and bedding among the unwashed on the north side of the island among the unwashed. She would take notes of where medics needed to visit homes and tents where dreadful diseases abounded. Her fellow volunteers were women of compassion, reason and ideas. They were also ladies of age who after an afternoon with the Red Cross went home to a quiet supper and forthwith went to bed. They needed their rest to have the strength to attack their duties the next day.
Of particular interest to the Duchess were the children of the street. They appreciated little things like new sandals, shirts and an extra bit of food. In their eyes she saw the French valet’s son Jean who was pushed aside because the adults deemed him of no consequence. Yet it was he who saved her life the Christmas at La Croe. Who knew if one of these children might do the same thing if given the opportunity?
By September Wallis couldn’t stand the tedium and convinced David they might be of more use building goodwill among the Allies with another trip to the United States. Besides, she hadn’t had a decent new dress in years—at least it seemed like years. Even MI6 agreed another trip to the states was a good idea.
As usual, crowds lined the streets of Washington, D.C., as the Windsors drove down the boulevards in their limousine. British Ambassador Lord Halifax was out of town, which Wallis and David expected. The Royal Family demanded the couple receive as little attention as possible in their activities. Wallis had to remind herself that the King, Queen and his Royal Mum knew nothing of their MI6 connection. They assumed David’s abdication was as it was presented to the world—an affaire d’amour taken to excess. It was not as though Buckingham Palace was rude to them: it just acted like they didn’t exist.
Palace connections did maneuver behind the scenes. A White House dinner for the Duke and Duchess was cancelled for no apparent reason. Still, David did have an extensive private talk with President Roosevelt. The Duke spoke to the National Press Club. And the British embassy hosted a small dinner for them. Wallis was surprised they weren’t served watercress sandwiches and day-old tea cakes.
The palace did allow them to visit David’s ranch near Alberta, Canada. He bought the four thousand acres in 1919. On the surface David ran it as a business with a paid management staff. MI6 also used it for agent training. David had not been there since a couple of visits during the thirties. Wallis had never visited the ranch. The Windsors assumed the King didn’t want them to receive a large reception in metropolitan areas like Ottawa or Montréal. The tweedy types in the King’s cabinet didn’t know MI6 had arranged the time on the ranch.
When Wallis and David walked into the ramshackle log ranch house, they saw the smiling face of Gerry Greene, who had replaced the retired General Trotter as their main MI6 contact.
“Are we having fun yet?” Greene asked, seated in a large tufted chair.
“Now that you’re here I certainly hope so,” Wallis cracked as she lounged across an old leather sofa. “I hope you have an assignment for us. Something terribly sinful.”
“It might be.” Green looked at David. “There’s another one of these comfy chairs for you. “ He paused. “Oh. I’m supposed to stand or something when you come into a room. I hope I wasn’t rude.”
David plopped in the chair. “Not any more than my own family. Don’t worry about it. I’m used to it by now.” He pulled out his cigarette case and offered cigarettes to Wallis and Greene. “I do have one concern. I do miss my brother George. The rest of them I could do without, but if you could arrange a brief encounter with George every once in a while I’d appreciate it. Of course, I know he can’t know anything about MI6 but I’d just like to talk over old times.”
“And his wife Marina,” Wallis added. “She’s such a dear.”
“Well.” Greene broke into a wicked grin. “You be a good little boy and girl and keep war from breaking out in the Bahamas and I’ll see what we can do about George.”
Wallis sat up. “Another war? Don’t we have enough to worry about with the rest of the world going to hell?”
“It’s all related, my dear,” Greene replied.
“The RAF fields, right?” David looked at him with his squinty eye.
“Those bases must be built,” Greene continued. “No one has given too much thought about the danger of a German takeover of the Caribbean. It is vital not only to British interests but to American.”
Wallis blew smoke through her nostrils. “I thought that was a done deal. The Bay Street Boys were taking care of it.”
“The Bay street Boys are taking care of themselves.” Greene slouched back. “The Empire has been trying to impress on them the national security necessity of the project but all they can think of are big profits for themselves.”
“Of course.” David’s voice was licked by his usual schwermut.
“We could take out Harry Oates and Harold Christie,” Wallis offered. “They’re the worst ones. In fact, I’d enjoy killing Harry myself.”
“Wipe the drool from the corner of your mouth, dear,” David suggested.
“But they’re not the only players,” Greene explained. “We’ve heard bad things about this fellow named Merigny.”
“I know he wants to marry Harry’s daughter,” Wallis confided. “And he gets under Harry’s skin.”
“It isn’t just the Bay Street Boys,” Greene continued. “Right now there’s a race problem. Oates and Christie refuse to pay the black workers the same as the whites.”
“Ah, the Bourbon Street Boys,” Wallis threw in.
“Burma Road Boys,” David corrected her.
“I knew that. Maybe bourbon is on my mind because I’m thirsty.” She looked around room. “Where do you keep the booze?”
“We have to walk a tight rope,” Greene continued. “We don’t need a full-blown race riot. The airfields have to be built, dammit.”
David nodded. “Shanghai. 1925.”
“Exactly,” Greene agreed.
“I remember Shanghai.” Wallis smirked at David. “I saved your life.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“Reminisce later,” Greene ordered.
An envoy entered and handed Greene a telegram.
“Hey, you,” Wallis called out to the envoy. “Do you know where they keep the bourbon?”
Greene opened the wire, read and threw it aside. “More good news. A tropical storm just trashed the north side of Nassau. Ravaging the people who aren’t getting enough money as it is.”
Wallis sat up and turned serious. “Are we caught up? David and I need to get this trip over and back to the islands. Can you see that a telegram is sent to the Red Cross assuring them help is on the way?” She rolled her eyes. “Oh God, and we have to finish this awful tour.”
Greene agreed to cut their talks short. The Windsors returned to the United States, stopping off at Aunt Bessie’s house in Baltimore.
“My darlings, how wonderful to see you!” the old woman exclaimed. “I’ve been reading about you in the papers.”
Wallis’s face lit up. Bessie seemed more cogent than the last time they saw her in La Croe.
“Now when are you inviting me back to your lovely place in France? I enjoyed that Christmas there. But of course, you did seat me in the wrong place.”
And the air escaped Wallis lungs.
The Windsors had one last stop before returning to the Bahamas—New York City. Wallis needed a brief shopping spree to recover from the visit with Aunt Bessie. Dear Aunt Bessie who was still in decline, never to return.
Wallis picked a particularly elegant gown for their last social evening of the season—dinner at the home of Jessie Donohue at 834 Fifth Avenue, the size of a grand hotel but just for one family.
Once again Jimmy and Wooly greeted them at the front door, like they had in Florida, and escorted them to the grand staircase just as Jessie, in a haute couture gown accented with brooches, rings, bracelets and a diamond necklace around her sagging neck, descended to receive them.
Wallis put on her best official social event smile.
This is exactly the type of American poseur I loathe. So why do I find her so fascinating?

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Eleven

Previously: Just before shooting Lincoln, Booth thinks of the events leading to this moment.Stanton goes to Seward’s house when he hears of the stabbing. Someone tries to shoot Andrew Johnson. Gabby runs away from the basement in the rain.
Gabby scurried down the muddy path to Fifteenth Street and then broke out in a full run through the rain. He tripped over his own feet and fell face first into a muddy puddle, his hat flying off. He stood and without pausing to wipe his face, Gabby started running again, his arms flailing against the raindrops as he reached for the hat. He could not help but moan in terror as he scrambled along. Nothing looked familiar to him. His feet slipped on a wet rock and he fell into another quagmire. He tried to lift himself up but fell again.
“You would think the police would do something about the drunks on the streets.”
Gabby looked up to see two men walk by, glaring at him from under their wide umbrellas. His hands reached toward them.
“Help me!” He stood and stumbled in the direction of the two men who quickened their pace.
“I will send a telegram tomorrow!” one of the men said in a growl. “This is totally unacceptable!”
“No, please. I need help.” Gabby heard the tone of his voice. He sounded crazy. The two men disappeared in the darkness. Realizing his hat was missing again, he went back for it. Bending over, Gabby gasped for air. He had to calm himself down. Cordie was not here anymore to take care of him. He had to take care of himself. Before he put the hat on his head, Gabby turned his face to the dark angry sky. As the rain washed his face clean, Gabby told himself to keep thinking about Cordie and surely something would come to him. Cordie never let him down. Yes, Cordie worked at the hospital. Armory Square Hospital, the private had told him. All he had to do was find Armory Square Hospital.
Walking down Fifteenth Street again, Gabby realized he had to act as if he were in control of himself. People would not talk to anyone on the street they thought was crazy. He straightened the stovepipe hat on his head and brushed the overcoat to make it look presentable. Gabby approached an older man walking by himself.
“Excuse me, sir,” he said in as possessed a voice as he could muster, “could you please point me in the direction of the hospital?”
“What hospital?” the man asked, raising an eyebrow.
Gabby’s mouth gaped as he forgot the name of the hospital. “Ahh….”
“There are plenty of hospitals around here.”
“The one with the soldiers,” Gabby replied in a weak voice.
“They all have soldiers” The man emitted an aggravated grunt and walked away.
Gabby scampered after him with his arm outstretched, “No, please, I need help.” He stopped and after a moment began to cry.
A man and woman walked past, but Gabby did not try to hide his tears. He heard the woman stop and turn.
“That poor man is crying.” She sounded like she cared.
“Can’t you tell he’s mad,” the man replied with a hiss. “He’s obviously stark raving mad. Stark raving madmen on the street in the rain can be very dangerous.”
“I knew you were a coward when you paid to avoid the draft,” Her tone was sharp. “This poor man needs help.”
“No,” the man insisted, pulling on the woman’s arm. “He’s dangerous, I tell you.”
“I won’t hurt anybody.” Gabby wiped tears from his eyes. “I just want to know where the hospital with the soldiers is.”
“All the hospitals have soldiers,” the man retorted.
“John, please.” The woman pulled away and walked to Gabby. “Now, calm down so I can help you.”
“Thank you, ma’am. My sister Cordie used to work at one of the hospitals. She’s dead now, but she said the woman there was real nice and would help us if we ever needed it.”
“Do you remember the woman’s name?” The lady smiled, and it was gentle.
“No…” Gabby’s voice trailed off.
“I am wet and I am hungry.” The man patted his foot in a puddle.
“Dick Livermore,” the woman mumbled, “that’s who I should have married. He is a real man. Fought in the war. Decorated for bravery. No, I had to choose you—“
“Dick, that’s the name,” Gabby interrupted. “I remember now. Dick somebody. No, not Dick, Dicks, or something like that.”
The woman focused on Gabby. “Dorothea Dix?”
“Yes, that’s it.” Gabby jumped a little with joy. “Miss Dix. That’s what Cordie called her. Do you know her?”
“Everybody knows about Dorothea Dix,” she replied with a smile.
“What hospital is she at?”
“Armory Square Hospital.”
“That’s right. That’s what the private said. Armory Square Hospital. Sometimes I get so upset I forget things.”
“For God’s sake can we go now?” the man growled.
“But I don’t know where Armory Square Hospital is.” Gabby was nervous again.
“This is Fifteenth Street,” the woman pronounced in a slow cadence. “See the sign? Fifteenth Street.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Keep going down Fifteenth Street. You’ll cross a big iron bridge across the slough at the Mall. Then turn left on Independence Avenue and go past the Smithsonian Museum. It’s the big red stone building. Keep going until you see the hospital. There are signs outside of it. Do you understand?”
“I think so.”
“Tell me back what I said to you,” she instructed in a soft voice.
“Oh for God’s sake,” the man hissed. “If you don’t come with me right now I’m going without you.”
“You better go, ma’am,” Gabby said. “I don’t want you to miss your dinner.”
“Are you sure?”
“He sounds mad. You better go.”
She patted his shoulder and hurried away with her husband. Gabby kept repeating the instructions in his head. He did not want to forget them. He had to find Miss Dix. She would know what to do. He ducked his head down and walked toward the Mall. Go across the iron bridge….
The street began to fill with people running the other way on Fifteenth Street. The low buzzing of the crowd became louder until it was a roar. Gabby stopped a man by the arm.
“Excuse me, sir, but what’s going on?”
“The President has been shot at Ford’s Theater.” He pulled away and continued running back up the street.
Gabby felt the soaked coat he was wearing. The private said it was the president’s coat. He was wearing the coat, but he knew he had not been shot. Maybe they were talking about the other man, the one who had been in the basement with Gabby for two and a half years. That was not fair, Gabby told himself. Life could not be that unfair. His heart pounded in his chest. Gabby gave in to his emotions and started running with the crowd to Ford’s Theater.
After only about a block Gabby stopped. He remembered he needed to find Dorothea Dix. She would know what to do to help him. That poor man who was shot did not need his help now. Turning again down the street Gabby focused on the signs to make sure he was going in the right direction. Out of the darkness loomed the large iron footbridge across the Mall slough. He knew he was on the right track. Next find Independence Avenue and turn left. No matter what those people in the Army told him, Gabby knew he was smart. He could follow orders. The Smithsonian Institution was on his right. Gabby kept going until he saw the sign: Armory Square Hospital.
After he walked inside, Gabby felt awkward. The walls were whitewashed and pristine. The wooden floors were swept and mopped. He, on the other hand, dripped rainwater and mud. The nurses bending over the beds were in crisp clean dresses. Even the wounded soldiers looked freshly bathed. He did not belong there, Gabby told himself. He would make the soldiers sick. Gabby stepped back, about ready to leave the hospital, when a nurse looked over to see him. Even though she smiled, Gabby wanted to leave.
“Sir? May I help you? Please don’t leave.” She was a tall woman with broad shoulders and big hands. “Are you here to see someone? Are you ill?”
She had a sympathetic face so Gabby stopped, his hand on the doorknob. Behind the first nurse came a second, this one almost as old as Cordie with pepper gray hair pulled back in a bun. He stepped toward them and tried to brush the raindrops from his coat.
“Oh, my dear man, you are soaked to the bone.” The first nurse took the stovepipe hat from his head and pulled the drenched coat from his back. She turned to put them in a closet.
The second nurse put her hand to his forehead and muttered, “No fever. You must get out of those clothes. We have a nightgown for you. There’s a changing room in the back.”
“I—I need to see Miss Dix, Dorothea Dix,” Gabby announced as loudly as he could without sounding ungrateful for all the attention he was receiving. “The private told me Dorothea Dix could help me.”
“Of course, of course,” the second nurse murmured as she ran her fingers over his head, straightening his hair. “All in due time. But first you must get out of these wet clothes and into a nice warm bed.”
“Cordie, she said Miss Dix was a good person….”
“And what is going on here?”
Gabby looked up when he heard the shrill, high-pitched voice. He flinched as his eyes beheld a short, thin woman dressed in black with her hair pulled back in such a severe bun that Gabby was sure it gave her a headache.
“This poor soul says he wants to see you, Miss Dix,” the first nurse explained.
Miss Dix, Gabby thought. This woman looked too scary to help anyone. He felt the urge to run out the door into the rain, even without his overcoat. The women firmly held his arms so he could not escape.
“What do you want? Who are you?” Miss Dix’s voice reeked of impatience.
“Cordie said you were a good person. She said you could help me. But you don’t have to. I think I’m in the way here, so I’ll just leave—“
“Cordie?” Miss Dix interrupted him. “Do you mean Cordie Zook?”
“Yes, ma’am. She was my sister, but she’s dead now.”
“Yes, I know. She was a dear soul. You must be Gabby. She talked about you all the time,” Miss Dix softened her tone.
“Cordie always took care of me. Now she’s dead, and I’m all alone. I don’t have anybody to take care of me anymore.”
A gentle smile crossed her thin little face. “Poor man. Don’t worry a bit. We will take care of you now.” She extended her arms and enveloped him. “You won’t be alone again. I promise.”
Dorothea Dix was bony, unlike Cordie who was soft and plump. Gabby decided she would suffice, and gave her a hug. “Thank you, ma’am.”
He burst into tears.