Free Scorcher by John Lutz

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Authors: John Lutz
as you can gather,” she said, “my mother’s less than enthusiastic about me marrying Joel. Not that it will stop us.”
    Carver decided not to try to stop them either.
    “Joel Dewitt,” Adam explained. “He’s a car dealer in Fort Lauderdale who’s just asked Nadine to marry him.” Kave didn’t seem to have any strong pro or con opinion about the upcoming nuptials. Maybe he was one of those wise ones who didn’t worry about what they couldn’t change.
    “Why doesn’t your mother like Dewitt?” Carver asked Nadine.
    “You’d have to ask her, but it wouldn’t do you any good. Elana has never come out with a direct answer to that question. Because she doesn’t have one.”
    “So there’s Dewitt,” Carver said, as if making mental notes. “Not yet a family member, but almost.”
    “And there’s Emmett,” Nadine said.
    “We don’t usually talk of Emmett in this house, Mr. Carver. He’s my older brother. I wish he weren’t. We haven’t gotten along for years.”
    “But Paul and Emmett got along,” Nadine said, “when Paul was younger. I don’t think they’ve seen each other for a while. Emmett lives in Kissimmee.” Kissimmee was a small town in central Florida, less than two hundred miles from the Fort Lauderdale area, but only a matter of a few hours or so on Florida’s Turnpike, where it seemed everyone drove over seventy.
    “Paul have any close friends he might contact?” Carver asked.
    “None, I’m afraid,” Adam said glumly. “The boy’s always played the loner.”
    “I’d like to see Paul’s lab,” Carver said, standing up out of the soft leather sofa and leaning on his cane.
    “I’ll go out to the lab with you,” Adam said, standing also. “There are some things I’d like to tell you privately.”
    He started for a door at the far end of the room, walking fast. Was he doing that deliberately?
    Carver limped after him, twisting his body to glance back and catch Nadine’s reaction to being shut out of the conversation.
    But Nadine was already striding from the room, her thighs and buttocks working powerfully beneath the silky white slacks.
    Carver followed Adam Kave out past a veranda and a large, screened swimming pool, along a path lined with junglelike foliage and the perfumed scent of blossoms, toward a garage the size of an average house.
    The rolling surf sighed louder as they made their way in the direction of the sea. A gull screamed and a private helicopter thrashed its way across the blue sky above the sun-touched ocean. In the shade of the palm fronds, Carver felt sheltered and temporarily at peace.
    He wondered what it would be like to grow up in a place like this. His own childhood had been lower middle class, with a father probably not much more sensitive to his youth and yearnings than Adam seemed to have been toward Paul’s. What had it been like here for Paul? It would help Carver to get a feel for that, to learn how to think like Paul—if such a thing was possible.
    “This is a rough time for us,” Adam Kave said in his gravelly voice. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your kindness and help, Mr. Carver. Are you a religious man?”
    “No, there’s too much of that in Florida.”
    “Well, I go to church regularly, and somehow God seems to supply what’s needed in crises like this.”
    Carver didn’t answer as he followed Kave along the winding stone path toward bright sunlight and blue sky and ocean.
    For an uneasy moment he felt like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Putting another one over on Adam.

Chapter 10
    A STEEP EXTERIOR FLIGHT of white steel stairs rose like a prehistoric, fleshless spinal column in a museum, to a landing and the top floor of the gray stucco carriage house. Carver could think of the carriage house only as a garage with a room over it. His plebeian background showing. The stucco was cracked and sloppily patched here and there, and grasping green vines had made it halfway up the wall beneath the stairs. He

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