saga/title/fandom: Adagio chapter 10 (A Man Apart)

author: Rae/Celtia/Celtiareborn

rating/genre: (NC-17) - Romance/Crime Drama

warnings: het, language, violence, and graphic sexual content

summary: Officer Sean Vetter, formerly of the DEA, tries to rebuild his life in Chicago after losing his wife in a botched assassination attempt on his own life. Joining the Chicago Special Tactics Unit, Vetterís bitterness toward life and sullen determination not to care for anyone makes him a nightmare of potential partners, until a stubborn Irish woman named Kate Shea decides she isnít going to let Vetter chase her away Ė from his career or his life. (Sean/OFC)

comments/disclaimers: My summary and first chapter pretty well give away the plot of the movie, so if you haven't seen it yet you might want to wait to read this until you have. FEEDBACK: Two conditions: Please talk to me, not at me; Please do not rewrite my stuff and send it to me the way you would do it. Otherwise have at it. Thanks. ARCHIVE: A qualified yes Ė I would not like the story to appear anywhere else without the person discussing it with me first. NOTES: The story does involve a stalker. Also, there is some violence stemming from Vetter and Kateís jobs as undercover officers. NOTE II: There is some Russian used in the story but I try to explain it unless it explains itself.

CHAPTER TEN

Katie flew into her motherís arms as she generally did when arriving for a visit. Kate hugged and kissed her, asking her if she remembered to bring her good dress. At the same time she saw Brie exit the BMW and come toward the sidewalk.

The moment when she first caught sight of him was always the hardest. His beauty mesmerized her for that brief second when she recalled how much she loved him at one time in her life. She remembered the feel of his body against hers and it always caused her to ache a bit inside.

"Hello, Kate," he said pleasantly, surprising her by clutching her hand.

"Hi. Is Katieís dress here?"

"In the car with her bag and backpack. Sheís very anxious to have you style her hair. She says thatís what grown-ups do for each other," he said, smiling.

"Are you coming to our birthday party, Mommy?" Katie asked.

Kateís eyes darted toward Brie: he nodded. "I sure am, Sweetheart," she answered. "Wouldnít miss it. But you know what?"

"What?"

"I have an early birthday present for you. Close your eyes."

Katie complied. Vetter opened the door, creeping down the front steps as silently as a spirit. He drew up beside Kate and said, "Hey, there, Miss Katie."

The little girlís eyes shot open. She immediately threw her arms around Vetter, who lifted her out of Kateís embrace so the woman would not end up with an elbow in the eye.

"Itís Mr. Vetter, Daddy!" she cried excitedly, turning to look at Brie. "He came back to see Mommy and me."

Brie extended his hand to Vetter, who returned the gesture as best he could. "So this is the amazing Mr. Vetter," he said. "Iíve heard so much about you the past week I feel as if I could write your biography."

"How ya doiní," Vetter replied, uncertain of why he suddenly felt uncomfortable.

"Mr. Vetter is taking us out for dinner," Kate said. "Letís go inside and get ready. Okay?"

Enthusiastic did not begin to describe Katieís response. Vetter gently set her on the sidewalk. Kate fished her daughterís belongings out of the BMW and went inside with her after telling Brie she would have Katie ready to come home on Sunday at the usual time. As the door closed the two men looked at each other. They smiled uneasily, each feeling as if he was obligated to speak, at least for a few minutes. Brie broke the silence.

"I guess I should thank you," he said.

"For what?"

"For being there for Kate during that liquor store robbery. Sheís lucky to have a good partner now."

He shrugged. "I owe her just as much."

"After Byron died she didnít think sheíd ever find anyone sheíd feel comfortable working with again. I think she despaired that her career as a street officer might be over."

"She told you that?"

He smiled. "She didnít have to."

Point taken, Vetter thought.

"By the way, I saw your photo in the paper dancing with her," Brie continued, and though he retained his smile Vetter thought he saw a trace of concern beneath it. "Itís a bit unusual for partners to go dancing, isnít it?"

"You can thank the Mayor for that. He was the one who dragged us down there. I have to say I wasnít too happy about the idea at first but once Kate persuaded me to dance with her I had a good time. She said you used to take her dancing a lot," Vetter remarked.

"Yes, it was one of our favorite things to do."

"I think itís going to be one of ours too."

A trace of Brieís growing sense of agitation seeped through to the surface. "You speak like you two are old friends," he said.

"It seems that way," Vetter admitted. "Weíve had some good talks on shift. It surprises me."

"How so?"

"Iím not the type to accept people real easily, but for some reason she can get through that with me. I donít get it but it feels pretty good."

"Well, she has always been very good at helping people feel comfortable around her. Sheís really quite a nurturing person. She doesnít want to be sometimes but thatís just her nature," Brie said. "Where are you taking them to dinner?"

"Thatís Katieís decision."

"Sheíll probably choose the Amber Parrot. She likes the mechanical birds there. I hope it isnít out of your price range."

"Not a problem."

"Good. Iím sure Kate has asked you not to overindulge her."

"Understood, although it might be pretty hard with a kid like Katie. Sheís as much of a charmer as her mother."

Vetter permitted himself a small smile at the conclusion of the statement. I can play too, he thought.

"Katie really thinks very highly of you," Brie continued.

"Sheís a terrific kid. You and Kate have done a great job with her," Vetter replied.

"Kate is a wonderful mother. Sheís always put Katie first, always. I have to admire her for that. A lot of women wouldnít have the strength to let their daughter live with their ex-husband."

"There arenít a lot of women like Kate."

"No, there arenít. If youíll excuse me I need to get going. Iím taking my wife to the theater this evening."

Brie started for the BMW. Before he opened the door Vetter called, "Can you make a suggestion as to what Kate might like for her birthday?"

"ÖSomething English," Brie said, the smile returning. "She loves English gifts."

He hurried into the car. By the time he sped away Vetter was already walking back into the house with an unashamed grin on his face.

"You were out there a while," Kate remarked as he entered.

"Just making conversation," Vetter replied.

From her expression he could tell she was not convinced of the reality of his statement but she let it past. She explained that she would need some time to help Katie get ready so he should make himself at home.

He watched her disappear into Katieís bedroom. He wondered: did she know that her ex-husband wanted her back? She never said anything about this. In fact, her talk of Brie led Vetter to believe that she thought he had no romantic feelings left for her, but Vetter could tell a few sentences into their conversation that Brie considered him a rival for Kateís affections. Once he realized that he felt an almost sacred obligation to push back.

"Are you ready to see the two most incredibly beautiful women in the world?"

When Kate and Katie emerged from the little girlís bedroom Vetter could do nothing more than stare. He quickly recovered himself, making certain to gush over how pretty Katie looked, but even as he talked to the child his eyes never left Kate. She wore a simple green dress, belted at the waist, with a skirt that flared out and ended mid-shin. Her red hair was pulled back and tied with a large gold barrette etched with Celtic knots in green. She wore a pair of soft suede forest green boots that disappeared beneath the hem of her skirt and a short necklace of jade green beads. She looked amazing to him, like she was made of emeralds.

"Where would you like to go for dinner?" Vetter asked, finally managing to focus his attention on Katie.

"The Amber Parrott," the little girl replied.

"I was afraid of that," Kate said. "Honey, thatís much too expensive. Think of another place."

"Itís fine," Vetter said quickly. "The Amber Parrott it is."

"Are you sure, Vetter? Thatís pretty steep."

"Think of it as my birthday present to the two of you." He extended his arm to Katie. "May I have the honor of escorting you, Miss Quinn?"

Katie could have left the house via footsteps on the ceiling. Kate followed contently behind but Vetter stopped and held his other arm out to her. She accepted the gesture in appreciation. Anyone who saw them would have thought they made a beautiful family.

"So are you still in love?" Alexei asked as he entered the office.

"Indeed I am," Kafelnikov replied. "Katya is an extraordinary woman. I think sheís my fate."

"Donít be so Russian. Screw her a couple of times and then get back to business."

"I tell you, the evening I spent with Katya was amazing. She wouldnít take the earrings. Did I tell you that?"

"Only about a hundred times. Sheís a cop, Grigori. Use her to get information about the fucking CSTU or forget her."

"Sheís a harmless detective, Alexei. Besides, thereís no reason that her profession needs to interfere with our relationship. Sheís an intelligent, realistic woman. She can accept me for who I am," Kafelnikov contended.

"Right after she puts the cuffs on you. Why does it have to be her, anyway? You can have any woman you want."

"I want Katya. Iíve been working very hard lately, and I need the company of a beautiful woman to help me relax."

"Sheís not so beautiful."

"You have no soul. No wonder youíre alone," Kafelnikov contended. "Iím assuming you set the meeting for next Friday during the party."

"Of course. Poor Ovsyannikov. It isnít enough that youíre forcing him to give you his boat for the rendezvous; now youíre going to make him come to a party at your house," Alexei said in amusement.

"Iím doing him a favor. When the shipment goes out, if heís highly visible at the house of an upstanding Russian businessman, heíll be blameless if his yacht is discovered to be involved, stolen by some ruthless criminal. Iím a gracious partner," Kafelnikov said.

"Are you inviting your precious Katya?"

"Itís for her sake that Iím having the party. I want her to see the kind of life sheíll have with me: the elegance and the wealth. Nothing impresses a woman like those two commodities."

"She didnít take the earrings. Maybe material wealth doesnít mean anything to her."

"Every woman wants to be a czarina," Kafelnikov said. "When she sees the sort of luxury she will know with me sheíll give up everything to be with me, even her job."

"Put all this romantic nonsense aside long enough to tell me how youíre going to get the boat out to the rendezvous point with the feds and the CSTU patrolling the area. Theyíre waiting for you to try something. Theyíll be ready for you," Alexei said.

"Exactly. Thatís why our dear friend Gaspadin Ovsyannikovís yacht is so important. While Iím sending it out to meet Narodin, you will be taking the shipment to Fetisov via plane," Kafelnikov explained.

Alexeiís eyes widened. "Youíre double-crossing Narodin?" he asked incredulously.

"Yuri has been dealing with the mob behind my back. He thinks I donít know but he fails to realize just how many connections I still have in Moscow. Mikhail has been honest with me from the beginning. He may be paying less money but Iím going with him because heís been honest with me," Kafelnikov said.

"So whatís Ovsyannikovís boat going to be laden with?"

"An arms shipment."

"Explain this to me, Grigori."

"Iím arranging to lose a shipment to Narodin the night before the real shipment goes out with you. Heíll think heís made a tremendous score: twice the weapons for half the money. The true surprise will come when the federal authorities descend on him while heís making the exchange on Ovsyannikovís yacht. Not only will he lose the money he brings to the trade because the feds will confiscate it, but heíll be on his way to prison," Kafelnikov said, smiling broadly.

"You really think Narodin will fall for that?"

"Heís greedy, Alexei, and greedy men canít resist the lure of getting something for nothing. He wonít even know what hit him."

Alexei nodded. "I have to hand this one to you, Grigori. Itís a brilliant plan."

"Thank you. So brilliant, I think, that I need to send Katya some roses. Did you find out where she lives?"

"Over off North Albany. You owe our contact at the telephone company $500 for that unlisted information, by the way."

"A small price to pay for love," Kafelnikov decided. "Now, what color roses do you think Katya prefers?"

The Amber Parrottís dťcor hovered somewhere between "Casablanca" and a sultanís palace. Lush with tropical plants and a soundtrack piped in bearing the sounds of a Middle Eastern marketplace, the restaurant featured waiters and waitresses in Arabian garb and tables bearing wildly colored cloths surrounded by fringes of glass beads. Scattered throughout the dining room Ė on the ceiling, on the walls Ė mechanical parrots cawed and flapped their wings as they sat on their perches. The maitreíd wore a fez and as he led Katie, Kate, and Vetter to their table Kate barely kept her daughter from trying to pull on the dangling cord of the hat.

After dinner they walked down to an ice cream shop. By the time they came back to Kateís house Katie could no longer win the battle to stay awake. When Kate picked her up to carry her to her bedroom the little girl kissed Vetterís cheek sleepily and put her head on her motherís shoulder.

"Is Katie asleep?" Vetter asked as Kate joined him on the sofa.

"Soundly. Two minutes after her head hits the pillow sheís always out. I wish I could sleep like that," she answered, giving him a Guinness.

"That was some place."

"Brie brings her there for special occasions. She loves it."

"I have to say, as stuffed parrot goes theirs is pretty good."

"Thank you for playing along with Katie on that. She thought it was tremendous fun for you to pretend to be eating stuffed parrot with her. Did you ever have Cornish game hen before?"

"Not willingly."

"Theyíre a pretty small dinner for grown-ups. If youíre still hungry I can make something else for you."

"The beerís great, thanks." He took a sip.

"Personally, I think the highlight of the evening was you in that fez," she remarked with a grin. "You had a definite aura of Ahmed, the intimidating palace eunuch."

"Watch that," he said, feigning a growl, and she laughed. "You didnít hear from Kafelnikov today. Iím surprised."

"Iím not. Doubtless my ever-alluring charms failed to hold a man. Again," she said.

"Stop talking like that about yourself."

"Sorry, just a little residual self-deprecation. Itís probably good that Grigoriís infatuation was a one-nighter. The last thing I need is to deal with some romance, even if it is just because I need some attention."

"I think weíll get this guy. If he does have a big shipment going out, heís bound to make a slip and weíll bust him," he vowed.

"Heís dodged us every time before."

"When I was with the DEA, we chased this big time dealer for seven years. Every time we closed the net he managed to get out of it. But one night his luck ran out and I got him. You stay with it, you win," he said.

"What happened to him?" Kate asked.

Vetter retreated a bit as he realized the story he related to her. "Heís in prison for the rest of his life. Itís where he belongs."

From the tone of his voice Kate understood that the man Vetter spoke of was the one whoíd murdered his wife. She took a drink of Guinness.

"You know, when I was with Grigori last night I couldnít help thinking what a shame it is that heís such a waste of humanity," she said. "Heís very intelligent with a lot of drive. He didnít need to turn to arms to make a fortune. He could have done anything he wanted."

"He doesnít have the patience to work his way up. Typical dealer mentality: Ďgive it all to me, right now.í You still insist he wasnít high when you saw him."

"Iím sure of it. Although I think all the coke heís done has rewired his brain chemistry to the point where the normal controls are non-functional if still there at all. Itís like he has no sense of how strong he comes on. He see the world one way and boom, thatís how it is in his mind," she said.

"Guys like that tend to get obsessed with things, including women. Itís good that you arenít going to see him again. Heís a scary guy." Vetter noticed her smiling at him. "What?"

"You sound just like Byron," she remarked.

"You werenít dating Russian arms lords before, I hope."

"It isnít that. Byron and I used to sit up and talk like this late at night, and he was always saying things like you just did, big brother things. Until right now I hadnít realized how much Iíve missed that."

"Everybody needs someone to look after them," Vetter said.

"Including you?"

"I admit that I work better with a partner -"

"Iím not talking about on the street," she cut in, turning toward him. "Iím talking about someone to look after you. Here you are taking care of me. Do I get to do that for you?"

He stared at her intently. The question threw him, made him uncomfortable, yet he could not bring himself to shift the subject as he generally did when someone spoke of emotional things to him. The most he permitted himself was to turn his gaze toward the living room.

"How would you do that?" he asked, taking a long pull on the Guinness.

"Listen to you. Talk with you if youíre struggling. Be a friend. Pretty logical stuff," she answered.

"ÖSure."

She gazed at him expectantly. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"Tell me something, Vetter, something you wouldnít tell anyone else. This residual arrangement starts now."

He shrugged, slouching against the sofa cushions. "I donít have anything to talk about."

"Come on, play fair. You already know most of the details of my divorce and Brieís infidelity, not subjects I generally bring up for discussion. You donít have to tell me anything deep and dark. Just give me a partnership confession," she said. "Solidify our relationship a little."

Vetter sat silently for a long time. Kate let him, sipping patiently on her beer and not looking at him so he would feel less pressure. A full two minutes passed before he spoke.

"I ran a street race once," he finally said.

"As a cop?"

"Yeah. I was coming home late through L.A., in a part of town that was pretty infamous for street races. I came across this huge group of people with all these customized street rodsÖThere must have been a thousand people around this quarter mile stretch of road. How the cops hadnít found them I donít know but there they were, ready to drag. I stopped to watch."

"So how did you get involved?" she asked.

"This big guy saw me, came over to the car. He reminded me of myself, if you want to know the truth. He wanted to know what I was doing there. I told him I just wanted to see what was going to happen. ĎYou want to drive?í he asked. I knew I should have said no but damn, something about the way he asked the question just got to me, like he thought I wouldnít have the balls to go up against him. So I said, ĎYeah, Iíll drive with you. What the hell.í He got this huge grin on his face, told me that out of kindness to me he wouldnít race for money or my truck but just to see who was the better driver. He even promised not to use NOS. I told him he could do whatever he wanted. He liked that. I think it made him feel like beating me was going to be even better because of it," Vetter recalled.

"Let me guess," she said, turning toward him once again. "You blew him away."

"He completely dusted my ass. A street legal truck is no match for a customized street racer. But the thing that saved my masculinity was the fact that I didnít stop until I reached the finish line. I was so far behind this guy but I didnít care: I drove as hard and fast as I could until I got to him. He respected that. Yeah, I got the expected ridicule when he addressed the crowd after his victory, bragging about how hot a driver he was and how pitiful I was, but I could tell he thought I had guts. People drifted off and he came over to the truck. ĎYou ever think about getting a custom rod?í he asked. I told him no. He said to come around to the garage where he worked and heíd see what he could do about outfitting me. By then Iíd figured out who he was: this street racer legendary for jacking trucks. He didnít know what he was saying inviting me to join his jacking party, so I just smiled and said Iíd see him later. I often wonder if the feds ever figured out that the way to get him was to send in an undercover man as a hot driver."

"Well, well, the fast and furious Sean Vetter makes a confession," she said, raising her beer toward him. "I salute you."

"What about you?" he asked.

"You already know my secrets."

"You ever do anything illegal?"

"Maybe."

"Címon, Shea, play fair."

"Okay, Iíll tell you my one act of criminality. When I was in college before I met Brie I had this roommate who seemed always to get dumped about the same time that I did. One year it was right before Valentineís Day, so when February 13th rolled around neither one of us was in the mood for Cupid the next day. We were driving around talking about lousy men were when we started noticing that all the flower shops in town had these huge balloon displays tied to the signs in front of their places advertising Valentine specials. So we stole them. All of them. We found every florists shop in the city and cut the balloons on the signs and brought them home. Our living room ceiling was this sea of red, pink, and white heart-shaped balloons. We got out our dart set and ran a contest to see who could kill the most. Best Valentineís Day I ever had," she recalled.

"Thatís it?"

"Hey, that was a pretty big act of rebellion on my part. I didnít even have my first drink until I was twenty-two. I grew up pretty straight-arrow."

"Well, comparatively it isnít much of a confession but then I have to work with whatís available," he decided. "What would you have done if the iron giant walked up to you and asked you to race him?"

"Exactly what you did. You canít let a challenge like that go unanswered. Would you have stolen all the balloons for Valentineís Day?"

"No," he admitted, "Iíd have shot the bastards where they flew."

She laughed so heartily that at first she didnít hear the knock on the front door. Once she did she arose warily and peered outside. She observed a young man in a windbreaker and baseball cap standing on the porch with a gigantic spray of roses.

"Are you Katya Shea?" he called.

She felt Vetter draw up beside her. She nodded.

"These are from Mr. Kafelnikov," the young man continued.

Kate slowly unlocked the door. He handed her the roses; she instantly passed them off to Vetter. She gave the man a five-dollar bill and closed the door.

"I thought you said you didnít tell Kafelnikov where you live," Vetter said.

She stared at the flowers, her face pale. "I didnít."

"You mean he found you anyway?"

"I have an unlisted phone number. Unless BrieÖNo, he would never betray my privacy by giving out my address. Oh shit, Vetter, this means Grigori tracked me down."

She raced over to the phone.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Calling Grigori and telling him to leave me the hell alone. This is an outrage and I wonít put up with it." After dialing she looked at him and said, "Take them out back and dump them for me. I donít want Katie to see them and ask where they came from."

Vetter instantly started toward the back of the house. He paused in the kitchen to listen to Kateís message to Kafelnikov.

"Grigori, this is Kathleen Shea," she said, and Vetter realized she must have gotten voice mail. "I do not ever want to hear from you again. Ever. I kept my address private for a reason and I resent bitterly the idea that you felt you could secure it anyway. You can take your roses and shove them up your Russian ass!"

She slammed the phone down. Sticking his head back into the dining room Vetter said quietly, "I wouldnít mess with you after that."

He took the roses out to the dumpster behind the house and threw them in. When he returned to the house he found Kate pacing angrily up and down the living room, pounding her fist into her palm and muttering to herself.

"Relax," Vetter said, walking over to her. "You took care of it. Itís over."

"He knows where I live. Katieís here. I donít want him to have anything to do with her."

"Did you talk about her?"

"No. When Brie built his house I didnít even know I was pregnant yet, so Grigori doesnít know I have a daughter."

"Then youíre fine."

"What made him do that? Did he think I would find it flattering to be hunted down by a stalker?"

"You said yourself his perception of reality is skewed. He probably did think this would impress you with his determination to pursue you. Forget it. You told him off and thatís the end of it," Vetter contended.

She sat down on the sofa in complete disgust. "Iíll never get to sleep now," she said. "Iím going to spend the whole night waiting for that bastard to show up. Damn him."

"Donít worry about him," he said, falling in beside her.

"I get too easily worked up about things like this and I canít control my emotions for hours. Oh well, another night of reading until dawn wonít hurt me."

"Look, what would Byron have done if this happened when he was here?"

"Heíd have stayed and slept on the sofa."

"Then why donít I do that?"

"You donít have to, Vetter. Iíll pretend Iím a grown up and Iíll be fine," she insisted.

"I donít mind. Thatís what partners are for."

Kate started to protest again but stopped when she saw the calm reassurance in his eyes. "It was always nice to have somebody else in the house," she admitted. "Okay. Iíll get you a pillow and a comforter."

She fished the items from the linen closet and brought them back to the sofa. "Katie will go crazy when she wakes up and youíre still here," she remarked as she started to make up the sofa.

"I have that effect on women," he said, grinning.

"Just to show you my appreciation for hanging here, I promise to make you the worldís greatest breakfast tomorrow morning. You have not lived until you have had a Kate Shea authentic Irish breakfast."

"Is beer involved in that?"

She hit him with the pillow. He grabbed a sofa pillow and returned the blow and soon they were involved in a serious pillow fight, with Kate launching barrages and Vetter counterattacks like a general. Finally he put forth an all-out assault, pushing her back onto the sofa cushions. She buried her head under her pillow and, laughing, told him she surrendered.

Their laughter trickled away until nothing remained of it but a faint hint of a smile. That too soon faded and then they were simply lying together on the sofa, chests heaving against one another as they fought to get air back into their lungs. They might have remained this way for hours had the phone not rung. Kate suddenly pushed Vetter away and leapt up from the sofa. She practically ran to pick up the receiver.

"Please forgive me, Katya," Grigori said immediately. "I didnít mean to offend you."

From the way Kate reacted to the voice Vetter knew at once who had called. He got up off the sofa and walked over to her, listening intently.

"I told you not to bother me anymore," she said.

"I know, and I understand your anger. I wanted only to send you the roses. I had no intention of violating your privacy."

"I donít care what your intentions were. You obviously had to bribe someone to get my personal information. Thatís vulgar and more than a little frightening after one date. I think you need some serious help," she said.

"Only to get you out of my heart," he replied.

"We spent one evening together. One evening. You donít know me and I donít know you. To imagine anything more exists between us is seriously delusional."

"When two people are meant to be together thatís how love begins," he insisted.

"This conversation is over. I want nothing whatsoever to do with you, Grigori, and if it isnít clear to you now Iíll be down to talking to one of my judge friends Monday to get a restraining order," she said angrily as she slammed down the phone.

Once she was certain the connection was severed she picked up the receiver to keep it off the hook. Her hands shook. Vetter noticed and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"You handled that perfectly. Everythingís okay now," he said.

"I donít think so, Vetter. I have a very bad feeling about this situation. I think Grigori is going to be a lot more trouble than I could ever have imagined," she said.

"If he still doesnít get it you can go get a restraining order. Itís stupid to worry about this now. Just believe that you took care of that guy and relax," he said.

She took a deep breath to steady herself. "Iíll let you get some sleep," she told him, turning toward her bedroom. "Thanks for staying. That will help."

"Iím not ready to go to sleep now," he announced.

"Youíre not?"

"No. Sit up and talk to me for a while. If I try to go to sleep before one a.m. Iíll just wake up around three anyway. Címon."

He returned to the sofa, patted the cushions. After only a brief moment of hesitation she sat down beside him.


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