8

The applause was more than polite, but by no means overwhelming. Wearing a conservative navy suit, Kurtzen strode to the podium and into Calderone’s embrace, a hug that went beyond collegial friendship. Was something going on between them? He called her his soul mate. Ed made a mental note to ask Dar. Then Calderone faded into the shadows and Kurtzen stepped to the podium. Ed could not believe his eyes. Ted was actually sharing the spotlight.

“It’s time the magazine world took committed couples seriously!” Kurtzen exclaimed. She was a petite woman with a rich alto that went down like cognac. “The men’s magazines portray women as playthings to be used.”

Ed’s eyes met Julie’s. Both their jaws dropped. This was a direct attack on
Full Disclosure—and kurtzen’s new boss (and possible lover).

“Meanwhile,” she continued, “women’s magazines portray men as problems to be managed.”

Another shared look. Kurtzen was slitting her wrists. No matter how many ads the premier issue of
Loving Couple had, it was still a new magazine. The odds were against it. If it went down, Kurtzen would want to return to the world of her resumé. But the women’s magazines were a small sorority and the sisters who did the hiring had long memories for public slights.

Loving Couple is very different,” Kurtzen proclaimed, warming to the task. “Loving Couple knows that both men and women want loving, committed, sexually exciting relationships. That’s why Ted Calderone and I have designed Loving Couple to stand on three solid editorial pillars: Enhancement of committed relationships. Fearless investigative reporting. And fine-art erotic photography.”

Now the applause was more enthusiastic with scattered cheers.

“Many of you know that last year, I was fired as the editor in chief of a major women’s magazine for reasons that were not made public. My severance agreement specified that I could not discuss my dismissal for twelve months. That year is up and the gag is off. Ladies and gentlemen, I was fired because I wanted to publish a groundbreaking investigation of a problem that should concern every woman, every man, every couple on the planet. My former employer killed that article. He was terrified that it would shock readers, offend advertisers, and get the magazine sued by the corporate criminal named in the piece. The fact is, my former employer was
a coward.”

Around the ballroom, people gasped. Kurtzen’s former employer was the billionaire CEO of a huge publishing empire, a man with notoriously thin skin and a famous vindictive streak.

“She’s pouring gasoline on her career,” Ed spoke into Julie’s ear, “and lighting a match.”

Julie nodded.

“My former employer was convinced that no other magazine would touch this story, that no one in the news media would either. But he didn’t reckon with the publishing industry’s
most courageous man. He didn’t reckon with Ted Calderone. Today the article that got me fired is the first of many explosive investigations Ted and I have planned for Loving Couple.”

The one about breast milk, Ed realized.

“For infant health,” a suddenly radiant Kurtzen exclaimed, “every expert agrees, breast milk is best.
. But since World War II, breast milk has come with nasty extras—rising levels of toxic pollutants. These chemicals accumulate in fatty tissues such as breast tissue, which is how they get into mothers’ milk.”

Ed glanced around the room. Eyes widened, including Julie’s, especially Kim’s.

“The first pollutant to appear in breast milk—in the 1950s—was DDE, a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT. DDT was banned in 1972, but DDE is still with us. It’s extremely persistent in the environment—and in breast tissue. Mothers born after the ban continue to pass it to their children—even today—because
their mothers passed it to them.”

Julie pursed her lips. Ed knew what she was thinking:
What have I done to Sonya?

“Breast milk also contains polychlorinated biphenyls—PCBs—linked to an increased risk of cancer. PCBs were banned in 1977 but continue to pollute breast milk because they, too, are very persistent. In a recent study, 99 percent of American breast milk samples contained PCBs—and 25 percent contained concentrations so high, that if they were found in cow’s milk, selling it would be
illegal.”

Kim hugged her belly and looked horrified. Julie reached for her hand.

“Today, American breast milk also contains many other toxic chemicals, including heptachlor, chlordane, dioxin, and particularly high levels of EE-Radik-8, currently the nation’s most widely used pesticide. Its maker, Zellinex Corporation, of Baton Rouge, claims that EE-Radik-8 decomposes into harmless compounds within seventy-two hours and can’t possibly pollute soil, water, or anything else. But for this month’s
Loving Couple Special Investigation, we tested the breast milk of two hundred nursing mothers from Maine to San Diego. Guess how many of them had EE-Radik-8 levels higher than what the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows in food. All of them—100 percent. Our study is not the only one. French, Australian, and Brazilian scientists have found EE-Radik-8 in breast milk at levels exceeding what the World Health Organization considers safe. Meanwhile, Zellinex denies that EE-Radik-8 gets into in breast milk.”

No wonder Kurtzen’s former boss flipped, Ed thought. Toxic breast milk is frightening. It might distract readers from the advertising. And the article had law suit written all over it. Sure, truth is a complete defense. But it can take tens of millions of dollars and several years to prove that what you published was true.

“The immune factors in breast milk bolster infants’ resistance to infection,” Kurtzen continued. “But recent studies show that the pollutants in breast milk negate this protection. Danish researchers have found that when breast milk contains EE-Radik-8 at levels typical in the United States, babies’ risk of sudden infant death
doubles.”

Kim looked panicked. Tim slipped an arm around her.

“Nonetheless,” Kurtzen said, “mother’s milk is
still the best nourishment for babies—better than formula or cow’s milk, which are contaminated with these same pollutants plus hormones and antibiotics. But breast milk is not as good for infants as it used to be or should be. Why does our government continue to allow the world’s most vulnerable citizens to be exposed to pollutants associated with serious health problems? And why does Zellinex continue to deny that EE-Radik-8 taints the world’s most precious food? For the answers, read this month’s Loving Couple Special Investigation.”

All around Ed, people began flipping pages.

“Fortunately,” Kurtzen went on, “it’s possible to clean up breast milk. This month
Loving Couple reveals how nursing mothers can protect their infants. Furthermore, in countries that have banned these pollutants, their levels in breast milk have fallen—not to zero, but substantially. Every pollutant in breast milk should be banned immediately. And we’re launching an email petition drive to do exactly that.”

For a moment the Grand Ballroom was silent. Then, a few people began to applaud. Then more. And suddenly, the room exploded in thunderous cheers.

Kurtzen scanned the room and smiled. She had poise, Ed thought. She held up her hands, and the room quieted down.

“Now,” she said, “I would like to introduce the courageous author of this astonishing investigation, a man who has received
death threats for pursuing this story. Please put your hands together for Ira Grubman!”

A short, fat, balding man with a mischievous twinkle in his eye waddled to the podium to enthusiastic applause.

“I have three things to say,” Grubman boomed. “First, I want to thank Valerie Kurtzen and Ted Calderone for believing me when so many others in the news media didn’t. Second, every word of my story is true. And third, to whoever has been threatening me: You don’t scare me. We’re going to clean up breast milk! And
Loving Couple is leading the way!”

Kurtzen ushered him offstage to deafening applause.

Then Calderone returned to the spotlight and touted
Loving Couple’s erotic photography, as the screen behind him replayed the earlier imagesr: the couple in Barbados, the couple in silhouette, and the exploration of tenderness in front of the tube. Calderone called the magazine’s photos “antiporn.” He claimed he was fed up with pornography, that it was one boring crotch shot after another, with all the men buffed and impossibly huge, and all the women surgically enhanced and impossibly perfect. Loving Couple wouldn’t shy away from nudity, he insisted, far from it, but the magazine’s photography would include all body types and emphasize love, sensuality, and the erotic imagination.

Then Calderone introduced the two couples whose flesh adorned the premier issue. They both said that some folks back home might not approve, but that they were deeply in love, enjoyed exhilarating sex, and didn’t care who knew it or saw them, especially when the photographs were so artistic.

“Brilliant concept!” Julie gushed as Calderone walked off to thunderous applause. “Articles aimed at women that men can get into, with photography aimed at men that doesn’t offend women. Why hasn’t anyone done this before?”

“I just can’t believe that Ted Calderone could create a sex magazine women would want to read,” Ed said.

“Well, I want to read it,” Julie retorted, “and like he said, it’s not just his baby. I give Kurtzen a lot of credit.”

“Would you have it on
our coffee table?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Well, Sonya.”

“Hey, the pictures are tamer than a zillion images she can find on the Internet. And it’s about enhancing relationships. That’s good.”

Yes, that was good, Ed concurred. Then a centipede of fear crawled up his spine. Would
their relationship last? He fervently hoped so, but for the first time in a long time, he wasn’t sure.