John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

When we’d gone together before he had a big cruiser, fifty-four feet I think it was, and he had to keep it down in a marina on the bay because it drew too much water to come up the river, and besides he had to avoid all the shallows in the Sound, and when we were going to get the edge of a hurricane he

SPELLING: Could we stay with the events of that day?

PATRICK: I have Mr. Mallory’s assurance that Mrs. Yoder can tell her story in her own way and in her own good time.

MALLORY: That’s correct. Please proceed, Mrs. Yoder.

YODER: Anyway, he could afford a lot bigger boat but he said they were too much trouble and too conspicuous. We used to spend a lot of time together on the big boat, the Thelma II, years ago.

I said we had to be getting back but he wouldn’t leave and he wouldn’t even tell me why he wouldn’t leave. He’s the sort of person that if you keep questioning him, he gets furious. I took a short swim and then looked through the clothes and found a pink pullover shirt and some white shorts spotted with green paint. He put on old khaki pants and a ragged white shirt.

Finally, after he’d looked at his watch a hundred times, he decided to tell me what was happening. He said that in the next fifteen minutes a man was going to arrive in a float plane. He said he was supposed to be alone on the boat for this meeting, but he said he would feel a lot better about it if he had a witness. That’s when I really got mad at the son of a bitch. He’d let me believe it was like some kind of sentimental journey, but what he really wanted was to have a witness aboard. He told me he had planned to bring Mike Wasser along. Mike works for him. But then he saw me at the club and decided I would be more fun than Mike.

He said that as soon as he spotted the plane, he would holler down to me and I should get into the port bunk and way up in the corner against the bulkhead so that anybody looking down below through the open doorway would think it was empty down there. I wasn’t to make a sound until Tuck called me, and then I was to come up and meet this man who was coming by air. He said his name was Wilbur Barley and he worked for the government.

He called down and I did as he said and I could hear the plane. It landed and taxied close and I felt the little motion of the boat when the man stepped onto the stern platform. The plane moved away then and the engine stopped. I can’t remember the exact words they said to each other. Mr. Barley seemed anxious about whether Tuck had brought “it.” He was nervous about being seen with Tuck. And he didn’t want to sit down when Tuck asked him. When Tuck said he’d brought along only half, Mr. Barley was angry. He didn’t want to go through with it. He said it was too risky. Tuck told him that he had half of it aboard, in hundreds. And I guess that was when he gave it to Mr. Barley. They talked about risk and whether it would work out or wouldn’t work out, and if Barley would give the money back if it didn’t. That was just Tuck’s way, teasing and shoving.

I do remember some of the words Tuck used. He said, “You are going to make damn well sure the U.S. Attorney’s Office fumbles the ball real good when we come to trial.” And Mr. Barley said he was going to try to do it, but it wasn’t easy.

Then Tuck called me and I came out and Tuck introduced us. Mr. Barley jumped up and he got so white and sweaty I thought he was going to faint. He was furious. Tuck told him he didn’t have to worry about me. Barley said he hadn’t wanted to worry about anybody but Tuck. Tuck said he had two people to worry about, Barley and his pilot. Barley said the pilot was his brother-in-law. Tuck said so the brother-in-law talks to his wife, and Barley said his sister had fallen and hit her head and she was in a coma and had been for a year and a half. And that’s why they needed the money. Tuck said that made him feel better about Barley, knowing he didn’t want the money so he could take it to Vegas or Atlantic City.

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