Extraordinary Graces

Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces. — Rev. Mathew Henry 1662-1714

* * * * *

A drunk was caterwauling outside, which was to be expected, since their room was one floor above a pub, but it was 3 a.m., well past closing. Locan rolled onto his back and stretched out his arm, but all it found was vacancy and the rapidly dissipating warmth of his absent bedmate.

“Aw, c’mon down, darlin’. Have me babies. Jaysus! You’re beautiful.”

Locan sat up. “What the fuck is he going on about?”

Then he saw her, sitting naked in the great bay window. Her pale body silverescent in the light of a faint moon.

She seemed oblivious to the young man serenading her with drunken endearments from the quay below.


She didn’t stir.

“Racey! Get away from that window before the Gardai show up.”

“Hmm?” Finally she turned her gaze toward him. “I’m sorry, did I wake you up?”

“No, your friend outside woke me up. He’s going to wake all of Dublin up if you don’t get your pretty bare ass out of that window.

“Huh? Oh …” She stood, but lingered at the window, gazing out over the Liffey.

“You’re a goddess, you are. I’m shot through the heart!”

“Drunken asshole,” Locan muttered. He strode over to her and tugged her by her wrist.

Outside flashing lights and pointed conversation filled the night.

“I love her! I’m smote!”

“Smote with Guinness and shitfaced to a fare-thee-well. All right, now, get in the car quietly and we’ll give you a ride home.”

“But … my love, my angel.”

“Angels are you seeing? Get in the car.”

Locan listened as the Gardai pulled away with the love-struck drunk.

He held Rachel by her arms. “What’s going on with you?”

“Aw, hell, I don’t know. I thought it was a major bout of PMS, I can’t sleep, I can’t think straight. Sometimes I feel like my bones are going to explode.”

“Yeah … We’re going to have to do something about that.”

“I don’t want to go to a hospital.”

“What you need you won’t find in a hospital.”

“You know what’s wrong with me?”

“Hang in there for today. I think they forgot about us back in Rome; I haven’t gone this long without an assignment before. But, maybe that’s a good thing. One more day, and we’ll get you fixed up in the evening.”

“Jesus!” she cried and trembled. A cascade of blue fireflies tumbled over her shoulders.

“What? What’s going on? Are you going to shift?”

“Um … no, it was just a shiver up my back. Locan, what’s happening to me?”

“Nothing to worry about … trust me.”

He sat up with her until dawn and in the morning took her somewhere where they could get steaks.

“Make hers rare, extremely rare. I want to hear it moo when she puts her fork to it.”

The waiter’s brow furrowed. He eyed Rachel as she clasped her arms around her belly. He stepped away from their table.

“Probably thinks you’re jonesing,” Locan said.

The waiter brought their steaks. “Rare enough for you, sir, ma’am?”

“Is it still bleeding?”

“You can see for yourself.”

Locan lifted Rachel’s steak; red sticky droplets dripped back on the plate. Before he could put it down she snatched it with both hands and ripped into the flesh, licking the blood off her hands and drizzling it down her throat.

The waiter stood, eyes wide and mouth agape.

Locan dropped a pile of euros on the table. “That’ll do you for a while. Now let’s get out of here.”

Back at their room he asked, “Feeling any better?”

“Not much. Jesus, I wanted that steak.”

“Listen, you need to hold yourself together, in fact, I need you to look sexy.”

“Jesus, are you kidding?”

“This is important. Wear something slinky that shows a lot of skin.”

“What … what the fuck?”

“You have to hold it together and look your best, look better than your best. We’re going out tonight.”

“I feel like shit.”

“So long as you don’t look like shit. I know you can do it.”

“God … what the hell is happening?”

At 9 o’clock they walked across the bridge over the Liffey and Locan hailed a cab.

“You look hot,” he told her. “You look delicious in that little black dress.”

She sent him a sidelong glance and shook her head. But his eyes roamed to the shadow between her breasts, which stayed just barely out of sight in the low-cut, hip-hugging garment.

He directed the cabbie to the docklands and had him pull up outside a nondescript bar.

“Are you sure you want to take the lady in there, sir?”

“Yes … I hear the entertainment is first-rate.”

“I’ve no idea how you heard such malarkey, sir. That place is dangerous, there’s some hard-guys that hang out there, Russians or the like.”

“Thanks for the heads up. We’ll be fine.”

He tipped the driver and he and Rachel made their way to the bar.

“What the hell is this? What a dump,” she said.

“It’s the head shop of a ring of Albanian racketeers. They’ve been under Gardai surveillance for a year or more. One of their specialties is trafficking sex slaves. Young girls from the old Eastern Bloc, some Turks. Their other specialty is kidnapping, and extortion. The head of the gang in Dublin is a psychotic little sadist, a vicious asshole.”

“What does this have to do with us … with me?”

“Whatever happens, just follow my cues … when the time comes, you won’t even need to know what to do … it’ll come on you like instinct.”

“Locan … I have a bad feeling …”

“You didn’t bring your piece, did you?”

“No … I …”


He guided her through the door.

A lively conversation in a language she didn’t recognize ended instantly. A half-dozen men, some with great bulging bellies, others lean, their faces rat-like, stood staring. She felt like they were licking her with their eyes. One grinned revealing a mouthful of gold.

“Evening,” Locan said. “Mind if we take this table?”

They stepped around the men and sat. The men closed around them in a half-circle. One brazenly stood above Rachel and stared down her dress.

“What fuck? Who comes in here?”

The man had long stringy hair and a face pockmarked by long vanished acne. His eyes were glinty and his nostrils were raw.

He grinned at Locan. “Hello, cousin,” he said. “You come here … what … looking for good time, heh?”

“We’re just enjoying an evening out.”

“This your wife? Very pretty lady … I think maybe you want me to take care of your lady, heh?”

“I’m not sure what you mean?”

“I think maybe you have little tiny dick, heh?” He held up his hand pinching his thumb and forefinger together. “I think you feel sorry for pretty lady, maybe guilty, heh? Because pretty little lady like this deserves nice, meaty cock.”

“Well …”

“Here, baby, feel.” He undid his fly and pulled his cock out. He laid it on the table in front of Rachel as if it were a bratwurst.

Rachel glanced at Locan. He nodded, “It’s all right, dear, go ahead.”

“That’s right,” the man said, “touch Bujar’s pretty cock.”

Rachel reached and closed her hand around his shaft.

“Yes … very nice, no? Smooth like milk, heh? Thick and hard.”

Rachel began to stroke him.

“Oh, baby, you’re making me crazy. I think Bujar will introduce your pussy to his nice smooth cock, heh?”

The other men chuckled.

“Come, baby, come with Bujar and I give you nice fuck.” He yanked Rachel from her seat and pulled her toward the back of the bar.

The other men turned to grin at Locan.

“What kind man you are?” one said. “You like see your wife get fucked? If Bujar likes her, he maybe put her to work, turn her into whore, but first we all fuck when he is done with her.”

“You got cock, balls?” a younger man said, leaning toward Locan. “I think maybe you don’t need any more.”

He unfolded a knife. “Maybe we turn you into girl, then Bujar’s new whore has sister.”

They erupted into laughter.

Locan smiled. “I think Bujar picked on the wrong girl.”

Their smiles evaporated, and puzzlement momentarily molded their features. A high-pitched scream reverberated behind them. As they turned Locan stood and drew his revolver. One by one they turned back to him; one by one he dropped them with one shot each.

The door at the back of the bar crashed off its hinges. A sleek black animal stopped a moment, its eyes like molten blue coals. It bolted out the bar’s door.

Locan hadn’t noticed the two women, one probably in her seventies, the other younger, in her twenties. They surveyed the bodies still pumping blood onto the floor. The younger woman ran toward the backroom and peered in. She screamed and crossed herself three times, so did the old woman.

Locan stepped past them and out into the night. He hoped Rachel would remember their rendezvous place.

* * * * *

The rim of the sky glowed pink as Locan exited the cab in a remote area of Phoenix Park. He scanned the grass and shrubs. He didn’t expect to see the child.

The boy stood lower on a slope as if transfixed, his back to Locan.

“Oh-oh,” Locan muttered.

He took a step toward the boy. “You there, kid …”

The boy turned. “Mind your mouth.”


“You’ll rouse her.”

“Rouse who? What’re you looking at?”

“A faery, I think. Maybe a pooka.”

“It goddamned had better not be a pooka.” He stepped next to the boy and peered into the lightening gloom. He barely made out the curve of a naked feminine hip above the grasses.”

“So, that’s your game, peeking at naked ladies in the grass, eh?”

“No lady … faery. I saw the light, bright blue it’was. I expect there was a congregation of them, but she’s the only one left. Or maybe she’s human and had the glamour put on her.”

“How old are you, kid?”

“Twelve … almost thirteen.”

“Little old to be believing in faeries, aren’t you? She was probably out dogging.”

“No, sir. I’ve been studying faeries and their like all me life. You could consider me an authority.”

“That so? Well, what made you think she’s a pooka?”

“On account of the wolf.”

Locan winced. “Yeah? What wolf … wolfhound, maybe.”

“T’wasn’t that large, sir. And a pooka can assume any form it likes.”

“Listen, kid, you don’t want to be fooling around with pookas.”

“So, you’re acquainted with them, are you?”

“No … thank Christ. I’ve been able to avoid them, but some people I know, well, they weren’t so lucky.”

“Aren’t many grown-ups who’ll admit to that.”

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Liam, sir.”

“Hmm, well do me a favor, Liam, and keep an eye out for me while I retrieve the lady.”

“Are you sure you want to do that, sir. She’s apt to put the glamour on you.”

“Little too late for that, I’m afraid.”

Locan stepped over the where Rachel lay in the grass. He knelt down.

“Aw shit.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wet his fingers with his tongue. He tried to wipe away the blood caked around her mouth.

“Can’t let the kid see this.”

She stirred as he smudged her lips with the handkerchief.

“Locan?” Her voice was thick, groggy.

“Shh, you have an audience … an admirer, in fact.”

“Huh?” She tried to sit up.

Locan glanced over his shoulder. Liam was straining to see Rachel.

“Healthy kid,” Locan chuckled.

“Hmm?” Rachel raised her arms and rubbed her eyes as Locan moved to block Liam’s view.

He slipped out of his trench coat and placed if over her shoulders. “Here, get this on.”

“My dress … I loved that dress.”

“Sorry, kid, lost in the shift.”

“Shift? Oh, my God … Locan … I …”

“I know. We’ll talk about it later. Stand up now.”

He helped her to her feet. Liam approached them warily.

“Is she all right?”

Rachel cocked her head at the boy.

“She’s fine.”

“She’s terrible pretty.”

Locan smiled. “She is that.”

A Gardai car stopped on the side of the lane above them. A tall, dark-haired man in plain clothes stepped out.

“Locan!” he called out.

“O’Raghallaigh, glad to see you. Give us a ride into the city, will you?”

“Do I look like a fookin’ cabbie?”

“Watch your language, there’s a child present.”


He and Liam helped Rachel up the slope.

“Lt. Ruadhrí O’Raghallaigh, meet my partner, Racey McDaniels.”

Ruadhri scoped Rachel with an up-and-down gaze. “For the love of God, you weren’t dogging in the park, were ya? Aw, get in the back like the rest of the felons.”

Rachel slid onto the backseat. Locan sat beside her and saluted Liam. “Stay clear of those pookas, son.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Pookas?” Ruadhri said as he pulled away.

“Sure, I thought An Garda Síochána had its own pooka bureau.”

“The NSU maybe, not the NBCI.”

“Hmm?” Rachel moaned.

“Ruadhri’s with the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, An Biúró Náisiúnta um Imscrúdú Coiriúil.” Locan chuckled. “How’s my Gaelic?”

“Your pronounciation’s a bit off, but not too bad.”

“I’m sorry,” Rachel said. “My head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton.”

“The Irish version of the FBI,” Locan explained. “I take it,” he said to Ruadhri, “you’re going to apprise us of the repercussions.”

“We observed you and this lady entering the pub. Less than a half-hour later you came out by yourself. No one else … oh, except for a large black dog that blurred by like it just got released from perdition itself.” Ruadhri looked into the rearview at Rachel. He noticed the blood on the tips of her fingers as she swiped at her hair.

“Aw, for the love of Mary, I don’t want to know,” he said. “Just tell me this, what concern do Paladins have with Albanian gangsters?”

“Let’s just say, they were convenient. And no one is going to miss them. Hope we didn’t screw up anyone’s case.”

“There is no case any more. You’ve … eliminated the case. Later we raided a container yard we’d had under surveillance. Found nearly two hundred girls ready for shipment to North America.”

“All’s well that ends well, then,” Locan replied.

“I suppose. Except for the two women.”


“Bujar’s grandmother and cousin. We think he was humping the cuz, but he was twisted enough to be doing his grandmother too. Nah, she was probably just cooking for them.”

“What about them?”

Ruadhri said nothing for a moment. “They told us Bujar got killed by a werewolf.”

“Where she from, fucking Transylvania? Superstitious old bitch, you know how these Eastern Europeans are.”

“She said it was a woman.”

“That’s nuts.”

Ruadhri looked at Rachel in the mirror again. “I … Don’t … want … to … know. Where the hell am I taking you, anyway?”

“The pub on John Rogers Quay.”

“Done. By the way, better take a quick shower and check out. You have an Aer Lingus flight to catch this afternoon. We were asked to ensure you make it on time, so I’ll wait outside.”

“By whom?”

“Who do you think? The Vatican.”

“I hate trying to sleep on planes. Where are we off to?”


* * * * *

“It’ll be quicker if we shower together.”

“No!” she said, and emphatically closed the door in his face.


As she emerged tamping her hair with a towel, he hurried past her. “Feeling better?”

“Great,” she said.

He showered and emerged to find her with their scant luggage packed.

“You might find yourself feeling a little …”


“Um … yeah.”

“Your friend’s handsome,” she said.

“And married … four kids, all good Catholics.”

“Well … are we going?”


Ruadhri drove them to the airport and dropped them at the VIP gate at Aer Lingus. A small, sour-looking man with tight black curly hair emerged from a black Mercedes with a valise.

Monsignor Cellini’s face contorted as if someone were holding shit under his nose. He roughly pushed the valise at Locan.

“Get up on the wrong side of the bed, Monsignor?”

The cleric’s lip curled. “You are no better than thugs. Why the Holy Father allows your organization to continue I cannot say.”

“Questioning the wisdom of the Holy Father, Monsignor? Think you could do a better job?”

Cellini’s lip curled. He sneered as Rachel passed him.

Locan thrust out his arm and pushed him against a chain link fence. “Where the fuck do you get off looking at her with hairy eyeballs?”

Cellini’s eyes went wide. “Let me go! I’ll report this assault.”

Locan leaned into his face until they were nose-to-nose. Cellini reminded him of a miserable Portuguese cop who used to hassle him back in the neighborhood. He hadn’t thought about him in years. He relaxed his grip on Cellini.

“Didn’t your mama breast-feed you, or was the milk sour?”

Cellini shook himself like a wet dog. “Fornicators.”

“That’s always it, isn’t it? Assholes like you, constantly worried that someone, somewhere in the world is getting laid. Well, fuck you, monsignor … as if you could.”

Locan followed Rachel through the gate. Their diplomatic status ensured no customs checks as they were shown onboard the airliner.

They had settled into their seats without a word, through the takeoff, and were already an hour into their flight. Locan perused the documents in the valise.

“So,” she said finally. “What’s in Quebec?”

“Le Chateau Frontenac … a first-class hotel for a change.”

Rachel shook her head. “You know what I mean.”

“Actually, that isn’t our ultimate destination.”

“Then where?”



“Yeah, but some place so remote you can’t get there except from Canada.”

“What kind of place?”

“Brace yourself … looks like a convent.”


“Sorry, bad memories?”

“Fuck it. So, what’s the problem at this convent that they require the services of the Paladins?”

“It’s not entirely clear. Some supernatural activity … maybe the sisters are seeing ghosts. If they’re anything like the nuns I remember, it’s probably just their consciences bothering them.”

“I drank that guy’s blood!” Rachel blurted.

Locan put down the valise. “Yeah … that was the idea.”


“Why what? Why did you need to do it?”

“Yeah … why everything. Why’d you bring me there? Was it just to kill … feed on him?” She held back a sob but tears began to stream down her cheeks.

“Listen … You’re a hybrid, so I was hoping you wouldn’t have to deal with … I suppose you could call it a condition.”

“What?” She sniffed and tried to wipe the tears off her cheeks.

“Every so often … it’ll hit you.”

“What … what’ll hit me?”

“Rachel …”

“Oh, brother.”


“You only call me Rachel when you’re going to tell me something fucking terrible.”

“Well, here it is: Every so often you’ll need to ingest a bit of human DNA. Blood’s the easiest source.”

“Easiest? So, I’m a fucking vampire now?”

“No! You just … look, kid, if you don’t, then one day you may shift, and not be able to shift back.”

“So … I have to eat someone?”

“No … a little blood, that’s all.”

“I lapped that guy’s blood while it was still pumping out of his decapitated neck. A little? I gulped it all down and I didn’t care.”

“You were … you weren’t …”

“What? Human? Not just then? Locan, I can think … reason when I shift. It’s different than when I’m … normal. I mean, I guess I think in a different way, but it’s still me.”

She shrugged. “I knew what I was doing and I wanted to do it; I couldn’t get enough.”

“Yeah, well, think of it as if your body is trying to overcome a vitamin deficiency. Man, I get these cravings for orange juice sometimes, and I know I must be low on my C.”

“Jesus, Locan! Be serious.”

“I’m as serious as a heart attack. It’s just something …”

“I know … I need to deal with. I’ve been dealing with it, ever since I found out what I am. I thought I was handling it, but this is something right off the charts. It’s a fucking curse.”

“It’s not a curse.”

“What the fuck would you call it … a gift?”

“No … It’s just the hand you were dealt … you play it and make the best of it. Try to do some good with it.”

“Oh, sure, and when I’m down a quart I’ll just go out and rip someone to pieces … maybe eat them.”

“Listen, that little fuck Bujar, no one is going to miss him. He didn’t even pass Go, he went straight to fucking hell and good riddance.”

“That’s not the point.”

“The hell it isn’t! That guy tortured kids in front of their parents; he kidnapped young girls right off the streets and condemned them to a life of misery. That’s not human; that’s a piece of shit. You’ve been told before, Rachel; I’ve told you, we’re in the business of taking out the garbage. And you are uniquely equipped to do that.”

She began to cry quietly.

“I know it sucks, but …”

“I have to fuck!”


“Please, Locan …”

The flight attendant passed.

“I want … Jesus, I want that ass.”

Locan scoped the green-uniformed woman with the wide hips.

“Um, yeah, she’s got the build of a good strong agricultural Irish girl, but … um … that wouldn’t be a good idea.”

Rachel growled.

“Yeah … It’s a side effect. Okay … c’mon; come with me.”

He took her by the hand and led her to the lavatory. A woman reading a paperback glanced at them from her seat, smiled and gave Locan a wink.

Locan nodded back and pushed Rachel through the door.

“Aw, Christ, it’s no bigger than a coffin,” he whined.

Rachel fell to her knees and began tearing at his fly.

“Don’t rip … shit!”

She had his cock out and looked ready to devour it.

“For the love of God, Racey, don’t bite!”

Then he was in her mouth and his head knocked back against the door as his eyes swam behind their lids. Instantly he was rigid as steel.

Rachel stood and wrestled her skirt off her hips. Locan heard her panties rip and opened his eyes as she climbed, crablike up the walls of the lavatory. When her pussy was in line with the tip of his cock she ordered, “Fuck me!”

He speared her sex and began to thrust.

“Harder … harder! God, I want to explode.”


Instead she began to howl, her body a piston on his cock, with her knees pressed against his shoulders and her forearms braced against the walls.

Locan could feel the overflow of her juices glazing his balls.

She thwacked him with the heel of her hand. He shook it off, but she thwacked him again.

Now she let out a shriek. He gave up any hope of sneaking back to their seats unnoticed.

Rachel shuddered, then shuddered again. Only the whites of her eyes showed. Then the blue fireflies danced around her head.

“Oh, no … Racey … hold it together, don’t shift.”

She exhaled a long shuddering sigh.

He helped steady her as she pulled up her skirt and adjusted her t-shirt. He pushed his draining cock into his pants but could only tug his fly together. The zipper was half torn away. He backed out of the lavatory guiding Rachel.

Every eye in business class met them as they emerged. He noticed the woman with the paperback absently withdraw her hand from under her skirt.

They made their way to their seats with as much dignity as they could muster and sat.

A moment later the flight attendant held out a scrap of fabric to Rachel.

“Here, dear, you left these,” she said and handed her the shredded panties. “It’s a shame you can’t smoke in flight, but I could bring ya a shot of Jameson … could I?”

“That would be wonderful,” Locan said.

“My pleasure, darlins.”

“I’ve always loved the service you get on Aer Lingus,” Locan said, and relaxed.

The attendant brought their drinks and a blanket for Rachel, “In case you feel a draft, dear.”

Later she returned to remove the empty glasses set on their tray. Rachel had nodded off with her head against Locan’s shoulder, snoring softly. He too snored until the attendant gave him a little shake.

“The captain was afraid we were having engine trouble, darlin’.”


As he sat up he roused Rachel, but she continued to snuggle against his shoulder.

“I was hoping to take some time to see my family,” she said. “I haven’t seen my mom in almost two years. My sister just had another baby … a girl.”

“So, what’s stopping you?”

“I don’t think I can … now.”

“Nothing’s changed.”

“Maybe not, but I’m beginning to realize what it means. Locan, I’m going to live for centuries; everyone I love is going to die around me. Even … you.”

He shrugged. “So … you meet … new people.”

“You’ll get old, Locan.”

“Maybe I’ll surprise you … and die before I need to file for my pension.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Everybody wants to live forever.”

“They wouldn’t if they knew what it really meant. I … if I asked you … would you …?”

“No, so don’t ask. Don’t ever ask.”

“I’m already feeling lonely,” she said, her voice breaking.

“I have a brother and a sister,” Locan said. “The last image my sister has of me is holding some creep’s heart in my hand that I’d just ripped out of his chest.”

“You told me; you saved her life.”

“She was eight years old. What the hell do you think sticks in a kid’s mind? Anyway, she has babies herself now, but I’ve never seen them. She won’t let me near them. My brother … he blames me for my mom dying without friends.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“That’s right; I know that. It’s not you’re fault either. People get born with genetic diseases, they come down with cancer. They get by; they have no other choice. What you have isn’t a disease, Rachel. Make the most of it; the rest you just endure, like anyone else. After this gig is over, go see your mom and your baby niece. Who knows? Maybe she inherited …”

“God, please no.”

“All the same, she may need some guidance some day.”

* * * * *

They were met at Jean Lesage International by an elfish little man with sparking blue eyes and bright white hair.

“Welcome to Quebec, I’m Monsignor Emile Chartrand, so good to meet you.”

The monsignor took Rachel’s hand and kissed her cheeks like a sweet uncle. He shook Locan’s hand.

“You’re a big one,” the diminutive monsignor said. “A big strapping man and a very pretty mademoiselle. I’ve always wanted to meet a Paladin; there are so many stories, I feared they might be just a legend. Are all the Paladins as beautiful as you two?”

“Mon pere, the truth is, except for us, they’re a pretty ugly bunch.”

The monsignor laughed out loud.

Locan wondered, what a difference from that prick Cellini.

Monsignor Chartrand led them to a black Cadillac. “Diocesan house?”

“No, monsignor, the Frontenac.”

The mild little cleric blushed. “Oh, to be young, and not yet taken one’s vows.”

He drove them to the hotel’s entrance and handed Locan a parcel before taking his leave and promising to pick them up the next morning.

“Bless you both,” he said, tracing a cross in the air toward them as he departed in his big Caddy.

Their room was high above the city and the shimmering St. Lawrence.

“I’ve always liked this place,” Locan said.

“Oh? Who were you here with?”

“A shaman … a very lovely Abenaki princess. Strictly business.”

“Before we met?”

“About a year. How about a bath? The tub is huge.”

Locan joined her in the tub only after washing her back, shampooing and rinsing her hair. He slid behind her and she lay back against his chest as he closed his arms around her breasts. They didn’t talk, but kept their own thoughts. When she had nodded off he roused her and led her out of the tub, toweling her gently as if she were the most fragile thing in the world.

He led her to the bed. She slid beneath the covers nude.

“Go to sleep,” he said. “You had a hell of a couple of days.”

“What did Monsignor Chartrand give you?”

He turned and lifted the parcel on the nightstand. He slid a finger beneath the seal and opened it.

Rachel’s eyelids fluttered as she lay on the edge of slumber.

“The Daughters of the Holy Spirit,” Locan said. “Also known as the Sisters of Grace. I thought they were extinct.”


“It’s a medieval order that died out. It had a reputation for mysticism; people even believed the nuns weren’t human at all, but angels. Some bishop is trying to revive it and picked some godforsaken corner of Maine that even East Bumfuck looks down its nose at.”

“Does it say why they summoned us?” Rachel yawned.

“No … just supernatural occurrences reported by numerous observers. Sounds like they need Ghostbusters, not us.”

Rachel began to snore.

* * * * *

In the morning Monsignor Chartrand arrived with a Land Rover.

“Come, come, mes amis, we have a long journey before us.”

Locan and Rachel climbed in and the monsignor popped the clutch jerking them through the old town and on to the ferry to Levis. On the southern shore of the St. Lawrence they turned east.

“Mon pere,” Locan said as they pitched and throttled along. “Bishop Roncal, who is trying to re-establish the order …, I wonder if he is the same Roncal …”

“One and the same.”

“Huh? Who?” Rachel asked.

“This guy, Roncal. He’s been in and out of favor with Vatican administrations and top officials. He’s an archconservative, still chafing over the end of the Latin Mass. Practically called out John XXIII as the antichrist. He wanted mandatory religious service for all Catholic youth worldwide.”

“How did he expect to do that?”

“Every girl was to be sent to a convent for three years and every boy to a seminary or abbey for the same period starting when they were sixteen – just to see how they liked it.”

“Holy shit!”

“Sacre merd!” The monsignor laughed.

“Anyway,” Locan continued, “About ten years ago he starts spouting off about organizing new crusades against Muslims, and how the Holocaust wasn’t really a bad thing and Hitler was an instrument of God. So he gets packed off by the pope somewhere to ‘reflect.’ As far as I knew he was still reflecting, or he’d died. But it turns out this is his project, he and this Father Pankowski.”

“He is a good man,” the monsignor assured Locan. “I knew Father Pankowski many years ago when we served at a parish in Poughkeepsie. He has a great and generous heart and he became concerned about the plight of victims of human trafficking.”

“Poughkeepsie, huh?”

“Many years ago.”

“Hmm. So Roncal must be back in someone’s good graces in Rome. Maybe this is his penance.”

“Rome was actually quite surprised to hear about him,” the monsignor said.


“There was a … well … a lapse in protocol. Bishop Roncal had appealed to the Archdiocese of Quebec for an exorcism, but all of Maine is under the Diocese of Portland, in the Province of Boston. The archbishop responded with a cc to the Bishop of Portland who sent it along to the Vatican, and so here you and Rachel are.”

“He asked for an exorcist?” Locan chuckled. “I wonder what he thinks he has up there in the woods.”

They had traveled nearly four hours through villages congregated about churches with silver spires. The land was cleared; but ahead they saw dense forests rise up.

“The United States begins where the trees grow,” the monsignor said.

A bumpy two-lane road led to an unpaved patch and then veered into the woods. They had driven a few hundred yards when they encountered a lone U.S. border guard.

“I won’t ask where you’re going,” he said, “because there’s only one place you could be going, but I need to know who you are and where you’ve been.”

“Sorry, officer, that’s privileged information.”


Locan handed him his credentials.

“Vatican consuls?” The officer shrugged. “Okay, have a nice day.”

The monsignor popped the vehicle into gear and proceeded into the trees.

“No Canadian border personnel?” Locan asked.

The monsignor shrugged. “Why bother?”

The dirt road was well maintained, not too many ruts and bumps. After about a mile they broke out of the trees and into sunshine muted by gray scudding clouds. The building appeared suddenly on their left, as if it were waiting in ambush.

“What the …? How the hell did they manage to build something that big out here in the sticks?” Locan marveled.

From what they could see it was two floors in height, with wings forming the shape of a cross but with a tower rising in the center. Locan thought of the keep of a castle.

“They must have spent a ton of money just to get people to come here and bring the material to build it,” Rachel added.

To their right, women in long, off-white skirts and head shawls stopped their work in a vegetable field and gazed at the Land Rover.

“I guess they don’t get many visitors,” Rachel said. “Oh, God, are those graves?”

They pulled up beside a small patch of ground where two white wooden crosses marked freshly turned earth. The monsignor cast a blessing toward them and popped the vehicle back into gear. They stopped at the apparent entry. A heavyset priest with hair as white as the monsignor’s greeted them with a wide grin.

“Emile! So, they gave you your monsignor stripes.”

“Joe! You’ve become fat!”

The two clerics hugged as Locan and Rachel stood by.

“Joe Pankowski, meet Garreth Locan and Rachel McDaniels – they are from Rome.”

“Rome? They sent you to help?”

“Just as soon as we figure out what your problem is, padre,” Locan said and shook the priest’s hand.

“Problem … what a benign word that is,” the priest replied. “We are cursed by a terrible thing. But please, you must speak with Bishop Roncal.”

Rachel and Locan cast a glance over their shoulders toward a shrill scolding voice. A nun was berating two younger women in the field for stopping their toils.

“That brings back unpleasant memories,” Rachel said.

Father Pankowski showed them into the convent.

They followed a long corridor. Ahead they could see the building open into a grand hall, but the priest directed them to an office off to the left.

A long-jawed cleric with white-streaked black hair sat behind a desk.

“Who are these people?” he demanded. His eyes narrowed at Rachel. “Who is this woman, why is she standing in my presence with naked legs?”

“It’s called a skirt,” Rachel replied.

“Bishop, this is Mr. Locan and Miss McDaniels … from Rome.”

“I did not ask …” he stood and glared. “They sent me Paladins? That is what you are, are you not?”

“It’s that obvious?” Locan said, and mockingly shook his head.

“We need an exorcist … not … policemen.” He said the last word like he was trying to spit up something sour.

“I’m afraid the church’s exorcists are a bit overextended just now. Suppose you tell us what’s troubling you and we’ll see what we can do. Sometimes all you need is a cranky old cop to kick a little ass … your eminence.”

Roncal’s face twisted. “There is an entity … it has already taken the souls of two of our sisters.”

“The graves …” Rachel said.

“What happened to them?” Locan pressed.

“Poor, poor children,” Pankowski said. “They were trapped by the thing; we heard their screams, but we could not reach them. Overcome we were, by the odor and …”

“What? Odor?”

“Mr. Locan … they … when we reached them, their faces … the poor souls had been frightened to death.”

“What were you saying about an odor?”

“You’ll know it if you ever face it,” Roncal said. “Excrement and rotting flesh, foul putrefaction.”

Locan drew a thumb across his lips. “Shit!” he muttered.

Rachel’s look conveyed a question, but Locan said nothing more.

A nun had joined them, the one who had been supervising the others in the field. When she saw Rachel she took hold of her shoulders and spun her around.

“Hey! What the …?”

“Cover yourself!”

“Back off, bitch!”

Roncal slapped his hand on his desk. “Enough! If I must be your host, you will conform to our rules. No bare legs, young woman.”

“Fine, I brought a couple of pairs of jeans.”

“Sister Excepta,” Roncal said. “Would you and Sister Bernadine please show our guests to their rooms. “I’m afraid the cells here are quite spare, as they should be.”

“We will want to begin interviewing the sisters right away,” Locan said.

Roncal huffed. “We will arrange it; if I am drawn away by other responsibilities, Sister Excepta will sit in on …”

“No, your eminence.”

“What?” He acted like he’d been slapped.

“No one sits in on these interviews.”

“Then I will not have it.”

“You have no choice.”

“I am the bishop of …”

“And I’m here on orders from Rome and that supersedes your authority, Bishop Roncal. Racey and I will interview the sisters privately. How many of them are there?”

“Fifty-eight,” Father Pankowski said. “Last week … there were sixty. To think all they have already endured.”


“All these young women were plucked from the most evil enterprise in this world … they were trafficked like slaves. Mostly from Eastern Europe. I’m afraid, Mr. Locan, that either I or Sister Excepta will have to sit in to translate.”

“Okay, padre. I choose you. And the first nun we’ll question is Sister Expectorant here. How about in that big hall?”

“Very well, said Roncal. It’ll take an hour to assemble the sisters.”

“Bring them in groups of ten.”

A fat nun with a dull, bovine expression entered.

“Sister Bernadine,” Excepta said. “Take these people to our spare rooms.”

The cow-faced woman said nothing, but turned and went out the door. Locan, Rachel and Monsignor Chartrand shrugged and followed.

* * * * *

Rachel was shown to a room of her own. Locan and Monsignor Chartrand were taken to another one.

“Have you any idea what might be afflicting them?” the monsignor asked as they fumbled about the cramped cell. “For it to take lives, it must indeed be something evil.”

“I have an idea, mon pere. It’s very rare, and very unpleasant. But evil? No … not in and of itself.”

Father Pankowski and Sister Excepta awaited them in the hall. A queue of young nuns also waited.

“All right, Sister Ipecac,” Locan began, “This thing … have you seen it and can you describe it?”

The nun crossed herself.

“I’m sorry; I don’t deal in sign language. Try opening your mouth and forming words.”

“I have only glimpsed it. It is foul, evil. And my name is Excepta.”

“What did it look like?”

“Something evil.”

“Did it wear a hat?”

The nun just looked at him dumbly.

“Okay … you’ve been a ton of help. Next victim.”

Rachel passed by in the corridor just then. She wore jeans low on her hips and a tied top that bared her midriff. Sister Excepta’s jaw fell like a trap door as she watched her sashay by.

Locan continued to interrogate the other nuns. They wouldn’t look at him, but focused intently on their folded hands. One by one, in tiny little-girl voices, all told of a sickening odor and a terrible chill that always presaged the arrival of the thing. After interviewing thirty sisters, Locan called a break.

“These girls are scared witless,” he told Pankowski.

“Of course, of this horrible thing.”

“Maybe … or maybe they’re just scared. How old are these girls; they look awfully young to be in a convent.”

“Early twenties.” The priest replied, but he looked away when he said it.

“That the high range, Father? Some of them look a lot younger.”

“Seventeen … perhaps.”

“Perhaps younger?”

“You have to understand; they’ve lost their families, they have no place to go … what they endured …”

“I understand, Father, but has any attempt been made to find their relatives?”

“They have embraced the religious life.”

“Father … I think some of these girls aren’t of age to consent to this.”

“But Bishop Roncal assured me every measure had been taken.”

“Did he?”

* * * * *

Rachel had finished perambulating the property and now strolled into the gardens where cow-faced Sister Bernadine stationed herself like a sheep dog monitoring the young women turning the soil.

A few of them stood and gasped when they saw Rachel.

The big nun turned too, but remained dumb as a rock, her mouth agape as Rachel passed.

Rachel smiled at the sisters. They seemed fascinated by her.

“Miss … Miss, please.”

A sister knelt in front of a mound of soil where she tended a plant.

Rachel looked down. “Are you talking to me?”

“Please, Miss,” she said without looking up, “can you help us?”

“That’s what we came for … to rid you of …”

“No, no, please, Miss …”

“What … what’s the matter?”

“None of us … none of these girls want to be here. I … I am not even Christian; I am Muslim.”


“Please, Miss, can you help?”

“What’s your name?”

“Aysel, Miss. Please do not tell the other one I spoke to you.”



“Where are you from Aysel?”

“Turkey, a small town near Ankara. I was taken from my family.”

“I’ll help you … and the others.”

Rachel left the girls in the garden and returned to the convent. The sun was beginning to slip behind the trees.

Locan and Pankowski were outside Roncal’s office as she entered the corridor. She waved to Locan and spoke to him before he went in.

“Locan … these girls … They’re all here against their will. They don’t want to be nuns; they just want to get home to their families.”

“Who told you?”

“A girl in the garden. Locan, she’s a Turk. She’s not Catholic; she isn’t even Christian.”

“That’s what I suspected. I don’t know what Roncal’s up to; that nun is in on it, though. I’m not sure about Pankowski; I kinda think he was duped by the bishop. He really wants to believe he’s helping these girls.”

“What do we do?”

“Get them the hell out of here. First we toss it up to Roncal.”

They entered the bishop’s office.

“Well?” the bishop demanded.

“You’re right, your eminence, there’s something hideous going on here. And you’re the perpetrator.”

“What? How dare you …?”

“What are you going to do with these girls? Sell them back to the traffickers? Make enough money for you to … what? Stage a coup? Take over the Vatican?”

“I am not a pimp! These young women will be trained in the religious life; they will be the vanguard of the church’s renaissance, the true church that will subdue all false faiths.”

“Holy shit! You believe that? You’re forcing these girls to be nuns?”

“Purification! The church has required purifications from time to time.”

“And how were you going to do that? Enforced virginity? Haven’t you caught on to the law of dwindling returns? If nobody fucks, there are no more people, Christian or otherwise.”

“Then we will return to Him … clean, perfect in His image.”

“Bishop,” Pankowski said, his voice unsteady. “Is it true? You said these girls embraced the faith, the opportunity to serve God.”

“They will, Father. But they must be brought to the altar, even unwillingly, their carnal impulses forced down, disciplined, held here until they shed their earthly passions.”

Locan could see Pankowski’s eyes brimming.

Rachel stood in a corner. “You sick bastard; it’s always the same story with you guys. Everything and everyone is dirty and foul.”

“You dare talk to me … half-naked harlot!”

In the hallway outside a rush of slippered feet and weeping echoed.

“What’s going on?” Rachel demanded. She opened the door in time to see the tail end of a queue of nuns retreating into the building. Excepta and Bernadine herded them along like a line of sheep.

Locan drew a cell phone from his pocket. “Those girls are out of here.”

“You’ll get no reception,” Roncal said, his lips curled into a sneer.

“Then we’ll send Monsignor Chartrand somewhere where there is reception.”

A wail and then a chorus of screams reverberated from the center of the building.

“It’s returned,” Roncal said. His sneer disappeared; his face blanched.

Locan ran into the corridor and into a wall of stench.

“Garrrgh! Try not to retch. C’mon.”

He ran ahead of Rachel and turned the corner into the grand hall. Monsignor Chartrand stood between the thing and the girls, but he was swaying on his feet. The smell was overpowering.

Locan coughed and tried to hold the contents of his stomach down.

It was a corded knot of shit and ooze, about five feet high with grotesque clumps of hair, matted and spiky.

It turned and Locan could see it had eyes too. They were blue, clear, and somehow they seemed more horrible than the form and substance of the thing itself.

Locan drew his revolver and fired, then again until he had emptied the weapon.

The thing faded, but its stink permeated everything.

Monsignor Chartrand and several of the girls had fainted. Rachel tried to revive them. The others cried and trembled, holding on to each other in mortal fear.

“Wake up, mon pere; we need you.”

“I think I’m going to throw up,” Rachel said. “What a reeking stink of shit.”

“Get the girls and the monsignor outside.”

* * * * *

The monsignor revived in the fresh air. Rachel calmed the hysterical girls, quietly walking among them. Some clung to her as she passed.

Locan gave his cell phone to Monsignor Chartrand. “I’m sorry, mon pere; I know it’s getting dark, but take it slow. As soon as you get out of this dead zone, press this one button. A guy named Jacoby is going to answer. Tell him exactly what I tell you.”

Rachel stood in the garden surrounded by the girls as the monsignor fired up the Land Rover and drove out of sight.

Locan called Roncal, Pankowski and Rachel together.

“I told you we were beset by evil,” Roncal said.

“You brought it on yourself,” Locan said. “That thing came into being because of the fear, hopelessness and despair you brought to this place.”

“You lie!”

“What is it, Locan?” Rachel pressed.

“It’s an elemental; I suppose they didn’t spend much time on them during your training. There’ve only been a few recorded throughout history. The last one haunted an old Irish castle where people were tortured and left to starve in a deep dungeon.”

“The stink!” Rachel said. “Did you kill it?”

“You don’t kill this thing. I just distracted it, and everyone else. Hoping a loud noise would make them forget how afraid they were of the thing.”

“Then how …?”

“It’s energy … just energy. It’s malevolent energy, but that’s all. It intensifies in places of extreme misery, hopelessness, fear. After awhile it becomes conscious, aware of itself. But most especially, it becomes aware of how much it enjoys fear and despair. When it manifests itself it takes the form of all the things we find loathsome and repulsive so it generates even more fear and disgust. If it can frighten a person to death … It’s like a junkie on a hot dose.”

Locan said to Roncal. “These girls are frightened; they’ve all but given up of ever seeing their families again. They’ve regressed to a point at which they’re like eight-year-old girls … children. After what they’d already been through, you brought them here to a prison where you planned to beat them down until they surrendered their souls to you. That’s what brought this elemental into being … and now it’s feeding off their fears.”

“I will not let you hurt these girls! Not again!” Pankowski stepped in front of Roncal who cowed at his outburst.

Rachel pointed toward the horizon. “Locan … the weather. There’s a lightning storm building.”

Locan scanned the darkening skies. “Damn … okay, they’re going to have to go back in. I want everyone in the big hall. If this thing shows up again … That’s where we’ll have to fight it. Don’t let anyone go off by themself.”

They guided the reluctant girls back into the building with Pankowski leading the way. Locan saw Roncal duck into his office and heard the door lock click.

“Fool,” he muttered.

Rachel touched his shoulder. “Locan … how do we fight this thing?

“We don’t … you do.”

“What? How … you said we couldn’t kill it.”

“It will dissipate if it doesn’t get what it needs to maintain its sentience.”

“What can I do?”

“These girls … I don’t know, I think maybe the younger ones aren’t more than fourteen or fifteen, but all of them have been so browbeaten by Roncal and his bitch Excepta that their mindset is more like a child.”


“You make them feel safe; they’ve embraced you as a protector. I saw it the way they clung to you in the field.”

“But I still don’t know what I’ll do if …”

“Rachel, were you ever afraid of the dark?”

She shrugged. “Not really. My sister was petrified.”

“Well, when I was a little kid I was afraid of the dark. Most kids are at one time or another. But my mom gave me a scruffy, second-hand teddy bear. And I got to believe that that teddy bear would protect me, that nothing was going to get past that teddy bear to get to me. Every little kid with a teddy bear believes the same thing.”


“Rachel, those girls … when the time comes, you have to be their teddy bear … as only you can.”

He watched her chin tremble, and then she squared her shoulders.

She nodded and hurried down the corridor to the grand hall.

The girls sat on the floor in a circle as thunder crashed outside. As Rachel approached Sister Excepta stood over two girls screeching. Pankowski ordered her to stop.

Instead the nun slipped a knotted rope belt off her waist and began to flail it at the girls.

Rachel was on her in a second. She spun her around and yanked the belt from her. Twice she whipped it across her face.

“Does it hurt, you bitch?”

The nun screamed and ran out of the hall.

“What the hell was that all about?”

“She accused them of … relations. They were just hugging each other.”

“This stinking thing could show up any second and all that crazy cunt can think about is crap like that?”

No sooner had she said it than the hall reeked as if sewage had backed up. There was a spine-jangling scream.

The girls cried and mobbed Rachel.

Amid a sound like sludge coursing down a drain the thing coalesced and approached, its stench burning their nostrils and their eyes.

Rachel tried to keep her stomach down, but gagged when she saw the nun’s head, apparently alive, lolling outside the cords of excrement that bound the thing together, her mouth gurgling out a pus-like sauce. An instant of horror seized her heart, but it gave way to a cool anger.

Behind her she heard Locan shout, “Cover your eyes.”

A fountain of blue fireflies sprayed behind her shoulders and then the hall pulsed with a blue light

The thing halted. The animal that emerged from the light charged.

“No! Don’t touch it, Racey!”

Locan turned away as another blinding burst of blue light illuminated the hall.

A naked Rachel stood a nose away from the thing.

“I’m not afraid of you!” she hissed. Then as if to taunt it, “No one is afraid of you.”

The thing shuddered, then faded into a brown-green haze and retreated.

A moment later a scream resounded along the corridor. Locan and Pankowski followed the echoes to Roncal’s office. The thing had absorbed the bishop like an amoeba.

The lightening had subsided and a clean breeze penetrated the building.

“Let’s get everyone outside,” Locan said.

* * * * *

They remained outside the whole night. The girls remained close to Rachel, forming a tight circle around her.

In the morning the chattering of a helicopter grew louder. The aircraft landed close by and a man in a suit emerged.

“Agent Mullens,” Locan shouted.

A squadron of armored trucks came out of the woods and then a convoy of buses.

“What’s this?”

“Joint U.S.-Canadian task force … FBI, RCMP, PQ, all SWAT cops. Fuckin’ United Nations is in on this one. We heard you busted some goddamned slave plantation up here. Washington’s in a shit-fit over it.”

Monsignor Chartrand stepped off the lead bus.

“Yeah, this little guy put the call in to Rome then the State Department lit up. Jesus, it’s a big to-do. What the hell do you got here?”

“Just a bunch of scared girls who want to go home, Mullens.”

Locan, Pankowski and Chartrand watched the armed police enter the building with military precision.

“I did all this?” the monsignor said, swiping his forehead with his hand. “Mon Dieu.”

Locan laughed. “Yeah, just a little overkill, mon pere.”

Locan saw Rachel was still mobbed by the girls, trying to touch her and reluctant to leave her to board the buses. She hugged them each.

“Locan,” Mullens called from the entry. “You got some guy’s body and what looks like a dead nun in here … They’re all covered in shit. For crissakes, there’s shit everywhere.”

“That’s not even the half of it.”

* * * * *

Around the globe the spin machines were wearing out their bearings with conflicting reports finding their way into the media. One thing everyone had agreed on was that nearly sixty young women had been rescued; but, from whom, or what? Human traffickers?

What the hell were they doing in Maine? What did the infamous Bishop Roncal have to do with it? Was the Vatican involved? The questions kept coming and the answers became more muddled, from the Holy See, the U.S. State Department. Canada took custody of the girls on behalf of the U.N. Commission that set about reuniting them with their families.

Meanwhile, Locan and Rachel bided their time in an ordinary travelers motel near the jetport in Portland, Maine. In two days they would hop a commuter flight to Boston and then on to Rome to report in person to Cardinal LeRocque. In the meantime, they had attended a minor league baseball game and rooted for the local Sea Dogs, sampled some seafood restaurants and slept late.

He knew his tongue had found her sweet spot the way her hips lifted off the bed. She pounded the side of his head with the heel of her hand and he feared if she didn’t slide over the edge soon he’d end up with a concussion.

She wailed like a banshee as all the tension seeped out of her pores. Her body melted back onto the bed

“Ohhh,” she moaned. “Why’d you do that? … I was having a wonderful dream.”

“I was feeling hungry.”

He kissed her lips, smearing her with her own juices.

“Nice dream … huh?”

“Yes,” she sighed.

“I’m glad.”

She rolled onto her side and he spooned against her, kissing her shoulders, and taking deep breaths of her hair that was redolent of perfume and perspiration.

“We couldn’t have saved those girls without you,” he said. “Only you … you were the only one.” He couldn’t see her face, but he could tell she was smiling.

“But, how could you stand being so close to it?”

“I just didn’t notice the stink anymore,” she replied “Why did you warn me not to touch it; what would have happened? I wanted to tear it apart.”

“Nothing probably.”

“What?” She glanced at him over her shoulder.

“Aw, c’mon, you would have been covered in shit – you didn’t want that. Besides, what the hell could I do with you then? I’d have to find a Laundro-Mutt.”

Rachel laughed.

“That sounds good. How about you tell Jacoby you want that time off? Go see your family.”

“He’d never …”

“Don’t take no for an answer; you stood up to the shit pile, you can stand up to that little dwarf.”

She laughed again. “Okay. Come with me?”

“Huh? Nah, you wouldn’t want me tagging along. Your mom would probably be wondering …”

“I don’t care. She’d probably like you; you’ll be a new audience for her when she says how much she loves her youngest daughter, despite all the disappointments.”

“But you work for the Vatican.”

“Yeah, and how am I supposed to explain that?”

“Tell her we investigate miracles. I mean, we kinda do that.”

“You help me explain it to her.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“I’d like to see Devorah again.”

“Huh? The Jewish girl in New York? She and her husband had themselves quite the adventure, eh? Good people. What made you think of her?”

“The moment she met me she knew what I was; but, she wasn’t afraid. She understood. We understood each other. It was like telepathy … with my best girlfriend.”

“Does every woman have to have one?”

She shrugged and rolled onto her stomach. Locan sent his hand skimming up her back, and over her ass. He kissed the dimples on either side of her spine and just above her tailbone and the blue circle that gave away her ancestry.

He thought ahead, to a time when he would age and she would not, when love notwithstanding, it would be unseemly for a man of his years to be with, much less lie with a young girl like her.

But for now her hair was his to touch, her shoulders his to kiss, her breasts his to suckle and squeeze. Her belly, her thighs, her ass, her ankles, were all his.

For the time being.

© 2011 Robert Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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