Jason has once again arrived in
Washington D.C. The first place he went to visit was his
grandfather, General Joshua McCord. He walked in without
knocking and saw his grandfather pour himself of whisky.
“General, put that down!” Jason demanded as he stood just inside
the closed door. They embraced briefly and greeted each other.
Jason mentioned that he was supposed to be sick.
“Sick?” the General asked in
disgust. “I’m sick of being behind the lines while you out
there where the action is going on! Gotta keep an offensive
mounted, boy! The minute a man sits back and warms his heels,
the minute the enemy starts creeping up on him. I can feel him
sniffing around, close at hand. Listen…Do you hear anything?”
“Not a thing,” Jason said
“That’s him…that’s the enemy!
Time…you sit there, and he bellies up on you from behind, and
then…whack!” He snaps his fingers.
Jason took out a letter from his
jacket wondering what it was all about. He was just about to
head for a job out West when he had to come running back here.
“I thought you’d be breathing your last.” His grandfather
looked at him. “Who is the man who signed this telegraph…Dr.
John E. Benton?”
“I’m Dr. Benton.” Suddenly,
Jason realized they weren’t alone. President Grant stood from
the chair he was sitting in and turned to look at grandfather
and grandson. Jason greeted the President respectfully and said
he had no idea it was Grant who had sent the telegram. That’s
what he had hoped for. The General explained he couldn’t meet
the train, but he knew the minute Jason arrived he would head
straight for his house. The General started to explain the
situation, but President Grant cleared his throat and stopped
“I’ll brief the troops. You see
to the ammunition,” Grant ordered.
“Don’t you go pulling rank on
me!” the General declared. “You’re retired, same as I am.”
“That was a request, not an
order,” General Grant said lightly.
The General went to sit down with
his drink while President Grant spoke. “I need your services
again, McCord. It’s a dangerous job and risky.” Jason asked
him what the job was. “Seems…somebody wants to assassinate
me.” Grant didn’t know who. He said there were rumors and he
was ready for them to shoot at him – he’d been shot at before.
“They tell me there’s other ways of killing a man…knives,
poisons, explosives…Train wrecks, runaway horses and…bad cigars
like this.” Grant threw the cigar into the fireplace. He had
gotten four boxes of them as a gift from the Spanish
Jason wondered if someone had a
special reason to execute him. Grant said everyone did. “They
think I appointed to many relatives and old army friends to
The General butted into the
conversation then. “Some folks got a little riled up when it
came out your Secretary of War sold trading posts on the Indian
Reservations for profit.”
Grant said all the blame was put
around his neck. They blame him for all sorts of frauds and
even the heavy rain in California. “A lot of people don’t hold
your responsible for those things,” Jason mentioned.
“Yeah, well a lot of people
do…The orneriest ones are right
here in Washington after my hide.” When Jason asked if there
was a particular group, the President answered, “The Senate and
the House. Now there’s a couple of groups for ya. They’re
after me because I’m about to officially recognize the Cuba
“They’re saying you’re gonna
start a war with Spain, General,” The General pointed out. “And
then there’s the Black Hill’s bunch.”
The President looked at Jason.
“They may be the ones to watch. I’m here, not in Dakota
Territory because I won’t use the army to drive the Sioux out of
the Black Hills and open it up for the gold grabbers.”
Jason was still confused. He
figured a plot against the President’s life was a job for the
new Secret Service agency. “They belong to the treasury. They
guard important things like dollar bills. I brought you back
because you know the Black Hills country.” Jason wondered how
he fit in. Grant told him a couple of men from the Dakota’s
were in town: Swaney and Carlisle. They are all fired up about
the gold in the black hills. Grant’s the only one standing in
their way. “I want you to contact them…work into their
group…Find out what they’re up to.”
“They’re not likely to open up to
a stranger,” Jason mentioned. Grant pulled out an envelope from
his jacket and told him the information would make him and
important friend in a hurry. It was important information on
the Black Hills brought back by the survey teams.
“I may have colored them up a bit
just to interest our greedy friends more. Tell them you’re from
the West and apply for a surveying job with them.” They would
meet at the General’s house anytime he had something to report.
Before Jason left, Grant had one
more thing to say. “It wouldn’t hurt to talk anti-Grant. It’s
a popular thing…and you’ve got as good a reason as any man to
hate the army and directly me. It’s good to know there’s a man
who hates me I can trust.”
After leaving his grandfather’s,
Jason went to visit someone else. He went to the home of
Senator Keith Ashley, except he didn’t know it was now Keith
Ashley’s home. He came to see Laurette Ashley, the daughter of
an old friend of his and someone he loved from his past. Jason
rushed up the stairs after she breathed his name and kissed her
soundly on the mouth. He said he’d been trying to remember just
how beautiful she was. He reminded him he’d been gone over a
year. “How’s your father?” She told him he died over eight
He led her down the stairs,
complaining that he hadn’t heard from her even though he’d written her a
dozen letters. “And I wrote you over and over…a hundred times.
But it was never right.” Jason wondered what she meant. “Maybe
it’s better this way, but it isn’t any easier. I’m married,
Jason. I’m married to Senator Keith Ashley.” She assured him
he was a very fine senator, and a good man. “You’d like him,
“You said you’d wait,” Jason
interrupted her rambling.
“I waited,” she assured him.
“For three years I waited. I saw you just once in all that
time, and when you left you said ‘maybe.’ And when you left you
said if we can ever work things out, maybe someday. Well Jason,
a girl gets older on maybes, and lonely on somedays.”
“I’m sorry, Laurette. I wouldn’t
have come here if I’d known.”
“You’re welcome in this house any
time. You know that.”
Jason was hurting. “I’ll be
going. Congratulations and…the best…” Jason’s voice was heavy
with unspoken emotion as he turned to leave.
“Please don’t go.” Laurette
hurried to stand in front of him, blocking his way out the
door. “I’d like you to meet Keith. He’s bringing some
houseguests from Cuba.”
“I’ve urgent business I…” Jason
couldn’t speak. It hurt so badly to stand in front of the woman
he had just lost. “I just stopped by for a minute.”
“There you are. Then it wouldn’t
have mattered…one bit.” She held up a finger for emphasis and
turned away from him. “It would have been just another
inspection tour to see that the fort was still secure. Then
sound boots and saddle, and off you go!” She swept her arms in
the air for emphasis. “And I’d be left with another maybe.”
Jason’s tune changed as the
realization hit him. He smiled and came toward her, this time
sincerely giving her his blessing. He knew she did wise picking
a Senator. “I guess a fella who spends his life on a horse
kinda gets to thinking like it…”
“I meant it,” Laurette said
softly. “Please stay.” But Jason really did have to see
somebody about a job. “A fella named Swaney.”
“James Swaney. He’s a very good
friend of Keith’s,” Laurette stated.
That was a different story…”Well
maybe…maybe I will stay. I’d like to meet your husband.” As if
on cue, Keith walked in the door. Laurette proudly introduced
the two men to each other.
Jason was the first to stick out his hand. Keith finally
took it and said he was “delighted.” Laurette had told him all
about Jason. “He wanted to run right off. I persuaded him to
stay for dinner,” Keith’s wife explained. Keith agreed that
Jason would enjoy it very much. He’d enjoy meeting their house
guests: Dr. Felix Cueverra and Socorro Cueverra.
They walked into the room, and
Jason went to meet the man who just may be able to win freedom
Jason and Senator Ashley
immediately got into a heated conversation.
“We declare the Denver mint an
Indian reservation? That’s about what it amounts to by letting
the Sioux sit on all of that gold. They don’t want it and
there’s plenty of other gold for them. Don’t you agree?” Keith
“Well, I agree that President
Grant is a stubborn man,” Jason answered.
The women suddenly appeared, so
the conversation ceased. Socorro Cueverra was very pleased with
the Senator’s home. She was a bit surprised at Jason, though.
She had expected to see him wearing a big sombrero and pistols.
“Well, you’ll have to come out West for that,” Jason told her.
“Is that an Invitation, Senor
Laurette stated she hoped their
coming in hadn’t interrupted a conversation. Mrs. Cuererra was
interested in politics. “Whatever you are for, I will be
against!” She assured Jason.
“Well, we were discussing the
Black Hills question,” Jason informed her.
“Good. I am for against it!”
Mrs. Cueverra declared.
Keith chuckled, stating the
Cueverra’s were probably tired and ready to rest after their
trip. But if Jason was interested in listening to the
conversation by some of Washington’s leading men, he could come
along to Sprague’s boarding house. The ex-President Johnson
would be there. He’s now a Senator. A new group from Dakota’s
would be there too – Swaney and Carlisle.
Jason would indeed like to meet
him. Andrew Johnson spoke. He said Grant claimed Johnson drove
him into the radical ranks when he elected grants as interim
Secretary of War. He said Grant refused to speak to him at his
inauguration, or wouldn’t ride in a carriage with him. Grant
wouldn’t have been so great in the war if Lincoln hadn’t mapped
out all his battles for him. The men were backing Johnson. If
Johnson felt Grant wasn’t fit for office, they should get him
out. Jason thought that was strong talk. Keith assured Jason
that Swaney and Carisle had much stronger talk.
They met. They also introduced
Senator Ashley to Jim Randall. “He’s going to do the surveying
for us when we open up the Black Hills.”
“Is that right?” Jason asked with
a friendly smile. “I do some surveying myself. I know that
part of the country very well.”
Swaney thought they had something
in common. “We all have one thing in common,” Keith Ashley
“That’s right,” Swaney stated.
“The end to the current presidential
administration.” Swaney offered
them a drink, but Ashley refused. He had a few things to say in
the other room.
Jason accepted. He wanted a
beer. Swaney asked Jason if he was from the Black Hills. Jason
pulled out the papers from his pocket and explained he’d just
gotten back from doing a geological survey on the Black Hills
for the government. Swaney assumed the findings were
confidential. “Until the Black Hills are open to the public…if
they ever are,” Jason stated.
“They will be, McCord,” Swaney
stated. “Sooner than most people think.”
“Well, it would take a good-sized
army to get the Sioux out of there first,” Jason stated, pocking
the papers. “Then with all due respect, there’s a pig-headed
ex-general in the White House who won’t give that order.”
Randall stated Henry Wilson, a man just below Grant, was
reasonable. “He’s also Vice-President.”
“Like checkers,” Swaney
explained. “You jump over him and move up a notch.” Jason
questioned if they actually thought the Republicans would
nominate him at the next election. “McCord, we’re going into
the Black Hills…soon!” He asked Jason if he’d like the
“Oh hold on, Swaney!” Randall
argued then. “I’ve got that job!”
“Best man will get the job,
Randall,” Swaney declared quietly. “And you haven’t gone over
that country like McCord has.”
“I’ve seen enough of the West to
know what McCord is. He’s a second rate surveyor if anybody
gave him a job.” Randall snickered as he looked Jason up and
down disgustingly. “Jason McCord of Bitter Creek…Kicked out of
the army for being a coward and a traitor!” Randall turned and
looked at Swaney. “You think the Governor would hire him to
“I was hired,” Jason stated
“I say you’re a liar!” Randall
stated. Then he put his hand on Jason’s shoulder. That’s it,
as far as Jason was concerned. He punched Randall. Randall
didn’t like that and tried to punch Jason back, but Jason
punched him instead. Then as everyone came in, Jason started to
“The job’s yours if you want it,
McCord,” Swaney stated.
“It doesn’t matter? What Randall
said?” Swaney decided Jason had a lot of reason to hate the
army. Jason could start packing for the Black Hills.
Jason went back to his father’s
house to discuss the developments with President Grant. Jason
and Grant played pool as Jason talked to them. “They are mighty
anxious to get their hands on that gold.”
The General wanted to know what
Swaney had to say when he…”I’m addressing a ball, General,”
Grant muttered, agitated that The General was upsetting his
“Go ahead, address the ball,
General,” The General stated. “I hope it’s better than the
address you made at the Convention last summer.”
Jason smiled at the results.
“Swaney didn’t say outright there was a plot on your life,”
Jason reported then. “But he did say you wouldn’t be around
much longer to bother him. There are a lot of important men
lined up against you. A lot of Senators were against him.
Grant argued that a lot of men wanted him out of office.
Grant told Jason to move in,
close, and report anything that hints they are ready to strike.
Grant was through with the game. He told Jason he’d drop him
off at the boarding house in his carriage. “Do you think it’s
wise for us to be seen together?” Grant thought it was
pitch-black outside and he didn’t bring the White House coach.
Nobody knew he was out.
They walked out to get into the
coach. Grant knocked for “Humphrey” to open the door.
Suddenly, they were attacked by men. Two men in white coats
tried to kill President Grant. Jason fought with Grant and
managed to cut one of the men. The dropped the knife and ran
off into the night. Humphrey was dead in the coach.
Jason studied the knife. It was
a pretty fancy knife from the Black Hills bunch.