sc_ban.gif (7151 bytes)

grn_bt.jpg (687 bytes) March 25, 1995 - Saturday

Ryan and Tiffany were walking across the quad. It was one ten in the morning, and in the distance, you could still hear the whoop and holler of parties in progress. The quad was the center of the campus which was comparable to a small park, complete with benches, trees, picnic tables, etc. It was lit up dimly by the mercury vapor lamps that hung overhead on large poles placed strategically around the quad. Couples were out walking around, talking. Some people were walking off their intoxication.

But not Tiffany and Ryan. They were on a mission. They were going to try and solve Austin Webb's murder by snooping through his office. Ryan was having his doubts about this whole venture. He knew deep inside that Tiffany was on her own mission of some kind. What she wanted him here was another mystery unto itself.

They came to the building where Austin Webb's classroom and office was. A security guard, (affectionately called rent-a-cops) was waiting for them. Tiffany waved at him, but he was not impressed. Ryan had clue as to what was going on.

"Is this going to take long Tiffany?" the guard asked. Tiffany smiled her irresistible smile.

"No Bob, I'm positive I left my accounting book in Webb's room." she insisted. "I've looked everywhere else." Bob unlocked the door to the building and opened the door.

"Hurry up. I'm not supposed to do this."

Tiffany turned to Ryan and pecked him on the cheek. "Be back in a sec." She disappeared into the building before Ryan could protest. Instead, he glanced at Bob, who was shaking his head and looking cautiously around at the same time.

"Is she always like this?" Bob asked.

"Like what?" Ryan asked almost defensively.


Ryan chuckled. "Sometimes." The two men did not say anything else until Tiffany came back a few minutes later with a textbook in her hand.

"Got it!" she said acting even more bubbly than she usually did. Looking relieved, Bob locked the door, looked at Tiffany with uncertainty and scurried away.

Tiffany pulled Ryan with her as she walked for the other side of the building. "You maybe want to tell me what the hell is going on here?" Ryan asked.

"This building is locked at night." Tiffany explained.

"Thank you Sherlock!" Ryan smirked sarcastically. "I didn't know that!"

"Lis-ten." she wheezed in her whiny voice. "When Bob let me in, I unlocked the door on the other side of the building, and picked up whatever textbook I could find. Ya know, like a diversion."

Ryan sighed. Her diversion was credible. It was the condescending attitude she used toward him sometimes, unbeknownst to her, that was so nerve racking.

The two slipped into the building unnoticed. However, Ryan discovered that Webb's door was locked. "Now what?" he asked, frustrated.

Tiffany produced a key that miraculously unlocked the door to Webb's office. Ryan was appalled, and shocked. "You were saying?" she asked.

"Where in the hell did you get that?" Ryan demanded.

"I have my sources."

"Cut the shit Tiffany." Ryan hissed. "There is no possible way you should have that key."

"Ryan, don't worry about it. There are some things you are better off not knowing." Ryan was uncomfortable with this situation. He gave Tiffany the same look of uncertainty the Bob did. Tiffany had way to many connections. "You start at the desk. I'll look in the file cabinet."

Ryan stepped up to the front of the desk looking over at Tiffany. This didn't feel right. He felt as if he were somehow invading Austin Webb's privacy. Suddenly he had the urge to just run, and forget all about this. They shouldn't be here. There was the possibility of getting in to deep. Ryan was afraid of getting what he asked for. Answers to questions he didn't have the right to ask.

There was nothing to be found in the desk itself. Although Ryan did find a briefcase next to the sofa. Tiffany was still looking through the file cabinet. Ryan opened the briefcase. Papers mostly. Divorce papers. It looked as if Austin Webb was going to try and divorce his wife. There was also a roll of undeveloped film. Ryan took the film and slipped it into his pocket.

"Hey Tiff." Ryan called out. "Did you know that Webb was in the process of divorcing his wife."

Tiffany stopped what she was doing and looked back at Ryan. No words, just a look. One that Ryan could not put a title on. She started shuffling through papers again.

"Ryan, can I ask you a question?" Tiffany asked as Ryan further explored the briefcase.

"I guess so."

"Why do you stare at my breasts all the time?"

Ryan snapped to attention. He didn't expect that. "Ya know Tiff." He began. "In light of my recent visual activity, its a fair question that deserves a fair answer. However, I don't think its anything you want to hear."

"Try me."

I wish I could, he thought.

"I am obsessed with your tits Tiff." he answered. "Plain and simple, you have the most beautiful set of 38-C pontoons I have ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on."

"Tactful." she muttered. Ryan discovered something during the course of that conversation. It was a confirmation letter from Webb's lawyer to Webb about an update in his will. And that was it.

"I'm serious Tiff. Perfection in its rawest form." Ryan said closing the briefcase and putting it back where he found it. "I could sit and stare at your breasts from dusk till dawn."

"Thank you, I'm flattered." she replied. Ryan couldn't tell if she meant that or not. He opted not to ask not wanting to know the answer. Ryan started flipping through the rolodex on the desk. It would have been nothing if he hadn't have caught a number that struck him as familiar. JL5-1279. And the letters TLC.

"Hey Tiff, do you know the number JL5-1279?" Ryan asked.

Tiffany stopped shuffling and looked over at Ryan with a bit a surprise" No, why?"


She shot him a weird look and returned to the file cabinet. Ryan took the card out and set the rolodex back on the desk when a business card fell out. He picked it up. Only it was not a business card, it was a note, or message of some kind.


Ryan walked over to Tiffany. "Take a look at this." he said handing her the card.

"What the hell does this mean?" she asked, upset.

"Hell if I know." he retorted. Footsteps in the hall stopped the conversation.

"Is somebody up here?" a voice asked. They both looked around at the door.

"Shit!" they whispered in unison. "I was afraid this would happen." Tiffany whispered. "Follow my lead."

"Okay." Ryan whispered. "What are we going to do."

"Take your shirt off." she commanded. Ryan gasped and took a step back.

"What?" he said out loud.

"Just do it!" Ryan put up no argument as he slipped his T-shirt off and onto the floor." Okay, unbuckle your pants." he stared at her like she had fallen off her trolley. He did as she said. "Now lie down on the couch."

As he started to lie down, Tiffany pulled her shirt off, revealing her bare breasts. This was a moment Ryan thought he would never see. As he had imagined, they were perfect. It was the only word that came to his mind. Perfect. She then slid her sweat pants down to the floor so she was wearing nothing but black lace panties.

"Oh God, I'm gonna come." he squeaked.

"Shut up!" Tiffany hissed mounting him, her breasts jiggling from their weight. There was a rattle at the door handle. Tiffany started to moan as Ryan closed his eyes in ecstasy. As the door started to open, Tiffany took Ryan's hands and placed them firmly on her chest. He moaned out loud as he felt her soft flesh. Tiffany cringed as if in pain.

"All right, what the hell is going on in..." the guard began as Tiffany fell to Ryan's side, using him as a shield. Ryan smiled, and waved sheepishly.

It was Bob, the rent-a-cop. "Tiffany!" he groaned. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Trying to get laid!" she answered.

"What, here?" he asked. "Look, nevermind. I don't want to know. Just get dressed and go back to one of your' alls rooms. You can't be in here."

"Sorry." Tiffany peeped.

"I'll be waiting outside." Bob said closing the door.

Tiffany was smirking as Ryan buried his hands in his face. A mild case of blue balls was setting in from the whole erotic experience. It had been the first time he had ever had the pleasure of feeling Tiffany up.

The repercussion from Bob had been minimal, as Tiffany has a way of talking her way out of things. Ryan knew it was just the way she poised her body. It often got the attention of anyone who was within immediate eyeshot range

"You okay?" Tiffany asked Ryan as they walked back across the quad. Ryan managed a half smile in her general direction.

"I'll live." he muttered.

"Sorry about that episode back there." she apologized.

"Don't worry about it." Ryan squeaked. He couldn't get the picture of her practically naked on top of him out of his head. "Did you find anything?"

"No, not a damn thing." she replied. "Did you?"

In a split second, Ryan decided that for some reason, Tiffany knew too much all ready, and that there was something she was probably not telling him. He didn't want to tell her about what he found just yet. Not until he knew more about what she knew.

"No." Was the reply. Tiffany bid him farewell in the usual manner by pecking him on the cheek. Ryan watched her walk away, feeling the pounding of his heart. It only pounded that way when Tiffany kissed him on the face, or touched him in some way. It was a combination rush of heavy blood flow and adrenaline. Plus the tingling in every joint of his body.

Ryan shook off the thoughts of Tiffany and started back for his own dorm.

So much for congress with the nearest beer keg.

Ryan was positive now that there was more to Austin Webb's murder than meets the eye. And a gut feeling told him that Tiffany was somehow involved.

It was his last thought as he drifted off to sleep, earlier than usual.


Ryan slept, but not well. The alarm clock sounded off faithfully at eight a.m., but it hadn't been necessary. He was not sound asleep. Ryan looked over at the angry red numbers that were screaming at him.

His first thought of the day? Tiffany had been looking for something specific in Webb's office. What was it? Papers of some kind? Perhaps it was the roll of film Ryan had tucked away in his pants pocket. Her reaction to Webb's divorce had been unusual.

Ryan sat up in bed and looked over at Jarrod, who was sound asleep. There was no class today. It was Saturday, he let Jarrod sleep.

After dressing himself in jeans and a T-shirt, Ryan walked over to the student activities building where The Forum offices were. He found Alan slumped over his desk, staring off into space.

"Alan, you okay?" Ryan called out. Alan lifted his head up and acknowledged Ryan's presence.

"Yeah, I didn't sleep very much last night." he replied, looking back down at his layout board.

"Me neither." Ryan agreed. "Can we talk, off the record."

Alan looked back up intrigued, and nodded his head towards the door. Ryan closed it

and sat down next to Alan. "What's on your mind man."

"What we talk about here." Ryan explained. "Cannot leave this room, until the time is right, okay?" Alan nodded. "I've been doing a little investigating of my own, with some help from a mutual friend. I have reason to believe that Webb's murder was premeditated and calculated."

Alan's eyes widened with shock and surprise. "What led you to this conclusion?"

Ryan continued. "Word got around that whoever wrote the best cover story for Webb's murder, would get the by-line. I did a little digging to get the inside story about Webb, but what I found, I didn't like. It may be nothing Alan, but my gut is screaming that something it really wrong. There are pieces of the big puzzle that don't fit."

"In example?" Alan asked, facing Ryan now, hands on his knees.

"Did you know that Webb was suing his wife for a divorce?" Ryan asked. Alan was taken aback.

"I knew there were some problems." he answered. "But nothing that extreme. How do you know this?"

"Ask me another day Alan, its better you don't know right now. There could be fallout." Ryan explained. Alan nodded in agreement. "I also found some other things." Ryan pulled two cards out of his pocket. Alan picked them up and studied them.

"I guess it doesn't bear asking where you got these from?" Alan inquired. Ryan shook his head. "TLC." Alan said out loud. "I don't recognize the phone number."

Ryan reached for the phone and dialed the number. "Maybe I'll recognize the voice." he said listening attentively. After a few seconds, Ryan put the phone back in its cradle.

"Well?" Alan asked.

"Its a beeper." Ryan said. "Whoever TLC is, they're getting paged right now." Alan was studying the other card. Looking at it through the light. "Does that mean anything to you?"

"No." Alan replied. "It looks like a riddle of some kind. Meant to imply that Webb was in some kind of a mess. 'A tangled Webb we weave.' I'm pretty sure it means Webb had gotten himself into some kind of trouble. It was printed with a laser printer. Our murderous friend has, or has access to some kind of word processing equipment."

Ryan thought for a sec. The second card on Webb’s body was printed by a laser printer. So Tiffany had said.

"Alan, this is the part I really don't want getting out." Ryan warned. "There was another card like this one found on Webb's body yesterday. This came from a really reliable source. The card read, 'Ring me a Porter.' The word Porter was capitalized." Alan looked away towards the window for a moment, then back at the card.

"Okay Ryan, this is my hunch. The word Webb on this card was capitalized, as it was a name. Porter might be another name too. If what your saying is true."

"I'm fairly certain it is." Ryan confirmed. "Are there any instructor's here with the name Porter?"

"I don't think so." Alan said, obviously racking his brain to recall the information. "I'll go check it out." he insisted. "Ryan, don't let anymore of this get out. I'm glad you told me, but others might not be so understanding. You could get implemented in Webb's murder if the wrong people know you have this kind of information."

Ryan agreed thinking that Alan was probably over dramatizing the scenario. There was no mention made of the film Ryan was hiding, and Ryan wanted it that way. There might be something there that he wanted to see first. Alan left the office leaving Ryan alone.

Ryan wondered, who did the beeper belong too? What was TLC, or who was TLC? "Tender loving care." Ryan said out loud to no one. "The love connection?" Deep down, Ryan suspected something else, but didn't want to think about it. He picked up the phone and dialed the pager number again, entering 03-23-95. The date of Austin Webb’s murder.

Now he would wait, and see if anyone started acting strange.

Ryan left Alan a note that he would be back soon and left the building.


Ryan took the film to the Cranberry Mall, located in mid-Westminster about ten minutes from the college. There was a same day developing lab there. Foto's While You Wait. The humor in the name of that store is that a Japanese man named Foto owned the store. Thus, Foto's While You Wait. Ryan left explicit instructions that he wanted every picture developed, even if it was blank. He then proceeded to drive back to the college, stopping at the public library en route. Webb or no Webb, he still had the assignment of researching the alleged haunting of Alumni Hall and other places in Carroll County. The book his father had spoke of, the one that listed and detailed haunted sites in Carroll County was in fact there. Ryan checked out the book, smirking the whole time. The book ended up someone on the floor of the passenger side of his car. Ryan then finished his trip back to the college to see if Tiffany was awake.

She was in fact gone. According to her roommate, Melissa, she would be gone all weekend.

"Where did she go?" Ryan asked her. Melissa shrugged her shoulders, inviting Ryan into the dorm.

"Haven't a clue." she replied walking into the bathroom. Ryan was familiar with Melissa. She was an overweight sophomore who had no real social life. Tiffany had tried endlessly to fix her up with various friends and acquaintances. Mysteriously, they were all involved or unavailable at the time. Ryan was nice enough to take her to the movies once to try and score points with Tiffany. That plan had backfired, obviously.

Ryan looked around the room. "When did she leave?"

"About nine or so." She replied. Ryan looked at his watch, it was nine fifteen.

"Melissa, that was fifteen minutes ago!" Ryan snapped.

"Yeah, so?" she snapped back leaning out the bathroom door to shoot him a look of confusion. Ryan stood up and looked at Tiffany's bureau.

"Forget it." he muttered, looking more closely at the items on top of the bureau. It was a combination of the usual things any female would keep in her room. Make up, hair scrunchies, jewelry, a few cards, pictures.

A few cards? Ryan reached for one. It was signed, Love, me. "Missy, was Tiffany seeing anyone recently?"

"I don't think so. Why?" she asked.

"I was just wondering who sent her the cards."

"Oh, those have been there forever." She informed him. "I think they were from Karl." Karl had been Tiffany's last steady boyfriend. He wasn't real nice to her in the end of the relationship, and she ended up leaving him. Although she never admitted to it, Ryan suspected Karl had been hitting her.

He then studied Tiffany's high school diploma. She had graduated from Westminster High School three years ago, with honors. He chuckled to himself. "Nerd." he muttered. A high school yearbook was lying underneath her diploma. It was blue with her full name imprinted in the upper right hand corner. Tiffany Lynne Cutter. Ryan was a bit surprised. He wasn't aware that Tiffany's middle name was Lynne. And then it hit him.

TLC were initials. Tiffany's initials.

Ryan sat down on Tiffany's bed and put his head in his hands. He could never recall seeing a beeper in Tiffany's pocket. And even if she did have one, why would Austin Webb have the number to it?

Melissa walked out of the bathroom. "Ryan?" she asked. "Are you okay?"

"No, I'm a bit confused I think." he replied. He looked up at Melissa. "Does Tiffany have a beeper? I really need to get a hold of her."

"I think so." She said scratching her head. "I've heard one go off before. Unfortunately, I don't know what the number is." Ryan glanced down into the trashcan. There was nothing to see except Kleenex smeared with make up as if Tiffany had been crying, and a piece of paper with writing on it. "What’s going on here Ryan?"

"I'm not sure." he answered picking up the piece of paper. It was a phone number. "I think there's something wrong with Tiffany." Ryan memorized the phone number, JL5-1200. It looked to be a business number. He threw the piece of paper back into the trash can.

"What? You know what's wrong with her?"

"Unfortunately, no. She's been acting weird." Ryan reasoned.

"Tell me about it." Melissa said firmly. Ryan looked back up at her again, confused.

"What do you mean?" he asked anxiously. "What she been doing?"

"I know the signs Ryan." she said, looking him in the eye. "I've seen this before. Crying about the littlest things, having to pee all the time, not being able to hold down food, her breasts getting bigger. Ryan, I really think Tiffany is pregnant."



Back in his own dorm room, Ryan was sitting on his own bed in shock. Tiffany, pregnant? It just didn't seem possible. She had broken up with Karl right after she started college. That had to have been at least six or seven months ago. Tiffany was not a slut. She might have been a party animal and a tease, but an easy lay? No way. Ryan knew her too well. If she was sleeping with someone, he would have known about it.

There was a slight buzzing sound in the room last lasted about a second. Ryan looked towards the window expecting to see an insect of some kind trying to escape. There was nothing. The buzz happened again about three minutes later. He looked around the room to see what it could be. Jarrod was gone, which was odd, because he usually slept in till noon on the weekends. Ryan checked the bathroom and found nothing. He heard the buzz again as he walked back into the room. The beeper on Jarrod's bureau was buzzing. It was set on vibrate.

This struck Ryan as odd also. Jarrod always had his beeper with him when he was out. Ryan picked up the pager and looked at it. It was not Jarrod’s regular pager. His was black with a belt clip. This one was clear, so one could see the electronics inside, and there was no clip. Ryan looked at the display. It read 2 PAGES. Against his better judgment, he looked at who the pages were from. The first page simply read TONE ONLY. This meant somebody called the pager and didn't leave a number. The second page left Ryan speechless. It read, 03-23-95.

"What the hell is this?" he asked himself in panic. Jarrod had a second beeper. Ryan knew Jarrod's beeper number, and it was not JL5-1279, the number for this beeper. What the hell did Jarrod need with a second beeper? The same beeper that Webb had a number to, that was listed under Tiffany's initials?

None of this was making any kind of logical sense. For a second, Ryan got the horrible image of Webb, Jarrod, and Tiffany in a threesome situation.

The thought was quickly dismissed as silliness as the phone rang, startling Ryan. He picked up the phone on the second ring. "Hello?"

"Is Ryan Thomas there?"

"This is he."

"Ryan, its Mike Wagner." he said. Ryan was having brain gridlock. The span of silence gave him away." You know, Mike, with The Forum, the photographer."

"Oh yeah, Mike. I'm sorry." Ryan apologized. "I was on cloud nine somewhere. What's up."

"Not much. Your pictures are done dude." he said. "Boy, are they done."

"Your calling from Foto's While You Wait?" Ryan asked, surprised. He did not realize Mike was employed there.

"Yeah, I work here on the weekends dude. Anyway, your pictures are done. You animal." he smirked. Ryan was confused. "Theoretically, I shouldn't give these back to you."

"Why is that?" Ryan asked, concerned.

"Our company policy doesn't allow us to print and return pornographic material." Mike said. The shocks just didn't stop coming for Ryan. This was turning out to be one hell of a weekend. "But, seeing how your with the paper and all, I figure I'd print 'em and give 'em to you anyway. But you owe me one pal."

"Pornographic material?" Ryan asked, dumbfounded. Naked pictures? Sexual acts? Just what kind of shit was Webb into anyway?

"Yeah, you know, like naked pictures of women, actual penetration in some cases." Mike was saying, sounding envious. "I wasn't aware you and Tiffany had a thing."

That was it.

Ryan could take no more. "Mike, hold onto them. I'll be right there."



Ryan wasted no time in getting to the mall. It was the fastest he had ever gotten there. Mike was waiting faithfully at Foto's, pictures safely in a pouch in hand. Ryan practically snatched them out of Mike's hand and proceeded to open them.

"No dude." Mike said. "Not here. If someone sees these, I could get in a shit load of trouble."

"Of course." Ryan said, reaching for his wallet. "Can you get out of here for a few minutes?" Ryan was going to have to do damage control on Mike to keep word of these pictures quiet. In order to do this, Ryan was going to have to speak with Mike privately.

"Yeah, hold on." Mike said turning to face an older Japanese man. "Foto, I'm gonna get a soda, you want anything?" The old man shook his head. Ryan paid for the pictures and the two men left for the food court. Once out of the store, Ryan ripped the pouch open and started flipping through the pictures. He felt his heart sink into his stomach as he looked at them, not realizing he had stopped walking.

Ryan felt faint. "I need to sit down for a sec." He told Mike. Mike looked at him with concern.

"You okay?"

"No." Ryan replied, bluntly. He was looking at pictures of Tiffany. Naked pictures. She was posing nude. Holding her breasts, feeling herself, masturbating herself. Some pictures showed Tiffany being penetrated by the man who was holding the camera. Pictures of Tiffany giving this man a blow job. Pictures of Tiffany with semen on her pubic hair, stomach, breasts, and face. "I think I'm gonna be sick."

Mike looked confused. Ryan looked at Tiffany's face, her eyes. She was not sober. It appeared that she was either drunk or high. There was not one picture of the man. But Ryan knew who it was, there was only one person it could be. Austin Webb. Austin Webb was having an affair with Tiffany Cutter.

"You mean this isn't you with Tiffany?" Mike asked, sounding almost disappointed. Ryan put the pictures back into the pouch.

"No, this isn't me." Ryan whispered, sounding hurt. "I don't know who this is." It was a lie, but Ryan couldn't explain to Mike what was going on.

"Oh man, I'm sorry." Mike sympathized. "This is way uncool." Mike was obviously under the impression the Ryan and Tiffany were seeing each other. And Ryan just found out that Tiffany was cheating on him. This was good, it would keep Mike away from the truth. Ryan would cover for Tiffany, if necessary.

"Are these the only copies?" Ryan asked looking at Mike now with concern.

"Yeah man, that’s it." He replied. "The negatives are in there too." Ryan nodded. He didn't need these pictures circulating around the campus.

"Good." Ryan sighed, slightly relieved. "Do me a big favor would you?"


"You never saw these. Okay?"

"Sure man, I don't know shit about anything." Mike proclaimed. "Are you gonna be okay?"

"I'll live."



The next step Ryan needed to take was to confront Tiffany. But Tiffany was gone for the weekend. Then there was Jarrod. He was gone too, and although Ryan had paged him several times, there was no return call. Jarrod had disappeared into thin air. Ryan tried him at Pizza-To-Go, but he was not there. Ryan took Jarrod's second pager and kept it with him, hoping someone would beep it.

Then there was the number in Tiffany's trashcan. It was worth a call, just to see who answered.

"Red Barn Motel, may I help you?" the voice on the other end of the line asked. Ryan was going to hang up, but found himself talking instead.

"Hi, my name is...Austin, I'm looking for a friend of mine, who might be staying there." Ryan explained. "Could you tell me if she might be there?"

"What's her name sir?"

"Cutter, Tiffany Cutter."

"One moment sir." the voice said dutifully. Silence. "I'm sorry sir, no one registered here under the name Tiffany Cutter."

Ryan was disappointed, but relentless. "She might have used the last name Webb. Could you check that please?"

"One moment please." Silence. "I have someone listed under A. Webb."

"That's it." Ryan exclaimed. "Could you ring that room for me please?"

"Yes sir, that's room 205, hold please." the monotone voice instructed. The phone on the other end was ringing. Ryan had no idea what he was going to say if anyone picked up. There was no answer after seven rings. The operator returned. "there doesn't seem to be anybody there sir. Would you like to leave a message?"

"No." Ryan said. "Could you tell me where your located, maybe I'll just surprise her."

"Certainly." the voice chimed. "We're located at 1541 Main Street in Owings Mills, right across from the movie theater."

"Right." Ryan piped up. "I know where that is. Thank you." He hung up the phone. "Jesus, Owings Mills. What the hell have you gotten yourself into Tiffany?"



Owings Mills was about a half hour drive from Westminster. Ryan drove there as fast as he could without breaking any major speeding laws. Tiffany was pregnant with Austin Webb's baby, and now Webb was dead. What the hell was she doing all the way out here in the big city? Ryan was now truly afraid that Tiffany was involved in the murder.

The Red Barn motel was not difficult to find. True to its name, the main building was in the shape of a barn, and it was painted red. Ryan recognized Tiffany's car immediately. It was parked at the rear of the lot, and sat isolated. Tiffany appeared to be alone. Ryan parked next to her car and approached door 205. He was scared. What was he going to find on the other side?

He knocked.

The door slowly opened as Tiffany peeked around the side. She looked exhausted and hurt. Their eyes met, and there were no words as she fell into his arms, crying. He held her. "It's going to be okay." He told her.



"I started seeing Austin in January." Tiffany explained. She and Ryan were sitting in the hotel room. It was about noon. "Nobody knew about us. We managed to keep it a secret. Austin's wife, Linda, was cheating on him with some guy who owns his own business. But he never approached me. I went to him. It was a rebound thing, ya know, from Karl?..."


The day Austin Webb had discovered his wife was cheating on him was the same day Tiffany Cutter had ended her relationship with Karl Cross. It was the classic story of two ships passing in the night. Or two people passing in an empty hallway.

Tiffany had been crying to herself as she scooted quickly out of the student activities building. Austin Webb had been coming in to speak with Alan Kittridge about an ad in The Forum when he found her.

"Tiffany? Are you okay?" Austin asked as Tiffany was trying to wipe the tears off her face.

"Yes." She said quickly, knowing she was not fooling him. She had always thought of Austin Webb as an attractive man, and didn’t want to ruin her image of herself to him. She wanted him, and other men like him to find her desirable.

"Are you sure? You don’t look okay."

"Yes Professor Webb, I’m fine."

"Austin." He said, surprising her. "Out of class, you can call me Austin."

Tiffany looked at him unsure. Was this some kind of come on? Her eyes quickly scanned the masculine physic of his body. When she looked up at his eyes, she could feel his stare on her breasts. Tiffany smiled slightly knowing that Austin Webb was having a sexual fantasy about her body right at that moment in time.

"Yes, Austin." She said, flipping her hair back in a flirtatious way and lowering her eyelids. "I’ll be okay now." Tiffany started to walk away, giving an extra sway to her ass as she knew Austin was watching her walk.

Austin in fact did watch her walk away until she disappeared around the corner of the hall and out of the building. He turned back around and shook his head, adjusting himself below the waist to accommodate the sudden erection. Austin went about his business with The Forum.

Tiffany has been waiting for Austin outside of the student activities building. It was dusk when Austin finally breezed through the door and out into the quad. Tiffany followed him, calling out his name. Austin turned around to see Tiffany walking seductively towards him. He watched her breasts sway as she walked.

"Tiffany." He greeted. "How are you doing?"

"I’m fine, how are you?"

Austin chuckled, remembering his adulterous wife. "Moot point. Just having some family problems."

"I didn’t realize you had children." Tiffany said.

"I don’t I just found out that my wife...." He began, stopping himself.

"You’re wife what?" Tiffany asked, shifting herself so her hip was faced in his direction.

Austin swallowed, knowing that this conversation could cross the student/teacher relationship line. "My cheating. With some shmuck who owns his own business."

"You don’t know who it is?"

"Not yet."

"You want to tell me about it?" Tiffany asked. She was finding herself becoming incredibly aroused at the thought of sleeping with a married man.

"I don’t think I should...."

"Oh come on Austin," She said deeply. "Confide in me."

At that moment in time, Austin Webb lost complete self control. "We shouldn’t talk here." He said. "Lets go to my office..."

"Lead the way." Tiffany whispered with a giggle.


Ryan’s eyes were wide open in shock at Tiffany’s revelation.

"Tiffany Lynne!" He exclaimed. "You slept with him that same night?"

"I don’t know what happened back then Ryan." Tiffany admitted. "I had so much hurt, and there was Austin, hurting the same way about his wife. It just happened."

"How long did it go on?"

"The affair only lasted for a couple of months. It wasn't that exciting really, he had a little dick." Tiffany explained. Ryan chuckled. "He gave me a key to his office so I could wait for him until everyone left the building. We would get drunk, or high sometimes, and fuck like animals. He had a lot of frustrations ya know, with his wife not putting out and then fucking another man? In return , he did favors for me. He bought me presents, gave me spending money, and I would never fail his class.

"He didn't love me, I've always know that. I was just a piece of ass he took good care of, so he would have someone to fuck when he got horny. I ended the relationship late February. I got pregnant, and it changed everything..."



"Austin, I really can’t see you anymore." Tiffany said. They were in his all to familiar setting of his office. The look on Austin’s face was one of hurt shock.

"What?" He asked. "Why? What happened?"

"Nothing happened. This is just getting to dangerous." Tiffany replied. "Besides, you are married, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being the other woman."

"You don’t have to be jealous of Linda. I told you she..."

"I’m not jealous of your wife!" Tiffany snapped. "Your wife is an unfeeling cunt!"

"Well then what’s the problem? It’s not like we are a happily married couple. I was thinking about filing for divorce." Austin pleaded.

"Don’t change your life for me Austin! It isn’t going to make a difference. This just isn’t right for me anymore."

"You?" Austin asked surprised. "What about me? Don’t I have a say in this. Tiffany, I love you."

"No you don’t Austin. You just think you do because I am such a great fuck. That’s all we ever had. Sex. I don’t love you Austin, I don’t. I have a strong physical attraction for you, but that’s it. We are from two different worlds, and it just could never work out." Tiffany explained.

Austin stood up. "I don’t believe that Tiffany. There is something else going on here, isn’t there?"

"No." She said taking the clear plastic beeper out of her pocket, and putting it on his desk. "You should take this back. We won’t be needing it anymore."

"My God, you’re serious!"

"Yes, I am. I’m really sorry Austin, I just can’t do this anymore." Tiffany turned to leave and was almost out the door when Austin called out...

"Are your pregnant Tiffany?"

Tiffany stopped dead in her tracks and closed her eyes in frustration. What was she going to do, lie to him? Her silence gave her away.

"You are! Aren’t you!" Austin exclaimed. Tiffany turned around to glare at him. Why was he so excited about this.

"I’m going to take care of it Austin. You don’t have to worry about a thing."

"NO, DON’T!!!!" He exclaimed with a huge smile.

"What?" Tiffany asked in disgusted shock. "Austin, I don’t want this baby. I’m not ready to be a mother yet."

Austin was ecstatic as he looked around the room with that huge horrible grin on his face. "This is great!"

"Didn’t you hear me at all?" Tiffany snapped. "I’m not keeping the child. I am getting rid of it."

"You can’t do that!" Austin said in panic. "This may be my last chance..."

"Last chance for what?"

"You can’t get rid of it Tiffany. You just can’t."

"I can and I will. It is my body, and it’s my choice!" Tiffany declared

"No, you can’t. I won’t let you!"

Tiffany looked at him with fear. "What is that supposed to mean?" She whispered.

"Have you told anybody else about this yet?" Austin asked.

"You know I haven’t. Nobody knows about us."

"Then may I suggest you not cross me on this, or I will make your life a living hell! Not only will I flunk you out of my class, but I will make sure you never graduate from this college. After that, I will spread the word about how you seduced me and deliberately got pregnant to keep me. After that, I will spread the word that you are a cheap slut who will sleep with anyone who had a dick between his legs!"

Tiffany took a step back with her hands covering her mouth. "You wouldn’t?" She whispered.

"I can and I will." Austin said standing his ground. "We will find a way to break this news to the public in a way that would be acceptable. I will divorce my wife and we will go away somewhere."

"I DON’T WANT TO GO AWAY WITH YOU!" Tiffany screamed through her sobs. "I DON’Y WANT ANY OF THIS!"

"You should have though about that before you so eagerly spread your legs for me!"

"Who are you?" She sobbed. "This is not the same Austin Webb I knew!"

"No Tiffany, it’s still me." Austin insisted. "You will realize in the end that this is the right thing to do. Take some time to think about it. But DO NOT get an abortion. You know what will happen if you do!"

Tiffany ran out of the room crying.

She didn’t know who to go to now. She didn’t know what to do.



"Didn't you practice safe sex?" Ryan asked.

"At first." She replied. "In the beginning, we used condoms. But that lasted for a whole week. Then he put me on the pill. The problem was, he didn't want to wait a whole month for the pill to take effect, so he pulled out. Apparently, it didn't work. I was so afraid of Austin telling everybody I was a slut. It just isn’t true. You know that don't you, Ryan?"

"Yes Tiff, I know your not a slut." he replied sympathetically.

"I didn't know what to do." Tiffany continued. "I didn't have anyone to turn too. I was thinking about transferring to another college. One far away from here."

"You should have come to me." Ryan offered. "I would have understood."

"I didn't want you to look at me any differently that you do now." she said. "You would have looked at me like I was a slut, and I didn't want that. I like the way you look at me now, even if it is at my breasts." Ryan got a good chuckle out of that. You could always count on Tiffany to be direct. "But now, Austin is dead. I had the abortion earlier this morning. I was going to stay away from the college until I fully recovered, and no one would have known any different."

"Oh please Tiffany." Ryan retorted. "You don't think you would have been missed? I missed you after only a few hours." She smiled romantically as she leaned over and kissed him full on the mouth.

"I really am fond of you Ryan." She whispered. "Don't ever change." Ryan looked away knowing that he was blushing.

"Let me ask you something else Tiff." He inquired, changing the subject. "What WERE you looking for in Webb's office last night? Anything in particular?"

"Not really." she said, avoiding eye contact. Ryan knew she was lying, but decided not to pursue it.

"Did you know about the divorce?" he asked.

"Actually, I did not." she replied, looking him in the eye this time. "That surprised me. Austin talked about leaving his wife, but I didn’t think he was serious."

"Does Webb's wife know about you?"

"I don't think so." she answered. "I can't be sure. He didn't talk about Linda all that often. He never told me that she knew about me, so I would think that she does not know."

"Makes sense." Ryan said getting up off and bed to look out the window. It was a dreary, overcast day.

This is the aftermath. Ryan thought. "Tiff," Ryan began. "I don't want to have to ask you this, but I feel I have to cover all the bases."

"I knew we were coming to this." She interrupted. "No Ryan, I didn't kill Austin Webb." Ryan never turned to face her when she talked. He didn't want to see her eyes to see if she was lying or not.

He turned around to face her again. "Okay, I believe you."



Ryan and Tiffany returned to Western Maryland College later that day. They had grabbed a bite to eat, and gone to the movies. Ryan did not ask Tiffany about the pager, as Ryan figured she might not know about it. There was no sense in telling her more than she needed to know at this point. Tiffany, was still hiding something. The pager inquisition was being saved for Jarrod. After all, it WAS on his bureau. Tiffany went back to her dorm to rest, making up whatever story she had to tell Melissa about her early arrival. It was a little before five when Ryan found Jarrod in their dorm. He was working on his laptop computer. A Compaq something-or-other. Ryan could never remember exactly what is was. The only thing he knew, and that was only because Jarrod kept drilling it into his head, was that the computer was a 486 , 8 meg, with a 680 hard drive. It had a speed of 100MHz with a 3.5 floppy drive and a quad speed CD-ROM drive. Everything upgradable of course. Jarrod’s program of choice? Windows 3.1. With the anticipation of knowing that Microsoft was coming out with a new program later this summer, tentatively called Windows95. Jarrod could not wait.

"Hey man." Ryan greeted as he walked through the door. Jarrod never looked up from the monitor.

"What's up bro?"

"Not much." Ryan replied. "Pretty boring day. Where did you go this morning? I tried to beep you a couple of times. I never heard from you."

"I went to get some exercise over at the mall, then I decided to take in a movie." Jarrod replied, typing a mile a minute, still not looking up from the monitor. He stopped to pick up a ticket stub of the desk. "The movie was called Pulp Fiction. I only went to see it because Quentin Tarintino wrote the screenplay."

"Oh yes." Ryan said. "The same guy who did Reservoir Dogs. Good flick."

Jarrod began to type again and said, "You didn't happen to see a beeper on top of my dresser did you?"

Ryan looked cautiously over at Jarrod who was paying no mind to him. "Can't sat that I have dude, why?"

"No reason," he answered. "Actually, I found it on the parking lot by your car last night. I thought it might be yours."

"I don't have a beeper Jarrod." Ryan stated sitting down on his bed.

"I know. I thought maybe you had gotten one, and lost it already." he joked. Ryan looked over at Jarrod doubtfully to see him smirking. Ryan reached into his pocket and brought out the beeper. He bent down to take his shoes off and placed the beeper on the floor underneath Jarrod's bureau. Jarrod would find it eventually. Ryan was fairly convinced it was Tiffany's beeper, and she had simply misplaced hit. She often parked next to Ryan's car.

"Well, just take it to lost and found." Ryan suggested. Jarrod typed on, still not looking over.

"If I can find the damn thing." he stated, "It was on top of my dresser. It ain't there anymore."

Ryan looked over, pretending that he was curious. "I don't see it either."

Jarrod finally turned away from his computer to look at the bureau, and then around the room. "Son of a BITCH! It was up there last night. Are you sure you didn't see it?"

"Did you try the floor?" Ryan asked sarcastically. Jarrod scanned the floor. The return look of sarcasm on his face said it all.

"Fuck you butt munch, I must have missed it." he snarled. Ryan laughed as Jarrod reached for the pager and returned it to the top of the bureau. "I'll take it down later."

"What are ya working on?" Ryan asked trying to peek at the screen.

"Paper for English." Jarrod replied. "Due Monday. I've been procrastinating."

Ryan laughed. He and Jarrod had that class together. The phone rang. "I guess so." Ryan jeered. "That assignment was given out damn near three weeks ago. I'll get it." Ryan reached for the phone. "Hello?"

"Ryan? It's Alan." he said quickly.

"What going on chief?"

"I think you should get down here right away." Alan sounded serious. "There's something I need to show you, and it ain't pretty."

"I'll be down right away." Ryan said hanging up the phone. "Gotta go bro. Want me to run that pager to lost and found for you?"

"If you want." Jarrod said, not caring. "Is there a problem at the paper?"

"No. No, nothing like that." Ryan said trying not to look anxious. "Its personal, I think something's wrong with Alan’s car."


Ryan started to walk out the door. "Later." Jarrod nodded, typing furiously.

Ryan ran all the way across campus to the student activities building where Alan Kittridge was waiting for him.

Alan graduated from W.M.C. back in 1971. He was a husband to his lovely wife, Nora, and a father to three children, ages six, nine, and eighteen. His eldest, a daughter was overseas in Italy as a part of a student exchange program. Alan was back at W.M.C. to earn his Master’s degree and eventually, a pH.D.. His veteran status earned him editor of The Forum. A paper he worked on for four years, a little over two decades ago. He knew the in's and out's of the college, and had a lot of connections here, and in Westminster. Alan would prove very helpful in Ryan's investigation of Webb’s death.

Alan was waiting in the newspaper office when Ryan showed up, out of breath from running all the way. Alan looked serious, which was rare. Ryan was starting to wonder if he had done something wrong.

"What is it Alan?" Ryan asked, hitching a breath. Alan held up his hand.

"As before Ryan." he warned. "This must not leave the room." Ryan nodded as Alan opened the top desk drawer next to the layout board. "Come take a look."

Ryan walked over to the desk and looked into the drawer. There, pushed off to one side, wrapped sloppily in a paper towel, was a rather large kitchen knife. Ryan looked up at Alan. "This is the desk that Tiffany uses most of the time."

"I know." Alan answered. "I was in there a couple days ago to get a felt tip pen. This wasn't there then."

"Is there blood on it?" Ryan asked.

"I don't think so." Alan answered. "I haven't touched it to look yet. I don't want my prints on that thing in case the cops come looking."

Ryan looked at Alan with sarcasm. "Don't you think your being just a bit paranoid Alan?" he asked.

"Off the record again? I received an anonymous tip from someone who says they witnessed a student arguing with Webb on the afternoon of the day he was murdered."

Ryan stared at Alan with disbelief. "You can't be serious."

"You'll never guess who it was."

Ryan said, "Tiffany Cutter."

Alan looked at him like he was crazy. "No. It was Jarrod Mayfield. Why the hell would you say Tiffany?"

"Long story." Ryan dodged. "Are you sure it was Jarrod Mayfield? The computer nerd?"

"Yep. Apparently it had something to do with a low grade." Alan said. Ryan could believe that. Jarrod was very animate about his grades.

The phone rang. Ryan was looking at Alan doubtfully as he picked up the phone. "The Forum, this is Ryan. May I help you?"

"Ryan, its Jarrod. Flip on the T.V. down there, channel 13. You are not gonna believe this shit." Ryan motioned for Alan to turn the T.V. on.

"Channel 13." Ryan instructed. Alan located the correct channel. It was the local news, and nobody believed what they heard.

"...a second murder with in two days. Police aren't releasing much information at this point except that this murder may be connected to the one the occurred two days ago at Western Maryland College in Westminster. Sources close the channel thirteen say that the latest victim, forty six year old Duncan Porter, a resident of Owings Mills, was also branded with the same symbol found on the victim at W.M.C. The symbol apparently is that of a bird of sorts, with its wings extended. But as of this hour, these facts cannot be confirmed."

"Jarrod, I'll get back to you." Ryan said and hung up the phone. He was looking at Alan. "'Ring me a Porter', Duncan Porter, good call Alan."

"I hate it when I'm right." he said, not really joking. The channel 13 news had switched to another story, Alan turned the T.V. down. Ryan turned around and looked at the knife in the dresser. Alan continued. "I was going to tell you that there was nobody listed at the college, personnel or students, with the name Porter. But, I guess that's moot now."

"Alan, what time did you notice the knife here?" Ryan asked.

"I don't know, about an hour ago, maybe an hour and a half."



"I don't know." Ryan said softly.

Alan grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around. It took Ryan by surprise. There was a fierce look in Alan's eyes. "Bullshit! Kid, I've known you almost three years, I know when your lying. Your not telling me something, and I want to know what it is!" Alan let Ryan go. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."

"Its cool Alan, are you okay?"

"Look, Austin Webb was a REAL good friend of mine." Alan explained. "His death has hit me in a place I didn't know existed. It hurts real bad, and its driving me crazy that none of this makes any sense. Fuck journalism, fuck the paper, fuck the front page story. I don't give a shit about any of those things right now. Another person is dead with the same MO used on Webb. My gut feeling tells me that these murders are just the beginning of a really sick serial killer."

"Yeah, I had the same thought..."

"Ryan, you are one of the best writers to come through here in a long time. You have the nose for this kind of work. I want you to help me figure this thing out. Between the two of us, we can figure this thing out."

"But the police will..."

"To HELL with the police. You know as well as I do that they're going to drag their feet solving this murder. That’s the way it works in the real world. To the cops, its just a fucking file folder with a number on it. That’s all Austin Webb means to them. He's a fucking number. Austin Webb was a human being, who I've known for a long time. If the cops want to treat him like a number, fine! Then let them do whatever the hell they want. I'll figure this thing out. And I'll do whatever I have to do to make it so." Ryan was touched by the compassion and emotion Alan was displaying. It was so unlike him. Alan extended his hand to Ryan. "Are you in on this with me? I'm gonna do this with or without you."

This was another one of those situations where Ryan should have just hit the deck running. Instead he took Alan's hand. "No secrets." Ryan insisted.

They shook. "No secrets." Alan agreed.

Ryan reached into his pocket and pulled out the pager, slamming it on top of the layout board. "That beeper number I showed you earlier. The one that was on that rolodex card? Here it is!"

Alan stared at the beeper for several seconds in silence. "How much do you really know?" he asked harshly.

"You might want to sit down for this one Alan. Your not going to like what I'm about to tell you." Ryan warned. Alan sat and placed his hand over half his face, as if he had a headache.

"Okay, hit me."

"That beeper belongs to Tiffany Lynne Cutter, out infamous TLC." Ryan began. " It was a weird turn of events, so listen carefully. Tiffany claims to have a source close to the City Police, a friend if you will. This is how I found out about the 'Ring me a Porter' clue. She told me about the 'who will get the by-line' thing with the paper. She wanted to go in as partners. I tentatively agreed. We ended up searching Webb's office last night. Tiffany knew the security guard apparently, and eventually, we finagled our way into the building. Tiff had a key to Webb's office."

"How is that possible?" Alan asked.

"Let me finish." Alan raised his hand in apology. "Tiffany went through the file cabinet and found nothing. I think she was looking for something specific, and didn't find it. I searched the desk, and didn't find anything either. The card with the tangled Webb thing and the TLC number were both tucked away in the rolodex.

"There was also a briefcase I searched. In it was a roll of undeveloped film, some divorce papers, and a letter from his lawyer about a change in his will. It didn't specify what changes were made. That was about it for the search. This morning, after I met with you, I found that beeper on top of Jarrod's bureau, with the numbers I dialed into it. It didn't make any sense. Jarrod later told me he found the beeper in the parking lot last night, by my car. Now, Tiffany sometimes parks next to me, so, I'm assuming it's hers. That's the only thing that makes sense."

Alan asked, "Did you check out the roll of film?"

"Yeah, brace yourself, this is where it gets weird." Ryan said. Alan looked prepared. "I took the film over to Foto's. Mike Wagner ended up developing the pictures, and just as well, if anyone else had done it, we would have never have known what was on that roll of film." Ryan took a breath. "They were naked pictures of Tiffany. Some of her posing, some of her engaged in sexual acts with Webb. I left them in the glove box of my car." Ryan paused so that Alan could accept what he was hearing.

"Are you sure it was Webb?"

"Yeah, it gets worse." Ryan continued. "Tiffany disappeared this morning. But I managed to track her down to a motel in Owings Mills. She was pregnant with Webb's kid. About three months along. Anyway, she had an abortion this morning. Webb wouldn't let her have one. Tiffany claims Webb was going to fail her and ruin her life if she did get one. Now, Tiffany says she didn't know about the divorce and that Webb's wife, Linda, doesn't know about the affair."

"I had no idea any of this was going on." Alan mused.

"You didn't?" Ryan barked. "I'm one of Tiffany's closest friends, and I didn't even get a whiff of any of this." There was silence.

"Ryan." Alan said.


"Got anymore of them cigarettes left?"

"Yeah." he replied, tossing him the pack, with matches. It was a non-smoking building. But on a Saturday, with no one else around? Who was gonna tell.

The two men smoked in silence, pondering the situation. Occasionally glancing at the knife in the desk drawer. Both of them deciding if they wanted to accuse Tiffany of the murder, and neither one of them wanting to.

"You still got them pictures?" Alan asked.

Ryan nodded. "They're in my car."

"Go get them, and bring them here." Alan instructed. "We have to make absolutely sure that those pictures do not get out. Now, what about Wagner?"

"Taken care of." Ryan assured. "He thinks Tiffany and I are dating, and that I discovered her cheating on me."

"Good, go get those pictures."

Ryan ran back across campus to his car. He attempted to open the passenger side door, but it was locked. Ryan stopped and tried to remember locking his passenger door. He never locked his passenger door. The car was a 1981 Corolla, and there was nothing of real value in the automobile itself. He figured he didn't need to lock the door. Besides, it had always been a real pain to have to unlock it every time somebody got into the damn car anyway. Ryan saw the pictures hanging out of the glove box, and that’s all that mattered. The pictures were there.

Ryan brought the pictures back to Alan at the newspaper office. Alan took them and locked them in his personal safe. Nobody knew how to get into that. The pictures would be safe there.

"I hate to be the one to say this Ryan." Alan said. "But, It look like Tiffany may have had something to do with Webb’s death."

Ryan lowered his eyes to the ground. he didn't want to hear that, but he knew the possibility existed. "I know." he whispered. "She says she didn't do it, but I think she's still hiding something from me."

There was a knock at the door. It was Jarrod with news. "They released some more information about the guy who was killed in Owings Mills. He was killed this morning about ten thirty or so by an explosion in his kitchen. That's all the press is saying." Jarrod was smiling like he knew more.

"You know something else?" Ryan asked.

"Shit bro, I'm da man with da plan." Jarrod said enthusiastically. "I thought it might prove interesting to see what the local chatter was on the Internet. The word is, and this is strictly rumor now, that Porter's phone rang this morning, at about ten thirty. And when he answered it, BOOM!"

Alan looked at Ryan with disgust. "'Ring me a Porter.' Very sick. What else Jarrod, is there more?"

"Well, it was reported that a passerby saw a card being passed around the scene until one of the cops got a hold of it. It said 'Go West.'" Jarrod reported, pleased with himself.

"There's the next clue." Ryan said. Alan nodded.

Jarrod looked confused. "Is there something going on that either one of you is not telling me about?" Ryan looked at Alan, who nodded in approval.

Jarrod was filled in on the entire situation as it was known by Ryan and Alan to date. They figured Jarrod's connections on the Internet might prove useful and agreed that Tiffany could not know about any of this. If she was guilty, they had to prove it. They knew that Tiffany had been in Owings Mills the same time the second murder had taken place. What the three of them had to figure out next is what her connection to Duncan Porter was, and what 'Go West' meant.

What the three of them didn’t know, is that they were about to take a long, grueling journey into the depths of a very motivated serial killer.

And Ryan didn’t want to know if it was Tiffany, for if it was...the thought was unimaginable.

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