John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

At the weekly poker sessions with Pink Derks, Sam Loudner, Woodrow Daggs, Warner Ellenson, Fred Pittman and the Colonel, he could detect a new quality of cordiality and respect, quite unlike the coolness he had sensed when it looked to the others but not to him as though Parklands was going down the big tube. He enjoyed the change of attitude. He had been the new boy in the group, a little bit out of place with the men representing the biggest bank, the biggest construction company, the biggest law firm and the political structure. But Parklands bought him his legitimate membership, and they had begun to solicit his opinions on local development and the probable direction of the population expansion.

Smiling to himself, he eased the Thelma III into her slip, cut the engines and tossed the lines to the boy who came running down from the dockmaster’s office.


The Monday morning staff meeting at Rowley/Gibbs Associates was over by ten-fifteen. After their people had filed out, Wade Rowley stayed in Bern Gibbs’ big corner office, behind the closed door, after sending Dawn Marino, Bern’s secretary, back out to her desk.

Bern sat at his big slab desk, chair tilted back, fingers laced at the nape of his neck, heels propped on the desk corner. The collar of his white shirt was unbuttoned, his tie pulled down. He was a lean man with a narrow face and a sailor’s tan. He had thick black hair brushed back to cover the top half of his ears, and trained to loop across his forehead to hide the receding hairline. His eyes were a bright and startling green. Except for a recent thickness around the middle, he looked fit. His sleeves were rolled halfway up his wiry, hairy forearms.

“That Beth’s red Toyota out there?” Bern asked.

“The air quit yesterday and the wear on the front left is bad, cupping the tire. So Wally will pick it up and get it back here by five.” Wade sat in the secretarial chair at the end of the desk, where Dawn always sat to take notes on the meeting. Wade Rowley was a big fair-skinned man with a bland, stolid, mid-American face, a John Denver face. His light brown hair was habitually tousled, combed forward into an uneven fringe of bangs. His eyes were brown. He moved slowly and often looked sleepy. Today he wore a white guayabera and blue seersucker slacks. He rested his forearms on the end of the desk. “Not too bad of a report for the middle of July, partner.”

“I like that Yoder sale on the Crown place. If it goes through okay.”

“A hundred thousand earnest money in front indicates sincerity,” Wade said. “And like Helen said, she’s been working on it for months, doing the research they should have done. I’ve talked to them twice. If they work at it, they’ll make some money. But I get the feeling they’re not going to cut it. They’ve both always worked for other people and their wives haven’t worked at all. More restaurants go broke than anything else in the world.”

Bern yawned. “We don’t have to worry about it. We get ours out of the front money. Let the bank sweat it.”

“I’ll worry. Because I always worry about things like that. I’ll see them on the street and I’ll worry. And what’s new with you?”

“Funny thing. I had lunch Saturday with Bill Glover. We’re the entertainment committee for the Lions this coming year. He lives out there at Parklands. He and Hilda get in a lot of early tennis. Okay, they were playing Friday morning and the court they were on isn’t too far from the yacht club docks. He saw Tuck Loomis’ little boat come in. Tuck tied it up and then he walked around to the parking area and pretty soon he showed up again back near the dock in an old blue and white Chevy van. And pretty soon Helen Yoder came scrambling out of the boat with some kind of blue clothes over her arm, popped into the van and yelped the tires in a big hurry to get out of there. Didn’t they used to see a lot of each other?”

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