Booth’s Revenge Chapter Four

Previously: Just before shooting Lincoln, Booth thinks of the events leading to this moment.Stanton henchman Baker is busy disposing of bodies.
A bang rang out in basement, rousing Baker from remembering his vow to kill Stanton, which he never meant to keep. He looked down the corridor and saw light from a kerosene lamp glimmering from an open door. Good, Baker thought, Christy shot himself and saved him the trouble. When he walked into the room, Baker smirked, his suspicions confirmed. Christy lay there on his back, his head in a pool of spreading blood. Baker could tell by the position of the gun near his hand on the floor that the private had stuck the revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Sighing Baker walked over to the body wanting to carry it out of the Executive Mansion and dispose of it in the Potomac as he had the impostors. It had been a long day, and he wanted to lie in bed, drink a pint of whiskey and fall asleep. However, when he bent over the body, Baker stopped short as he looked into Christy’s blank eyes. They were so sad, so young, so filled with pain. Tears stained Christy’s freckled cheeks. In that moment, Baker realized Christy looked like himself as a young man.
Memories flooded back of his childhood in western New York as a short, thin boy with carrot-red hair. The bullies teased him, pushed him down and kicked him. When he ran home crying, he received no sympathy from his stern father.
“You got to learn to stand up for yourself,” his father lectured him. “Get tough or die.”
That was the way life was. As he grew up, Baker became a mechanic, and his body thickened with muscle and his fists were calloused from all the fights he had won over bigger boys. His once-red hair darkened into auburn and he grew a beard to hide the appearance of youthful innocence.
From his hometown, he drifted out west and became a vigilante in San Francisco where, in the name of justice, he learned to kill men guilty of a wide range of crimes such as gambling, ballot-box stuffing, treason, robbery and murder. Eventually, he had killed so many men he couldn’t remember when killing felt wrong. It came to feel like business.
Baker met a lovely, naïve girl by the name of Jenny and married her. She was his connection to the world of sane and civilized people. By 1861, he and his wife returned to New York relatively wealthy.
At the outbreak of the Civil War General Winfield Scott hired him as a spy. Within a few months, the Confederates captured him in Richmond. It didn’t take him long to escape to Washington where the State Department hired him as a detective. From there he joined the War Department where he became a vicious interrogator. His reputation brought him to the attention of the Secretary of War himself, Edwin Stanton. Baker did not want to expose Jenny to the dirty world of Washington politics so he bought her a new home in Philadelphia. There she would be closer than New York but far enough away never to learn of his state-sanctioned brutality.
Baker’s transformation from an innocent, defenseless red-haired youth to government-paid assassin was complete. Baker thought he had lost that tender side of his character forever until he stared into the dead eyes of Adam Christy. Then all his fear and frailty came rushing back. The same self-loathing that was evident on Christy’s face was deep inside Baker. He saw in the dead eyes the realization that Christy had failed his first test of character in his short life, and now everything was over. Yes, Baker conceded, they were alike. Except for one fact. When Baker first failed a test of character, he considered it a victory of determination over weakness.
Now it was too late to change, he thought. Baker knew that he was as dead on the inside as Christy was, lying there in his own blood. He was an outright empty machine proficient in the arts of torture and murder. And what for, Baker asked himself. For the money? He remembered earlier in the evening he had confronted Stanton about why he had gone to such extraordinary lengths to put Lincoln in the basement and then plan his assassination. Baker accused him of doing it for the power.
“And what is it for you?” he remembered Stanton asking in spite.
“I’m a simple man,” Baker had told him. “I’m not a lawyer. I’m not smart enough to want more than to be comfortable. And it takes money for that.”
“So it’s just for the money?” Stanton’s cupid’s bow lips twisted into a smirk.
“You’re a fool, Mr. Stanton. You think power will make you happy.”
“Neither does money.”
“That’s right,” Baker remembered telling Stanton, “but it makes being miserable much more fun.”
Now, standing over Christy’s body, Baker realized he was wrong. However, if it was not for the money, then what was it for, his life of violence? Perhaps it was in revenge for all the suffering he endured as a child. More than likely, he would never know. His heart was so hardened at this point it made no difference. A knot developed in the pit of his stomach. He could no longer make himself touch, let alone pick up, Christy’s body. Baker also sensed his throat constricting, his face turning red and his eyes filling with tears. For the first time since he ran down the dusty streets of his little western New York town, Baker began to cry.
Moreover, Baker did not just allow tears to flow down his rough ruddy cheeks, he bawled. He sobbed; he gasped for breath, feeling the back of his head burn red-hot. All the emotion he had suppressed throughout the years came out. The heat from the room became unbearable; Baker thought he would pass out if he did not get out of the building and inhale fresh, cool night air.
He only made it as far as the hallway before falling to his knees. At first, his stomach roiled and then his diaphragm contracted violently. He gagged, and his eyes bulged. Before he knew it, he was vomiting on the floor, his head sagging down. His heaving continued so much that pungent, liquor-laced acid flowed from his nose. Between regurgitations, Baker moaned at full volume, thinking he wanted to die. From down the hall he heard a door open.
“Cleotis, I told you to stay out of it.” Baker recognized the Negro woman’s voice. It belonged to the cook whom Christy had tried to rape. “That’s white folks business.”
“There’s a sick man out here, Phebe,” the butler said in a low, firm tone. “That’s everybody’s business.”
Baker’s body twitched again, and he readied himself for another purge, but nothing came up this time. It did not lessen the pain. He became aware of a large, strong hand on his shoulder.
“Mister, are you all right?”
“No,” Baker rasped. “Go away.”
“Let me help you clean up.”
“I said go away.” He struggled to his knees, wiping his sputum-covered mouth and nostrils with his coat sleeve. “I’ll clean this up.” He heard the butler take a few steps away.
“The soldier boy’s on the floor in there all covered with blood.”
“The boy’s dead?” Phebe’s voice sounded startled and concerned. After a pause, her cynical attitude returned. “None of our business.”
Baker tried to stand, but his knees buckled again. Cleotis went back to him and lifted him by the armpits.
“Mister, I don’t know who you are, but you need help.” The butler’s voice was gentle but firm.” There ain’t no two ways about it.”
“No, no,” Baker mumbled.
“Come on in the kitchen and take a seat.” Cleotis dragged him down the hall and through the door to the kitchen, placing him in a chair. “Sit here awhile and you’ll feel better.” He turned to a table and picked up a dishtowel. “Phebe, get me a bucket of water,” he called out.
“I don’t wanna.”
“Woman, I’ve about had all that I’m gonna take,” he called out, still calm but louder. “Now get the bucket now.” Cleotis returned his attention to Baker and wiped his face. “Let me clean you up a bit, sir.”
“Why are you being nice to me?”
Cleotis continued to wipe. “I’m a butler, sir. That’s what I do.”
In a moment, Phebe entered the kitchen with a bucket of water. Baker looked up and noticed that she was pregnant.
“Is that your wife?” he mumbled, succumbing to Cleotis’ care.
“In the eyes of the Lord, sir,” the butler replied. “Sometimes that’s the best us colored folks can do.”
After feeling the fresh water on his face, Baker returned to rational thought. He realized he did need help cleaning up the evidence.
“I didn’t shoot the boy.”
“I know, sir.” Cleotis finished washing Baker. “There now. You look a heap better.” He turned to Phebe. “Get the mop and start cleaning up that sickness out there in the hall.”
“Yes, Cleotis.” She sighed while grabbing the mop from behind the door.
“We don’t want to know no more than that,” the butler told Baker. “It ain’t healthy. If you get the body out of here then we can clean everything up and by tomorrow morning, everything will be back to normal. There never was a soldier boy in the basement of the White House, and that’s a fact.”

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