The receptionist--Boston-bred, fiftysomething, hard and bright as
stainless steel--arched a disapproving eyebrow at DeMarco as he entered
"You're late," she said. "And he's in a mood today."
"So since I'm late I guess that means I can go right in," DeMarco said.
The receptionist was married to a successful accountant, a very nice man, very slim and neat and considerate. On those rare occasions they made love she fantasized about burly Italian construction workers. She used to fantasize about black men with washboard abs and shaved heads but the last few months it had been men who looked like DeMarco: dark hair, blue eyes, a Travolta dimple in his chin--and arms and shoulders made for wife-beater undershirts. However, fantasy man or not, she didn't approve of tardiness--or flippancy.
"No, you can take a seat," the receptionist said, flashing a brittle smile, "and in a few minutes, after I finish my tea, I'll tell him you're here. Then he'll make you wait twenty more minutes while he talks to important people on the phone."
DeMarco knew better than to protest. He took a seat as directed and pulled a copy of People magazine from the stack on the coffee table in front of him. He was addicted to Hollywood gossip but would have died under torture before admitting it.
Thirty minutes later he entered Mahoney's office. Mahoney was on the phone wrapping up a one-sided conversation. "Don't fuck with me, son," Mahoney was saying. "You get contrary on this thing, next year this time, the only way you'll see the Capitol will be from one of them double-decker buses. Now vote like I told ya and quit telling me about promises you never shoulda made in the first place."
Mahoney slammed down the phone, muttered "Dipshit," then aimed his watery blue eyes at DeMarco.
"You see Flattery?" Mahoney asked.
DeMarco took an unmarked envelope from the inside breast pocket of his suit and handed it to Mahoney. DeMarco didn't know what was in the envelope; he made a point of not knowing what was in the envelopes he brought Mahoney. Mahoney sliced open the envelope and took out a piece of paper the size and shape of a check. He glanced at the paper, grunted in either annoyance or satisfaction, and shoved the paper into the middle drawer of his desk.
"And the Whittacker broad?" Mahoney asked.
"She'll testify at the hearing."
"What did you have to give her?"
"My word that I wouldn't tell her husband who she's been sleeping with."
"That's all it took?"
"She signed a prenup."
"Ah," Mahoney said. Greed never surprised him--nor did any other human frailty. "So those bastards at Stock Options R Us will spend eighteen months in a country club prison, the guys who lost their pensions will eat Hamburger Helper for the rest of their lives, and her, she'll get her fuckin' picture on Time as whistle-blower of the year. Jesus."
DeMarco shrugged. There was only so much you could do.
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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