The story below is a work of fiction. It may contain erotic or sexually explicit behavior between males. If you find this offensive, or are to young to read it, please exit now.

The author reserves all copyright privileges. This work may not be reproduced, except for personal use without the permission of the author.

Dedication: This chapter is dedicated to Orrin C. Rush, the author of The Lifeguard. (Nifty, College- Last posted October 9, 2002). Orrin’s work was one of the first really lengthy stories I ever read on Nifty. It is an excellent work. If any readers have not read it, I highly recommend it, even thought it was never finished due to his untimely demise.


Chapter Twenty

RET Office, Tuesday morning.

The phone rang in Ron’s office.  Picking up the receiver Ron listened as Margaret said, “Ron, Ken Friday is on the phone.”

“Thanks Margaret, I’ll take it.”

He pressed the blinking light button on the desk phone.

“Hi Ken,” he said in greeting.

“Hi Ron. I was out of town last weekend and didn’t hear about all your excitement until yesterday. How are you and Matt doing?”

“Thanks for asking, Ken. I’m fully recovered. The headaches only lasted a day. Of course Matt has two ribs broken and a broken arm so he’s not up to his normal self yet. The cast on his arm is inconvenient as hell, but at least it’s getting less painful for him to breathe now as his ribs begin to heal.”

“Please give him my best wishes for a speedy recovery,” said Ken. “I’m glad it wasn’t more serious. I suppose you wonder why I called?”

“The question had crossed my mind,” Ron admitted, “but our lives have become somewhat intertwined, so I’m always interested in chatting with you, even to pass the time of day.”

“Well, let’s talk some business first.  I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the services of Turner Consulting, and how impressed I was with your two guys Jeff Davis and Phil Thompson. They made me realize the potential I have in this business. It’s competitive as hell, but they showed me some new tricks for maximizing profits and improving service without spending a lot of money. As special thanks, I’d like Turner Construction to build my next two stores. I was going to take it out to bid, but I’m sure that I can trust you to not take me to the cleaners.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ken,” Ron said with pleasure. “You’ll find that we’re very competitive in price and give excellent service.”

“I’ve also approved the proposal that Tyler sent over for improving our security. Theft has been a problem and improved security was a recommendation of Jeff and Phil. Their numbers indicate that we can repay the cost of the installation in slightly less than a year, if we only reduce our theft by 50%.  Looking at Aztec’s proposal, I’m hopeful for 80%, particularly with some tighter inventory controls.”

“I have some news for you too,” Ron responded. “With Aztec moving their headquarters here and opening a permanent office, I am expecting that our vehicle fleet will expand locally by 25%. I’ve just approved an increase in your service agreement that Jan had prepared. It’s good to do business with friends that do good business!”

“Yes, I agree. It seems that one good turn returns another. Well, so much for business. I was wondering if you and Matt could join me for lunch. I have someone I want you to meet.”

Ron glanced at his calendar.

“I’m available, but I’m not sure about Matt. I’ll call him and let you know if he’s free. Even if he can’t, I can be there.”

“That would work, although it would be nice if he could make it too.”

“Who’s the mystery guest?”

“It wouldn’t be a mystery if I told ya now, would it?” Ken said teasing. “I’ll just give you something to chew on by telling you that you’ll be proud of me.”

“Well, if you’re gonna put it that way, Matt will be there for sure. He has the curiosity of a cat.”

“How ‘bout at the Black Angus on Decatur and Sahara at 11:50.”

“That will be fine Ken. If there are any problems I’ll call you right back.”

“Good. See you then. Bye.”

“Bye.”  Ron disconnected, then pressed the speed dial for Matt’s cell phone.

“Hi Babe!” Ron said as Matt answered.

“Hi yourself, good lookin’,” was Matt’s response. “How’s it hangin’?”

“‘Bout the same as ‘Matt’s monster,’ Ron replied. “Missin’ it’s plaything though.”

“For sure Babe. Let me rephrase the question; ‘what’s up?”

“That’s not much better, but if we keep that train of thought, the answer will be ‘Ron’s Rod.’ Actually, I called to see if you would be available for lunch with Ken Friday and a mystery guest.”

“Who’s the mystery guest?” Matt asked.

“Beats me, but I have a suspicion we’ll be surprised from what Ken let on.”

“Sure, I can make it,” Matt said.

Ron gave Matt the particulars. Afterward, Matt said, “I’m glad you called. I have something I need to run by you.”

“Sure Matt, what’s happening?”

“I met with Donna Krametbauer, from the State Child Welfare agency this morning regarding Benny Young. She interviewed him too. She recommended that we place him at Thornton and enroll him at school, the same school our guys attend. She knows of Senator Young, and even though she’s a bit nervous about the whole circumstance, was totally on our team after talking with Benny and looking at his back.”

“What does Benny think of the idea?”

“I was surprised at how receptive he was. He’s made some quick friends here and really doesn’t want to return to his old school. He’s getting bored too while the other kids are at school. I think we should move him here tomorrow. Of course, I haven’t told him yet. I wanted to talk to you first.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Ron said. He needs to get back into a routine. It’s fine with me. Is there gonna be a problem with enrolling him?”

“No, I called Mrs. Brown at the school district and she talked to Donna. She said that if we decided on the transfer, she would handle it.”

“I guess it’s a done deal then,” Ron concluded. “I’ll let you handle the details.”

“K Babe, I guess I’ll see you at lunch.”

“Yep. See you then. Bye love.”


Ron hung up the phone and looked at the clock. In a half hour he’d need to leave for lunch.

            *        *        *

Black Angus Restaurant, Tuesday 11: 50 AM.

As Ron stepped out of his Mercedes sedan, he saw Matt’s sports car pull into the parking lot. Waving, he began to walk toward the spot where Matt had chosen to park. As Matt climbed out, he held the door for his partner.

“Damn, this cast is clumsy,” Matt said in dismay. “I hate the thought of having to wear this thing for a couple of months.

“Yeah, it’s gonna make swimming difficult on the cruise in two weeks,” Ron said winking.

“That reminds me,” Matt responded. “We’ve got some final plans to make. I mean, like we have the wedding stuff in Key West all arranged, but we need to go over the plans and make sure everything is ready.”

“Can you come to the office tomorrow afternoon?” Ron asked as they approached the restaurant’s entry doors.

“I’ll check my schedule, but I think the answer is ‘yes.’

Ron held the door open and Matt passed through. On entering the waiting area, Ken Friday and a youth stood as Ken recognized the entering couple. Matt saw Ken and turned toward their friend as Ron stepped up beside him.

“Matt, Ron. I’d like you to meet Jared Simpson. Jared, Matt Davidson and Ron Turner.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Matt said extending his left hand for a backward handshake.

“Thanks, nice to meet you too.”

“A pleasure,” Ron added as he extended his own hand in greeting.

“Mine too, Ken has had nothing but glowing praise for you guys.”

“Ken, are you spreading rumors again?” Ron kidded.

“He hasn’t heard the half of it,” Ken said smiling. “Let’s go to our table,” he said responding to a signal from the restaurant’s maitre’d.

In a moment, the men were seated and ordered beverages as they looked at the menus. After deciding, they laid their menus on the table and a waiter quickly came and took their orders.

Ken looked at Jared, smiled, then turned his head toward Ron and Matt.

“I guess I’d better explain,” Ken began. “I got thinking of our conversation about my son’s friend in Los Angeles. Last Thursday I called him, and Friday I drove there. It took me all weekend to convince him to come back to Las Vegas with me. The young man,” Ken continued, “is Jared.”

Ron and Matt both expressed their pleasure at the announcement.

“What are your plans?” Ron asked.

“I offered Jared a job with Friday’s and we’re going to find him an apartment,” Ken answered.

Ron and Matt looked at each other and smiled. They had the same thoughts.

“We might know of someone who’s looking for a room mate,” Ron offered.

“Uh, I’m not sure that anybody would be wanting to room with me,” Jared said looking down at the table.

“Is there something that we should know?” Matt asked.

“Uh…. Yeah….uh…. I mean. I don’t know,” Jared stammered.

“Is it because you’re gay?” Matt asked kindly.

“Uh…. Yeah… that’s it. I just don’t want to room with someone under a misunderstanding. I mean, I’m not looking to room with a straight guy unless we can be friends and if it’s a gay guy he has to know I’m not lookin’ to hook up or anything,” he said sadly. “I don’t know if I can ever love anyone again, not after Thursday.”

“What happened on Thursday?” Ron asked.

“Nothin’” Jared said smiling sheepishly. “Thursday is what I used to call Mr. Friday’s son Paul. You know, ‘Thursday Friday’?  It was kinda our little joke.”

Ron and Matt laughed in understanding.

“Jared, losing one you love is very hard,” Ron said. “Different people react differently to such a loss. I can’t give you any advice, but I can tell you that the pain will lessen after time. You’ll never forget Paul, a part of him will always be in your heart. Just remember that a heart is bigger than that. Don’t close your heart to possibilities. I suspect that Paul would want your happiness.”

“Thanks, but I’m just not ready for that now.”

“We understand,” Matt said. “The guy we’re thinking about for a possible roommate is gay, too. I’m sure he’ll not press you for anything you’re not ready for. He’s a great guy and a good friend.”

“Anybody I know?” Ken asked.

“Yes Ken,” Matt answered,  “it’s Pete Sigler. You remember him. The young guy whose truck was vandalized when we first met.”

“Yes, I remember,” Ken responded. “I had a chance to talk with him for a minute at your house afterward. He’s really a very nice young man.”

“I have no idea whether or not he’s interested, but I suspect he may be. He’s picking up the pieces after his apartment was bombed.”

“That was Pete’s apartment?” Ken asked in amazement. “I read about it in the paper when we got back. I was shocked.”

“Fortunately he escaped unharmed. He has a new apartment, but I’m sure that it will take him a bit of time to recover from his loss. We tried to help him a little, but I’m sure it will be a while before he’s back on an even keel. He might really welcome a roommate, especially one with a job.” Matt smiled.

“Give me a call if he’s interested,” Ken asked. Looking at their waiter approaching with a huge serving tray, he continued, “Well, here comes our food. I’m hungry.”  

            *        *        *

Friday’s Tires, Tuesday evening.

“What a day!” Russ said wearily. “I thought it would never end.”

Dave laughed. “Nobody said it was easy,” he said with more than a tinge of sympathy. “Don’t worry, your body will get used to it in a couple of weeks.”

“Yeah, If I’m still alive.”

“Let’s go,” Dave suggested.

They walked to the vehicle, got inside and Dave began the drive back to Thornton.

“What you really need is a soak in a hot tub. It will relax your muscles.”

“There’s gonna be one at Thornton, but since it’s so cool they didn’t think finishing the pool and hot tub was a priority. It should be finished in two or three weeks, we’re told.”

“We don’t have one at my parent’s. I’d be reluctant to take you over there anyway. They’re not very accepting that I’m gay.”

“That’s ok,” Russ said. “I’ll just have to take a hot shower, and call it enough. When I turn 18, I sure hope we can afford an apartment - one with a hot tub.”

“Uh Russ?  Umm … uh, it was sure fun working with you today. I think you’re an alright guy.”

“Thanks, Dave. I appreciate all the help and guidance. You were right about the little tricks in changing tires. I would have been dead on my ass if I hadn’t listened.”

“Uh … ummm…. I don’t know how to say this, but …a … here goes.  Would you …uh ….like to go out Saturday night?”

“Are you like … a … asking me out on a date?” Russ asked.

“Mmmmm …. Yeah. I guess I am. I hope it’s not grossing you out.
“Heck no! It’s not grossing me out. I’d really like to go. I think you’re real cute, but I though you wouldn’t have a very high opinion of me.”

“Why not?” Dave asked.

“Well, you know, staying at Thornton, not being able to take care of myself, not finishing
 High School. All that kind of stuff.”

“Like I said before, I’m not judgmental, Russ. Sometimes you get in a scrape and it takes a while to get past it. I know if my parents had pitched me out, I’d go to Thornton in a minute. Course I’m a little too old now anyway, but you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do. Thanks. I may have come off of the streets, but I do want to make something of myself. That’s why I’ve got to get my schooling finished. Heck, Ron said there was even a possibility of a college grant. I’m not sure I would qualify, but I’m sure as hell gonna ask Matt.”

“I’d like to go on to school too. I may take some classes, maybe in business or something along that line. I think I’d like being a manager of one of Friday’s stores.”

“Yeah, I can understand that. Who wants to sling tires around when you’re 40 and getting old?”

The truck approached Thornton, and Dave turned into the lot.

“I’ll pick you up at the same time tomorrow morning,” he said.

“That would be great. You don’t know how much I appreciate your help.”

“Maybe you can show me sometime,” Dave said with a wink, as he pulled up to the curb.

Russ opened the door and stepped out. Looking back at his new friend he replied, “Yeah, maybe I can.” He mirrored Dave’s wink and stepped away from the vehicle as it began to move.

            *        *        *

Ron and Matt’s home, Tuesday evening.

Ron and Matt sat in the family room enjoy an after dinner drink. Benny Young had gone to his room with Parker to begin packing for his move to Thornton the following day.

“Quite a day, huh?” Matt asked.

“Sure was. Did you get to talk to Pete about the apartment?”

“Yeah, I saw him working on the two unfinished houses, so I went over for a chat. He was there supervising three new laborers. One of ‘em was Derek Bodine from Thornton. I guess he went over and talked to Terry about working, since he has no plans for school, at present.”

“What did he say about the roommate thing?”

“He liked the idea, but wanted to meet Jared before he decides. He’s a smart kid. I called Ken, and he agreed it was a good idea, so I invited Ken and his wife, Jared, and Pete up for dinner tomorrow night. I invited Robert and Jeffery too. I thought it would make the whole meeting thing less conspicuous.”

“You’re just a human dynamo,” Ron said giving Matt a nudge.

“Yeah, sure. I’m one-armed whirlwind.” Matt laughed waving his cast.

“It will be nice to meet Ken’s wife too. It will be interesting to see what she thinks of Ken’s transformation.”

“I thought of that,” Matt said in agreement. “I wonder how she’s getting along with Jared?”

“Good question, Babe. I guess well find out tomorrow. With most of the boys in school and the others working, I guess it makes Thornton kinda empty during the day.”

“Yeah, it does, but at present there is still plenty to do. I got Benny registered for school today. We’d no sooner returned than I got a call from the youth shelter. We got two new boys from them this morning. Both are 15. They’ll move into the Smith house on Friday. The house parents, Harry and Linda Garrison arrived today. Their car was packed to the gills, but their other possessions will arrive tomorrow or Thursday.”

“What are the new boys’ names?” Ron asked.

“Bill Templeton and Toby Green. They seem like nice boys. I spent some time with each of them and took them shopping for clothing. Normally the house parents would do the shopping thing, but since Harry and Linda had just gotten in, I decided that I should do it.  We also got the new boys registered for school, thanks to Mrs. Brown. They start tomorrow.  We’re also working on getting the parents of the kids that have parents to give us guardian rights. It’s a bit messy. I’m glad we have a blocked caller ID line. I get a bit worried that one or more of those cuckoos will try to reclaim their son against his will. We’re taking it one at a time with the kids in the room when we call. That way we can be sure we aren’t being bamboozled. We’re also working with the state welfare people on these cases, so that if we have a problem, they are on our side.”  

“I don’t envy you that task,” Ron said.

            *        *        *

Christina Rogers Farm in Arizona, Tuesday late

Christina lay in her bed thinking. It had been a day of mixed blessings. She had gone to the Police Department to make arrangements for the release of her cousin Tom Clark’s body for burial. She had made the simplest arrangements possible including cremation, because of her depressed finances.

On a better note, she had called the agent for the builder who was interested in her farmland. She had quoted the price she wanted, and was pleased when 3 hours later, she received a counter offer of $8.5 million. She would have preferred all cash, but they insisted on terms. She would get $3.5 million on close of escrow in 45 days and $1 million a year for 5 years unless they wanted to “take out” more land than would be released with each payment . She made sure that the value of the unreleased land was of far greater worth than the remaining payments. If she had to take the land back, she wanted to be in the driver’s seat.

She began to make plans. The builder would place a $300,000 non-refundable deposit to secure the purchase contract.  Since it was non-refundable, she could borrow against the deposit until the sale closed. The money would give her the funds to wind up her affairs in Phoenix and travel to Las Vegas to find a place to live. She could visit her cousin Tracy in the hospital and get the information necessary to begin her search for the guys responsible for Tom’s death. She would also hire a lawyer for Tracy’s defense. Families had to stick together.

            *        *        *

Thornton Center, Wednesday morning

The phone on Matt’s desk rang. He picked it up, and spoke his name.

“Matt,” a woman’s voice spoke, “This is Janet Burroughs, Eddie’s mother.”

“Hello, Janet. How may I help you?”

“Well, first I wanted to know how Eddie is doing, then I wanted to update you on our situation back here in Champaign.”

“Eddie is fine. He’s entered in school and seems to be happy at Thornton. He’s a very nice young man and gets along well with the others here. He’s shown an interest in writing, so we’ve enrolled him in an advanced writing class.”

“I’m glad to hear that. He was always interested in writing. If he needs anything be sure to let me know. I sent a check yesterday for $30,000 for his care. I would have sent it sooner, but I didn’t know if things between his father and me could be worked out. What I’m going to tell you is private, but you may tell Eddie, at your discretion.  His father and I have separated. We’re giving each other space to see if we can work out our differences. I would think in a month or two we’ll know whether or not there is a chance for our marriage. Until then, I think it would be better if Eddie stays there, assuming that he’s happy and well cared for. If we decide to divorce, that might complicate his return also. I wish I could be more definitive, but there are a lot of bad feelings floating between his father and me. I don’t think he needs to be exposed to it.”

“I understand, Janet,” Matt responded. “We’ll of course be happy to put the money you’re sending to good use. We do provide for all our boys and try to make this place as homelike as possible.”

“That’s good to hear, Matt. “I’d like to come out and visit, if I may.”

“That would be fine. I suggest that you talk it over with Eddie, though. He has some bad feelings still inside, but from what I could see at the funeral, he’s still open to you. His father is another matter. Please feel free to call him. Later afternoon here would probably be best. I can have him standing by, if you’d like to be specific. Otherwise he may be out playing sports.”

“Sports? We never let him play sports.”

“We have a very good program here that encourages building the body as well as the mind.”

“I’m sure that he’s not athletic at all,” Janet said.

“On the contrary, Barry Young, our recreation director tells me that he has a lot of natural talent. He hasn’t developed the skills yet, because of lack of instruction and practice, but he has plenty of potential.”

“That’s wonderful to hear. I hope your program includes golf. We belong to the Country Club here, you know.”

“I’ll mention it to Barry,” Matt said looking up at the ceiling. “If he has aptitude in that direction, we’ll certainly develop it.”

“My, you are amazing! If I’d have known how complete your program was, I might have sent him there before.”

“Don’t misunderstand, Janet. This is not a boy’s prep school. This is a place where we try to make a home for gay boys who have been rejected or have nowhere else to go. We try to bring them into the mainstream by education and physical development, but most importantly we try to address their emotional needs with a lot of caring and love. We are sincere about taking care of our boys in all aspects. I can assure you that with the diversity in boys here, Eddie will get an education about the school of hard knocks! Some of our boys are from very difficult backgrounds. Some have been on the streets for years. We are not reformers, we just do the best we can, and do it with love and care for the boys.”

“Oh,” she said in an embarrassed tone. “I’m sorry if I misunderstood. I thought that your facility was ‘quality’.”

“It is quality, Ma’am. It’s just that we start a little lower on the totem pole than blue-bloods are used to. I’m not belittling the boys. They didn’t create their own misfortune.”

“I hope you’re not implying that I’m at fault for the problem with my husband?”

“Ma’am, no offense, but I’ve never seen a relationship that went south due to the unilateral actions or attitudes of only one of the partners. If you don’t believe that’s true in your case, then I’d suggest that you get your lawyer moving. Otherwise, a marriage counselor would be my recommendation.”

“I’m not sure if I’m offended or not,” Janet responded. “I guess I’ll have to think about this a bit.”

“There’s plenty of time. Eddie is not going anywhere. You’re welcome to talk to him or visit any time, but until the dust settles on your marriage, I think he should stay here.

“We do agree on that,” Mrs. Burroughs responded. “I’ll be moving out during the separation. I’ll call Eddie and you, and notify you of my new address and phone number.”

“That would be fine. Thank you very much for calling,” Matt agreed.

“Goodbye, Matt.”

“Goodbye, Janet.”

They both hung up their phones.

            *        *        *

RET offices, Wednesday afternoon

“Hi Matt.” Margaret’s sincere smile completed the welcome.

“Is ‘boom-boom’ in?”

“Boom-boom?” Margaret said laughing. “Let me see if he’s free.”

Pressing down on the intercom, she spoke into the device, “Boom-boom, there’s someone here to see you,”

“Tell Matt to come on in,” Ron said in a somewhat embarrassed response.

Margaret looked at the ceiling, grinning, then nodded toward the door and Matt followed her silent directions.

“Hiya Boopie,” Matt said after the door closed.

“Hi Stinkerbell,” Ron rejoined.

“You ready to talk about having some fun?”

“Yeah, I think most of the stuff is done, it’s just that we need to double check the arrangements,” Ron answered.

“Let’s dig right in.” Matt said sitting down, facing Ron’s desk. “Who’s coming on the yachting trip?”

“Us, of course.” Ron began, “Tyler and Dan representing Aztec; Will Nugent and his wife Janet, Jan Bounett and her husband Bill, Margaret and her husband Davis, all from our office; Charlie Parker and his wife Joan representing Turner Consulting; George Denman and his partner Harold Jones, from Turner Drywall Products; Bryan and Alan Representing Friendship Trust; Bryan’s Dad and Mom representing Construction Leasing; Bill and Sylvia from Turner Slots and Gaming; Dave and Linda Fortesque of Turner Construction. I invited Mr. Peterson and his wife from Turner Charities. They will come for the wedding but not the cruise as she is not well. In their place I invited Jeff Davis and Phil Thompson.”

“Wow! How are we gonna get all those people on the P-T II?”

“We aren’t, I kept the week open on our leasing out of the P-T I, so we’ll have both yachts. Tyler and Dan will have the Master’s Suite in the P-T I as their ‘bridal suite’.”

“Cool! I haven’t see the P-T I yet,” Matt said enthusiastically.

“What about the arrangements for the commitment ceremony?”  

“Everything is all set-up in Key West. The cruise party will sail there from Palm Beach; everyone else is flying into Miami. I’m not sure if I told you, but we’re leasing a G-IV until our new Boeing can be delivered. That plus one of our time-share planes will handle the cruise crowd. I have chartered a Boeing 757 for friends from Las Vegas with some of Dan’s friends from LA flying here on the first leg of their trip. There will be a 727 for everyone from New York. Of course there will be some people flying in from elsewhere. It looks like between us and Tyler and Dan’s guests around 300 people will be there, give or take a few. Margaret has made hotel arrangements in Miami for them for the night before and the night after the ceremony.”

“What’s on the itinerary for the cruise?” Matt asked.

“The actual cruise will be 5 days from Key West and will only be to the Bahamas. There is plenty to see and do there to keep us busy. We didn’t begin to scratch the surface of all the islands on our last jaunt.”

“Man, this whole thing is bound to be expensive.”

“Yeah, it’s not gonna be cheap,” Ron agreed. “I figure about $700 thousand for the commitment ceremony and about $150 thousand for the cruise. We would have saved about $200 thousand if we’d had the ceremony here. There would have been more guests, but not all the expense of travel for the Las Vegas group.”

“Dang! I had no idea it would be so expensive,” Matt said shaking his head.

“Don’t worry about it, Sweet Guy,” Ron said smiling. “During the last year, our combined net worth grew at about $5 million a week. I don’t think this will put much of a chink in our armor. One thing about great wealth, it’s practically impossible to spend it all on yourself.”

“Yeah, I can see that! Yikes! $5 million a week!  That’s amazing!”

“Matt,” Ron said looking into Matt’s eyes, “I’d give it all up before I’d give you up. I love you Babe. I just want you to be happy.”

“I’ve never been happier, Boopie,” Matt said moving to Ron and kissing him tenderly. “Whadda ya say we go home and jump in the shower before our guests arrive. I’d like to get a little of the dust of the day off.”

“Sounds good, Stinky, but I’d like to get something else ‘off’,” Ron replied with an evil grin.

“I love making these plans,” Matt said, rubbing his crotch that was beginning to project noticeably. “The anticipation is almost better than the deed.”

“Almost,” Ron agreed returning Matt’s kiss. “But not quite.”

“I second, that emotion,” Matt quipped, as he gave Ron his best ‘come-on’ smile. Then taking Ron’s hand with his good left hand, he pulled him toward the door.

            *    *    *    *    *