The capital is ruled by swine, fat and mean, as rude and indolent as any congressman, as imperious as any senator. The mud-choked streets are their wallow and they bow to no one.
A particularly obstreperous gang of hogs had blocked the passage of their carriage along Pennsylvania Avenue, and the horse would not challenge them. The major cracked the whip; the pigs did not flinch.
“Have it your own way, boyo,” he said, and drew his revolver. He aimed at the leader and cocked the hammer.
The hog snorted his indignation and moved aside just enough for them to pass. The major slapped the reins and the horse struggled for purchase in the mire into which the carriage had sunk.
It began to drizzle, and the first lady tugged the hood of her cape. She shuddered—he thought from a chill—but then he recognized it for a sob. It had been a sorrowful morning at the Armory Square Hospital, and she had not said a word since they had left.
The White House came into view and he urged the horse on. They stopped under the portico. The president was waiting, and held up his hand to the major’s delicately plump passenger. As he helped her down she buried her face into his lower chest, and the president held her like a fine porcelain doll.
“Mother?” he said.
She looked up at him and smiled, though her eyes and cheeks were wet. “Where is Tad, Father? I must hold him, right this moment.”
“I expect he’s making a nuisance of himself in Mr. Hay’s office.”
She stood on her tiptoes and he bent like a stork to kiss her. Then she hurried toward the mansion, hesitating a moment to turn and say, “Thank you, Major Barry, for your escort this morning.”
“It was entirely my pleasure, ma’am.”
The president faced the major; the concern on his face conveyed his question.
“Sir,” the major began. “There was a young Confederate, I don’t think he was yet 17. The older, Union patients pleaded with Mrs. Lincoln to see to him. He was a favorite among the older men, a sort of Reb mascot, I suppose. He’d been wracked by fever since the night before, and in his delirium he was calling for his mother.”
The president’s face darkened, anticipating how the major’s story would end.
“Mrs. Lincoln went to the boy. She cradled his head in her lap. Every so often he’d look up and smile and say, ‘I love you, mother’. She did her best to comfort him, and read him stories from a book he had. She was still reading to him a half hour after he had passed on.”
If ever there was a face carved from sorrowful wood, it was President Lincoln’s. He pressed his lips together and nodded. “Thank you, Major Barry, for your kindness to my Mary. But I don’t know if I should allow her any more visits to the hospitals.”
“Begging your pardon, sir, but I don’t think you could stop her. It’s something she needs to do. For all the heartbreaking sights she endures, I think it is, after all, good for her soul.”
The president nodded. “The newspapers are not kind to my Mary. If they only knew about her visits …”
“The soldiers know, sir. And it is they who will tell the country what a gallant, gracious lady she is. Damn the newspapers.”
A small, dyspeptic man stepped from the mansion and tipped his bowler to the president. A soldier brought him a horse which he mounted without a word and rode away.
“Mr. Pinkerton,” the president said. “He met with Mr. Stanton and me this morning. Mr. Stanton is still here. Please join us, as I wish to discuss that matter we spoke of Monday evening.”
The major nodded and followed the president inside.
They found the Secretary of War sitting in the president’s chair, poring over files. He was slow to rise, but yielded the seat to the commander-in-chief.
“Major Barry,” Stanton said. “I expected to meet with you some hours ago.”
Before the major could answer, the president held up a hand, “The major accompanied the first lady on an errand. It took some more time than they had anticipated.”
Stanton frowned. “Hmm, well now that you’re here—the president and I have agreed with your suggestion that we turn a traitor into an asset. Though I am very inclined to arrest the bastard and hang him within the week.”
The president nodded. “Mr. Stanton, I can understand your sense of personal betrayal. Your clerk, after all, has held your confidence since our administration began.”
Stanton pressed his lips together. The major marveled at the man’s boundless repertoire of frowns.
The secretary shook his head. “The man has been a dedicated public servant since the Buchanan administration. By all appearances, he is sober, and a man of regular habits. I have no idea what would turn him to betray his oath to his country.”
“You said his wife is Virginian,” the president said.
“Yes, there is that. But—she’s a charming young woman, and has never given any indication of secessionist sympathies. She has lamented privately to friends that her family have turned their backs on her. But then, perhaps that was said to misdirect legitimate suspicions.”
“Mr. Secretary,” the major said, “you have previously mentioned that the man, Rawlins, has been followed on numerous evenings into Hooker’s Division. We all know the neighborhood is the sieve through which intelligence passes to both sides.”
“Whores make the best spies,” Stanton said, and his lips almost twisted into a smile. “But there is a wrinkle that confounds me.”
“Wrinkle?” the president said. “He would not be the first married man to seek out the company of Washington’s corps of soiled doves.”
“It’s rare that a man solicits their services in the company of his wife,” the secretary replied, lifting his heavy eyebrows.
The president’s jaw dropped, but he said nothing.
The major cleared his throat before he suggested, “Then, it would appear Mrs. Rawlins may well be the instigator of your clerk’s treachery.”
“Still,” the president ventured, “A man driving a carriage into the area with his wife—this would not be a subtle undertaking. I dare say it would be remarked upon, as much as the sight of a bull with an udder.”
“Major,” Stanton said, “Your task is to determine Rawlins’ contact, then confront Rawlins and turn him to our own devices. You have carte blanche in this regard.”
“I understand, sir.”
“One other thing, Mr. Pinkerton met with me and the president this morning.”
“I saw him leave.”
“Yes, well he believes he has identified the most dangerous Confederate spy in Washington.”
“Let me guess—Miss Carnation Lansford.”
This time Stanton did smile. “He wants to arrest her immediately, with a gaggle of reporters in tow, of course.”
The president chuckled. “I should very much like to invite Miss Lansford to the White House when this war is over, and pin a medal on her.”
The major laughed. “I’ll be glad to deliver the invitation, Mr. President. In fact, I believe I will begin my investigation at Miss Hall’s house. Although it’s outside the division, Carnie may have made Mr. Rawlins’ acquaintance.”
“Patriots come in all genders, creeds, colors—and occupations. Yes, please convey my regards.”
* * *
The raw chill continued to grip the capital through the evening. Major Barry always eschewed his uniform when visiting Miss Mary Ann Hall’s house, probably the finest bordello in Washington. It was a couple of blocks apart from Hooker’s Division and its squalid vice shanties, and was situated on the lower slope below the Capitol building. He hunched his shoulders as the raw dampness condensed upon the wool of his black rifle frock coat.
A small, wiry black man stepped forward to take Barry’s mount as he approached.
“Good evenin’, Mr. Barry.”
“Good evening to you, Joab. How’s business?”
“You best ask Miss Hall ’bout business. It’s all the same to me, sir.”
Barry slid off his horse and laid his hand on Joab’s shoulder. “Put a blanket over Banshee, I might be here a while.”
Joab chuckled and nodded. “Yes, sir. I’ll make her right comfortable.”
Barry started toward the door of the imposing brick mansion. A man leaving the house approached him. His mustache curled into delicate corkscrews, and his hair was done in ringlets about his forehead. Frilly French cuffs hid his hands. The man stepped in front of Barry and glared, as if he expected Barry to step aside. Barry held his ground.
“You are in my way, m’sieur.”
“And you are in mine, sir.”
The man huffed. “Step aside.”
“Why don’t we each step aside?”
The man shook his head. “You have no refinement—non?”
He glanced over his shoulder at the Capitol. “Like your republic. You build counterfeit Greek temples in swamps rife with swill and call yourselves civilized.”
“I’ll wager this republic endures longer than your empire, m’sieur.” Barry stepped to the side and doffed his soft-brimmed gambler’s hat.
The Frenchman huffed again and strode past without another word.
Barry continued to the door and knocked. A moment later he was greeted by a young negress.
“Good evening, Sir.”
“Hello, Danae, how are you this cold, damp evening?”
“I’m right as rain, Sir. May I take your coat and hat?”
“Just my hat, dear.”
“Why, Coleman Barry—where have you been hiding yourself?”
Barry grinned at the small, but formidable madam who ran the house. “Miss Hall, I apologize for being so scarce, but you may have heard—there’s a war going on?”
“Oh, posh, at my house we’re all on neutral ground. Now you just get Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis to visit my parlor and we’ll settle this conflict right quick.”
“I have no doubt, my dear. Why don’t you write out the invitations, and I’ll deliver them in person. Meanwhile, I wonder if Miss Lansford is free this evening.”
Miss Hall laughed. “Coleman, you are a wry devil. She’s available, but she’s not free, even to a handsome rogue such as yourself.”
“I’ve been undone by my semantic ineptitude.”
She laughed again and took him by the arm. Turning to the young negro girl, she said, “Danae, run upstairs and tell Miss Carnation to prepare for a caller.”
She led Barry into her parlor where three other gentlemen were being entertained by young ladies loosely clad in their unmentionables. An older gentleman whom Barry recognized from the British consular mission, nodded amiably toward Barry, as a girl squirmed on his lap and guided his hand beneath her garment to her breast.
Miss Hall poured a brandy for Barry and said, “It shouldn’t be but a minute. Relax.”
Another young girl with a curtain of dark, bouncy ringlets hiding half her face offered Barry a cigar.
Barry sat amid the giggles and cooing sipping his brandy and eying the paying customers. He guessed it was a slow night. Danae returned to take his glass and direct him to a room upstairs.
The house was well built and maintained, and heavy wooden doors muffled much of what went on inside the rooms. Still, the sounds of carnal frenzy had frequencies all their own and echoed along the walls like ghostly whispers.
Barry knocked on the door at the end of the hallway.
Barry turned the knob and stepped into a doll’s room. Fine drapes complimented the frilly fabric that adorned the canopy bed that was piled high with silken pillows and plush quilts. The satin wallpaper was delicately painted with summery landscapes.
And there, amidst all this exaggerated comfort lounged Carnation Lansford. She lay on her back, her arms spread, embracing two overstuffed pillows behind her. Coltish legs emerged from beneath the lace hem of a pink high-waisted chemise that enhanced the swell of her round breasts and molded to her nakedness. Red-blonde curls adorned her shoulders and framed a face of delicate features. Dark blue eyes conveyed a fierce intelligence, but pink, puffy lips turned into a smile that transmitted a penchant for deviltry.
Barry took a deep breath, savoring her scent that filled the room.
“Coleman Barry, how dare you?” she said in a voice sweet, soft and southern.
“How dare I what, Darlin’?”
“Stay away so long.”
“It’s only been …”
“A fortnight—without a word …”
“But, Reynolds has come by …”
“Reynolds? Oh, yes, a dear man, and so happily married. All business!”
“Oh, I see, but not your business.”
She feigned a cross expression, but her thighs parted and the hem of her garment rode above her quim.
“My, God, Carnie! Who did that to you?”
“Did what, Coleman?” She pouted.
“Your curls! Your lovely reddish curls.”
“Oh,” she absently stroked the lips of her shorn sex. “Well, you know the secretary to the British minister.”
Barry immediately thought of the amiable little man in the parlor, and nodded.
“He’s such a sweet, dear little man. And he wanted me to be his little baby girl. Well, of course, baby girls aren’t all—well, furred over down there. So I let him shave them off.”
“You don’t like it?” she cooed. “I think it looks like a pink flower, don’t you?”
Barry eyed her moist folds. “Hmm, another reason to call you Carnation. Still, you took a chance. He used a straight-razor?”
“Oh, but he was so gentle, and quite precise. Why, I think he’s done this before.”
“Coleman, kiss my flower.”
Barry’s cock answered before he did. It strained against his trousers. He stepped over to the bed and leaned down until his lips hovered above her pink-orange quim. Her aroma blended with the scent of lilacs and he pressed his lips to hers. She squirmed beneath him as his tongue explored her folds. Her fingers weaved themselves through his hair as she sighed, “Cole Barry, dear God, I missed you.”
He straddled her and braced his hands beneath her and around her hips. He pulled her beneath the arch of his thighs as her chemise rolled up her body and over her breasts, peeling her to her bare skin. She was entirely naked now and face to face. He kissed her, nibbling her lips with his own. Her tongue answered, tasting him and herself.
“Sir!” she gasped. “Your boots, may I remove them for you?”
He laughed and lifted himself off her, then swung his legs over the side of the bed. She slid off the satin bedclothes and kneeled on the floor. She lifted one of his legs and tugged his boot off. She repeated the task, then reached up and unbuttoned his trousers as he shed his coat. He lazily stretched his braces off his shoulders as she tugged at his trousers. Another tug, then another, and his cock sprang into view.
“What? No union suit?” she grinned and licked it. He closed his eyes, his mouth fell open and a kind of ecstatic paralysis overtook him. Her tongue worked his cock, it was everywhere, squiggling like an eel, and he needed all his will not to ejaculate. Then her mouth closed over him and his entire organ seemed to vibrate.
“God, what are you doing?” he rasped.
His cockhead plopped from her lips. “I’m humming ‘Bonny Blue Flag'” she said. “Doesn’t it just nail your hat to the ceiling?”
He clawed off his shirt, then lifted her onto the bed with him. She pushed him onto his back. “You promised to take me riding, Coleman. Remember?”
She straddled him, poising her quim over the tip of his cock. “Git-up!” she cried, and slid onto him. She rode him in a wild rhythm as she combed her hands through her strawberry tresses and reached for the ceiling. Her breasts bounced with each post.
Coleman had never known a woman who reveled in sex like Carnie. She became something wild, a font of wanton energy, careless and reckless. He felt her squeeze tighter, her cunt gripping him in a wet, fleshy vice. She clamped her hands to his shoulders, digging her nails into his flesh as she ground herself onto him, forcing his cock deeper inside her. She cried like a lost soul and he launched his seed.
She held herself above him a moment, shuddering. Droplets of perspiration trickled between her breasts. Then all tension fled her like vapor and she poured her pale body onto him like warm milk. They fell asleep.
Carnie’s feathery breaths ruffled the hairs on his chest—a gentle awaking that made him smile, if ruefully. He had broken his own rule and fallen in love—fallen in love with a whore.
He turned and kissed her. “Carnie, I—I …”
Those fierce cobalt eyes stopped him. “No, Coleman, you mustn’t say it. It can’t be.”
“You love me, Carnie.”
“Coleman, I’m a whore. I’m not ashamed of it and I make no apologies to anyone. I choose to be a whore. But …”
“Shhh—think about it, Coleman. A woman isn’t much better off in this man’s world than a slave. I know, Coleman, because I grew up in the South. We were poor—dirt poor. My father didn’t own slaves, but he did own me. And it was understood I would be traded as a wife when the time came. Because that’s all a woman is, chattel, or a brood cow.
“The ladies of the fine plantation manors weren’t any better off, but they carried on so. And their men, why they had no interest in changing things. You see, Coleman, I’m a Southern woman, but I choose to work for the Union, for the same reason I choose to be a whore. It’s my decision to make. Some day maybe a woman will have the rights and dignity of a man in this country, the right to make their own way, but it’ll never happen in the South, and it may never happen if the South wins. Down there they want to hold back the hands of the clock.”
“Carnie, we—we aren’t about politics …”
“Yes, we are, Coleman. You must see that it’s true. What would you do, marry a whore? What would society think?”
“Damn what society thinks. I worked for everything I have, and I’m not beholden to any society swells.”
“But Coleman, they can take it away from you, all of it, and use me to do it. I can look straight into their faces and throw all their contempt back at them. But I could not stand to have you injured because of what I am.”
She nuzzled his chest. “Mary Ann Hall is the most powerful woman in this city. She has influence with the most powerful men in government. Why? Because she runs a house, and men pay attention to her, more than the opinions of their own wives. Why, as far as most are concerned, their wives don’t have opinions. Some day I’ll have a house just as fine and renowned as Miss Hall. Not here, but maybe out west, California—San Francisco. I might sell my body, but it is the men who are beholden to me, and I can make them pay dearly. I’m a whore, but I’m no one’s property.”
“Have you no room in that grand scheme for me?”
“Haven’t you a dream of your own?”
“Yes—she’s lying here in my arms, right now.”
Carnie nuzzled her nose into his chest again. “I think it’s best we get down to business now.”
They sat up. Coleman shook his head and sighed. “Very well, then.”
Carnie slid out of bed and clad herself in a wrap. She sat in a plush chair and brightened the lamp on the dresser.
“I’m trying to find out what I can about a man named Rawlins. He’s a clerk in …”
“Stanton’s office,” Carnie said.
“You know him then.”
Carnie shook her head. “Not really. He’s a strange man. He visited the house two or three times. Miss Hall had him leave the last time.”
“He caused trouble?”
“No, it’s more of what he asked for. The thing is, men all have their little dramas and scenes that they want played out with us girls. Mr. Witham from the British mission, well he likes us to pretend we’re babies, or little girls. Other men have asked to have the girls—well—wet on them. A Lutheran minister used to come here and have two of the girls dress like Roman nuns and pretend to emasculate him.”
“Okay, what was Rawlin’s—predilection?”
“It wasn’t about him. It was about his wife, about what she wanted.”
“Yes—she wanted to be violated by black men. She wanted her husband to see it.”
“But, I would think a woman—a white Southern woman would be—repulsed …”
“Coleman, when I was a girl, a slave ran away from the Knotts plantation near my daddy’s farm. He was a house slave, and living a comfortable life. My brother and I found him when we were about twelve or thirteen. He begged us not to turn him over. So we asked him why he ran away, and he said the mistress made him do lewd things—and, as he was Christian, he saw no alternative but to run away.”
“Coleman, when a human being is entirely under your control, the temptation has to be there to inflict all manner of dark desire and lust upon him. Half white babies born to negro women are studiously ignored, but they exist nonetheless. Women have lusts too, Coleman, even the most refined ladies. They would use a slave, if they thought they could get away with it. Color doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
“I take it Miss Hall did not accommodate him.”
“She knows where to draw the line. Can you imagine if word got out that she was arranging to have white women humped by negroes? My God, she’d be hanged in front of the Capitol and her house burned down with all of us in it.”
“Can such a thing be arranged, and who would do it?”
“There’s a photographer, Albert Seames. He has a shop in the division. He’s come to the house many times to photograph the girls, pays them a dollar per pose. He sells the pictures.”
“What makes you think he could broker such an arrangement?”
“Something that happened here almost a year ago. He had evidently approached Mr. Booth, the actor, and inquired whether he’d be interested in acquiring photographs of white maidens being ravished by African savages. Mr. Booth almost killed him. Beat him to a bloody mess with his cane. Miss Hall banned both of them from the house.”
“She tossed out Junius Booth?”
“No, the other one.”
“No, the younger one—the boy actor—John Wilkes.”
“Booth was enraged then?”
“He told Seames he was a foul infection, and that he should be burned alive for polluting the white race with such deviance.”
“So, this Seames survived the beating, and is still operating?”
“Yes, right in the midst of Hooker’s Division. I guess he has plenty to photograph there.”
There was a gentle knock at the door, and Danae poked her head in. “Will the gentleman be staying the night?”
Carnie looked at Coleman and smiled.
“Yes, Danae,” Coleman answered. “Tell Miss Hall to put it on my account.”
Carnie stood and stepped back to the bed. Coleman took her hands and looked into her eyes. “I couldn’t afford you without my government expense chit.”
She climbed on top of him and kissed him.
* * *
A soft knock at the door and Danae’s voice announcing it was six o’clock roused Barry from his slumber. He awoke to find a pretty ankle pressed to his cheek. Somewhere under the bedclothes was the rest of Carnie, and he chuckled to himself, wondering when they had ended up end-to-end. He drew back the bedclothes gradually revealing her long, buttermilk-pale legs, and then her magnificent derriere that made a bustle quite redundant.
He frowned when he noticed the thin red stripe that crossed those perfect globes of creamy flesh. He sat up quickly and examined them as Carnie stirred.
“No,” she yawned. “It’s too early.”
He traced his finger along the stripe. “Carnie, who—who did this?”
“My God, someone whipped you.”
“It’s fine, it’s healing.”
“Oh, it’s nothing …”
“Who did it?”
“The French charge d’affairs.”
“You mean that frilly popinjay who wears his hair like a woman? That arrogant poof? I’ll geld the bastard.”
She rolled over and propped herself up by her arms. “You’ll do no such thing. It was worth it.”
“He loves to talk. How do you think I found out about those two ironclad frigates under construction in Liverpool, ostensibly for France, but intended for the Confederacy? And that brig full of war materiel destined for Savannah from Marseilles?”
“It’s only a slight wound, Coleman, suffered honorably—in action.”
She kissed his frown and he took her in his arms, making a note to gut the Frenchman at the first opportunity.
He tucked Carnie back into bed. It was impossible to contemplate her rising until at least 1 p.m.
He dressed and made his way to the kitchen where Danae prepared coffee and biscuits, then he waited for Joab to retrieve his horse from the carriage house.
Joab led the coal black mare to her owner and nodded.
“Thank you for taking such good care of Banshee, Joab.”
“No trouble, sir. We gets along fine.”
Barry had placed his boot in the stirrup, when Joab said, “Sir, could I ask you somethin’?”
“It’s somethin’ I wouldn’t want Miss Hall to hear—might upset her.”
Barry smiled. Slaves were careful about their secrets, and rarely trusted them to whites. The major felt privileged after a fashion.
“What’s on your mind, Joab?”
“Thing is—President Lincoln said slaves be free now, but not me, ’cause I live in Washington City, not home in Maryland either.”
“He freed the slaves in the rebellious states, Joab.”
“I understand that, but it don’t do a slave much good if Mr. Lincoln’s soldiers aren’t there to make it so. Then here I be in Washington City. I could toss a rock from here and it would land on Mr. Lincoln’s lawn. But I ain’t free ’cause I be from Maryland—I just don’t understand, sir.”
“Joab, once this war is over, I think you can depend on Mr. Lincoln to set all your people free. Be patient. I’ve heard him speak many times about sending you home.”
“Home? You mean to Maryland?”
“No, Joab, to the home of your people—Africa.”
“But, I don’t know nothing ’bout Africa. I was born in Maryland, sir. My momma said she was born in Virginia. Maybe her momma came from Africa, I don’t know. Why would Mr. Lincoln send us to such a place?”
“Perhaps not Africa, then. Maybe Cuba, or Honduras.”
“I don’t know ’bout those places either. Where is your people from, Mr. Barry? Where were you born?”
“Nowhere,” he chuckled. “I was born at sea somewhere betwixt Ireland and New York.”
“Seems my people been in this country longer than yours, sir.”
Barry winced. There was a glint in Joab’s gentle eyes, a subdued defiance.
“Suppose Mr. Lincoln told you all that you had to go back to Ireland when this war is over?”
Barry heaved a heavy sigh. “Joab—I suppose—I’d be mad as hell.”
“I’m already home, sir. I got no place else to go, or I would’a lit out for it long ago. I just wants to be free.”
Barry nodded and mounted the mare. “I hope we’ll all be free—forever.”
* * *
Barry made his way to Stanton’s office. Military clerks flitted like sparrows along the corridors and offices. A petite, dark-haired woman had waylaid a corporal just as Barry passed.
“Soldier, I’m looking all over for my husband—Mr. Rawlins?—he’s not in his office.”
Barry slowed his step, then tarried near the woman as if searching out a particular office.
“Yes, ma’am,” the soldier replied. “I believe he just stepped out for a moment—uh—out back.”
“He’s visiting the necessary, then? It’s all right, soldier. I was afraid so. His bowels tormented him all night.”
The corporal’s face reddened. “Well, ma’am, if you’ll excuse me.” He hurried off on his errand.
Barry eyed the woman as she turned to make her way back to her husband’s office. She was pretty, and delicate in the manner of pampered Southern dames. Everything about her was tiny, her face, her gloved hands, her waist. But when she walked away her hips swayed in a manner that would make the girls of Miss Hall’s house envious.
He continued to Stanton’s office where he found the irascible Secretary of War frowning at his desk.
“Sit down, Major. What have you found out?”
“Mrs. Rawlins—I just saw her in the corridor.”
“Lovely, isn’t she?”
“I would hate to see a noose about her pretty neck.”
“So would I, sir. But, there may be more to the woman than meets the eye.”
“A predilection for vice. This afternoon I’ll be in the Division, paying a visit to a photographer, Albert Seames.”
“Not familiar with the name. Is he her husband’s contact?”
“I don’t know yet, but I’ll find out. Have you given Rawlins any reason to believe he is under suspicion?”
“No, I don’t believe so. I’ve kept my suspicions under my hat—I’ve only apprised you and the president.”
“Well, it seems he’s lately troubled by a nervous bowel. I can’t waste a moment, just in case he’s contemplating a break across the Potomac.”
* * *
A hackney carriage brought Barry into the Division, a squalid blight of shanties, slime and swill. It had always been a swamp of human detritus, but with the war had come its heyday. General Joseph Hooker’s division was routinely bivouacked near its fringes and the general had encouraged his soldiers to enjoy its diversions. Soldiers and whores crammed every nook and every alleyway in a smorgasbord of lewd congress.
These whores were worlds apart from the girls at the finer houses, such as Miss Hall’s. They were homely and desperate, living hand-to-mouth and cock-to-cunt, dirty and gin-soaked. Soldiers too poor to be particular called to them openly on the streets, and the women were not averse to lifting their skirts to advertise their hard-used goods.
Two soldiers stumbled in front of the major’s carriage, oblivious to the passenger because he again was operating out-of-uniform.
They called to a woman leaning against the corner of a building. “Hiyo, Molly, how much for you to blow a tune on my skin flute?”
“Whoa, last week it was only five cents.”
“The war boys—prices have gone up.”
“Two bits for us both.”
The woman scowled, then nodded for them to follow her into the alley.
The driver slapped the reins and the carriage continued, stopping at a storefront with a large lettered window: Albert Seames—Photographic Artiste.
Barry handed the driver some coins and stepped out onto the street. Two street whores eyed him like a pair of vultures. He tipped his hat to them and entered the shop.
A slight, olive-skinned man with a feathery goatee was bent behind a counter. He stood and greeted Barry.
“Good afternoon, sir. Albert Seames at your service.”
“Mr. Seames, I am told you are a photographer of prodigious talent.”
The man grinned, displaying yellow-brown teeth. “Thank you, sir. May I ask …”
“I understand that you produce quite miraculous and exotic photographs.”
“Perhaps the gentleman is speaking of my color-tinted prints—extremely lifelike, may I show you?”
“No, sir, what I’m interested in is profoundly—black and white.”
The grin faded from Seames’ face, replaced with an oily smile.
“You see, Mr. Seames,” Barry continued, “I am working for a client, a very wealthy man who must remain anonymous for discretion’s sake, but who is willing to pay handsomely for art of a certain, shall we say, exotic nature.”
“I think I may be able to accommodate your client, but perhaps you could specify …”
“That juncture where brutality breaches innocence, sir. The despoliation of the virgin, the triumph of evil over virtue—black over white.”
“Ah, yes. One moment, sir.”
Seames bent and retrieved a small chest from behind his counter. He carried it to a table and unlocked it. “These,” he said, “are my very special work.”
He handed Barry several prints.
“Extraordinary,” Barry mused, as he thumbed through the half-dozen prints depicting the ravishment of petite white girls by powerfully built black men. Most of the women were naked, some retained the tattered remnants of garments ripped and shredded. Some of the men wore ridiculous costumes, apparently representing the imagined dress of African savages.
Barry noted a small box tied with ribbon. “And that?”
Seames held up one hand and shook his head. “Sorry, sir, they are meant for a private collector.”
“I should like to see them—please. What you’ve shown me so far is—exquisite.”
Seames again displayed his brown-toothed grin. “Well, I suppose it would do no harm.”
He handed the box to Barry, who smiled as he untied the ribbon. Inside the box were ten prints. Barry lifted one. It showed Charlotte Rawlins on her back on what looked like a crude bench. A black colossus held her legs wide apart by the ankles as he thrust his cock into her. The man’s member was immense.
“Has this photograph been altered?”
“You’re wondering if that buck is as hung as he appears. I can assure you sir, he is. I was there, I witnessed it. As long and thick as Jumbo’s trunk, sir. Why, I should not be surprised if Mr. Barnum was interested. Can you imagine Gen. Tom Thumb shimmying up that pole?”
Seames laughed, a wheezy sickly laugh.
Barry thumbed through the rest of the prints, struggling not to wince. The graphic nature of the scenes escalated. Charlotte Rawlins was shown in all manner of penetration, tied, bent over benches, on her knees as she nursed from the black giant’s cock.
“You took these photographs in your studio?” Barry asked.
“Dear me, of course not. They were taken at a secret location.”
“Sir,” he coughed, “as I said, it’s secret.”
“Are you not well, Mr. Seames?”
Seames wiped a string of brown spittle from the corner of his mouth. “I’ve always been a tad sickly, since boyhood, I regret it has prevented me from serving my country in its time of need.”
“Perhaps you could perform that service in a cell at Fort Warren.”
“Sorry? Fort what?”
“Warren … It’s on an island outside Boston Harbor—very damp, very cold. We keep traitors there.”
“I’m Major Barry. The woman in these photographs is suspected of giving intelligence to the Confederacy, and I believe you are her agent.”
Seames’ hands trembled, he coughed again. “No—no, not me, I just photograph her—really.”
“I can arrest you right now and have you taken to the Armory where you will be summarily sentenced and hang within a day.”
“No—please! Let me explain …”
“A man—he said his name was Markham—came to my shop, just like you did. He told me he knew I had taken photographs surreptitiously of Mrs. Rawlins and her black studs. And that—he knew I had been blackmailing the couple. He held a gun on me and demanded I turn over the photographs to him. Later he said he would pay me to continue to photograph Mrs. Rawlins. And he said she would cooperate—that is—pose voluntarily. But, I swear, he didn’t say anything about working for the South.”
“One more time, where did you take these photographs?”
“A barn, about halfway along the road to Huntsville. A free negro woman owns it.”
“How often do the Rawlinses travel there?”
“One or twice a week; they’ll be there tonight—eight o’clock—for another session. Look, sir, I didn’t put her up to it—no force was used, she submitted willingly—my God, her husband was there.”
“Shut up! Now listen to me. You will go there tonight and do your job. You will not let on that we have spoken.”
Seames vigorously nodded.
“Don’t think of making a run for it, because from the moment I leave this shop you will be watched and tonight you will be shadowed. Give even the appearance of running and you will be shot out of your saddle. Do you understand?”
“Yes!” he squeaked.
“This man, Markham, if he contacts you say nothing to him.”
Again he nodded, droplets of sweat dripped from his goatee.
Barry stepped to the door and turned. “I’ll be watching you—we’ll be watching you.”
Barry arranged to have two agents already operating in the district to track Seames’ movements. At about 6 o’clock the photographer wheeled a mule-drawn cart from behind his shop and proceeded toward the Capitol. An agent followed him as far as the road to Huntsville. A squad of cavalry had been positioned off the road to take up the trail from there.
Barry had been riding alone along the dark road when two horsemen bounded out from a clump of trees barring his passage. One held a revolver on Barry, the other a carbine.
“Troopers,” Barry said. “I’ll be obliged to speak with your commanding officer; he’s expecting me—Major Barry.”
The brooding sergeant holding the carbine nodded. “This way, sir.”
Barry followed the troopers behind a wooded knoll that flanked the road where it bent sharply to the right. There they came upon the rest of the squad. A lieutenant stepped up and saluted Barry.
“Sir, we trailed the man to a barn and shack behind the hill here, beyond the bend in the road. He’s been inside for about a half-hour. We’ve observed a negro woman, and a young negro man tending to a horse and carriage in a sheltered area beyond the barn.”
“Very good, lieutenant. Keep your men out of sight. Make note of any travelers, but stop no one. I’m riding to the barn. Needless to say, if you hear a gunshot, come at the gallop.”
Barry cantered back to the road and let his horse saunter around the bend as the barn and attached shack loomed into view on his left. He dismounted and tied his horse to a sapling a few yards from the shack, drew his revolver and stepped quietly to the building. The windows were grease paper, but he detected movement. Grabbing the latch on the door he pushed it open and wheeled inside.
The young black man had no time to react. He froze with his eyes fixed to the barrel of Barry’s revolver. Barry raised a finger to his lips, and the young man nodded. Barry motioned for him to sit on the floor upon his hands. An enclosed corridor led to the adjacent barn. Barry entered and positioned himself so he could keep his eyes on the young man who sat quietly, but trembling. The door into the barn had a horizontal eye-slot. Barry peered inside just in time to see a chemical flash.
He heard Seames’ voice. “Yes, that will be a nice one for Mr. Markham’s collection.”
An older woman cackled and a deeper male voice half-laughed, half-grunted.
Barry turned again to the young black man and motioned for him to get to his feet. He stood and walked cautiously toward Barry, who stepped behind him.
“I’m not here to hurt anyone, son, so don’t do anything that’ll make me change my plans.”
The young man nodded and Barry pushed him through the door. They stepped around some crates and Barry froze at the sight.
Charlotte Rawlins lay naked on her back upon a rude wooden bench, the very same Barry had seen in Seames’ photographs. Her legs were splayed displaying her reddened quim, and her arms dangled to either side, as if she were offered as a sacrifice in some obscene ritual.
Seames was busy at one side with his photographic paraphernalia. To the other side of the bench Rawlins sat in a high backed chair. His trousers bunched at his ankles. A small, heavy black woman by his side leaned so her mouth was inches from his ear, speaking in mock motherly tones.
“There, there, you poor gentleman. There be your pretty little wife, all ready for Jax and his manmeat. Don’t you gets upset, now, you just be a good boy and pull your puddin’.”
Mrs. Rawlins began to whimper as a giant of a black man stepped into view from the shadows. It was the colossus from the photograph. Barry was astounded at the man’s proportions. He must have stood near seven feet. His body was black as pitch, but gleamed like onyx. Steely muscles sculpted his frame, coiling about his thighs, and rippling along his ribs. He was entirely naked, a dark force of nature.
As he stepped closer to Mrs. Rawlins she began to cry, “Please, Charles, save me! Please, don’t let him … please!”
“I’m sorry, Darling, I’m so sorry—I can’t—I’m … weak.”
“Thass right,” the black woman cooed in his ear. “Ain’t nuthin’ you can do. Jax gonna take her now, gonna hump her, gonna make her love him back. You keeps pullin’ your puny puddin’ chile, you ain’t no man.”
The man stepped closer to the bench and Mrs. Rawlins began to moan frightfully. The man lifted his cock like a field piece, aiming it at her quim. Seames hadn’t exaggerated; the man’s organ was immense. The head was as big as a peach.
He grasped her hips and positioned it between her nether lips. Barry winced as the man’s cockhead pushed inside her. Charlotte Rawlins shrieked like a condemned soul as the giant skewered her with excruciating deliberation. She was thrashing from side to side now, her damp hair whipping her face.
“Oh, God, he’ll split me, he’ll kill me.”
The man’s ball sack rivaled a bull’s, and after what seemed an eternity it draped the woman’s groin. Charlotte gulped breaths now as the giant withdrew and thrust, slowly at first, but soon quickened to a steady, driving rhythm. It put Barry in mind of a steam engine, a locomotive.
Muscles rippled along his back, gleaming with perspiration as he pummeled the tiny white woman, like a magnificently frightful black idol claiming his tribute.
“Oh!” Charlotte cried. “I’m raped, I’m ruined. Charles, how could you, how could you let this black brute violate me?”
“He likes it,” the black woman laughed. “Ain’t that so, little gentleman. Show Jax how pleased you be for making your bride his whore.”
Rawlins began to cry like a baby, even as a jet of spunk spurt from his cock.”
“I’m lost,” Charlotte gasped. “I’m taken by a darkie.”
The black woman laughed again. “You’re his brood whore now, missy. Go on, Jax; fill her belly up with a fine, strong pickanniny.”
Charlotte cried, then fainted. Or pretended to faint.
Jax groaned and his entire body quaked. A moment later he withdrew his cock. A rivulet of spunk flowed from Charlotte’s quim in its wake.
“I’ll have a photograph of that, too,” Seames said, as he angled his camera. “When she comes around, have her lick him clean. Markham wants more photographs of that nature.”
It was only then that the black woman noticed the younger man shielding Barry.
“Ethan? I told you to stay in the shack, out of the way.”
Barry pushed Ethan aside and the woman screamed. The ostensibly insensible Mrs. Rawlins’ bolted into a sit and clasped her arms around her breasts.
Jax wheeled and strode unhesitantly at Barry.
“Stay back! I’m not here to make trouble.”
“You got trouble, mister,” the giant growled through huge gritted teeth. “Think you can stop me?”
Barry cocked his revolver and aimed it at the man’s chest. “I can stop you with a little help from Samuel Colt. You’re a big man, but that just means you’ll make a bigger noise when you go down.”
The woman was bleating unintelligibly.
“Quiet!” Barry ordered. “Nothing will happen to any one if you do what you’re told.”
The woman trembled like a dry leaf in a November rain. “We’ll be hanged, burned, Oh lord.”
“I told you, nothing will happen to you and your—business. I’m not here for you. But if you resist, there is a squad of Federal cavalry well within earshot. And I assure you, if those men see what’s gone on here, I can take no responsibility for their reaction. Are we understood?”
The negroes seemed to relax, although Jax eyed Barry with an evil glint.
Rawlins stood and fixed his trousers. His wife didn’t move from the bench or attempt to dress herself. Her head hung and her hair hid her face in a curtain of wet strands.
“Sir, who are you?”
“I’m with the War Department, Rawlins, and you are a traitor.”
Rawlins’ body went slack. “Dear, God, it’s come to this. Please, sir, you must let me explain.”
“What is there to explain about treason?”
“Please, I beg of you, for my wife’s sake.”
Charlotte had bent one leg and was fishing around her groin with her fingers. She twirled a string around them and pulled. A flood of spunk oozed from her cunt, followed by a poultice bag. She tossed it toward the black woman.
Barry said nothing. But Rawlins continued. “I swear, sir. I never intended to harm my country. I only transmitted benign information …”
“Ah, yes, but lately you’ve communicated troop movements, gaps in the blockade. All erroneous, due to Mr. Stanton’s diligence.”
Rawlins seemed to grow smaller under the weight of his guilt. “Sir, you see how it is. My wife and I both share an—obsession—it is our shame and has become our undoing. A man, Markham, came to me with the photographs of my wife. He forced us to comply with his demands. He said packets of photographs would be delivered to her family, to my family. My God, sir. He said he’d distribute them throughout Washington. My wife would be scorned, perhaps even harmed. You see the predicament I was in.”
“This Markham, what else do you know of him?”
“Little more. He goes by no other name. I never know when he’ll turn up. I did see him take a room at the Willard once.”
“Here are your options, Rawlins. You and your wife can be taken into custody, tried this very night by a military court and be hanged in the Armory yard within two days.”
“Not my Charlotte, surely, sir …”
“Why not? Is she any less the traitor?”
Charlotte Rawlins hung her head again and closed her arms tightly around herself like a forlorn child.
“Your only other option is to do as we instruct you. You will continue to transmit information to this Markham, but only what we want him to know. You will arrange to meet him where we can identify him and keep him under surveillance. That will keep both your necks out of a noose, but if you require stronger incentive, we will also hold these photographs in our possession.”
“But, sir …”
“You have created your own trap, Rawlins. Meanwhile, you may both continue with your—peculiar pursuits. It’s no nevermind to me”
Then to the blacks, Barry said, “Hear that? You continue on hosting the Rawlinses, if they choose to continue with your services. But, if one word gets back to this Markham fellow, I’ll be back, and you know what that means, don’t you, Mammy? You’ll be hanged or worse, and your barn burned to the ground with you all in it.”
The black woman nodded, too struck with fear to speak.
Rawlins covered his wife with a shawl and led her to the shack to dress. She looked at Barry once, her chin trembled.
Seames looked like a man in need of a latrine. A nod was all Barry needed to communicate to the man.
Barry holstered his revolver and bolted from the barn. Outside he took great breaths and shook himself like he was shaking off dirt. He strode to his horse, but heard heavy footfalls behind him. He wheeled and drew his revolver again. Jax froze just yards away.
“I thought we’d concluded our business, boyo.”
“Heh! Boyo? That’s a new one. I think I been called just ’bout everything. My massa, he called me Ajax, he said on account of I was so big, like some giant man who lived long ago, even before Jesus’ time. Yeah, I been called geechy, tarboy, darkie, nigger, and just lately, contraband—I been called everything but what I am, a man.”
Barry was struck at the articulateness of the previously mute colossus. “Are you coming to a point?”
“I seen the way you looked at that white man, how you looked at his woman. Reminds me how my massa looked the first time he got himself a good look at my meat. He used to invite his friends to the place, and they put me in a corral and toss in three or four field girls, make me chase ’em down, and fuck ’em til they’s all limp. Fuck ’em like we was all dogs. They laughed. Oh yes, they laughed. And I felt shamed, ’til one day I look up and I see fear in their eyes. Yeah, fear, cause while they be laughing at me, they all thinking what if my big black pole served itself to white cunt, to their wives’ cunts. Then I know—I know I’m the real man, and they ain’t. That’s when I run away. And now, I makes a good living fucking white men’s women, and the laughin’ out loud truth of it is, they comes to me. Sticks in your craw, don’t it?”
Barry holstered his weapon. “You know what I think, Jax? I think the Rawlinses have a sickness, a sickness that makes them crave degradation, humiliation. Jax, you can’t achieve those things—degradation and humiliation—unless you have an inferior do it to you. It doesn’t work with your equals, much less your betters. Sorry, Jax, but—they’re still using you like a rutting dog.”
Barry swung himself into the saddle. Even then he barely had to look down at Jax. The big man looked back at him, confusion and pain writ large across is face.
Barry urged his horse on, and left Jax standing there.
Barry dismissed the cavalry detail with orders to deliver a message to Stanton. He rode alone along the dark road back to Washington. The scene repeated in his mind of Charlotte Rawlins speared on Jax’s immense member. The contrasts: her pale white skin against his gleaming, pitch blackness; the immense proportions of the man that conveyed such brute power over the tiny woman. He was revolted and fascinated all at once. Was it just the extreme contrasts, or was it the reversal of submission?
He thought about what he’d said to Jax, and believed it. Jax thought he could settle scores with his cock. He didn’t realize he was being used, used like any whore is used. Still, Barry saw in the man’s indignant glare the promise of a terrible reckoning.
* * *
Barry met with Stanton in the morning. The secretary thumbed through a series of photograph’s seized from Seames’ shop and his face soured with each viewing.
“Abominable!” he said. “To think a proper woman would submit her person to this—this atrocity.”
“She submitted willingly, sir. She wasn’t forced.”
Stanton looked like he’d bitten into lemon. “I’ve spoken to her husband—told him what I think of him. It was all I could do not to rescind his parole and send him down to the Armory to be hanged.”
Barry said nothing as Stanton continued to peruse the photographs.
“Damn, Barry. I’ve always advocated justice for the negro—emancipation and relocation at government expense—but this—it’s an insult to nature, sir. That woman—that brute …”
“I told them they would not be taken to account, Mr. Secretary.”
“No, not so long as we need to deceive this man Markham, who is really Alexander Sloane, a Confederate agent. Yes, he’s already made contact with our pawn.”
“Sir, I believe the negroes should be left alone.”
“Barry, certainly you must see that this depravity must be eradicated.”
“It’s just—we’ve bigger fish to fry, Sir.”
Stanton glared. “Quite so. Anyway, look here, Barry.”
Stanton handed him a photograph of a blonde woman. She was naked, and presenting her backside to a black man. It wasn’t Jax.
“I recognize that woman. She’s the wife of a congressman, a War Democrat who has been a thorn in the administration’s side.”
“Sir, do you mean to use this photograph against him?”
“I mean to use whatever means available to this administration to further its aims and end this conflict.”
“But, the congressman is not the enemy, Sir.”
“You’re either with the administration or against it, Barry. And, if you’re against it, you’re against the Union—period.”
A corporal entered Stanton’s office and hurriedly handed a note to the secretary.”
Stanton’s mouth fell open. “Barry, you’d better get over to Miss Hall’s. Miss Lansford has been attacked.”
Barry jumped to his feet. “Is she harmed?”
“Don’t know. Go along, we’ll talk later.”
Barry galloped from the War Department toward Capitol Hill. He arrived to find a detachment of colored soldiers surrounding Miss Hall’s. A thin, slack-faced white man struggled with two of the troops as they dragged him to a prison wagon. His tattered clothes were stained with blood.
Barry ran inside. Lt. Reynolds met him at the stairs.
“She’s okay, Barry. Just a slight wound.”
“Slight wound? What happened?”
“A man asked for her by name. He went upstairs and a short while later there was a scream. He might have killed her if it weren’t for the manservant. He was bringing firewood upstairs and tussled with the assailant. Took some courage to confront a white man, never mind a man wielding a Bowie knife.
“I arrived just as the commotion started. I held the fellow at gunpoint. These negro troopers were just passing the house; I called on them to help take him into custody. An Army surgeon was visiting too. He’s looking after Carnie right now.”
Barry nodded and ran upstairs two steps at a time. Mrs. Hall and Danae were tending to Joab, who lay in the hallway bleeding from a wound below his rib.
He bounded for Carnie’s room. A captain was applying a bandage to her left shoulder. She broke into a grin when she saw Barry.
“It’s just a little scratch, Coleman, but poor Joab. Please see to him.”
The captain stood and saluted Barry. “The lady will be fine, sir. She’s right, just a slight wound.”
“Thank you, Captain, you’ll see to the man now.”
The captain winced. “Perhaps he should be sent to the colored hospital.”
“He’s bleeding now, Sir. And he’s my friend. See to his wound—please.”
The captain frowned. “Of course, Major.”
He left Barry and Carnie alone.
“He knew me, Coleman. He had come to murder me. If Joab hadn’t interfered …”
Barry took her in his arms and kissed her shoulder.
Miss Hall entered behind them. “Coleman, Carnation, what I said the other night about this being neutral ground is true. The girls and their customers can keep their politics to themselves, along with any other—service—in which they might be employed. This is bad for my house, I love you, Carnation, but you’ll have to leave.”
“I understand, Mary Ann, I’m so sorry.”
“No apologies, dear. But you must go. God bless.”
“I’ll make arrangements,” Barry said.
He stepped into the hall where the Captain tended to Joab.
“The old boy will be fine, Major. The knife just missed his spleen, but no organs appear to be damaged. He’s very lucky.”
Barry kneeled where Joab lay. “He’s a brave man.”
Joab nodded. “I’m glad Miss Carnation’s all right.”
While the other girls helped Carnie gather her things, Barry conferred with Reynolds in the parlor.
“This was an assassination attempt; I’ve no doubt in my mind.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“I’m returning to the department. Put Carnie up at the Willard, I don’t care if they have to toss a general out on his ass. Tell them it’s authorized by Stanton himself. Put a guard at her door.”
Reynolds nodded, and Barry left.
It was late afternoon before word was brought to Stanton from the Armory.
“The man who tried to kill Miss Lansford is not a loose cannon,” Stanton said. “But, what’s troubling is, he was assigned to his task by a loose cannon on the Confederate general staff. A damned wild card in the rebel government.”
“I want to talk to the man,” Barry said coldly.
“Go ahead. He’ll be hanged tomorrow at noon.”
At the Armory, Barry was led to a basement cell. The guard opened the steel-plated door. Barry entered and faced the slack-faced man who had been arrested by the black troopers.
“I want to know why you attacked the lady.”
“I didn’t attack no lady. I tried to gut a damned traitor-whore. I would have too, if not for her pet monkey.”
Barry fought the urge to pummel the man. “Why? Whether she was known as an agent or not. It makes no sense.”
He laughed. “I get it. The gentleman’s agreement? Well, some officers don’t believe it applies to whores.”
He laughed again. “Let’s just say, some Southern gentlemen take exception to a Southern woman working for the enemy—taking their money. That makes her a whore in more ways than one.”
“Are you saying you were sent to make an example of her?”
“I wouldn’t expect a Yankee to understand. But, this whore couldn’t have done anything more despicable, turning her back on her own kind. Hell, ’bout the only thing she could do worser than that is—lay with a darkie.”
Barry felt the blood burn his cheeks. He rapped on the cell door for the guard to open it.
As he made for the main gate he encountered the top sergeant who was the Armory’s executioner. The sergeant saluted Barry.
“I’ve been meaning to commend you on your work here. I don’t suppose in your line that you get many compliments, but I for one wanted to say how much your dedication to duty and professionalism is appreciated.”
The sergeant grinned. “Why, thank you, sir. That’s true, most people don’t understand the calculations and precision that’s required to hang a man.”
“Indeed, sergeant. I understand if the knot is not placed precisely upon the condemned man’s shoulder, he could suffer horrifically.”
“Yes, sir, Dangle and strangle, we call it.”
“Hmm, wouldn’t wish that on any poor devil. Still, I suppose there are some that deserve some agony before they drop off into eternity.”
Barry smiled and his eyes glanced briefly toward the cell he had just left.
The sergeant looked beyond him to the cell. “Oh—right enough, sir. There be some genuine miscreants due a dance before they slip the coils of this world.”
“Well, good talking to you, sergeant. Carry on.”
* * *
That evening at the Willard, Barry and the woman he loved lay naked in each other’s arms. Earlier they’d heard the boyish giggles of the two young soldiers posted as guards in the hall, which had fueled Carnie’s shameless nature. They’d fucked themselves into a frenzy, and now they were enjoying the mellow contentment that swaddled them.
“They’ll come after you again, Carnie,” Barry sighed. “Because they’re fanatics, sick fanatics.”
“I know what kind of men they are. The kind that would beat a negro boy to death and bind his poor body up in chains to hang and rot at a crossroads—and for what? Because of some perceived insult their own poisoned minds created.”
“Stanton’s arranged for you to travel by naval supply ship. You’re getting your wish, Carnie. You’re going to California—San Francisco. And when my work’s done, I’m coming after you.”
“Coleman, we’ve already spoken of …”
“Carnie, I know what you do, and I know what you’ve done. You’re a whore—there, I’ve said it, and it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s an honorable profession, Darling. There are so many others that aren’t.”
“All right, I’ll wait for you,” she said, and nuzzled his shoulder.
“One other thing, I’ve a piece of jewelry to add to your baubles.”
He held up a bronze eagle, rampant, with red, white and blue ribbons attached. In it’s talons it held a word: VALOR.
She took it, holding it in her dainty fingers. A tear trickled along her cheek.
“With President Lincoln’s compliments,” he said.
© 2004 Robert Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.