John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“I don’t really know. He knew I’d picked up on the phoney “purchasers probably by some kind of credit check. Maybe he guessed I’d seen Feeney and he wanted to know what I’d told him. There’s another possibility too. I turned the information on the fake land sales over to a friend in the Park Service who turned them over to the U.S. Attorney. The court case is day after tomorrow. Maybe Bern went out there to tell Feeney that if he was subpoenaed, he better keep his mouth shut.”

“One funny thing. There was a shovel next to the body. Feeney identified it as his, out of the tool box on the back of his trailer. It was there all ready, as if somebody was going to come after dark and bury the body. There’s a good handy place there to bury a body. Right in the dump. Right ahead of where they’re tamping it down and spreading the dirt over it. Safer than making a grave in undisturbed land. Feeney said the tool box on the back of his trailer was unlocked and the shovel had been in there. That’s not a good neighborhood to leave things unlocked. Of course he’s got that big old dog, but the dog is behind wire. Feeney just hasn’t any kind of damn idea why there was a body in that lot, and he didn’t know who it was.”

“Was Bern’s car there?”

“We put the tag number and the make and color on the wire. No report on it at the time I left.”

“That’s an isolated neighborhood on account of the landfill. A forty-thousand-dollar automobile might strike somebody as worth killing for.”

“Could be. We got to trace where Bern was all afternoon. We’ve got a tentative time of death between two-thirty and five-thirty. Know what his schedule was?”

“No. Dawn Marino might know. She was his secretary.” “We’ve got an address on her but she’s not there, at least she wasn’t there at nine o’clock. I picked up a rumor that she and Bern had something going. You know about it?” “I guess everybody at the office had that idea.” “The Marino woman have a husband or a boyfriend?” “Not that I know of. No husband certainly.” “Mrs. Gibbs know about his fooling around?” Beth answered, “She suspected. Just as she suspected the ones before Dawn Marino. But she just wouldn’t let herself find out for sure. Because then she would have had to take steps. And she didn’t really want to. Not until their daughter

Lois was out of the house. I think she was still in love with Bern anyway. No matter what he did.”

“She confided in you?”

“Sort of. Not flat out. Just hints and so on,” Beth said.

Fairchild turned back toward Wade. “Just what will happen now with your agency? In a financial way.”

“Is that part of the investigation, Chet, or are you just curious?”

“I’m looking into motive. I don’t think personally you did a thing, Wade. I’m here drinking your beer and talking straight. Business partners have been killed for the way the insurance was written. And killers have been hired.”

“The way we set it up, we carry five-year renewable term on each of us. If I remember, it is now at three hundred and twenty-five thousand. Each of us, each of the only two shareholders, agreed in writing that in the event of death, the stock would revert to the surviving partner and the insurance proceeds would go to his heirs for the purchase of that stock. So right now I own the whole thing and Nita gets the three hundred and twenty-five. And as long as we’re talking straight here, let me tell you I feel sick at heart at this happening to Bern, and at the same time I feel a sense of relief that we don’t have to go around and around for months and months fighting over how to split the damned business up.”

“Okay. That’s sure straight enough. Who do you know that’s going to feel real good about him being dead?”

After about twenty seconds of thoughtful silence, Wade said, “There were those in town who didn’t care too much for Bern. And there were some who felt he’d tricked them in one way or another, cut too big a slice of pie. But nobody who’d want to kill him.”

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