John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“What the hell was on his mind anyway?”

“You’re not that dumb, Wade. Ol’ Tuck, he’s feeling a little slippage here and there. He wants to snuggle up to respectability, that’s all. He’s been stroking people all day, made a few points here and there. Struck out a lot too.”

“So what do you want?”

“Put you in a mood, didn’t he? Hey, this is old Boob Davis here talking to his old fishing buddy.”

“Old fishing buddy, you work for a man I despise. I don’t trust him and that means I can’t trust you either. He sucked Bern in and threw him away. So if you’ve got a point to make, you better stop stalling. I’ve got to get home.”

“This isn’t the right time or place but I got the feeling it is the only time and place I am going to get. I don’t have to tell you what I’ve been doing. I’ve been putting together deals for Tuck for a lot of years now. Chasing them down. Sweet-talking them out of their hidey-holes. Real good money and lots of fun.”

“You going to quit?”

“I just don’t know yet. Let me say that it’s a possibility. A couple of things have happened that I feel kinda strange about. And somehow they seem to come up in conversation here and there. They are the kind of things that when people talk about them, then you start to get this slippage I talked about. And a man like Tuck, you give that kind of a man too much slippage, he hasn’t got the patience to wait it out and build back. He wants to do something right now, and he could get so upset it could be a real dumb thing. You follow?”

“Yes I do. You after advice?”

“Not exactly. You know, I kid around. I get a lot of laughs. I’m good old Boob Davis. But in my own way I make things happen.”

“I know you do.”

“And I make pretty good guesses. My guess right now is that when somebody starts to cut down the tree I’m roosting in, I want to have another tree in mind. Like for example I see how many shares in your candy store one hundred big ones will buy, and then as a minority shareholder, I smoke out deals for Rowley/Gibbs, no salary, just commission. I’ve got a broker’s license, you know. Don’t get to use it.”

“Talk to me next week.”

“Is there any chance at all?”

“Of buying in? None. Of any other arrangement? A very small maybe. It would depend on… a lot of things.”

“With Tuck, I was never into any of the real gummy stuff.”

“I believe you.”

“And you’ve already forgot I talked to you like this.”

“Sure have,” Wade said, getting out of the car.

year ago they had moved the regular poker session to a special card room Tuck had built onto the east wing of the Parklands Golf and Country Club.

They met at the bar between eight and eight-thirty on Saturday nights and broke up about twelve-thirty. It was usually an interesting game but not a big money game. It was table stakes, pot limit, a dollar ante. There were usually seven, sometimes six, and each man started with fifty dollars in chips. If he went broke he could put up another fifty between deals, but not during a hand.

Tucker Loomis was at the bar at quarter to eight. He’d finished half a drink when a call came in and Timmy the bartender put the phone in front of him. It was Woody Daggs. “Hey, Tuck? Look, old buddy, I won’t be able to make it tonight. Something came up. And Sam asked me to tell you to count him out too.”

“That cuts it down to five. Makes it kind of tight.”

“Well, I’m real sorry about that. But you know how it goes. Some days you can’t make a dime.”

At eight o’clock it was a call from Warner. “Awful goddamn sorry, Tuck, but I got to cancel out tonight. Sorry to be so late letting you know. There’s something I have to straighten out, down in town.”

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Categories: John D MacDonald