Monthly Archives: October 2019

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Eighteen

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold join across the river in Maryland.Booth remembers Dr. Mudd lives nearby.
Stanton stood and walked to the door and opened it. In the early morning hours of Saturday, April 15, noise subsided at Peterson’s boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theater. Soldiers sat on the stairs and leaned against the walls, waiting for the inevitable announcement that Abraham Lincoln was dead. Edwin Stanton was deep in thought when a commotion erupted outside the back parlor door.
“I demand to speak to the man in charge!” a voice called out urgently in a thick German accent.
“Secretary Stanton is very busy at this time,” Captain Eckert said in a muted tone.
“But this is mein house!”
Stanton barged through the bedroom door to glare at the man. “What’s going on here?”
“This is mein house!”
“So you are the proprietor of this boarding house. What’s the problem?” Stanton asked, staring without expression at the disheveled man.
“That boy did not have the right to let you come in here. This is mein house!”
“What boy is he talking about, Eckert?”
“Henry Stafford,” the captain replied. “He’s the one who waved us over from Ford’s Theater.”
“Now there is blood all over mein floors!”
“Exactly what is your name?” Stanton demanded. “You don’t sound like an American, if I may say so.”
“I am Wilhelm Pedersen, I mean, William Petersen, und I am an American citizen. I have owned this house since 1845, und I know the Constitution. You cannot billet a soldier in a private home without permission of the owner!”
“This is not a soldier but the President of the United States.”
“The President is commander-in-chief of all armed forces, und that makes him a soldier!” Petersen insisted.
“The President of the United States is in that bedroom,” Stanton stated, pointing across the hall, “fighting for his life. If you continue to make a commotion, it will further deteriorate his condition. If he dies you could be charged as an accessory to his assassination.”
Petersen’s mouth fell open. “But his blood is on mein floor.”
“And who did you vote for in the last election?” Stanton asked, stepping forward.
Cursing in German, Petersen turned away and stomped upstairs. Stanton heard him go up to the third floor and slam a door.
“Very well handled, Mr. Secretary.”
Stanton turned to see two men, one short and the other tall. He knew they were U.S. senators but at the moment could not recall their names.
“I’ve always admired your way of handling people,” the short man continued. “My friend, Sen. James Lane, and I felt we must pay our condolences as it were.”
Is the president still among us, to phrase it delicately?” Sen. Lane leaned in and smiled.
“The president is not expected to survive the night, Sen. Lane,” Stanton said, taking a step back to avoid the stench of onions and beer on the senator’s breath.
The short man extended his hand. “I am Sen. Preston King of New York. Surely you remember me. I have been one of the president’s biggest supporters.”
“You’re no bigger a supporter of the president than any other Republican,” Lane replied in a raspy voice. “If you’re a Republican, you support Abraham Lincoln. That’s all there is to it.”
Stanton began to tap his foot. “We appreciate your support, gentlemen. I do not want to risk the health of two of our most important senators so I would understand if you wished to return to your quarters–”
“Oh, I am not a senator anymore as of last fall,” King said. “Since then I have been available to serve my country in any capacity. In fact, the president had considered me as collector of customs in New York. I do not know if Mr. Lincoln had mentioned his intentions in this matter…”
“For God’s sake, King, this is not the time to hunt for a job,” Lane interrupted. “Mr. Secretary, do you happen to know if Vice-President Johnson is here?”
“Mr. Johnson visited earlier but returned to the Kirkwood to rest,” Stanton replied. He removed his glasses, rubbed his hand across his face and sighed. “I think it would be best if you two gentlemen did the same…”
“Vice-President Johnson and I are very close friends,” Lane said pushing his point.
“I’m sure you are.” Stanton put his glasses back on and looked around for Captain Eckert.
“May we see the President?” King asked, taking another step closer to Stanton. “Perhaps if he knew his friends were nearby it would give him strength to rally.”
“The room is too small for visitors. Gentlemen, I must insist…”
The front door opened, and Lincoln’s 20-year-old son Robert entered. Stanton observed his stooped shoulders. His large brown eyes were red and puffy.
King turned and extended his arms. “My poor young man…”
“He’s here to see his mother.” Stanton took Robert’s arm and led him to the front parlor door. “She’s in here,” he whispered to him.
Robert tapped on the door and opened it.
“What is he doing here?” Mrs. Lincoln screeched.
“They said you wanted to see me,” Robert whispered, transfixed in the doorway.
“I want to see my baby boy! I want Taddie!”
Robert backed out and shut the door. Stanton put his arm around his shoulder and felt his body shaking. He guided him down the hall. “Your father is in the bedroom on the right. I’m sorry about your mother’s outburst. I’m afraid this tragedy has been too much for her.”
After Robert walked away, Stanton covered his mouth with his hand to hide a small smile. Mrs. Lincoln’s erratic behavior would prove to anyone who talked to her that she was insane and her accusations of imprisonment in the White House basement were groundless delusions.
“Oh my dear,” King said, “no one should ever know of Mrs. Lincoln’s madness. How terrible if the public knew…”
“I don’t see how we can keep it a secret,” Lane interrupted. “She’s crazy as a loon.”
“I suppose we should leave,” King said to Stanton. “But remember that if there is anything we can do to help our country at this time of dire tragedy, please remember us.”
“Yes, we are the friends of the new administration—I mean, Mr. Johnson when he becomes president. And you too, of course, Mr. Secretary,” Lane added.
Stanton removed his hand to show his smile. “Yes, gentlemen, I think the two of you will become invaluable in the coming months to save our nation.”

Crows Over the Cornfield

“Caw! Caw!” The crows were circling the cornfield, and below all the little wild creatures were scared to death.
“Squeak! Squeak!” The field mice were running around and pointing at the sky. “The crows are coming! The crows are coming! Help! Help!”
The big burly rats lumbered out. “Don’t be afraid. The crows want to eat the corn and not us.”
“But what if they swoop down into the dark cornfield and snatch up something, fly back high in the sky and look into their claws. ‘This is not a sweet juicy ear of corn. It’s just an old rat.’ And they’ll throw you down into the darkness. What will you do then?”
“Oh. I hadn’t thought about that. What’ll I do? Help! Help!”
The possums came out next and they were shaking. “W-w-we’re not scared of crows. If they come too near we’ll just roll over and play dead.”
“Then the crows will tell their friends the vultures that there are dead possums in the cornfield. Do you know what the vultures will say?” the rats said.
“N-n-no, what will the vultures say?”
“The vultures will say, ‘It’s suppertime!’”
“Help! Help!”
They made such a racket that the raccoons came out. “What’s going on here?”
“The crows are coming! The crows are coming!” the mice screamed.
“Oh no! Crows are dirty, filthy creatures and we don’t have enough water to bathe them! What are we going to do! Help! Help!”
Cora the snake slithered out and said, “Stop that screaming. I’m trying to sleep.”
“The crows are coming! The crows are coming!” the mice screamed.
“Crows make me mad,” Cora said. “I want to bite them.”
“But what if they grabbed you up before you have a chance to bite them?” the rats said.
“Oh no! I hadn’t thought of that! Help! Help!”
The next thing they heard was “Arf! Arf! Arf!”
The farm dog was running to the cornfield to the rescue. And behind the farm dog were all of the farm kids who were waving scare crows as they ran up and down the corn rows.
Now the crows—“Caw! Caw!”—looked down to see some strange creatures in the corn and a dog barking at them. “That’s too scary for us. We need a calmer cornfield.” And they flew away.
“You don’t have to be scared again,” the farm kids said. “We’ll stick the scarecrows in the ground right now.”
“We weren’t scared,” the rats said.
“Yes, you were,” the mice said.
“W-w-we weren’t scared,” the possums said.
“Yes, you were,” the mice said.
“We weren’t scared, we just didn’t have enough water to bathe them,” the raccoons said.
“Yes, you were scared,” the mice said.
“You mice are making me mad,” Cora the snake said. “I want to bite you.”
“Why bite anybody?” the dog said. “We scared off the crows. It’s time to play games.”
And that’s what they did. The animals played and played in the cornfield all night long.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Ninety-Two

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. David hires him as his valet. Sidney hosts a wedding for his friends Jimbo and Gertie.
Sidney walked to the pier and waved at Jinglepockets who was staring at the last rays of the sun. When he looked around, he smiled at his young friend and waved back.
“It’s a little late to be setting out for Nassau, ain’t it?” the old man asked as Sidney jumped aboard.
“I had an invitation to pay a social call this evening.”
“It’s that blonde-headed woman, ain’t it?” Jinglepockets asked. “She was dressed like one of us but she ain’t one of us for damn sure.”
“You’re right.” Sidney’s voice was serene as he gazed across the bay.
“You better be careful.” Jinglepockets squinted at him.
Sidney didn’t reply and the old man offered no more advice. When they landed in Nassau, Sidney took out two coins. He handed one to Jinglepockets.
“This is for the ride.” He pressed the other coin firmly into the old man’s palm. “And this is for your advice.”
As he walked away, he took out the note and followed the directions to her apartment. She was right. The neighbors were discreet. He knocked at the door.
When Aline answered she was wearing a red satin bathrobe and was combing out her hair. She let him in.
“You took longer than I thought.”
“Some of the guests stayed longer than I thought.” He took off his hat and coat and threw them on the sofa.
Aline stopped in her bedroom door, still combing her hair. “I didn’t tell you to get comfortable.”
“It was a long boat trip.” He removed his tie. “Very tiring.”
Putting down her comb on her vanity, she flipped off the lights. Torches that lit the courtyard cast a soft light through the window.
“In that case you must lie down.”
As Sidney removed his shirt and slacks, Aline let her bathrobe drop to the floor. She wore nothing but the glow from the window. Aline walked to him and put her arms around him.
“God, I must be a Bolshevik too,” she murmured as she kissed him.
“What does that mean?”
“It’s what my mother said to your father when they made love.”
Sidney lifted her and placed her in the bed and slid in beside her. “Did she tell you everything?”
“Of course she did. She was a prostitute. She didn’t have anything else to talk about.”
Without warning, Sidney pulled hard on the back of her hair. “No, the first woman my father made love to was born a Romanov and married a Ribbentrop. She made love to him for saving her life.” He stared into her eyes. “You see, my father did tell me everything. Never lie to me again.”
The next morning they both arose early because each of them had jobs to attend to. All Aline had to offer for breakfast was hot coffee and cold Danish.
“Thank you for the lovely evening.” Aline carefully applied her makeup and lipstick. “We must do this again, but Harry keeps me on a busy schedule.” She turned to look at him. “Let this be our code. Whenever a pot of dead flowers is by the door, you are welcome to enter.”
“Like the pot in front of my father’s house.”
She shrugged. “That was Pooka’s idea. Otherwise, stay away. It will be the prudent thing to do.”
Sidney nodded. His father taught him all about prudence. At first he wanted to kiss her, but decided he didn’t want a smudge of her red lipstick on his face.
“By the way,” Aline whispered, “I will never lie to you again.”
He didn’t reply, but walked out.
A few minutes later he was in his room at the Governor’s Palace changing into his valet’s uniform. Sidney found the Duke and Duchess breakfasting in the garden. They both looked to be in good spirits.
“Sidney!” Wallis exclaimed. “We weren’t expecting you back today! I’ve been to weddings where I wasn’t out of bed for days!”
He tried to hide a smirk since he had just come from Aline’s bed.
“I’m glad you’re here though.” The Duke finished swallowing a bite of poached egg. “I’m going out to the construction site for the two new RAF fields and I need you to take mental notes on what Harry Oakes and Harold Christie say.” He turned to appraise Sidney. “You seem to be good at that sort of thing.”
That was something else my father had instilled in me. Stay quiet. Listen. Remember.
Sidney turned to bow to the Duchess. “Will you be joining us today, Your Highness?”
I know she’s not supposed to be addressed by that title but it pleases her so much when I do.
“Oh, no, Sidney. I have a previous engagement.”
On the ride south of Nassau to the two airfield sites, Sidney wondered if Aline would be there. After all, she was Harry’s personal assistant. He wondered if it would be proper for them to exchange greetings, but decided such an exchange would be indiscreet.
When they arrived at the first site, Harry and Harold were waiting for them. They both wore big grins.
“Good to see you, Eddie,” Harry said as he pumped his hand.
A shiver went down Sidney’s spine. He knew he should remain silent, but Harry’s breech of protocol was beyond the pall.
“Excuse me, sir,” Sidney interrupted in a soft but firm voice. “No one ever refers to his highness in such a familiar manner. On first greeting it is Your Royal Highness and thereafter Your Highness.”
The Duke chuckled. “He is, of course, correct. We must observe our customs, shouldn’t we?”
Christie laughed but Harry was left speechless.
The Duke looked around. “Your personal assistant isn’t here. I thought you might want her to take notes.”
“Aww, she said she had a previous engagement. Whatever the hell that means.”
Upon their return to the Governor’s Palace, the Duke asked Sidney to go to the post office to see if his cigarettes from London had arrived.
“I smoked too many while enduring Harry’s prattle—by the way, did he say anything important?”
“Only that the fields are due for completion in late summer, Your Highness,” Sidney replied.
On the way back with the large bundle of cigarettes Sidney could not resist walking by Aline’s apartment. Outside her door was a vase of white carnations. When the Duchess returned that afternoon Sidney saw she wore a broad smile and a light blue summer suit with a white carnation in the lapel.
Summer passed into fall, and Sidney enjoyed his night visits with Aline when the pot with the dead flower was by the door. He knew it wasn’t love like his parents shared, but it was fun and he liked it.
One evening in late October he ambled by her door only to see red roses in the vase. He knew she had other lovers. They evidently proved useful for promoting her career. Sidney had just returned to the palace and went to check on the Duke in his office. He wasn’t there.
As Sidney went down the hall to his room he saw the Duke enter. He smiled at his valet.
“A lovely evening, isn’t it? The nice thing about living in the Bahamas is that I can go for a walk without a crowd around me. Quite refreshing.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Sidney noticed a red rose in his lapel.
By Christmas he was used to the routine he and the Windsors had arranged. The Duchess preferred morning trysts while the Duke preferred evenings. Sidney felt safe if the couple had a special evening arranged for visitors and his services would not be required.
As the Duke said, Sidney was very observant.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Seventeen

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold join across the river in Maryland.
Through the trees, Booth saw the two-story frame house with a wide porch. He could not bear the pain to get down off the horse.
John Lloyd, the Surratt tavern keeper, walked out with an unsteady gait to greet them.
“Welcome, gentlemen,” Lloyd shouted.
“He’s drunk,” Booth whispered as he leaned over to Herold. “Go inside and get the guns Mrs. Surratt has left for us. Get the things as quickly as possible.”
“Would you like a shot of whiskey?” Lloyd asked.
“Oh yes,” Herold replied.
“No,” Booth corrected his partner. He winced at the throbbing and changed his mind. “Get a bottle to take with us. But hurry.”
In a few minutes, Herold and Lloyd came out of the tavern. Herold strapped the carbines, ammunition and field glasses, wrapped in brown paper, on the back of the roan. He then put the bottle of whiskey in the saddlebag. Finally he mounted the bay mare.
“He’ll tell you some news if you want to hear it,” Herold said as he tried to steady his horse.
“I’m not particular. You can tell me if you think it proper,” Lloyd replied.
“I assassinated the president,” Booth said.
“And we may have killed Secretary Seward too,” Herold bragged.
“May have?” Lloyd asked with a snort. After a pause, he slapped his beefy hand against his head. “You mean this is what all these shenanigans are about?”
“We stabbed him a lot,” Herold replied. “We don’t know for sure if he died. We didn’t stay around that long to find out.”
“You got me roped into a murder plot? Dammit! Well, keep my name out of it. And you better pay me for the whiskey too!”
Herold pulled out a coin and tossed it to the tavern keeper.
“Now get the hell out of here. And remember, you don’t even know my name. Get it?” Lloyd hissed as he caught the coin in mid-air. He turned back to the tavern.
Another hot spasm shot up Booth’s leg. “We must get to a doctor somewhere.”
“I don’t know of any around here. Last doctor I knew died last winter.” Lloyd shouted over his shoulder before he entered the house and slammed the door.
“You said all these people were going to treat us like heroes,” Herold said.
“He’s a drunk. Drunks don’t count. We’ve got to find a doctor.”
As they turned their horses south on the road through Charles County, Booth found the pain to be unbearable. The exhilaration of the evening had ebbed away. He prided himself on his ability to endure pain. Once he took a pocketknife and cut a cyst out of his neck in the dressing room right before a performance. He ignored the anguish and went on stage, remembering all his lines and performing all his acrobatic stunts. But this time he could not disregard the suffering. He needed medical help.
After a few more miles, Booth began to recognize the landscape. They passed through Bryantown and a mile down was St. Mary’s Catholic Church. He attended mass there back in December while on a search for some real estate. Someone told him Dr. Samuel Mudd had several acres that he might be willing to sell. After mass, Booth introduced himself on the church lawn. He could tell by the doctor’s manner that Mudd found him charismatic.
“So what do you say?” Booth remembered saying with a smile. “How much for a few acres?”
“Oh, land’s way too cheap now that the damn Yankees ended slavery,” Mudd told him, “so I’m not selling to anybody right now.”
“Well, I’m also looking for a horse.”
“Don’t have any,” Mudd replied. He motioned to a large burly man who was just walking down the church steps. “There’s my neighbor. He’s always looking to sell a horse.”
The doctor introduced them and told his neighbor Booth wanted to buy a horse.
“Oh yeah, I got a nice little brown saddle horse that would be perfect for you. Good price too.” The big man paused to look Booth over. “You ain’t a damned Yankee, are you? You talk like a damn Yankee.”
“Hell, no. I’m a Confederate through and through,” Booth replied. “I’m an actor. That’s why I talk the way I do.”
“That’s good, ‘cause I hate those damn Yankees.”
“Who with any common sense doesn’t hate Yankees?” Booth practiced his charm with a light laugh.
The man looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “I send stuff across the Potomac all the time. You know, contraband.”
“God bless you, sir.”
“If you don’t mind,” Mudd interrupted, “my wife is waiting in the carriage. I’m sure you two gentlemen can conclude your business without me.”
After Mudd walked away, the man leaned into Booth and whispered, “Sam’s a good man but he ain’t got the guts to be a good rebel.”
“I see,” Booth replied, nodding. “But, evidently, you do.”
“Damn right. I wait until dark of the moon, then I row my boat down at Nanjemoy Creek, across the Potomac and land at Matthias Point in Virginia.”
“Very interesting,” Booth said, stroking his square jaw. “Very valuable information.”
Later in December, Booth walked down a Washington street when he saw Mudd staring into a shop window. He called out to him. As he approached the doctor, Booth noticed a slight frown cross the doctor’s face before he smiled and extended his hand.
“What a pleasant surprise, Dr. Mudd,” Booth said, unctuously.
“Yes, I’m in town for some Christmas shopping for my wife. Well, it was a pleasure meeting you again, but I don’t want to take up any more of your valuable time—“
“Do you know John Surratt?” he interrupted.
“Yes, I do. Why do you ask?
‘I’m still interested in buying some land, and the Surratts are known for being major landholders.” Booth failed to mention that Surratt was part of the Confederate underground.
“His mother’s boardinghouse is just a few blocks over from here,” Mudd said. “Let me give you directions so I can be on my way, if you don’t mind.”
“That would be kind of you, sir.” Booth looked over Mudd’s shoulder down the street and saw two well-dressed young men walking toward them. “If I’m not mistaken, isn’t that Mr. Surratt behind you?”
Mudd turned to look, blanched a moment then smiled wanly. “Yes, it is. He looks as though he is on his way to an appointment. Perhaps we shouldn’t interrupt.”
“I think you overstate his demeanor,” Booth replied with an insistence in his tone. “Please introduce us.”
As the two young men came closer, Mudd called out to Surratt who smiled and approached them with his hand outstretched. “Dr. Mudd, what a pleasant surprise.” He glanced at Booth. “And who is this? Please introduce us.” Upon hearing Booth’s name, Surratt beamed. “This is also a pleasure. I think we share many friends.”
Booth detected an emphasis on the word friends and nodded in agreement. Surratt was known among Southern sympathizers in Washington as a man well acquainted with the Richmond countryside, valuable knowledge for anyone who considered kidnapping the president and holding him in the rebel capital.
“And let me introduce my long-time friend Louis Weichmann. We went to school together and now he lives at my mother’s boarding house.”
As Booth shook Weichmann’s hand he noticed the unusual stripes on his blue trousers. “Those pants you wear, Mr. Weichmann, look like a uniform.”
“As they should,” Weichmann replied with a smile. “I work at the war department for William Hoffman, the Commissary General of Prisoners.”
Booth stiffened. “Oh, I didn’t realize we were in the presence of one of President Lincoln’s minions.”
“Hardly a minion, sir,” Weichmann said with a laugh. “I take my salary from the Union government but my sympathies are entirely with the South. I have no doubt the Confederacy will flourish—“
“You might want to be careful with your words, young man,” Mudd warned, his eyes darting about the street. “You don’t know who might be passing by, picking up words here and there.”
“Then we must continue our conversation at my hotel,” Booth offered. “I serve only the best whisky.”
“That sounds grand, don’t you think, Louis?” Surratt asked.
“Mighty grand,” Weichmann replied.
“Then I suggest you young people enjoy each other’s company,” Mudd interjected. “I must be on my way.”
As the rain slackened on the Bryantown road Booth looked for the sign to Mudd’s house. Within a few moments, he saw it: “Samuel Mudd, M.D.” After they reached the house, Booth hesitated, remembering Mudd’s eagerness to distance himself from Booth, Surratt and Weichmann on the Washington street at Christmas. Perhaps he would not be so pleased to see him again. Booth tapped Herold on the shoulder.
“I’ll wait here while you go to the door. Don’t tell him who I am.” Booth paused. “Tell him I fell off my horse and hurt my leg.”
He watched as Herold banged on the door until the doctor opened it, hurriedly pulling a coat over his shoulders. Herold pointed at him, and Mudd motioned to him to come in. As Booth hobbled toward the door, he kept his head down. As much as he thought he would be welcomed as the hero who shot and killed the tyrant Abraham Lincoln, Booth was not entirely certain, not even with Dr. Mudd.

Death Visits Savannah

This story comes from Boris Karloff, the original Mummy, the original Frankenstein monster. He was in his last movie which was the first movie directed by Peter Bogdonovich. It was called “Targets” and was inspired by the sniper shootings from the University of Texas tower in Austin in 1968. Mr. Karloff played—basically—himself, an old actor tired of his image as the King of Horror. In one scene he tells a simple story, the camera fixed on his face. His story took place in the Persia during the Middle Ages. I place my version in Atlanta in the 1880s.
Joe was a servant who worked for a wealthy merchant in Atlanta, Georgia, Percival Hawthorne. Hawthorne had the largest mercantile establishment in not only Atlanta but also Macon, Valdosta, McDonough and Savannah. Joe was his personal valet, tending to his every need. For his loyal service Joe slept in his own room at Hawthorne’s mansion, wore new clothes and ate as well as his employer. He was never whipped, never had to do heavy lifting, nor did he ever break a sweat.
One day at noon Hawthorne called Joe into his office and asked him to walk a few blocks down the street to the farmers market to buy apples for his lunch. Nodding with a big grin, Joe left the large store and walked down the street. He was happy and content with his life. When he reached the open air market he carefully examined each vendor’s produce. He wanted only the best apples for Mr. Hawthorne.
Suddenly, Joe stopped short because standing before him on the streets of Atlanta, was Death. When their eyes met, Joe saw that Death was surprised. Death’s mouth fell open and he pointed his boney finger at Joe.
Joe knew when Death pointed his finger at you, no one else in a huge crowd but you, it meant only one thing. Your days on this earth were numbered. Joe turned and ran away, knocking people out of his way, going back to Mr. Hawthorne.
“Sir, forgive me. I did not buy your apples.”
“And why not, Joe?”
“I saw Death,” he replied. “He pointed his boney finger at me. And you know what it means when Death points at you.” Joe choked back the tears. “I am not ready to die.”
“And I am not ready to see you die, Joe.” Hawthorne stood and put his arm around his loyal servant. “Go now to my stable. Tell them I order them to pick out the fastest horse and give it to you. Mount the horse, Joe, and ride all night to the store in Savannah. There is a bedroom over the store. Stay there. Death will never find you there.”
Joe did exactly as his employer told him. He went to the stable and asked for the fastest horse. As he rode out of Atlanta and down the dusty road to Savannah, his spirits lifted. Death would never find him now. He would live a long and happy life.
The next day at noon, Hawthorne left his office and walked down to the farmers market for his apples for lunch. There, standing among the fruit and vegetable stalls, was Death. Hawthorne approached Death and accosted him.
“Why did you point at my man Joe yesterday in this market?”
“I am sorry, sir.” Death said. “I did not mean to gape and point at your man, but I did not expect to see him at the farmers market in Atlanta. I have an appointment with him at midnight tomorrow in Savannah.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Ninety-One

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. David hires him as his valet. Sidney hires Jimbo and his fiancee Gertie to live in his house.
Sidney took his time putting on his new white linen suit he bought especially for the wedding of Jimbo and Gertie. The memories of his father in his white linen suit were among his fondest.
Oh hell, all my memories of my father were wonderful. I can only hope to live up to what he taught me.
Sidney looked in his bedroom mirror. Everything fit perfectly. Glancing at his watch he noticed it was time for him to knock on the bedroom door of Jimbo and Gertie. They decided they wanted Sidney to walk both of them down the dusty lane to the church.
Jimbo looked good in his white slacks and white shirt open at the collar. Gertie wore a pleated white skirt and a white blouse which hung off her shoulders.
Sidney liked Gertie. She was broad in the hips and had an ample bosom. Her smile could brighten anyone’s day, but if that person crossed her she could call on all the demons in hell to rain down torment upon them. She had planned to spend days scrubbing the house so it would make Sidney proud at the wedding party, but Sidney gave some money to hire neighborhood women to help her clean and to cook the wedding feast. When she protested she could do it all by herself, he told her it was a good way to get on the good side of the people who live close to her.
As they walked down the road local residents of Eleuthera tossed flowers at them. Sidney doffed his hat and nodded. Gertie picked up her favorite ones to form her bouquet. The crowd at the church door applauded as Gertie and Jimbo entered. Their camp friends from the hills north of Nassau filled the seats. Sidney had paid Jinglepockets to recruit as many fishing boat captains to transport them.
The Duke and Duchess not only gave Sidney several days off for the wedding, they also offered to attend. With a humble bow, Sidney declined, saying he wanted all the attention to be on Gertie. They both nodded in approval.
As soon as the bride, groom and host entered the church, all their friends stood, some wiping their noses on their soiled sleeves, but all done with the best of intentions to show respect. No one seemed to have remembered to bring instruments to serenade the couple. Out of nowhere a rhythmic patting on the wooden pews and an a capella aire floated to the rafters. Sidney observed the faces of Jimbo and Gertie as they let the music flow over them, and felt warm inside. They were, indeed, his family now.
The minister offered a few appropriate words and pronounced them husband and wife. As they marched out of the church, the crowd broke out in applause and huzzahs which matched the improvised music in lilting spirituality.
Sidney followed the crowd up the lane. He paused only a moment when he noticed a familiar face in the masses.
Aline stood there. She pulled her hair back and tied a scarf around her head. She wore a ragged blouse, dirty skirt and sandals, the same as she wore when she surveyed Sidney’s carnage at the hacienda.
The crowd pushed him along toward the gate to his courtyard. Once he was inside he saw Gertie standing on the step to the front door with Jimbo by her side. When the crowd heard her bellowing voice, it become still and obedient.
“Welcome to the hacienda to celebrate our wedding. Please honor the founder of the feast, Mr. Sidney Johnson!” She pointed to him standing by the gate.
Sidney enjoyed taking a bow. Gertie spoke up again to quell the crowd.
“Me and Jimbo are from the hills above Nassau so our camp friends are invited indoors, but do not despair. The same food will be served in the courtyard as inside.” She paused and turned serious. “Now this is Mr. Johnson’s home, and I won’t abide anyone messing up this courtyard. And my friends have a double warning. Not one drop of food on that nice furniture. And if I catch one person on that staircase I will not only kick you out of this house, I will kick you out of my life and you will become my enemy. Do you understand?”
The crowd was stunned into silence. Sidney himself was shocked until he realized she was using the exact words he had used with Jimbo who repeated them to her. He raised his eyebrows. She took her orders literally.
“I said do you understand?” Her voice took on the authority of God.
“Yes ma’am,” Jimbo mumbled.
She turned and slapped her new husband on the shoulder.
“Not you.” She pointed out. “I’m talking to them.”
A rippling sound went through the crowd.
“Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am.”
From a mumble it grew to a full-throated affirmation.
“Good.” Gertie smiled. “Now we understand each other, let’s have a party!”
Out islanders pushed past Sidney until he found himself alone. When he looked around he saw Aline still standing across the lane. She walked up to him.
“What are you doing here?” Sidney asked in disapproval.
“Do you mind?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“This wedding is the worst kept secret in Nassau,” she replied. “I think it’s a terribly nice thing for you to do for your friends.”
“I needed security for my house now that I work for the Duke. What better way than to have a couple living here.”
“That’s why I’m here.” Aline smiled. “The organization is pleased you are working in the governor’s palace. What better way to protect him?”
Sidney looked around. “Let’s walk down to the beach.”
When they were far away from the laughter of the party, Aline told him, “The organization is unhappy with Harry. He’s stupid, loud and makes too many mistakes.”
“So what is that to me?”
The organization has chosen Alfred de Merigny to lead the Bahamian operation.”
“I thought Harold Christie was Harry’s partner.”
Aline shook her head. “That’s their real estate business. You have to think bigger when it come to the organization.”
“De Merigny shows up a lot at the palace, doesn’t he?”
Sidney looked out across the ocean. “I’ve seen him there.”
“You still don’t trust me, do you?”
Sidney detected a crack in her voice which threw him off balance, so he didn’t respond at all.
“And you don’t like me.” Aline made her remark as a statement rather than a question.
“I thought the organization liked it better that way.”
She stepped in close. “I knew your father.”
“At the casino, I know.”
“Your father liked me.”
“I don’t want to know this.”
“You know my father.”
“I don’t care.”
“Harry Oakes is my father.” She breathed out in exasperation. “I hate him.”
“I still don’t care.” Sidney looked around at his house. “I should make myself seen at the party.”
Aline’s voice dripped with sadness. “I don’t blame you.” She turned toward the hacienda. “I’m so lonely.” Reaching into a pocket of her ragged skirt, she pulled out a note and slipped it into a pocket of Sidney’s linen jacket. “I have a lovely secluded apartment near the governor’s palace. The neighbors are very discreet.”
All the guests had left the party as the sun went down. Gertie was busy helping the hired women clean up. She had not quite caught on to the concept of being a boss yet. Jimbo took out bags of garbage. Sidney motioned them over.
“You two should be alone tonight,” Sidney said. “Jinglepockets is waiting for me at the pier.”
Jimbo shook his hand. “Thank you, my friend.”
“Did you see the blonde lingering outside the gate?” Sidney asked.
Jimbo shook his head.
“She wasn’t a guest, was she?” Gertie’s eyes narrowed.
Sidney’s hand went into his jacket pocket to caress the note. “If she ever comes here when I’m not around, don’t let her in.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixteen

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape.Stanton goes to Seward’s house when he hears of the stabbing. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer.
Rain pelted Booth’s back as he rode his bay mare quickly and boldly down Tenth Street away from Ford’s Theater. Few people were out in Washington City at this hour. They did not know the tyrant had been struck down. Booth’s mind raced with details of the day. Invigorated by his success, he was still unaware of the pain in his broken leg. He wondered if David Herold would have the sense to meet him on the other side of the Navy Yard Bridge over the East Branch of the Potomac River, commonly known as the Anacostia. Herold should be there soon. His family lived in a small house on the other side of the Navy Yard, considered to be the worst neighborhood in city. A bad place to be caught alone after dark. Booth arrived at the bridge sentry post.
“Stop,” the guard said.
In his mind, Booth composed a scenario that he was a gentleman of leisure on a late night ride to his home in the country. The sentry was only doing his job, and one must not be too concerned with the obligations of the working class.
The guard walked up, held up a lantern and squinted through the raindrops at Booth. “Where are you going, sir?”
“I’m going home, down in Charles County.”
“Where in Charles County?”
“I don’t live in any town. I live close to Beantown.”
“Beantown? Never heard of that.”
“Good God, man, then you never went down there.”
“Do you know it’s illegal to cross the bridge after 9 p.m.?”
“What time is it now?” Booth asked.
Fumbling with his pocket watch, the sentry held it close to the lantern. “It’s 11:40, a good two hours past the curfew. I can’t believe you haven’t heard of the curfew.”
“No, I haven’t been in town for some time so it’s new to me.”
“Why are you out so late?”
“It’s a dark road, and I thought if I waited a spell the rain would let up and the moon would shine through parted clouds. Well, when the rain persisted, I decided I would have to muddle through.” Booth watched the sentry look up in the sky where the moon ought to be on a clear night at this time, just clearing the tree line.
“I’ll pass you but I don’t know as I ought to.”
“Hell, I guess there’ll be no trouble about that.”
Booth rode about a mile after crossing the bridge and stopped to wait for Herold. Only a few moments passed until he saw a rider hunched over his horse coming down the road. Only David Herold slumped over his horse like that. Booth was relieved to see him. When Herold pulled up, Booth saw he was astride a roan. He always rode that particular horse. It was gentle and easy to control. Their other friends teased Herold about riding a woman’s horse, but it was his favorite and he was unconcerned about their joshing. Booth was relieved to see him, though he could tell Herold was nervous. He had an uncharacteristic twitch as he sat in the saddle.
“Davey, what took you so long?”
“I didn’t think that guard was going to let me through, Mr. Booth. Did you know it’s illegal to cross the bridge after 9:00? I didn’t know that. He asked me why I was out so late, and I had to make up something real fast. I don’t usually think that fast, but a story popped in my head that was sure to stop him cold in his tracks. I told him I couldn’t very well get there any sooner because I visited a Capitol Hill whorehouse and it took me a while before I could get off.” Herold paused to laugh. “Bet he never heard an excuse like that before, because he let me on through.”
“Did Paine kill Seward?” Booth interrupted. “Is the man dead?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“When Tommy came out he was all upset and screaming, ‘I’m mad!’ ‘I’m mad!’ It took me a while to calm him down. Tommy was covered in blood. He said he had to stab a lot of people to get to the old man. A leather brace was around his neck.”
“Who had something around his neck, Davey?” Booth could not abide by Herold’s babbling.
“Seward. He had something around his neck.”
“That’s right,” Booth muttered. “I read in the newspaper he had been in a carriage accident and injured his neck. Why didn’t Paine stab the chest?”
“Hell, I don’t know, Mr. Booth. I didn’t go inside with him. Tommy said he stabbed and stabbed but didn’t know if he killed the old man or not. He said there was a lot of blood everywhere.”
“I couldn’t control him. He was pushing me away, trying to run down the street. He wouldn’t get on his horse. I had to let it go. Tommy ran off in the dark. I could still hear his voice. He really sounded crazy.”
By now, Booth began to feel throbbing pain in his leg. “Let’s move along. People will start looking for us soon.” He nudged his bay mare, which began a slow trot down the road.
“Looking for us? How will they know to look for us?” Herold asked as he followed.
“Everyone saw me leap to the stage, Davey. They know who I am.”
“But how will they know about me, Mr. Booth? I’m just a helper in a pharmacy. Nobody knows me.”
“They will know who all of us are by tomorrow morning.” Booth told Herold how he had written a note and handed it to an erstwhile friend John Matthews, another actor at Ford’s Theater.
“Why would you give him a note? I didn’t think you liked him.”
Booth did not like Matthews after he was unable to convince him to join their plot to kidnap Lincoln. He remembered that Matthews even had the gall to talk back to him one time when he was pontificating against equal rights for Negroes.
“If you pushed a darkey off the sidewalk and he pushed back, you could not shoot him,” Booth said, fuming.
“Then don’t push any darkeys,” Matthews replied.
After that incident, Booth decided Matthews was a coward and unfit to live. His opinion of the man sunk even lower when Matthews gave him a bottle of whiskey as a sign of reconciliation. Booth accepted the gift and even visited Matthews at his boardinghouse around the corner from Ford’s Theater. He stretched out on the actor’s bed and promised to come see his next performance. Then he handed him the note to turn in to the National Intelligencer, a city newspaper openly hostile to Lincoln.
“What was in the note?” Herold’s voice quaked.
“It’s a statement of our allegiance to the South. I said many will blame us but posterity, we are sure, will justify us. And I signed it, “Men who love their country better than gold or life.”
“We, you said?”
“Yes, I signed it John W. Booth, Paine, Herold and Atzerodt.”
“Oh my God, everyone will know.”
“And will bless us for it.”
“Mr. Booth, I just went to my house on the other side of the Navy Yard to say good-bye. My sisters hugged me, but Mama wouldn’t even look at me. My God, Mr. Booth, what have we done?”
Booth winced with each jog of the horse. “Once we get into the countryside you will feel differently. They will welcome us as heroes. Everyone in the South hates Lincoln. They will praise me for killing him.”
“I don’t know. Mama looked awful disappointed in me. She—she always said I was her favorite. I was the only boy out of a family of eight girls. I had two brothers but they died young. She and my sisters always protected me. Maybe I should go back home and beg Mama to forgive me. She’ll take care of me. Would it make you too angry if I went to Mama’s house, Mr. Booth?”
He pulled up on the bridle and looked back at Herold. “I picked every man for this special mission. Do you know why I chose you?”
“Because I know about medicine?”
“Yes, Davey, you know medicine. The time I had the knot on my neck and cut it out, you brought the medicine.” He patted his swollen leg. “I broke my leg in the leap to the stage tonight. I need you to get me the right medicine, Davey. I also chose you because you said you used to hunt in the woods of southern Maryland. You know the way to the Potomac so we can cross into Virginia. So why would I want my guide to leave me before we get to the river?”
“But I’m so scared, Mr. Booth. I need Mama.”
“Do you know why I gave that note to John Matthews, Davey? Out of all the people I know in Washington City, do you know why I chose him?”
“No, sir, Mr. Booth.”
“Because when he delivers that note to the newspaper, everyone will think he was in on our plot, and he will hang. Nobody refuses to do what I want them to do. Do you understand that, Davey?”
“Yes, sir.”
“My leg is killing me. Switch horses. That roan is gentler. Then get me to a doctor.”
“Mr. Booth, sir, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, sir, but didn’t you say we had to drop by Mrs. Surratt’s tavern first, to pick up some things?”
“Of course we have to go to the tavern first, Davey,” he replied, trying to sound impatient with Herold’s incompetency through the increasing pain. “I thought you would have known that. Also, I told you those things were two carbines, shells and my field glasses.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Get off that horse.”
Booth dismounted his bay mare with difficulty and slid onto the roan as smoothly as possible. He still grunted in agony. The bay mare reared as Herold got on him, and it took him a few minutes to get it under control.
They rode silently in the rain as Booth thought of what Herold had said about his family. He said he was his mother’s favorite. Booth was his mother’s favorite also among her ten children. Four of them died of cholera. When the attractive and winsome John came along, his mother Mary Ann protected him from the hard realities of life. Despite his mother’s adoration, Booth grew up to realize he would never be a great actor, like his father Junius or even as good as his brothers Junius Jr. and Edwin. Instead, he vowed to become the most beloved actor in the South, and he achieved his goal. All the belles giggled and fluttered their fans flirtatiously when he strode into the theater. They would appreciate him even more now, Booth smiled to himself through his pain.
Along the way, he took up the political views of the South, which did not set well with his brothers. His father, out of avowed principle, never owned slaves but still rented them from his neighbors.
Booth’s father died when the boy was fourteen, passing the family theatrical legacy to his children. The brothers often acted together, but Junius Junior and Edwin were ardent abolitionists, surpassing their father’s position. When the family gathered for dinner Booth kept his opinions to himself out of respect for his mother. Political fights always ruined conviviality around the table.
“What do you think your ma will think when she hears you shot the President?” Herold broke into Booth’s reverie.
“My mother will know I did what was necessary for my Country.” He did not care what his brothers, the misguided ideologues, thought. His sister Asia, however, was devoted to him. He knew she would defend him. His mother and sister always knew he was someone special. No matter what he did, he would be special in their eyes.

My First Date

Every so often I think of my first date when I was 14 years old. I don’ know why, but I felt some social obligation to start dating that early. Even today I can imagine someone reading this and thinking, “Fourteen? Why so late?”
It was around Christmas and my school’s National Junior Honor Society was having a party at this private club’s lodge across the Red River from my home in Gainesville, Texas. That meant we were going out of state into the woods of Oklahoma. Only God knew the exact location of this place.
To be honest, I thought it was the best way to get close to this girl who went to the same church as I did. You see, I thought we would be more likely to get home if God knew it was two good church kids under his guidance. More than that, I had an awful crush on her. She was a year ahead of me in school, had a sweet smile, was smart and never said anything bad about anyone. She was perfect. Freud would add that she looked like my mother, but I think that’s a creepy observation so I’m just going to move on from there with no further comment.
My mother couldn’t drive me to pick up the girl so she asked my uncle to do it. Big mistake. He laughed too loud and tended to spit out the car window and sometimes the spittle landed in the back seat.
He decided to walk to the girl’s front door and wait in her living room with me until my date emerged. Her father sat on the sofa watching television.
“And there’s her big ol’ fat daddy!” My uncle laughed, very much amused by his own humor.
He took us to the school where all the couples were put into the backseats of cars driven by chaperones and/or parents. We ended up in the backseat of a car driven by the banker’s wife. It was a tight fit because the banker’s son was the star of the football team. His date was also a high school freshman, like my date. The girls knew each other and chatted all the way from Texas to Oklahoma.
The private club’s lodge looked like an abandoned house in the woods. The main room was not much bigger than my living room. We sat with another couple—the girl also knew my date and the guy also played football. He wasn’t a star like the banker’s son but still did some fancy footwork on the field. He sat slouched in a chair staring at nothing and stood every so often when the girl wanted to dance.
Neither my date nor I danced because, after all, we were good church kids. I thought this would be my chance to show what a brilliant conversationalist I was.
From time to time she’d crinkle her cute little brow and ask, “Is that a joke? I never know when you’re not being serious.”
When all four of us were together I tried to make a joke about what the adults were saying in the other room.
“Why do you care?” the football player’s date pointedly asked.
After that I imitated the football player, slouched in my chair and stared straight ahead. At one point the adults told us to line up for refreshments. As a gentleman I asked my date if she would like for me to bring her something so she wouldn’t have to stand in line. She said yes.
It was only after that I noticed all the other girls were in line and there sat my date waiting to be served, with a sweet smile on her face.
The party eventually ended, proving that there was indeed a God. On the way home, however, my faith in the church and all things sacred was put to another test. The banker’s wife, once she crossed the Red River into Texas, took a turn off down a road I had never been on before. It was dark with lots of trees on each side of the road. Then I heard this murmuring which bordered on moaning. And slurping sounds. Out of the corner of my eyes I could see the other couple had merged into a squirming monolithic dark romantic mass.
I don’t think this was the banker’s son’s first date.
Somewhat emboldened by the example he was giving, I raised my right arm up and put it across the back of the seat. That was the extent of my courage, however, because I didn’t lower my arm around my date’s shoulder. After all, she was a good church girl and was perfect.
I glanced over at my date, and she still had that sweet smile on her face, pretending nothing unusual was going on. After all, she was perfect.
Within minutes my arm began to hurt, but the back seat was so tight I couldn’t return my arm to its original position. It was stuck on the back of the seat until the banker’s wife had given her son enough whoopee time with his date and returned to the main road where I saw the lights of civilization again. This detour through hell was almost over.
The banker’s wife first dropped my date off at her house. I said I hope she had a nice time, and she replied she did. At least she got to talk to two of her girlfriends part of the time.
I felt relief when the banker’s wife finally pulled into my driveway. I thanked her for the nice time and said good night to the football player and his date who giggled, “Bye.” He only grunted. Thank goodness that was over. I got ready for bed and slipped in only to find my mother there.
“Well, how did it go?” Her eyes twinkled.
I told her what my uncle had said. She replied it sounded just like something he would say. I told her we had a nice time listening to the music while the others danced. Honestly I can’t remember if I confided in her about the ride home. There are certain things you don’t share with your mother.
“And how did your date enjoy the evening?”
I put on a nice sweet smile.
“Oh, she was perfect.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Ninety

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. David hires him as his valet. Wallis kills Kiki, the girl with the silver syringe.
Several weeks passed before Sidney was able to make himself walk across the hills to the encampment where Jimbo lived. Guilt which had never been part of his personality made him ashamed of hurting his friend.
Did Jimbo know I was the one who kicked him? And if he did, would he hate me? Jimbo was a big foolish boy, and my father taught me to look down on foolish people.
Foolish or not, Jimbo had become a member of his family and Sidney had to fill the bellies of his family, even big, foolish bellies.
By the time Sidney walked over the hills, the sun shone down directly over his head. It was time for lunch so Sidney headed to the spot on the road where the old woman sold her soup. She was not there.
“She died,” a familiar voice behind Sidney mumbled. “Out of grief for the young men who died in the riot. Many of them ate her soup every day.”
It was Jimbo. Sidney tried not to smile too much when he turned to see his friend.
“That’s sad,” Sidney replied.
“I cried,” Jimbo confided, “and not just for the soup. She was a good old woman, and old people die sooner or later.” Tears welled in his eyes. “I cried for you.” He hugged Sidney. “You knew. You told me not to go but I ran ahead anyway. Stupid me. I’m so slow that one of the others practically ran over me, kicking me in the legs. Some old man got me home, but I didn’t see you, I thought they had killed you too.”
Relief washed over Sidney. Jimbo didn’t know the truth, and Sidney wasn’t going to tell him. Sometimes being honest can be foolish too. Sidney patted him on the back. “Let’s get out of here. It’s too dangerous for good boys like us.”
They walked back to Nassau and found good food on the docks. Sidney looked out on the water and saw Old Jinglepockets waiting for him on his fishing boat, just as he had promised he would in the morning. The boys walked to his boat.
“Jimbo, this is Jinglepockets. He taught me to fish.“ Sidney smiled at the old man. “Jinglepockets, this is my friend Jimbo. Do you think you can teach him to fish?”
Jinglepockets flashed a toothless grin. “I can teach anyone who wants to learn.”
“And I want to.” Jimbo smiled, showing he still had all his teeth.
On the boat ride to Eleuthera, Jinglepockets rambled on like an old storyteller.
“Old Joe taught me to fish, just as he taught Sidney’s father to fish. Someday, young man, you will teach a boy to fish. You’ll learn to love the sea. It’s a beautiful place. Beautiful for your soul. Don’t be afraid. Most fishermen grow old and die in their sleep.” He pointed to Sidney. “His grandfather got eaten by a shark but that’s mostly stuff of folk tales. What you really should be afraid of are men who are too quick to flash their money around. They’re much more likely to kill you than a shark.” He paused to test the wind and make adjustments in his sails. “Now what is your name?”
The old man nodded. “Jinglepockets. Jimbo. They go together. That’s a good omen, ain’t it? Jimbo, you work hard and when I retire, you can buy my boat.”
Jimbo frowned. “Buy your boat?” He shook his head. ”I don’t think I’d ever have that much money.”
“Don’t worry.” Jinglepockets squinted as he saw Eleuthera appear on the horizon. “You’ll earn it.”
After tying up the boat, Sidney and Jimbo walked down the sandy lane. People along the way paused to wave.
“Your neighbors are awful friendly,” Jimbo observed.
“Yes, they are.” Sidney stopped at his wooden front gate to unlock it. “But they are not your friends. Don trust them.”
They entered the courtyard, and when Jimbo saw the two-story hacienda-style house his mouth fell open.
“This is where you live?”
“This is where we live.” He unlocked the front door. “I own it.”
Jimbo was speechless.
They entered the courtyard, and when Jimbo saw the two-story hacienda-style house his mouth fell open.
“This is where you live?”
“This is where we live.” He unlocked the front door. “I own it.”
Jimbo was speechless.
“I now work at the Governor’s Palace as the Duke’s valet, so I need you to take care of my house. I’ll keep up with my bank account and pay the bills and you will do repairs on the house as needed and make sure you keep the house the way it looks today. You are now a fisherman and a house manager. You’re a very successful young man, Jimbo.”
“There’s something I haven’t told you,” Jimbo mumbled as he shuffled his feet. “After the riot and I didn’t see you and thought you was dead, I cried a lot. Gertie—she’s this girl that I grew up with—said she thought if somebody didn’t take care of me I was goin’ to drop dead. So we jumped the broom.”
Sidney frowned. “Jumped the broom? That’s what our grandparents did. You got to have a preacher marry you.”
“Um, the only religion we know anything about is Obeah and the high priestess died not long ago.”
“Yes, Pooka. She was an idiot. And Obeah is foolishness.” Sidney’s voice was stern. “There’s an Anglican church for native Bahamians down the road. I’m a member of the church so you and Gertie can get married there.” He smiled. “I’ll give you away. I mean, I’ll give Gertie away. Hell, I’ll give both of you away.”
“Then you don’t mind?”
“It’s the best thing for you.” Sidney paused. “Do you love her?”
“I always thought of her as a good friend until she wiped the tears from my eyes, and then I knew what love was. And it was Gertie.”
“Good. Now I have a housekeeper.” He stared at Jimbo. “She does know how to clean house and cook, doesn’t she?”
“Look at me. You’ve never seen me in clean clothes before, have you? She won’t let me out of our tent until it’s all straight. And she was about to take over the old woman’s spot on the road selling her own soup.”
“Good. We’ll go back today to bring her to Eleuthera,” Sidney said like a boss making a business deal. “But first I want to take you upstairs.”
They walked up, and Sidney opened the first door. “This is where my parents slept. Now you and Gertie will sleep here. It will be your private domain. Never let me enter unless I knock first.”
“Yes sir.” The respect in Jimbo’s voice came naturally.
Sidney guided him down the hall to his door which he didn’t open.
“This is my bedroom. It is where I have slept since I was a baby.” He paused to let the importance of his statement sink in. “Never enter this room. Never knock at the door. Never call for me to come out. If you hear my door open in the middle of the night do not check to see who it is. If you happen to see someone leave in the morning, forget what you saw immediately.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Go downstairs and wait in the courtyard,” Sidney continued. “I have things I have to remove from my father’s closet and take to my room. Do not ask what these things are.”
“Yes, sir.”
“If I discover you or Gertie have entered my room, our friendship will end, and you will no longer be a member of my family. You will be my enemy. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Explain this to Gertie. My room is the only room she is not to clean. I will clean it myself. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir. And Gertie is much better at following rules than me.”
Sidney smiled. “Good. Then we will be all members of the same family, and our bellies will always be full.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifteen

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape.Stanton goes to Seward’s house when he hears of the stabbing. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer.
Holmes squinted at Lafayette Baker. “You look familiar, come to think of it. Have we met before? I remember. The senator’s son. I can’t recall who sent you. Was it the president?
“Yes, it was the president,” Baker replied in haste, moving toward the table. “That’s why I want this to be hush hush. I don’t think I could take the scandal. I don’t think his mother could take it. You must understand.”
“And your name wasn’t Christy either,” Holmes continued. “There have been so many during the war I can’t keep up with them all.”
Baker absently stared at his shoes wondering where the conversation was going.
“Of course, you can call yourself anything you wish,” Holmes continued. “It makes no difference to me.”
That was the opening Baker sought. “I’ll pay cash. For God’s sake, can’t you see how terrible this is for me?”
Holmes patted his shoulder. “Of course. Don’t worry. I understand. I’ll start work right away.” He paused. “You will have the cash here first thing in the morning, however, won’t you? Bring $59. Nine for the fluids and fifty for the evisceration.”
“But you start tonight. Right now. You will have your money. I swear.”
“Calm down.” The doctor lightly touched his elbow to guide him to the door, nodding his head at Jeffrey. “My assistant will see you out. Go home and rest. All will be taken care of.”
Before Baker could say anything else Jeffrey handed him his overcoat and forced him out into the rain. He looked around in confusion. Baker decided going to his hotel bed was out of the question because his mind was racing and he could not sleep. His world was all a tumble. Maybe it was not too late to stop Booth, he thought as his hand went to his mouth, remembering the performance must still be going. Baker jumped into his carriage and turned the team towards Ford’s Theater. His heart sank as he saw the crowds milling around outside the building.
“It’s all Jeff Davis’s doing!” an angry male voice called out.
“That’s right! Hang the damned traitors! All of them!”
What would the crowd do if it knew that Edwin Stanton and not Jeff Davis were responsible? Would they want to hang the secretary of war? And the people standing next to his carriage, if they knew Baker had contacted the assassins and gave out the orders, would these good citizens drag him from his seat and beat him to death right there on the street? He clenched his jaw to control his emotions.
Leaning over, Baker tapped a man on the shoulder. “Where have they taken the president?”
“Over there.” He pointed to a three-story apartment house across the street.
Baker tethered his team to a hand railing, then pushed his way through the crowd and up the steps. Throwing open the door he entered the foyer where Major Eckert rushed him and grabbed his arm.
“Thank God you’re here,” Eckert said as he directed Baker down the crowded hallway to the back parlor across the way from the small bedroom with the president lay. “Mr. Stanton has been asking for you all night.”
“The president,” he blurted, “is he still alive?”
“Just barely. Mr. Lincoln won’t live through the night. It’s a bloody mess. Mr. Seward was stabbed at his residence. They expect him to recover, though…”
“Were there others?” Baker’s voice was barely above a whisper.
“Yes. Mr. Johnson said someone came to shoot him but ran away.” Eckert opened the parlor door. “Mr. Stanton is in here.”
Baker watched Stanton scribble notes and pass them off to soldiers waiting at his shoulder. One messenger entered as another left. Constant chattering throughout the house made Baker uneasy. He covered his ears with his hands; murmuring sounded like a drone of angry bees.
“Oh, so you finally arrived,” Stanton said. “How long have you been standing there? Never mind. We have to talk.” He stood and put on his coat. “Not here. Too many people.”
As they stepped out of the room, Eckert came up. “Mr. Secretary, they want to know what to do with all the actors.”
“What actors?”
“The ones across the street at Ford’s,” Eckert replied. “We can’t hold them there all night, can we?”
“The hell we can’t!” Stanton took the major by the shoulders and turned him around. “Go back and tell them to keep asking questions until the damned traitors give in! I want a confession by dawn!”
“But, sir—“
“I have to talk to Mr. Baker now,” he interrupted. “Leave us alone.”
Stanton took his arm and tried to guide him away. Baker stood staring into the small bedroom where he saw Lincoln lying naked diagonally on a short bed.
“We don’t have time for that now,” Stanton whispered as he pushed toward a door to a porch on the backside of the building. When they shut the door behind them, the rain dripping from the eaves muffled the voices inside. They both shivered as they avoided the spray from the storm.
“We’re in trouble,” he said, leaning into Baker. “Johnson is alive.”
“I know.”
“What kind of stupid bastards did you get? And Seward’s still alive too. They said the man who stabbed him was a stark raving lunatic. Why did you recruit bastards that stupid?”
“Only stupid bastards and stark raving lunatics would attempt to kill so many people in one night,” Baker replied. His voice was drained of energy. He had no strength left for niceties.
“Johnson was here. Right in my face, dammit. The bastard acted as if he thought I did it. What are they saying on the street? Who do they think did it?”
“Jeff Davis.”
“Good. That’s what I want the stupid bastards to think. It won’t make any difference what Johnson thinks.” Stanton paused. “Where does Johnson live?”
“The Kirkwood.”
“We told him to go back and get some sleep. He looked like he had been on a bender anyway. He’s probably passed out by now. If only he wouldn’t wake up. That would be good.” He looked at Baker. “Do you think you could get into the Kirkwood and suffocate the bastard? Make it look like he died in his sleep.”
Baker had never seen Stanton so out of control. The secretary was usually very cold and calculating, but not tonight. He was talking like a hooligan. The more Baker watched and listened to Stanton, the more he knew he was right to defy him.
“I’m sure the military has guards posted all around the hotel by now,” Baker countered. “No one could get close to him.”
“Dammit.” Stanton stroked his beard. “It doesn’t make any difference. He’s nothing more than an old drunk. He’ll discredit himself. Anything he says will be dismissed as the ravings of a drunken madman.”
“Adam Christy shot himself.”
“Who? Oh, the boy. That’s good. One less problem. The goal is to keep everything under control.”
“Lying there, in his own blood, he looked like me when I was his age.”
“What? What difference does that make? What about that janitor? I don’t care if he’s deranged. He must die too.” Stanton pounded his right fist into his palm for emphasis. “Everyone who knows anything about this must die.”
“No. No more killing.”
“Oh yes there will be. You will do what I say or I’ll produce documents saying you were in on the plot. Hell, I’ll say you planned the whole damn thing. You’ll hang!”
“Go ahead. I’m already dead. I’m deader than that boy on the floor, staring at nothing.” He looked Stanton in the eyes. “We were both wrong. It isn’t about the power and it isn’t about the money. We’re both wrong, and we’re both going to burn in hell.”
Stanton slapped Baker. The open-handed strike was fast, hard and practiced. He had struck before. “You damn fool! Of course, we’re going to hell. But not right now. Not anytime soon.” His face turned red as he began coughing and gasping for breath.
“I’ll go first and prepare a place for you.” Baker did not recognize his own voice. He had never spoken in a tone so soft yet resolute before.
Baker thought he had won the battle by taking the higher ground until he watched Stanton’s eyes narrow in concentration. When Stanton brought a finger to his pursed lips, Baker took a step back. He knew his boss had one last frontal assault.
“You never talk about your wife—what is her name? Jenny.”
“She’s a good woman.” Baker found himself blinking and trying to control his dry mouth. “She doesn’t have to know about the things I do for my government.”
“I agree. No woman should know what her husband has to do for the good of the country. Women must be protected from the dark realities of life. She lives in Philadelphia, doesn’t she?”
“No, we’re from California.” Baker’s eyes went toward the menacing thunderstorms.
“You may have been from California but your wife lives in Philadelphia now. I keep up with private information about my inferiors,” Stanton spat derisively.
“I’ll kill you right here, right now, before I’d let anything happen to Jenny,” Baker blurted with passion that surprised even himself.
“Come now, my friend,” Stanton hissed like the snake in the Garden of Eden to the gullible Eve. “You must know I always have a contingency plan, for I trust no one. Not even you, my old friend Baker. I know the exact location of your wife, and I have instructed an emissary to kill her if you harm me in anyway.”
Stanton’s cupid bow lips turned up into a slight weary smile. “You must concede that I have power of life and death over you and your family. So resign yourself to the fact you must pursue these assassins and make sure they are all arrested and killed. Then you can go to hell.”