Tag Archives: assassination plot

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixty

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. Lamon goes home to his family in Illinois. Baker arrives on his doorstep offering his help to bring down Stanton. They go to Washington to tell Johnson.
Lamon told Cleotis and Phebe to go upstairs right now to tell President Johnson their entire story. When the president’s secretary Massey came up the stairs, he turned to go into his private bedroom across the hall from the presidential offices. Lamon had to convince Johnson that Baker could be trusted, which was no mean feat. Lamon tapped on the office door and then opened it, leading the group in.
At first, Johnson beamed from his desk when he saw Lamon. “Why, Mr. Lamon, I thought you had gone home to Illinois.” When he caught sight of Baker, he stood and wagged a finger at him. “What the hell is he doing here? I fired his ass for spying on me!” When he looked beyond Baker to see Phebe with her little boy in tow, he added, “Oh, I’m sorry for the language, Missy Phebe, but this is a very bad man.”
“You’re not telling me nothing I don’t already know.” She picked up her son and wedged him on her hip. “But my old man Cleotis, though, says Mr. Baker here has found Jesus and that you should listen to him.”
Johnson wrinkled his brow and looked at Lamon. “What’s this all about?”
“Remember the story I told you the day of the executions? Well, Baker can confirm every bit of it and more.”
As the president sat at his desk, he motioned to Lamon and Baker. “Gentlemen, have a seat.” As they sat, Johnson viewed Cleotis and Phebe with askance. “Now what can these two add to the conversation?”
“They can corroborate the story. They were here in the basement during the whole thing,” Lamon said.
“Not the whole thing, sir,” Cleotis interrupted. “There was another butler before me when all this mess started.”
“His name was Neal,” Phebe added. “That soldier boy done killed him that night, and this man—“ she paused to point at Baker “—took the body out. Told me if I said anything I’d end up dead too. Cleotis showed up the next morning, and nothing’s been the same ever since. The soldier boy killed himself the night they said the president died. And that man took his body away.” Her large black eyes focused on Johnson. “You better watch out, Mr. President. You could be the next person they kill.”
“Don’t worry about that, Mr. President,” Baker interjected. “Mr. Stanton knows he pushed too far in killing Mr. Lincoln. He doesn’t want to risk killing you, but he does want you removed from office and sent back to Tennessee so no one ever finds out.”
Johnson leaned back in his chair and exhaled in exasperation. “And what can I do about it? What do we know now that you didn’t tell me two years when the conspirators were hanged?”
Baker waved his hand. “We have them now, ready to testify about what happened.”
“Testify before who?” Johnson nodded toward Cleotis and Phebe. “Are you sure they would own up in court of law?”
“We are brave people, Mr. President,” Cleotis whispered. “We will do what’s right.”
“And him.” Johnson sneered at Baker. “Everybody knows what a jackass he is. Nobody likes him. They won’t believe him.”
“You don’t have to get everyone to believe me.” Baker leaned forward in earnest. “I only have to convince a handful in Congress to allow you to fire Mr. Stanton. Then he can be the one to go home and rot. We can’t punish him, but we can keep him from doing any more harm.”
Johnson paused before asking, “So you expect me to believe that you got religion, and you’re now willing to put your life on the line to get Stanton out of office?”
Baker opened his mouth but nothing came out.
“You have to believe him. I know I believe him,” Lamon stressed. “We can’t let Stanton feel he can try to overthrow the government again.”
Johnson put his hand to his head. “Dammit, you’re right. I’ll get rid of him. And I hope Jesus will save all of us.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Eight

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.
Lamon lounged back on the sofa and began to read the Springfield newspaper when he heard a knock at the front door. When he looked up to see who it was, Lamon’s face flushed with anger. Lafayette Baker stood on his porch. This was Gabby’s mean man with the red hair. Lamon stood and marched to the door.
“What the hell are you doing here?” He growled in low tones so his wife and child couldn’t hear.
“May I come in?” Baker asked. “I’ve brought an autographed copy of my book.”
“Hell no,” Lamon spat as he opened the screen door, stepped out on the porch and threw a punch which landed on Baker’s jaw.
Baker tumbled backwards and clattered down the front porch steps; his book flew from his hand, landing on the ground by his side. Lamon threw his large body onto him and continued to pummel his face, neck and chest. He vaguely became aware that Baker wasn’t fighting back, but Lamon didn’t care. He continued his assault, even though he could see Baker’s face began to swell and blood dribbled from his mouth. In a few seconds, Baker tried to roll away.
“No, stop, please. I have to tell you something. Please, don’t kill me yet.”
Disregarding Baker’s pleas, Lamon continued his thrashing as they both tumbled down a slight grade toward Sally’s flower garden. Lamon didn’t notice they were hurling themselves downhill. All he knew was that the man who had been responsible for misery in the last two and a half years of Abraham Lincoln’s life was under his control and he was exacting revenge.
“No, please! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Baker screamed.
Lamon bellowed like an enraged bull. The noise drew Sally and Dorothy out on the porch. Sally picked up the book and threw it at the two men.
“Don’t you dare ruin my flower bed! Stop it! Stop it right this moment!” Sally howled louder than either of the two men, which caused Lamon to stop his fist in mid-air. “For heaven’s sake, Ward! You’ve got the neighbors peeking out of their windows!”
When Lamon looked behind him he saw Sally with her hands on Dorothy’s shaking shoulders. He glanced around at the surrounding houses where he saw curtains close in quick succession. Lamon returned his gaze to Baker, who had pulled a handkerchief from his coat pocket and was wiping blood from his swollen nose.
“Please give me a chance to explain what happened,” Baker whispered. “Yes, I’ve been a monster. I’ve done terrible things because Edwin Stanton told me to. But I repent of all that.”
Lamon noticed Baker wince as tears rolled down his battered cheeks.
Please help a sinner repent,” Baker pleaded
Lamon still couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Was it possible all the pieces of the conspiracy puzzle were coming together right there in his front yard? Could it be that the man whom he had always held in the highest contempt was about to become his most trusted ally? His eyes fluttered in bewilderment.
Sally smiled in bemusement. “I presume this gentleman will not be joining us for supper.”
“I don’t see why not.” Lamon stood and helped Baker to his feet. “Do you have other plans for this evening?”
Baker swallowed hard as he found his voice. “I might need to see a doctor first, but I’d love to have a home-cooked meal.”
“Good.” A smile found its way across Lamon’s lips. “Our family doctor lives just down the street. I’ll take you there myself.” He surveyed his handiwork on Baker’s face. “You’ll need to wash up first.”

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 Fifty-Six

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 meets Walt Whitman.
His conversation with Walt Whitman gave Lamon a measure of hope to sustain him into the New Year when Johnson vetoed the black suffrage act. How could Lamon help this man and through him bring the assassination conspirators to justice? Johnson, on the one hand, was a man of strong personal integrity who defied his own state to remain loyal to the union. On the other, however, he was an unrepentant racist, intent on restricting the freedoms of the people he fought to liberate. Lamon always considered himself a simple, straightforward man. Lincoln was complicated yet understandable; Johnson was complicated and frustrating. Lamon’s instinct was to go over to the Executive Mansion and lecture the President about compromising on some issues to win the important battle.
Johnson followed his veto of the black suffrage bill with another veto, this time the infamous Tenure of Office bill. Within days, Missouri Rep. Benjamin Logan called for Johnson’s impeachment. By March Congress clarified the bill by adding if President Lincoln had appointed the secretary, then Johnson could not remove the appointee without approval from the Senate. Johnson could fire anyone he had personally hired. The changes did not impress the president, and he vetoed it again. The House immediately overrode it.
In the middle of all this insanity, Lamon read in the newspapers about another sideshow. Lafayette Baker, the short, red-haired mean man that intimidated Gabby Zook, published his biography in which he claimed to have established the Secret Service all by himself. “Braggadoccio and nonsense,” Lamon thought. “It takes a man of unbounded ego to make such a preposterous claim.”
Baker also wrote in extensive detail about his role in the search, capture and death of John Wilkes Booth. The most controversial detail of his book, however, was the claim that he received a diary retrieved from the dying Booth detailing the assassin’s days from the time he shot the president to his own death. Baker alleged someone had torn eighteen pages from the diary.
This information prompted a congressional hearing on April 2, 1867. Lamon followed the proceedings in the newspapers. He bought several, pulling together facts found in one account but not another. News articles quoted Benjamin Butler at length during a hearing at which Baker testified.
“That diary, as now produced, had eighteen pages cut out, the pages prior to the time when Abraham Lincoln was massacred, although the margins show they had all been written over. Now, what I want to know, was that diary whole? Who spoliated that book?”
The newspaper accounts reported that Baker swore no pages were missing from the diary when he turned it over to Edwin Stanton.
“Do you mean to say at the time you gave the book to the Secretary of War there were no leaves gone?” Butler asked.
“I do,” Baker responded.
“Did you examine it pretty carefully?”
“I examined the book quite thoroughly, and I am very sure that if any leaves had been gone I should have noticed it.”
In the following days, Lamon reached for his newspaper in anticipation of reading new revelations about the diary, but none were forthcoming. He became sick at heart of the conflicts on Capitol Hill and unable to see any appropriate resolution. More and more, his mind wandered back to his home in Danville, Illinois, and to his dear family who waited for his return. He acknowledged how fine a woman his second wife, Sally, was. She didn’t hesitate to open her arms to his daughter Dorothy and loved her as her own. His first wife Angelina had died of natural causes only a few years earlier. He remembered the letter from Sally that described her joy when his ten-year-old child without any prompting hugged her and called her “Mommy.” How many more warm family moments would he miss because of his vaunted conviction that the nation needed him to save it? He didn’t know the answer, but he knew it was a cost that he was increasingly unwilling and unable to pay.
So when summer arrived in Washington City and Congress continued to butt heads with Johnson over reconstruction legislation, Lamon left the battle to the politicians. A sense of relief overcame him as he boarded the train to Danville in early June, and every mile closer to home convinced him that he had made the right decision. Sally and Dorothy welcomed him with hugs and kisses. He reopened his law practice and focused on civil suits about property disputes and contract negotiations.
Barely a week had passed when he received a letter from Lincoln’s former law partner William Herndon who requested permission to visit his office as soon as was convenient. Herndon had always appeared to be an affable man, though not possessed of the highest intellect, so Lamon agreed to the visit. When the Springfield attorney arrived, Lamon noticed he had gained quite a bit of weight. Coffee and food stained his wrinkled clothing.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Three

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. Whitman tells Gabby all the news from Washington. Gabby wonders why everyone can’t just get along.
One story of the crisis-ridden spring of 1866 did not appear in a New York newspaper which Walt Whitman could read to Gabby. That story was the internal moral battle going on within Sen. James Lane of Kansas. In 1865 he ingratiated himself to Secretary of War Stanton by agreeing to monitor President Johnson’s behavior and, when discretion allowed it, lead the president back into old habits of drinking.
As one who had hardened his scruples during the bloody conflict of slave and free factions in Kansas of the 1850s, Lane didn’t question Stanton’s motives because of the overriding goal of total equality for black people. Now he feared the civil rights battle lost its focus and degenerated into a simple exercise of impeaching President Johnson.
Several times during the spring when Stanton felt Lane’s resolve waning, he stiffened it with hard cash, in untraceable small denominations of currency. Several newspapers ran stories based on vague government sources that claimed substantial amounts of money had appeared in Lane’s financial portfolio. They were true and eroded Lane’s sense of honor and self-respect. Rumors of bribery ran amok on Capitol Hill. Finally, the stress of placating Stanton and battling for his inner core of decency forced Lane to take a few weeks rest back in his hometown of Leavenworth in June.
Abolitionist editor of the Kansas Tribune Edmund Ross denied him that rest. Ross left his prosperous Wisconsin newspaper during the 1850s to move to Kansas and advocate the free-state movement. At the outbreak of the war, Ross joined the northern forces to combat slavery and rose to the rank of major. Lane didn’t want to talk to Ross because he was a tough, courageous man who had two horses shot from underneath him during one battle. Lane cringed every time Ross wagged his finger in his face.
“Sen. Lane,” Ross began in his blustering baritone when he cornered him in a livery stable in Leavenworth, “you, sir, still have not adequately explained your vote to uphold Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill! I asked you about that vote at the town hall meeting not a week ago. Again I asked you on the courthouse steps when you were dedicating the plaque to the dead and still you evaded. My God, man, you stood with me when I first came to Kansas to fight for the cause of abolition. What has happened to you?”
“Well, if you wouldn’t talk constantly and I could get a word in edgewise, I could make you understand what so many other thoughtful men found self-evident.”
A groom approached the men. “Mr. Lane, sir, your carriage is ready for your daily ride.”
“He’s not going anywhere until he explains why he supported Johnson in blocking a colored man’s rights. The war is over. Slavery is dead. What would it serve to fight civil rights now?”
“We have enough laws to protect colored rights.” Lane’s face turned crimson. “We don’t need laws on top of laws on top of laws.”
“Sen. Lane,” the young man pushed his way into the conversation. “This horse and carriage have to be back to take the mayor and his wife to supper.”
“Boy,” Ross turned to bellow at the groom, “I said this would take only a second!”
“You talk about rights? What about this young man’s rights? How can you think of the colored when you don’t treat a simple white stable boy with respect?” Lane fought back.
“You’re changing the topic again. You’re trying to put me on the defensive, and I just won’t have it!”
Lane turned away, put his arm around the groom’s shoulder. “Maybe you want to get rid of me so you can become senator!”
“I might just do that!” Ross yelled to no avail.
As Lane mounted the carriage, he noticed the boy seemed stooped over on purpose to hide his true height. Probably the result of a war wound, he decided, and didn’t press the matter as he climbed into the carriage. Long carriage rides were among the few activities that alleviated his melancholia. The dry winds of the prairie seemed to clear his mind.
“Where you hankerin’ to visit today, Sen. Lane?” the carriage driver asked as they lost their view of town through the trees. The boy had indiscernible features. He wore an oversized duster and an enormous flop hat.
Lane frowned. “You’re not Joe, my usual driver. He knows my favorite routes.”
“No, I’m not Joe. Sorry to inconvenience you, sir.”
“Well, just head north.” Lane waved his hand without conviction. “It makes no difference.”
A few miles passed in silence before the driver spoke again. “Make way! Presidential pardon! Make way!”
Lane sat up. “What the hell did you say?”
“You know very well what I said, Sen. Lane. They were my words from just a year ago in the prison yard where Mrs. Surratt and the others were about to be hanged.”
“Your words? Who the hell are you?”
The driver turned and smiled. His features were young and pleasant enough, but Lane couldn’t quite place him.
“You stood in our way so that those foul soldiers could hang a good and honorable woman.”
Lane’s flinty eyes lit in indignation. “That woman was as guilty as sin! She had to die to restore peace to our nation!”
“And you have to die to restore peace to my nation.” The driver pulled a gun from an inside pocket of his duster.
Lane jumped from the carriage, but before his body reached the ground, the driver put a bullet through his skull. The shooter hopped from the carriage seat and watched the horse pick up speed, turn and head back to the livery stable in Leavenworth. He placed the gun a few inches from Lane’s hand where his body lay on the road. Then he ambled South, with a slight limp to his gait.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-Two

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. Whitman tells Gabby all the news from Washington.
Gabby Zook became accustomed to the Whitman family chaos. They lived in the basement of their Brooklyn brownstone. Tranquility came down upon the residence during the Christmas season of 1865, and remained during the first cold months of the New Year.
Mr. Walt, as Gabby called the poet, found him a job sweeping floors at a mercantile establishment a couple of blocks from home. Mrs. Walt—that was the name Gabby gave Whitman’s mother Louisa–walked him to the store of a morning and back home that night. Gabby particularly liked Louisa who seemed to have a large, loving heart, even though she complained of being sick all the time. He looked forward to the weekends because Whitman came home from Washington where he worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Gabby liked Mr. Walt’s stories of peculiar things happening in the government.
After Whitman told him President Johnson fired head of the Secret Service Lafayette Baker, Gabby leaned forward and wrinkled his brow.
“What does this Mr. Baker look like?”
“Well, let me see.” Whitman scratched his chin whiskers. “I’ve seen him many times myself around Washington City, and I must say I didn’t like the look of him. Which is very unusual for me. I can talk for hours with any common laborer on the street, but I never had a desire to even meet Mr. Baker. He’s not a big man, perhaps your height, Mr. Gabby. Not quite as old, and with a thick shock of red hair. He walks into a room, and you’d think he hated everyone in it and was determined to shoot and kill them all.”
Gabby’s eyes widened. “A short red-headed mean man.”
Whitman cocked his head. “Yes, I suppose you could call him mean. Yes, that would be a good word to describe him.”
“That’s him.” Gabby’s hands began to tremble. “That’s the man I’ve told you about. The man who killed Adam Christy.”
“Of course he is.” Whitman smiled and patted Gabby’s quivering hands. “Well. Let’s talk of more pleasant things. What else is happening in the capital that might amuse you?” Over the next few months, he only had more troubling news to tell Gabby.
In March, President Johnson vetoed the formation of the Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction, claiming it would impede elected Southern representatives from taking their seats in Congress. Soon afterwards, Johnson vetoed a Civil Rights Bill and asserted it contained portions of the previously vetoed Freedman Bureau bill and predicted the legislation would create a “terrible engine of wrongdoing, corruption and fraud.
“What do you think about that, Mr. Gabby?”
“Mr. Walt, all that talk about rights and corruption confuses me,” he admitted, shaking his head.
“Me too.”
“I feel I want to be on President Johnson’s side, but I don’t like the idea of keeping black people from having their rights. I didn’t have any rights when I was in the basement of the White House, and it made me feel bad.” After a pause, he added, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think the President likes black people very much. And that makes him bad. But Mr. Stanton doesn’t like him, and I know for sure that he’s a bad man. Isn’t there anyone good in the Capital anymore?”
In early April the Senate overturned the President’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill. After that, Johnson vetoed a bill to admit Colorado to the Union because many of the Southern states had yet to have their sovereign rights restored.
“Why can’t they all just find a way to get along with each other and stop butting heads?” Gabby asked.
“I agree.” Whitman smiled and looked out the window as he sipped his coffee.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty-One

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. Baker tries to get dirt on Johnson.
The next evening Baker dropped by the Executive Mansion. President Johnson was pushing his wife’s wheelchair out of the private family dining room on the main floor. Behind them were their daughter Martha and her husband David Patterson. The President smiled when he saw him.
“Mr. Baker, so good to see you. You’ve met my family, I believe. Not only is my son-in-law the new senator from Tennessee, he’s the only man in this blasted place I trust to carry my wife up to our private quarters. She suffers from consumption. But she’s a fighter. She’s not giving up to her ailments.”
Patterson picked up the First Lady and with grace led the way up the staircase.
“At some point I’m afraid Eliza will have to return to our home in Greeneville. This big city living is not good for her health, it seems; but my daughter Martha will act as hostess when the time comes. Please join us upstairs.”
Baker nodded as they began up the staircase. Johnson leaned into him to whisper.
“Wait for me in my office. I have some documents to show you. It doesn’t look good for Stanton.”
“Yes, sir.”
On the second floor, the Johnson family turned toward the bedroom.
“We must get Eliza into bed before she sprains my poor son-in-law’s back.” He smiled again at Baker and motioned to his office at the end of the hall. “Go ahead. I’ll join you momentarily.”
Baker found himself alone in the president’s office. First he looked back down the hall to make sure no staff members lingered after hours. He returned to Johnson’s desk which was a jumbled mess of papers. On top of the heap was what he was expecting from Johnson’s comments—an investigation into the private affairs of Edwin Masters Stanton, Secretary of War. Pushing the report aside, Baker dug deeper into the stack where he found another report—alternatives to the Freedman’s Bureau, achieving dissolution with minimum political impact.
Taking a small notebook from his inner coat pocket, he began scribbling notes from the report. This would be information Stanton and his friends in Congress would want to see. Johnson grumbled about his displeasure with the agency for months, but no one knew what his plan of attack might be.
When the door creaked open, Baker twitched and looked up to see the president glowering at him. This was not the first time he had been caught in the act of spying. The Confederates had walked in on him often during his war years in Richmond where he pretended to be a photographer. A ready smile flashed across his face.
“I found that report you told me about, the one exposing Stanton’s background. I was just making a few notes so I might help in furthering your investigation.”
Johnson walked to him with his right hand extended. “Oh really. May I see what information impressed you so much?”
“It’s nothing much, actually.” Baker’s voice weakened.
“Nevertheless, I want to see it.” The President paused and added in a growl, “I said, hand it over.”
Baker knew he had been sloppy. He should have moved more quickly. He should have brought a second notebook, to make non-incriminating notes, which he could hand over in a situation like this, keeping the real notations hidden.
How had I forgotten the art of espionage? Did I allow myself to be caught in such a compromising situation? Did I create an excuse for Johnson to throw me out? Did I think this episode would extricate me from this ongoing political nightmare? Yes. I am tired. I want to go home to Jennie.
The President grabbed the notebook and began reading. First his eyebrows went up and then he pursed his lips before returning his gaze to Baker.
“I don’t see anything in here about Mr. Stanton.”
“Well, you see, I have devised a special code for my private purposes—“
“Interesting. You chose the words Freedman’s Bureau as code for Edwin Stanton?” He walked over to the stove, opened the iron door and threw the notebook into the flames.
“I am not a smart man, Mr. Baker. Not anywhere as smart as Mr. Lincoln, but remember this one fact: he’s dead, and I’m still alive. After years of living in poverty in the Tennessee mountains, I have developed a keen sense of smelling bullshit. I could have you thrown in prison, tried and executed for treason, but to maintain a façade of unity for the citizens of these United States I’ll simply say your services are no longer needed. Now get the hell out of here.”
Baker left without saying a word and returned to his hotel room where he slept more soundly than he had in years. His termination had lifted the awesome burden of being an evil embodiment of political expediency. Private Adam Christy’s pale, ghostly face smeared with blood no longer haunted his dreams.
The next morning he took the train back to his home in Philadelphia. He walked up the steps to his front porch. The house was not large. When he entered, he smelled bread baking.
“Who’s there?” Jennie’s voice called out. She stopped short when she entered the parlor and saw her husband. She hugged him and wouldn’t let him go. “What are you doing here? Do you have to leave on another one of your trips?”
“There’s not going to be any more trips.”
“Good.” She pulled away. “Why not?”
“President Johnson said my services were no longer needed.”
“Well, you didn’t like him anyway.” She hugged him again. “I’ve prayed for this day for a long time.”
“”I want to be in the one place where I know I’m loved.” He shut up before he started crying.
“Yes, thank God. We’re free.”
His face snuggled in her brown hair. Baker realized he was not completely free, even now.
To ensure my future safety I have to write my own version of the Lincoln assassination, as I’m sure everyone else involved will eventually do. I’ll make the book’s main subject my role in the creation of the Secret Service, a topic of interest but not daunting. By the end of the manuscript, I’ll reveal that John Wilkes Booth kept a journal from the time of the assassination to his own supposed death. I’ll also reveal I immediately handed the notebook over to Secretary of War Stanton. Eighteen pages are missing. I know there are eighteen pages missing because I was there when Stanton tore them out.

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Fifty

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.
Raucous laughter emanated from the Executive Mansion’s basement kitchen in February of 1866. Lafayette Baker told President Johnson some of his tales of breaking up undercover rings during the war years. In particular, Baker embellished the details of how he tracked down and arrested Belle Starr, the notorious female spy. He claimed her charms held nothing for him for he was a good family man.
“So you have children?” Johnson asked, a small smile on his lips.
“Oh. No, sir,” Baker replied, a bit taken off guard. “My wife Jennie and I were never blessed with children. But I consider myself a family man because I am married and as such I—Jennie and I—we are our own family.”
“And where does she live?” Johnson’s tone lowered and his gaze was dogged.
“In Philadelphia. I was a mechanic there, before the war.” Baker heard footsteps and looked behind the president to see the butler and his wife, the cook, pass by the kitchen door and glance in. He realized they knew what he actually was and what he was capable of. Yet he still had to carry on. “She’s been my saint through all these years of separation.”
Baker didn’t know why but Johnson preferred to have relaxed conversations in the kitchen where the walls were rough hewn and the corners covered in cobwebs. Since the first of 1866, his kitchen friend had been Baker who in the months following the assassination had been more accessible to late night talks. Baker’s official job title had always been chief of the Secret Service, an agency dedicated to rooting out counterfeiters. Unofficially he handled unpleasant tasks assigned by Secretary of War Stanton. His latest job was to ingratiate himself to the new President so he could observe Johnson’s imperfections. The ultimate goal was to gather such irrefutable evidence that Congress would have no choice but to impeach and remove the President from office as soon as possible. The ruse only intensified Baker’s hatred for Stanton.
“Do you know why I like you, Lafe?” Johnson asked.
“No, sir. Why?” He clinched his jaw and hoped he would find the correct response to the president’s answer.
“Because you’re a real man. You know what it’s like to grow up snot poor. You got up and out of it. Made something out of yourself. Went out West. Did the tough work nobody else had the belly for.”
Baker’s eyes went down. “Some of it I’m none too proud of.”
“Oh, hell, pride never did nothing for nobody. I’ll be damned if I’m proud of anything I did in my life. But I’m proud to have you the head of the Secret Service.”
Baker looked up and smiled. “I’ll drink to that.” Pulling a flask from his inside jacket pocket, he extended it to the president. “Let’s share a toast to getting things done. It’s the best whiskey from your home state of Tennessee.” He could not continue to look at Johnson. One of the supreme tasks given him by Stanton was to lure the President back into his old drunken habits, a sure way to make impeachment efforts successful.
“Eliza is in the house now, along with our daughter and her husband and their children. They would skin me alive if they smelled liquor on my breath.” His face went grim when he stood. “In fact, she’ll be expecting me upstairs in a while.” He extended his hand to Baker. “Come again when you have the time. You don’t know how much these talks help me to relax.”
After Johnson left the kitchen, he walked up the stairs, his heavy boots crunching on the straw mats on the steps. Baker took a moment to compose himself before going outside through the kitchen door, turning his coat collar up to protect himself from the bitter winter winds. Going back to his room at the National Hotel, he took off his boots, sprawled across the bed, opened the flask and took a couple of gulps.
He tried to think back to a time when he decided money was more important than morality, honesty and loyalty. Baker knew. It was after he rose in the ranks of the military, each new position gave him more power. It seemed so easy. Discover the crimes of a public official. Tell the man he had two choices–submit to the humiliation of a trial or pay Baker to hide his sins.
Then, in 1862, Stanton approached him with his hare-brained scheme to kidnap Lincoln and hold him captive in the Executive Mansion basement. Baker saw this ultimate act of immorality easy to commit. He masterminded the abduction of Abraham Lincoln and manipulated simple-minded rebels to carry out the president’s assassination. He personally murdered the man and woman who pretended to be the Lincolns and drove the innocent young soldier who guarded president and the first lady to commit suicide. Those atrocious sins disgusted Baker and awoke what was left of his soul. Now Stanton coerced him into a new round of deception and murder, and Baker’s newly resurrected humanity said, “No.” Baker had to find a way to escape the grasp of Stanton. He was sick and tired of deception.
Washington City entered a new chapter of turmoil as Baker planned his personal emancipation. President Johnson began to set his own course for reconstruction, which followed neither the wishes of the late Mr. Lincoln nor the dictates of the Radical Republicans in Congress. It led into treacherous, uncharted waters. Baker saw rough sailing ahead.
In February, the President vetoed the extension and expansion of powers of the Freedman’s Bureau, which not only provided welfare relief for freed slaves but also to white refugees, now homeless after the ravages of war. Johnson wrote in his opinion that the bill was unconstitutional and, now a year after the war had ended, not needed.
Stanton summoned Baker to his office and berated him on his lack of action. Each time the war secretary slammed his fist on the desk, Baker cringed.
“What’s wrong with you? Why haven’t you forced him back into the liquor bottle? What’s going on in his mind? What other shocking steps will he take? Which bill will he dare veto next?”
“He won’t take another drink of liquor as long as his wife is in residence at the Executive Mansion.”
“That should be easily solved. The woman is an invalid. No one would be surprised by her sudden death.”
Baker glared at Stanton, but only a whisper came out of his mouth. “I’m not killing another woman for you. It’s got to stop. All this has got to stop.”
Stanton sat back in his chair. “Of all the men in Washington City, you are the last one I would suspect of turning coward.” He sighed. “Get into his office. Make notes of the documents on his desk. That should not disturb your new delicate sensibilities.”

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-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.