Gold! The Kincaid Saga Book 1 by Thomas Greenbank Genre: Family Saga, Drama Fiction
Malcolm Kincaid is a self-made man. He is also a ruthless businessman and opportunist. He knows what it takes to build and maintain a business empire, but how far will he be prepared to go to achieve his goals — and what will he sacrifice along the way?
Rachel, Malcolm's one-time fiancé; his business partner, and the mother of his child, finds herself forced to work with the man she has grown to despise.
Unaware of his true parentage, their son, Lachlan—after first studying for a law degree—advances through the ranks as their company grows into a mammoth corporation, while Rachel does her best to mitigate Malcolm's increasing influence on him. This task becomes more difficult when Malcolm appoints Lachlan as manager of a new mine.
Lachlan soon has his own set of challenges: A fractious and sometimes domineering wife with a drug dependency, a child of his own, and a conscience that often leads him into direct conflict with his Machiavellian ‘uncle’.
Over the years, Malcolm Kincaid uses, abuses, and dominates associates and family alike, crushing all opposition in his pursuit of wealth and power.
When he allows the pollution of an Aboriginal settlement’s water supply, however, he faces justice of a kind he could never imagine.
GOLD! is a tale of greed, betrayal, family conflict, rape, and murder. It is also, however, a story of love and loyalty — and of how one man’s pride and prejudice can lead to terrible retribution.
Rachel was still working when Malcolm arrived at the Lucky Miner tavern. She had taken it on herself to organise Jamie’s party and was busy putting the final touches to the tables in the rear function room. Malcolm stole up behind her and put his hands over her eyes.
“Guess who!” he whispered at the nape of her neck.
“Ooh, Sean Connery?” Rachel said. “No? Ah… Paul Newman?”
She turned to Malcolm, feigning surprise and disappointment. “Oh, it’s you. Oh well, better than Count Yorga the vampire, I guess.”
“And I don’t bite,” Malcolm said. “Well, maybe a little, but I don’t leave marks.”
Rachel giggled. She gave him a quick kiss, and made to return to her work when Malcolm grabbed her arm, pulling her back to him. “Is that all I get?” He placed his mouth on hers and kissed her deeply, then added, “There’s a down payment on what’s in store for you later.”
She struggled free from his embrace, glancing around to see if there were any spectators. “Mal,” she said, “you’re hurting me. My back’s still tender from—you know…”
“Oh, come on, Rach. I hardly touched you. Anyway, that was days ago—you’re not going to sulk over it all night, are you?” Then he added in a whisper, “This is Jamie’s birthday. I don’t want you fucking it up, so let’s play nice, hey?”
Rachel managed a weak smile. No, she would not spoil Jamie’s party. Later, she decided, they’d have that discussion she had been putting off for the past week or more—if she could find the courage, that was.
Rachel gave the room a final once-over, and they walked through to the lounge bar. “I need a drink,” announced Malcolm.
“Well, I need to pop upstairs and change,” said Rachel. “You behave yourself while I’m gone, OK?” “Me? What else would I do?” he replied, and added with a mischievous grin, “I’d rather come up and help you out of those uncomfortable clothes though.”
“Cool it, Buster,” she chided. “I’ve had a long day—and it’s not over yet.”
Later, as they sat in the lounge—Rachel nursing her Bacardi and Coke and Malcolm half-way through his second pint—she said, “You never told me how you and Jamie became involved in gold mining. I mean, it’s not exactly everybody’s idea of a career path, is it?”
Malcolm took a long pull from his glass, finishing the contents before replying. “Our Dad was a truck driver,” he began. “Used to do a regular delivery run from Kwinana to the goldfields and he often stopped here overnight.” Mal paused, recalling the way his father had told the story countless times. “He got in the habit of frequenting the bush two-up school north of town and became pally with a Chinese guy called Chow Li Wong, or something like that. Around town, he was just known as Charlie Wong.
“Some guys in the bar were talking about two-up the other day,” Rachel said, adding, “Why on Earth do they call it a school?”
“Im not too sure, could be something to do with suckers being taught a lesson in blowing their money.” Malcolm chuckled at his own off-the-cuff attempt at humour. “No, I reckon it’s like a school of fish, maybe?”
“Or sharks!” Rachel interjected. They both chuckled at this.
“It’s illegal, of course,” Malcolm continued. “Some guy named Sheehan has been organising it since the ’50’s I believe. He moves the ring around regularly to keep the coppers off his tail, but I reckon some of them are on his payroll anyway and warn him when there’s likely to be a raid.” Malcolm waved a waitress over and ordered another pint before continuing his story.
“So, one day Charlie Wong’s been having a bad run but, as usual, he reckons his luck’s about to change. He bites Dad for a hundred quid—back in ’54, a hundred quid was a lot of money—and he puts his mining lease up as collateral. Dad’s pretty flush, having had a profitable day, and so he stakes Charlie. Within a half-hour, Charlie’s broke again and Dad’s the new owner of Charlie’s gold lease.”
“Poor Charlie,” was all Rachel could say.
“Poor Charlie be buggered!” Malcolm cut in. “Served the old chink right, I reckon. Charlie’s mine turned out to be a waste of time—at least, it was the way Charlie had been working it. He’d fallen for the old myth about quartz being a guaranteed signpost for gold.” He took another long swig from his glass. “A lot of the early miners thought quartz on the ground automatically meant gold deposits and his lease had a huge white quartz outcrop so Charlie wasted his entire mining life scratching around near this white monolith where he thought the gold was just waiting for him. There were no metal detectors in those days, of course.”
“Well, now we know just how close he came to making his fortune,” Rachel mused. “What do you think became of him?”
“No idea,” Malcolm said with a shrug. “Dad never talked about him. I just know that’s how he came to own the mine. I reckon Charlie just moved on.
“Charlie’s mine was a curse to Dad, though. He became obsessed, and wasted countless months, even years, fossicking around on it. He even moved the family business up here and spent every spare moment on the lease. Dad was convinced, just like Charlie, that the so-called mother lode was there somewhere. In the end, he died never having found as much as a dozen ounces.”
“And now it looks like becoming one of the richest mines in the district,” Rachel said. “Sad in a way though, isn’t it?”
Her voice trailed off, as she visualised first the old Chinaman, and later Fergus Kincaid, determinedly tunnelling away at the base of the quartz talus, oblivious to the rich gold-bearing rock buried less than 500 metres to the east. So near—and yet so far.
Malcolm scoffed. “That’s the way it is with mining. Some win, some lose. Knowledge and research is the real key to success.”
“What about your mother?” Rachel said after a pause. “You’ve never mentioned her to me.” Malcolm fell silent for several seconds before replying. “Jamie and I are actually half-brothers. His mother died in childbirth.” He paused again before continuing, “Dad met and married my mother a couple of years later.”
Rachel considered the revelation. This was the first time she had managed to get Malcolm to open up about his family history. Finally, she offered, “Well, I guess that explains a few things. I mean, you hardly look alike, yet sometimes the bond between you is uncanny.”
What she chose not to say was how much it explained the differences between them. Over the past several months, Malcolm had seemed to become more and more self-obsessed the more she came to know him. In more modern times, people might have called him a borderline sociopath. This term wasn’t part of Rachel’s vocabulary, but if it had been, it would probably have been her first choice if asked to describe Malcolm’s true nature.
“And your mother?” she asked.
“She left when I was about five,” Malcolm replied. “Dad never gave much of an explanation, but he drank a fair bit and had a decent temper, so maybe that had something to do with it. Personally, I reckon we were better off without her. I mean, what sort of woman pisses off and leaves her kids?” “And you never heard from her at all?” Rachel raised her eyebrows.
“Not a word. In fact, she seemed to have just disappeared from the face of the earth.”
Rachel was about to say more when Jamie arrived, accompanied by a young woman Rachel recognised immediately. Julie Watkins was probably the last person she would have expected to see on Jamie’s arm. A regular at the Lucky Miner on Saturday nights, Julie mostly arrived by herself or with a casual friend. She rarely went home alone, however. Jamie spotted them as he entered the room and made a bee-line for their table.
“Hi there, Birthday Boy!” called Malcolm, as they drew closer. “I see you’ve scrubbed up well.” “Mal, Rachel,” replied Jamie, nodding to each. “You’ve met Julie, haven’t you?”
After the usual pleasantries, the two brothers adjourned to the bar for a round of drinks for all. “I didn’t realise you knew Jamie,” Rachel said to Julie. “He’s not part of your usual crowd, is he?” Julie checked herself in her compact mirror. She seemed pleased with what she saw, as she chose not to make any adjustments. Julie Watkins was the type of woman who never went unnoticed, whether at a bar, a party, or the local greengrocer’s. She dressed to impress, and tonight was no exception. Julie wore a tight-fitting, low-cut dress in a red and green print that should have clashed violently with her fiery auburn hair, yet somehow didn’t. She capped the ensemble off with bright red stiletto heels and matching lipstick and nail polish. Rachel suddenly felt more than a little underdressed.
“Friend of a friend, you could say,” Julie said in reply to Rachel’s question. “No, he’s not exactly my type, but hey, a party’s a party, right? We may end up together for the night, or we may not.” She gave a laugh, and continued, “So you’re Malcolm’s other half? He’s cute, but a bit intense for my blood. Still, I believe there’s a good deal of money on the horizon— or so I hear, anyway. Best we play our cards right, hey?”
Rachel smiled and shrugged—preferring not to reply directly—and changed the subject. Within minutes the ‘Birthday Boy’ and his brother returned with drinks and some snacks.
Later, while Julie was cruising the dance floor and Malcolm was ensconced at the bar, Rachel broached the subject of Malcolm’s mother—and her disappearance—with Jamie.
Jamie explained that as he was three years older than Malcolm, he still had coherent memories of his step-mother.
She was a gentle soul, he recalled, with a sweet nature, but totally dominated by her overbearing husband. There were occasional beatings, though not so severe as to require medical attention. Mostly, she explained to any who noticed that she was just accident prone. It seemed doors had a way of jumping out on her when she least expected it, and chairs would collapse beneath her diminutive weight.
Friends and acquaintances alike would exchange knowing glances and ‘tut-tut’ sympathetically. When she disappeared, it surprised few, but none could explain why she would abandon the children. And yes, she considered both boys to be her own, and treated them equally in every respect.
There were rumours, of course. Emily Kincaid wouldn’t have been the first person to mysteriously disappear in the goldfields, and probably not the last. Most folk, however, were happy to accept Fergus Kincaid’s explanation; an argument followed by Emily storming out and vowing never to return. A bit of marital argy-bargy wasn’t exactly rare in those days, and a good many men considered it a husband's right—no, duty—to ‘keep the little woman in line’ that way.
In any case, no official enquiry ensued, and Malcolm grew up believing in his mother’s abandonment. A belief their father did nothing to discourage, and a major factor, Jamie felt, in explaining Mal’s attitude to women in general.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Jamie said as clarification. “Mal’s my brother, and my best mate. I love him dearly, but I accept that he has issues.”
“But didn’t you ever talk about it?” Rachel asked. “He must have heard the gossip.”
“Only once, when he was around twenty-two,” Jamie replied. “It was the day after Dad’s funeral, actually. Mal flew off the handle at the suggestion that Dad could have been in any way responsible.”
He paused for a few seconds before continuing. “He reckoned the sun shone out of Dad’s arse, and wouldn’t hear anything different.”
Rachel sat quietly, digesting this new information. Yes, Malcolm Kincaid did have a definite misogynist streak. At least she now had an inkling of the reasons behind his attitude—not that it made it any easier to accept.
There was something else, though—something in Jamie’s voice as he recounted the tale. Rachel couldn’t put a finger on it precisely, but…
“Thanks for explaining,” she said. “He’s discussed none of this with me before today.”
She inhaled deeply before continuing. “To be honest—and I’d really like you to keep this to yourself—I don’t know how much longer I can put up with his attitude. I’m sorry, Jamie, if this makes you the proverbial meat in the sandwich. You’re a great guy.” She swallowed hard, and added, “This may be the drink talking, but I really wish I’d met you first.”
She realised she was blushing, surprised by her own candour.
Jamie’s reply caught her even more off-guard. “You’re not the only one, Rachel. When I see how he treats you sometimes, I want to punch his lights out!” He fixed her with those hazel eyes and she felt the redness growing even more.
“I need to visit the little girls’ room,” she said, quickly rising and almost running toward the nearest exit.
As fate will sometimes have it, the events which would forever change all the relationship dynamics happened just two hours later.
Thomas Greenbank writes gritty Australian fiction. GOLD!, his debut novel, was a 2020 Page Turner Awards finalist. Greenbank's writing draws deeply on his diverse background and life experience. From a pro musician to factory worker; business owner to crossword compiler, oversize escort driver, ceramic artist and more, including 25 years as a full-time disability carer, there's not much he hasn't experienced. This diversity shows in his writing, as does his penchant for accuracy in research. Now semi-retired, Thomas lives in South Australia, with his wife -- #1 fan and biggest critic -- Linda. When he's not writing you'll probably find them walking on a nearby beach.
Tell me something unique/interesting about you. I’ve never seen a ghost—but I have heard one! It’s a long story that’s best saved for another day. I’ve seen a UFO. In fact, I’ve seen more than one, and on two completely different occasions. I use the term UFO, not Flying Saucer or Spaceship, because to this day I have no idea what I actually saw. They were definitely flying, and definitely unidentified. The first was when I was about 13, and involved lights that ‘buzzed’ our family car on a deserted outback road for an hour or more. It was between Winton and Longreach in central Queensland, Australia. At one stage, we stopped the car and my Dad and I got out to see what they’d do. The lights appeared stationary, and only about a hundred yards from us; one in front and one in back of our vehicle. There was no sound. When we got back in and drove off, they continued to shadow us. Later, when we reached Longreach, my Dad—excited and a little agitated—started to tell the folks at the roadhouse about what we’d seen. An old truckie sat at a table just smiled and told us not to worry. “We see them all the time around here,” he said. “They’re called Min-Min lights.” Apparently the aboriginals have been seeing them for as long as anybody can remember. Min-Min is their word for the strange lights that follow people around at night. Nobody has been able to come up with a rational explanation for them.
The second time I saw a UFO was in Port Hedland in around 2013. I was sitting in a camp chair having my first (I swear) drink of the night when I looked up and saw what looked like a flying vehicle of some sort cruising about a hundred feet or so above me. I knew it was fairly low, because the harbour lights reflected off the shiny under-surface. Again, there was no sound. It was not a ‘plane as there were no lights. All aircraft have to have navigation lights. As it moved out of sight I followed what I thought would be its path and saw a bright star momentarily blink as the UFO? passed in front of it.
Now that you’re pretty sure I’m some sort of nutcase, I’ll tell you something else about me: I’ve studied Astrology and Numerology. I can’t predict the future, I leave that to other folk. I can, however, given your name; and your time, location, and place of birth, do an uncannily accurate character breakdown of you. I don’t do it for money, though. It’s just something I enjoy freaking my friends out with.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up? I was born in Yorkshire, England. I don’t remember much about it though, as I was just 3 years old when our family emigrated to Australia. I’ve never considered myself anything but an Aussie. I’ve lived and/or worked in every state of Australia at one time or another, and explored just about every sort of legal occupation there is. I’ve been a musician, and worked with many well-known artists. I’ve been a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. I’ve compiled crosswords, taught hobby ceramics, piloted heavy machinery all over the country, been in the RAAF, done factory work. (not all at once) There’s not much I haven’t tried. Now I’m a full-time author.
What would you do if you knew today was your last day on Earth? First, I’d make sure all my affairs were in order. Next, I’d contact all my friends, enemies, and relatives (There’s a considerable overlap between them) and tell them exactly how I felt about them. You know, all the stuff we hold back from sharing just to keep the peace. Then, I guess I’d spend the rest of my life eating, drinking, and doing all the crazy stuff I never do because it’s a) Illegal, b) Immoral, or c) Fattening.
What kind of World Ruler would you make? Probably a pretty bad one. If the way my own life has panned out is any guide, woebetide the World that has me in charge! Besides, I’m way too soft. Too willing to see both sides of every situation. I think a World Leader would have to be more pragmatic.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? I’ve been a story-teller for as long as I remember. I recall one time our English teacher gave the class an assignment where she supplied the first sentence (it was something like “What is it?” John said) and we had to create a story from it. I worked on mine for so long she got sick of asking about itand—Ithink—assumed I’d not bothered to write anything at all. I never handed it in. As I recall, it went on for page after page and I don’t think I completed it even then. I enrolled in a comprehensive writing course late in life, and realised that was what I should have been doing all along. For one lesson, we were asked to write a synopsis for a novel. When mine was returned, the tutor said I should write that story. So I did. Over the next three years I wrote my first novel, GOLD!—learning the craft as I went. There were so many rewrites and edits that the story as it is now bears little resemblance to the original, except for the ending. That was my original vision and what I was always working towards.
What inspired you to write your book? I’d been working for six years as a pilot/escort driver, escorting all sorts of heavy mining equipment all over Australia, though mostly in Western Australia. As a subcontractor, and therefore my own boss, I often had time on my hands while waiting for a load/backload etc and got to know many people in the mining and transport industries. When it came time to plot my first book, I already had a good supply of anecdotes and situations to fall back on. After my time spent in earlier years in the music industry I might have written about a rock band. (Actually, I did start one in that vein years earlier, but it never came to fruition. Maybe one for later?)
What can we expect from you in the future? I’m already working on Book 2 of The Kincaid Saga. It will be about Malcolm’s father and his early life, and how he influenced Malcolm to become the person he was. For those who haven’t read GOLD! yet, I’m not going to give away any spoilers here. I’m also planning a spin-off story about another character and her experiences during WW2. Will there be a BOOK 3? Probably, though I’m not sure yet what it will cover. Possibly the next generation of Kincaids. I’m tossing a few ideas around at the moment. The main characters will likely be Iain Kincaid and James Kincaid Jr. I’m thinking there might be rivalry between them, that I can build a tale around. I do also have a secret project, that I had planned to write first, set in 19th century Australia. I still have to do a lot of research on that one.
How did you come up with the title for your book? The first ‘working title’ was “A Life Lived Large.” This was Malcolm’s father’s catch-cry. I changed it to The Kincaid Saga after a while, then to GOLD! as I thought that sounded more dramatic. When a couple of my beta readers suggested I turn it into a series, I decided to use The Kincaid Saga as the series name.
Who designed the cover? The cover design was done by Ross MacLennan, ofbookcoversaustralia.com. I found him with the help of Mr Google. I made an enquiry on his website and he phoned me within minutes. I told him what I had in mind—he told me what was wrong with my ideas— and when he sent me his first version of the cover I knew he had nailed it. We’d never met, of course, even though he lives close to where I had lived in Western Australia for some time. I love the cover he’s designed, and he charged me less than half of what many had quoted.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book? Probably. There were so many changes and rewrites as it grew that it’s almost unrecognisable from the original. I guess there’s always changes we’d like to make to our work, and I’m sure every author would say the same. We have to stop somewhere though, and say “That’s it.” I’ve started on Book 2, and already I’ve decided I don’t like the way it’s going, so I’m going to start over. It might sound strange, but a writer knows when a story is working when the characters take on their own personality and sometimes do things we didn’t want them to do. In the case of Book 2, (I don’t even have a working title yet) the main character is turning out too nice. I have to go back and make him tougher, edgier, even nastier. Villains are the most interesting characters, both to read and to write.
Did you learn anything while writing this book? Absolutely! I learned a lot about gold mining, for a start. I also learned a lot about how entrepreneurs manipulate the system for their own ends. The first thing I did was buy and read two books on the life of Alan Bond. For those who don’t know, he was real estate, mining, and business magnate in Western Australia in the ‘80s and ’90s. He even gets a cameo in GOLD! though he doesn’t get any dialogue.
Are the characters based on real people? Only slightly. Some of the minor players are influenced by people I’ve known or worked with. I don’t think there’s ever been a real-life Malcolm Kincaid, though. It’s probably just as well! In my office, or ‘writing room’ there’s a sign that reads “Warning! Author at Work. Any Bystanders May be Written Into the Story.” And it’s true.
Do your characters seem to hijack your stories? Do you sometimes feel that you struggle to keep hold of the reins? Definitely! That’s how I know whether I’ve nailed the character or not. If I find myself writing a scene where the character says or does something I hadn’t planned, I go with it to see where it leads. Occasionally, I have to edit it out but most times it can turn into some of the best, most convincing scenes. The one character who caught me off-guard the most was Bronte. There are one or two scenes where I had to sit back and think “What are you doing, girl?” You’ll probably pick these scenes when you read the book.
What did you edit out of the book? There were a few scenes and even a couple of characters that didn’t make the final cut. Most noticeable, is a complete chapter that I liked, but that didn’t fit with the overall ‘feel’ of the book. I’ve rewritten it as a short story that I’ll be sending out for free to anyone who signs up for my mailing list. You can do that, by the way, by visitingthomasgreenbank.com/join-the-tribe. (Commercial break over)
Who is you favorite author—the one you’d most like to meet? The first serious, adult book I ever read was written by Ion Idriess. He was a well-known Australian author who wrote over 50 books between 1927 and 1969. He averaged one every 10 months and once wrote three in one year. That book, Outlaws of the Leopolds, inspired me. I found a copy in a second-hand bookstore recently and just had to have it. These days, I read all genres. My fave author is probably Dean Koontz.
What do you think about the current publishing market? It’s probably never been harder to get a traditional publishing deal. On the flip side, it’s never been easier to self-publish. I fact, there’s a truism I (think I) invented: The best thing about self-publishing is that anyone can write and publish a book. The worst thing about self-publishing is that anyone can write and publish a book. Self-publishing opens many doors for indies like myself. Unfortunately, because there are no ‘gatekeepers’ a lot of books get published that should never see the light of day. The result is, that the overall standard is lowered and readers are skeptical of self-published works. The big problem is that it’s very expensive to have our work professionally edited. Think $2,000 or more. Sometimes lots more. (Remember that when you shy away from paying $3.99 for an ebook) Writers just wing it and take the ‘publish and be damned’ approach. This is one reason why I like Amazon. They have a Look Inside feature where we can read the first few pages before deciding to buy.
Do you prefer to write in silence, or with background noise (music, etc)? I’m deaf in one ear, as the result of a hunting accident when I was young. Noise only half-bothers me, therefore. Actually, I have the ability to shut out extraneous noise, so it really doesn’t make much difference either way. I tried writing to music once, but found myself singing along and losing the plot, literally.
Do you work on one book at a time—or do you write several at once? I honestly don’t know how writers can do that, write several books at once. When I’m writing, I become totally absorbed in the story and characters. I may be planning more that one at a time (I am now, actually) but once I make a start, the current work becomes my main focus. Ask my wife. She often looks at me and says something like “What’s Malcolm up to now?” when she sees that far-away look on my face.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? 1. Write, write, and write some more. It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough or not. Everything can be improved, once it’s on the page. While it’s still in your head, not so much. 2. Take as many writing courses as you can. Every writer out there has something they can teach you. Just beware of shysters who try to sell you high-priced courses (think hundreds of dollars) Most of what you need to know you can learn for free or cheaply if you have the aptitude. If you don’t, you’ll soon know. 3. Have your work read by as many other writers as possible. Don’t rely on friends or family. They will either tell you it’s good when it’s not just to please you, or they, in some cases, will do the opposite out of jealousy or spite. I’ve seen it happen. Join a writers’ group or two. 4. Read lots, and analyse what you’ve read. If you find a book that resonates with you, read it again pretending you are an editor. Find out what it was that ‘hooked’ you in the first place.
What advice would you give to your younger self? If I could walk up to myself at any stage of my younger life, I’d say “Why don’t you become a writer?” Nobody ever said that to me. I once told a family member I wanted to be a writer and was told to forget about it. “Don’t be so stupid. What makes you think you could do that? Get a real job.” That sort of thing. We all need to be encouraged to follow our dreams, however unrealistic they may seem. If I’d put in as much effort to learning to write as I did to learning the guitar, I’d probably have written several best sellers years ago. Well, that’s what I like to think, anyway. I’m reminded of the stand-up comic who said: “Everyone said I’d never be a comedian. Well here I am. Nobody’s laughing now, are they?”
Do you believe in writer’s block? Actually, no. I believe that it’s sometimes difficult to get started on a book or a scene, but being totally blocked for days? Well, it hasn’t happened to me anyway. If I feel unmotivated, I’ll just do something else for a while. Go fishing, take a long walk. Usually, before I know it, my subconscious mind has chipped in and the ideas start to trickle through. Then, I can’t get back home quickly enough! Other than that, my advice is to just start writing anyway. I use a laptop computer, so the delete key is always there if it turns out to be crap. (I use it A LOT)
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