Anecdote XVIII. Tiermond’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World

April 14th, 1865

“And smile,” purred Tiermond, as his vessel passed the card to the usher.

Booth gave a smile and nod, then watched the usher disappear into the box. His heart pounded with both nerves and excitement, sending the fog of zeal flooding into his brain. Tiermond waited with him, unseen, buzzing with anticipation. This was the moment. Zestir and Warlyn would give him anything after this.

The usher returned, holding the door open for him. Booth thanked the man and passed inside, shutting the door behind him. Making sure the usher had moved back to his post, he wedged his walking stick under the door handle to make sure he wouldn’t be disturbed. He turned to the door leading down into the box and pressed his eye to the small hole in the wood.

The play was progressing on schedule. His keen ears picked up the familiar lines, placing them in the timeline of the script.

“Right on time,” Tiermond said. “Don’t rush it now.”

Booth waited, one hand on the door knob, the other reaching for the grip of the deringer in his coat.

“Wait,” Tiermond murmured. “Steady now.”

Though Booth could not hear him, he seemed to obey. The pistol shook faintly in his hand as he listened, the play progressing nearer and nearer. Drawing a breath through an eager smile, Booth opened the door with painstaking slowness so to not make a sound. The four occupants of the box were fixated on the stage, smiling, leaning forward. They were oblivious to Booth sliding up behind them, like a serpent through still water. Booth raised the pistol, leveling it just inches from the back of the president’s head. As he took aim, the fateful line rang up from the stage: “–you sockdologizing old man-trap!”

As the audience’s laughter pealed through the theater, Tiermond’s shout of, “NOW!” bellowed like lightning just before the thunder of the pistol. Blood sprayed as Lincoln slumped over in the rocking chair, drawing a scream from Mary.  

“Yes!” Tiermond crowed over the sound of her shriek.

Major Rathbone leapt from his chair and lunged. Booth scrambled, losing his grip on the deringer, and fumbled for his knife. He drove the blade downward into the major’s arm, the sudden adrenaline opening his mind. Tiermond surfaced in the chaos, and turned, leaping from the railing of the box. As Tiermond fled, Rathbone grabbed for him, managing to grab a handful of Booth’s coat for an instant. Tiermond’s jump was interrupted, and he felt himself collide with a framed engraving on front face of the box. One of his spurs tangled in the flag on the way down. He made an inelegant landing on the stage, feeling his left ankle roll and twist. Tiermond blocked out the pain, ignoring the signals from his vessel’s body, and raised his knife with a triumphant shout of,

“I have done it!” He brandished the bloody knife back up toward the box. The audience began to scream.  “Sic semper tyrannis! Revenge for the South and the Dark that remembers!”

Already a man had climbed onto the stage after him, and Major Rathbone roared from the box, “Stop that man!”

Still smirking with victory, Tiermond turned from the crowd, and fled the stage, sprinting to the side door. A man collided with him, but he stabbed out and broke free, fleeing the theater. His gait was awkward as he ran on his injured leg, but he was quick, hustling to where Peanut Johnny stood waiting with his horse.

“My thanks, friend,” Tiermond drawled at him, and promptly cracked him between the eyes with the butt of his knife.

Leaping into the saddle, he kicked the sputtering Johnny out of the way, then dug his spurs into the mare’s sides and took off through the city with a triumphant, echoing howl. Even as the air left his lungs, the spirit sank under again, Booth resurfacing.

“My god!” Booth cried. “I’ve done it.”

“Yes,” Tiermond hissed. “And soon I will be free of you.”

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