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Tart of Darkness
Carl Hiaasen
February 18, 2003
A crazed photographer has kidnapped a beautiful model and the hottest swimsuit cover in history. It's a perilous job for the man sent to retrieve them, one that tests the limits of his sanity...and his expense account
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February 18, 2003

Tart Of Darkness

A crazed photographer has kidnapped a beautiful model and the hottest swimsuit cover in history. It's a perilous job for the man sent to retrieve them, one that tests the limits of his sanity...and his expense account

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She didn't struggle as I untied her, nor did she resist when I took her in my arms to shield her from the weather. She wasn't quite so willing, however, to let my tongue dart up and down her neck in the random manner of a wounded gecko. Unfortunately, my sheepish apology went unheard because the wind was screaming from the basement of hell, and branches began splintering over our heads. Instinctively I pulled Uvula to the ground and threw my body across hers—an act of valor that apparently was misinterpreted. A smartly upraised knee left me writhing like an eel in the sand, and for the second time on this journey I found myself clutching with both hands at the fragile seeds of my own mortality.

By the time the pain abated, a dead prickly silence had enveloped the island. The rain and wind had ceased as abruptly as if a switch had been thrown in the heavens—it was the eye of the hurricane, a calm as fleeting as it was dreamlike.

A pelota-sized coconut dinged off my head, and I heard a jovial roar: "Rise and shine, schmucko!"

What I noticed first were two sets of battery-powered lights, blazing through the bleak haze. Milling around the weighted tripods were more hefty mandrills, their fur matted and their florid buttocks caked with sand. Beyond them, stretched out like a panther waiting on the rocks, was Uvula. She wore a guava-colored tankini and a necklace of pearl-colored cowries that glistened in the lights.

In the center of the misted panorama loomed Kurtz, smirking like a piper. "I love the smell of Lycra in the morning," he said. "It smells like-"

"Yeah, yeah," I said. "Where's your camera?"

He raised his ropey arms to the heavens and laughed. "Cameras are for vulgarians!"

When I told him he was mad, he seized me with a strength that seemed impossible for a man of his rangy build. Struggling in his grasp, I had as much hope of pulling free as a puppy caught by a python. Thrusting his jaw in my face, Kurtz said, "What is a photograph, anyway, but a capricious blink in time? Look over there and what do you see—a breathtaking woman in a breathtaking place on a breathtaking day. The sight of her will remain with you forever, no? The art is in the moment, Jimmy, not in the machine."

"But that picture," I said, "the one you showed me...."

"Oh, yes. It's magnificent." His tone was matter-of-fact.

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