Steele Steaming
Part One
Set in season two, immediately following 'Steele Away With Me'…
By Gilmoradict
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Glasses clinked, saucepans clanked and an angry voice snapped directions at several wide eyed, white capped kitchen help. Slipping through the double swinging doors to escape the noise, a man in a well fitted suit nodded as he spoke softly and assuringly into the phone, cord stretched as far as it would go.
"Of course, Mr. Steele. 8:30. Our best table. Certainly. The violins will not be too loud, but will play slowly and romantically in the back ground. Our best Chianti will be chilled and waiting. We will see you and your companion then." Joseph wiped the sweat from his forehead with a clean handkerchief as he returned to the kitchen to hang up the phone. He clapped his hands together. "Attention. The Great Detective Rrremington Steele will be coming here to dine with us tonight. Everyone, everything, must be in top form - if Mr. Steele likes our food and our ambiance he will bring his clients and his lady friends with him. It will be very good for us, no?"
Sitting in his office, back tuned to his immaculate desk, Remington Steele smiled as he tapped the phone against the palm of his hand, smiling broadly. "Perfect, perfect. A romantic setting, excellent food and the appropriate music...Laura by my side. I will persuade the tenuous Miss Holt of the veracity of my feelings for her. Now, to confirm our engagement...."
Miss Holt blew in through the connecting door to Mr. Steele's office just as he turned to settle the phone back onto the base. "Mr. Steele, hard at work as usual?" Laura remarked pinning her ersatz "boss" with a searching glance that encompassed the empty desk, Steele's empty hands, and the complacent smile on his face.
"I'll have you know Miss Holt that I have been in here slaving away on the phone for nearly two hours now." Steele thought of the flowers he had arranged to have delivered to Miss Holt's home, as well as here to her office later today. He recounted to himself the calls to the tailor to confirm the completion of the alterations on his newest suit, and the reservations he had just worked out with Joseph at Rigazzi's.
"Yes, well I hope there's room in your schedule for some work. I've been talking with Mr. Sebastian George who wants to discuss some peculiar occurrences at his restaurant."
"George's!" Mr. Steele exclaimed. "Excellent establishment! I had dinner there just the other evening...."
"Perfect. Spare me the details of who and when." Laura said lightly. " Let's go over our case. There has been some unusual activity, disappearances in the storeroom, and odd coming and goings in the kitchen that Mr. George hasn't been able to get to the bottom of, and is concerned may hurt his business. I suggested you could go undercover in the kitchen, utilize some of your gourmet skills as a master chef, giving you the perfect vantage point from which to observe the kitchen and the staff."
"Oddly enough Laura I was at George's alone, doing some reconnaissance of my own. Speaking of which, I was hoping to persuade you to join me for dinner tonight - at Rigazzi's Little Italy on the Hill. Since our return from Acapulco, and your having recruited the most dedicated Miss Krebs we have barely had any time to relax together. Just the two of us..." Mr. Steele said with his most winning smile, his head tipped just a bit to look up into Miss Holt's eminently alluring chocolate brown eyes.
"Miss Krebs and I have had a lot to go over, to bring her up to speed on our operations. She's been extremely diligent - putting in nearly twice as many hours as..." Laura stopped, realizing she was drawing a rather negative comparison to her only other employee.
"Indeed, as I said, most dedicated, however, it is not Miss Krebs I wish to spend the evening with tonight." Steele continued softly, reaching out to take the end of one of Laura's long brown tresses between his fingers, concentrating on the strands of hair for a moment before returning his questioning gaze to her face.
"That actually should work out well. It will give us time to go over some of the concerns Mr. George shared with me, and to plan your cover. What time, Mr. Steele? I'll meet you at Rigazzi's." Laura straightened the edges of an already tidy stack of notes, tucking them more securely into the file folder she held in her hands.
"Don't be ridiculous, Miss Holt, no need to take two cars. Fred and I will swing by your place and collect you - 8:00 should do nicely." Steele responded somewhat uncertainly, wondering if there was a way he could persuade Laura to leave the business part out of the evening. "However, perhaps we could go over your little notes now, and put them aside for the evening?"
"Unfortunately Mildred and I have several other matters to deal with this afternoon, Mr. Steele." Affronted by Steele's reference to her 'little' notes, Laura spun around rather haughtily to leave his office. "I'm sure you have other things to attend to as well. Please don't let me keep you. We'll go over my 'little notes' this evening. I'd like you ready to be at work in Mr. George's kitchen tomorrow."
"Until this evening then Miss Holt." Steele was thoughtful as he walked out of his office, past Mildred. "Miss Krebs, thank you for all your assistance today. Don't let Miss Holt keep your nose to the grind stone too much longer!" Steele's tone was conspiratorial at this latter statement.
"You got it Chief." Mildred said with an adoring smile. "Have a wonderful evening."
"Stupid closet." Laura kicked at a crumpled heap of discarded clothes that were piled on the floor of her bedroom. She had tried on at least ten different selections, and determined that most of her clothes were better suited to the office than a dinner at Rigazzi's, even if the dinner was work related. Most of her few dressier items Steele had already seen, though briefly Laura tried to deny to herself that she cared one way or another. Finally picking up the white dress she had worn the night of their "Thin Man" dinner party, when Steele had assured her she made a splendid Myrna Loy, Laura slipped it on with a resigned sigh. For this evening she brushed her freshly washed and softly curled hair back on either side, fastening it with clips. Silver sandals and a few items stuffed into a small handbag completed her preparations, just as Steele rang the bell.
"Ah, Miss Holt, you look absolutely splendid." Steele's gaze was most appreciative. He leaned in to kiss Laura's cheek chastely.
"Thank you," Laura said lightly, "New suit Mr. Steele?"
"Nothing I wear can hold a candle to you, Miss Holt." Steele said sincerely, though secretly pleased she had noticed. Offering Laura his arm he queried "Shall we?"
"Whoops - hang on a second." Laura turned to pick up the file folder with her notes on the George matter.
Steele and Laura were escorted with great flourish to Steele's requested table. The room was darkened, the table bathed in it's own pool of candlelight, light which was reflected twice in the twin pools of Laura's dark eyes. A string trio began playing softly and tenderly just a few feet away from the table, a waiter silently filled water glasses, and placed menus in front of Steele and Laura. A basket of fragrant bread magically appeared, along with pats of pressed butter. Joseph brought out the chianti Steele had arranged for earlier, and offering Steele a taste, waited for his approval before filling both of their glasses. Laura had placed the file folder near her plate, the name 'Georges' written neatly on the tab in Laura's meticulous script. Joseph glanced down at the folder, his eyes growing wide. Bowing slightly he backed away from them; had they been paying more attention to him, the normally observant pair might have seen the dismay on the maitre'd's face.
"The flowers you sent this afternoon were lovely Mr. Steele. Thank you." Laura offered, thinking as well of the other details Steele has apparently arranged for ahead of their arrival.
"I wanted tonight to be special, Laura. We haven't spent time together outside of the office since..."
"Since our trip to Acapulco? Since our confusing conversation there? You see," Laura smiled a bit uncertainly. "I haven't forgotten. I just wanted to get things sorted out professionally before we pursue the personal side of our relationship. You really are very good at this private eye thing you know. You've stepped into Murphy's shoes with no problem. "
Steele's face fell."Surely that isn't how you see me, Laura! As Murphy's replacement!?"
"Not exactly, Mr. Steele." Laura smiled. "I do however, need a partner who can share the workload the way Murphy did. You've been more diligent than I might have expected you'd be. I did worry a little that we might not be able to work together - keep the lines clear, not mix professional with personal? We seem to be managing that well - the agency has been very productive, especially now that Mildred's getting up to speed..."
"Yes, well, only because there's been no personal. Wouldn't you agree it's time to start working together toward a close, personal relationship too?" Steele reached for Laura's hand as he spoke, holding it in his left as his right hand traced the outline of each of her fingers with feather light gentleness. "Laura, move forward with me. Baby steps are all I'm asking - dinner without business tonight."
Laura's eyes met Steele's. She swallowed. "All right, Mr. Steele. Dinner, no shop talk." Laura picked up her menu, and without opening it asked, "I'm guessing you have a suggestion?"
"Veal and shiitake mushroom ravioli, marinara sauce, house salad, light on the dressing, and tiramisu for dessert." Steele took Laura's menu from her, and set it aside without looking at his either. At this the waiter wordlessly removed both. The music of the strings swirled around them. Mr. Steele's eyes never left Laura's, but a smile spread across his face to light those ocean blue eyes.
"Let's get through dinner, first Mr. Steele, then we'll talk about dessert."
"Wonderful, Mildred. You understand exactly what I need here." Laura sat next to Mildred in the reception area of Remington Steele Investigations. More specifically, the two were intent on the computer screen in front of Mildred's chair. "Can you generate a list of all the restaurateurs in the Los Angeles area?"
"You bet, Miss Holt. Have it for you in a jiffy." Mildred wore a beautiful blue dress with a gold and black broach pinned at its offset neckline. Her blond hair was fluffed attractively back from her genial face, the frame completed by the gold and black earrings Mildred wore. She was a woman transformed from the severe IRS agent who had pursued Miss Holt and Mr. Steele to Acapulco just months earlier in an attempt to prove Steele had perpetrated fraud against the United States government. Working closely with her handsome boss, Remington Steele, and the stunningly attractive Miss Holt, had given Mildred a new perspective on her life; the glamour of her employers had rubbed off on her. Miss Holt and she had in fact gone shopping together on several occasions, Miss Holt assuring her that spending money on clothes was a necessary, if tedious business expense, an essential part of presenting the appropriate face to clients. Of course, in Mildred's opinion, if she was buying clothes for a body like Miss Holt's, the shopping would be more fun than Miss Holt seemed to think it was, but that was part of Miss Holt's charm: she was entirely self-effacing about her appearance.
"Morning, Morning, Morning!" Mr. Steele sang as he strolled confidently through the office door. He winked at Mildred, and taking Miss Holt's hand in his, bowed low to place a tender kiss there.
"Mr. Steele." Laura responded coolly, withdrawing her hand. "Glad you are able to join us. Mildred and I have turned up quite a bit of information on the computer this morning, in addition to what Mr. George gave me. Now that you're here, let's go over the details. When ever you're ready, 'Sir.' "
"Good morning, Chief," Mildred added cheerfully. "Coffee or tea?" Mildred puzzled a bit over the dynamics between Mr. Steele and Miss Holt. At times she was certain there was more between them than detective and associate, a spark so to speak, and at other times, it almost seemed as if Miss Holt treated Mr. Steele like a slightly disobedient child, caught with his hand in the cookie jar. She herself had nothing but admiration for Mr. Steele, but then he was SO charming! He had several times come in with some small gift for her; flowers, candy, and one evening had even invited her to join him for a movie. Every word out of his mouth was delivered with warmth and sincerity. What girl could resist him? Perhaps Miss Holt, but surely not she!
"Coffee would be lovely, Miss Krebs. Thank you!" Mr. Steele gave Mildred an encouraging nod, as he followed the disappearing figure of Miss Holt into his office.
"I've made a list of the menu items George's offers, which I hope you having a passing familiarity with. You won't be responsible for their entire preparation, especially on your first night. Do you think you could appear somewhat knowledgeable of their assembly?"
"Miss Holt...what happened to last night, to the progress we made?" Steele moved close to Laura, and breathing in her intoxicating fragrance, reached out to touch her face.
"Mr. Steele." Laura moved a single step away from Steele. "Remember that this is a place of business, and we have preparations to make before your undercover work tonight. Focus."
"Wouldn't think of stopping, Miss Holt. I simply choose to focus on you, on us - at least for a moment." Steele leaned in to kiss Laura, his azure eyes riveted to her mahogany. His reward was the deepening of the dimple in Laura's cheek.
"Mr. Steele, you are impossible." Laura shook her head and smiled briefly, before regaining control of her expression. "Take a look at this menu please."
"If I must." Sighing, Steele lowered his gaze to the list of dishes Laura held in front of him, and reading through it quickly, grew thoughtful. "Shouldn't have too much difficulty appearing knowledgeable with any of this, but it's interesting. Some of these items are remarkably similar to Rigazzi's. Didn't think about it earlier, but having just studied the menu last night, the use of lemon and arugula, tagliatelle, and the mushroom and tomato marinade in the salad are too unique to be mere coincidence."
"Professional theft?" Laura asked speculatively.
"Perhaps. What else have you learned about our Mr. George?" Their two heads close together, the partners concentrated on work for several hours, stopping only to accept the coffee Mildred devotedly delivered at intervals.
"You look perfect, 'Henry.' " Laura stood back to look with satisfaction upon Mr. Steele as he prepared to walk through the staff entrance to George's. His hair slicked straight back from his forehead, a thin mustache trembling on his upper lip, and a crisp white chef's coat buttoned neatly up to his chin, a white cap hanging at the ready from his pocket, Steele was the perfect image of a well trained chef. "Keep out of the way as much as possible, eyes open, observation, observation, Mr. Steele."
"My powers of observation are becoming more finely honed each day we spend together. For instance, I observe the way your eyes shine by candlelight, the way you blush when you are given a compliment, the rise of your breast when you are flustered...." Steele smiled as he wiggled his eyebrows at Laura.
"The case, Mr. Steele. The case." Laura rolled her eyes as she turned Mr. Steele towards the back door of George's and gave him a shove.
Laura sat at a small, inconspicuous table at George's, nursing her third cup of coffee, and pretending to read a book she had brought with her. She was wearing large red glasses, and had pulled her hair back in a rather severe bun. A bulky sweater, dark slacks and lace up flats completed her disguise. Every now and then she made notes in a small spiral, pushing the over-size glasses up her nose as she did. It was nearly closing time for George's and the wait staff had long ago lost interest in her. There was a sound of laughter, and jovial conversation coming from the kitchen, where the staff was cleaning up.
"Yes, well, perhaps I could stay a bit longer and familiarize myself with your recipes?" Laura heard Steele suggest in a plausible American accent. She hadn't realized he could do that!
"Not on your life! No one looks at my recipes except ME. You'll follow my instructions tomorrow, and the next day as well. Mr. George does not want his special dishes appearing on restaurant tables all over Los Angeles." The cook said with disdain. "You did o.k. for a first day, Henry. I'll work you harder tomorrow, if you show up, so go home and get some sleep."
"I'm cut to the quick by your implications, Angelo. You may not realize it yet, but I am the second finest chef in this city. I want to work for the best! I would never dream of leaving here with your recipes." Steele assured the head cook. "You'll see. Back tomorrow and the day after that too."
Laura grimaced. The lies sounded so sincere coming out of Steele's mouth; she was reminded of how good he was at pulling a con. He could be playing just as convincing a game with her as well, telling her he planned to stay, and planning something else the minute her back was turned. She picked up her bill, and reached into her over-sized handbag to get her wallet, and was soon searching frantically. Damn! She hadn't gotten her wallet into this bag! While Sebastian George would certainly not expect her to pay, he was the only one who knew her purpose in being present that evening, and Laura had not seen him since shortly after her arrival.
Standing up nervously Laura walked closer to the kitchen. She poked her head in, and gestured tentatively at Steele, "May I speak to the chef?"
"Ah, me? Well, certainly." Several of the kitchen staff hooted and whistled, laughing as 'Henry' swaggered over to talk to Laura.
"I forgot my wallet. Do you have any cash you can give me?" Laura hissed quietly
"You know I never carry cash! Too bulky. Hmmm. Come on, I'll walk you out." Steele whispered back. "Not happy with her dessert." Steele threw back in a loud voice over his shoulder, to a renewed chorus of cat calls and rude remarks from the kitchen.
"This isn't embarrassing." Laura seethed as Steele guided her by the elbow out the door.
"No problem - Glad I could make things satisfactory for you Angel." Steele continued in a loud voice for the benefit of the listening kitchen staff, and then in a hurried whisper, "Meet you back at your car in 30."
"I am exhausted, Laura. Don't ever ask me to do that again." Steele slid into the passenger seat of the Rabbit, his head falling back against the seat, eyes closed, arms limply falling to his sides.
Silently Laura jammed the car into gear and roared away from the curb. Glasses gone, hair now hanging loosely about her shoulders, and the bulky sweater tossed into the back seat, she more nearly resembled her usual appearance, complete with firmly set jaw and eyes snapping fire. At the third tightly turned corner that threw Steele one way and then another in his seat, he began to assess his companion's mood.
"Surely you're not angry about my rescuing you from your predicament back there!?" Steele said incredulously.
"Of course not. Why should I care if you imply to the entire restaurant that we were setting up some assignation to pay for my dinner?"
"Well, we were, weren't we? What do you care what the kitchen crew thought? My reputation was more violated than yours - how do you think it looks for me to make moves on a frumpy bookworm? Sorry, Laura, you're the one who asked for help, remember? And they're docking my pay to cover your meal" Steele spat the words out. After working all night in a hot, steamy kitchen per Laura's demand, this petulance was unconscionable.
"You're not getting paid, remember!? At least as Henry - you're working undercover as Remington Steele! Well, you promised Angelo you'd be back tomorrow....and we all know Remington Steele's word is his bond." Laura growled back at Steele coldly. "Let's keep in mind what's important at George's."
"I was keeping our cover. So were you - what could you possibly find to be angry about!"
"We'll discuss this tomorrow. Here you are. Good night." Laura pulled the Rabbit to a screeching stop in front of Steele's building.
"Impossible woman." Steele said to no one as Laura sped away, leaving him standing alone on the sidewalk.
"Ah Miss Krebs! I trust your day has been as lovely as you? That dress you are wearing is a pip." Mr. Steele bestowed a subdued smile on Mildred as he arrived at the agency shortly after midday. As he spoke he picked up the mail from the corner of Mildred's desk, and sorting through the stack distractedly, set the lot down as inconsequential. "I assume the industrious Miss Holt has been at work for some time already."
"Thanks, Mr. Steele." Mildred preening slightly as she responded to Mr. Steele's compliment. "Miss Holt was hard at work when I got here this morning, but she left for a client meeting before ten, and was planning to do some shopping before she returned. She said she'd found a shop that sells the gowns models wear for next to nothing but she was coming right back after that. 'Course I couldn't get more than my big toe in that stuff - Oh - Mr. Steele! You won't be mad at Miss Holt, now that I sorta spilled the beans about her shopping on company time will you!?"
"Nonsense, Miss Krebs. Miss Holt and I worked quite late last night on an assignment - I actually suggested she take the morning to sleep in, but you know our Miss Holt! Can't seem to rein in that good old American work ethic!"
"Isn't that ''Protestant' work ethic, Mr. Steele?" Mildred offered parenthetically.
"Yes, well, regardless. If you had that list of local Italian restaurants you provided Miss Holt yesterday I thought Fred and I would do a little research into their menus. Assure Miss Holt when she returns that I will be back in ample time to return to George's this evening."
"Sure Mr. Steele. And you won't tell Miss Holt that I..."
"Shhh. Not a word." Steele comforted.
"Henry, turn the heat down! You'll scald that sauce, and it won't be fit to eat!" Angelo scolded from over Steele's shoulder, then adding derisively, "Your girlfriend's back."
"Can't get enough of me." Steele said with a grimace as he moved one sauce pan off the heat, and put another on. "Perhaps I'll go speak with her - see if everything is satisfactory tonight."
Steele slipped through the door between the restaurant and the kitchen. Strolling over to Laura's table he glanced about, and then with a dignified bearing inquired: "I hope everything is to your liking this evening, Miss."
"Yes, everything is just fine." The crispness in Laura's tone was not just for the benefit of those around the pair, but had marked their conversations since Laura had overheard Steele assuring the George's kitchen staff he would be back the following night. Steele's chameleon like ability to say whatever, and be whoever would accomplish his ends unsettled Laura. He was so good at going undercover! Looking up at the mustached 'chef,' Laura found herself pondering just what was real about the man she called Remington Steele.
"Laura?" Steele was becoming uncomfortable with the silence, and looked at Laura questioningly.
Laura suddenly grabbed Steele's arm and pulled him close. "Isn't that Joseph, from Rigazzi's heading into the kitchen? You can't go back in there! He'll recognize you. Don't turn around...The staff is pointing you out to him now!" With the intent of hiding Steele's face Laura wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close for a theatrical kiss.
"Mnn,Mmmm." Steele managed to murmur, recovering from his surprise to enjoy the kiss if not its purpose. He could hear raucous laughter from the kitchen, and figured he might as well give them something worth watching, putting some of his best effort into tenderly exploring Laura's lips with his own. "Quick thinking Miss Holt." Steele was finally able to whisper as Laura broke free to brave a glance over his shoulder at the window into the kitchen.
"Come on - let's get out of here." Gathering her voluminous bag, books and pen, Laura grabbed Steele's hand as well and pulled him out of the dining room. Her glasses foggy, she walked into a passing waiter, knocking a plate of pasta from his hands and onto the lap of a hapless diner. Steele apologized with his eyes as he followed helplessly in Laura's wake. In another step her bag caught an empty chair, sending it crashing into the table behind it, plates and glassware flying as Steele attempted valiantly to catch and right them. Finally emerging from the close quarters of the dining room Steele grabbed Laura and brought her flight to a halt.
"Really, Miss Holt. Couldn't you just have asked if you wanted to be alone with me?"
Face flaming, breathing heavily, Laura pulled the steamy glasses from her face, and looking back at all of the faces staring at the two of them, gasped in dismay. For moment she stood frozen. When the possibility of movement returned, Laura angrily drew her arm back, intending to put her entire body into slapping Steele's face. Somehow Laura knew that his presence in her life, his piercing blue eyes, his amazingly steamy kiss, were the cause of all this confusion. When he ducked, her momentum spun her around and she collapsed to the floor in a heap. Laura moaned and buried her face in her hands. "What's become of my well ordered life!?"
"Shades of 'What's Up, Doc,' Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, 1972? Perhaps you've just acknowledged being a member of the human race, Laura, subject to all its mishaps and uncertainties." Steele murmured in a tender voice, kneeling to take Laura's hands in his own. "Up now, that a girl. Let's get out of here before that crowd turns ugly. We'll settle with Sebastian George later."
"That smells absolutely exquisite!" Laura inhaled as Steele lifted the lid off a chaffing dish, allowing the steam to tickle her nose with the fragrance of a wonderful tutto mare.
"Angelo pulled out all the stops for us - Mr. George was most appreciative of your discovering that Joseph and his cousin were sharing culinary tidbits."
"Well, I don't think I can ever face George's dining room again, or at least your kitchen cohorts, so I'm happy he was willing to send it here for us this evening."
"As am I, I have no desire to face the kitchen at George's again either - earning one's living by the sweat of one's brow has been something I've always sought to avoid. If I'm going to slave over a hot stove, the steam I generate had better lead to more intimate surroundings." Steele grinned archly at Laura as he sat down across his dining room table from her. "Interesting how the two maître d's were sharing information in an effort to improve BOTH their minds no harm, no foul."
"I'm glad the owners were willing to see it that way - and the disappearing food was actually going to families of some of the needier staff members- made George and Mr. Rigazzi think about how they could distribute leftovers at no cost to them. A happy outcome for everyone."
"Indeed." Steele looked Laura up and down as if she was appetizing as the tutto mare. " Have I mentioned that you look absolutely ravishing this evening Miss Holt?"
"Why thank you, Mr. Steele. Just something I picked up at a local shop." Laura indeed felt lovely this evening. She was wearing one of her finds from the resale shop, a jersey crepe dress in deep blue, cap sleeves with a neckline that draped from shoulder to shoulder, adding volume at her bosom, and framing the smooth expanse of freckled skin above. A three strand gold chain belt lay below her waist, just on the swell of her hips, the skirt swirling above her ankles. She had gathered her hair back, but not so severely as she had as a diner at George's, a few soft curls drooping from the knot of her hair.
"Laura, what I said the other night, about my risking my reputation in making moves on a bookworm?" Steele took Laura's hand in both of his, and held it gently, raising his eyes to gaze steadily at hers. "If ever there was a bookworm worthy of pursuit, it's you."
Laura's doubts and confusion struggled momentarily with the blue eyes that starred so hungrily at her, and the voice that uttered such winning words. Beyond the handsome visage, she finally realized, was a man who had stayed with her when he could have left, who had broken into a bank at her suggestion, who had agreed to return millions of dollars of diamonds for a mere finders fee. This was the real Remington Steele, or at least enough reality to convince her to smile back at her Mr. Steele and squeeze the hands that held hers.
"Pour the wine, Mr. Steele." Laura said with a smile. Let's enjoy this lovely meal. I left my book at home tonight, so we'll have to make up our own story."
"Excellent Miss Holt. Let's hope it has a happy ending."
"Oh, I suspect it will be a page turner, Mr. Steele."
~The End~

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