John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“Because that’s the way he is sometimes.”

“It’s ugly. Plain damn ugly.”

“Go ahead. Pour your own. You got to understand it from his side, Ezra. He’s got a big thing going with that island and all, and he was just kidding around, having four of us without a pot to pee in sign deeds for expensive land. The way these developers do, they try to make things look real active. Like you got a little restaurant, you get your friends to park in front so it looks busy. He wanted to have lots of deeds so it would look like lots of sales going on. He wanted lots of sales because he had a dream about that island. He was going to turn it into the luxury spot of the whole world. A millionaires’ paradise. It was going to be in all the magazines. And then those rotten Park Service bastards come along and grab the island. So now he’s trying to get compensated. And he’s afraid those deeds of ours he put in like a joke, they’ll spoil it for him. The judge might think he’s trying to fix up a lot of deeds so he can get more money back from the feds.”

“I still don’t like any man talking to me the way he talked.”

“He talked to me the same way.”

“I don’t care how he talked to you or anybody else. It’s me I’m talking about. I plain didn’t like it.”

“What pissed him off, Feeney, is how one of the real estate fellows he was working with, that man went to the Court and finked on him, told the Court there were four bad deeds out, yours and mine and a couple others. So it’s important they come up with subpoenas, we don’t know a damn thing. Never Bought nothing, never signed nothing. All the paperwork has been chucked out. They even snuck the certified copies out of the court house, out of the county clerk’s files.”

Feeney fixed a new drink and turned slowly and stared at Simms. “You say it was a real estate man went to the Court?”

“Somebody from Rowley/Gibbs.”

“A fellow from that company came to my place and told me maybe I could get ten thousand dollars for giving up my claim on my land out on that island.”

“No shit! When was this?”

“Back sometime maybe late July. Set on a bench at my place and I give him a cold beer. He was born here. Nice to talk to.”

“You ask me, Feeney, I’d say he was a scumbag. He got you to tell him you didn’t have enough money to buy the land.”

“I didn’t think it meant anything. Shit, he showed me a list of names and asked if I knew anybody on it that couldn’t pay for the land either, and I said I knew you and you sure couldn’t buy that kind of land for the prices in the deed.”

“You better not let Tuck know about it.”

“Why not?”

“If he was trying to get Tuck jammed up, maybe he had one of those little tape recorders on him.”

“Now I wouldn’t take that too kindly, Mr. Simms.”

“What could you do about it now?”

“I guess I could leave a message he should come see me at my place, and then I could purely beat the shit out of him. He’s got a good size on him, so maybe you could be there too and help out.”

“I kind of like the thought of that, Mr. Feeney. I really do.”

“I’ve been looking for him to come here since he came to see me, but he hasn’t showed up when I’ve been on the gate. Yes, thank you, I do think I will have another piece of that good stuff there, Jack.”

“You got to drive home. I’m home.”

“Mr. Simms, I discovered a great secret long ago. When you see two of everything, like two sets of headlights coming at you, when you close one eye and hold it shut, then there is only one of everything and you can keep out of the way. Don’t worry about me.”

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