Read The Other Teddy Roosevelts Online

Authors: Mike Resnick

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Adventure, #Political, #Science Fiction, #Short Stories (Single Author), #Biographical, #Alternative History

The Other Teddy Roosevelts

BOOK: The Other Teddy Roosevelts
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The Other Teddy Roosevelts
Copyright © 2008 by Mike Resnick.

All rights reserved.

Dust jacket Copyright © 2008 by Bob Eggleton. All rights reserved.

Interior design Copyright © 2008 by Desert Isle Design, LLC.

All rights reserved.

Original Publications:

“Bully”—
Asimov’s
, 1991

“The Bull Moose at Bay”—
Asimov’s
, 1991

“Over There”—
Asimov’s
, 1992

“The Light That Blinds, the Claws That Catch”—
Asimov’s,
1992

“The Roosevelt Dispatches”—
F&SF
, 1996

“Redchapel”—
Asimov’s,
2001

“Two Hunters in Manhattan”—
The Secret History of Vampires,
2007

“The Unsinkable Teddy Roosevelt”—
Oval Office Oddities,
2008

Electronic Edition

ISBN

978-1-59606-358-7

Subterranean Press

PO Box 190106

Burton, MI 48085

www.subterraneanpress.com

To Carol, as always.

And to Bill Schafer,

fine publisher,

fine editor,

fine friend

2007:

Introduction

So why would anyone spend so much time writing science fiction stories about Theodore Roosevelt?

Well, they have a lot in common, science fiction and Roosevelt. Both of them deal with ideas. Both of them are entertaining. And most of all, both of them are bigger than Reality.

You think not?

Let’s take a look at Roosevelt’s life.

 Roosevelt was born in New York City in 1858. As a boy he suffered from a debilitating case of asthma. Rather than give in to it, he began swimming and exercising every day and like every pulp hero you ever read about, he built himself up to where he was able to make the Harvard boxing team.

But he’d been making a name for himself before he went to Harvard. Even the Gray Lensman and Doc Savage weren’t exclusively brawn, and neither was Roosevelt. An avid naturalist to the day of his death, he was already considered one of America’s leading ornithologists and taxidermists while still a teenager. Nor was his interest limited to nature. While at Harvard he wrote what was considered the definitive treatise on naval warfare,
The Naval War of 1812
.

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and
summa cum laude
, married Alice Hathaway, went to law school, found it boring, and discovered politics. When Theodore Roosevelt developed a new interest, he never did so in a half-hearted way—so at 24 he became the youngest man ever elected to the New York General Assembly, and was made Minority Leader a year later.

He might have remained in the State Assembly, but on February 14, 1884, not long after his 25
th
birthday, his beloved Alice and his mother died in the same house, 12 hours apart. He felt the need to get away, and he went West to become a rancher (and being Theodore Roosevelt, one ranch couldn’t possibly contain him, so he bought two).

 Not content to simply be a rancher, a sportsman, and a politician, like hundreds of pulp and science fiction heroes he became a lawman as well, and hunted down and captured three armed killers in the Dakota Badlands during the fearsome blizzard that was known as “The Winter of the Blue Snow”. Could Hawk Carse or Lije Baley have done any better?

He began building Sagamore Hill, the estate he made famous in Oyster Bay, New York, married Edith Carew, and started a second family. (Alice had died giving birth to his daughter, also named Alice. Edith promptly began producing sons—Kermit, Theodore Jr., Archie and Quentin, as well as another daughter, Ethel.) In his spare time, he wrote a number of well-received books. Then, running short of money, he signed a contract to write a four-volume series,
The Winning of the West
; the first two volumes became immediate bestsellers. He was also an avid correspondent, and it’s estimated that he wrote more than 150,000 letters during his lifetime—and what science fiction writer, I ask you, is not an avid correspondent?

He was now past 30 years of age, and he decided it was time to stop loafing and really get to work—so he took the job of Police Commissioner of the wildly corrupt City of New York…and to the amazement of even his staunchest supporters, he cleaned the place up, just like heroes from The Shadow to Lincoln Powell. He became famous for his “midnight rambles” to make sure his officers were at their posts, and he was the first Commissioner to insist that the entire police force take regular target practice.

He made things so uncomfortable for the rich and powerful (and corrupt) of New York that he was kicked upstairs and made Assistant Secretary of the Navy in Washington. When the Spanish-American War broke out, he resigned his office, enlisted in the army, was given the rank of Colonel, and assembled the most famous and romantic outfit ever to fight for the United States—the fabled Rough Riders, consisting of cowboys, Indians, professional athletes, and anyone else who impressed him—and what classic space operas don’t have a crew of romantic misfits just like that? They went to Cuba, where Roosevelt himself led the charge up San Juan Hill in the face of machine-gun fire, and he came home the most famous man in the country.

Less than three months later he was elected Governor of New York, a week after his 40
th
birthday. His new duties didn’t hinder his other interests, and he kept turning out books and studying wildlife.

Two years later they kicked him upstairs again, finding the one job where his reformer’s zeal couldn’t bother anyone: he was nominated for the Vice Presidency of the United States, and was elected soon afterward. 

Ten months later President William McKinley was assassinated, and Roosevelt became the youngest-ever President of the United States, where he served for seven years.

What did he do as President?

Not much, by Rooseveltian standards. Enough for five presidents, by anyone else’s standards. Consider:

He created the National Park system

He broke the back of the trusts that had run the economy (and the nation) for their own benefit

He created the Panama Canal

He sent the Navy on a trip around the world. When they left, America was a second-rate little country in the eyes of the world. By the time they returned we were a world power.

He became the first President ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, when he put an end to the Russian-Japanese war,

He mediated a dispute between Germany and France over Morocco, preserving Morocco’s independence.

To make sure that the trusts didn’t reclaim their power after he was out of office, he created the Departments of Commerce and Labor.

 When he left office in 1909 with a list of accomplishments equal in magnitude to any Galactic President in science fiction, he immediately packed his bags (and his rifles) and went on the first major safari ever put together, spending eleven months gathering specimens for the American and Smithsonian Museums. He wrote up his experiences as
African Game Trails
, still considered one of the half-dozen most important books on the subject ever published. Clearly he had a lot in common with science fictional hunters from Gerry Carlyle to Nicobar Lane.

When he returned to America he concluded that his hand-chosen successor, President William Howard Taft, was doing a lousy job of running the country, so he decided to run for the Presidency again in 1912. Though far and away the most popular man in the Republican Party, he was denied the nomination through a number of procedural moves. Most men would have licked their wounds and waited for 1916. Not Roosevelt. He formed the Progressive Party, known informally as the “Bull Moose Party”, and ran in 1912. It’s thought that he was winning when a would-be assassin shot him in the chest while he was being driven to give a speech in Milwaukee. He refused all medical aid until he had delivered the speech (which ran 90 minutes!), then allowed himself to be taken to a hospital. The bullet would never be removed, and by the time Roosevelt was back on the campaign trail Woodrow Wilson had built an insurmountable lead. Roosevelt finished second, as President Taft ran a humiliating third, able to win only 8 electoral votes.

So
now
did he relax?

Fat chance. This is Theodore Roosevelt we’re talking about. The Brazilian government asked him to explore a tributary of the Amazon known as the “River of Doubt”. He hadn’t slowed down since he was a baby, he was in his 50s, he was walking around with a bullet in his chest, all logic said he’d earned a quiet retirement—so of course he said Yes.

This trip didn’t go as well as the safari. He came down with fever, he almost lost his leg, and indeed at one time he urged his party to leave him behind to die and to go ahead without him. They didn’t, of course, and eventually he was well enough to continue the expedition and finish mapping the river, which was renamed the Rio Teodoro in his honor. (I don’t really need to compare him to the hundreds of explorers who inhabit the worlds of science fiction, do I?)

He came home, wrote yet another bestseller—
Through the Brazilian Wilderness
—then wrote another book on African animals, as well as more books on politics…but his health never fully recovered. He campaigned vigorously for our entrance into World War I, and it was generally thought that the Presidency was his for the asking in 1920, but he died in his sleep on January 6, 1919 at the age of 60—having crammed about seventeen lifetimes into those six decades.

He was so fascinating, so talented in so many fields, so much bigger than Life that I decided (and I hope you agree) that he belonged in the one field that could accommodate a man with those virtues—science fiction, where he could finally find some challenges that were truly worthy of his talents, from civilizing the Congo to facing down a vampire on the streets of New York.

So here they are—the assembled alternate histories of that most gifted of Americans, Theodore Roosevelt.

—Mike Resnick

1888:

Red Whitechapel

Back in the 1970s, when some experts had decided that Jack the Ripper was a member of the British royal family, I took a good look at their reasoning, decided they were wrong, and wrote an article on who
I
thought the Ripper had to be. I had hoped it might generate some discussion, or at least a bit of controversy, but it sank without a trace.

Move the clock ahead a quarter of a century. I decided to offer my conclusion to a much larger audience—the science fiction readership of
Asimov’s
. My Teddy Roosevelt stories had become quite popular by then, so it was an easy decision to make him the hero. He had ample reason to be in London in the late 1880s—by then his reputation as a naturalist and ornithologist had crossed the ocean…and so had his reputation as a deputy sheriff out in the Dakota Bad Lands. Who better for a harassed and befuddled police force to turn to for help?

Besides, Roosevelt succeeded at almost every task he undertook, and since I was writing
alternate
histories, he didn’t fare too well in some of them, so I figured it was time to let him win one.

The novelette was nominated for the Hugo Award in 2001, so clearly
someone
must have agreed with me about the Ripper’s identity.

***

“From Hell, Mr. Lusk—

Sir, I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman, 

prasarved it for you 

tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise 

I may send you the bloody knif that too it out if you only wate a whil longer 

signed 

Catch me when yu can 

Mishter Lusk”

—Jack the Ripper

October 16, 1888

“I have not a particle of sympathy with the sentimentality—as I deem it, the mawkishness—which overflows with foolish pity for the criminal and cares not at all for the victim of the criminal.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

    Autobiography

The date was September 8, 1888

***

A hand reached out of the darkness and shook Roosevelt by the shoulder.

He was on his feet in an instant. His right hand shot out, crunching against an unseen jaw, and sending his assailant crashing against a wall. He crouched low, peering into the shadows, trying to identify the man who was clambering slowly to his feet.

“What the devil happened?” muttered the man.

“My question precisely,” said Roosevelt, reaching for his pistol and training it on the intruder. “Who are you and what are you doing in my room?”

A beam of moonlight glanced off the barrel of the gun.

“Don’t shoot, Mr. Roosevelt!” said the man, holding up his hands. “It’s me—John Hughes!”

Roosevelt lit a lamp, keeping the gun pointed at the small, dapper man. “You haven’t told me what you’re doing here.”

“Besides losing a tooth?” said Hughes bitterly as he spit a tooth into his hand amid a spray of blood. “I need your help.”

“What is this all about?” demanded Roosevelt, looking toward the door of his hotel room as if he expected one of Hughes’ confederates to burst through it at any moment.

“Don’t you remember?” said Hughes. “We spoke for more than an hour last night, after you addressed the Royal Ornithological Society.”

“What has this got to do with birds?” said Roosevelt. “And you’d better come up with a good answer. I’m not a patient man when I’m rudely awakened in the middle of the night.”

“You don’t remember,” said Hughes accusingly.

“Remember
what
?”

Hughes pulled out a badge and handed it to the American. “I am a captain of the London Metropolitan Police. After your speech we talked, and you told me how you had single-handedly captured three armed killers in your Wild West.”

Roosevelt nodded. “I remember.”

“I was most favorably impressed,” said Hughes.

“I hope you didn’t wake me just to tell me that.”

“No—but it was the fact that you have personally dealt with a trio of brutal killers that made me think—hope, actually—that you might be able to help me.” Hughes paused awkwardly as the American continued to stare at him. “You
did
say that if I ever needed your assistance…”

“Did I say to request it in the middle of the night?” growled Roosevelt, finally putting his pistol back on his bedtable.

“Try to calm yourself. Then I’ll explain.”

“This is as calm as I get under these circumstances.” Roosevelt took off his nightshirt, tossed it on the fourposter bed, then walked to an ornate mahogany armoire, pulled out a pair of pants and a neatly-folded shirt, and began getting dressed. “Start explaining.”

“There’s something I want you to see.”

“At this hour?” said Roosevelt suspiciously. “Where is it?”

“It’s not far,” said Hughes. “Perhaps a twenty-minute carriage ride away.”

“What is it?”

“A body.”

“And it couldn’t wait until daylight?” asked Roosevelt.

Hughes shook his head. “If we don’t have her in the morgue by daylight, there will be panic in the streets.”

“I’m certainly glad you’re not given to exaggeration,” remarked Roosevelt sardonically.

“If anything,” replied the small Englishman seriously, “that was an understatement.”

“All right. Tell me about it.”

“I would prefer that you saw it without any preconceptions.”

“Except that it could cause a riot if seen in daylight.”

“I said a panic, not a riot,” answered Hughes, still without smiling.

Roosevelt buttoned his shirt and fiddled with his tie. “What time is it, anyway?”

“6:20 AM.”

“The sun’s not an early riser in London, is it?”

“Not at this time of year.” Hughes shifted his weight awkwardly.

“Now what’s the matter?”

“We have a crisis on our hands, Mr. Roosevelt. I realize that I have no legal right to enlist your help, but we are quite desperate.”

“Enough hyperbole,” muttered Roosevelt, slipping on his coat.

“You
really
hunted down those murderers in a blizzard?” said Hughes suddenly.

“The Winter of the Blue Snow,” said Roosevelt, nodding his head briskly. “Doubtless exaggerated by every dime novelist in America.”

“But you
did
bring them back, alone and unarmed,” persisted the Englishman, as if Roosevelt’s answer was the most important thing in his life.

“Yes…but I knew the territory, and I knew who and where the killers were. I don’t know London, and I assume the identity of the killer you’re after is unknown.”

“So to speak.”

“I don’t understand,” said Roosevelt, adjusting his hat in front of a mirror.

“We don’t know who he is. All we know is that he calls himself Saucy Jack.”

***

The two men approached the police line behind the Black Swan. The night fog had left the pavement damp, and there was a strong smell of human waste permeating the area. Chimneys spewed thick smoke into the dawn sky, and the sound of a horse’s hooves and a cart’s squeaking wheels could be heard in the distance.

“Sir?” asked one of the constables, looking from Hughes to Roosevelt.

“It’s all right, Jamison,” said Hughes. “This is Theodore Roosevelt, a colleague from America. He is the man who brought Billy the Kid and Jesse James to justice.”

Constable Jamison stepped aside immediately, staring at the young American in awe.

“Now, why did you say that, John?” asked Roosevelt in low tones.

“It will establish respect and obedience much faster than if I told him you were an expert on birds.”

The American sighed. “I see your point.” He paused. “Just what am I supposed to be looking at?”

“It’s back here,” said Hughes, leading him behind the building to an area that had been temporarily lit by flaming torches.

They stopped when they were about ten feet away. There was a mound beneath a blood-drenched blanket.

“Steel yourself, Mr. Roosevelt,” said Hughes.

“After all the monographs I’ve written on taxidermy, I don’t imagine you can show me anything that can shock me,” answered Roosevelt.

He was wrong.

The blanket was pulled back, revealing what was left of a middle-aged woman. Her throat had been slit so deeply that she was almost decapitated. A bloody handkerchief around her neck seemed to be the only thing that stopped her head from rolling away.

Her belly was carved open, and her innards were pulled out and set on the ground just above her right shoulder. Various internal organs were mutilated, others were simply missing.

“What kind of creature could do something like this?” said Roosevelt, resisting the urge to retch.

“I was hoping you might be able to tell
us
,” said Hughes.

Roosevelt tore his horrified gaze from the corpse and turned to Hughes. “What makes you think I’ve ever encountered anything like this before?”

“I don’t know, of course,” said Hughes. “But you
have
lived in America’s untamed West. You have traveled among the aboriginal savages. You have rubbed shoulders with frontier cowboys and shootists. Americans are a simpler, more brutal people—barbaric, in ways—and I had hoped…”

“I take it you’ve never been to America.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Then I shall ignore the insult, and only point out that Americans are the boldest, bravest, most innovative people on the face of the Earth.”

“I assure you I meant no offense,” said Hughes quickly. “It’s just that we are under enormous pressure to bring Saucy Jack to justice. I had hoped that you might bring some fresh insight, some different methodology…”

“I’m not a detective,” said Roosevelt, walking closer to the corpse. “There was never any question about the identities of the three killers I went after. As for
this
murder, there’s not much I can tell you that you don’t already know.”

“Won’t you try?” said Hughes, practically pleading.

Roosevelt squatted down next to the body. “She was killed from behind, of course. She probably never knew the murderer was there until she felt her jugular and windpipe being severed.”

“Why from behind?”

“If I were trying to kill her from in front, I’d stab her in a straightforward way—it would give her less time to raise her hand to deflect the blade. But the throat was slit, not punctured. And it had to be the first wound, because otherwise she would have screamed and someone would have heard her.”

“What makes you think someone didn’t?”

Roosevelt pointed to the gaping hole in the woman’s abdomen. “He wouldn’t have had the leisure to do
that
unless he was sure no one had seen or heard the murder.” The American stood up again. “But you know all that.”

“Yes, we do,” said Hughes. “Can you tell us anything we
don’t
know?”

“Probably not. The only other obvious fact is that the killer had some knowledge of anatomy.”

“This hardly looks like the work of a doctor, Mr. Roosevelt,” said Hughes.

“I didn’t say that it was. But it was done by someone who knew where the various internal organs belonged, or else he’d never have been able to remove them in the dark. Take a look. There’s no subcutaneous fat on the ground, and he didn’t waste his time mutilating muscle tissue.”

“Interesting,” said Hughes. “Now that
is
something we didn’t know.” He smiled. “I think we should be very grateful that you are a taxidermist as well as an ornithologist.” He covered the corpse once more, then summoned another constable. “Have her taken to the morgue. Use the alleyways and discourage onlookers.”

The constable saluted and gathered a team of policemen to move the body.

“I assume we’re through here,” said Roosevelt, grateful that he no longer had to stare at the corpse.

“Yes. Thank you for coming.”

Roosevelt pulled his timepiece out of a vest pocket and opened it.

“No sense going back to sleep. Why don’t you come back to the Savoy with me and I’ll buy breakfast?”

“I’ve quite lost my appetite, but I will be happy to join you for a cup of tea and some conversation, Mr. Roosevelt.”

“Call me Theodore.” He shook his head. “Poor woman. I wonder who she was?”

Hughes pulled a notebook out of his pocket. “Her name was Annie Chapman. She was a Whitechapel prostitute.”

“Whitechapel?”

“Whitechapel is the section of the city we are in.”

Roosevelt looked around, truly seeing it for the first time, as the sun began burning away the fog. “I hope New York never has a slum like this!” he said devoutly.

“Wait until New York has been around as long as London, and it will have this and worse,” Hughes assured him.

“Not if I have anything to say about it,” said Roosevelt, his jaw jutting out pugnaciously as he looked up and down the street.

Hughes was surprised by the intensity of the young man’s obvious belief in himself. As they stared at the broken and boarded windows, the drunks lying in doorways and on the street, the mangy dogs and spavined cats and fat, aggressive rats, the endless piles of excrement from cart horses, the Englishman found himself wondering what kind of man could view a woman’s mutilated corpse with less distaste than he displayed toward surroundings that Hughes took for granted.

They climbed into Hughes’ carriage, and the driver set off for the Savoy at a leisurely trot. Before long they were out of Whitechapel, and, Roosevelt noted, the air instantly seemed to smell fresher.

***

Roosevelt had eaten the last of his eggs, and was concentrating on his coffee when an officer entered the dining room and approached Hughes.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, sir,” he said apologetically, “but they said at the Yard that this is of the utmost urgency.”

He handed a small envelope to Hughes, who opened it and briefly looked at what it contained.

“Thank you,” said Hughes.

“Will there be anything else, sir?” asked the officer. “Any reply?”

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