Sunday, June 7, 2009

Leaping to Conclusions

by Charles Schaeffer

FBI agent Dirk Overmeyer stared at the brown-edged letter sandwiched between sheets of glass. A junior agent explained: “The lab authenticates age of the ink and paper, at least 1865.”

“Yeah, how many so-called Lincoln--Booth authentication jobs have they dumped on us over the years?"

“The murder pistol was our big one. We proved the Derringer in the Ford’s Theater museum was genuine, not a fake placed there to cover theft of the original.”

“You’re telling me a 12-year-old boy, holed up at the Garrett Farm when pursuers shot John Wilkes Booth, wrote this?”

“He overheard the dying Booth. Letter was handed down through his family.”

Overmeyer mouthed the note. “Tell my mother, I died for my country...Useless, useless.’ Yeah, historians verify those as Booth’s last words.”

“But there was more. Nobody else heard it , except the kid--or believed him. Read on. Booth lingered several hours. The note says Lincoln wasn’t his first target. But the President’s head swung in the line of fire just as Booth aimed at a front-row New York Times literary critic, a vicious detractor of Booth’s acting, which he had labeled ‘amateurish and histrionic’ in previous reviews.”

“Booth hated him like Lincoln?”

“More. Lincoln was targeted, too, but next in line. Two birds with one assassination.”

“But the Derringer was single-shot.”

“True, except Derringers came in pairs.”

“And Booth packed the mate?”

“He broke his leg jumping from the Box to the stage-- spoiling his plot to nail the critic, too.”

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