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John Lutz: Tropical Heat {Excerpt}

John Lutz: Tropical Heat {Excerpt}

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
Forced into early retirement by a bullet to the knee, ex-cop Fred Carver undertakes a missing persons case that quickly places him in mortal danger.
Forced into early retirement by a bullet to the knee, ex-cop Fred Carver undertakes a missing persons case that quickly places him in mortal danger.

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Jun 04, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/29/2013

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CHAPTER 1
 A CANE WAS NO good for walking on sand. It penetrated to different levels andcaused tentativeness. When Carver got to within a hundred feet of the surf, thecane’s tip made soft sucking sounds and water appeared in the round holes it leftin the sand. A shallow, curved depression shaped like a comma angled forwardfrom each hole, from where Carver levered the cane ahead of him to support his weight for his next step.He was beyond the sloping narrow finger of land that jutted toward the sea, blocking vision from the north and making his section of beach usually more orless private. Now he could see about a dozen sunbathers lounging along the beach. Carver reached the surf and used the cane for support to lower himself awkwardly to a sitting position. He glanced to his right along the arc of pale sandand array of tanned bodies. There were more people than usual at the beach thatday, worshiping a tropical sun that was as fierce and uncompromising as it had been when paid homage as an ancient god. It was odd how the sea’s bright edgedrew people, Carver mused. It called to them, as it had called to him after hisinjury.He sat for a while on the beach, feeling the cold water lap at his bare lower legs, while the late morning sun heated up his face and chest. The sky was clear thatday, and the Atlantic was very blue and calm, sporting no whitecaps until it rolledin near the shore and curled forward to break into foam and run gently up ontothe beach. A large ship, a tanker, was visible far offshore; nearer in, but still faraway, a few white fishing boats bobbed. From off to his right Carver could hearthe distant voices of children playing a running game on the beach: a shout, thenshrill, uncontrolled laughter. Carver wondered how it would feel to laugh withthat kind of abandon. The north beach, to his left, was too rocky for sunbathers orswimmers and was deserted. The breaking sea was noisier from that direction.He waited for a particularly large swell and timed it right. Before the wave brokeonto the beach, Carver tossed the cane back a few feet, leaned to his right, turnedover, and used his arms and good leg to propel himself toward the onrushingsurf. He grunted and slithered backward on his chest and stomach into the wave,seeking its depths, so that when it withdrew from the shore with its tons of reversed momentum, it would pull him with it toward the sea. The maneuveralways reminded Carver of evolution in reverse.The wave claimed him and carried him into shallow water over a hundred feetfrom shore. His stiff leg didn’t matter so much now; he could stand up and lurchforward into the oncoming swells, using the pressure of his palms against the
 
 
 water to help support his body, which was so much lighter when partially submerged. He continued moving toward the open sea, toward its vastimplacability and peace. Sometimes he wondered what it would be like to keepmoving in that direction, toward oblivion. But he didn’t dwell on the idea. Hedidn’t think of himself as the suicidal type. In fact, he considered himself to be just the opposite; a survivor, that was Carver. Because he could do whatever wasnecessary. He’d proved it more than a few times. He was proving it now. Every day.For an instant he thought of Laura. But only for an instant. He diverted his mindfrom Laura in the same way he did from the vast magnetism of the ocean’shorizon.In deeper water, when he began to swim, the stiff leg didn’t matter at all.It was why he loved the sea.This was his therapy. Here, he thought, kicking easily from the hips and strokingparallel to the shore, he was as mobile as the next person. And with his increasedlung capacity and his long, powerful arms, he was faster and stronger than most.He stroked harder, reached out farther, rotating his head rhythmically to the leftto breathe, in a smooth Australian crawl, and veered east against the swells.Carver had been swimming off the shore there every morning for the past twomonths; he knew exactly how far out to go before turning back. When he felt the strain on his thighs and arms, and the dull ache pulsing deep inhis chest, he rolled onto his back and floated for several minutes, his eyes closedto the hot, bright sun. It felt good to be tired and winded, exhausted but all the way alive. This was his moment, his fought-for measure of contentment.“Mr. Carver! . . .”The distant feminine voice pierced his consciousness like a sharp, thin wire. Herolled over and began treading water. A woman was standing on the beach, his beach, calling to him. She must haveknown it was him because of the cane on the sand, and because there was noother swimmer in sight. Despite the heat, she was dressed in dark clothing, whatappeared to be a matching skirt and blazer. Poised with her hands on her hips,she was staring out at him in a patient, waiting attitude.Carver didn’t feel like talking to anyone. He rolled onto his back again andcontinued floating, hoping the woman would take the hint and leave.She didn’t seem to think he’d heard her.

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