Perfect, Part II
By Annazon Fox (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(All disclaimers and content warnings appear at the beginning of Part I)
"There are no matches in our facial recognition software," the
woman on the computer screen said, later that night. "But I'm
sending you my rendering of the suspect right now."
A drawing of a man popped up on the screen. He was white with brown hair and eyes. These seemed to be nothing particularly distinguishing about him.
Amidst our empty coffee cups, we all seemed to collectively slump a little.
"Thank you, Angela," Brennan said. She turned to the rest of us. "What now?"
"I get us a warrant to round up every man who looks like that," Alex said, shortly.
"You can do that?" Brennan said.
"I was kidding, Tempe," Alex said.
I would have snickered, but I felt the frustration in the room. The DNA we had from the crime scene didn't match anyone in our database and the best clue we had was a drawing of a man who someone had seen in costume.
"Oh," Brennan said.
"It's late," Booth said. "We're all tired. We've been working on this case late into the night for the past two days. Let's get some rest and start early tomorrow, okay?"
"You're right," I said.
Standing up, I made eye contact with Alex and raised my eyebrows.
She nodded and rose.
"Meet back here at 8 a.m.?" I asked the group.
"Yep," Booth said.
Alex and I turned toward the door.
"If I was working with those two hotties, I wouldn't be back in DC yet either," I heard Angela say from the computer screen as I shut the door behind us.
Alex and I walked silently down the darkened hallway.
"How are you holding up?" I finally asked her.
"Things have been better, actually," she said. "How about you?"
"Trying to stay focused," I said.
"Right," Alex said.
We walked the rest of the way in silence, until we approached her car.
"Well, there I am," she said, pulling her keys out of her coat.
I turned toward her and risked putting a hand at her elbow.
"Alex, I... I'm sorry for the other day. In your office..."
"It was a lapse in judgment," she said, tiredly. "That's all."
"The whole thing?" I asked. "Or the fact that I bolted?"
She turned to me. Taking off her glasses, she rubbed the bridge of her nose.
"The whole thing," she said.
She walked to her car door.
"Oh," I said.
She didn't elaborate.
"What 'whole thing' are you talking about?" I asked.
We stopped walking at her car.
"Maybe we can't handle this," she said. "Working together and... being together."
I put my hands in my pockets and looked away.
"This sounds like the beginning of a break-up speech," I said.
She put her glasses back on.
"I don't know, Liv," she said. "I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what you're doing. Or what you're thinking..."
"Communication works both ways..."
"Exactly," she said, laughing shortly.
I didn't say anything.
"I'm going to go," she said.
"Alex, wait," I said, reaching out to touch her arm again.
She turned to face me. When she leaned forward, toward me, I gently drew her close. Our foreheads touching, we stayed like that for a few moments, just breathing. My hands were around her waist, holding her, as her hands were at my arms.
"Just give me some time," she whispered. "At least overnight. Whatever I decide, whatever we decide, we shouldn't drag it out."
"Fine," I said, feeling the color drain from my face. "Sure."
She quickly kissed the corner of my mouth and got into her car. While I stood there reeling, she drove away.
My phone rang. I had fallen asleep on my couch, trying to distract myself with old episodes of Murder, She Wrote. I reached out my hand toward the coffee table. Knocking over my cup of water, I cursed, and fumbled for my phone.
"This is Benson," I said, flipping it open. The digital screen said 4:12 a.m.
"Liv..." her voice whispered.
"Alex?" I said, springing upright. Something was off in her voice.
"I think someone is here," I said. "Trying to get in."
"Alex," I said. "I'm coming. Stay on the line with me, okay?"
Grabbing my gun and throwing on some shoes and the first clothes I found in my closet, I bolted out the door and into my car.
"He's getting sloppy," Huang said, at Alex's apartment. "So close to his goal, his sexual compulsion is likely overwhelming him."
I stood, staring numbly out the window into the early morning light.
"His 'goal'?" Elliot asked.
After I had arrived at Alex's apartment and found it empty, with signs of force used to open the front door, I had immediately called the person in New York I trusted more than anyone. Elliot.
He had told me to stay put until he and the others arrived, which they did in less than half an hour.
"Dr Huang believes that the killer is trying to create the perfect woman-" Brennan said.
"Bones-" Booth started, shaking his head at her not to continue, which of course, she did.
"The body parts that have been missing from the victims would be consistent with that theory," Brennan said.
"And," I said, swallowing, and turning to her. "What's left? What's missing from his perfect woman?"
"Bones..." Booth warned again.
Brennan looked away.
"Dr. Brennan-" I said, stepping toward her. "Tell me."
"Liv," Booth started, shaking his head.
"What's missing?" I said, my voice rising.
Brennan looked at me.
"A head," she said, taking a step toward me. "I'm sorry."
"I should have been here with her," I said.
Elliot and I stood on Alex's balcony, while Dr. Warner, Brennan, Booth, and CSI were looking for evidence. Reluctantly, I had let Elliot talk me into getting out of their way.
"Liv," Elliot said. "It's not your fault."
"It is," I said. "I threw our relationship away, El. And now she's gone."
"Liv, you know better than that," he said. "It's the psychopath's fault."
I looked away, not wanting to cry in front of him. I shivered into the cool Autumn dawn.
"The last time we talked," I said. "It wasn't good."
"I take it you've still been letting The Incredible Dr. Brennan get to you?" Elliot said.
"Yeah, I have."
"Hey," he said. "Remember when you told me I was sabotaging being able to work on this case with you and Agent Booth?"
"I've been mulling that over," he said. "And it's true. I was an insecure asshole. I built Booth up to be some superman that I couldn't compete with, so I took myself out of the game so I couldn't lose..."
"Yeah," I said, smiling a little. "You did, didn't you?"
"Yeah," he said, waiting.
"Oh," I said. I put my head in my hands. "Jesus. I've been a jealous idiot."
Elliot put an arm around me and I leaned into him.
"When we find her, make things right," he said. "I don't care who her ex is, you two belong together."
"Detective Benson, Stabler, you should hear this," Brennan came onto the balcony, carrying her laptop, followed by Booth. "This is Dr. Jack Hodgins, the Jeffersonian's forensic entomologist, mineralogist, and paly-"
"Bug and Slime Guy is fine," said the man talking on Brennan's computer screen. "The analysis of the particulate matter revealed traces of nickel, silver, gold, polymer clays, and copper."
"And?" I said.
"These findings are consistent with the particulate matter that would be found in a jewelry store."
"A jeweler..." Brennan said.
"Which could explain the oscillating blade," Hodgins said. "Portable, obviously."
"What else?" I said. "You have something more than that, right?"
"A jeweler." Brennan said, frowning.
"Bones?" Booth asked, looking at her.
"There has to be thousands of jewelers in New York City," I said to Hodgins.
"Wait," Brennan said. "That's it. Mens mentis. The necklace she received in the mail, with the pendant."
"In the mail?" I asked. "I thought you gave it to her..."
"Me?" Brennan said. "No, someone placed it on her desk anonymously. I told her it wasn't me, so it must have been you. She assured me it wasn't, and then she threw it away."
I looked away, tears filling my eyes.
"Oh God," I whispered. "I'm an idiot."
"Detective Benson," Brennan said, stepping toward me. "You're not an idiot. You're not a genius, but you are... talented nonetheless."
"Oddly," I said, laughing through my tears. "That doesn't feel as insulting as it sounds."
An hour later, the folks at the Jeffersonian had hacked into the courthouse's security system and Dr. Brennan's colleague Angela had pieced together the security footage from all paths leading to Alex's office. On Brennan's computer screen, we watched a man dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase confidently stroll into our building.
We saw that, at the security station, he had et off the metal detector. A security guard pulled him aside and the man opened his briefcase.
"Angela, can you zoom in on in the briefcase?" Booth said.
"Absolutely,"Angela said, via the computer.
"Good to see Big Brother alive and well," Munch murmured.
The screen became pixelated and then came back into focus inside the man's briefcase. After the guard ran a wand over a small package in his briefcase, the man took a small jewelry case out of the package and opened it. The guard nodded and let him through the checkpoint. Moments later, we watched as the man marched up the stairs, passed Alex in the hallway, and briefly entered and then exited her office.
"Incredible," Cragen said. "He must have known her court schedule."
"He was invisible in plain sight," I said.
"Who's gonna stop a white dude in a suit who looks and acts like he belongs?" Fin said.
"Please tell me we have a license plate, anything that id's this guy...?" I said.
"We don't have a license plate for the suspect's car because he didn't drive," Angela said, from the computer screen. "But we do have footage of him getting into a cab."
"And?" I said.
"And," Angela continued. "Corresponding the time he entered the cab with the GPS information from the cab, we have a location for where he went. He was dropped off in the Lower East Side. In front of a jewelry store."
"Come on," I said, standing up.
"Liv," Cragen said. "You're too close to this..."
"I'm not staying behind."
Cragen looked at me for a long moment. Maybe he saw something in my eyes that told him I wasn't backing down, because he gave a short nod before pulling out his phone to call SWAT.
We arrived down the street from the small brick jewelry store 20 minutes later. A SWAT team, squad cars, and officers were already in the process of blocking and surrounding the perimeter.
I sat in the front seat of Cragen's SUV, while Elliot and Dr. Huang sat in back. Booth and Brennan drove separately.
"No one is answering," Cragen said, slamming his phone shut. He had dialed the store's landline in an attempt to establish communication with the suspect.
"Damn it," I whispered.
"Psychologically speaking, he already has what he wants," Dr. Wong said. "At this point, he has no motive or reason to negotiate. He has no demands to make. He wants to be left alone to make his perfect woman."
I rubbed my temple. Looking out the car window to my right, I saw a sniper position himself across the street from the jewelry store. Other members of the SWAT team were on the roof of the store. As I much as I wanted them to bust in and take the asshole's head off, I knew they had to wait for Cragen's signal.
"Thermal imaging isn't detecting any hot spots in the building," Booth said, approaching Cragen's window on foot. "The building has a basement. They could be down there."
Cragen tried calling the store again while the rest of us waited.
"Nothing," he said, hanging up.
"Shit," I said.
"Answering maching?" Huang asked.
"What do you do when a kidnapper doesn't want anything from us?" Brennan asked, standing next to Booth.
"We make him want something," Huang said.
"Want something?" Brennan asked.
Huang looked at her. He then put a hand under his chin, in thought.
I looked from Huang to Brennan and then to Booth.
"Nuh-uh," Booth said. "No way."
"It's a possibility," Cragen said.
"No," Booth insisted. "No way. She's not even trained."
"It could create a transition point," Cragen said. "You know that's vital. We can leave a message on the machine and see what he does with it."
Booth looked away and everyone remained silent.
"Okay, what did I just miss?" Brennan asked, annoyed.
"They want to use you as bait," Booth said.
"Bait?" Brennan said.
"The suspect has what he wants, a head with exceptional intellectual ability and beauty," Huang said. "If we could offer him someone of even superior intellect, I don't think he would turn it down."
"Well, objectively speaking, I am the only one here with a higher IQ than Alex," Brennan said. "And a PhD certainly evidences more rigorous educational training than a law degree."
"Bones," Booth said. "You can't-"
"What's the alternative?" Brennan asked.
"Storm the building," Cragen said. "Break down his barricade and get to Alex before he..."
"I'll do it," Brennan said with certainty. "I want to do this. But I'm going to need a gun."
And that was that.
"Just please don't shoot Alex," I said, handing Brennan the ankle holster that held one of my Glocks.
One message and a return phone call from our suspect had confirmed that he was our guy and that Alex was alive.
"I'm actually very good with a firearm," Brennan said.
Our fingertips touched as she took the gun from me. She seemed to jump, so I took her hand in mine.
"Thank you, Temperance," I said, meeting her eyes. "Whatever happens, thank you."
"Yeah," she said, blushing and pulling her hand away. "Just don't leave me down there," she finished with a laugh.
The killer had Alex with him in the barricaded basement of the building. One way in and one way out. Cragen had successfully negotiated with him to allow me, but not the larger Booth, Elliot, or a SWAT guy, to oversee the exchange of Brennan for Alex.
"Remember," Huang said. "Just like Dr. Frankenstein, he's not heavily invested in coming out alive at this point."
"Which makes him dangerous," I said.
"But don't forget your trump card," Huang said.
"Which is?" Brennan asked.
"He is heavily invested in this fantasy of the perfect creation," Huang said.
"I hope you're right," I said. "Because if you're not-"
"I hate psychology," Brennan said.
"I still don't agree with this," Booth said, as we stood gathered near Cragen's SUV. "Just so you know."
"Booth, stop being over-protective," Brennan said. "I am a highly-skilled martial artist, I can take care of myself."
Booth's eyebrows were furrowed. He looked like he wanted to say something more, but he stopped himself.
I took a few steps away and finished strapping in my bulletproof vest.
Booth also turned, leaving Brennan behind.
"Hey," I said, following him.
"Hey," he said sharply.
"I have her back in there, okay?" I said.
He didn't answer.
"Hey," I said, touching his arm.
"Just watch out for her," he said. "Please. I need to get into position."
With my weapon drawn, I led Brennan through the store's front door. Inside, the room was small. There was just that one room. Although the lights were off, sunlight illuminated the cases of jewelry, casting the room in tones of silver and gold.
"It's clear," I said. "Stay close."
Brennan nodded and I felt her behind me. As we slowly walked the short distance toward the cash register, the floor creaked below us.
"Over there," I nodded toward a door behind the register. It would lead us to the basement. To Alex.
"Let's go," Brennan said. "I'm ready."
She held her wrists out in front of her.
"I'm sorry," I said, gently putting my handcuffs on her.
It was how he wanted her.
"My hands aren't my only weapons, Olivia," she said. "It's okay."
"Just stay behind me the entire way down the stairs," I said, putting my gun in my shoulder holster beneath my jacket.
Walking to the door, I touched the handle, took a breath, and pulled open the door. Immediately, the smell of mildew wafted into the air. The stairs themselves, solid concrete, were cast in a dim gray from a light source down below. Turning, I re-locked the door by putting the large block of metal back in place.
I then slowly descended, hearing Brennan gently stepping behind me.
When we reached the bottom, I peered into the room from behind the stairwell. To the left was darkness. To the right was a bright light shining on a slab of marble in a corner of the room. What was on the table was so horrible that I couldn't process it right away.
"Jesus," I whispered.
I felt Brennan try to push past me.
"Wait-" I said.
"I've seen a lot, Olivia," she said, poking her head around the wall.
It was a woman's body, lying still, naked. Gray. Dead. I ran my eyes over the feet, noticing the toenails were painted, and up the legs. Scars encircled the knee joint on each leg. Moving my eyes upward, I saw breasts. Still somewhat perfect-looking. Implants perhaps. And then, I noticed that the body, or rather the compilation of bodies, still did not have a head.
"Welcome to my laboratory," a voice said. From the dark perimeter surrounding the table, two figures emerged.
"Keep your hands where I can see them and everything will work out for you," I yelled.
As the figures approached, they came into focus. Alex led the way. She was wearing pajama pants and a tank top, likely what she had gone to bed in the night before. Her hands were tied behind her back and her face, at least, appeared to be untouched. She was being led by a man, from the back, who was pushing her forward.
Only his face was visible and, like so many other sex offenders and murderers, he looked normal. He had dark well-groomed hair, wore glasses, and while he wasn't attractive, he also wasn't ugly. He could have been anyone's dad, brother, or uncle.
I made eye contact with Alex. Her expression was steel but, briefly, it cracked.
I restrained myself from lunging forward and jamming my gun in the man's mouth.
"I have what you want," I said, instead.
I grabbed Brennan's arm and pulled her to my side.
Alex looked from me to Brennan and her look of desperation turned to confusion.
"No guns. No tricks," the man said. He raised an arm and aimed a gun at Alex's head.
Guiding Brennan, I stepped closer to Alex and the man.
"Easy," I said. "Or you don't get her," I gestured toward Brennan.
When I did, the man began focusing his attention on Brennan. Looking her up and down, he licked his lips and let his crazy come out on full display. A sliver of saliva dropped from his mouth. One of his meaty paws gripped Alex's arm tighter, in excitement.
"Dr. Temperance Brennan," he said. "It's really you."
"The perfect specimen," I said.
"Symmetrical features," he said, noting Brennan's appearance. "Gray iris. The lips could be a bit fuller, but yes. Given the intellectual capacity of the brain, the addition of this subject would be a net positive for the project. Yes, she will do."
"You know how this is going to happen," I said.
"Yes, yes," he said. Unable to take his eyes off Brennan, he already seemed to be planning his next phase of horror.
"On the count of three," I said, holding Brennan's arm. "We do this together."
"1," I said, looking at Alex.
"2," the man said, looking at Brennan.
"3," we both said.
The man shoved Alex toward me as I let go of Brennan. As soon as I let go of her, the man grabbed Brennan and I pulled Alex to me.
"Tempe-" Alex whispered.
"Shhh," I whispered in her ear. "Let's get out of here."
"That would be wise, yes," he said, aiming his gun toward Alex and me.
"Come on," I said softly, urging Alex toward the stairs.
At first she resisted, but slowly she moved her feet.
"That's it," said the man, as we reached the foot of the stairs.
"Olivia?" Alex whispered.
"It's okay," I said. "Just keep going, sweetie. Trust me."
Alex put one foot in front of the other and starting climbing the stairs while I stepped behind her.
"That's a good girl," the man said. "Open the door and walk out."
My palms sweating, I had one hand on the small of Alex's back. With the other, I reached into the hidden shoulder holster inside my coat. My hand encircled the hard handle of the gun inside it.
"Open the door, Alex," I whispered.
With shaking hands, Alex lifted the large slab of metal that was serving as a lock and pushed the door open.
"That's it," the man said, from the bottom of the stairs. "Just walk away."
"Olivia," Alex whispered. "Tempe..."
"Go, Alex," I said.
When she stepped up to ground level, my hand on her back heaved and I pushed her through the doorway into Elliot's waiting arms and slammed the door shut with me on the basement side of it.
"What is this?" Vic yelled, immediately putting the gun to Brennan's head.
I bounded down the stairs and Vic backed up, holding Brennan hostage.
"Get out of here," he said. "This is private. You are interfering with science."
"Science?" I said. "That's what they're calling it these days?"
He continued holding the gun to Brennan's head.
"Oh put your gun away. You're not going to kill the bitch," I said.
I aimed my gun at Brennan.
"Hey watch your mouth," Vic said. "Do you know who Dr. Brennan is?"
"Yeah," I said. "I'm pretty familiar."
"Olivia?" Brennan said. "What are you doing?"
"So," I said, gesturing with my gun toward the body on the slab of metal. "This is it then huh? The grand finale?"
Vic backed up until he was standing with Brennan protectively near his experiment.
"Get out of here," he said. "This is a laboratory."
"Maybe I want to watch," I said.
"You're a common police officer. A plebian," he spat.
"I'm looking for the perfect lady just like the next guy," I said, stepping closer.
"No," he spat. "You can't have her."
He stopped aiming the gun at Brennan and now aimed it at me.
I heard a creak near the steps and willed myself not to look.
"What was that?" Vic said, aiming his gun toward the stairs.
When he looked away, I fired my gun at Brennan's head. I saw the spark of gunfire and smoke in the same instant Brennan cried out. She dropped like lead weight, holding her head.
"No!" Vic yelled, pointing his gun at me.
I stared into his eyes, which were gray, bloodshot, and crazy.
I winced at the crack of a gunshot.
A red circle appeared on Vic's forehead just before his entire head shot backward . His body dropped to the floor.
I stood still, heart racing.
Booth, the former sniper in the US Army, finished running down the stairs and over to Vic's body.
I stood still, catching my breath.
"Thanks, Booth," I whispered.
"I'm no medical doctor," he said. "But this guy is definitely dead."
We stood in silence for a few moments.
"You know," came a small voice from the floor. "Making that assessment is outside the scope of your expertise, Booth."
"Bones," Booth said. "His 'brain matter' is all over the floor here."
I walked over to where Brennan lay on the ground.
She sat up.
I reached my hand down to her and she took it, hands still cuffed together, letting me pull her to her feet.
"Looks like you can add acting to your long list of many skills, Dr. Brennan," I said.
"Olivia," Brennan said, standing up. She began and dusting herself off once I unlocked the cuffs. "I have to say, you were extremely convincing."
Booth walked over to us and patted my back.
"Just be happy she didn't pull this gun out instead of the one she used on you," he said, pulling my NYPD commissioned Glock from the holster at my back. "Blanks can look and sound pretty realistic, huh?"
"Incredibly," Brennan said, genuinely amazed. "Especially given the acoustics down here. Although, I still say if we were going for a believable one-shot-murder to the head, I wouldn't have had time to scream," Brennan said. "Take the perp, for instance-"
"Temperance," I said. "Let's just be grateful, huh?"
"Right," she said.
She and Booth made eye contact, but didn't speak.
"Well," I said. "I'm going to go up... Alex. I'll send CSI down."
"Yeah," she said. "The victim. Victims, rather. I should..."
She took a deep breath and gestured toward the body on the slab.
"I'll stay with you," Booth told Brennan.
I smiled and turned toward the steps.
"You did good, Bones," I heard Booth tell Brennan. "You did good."
Outside the store, I took a deep breath of crisp Autumn air and squinted into the morning light. A few officers and other personnel patted me on the back before rushing into the building. To my left, I saw Cragen talking to a SWAT leader. The exchange looked somewhat tense, so I turned to the right.
Across the street, Alex was sitting with Elliot and a paramedic at the back of an ambulance. One of its doors was open, somewhat shielding her. She had a blanket around her and was holding a cup of steaming liquid.
Her eyes scanned the area as if looking for someone. When she saw me, across the street, her eyes stopped moving.
She looked so tired.
Fighting back tears, I gave her a small smile and began walking toward her.
Elliot, noticing Alex staring, turned his head and saw me. He jumped up and briskly walked to meet me.
"Liv," he said. "We just heard..."
He started to shake my hand, thought better of it, and pulled me into a bear hug.
"Thanks El," I let my body collapse into his before pulling away.
Alex watched us, silently.
I walked to wear she sat, on the back of the ambulance.
Grimacing, she stood.
"Ms. Cabot, you should really sit-" the paramedic started.
Instead of sitting, she took a step toward me, looking me in the eye.
Our hands touched first. Gently, I held one of her hands while my other arm circled her waist.
She looped both of her arms around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. I began caressing her head.
Over Alex's shoulder, Elliot gestured that he was going to take a walk. He took the paramedic with him.
"Alex," I said. "I'm here."
We stood like that for a few moments, me holding her.
"I am so, so sorry," I said.
"For what? Saving my life?" she said.
Dry humor to cover the pain. Part of her healing process.
I took her hands in mine. Her wrists were red from the binding the man had used on her.
"We should get you to the hospital..."
"I'm fine," she said. "It's mostly superficial damage. And on the plus side, my head is still attached."
"Alex..." I said. "You don't have to be okay right now..."
Holding her hands, I looked into her eyes.
She looked away and took a deep breath. When she looked at me again, her eyes had welled up.
"I didn't think I was going to see you again," she said.
I pulled her to me and felt her begin to sob.
"You're here now, okay," I said, holding her. "We're together now."
She nodded, still crying.
"And Tempe?" she asked.
"Tempe's fine. She did great," I said. "She was very brave."
"Thank you, Olivia," she said. "I'm sorry... things were weird with her..."
"Shh, it doesn't matter now," I said. "I was jealous. I'm sorry."
"I just thought it was obvious that Tempe and I are not exactly soulmates. We could relate to each other intellectually and physically, but not emotionally."
"You don't have to explain..." I said. "I get that now."
I saw Cragen, Elliot, Booth, and Brennan heading our way, smiling. I pulled out of our embrace, but kept an arm around Alex's waist to steady her.
"Detectives," Alex greeted them, wiping her eyes.
"Alex, I think I speak for us all when I say we're very glad that man did not decapitate you," Brennan said, earnestly.
I smiled at Brennan's statement of the obvious, as did the others.
"Thank you, Tempe," Alex said.
"I'm guessing you'll be taking the rest of the day off, Detective Benson?" Cragen said.
"Yes," I said. "I'm going to take her home, and stay with her."
"Actually," Alex said. "If you don't mind, Captain. She might be taking a couple of weeks off."
I looked at her.
"Her presence might be required at the Cabot family cabin in a secret location in Maine," she continued.
"Really?" Cragen said.
"If that's okay with Detective Benson, of course," Alex said.
"Uh-huh," I nodded, looking at Cragen for permission.
"It's okay with me," he said.
Alex smiled and I pulled her closer to me.
"So did SWAT hand you your balls on a platter for that half-assed negotiation plan or what?" Alex said, ribbing Cragen.
xxxx The End xxxx
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