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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/734375-The-Bobbsey-Twins-Caper
Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #734375
Old flame shows up in St. Thomas with millions in stolen drug money and needs help.
The Bobbsey Twins and Tara


         I knew it was Tara the minute she walked into my joint, even though she was backlit by the glaring midday sun of St.Thomas.  She stopped inside the door of the Turtle Club, letting her eyes adjust to the cave-like darkness of the bar.  I hadn't seen her for years, but something told me it was her.
         Any man who's obsessed over a woman at some time in his life will recognize the phenomenon. Maybe it's her smell, her sillouette, the look of her butt as she walks down the street, or the sound of her voice across a crowded room, but whatever it is, you'll lock onto that telltale signal and know her anywhere.
         With me, it was Tara's long black hair on that tiny frame and her sinuous walk--like a cat with its tail up when it wants to rub up against your legs.  Of course, like Tara, the cat always wants something from you too.  I had a second to think about that before she saw me behind the bar, turned, and ran out the door.
         "Tara!" I shouted and jumped over the bar. "Watch the place for a minute," I yelled at Sharon, my waitress and current squeeze, and headed for the door.  
By the time I got outside, she was half-way down Norregard toward the Post Office, twisting her way between the cruise-line shoppers crowding the narrow sidewalks of the pastel-colored shops.
          "Damn!" I said, and threw down my bar rag. I took off after her, running in the street against the one-way, bumper-to bumper traffic. She dodged into one of the perfume shops, and I slowed down to a walk. No sense getting a stroke in the heat. There wasn't a way out of that store. Seems like Tara and I were always looking for a way out of a dead end.
         I found her inside the shop, talking to a pretty black salesgirl and pretending to ignore me as I stepped over to her side. Finally, when the girl went to ring up her sale, she affected to recognize me and said in that soft southern voice, "Why Rob Cameron, whatever are you doing here?"
         "Chasing you down the street. Why'd you run?"
         She gave up the pose of surprised tourist and shrugged. "I was shocked to see you. It was just a reflex." She looked up directly into my eyes, seeming to peer into my soul. "It's been a long time. How have you been?"
         She moved her body close with one leg between mine in an intimate way that I remembered all too well. I ignored the amenities and pulled out a Cuban cigar. "You by yourself--or are you still running with Bobby Joe?"
         I lit the cigar with a wooden match, giving her a couple of puffs in the face.
She smiled and put her hand up to my cheek in a brief caress. "You've gotten hard."  
         "You were a good teacher," I said. "So, what's the answer? You and Bobby Joe still an item?"
         "Let's go to your bar. I still need something to drink."
         She walked out of the shop, and I turned to follow.My bar? How did she know that? So much for the fiction that Tara just accidentally picked my place for a drink. She'd known I was there and came in for something. The salesgirl trotted up from the back, waving a package.
         "De lady, she forget her perfume," she called in Island patois.          
         "Don't worry yourself," I said, "She already got what she wanted."  And I walked outside into light as bright as truth, leaving the package and the astonished girl with her mouth open. Tara could do that to you.

***
         "Huhn...huhn...harder...harder....HARDER!"
         Through the dark-tinted windows of the bar, I watched the tourists scurrying back to their ships from my vantage point over Tara's gyrating backside. I grinned, thinking about the wild story they'd have to tell their friends back home if they pressed their face against the glass and saw us on the scruffy pool table in the back of the bar.
         "HARDER, DAMN YOU!"
         It occurred to me that I was working as hard as I could. So she ought to be more appreciative. I slapped her rump and that seemed to do the trick.
         "AAHHHHHHHHHHHH!" She called out, then froze and softly added, "Don't move."
         Which gave me some breathing space to think about how I got into this position. And I didn't mean the one on the pool table.
****

         I'd sent Sharon home from work as soon as we got back to the Turtle Club. No sense in letting the help know all about your past. Sharon arched her eyebrow to let me know she didn't like it, gave me a quick kiss that was clearly proprietary, and then strutted out past Tara with a walk that said: Match this, you skinny bitch. Tara watched her out the door with an amused smile on her face.
         "She come with the place, or did you pick her out yourself?" Tara said.
         "Sharon's all right. She's a good friend, always there for me when I need her."
         "Touche'," she said. "I guess I deserved that." She changed the subject to more neutral ground. "How about that drink? Bacardi and..."
         "Orange juice with a dash of grenadine," I interrupted. Then I went behind the bar, angry at myself for remembering, as though somehow the memory tied me to her again. She gave a mocking little smile.
         "So angry," she mocked. "Even after all this time." She paused. "I'm glad you are. It means you still might care about me in spite of what happened in Tegucigalpa."
         "Nothing of the kind. Any good bartender remembers the drinks of his regulars." I spread my hands to encompass the Turtle Club, my new world. I mixed her drink and passed it over the bar. She downed it with a few big gulps and gave it back for a refill.
         While I fixed another round she walked around the small, narrow bar, looking at my sailing photos and marine paraphernalia on the walls. She stopped in the large room at the back where the pool table was, and I had to follow her to hand over her drink. She jumped up to find a seat on the edge of the pool table, her legs swinging down the side. I moved over in front of her. She licked the rim and stuck out her tongue at me.
         "So that's your ambition. To be a bar-tender in a crappy, second-rate tourist trap?"
         "Hey, I'm also the owner--and I'll have you know it's a third-rate bar. The first and second-rate bars have waterfront views. It was all I could afford with my share."
         Ah yes, my share! My share of Bobbsey Twins, S.A., a Panamanian corporation, came to a little over $250,000 when I cashed out of the partnership with Bobby Joe. But Islanders have an inflated idea of the value of a piece of real estate in the Virgin Islands, so it took almost everything I had to swing the deal for a lease on the small place.
Fortunately, it was already an established bar, so I didn't have to pay for setting it up with equipment. I'd used my own photos and stuff I scrounged from the marina to decorate it, but I was barely getting by. Still, it was what I'd always wanted, a bar on a beautiful tropical island. And if it wasn't exactly what I'd dreamed of, I'd learned from Tara and Bobby Joe that dreams didn't always come true.
         "You were a fool to break up the Bobbsey Twins," she said, reading my thoughts, and her interruption brought back old memories of my younger and wilder days with Bobby Joe.
         They nicknamed us the Bobbsey Twins right from the start in Special Forces school. Bobby Joe Morrison and Bobby Cameron. We did look as though we might be twins: big and brawny with short curly blond hair and that fresh-scrubbed look that says 'American as mom's apple pie' wherever you go in the world. We were assigned to the same A-Team.
         Bobby Joe was our expert in demolitions. There wasn't anything Bobby Joe couldn't do with timers, remote detonators and explosives, from blowing up a dam or bridge to taking out a single car in a motorcade with surgical precision. Me, I was the weapons specialist and expert sniper with the .50 caliber rifle.
         Our Special Forces group specialized in Latin America and the Caribbean, and there's always plenty of work in that part of the world. Bobby Joe and I stayed together for so many tours that we thought alike and could operate in sync without having to use the commo net. We developed a reputation, and we got off on being known as the best in the business at our trade. Whenever there was a tough piece of work, they'd call for the Bobbsey Twins.
         Then we were co-opted by the gray men at Langley for some work outside the Army, working with the Miskito Indians against the Sandinistas in Nicaraugua. The Agency payscale for Special Ops guys was a hell of a lot better than Army pay, and we decided to stay with it. We chartered Bobbsey Twins S.A. to stash our cash tax free in Panama with the idea of retiring early with a pot full of money.
         "You and Bobby Joe were about to hit the big time," she said, interrupting my thoughts as I was just getting to the bad memories, the reason why the Bobbsey Twins broke up. "You could have been rich."
         Yeah, we were about to hit the big time-by going over the line from contract operators for the Company to trading guns to the rebels in Columbia for cocaine. There was big money in that business, and a lot of guys wouldn't have had a problem with it, but I knew that once you crossed that line, there wasn't any place you could stop.
         We'd had a hell of an argument in our suite at the Ambassador in Tegucigalpa, and I opted out. Took my share and ran. That's when Tara, my loving girl friend, decided to stay with Bobby Joe.
         "That was a long time ago. I was a dreamer, and still had some funny notions about morality and loyalty."
         She looked up into my eyes, trying to read something in my psyche I suppose. She grabbed my shirt and pulled me close between her legs. "You still a dreamer Bobby? Do you ever dream about me, about what we had?"
         The heat of her body penetrated my jeans and my voice got hoarse. "No," I choked out, lying through my clenched teeth. "I never think about those days."
         She laughed into my face. "Your body's telling me something different, Bobby. Go lock the door." She leaned back on the table onto her elbows with her short skirt hiking up on her thighs. "I always wanted to make it on a pool table in a third-rate bar."
         She was taking off her clothes as I walked to the door, still trying to figure out what she wanted--and why she kept avoiding the subject of Bobby Joe.

****


         And that's how I got to be in this ridiculous position: Behind Tara's perfect behind with my knees skinned from rubbing on the green baize-covered slate of a pool table, my pants down around my ankles, and my head in a whirl.
         Tara gave a shudder, followed by a sinuous stretch, then looked back at me over her shoulder and said, "Give me a cigarette, Bobby. Then let's go someplace where we can be comfortable and talk. Sex on a pool table is overrated."

****


         She drove. Said she didn't want to leave her rent car alone for too long with packages and luggage in the trunk. It's a sensible precaution in the Islands. She was driving one of the white Nissan rental sedans that are ubiquitous all over the island. I gave her directions through town and up over Ma Folie Mountain in back of Charlotte Amalie. She wasn't bothered by the St. Thomas traffic, driving on the wrong side of the street like a native, but she seemed preoccupied and didn't speak all the way to my apartment on the cooler Atlantic side of the island.
         My place is really a two-room guesthouse on the property of a large mansion. Like many non-resident property owners on the islands, the owners rent the estate house to vacationers most of the year. I look after the place for part of my rent.
         But the guest house, hanging cantilevered over the side of the mountain, is a dream deal for me. One room is a large combination living room, kitchen and dining area, and the other is a bedroom and bath. The best feature is a great verandah around two sides with a million dollar view looking east to the British Virgins. The car parking is at the top of the hill, next to the big house, so she insisted on pulling her things, an aluminum suitcase and some shopping bags, out of the trunk and taking them with us.
         After I opened the door, she set her stuff on the floor and looked around, appraising the place with the knowing eye of someone with an appreciation for the value of island property. A dismayed shake of her head and a shrug told me she wasn't impressed by my living quarters. I turned on the ceiling fan, then opened the louvered windows that protect against afternoon cloudbursts during the rainy season. The tradewind whooshed through the slats, cooling the place in seconds. She walked to the window and looked outside
         "I get a nice down-island view across Pillsbury Sound of the British Virgin Islands from the verandah. You want to take some drinks out there?" For some reason I was as nervous as a kid bringing his date to his apartment for the first time.
         "No, Bobby. I'm hot and I'm sweaty. What I want to do is get naked and take a shower with you." She headed for the bedroom with that slinky feline walk, then turned and grinned. "You coming?" she asked.
         Did I tell you the girl was almost always able to twist me around her finger?
         Afterward we sat quietly in the chaise-lounges on the verandah, wrapped in some beach towels, and watched the sea deepen from turquoise to dark blue while the BVIs turned to purple under flamingo pink thunderclouds. It's quite a show and part of what keeps me in the Islands.
         Finally she sighed, and in a small, sad voice, said, "Bobby Joe's gone crazy, lost his head, using way too much coke." She looked at me out of the side of her eyes.  "He stole five million dollars from our contact with the Cartel."
         I choked on my drink and about half of it came burning out my nose. I dabbed around with the end of the towel, and said. "I'd say that was crazy all right."
         "They're looking for us everywhere. We bribed our way onto cruise ship to get here, but it won't take long to figure out how we got out. If we run to the Mainland, they'll be watching the passengers getting off planes and boats at immigration." Her voice broke with a catch in it. "You've got to help me!"  
         There it was! The hook, hidden by that bush between her legs. I sighed.
         "No, Tara," I said slowly, like I was speaking to a small child or a mental case-which, under the circumstances, about covered it. "I don't have to help you. And I won't."
         "We had something once. You can't tell me after this afternoon that you don't still feel something for me."
         "Tara, that was a long time, and several betrayals, ago. Don't make me count the times and ways. Besides, what could I do that Bobby Joe couldn't? Mow down the forces of evil with my trusty submachinegun? Talk the Cali Cartel out of vengeance? Apply vanishing cream? Spirit you away on a magic carpet?" I shrugged. "You need a magician, not your Uncle Bob."
         I needed another drink. I gestured toward her glass, and she handed it to me. It was empty. She was pouring them down.
         "You've got a sail boat," she said eagerly. "We could sail to the States and sneak in without anyone knowing. No customs or immigration. You've done it before." She got up, a flash of thigh showing, and wandered into the living room toward the bar where I was pouring.  
         She really had been doing her homework. I hadn't mentioned Spindrift, my 44 foot cruising catamaran. I'd picked her up cheap as salvage after hurricane Hugo and repaired most of the damage myself.  From the verandah, Spindrift{/} was barely visible with binoculars, riding at anchor in Coki Bay on the east end of the island.
         "That was when I was young and foolish. I know better now."
         I handed her the drink and went back to my chaise-lounge. I'd made up my mind. No matter how much she called on old loyalties and memories-or promised erotic fantasies beyond my wildest dreams in the future-I wasn't about to ruin the nice quiet life I had now.
         After a bit, she came back onto the verandah, lugging the aluminum suitcase, and popped it open on my lap. It was stuffed with stacks of one-hundred dollar bills. My eyes bugged out. I'd never seen $5,000,000 in cash before.
         She said, "Well, if you won't help Bobby Joe and me escape..." she paused, and then with perfect timing, said, "You and I could take the money--and leave Bobby Joe to answer to the Cali guys."
         It was a "close" that would have done a salesman of the Million Dollar Roundtable proud.
         "I'm your man," I said, ogling the cash.
         I said I was easy when it came to Tara.

****


         Of course, she had it all planned out before she ever showed up at my place. Bobby Joe didn't have a clue that I was living on St. Thomas, but Tara had heard from someone passing through Tegucigalpa that I owned the Turtle Club. She'd insisted that they get off in St. Thomas because she thought I'd come in handy, one way or another.
         First, she gave me a run-down on what happened before they turned up in St. Thomas. Bobby Joe hadn't planned out his caper. He was coked up, riding shotgun on a delivery one day, and just took the money, killed the cartel's mules, and ran---without any idea of what he was going to do next. He hadn't even thought about getting new identities for himself and Tara. They'd gotten out of Belize in the nick of time by bribing a steward on a cruise ship to stash them in a vacant cabin.
         But there weren't that many exits from that small, jungle country. It wouldn't take long for the Cali bunch to figure it out--if they hadn't already--and the hunters would be on their trail. When Bobby Joe and Tara didn't show up in Miami, they'd back-track the ship's port-of-calls, island to island. When they got to St. Thomas, they'd turn the island upside down until they shook Bobby Joe and Tara out of the bushes. Unbelievably, they were openly staying in one of the private bungalows on the beach at Frenchman's Reef Resort.  
         "Bobby Joe's registered under his own name at the Reef?" I asked, incredulous.  She nodded. "Christ, it's like he's got a death wish," I said.
         "He's changed. Not the Bobby Joe you used to know. Just sits there all day in the room with the crack pipe in his hands. That's why I've got to get away from him. I won't go down with him."  
         She'd written Bobby Joe off because he wouldn't, or couldn't, meet her expectations, exactly like she'd done with me two years before. I had the eerie feeling I was watching the human equivalent of a black widow spider, the one that kills its partner after mating. I wanted to know what kind of web she was spinning.
         "What's your plan?" I asked.

****


         As such plans go, it wasn't bad. I'd seen worse from the Department of Plans and Operations at Langley. Lots of trickery and "now you see 'em, now you don't," but it kept me out of a confrontation with Bobby Joe. I couldn't really blame him from taking Tara away from me. And the man and I had been in too many situations where we had to cover each other's back for the idea of an armed robbery confrontation to appeal to me.
         "Bobby Joe always keeps the money with him in the bungalow," she said, "except when we go to eat or somewhere. Then he puts it in the hotel storage facility."
         "How come you have it now?" I asked.
         "He went to the Marina at Red Hook to see if he could rent a boat for the mainland. We took the suitcase and checked it into the hotel vault, and then I dropped him off. I went back and picked it back up." She grinned and wrinkled up her nose. "I figured you might take a little visual persuading." She looked at her Piaget watch. "I'm supposed to be shopping and to meet up with him at the East End bar about six for dinner. I need to hurry."
         The details of the plan were simple and easy. She'd bought two identical, garishly-patterned and colored Hawaiian shirts and straw hats before coming into the bar to see me. She'd get Bobby Joe to go out to dinner way out on other side of the island somewhere the following night and make sure he was wearing the new shirt and hat. He'd check the suitcase with the hotel clerk before they left.
         My job was easy. I'd be waiting in the hotel parking lot in an identical rent car to theirs. Shortly after they left the hotel in their car, I'd pull up to the door in my car. I'd go in to the hotel wearing the sunglasses, the same shirt and hat and ask for the suitcase back. The busy clerk probably wouldn't even ask for ID, but Tara had managed to get hold of Bobby Joe's passport and a couple of credit cards for me to carry. The Bobbsey Twins looked so much alike that there wouldn't be a problem. I knew his signature as well as my own. I'd sign for the suitcase and be out the door in less than a minute. Then I'd beat it out to the east end of the island to Coki Bay and Spindrift and wait with the cash until it was safe for Tara to join me.
         Of course, Whenever Bobby Joe tried to get his suitcase back, there'd be hell to pay, but he couldn't put too much pressure on the hotel or police because how was he going to explain $5,000,000 in cash? Since, he'd put it in the vault, Tara wouldn't be a suspect. He'd probably think the Cali bunch somehow found him and took it. And that ought to put him into figuring how to get the hell out of St. Thomas with his life, rather than worrying about money that was already gone.
         Somehow, Tara would persuade Bobby Joe they had to separate and fly out to different destinations. Tara would meet me the next day at the Spindrift, and we'd be off for a cruise in the Caribbean sunshine to whatever exotic islands and adventures five million dollars would buy.
         Bobby Joe would have to fend for himself.
         She gave me the shirt, hat and passport. She even had a pair of dark wrap-around sunglasses that were the kind Bobby Joe wore.
          After she left, I took the plan apart piece by piece to see if it worked. It was so simple, I didn't see how anything could go wrong. Too simple. I started over...

****


         The next day I phoned Sharon early and told her I'd be sailing for a few days. She often took over for me whenever I got the urge to go cruising, so there wasn't a hassle. My car was still at my parking place by the bar, so she picked me up and took me to the bar. Then I caught a tourist jitney to the rental-car outfit near the airport.
         I picked up a Nissan at the airport, paying for the car with Bobby Joe's credit card and using his passport. Two cars rented in Bobby Joe's name would confuse any later investigation and wouldn't lead back to me in case someone saw the car. I couldn't go anywhere in those clothes, so I went back to my apartment and drank the afternoon away. I wasn't exactly nervous, but I'd never been a thief before. Somehow, it was a lot different from a firefight.
         By seven o'clock I'd had enough, both booze and waiting around. I got in the car and crossed over the island to the point where Frenchman's Reef Resort looks out over the Caribbean. It was just getting dark when I drove through the gates onto the point and into the parking lot. I made sure to get in an area off to the side from where I could watch for their car. I parked in a line of similar rental cars, totally invisible. She'd made their dinner reservations for 8:30 p.m. so by eight o'clock I was nervously checking the time, hoping nothing was wrong. A million possibilities went through my mind, and I was about to abort when I saw their car pull up to the porte-cochere at the front of the Hotel.
         Bobby Joe hopped out, retrieved the suitcase from the back seat and went in. I watched Tara. She was craning her neck around, trying to spot me. Just to be mean, because they were late, I slumped down in the seat. She looked nervous too. In a few minutes, Bobby Joe came out and got in the car. They spoke sharply at each other, probably arguing over the dinner reservations I thought, because Tara got on the cell phone for a brief call while Bobby Joe drove slowly off into the night.
         It was Showtime!
         I pulled up under the porte-cochere and got out. I told the doorman that I'd forgotten something, and I'd only be a minute. He started to argue for form's sake, but I slipped him a five, and he opened the hotel entrance door for me like I was an emperor, then retreated to his seat by the door. So far, so good.  
         The idea of trouble from the clerk was laughable. The USVI have a law that makes it financially necessary for any large employer, especially in the tourist business, to hire native "belongers." Their work ethic is guided by a fierce pride. If they think some tourist has "dissed" them, then they move with mule-like slowness. But a cheery smile and greeting of "How's it goin', Mon" will work wonders.
         The clerk, dressed in a red Frenchman's Reef blazer and black pants,  hardly looked at me when I asked for the suitcase Bobby Joe just checked in. I waved another five and said apologetically, "My wife forgot something."
         "No problem, Mon," he said with a smile. "Me wife, she always forget somet'ing herself whenever we go somewhere."
         He went to the vault, opened it, took out the suitcase and put it on the counter. He pocketed the five while I scribbled a name in the book and that was it. I thanked him, turned and was walking for the door with five million in my sweating hands when a loud voice said, "Just a minute!"
         I froze.
         I turned around and faced an older black man, wearing another red blazer and a look of authority. A badge on his breast pocket identified him as the concierge. His stern expression communicated nothing when he said, "Let me see that suitcase."
         I was about to stammer some kind of response that I'd made a mistake, a joke gone wrong, when a smile lit up his round face, his eyes twinkled, and he said, "Your wife called a few minutes ago and said to make sure you got the one with the red tag." He held out another aluminum suitcase that was identical to the one in my hand, except for a dull-red cruise line baggage tag that was attached to the handle.
         "The red tag," I said stupidly as I looked down at the suitcase in my hand.          "Yes, Mon. It wouldn't do for you to take the wrong suitcase, since de lady be in a tizzy already."
         Thoughts burst through my brain like a fireworks display, replaying the details of the plan and every word that had passed between Tara and myself. It took only milliseconds, but it seemed like slow motion.
         "You're right, of course," I said slowly, "but this time she's the one who made a mistake. She's going to be here in a few minutes to pick it up herself." I tore off the tag and gave the suitcase back to him. I fished out a twenty. "We're always playing tricks on each other. It's a little game between us." I winked. "Let me have the other one. And keep this to yourself."
         The twenty disappeared. "You can rely on my silence, Mon," he said, grinning in complicity.
         I walked out of the lobby into the night and got into my car. I sat there sweating, staring at the suitcase beside me on the seat. I didn't want to open it because one way or the other, I couldn't bear to find out what was inside. I started the car and slowly headed out.
         As I drove out the drive, toward the coast road to the east end, I noticed another car pull up to the porte-cochere. It looked just like mine, and I was ready to bet $5,000,000 and my life that it contained Tara and Bobby Joe coming back for the other suitcase. I stopped at the intersection and then turned right, driving slowly and looking in my rear-view mirror.
         Soon, headlights came racing up behind me on the twisting deserted mountain road. When the distance closed to about 300 yards, they slowed down and followed me at the same pace. Soon we were driving along a stretch of road with a cliff on one side that dropped sheer to the pounding surf several hundred feet below. It was the perfect place for a hit. I said a little prayer.
         It looked like fireflies at first, tiny sparks reflected in their windshield, but I wouldn't have seen it if I wasn't expecting it. Because almost immediately the fireflies disappeared in a huge bloom of fire that burst out every window in the car. The bloom couldn't be contained within the car, and it literally disintegrated in a huge fireball. When the shock wave hit my car, I almost went off the cliff myself, but managed to stop the car.
         I turned around and went back, but of course, there was nothing to be done. There wasn't much left of the car--and nothing of Tara or Bobby Joe was recognizable in the flaming wreckage. Bobby Joe always said "if three ounces of C4 was enough, six was perfect."
         A flurry of blackened hundred dollar bills eddied around the blast site and floated in the air along the cliff, some catching in the bushes and others drifting down to the sea. I guess Bobby Joe and Tara figured it was worth the loss of a few grand to keep the Cali cartel from looking any further for its money. I applauded their smart thinking and foresight.
         I took out Bobby Joe's passport and threw it near the wreck. It wouldn't be right for the police not to have something to identify them. And when the Cartel read about it, I didn't want there to be any mistake about whether they were dead or not.
         It was time to go. Spindrift was waiting, and right then I needed to be sailing into the starry night with the clean sea frothing under her bows, washing off the stink of C4 and treachery that clung to me.
          I got into the car and patted the suitcase on the seat beside me. St. Martin is nice this time of year. Not so many crazy tourists with things that go boom in the night.








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