by A. Kite
Author's website: http://talesofakite.trixxster.org
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never have been, never will be.
Author's Notes: So many people to thank: BJ Cochran, she knows why, J.M. Griffin, who beta'ed most of the story, K/Soren, also for beta work, Julad, for some excellent comments and most of all thanks to Bast for deeming it worthy.
Story Notes: This story first appeared in the zine, Body Heat 4.
I knew he was trouble the minute he walked through the door. He was tall, dark, and gorgeous. The type that attracts trouble like a magnet. I thought I'd caught a break for minute there. My secretary, Frannie, was out to lunch and couldn't get her mitts on him first. Then he opened his mouth. Told me why he was there. Showed me her picture. I shoulda known there was a dame involved. There always is with a guy that gorgeous.
"Mr. Kowalski, I presume?"
"Yeah, that's the name on the door."
"Lieutenant Welsh at the 27th precinct suggested that you might be able to help me."
The way he pronounced 'Lieutenant', I had to ask, "You aren't from around here, are you?"
The guy blushed. He actually blushed and rubbed his thumbnail across his eyebrow. A nervous gesture if I ever saw one. Then he answered, "No, sir. Actually I'm Canadian. Constable Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police." He held out his hand.
"Okay, I'll bite." He started to pull his hand back and I had to laugh. "No, that's just a figure of speech." I shook his hand. "Ray Kowalski, and I don't really bite. What I meant is, what's a Mountie doing in Chicago?"
"I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father, and for reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, I've remained in Chicago, attached as Liaison with the Canadian Consulate."
"Whew! That's a mouthful." I smiled and winked to take the sting out of the words. I'll be damned if that didn't make him blush again. "Okay, I'm down with not needing to be explored right now. So? Welsh sent you? What can I do for you that the Chicago PD can't?"
"Perhaps we might take this somewhere more private?" He gestured with his hat toward the open door to my office. Hell, I guess those blushes went to my head, or somewhere south of it. I'd left the guy standing in the middle of the outer office without even offering him a seat or anything.
"Oh, sure. Go on back and have a seat. I'll be just a second." I picked up the phone on Frannie's desk and forwarded the calls I'd been covering while she was gone over to the answering service. I scribbled her a note. 'With a client. Do not disturb!' Then I joined the Mountie in my office.
Man, he was stiff sitting there in the company chair. Straight up like he was at attention with that hat on one knee. I closed the door and walked around my desk to take a load off. Then I saw it. He'd put a picture on the desk there in front of him - her picture.
"Do you want a coffee or anything? Water?" I asked before we got started.
"Water, thank you kindly."
I got two bottles of water from the minifridge in the corner, twisted the cap off mine and took a drink before asking the magic question. "So, Constable, what can I do for you?"
He slid the picture over to me and answered, "This woman, I need you to find her. Her name is Victoria Metcalf. She's thirty-seven years of age." He went on with a litany of facts. I grabbed a pencil and notebook and started scribbling them down. Then he got to the kicker. "She's wanted for murder and armed robbery here in Chicago and for one murder in Canada."
Damn! I dropped my pencil and gaped at him. "The cops can't find her?"
"No, Mr. Kowalski. She's been on the run for two years now. The last sighting was in Las Vegas approximately eight months ago. The tip came to naught. She hasn't been seen since."
"It doesn't surprise me none. Las Vegas can be a rough place for people on either side of the law, and if she - uh, ran afoul of a certain element. Well, there you are." I shrugged.
Good thing I was sitting down because the Mountie brought his tongue out and licked his bottom lip. It was the single most sexy thing I'd ever seen. Down boy! I had to remind myself. This was a client. Dirty thoughts and business don't mix, ever. I said, "I think I have enough to get started here. There's the matter of my retainer to deal with then you can be on your way."
"Ah, yes," he nodded and reached into the band on the inside of his hat. Whoa, lots of green folding stuff in that hat. I didn't say nothing, but couldn't help but wonder how a Mountie would get all that. Cash paying clients were always welcome, though. So, I kept my trap shut.
"Would this be sufficient to secure your services?" He'd laid a thousand bucks out on my desk. They either paid Mounties more than I figured or this guy lived like a monk.
I cleared my throat, and said, "Yeah. That would be - uh, yeah, sufficient." I stood up and offered my hand. "I'll get in touch with you at the consulate in a couple of days. Sooner, if I get lucky."
We shook and he thanked me kindly. I couldn't help but to take a gander at his ass as he turned to leave. Yep, figured. It was perfect. It was nice just to look, even if I couldn't touch. I heard Frannie coo at him as he passed her desk. Jeez, she never gave it a rest. No way she'd get him either. Benton Fraser was way outta her league. Mine too.
I poked my head out and glared at her. That shut her up, and he was gone by the time either of us looked around. I tossed the empty water bottles in the trash and got a cup of coffee. M&Ms from the stash in my drawer. Plop, plop, stir. I was ready to go to work.
Most people have this crazy idea that being a private detective is some kind of exciting, dangerous job. From TV, I suppose. It can get a bit dicey now and then, but mainly it's research. Computers make that job easier these days, but basically you look stuff up, you go out and interview people. Just like cops do. Like I did when I was a cop.
I checked a few things out on the web. Found out a few interesting facts that the Mountie forgot to mention. Like that he used to work with one of the detectives over at the 27th precinct. Like he was some kind of freakin' superhero or something. There're pictures of him in the Dudley DoRight suit with some bald guy in Armani. The guy looks like a style pig. They're all over the newspapers, two-three years back. Search engines are wonderful things. I read all the papers had to say about the Mountie and this Metcalf chick. The thing I couldn't figure out was if the chick was such bad news, why was he trying to find her? Next stop, the 2-7.
"I'm going out, Frannie. Should be back in a couple of hours. You got those invoices ready to go out? I'll drop 'em in the mailbox."
"Yeah, boss. Here you go." She handed me some envelopes. "By the way, did you get the billing info on the guy that was just here? I need to put him in the computer."
Sneaky, that's my Frannie. She just wanted the scoop on where he lives. That efficient secretary act don't fool me for a minute. "Already done, doll. Took care of it myself." I smirked at her for a second, knowing all along that she'd be on that computer like white on rice as soon as I walked out the door. She'd be able to spot a new client in a heartbeat if I'd have actually done it. I had the contact info with me - in the notebook with everything else.
Sometimes I'm just plain stupid. I should have caught it right off, but it took a few hours for it to sink in. Vecchio. Detective Armani's name was Vecchio. Frannie's name is Vecchio. The guy in the newspaper pics don't look nothing like the guy down at the station house. I nosed around a bit. Talked to a few of the lower downs. Something was hinky. I may be slow, but I ain't stupid.
I went to grab a sandwich and think about everything. Where to go first? Back to the office and grill Frannie about where her brother is? To the consulate and kick the Mountie in the head for not telling me everything? I nixed those two thoughts right away.
Gossipy desk sergeants, gotta love 'em. This one had a lot of gossip to tell too. How Fraser fell hard for the Metcalf woman. How she set him up and how Vecchio, the real one, and nobody knew this, she said, Vecchio put his house up for a second mortgage to bail Fraser out of jail, only to have theMountie try to jump on the train with the bitch. Vecchio had shot Fraser in the back to keep him from getting on that train. Of course, the desk sergeant had said, Vecchio claimed the woman had a gun, and he was aiming at her, but she didn't believe it for a second.
I got the skinny on the fact that the guy sitting up there behind the desk wasn't the real Vecchio from one of the uniforms I know. It was all hush hush and nobody was supposed to talk about it. The real Vecchio, it was rumored, was on a deep undercover job for the Feds. He didn't say, but I got from his look that he meant the Mob. Damn, I tried to steer clear of those guys, but I had a real bad feeling about where this one was headed.
I ended up going back to the office. It had taken longer than the two hours, and Frannie had split for the day. She'd left a couple of messages on my desk. One was from Fraser, but I wasn't ready to tackle him just yet. Had a call to make. To Vegas. Luckily, it wasn't past business hours yet out there, and I was able to get my contact on the horn. He was going to put his feelers out for me. I faxed him the Metcalf woman's picture. Nothing to do then but wait.
I picked up the phone again and called the Canadian Consulate. I had to deal with some goofy guy first, but eventually I got to talk to the man himself. "Constable Fraser? That you?"
"Yes, indeed, Mr. Kowalski."
"About time," I said. "Jeez, is that guy a few fries short of a Happy Meal or what?"
I could hear the laughter in his voice as he answered, "I believe that would be the 'or what', but one can never be too sure with Constable Turnbull."
"Yeah, he's a pistol all right. You busy? I think we need to talk, and if you're not, maybe we could go get some dinner." Yeah, a public place was a good idea. I wouldn't lay into him too hard in public.
"Dinner would be agreeable. Where and when?"
I named a restaurant and suggested an hour from then. He hesitated, hemmed and hawed a few seconds before owning up that he probably couldn't walk that far in an hour. "No wheels, huh?" I asked then without waiting for an answer said, "No prob, I'll pick you up in a few."
I drove over to the consulate and got there just in time to see Fraser walk up with a big white dog. "Nice dog."
"Half wolf, actually. Diefenbaker, this is Mr. Kowalski."
I knelt down to pet the dog, half wolf, whatever, and got a tongue in my ear for my trouble. I'd have rather it'd come from the human, but didn't kick up too much of a fuss about it. Fraser let the wolf into the back seat. I hadn't planned on a canine chaperone for the evening, but what the hell. It wasn't like I had anything other than talking planned anyway.
We ended up at Chinese place that Fraser suggested, and it was good. They even let the wolf in. I wised off about him being careful that he didn't wind up on the menu. Then Fraser told me that Diefenbaker was deaf and how, so it was after the food arrived before we could get down to brass tacks.
"Listen here, Constable. I'm about ready to hand your retainer back and forget this whole case."
He looked up from his plate, kind of startled like. "May I ask why?"
"I'm going to tell you why. Don't worry. You didn't bother to tell me everything, did you?" I didn't wait for no answer. I plowed on ahead. "I can't do the job if I don't have all the facts. You think about that before you hired me?"
Benton Fraser, the most irritating man in the world, as I was coming to know, smiled at me and said, "I knew I'd found the right person the moment I saw you. I knew you could find her. What do have so far?"
Part of me wanted to pop him one and part of me wanted to haul him across that table and kiss him. I didn't do either. I smiled back and told him everything. I didn't say nothing about what the desk sergeant at the 2-7 had told me about Vecchio shooting him, though. Pure speculation, that was. I finished up with, "That's it for now, Constable. We just gotta wait until I hear something."
I applied myself to the moo-shoo pork, and we spent the rest of the dinner small talking about the food and stuff. There was no argument over the check. The waiter took it straight to him and they jawed for a few minutes in Chinese, I guess. Afterwards, we walked to the car with about a zillion of those little take out boxes full of leftovers.
Now was about as private as we were going to be. I started driving and dropped the big one on him. "You want to tell me why you're trying to find this woman? You gonna run off with her for good this time?" I saw the Mountie man blanch out of the corner of my eye. Got him.
To say that Mr. Kowalski's questions shocked me would be an extreme understatement. Until he asked, I never questioned my motivations. Justice, I had told myself. I wanted Victoria to pay for her crimes. I had to ask myself for which crimes? Murder and robbery or breaking my heart? I was sure it was for all the right reasons until that moment: for duty, maintaining the right, the need to have gotten my man, or woman in this case.
I'm afraid that I was quite snippy with Mr. Kowalski in the car that night. I regained my composure somewhat and told him, "It doesn't matter why. I'm paying you to find her. If you don't want the job or don't think you're up to the task, I'll thank you kindly to tell me now."
He jammed the car to a halt outside the consulate, put the transmission into park, and turned to me. "I'm up to the job, Constable. Don't you worry about that, but I want you to realize that when I do find her. If I find her. It's not going to be pretty."
"Understood. Please keep me apprised of any developments." I removed myself from his vehicle promptly and leaned back in to retrieve Diefenbaker from the backseat. "Good night, Mr. Kowalski. Thank you kindly for the ride." He nodded, still angry too, I could tell. He, I believe the expression is, pealed rubber as the car sped away.
Such a volatile man. I shook my head as I walked to the door. Dief grumbled that I had left our share of the doggy bags in the car, but a sharp reminder that there are no doggy bags in the wild quieted him. I put it from my mind through my nightly ablutions, but thoughts of Ray Kowalski came creeping back as I lay in my cot, waiting for sleep to catch me up. For a moment there in the restaurant I wasn't sure if the man was going to hit me or kiss me.
I sternly reminded myself that thoughts such as those about persons in your employ were unseemly. My body didn't seem to listen very well, however. It desperately yearned for touch. My touch, the touch of a mercurial man with long, elegant fingers, blonde spiky hair and a petulant mouth, it didn't matter. My body would even yearn for the feminine touch of the one that betrayed me. Fickle body that it was.
Indeed, it would not let me sleep until I met its demands. I did so quickly and mechanically. Refusing to let my mind meander to forbidden places.
After a night of not much sleep, I stumbled into the office more or less on time. Frannie was there all ready, on the phone telling someone, "He just walked in the door. Hold on a sec." She looked up at me and said, "Dan from Las Vegas on the line. You want to take it?"
I nodded and headed back to my desk. "Dan, the man! You're up early. You got something for me?"
"Yeah, I've got something, but I'm not up early. It's more like, I'm up really late. " He sounded really tired. "Showed that picture around down on the strip."
"It's not good news. Talked to a bartender friend of mine last night. He recognized her. She'd been in a few times a while back. He hadn't seen her since."
"Think she's moved on?"
The man on the other end of the line clear his throat and hesitated before speaking, "No. Rumor has it that this Metcalf woman tried to pull some kind of scam on the Iguana family."
"Shit!" I was smart enough to recognize the name of one of the biggest families in organized crime. Smart enough to know you didn't go messing with those people either.
"Yeah, shit. I figure this girl is six feet under somewhere or she wishes she was. Best to let this one go, Kowalski."
"I hear you, Dan, my man, but no can do. I appreciate you helping me out here. Send me a bill for your time." I got the pertinent details down on where and who, then hung up the phone. God, I hate Vegas. Hate dealing with the mob.
I looked through the files on my other cases, but there wasn't nothing there that couldn't wait a couple of days. They were the boring, every day type. Hunting down bad debts, a cheating husband or wife, just the kind I liked. Nice safe cases. No long lost loves, no mob involved. I added a note here and there and shut it down. Time to bite the bullet and hit the Mountie man up for traveling expenses.
"Frannie, book me a flight to Las Vegas. Need to get out there ASAP. Get one of those e-ticket things, and I'll call in for the number later," I said as I headed out the door again.
"Round trip or one-way?"
"One-way. I'm not sure how long I'll be out there. Everything is up to date in the computer if anyone calls."
"Okay, Ray. Good luck."
I stopped and turned back. "Thanks, Frannie. Keep the joint running for me, huh? I'll be in touch." I really wanted to grill the snot out of her about her brother, but there wasn't time.
I made a pit stop by my apartment and packed a bag. By the time I'd done that, Frannie called with my flight info. I had to decide then whether to take a cab or drive myself to the airport. I hated the thought of leaving my baby in the lot at the airport. This Mustang wasn't as cool as the GTO me and my dad worked on when I was a kid; but, still, it was a classic. Time was a factor, so the lot it was.
The Canadian Consulate was a creepy place, I thought. Middle of the day and that foyer was dark. Made me wonder later how Fraser could stand living there 24/7.
"Welcome to Canada, sir! May I assist you with something?" came out of the gloom. I recognized the voice from the phone. It was that Turnbull guy. My eyes were adjusting by then and I could see that he looked about as goofy as he sounded.
"Yeah. I need to see Constable Fraser. He around?"
"Well, sir, I'm not sure if he's around, but I'm quite certain he's in his office."
"You think you might be able to show me where that is?"
"Where what is, sir?"
I wanted to throttle the guy, but I didn't. I just took a deep breath and tried again. "I'd like to see Constable Fraser. Could you point out the way to his office?"
"OH!" Enlightenment at last. "This way, sir."
I followed the boy blunder down the hallway and watched as the man flung open a door. There was Fraser all right, standing with his balloon pants halfway between on and off.
"A visitor for you, Constable!" Turnbull sang out without looking to see if the man was prepared for a visitor or not. He never noticed a thing. Just turned around and went back to his desk, leaving me in a very awkward position. Not as awkward as Fraser's though. I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I came in and shut the door. Walked around the desk and took a seat.
I looked at Fraser, and he was staring at me. "What?" I asked. "You want me to take my pants off too? I will if that'll make you feel better." I stood up and reached for my belt. I probably shouldn't have teased him that way; but if he looked gorgeous before, he was even more so now. There, in his boxer shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt and red stained cheeks. And I mean the ones on his face. Couldn't see the other ones. Though, what he had to be embarrassed about, I'll never know. If I had a bod like that...
I forced myself to turn around so he could get dressed without an audience. I saw a lot of things in that office. The cot along the back wall. When I turned back again, he was fully decked out in the red Dudley DoRight suit. It looked good on him. So good that I stared at him, completely lost, until his voice calling my name brought me back from La-La Land.
"Mr. Kowalski, Ray, Ray, RAY."
I've got to admit I was embarrassed about that and blurted out, "I like that. Do that again," without thinking.
Fraser looked at me like I was crazy and asked, "Do what again, Mr. Kowalski?"
I shook my head at him. "I'm Ray. I mean you can call me Ray. I like that."
He smiled. "Very well, Ray." He hesitated on the name, like he was getting his mouth used to saying it. "Do you have a purpose behind your visit today or did you drop by to watch me dress?"
He was teasing me. The Mountie teased me. I gave it right back. "You know, I totally forget why I came. Maybe if you take your clothes off again, I'll remember." I winked at him.
Fraser laughed. I guess I lost my head there. I honestly couldn't help it. Before I even realized what I was doing, I had my arms full of Mountie. I kissed him. He kissed back. I mean really kissed back with uh, what do you call it? Impunity, that's it. He kissed me back with impunity. And tongue.
It was great. Total greatness. We were kissing and breathing for each other as natural as can be. Like we'd been kissing one another forever. My brain finally caught up with my hormones, and I jerked back.
He said, "Oh, dear."
At the same time I said, "Oh, damn! I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I shouldn't a done that."
Fraser pulled back behind his Mountie mask, all business-like again. I got to the other side of the desk. It took me a minute or two to get myself together. I couldn't look at him and do that. I looked down at the shiny hardwood floor. Took a few deep breaths.
"I need expense money to go to Las Vegas. I got a lead on your girlfriend." I put it out there, no tact or nothing. I said it the wrong way, of course. I knew it before the Mountie opened his mouth to answer.
"Miss Metcalf is not my girlfriend, Mr. Kowalski. Victoria Metcalf is a criminal. You would do well to remember that." His voice was cold. Ice cold, like off a glacier or something.
"Okay, okay, sorry. Look, do you want me to find her, yes or no? 'Cause there's about a million other things I'd rather do than go to Las fucking Vegas."
"Watch your language." Of all the things for him to get offended about! I almost laughed, but then I would have missed the look in his eye; the pain in his voice when he said, "Of course, I want you to find her. I would not have hired you otherwise."
"Okay, fine then." I nodded. "I ain't no rich guy though. I don't have the price of a trip just layin' around in my hat." That got a corner of his mouth to lift. The tension between us eased up a bit.
"How much do you require?"
"Give me another thou, if I go over that, I'll bill you; and if there's any left, you'll get it back. How's that?"
"Acceptable," he agreed. I tore a sheet out of my notebook and gave him a handwritten receipt. He gave me the money.
"I'll call you when I have something to report." I stuck my hand out for a shake on the deal. Not as good as sealing it with a kiss, but there you are.
We shook and he said, "Goodbye, Mr. Kowalski."
"Ray. You can still call me Ray."
I walked out of that office and got a cheery, "Thank you for visiting Canada!" from Turnbull. It was off to the airport for me.
"I suppose you have a rational explanation for that?"
My father's voice made me jump. He showed up at the most inconvenient times. "An explanation for what, Dad?"
"All of it or any of it," he answered.
I wasn't in the mood for making explanations. I wasn't sure what had happened myself. How could I explain it to a man that had been dead for over three years?
"You were kissing that Yank, son. You want to tell me about that?"
"No, actually, Dad, I don't."
"Well, then how about why you're spending my hard earned money trying to find that woman? I wouldn't have left it to you if I'd know you'd spend it this way," he groused.
"A bit late to reconsider that, now isn't it?" I snipped right back at him. "Go away, Dad. And stop spying on me. It's quite rude of you to pop in without making your presence known, you know."
He hurmphed and disappeared, though I could still hear him mumbling. "First that woman and now a Yank, a male Yank. How's a man supposed to get grandchildren that way?"
I ignored him and the mumbling died away. I put my head in my hands and wondered what I ever did to deserve having a ghost haunt me. Either that or I was as totally unhinged as some people believed me to be. And rightly so it seemed. I had kissed another man. Kissed him and if he hadn't pulled away, who knows what I might have done. Still, all and all it had been delightful. The kiss, the feel of his arms around me, and his slender body against mine. I shook my head to clear it. This wasn't the time for those types of thoughts. I pulled out the daily 201/J form and went to work.
The plane ride to Vegas was bizarre. Every other person on the plane was a Trekkie. All part of some squadron or swarm, whatever they called their group. They were going on and on about seeing some 'Experience'. I want to tell you too, a few of them looked like they had enough experience for two or three women. And the guys, a bunch of geeks. They could have used some of the experience the others had.
We landed and I caught a hotel shuttle with a bunch of them. Not as weird one on one. The little redhead that sat by me in the van was okay. She explained to me what the Star Trek Experience was, and I guess it made sense that some of them would be whacked out about it.
I checked in and grabbed a shower. Changed into something a little nicer than my usual. Then I headed down to the bar. Dan's guy wasn't there. A different guy was tending bar. I asked for a beer and casually asked when Jack would be in.
"Jack comes on at midnight." I was told. I said thanks and sat there nursing the beer until I had to go to the can. That's the last thing I remember. I walked into the restroom and woke up looking into Ray Vecchio's face.
Vecchio straighten up and called out to his goons, the goons that I presumed brought me here. I sure as hell wasn't in any hotel anymore. Anyway, Vecchio yelled, "Ok, guys, clear out."
"But boss -" I hear one of them start to argue.
"Did you hear me? Am I talking to myself here? You, Tony, and you, Vito, get the hell outta here!"
I was tied to a chair. A nice, cushy chair, but still I was tied up. While Vecchio was yelling, I was getting my bearings. I was in a private home, far from the strip. No traffic noise, no lights from the windows.
The goons cleared out and Vecchio was back in my face. "Who the hell hired you?" I didn't answer and he smacked me one upside the head. "I'm talking to you, Kowalski. Who the hell sent you here from Chicago?"
I shook the blow off and answered, "Okay, you're a smart guy, huh? Already know my name, know I'm a PI from Chicago?"
"Yeah, I read real good. Right out of your wallet."
"Okay, then what do I call you? Raimondo?" That took him back some.
"Fuck! You trying to get me killed here or what? I'm Armando Languistini, and don't you forget it! Now tell me who the hell sent you here on the trail of that bitch or I call the boys back in."
"All right then. Does the name Benton Fraser mean anything to you?" That took the starch right out of Vecchio/Languistini.
"Benny," he whispered.
I really had to control myself to keep from rolling my eyes. Sheesh. Benny? Didn't want another smack in the head though.
"Benny hired a PI to find her? Why? Why the hell couldn't he just leave it alone?" Vecchio whirled around and punched the wall. His back was to me and his head was hanging down, but I heard it plain as day -- he said, "I promised that bitch I'd kill her if she hurt him." He straightened up some and looked back at me. "Loyalty test for Sonny Iguana. I passed it with flying colors." His eyes were cold and hard to mask the pain underneath.
I knew that look. I'd seen it in my own mirror more than once. It's why I ain't a cop no more. That and a dead kid in a warehouse. The captain yelling at me through the wire. Saying if I broke my cover he'd have my badge. I did anyway, but I was too late. The kid was dead. The captain turned out right in the end. Next morning, I walked in and laid my badge and service weapon on his desk. Told him to stick it and went out and got my PI license. Now here I was looking into the same eyes, only they were on Vecchio.
"Good," I told him. "I'm glad. I'm glad you got her."
There was a knock on the door, and Vecchio went over and opened it a crack. "Mr. Languistini? Are you all right, sir? We heard a noise."
"Nah, Nero. Everything is fine. Just me showing off my temper. Tell Tony and Vito to go to bed. And bring me some buttermilk, huh?"
"Yes, sir. Right away. Will your guest be requiring anything?"
Vecchio looked back at me. "You want something? Nero pours a mean buttermilk."
I made a face. "Coffee. Coffee would be good."
"Bring a pot, Nero. Looks like this is going to be a long night." Vecchio closed the door and came over and untied me. I rolled my shoulders to get the circulation going again. I didn't get up, as much as I would have liked to have stretched my legs. Seemed safer to sit.
Vecchio sat down too. On the same side of the oversized desk and not behind it. "What are you going to tell Benny when you get back?"
That surprised me. "I'm going back?" I asked.
"Yeah, you're going back. What? You don't show up and next thing I know, Benny'd be out here looking for you. Am I right?"
I laughed. He was right. He had the Mountie's number. Kind of made me jealous at the time. That he knew Fraser better than I did. "Yeah, him and Frannie right behind him."
That got him. "Frannie? My Frannie? She mixed up in this too?"
Before I could answer, Nero was back with my coffee and Vecchio's, gag, buttermilk. I started patting my pockets for M&Ms before I took a sip. It was the real deal. Some kind of fancy beans. Didn't come out of a jar, that was for certain. Me looking for M&Ms made Vecchio nervous anyway. So, I gave it up.
Vecchio sent the butler to bed then turned to me expectantly. "Frannie?" he prompted.
"She's my secretary."
He plopped down in his chair and looked at me, bewildered like. "Last I heard she was trying for a civilian aid job at the station."
"Yeah, she tried that, but after their house burned down, she needed more money."
"What?! My house is gone now too?"
Shit. I hated to be the bearer of bad news. "Uh, that's not all." God, I hated this! "Your mum, the shock. It's part of why Frannie needed more money. She had a stroke."
I kind of thought Vecchio was going to stroke out himself there. His face was frozen except for the tears. He didn't try to turn away and hide them. That's Italians for you, I guess. Macho guys that aren't afraid to show their emotions. I kind of felt like joining him. There he was in an impossible position. Hearing all these things from a stranger. Not being able to do jack about it. Undercover sinks on ice.
After a few minutes, he took out a big, white handkerchief and wiped his face. He tried a smile on, but it didn't quite fit. "Tell me about Frannie. She a good secretary?"
"Yeah. Yeah, she is, actually. Kind of shaky there at first, but she caught on fast. She's a whiz on the computer now. If she'd only quit ogling the male clientele..." I let it dangle and got a real smile.
It didn't last long. Next he asked, "Maria and Tony and the kids?"
"I think Frannie mentioned something about them living at your Uncle Sal's now." I didn't mention that Frannie actually said they were sponging off Uncle Sal now or that she mumbled something about them being good for nothing but breeding.
"Look," I said, "I don't know nothing about the Mountie. He lives at the consulate now, which is something your sister didn't even know. What I heard around the 2-7 is that you and him got in some kind of fight or something. Well, the guy that's playing you, anyway. Fraser don't go around there much anymore. He walked into my office two days ago and hired me to find this Victoria Metcalf woman. Said Lt. Welsh had recommended me. That's all I know."
He sat there sort of stunned after I let all that out. "Fuck," he said after a couple of minutes. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, you've got to get your skinny Polack ass back to Chicago pronto."
"Hey, who you calling skinny there, Wop!?"
He totally ignored my indignation. "Benny's planning something. Don't you see? He's cutting ties, wrapping things up. This Metcalf thing was closure. You've got to get back there and stop him."
"Stop him? Stop him from what? I told you, I don't even know the guy that well."
Vecchio gave me the evil eye. Then he got up and started pacing. "I don't know what he's planning. Maybe going back up there to Canada and closing himself off again. Maybe just fucking the whole life thing off all together. Either way, you can't let him do it. Hell, it took me a year. A whole damned year to get him to open up enough to say he was mad at me for shooting him. Had to almost get killed myself for him to let it out." He shook his head. Then went on, "Nope, that's not going to happen. You're going back to Chicago and you're going to stop him."
"How? You tell me how I'm supposed to do that?"
Again with the fish eyes. He spoke to me like he was talking to somebody really d-u-m dumb. He held up his hand and started counting off on his fingers, "One, you love him, stupid. Two, you be his friend, and three, you don't let him close you out."
I sat there dumbstruck while he picked up the phone and made a couple of calls. We didn't talk no more after that until there was a knock on the door. Whadda ya know, there was my bag from the hotel. Vecchio pushed me toward the bathroom. "Get in there. Get cleaned up. You've got a flight in two hours."
I went. Did the three S's, shit, showered, shaved, and changed my clothes. Vecchio was waiting for me when I got out. I had one more question. So, I asked it, "What do I tell Fraser?"
"Tell him... Tell him that the bitch double-crossed Armando, The Bookman, Languistini. Don't nobody do that and live very long. I'll deal with the consequences and Benny, if I ever make it out of here. You ready?"
I nodded and we went out into the cool desert night. There was a limo waiting. A long, black one with tinted windows. Vecchio opened the door and motioned me in. The last thing he said to me was, "Hey, look after Frannie for me, and Ma. And you do what I said about Benny, capisce? I don't want to have to put a hit out on you."
He closed the car door and I sat there all the way to the airport, wondering how the hell I was going to make the Mountie love me. Looking after Frannie and Ma Vecchio. A piece of cake. But Fraser? I'd have to see.
The flight back was as quiet as the flight there was noisy. I got a little shut-eye. Just enough to make me bleary and cranky. I hate cranky me. So, I went straight home from the airport to sleep some more. Thought, what the hell. Nobody expected me back this soon.
I felt a lot better when I woke up. It was noontime. Time to go see Fraser. I had a plan. Whirlwind Ray was going to sweep the Mountie off his feet. Batten down the hatches!
I was totally unprepared for Mr. Kowalski's, Ray's, arrival at the consulate. Diefenbaker and I were discussing lunch options when my office door was open and shut with a bang. Ray was there in front of my desk. He slapped something down and when he moved his hand back I saw it was money.
"There it is. Count it. Two thousand dollars."
Startled, I looked up at him and said, "You're quitting?" He hadn't at all seemed the type to quit so precipitously.
"Got it in one."
"May I ask why? Was your trip to Las Vegas not productive?"
"No, you may not ask why. I quit and that's that. Can you deal with that?"
"I suppose I have no choice." I stood and offered my hand. "It was nice to know you, Mr. Kowalski."
Ray ignored my words and my gesture. "You're not getting rid of me that easy. And it's Ray. I thought we agreed you'd call me Ray."
I was totally exasperated. "All right then, Ray. I'm Ben, by the way. And if you're not in my employ any longer, just what did you have in mind?"
He winked. He winked, and my knees almost buckled. I caught myself on the edge of my desk as he said, "Well, for starters, how about lunch, Ben?"
I took fortitude in my training and, I believe, I answered him coherently. "Did you have a place in mind?"
Apparently, he did. It was an establishment that I had never patronized called The Oasis. The decor was tropical, in keeping with its name. The wait staff were friendly and attentive. And they all seemed to know Ray. We were halfway through our lunches before I noticed that all the other diners were male. It might have escaped my attention all together but for the couple at the next table holding hands. Until then, all my concentration was on trying to will my erection away and getting the food from plate to mouth. Tasks that proved most difficult since I could not seem to keep from watching Ray.
He noticed my wandering eyes. "You're not going to freak out on me, are you?" There was no small amount of amusement in his voice.
Under the table, I brushed my knee to his. "Certainly not," I answered. That brought some color to his cheeks, but it didn't deter him. My brush was met with a firm press of his leg to mine. It had the unfortunate consequence of making my penis even harder. Of course, it also made swallowing the bite of food I had taken impossible. I'm also sure that if there had been any blood left to do so with, I would have blushed.
That reaction pleased him. He called the waiter over and placed an order to go. "For Dief," he explained.
I didn't argue. It seemed Diefenbaker had an ally in his quest for human food. "No cheese, if you please. It has a detrimental effect on his digestive system."
Ray's face became studious as he tried to reckon my meaning. He smiled when he got it and turned back to the waiter. "Okay, no cheese then, but make it a double order of fries."
I didn't argue. In fact, at the time, I seemed incapable of disagreeing with any of Ray's suggestions. We left the restaurant when Diefenbaker's food was ready. A slightly painful experience for me. It had been quite a while since I had tried to walk and hide an erection. It was made no easier following Ray as I was. The rear view was magnificent.
Once back at the consulate, he asked what time I would be free later. I told him six p.m. with no hesitation. I was most eager for more of his company. Whenever and however he chose, as much as I could and still fulfill my duties.
"Greatness. I'll be back at six sharp."
I whistled on my way out to the car. Things were going fine. The Oasis hadn't freaked him out. If the kiss we shared before I left hadn't hinted at my intentions, taking Ben to a gay joint surely had. I planned on taking my time, sex- wise. Whirlwind romance-wise, no.
I stopped in at the office that afternoon. I gave Frannie a great big hug and told her to take the rest of the day off. Go and see your mum, I told her. We locked up, and I headed home to straighten the joint up some. Planned on having company that evening, if not for the whole night. Everything was set. Six o'clock was coming on in a hurry. Had to go get the Mountie.
I pulled up in front of the consulate at exactly six p.m. Ben, with Diefenbaker, was coming out the door at the same time. Ben was dressed just as he had been when I first saw him. Flannel shirt, jeans. Tight jeans, I saw as he leaned in to lock the door. And the hat. Can't forget the hat.
His face lit up in the most beautiful smile when he turned and saw me. At least I hoped the smile was for me and not the car. I reached over and unlocked the door for him. Dief hopped in the back and immediately ran over to make intimate with my ear. I laughed and pushed his muzzle away as Ben reprimanded him, "Stop that, Diefenbaker. There are other ways to show Ray your appreciation for lunch."
I patted the wolf on the head and said, "Oh. So that's what it's about, huh? And here I thought he was showing his appreciation for my ear."
"It's a very fine ear. I mean, uh, I'm sure both of your ears are very functional. Even better so without the addition of animal saliva." Ben was babbling. Nervous, I guess.
Dief whined, and I swear it sounded like an apology. I answered him, "It's okay, boy." I scratched behind his ears. "Hey, you like pizza?" He yelped. I took it as a yes. "How about you, Ben? Do you like pizza?"
"Yes, Ray. Diefenbaker and I are both quite fond of pizza," he responded with one of those special smiles. I guess it wasn't the car after all. That smile gave me the warm fuzzies inside. I smiled back and grabbed my cell phone. I had Tony's on the speed dial.
"You got any preferences on toppings?" I asked.
"Uh, no. Not really, Ray. I'm sure whatever you prefer will be fine."
Okay. That was a little strange, but at least he wasn't clamoring for anchovies. Generally, people are pretty opinionated about what they want on a pizza, but I went with it and ordered a large pie with my usual. He could pick the pineapple off if he didn't like it.
I remember every moment of that night in vivid detail. The way Ray's apartment looked. The way the pizza tasted. The comfort of his sofa, and later his bed. I remember his words. I can recite them. Mostly, I remember his actions and my own awkward reactions.
We sat, watching a hockey game. A full, contented Diefenbaker was napping on the armchair by the window. I had consented to drinking one beer. Ray had gone to the trouble and expense of obtaining Canadian ale, it was only polite. A commercial came on the television. Ray turned to me and smiled.
He made a move to kiss me. I panicked. That's the only word that comes to mind when I try to describe what I was feeling. I removed myself from Ray's vicinity. I shook with doubt, with lust, and not a small amount of plain terror. Ray followed me. He put a gentle hand to my cheek.
"You're afraid of it. Afraid to love. Yeah, sometimes it stinks. You love and it hurts, but you ... you wrap yourself in duty and love can't get in. You don't get hurt that way; but, Ben, let me tell you, it's no way to live. Cutting yourself off like that. It's worse than death. "
"Let me tell you a story. I was married. I loved Stella, and only Stella, for 20 years. Since I was 12 years old, I loved her. It didn't last. I changed, she changed, and suddenly, the love just wasn't enough anymore for her. And it hurt. Jesus, Ben, it hurt so bad. I didn't think I could ever risk loving anyone again. But that was dumb. You can't hide from love forever. It finds you. It found me when you walked into my office. So, please, please, don't shut me out. Don't wrap yourself up in the Mountie suit. Let me in. If you don't then Victoria wins, don't you see that?"
I couldn't speak. Literally, I could not speak. My vocal cords wouldn't work. This man. This man that I had only known for three short days could see through me. See into the very core of me. I could only nod numbly, and Ray pulled me into his arms. He whispered, "I know you're scared. I'm scared." Against his shoulder, I nodded again. "You think I'm going to be like them, don't you?"
"They left," I managed to croak out. I knew of whom he was speaking. Victoria, certainly, and Ray Vecchio. They pulled at me still, her one way and him the other. And now there was a stronger pull toward this man. I feared I'd be pulled into pieces and Benton Fraser would be lost forever.
I must have spoken my fears aloud or else Ray could read my mind, I'm not sure which, for he replied, "Not going to happen. Ben, they can't pull you anymore, I won't let them."
He was so sure that I couldn't help but believe.
Benton Fraser was no slouch as a lover. Once we got past the nerves and doubts, he heated right up. Kissed like he was going to swallow me whole. And noisy too. I wouldn't have figured him for a moaner. The sounds he made heated me up too. No need to wonder at all if I was doing it right, if it felt good.
Once he backed his tongue outta my mouth long enough for me to put it to other uses, it started low in his throat. I kissed across his jaw, headed for an ear. I flicked the lobe with my tongue and heard the tiniest of sounds. Muffled, like it came out by accident. I sucked his ear lobe into my mouth and got a little louder noise, almost a whimper. It went straight to my cock.
Me, I ain't never been shy. So, when he did the same to me, he knew I liked it. My cock was pressed right against his hip, and it did a little jump that he couldn't help but feel. He did that next. Felt it, I mean. Put his hand down there and gave me a squeeze. The sound I made was more like a squeak than anything. No wonder. I almost shot right then and there. It was going to be quick this first time. No doubt about that.
"God! Ben, I want you in the worst way."
The smug look on his face almost said it all. He answered, "And I you, Ray, but in the best possible way. Naked, on your bed, please."
"I can do naked. I can do bed. Bed is great. Total greatness," I babbled. I was doubly glad that I'd straightened up that afternoon. Clean sheets on the bed and everything.
The wolf opened his eyes as we stumbled for the bedroom. He made this little snort. That's what made me look. I'm not sure if it was a trick of the light or what, but I swear I saw him wink at me. The chair creaked a bit as he settled into it, wiggling around to get more comfortable.
"Night, Dief," I called to him. I got that same snort in return. Once Ben and I hit the bedroom, I forgot all about anything else. Dog, what is dog? I had dog's best friend right here.
Like I predicted, the first time was quick and messy. Ben tried to be neat as he took off his clothes. Stood there, trying to fold them up; but when my underwear hit the floor, he dropped them. The clothes stayed right there on the floor until the morning. He practically tackled me to the bed. Not that I'm complaining. Not at all. Feeling him skin to skin and that tongue fucking my mouth, damn.
He reached between us and gathered both of our cocks in one hand. A squeeze, a couple of pulls, and that's all she wrote. I shot off like a rocket. All over his hand, his cock, and halfway up both of our stomachs. He backed off my mouth just long enough to look down, and he came too. And moaned. Like I said, he's a moaner. This one sounded like it came up straight from his balls.
Okay, so it wasn't romantic. I'd planned to go slow on the sex stuff. Who cares? I had a Mountie there pinning me to my bed. His jizz and mine mingling there, slick between our bodies. It was romance enough for me.
Ben Fraser taught me more about making love that night than you can imagine. There I was thinking I would have to show him. Boy, was I wrong. As fast and messy as round one had been, round two lasted for hours. I never thought I could be held on the edge of coming, but not over, so many times. And when he finally did let me come, well let's just say I let him clean it off the headboard. I couldn't move.
I had had sex before with a few guys, even made love with Stella, but nothing compared to what Ben gave me. I got my first good look at all of him as we cleaned up after round one. Let me tell you, as good as he looks in his uniform or in jeans, naked is better. Naked is a thousand times hotter.
I guess he likes the way I look too. He likes skinny Polacks with experimental hair, and I like big, buff brunettes. It's one of them mysteries of the universe things.
I never dreamed that Ray would be so responsive. It was quite gratifying really. That my touch, my kisses would cause such a rejoinder . Not to say that I wasn't just as responsive. The sight of Ray's naked body moved me to untidiness. I dropped my clothing on the floor and gave it not a thought. I had no control over myself it seemed. His delight fed my excitement. When he ejaculated that first time, I looked down between our bodies and could do nothing but follow him into orgasm.
Then Ray gave me... he gave me that part of himself that a man can only give to another man. I fellated him first. Delighted that I could give him such pleasure. I brought him up the long spiral to climax again and again. Denying his pleas to hurry because he would die of waiting if he didn't come. I touched his anus. Loosened the muscles first with saliva then with the lubricant Ray shoved into my hands.
He gave me the bottle and turned onto his stomach. The ultimate act of trust. I had to grab my penis and squeeze to stop from spilling my seed. I prepared him. Not as slowly I would wish, but Ray's insistence that I hurry, that I do him, fuck him now, had its effect. I'm embarrassed to say that I was quite noisy during our lovemaking. Ray, too, was quite vocal.
His exclamation at climax shattered me. The view of his semen leaping from his body to spatter against the headboard of his bed; the experience is permanently imprinted in my mind. His boneless lassitude afterwards urged me up to clean the mess. He was asleep when I returned from the bathroom.
I woke up alone in bed the next morning. For a minute I was confused. I thought I might have dreamed the whole thing, until I heard the front door open and Ben arguing with Dief. I couldn't hear what he was saying exactly, but he had that snarky tone going. I heard him in the kitchen. Opening cabinet doors, running water. Once I thought I heard him say 'Dad'. Then thought, nah, he wouldn't be talking to the wolf about his dad. Didn't he say his dad was dead? The whole on the trail of the killers of my father thing?
I got up and stuck my head out. "Ben?"
"Stop arguing with the wolf. I'm up now. Gonna hit the shower."
He leaned over the pass through and smiled. "I'd offer to help, but I'm making breakfast."
"Don't worry about it. Been showering by myself for years. I think I can handle it." I winked at him.
He went all red. Looked around like he expected somebody might hear us and said, "I'd like to see you handle it, Ray. I'd like that very much."
Whew! I almost forgot about showering or anything else. When Benton Fraser makes innuendo all I want to do is drag him off to bed. Hell, bed, floor, wall, it don't matter.
I must have stood there looking like a love starved idiot for a while because next thing I knew, he was laughing and shooing me toward the bathroom. "Shower, Ray. Breakfast in twenty minutes."
Thankfully, my father did not make a reappearance that morning. Once was quite enough. He popped into existence beside us as Diefenbaker and I were walking to the market.
"Well, what, dad?"
"Still no explanations about you and the Yank?"
I cleared my throat. "None that I care to share with you, dad, no."
"Don't you care about the consequences? What this might to do your career?"
We had entered the supermarket by that time. Dief waited outside. It was a small, pleasant store. I hissed back at my father over the produce, "And what consequences would those be? I'm already exiled. What more could they do to me?" That caught him up short.
He conceded, "I suppose you're right." I moved on down the aisle. Compromises would have to be made. I was sure that Ray wouldn't own a waffle iron. Flapjacks would have to do. At least the strawberries were fresh, and if whipping cream was out of the question, at least the store had aerosol. No frozen non-dairy topping would suffice. Not for today. "What about the money?" My father interjected.
I waited to answer until I was bent over the meat case. "I'll make him take it. If not for himself, then for Francesca and Mrs. Vecchio, as was my original plan." I looked up, and he was gone. Maple syrup, it had to be here somewhere.
"Over here, son." My father had found the syrup. "Expensive, but worth the price," he commented. The first helpful thing he'd done in ages. Pancake mix, milk, eggs, and juice filled out the rest of my order. Thankfully, dad didn't try to speak again until we were out of the store. Unfortunately, it was a short walk from the market back to Ray's. He followed us in, still chattering away.
I unpacked the groceries and located the necessary equipment to cook breakfast, but my patience with my father ran out. I snapped at him, "Dad, I don't want to appear ungrateful, but I'm rather busy right now." Mostly, I didn't want to take the chance that Ray would overhear me talking to thin air. It wouldn't have been prudent at that juncture to look as if I were unhinged. It was all too late, though. Ray appeared at the bedroom door.
"We'll talk later. When you get home," my father said and disappeared from my sight.
Oh my goodness, Ray looked radiant. "Ben," he called.
"Yes, Ray," I answered.
"Stop arguing with the wolf. I'm up now. Going to hit the shower."
I leaned over the counter and said, "I'd offer to help, but I'm making breakfast."
"Not a problem. Been showering by myself for years. I think I can handle it," he quipped back with a wink.
My mind went straight to the gutter, I'm afraid. I felt my face burn; but emboldened by Ray's easy ways, I took a quick glance around to make sure my father had really gone and said, "I'd like to see you handle it, Ray. I'd like that very much." I thought for a moment there that I'd gone too far. Ray looked pole axed. He took a step forward from behind the door, and I saw his penis lifting. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to pounce on him. I shook myself and laughed. "Shower, Ray," I called to him. "Breakfast in twenty minutes."
I walked back in from the shower to find Ben laying out the best looking breakfast I'd ever seen - my mom's included. Pancakes with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, those little sausages - how did he know I love those? The maple syrup was a bit much, but if it made him happy... The only thing I saw that I didn't like was the pile of bills by my plate.
"Wow, Ben! It looks great, thanks," I said as I passed him and squeezed his shoulder. I sat down at the table and as inconspicuously as I could, pushed the money to the middle. If he was going to force the issue, it'd have to wait until after I ate. I wasn't going to let all this gorgeous food go to waste. No way.
Breakfast was eaten, and I savored every bite. Finally, I had to push the plate away. I got up to gather the dishes. Logical rationale, I figured. Ben had cooked, so I should clean up, right? Heh, anything to avoid an argument.
"Ray, please sit down a moment." Busted. I sat back down. Ben picked up the money. "Hold out your hand, please."
I shook my head. "I told you, I don't want your money."
"Ah." I interpreted this sound to mean that he understood something, I'm never too sure with his ahs, though. "You think you'll be obligated then to tell me what you found in Las Vegas, don't you?"
I nodded my head this time.
Ben set the money down, back into neutral territory at the middle of the table. He was as full of gestures that morning as I was. First he licked his bottom lip, then he scratched at his eyebrow with his thumb. For a finale, he cracked his neck before he spoke again.
"A compromise seems to be in order then. How about this? I'm going to tell you what I believe occurred in Las Vegas; and if I'm correct, you will take the money. Give it to Francesca if you won't use it for yourself or your business."
He was using that superior tone again, and it pissed me off. "Okay, Mr. I'm-Always-Right, you tell me what happened."
I'll be damned if he didn't do just that. The first thing out of his mouth was, "Victoria Metcalf is dead, isn't she?"
After I picked my chin up off of the floor, I confirm that with a quiet, "Yeah."
He closed his eyes and sighed. "It's a relief to know that, Ray. To know that I won't turn a corner or look out a window and see her. To know that she can't hurt me or anyone else anymore. It's a blessed relief."
"You're not gonna take off now, are you? Go back up there to the Northwest Areas and maybe get yourself killed? " I had to know. "He said that's what you'd do -" I cut myself off. Stupid, stupid, Kowalski. I'd totally blown it.
Fraser was smiling, though. "Northwest Territories, Ray. How is he?" I tried to look dumb, but it didn't work. "Tell me about Ray Vecchio," he pressed.
"I didn't see no Ray Vecchio out there, Ben. I saw a lonely man named Armando Languistini. He told me to tell you that she double-crossed him, and nobody does that and lives very long."
"Thank you, Ray." He pushed the money back to me. It took me the longest time to get that that was it. He never asked me another thing about it. Now that I know him better, I see how he tricked me into verifying what he only suspected.
As much as it would please me at this juncture to be able to say that Ray and I lived happily ever after, I cannot. We are happy and together, but getting here was much more complicated than we ever dreamed, with many more compromises. I'm a stubborn man, not one to easily trust, and I confess that my father's words had added just enough to my own insecurities to make them quite difficult to overcome.
Ray never gave up, however. Insinuating himself into my life in small and not-so-small ways that eventually proved that he would never voluntarily leave me. And that, my friend, is all for which one can really ask.
Heh, happily ever after only happens in those kid's stories.
I could tell a hundred stories about how loving a crazy Canadian Mountie almost cost me my life in the most wildly bizarre ways you wouldn't believe. He saved my life and me, his about as many times too. Sure makes life interesting.
I finally got Ben to talk to me when he's pissed or scared about things. It took for-fucking-ever. I thought for a while that Dief was gonna keep that honor. Oh, he still talks to fur face... but now he saves the big stuff for me. And even if he's still the most irritating man on the planet, I wouldn't have him any other way.
End Kowalski Investigations by A. Kite: AKite68163@aol.com
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