“Why wouldn’t I be able to bring it?”
“Well, it is a lot of money.”
Tuck was amused at the innocence and the slyness of the man, at the naked attempt to find out just how much the money meant to him.
“I guess anybody could call half of it a pretty good piece of money.”
“Half is not acceptable.”
“Now why wouldn’t it be?”
“Because to get the other half we would have to arrange to meet one more time. And once is quite enough risk. I think we better call this whole thing off right now ”
Loomis sighed and went over to the wheel and unlocked the flat drawer below the instrument panel. He took out the thick, heavy mailing envelope and flipped it onto Barley’s lap. Barley slapped at it and caught it before it fell to the deck.
“Half,” Loomis said. “In hundreds. I’m not a total damn fool, in spite of what a lot of people will try to tell you. If that old seaplane falls out of the sky on the way home, I’m only half as sorry. If you find out you just can’t do what you allowed you could do, then we dicker about how much of that you give back.”
“Give back!” Barley said, shocked. “I’m taking a terrible risk with my career, and the risk is the same whether it works out or not.”
“One thing for sure. If it doesn’t work out, you don’t get the other half. And if it does, you’ll get the rest in a nice safe easy way. No sweat and no strain. And we’ll most probably never see each other again.”
Barley lifted the tape on the envelope flap and looked inside. Tucker Loomis felt the inner relaxation. The look of the money always makes the deal. And he noticed that Barley swiveled the fishing chair just enough to turn his back toward the waiting seaplane before he looked into the envelope at the two bulky packets.
“I don’t like this,” Barley said.
“Wilbur, most people feel a little edgy about taking a risk. We’re both clear on what you’re going to do. You’re going to make damn well sure the U.S. Attorney’s Office fumbles the ball real good when we come to trial.”
“I’m going to try to make sure. It isn’t an easy thing to do, to make it look as if it… just happened that way.”
“You do your best, hear? Helen, honey! Come on out and meet somebody.”
He watched Barley’s face as Helen, ducking to clear the upper part of the frame, came up out of the hatch, smiling.
“Honey, this is Mr. Wilbur Barley and he works for ”
Barley was on his feet, no color left in his face. “I told you to be alone, dammit! What are you trying to pull, you son of a bitch?”
“I don’t like being called names, Wilbur. It upsets me a lot.”
“I’m pretty upset too, Mr. Loomis.”
“You can trust Helen here. You don’t have to worry about her.”
“I didn’t want to have to worry about anybody but you.”
“And that would leave two of you for me to worry on.”
“Oh, that’s my sister’s husband flying the plane.”
“And your sister knows about this too I suppose.”
“She’s been in a coma for over a year.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“She fell in the bathtub and hit her head. It’s a terrible expense. I wouldn’t have gotten into this if… But I guess you don’t give a damn about my motives.”
“Well, I did wonder why a man with your reputation for being a straight arrow would be willing to deal. It’s comforting to know you haven’t got in the habit of flying off to Vegas or Atlantic City.”
Barley stared at Helen and then at Loomis. He glanced at the rail and Loomis knew that for an instant the thought had crossed Barley’s mind that it might be a good idea to toss the package overboard in a gesture of despair. He looked strangely close to tears. “You promised you’d be alone!”
Loomis smiled broadly at him. “I guess I lied. You don’t have to worry about Helen. She’s just here in case you decide sometime to swear you were never here at all. That’s all. She’s just a precaution, isn’t that right, little lady?”