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Extract: The Suspect by Rob Rinder

If you love a legal thriller or courtroom drama, you probably loved criminal barrister and TV personality Rob Rinder’s first novel, The Trial and are eagerly awaiting his second book, The Suspect.

In The Suspect, junior barrister Adam Green is back – and once again faced with an impossible case. This time, a beloved TV presenter has been killed live on air and all evidence points to celebrity chef Sebastian Brooks. Can Adam prove his innocence and find the person truly responsible?

The Suspect is out on 20th June 2024 and available to preorder now. Can’t wait that long? You’re in luck. Below is an exclusive extract of the book’s opening – and let’s just say, we’re already hooked…

The Suspect

Rob Rinder

The Suspect
by
Rob Rinder

Prologue

Jessica Holby adjusted herself so that she was sitting ramrod straight on the maroon TV studio couch – she leaned forward a touch. Her body language was perfectly balanced to ensure that her 1.2 million Wake Up Britain! viewers knew she was conducting a serious interview. The softening expression in her eyes would leave them in no doubt.
        Jessica’s immaculate blonde bob of hair was instantly recognisable on-screen. For today’s show her stylist had selected a tiered white ruffle shirt with French seams and a midi pencil skirt. Nude Gianvito Rossi heels completed the look as the perfect choice for the more sombre segments. Her co-presenter, Nicholas Copeland, was clasping his hands as he coaxed a few choice details of life in Wormwood Scrubs from their guest, John Croucher, a man in his late thirties with dyed dark hair in a ponytail who had served time for murder because evidence hadn’t been collected properly by the police. He was now in the process of suing the police and Crown Prosecution Service. This was compelling, investigative television.
        ‘Three more minutes and we’ll go to dog pyjamas,’ Marcus prompted.
        Marcus Hillier was the exec producer and director of Wake Up Britain! and had been the voice in Jessica’s earpiece for over ten years. She was so used to hearing his often-exasperated commentary each day that she often imagined she could hear him and the others chattering in the gallery outside the studio environment too – while out walking her Bichon Frisé, Percy, or collecting her children from their exclusive prep school.
        ‘. . . bad enough, but it was the isolation that ate away at me. Every day I felt more and more withdrawn.’
        Jessica reminded herself to focus on John Croucher’s words. The cooking segment with regular chef Sebastian Brooks had gone well and she was still savouring the taste of the wild boar ragù he’d just served up. During the commercial break she’d checked that none of it had got stuck in her teeth and she still gently sucked her gums to be certain. After the #spinachgate incident of 2021 she wasn’t taking any chances.
        ‘. . . a shell of myself. After three months inside I just stopped caring if I woke up the next morning.’
        Nicholas nodded gravely. ‘I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that must have been for you.’
        ‘Ask him about his wife and kids, beacon, dark times, all that. And then the crowdfunding.’ Marcus sounded edgy. ‘Move it along though.’
        John’s plodding delivery was likely giving Marcus palpitations. Jessica leaned forward even further. ‘Kate was your great support, wasn’t she? And your twins, Faye and Carla.’ She didn’t need to glance down at her research notes for their names. ‘KFC’ was how she’d remembered them. ‘They must have been a beacon through very dark times.’
        John nodded and teared up. ‘I couldn’t have made it through without them. They were . . .’ He searched for the words.
        Jessica counted seven very long TV seconds.
        ‘A constant?’ Marcus snapped in her ear.
        ‘A constant?’ Jessica repeated immediately.
        ‘More than that. They were . . .’ He fumbled for a better description.
        Jessica felt her stomach muscles lock. More dead air.
        ‘Let’s settle on rock,’ Marcus snapped.
        ‘They were the only people who could keep you in touch with who you really were,’ Nicholas interjected, his one finger against the side of his face.
        John’s eyes darted gratefully to his. ‘Yes.’
        Jessica bristled inwardly at Nicholas interrupting her but continued. ‘And you must have been overwhelmed by the support that you received from so many generous people online.’
        John’s attention swung back to her, and he nodded. ‘With only one of us working, things got very tight. Kate suggested setting up the crowdfunding page, but I wasn’t sure.’
        ‘But she insisted, and the response was incredible.’ Jessica knew she had to condense the story.
        ‘She didn’t insist. We discussed it a few times during her visits and then . . . eventually she talked me round.’
        ‘Over £87,000. You must have been bowled over. And your supporters must have been thrilled when the police’s oversight allowed you your freedom.’ Jessica raised an eyebrow. She’d started to feel an odd sensation in her mouth.
        ‘Well, we just couldn’t take it in.’
        ‘Dog pyjamas!’ the director barked.
        ‘We’d love you to come back on the show and update us . . .’
        Jessica’s throat went suddenly dry and she struggled to stifle a cough. ‘Please let us know . . .’ She coughed again – this time she couldn’t soften it. Holding up her hand she blinked as tears filled her eyes.
        ‘Sorry.’ She reached for a glass of water on the coffee table in front of them.
        Nicholas jumped in, his expression grave. ‘Thank you for sharing such a difficult journey with us and best of luck with pursuing the justice you so richly deserve.’
        Jessica swallowed down water, gasping. ‘Yes, the very best of luck.’ She leaned forward and made as meaningful eye contact with John as she could. She was the caring face of Wake Up Britain! One TV critic had said she wore her heart on her sleeve and suggested she possibly cared too much. Her eyes were stinging, and another cough escaped her.
        As John sat back, his eyes filled with a bewildered expression that a lot of their guests wore after a segment. As if he couldn’t believe so much time, energy and preparation – plus travel and an overnight stay – could be invested in such a brief interview.
        ‘And now, from jail fails to waggy tails.’ Jessica cringed inwardly as she read the link from the autocue. She’d have a word with Marcus about that one later. ‘With this week’s cold-weather snap, it’s not only humans donning cosy nightwear . . .’
        A violent coughing episode interrupted her flow.
        Nicholas tittered nervously. ‘Are you all right, love?’ Jessica nodded and blinked, her thick eyelashes fluttering, but couldn’t reply.
        ‘I’ll step in while you compose yourself.’
        ‘I’ll be fine.’ But her words were barely audible. Her throat had closed up. She attempted to take another sip of water.
        ‘Are you OK?’ Marcus asked in her ear.
        John Croucher was looking at her askance.
        She nodded again but realised she was now entirely unable to breathe through her nose.
        ‘We’ve been looking at some nocturnal canine couture. Perhaps we should say “doggy fashion?” Or, indeed, doggy style,’ Nicholas quipped.
        It was the sort of ad-lib that normally had them both in fits of giggles, but as soon as Nicholas swivelled round and saw the look on Jessica’s face he instantly understood the severity of the situation.
        Jessica’s hands were at her throat, ripping away the button at her collar. She tried to speak but all that emerged was a low, desperate moan.
        ‘She’s having an attack!’ Marcus yelled. ‘Go to a break!’
        Jessica was gagging, as the sound of Nicholas and the studio crew’s concerned voices echoed in her ears.
        ‘Go to a break!’ Marcus snapped. ‘Where’s her EpiPen?’
        Jessica tried to inhale but darkness crowded in. At twenty-seven minutes past midday she took her last breath in front of 1.2 million viewers.

One

Adam Green had arrived in Stag Court Chambers an hour earlier than usual – and still he felt as if the day was outrunning him. He’d sneaked into a plush conference room to remove himself from the distractions of his shared room and to get his head round a dizzying list of petty crime clients he was representing that week. The cost of living crisis had seen a sharp rise in the number of unofficial trolley dashes through the security barriers of supermarkets, plus he had a repeat octogenarian indecent exposure offender whom he had run out of mitigation for.
        He might have secured tenancy at Stag Court, but if anything he felt under more pressure now than he had during his year-long pupillage. As a baby barrister building a practice in his new, rarefied world, he needed solicitors to instruct him. But his unseasoned networking skills meant this was proving tough. With Chambers taking fifteen per cent of his earnings, the few Crown Court and jury trials he’d secured hadn’t made even a vague dent in his student debt.
        Adam had spent the previous evening at yet another lawyers’ schmoozing event and he was still feeling the lingering effects of the free Champagne. He didn’t particularly like the stuff but it helped him loosen up enough to be casually awkward instead of crushingly uptight. Yesterday had been a ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ charity concert – a welcome break from the usual dull lectures – and he’d found himself entranced by the spectacle of the Lady Justice Halliwell channelling Ethel Merman with her rendition of ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’.
        ‘You need a haircut.’
        Adam turned to see Georgina Devereaux leaning through the door. Instinctively he ran his hand through his dark messy curls as if to confirm it.
        ‘Where were you last night?’ he asked.
        Georgina had always been more natural when it came to networking. It was rare to go to an event at which she wasn’t in attendance. She had become Adam’s Trojan Horse of sorts.
        ‘I tried to join you, but Patience had me here until after ten.’
        Patience Foster was a steely, soft-spoken counsel with exacting standards when it came to herself and those around her. Under Patience’s guidance, Georgina wanted to become a monitoree – the first step to joining the hallowed ranks of the Treasury Counsel, who prosecuted the most serious and complex cases in England and Wales. In the last few months Georgina’s demeanour had become increasingly fraught beneath the surface. She looked well turned out this morning, but it was often during evening drinks at the Wig and Pen that the cracks started to show.
        ‘You didn’t miss much.’
        Georgina stepped into the room and closed the door. ‘Lots of teeth and tits?’
        ‘I don’t think they’re headed to Broadway. Tony insisted I went though.’ Adam grimaced. Stag Court’s chief clerk, Tony Jones, was determined to drag their esteemed chambers kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century by ‘building commercial relationships’. The trouble was it was difficult to build commercial relationships when your chosen target was dragged up as Edna Turnblad from Hairspray.
        Somebody knocked the door and Libby Trent poked her head in.
        ‘I thought I heard voices,’ she said cheerfully.
        ‘What can we do for you?’ Georgina returned, icily.
        Adam smiled. ‘You’re here early.’ Libby had just started her year’s pupillage under Jonathan Taylor-Cameron KC – the egotistical serial adulterer who had been Adam’s own pupil master during the previous year. Jonathan had enjoyed a glittering career of over thirty years, but now his bullish style was out of fashion and his star was burning out. Libby was finding his chauvinism impossible to bear. Adam had already had a couple of tête-à-têtes in the Wig and Pen with her.
        ‘I’m running errands for Jonathan,’ she said.
        ‘Is he too busy with his own reflection then?’ Adam joked.
        Libby smiled. ‘He’s working from home this morning.’
        ‘Which one?’ Georgina asked caustically. ‘Surely not the one with his wife in it. At least that will give you time to copy some papers for me.’
        If Libby realised that Georgina was hostile towards her she didn’t ever show it. Adam couldn’t deny that he enjoyed having Libby’s quiet and cheerful optimism around.
        ‘Is Jonathan still fixated on becoming a High Court judge?’ he asked.
        Libby nodded, as if holding back from saying anything indiscreet.
        ‘Of course he is,’ Georgina answered for her. ‘He’s not attracting the big clients anymore and has spent all his money on mistresses. Judges get a full-salary pension, right? They’re forced into the knacker’s yard at seventy-two.’
        Adam understood it wouldn’t be easy for Jonathan to become a High Court judge. In the old days he would have simply got a tap on the back to be invited to wear the red ermine. It was no longer the last thing you did before you hung up your wig. Nowadays younger, more dynamic judges were appointed by an independent panel who expected their candidates to pass an exam and show impartiality. Neither of these were Jonathan’s strongest suits.
        ‘I’d better get back to it before Patience gets in,’ Georgina said, turning to leave.
        Libby remained, her attention on Adam.
        Georgina raised her eyebrows. ‘Hadn’t you better crack on too?’
        ‘I suppose so.’
        But Tony Jones found them before they could get any further. ‘What are you three doing in here?’ he barked in his Cockney accent. He was wearing a suit that was ten times sharper than Adam’s, though his shaven-headed, craggily handsome appearance was considerably more worn.
        ‘I didn’t realise anyone had booked the room,’ Adam said.
        ‘They haven’t.’ Tony turned to Georgina. ‘Patience has just arrived.’
        ‘Shit.’ Georgina looked genuinely horrified.
        ‘Use the fire stairs. You might just beat her,’ Tony said.
        Georgina left swiftly, brushing past Libby.
        Tony’s eyes looked back at Adam. ‘How did it go last night?’
        Adam tensed in his gaze. ‘Really well.’
        Tony nodded. ‘That bad, eh? Well, there are three more mixers for you this week.’
        Adam had been planning on catching up on some sleep in his ‘studio flat’ on Holloway Road. He kept it neat and tidy but was tiring of cooking in his bedroom. He needed to find somewhere else to live but hadn’t time to look, although there seemed little point when he was so rarely there.
        Tony dipped his head at Libby. ‘Mind giving us a moment?’
        Adam stiffened even more. A private word didn’t sound good. Was this going to be a little inspirational ultimatum from Tony? He’d sensed its overture for the past few weeks.
        Libby left and closed the door after her. Tony stalked around the conference table and looked out of the window at the quiet cobbled street outside with his hands on his hips.
        ‘Coffee?’ Adam offered, eager to fill the silence.
        Tony shook his head. ‘You don’t seem to be bringing much to the table of late.’
        Adam looked down awkwardly.
        ‘And when I say “of late” I mean at all.’
        ‘I’m just not very good at . . . breaking the ice,’ he offered lamely.
        ‘Georgina’s having no problems,’ Tony retorted.
        ‘I know. I tried to persuade her to come with me last night.’
        ‘Forget that. Patience Foster has her under the cosh and that’s where she’s going to be for the foreseeable. Georgina’s going places but she ’s got a long road ahead of her.’
        Adam was glad Georgina wasn’t there to hear this.
        ‘So, you really can’t rely on her. You’ve got to bulldoze your way in. The work’s not going to fall into your lap.’
        Adam nodded, but knew it wasn’t as simple as that.
        Tony’s expression shifted slightly. ‘I might have a lifeline for you. But if you mess this up, I’m not sure where we go with you next.’ He took a step closer to Adam and lowered his voice. ‘You know about the situation with the Brooks case?’
        How could he have missed it? The media farrago still hadn’t abated, months on from the event, there wasn’t a hyperbole that hadn’t been attached to it, and #greatcelebritybumpoff and #killerchef were still trending online. Sebastian Brooks had been the regular celebrity chef on Wake Up Britain! when its star – the long-time darling of morning TV, Jessica Holby – had died live on air four months previously. A dish that he’d cooked for her had been found to trigger her anaphylactic shock because it had contained traces of miso paste. Holby had a well-documented allergy to soy and a blanket ban had been enforced on the set during all cooking segments. Brooks had been the show’s returning chef for over six years and was intimately aware of Holby’s condition, particularly as she’d worked with several charities to highlight it.
        ‘I certainly do – and I don’t envy Nisha that one,’ Adam remarked to Tony. He had worked with Nisha Desai the previous year on the equally high-profile Cliveden case. Since then, she’d been made partner in her solicitors’ firm.
        ‘Indeed. The case of the year. And you know Suzy?’ Tony raised an eyebrow.
        Adam nodded. He’d barely spoken a word to her before but defence barrister Suzy Benton-Joslin’s reputation more than proceeded her. ‘Robust, empathetic and punctilious,’ according to The Legal 500. ‘Less force of nature and more cyclone of efficiency.’ Impossibly glamorous, mother to three children and four dogs, and Adam had never seen her in Chambers without a perfect manicure to boot.
        ‘What’s she got to do with me?’ Adam asked, even though he could hazard a guess.
        ‘Not much up to this point. But presumably you’re aware of what’s happened with Rupert.’
        Adam had tried to see his closest friend at Stag Court, Rupert Harrington, only last week but had received no reply to his message. It was unlike him, but he understood that Rupert’s caseload was high, particularly with his prep for the Brooks case. ‘Is he OK?’
        ‘Stress. Doctor has strongly advised him to take some. . . time off.’ Tony didn’t appear all that comfortable with the concept.
        This was news to Adam. When had he last actually seen Rupert socially? It must have been over a month ago. Things had got so frantic for them both. ‘I should call him.’
        ‘He’s been told to rest. Four months,’ Tony said. ‘In any case, you’re not going to have time for social niceties. You’re going to be the new baby junior on the Brooks case.’
        Adam felt a surge of adrenalin. ‘Starting when?’
        Tony looked at his watch and sucked in air through his teeth. ‘Last Friday. That’s how long Harrington’s desk has been empty. Justin Denberg is the grown-up junior on this. He’s Suzy’s favourite and her technical wizard. He’s as busy as Suzy, so don’t expect to take up much of his time either.’
        Adam knew of Denberg’s reputation. He had finished his pupillage six years previously and was a rising star at Stag Court.
        The Brooks case. Adam could feel his heart pummelling his chest and tried to keep the excitement from registering on his face. This was as high-profile as it got. Four months later and still every newspaper and media platform was picking over the details of Jessica Holby’s death and asserting how overwhelming Brooks’s guilt was.
        ‘It’s Mission: Impossible though, isn’t it?’ Adam asked.
        Tony pursed his lips. ‘You work with Suzy and you keep your opinions to yourself. Everyone else here is too busy. Nisha has specifically asked for you. Says she appreciated your work with her on the Cliveden case – that’s the only reason you’re in the frame.’
        ‘I gather Brooks attempted to dispose of the contaminated food and then tried to abscond.’ Adam couldn’t have missed any of those developments – the frenzied media coverage was still at saturation point. ‘Plus he was having an affair with Jessica Holby that had gone sour and he’d threatened her in emails.’
        Tony nodded. ‘The police have no other suspects. They’re sounding cocky but it might be well founded. Brooks tried to transfer funds out of his bank as he was leaving for his family ranch in Venezuela, so he’s had his assets frozen. He’s legal-aided which is why you come into this. You weren’t exactly my first choice as replacement,’ Tony said. ‘But I’ve assured Suzy that not even you can mess this up. You’re there to help the cross-examiner. All you’ve got to do is show up and hold her handbag. You’re window dressing, not Judge Judy Green.’
        Adam let Tony’s comments roll over him. He was worried for his friend’s wellbeing. ‘I’m not sure I’m comfortable stepping into Rupert’s shoes.’
        ‘It’ll be even less comfortable for Brooks if he ends up with a life sentence,’ Tony retorted.
        ‘Does Rupert know it’ll be me?’
        ‘Immaterial. He’s “recuperating”,’ Tony said with a sneer. ‘Don’t worry. Harrington has already done a lot of the heavy lifting. The case is prepared and all you have to do is take a back seat and help Suzy and the junior. It’s a good opportunity for you to learn, Mr Green. Don’t waste her time. She won’t tolerate that. Now, do I really need to over-emphasise the value of this case to us?’
        Adam shook his head.
        ‘Suzy’s in Court Thirteen today but won’t be around later because her son’s got bronchitis. Probably quicker if you use Rupert’s desk. He won’t be needing it for a while.’ With that Tony took out his phone, hit a number and put it to his ear.
        Adam realised his pep talk was over. He picked up his attaché case from a chair and headed to the door.
        ‘Mr Green. Sir . . .’
        Adam turned. Despite Tony’s polite address Adam was more than aware that the clerk made ten times more money than he did and wielded fifty times more power.
        ‘I don’t want any heroics like last time. Belt and braces on this. The media focus will be intense throughout, so I want best behaviour. Jessica Holby was a national treasure. The public is still in mourning.’
        Adam took his leave and walked out into the corridor with Tony’s words turning over in his head. Moments before, his week’s schedule of countless bail applications at Bexley Mags had seemed daunting enough. Now he was troubled not just by the extra workload but by the notion of muscling in on Rupert. It was obviously a high-profile case and he didn’t want to be seen as riding on the coat-tails of his friend’s hard work. He took out his phone and sent him a text.

Just spoken to Tony and thought I’d check in. So sorry to hear you’ll be out of it for a while.

What else could he say? Should he mention that he was replacing him? Perhaps Rupert already knew. Adam decided to wait for a response first before he got into it. As he headed to his own room he passed Rupert’s on the way. Adam turned on the light and noticed his friend’s black Superdry puffer jacket was hanging on the back of his chair. His gym kit was spilling out of a sports bag under the window. He walked along the corridor to his own desk to get his stuff.
        At that moment Libby came out of Jonathan’s room carrying a small box wrapped in gold paper.
        ‘I recognise that,’ he observed.
        ‘Jonathan just called and told me to dispatch it.’ She held up the gift. ‘He’s got a drawer full of these with blank tags. Gets me to fill in a message before I get it delivered.’
        ‘I remember doing that too. Not to Mrs Taylor-Cameron, I take it?’
        ‘This one ’s for “Connie”. An address in Fitzrovia.’
        Adam grimaced. ‘I can guess what the message says.’
        Libby read aloud. ‘“Thank you for a wonderful night.”’
        ‘At least he hasn’t left her dangling,’ Adam observed.
        ‘It gets better. “Sorry we can’t make the rest of the journey together. May your road ahead be strewn with petals as fragrant and exquisite as the moment we shared.” ’
        Adam grimaced. ‘No kisses?’
        ‘It is a severance package.’ She rattled the box.
        ‘Any idea what’s in there?’
        ‘Chocolate truffles. Apt given that the sender is a pig.’
        Adam could tell how frustrated Libby was to be running the furtive exchange for Jonathan’s seedy love life. Having had the same experience last year he could certainly empathise.
        ‘What did Tony want?’ she said, deliberately changing the subject.
        Adam sighed. ‘Looks like I’m working with Suzy on the Brooks case now.’
        Her eyes brightened. ‘Amazing.’ She gauged his expression. ‘Or not?’
        ‘It was Rupert’s gig, but they want me to step in because he’s taking time off for stress.’
        Libby looked back at Rupert’s room. ‘I wondered where he’d gone.’
        ‘I feel terrible because I haven’t spoken to him properly for a while.’
        She creased her eyebrows in sympathy. ‘Well, somebody’s got to replace him on the case. I’m sure he’d rather it be you than anyone else.’
        ‘Thanks, but I’d rather hear that from him.’
        ‘The Brooks case though. That’s exciting.’
        Adam nodded uncertainly.
        ‘Wig and Pen later?’
        ‘I’ve got to go to another event tonight. Some annual canoeing convention.’
        ‘Beforehand?’ She clearly wasn’t going to let him wiggle out of it.
        At that moment Georgina emerged from Patience Foster’s room. She was gazing down at a sheaf of papers and heading towards the photocopy room. She looked up as if she hadn’t been expecting to find them there. ‘Just the person. Have you got time to do these for me?’ She offered the papers to Libby.
        ‘Sure.’ Libby took them with a smile.
        ‘Three copies, please.’
        Libby hovered, as if waiting to finish her conversation with Adam.
        ‘And we’ll need them now.’ Georgina raised an eyebrow.
        Libby nodded. ‘Catch up later,’ she said to Adam as she headed to the end of the corridor.
        Adam didn’t like the way Georgina only seemed to ask Libby to help with menial tasks. She’d been in Libby’s shoes only a year ago and wouldn’t have put up with being treated the same. Though he knew she was under a lot of pressure.
        ‘Rupert’s out of commission then?’
        So she’d been listening in to their conversation. ‘I had no idea he’d been struggling,’ Adam said, aware of the guilt he felt coming through in his voice. He checked his phone again. Still no response.
        Georgina’s features softened. ‘Casualties of war. I’m sure he’ll be back when he’s recovered.’
        Rupert had only been doing this a year longer than Adam. It didn’t bode well.
        At that moment, Patience Foster stepped into the corridor from her room. She was a diminutive but commanding figure with one of her trademark statement necklaces adorning the front of her starched white blouse. Her short, sleek black hair was set elegantly around her head, and she stood motionless, her gaze fixed intently on them.
        Georgina had her back to her but bristled.
        ‘Georgina?’ Patience said with imperious mystification.
        ‘On my way.’ Georgina leaned conspiratorially in towards Adam. ‘I think I’ll need time out for stress soon,’ she whispered before she turned.
        Georgina strode back to the room and Patience’s steely eyes scanned Adam from head to toe with indifference. She stepped in after Georgina and quietly closed the door. He didn’t envy his friend.
        But Adam had his own schedule to worry about now. He could hear Libby using the photocopier and wondered if he should pop in to finish their conversation. Probably a bad idea. She clearly wanted a therapy session in the Wig and Pen, and he was positive his social life was about to go on hold for the foreseeable. Glancing at his watch, he hurried to his desk.
        The Brooks case. Adam felt a rush of elation alongside his concern for Rupert. He had his orders though. He was about to become part of what would surely become the biggest showbiz story of the decade.

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The Suspect

Rob Rinder

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