Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Six

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Six months later Richmond falls to the Union
Riotous celebration over the end of the war lasted until the late afternoon, leaving Duff depleted and nervous. His office was filled with revelers opening bottles of wine and drinking with elation. Duff was trying to slip from the room when Brooks caught up with him.
“Where are you going, sir? Everyone wants to toast your return.”
“War Department,” Duff replied.
“You look drained, Mr. Lincoln. Why don’t you stay here, and I’ll go for you.”
“No, thank you, Mr. Brooks.” Retreating hastily, Duff replied, “I’d rather go myself.”
Walking swiftly through the turnstile gate onto the War Department grounds, Duff went to the office of statistics and approached the front desk.
“Do you have fatality lists for Michigan from 1863?”
While he waited for the clerk to return, Duff breathed deeply, feeling his stomach tighten. On the U.S.S. Malvern returning from Richmond, a Union sailor had sneaked into his room as Duff slept, crouched by his bed and awakened him with a thump on the head.
“What are you doing pretending to be president, Duff Read?”
Duff’s mouth had gone dry, his heart pounding.
“Who are you?”
“Grover Kenton.”
Grover Kenton, Grover—then Duff had placed him; a boy from a neighboring farm who always liked to torment him.
“What are you going to do?”
“Nothing. You’re already dead.”
“What?” Duff sat up. “What do you mean?”
“You’re dead.” Kenton rose, turning away. “It was in the local newspaper. You died in some battle. I don’t know which one.”
“My family, how did they take it?”
“I don’t know.”
Duff’s thoughts went to his elderly mother and father, and how they must have felt when they read his obituary. Perhaps his family was proud he had died a hero.
“You’re not going to tell anyone, are you?”
“Why? You’re dead.” With that, Kenton left.
The clerk plopped the fatality file for Michigan on the front desk, rousing Duff from his thoughts. He quickly flipped through the pages until he found his hometown. Sliding down the page, his hand stopped at his own name: killed in action at the Second Battle of Manassas, August 1862.
“Did you find what you wanted, Mr. President?” the clerk asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Duff forced himself to smile, and then a thought crossed his mind. “Will you bring me the file for Ohio fatalities, please?”
As the clerk walked away, Duff wondered if from the beginning Stanton had planned to have him killed, and if Stanton also planted Adam’s obituary early on; if so, all of them were to die, including Alethia.
“Here it is, sir.” The clerk put the file in front of Duff.
Where was Adam from? Steubenville, he remembered. Duff thumbed through the pages until he came to Adam’s hometown, then stopped abruptly. Adam Christy had been killed in action, Second Battle of Manassas, August 1862.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Five

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Six months later Richmond falls to the Union
Adam took the chamber pots out the service entrance to clean them. He kept thinking of Lincoln’s words, forgive and forget. How could he forgive himself? How could he forget? Cleaning the pots took longer each day, so that by the time he had finished and returned them to the billiards room, the breakfast tray was ready to return to the kitchen. He put them next to the sink where Phebe stood.
“Hello,” he whispered.
Her face hardened as she continued to look down.
“I’m sorry,” he added. This was not his first apology. He had lost count of the times he had tried to seek her forgiveness. Each time, stony silence met his offer.
After lunch, he left the Executive Mansion and walked down the street, where crowds were gathering to greet Duff upon his return from Richmond. Several men slapped Adam on the back and offered him mugs of beer, which he refused. Since October he had stopped drinking. Crossing the iron bridge over the slough, Adam headed for Armory Square Hospital. He had to apologize to Jessie again, hoping against hope she would finally forgive him. Standing just inside the door to the ward, he watched her wash a soldier’s brow. She was about to stand, and he was ready to intercept her, when a shout arose from Pennsylvania Avenue. He knew he had to go. Quickly looking back into the ward, Adam made eye contact with Jessie. He smiled and waved, but she stared blankly.
Back at the Executive Mansion, he watched Duff pass down the hall, surrounded by enthusiastic admirers. Alethia rushed to give him a long embrace.
“Private Christy!” Tad called out.
Adam looked down to see Tad jumping in front of him.
“It was great! The ship went adrift, then we spent the rest of way on a barge rowed by sailors and when we landed they shouted, ‘Glory hallelujah!’ and I got to play in Jeff Davis’s house and—”
“Come, Tad,” Alethia called out.
Tad bounded toward her as she smiled at Adam. Looking out the window, he noticed the sun was lower in the sky, a sign it was time for another meal in the basement. He walked down the service stairs, crunching the straw mats, vaguely remembering how once he had thought silence sounded like death. Now everything sounded like death. When he entered the kitchen, he saw Phebe putting the plates on the tray.
“Hello, Phebe,” he said, trying to put his hand on her shoulder. “Please say something. I’m so sorry.”
Phebe pulled away sharply, grabbing a knife from the sink and pointing it at Adam, her eyes ablaze with hatred. A tall, older black man, the new butler brought in the day after Neal’s death, entered the room. Cleotis was his name, and Adam found him affable, a quietly confident, educated, freeborn man from Rhode Island. He swept in between Adam and Phebe, taking the knife and putting his arm around her.
“The tray’s ready,” he said. “Here’s a War Department wire for Mr. Stanton. Do you know where he is?”
Nodding, Adam’s gaze remained fixed on Phebe, as he noticed for the first time, a slight swelling in her belly.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Four

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Stanton and henchman Baker clean up the mess.
“I want my breakfast!” Gabby insisted, pounding on the door.
Stopping with the key in the lock, Adam shuddered at the tone of Gabby’s voice, the same tone he had used in October to demand that Adam stop hurting people. It was now April, and Adam had stopped hurting people. He also had stopped having dreams, goals, love, pain, or anger. His spirit was dead; his body barely functioned. Steeling himself, he finished unlocking the door and entered.
“It’s about time,” Gabby said. “You’re starving people in here.”
“Be quiet,” Mrs. Lincoln snapped, looking at Gabby with loathing. “Mr. Lincoln didn’t sleep well last night. Nightmares.”
“I have nightmares.” Gabby took his plate and headed for his corner. “Every night I see Joe dead under that wagon. If Mr. Lincoln can’t take nightmares, he shouldn’t be president.”
“Crazy old man,” Mrs. Lincoln sneered.
“Liar,” Gabby retorted. He looked at Adam. “Next time you beat up somebody, beat her up, the old liar.” He continued to mumble as he rounded the corner of crates and barrels.
“My husband’s nightmares are more important because he’s still president, and still makes decisions.” Mrs. Lincoln sat at the billiards table and began eating. “For several weeks he’s dreamed that Tad and I were on a shopping trip to Philadelphia and Tad, for some reason, pulled out a gun and started shooting people. He kept mumbling, ‘I didn’t pay enough attention to the body.’ I know he’s worried about how those people have treated Tad.”
Tad was just fine, Adam thought, no longer running amok, tearing at things, and kicking people as he did before. Now he was kind and loving, respectful of everyone. Mrs. Lincoln will be pleased, he decided, if she can ever be pleased with anything again.
“Then last night he dreamed of being awakened by loud sobbing. He found a casket surrounded by soldiers in the East Room. He asked, ‘Who has died in the White House?’ The soldier replied, ‘The president.’”
Not wanting to consider what Stanton had in mind for the president, Adam gathered the chamber pots.
“Don’t walk away while I’m talking to you,” Mrs. Lincoln ordered. “What’s that man doing in Richmond? He went down the same day the city fell, and he hasn’t returned.”
“I don’t know, ma’am.” Adam hated answering her questions. “You’ll have to ask Mr. Stanton.”
“You always say that.” Mrs. Lincoln took a long sip of coffee. “The last drop of coffee was cold.” Putting down her cup, she turned to stare at him. “I want to know when this war will end. Since their capital fell, the rebels can’t go on.”
“Jefferson Davis said being relieved of defending a capital has left the army free to roam at large and stage preemptive attacks on the Union.”
“So he thinks he can still win the war?”
“I don’t know, ma’am.”
“You don’t know,” she snidely replied. “Is there anything you do know?”
“Tad’s having fun in Richmond.”
“Tad’s in Richmond?”
Closing his eyes, Adam wished he had not told her.
“Who allowed my child into a war zone?”
“I don’t know.”
“That woman,” Mrs. Lincoln said. “She’s ruined everything.”
“The army made a thorough sweep of the city, making it safe for the president.”
“But that man’s not the president!” she blustered. She took a deep breath and returning her attention to the toast. “At least my other son is safe in law school.”
“Robert joined the army in January.” Adam did not know if he had slipped again, or if he had told her on purpose to hurt her and to allow her to hurt him. He wanted to be punished for his sins.
“Oh my God!”
“He’s on General Grant’s staff.”
“That butcher!” She put her head in her hands. “If I could only write him. If only he could write me.”
“I’m sure his fiancée has been writing him.”
“Fiancée!” Her face reddened. “When did this happen? And who?”
“February. She’s Mary Harlan, daughter of Senator James Harlan of Iowa.”
“That little mouse.” She rubbed her eyes. “At least her parents are respectable.”
“I must go now, ma’am.”
“Very well.” Mrs. Lincoln sighed. “I’m not asking questions anymore.”
“Yes, ma’am.” As Adam turned, he found himself confronted by Gabby, whose eyes were wide with anger and his mouth smeared with egg yolk.
“I want to know about Cordie,” he demanded. “I want to know how Cordie is.”
“She’s fine. I see her every day.”
“Liar!” Gabby slapped Adam hard across the face.
“Now, now, Mr. Gabby,” Lincoln said, walking through his curtain. “There’s no need to hit Private Christy.”
“He hit me!”
“That was last fall. It’s time to forgive and forget. Isn’t that right, Private Christy?”
“Yes, sir.” He hung his head.
“Go about your duties.” Lincoln looked at Gabby. “Why don’t you finish your breakfast?”
“My coffee’s cold.”
“The coffee’s always cold,” Mrs. Lincoln added.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Three

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Stanton and henchman Baker clean up the mess.
Stanton awaited the November presidential election results with pride and anticipation in the War Department telegraph room. Others around him paced with uncertainty, because some states were late in reporting. In his gut he knew it was won for Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Stanton smirked at the thought of Johnson, a known alcoholic who had been taught to read and write by his wife, being sworn in as vice president. The man would be manipulated without any difficulty. That was why Stanton had influenced the Republican Party to drop Hannibal Hamlin as vice president and nominate Johnson.
“Don’t worry, Mr. President.” Lamon patted Duff on the back. “The country’s behind you.”
“Mr. Lincoln, we’ve the latest results,” Noah Brooks said with a glint in his eyes. “You’ve won.”
Brooks replaced Nicolay, who in late October resigned to become United States consul in Paris. Hay took time off to finish personal business before going to Paris as secretary to the legation. Stanton did not care, relegating Nicolay and Hay to the category of small potatoes, and he saw Brooks as just as innocuous. He had been a correspondent from the Sacramento Union. Some thought the young reporter was politically astute, but Stanton doubted it.
“These telegrams are from Andrew Johnson,” Brooks said, handing one to Duff and one to Stanton.
Stanton read his message from Johnson:
Mr. Stanton,
My Washington sources tell me of your omnipresence around Mr. Lincoln
and of your reprehensible behavior toward him. Let me warn you I will be
Mr. Lincoln’s champion in all matters. Your reputation is that of a bully and
a coward. Let me assure you that you shall not bully me and that I shall make
it my mission to reveal your craven cowardice to all.
Vice President-elect
Andrew Johnson
“What does Mr. Johnson say, Father?” Alethia asked, squeezing Duff’s arm.
“‘Dear Mr. President,’” Duff began. “‘It is with great humility I acknowledge the will of the nation for you to proceed with the preservation of our Union and the task of healing. I do not understand why you chose me to be by your side, but I pledge to be your champion in all matters.’”
“Hear, hear,” Brooks said.
“Sounds like my kind of man,” Lamon said with a laugh.
Stanton could feel his neck burn red, yet he said nothing. He was not ready to return power to Lincoln, even though the end of the war was nearing.
“How nice,” Alethia said. “I knew he was a Southern gentleman.”
“And articulate,” Duff said. “I hope he doesn’t drink as much as they say he does.”
Everyone chuckled, except Stanton, who wadded his telegram tightly in his fist.
“What did your telegram say, Mr. Stanton?” Lamon asked.
“Basically the same thing,” he lied. “He said he looked forward to working with me for the next four years.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Two

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Stanton and henchman Baker clean up the mess.
Jessie sat at a small table covered by a red-and-white checkered cloth in the back of a small, busy café. She tapped her fingers awaiting Adam. He broke their engagement last night, and she was not happy. Jessie was in love, but sensed something terrible had gone wrong. As much as she cared for Adam, his honesty about what was going on at the Executive Mansion disturbed her.
Her face lit when Adam first walked through the door, but it darkened as she watched him weave between the tables. He had not changed his clothes, shaved, or washed. When he plopped down in the chair next to her, Adam tried to kiss her, but she turned away.
“Ye stink and look terrible.”
“I’m a man, a soldier.” Adam leaned back in his chair and looked ahead.
The waiter came up.
“What do ye crave for supper?”
After the waiter pulled out his pad, Jessie leaned to Adam and said, “I want a bowl of beef stew and a glass of milk.”
When Adam did not respond, she looked up at the waiter who nodded.
“And for the gentleman?”
“Whiskey,” Adam demanded.
“We don’t serve hard liquor.”
“Nothing, then.”
“Very well, sir,” the waiter said and turned away.
“Me darlin’, what’s wrong?”
“I’ve been given the awesome knowledge of life and death.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s terrible to give a young man the awesome knowledge of life and death.” Adam said nothing more because the waiter arrived with Jessie’s bowl of soup and glass of milk.
“Ye need to talk to a priest.” Her voice was soft. “Somebody who can help ye.”
“It’s too late.” Avoiding Jessie’s eyes, he shook his head. “The awesome knowledge of life and death changes a man forever. A woman will never know the awesome knowledge of life and death.”
“Will ye stop that ‘awesome knowledge of life and death’?” She pushed away her soup bowl. “I lost me hunger. Take me home.”
Adam bolted for the door. Jessie paid the waiter and scurried after him. He was already in his seat on the omnibus when she climbed on board and passed the fare slot.
“Sorry, miss, I need your coin,” the driver said.
“I’m with the gentleman,” she replied, motioning to Adam in the back.
“Oh. Him. He just paid for himself.”
Searching her reticule in frustration, Jessie finally found the right coin, deposited it, and walked to the back. She debated whether to sit next to Adam, who left her humiliated in his wake. The bus started with a jerk, causing her to fall into the seat by him.
“Where were ye last night?”
Adam stared into the night.
“I think your actions are despicable,” Jessie said in a low, intense voice. “And don’t give me any more of that knowledge of life and death foolishness. Ye are a better man than this, me laddie.”
Turning toward her, Adam smiled with a touch of the devil in its curl. Jessie shuddered. When her street came up, She stood to leave; Adam began to follow her.
“I don’t need an escort.”
Again he smiled like a devil’s slave, which caused her to hasten to the omnibus door, where she jumped to the road and trotted toward her boardinghouse. Not looking behind her, Jessie sensed Adam was staggering behind her. At the door, she rummaged through her reticule, trying to find the key, until she smelled foul breath over her shoulder.
“Adam, please go away before I tell ye to go away forever.” She did not look at him, but spoke in a soft yet solemn voice. “Now.”
Spinning her around, Adam planted a moist, open-mouthed kiss on her lips. His teeth smashed her lips against her own teeth, causing them to bleed. The taste of his tongue was acrid and repellent. His body odor crawled up her nostrils, making her gag. Finally her hand, still fumbling through her reticule, found the key. Grasping it tightly, she scraped the key on Adam’s temple. He moaned as his hand went to the bleeding gash. Jessie unlocked the door, rushed in, and locked it. Adam lunged forward, banging his hand on it.
“Jessie!” he screamed.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-One

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Stanton and henchman Baker clean up the mess.
Sticking his head out from the darkest corners of the kitchen was presidential secretary John Hay. He had been hiding in there ever since his return from one of his frequent bar strolls. He slid into the blackness once he became aware a fight was going on. He saw Private Adam scurrying through the kitchen and out the door. Hay was too frighten to move. The atmosphere settled into dark macabre. What seemed like an hour passed when Christy returned with Stanton and Baker. He heard them talking. He heard Stanton coughing. He saw Baker walk out with Neal the butler slung over his shoulder. Stanton quickly followed.
Hay thought it might be safe to slink to the stairs leading upstairs. Entering the basement hallway, he heard a voice mumbling behind the billiards room door. In another room the cook Phebe curled on her bed crying. Most curious of all, Private Adam Christy stood holding a bundle tied up in a sheet in a dark bedroom seeming incapable of moving.
Hay raced up the service stairs, his wits shaken but still trying to compose his thoughts before he entered their bedroom across from their second-floor office. He lit the lamp on the table, then shook Nicolay’s shoulder until his eyes opened.
“Something terrible has happened.”
“What?” Nicolay rubbed his eyes as he sat up.
“I just saw something horrible.”
“What do you mean, something horrible?” Nicolay coughed and shook his head.
“I just came in through the basement. I heard an odd voice inside one of the rooms, saying, ‘Stop hurting people.’”
“What people?”
“Neal, the butler.” Hay paused to swallow hard. “I was hiding in the kitchen when I heard Mr. Stanton tell Lafayette Baker—“
“—that Christy had killed the butler, Neal, when Neal had tried to keep the private from raping the cook. She was whimpering. Stanton went in and spoke to her. I didn’t understand what he said.”
“Why was Baker there?”
“He took out the body.”
Nicolay leaned into him. “Was anyone aware you were there?”
“No.” Hay shook his head. “Maybe the cook.”
“She won’t tell.” He bit his lip. “Remember what I said about doing our jobs and ignoring everything else?”
“Well, we can’t do that anymore.” Nicolay stood, went to the door, and cracked it to look out, then shut it carefully.
“So what do we do?” Hay asked.
Extinguishing the lamp, Nicolay sat next to him.
“I’ve friends in the State Department who can get me a post overseas. I know the Paris consul is open. Once I get there, I’ll find a job for you.”
“But shouldn’t we stay? Try to stop Stanton?”
“I never trained in the army. Did you?”
“Could you overpower Lafayette Baker?”
“We have the law on our side.”
“Stanton and Baker are the law.”
“Lamon suspects something. He’d be on our side.”
“If they can abduct the president and keep it a secret for two years, they can make Ward Lamon disappear too.”
“We should try to do something.”
“Like the butler who tried to stop a rape? He’s dead, and no one will know he ever existed. Do you think anyone would notice if you disappeared?”
“Oh.” Hay put his hand to his neck. “Perhaps Paris would be good.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook.
Adam walked back to his room and collapsed on his cot, his mind racing. What to do? Collecting his thoughts, he decided to go directly to the metropolitan police station. Turning himself in to the police would be the right thing—but would it be what Stanton would want, he wondered. Going to Stanton for every decision was part of his nature now; he could not change. Adam went to the wash table to clean his flushed face and his sweaty arms and neck. On Pennsylvania Avenue he caught an omnibus to K Street. Night breezes cooled his heated face, but to no avail; his skin still burned from anxiety. Finally the omnibus stopped at the block of Stanton’s house. As he walked down the street, Adam noticed how slowly he walked. He mounted the steps, imagining that this was how it would be when he went to the gallows.
“Yes?” the maid said, answering the door.
“I need to speak to Secretary Stanton.”
“That’s out of the question,” she replied.
“This is an emergency.”
“Can’t it wait until morning?”
“Tell him Private Adam Christy is here.”
“Very well.” The maid pursed her lips as she surveyed Adam.
Within a few moments, Stanton appeared in his dressing gown, his eyes glaring.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’ve killed someone.”
Stanton came out of the door, shut it, and hunched his shoulders against the cold night air. He stepped close to Adam.
“Say that again.”
“I killed the butler. He tried to keep me from raping the cook.”
“You’re a damned fool.” Stanton shivered as he looked out at the fog. “Damn you.” He paused. “Damn you.” He looked at Adam. “Flag down a carriage while I get dressed.”
In a few minutes, they were riding down the dirt street. Stanton barked an order to the carriage driver, who nodded and turned north at the next corner.
“Where are we going? The police station?”
“You’re a damned fool.”
Several minutes passed before the carriage stopped in front of a dark, two-story frame boardinghouse.
“Mr. Baker’s room is the first one at the top of the stairs.” Stanton narrowed his eyes. “Go get him.” He put a hand to his mouth to muffle a cough.
Jumping from the carriage, Adam bounded up the steps, entered, climbed the stairs, and knocked at the first door.
“Secretary Stanton wants you.”
Adam could hear a female voice complain and Baker calming her. Baker came out, buttoning his coat, and descended the stairs with Adam following closely. In the carriage Baker leaned into Stanton, who whispered to him as the carriage went to the Executive Mansion. Once they had arrived at the service driveway, Stanton motioned to Adam to get off with him and waved on the carriage with Baker still aboard.
“Where is he going?”
“To get a War Department carriage.”
They entered the service entrance and walked through the kitchen.
“Down there,” Adam said, leading Stanton to Phebe’s room.
Stanton walked in and examined Neal, ignoring Phebe, tied up on the floor. After a close study of the body, he crossed over to her.
“Young woman, if you keep your mouth shut, eyes closed to this, you’ll live. If someone should ask you someday, whatever happened to…” He turned to Adam. “What was his name?”
“Whatever happened to Neal, you say you don’t know anyone by that name. I’ll have a new butler here tomorrow. He’ll be the only butler you remember. If you don’t, you die, and disappear as quickly as Neal. Do you understand? Nod if you understand.”
Phebe slowly moved her head up and down, her eyes filled with tears.
As Adam pulled Neal’s body into the hall, Baker bounded in from the kitchen. Baker lifted the corpse, threw it over his shoulder, and left as quickly as he had come.
“Go to his room, wrap up all his possessions in a sheet, and take them out to Mr. Baker.”
“Yes, sir.”
Stanton coughed deeply, turned, and walked through the kitchen to the service entrance door. Adam went to Neal’s room, lit a candle, pulled the sheet loose from the cot, and began tossing shoes, coats, shirts, pants, and underwear into it. He turned his attention a stack of books on the wash table. Holding them close to the candle flame, he read the titles—Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Constitution of the United States of America, On Civil Disobedience. There was also a diary. Adam turned to the last entry.
“‘I finally confessed to Phebe I loved her,’” Adam mumbled. “‘She rejected me. I won’t give up.’”
“No time for reading,” Baker said, snatching the book from his hand. Placing the last of the items in the sheet, Baker pulled the corners together and tied a knot. Before leaving he turned. “Don’t mess up again, or else I’ll make you disappear too.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Seventy-Nine

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive under guard in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary Lincoln talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk.
Entering the basement hallway, Adam had another thought. If nothing made a difference, then why the hell not go ahead and be bad? Adam thrust his head forward, pursed his lips, went to Phebe’s room, grabbed the knob and entered. As the door swung open, Adam saw, in the light of hallway whale oil lamp, Phebe lying in bed. Her smooth black skin, lithe figure, full lips, and large eyes—now wide open, startled by the sudden shaft of light—drew him into the dark room. Instinctively, he unbuttoned his shirt.
“What? What is it?” Phebe mumbled, putting up her hand to shield her eyes from the light.
“It’s me.”
“Oh.” She sat up. “What was that noise? It sounded like yelling and banging about.”
“It was nothing.”
“Anything you say.” She yawned and fell back. “Just let me sleep.”
“You still smell of soap.” Adam shut the door. Walking toward the bed, he paused at its edge, breathing deeply. “So clean.”
“You’re scaring me.” Phebe sat up and pulled the covers up to her chin. “Please leave.”
“You don’t want me to leave. I know. Your eyes tell me you’re happy when I walk in. You always have something to say.” He sat at the bottom of the bed. “You want me as much as I want you.”
“You’re drunk.”
Adam leaned forward to grab Phebe, but she rolled out of the bed onto the floor. Grappling with the sheets, he found them empty.
“Dammit! Come back here!”
Adam scrambled from the bed, and by the time he was on his feet, Phebe opened the door, allowing him to see exactly where she was. Lunging, he caught her by the crook of her elbow and swung her around.
“Help!” she yelled. “For God’s sake, somebody, help!”
“Shut up!” Throwing her back on the cot, Adam put his hand over her mouth as he planted his sweaty body over her.
“Help! Help me!” Phebe bit his hand, causing him to pull it back in pain.
“What the hell is going on?” Neal stood in the doorway wearing his nightshirt.
“Neal!” Phebe frantically pulled her head away from Adam, her eyes searching for him. “Please stop him!”
“You sumbitch!” Neal raced to the bed and grabbed Adam’s feet to drag him off onto the floor.
Adam’s face bashed into the hard surface. The acrid taste of blood seeped onto his tongue, which only infuriated him. He jumped up, grabbed Neal by the armpits and threw him out the door, just as Lincoln had manhandled him earlier. Turning his back to Neal so he could focus on Phebe, cowering on the bed, Adam walked toward her.
“Damn you!” Neal screamed as he jumped on Adam’s back.
Instinctively, Adam did as he had done earlier when Gabby had attacked him; he fell backward with a great moan, trapping Neal under him. His head turned toward the door when he heard pounding from the billiards room.
“Stop that!” Gabby yelled. “Stop that hollering! And stop hurting people!”
Adam rolled over and pinned Neal’s shoulders with his knees. He struck Neal with his fists. His eyes were wide and glassy from the alcohol and his anger.
“Stop hurting people!”
Adam felt a sheet fall across his face and settle around his neck. He turned to see Phebe twisting the sheet with all her strength.
“Let Neal go, or by God, I’ll kill you!” she screamed.
“Stop hurting people!” Gabby repeated from the billiards room.
Adam jerked the sheet from her hands and knocked Phebe away. He tied a knot in the middle of the sheet, wrapped it around Neal’s neck, and pulled hard.
“Stop hurting people!”
Adam strained his muscles, pulling the sheet tighter into Neal’s neck. Neal’s veins were bulging, his eyes popping out of his head.
“You’ll never talk back to me again!”
“No, no,” Phebe whimpered from the floor.
“Stop hurting people!”
Neal’s tongue lolled out and spittle dripped from the corner of his mouth. Finally, Adam felt the body go limp.
Phebe crawled over to look at Neal’s blank eyes staring at the ceiling.
“Oh my God! He’s dead! You killed him!”
“Shh.” Adam turned to put his hand over her mouth. His knuckles were bloody, and he wiped them on his tunic. He glanced at Phebe who shivered and cried. “Don’t worry.”
“Murderer,” she said softly.
“Shh.” He looked down and grabbed the sheet.
“Oh my God! No!”
“Shh. I’m going to stick this in your mouth to keep you quiet.”
The knot went into her mouth. Adam took the lower bedsheet, tore it and tied her hands together. Slowly, methodically, he tore another strip from the sheet to tie her feet.
“Stop hurting people!”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Seventy-Eight

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive under guard in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary Lincoln talks Gabby into attacking Adam.
Adam hurried out the front door, past guard John Parker, catching a whiff of the whiskey on his breath, and deciding it smelled good. Kicking the dirt on Pennsylvania Avenue, he meandered several blocks before being drawn by the dim lights and noise of a small bar which he frequented. While acquiring a taste for alcohol, Adam had heard the rumors about Stanton’s malevolent arrogance. It was a good place for Adam to forget how stupid he was.
Inside, he sat on a stool, reached into his pockets for some change and threw some coins on the counter.
“Your usual ale, buddy?” the bartender asked.
“No, whiskey.”
“You got it.”
He wanted to stop the arguments in his brain. In his heart of hearts, he knew he loved Jessie Home. She knew who he was, because that was who she was too. Jessie had seen his dark side and did not care. She was going to save his soul. When this hell with Stanton and the Lincolns and the basement ended, she would be there to help him forget it. If he knew this so deeply, he asked himself, why was he drawn to Phebe? It was not like she was a temptress, actively seducing him away from his beloved. Adam did not know if she even liked him. It was not that she was more beautiful than Jessie. Jessie was a light that drew life to her. Any man would gladly want her, and Adam did want her more than he had ever wanted any woman. So why had he kissed Phebe?
“Here you go, general.”
Quickly downing the shot, Adam pushed the glass back toward the bartender.
Phebe smelled of soap, he thought. Adam could not recall what Jessie smelled of. He was too busy being engaged by her eyes, her smile, and her smart conversation. How stupid could one man be?
The pain was not going away. He had to forget. For just this one night, he wanted to drink himself into oblivion, forgetting how stupid he was, how he had almost thrown away the love of his life.
Cringing, he remembered how he had almost killed Gabby, the most innocent, defenseless man he had ever met. He did not want to remember that either.
“Isn’t it late for you to be out, soldier?”
Adam looked up to see Lamon, another person he did not want to think about. He gulped another shot.
“Take it easy,” Lamon said. “Most men sip their whiskey.”
“I can handle it.”
“Sure you can.”
Adam wanted to retort with something smart, but his mind was becoming numb. All sorts of thoughts to put Lamon in his place crowded his brain, and Adam felt he was strong enough to beat the bigger man in a fist-fight too.
“Feel like talking about Mr. Lincoln?”
“Why not?”
“Because.” He looked at the bartender. “Another.”
“You better not,” Lamon said. “Your face is as red as your hair.”
“When liquor hits a man like that, he’d better go home and go to bed.”
“Mind your business.”
“I am.” Lamon smiled. “Tell me where Mr. Lincoln is.”
Adam stared at the last shot glass of whiskey and fought the impulse to throw it in Lamon’s face. His head swirled with all the anger he had kept trapped down inside his gut for the past two years. Life was not fair. He was a good boy. He had always done what his mother said, what his father said, what Stanton said, and he was still in the shit barrel.
“Well, when you get tired of being Mr. Stanton’s stooge, talk to me.” Lamon said. “I’m in the district marshal’s office.”
After Lamon walked away, Adam took the glass in his fist and squeezed it, finally throwing it across the room.
“Whoa, cowboy,” the bartender said. “No more for you.”
“Sorry,” he said in a mumble, dropping more coins on the counter as he left.
Stumbling along the street back to the Executive Mansion, Adam became angrier, because all that whiskey had not made him forget a thing. It just made him think about Jessie, Phebe, Gabby, and Lamon more. What the hell, his clouded mind thought, what difference did it make? What difference did anything make? Putting Lincoln in the basement did not make a difference. The war was still going on. Being in love with Jessie did not make a difference. He still longed for someone else. Being good did not matter. People still thought he was bad.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Seventy-Seven

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive under guard in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Alethia is plucked from prison to play Mary Lincoln. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam.
Bellowing, Gabby jumped on Adam’s back, causing the soldier’s knees to buckle.
“Good!” Mrs. Lincoln screamed. “Force him to the floor! You’ve got him now! You’ve got him down!”
Gabby bounced on Adam’s back, trying to break him and force him to his knees, and then prone on the ground.
“That’s it! Ride him down! Break him!”
With a groan from the pit of his stomach, Adam regained his balance and allowed himself to fall backwards. Gabby landed flat on his back on the cold hard floor, heard a noticeable crack in his spine, and whimpered. Adam rolled off him and pounced on Gabby’s chest, pinning his shoulders to the floor with his knees.
“What the hell are you doing?” Adam slapped Gabby’s face several times.
“Stop it!” Mrs. Lincoln screamed as she tried to pull Adam off Gabby. “It’s not his fault! I made him do it!”
“What the hell’s going on?” Lincoln, in his nightshirt, appeared through the lace curtains.
“Quick, Father!” Mrs. Lincoln stopped pulling on Adam and ran to her husband. “Kill him! Get us out of here!”
“Molly! Shut up!” Lincoln yelled. He charged Adam, who was still on Gabby. “Get the hell off him!”
Before Adam could do anything, Lincoln grabbed him by his armpits and threw him across the room. After gasping for air, he reached for Gabby, who cringed and pulled away.
“No, Mr. Gabby, you’re all right. Does anything hurt?”
“I don’t think so.” Gabby sat up carefully and reached around to feel his back. “I thought I heard something crack, but it must not have been important, because it doesn’t hurt now.”
“That’s good.”
“I guess it was bad to jump him like that.”
“Try to forget it.” Lincoln went down on his haunches to smile into Gabby’s face. “Don’t take seriously anything that Mrs. Lincoln says.”
“Then I’m not president?”
“And you’re president?”
“Good,” Gabby said. “It works out better that way.”
Lincoln stood and walked to Adam, offering him a hand to help him up.
“This is Mrs. Lincoln’s fault. She’s not stable. It’s your responsibility as the military authority here to keep a handle on things.”
“Yes, sir.” Adam straightened his back.
“Good. Now go about your duties.”
Adam looked down, avoiding eye contact with Gabby and Mrs. Lincoln, and left the room.
“You fool!” Mrs. Lincoln snarled, rushing her husband. “You could have killed him, and no one would have cared! One word from you, and Mr. Stanton would be off to the Old Capitol Prison in chains!”
“And if the nation discovered someone had put the president in the White House basement for two years and no one knew, what confidence would the people have then to fight a war?”
“So you’re on Mr. Stanton’s side?”
“I’m on the Union’s side,” he replied. “Only the Union is important.”
“Yes, sir.” She pursed her lips.
“Don’t do this again, Molly.” Lincoln pointed at Gabby. “You could get him killed. You could get us all killed.” He sighed deeply. “I think it’s time to sleep.” He disappeared behind the French lace curtains.
“So you’re not my wife?” Gabby stared a long time into Mrs. Lincoln’s face, expecting to detect a trace of remorse.
“I knew I kept having memories of New York and not Illinois.” He paused to compose his thoughts as well as he could. “Why did you do it?”
“Because I want to get out of here.”
“Well, that’s all right. I’d rather have Cordie as a sister than you as a wife, anyway.”