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The next time I saw Adam was at my preliminary hearing, where the judge denied Tom’s petition to have my charges dropped or reduced. There, I also witnessed how Adam had earned his formidable reputation when he cut through O'Flaherty's evidence like a hot knife through butter. He didn’t question our second witness; he didn't need to. 

 

Adam's performance didn't surprise me. I'd seen him in moot court at Harvard, and I'd faced him in debating competitions. Even then, green as we'd all been, his questioning had been rapier sharp. There'd also been clear signs of the intimidating and commanding presence he'd exuded in court today. I was, however, taken aback afterward when he expressed regret at the circumstances of our first meeting in five years. He wished me well and reminded me that he was only doing his duty. Overcome by surprise and humiliation, I'd ignored his outstretched hand. Adam's eyes sparked with anger.  "I'll see you in court, Justin," he said, his voice coldly professional, and turned on his heel. With my churlish behavior, I severed the last vestiges of friendship between us.

"He's over-confident; it will work against him," Tom asserted in response to my mother's worry about Adam's performance in court. She and Josh remained unconvinced, and frankly, so did I. Later, she voiced her concern to my father, but he brushed her off, saying Tom's smart. Having made it clear that he wouldn't be seen to be condoning my behavior, he hadn't attended court. I wasn’t surprised. My father’s first concern has and always will be the family name, and, in his view, his reputation and political standing are crucial to maintaining it. I should have been grateful, I suppose, that he was doing everything he could to save my career behind the scenes.  Still, I couldn't find it in me to feel anything but resentment toward him, not then, and not now. If it hadn’t been apparent to me before, it became clear during my trial that he doesn't care as much for me as he does about my political future.

"Be careful," I cautioned Tom after that first hearing.  "Calling O'Flaherty might not have been a wise move." 

 

He disagreed. "I know what I'm doing. This is just the start of proceedings. I'll make sure our trial witnesses are better prepared."

The Cordis’ arraignment followed mine, and when Joseph was refused bail, we considered it a victory.  "Excellent," my father declared. "The fact that the courts granted you bail you and not him will make it easier to convince the public that he misled you." That was the first positive thing he’d said since news of the debacle broke.

I missed Angelique more than I ever thought I could. I wondered about her almost constantly, often aloud. But Tom continued to advise against contact, assuring me that he kept in touch. "She knows you're thinking about her," he insisted, repeating that she was coping well. I admit to feeling put out that Angelique hadn’t bothered to send any return message.

About a week later, he stormed into my study,  livid when, according to him, she'd admitted to meeting with Adam.  "He plans on getting her to testify against you," he fumed and delivered yet another diatribe against Adam. I, however, was more concerned about Angelique.

"I offered my help, but she refused," he said with unnecessary spite, I felt.  "Stop worrying about her and concentrate on clearing your name.  She's not important."

"You need to watch your mouth," I warned, and he smiled bitterly.

"I'll never understand. Sure, she's beautiful, but so are lots of the women you've fucked," he said, tempering  his tone when noting my anger. "You have no future with her, you know that, Justin. Make it work with Cynthia—you're lucky she stuck by you. If you want a piece of ass on the side, there are plenty that won't cost you a cent."

I chose not to respond because he would've said something that made me hit him. Tom doesn't know or understand Angelique, or how I feel about her. At that stage, I couldn't fully understand what I felt, except that I couldn't let her go.

 

For the two months leading up to my trial, I followed everyone's advice and stayed away. I tried, in that time, to do what was expected of me and saw a lot of Cynthia. Sex with her has always been satisfactory, but no woman affects me the way Angelique does. I continued to think about her even, I'm ashamed to admit, when buried deep inside Cynthia. Mercifully, she seemed oblivious to the fact that I was thinking of someone else in our most intimate moments. She believed my passion was for her, and I did nothing to dissuade her.

A week before my second arraignment, my team met to discuss my plea.  "You'll plead not guilty, of course," Arnold announced.

"Not necessarily," I replied and then explained my intention to lodge an Alford Plea. My father and Tom, both lawyers, immediately grasped the significance. I had to explain to my mother, Josh, Arnold, and Cynthia that it meant I'd be acknowledging that the prosecution held enough evidence to prove their charge but that I was not admitting guilt.

"I don't understand," Cynthia replied.

"It's ingenious," my father conceded somewhat grudgingly. "You could avoid going to trial if the prosecution agrees to a plea bargain."

"Precisely…" Tom agreed and then broke off, no doubt remembering who we were dealing with.

"He won't go for that," I confirmed, recalling Adam's last words to me. "But it helps our media campaign,” I said, elaborating that the Alford plea would lend credence to my claims that Joseph had misled me. 

The possibility that I'd be found guilty and the potential of a lengthy prison sentence remained, but I refused to dwell on that. At my mother's insistence, I spent the night before the start of my trial at our family home. I woke early, hyper-aware of the very likely possibility of imprisonment. I remember thinking that everything I'd ever hoped and worked for could be taken from me.  The enormity of what I'd done, what I'd sacrificed, really hit me then. I wondered, not for the first time, just how different my life could have been if I'd accepted Angelique sleeping with other men. I'd done it with Natasha. Many of the women I'd dated had slept with other men. So why the hell did things have to be different with her?

I'd managed to contain my emotions by the time I made it downstairs to where my parents were having breakfast. My father, as expected, had lots of advice on how I should conduct myself in court. "Everyone in this state, perhaps the country, will have their eyes on you.  You're a Wade; act like one," he instructed.

"I'm sure Justin knows what to do, Joshua," my mother tried to intervene. "He' a senator, after all," she reasoned almost timidly in response to the icy look he cast her way.

"Have you forgotten that he deliberately ignored both that fact and the family name?" he looked at me accusingly. Unwilling to get into yet another argument, I remained silent, accepting the cup of coffee that Martha, our housekeeper, offered instead. That had been only the precursor to the verbal damnation I'd face that day. In court, I sat stoically as Adam verbally lacerated me.

“Justin Wade is a man educated in and who has sworn to uphold the law. He is an elected official and holds a position of trust in our community. He is a man who should have known better—done better—than flout the very laws he swore to uphold. Yet the defendant, supposedly a pillar of our community, did just that,” he said in what was only the start of the list of my misdeeds he cited.

It took everything in me to appear unaffected when what I wanted was to get up and run out of that room, away from the damning eyes I could feel on me and the cameras, I knew, were filming my every response.. More than anything, I wanted to escape the blistering words of my former friend. I was consumed with shame and anger—at myself, yes, but also at Adam Thorne for so effectively denouncing me.

Things worsened at the end of the first session when Natasha blind-sided Tom during his cross-examination by challenging him about his membership of Liaison. He and I exchanged heated words about that during the break.

"What the hell did you think you were doing?" I demanded.

"My job. I needed the jury to question her motives."

"Try doing it without antagonizing people who have dirt on you, Tom! That would be the smart thing to do."

By the end of that day, I'd felt mentally and physically exhausted. My humiliation in court and the ensuing media frenzy had taken its toll. Cynthia wanted to spend the night. "I just want to support you, Justin," she protested when we dropped her off at her home.

"I need to be alone, Cynthia", I said, ignoring her hurt expression. That night's media reports heavily favored the prosecution. 'Prosecutor Adam Thorne lived up to his fearsome reputation as he damned Senator Wade for trampling on the trust of our community,' one reporter said.

That first day, hellish as it had been, was nothing compared to the next. I was forced to sit through Carmen Bonnaci's testimony, during which she related how unsuspecting and naïve Angelique had been when she started as a dancer at Liaison, and how effectively Joseph had manipulated her into becoming an escort. Hearing someone else attest to her innocence left me with a feeling of discomfort and guilt I hadn’t experienced before. Even Tom’s relative success when questioning Carmen's motives did little to alleviate my unease. Things only worsened when, on our way to lunch, an intimidating man, who I soon learned is Angelique’s friend, Samuel, accosted me.

What affected me most, however, was seeing Angelique. The light had left her eyes, and her  face was pale and drawn, yet her beauty was as undeniable as ever. My heart leaped in my chest, and I wanted to rush to her side. But Samuel threw me a menacing look as he and another friend, a woman, led her away.

The three were sitting on a bench outside the courtroom when we approached. Angelique looked up but turned away instantly when her eyes met mine. Deep regret washed over me, and I unceremoniously dropped Cynthia’s hand. Outraged, she aimed an audible insult of 'whore' at Angelique. I wanted to strangle her when seeing Angelique flinch and bow her head. I tried to comfort her, but Tom barred my way. I watched, feeling helpless, as Adam’s second chair spoke with him before approaching Angelique. I wondered what she could possibly have to say to Angelique, who, I’d only recently learned, the prosecution had named a hostile witness. I hadn't even thanked her for her loyalty, I realized then, and fervently hoped that Tom had.

I shared every mortifying moment with Angelique as Adam relentlessly bombarded her with question after question. I also felt pride at her courage, determination, and the odd flash of defiance with which she responded. He was particularly ruthless, I felt, as he badgered her about our relationship.

"A companion?  What kind of companion?  Did you accompany him to social events, on visits to his constituents, perhaps?" he asked disdainfully. Tom objected, only to be overruled.

"Ms. Bain, what kind of companionship were you paid to provide for the defendant?" Adam demanded. Visibly upset, Angelique was forced to admit she'd been employed to sleep with me.

"You were paid to have sex with the defendant?"

"Yes," she whispered. Her embarrassment increased when Judge Bolton asked her to repeat herself loud enough for the court to hear. My shame matched hers. Not for my reputation this time, but for the part I played in bringing this down on her. 

My contrition worsened as Angelique reluctantly admitted that I was the first person she'd slept with for money. And I felt gutted when witnessing the surprise and betrayal on her face when shown the signed agreement for her exclusive services. I realized, then, that I should have discussed it with her. She'd shared personal aspects of her life with me. She'd trusted me, and I'd never reciprocated in any way. I hadn't even shared basic details of my arrangement with Joseph involving her.

Tom prepared to cross-examine her, but I stopped him from standing by grasping his arm. We were locked in silent communication when Judge Bolton reminded him that the court was waiting. Tom asked for a moment to confer with me.

"I need to discredit her testimony. Don't you see how damaging it's been?" he hissed.

"She's had enough," I said through clenched teeth.

"Don't be a fool," he argued, but I told him to leave her alone, that she didn’t deserve what was happening.

"Just fucking do as I say, or I'll fire your ass right now, " I hissed when he continued to protest. I stared him down. Tom sighed in resignation and declined the opportunity to question her.

I watched as, on the verge of tears and with her head held high, Angelique exited the courtroom. My heart ached in a way it never had for anyone or anything before. I ended up arguing with just about everyone that night—with Tom when he guessed my intentions and warned me not to contact her.  "The media now knows who she is. They're probably watching her every move.  You can't risk it; don't be such a damned fool!" he said.

"I need to speak to her," I insisted, and Cynthia stepped in.

"Justin, be reasonable; Tom’s right. Besides, you promised."

"I told you I'd think about it. I also said I was going to speak to Angelique. I owe her an explanation and apology."

"You owe that woman nothing. She's a prostitute, for goodness sake," Cynthia said, crying as she tugged on my arm.

"Don't ever call her that again! What you did today was unforgivable. Angelique showed more class than your privileged upbringing seems to have instilled in you. If you ever speak to her or  about her like that again, you can forget about me. This," I waved a finger between us, "will be over. Do you understand?"

"

"Are you in love with her?" Cynthia asked, aghast.

"Of course he isn't," Tom consoled. "Justin’s just being chivalrous."  He glared at me, a warning, and I chose not to answer Cynthia. However, the thought that I love Angelique had been planted in my brain. Could what I feel for her be love? I wondered. I still wasn’t sure. All I knew then was that I'd never felt the same way about any other woman. The rational part of my brain argued that a match between us was impossible.

 

Frustrated with the day I'd had, I ordered Tom and Cynthia to leave me in peace. I'd barely gotten rid of them when my father called with yet more advice. Being uncharacteristically rude to him, I snapped that I didn't need anyone else's damned opinion that night.  He hung up on me, and I didn’t care. All I felt was relief to finally be left alone.

The press had a field day with Angelique’s testimony and her evident distress. A photograph of her leaving the witness stand, side by side with another of Cynthia and I holding hands, made the front page of a major newspaper. The Madonna and whore inference heavily underscored the tone of the article. Cynthia had learned by then to not say anything derogatory in my presence, but I knew by her ever-present smile that she enjoyed Angelique’s humiliation. I cursed the media, and I wanted to call Angelique to lend support, thank her for her loyalty, and apologize for how much it was costing her. Her time on the stand would, unquestionably, have been less traumatic and embarrassing if she'd cooperated with the prosecution. My guilt quadrupled that night.

Tom mounted our defense next, and I felt we started well with the opinion of our expert witness on corporate governance. We lost ground, however, when Adam argued that the professor's views wer on the principles, not the practice of the law. Next, he rattled Connor Jones, my accountant, and, by the time Jones vacated the stand, I'd started questioning Tom's ability to effectively combat Adam. It felt like nothing had changed since Harvard. Even then, Tom had underestimated Adam’s ability to out-think and out-maneuver him. Be it in the academic arena, a fencing bout, or an exchange of ideas, Adam had bested him every time.

When it became apparent that O'Flaherty had absconded, I decided that I needed to step in and do whatever I could, at that late stage, to defend myself. After he’d negotiated an adjournment, I informed Tom that I'd contact him later.

"We need to decide our strategy for tomorrow," he pointed out.

"I know,  but I want to speak with my father."

"Good, I was going to suggest that," he said.

"Meet me at my place at eight tonight," I told him and dismissed his suggestion that he should be present in the meeting with my father. Tom was irked at being excluded, but by then, I didn’t care about his feelings. My life was on the line, not Tom's. I had to take charge.

My father, for once, chose not to remind me of my sins and eagerly agreed with my plan to take the stand. "It's time to tap into the reserves of goodwill the public holds for you," he said, echoing my thoughts.

 

Tom, when we met, rightly advised me of the risks involved. "It could go either way," he warned.

"I have to give it a shot. Even you must concede that our case isn't going well."

"Fucking, Thorne!" he cursed, but the fight had left him. He could see it was our only chance of turning things around. We spent the night going over the questions that, based on the facts we wanted to leave the jury with, he'd ask me. Next, we discussed every possible question we believed the prosecution would raise. By the time Tom left in the early hours of the morning, I felt as if I'd regained a modicum of control. I was well aware of just how vulnerable I'd be under cross-examination, but, as I told my father, I'd rather go down fighting than continue to feel like a sitting duck.

I felt I'd made a positive impression on the jury when I admitted to foolishly trusting Joseph.  I’d made an error in judgment and had shown weakness in succumbing to the sex on offer, I confessed, knowing I wouldn't be the first or the last politician to admit to seeing a prostitute.  Many had gotten away with sexual indiscretions.

Adam was predictably brutal in his cross-examination. I struggled to contain my temper at times as he accused and goaded me. Nevertheless, I believed I was doing okay until he pressed on my involvement with Angelique.

"Why did you sign the agreement when Ms. Bain was already available to you?" he asked.

“I did it to help her?"

"To help her?" he feigned incredulity.

"Yes," I said, unable to hide my irritation.

"Exactly how did it benefit her to be treated like chattel?" he challenged.

"I didn't think she should have to sleep with other men," I responded.

"Did she ask you to protect her from having to sleep with other men?"

 "No," I answered tersely.

"So you and Joseph Cordi decided that you were best suited to determine this young woman's fate? And you determined it was to be tied to you in a sexual contract. On what grounds did you decide that?"

I should have expected the question, but still, it shook me. Silently, I conceded that I'd never considered what would be good for Angelique. I'd only thought about was what was necessary to maintain our relationship, one that suited me.

"I didn't think she should have to sleep with other men," I repeated after a suspenseful pause.

"You're a wealthy and influential man. In fact, you're one of the richest men in this state, are you not?" he asked, the challenge clear in his eyes.

I felt myself warm with both annoyance and shame at the way he'd effectively positioned me as a privileged man who'd taken advantage of a guileless woman. I responded with a terse, “Yes.”

"Why not offer her a loan, something—anything—that didn't demand that she sell her body?"

 

I squirmed internally, the realization of just how stupid I’d been washed over me like a tsunami. I'd accepted Joseph's claim on Angelique, yet I had no idea what agreement she'd made with him. I could have, should have, discussed the matter with her. I could have paid her directly. I could have done what Adam suggested and granted her a loan or found her a suitable job. I accepted the situation, didn't consider alternatives. How the hell did I make such a foolish miscalculation?

I answered the only way I could.  "I didn't think she'd want that," I confessed, and Adam pushed home his advantage.

"So you arbitrarily made the decision to purchase her body. You didn't consider her feelings or wellbeing. Did you ever consider offering her an honorable way out—one where she wasn't forced to prostitute herself? A way that would maintain her dignity and self-worth?" he challenged rather than asked.

Tom's objection was overruled, and I was forced to admit that I hadn't considered the option. Adam went in for the kill, but I don’t doubt that even if the ruling had gone against him, he would still have found a way to deliver his next, crippling blow.

"You wanted to bind Angelique Bain to you. You deemed her unsuitable to date but wanted her sexually. You didn't care about her fate or that of the other women who may have been forced into prostitution. You willfully ignored the law. You signed the contract for Fidelity, not because you wanted to save Ms. Bain but because you wanted her for yourself.”

 

Tom objected at that point, and Judge Bolton decided in our favor. The respite didn’t last, however. Adam questioned me about my knowledge of Fidelity and its subsidiary Sigma.

"As I've already said, it was not my intention to mislead Mr.Jones or infer that he should ignore due process. Regarding Sigma's revenue, I didn’t consider it necessary to check its source. I believed what I'd been told and what my initial research confirmed; that Fidelity was in the business of commercial property development. No subsidiary company was disclosed in discussions before I signed the contract or included in the company’s assets register, so, for me, none existed. In terms of the financial reports, I scanned them, satisfied myself that the business continued to perform well, and then forwarded them to J.J. and H. I did not, as you have suggested, enter into the contract for Fidelity planning on committing a crime," I said.

"But you did, Mr. Wade. You committed several crimes, in fact, with intent—when you participated in the illegal prostitution at Liaison, when you entered into a contract for the sexual services of a vulnerable woman, and again when you chose to enter into a business partnership with a man you knew to be a criminal.

"You consciously and to satisfy your desire to have Angelique Bain for yourself flouted laws you swore to uphold. 'I did not think she should sleep with other men,' you highhandedly stated. What made you think you had the right to demean her instead?” he asked. Tom objected vociferously, but it didn't deter Adam.

"You willingly entered into a business partnership with a man you knew to be a criminal and, in the process, deliberately ignored the plight of the women caught up in his schemes. Afraid that he might find something to hamper the agreement for Ms. Bain’s sexual services, you knowingly dissuaded your accountant from investigating Fidelity, did you not?. 

 

Adam stopped only when Judge Bolton cautioned him. Having made his point, he rested. That night, I refused to speak to anyone, not even my mother, and I ignored my father's insistent calls. I was simply incapable of listening to him inform me, again, how much of a disgrace I was. I clung to the hope that I may, at the very least, have raised doubt in the jury's minds and that I still had a chance of avoiding prison.

The next day, I maintained a calm exterior throughout prosecution’s closing argument, during which Adam again attacked my character. Tom tried valiantly to restate our case and defend my actions and my reputation. I breathed an exhausted sigh of relief when the jury, finally, retired to deliberate. My fate, I realized, rested in the hands of twelve of 'them' —the peopleI'd been raised to look down on. It also dawned on me just how baseless my father's teachings, in fact, had been.

Waiting on their decision, I felt like I was balancing on the edge of a precipice. By late evening, with no verdict announced, Judge Bolton ordered the jury sequestered for the night. Unable to avoid my family any longer, Cynthia and I joined our parents for dinner.

"You need to announce your engagement as soon as this trial's over," my father all but commanded. The Buchanans nodded their agreement.

"I may be found guilty," I retorted.

"You won't be convicted," my father stated, displaying the arrogance I've come to expect.

"Well, they might surprise you." I would have relayed precisely what I thought of him and his attitude, but for the pleading look on my mother's face. I did, however, resolve not to be pushed into yet another rash decision.

The next day, Tom called with news that Judge Bolton had summoned both defense and prosecution counsels. "What the hell does that mean?" I asked, even though I already suspected that the jury had reached a stalemate. My suspicions were confirmed when Tom called a short while later to say the jury was stuck on a ten--two guilty verdict. My relief evaporated when he added that the court had not declared a mistrial. The judge decided to issue the jury with the Allen Charge instead. We were deeply disappointed but still hoped for an acquittal. 

 

We weren’t kept in suspense for too long. Just over six hours later, we were back in court.  My heart relocated to my throat as the jury filed in. I schooled myself to breathe, and, thankfully, by the time Judge Bolton reached for the slip of paper, I'd gained control—outwardly at least.  He read impassively, then handed the slip back to the bailiff before formally asking the foreperson whether they'd reached a verdict.

"We have not, Your Honor.  We remain deadlocked.” Her voice reached me as if it had traveled through a long, windy tunnel. I glanced over at Tom to make sure I'd heard correctly. He nodded, and my pulse took off in a hopeful canter.

"The case against Justin Wade is dismissed without prejudice on the grounds of a mistrial," Judge Bolton finally announced. My first thought was, 'we did it,' but it soon sunk in that he’d said ‘without prejudice, which meant the prosecution could call for a retrial.

"What do you think they’ll do?"  Arnold asked when we'd gathered at my parents' home.

"Knowing Thorne, he'd want to prolong Justin’s agony and go for a retrial," Tom declared.

"I'm not so sure about that," I said, having contemplated what I’d previously known about Adam and what I’d learned during the trial. "He won’t bring personal feelings into it. He'll do what he thinks is right legally and best for the DA's office."

"And what would that be?” Mom asked.

"Do nothing," I conceded.

"And you'd be cleared?" Cynthia asked hopefully.

"Technically, I'd be free, but there’ll always be a cloud hanging over me.  By not calling for a retrial, he would, in fact, be condemning me to a lifetime of speculation."

"What does it matter? The public would have forgotten by the time the next election comes around. You just need to keep your nose clean and work hard for your constituents. And you should announce your engagement immediately. Use it as a demonstration of turning over a new leaf," my father declared, already shifting into campaign mode.

"There’ll be no announcement," I said decisively. "I want to wait until the dust has settled."  I knew the pressure to commit to Cynthia would continue. However, having just come out of the disastrous aftermath of the last decision I’d been forced into, I was determined to remain steadfast in my refusal.

After an excruciating weekend's wait, Adam announced that the Commonwealth would not be seeking a retrial. Some in my group of supporters believed our old friendship had played a part after all, but I knew better. He'd simply made the best legal decision as I'd known he would.

I thought I could avoid thinking about Adam Thorne as easily as I'd done before. I also hoped I could contact Angelique after a reasonable interval once the media interest died down. I wasn’t sure what, exactly, would become of our relationship, but I hoped we'd be able to salvage and build on what we'd had.

On a Thursday, some weeks later, I arrived at Cynthia’s for dinner only to have her gleefully open her laptop almost as soon as I entered. What I read stunned me.

"Looks like your prostitute's found a new source of income," she spitefully remarked. I was too shocked to respond the way she deserved. The sight of Angelique and Adam together at a ballet performance sent a wave of red-hot jealousy through me. I've never felt the need to smash someone's face in as much as I did his at that moment.

'How the fuck did this happen?’ I wondered and then questioned whether I'd imagined him decimating her on the stand. I know both of them well enough to know there'd been no pretense in their courtroom exchanges. So how could she now be on such friendly—scrap that—over-friendly terms with him?

I walked to the door then. "Where are you going?  Dinner's ready," Cynthia called out.

"I warned you about talking like that," I said and slammed the door behind me. I was annoyed with her, yes, but more than anything, I needed to be alone. I feared what I'd say or do if she continued to gloat. My mind churned, and my feelings teetered between jealous fury and unjustifiable hurt. That night, and all of the next day, I tried to come to grips with precisely what I was feeling. I even called Angelique, several times, but her phone diverted to voicemail. I sat on my sofa, fuming at being ignored when, in reality, I deserved to be. I wondered why I cared so much when the realization struck that it could only be because I loved her.

"Fuck," I muttered and promptly tried to talk myself out of it. But I could find no other reason for my longing to be with her and the jealousy I experienced at the thought of her with other men. I'd never imagined feeling this way about anyone before. I didn't think it possible. "Fuck," I repeated when recalling just how badly I'd treated her. Had I really become so insensitive? Had I succumbed to my father's teachings to the extent that I was incapable of recognizing love just because the woman I developed those feelings for doesn’t share my background?  I decided, there and then, that I needed to see Angelique.  I had no idea what I'd say. All I knew was that I had to speak to her.

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