John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

On Monday afternoon, the fifteenth of September, at quarter past four, J. Harrison Derks met by prearrangement with Sam Loudner at the University Club on the top floor of the West Bay Citizens Bank, N.A.” the bank of which Derks was the president. They met in a quiet corner of the lounge, far from the bar.

“He came at me this morning like you said he would, Sam. Came in with Boob Davis, both of them grinning like egg-sucking foxes. Boob said it was the most interesting court case he ever saw.”

“How much did he want?”

“Wanted to set up a line of credit for half. Four million two fifty. It’s over our limit on him. We’d have to lay it off upstream. Do you think he’s going to get that much money?”

“The government will take it to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. I talked to my boys about it, told them how they done good. Yoder and Schlesinger. From how they tell it, the U.S. Attorney’s Office rolled over and played dead. Very strange. That’s transient land out there, for God’s sake. Those islands are all moving west and north, a little bit every year. Hurricanes put storm surges right over them. Nobody in this county or state would dare give permission to build out there.”

“What will happen?”

“Pink, I think the Appeals Court will uphold Swane. With what was put before him, he couldn’t come to any other decision. But it can go on a long time before Tuck ever gets the money in hand. The interest on that kind of loan could come to forty-five thousand a month, pretty heavy for Tuck. He likes to live high.”

“I don’t think I could get it past my board.”

“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, Pink. You’ve got a tame board there and you run a good bank and they’ll go along with what you say.”

“Well, it’s not like we were independent. The name sounds it, sure. But we’re one little hunk of the great Sunshine Federated. The only way we could swing it would be if Tuck would put up six and a half million in good solid collateral, but old Tuck is never going to let any kind of collateral sit idle when he can borrow against it and buy something more that he can use as collateral. He’s the original pyramid builder. What I want to know is what you think of the whole thing.”

“I can only go on my gut feeling. Tuck is real cute. There is such a thing as being too cute. And there is such a thing as winning too big. I mean a lot of things can bounce back at you sooner or later. Me, I’d stay back.”

Derks sighed. “Easiest way is to set up the cover story with Sunshine, then tell Tuck I can’t get it approved until the decision comes down on the appeal. That’s what I’d have to say to a stranger walking in. But Tuck has been good business for the bank.”

“Good business for quite a few people around here.”

“But I kind of get that same gut feeling you’ve got, Sam. Like his walls could come tumbling down. I hate to turn my back on him.”

“In more ways than one, maybe. Newspaper has been chewing on him pretty good. You know, when you get enough people pissed at you, somebody is going to find a way to give you a bruise.”

“Well, thanks. You’ve told me what I wanted to hear. I didn’t see you at Bern Gibbs’ funeral.”

“We were all set to go, but at the last minute Ruth got a call from the nursing home that her mother was in a bad way. So we went over there and stayed until ten. The old lady came out of it again, woke up and got cranky and told me I needed a haircut. How was the service?”

“The church was packed. Never saw so many flowers. Imagine getting yourself killed for a damn automobile. I was thinking sitting there in church, if you want a big funeral, die young. Last year when we went to Sid Baker’s memorial service, how many were there? Eighteen or twenty? And he was a very big man in this state long ago. He lived to be ninety-three. Goes to show you.”

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