A clawing silence settled upon us. Then, out of nowhere, Ricks started twittering about money. "Swimsuit is the single most profitable product in the history of magazine publishing. Last year's ad revenues hit $30 million, not including calendars, DVDs and bobbleheads." He paused to savor my reaction, then added, "Just so you comprehend what's at stake."
The depressing truth was, I'd worked for decent newspapers that couldn't sell $30 million worth of advertising in a year. "Why not just forget about Kurtz?" I said. "Pick another shot for the cover."
Ricks's bloodless lips barely moved. "Not possible."
Klein jumped in. "Listen. Kurtz got the shot of his career. We know this for a fact. One of those magical lightning bolts, those heavenly groin tinglers that come along once a decade—Cheryl in the fishnet, Daniela with the body paint...." Klein's face was glowing with excitement. "We're talking iconic, Jimmy, and that sonofabitch nailed it."
"But how can you be sure?"
"It's been seen. The photograph has been seen," Klein replied elliptically.
Dooney cleared his throat. "We have it on good authority that he's been shooting digital."
Now it made sense. Kurtz was able to view his work immediately and edit on the spot. "So he downloads to his laptop," I said, "and from there to a diskette?"
"Bingo," said Dooney. "And we want it."
Across the table, Ricks fidgeted like an incontinent weasel. "Well? Well? Do we have a deal?"