John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“I’m going to keep on running this business!”

“Great! But what if Loomis makes sure there isn’t any business left?”

“That would be your fault, wouldn’t it?”

“What difference whose fault? If you hadn’t been so anxious to kiss his ass, we wouldn’t be in any trouble.”

“You got in touch with Hammond. Okay, what’s done is done. But are you going to keep on trying to screw things up?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. You’ve got this kind of death wish. Are you going to write letters to the papers? Or give an interview to your old buddy, Brud Barnes?”

“I did what I felt I had to do in order to try to clean our skirts, Bern. I can’t think of anything else at the moment. If I think of something, I’ll probably do it.”

“That’s a big help.”

“Do you want my advice?”

“Not particularly.”

“We have hereby agreed we are going to split. We don’t have to decide who buys who out just yet. We should keep going as we are until this Loomis mess shakes down. Then we’ll know where we’re at.”

Bern thought it over. He was cradling his right hand. “That makes some kind of sense. Okay. But if his suit comes out the way he wants, the agency gets the exclusive on the Parklands addition, which is very fat. I certainly am not going to let go of it. If we get it, I’m responsible for getting it. You can’t buy me out of that.”

“If I owned this agency, I don’t think I’d get that close to Loomis.”

“What’s eight percent of fifty mil?”

“Lots of money. Remember, if the agency has an exclusive on the Parklands addition, that potential return will have to be figured into the appraisal of the total value of the corporation. You better go get your hand looked at. I don’t think there’s anything more we can talk about now. I’ve got a couple of things to do. I’ll lock up. Can you drive?”

“I can drive.” Bern picked his jacket up off the couch and went to the open door of his office, stopped there and turned and looked back at Wade. It was an odd moment, a condensation of the years, a twisting of time. He shook his head, shrugged and walked out.

Wade waited a few minutes before leaving Bern’s office. He fingered the tender spot over his ear. Fourteen years should end with more drama. Flintlock pistols, seconds in black capes, a measured count, turn and fire. Or swordplay in the castle keep, with the dames in lace watching.

And the parting should be caused by something more honorable than getting caught up in the footwork of a skilled swindler.


Helen Yoder took the Morans to two houses she was reasonably certain they would not like so that the third one would look that much more attractive to them. The Wil-lough by house was twenty years old, a three-bedroom two-bath on Garden Street, a dead-end street six blocks from the waterfront. It was well placed on a nice wooded lot.

A retired couple had bought it when it was first constructed, and the survivor had died there, alone, six months ago. The house and grounds had not been properly maintained. Essentially, the house was sound. She had gone over it with Fred Aird, the senior trust officer at the West Bay Citizens Bank. They were old friends and had worked together on many projects. She said it would be tough to move it as is for, say, ninety thousand. But if they would put in ten thousand, a horseback guess, then she thought she could move it for a hundred and twenty.

Fred had agreed, and so the kitchen was shining new, the roof repainted white, interior trim touched up, carpeting cleaned, draperies repaired and the grounds trimmed and landscaped, holes in the driveway patched.

Thomas and Alyce Moran were a newly retired couple from Cedar Rapids. They didn’t get to the Willoughby house until after eleven. By that time she had established a useful relationship with them. She had learned to be on the watch for all the cues. With some of the prospects, if you were even borderline flirtatious with the husband, you killed any possible sale. Some wanted to keep a cold distance from the salesperson. Others wanted instant warm buddy ship She ascertained her role with the Morans and fitted herself into it. She and the wife were on one side, appreciative of the needs and the labors of the housewife. And so they both catered to the lordly whims and opinions of Thomas Moran, knowing well that Alyce would make the final decision.

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