ALTHOUGH the assassins' plans for their flight were shrouded in mystery immediately after the murder, the direction which they had taken should have been known by midnight, if not sooner. By then the disclosure of the route they were following ceased to depend on reasoning; it was laid bare by the adventures of a simple stableman named John Fletcher. This hostler had become suspicious of David Herold, Booth's companion, who was riding a horse from the livery stable for which Fletcher worked, and had stayed out beyond the time that had been agreed upon. The suspicion, to be sure, concerned only Herold's honesty; but when Fletcher happened to see his animal being spurred on toward the Navy Yard bridge at a time when it should have been returned, he saddled a horse for himself and followed Herold to the bridge over the east branch of the Potomac. There he arrived a few minutes after Booth and Herold had crossed.
A Sergeant Cobb, who was in charge at the north end of the bridge, had questioned Booth and, after a brief conversation, had let him pass. Herold, also finding the guard easy to deal with, had followed his master at an interval of not more than ten minutes. But Fletcher was not so gently handled. He was told that if he followed Herold, in an attempt to recover his horse, he could not re-cross the bridge until the next morning. Under these circumstances, he decided to turn back and get a good night's rest.1
It is characteristic of Booth that he did not hesitate to give his true name to the sentinel at the bridge, for, in the fantastic mind of the assassin, his act was to be the perfect crime of the ages,____________________