John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“Jesus God, you killed the son of a bitch!” Mike said.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

“That’s why I didn’t want you messing into it.”

“Shut your goddamn mouth! Let me think.”

Jack walked back and forth, limping badly, trying to work the pain out of his knee. He eased himself down beside the body and with obvious reluctance, rolled the man over and tugged his wallet out of his left hip pocket.

“This isn’t even Rowley,” Jack said softly. “This here is Bern Gibbs, Tuck’s friend.” ‘

“Wow,” Mike Wasser said. “Oh Christ. You’re in real trouble.”

“Look, friend. I didn’t kill him. We killed him. And it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t come at us with the karate stuff. I stepped in to help because you couldn’t handle him.”

“Let’s settle down. Okay? Just breathe deep. Let’s get our heads working. We got a hell of a problem, partner.”

Jack opened Feeney’s noisy refrigerator and took out two cold cans of beer, tossed one to Mike, pulled the tab on the other and drank deeply. Drank again and finished it and tossed the can in the trash basket. He said, “That BMW is sitting out there like a sore thumb.”

“The quicker he’s in the trunk, the better I like it.”

Jack knelt again, took the cash out of the wallet, shoved the wallet back into the hip pocket. He found the key ring in the right-hand trouser pocket. Mike took the cash out of Jack’s hand, counted it, kept half, gave the rest back, and said, “Go open the trunk. Take a good look around. Give me a beep on the horn if it’s all clear.”

A few minutes later Mike came hurrying toward the car, Bern’s body in his arms. He dumped it into the trunk, onto some rope, a couple of Frisbees and a furled umbrella. He folded the legs, pushed them in and slammed the lid down.

“Now where?” Jack asked.

“Shut up a minute.” Mike walked down toward the road, stopped and looked across at the sanitary landfill. Far beyond the fill he could see the backs of some small businesses in a strip shopping area fronting on the highway. Two yellow bulldozers were spreading dirt on the garbage.

He walked back to where Jack stood by the small dark blue sedan. The old dog started barking. “You got any idea when they stop work over there on the dump?”

“Five o’clock. Then they lock the gates across the access road. It was in the papers. People said it was too early.”

Mike looked at his watch. “Forty more minutes. And Feeney don’t get off until six. Look around and see if you can find a shovel.”

“Can we maybe just pull this thing around behind the trailer?”

“Go ahead.”

Simms found a shovel and put it on the floor in back. They waited. Simms said, “I’ve never been in anything like this before.”

“You think it happens every day for me?”

“I didn’t mean that.”

“Look. We got to stay cool and calm and easy.”

“You know what I don’t like? I don’t like doing it in the daylight. I mean the idea is okay. We dig a hole and put him in where they’ll be covering it up tomorrow. But there’s kids wandering around here. And people down there by the stores. And cars can come by. It’s better we do it at night.”

“Let me think on that.”

Mike paced for a while. A car went by and they both turned their backs to it. “Okay. Here’s what we do. See what you think. We take it out of the trunk and put it over there in the brush out of sight. Then I follow you in the pickup and you drive this car on over to the Bayway Mall and put it in the big shut up, dog! put it in the lot there and lock it and we drive back to Parklands and give Feeney back his car and tell him the man never showed up. We wouldn’t be lying. Rowley never did show. Let’s put the shovel next to the body. Okay, tonight we come back here with a bottle and call on Feeney. That old fool will drink until he goes under. Then we tote the body and the shovel over there to the dump and bury it, put the shovel back where you found it, and nobody is ever going to know what the hell happened to Mr. Gibbs.”

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