Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter 100

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Duff holds his last cabinet meeting posing as the president.
As Stanton walked out, Duff heard voices in the adjoining bedroom. It was Alethia and Mrs. Keckley.
“I feel strange today,” she was saying to the dressmaker. “When you return next week, I may have lost weight.”
“Oh.”
“That means you’ll need to go back to my old patterns.”
“Of course.”
Duff sensed Alethia wanted to say something else to Mrs. Keckley but did not know how.
“Thank you for being a friend.” She paused. “A friend is one who accepts you for who you are, and not who you seem to be. You understand what I mean, don’t you, Mrs. Keckley.”
“Of course, Miss Lincoln.”
“You’re a very wise person, Mrs. Keckley,” Alethia said. “I’ve been enriched to have known you.”
“You’re much too kind, Miss Lincoln.” Mrs. Keckley added in a whisper, “And may God bless you, whatever happens.”
“Thank you,” Alethia replied, her voice cracking. “And good-bye.”
“Good-bye, miss.”
The door opened and shut, and Duff came around the corner to find Alethia sitting on the bed, her hand gently touching her cheek.
“I heard what you said to Mrs. Keckley. It was nice.”
Alethia turned her nails into her flesh and pulled down. His larger hand covered hers and pulled it away from her cheek, which was already showing a welt.
“Please, don’t. Come with me for a carriage ride. It’ll do us good.”
Nodding woodenly, Alethia, without a word, Duff down the staircase and out the door to the carriage. She brightened, in accordance with the role she played, to wave and smile at pedestrians who called out greetings. Once the carriage passed from downtown to the countryside, Alethia slumped back in her seat, putting her hands to her forehead.
“Alethia,” Duff spoke in a low tone so the driver could not hear, “I know I’ve hurt you deeply, for which I’m terribly sorry, and I understand you cannot forgive me. The worst part is that I have to hurt you again, and you’ll probably hate me even more.” He paused for a response; when none came, Duff continued, “Your friend, Rose Greenhow, is dead.”
“What?” Her eyes filled with tears. Her head snapped toward his face.
“She drowned when her ship sank off the coast of South Carolina. She was returning from London.”
After moments of searching his face, Alethia collapsed against his shoulder, sobbing. He patted her back and began sputtering words of comfort. Alethia stiffened.
“Don’t you dare,” she whispered furiously. “How dare you try to console me?”
“I’m sorry,” Duff replied.
The carriage continued for miles in silence until they had returned to the city, where they again began waving and calling out to the crowd. After dismounting from the carriage, they entered the Executive Mansion and climbed the staircase. Alethia turned abruptly to glare at him.
“We’ve only a couple more hours together. Don’t speak to me again. After tonight, I’ll return to Bladensburg and open my bakery—I hope to be a better person for the lessons I’ve learned here. And you, I don’t care where you go or what you do as long as you never enter my life again.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Nine

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Adam’s girlfriend Jessie becomes ill and dies.
Good Friday—the last Friday—arrived with slivers of morning light coming through the curtains into Duff’s bedroom, awakening him to sadness and fear. Alethia’s withdrawal saddened him; he had hurt her deeply and was sorry for it. He did not know the manner of death Stanton had planned for them, but he knew it would be tonight. A soft rap at the door interrupted his thoughts.
“Come in, Tom Pen,” he called out.
The old man entered and with humble deference deposited the morning newspaper at the foot of the bed.
“Thank you, Tom Pen.”
“You’re welcome, sir.” He looked down.
“You’re a good friend to Tad.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“And a good friend to me.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Tom Pendel kept his eyes averted as he left the room. He knew Duff was not the real Lincoln, but Duff was not going to dwell on what the servant might think. The dead did not care what the living thought.
Opening the newspaper, Duff noticed one small item on the front page. Rose Greenhow had drowned in late March off the coast of South Carolina when her ship sank, aborting her triumphal return from England where she had been the belle of London society after her book was published. Gold coins sewn into her–skirt, meant to redeem Southern soldiers from Yankee prisons–had dragged her to the bottom of the ocean.
At ten o’clock, he went to his last Cabinet meeting. Duff was never comfortable maneuvering through the Byzantine debates, walking the tightrope of following Stanton’s orders yet maintaining an appearance of independence. From time to time, he relished the chance to defy Stanton or embarrass him in front of Cabinet members.
Looking up at the door after hearing a soft knock, Duff saw General Grant and smiled. He felt at ease with the general, whom he had met several times in the last two years. They shook hands.
“General, good to see you.”
“Thank you, Mr. President. Have you heard from Sherman?”
“No. I’d hoped he’d contacted you.”
“Not a word.”
After his march to the sea, Sherman and his army had turned north to cut a swath through the Carolinas. No one had heard anything from him since.
“I’ve no doubt he’s successfully raising hell,” Grant said.
“General,” an old, cracked voice called out. “Have you heard from Sherman?”
Duff smiled when Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles walked in. The old man had been his mainstay and comfort through the years.
Other Cabinet members arrived in quick succession. Secretary of the Interior John Usher: Duff did not like him as well as Caleb Smith, who had died early in the term. Usher had accompanied him to Gettysburg, and Duff had sensed a tinge of irony in Usher’s compliments on the address. Perhaps he just had not liked the address—no one much did—and his cynical tone had not meant he knew Duff was an impostor.
Arriving next was Hugh McColloch, who had replaced Salmon Chase, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Duff had found Chase too smug and implacable, but he appreciated McColloch’s colorless and efficient qualities.
He also liked the honor, high-mindedness, purity, and dignity of the new postmaster general, William Dennison, who had replaced Montgomery Blair. Duff had admired Blair’s openness, but it had disappeared after the incident in which his niece was caught with bottles of quinine sewn into her skirt. Dennison slipped into the room and sat down.
Coming in rapid succession were James Speed, who had replaced the aging Edward Bates as attorney general; Frederick Seward, son of Secretary of State Seward who was recovering from a carriage accident; and Secretary of Interior James Harlan, whose daughter was marrying Lincoln’s son Robert.
Duff regretted the retirement of Bates, a gruff defender of the Constitution; he did not know enough about Speed yet to have an opinion. Sighing, he was relieved Frederick had come for his father, because Seward always scared him with his solemn owl face. Duff was pleased to see Harlan; after all, he was going to be family—what was he thinking, Duff scolded himself. Who was in the Cabinet and who was not was no longer a concern to him, because he was a dead man.
With all the Cabinet members present except Stanton, Duff pulled the cord to call Noah Brooks into the room to take notes. He hoped the meeting would be over before Stanton arrived. This last day would go better without him.
“Now that we’re all here—”
“Not all,” Brooks interrupted. “Mr. Stanton isn’t here.”
“We’ve a quorum,” Duff replied. “We must consider reconstruction.” He felt he owed it to Lincoln to push his plan as long as he was in the Executive Mansion.
Before Duff could go any further, he heard a coughing at the door. Stanton entered the room. Sighing, Duff sat back and gave up hope to help Lincoln’s efforts for an easy transition to one nation. Again he reminded himself: business of state would no longer concern him after tonight.
“Any news of Sherman?” Welles asked.
“No.” Stanton sat at the table. “But it’s of little consequence. Lee surrendered. The Confederate government is on the run. The war’s over.”
“But—” Welles began.
“The war’s over.” Stanton slapped his hand on the table.
“There’s no need to bang on anything,” Vice President Andrew Johnson said, his Tennessee accent dipped in bourbon, as he entered and sat at the table. “You need to learn manners, Stanton.” He crossed his arms across his big chest as he stared at the war secretary.
“And you need to learn to stay sober,” Stanton replied through clenched teeth.
Several Cabinet members shifted in their chairs, Duff noticed; he heard some whisper about why Johnson was even there. Lincoln’s first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, had never attended Cabinet meetings.
“Sir,” Welles addressed Stanton, “it’s of great importance. If General Sydney Johnston vanquishes General Sherman, then all hell will break out. The South will be resuscitated—”
“Mr. Welles,” Stanton interrupted, “you see defeats where there are none. It’s foolish to waste our time worrying about something that cannot happen. We’ve more substantial problems to deal with.”
“One of those problems is why you insist on running this meeting.” Johnson’s voice was barely below a bellow.
“That’s enough,” Duff interceded. He liked Johnson very much. He might be a drunk, but he was honest to the core.
“Yes, sir.” Johnson hung his head. “I know I don’t belong here.” He recovered his spirit and pointed at Stanton. “But I can still smell a skunk.”
Stanton cleared his throat, took a notepad from his pocket, and took over the meeting. Duff clenched his jaw and sat glassy-eyed through several hours.
“Mr. President, that’s all I have to report,” Stanton’s declaration roused Duff from his stupor.
“Thank you,” he murmured.
The meeting was over. His duties were ended. As the group milled out of the room, Duff felt himself being spun around by Johnson, who gave him a big bear hug.
“I’m sorry I embarrassed you, Mr. President,” he blubbered. “I’m on your side, you know. It’s just I hate Stanton so much.”
“I know, I know.” Duff pulled away. “Go drink some coffee. You’ll feel better.”
As Johnson staggered from the room, Welles came to put a warm, comforting hand on his shoulder.
“It’s over, Mr. Lincoln. I see the weariness in your face. Remember, your second term will have no war. Reconstruction will provoke intense political debate, but it’ll be in peace.”
“Thank you, sir.” Duff looked down in melancholy.
“Stanton is taking far too many liberties,” Welles added in a whisper. “I get nothing clear and explicit from him, a lot of fuss and mystery, shuffling of papers and a far-reaching gaze.” He leaned into Duff’s ear. “Remember, you’re the president. You’ve the power to remove Stanton from office. Exercise that power.”
Tears formed in Duff’s eyes, so he nodded, turned away, and walked down the hall to his bedroom, where he put his large hands to his face. By force of will, he commanded his tears to halt. Stanton entered the room and closed the door.
“I’ve arranged a carriage to take you to the river port.”
“Very well.” His voice was hollow.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Eight

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Adam’s girlfriend Jessie becomes ill.
Adam turned back to Jessie and touched her shoulder.
“Please go away,” she murmured.
“Don’t you know? You can’t get rid of me that easily.” He took a cloth, dunked it in a bowl, squeezed it, and wiped her brow. “Maybe if I sit here long enough, wipe away enough perspiration, you’ll finally realize how much I love you.”
“It’s too late.”
“It’s never too late. I love you,” he whispered as he rested his head against her shoulder. “Please tell me you love me too.”
“I’m so tired.” Jessie could hardly form the words.
“Please tell me you love me.”
Her hand weakly reached up to his and patted it, then went down to her side. Adam heard her breathing. It was shallow. He leaned over to kiss her cheek, then walked out of the ward at a pace so fast the nurses and patients could not notice his wet, red eyes. Instead of taking the omnibus, he trotted across the Mall and the iron bridge over the slough. His racing heart helped his mind to clear. Jessie was young and strong. She must survive.
He walked up the service drive to the Executive Mansion. He picked up the luncheon tray, and delivered it, hardly noticing the Lincolns and Gabby. Instead Adam concentrated on Jessie’s pat on his hand. It had to mean she loved him, Adam told himself, as he went up to the second floor.
“Private!” Tad called out when he appeared in the hall. “I haven’t seen you in the last few days! Richmond is a mess!” He hugged Adam. “Did you see the parade last night? It was great!”
Adam could not look at the boy who had his arms around him. He could not look into the eyes that in two days would be filled with tears because Adam had conspired to have his father assassinated, but he did return Tad’s embrace.
“Yes, the parade, that was fun,” Adam mumbled.
“You’re gonna stay, ain’t you?” Tad looked up at him. “After Friday, I mean?”
“I don’t know,” he lied. “I’m a soldier. I never know where the army will send me.”
“I hope they let you stay here,” he said with a big smile. Running down the hall to the grand staircase, he yelled for Tom Pen.
When Adam entered the president’s office, he found the double in a pensive mood.
“Sir? Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No, thank you.” Duff paused. “Are you staying after we leave?”
“No, sir.”
“Then run away now. Go out West. Pan for gold. Don’t finish their game.”
“I can’t.”
“Why?”
“My girlfriend—my friend—is sick. I can’t leave her.”
“Very well.” He looked at Adam. “Is she very ill?”
“We think it’s influenza.”
“Oh.” He put his head in his hands. “Then maybe it’s for the best.”
Seeing Lincoln’s double recede into his thoughts, Adam went down the hall to knock on Mrs. Lincoln’s bedroom door.
“Who is it?”
“Private Christy, ma’am.”
“Come in.”
Opening the door, Adam found her in the same pensive mood as the president’s double. She was more melancholy today than he had seen her since they had met. Of all the characters in Stanton’s plan, she was the only one who was always optimistic, which had many times lifted his own spirits. He wished he could say something to make her feel better.
“Do you need anything, Mrs. Lincoln?”
“No, thank you.”
“Do you need any help with your packing?”
“No. You’re very kind.”
“If you don’t mind, I want to go to Armory Square Hospital this afternoon. I have a sick friend there.”
“Of course.”
Adam exited quietly and went downstairs to clean the chamber pots, which did not bother him as much as it usually did, because his mind was on Jessie, hoping they would have a future together. Walking through the kitchen with the pots, he ignored Phebe, which had become easier to do over the last few days. After the last pot had been washed and returned, Adam ran out the service entrance and down the street to the Mall, across the iron bridge to the Smithsonian and on to the hospital.
Huffing, Adam stopped inside the ward door as he saw a couple of orderlies carry a small body wrapped in a sheet from the back room. His mouth dropped when they passed, and he saw a tuft of red hair peeking from the top of the sheet. In the distance, Miss Dix daubed her eyes, and the strange man patted her shoulder. Adam walked to them.
“I knew she should have gone home,” Miss Dix said in a small voice.
“A true American patriot.” The strange man, his eyes welling with tears, looked at Adam. “An immigrant, fresh from Scotland, devoted herself, body and soul, to mending boys broken by war. She gave all she had and, when the war was over, she made the ultimate sacrifice for her new homeland.”
Adam looked from one to the other, wondering what Jessie’s last words had been, hoping they had been about him. But she was gone now, and her last words did not matter. His life did not matter. His thoughts turned to Gabby.
“Sir, Miss Zook’s brother needs someone.” Adam’s eyes were pleading. “May I send him to you? Can you help him?”
“I’m sorry, my young friend, but death has been upon me too much the last few days. Miss Zook’s life slipped away. And Miss Home—it’s happened so quickly. I wanted her to live. I wanted her to love you. You and Miss Home were my remedy to war. Love conquers all, I thought, but evidently not.” He shook his gray head. “I must go home.” He smiled sadly. “I need my mother.”
“You can’t desert us,” Miss Dix cried. “We need you.”
“I’ll be back,” he replied. “I don’t know when. Not long.”
Miss Dix reached out to touch Adam. “Send the poor man to me,” she said. “I’ll take care of him.”
“Thank you.” He smiled. “Thank you both.”
Adam turned to leave, knowing he would never see them again. As he walked back to the Executive Mansion, the clouds parted to reveal the sun. In the middle of the Mall, Adam realized how silent it was for a busy Thursday afternoon. Silence still sounded like death to Adam, but, he decided, death comforted him. It made the pain go away.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Seven

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Adam meets Booth and his gang.
The next morning when Adam delivered the breakfast tray, he kept his eyes down when serving the Lincolns. Hoping his face was not red from shame, Adam tried to move on to Gabby as quickly as possible.
“You’re not still worried we’re mad at you, are you?” Mrs. Lincoln asked with a note of concern in her voice, her hand touching his arm.
“No, ma’am,” he replied. He knew she would be a widow on Friday. “I know. I appreciate it.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Lincoln was behind the French lace curtain, sitting up on his cot, a place from which he had rarely stirred since the end of the war.
“That’s all right, Mr. President.” Adam went to the curtain, looked in, and tried to smile. “I know you don’t hold any grudges.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.” The deep shadows under Lincoln’s sunken eyes frightened Adam. “I know what’s going to happen. Don’t bear the guilt. I know who’s responsible.”
Adam blinked and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He turned toward Gabby’s corner. The janitor was already awake, his knees pulled up under his chin.
“Good morning, Mr. Gabby.” Adam put the plate on the floor in front of him. “Fried eggs, just the way you like them.”
“Private, what’s going to happen to me, now that Cordie’s dead?” His large eyes were filled with tears.
Squatting in front of Gabby, Adam began his explanation slowly, since he had no idea what would happen to Gabby, to himself, or to Jessie. He did not want to lie to the old man again. No gloomy predictions of living on the streets, which possibly could happen, because Adam did not want to scare him any more than he already was; but he could not tell him he would have a warm place to live and plenty to eat, either.
“I wish I could assure you everything will be fine, but I can’t,” Adam said. “But I won’t let you down. I’ll do everything I can to help you.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”
“Now I feel hungry.”
“What do you want done with the rest of your sister’s things?”
“I don’t need them.” Gabby’s attention was drawn to the eggs. After a big swallow, he looked up. “Ask the ladies at the hospital. Maybe they need some clothes.”
“Yes, Mr. Gabby.” He smiled. It was another chance to try to change Jessie’s mind. “That’s a good idea.”
After Adam retrieved the tray and cleaned the chamber pots, he caught an omnibus to the Surratt boardinghouse on H Street. Bounding up the stairs with a large burlap bag, he entered Cordie’s room, gathered her clothing, and tossed it in the sack. He was about to leave when Reverend Wood blocked the door.
“I didn’t like that feller last night.”
“I don’t like him, either. But we don’t have to like him, as long as we get what we want.”
“What’s that?” he asked, nodding at the bundle under Adam’s arm.
“The old woman’s clothes.”
“Mama could wear those. If only I could get them down to Florida.”
“I’m taking them to the hospital. For the nurses.”
“Oh.”
Adam quickly left. Sighing with relief when another omnibus arrived, he ran down the boardinghouse steps to H Street. As the omnibus rattled down the street, Adam tried to think of a new way to win back Jessie. Hugging the burlap bag, he wanted a happy future. The omnibus turned south on Thirteenth Street. As he covered his nose when it crossed the open sewer by the Mall, Adam wondered if the most direct words would be best—I love you more than life itself. He had to think of the right thing to say. When the omnibus stopped at Independence Avenue, Adam stepped off to run down the street, past the red towers of the Smithsonian, to the rows of low barracks of the hospital.
Immediately upon entering the ward, Adam scoured it, trying to locate Jessie; instead, Dorothea Dix’s pinched face was in front of him.
“You’re the young man who’s always around Miss Home.”
“Yes.” He gulped before continuing. “Miss Zook’s brother wanted me to bring her clothing here for the ladies who need it.”
She opened the burlap sack to examine the dresses.
“Very good. It was very kind of her brother. Miss Zook was a good person. I miss her.” Miss Dix looked into Adam’s eyes. “What are your intentions toward my Miss Home?”
“Most honorable, ma’am,” he replied.
“I thought so. Go find her and take her home. She hasn’t been well since Miss Zook died. I told her to rest, but she won’t listen to me. She never listens to me.” She paused. Adam thought she was about to cry. “I don’t want to lose another dear one.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
Miss Dix turned away quickly and began fussing over a wounded soldier. Adam scanned the room for Jessie’s red hair. Almost ready to give up, Adam heard a loud shout from a far corner. His throat constricted as his eyes focused on Jessie’s frail body, on the floor in front of frightened young man on a cot. Adam ran to her, knelt by her side, and felt her moist, hot forehead.
“She was replacing my bandage when she fell over,” the soldier said. “I hope she’s all right.”
Swooping her up into his arms, Adam walked to the back room where Cordie had died. Behind him was Miss Dix.
“I told her she should go home to rest. Now she can’t be moved,” she said. “Put her on the cot.” She hovered over Jessie, feeling her forehead and taking her pulse. “This isn’t good. I think it’s influenza.”
His eyes widening, Adam found he couldn’t speak.
“Can I help?” the odd-looking man asked as he appeared in the door.
“Get me a bowl of water and a stack of cloths,” Miss Dix replied.
“May I stay awhile?” Adam asked.
“Yes, please. Wipe her brow. I have to attend to the wounded.”
After she left, Adam sat on the edge of the cot, waiting for the odd-looking man to return with the bowl and cloths.
“Jessie? Can you hear me?” He paused. “I love you.”
“What happened?” Her green eyes fluttered open and focused on him.
“You fainted. Miss Dix thinks you’ve got influenza.” He took her moist white hand and squeezed it. “And I’m going to take care of you.”
Once her bleary eyes saw Adam’s hand over hers, Jessie pulled away and rolled onto her side. The odd-looking man entered with the bowl of water and cloths.
“How is she?”
Adam looked into the odd-looking man’s clear blue eyes and saw intelligence. Stanton believed himself to be smart, but Adam did not see anything like that in his eyes. He saw imagination in Booth’s eyes, but not intelligence. He sometimes sensed a deeper intelligence in Gabby’s eyes, but it was blurred by terrible torture and bewilderment. Yet this man had pure intelligence.
“Awake but she doesn’t feel like talking,” he murmured.
Perhaps this man’s pure intelligence could help him, Adam thought, but he did not want to tell him anything that could endanger his life. He had endangered too many lives as it was.
“I’ll be back later. She’s in good hands now.” The man smiled and left.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Six

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Adam meets Booth and his gang.
At midnight Adam stood under the Aqueduct Bridge waiting for the others to arrive. He decided not to be concerned with whether he was happy, sad, frightened, or disgusted. All he wanted was to endure the next few days. He heard footsteps behind him.
“Where’s your man?” Booth asked.
Adam turned to see the actor, the hulking, dull-eyed man, and two other odd-looking fellows, a witless, clean-shaven youth, and a whiskered man whose irregular gait bespoke drunkenness.
“There he is.” He nodded at a shadowy, short, stocky figure striding toward them.
“Is this it?” Baker asked in a clipped tone.
“This is—” Adam began.
“Don’t tell me,” Baker interrupted. “We’re planning to kill the president of the United States, dammit. I don’t want to know any of your names.” He cleared his throat. “Now. Tell me something that convinces me you’re smarter than you look.”
“Sir,” Booth said, pulling himself up to his full stature, “you’re no gentleman, and not welcome to our noble endeavor.”
“This noble endeavor is murder,” Baker replied. “True gentlemen don’t kill, so get that idea right out of your head.” He paused to light a cigar. “So, what are your plans?”
Adam watched Booth pinch together his thin lips.
“In the last few weeks we’ve considered kidnapping Mr. Lincoln.”
“What the hell for? The end of the war has been in sight since the first of the year.”
“As leverage for release of prisoners.”
Adam could sense Booth trying to maintain an air of confidence, but faltering.
“Are you so stupid that you think prisons will house and feed rebels any longer than they have to?”
“Of course not,” Booth sputtered.
“Forget the Confederacy,” Baker continued. “The Confederacy is dead. Cry your eyes out. Light some candles. Get over it.” He puffed on his cigar. “But you can kill the bastards who killed the Confederacy.”
“Hear, hear,” the youth said.
Ja,” the bearded man added.
“Yeah, let’s blow their heads off,” the tall, stupid one mumbled.
“But the Confederacy—”
“To hell with the Confederacy!” Baker said, derisively. “Are you stupid? The Confederacy is dead. All we have left is revenge.”
“Yeah,” the stupid one repeated. “Let’s get revenge.”
“Very well,” Booth acquiesced. “Revenge.”
“Who do we hate the most?” Baker asked.
“Lincoln,” Booth replied, spitting. “I hate the bastard.”
“The Lincolns are going to Ford’s Theater Friday night.”
“I know that theater well,” Booth offered.
“They will have only one guard, and he will be drunk.”
“I can handle the details,” Booth replied.
“Good.” Baker nodded curtly. “Now, what about Vice President Andrew Johnson?”
“We decided on Port Tobacco.” Booth gestured to the bearded one.
Ja, I rented a room in the Kirkwood House, directly above Johnson.”
“Come here,” Baker ordered.
Port Tobacco stepped forward, his head down. Baker leaned into him and sniffed.
“Just as I thought. You’re a drunk.” He looked at Booth. “He won’t do. Johnson must die.” He pulled his revolver and pointed it at Port Tobacco. “He must die. He knows too much.”
“No! No!” Port Tobacco’s eyes widened. “I stop drinking. I kill Johnson! On mutter’s grave! I stop! I kill Johnson!”
“For God’s sake,” Booth said with a hiss.
“Incentive.” Baker put away his revolver.
Sheitze.” Port Tobacco stepped behind the others.
“Seward. He must go.” Baker looked around for a volunteer.
“Who’s that?” the stupid one asked.
“Secretary of State, Reverend Wood,” Booth said.
“What’s that?”
“You’re a moron, aren’t you?” Baker asked as he spat on the riverbank.
“I can’t help it.” Reverend Wood’s eyes went down. “I got kicked in the head by a horse once.”
“I’ll help him,” the youth offered.
Baker eyed him. “You look as dumb as he is.”
“I work as a druggist’s aide,” the youth said. “And I know things. Secretary of State is a top aide to the president. He deals mostly with other countries.” He looked at Booth. “Ain’t that right?”
“Of course, you’re right.” Booth looked at Baker. “We can work together without all the insults.”
“So you think you can lead him to the Seward house?” Baker asked.
“Yes, sir,” the youth replied.
“That leaves Stanton,” Booth said.
“Don’t worry about Stanton,” Baker replied. “I’ll kill him.”
“You feel warmly about it?” Booth smiled.
“You hate Lincoln,” Baker said. “I hate Stanton.”
“Then it’s settled,” Booth announced with finality. “Sic Semper Tyrannous.”
“What’s that?” Baker wrinkled his brow.
“It means, ‘Thus ever to tyrants.’ It’s the motto of Virginia.”
“Virginia,” Baker mumbled.
Adam could see the wheels turning in his mind. Baker tapped his foot in the water lapping the Potomac shore.
“Ah yes, Virginia. Do you know an actress called Jean M. Davenport?”
“Why, yes.” Booth looked taken aback. “I’ve performed with her many times.”
“You talked with her once at a party about accomplishing a great daredevil act, like kidnapping the president.”
“How did you know that?”
“Now you know you can’t keep secrets from me.”
“We’re united in a noble cause, sir,” Booth asserted.
Baker puffed on his cigar and squinted at Booth through the smoke. “Get out of here.”
Booth and his friends dispersed into the dark mist. Baker threw his burnt cigar onto the muddy shore.
“This is dirty business,” Adam muttered.
“This is war,” Baker retorted.
“The war’s over.”
“There’s always a war.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Five

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Adam meets John Booth.
Before Adam replied, he went to the door and closed it. He studied Booth’s eyes. Was he the interested party for whom I was searching?
“How were you assigned to the White House, Private Christy?”
“My father knows Edwin Stanton.”
“He’s another person with no morals.”
“Yes,” Adam replied. “I hate him.” He paused. “I hate them both.”
Adam could see Booth’s brain working through his etched, pallid brow. He hoped he had convinced the actor.
“And why do you hate Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stanton?”
“I was supposed to get a commission,” he replied. “They lied.”
“I could have told you Republicans were liars.”
“I hate them all,” Adam lied again.
“I’d have fought for the South,” Booth confided, “but the reality of war is that it does eventually end, and life goes on, and my life is acting. I might have been scarred in battle, which would have ruined my career.”
“Oh.”
“I feel guilty,” Booth added. “I want to do something. Now. To redeem myself.”
“Why are you telling me this? We’re not friends.”
“I make friends easily.” Booth smiled. “I’ve many friends here. You should meet them.”
“Friends or conspirators?” Shivers roamed over Adam’s body, but he forced a smile on his face.
“If they be conspirators, they must be friends first,” Booth replied.
“Then if you consider me a friend you must want me as a conspirator.” Adam had a strange feeling this conversation was going the same way as those he had had with prostitutes on street corners at midnight. What kind of good time do you want to show me, he remembered saying to painted women in cold shadows. “And what kind of conspiracy are you talking about?”
Before Booth could answer, a brutish young giant of a man opened the door and stuck his large head in. This fellow was bigger and brawnier than he, and his facial features—chin, cheeks, nose—were more handsome than his; however, Adam felt superior because stupidity flowed through the giant’s eyes.
“Hey, Johnny,” the man said, “this guy pickin’ on ya?”
“No, Tommy,” Booth replied. “I think we’ve a new friend here.”
“Oh.”
“Now please leave and shut the door.”
“All right, Johnny.” The large, stupid man left.
After a moment loud, thumping footsteps faded away. Booth smiled at Adam, a smile which made him nervous.
“What kind of conspiracy do you think I’m talking about?”
“Kill the bastards. All of them.” Adam was tired of romancing about the subject. Stanton wanted it done by the end of the week, so he decided to be blunt.
“What do you bring to the table?” Booth asked.
“What?”
“What do you know that I don’t already know about assassination?”
“I know a man who thinks like us.” Adam narrowed his eyes. “Things like how to get close to the president.”
“When can you arrange a meeting?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tonight.”
“Too soon,” Adam lied.
“It must be tonight.”
“Very well. Tonight at midnight, under the Aqueduct Bridge.”
“Do you think the man will show up on such short notice?”
“I don’t know,” Adam lied again. “I’ll try.”
“We’ll be there.”
“All right.” Adam was more nervous knowing he was closer to killing Lincoln. Self-preservation made men do terrible things, he decided, and therefore extended his hand.
“To success,” Booth said as he shook it.
“To redemption,” he replied.
That afternoon he met Stanton at the turnstile gate between the grounds of the Executive Mansion and the War Department.
“I met someone,” Adam whispered. “He’ll be at the bridge with friends.”
“How many?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t want to ask too many questions.”
“Very well. Mr. Baker will be there. What did you say?”
“I said I knew a man who knew how to get close to Lincoln.”
“Good.”
When Adam took the supper tray to the basement, Mrs. Lincoln hugged him and Gabby was still grinning at the old photograph Adam had given him in the afternoon. Adam could not help keeping his eyes down in front of Lincoln.
“Anything wrong, Private Christy?”
“Nothing, sir.” He did not want to look the president in the face.
A traitor, a lowly coward that was all I am, all I’d ever be. In Steubenville, I could have lived into old age without realizing what a despicable person I am. I could have been content to think I have admirable, manly qualities, but my life in Washington has stripped away my pretensions, leaving me with a person I neither like nor want to be.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Four

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Duff and Alethia become Lincoln impostors. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy.
Adam climbed the stairs to the second-story door of the white boardinghouse at 541 H Street, his stomach tied in knots. He had always admired Lincoln, even as a youth in Steubenville, reading stories about the Illinois lawyer. In the last two years, even though he had had to keep Lincoln hostage, he had known the president was right. Adam did not want to be part of his assassination—but neither did he want to hang for killing Neal. He forced himself to knock.
“Yes?” A tall, dark-haired woman dressed in black opened the door and stared at Adam with blank eyes.
“Mr. Zook asked me to empty his sister’s room and bring the items to him.”
“She always talked of a brother.” She raised an eyebrow. “But I never saw him.”
“I assure you Gabby Zook exists,” he said. “We work together at the Executive Mansion.”
“And who are you?” Her mouth hardened at the mention of the Executive Mansion.
“I’m Private Adam Christy,” he replied. “And what’s your name?”
“I’m Mary Surratt, the owner of this boardinghouse, and as such have the right to deny entrance to anyone I consider suspicious.”
“Are you saying you’re going to deny Mr. Zook his rightful possessions?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” she replied.
“Then what are you saying?”
“I just want to make sure Miss Zook’s possessions won’t be stolen.” She fluttered her eyes in frustration.
“Are you accusing me, an agent of the White House, of stealing a deceased woman’s property?”
“I did not say that.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Adam noticed a young man, perhaps a few years older than he, standing in the parlor door. He had a fair complexion and curly, black hair. On his face was a bemused expression which Adam could not decipher.
Covertly watching the man, Adam said, “Just because Abraham Lincoln has no morals doesn’t mean I’m a thief.”
The curly-haired man smiled.
“I did not call you a thief,” Mrs. Surratt said in irritation.
“Good,” Adam replied. “Where’s her room?”
“Upstairs.” She stepped aside to allow him in. “Follow me.”
Adam watched the young man move into the hallway as they went up the stairs.
“This is her room.” Mrs. Surratt opened the door.
“Thank you.” Adam walked in to see a clutter of tattered clothes, sources of Gabby quilts that would never be made. “You may leave the door open.”
“Of course I will.” Mrs. Surratt glared at him and left.
Looking into a chest of drawers, he noticed neat stacks of worn clothing. On top of the chest was a framed photograph of Cordie and Gabby when they were younger and not beaten down by life. Gabby would like to have that picture now, Adam thought as he reached for it.
“I couldn’t help but overhear your telling Mrs. Surratt you’re assigned to the Executive Mansion.”
Adam turned to see the young man who had been standing in the parlor door but now leaned against the wall in a nonchalant pose.
“Yes, I am,” he replied.
“She often talked of her brother who couldn’t leave the mansion.”
“I’m gathering her things to give him.”
“In my opinion,” the man said, stretching to his full height, “the Republicans killed her, keeping her from her brother.” His eyelids drooped but could not cover his intense emotion.
“I agree.” Adam paused to appraise him further. “Who are you?”
“John Booth. Perhaps you’ve heard of me.”
“No.”
“My family is well known in the theater.”
“I don’t go to the theater.”
“I’ve performed in several Shakespearean plays.”
“I don’t understand Shakespeare.”
Booth blinked his dark eyes and ran his fingers through his curly, black hair. Adam was pleased; he seemed to unsettle Booth.
“So you think Lincoln has no morals?”
“Yes,” Adam lied.
“Neither do I.” Booth smiled, revealing white, even teeth underneath his full black mustache. “I’m from Maryland and have no taste for Union bullies.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter 93

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Duff and Alethia become Lincoln impostors. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Adam makes amends with hostages in the basement.
Adam smiled at Mrs. Lincoln, nodded, and turned to Gabby’s cubicle behind the crates and barrels. He watched Gabby on his pallet, stirring restlessly and mumbling.
“Cord—cord—cordiecordiecordie,” Gabby muttered. After twisting and moaning a few more moments, he suddenly sat up, shouting clearly, “Cordie!” His eyes were wide and blank; after batting them several times, he focused on Adam.
“I’m sorry to wake you up, Mr. Gabby,” Adam said, setting the plate on a chair which had dirty trousers and shirts strewn across the back of it.
“Cordie is dead, isn’t she?” he whispered, staring at the plate.
“Yes. Last night.” Love really did connect people, Adam decided, realizing Gabby already sensed his sister’s death. He envied the old man’s grief.
“I’m not hungry anymore.” He looked at the plate of fried eggs and toast and then glanced away indifferently. “They say we’ll be out of here by the end of the week.”
“Yes, sir. We can all go Friday night.”
“It doesn’t seem to matter anymore, does it? The rats are gone. Wish we hadn’t killed all of them so fast; it gave me something to worry about. I mean, something of no account to worry about. I’ve enough honest-to-God worries as it is.”
“You really don’t have anything to worry about now.” Adam tried to sound hopeful.
“Cordie’s dead. There’s plenty to worry about. Uncle Sammy’s dead. Mama’s dead. Papa’s dead. Joe’s dead. Everybody’s dead except me.”
“No, you don’t have to worry. Cordie had a friend at the hospital. She was with her right to the last moment. Her name’s Jessie Home.”
“Is she a young woman?”
“Yes.”
“Then I’ll scare her away. Young women have always been scared of me. Well, not always, but that was a long time ago when I was someone else. I don’t remember him very well, but I do remember young women were rather fond of him.”
“Jessie’s different than most young women,” Adam said. “She doesn’t care about what people seem like but what they are like.”
“You love this girl, don’t you?” Gabby looked at Adam. “I can tell by the way you talk about her. And your eyes. Say her name again.”
“Jessie Home.”
“See. When you say her name, your cheeks turn red. And you can’t help but smile when you talk about her. If you can trust her, then I can trust her; after all, you can’t love somebody you can’t trust.”
Adam darkened when he thought about how much he loved and trusted Jessie, and how little she must love and trust him now.
“And don’t worry. I forgive you.”
“I hurt you the night you jumped me,” Adam said quietly. “If Mr. Lincoln hadn’t pulled me off, I might have hurt you real bad.”
“You couldn’t help it,” Gabby said. “You just fought back like anyone would have. You know, it was all her fault.” He nodded beyond the crates and barrels to Mrs. Lincoln. Leaning into Adam, he added in a whisper, “I don’t think she’s quite right in the head. When people are like that, there’s nothing you can do but forgive them.”
“Are you sure about breakfast?” Adam asked.
“Maybe I’ll be hungry again sometime, but right now I don’t think so.”
Adam smiled and took the plate away. He stacked the dishes on the tray and left for the kitchen. Phebe kept her head down when he came in, and he did not say anything. Back in the hallway, Adam felt a tug at his elbow. It was Stanton, who pulled him into the stairwell.
“I’ve a new assignment for you.”
“No.” Adam moved away. “When the Lincolns are back upstairs, when the others leave, I want to go. I want to return to Steubenville. Forget the commission.”
“I have,” Stanton said. “You’re guilty of kidnapping and holding hostage the president and his wife. I was aghast when I learned of your plot.”
“Do you think people will believe that?”
“Do you think they will believe you?”
“Lincoln,” Adam said with confidence. “Lincoln knows the truth.” He paused and softened his voice. “Lincoln won’t judge me. He won’t judge you. He knows you did what you did to help the nation. The war’s over.”
“The war’s never over. We now have to make the rebels suffer. They must obey the law.”
“That war Mr. Lincoln can win. He won’t punish us. He’s a man of justice.”
“It is exactly because he is a man of justice that we will be punished.”
“I’ve already been punished.” Adam turned somber.
“You don’t know what punishment is.” Stanton’s beady eyes narrowed. “Do what I say. You murdered the butler. We hang murderers. If you cooperate, you can go home to Steubenville.”
“What is it?” Adam asked, hanging his head in defeat.
“The old woman, the sister of the janitor, the one who died this week. Did she ever say anything of interest?”
“No.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.”
“She’s dead,” Stanton said. “It makes no sense to protect her when your life’s in danger.”
“Oh.” He looked off. “One time she asked about troop movements.”
“Troop movements?” Stanton pursed his Cupid’s bow lips.
“She said her landlady might turn her out if she couldn’t get any information from her brother who worked in the White House.”
“Do you know the name of the landlady?”
“No.”
“Do you know where the boardinghouse is?”
“I escorted her home several times.”
“Very good.” Stanton paused to think. “Go to the boardinghouse to say you’re collecting her personal effects to give to her brother. Then keep your ears open.”
“What am I listening for?”
“Conspiracies, plots, assassins.”
“Assassins?” Adam’s eyes widened.
“What do you think we’re talking about?” Stanton snapped. “Lincoln must die.”
“But he’s forgiven me.”
“He’s never mentioned forgiving me, and if I go to prison, you hang.”
“I don’t think I can help kill President Lincoln.” Adam swallowed hard.
“You can, and you will.” Stanton paused. “If you find anyone interested, tell them to meet you under Aqueduct Bridge at midnight.”
“But I don’t know—”
“Just tell them to be under the bridge at midnight.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Two

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Duff and Alethia become Lincoln impostors. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Duff tells Lamon the Lincolns are in Baltimore and urges him to take Alethia away.
The next morning Adam balanced the breakfast tray with one hand as he unlocked the billiards room door. He heard Mary Lincoln fuss about packing.
“I know that woman ruined all my dresses,” she fumed, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s stolen all my finest toiletries and unmentionables.”
“Excuse me.” Adam entered, keeping his head down and going to the billiards table.
“You would come in as I was talking about my unmentionables.” She lifted her nose and sniffed. After a pause she added, “Thank you for retrieving my items for me as I required them during our time down here.”
Adam watched out of the corner of his eye as Mrs. Lincoln plopped things into a box. She paused to consider the bottle of laudanum in her hand.
“How many bottles of this have I used since living in the basement?”
“I don’t know, ma’am,” he replied
“The partial bottle you brought down here the first day, and this one,” she said, answering her own question. “It’s close to empty now.” Pausing, Mrs. Lincoln looked at Adam, her eyes softened. “A bottle used to last a month. Who would think I’d need only two bottles in two years.” A smile flickered across her face. “Perhaps I’m stronger than I thought.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Adam hoped that was the proper response; with Mrs. Lincoln he rarely knew. It apparently was appropriate, because she nodded, sat, and sipped her coffee.
As he had for most of his time in the basement, Lincoln stayed behind the French lace curtain. Adam’s routine was to leave his plate on the billiards table so Lincoln could retrieve it when he wanted. Yet on this morning, Adam felt the urge to speak to Lincoln, so he took the plate to the edge of the curtain.
“Mr. President.,” Adam cleared. “May I bring in your breakfast?”
“If you like,” Lincoln replied.
Lincoln, dressed in a shirt and trousers, was sitting on the cot when Adam brought the plate in and placed it beside him.
“Thank you, Private Christy.” He looked at Adam, who was standing on one foot and then the other. “Something on your mind?”
“Yes, sir.” His eyes looked away.
“Sit down, please.”
Settling on the edge of Lincoln’s cot, Adam tried to compose his thoughts so that the president would not think he was a bigger fool than he already believed himself to be.
“Mr. President, I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere apologies for carrying out Mr. Stanton’s orders.”
“Well said.” Lincoln sipped his black coffee. “Please don’t continue. Your innocence was as plain as the spots on a speckled pup the first day you pulled your revolver on me.”
“Thank you, sir.” He paused, trying to compose his thoughts further. “Life will be better now the war’s over.”
“Well,” Lincoln said with a drawl, his eyes darting up with sad amusement, “don’t expect too much.” After chewing on a dry piece of toast, he swallowed. “Let me give you some advice. Don’t look outside yourself to find happiness.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Do you know what that means?”
“No, sir.”
“Good. Your honesty is intact.” Lincoln sighed in resignation. “The war’s over, yes. The conflict continues. The Union will go on, yes; but we won’t.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Ah.” Lincoln looked at Adam. “Don’t give up your honesty. You know exactly what I mean; it’s just that it’s too awful to accept.”
Adam’s face flushed, and he could not speak.
“I’ve scared you,” Lincoln said. “Don’t be afraid. Why be afraid of things you can’t change?”
“Yes, sir.” Adam stood, nodded, and left through the curtains, where he faced Mrs. Lincoln quietly eating her eggs at the billiards table.
“I hope your breakfast is to your taste,” Adam hesitantly offered.
“It’s fine.” Mrs. Lincoln paused to chew daintily. “It was always fine.” Patting her lips with her napkin, she put it down and pushed the plate away. “I complained to punish you. I focused my anger on you.” She looked at him with compassion. “Mr. Stanton’s the one I should have abused; but, unfortunately, he wasn’t here and you were.” Mrs. Lincoln reached out to pat his hand. “I’m wicked,” she said in a whisper. “I knew very well your mother died when you were a child. I played upon your soft disposition to get what I wanted, and when that didn’t work, I hurt you as your mother’s death hurt you.”
“Thank you, but I should have behaved more like a gentleman.”
“Your sins are trivial compared to mine. Please let it go. We’ve the rest of our lives now to be good people.”
Adam furrowed his brow.
“You frown?”
“Mr. Gabby’s sister died last night at Armory Square Hospital. Her last words were for him.”
“Oh.” Mrs. Lincoln’s hand went to her cheek. “How sad. I’d never seen such devotion between brother and sister.” She looked into his eyes. “I could tell him for you.”
“I thought he wasn’t talking to you.”
“We settled all that last night. Just as you and I have settled our differences now.”
“I appreciate your offer,” Adam said, “but I promised her I would tell him.”
“I understand,” she replied.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-One

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Duff and Alethia become Lincoln impostors. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Duff confesses to Alethia that he is married.
Lamon raced up the Executive Mansion steps, past the drunken guard, and up the grand staircase, eager to confront the man who pretended to be Lincoln. Less than an hour earlier, a deputy marshal had burst into his office with the news that Lee had surrendered to Grant, and Lamon wanted to find out the truth that Stanton had kept from him for more than two years. Opening the president’s bedroom door, he saw the man stretched out on the bed, a gangling arm across his face.
“Sir?” Lamon said. “I just heard the war’s over.”
The man sat up, revealing red, moist eyes, and replied, “Yes, everything’s over.”
“No, sir. Everything won’t be over until I see Mr. Lincoln again.”
“Everything’s over for me.”
“You have to help me.”
“What do you mean?”
Lamon shut the door and sat on the bed next to him and whispered, “You can tell me the truth. Mr. Stanton can’t hurt you now.”
“The truth.” He bowed his head. “The truth doesn’t solve anything.”
“The truth will solve everything. Look. I know you were lying about all this business being Mr. Lincoln’s idea.” Lamon waited for a response. “Are you still scared?”
“No, not really.”
“Then why not tell me where Mr. Lincoln is?”
“You don’t know?” The man looked up.
“No. If I can rescue Mr. Lincoln, we can stop Mr. Stanton before he does anything else,” Lamon said. “You want to help us, don’t you?”
“We’re beyond help.” He sighed.
“All right.” Lamon paused to control his emotions. He wanted to throttle the man, but knew that would do no good. “I know after two years it seems like everything’s hopeless. That’s what Mr. Stanton wanted you to think, but we can still help each other.” He searched the man’s face. “Mr. Lincoln could die if you don’t help.”
“What? How do you know this?”
“Know? I don’t know anything. But my gut tells me if Stanton was crazy enough to do all this he’s crazy enough to kill Mr. Lincoln.”
“Then Mr. Lincoln is going to die despite what I can do. I’m already dead.” He put his head in his hands for a moment and then looked up, his hands cupped in front of his mouth. “But we all don’t have to die.”
“That’s right.” Lamon’s eyes widened as he leaned forward. “Nobody has to die.”
“Baltimore.”
“Mr. Lincoln is in Baltimore?”
“And Mrs. Lincoln,” the man added.
“Where in Baltimore?’
The man blinked several times.
“Where in Baltimore?” Lamon repeated.
“Fort McHenry.”
“They’ve known all along?”
“I don’t know.” The man turned to smile. “I’m only the double.”
“I’ll leave right now.”
Lamon stood, but the man grabbed his arm.
“Take the woman with you.”
“What woman?”
“Her.” He nodded toward the other bedroom. “I want her out of here tonight. I don’t trust Mr. Stanton.”
“Very well.” Lamon said. “Do you want to go too?”
“No.” He let Lamon’s arm go and looked down. “I have meetings to attend. There’s a candlelight parade tomorrow night. The people still need to see the president.”
“Good man.” Lamon patted the man’s back. “I’ll make sure she’s safe.”
“Thank you.”
Lamon left and went next door and knocked. The woman softly told him to enter, and he did. He found her sitting in a rocking chair, staring out the window.
“Mrs. Lincoln?”
“Yes?”
“May we speak?”
“Of course, Mr. Lamon.”
Her voice sounded lifeless. Lamon walked over to her and went down on his haunches. Her face was expressionless.
“You can leave, miss,” he said in a whisper.
“What?” She continued to look out the window.
“I know you’re not Mrs. Lincoln,” he said as kindly as he could, sensing she was emotionally fragile. “I know Mr. Stanton put you here.”
She looked at Lamon.
“How long have you known?”
“Since the beginning. Mr. Stanton told me it was Mr. Lincoln’s idea, but I didn’t believe him.” Lamon paused for her response. She was as forlorn as the man. “Miss, I know this has been very stressful for you.”
“Not all of it.” She smiled slightly. “Tad is a delightful child.”
“I’m leaving for Baltimore tonight.” He leaned toward her. “I can take you with me. There’s no reason for you to stay any longer.”
“I can leave now?” She straightened her back. “Mr. Stanton said I could leave tonight?”
“No, the man—Mr. Lincoln’s double—suggested it. He’s worried for your safety. Mr. Stanton knows nothing of this.”
She fell back in the rocker, the air seemingly leaving her body, and looked back out the window.
“Miss?”
“I don’t care what he wants,” she said in a rueful whisper.
“I don’t care what Mr. Stanton wants either,” said Lamon. “He’s had what he wanted for the last two years. Now it’s what we want.”
“No, I mean…” Her voice trailed off as her hand went to her cheek. Her eyes seemed to focus on a distant object. “I don’t want Tad to be left alone.”
“His parents will be back soon,” Lamon said, “and the man is still here.”
“The man is still here,” she repeated blankly. “No, I don’t want him to be left alone. He’s been through so much, and he’s come to depend on me. I can’t let him down.”
Sighing, Lamon stood and put his hand on the rocking chair.
“As you wish.” He smiled. “I must say, miss, I’ve been wrong about you and the man.”
“Wrong?” She looked up.
“I didn’t think much of you for replacing the Lincolns,” he explained. “But now I see both of you are fine people.”
“Both of us?” She smiled queerly. “Fine people?” Her eyes returned to stare unseeingly out the window. “Thank you.”