From a distance the house, situated on top of the hill and surrounded by tall trees, was a picture of serenity. In the background the Pacific Ocean could be seen, its endless blue body stretching out to the horizon, where it touched the clear blue sky.
The grassy slope in front of the house was bordered by happily blooming flowers and provided a colorful distraction against the trees and bushes with their countless shades of green.
In the grass a dog was lying under a tall tree, using the shadow it provided to stay out of the hot sun. He was panting heavily, his tongue lolling between his impressive strong teeth. Even though he was tired from running around and playing, his eyes never lost their alertness. His tall, blonde human friend had specifically told him to stay under the tree and guard the place. And Kurt knew she had been serious about it, because she had even brought him a big bowl of fresh water and something to nibble on.
Kurt yawned and put his nozzle down on his front paws, a perfect picture of contentment and relaxation. But a closer look showed that his dark brown eyes were not sleepy at all.
Inside the house, the tension was almost palpable.
"Are you sure, Alice? I mean, absolutely positive?" Trishia urged, when she had managed to regain her composure. Her green-blue eyes bore into a pair of clear blue ones and what she saw did not need an answer. The mixture of surprise, horror and fear told her all she needed to know.
Sam had wrapped an arm around Alices shoulders and pulled the girl into a one armed hug. She could feel the slender body tremble and she just hoped that the girl wouldnt fall apart, after unexpectedly being confronted with her nemesis.
"And how do you know this bloke?" Peter asked his brother with a frown.
"Remember my mate Carl Higgins, who moved down south to take over his uncles business when the old man got sick?" Michael spoke, seeing his younger brother nod. "Well, Carl has dramatically improved and extended the business, when I was there last year, he showed me around. This guy was in the office," Michael explained, pointing to the picture on the screen. "Carl introduced him to me as a friend and business partner."
"What kind of business?" Trishia asked, her eyes darting between the two brothers.
"Carl sells surveillance equipment, like I do. But when the internet became real popular, he invested in something new as well, that is where Martin came into the picture."
"What new thing?" Trishia asked slowly.
"Web cams," Michael answered. "Well, especially beach cams, where people can check out the surf and all that. It is supposed to be real popular among the beach bums and surfers. And tourists of course."
Trishia let the words sink in and settle in her brain, making it possible for her to mentally connect a few dots and when the invisible lines were drawn, her eyes went wide with shock. She cast a look at Sam and could tell by the expression on the blondes face that she had come to the same conclusion.
"Sonofabitch," Sam whispered.
"Amen to that," Trishia wryly remarked. "That just explains a lot."
"Am I missing something?" Peter impatiently asked, not able to hide his annoyance. "I dont think that. . . sonofabitchonaleakingsurfboard. . . Damn!" he exclaimed when reality sank in. "That sneaky mongrel!"
"Again: amen to that," Trishia replied, already speed dialing the inspectors cell phone number.
"Inspector? Its Trishia. Listen. . . "
Inside, the house was bustling with activity. Michael and Peter Jones, with help from Sam and Lucy, had been busy rearranging Sams office in a way that the surveillance equipment could be set up and the tall blonde could still use her office the way she was used to.
In the corner, the VCR and TV were replaced by three different units of the surveillance system that would allow them to keep an eye on the whole property from one single spot. Michael had also brought some night vision cameras that would be mounted in some very strategic places. Sam had asked Peter to tell his brother to bring all the equipment he thought a place like Murrook Farm would need and Michael had complied. The result was impressive and Sam had softly whistled when she had seen Michael unpack the different crates and boxes he had brought with him.
In spite of the necessity of having a whole security system installed, Sams eyes had shone with excitement. Jody, who knew her partner loved electronic gadgets, had smiled when Sam tried hard not to touch everything that came out of the boxes. She was very interested in what things were and how they worked, but she knew that if she would examine each and every piece, they would not be finished before the end of the day, even though Michael had reassured her that the whole system was a plug-and-play and could be set up in a few minutes.
The thing that had brought a big grin to her face was Michaels idea about how to hide the cameras from view. He and Peter had gone through the different areas where the cameras could be set up and when Sam had asked whether it would be possible to spot them from the road, the two brothers had looked at each other with smug faces.
Peter had crooked his finger at Sam and obediently she had followed him out of the house, to Michaels van, an equally curious Lucy and Jody in tow.
With a gesture that could only be described as dramatic Peter had opened the door of the van and had stepped aside.
Sams face had sported a deep frown when she had peeked inside, but soon a slow smile had spread over her face.
"So, and your point is. . . your brother has a job on the side as biology teacher?" Lucy had grinned, peering over Jodys shoulder.
"I think that is how he will hide the cameras, Freckles," Jody had chuckled, pointing at the hollow tree trunks, branches and some fake birds that almost looked real, until a closer look revealed the small opening in their bodies where the lens of the camera would peek through.
He really had expected to have more time. Unpleasantly surprised he had realized things had moved faster during his absence than he had anticipated. It was no disaster and it surely would not ruin the plans he had made, but it was annoying just the same. It meant he had made an error in judgment and that was something he was not used to at all. Until now all his plans had always worked out. But when he had pulled over at the parking area next to the building he had spotted a familiar car, one he had not expected to see there. Not yet anyway. It was a Saturday and if the inspector found it necessary to come back on her day off, things had been developing faster than he thought.
A pair of muddy brown eyes looked back at him from the rearview mirror and he wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"Unfortunate situation, but nothing I cant handle," he told himself, rubbing his chin and enjoying the feel of the smooth skin underneath his fingertips.
"Besides, I need to improvise now and that can be fun," he giggled. "Better go home and pack some stuff, before that bitch and her right hand dyke decide to do some serious damage."
He put the car in reverse and backed out of the parking area, careful not to draw any unwanted attention. Within a few seconds his car was swallowed up by the continuous stream of traffic.
With tired eyes Trishia looked to the side of the house where Peter was saying goodbye to his brother. Michael had been right. It had not taken him long to install the cameras and set up the entire system. In less than two hours they were up and running as Michael had put it.
With a small smile Trishia remembered the look on Michael Jones face when Sam had written him a check. The tall woman had paid for the expensive equipment without even blinking her eyes and by the look on the technicians face, she knew that her friend had given him extra money as well. Probably quite a lot, because he had opened his mouth when he had seen the check and it had taken him a while to produce the accompanying sound as well.
Hesitantly he had asked Sam if she was sure and when the blonde had slapped him on the back and reassured him she had not made a mistake, he had grinned and gratefully pumped her hand.
"Are you okay?" a soft voice suddenly sounded and when Trishia turned her head she looked into a pair of worried green eyes.
She smiled and wrapped her arm around Lucy, pulling her close. For a brief moment she closed her eyes and wished the whole situation away. Her body and mind craved some rest and she longed to take her lover home and relax. Or better yet, go on a vacation and indulge in some much needed rest, relaxation and loving attention.
"When this is all over, we will take a vacation," Trishia sighed, kissing Lucys cheek. "How about driving up North and finding a nice, quiet hotel somewhere?"
Lucy raised her head and looked at her lover with evident surprise. When she saw Trishia was serious about it she smiled and nodded in agreement.
"Just you, me, a quiet beach, a blue ocean and no cell phones?"
"Thats right," Trishia chuckled, tightening her hold on the warm body that was pressed against her side.
"Sounds wonderful," Lucy sighed, burying her face against Trishias shoulder.
"Then that is exactly what we will do as soon as we have sorted out this mess," the policewoman promised.
"I cant wait," Lucy mumbled, feeling Trishias other arm slip around her body as well and pull her closer. "That will be our first vacation together. Do you think you will be able to cope being around me twenty four hours a day?"
"I dont think that will be a struggle," Trishia smiled, nuzzling the soft skin of her lovers neck that was temptingly close. She could not resist the urge to kiss the sensitive spot behind Lucys ear, even though she knew that Fiona was watching them from just a few meters away. But to her surprise she did not hear the usual cat call or smart remark.
When she looked up, she noticed why Lucys sister was so quiet and she chuckled.
Yarra had her strong arm wrapped around Fionas neck and her hand was clamped over the teenagers mouth, while the dark haired girl was trying to pull herself free. But Yarra was taller and stronger than Fiona and while the dark skinned girl winked at Trishia she dragged Fiona with her inside the house.
"What?" Lucy dreamily asked, not inclined to leave her comfortable spot any time soon.
"Your sister just got removed from the porch," Trishia grinned. "With some bodily force."
"I dont have to ask which sister that was," Lucy sighed. "I am surprised she didnt make any of those Fiona patented remarks."
"Its hard to talk with a hand covering your mouth," Trishia dryly answered. "Yarra saved us."
"I hope Fiona doesnt bite her," Lucy chuckled. "Id hate to take her to the hospital to get the poor girl a rabies shot."
"Oh, ouch," Trishia laughed. "That was not a nice thing to say, honey."
"Pay backs," Lucy mumbled, snuggling closer to the policewomans strong body. "Besides, you know we dont mean half the things we say to each other."
"Yes, I know," Trishia answered. "You girls cant live with and cant live without each other."
"Self defense," Lucy remarked.
"I think its more a matter of the two of you being alike so much."
Lucy raised her head to look into a pair of twinkling eyes and she raised her eyebrows.
"If that is the case, then do I need to be afraid of some competition in. . . oh...lets say four or five years?"
Trishia brought her face closer to that of her lovers until they were nose to nose. Being so close to Lucy she could clearly see the tiny dark brown and grey specks in a sea of mostly green and for a moment she allowed herself to just gaze into its depths and forget all about where they were and who could be watching.
"You dont have to worry about that," she answered in a serious voice. "I dont give away my heart easily and I am a very loyal person. I dont think lightly about commitment."
"Commitment?" Lucy breathed. "I. . . are we. . . I mean. . . "
The place and time were not the way that Trishia had imagined them to be. In her mind there had been a romantic, candle light dinner, a walk along the beach, a star filled sky and a soft breeze ruffling Lucys dark hair. A clear moon should have painted silver sparks into the eyes of the woman in her arms. And in the distance the sound of the endless waves would have provided a soothing background music; a symbol of eternity.
Instead the sun was high in the sky, its heat painting a light coat of moisture on Trishias cotton clad back. She was filled with worry about the near future and knew the troubled lines around her eyes merged with the dark circles underneath them.
But the opportunity was a perfect one. . .
"You have my heart, Lucy McDonnell. You captured it the moment I saw you climb out of that window at Sarah and Megans house."
Trishia saw the moisture pool in the dark green eyes that were still so very close, she felt like she was drowning in them.
"I cant imagine my life without you in it anymore and I dont want to. Lucy McDonnell, will you do me the honor of sharing the rest of your life with me?" Trishia whispered, suddenly feeling her heart pound in her chest.
For a moment, time stood still. Lucy gazed into Trishias eyes and saw all the love she felt for the tall policewoman reflected back to her, with a sincerity and openness that almost took her breath away and left her in awe.
A feeling of complete happiness and love flooded all her senses, leaving a warmth that seemed to fill her whole being.
Lucy reached out a hand and tenderly cupped Trishias cheek. Slowly her thumb caressed the soft skin and she could feel the policewoman lean into the touch, while their eyes were still locked together. In Trishias eyes she could see the vulnerability that was being fed by growing insecurity about Lucys answer.
"I never want to wake up again without you next to me," Lucy finally answered in a voice that was hoarse with emotion. "Yes, I will share the rest of my life with you, Trishia Waters."
Trishia closed her eyes and she let out a breath that suspiciously sounded like a mixture of a sigh and a sob. When she opened her eyes again, Lucy could see the tears in her eyes and again she could feel herself falling deeper in love with the tall policewoman.
"Were you afraid I would say no?" Lucy asked in a whisper, brushing away a strand of short curly hair.
"A little," Trishia confessed, looking somewhat sheepishly. "I know you love me, but there was this tiny, little bit of insecurity that was nagging me in the back of my mind."
"I do love you, Trishia," Lucy stated, wrapping her hands around Trishias neck and pulling the taller woman closer. "I love you," she whispered again, before their lips met and they lost themselves in a kiss that was tender and loving, yet passionate and hungry at the same time.
After Michael had left, Peter Jones had waited a few minutes at the side of the house, because the last thing he wanted to do was interrupt the loving intermezzo on the veranda.
Politely he had looked the other way when his partner and Lucy had started kissing, but Peters interest in Sam and Jodys yard was limited and after a little while the sturdy policeman became a little impatient.
He cleared his throat and quickly glanced aside to see if his subtle signal had the desired effect. Unfortunately for him, both women were so engrossed in each other, that Peter knew he could throw some firecrackers in their direction and they would still not respond.
"And why would they?" he asked himself with a smile. "They produce enough fire and crackers themselves."
So Peter decided to grasp the ugly bull by its horns and slowly walked towards the two love birds. Unnoticed by the two women he approached them and climbed the few steps up to the veranda.
"Excuse me," he mumbled, passing them on his way to the door. There was still no response and with a huge grin Peter finally stepped inside the kitchen, where he was greeted by a few similar expressions of amusement.
"That was courageous, Peter," Jody complimented him with a chuckle. "Its so funny they didnt even notice you. They really must be on another planet at the moment."
"I just hope they keep it decent," Sam joked, the amusement evident in her clear blue eyes. "Or otherwise I will have to drag these three curious teenagers to the back of the house and lock them up."
"Yeah, right," Fiona snorted. "You and which army?"
"Are you challenging me?" Sam asked, lowering her voice to a soft purr. "Ooh, I love a good challenge."
"Down, honey," Jody laughed, using one of Kurts commands and backhanding Sam in the stomach. "Dont scare the girls."
Sam smiled at the smaller woman and quickly grabbed her hand, bringing it to her lips and softly kissing the skin.
"Oh, no, not you two as well. Is this contagious?" Fiona exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air and rolling her eyes.
"If it is we will have to find you somebody, Fiona," Yarra chuckled, her dark eyes sparkling with mischief.
Fiona cast a look at her friend and grinned when she noticed how close Yarra and Alice were sitting together. For a moment she hesitated, afraid to hurt her new friends feelings, but then she decided that if Alice wanted to be a part of their family, she had to be able to take a joke.
"Why find me somebody, C.J.?" she asked with a smirk, wiggling her eyebrows. "Did you find somebody already?"
Yarra threw back her head and laughed out loud. The happy sound made Alice smile and she cast a look aside, to see Yarra wink at her.
Sam and Jody exchanged an amused look and they both suppressed a chuckle. It had not escaped their attention that Yarra and Alice seemed to get along really well and to them the way Yarra stole glances of the cute blonde was endearing. Although they both realized that if their young neighbor would seriously fall for Alice, things could become very complicated.
"Why does she call you C.J.?" Alice curiously asked, not aware of the deeper meaning behind her two new friends bantering.
"Well, I am not entirely perfect, Alice," Yarra started to explain, trying to get a rise out of Fiona, who obliged and made some gagging noises. "I have a soft spot for cookies and unfortunately Fiona once saw me devour a whole batch of chocolate chip cookies and that is why she decided to call me Cookie Jar, or C.J."
"I swear Alice, dont ever leave anything that remotely resembles a cookie unsupervised when Yarra is around, or it will disappear forever," Fiona smirked. "The most amazing thing to me was that, after all those cookies, she wasnt even sick. She must be an alien or something."
"You are just jealous," Yarra grinned, shooting her friend a teasing look.
"She doesnt have to be," Jody piped in. "I vaguely remember an occasion when Fiona was. . . I think she was about five years old when mom made us some baked jam rolls and when she had put them on the table to cool off, most of them mysteriously disappeared."
"How many?" Yarra eagerly asked, grinning at Fiona who did her best to look bored and indifferent.
"Six," Joan answered with a smile, shooting her youngest daughter an affectionate look. "Fiona accused the cat of eating them, but she was really sick and after throwing up a few times. . . well, lets just say the evidence was clear."
"Eeeew, Mom, that is gross," Fiona mumbled, sending a laughing Yarra a look of feigned hurt. "Dont laugh, C.J. I was only five and didnt know better."
"Oh, suck it up, Fi," Yarra answered, wiping her eyes. "I guess we need to find you a suitable nick name as well."
"Oh, great. Like Red is not bad enough already."
"Red?" Alice echoed, sending Yarra a quizzical look.
"When our sweet Fiona here was a little girl, her hair was redder than it was dark, like it is now," Yarra explained. "So, they called her Red"
"And who told you that story, if I may ask?" Fiona asked with a raised eyebrow, shooting Jody an accusing look, who immediately held up both hands and shook her head in denial.
"Lucy," Yarra grinned. "I only had to ask once."
"Figures," Fiona grumbled. "Ill get her for that. After she finishes licking Trishias tonsils."
"Fiona!" Joan McDonnell exclaimed, but her words were practically lost in the howls of laughter that Fionas words evoked.
Outside on the veranda Trishia and Lucy were brought back into reality by the sound of laughing coming from the kitchen. They smiled at each other and shared one more, quick kiss.
"Do you think they are laughing at us?" Lucy asked, still aware of the rubbery feeling in her knees that Trishias kisses had caused.
"I wouldnt be surprised if it has something to do with us," Trishia admitted. "I guess we did provide some real live entertainment. I am sorry, baby. I didnt mean to make a spectacle out of us, its just that. . . "
"Ssshh," Lucy silenced her lover by pressing her fingers against a pair of soft lips. "I was doing my part as well, wasnt I?"
"Oh, yes, definitely," Trishia readily agreed, letting out a deep sigh.
Lucy chuckled and slowly untangled herself from the strong arms that were still holding her close.
"I wish we could continue this, but I am suddenly very aware of the audience we have," she confessed. "Besides, I know you promised to call Carol Wong back after Michael was done with installing the equipment."
"Yes, you are right," Trishia regretfully agreed. "Duty calls. I hope she managed to get a search warrant for Martin Coles place. Somehow I feel a look around that place could be very enlightening."
"Trish?" Lucys voice sounded uncharacteristically subdued and the policewoman shot her lover a curious glance.
"Do you mind if I tell my family? About us, I mean? It has been a very tense couple of days and I know they would welcome some good news."
"Sure, baby," Trishia smiled. "Whatever you want to do is fine by me."
"Thanks," Lucy whispered, standing on her toes to press her lips against Trishias, before grabbing the taller womans hand and setting course towards the kitchen.
It had not taken him long to sort out his belongings and pack a few boxes and suitcases. Martin Coles did not have much material possessions. The furniture in the house was old and worn and had been in there already when he rented the place. So were the kitchen utensils and the gardening tools, which he never used, since he despised getting muddy clothes and hands.
The only thing he spent a lot of money on, were his clothes and the top notch computer that was sitting on a sturdy table in the corner of the room.
Martin sucked in his bottom lip, trying hard to figure out a way to take the computer with him. It would not be hard to disconnect the different parts and stuff them in some boxes. His car was big enough to transport it all, especially since he had opted for a flat screen monitor that would not take up much room at all.
Martin had always been a careful person, who weighed his options and at all times tried to proceed with caution. He knew that if he would take the computer with him and be caught, he would be in trouble. So the best option would be to delete all his files and to make sure he would not leave a trace of anything that could tie him to illegal activities.
Martin crawled underneath the desk, to disconnect the video from the computer and decided that it would be safe to at least take that piece of equipment with him. He did not know what the future would bring and maybe one day he could use it for his entertainment again, or sell it if he ever needed the money.
When he got back to his feet again he automatically glanced outside and for a moment he thought his heart would stop.
Across the street the familiar car of his partner, Phil Kanides, slowly drove by and he could clearly see the look of tension and anger on the dark mans face.
"Dammit!" Martin cursed, realizing Phils presence could only mean one thing. "I need to get out of here!"
Martin was sure that Phil had not yet seen him, but stepping outside would quickly change that. Martin knew the noose around his neck was tightening, but he had always managed to escape being captured and he was positive this time would be no difference.
There was something there that had not been present before though. It was a feeling of anger, almost hate, towards the person responsible for all his problems. If she had not run away, he would have been home free a long time ago. It was her fault that he had to burn down the house. And it was also her fault that those three beautiful blonde girls lost their lives. But then, she had always been a tough one to discipline.
"Not anymore, though, blondie," Martin Coles hissed through clenched teeth. "I know where you are and I will punish you for what you did to me. You will pay!"
Hastily he grabbed his police gun from the table and slipped it inside its holster, underneath his jacket. He checked his wallet to see if he was carrying his police identification and opened the backdoor.
Casting one, long look over his shoulder he almost sighed with regret, but then he squared his shoulders and purposefully strode to the back of the yard, where a small gate lead to an overgrown track. He knew that if he followed the track, it would lead him away from the house, towards a busy shopping area, where he could easily blend in with the crowd.
A small giggle escaped his lips when he thought about Phil Kanides face as soon as he would discover Martins car was still in the driveway, but his partner was long gone.
"Serves him right, dirty Greek," Martin hummed, looking forward to his final revenge. "Just a little while longer and I can get rid of that dyke as well and then. . . youll be mine, Alice. I will make you nice and dead."
Chuckling about his own sick thoughts, Martin Coles was filled with anticipation, while his eyes shone with a cold madness.
Just as Trishia opened the screen door to the kitchen, her cell phone started buzzing again and with a quick, apologetic glance towards Lucy, she pulled it from her waistband and brought it to her ear.
"Inspector?" she greeted the person on the other side of the connection.
"I got the search warrant and I have a team ready to enter his house," Carol Wongs voice sounded. "In the meantime I discovered a few new disturbing facts about Martin Coles. I will fill you in later, but apparently he has a few different bank accounts and as many aliases. I cant wait to have a nice chat with this angel face."
"When will they. . . ?" Trishia asked in a tense voice, aware of all the eyes that were glued to her face.
"As we speak," Carol Wong interrupted. "Phil arrived at the scene about five minutes ago and I just heard that the house is surrounded. They are going in now."
"Damn," Trishia muttered under her breath. She had sworn to keep Alice and the McDonnells safe and nothing would make her leave Murrook Farm unprotected, but not being able to be there when they entered Martin Coles house stung.
Trishia cast a look at Peter, who was casually leaning against the kitchen counter. His posture seemed relaxed, but Trishia had known her partner for a long time and she knew he was as tense as she was.
"They are going inside Coles house right now," she spoke, seeing Peter purse his lips. She knew he would have loved to have been there as well, but knowing his temper, maybe it was better this way.
Trishia held the cell phone tightly to her ear, afraid to miss anything. In the background she could hear the crackling noise of another connection, possibly a police radio, which Carol Wong used to stay informed.
"They are in," the inspector announced, translating the crackling noises into something Trishia could understand.
Carol Wong was silent as they both braced themselves for what would happen next. Trishia picked up the unmistaken cries of clear that resonated through Carol Wongs office like a lashing whip and a feeling of dread started to make its presence known in the pit of her stomach.
She nervously rubbed the back of her neck, while her eyes locked with Peters. From the look on her face he had an idea of what was going on and he grinded his teeth, pushing back the anger he felt rising in his chest.
"Please, please, please," he silently pleaded. "Let him be there, for Alices sake. For the sake of those poor girls. For their families. For the damn sake of the whole world!"
"He is WHAT?" Carol Wongs voice suddenly bellowed in her ear and Trishia winced, loosening the grip on her cell phone. "He freakin isnt there? WHAT the HELL?"
Trishia closed her eyes and felt the bile rise in the back of her throat. She did not have the heart to look at Alice, or anyone else that was present in the room. From what she understood of the one side of the conversation she was able to pick up, Martin Coles had not been there when the police had barged into his home.
"Sonofafreakingbitch," Carol Wong cursed, adding a few more expletives that would make a sailor blush. "Trish, did you get that?"
"I did," Trishia sighed, opening her eyes and staring at the floor.
"Stay where you are. Is Peter still there as well?"
"Yes, he is," Trishia answered in a defeated tone.
"The both of you stay there. I dont have to tell you why."
"No, you dont," Trishia admitted, feeling tired and frustrated.
"Ill check some things out and I will be back with you as soon as I can. And Trishia? In the name of everything that is sacred: be careful!"
"I will, Inspector," Trishia promised, letting her gaze travel to Lucy who was staring at her with worried eyes.
"What was that all about?" Sam frowned, when Trishia switched off the cell phone and clipped it back on her belt.
"Our main suspect managed to leave the house just before my fellow police officers arrived," Trishia answered in all honesty, being painfully straightforward. "Officially he is a fugitive now."
She vaguely registered the shock on the faces that were all turned towards her, but her eyes focused on Alice. The teenager was sitting on the edge of her seat and stared at her with big blue eyes that were wide in horror. Her face was pale and Trishia could tell by just looking at her, how scared she was.
"He will be coming here," Alice stated, feeling an arm slip around her shoulders to give her some silent support. Without glancing aside she knew it was Yarra.
"I need to go," she whispered, gently pushing away Yarras arm and getting to her feet. "Because of me you are all in danger. I need to go right away."
To be continued in part 14
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