As I stepped off the plane on Abaco, a wet clinging heat sucked the breath from my lungs; August in the Bahamas. I cabbed it to a local marina and rented an 18-foot Whaler. It came with a sweat-stained navigational chart, and it took me no more than an hour to figure out north from south. After that it was a simple matter of locating my destination: a remote cross-shaped islet called Litigation Cay. It was here that Kurtz had been sent to photograph the swimsuit cover, and it was here, on a flat-calm afternoon, that I docked the Whaler and began my search. The hotel was called Lonely Palms—colonially appointed and scandalously priced. Oddly, I seemed to be the only civilian in the lobby.
"Everyone else bugged out, mon," the desk clerk confirmed as he scrutinized my credit card.
"It's American Express," I said helpfully.
"So it is. I didn't know they made green ones."
He was dressed like an extra on The Love Boat, pressed white shorts and a starched white shirt with epaulets. When I asked why the other guests had departed, he mumbled something about "bad stuff comin.' "
"Oh, please. That front is hundreds of miles away and barely moving." I'd caught the CNN weather report during my layover at Miami International. A puny tropical depression was gimping around the Caribbean.
For the third time the clerk swiped my Amex. He said, "It's not the front that scared 'em off, mon."
"Sign here, Mr. Maxwell. Have a pleasant stay."
I made certain he noticed the camera bag. "Where can I find Mr. Kurtz? We're supposed to be working on a shoot together."