The President's Shadow

Free The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer

Book: The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Brad Meltzer
I look back at Marshall. “I told you to stay out of sight…that you should just listen through the phone. Why’d you come early?”
    “I was looking for someone like him ,” he says, still keeping his back to the tourist.
    “But don’t you see? Now that the President’s seen you…now he knows we’re working together—”
    “C’mon, Beecher, how dumb do you think Wallace is? He knows we saved his life last month. He knows that my dad served with your dad and Clementine’s dad in the same unit—that’s what ties us all to Nico. You really think he doesn’t know I’m helping you?” He shakes his head, but his skin’s so stiff, his face moves like a solid mask. “Just tell me, did you get the files or not?”
    “That’s the thing. I don’t think this is about the files.” For the next few minutes, I bring Marshall up to date, telling him about the First Lady and the buried arm…the flattened penny that was stashed inside its grip…even the part about the trumpet player with the name Alek Hidell.
    For a full thirty seconds, he just stands there, his gaze jumping between me and the bald tourist who’s still across the park. Marsh readjusts his black gloves. It’s not that cold out. He uses them to hide the burns on his hands.
    “They think it’s Nico?” he finally asks.
    “They do.”
    “You don’t agree?”
    “You tell me. Y’think Nico and Clementine could make their way into the White House and bury an arm in the Rose Garden?”
    “Not without assistance.”
    “Exactly,” I say. “Now you see the problem.”
    “So Wallace doesn’t trust his own Service?”
    “He trusts some of them. He definitely trusts A.J.—and this woman Francy. But the way Wallace tells it…”
    “He wants some help from the Culper Ring,” Marshall says skeptically.
    “Trust me, I didn’t believe him either.”
    “But now you do?”
    “How long have we known each other? Wallace lies. He always lies. And he does it in a way that makes you feel like he’s doing you a favor.”
    “So you think he’s after you?”
    “I’m not big enough.”
    “Don’t be so sure,” he says. “You’re the one who found his secret: on that night with the baseball bat.”
    “I still can’t prove it.”
    “For now.”
    I nod in agreement. “That’s why the President wants the Ring; he knows the damage we can do. Especially to him.” Marshall understands. For over two hundred years, the Ring has had a hand in every battle from the Revolutionary War and Gettysburg, t o Hiroshima and getting the hostages out of Iran. Even the way it’s splintered today, its remaining members can pull off a miracle. Wallace doesn’t want that miracle being turned on him.
    “So he’s doing this to bring you on his side,” Marshall says.
    “Or maybe he’s trying to squash us altogether. All I know is, we want the files about our dads’ unit, and he’s got the files about our dads’ unit. At least this way, we get what we want and we get to keep an eye on him. It’s the one thing even Tot couldn’t pull off. This is our chance: to add strength to the Ring and rebuild it right.”
    Marshall looks down at his gloves but doesn’t readjust them.
    “Beecher, what’re you really looking for in those files?”
    “I’m not sure what you mean.”
    “In the Plankholder files. With our dads. My father came back with no legs. Now that he’s dead, I want to know what happened to him in that unit. And I get that you want to know how your own dad died—”
    “Or if he was killed.”
    “Of course. Anyone would want to know that. But these risks you’re taking…” He stops a moment. “This isn’t just about these files, is it? There’s something else you’re searching for.”
    Sometimes I forget how long he knows m e . And how quickly he spots my lies. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    Marshall stands there silent, once again eyeing the bald tourist with the camera. “Do you think the President is being

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