Guarded

Chapter 20 - Guarded

Robin looked at the text from Timothy. 'Entering cabin now. I hope you didn't lie to me.' She blew out a relieved breath, texted back, and waited for a response. 2 minutes went by. She bit her lip. "Okay … moving to next stage." She whispered to herself.

She pulled out a cheap, disposable, trac-phone and called 911. "Hello! We need an ambulance, and the police at the old Sexton Place! Please, hurry! There are injuries and shots fired!"

She hung up, then she made another call on her regular phone. It picked up after a single ring.

"Go ahead, Robin." The smooth voice of Luca said over the connection.

"My Don." She swallowed. She didn't normally speak directly to Luca, but this was an extraordinary event. "It has started. Police and medical personnel are on the way to Corbin Reina's location. I don't know the disposition of any involved - only that the young agent didn't respond back after our initial communication. What else do you need of me?"

Back in his upstairs office, Luca leaned back in his chair. "You have done well. I only need to be notified of news of this situation, should you get any through your connection to your husband."

"Very well, Don. I will report back should I find out more."

Luca hung up and took a deep breath. This was by far the most dangerous and risky part of the plan. Stefano and Jenoah both knew that. Luca also knew the potential payoff in terms of information, and ultimately the exoneration of his nephew, Stefano were worth the risk. Stefano and Jenoah agreed. Yet, it was still a tremendous gamble filled with unknowns.

Luca forced himself to be calm and patient. It was an exercise he had perfected at one time, long ago, though he was unused to the need for it lately. To pass the time he looked over all of the documents spread on his desk. As he gazed at them, he tapped his phone. It was very nearly time to make another call. He only needed a single additional item in his possession, and that particular chore would be done as well.

Everything he could do had been done. Luca Giovanni commanded thousands of men and women spread across the globe and had a personal wealth of hundreds of millions. He had his fingers in the affairs of most of the heads of state in the developed world. And as a result, he could admit that patience was a muscle he hadn't been forced to use in a while.

But use it he would. He steepled his fingers in front of his nose, and he watched his phone - waiting.

____________________________________

Chad hurried out of his house and Mia called after him. "Be careful!"

He didn't respond. He got a notice from the chief for all available officers to respond to a 'situation with hostiles and potential injuries' at the old Sexton homestead.

'Fuck. Fuck. What's happening?' He put the truck into gear and he tore out of his driveway.

He hit the highway, and he opened it up. He wasn't in a cruiser, and he wasn't even in uniform, but he had his badge and his gun. And he would damn sure be 'available' for trouble at this address.

"Call Paul Boyd." He said to his phone that was stuck to his dash. The phone dialed on speaker, and it rang until it went to message.

Chad narrowed his eyes and he frowned. He put the pedal on the floor, and his truck flew over the highway at a breakneck speed.

___________________________________

Time seemed to slow for Paul. He watched, horrified as the gun against Corbin's chest went off. The blonde man jerked, and Harris staggered back. The agent's hand reflexively closed on the trigger, and a shot went wide to bury itself in the wall behind Paul.

Corbin staggered then slumped to the ground. And then everyone was in motion. Stefano bent to pull a small pistol from a hidden holster on the inside of a boot, and Jenoah ducked under the living room side of the counter. His eyes were slanted dangerously, and he looked at the gun Corbin had dropped when he fell.

In the background Paul could hear a shredding, tearing sound. Then the thud of wood as a door flung open.

Paul dove for his firearm.

Harris had a shocked expression on his face. "You … fuck." He had taken the force of the bullet as it exited Corbin's body. It was less than it would have been, but it still had a lot of momentum and hit him square in his chest with the power of a sledgehammer. He looked as if the breath had been knocked from him.

Harris grimaced in pain and rage, and he aimed his firearm directly at Paul. Paul realized there was nothing he could do. He just wasn't going to get to his gun and raise it in time.

A TERRIFYING, screaming sound ripped through the cabin, and a furry streak launched itself at Harris.

A recently freed Zampa tore into Harris' leg, and he screamed as cloth and blood flew from him. The nearly full-grown lynx latched onto his hamstring with her teeth, and she raked him viciously with her long back claws. Again, the shot from his gun went astray. This time it buried itself into the thick beams of the wooden ceiling.

Paul brought his gun up, and Stefano did the same. Jenoah dove into the open and snagged Corbin's .38.

Harris refocused, tried to aim at Paul, then suddenly a gun went off. Three rounds were fired. Expertly clustered, an inch above his bullet-proof vest, Harris had what appeared to be a massive gunshot wound just below his Adam's Apple.

The agent's dark eyes were wide with incomprehension. He swayed, then toppled over. His gun skittered from his hand across the floor.

Timothy held his weapon on target, a grim, determined glint in his eye. Then he slumped back to the ground and groaned in agony.

Stefano stepped close to Harris, and Paul went to Corbin where the blonde man had fallen.

Paul knelt, a look of restrained dread on his face. He rolled Corbin onto his side, and the blonde man gasped in pain.

Paul instantly went into a cool, logical state of mind. "Jenoah." He threw his truck keys to the young man. "Get my bag. In the blue truck. Hurry." Jenoah instantly moved to obey and dashed out the door.

The fireman tore open Corbin's shirt, as the smaller man struggled to breathe. A hole in his chest bled profusely, and Paul checked his back. Another hole was there. The bullet passed completely through him, and from Corbin's breathing problems he knew it had punctured his lung.

"I need a plastic ID card. Two of them. And tape."

Stefano stepped over next to Paul and dug out his wallet. He handed over a couple of his fake IDs. "Harris is dead."

Paul nodded. His job meant he was supposed to try and save Harris. It was his duty. But he had his priority. "Call an ambulance."

Timothy coughed and winced with pain. "Already … handled." He prayed Robin had played straight with him. If she had, when he didn't respond she was to send in the cavalry. "I think."

Jenoah returned with Paul's bag, and he looked with more than a little fear at Zampa. The cat rubbed on Paul's legs as he squatted next to Corbin, and she didn't seem interested in anyone else. He handed over the bag, and Paul pulled a roll of wide silk tape from the contents.

Corbin struggled hard to breathe. "Can't … get a … breath." There was blood on his lips, and he panted rapidly.

"I know. Hang on. I've got you." Paul placed one of the laminated cards flush against the hole on Corbin's back, and he quickly taped down all sides to seal it as much as he could. Then he did the same to the hole on Corbin's chest. Except he only secured three sides.

Corbin exhaled and Paul heard the card against his chest flutter as air in his chest cavity escaped. The bullet holes meant there was no pressure difference, and his lung couldn't inflate. But now, after Paul's work when Corbin inhaled the card kept air from rushing in since it was pulled flush against his skin. When he exhaled, the single un-taped side allowed air in his chest cavity to rush out.

Corbin's eyes widened with relief, and Paul knew his lung was inflating.

Stefano noticed the difference in him. "He's going to be okay?" There was a real concern in his voice.

"Not unless we get him to the hospital. He's still bleeding internally. I can't do much about that out here." Paul applied a bandage from his emergency kit to Corbin's back over the laminated card which sealed the wound on that side.

While Paul worked on Corbin Jenoah bent to check Timothy. The young agent groaned but allowed himself to be rolled onto his back. Jenoah frowned. "No blood." Then he grinned. He pulled open Timothy's jacket, and there was a bulletproof vest under it. "Smart man."

Paul looked over his shoulder at them. "No open wounds. But he could have broken ribs. The vest can't stop the force, only distribute it."

"Pretty sure I have broken ribs." Timothy lay on his back and grimaced at the pain in his chest.

Paul continued to hold pressure on Corbin's back wound. "Timothy, take a deep breath."

The lanky man did, then he gave a surprised grunt of pain. "Fuck." He gasped. "Fuck that hurt."

"You've got broken ribs." Paul's said, then his head jerked up. He had a look of concentration on his face for a moment, then he smiled. "Sirens. It's a rig, thank god." Paul knew he heard an ambulance siren, and soon the vehicle had stopped outside. He heard another vehicle too.

Jenoah met the paramedics outside, and after convincing them there was no active danger, he brought them into the cabin. Chad was right beside them, gun drawn but down, and entered with the crew. His eyes scanned the room quickly. He checked Harris' body, then he put away his pistol and knelt beside Paul.

"How can I help?" First responder mode kicked in, and all in the room wore their cool, professional personas.

Paul looked up and locked eyes with him. "Just … stay with us."

Chad nodded tightly, and he looked over at Stefano. The Italian had pulled a chair over to the corner, and he dug at something up on the ceiling with a knife. "You do know, that guy's a wanted man?" Chad whispered.

Paul nodded. "Yeah. I'll explain later." He shook his head. "As much as I can at least. I'm still trying to figure it all out."

Corbin coughed, and a fine mist of blood sprayed on Paul's arm. Corbin's eyes fluttered.

"Let's hurry this up, guys!" Paul helped load Corbin onto the stretcher, and out the door they went. More sirens could be heard, and flashing lights soon lit up the trees that lined Corbin's gravel road. They loaded the stretcher into the rig. Paul looked down at an attentive Zampa. "I'll be right back." He bent and scooped up the lynx. He quickly carried Zampa to Corbin's bedroom, and he put her inside. She cried as he shut the door.

Paul glanced worriedly at the other bedroom door. Zampa had torn it open, the wood splintered and broken on the doorframe. He hoped she wouldn't do the same trick to the other door, now that there wasn't excitement in the cabin to rile her. Paul then returned to the rig and got into the back with Corbin and the paramedic. With no more room in the back, Chad got up front with the ambulance driver.

Another ambulance and two police cars crowded into Corbin's turn-about. It looked more like a parking lot now with all the vehicles. Luckily no one blocked the first ambulance.

Inside the cabin, Jenoah took both of the USB drives from Stefano. "Take those." Stefano nodded at him. "You know what to do."

The young man nodded. "See you soon, father."

Stefano nodded and embraced Jenoah. Then Jenoah slipped out the back door and disappeared into the darkness of the night.

Soon Timothy was loaded into the second ambulance, and Stefano was taken into custody. A call to the coroner was made, and a couple of the local police stayed on hand. They took pictures of the scene and secured the area until the coroner arrived.

____________________________________

Corbin lay on his injured side and he stared at Paul. The man cooly assisted the paramedic with Corbin's care in the back of the ambulance. His face was a mask of professional detachment. Corbin reached and intercepted his hand as it moved to adjust the oxygen on the blonde man's face.

Paul looked at his eyes. The fireman frowned, and Paul's mask began to break. "I … I need to focus, Corbin."

Corbin shook his head, the movement slight. His grip tightened on Paul's hand. Paul wet his lips and swallowed. "You've got to be okay. All right?" His deep voice cracked, and tears streaked down his face.

The blonde man only smiled, the expression was fond, but also pained and tired. And he held tight onto the hand of the man he loved.

____________________________________

Jenoah moved carefully and steadily through the brush. It was nearly pitch black outside, but he took his time. Speed was not an asset right now, remaining hidden was. He crossed over the fence on the north side of Corbin's property, and he found the motorcycle on the property beyond. It was a dirt bike that was stashed under a pile of brush, right where he had hidden it three nights ago.

He righted the machine, and he pushed it through the dark woods. After about forty minutes he came to the highway. He looked around, threw a leg over the bike and started it. Soon he rode free toward Hailey. He had already checked in with the Family, and the roads were clear of checkpoints and police.

It wasn't long before he entered town proper. Jenoah pulled around the back of their building. One of the Family met him in the parking lot. The woman put on a helmet, and Jenoah handed the bike over to her. The motorcycle sped away, and Jenoah used a key to open the back door.

He entered and there were two, large men flanking the doorway. One locked the door behind him, and the other put a hand on his shoulder, and gently (but surely) pushed him down the hallway. Jenoah knew the men had their directives, so he allowed himself to be handled without resistance or complaint.

He was led upstairs. The man opened the door, pushed Jenoah inside, then he shut the door. Luca turned around in his chair, his eyes like dark coals.

"Tell me, great nephew. What has happened, and do you have what we need?" Luca had already spoken to Robin and gotten as much information as she knew from her police captain husband. But he wanted to speak to someone who was there to fill in the gaps.

Jenoah nodded and pulled out the USB drives. "I do, my Don. And … for your first question I will need to sit. It is ... a story."

Luca motioned to the chair before his desk. Jenoah sat and put the drives in front of Luca. Then he leaned forward, eyes wide, and began to detail the strangest, most exciting night of his young life.

___________________________________

Paul slumped in a chair in the waiting room. He stared ahead, his eyes on the fake marble tile floor. Chad sat next to him. Corbin was taken into emergency surgery three hours ago. By now it neared midnight, and Chad stifled a yawn. Paul glanced over at him.

"You don't have to stay." He took a deep breath and let it out. "Thanks for coming here with me. But it's fine. Go home, Chad."

Chad shook his head. "No." Then he frowned. He pulled his buzzing phone from his pocket. "Ah, Mia's on her way. She's going to bring some food."

Paul nodded. "Ok." His voice was quiet.

The firefighter seemed to wear an eternal, lost expression, and Chad secretly worried about what might happen to his friend if Corbin didn't make it. He had never seen Paul so taken with anyone. And … he and Mia had come to care for Corbin too.

"Hey. Paul." Chad put a warm hand on his shoulder, and Paul half-turned his head toward him. "You did the best you could for him. You know that, right? Whatever happens, you have to remember that you did your best."

Paul nodded, but his face screwed up, and his nose pointed toward the ground. "He … he shot himself. To save me." Paul shook his head. "I was supposed to save him. It's what … it's what I DO." He took a shaky breath. "I failed him, Chad."

"No. You didn't fail him." He patted Paul's back and rubbed between his wide shoulders. "You went so far above and beyond what was expected of you."

Paul only shook his head. Chad watched his best friend; the strongest, most loyal, and courageous man he knew, as he slowly broke. Tears formed and ran down Paul's face and nose. Chad felt his own throat tighten up. His hand stopped, warm, and reassuring on Paul's back. "What can I do?"

Paul swallowed and breathed. "You're doing it." Then the tall man leaned over and put his arms around Chad.

The policeman felt Paul's chest hitch in a sob, and Chad squeezed him. "He'll be okay, Paul. He will."

Chad willed it to be true. 'He has to be okay. He HAS to.'

____________________________________

Timothy frowned as he woke. His chest ached. He reached up to touch the skin there, and a smooth, delicate hand gently grabbed his wrist. He opened his eyes.

Karen looked down at him, and she shook her head. "Don't go poking your chest, Timothy. You could hurt yourself." She sniffed and swiped at her eyes.

The events of last night crashed back into Timothy's awareness. "Oh. Karen?" He licked his lips and grimaced as he shifted himself to sit up a little. "I'm really happy to see you. But, what are you doing here?"

Karen smirked, and Timothy could see a little of her fire was already back. "You didn't call. So I had to come find you."

In truth, an anonymous phone call had tipped Karen off to both Timothy's room number and his condition. She also found it surprisingly easy to get past the normal, family-only protocol at the hospital.

As she doted on him, Timothy admitted to himself that he was very glad she was there.

____________________________________

Corbin experienced a blur of light, sound, voices, and sensation. Some feelings were painful, others merely unpleasant. Then he simply lost all sense of consciousness as general anesthesia slammed into his system and switched off his awareness.

He floated for a while in blackness. He had a strange recognition of his state, but no sense of time, or most external stimuli. He thought of Paul, and he remembered that the fireman was okay. That made him exceedingly happy. He felt his face smile, though he wasn't in conscious command of it.

Eventually the black began to fade, and grayness took over. He slowly regained awareness, piece by piece. And one of the things he knew was a warm callused hand held his own. He struggled, and finally, he could open his eyes.

The room was dimly lit, and the windows were dark. But the first things he saw were the vibrant green eyes of Paul. The fireman sat beside his bed, and he stared at Corbin with such intensity it felt like his attention was a physical force.

Paul blinked and a tear escaped to streak down his cheek. He reached and put his hand on the side of Corbin's face. "The blue of your eyes is the only thing I wanted to see today."

Corbin smiled, the expression a little addled. There was still a good amount of central nervous system depressants in his body, so his world was filtered through emotion rather than through reason. "Hey." He stared back at Paul. "I'm glad … you're mine." He frowned. "Don't … don't leave. Okay?"

Paul set his jaw and shook his head. "I won't." He whispered.

Corbin's smile returned. "Good." He started to slide back into sleep, and he started awake. His eyes showed fear. "You … you'll be here? When I wake up?"

Paul squeezed his hand. "I will." He said the words as if they were a vow.

Corbin's expression was simple, raw relief. And his eyes gently closed.

"I'll be here." Paul softly ran his hand over Corbin's hair. He already knew the prognosis was as good as he could want. The blonde man would live, and he would recover completely. But until he saw Corbin awake Paul couldn't quite believe he would come back. Now that he had, a deep relief came over the fireman.

Paul felt a wave of exhaustion. He had been awake for over 24 hours. Mia and Chad left to go check on Zampa and get some rest after Corbin got out of surgery. But Paul had kept his vigil.

He moved to the other hospital bed in the room, unlocked the wheels, and pushed it over next to Corbin's bed. He put down the center safety rails and pushed both beds together. Then he climbed up into the bed.

He scooted as close as he could to Corbin, and put one hand on the smaller man's thigh. He didn't have much time to think about anything else, as sleep slammed into him like a truck.

The two men got much-needed rest, and both slept deeply.

A few hours passed and Luca Giovanni, accompanied by Jenoah entered the room. His brown eyes took in the scene of the two men on the beds, and he smiled.

Luca held out his hand and Jenoah placed a couple of items in his palm. Luca stepped over next to Corbin's side. He carefully reached down and slipped a golden ring emblazoned with the symbol of the Reina - a serpent entwined into an infinity symbol on Corbin's finger. Then he put the other ring, one made of silver on Paul's hand.

Both men were exhausted and slept through the maneuver. Luca looked thoughtfully at them, and a small smile played on his lips. Then he and Jenoah left the room.

They entered the hospital parking lot, and Jenoah opened Luca's door. Luca entered, and Jenoah shut his door. Then the young man got into the passenger seat. Bruce looked into the rear-view mirror from behind the wheel. He looked sharp in a black jacket, white button-up shirt, and black slacks. His silver ring glittered on his finger. "Everything okay, sir?"

"All is well, Bruce." He smiled. "And please, call me 'Don'."

____________________________________

Corbin gradually woke. He blinked and grimaced at a pain in his chest and back when he took a breath. But it was bearable. Paul lay in front of him, on his side, and the tall man was dead asleep.

Corbin smiled. He reached to touch Paul's face then started at the ring on his finger. The signet of the Reina glittered, and Corbin swallowed. He wasn't given the silver ring of a Family member. He was given a golden ring. For the Reina, it was the symbol of the Don himself. He instantly knew this was Luca's doing, and his barely awake mind slogged through a fog, as he attempted to think of repercussions.

He would definitely need to speak to Luca about this. But that would come later. Corbin gently rubbed Paul's stubbled face and the fireman shifted in his sleep.

Paul's mouth worked, then his eyes opened. He blinked at Corbin. A smile started on one side of his face and then spread until he wore a full grin. "Hey." He reached, and both he and Corbin noticed his new silver ring. Paul frowned at it, then saw Corbin's gold version. "Is … is this from you?"

Corbin thought quickly and made a decision.

"Yes." His eyes locked onto Paul's. "It's from me. And I need to explain to you what it means."

____________________________________

Dunning got out of his rental car. The thick, powerfully built man looked at the building on Main street, and he set his jaw. He left his piece in the glove box. If he needed it, then the situation would be so far past salvageable as to be hopeless. And he didn't want anything he did to be considered an insult.

He walked to the door, and a dark-haired man nodded at him. Dunning returned it, then stepped past him and he opened the door. The door guard fell in line behind him.

"Stop." Dunning stopped and held his arms up to the side. He knew this was coming, and he was expertly frisked by the guard. Satisfied, the guard stepped back into his place behind Dunning. "Forward through the hall, past the tables, and turn right to go upstairs."

Dunning nodded at the terse directions. He followed them, and his shadow kept pace. The two men walked upstairs. A door blocked the way, and his escort opened the door. Dunning walked inside, and the door shut behind him.

A young dark-haired man stood to the side of the door and held what looked to be a strange, large camera. "Do you have a pacemaker?"

Dunning frowned. "No, I …"

The young man raised the device and pressed a button. Dunning felt as if he were suddenly charged with an overabundance of static electricity, and he looked at the boy. "What was that?"

"EMP." Luca Giovanni himself sat behind the desk. He smiled, the expression knowing, and confident. "I hope you weren't too attached to your phone. Or, any listening devices you perhaps had on your person." He waved a hand, as if the possibility was a vulgar thing, almost beneath discussion.

Dunning pressed his lips together. He DID have a recording device on him. It was sewn into the waist lining of his pants. But he had no doubt that it was now ruined. He noticed that Luca had a computer sitting on his desk and the machine seemed unaffected. 'Short-range directed EMP … wow.' He felt a little as if he spoke with the CIA, and not a crime syndicate.

"Please, sit." Luca motioned at the chair before the desk.

Dunning did as Luca said, and he straightened. The two men looked one another in the eye and Dunning took a breath. "Okay. What you said about my man, Harris, and the circumstances around his death are what brought me here." He leaned forward, hands on the desk. "But you need irrefutable proof. You say you have it. And if you want charges dropped against Stefano now is the time to show your cards."

Luca nodded. He pushed a folder across the desk. "In here you will find circumstantial evidence of our claims. Many are copies of documents Harris himself wrote. You will find the originals in his safe in his New York apartment." Dunning started to speak, and Luca put up a hand, a warning on his face. The senior agent held his tongue and Luca nodded, mollified. Luca continued. "But here," he turned his monitor so Dunning could see, "is the proof you wanted."

Dunning watched the split screen monitor. It showed two different camera angles, and the encounter between Harris, Timothy, Corbin, Paul, Jenoah, and Stefano played. He shook his head, incredulous at Corbin's near-sacrifice and Zampa's attack. But he knew Luca was right. Harris had killed Liam Walsh, and he framed Stefano for the murder. Not to mention he attempted to kill Timothy Blevins, Paul Boyd, and Corbin as well.

After the clip played Luca sat back in his chair and Dunning did the same. The agent rubbed his stubbled face and he looked up at the Giovanni. "I'll need the original media this was recorded to."

Luca nodded. He removed two USB drives from his coat and slid them over to Dunning. "How soon can my man be released?"

Dunning took the drives and folder. He was certain that Luca had copies of everything. "Soon. Tomorrow at the latest. I'll speak to the DA about his case as soon as I leave here." He grimaced. "And, as soon as I can find a working phone."

Luca smirked. "We can assist with that." He nodded at Jenoah who stood attentively in the corner of the room. The young man slipped out and closed the door quietly behind him.

Dunning sighed. "What a shit-show." He shook his head. "I had no idea about Harris." He shook his head. "My other agent, Timothy … at least he did well." He frowned. "Though he's probably a wreck. I should recall him."

"Actually," Luca smiled, "I think you may find Agent Blevins would like to stay in Hailey." The man shrugged at Dunning. "It's merely a suggestion, but I also feel, perhaps he could take over Corbin's guardianship."

A 'suggestion' from Luca Giovanni was something to heavily consider. He was slightly disturbed that Luca seemed to know more about his agent than Dunning did. He nodded slowly. "I will take your suggestion under advisement."

Luca smiled. "That is all I ask." He stood and Dunning did the same. Luca extended his hand over the desk. Dunning shook it firmly. "It has been pleasant to deal with you, Agent Dunning.

"I feel the same, Luca Giovanni." Dunning was surprised to admit that he spoke the truth.

Jenoah entered and walked over. He handed a phone to Dunning. "The DA's number is entered for you, sir."

Dunning smiled. "Thank you." The agent turned back to Luca, a question on his mind. "Tell me - how long will the Giovanni be in Hailey?"

Luca couldn't help but grin at the question, and Dunning frowned a little at the expression. "Ah, the Giovanni will leave soon - including me. Though, we will leave this business to the care of another."

"Oh." Dunning caught the implication of 'business'. "May I ask who will take over your … business?"

Luca laughed quietly. "You may ask, though, I elect not to answer." He nodded at Dunning. "Have a good day, Agent Dunning. And thank you for ensuring justice is done."

With that Dunning was led from the building and out to his rental car. He sat there, processing all that had happened. Then he turned on the phone in his hand. He knew he would have to call the New York DA as well, where the charges were first filed. But he would start with the DA in Hailey. Otherwise, Stefano could be extradited to New York to face charges. He dialed the single number that was entered into the contacts, and soon he was on the direct line to the Blaine County DA.

The line picked up. "Hello." Dunning sighed. "This is Agent Dunning from the FBI. And I need to speak to you about the case against Stefano Moretti, immediately."

 


Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts on the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

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