2010-08-14: X-Rated



Guest Starring:

Dr. Bonham and Jen

Date: August 14th, 2010


The investigation of the copycat proceeds to lead Maggie and Laurie around the city for autopsies and interviews, rendezvous and cake. Just another Saturday…?

Previously: Xerox


Office of Chief Medical Examiner

The bruised body is laid out on the cold steel examination table, covered partially by a blue sheet. Here, the decimation of the dead woman's face is just as macabre as it was in the alleyway, but under the bright lights, surrounded by the clean fixings of the lab, it takes on a clinical tone, a strange experiment laid out for study. The deeply carved, and slightly jagged, X stands alone; the victim's pale skin is otherwise fairly clean of evidence, save for the bruises that travel elsewhere.

"Lacerations were made post-mortem," states a woman's voice: the ME, looking down at the body through a chic pair of thick-framed rectangular glasses, a bright shade of magenta against her dark skin. Expensively dressed under her lab coat, she exudes an air of elegance, a feat while leaning over a dead body. "I'm still determining the object used to make them. I know what killed her, though — that would be strangulation. See here— " A touch to the victim's neck with a gloved hand. "Belt marks. The hyoid bone was fractured. Something fierce." She looks up, clearly expecting comment.

Across the way — and behind a counter — and basically far away as possible while still being able to see perfectly clearly, Maggie has the good grace to look briefly sheepish and put down the carton of chocolate milk she'd been sipping through a straw like a five year old — albeit much more quietly than a child. "And at the wrists? It looks like she was tied up."

"That would be correct. Rope burn."


It's hummed out of the consultant as absently as the stance he's adopted, the most recent in a line of temporary fixtures from when he's had to step out of the path of the ME. Now opposite her near the head of the body, he leans right into that example of mutilation, his own previously split cheek resting against the pale blue of his gloved knuckles, putting him altogether closer to the cold, distorted woman's face than would seem comfortable.

"Binding, beating, humiliation— " Knuckles adjust, pressing more firmly near his mouth, stabilizing him to lift the other hand also towards those belt marks, two fingers drawing backwards from the neck in the noose-like motion the murder weapon might have taken. "It's about having complete control over another person, not just how they died but exactly," the blue fingers pinch together, prelude to the fist that he makes, jerking backwards from the body — invisibly choking her again, "how they felt right before." His eyes never wander from those closed ones of the silenced victim, burrowing in to be there for those last moments. See what she saw. "Schaffer only strangled from behind because he had a mirror where he could make sure to see the life leaving his victim's body, as well as feel."

Hand easing away from its imaginary death-grip, he straightens off the table, acknowledging the rest of the room, but namely the ME. "Signs of rape?"

"None," confidently states the ME who, in light of the consultant taking his turn to make observations, has stepped back, her arms folded neatly. One gloved hand raises to make a small, light, and somehow urbane gesture. "I'd almost expect it, with an assault like this, but I'm not the mind expert. Time of death was about eight hours ago. Some of these markings are older than that though. By at least a day."

"So he held her for awhile." Maggie makes her way around the counter she'd stationed herself behind, where she'd listened and watched every rather disturbing observation and movement of the others over the body. She moves to the farthest end of the table farthest from Laurie and the ME. Unlike them, her hands are bare; she can see what they see well enough without poking and prodding the victim herself. The detective's purpose is not a closer examination; though her eyes are fixed down, her gaze is distant from the details now, thoughtfully focused on a larger whole. "It mostly tracks," she addresses the consultant more than the examiner, her eyes lifting in prompt. "With Schaffer. It fits. Doesn't it?"

"Right," the comment could veer towards either woman, belatedly injected as it is, but Laurie's glance up from body to person is once again directed at the ME. "Schaffer had problems performing. It made him angry. No, the only release he got," the blue glove touches that torn cheek, toeing the line between smooth skin and completely cut, "was from killing them. Which made them useless and— he'd have to start again."

Conclusion in this last line is casual, summed up, succinct. He very nearly slaps his hands together, but stops short, fingers curling under wrist to begin pulling off one glove than the other as he steps around the clinical slate elevating the dead woman. A glance pinpoints Maggie just long enough to indicate her as the recipient of the next information, "In the way of a child tracing a picture they like. No presence of fluids," a liberal but confident elaboration on the ME's statement, though accompanied by a confirming look in her direction, "means she wasn't a working girl. The clothes, the pose, the hesitation in the facial cuts— " his face pinches in slightly, almost distasteful, mostly unreadable, "Remorse."

Gloves removed and disposed of, he stops himself short of scratching the back of his head — saving the floor from green remnants. "At this point," he tells Maggie, looking at her squarely, palms pressed to the edge of another unused counter, "You can float the theory that he only mimicked a famous killing to make the public frenzy and look the other way. You won't know until— " shifting of weight from hand to hand is no indication of wiggle room in the voice, "There's another body."

Every observation of Laurie's is taken in watchfully by the detective, processed, accepted without cheer — but the proposed theory doesn't sit well with the Maggie, whose arms fold more tightly and stiffly than that of the ME who lingers nearby. "Or," she begins to suggest, flatly, "we find him before another body shows up. First we have to figure out who he killed." A frown ghosts her lips as she glances down at the victim.

Maggie's tightened pose doesn't last long, though her tension is longer-lasting. She reaches behind her to retrieve something from the back pocket of a pair of black denim pants — a folded paper, which is handed toward the Medical Examiner. "Eighty-six women reported missing in the state of New York… sixty-eight are Caucasian… twenty-three of those are between twenty and thirty years old. Only one was reported missing within the last three months, two days ago. Eleanor Epstein, twenty-seven. Could she be our victim?"

The ME opens the paper to study the information thereon, which seems to propel her gradually toward the end of the table while she reads; Maggie moves opposite, nearer Laurie. She's quiet for a moment, looking at the body before — gaze unmoving — she says: "The hesitation, the… remorse. This is probably his first time. With this. Based on what you see — how long do you think he'll wait before he tries again? Your … analysis; can you tell if he's likely to follow Schaffer's timeline?"

Laurie's hand lifting off the counter is in full acknowledgment of the validity of Maggie's suggestion, and his body language and eyes mark the detective, following her with subtle shifts as she nears so that they are facing — even when she's not. "Victimology is important," he comments, expecting this not to come as news to the detective. His arms remain loose where the women are crossed and he sorts fingers along the lines of his pockets, "Did he regret because he knew her, or because he's still getting a feel for the kill. There could be a long cooling off period, especially if he has a trophy to relive the crime. Or he could devolve into more extreme violence because he isn't the calculated sociopath that Schaffer is."

Though patient in tone, he inhales deeply and somewhat unhappily afterward, knowing there was no concrete answer within. "It isn't inconsequential that it took Schaffer a month between his first and second kills. In a month, Schaffer will be dead… If this is a fan," again, that scrunch of the nose — at once thoughtful, and hateful, "Schaffer's egotistical and meticulous. He'll want to control every aspect of his own image, including a copycat. If he hasn't be in contact with this person already…" A vague shrug, not for the sentiment but what it is outwardly suggesting, "He'll try to."

Maggie's eyes narrow slightly, a dark look that follows the routes her mind takes. "So it… might be worth actually speaking to Schaffer," she says with some reluctance. "If we could just be everywhere at once." A thoughtful comment, wistful more than it is a complaint; likely a wish of investigators everywhere, but that's why they have manpower. Regardless: "I wish there were two of you." … A statement which is automatically reconsidered, prompting Maggie to look Laurie's way and cant her head to one side in a slightly lighter quality— "We— ell…"

The ME, meanwhile, has carefully lifted up the end of the sheet covering the victim up to the thigh. "She has a tattoo," she states. "Whoever filed the report put it down as a distinguishing mark. Voila…" A hint of ink — vines, roses? — is revealed, trailing out under the edge of the fabric. "…pretty distinguishing, if you ask me."

Fresh off of some train of thought he wasn't aiming to share with the class, Laurie shoots Maggie the look that she properly deserves for such an observation: you're crazy, and how. It takes this long, plus through the ME's observations, for him to reach the full mock processing of this secret the detective has aired, and as attention and steps are once again routed to the dead body, he stays behind to finish that speculation with a drooping mouth. "So you could strangle the other one…?" Though muttered, it's not really as soft as would be respectful to the actually strangled woman's body nearby.

Trailing fingers along the counter despite their now uncovered status, the consultant moves a ways towards his original position to give the tattoo a good squint. But little more than that; it's mostly a distraction for when he comments, "Save the wish. You can't actually speak with Schaffer," a sideways look for Maggie while he's leaning still, then repeated straightening, "He's written an exclusive guest list."

For his strangle comment, what begins on Maggie as barely a flicker of a smile — maybe a smirk — is outweighed by the look Laurie receives as she follows alongside to the table: a quick, chastising side-glance that serves as a call for decorum.

"He shouldn't have the rights to an exclusive guest list," she voices, an opinion spoken as fact. Curiosity is aimed at Laurie afterward; almost suspicious, almost. "You've really been following the case after the fact." Then, switching tracks: "If this is Eleanor Epstein — she worked at a small law firm as a receptionist. Innn… Midtown, I think — Canso & Crowley? Her roommate reported her missing when she didn't come home from work. I'd like to check out her place."

The ME pipes up, as if reminded of something or other. "Mm, another thing…" she hands the paper back to the detective and drifts on high heels toward a small metal tray on which a few items sit bagged in plastic. A pinstripe pattern can be seen through the sheen of plastic in the bag of folded clothing the examiner lifts. "I wasn't always the best dressed in the room." A fussy dark-eyed glance briefly travels up and down Laurie and his paint-splattered self. Detective Powers is, apparently, not worth the fashion consideration at all. But back to the matter at hand: "Her clothes are designer, pretty high-end. Seriously expensive. For a receptionist. I should know; I own this skirt in aubergine."

Decor— what? Or so the return look Maggie receives would have her believing. "I've been reading," Laurie expresses evenly, with no flutter of defensiveness, "The newspaper has been following. And I knew I was on Schaffer's list when he sent us all invitations."

Sheepishness otherwise unbelievable on his face surfaces for the ME's glance, his t-shirt. A tinted sage hand flexes subconsciously and then gives a tug at the bottom of his shirt, pulling it out for his own observation with a look as though considering its worth. After replacing and smoothing the fabric, he leans in close — conspiratorially close — to the detective. "That's a purplish-brown." Cues in the man who claimed not to understand decorum.

Then he rooooocks back to his center of balance, eyes narrowing and mouth following suit. He licks his lips to stall talking, but speaking is eventual: light-heartedly dramatic, an imitation of something… "Maybe… just because she wasn't on the streets, didn't mean she wasn't enjoying the lifestyle." Eh? Ehhhh?

"Egglplant," Maggie says lightly, revealing reveals that there is no need for the conspiratorial lean-in of the consultant — she's familiar with this fancy aubergine even though the colour is not likely to be included anywhere in her wardrobe. Certainly not today, a plain pale grey long-sleeved shirt taking precedence, gaining no fashion gold stars from the posh forensics expert.

The body — Eleanor — is given study for a moment following, a small frown trying at the corners of the detective's mouth. "Maybe," she concedes quietly. "Well, it's good to know you're on his guest list — for now we'll go check out Ms. Epstein's; talk to her roommate, see who she was. But— " Maggie leans back, getting a glimpse of the back of Laurie's head. "You should— clean up. A little. You know. Maybe. Quickly."

"Feel free to use my sink," the ME interjects. She means the deep, stainless steel sink to the left — a sink that has, no doubt, has had all manner of unthinkable fluids washed down it over the years. And, probably, over the last day alone. "And he's not the only one who's dirty. There was some dust on the clothing, we're checking the source now— "


A young man in a lab coat happens through the door with this cheerful announcement, making a beeline for the Medical Examiner and handing a clipboard to her. She studies the report quickly through those colourful glasses. "…thank you…" is murmured to the tech, who runs off again, but not before saying: "Anytime, Dr. Bonham."

"What he meant is … the dust the vic was subjected to was made of building materials made before 1980, and lots of it. Hence — asbestos. I'm betting on finding it in her lungs as well." And with a scalpel in hand, she throws back the sheet and seems prepared to investigate right this second.

"And ripe cherries," Laurie appends quite happily, more excited than put-out that his lesson was unneeded — the lean was completely necessary on the other hand. As is the one he employs somewhere between 'guest' and 'roommate'. This one being forward, his green parts are in clear view for the commentary which earns Maggie a suitably harassed look. "Right here, right now?" He's being absolutely serious, despite mocking Maggie — and it would seem, so is the ME.

Peering over at Bonham, the consultant reserves only a second to toss out concern regarding fluids; if they're unthinkable, don't think about them. Rolling out the curve of his back fluidly (aha), he skirts about the counter another of several times, shifting sideways only to give a directing point at Bonham, eyes at Maggie. "She's really good at those witty observational transitions." His outstretched hand twists to snap several times — quick, ME, very snappy! — "And did you like that back there with the lifestyle turnaround? That was very 'Law and Order' of me," wince, "It was at least CSI." Think about it the extended point suggests before he turns quite attentively to the sink, the strain of flowing water making background soundtrack to the newest discovery on the body.

Laurie, hands on either side of the deep recess, has no problem sticking most of his upper body right over the sink of questionable processes, dousing the paint-covered back of his head and then shaking it out like a shaggy dog. His short trim doesn't quite comply with the image, but the movement does dislodge the already flaking paint.

Surfacing in time to over-dramatically dodge the rise of that scalpel, he meanders about to eventually fill that spot near Maggie he seems to have worn in for himself, one thumb scrubbing against the palm of the other hand to get off last bits of paint; it will remain slightly greenish for longer than a dunk in a sink can do. "So you're quite serious about usurping my entire day, detective… hmm…" Meanwhile, he's completely missed the mark on his cheek.

"Mnh, very witty — don't get me started on CSI…" distractedly mumbles the ME Dr. Bonham as, with a wary warning glance to the consultant, her scalpel swoops downward.

Maggie's turned herself slightly away from the continuing autopsy, not watching; no signs of repulsion show, and her turn away seems to be more out of respect or modesty for the sake of the dead. The return of the questionably cleaner man has Maggie leaning instinctively away from him in slight increments, too — the way one might when not wanting to get too close to a wet dog prone to shaking their fur out. This reaction is, truly, backed by solid evidence from Laurie.

"If you can be there, I'd like you to be," she says neutrally. "I am sorry about that," is added, her voice pitched a bit low in honest apology, begging more explanation than Maggie gives; instead, "You missed a spot," she declares with flash of an amused smile (all of them short-lived, in these surroundings) and a pointed look to the green mark on Laurie's face. It's followed by a curious squint — what were you doing, anyway? — before she addresses the other (alive) woman more stoically. "Thank you, Dr. Bonham. If you find anything else that could help, anything, you know where to call." A nod goes from Laurie to the door. Onto the next stop.

Dripping from all of his blond hair — and sort of dirty lime section in the back begging for shampoo — Laurie now possibly looks even more like he came from a college paintball party than before. All of the hair is plastered to his head until he raises a hand to scrub at it, standing bits and pieces on end with his haphazard drying method. The action pauses to pull the full scope of his attention on Maggie, "What spot?" Followed quite precisely by a completely bewildered questioning look — what is that squint for?!.

In a timely fashion, he turns away, questions unanswered, to give his own passing smile to the ME with the way with words. When directed, even so shortly, to move — well, he does. Striding forward on the tail end of the nod, he takes up a few more rubbing motions at the top of his head and then around the devilish cut of his left-hand sideburn.

"I'm just saying," he pipes up in the middle of some imagined conversation; really, the one they were having before, but in a direction not quite connected except by his seamless way of introducing it, "I don't want this to become one of those ugly custody battles. How do you feel about three days a week? — every other weekend?" On reaching the door, he pulls it open, twists sideways to rest briefly against the support and face Maggie gloomily, "Detective. I can't promise I won't start to become biased. I mean," his eyes wander ceiling-ward, lips pressed thickly as he thinks; fails, "She gives me food." Back to Maggie, the ultimate surprise, "And compliments."

Thusly, from the doorway onward, with the elevator just as ignored.

Maggie will take the stairs.

"You're going to make me feel lazy if I take the elevator," she points out off-handedly behind him, out the doorway, down the hall, making no comment over Laurie's continual choice of stairs. Already she has her phone out, prepared to make one of several calls necessary to check in on various other aspects of the investigation going on without her; however, it's only held in her hand, her focus kept downward on her dialing, though the number goes momentarily uncalled as she says lightly to the consultant instead: "Who am I sharing custody with— " hardly a serious probe, " — because I'm not beyond bribing with candy; I learned all sorts of things while you were away." All sorts of things like they're not linked to that story of something quite illegal, away like Laurie was just casually out of town.

"In the end, only you have the power to make your feelings and decide that they will be influenced by the actions of others." Said in the beginnings of caught breaths as he bounds the stairs first at a trot then taking them more than one at a time. Once in a while, he waffles between the two paces, but there is absolutely no lingering on platform of by the narrow walls of the stairwell. "You're a detective, Powers," is issued behind to her, at any point when she is trailing behind, "I believe you'll figure it out if you truly want to. For now," he pauses just this once to grasp onto the railing as it parallels itself, letting him look down the single flight he's taken as lead at her, "You're doing well with your sultry talk of learnings and things." Then popped off the railing and he's away. But not away, like he's out of town.

Eleanor Epstein's Apartment


A bob-haired woman a few years shy of her roommate's age sits on the very edge of a couch across from Detective Powers in a small apartment. Small, but airy and full of light, shining in on the neatly organized living room and kitchen — a morning much more optimistic than the news the day brings. It's a nice apartment, comfortably average with a few touches here and there in decor and luxuries that are above and beyond its size — but that's barely rare for an apartment crammed into NYC. Off to one side is a short hallway parallel the living room. Three bedrooms.

"Ellie is … was— she was really sweet, all she ever cared about was making sure Dawn — her baby sister — was taken care of." The roommate slumps over, head in hands; she's clearly having trouble comprehending the news she's been given, and who wouldn't. "Their mom died awhile back, she was all they really had, you know, they weren't really left with much but they did the best they could— God that sounds— it sounds so cliche and now she's dead and that's like even more— "

Maggie is on her feet in an instant, lowering herself down on the same couch next to the distraught woman, a courteous distance away, but a comforting hand goes to her shoulder. "I'm sorry," the detective says sincerely. Focused on — and moved by — the young woman as she is, she glances about the apartment for her cohort as she adds gently, "I just have a few more questions…"

There is no cohort — only the occasional rustle of shoes tread against carpet from the crooked open bedroom door that was pointed out as having belonged to the deceased. Some patient vigilance is required before the door is tipped just slightly more open with a silent nudge from Laurie stepping into the hallway. He hovers there, just inside of Maggie's glance and behind that of the roommate's. Being dry and sporting his light motorcycle jacket has made the consultant more presentable — if not any closer to appearing like he hasn't completely forgotten his age, again.

Holding up the latest edition of Vogue magazine with a pressing look lighting up all of his features as he gestures insistently to a portrait of a delightfully smiling Gwyneth Paltrow, on the other hand… — but his pursued lips of avid excitement fall flat at the penetrating Look as given him by his fun-sucking partner.

Two emotions short of rolling his eyes, instead the consultant very visibly reconsiders in a manner consistent with a dog attempting to sniff out its treat on the floor while the owner still has the thing. The magazine falls away — in fact, curled tightly about with one hand and deposited into his back pocket — and the former motion of displaying and pointing is repeated, this time with an anxious hopefulness, and this time with a set of wrinkled receipts.

After a moment of this, the receipts fall in front of his own vision, held at his chest, and he gives a soft throat-clearing. "Jen," projected into the room by itself to clear the conversation before he continues genially, "Have you ever had fruit tart?"

After such a Look — we are on the clock! — Maggie's gaze falls off of Laurie back onto Jen, but wanders; before the detective can get to those next questions, the young woman is taking a moment to try to compose herself, swiping at her eyes and taking deep breaths that mean to calm but cause her hiccups instead. Maggie patiently lets her find her voice again and, in doing so, she catches her partner's pointing and gives a small nod of acknowledgment. She's looking at him, still, when he questions the roommate about dessert, prompting the detective to respond first, with a confused, inquisitive, furrowing lift of her eyebrows.

It's matched outloud by the person the question was meant for. "Whaa— what?" Completely bewildered, Jen comes around, her hands curled in front of her face as she angles her head to the side, toward Laurie — then toward Detective Powers, with a squinting, tear-stained look. Who is this guy again? "Um… I dunno, m-maybe? … you know, Ellie used to bring them to Dawn, they were like, I dunno, really fancy, I think that's what they were…" Why are we talking about fruit tarts is what the poor girl really wants to say, but only trails off.

Maggie happens to be wondering the same thing. However, she doesn't move from the couch just yet, only sets her hands on the cushion's edge and prepares to; her questioning continues, slow gentle inquiries. "How did … Ellie make her living? Was she well-off? financially?"

"She did … really well for herself and Dawn, I mean all things considered. I— I don't know what I'm supposed to do with her now…"

"All things considered?" Maggie prompts.

"She never had the time for a lot of… school, I guess — she said she always wanted to — she wasn't qualified for the stuff she really wanted to do. So when she got that promotion at work like… almost two years ago, it was like a lifesaver."

No relief for the confusion from the asker; Laurie's since vanished again into the room, satisfied enough with whatever he wanted from that. Steady quiet passes from the bedroom, the consultant inside, until several minutes later when he steps out again, now empty-handed and with fingers trailing into his pockets. He stops at the archway before the main room a second time, letting one shoulder fall against the wall as he regards the mourning roommate. It's not with the furrowed 'brows and tight lines of sympathy that might be expected for the situation — his brisk glance up and down, the rub of his fingers against whatever he's since weighed his pocket with is a kind of impatience.

Not one that is communicated in any way to the woman when he speaks, except for the no-nonsense quality left over in his voice. "What about the men in Ellie's life?"

The badge-wearing figure in the room has enough sympathy and patience to make up for what the other doesn't seem to have; Detective Powers listens intently to Jen. Too, though, is a no-nonsense line of questioning, apologetic but persistent in its delivery as the young woman's answers prompt them. "A promotion at the law firm? The reception position?"

"What? No, she used to be a receptionist… she got a promotion to assistant… legal… something…" It's all Jen knows; she brings a hand to a reddened face scrunched with confusion and emotion, and this is the expression the young woman turns to Laurie on his re-appearance. "There weren't any. She said she swore off dating… she was too busy."

It's then that Maggie rises from the couch, a small polite smile sent down to Ellie's roommate thanking her for the answers. The questions might not be over, but for now… "Excuse me a moment, Jen," she offers, her strides taking her past Jen to Laurie; her back is kept to the former while she faces the latter — less sympathetic, more intent, and close enough to talk somewhat privately in the small apartment. "I spoke to Ellie's boss at Canso and Crowley; he said she only worked part time at the front desk," she murmurs. Fully aware of Laurie's impatience, it transfers onto Maggie in the form of expectancy. "What did you find?"

From pockets, Laurie's hands lift to his hips, spreading his jacket out along the spread that his wrists create. In a fleeting moment of thought over his discoveries, the consultant's nose scrunches. "Ellie's computer calendar confirms it. She spent the remainder of her time, energy, and precious, precious gas traveling to an expensive cafe with numerous people who go exclusively by their initials." His eyebrows raise; he pauses. Perhaps debating the use of his own initials. From whatever bubble of inspiration this forms, a smile begins to make shape, pleased but questing for a similar reaction in his companion. One unlikely to happen in this, the last place for such a shiftily amused expression. "Looks like our receptionist…" complete with unrealistic but very purposefully timed pause of anticipation— "… liked to make appointments."

Then the eyes refocus on the badge-wearer, and what entertainment was there forces itself into at least one part concentration on the solemn affairs at hand. Though he puzzles to her gamely, as a question to which the answer is already known. "What do you think — a lawyer thing, or a trick thing?"

No amusement, from the detective, save for a hint on Laurie's dramatic pause — the vaguest flicker of a smile only to concede to allow him his moment of humour — and it's gone with no trace. Maggie shakes her head decisively, a swing of straightened blonde. "It doesn't seem like a lawyer thing," she answers, a lowered, solemn voice sounding certain of that. "If she had a side business, we'll find out for sure."

She sways to the side to lope around Laurie toward the room he left — that of the deceased. She only makes an inadvertent door of herself, standing just past the threshold, checking, from a distance, the various details and searchable avenues. She does venture in, trailing to pick up a framed photo of a child out of a neat assortment on the dresser and put it back down. A look goes over her shoulder. "I take it you checked everywhere," she says with a hint of question — off-handed and almost rhetorical, as is: "That schedule, do you have it memorized?"

A shuffle from the living room precedes Jen approaching the pair, wringing her hands, with all the nervousness of a child preparing to tell her parents she did something wrong. "I a-almost forgot," she prefaces, "I didn't think because… I mean you don't think…" she swallows and tries again. "I told the police — when I reported her missing — the last… while… couple… of weeks— Ellie was like… kind of freaked out about something? She said it was just work getting to her, but she was just— she was being weird."

Laurie pivots about the center point that is Maggie, readjusting his stance every so often to best follow her — but with gaze only — when she steps into the room he's thoroughly explored, he opts out. "And a few other places," he remarks, also choosing to answer where one is not necessary. That might be part of the reason why it's so carelessly said; or that's just him. To her rest, he does not vocalize a response to something that does not need one. But he does lift his hand from his side and give his right temple a decisive two-tap with a finger.

The shuffle is enough for him to turn his head over his shoulder, studying Jen's approach before she gives the reason for it. "You don't," he echoes gently, unobtrusively underneath her guilty stammering. As she finishes, he rotates away from the bedroom detective to this new source, watching her with not even a lingering trace of that impatience of before. "Sorry— " as though Jen said some word he didn't understand, " — what would 'weird' be, in Ellie's case?"

"She was… jumpy, and like, I dunno— shaken," much like Jen is now, her voice increasingly high-pitched and tremulous as she goes on, "but she wouldn't talk about it. She wouldn't talk about much at all, she got really quiet. I mean she— something must have happened and that's why she's dead, right? I should've tried harder to get her to tell me— "

"You didn't do anything wrong, Jen." Detective Powers adds her calming opinion stated as the truth from the bedroom doorway, having appeared just behind the consultant, leaning out of the room and sneaking into the corridor as she adds, "You couldn't have known what was going to happen." A hand outstretches toward Jen with the detective's card; meanwhile, a quick look goes to Laurie — they have another stop to hit. "If you think of anything else at all, please, give me a call."

Cafe Mozart

Upper West Side

"We won't be able to get our hands on Schaffer's mail for a few hours at least," Maggie announces as she lowers her cell phone after so recently receiving that update, only a vague hint of resentfulness over the fact in her voice. The scenery here is full of streets lined with handsome, well-maintained old buildings so near famous academic and musical landmarks, and even glimpses of welcome greenery — it's on one of these streets that an establishment known as Cafe Mozart is located: the place Ellie Epstein went out of her way to frequent. "We have someone working on tracking down a truck caught on CCTV by the alley."

But in the meantime, here they are: CAFE MOZART. Lettering on a deep red awning declares it so, welcoming and graceful. Even in the sunlight, the lights strung delicately from the awnings manage to sparkle — but despite the elegance it boasts from the outside alone, it still could be any lovely cafe on the Upper West Side, of which there are many. Maggie pulls the door open, looking back instead of ahead; such that, when she finds herself inside, the indoor scenery causes her purposeful steps to slow almost to a halt.

The homage to a Viennese kaffeehaus is inspired down to nearly every detail, and it is, in general, quite beautiful: rich chandeliers hang from the ceiling above what is an otherwise warm, comfortable set-up, all tables and relaxed, varied patrons; varied, from different walks of life, but the detective and the consultant still might be a little under-dressed.

Unlike run-of-the-mill cafes, there is no rush. Newspapers are ubiquitous, the cafe boasts a bookshelf and an unattended piano. A couple of guests are playing chess and checkers provided by the owners while others speak amongst one another. All is permeated by the scent of fine coffee, pastries, and other desserts: fruit, chocolate— most of which is on display at the counter.

A few paces in, Maggie completely stops, apparently taking it all in before making any sort of next move.

Trailing behind Maggie, not out of any kind of reluctance, but a general enjoying of the pace, Laurie has to come up short when she slows just inside, his hands raising but not quite touching the detective's back as he sidles in swift reaction to the side and stops very purposefully. What? Nothing happened. Once inside, though he may not be in the particular dress of the place, he relaxes familiarly, inhaling deeply of the comforting aura the cafe offers.

His glance around the establishment is fast, then, not needing to absorb new details, only process changed ones. And, the moment that he alights on the vacant piano, the consultant is no longer caught up in Maggie's full-stop.

In fact, he barely acknowledges she's there, certainly not excusing himself in any way, even as he skirts around her to head quite purposefully inside in a direction not at all associated with this investigation.

Maggie's glance around the establishment isn't so swift or so familiar, and it isn't — initially — a detective's detail-oriented stare that has her paused and swooping her expansive gaze over the kaffeehaus at all. It's a sort of wonder, the way one regards a beautiful piece of art — an appreciation for everything the place chooses to be. You know, aside from the fact that it might be a meeting place between an escort and her clients.

She easily drifts out of her momentary veneration when Laurie moves — ironically, his drift away toward some corner unrelated to the job cues her focus to the task at hand. Maggie brings a hand up in a small aborted gesture as if to stop Laurie or at least ask where he's going, but doesn't actually follow up on it; she just moves toward the counter, drawing the folded print-out that includes Ms. Epstein's picture out of her back pocket.

Across a glass-encased assortment of artful desserts, she holds it out and exchanges words with the well-mannered elderly Austrian man who turns out to own the place; and, after a few short moments — and a few recognizing nods and shakes of the man's head, oh, how terrible — she's pointed to a corner of the cafe where a distinguished red-haired middle-aged woman sits half reading a book and half scrolling through her BlackBerry, who becomes the next subject of the detective's questions.

There is no flicker of debate nor hesitation in step to suggest that Laurie is at all aware of Maggie's gesture, naturally leading to it being completely unheeded. Okay, maybe once he turns aside to eye, with raised and interested eyebrows, the selection behind that counter glass — but — by his motivation, the consultant begins to wind his way past small private tables, and those set in ones and twos. With his eyes to the set-up in back, he maneuvers deceptively well around people's feet, bags, and other odd angles without tipping so much as a straw in the wrong direction. But as he nears to the sight of two older gentlemen, one in a nice white dress shirt and the other hugging a dark jacket despite the weather, as they lean over their stalled game of chess — markedly so thanks to the white-dressed gentleman's indecision ("You're just sitting there." "Patience… something will come along…") — Laurie's gaze shifts there.

When he's beside the table a couple of seconds later, the working consultant invades the perimeter of play with a hand, two fingers curling around the middle of the curved form of one of the white knights. But the piece is not returned to the game by Laurie; he slides it into the instinctive grip of the white-clothed player with a cheerful instruction of, "King's rook five." Turning about in his chair, the black player scowls aghast at the chess consultant's retreating form before regarding his opponent ("That's not fair, bringing other people in.") to which the white player only smiles, with a touch of smugness, as he settles the piece exactly where suggested. His arms lift to either side in a victory move designed for a much younger sect ("Check!")

Oblivious to — or perhaps also unheeding — what he's left behind, Laurie has already moved on, nearing ever more now the original destination. Still with the tough but breathable fabric of the riding jacket hiding the worst of his fashion faux-paus, he now starts at rolling those sleeves with one precise fold after another to tuck them at his elbows and free his wrists of all interference.

A few glimpses are sent back over Maggie's shoulder after she takes her seat at the table claimed by the other, older woman, tracking Laurie's progress around the cafe here and there — it's only a slightly softer look than the way one might keep an eye on a mischief-prone child. The rest of her focus is, calmly and with increasing importance, on the dignified woman across from her, who has now abandoned her endeavours to stare intently at the detective. Especially after the paper with the picture of Eleanor Epstein is passed along; it is clearly, immediately recognized.

From the table, strains of conversation drift along in-between the low conversational noise, though some parts are more hushed than others; probably with good reason. One voice is older, deeper, and belongs to the red-haired woman; the other is the familiar soft and distinctive voice of Maggie, but there is something notably different about the few words that become audible: they're not in English, instead part of simple but well-spoken sentences of German. A few minutes' conversation seems to garner what Maggie wants to know fairly quickly, and she's eventually pushing up from the table with thank-yous, tucking the cafe chair in as she hones in on her wandering partner.

Unattended no longer, the piano has been exposed from underneath its folded top, a clean line of black and white interacting to create the set of the distinguished instrument. Marred with the memory of being green, Laurie's hands are not quite so elegantly cared for, but they set on the lay of the keys with precise respect. A note here — high — a note there — low — then, all at once, the rolling, rising sounds of a melody already in progress. At first careful in introduction, then fast in patter, and fluidly into more runs — up and down the scales, trilling high and low, teasing here and there on the keys with the lightness of comfort with the playing, but the strength of that same practice, and a certain devotion to the music. Mozart Piano Concerto No. 5.

Laurie's playing continues long through the interview going on at that table past him, giving a lilting, ever-moving backdrop to the foreign conversation. Once in a while, it drops out to give precedence to an orchestra notably missing from this rendition, but perhaps audible in the mind sat at the piano. His eyes, after all, are half-closed, and allow for some other world to be going on just beyond the one that can be seen.

No one seems to mind the concerto, maybe because the beautiful notes are a welcome and fitting backdrop; at least, so far, the owners don't come running to put an end to the unscheduled drop-in of a piano player. Maggie's eyes aren't the only set that find their way appreciatively to the pianist, but they perhaps settle the longest without interruption, with no newspaper, game of chess, or conversation to fall back on; but that's not quite true, as she spends the time between spying Laurie and actually approaching him on her phone, which has been an on-and-off fixture throughout the morning. Attentive though her answers are to the person on the other line back at the station, her attention is effectively compartmentalized.

The second her phone is put away at her belt, Maggie winds carefully around the tables as Laurie had before (minus the intermission to give chess advice), coming to linger a couple of paces behind and to the right of him, her hands tucked halfway into her back pockets. She's only a curious, very quiet presence there, holding back words (however potentially important) in favour of not interrupting.

Thus uninterrupted, the playing might seek to venture on well past its mean, perhaps even into another piece entirely — but, several minutes after Maggie's approach — Laurie comes to an abrupt halt with both hands that effectively stops the concerto in its tracks. Frozen in position, they play at starting again, but then his hands flatten against the keys without depressing them, and eventually one drifts away to Laurie's leg as he turns to regard the detective there, her phone, and the customer with which she had been speaking — though he'd given no prior indication of knowing at all where Maggie was sitting, he finds the red-haired woman directly.

Eyes returning to the detective, Laurie gives her an intent study that would seem out of place for how long they've been spending the day together. What could have possibly changed in the woman. But his search is, perhaps, more internal even as its transferred externally to her. Even so, that flavor of impatience has returned to taint his look at her, drawing his face into an unhappy pinch that also effects the now cut-off way he inquisitively asks, "And the verdict is?"

Eyes that had been directed downward, watching the play of Laurie's hands over the piano keys, now move belatedly after the music stops — only looking up when he speaks. The lift of lashes briefly shares the expression, meant for the music, that had been hidden: an innocent sort of wonder that lights up the detective's face. It disperses the instant she sees his expression, but Maggie's remains a touch softer.

Verdict: "That you can play the piano," she answers. A smile before the serious: "The woman over there knew Ellie; she runs an escort agency, she was her … " There's a brief quiet struggle over unfamiliar terminology. " … madame," she decides with a faint question clinging to the word nevertheless. "Ellie and some other women under the same management would meet with first time clients here. Only, a few weeks ago, she quit. Ms. Walcher— " She pauses, allowing herself time to both glance toward the red-haired woman who, as it happens, is watching them from afar, and to look back at Laurie with a meaningful lift of her eyebrows — here's the important part, "…had been trying to convince her to come back to work, but Ellie was spooked; she'd been attacked. By a client. A client who tried to strangle her."

It's momentarily opposite day; the non-serious answer is the one that deepens Laurie's look into actual irritation — one that he tries to blow off by rolling his eyes towards the ceiling and inhaling sharply. With this, his expression becomes, but no more than, pleasant when realigning with the detective. When his hand trails beside him to the piano again, it's only to close the top over the keys with a soft thump that traps them away from the world. "Spooked enough to still be so after weeks. So he was violent… he wouldn't have been able to hide this from her before. But if not her — there could be others. He gets turned away from one house for being a creeper, he goes to another."

Adjustment once is only a first aborted move to stand; he succeeds the next time, on his feet and spying across the room to the owner and then, lingering more so on the treats in the counter below the owner. "It matters— " his pause is initially because he comes to a blank in his mind; it puzzles him. But then, like a man talking to himself, he turns to notice Maggie. Right, Maggie. Who talked to the madame. "Hmmmm. Tried to strangle. Did she fight him off, or did he not go through with it that time?"

Maggie gives the consultant a quick study before she replies, a brief narrowing of her eyes, faintly skeptical; not of his words, her faint criticism more oriented on details of his demeanor. Her own, by now, quite fits the serious topic at hand. "If Ms. Walcher understood correctly, Ellie — not the name she went by — only saw him once. She fought back and he ran off. There was no…" she trails off only to go on tactfully, "he didn't go through with anything — he only waited to get her alone."

Maggie steps to the piano's side, turning to face Laurie beside it, her back turned on the homage to Vienna, and perhaps inadvertently blocking part of the view to the dessert counter. A darker hush falls over her voice. "She quit, refused to call the police; it sounds like he didn't lose his nerve the second time." A thoughtful pause passes. "Ms. Walcher made note of a name, Charles Sossamon. But … like you said, he should have a history of … creepy behaviour," she paraphrases slightly. "She said these … nicer … agencies try to screen their clients. It might be a fake name. Anyway, they were at a hotel. I put in a call to see if there's anything worthwhile on the cameras." If only the results were a little more instant.

As soon as his view of those specialty food items becomes that of Maggie's shoulder, Laurie's weight shifts, his hands breaking away from each other to pockets. "Sossamon," he repeats, disinterestedly but factually, "German." The information is given, perhaps, importance in the pause and heavier inflection, but no further commentary. "They also," the consultant goes on, instead, freeing a hand to wag loose fingers at Madame Walcher and some imaginary point B off towards the cafe door, "share information between each other. If you get black-marked at one, you'll have to find somewhere… less discerning. Or more wanting of your money, no matter." Another shift. "The point is, even if his name changes between, their write-up of his behavior won't. He took off when she fought back. That's a certain…"

Something left to be filled in by the person looking at the puzzle. As for Laurie, he's caught looking away, leaving the realm of their discussion. In the midst of this odd daydream, he finds a new line of vision with which to see the counter — but now the owner as he rings up a customer's card. A focus in his eyes illuminates the moment when he returns to business, eyeing Maggie with some of his old amusement. "A C.S. was here with her on the last day for initials in her calendar. So, detective. Do you think she treated him on their first date, or did she make the men do all the work?"

"Not Lewis, I'm guessing. All the work in stalking her afterward, maybe," the detective answers with a mild strain of bitterness over that criminal past-time in particular, folding her arms before answering dutifully, "it would have to have been the first date." The gears almost visibly turn in her head. "That is, if she kept her calendar up-to-date. But if Ellie was discerning… or at least thought she was, when she agreed to take him as a client… I mean why start at the top anyway. With Walcher's agency. On the street, like Schaffer, would be easier — right? Logically. Instead he brought her back there."

But logic is tainted by the mind it comes from; Maggie's mouth presses upon itself thinly, thought over this statement evident, all manner of conclusions forming that she keeps to herself, looking to the other variety of expert for his conclusions instead. However, she looks over her shoulder only seconds later, and when her head turns back, it's with brows raised high. "I know you really want something from the counter."

Indeed, it's been no less than seconds and Laurie is already glancing that way, his weight now completely on one leg so that he can see past the blockade Maggie has made of herself to all that chocolate and all those layers — eyes down when she's talking to him. A pause. Then, very quickly, all low and processed out with the emotionless of a computer program: "Schaffer doesn't despise women, he sees them as nothing, non-entities. His choice of prostitutes was for convenience and that they would be nearly invisible crimes. A few working women vanish and nobody's going to pick up that story. Who cares, they're prostitutes. So, that leaves you to wonder— " By you, he means you, Detective Powers, pointedly made by the growing intensity of his gaze, "Was C.S. at the top for himself, or for her?"

Another pause where he only gauges those gears and all their visibility. Then it's that childishly unstoppable attentiveness to the food, glorious food. "I really want something from the counter." Back to her. "Also, 'treat' and 'work' were metaphors for 'who paid for whose coffee'."

To the last clarification, Maggie starts to raise one shoulder in a shrug. "Why, were you going to profile his pastries?" she asks, not exactly posed seriously, but with a curious quirk of one brow and the same side of her mouth upward, curious — maybe he was.

She glances off pensively through the kaffeehaus, out the window, though it's fairly private and not much can be seen of the street; no matter. "It seems… to me… like either she was important to him or her job was. This wasn't about being invisible for him." A glance to Laurie; she seems confident, but there's something of subtle search for confirmation in her look. And, then, Maggie turns sideways — freeing the path to the land of coffee and dessert with a small conceding (not unpleasantly) roll of her eyes in that direction. "But it was about Schaffer, at least in some way. If nothing solid pans out by the time we've sorted through that mail, we'll go to the prison?"

A little twitch of the lip for Maggie's non-seriousness could go either way, this time, though Laurie's own voice is dreadfully deadpan: "Does a man who's waiting only to get a woman alone buy a pastry?" Judgment is reserved on all else, and anything past that abandoned in the wake of an open route which Laurie takes directly, nearly cutting himself off at this own question when he veers quite determinedly for the display of fancies and cakes. The consultant is not a man waiting to get a woman alone, it would seem.

He is, however, notably moved enough by her question to slant a glance over his shoulder at the detective, his eyebrows a continuing straight line across his forehead to show, not disapproval, but a sort of un-naive confusion. "I told you already that he won't see you, Powers." Short of scolding, it's only the brisk patronizing of telling something he knows she already knows — and hasn't so easily forgotten. The repeating of it is what seems to cause that note of returning irritation before it's vanished to his examination of the waiting desserts.

This staring, hands pressed to the glass, child-like way of looking at the selection is for enjoyment only. Before he's even gotten to that point, he's already given the heads-up nod to the owner and a prepared, "Triple-decker."

Maggie hasn't forgotten, either, and thus shows no naiveté at the reminder. She neutral-faced against the patronizing as she follows a few paces slower than Laurie, stopping behind him, as if in line — she is in line, since she digs a hand into the front pocket of her pants, past the many cops' necessities weighing on her belt. "He'll see you," she says throughout this unfocused effort to find possible money, a statement not meant to be an argument. Just as much a plain statement is what follows: "I don't have to talk to him. If you're going," naturally as can be, "I want to go with you."

The cafe owner, smiling pleasantly at Laurie's readily ordered choice, is quick, meanwhile, to prepare it; and of course, just as quick to rattle off the price. A price as high as a triple-decker.

"Repetition is the killer of an active mind… and this looks interesting," he gives a tap to the glass, all the while talking very amiably to the man preparing his cake, "But I just — can never stop myself from that triple." His lop-sided grin is friendly in its self-deprecation, and he shows no hesitation in reaching into the inside of his riding jacket for the nicely folded cash tucked away there. As the bills are appropriately counted out — five, six, seven — he casts another one of those passing glances at Maggie, this one lingering just barely past the length of the other. His warning is getting more pronounced, even if the casualness of his voice is increasing in its own way.

If she can be natural, so will he. It puts their two statements on completely equal standing. Opposite sides of a scale waiting to tip. Also, their opinions. "I don't want you to go with me."

As the cake is exchanged for bills, Maggie, as yet quiet over Laurie's opinion, swoops in alongside him at the counter. She has more self-restraint — she doesn't press against the glass — but even she can't help but arc an admiring look over the treats. However, none are what she aims for when she gives her smiling, cheerfully polite order. "Mochaccino please — medium — with two sugars. To go. Thank you!" Who puts extra sugar in a mochaccino, actually. She straightens, looking down as she sorts a few wrinkled bills between her fingers, before wide eyes look to Laurie, openly inquiring — so far, with that same lack of challenge. "Why not?"

Contrary to the possible import of the matter, and flashes of such earlier in the day, Laurie's obscenely patient when it comes to waiting alongside Maggie as she orders; part of the time is filled in accepting his own readied dessert, thoughtfully preserved for him in a carrying case, in the assumption that he is also 'to go'. There's a bit of a studied frown for that, but he manages to restrain himself on that as well. So he's standing there, one hand curled about the bottom of a container of cake, the short plastic fork caught between two fingers of the same, and a glance that's only just halfway happened from this treat to her, causing his eyelids to be lazily shut partway over his gaze. No overt seriousness, then, for: "So it isn't enough that I don't?"

This is considered in a seemingly casual fashion — made moreso by Maggie's paying of her coffee, her taking of the cup with a kind smile for the Austrian owner. She turns around coffee in one hand while the other shoves change in her pocket, clear eyes wide on Laurie. "It is." It's a calmly, confidently-spoken reassurance … and yet there's a reluctant but. "But I should. Be there. As part of the investigation." A quick, unenthusiastic glance away occurs. "And — …"

Maggie steps away from the counter on the approach of a customer, then, a pretty young woman who could be another Ellie — she thus earns a small double-take from the detective in passing. "… I think the brass would feel better about you being back on a case if you had an escort," she continues and thinks only afterward to amend her wording, subjects of the day considered. Nothing quite manages to repair it and she closes her mouth on trying. "I want to see what you see," she offers her own honest reasoning, dismissive of what the "brass" may prefer.

On the sound of her initial answer, Laurie's hand is already raised, tipping a aha, but finger at her quite knowingly. He is not so surprised. No, not surprised — a tinge, then, of disappointment in eyes before they look away. Before he turns away entirely, making a lazy half-circle around a table in the first bid for the door now that they've both been served. As always now, his distraction is off to some unseen horizon unhindered by the walls of the shop. When he lowers his head, the slightest indication that one ear, at least, is still towards the detective's reasoning, he has enough presence to raise eyebrows expectantly at her second continuation.

Twitching, amused this time, around the sound of her slip of words. Something that's completely and drastically flushed out a second later. Or seven words later, to be more precise. Now, the chin lifts high, but tilted, cocking this angular glare at her with a new shiftiness. "No. You don't."

And with the same startling suddenness as it happens, he uses the momentum to march around remaining tables and patrons to directly leave the cafe. He pushes the door open with undue force that releases him out onto the street.

The suddenness of Laurie's departure is met by the opposite of momentum in Maggie's steps: she comes to a halt, watching the door open and the man leave through it. She stays still until its decisive shutting cues her to follow with a determined purpose in her stride only half attributed to the pressing investigation.

"Hey." Insistent but calm, this voice that arrives on the sidewalk shares none of his irritations, and its owner comes up alongside him, though not so close as to get in his way — only close enough to be sure he has the chance to see the tipping of her head around his personal space bubble that tries to get his attention. "Why don't you want me to go, Miles," Maggie prompts in a gentle, calculated manner that barely even seems to search for the answer to the question — it's his response she's watching. With a little reassuring smile, she's quick to serenely append. "I don't mind. I do count on you to speak to Schaffer if it's necessary, to — whatever end, and whether I'm there or not. And I do want to get back to the station." Her head still tipped to one side with that small smile, she pivots precisely in the direction her car is parked farther down the street. "Okay?"

Measured pacing that could have worn the pavement slows to a stop in acknowledgment of the door opening and closing to admit Maggie back into his space. While his first head turn is away from her, casual in execution despite, it only denies the detective that searched for reaction before, his chin dropping, his face then becomes accessible — in so much as it is visible. Laurie's changed; no frustration, no hint of glare, not a single piece of evidence that anything like that ever could have happened on a man so cheerily benign towards the world at large. He even laughs some when she smiles, shutting down that something so patronizing as reassurance is needed at all.

Nod, then another, and he's gone on to accept each of her points. At the last, the hand with the cake is raised to her in toast, or perhaps a half-done salute. But his feet, well, they're planted where they stopped and, besides turning some to see her path to the car, he doesn't move one. "Of course. Don't let me stop you."

Yet he does stop her, at least initially. Maggie makes it two steps down the sidewalk, essentially enough to turn and spin to face Laurie, whose planted feet have her sighing quietly at length — but it's with a hint of a smile, for whatever reason; just barely pursed lips hidden in the next moment when she calmly brings her cup of coffee up for a whole drink. She rocks back a bit on her heels afterward, her ever-present work agenda urging her backward, but it's not quite winning over her patience. "And where are you going?"

The question has Laurie pressing his lips together for a hum of unneeded and yet greatly theatrical debate for her question. What agenda he may have — even if it's just don't do what Maggie's doing — operates him to take two steps backwards equal to the ones she did before, spreading the space between them to that increment evenly on either side. He's bright and unconcerned when he claps his hands together same as his lips, both making similar but distinctly different popping sounds. To the smooth open suggestion of his hands parting, he replies, "Well. I'm not going to the station…?"

One of Maggie's defined brows just raises enough to accentuate the look she gives Laurie that, while seeming unconcerned — at the very least, unsurprised — manages to express a sentiment along the lines of 'you are a five year old'. She purposefully mimics Laurie in a near version of his pose, spreading one hand off to the side, splayed slightly, and she takes a couple of steps backwards. "Well. Make sure you have your phone on," she says easily, watching him a few seconds (more pointedly) before effortlessly turning with a crunch of sidewalk under her boot and carrying on down the street.


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