Tell Me Lies
Camden Point Mystery Book 1
by Gail Chianese
Genre: Paranormal Romantic Mystery
You'd think with a guardian who's a ghost, she'd see everything coming. But nope, that's not how it works. That's not how any of this works.
Private investigator Lexie Smith has a mostly perfect--okay, satisfying life. A successful, if not super lucrative business with her best friend. A wonderful, loving companion named Bear--sure, he's a little furry and he drools, but nobody's perfect. A house on the beach and a wisecracking supernatural "intern" named Vinnie, who knows everything there is to know about crime and her nonexistent love life. Things are good, even if the cases are somewhat tame, until a dangerous assignment forces her to turn to the last man she can trust: Rafe Barandas, local police detective and the man who broke her heart years before.
After a decade in New York, Rafe has returned to his small hometown, burned out on big-city politics and crime. He's looking forward to the quiet life, until he's thrown together with Lexie (and, unknown to him, her phantom familiar) to solve what starts out as a simple B&E but quickly escalates. Leaving Lexie the first time was a huge mistake. Now that he's got another chance, he's determined not to blow it, so long as the job doesn't get in the way.
As Lexie and Rafe get closer to solving one case, old hurts come back to haunt them and a new threat emerges. Can they put past lies and mistrust behind them long enough to thwart a cunning foe who seems to know every step they take and will stop at nothing, even murder? Or will one of them pay the ultimate price before they take their second shot at love?
"Gail Chianese explodes onto the paranormal romantic mystery scene with a slow-burn, second-chance romance that readers of the genre are sure to love!" --Elicia Hyder, bestselling author of The Soul Summoner series
"In Tell Me Lies, the characters are fresh, the plot is complex, and the readers will definitely savor the piquantly sweet sex scenes. But it's the side-splittingly hilarious banter that is the frothy icing on this multi-layered whodunit." --Josie Brown, author The Housewife Assassin's Handbook series
Out stepped Detective Rafael Barandas. She didn't need the glow of the streetlight to know he was six-two and extremely fit, or how his dark brown eyes looked black when his blood was pumping, or how thanks to his Portuguese heritage he had a yearlong tan. All those details were burned into her brain a lifetime ago.
“That man is like fine wine.”
“Shut up, Kat.”
“Well, well, well, if it isn't the stable boy,” Vinnie piped in.
“Shut up, Vinnie,” Lexie and Kat replied.
The detective cautiously stepped out from behind the open door, as if they were a threat instead of two women.
“Well, if it isn’t Smith and Jones, forever together.”
Vinnie snorted in her ear. “Good one.”
If she could, she’d elbow him in the gut.
Rafe looked up and down the quiet street. “One of you call in a burglary?”
“Yes, sir,” Kat said.
Feet planted shoulder width apart, arms crossed in front of him, she could imagine the intimidating stance worked on many a suspect. Ignoring Kat’s answer he pointed in the direction of her car. “You’re parked illegally. Engine trouble?”
“No, sir,” Kat said.
He made his way over, stopping directly in front of Lexie, stealing the air from her lungs. The saliva in her mouth went Sahara Desert dry, her tongue stuck to the roof refusing to work. Her heart pounded a strong, fast rhythm in her ears.
“Just out for a late evening stroll and happened to see the crime going down?”
She swallowed a few times, focusing on his Adam’s apple as he spoke, refusing to look into his eyes. Oh no, she knew better, having fallen into that trap before. But, she wasn’t the same person. That was a lifetime ago, so why was she having the same old reaction to him? Stupid pheromones. And where was her voice?
“Uh, not exactly. Lex, you want to explain to Detective Barandas how we happened to be in the area?” Kat jumped in, but not exactly to save her.
Lexie shot her best friend--former best friend—a look that said a whole lot more than no. The less said the better, for more reasons than she cared to think about, but at the top of the list was the possibility of losing her client’s proof if her camera was confiscated as evidence.
“Not really.” Pulling it together, she looked him in the eyes. “Suffice it to say we were in the area on business and caught sight of someone in the Irwin’s house.”
Rafe looked at the nearby houses. She followed his gaze from the cars in the driveway to the lights on inside the homes. The look on his face, as he scratched his jaw, made her want to laugh.
“Probably best I don't ask. Your call said the burglars exited through the backdoor?”
He directed his question to her, but Kat responded. “Yes, sir, that is correct, sir.”
“Okay, can you two wait here while I check the residence? I'll take your statements after I've cleared the home.” After getting their affirmative head nods, he stalked across the street as quietly as a giant cat on the prowl for its next meal.
“I’ve got to say it, wow. He just keeps getting better looking every time I see him. Don't you think so?” Kat nudged her arm with an elbow.
Lexie pushed Kat away, and took a step back, giving herself some space to breathe.
“Let's not go there. Rafe was a long time ago. Besides, I thought you were Team Benjamin. You said he’s a nice guy.” Not that she wanted to date him either, but she had hoped mentioning him would shut the other two up. Apparently not, as snorts of laughter rang through the night.
She didn’t blame them.
Rafe and Benjamin. It was like comparing a delicious, fresh, sweet apple to dehydrated apple chips. Same genetic make-up in the beginning, but life had shaped them into totally different beings in the end.
For her, Rafe would always be sweet temptation. But just like Snow White was a goner with one bite, she knew she would be too if she tasted Rafe Barandas again.
Gail currently lives in beautiful Connecticut, but originally hails from sunny California. She is the mom of three amazing kids, the wife of a 27 year Naval officer and the rescuer of three furbabies.
In her spare time (what little of it there is), she likes to ghost hunt with her hubby, geocache with her family and lock herself away with a great book. Currently, she's attempting (keyword there) to learn to knit. Wish her luck, she'll need it. And, she's dreaming of the day when she can take her next trip. Where will it be? Only time will tell. Check her out on Instagram to see her words of wisdom, her travel destinations (past and future), what she's read, and maybe enjoy a chuckle or two: https://www.instagram.com/authorgailchianese/
Her books have been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award and EPIC eBook Awards.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’ve been a reader my whole life. My grandfather taught me to read when I was only three years old. Books have always been my escape from the world, my safe place. Plus, I’m a major introvert and carry on conversations in my head all the time. It was probably a natural progression from reader to writer. But it took some time.
Following a dream can be scary and sometimes we need a wake-up call to get us to jump off that ledge and go for it. That’s what happened with me. I had a medical scare and it made me think, “if I die tomorrow, would I have any regrets?” The answer was yes, because I never tried to write the stories floating around in my head. That was the moment that I embraced my dream and shoved the fear aside. Not that it doesn’t resurface every time I start a new book.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I feel like I’ve lived a pretty average, but wonderful life. However, I have lived overseas twice, which was not only amazing but interesting. First, I lived in Spain and then later in Italy. Both were wonderful experiences. I loved getting to know the people and culture of those countries. And let’s just say they’ve both got it going on with the idea of taking a break in the middle of the day.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I’m originally from Napa, California, but I kind of grew up in a lot of places. My mom had wanderlust so we moved around a bit. I’ve lived in Hawaii (loved that we didn’t have to wear shoes at school!), and Alaska (the Northern Lights are AH-mazing!). I’ve also lived in Arizona, Illinois, and then moved to Washington at the beginning of high school and that is where I consider my second hometown to be located. I’m pretty sure my mom was training me to be a good Navy wife, because moving is part of the life.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
This one is easy. I’d spend the day with my husband and kids. There’s no one else I’d rather spend those last hours with. I imagine us playing some kind of game (D&D, Catchphrase, Cards Against Humanity) because we’d all be together, talking, teasing, and laughing. There is no sound I love more in this world than that of my family laughing together (and now I’m crying just thinking about this…).
Who is your hero and why?
I don’t have one, but rather a pair: my grandparents. There are so many things I admire about them. They saw extraordinaire events and milestones in their lifetimes, not all of it good…think of the Great Depression, both World Wars, so many wars, but a lot of wonderful advancements. They were from Oklahoma and went through the “Dust Bowl,” making the decision to relocate to California so they could find work. Neither finished high school, but my grandfather was one of the most well-read people I’ve ever met. My grandmother was the most gracious hostess. You could drop in unannounced and she’d always make you feel welcome. She could drive a school bus, work a steam press and was an amazing seamstress (she made my wedding dress!). My grandfather risked his own life to save a neighbor’s during one of the big fires in California. Not because he was looking to be a hero, just because it was the right thing to do.
They made a good, stable home for their family, often taking care of nieces and nephews along with their own kids. They helped raise my brother and I, as my mom was a single parent. They showered us with love, taught us values, and while they may not have had much in the way of money, we never went without. They faced ups and downs, but stuck it out together, celebrating fifty-four and half years together. They stood by each other’s sides, they fought, they loved, and they never gave up. They were normal, down-to-earth people who loved deeply and passed that on to their family. How could they not be my heroes and everything I strive to be.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
You may call me Empress. Just don’t make me lose my groove. LOL. Just kidding. Okay, so I went to my middle child to answer this for me. His answer: diplomatic, kind, caring and just. (This is one of the reasons I love that kid.)
What do you do to unwind and relax?
READ. I know that probably doesn’t sound like a relaxing hobby for a writer, but books have always been my escape. If I’m not reading, you might find me baking for my family, or cleaning house (strangely enough, cleaning clears my mind). If the weather is nice, I like to go on walks (not hikes) at the state parks. And if we can travel…look for me on a beach (under an umbrella) or at Disney.
How to find time to write as a parent?
My kids are all grown now, with the baby having just turned 19. So do not know how that happened. When I started writing he was 8, the middle was 10 and the oldest 18. I worked full-time, too. The great thing about those ages is that they don’t need you to supervise them 24/7. My family all thought it was pretty cool that I was writing a book, so they were helpful. They let me have time in the evenings to write, as well as on the weekends. The important thing for me, and I think them as well, was that I made time every day for them. When my boys got home from school, I’d stop everything I was doing to talk with them, to see how their day had gone. Same with my husband and oldest. I made sure they knew they were still my priority.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Introverted, empathic, sarcastic, kind, impatient.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ll let you know when that happens. Honestly, I think it happened after I finished my third manuscript. That’s the one that got editors’ attention.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Hands down: Grease. I will watch it every time it comes on, even though I can recite the lines. And yes, I sing along.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
All of them, of course! Actually, I’d love to see them made into a series. I think they’d be a lot of fun, but they definitely don’t fit into the sweet category, so maybe for one of the streaming services.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love writing friendships in my stories, so when I started thinking about Lexie, I asked myself two questions to start:
Who does she hang around with?
What does she do?
I also wanted something totally different than my other books, and I’m a huge Nancy Drew fan. So, I thought it would be fun to write about two female private investigators. But that still sounded pretty average. My next question was, “how can I shake this up and make it a little different?” Since, I love ghost stories, especially where the ghost is more life-like. Think, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Topper, Beetlejuice, The Sixth Sense. I decided that they needed a ghost in their lives. Now Vinnie isn’t your average ghost, he’s kind of a wiseguy. Actually, he was a mobster in his “former” life. But he’s a good guy now, he’s just dead and he really tries to help Lexi and Kat, but even ghosts don’t know everything.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Definitely more books set in Camden Point, my fictional town in Connecticut with more ghosts. There’s at least two more Camden Point mysteries. Kat’s book will come out in 2021, and I’m planning a third that will give Vinnie a chance to tell his tale a little more. I’ve also got two romance novellas set in Camden Point that feature a different helpful ghost.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Tell Me Lies?
Camden Point Mysteries centers around the lives, loves, and cases of LexaKat Private Investigative Services. Book one is Tell Me Lies and while it will feature both Lexie Smith and her business partner/lifelong best friend Kat Jones, it’s going to center on Lexie. She’s the more reserved of the two. Lexie’s parents are a bit controlling and aren’t not crazy about their daughter being a PI, but they mean well. She’s is very independent, loves junk food, especially pizza and already has the only man she needs in her life. He’s loving, loyal, very furry and drools a lot. But nobody’s perfect. At least, that’s what she thinks until she lands a new case, one that she’s very reluctant to take as it means working for family and with the guy who once broke her heart.
Kat Jones is a bit feisty and loves her job as a PI. While others would describe Kat as beautiful, she really doesn’t see it and besides, it’s looks are just a product of DNA. She can be a bit impulsive and hot headed, but she strives to be the good girl. Always, unless someone breaks her best friend’s heart.
Also working at LexaKat, PI Services is Vincent (Vinnie) Mattetuci. Former wiseguy and ghost. Vinnie is your stereotypical Italian mobster from the Bronx, but he’s got a heart of gold, especially when it comes to Lexie and Kat. He’s spent their whole lives looking out for them and now he’s their “intern” and “expert consultant.”
The love interest: Raphael (Rafe) Barandas. Picture your favorite tall, dark haired, tanned celebrity crush and enter it here. But Rafe is more than a pretty face. He’s a guy who fell in love with a girl (he feared) was out of his reach. The son of a fisherman, he wanted more. So, when the “opportunity” knocked and allowed him to leave the small beachside town he grew up in, he jumped at the chance. Now, a dozen years later, he’s back home, burned out on big city crime and politics. He’s looking forward to time with his family, a low-stress job (because crime in Camden Point is nothing compared to NYC, and maybe a chance to reconnect with the girl he still loves. Give him a cold one, a basket of hot wings, with the Yankees playing (he’s a bit of a rebel) and he’s a happy guy. Try to harm those he’s charged with protecting or the one he loves and he’s your worst enemy.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Generally when I’m trying to come up with names, I flip through an old baby name book. I also pull up a baby name website, like Top 100 Baby Name of XXXX, to see if that name was overused for the age my characters would be. Then I try to picture what that person looks like and decide if the name fits them or not.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Everything. No, honestly, I loved writing this book. I loved the friendship between Lexie and Kat. I loved Vinnie and playing around with what he could do and what he was going through. And I loved giving Lexie and Rafe a second chance at happiness.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
The first book I ever wrote was Dangerous Enchantments. It’s tucked away on my bookshelf where it will stay. It’s a paranormal and the title just fit the story line. Tell Me Lies was like that too, as it relates to what happened in the past and what is happening at the present.
Who designed your book covers?
Tell Me Lies’s cover was done by the fabulous Rebecca Pau at The Final Wrap. She’s so great to work with because she listens to what you want and then makes it ten times more fabulous.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
In Tell Me Lies? No. I’m really happy with how it came out. In Disarmed by Love, the last single title before this one, yes. I would have written an epilogue and if/when I get the rights back, I will add one.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned to trust my gut and to not worry so much about the end product, to just have fun. If I write a book, I loved writing, and had fun with, readers will love it too. (At least, I hope so!)
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
This is always such a fun question. Sometimes, when I start writing I have a clear vision of what actor/actress would play a role and other times I don’t. It’s those other times that lead to the rabbit hole known as the internet where I spend way too much time looking at pictures and playing casting director. For Lexie, I think I’d pick Odette Annable. Most might know her from her role in the Supergirl. For Kat, it would definitely be Blake Lively. Not only does she have the look, but has Kat’s feisty spirit. Just watch her and Ryan together to see what I mean. For Rafe, I could picture Diogo Morgado totally for this role. As to Vinnie, I think I’d have to go on a talent search. I sort of picture him as a slightly younger Vincent D’Onofrio or Vince Vaughn.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I know if I asked this of most people who have read the book, they would tell me Vinnie. He’s a lot of fun and you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. I think he’d be a lot of fun to go ghost hunting with. But for me, I’d hang out with any of my four main characters. I think a beach party at Lexie’s house would be a lot of fun.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Both really. In Tell Me Lies, all of the main characters are totally from my imagination. Some of the secondary characters are based and even named on people in my life (with their permission, of course).
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I tend to outline my stories, which help me keep a pretty tight reign, but every now and then those characters show a little free will and go skipping along their own merry way.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
It’s got it all: a great mystery, a wonderful love story, a complex plot, great banter especially between the two best friends, a wise-cracking ghost, a strong heroine, and a sexy, overprotective, yet sweet hero.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I have completed book two in the Camden Point Mystery series, which will come out in 2021. I also write women’s fiction for a book club publisher, Annie’s Fiction, and a couple of those have not come out yet.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
The ocean with hints of star gazer lily.
What did you edit out of this book?
Lexie’s “hot and erotic” dream because I felt like it slowed the pace down. I also edited out a flashback scene showing Rafe’s teen betrayal for the same reason.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Honestly, there are so many. I’d love to sit down and talk mysteries with Mary Burton. Talk with her about how she gets her story ideas, balancing the mystery with the romance and just really, everything she knows.
Fun Facts about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
Fun facts: I’m part of a ghost hunting group (Connecticut Ghost Investigations) with my husband and a couple of our friends. I have stayed the night in a haunted hotel that had a bordello (now closed), and I’ve seen, what I believe, was a ghost before.
FF2: There are several friends that might recognize themselves in this book.
FF3: When I listen to 80’s rock, I type faster.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
This is probably the hardest question ever! I have so many favorite authors, series and books. This is just off the top of my head, but keep in mind I have four bookcases at home, filled with books I love.
The entire Riley Jensen series by Keri Arthur.
Worth the Wait by Jamie Beck
Yarned and Dangerous by Sadie Hartwell
Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Haunted Destiny by Heather Graham
Only for the Night by Naima Simone
The Fixer Upper by Maggie Mae Gallagher
A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev
Her Aussie Holiday by Stefanie London
Hide and Seek by Mary Burton
What book do you think everyone should read?
I wasn’t going to name a specific book and then I thought of Kennedy Ryan’s book Long Shot. Not only is it a great love story, that’s well written, but it opens the reader’s eyes to a world that many ignore.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing seriously eleven years ago. Before that, I would play around with just writing down scenes that came to me. They were terribly formatted, but I had fun and they spurred my imagination, so it’s all good.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
Usually, one character will come to me at first. Sometimes, it’s a couple but most of them time, it’s just the one. In my West Side Romance series, it was the main character Cherry and quickly after that, her best friend, Tawny, who stars in book 2. The three men in that series just sort all walked in the door and introduced themselves at once. For Changing Tides, it was the heroine of Love Runs Deep that came to me first. I had a vague idea of the hero, but until he walked onto the page, he wasn’t much more than a fuzzy outline. Books 2 and 3, the heroines are again best friends, and it was like I thought about them and then the heroes came waltzing in again. For book 3, Disarmed by Love, the hero had been there first, but he’s also Tawny’s brother. There’s a lot of overlapping in those two series.
For the Camden Point books, it seems like the characters came a lot faster. Once I knew who Lexie was, the rest seemed to fall into place.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
It really depends on the book, for the Camden Point series, I had to research private investigators (training, licensing, what did they really do, etc). I also research the area I’m setting a book in, if I have been there myself. Other things I’ve researched are police procedures, things to do with the FBI, how things work on a submarine and just really anything that I don’t have personal knowledge of.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, this is my career. I work full-time writing now and I love it.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Yes, I love to read. It’s my happy place and I’ve got a book with me. I don’t really have one favorite genre, as I tend to jump from one to another with each book. But, I do love several genres of romance (contemporary, paranormal, suspense), as well as women’s fiction, urban fantasy, mystery/domestic thriller, cozy mystery and historical fiction.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
It really depends on my mood, and what I’m writing. There are times I’ll play 80’s rock and my fingers fly across the keyboards and others where I need quiet. I think those latter times are in the areas that aren’t as clear in my head how they’re going to play out at first.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I’m a monogamous reader and writer. LOL. I haven’t learned to manage that many voices in my head at once, but I’m usually working on multiple books at once (marketing for one, editing for another, plotting yet one more, all the while writing one).
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
Harry Potter because then not only would I have the books, the movies, but my own theme park section. How cool would that be? (My kids would say very cool.)
Pen or type writer or computer?
The computer will win out 98% of the time. That other 2% is usually when I’m stuck. For some reason, writing by hand seems to get things flowing again.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
That’s kind of a tough question, as I have so many characters I love. But the one who jumps to my mind first is Jinx from the Kim Harrison Hallows series (another OMG, I love this book). He’s a four-inch tall, sassy, foul-mouthed pixy who you’d want by your side in a fight or to defend your own honor.
A day in the life of the author?
Pretty boring for the most part, or at least to those who don’t write. On most days, I sit down at my computer with my breakfast and scroll through social media (make sure I haven’t missed anything exciting and to wish people happy birthday). Then I bring up my outline, review my notes, review the last page or so that I typed and dive back into the story. For the next 3-5 hours, I write. Sometimes skipping lunch until my brain gives out for the day.
I generally do a quick lookover of what’s to come next so that can percolate in my brain until I come back to the story. The afternoon is generally spent working on other “admin” tasks such as marketing, editing a previous book, or working on the plot for the next one.
I tried to keep to somewhat regular working hours, so around 4-5pm, I walk out of the office and close the door. The rest of the night is spent focusing on my family and home, because having a balance is life is important to my health and happiness. The next day, I tend to rinse and repeat. Strangely enough, I love it.
Advice they would give new authors?
Don’t give up. Make a plan, keep striving to get better, take craft workshops, and read, read, read. And when you get your first (or dozen) rejections, dust yourself off and try again.
What makes a good story?
Compelling characters and a cohesive plot make a story great, in my opinion.
What are they currently reading?
Right now, I’m reading Bayou Bodyguard by Jana DeLeon, but by the time this comes out, it might be The Promise Kept by Maggie Mae Gallagher, or Hot Mess by Amy Andrews or Cross Her Heart by Melinda Leigh. I tend to read a new book every three to four days.
What is your writing process? For instance, do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
My writing process, I feel, is always evolving as I learn what works best for me and learn new techniques. I tend to have some kind of outline. Sometimes, it’s just the high points and others it’s fully detailed chapter descriptions. One thing it’s never, is fly by the seat of my pants. I need to at least know the turning points and some idea of the sights along the route so I know I’m on track.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
The biggest is comparing themselves to others in terms of success. It’s very easy to think Author X is killing it by what’s posted on social media. The problem with that is, most of what you see on social media is the image people want others to see. The other trap they fall into is trying to chase trends. The problem there is by the time something is a trend, publishing is already looking for the next trend.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to be true to myself, to write what is in my heart and head and what I like. If I don’t like what I’m writing, I don’t feel I’ll be able to deliver a decent story.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell myself to have more faith in myself.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Just getting into their headspace is difficult, more so when I’m trying to get deep into their emotions. I do love writing scenes between guys, especially when it a fun scene and they’re giving each other a hard time. That is like candy.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It really depends, but on average I’d say it takes me about five months to write the book.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes! Writing is a creative process. It’s not like we’re doing routine tasks that don’t take up much brain power. We’re creating worlds and people from scratch. That takes a lot of emotional energy. Sometimes, life gets in the way, we worry about our kids, our spouses, the state of the world and by the time we’re done we have nothing left inside of us to put on the page. And other times, it’s just being plan old stuck and not being able to see what comes next. Usually, a good walk or a long shower helps clear the cobwebs and restore my balance so I can write again.
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