The Search for Major Ruggles

© 2012 Mick Circeo


(May 1865, Ford’s Theatre, District of Columbia)

Ruggles stood erect at the foot of Lincoln’s balcony in Ford’s Theatre, bearded chin in his hand, pipe smoldering.

A raspy voice bellowed from the orchestra pit behind him. “Do you think Corbett is being forthright?”

Ruggles spun around, albeit slowly.  “Is or was? Corbett has been through a trying time.” He flinched while he talked. “What with being a prisoner of war, and the court ordeal against his captors, and all that accompanies that.”

Maddox pulled himself up out of the pit. “Understood, but we’ve got to drive the truth out of him. If he directly disobeyed your order not to shoot, then he must be held to account for that action. It is nothing short of insubordination.”

“He is mad as a hatter, that one is.”

“Sure enough. And that is obviously not going to be an excuse.”

“Perhaps an explanation. But to court-martial a war hero, man – and the captor of a national traitor? How could that turn in our favor?”

“Hm.” Maddox stepped toward the taller Ruggles. “You’ve got a point. Judge Mayhew will quash that and have both our hides, were we to attempt to try that case. It’s fraught with public relations issues, and she is prone to caution. We shall have to think of another course.”

“You understand the she is rightfully cautious – her father is not one to be trifled with. And I can tell you one thing: I am not putting my entire military career on the line for this mad fellow, whether he did anything wrong or not. This needs to be his problem, and not ours.”

“Major, I admire your thinking on this matter. We need to meet with Surratt to confirm the next steps we should take. If we make any misstep, we need to know how many zeroes are back of it.”

“Indeed. Zeroes. Yes.” Ruggles squinted and flinched again. Musky pipe ashes floated to the floor.

“My god, man, are you all right?”

“It’s nothing I cannot handle, given the time.”

“Hm. All right. But as we look back in the future, our fingerprints are going to be all over this thing.”

“Yes, but we must be comforted that we get to be the designers of it.”

“And so, if there was anyone – and I’m not saying there was – but if there was any other person we don’t know about at this very moment, it must needs be addressed.”


“Addressed, Major. That should not need to be explained to a man of your high caliber. Come, let us leave this cursed place. We cannot do any good from here.”

“Agreed. Do you know, I fully expect to turn back at the President’s box and see the ghost of Mr. Lincoln peering down at us. I am haunted, sir.”

“I know exactly what you mean, Major.”

Maddox and Ruggles descended the aged steps at the front of Ford’s stage, and made slowly for the door.

*   *   *

“And, so, Ruggles has not been seen since then. Since he left Ford’s.” Allan Pinkerton massaged his sideburns. “And we are on top of all his old haunts. We shall get him.”

Visibly agitated, the prosecutor pushed his hands deeper into his jacket pockets. “Pinkerton, you are man of results. And I expect that you will bring Ruggles back to me, come hell or high water. I need him alive, is that understood? Alive and in shape to testify against Booth.”

“So that we have all contingencies covered – if we cannot produce him?”

“Allan, if you cannot produce Ruggles, alive and coherent, I fear that we shall all – how does the saying go(?) – we shall all hang separately.”


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