Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Nine

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Lamon goes home to his family in Illinois. Baker arrives on his doorstep offering his help to bring down Stanton.
For the next several days, Baker moved into a boarding house down the street. The two men took long walks along the tree-lined streets of Danville. When townsfolk stopped to talk with them, they asked Lamon to introduce his friend. He described Baker as a friendly acquaintance from his years in Washington City. Sometimes he added that Baker was the man who started the federal Secret Service. The neighbors smiled, nodded with respect and left the men to their intense conversations. At times, they stepped into wooded areas so Baker could break down in tears. As time passed, the bouts of crying actually moved Lamon to put his large arm around the shorter man to comfort him.
Everything was as Lamon expected. The entire operation was an expression of Stanton’s vaunted ego. Now Stanton was intent on avoiding exposure as a traitor. If caught he would be hanged in the same prison yard as Mrs. Surratt. After a while, Baker became the voice of reason as Lamon vowed to break into Stanton’s War Department office and shoot him between the eyes with his revolver.
“To hell with conventional justice,” Lamon fumed. “The bastard deserves to die.”
“Then you’ll take the same path to hell that I took.” Baker’s voice was soft but firm. “I don’t recommend it. The personal hell you create is much worse than the hell Stanton created. No, we must make sure he is separated from the power that he abused without letting the nation know its republic disappeared during the war.”
“We must present valid, compelling evidence to President Johnson to endure the firestorm which will most certainly be unleashed if he tried to fire Stanton,” Lamon said. “I’ve already shared my suspicions with him, and he issued a postponement to Mrs. Surratt’s execution, though Stanton’s henchmen blocked it.. No, we need more than your word.”
“My word isn’t worth a damn with the president,” Baker spat. “But I know two people right in the Executive Mansion whom he might believe.”
They spent the entire summer writing and rewriting their statement to Johnson, which included names to verify their allegations. The two people in the Executive Mansion were butler Cleotis and his wife, the cook Phebe. Lamon then added Gabby Zook’s name to the list because he lived a captive’s life in the basement along with the Lincolns.
Baker shook his head. “The last time I saw Zook was the night Lincoln was assassinated. He was wandering down the street in the rain. I don’t know where to find him now.”
“I do,” Lamon replied. “He’s living with the family of Walt Whitman in Brooklyn.”
“I don’t know if I approve of that.” Baker wrinkled his brow. “Have you read any of that man’s poetry? He’s a crackpot. Linking him to this will discredit our efforts.”
“We’ll have a hard enough time convincing Johnson that Gabby is a viable witness, but we still have to try.”
“I’ve someone too who could confirm our allegations, but he’s mad also.” Baker paused before he said the name. “Boston Corbett.”
“The man who shot Booth?”
“He didn’t kill Booth. The body that came out of the burning barn was Adam Christy. I convinced Corbett to lie for the good of the nation. Booth escaped.”
Lamon shook his head in disbelief. “You allowed the man who killed Abraham Lincoln go free?”
“I—I wanted the killing to stop,” Baker tried to explain. “No more killing, not even John Wilkes Booth.”
Lamon came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the street. “Go back to the boarding house. I have to deal with this slowly, at my own speed. I’ll contact you in a few days.” He paused. “This is another reason why the details of this plot can never be revealed to the public. Hell, I don’t even know how I’m going to come to grips with it.”
A week passed before Lamon knocked on Baker’s door at the boarding house. They resumed their walks around town. Neither man said anything about the case. Finally, Lamon asked, “Where did you tell Booth to go? Out of the country?”
“I told him to take the horse I had provided him and ride away in the middle of the night. The military posse concentrated on the burning barn. They didn’t notice a lone horseman riding away in the darkness. My cousin knew the man pulled out of the flames and placed on the farmhouse porch was not Booth, but he pretended it was the assassin, leaning over and hearing last words which were never spoken.”
“Where’s Booth now?”
“I have no idea.” Baker sighed and shook his head. “Hopefully he went out west, disguised himself and blended in with all the other men who ran away from the war to start a new life.”
By the time August presented its oppressive, stultifying heat to the Illinois countryside, Lamon and Baker had their statement ready for President Johnson to read. Their first stop when they reached the Executive Mansion in Washington City was the basement where Cleotis and his wife Phebe lived and worked. When they entered the musty kitchen through the service entrance on the ground floor, the two men noticed Phebe stiffen and swoop up into her arms a toddler playing on the floor. Cleotis, on the other hand, smiled with a butler’s professional grace. If he had recognized them, he showed no signs of apprehension.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” he said. “What can we do for you today?”
“Do you remember who we are?” Baker asked, with all undertones of intimidation erased from his voice.
“Of course, we do,” Phebe replied. Each word dripped with resentment. “We’re not stupid, you know.”
“Good.” Lamon smiled. “We were counting on your intelligence.” He stepped forward. “You must know you’re both living on borrowed time. You know if you don’t help us remove Stanton from power, it’ll only be a matter of time before he sends someone else to this basement in the middle of the night to kill you.”
Phebe pointed at Baker. “If anyone’s coming to kill us, it’s that man right there.”
“I don’t think so, dear.” Cleotis walked to Phebe and put his arm around her. “The way that man cried that night, he’s never going to hurt anyone again.” His big black eyes were soft and sympathetic. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he’s found Jesus.”
She grunted and pulled away from her husband. “Not even Jesus would want to save his dark soul from the devil.”
“This is a waste of time, Lamon,” Baker whispered. “I can’t ever expect them to trust me, not after what I’ve done.”
“You must believe that working with us will save your little family from being murdered,” Lamon pressed his case. “If you can’t trust us, then trust in Jesus for sending us here today.”
“Go away.” Her voice was a forbidding growl, like a tigress protecting her young.
Cleotis studied Baker’s face and then Lamon’s. “I trust you, gentlemen. What is it you want us to do?”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Seven

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Stanton plots Johnson’s impeachment. Lamon goes home to his family in Illinois.
After a few moments of recollecting their common dear friend Abraham Lincoln, Lamon and Herndon both paused to lean forward in their chairs, their eyes turning serious with ominous intent.
“Well, Billy, what can I do for you?”
“It’s more like what I can do for you.” Herndon’s pinched lips almost formed a smile but not quite. His voice lowered to a whisper. “I’m planning to write a biography of our dear departed friend that will shock the world.”
Lamon’s mouth fell open. Could Herndon, during his many visits to Washington City, have determined that the man in the Executive Mansion was not Abraham Lincoln? Could Herndon have been more astute than Lamon first imagined? “So you knew?”
“Of course, I knew.” Herndon raised his chin with pride. “Abe never loved Mary. He knew her family’s money and political connections would thrust him into contention for the presidency. And he paid dearly for his ambition. She made his life miserable with her insane outbursts and her wild spending habits.”
Leaning back, Lamon sighed with relief. This was the Billy Herndon he knew and tolerated. He acknowledged that sometimes times Mary Lincoln was vain, hysterical and unreasonable, but at heart she was a good person, and Lincoln loved her very much. “What an interesting premise. I’m sure your book will be very successful. Women across America will want to read it.”
Herndon emitted what Lamon considered a harrumph. “I expect it to be more than a romance story, Hill. This is where you come in.”
Lamon only allowed his inner circle of intimate friends, which included Lincoln, to address him by his middle name of Hill, but he decided not to be make an issue of it. Herndon might well have possession of information to prove Lamon’s own theories. He still wanted to present all the facts to President Johnson so that Edwin Stanton and Lafayette Baker would be punished for their attempts to subvert the Constitution and the future of the United States. “How intriguing. And how could I help you out?”
“The war, dammit.” Herndon shifted in his seat. “You were privy to much of his decision-making about the war. You must have heard a certain amount of information that has not been disclosed to the public.”
“What would you say if I told you there was a conspiracy involving our friend that went beyond a mere actor and his band of fools?”
“I knew it.” Herndon’s voice fulminated with self-righteous indignation. “That devil Jefferson Davis was behind it all, wasn’t he?”
“You might be on the right track,” Lamon lied. “Did you visit the President much in the last two years of the war?”
“Yes, a few times. Not as often as I wanted. The war made travel risky business.”
“How did he seem to you? Was he unusually nervous, distracted?”
Herndon shrugged. “Hell, he was always socially awkward. I don’t think anyone, including you, actually knew what was going in his skull. He was my best friend, but he always thought of himself above all others, if you know what I mean. He was always pushing, pushing, a quality to be admired in a president overseeing a war. But on a personal level, he made everyone feel like a true friend until that person was no longer useful to him and then they were strangers.”
Lamon suppressed a desire to throw the fat little weasel out of his office. One day even Herndon might supply a missing link in the chain of conspiracy that surrounded Lincoln’s captivity in the Executive Mansion basement. “Nothing would please me more than to participate in your project, but right at this moment I want to reconnect with my wife and child. I was gone so much during the war that I’m afraid I’m guilty of neglecting them.”
Herndon stood and extended his hand. “If any recollection bobs to the top of your memory, please let me know. What may seem insignificant to you may be of great importance to me.”
“I’m sure.” Lamon shook his hand and escorted him to the door.
When he arrived home that evening, he told Sally about Herndon’s strange visit. She was setting the table in the dining area of their parlor. On the other end of the room was a sofa, two padded winged-back chairs facing the fireplace.
She removed the dishtowel tucked in her apron to wipe smudges from a sturdy thick crystal vase.
“I, for one, never liked that man.” She carefully put the vase down. “Please make yourself comfortable on the sofa, dear, and I’ll have supper ready soon. As for Mr. Herndon’s book, I would never read his gossip.”
Dorothy ran through the front screen door holding a small bouquet of flowers from their garden. “See what I picked, papa? Aren’t they pretty?”
“Almost as pretty as you, my child.” He pulled her close and hugged her. Leaning over he smelled the bouquet. “And they smell so sweet.”
“They shall be the centerpiece of our table tonight,” Sally announced. “Now scurry to the kitchen, Dorothy, to make sure nothing is burning on the stove. I’ll take the flowers and vase.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Forty-Nine

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Lincoln’s friend Lamon interviews Mrs. Surratt and others in prison. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late.
Stanton spent many restless nights through the fall months worrying about what President Johnson knew about the conspiracy, who told him and how long he would wait before he did something about it. While the secretary of war did not have a specific plan to move against Johnson, he realized he had to lay groundwork, gain support among the serious critics of the president in Congress.
Time is on my side. Congress was not in session, and the Republicans were touring the country, rallying support for their own strict Reconstruction policies. Embers of hatred for the Tennessee usurper burned, and all Stanton had to do was wait until the right moment to fan them into full impeachment flame.
Late one evening in December of 1865 Stanton awaited several Republicans to arrive at his home on K Street. He suggested to his wife Ellen an early bed time might ease her melancholy. Without a word, she retired to their bedroom.
A few minutes before midnight six congressmen entered the parlor lit by oil lamps, looked around at the placement of the chairs and took seats which would not draw attention to themselves. Each crossed and uncrossed their legs and moved from side to side.
When Thaddeus Stevens arrived, however, he headed for a tufted leather upholstered chair situated near the Franklin stove against the wall opposite the door. He sat as though it were a throne—his throne.
“What the hell is this all about, Stanton?” Stevens bellowed. “I’m too damned old to be called out in the middle of the night by some fool government bureaucrat. It’s too damned cold.” He held his well-worn cane in front of him.
Knowing he needed Stevens’ skills of intimidation to remove Johnson, Stanton smiled with the innocence of a trained roué on the prowl. “You know very well how I admire your devotion to our Constitution and your stern patriotism—“
“Oh, hell, Stanton, get on with it,” Stevens growled.
“It’s the President, sir.”
“That damned bastard, bigot, drunk!”
“And every word you uttered is undebatable, but they can hardly be used as legal points in the impeachment of the President,” Stanton replied in a smooth, understated voice.
“Impeachment?” Benjamin Wade leaned forward, every wrinkle on his sixty-five year-old face illuminated in the lamplight. “Do you think impeachment is a possibility?”
Stanton restrained the smile trying to emerge on his lips. He was aware that Wade had been working the cloakrooms of the senate vigorously, though delicately, trying to position himself to be named Presiding Officer of the Senate of the 40th Congress, which was to convene in 1867. That title would ensure that he would be the President’s successor in the event of his removal from office since Johnson had no Vice-President. Quite an improvement in social standing for a man who began his life digging ditches for the Erie Canal.
“Correct, Mr. Wade,” Stanton replied. “Not only possible but indeed our obligation. Rumors persist about the man’s habits of lurking about the taverns of Washington City, late into the night, drinking and who knows what other practices of debauchery.”
“Well, that’s just not right,” Charles Sumner agreed in his familiar righteous tone. “A humane and civilized society cannot tolerate such behavior from its chief executive.”
“Exactly so, Mr. Sumner.” Stanton knew he would have a strong advocate in the Massachusetts representative. Right before the war a Southern congressman nearly beat him to death with a cane on the floor of Congress. Sumner often spoke with benevolence of treating the defeated Confederates with dignity and compassion, but his actions always spoke otherwise.
“While Congress was adjourned,” Sumner continued, “the Tennessee President acted on his own and without due authorization to proclaim Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, and Arkansas back in the Union. Hundreds of Negro friends of the Republic slaughtered on the streets of New Orleans, and the President did nothing. My God! Shall there be no justice administered at all?”
“No! No!” the men responded, as though they were attending an evangelical tent meeting.
“And worst of all….” Stanton paused because he knew introducing this accusation into the discussion might cause repercussions. He added an exasperated sigh. “Such rumors do not bother me. I’m used to all manner of verbal abuse, but my delicate wife Ellen was particularly devastated at whispers about town that I actually had some role in President Lincoln’s assassination.”
“Why I’ve heard no such thing!” Lorenzo Thomas blurted out. “If I ever hear anyone under my command repeat this slander I’ll have him court martialed!”
“That’s very kind of you to say.” Stanton nodded in appreciation. Lorenzo Thomas was a West Point graduate and had proved himself proficient in insinuating himself up the chain of command. Thomas would be pleased to become Assistant Secretary of War as a reward for defending my honor.
“If anyone outside the ring of convicted conspirators exists, it would be the man to benefit the most from the president’s death, Andrew Johnson himself!” Rep. George Boutwell of Massachusetts looked around the room, nodding at the other men, as though trying to garner support for his statement.
“Do you really think so?” Stanton raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. Boutwell was the youngest man in the room so therefore not as trained in the art of guile as the others.
“Of course!” Boutwell lifted his chin. “I know my forthrightness might imperil my political career but I don’t care. My heart’s deepest desire is to serve my country as a member of the President’s cabinet, but I would rather leave that ambition unrequited than to let any man—president or not—go unpunished for crimes against the nation.”
“Well said, my friend.” John Bingham, slightly older than Boutwell, had been a Pennsylvania congressman until he was appointed a judge-advocate by the Attorney General. He was a prosecutor in the conspiracy trial, and if he were re-elected to the House in the upcoming mid-term elections, could bring expertise to the impeachment charges against Johnson. “We must move on this quickly.”
Stevens rapped his cane on the floor. “Patience, my young friends. First we must create a law that a stubborn jackass like Johnson would be bound by personal honor to violate. Then we shall have him. No charges based on mythical conspiratorial assumptions but instead charges rooted in actual law.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Forty-Eight

Preston King’s tenure as the Executive Mansion’s chief of staff did not last long. Even he, who was a master of political intrigue, became uncomfortable in his duties of spying on the president. King’s inner conflict came to a boiling point in late July when black men in New Orleans demonstrated on the green in front of St. Louis Cathedral. The new Louisiana constitution did not include Black suffrage. When all calmed down, two hundred men, mostly Black, lay dead.
The nation blamed President Johnson for his incompetence. In a rage, Johnson stood in the hallway outside his Executive Mansion office, screaming for his chief of staff. “King! Get your ass in here right damn now!”
When King entered the office, Johnson waved a newspaper in his face.
“Did you know about this?” he demanded, pointing out the large headline about the New Orleans riot.
King gulped and looked wide-eyed at the president. Soon he took out a handkerchief to wipe his sweating brow.
“For once tell the truth, you worthless dog!”
“We decided—I decided—it would be in your best interests not to know about the situation. You see, no one side in this issue was clearly in the right, and we—I—wanted to spare you from any more unjustified criticism of your administration.”
Johnson, his face still crimson from anger, strode over to King, staring into his eyes, his nose almost touching his chief of staff’s nose. “And just who the hell is this ‘we’ you keep referring to?”
King took a step back, but Johnson stepped forward to remain in his face. “I am fortunate to have a private circle of friends from whom I take counsel.”
“Who the hell is in this circle of friends of yours?”
“Well, it’s hard to say.” King paused to clear his throat. “Sometimes this person, sometimes another.”
Johnson thrust his rough hands around King’s neck. “Give me a name or by God I’ll kill you!”
“Stanton,” he squeaked out. “Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, sir. I thought he was one of your closest advisors so—“
“That’s a lie! You know damn well I hate that bastard!” Johnson let go of King’s neck, walked back to his desk, sat and reached for some paper and a pen. “I think you have lost all value you might have had to this administration. I’m writing your letter of resignation, and you better damned well sign it.”
The pause in Johnson’s assault on his person gave King time to organize his thoughts. “Whatever you may think is best but what shall I do with my time, sir, if I am not in service to the nation I love?”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass, King.”
“Perhaps you should, sir. You don’t fully understand the impact of newspapers in this great land of ours. They tend to lend credence to any story that is told to them by a former government employee.”
Johnson stopped his writing and looked up. “What the hell do you mean?”
“I mean, sir, that I can tell the newspapers that I told you about this situation developing in New Orleans right after I became your chief of staff. I have my sources in Louisiana who keep me apprised of the racial situation there.”
“That’s a lie!”
“Can you prove it’s a lie, sir? I think not. Any more than I can prove what I may say in an interview is the truth. Newspapers are only obligated to prove that you or I actually made a statement, not that the statement in itself is true.”
“You son of a bitch.”
“I understand there’s an opening in the Port Authority of New York City for customs collector. It’s a very busy job. Making intricate import/export decisions would render me unavailable for any newspaper interviews.”
Johnson wadded up the dismissal letter and threw it at King. “Write your own damned resignation then get the hell to New York City. That slum pit deserves you.”
Within a few weeks, King settled into his job as customs collector for the Port of New York, began his official duties and indulged in the shadowy practices of bribery, which proved most profitable. He found an elegant brownstone across the East River in Brooklyn, and took an invigorating ferry ride to his office in the bustling Harbor District of Manhattan. He enjoyed the brisk spray of salt water in his face which he told his acquaintances was responsible for his clear sinus cavities which led, as everyone knows, to clear thinking.
On one chilly evening in November of 1865 King continued his practice of standing rail side while other ferry customers huddled inside the large passenger cabin heated by a coal-burning stove. He was congratulating himself on his clever rise to his current position when he almost lost his balance because someone bumped into him. King turned to see a young man, obviously still a teen-ager as he hunched over and avoided eye contact, a prevalent trait among certain young men of the era. He wore a wool cap pulled down over his eyes and a long gray scarf, which circled his neck several times.
“Don’t you know who I am?” King asked as he jutted out his chin.
The boy bowed and stepped back revealing a slight limp. “Yes sir, of course, sir. You are the highly regarded customs collector for the Port of New York, former congressman and for a brief time chief of staff for President Johnson. You are the honorable Preston King, sir.”
“If you know that much about me, you know you must not jostle me like that!”
“Oh yes, sir, of course sir.”
King narrowed his eyes. “This is not the land of your birth, I detect from your accent.”
“Ireland, sir. Ten years here in America, sir.”
“That explains the lack of respect.”
“None intended, sir.”
“Then go inside. Don’t bother me.”
“They tossed me out, sir. They said I wreaked of something most foul, sir. Of course, says I, this be Friday and bath night is not until tomorrow.”
King’s nose crinkled. “Then take a seat on the bench over there, and take your stench with you.”
“Yes, sir. Forgive me, sir.” The Irish lad limped over to the bench, which was in the shadows.
King shook his shoulders, as though trying to remove the inconvenience of the last few moments, and then returned his concentration on the waves breaking against the ship’s hull, spraying his face with salt water.
“Make way! Make way!” a whisper came from the darkness. “A reprieve from the President!”
King turned to stare at the young man on the bench. “What did you say?”
“Me, sir? Nothing, sir.”
“Then who was speaking? What was being said was in extremely poor taste.”
“I didn’t hear a thing, sir. Maybe you heard someone from inside the cabin, sir.”
“Hmph. Perhaps.”
King returned his gaze to the darkness covering the East River, and he began to anticipate the arrival of the ferry at the dock on the far side. He had hardly taken a second breath when he felt a rope around his neck tightening quickly, ruthlessly.
“We’ll see how you like having your neck in a noose.”
The voice was not that of the Irish lad but that of some other man, intent on murder.
“What? Who are you?” King rasped, trying to pull the rope from his neck.
“I’m the man who slammed the butt of my rifle into your chin last summer. I’m the man you thought died in a Virginia barn. I’m the man who’s going to kill you to avenge the death of Mary Surratt.”
“What? What? You fool! You can’t strangle me on public transportation! The other passengers will see my body! You’ll never get away with it!”
“You’re absolutely right. But I’m not going to strangle you. You’re going to drown.” The man held a sizable bag of bullets in from of King’s face. “This bag is tied to the other end of the rope which is around your neck. The newspapers will say you committed suicide.”
“What? Why? Who are you?” King asked.
“I am the avenging angel.” With that statement, the man pushed King over the railing.
He had no time to scream as his face hurtled toward the dark waters of the East River.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Forty-Seven

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Lincoln’s friend Lamon interviews Mrs. Surratt and others in prison. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late.
Stanton paced his office in the War Department building, glancing at his watch. It was now almost two o’clock. The executions were to take place between eleven a.m. and two p.m., and I have not heard a report yet from anyone. Once these people were dead, any possible direct link vanished between the conspiracy and me. Except for Baker, but he could not implicate me without sending himself to the gallows. Baker had many unpleasant characteristics, but stupidity was not one of them. A knock at the door startled Stanton, causing him to jump.
“Come in.”
Rep. King and Sen. Lane entered, wearing broad grins.
“The assassins are dead,” King announced.
“The nation can now be at rest,” Lane added with a satisfied sigh.
“Yes, the national nightmare is over.” My nightmare was over. “Gentlemen, please have a seat.” He settled down behind his desk.
King and Lane lounged in two wing-backed chairs opposite Stanton. The three of them shared a nervous giggle before Stanton furrowed his brow, took off his pebble glasses, pulled out a handkerchief and cleaned them with all due deliberation.
“We mustn’t take too much pleasure in this. Others might not appreciate our reaction. Of course, it’s perfectly natural to be contented with the outcome, but this is still a time of mourning for our fellow citizens. Yet I cannot help but be relieved the executions occurred without complications.”
“Oh, but there were complications.” King leaned forward. “But I took care of it.”
“I took care of it too, King,” Lane added. “It was the two of us.”
Stanton clasped his hands in front of his mouth. “Exactly what was the nature of this complication?”
“Ward Hill Lamon, of all people, stormed into the prison yard, claiming to have a letter of reprieve from President Johnson. He even had conscripted some private to clear the way to the platform. The insolent little pup actually assaulted my chin with the butt of his rifle.” King fell back against the upholstered chair. “I—um, we—stood our ground and prevented him from advancing.”
“A letter? Did he actually have a letter?”
“Here it is.” King took the envelope from an inside pocket.
“May I see it?” Stanton tried to control his emotions.
“Of course.” King handed it over.
Stanton took the letter from the envelope and read it. He knew Johnson’s handwriting well enough by now to realize this was real.
“Obviously a forgery.” Stanton lied then tore the letter, turning it and tearing again until all that remained was a handful of paper bits.
“Our sentiments exactly,” King replied with a smile.
“We didn’t think no damn thing. We knew they had to hang no matter what the president thought.” Lane crossed his arms across his thin chest. “I thought Lamon had more sense than to get involved in this. It’s none of his business. Is he still marshal of the District of Columbia?”
“Yes, well….” Stanton opened his hand over the wastebasket to allow the paper to fall. “Don’t worry about Mr. Lamon. I shall make sure he doesn’t waste his time on such inconsequential matters. I think the government should retire Mr. Lamon from his duties of district marshal and send him home to Illinois to write his memoirs which I shall make certain are never published.”
“The Surratt girl was hysterical, and he must have been caught up in the moment,” King said in a magnanimous tone. “Why they would fake a reprieve is beyond me.”
“You haven’t mentioned this to the president, have you?” Stanton’s angel bow lips turned up under great self-control.
“No, of course not.” Lane stood and brushed his pant legs, as though to dismiss the entire incident. “Why should we want to waste his time? Besides he’s probably drunk and might believe it himself.” He forced a laugh.
“Very well said, Mr. Lane.” King joined in on the laughter. After concluding his cheerfulness, he cleared his throat. “I understand the position for Port of New York customs collector is currently vacant.”
“Dammit, King, the bodies are still warm, and you’re asking for a payoff already?” Lane raised an eyebrow.
“I wouldn’t be so harsh on Mr. King.” Stanton persisted with his a tight smile. “He has done a great service for his country, and great service deserves a great reward.”
“Thank you, Mr. Secretary.” King snorted as he tossed a critical glance toward Lane.
“Of course, much more is expected of you before your reward,” Stanton added.
“What?” King replied, trying not to show his apprehension.
“I have reservations about President Johnson. After all, who had the most to gain from the assassination of Mr. Lincoln? His own Vice-President, naturally.”
“Are you sure about that?” Stanton’s statement took Lane aback. “He has a drinking problem, granted, but I can’t believe—“
“Which is grounded in your natural naiveté,” King interrupted Lane in a sanctimonious air.
“That’s why it’s important for you to assume the duties of chief of staff for the president.” Stanton continued. “You must keep an eye on the accursed politician from Tennessee.”
“And how much does that position pay?” King couldn’t hide his greed.
Lane guffawed and headed for the door. “I’ll leave you gentlemen to your grand schemes of patriotic fervor.”
“I take great offense at your insinuation, Mr. Lane.” King, his round face turning red, turned to Stanton for support. “I’m sure the Secretary is offended as well.
Stanton said nothing. This job is not complete. All could still be lost. I must get rid of Johnson too.
Lamon accompanied Anna Surratt back to the family’s boarding house and sat with her in the parlor until he sensed she was calming down. He then made his way to the Executive Mansion to break the bad news to President Johnson. When he entered the foyer this time, Massey stiffened but said nothing, only led him to the president’s office. As he opened the door, Lamon saw Johnson sitting at his desk, his head in his hands. When he looked up his eyes widened, and he stood.
“Where’s Mrs. Surratt? You didn’t leave her alone at her boarding house, did you? I was thinking about that. The crowd might become unruly—“
“Mr. President, Mrs. Surratt is dead.”
“What?” He grimaced. “Were we too late?”
“No, Rep. King and Sen. Lane—they blocked us. We never got close enough to Gen. Hartranft for him to even hear us.”
“King and Lane? What the hell were they doing there?” Johnson collapsed into his chair. “I can imagine. Stanton must have gotten to them.”
“They took the letter of reprieve from me. Stanton probably has it by now.”
“Which means it no longer exists.” Johnson slammed his fist on the desk.
“What can we do now, sir?” The hanging shook Lamon’s usual confidence. He never asked for guidance, but this particular moment left him baffled.
“Do? We can’t do a damned thing. It’s my word against his. All I have is what you told me.” He waved in Lamon’s direction. “I know you’re telling me the truth, but we don’t have anything to back it up.”
“Then Stanton wins?” Lamon could not believe those words came from his lips.
“Hell no. Stanton won’t win. It might take the rest of our lives, but we’re bringing that bastard to justice.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Forty-Six

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Lincoln’s friend Lamon interviews Mrs. Surratt and others in prison. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve.
As the carriage pulled up in front of the prison, Lamon frowned as he saw the large milling crowd. He and Anna lunged through the masses. Lamon waved the reprieve over his head. “Make way! Make way! The President has granted a stay of execution!”
Placing Anna behind him, Lamon elbowed and shoved through the human barricade. Just as he thought their cause was lost, he noticed a Union soldier step forward with his rifle. The screams were deafening but he thought he heard Anna gasped.
“You—it’s you!”
The soldier put a finger to his lips. “Shush, young lady. We have no time! We must save them!”
Furrowing his brow, Lamon wondered who this young man was. He had black unruly hair, muttonchops on his fair cheeks and an absurdly large handlebar moustache. The soldier stepped in front of them and began swinging his rifle. The mob melted away in front of him.
“Make way! Reprieves for the accused! By order of the President!”
The private’s commanding voice impressed Lamon with its deep, resounding authority. He also noticed the soldier walked with a limp, which did not stop him from making extraordinary progress to the prison yard gate. Stretching himself to his full height, Lamon could see over the heads of the witnesses. On the scaffold, guards placed hoods on the prisoners’ heads.
The soldier banged on the iron gate. “Let us in! On the orders of President Johnson!”
Nodding, the guard opened the entrance. However, they only took a few steps. Two men, dressed as befitted members of Congress, linked their arms to bar Lamon and his companions from taking another step.
“Make way! We have the President’s mandate!” the soldier boomed.
“The President?” one of the men replied with a sneering tone. “I know Mr. Johnson personally, and he is a man of measured judgments.” He shook his head. “He would not take such a precipitant action.”
Lamon pushed the soldier aside to make eye contact with the men. He recognized them. One was Representative Preston King of New York and the other Senator James Lane of Kansas. He knew them both to be of the radical wing of the Republican Party and men of a self-serving nature, quick to be bold when it was to their own benefit.
“What have you been paid?” Lamon asked with frank candor.
“I beg your pardon?” Lane was indignant.
“You know what I mean.” Lamon stepped closer so he was nose to nose with the senator. “Is it an appointment?” He jerked his head to stare at King. “An ambassadorship? Customs collector?”
King’s mouth flew open but only startled moans and grunts came out.
Lamon looked over King’s head, across the crowded yard to the top of the scaffold. He saw Gen. John Hartranft reading from a folder of documents. Lamon had to deliver the reprieves to Hartranft. “The general is reading the order of execution! We have no time to argue!” His voice grew intense.
“Stand aside, gentlemen!” The soldier held his rifle at a diagonal position and pushed against the two men.
Lane pressed back. “Don’t you ever take such liberties with me again, young man!”
“Mama! Mama!” Anna tried to angle her way between the congressmen. “I’m here, Mama!”
Lamon watched Mrs. Surratt as she stood still as the soldiers placed the noose around her neck. She didn’t react to Anna’s voice. They were too far away for anyone standing on the platform to hear them. Lamon knew they had to move closer to stop the executions.
“Here, Mama! We have a reprieve!”
“Don’t tell her that!” King put his hand over Anna’s mouth. “Don’t give your mother false hope. I don’t care what you have on that piece of paper. She is going to die today!”
“You cannot make that decision yourself!” Lamon forced himself to speak in a calmer voice, realizing the forceful approach was not working. “Gen. Hartranft is in charge here. Let him read the document and make the final decision.”
“We are willing to take the responsibility.” Lane lifted his chin in defiance.
“Yes, we are,” King echoed in a voice tinged with uncertainty.
“Oh, really?” the soldier asked.
His tone captured Lamon’s attention, and he turned to stare at the private.
“And what are your names?” the soldier asked. “Who are you to be so brave in taking a woman’s life?”
“We—we don’t have to tell you anything,” King replied in a whisper.
“They’re Senator James Lane of Kansas and Representative Preston King of New York,” Lamon interceded. “Get accustomed to hearing your names repeated, gentlemen, as the brave men who refused to save the life of the first woman ever executed in the United States of America.”
Lamon looked up at the platform again. The tall one, Paine, stepped forward, and Lamon could tell he was saying something but he could not make out what it was. They had to move closer. Lamon pushed against the congressmen.
“Your time is up, gentlemen. Let us through now!” He resumed his militant approach.
“You can’t threaten us! Leave!” King pushed the soldier’s rifle down.
The private delivered a mighty uppercut to the congressman’s chin with the butt of his rifle, throwing King off balance.
“Guards!” Lane screamed in an uncharacteristically high pitch. “We’re being attacked!”
Lamon felt hands on his shoulders, pulling him back and down to the ground. Landing on top of him was Anna. He twisted his head about to see if the private, in the split second of chaos, had made it past the congressmen and across the yard to Gen. Hartranft. Lamon watched as a guard grabbed the private’s rifle. The private disappeared in the crowd, but Lamon could not tell where he had gone.
“Oh my God, no!” Anna yelled.
Lamon looked up just as guards pulled the lever, releasing the trap door beneath the feet of Mrs. Surratt, Herold, Paine and Atzerodt. As the bodies fell with a thump, Anna turned her head to cry into Lamon’s shoulder. He became aware of the envelope still in his grasp. A hand reached down to snatch it away.
“And I’ll take that, thank you,” Representative King said in a clipped tone before he and Senator Lane melted into the mob.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Forty-Five

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Lincoln’s friend Lamon interviews Mrs. Surratt and others in prison. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life.
Ward Lamon walked with urgent purpose down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Executive Mansion, determined to tell President Johnson the entire story. Throughout the conspirators’ trial Lamon wrestled with the decision to burst into the courtroom and tell the entire ugly story, but he restrained himself, knowing the prosecutors would not believe him. Here in the last moments he took his last chance to convince Johnson to postpone the hangings.
As he mounted the steps, Lamon collided with a young woman rushing out the door. Holding her shoulders with his large rough hands, he recognized her to be Anna Surratt, the daughter of the boardinghouse owner.
“Excuse me, Miss Surratt,” he mumbled. Looking at her face, Lamon observed tears streaking her soft cheeks. “So you’ve been to see President Johnson and he turned you down.”
“How do you know my name?” Her eyes widened in recognition. “Oh, you’re the gentleman who visited my mother in prison. I told her to trust you, but she doesn’t trust any Yankees anymore. Let’s see, you said your name was Lamon, didn’t you?”
“Yes, Ward Hill Lamon. I was on my way to persuade Mr. Johnson to delay the executions.”
Anna looked away and sighed. “There’s no use in that. I told him about the man under the bridge, even told him his name, Lafayette Baker, but he said that wasn’t enough to save my mother.”
Lamon cocked his head. “Are you sure about that name, Lafayette Baker?”
“Yes, sir. Lafayette Baker. I would have told you in the prison that day but Mother forbid me from saying anymore. Do you know him?”
“I know that he’s Edwin Stanton’s henchman. When he came to your mother’s boardinghouse that night, did he say anything about Mr. Stanton?”
“No.” She paused. “He said he was from the War Department, but he didn’t mention Mr. Stanton by name.” Anna shook her head. “I don’t know how all this could make a difference.” She pointed to a horse and carriage in the driveway. “Mr. Johnson said he had that carriage ready to rush orders to stop the hangings if new evidence came to him, but my information wasn’t enough.”
“I think I have news that will change his mind.” Lamon smiled, took Anna’s hand and guided her back into the Executive Mansion.
Once inside, Johnson’s secretary Reuben Massey blocked the staircase up to Johnson’s private office. “I thought the President told you to go away.” He narrowed his eyes as he looked down on Anna.
Lamon pushed in front of the girl, placing himself so close to Massey the secretary took a step back. “She’s with me. I’ve important information the President must hear.” He paused to stare into Massey’s eyes. “You do know who I am, don’t you?”
“Of course I know who you are, Mr. Lamon.” He took another step back and brushed the front of his dark blue coat. “You may have held sway with Mr. Lincoln, but this is Mr. Johnson’s house now.”
Clinching his teeth, Lamon extended his right arm to push Massey aside. Still holding Anna’s hand, he trotted up the stairs with Massey trailing behind, making unintelligible protests. Without knocking, he burst into the office. Johnson looked up from his desk.
“Lamon! What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m going to save you from making the worst mistake in your whole damn life!”
Massey scuffled to the President’s desk. “Sir, do you wish I call for the guards?”
“I have a name for you,” Lamon announced. “Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.”
Johnson stopped, and his mouth fell open. After a moment, he looked at Massey. “Leave us alone. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir.” Massey bowed and turned to glare at Lamon before leaving.
Johnson walked around his desk. “And what does Secretary Stanton have to do with all this?”
Lamon breathed in, taking time to compose his thoughts before launching into the full story of the kidnapping of the Lincolns, their stay in the basement, the guard from Stanton’s hometown and the insertion of two imposters upstairs, ending with the assassination and the rush to judgment in the conviction of the conspirators.
“Did your mother know about this?” Johnson asked Anna.
“No. This is the first I’ve heard about it. If I didn’t know, Mother didn’t know.”
The President looked back at Lamon. “Are you sure?”
“Positive, but I can’t prove it in a court of law,” Lamon replied, “but even if I could prove it, I wouldn’t press it in court because the nation in its current fragile condition would collapse under the shock of the horrible truth.”
A sneer crossed Johnson’s lips. “How many times have I been urged to cover up a scandal because the people—bless their hearts—couldn’t be trusted with reality? I’m a man of those people you don’t respect, dammit, and I’ve always believed they can handle anything if presented to them in a forthright manner.” After a pause, he exhaled. “But this—this is a different matter. I’ll be damned if I don’t agree with you.”
“Does that mean you’ll save my mother’s life?” Hope tinged Anna’s small voice.
The President returned to his desk, grabbed a sheet of paper and began to write. “My gut tells me this miserable mess sounds like something Stanton would do.” He lightly blew on the reprieve to hasten the drying of the ink. “I hate Stanton.” He looked up. “I should have known that man wasn’t the real Lincoln. They—Stanton, that is—kept me away from him as much as possible. Hell, I was in a drunken stupor most of the time anyway.” Johnson folded the document and put it in an envelope. “I can redeem myself now.” He extended it to Lamon. “There’s a carriage and driver waiting, just for a circumstance like this. Get to the Old Capitol Prison as quickly as possible!”
Lamon grabbed the reprieve and rushed out the door with Anna in tow. They scurried down the steps and out onto the porch. Waving the document at the driver, he yelled out, “To the prison!” as they jumped into the carriage.
Anna leaned into Lamon’s shoulder and cried. “Oh, thank you, thank you Mr. Lamon.”
“Don’t worry. It won’t be long now.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Forty-Four

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Lincoln’s friend Lamon interviews Mrs. Surratt and others in prison. Stanton vows to have Mrs. Surratt hang.
The President, settling into his desk chair, thought he had banished his niggling suspicions about the hangings when his secretary Reuben Massey tapped on the door and entered.
“Sir, a distressed young lady is here to see you—“
Before Massey could finish and before Johnson could reply, Anna Surratt burst into the room, running toward the President, her eyes red with tears.
“Mr. President, sir, please save my mother’s life!”
“What the hell is going on here, Massey?”
The secretary came up behind Anna, putting his hands on her shaking shoulders, trying to pull her away. “This is Mrs. Surratt’s daughter, sir. She’s been waiting all morning for an appointment. I told her you were busy, but she was unequivocal about seeing you.”
“Yes, she was a Southern sympathizer and is a devout Roman Catholic,” Anna blurted. “She knew something was going on in the boarding house, but as God is my witness she didn’t participate in anything to kill Mr. Lincoln!”
“What about the testimony that she took firearms to her place in the country?” Johnson mellowed his tone. His own daughters were not much older than Anna, and he could not stay indignant with her. He glanced at his secretary. “Massey, get her a chair.”
As she sat, Anna took a deep breath. “All I know is that Wilkes asked her to take the guns to our inn. She was just doing a favor for a friend of our family. He was very good friends with my brother John.”
“And where is your brother now?” Johnson cradled his chin in his right hand.
“We don’t know. All John told us was that he had to get out of town.”
“Didn’t that seem suspicious to your mother?” the president asked.
“I don’t know.” She looked down.
“And you want me to intervene on behalf of your mother even though you’ve answered all my questions with ‘I don’t know’?”
“Mother wouldn’t want me to tell you this.” Her words were soft, desperate.
“Massey, pour this young lady a glass of water.”
His secretary poured water in a glass on a side table.
“Thank you, sir.” She took a short sip before continuing. “Wilkes was more than merely my brother’s friend. My mother and I liked him very much. He was a gentleman. He was very complimentary of my mother’s cooking. Any woman would appreciate a handsome gentleman of the stage smiling at her, being tender. One night, right before the—the terrible incident—Wilkes sat in our kitchen eating a slice of Mother’s pound cake when he began speaking of a strange man he had met earlier in the evening.”
Massey stepped forward. “So you’re admitting your mother knew—“
“Don’t you have other duties?” Johnson glared at his secretary.
“Oh. Yes, sir. My apologies, sir.” He backed his way to the door and left.
“Mr. President, I swear Wilkes shared no details of what—“
“Please, Miss Surratt, continue.” He smiled. “I am not a prosecuting attorney. I assure you.”
“Wilkes and a group of his friends met a man under the Aqueduct Bridge. He didn’t tell us what they discuss, and we didn’t inquire, as it was none of our business.”
“Yes, I know. Please continue.”
“He was distressed that the man was not a gentleman in his conduct. Above all else, Wilkes prided himself on being a gentleman. If a man had not manners what good was he? Wilkes could talk for hours about how a man’s true character was revealed by his courtesy toward others.”
“Did he say what the man’s name was?” Johnson could not determine where this narration was going nor what its importance might be, but he tried to hide his impatience.
“No, he said the man didn’t identify himself. In fact, he kept his face in the shadows so Wilkes couldn’t see him. He did say the man was rather short and tapped his foot impatiently in the lapping waters of the Potomac. We dismissed the conversation as another example of Wilkes’ obsession with the art of being a gentleman until the night Mother was arrested. The man who was in charge of the soldiers was a short man who nervously tapped his foot on the floor, just like the man under the bridge.”
Johnson leaned forward. “And who was this man?”
“Col. Lafayette Baker.” A brief quiver shot through her slender body. “He threatened my mother. He said she must never tell anyone about the meeting under the bridge if she wished for any chance of survival. She didn’t tell a soul, yet she is to hang today. Please, Mr. President, for the love of mercy, save my mother.”
Johnson paused a moment to collect his thoughts. “My dear young lady, we make our decisions from two places—from here,” he said pointing to his head, “And from here.” His hand slapped across his belly. “My gut tells me everything you’ve said isn’t beyond belief. I wouldn’t put anything past Stanton and his hatchet man Baker. My brain says your story is too incredible to be true. No one would believe it. More importantly no court of law would allow my gut feelings to rule the day.”
Gently putting his arm around Anna’s shoulders, he guided her to a window and nodded to a horse and carriage waiting outside. “This morning I ordered that transportation to be placed in front of the Executive Mansion so that if any legally reliable evidence were presented to me, I could send posthaste a messenger to Old Capitol Prison to delay the executions.” He shook his head. “What you have told me does not satisfy the requirements of legal recourse. I cannot send that carriage. I am so dreadfully sorry.”
Anna collapsed into his chest, weeping and choking on her own tears. Johnson clenched his jaw when he sensed he also was on the verge of tears. The backwoodsman in him wanted to drive the carriage himself to the prison, carry Mrs. Surratt out in his arms, and take her and Anna to a train station sending them far away so no one could ever hurt them. But his political side knew any chance he had to ease the reprisals against the South would be destroyed if he flouted the law and the will of the Radical Republicans in Congress.
“All I can do is pray for you and your mother.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Forty-Three

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Lincoln’s friend Lamon interviews Mrs. Surratt and others in prison.The doctor who attended Lincoln on his deathbed, attends the trial with a man who claims to be Lincoln’s stepbrother.
Andrew Johnson shifted in his bed, first to one side and then to the other. His thick shoulders shuddered and his eyes twitched. A general physical malaise settled throughout his body for almost a week during the closing arguments and deliberations in the assassination conspiracy trial. Rumors on the street had it that the newly installed president had drifted into old, bad habits of alcohol abuse and suffered from an extreme case of delirium tremens. His hair stuck to his forehead from perspiration while his face contorted in emotional pain. In his dreams, Johnson was back in the pigsty in Greeneville, Tenn., slowly sinking into the muck as toothless old men and sassy young ladies dressed in their Sunday finest pointed at him and laughed.
“President of the United States? Why he wouldn’t even make a good town drunk!”
“Poor as snot! What Eliza McCardle ever saw in him I’ll never know!”
Johnson flailed about to avoid being sucked under the pigsty sludge. Screaming, he sat up in bed, opened his eyes and looked about the room, panting in fear that some political enemy had heard him. Seeing his wife Eliza by his side calmed him, and Johnson fell back against the pillow. She and their daughter Martha had joined him in Washington City from their home in Tennessee at the end of May. It was comforting to have them with him at last. Forcing a wan smile, he reached out to pat Eliza’s pale cheek.
His wife suffered from tuberculosis, which sapped her energy and relegated her to a wheelchair. Johnson knew the trip from Tennessee and her subsequent activities at the Executive Mansion weakened her further, even though Martha had assumed most of the duties of running the house. Her husband David Patterson would join them soon. The Tennessee legislature had just elected him U.S. senator.
Johnson longed to have the rest of his family around him. They always sustained him in times of anxiety. His oldest son Robert was a colonel during the war, and his presence soothed Johnson more as a trusted longtime friend than as an obedient son, such as Andrew Junior, who was only thirteen.
Johnson had another married daughter Mary Stover. The two daughters had five grandchildren whose laughter and games entertained their grandfather. However, three were still in Tennessee, and Johnson had to rely on his infirmed wife and his daughter Martha’s two children for comfort.
“What day is it? Has the commission made its decision?” he asked.
“It’s Wednesday, July 5,” she replied in a soft voice, the corners of her thin mouth turned up in a patient smile. “They made their decision June 30 and sealed it. They were waiting for you to recover before sending it over to you.”
Johnson clinched his jaw. “They all think I’ve been out on a drunk. I can just hear those damned Republicans spreading lies about me.” He glanced at his wife. “You know I ain’t been drinking. It’s a three-day bellyache gone bad, that’s all.”
“Of course it is, dear. All you needed is bed rest and quiet. That’s what the doctor said. I can tell you are feeling better.” She smiled again. “You’re complaining again. Up to now you’ve been too sick to grumble about anything.”
“It’s the damned trial.” His watery eyes went to the ceiling. “It’s a huge damned mess, and I can’t do anything about it.”
“You fret too much. You’ve always been like that. You fret yourself into a three-day bellyache, and I can’t keep you from it. You just have to work it out yourself, like you always do.”
“How about you?” Johnson turned his head and furrowed his brow. “How do you feel? Breathing all right?”
Eliza chuckled and looked away. “I’m as well as I’m supposed to, considering the circumstances.”
She focused on him and straightened her fragile jaw. “Are you up to a visit from the commission? You have to read the verdicts and approve the sentences. They said the review could take several hours. Think you can handle it?”
“Oh, hell. Tell them to come on over. I want this damn thing finished.”
By afternoon, commission chairman Joseph Holt arrived with the documents and by nightfall Johnson agreed to death by hanging for Mrs. Surratt, Herold, Atzerodt and Paine. All the others, including Dr. Mudd, received prison sentences on the Dry Tortugas of the Florida Keys.
They scheduled the hangings for 1 p.m. Friday, July 7.
As Holt left, Johnson felt a sense of relief that the national nightmare was almost over, and his tortured stomach began to heal. On the other hand, doubts crept into his mind. How could a callow, vainglorious actor such as Booth organize a group of simple-minded misfits into a murderous cabal attempting to bring down the government of the United States?
Late Wednesday afternoon, Edwin Stanton strolled through the open-air market down by the iron bridge that crossed the Mall slough over to Smithsonian Museum and the veterans’ hospital. Shopping for apples and onions was about the only pleasure he took from life any more. Dining out was too much trouble, and strangers were always approaching him with little requests about family members. Usually they were matters that were beyond his authority to grant, or matters he cared not to consider. The theater was a silly waste of time, and dinner parties at the homes of congressmen went beyond of the pall of boredom.
On this particular afternoon, his purpose was more than the purchase of fruits and vegetables. Stanton waited for Preston King and James Lane. He had never cared for either man, finding them mundane and egocentric, but they presented themselves to him on the night of the assassination as eager players in the convoluted games of Washington politics.
Initially, he asked them to go to Andrew Johnson’s room in the Kirkwood Hotel the morning Lincoln died. Ostensibly, they were to help prepare the Vice-President to assume the executive duties. In actuality, Stanton wanted King and Lane were to observe Johnson’s behavior and report their findings back to him. If possible, they were to encourage him to succumb to alcohol so that his swearing-in would be a repeat of the inauguration debacle. Now Stanton had another assignment for them.
“Mr. Secretary, what a surprise to find you here!” King bellowed as he slapped Stanton on the back with a bit too much enthusiasm.
“Dammit, you’re too loud,” Lane hissed as he maneuvered himself to the other side of Stanton.
The war secretary kept his eyes on the basket of onions. “The verdict has been rendered. The President set the executions for Friday, July 7 in the yard of the Old Capitol Prison. I want you there as my witnesses.”
“Yes, sir. Glad to be of service, sir.” King noticed Stanton arch his eyebrow. He coughed and looked down. “Forgive my enthusiasm. After all, it isn’t every day you see a woman hang.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Forty-Two

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Lincoln’s friend Lamon interviews Mrs. Surratt and others in prison.The doctor who attended Lincoln on his deathbed, attends the trial.
Leale stepped back, afraid he had irritated Lincoln’s stepbrother with his question. “I beg your pardon, sir. I know my interest seems out of place, but, you see, I was the attending physician at President Lincoln’s bedside that night.” He noticed the old man’s mouth gape a bit.
“You were there for Mr. Lincoln’s last breath?”
“Yes, sir, I was, so you can understand why I have an undue curiosity about the case.”
“I would say so.” The corners of Johnston’s mouth went up in a slight smile. “Then we must make every effort to be companions during this proceeding. We have so much to learn from each other.”
“I have only two seats left!” the guard called out. After a moment, he pointed at the old man and waved him forward. “You, sir! I remember you. You’re related to the president. Please, come this way.”
Johnston took Leale by the elbow and guided him forward. “This is my friend,” he paused to lean into the doctor. “What is your name?”
“Dr. Charles Leale.”
“Yes, my good friend Dr. Charles Leale.”
The guard frowned. “That liar? I turned him away yesterday! Said he was there the night the president died! Nonsense!”
“It is not nonsense at all,” Johnston replied, his voice dropping which caused the guard to step closer.
“I beg your pardon, sir?”
“I said,” the old man repeated in an even softer voice, “it is not nonsense. Dr. Leale was there the night my stepbrother died. I am in poor health myself and need the attendance of a physician during such trying circumstances.” By the time Johnston finished, his voice was barely above a whisper.
Leale could tell by the expression on the guard’s face that he had not understood most of what the old man said. The guard stepped back, tipped his hat and bowed.
“Anything you say, sir.”
Johnston glanced at Leale. “I hope you remembered to bring my medication.”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, Mr. Johnston. Of course I did.” Leale patted his breast pocket. “We need to be on our way. You shouldn’t be exposed to the glare of the sun, sir.” Once they were inside the prison, the old man guided Leale toward the staircase. The doctor stopped. “Stairs? Do you think you will be able to climb those?”
“Of course, I can,” Johnston replied. “I’m in perfect health, except for this bum leg, but I have my cane.” He cocked his head. “Don’t act so shocked that I lied. You wanted in, didn’t you? And you lied about having my medication. Lying is part of life.” He chuckled. “Who do you think taught my half-brother how to be a politician, eh?”
Leale felt taken aback by the brazen frankness but recovered to take Johnston’s elbow to guide him up the stairs to the third floor courtroom. Even though he was only twenty-five years old, the doctor found himself breathing hard by the time they sat in the row of chairs against the far wall of the room. Johnston’s inhalation was normal. After composing himself, Leale leaned into the old man to observe, “A smaller room than I expected.”
“The room was not chosen to accommodate the public but to control the flow of information. There is much more going on here, young man, than a mere murder trial.”
During the next month and a half, Leale arrived early each day and searched for Johnston. A few things struck the doctor odd about the old man; for instance, he always politely declined any dinner invitations and changed the subject when Leale asked questions about Lincoln as a youth, sometimes using the same ploy with him as he had with the guard, gradually talking in softer and softer tones until he was incomprehensible. The doctor in due course found the president’s stepbrother to be inscrutable. Rarely speaking, Johnston nodded often, leaning in to hear witnesses as they spun stories of the day of the assassination. The drunken innkeeper at the Surrattsville tavern stumbled over testimony that Mrs. Surratt, accompanied by a boarder called Louis Weichmann, arrived in the afternoon to retrieve “those firearms” left by Booth.
“What do you think?” Leale whispered. “Do you think the woman was part of the conspiracy?”
“Absolutely not.” The reply came quickly with a touch of antagonism. Johnston cleared his throat. “Forgive me for holding the views of my generation. Ladies never involved themselves in matter so distasteful as politics, war and—how shall I phrase it—murder? And one has only to observe Mrs. Surratt to see that she is a lady in every sense of the word.”
Leale, as was his lifelong predilection, studied the old man’s face. In fact, one reason he acquiesced to his wife’s wishes to attend the theater that night was for the off-chance that he might be able to study President Lincoln’s facial contours and how emotions played across them. Before he could make much of an assessment, Leale observed that Johnston noticed the attention and turned his head away.
Johnston exposed his emotions to the utmost on the day Louis Weichmann testified against Dr. Mudd, claiming he was present one day in January when Booth, his friend John Surratt and Dr. Mudd met in a Washington hotel room. He impatiently tapped his cane on the rough wooden floor. The unexpected clatter drew Leale’s attention, and he wrinkled his brow and smiled in curiosity at the old man.
“He’s lying,” Johnston blurted. His head shuddered as he continued in a softer, calmer tone. “I have made it a habit to study certain subtle gestures that reveal the truth behind what men say. If you noticed, when he spoke he looked away, as though to avoid a confrontation over his statement. Also, notice the gentle tapping of his left foot, an undeniable sign of nervousness. Why would he be nervous if he were not lying?”
Since this was the same interest that Leale held, he discerned that Johnston, himself, glanced away in the direction of the military judges’ table as he spoke and could not control the incessant rapping of his cane.
“I also find it fascinating to study human tics and reflexes.”
“Well, take care, young Dr. Leale, it takes a lifetime of observations to draw accurate conclusions. You cannot assume a set of random behaviors to mean what you think it might mean.”
“So you think the man Weichmann knows more than he is letting on?”
“Indeed, the opposite,” Johnston replied without pause. “He knows nothing at all, but he’s afraid he will be drawn into the web of conspiracy so he is saying anything to exculpate himself, even damning good, honest, innocent people. You need only to peruse his countenance to determine he is a weak, foolish man, controlled by his own personal demons.”
“Your assessment may very well be true, sir. Through my military contacts I have learned Secretary of War Stanton himself gave strict orders that Weichmann be spared legal prosecution if he gives enough evidence to convict the others.”
Johnston broke his custom and looked directly at Leale. “Secretary Stanton? And why would he take such a personal interest in this case?”
“Why, I suppose he—isn’t it standard prosecutorial procedure to offer immunity in certain cases to ensure a conviction?” The doctor blinked several times in reaction to the old man’s eruption.
“I suppose you are right.” Johnston leaned back in his chair and returned his gaze at the row of the accused conspirators. “It’s just that,” he paused as though to collect his thoughts, “I have heard Mr. Stanton’s name in several instances that do not reflect well upon his character.”
Leale smiled. “He is not a pleasant person if that is what you mean. On the night of the assassination, Mr. Stanton tried to take over everything at the boardinghouse, even questioning my treatment of the president—“
“Sshh.” Johnston’s hand went up as he leaned forward to listen to Weichmann’s testimony.
“I never could understand the sympathy and affection which existed between Booth and Surratt,” Weichmann stated.
Weichmann’s voice, Leale thought, though clear and articulate, lacked strength and—what? Perhaps courage?
“…so dissimilar in their natures, education and the social position they held in life…never were two individuals thrown together so utterly at variance with one another,” the witness continued.
The cane tapping stopped. Leale watched the old man’s knuckles whitened as his fingers clutched the top of his walking stick. At the end of the day, he mumbled his farewell and quickly left Johnston still seated, leaning forward, staring into void.
By the next morning, Leale noticed his companion’s conviviality had returned and his reaction to the testimony of the conspirators was muted. Johnston chuckled as David Herold’s attorney described him as an eleven-year-old boy in a twenty-two year old man’s body. George Atzerodt was called a complete coward, incapable of performing any violent criminal act, and Lewis Paine was painted as a brave hero deranged by the ravages of war.
As the trial dragged on, promising little entertainment with the defense of the stable boy and two childhood friends of Booth, Johnston decided, with a sigh, that his failing patience could not endure another moment of ennui. The panel of judges had just adjourned for the day.
“I promised mother to witness the trial,” he whispered to Leale, “but what would it avail her if I died of boredom before I could return home and report the more interesting aspects to her? I understand the verdict will be announced through the newspapers and not at a public hearing. Perhaps I shall be home with mother when she reads the news. I think she would like that. She’s always looked to me for comfort.” Johnston rose and extended his hand. “It has been a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Leale. Do take care.”
The doctor’s smile faded as he looked at the clasp of their hands. The old man’s grip was extraordinarily firm for a man of his years. He also became aware of a sort of greasy grittiness to Johnston’s hand. As he pulled his own hand away, Leale noticed a smear of what appeared to be make-up in his palm.
He looked up to comment on this enigmatic situation, but the old man had disappeared, immersed in the ambling crowd.