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Your best friend is dying a slow and humiliating death. What happens if you plan to murder him? What happens if you want to marry his wife? Where, for your own sake, do you draw the line between an act of love and a cimre of passion?
Every fall Chris Mackensie and Larry Quinn go duck hunting. This year's hunt, however, is like no other, for Larry is terminally ill and while they are in the marshes Chris plans to stage an accident that will be a mask for murder. But there are many things Chris doubts, including his ability to kill another man and whether that man's wife will marry him.
The Love Hunter is, most assuredly, a novel of suspense; but it is far more than that. In beautiful, straightforward prose, filled with startling descriptions of both nature and human feeling, Jon Hassler has written a novel of love, of friendship, and of throughly decent people caught by circumstances they cannot control.
At the appointed time--sunrise--Chris arrived at the Quinns' house. in his mint-green Chevrolet. He stopped at the curb under the giant elm and saw the front door open and Larry come shuffling out into the sparkling, rain-soaked morning. Before dawn a thunderstorm had drenched the city, stripping the trees of half their golden leaves and opening this yard to sunlight where yesterday there had been shadow. Larry blinked. His movements were tentative. His face was an oval of ivory and his pale, wispy hair, what remained of it, lifted in the breeze. His brown eyes were dark and damaging; even from this distance they pierced Chris's heart.
Behind Larry came Rachel in her blue robe. She laid a hand lightly on her husband's shoulder and the two of them moved slowly along the short walk as Chris stepped around the car to open Larry's door and then stood under the dripping elm watching them--watching her--approach. This was Rachel the actress, Rachel the jogger, Rachel the woman of compassion and quick moves and brimming good nature. In the sun she was radiant. She, too, pierced Chris's heart, but not with sorrow or pity or whatever it was that Larry inflicted; when Chris looked at Rachel he was shot through with joy. And longing. Against the ivy clinging thickly to the front of the house--ivy darkening from green to rust--Rachel's sunlit hair was the--color of fire.
"A perfect morning," said Chris.
"Yes," they said together, she making a chirp of it, Larry a groan.
Smiling, she took Chris's hand for an instant, squeezed it; then as Chris helped Larry into the car she folded shut the walker and put it into the back seat.
"I'll get his things," she said, returning to the house.
"This is all nonsense," said Larry. He sat on the passenger side of the front seat like a small boy acting prim, his legs tight together, his hands folded on his knees. Except when he fell asleep in a chair, his sitting posture was always stiff, as though he feared relaxing into pain. He looked up from under the bill of his brown corduroy cap. His eyes were murky, his nose bony and pointed, his smile slightly bilious. "This is all nonsense and, mind you, I'm going only because we're both agreed that it's all nonsense."
Chris, standing with one foot in the leafy gutter, stooped to roll down the window. He shut the door. "But on the other hand," he said through the window, "it might be the hunt of a lifetime."
Larry said, "How exciting." At the sides of Larry's mouth the muscles designed for sarcasm-lemon-sucking muscles-were well developed; they brought down the corners of his smile, tightening it. "How utterly exciting."
Chris said, "Don't go away," and as he turned to follow Rachel, he met a paperboy, who handed him the Quinns' copy of the Rookery Morning Call, which was lumpy with moisture. Going up the walk, he scanned the front page-Thursday, October 4, 1979: three thousand Soviet troops in Cuba; sunshine in the forecast; a sea of spilled oil washing up on the beaches of Texas; the Pope and his cardinals flying to Iowa to say mass on a farm; Gene Autry and his Angels flying to Baltimore for the playoffs.
In the living room Larry's hunting gear was heaped in front of the cold fireplace. Rachel, avoiding Chris's eyes, opened the bulging duffel bag and lifted out the shaving kit containing Larry's medicine. "This is the pill he takes for pain, and this one whenever his head aches."
She sorted through the shaving equipment with her large, nimble hands, her nails painted blood-red. She drew out a string of eight or ten capsules pressed between foil and clear plastic. "And this is Ayrozil-one each day. Unless he get depressed-then two."
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