John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“What people?”

“Now I wouldn’t know that, would I? I mean, it’s not as if I gave anybody any orders. Hell, I never got to know you real well, Wade, but I know you enough to realize that bumping you around would just turn you into more of a nuisance than you were already.”

“Who do you think did it?”

“Did exactly what? Let’s be careful here.”

“Killed Bern.”

“I think it was those Mex kids that come along at the right time to take the car. He was hurt some and they finished him off.”

“Okay, who do you think hurt him some?”

“I couldn’t be sure of that. I had one man took off sudden, but he could have had other reasons. I wouldn’t want to say. All I can say is that if any of my people had anything to do with it, I want to tell you how sorry I am. Bern was a big loss to me personally, as I know he was to you. At the funeral there I tried to get through the crowd to tell you that, but you were gone before I could get to you.”

“I made sure I was gone before you could get to me. I wasn’t sure of what I’d do or try to do if you tried to speak to me. And I still don’t know what I’m doing talking to you at all.”

“Did Bern tell you about the future plans for Parklands?”

“I remember him telling me that if you lost out on the case due to anything I did, you were going to make sure that no bank in this area would ever touch a real estate deal where this agency was involved.”

Tucker laughed and shook his head. “You had to be there, Wade. Hell, I get mad quick and I get over it quick. I say things before I think. And Bern, you know, he tended to be edgy. Nervous about things. About money and all.”

“And you’re not?”

“If you think too hard about money, it stays away from you. I think about projects, how things are going to look.”

“Why are you here? What do you want?”

“Just to clear the air. That’s all. I’m human. It bothers me to have somebody hating me because they don’t get the whole picture. You and me, whether you can believe this or not, we could work together pretty good. One of these days I’d like to listen to how you’d plan out my extra acreage at Parklands, and how you’d handle the sale of it.”

“For God’s sake, Tuck!”

“Now don’t jump too fast. There’s a lot of money out there for the both of us. You’ve got a good head on you. And ”

“Hold it a minute! Let me think this out so I will be able to say it just right. Now I think I’ve got it. I want to make sure you understand me. I will not go into any kind of business relationship with you, ever. I will never eat at a table with you. I will never walk down a street with you. I will never shake your hand. For all practical purposes, to me you are just as dead as Bern.”

For a moment something seemed to move behind Tucker’s eyes, something cold, ancient, reptilian. And then he got up and walked out and closed the door gently behind him. The Lincoln moved away without a sound.

Boob Davis arrived at twenty to six just as Wade was setting the security system. He arrived in a rental Pontiac and told Wade he’d asked Tuck to drop him off, and he said he wanted to talk for a few minutes. Maybe they could talk in his car.

SoJWade got into the rental, into a smell of newness and cigars. He had known Boob most of his life, liked him, did not think he wanted to trust the man. Boob was that rare bird, a man so likeable that some other men were wary of him.

“Well, you didn’t exactly make a close buddy for life,” Boob said.

“And you’re here to fix the damage?”

“Shit, no! It can’t be fixed and you don’t want it fixed.”

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Categories: John D MacDonald