John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“I think Mr. Loomis might appreciate us doing the right thing. It isn’t the kind of thing he can do for his self What’s the man’s name?”

“It’s on a card back at the trailer, a card he give me.”

“I’ll tell you something. Right now here in the twilight, it’s a good idea. Knocking a scumbag around is a kind of a duty, you know. But the ideas that look good when you see them through bourbon, sometimes they don’t look so great the next morning.”

“Son of a bitch lied to me about that ten thousand dollars!”

“Don’t get too worked up. We can’t do a thing tonight.”

“All my life, people been lying to me. It’s time I up and put a stop to it once and for all.”

“That’s right, Tiger.”

When Wade came back to the office at five-thirty that Tuesday, Bern couldn’t see him right away because he was in the middle of dictating a long memo for Ms. Marino to type, “and he didn’t want to interrupt his train of thought. It was a complicated matter, a new high-rise bank building contemplated for the corner of Edgewater Avenue and Twenty-third, with an arcade, a restaurant, twenty specialty shops and an additional sixty-five thousand square feet of office space to lease. When Wade came back an hour later, Bern was at his desk, scowling, reading the memo, marking it up with a red pencil.

“Jesus Christ!” he said. “Know how that twit spells systems ? Ess-I-ess-tee-ee-em-ess!”

“One assumes she has other talents.”

“You being a smartass?”

“Not today. Believe me, not today.”

Bern stared at him and then pushed the long memo over to the side of his desk. “I’ve been trying to hold it in all day yesterday and today.”

“Hold what in?”

“Don’t give me that look of fucking angelic innocence, chum. You went behind my back, you son of a bitch! You ferreted out those four dummy contracts and you went to Hammond with them, and he went right to the U.S. Attorney!”

Wade raised his eyebrows. “That’s very interesting! It means Tuck Loomis has somebody right in the office of the U.S. Attorney for this district. Somebody that keeps him up-to-date.”

“And if you’d known that, you wouldn’t have gotten cute.”

“I would have done just what I did.”

“You don’t deny it?”

“Of course not!”

“You did it behind my back!”

“Talking to you face-to-face didn’t work out, Bern.”

“Jesus, you got a rotten attitude about this. What the hell are you trying to do? Kill us off? Kill the firm dead? I was with Loomis out at Parklands on Saturday.”

“I know.”

“Yes, I guess I told you. Told somebody. Anyway, what you don’t realize is that this little Chapter S corporation can’t exist without Loomis.”

“It has for a long time.”

“Not anymore, chum. Not from here on. He knows the information came out of this office. He thinks we stabbed him in the back. He says that if he comes out of the condemnation suit healthy, we can put together the whole sales program for the next two thousand acres out at Parklands. And if he gets bitched in the suit because of something leaking out of this firm, then we are never going to put together another deal in this area that requires a bank loan, because no bank is going to accept any paper when we’re the broker involved.” “And you bought that kind of shit from him?” “What kind of a world are you living in lately, Rowley? I’m talking about the real world here. Loomis told me not to say a word to anybody about this whole thing. I think I’ve got it taken care of.”

“Not really,” Wade said. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” “It means you ain’t got it took care of. We’ve got diligent loyal people working here. Somebody came in over the weekend and scrambled the records. I assume it was you and Miz Tits Marino. She must have some elementary knowledge of the IBM PC AT computer. She did a rotten job of erasing those four names from the client list. She left empty spaces, which is like sending up flares. Ellie came to me with the problem after she had talked it over with Jeanie. Jeanie took the problem to Frank Mettler and he told her to rebuild the file from the backup tapes and keep the computer locked at night from now on. This morning Ellie checked all the cards cross-filed by client and type of sale and so on, and she found that all the cards on those four transactions had been lifted. We’re gradually eliminating the card files themselves, but that’s another story. Anyway, I decided that if you were coming in here and stealing files by night, it was time we had some serious conversation.”

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