April 22, 1861 — an excerpt from The First Assassin:
Back in his room, Mazorca opened his trunk and removed a pile of maps. He searched through the small stack until he found the one he wanted. It was of southern Maryland. He unfolded it on the floor. A few small towns were sprinkled around the region, though for the most part it seemed to be a mixture of rural farmland and swampy wilderness. Coves, creeks, and inlets pockmarked the Potomac. It looked perfect.
Mazorca knew from experience that the information contained on maps often required verification. There was a big difference between studying an area on paper and visiting it in person. Doing it properly, he realized, would require a horse, even at some expense.
But that was a problem for another day, and this one was coming to an end. He was happy with what he had learned. He was one step closer to an escape plan. Now he needed to think about a plan that would make his escape necessary.
He had purchased a copy of the Evening Star on his way back from the bridge. The small type on its front page described the news and other events, but his eye drifted over to the right-hand columns, full of little advertisements. One in particular caught his eye. It was for French & Richstein, a bookstore at 278 Pennsylvania Avenue. The proprietors proudly announced the arrival of “the first elegant household edition” of The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens.
Mazorca had heard of the popular British author. He decided to buy a copy of this new book. But he had no intention of reading it.