The Assassins - part 1 — episode #44

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 quietly.


“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 him. 


“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 Ambassador. 


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 public offices.” 


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 Revolutionists.”


“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 months ago.


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, Jason.”


“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 for Cuba.


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 questioned Jason.


“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 McCord?”


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 Carlisle 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 declared.


“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 surveying job.


“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 survey?”


“I was hired,” Jason stated quietly.


“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 leave. 


“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 concentration.


“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, stay 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.

The Assassins ― Cast

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The Assassins - part 2

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*Thanks to Michelle Palmer for writing this episode!

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