Cold Mac & Cheese and other musings

January 18, 2012

If you are here…

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 10:43 am

then you really need to be here:  Almost Out of Ink.

You see, we moved and CM&C is no more than an archive, rarely used. And besides, Almost Out of Ink is a lot more fun!

 

See you there – DJ

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November 2, 2010

And the madness begins!

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 2:16 am
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All across the globe, thousands upon thousands of would-be novelists are typing, keyboarding, hunt and pecking, handwriting, perhaps even chiseling on slabs of granite the “Next Great Novel.”

Yep. I’m one of them.

You would think after having tried this twice before, I would know better.

Seems so easy when you sign up. Just write a novel that’s at least 50,00 words long…in thirty days…for nothing more than the sense of accomplishment that it will bring.

Well, here is my status report at the end of day one: 1,988 words. Pretty much the first scene. I think in scenes, not chapters, by the way…

In the past I would publish each day’s efforts, but that caused problems. As the story moved along, I would want to rewrite or edit previous tomes, yet that tended to confuse those that were following along. So this time, you get my observations on writing, but the novel will not be delivered until it is ready. Let’s hope that is this year…

Anyhow, thanks for the support. I don’t want your money (unless you have a lot of it and don’t mind giving it to me) just knowing that you are interested is good enough for me. And if you are not interested, why are you still reading at this point?

Hmmm. And they say writers are crazy….

October 25, 2010

Countdown to NaNoWriMo 2010!

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 2:10 pm
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Well, the outline is about as done as I want it to be. I have the basic premise of the story. Still not sure exactly how it will end, though. There is a famous (read: published) author out there that was once asked if he ever used an outline and his reply was something akin to “No, if I don’t know where the novel is going, the reader won’t either, which will make them want to keep reading…” A big paraphrase, but you get the point. My ending will present itself when the time is right…hopefully.

This story will be written using a dual storyline format. I have not tried this technique before, but it holds promise for this particular style of story. Basically, this entails one chapter in “present time” and the next chapter in “flashback.” The idea is that at the end, the last flashback chapter will end where the first “present time” chapter starts.

The subject? Here’s a one-sentence synopsis:

“A fortune teller comes to the aid of a fledgling private detective who has discovered deception, double-crosses and murder on his first case.”

October 12, 2010

NaNoWriMo approacheth….

Filed under: Creative Writing,Fiction — D.J. Lutz @ 11:45 pm
Tags: ,


50,000 words in 30 days? Who is stupid enough to try that?

Me. Maybe I’ll have a coherent novel at the end this time. Yes, I have tried this before…

At least this year I already have characters, a plot and (soon) possibly an outline.

I better get more coffee.

And some wine.

October 10, 2010

Time to get writing again…

Filed under: Fiction — D.J. Lutz @ 7:56 pm
Tags: ,

If you look to the right, you will see “pages” listed. There I store my completed stories (although there is one poem from Cat, too.) Are they ready for publishing? No, not really. They are good stories but they ramble at times, sometimes they get off topic, most often they are just plain disjointed and lack good character development.

But they serve a purpose. No one, at least I don’t think, starts out writing the perfect novel on their first try. Why would I be any different? I keep the stories for two reasons: one is that they are, even with their faults, decent stories and maybe I can rewrite them someday and two, there are some people that actually like them. Finally (did I mention I have trouble counting?) I hope to someday look back on these stories in a way that allows me to say “Gee, look how much better I am now!” Wishful thinking, perhaps…

So now I am starting a new story. Instead of serializing it, I am writing it off-line. I will post weekly to update my progress and to chronicle how the writing has been going. Kinda a “see, you aren’t the only one having those writer’s block problems!”

This week’s goal: identify main characters (give them names, too) and come up with the overall story premise.

March 14, 2010

CNU Writer’s Conference

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 1:39 am
Tags: , , ,

I attended the Christopher Newport University Writer’s Conference this weekend. Located in Newport News, VA, the university is small enough to keep that intimate quality that benefits students and teachers, but also large enough to have an Arts Center of elegant quality. A perfect setting for a writer’s conference.

The main presenter was Brian Haig, yes, son of the late General Alexander Haig. Brian, himself also a military man (Westpoint, 22 years in the army,) has written several books of military fiction, akin to Tom Clancy. He gave two excellent speeches on his writing and the business side of writing. Very enlightening. As a former professional musician, I was somewhat saddened yet not too surprised that the publishing business was almost identical to the music business.

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps
run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”
– Hunter S. Thompson

Meg Medina was my favorite presenter. She focused on children’s books, not really my thing – at least not now – but it was a great presentation. I think she grew up near my good friend Carlos and his family in New York City. I’ll have to ask him next time I see him.

So what now? Three things, taken from the Conference:

(1) Learn and try the Snowflake technique of story structure.
(2) Read a book (figures…) called Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
(3) Get and read another book. I don’t have my notes with me, but it’s a workbook on creating children’s books.

Children’s books? First, you never know – it may be successful. Second, I think the exercises will transfer over to any type of writing.

Being an unschooled schlep-rock scribbler, I figure “what have I got to lose?”

If you are in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area next March (2011) check out the CNU Writer’s Conference. It’s a winner!

March 12, 2010

Dead Man’s Hand – finale.

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 12:41 am
Tags: ,

The onlookers stood, jaws gaping open. “What’s this all about? I didn’t do anything. I was on the boat when he shot himself. These guys will vouch for me!” Trevor, looking more than slightly panicked, was reaching for any lifeline he could grab.
“I understand that you were on the boat, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t hire someone to come in and shoot Mr. Shellman. We had a tip come in right after Detective Baxter made the call to 911. Once your hired gun emerged from the water, about two blocks down the street, we were waiting for him. You better believe he’s already talking to the Commonwealth’s Attorney about an amnesty deal.”

Trevor knew he had been set up. Only one other person knew of his plan and that was…Sylvia Shellman. Looking right at her with fire in his eyes, he started to lambaste her for being a squealer. She cut him off with a scathing retort. “Look, you. I had to call the police. I didn’t think you were serious about it at first, until Bud told me that you were just using me to get control of the marina. Don’t play with matters of the heart, boy. You’ll get burned every time. Have fun in jail!” Sylvia had almost a morbid sense of glee in her voice as she told him off. Corporal Barrett, by now finished putting Trevor in cuffs, turned towards Sylvia.

“Before you say anything else, Mrs. Shellman, you are also under arrest for the murder of your husband, Drake Shellman…” Sylvia was in shock, hardly hearing any of her Miranda rights as they were rattled off by rote from the officer securing the handcuffs around her wrists. “I don’t get it,” she said. “I tipped you all off? And this is the treatment I get? I need a lawyer…”

With the two rats leaving the sinking ship by way of a blue and white taxi, the rest of the gang stood there in silence. Calvin helped Dallas search Sylvia’s car, where they found a bloody ice pick. “So, how did you know the lady killed her husband? I thought you already nabbed the gunman?”

Dallas Tippett thought for a moment, trying to put a tremendously complex story into a short verbal narrative. “Well, best I can figure is this – Trevor made plans to have Drake killed in such a way that it would appear to be a suicide. The gunman used chloroform, coming up from behind. We found the contaminated handkerchief part way down the chum chute. What the killer did not know was that old man Shellman was already dead. So all we have on Trevor Lancaster is conspiracy to commit murder and murder for hire. The gunman is being held for conspiracy and abuse of a corpse.”
Calvin acknowledged that this one was one for the history books. “Continue, please Mr. Holmes, how about the fair lady, then?”

“Not more than a minute after your call, another 911 operator received a call claiming that Sylvia was seen going into the office right before the shot was heard. Upon closer inspection, the medical examiner found the actual mortal wounds, two small holes in the heart, caused by an ice pick. Mr. Shellman had bled to death internally before the gunman ever got there. Since he was wearing gloves, he did not realize how cold Drake’s hands were when he fashioned the gun around them. And, if you remember, Mrs. Shellman got out of her car and, without prompting, said that she was sorry the old man was dead. When Bud Spenser called her, he only mentioned that they heard a shot. He had no idea who had been shot. The only way she could have known her husband was dead was if she did it herself. ”

“Geez, I guess that’s what happens when everyone wants to kill you. I guess Kay is one of the few who didn’t have a reason to kill him…”
“I’m sure, given the chance, she might have thought about it. Drake was putting a lien on her boat, somewhat unethically, but it would have been perfectly legal. Thank goodness she was with you when this all happened.”
“Yeah, that’s a relief. On the bright side, it looks like we may be sailing off into the sunset together, at least for a while. She’s selling her boat and we’re taking mine down to the Bahamas.”

“What are going to do? Will your pension cover all of that?”
“Not sure. Life is full of surprises. Drake Shellman found that out the hard way. By the way, have you been up on Bud’s yacht? That’s where they were playing cards.”
“No, why?”
“I took the nickel tour and saw the card table inside the cabin. Drake Shellman had pulled two pair, aces and eights with a nine of diamonds as a kicker.”

“And that’s pertinent how?”

“Officer Tippett, you’ll never make detective without knowing how to play poker, will you? Aces and eights – that’s the Dead Man’s hand…”
——-
After the police department had completed its job, Calvin Baxter returned to his boat. Kay had finished loading the supplies she had brought down at the start of the whole debacle.
“’Bout ready?” he asked.
“Almost. Need to get some ice.” Kay returned to the marina office with two ice chests. Opening one of them up, she filled it to the brim with ice. Carefully maneuvering the second chest over to the chum chute, she lifted the chute lid and dropped a plastic bag inside. Kay Francis had her cake and was eating it, too. Smiling, she walked back down toward the Concept 2, ready to move on with her life. They’ll never find that ice pick, especially since they don’t even know that they should be looking for one…

[The end?]

March 11, 2010

Dead Man’s Hand – III

Filed under: Creative Writing,Fiction — D.J. Lutz @ 2:06 am
Tags: ,

Curiosity having gotten the best of them, the intrepid Sunday afternoon poker club, minus one, arrived at the office entrance, just as the late Drake Shellman was being wheeled out to the ambulance. A sheet covered his body, little left to the imagination with dark red blood seeping through the fibers of the white sheet. The death had been a violent one.

“Geez, what the hell happened? He was only gone for a minute or two…” This was Bert, thinking out loud, not speaking to anyone in particular. He had seen plenty of blood as a manager at the Boot & Saddle, being a rough and tumble country bar and all, but he had never seen anything like this.

Trevor Lancaster chimed in a reality call. “If anyone finds out you’ve been skimming money from your bar, you could end up in the same boat, amigo.” Trevor’s British accent made his use of Spanish sound extremely sarcastic.
“Well, let’s just keep that down, will you? The less the cops know about any of us, the better. You’re no saint, either, you know…”

Seeing the gaggle of wide-eyed geese, Corporal Barrett approached them. Still not convinced it was just a plain suicide, he decided to throw a bone and see who went after it.
“It’s a shame. This guy must have had some real problems to want to do something like this…” Waiting for a few seconds, Barrett leaned slightly in towards the four men. “You guys know him? Any relatives around?”

“Yeah, we know him. That’s Drake. This is his place. I work for him on occasion, doing odd jobs mostly. He’s got a wife, ex-wife I think; she co-owns the marina with him.” Larry Oliver, currently living a life of carefree vagabondsmanship, had taken the lead in answering. He was cut short by the more formally dressed man, Bud Spencer.

“Yes, officer, we do know him, quite well. We get together on my yacht, every Sunday afternoon, to play a few hands of poker. (abruptly) No gambling, of course, just a friendly game. And Drake’s wife is named Sylvia. She’s not an ex, at least not yet. They’re legally separated. She’s on her way here now.”
Trevor looked stunned. “How did she know to come here? Did you call her?”
“Yes. After we heard the shot, I assumed something was wrong and called her. Relax Trevor, at least now your affair won’t have to be such a secret. I noticed that you didn’t call her. That’s telling.”

Trevor, by now hopping mad and itching for a fight, made a move toward Bud. Corporal Barrett grabbed Trevor’s arm, twisting it behind his back, with just a little more force than was necessary.
“That’s enough, boys. I think what we need to do now is settle down. I’ll take a statement from each of you. You first, Sluggo.”

Taking Trevor by the twisted arm, Barrett led him to the squad car. Listening more with amazement than taking notes, Dallas Barrett learned that almost every one of them had a motive to kill Drake Shellman. One by one, he took their statements, never letting them know that suicide would be the likely ruling.

Calvin Baxter returned to the office, Kay at his side. After learning of the circus atmosphere self-created by the motley card club, he chuckled. “No honor among thieves, I guess.” Barrett looked at him, replying “No kidding. All we need now is a dancing bear.”
Almost as if on cue, a very nice sedan pulls into the parking lot. The door opens and out steps Sylvia Shellman. Looking like she just came from the beach, she tosses her wet hair behind her head and adjusts her sun dress, slightly damp from the wet bathing suit underneath. Conversation stopped as she approached.

Sylvia ignored her dalliance, Trevor and instead went into the arms of Bud. He who has the biggest yacht wins, I guess. “Look officer, I’m sorry if the old man is dead, but we never had a happy marriage anyway so for me it’s no big loss. You want a suspect, look at one of these three,” pointing to Trevor, Larry and Bert.
“You little…” Trevor began. Calvin intervened before the exchange to hold.

“Alright,” Corporal Barrett began, “now that we know you all had something against Drake Shellman, there’s something I need to tell you…”
“Wait a minute.” Calvin’s mind was racing ahead. “How are these folks all connected?”
Dallas Barrett, scratching his chin like a man in deep contemplation, looked up at Calvin. “Here’s the short version. This here is Mr. Bert Tracey, manager of the Boot & Saddle. He’s been skimming profits from his own bar for years to pay for his poker games. Drake knew it and was blackmailing him.”
“Nice…” Calvin replied.
“Then we have Trevor Lancaster. He’s a big shot from England. Works for Consolidated Unlimited.”
“They’re the guys that want to develop that new mega resort property here, right?”
“Exactly. He was having an affair with Mrs. Shellman, trying to get a foot in the door to grab the deed to the marina land. That leaves these two, Larry Oliver and Bud Spencer.”
“And what’s their story?” Calvin was riveted by the whole, sordid ball of twine that had twisted this cast of characters together.
“Larry seems to be an innocent bystander, although he recently spent time relaxing at the graybar hotel so he may not be all that he seems. Currently he does oddjobs around the marina.”
“Last, we have Bud Spencer.”
“Mr. Yacht?”
“Right. Seems that when Mrs. Shellman found out that the Brit was playing her, trying to sweet talk her into selling her interest in the marina, she found Bud Spencer ready, willing and able to provide her “comfort” in her time of need. Hell hath no fury, you know…”
Calvin, looking at Sylvia and Bud, who had by now slipped off to the side of the office for some private time, offered “Must be another one of those “times.”

“Bottom line is that, barring something unexpected in his will, if he even had one, Sylvia Shellman is now the sole owner of the marina and she can do with it what she wants.”

“You gonna tell ‘em that the old guy did himself in?”

Corporal Barrett thought for a minute. “Yeah, I guess so. I was hoping that the crime scene would yield up a clue that pointed to murder. I mean, really, enough people wanted to off the guy, you know.”

Gathering the entire cast of characters, Officer Barrett announces that, while their stories are interesting, very interesting in fact, the investigation is pointing to suicide. All smiles, Sylvia chimes in.
“I have an announcement, too! I am selling the marina.”
Trevor interjected. “To Consolidated?”
“No. You lose Trevor. I am selling to Mr. Spencer. He represents a consortium of investors that want to develop their own resort AND casino.”
Looking at Kay, the new sole proprietor of the marina looked at her and told her she could keep her boat there as long as she wanted, until construction began.
“Not necessary, thank you. I am selling it “as is” to the first buyer with enough cash in his pocket.” Grabbing hold of Calvin’s hand, she added “I think I might jump ship to a better boat, anyway.”

“Corporal Barrett?” It was one of the crime scene investigators. “We need to talk.”
The two went off to the side, about ten feet away, and started talking in low tones. Every once in a while, Barrett would look up at the group. Calvin studied their reactions, trying to see who was going to go running. Clearly there is now more to the case than at first realized.

“Trevor Lancaster, you have the right to remain silent…”

March 10, 2010

Dead Man’s Hand – II

Filed under: Creative Writing — D.J. Lutz @ 2:10 am
Tags: ,

Calvin noticed the squad car pulling up to the marina. Time to put this away. Calvin surreptitiously put the Sig in his back holster and untucked his shirt. The patrolman was still inside his car, talking on his radio. Probably checking with dispatch to let them know he was there and to see if there were any new details. Leaving the safety of the vehicle, the officer surveyed the area, hand on his still holstered service weapon. Calvin knew better than to approach quickly; a call that starts with ‘shots fired’ gets the adrenaline going. You never know who the bad guys are, either, until the situation allows. The last thing Calvin Baxter wanted to create was a headline in tomorrow’s paper that read “Retired Detective Killed by Mistake.”

“Do you know anything about a disturbance in the area?”

The officer, a Corporal, had observed no one else in the area and as such had approached Calvin.
“Yes, sir. I made the call to 911. I’m Detective Baxter, Norfolk, retired.”
“Officer Barrett. Dispatch told me there was a gold shield here somewhere. So, what do we have? Who got shot?”
Calvin pointed to the marina office. “I was on my boat, down at the end of the pier. Heard a single shot come from inside the office there, so I made the call. Some guys on that big boat over there tell me that their buddy is in the office somewhere.”

“Could have walked into a robbery,” Barrett offered. Calvin glanced over at the office. “Yeah, I thought so, too, but I haven’t seen anyone come out yet, and it’s been a good five minutes.”

“ Any other exits?”

Calvin thought for a moment. “You got the front door there, and…to the best of my knowledge there isn’t a back door.” Calvin then realized that he really didn’t know about other exits. He had never seen one, but that did not mean there wasn’t one. “We better check,” he hedged.

Barrett, still with his hand on the top of his pistol, walked around the side of the small office. “No back door, although there does seem to be some sort of chute leading into the water. Any idea about that?”

Calvin’s eyes lit up. “The chum chute. Of course! Yes, there is an old bit of ductwork going down to the water. It’s where boats used to pull up and get their bait. Old man Drake would just weigh out how ever many pounds of chum you wanted and then send it down the chute into the buckets on deck. I don’t think you can use it now, though. He built some storage down there, sort of blocking the way of the chute, once boats became too big to slip up to the office.”

“Could someone slide down there?”

“I suppose they could. Be awful damn nasty though. You would really have to know what you were doing to make it all the way down without causing a noticeable splash. Didn’t hear anything like that.”

Corporal Barrett pulled his gun from the hard plastic speed holster. “Well, someone shot something. Time to take a look.”

The windows had slightly opaque white curtains; he strained to get a good look in.
“See anyone?”
“There’s a guy sitting at the desk. I think we may have a suicide.”

With his free hand, the officer reached for his radio mike, draped over his left shoulder and threaded through the epaulets of his well-ironed, military-creased shirt. “Dispatch, 105.”
“Go ahead 105.”
“10 – 54. Send Rescue, 67th Street Marina. At least one victim.” Possible dead body, man, this keeps getting better and better.
“Ten four.”

Barrett, gun in hand, lead the way to the door. Calvin instinctively put his hand behind his back, just in case…
The door wasn’t locked, after all, the marina office was technically open for business. Normally Kay would have been there at the front counter. The question was…if there was a dead body in the back office, was there a live body anywhere else? Fortunately, the marina office wasn’t too terribly complicated a structure. One main room, rectangular, about 40 by 50 feet, with a small office in the back, cordoned off with a set of love beads, probably original to the early 70’s construction. The bait freezers and chum chute took up an entire wall.

“Clear.” Corporal Barrett put his gun back in the holster, a distinct click sounding as it snapped into place.

The siren from the volunteer rescue squad was becoming more and more audible as Calvin pulled the beads away from the doorway, allowing Dallas Barrett to take account of the bloody scene in the office.
“Have to wait for the coroner to call it, but it sure looks like a suicide. Safe’s closed, no sign of struggle. God only knows why he did it…”
“The guys on the boat looked to be playing cards, gambling problem? Maybe Kay can tell us something.”
“Who’s Kay?”
“Kay, the counter girl. She was loading supplies onto my boat when we heard the shot. She’s still down there if you want to ask her anything.”

The rescue squad had arrived. It took less than a minute to call it. Dead. Not mostly dead. All the way dead. Just by the nature of the death, photos were taken from every angle. There did not seem to be any other evidence to process; everyone agreed that suicide was the most likely scenario.

“What a mess. Must have been a hollow point to tear up the chest like that,” Barrett observed. While the entry wound was not too traumatic, the rest of the chest cavity was in total disarray, half of it blown out the exit wound. What neither Dallas Barrett nor Calvin Baxter could have known, or seen at this point, was the original, fatal wound. A wound caused by an ice pick…

March 9, 2010

Dead Man’s Hand – scene 1

The Dead Man’s Hand
By Douglas Lutz / copyright March 2010

After a slow count to five, the chloroform had done its job, rendering the old man motionless. Time was short; voices could be heard just down the walkway. This job needed to be finished quickly and there was always the getaway to consider. Much harder to get paid if you’re in jail. Concentrate. Ignore the voices for a second. Now, put the pistol in his hands; point it backwards. Get a good grip on the hands and aim center mass. Carefully manipulate the pliable digits; slowly squeeze the trigger. The 6 inch, nickel plated.38 came to life like a dog whose bite was worse than its bark, sending a spiraling chunk of metal through the skin, past the ribcage and into the heart. The tumbling bullet tore through the massive muscle of life, carrying much of it out the exit wound in back, fusing flesh and blood with the fibers of the office chair’s naugahyde back rest. Mission accomplished.

Calvin Baxter’s 12 pots full of blue crab were better than he had expected, considering the weekend’s Nor’easter had turned the normally tranquil waters of the Chesapeake Bay into a dark green, foamy grog. Hell, the boat almost sank twice and the last thing Calvin wanted to do was catch a ride with a nearby Coast Guard helicopter. The weather had cleared that morning, just hours before the Concept 2 was to pull into the marina off of 67th street. Retired and now living alone, Calvin had little human interaction of consequence and each Sunday afternoon he looked forward to selling his catch, stocking up on a few supplies and maybe, if he was lucky, spending an hour or so just hanging out at the marina. There was no kidding himself. Calvin tried to believe it was the extra cash he made selling crustaceans that made his day worthwhile, but no, deep down Calvin Baxter knew it was the few minutes, that precious quarter of an hour he would get to spend with the dock girl, Kay, that kept him coming back to the same marina, week after week. Today was no exception. Kay had already helped him off-load the blue crab and was returning with his cash, a receipt and a cart full of basic supplies, the type needed by someone who lived on their boat. A muffled pistol shot grabbed both of their attentions.

Calvin knew what had happened. Thirty years a cop, 18 years a detective on the homicide squad of the Norfolk Police Department had given him the experience to know that a fairly large caliber pistol, possibly a .45, had just been discharged inside the marina office. “Damn, here we go…” Calvin muttered as he picked up his cell phone and called 911. “Yeah, this is Detective Calvin Baxter, Norfolk PD. Just heard a shot fired inside the marina office on 67th street. No one seen entering or leaving the premises.” The dispatcher went through her normal procedures, sending the report to the nearest unit. Calvin knew he was in Virginia Beach and while he knew some of the older guys there, he didn’t want to bully his way onto their turf. “Yeah, I’ll wait outside for the marked unit.” Calvin reached into a drawer just inside the pilot house of his little boat, pulling out a Sig Sauer .38, the detective’s preferred handgun.

“What’s going on? What just happened?” Kay said with more than a little fear in her voice. Quite shaken, she had almost rolled the ice chest right into the drink. “Stay here, Kay. Probably a robbery in progress. With one shot, it’s already gotten ugly.” “I’ll stay here on the boat, if you don’t mind.”

Weapon in hand, Calvin moved down the dock towards the office. He heard voices to his right. There, on the fantail of one of the larger yachts, were four men. “Hey, our buddy is in there,” one said, pointing to the office. “Don’t worry, I’m a cop. Stay where you are until we find out what’s going on.”

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