"John Hastings, Congressman Hastings, told me about you," Banks said. "He said he was being flexed by someone to influence his vote. He wouldn't tell me who or how, but he said he went to Mahoney for help and the next thing he knows, there you are, prying things off his back. He said you're some sorta troubleshooter."
Banks stopped as if expecting a response from DeMarco, but DeMarco, like a good witness in court, hadn't heard a question so he said nothing.
"Well I have a problem, maybe a big one, and I don't want a lotta people knowin' about it. I was wondering what to do when I saw Mahoney at this function last night. I asked him what he could tell me about this guy DeMarco I'd heard about. And Mahoney, that prick, you know what he says to me? He says, 'I don't know any DeMarco but he'll be at your office tomorrow morning.' Then he walks away and starts chattin' up some gal half his age."
She was probably one-third his age, DeMarco thought.
"The thing is, I don't know zip about you."
"I'm a lawyer," DeMarco said.
"A lawyer?" Banks said. The D.C. lawyers he knew looked smooth and sophisticated, slick enough to slide under airtight doors. This DeMarco looked like a kneecapper for an Italian bookie.
"But you're also an investigator, aren't you?" Banks said.
"Yeah, sometimes," DeMarco said, and shifted his butt in the uncomfortable chair. "General, are you going to get around, anytime soon, to telling me what your problem is so I can tell you whether I can help or not?"
Banks smiled. It was a smile that said it'd be a distinct pleasure to take DeMarco out into the parking lot and beat him bloody with his fists and feet.
"Mister, I'm trying to decide if I want to hire you and you're not helping yourself, sittin' there saying nothing."
"General, I'm not here for a job interview and you're not hiring me. The federal government pays my salary. I'm here because the Speaker told me to come see you."
Banks opened his mouth to give DeMarco an old-fashioned, Parris Island tongue-lashing, then remembered he wasn't addressing a buck private. He shook his head and muttered, "This fucking town."
DeMarco could sympathize with the man's frustration. He didn't like D.C. himself most days.
Banks rose from his seat and walked over to a window. He turned his back to DeMarco, shoved his hands into his pockets, and stared down at the traffic on Nebraska Avenue. He pondered his options less than thirty seconds--officers are trained to make decisions--and turned back to face DeMarco.
"Hell, I have to get on with this," he said. "I have too much on my plate as it is and I can't take the time to find someone else. And Hastings did recommend you. Hastings was in the corp, you know."
Semper fi, DeMarco almost said, but controlled his wit. "I didn't know that," he said instead and shifted again in the chair. It felt like the damn thing didn't have a seat cushion, just a thin layer of cloth stretched over the hardest wood on the planet. Or maybe it wasn't wood, maybe it was metal or that stuff that rhino horns are made of.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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