Chapter 11~13

 

Chapter Eleven

Then, When They Woke Up

"Oh my God, that stuff turned me completely orange."

"Not completely."

"I look like the Great Pumpkin."

"Good grief, Tommy, you do not."

Chapter Twelve

Blood, Coffee, Sex, Magix - Not necessarily in That Order

Just after sundown.

They watched the coffee dripping out of the filter like they were distilling nitroglycerine and the slightest bit of inattention might cause an explosion. "It smells really good," Jody said.

"It's like I never noticed it before," Tommy said.

"You'd think it would smell sickening, since it's indigestible," Jody said. The last time she'd taken a sip of coffee, her vampire system had rejected it so violently that she ended up convulsively dry-heaving on the floor, feeling like forks were twisting inside of her.

"This might work," Tommy said. "You ready?"

"Ready."

He poured a tablespoonful or so of coffee into a glass cup. Then he uncapped one of the syringes that held William's blood and squirted a few drops into the coffee.

"You first," he said, swishing the cup around in front of her.

"No, you," Jody said. As good as the coffee smelled, the memory of her nausea held her back.

Tommy shrugged and threw the coffee back like a tequila shooter, then set the cup down on the counter.

Jody stepped back and snatched a tea towel off the fridge handle in preparation for the coffee's return trip. Tommy rolled his eyes, shuddered, then grabbed his throat and fell to the floor, twitching and choking. "Dying," he croaked. "Suffering and dying."

Jody was barefoot and didn't want to stub her toe, so she pulled the kick to his ribs. "You suck, you know that."

Tommy rolled on the floor giggling, curling himself around her foot. "It works! It works! It works!" He sort of dog-humped her leg in rhythm and tugged at the hem of her robe. "You never have to be grumpy again!"

Jody grinned. "Pour cups, grommet! Full cups."

Tommy climbed to his feet. "We don't even know the blood-to-coffee ratio yet."

"Pour!" Jody was in the fridge in an instant, grabbing another syringe. "We'll wing it."

The she heard the downstairs door open and spun on her heel. "William?"

Tommy listened to the footfalls coming up the steps and shook his head. "Nope, too light."

They could hear the key fitting into the lock. "You said you didn't give her a key," Jody said.

"I said I didn't give her a key to the bedroom," Tommy said.

"Lord Flood, there's a stinky dead guy with a huge cat on your landing," said Abby Normal as she came through the door.

THE CHRONICLES OF ABBY NORMAL:
Dedicated Servant of the Vampyre Flood
I have been to the lair of the vampyre Flood. I am part of the coven! Kinda. Okay, back up. So I like slept till eleven, because we're on Christmas break, only it's called winter break now because Jesus is AN OPPRESSIVE ZOMBIE BASTARD AND WE DO NOT BOW DOWN TO HIS BIRTHDAY! At least not at Allen Ginsberg High School, we don't. (Go, Fighting Beatniks!) But it's all good, 'cause I'm going to have to get used to getting up later if I'm going to be a creature of the night.

So, like first thing, I made some toast, and it burned, as black as my soul, and I was so bummed that my tears of despair fell like cold bits of crystal, to be destroyed on the unforgiving rocks of this miserable life. But then I saw that Mom had left a twenty out on the counter with a note:

Allison (Allison is my day-slave name - my mom named me after some song by some Elvis guy, so I totally refuse to accept it), here's your lunch money, and please stop at Walgreens and pick up some RID shampoo for Ronnie's head lice. (Veronica is my sister, who is twelve and a total tumor on the ass of my existence.)

So, I was like, Sweet! Starbucks!

It took forever to pick what I was going to wear, and not just because I'd never rented an apartment before. The lightbulb burned out in my closet and we didn't have any extras, so I had to take everything out in the living room to look at it in the light. Like the song says, I wear black on the outside to reflect the black I feel on the inside, but OMG, it's impossible to tell one thing from another in a dark closet. Since it was going to be a business thing, I decided on my striped tights with my red PVC mini, my skull-and-crossbones hoodie, and my lime Converse All Stars. I went with just a plain stud in my nose, a barbell in my eyebrow, and a simple silver ring in my lip - understated and elegant. I carried my hot-pink biohazard messenger bag.

Ronnie was all, "I wanna come with you, I wanna come with you," but I pointed out that she was a scourge on humanity and that if she came along I would tell everyone on the bus she had lice, so she elected to stay home and watch toons. It was then that I ventured into the undiscovered country, and called the number that the vampyre Flood had given me.

And the woman was totally a bitch.

She was like, "Hello. Blah Blah Property Management."

And I was like, "I need to rent an apartment."

And she was all, "How many bedrooms and did you have an area in mind?"

And I was all, "What's with all the questions, bitch? Are you some kind of thought police or something?"

And she was like, "I'm just trying to help."

"Right, help. Like tuberculosis."

So she's all, "I beg your pardon," like the queen of freakin' France or something.

And then I remembered that I was supposed to ask for a specific person, so I was like, "Oh, I need to speak to Alicia DeVries, Is she there?"

And the bitch connected me.

So it turns out that Alicia DeVries is this crusty hippie who is like as old as my grandma, but wants to be all Earth Mother and everything, which I'm not against, because old hippies have the best pot and they'll just give it to you if you pretend not to notice that they're crusty and old. So Alicia picks me up in her crust-mobile rainbow peace-and-love Jeep CJ and I give her the requirements of the vampyre Flood, which were bedroom with no windows, a washer and dryer, private entrance with lockout, and, at least above the ground floor, windows looking down on the street.

And she's all, "We have to have a Social Security number and driver's license number for the paperwork - you have to be eighteen."

So I'm, "My client will provide all the information you need, it's just that he's very busy and can't deal with pissant details during the day." Then I waved the cash that Flood gave me and she went all spacey, overmeditated, «namaste» on me, like it's not about the money when it's really about the money. Then she takes me to this loft, which it turns out is only like a half a block from the address where Flood said to meet him at sundown. Sweet!

So I'm all, "Excellent, the master will be pleased."

And she's like, "I'll make you out a receipt."

Then she starts to lecture me about respecting myself as a woman, and not allowing myself to be subjugated to the desires of an older man and shit - like I'm this corporate fuck-puppet for some creepy businessman or something. I didn't want her to get suspicious and try to rescue me, so I'm like, "No, you misunderstand, I call him the master because he's the sensei of my jujitsu dojo - he's not boning me or anything."

Luckily I have an extensive martial-arts background from watching anime with Jared and I knew that one must never bone the sensei.

So she like reaches over and pats my knee. All, "That's okay, sweetheart."

And I'm like, "Step off, rug-muncher!" I mean, I'm as bi as the next person, but not with some crusty old hippie - I need music and some X, and then only if some guy has rejected me and thrown my heart into the gutter like an abandoned vegetarian burrito - and even then I draw the line at making out.

So she gave me the keys and took my money and just, like, left me there. So I called Lily, who came over with a two-liter of Diet Green Tea, a bag of Cheese Newts (I still hadn't had breakfast), and some book she found called The Big Book of Death. So we looked at the book, which is this how-to thing with great art, and drank tea and ate Cheese Newts until she had to go to work. I wanted to tell her about the vampyre Flood, but I promised that I would keep his secret, so all I told her was that I had discovered my Dark Lord, and he would soon satisfy my every desire and I couldn't tell her anything else. So she was all, "whatever, ho," which is what I like about her - Lily is tr��s noir.

So I walked over to the Sony Metreon and watched the flat-screens until it started to get dark. I was already about ready to pee with nervousness when I got to Flood's door, but then, just as I get my key in the door, this big Hummer limo pulls up, and these three college-age guys climb out followed by this blue woman in a silver dress with ginormous fake boobs. And they're all, "Where is Flood? We need to find Flood?" And she's all, "Where did you get the key? You need to let us in before it gets dark."

I'm not intimidated - because I know that her boobs are fake. And it's so obvious that they hunt the nosferatu that it's not even funny. Inside, I was like: "Ha, suck my spiky rubber strap-on, vampyre hunter!"

But on the outside I was totally chill. And I'm like, "I don't know who you're talking about. This is my apartment." Then I opened the door and inside, lying on the landing, there's this dead guy with a huge bald cat in a red sweater on his chest. And the cat hissed at me and I screamed just a little bit and slammed the door. "You have to go," I said. "My boyfriend is naked and he gets mad if strangers see his enormous unit." I looked right at the blue bitch when I said that, like: Oh yeah, some of us are confident enough in our own femininity that we don't need fake tits to get a guy with a huge unit.

And the black guy is like, "I just talked to Flood here last night."

And I was like, "Yeah, he moved."

Then the Asian guy checked his watch and was like, "Dude, too late, it's officially sunset."

And it was like it was on cue or something, the cat on the dead guy let out a long scary yowl, and even the blue skank backed away toward the limo.

"You'd better go now," I said, all ominous and full of foreboding and dread.

And she was all, "We'll be back."

And I was like, "So?"

So they went. But then I had to get past the cat and the dead guy and go up the steps. I have to say, that as much as I'm all about the peace of the grave and the glorious gloomth of the nonliving and all, it's different when there's a real dead guy you have to walk over, not to mention a really big, angry cat in a sweater.

NOTE TO SELF: Always carry Kitty Treats for Self-Defense (because evidently they don't like Skittles, which I tried).

Since I didn't have any kitty treats, I got by the preternaturally big-ass cat by opening the door wide and yelling, "Hey, kitty, go away!" Much to my amazement, the cat ran out of the doorway and hid under a parked car. It was like I already had vampyre powers to command the Children of the Night. Then I had to get past the dead guy on the landing, which was sort of like dead-guy hopscotch, but I got up the stairs and managed only to step on one of his arms. I was hoping he really was dead, and not one of the nosferatu, because then he might be pissed off when he rose. He certainly smelled dead, the fetid stench of the charnel house emanated from him like a foul miasma of evil, as they say in the books.

So I opened the door, and I go, "Lord Flood, there's a stinky dead guy with a huge cat on your landing." Thinking that I would get total loyal-servant brownies.

Then I saw her, the ancient vampyre mistress - her skin like alabaster, or you know, no zits at all, and she seemed to glow with inner power. I could see why even a powerful vampyre like Flood might be helpless under her awesome strengths, gathered over the ages by sucking the lifeblood of thousands of helpless victims, probably kids. And she was like, drinking a cup of coffee out of a Garfield mug, as if flaunting her immortality in the face of us petty, insignificant mortals. She had on only a bathrobe, which was partly open in front, so you could see that she had like great cleavage, ancient total skank that she was.

So I'm like, "Hi."

And she's like, "So, Wednesday, you know Buffy's not a real person, right?"

Bitch.

"What do you mean, dead?" Tommy said. He ran to the door and flung it open. "He's not here." He bolted down the steps in his bare feet, leaving Jody standing across the breakfast bar from Abby. "I'm going to look for him," Tommy called. The downstairs door closed, the lock clicked.

Jody pulled her robe closed when she saw Abby Normal staring. She could hear the girl's heart pounding, could see her pulse beating in her neck, could smell nervous sweat, clove cigarettes, and some kind of cheese snack.

They stared at each other.

"I found you an apartment, Mistress," Abby said. She dug into the pocket of her hoodie and came out with a rent receipt.

"Call me Jody," Jody said.

Abby nodded conspiratorially, like she was acknowledging it was only a code name. She was a cute kid, in a scary, will-probably-poison-the-dog-and-then-molest-him kind of way. Jody had never really had a problem with younger women as competition. After all, she was only twenty-six, and with the extreme antiaging treatment she'd gained from her vampirism, right down to her baby toes straightening out and every freckle she'd ever had disappearing, she felt superior, even a tad maternal toward Abby, who was a little knock-kneed in her red plastic skirt and green sneakers.

"I'm Abby," Abby said, and she curtsied.

Jody choked, sprayed coffee out her nose, and turned quickly so as not to laugh in Abby's face.

"Are you okay, Mistress - I mean, Jody?"

"No, I'm fine." It was strange just how sensitive the vampire sinus is to hot liquids. Jody was sure that she might never smell anything but bloody French roast again, and her eyes were watering, or so she thought, but when she turned back around, Abby jumped back six feet and yelped.

"Holy shit!" Abby had backed against the futon frame and was about to tumble over backwards.

Jody was around the breakfast bar, steadying the girl in less than a tenth of a second - which caused Abby to jump straight into the air about three feet.

Jody could tell the girl was going to fall. Abby was going to come down with one foot on the back of the futon frame, one in midair, and she was going to tumble over and land on her shoulder and head on the hardwood floor. Jody saw this coming, could have caught Abby and set her gently on her feet, but instead, she felt that maternal instinct kick in - the realization that if the child didn't take a knock or two, she'd never learn - so Jody stepped back into the kitchen, where she picked up her coffee and watched as the kid hit.

"Ouch!" Said Abby, now a black-and-red heap on the floor.

"Boy, that looked like it hurt," Jody said.

Abby was on her feet, limping and rubbing her head. "What the fuck, Countess? I thought you had my back."

"Yeah, sorry," Jody said. "Why the freak-out?"

"There's blood running down your face. I guess it startled me."

Jody dabbed at her eyes with the sleeve of her robe, leaving little red spots on the white terry cloth. "Well, would you look at that?" She was trying to be casual, trying to act like someone four or five hundred years old might behave, but the blood tears were disturbing her more than a little.

Change the subject. "So, this apartment you found, where is it?"

"Don't you want to wait for Flood?" Abby asked.

"Flood? What Flood?"

"Flood, the orange-colored vampire who just ran out the door."

"Oh, him," Jody said. Tommy and his tanning lotion. He was out running around on the street with no shirt or shoes. Orange. "Was he orange?"

Abby threw out her nearly nonexistent hip. "Hello? You're crying blood and your partner is orange and you didn't notice? Do you guys get senile over the years or what?"

Jody set her cup down on the counter, just to make sure that it didn't shatter in her hand. She drew on her experience working in the claims department at Transamerica, where her immediate supervisor was a complete ass-bag, and it took everything she could do, every minute of the day, not to bang the woman's skull repeatedly in a filing drawer. She liked to think of it as her professional face. So instead of snapping Abby's pale little neck, she smiled, counting to ten as she did. At ten, she said, "Go get him. Bring him back." Another smile. "Okay, sweetie?"

"But why is he orange?"

"The shedding is upon him," Jody said. "Every hundred years or so, we shed our skin, and a few weeks prior we turn orange. It's a very dangerous time for us. So please, go find him."

Abby nodded furiously and backed away toward the door. "Really?"

"Really," Jody said, nodding gravely. "Quick, away with you, the time of the shedding is upon him." She waved toward the door the way she thought a five-hundred-year-old countess might. (Where did the countess thing come from, anyway?)

"Right," Abby said, and she took off out the loft door and down the steps after Tommy.

Jody went to the bathroom and used a damp washcloth to wash the blood tears off her face. I may actually be evil, she thought. She knew it should bother her more, being evil and all, but after she put on a little mascara and some lipstick and poured herself another cup of blood-laced coffee, she found that she was okay with it.

Chapter Thirteen

Moving Day

Jody sipped her coffee and sighed, satisfied, like she'd just had a gentle coffee orgasm, the sort of pleasurable release you only see people have in commercials for froufrou coffee and hemorrhoid cream. This blood-beverage phenomenon added a whole new twist to their lives. A glass of wine? A diet cola maybe - wait, screw diet - a sugary, teeth-rotting cola. What about solid food? Sure, being a godlike creature of the night was great, but what about a jelly donut? French fries? She was Irish, she felt a deep-seated need for potatoes. She was musing on the idea of heading up to McDonald's on Market Street and spooging a syringe full of William's blood all over a supersized box of deep-fried nirvana when the phone rang. The caller ID number was blocked, it just said mobile. It might be Tommy. He'd activated the disposable mobile phones they'd bought, but he probably hadn't written down the numbers.

"Hey, pumpkin," Jody said.

She heard a clattering at the other end of the line. "Sorry, I dropped the phone."

Oops. Not Tommy. "Who is this?"

"Uh, it's, uh, it's Steve. I'm the med student who called you about your condition."

He'd found her when she'd gone to a Blood Drinkers Anonymous meeting in Japan Town, which turned out to be a bunch of nerds with problems distinguishing fantasy from reality. Had watched her from a distance and called her on a pay phone from blocks away, ready to jump in his car and bolt if she came near him. He knew what she was.

He'd said that he had examined one of the bodies left by the old vampire. Elijah had snapped their necks so the bodies would be found, instead of turning to dust.

"What do you want?"

"Well, like I said, I'm a med student at Berkeley. Actually, I'm in research. Gene therapy."

"Yeah, next lie, please." Jody's mind was going ninety miles and hour. Too many people knew about her. Maybe she and Tommy should have left town.

"What lie?" Steve asked.

"Berkeley doesn't have a med school," Jody said. "So what do you want?"

"I don't want anything. I've been trying to tell you, I've studied the blood of the victims. I think I may be able to reverse your condition. Turn you back. I just need some time in the lab with your blood."

"Bullshit, Steve. This isn't biology."

"Yes it is. I told your boyfriend the night you turned him."

"How did you know...?"

"I was on the phone with him when you told him you were going to be together for a very long time."

"Well, that was rude, just listening like that."

"Sorry. I've managed to get cloned cells from the throats of victims to revert to their natural human state."

"Which is dead," Jody said.

"No, living cells. I just need to meet with you."

He'd pressed this before, and Jody had been willing to meet with him, but unfortunately, while she was sleeping, Tommy had put her in the freezer for a few days and she'd missed the appointment. "No meeting, Steve. Forget you know anything about this. You'll have to write your dissertation on something else."

"Well, take my number if you change your mind, okay?"

He gave her the number and Jody wrote it down.

"It's a burner cell phone," Steve said, "So you can't find me through it."

"I don't want to find you, Steve."

"I promise I won't reveal your - your condition to anyone, so you don't need to find me."

"Don't worry," Jody said. "I don't want to find you." Get over yourself, she wanted to add.

"What about the other one you warned me about?"

Jody looked at the bronze statue that held Elijah Ben Sapir. "He won't bother you either."

"Oh, good."

"Steve?"

"Yeah?"

"If you tell anyone, I'll find you, and I'll slowly snap every bone in your body before I kill you." Jody tried to make it sound cheerful, but the threat sort of cut through the bright, friendly lilt in her voice.

"Okay then. Bye."

"Yeah," Jody said. "You take care."

"The shedding?" Tommy said as he came through the door. Jody stood at the counter in her new red leather jacket, boots, and mist-tight black jeans.

Jody could hear Abby locking the downstairs door, so they had a few seconds alone.

"Look, did you want me to tell her you were just a big orange doofus?"

"I guess not. Hey - "

"She calls you Flood?"

"I couldn't tell her 'Tommy. I'm her dark lord. Your dark lord can't be named Tommy. 'Flood' has an air of power."

"And dampness."

"Yeah, it's got the dampness thing going for it, too."

Abby came in, breathing hard. She'd been sweating and her eyeliner was running in two black streaks down her cheeks. "We didn't find him. I could have sworn he was dead. He smelled like it."

"You got something against dead people?" Jody said - tough-guy voice. "Are you saying there's something wrong with dead people? Is that what you're saying? Are you saying you're too good for the dead, is that what you're saying?"

Abby stepped behind Tommy and peeked around. The kid was still out of breath from trying to keep up with Tommy, and now she was frightened, too. "No, Mistress, I think the nonliving are great. I'm all about dead people. I have a 'I Fuck the Dead' T-shirt even. I can wear it tomorrow if you want. I didn't mean..."

"It's okay, Abby," Jody said, waving it off. "Just fucking with you."

"Jody!" Tommy said, scolding. "Don't scare the minion."

"Sorry," Jody said, thinking, once again, that she might be evil. "What about the new apartment. Did you look at it?"

"We went by it. It's only a few doors down. We don't even have to cross the street."

"You think that's far enough? They won't find us there?"

"Well, at least they won't find us here. I don't think anyone's going to think that we'd only move a few doors down. They'll think we've at least left the City. What kind of idiot would only move a few doors away? It's brilliant."

"Plus an easy move," Jody said. "You guys can do it without a truck."

"You guys?"

"Well, I've got to find William, and you can't exactly run around until the shedding has subsided. Abby, do you have enough makeup to cover his face and hands?"

"Tons," Abby said. She held up her messenger bag. "But I can only help for a little while. I have to get home."

"Why?" Tommy asked. "We require your services." He meant to sound sophisticated and European, but it came out sounding lecherous.

"He means moving," Jody said. "I've got his other services covered."

"I can't," Abby said. "My sister has lice."

"So," Abby said, "the countess is kind of a bitch."

"No, she's just a dark creature of unspeakable evil," Tommy said. He had the futon on his back and was making his way down the street as Abby followed him with a lamp in one hand and a blender in the other. "In a nice way," he added - thinking that maybe he'd already made enough of an impression on Abby.

Although it was early in the evening, and it was a little unusual to see a guy walking down the street carrying a futon, followed by a Goth girl carrying a lamp and a blender, it was just unusual enough that people would have felt stupid if they asked what was going on and someone pointed out it was modern dance, or performance art, or people robbing an apartment. San Francisco is a city of sophisticates, and except for a homeless guy who remarked on the tackiness of Tommy's Pier 1 Imports decor, they had moved half of the furniture and clothing without comment.

"Do you need to feed?" Abby asked when they got back to the old loft. They were standing in the living room, where there was little left except some bookcases and the three bronze statues.

"Huh?" Tommy replied.

"I'm guessing that you need to feed," Abby said, pulling her hoodie aside and offering up her neck. "And I have to get going. I have to get to Walgreens and catch the bus home before the parental unit goes critical. Go ahead. I'm ready."

She closed her eyes and started breathing hard, as if bracing for the pain. "Take me, Flood. I'm ready."

"Really?" Tommy said.

Abby opened one eye. "Well yeah."

"You're sure?" Tommy hadn't bitten another woman. He wasn't sure if it might not be cheating. What if the whole sex thing went off the way it did with Jody? That kind of activity would kill a normal human woman, plus, he was pretty sure that Jody would not approve. "Maybe a little from the wrist," Tommy said.

Abby opened her eyes and pulled up her sleeve. "Of course, so you don't leave the mark of nosferatu." She said it with a hiss - nasss - sssss - fer-a-too - like she was speaking snake.

"Oh, it won't leave any marks," Tommy said. "You'll heal up like instantly." He was starting to feel the hunger rise in him, he could feel his fangs pressing down from the roof of his mouth.

"Really?"

"Oh yeah, Jody bit me almost every night before I changed over, and no one ever noticed down at the store."

"The store?"

Oops. "The ye olde porridge and leeches store, where I worked, in the ye old days."

"I thought you were a lord?"

"Well, yeah, I mean, I owned the store, and some serfs, and scullery maids - couldn't get enough of the scullery maids - but I put in a shift now and then. You know, help to stir the porridge and inventory the leeches. Serfs will steal you blind if you don't watch them. Well, enough business, let's get to that feeding."

He took her wrist and pulled it to his mouth, then stopped. She was looking at him, one eyebrow sort of cocked in the air, and there was a silver ring in it, so it felt more incredulous than a normal eyebrow.

He dropped her arm.

"You know, maybe you should get home before you get in trouble. I wouldn't want my minion on restriction."

Abby looked hurt now. "But, Lord Flood, have I offended you? Am I not deserving?"

"You were looking at me like you thought I was fucking with you," Tommy said.

"Weren't you?"

"Well no. This is a two-way street, Abby. I can't ask for your loyalty if I don't give you trust in return." He couldn't believe the bullshit that was coming out of his mouth.

"Oh, okay then."

"Tomorrow night," Tommy said. "I'll bleed you within an inch of your life, I promise." The things you never think you'll hear yourself say.

Abby rolled down her sleeve. "Okay then. Will you be able to get the rest by yourself?"

"Sure. Vampire powers. Duh." He laughed, waving at the heavy bronze statues like they were nothing.

"You know," Abby said, "the man and the turtle are cool, but that woman statue, you should get rid of that. She looks kind of skanky."

"You think?"

Abby nodded. "Yeah. Maybe there's some church or something that you could donate it to. Like, to show how you don't want your daughter to grow up. Oh, sorry, Lord Flood, I didn't mean to say church."

"No, I'm okay," Tommy said. "I'll walk you out."

"Thanks," Abby said.

He followed her downstairs and held the door to the street, then at the last minute, as she was walking away, she turned and kissed him quickly on the cheek. "I love you, Lord Flood," she whispered in his ear. Then she turned and ran up the sidewalk.

Tommy felt himself blush. Dead as he was, he felt heat rise in his cheeks. He turned and trudged back up the steps, feeling the full weight of his four, maybe five hundred years of life. He needed to talk to Jody. How long could it take to find one drunk guy with a giant cat?

He dug his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed the number of the phone he'd given Jody. He could hear it ringing on the kitchen counter where she had left it.
    
 

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