Booth’s Revenge Chapter Seventy-Three

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 Senate fails to remove Johnson from office.
Edwin Stanton continued to stare into the fireplace of his War Department office. The dancing flames were mesmerizing and soothing. He knew he must begin packing his personal items to return to his K Street home, but his body didn’t care to move. A light tap at the door drew his attention. The private claiming to be Adam Christy entered. As the soldier walked over, Stanton noticed he still had a slight but distinctive limp.
“I saw the gentlemen leaving the building, sir,” the private said. “They told me the unfortunate outcome of the Senate trial.”
Stanton’s mind reeled with the contradictions the soldier presented to him, and he fought the creeping suspicion that the person standing in front of him was dangerous. “Where have you been all day? The chamber pot in the corner is full and stinking up the room.”
“My deepest apologies, sir. It has been my intention to serve you faithfully, sir.”
“And that you have, for the most part. You’ve been lax in your duties during the trial however. I’m not a well man, and I don’t need the added aggravation of smelling a full chamber pot.” Stanton glared at the soldier. “Were you at the trial? If so, you did it without orders and compounded the breach by not informing me of what you saw.” Stanton wasn’t pleased with his own posturing. It reeked of whining instead of power and rage.
“Was I, Adam Christy, at the trial? I should say not. And if you were displeased with how I conducted my duties, well, you should have told me.” Christy paused to chuckle to himself. “I’ve infinite experience emptying chamber pots for dignitaries.”
Stanton slammed his fist down on the rocking chair arm. “There you go again with your insinuations. You’re making sly accusations and taunting me, and I won’t have it!”
“I have no idea what accusations I might be making, Mr. Stanton. I’m merely an Army private appointed to service a very important man. If I do a good job, perhaps I could receive an appointment to West Point.”
“No one ever said such a thing to you, I assure you!”
“And why is that, Mr. Stanton?” A silkiness entered the young man’s tone.
“Because I know you’re not Adam Christy! I ordered Lafayette Baker to kill Adam Christy the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated!” Horrified those words escaped his lips, Stanton leaned back in his chair, his body depleted of all energy.
“That’s what I thought.” The private’s voice lost its naïve exuberance, and gained a sophisticated malevolence. “You are, indeed, correct. I’m not Adam Christy. I only meet him a few times before his death, at Mrs. Surratt’s boarding house and under the Aqueduct Bridge at midnight.” Letting the impact of the words sink in, the private paused. “I thought I gave quite a good performance, don’t you think?”
“A performance? What do you mean?”
“It makes no difference. Only one course of action is left, and this sad comedy of errors will be complete.”
“Who are you?” Stanton forced the words out.
“I’m merely another player you manipulated upon this national stage, saying my lines, prancing and preening, sublimely unaware I wasn’t in control of my own actions.”
The older man shook his head and tried to smile. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”
The soldier stepped forward so that he was standing over Stanton, blocking the flickering light from the fireplace. “I am John Wilkes Booth.”
“That’s impossible.” His lips trembled. “He died in a barn in Virginia. There were witnesses.”
“I’ve returned like an avenging angel,” Booth continued. “Rep. Preston King of New York and Sen. James Lane of Kansas blocked Ward Hill Lamon from delivering a reprieve for Mrs. Surratt and thereby allowing an innocent lady to be hanged.”
“How did you know?”
Booth smiled. “Because I was there, in the guise of a soldier pushing his way through the prison yard crowd so Mr. Lamon and Mrs. Surratt’s daughter could deliver the reprieve, but King and Lane blocked our way.”
“But—but now they’re dead,” Stanton stammered.
“Yes, I know. I killed them. I was a beggar boy on the ferry in New York and tied weights to Mr. King before throwing him overboard. I was a carriage driver in Kansas and shot Mr. Lane. I told each one he had to pay for his sins. I have others marked for execution for participating in your evil plot to overthrow the president.”
Stanton shook his head. “I thought you hated Lincoln.”
“I did hate him, and I’m glad I killed him.” He paused to glare at the old man in the rocking chair. “But Adam Christy was an innocent young man. He didn’t deserve to die. Mrs. Surratt was a kindly woman, a good mother and a devout Roman Catholic. She didn’t deserve to die.” Booth reached out to touch Stanton’s hair and tug on it. “You deserve to die.”
Jerking his head away, Stanton narrowed his eyes. “You won’t get away with it. I’ll call out for help and soldiers—real soldiers–will drag you away. If you try to escape they’ll shoot you down like a mad dog.”
“No, you won’t call out because then they will learn who I am and why I am still alive.” An evil grin appeared. “Do it. They can hang us together.” Booth turned for the door. “No, I’m not killing you today. And not tomorrow. Sometime. Someday.”
Booth put his hand on the knob and looked back. “You might even forget I’m coming back to kill you. But I will, and no one will stop me.”

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