John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

Room, folders under his arm, knowing he had an absolute lock on the miscreant, an inevitable indictment, conviction and sentence. But that shivering had a nucleus of pleasure in it, a hidden little chunk of warm. This was total chill and silence, wrapped in shivering.

He took the men’s room key out of his middle drawer and walked past the ticking and buzzing and humming of Miss Wargrove’s computer terminal, out the door and down the corridor. He stood at the urinal to no avail and remembered he had been there a little before nine. He washed his hands thoroughly, and then examined himself in the mirror. He looked as he always looked. He took his gold-rimmed glasses off and polished them. He adjusted the blonde bangs that lay across his forehead. He smoothed the wings of the small blonde mustache and noticed that he had taken a fraction of a millimeter too much off the left side.

He tried to make himself think about going in and talking to C. Perry McGuire. But he could not make his mind approach that eventuality. It kept darting back and away and off to the side, off into past pastures, the green groves of youth. It hustled onto a ship going through the Gatun Locks. It took him into a randy bed with an accidental woman who giggled endlessly. It took him up to the roof of the old Federal Building and together he and it looked down into the street, and that was strange because he had never been on the roof. But he could not make it walk with him into McGuire’s office. He could not even visualize McGuire or his office.

“I am a good man,” the inner voice said. “I have always been a good man. I have done little things that were not worthy of me. But they were little things. I regret them. But no big things. Yet. So standing here, I am still good. I am okay. See me in the mirror? I can smile. I can wink. I can straighten my tie. I can put my shoulders back. I can stay in here all day if I want to.”

An August hurricane came up the Gulf, stalled, and then went whistling and booming over into Mexico, the eye coming ashore at less than hurricane velocity just south of Matamoros. It blew down a few thousand signs in Brownsville and Harlingen, thus performing an aesthetic service to Gulf Coast Texas. Fishing was superb on the grass flats inside the Chandeleurs, with big catches of what the locals call spec, the Floridians call speckled trout and the East Coasters call weakfish. A few hard rains fell on the drought areas, running off so quickly from the guttered land that not enough of it nourished the aquifer.

On a Wednesday afternoon, August twentieth, fifteen men at a boardroom table littered with cups and beers and ashtrays and the remnants of lunch, finally agreed to a buy out price of nineteen dollars and fifty cents per share for Maxim Engineering, with Cordray Communications paying ten cash and the balance in a new class of Cordray preferred which carried with it a common stock warrant to buy the common stock at any time up to five years at twenty dollars a share. News of the agreement dropped Cordray from sixteen to fourteen before the closing bell.

Two days later the usual foursome holed out at Long-leaf a little after five and buzzed Jerry to bring them their customary beverages in the locker room. After they’d changed and Billy De Vine and Doc Crocker had driven on home, Stu Persons and Judge D. Henry Swane went into the men’s bar. They talked for a time about the game, and shook their heads over Doc’s eagle on the fourteenth. By rights the ball should have gone across the green, across the trap and into the shrubbery. But it had wedged itself, on the fly, between the pin and the side of the cup.

Stu Persons, the contractor, was a medium-height, thick, broad brown man with no waist, no neck and a basso pro-fun do voice. He left his half-drink and made a phone call from the telephone at the end of the bar, came back and said, “I guess we got out of that about right, Henry.”

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