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.