The Darkness Between Doors

by Geron Kees

Chapter 13

"Amazing amount of destruction," Nyf said, sounding slightly appalled. "The materials used to build this place are immensely strong and durable. The walls of these buildings seems to be crystallized."

"What could do that?" Mike asked.

"I don't know. There are weapons in the empire armory that neutralize the electrostatic attraction between the lattice of positive ions in a metal and the fluid of valence electrons in which they are immersed. Something similar to that effect, but operable on a broader spectrum of materials."

The man grunted. "Sounds like a classic science fiction disintegrator to me."

"It would have that effect, yes."

"Do you hear that?" Cally asked, his voice hushed.

"Yeah." Derry nodded, slowly. "Creepy as hell."

The air around them was filled with sound, which seemed almost to beat at their ears through their sound receptors. Derry could hear wind, though there seemed very little movement of the air yet, and something that sounded vaguely like the clicking-tick of the turn signal in his Mom's SUV. And something else...

"Sounds like voices," Cally said then. "Like a hundred people, all talking at once."

Yes, that was it. Whispers, and chants, and the droning sound of one of his teachers going on and on about fractal geometry. A choir sang somewhere nearby, completely off-key, while another voice laughed maniacally, and yet another screamed insults. And all in a not-quite-language that seemed terribly threatening, but which could not be understood, not one word of it.

And it was getting louder.

Derry looked up at the dark cloud, at the red pulses of light inside it, and for a long moment was sure he saw faces. Terrible ones, inside the cloud, circulating with the great black currents, pausing momentarily to stare at him as they sailed by. The hair on the back of his head stood up then, and he held onto his pistol with what was surely a death grip. The urge to run was incredibly strong now, and even as he fought to stand his ground he felt Cally move up against him.

"I got your back," his boyfriend said, though his own voice sounded terrified. Derry took his free hand, found Cally's free hand, and they clamped their gloved palms together.

In the distance, maybe a hundred yards form them, there was movement, and two figures emerged from behind a large shipping container and starting running their way. Two of the Crites, tossing away their staves as they ran, their arms pumping as they raced towards the doorway.

Mike Hamlyn raised a hand and waved towards them, and then his amplified voice boomed out into the lowering darkness: "Run! Come on!"

And then Derry and Cally were yelling, too, urging the two runners on to even greater feats of motion.

The cloud, immense and close now, pulsed, and a furiously white bolt of something terrible arced downward and found the pavement, which immediately exploded, sending chunks of material everywhere. The bolt moved rapidly across the pavement, ripping a long, deep gash in it, found the two runners...and then they were simply gone.

Derry was stunned, horrified, and amazed at the same time.

"Nyf, what was that?" he heard his granddad ask. "What will it do to our suits?"

"You must not be struck," the artificial mind said then. "I advise an immediate retreat!"

And then, much closer to them than the first pair had been, two more runners emerged from their hiding places. One was empty-handed, and the other cast his staff to the ground, and both men raced towards the door. Mike Hamlyn backed up then, forcing Derry and Cally back towards the door, but again raised a hand and waved it furiously. "Run! Run fast!"

The world had settled into an odd, gray twilight now. The cloud had grown to block out the last of the red daylight. The voices had become a crowd - no, a mob - screaming and ranting and bellowing discordantly, pulsing against Derry's eardrums. Another white bolt found the ground then, and raced towards the runner on their left. He saw it coming out of the side of his eye and tried to dive out of its way, but it followed his movements tenaciously...and then, he too, was gone.

The last runner was fifty feet away now, and closing fast. Derry was certain he could see the look of frantic fear on the Crite's face, the sure knowledge that he was close to death.

Another bolt dropped from the sky then, and raced towards the last runner...raced straight towards the door where they stood. Derry's grandfather turned then, and spread his arms wide, and propelled them back through the darkness of the doorway. They emerged into the transfer station at a run, and turned to face the cargo door, weapons drawn.

"I'm shutting the door down!" Nyf called on the private link.

"No, wait!" Mike bellowed, in a tone that brooked no argument. "Give that last man a chance!"

Time simply stopped then. The others in the tube station had moved closer to them as they emerged, but then had frozen at Mike's yell, which was in the clear on the translator and at top volume.

All eyes turned back to the doorway, and Derry imagined the last Crite running, his arms pumping, his feet flying across the pavement as he approached the safety of the doorway, and...he'll be coming through!

But the doorway remained quiescent, the dark surface of the amazing spacial intersection that filled its oval not parting to reveal the Crite. More moments passed, and then thirty seconds, and then...nothing.

"I'm shutting down," Nyf said quietly.

A panel on the wall to one side of the doorway flickered into life. A series of lights raced back and forth across its surface, and then slowly winked out, one by one.

Derry felt an odd tension in the air, heard a humming, like a swarm of bees in a nearby nest; and then the darkness within the oval of the door faded, and was gone, revealing the stack of staves behind it, and the wall beyond them.

"He didn't make it," Derry said, sadly.

His granddad's face looked as sad as Derry had ever seen it. "No. I guess not."

Derry found that he was still holding Cally's hand, and gave it a very great squeeze, indeed. "I love you," he whispered on their private link. "I love you so much!"

He heard Cally's relieved, still nervous chuckle, and the other boy squeezed his hand back. "I love you, too! We have so much fun together!"

Derry couldn't help gasping at that. "You call that fun?"

"I was with you," Cally said pointedly. "That's what mattered to me."

Derry's grandfather turned and found Gilden. "You sure one of those Crites was Crowla?"


"What happened to them?" Dith asked, from his seat on the floor. But the expression on his face said he knew. "The got them, didn't it?"

"Yes," Mike replied, shaking his head sadly. "I'm sorry about that. We did what we could."

"I heard," Dith said. "You waited for them, but they couldn't make it." He looked back at the empty oval of the now deactivated doorway. "What was that thing?"

"The great menace," Nyf said then. "Tell him it was the great menace."

"Was it?" Mike asked privately, sounding astonished.

"I don't know. Just tell them that."

Mike repeated the words, and everyone in the room stiffened.

Koort stamped a foot on the floor. "So close!" He whirled on Dith. "Only a few steps away through a door! You nearly had it down on us! Fool!"

"We didn't know," Dith returned in a strained voice. "How could we?"

"You knew that something was off about what you saw there, didn't you?" Mike asked.

"Yes. The first time we went, it was several hours before the storm arrived. But each time we went back it was there much more quickly, as if it was waiting, and knew we would be back."

"I suspect it was," Nyf put in then.

Erva moved closer and peered down at Dith, then looked up at Mike. "Crowla was lost?"

"Yes. We saw three of the Crites killed the thing that was there. The last was running for the door as we came back through it. We waited...but he obviously didn't make it."

Koort gave a sigh, and let his head hang down for a moment. "Then justice is served, and we did not even have to work for it. Crowla has decreed his own sentence."

Derry's grandfather gave his head a shake. "What a waste. What a...a stupid waste." He turned to face Dith. "You're in command of your holding now."

The Crite looked aghast. "Me? I cannot...I am not the...the people will need to name a new---"

"You're the man," Mike insisted, cutting him off. "Because I'm going to tell you what happens next, and you're going to do it. Hear me?"

Dith stared up at the expression on Mike Hamlyn's face, visible now that he had dropped his head bubble. It was not an expression to be argued with. "I...I understand."

Mike looked at Koort. "Do you have a complaint against this one?" He indicated Dith.

The Narthie frowned at Dith. "Not to my knowledge. I, myself, slew the one that killed my friends. The leader that set that one to his task is now also dead. Those in between, like this one, are not my concern."

"Anybody else?" Mike asked, looking around at the others.

"I do not," Mergrun said. "Dith has offended our holding, but he was kept from more dire action by your appearance there." The Crite made what was surely an offensive sound. "One cannot try a man on what he has not yet done, though I am fairly sure that murder was in his mind in regards to Erva and his people."

Dith dropped his gaze at that, but said nothing.

"I am of a similar mind," Erva said, stepping closer. "What Dith may or may not have been ready to do before your arrival is now moot. It is what he will do now that matters."

All eyes turned to the Crite on the floor, who blinked at the combined stare, but nodded. "I will do what is needed now, to ensure the safety of my holding."

"Good." Mike nodded. "The first thing you are going to do is to get your people to turn in those staves. I want them all brought here, understand? And not like an army on the move. Small groups of your people, each carrying as many staves as they can. Dump them in a pile here, and then leave."

"I will do that," Dith said. "All I will need to say is that Crowla is no more, killed by the great menace on the broken world beyond the door. Enough of my people have been there to remember the great storm, and the fear that it inspired. They will comply."

Mike nodded. "Okay, let's do this."

Dith made an attempt to stand again, had trouble with it, and Garmin grunted and waved a hand at Mergrun. The two Crites moved in and helped Dith to his feet.

"Can you stand?" Mergrun asked, not letting go of Dith's arm just yet.

"I think so. I'm a little wobbly."

"You're lucky you're not dead," Erva pointed out. "Gilden's lance could have easily done to you what you may have intended to do to others."

Dith winced at that, and nodded. "I know. I'm sorry."

"If you really are sorry, this will be easy," Garmin said. "Just have your people bring the staves here. No hiding a few of them away for later, hear?"

"We can detect them at a distance," Derry's granddad said. "Just so you know."

By now the rest of the Crites from Crowla's holding had regained consciousness. A few had risen enough to sit up, but most had remained where they had sprawled, watching and listening, but afraid to do anything that might draw unwanted attention. That they had been defeated by the Armenti and their accompaniment of Crowla Holding's own neighbors was clear.

Mike turned to face them. "You all heard what has been said here. Go back to your holding with Dith. He's in charge, at least for now. Return with the staves, dump them here on the floor, and then turn around and go home. No funny business, you hear me? My patience is getting thin with you people."

Dith started to walk past Mike on his way to the archway leading deeper into the tube station, but stopped when Mike stuck out an arm in front of him. "This is your one chance, Dith. Listen to me carefully. Do this, return the staves, and then go home."

The Crite nodded. "And then?"

Mike shrugged, and then smiled thinly. "And then me and my two men will be leaving. What happens to you and your people after that will be up to your neighbors to decide." He leaned closer to the Crite. "But if we are forced to come back here again, it won't just be three of us."

Derry had an idea then. "Nyf, do you have footage of all those battle robots that came when we talked to the crew of that moon ship back on the starport moon?"

In one of their earlier adventures, Difris has sent them to one of the empire's fleet starports to investigate why a door from that place had suddenly opened a new link with the transfer station. They had found a primitive spaceship from the world the fleet base moon revolved around landed at the port, and its crew trying in vain to gain entry into one of the empire's ships landed there. The aliens had thought the port abandoned, and the technological treasures there up for grabs. Nyf had put an end to that notion by having Mike Hamlyn, Derry, and Cally approach the aliens amidst a veritable horde of security lifeforms that resembled giant spiders, armed to the teeth, and proclaim themselves the owners of the moon, and not happy with trespassers. The poor frightened aliens had gotten the word, and had left.

"Yes, I do," Nyf said, chuckling.

"Show 'em," Derry directed. He turned to Dith. "This is what will happen next time there is a problem with doors from Rustgevend."

The large round viewer appeared in the air before them, and the scene on the distant star port played out before the stunned audience. "On our last mission, we ran into some people who thought an empire starport could be casually looted. We convinced them otherwise." Derry pointed at the viewer.

As the thousands of battle lifeforms, resembling giant, metallic spiders, raced across the paved landing field of the starport towards the grounded moon ship, they were seen extruding forth giant cannons and projectors and other weapons of mayhem, all to the accompaniment of an incredible din as those thousands upon thousands of metallic legs churned up and down with their motion. The final moment, when they encircled the moon ship, and Mike, Derry, and Cally stepped forward to warn the aliens off, was pretty impressive to watch, even for Derry, who had been there at the time.

"These are empire security lifeforms," Mike said, smiling sideways at Derry. "These are the troops that go to work when talking fails." He turned to look at Dith. "You get me?"

The Crite looked horrified, his eyes bugged out at the image on the screen. "Oh, yes! We will not...we will do as you have asked. There will be no more trouble."

Mike waved a hand at the image on the viewer, and Nyf took the hint and made it vanish. Mike sighed then, and smiled at Dith. "We don't want to bring you trouble. You people are citizens, which is why just three of us came to look into what was happening here. We really don't have time for games, though. You understand? It is absolutely imperative that you not use the doors until we have mastered this situation." He leaned closer, causing Dith to flinch. "You remember the life form you saw at the shipping facility?"

Dith blinked uncertainly. "Life form?"

"Yes. That thing that looked like a giant thunderstorm. It's a living thing. The great menace. Or one of them."

Dith shrank away from him. "A living being!"

"Yes. By using the doors, you risk bringing one of them - or even more than one of them - here, to Rustgevend. Do you understand me?"

The fear in Dith's eyes ran deep. "Yes. I do understand you." He glanced at the now inoperative door. "Now I can see why door usage was prohibited. To bring one of!" He jerked his eyes back to the humans, and waved his hands in agitation. "I swear that all will be done as you have asked. This menace must never be allowed to come here!"

Mike nodded slowly. "That's all we ask. Don't make things worse for us while we fight these things. As soon as it's safe, we'll come back and tell you so."

Dith was in a hurry to leave then, as were all the Crowla holding's Crites. Derry and the others watched them hustle through the archway into the depths of the station.

"You think they will comply?" Gilden asked, a little skeptically. "Do you think they will return and forfeit the staves?"

Garmin and Mergurn both made amused sounds, and Koort roared out a laugh, and smiled at the Sasparian. "Wouldn't you?"

Erva came to his son and took the staff from his hands, and tossed it over into the pile with the others. Then he smiled at Gilden, and gave him a hug. "I am proud of you."

Gilden looked happy at that. "It was an amazing adventure. I'm...I'm a little sorry it's over." He smiled at Derry and Cally. "Must you leave so soon? We were just becoming friends."

Cally grinned at Derry. "We have time for a few stories before we go, don't we?"

Derry nodded, but looked at his granddad for confirmation. "Sure. A few good stories, told around the fire?" He smiled at Gilden. "And we'd love to hear some stories about life on Rustgevend."

"That would be enjoyable, I think," Mike agreed. He let his gaze travel around the circle of their new friends. "Inishee holding? Tomorrow night? Around the fires? You're all invited." He smiled. "There are a million open doors out there. Each one has a story to tell. You won't be bored, I can assure you."

"Rustgevend has its own stories to share," Koort told them, smiling. "I need to see to my fallen friends, and inform their families of what has happened here. But I think I can do that in a day's time and make it back to Inishee. So I, for one, will be there."

"We will assist you, brother," Erva said then. "My son, Gilden, and I."

Gilden gave a nod of his head. "We will."

Mergrun and Garmin stepped forward as one. "So will we," Garmin said.

"And gladly," Mergrun added.

Derry looked at Cally, and then at his grandfather. Mike Hamlyn smiled, and gave a slow nod.

"I'll help." Derry said.

"So will I," Cally joined in.

"We all will," granddad decided. "As soon as we are finished here, in fact."

"What will you do with the staves?" Gilden asked.

"We can reactivate the door and push them through," Nyf offered, on the private channel.

Mike managed to hide his surprise, and passed that answer on to the Sasparian lad.

"Will that be safe?" Derry asked.

"Yes," Nyf replied. "I have had time to process some of the data we obtained at the supply center on the other side of the door. I believe it will be safe to reopen the door long enough to dispose of the staves."

"Was that really a creature of some kind?" Cally asked. "That big thunder cloud?"

"Many creatures, actually," Nyf responded. "You may have been prescient with what you told Dith, Mike. This is, perhaps, the great menace, after all."

Mike Hamlyn looked surprised at that. "What? One thing like that, on one out of the way planet, would force the Armenti to shut down door travel everywhere?"

"I don't think there is just one," Nyf countered. "I am still digesting the data. I will not know for some time yet. But I do think it will be safe to dispose of the staves. And then we close down this door, and lock it so it cannot be reopened."

Derry considered that, and decided that Nyf probably knew best. "So we wait for Dith and his men to come back, then we help Koort with his friends, and then we go back to Inishee and sit by the fire and share stories with these people?"

"Doesn't sound like a bad way to end this trip," his granddad said. "Helping our new friends. Does it?"

It didn't, actually. Derry shrugged, and smiled at Cally. "We only have a few stories to tell."

"The planet of the fur people, the planet of the bear horses and glass people, and the star port," Cally agreed. "And we'll have to be creative with them."

"That will be enough," Mike said. "We want to hear their stories too. I'm sure they have a lot to tell. And a night is only so long."

Derry smiled at that, and nodded. "I'm hungry. And I could use a nap."

"Time for that, too," Mike said. "Time for a lot of things now, it seems."

That was true. The new time calibrator that Difris and Nyf had come up with would see to that. For a brief moment Derry imagined what might lay ahead of them in times to come. What had his grandfather said? A million open doors...

Oh, yes. Their task was only just beginning.

Derry sighed happily, and settled back among the cushions of the outdoor sofa on his grandfather's wide front porch. Cally was next to him, and the two were holding hands between them, listening to the thunder rumble in the distance. The afternoon sky had darkened, and the first patterings of rain were falling on the tin roof above their heads. It was wonderful to be home again, to smell Indiangrass and conifer, and to see the dazzling faces of red trillium and hepatica lining the edges of the woods. The boys were tired from their recent adventure, but happy at its outcome.

"I can't believe only four hours passed while we were gone," Cally said. "That time thing that Difiris came up with sure did the trick!"

"Uh huh. It means we can take a lot more trips through the doors, and not get in trouble with my mom."

"Or my folks, either," Cally agreed. "It's sure gonna be an interesting summer. When it gets here."

"Yeah, well. We can only do weekends with Difris and Nyf until school is over, I guess."

Another rumble of thunder came to their ears, and Cally's hand tightened around Derry's.

"You okay?" Derry asked.

"Yeah. I's weird to come home, and there's a storm here, too."

Derry nodded. "It's one of ours, though. There's nothing in it to fear."


The front door opened then, and Mike Hamlyn came out and looked over at them. Derry quickly withdrew his hand from Cally's, but the brief frown that appeared on his grandfather's face told him the man had seen the action.

Derry tried to bluster his way through. "Hi, granddad. What's up?"

The man smiled. "Your mom said not to go anywhere. Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes."

"We're not going anyplace," Derry said, waving at the rain sprinkling down. "We had enough of getting wet back on Rustgevend."

Mike nodded, and looked out into the fields of Indiangrass, waving in the breeze. "That storm there made this one look tame."

A moment of silence dropped between them then. Derry looked over at Cally, who raised one shoulder in a question. "What do you think?" he asked, on their private channel.

"He saw us," Derry responded. "I know he did."

"Maybe he didn't," Cally offered. "He hasn't said anything."

Derry licked his lips, looking for something to say to break the silence. "Um...It was cool it was mom's night to cook," he managed to his granddad. "Saves you the trouble of coming right back to a hot stove."

He was feeling nervous, but his granddad's continued silence gave hope to the notion that he was not ready yet to tackle the issue of Derry's and Cally's closeness.

And then that notion fell through.

Mike Hamlyn looked back at them, then at the screen door, as if determining where inside the house Derry's mom might be; and then he came over and sat down in the rocker next to where Derry sat at the end of the sofa. "About the two of you."

Derry's nerves spasmed then. "Huh?"

His granddad watched them, his eyes going from one boy to the next. "I'm okay with it. I said that before, and I'll say it again now."

Cally's elbow tapped hard against Derry. "He does know."

Derry suddenly felt breathless, as if all the air had been sucked away from around him. "You...know." It came out as a statement, not a question.

His grandfather's eyes filled with sympathy then, and he smiled. "Relax. I said I was okay with it."

Derry turned to look at Cally again, but he couldn't seem to confine his words to their private link. "He said it was okay."

Cally simply stared at him, and then let his gaze go back to Mike Hamlyn. "Okay?"

Mike turned and settled back into the rocker, and set it to moving. There was a flash of lighting off to their left somewhere, followed by the bang of thunder. The rain seemed to gain energy then, coming down in sheets. The Indiangrass responded joyfully, waving in accompaniment to the wind and the rain in a welcoming dance.

The man nodded. " initial reaction was not so understanding." He turned to look at them again. "I don't really get a man loving a man. Or...well, like you two." He sighed, just barely audible over the rain now. "But it isn't my decision. It's not up to me."

Derry simply nodded.

His granddad's eyes were anything but accusing. "I got to thinking how your dad would have reacted, Derry." He smiled again. "He loved you so much. Just so much. I decided he would have worried about the effect of this on your life - on your future, I mean. But I also decided that, after all was said and done, he would have continued to love you so much, and to support you in the life you were living. I felt I owed him that much, at least, to try do the very same."

Derry was slightly aghast. "It sounds like you've known for a long time."

His grandfather laughed at that. "Kind of hard to miss. Don't be surprised if your mom suspects, too."

Derry's disbelief intensified. "But...what do I do?"

Mike Hamlyn shrugged. "Nothing. If your mom finds out for certain, I am pretty sure she'll take it even better than I did. I would suggest you tell her, in fact. There's a lot more known about this than when I was a kid. You are who you are, Derry, and it's just that simple."

His grandfather went quiet a moment, as if thinking. The rain tried to come onto the porch with them, but the old house's builders had known their stuff, and the porch wasn't having any of it. The boards near the rail in front of them grew damp, and then soaked, but none of the raindrops reached the dry oasis where they sat against the front wall of the house.

Granddad turned to smile at them again. "You know what? I've come to see how small a bump in life this really is. You love Cally, and he loves you. After all we have seen and done on Rustgevend, after all the lives that we've seen affected by events just in the past few days, what you two have seems not to be something to fret about. It's yours to participate in, not mine. I kind of realize I'm in the same boat as your dad was. I love you, Derry, and that's all that really matters. How you live your life is not up to me. But I do want you to know that I support you in this, and that I will always be here to fight for what you believe in. Understand?"

Derry fought to hold back tears then. Cally sniffed, and settled against Derry's shoulder, found his hand again, and squeezed it tightly.

"Thanks," was all Derry could manage.

"Not needed, son. I've had a good look at the kind of man you are, out there among the stars. The kind of man you'll be, rather. A good man, Derry. Both of you. That matters more than what you two do in the privacy of your own lives. Understand?"

Derry nodded. "Yes." He bit at his lip, and rubbed his nose awkwardly. "I was a little bit scared of how you'd take this."

His grandfather nodded. "Been there, myself. Scared, I mean. You'll pull through." He smiled then. "I love you, son. And I'm pretty fond of the people you spend your time with, too."

Cally snuffed hard, and squeezed Derry's hand again. Derry could only nod.

His granddad smiled again, and got to his feet. "Um..I'd better go help your mom, before she comes looking for me. I'm glad we finally talked, Derry."

"Me, too."

Sympathy filled his grandfather's eyes once again. "It'll be fine, son. You'll see. You two get yourselves together, and come on in for dinner in a few minutes. Okay?"

Derry nodded, and Cally squeezed his hand again in support.

Mike Hamlyn sighed, smiled one more time, then opened the screen door and was gone.

"I love your granddad," Cally said, rubbing at his nose and squeezing Derry's hand.

Derry sighed, really let the air come out, realizing now that his last few breaths had been trapped somewhere inside of him. "Yeah. Me, too."

Cally laughed. "It'll be okay, like he said."

Derry hitched himself around in his seat to face his boyfriend, and smiled at him. "I love you."

Cally grinned. "I love you back."

Derry glanced back at the door, then bent forward to kiss Cally. The other boy accepted the kiss, and gave it back with all his heart. For a moment their faces stayed together, sharing some things they both had longed to experience for several years now.

Openness. A lack of fear. Love without shame.


The rain beat steadily upon the roof now, but the sound was restful, unhurried, clean. Rain washed away the grime of the day, and left everything shining again. Nature understood the rebirth of the world on a daily basis like people never could.

Cally sighed. "I'm so happy, Derry."

"I know." Derry nodded. "I feel it, too."

"What do you want to do tomorrow?"

Derry sighed. "Granddad said something about a hike after lunch."

Cally laughed. "A hike? He wants to go see Difris again."

"Uh huh. Don't you?"

Cally didn't have to think about it. "Yes. I don't think I'll ever get tired of walking between the stars."

Derry laughed at that and jumped to his feet. Then he reached a hand down, waited for Cally to take it, and then pulled his boyfriend up to stand beside him.

"Me, either. But let's eat dinner first."

They went into the house then, smiling. Derry paused at the threshold, the screen door ajar in his hand, and took a last look at the rain coming down, at the fields of grass and flowers, and the woods beyond. It was wonderful to be home.

His eyes lingered on the woods in the direction of the ancient mound, left there so long ago by a people that had once held the stars in their hands, but had now gone missing.

We'll find you, Derry promised, as much to himself as those lost others. We won't give up.

He smiled a last time, at the rain, the world it fell upon, and the secrets that world held hidden, and then carefully closed the door behind him.

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