Signs of Spring are around and new construction is progressing at "The Fort". The old Birdseye plant a year ago this week.  In August of 2014 the demolition begins.  Birdseye exposed!  Construction of the Beauport Hotel on the rise!  The new hotel is further from the beach than the Birdseye footprint!  Harbor Basketball!  "Cabaret V" passes Ten Pound Island.  Crane and wires

Seth Moulton enjoys Sasquatch Smoked Fish, and more.

Paul Lundberg, Sefatia Theken, Seth Moulton, Bob Stewart

City Counselor Paul Lundberg, Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Theken, Congressman Seth Moulton, and City Counselor Bob Stewart

(photo via Sefatia Theken)

Rookie Congressman, Seth Moulton came to The Hive in Gloucester today. Angela Sanfillippo reminded him that, even with NOAA’s first-ever nod in the fishermen’s direction, not much has changed. The recent cod allotments are incredibly low but they bump out the pollack allotments, making neither something a local fisherman could live on.

Sasquatch smoked salmon

Sasquatch smoked salmon pate

Paul Cohan, otherwise known as Sasquatch, brought a huge platter of his smoked salmon and smoked salmon pate, in which the congressmen sunk crackers as if he hadn’t eaten for days, which may have been true.  (Cape Ann Coffees provided the delicious pastries, quiche and coffee.)

Cohan eloquently reminded the congressman that Gloucester fishermen and NOAA need to really listen to each other to ever get anything done.  Moulton energetically agreed.

Now serving on the armed services committee, Seth Moulton may be the first congressman ever to decline Congress’s high-end health care services in favor of the VA system. Moulton will be receiving the exact care our vets do, and will thus experience personally what needs to change. When he first appeared at a VA hospital, the antiquated VA system didn’t even recognize him as a vet.

“I wanted to say, ‘google me,’ but I didn’t.”

Moulton is very interested in expanding what service means in this country, making “service” broader, but still including the armed services, something for which young people today can proudly enlist.

Moulton explained to the group at The Hive our country’s heavy responsibility as the world’s leader. We must choose carefully where we step, he said, and many countries are watching us, waiting to support our initiatives, but only after we act first.  Moulton had just returned from the Ukraine and eastern Europe, regions legitimately alarmed by Putin’s willful advances. When Moulton asked the president of Poland, who is nervous about his own country’s vulnerability to Russia, why Poland doesn’t initiate an effort in the Ukraine to build more resistance there, Bronislaw Komorowski (@Komorowski on twitter) responded, “We need the Americans to go first; then we’ll be right there.”

The event ended by Sasquatch singing a cappella his “Gloucester Anthem” to the congressman and the crowd.

If you want to eat what Seth Moulton is having for lunch, look for Sasquatch smoked fish at Willowrest, the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, and the Rockport Farmers’ Market.

Layla from Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter and Lola from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall have a lot in common--both of them are beautiful women who put up with a lot in their marriages. Lucius from The Christmas Daughter is a tough guy with a beautiful heart and he would cheerfully beat the crap out of any guy who mistreated a woman.

from Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter
They're getting the Ferris wheel ready for winter today. I've been standing by the sink watching out the window as a gang of men with enormous arms unbolt the carriages and stack them on the flatbed of a truck to take away for storage. The wheel itself will stay in place until Spring looking like a giant skeleton against the gray sky.
“We're running low on gin and bourbon,” Joel calls from behind the bar.
He pushes through the swinging doors and frowns at me. “Gin and bourbon, put them on your list and I'll make a run to Stateline Liquor for more. What are you looking at?”
I nod toward the window. “They're taking all the seats off the Ferris wheel. It looks naked.”
He peers over my shoulder as two roustabouts with biceps the size of Sunday dinner hams hoist another carriage onto the truck.
“They have to,” Joel says, “if they leave them up and we get a bad storm they could do a lot of damage.”
“I know.” I lower my eyes and continue unloading beer mugs, Pilsner glasses, rock glasses—all kinds of glasses—from the dishwasher. They are scorching hot and my fingers burn as I touch them.
“How are we ever going to get through this?”
Joel takes a deep breath. “Come on, Layla. How many times have we discussed this?
It's only for a few months so I can work on my book. You hated living at St. Basil's. I thought you'd like being somewhere quiet and ...”
He pauses but I know what he is thinking. He is thinking “someplace like what you're used to”—meaning in a bar among people who are the polar opposite of the faculty and their spouses at St. Basil's Preparatory Academy where Joel teaches literature and composition. When I met Joel he was a horny egghead just past thirty and pathetically ignorant of women like me. I wasn't far from thirty myself but I looked lots younger, which was a good thing. Working in a casino can take its toll on a woman. I knew my looks were getting harder and harder to maintain. The only reason a guy like Joel was even in a place like Mohegan Sun, where I waitressed, was because his cousin was getting married and all the guys had taken him out for a final fling before tying the knot.
“... low key,” he concludes. He puts his arms around me and turns me to face him. “Stop worrying, Layla, it'll be fun. Just the two of us. No faculty parties. No high teas. No volunteer projects that drive you crazy.” He nuzzles my neck. “Just the two of us and the Geezers, what could be more romantic?”
The Geezers are a bunch of local guys who hang out at the pub that we—mostly I—will keep open all winter. 

from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall
The judge was settling into one of the booths with their high wooden backs and enamel topped tables.
“Chief Werner. Have a seat. I just came in for coffee, want to join me?”
“Sure.” Henry slid into the seat across from him and held up two fingers to Lola who nodded.
“I wonder what amazing creation Lola has for us today,” the judge said. He was a portly man with a perfectly trimmed gray mustache, and an enormous hooked nose on which a pair of wire-rimmed glasses perched. “I don't know how she keeps coming up with so many new confections.”
As he said it Lola, in a ruffled white pinafore apron, appeared with their coffees. “The strudel of the day is cherry-plum. I also have lemon, cheese and apple. Plus I have hot apple dumplings with a glaze made from the Herzing's maple syrup and rhubarb tarts.”
The judge rolled his eyes. “You're cruel, Lola, you're a cruel, evil woman. How's a man
supposed to decide. What are you having, Henry?”
“Just coffee.” Henry said. Lola echoed his words at the same time. He looked at her and laughed. “You know me too well.”
The judge groaned and then looked at Lola. “Well, I'm not about to insult you by abstaining from your amazing artistry. I'll have the apple dumpling.”
“With whipped cream or warmed cream?” Lola winked at Henry.
The judge groaned again. “Warm. No whipped... no, better make it warmed.”
“Good enough.” She started to walk away.
“Lola,” Henry said.
She turned and raised an eyebrow.
“Bring me a rhubarb tart... no cream though.”
She flashed a very pretty smile. “Sure thing.”
The judge watched her walk away. “If I wasn't married...” He trailed off then turned to Henry. “Wasn't her husband killed in a hunting accident?”
Henry took a swallow of coffee then nodded. “That was a long time ago.”
“Well, if it led to her opening this place it was a lucky accident – for the town anyway.” He raised an eyebrow. “You could do worse than that one, Henry,” he said. “She might not be a kid but she's a wonderful cook and has an exceptionally lovely posterior.”
Henry smiled. “I agree.”
“Always puts me in mind of Miss Dolly Parton.”

from The Christmas Daughter
Once outside he opened the rear doors of his van with the words Ritter Plumbing & Heating painted on the side. He put away his tools trying not to think about his irritation with Ethel Hauber. She was regarded as a crank by nearly everyone in town but, even knowing that, she still managed to get on his nerves every time he did work for her. As he reached to close the doors a pair of beady black eyes just a couple feet away startled him. Mike jumped back. The eyes, and the face they belonged to, crinkled into laughter.
“Good grief!” Mike pressed his hand to the center of his chest. “You scared the crap out of me.” He stared at a thin man with a long, sharp face dominated by an enormous, beak-like nose over a substantial mustache. One of his eyes drooped under a scar that cut straight through a bushy eyebrow, and a slow, devilish grin split his face. “Lucius!” Mike said. “I don't believe it. Lucius Wickett.”
“In the flesh.” Lucius wrapped his arms around Mike in a back-slapping hug. “How the hell are you, Plumber Ritter?”
“Where did you come from?” Mike stepped back to study his old friend.
Lucius nodded toward the house behind him. “My brother Juney lives there.” Juney Wickett was a well-known chainsaw carver. His entire lawn was filled with wooden sculptures of bears, dragons, partially-clothed beauties, and other exotic creations. “He spotted your van and told me you were respectable now. I couldn't believe it.”
“It's great to see you.” Mike grinned. “I heard Boone Wilde was back in town but I haven't seen him yet. I didn't know you were here, too.”
“I just got here yesterday. Boone came back a little over a month ago. Look, do you feel like getting a beer? My brother's teaching a carving class at four and I wouldn't mind getting out of here for awhile.” Lucius stuffed his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. Except for a few gray hairs and a few more lines on his face he looked much the same as he had the day he roared out of Marienstadt on his Harley.
Thanks for reading.
Kunigunda Wolfe from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall, and Kit Wilde from The Christmas Daughter both have relatively small parts in their stories but they are beloved characters all the same. Kuni is the mother of three of the characters ("a beer distributor, a pig farmer, and a nun" as her son Mulligan says) and is also an incredible cook, especially famous for her keuchels. Kit Wilde is Boone's older brother and the founder of The Pilgrims Motorcycle Club. He now runs a horse farm in Kentucky and may make an appearance in future stories:

from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall:
The discussion about categories progressed. Even Sister John-Paul put in her preference for cookies, but after an appropriate amount of deliberation, they settled on breads, soups, main courses, pickles and relishes, jellies and preserves, desserts, specialty meats, vegetables, and cookies and candies.
“That's nine categories,” Mulligan said. “We need one more.”
“Well,” Bertie Weis said in a tone of voice that prohibited opposition, “I think it should be fairly obvious. After all, what could be more appropriate than...” She paused for effect glancing around at all of them. “...dumplings.”
“Dumplings?” Gretchen repeated sitting back in her seat.
“Well, of course,” said Bertie. “Think about it. What do we serve more of than dumplings?”
“I don't know,” Father Nick said frowning. “I love liver dumplings but how would you compare a liver dumpling to an apple dumpling?”
Lola giggled.
Bertie fixed him with an incredulous stare. “Not those kinds of dumplings. I mean regular dumplings. Knadles, niflies, spaetzles. Who doesn't love a good dumpling?”
Mulligan raised an eyebrow. “She has a point.”
Bertie bestowed a smile. “Thank you, Franklin. I'm sure that most of your wonderful sauerkraut finds itself served festooned with lovely knadles frugally made from yesterday's leftover bread in memory of our thrifty ancestors.”
“'Yesterday's leftover bread?'” Kuni said, the shock in her voice drawing everyone's
attention. “Knadles aren't made with leftover bread. That's ridiculous. Knadles are made with eggs and milk and flour. Maybe a touch of salt.”
Bertie turned slowly in her direction, her entire body straightening up. “Excuse me? I think you are confused. You are obviously thinking of niflies. Knadles are made with good, honest, day old bread crumbs.”
Kuni stared at her with a look that clearly conveyed her disgust. “You,” she said, “are thinking of Semmelknödels. Semmelknödels are made with breadcrumbs. Knadles are made with milk, eggs, and flour. Niflies are made with eggs, water and flour. You're obviously confused.”  
Gretchen glanced at Sister John-Paul, who was trying to hide her smile by lifting her beer mug to her mouth. Father Nick and Lola were staring in obvious confusion and Ruthie had her face buried in her hands.
“I will have you know.” Bertie drew herself up even straighter if that was possible. “That I supervised the Sunday afternoon pork and sauerkraut dinners at the Knights of Columbus Hall for over twenty years. In that time we served thousands...” She took a deep breath. “Thousands of knadles and they were always made with bread crumbs.”
Kuni shrugged with a gesture that stated the futility of trying to argue with someone so ill-informed. “Well,” she said, “you can call them knadles if you want but what you served thousands of was Semmelknödels.”
An arctic chill settled over the room and Father Nick looked back and forth between the two older women, whose competitive righteous indignation was escalating.

From The Christmas Daughter:
It was on a hot August night in Melvin's Place, when someone mentioned forming a motorcycle club. Kit and Boone, along with Lucius Wickett, Mike Ritter, and their girlfriends, were packed into a circular booth. Peeper Baumgratz, who was tending bar, bellowed, “Last call!”

“Yeah,” Kit said, “bring us a case of greenies.”
Peeper nodded and, within minutes, an ice cold case of beer appeared on their table.
“We have to do it,” Lucius said, reaching for a bottle. “Come on. Why not? Elk County can handle it.”
“I don't know,” Boone said. “Chief Sarginger isn't crazy about us as it is. He'll shit if his town has a motorcycle gang, too.”
“Not a gang,” Lucius said, “a club. We're respectable.” He grinned and guzzled beer. “We'll behave ourselves.”
“What do you think, Kit?” Mike asked.
“Huh?” Kit was turned sideways, his eyes glued to a television over the bar, oblivious to the girl who sat on his lap nibbling on his ear. Music blared from the jukebox drowning out the sound but Kit watched anyway.
“About a motorcycle club?” Mike said. “What do you think we should call ourselves?”
Kit's attention returned to the screen.
“What the hell are you watching that's so interesting?” Lucius said. “How can you follow it with all this noise?”

Boone looked up at the television then laughed. “He doesn't need to hear it. He's seen that movie so damn many times he has it memorized.”
“What is it?” Mike said.
A commercial came on and Kit turned back to them.
“What movie is that?” Mike repeated.
“Best movie ever made.” Kit twisted the lid off another beer. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. You can't tell me you never saw it.”
“Forget that,” Lucius said. “We need a name for our motorcycle club.”
Kit grinned, then, affecting a John Wayne drawl, said, “'You're a persistent cuss, pilgrim.'”
Boone groaned. “I knew it.”
That was the night the Pilgrim Motorcycle Club was born.

Thanks for reading.
Juney Wickett from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Secrets of Marienstadt and The Christmas Daughter and Joe Quinn from The Crazy Old Lady's Revenge and The Crazy Old Lady's Secret could not be more different. Juney is a short, husky chainsaw artist from the highlands of Pennsylvania. Joe is a big, blond, gorgeous ex-cop from South Boston. But both of them have their own brand of charm.

Yes, this is Charlie Hunnam but if I could
pick anyone to play Joe Quinn
he would be it.
from The Crazy Old Lady's Revenge
Since returning from Cape Cod I'd been thinking about Mattie and Stan. Mattie made a good choice in Stan. He's not at all like the boys we grew up with and I started to think someone like Stan was what I needed. I've always been attracted to men like him – men with callused hands and easy smiles, who don't over-think things. Maybe that's why I noticed the big guy with the beard who appeared to be bench-pressing three hundred pounds while I watched. Normally, I'd never let a guy catch me watching him in the gym. That would just be too uncool. But there was something about this guy. He noticed me and grinned.
“I've seen you around here before,” he said. “You fight like an animal.” He pushed himself up from the bench and he was taller than me by half a head. “Name's Joe Quinn.” He wiped his hands on a towel and then held one out. I took it and was pleased when I felt calluses.
“Viv Lang,” I said. “You're pretty impressive yourself. You sound like a Southie.”
He laughed. “I guess none of us can hide that. I grew up on Gold Street near St. Peter's Academy. Me and all five of my brothers.”
I liked the way he laughed. His eyes all but disappeared under heavy blond eyebrows and he had deep dimples above the closely trimmed blond beard. He had a broad face with a lot of laugh lines and a neck that was nearly as thick as his head. I thought he looked like someone who worked hard outdoors.
“Five brothers.” I said. “That's hard to imagine.” I remembered that Mattie said Stan came from a big family.
“Yeah, Irish Catholics.” He laughed again.

Henry groaned but he made a trip out to see Juney's affronts to public decency. It was true that the figures of females in his collection were scantily clad but there was just enough drapery to conceal the most significant parts of their anatomy. In addition, Henry thought, they were actually quite good. There was one of a mermaid-like creature rising up out of graceful waves, her long hair just barely covering full breasts from which he had a hard time averting his eyes.
“She's a beauty, isn't she?” Juney said running his hand along her gleaming shoulder. “If you're interested I'll make you a good deal.”
Henry raised his eyebrows. “It's tempting,” he said. “Listen, she's going to keep calling me. Do you think you could move the ladies out of her line of sight? Maybe on the other side of those trees?”
Juney nodded though he was obviously less than thrilled. “Yeah, I suppose so. But the miserable old bat will just find something else to complain about.”
“I know.” Henry sighed.
“You know, she's no joy to have as a neighbor either.” Juney pushed his plastic goggles up on top of his bald head, folded his hands over his ample stomach, and frowned. “A couple weeks ago we had a little party in the yard out back, me and my wife. Sort of a house warming party. It was a nice night and some friends came over with beer and stuff. We were just sitting around talking, not making much noise. It was early, too, and the old bat opened up her windows and played her Lawrence Welk records as loud as she could. What a way to kill a party. 'Ana one, ana two...'”
Henry nearly doubled over laughing.

Thanks for reading.
Sister Dolorosa Ibarra grew up in Spain and she is a very important part of The Christmas Daughter: A Marienstadt Story. Actually, I love all the nuns that populate my Marienstadt stories but Sister Dolorosa is special because without her Boone's daughter, Charity, would have had an even more bleak life than she had. Sister Dolorosa loves Charity and she loves Boone for changing this little girl's life.

from The Christmas Daughter
Sister Dolorosa Ibarra was born in a small town at the foot of the Pyrenees in Spain. As a girl she often accompanied her mother, who was devoutly religious, on pilgrimages to Lourdeas across the border in France. She knew it was her mother's dearest wish that her daughter enter the convent but Sister Dolorosa, whose name was Bernadette back then, had other plans. She and her best friend, Yolanda, spent every spare bit of money they could find on movies and movie magazines. They had a secret plan—they were going to cross the Atlantic Ocean to New York and become Rockettes. Bernadette and Yolanda knew they weren't beautiful like the girls they saw in the movies but they were quite convinced that they would become beautiful once they were grown. They spent hundreds of hours watching every movie they could find that featured a chorus line, studied and memorized dance moves, and practiced relentlessly in their bedrooms, kicking their feet up over their heads, laughing, and making plans.
It was the greatest disappointment of Bernadette's young life that Yolanda did something unforgivable. Both of them had worked in shops and restaurants hoarding every penny for their planned defection. But when Yolanda was seventeen she fell in love with a young man named
Cesar L'Cruz. She fell in love and within weeks she was pregnant. Her parents screamed and ranted and raved. The wedding took place with great haste and great shame. Bernadette, however, refused to let her dream die and a year later she packed her bags, left a note, and boarded a boat for America. By some miscommunication she found herself in Atlantic City instead of New York City, but the bright lights there were encouraging. She decided to stay.

Bernadette had been right, of course; she wasn't pretty and she couldn't dance. She could clean hotel rooms and that's what she did, finally moving a little farther down the coast to Ocean City where she could live more cheaply. Humbled by her failure to achieve the dream she'd cherished all her life, she wrote home to Yolanda regaling her with tales of the glamorous life she led as a dancer in fabulous nightclubs. Her deception might have gone on indefinitely had not Cesar L'Cruz proved to be such a terrible driver.
Thanks for reading.
Yes, this is an old picture of Iain Glenn
but he sure would have made a great Henry back then.
I have a confession to make: I'm in love with Henry. Chief of Police Henry Werner is the central figure in most of my Marienstadt stories in both The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall and The Christmas Daughter. He is a big, blond, handsome man whose rakish behavior hides a broken heart. Henry is essentially a good man but he's not above breaking the law to protect the people he loves. I swear I keep writing Marienstadt stories just so I can spend more time with Henry.

from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall (April Special--Get all 11 stories for $1.99)
Henry Werner knew that being the Chief of Police in Marienstadt, Pennsylvania, was an easy job but any day that started out with a visit from Sister Adelaide, the Prioress of St. Joseph's Convent, and which was followed by a call from the State Police, was off to an unpromising start. Despite the fact that he was close to forty and had been a policeman ever since he left the Marines, one withering stare from Sister Adelaide could reduce him to a
single throbbing nerve. The worst part was, she knew it.
“Henry,” she said, looking at him over the top of the half-moon glasses perched on her long, patrician nose, “is it really necessary to ticket the convent's automobiles at every single opportunity? I understand that the sisters need to be more mindful of making sure there is adequate money in the parking meters but, honestly, the time had barely run out when Patrolman Ginther wrote this out.” She waved the bright orange ticket in front of him.
“Give it to me, Sister,” he said. “I'll take care of it.” He knew that by 'taking care of it' he meant that he would pay for it himself but he preferred that she not know that.
“No.” She jerked the ticket back and tucked it into the pocket of the impeccably tailored black wool coat she wore. “We do not expect favors but we would like a small amount of ...” She paused, raised her eyebrows, cleared her throat, and then said, “a small amount of courtesy, shall we say?”

“I'll have a word with Dean, I'm sure he'll be reasonable.” Actually he was quite sure that Dean Ginther would be anything but reasonable. 

from The Christmas Daughter
 “Good morning, Boone.” The door opened and Henry came in, the bright sunlight making his hair glow.
“Hey, good morning. I'd shake hands but...” Boone lifted his, with coffee in one and strudel in the other. “Help yourself. I think we're going to have leftovers today.”
“No thanks.” Henry leaned against the counter. “I got a disturbing call this morning from Grant Caruso at the State Police barracks and I thought I'd better come by and have a word with you before the State Police show up.”
“Yeah?” Boone sat down behind his desk and bit into the strudel. “What did we do now?”
“Well, I'm sure you didn't do anything but it seems one of your guests might have been distributing child pornography from one of your rooms.”
Boone put the strudel down on a napkin and stared at him. “You're kidding?”
“I'm not kidding. It seems Mr. Vickery got himself in some trouble last night.”
“What kind of trouble?” Boone took another bite of strudel.
“Well, that's the thing, nobody knows exactly how it happened but the state police got a call this morning from a truck driver who reported a man tied up in an old green Bonneville that was parked at the Roadside Rest out off Windfall.”
“Tied up?” Boone laughed. “Tied up in his own car.”
“Not just tied up but stripped naked, pretty badly beaten, and wrapped up like a Christmas package with duct tape.” Henry looked at his cousin and suddenly felt an odd but familiar shiver. “His hands were taped to the steering wheel; his mouth was taped shut; and the duct tape was wrapped around his chest, arms, and the back of the seat.”
“Sounds like he pissed someone off,” Boone said.
As they were talking, Lucius came through the door from the tavern, nodded to Henry, and drew himself a cup of coffee.
“Uh-huh.” Henry continued. “On the passenger's seat were a couple computers and an old digital camera with a slide show of naked kids.”
Lucius walked over and perched on the desk. “Sounds like one sick puppy to me.”
“No kidding,” Boone agreed. “Do they have any suspects?”
Henry looked back and forth between them. “Geez, Lucius,” he said. “What happened to your hand? You've got some nasty bruises.”
Lucius examined his knuckles and shrugged. “I whacked it while I was changing out the beer kegs in the bar. I'm not the tough guy I used to be.”
Henry closed his eyes for a second and decided he needed to get going—the sooner the better.

Thanks for reading.
I love both Gretchen and Gabe--they are both artisans who love creating beautiful things. Gretchen Fritz owns The Calico Cuckoo Quilting Fabrics and Supplies in Marienstadt in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall and The Christmas Daughter. Gabe Hawking is the quiet, good, devoted father and craftsman in Each Angel Burns. Both are good people with beautiful spirits.

from Each Angel Burns
She watched him from the doorway of the sacristy. Watching him was becoming a guilty pleasure that she relished. Though he was a big man, heavy shouldered and muscular, there was nothing about him that intimidated her. Rather he made her think of Michelangelo’s beautiful slaves writhing to release themselves from their imprisoning stone. Atlas, she thought, the slave the great sculptor called Atlas, bent under the weight of the world.

It was his hands that she liked the best. Though they were hard and densely muscled they knew how to caress the grain of the wood as he quietly and attentively rubbed layer after layer of oil into the thirsty oak. That was where the attraction lay—watching his care as he moistened a soft cloth with the dense oil and then slowly, meticulously rubbed it along the surface. He would stop to stroke it with his thumb checking if it was being absorbed properly and if the surface was thirsty for more. Those big hands were practiced at gauging the need of the surface they attended to.

He had been working in the chapel for several weeks and, though he was always polite and friendly when they spoke, he rarely revealed much about himself. On the nights he stayed over he would join her in the kitchen for dinner but the conversation was always about the work they were doing. He offered ideas as his work progressed but mostly he asked about what she was doing. He would look at her as she talked with unwavering interest. When she paused, feeling she had rattled on too much, he would ask a question that indicated he had been paying close attention and wanted to know more. She found his interest both flattering and overwhelming.

He was a man with quiet ways and was well-domesticated. He always left the guest room and the bathroom tidy. He had an impressive appetite and never hesitated over any dish she or the girls offered him. He drank his coffee without sugar but put milk in it, though he preferred cream. Once she realized that, she made sure there was always cream in the refrigerator.

He took loving care of his dog. 

from  The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall (April Special--Get all 11 stories for $1.99) 
Located on the corner of Main and Chestnut Streets, The Calico Cuckoo was one of the prettiest shops in Marienstadt with wooden window boxes full of whatever was appropriate to the season, and, in mild weather, rocking chairs along the deep front porch where husbands waited for their wives to shop or needleworkers sat and shared news while knitting, crocheting, or sewing.
Gretchen, a statuesque blonde who, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, had managed to avoid marriage to any of the local guys, was descended from two of Marienstadt's oldest families. Her father, Charlie, was the son of the Fritz family that founded the old brickworks out on Windfall Road, and her mother, Rebecca, was the daughter of Judah Winter, son of Jubal. From the time she was a girl Gretchen had one great love in her life – needlework. On a long-ago school trip to Lancaster County in southeastern Pennsylvania, she fell in love with the quilts displayed in shop windows and hanging on clotheslines. She used the entirety of her spending money for that trip to purchase a book titled “The Art of Amish Quilting” and from that moment on her destiny was unavoidable.
It was something of an irony that Gretchen's mother was of the feminist generation that regarded such practices as being beneath contemporary women. She raised her three children, Dan, Kristin and Gretchen, to be modern children unaffected by gender in both their education and play time. But, despite encouraging all of them to be active in sports, only Dan, who loved basketball, didn't disappoint her. From the time Kristin begged and cajoled her parents into buying her an Easy-Bake Oven instead of a bicycle she was completely preoccupied with learning to make muffins, cookies, and every new recipe she found. Gretchen, on the other hand, sneaked out of softball practice to attend a nearby 4-H meeting where the girls were learning to make aprons. Rebecca was devastated.

Thanks for reading.
I nearly forgot about the #atozchallenge this year!!! In April bloggers are challenged to post daily using the alphabet for their posts. This is from last year but now I would have to add Fred Sarginger from The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall--the Omnibus edition is $1.99 for the month of April!

Fred Sarginger is the former Chief of Police in Marienstadt who retired to buy his own tavern. He and his dog Gertie love hanging out in his bar.

 “Nice guillotine you've got,” Fred Sarginger pushed open the door of Dippold's Grocery. “You expecting a revolution?”
Candy Dippold looked up from restocking his vast penny candy counter. “It's a good thing to be prepared,” he said. “I've been expecting a zombie invasion for years.”
“I thought if you chopped off a zombie's head it would just pick it up and put it back on.” Fred walked over to the big red refrigeration bin in the center of the store that Candy kept stocked with soft drinks and slid open one of the glass lids. There was a silver bottle opener attached to the side and, though all the soft drinks now came with twist off caps, the sight of the opener always made Fred smile. “I've got quite a story for you.” He selected a bottle of Mountain Dew. “You're not going to believe this.”

He rolled the soda bottle back and forth between his big, beefy hands. Though average in height, Fred was nearly as wide as he was tall. He was not fat, but had always been a thick-set, hefty man with heavy shoulders and a deeply lined face that reminded people of a hound dog. His steel gray hair was cropped close to his head, and he had dark, impenetrable eyes that had once scared the b'jesus out of the various miscreants who found themselves in trouble. But despite all that Candy always thought of him as a kind man, more interested in helping people straighten out than in punishing them for misdeeds.

Fleur Laighton is an artist with very bad taste in men. Fritzi Wigglesworth is from a prominent Boston family and there's nothing she likes better than juicy gossip. Fleur is the main character in Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn and Fritzi is new--she's a character who writes a gossip column for a popular magazine in the next volume of Beacon Hill Chronicles, The Crazy Old Lady's Secret.

from Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn
That day when I went into the Pub, Norb was sitting at the bar with Turtle Brewster and a guy I'd never seen before.
“Hi, guys,” I said. “Okay if I join you?” I stashed my paint box and easel on a table and hopped up on the bar stool next to Norb.
“You don't have to ask,” Turtle said. “Give the young lady a gin and tonic,” he said to the bartender, a short, bored-looking woman I'd never seen before. She got up off the stool behind the bar where she had been reading a romance novel and reached for the bar gin.
“Use the good stuff,” Turtle said. “We don't want our princess drinking that rot-gut.”
I like being with the Geezers because they always buy me drinks and call me “young lady” or “princess” and make a fuss over me. I turned thirty last summer and haven't been real thrilled about that.
“Thanks, Turtle.”
“Good day painting?” he asked.
“Thanks,” I said to the bartender as she plunked down the drink in front of me. “Yeah, I think I got a good one today.” I turned to raise my glass to Turtle and that's when I saw Mitch St. Pierre looking at me. I felt like I was paralyzed. He had the most wonderful face I'd ever seen on a man.
Turtle,” Mitch said, nudging Turtle, and nodding in my direction.
Turtle put his drink down and then looked over at me. “Where's my manners?” he said. “Fleur, this here's a good customer of mine, Mitch St. Pierre. He come up here from Nahant to get another tattoo today. Mitch, this pretty lady is named Fleur. She's about the best darn artist in town and a real little honey bunch, too. You be nice to her.”
“Fleur,” Mitch said. “That's a pretty name.”
“My real name's Felicia,” I said. “But everybody calls me Fleur.”
“Well, Fleur, I'd like to buy you a drink.” He nodded to the bartender who was absorbed in her reading but looked up with annoyance. “Whatever the lady's having,” he said. “In fact give us all one. I had a good catch today.”
“Are you a fisherman?” I asked. He looked like someone who worked outdoors. He had huge, rugged hands, and sun-darkened skin even in the middle of March.

“Yeah,” he said. “Fish, lobsters, shrimp, scallops. Whatever there's the most of. I took today's catch to the fish auction in Gloucester and then come up here and treated myself to a new tattoo.” He pulled up his sweatshirt to expose an awfully nice looking abdomen. There was a bandage on his side. “I musta known I'd be meeting you today cause I got a rose.” He dropped his shirt and winked at me. My jeans felt tight and itchy and I knew how that day was going to end.

from The Crazy Old Lady's Secret
“Vivienne Quinn?”
Before Viv and Joe reached Marek they were intercepted by a woman who appeared to be the only person in attendance not wearing evening dress. She was middle aged with stylish ash blond hair and wearing an impeccably tailored silk suit.
“Fritzi.” Viv smiled at her. “I thought you’d be here. Let me introduce you to my husband. Joe, this is Fritzi Wigglesworth, the writer who interviewed me for the magazine article.”
Fritzi shook Joe’s hand and glanced at Viv. “I should have known you’d land a hunk. I never meet men like this.” She flashed him a dazzling smile. “Are there more where you come from?”
“I have five brothers.” Joe winked at her. “Two of them are single. If you don’t mind guys from Southie. Speaking of which…” He lowered his voice to a confidential tone. Fritzi appeared enthralled. “My wife and I were just speculating about where Marek Beaux got the dough for this gallery. We know him from a Southie gym—I never took him for an art dealer.”
“Really?” Fritzi’s eyes widened. “How long have you known him?”
“Oh.” Joe glanced at Viv who shrugged. “At least a few years. I’ve never said more than a few words to him but I know he was a member when we still used the old weight room and that had to be three or four years ago. Why?”

“That’s interesting.” Fritzi glanced sideways at Marek who was deep in conversation. “I only heard of him when he started the renovations on this building. I assumed that he was new in town.”

Thanks for reading!
There was a knock at my door and it turned out to be a Hollywood location scout giving us a 1 day notice of a movie shoot the next night in my neighborhood. The name of the movie "Manchester-by-the-Sea" which to me is ironic. I coached high school football in Manchester-by-the-Sea for 20 years and now a movie of that name outside my door step! First a few trucks rolled in just before dusk but
Ezra Winter in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall:Secrets of Marienstadt is a crusty, old fart in his 80s who can be both charming and infuriating, sweet and cynical. I know this character well--anyone who knew my father will recognize Ezra's personality.

From The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall:Secrets of Marienstadt 

Titus sat back in his chair and stared at the framed photographs that covered the opposite wall. He had learned the names of most of the men in those pictures when he was so small his father had to stand him on a chair to see them.
“This is your Grampa Silas,” Ezra said. “He was Great-grandpa Jubal's middle son. He was the one who took over the construction company when Grampa Jubal retired. This is your Great-uncle Judah. He was a merchant marine who traveled all over the world and wrote a famous book. This is your Great-uncle Mathias.” He pointed to a handsome man with slim little mustache and a leather helmet standing next to a bi-plane. “He was one of the first barnstormers.” And he would tell young Titus about his great-uncle's spectacular aerial feats of derring-do.
All the Winter men had exciting stories, it seemed. Ezra himself had been an engineer during the Second World War who had built bridges in the south Pacific Islands under the most perilous of conditions. He had survived malaria, attacks by native islanders, and being shot twice. Sometimes Titus felt a little bit inadequate next to his brave and daring forefathers. So when Winter Construction was set to celebrate its 100thanniversary, Titus decided to spend some time researching the life of the company's founder, Grampa Jubal. He planned to write a book for the anniversary. What a bad idea that turned out to be.
“What do you want to waste your time doing that for?” Ezra said when Titus proposed the idea.
“Come on, Dad, all my life you've told me stories about Grampa Jubal. How he was born up in Michigan and was a fisherman on Lake Huron and how he worked in logging camps and on the railroad. Wouldn't it be interesting to know more about his life?”
Ezra shrugged. At just past eighty he was a burly, weather-beaten man with a face that was still handsome and a full head of shimmering, snow white hair. He lived by himself in the house he built when he first married Titus' mother and where they raised their five children. She had died following a long battle with cancer a few years back and now Ezra lived alone. He made regular visits to his children, most of whom were married and lived nearby. He kept himself busy with old friends like Tater Feldbauer. They had played baseball together as boys and now spent their afternoons driving logging trails and reminiscing about how much better things used to be.
“How are you going to find anything out?” he asked, twisting the top off a bottle of Straub's. “I don't remember much about him other than what you already know.”
“You said he always told a lot of stories. I bet you know a lot more than you think you do.”
“I don't remember anything in partic'lar that I haven't told you. My dad used to talk about Grampa telling how he worked in logging camps when he was young. He talked about how thick the forests were in the Upper Peninsula. You could ask my uncle Mathias what he remembers but he's so full of shit I wouldn't believe much of it. If you're going to do that, you better do it soon cause he's pushing a hundred and could kick the bucket at any minute.” He took a long swig of beer.
Titus smiled. He'd never quite gotten used to Ezra's colorful way of expressing himself but he'd learned to have a sense of humor about it. “Things are different now, Dad. Lots of towns have their birth records online and you can go to and find out a lot of stuff.”
Ezra frowned. “What's all this dot com stuff? Do you really trust that?”
Titus laughed. “It's the internet, Dad. Maybe it's true and maybe it's not but wouldn't you like to know a little more about your own grandfather's life. Who his parents were and stuff like that?”
Ezra shrugged again. “Grampa said his father was a fisherman and a carpenter. So what?”
“Really? You never mentioned that.”
Ezra took another swallow of beer and thought about it. “It's not exactly a big deal. He didn't catch Moby Dick.”
“Well, I'd like to know more. Maybe we've got cousins in Michigan.”

Ezra snorted. “We've got more goddam cousins than we can count right here. How many cousins do you need?”

Thanks for reading!
While the main characters in a story are usually the most captivating, good strong supporting characters can make or break the story. One of my favorite supporting characters is Darby McMahon, the nosy but supportive artist from Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter and Ghosts of a Lighthouse in Autumn. Another is Dr. Anteaus Roosevelt Jones from The Crazy Old Lady Unleashed. Both of them are crucial to the development of the plot and both of them will be back in future stories.

 “Oh my stars and whiskers,” Darby said when I ran into him at Dave's Drive-Thru the next morning. “Don't you look like a well-screwed little strumpet this morning? You aren't just glowing, you're positively incandescent.”
“Shush,” I said but I couldn't stop smiling. I filled my thermos with Dave's coffee and added cream and sugar.
“Fleur,” he said, “you're walking bow-legged. When do I get to meet this stud-boy?”
“How did you find out?” I glanced up at him.
“This is Halcyon Beach, honey. You're lucky we didn't bring lawn chairs and popcorn and sit outside your bedroom window. Norb Turner told me how he left you and the heart-throb in the Pub last night and Riley Benton saw you going into your cottage with a big hunk in tow.”
“Riley called him a 'big hunk'?” Riley Benton was another of the Geezers. He and his wife used to own the arcade that was now called Jed's Playhouse.
“Of course he didn't but the minute Norb told me about him I figured it was the delicious morsel I saw getting a tat over at Turtle's yesterday afternoon. I hadn't seen an unfamiliar face in weeks and his wasn't one I'd forget.” He winked at me and gave me a friendly nudge. “Is his dick the size of a Foster's Beer can?”
Much to my chagrin I could feel the blood rising up my neck and turning my face scarlet. I ducked away but too late.
“Oh, sweet baby,” Darby said, wrapping his long arms around me. “Oh, you lucky, lucky little wench.” He hugged me. “You are going to paint a good one today, I can tell. Maybe you should go over to the amusement park and paint the Moon Rocket since you're all primed for it. I've got to get going but I'm dying to meet Mr. Foster's. Toodle-oo.” 

This is Sean Connery, not Doctor Jones, but I
think they would like each other as they have the
same taste in hats. And I did think of Sean Connery's
character as Indiana Jones's father when I was
creating Dr. Jones.
Seated in a wooden armchair pulled up to a reading table an elderly-looking gentleman carefully turned the pages of a newspaper. He wore a plaid woolen suit jacket over a crisp, white shirt, a red and gold bow tie, and a pair of wire-rimmed glasses.
“Dr. Jones?” I said in a soft voice. The newspaper room was one of the Athenæum's rarities—a quiet room where computers, laptops, and other such devices were strictly forbidden.
“Can I help you?” he squinted up at me, then, in deference to my gender, pushed himself to his feet. He had a narrow face which was so heavily wrinkled that there seemed scarcely anything unlined. His shimmering, snow white hair was neatly combed and his white mustache perfectly clipped. Behind his glasses were two obsidian eyes that sparkled in the light from the green-shaded reading lamps.
“Please,” I said, “don't stand. My name is Vivienne Lang. May I speak with you for a few minutes.”
“Of course, of course, but perhaps we should go out into the foyer. This is a quiet room, you know.” As he spoke he fumbled in his breast pocket for a small, leather folder. Taking it out he slipped a card of heavy vellum from it and handed it to me.
I glanced around. The only other occupants sat at a table at the far end of the room completely lost in their reading. I looked down at the card. In embossed Copperplate Gothic it read Anteus Roosevelt Jones, Ph.D., Professor of American Historyand below that a phone number with a Boston exchange. I slid into the chair opposite him and leaned closer. I noticed that the gold design on his tie was Harvard University's symbol.
“I don't want to disturb you but I wondered if there might be a time when I could chat with you about something rather unusual. Something having to do with the history of one of the old brownstones on Mount Vernon Street.”
He raised his eyebrows. “I was about to take a break for my mid-morning coffee. There's a little coffee shop a few doors down. Would you care to join me?”
“I'd love to,” I said.
He removed his glasses, folded them into a leather case that he tucked into a jacket pocket, then retrieved a suede newsboys cap from the chair next to him and settled it on his head. “I confess,” he said looking up at me as he rose to his feet, “that I think better with a cup of coffee in one hand and a jelly doughnut in the other.” He picked up a handsomely carved cane from the back of his chair. “Shall we?” he asked.

Thanks for reading!

Cece McGill from The Monday Night Needlework and Murder Guild and Calista Defarge from The Crazy Old Lady' Revenge and The Crazy Old Lady Unleashed would probably be the best of friends if they were ever in the same book. Both are older women with plenty of attitude. Both are avid knitters and neither one is afraid to speak her mind.

From The Monday Night Needlework and Murder Guild

Growing up with a doctor for a father and a mother who devoted her time to volunteering wherever she was needed, I had neither the opportunity nor the inclination to learn needlework. When I started college in Boston the word “hippie” was new to most people and it was only a few years after the famous Summer of Love. I majored in biology because my father had dreams of me following in his footsteps, but that was not to be.
Although Boston was little more than an hour commute from Pitts Crossing, I managed to convince my parents that, by sharing an apartment with three other girls, I would save commuting time and, thus, have more time to study. Maybe I would have wound up becoming a doctor if I had actually done that. However, what I did with those two hours, and quite a few more, was hang out in Cambridge or on Boston Common listening to music, talking, and smoking pot. I imagine the four decades worth of high school students I went on to teach would find that quite amusing—cranky old Miss Cecelia McGill, decked out in love beads and tie-dyed granny dresses, getting stoned out of her noodle on the swan boats in the Public Garden.

It was a time of experimentation for most of us: sexually (the less said about that, the better,) spiritually (my socially committed, Unitarian parents endured my fits of Buddhism and Wicca,) and politically (perhaps you would enjoy hearing about my relationship with Abbie Hoffman, but that will have to wait for another day.) 

From The Crazy Old Lady' Revenge

The sign over Madame Defarge's Knitting Basket showed a scary-looking woman in a mob cap standing in front of a guillotine as she knitted. A black wrought iron gate with elaborate scroll work guarded the steps down to the basement level shop and, as I pushed the door open, I noticed the words Calista Defarge, Prop.painted on it. Inside there was yarn everywhere – stuffed into the shelves lining the walls, heaped in baskets covering the floor, hanging in long hanks from the ceiling – all of it exploding with color. In the middle of the room was a grouping of plump armchairs gathered around a coffee table heaped with knitting books. Several women sat knitting.
“Can I help you?”
I turned toward the voice and found a woman who looked rather like the one on the sign. She had long gray hair pulled back and tied with a scarf, and a sharp-featured face with a nose that was hard to ignore. She sat perched on a stool, knitting.
“Is your name really Defarge?” I asked.
“It is now,” she said. “You don't look like a knitter.”
“I'm not.” The truth was I wasn't really sure why I was there but after the terrible events of yesterday, it seemed like anything we could learn about Nell's activities might prove useful. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the bag and receipt. “I know it was a long time ago but I wonder if you remember this woman.” I handed her the receipt.
“Twenty-years ago,” she said lifting a pair of glasses that hung around her neck on a string made of braided yarn. She examined it then handed it back. “Of course I remember her. She came in pretty regularly for years then one day she just disappeared. She had an accent. Irish or Scottish. If you know her name what do you want from me?”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “Just curious why everyone's so interested in her lately. She die or something?”

Thanks for reading.
Two of my favorite characters in my books are Boone from The Christmas Daughter and Baptiste from The Old Mermaid's Tale and they have quite a bit in common. Both have been bad boys all their lives--the musician Baptiste ran away from home to go to sea and Boone roared out of his home town on his Harley to become a rock band roadie. Both have also made it into their early forties without attachments until two lovely ladies come along. For Baptiste it is the sweet, loving Clair with whom he falls in love; for Boone it is his daughter Charity that he only just found out about.

From The Old Mermaid's Tale
And then it was time for Baptiste.
He need not have worried. Even before he began to play, as he sat rolling back his shirt sleeves over thick arms, the slanting rays of a blue spotlight seemed to carve him out of the darkness like one of Michelangelo’s Prigioneri. And when the first shower of silvery notes shimmered from his guitar and the cool smoke of his voice rose over the crowd, breaths were held and eyes widened. Each song, the sea ballads he had questioned the merit of, was met with wild applause.

From The Christmas Daughter
 “There's someone waiting for you in your office.” She grinned and nodded toward the door. He looked at her.
“Go see.” Her smile told him that whoever it was had brightened her day, but that was no guarantee that it would his. In fact, knowing Donna, it probably wouldn't. Resisting the urge to draw his gun, Henry walked toward his office. The door stood open but the interior seemed unnaturally dark. A large man stood in front of the office's sole window with his back to the room, blocking the light. He was as tall as Henry and considerably wider, wearing a black leather jacket and faded jeans.
“Can I help you?” Henry asked.
The man turned toward him with a sly smile. He had a rugged, weather-lined face and wore mirrored sun-glasses—when he removed them they revealed familiar blue-green eyes.
“Hey, cuz,” he said in a gravelly voice, “miss me?”
Henry hesitated, then recognition flooded him with pleasure. “Boone Wilde! I don't believe it. Where the heck did you come from?” He crossed the room in two steps, hand extended. Boone took it in a hippie-handshake—thumbs locked around each other—then put his massive arms around Henry and hugged hard, nearly lifting him off his feet.
“I pritneer didn't recognize you with that shiny star on your chest,” Boone said.
“I pritneer didn't recognize you without a beard down to your gut.”

“I don't have a gut.” Boone patted his stomach and he was right. He was a huge man but did not appear to have an ounce of fat on him. 
I completely forgot about the April A2Z Challenge #‎atozchallenge for bloggers when every day we blog about something beginning with that day's letter. So since today is A I'll say that A is for Anjelica Jupiter, the fifteen year old heroine of my mystery/suspense novel, Depraved Heart:

I returned from the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee and settled back down to work at the computer in my room when I sensed, more than felt, an infusion of energy I had not detected here before. Seconds later there was a light tap on the door frame and I turned.
Miss Hobbs, can I come in, please.”
I could not help smiling. It seemed that the graceful, elegant ballerina I saw so often in the paintings throughout these rooms had pirouetted out of the painting, changed into black lace leggings and a neon pink hoodie and trimmed her long hair into short, fluffy feathers.
Of course. You must be Anjelica.”
She grinned and perched on the damask chair next to my desk, pulling her bare feet up and crossing them under her. “Did my Dad tell you?”
He told me you were coming home but I would have recognized you anywhere I think.”
Because I look like my mother?”
Everybody says that. Did you know her?”
No, I’m new here but everyone who knew her said...” beautiful she was.” She completed the sentence for me. “People always tell me that.”
And what a wonderful dancer, too.”
You know what I was thinking today? If she was alive, she’d be over forty now. I wonder what she’d look like today.”
Oh, I bet she’d be beautiful still.”
Anjelica looked around the room and then leaned over and peered at the computer screen. “Are you online?”
Not at the moment, but I’m on and off all day.”
Do you have to be online for your work? Because when there’s a storm coming sometimes you can’t get on all day. It drives me crazy when that happens.”
I’ll bet. Do you have a computer of your own?”
Yeah, my laptop’s in my room, but I can check my email and text from my phone.” She pulled it out of her pocket and flashed it at me. I saw that the email icon and the text message icon were both flashing. “My Dad said I should tell you that I’ll help you any time you want me to. He says you might need someone to show you around the grounds.”
Yes,” I said. “That would be great. Do you know your way around?”
Sure,” she shrugged. “I spent every summer of my whole life here. There’s not a lot to do.” She cocked her head and studied me. “I like your hair,” she said reaching out and wrapping a strand around her fingers. “I wish mine was curly like that. It’s not.”
I love the way your hair is cut.”
Thanks. How old are you?”
I’m thirty-five.”
That’s not so old,” she said. “You’re younger than my Dad - my mother too. Well, you’re younger than she would be if she was still alive.”
I nodded.
It’s okay,” she said, “she died when I was a baby. I don’t remember her.”
That’s too bad.”
Is your mother still alive?”
Yes, both my parents are. They live in Salem.”
Do you like them?”
Yes, very much.”
Cool. Maybe they can come out here and visit us sometime.”
That would be nice, I’m sure they’d like that.”
She nodded and sat taking in the room then abruptly stood up. “I better go now. I’m going to walk down to The Village and say hello to everyone.”
That sounds like a good idea.”
See you later then.”
See you later.”
She started to leave but then turned back. “Oh, my Dad said to ask if you’d like to eat dinner with us tonight in the dining room.”
That would be lovely.”
He said to tell you six-thirty and it’s casual.”
Thank you.”
She stood for a minute studying me. “Do you like my Dad?”
Yes. I think he’s very generous and gracious.”
She smiled a beautiful, loving smile. “Yeah, he is, isn’t he?”
And, in a puff of fairy dust, she vanished.

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