John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“How’s Thelma doing?” Warner asked.

“Same as ever. No change. And there won’t be any. But thanks for asking. How did it work out?”

“Just fine. Woody’s old pal, this Stu Persons, was very obliging about it. He arranged to have Dennis take his place in the foursome.”

“That there Dennis Short has a lot of promise. Woody’s got his self a real good boy there.”

“It went just the way we thought it would. And it put D. Henry Swane in the side pocket again. He was sure a big help to me when I had my troubles. But in this case it seems kind of like overkill.”

“Why be safe when you can be double safe? What I was afraid of, if the federal case is a legitimate case but the presentation is too damned weak, too obviously weak, my lawyer buddies tell me a judge can declare a recess and tell the government to go do some homework and come back better prepared. It hasn’t happened often, but it has happened. I want that Swane to sit quiet, and I want him to buy my figures. I don’t want any kind of compromise arithmetic going on.”

“Speaking of arithmetic, I think the Judge is going to be a very happy man in a couple of weeks. Sure you don’t want to pick up some of that Maxim Engineering?”

“Now wouldn’t that be smart?”

“You’re right. It would be dumb. Woody and me and the Colonel, we’ve been picking it up right along at six and seven and eight dollars. Little nibbles because the sucker is real thin. Anyway, Woody arranged to have some tout sheets mailed off to the Judge’s home address. And he’s smart enough to save them to show why he got interested, in case it ever comes up-”

“I’ve been having too much on my mind to fool with the market lately. I cashed my chips and dumped it into tax-free money market. I’ve got to keep a close eye on this suit.”

“What happens next?”

“My people keep working their ass off on the presentation, and we wait for a date for the proceedings.”

“You want to know something funny?”


“I mean it’s weird, Tuck. Ever since I bought that land and then the architect showed me the rendering of how my place would look, I’ve been thinking about a place like that out on that island, a real private place. When I’m going to sleep I walk through the rooms and figure out where things go, and what the windows will look out at. I see the birds out there. I mean I got to believe in it so much, it was like a loss to me, a personal loss, when the Park Service grabbed it and stopped it from happening.”

“Just keep on feeling that way, Warner.”

“But only a pure damned fool would put heavy money into anything out on those islands.”

“I didn’t hear that.”

“You serious?”

“Believe me, I was going to build the showplace of the whole Gulf of Mexico. For the big rich. Private lives. Security, luxury. In the kitchen of the club there’d be a world-famous chef. That island was going to be like a cruise ship parked out there, lights shining at night. Waves rolling on the beach. Music. I was going to have structures hurricanes couldn’t touch. Million-dollar houses, Warner. There was going to be fifty beautiful one-million-dollar houses and a ten-million-dollar club.”

“You feeling all right?”

“I feel just fine, Warner. But I feel cheated. They took my dream away from me.”

“I wasn’t going to put any million dollars into my house.”

“You’d probably want to park a mobile home out there.”

“I thought of doing that. Sure. Until I could figure out just how to place the main house.”

“See you around, Warner. Thanks for the drink. And thanks for the progress report.”

“Always glad to oblige.”

And that was good old Warner, he thought as he walked home. Always glad to oblige, if it didn’t cost him anything. A thud and rumble of thunder startled him. He stopped and turned and saw the tall thunderheads in the southwest, twin forks of pink lightning stabbing down just as the sun began to disappear behind the edge of the tallest storm. By now Warner’s dog would be under Warner’s bed, shuddering and whimpering, and Warner would be there soothing him.

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