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I pulled myself together for the lie. "The last word he pronounced was your name."
"Which one," she said, brow furrowing, "Uvula or Nora?"
"Both," I answered solemnly.
"That's it? Nothing about a duplicate disk stashed in some clever place...?"
"No," I said, "nothing but your name—sorry, names."
The sympathy in my reply was earnest, the deception merciful. In his final utterance Kurtz had not mentioned the woman whose ethereal pose drove him to that deadly precipice.
Here is what he'd whispered to me: "The figs are in my camera bag."
And they were delectable. Those bite-sized Turkish delicacies sustained the former Ms. Schoendienst and myself until the storm passed. I feel no duty to divulge the details of those intimate fig-gorged hours by the fire, except to report that in rooting through Kurtz's camera bag we found another surprise: a camera.
It was a Nikon D1H, one of the new digitals. By dawn, when the sky cleared, we were setting up at the old banyan tree—Uvula and I—gamely attempting to re-create that extraordinary blink in time that Kurtz had so luminously captured, then lost.
She wore the same sheer sea-mist bikini, the same platinum skull pin in her navel. What was missing from the shot were the derby-sporting mandrill, the once-in-a-lifetime welcome in Uvula's eyes...and Kurtz, of course.