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A Conspiracy Theory to End All Conspiracy Theories: Did John Wilkes Booth Act Alone?

The starling revelations of young Nathaniel Orlowek: Did Andrew Johnson help kill President Lincoln?

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) assassin of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

APIC/Getty

The infuriating thing about nut theories is there’s always that million-to-one shot that an irrefutable piece of evidence is out there somewhere, half-buried, as it were, just waiting for someone to stoop down and dig it up. Like the theory of the 18-year-old kid in Silver Spring, Maryland, who’s trying to prove that John Wilkes Booth died in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1903. And that it was actually some miserable wretch of a farmhand who was shot in that burning barn 12 days after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. And that Booth escaped with the help of Andrew Johnson, who was in on the plot.

Sounds like a certifiable nut theory, all right, and so far the kid’s been dismissed by every right-thinking Lincoln expert in the country. But the kid is absolutely sure that the evidence is out there … somewhere … if only that, damn mummy would turn up.

The kid’s name is Nathaniel Orlowek, a history whiz and freshman at the University of Maryland. I first heard of his theory a few months back and was just about to dismiss it myself until I heard about the mummy. I decided to check it out. After all, it was a pretty grim story, but a whole lot less depressing than everything else going on in Washington.

I got hopelessly lost on the way to Silver Spring and arrived an hour late, but Nate Orlowek didn’t seem to mind. When he opened the door of his family’s white clapboard house, which looked like all the other houses on Loxford Terrace, he was clearly excited at the prospect of being interviewed. He had the look of a kid who has just won first prize for his science project and knows that he is going to go on to discover the cure for cancer. His friendly, baby-fat face was wreathed in muttonchop sideburns; he wore a blue, short-sleeved sports shirt, checked wool pants and Hush Puppies. Sitting on the crown of his head, like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, was a black yarmulke.

I had half expected to find a ouija board on the coffee table, or a little shrine with votive candles flickering in front of a death mask of Lincoln. So the yarmulke was infinitely reassuring. It betokened a good, kosher, rule-abiding, literate, suburban Orthodox Jewish household, a bastion of logic, rationalism, and progress through education, a place where nut theories would be anathema.

Such was the Orlowek household. Father Orlowek, a thin man with a kindly, owlish face who worked for the Social Security Administration, was watching a basketball game on the color TV in the den. He had once done graduate work in history at Columbia and encouraged his son’s interest in the subject. Mother Orlowek, a big woman dressed in a polkadot housecoat and with one curler still in her hair, was reading My Life by Golda Meir. She was not a doting mother but she was obviously proud of Nathaniel. He had been a minor prodigy, she said; at 12 he had read the Encyclopaedia Britannica from cover to cover and stored much of it in his photographic memory. He always had a passion for history and a knack for impressing people with his amazing retention of historical fact.

Orlowek had dutifully invited over two friends — Marc and Howard — who had helped him with the research. We all sat down at the dining room table on cellophane-covered chairs. The two friends didn’t have much to say except that one of them, an allergic type, asked me not to smoke. Nate did all the talking. He had told his story dozens of times but he launched into it again with great enthusiasm and stinted no detail.

The whole thing began three years ago, he said, when he read The Web of Conspiracy by Theodore Roscoe, a mammoth study of the Lincoln assassination. Toward the end of this encyclopedic work, Roscoe mentioned The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth, a book by a Memphis lawyer named Finis L. Bates, which was published in 1907 and sold 70,000 copies. Bates claimed to have known a Texas bartender named John St. Helen, who in 1877 suffered a bad attack of asthma, thought himself about to die and confessed to Bates that he was really John Wilkes Booth.

St. Helen recovered from his illness and several weeks later (according to Bates) spilled the whole incredible tale: how he had plotted with the secretly pro-Confederate Andrew Johnson to kidnap Abraham Lincoln and ransom him for Confederate prisoners of war; how that plan suddenly fell through when General Lee surrendered in the first days of April 1865; how Johnson then persuaded him to murder Lincoln, assured him that his escape would be arranged and sealed the deal with a cold, clammy handshake; how on the night of April 14th he escaped over the Navy Yard Bridge by giving the sentries a prearranged password (“T.B., T.B. Road”) and was later led across the Potomac River to Virginia by a mercenary farmhand; and finally how the farmhand was shot to death in a barn and mistakenly identified as Booth while the real Booth galloped toward safety in West Virginia.

Finis Bates and John St. Helen parted ways soon after this spectacular confession, but Bates spent a good part of the next 45 years trying to prove that St. Helen really was Booth. In 1898 he began to pester the War Department with claims to the $50,000 reward that had been offered in 1865 for information leading to the capture of Booth. In 1903 a house painter named David E. George poisoned himself in an Enid, Oklahoma, hotel room and announced with his dying breath that he was John Wilkes Booth. Bates hopped a train to Enid, presented himself at the undertaker’s and, 25 years after having last seen his old friend, triumphantly identified the corpse as that of John St. Helen. Later, Bates had the body mummified and shipped it back to his barn in Memphis to use as evidence. It was Bates’s claim that certain marks on the body (a fencing scar above the right eyebrow, a deformed right thumb) proved beyond a doubt that it was Booth. (After Bates died in 1923, his widow sold the mummy to a prohibitionist doctor, and eventually it found its way to a Midwestern sideshow entrepreneur.)

Historian Roscoe’s attitude toward Finis Bates was not kind. Laying out all the charges that reporters and historians had leveled against Bates — forgery of affidavits, doctoring of photographs, profiteering, wild exaggeration — Roscoe concluded that Bates was a fraud.

But Bates’s story intrigued Nate Orlowek. “On Columbus Day, 1973, my friend and I decided to look for the Bates book,” said Orlowek. “We discovered it was in no public libraries but we finally found it in the rare book room of the University of Maryland. We’ve since found that there are only two copies in the world.”

(I made a mental note: “Kid may have problem with exaggeration.” Even Orlowek later admitted that there were more than two copies of the book around.)

Having seen the Bates book, Orlowek nervously called up Theodore Roscoe — “Here I was, this 15-year-old kid talking to the great expert!” — and asked if he didn’t think the Bates theory warranted further investigation. Roscoe politely replied that the case was long since closed. Undaunted, Orlowek started visiting the Library of Congress. (The Library had a rule that high school students were forbidden to use the books, but Orlowek got Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland to get the ban lifted.)

“Every time we got a day off, we would go down there,” he said. “Mysteriously enough, new things started to appear — new affidavits, circulars, books and magazine articles. They’d been published 50, 60 years ago, but just that year — 1974 — they had started to come in. As we went along on our research, we got to know a lot of people, and we collected a lot of personal evidence that’s never been published before — pictures, affidavits, letters and so forth.” They began to discover facts that fit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle with the Bates version.

“All right, Nate,” I said. “This is what really interests me. What kind of corroboration did you find for Bates?”

Orlowek began rattling off dozens of fascinating facts. Some seemed to support the contention that Andrew Johnson (or somebody else) had prepared the way for Booth’s escape. On the night Lincoln was shot, for instance, the Army closed off seven of the eight escape routes leading out of Washington — every route but the one taken by Booth.

But the facts that impressed me most had to do with suspicions surrounding Booth’s death and burial. There were stories circulating at the time that Booth had not been killed at Garrett’s farm, and many more came later. The Kenzie affidavit, for instance. Kenzie was a private in the Union Army who claimed to have known Booth at the peak of his acting career; in the early morning hours of April 26th, 1865, he stumbled onto the scene at Garrett’s farm, took a good look at the dying man who everyone said was Booth and announced that the man bore no resemblance to the actor. The commanding officer of the squad that had captured Booth ordered Kenzie to keep his mouth shut, forever — or so Kenzie contended.

There was also Basil Moxley, the undertaker who had been the doorman at Baltimore’s Holliday Street Theatre and had seen Booth perform there. In 1903 Moxley told a Baltimore newspaper that he had viewed the body which the government had handed over to the Booth family for final burial in the family plot at Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore; the corpse had reddish hair, said Moxley, and looked nothing like Booth, who was famous for his long, silken, jet-black locks.

All of this fit in very nicely with the Bates story: the body didn’t look like Booth because it was the body of some poor dumb Virginia farmhand who got caught on the wrong side of history.

Nate Orlowek was nothing if not enterprising in his research, and he even located a character witness to testify that Bates was no fraud, no profiteer, but a serene and gentle seeker-of-truth who stuck to his beliefs in the face of savage persecution that eventually drove him to his grave. That his character witness also happened to be Bates’s son did not seem to bother Orlowek. In fact, it was the testimony of the younger Bates that tipped the balance; Orlowek was so impressed that he started to become a believer.

In the early spring of 1974, Orlowek worked up a four-page brief of facts that supported the Bates theory and mailed it off to Roscoe. Orlowek’s training had taught him to respect his elders, and he was ready to hand over all his research to Roscoe if only the master could be persuaded to reopen the case. Roscoe wrote back, offering the opinion that the body buried at Greenmount probably was not Booth, but that the Bates theory still didn’t wash. Orlowek made a final phone call to Roscoe, asking if there were any point in going on with the research. “If it amuses you,” replied the 68-year-old Roscoe, and Orlowek resented what he thought was a patronizing tone.

The brushoff left him thoroughly disillusioned, for he had always thought of Roscoe as a man determined to uncover the truth; now Roscoe simply seemed to want to tear people down, to belittle the work of Finis L. Bates. Orlowek decided that he had no choice but to write a book himself; it was nothing less than a moral duty. He was shocked at the injustices perpetrated by the kangaroo military tribunal that tried Booth’s eight “coconspirators.” There was a distant possibility that one of the conspirators, Lewis Paine, was guilty. But the other seven, Orlowek believed, were simply innocent people who happened to know too much of the truth; Johnson and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had to get them out of the way. That was why Mary Surratt, David Herold and George Atzerodt had been hanged, and why Dr. Samuel Mudd, Sam Arnold, Mike O’Laughlin and Ned Spangler were sent to the fever-ridden Dry Tortugas Prison. Then Bates came along and placed the guilt where it belonged, with Johnson and Stanton. For his trouble, he was vilified; critics destroyed his good name.

Orlowek felt that he had to set the record straight as a matter of conscience. And his conscience was extremely active and highly trained — as an Orthodox Jew, he prayed in his room three times a day.

“If I were to turn my back on people who went through such terrible things — even though they’re mainly dead, although there is a son in Memphis — it would be very hard for me to pray and still do anything with a clear conscience. That’s probably taking it pretty far, but I guess that’s just the way I look at it.”

Orlowek set up his office in the family storeroom. Surrounded by baskets of laundry, an old Hoover and stacks of National Geographics, he began to grind out what would become a 300-page manuscript.

“Since we were in high school and since we had no experience in writing and obviously had a hard job to do, we figured we’d better get some publicity,” said Orlowek. He called up a couple of local TV stations and got himself on the news. He gave one interview to a little Civil War magazine and later gave another to the Washington Star. That publicity generated the possibility of far more publicity, for it brought feelers from NBC Nightly News, the Today show and Weekend, all eager to put Orlowek on national TV when the book was published. Sheila MacRae, an independent producer, called to suggest a TV movie for CBS built around Orlowek’s search for Booth, and there was another offer for a straight movie.

“CBS later got cold feet because they were very afraid of Andrew Johnson’s descendants suing them,” said Orlowek. “I think that’s a hollow reason, but last week I called up CBS in California and offered to delete that part. I’d rather have it stay in but I’d rather have a movie without it than no movie at all. They said they’d let me know in a few days, but I still haven’t heard from them.”

Orlowek was beginning to sound disturbingly like a publicity hound. I pressed him on the subject and he insisted that the publicity was all for the book, not for him; as a neophyte he needed some press to get publishers interested in his product. This still disturbed me, because Orlowek was certainly smart enough to realize that in America, celebrity trumps every other card, including truth. If he chose to be unscrupulous, he did not need to establish his theories with hard, historical digging; he could simply concentrate on out-publicizing the opposition.

All during the last three years Orlowek kept on collecting material in every conceivable way — he attended historical conventions, wrote letters, made longdistance phone calls, haunted libraries and was even interviewed on radio talk shows. These radio shows yielded some rich material; it was rich as fruitcake. Whenever Orlowek spoke on a talk show, the host was invariably skeptical but the listeners ate up the whole story of Booth’s escape. The next day his mother would have to spend hours answering the phone and taking messages from nuts and Civil War buffs and family historians who called to offer tips.

On one show, Orlowek got into the subject of the 18-page gap in Booth’s diary. The diary was found on “Booth’s” body the night he died. (Bates claimed that Booth accidentally dropped this diary on the floor of the wagon in which he was transported during the final stage of his escape. Realizing later that the diary was missing, Booth sent the farmhand/guide back to retrieve it. Thus the diary ended up in the farmhand’s pocket and helped cement the impression that the farmhand was Booth.) It was delivered to Lafayette Baker, the head of the Secret Service, who handed it over to Edwin Stanton. Two years later, a congressional committee demanded to see the diary and it was dug out of the War Department’s files. The 18 pages that led up to the night of the assassination were missing; the two remaining pages contained little information. Baker claimed the diary was intact when he gave it to Stanton. Stanton swore that the pages had already been cut out when he received it. And the missing 18 pages have remained far more mysterious than the missing 18 minutes of Nixon’s tape.

No sooner had Orlowek got done telling this tale than an anonymous caller phoned the radio show and announced that the missing pages were still in existence and could be found somewhere in the vicinity of Schenectady, New York. The caller would say no more. Orlowek knew of a Schenectady antique dealer who was rumored to know something about the whereabouts of the pages. In a telephone conversation, the antique dealer assumed the tantalizingly paranoid tone of Deep Throat. Yes, he said, the missing pages were owned by descendants of Stanton, who were deeply ashamed of them. That was all he could say, and he would deny saying even that if Orlowek ever wrote anything about it. “You’ll never see those pages as long as you live,” the dealer told Orlowek.

It was late when I left the Orloweks’, and as I drove down a deserted Pennsylvania Avenue, past Ford’s Theatre and the White House, past the site of Kirkwood House, where Booth and Johnson were alleged to have cut their murderous deal, I realized how thoroughly Nate Orlowek had spooked me with his ghost stories. He had carried on with such enthusiasm, such idealism, such chutzpah, that I began to feel myself rooting for him — rooting for a nut theory! That would never do; next day I began to check his story out for flaws. I read the Roscoe book and the Bates book (which were, by turns, lawyerlike tract and flowery polemic) and then called up three experts in the field.

Brooklyn College professor Hans Trefousse, an authority on Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction, dismissed Orlowek’s ideas as “sheer nonsense.” The Bates book? “It’s just silly,” said Trefousse, “no one believes that nowadays. You see, it’s very interesting that just as in the Kennedy assassination, there are all sorts of strange theories that don’t make sense. Booth was killed at Garrett’s farm and that’s all there is to it. But that explanation is too simple to satisfy some people.”

Bruce Catton, definitive chronicler of the Civil War, said that the Bates theory had been “completely exploded.” In the gentlest and most civilized of voices, he declared himself to be “kind of violent on the subject” and suggested I call Ralph G. Newman, a noted Lincoln expert and president of the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop, Inc., in Chicago.

“Only the nuts believe in that!” said Newman of the Bates book. “I think the Lincoln assassination, like the Kennedy assassination, became a case where we have learned so much that the facts we do know have become confusing — and of course, there are a lot of gaps. But the public refuses to accept a mundane, routine, logical explanation, because when we lose a great hero, we want a romantic, sinister, bizarre explanation.” Since Newman was based in Chicago, I mentioned that Orlowek had said that a group of physicians from Northwestern University examined the Booth mummy in 1931 and stated in an affidavit that the body had all the right marks: the eyebrow scar, the bent thumb, the broken leg; they even found in the stomach a signet ring with the initial “B”.

“That document doesn’t exist, period,” Newman said heatedly. “Nobody that I know has ever seen it, and that settles it. You want to settle the whole thing for good? Dig up the Booth plot in Baltimore and you’ll find the remains of John Wilkes Booth.” Toward the end of our conversation, Newman advised me to read The Great American Myth by George S. Bryan, “one of the soundest books on the subject, awfully good.”

The consensus of these three men that neither Andrew Johnson nor Edwin Stanton had any hand in the Lincoln assassination was difficult to assault. Together, the three of them must have devoted 100 years to the study of Lincolniana. They knew the landscape of the 19th century vastly better than Orlowek could hope to. Yet both Trefousse and Newman seemed to suffer from a blind spot — they seemed to believe the Warren commission. It was impossible that an entire older generation of historians was constitutionally unfit to explain the Lincoln assassination because they were hopelessly prejudiced against all conspiracy theories.

It might yet be true that a young man who reached the age of reason just as Jack Kennedy was shot, and grew up with Oswald theories, Sirhan theories, Bremer theories, Ray theories and finally Watergate theories (which proved to be true) — that such a young man might see what older eyes had missed. One point for Orlowek.

Yet The Great American Myth, the book recommended by Newman, made Orlowek look very bad, for it seemed to wipe out some of his best evidence. Author George S. Bryan made it clear that Booth was a favorite of the nut theorists. By 1929, at least 20 people had reported Booth to be alive and well, and he had been sighted in places as far-flung as Mexico City and Bombay. In 1898, a Mrs. J. M. Christ of Beloit, Wisconsin, informed a reporter from the Beloit Daily News that Booth had escaped via Key West and Havana to England, where he died. The very next day, another citizen of Beloit, Wilson Kenzie, came forth to announce that the man shot at Garrett’s farm was not Booth. The timing of this revelation was extremely suspicious — why had Kenzie waited 30 years to get it off his chest?

Worse, Kenzie’s facts were wrong. He claimed to have become “thoroughly acquainted” with Booth while stationed in New Orleans during the winter of 1862-63. But according to Bryan, Booth was not in New Orleans at that time. Kenzie said that his Army, unit — Company F, First U.S. Artillery — had arrived at Garrett’s farm after the 16th New York Cavalry had already shot “Booth” and captured his accomplice, David Herold. The Army’s records showed that the 16th was the only military unit at the farm that night. “It is impossible that Kenzie could have been at Garrett’s,” wrote Bryan. So much for Kenzie.

But what about Basil Moxley, the Baltimore undertaker, who said that the corpse buried in the Booth plot was a redhead? “It was not until the spring of 1903, after the press had for weeks been agog with stories about how Booth … had committed suicide in Oklahoma, that Moxley, then nearly 80 years of age and rather crotchety, made in the Baltimore American what that paper termed a ‘remarkable disclosure,'” wrote Bryan. The disclosure was nothing more than a rambling tale, Bryan reported; another witness who examined Booth’s body at the undertaker’s declared that “if Mr. Moxley saw the remains … and says the hair was red, he is colorblind.”

Orlowek was in the habit of quoting both Kenzie and Moxley as if they were the most reliable of sources, yet Bryan showed that both men had made their statements in the immediate wake of someone else’s disclosure. (There seems to be no evidence that Kenzie ever told his story before 1898, or that Moxley ever revealed his tale before 1903.) That is the classic pattern with crackpots — one theory always triggers another, and the theories propagate like crime waves. In the light of Bryan’s book, it was beginning to look as if Orlowek’s technique was simply to corroborate one nut theory (Bates’s) with other nut theories. If that were true, then Orlowek was simply the most recent link in a long chain of cranks and charlatans.

Orlowek had collected much of his evidence through a vast network of personal contacts, and some of it was painfully tenuous. For instance, Orlowek had high hopes of finding the mummy. A little Civil War publication called North South Trader had run a story on Orlowek, quoting him as saying that the mummy was last seen in 1957 in Venice, California. Seeing the article, a reader called to say that he had spotted the mummy himself — it was in an antique shop on the Seattle waterfront, he couldn’t remember the name of the place. Orlowek seemed very sure that finding the mummy was simply a matter of finding someone in Seattle to track it down. He had not had much success with his contacts in the Northwest, so I decided to give it a try.

Calling a friend in Seattle, I explained the situation. “Of course,” said the friend, “everyone here knows that mummy — he is down on the waterfront, in a tourist trap called Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. I’ll go down and take a look at him if you want.” Four days later a postcard arrived, bearing a hideous Ekta-chrome of what looked like an Auschwitz victim. The printed message on the back said: “SYLVESTER THE DESERT MUMMY. About 1895, two wandering cowboys riding through the Gila Bend Desert of central Arizona came upon the nude body of a man half-buried in the treacherous shifting sands… It has since remained unidentified. The body is of a man about 45 years of age, 5’11” tall and weighs at present 137 pounds. Death came through a gunshot wound in the stomach. Scientists have said that this is a perfect example of natural dehydration… …”

Underneath this printed legend, my friend had written: “Tim — No unarguable scar above right eye, but hard to tell — there is a break in the skin, etc. Also, right thumb & forefinger look perfect. Posted here is a Feb. 14,1965, article from Seattle Post-Intelligencer saying it’s not John Wilkes Booth.”

Orlowek’s theory was crumbling on all fronts — the best historians in the field dismissed it as gibberish, the Kenzie and Moxley statements looked like hallucinations, and now the mummy turned out to be a ringer. Orlowek must never have read the Bryan book, or else he would have known that he was using nut theories to shore up other nut theories. There was nothing left to do but call him with the bad news: his evidence just didn’t make it. I felt rotten about doing it. Orlowek was obviously sincere, and he had spent three years on the project, getting his hopes up. How would he react? Would he go into a deep depression? Would his confidence be shot for life?

“Listen, Nate,” I said when he answered the phone, “I’ve been doing some research of my own and I’ve got some serious doubts.” I was trying to break it to him gently. First I told him about the mummy.

He took it well. “I wasn’t really that optimistic that we would find the mummy in Seattle,” he said bravely. “But it must be someplace. Maybe when your magazine comes out, someone who has the mummy will read it.”

Next I told him about phoning Catton, Trefousse and Newman. “Oh, yeah,” said Orlowek, “Newman is the guy who supposedly doctored Nixon’s tax returns. He was sentenced a couple of months ago. Yeah — he’s noted as a Lincoln scholar, yes.” There was just a hint of irony in his voice, which was definitely beginning to brighten. He said he was not surprised that the three men did not believe Bates.

I forged ahead. “You see, Nate, Newman put me on to this book by a guy named George S.—”

“Bryan,” said Orlowek. “Yeah, I was looking at it again just the other day.”

Orlowek knew all about the flaws in Kenzie and Moxley and wasn’t terribly bothered by them. Did they get a couple facts wrong? Well, they were talking 35 years after the fact, their memories were bound to be a little hazy. Why did they speak up so late in the day? Orlowek had an explanation. “If some guy came up to me on the street and said he was Lee Harvey Oswald,” said Orlowek, “I would not tell anybody about it and I doubt you would either. Because I’d think the guy was crazy, which is what these other people thought at first. But if on the next day I saw in the paper where ten other people said they saw Lee Harvey Oswald, I would probably call the newspaper and say, ‘Hey, I saw Lee Harvey Oswald.'”

Orlowek was just warming up, and he went on. “It seems hard to believe that these two people would just spring up and make up a story,” he said. “If you’re assuming that both Kenzie and Moxley made up stories, then why is it that they both say that the body had red hair? And why is it that farmer Garrett’s wife said that the guy they shot at the farm had red hair? And St. Helen told Bates that the farmhand who was shot that night was named either Ruddy or Roby. Well, a lady down in White Plains, Maryland, who is the family historian of the Robys, says that a farmhand named Gerald Ruddy disappeared on April 26th, 1865 — the night Booth was supposedly shot. And she says that the Ruddy family had a history of having red hair! There are just too many people saying this — it can’t have been rigged.”

“Now, wait a moment, slow down,” I said. “You’re losing me. I didn’t think Kenzie said anything about red hair.”

“Actually, only some sources give that part of Kenzie’s statement,.” said Orlowek. “Others leave it out.” When I pressed Orlowek for sources, it came out that the Kenzie “red hair” statement, the Garrett “red hair” statement and the Ruddy information all originated from the same source — a bunch of affidavits that Finis Bates had collected in the last years of his life. These affidavits now belonged to two people whom Orlowek said were “on the other side” — i.e., they believed that Booth’ was killed at the barn. These two people refused to show the Bates affidavits to anybody. Orlowek would not even tell me their names, because he was still hoping against hope to make a deal with the reluctant affidavit owners, and he did not want to jeopardize his chances.

All of this was getting pretty far-fetched. The phrase “red hairing” popped into my mind, but I didn’t say anything. I decided it would be kinder just to give Orlowek the coup de grace.

“You remember that 1931 Chicago doctors’ affidavit you told me about?” I said. “I asked Ralph Newman about it and he said no such document existed.”

“Well, I have it in my house,” Orlowek shot back.

“You do?”

“It definitely exists and I definitely have it,” he said with a laugh. “A lot of people don’t know it exists, so I can understand why they would be skeptical about it,” he added generously.

“Will you send it to me, Nate?”

“Sure.”

A week later it came in the mail. Here it is. As far as I’m concerned, Nate Orlowek is still in business.

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