See Disclaimers in One
Chapter Two: Globes, Mounds and Piques
Bess fought the urge to shake her head from side to side in a loopy cartoon fashion. She was sure that the woman who had just tossed a loaded hotdog at her had just invited her to go to Coney Island. I couldnt have possibly heard that right - and why does my mouth keep moving but no words seem to come out? Bess had at least a dozen things she wanted to say to the sable haired beauty but for some reason the only audible sounds she could make was a series of quick gasps.
Nancy took the redhead's struggle with the English language as an invitation to continue with her foot in mouth disease. "Heres the thing. Ive had a rough start to this day; I spilled water on myself, stubbed my toe, tried to condition my hair before I shampooed it. Now I fell on the subway and lost half of my breakfast on you. I figure it cant hurt to try and put a positive spin on things. "
She continued as the redhead's expression remained unchanged at her monologue. "I ruined your shirt. Id offer to give you mine, but I think it would be a little long on you. More importantly, I would have to wear yours and I dont think I could get it buttoned." She gestured in broad explanation from her full breasts to the redheads somewhat lesser ones, and she started to sound a little desperate to be understood. "As liberal as this city is I think it has laws about indecent exposure. Weve got an appointment in Coney Island, so if you want to continue your subway ride for a bit, Id be happy to buy you a new shirt when we get there. Although, I dont think theyll have any quite as nice as yours."
She reached out and lightly ran her hand over the cool silk that was covering Bess upper arm. Ooh, silk, I love silk. I could stroke this all day. Sensuous thoughts flashed through Nancys mind and she fervently wished she could take a sip of her missing soda to cool the heat suffusing her cheeks. Im blushing? Im not blushing! I DONT BLUSH! Battling her nervousness, she babbled on, hoping her words were making some kind of an impact on the silent redhead. "I could hook you up with an Astroland t-shirt and then after our appointment, Id like to buy you lunch." Taking a needed breath, she realized what she'd just done. Did I just offer to buy her lunch? Where the hell did that come from? She smacked herself upside the head with an invisible baseball bat, trying to get her scattered thoughts back in some semblance of order. But as she gazed at the hotdog splattered woman, her libido kicked back in without even apologizing. She's the most adorable thing I've ever laid eyes on. I wonder if shes 'family'. I wonder if she knows shes got mustard on her nose. Why did my brain derail the minute I started talking to her? She blinked, and looked at the woman again, and almost all those questions got answers. She was adorable, no doubt about it. Even more so with that dab of mustard decorating her face.
Ernie was doubtfully eyeing the two women, feeling like a voyeur hiding in the bushes. The smaller one was still slouched, unmoving, in her seat and his friend towered like a swaying willow over the two of them. He'd listened raptly to Nancys awkward soliloquy, entranced by the amount of sounds that were making their way out her lips. In the eighteen years that hed known her, this was the most he had ever heard her speak at one time. He couldn't help but gawk at her. Is she blushing? She is! Shes blushing! Oh, shes fumbling around like a teenaged boy. His face lit up at the wonder of it all. This is great!
Bess was nearly hypnotized by the stream of words flowing from a clearly flustered Nancy. The truth was that only half of what she was saying had made it through to Bess brain, because her brain was concentrating on other distracting matters. She has the whitest teeth Ive ever seen. I wonder how she chipped that one. What did she say about giving me her shirt and indecent exposure? Her brain agreed with what she'd already decided. I guess I wont be making the interview after all. I didnt want to be a hostess and Georgia knows it. Shes going to think I did this on purpose. Bess had involuntarily flinched when Nancy stroked her arm. What the hell was that? Is she blushing? She is!! Gaydar-says FAMILY!! The interview, and any passing amount of guilt she may have felt about missing it, was replaced by a more intriguing thought. Ive never been to Coney Island. I told myself that I would be open to new experiences when I moved here. Id say this qualifies as new. Her eyes quickly tracked down past her ruined blouse to her lap again. How can anyone eat a loaded hot dog for breakfast? How can anyone eat a loaded hot dog at any time?
Ernie watched the uncomfortable look that the two women were sharing. He decided he'd better play mediator before his tall friend lost the last tiny bit of dignity she had left.
He addressed the recipient of Nancy's breakfast first. "I think what my dim-witted friend is trying to say is, she's sorry and shed like to make it up to you."
Nancy looked at Ernie and back at Bess with a 'yeah, what he said' look on her face.
Bess shrugged her shoulders
and decided that a day of adventure was well worth having her sister bitch at
her. She flashed an unsure grin at Nancy and crinkled her mustard covered
nose as she replied, hoping she wouldn't regret this, "Okay."
"Hey, Friedman, I got that list you wanted," the uniformed officer said as he tossed a pile of papers on the desk in front of the detective. "Heres a list of all the Freaks and human oddities books that have been checked out since March. What makes you think this whack job is a reader?"
Friedman looked speculative as he riffled through the list. "Its the attention to detail and knowledge of past sideshow performers that he uses. This is not your average dumb schmuck."
"Well," the uniform replied with some eagerness, "I noticed a name that kept coming up in the East Village, so I checked it out. Its a woman. She's checked out just about every book published on the subject. My partner and I decided to have a look at her and see if we could pick up on anything unusual."
"And?" Friedman asked impatiently.
"Shes ... unusual all right." He smiled, a little bewildered about his next tidbit of information. "Besides being drop dead gorgeous, her best friend is, get this ... a midget."
"Youve never been to Coney Island?" Nancy was in complete and utter shock. It was like being told that Bess had never heard of Mickey Mouse. "Youve been visiting New York since you were a little kid, and you never came to Coney Island!?"
Bess was rather nonplussed about the whole thing. "When we'd come in from Beemerville, it was just a day trip. You know, take in a matinee on Broadway, have dinner and then catch the train home. I still havent seen much of the city beyond Midtown," she explained honestly, not knowing if she should feel embarrassed or not. Distracted, she was using the heel of her shoe to peel up a wad of gum that was stuck to the floor of the train.
"Beemerville," Nancy mumbled in a sarcastic tone. She was convinced Bess made that up. Nobody came from a town named Beemerville.
The subway had left Manhattan quite a while ago and was now officially an elevated train as it rolled just over the rooftops of Brooklyn. The glut of passengers had thankfully thinned out and Nancy and Ernie were finally able to get seats near Bess.
Ernie elbowed Nancy in the side. "You should talk. You rarely want to leave Alphabet City or the East Village."
"Well, at least not on purpose," she mumbled again, remembering the time she couldn't sleep and she rode the subway all night. She woke up in the Bronx. Id still love to find the fucker who tied my shoelaces together.
Ernie ignored her non-explanation and continued, "Its not really that unusual in this city. Most people dont venture beyond their own little neighborhood. I was born here and I didnt see the Statue of Liberty until my Aunt Joyce came to visit when I was twenty."
Bess nodded in understanding, glad that Ernie was taking her side. "Now that I live here, I plan to see as much of it as possible, which is why I took you up on your offer." I really didnt want that job anyway. After all those years on the dairy farm Id like to work somewhere a little more exciting. View or no view, how interesting can it be to ask How many? Smoking, non or first available over and over? She snapped out of her internal musing when she noticed that the gum from the floor of the train was now stuck to the bottom of her heel. She furrowed her brow, trying to figure out how she could get it off without touching it.
"Here we are. Last stop,
Coney Island!" Nancy announced with relief as they pulled up to the station.
She was standing, secretly proud that she was managing to remain upright when
the train came to an abrupt stop. This time, her hands were empty, so it was
a hollow victory at best.
Bess felt an almost childlike thrill at finally getting the chance to see the fabled Coney Island. It was exactly how she'd imagined it. Well, maybe not exactly, but it certainly didn't disappoint her. There were as many abandoned rides as there were operating ones, and it appeared as though every other building was empty and boarded over. She could almost feel the historic charm and excitement that must have been pervasive in its heyday. In many ways it was like taking a big step back in time; as if the whole area was stuck permanently in the 1950's. Most of the signs atop the small shops were warn and fading, like they hadn't seen a lick of fresh paint since before Bess was born.
They wandered into a tacky seashore gift shop, one that advertised it was ready to supply 'all of your needs for a day at the beach'.
"First things first, we have to get you a shirt." Nancy said decisively as she headed for a table of gaudy souvenir t-shirts.
"And shorts," Bess reminded the duo. "The dog landed in my lap too."
"All right then, shorts too," Nancy agreed, still a little mortified about the whole messy hot dog incident. She was determined to make this day end better than it started.
"And a snow globe?" Bess murmured rather hopefully as she held one up and gently shook it.
"A snow globe?" Nancy squinted and stared. The splendor and mystique of cheap souvenirs had always escaped her, and although she was trying to placate her new friend, her more rather curmudgeonly personality traits rose to the surface. "Why do you want a snow globe - of an amusement park and a beach?" She snorted and rolled her eyes.
Bess had gotten this argument before, many a time, and had an answer already prepared. "I get one everywhere I go. I love them! Look, one shake and its snowing in the middle of the summer." She wore an innocent smile as she watched snowflakes blanket the beach within the globe.
She held it up to Nancys face and flipped it over and then upright, so her new friend could get the total magical effect of the mini- blizzard caught in a water bubble.
Nancy steadfastly refused to be swayed. "Its an amusement park and a beach," Nancy repeated, in case Bess missed it the first time.
"I know. Thats what makes it so great," Bess grinned as she shook it again.
Nancy was not about to be won over by something so tacky. "Look at it. Its a summer scene. Why is it snowing in the summer? It makes no sense."
"You have no imagination!" Bess admonished. "Thats whats fun about it! They arent supposed to make sense - theyre just fun." She gave it another exaggerated shake and forced Nancy to look at it again.
"If it were snowing no one would be here!" Nancy was quickly getting annoyed with the souvenir clutched possessively in Bess' hand. I do too have an imagination!
"I even have one from Disney World and it never snows there." Bess said stubbornly, as though that explained the allure.
Ernie interrupted the Great Snow Globe Debate from the back of the store, where he was happily testing out a Coney Island backscratcher. "Hey you two, we'd better get a move on or were gonna be late."
"Okay," Nancy sighed as she grabbed the t-shirt, shorts, and then with an exaggerated flourish, the dreaded snow globe, and headed towards the cashier. "Youre right." She glared, unnoticed, as Bess was already examining a beach towel that read: MY FRIEND WENT TO CONEY ISLAND AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY BEACH TOWEL.
Bess was rejoicing in her small victory about the snow globe but she managed to keep a smug smile from her face. She pondered out loud to no one in particular, "I wonder if they have one of these that says 'MY SISTER' instead of 'MY FRIEND'?"
Nancy couldnt stop the tortured groan that escaped. Bess, hearing it, gave a small sneaky grin, and turned her back so Nancy couldn't see it.
"Well, well, Miss Nancy Doreen Zoccoli. You are a fascinating creature." Detective Friedman was sitting back in his chair with his sore feet propped up on his desk, reading over the latest findings on the photographer. Among the interesting things he discovered was that when they had questioned the bartender, he'd confirmed that Nancy was in The Avenue B Social Club for a while that night. He also recalled her having a lengthy conversation with a woman with short blonde hair. He couldnt say for certain if it was the one in the photograph that the officer had shown him.
Detectives had also been around to see Jauan, the hotdog man. The vendor was not as forthcoming about his favorite customer; it was obvious that he was fond of her and didn't want to say anything that might get her into trouble. Without meaning to be helpful, he did reveal something that Friedman thought disturbing. Jauan went out of his way to make it clear that he knew for certain that Nancy was home last night. To prove his point, he repeated the conversation that Nancy had with Ernie about why her nails were black, and she explained she had been home polishing her boots.
Then there was her neighbor, Silvio Amantea. His everyday morning routine included getting up at 4:30 to feed the chickens in the courtyard of the apartment building where Nancy and he resided. Chickens were not exactly legal to keep in the city but if none of Silvos neighbors were complaining, the police were willing to over look it. The neighbors had no reason to complain. Not only was Silvio very careful about keeping the courtyard clean, he provided eggs and unsolicited free advice for every one in the building.
The detectives who'd visited him today left with a bag full of fresh eggs, tomatoes and a headload of twisted Silvio wisdom. "You know whatsa wrong wid de young peoples today? Dey leaf home too soon. I lived wid my parents even after I gotta married. My wife she learn how to take care of me from my mother. We never get in no trouble. Fifty-eight years we were married. My daughter as soon as she can, she leaf. Go live at school. Get married. Start family. Now shes getting divorce and I tell her itsa her fault she never learned from his mother how to take care of him. In Italy we would have three, four generations living togedder inna one house. We take care of each udder, we needa each udder. No one complain about how 'I needa my space'." Along with this historic look into the life of Silvio, he did manage to inform the detectives that Nancy was just coming in as he was going out to feed the chickens. He also proudly confided that he'd lectured her for staying out all night, and as he put it, 'running wit de wild crowd'. He scolded her, sure that her behavior was going to get her in trouble some day and the arrival of the detectives proved him right.
Friedman sat upright in his chair, nearly knocking his coffee cup off the desk getting his feet back on the floor. In the months since the murders started, he'd come up with no solid suspects and this intriguing information about the photographer was not exactly damning. But it was certainly provocative, and the best lead he'd had since the horror show began.
He looked at the pile of papers one last time before he stood up, studied her picture again and mumbled thoughtfully, "Nancy Zoccoli, I think its time you and I had a little talk."
Bess was momentarily elated. She'd finally removed the gum from off the bottom of her shoe, but she was complaining out loud when she left the ladies room at Sideshows by the Seashore. "Youd think one of those two could have told me I had mustard on my nose." She straightened her new 'I Survived the Cyclone' t-shirt as she walked up to the man behind the Freak Bar, and asked him where Ernie and Nancy had gone.
"Theyre in the stage area." He pointed behind her. "Just head straight down that hallway and make a right at the end, you cant miss 'em."
She turned around and headed down the bright purple hallway. He had horns under his skin! On his forehead! Horns!! Musing about his startling appearance, her mind shifted to a whole new area. Why would anyone stretch their earlobes like that? He had padlocks hanging off of his ears? Why dont his earlobes rip open?
Nancy was in the middle of loading her camera when Bess rounded the corner and nearly ran into the woman who was the subject of her photo shoot. The woman was impossibly bent over backwards with her head coming up between her legs. The back of her head was touching the front of her crotch.
Bess blinked and automatically backed away, trying to access the whole weird positioning.
"Hey, nice outfit," Nancy called out to Bess as she secured the back of her camera. "This is Serpentina."
"Thanks," Bess answered as she moved behind Nancy, in order to watch what she was doing. She nodded a dumbfounded hello at the many jointed woman, and as she stared, her short term memory kicked in, and she quite bluntly blurted, "Hey, aren't those horrible murders, aren't they connected with ... " She hated saying the word, for some reason it felt like she was insulting someone.
Ernie was settled into a folding chair off to the side, and he interrupted her. "Freaks. Yeah. Don't worry about calling them that, they wear that name proudly." He couldn't resist teasing the two women. "Just like dykes. Not necessarily a bad name. Just depends on who's saying it."
Both women looked away from each other in shared embarrassment, and Ernie snickered, loving the flush of red on the two women's faces.
Nancy figured the best way to shut her needling friend down was to get back to the topic. "Those murders seem to be about the old-time Freaks anyhow. And they aren't actually killing actual Freaks; they're doing stuff with the bodies to make them look like 'em."
Bess shivered. "Sick people out there, huh?"
Ernie laughed, and looked pointedly at his tall friend. "Oh, yeah, all kinds of sickos running around loose."
Nancy ignored his taunt, and went back to setting up her shot. She turned to Bess gave her a reassuring smile. "Dont forget -- when we finish here we have to actually ride the Cyclone -- so you wont be lying the next time you wear that shirt."
"I wont forget," Bess grinned back. Oh yeah! Ive wanted to ride the Cyclone since I was a kid!
You know, Nancy thought as she began her first series of shots, for a day that started out so shitty, it sure is looking up.
After the session with Serpentina was over the trio headed out to enjoy the unpolished, rough gem that is Coney Island. As they were leaving Sideshows by the Seashore, Bess took the opportunity to approach the sideshow's outside talker, The Great Fredini. Giving in to her thirst for oddball knowledge, she threw decorum to the wind and peppered him with nosey questions -- How did you learn to swallow swords? Does it hurt? Who taught you to pound nails up your nose?
Fred was charmed by her natural curiosity and answered all her questions, and even coached her on the professional way to deliver the lines "Theyre HERE; theyre REAL LIVE FREAKS and HUMAN ODDITIES! See Serpentina charm snakes and move her body in ways IMPOSSIBLE for the NORMAL human being! Alive on stage, see The Human BLOCKHEAD! He will drive NAILS into his head RIGHT before your very eyes. Live on stage ..."
Nancy was surreptitiously watching Bess playfully interact with the amused talker. Fred would speak the usual talker's line and then hand the mike to Bess so she could give it her own touch. She was calling out to the passersby with zest and drawing them in. A couple walked by and she called out, "Women will be SHOCKED, frightened, horrified and AMAZED! ALL REAL, ALL LIVE ON STAGE!!"
Her unbridled enthusiasm was infectious. Nancy found herself wanting to buy a ticket to the show and shed already seen it all for free. I wonder if she's that enthusiastic about ... everything?
The two women looked as though they had stepped off the latest cover of 'The Hamptons' magazine. Each was impeccably dressed in the trendiest clothes adorned by the finest designer labels. Fendi and Prada purses, Chanel dresses and Jimmy Choos shoes. Their hair was perfectly styled and the Mac make-up was artistically applied to skin that had most certainly seen its share of medical enhancements. The obviously Upper East Side ladies stood outside the small booth on Canal Street, quietly discussing who would be the one to ask about the black-market goods.
Mei Cheung looked up from reading her latest used book treasure 'The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck' to watch them whisper to each other. Tch. First timers. I love it when they cant get up the nerve to ask for the fakes. A month ago they could probably afford the real thing; now they have to keep up appearances.
The recent Wall Street dive had caused many of the citys wealthier residents to rethink their spending habits. They'd begun showing up on an irregular basis. The first sign of falling from ill-privileged grace is discovering that it is quite imprudent to buy watches that are four times the cost of monthly apartment rent. However, the fastest way to be dropped from the society page is to be seen committing a disastrous faux pas by wearing a lowly Timex timepiece. Chinatown's vendors were beginning to accommodate society shoppers making the distasteful journey to a neighborhood that they wouldnt normally drive through, let alone walk in.
The woman with the Prada bag finally had the nerve to approach Mei and inquire about a knock -off Rolex.
Mei stood and patiently waited while the two women endlessly debated the quality of the ten dollar watches. These bitches make me sick. Mei had a deep resentment of those who needed to wear a status symbol as an advertisement of their good fortune. Most of her customers were people who were looking for a bargain, the designer labels were usually just a fun aside. The society ladies who tried to debate the quality of the imitations were a source of amusement to the other shop owners. Mei, however, always felt demeaned by them, but she stood her ground without making any comments of her own.
The transaction was completed and the society women left the booth to return to their uptown lives.
Mei silently dismissed them with a one word farewell. Idiots.
Two female figures were sprawled in the sand on the beach outside of Astroland. Nancy had left the camera equipment with Fred at Sideshows by the Seashore and made good on her promise to take Bess on The Cyclone. Then they began a whirlwind full tour of the amusement park. They'd gleefully ridden every ride, some of them twice, and were pleasantly exhausted and happily dazed. Ernie had left them on the beach to go chat with Fredini about a marketing idea that he'd thought up while waiting for Bess and Nancy to ride The Cyclone for the third time. He felt he had a rather inspired idea of how to market Freak dolls. He decided it would be great to take Barbie clone dolls and tattoo and pierce them to look like the performers. He was positive these would sell, and that they could purchase the needed dolls on the cheap in Chinatown.
Nancy had taken her socks and boots off and was leaning back on her arms while she was working her toes through the sand. She couldnt remember the last time she'd felt so relaxed and carefree. The day had improved immeasurably from its shaky start and upon further reflection, she had to admit that playing at the amusement park was the best time she'd had in years. She wasnt quite sure if she would contribute that amazing fact to the rides, or her unexpected company. She was leaning heavily towards giving credit to the latter. Shes so.... Shes almost like a kid, all excited about being here and shes so curious about everything. Bess had taking such an interest in the way that Nancy was photographing Serpentina that she would have thought the snow globe admirer was a photography student. She glanced over to watch Bess put finishing details on the rounded mounds of the sand castle she was building. Nancy's eyes took a leisurely wander over the redhead's body, appreciating every inch of exposed smooth skin, the very feminine curve of her hips and small rounded breasts. She continued her covert perusal by shifting her gaze higher; examining the well shaped lips, and noticed the lower lip was slightly fuller than the upper one. The nose was straight and just a little broad at the end and ... Her scrutiny was abruptly interrupted when her eyes traveled a little higher and found beautiful green eyes focused on her. Shit. Busted.
Bess broke eye contact and stood up, a little unnerved by Nancy's intense expression. She clapped her hands together to rid them of residual sand and strolled down to wade in the water and to collect her thoughts. She was very aware of the blue eyes that were watching her every move and she walked away with a bit of a sway in her hips, half teasing and half kidding the woman watching her so intently. She kicked at the cool water and studied the crowd of people further up the beach. All of this wide open space and they still stay together in a tight group. The portion of the beach that she and Nancy were at was practically deserted while 50 yards away, it was so thick with people it looked like Times Square on New Years Eve.
Nancy had explained to her that it was a 'city thing'. The citizens were so used to being part of a crowd that wide open spaces made them a little ill at ease. It was apparent that some people just felt more comfortable in a massive, teeming throng. Beemerville would make some of these people downright twitchy. She was still having a hard time believing that Nancy had never seen a live cow until she was in her twenties. Bess had to laugh, because she'd worked in the office of the Dairy Farm in Beemerville for eleven years. Cows were as common as horseflies back home. She turned in the knee deep water and looked back at Nancy, and then at the amusement park spread out behind her. This is exactly what I wanted when I left Beemerville. No more predictable little Bess. I never would have done something this impulsive back home. She looked at the stranger who had turned into a new friend. Nancy was idly running her hand through the sand, drawing figures and then erasing them. And I never would have met anyone like her back home. Bess had decided with a grin that her unusual foray into spontaneity was definitely a good thing.
"Shes a notta home," Silvio said to the man knocking insistently on Nancys door. "Shes a beena gone since dis morning. You need something?"
"Do you know when she might be back?" Friedman looked down at the man, and realized with a start that he was holding a live, squirming chicken under his arm.
Friedman listened as Silvio repeated the speech he gave Nancy about 'never finding a husband if she keeps running around with that little man and staying out all night long'. "Come, come. Come wid me I give you some bread." Silvio motioned with his hand toward his apartment.
"No, thank you," the detective managed to get out between sneezes. His allergy to feathers leapt to the forefront of his nasal cavities. The sneezing unfortunately had a detrimental effect on the already nervous chicken and caused it to flap its wings furiously. This created a shower of pinfeathers, and Friedman progressed into a non-stop sneezing fit.
"You gotta cold. Come wid me I gotta something for you." Silvio pulled the miserable detective by the arm towards his apartment.
"NO -atchoo!- Thank- atchoo!-You - atchoo! Its not - atchoo! -a cold, its the -atchoo! Damned chicken Im -atchoo! Allergic!"
"Hang on, I getta rid of her and get some bread." Silvio ducked in his apartment and returned as promised with a loaf of bread, a handful of Kleenex and mercifully, less one live chicken. He asked suspiciously as the detective blew his nose several times, using up all the tissues he'd brought him, "What you want wit her? You the second person come lookin' for her today, and outside of her leetle friend nobody ever come to see her. Is she inna some kinda trouble?"
"No," Friedman gasped, dabbing at his watering eyes, trying to focus, "I just need to speak with her about something." He stuffed the used tissues in his coat pocket and then accepted the gift of bread. "Thanks for the bread, I think Ill just wait for her outside." He turned to leave, wondering what he was going to look like, one of New York's finest sitting on a suspect's apartment building doorstep clutching a loaf of Italian bread.
Silvio followed him out to the stoop and informed the Detective again of his fears for Nancy falling in with the wrong crowd. He emphasized how he worried about her, because with the exception of her small friend, she seemed to always be alone. "Itsa dangerous for a woman to run around all night." Silvio shook his head from side to with a concerned frown and turned and went back inside.
Friedman settled himself
on a step and tucked the wrapped loaf of bread under his arm. He sat there,
rubbing at his irritated eyes, and repeated part of what Silvio had said. "Its
dangerous for a woman to run around all night." He thought back to the gruesome
scene of the latest murders and the two young and beautiful women who had their
lives so gruesomely shortened. He sighed, "Yeah, its dangerous, all right."
He pulled an end off of the loaf of bread, and chewed on it while he waited.
Continued in Chapter 3
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