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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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"And you used a camera—"

"Only to make a point," Kurtz snapped. "Only to show them what could be done." Abruptly he shoved me away and launched into a pacing rant against the magazine, the corporate pollution of modern culture, the Knicks' anemic transition defense and so on. He spoke in a brilliant, ferocious torrent that I would eagerly recount if only I hadn't been diverted by one of the mandrills foraging in the pockets of my trousers. By the time I'd routed the tick-infested bastard, Kurtz's tirade had unspooled into a soulful encomium about figs, of all things—specifically, a strain of black Turkish fig that thrives in an obscure valley north of Bursa.

On and on Kurtz rambled while the storm's harmless eye glided over us and away. Soon the skies darkened again, the baboons began to snort restlessly, and even Uvula abandoned her sphinxlike serenity and grabbed a robe and a shower cap. The crystal stillness was fracturing, yet Kurtz took no notice. "Figs!" he shouted. "Nothing in nature except women are so perfect!"

It was the very headwater of his madness, this exotic fruit fixation, and only one explanation seemed to fit.

"They kicked back one of your expense reports, didn't they? Dooney and Klein finally jerked your chain!"

Sure enough, Kurtz erupted anew. Although much of what he said was muffled by the hurricane's oncoming roar, I was able to piece together enough to ascertain his motive, dark as it was. Apparently the ravishing Uvula had developed a somewhat gluttonous affection for the rare black figs, so Kurtz had gallantly ordered 10 kilograms online and then chartered a jet to transport them from Istanbul to Nassau. The $27,000 invoice had been sent cold to Dooney, who had bounced it to Kurtz's accountant with a note that Kurtz found lacking in sensitivity.

"So this is your revenge!" I shouted at him. "You're gonna screw them out of a cover."

"Not just any cover."

"Did you break the news to Nora? I'll bet she's anticipating an audience somewhat larger than two."

"She trusts me!" Kurtz hollered. "And please don't call her Nora. I had a nurse at hockey camp named Nora, and the memories are not good."

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