Booth’s Revenge Chapter Seventy-One

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. They convince a senator to vote against removing Johnson from office.
The morning of the final vote began early with crowds pushing forward on the Capitol steps. Men in elegant suits elbowed common workers out of the way. They all shouted they had a right to witness the climax of this terrible legal conflagration. No, they did not have tickets, they conceded, but they were citizens of the United States of America. Lamon and his small group of friends waited to hand over their tickets. By the time they seated themselves, they saw Dr. Leale and the elderly Mr. Johnston approaching them. Leale smiled but the old man kept his head down, watching his shuffling feet and his cane.
“I’m so glad that we found you.” Leale smiled as they sat. “For some reason, Mr. Johnston and I always happen to meet on the steps. So how do you think the vote will go?”
Lamon considered his words before replying, “We’ve reason to believe the Senate won’t have the two-thirds majority for conviction.”
“And why do you think that?” Johnston asked, keeping his head low and not making eye contact with Lamon.
“Senator Ross of Kansas, according to reports in all the newspapers, seems to be at least distant from the emotion of the hour to convict.” He paused to look at the man who claimed to be a relative of President Lincoln. “And what is your opinion?”
“I don’t think they have much of a case against the man,” Johnston said, in a voice barely above a whisper. He laughed to himself. “I’m suspect of any cause so heartily supported by Secretary of War Stanton.”
“All I know is that it’ll be rough going for Mr. Gabby and me if the President is removed from office,” Corbett said. “All anyone has to do is look at Mr. Stanton and see the devil in action, a devil which may be intent on wreaking its revenge on the likes of us.”
“After all I’ve been through, and Mr. Stanton will still be able to kill me?” Gabby’s lips began to quiver. “It can’t be. I’ve suffered enough. Where can I hide? I’ll go out West. That’s what I’ll do, go out West to someplace Mr. Stanton will never find me.”
Corbett patted his head. “You won’t be alone. I’ll be with you. I won’t let anything happen to you. The Lord will see us through.”
Lamon noticed how intently Johnston watched Gabby and Corbett. He detected a smile lurking around the corners of the old man’s mouth.
“I don’t think you gentlemen need worry. These things have a way of working themselves out,” Johnston assured them.
“Excuse me for being presumptuous, Mr. Johnston,” Lamon said, cocking his head to try to get a better assessment of the old man, “have we met before? There’s something very familiar about you. I can’t quite figure out what it is.”
Johnston waved a gloved hand in front of his face. “I don’t think so, Mr. Lamon. You see, I’m not as well traveled as you, sir. Rarely been out of the prairie country. Only my second trip to the capital, you see. It’s all for Mama, of course.”
Lamon hardly heard the elderly man’s rambling reply as he was inspecting the gloves. They seemed newer and more stylish than what he would have expected on the hands of an elderly gentleman who seemed proud of his provincial background.
“So what do you think the verdict will be?” Lamon repeated, hoping he would get Johnston to turn and look at him.
Johnston raised his chin but kept his gaze straight ahead. “Justice, of course.”
“But exactly what is justice?” Lamon felt his blood rise, and he could not decide exactly why he felt so intensely about the situation at this particular time.
Whitman leaned over, shushing them while putting an index finger to his lips. “The roll call vote is about to begin.”
As the clerk called out each name, the old man nodded. When a senator voted in support of the President, Johnston murmured approval of the senator’s past record and commended the politician’s upstanding character. If, however, the senator voted against Johnson, the old man shook his head with contempt, mumbling some vague rumor of personal corruptness. Lamon noticed that the entire time Johnston made his running commentary he kept looking straight ahead at the Chief Justice.
“The name to be called next is Sen. Ross,” Whitman announced softly.
“I hope he has the courage to vote against removing the President,” Corbett said.
“And why is that?” Johnston asked.
The old man’s tone struck Lamon odd. “Why are you interested in Mr. Corbett’s statement?” He still did not understand his own growing impatience with Lincoln’s stepbrother.
Baker hushed everyone. “We all need to be quiet.”
“The Honorable Senator Edmund Ross of Kansas,” the clerk proclaimed.
Without hesitation, Ross said loudly and clearly, “Nay.”
The chamber broke into a chaotic mixture of huzzahs and denunciations. Lamon watched the reaction spread around the room as people recognized the significance. After several minutes of commotion, the crowd calmed down so the roll call could continue. But the result was self-evident: Andrew Johnson would remain President of the United States. By one vote.
“So there you have it,” Johnston announced as he stood to leave. “Johnson is in, and Stanton is out.”
“So has justice been done?” Lamon did not know if the old man even heard his question.
As he began to walk away, limping with his cane, Johnston turned and replied, “Not yet.”

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