"Okay," Banks said, "but you have to promise me something. You have to promise that you'll keep everything I'm about to tell you completely to yourself, that you won't tell another living soul. You promise?"
"I do," DeMarco said. He considered raising his right hand when he responded but decided that would be a bit much.
Banks studied DeMarco's face, looking for twitchy-eyed indicators of falsehood, but DeMarco, journeyman liar that he was, gave up nothing. And DeMarco was lying.
"You better be tellin' the truth, bud, or I'll rip off your head and shit down your neck."
DeMarco looked at his watch. He suspected Banks's problem was a family thing: one of his kids was in trouble or his wife was having an affair with someone human.
"Okay," Banks said again, and he took in a lungful of air through his big nose as if preparing to dive into deep waters. "I want you to investigate a Secret Service agent named Billy Ray Mattis."
The name rang a bell.
"Investigate how?" DeMarco said.
"I want you to . . ." Banks stopped.
"Yes," DeMarco said. It was like trying to get a virgin's knickers off, getting this guy to say whatever was on his mind. Finally the dam broke.
"I want you to see if Mattis was an accomplice in the assassination attempt on the President."
"Whoa!" DeMarco said, half rising out of his chair. "Stop right there. Do not say another word. "DeMarco shook his head in disbelief at what he had just heard. "And anyway," he said, "I thought the guy who shot the President acted alone."
"Yeah," Banks said, "he probably did."
This was ridiculous, DeMarco was thinking. "Look, General," he said, "you wanted to know about my background. Well, I'll tell you. I'm a lawyer who does odd jobs for Congress. That's it. If a constituent turns into a stalker, I make him go sit in a corner. If a congressman thinks his kid is doing drugs, I find out before the kid becomes a liability. If a politician thinks his wife is cheating on him, I make sure she's not screwing a journalist. That's the kind of stuff I do, sir. Little stuff. Small stuff. Assassinations are out of my league. Way out of my league. So if you really believe this agent was involved in the assassination attempt, you need to talk to the FBI."
"I don't want to do that," Banks said. "At least not yet."
"But why not?"
Banks didn't answer him. He just stood there looking simultaneously guilty, stubborn, and annoyed.
In the four days since the assassination attempt Banks and Patrick Donnelly, head of the Secret Service, had been interviewed by the FBI. The press had camped out on their doorsteps screaming questions at them, and Congress, in a rare and rapid bipartisan gesture, had slapped together a nosy panel that had grilled both men for hours on how the President's security had been so disastrously penetrated. Banks had had multiple opportunities to tell people he suspected a Secret Service agent of involvement in the assassination attempt--yet here he was, telling DeMarco he couldn't.
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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