complex - part one

September 22, 2011
By WhiteWidow GOLD, Bakersfield, California
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WhiteWidow GOLD, Bakersfield, California
14 articles 3 photos 28 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is not fair because no one plays fair and survives.


Author's note: One of my favorite pieces I've written thus far.

The author's comments:
Yes, it starts out somewhere in the middle. I hate introductory scenes. I like guilting the audience into not catching up fast enough, like how David Fincher began "The Social Network."

W h e n y o u ' r e supposed to be the hero… and you fail… you fail hard. It's all you ever think about. Like a broken record, the words failed… failed… failed… failed… they don't stop running through your mind. You start to think about the people you failed, the people who'd been counting on you. What would they think of me now?

That's what sucks about being human. You're not perfect. You can't always win.

But that doesn't stop you from trying, does it?

If you have that hero complex, then you know what kind of curse it is. You know that you should do good… be good. Doing the right thing always comes first to you. People wish to be like you when they should know that they could. They can be good. Anyone can.

Like everyone else, anyone can fail.

Except you, right? When you're feeling so high and mighty, no one can touch you.

That's a lie and you know it. You know you're not perfect… so why try?

Why?

{shrugs} I don't know. I just know I gotta.

What for? You don't get paid. You don't get a thank you. You get nothing in return. Why are you doing this?

Because I want to. I like helping people. I do it 'cause I can.

But what about when you can't?

What do you mean?

You're only human. You—

That's what you think.

What?

"What?"

She sighed. "Have you been listening at all?"

I furrowed my eyebrows, crossed my arms and leaned back in my chair. "I guess I've heard what you've been saying… I just don't care. So… no, I haven't been listening."

The woman flexed her manicured hands, probably restraining herself from unleashing the sides of a woman we're usually afraid of. "Listen to me now, because this is important—"

"To who? Or… whom?" I asked skeptically. "I'm not in the system. I'm not going to be in the system anytime soon. So why should I put up with this?"

"Because, if you don't, you'll be jailed. Again."

"But I've always been bailed. Again."

She smirked humorlessly. "Listen, Dr. Seuss, you may think you know it all, but you don't know the half of it."

I leaned over, looking attentive. "Enlighten me."

She narrowed her eyes, looking like she was going to enjoy schooling me. "You may think you're Superman, but in reality, you're just a kid. You have no permanent residence. You have no parents. You don't go to school. You don't work—"

"Correction. I do work. I just don't get paid."

The woman smiled. "Like I said, you don't work. Helping out the police doesn't count since you a) do it anonymously b) have not studied in the criminal industry and c) are a minor. You're more of a volunteer."

I nodded, looking concerned (obviously not). "I see. And… what are you, may I ask."

"What am I?"

"Yes. What is your profession? What exactly are you talking to me for? You didn't even tell me your name when you walked in." I leaned over attentively. "I bet it's a lovely name, something that goes great with those beautiful hazel eyes… colorful specks in them. Nice." Nice.

She blushed furiously, unable to help it. "You may call me Mrs. Richardson—"

"Ah, married. He must be a lucky man."

She immediately frowned, seriously serious. "She is a lucky woman."

Oops.

"And—judging by the look on your face—you've been getting away with that false charm of yours far too long to think it'd work on me." She smiled, and I avoided looking directly at her. "Anyway, the head honcho of this precinct asked me to speak with you, seeing as how your somewhat normal behavior… shall way say… became suddenly erratic in the last couple of days—including falling off the radar."

I frowned. "Can I call you Mrs. R?"

"You can."

"Look, Mrs. R, you're either a psychologist or a psychiatrist—neither of which fascinate me since they sound pretty much the same. And—forgive my language—I would like you to pass along a message to Robert saying he can take it and shove it because I'm not talking about it." I'm not. Don't ask.

Mrs. R exhaled slowly. "I can pass along the message, but this doesn't just concern him. You may be surprised… but he cares about you."

I raised an eyebrow skeptically. Robert Lewis was a strict, demanding man with the stereotypically clichéd police chief mustache. He was a hard-ass with no soft side, Concrete Man.

"Why do you think men are the weaker sex?" she asked suddenly. I felt like asking her if that was the reason she switched teams, but I guessed it wasn't the best time. "They—you—all put on false bravados when inside you probably just want to curl up in a ball and cry. There's nothing wrong with talking about deep feelings. There is all kinds of strength, but it seems most men focus on the physical, not the emotional or sometimes even the spiritual. You won't believe how many male clients I have—all of them cry at some point from keeping it all bottled in. You're no different. Do you want to be a shriveling thirty-year-old male at the peak of his midlife crisis coming in because his car wouldn't start?"

"Um… no?"

"Then tell me what's bothering you."

"Nothing's bothering me. I'm fine."

Mrs. R frowned. "Jake Riley, don't go telling yourself and everyone else lies," she said sternly. I hated it when people said my name. Sounds like the name of some wannabe badass, like, Dick Tracy or Clark Kent.

"I'm not lying," I lied. "If I ever need help, I'll ask for it"—very unlikely—"but I don't need anything or anybody to—"

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why don't you need anything or anybody?"

"Because… I don't."

"So… you like being by yourself?"

I scoffed. "What's not to like? And stop it. Don't go analyzing me and-and dissecting every response I make, looking for stuff that isn't there."

"What stuff?"

"Stop. Please." I moved back. "Just—stop."

She watched me, no doubt believing she'd crossed some sort of line. "Alright," she sighed. "Have it your way. But I'll be checking up on you with Robert every once in a while. You're not an adult, so don't expect to get away with everything." Mrs. R stood up to leave, but she was giving me the kind of look you would have when watching a puppy getting kicked. "Here." She dug into her pocket and gave me a card. "Call me if you ever need to talk. Free of charge."

"Free of charge? I'm not paying you." I didn't have a penny to my name.

"Robert is. Out of his own paycheck." Ouch. The old bastard really did care about me. "Take care of yourself, Jake." She turned and walked out the door. It slowly closed itself.

I sat there, slightly rattled. The bustling sounds of the L.A. cop shop could be heard through the door, while the room was dead silent. It was a while before I could gather myself up the way I'd come and walked out.

The author's comments:
The chapter titles didn't exist until I started submitting it.

A f e w guys nodded at me—I nodded back. Some of the force and I were on first-name terms. We kicked it every once in a while, but most of them were in their forties with kids and wives—not always both. These boys in blue—sometimes black—worked hard without so much as a 'thank you' told to them. Risking their lives for a city that didn't really care about them. Tragic.

The woman at the front desk called my name as I passed.

I cleared my throat as I went over. "Sup, Trudy." She was thirty-something and very sweet—and divorced. It didn't ruin her, which, yes, is quite a surprise.

She smiled. "How ya been, Jake? Haven't seen you here for a while."

"I thought that was good thing."

Trudy laughed. "Keeping out of trouble?"

"You know me. Trouble is my middle name."

She smiled. "Where ya headed?"

I shrugged. "To the next coffee shop I see, so not very far. Why?"

"Just." Her phone started blinking more than one light. "I guess I gotta get back to work."

"Well, don't work too hard." I smiled before leaving.

"Take care of yourself, Jake," she called.

I almost stopped, suddenly choking just a little. How many more people were going to tell me that? I suddenly couldn't get out of the station fast enough.

Stepping out into the honking and cussing drivers giving people the finger called L.A. was relief. The sun was blazing ahead as I made my way west, in search of some place that had a good cup of coffee.

It was about… I guessed ten a.m. (need to get me a watch) and the sidewalk was packed with shoppers and walkers while the street was jammed with angry drivers and sleep-deprived very late employees. Nothing beats L.A. in the morning.

A Starbucks came up just ahead. I stood at the corner, waiting for the lights to change when I noticed some little toddler boy crying with his mom. His little face was pink and tears leaked out while the mother—no doubt frustrated—tried juggling the baby girl and a bag full of I didn't know what in her arms, completely ignoring the kid.

Predictably, the kid started running down the sidewalk as the light changed. I zoomed through the crowd unnoticed as the boy reached the end of the sidewalk, not stopping as the oncoming traffic started moving. Pushing aside some fat suit talking into a phone, I managed to scoop the little kid up before a shiny black Hummer turned him into a cute little pancake.

And nobody saw a thing.

The frazzled mom must've noticed him missing because she was crying as I handed the still-crying kid back to her. She began suffocating him with kisses and 'don't do that ever again' stuff. As if he really wouldn't.

"Oh, thank you so much!" she cried, managing to hug me despite her load. Her blue eyes were watery, and she was practically trembling.

"Might I suggest a leash?" I did see twins in the park with a leash around their waist one time, their mom yapping away into a cell phone—no lie.

She smiled. "Thank you very much." She simultaneously continued to juggle the baby girl, what I realized were multiple bags, her emotional state, and the boy.

"Do you need help with that, ma'am?" Something about her made me want to ask instead of walk away. She looked like she could break apart any second. Poor woman.

She cleared her throat, fully composed now. "Oh, I'm heading home," she said loudly; the boy was still crying. "It's not that far."

I reached for the bags. "I can carry them if you like." A rule I try to abide by is never reach for the kid(s); that always freaks moms out.

"Would you?" She sounded relieved. "Is there a place you need to—wait. Don't you go to school?" Ay. I hated it when adults asked that. Like it was really their business.

"Well… if I were in school… I wouldn't have been able to catch your little boy."

Her grateful smile faltered only a little. "Okay. Thank you so very much… um…."

"Jake."

"Thank you, Jake." She quickly passed me the bags like they had leprosy and grabbed the little boy's hand. I walked behind her as she started talking. "So, if you don't go to school, what do you do?"

"I, uh, I work with the police."

"Really?" She sounded skeptical. Who wouldn't be?

"Really. It's like a vocational training program. They provide housing." The last two sentences were lies. Duh, right?

She turned. "You're not a butler or anything. You can walk next to me. I feel like I'm talking to myself." I quickly matched her pace. "So you're training to be a police officer?"

"That, or a probation officer," I lied. "Not sure yet."

"And your parents…?"

"Don't have any… well, I probably did, but I'm an orphan." No lies involved there.

"Oh, I'm sorry." She had that little oh, you poor thing tone that I was never really fond of.

"It's okay. The force is my family now." That's what Robert always said.

The mom nodded to herself. "Well, I think it's good that you have a positive influence in your life. Most kids like you—no offense—they end up in the streets, tangled up in gangs and dying for no reason, killing people along the way like they don't matter." Her voice had a hint of fury, and she sounded like she was trying to keep that down.

"That," I said, "is an excellent way of putting it. Couldn't have said it better myself."

She smiled at me. "How old are you?"

"Sixteen. I'm emancipated." That second part was a lie—if you actually cared by now.

"So, how do you support yourself?" she asked distantly.

I shrugged. "The police provide food and shelter through the program. I'm working on finding a part-time job or something." The first is a lie (no frickin' duh) and I probably should've been looking for a job instead of being the first superhero who was broke—not to mention a first class liar. Not setting a good example, am I?

"That's good. So how do you keep yourself busy?"


I shrugged again. "I dunno. I work with the program almost all the time."

She stopped in front of an apartment complex. That's also when I noticed the little boy had been tugging at my sweatshirt most of the way; at least he was quiet.

The mom smiled at him. "Kyle just turned four."

I smiled at the boy. "Cute little kid. Don't go running out into the street again," I told him. As if he understood me. Well, he was cute, and I couldn't help it. The baby girl was cute too, but she was asleep.

The mom noticed I was looking at her. "Clare's only two. She shouldn't be sleeping right now, or she'll never sleep tonight." She turned to me. "Wanna come inside?"

I raised an eyebrow. "Really? You'll let a sixteen-year-old boy you just met into your apartment?"

She rolled her eyes at me. "I'm a good judge of character. Plus, you saved my son. Not many sixteen-year-old kids would do that." She smiled before heading up the steps, Kyle right on her heels as I followed.

The lobby looked pretty basic. The mom (she hadn't told me her name, so that's how I thought of her) went to one of the little boxes and checked it—no mail today. She motioned for Kyle to stop playing with one of the fake plants and he followed her to the elevators. I gulped. Elevators.

It was small, and with all of us—and the bulk I was carrying—it was even smaller. I felt my face grow hot and I suddenly couldn't breathe normally.

The mom noticed. "Something wrong?"

I cleared my throat. "Not comfortable in small spaces. Sorry." Kyle started jumping, trying to reach the buttons, and I suddenly had a vision of him pushing the wrong button and the elevator car cables suddenly snapping and—

"No need to apologize." She smiled. "That used to freak me out too."

I watched Kyle warily. "How'd you get over it?" His little fingers grazed the stop—

"I thought of an open field. Or I imagined freezing to death. Sometimes it made me like the coziness, know what I mean? I tricked myself into wanting the small spaces."

"That's pretty smart. Are you a psychiatrist or something?" Kyle got bored of the buttons; I breathed a sigh of relief, then frowned because I noticed the mom had been watching me watch Kyle.

She laughed. "Nah. I just helped myself." The elevator stopped and the doors opened—I was the first one out. The mom probably laughed at me again, only quieter. I followed her to door 4C as she unlocked it.

Like the lobby, the apartment was, well, basic. A small TV and an evergreen couch dominated most of the living room. Toys were strewn everywhere and I had to watch my step. I followed the mom into her kitchen—the cleanest part of the apartment I could see—and she nodded to the table, on which I set everything; I'd been carrying groceries. The mom went through a dark hallway, probably to put the baby in her crib or something. I stayed in the kitchen.

Kyle had disappeared, but I noticed him again as he tugged on my sweatshirt. He held up a capeless Superman action figure, waving it at me.

"What?" I asked.


He moved the man some more.

"You wanna play with it or what?"

His eyebrows furrowed, looking hilariously serious for a four-year-old, and he shoved Superman at me some more.

Once I took it, he smiled. "You're giving it to me?"

Surprisingly, Kyle nodded, smiling.

"Um, thanks."

He just stared up at me, smiling some more. He had big brown eyes that felt familiar, like the brown hair/brown eyes combo almost everyone in the world had.

"You don't talk much, do you?"

Like I got an answer.

The mom came in. "What did he do now?"

I held up the toy. "The little man gave me Superman. Does he talk?"

The mom's smile faltered; a nerve had been hit. "No. Not since Frank died."

The atmosphere shifted, and it was depressing. Kyle, oblivious to the change, went into the living room, picking up another toy along the way.

"Was he your husband?" I asked.

She avoided looking at me and busied herself with the groceries. "Yeah. He was a police officer. He died two months ago."

I blanched; twice in one day didn't feel so hot. "Can I ask how?" Like I didn't know the answer.

"Police work, of course," she put the eggs away in the small fridge, "and he always worked late. He'd been on the force for twelve years, never had one accident. Pass me the carrots." I rooted for them and passed them to her. "So, when he was late for dinner, it didn't surprise me. It was eleven o'clock, and he wasn't home, and that didn't surprise me either. The bread?" Her voice shook, and her hand did too as I gave them to her. "It was almost midnight when I got the call."

I cleared my throat as I passed her the milk. "I'm sorry for your loss." In my head I was like oh my God, oh my God! WTF?! @#&*! This is her! It's her!!

I managed to pass a cantaloupe without dropping it.

"Thank you, Jake… for everything." Her eyes turned watery again. We had finished putting everything away, and she was looking for something to do. "If I'd lost Kyle today…." She shook her head, not wanting to finish.

"Um, is there anything else I can do for you?" She suddenly looked so vulnerable, the seams starting to undo themselves.

"You've done a lot today," she said, smiling and hastily wiping away a tear. "And it's not even noon yet."

Kyle came back into the kitchen, waving something red: Superman's cape. He looked different to me now—Kyle, not Superman. This was Frank's little boy. His big brown eyes held a new meaning. I reached for Superman, standing menacingly on the kitchen table, and helped Kyle fasten the cape on. Clark Kent never looked so good.

I wanted to give the kid his toy back, but he wouldn't take it. He crossed his arms, smiling and shaking his head. I would move Superman forward, and Kyle would move back. I pull the man back, and Kyle moved forward. It was hilarious.

The mom smiled. "Oh, just keep it. I haven't…."

I looked up. "Haven't what?" I still moved the toy around.

She sighed, watching Kyle refuse. "I haven't seen him smile like that since… you know."

I turned back to the little boy. He was having too much fun getting away from Superman. I smiled at the kid. I wanted to start crying.

Instead, I sighed and straightened up. "I guess I should go." I made Superman bounce lightly on Kyle's head, and he laughed as he tried to get away. Superman then pretended to kick Kyle, going "Hi-yah!" and "Pssh! Pssh! Aaaah!" as he and Kyle fought (yes, it was really me). The little kid was eating it up.

She had been watching me play with him. "You sure?"

I didn't look up; maybe she wouldn't like that. "Do you need me for something else?" Kyle almost whacked Superman out of my hand.

"Well, no…." She needed me. Well, not me, but someone. She was one woman—a widow—supporting two children under five. She needed help.

"If you want me to, I can stay… uh…."

"Sophia. You can call me Sophia." I knew that. "And, if there's some place you need to be…." She shook her head. "You can come by anytime." Judging from her response, she wanted me to stay, but at the same time didn't want to have to ask. And I couldn't force myself on her, know what I mean? I'd intruded enough.

"I guess I'll see you around," I said, heading for the door. "Another day, little man," said Superman (me).

Kyle laughed. I wanted to go back, but I already opened the door. His laughter followed me to the elevator. When it was just me, the elevator didn't bother me, but I still didn't like it. I'm not ashamed to admit I played with Superman a little, making him fly around—anything to distract myself—then shoved him in my pocket once the doors opened. Stepping out of the small space felt good.

Outside looked exactly the same as it had before. But everything was still different. Definitely changed.

T h e l e v e l of clientele was set to a moderate level when I walked in. Most of the people inside the coffee shop at this hour were college students and probably starving—or at least very thirsty—artists. I stood in line, unsure of what I wanted today; I never liked to drink the same thing twice.

Once I made it to the counter, she smiled. Emma was working today (oh yeah, I knew) looking just as pretty as ever: strawberry-blond hair, dazzling blue eyes, and even a few freckles that seemed to dominate most of my attention.

"What can I getcha, Jake?" she asked. If you're wondering why I'm not dating her, salivating for every command her perfectly golden heart might desire… you'll see in a moment.

"What's new?" Staying casual in front of her was always a challenge gladly I accepted.

Emma named something that sounded Italian—like everything else. It was quite a mouthful.

"Uh, what is it again?"

She giggled. "Just trust me when I say it's really good."

"Oh. I trust you, alright. I'll take it." When I smiled, she smiled. I guess I did have charm. Nice.

"That'll be three fifty." I only had ten bucks on me, out of the twenty I'd earned doing yard work. Gotta make a living somehow, am I right?

I reluctantly handed over four dollars in exchange for something that looked exactly like everything else: light brown and foamy. I sipped it. "It is good."

Emma smiled. "So, how've you—"

"Hey! There's a line." Emma looked startled, and I turned to find a business suit glaring down at us. "Get a Facebook if you two want to talk so much."

"Hey," I said. "I get it, alright? No need to be so rude." What the frick was a face book?

"Some of us have important things to do, unlike homeless teenagers like yourself."

"Sorry. Didn't know Starbucks catered to douche bags in Armani suits." I moved aside so he could go up to the counter. Emma looked shaken, and the suit didn't stop glaring.

"Mind your elders, kid," he said to me after he ordered. "Hopeless cases like you should spend less time talking about things they don't know about and get a damn job."

"Thanks, Dr. Phil. You've changed my life."

He glared at me some more before taking off. There were two more customers after him, who both ordered in subdued tones. Most of the coffee people had noticed and were now hurriedly looking away.

"Sorry about that," I told Emma. "The guy was totally asking for it."

She smiled. "It's cool, Jake. I get people like that, like, fifty times a day and nobody says anything. So," she said, leaning over the counter, "what've you been up to?"

I shrugged. "Stuff. How's, uh, Cory?"

"He's alright. His mom got sick. We're gonna head over to San Diego this weekend to check up on her. Cory's been worried."

I nodded. In case it wasn't blaringly obvious enough for you, Cory was Emma's boyfriend. She was also twenty and he was… probably twenty-two. I couldn't catch a break. I sipped my drink with a horrendously long name, frowning just slightly.

"Something wrong?" she asked.

"No, no. I'll see ya around. Tell Cory I hope his mom gets better."

"I'll pass it along." Ugh. Emma was giving me that kicked puppy look. Women!

Once I was outside—it never got old—I walked faster than usual. I just wanted to get away from this block. I passed some stores I couldn't afford to step foot in when I noticed my reflection in one of the windows.

Damn. No wonder I'd been getting sympathy all day—I looked like a mess. My hair was chaos; it could not decide if it was light brown or dark blond (if there is such thing). My face could've been a bit more cleaner. My green eyes could've looked a little brighter. My clothes… oh my clothes. I could've fit into something somewhat more stylish if I could afford it—no Kmart or Sears nearby (darn L.A.). I walked on, feeling hideous.

The Armani suit's words came back to me. Mostly the part about homeless teenagers have nothing important to do and the 'hopeless case' part. It wasn't the first time I'd been told those things from complete strangers, strangers who didn't even know me. Nobody knew me. The real me.

Emma only knew that I was homeless. She knew I didn't want to talk about it, and she never brought it up—for which I was thankful. She was the one who helped me find people who need yard work done and odd-jobs like that. I knew she wanted to help me, and she did so indirectly, which I very gratefully appreciated. In the rich side of L.A. I was known as Yard Boy Extraordinaire. I would tell you the owners of some lawns I'd done—trust me, you know some names—but Hollywood's A-list deserved some privacy.

Sophia—Mrs. Romero, I should say—only knew my name and that I was a good kid—which was all she needed to know. It was… weird, knowing her. Frank Romero had only referred to his wife and kids as vaguely as everyone else on the force. Mostly, the guys on the force brought up families to lightheartedly complain about them—in reality, they were crazy about them. As I got to know some of the guys, some of them would show me pictures of their families if they weren't already on their desks.

Frank had showed me a family portrait from a long time ago. It'd just been him, Sophia, and a baby Kyle at the time. Sophia had been a little round then, and Frank would tear up a little when talking about his future little baby gir.—by then he'd suddenly turn away, lying about having something in his eye.

I found myself in a park—not sure which one—so I sat at a bench, sipping my fancy-sounding drink.

The only people who knew the real me were the leaders of the police force, a tight-knit group of friends in the office, and Captain Robert Lewis. Robert had been the one to discover, and later, unofficially employ me. They all kept my secret in exchange for help in the areas they couldn't get to. My abilities served a better, much higher purpose than stealing from stores and banks; I'd lived in New York in my bad days. But after almost getting caught, I left behind all the rumors and editorials for a fresh start in L.A., almost getting caught in the same situation my first week. Robert, thankfully, hadn't been an extortionist.

I'm guessing you're wondering what I could possibly be. A young Clark Kent? I wish, but at the same time I don't; he had an obvious weakness that any idiot could use against him (and how did everyone have it, if it was supposed to be rare?). Of course, I wasn't sure if I had a weakness; it's not like I go around looking for one or anything. I hadn't reached a limit to anything I could do—yet (you never know). I don't think there's any Kryptonite or other space rocks lying around on the streets of Los Angeles; you can go look if you want.

I don't know how long I was sitting on that bench. Had I fallen asleep? The sun was blazing, directly over me. It was so frickin' hot. Darn sunny California.

Well, I shouldn't complain; New York is unbelievably much worse in the summer (sucks for whoever is in my place over there). Only hardcore athletes were in the park around this time of day, running or playing basketball on the court. I didn't need to exercise, so I took off in search of a bus stop.

This was one of the many things I didn't like about being homeless: there was nowhere to go, nowhere to just sit and take a nap without someone bothering about 'you can't sleep here' and all that crap. I mean, I can sleep there, they just won't let me. It was so annoying.

I found one not too far from the park. Two other boys were sitting in it, lapping up the only shade within a hundred feet, and I took the leftover space. They didn't care; judging by their topic of conversation, they'd just ditched school. Smart. Ditch class in the middle of a hot day with nowhere go—probably with no money. Hopefully they would show up for class one of these days and actually learn something.

Ten minutes had passed… and no bus. The guys' conversation had dwindled to the point that they were talking about the class they were missing for this. Awesome. The heat was getting to me, and I was almost falling asleep when one of the guys suddenly shouted some obscenity. I was about to tell them to shut the hell up when I noticed a pink thing walking our way (Kirby comes to mind when I think about it).

It was an old woman, most likely in her fifties, maybe even late sixties. She was pale, so she probably didn't get out much. She donned the normal old lady clothing, and she was walking very slowly. The guys were now talking about some hot girl they had in a class they were missing as the old woman stopped just outside of the little bus stop hut.

I expected one of the boys to offer up their seat. She was closer to them. One of them had actually glanced at her, but then kept right on talking. I wanted to smack him upside the head.

Feeling tired, I stood up and approached. "Would you like my seat?"

She smiled. "Thank you." I helped her to the seat, and now the boys stopped talking and noticed. The one that had seen her first moved over so that she could put her bag next to her. She thanked me again. I smiled and nodded, then went around and leaned against the side of the shade thing (I don’t know what it's called; sue me) and closed my eyes, the sun glaring down on me.

T h e r o a r of a bus made me snap my eyes open. The problem was that it was going a different way than I wanted to go. I helped the woman onto the bus, surprised that the boys let her go in first. Then I stepped off and sat back down in the bus stop hut thing.

About… I'll go ahead and guess fifteen minutes later, another bus showed up, this time going the way I wanted to go. I got on—reluctantly paid the fare—and flopped into a seat. I so badly wanted to fall asleep, but then I would miss my stop. Judging by the street signs, I was three stops away from mine. I watched the people out the window, just to keep my eyes moving. We were coming through the metropolitan of L.A. Nothing I hadn't seen before.

At the next stop, two men came up, followed by a teen girl and what must've been her little brother; there was a similar look of seriousness on their faces as they stepped on. Judging by their appearance, they were probably in the same situation I was in: homeless. I suddenly felt sad for her, and especially her little brother. No home—and no doubt a way to defend themselves. L.A. was one of the worse places to be homeless in. She and the brother sat up front, the two men all the way in the back. At the second stop, a slightly obese woman came up, sitting in the front also. I pulled on the little rope thing as we approached my stop. Just when the bus was decelerating, a gun shot fired as people screamed, followed by—

"Stop this bus! Anyone with cash fork it over now!" The two men who'd gotten in earlier were moving along the bus towards the front. The yeller held up a gun, the second following slowly behind, stopping at each filled seat with a sack. The frightened passengers hastily dug around for the little change they had.

When the man came to me he stopped and lifted an eyebrow. "You don't have anything, do you, kid?"

"No. But I have this." I kicked him in the nards (anyone who does not know how that feels, shouldn't do it—unless you're a girl, then it's your natural-born right (think about it)). When he bent over, I broke his nose, then punched his throat. He fell to the ground, grabbing at his neck and coughing.

The yeller shot the roof again. "Sit your ass down before I shoot you!" He didn't lift the gun and point it at me—which was usually expected.

I stepped over the choker. "No you won't. I bet you never killed anyone before, have you?"

Now he lifted the gun, pointing it at me. "You don't think I'll do it, kid?" he asked. "You're a nobody, so nobody'll miss ya."

I shrugged. "Maybe not. But this bus has been parked for a while now, dude." I nodded to the window. He looked, seeing all the people on the sidewalk watching curiously. "Looks like you have an audience. Maybe somebody invited the cops too."

The hand holding the gun started shaking.

I reached for the gun when something touched the base of my head, forcing me to freeze. The guy in front of me smiled.

"Betcha can't kick me again before I pull the trigger," rasped the guy behind me. Damn it

The guy in front went back to being all tough. "Hand over your money or the kid's brains splatter!" He'd just reached the girl and her brother in front. "Hand over your money," he demanded.

The teen girl had already put the boy behind her, shielding him. "We don't have any money." She tried to sound tough, but her voice shook. She looked about maybe fourteen.

He suddenly grabbed her wrist and yanked her forward. With the gun, he pointed at her bracelet. "What's this, huh, girlie?" he asked. "Is this gold?"

She tried pulling away. "No. It's fake." She said it wasn't real gold, but her eyes were totally lying. The bracelet was important to her. And I was sure it wasn't regarding the value.

The man seemed to know this too. While he tried to unfasten it—pointing the gun at her so she wouldn't struggle—my mind was swirling like a tornado. I had to do something. Something that didn't give me away. Everyone else was trying to be still. A few people had stopped to watch the bus. I couldn't hear a siren.

The guy behind me suddenly had a coughing fit, and I took my chance.

I turned and yanked the gun out of his hand and hit him on the head with it—knocked out cold. In the same second I pointed it at the guy in front, but he was much quicker than I'd thought. Already he had the girl in his arms, his gun to her head. The little boy started to cry, the girl was trying not to.

He smiled. "Wanna see who's quicker?"

Damn it damn it damn it

Reluctantly, I dropped the gun and kicked it to the steps. It clattered to the bottom, sounding louder than it should have. I didn't sit down; I could only watch as he let the girl sit back in her seat, the gun now in her face. He turned to the rest of the passengers. "Anybody else wanna play hero?!" His voice cracked; he was scared. He raised the gun into the air and fired again, everyone jumped—people outside screamed. The man was about to say something more when a siren started to sound, gradually growing louder, but still distant. The guy started to look panicked, glancing down at his unconscious partner, then up at me. Through the front windows facing the street, three squad cars were slowly weaving their way through traffic to us.

The man cursed for a few seconds—not giving me much time to think—then he grabbed the girl by her dirty blondish hair and yanked her to her feet. In the second that it took him to do that, I was already in front of his closest exit. Nobody noticed me there until he did.

"How did you—?" He stopped himself and pointed the gun at my face. Anyone standing in front of the door outside had hastily moved out of the way. "Move it, kid."

"Let her go. You don't need her."

He made the gun make a clicking sound, which I guessed meant it was ready to shoot. "What's she to you anyway? Move it or lose it, kid."

"I can't let you take her." The squad cars were already parked all around the bus; officers quickly out and getting idiot bystanders to move back. "And even if you run, how far do you think you'll go anyway? We're surrounded. Did that figure into your master plan?"

He fired. The glass behind me shattered. People on the bus and outside screamed. I grabbed the gun by the barrel, nearly dropping it—it was hot. I also pulled the girl and the man through the glass door with me, catching him off guard. I managed to disengage his hand from her while he was still surprised and I forced him to the ground. The girl ran back into the bus just as I caught the man's arms and pinned them behind him—cop style.

"What the hell?!" he yelled, surprised and outraged. Probably didn't figure how much stronger I was than he. "Didn't I shoot you?!"

I leaned down so he could see my face. "You missed," I smirked. An officer—one of the many I didn't recognize—came and took over. I was about to tell him there was another on the bus, but the second guy was already being carried out. Two more officers came off the bus, escorting the frightened passengers and the bus driver. A news crew came onto the scene—the local station for NBC—nearly hitting people trying to get the van as close to the bus as possible.

Some people—desperate for attention (L.A. style)—rushed toward it, some of them pointing me out.

Not cool.

I immediately rushed through the crowd and around the block before they could hound me with microphones and close-ups. That was always so annoying. I booked it all the way to Robert's precinct in hopes he would come up with some fake story about the attempted robbery on a public transportation vehicle. And if he had a couple of bucks to spare.

T h e c o p shops in L.A. are always busy twenty-four seven. The clock on the wall said it was one fifteen as I entered. Trudy was still here?

I asked her the same question reluctantly; I was kind of in a hurry.

"Yeah," she sighed. "Gloria called in saying that her sister was sick. Right." She rolled her eyes. Gloria was nice, but kind of snobby, so she was on a lot of people's bad sides.

"Well… that sucks rocks—Is Robert in his office?"

"Yeah. Why—?"

I was already through the door and walking through the narrow halls, nodding at some officers here and there. I reached his office door, the kind with those watery glass windows and CAPTAIN ROBERT LEWIS in pee-yellow—peeling—lettering. I knocked. There was some rustling of papers inside.

"Enter," he called ominously. I rolled my eyes and went in.

Captain Robert Lewis was sitting at his desk, writing something in a manila folder, then turning a page and looking up. "Hey, Jake. Long time no see."

"Yeah. Sup." I sat in one of the chairs and propped my feet up on his desk.

"I've told you to stop doing that."

"I know." I smiled.

He rolled his eyes. "What do you need, Jake?"

"There was a robbery on a Get bus earlier today."

"So I've heard," he said, returning to his paperwork. "I got the call. You… handled it, didn't you?"

I straightened up and smirked. "You make that sound like it's a bad thing."

"It is a bad thing when it's broad daylight. The passengers on the bus thought you 'teleported' to the exit—even though the man doing the robbing was blocking the aisle. I heard there was a mighty big crowd outside too, watched you slam down a man much bigger than you like he was a bag of cotton candy." When his sentences started to sound funny like that, it usually meant he was slightly upset. "What were you thinking? Coulda gave yourself away. There was a news crew, Jake. Their cameras caught a denim blue blur flying through the crowd." He glanced down at my jacket—which was blue and denim. Frick.

"I was thinking that maybe those people needed my help. It came to that—I couldn't help it. You think I was just gonna sit there when he might've killed someone?" I thought of the teen girl, how defiant she'd looked. She would've definitely gotten herself killed (then who'd look after the kid?)

"What have we talked about, Jake? Anonymity is always our goal. If people find out what—who you are, then periodicals all over the country'll be talking about L.A.'s Lil' Wannabe Superman!"

"Back up a few words. First, anonymity is your goal, not mine exactly. You only threw that in my face so that I wouldn't choose being arrested on a daily basis. Second, you said 'what' I are. I'm not human, remember? Why should I conform to your rules? What good is it doing me, huh? I'm broke, I'm homeless, and I'm starving like I haven't eaten for a week—which, by the way, is technically true."

"So you want to be hounded by paparazzi? Chased down to the point you can't go out anymore? People will start thinking of you as a freak celebrity instead of someone who—" He stopped himself.

I smirked humorlessly. "No, don't stop now," I said. "Go on. Go on about what kind of freak I am."

"Jake, you know I didn't mean—"

"No, but I bet you think about it all the time for it to slip out now. Thinking about why you put up with me. About why you're paying a psychiatrist to talk to me about… what happened." I sat up straighter. "I'm not your kid. I don't belong to you or anyone else."

"No, you don't. But you need me. Just like those people on that bus needed you."

I shook my head. "Oh, no… It's you who needs me. I do the work, you get the credit."

He scoffed. "So is that what this is about? You want people to know what can you do? To know what you are? Do you want to be famous?"

I stood up as he did. "You're unbelievable." I turned for the door.

"Jake, where're you going?"

"Away." I shut the door behind me.

I s p e d through the building and exited through the back, not wanting to have to smile at anyone when I didn't feel like it.

I… well, I didn't live there, but I spent all of two years in the middle of L.A. I didn't partake to labels of which parts; I've been through most of it enough to know it. And, I did enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city, the distraction it offered, but sometimes it wasn't enough—which why Trouble might as well be my middle name, since I usually went looking for it.

When it came down to it… I just didn't want to have to think. Thinking of other people was more… therapeutic to me than thinking about where my next meal was coming from. Knowing that I cared more about other people than myself helped me feel good, helped me feel like I was worth something—not counting dollar amounts.

But when I cared about other people, I worried about them like crazy. You will not believe the staggering number of times I'd almost resorted to stalking the person I'd managed to prevent from becoming another death statistic. It was difficult to let them go… even if they were strangers. Like, you know how you (if you're a parent) first send your kid off to school—for the very first time—and you worry about whether they'll make friends or behave or manage to survive a few hours without you? That's kinda how I feel about the person… the would-be victim.

My life was good and bad like that. This hero complex was….

Before I knew it, I found myself on the same street where the bus had stopped. If I went on for a few more blocks, I'd find myself at the library—my previous destination—but I stopped just outside it: the girl and her little brother were sitting on the steps. I was stuck between heading into the building as planned or taking off before they noticed me.

But just when I'd made my decision, the girl looked up. "Hey," she said, smiling. The little boy looked up too, and smiled just as brightly. They barely looked alike now that I was able to look closer. The girl's hair was lighter than the boy's, and his eyes were almost hazel while hers were plain brown. The boy's skin was just a shade darker than hers. Maybe they were a mix of two different races. This was L.A.

"Hey," I said nonchalantly. "What're you doing here?"

"What's it look like?" She smirked. "Name's Chloe. Thanks for what you did on the bus. You're pretty brave, you know that?"

I acted all… you know. "No big deal. You two okay?"

She shrugged. "We've had worse." Her response surprised me—never heard that before—and she noticed, but didn't acknowledge it. "What's your name?"

"Jake."

Chloe's head inclined. "Jake… what?"

I mimicked her. "Chloe… what?" The little boy laughed; made me smile. "What's your name, little man?"

"Joey!" he exclaimed. He didn't do anything else, just sat there and watched us.

"So, what're Chloe and Joey doing outside the library?" I moved a couple of steps closer. Chloe was unfazed by my action, but Joey—with the smile still plastered on his face—moved closer to her, instinctive.

"It's called 'sitting,'" she said, clearly amused. "What're you up to, Superman?"

I raised an eyebrow. "'Superman?'"

She stood up. "Yes, Clark Kent. You think nobody noticed you zooming past to the exit? Like everyone just closed their eyes when you pinned down that dude like you were some beefy wrestler—when you so clearly are not?" I got a little offended by that last part. Like I can have a regular gym membership?

"So, you're sitting here… waiting for me?"

"Yes. I want answers."

"Why?"

"Because."

"Because why?"

She narrowed her eyes at me. "It's gonna be like that? You can trust me, you know."

I highly doubted that. "Can't you just thank me and get it over with?"

She pointed at me. "That. Right there. That's the kind of thing that'll just make me go to the press."

I shrugged. "Go. As if you're the only one who noticed anything. The Almighty Chloe knows all," I said mockingly, my arms flailing to the air. Joey laughed at that.

Chloe looked rattled. "So… you don't care at all?"

I shrugged and went up the steps. "It wouldn't be the first time." I walked into the library, nodded to the woman and headed to my favorite part of the library: the fiction section.

Unfortunately, Chloe was right on my heels—and Joey on hers. "So this is what the Boy Wonder does with his time? Read?"

"Do you have a problem with that?" I said, eyeing the shelves. I wondered if the new arrivals had already been shelved. There was almost a book in the fiction section I hadn't read.

"It's just… weird." She followed me to another aisle; Joey got distracted by the bean bags in the children's section.

"It's weird that I read?" I picked one off and started reading the back.

"No…. I thought you'd be heading to some secret lair or something."

I laughed. "Never heard that one before." I put the book back, taking another one from the same author off the shelf.

"So… what else do you do? Besides read and save people."

I turned to her. "Why do you care so much? I don't even know you." I'd managed to say that politely as possible, then put the book back and move on to the next aisle.

"I'm just curious," she said, following right behind me it almost gave me chills. "Do you have a problem with that?"

"Yes. It's not like I go around telling my life story to complete strangers." I get the irony, okay? "Don't you and your little brother have someplace else to go, other people to annoy?" I picked up another book, but when she didn't respond I looked up.

She looked at me blankly. "When did I say he was my little brother?"

I blinked. "He's not?" I quickly glanced to the children's section; he was flipping through a dinosaur picture book.

Chloe shook her head, looking at me weird.

"Are you babysitting him or something?"

She avoided my gaze and rubbed her shoulder. "You could say that." Interesting….

"So… what, is he your kid?"

She scoffed and punched my shoulder. "Do I look that old to you?"

I rubbed my arm, pretending it actually hurt. "How old are you then?"

"Sixteen, okay?" she said, sounding very irritated. "How old are you?"

"Sixteen, okay?" I mimicked. I put the book back. "Geez, violent aren't we? If you can't handle my questions, then why should I answer yours? I don't owe you anything." I moved on; she followed.

"I know, I know. It's just that I want to know, you know? How you did all those things. You're like… a hero or something."

I smirked. "What would the 'or something' be?"

"I don't know. I'm just saying…. Do other people know?"

Okay, some of her questions had answers that would be crossing some lines. Chloe had no right to any of these answers. I didn't owe her a penny. But the girl looked like she'd been through hell and back.

I barely glanced at her. "Certain peoples know, mostly since it's on a need-to-know basis. And you don't need to know. Got that?"

"What kinds of people? Scientists? Government?" She gasped. "Are you some sort of prototype for super soldiers?"

I had to laugh. "Seriously? Do I look like I fit into any of those categories?"

"Well, no."

"And what about you?" I nodded to the little boy. "If Joey isn't your little brother, then who is he? Why do you have him?"

Chloe crossed her arms and glared at me. "Seriously? It's gonna be like that?"

"Seriously." I turned and grabbed two of my picks. "It is like that." I headed to the front desk, glancing at Joey. When I handed the books over to the woman, with my card, I could hear Joey reading from a chapter book. He sounded really confident for a reader his age. Smart. He glanced up when Chloe came out from the fiction section and took his hand.

She looked up at me. "Guess I'll see ya around then, Jake."

I nodded at her. "See ya." Joey waved as they went out the door, and I waved back. When I stepped out of the library into the waning daylight, they were gone.

S o m e times being homeless has its perks. Not a lot, but they're still okay. For instance, I don't have a curfew or anything like most of the other kids my age—I can stay out all night. I could eat what I want (when I can afford it), go where I want, do what I want and no one will tell me anything—unless I were to break a law or something (which I wouldn't) then I'd have to answer to the police.

I took a bus to the edge of town, which didn't take long since I was reading one of my books the whole way. School had gotten out, so there were a lot of stops to let kids jaywalk everywhere—future hoodlums. When all the expensive-looking buildings and cars disappeared, I ringed the little rope thing. I got off and headed west.

I'd been slow-walking for almost an hour before I came across a small food store. I took out the contents of my pocket and sighed. Good grief. With the little money I had, I managed to buy some food to last me the rest of the day—and Milky Ways (my favorite candy bar). I guess it was a good thing I'd gotten so little, because I had the dull task of carrying it with me the rest of the way. I couldn't understand how people could walk like this for so long, so slow and all—there was a reason to the invention of the car, wasn't there? It was relief—as always—when I'd come to a secluded area of woods that led into the mountains the freeway cut through. There, I was free to go at the speed I wished.

There was an abandoned cabin in the woods. It had been used by many of the miners who'd come in search of gold during the Gold Rush in California. Whoever built it had made it very sturdy to last all these years. It was sort of my home. I don't count it as one since I didn't stay in it twenty-four seven. It was kinda like a storage unit; I kept my basic necessities there: clothes, food, water…. And my books.

I wasn't much of a housekeeper, so the place had a gray tint to everything, and it was always dark. I'd managed to fix an old timey lantern, which I only lit at night. Anything that was furniture had been covered by white blankets with inches of dust on them when I found the place; who could've possibly lived here before me? The little cot thing that was in one of the two rooms was still in pretty good shape. There was a small desk where piles of books I'd bought rested.

What did I do? Not much. Mostly read. Boring? {scoffs} To you. Crack open a book once in a while. Learn something. Spending all your time on the Internet is damaging to your brain, dude—or dudette.

I hadn't slept there for a week, preferring the outdoors usually, but it was pretty hot lately, and the woods always managed to keep cool, which made this a peaceful place, you know? Like a little sanctuary, my secret sanctum….

Still… all the peace in the world couldn't keep the nightmares away.

Pain… a lot of that. The screaming… most likely by me. The chemical smells… the blurry lab equipment… rough hands, needles poking and prodding… cutting and pulling….

Waking up in the darkness of the forest was only slightly reassuring.

They came almost every other night. They consisted of flashing images of horrible things I'd rather not name right now, terrible sounds that made me cringe…. The pain felt all too real; even if they were from the past, they still haunted me. The dreams seemed to last forever, an eternity in my mind. I didn't know how I managed to sleep with all that running through my head….

T h e next morning, it was back to the bus and into the main city. In all of the local newspapers, and one national tabloid magazine, three photos of the 'Denim Blue Blur' were placed variously on the covers somewhere. Witnesses in and outside the bus told surprisingly accurate accounts of what happened. They'd given brief descriptions of me to police and reporters; thank goodness I looked like the generic public. Anyone that was wearing a blue denim jacket, was in their teens, and looked kind of raggedy were immediately pointed out as the Denim Blue Blur. This was L.A. so there was a lot of that.

In a coffee shop, someone shouted "It's the Denim Blue Blur!"

It was some twenty-something-looking guy with a beanie on, dorkishly thick glasses, and a five o'clock shadow at nine in the morning. He was pointing at me. Everyone glanced at him, then followed his pointing to me. I rolled my eyes at him, then at everyone else. I wasn't denying anything, see?

"Shut up! You said that three times already," hissed the girl sitting next to him. I wasn't thoroughly convinced they were together, only friends.

Ignoring them—and admittedly slightly shaken—I went to the counter and asked for their special. I felt eyes on me, and I glanced as slightly as possible to see Twenty-Something still watching me, whispering to the girl next to him. I turned back to the counter and listened closely.

"He looks just like the sketch, Kim," he whispered on. Sketch? "You saw it, didn't you?"

"Yeah, but, come on. Like the Denim Blue Blur would stop at a coffee shop in L.A.? Isn't he just a kid?"

"Exactly! That's gotta be him."

"Then go ask him."

"Ask him what?"

"Ask him if he's the Denim Blue Blur."

"What?"

"He's just a kid, Sam. Go ask." There was some scrambling, so I assumed either he stumbled out of his seat or she shoved him. I was still waiting for my order as I felt the Sam move closer. His hesitation was obvious, and I guessed he glanced back at Kim.

He tapped my shoulder; I turned. "Are you the Denim Blue Blur the news and papers were talking about?" he asked quickly, his voice quivering. Kim was watching us, but when I glanced at her she hastily looked away.

My order was ready, and I dumped the rest of my money—no bills—onto the counter. "Thanks," I told the girl. "Am I the Denim Blue Blur?" I asked Sam incredulously.

Sam cleared his throat. "Yeah, dude. You look just like the sketch."

"What sketch?"

"The one that came on the news. Didn't you see it?"

Scoff. "No."

"So… you're not the Denim Blue Blur?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. "You look exactly like it."

I laughed. "Maybe you need some stronger glasses, Sam." See, I denied nothing.

I smiled at Kim—subtly pretty—as I walked out the door. The L.A. traffic greeted me, as usual, and I sipped my drink all the way to the lights. As I crossed the street, I realized how dumb I'd been.

What would Sam think about me knowing his name, when we clearly hadn't met, and I shouldn't have been able to hear Kim say his name from where I'd been standing?

Crap.

What was more crap was that I had to go over to Rob's precinct and ask what was what… and if he could spare me a couple of more bucks.

A lot of crap so early in the morning wasn't fun.

K n o c k knock I went on Captain Robert's door.

"Enter."

When he looked up at me he immediately frowned. "I guess I should alert the press—the Denim Blue Blur is in my office."

"What've you told the media?" I asked, serious. "And do you have, like, a couple bucks I could borrow?"

"First, like, quit, like, saying 'like' every, like, other word."

Coming from him, it sounded ridiculous. "Like… no."

"Second, there's not much we can tell the press. There isn't any other way to explain the photos. I suggest you get yourself a new jacket." Robert reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty.

I took it. "I'll pay you back."

"Naw, you don't have to—"


"I saw Sophia yesterday."

He immediately frowned. "What?"

"Yeah." I sat in the chair, let my head droop. "Saved Kyle from getting squished by a Hummer. I helped her with her groceries all the way to her apartment…."

"She has no idea?"

I shook my head. "Just what she was told."

Robert sighed. "How was the therapy session yesterday?"

I looked up, frowning. "It was not a 'therapy session.' It was a one-time thing."

"I'm gonna be honest, Jake, when I say that I'm not good at this sort of thing. Which is why I asked Mrs. Richardson to come talk to you. She said you could benefit from talking to her."

"Do I have to see her again?"

"I can arrange another meeting if that's what you're asking."

I stood. "I'm not asking for anything. And I will pay you back." I zipped out the door before Robert could say anything else.

End of Part One



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This book has 3 comments.


on Oct. 4 2011 at 9:33 am
WhiteWidow GOLD, Bakersfield, California
14 articles 3 photos 28 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is not fair because no one plays fair and survives.

Thank you.  ^.^  And I'll check it out.

'complex - part two' is already online, FYI


on Oct. 3 2011 at 6:45 pm
Kvothe28 SILVER, Temecula, California
5 articles 0 photos 78 comments

Favorite Quote:
Excuse me while I prepare my impromptu remarks. -Winston Churchill

Tell it like it is, not how it was. -Jonathan

Break it down like a fine English double-gun. -R. Bitoni

Wow I loved the entire first dialogue. I thought it was smooth and realistic and I thought parts of it were hilarious. Your voice in this is awesome. If you have time, would you please read He Went Out With His Boots On (Ch.1) it's posted anonymously. Thank you

on Sep. 26 2011 at 9:39 am
WhiteWidow GOLD, Bakersfield, California
14 articles 3 photos 28 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is not fair because no one plays fair and survives.

Part Two is already undergoing the editing process....  Might be up soon....




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