25a: The Choices of Master Yukio, Parts I & II

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When It Happened (Campaign Time):
August, 2003-April, 2004

     II: May, 2004

Who Was There:
Yukio Ohta (Bob)

     II: Yukio Ohta (Bob), Tommy Salamanca (Storn)

What It Was

Back in Japan for one final visit, Yukio rescues the spirit of his beloved wife from the ruthless sorcerer, Kokuyougan, then goes to Hokkaido with Derek Cross to meet Vincent Aglie. He returns to New York, checks on the Renny, and then makes his first journey to the Faerie realm of Mannahatta, where he meets with Queen Maori.

While relaxing from his journeys, Yukio meets homicide cop Tommy Salamanca, and hires him to be his bodyguard. Then he returns to Woolworth’s Tomb and the Woolworth Building, where he attracts the unwelcome attention of the sorcereress Ann Salters. Worried that he's put the Aces in further danger, Yukio seeks out Katsoulakis, and the two men have a long talk.

The Full Horror

Yukio’s family in Japan have long since passed away, but there are still old friends, rivals, and students. Now at a turning point, Yukio decides to go back to Japan one last time and give his life there a proper close.

He spends his first days in Tokyo, liquidating assets and meeting with old friends. He tells them he has decided to “give up being Japanese,” to make a final break with "the Shinto/Nationalist bullshit" he has always hated. He is going to become an American citizen, but in truth he wants to embrace the twenty-first century and reinvent himself as a “citizen of the world.” That is not an easy message for any of them to accept, but no one goes ballistic quite like Yukio’s old political nemesis, Tanaka Hiroshi, now a lower house member in the neo-conservative government. (Tanaka has a talent for public relations, including making appearances on “Iron Chef.”)

The two men meet in a shadowed, upscale jazz bar, and Tanaka gets exactly as drunk as he needs to be to tear into Yukio without making a serious social gaffe. Tanaka is a passionate advocate of Mishima, and he and Yukio have long considered each other worthy adversaries. But now Tanaka lays the blame for Japan’s spiritual, economic and social malaise squarely on Ohta, both for his poetry and his public criticism of the Nationalist cause. Of course, Tanaka is doing this in the middle of a western-styled jazz bar, but that’s an irony he’s choosing to ignore. Yukio actually agrees that Japan has lost its direction, but he’s hardly going to take the blame for that.

Yukio lets Tanaka blather on only because he’s waiting for the arrival of one of his most talented former students, Yoshida Shigeru, who has offered to be Yukio’s gofer during his stay in Tokyo. Shigeru finally appears at the table, and bows several times. “My apologies, Ohta-sensei, I am later than I intended.” Shigeru makes a big show of his respect for Yukio, mainly because it’s sincere but also to give Tanaka a backhanded insult.

Yoshida Shigeru is now middle-aged, and a respected poet in his own right, but he’s still proud to have had Yukio as a mentor, and addressing him as “Ohta-sensei” takes the wind out of Tanaka’s sails. Tanaka grumbles for a another minute or so, but then beats a quick, if honorable, retreat. Yukio suspects that will be the last time they meet face-to-face.

Yukio and Shigeru spend the next couple of hours downing bottles of Sapporo. Shigeru says the Shintoists still bitch about Yukio and the damage he did to their cause. Shigeru finds that as amusing as Yukio does, but adds that some of them really have it in for Yukio, and it’s probably best that he won’t be living in Japan anymore.

Yukio ponders that while gives Shigeru an update on his life. Of course, Yukio leaves out all the most interesting parts. Actually, he has been on the move since that pivotal meeting between the Aces and Katsoulakis (episode 23). He allowed his scholar visa to expire, sold his New York apartment, and told his literary agent, Ruth Steinberg, he would be leaving. He also stopped by the Renny to say goodbye to Cassandra, Michel, and everyone else. He made sure they had his cellphone number, but Yukio left New York not expecting to be back for a long time. He wishes he had time to say goodbye to Kaori, but he assumes the Aces will bring her back from the Faerie realm soon anyway.

As for Donnolly and the serpents, Yukio is betting he’s not their primary target, so if he’s not around the Aces, their enemies will probably just ignore him. Still, he never goes anywhere without a strong Shield. He is glad, though, that parted on good terms with Demetrius Katsoulakis. No good would come of being on the bad side of such a powerful man.

A little worried by Yukio’s silence, Shigeru asks, “What now, Ohta-Sensei?” Yukio snaps to and tells Shigeru there are several things he wants to do: go see a Yomiyuri Giants baseball game; meet with Takahashi Mayumi, his literary agent in Tokyo; and take a trip to Hokkaido (to collect mystical salt, though he doesn’t say that). But first, he wants to visit the spirit of his beloved wife, Aoki. That is something he needs to do alone, so he tells Shigeru he will call him later.

Meeting Aoki

Ohta Aoki was a wonderful companion to Yukio for 34 years. She was chatty and gossipy, not introspective or reflective, but she knew how to draw him out, and got him hooked on Mah-Jong.

Her tomb is in Tokyo, but when Yukio enters the cemetery, he is surprised to see how many spirits are lingering there, and to see them suffering from a strange malaise Yukio has never seen before. Could this be another result of the country’s lethargy?

Yukio puts that thought aside when Aoki’s spirit appears. She seems fine, and she says she is comfortable in her new existence as a spirit. She is glad to see Yukio once again, and the news that he will not be returning to Japan makes her sad. But she says she understands, and wishes she could go with him—if only the spirits there were allowed to leave.

Alarmed to hear her say that, Yukio asks what she means. Aoki points to a small chip of dark rock resting on her tomb. Ever since it first appeared, she tells him, the chip has bound her to the cemetery. When Yukio looks around, he sees many other tombs also have chips, each one bright with Essence—and each one made of obsidian.

Aoki asks Yukio if he knows what they are, but she interrupts her own sentence with the word “kokuyougan.” Confused, she tries to speak again. “Yukio? What’s hap—kokuyougan. I can’t—kokyougan.” Aoki begins to say the word over-and-over as a look of pure terror comes over her face. And then, suddenly, she’s gone.

Stunned, Yukio looks everywhere but can find no sign of his wife. Someone has taken her spirit, right before his eyes. Yukio knows what’s at stake. Unless he can find and save her, Aoki may be doomed to become a yurei, a wandering spirit sundered forever from her ancestors.

Yukio immediately confronts the cemetery’s caretaker, and the man admits someone told him to leave the obsidian chips alone, but the frightened man insists he cannot remember who that was. Yukio orders him to keep the cemetery open until his return, then visits a Shinto temple to gather Essence. He returns just before closing time, protected by a heavy Shield.

Yukio goes to one of the tombs and shatters the obsidian chip on it. Its spirit is suddenly free, and gratefully Passes On. Suspicions confirmed, Yukio asks another spirit, an elderly woman, to watch for anyone coming by with more chips. In return, he agrees to talk to the woman’s daughter and try to convince her not to marry a man the woman is convinced will do her daughter wrong. The elderly woman then tells Yukio when the first chips appeared--only two nights after his return to Japan.

Whoever took Aoki did not know or did not care that Yukio could sense strong patterns of Essence. With no time to lose, he begins to follow the trail, and hopes that whatever physical threat may be involved, his Shield will be enough to deal with it.

Yukio is not happy to see the trail end in Ikebukuro at the 240 meter-high Sunshine Building, a place made notorious by tales of strange lights and the walking dead. The skyscraper was built on the former site of a prison for Japanese war criminals, where seven men, including the infamous Hideki Tojo, were executed in 1948. Close by are the fourteen-story towers of Takashimadaira, where over 150 people have leapt to their deaths. Yukio tries not to think about how terrified Aoki must be, lost here among suffering and malevolent spirits.

To Storm the Dark Tower

Yukio is still a block away from the building when he first hears people screaming. He sees three figures fling themselves from the roof and plunge to the hard ground. On the street, people are down on their knees or prostrate or just sitting dumbly on the curb. Some sob in quiet terror. Others run and shout, their eyes wide with fear.

No one notices Yukio. Even the spirits can only cry “kokuyougan” (Japanese for “obsidian”). But Yukio can tell that the source of this misery must be on the roof. A handful of spirits shout an abrupt warning, and Yukio jumps to one side as another suicide slams into the ground where he stood. Dazed and appalled, Yukio steels himself and enters the building.

There are more people in the lobby, but they are all dead, their eyes wide, hands clutching their chests from the pain of the heart attacks that killed them. The air seethes with Essence released by their terror, and Yukio knows only his Shield is preventing the hostile spirits from using it against him.

But he also has a more immediate problem: does he try to climb sixty flights of stairs with his 75-year-old body or risk taking an elevator to the roof? Yukio decides his only choice is to trust the elevator, but when one reaches the ground floor, four people step out of it, wielding fire axes. Their eyes are filled with the spectral malice of the war criminals.

Yukio prepares for a battle he can't possibly win. And yet, he prevails. A shot rings out, and a bullet slams into one of the possessed. A moment later, a body hurtles past Yukio and into two of the others. To Yukio's surprise, Derek Cross scrambles to his feet, and yells, "I could kill them, but they're innocent. You have to free them." Together the two men subdue the possessed.

Derek admits he's been shadowing Yukio since he came to Japan. His mission is to keep Yukio safe and to escort him to an important meeting—provided they're able to get out of the Sunshine Building alive.

Derek jury-rigs the elevator to get them safely to the roof, but halfway up his amulet flashes, and the man collapses to the floor. He's up in a moment, but disoriented and says, "Something's changed." The doors open to service room with a fire door to the roof. When the two men are ready, Derek kicks open the door. Yukio needs only a moment to understand what he is seeing: somehow the ride up to the roof crossed over to the death realms of Geburah.

The skies are heavy with clouds, and there is a chill in the air. Buildings visible from the roof are mockeries of modern Tokyo and other cities. Standing only a few feet away are three more possessed, with axes, and behind them a wizened man wearing a look of triumph. Derek draws the three possessed away, while Yukio prepares to face this mage who must be Kokuyougan.

Both men unleash bolts of mystical energy, and the roof erupts in flashes of light and thunderous claps. Derek subdues the three possessed and then takes cover until the battle is done. The mage is arrogant at first, but his confidence slips as Yukio presses him hard. Then at last, Yukio’s bolt finds a weak spot, and Kokuyougan screams as he loses control and is pulled back into another dimension.

Derek checks the possessed, but none of them survived their ordeal. Frustrated, he joins Yukio at the elevator, and they head back down. This time Derek braces himself, and he feels the shift halfway down as they return to Malkuth. With the threat past, Derek drives Yukio to the cemetery.

Yukio returns to Aoki’s tomb and finds her once again free and at peace. She is grateful for his heroism, but surprised by his new powers. “What are you doing, my love?” she asks. “Trying to make the world a better place,” he replies. “But I have found that a lack of power leads to a lack of goodness. I do not want to, but I will have to learn how to do everything all over again.”

Aoki smiles, and they kiss one last time before Aoki gently fades away. Yukio leaves a spray of Aoki’s favorite flowers on her grave, and leaves the cemetery.

To recover from their ordeal, Derek and Yukio wait before leaving for Hokkaido. They get along quite well, and Yukio gives Derek the nickname "Firefighter" for his help against axe-wielding haunts. Derek joins Shigeru and Yukio for the baseball game, but Yukio has a last dinner with Shigeru. He tells his former student to live his life, and that he hopes Shigeru will surpass his accomplishments. The two men part on the best of terms.

There remains one last thing: Yukio arranges a birthday telegram for Tanaka, and has it delivered by a stripper dressed in a Japanese army uniform. Tanaka, who made his name decrying others’ sex habits ends up in a major scandal that cripples his political career. By the time the news breaks, the two men are on their way to Hokkaido to meet Derek's patron.

Meeting Aglie

On a deserted stretch of beach on the coast of Hokkaido, nestled among a large stand of rocks, Derek and Yukio find a dark canvas tent. A man, about fifty, calmly smokes a cigarette as he waits for them to arrive. As they come near, the man turns and greets them with a perfect bow: "Mr. Ohta. My name is Vincent Aglie."

He walks over to a table and pours sake from an exquisite decanter. "I have been aware of you and your companions for some time, Mr. Ohta, but your recent decision to come back to your homeland makes this a good time for us to meet. I have been curious to see you face-to-face."

"You are a man of significance, Mr. Ohta. More than you realize. And when a man such as yourself chooses to fraternize with younger men, or with a man like Katsoulakis, that is a matter of grave concern to a man such as myself."

"Your four young companions stand at the brink, Mr. Ohta. Their potential can hardly be doubted now. But their intentions remain highly uncertain. And that is a problem, because they may well upset the balance of power that has long kept the peace.

"There are powers in the world, Mr. Ohta, but some are more engaged than others. And among them there has been peace for something just short of a century. Now that the millennium is past, none of us truly expect the truce to last, but it need not fall immediately. Yet if war must come, I would wish to know it before my rivals do."

Yukio asks about Aglie's relationship with Derek and Tessa DiMarco: "They are under my protection, Mr. Ohta. Any action against them is an action against myself. And I *would* defend them, even against your patron." When Yukio says Katsoulakis is not his patron, Aglie replies, "You forsake his protection? I must caution you against such a statement. You do not understand the full significance of what that would mean."

Yukio asks about George and Tessa, but Aglie shakes his head. "The adopted nephew of Katsoulakis and my Tessa? I think not. I must, in fact, forbid it. This is a matter of trust. I cannot afford to trust him, or the other young men, or even you. For as I said, you remain, in at least some sense, Katsoulakis' man. I believe Katsoulakis has greater plans for his charges than any of you realize. By now he has probably told them he wants them to upset the status quo. I suspect this is perfectly true, as far as it goes.

"But I find troubling similarities between these young men and certain Players at the table. Mr. Phillapoussis is the most obvious—presumably Katsoulakis is grooming him as a kind of heir. Mr. Kentaro has certain matters in common with Andrew Ben-Nevis, though he probably has not realized them yet. And, presumably, Mr. Donovin is being groomed to take my place."

"Only Mr. Wertham has gone awry. But then the Count has been around longer than any of us, and he is not so easily replaced. I wonder if Mr. Wertham's disappearance was not somehow arranged by the Count himself. I suspect the Count remains a great concern for Katsoulakis. He is the most resourceful of any of us, and the most difficult to predict. Nonetheless, these four young men were well-chosen to meet Katsoulakis' hopes. They have raised the ante in our Great Game."

Yukio says the Aces are not very good at doing what they are told, but Aglie only smiles. "Mr. Ohta. surely you understand strategy and deception in battle. Their acts of rebellion are what make these men exactly who they need to be to do what Katsoulakis hopes for them to do."

"Many have wished to join us, to take seats at the table and be dealt hands of their own. Mr. Abel was only the latest, though he was among the clumsiest. We who have earned our seats have a global reach. Even the Count her that, I suspect, though how he projects power remains unknown to the rest of us. This bishop, Donnelly, harbors ambitions. And then there is you, Mr. Ohta. Asia has not had a representative at the table in some time. I think you are a man worth watching. I do not think death will be the end for you. It's possible you may not even notice it when it comes."

Derek escorts Yukio back to Toyko, and the two men part as friends, sharing a goodbye drink in the jazz bar. Yukio even gives Derek a cellphone with his personal number. Derek graciously accepts this gift, and departs.

Yukio calls Shigeru on his cell, and has the man drive him to Hokkaido. Yukio leads him to the salt flats, and shows Shigeru how to collect the special salt, so he can gather it and send it to Yukio when he needs it. Yukio then spends the rest of his vacation with Shigeru and his young family, while he enjoys Tanaka’s political apocalypse.

New York Redux

Yukio has come full circle. He was going to leave New York, but now he understands how much the City has become his home. With the capital from his Japanese assets, he returns in September and buys a 700-square-foot condominium in the West Village’s “Cezanne” at Hudson and Jane. After that he lies low, not even visiting the Renny.

But on October 28, Yukio makes his first Death Projection. He sends his spirit to the Renny so Art will know he can do that. Yukio feels a chill when he travels as a spirit, but when he enters the Renny he feels pleasantly warm. He only appears to Art, but he does go to the basement, where he sees that Jonathan has transformed into an orgone elemental. That seems right to Yukio, but he suspects the change will make it very hard to communicate with Jonathan now.

A few days later, Yukio calls Latrell to let him know he is back. Then he visits the Renny, and takes Cassandra and Tamara out for dinner. The three of them talk late into the night, first about the Tesla journals, and then about the 1903 Wardenclyffe experiments and how similar they seem to what happened to Seema Mukharji in Houghton. In both cases, uranur was out-of-balance. Tamara says the Gaelic word for serpent is written in the margin next to Tesla’s account of 1903, and that nearly makes Cassandra drop her wine glass. Yukio asks Tamara to see if any of Tesla’s sanatorium records still exist. Before they go, Tamara gives them another surprise: it exhausts her to do it, but she can now generate a small orgone arc.

Perhaps it’s the wine, but not long after that Yukio and Cassandra begin arguing about Kaori. Yukio is reinventing himself as a “seeker of knowledge,” and he needs a youthful spirit to guide him. Who better than Kaori? She has an almost mystical significance for Yukio now—literally, the granddaughter he never had. And, besides, protecting an innocent might redeem Yukio’s pursuit of power.

Cassandra insists Kaori should stay with the Queen where she is safe. But then Yukio shocks the two women with his tale of battling Kokuyougan in the Sephiroth of Geburah. That makes Cassandra reconsider—perhaps leaving Kaori in another Sephiroth is dangerous after all. Yukio would not go that far, but he does think Kaori should be in Malkuth where she belongs.

And so, Yukio prepares for his first journey to the Faerie realms. Cassandra insists on coming with him. She suggests Yukio offer the Queen a poem as a token of respect, so he prepares one in-between games of Dance Dance Revolution. A few days later, they set out, with Yukio bearing his poem, a bottle of sake, and a Hello Kitty plushie for Kaori.

Meeting the Queen

It’s Samhain when Yukio and Cassie enter Inwood Hill Park. They pass through the archway between the hickory trees, and find one of Kaori’s friends, Terri McIntyre, waiting. She draws a Mah Jongg East Wind symbol on Yukio’s face, and a moon on Cassie’s.

When Yukio blinks, he’s startled to see the Queen’s court before his eyes. The court is a neon-lighted wine bar with touches of Soho, Chinatown, and especially Japan. As his senses adjust, Yukio hears voices chattering around him: “He’s old!” “No, he’s young!” “No, he’s both—just like us!”

Kaori appears and takes Yukio’s hand: “Grandfather? Are you all right?” Yukio nods and thanks her, and she leads him and Cass to her room, which looks like an American-styled Japanese beach house. Kaori, it seems, can now manipulate time and space in the Faerie realms, which makes Yukio more worried about how the realm is changing her. Kaori loves the Hello Kitty gift, and laughs merrily when Yukio tells her what he did to Tanaka. Her laughter makes the Faerie curious, and Yukio delights them by reciting poems.

Later, Yukio tells Kaori he and Cass are there to bring her back. “I am a student again, and not sure what questions to ask.” Kaori shakes her head. “Then you have to come back and visit us again. I can’t leave now. The guys are in Tomnahurich. and the Queen is going to send me as her emissary to help them. Well, actually, she already *has* sent me. It’s hard to explain. I remember doing it, but it hasn’t really happened yet. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. You should go to her. She wanted to speak to you before you left.”

Yukio finds the Queen seated in the bar’s private room. Several courtiers and mortal artists are in attendance, but she asks them to leave when Kaori and Yukio enter. Her eyes fluorescing, the Queen rises athletically yet elegantly from her couch, walks over to Yukio and smiles.

“Ohta-san, you honor us with your visit. Kaori-san has told me so much about you. Would you honor us further by staying a while longer and be our guest this evening?”

Drink and food are brought for Yukio, and they share a meal. “I am pleased you join me, Ohta-san. The ‘gray people’ of your world tell tales about the perils of eating and drinking here, but these are only the misunderstandings of the frightened and the misguided.”

Yukio speaks the Gaelic word for serpent, and the Queen nods. “The battle between Green and Black rages in the Highlands. But they come from no realm I know.” Nor does she recognize the name Andrew Ben Nevis.

The Queen asks Yukio to walk with her, and she leads them into a beautiful, moonlit, Faerie garden. Shimmering Faerie flit around plants which glow in soft neon hues. A flickering pool is filled with incandescent fish swimming above iridescent pebbles. The Queen and Yukio stroll over glowing cobblestone paths under a perfect starry blue-black sky. The air is warm, but the breezes are gently cool.

“Left to my own devices, I would have our worlds, if not in harmony, at least in counterpoint. But it seems even a Queen cannot have all that she wishes. But you are not here to learn of my vexations but to consider your opportunities and make wise decisions. I worry that you still mistrust me and my realm. We may not be close friends, but I think we have been candid about our nature and our customs. About what we can accept and what we expect of those who treat with us.

“However, our way is not the way of all our kind. Your friends are now in Tomnahurich. Kaori-san will give—has given—my aid, but I fear they will face cruelty before they leave there. And, to be sure, we *are* a threat. The gray people of your world *should* fear us, for we would undo their way of life if we can.” When Yukio asks who are the gray people, she replies, “Those who would control, and those who would be controlled.”

“Our hope lies in part with you and your colleagues, and with are other new friends in the City. And we have faith an the ancient alliance of knights and mages who were once our allies and may again be so. But that alliance will need a new band of princes to be their catalyst.”

Yukio and the Queen part as friends. Cassandra and Yukio say goodbye to Kaori because Yukio has accepted her need to remain there. “You will do well, and you did do well,” he says, and Kaori thanks him.

Cassandra and Yukio return to the Renny, but time has passed. They left in October, but it is now late April. On the way back, Yukio asks Cassandra about Brigit, and she tells him she does not think the goddess dwells in Netzach, but in some place much stronger. Back in the Renny, Yukio tells Tamara they should collaborate more once his travels are done.

Part Two

Yukio has been resting for a couple of weeks around the Renny. Things have been quiet, but Latrell is still glad to have him around, especially with the Aces gone. At first Yukio spent his days decorating his new condo, but soon he’s reviewing everything he can find about Woolworth. It’s not long before he gets the feeling he’s overlooked something important.

About that time, a young cop named Tommy Salamanca shows up at the Renaissance, asking for Yukio. He says Alan Wingate sent him there, so Latrell tells Yukio about him. Tommy explains he had been a homicide detective, and even had SWAT training. But his Feral heritage has become too strong for him to ignore, and he can no longer conceal it from his fellow cops in the NYPD. That torments him because he knows his abilities make him a better detective.

Now he can hear Iroquois drums in their long houses, calling him to war. But by day, he’s down to being a security guard, with no pension, no prospects, and a crappy apartment in Spanish Harlem. That’s why he looked up to Alan, and asked him for help. Yukio decides to take Tommy out to dinner so he can get a feel for him, and he invites Michel to come along so he can get a second opinion.

Yukio needs to rebuild his friendship with Michel because the younger man has had a hard time adjusting to the new, laid-back Yukio. After an hour at O’Malley’s, Yukio is confident enough in Tommy to hire him as a bodyguard. He has places to go, and he wants physical protection. They sign a contract, which includes a non-disclosure agreement.

The first stop is Woolworth’s tomb. Yukio gives the place a thorough going-over. Thanks to his recent studies, he knows the Mason symbols are accurate, but the Rosicrucian ones—symbols of the true occult—are all incorrect. Yukio starts to wonder if Woolworth was really a fraud, at least where the ancient traditions were concerned.

Next stop is the Woolworth Building. Yukio and Tommy go up to the museum for another look at that onyx mirror. Once again, the curator is delighted to have visitors. Tommy manages to keep him distracted so Yukio can step away and examine the mirror. Yukio is convinced it can do more than just take someone to Winfield Hall. But it’s at this point that he makes a bad mistake.

Yukio quietly casts a See the Dead spell while standing in front of the mirror, but instead of the effect he hoped for, the spell attracts the attention of Ann Salters, Woolworth’s former mistress. The Aces had caught her eye during their time at Winfield, and she had promised to make them pay dearly for distracting her. Now she repeats that threat to Yukio, and his heart sinks. Whoever this woman is, she is very powerful and without a trace of mercy. “Thank you,” she tells Yukio. “I had forgotten you. Perhaps you can amuse me. For a short time.”

What makes Yukio’s mistake even worse is the fact that its consequences won’t be his to bear, but will fall heaviest on the Aces. Yukio decides to ask the Faerie Queen for help, but Michel worries about what obligation she may put on Yukio in return for her support.

Then Yukio visits Demetrius Katsoulakis. Tommy can easily identify Alexandra’s perfume, and he ponders it while Yukio opens a bottle of “special” sake which he’s brought for Katouslakis. Yukio explains his situation, and Katsoulakis gives him something to help him against Salters.

Salamanca offers to start a profile of Anne Salters, treating her like a serial killer, which may give them a chance to guess what she might do.

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