Monthly Archives: February 2020

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter One Hundred Four

Previously: Mercenary Leon meets MI6 spies David, the Prince of Wales, and socialite Wallis Spencer. David abdicates the throne to marry Wallis. He becomes Bahamas governor. Leon dies and his son Sidney turns mercenary. David hires him as his valet. The years pass and the organization wants all three of them and the Royal family dead.
In the morning, the Duchess was all aflutter—Queen Elizabeth II was coming to tea, and one of the maids was missing. Sidney steeled himself when he saw her scurry toward him.
“Sidney, have you seen Aline?” she asked.
“Aline? I don’t know an Aline.”
Wallis shook her head. “No, no, I was thinking of someone else. Oh, what’s her name? Eileen—have you seen her this morning?”
“No.” His voice was flat.
“What shall we do without her?”
A smile flitted across his lips. “We shall survive, I think.
“I suppose you’re right.” She looked around. “Everyone is prepared. All that must be done now is picking up the Queen and her entourage—“
“I’ll take care of that, Madam.”
Wallis glanced up the stairs. The doctor is attending to David. Do you think I have time for a nice warm soak in the tub?”
“I think that would be a wise move on your part, Madam.”
“Thank you, Sidney.”
A couple of hours later at Orly Airport Sidney greeted the Queen and the others with the information that the Duke, due to his health, would have to receive them while seated in his upstairs sitting room.
Elizabeth said something to him, but Sidney glanced about the terminal at the growing crowd, knowing the possibility of one of the assassins being among them. Common sense told him an attempt at this juncture would preclude success in killing the Windsors. Yet, Sidney knew the organization was clever enough to try to eliminate himself early. Anything was possible.
Several women in the crowd screamed as a middle-aged man dressed in denim jeans and a blue shirt dashed by, grabbed the Queen’s purse and ran around a corner.
“Stop!” One of the royal security men shouted. He raised his revolver.
Sidney lowered the guard’s arm. “I’ll take care of this.” Then he disappeared around the corner just in time to see the man go into the men’s room.
Sidney arrived a bit later, slowed by the exit of several other men running out of the toilet facilities zipping their pants. Sidney spied the snatcher opening the purse, pull apart a capsule, drop it in the purse and snap it shut. Sidney jumped the man and wrestled him to the floor. With one hand, he grasped the man’s hair and with the other opened the purse.
Sidney rammed the man’s head into the purse just as yellow powder rose. Sidney’s eyes watered and he coughed deeply, scrunching his nose to avoid ingesting any more of the poison. Sidney struggled to keep the man’s head down until the assassin finally went limp. First Sidney snapped the purse shut, then dumped the body into an empty toilet stall.
When he returned, Sidney handed the purse to the head of the Queen’s security.
“The man escaped, leaving the purse behind. When I picked it up, I smelled something vile. I think you should have one of your men take it immediately to Le Surete to be examined for poison.”
The officer handed it off to another guard, whispering the instructions to him and sending him on his way. The officer then told the Queen the circumstances, and she nodded as though nothing was unusual.
Back at Bois de Burlogne, the butler greeted the guests at the door and took their coats.
“Psst! Psst!”
Hearing the hissing, Sidney saw Wallis at the top of the stairs waving at him to come up. She was dressed in a simple black, short sleeved dress adorned by a large bejeweled pin. Wallis was at her sartorial best, but her eyes were in a panic. Sidney dashed up the stairs to her. She leaned in to whisper.
“I think I’ve done something naughty.”
“What do you mean, Madam?”
“Follow me. I don’t want the Queen to know.” She led him into her bathroom which was a mess with water splashed all over the room. Also, there was a dead man submerged beneath the suds of Wallis’ bubble bath which was changing from pink to a dark red.
“I’d just settled in for a good soak when I heard the door open, and this strange man came in and stood at the top of my tub. His hands came down on me.” Wallis’ voice was calm. “I don’t know what made me do it, but I reached up and grabbed his arms and pulled him over top of me. I think I heard his head crack on the bottom of the tub. Anyway, I rose just enough to slide his head under my body and I sat on it. When he tried to struggle I hit him in the crotch. I kept doing it until his body went limp. I think before he died I farted in his face.” Her eyes widened. “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ve used that word since my days in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” She touched Sidney’s sleeve. “What are we going to do? I killed him in self-defense, but still….”
“Don’t worry about it, Madam.” He smiled. “You go down stairs to greet your guests and I’ll let the water out of the tub. When he dries out, I’ll remove him from the property tonight. Oh, and I’ll give the tub a proper scrubbing so you can have your bath tomorrow without worrying about traces of his blood being left behind.”
“But why did I know do that?” Wallis persisted. “Wait, I just thought of something—Shanghai. I was in Shanghai as a young woman. What was I doing there?”
“Don’t worry about it now. You have the Queen waiting downstairs.”
“Oh yes.” She paused. “Now is that Elizabeth or Lillibet?”
“Lillibet, I believe,” Sidney replied.
“Oh good.” Wallis sighed. “If it were her mother, then I would have big problems.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Thirty-Three

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold escape across the river into Maryland where they hide in the Zekiah Swamp. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm.Lincoln’s friend Lamon starts his own investigation.
As Booth rode down the dusty lane toward Bowling Green, his mind blazed with thoughts about the short, stocky officer who just saved his life, the very same man who had been part of his conspiracy to assassinate the president, vice-president and two cabinet officers. Why had the man not kept his promise to kill Stanton? And who was the body he dragged into the barn? The light was so dim Booth was not able to make to see much, but his curiosity was aflame.
Night’s silence broke when he approached the main street of Bowling Green, illuminated by scores of torches. A throng of Union soldiers gathered in front of the hotel. On the porch stood a middle-aged couple and a teen-aged girl.
“Who goes there!” a voice called out.
Without a hesitation, he replied in a New England accent, “One of Father Abraham’s loyal sons.” Booth prided himself on his ability to mimic every dialect used on the Eastern Seaboard, a useful talent for an actor.
A federal officer strode into the middle of the road, raising his lantern. Booth slowed his horse to a trot and then to a halt, leaned down into the officer’s light and offered a snappy salute.
“Who are you, son?” the officer asked, his tone becoming softer.
“I’m with the unit that was after the assassin, sir,” he lied.
“So you’re one of Lt. Baker’s men?”
“Yes, sir, that’s right.”
Tossing a glance toward the hotel porch, the officer lowered his voice to inform Booth, “The owners of this here hotel say they don’t know where Baker’s group went. They say Baker roused them out of a good sleep about 11 p.m. and forced them to tell where a Willie Jett was.”
“Willie Jett?” Booth blurted out the name of the boy who had deposited them at Garrett’s farm two days earlier. Biting his lip, he shook his head. “Never heard of a Willie Jett before.”
“Well, he’s the one who knew where the assassin was.”
“I knew Lt. Baker and the others came out of the hotel with this lad but I never did catch his name. So his name is Willie Jett.” In his mind, Booth cursed Jett for betraying him, vowing to take his revenge against the double-dealing informant one day.
“So did you men capture Booth and Herold?”
“We got Herold in custody, but one of the fellows shot Booth in the back of the neck.”
“Is he dead?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Are you sure?”
“He’s dead, all right. I’ve seen enough of them to know what a corpse looks like.”
“Damn! Now why the hell did the fool do that?”
“I suppose he was following orders,” Booth replied.
“Orders were to bring both of them in for trial. Didn’t Baker tell you that?”
“No, sir. All I was told we were out after the assassins.”
The thought dawned on Booth that this man truly believed he was a Union soldier. His hand went up to scratch the thick stubble on his face as he realized as long as he was dressed like a soldier, talked like a soldier and looked like a disheveled soldier that the world would quickly accept the fact he was a soldier. He tried to hide a sly grin, thinking he must be a better actor than his father and brothers thought him to be. Yawning, he nodded toward the hotel.
“I ain’t got no sleep in a long time. You figure they got an empty bed?”
The officer glared at him. “You mean you deserted your post just to get some shut-eye?”
“No, sir. Lt. Baker send two of us out as couriers. My buddy went off to Washington, and I’m on the way to Richmond to inform the general there to call off the manhunt.” The lies flowed from years of acting experience. “I just thought I could wait until morning.”
“Absolutely not!” the officer barked. “You get on your way now! Only after you’ve reported do you request leave. And you may not get it even then!” He narrowed his eyes. “What is your name, private?”
“Adam Christy, sir.”
“Hmph, on your way, Private Christy. And take care not to neglect your duties again, or you will be written up!”
Booth gave another snappy salute and rode south on the road to Richmond, pleased his escape had been ordered by one of the despicable, pin-headed damn Yankee officers. Hah. As the night air chilled his face, he mulled why Christy’s name came to him so easily. Then he realized the identity of the corpse, which was dragged into the barn to be his body substitute. It was Adam Christy, the young man who only two weeks ago had been his ally in the assassination conspiracy. Who had killed him?
Only one answer came to Booth’s mind—the short stocky man who dragged the body into the barn. This evil man must die, Booth resolved. And if he chose to kill the private instead of Secretary of War Stanton, then Stanton must be in on this terrible plot. Not only a part of the plot but also most certainly the ringleader. Booth felt the back of his neck burn with resentment that his pure patriotic motives to assassinate a despot had been twisted into a diabolical attempt to stage a coup. As the western sky began to glow with morning’s light, his head began to droop and his eyes involuntarily closed in sleep. Realizing he was about to succumb to slumber Booth stopped his horse and led it into a secluded clearing off the road. There he tied up his mount and collapsed onto the ground and surrendered to sleep. Even the throbbing pain in his leg could not deter fatigue from overwhelming him
In his dreams, he again was on the stage. This time Booth was alone. Each time he turned to speak to another actor, that person faded into the darkness and refused to say his line. The unseen audience grumbled and shifted uneasily in their seats. Booth limped off the stage, but an elderly stage manager whispered in his ear, “Now is the time for you to play all the parts. No one else can complete this passion play but you.”
When he awoke, Booth felt his leg and sighed in relief when he noticed the pain was easing. No heat emanated from the injured area, which meant infection had not set in. Even though he sensed healing was underway, Booth knew he needed a doctor to examine it again, but what doctor in Richmond would tend to a wounded Yankee soldier? Even though the uniform had saved his life last night, it could spell his doom today. Looking around, he noticed the sun was leaning toward the west once more. In the cover of the oncoming darkness he would make his way through the familiar streets of Richmond to find a safe harbor.
A few hours later, after twilight, Booth rode into town, shocked by the devastation inflicted by the damned Yankee soldiers. Wondering if anyone were left alive, a familiar building caught his eye—the Marshall Theater where he had performed many times to thunderous applause. Riding his horse to the stage door in a dimly lit alley, Booth looked to see if any of the staff were still there. He pulled his mount up abruptly as he saw a giant hole in the side of the building, inflicted by Union cannon fire. Peering through the hole, he saw no one was inside. Who would be desperate enough to stay in a bombed-out theater? He would, Booth told himself.
Tying up his horse, Booth limped inside the door and felt his way around the wall to the men’s dressing room. Inside the dark room, he walked toward the make-up table. On the corner of it, he found an oil lamp. Next to it, his fingers fumbled over a box of matches. Taking one, he lit the lamp and smiled as he looked about the room, still filled with costumes, props and wigs. In the corner, Booth saw an abandoned actor’s trunk. As he opened it, he smiled again because in it were white face powder, India ink, several jars of pigment base powders, spirit gum and wool crepe, all the tools he needed to disguise himself as he walked among the common people once again.
Going to the clothes rack, he found several military suits, which would prove useful at some point and came across clothes for the common working man and a gentleman of leisure. To the side was a hat tree with several kinds of headwear including wigs, brown hair, gray hair, and even red hair. He took the red-haired wig and fondled it, thinking of the Union private he had so easily impersonated the previous night. Booth decided it might be useful to him to become Adam Christy again sometime in the future.
Taking the lamp with him, he ventured out of the men’s dressing room to the ladies’ next door. He would need all the makeup he could find to carry on his mission of—what? He paused to consider—his mission of survival, most certainly, but above all revenge. However, survival was his first goal. If he did not survive the next few weeks, then revenge would not matter.
Looking around the room he spotted a chaise lounge covered by an old quilt, better sleeping accommodations than he had been offered in the last two weeks. The next morning, Booth awoke with an unexpected freshness and excitement about how he would proceed. His leg ached less, but he knew he had to find another doctor to examine it to make sure it was healing properly. Feeling his uniform, Booth realized he had to change clothes immediately. A Union soldier would not be welcomed into Confederate homes, to be fed and pampered. While the three hundred dollars the dark short man gave him was a generous amount, he knew it would not last long if he spent it on biscuits and eggs.
Back in the men’s dressing room, Booth pawed through the rack with the military costumes. He considered making himself into a colonel but shook his head as he put it back. If he wanted to arouse sympathy from the lonely women in the city, he had to become a frightened wounded private who only longed to be in the loving arms of his mother. Booth hid the wallet filled with cash in the bottom of the makeup trunk. As he hobbled out on his crutch into the street, he became aware of his growling stomach. In front of the theater, he looked up the dusty road toward downtown Richmond that was nothing more than heaps of rumble and singular walls, quavering in the wind. His head turned to the opposite direction, which lead out of town where still stood wooden homes, neglected but still inhabited.


Sometimes sleeping late can cause a lot of trouble.
You see, my cocoon was just so comfy that I didn’t want to come out. I was having this wonderful dream of floating over a garden of roses, chrysanthemums and Mexican bluebells. The aroma made my head spin, and the nectar lured me into the caressing petals. The foliage surrounded me with Mother Nature’s love, and I wanted to stay there forever. As I dreamed of flying through the garden, I became aware that my wings bumped into stems which threw me off course. Before I knew it, I could hardly move at all without hitting something inflexible and rough.
Then I realized I wasn’t bouncing from plant to plant at all. It was dark. I was still in my cocoon, and my new wings couldn’t move in the cramped dark space. Instinct told me to kick and scratch as fiercely as I could. Finally, I broke through the cocoon wall and found myself in a beautiful garden, just like in my dream. After flitting from flower to flower, I sensed a distinct chill to the air. When I looked up I saw that the sky was clouding over, and the wind was blowing hard.
I’ve got to get out of this place. As beautiful as it was, I sensed it was going to become too cold very quickly. Looking around, I saw no other butterflies. This wasn’t right. Something was wrong. My instincts told me I was alone and in trouble. I wasn’t dreaming of this garden but another garden, far away where the temperatures were warm and the sun shone all day. But I didn’t know the way, and there was no other butterflies left to guide me.
Before I allowed myself to think the worse, a gentle hand swooped me up and placed me in a box with holes in the sides and several branches of leaves and flowers. I sensed I should have been scared but the flowers’ bouquet lulled me into a trance of serenity, almost like the dream I had while in the cocoon. I felt jostled about and cringed at the noise around me. A soft voice sang me to sleep and once again I was flying in the beautiful garden.
What seemed like a peaceful eternity passed. Coming out of a deep slumber I became aware of the lid of the box lifting, and I saw warm, welcoming skies above me. Without hesitation I flew up and out of the box to find yet another garden. This one was filled with other butterflies, all swooping and soaring around the flowers.
“Where have you been?” they asked. “How did you get here?”
“I overslept, and I don’t know how I got here. Do you believe in miracles?”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Return

EDITOR’S NOTE:I am over my winter sinus crud and back to writing. I’m repeating the last chapter printed to set up the action in the new installment. Also included is the usual synopsis for any new readers.

Previously: Mercenary Leon meets MI6 spies David, the Prince of Wales, and socialite Wallis Spencer. David abdicates the throne to marry Wallis. He becomes Bahamas governor. Leon dies and his son Sidney turns mercenary. David hires him as his valet. The organization wants playboy Jimmy Donohue dead.
The commander of the organization was dying, and Count Alfred de Merigny was glad. He felt he was destined to become the next leader of the most secret crime cabal in the world. He shook with pride in how he eliminated Sir Harry Oakes in 1945. His international cache was being a playboy who participated in prestigious yachting regattas in the world’s most exotic locales. He had the opportunity to give hands-on supervision so lacking in the current commander.
Merigny’s confidence grew when the commander met with him face to face right after the Harry Oakes affair and recommended he relocate his base of operations to Central America. Few people knew the leader’s identity, and he was one of them. Merigny reasoned he could have conferences with his top lieutenants in Central America’s jungles.
In November 1971, Merigny received a telephone call requesting his presence at Eight Thirty Four Fifth Avenue in New York City. The commander was within days of death. His presence was requested.
The next morning after a long overnight flight, Merigny knocked at the hotel suite’s door. A servant opened it and led him to the bedroom of the commander. When the servant opened the door Merigny saw an emaciated Jessie Donohue who seemed lost among her satin sheets. A withered hand with a huge diamond ring on one of her boney fingers pointed to a chair next to the bed.
“Sit, Alfie.” Her voice cracked. “I can’t talk loudly.”
“I understand, Madame Commander.” He sat and leaned in.
“Not anymore.” She stared at Merigny. “My last order was the death of my son.”
“May I ask why?”
“He ruined my chances with the Duke of Windsor.”
Merigny frowned. “Huh?”
“All Jimmy had to do was keep Wallis amused and I could make David love me.”
The woman was dying. I will not argue with her.
Jessie coughed, spitting up phlegm. “Too late for love now. David and I are both dying. The new commander wants David and Wallis dead.”
“The new commander? I thought I was going to be the new commander?”
“Never. You are just a courier. Shut up and listen. The organization sold for more money than you can imagine. I didn’t care about the money, but if I sold it for a pittance, the new commander wouldn’t have respected me. I demand respect, at least for my father, Mr. Woolworth. He founded the organization to perform small but elite missions around the world. My father had stores everywhere back then. But the new commander wants more than my father could even dream of. The organization wants to rule the world—run companies, dictate to nations, tell people what to think.”
“Then why kill two old people?”
“The Allies found files missing at the end of World War II. The new commander is afraid in their last days the Windsors might implicate him.”
“Who could they tell, a doctor, a couple of nurses?”
“I have it on good sources that Queen Elizabeth and her entourage will visit the duke. The commander wants the Queen, Prince Phillip, and Prince Charles killed too.”
She paused to cough again. “The new commander even wants Sidney, our best mercenary of all, killed. He questions Sidney’s loyalty.”
Merigny’s mind raced. She didn’t order him to her deathbed to tell him all this.
“Why am I here?” The words came slowly.
“As far as the new commander knows, you are happy being the top courier. After I die he will contact you to commission six assassins.” Her old hand reached out to him. “Because I trust you, I want you to send a letter with a symbol only Sidney will understand, and he will save my precious Windsors.”
What could that be? I know. I remember when Sidney killed Harry Oakes. He used something only the natives of the Bahamas would understand. He will realize danger is coming.
“The new commander will continue to use you. When he sends you a message for a mission, do what you can to fumble it.” Jessie shook her head causing her jowls to flap. “To murder for jewels, that is one thing. To take over the world, that is intolerable.” She stared at him as though trying to find his soul. “You do agree with me, don’t you, Alfie? Please don’t tell me you agree with the new commander?”
Merigny thought about it.
Petty crime can only exist in relative freedom. And he had spent his life luxuriating in irrelevance. Perhaps immorality and world domination could co-exist, but why take the chance?
“Yes, my dear Jessie, I agree with you.”
Her head collapsed on the pillow. “Thank you, Alfie. You have made me very happy.”
Merigny could tell her breath was shallower. Her eyes stared at the ceiling.
“Please, just give me a clue about the identity of the new commander.”
“Red hair.”

Sidney had the unpleasant duty of observing the decline in health of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. For a while, he thought they might live forever, giving television interviews, and hosting parties. They took yearly holidays to America, traveling along the Atlantic Coast from Miami to New York. They would not age nor lose their health, the valet decided, but merely grow thinner and thinner until one day—poof, they would disappear into pixies, providing the essence of sparkling champagne served at galas around the world.
First the Duke suffered from macular degeneration and had several operations to regain his eyesight. Then the Duchess came down with arteriosclerosis which began the long road down to dementia. The final setback for the Duke was the diagnosis of cancer of the larynx brought on by years of smoking. He endured cobalt treatment so that he could at least present an illusion of health at social appearances. Doctors predicted he would not survive Spring of 1972.
Sidney decided when the Duke passed, he would retire to his home on Eleuthera. He had been employed to be the Duke’s valet, and that position was no longer necessary. With the Duchess’s decline, Sidney felt she would soon forget him. Besides, he himself was growing old. He was in his late forties and still considered middle-aged, but he could feel his strength and quickness fade. He wanted his debility to transpire in his own home surrounded by beloved friends.
He was in the Duke’s bedroom—which had been turned into his hospital suite—one day in early May when his doctor informed the Duke Queen Elizabeth II would visit him on May 18 while in Paris on state business. She would be accompanied by her husband Prince Phillip and her son Prince Charles. Sidney could see a light go on in the Duke’s eyes, and his frail thin body rustled about as though it had been shot with electricity.
“I don’t want them to see me like this, he said in a raspy voice. “I want to be fully clothed and seated in my favorite chair in my sitting room next door.”
“But what about your IV line?” his doctor asked. “You can’t do without it—“
“Hide it behind a curtain placed behind my chair. Run it down my sleeve. I don’t want them to see it.”
The doctor shook his head. “As you wish, Your Majesty.”
“And when they arrive, I shall have a nice tea prepared for them,” Wallis interjected, her voice filled with anticipation.
Sidney knew her mind was going. In her full faculties she would have never become this excited by a royal visit. He decided the Duchess had become what she pretended to be all those years ago.
“We can have a nice little chat before I send them upstairs to see you. It will be quite charming,” Wallis assured her husband.
As he left the room, Sidney’s first thought was about the organization. He didn’t know if it still even existed and if it did would it use this opportunity to assassinate many of its enemies at one time. Himself included.
The next morning a letter arrived at the Bois de Boulogne addressed to him. No return address was on it. The envelope was typed. No handwriting could be detected. Sidney normally pocketed private correspondence and did not open it until the end of the day in his room, but his instincts urged him to open it now.
Inside were six white feathers. Sidney immediately thought of the native religion Obeah and how he had scattered white feathers over the bloody body of Harry Oakes. His mind raced. Only one person knew the significance, Alfred de Merigny.
He’s trying to warn me about something, but what? It was no coincidence that the letter arrived one day after the royal visit was announced. Six feathers. How many visitors would there be? The Queen, Prince of Edinburg and the Prince of Wales. That was only three. Who in the house would the organization want dead? The Duke and Duchess of Windsor. That’s five. Who else? Me.
“You look deep in thought, Sidney. What is it?”
The female voice shook him back to reality.
“Nothing, Eileen.” He smiled as he looked at the young blond maid. She had been hired about a month ago and endeared herself to Sidney by being so eager to ask him about royal protocol.
Eileen. Aline. Endearing. Perhaps not so much of a coincidence.
She grabbed the envelope from his hand. “What is it?” She pulled out the feathers and smiled. “Why the feathers?”
Sidney took back the envelope and feathers and crushed them. “It’s a family joke. Too long a story to tell.”
The staff worked hard to have the house immaculate by the night before the royal visit. Eileen came up behind Sidney and put her arms around his waist. “We did it! Everything’s done! We should celebrate! Why don’t we go dancing tonight? I bet you’re a good dancer.”
Sidney narrowed his eyes as he appraised her. “Yes, that sounds like fun. I know a little place on the Left Bank where Madam used to go dancing with a friend of hers.”
“Oh no! We’re young! I know a place where they play nothing but jazz!”
Sidney said nothing but just smiled. After he attended to the Duke that night he changed into casual black slacks and a black silk shirt. He left the top buttons undone and hung a gold chain around his neck. He finished with a slender cut dinner jacket. He met Eileen outside the Bois de Boulogne. A bus pulled up, and they got on. It was standing room only.
“I’ll tell you when we get there,” she said.
Only six blocks later, Sidney gripped her shoulders and pushed her off the bus.
“What are you doing? You’re hurting me.”
“You said you wanted to go someplace exciting. Well, I’m taking you to the most exciting place in Paris.” He continued to push her until they were deep down a dark alley. “It’s only a little further.”
Several yards more into the alley, he stopped behind a collection of tall garbage cans in total darkness.
“Sidney! I had a big surprise for you at the other place!”
He placed his hands on her cheeks. “But I have a surprise for you here.” He paused before uttering one word, “Organization.”
Sidney detected a slight gasp in her voice. With that, he placed his arm around her head and twisted violently.
Eileen—or whatever her real name was—slumped against his chest. Sidney lifted her body and deposited it in one of the trash cans. Putting the lid back on, he walked with nonchalance back to the Bois de Boulogne so he could get a good night’s sleep.
After all, tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Thirty-Two

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold escape across the river into Maryland where they hide in the Zekiah Swamp. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm.
Ward Lamon read the plans for the long, circuitous route of the funeral train back to Springfield, Illinois, and realized it was a perfect cover for him to investigate the conspiracy against Lincoln, which resulted in his death. From Washington, to New York City, through the Midwest and finally to Illinois, surely he could find some clues.
The body was lying in state, and the train would soon be leaving. Lamon had to talk to Mrs. Lincoln again. His first attempt had ended in disaster, as she accused him as being part of Stanton’s cabal. Pendel met him at the door of the Executive Mansion and took him to her sitting room.
“How is Mrs. Lincoln today?” Lamon asked.
“Oh, she’s feeling much better,” Pendel replied. “I think she should be able to leave for home in a few weeks. Master Tad’s become a different person. He knows he has to be the man of the house now.”
“The last time I was here she thought I was in collaboration with—“
“You weren’t here before, Mr. Lamon,” Pendel interrupted him with a gentle smile. “Her memory of those first hours after the tragedy has mercifully faded.”
“Oh, that’s good.”
They stopped outside her door, and Pendel rapped lightly. “Mrs. Lincoln, Mr. Lamon is here to see you, ma’am.”
Opening the door, Mrs. Lincoln smiled. “Mr. Lamon, I’m so glad to see you. Where have you been?”
She took him by the hand and led him to a davenport as Pendel closed the door behind them. After they sat, Mrs. Lincoln leaned in. “You do know you were a great friend to my husband. And now you must be my friend.”
“Of course, ma’am. And I want to apologize for not being here. Mr. Stanton ordered me out of town. I think he knew if I had been here, the president would not have been shot.” Lamon knew what he said was a lie, but he also knew he had to gain her trust if he were ever to learn what really happened. “I know you and Mr. Lincoln were held captive in the basement for two years,” Lamon confided quietly.
Her eyes widened. “Oh thank God. Then you know I am not insane. No one believes me. Even Mr. Johnson.”
“Mr. Johnson is a good man. As soon as we can present him facts, he will take action against Mr. Stanton. Stanton lied to me when he said you and the President were being held for your own protection against death threats.”
“It was no such thing. He wanted to take over.” She paused. “Don’t tell anyone I said that. They’ll put me away.”
Lamon patted her hands. “You’re right. The nation must never know the truth. The country’s morale is so weak at this point, if the people learned that Mr. Stanton usurped power in the middle of the war they would give up and never believe in the republic again. We have to give Mr. Johnson the information to remove Mr. Stanton from power permanently,” Lamon concluded.
“I want him to suffer,” she whispered with not a little heat in her voice.
“Who else do you suppose knew? Someone I can persuade to talk?” Lamon asked.
“A private named Adam Christy took care of us. Fed us. Emptied our chamber pots.” Shaking her head, she added, “He looked so sad. I cried many nights for him. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into when this whole thing began. By the end he knew, though.”
“I met him a couple of times, but I couldn’t convince him into trusting me with the truth,” Lamon said.
“He was from Steubenville, Ohio,” she said. “Oh, Lord, I hope he made it home safely to his father. His mother died. That weighed heavily on his heart.”
“I haven’t seen him since the assassination.” He paused before adding, “But there was a puddle of blood on the basement floor. I saw it the next day—I mean, the butler just told me he saw it the next day.”
Nodding, she said, “They killed Christy, the poor soul.”
“Then there’s no witnesses left alive who might help us.”
“But there is,” she insisted. “Mr. Gabby. Gabby Zook. He was the addled janitor that spent the entire time with us in the basement. He was setting rattraps the day Mr. Stanton brought us down here. Mr. Stanton said he knew too much and had to stay with us.”
“Do you know where he might be now?”
“He should still be in the basement. I told him that night he could stay.”
“I was just in the basement,” Lamon said. “He’s not there.”
“He was from New York.” Mrs. Lincoln paused to look away and crinkled her forehead. “He had a sister named Cordie who worked at one of the hospitals. I don’t remember the name of it. But he did mention Miss Dorothea Dix was there. The sister died. Find Miss Dix and you’ll find Mr. Gabby.”
Lamon stood. “I’m on my way. Thank you, ma’am. You’ve been a great help. ”
She reached out to grab his arm. “Please, I know you can be blunt and rough, Mr. Lamon. That’s just your way, but you have to be gentle with Mr. Gabby. He’s awful nervous, just like me.”
With Mrs. Lincoln’s parting warning ringing in his ears, Lamon trotted down the stairs. He strained his memory for the name of the hospital where Dorothea Dix supervised the nurses. He had read about her many times in the newspapers which reported her courage, diligence and, yes, sometimes obstinacy in her efforts to mend the wounded soldiers. By the time he reached the first floor the name flashed across his mind—Armory Square Hospital, across the iron bridge and adjacent to the Smithsonian Museum. Before he reached the door, he heard a timorous young voice behind him.
“Mr. Lamon, are you going to catch the man who killed Papa?”
When he turned he saw Tad standing in the hallway, very still and straight, his face devoid of the impishness Lamon saw in him when they last talked, when the imposters lived upstairs. He walked to the boy and patted him on his shoulder.
“I’ll do the best I can, Tad,” he said with a soothing smile. “Do you remember the last time we spoke? You talked about a secret.”
“Somebody told. That’s why Papa got shot.”
“Who do you think told? Private Christy?”
“Oh no, he was nice to me. He took me to the basement one night when I was sick and I wanted to see my real mama and papa. I haven’t seen him since Papa died. I think whoever killed Papa killed him too.”
“The people who pretended to be your parents, did you ever learn their real names?” Lamon crouched to be on Tad’s level so he could look in his eyes.
“No, it was part of the secret.” Tad looked around them and then leaned into Lamon’s ear. “I don’t think Papa’s life was ever in danger, I mean, from anyone out there. I think Mr. Stanton made that part up. I think he was the danger. I think he had Papa killed.”
Reaching out, Lamon hugged Tad. “I think you’re right,” he whispered, “but don’t tell anyone else that. I don’t want anything to happen to you and your mama.”
“I know. So it’s all up to you, Mr. Lamon.”
Tad’s words echoed in his head as Lamon walked away from the Executive Mansion and down the street to the iron bridge across the slough and to Armory Square Hospital. It was up to him, and he could not let Tad or the nation down. When he entered the hospital door, he looked around for Miss Dix, and he spotted her in a far corner, wagging her finger at a nurse whose head hung in reproof. He waited until she finished with the woman and approached her with an introduction.
“I know who you are, Mr. Lamon,” Miss Dix interrupted. “What do you want? I have soldiers needing attention.”
“Do you know a Gabby Zook?”
“Of course, I do,” she replied. “The poor man has very serious mental problems. I couldn’t help him here so I sent him to Brooklyn, New York, with a friend of mine.”
“Who is your friend?”
“Mr. Lamon! That is private information.” She raised an eyebrow. “You have no right to inquire about matters that don’t concern you.”
Lamon stepped forward, hoping his height and bulk would intimidate Miss Dix who was quite short and thin. His maneuver did not work.
“And you take two steps back right this instant! You will not use your size to force information out of me, Mr. Lamon!”
Retreating, Lamon decided to use a different tactic and smiled sheepishly. “I apologize for my brusque manner, Miss Dix, but I am very upset by the death of my dear friend, the president.”
“As we all are.” She continued to eye him with suspicion.
“I am trying to find the man responsible.”
“The newspapers said that actor did it—what was his name? Booth.”
“He may have been the man who pulled the trigger, but I am looking for the man who was responsible. That’s why I’m looking for Mr. Zook. I understand he might have some information about the conspiracy.”
“I told you, Mr. Lamon, Mr. Zook is insane. He came into the hospital the night of the assassination dripping wet from the rain, ranting about being held captive in the Executive Mansion basement.”
“Did he mention a Private Adam Christy?”
Again her eyebrow arched. “And what of it? I knew Private Christy. He was enamored of one of our nurses but she died of pneumonia, as did Mr. Zook’s sister Cordie. What does any of this have to do with the assassination of Mr. Lincoln?”
Realizing he was not going to convince her of any plot he did not bother to mention the role Secretary of War Stanton may have played. He tried smiling again. “You’re probably right.” Sighing, he added, “I hope Mr. Zook will be all right. In his mental state, being all alone in a large city like Brooklyn, why anything could happen to him.”
“I told you Mr. Whitman would take care of him.” Miss Dix gasped as she put her hand to her mouth to keep the words from spilling out, but she was too late.
“Thank you. You should know, Miss Dix, you mustn’t believe the reports you have read about me in the newspapers. I am not as terrible as you might surmise from the reports. As I mustn’t make rash judgments about you from the newspaper stories.”
Her hand slowly dropped from her face, which began to soften. “As a matter of fact, I do remember reading how you often slept on the floor outside the President’s bedroom to protect him.” A smile crept across her thin lips. “Do you really believe Mr. Zook’s crazy stories?”
“I won’t know for sure until I talk to him myself.” Lamon held his breath, hoping she would begin to trust him.
“You might have heard of Mr. Whitman. He’s a poet, though personally I don’t care for his verse. He is a good and kind man. Walt Whitman. You will find him—and Mr. Zook–at his family’s home on North Portland Avenue in Brooklyn.”

Trivia in Berlin

Ernst and Ludwig walked down their Berlin street as was their morning custom three days after New Year’s in 1966. Daily they celebrated their survival the reign of that crazy bastard Adolph Hitler. Friends since childhood, Ernst and Ludwig knew they had entered into a suicide pact when they joined the military as young men. It was enlist or be gunned down on the streets for being cowards and disloyal to the Fuerher.
Now they were in their twilight years and did exactly as they damn well pleased without regard to what their wives and their neighbors thought. Since their retirement from the sanitation department where they disposed of garbage, side by side, for twenty years, Ernst and Ludwig played trivia games to see who would pay for their coffee and cinnamon roll. Picking a topic they asked each other questions and the first to miss an answer treated the other. This worked out to be as fair a way of determining the morning host as they were equally knowledgeable or ignorant on most topics.
This morning they walked a furious pace because the wintry wind was particularly nippy. Their hands were in their pockets, shoulders hunched and heads down.
“Arithmetic,” Ernst announced out of the blue.
Und why not?”
“It’s too cold to calculate numbers in mein head, that’s why.” After a pause, Ludwig offered, “Opera.”
“There’s only one answer to an opera question und that is Wagner.”
“That is true. Then you pick.”
Ach, gudt.Name three famous Americans with the initials M.M.,” Ludwig announced loudly. He chose not to notice that two young women walking the other way on the sidewalk glanced at them and then laughed.
“Mickey Mouse, Marilyn Monroe and Margery Main.”
“You’re not getting off that easy,” Ernt said. “I have a hard question.”
“Ask away,” Ludwig challenged him. “I love America.”
“Where do Americans go when they want to lose most of their money?” Ernst asked.
Ach! Las Vegas in the desert known as Nevada! You have to do better than that!”
“Bet you can’t do any better!” Ernest huffed furiously.
“What is the name of the American president?”
“Lyndon Baines Johnson! Und his beautiful daughters are Lucy Baines and Lynda Bird.”
“Not fair!” Ludwig bumped Enst’s shoulder. “That was going to be my next question.”
They both looked up to see their favorite little restaurant on the corner two blocks away. They increased their speed.
“We’re almost there. If we arrive und no one has missed a question then the person with the last correct answer wins,” Ernst offered.
“That’s fair,” Ludwig conceded but he added, “talk faster.”
“In what month of the year do Americans celebrate the landing of Christopher Columbus?”
“Hmm…you’ve been watching the American television channel again. Give me a moment.”
“You said to make it fast, so make it fast,” Ludwig said with glee. “Only one more block to go!”
As they crossed the last street before the restaurant, Ludwig’s foot rammed into the curb.
Ach!” He lifted his leg to grab his injured foot, winced and pointed at his shoe. “Toe!” The wind picked up, and Ludwig said with a shudder, “Brr!”
Ernst’s mouth flew open. “But how did you know?”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Thirty-One

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold escape across the river into Maryland where they hide in the Zekiah Swamp. Baker enlists his cousin’s help to save Booth’s life. Booth arrives at Garrett’s farm.
The hour approached 11 p.m. when Luther Baker and his troops arrived in front of the Star Hotel in Bowling Green. Earlier in the evening, they visited the Trappe Tavern where they learned from the hostesses that Ruggles and Bainbridge had visited them the previous night. They had not seen a lame man at all.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay for some refreshments?” the madam extended the coy invitation as her girls tittered.
Luther declined but asked how to find the Star Hotel.
“Oh, you won’t have any fun there,” the madam said, but when he insisted she gave him directions.
Before Luther rapped on the Star Hotel door, he told the men to wait there, that he, Doherty and Conger would bring out the informant. The door shuddered as he banged his fist against it. Before long, it opened and a portly middle-aged woman wearing a housecoat answered. In her right hand, she held an oil lamp; with her left hand, she clutched the housecoat, keeping it modestly secured around her neck.
“Are you the proprietor of this establishment?” Luther asked brusquely.
“I am Mrs. Gouldman, yes.”
“Is Willie Jett here?”
“I believe he is, yes.”
“Take us to his room immediately.”
“I cannot believe Mr. Jett could be the subject of any criminal investigation. He is such a fine young man.”
“We think he has information concerning the whereabouts of the Lincoln assassins.”
“That cannot be—“
“If you do not take us to his room you will be charged with being a member of the conspiracy,” Luther interrupted.
Mrs. Gouldman fluttered her eyes. “In that case, follow me.”
She led the three men up the stairs and went to a door at the far end of the hall. She tapped lightly. “Willie, dear, there are gentlemen here to see you.”
“Is the door locked?” Luther asked.
“We only rent rooms to gentlefolk, sir. There’s no need for locked doors.”
At that, Luther pushed past her, opened the door and stormed the bed, followed by Conger and Doherty. “Where’s John Wilkes Booth? You know! Tell us!” he yelled as he jostled Jett from a deep sleep.
“I swear, gentlemen!” Mrs. Gouldman said, “this is not proper!”
Doherty took her elbow, ushered her out of the room, shut the door and stood guard as Luther jerked Jett up by the armpit.
“Where is he? Tell us, or by God, we’ll charge you with conspiracy!” Luther continued.
“All right, all right,” Jett replied, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “I’ll tell you if you will lower your voice.”
“Very well.” Calm returned to Luther’s voice. “Where is he?”
“The Garrett farm, about half-way between here and Port Royal. You must have passed it. We met them on the ferry. He told us exactly what he did. And we saw you crossing on the ferry. We went back and told him before coming here. He may be gone already.”
“Can we find it in the dark?” Luther asked.
“I’ll take you there myself but you got to promise not to tell anyone I did it,” Jett said. Especially Mr. and Mrs. Gouldman. I love their daughter Izora. I want to marry her.” He paused and lowered his voice. “I want to be their son-in-law so I can eventually own this hotel. If I help you, please don’t ruin my future.”
Luther smirked. “Your future is in your own hands. You can tell the Gouldmans anything you want and we won’t contradict it. You have a horse?”
“Yes, sir. Right outside.”
“Well, get dressed and mount up. We’re on the road back to Garrett’s farm.”
In a few minutes, they were all mounted in front of the Star Hotel, waiting for Willie Jett to explain to Mrs. Gouldman about how the Yankees were commandeering him to search for a man he swore he did not know. He asked her to pray for his safe return by morning. After Jett mounted his horse, a private clopped up.
“Sir, Sgt. Boston Corbett has disappeared. Do you think there are rebel snipers around here? I didn’t hear any shots.”
“Corbett?” Luther paused. “Oh yes, Corbett. Don’t worry about it. He’s probably found a church where he can pray a few moments for the success of our mission. He’ll be back before you know it.”
“But how will he know where to find us?” the private insisted. “You told us the destination only minutes ago.”
“God will tell him,” Luther replied.
“Very well, I’ll stay behind and find him. Doherty and Conger know what to do. This young man knows the way,” he said motioning toward Jett.
Luther sat astride his horse, watching his detail ride away down the dark road to the Garrett farm until the galloping hooves were only a mere vibration. Then he heard a whistle from across the road in a patch of trees. Following it, he found his cousin Lafayette Baker, the sergeant and a corpse across an extra horse.
“I thought your men would never leave,” Baker stated in a drone. “I could not quite make out where we are going.”
“Garrett’s farm,” Luther replied. “It’s halfway back to Port Royal.”
“Then we must be on our way.” Baker urged his horse forward. “This is the most crucial point of our mission. The switch from Booth to the corpse must be smooth and undetectable.”
“God will provide a way,” Corbett assured them.
Luther looked at the sergeant and decided he looked as crazy as reported to him. “This mission does not seem strange to you, Sgt. Corbett?”
“Nothing is strange if it is the will of God.”
Denied the comfortable beds in the main house, Booth and Herold slept restlessly in Garrett’s tobacco barn. Booth’s dreams were of standing on a stage, having just completed the greatest of Shakespeare’s soliloquys, waiting for thunderous applause but hearing nothing but silence. Breaking the hush were catcalls and declarations of ridicule, shouts that he would never be the actor his father and brother were. Sounds of horses coming down the road alerted Garrett’s dogs, which began a great commotion of barking, howling and snarling as they caromed off each other in the darkness.
“Davey, go see what that is!” Booth ordered, nudging his sleeping companion.
Herold stumbled to his feet, went to the barn door, and pushed on it but it did not open.
“It’s barricaded!”
“Look through the slats! What do you see?”
“I don’t see nothing. It’s too dark. I hear horses for sure now. A whole passel of them. They’re real loud now. They’re coming through the gate!”
Booth struggled to his feet, hobbled on his crutches to the barn door and shook it. “Damn the man! Why would he lock us in like this?” He paused and turned for his guns. “He knows. When he went looking for a wagon, he was actually turning us in to the Federals! And I thought the man had honor!”
“I see some lanterns now,” Herold said. “The whole damn family is on the porch and they’re pointing toward the barn!” He turned and went to his fellow traveler. “Mr. Booth, sir, I want to go home to my mama and sisters now, sir.”
“Time has long passed for that, Davey. Here take this rifle. We’ll shoot our way out of this.”
“That ain’t going to work! We had better give up!”
“No, no. I will suffer death first.” Booth turned to the barn door as he heard the wooden bar being lifted. “Shh. Be silent.”
The door opened, and the old man lurched into the barn, as though he had been pushed. The door slammed behind him. “The place is surrounded by Yankee troops,” Garrett said in a trembling voice. “Resistance is useless. You better come out and deliver yourself up.”
“Traitor!” Booth screamed. He lifted his rifle and aimed it at Garrett. “You, sir, are no gentleman.”
“Help!” Garrett bawled. “He’s going to shoot me!” The old man ran for the door. “Let me out!”
Herold sprang from Booth’s side and banged on the door. “Let me out too! I want my mama!”
The door flung open and Herold and Garrett rushed out, allowing Booth a glance at the crowd of soldiers gathered there, holding their weapons, some holding lanterns. He was now alone.
“To whom am I speaking?” he called out. “Are you Union or Confederate?”
A loud baritone replied, “You know who we are! We are here to arrest you for assassination of President Abraham Lincoln!”
A crack in the wood planking of the back barn wall drew Booth’s attention. When he turned he saw the new opening in the wall, and lantern light was filling the barn with an eerie, shifting glow. Coming through the new hole in the wall was a short stocky man. Booth squinted. He looked mildly familiar. Yes! He knew. It was man from beneath the Aqueduct Bridge. But what was he doing here?
“Shh,” the man hissed. “Ask for time to consider your options,” he whispered.
“I—I want a few minutes to think about what to do.” Booth fought to keep his voice from wavering. He was confused. So much was happening so fast. He needed time to think, to figure it all out.
“Don’t say anything,” the man said intensely. “I am here to save your life. You were chosen to fulfill another man’s will. I cannot give details. But do as I tell you, and your life will be spared.”
A short, thin man came through the opening dragging a corpse, about his age and build, with black hair.
“The troop leader will say this corpse is you. Take off your clothes while the sergeant strips the corpse. Now! No time to waste!”
Booth, feeling bewildered, obeyed, although his instincts told him not to trust the man.
“There is a horse out there waiting for you. In the excitement, you will be able to get away. I will give you three hundred dollars in cash. That will be enough to take you to Mexico and beyond. Never come back.”
As Booth put on the Union private’s clothes the sergeant dressed the corpse in Booth’s suit.
The stocky man from the Aquedect Bridge handed him a wallet with the money.
“Your time is up!” the officer outside yelled. “Come out or we’ll set fire to the barn!”
“Say something!” the man whispered. “Buy us time!”
“I am a cripple on crutches,” Booth called out. “If you are an honorable man you will pull your men back fifty yards from the door and I’ll come out and fight you. Give me a chance to fight for my life!”
“No! Come out now and surrender and we will spare your life!” the officer shouted.
“Well, my brave boys, prepare a stretcher for me!” Booth reached down for his rifle.
“No, leave the guns. Go now!” the short stocky man hissed.
Booth hobbled to the hole and looked back to see the sergeant shoot the corpse in the back of the neck before the man and the sergeant followed Booth out the narrow opening. Booth motioned to them that he needed help mounting the horse. As they lifted him, they heard soldiers’ firing into the barn in response to Corbett’s shot. Soon flames flickered in the barn as dried straw and the curing tobacco caught fire, and smoke flowed out from gaps between the boards.
As Booth adjusted himself on the saddle, the man slapped the hindquarters of the horse. He galloped out gate and turned south, not knowing exactly where he would go. In one last look back, he saw the aqueduct man mount his horse and ride after him. He also noticed the thin sergeant run around the corner of the barn, yelling. Booth sped away, still bothered by the question of who was the man who had seduced him into killing the president and then went to extraordinary means to save his life?


Bob and Madge sat in the Mexican restaurant, sharing a large plate of nachos, and each sipped on their margaritas.
“Remember the time Susie smeared the queso in her hair?” Madge laughed as she crunched on a tortilla chip.
“Yeah, when the waitress came up, we asked what we should do,” Bob replied, “She replied, ‘I don’t know. If I had a camera I’d take a picture of it.”
They both laughed and took another big slurp of the margaritas.
“That’s one thing we did wrong with Joey.” Madge scooped up some guacamole. “We always bought him a hamburger, no matter where we ate. Remember when we got in late at the beach and went to the restaurant where the waitress walked up with the wrong order and Joey started screaming when she walked away.”
“We shouldn’t have let him go hungry like that.”
“And then the next night we went to the hamburger joint late and he toddled down the aisle as fast as his two little legs would carry him. And the line was backed up.”
“They should have taken that little boy away from us, the way we starved him.” Bob stuffed another nacho in his mouth.
“No wonder he ate all the chocolate doughnuts in the back seat.” After Madge took another swig of her margarita she twisted her face. “But that was another trip, wasn’t it?” She shook her head and pushed her salt-rimmed glass over to Bob. “You better have the rest of my margarita. I’m not making any sense.”
Bob was about to take her glass when he pointed to the last nacho on the platter. “Do you want that?”
“No, you can have it.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Then why did you ask if I wanted it?”
“I was just making conversation.”
“I don’t think you need the rest of the margarita.” She pulled the glass back across the table.
“If that’s the way you feel about it….” Bob reached for the last nacho and ate it.
Madge started laughing, her face turned red and she coughed.
“Okay, that settles it,” Bob resolved. “We must never leave each other. No one else could ever understand us.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Thirty

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Stanton’s henchman Lafayette Baker takes Christy’s body to an embalmer. Booth and Herold escape across the river into Maryland where they hide in the Zekiah Swamp. Baker enlists his cousin’s help to save Booth’s life. Booth arrives at Garrett’s farm.
Luther Baker felt confident the next morning, April 25. As soon as the 16th New York Cavalry arrived in Port Conway, he spotted a black ferry operator, sweeping the deck of his boat. Riding up to the dock Luther called out to him.
“Hey you! I got some questions!”
The man put his broom aside and walked down the gangplank. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“We’re on the hunt for the men who assassinated the President.”
“What can I do to help?”
“Have you seen two men, one of them with a broken leg?”
“I seen a man with a lame leg but there was five of them, though. They wasn’t too pleasant, if you ask me. Didn’t even pay the toll. I took them across to Port Royal.”
“Five men?”
“Three Confederates, sir.”
“So they’ve enlisted help,” Luther said almost to himself.
“I don’t think so, sir. I know the boys, and they’re all local. I know one in particular real well, Willie Jett. He comes through here all the time.”
“Then we want to go to Port Royal,” Luther replied. What’s your name, boy?”
“James Thornton, sir. My boss, Mr. Champe Thornton, has instructed me to operate his boat while he attends to other matters. You and your men can board right now if you like, sir, but all your men have to get down off your horses for the trip. And it’s gonna take three trips to get you all across. That’s two whole hours. You got a problem with that?”
“Why no. It’s still the fastest way to get to Port Royal. And who would want to ride their horse on a boat?” Luther asked.
“The man with the lame leg.”
Luther rode back and forth on the ferry three times, staying by Thornton’s side asking him more questions about the Confederates.
“The other two are Mortimer Ruggles and Absalom Bainridge. Those gentlemen like to visit a tavern called the Trappe for the horizontal entertainments, if you know what I mean. It’s on the road between Port Royal and Bowling Green. Now the first gentleman, Mr. Willie Jett, don’t indulge in such activities because he’s courting a right nice young lady by the name of Izora Gouldman whose father runs a very respectable hotel in Bowling Green. Any time you want to find Mr. Willie you go to the Bowling Green hotel and that’s where he’s likely to be. The Star, that’s name of Mr. Gouldman’s place, the Star Hotel.”
After the third trip across the Rappahannock, Baker leaned into Thornton to whisper, “I wouldn’t be surprised if when you return you find a solitary gentleman on horseback waiting for you. He’s my cousin. A short, husky man with red hair. Most important of all, he will have a second horse carrying an unusual bundle. Do not ask anything about it, but deliver him to Port Royal as quickly as possible.” He handed Thornton a fist of silver coins. “Here’s the toll, and a little extra to take care of my cousin.”
Booth and Herold slept late the morning of April 25. The Garretts had given them the best bedroom in the house. Supper the night earlier was satisfying, excellent food, and the family around the table was very attentive as Booth regaled them with an invented story of how he was wounded at Petersburg as part of A.P. Hill’s division. On his trip home to Maryland he encountered a troop of Yankees. He cursed them and shot at them, causing the troops to chase him back into the hinterlands of Virginia. Booth warned the family that Union soldiers might be arriving at the farm to inquire as to his whereabouts. Garrett’s three young daughters, Lillian, Cora and Henrietta were particularly enthralled with Mr. Boyd, as Booth called himself. Afterwards he sat on the porch with the old man smoking a pipe with tobacco cured in Garrett’s own barn. The three girls lingered by the screen door and giggled.
Booth spent late morning lying under an apple tree telling stories to the sisters and teaching them how to read a compass. Garrett’s eldest son was late for lunch, and when he sat at the table with the family he announced the Richmond newspapers reported the reward for Lincoln’s assassin had risen to $140,000.”
“Well,” Lillian commented, “I suppose the man was paid to kill the president.”
Booth, swallowing hard on his potatoes, replied, “It is my opinion, he was not paid a cent but instead did it for notoriety’s sake.”
“Notoriety’s sake?” Coral repeated with a laugh. “Any man who would commit murder for notoriety’s sake must be insane!”
The family laughed long and hard at Cora’s comment, giving Booth the opportunity to tamp down his anger. He could tell Herold wanted to reply, but he caught the young man’s attention and shook his head no. Herold remained silent.
After lunch, Booth and his companion adjourned to the front porch where they luxuriated most of the afternoon, drinking in the vista of rolling green hills, salted with white-petalled Dogwood trees. A brilliant red Cardinal and his mate were building their nest in an oak tree at the corner of the farmhouse veranda, keeping the men company and providing them conversation fodder as they discussed the birds’ progress. In the distance a cow lowed peacefully. It was idyllic.
Late in the day, Garrett walked out with a well-worn school map of the Southern states and sat next to them.
“I’m sure you gentlemen will want to be on your way soon. Here’s a map so you may plot your journey back to Maryland.”
“That’s right neighborly of you, sir,” Herold replied with a crooked grin. “I imagine we could waste a bunch of time going up and down the countryside looking for home if left to our own devices.”
As the three of them pored over the map, noise from the road interrupted their study, causing them to gape in the direction of the sound.
“There goes some of your party right now,” Garrett commented pleasantly.
“Please get my pistols in the bedroom.” Booth voice was tense.
“Why would you want your pistols?” the old man asked.
“You go and get my pistols!” Booth bellowed.
Garrett pulled back and frowned a moment before rising to go into the house. Booth ordered Herold to help him to his feet and hand him his crutches, saying they should hide in the woods behind the tobacco barn until the riders pass. They had only made it halfway to the trees when they realized the riders were Jett, Ruggles and Bainbridge.
“Marylanders, you’d better watch out!” Jett yelled. “There are forty Yankees coming up the hill!”
“How do you know that?” Herold asked, fear tinging his voice.
“We saw them from a bluff overlooking the ferry landing. Half the soldiers are across and the last bunch ain’t far behind,” Ruggles said, huffing. “I think they saw us.”
“Maybe we ought to go with you right now,” Herold suggested.
“No, we’re better off here,” Booth countered.
“I suggest hiding out so they won’t see you,” Bainbridge warned. “They’ll be coming down this same road. We’re going to lay low in Bowling Green until they pass.”
“Good luck!” Ruggles shouted, as the three Confederates turned their horses and continued on the road to Bowling Green.
By this time, Garrett returned with the guns. Booth hobbled to him followed by Herold.
“My apologies, sir,” Booth said in his best sincere tones. “You were right. Those were our companions from yesterday. They were just paying their respects before moving on.”
Garrett studied Booth’s face before replying, “I’d never seen a man turn so passionate so fast as you did when you saw the men on horseback.”
“I told you when we arrived we had Federals chasing us,” Booth said in defense.
“Yeah, we don’t want to see those damn Yankees again,” Herold interjected. “I don’t rightly know if mounted cavalry could travel that fast to get to Port Conway and beyond. What do you think, Mr. Garrett?”
“Oh, I don’t think so.” Garrett looked off and scratched his head. “It might be good if you caught up with your friends, where ever they might be going.”
“We intend on staying here all night.” An ill-tempered edge crept back into Booth’s voice.
“I’ll be honest with you, gentlemen. My suspicions have been aroused in the last hour. We are peaceable citizens, and we don’t want to get into any trouble with the government.”
“Oh, there ain’t no chance we’ll bring any danger to you and your family,” Herold said with a laugh. “Hmm, what does the missus have planned for supper? I’m beginning to get hungry.”
Before Garrett could answer, a thunderous rumble arose beyond the rise toward Port Royal. Dust lifted along the horizon.
“Now, that has to be the Yankee troops coming,” Garrett announced in irritation.
“Let’s skedaddle!” Herold yelped, turning to run to the woods.
Booth grabbed his arm. “We don’t have time. If they see us running, they will know something is awry.” He dropped his crutches and put his hand on Herold’s shoulder to balance himself. “Now we are merely three men standing in the farmyard having a leisurely conversation.”
Calmly they watched forty mounted cavalry gallop by on their way to Bowling Green. After they passed, Garrett wagged a finger at them.
“This is the last straw! You men must leave now!”
“Davey, pick up my crutches,” Booth said calmly. After Herold retrieved them and Booth was standing on his own, he continued in a soft voice, “If that is your wish, but we must have a wagon. The pain in my leg is intolerable. I cannot continue on horseback. We have money. We will buy a wagon ride.”
“I know a man about a mile away. He might take you anywhere,” Garrett replied.
Herold fumbled in his pockets and pulled out a bill, “Here’s a Secretary Chase note. Will this do?”
Garrett grabbed it. “I’ll make sure it’ll do.” He turned to the stable for his horse. “I’ll be back with the wagon in no time.”
They settled back on the porch. Booth pulled out the pouch of Garrett’s tobacco and filled his pipe.
“Tell me again how you cut that Army officer at the theater,” Herold said with a puppy-dog look in his eyes.
A couple of hours passed, and the sun began to dip below the skyline when Garrett rode back down the road. When he dismounted, he frowned. “The man wasn’t home. His wife didn’t know when he’d be back. She also said the troops stopped at her house to ask if she had seen a couple of white men, one of them lame.” He handed the bill back to Herold. “I’ll drive you in my wagon any place you want to go immediately. No charge.”
Booth smiled slightly and shook his head. “It’s too late now. It’d look suspicious if the Federals caught you out at night in a wagon. Feed us, give us a bed one more time and we’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
Garrett scowled. “You get supper, but I’ll be damned if I’ll give up my bed to you again. You and your brother—if that’s who he really is—can sleep in the tobacco barn.”

So Proud I Restrained Myself

I always say I love being an old fart. Of course, that does come with one qualification—all those medical tests I have to endure to make sure some nasty disease isn’t trying to sneak up on me.
Recently I went in for my semi-annual blood pressure measurement, thumping on my chest and back, and breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Yes, I was relieved to know I could still breathe. Then the doctor said it was time for another stool test and he started filling out the prescription sheet.
This confused me because I hadn’t had a school test in almost 50 years and I didn’t know why I needed to take one now. Before I could say anything I realized he said stool and not school and it wasn’t the kind of stool I sat on. Well, I could sit on it, but it would be rather uncomfortable, messy and stink.
He told me to go right over to the hospital to the outpatient care desk, hand the clerk the prescription, and the clerk would hand me the packet. I’d take it home, follow the instructions and return it to be analyzed. I am thoroughly versed on this procedure so not only did I hand in the prescription but also my insurance cards and driver’s license.
Of course, a line of other old people were in front of me, ready to get stuck, x-rayed and worse. The receptionist took my prescription and other required documents and told me to sit down and wait to be called. I made myself comfortable and was halfway through checking my Facebook account (I hate missing out on the latest cute kitty photo) when I heard my name being called. Sitting in the cubicle I filled out the paperwork, signing my name and initialing all the necessary boxes.
Up to this point I had dealt with volunteers and clerks trained in expediting paper, and they had all done their jobs amazingly well. Then the clerk handed the paperwork to someone who actually knew something about medicine. That person immediately recognized what procedure was ordered and knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish the test right then and there, on the premises at that exact moment. The clerk had to tear up the paperwork, take the prescription to the lab where a technician would surrender a plastic kit to be brought back to me. At a future undetermined date I would return the kit, a little less for wear, deliver it to the clerk who would then have me fill out the paperwork and afterwards deliver the plastic package to the lab.
I was not surprised. I had played this game before. Unfortunately, the medical staffer must have had a stressful morning up to that point and became a little confused about the situation.
“Does he have the sample with him?”
Several inappropriate and somewhat tasteless responses formed in my brain. I smiled at the clerk and said, “Thank me for not saying what first came to me.”
She smiled and said, “Thank you.”