Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixty-Nine

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Johnson grants a reprieve for Mrs. Surratt, but it arrives too late. Lamon and Baker join forces to bring down Stanton. The trial to remove Johnson begins.
For the next few weeks the prosecution and defense teams laid out their arguments. Baker, Lamon, Corbett, Gabby and Walt sat together and informally commented on the proceedings. The others tried to involve Gabby without provoking any fears in his clouded mind about what was happening in the Senate and what role he must play before the final vote.
On the day Massachusetts lawyer Benjamin Curtis presented his arguments against the removal of President Johnson, Lamon nodded and glanced over at Gabby. “He’s doing a very good job, don’t you think, Mr. Gabby?”
“Oh yes, I think he is doing a very good job indeed.” He paused. “What is he doing?”
“He’s presenting reasons why President Johnson should stay President,” Lamon explained with care. “He’s very good at talking about the law. He argued before the Supreme Court against the Dred Scott Case.”
Gabby slid down in his chair. “I don’t like people who argue. They make me nervous.”
“They really don’t get mad at each other,” Walt tried to deflect any tension Gabby might have. “It’s a legal term. You see there was this law that said Southerners could go North and take back any slaves that had run away from them. Mr. Curtis said they couldn’t do that under the law, but the court decided they could. Do you understand that?”
“I think so.” Gabby sat up again.
Every morning began with the men meeting at their favorite restaurant where Gabby ate his runny eggs. He mashed them and scooped them into his mouth. Corbett made the point that God wanted them to defend President Johnson and, in doing so, defend the Constitution.
“We really have nothing to fear as long as we are on the Lord’s side.”
“Don’t the other fellows think they’re on the Lord’s side?” Gabby stopped in mid-mastication. “Not everybody can be on the Lord’s side.”
“Don’t worry, my friend,” Corbett assured him. “I talk to the Lord daily, and I know we are the ones who are truly on His side.”
As the weeks passed, Baker found it was wiser to leave persuasion to others. Gabby still tensed when Baker came close, but Corbett comforted Gabby the most. Perhaps it was, Baker supposed, that they both had a loose grip on reality. In the first week of May, Baker felt a tap on his shoulder as he and his companions entered the Senate gallery.
“Excuse me, sir, I am Dr. Charles Leale, the attending physician to President Lincoln the night he died. If I’m not mistaken, you were in the boarding house that night too. You’re Lafayette Baker of the Secret Service, are you not?”
Baker smiled and ducked his head. “I am indeed the man you saw that night, but I am no longer head of the Secret Service. If you will excuse us, my friends and I must find our seats before the trial opens.”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Leale continued, his voice taking on a tone of urgency. “You see, I’ve been following the impeachment process in the newspapers, and I’ve come away with an uneasy feeling there’s something not quite right about it all.”
Lamon stepped up. “Is that so, Dr. Leale? Perhaps you would like to sit with us. I’m Ward Hill Lamon, the former Marshal of D.C.”
Leale smiled. “Yes, I’ve heard of you. You were a close friend of the President, I believe.”
After they sat, with Leale between Lamon and Baker, the conversation continued in whispers. “I attended the trial of the conspirators,” the doctor informed them. “I had the same feeling during those proceedings.” He paused. “Oh yes, and I sat with President Lincoln’s stepbrother John Johnston, and even he sensed an air of deceit by several of the witnesses.”
Leale sat with them for the next several days. Curtis insisted Stanton’s term ended with Lincoln’s assassination; therefore, he became Johnson’s de facto appointment when Johnson was sworn in as president. At the beginning of the second week in May, Leale fairly leapt from his seat when he saw an elderly man leaning on a cane enter the gallery.
“That’s him! That’s Mr. Johnston!” the doctor said in an excited whisper.
He slipped away to speak to the gentleman. Baker watched them converse and point toward the little group. The old man tried to pull away, but Leale took his elbow, as though insisting that he join them. Baker frowned as he watched them walk toward them. Johnston at times moved feebly yet seemed to mount and descend steps and maneuver around chairs with the agility of a young man. During the introductions, Baker also noticed Johnston kept his head down and avoided eye contact when shaking hands. Johnston then made a marked move to sit on the other side of Gabby and Whitman from him, making it impossible for Baker to engage him in conversation.
Each day after that, Johnston continued to place himself as far away from Baker as possible. The old man seemed to enjoy his conversations with Gabby and Whitman, but when Corbett tried to join in, Johnston always found a reason to pull out his handkerchief and cough into it. He blamed his chest congestion on the confounded spring rains. On the last day of concluding arguments and the announcement that the vote on the first article of impeachment would be the next morning, Baker resolved to catch up with Johnston before he disappeared in the crowd leaving the Capitol.
“Where are you going?” Lamon grabbed his arm and prevented his departure. “Don’t you realize this is the night we have to confront Edmund Ross? He’s the one man who can save President Johnson.”

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