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Rated: 18+ · Serial · Drama · #957157
Sometimes, it just doesn't pay to go to work.
Chapter 2


         The Phoenix Salon and Day Spa permeated in its surrounding community of Baldwin Hills. The lounge area possessed the elegance that Lorraine’s clientele had grown accustomed to. Chandeliers, plush royal blue carpet and valet parking resided at the salon since its inception.
         Lorraine couldn’t remember the last time she stood in front of her own place. She established this and the other ten salons from the ground up, without assistance from anyone less a start up loan from a bank to open her first salon. She even refused financial aid from her parents. Getting her salon on its feet was the biggest task of Lorraine’s young life- one she wanted to fail or succeed on her own merit. She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life with prosperity overshadowed by her father’s help. Gazing over the entrance reminded her of the independence she attained. She reminisced over the long nights she spent in her office planning and working. She was sure she drank enough java back then to stock a coffee house. Having the amusing benefit of enjoying her sacrifices made it all worth the distress she experienced.
         Sensing she had taken in enough, she proceeded to the salon’s back entrance. She had no desire to draw attention to herself not talk to any of her employees upon her immediate arrival. She entered through the building’s rear entrance, rode the elevator to the second floor, and entered her corporate office unnoticed.
         As she sat her purse on her desk, she scanned the stack of telephone messages awaiting her response. Yet, they would remain unattended. She moved them to one side, reached for her phone, and dialed to the receptionist’s desk located downstairs.
         Tried as hard as possible, Lorraine tried to forget the unique item that her pocketbook held. Many years had passed since she used one. Until now, she had no need for such an item. Even when her father gave her the gun, she was reluctant to accept it. Her instinct and Oscar’s lecture demanded that she keep it with her. Only her practice at the pistol range for the past week gave her the confidence that she could carry this weapon without the risk of shooting it in an irresponsible manner. Not wanting anyone to become suspicious as to the shape of her purse, she took it out and placed it in the upper drawer of her desk.
         “Phoenix salon,” the female voice answered.
         “It’s Lorraine. I just came in. Are there any messages besides the ones on my desk?”
         “They’re all on your desk. There was a delivery for you. A bouquet of flowers.”
         “Where are they?”
         “At the table next to me.”
         “I want to see you in my office in ten minutes. Bring the flowers with you.”
         As quick as she hung up the phone, Rene Bates still cringed from her superior’s voice. The simple thought of being in the same room with Lorraine made her skin crawl. She detested everything about Lorraine. The forthcoming trip upstairs was one that would have no pleasant ending- no matter what happened. She picked up the bouquet with one hand; her steno pad with the other.
         Rene consciously kicked herself the entire walk to Lorraine’s office. Why did I tell her about the flowers, Rene asked herself. She fantasized walking outside to the trash bin and dumping Lorraine’s flowers in it. What she would pay to see the look on Lorraine’s face during a frantic search for her beloved flowers. She’ll have to learn to keep her big mouth shut in the future.
         Rene’s entire body stiffened as she opened Lorraine’s office door. She avoided eye contact as she placed the flowers on a table near the entrance. Avoidance was impossible now. Rene eased into the chair that was positioned on the opposite side of Lorraine. Lorraine kept her eyes on Rene the entire time she lowered herself into the chair. Rene paused to reposition her steno pad into her lap. Lorraine continued to gaze at Rene as she handed a sheet of paper to Rene.
         “Didn’t you say you were going to handle this?” Lorraine asked as she pushed the invoice to Rene.
         Rene picked up the invoice. She looked over the paper’s edge. Lorraine’s expression was a warning one that came too late. If given a choice between a root canal and sitting with Lorraine, well, Rene would have to give it consideration.
         “The shampoo order?” she said still looking at the paper. “I already took care of this.”
         “Did you?” Lorraine asked. “Three of my salons in Southern California are running out of shampoo. Do you know what it’s like to run a hair salon without shampoo? Difficult. Very difficult.”
         Rene pretended to study the invoice while Lorraine’s sight traveled from the top to the bottom. Rene’s physical appearance was the only part of her that did not annoy Lorraine- freshly braided hair, light grey short sleeve top and a snuggly fitting skirt. “What about the salon managers?” Rene asked. “Isn’t it their job to reorder?”
         “It is their responsibility to keep account of the stock. It is your responsibility to take their orders call the vendor and make sure the orders get to salons, before, they run out. I thought I could depend on you to handle this. How do expect to become an assistant manager when problems like this arise?”
         Rene eased back into the chair even though her body continued its stiffened state. She didn’t bother to defend herself. She was sure that Lorraine would have no part of that conversation. As Lorraine continued with her lecture, Rene recalled first day she was hired at this company. She remembered the excitement she felt during her first day as she sat at the receptionist desk. She had the lowest job in the company, yet, she gained a sense of power unlike any she had held before. She was at the famous Phoenix Salon and Day Spa where all elite of the black community came to buy their beauty. The thought of being so near all those Mercedes and Lexus cars gave Rene a rush that was second to none. She watched as the wives of the elite walked in and out of the door, without a care in the world other than what they were going to were to the social event of the season. Theirs was a power she longed to possess. She would do anything; even sell her soul if she could for the amount of control and money.
         Rene had laid out the plan to gain that power when she set her sights on the assistant manager’s position. She was on her way to a life of no worries, money, and surrounding herself with wealthy people. Her dreams shifted to anguish when she discovered the price it took to gain that type of fortune. For Rene, this was too high of cost to pay. By the time she learned of the work it would take, it was too late- she was stuck with her job and all the other responsibilities as well. She refused to believe that Lorraine ever did this amount of work in her life. She has had it too easy in her life, Rene thought. The only job Lorraine performed was to delegate tasks to her subordinates. She was sure Lorraine’s hands had never touched dirt.
         “Believe me, I personally call in the order,” Rene said. “I’ll straighten this out immediately.”
         The last two months equaled a life time of torture. Rene felt Lorraine’s eyes burning her internals everywhere she moved in the office. The only place where solitude was found was the ladies’ room. And that relief was too short lived for her taste.
         “This has gone on for too long,” Lorraine said. “Too many mistakes have been made. This company, my company cannot afford such errors. Do you understand?”
         “Understood,” Rene answered.
         Lorraine lowered her head in dismissal to her receptionist. Realizing her audience with “her highness” has terminated, Rene stood and headed for the door.
         “Rene?”
         Hearing her name uttered from Lorraine’s lips did more than make her shutter. It downright sickened her.
         “Yes?” Rene replied.
         “This is the third time you’ve screwed up in a month,” Lorraine said. “I will not allow these mistakes to continue.”
         She was glad that her back faced her boss. She didn’t want Lorraine to see her fury. She walked as fast as she could from Lorraine’s office after closing the door. After arriving at the reception area, Rene tossed her steno pad on the desk. She slammed her fists on the desk not being able to recall if she did place a shampoo order. She wondered if she made a conscious effort to ignore the task in question. Yet, the more she thought about it, the more the idea pleased her. Lorraine’s new misery made the dreadful trek to this horrid job worth while today.
         If she had been engulfed a little less, Rene would have noticed that Christy Marshall, a hair stylist, was standing next to her.
         To ignore Christy was not difficult to do. She wasn’t very tall. 5’3” to be exact. Her facial features were not considered striking, but had potential to be very attractive with the right amount of makeup and a flattering dress.
         She had witnessed the battles between Lorraine and Rene on more than one occasion. In the past, the confrontations only consisted of disagreements and always concluded in Lorraine’s favor. However, the past couple of months have seen more intense disputes. Why Lorraine had not fired Rene dwelled as a mystery for Christy. Neither Lorraine nor she liked the present receptionist. Rene abounded in the stock of incompetence as she did nothing but warm the receptionist’s chair. To intervene was not a position Christy wanted to be in. Instead, she chose to put her faith in Lorraine’s judgment. She hoped her superior would soon come to her senses and release Rene from her duties.
         “Are you okay?” she asked Rene.
         “Not really,” Rene answered.
         “You shouldn’t let Lorraine get next to you.”
         “I can’t help it. She pushes my buttons every chance she gets. She’s gotten worse lately. She’s like a vulture in high heels. Lorraine’s waiting until my foot slips and then…”
         “Then?”
         “What do you think?”
         “You think she’d fired you?”
         “The first chance she gets. You don’t have to worry about that, do you?”
         “What do you mean?”
         “She would never give any of the hair stylists a hard time. You people make too much money for her.”
         “Wait a minute,” Christy said. “Lorraine worked hard to build these salons. She didn’t do it sitting around while her employees did all of the work either. You’ve seen that for yourself. She works harder than anyone else does here. You have to give her that.”
         “I don’t have to give her anything!”
         Rene could no longer stand it. She refused to hear one more word spoken in praise of the great Lorraine. Yet, in that same instance, she comprehended how great of a mistake she made with her outburst.
         “I’m sorry,” she said, as she looked away in embarrassment.
         Christy stood motionless as she gazed at Rene. She had encountered Rene’s venomous attitude before. More than once, Rene displayed tantrums only befitting a seven year old child. She never mentioned the problem now; it wasn’t worth her time. However, Rene’s aggression was directed to her. For Christy, Rene went too far this time.
         “I don’t know what hang up you have,” Christy said. “And, I don’t care. It’s obvious that you don’t get along with Lorraine. That is unfortunate. But, while you’re here, you’ll keep your rage to yourself. Don’t take it out on me or the other workers. Do I make myself clear?”
         “Yes,” Rene answered with a muffled voice.
         Rene remained silent although her face continued its revelation of her anger. Christy returned the sentiment as she frowned at Rene before leaving the desk. If she had her way, she’d fire Rene this very minute. As the salon’s manager, she had the authority.
         Rene saw no reason to show any more regret towards Christy. One apology was enough for her. Besides, Christy and Lorraine were friends, and that made Christy her enemy as well as Lorraine.
         Having to work with one difficult boss was a burden. Working for two was more than Rene could bear. She looked at the newspaper that sat on the counter. She noticed yesterday’s date as she scanned the sections of paper. Only one day old, still, not too late to examine the want ads for a job.
* * *

         “I’m not one to complain, but the working conditions are becoming rather critical.”
         Until Christy spoke, these words, Lorraine worked at her desk, unaware of her presence. Lorraine looked up with abruptness. “What are you talking about?” she asked.
         “The shampoo,” Christy answered. “Remember? The thing that the ever-faithful receptionist forgot to order, again.”
         “Ah, yes.”
         Lorraine continued to glare at Christy long after she asked her question. Her look revealed her awareness of Christy’s sarcasm. Christy returned the look without embarrassment or shame. She had made her feelings about Rene’s poor work habits several weeks ago. She found every opportunity possible to express her desire to eliminate Rene as an employee.
         “Would you like me to place the order?” Christy asked.
         “That won’t be necessary,” Lorraine answered. “The shampoo order will be called in today.”
         “Not by-”
         “Rene won’t be phoning in the order. Someone else will. Don’t worry. We won’t run out.”
         “I don’t understand how this happened. We’ve never had this problem before now.”
         “Look at who was in charge of ordering the shampoo.”
         “Oh. I see our point. If you want, I can take the job of calling in orders from now on.”
         “No Christy. You do enough already. I’ll handle this from now on.”
         With the look of ease, Lorraine deduced Christy’s approval of this change of responsibility. Although relieved, Christy continued to display her concern for her boss. Lorraine knew that Christy’s particular concern was a valid one. On occasion, Lorraine pondered whether or not Christy possessed E.S.P.
         “I’m fine,” Lorraine said. “Rene didn’t upset me.”
         “If you say so,” Christy replied.
         “I say so.”
         As they exchanged glances, Lorraine’s expression changed to one of disgust. This was her office, her salon, yet Christy would have the final say during this conversation. “You’ve never like her,” Lorraine said.
         “This has gone past like of dislike,” Christy replied. “I gave Rene the opportunity to prove herself. You did likewise. She had more than one chance to show her merit at this company. Yet, she has done the exact opposite. There’s a limit to what you or this salon should have to stand from her.”
         “What about you?” Lorraine asked. “Have you reached your fill of Rene yet?”
         Christy’s attempt to prevent a smile failed. Lorraine’s sense of humor surfaced from the thought of Rene’s past antics. To become angered by Rene’s behavior would give in to how Rene wished they would react. Lorraine refused to lower herself to Rene’s cynical attitude.
         “Confess,” Lorraine said. “You want her out of here as much as I do.”
         Lorraine’s comment startled Christy. She stood for a moment, unable to respond to Lorraine. The opportunity had manifested itself for her. Yet, her unexpected reluctance overshadowed her desire to tell Lorraine of her wish to terminate Rene from the salon. To put it into simple words, Christy did not want to be responsible for Rene’s termination- no matter how much she despised the receptionist. With a mind like Rene’s, who knows what kind of act she would perform in retaliation, Christy thought.
         “Just say it,” Lorraine said. “You know you want to. What’s the matter? Afraid?”
         “What do I have to fear?” Christy asked.
         “Nothing. You won’t get fired and I won’t hold it against you.”
         Lorraine lowered her voice as if she was making a confidential revelation. “Rest assured, I have my reasons for keeping Rene.”
         Christy couldn’t fathom any justifications to keep Rene on the payroll, but she decided against any further pursuit of more details on the matter. Lorraine had a habit of withholding information until she felt it necessary for all parties involved in the matter to know what was going on. As she had done in the past, Christy placed her faith in her boss’ judgment. In the end everything always worked out for the best anyway. Suspecting the conversation was nearing its end, Christy backed from the desk.
         She missed her chance to tell Lorraine outright that Rene should be fired. Regret wasted no time in its arrival into her heart. She could not exit Lorraine’s office without making amends for her failure.
         “Don’t wait too long,” Christy said. “Please, before something happens that is beyond repair.”
         “It won’t go that far,” Lorraine said as she smiled. She wanted to give Christy some reassurance that the situation was under control. “Nothing will ever get that crucial, okay?”
         “Okay,” Christy replied.
         She still felt uneasy as she departed from Lorraine’s office. Rene succeeded in aggravating Lorraine as well as her. She refused to stand by while Rene turned the office into a chaotic zone. As Christy re-entered the salon, she approached the reception area to review the appointment book. The closer she was to the front, the less frustrated she was as well.
         For the first time, Christy was delighted by the sight of Rene. She couldn’t reveal her happiness- at least not yet. She watched Rene in hopes of partaking in a lengthy and enjoyable spectacle. Her view soon became as short-lived one as Rene turned around to see her. Startled by the sight, Rene completed her task- one that Christy was sure about, had nothing to do with her job.
         “I have to go,” Rene said as she hung up the phone.
         The temptation was too great for Christy to fight. Her desire for a minute amount of revenge for this morning’s fiasco drove her to instigation. “Lining up a date for tonight?” she asked.
         “Uh, yes,” Rene answered without any consideration of her response. She felt it was too late to worry about being in trouble. Christy’s anger made no difference to Rene now. She was willing to say anything if it resulted in Christy’s departure.
         “I’ve seen you with a cell phone,” Christy said. “In the future, don’t tie up the salon’s phone. You can wait until your break for your own calls.”
         “It won’t happen again.”
         “What’s going on with the shampoo?”
         “I made a call to the vendor. They’ll send it Priority, and we’ll get it in the morning.”
         Christy had no need to inject another response into the chat. Satisfied with what she heard, she picked up the appointment book. She scanned through it for today’s scheduled clients.
         Nothing Rene said had surprised her. Rene had lied in the past. Christy utilized this talk to chalk up another reason to fire Rene. She handed the book back to Rene with a sense of rudeness. Christy wasn’t a petty person, but she had to make this an exception. Angering Rene one last time before going to work was a pleasure she planned to carry with her for the remainder of the day. She promised herself to speak to up about Rene, no matter what consequences she would face.
         Rene sighed upon Christy’s departure. She didn’t care if Christy heard her approval of the leave or not. In fact, she wished that Christy did detect her loud exhale. She suspected that Christy did hear, but chose to ignore her. She always thinks she’s better than everyone else, Rene thought. To make Christy’s life miserable was a desire she contemplated before now. Once again, reality surfaced and convinced her the consequences would not offset her efforts to manufacture a living hell for Christy.
         She glanced at the newspaper she rolled up and placed under her desk. Rene engraved a thought in her mind- to answer every want ad that she was eligible for. She prepared herself to experience yet another heart wrenching day of her weary job. She reached for her coffee that still held a portion of warm java. The mug was refilled several times a day when she endured stress. However, her attention did not stay on the trip to the coffee machine for long.
         Her eyes were drawn to the opening of the salon’s door. The visitor was not one of the salon’s clientele, something that caught Rene’s eye with an intense attraction.
         Gene moved so fast that his detection of Rene’s voice was minute. “Where do you think you’re going?” she yelled to Gene. “You can’t go upstairs. Ms Ravenshire doesn’t want to see you until you’re announced.”
         Rene assumed that her yelling would stop Gene in his tracks. Her shriek had caused many to cringe. She was amazed by his absolute lack of response to her demand. Knowing she could not prevent him from his pursuit, Rene reached for the phone to warn Lorraine. Upon further consideration of this call, she hung up the receiver. A smile of pure cynicism emerged. She leaned in the chair as she sat down. Why should I stop him, she thought. Her mind was delighted with thoughts of a hostile confrontation between the lovers. She had no worries about Lorraine, either. After all, no one would expect her to stand in the path of an angry man who was much stronger that she. Lorraine didn’t pay her enough to perform a bodyguard’s responsibilities.
* * *

         Gene’s entrance was greeted by Lorraine’s disapproval. She made it a point to tell Rene that she did not wish to see him. Until further notice, Gene was not to set foot in the salon or her office. Yet, she didn’t blame Rene for Gene’s appearance. He was very arrogant and had difficulty accepting no for an answer.
         “What are you doing here?” she asked as she arose from her chair. “I told you not to come here for awhile. We need some time apart.”
         “Time is up,” Gene replied.
         “One night is not enough.”
         “It is for me.”
         “I want you to leave now.”
         “I have every right to be here. You’re treating me like I’m one of your customers and I don’t like it. Since when did you decide to look at me like a commoner?"
         "Since you tried to attack me."
         “Right. Whatever.”
         Gene had no remorse for yesterday’s confrontation. Today was the first time he ever defined her wishes. She deduced that his sense of reasoning was vanishing.
         Lorraine almost shivered from Gene’s presence. He had displayed his anger, but not to this extreme. She had no reason to justify her fear that she was in a dangerous situation. Now was not the time to reject her suspicions. Gene’s behavior was too far out of character to take any chances.
         “We have to talk,” he said in a solemn tone.
         “No we don’t,” she responded. “You’ve gone too far this time. I don’t want to see you in my salon, house, or my life. Get out Gene.”
         “I’m not going anywhere until we get an understanding, and I get some sense in your head.”
         Until now Gene regarded Lorraine’s stubbornness as a charming trait. However, in the last month of their relationship, this characteristic had manifested to annoying behavior. His patience had worn thin over her defiance. The time had come to tell her how irritating she had become.
         Gene locked the door.
         “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said as he took a step forward.
         Gene’s words only solidified Lorraine’s reasons for her fright. “You can’t lock my door,” she said. “This is not your office. One of my workers may need me.”
         “They can wait,” he replied. “I don’t think they need you to help them to trim hair right now.”
         He began to move towards the desk. Lorraine felt her heart rate increase with every step he took. She was sure she’s have a heart attack if he came any closer to her.
         “No one, but no one two times me,” he said. “It’s time you learned the consequences of betraying me. You made this even worse by seeing him at the restaurant. Don’t you believe in discretion?”
         He walked to a table that held a pitcher of water and several glasses. Yes, some cool water would be perfect now, he thought. Driving across Los Angeles on this hot day had dried his throat. His thoughts of yesterday’s sight of Lorraine and the other man drove him to run from his car to the salon, whereby making his mouth even more arid. The time had come to take a break from this unnecessary scene. He proceeded to pour a glass of water, and then took a sip.
         “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lorraine said.
         “Don’t lie to me tramp!” he yelled. “You slept with him. You’ve been with that idiot in the restaurant. Don’t deny it.”
         He slammed the glass against the table, causing the glass to break. She jumped back from the breaking explosion. Gene resumed his approach to Lorraine. She surrendered the idea of calming him down. She was better off contemplating means to protect herself. Without any warning, he ran around the desk, she ran to the opposite side. He caught up to her and grabbed the back of her blouse. Gene pulled, almost dragging her to the middle of the office. Before he reached his destination, Lorraine grabbed the pitcher of water. She jerked herself out of his grip as she turned around. With all of the strength she could collect, she hit Gene with the pitcher.
         Lorraine once heard that mad men have great strength. How unfortunate she should witness that statement now. Her blow only forced Gene to release her and spill water on the carpet. He fell, but remained conscience. Lorraine ran to the door and fumbled with the lock in a desperate attempt to get out of the office. Gene stood up, recomposed himself, and ran to the door. He grabbed Lorraine and tackled her to the floor. Before he could get on top of her, she struck him in the face with the pitcher she still held. Successful in stunning him, she gave herself enough time to move away from him. Gene still blocked to door, giving Lorraine only one option for survival.
         “I did not sleep with him!” She said, almost out of breath. By this time, Lorraine had returned to her desk. “He is an old friend,” she added. “We only talked. Nothing happened.”
         Lorraine moved towards the drawers of her desk. Gene glared at her as he wondered what the cause of her determination was.
         “Don’t push me away,” Gene said. “I won’t let you. You need me. You need me to teach you a lesson.”
         Lorraine did not want to accept the possibility of an assault. Yet, all the signs before her roared that word in the highest volume. She was ready to take her stand. Without any hesitation, she pulled out the top drawer, reached for the gun, and aimed it towards Gene.
         “What are you doing?” he asked, startled by Lorraine’s pistol. Without realizing his action, he had moved back several steps.
         “Putting an end to your madness,” she answered.
         “I told you, I-”
         “Shut up! I have had enough of you and your arrogance. There’s something wrong with you.”
         I don’t have a problem.”
         Lorraine couldn’t conceive what was happening in her own office. She held a gun towards Gene, yet his behavior reflected very little existence of the gun. Had Gene been like this during their entire relationship, she wondered. Did ignorance protect her from witnessing his temper and jealousy in its true form? Had her lust for his body blinded her so that she placed her own life in jeopardy?
{indent“You have a problem,” she said. “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to solve it alone.”
         “The problem is you’re pushing me away. There’s no reason to do this.”
         “I’ve got the best reason of all- me. I will not be your obsession.”
         Gene chuckled. Lorraine may hold the gun, but she was afraid. He detected the horror in her eyes. Had he known about the gun, all of this could’ve been avoided. That made no difference now- his worry had subsided. Yes, I am in control again, he thought. He began to approach her.
         “Stay back!” she yelled.
         “Or what?” he asked. “You’ll shoot me?”
         “If I have to.”
         Gene thought Lorraine’s behavior to be humorous. She ha maintained a good bluff. He doubted if she ever held a gun in her life. This situation had turned into a joke, but one he was not tired of.
         “You don’t have the nerve,” he said as he looked away. His attention was soon brought back to Lorraine as she cocked the gun. “I’m suppose I should be afraid now,” he added.
         “I don’t care how you feel,” she replied. “Just keep your distance.”
         Maybe this was the first time she saw a gun, but I had better take care, he thought. Lorraine may become lucky and hit her mark. For now, he would stand in one place. He could afford to wait. He raised his hand to give the appearance of surrender, and a false sense of victory for her. He was willing to endure this until she let her guard down and he would stop all of this foolishness.
         “Why are you doing this?’ he asked. “I have done nothing to you.”
         “Nothing?” she said in a shocked tone. “You called me a tramp. In public no less. You accused me of sleeping around. And- you hit me.”
         “Oh please. I only pushed you.”
         “That’s the same thing. You raised your hand to me Gene. I can not allow that to happen again. It’s time you realized that it’s over between us.”
         “You can’t do that. I have nowhere to go.”
         “You can move back in with your old roommate. You only stay with me on the weekends, anyway.”
         Gene lowered his hands. The eye contact between them had not broken for several minutes. You won’t leave me,” he repeated. “We both know it. You love me too much. I’m the answer to everything you want in a man. Now, be reasonable and put the gun down.”
         He held his hand out as he walked towards her. He had no doubt that she would surrender to his seductive, yet hypnotic stare. No woman before her ever refused him.
         “No,” she said, in a light, airy voice.
         Gene felt this dilemma was coming to a close. Lorraine’s resistance had depleted. He had seen that look too many times before. Nothing was left but to reach out for the gun and her farce would terminate. Lorraine’s heart communicated that same thought. She saw her way to end this horrid ordeal.
         She made that happen- with a gunshot.

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