Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixty-Three

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Lamon and Baker join forces to bring down Stanton. Dr. Leale follows the political intrigue in the newspaper.
Walt Whitman and Gabby Zook, wearing heavy coats, hunched over as they made their way down windy Portland Street in Brooklyn on the coldest day yet of the New Year 1868. They paused as Whitman bought a newspaper from a waif on the corner before crossing to their favorite little café for a warm and stout breakfast. They hung up their coats on a rack by the door and found an empty table.
“I’m sorry my brother disrupted your sleep this morning,” Whitman said in good humor. “Jesse is fine most of the time, but when he’s experiencing a flare-up of his syphilis, well you never know what he will do.” Whitman smiled and patted Gabby’s hand. “I don’t think he would have thrown that hot grease on you. He’s really quite fond of you. He told me so himself.”
“As long as I get my eggs. I like the middle nice and runny.” Gabby paused as he looked out the window to see snow flurries begin. “Jesse’s just like the rest of us, isn’t he, Mr. Walt? No one is totally normal, but we all try hard to get along. At least I know I do.”
A young woman dressed in a drab brown dress with a soiled apron around her waist brought two mugs of hot coffee to them. Gabby smiled at her. They ate there many times, and she was often their waitress. Whitman placed the breakfast order, stressing how Gabby liked his egg yolks runny. After the girl walked away, Gabby looked at his friend, melancholy shading his eyes.
“Private Christy was a really nice person too. I could tell it. Of course, he tried to kill me once.”
Whitman leaned forward, sipped his coffee and smiled. “And how did that happen?”
“Oh, I don’t think he would have tried to kill me if I hadn’t jumped on his back.” He paused to sip from his cup. “This is really good coffee.”
“And why did you jump on his back?”
“Mrs. Lincoln told me to. She said if we could get the key away from him, we could get out of there. I usually don’t like to be mean to people, but I was missing Cordie something terrible. You know to be a skinny fellow, Private Christy was pretty strong. He threw me off and was about to kill me when Mr. Lincoln came up out of his bed and picked Private Christy up by his arm pits and threw him against the wall. Now Mr. Lincoln was strongest of us all, and he could have killed Private Christy if he had had a mind to.” He looked at Whitman and wrinkled his brow. “I wonder why he didn’t?”
“You know that as well as I do. He was a man of honor.” Whitman looked up. “Ah, and here are your eggs, nice and runny, just the way you like them.”
Gabby devoured the eggs.
“You don’t know how to lie, do you, Mr. Gabby?”
“No sir, I don’t.” He tried to talk while chewing the eggs. A bit of the yolk dribbled down his chin. “I know I get confused real easily sometimes, so everything coming out of my mouth aren’t facts, but I don’t make things up on purpose.”
Whitman buttered his toast and munched on it as he read the newspaper headlines. “I’m amazed that Stanton talked General Grant into resigning as Secretary of War. The Republican Senate reinstated Stanton over Johnson’s objections.”
“What was that?” Gabby wiped the egg yolk off his face with his hand.
“Never mind,” Whitman replied.
Gabby frowned. “You were talking about something I don’t understand, weren’t you?”
“Most of the nation doesn’t understand what’s going on right now. Don’t worry about it.”
When Gabby finished, he pushed his plate away and smiled.
“Mr. Stanton is in the newspaper again,” Whitman announced as if it wasn’t important. “You don’t really care for Mr. Stanton, do you, Mr. Gabby?”
Gabby’s eyes wandered out the restaurant window. “He’s the man that put us in the basement all that time.”
“Yes, I remember you telling me.”
“He tore a Gabby quilt right in front of me once.”
“And what’s a Gabby quilt?”
“Cordie made them just for me, to keep me warm at night. That’s why she called them Gabby quilts. Somehow she got Private Christy to bring one to me, and Mr. Stanton was sure there was a message hidden in it somewhere so he ripped it up. Didn’t find anything but stuffing.”
“That was a mean thing to do.”
“Mrs. Lincoln fixed it for me the best she could. She was kind of mean and crazy sometimes, but sometimes she could be almost as sweet as Cordie.”
“The newspaper also says General Grant resigned as secretary of war so Mr. Stanton could have the job again. What do you think about that, Mr. Gabby?”
“I thought General Grant was strong. I thought he could stand up to Mr. Stanton. Maybe Mr. Stanton is meaner than I thought.” He looked around, as though he were afraid someone might have heard him talk bad about Stanton.
“Well, I know you’re not mean, Mr. Gabby.” Whitman smiled. “Why, right now, I think you’re stronger than Mr. Grant ever could be. It takes a brave man to face his fears—risk his life even—to defend the very fabric of his country. Are you that brave, Mr. Gabby?”
He paused as his finger wiped around the plate, picking up the last of the eggs. “Yes, I think I am strong now. My friend Joe would be proud of me.”

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