"You need anything else?" he asked Mahoney.
"Yeah, I want you to . . ." Mahoney stopped speaking, derailed by his addictions. He reignited a half-smoked cigar then reached for a large Stanley thermos on the credenza behind his desk. The thermos was battered and scarred and covered with stick-on labels from labor unions. Mahoney poured from the thermos and the smell of fresh coffee and old bourbon filled the room.
As Mahoney sipped his morning toddy DeMarco studied the bundle of contradictions that sat large before him. Mahoney was an alcoholic but a highly functional one; few people accomplished sober what he had managed in his cups. He was a serial adulterer yet deeply in love with his wife of forty years. He stretched soft-money laws like rubber bands and took tribute from lobbyists as his royal due, and yet he was the best friend the common man had on Capitol Hill. John Fitzpatrick Mahoney was Speaker of the House of Representatives and only the vice president stood between him and the Oval Office should the President fall. DeMarco doubted the authors had Mahoney in mind when they penned the Twenty-fifth Amendment.
The Speaker was DeMarco's height, almost six feet, but DeMarco always felt small standing next to him. Mahoney had a heavy chest and a heavier gut, and created the impression of a man perfectly balanced, impossible to rush, fluster, or inflame. His hair was white and very full, his complexion ruddy red, and his eyes sky blue, the whites perpetually veined with red. His features were all large and well formed: strong nose, jutting jaw, full lips, broad forehead. It was a face that projected strength, dignity, and intelligence--it was a face that got a man elected to a national office every two years.
Mahoney swallowed his laced coffee and said, "I want you to go see Andy Banks."
"The Homeland Security guy?"
"Yeah. He needs help with something."
"I dunno. We were at this thing last night and he said he had a problem. Something personal. He says somebody told him I had a guy who could look into things."
DeMarco nodded. That was him: a guy who looked into things.
"Go see him this morning. He's expecting you."
"What about that problem in Trenton?"
"It'll wait. Go see Banks."
Andrew Banks, secretary of Homeland Security, was a retired marine
three-star general. He was fifty-nine years old, tall and flat-bellied,
and his brown suit and olive-green tie resembled the uniform he had worn
for thirty-three years. He had a prominent nose, a gray crew cut, and a
mouth that was a slash above a thrusting chin. DeMarco noticed that his
eyes, magnified slightly by wire-rimmed glasses, were the color of
Behind Banks's desk, framed by two American flags, was a large pre-9/11 photograph of the World Trade Center. The twin towers had been shot looking up from ground level, and they rose, seemingly forever, white and pristine, into a flawless blue sky. The photograph was a vivid, silent reminder of Banks's responsibilities.
DeMarco sat in one of three chairs arranged in a semicircle before Banks's desk. The chair was so uncomfortable that DeMarco wondered if it had seen prior duty in an interrogation room at Guantonamo Bay.
Excerpted from The Inside Ring by Michael Lawson, pages 5-11 of the hardcover edition. Copyright © 2005 by Michael Lawson. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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