John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“Whatever that means.”

“She pulled the same file of clients from the tape she made Friday night, and printed it out. Here. See, the missing names are still on the list. And this morning the names are gone, so somebody got in here over the weekend and deleted the names, not even knowing there was backup and not even knowing how to re-form the file after deletions.”

“What did she do about it?”

“She talked to Frank Mettler after I talked to her. She hadn’t locked the computer, not in months. He told her to put the missing names back into the file and lock it from now on. Anyway, I checked out the cross-indexed file cards, and the client cards and contract cards and closing cards for these four accounts are gone. Completely. Vanished.”

“I have the uneasy feeling I know why.”


“You noticed that these four were all Bernard Island sales?”

“Yes, of course.”

“All I can say right now, Ellie, is maybe they weren’t real sales.”

She pursed her lips and studied her thumbnail for what seemed a long time, then said, “So that makes it something for you to straighten out with Bern, doesn’t it?”

“Yes it surely does.”

“Then good luck.”

Bern was out. Dawn Marino said he would be back about two in the afternoon, but probably later because it was an Ole Miss Alumni Lunch at the West Bay Hyatt.

So he asked her if he could look at the list of the Bernard Island sales. She hesitated, then slid the file drawer of her desk open and pulled the file and handed it to him. It had a fresh feel and look. It was a typed list rather than a computer printout. And there were thirty-five names on it instead of thirty-nine.

He handed it back to her and said, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” she said and slipped the list back into the file. She straightened up and as he stood there, looking at her, she lifted her chin slightly and narrowed her eyes. “I’ve got it good,” her stare said, ‘and don’t try to mess it up.”

He smiled at her. “I’m going to give it my best shot, sweetie,” he was saying with his gaze.

“Please take a note to Bern, Dawn. See that he gets it when he comes in. I won’t have to hang around and sign it. Here’s how it goes: Please stay past five-thirty, Bern, and I’ll meet you then in your office. There’s a lot to talk about, and it is very important.”

Jack Simms, the dockmaster at Parklands, was living aboard the Stress Test, a Harbor Master forty-seven-foot houseboat owned by Dr. George Peabody. The Doctor and his wife and children were due back from Sweden in November. Jack had asked old Feeney to stop on by when he got off gate duty at six. The sun was still hot when Ezra Feeney parked his rusty old truck in the lot and came out to the houseboat at the end of B dock. Jack had the ice bucket, the water jug, one of the Doctor’s quarts of Wild Turkey and the two glasses on a small table on the port deck, out of sight of the other boats and the yacht club property.

After they had talked about the heat and had most of their first drink, Jack said, “Well, what did you think of it?”

“I’ll tell you, by God, I didn’t think a hell of a lot of it. I never in my life had a grown-up white man talk to me like that. I wouldn’t talk to a nigger the way he talked to me.”

“Ol’ Tuck, he was upset. I seen him that mad only one time before and that was last year when an Alabama boat came in too fast and thumped him one, busted some splinters off that fancy transom.”

“He had no call to talk to me like that. I didn’t want to buy land on his goddamn island. He told me to and I did. Now I got to forget it ever happened because if I just happen to remember at the wrong time, he is going to see my balls get nailed to a stump. Why was he yelling?”

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