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One Night, Before the Fall

copyright 2001, by Waif

Disclaimer:    The characters Rinaldo Pazzi, Romula Cjesku and Dr. Hannibal Lecter were created by Thomas Harris.  They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of admiration and respect.  No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this site.

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Romula Cjesku ran nervous hands through her hair, making sure she wasn't drawing unwelcome attention of the Pezzo novanta. He wasn't looking at her, though. He was still standing at the window, keening after his lost prey.

She didn't know who or what his quarry was…

Yes you do, Romula…

…and didn't want to find out. It was none of her business, and if you learned anything from life on the street, it was how to mind your business. It wasn’t official, that was for sure, or else why would the cop waste his time with her? Whatever the reason, it wasn’t her problem. She only wanted to escape this filthy situation with her child and her freedom. He’d promised her… out of jail; out of Firenze. Away from those terrible eyes.

Yet she was fascinated, against her better judgment and her will, by the cop and his strange obsession. What man is powerful enough to chase the Devil... and fool enough to think he’ll to walk away if he catches up to him? She watched his strong hands clench the window frame. Tendons stood out, betraying the strain brimming there. Romula’s sharp sense caught the scent of the hunter off him... and the hunted.

She shuddered, glad that Tadeus was safely at home with Esmeralda.

She stared down at the take-away meals he'd bought on the way back to this hideout he'd arranged for to watch the Shaitan. He'd opened the greasy cardboard box, but hadn't touched it... he was too far-gone to eat... far away pursuing his prey in his head. She'd not eaten either, too shaken by her encounter of earlier. She'd touched the Son of Morning and felt unclean, despite the holy water she'd used to wash her infant's eyes. The sight of the food turned her stomach.

She considered Pazzi again. He’d sent Esmeralda and the baby home. Why? Had he come to trust her, or was he simply sure of her? Both? Did he have some ulterior motive? She looked at the cheap electric clock that buzzed on the shelf by the door. The student who lived here should have been back by now, but she knew Pazzi had some sign he used to let the boy know not to come in, just in case he required the place at night. She felt bad, putting the kid out of his house, but it was the last thing he'd mention to him.

He'd given her no explanation of why they were here or for how long. Romula honestly thought he didn't know the reason. He was locked in despair over the botched job tonight and still planning his next move. Well, he didn't need her for that.

She looked longingly towards the bath and thought of asking his permission. It might feed his ego, but he was ignoring her and it was better that way. If she engaged him, the anger so clearly churning right under his skin might fly in her direction. After all, she had failed in what he asked her to do.

Best leave him to his mad vigil.

She rose quietly, eyes on him constantly, and half backed into the apartment’s small bath. Recalling that the door did not creak, but caught stiffly at one spot, Romula pushed it only partly closed. An eye to the gap showed her that Pazzi still wasn't paying her any mind and she turned, relieved, and ran the shower.


Rinaldo Pazzi, a Pazzi of the Pazzi, looked with out the window with an unfamiliar and bereft longing. His city was red in the setting sun. No, his mind amended, not his anymore. He'd traded it for the promise of three million pieces of silver. He wasn't selling Christ, of course, not at all. He was selling the devil. That ought to be ennobling… but it was not. The motivation was greed just the same and the metaphor had teeth for him.

His cell phone jarred, pulling him from his thoughts. He tore his gaze from the sight of the sun drowning in the Arno. He had not blinked for watching it and a stinging scarlet haze clouded his vision. With sour irritation he pulled the device from his breast pocket. Any other ring he'd have ignored… he did not want to talk to anyone… but it was the special ring he'd set for Allegra. He’d chosen the most strident tone in the phone’s small vocabulary, on the grounds that he’d be more certain to hear it, even if distracted. If there was deeper meaning behind this, Pazzi did not consider it. In a reflex more natural to him than blinking, he thumbed the talk button and raised it to his ear.

"Si, Cara." he said, hiding as always, any hint of tension from her. He did not like her to think of him as tense.

"Rinaldo!" She sounded happy, breathless. "The tickets just arrived in the post! They're perfect!" Despite himself, Pazzi beamed a little at the pleasure in her voice.

"That's fine, Allegra. I'm glad. What will you wear?"

He knew well what she’d be wearing; she'd bought it just two days past and a staggering cost. But he liked to hear her describe it, the pleasure it had bought her, how she would accessorize it.

On this point, his wife willingly indulged him.

As she did so, adding a coquettish and artful demand for shoes into the bargain, Pazzi suddenly remembered the gypsy. He turned and was surprised, not only to find himself alone, but that he hadn't heard her go. She was a strange one… made of shadows and bitter wisdom.

Normally he hung on Allegra's very words, but now his attention flagged as she sketched the humiliation of seats in the next to last row at Don Giovanni last month. It was a familiar, well-loathed tale. The Gypsy’s things were still here, and, as distracted as he’d been, she couldn't have left the apartment without his knowing it… and she wouldn’t dare to do so. After all… where would she possibly go where he could not reach her?

He held the cell phone away from his ear and caught the sound of running water.

She's washing off his touch.

It made sense. Hannibal Lecter was a monster. True she didn't know for certain, and Pazzi didn't believe in superstitions about cards and crystal balls. But a Roman Catholic who's passed his life in Italy is as near pagan as any creature on earth, and he granted that maybe she did have the sight... or a piece of it.

"Rinaldo?" Allegra's voice sounded unlovely and a bit shrill. Perhaps, he thought, it was the fault of the phone. "You're not listening to me!" she said, with petulant irritation.

Pazzi did not get angry with his wife.

It wasn't that anger was missing from his nature, or that his beautiful, demanding darling was incapable of rousing it... this restraint was hardwired into him from their first meeting. Like his determination never to disappoint her, it grew from a troubling fear that if he did these things, the fortunate stars that made her look his way might darken.

"Forgive me, my love. A case is..."

"Si, si," she said, disdainful and impatient, "always a case. You work too hard."

In the mouth of another man's wife, he thought, that would seem kind… an acknowledgement of the work that went to keeping her. Rinaldo Pazzi tried very hard to hear to such benediction, but caught only a slight affront at the inconvenience of having a husband who must actually work in the world for the money for bread and shoes, dresses and opera tickets.

"I'm sorry," he spoke gently and without betraying a trace of rancor. "I'll make it up to you."

"Emmm, all right," she said, warming slightly, "now I must go, love. I'm late to the spa. Ciao."

She rang off.

Pazzi was shocked at the immense surge of resentment he felt. Normally he was master of such feelings, and when directed at her, they never saw daylight. Now they bubbled blackly, like poison in a witch's cauldron. He’d done this thing, committed to this life-altering course not only to salvage his tattered reputation. He had embarked on this dangerous road to keep her... in both senses. Suddenly he saw the power he’d given her, and how easily and willingly she’d taken it and used it. He turned back to the window, gripping the sill, willing the impotent rage into the unfeeling wood.

A protruding nail surprised him tearing at the fleshy mound of Venus on his palm. It left an ugly little flap of a wound, the sort that hurt worse than it should. There was a grayish smudge at the edge of the cut. He looked up. The culprit nail wore traces of cobweb and rust.

Pazzi swore elegantly, and stalked toward the bathroom to cleanse it, the imperiousness inherent in his nature making him disregard, without consideration, the Gypsy woman's occupation.


Romula, happy to feel clean again, wrapped herself in the largest towel she could find in the small linen cupboard. She used another on her damp black hair and contemplated her clothing. Practical, both by nature and necessity, she was still not anxious to don those same garments. She had no choice in the matter but she was not eager to rush.

The linen cupboard was behind the door, so she was almost entirely out of view when the cop entered. Undue modesty was not a feature of Romula's nature, but she grasped the edge of the door anyway, using it like a shield. True, she was decently covered by the towel, but still she felt her skin flush hot.

"Mi scusi, Commendatore!"

He mumbled an apology and went to the sink, turning the hot faucet with his right hand and placing his left under the spout. She came around the door slowly.

He is bleeding. A terrible sign.

Romula crossed herself, afraid all over again.

She could trust Esmeralda to do what was necessary to protect her son, and now that he was safely away much of her own fear had ebbed. She acknowledged a sense of gratitude toward Rinaldo Pazzi for that favor and the site of his blood troubled her. It rang alarms so deep that her heart went out to him a little. Now that the scent of her own fear wasn’t quite so strong she caught his. The tension she’d seen before had grown; it was eating him from inside.

Pazzi was Polizia, and not just an ordinary pig. Il Commendatore… powerful. Over her ungentle days he held more power than anyone but God. And though she'd looked the Devil in the eye tonight, it had not occurred to her that the cop might lose. Cops didn’t lose.

But if the Shaitan wanted him dead then he would certainly die. She looked up from his hand and met his eyes in the mirror. The Commendatore looked tired and ill with distress. He was Pezzo novanta, a "little big shot" but there was a ragged nobility about him. Something about him spoke to her, sounding somewhere all her hard won cynicism couldn’t reach. Romula realized that she was afraid for him. Afraid he was doomed.

Fortuna malata! Avert your eyes.

Romula did not avert her eyes.

“È serio?” she asked, stepping to him.

“No. È niente. Non importa.”

But it was not nothing. It heralded something terrible, Romula was certain.

Slowly, as if he might strike her, or worse, might laugh in her face, she went to his side. Her face serious, she took his injured hand in both of hers. Bloodied water pooled in his palm as she held it. She spit, delicately onto the tips of the fingers of her right hand and pressed them against the wound. She closed her eyes and whispered a blessing.

Still fearing his scorn, perhaps, or her own at the odd motion of her feelings, she was hesitant to raise her head, but when he didn't laugh, or pull his hand away, she dared a look up.


The gesture had been too fluid and too utterly unexpected for Pazzi to react. When her large dark eyes turned to him they were braced for contempt, but she needn't have feared it. He was moved, even humbled at her gesture. And though it's meaning eluded him, it's significance did not. Her people were not generous with their blessings to strangers.

He saw that her fear was not only of the ridicule she'd come to expect. She was afraid of him, of course. This he had expected and used it to get what was needed. She wasn't a woman to him, but an expedient, and his power on her was a useful tool. While this did not precisely please him, he could not deny a certain attraction in it.

Pazzi was a visual thinker, and always held a mental picture of the expression he wore in his mind... like a mirror he didn't need to carry. It showed him the look on his face and when to change it.

A desirable skill in lovemaking and interrogation.

He let his face soften, allowing his respect and acknowledgement of her blessing show. He was granted with an uncertain smile, one that did not come from a street wench's repertoire of tricks.

He remembered her, the tired but smart woman he'd watched so carefully in Sollicciano. She’d sat, sizing him up, trying to get his number. Afraid for her baby and for the contraband she was smuggling. It read clearly to him beneath the practiced hardness. Though he'd not thought of her much beyond her talents and immediate use, her helplessness had been... satisfying… on some level, he’d enjoyed it. He knew she would do exactly what her asked of her because she had no choice. He also saw, beneath the weary cynicism, a wretched, naked hope. Maybe he'd offer her a way out. But what did he want her for? A snitch? A whore?

The last had shamed him a little. He remembered her feeding the child, and the hint of flesh she’d let him see. He’d looked, who would not, but the sight of her hadn’t moved him then. Now she was vulnerable again, and he was not indifferent. He saw the way her fine shoulders were dotted with tiny beads of water. Small runnels trickled from her hair and spent themselves at the towel’s rim. He saw the towel, very white against her dark skin, was tucked under itself, and only loosely. His senses were heightened and something in him, something very tightly wound, began to unravel.

Looking back to her face he saw that she was biting her lip. Terrible hunger came on him, seeming to rise from her damp skin with the light scent of gardenias. Her hands were cool on his, still hot from the water.

Yes, today the Commendatore had greater cause for shame.


When he pulled her to him Romula responded without thinking. It was so very good to be touched... it had been so very long. When news of the baby came, the father left, and good riddance to him. Still, it had been some time... and longer since anything that felt this good. His mouth was on hers and her body caught fire, aching for him. She pushed the confusion away and put her arms around him. She was hungry for him, too, and if she thought too much she would spoil it.

The voice in her head wouldn’t stop, though. It mocked her even as he crushed her against him and she felt his hardening length pressing into her.

Is this how it is, turning fool at this late date? Look at you! Falling for a cop who’d turn you over in a second! You think he’d have saved you if the Shaitan wanted your soul?

She returned his passionate kiss urgently, trying to block the words with sensation.

You knew it all along. Go ahead and give him what he wants, enjoy it if you like… just don’t be stupid... you know the rules… you’re not one of his and you never will be.

No, she thought, despairing.

He doesn’t like you, Romula… he doesn’t even see you... you’re just a warm place to put it... a whore he doesn't have to pay... a woman who can't say no.

That isn't true!

But she didn’t believe her heart’s despairing voice… the other one was stronger... it spoke her native tongue of acrid misanthropy. It had saved her life on more than one occasion and the instinct to follow it was too engrained. Without a fight, she slipped into the safety of her role where nothing from outside could touch her, hearing her own final sentence ringing in her mind.

Better a whore than a fool.

She angled her body till her bottom rested on the rim of the sink and pushed herself back, hooking her index fingers into his belt loops, pulling him towards her and thrusting her hips forward towards him.

“Come on, Eminenza,” she said with a playful leer. “Fuck me good and hard. Or aren’t there any bullets in your gun?”

The slap was quick and sharp and Romula didn’t see it coming. It stung, but she’d been hit harder. She sensed he might have hurt her very badly if he’d loosed the rage he was feeling.

Even as she reeled, his other hand twined in her hair and pulled her back. He was stepping away from her, looking her up and down with the lewd, gutter appraisal she feared he was hiding all the time.

“Quanto? Eh?” His tone and hurtful eyes stung Romula far more than his hand had. Hot tears sprang into her eyes.

Well? How much? You are for sale, no?”

If it was true the tears wouldn’t have come, or they would have been pretended to get the mark to go easy on her.

But the tears weren’t fake.

“You like to hurt, yes?” Romula spat, defiantly. “That's why you have to take women out of jail?”

She dropped her head, unwilling to let him see her tears fall. She’d shown too much already.

“Look at me!” he growled, and when she did not, he seized her wrists, spun her around and shoved her against the tiled wall, very hard this time.

“Non comportarsi la donna del’ strada!” he said, grip tightening. He held her pinned, standing very close but not touching her body with his.

“Don’t play that with me, Romula...” His throat tightened, and his growl was choked with bitterness. “I have a whore already.”

A touch of his pain reached through her pretense. Romula cursed herself.

Mi dispiace!” she moaned softly, trying to bury her face against his shoulder. “I don’t want it to be that way! I only…”

He pulled her away from him, shook her.

“Look at me! What do you want?”

“I’m sorry.”

Tell me,” he whispered, voice growing passionate without losing the edge of anger. He dropped his head, letting his mouth graze her ear. “Look at me, tell me… what do you want?” His breath was hot on her flesh and her longing, never quite gone, deepened.

He let her wrists go, bracing his hands against the wall on either side of her face. She looked up at him, fear and confusion out of mind now as he lowered his mouth to her throat.

“Please…Rinaldo, make love to me.”

She put one hand behind his and let the other caress his face. Her touch was different now, and they both knew it. After a sweet interval she broke from him and sought his eyes.

“Vieni.” she said, tenderly, and led him to the bedroom.


Romula lay on the bed, moaning into his mouth, and tried to pull him on top of her. She’d tried to wait patiently as he disrobed, eyes devouring her the whole time. His anger at her sluttish way was still fresh and she tried to be patient when he’d dropped to one knee beside her and drawn her to him. He was already rock hard and she reached for him, but he took her wrist again, forcing her hand away firmly. She would wait for him, it seemed. She braced on her hands, waiting until he came for her.

He ran his hands in her hair, tracing the shape of her skull. He caressed her face, only slowly bringing his mouth to hers. His kiss was forceful, too, and his tongue invaded her, thrusting into her mouth and making her long for another kind of intrusion. He tasted her back and shoulders with his hands and only after he’d touched all her exposed flesh did he draw away long enough to pull at the towel open and reveal her.

He stayed a moment, eyes feasting on her body. Romula flushed under his scrutiny, hot and embarrassed simultaneously. She was no fashion model, though that had never troubled her before… but her child had needed to be cut out of her body and he was the first man to ever see the ugly scar. If it troubled him, however, he gave no sign, gazing as if at Venus herself. He leaned and cupped her heavy breasts, careful not to touch her nipples. With his thumbs he drew loose circles, slowly tightening towards the centers. She bit her lip and let him tease her, watching his face, intense and hungry, as he caressed her. He looked up to catch her looking at him.

“You’re very beautiful, Romula.” His fingers reached the edges of her nipples, the flesh already wrinkling in anticipation, but went no further. He kept eye contact with her, daring her to betray her frustration. Her breath was quick and shallow as the sensation enveloped her, causing sweet warmth to spread through her body. She was wet, eager, and impatient, but his leisurely progress was wonderful torture and she would let it last as long as his will.

When she least expected, he darted down and captured her sensitive nipple in his mouth, bringing a gasp of pleasure from her. She wanted, needed to be touched everywhere at once. After a moment he switched to the neglected breast, leaving a trail of wetness as his fingers replaced his mouth. He let his teeth graze gently in time with a firm pinch, followed by the gentlest caress. The alternating sensations were driving her to madness.

He explored her with his free hand, brushing lightly over her stomach skirting the V of black, and running lightly over her thighs. She parted them eagerly and he stroked up and down, stopping higher and higher each time. She ground against the bed in desperate frustration.

As if reluctant, he gave her breast a final kiss, finishing the touch with a whisper of warm breath that resonated all throughout her body. Now he drew his mouth slowly down, licking the flesh over her ribcage. She ran his hands through his hair, able to resist urging him down only by sheer willpower. If her wanted her demure, she would do her best to comply. Then he reached her belly and she uttered a broken moan and shuddered.


He licked her navel, then turned his head back and forth, making her tremble, his beard scratching lightly, the softness of his lips soothing, after. She felt his hands move down the backs of her thighs, pushing them up and apart, opening her to him. He moved, switching his mouth to the inside of her thigh, where he bit her lightly, starting just above the knee and moving slowly, inexorably, up, hands advancing, closing the remaining distance. Entwining his fingers in her soft black fleece before moving his hand lower, he finally brushed the length of her damp slit.


She was drenched, and her moisture was the finest China silk on his fingers. Pazzi’s control was ebbing… he was painfully aroused, needing to touch, devour, to be inside her, all at once. He brought his glistening fingers to his mouth letting the musk and spice taste of her break his will. He’d meant to use his hands alone a while longer, but lust overcame him and he bent, pulling and lifting her towards his mouth at the same time. She moaned his name over and over as he let his tongue dart in, parting her sweet flesh. He inhaled her scent deeply, knowing this moment would stay with him forever.

He drew his tongue up her cleft, skimming light and shallow with little pressure. She undulated, rocking her body to bring him into closer contact, but he held her fast where he wanted her, repeating the journey over and over, slowly, but with growing force, each time just a little deeper. She thrust against his hold, hands moving from his head to grip the bed’s edges, body tensing and rising off the bed. He stopped abruptly on the deepest stroke, stopping just before he reached the apex, delighting in her desperate moans and gasped pleas for release.

Almost, he thought, yes, and thrust his tongue into her, at the same time pulling her body up towards his mouth, as close as possible. Her flesh tightened at this intrusion he knew she was ready. He repeated the trusting, deeply as he could, hearing her gasps, rising in pitch and volume, at each repetition. When he judged that another would finish her, he changed course, suddenly sucking her hot, hard peak into his mouth and filling the void he’d left with two rigid fingers. She screamed his name, body stiffening, her hot flesh clasping at his thrusting fingers with dizzying tightness as her climax racked her.

He maintained his attentions through her little death, each time gentler, aware of how sensitive she was now. He stopped slowly, soon enough to raise his head and catch a part of the sight of her pleasure. Seeing her come down from the height of it was an ultimate seduction. Her eyes were huge and her dark skin rouged by the flush of heat. If she’d been beautiful before, she was a Goddess now. He licked his lips, tasting her again, and moved to take her.


Romula had never felt such passion with a man, and never thought she could still hunger after such vehement pleasure, but she now grew weak at the feeling of his weight on her. When he was poised above her she took is face in her hands.

“Look at me,” she whispered fiercely. I want to see your eyes when you fill me.”

Pazzi sank into her, drowning in the depths of her eyes as he reveled in her searing heat. She wrapped her still trembling legs around him, holding him to her and tightening around him. He uttered a deep, guttural moan and she knew he was fighting to keep control before another thrust. She wouldn't need long, the feeling of his rigid hardness inside her was too much. Even still she could feel another climax building fast.

When he could, he moved inside her, taking her breath away with the savage need in his eyes, the pressure of his hands on her, the depth he'd reached. She broke from his eyes and found his mouth, wanting as much of him as possible. He penetrated her, mouth and body, in violent synchronicity. It was too much... Romula stiffened again, fingernails digging into him and crying his name, as she detonated in a fiery crest of pure physical joy.

Her first contraction triggered him and he erupted inside her and she felt his seed escape. With what control she had, Romula milked him of his essence, taking relish in this ultimate intimacy. He never stopped kissing her, mouth, throat, shoulders as he held her, letting the wild storm risen between them subside. It was a long and dulcet time before Romula heard only the quieted beating of their hearts.

An irrational melancholy struck her.

He’ll pull away now... he’ll come to his senses.

The miraculous connection they'd made would fall and scatter in the wind, like ashes after a raging fire. She pushed it away, submersing herself in memories of passion. What would be, would be... to let it ruin this moment must be a sin.


Perhaps an hour had passed, when he felt her rise. He'd held her close in sleep and wakened now, watching her graceful silhouette move against the rising moon that lit the curtained window.

“Buona notte.”

He’d startled her and she drew a quick breath.

“Sorry to wake you. I should go.” He could hear the old distance returning to her voice

She thinks I’m going to tell her to get out. She wanted to say it first.

“No,” he said softly, reaching for her, sad at the thought of waking without her. “No, stay with me.”

He couldn’t see her expression, but there was gentle surprise in the angle of her head and the set of her shoulders. She sat on the edge of the bed and reached towards him.

“You don’t have to say that, Signore,” she said kindly. Her hand found his face and caressed it. Pazzi felt his face warm at the sudden, intense memory of spending himself in the velvet night of her flesh.

“Don’t,” he said, wounded at her formality. He took her hand, started to reassure her.

She shushed him.

“I’m no fool, Signore, I know there can’t be more between us.” He tried to protest, but she went on. “No. I know this wasn’t just some quick f--- for you, I don’t mean that at all.” She brushed her fingers over his lips. “It meant a lot to me. I… fell in love with you a little. I’ll never forget.”

She paused. Now he heard a tear in her voice “But other than this…”

“Romula,” he said, and faltered. Because she was right … somehow he knew that this was all there was for them.

Still, he couldn’t, wouldn’t relinquish her so easily.

“You can’t…”

“Va bene, Signore, I’ll still help you. And not because I'm afraid of you.”

“No,” he said, sitting up. “We’ll get someone else.”


“No!” He hissed. And because he would have told her why, he stopped himself. He knew he would lose her, but not lose her to Hannibal Lecter. “He’s seen you. We’ll find someone else.”

Her shoulders sagged a little and he realized what she was thinking.

“Romula, you’re safe. You and your son. You know that, don’t you?”

She said nothing and her silence sliced at his heart. He felt shamed that he’d used her, that everyone had used her, to the point where she could believe nothing else was possible. Shamed for the sort of man who would have returned her to jail after tonight.

“You still think I’ll send you back.” His voice was hollow.

I don’t know,” she said miserably, tears falling now.

Rinaldo Pazzi would have rather have died of shame than realize that he might have been just this sort of man.

“Romula, don’t, please,” he pulled her close. “On my life.” He thought she relaxed, though he heard a sinister voice chime in his head.

And exactly what is your life worth, Commendatore?

As if to confirm this, he felt her trying to keep from responding, trying to hold onto the shell that was her only hope of dignity and protection.

“I swear it, Cara, no matter what. But say that you’ll stay.” After an endless pause, he felt her arms slip around him.

“Yes, Rinaldo,” she breathed, controlling a little sob. “I never wanted to go.”

He kissed her mouth rather let a promise of love escape his lips. He felt it now, but the morning would come and nothing was certain.

"Sleep in my arms. You’re safe, Romula, and I won't lie to you."

He pulled her closer, desperate now, not merely for her body, but for something else. Something more.

Feeling her surrender, he whispered "I need you.” into her mouth.

Beyond these several truths, Rinaldo Pazzi could promise her nothing.


copyright 2001, by Waif

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