InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Solitude ( Chapter 67 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Sixty-Seven~~
~Solitude~


-OoO oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'I'm safe up high; nothing can touch me
'But why do I feel this party's over …?
'No pain inside, you're my protection
'But how do I feel this good sober?'

-'Sober' by Pink.

-Valerie-


A huge crack of thunder woke Valerie with a start.  Eyes flashing open, it took a moment for her disoriented mind to decipher her whereabouts as the dull patter of rain striking the windows tried to lull her back to sleep.

She was in Evan's room: in Evan's bed.  She hadn't wanted to leave him alone last night, not after seeing firsthand how upset he was, so she'd stayed.  She'd gone to bed shortly after Bone had left with the dogs.  He was taking them to Evan's parents' house for the duration of the mini-tour—standard protocol, Evan had called it.  To her surprise, though, she hadn't had to argue with him about where he was going to sleep.  When she'd woken up around three in the morning, she'd found him in his music room, but he was concentrating so thoroughly on the song he was hammering out that she didn't disturb him.

Glancing at the empty side of the bed, she almost smiled.  He wasn't there, and it didn't look like he had been, either.  A tiny prickle of guilt rippled through her, but she ignored it.  He was the one who had told her that she could use his bed, after all, and then he'd rolled his eyes and shook his head, assuring her a few times that he would be on his best behavior, he promised.

Of course, Evan's idea of his best behavior still left something to be desired, but that was all right.  The point was that he had kept his word last night, and she felt better for having been here in case he needed her.

Heaving a sigh, she sat up and rubbed her face.  The clock beside the bed read ten a.m., but the skies outside the windows didn't appear to be in agreement.  Overcast and somber, rainy and dull, it was one of those days that she'd consider staying in bed if she didn't have anywhere she needed to be.  Then again, she really ought to check and see what Evan was up to.  With any luck at all, he was downstairs, brewing up a pot or two of coffee . . .

Pushing aside the thick comforter and grimacing as the cooler air hit her bare legs, Valerie resisted the urge to curl up in the sinfully warm bed and stood up to stretch.  The oversized sweatshirt she'd found in Evan's closet still reached mid-thigh, even with her arms extended over her head, and when they dropped to her sides again, the hem of the sweatshirt almost reached her knees.  Maybe she could talk him into letting her have it.  After all, he didn't really strike her as a sweatshirt kind of guy, anyway . . .

Wandering through the mansion, she frowned.  The place was entirely too empty, wasn't it?  It felt empty, and she knew as she reached the bottom of the stairs that she was alone.  She still checked the rooms, though, padding across the shining floors, peering into every room she passed.  The room where he usually meditated in the morning was empty.  His music room was, too, though there were a couple of hard guitar cases arranged against the ratty sofa, ready to go on the mini-tour, she supposed.  There was something kind of sad about the emptiness, about the sight of those old cases . . . gray duct tape running along the side of one of them like the seam had split at some point and he'd just slapped the tape on to hold it together, a handle secured with bright yellow wire of some sort, scuffs and scrapes marring the textured plastic, they were leaning haphazardly, almost like an afterthought . . .

But where was Evan?

Biting her lip, she leaned in the doorway frowning at the instrument cases.  He hadn't mentioned having to be anywhere today.

Sighing, Valerie pushed herself away from the jamb and shuffled toward the kitchen.  He had started a pot of coffee, though.  She could smell it, and when she stepped into the usually bright room, she smiled just a little.  He'd set a cup out for her, turned upside down with a spoon arranged on top of it beside a plate with a blueberry bran muffin under a crisp white linen napkin.  The napkins amused her, and she'd teased him about it during dinner last night.  Who'd have thought that a rock star would own something as refined as linen napkins, anyway?  He'd smiled and laughed it off, telling her that when one was a barbarian like him, then one needed something to wipe one's hands clean.

"Yeah, but you could use paper towels.  It would fit your image better, wouldn't it?"

Evan's grin widened as he stuffed a huge hunk of steak into his mouth.  "I happen to be a big fan of trees, V.  I'd rather use these than to hear a million of them crying at me every time I reached for a napkin.  'Sides, I pay for laundry service.  What else would they have to do if I started going paper?"

Wrinkling her nose as the memory faded, Valerie shook her head.  A rock star with a green conscience?  Now that was amusing, absolutely . . .

Taking her time as she broke pieces off the muffin and nibbled on it between sips of coffee, Valerie leaned against the counter, savoring the quiet and the understated feeling of warmth that had nothing at all do to with the drink in her hands.  It was a novel sensation, wasn't it?  When was the last time that anyone had tried to do anything for her, even something as simple as leaving breakfast out for her?  Okay, so it was just a muffin and fresh coffee, but it was enough since she'd never been too keen on a large, heavy meal first thing in the morning.  Evan liked to tell her that it wasn't healthy, of course, and he tried to get her to eat more, but he didn't really press her on it, and in the end, he understood what she wanted.

It was strange, wasn't it?  She prided herself on her independence, on her ability to take care of herself.  She'd had boyfriends in the past that had tried to do things for her, too, so what was the difference now?  That Evan wasn't her boyfriend, or . . .

Biting her lip as she savored the fragrant coffee, she knew the answer to that question, didn't she?  Of course she did.  The difference—the very real difference—was that Evan knew that she could do for herself and appreciated that part of her.  He didn't try to use it against her, to make her feel like she was dependent upon him.  He didn't do things for her in an effort to assert himself as somehow superior to her, to try to show her that he owned her in some way.

Maybe he had to grab a few things to take with him on tour.  Then again, she seriously doubted that Evan could do something as simple as walk into a department store without drawing some kind of notice.  Worst case scenario would be a mob scene in the middle of Bloomingdale's . . . No, he really would have sent someone else to grab those little things that he needed, she was sure.  So the question was, where had he gone . . . and what kind of mischief was he getting into . . .?

Rinsing the cup and plate in the sink, Valerie was about to leave the kitchen when she spotted the notepad on the island counter.  From where she stood, she could see the bold writing on it, but she couldn't read it.  Stepping closer, she frowned as she stared at it: nothing but what looked to be a phone number in Evan's unmistakable scrawl.

Did that have something to do with Evan's strange disappearance?

Reaching for the cordless phone, she only hesitated for a moment before dialing the number and lifting the handset to her ear . . .


-Evan-


Raising his hand to knock on the door jamb, Evan glanced up and down the length of the hallway to make sure that no one was watching him.  As far as he could tell, no one was, which wasn't entirely surprising. After all, he'd gone to great lengths to hide Zel Roka before he left the mansion.

"May I help you?"

Pushing the half-tinted glasses up with a knuckle, Evan nodded once and hitched his shoulders under the hopelessly plain if not very expensive tweed blazer.  "I hope so," he replied, stepping into the understated but tastefully decorated office.  "It's about one of your patients."

The middle aged woman behind the wide oak desk slowly rose to her feet and leaned forward, gesturing at a vacant chair before she started scooping together files that were scattered over the leather-bound blotter.  Mother Clarissa Connolly, the administrator of Sacred Heart Hospital shot him a curious glance as she worked but didn't say anything else.  He stepped forward and slipped into the seat, waiting silently until she was finished rearranging things.

When she was done, she sat back down with a brisk exhalation and pasted on a businesslike smile—not too wide, and not too friendly, but definitely polite.  Evan had seen that kind of smile a million times before . . . "What can I do for you, Mister . . .?"

"Zelig," Evan supplied smoothly, crossing his legs and settling back for the duration of the discussion at hand.

Not surprisingly, the woman's brown eyes widened, and she sat up a little straighter, unconsciously rubbing her hands together as her smile brightened by degrees.  "Zelig, you say?  Are you related to Gin Zelig?"  Laughing suddenly, she waved a hand as though to dismiss her own words.  "What am I saying?  Of course you are!  You look just like her, don't you?"

"She's my mother, yes," he replied, his own smile surfacing at the mention of his darling mama.

The woman blinked and shook her head then laughed again, her hand fluttering near her throat as her cheeks pinked just a touch.  "She's your . . .?  She doesn't look old enough to have a grown son, but I suppose that I have known her awhile . . ." Intercepting Evan's raised eyebrow-ed look, she cocked her head to the side and shrugged.  "I don't know her well, of course, but I've spoken to her a number of times in regards to the hospital.  An absolute darling woman, of course . . . Tell me, what can I do for you, Mr. Zelig?  You wanted to ask about a patient?"

"Yeah," he said, pinning on his own version of the businesslike smile.  "William—Bill—Matthis.  He was in a car accident a few months ago . . . back and leg injuries . . ."

She frowned as she considered the name he'd given.  Suddenly, though, she nodded.  "Mr. Matthis!  That's right.  He was hit by a musician, right?  Umm . . . Zel Roka . . .?"

He nodded.  "That's him."

She nodded and folded her hands together on the desk.  "He's going to be transferred, I think . . ."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about," Evan remarked.  "What about therapy?  Doesn't he need rehabilitative services?"

"He does," she agreed, and to her credit, she didn't look at all pleased about the situation, either.  "There's a good chance that he won't ever fully recover if he doesn't go through with rehabilitation, but his insurance won't cover it, either, and there's just nothing we can do about it."

"Sure you can," Evan interjected smoothly.  "Keep him here.  Give him the rehab he needs."

She sighed and sucked in her cheek like she was trying to figure out exactly what Evan was saying.  Spreading her hands wide, she shook her head.  "I wish that we could do that.  I wish that Sacred Heart could operate like that, but the mandates state quite plainly that we cannot administer services to anyone without insurance unless it is on an emergency basis."

Uncrossing his legs and leaning forward, Evan rested his elbows on his knees and stared at the woman for a long moment.  "You misunderstand me," he said quietly.  "I'm not asking you to give him charity.  I'll be happy to pay for whatever treatment he needs."

"Oh," she blurted, sitting back as she considered that.  "It'll be costly," she went on.  "We're looking at a good year of intensive rehabilitation in his case, and that's in best case scenario . . ."

"I didn't ask what it is going to cost," he replied.  "You can't really think that I don't have the money, do you?"

"Ah, no," she hurried on to say, her cheeks pinking slightly at the hint of irritation in Evan's voice.  "It's just . . ." Trailing off, she shook her head, her eyes narrowing as she slowly regarded him.  "Why?  Why do you want to pay for it?"

Evan sat back and shrugged as she opened a drawer beside her and pulled out a form.  "Zel Roka's a friend of mine," he said simply.  "He feels really bad about the accident, and he just wants to make sure that Mr. Matthis' family doesn't suffer any more than they already have."

She smiled again, and this time, she looked like she understood.  "I see.  That's good.  Okay, if you'll fill this out, I'll make sure that Mr. Matthis isn't moved, after all."

He did as she asked while she made a few phone calls to stop the transfer.  By the time she was finished, so was he, and he stood up and offered his hand with a smile.

"All taken care of," she told him as she got to her feet and took his hand warmly in both of hers.  "You must get your generosity from your parents."

He chuckled and shook his head, pushing up the sides of the blazer to stuff his hands into his pockets.  "I don't know about that," he replied.  "Do you think I could see him?  Mr. Matthis?"

"Oh!  Of course!"  Hurrying around the desk, she gestured for him to follow.  "I'll show you to his room."

"Thank you."

Following her down the pristine white hallway, ignoring the abrasive smells of cleansers and disinfectants, Evan finally let out an inward sigh of relief.  He hadn't slept at all last night, worrying about what he could do to stop the transfer.  As much as he didn't want to admit it, Mike was right.  To have Zel Roka walk in and offer to pay just wouldn't have worked.  Either he'd have been perceived to be trying to buy his way out of trouble or he'd look like a complete heel, and chances were good that Mike had also been right about the prospects of financial ruin, too.  That didn't really worry him nearly as much as the idea of the man not being able to provide for his family again.  Even if he ended up flat broke, it wasn't like his family didn't have more than enough money, and, though he didn't use it now and didn't think about it often, he also had a huge trust fund that his mother had set up for him before he was born.  All that aside, however, the only real option that he had was this one: resorting to the upstanding Evan Zelig to foot the bill, to take responsibility where the idiot rock star couldn't.

"I had the opportunity to talk to Terri Matthis yesterday—she's his wife," Mother Clarissa said as they stepped off the elevator on the third floor of the facility.  "She was so upset over the idea of her husband being transferred to the nursing home . . . She'll be so pleased when she finds out that he's going to be taken care of, after all."

"Good," he replied, only half-listening.

"Here we are."  Stepping back, she gestured at the open doorway, smiling encouragingly when he didn't step past her right away.  "Would you like me to introduce you?"

"Oh, no," he said, inclining his head to her in silent thanks.  "You've done more than enough for me, thanks."

She waved a hand and laughed softly.  "I just wish there were more good Samaritans like you in the world," she admitted as she checked her watch.  "I've got a meeting that I'm running late for, but if there's anything else I can do for you, please don't hesitate to let me know."

"I'll keep that in mind," he assured her.  She patted his hands before hurrying away, leaving Evan standing just outside Bill Matthis' door.

Raising his hand, he tapped his knuckles against the jamb then stepped inside.  There was room for two occupants, but the first bed was empty, and he couldn't see around the curtain that had been drawn to separate the bed areas.

"Mr. Matthis?" he greeted as he moved aside the curtain.

The man sitting up against a few pillows in the mechanical bed blinked and scowled at him as though he were trying to decide whether or not he knew Evan's face.  "Who are you?" he asked.

"My name's Evan," he replied.  "I'm a friend of Zel Roka's."

Pale blue eyes widening just a little, he nodded slowly and grimaced when he tried to shift himself.  "Roka, you say?"  He's all right, isn't he?  Mr. Fischer—my lawyer—he said that he was okay . . ."

Evan chuckled and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  "He's fine; just fine."

Matthis looked relieved, and he slumped down just a little.  "Good, good . . . Been meaning to apologize to him, you know?  I mean, no matter what they say, it was still my fault . . ."

"Eh, don't worry about it.  Roka's dealt with worse than that."

Matthis laughed though he didn't look entirely convinced.  "My boy . . . He's a big fan, see?  He'd never speak to me again if Roka had been hurt worse . . ."

"He's a fan?" Evan asked, finally breaking into a small smile.  "Is that right?"

"Yeah . . . posters and stuff all over his room.  Couple years ago, he bugged me for a guitar for Christmas.  He said he wanted to be more famous than Zel Roka."  Matthis chuckled and shook his head.  "I think he's got quite a ways to go."

"You know, Zel's going to be doing a show at Madison Square Garden toward the end of his mini-tour in October.  If your son would be interested, I think that I could get a couple tickets and backstage passes for him," Evan drawled thoughtfully.

"W . . . Really?"

He nodded.  "Sure.  I'll send them over later."

"That'd be fine, just fine," Matthis allowed, finally offering Evan a real, genuine smile.  "Can you tell him thanks?  I mean, you know . . ."

Evan shrugged and pulled over a chair.  "Sure."

Matthis sighed, his smile fading, and he shrugged in what was supposed to be a nonchalant sort of way.  "I, uh, hate to rush you off, Mister . . . uh, Evan, right?  They're going to move me soon.  A nursing home . . ."

"No, they're not," Evan said.  "That's what I came here to tell you."

Matthis shook his head, frowning in confusion since he wasn't quite grasping what Evan was trying to say.

"I talked to the administrator of the hospital," he said.  "Don't worry about your treatment.  It'll all be covered.  Just concentrate on getting better for your family."

It took a minute for Evan's words to sink in. caught between trying to make sense of it all and misplaced pride at the idea of taking a hand-out, he looked like he might just argue with Evan over it.

"Zel asked me to," he said quietly before Matthis could form an argument against it.

"But . . . Why . . .?" he mumbled, ruddy cheeks deepening in hue.  "Why would he do that?"

"Well," Evan drawled, "he's not a complete asshole—just when people are watching."

Matthis scowled at the thin coverlet and sighed.  "I can't accept charity," he muttered under his breath, stating what Evan had kind of figured.

"Then don't think of it as charity.  Think of it as keeping you off charity.  I mean, that's what would happen otherwise, right?  Relying on the government to take care of your wife and kids is kind of the same thing, don't you think?  Actually, it's worse, isn't it?  If you did that, then you'd be sponging off of the taxpayers instead."

He obviously hadn't thought of it that way, and the slightly irritated expression on his face confirmed it.  "Is he paying for it?" he grudgingly asked.

Evan shrugged.  "No," he said.  "I am."

Shaking his head, Matthis scowled at him, trying to see through him, trying to understand why Evan would do such a thing.  "Why?"

He chuckled.  "Let's just say that Roka's helped me out a few times, and I owe him."

Matthis barked out an incredulous laugh.  "Must've really helped you out a lot, then.  My bills . . ."

"Don't worry about it.  Just get yourself better."

"Th . . . Thanks," he said.  He looked like he wanted to argue with Evan, but he also looked relieved—really, really relieved, and Evan had to wonder just how long Matthis had been worrying about everything, to start with.  "Tell him that I'm sorry, will you?"

Evan grinned and nodded.  "Absolutely."


-Valerie-


'What is he doing in there . . .?'

Sitting in the small café across the street from the Sacred Heart Hospital, Valerie sipped the weak tea she'd ordered and stared out the window at the entrance of the facility where she'd assumed that Evan had gone.

She's called the number on the notepad and was surprised when she'd discovered that it was the reception desk at the hospital, but it wasn't until she was on her way there that she remembered why the name had sounded so familiar to her.

It was the hospital where Bill Matthis was being treated.

Glancing at her watch, she frowned.  It was nearly noon, and she still hadn't seen him leave.  In fact, she was beginning to wonder if he really had gone there when a flash of silver caught her eye, and she blinked.  The man's height was right, build was right though she had to wonder where in the world he'd found the tan blazer he was wearing . . . He was wearing glasses, so she couldn't really see his face, but that didn't matter.  His bearing was right—everything about him was right—except for one very, very wrong thing . . . Snorting indelicately, she stood up and dropped a couple dollars onto the table to cover the cost of the tea before hurrying out of the restaurant.  Luckily for her, the 'walk' light had just flickered on, and she dashed across the street, trying to reach Evan, who was holding up his hand to hail a taxi.

Three days before leaving for the start of his tour, and he'd cut his hair off . . .? If Mike didn't beat him, she just might . . .

"Evan!" she yelled when he started to get into a cab.  He stopped and looked at her, his expression blanking, and for a moment, she wondered if he was going to get into the vehicle and ignore her.  Leaning down, he seemed to say something to the driver before closing the door and standing up straight, hands in his pockets as he waited for her to reach him.

"What were you doing?" she asked breathlessly when she finally reached him.

"How'd you find me?" he countered, completely ignoring her question.

"I called the number on the notepad in the kitchen," she explained.  "Now tell me what you're doing here."

He chuckled, but she could sense his reluctance.  "Maybe you should think about becoming a detective instead of a lawyer, V," he quipped, turning on his heel and starting down the street.

Rolling her eyes, she caught up with him, laying her hand on his arm to stop him.  He stopped, all right, staring down at her fingers for a long moment.  The gesture brought to mind that awful night at the benefit party and Evan's cold demeanor at the time.  A sudden and strange sense of unfamiliarity washed over her, and she hurriedly yanked her hand away.  "Did you see Bill Matthis?" she asked, willing as much bravado into her tone as she could muster, shoving away the unsettling sense of uncertainty as best she could.

He sighed and started walking again.  "So what if I did?" he countered almost belligerently.

"Why would you?"

Definitely belligerent . . . "Does it matter?"

"Maybe!  Evan!" she grabbed his arm again, and this time, she tugged hard.  His was acting entirely bizarre, wasn't he?  Just what was he doing?  "Why won't you tell me?  And what in the hell did you do to your hair?"

"My hair?" he echoed, casting her an almost startled look.  "That's what you're worried about?  My hair?'

"Considering what you'll be doing in a couple days, do you really think it was smart to cut it off?" she countered, unwilling to admit that she actually preferred him with long hair.

He snorted and moved faster, like he was trying to get away from her, and maybe he was.  "Don't worry about it.  I'll just have one of Maddy's girls put extensions in, anyway.  No big deal."

It was her turn to snort, and loudly at that.  "All right; fine.  Tell me what you were doing at the hospital then!"

Stopping so abruptly that a couple ran into them from behind, Evan didn't say anything while Valerie muttered some words of apology to the irritated pedestrians.  "Why?  So you can tell me how stupid it was?" he demanded quietly.  "Save it.  Mike already said as much, and I don't need to hear it again."

"Why would I think that checking on him was stupid?" she snapped when he grabbed her elbow and pulled her out of the middle of the sidewalk and into a shaded alcove off to the side of a building.  "Actually, I think that's really decent of you, if you must know, and Judge Lister—"

"—Isn't going to find out about it," Evan hissed, scowling down at her.  "I mean it, V.  Besides, does it look like Zel Roka went to visit him?"

Valerie blinked and slowly shook her head as his question sank in.  "Why?  Why didn't you go as Zel Roka?"

Rolling his eyes as though he thought that she ought to know the answer to that, he snorted.  "Keh!  Aside from the security issues that'd cause, why else do you think?"  Letting out a deep breath, he ran his fingers through his neatly clipped hair.  "They were going to move him to a nursing home," he finally said.  "His insurance wouldn't cover physical therapy, and he needs it if he wants to regain proper use of his legs again.  Listen, I don't give a great goddamn how stupid it was, and I don't give a shit if it was the same as admitting guilt.  It wasn't right.  He's got a wife and family."

Valerie sighed at the defensiveness in his tone more than at what he had to say.  The lawyer in her could understand why he'd think that she might tell him that visiting Matthis was a bad idea.  The humanitarian in her had to agree with his reasoning, though.  "So you just didn't want him to fall through the cracks in the system, you mean?"  Nodding slowly, eyes widening as the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place in her head, Valerie smiled as her eyes grew hot and prickly.  "So Evan Zelig offered to foot the bill since Zel Roka couldn't."

He looked rather surprised that she'd figured it out so easily . . . or was he just surprised that she wasn't giving him the practical lawyer talk?  "Maybe it's stupid," he muttered, cheeks pinking slightly like he was embarrassed for letting his emotions show.  "I just kept thinking that I couldn't save Dieter, and . . . and maybe I just needed to save someone . . ."

Valerie stared at him for several moments as he shuffled his feet, glared at the concrete.  That little boy innocence was back in spades—the child waiting to be punished for some perceived wrongdoing, and she laughed softly.  "I could kiss you," she murmured without realizing that she had spoken out loud.

His head snapped up, and to her surprise, the slight blush on his face darkened a few shades.  "Wh-What was that?"

Waving a hand quickly, she forced a high-pitched laugh and started walking again.  He caught up with her and fell into step beside her.  "Nothing," she lied, hoping, praying that she wasn't as red-faced as she suspected she might be.

"Uh uh," he countered, suddenly grinning like a lunatic.  "You said that you could kiss me, didn't you?"

Rolling her eyes, tamping down the acute embarrassment that surged through her, Valerie snorted and stepped onto the curb, holding up a hand to hail a taxi.  "Don't know what you're talking about," she lied as a cab pulled up beside her.

"I do; I do," he insisted, crawling into the vehicle behind her before she could close the door.  "You did say it!  You know, I'd let you, of course."

Wrinkling her nose, Valerie leaned forward to give the driver instructions.  Evan barked out his address before she could supply her own.

"You have the fare, don't you?" she asked, raising an eyebrow since he'd effectively altered their course.

He smiled at her, and despite his appearance, it was definitely a Zel Roka smile.  "I got it," he assured her.  "But if you still want to kiss me . . ."

"Dream on," she shot back, turning her face toward the window.  "Maybe you should get your hearing checked, rocker-boy."

And, of course, he laughed at her.


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A/N:
'Sober< /b>' by Pink first appeared on her 2008 release, Funhouse.  Song written by and copyrighted to Alecia Moore, Nathaniel Hills, Kara DioGuardi, and Marcella Ariaca.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
Did she just say what I think she said …?
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Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge):  I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga.  Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al.  I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.
~Sue~

Chapter 66
Chapter 68
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