Sara's Kitchen - Chapters Four & Five

An Original Composition

© By Drew A. Blanc - JKP

Chapter 4

“Hey Marv, how in the hell are ya?” Mac’s handshake firm and powerful.

“Not bad, how about yourself Sheriff?”

“Good, call me Mac why don’t ya.”

Both grinning they sat. Mitzi still had all the original furniture from the sixties. Being in business for thirty-one years, she hadn’t changed and nothing else about her place had either. The cerise vinyl booth had numerous patches of red tape decorating its surface.

“Is Mitzi here today? I would sure like to see her.”

Sipping his coffee, the lieutenant gestured toward the counter of the restaurant. Mac turned around and saw her. Mitzi smiled and blew him a kiss.

At age fifty-four she looked much younger. A full figured woman with auburn hair she was still very attractive. It was her happy go lucky and sassy personality that Mac found captivating. Sadly, Mitzi had lost her husband of twenty-six years in a car accident several years ago. Mac’s divorce, almost a decade gone by had left him lonely. Having time on his hands, he turned to law enforcement. They understood each others mutual pain. During his last visit they had talked for hours.

She might sell her place. She was looking for a major change. Mac suggested Little Springs. He would retire from the sheriff s department and they could live out their golden years together in the Rockies. Maybe open up a small Inn in town. He would be the desk attendant and she could cook for the guests. It had been a dream of his for the last two years. She was just waiting for him to ask.

“Hey there Sheriff. How have you been? What brings you to my little restaurant on this dreary, rainy day?” She sat next to him, casually slipping off her sandals.

Removing the unlit cigar nibbled down to two inches, Mac kissed her on the cheek and hugged her tightly. “Just some business here with Marv. And of course your cookin’. What’s the special today Mitz? I could eat a horse.”

“The special is always the same for you handsome.”

The lieutenant shifted uncomfortably in the booth.

“And what might that be darlin’, Mac cleared his throat.”

Leaning closer to him, she winked. “Why of course, that would be me.”

Turner stroked his mustache and starred out the rain streaked window. He felt like he was intruding on an intimate conversation.

Mac covering her hand with his. “Be a good girl and bring me out a chicken fried steak dinner. You and I will talk later. Marv you want anything?”

“Naw, I am okay. Some more coffee would be great.”

Mac watched her intently as she walked through the kitchen swinging doors. “What a gal huh Marv? What a gal.”

Turner gave Ham all the details he and his team had put together. The scam’s artists had caught their attention about ten days ago. The had almost apprehended them downtown last Tuesday.

He explained how he had even spoken with them, but they had been is disguise. The store manager in Provo had seen them prior to their disappearance.

Turner estimated the two had taken the citizens of Salt Lake and for about thirty-five hundred dollars in the last ten days. At least since they became aware of their activities.

Mac pushed his plate out of the way and belched, “What about the boy?”

“That’s the interesting part Mac. The lab ran his fingerprints and nothing came up. On the other hand, this Amanda Ivory has a rap sheet both here in the States and in Canada.”

“Ya, I know about her. And I also know the boy. Jerry is a good kid. I am havin’ a hard time picturing him involved in this mess.”

“We did receive your memo on that murder outside your town. What was it, five, six weeks ago?

Do you think they are involved in this?”

Starring at the sketches, the lieutenant had laid in front of him, “thirty-four days today. I can see why you didn’t recognize them. These are crap, if you don’t mind me saying. Jerry doesn’t look like a criminal. Who drew these Marv?”

“Some police artist at the station. Why?”

“I can give you a better description. For one thing, the kid doesn’t have a birthmark like this one here, pointing to the charcoal color sketch. And of course we now know she was wearing a wig. Can you locate that artist? I would like him to try it again. With my help he will draw it correctly. Then maybe we can issue a national APB. I need to find them.”

“Sure thing Mac. You know victims of this sort of thing blow things out of proportion.” He motioned Mitzi for the check. . . . .

Chapter Five

Since the encounter with her cousins they hadn’t spoken with each other all afternoon. After arriving back at their suite, she locked herself in the bedroom ignoring his knocking and request for talk. Jerry felt somewhat betrayed.

Amanda had not been completely honest with him. What were Max and Alec doing in Las Vegas? He had many questions and wanted truthful answers. Up until now, he thought Amanda and her brother were both Americans from Massachusetts. He knew they where petty criminals and they made their living off of the un-expecting, but what really happened that night in Colorado? What were she and Brian really doing there? What was the game they were playing with the other dead man, if any? Feeling frightened, he paced the decorative carpet in the bridal suite.

Finally falling asleep on the sofa around four-twenty in the morning, he was awakened minutes later by a light knocking sound. Sitting up he asked who it was. There was no response. The bedroom door creaked open. Amanda’s half naked body appeared. They both starred at each other as if to ask one another who it was.

Quickly and lightly she walked over to him and grabbed his hand. Jerry gasped when she suddenly displayed in her other hand a pistol, gesturing him to walk with her to the door. She seemed so in control as she closed one eye and peered through the door’s security glass. Gently resting her forehead on the cold door. The gun dropped to her side.

“It’s my cousins. Please go and get my robe in the bedroom Jer.”

He didn’t hesitate. She was only wearing a bra and a pair of his boxer shorts. Seconds later he was back and helped her on with it. His reward was a reassuring hug.

Quietly she spoke. “It’s okay, I will handle this,” putting the gun in the left pocket of the hotel provided cotton garment. “Sit over there and let me do all of the talking. I know these guys. Don’t worry.”

Max and Alec entered their suite cautiously. Jerry’s attention was directed at their feet. Amanda tightened the cotton belt around her waist and sat next to him. The cousins remained standing. Reaching over to the bureau, she lit a cigarette with a gold-plated lighter. It was stamped with the hotel’s logo.

“Max, Alec, this is Jerry from Colorado. He is my new best friend. What brings you two to Vegas? And more importantly, to our suite this hour in the morning?”

“Does he know who we are Mandy?” Alec’s eyes burning a whole in Jerry’s chest.

She exhaled her drag, “yea of course. He asked, I told him. What’s the problem guys?”

Max walked over to Jerry and offered his hand. He grinned at Amanda. “You two working? Looks like you are doing well?”

“Actually we are honeymooning. Always sticking to the made up story.

“So what are you guys doing here? Working?” Crossing her legs.

“Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t,” Alec said without emotion.

Max glared at his younger brother, “chill out little brother. This is Mandy remember? We grew up together. We are family and have been through a lot. Can we sit?” Jerry made room for them as Max sat.

“How is Brian doing these days? That rotten son of a bitch,” Alec still standing.

Absent of any emotion, Amanda blew her smoke in his direction. “He’s dead. It’s been about a month. A Job went sour. Why do you care?”

Alec responded before his mind had time to absorb the news. “Sorry Amanda, I mean, well, didn’t like each other. You know. I don’t know what to say.”

Max interrupted, “Mandy if you don’t feel like talking about it, it’s okay. My condolences to you and your sister. Does she know? Have you heard from her recently?”

“No, I haven’t and I don’t know if Julia knows. Jerry and I would like to get back asleep if that is okay,” crushing the finished cigarette in the hotel’s crystal ash tray.

More apologizes where expressed by both cousins before they departed. Max congratulated Jerry on his choice in a wife. Amanda closed the door behind them and untied the hotel’s robe, dropping it to the floor Climbing next to him on the sofa, she laid her head on his shoulder as she wrapped her legs around his. They were silent.

His sleep came first and fast, lightly snoring. Amanda held him close and started outlining a new plan. Her over active mind was spinning with ideas and chaotic nonsense before she fell into a deep slumber. . . . .

The next afternoon after they had finished packing, Jerry finally got up the nerve to ask the question. He had been practicing since they woke up. In the shower he told himself that it was time to find out the whole story. He felt calm and determined. Amanda was his true love.

“I am ready to go when you are Jer,” zipping up the last of the bags.

He had been ready for the last hour and half. “Lets go. Have you paid the bill yet?”

“Did it yesterday. We have till eleven o’clock.

Pulling his left sleeve up he read his designer watch, “it's almost eleven thirty we better leave now.”

The exhaust from the buses filled the hot and windy afternoon with gray clouds of billowy smoke. Jerry entertained himself by trying to figure out where Amanda was going to take them next. She said the West Coast, but told her cousins they were headed for Philly.

“Ever been to San Fran sweetie?”

“Where is San Fran?”

“San Francisco California darlin’. The city made for lovers.”

“So we are going to the West Coast after all?”

“Yep and we leave in about five minutes, lets go.”

Once on the bus and finally settled Jerry asked her again. This time they had time. It would take seventeen hours to reach their destination. “Amanda, it’s time. I want to know everything. Start from the beginning.”

She knew it was time too. Putting it off the inevitable for last five weeks had been harder on her than him. She wanted to tell him, but didn’t know where to start. Shifting in her chair so she could face him, she reached for both of his hands and began.

“My real name is Amanda D’Ivoire. I was born in a suburb North of Toronto Canada in nineteen seventy-one.” “The same year my older brother was born,” Jerry commented.

“Please honey. I am just getting started. Let me finish. You can ask questions later okay?”

“Sure thing.” He kissed her hands.

“My twin brother was two minutes older than me. Giving birth to my younger sister Julia, our Mother passed away when we were three. My father was a carpenter before he died. He only worked five months out of the year. The rest of the time he drank and played darts with his friends at a local tavern. He passed away when I was four. The Canadian Government gave custody of us kids to my mother’s sister, Aunt Hillary. She raised us with her boys Alec and Max, who where five and seven at the time.”

“We pretty much lived a normal life until we were teenagers. That’s when we were introduced to our uncle Nick. We all called him uncle Shaky. He is a reformed alcoholic and has a tendency to shake. It’s hard to explain. You would have to meet him. Anyway, Aunty didn’t like us to hang around with him, because he was in and out of trouble with the law all the time. He had even been to prison. At the time we all thought he was old. But actually he was about the same age I am now. He never worked and always seemed to have money.”

“One day he showed up at two in the morning bleeding. He had been stabbed in the stomach and had lost lots of blood. Us kids took him down to the cellar and brought him bandages and hot soup. We hid him there for two weeks until he could walk again. Aunty never knew. We would sneak him food and magazines. Story time was our reward for our courageous efforts.

Every night around ten we would all sneak down to the cellar. Under the light of a lantern he would describe to us in detail all of his secret money making techniques. We all sat and listened to every word. We learned how to pick pockets, scam street vendors and store merchants. When he got better, we would practice with him in the cellar. He showed us all the subtle nudges and special moves to make it work. Practicing on each other, we got good in a matter of days. Then it became show time.”

Jerry was fascinated. His thoughts were glued to her every word.

“Brian and I were fourteen at the time. Our aunty struggled to keep the household together. I wore the same clothes for two years. We only ate two meals a day. Max and Alec worked for old man Farnsworth in his grocery store to help make ends meet. You have to understand Jerry, we saw away out of our poverty. It made sense to us all. It was Brian who organized us. That was the beginning.”

"From then on every weekend we would take the train to downtown Toronto to play the game. We got caught a few times, but we looked so much like street kids the police would always let us go. As time went on, we got better and better. One Fall afternoon I remember uncle shaky showed up downtown and sat at a bus stop. He watched us pick pockets and purses. To his amazement we in that single afternoon managed to come home with over fifty dollars.”

“Jerry, it was like we had struck gold. We finally saw a way out. Brian would make all of the arrangements and assign each of us a certain task. Each of us developed different skills. He knew how to make the most of them.

One day about a year later my sister Julia decided she didn’t want to play anymore. With the money we had saved she bought a piano. She would stay home and practiced instead. She improved dramatically in just months. Brian encouraged her to continue. She was the odd person out anyway. He was always having to work her in with his strategies. We all agreed. Especially Max. At that time he had a serious crush on her.”

“By the time Brian and I were nineteen we had managed to save over five thousand bucks. We all decided to play it straight for a while. Alex and Max opened up their own produce shop downtown and Brian and I moved into an expensive apartment. Somehow he managed to get a job as a security officer at a bank. Later on he helped me get a job there as a teller. We finally were living the good life. Not rich, but comfortable.”

“Time went by and we lived that way for seven years. Then I got married when I was twenty-six.”

“Wait a second. Can you back pedal a little bit?” Jerry let go of her hands. “You never told me you were married before.”

“Sweetie you asked for the whole story and I am trying to tell you everything.”

“But, are you still, I mean does he know?”

“No Jer, we are not. He was the bank Vice President. I fell for him because of his good looks, the power and money he possessed. Looking back now I realize I didn’t really love him. He had a big house, fancy cars and clothes. At first it felt like I was his princess. I didn’t have to work. All my needs and wants were met. But as time went on I became bored and lonely. The last few years were the worse. He became abusive verbally and physically. Brian came to my rescue and I divorced him.”

Jerry leaned over and kissed her on her right cheek. “Sorry you had to go through that. Did you get anything from the separation?”

“Not really. Just my clothes and some of the jewelry. He had high-priced lawyer friends on his side who banked with him. They accused me of all kinds of things, but that’s another story hon. I well tell you some other time. Okay?”

“Sure, I understand. So what happened then?”

“Brian almost lost his job at the bank because of my divorce, but he managed to keep it. Meanwhile, Max and Alec lost their successful produce business due to their heavy gambling debts. My life style changed dramatically. Brian and I were still trying to hold on to what we had and help our cousins out at the same time. Money was running out.”

“What was happening with your sister and aunt during this time?”

“Okay, I can tell you that. Aunt Hillary passed away when I was twenty. Julia moved to New York to study piano at a famous music conservatory. As far as I know she is still playing to big audiences with standing ovations all over the country.”

“Wow. Do you still stay in contact with her?”

“Not really. Her life style doesn’t acknowledge the kind of people we are Jer. She lives in a plush Manhattan apartment and hob nobs with the rich. You know, I am very proud of her. I really do miss my sister. But we have all chosen our different paths and must play them out to the end.”

“So what happened after you and your husband split?”

“A lot happened sweetie. Let me back up some. What did you call it? Back pedal? She giggled.”

Jerry laughed too and they hugged.

“My ex-husband before our divorce was involved in some kind of secret deal. He never spoke a word of it to me, but I knew it was big. He had been involved in other stuff, but this was supposed to the big one. He never discussed business with me. He would leave at odd hours of the night and be gone for days. I mentioned it to Brian and he quietly did some checking.”

“It seems my husband was the money man for a major drug ring in the Toronto area. I was so naive. According to Brian they were planning on bringing in enough stuff to supply the entire Eastern part of Canada.” The deal was so big he took many precautions. I think he divorced me to get me out of his way. He knew I didn’t love him. I was glad he did.”

“So what happened? Did they do it? Must have been a lot of money?”

“I am just beginning Jer. Do you want to rest some? I can finish later.”

“I am wide-awake Amanda. Please finish telling me.”

“Okay if you like. One thing is for sure. Brian was one of a kind. He knew how to make something out of nothing and that’s how this whole thing started.”

“Back when I was a teller at the bank I would see and hear things. Brian quizzed me for weeks. He put two and two together and came up with a plan. It was ingenious. We didn’t care about the drugs. We just wanted the money. That’s when we got Max and Alec involved. Later on Shaky came on board. We needed to disappear. ”

“The idea was to intercept the money before it changed hands. It took many hours of planning. We risked being killed in the process. Timing was everything.”

“We knew Joseph, my husband and a couple of his people were to meet at the house at five in the morning, then drive to Quebec. Brian’s idea was to hit them before they even left the house. I knew the layout, but didn’t know the new security codes. Brian and I decided to pay Joe an early morning visit. The trick was getting through the front gate. There was always a posted guard at the entrance.”

“How did you do that? Weren’t you scared?”

“Yes very. Like I said, timing was the single most important thing. The night shift guard and I had become friends over the years. I was always coming home late. Taking the money was the easy part. Getting away with it and staying alive was the hard part. The one thing we didn’t know was the time had been changed. The meeting was still on for five o’clock, but later on that day. We found out later it had been changed to five at-night. It’s possible we received some bad information. It’s hard to say.”

“So the guard just let you right in?”

“Well you can say he let me right in. Poor Christopher. He was a true friend and I used him.”

“At that time I still owned my Lexus. He recognized my car and opened the gate. I always stopped to talk with him. He checked the car and of course no one else was with me. As always though, he left the gate open in case I was asked to leave. I had experienced this before. Max and Alec snuck up and knocked him unconscious. Then Brian joined me. We both drove up to the house. Alec took over as the guard and closed the gate. Max was the look out.”

“Our next problem was getting into the house. It had a state of the art computer controlled security system. Earlier I had told Brian that I could handle that part of the plan. He trusted me so he never gave it another thought.”

“I didn’t know you knew about computers and security systems.”

“I don’t sweetie. I just walked right up to the front door and started pounding. Brian came unglued. I told him to hide and that I would get us in. Sure enough the alarm went off and all hell broke loose. Eventually, Joseph answered the door.”

“What did he say? Did he call the police?”

“Naw, I had pulled a couple of stints like that before. Usually when I was drunk. He wasn’t surprised at all.”

“My cousins had prepared themselves for something like this. In case I couldn’t break the security code, they would know what to do. I knew all along that I couldn’t, but I also knew that I could get us in. I didn’t want to bother them with that part of the plan. I knew Joseph would call Christopher and ask what was going on. I knew by then, Alex and Max would have revived him. They would then force him to recite a prearranged script. I knew Joe would eventually come to the door.”

“I was surprised because he opened the door in his bathrobe. Remember, we thought he would be leaving early with some associates. That was the information we had. For a split second I thought the whole plan had gone sour. That self entitled brat asked me what I was doing there. I told him I needed to talk with him. As soon as he turned around to go back in the house, probably to call the police, Brian emerged from the darkness and grabbed him. Forcing him inside, while I closed the door ”

TWO YEARS AGO

“What the hell are you two doing here, Joseph ran his hands through his curly hair. Do you realize it is after four in the morning?”

Amanda picked up the telephone and called the guard house. “Yea we know. Don’t get comfy. We don’t plan on being here long.”

“It’s Mandy. Everything okay there?”

Max and Alec assured her all was well. She told them they were in and should be out in a few minutes.

“Brian, we are good to go. Joe where is the money?”

“What money? You know I don’t keep anything in the house. What, are you resorting to robbery now?”

“No, I like to call it belated justice for crimes committed against me and the youth of our nation, you bastard.” She slapped him swiftly across the left side of his face.

“Don’t play games with me. We know about the big deal. We also know you and your crew are suppose to meet here at five, then drive to Quebec. Where is the damn money?”

Brian stepped in between them. Amanda knew that look in his eyes. She backed off. It was time for him to take over.

“You two have no idea what you have stumbled into. The deal is not what you think. Joseph walked over to a desk. Brian cautiously followed. I am not what you think I am.”

Producing some documents, he handed them over to Brian. Amanda watched her brother examine the letters. He frowned and then handed them over to Amanda.

The letters were stamped with Canada’s, Minister of Law and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations insignia’s.

“I am working for the United States and Canadian Governments. It has been a joint effort by both countries to stop drug traffic on the Eastern sea board of North America. The deal you are talking about is only one out of many. My God, you two really do think you can get away with this? What do you plan on doing?”

Brian’s right hand slowly rubbed his closed eyes. “How do we know these letters are for real? I find it hard to believe you are working for these people.”

“Believe me it wasn’t my choice. These drug dealers just happen to bank with me. Out of all the banks in Toronto they had to pick mine. I was approached several years ago by the FBI. They cleared it with our government. I tried to find some way out of it, but the pressure by the owners of the bank and the Americans was too much. I had to play along.”

Amanda placed herself directly in front of him. “Don’t you dare lie to us Joseph. Why did the FBI pick you? Why not the President of the bank? Or someone else?”

“Because Amanda, I have intimate knowledge of their banking records and transactions. On the surface everything looks and is legitimate. The money is laundered through various foreign companies an banks. Then the funds are deposited in our bank. They picked our bank because of its location. We are close to both Chicago and New York and still out of the United States.”

“So is the money here or not?” Amanda lit a cigarette. Knowing it annoyed him.

“No, it is not, to answer your question. Why do you think I have a large sum of money here in the house?”

Brian paced the floor trying to make heads or tails of the situation. “Mandy, obviously we received some bad information. What time were your drug friends supposed to show up?”

“They are not my friends. Late this afternoon, around five, why?”

They had been set up. Brian was sure of it. But why? Because they knew the plan? Or was the misinformation intentionally given to him? He reached for the phone. He wanted to inform Max and Alec of the problem.

The front door suddenly opened. Two well-dressed men forced the cousins and the guard into the house at gunpoint. A third man dressed in a jogging suit entered. He also carried a gun. Amanda dropped her cigarette.

“Trent, Joseph feeling relieved walked over to the third man. His right hand extended. What a surprise. I didn’t expect you until later on this afternoon.”

The gray-haired man in the jogging suit shot him point blank. Horror filled Joseph's eyes as he fell to the floor. Blood gushed from his head covering his face in crimson streaks.

Brian, tense looked around at the others. Amanda was shaking. The cousins and the guard were visibly frightened as well. Facing the gray-haired man Brian saw that he had holstered his gun. The man spoke.

“Joseph has a big mouth. We can’t afford to mess this up now. My name is Trent White. Not my real name of course. I am a special contract agent employed by the FBI. My associates are also contract agents. We are the people responsible for this mess.”

“By the way, congratulations to you Amanda, inspecting her admirably. Very clever of you to bypass Joseph’s over priced security system by simply banging on the door.” The two suits nodded in agreement.

“The information you received Brian, was intentionally leaked to you. My people needed to find out how many parties were privy to our plan at hand. How exactly does the Ivory gang fit into this my friend? Oh yes, we know who you are. Interesting though, we were led to believe that you all had retired. What is your game? We know drugs have never been a part of your strategies. Was it the money?”

Amanda looked at her brother with pleading eyes. He knew her like the back of his own hand. But he decided to play it straight with the older man.

“Yes, it was the money. My sister use to be married to him, pointing to the bloody corpse. She gave him seven years only to be shafted in an ugly divorce. It was our way of setting things straight. You are right. We didn’t want the merchandise, just the money. We had no idea he was working for you. We thought he was.”

White interrupted. “I know, a wealthy banker whose side line was drugs. Am I right?”

Brian nodded. “He showed us some papers that seemed to be on the up and up. Then you people barged in. Frankly, I don’t know what to think.”

"Lets all sit down and I will explain things. It’s too early in the morning. I am an old man you know?”

The FBI contract agent led them all into Joseph’s study. The suits put away their guns and guarded the front door. Max and Alec sat with Amanda. Brian stood with Christopher. The death of his employer still replaying in his mind.

White displayed an expensive pipe.“Hope you don’t mind if I smoke,” Sitting in a leather chair behind Joseph’s large oak desk. Amanda was ahead of him, already smoking her Salem.

“Our employer has no knowledge of you all. I took it upon myself to keep that information in strict confidence. I have no intention of hurting you. Please try to understand my position. I am being paid by the US government to do a job. Joseph is, or rather was my conduit to Anastacio Herrea, the main guy in the Columbian drug cartel

He is the head enchilada that supplies cocaine and other drugs for this part of Canada. It filters down to the New England area of the states and has been that way for many years. The FBI with all of their resources has tried in vain to put a stop to his illegal activities since ninety five.

Finding the elusive drug lord is the key to bringing down and completely stopping most of the drug trade here.” White puffed, blowing translucent blue smoke toward the ceiling of the study.

“Three years ago I was approached by a higher up at the FBI. He hired me to infiltrate the drug ring here in Canada. Their hands have been tied due to the United States stand on the FBI being involved with international law. The CIA, whose job it had been up until then, had been using the drugs and money to finance their own black covert operations in the Middle East. The President didn’t want another scandal like Carter had in the Seventies. He dismissed the acting Director who had replaced the one he had appointed after his former’s unfortunate death.

Shortly there after I was brought on to put an end this long battle. The FBI is now completely in charge.”

Brian surveyed the study. It was rich with antiques, expensive paintings and fixtures. This kind of dough wasn't from just a bankers salary. Some questions began to form in his mind. Something was missing in this whole charade. White’s explanation, though intriguing, didn’t explain why he just shot in cold blood his only connection to the big guy. If Joseph indeed was the money man, why didn’t they just follow him to Herrea?

Supposedly, there had been other transactions. What were they waiting for? It didn’t add up.

White picked up the phone on the desk. Brian counted the numbers he pressed. It was a long distance call. Leaving Christopher he approached Amanda and his cousins.

“Little sister, are you alright?”

Amanda silent, continued to smoke. Max and Alec both seemed disoriented. They had never been in a situation they were not in control of.

Brian sat next to Max. He whispered. “I don’t know about you, but something seems out of place here. Why did this FBI guy shoot Joe? Am I missing something?

Max thought about his comment and then whispered back. “You know what I think cousin?



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