Alternate Universe "Brothers Larabee"
After leaving the Bennetts house, the five brothers split. Josiah, Buck, and JD headed the Greg Stewarts house, while Chris and Vin went to check with some contacts Vin had in town.
"Turn in here." Vin instructed Chris.
"A bar? At six in the morning?" the blond questioned.
Tanner cocked his head at the older man. "They serve breakfast," Vin told him, as if that explained everything.
Chris was shaking his head as he parked the truck. They got out and entered the dark cavern. Vin walked over the bar and took a seat. Chris stood beside him. The bartender glanced over and did a double take. He threw the bar towel he held in his hand onto the bar and started their way. Chris shifted uncomfortably. The man was a giant at, what had to be, at least six foot five and three hundred pounds and he didnt look happy. Vin never flinched as the man stopped in front of him and slapped down hands the size of hams.
"Tanner, what the hell are you doing?"
"Nice to see ya, Bitter. Hows life been treating ya?" Vin spoke quietly, a smile tugging at his lips.
The giant reached across the bar and grabbed the lapels of the slight mans jacket, drawing him up and across the bar. Chris took a step forward, but stopped when he saw the small knife in Vins hand press against the mans throat. The whole incident happened so fast that no one else in the bar even noticed. Time froze for Larabee as he watched this brother which he suddenly realized he knew very little about.
"Damn, Vin, just once. Thats all I ask, just once." And the man released the jacket. Tanner settled back into his seat. Chris blew out the breath he hadnt realized he was holding.
Vin laughed. "Bitter, how many times do I have to tell you? You cant count on brute force. Use a little finesse. You never once glanced around to see if I was alone, if I had my hands on the bar or hidden. Dont make me come back for a funeral. You know how I hate them."
The two men laughed as Vin stood and went around the bar. The giant of a man picked up the slender young man and crushed him in a hug. Tanner slapped the man on the back and said, "Its good to see you, Bitter. Its been a while."
Setting Vin back on the ground, the man leaned against the bar and crossed his arms over his chest. "Yeah, Id say two years is a while. Where you been keeping yourself? And whos the shadow?"
Vin stepped back around the bar and placed a hand on Larabees shoulder. "Bitter, I want you to meet my brother, Chris. Chris, this is Bitter. Hes an old friend from the service."
Bitter stuck out his hand to Chris, but his eyes were on Vin. "Brother, you say? Thought you were an only child."
Chris took the mans hand and pumped it. "Long story," he announced for the other man. Bitter simply blinked and looked at Larabee.
Vin leaned on the bar as he watched the two men size each other up. A war of wills was taking place between them and he was curious as to which one would win. He was well aware of the stubborn streak in both men. Finally, he laughed, breaking the spell.
"Bitter, lets just say that I found out who my father was and ended up with a family."
Chris saw the question in the big mans eyes. He was glad to hear Vin say, "Yeah, its a good thing."
The man smiled. "Well, damn Vin, Im glad for you. I know you always wondered. And you look good, so I guess family agrees with you?"
Vin threw a glance at Chris before responding, "Most of the time."
Chris threw up his hands and sat down. Vin grew serious. "Bitter, I need some help. A crews been hitting armored cars and I need some information about them. I figure you still have a finger on the pulse of the town."
Placing his palms on the bar, the man towered over Tanner. "I rather believe that I am the pulse of the town." He laughed at the gesture Tanner threw at him. "Okay, yeah, I still know a few people. Whats your interest in these guys?"
"Family. They kidnapped one of my brothers. I just want him back."
"One? How many you got, Tanner?"
"Including me, we count seven." Bitter whistled. Vin shrugged. The bartender turned to Chris. "He always was an overachiever if it peaked his interest."
"Can you help us?" Chris asked.
Bitter studied the two men for a minute and then nodded. "I believe I can. Got a couple of regulars that been tossing a lot of green around, talking big about a job they have coming up soon."
"Know where we can find 'em?" Vin asked.
The big man smiled. "As a matter of fact.." He broke off as he inclined his head toward the back of the room. "Last booth on the left. Watch the rat faced one. He usually carries a knife."
Chris and Vin nodded as they started back to the two men. They were hunched over the table, talking quietly. Vin saw the one with his back to them check his watch. He nodded to the second man and they started to rise. Vin's hand on the first man's shoulder stopped them.
"Morning, boys. Hear you got a job today. How's about letting us in on it?" Tanner asked quietly. He wore a neutral expression on his face. Chris, on the other hand, was scowling at the two men. He looked as if he wanted them to try something. The two men looked at each other and launched themselves at the two brothers. Chris and Vin were ready and made short work of subduing the pair of robbers. They tossed the men back into the booth and joined them.
Vin saw Bitter waving off some of the other bar patrons who witnessed the altercation. Tanners questioning look was answered with a nod. Vin turned his attention back to the men in the booth.
"So, when are you meeting Tallmadge?" Chris asked.
The two thugs looked at each other and then looked at the table. Vin reached over and took the hand of the man sitting next to him. "Now, Im going to ask only once, so listen up. Tallmadge is pulling a heist this morning. He has our brother and we want him back, so for the last time, when- are- you- meeting- Tallmadge?" With each word, Tanner pulled the mans little finger back. By the word Tallmadge, the man was gasping and sweat stood out on his upper lip. The other man sat as far back in the corner of the booth as physically possible. Chris sat silently, watching as Tanner displayed a cold detachment to the procedure.
The man whimpered as a crunching sound came from the tabletop. Vin released the mans finger. He grabbed the next one as the thug attempted to draw his hand off the table. Vin started again.
"You didnt answer my question. When?"
Surprisingly, the man sitting next to Chris spoke up. "Tell him, Jack."
Jack turned a teary eye on Tanner. "We..were suppose to meet him at the airport, terminal forty-five at nine forty-five."
"What is the plan?"
"Muscle. Just muscle."
"How did you get the bruises on your hands?" Vins voice was whisper soft, but it drew Chris eyes down to the mans hands. Jack tucked his hands under his arms. His eyes darted from his companion to the Larabee brothers.
Jack stood at least six inches above Tanner and outweighed him by fifty pounds. His buddy was a slight man, thin and furtive in nature. He sat next to Chris, twisting his hands as he watched and listened.
Jack leaned away from Tanner, a wary look in his eyes. But Vin simply turned in the seat until he was facing the man. Vin leaned in close to the man. "How did it feel beating the hell out of a kid half your size?"
Vin was aware of Chris standing, but he kept his eye on Jack. The man licked his lip and glanced at the man sitting next to him. Vin felt Chris hand on his shoulder, pulling him from the booth. Vins feral smirk caused the man to shrink further back into the booth wall. Tanner slipped out of the booth and stepped out of Larabees way.
Chris placed a hand on the table and the other on the back of the bench seat. He bent down, but did not lean in as he spoke to the man huddled in the corner. "That boy is half your size and it still took three of you to hold him? Hes probably the most open and trusting person I have ever known. My first instinct is to slam your head into that wall, but I know he wouldnt like that, so count yourself lucky that he was not hurt any worst then he was. Im feeling generous today, 'cause if I wasn't, you wouldn't have to worry about that finger hurting. You won't have a hand to attach it to. Next time, you wont be so lucky."
The brothers each grabbed a man and headed out the door into the early morning light. Shoving the men into the back seat of the big Dodge, Chris climbed into the front. While Chris kept an eye on the two thugs, Vin used some bailing wire he found in the back of the truck to secure the two men by tying each mans hands around the other man and finished by tying their left feet together. Reaching across, he snapped a seat belt around each man.
Patting the shoulder of the smaller man, Vin said, "Wouldn't want ya to get hurt, in case we were to have a wreck or something." But the look on the young man's face showed no concern for their safety. The man suddenly knew what a sacrificial lamb felt like.
Vin cocked an eyebrow as he watched the little man's eyes roll back and his body slump against his companion.
"Rollie?" Jack questioned as the man slumped against him.
Vin chuckled as he climbed in the front with Chris. Larabee was smiling and shaking his head as he dropped the truck in gear. "Airport?"
Vin nodded as he reached for the cell phone lying on the console. It started to ring about the time he picked it up.
+ + + + + + +
Buck, Josiah, and JD reached Greg Stewart's house about the same time Vin was questioning the men in the bar. After receiving no response to their knocks, the men began to check in windows for any sign of Ezra. Buck peered into the dark garage as Josiah checked windows. They both jumped when they heard the front door unlock and swing open. They moved back to the door and pulled up short.
JD stood in the door, grinning. "Ya'll coming in or just going to stand on the stoop all day?"
They entered the house as JD walked away from the door and began prowling through the house.
"How the hell did you get in here?" Buck called to the young man's disappearing back.
A muffled answer drifted back to the front of the house. "Back door."
Josiah gave Wilmington a toothy smile and shrugged his shoulders. Buck followed JD into the room that, unknown to them, Ezra had occupied up until an hour before.
"JD, that door was unlocked, right?"
The hazel eyes glanced over at the big man. "Well, it is now." And the kid flashed him an innocent smile and blinked.
Buck's mouth opened, but no words came out. Finally he placed his hands on his hips and stood with his weight on one foot. "Boy, I think you and I need to have a conversation about breaking the law."
The weight of his words was lost as his mouth pulled into a smile; his eyes twinkled in the early morning light. Shaking his head, he began to search for anything that might lead them to Ezra.
The three converged back in the front, no wiser. As Buck and JD stood looking around, Josiah pulled out his cell phone and punched in Chris' number. As it connected, he saw JD suddenly dart forward and squat down near the coffee table. When he stood back up, he turned a pale face to the older men.
"JD? What've you got?" Buck asked.
The kid looked up, his eyes misted as he replied. He extended his hand, "It's Ezra's. He put it in his pocket right before we left the hotel."
The two men looked at the handkerchief that JD held in his hand. They could clearly see the 'ES' stitched in the corner, but what drew and held their attention was the smear of blood across the pale blue material.
"Damn." Buck closed his eyes and dropped his head back.
Josiah reached over and placed a comforting hand on the slender shoulder of their youngest. "It's only a tiny bit of blood. He could've cut his hand or something."
JD's mouth tightened and he gave the man a slow nod. As Buck placed a hand around the boy's neck, Josiah straightened and stepped back.
"Vin, it's Josiah. We didn't found anything at Stewart's." Josiah brought his eyes around to see Buck and JD. A malevolent smile pulled at his mouth.
"Good. We'll meet you at the gate of the terminal. See you in about thirty minutes." Josiah clicked off and raised his eyebrows. "Seems that brother Vin has convinced one of the criminals to escort us into the lion's den."
They quickly left the house and headed for the airport.
+ + + + + + +
A half hour later, the five brothers were once again together. Vin had learned from Jack that the rest of the crew was tailing the armored cars. They were in two car teams on each of the armored cars. Jack and his partner were assigned the task of watching the terminal for any unusual activity. They met Rick Benning at the gate. He had some of his people take the two thugs into custody. The six men entered the terminal and planned their next move. The time was nine o'clock.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra sat in the back of the big Lincoln between Greg Stewart and a man who answered to the name of Alex. A third man sat across the way facing back while Tallmadge sat up front with the driver, Randall. They were now wearing guard uniforms, Standish security uniforms. Ezra's face revealed none of the fury that raged within him. The very idea that these criminals were using the business he had worked so hard to establish to stage the robberies infuriated him. That anger was fueled by the uncertainty of his brother's condition. Was Tallmadge telling him the truth about JD? Ezra hoped the man was right about the boy. He knew he would able to think of a way out of this mess if he could just clear his mind of worry about JD.
The car slowed as it approached the airport entrance. Tallmadge turned around and looked at his ex-boss, his ex-friend.
"We are about to arrive, Ezra. I only require that you remain silent. I will handle all the conversing with the terminal personal. I will say this once. If you say anything, if you make any trouble, you will be responsible for the deaths of each man in that terminal. I have no intentions of injuring anyone, you included, but if you do anything to prevent the completion of this endeavor, I will kill everyone. We plan on flying out of the country and never returning, so I am not worried about witnesses. It's up to you as to how this turns out."
Ezra studied the face of the traitorous man. He wanted to believe the lie, but once again the man's face relieved the truth. There were to be no witnesses and there would probably be less men to share the wealth with before the deal was complete. 'Think, Ezra. You can get out of this.' Standish broke his gaze away and stared out the opposite window. He paid no attention as a guard approached to check the car and it's occupants.
"Morning, Mr. Tallmadge," the young guard said as he studied the identification of the men. "We got extra security today?"
"Just showing a few new employees around. May I introduce our employer, Mr. Standish?" William's hand gestured to the confined man in the back.
"Why, its a pleasure to finally meet ya, Mr. Standish" a soft voice drawled.
Ezra turned his head slowly at the guard's greeting and found himself staring into Vin Tanner's blue eyes. He fought the smile that pulled at his lips. With a look of disdain, he placed two fingers to his forehead in silent acknowledgement. Vin returned the gesture, his eyes shining at the sight of his brother. Vin stepped back and opened the gate, allowing the car to enter. Ezra fought the urge to look back over his shoulder. If Vin was here, that meant that they had figured out who was behind his kidnapping. The only way he could see that happening was through the same method he had used, the computer, and that meant JD. He prayed he was right in his conclusion. It took all his skills to keep calm. Outwardly he displayed no emotion, but inside, he was beaming.
The car pulled up in front of the terminal and Tallmadge led the way into the large building. Ezra's eyes took in everything. He saw an office area on the right. There were shelves piled with packages waiting for shipping and pickup. There was a caged area on the far left and forklifts sat idle, waiting for something to move. As Ezra glanced back into the office, he noticed for the first time the man that sat behind the desk, Chris. Once again his heart jumped, knowing help was close at hand.
"Morning, gentlemen. Can I help you?" Chris had exited the office and joined the group of men.
Tallmadge turned and greeted the 'guard' as he approached. "Yes. I'm William Tallmadge and this Ezra Standish. We have two shipments going out today. As we have had some trouble lately, we thought it prudent to see these shipments safely away."
Chris nodded his head as Tallmadge spoke, but his eyes moved to Ezra, checking him visually. A slight incline of the head acknowledged the scrutiny. Tallmadge's continued speech drew Larabee's attention back to the man.
Tallmadge missed the exchange between the two men. Checking his watch, he continued. "We have a shipment due here in the next few minutes. The second should arrive in twenty minutes. We have experienced several robberies and decided to post extra security to prevent any further trouble. Both should be gone by eleven."
The man stopped talking as an armored car pulled into the door and parked. Stewart and the two men with him shifted nervously. Their leader once again checked his watch. Twenty minutes and they would be finished, he thought to himself. He glanced past the armored car to see the two cars that he had following them, parking near the front of the building. He smiled inwardly. Things were coming together perfectly.
Men sat about unloading the crates containing the jewelry collection. The plane was due to arrive in minutes. The crates would be loaded as normal, but once the gold arrived, the thieves would go into action, taking guards captive and taking the gold onto the same plane as the jewels. Stewart was a certified pilot and would fly the aircraft to Mexico. There were no more deliveries due to the terminal for two hours after they left. That gave them plenty of time to disappear. The plan was foolproof.
Ezra stood between Tallmadge and Alex as the crates were taken out of the armored car and placed in the secure area to wait for the plane's arrival. Standish knew there were others there, but he did not see anyone. He kept an eye on Chris, knowing he would give a signal when the men were ready to move in on the thieves.
The southerner was aware of the man checking his watch again. Ezra decided that he needed to distract the man. If Chris had a plan, he was more than likely waiting for the second armored car.
"You can not possibly believe that you can accomplish this, William. The authorities will be onto you in no time. Your absence will be noticed and tied to the disappearance of Stewart. They will find you. I will find you. "
"Ezra, you have always underestimated me and you continue to. You are a pacifist. You always have been, you always will be. You allow your mother to walk all over you. You coddle your employees. You let me sway you in half the decisions about the company. Don't try to convince me that you are anything else, that you would come after me. You might hire someone, but I don't fear you coming in search of me."
The second armored car pulled in, taking the place the first one had vacated. Ezra saw Chris moving toward the three imposters. Vin slipped quietly in through a side door and joined Larabee. Glancing outside, he noticed the two cars parking near the Lincoln. Two men got out of each car and they were joined by four others. 'Lord,' Ezra thought, 'I certainly hope Chris is aware of the number of thugs we are up against. He turned his attention back to Tallmadge as he stated, "You've never fought for anything, Ezra. You simply go with the flow."
Ezra cocked an eyebrow at the man. Seeing Chris move in on Stewart and the others, Ezra knew the time had come. "Perhaps, I just never had anything worth fighting, for until now."
Standish pulled his arm back and down and released an uppercut to the goon standing next to Tallmadge. That's when all hell broke loose in the terminal. Ezra saw Tallmadge head to the back of the building as he dove behind a box and tried to shake off the pain in his hand. He jumped as JD slid in beside him, grinning.
"Ez, man, am I glad to see you." the boy said in a rush.
Ezra simply took JD's face in his hands and studied the livid bruises. "I am so terribly sorry that you were dragged into this fiasco. Hearing them talk, I feared you had been severely injured."
JD pulled Ezra's hands down. His eyes met Ezra's. "You were no more scared than I was. Sorry we didn't find you earlier. I'll tell you all about my night after we catch that jerk."
Ezra nodded. "I believe I saw him head off in that direction." He started to tell JD to follow him, when the young man pointed off to the left as he headed off to the right. Ezra shook his head and headed off to the left. He noticed it had gotten quiet. As he crept around the crates, he glanced back and saw Rick Benning and several police officers surrounding the thugs. Chris, Vin, and Buck were standing with them. He continued to the back of the terminal.
Ezra could see shadows moving in front of him, so when a hand landed on his shoulder, he spun around, swinging. His fist was caught in Josiah's large hand.
"Josiah, are you trying to scare me to death?"
"Sorry, brother, just joining ya." Ezra saw the others standing with Josiah.
"I am grateful for the assistance. Young JD has gone off that direction. Tallmadge is in here somewhere. I have no idea if he is armed."
Chris started to fan them out when they heard a commotion to the right. JD was escorted out from behind a bank of shelves with Tallmadge's arm wrapped around his neck. If it wasn't for the gun pressed against the young man's head, Ezra could have laughed at the expression on the boy's face. Clearly, JD was not happy with the situation.
"Damn fool kid." Buck said under his breath.
Chris stepped forward and stood shoulder to shoulder with Ezra. His eyes asked if he could handle it. Ezra nodded.
"William, you do not want to do this. Let the boy go and give up. No one has been injured yet, so let's keep it that way."
"I don't think going to jail fits into my plans." Tallmadge moved further out and pushed JD closer to an exit door. The brothers had started to spread out as the two men talked. Tallmadge saw the movement and pointed the gun towards the moving men. "Dont try it" he started.
When JD saw the gun pointing away from him and towards his brothers, he made his move. He threw his head back, the crown of his head slamming into the man's chin. At the same time, he brought his arm up and shoved the gun arm upward. The gun discharged harmlessly into the air. Tallmadge staggered back, dragging JD with him. But JD hooked his right foot around the man's leg as he staggered and both crashed to the ground with JD on top. The brothers were rushing forward before the two hit the ground. Vin grabbed the hand holding the gun and wrestled the weapon away. Buck grabbed JD's shirt and lifted him away from the criminal leader after Josiah pulled the other arm off the boy's neck. Several officers arrived and took possession of both the gun and the man. Rick Benning was there also. Ezra noticed and acknowledged the man with a nod.
Chris and Ezra moved in to check the youngest Larabee, along with Vin and Josiah. JD stood, grinning. "I did it, Vin. That move worked. Well, sort of. I mean the move worked, but I had to change it a little. He was too off balance to flip, so I thought I could trip him up. Not as cool as flipping, but it worked. Man, that was so cool." He paused to take a breath and saw the expressions on the faces of the other men.
"I'm fine. I'm fine." He brushed his hands together, but the motions were slow. As the adrenaline rush abated, JD's breath was becoming ragged. Chris caught one of the hands and drew JD's attention.
"Are you okay?" Chris asked. JD looked flush with the excitement, but he also looked pale under the flush of that excitement.
JD stood for a moment without saying anything as he looked at Chris and Ezra. Buck stood at his side. Drawing a shallow breath, he finally dropped his head.
"I think I might have aggravated my ribs a little."
"Yeah, thought so," was all Chris said. He nodded to Buck, who wrapped a protective arm around the young man.
"Come on, kid. I'm about to drop. How about we go sit down?" JD nodded and they headed over to the Chris' truck that was parked near the front entrance. Chris reached into his pocket and fished out the pills JD was supposed to have taken an hour ago. He looked up and started to call to Buck, but Vin reached over, taking the bottle from him.
"I'll take 'em to him. See ya at the truck." Vin trotted off to catch the men walking away.
Chris turned back to Ezra. Josiah stood with his hand clasping Ezra's shoulder. "Hell of a way to start the day, Ezra." Chris commented.
"I must concur. I would much rather sit down to a hearty breakfast and a cup of coffee."
Josiah's laugh rumbled through his chest. "I believe that can be arranged."
The three turned and headed for the front door.
Rick Benning met them at the door. "I'm relieved to see you well, Mr. Standish."
Ezra extended his arm and shook the man's hand. "Mr. Benning, I will have you know that the incriminating evidence that was presented to me by young JD, did not sway my opinion of you or your performance as my employee. I know very little about my employees' private lives, but when you were hired I personally checked your resume and references. I knew a man with such excellent credentials would and could never betray the company. William Tallmadge, on the other hand, has been an acquaintance for many years. I never thought to investigate him. That turned out to be a monumental error in judgment."
Rick nodded as Ezra stopped speaking. "I appreciate the vote of confidence, Mr. Standish. I just glad that I could help and that it worked out. Now, the police would like to talk to you, but I still have a few friends on the force. I convinced them that you were not going anywhere. And as you had been held against your will for over twelve hours, you would need to rest and clean up as well as eat. You are expected down at the station on Roosevelt at four o'clock this afternoon." Rick held out a card. "If there are any problems with the time, just give Nick a call."
Ezra took the card and considered the man. "Thank you very much. Your intervention is much appreciated. I will be back in the office in the morning. Please come see me. It seems I will be needing to restructure somewhat, as well as do some hiring. Your input would be most helpful."
"Thanks, Mr. Standish. 'Til tomorrow." Rick nodded to Josiah and Chris before turning and walking away.
"Good man." Chris stated.
"Yes, he does seem to be. I take it he was of some assistance in your quest to locate me."
"We might not have found you, if it weren't have him and JD."
Ezra flinched at the mention of JD's name. He turned and looked Chris straight in the eye. "Chris, I must apologize for not protecting the young man in my charge. I fear that I brought him into a dangerous situation with little or no regard for his safety."
Larabee reached out and took hold of the embarrassed man's shoulders. "You have nothing to apologize for, Ezra. JD is a man. He makes his own choices. Fact is, he was fine when he called for our help. But he made a decision to go look for you and got caught up in something. He's not bad hurt. And I think if you asked, he'd tell you that he'd do it all again."
Ezra considered what Chris said. Finally, he smiled and nodded his head. "Gentlemen, I could use a ride to the hotel if you don't mind. I fear that I am offensive and am in dire need of a clean suit as well as some nourishment."
The three men walked out into morning sunlight. They saw Buck sitting in the front seat of Karin Benning's SUV. Vin sat behind the wheel. They walked up to the window. JD was asleep in the back seat.
"He alright?" Chris asked.
"Oh, he's pretty sore, but he's good, just really tired. We figured to head to the hotel and drop him off. You headed that way?"
"Yeah. Ezra's hungry."
"Famished to be more precise."
Buck chuckled. His eyes twinkled as he looked at Ezra. "Glad you're okay, Ez." Vin had reached out and grasped the arm Ezra had laid on the window frame. He nodded his agreement of Buck's statement.
Ezra stepped away from the vehicle as Vin started it and backed out. Chris and Josiah headed over the black Dodge. They turned to see Ezra standing in the same spot. He closed his eyes as he took a deep breath.
He turned toward them, with a broad grin on his face. "Brothers, I do believe that it is going to be a beautiful day."
They returned the smile. Josiah climbed into the back seat and Ezra got in the front with Chris. Ezra stared out the front window, as he spoke, "I have no doubt that Tallmadge would have murdered everyone in that facility had you not intervened. When we were thrown together six months ago, I would not have wagered a dime on the possibilities of our still being together in six months time, much less the required twelve. I find that I am most pleased that the union has survived and, in my opinion, seems to be thriving."
"Amen, brother Ezra."
"Yeah. I think maybe Linc knew what he was doing when he threw us all together. Wish he had lived to see it."
Ezra had leaned his seat back and had his eyes closed. " I do also, Chris. I certainly do. Something makes me think I would have liked that old man."
Chris started the truck and followed the SUV out of the gate. "Ezra, I know he would have liked you."
Ezra never opened his eyes, but his smile revealed that the thought pleased him.
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