by George Gauthier

Chapter 4


The annual fundraiser for our local historical society features a walking tour of old houses and their gardens in the eastern quarter of our fair city. There are two tours a day Saturday and Sunday on two successive weekends, so eight opportunities in all. A ticket costs sixty dollars. For that you get a knowledgeable tour guide, a short introduction about what expect, a souvenir map showing the fifteen properties on the tour, and cookies and lemonade and ice water and a comfortable chairs at the end of the tour. All in all, money well spent on a worthy cause.

I was on my way home from the tour when I heard a commotion around the next corner. From the sounds of growls and barks and shouts from human voices it seemed a dog fight was in progress. Sure enough, as I looked to the left on the cross street I saw a savage fight between a pit bull and a cute black and white border collie who was totally outclassed. Another pit bull was still on its leash, held in check by big man. The other one had apparently turned on its owner and bit her arm forcing her to let go of the leash so he would be free to attack the collie.

Free to do as it wished the pit bull attacked the smaller dog in earnest, mostly ignoring the shouts and kicks of the collie's owner a skinny boy of about ten. The pit bull made short work of the collie. Feisty though she was, she really had no chance against such a fierce opponent. Realize that he would be next the boy ran down the street. With no time to seek shelter inside any of the homes I waved him toward me and boosted him up a tree, telling him to climb up to the next major branching and stay there till it was safe.

By then pit bull was upon me, launching himself at my throat or maybe it was my face. Unarmed as I was there was little I could do but shove my left forearm into his maw and let him close his jaws around it, trusting that my accelerated healing abilities would eventually repair the damage. It helped that my medical nanites dampened much of the pain. In this crisis I kept my head and grabbed the animal's throat in my right hand, crushing its windpipe and cutting off its air. Seventy pounds or no, I held the beast up one-handed without much trouble. I may be only five-three but I have the strength of a Jack Reacher.

Pit bulls are tenacious. Even as it struggled for breath it kept savaging my arm and glaring at me with hatred. All I could do was scream from the pain and hang on. Eventually the dog sagged, stopped breathing, and evacuated its bladder and bowels. Expecting that to happen I had turned its body around enough to keep its bodily wastes off me.

Unfortunately my relief was short-lived as the second pit bull, incensed at the killing of what I later learned was his litter mate, pulled the leash out of his owner's grip and charged at me.

For crying out loud! Hurt and tired as I was, I wasn't sure I was up to another such effort at that moment. I might have to shove my forearm into its maw and down its throat and wait for first responders. Fortunately help was at hand. A lean white-haired oldster stepped from around the tree I put the kid up into wielding a walking stick two handed. He swung it so that the bulb at the top smashed the pit bull's skull. After the dog collapsed to the ground, he whacked it twice more to kill it for sure.

Breathing heavily from his efforts, the oldster managed to gasp:

"I'm getting too old for this shit!"

I smiled weakly and shook my head.

"No sir. Not too old, not yet anyway, not the way you handled yourself just now. And thank you. I owe you big time. Things were looking very bad for me just then. I was not sure that I could have coped with that second pit bull."

Not without taking a lot of damage certainly.

As we spoke the two dog owners who were a brother and sister came up and apologized for losing control of their animals. In the face of what happened, they did not blame either of us for killing their dogs.

"Maybe we should adopt border collies, Sis." the man said to his companion, drawing a rueful nod of assent.

The young lady offered her services as a registered nurse. With no equipment save what I had in my small first aid kit, she flushed my arm first with water from her canteen and then with hydrogen peroxide from my kit, and finally wrapped my arm first in a light bandage and then in the towel her brother wore around his neck to soak up sweat and told me to keep pressure on it. Soon police and EMT vehicles arrived and I got properly disinfected and bandaged. The EMT promised a rabies shot at the emergency room.

Subvocalizing my thoughts I instructed my nanites to fight infection and slow blood loss but undertake minimal reconstruction of my torn tissues only to the extent that I would not need immediate surgery.

My elderly comrade in arms nodded approvingly.

"That was brave thing you did there, son, protecting that youngster and receiving the attack on yourself."

"Actually I had hoped to scramble up that tree myself, but I ran out of time."

"Nevertheless. I know courage when I see it. As a young soldier I fought in Vietnam and Cambodia. You are a brave man indeed."

"I could say the same about you, sir. First combat service in your younger days and today you did not hesitate to join a fight against a savage pit bull despite your advanced years. Why you must be pushing seventy."

"Try eighty."

"Really. Well you sure don't look it. You look pretty healthy for eighty."

"Well I am and I am not. Despite all sorts of underlying medical problem I feel pretty good day to day. I am not usually in pain and I have a good quality of life for my age. I have no appreciable hearing loss except for the highest notes, and I have twenty-twenty vision."

"How is that even possible at your age?"

He smiled. "Cataract surgery. The clinic replaced my original lenses with plastic ones shaped to correct my nearsightedness."

"So you now have the visual acuity of a teenager."

"Better actually. When I was eighteen I applied for a learner's permit at the DMV and they told me I had to wear corrective lenses. In the early years the correction wasn't much but by my sixties the eye chart was a featureless blur. Now my eyesight is perfect. Good thing since I needed good hand/eye coordination to deal with that second pit bull."

"That was some stick you whacked him with."

He held it up, the better for me to examine it. I saw that his stick had a slightly tapered shaft under a bulbous head for a grip. A sword strap held the stick securely to his wrist so he would not drop it. Demonstrating the technique he had used against the pit bull, he showed that the strap could slide along the shaft, letting him bring his right hand toward the left to swing the stick like a baseball bat. Whack!

"Its a shillelagh, something my Irish ancestors came up with. It was barely legal as a walking stick under the laws of our English conquerors which disarmed the Catholic populace. Now mine is just solid wood, but back in the day, we hollowed out the ball at the end and filled it with either lead shot or molten lead for extra heft. As you can imagine, a good whack to the side of the head will kill a man as sure as rain."

I nodded. "The temples are the thinnest part of the skull and they are flat unlike the thick dome of the skull."


[An odd idiom that, "as sure as rain", doubtless a reference to the reason why the Emerald Isle is so green.]

[A sword strap, also called a sword knot, is a lanyard looped around the wrist to keep the sword from being dropped if its grip slips out of the wielder's hand when slippery from sweat, rain, or blood, one's own or that of one's opponent.]

At the emergency room my doctor and nurse were surprised that my injuries were less severe than they had been given reason to expect. They cut away torn flesh and stitched me up, providing me, at my prompting, with documentation to guide my personal physician in follow-up care, which of course I would never need. My nanites went to work that night while I slept. Two days later I was fine though I kept a bandage on it for more than a week.

I put it about that my injury was less serious than it might have been because my grip on the dog's throat had cut off his air before he could bite down on my forearm with full force. Besides which some of his teeth had bitten into the face of my wristwatch and my rolled up sleeve. Admittedly a thin story which I was fortunate no one ever checked against my medical records.

The good folks at the ER attended not only to me but also processed the oldster who had rescued me, one Sean Danaher. At eighty a delayed reaction to a strenuous effort like his might bring on medical complications so they held him overnight for observation. Better that he were already at the emergency room if he developed a transient ischemic attack or even a stroke. I was relieved that Danaher suffered no long term effects.

While I was waiting for my ride home Danaher mentioned that just last year he had used his shillelagh to run off an armed robber just a block from his house. A good-looking Hispanic youth who could not have been even twenty brandished a knife and demanded in a shaky voice that Danaher hand over his phone and wallet.

Danaher guessed that the thief was very new at armed robbery, but for that very reason his behavior would be unpredictable. Seeking to avoid a tragic outcome to their encounter Danaher gave up his phone, which was only a simple feature phone intended for seniors. His Jitterbug Flip 2 phone retailed for sixty dollars. Instead of a wallet Danaher carried cash in a money clip which also held a single credit card. He had two other cards, but they were only for on-line transactions. The meager haul made the thief angry.

"What the hell? I stick my neck out for a cheap-ass phone and less than thirty bucks in the money clip! You goddam cheapskate!"

That was Danaher's cue to go into his victim act. Raising his left hand defensively and with a frightened look on his face, he cringed and trembled, distracting the thief while he slid his right hand along the shaft for about eight inches before taking a good grip on it and swinging the staff up smartly between the would-be thief's legs. Hard wood striking one's dangly bits has got to hurt something bad. The kid backed away, still brandishing his knife, though now just defensively to keep Danaher away from him. Marking his target, his aged opponent swung the head of the stick against the hand holding the knife which fell to the pavement. The kid fled the scene.

"I picked my phone up from where he had tossed it and called 911. The cops spotted the kid in minutes. My cash and credit card were still in his pocket, so it was an easy case to make. He pled guilty. Best of all, neither of us got seriously hurt."

"That took guts, standing your ground like that." I told him.

"I didn't have much choice. The kid was angry about his meager haul. As for me, running was totally out of the question. It is all I can do to walk with the aid of my stick. Ten years ago my orthopedic surgeon diagnosed me with "profound osteoarthritis in both knees" (this was said with air quotes). He forbade me to ever run again lest I inflict further damage to my aged joints. It seems that a lifetime of activity had worn away all the cartilage in my knees. Too bad. I had to give up squash, the game I mean."

"Besides my knees, there was no way I would turn my back on an enemy wielding a knife. That could be suicide."

A fine old gentleman is Sean Danaher. We exchanged contact information, expressing the hope that we would stay in touch and become real friends. I would really like to hear some of the man's war stories, and I don't mean the grim ones. Lots of funny things happen in combat, some of which might not have been funny at the time, but were in retrospect. Anyone who has relived the scene about leeches from the old movie "The African Queen" has such a story, which was gruesome when it happened but funny in the retelling.

The next morning I found myself once again mentioned in the news. The coverage of my rescue of the boy from the pit bull included dramatic footage from a surveillance camera taken from a home along the street. You can see the anxious face of the Latino kid peering from the tree. Days later, with the boy Luis Gonzalez and his parents looking on, Sean Danaher and I were presented with the Civilian Life Saving Medal at a ceremony at City Hall. On behalf of the citizens of our fair city the mayor thanked us for our courageous efforts. Uncharacteristically brief for a politician in front of TV cameras, he kept his remarks mercifully short.

I could not hide the lack of scarring from my three lovers. Kyle raised a skeptical eyebrow at the unblemished skin of my forearm. Paolo's eyes narrowed with suspicion. Will frowned and shook his head in disbelief. I had to wonder what they were beginning to suspect about me, but that was a problem for another day.


My three lovers Will Laurier, Paolo Franco, and Kyle Kavanaugh and I all engage in some form of self-defense training. Mine and Kyle's motivation is apprehension over the upsurge in crime in the 2020s. Kyle and I have had defend ourselves three times in as many years . For Will and Paolo self-defense training goes with their jobs. Will is a bodyguard and Paolo a police officer.

Kyle was a middle-weight boxing champion in college and still spars regularly. More recently he has taken up Thai stick fighting though unlike me, he has no interest in Thai boxing, a self-defense art which relies on kicks as much as punches and feels alien to a boxer who keeps his feet on the ground. Stick fighting and boxing are different enough that training for one does not interfere with the other.

I never try to box Western style. My own training concentrates on Thai boxing and stick fighting. Standing only five-three I just don't have the reach for ordinary boxing, Marquess of Queensbury style. I should add that much more than Kyle, I am ready to fight low down dirty if that is what the situation calls for.

Blades too are part of my training program, though these days no longer with swords or pole arms which are impractical under modern conditions. Instead I train with a pair of throwing knives and my multi-purpose survival knife with its eight inch blade. It even has a ferro rod in the handle to start fires with.

[The process of starting a fire is similar to striking a spark with flint and steel except in reverse. A flint strikes tiny hot particles from the metal whereas it is the steal blade which strikes sparks from the ferrocerium rod. Cerium has a very low ignition temperature.]

As I mentioned I usually do not carry those blades on my person though I take them along on wilderness adventures. I also train with single sticks and a quarter staff disguised as a hiking pole.

I do not overlook the potential of improvised weapons, for which the preparation is really mental. So I occasionally look around and mentally rehearse what I might snatch up and use to fight with. A rolled up newspaper or magazine can be jabbed into an attacker's throat. A broomstick makes a halfway decent quarter staff, and a shovel can be thrust like a pole arm which concentrates the force at the edge of the blade. Thrusting is better than wild swings which might be blocked. Sometimes you can distract a foe by shouting or by tossing a hat or cap in his face which doesn't so much block his vision as startle him, giving you an opening to strike or better yet get away.

Martial arts have been vital to my survival. I have always been a little guy and never more so than in modern times, when people are so much bigger than those I knew during my true youth. My diminutive stature, gay vibes, and pretty boy good looks and apparent youth and inexperience make me a potential victim in the eyes of bad guys on the prowl. On the plus side it also makes my foes seriously underestimate me, giving me another edge besides unexpected strength, speed, agility, and centuries of combat experience.

And don't knock the effectiveness of a rock you might pick up which is useful both a ranged weapon when thrown or a melee weapon when held in your hand to strike vicious blows, ideally to the temples, the thinnest part of the human skull. One good whack and your foe goes down for the count.

In civilized societies I very much prefer to go about unarmed without a gun or a knife so I need ways to cope with potential threats from armed criminals. So I have become really good at Thai kick boxing for which my small size, agility, and speed are advantages. Thai boxing has largely replaced karate in my defense arsenal though I can boast that I once trained under a master entitled to wear the coveted red belt in Okinawan karate (think Mr. Miyagi), and I picked up some useful techniques from him which apply regardless of the martial discipline.

Will and Paolo carry guns and both use some kind of stick. Will prefers two single sticks. Paolo was trained on the use of the side handle baton rather than the earlier straight baton. The advantages of the side-handle version are many. It is easier to keep hold of in a fight, it is better for defense, and it is less likely to be misused as a bludgeon, so less chance of an enraged policeman brutally and repeatedly battering his collar.

More recently Paolo has switched to an expandable metal baton which fits into a holster and stays on the utility belt even when the officer seats himself in his police cruiser. A wooden baton would get in the way so is often removed and might get left behind when the officer exits the car in a hurry. Then there is the intimidation factor from the way the baton looks and sounds at it is whipped to the side with a snap to extend it fully.

The effect is similar to the intimidation factor of working the action of a pump shotgun or an assault rifle. The movies often have bad guys intimidate their victims by working the action of their weapons. It is supposed to show that they really mean business. In the real world, an experienced gunman is unlikely to waste a round like that because working the action ejects an unfired shell. Now in the movies the bad guy never notices his error and never seems embarrassed that he had been training what was essentially an unloaded weapon at those he threatened.

The movies keep resorting to that trope precisely because it is scary. Years after their combat experiences, veterans with PTSD, including myself, will flinch at that sound or the very similar one made when credit cards were swiped on the counter to print the buyer's info on credit slips.

Anything sounding like the report of a gunshot or the boom of an explosion has a similar startle effect. I once walked by a building getting its facade modernized. As I approached from halfway up the block I began to flinch each time the riveter or nail gun drove a fastener into the facade. I tried to control my reflex, telling myself that I was in charge, that I had conscious control of my body, which I did not care to relinquish to any conditioned reflex.

Nope. Much to my consternation, I failed miserably, repeatedly flinching and starting to bend forward as if to hit the ground. It was only when I was well past that I stopped reacting.

Historically people knew that their personal safety was under threat from barbarian raids and invasions, tribal rivalries, slavers, civil wars between nobles clans, and organized brigandry. That was why towns sheltered behind walls or were built atop cliffs or crags. Travelers had no walls to protect them and no law to turn to for help so they often traveled in large parties whether caravans or wagon trains. In such parlous times many people bore arms even if it was only a knife or a truncheon.

In earlier times, a rite of passage for the youth of barbarian tribes was to take a head of an enemy or of anyone who was not a fellow tribesman. So some kid in his teens would sneak up on some clueless peasant toiling away in his field and murder him then cut off his head and bring it back as a trophy to show he was a man. That is why civilized people considered them barbarians. (The modern equivalent is killings inspired by gang initiations.)

As a traveling merchant I myself went around fully armed as a matter of course. On horse or camelback I often bore the Roman cavalry sword the spatha and later a straight saber plus a bow or crossbow. On foot I was happy to adopt the lightweight rapier (and main-gauche) when it replaced heavier swords. The rapier let me capitalize on my speed, fast reflexes, and agility.

As with any skill, I practiced just enough, being careful not to overdo it to the point where I got stale and started just going through the motions. When I sensed that happening I cut back training. My goal was not to train simply until I got it right but until my moves were so ingrained, so instinctual, if you will, that I could no longer get it wrong.

However, times change, so I no longer practice with the sword, which incidentally provides onlookers with an arousing display of the human body in motion, little of which can be seen through the jacket and knee breeches of a fencing kit

I should mention that the modern sport of fencing is so artificial as to be nearly useless as training for self-defense. The implements used, I can hardly call them swords, are lightweight hyper-flexible blunt tipped and un-edged toys. Training swords should be heavier than the real thing, not lighter.

I once gave the sport of Japanese kendo a try. Kendo participants train with wooden swords, so its moves are directly applicable to fighting with the katana. Before long though I got tired of getting battered black and blue even under protective padding. Anyway a katana is impractical in modern life. With a three foot blade and a grip nearly a foot long it almost impossible to carry concealed however much that seemed possible for Duncan McCloud in the old TV series "The Highlander".

I have not kept up my former proficiency at archery though I occasionally go out to the range, mostly from nostalgia. Talk about intimidation factor, an arrow stuck in someone's chest or head will intimidate everyone around him.

As for firearms, I am a dead shot with both long and short guns though I do not own a pistol nor do I carry concealed. I do own two long guns and practice regularly at the range with both my assault rifle and my sniper rifle. The Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifle lets a shooter reach out more than a mile for a kill. It and earlier sniper rifles have been my insurance in case I needed to put down an enemy whom the law could not touch and I could not otherwise thwart or escape.

Nowadays, thanks to the communications abilities of my nanites, I can call 911 even without a phone of my own by piggy backing on any cell phone around me. And if mortals fail me, I can put a call in to my friends in Olympus.

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, gentlemen stopped bearing swords altogether relying initially on the clumsy pistols of the day. It is true that the cap and ball revolvers which had replaced flintlocks could fire six shots, but they were heavy and very slow to reload. Along came revolvers with metallic cartridges and smaller pistols like the easily concealed four-barrel Sharps pepper box derringer. I carried a pair myself for a while, like the hero of the old-time TV show "Yancy Derringer", who actually carried three derringers including one in his hat.

Incidentally the inventor of the Derringer pistol spelled his name with only a single R. The familiar generic spelling with the double R arose from a misspelling during the reporting on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth used a single-shot Henry Deringer pistol.

With the recent rise in rates of crime in general and mass shootings in particular, I was already starting to think that maybe I should not continue to go around unarmed the way I do. That thinking was reinforced after my encounter with the pit bulls. I thought back to how easily Will had killed that vicious Doberman which savaged a runner at a orienteering match last year. What happened that day matched the rule of thumb in street shootings almost literally: Three shots from a small caliber pistol fired in less than three seconds from three feet away.

If you are only getting robbed, it is better to hand over your valuables. Cash and credit cards are not worth getting killed over. On the the other hand, if your assailant has already beaten, stabbed, or shot one of your party, you might as well resist rather than supinely let him finish you off too. Unless you are superbly trained beware of tackling anyone with a knife. Your best situation is if he has only a knife or truncheon and you have a small caliber pistol concealed on your person.

A confrontation up close is one situation where you definitely want to use the quick kill technique rather than aimed fire. So shoot from the hip. Resist the urge to raise your pistol to shoulder height, extend your arm, aim, and pull the trigger. Aimed fire takes too long to bring your weapon into play and places your gun within easy reach of your enemy. He might deflect your arm or even seize the weapon. No, better shoot from the hip into the other guy's belly.

While he is reacting to distress in his lower digestive tract, step back a pace or two, raise your pistol and put one or two rounds into his neck -- the neck not the head. Bullets passing through the neck cannot help but do fatal damage as they rip through muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments, the spinal cord, blood vessels, the trachea, and/or lymph vessels.

I once employed the quick kill technique in a close quarters fight in the Old West. It was not a shootout as in the movies, a duel on main street at high noon with the whole town looking on. Instead it happened at night when a pair of robbers sought the dozen Eagles in my money belt.

[The Eagle was a ten-dollar gold coin. Ten dollars in 1886 is equal to nearly five hundred dollars today.]

One man carried a Colt .45, the other a Bowie knife. Their only disguise was bandannas pulled up over their faces, which was about as effective a disguise as Clark Kent's eyeglasses. I was walking with the owner of a freight line with whom I had done business. He recognized the guy with the knife and blurted out:

"Hey, I know you. You were at the corral yesterday."

Turning to me he explained:

"I stopped him from abusing a horse."

The man with the knife nodded.

"True enough. And too bad for you both. We were just after the kid's money not your lives, but now that you can identify us, we dare not leave you as witnesses."

With that he slashed open the poor man's throat. The other robber kept his gun trained on me arrogantly assuming that a short slender mild-mannered pretty boy like myself would be paralyzed with fear. He must have entertained the thought that with the Bowie knife, they could kill me as silently as they had my companion. His hesitation about the noise a gunshot would make gave me my chance.

To shield what I was doing with my left hand, I half turned and pretended to look around for help. I turned back toward him with a look of hopelessness on my face which only encouraged him in his delusion that he had the situation well in hand. But I had already drawn a four shot derringer from my left pocket and immediately put two shots into his belly followed by another to the throat. (I am fully ambidextrous so it doesn't matter which hand I shoot with.)

The results were gratifying. Though fatally wounded he did not die instantly but experienced excruciating pain and the terror of impending death long enough to regret that he had gotten himself killed for a dozen bits of yellow metal. Good riddance to him.

The robber with the Bowie knife threw his weapon to the ground and tried to surrender. Not feeling merciful at that moment and with little patience with the legal niceties of frontier law enforcement, I shot him where he stood with the fourth bullet in my derringer. It was enough. I did not need my second derringer at all. Instead the staggered toward me, looked at me beseechingly and croaked


Seriously? He had just murdered a man in front of me. He was an accomplice in an attempt on my life. Then he literally pleads for his life from me, a man who had just drilled a hole through his neck. As if I would have helped him even if I could have, which I couldn't.

Thinking about shots to the neck reminds me that I once talked with a visitor to the American Museum of Natural History in New York who marveled at the display on the third floor of the museum of the skeleton of a sauropod dinosaur. Sauropods typically had long necks and tails and enormous bodies, easily over a hundred feet long and weighing fifty or sixty tons, equivalent to eight African elephants or as many T. Rexes.

Looking at the huge body he speculated that if it were alive, it would take a tank to kill the thing.

I disabused him of that notion, pointing to the comparatively skinny neck connecting the small head to the body as a weak point. The neck linked the harvesting mechanism at the mouth, the airway, the sensory organs of sight, smell, and hearing, and the brain to the rest of the body. That was where a live sauropod would have been vulnerable.

Far from needing a tank. All it would take for the US Army to kill one of these giants would be any vehicle with a pintle mount for a M2 50 caliber heavy machine gun. That weapon was essentially a belt-fed fully automatic elephant gun. It could fire dozens or even hundreds of bullets into the long vulnerable neck in a matter of seconds. The size of the sauropod body would be completely beside the point.

Hmm, I wonder how my musings on self-defense arrived at the notion of shooting a dinosaur.

If there is a lesson in my experiences using guns for self-defense it is that when you get an opening, don't hesitate. If you are not prepared to shoot immediately, then don't draw your weapon. If you are not sure you have it in you to shoot another human being, then don't go for your gun. Better yet don't carry one.

It is no disgrace to lack the killer instinct. In civil society it is nearly always a virtue. Moreover squeamishness is not a character flaw just a personality trait which probably confers some evolutionary advantage. Otherwise it would have been bred out of the species long ago.

Above all do not try to capture the bad guy. A professional criminal is mostly likely to take any hesitation on your part as an opportunity to turn the tables and yank the pistol out of your hand and use it against you.

If you cannot bring yourself to shoot a man facing you, you might wait till the villain turns away then shoot him in the small of the back. If your aim is true, hitting the spine will drop him like a marionette with its strings cut. Then call your lawyer and have him plead legitimate use of necessary force. Claim that your assailant was not fleeing just taking cover. In court, do your best to look harmless and innocent.

Anyway, it is a shame that things have come to such a pass in the US that I am seriously considering carrying a gun. However I will not risk doing so illegally. I am neither a law enforcement officer nor a licensed bodyguard, so I will have to find another legal way to freely carry concealed around town.

Hmm, I wonder...possibly with a private investigator license? Is that even kosher?

Note to self: check the legalities with your lawyer Seth Wickersham, the practicalities with Will, and the wisdom of it with Sergeant Delaney.

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