John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

They had grown up on the same street. And the years of running and battling and fishing had turned them into close friends. They both liked the outdoors, the woods and the water and the silences, and the creatures therein. They were both interested in conservation, but Brud’s position as executive editor on the West Bay Courier Journal, one of the very few independent daily papers still operating on the Mississippi coast, and operating very profitably, gave him the chance to be effective.

They had served on many committees together, signed the same petitions, enjoyed a few minor victories and suffered more than a few major setbacks.

“How’s Beth and the kids?”

“Chugging along pretty good. Tod had to do summer school this year. He faded in the stretch in the regular term.”

“You and I did that once.”

“I hate to remember that damn summer. I really do. How are you making out, Brud?”

“Keeping busy.”

There had been a time when Brud’s pleasant inquiry about Wade’s family would have brought about a query about Alice and Sissy. But they were two years gone, living in Austin, Texas, with the lawyer Alice had married after she divorced Brud. Wade thought of all the others in their high-school class who’d been married and divorced. It was a small plague which had struck heavily in that age group in West Bay. And now it was infecting Helen and Buddy Yoder.

“I haven’t seen you in over six months. I sent you a note about how much I like those three articles you’ve been doing on the islands.”

“But I didn’t answer, I guess. Busy or lazy. Probably lazy. Thanks anyway. I kind of bore down on Tuck Loomis and his plans for Bernard Island.”

“Get any response?”

“Nobody walked in and shot me in the city room. And Parklands hasn’t been running enough advertising lately so that it was worth it to them to pull it out. I run into him at the Hyatt one time over a month ago and he gave me that crookedy grin of his and said, “Brud, baby, you never gone win any Pulitzer with that kinda shit.” So I asked him for something useful I could print, like how long had he known that the feds were going to pick up Bernard Island. He gave me his wide-eyed-innocence look and he said, “You musta knowed before I did.” It gripes my ass the way he comes on so grits and syrup these days. The son of a bitch come down here from Ohio. He thinks he’s one of the boys, in with them close and tight, boys like Derks and Ellenson and Loudner. But they’re just jollying him because he’s making a little money for them here and there, and they do love that green stuff. If things get a little sticky for of’ Tuck, they’ll drop him like a snake.”

“And so you came here to talk to me about Tuck Loomis and Bernard Island and deeds to lots on the island and all that?”

“I guess I stayed away because I didn’t want to talk to you about all that, Wade.”

“So let’s sit and talk about it, friend. How come you changed your mind about talking to me?”

Wade sat behind his cluttered desk. Brad sat in the chair by the window. “I guess I went through it a little more careful. I’ve always given you a hard time about how selling real estate and saving the bays and the beaches and the islands are kind of mutually exclusive.”

“I thought it was all in fun.”

“Well, hell, it was. Maybe here and there in quiet ways you’ve done more good than I have. Like you blocked that marina thing and got them to locate in a better spot. Anyway, when I found out who was doing the work on Loomis’ deeds, I got hold of Rick Riker one day at lunch and pumped him a little. What he said was that Bern had asked him to look the deal over and given him the correspondence, and Rick told Bern that it was a legal arrangement. He told Bern he didn’t like the look of it, and he wouldn’t get into that sort of thing himself, but he couldn’t fault it on any basis within the law.”

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