John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“And I talked you into hiring Frank Mettler.”

“And I still don’t like the son of a bitch, but he sure can produce.”

“We’ve got a good team. And don’t think they don’t know we’ve taken in a nice net on commissions for doing practically nothing. At least the smart ones know, and that includes Helen Yoder. She asked me about it months ago. I told her it was your account. I suppose she asked you and the answers didn’t satisfy her, so maybe she let Tuck pick her up Thursday night because she wanted to ask him what the hell is going on. She has a good nose for something a little bit off. He’s lost the island, right? Those buyers stand to get their little down payments back with interest. The recorded deeds will be canceled out. Without us in the picture, Bern, without an outlay of seventy-seven thousand dollars commissions on sales, the rest of it would look pretty thin. And the money he paid us will be in the statement he will produce at the condemnation trial, along with what he has paid engineers, architects, lawyers, model-makers, botanists, marine biologists and God knows who else. He can show that he could sell seventy-six acres for five plus million and did sell those acres, and if the Park Service hadn’t spoiled the party, he would have had another couple of hundred to sell. We can be called in to testify. How are we going to look?”

“Just fine. Wade, you’ve got to realize we’re living in the age of six-hundred-dollar toilet seats and three-thousand-dollar hex socket wrenches. If Tuck has found a way to get something for nothing out of the government, more power to him. We’re doing nothing illegal.”

“How about immoral?”

“You can worry about that, if you’ve got the time.”

“Where are those data sheets you mentioned?”

“Dawn’s got the file.”

“Mind if I look them over?”

Bern Gibbs waved a casual hand. “You own half the action around here, buddy.” Wade Rowley started toward the door. “Wait a minute,” Bern said and came to stand in front of him. “I don’t like fussing about this. I don’t like the feeling you give me that I’m naive about Tucker Loomis and Bernard Island, and you are so wise and so sound. I’ve asked around. The general feeling among the developers and bankers and lawyers is that if anybody could have made out developing that six-hundred-acre island, of’ Tuck could. He bought it. The title was good. It was his. He could have gone to live in those old Campana shacks at the east end if he wanted to.”

“They’ve been torched. Tod found an old anchor sitting in the charcoal.”

“I didn’t know that. Anyway, what he paid for it doesn’t have a lot to do with what it’s worth. You have to add in Tuck’s vision of what it could become. Creative value added. And why should we argue about a nice piece of business? We’d have to sell a million-dollar building to make that much.

Suppose it is some kind of a scam, Wade. What difference does it make? Our skirts are clean. We’ve got that letter from Tuck, his original proposal. We performed a service for a fee. Why do you get so damned nervous about things?” Wade shrugged. “I guess it’s the way I am.”

__When Wade got back to his own small office Brud Barnes was sitting on a corner of his desk, leafing through a copy of Real Estate Today. He was as tall as Wade, but not as heavy through the chest and shoulders. He had a narrow face, amber brown eyes that tilted down at the outside corners, big ears, beaver teeth, and thinning dark hair. He wore khakis, a white shirt, a faded baseball cap.

As he tossed the magazine back onto the desk, Wade said, “Either you want to borrow money or go fishing. It can’t be in your line of work because I’m not what you call newsworthy.”

“Been so long, I thought I’d make it a social call. But if you want to force money or fishing on me…”

“Fishing, sure. Any time.”

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