John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“Nobody can stop this area growing. A whole third of this nation is going to be packed around Florida and the Gulf

Coast. And for every ten couples that come in here with enough for a fifty-thousand-dollar condo, there’ll be one comes in with the extra zero tacked on for a house and lot at Parklands.”

“I like the way you think, Bern. I like the way your mind works. I think maybe we’ll be able to do business out here, you and me and Wade. I think we can make a piece of money. These gnats are getting to me. Let’s head on back to the house.”

They sat in the shade out by the big screened pool behind Tuck’s house. Tuck fixed Bloody Marys, strong.

“Of course,” he said, “a lot depends on this Bernard Island thing coming out favorable. You can understand that.”

“Sure. I realize that.”

“Lots of times a man needs to fix himself a little edge. You know what I mean? A man has to make sure folks are going to look at him favorable in a court of law. So I kind of tried to make sure that the folks working on the condemnation proceedings in the District Court wouldn’t climb up onto any white horses and go after any holy grails. I tried to make sure it wouldn’t be taken too serious. I set me up a kind of friendship with the people on the other side. Quiet like. And as far as I know, Bern, it was all set and I could lay back and wait it out with my mind at rest. You follow?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, not too long ago I got a confidential phone call from my friend over there and he was upset all to hell. He says that somebody give a Park Service fellow name of Hammond copies of four of the deeds processed in your office, and this Hammond gave them to the top man in his office, along with the news that not one of those four could afford the land they signed up for. What do you say to that?”

“All we did, Tuck, all we were supposed to do, was process the mortgage deeds according to the fact sheets ”

“Don’t tell me stuff I already know. I want to know what you think about this man Hammond being given those deeds.”

“They’re recorded. That means that the public has access ”

“Warner Ellenson checked that out for me. The clerk down there says nobody made copies from the public records, and that means they had to come from your real estate agency.”

“I don’t see how you can say that for sure.”

“I can say that for sure, Gibbs, because I checked out every single damn one of my people that had a chance to lay a hand on those deeds at any time, and every damn one of them knows that if they snuck around behind my back, I’d pull their fucking lips off. So it was your outfit for sure. Along with them was a list of the permits and certificates somebody thinks I would never be able to get if I tried to go ahead with Bernard Island. Now what that does, Bern, it makes those folks sit up and take notice. It makes them think old Tuck is running some kind of skin game down here. The government gets touchy about skin games. They want to be on the side of virtue and God and chastity and all that shit. Follow me?”

“I guess so.”

“Your hand was a little shaky when you hoisted that glass, and I guess that’s the way I want you to be. Just a little bit shaky, Bern. This fellow, the one that was going to make sure they did Vi go after this condemnation hammer and tongs, I gave him a little present in front and it was all set that after it all comes out nice, he would get another little present, and he was going to work his little ass off to make sure he got this second present. But Hammond scared the pee out of him. Now he tells me he can’t do what he thought he could do. He says he doesn’t want to touch it with an eleven-foot pole. But he’ll try to do what I want him to do because I got leverage on him. I got him right by his little pink balls. And he says he only went into this thing because he thought I had some control over what was going on at this end. I thought so too, Bern. I thought that when I put it in your hands, everything was under control. Maybe I was wrong about you all along. What do you say?”

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