Eerie owl hoots echoed across the thirteenth green. A full harvest moon spilled its golden glow across the golf course. I walked Sparky on our nightly stroll along the cart path. We were near Spyglass Lane, the cul-de-sac where I lived. My house loomed in the shadows a short distance away.
I was new to the neighborhood, and my unsettled state of mind left me wondering if the move was the right one.
Frequent stops were the order of the late evening as Sparky, my pudgy Bassett Hound, investigated everything he came across. I glanced to the right when something caught my eye. Sparky turned in the same direction and waited. I could have sworn a shadowy figure dodged behind a cluster of trees. Was it my imagination or a trick of light and dark?
The eerie hooting continued and I was spooked. With a light tug on the leash, Sparky turned from the shadows and scooted across the crunchy Florida grass, pulling me off the green and along the side of my house, to the front door. I was more than anxious to get inside. My heart thudded against my ribcage.
Pale, creepy images bore into my mind, blurring my vision. Sensations spun in my head. Not again. Knowing what was to come, I sagged against the wall of the portico and tried to brush aside the unwelcome imagery. I angled further into the stucco entryway ‘til the front door was before me. I unlocked it with moist, shaky hands. When I stooped to unhook Sparky’s leash, sensations niggled at me again.
I slumped to my knees, aware a car swept into the driveway across the street. I made an effort to thrust the feelings away.
A car door slammed and distant footsteps pounded toward me. Sweat prickled my skin as ghostly forms swam before my eyes. I used the bottom of my T-shirt to wipe my face until my vision cleared. I struggled to breathe normally.
A rich, masculine voice echoed through my consciousness.
“Are you all right?”
Sucking in deep breaths, I pushed myself off the ground and stood on wobbly legs. Before me was a man who, in any other circumstance, would have set my pulse racing. But since it was already in race mode, I couldn’t credit him with that. His dark gaze and lazy slouch reminded me of a pirate holding his balance on the deck of a sloop. My mind wandered.
“Yes, I’m fine... thanks. I-I stumbled, trying to get the dog unleashed.” Good Lord, that’s pretty lame. But I can’t tell him I have visions. Nobody else can know. Not ever.
Overhead lights illuminated the small portico. I watched his eyes narrow as he took in my appearance from head to toe. True enough, I didn’t look like I’d just stepped from Elle Magazine, but it was late. I was tired and, as an artist, I generally dress in whatever comes to hand.
“If you’re sure everything is—“
“I’m fine, really.”
My heart thumped hard in my chest for fear he’d see more than I wanted him to. I turned toward the door and opened it for Sparky. With a glance over my shoulder, and a half smile, I murmured goodnight to the handsome devil who didn’t appear to believe me, and closed the door, locking it behind me.
I knew that look so well. After all, I’d been doubted, ridiculed, and suspected before.
Sparky bounded into the foyer and raced across the room. Well, bounded might be too strong a word, speed-waddled might be more apt. Yeah, he definitely waddled as he made his way across the screened-in patio of the softly lit pool. His short legs and elongated body made him scrunch and stretch like an inchworm with a purpose. Sparky’s long snout snuffled over the surface in vacuum-cleaner fashion. I wondered what new scents he found that hadn’t been there earlier.
With a final snuffle and grunt the dog sank to his haunches next to the screen. That particular noise passed for a bark, in Sparky’s case, and that always caught my attention. Long, floppy ears pitched forward, and his imperious schnoz pointed toward the golf course. Being a sensitive guy, he seemed to have picked up on the tension I’d felt earlier when we’d walked on the path.
A disturbing inkling prickled my senses once again. Quickly skirting the swimming pool, I reached the dog as he peered into the darkness. We both stared toward the golf course for a brief time.
Nothing. With a heavy sigh, I tried to get rid of the feeling of doom and gloom settling over me. There was nothing to be seen, and though the moon was bright, deep shadows yawned around the edges of the golf course.
I was turning away when I caught the tiny flicker of light that flashed and quickly disappeared, like a firefly. Does Florida have fireflies? My heart thumped, a shiver slid down my spine, and my nerves tingled with electricity. Sparky lay at ease and I was left with the impression that maybe the threat was gone. If there ever had been one. Dogs – mine especially – have a nose for news and find interest in anything.
Sparky rose and followed close at my heels as I walked inside. I slid the heavy glass doors closed and locked them.
Exhaustion crept over me. Since I’d moved into my new house, life had been chaotic between work and getting settled and I had no idea where all the time went.
I wandered into the bedroom and prayed sleep would come soon. After all, tomorrow would be another day on the golf course – with an early tee off – the first tee of the day actually.
In pajamas, I slid under the light covers and pushed my anxiety aside. I listened to the night sounds in an effort to relax. It was pleasant to be in a balmy atmosphere as was so often the case in Florida during autumn. So different from New England. It was like the weather in each was at an opposite end of the spectrum.
Such thoughts tumbled around in my head as I lay in the soft confines of my bed, weary but wide awake. Crisp autumn nights in New England smell wonderful. Those smells were some of the things I missed most. But, there would be no going back.
Sparky lay on the floor next to the bed, emitting short snores from his snout. At least one of us could sleep. The clock on the bed stand clicked over, and I realized it was midnight, the witching hour. With that thought, I groaned, turned on my side, closed my eyes, and prayed for oblivion.
The prayer must have been answered because later, while it was still dark, an odd sound from outside woke me. Shwish, shwish, shwish it went – like a corn broom against concrete. The not-so-distant noise came from the golf course. Not metal against metal, but metal against something.
Tossing the covers aside, I slipped across thick pile carpet to stand before wide windows that overlooked the thirteenth green. Darkness prevailed while the moon hid behind a cloud. I couldn’t see a thing and knew better than to go investigate in pitch darkness.
I headed back to bed but a bout of dizziness caught me. I clutched the nearby chair with unsteady hands. My mind was clouded by images of a shovel sinking into sand. As usual, my breath caught in my throat. Breathe deeply. I worked hard to summon the strength to do so.
No, not again. Not again, please. Would it never end? When the blurry mist cleared, I sank, weak-kneed into the chair I’d been holding onto with a white-knuckled grip. Tears of frustration sprung forth and rolled, unchecked, down my face. Trepidation filled my soul.
While I rested my head in my hands, my elbows propped on my knees, replayed images of a quaint New England village crowded my thoughts.
The murder of the old woman had changed life as I’d known it – forever. Memories of Lena Farrell’s death, and that of her killer, were etched in my mind for all eternity. At thirty-three years old, I, Sarah McDougall, wanted nothing more than to live in a quiet neighborhood and lead a simple life with my dog. But that wasn’t to be – even though I’d found a quiet neighborhood – and the realization left me uneasy.
The grandfather clock in the hall chimed three – a sure bet that I was up for the day. I’d be absolutely useless on the golf course, but decided I’d go play a round with the ladies anyway, just to get away from these feelings and images.
My flighty next-door neighbor, a nosy woman whose husband seemed to work all the time, had invited me to go golfing when I’d first moved in. I was uninterested in close friendships so I hardly knew the neighbors. Still, it was smart to socialize a bit, instead of living my life cloistered inside the house. After all, I’d moved away to start over.
After I’d accepted Jill’s offer, I found her prying most annoying. Now, I tried to avoid her without being rude and never committed to a golf game with her.
The country club was a small affair and the membership was reasonably priced. After joining, I met a group of retired women who instantly swept me into their golf game. They were kind and most willing to take me under their wing as a newcomer.
In the kitchen, the button on the coffee maker lit as I set it to brew. I wandered through the hall to the studio where I viewed various works of art in progress – until I swayed. I closed my eyes for a moment, again reaching for something to steady me. I clenched the art table. I visualized vague images of blond tresses and diamonds before they faded.
In the mirror across the room I recognized pale skin, sea green eyes, a short nose, full lips and determined chin on my oval face. My cropped, spiky, dark hair tipped with blond, made me look as though I’d recently had a bad scare. My fear-filled eyes gave me a haunted appearance.
I scribbled the details of the episode on a scrap of paper and headed to the kitchen for coffee. I could tell something was afoot. I intended to resist the pull to become involved, with all the strength I could muster. But, if past experience was any indicator, I knew that might be futile in the end.
I waited impatiently for the drip to stop. Finally. Rich brew streamed into the cup as I poured it. I took the mug with me and settled in my favorite comfy chair by the front window. Though the chair had seen better days, it was an old family treasure. I couldn’t bear to part with it, so I’d had it refurbished and hauled it with me when I moved. At the sound of tires on pavement, I peered though the lace-curtained window.
A sleek car swung into the pirate’s driveway across the street. As I sat, folded comfortable into my old overstuffed chair, I wondered about the handsome stranger.
Cool air filtered through the open crack of the window. The curtains swayed – seemed as restless as I was. I leaned forward and watched the man leave his vehicle. He glanced around the cul-de-sac, paused a moment when he faced my house, hesitated, and then turned away. Just my luck to have another super-snoop for a neighbor. Why the hell I cared, I didn’t know.
No one here in Florida knew about me, or my peculiar affliction, and they never would if I had any say in the matter.
I watched the tall, rangy figure stretch as he stood by his open car door. The vehicle’s interior lighting silhouetted his body. I noticed muscled arms when he bent to retrieve something from the front seat. His cell phone jingled, jarring the silent neighborhood. When he answered the call, I could see him stiffen for a moment. He turned toward my house and then turned away. I could hear the rich timber of his voice, but not the words he spoke.
The light flickered a second and went out when he closed the car door. Locks clicked in the silence. His call didn’t last long, and he headed toward his front entrance with a long-legged stride.
Overhead motion-sensor lights in the arched entryway illuminated him once more. Again, he turned to gaze toward my house before entering his own. Suddenly, the outside lights went off.
What I’d seen of him in the night cemented my earlier impression. Lean and fit, he walked with a pirate-like swagger.
Lights flicked on as the dark stranger wandered through his house. Wide, curtainless windows showed his movements along the hallway.
I’d never seen anyone around his house, which had begged the question: Who lived there? Now I knew. I leaned my head against the soft chair and imagined what he’d look like in daylight and wondered if a Mrs. Pirate lived with him.
Homes in this neighborhood appeared solemn and most seemed deserted. It came as no surprise that I hadn’t seen the pirate before and Jill had never mentioned him. I considered what his true occupation might be.
Mind your own business. I lectured myself on a regular basis. Stay aloof and life will remain simple. Make waves and life will never be the same. I often gave myself these little warnings – especially since Lena Farrell died. Her sudden and brutal death had rushed my senses and left me quaking in my shoes. Before the woman’s murder hit the newspapers, I’d been confounded by the visions. Afterward, I’d ignored them sheer strength of will. My conscience pushed me to share my visions with the homicide squad. That was my first mistake – I sought out the detective in charge of Lena’s homicide. His reaction had weighed me down.
It hadn’t been the first time I’d had visions, but it was the first time my visions were so intense, or revealed a death.
All my life I’d been the recipient of what I considered strange coincidences, scenes that presented themselves in a misty, ethereal fashion. My mother regularly dismissed them as daydreams and fantasies of an only child.
When I was young and innocent I believed her. I wasn’t so sure when I grew older.
When Lena was murdered, the horrific pictures surrounding her death dominated my life. I couldn’t escape them. I realized they weren’t fantasies or daydreams, but a horrible reality for me – and her.
Day broke as I sat there thinking and the first glimmers of gray light filtered through the window. Sparky tap danced in place, his toenails clicking against the tile floor. He wagged his tail in anticipation of our early morning jaunt.
I left the comfort of my chair and changed into shorts, a Red Sox T-shirt, and sneakers for a ramble around the golf course.
Absent-mindedly I grabbed a plastic bag and tucked it into my pocket for doggy-do pick up.
We strolled along the side of the house then onto the golf cart path – Sparky’s favorite place to ramble. His tail swished in excitement whenever he had the opportunity to scare the daylights out of egrets and cranes. I smiled as they high-stepped over the greens to escape him.
We hadn’t gone far when Sparky deviated off the path and scrambled onto a sand trap. His long nose snuffled over the smooth surface. Then he turned his woeful, brown-eyed gaze toward me and moaned.
I ignored him and said, “Do your duty and let’s get back to the house. I look like the wreck of the night and—”
My voice trailed off as my body began to sway back and forth. Moisture prickled my skin, and I realized I’d likely pass out soon. I took a squat position, leaned forward, lowered my head past my knees, and gulped in breaths of air. Why is this happening here?
Without warning, I slumped forward, my hands and knees pressed into the sandy surface.
My vision fogged while blond tresses and diamonds became crystal clear in my mind. Concentrating hard, I shook my head free of the fog, and scanned the ground and mound of sand. Mound of sand? Sand traps are smooth. Damn. I peered at the surrounding area. The rest of it held a swept appearance.
The dog strained against the leash wrapped around my wrist – his enthusiasm dragging me forward. The heels of my palms dug deeply into the hump of sand. That was when the unbidden vision returned. Bolder. Clearer. It revealed blank staring eyes.
I gasped. My fingers clawed into the moist, gritty ground. My anxiety mounted. Something cold touched my skin as my hands sank further in.
Holy shit. That brought me around. I scrambled backward, crab-like, on all fours.
A choking noise and low moan from Sparky’s throat pulled me back to reality. The entangled leash was too tight around Sparky’s neck.
I reached out and loosened the leash, then patted the dog’s head – the whole time uttering an apology for my brutish behavior. His sad, droopy stare was trained on me with understanding. At least I hoped so. The dog snuggled closer. His long, warm body curved against me as he licked my cheek. His affection calmed my strained nerves.
Shaken, I rose to my feet. Without hesitation I urged Sparky toward home. In a whisper, I told him to keep up, and we slowly jogged back toward the cul-de-sac. I hurried the dog into the house and watched him settle near the pool, his gaze upon me.
I stayed within the safe confines of the house and paced the floor. Back and forth. Back and forth I went, all the while considering different courses of action. What if I called the police and there was no body? Then I’d be viewed as a nutcase... again. On the other hand, if there was a body, I’d take the position of suspect numero uno. Not a great choice in my opinion.
Across the street, the pirate’s house lay as silent as the rest, though a single light glowed from within. It seemed to call to me and it seemed right that I tell someone what I had found. Why I chose this stranger as a confidant, I couldn’t say. I just knew that I didn’t want to discuss this experience with the ditzy woman next door, or the police.
The visions were certainly too strong to ignore. If I didn’t share my knowledge, things would worsen. I’d learned that lesson well – in other circumstances. This is no time to be a chicken. Bucking up, and walking over was my only course of action.
I smoothed down my frantic hair, wiped the rivulets of sweat from my face, took a deep breath, and headed across the street.
Once I was past his car and on the doorstep, I hesitated a fraction of a second. Fear and a bad case of nerves vied for space in my gut. Courage had never been my strong suit, but my vision showed there was a body in the sand trap and someone had to know. Surely this man wasn’t an idiot who’d jump to wrong conclusions. At least I hoped not. That hadn’t been my first impression, anyway. Strength, power, and somewhere within him, I had sensed caring, though he emanated an aura of danger too.
While I considered it important to tell him of my discovery, I considered I might have read too much into the ‘caring’ part of my impression. I rang the doorbell and waited.
When he didn’t answer right away, my small reserve of courage began to ebb like the tide, so I jabbed the doorbell a couple more times.
The door swung open with force. The pirate stood before me, an extreme look of annoyance on his sharp, handsome features. Tousled black hair fell over his forehead and a faint whiskered shadow covered his square jaw. Dark eyes glared, and his face held an attitude that should have sent me packing.
My gaze wandered over his body and heat rushed to my cheeks. Courage waned further as I responded to his tight grimace.
“I-I’m sorry to wake you, but, I have a dilemma.”
He crossed his arms over his bare, well-muscled chest. His eyes honed in on me and his face seemed like the devil’s personified. Ragged denim shorts were slung low on his narrow hips. His thick brows hiked a notch as he returned my stare. Rugged features brooked no nonsense. I quaked in my shoes while he waited.
My task proved more difficult than I’d anticipated. I hedged a bit while his glare hardened.
I summoned the last reserve of courage, and asked, “Remember me? We met earlier, and well, during the night I heard odd sounds coming from the golf course.” I wrung my hands. “When I took my dog out just now, we came across a mound on the sand trap.”
A tad impatient, he said, “Maybe sand traps have mounds, miss.”
It was apparent he wasn’t a golfer. Though he spoke softly, his irritation was evident. His dark glance strayed toward other homes on the street. I figured he realized no one else was up yet. Either that or he searched for the spaceship that had dropped me off.
Hands spread wide, I said, “Well, no, they don’t actually. I think there’s something buried under the mound.”
When he stepped back and gave a sweep of his hand to motion me inside, I envisioned a fly invited onto a sinister spider’s web. What am I doing? Just spit the story out and take flight. That would work wouldn’t it? I stepped into the foyer of his home. Okay, so I’m out of my mind. What else is new?
The pirate walked ahead. That offered me a great view of his tight, lean body. A sweet sight, and though brief, I relished the scenery. As we neared the kitchen, I noticed his clothes draped over a chair. A holstered gun lay on the table. Startled, I wondered how I could be so stupid to come into the home of a man I didn’t know, or was I just a sucker for punishment? Interesting.
He sauntered into an adjacent room and closed the door. Why am I here? The man had a gun. What else did he have?
I was uneasy, but waited to see if he’d return, or leave me standing there like a fool. If he didn’t show up soon, I’d skulk away from the house – never to be seen in public again.
Several moments later he hadn’t appeared so I tiptoed toward the front door. Before I turned the knob, I heard his soft voice behind me.
“Leaving so soon? You have more to tell me, don’t you?”
Hunching my shoulders, I stopped and turned. I shuffled from one foot to the other and stared at him while he stood there looking great, in his bare feet and wearing jeans.
He tilted a brow and crooked a finger toward me. I slowly returned to the kitchen.
Agitated, I ran a hand through my sleep-spiked hair and balanced my elbows on the top of the chair he’d pulled out for me. All the while I wondered where this would lead. Once I explained my suspicions about what lay buried on the golf course, this rakish brute would toss my butt out the door. I was sure of it.
I’d been treated with doubt and hypocrisy in the past, followed by accusations and threats. Suddenly I was filled with a sense of dread and reluctance, and sunk into the chair. My microscopic speck of bravery fled as I stared at the man who waited, not so patiently, to hear the story.
I didn’t speak while he perked coffee. He turned and spoke in the same soft voice he’d used earlier.
“Let me introduce myself. My name is Raven DeVille, and you would be?...”
As a pirate, the name Raven fit him perfectly. Maybe because his hair was raven black like his eyes, and those eyes could see right through me. Made me nervous as hell.
I stammered for a second until I got rolling. His soft voice should have relaxed me, but it didn’t. I thought I’d come unstrung any second.
“I-I’m Sarah McDougall. As you know, I live across the street with Sparky. My dog.” I plucked at a dog hair on my shorts. He must have realized I was nervous because he poured the coffee and slid a cup toward me, then set out a jug of milk and a bowl of sugar.
I sipped the brew to kill time, but it didn’t work. Instead the coffee scalded my mouth, and I choked. Good show. I watched a grin tip the corners of his mouth and his even white teeth gleamed in the soft light. The WOW smile transformed him from an irritated man with a gun, into a human being.
“Now, if you’re finished postponing the inevitable, I’d like to hear why you think there’s something buried in the sand trap.” He shook his head and continued, “I must admit, it’s an unusual place to dump something, but I’m open to your theory, Miss McDougall.” He slouched casually in the chair though his stare never wavered.
“Sarah, please. I know it sounds weird, but, like I said, I took the dog out and we ended up on the sand trap. When Sparky stopped short to investigate, I lost my balance and fell. The sand shifted under my hands, and I felt something irregular underneath it.” I lied, because I was afraid I’d be viewed as a nut ball.
Skepticism filled his eyes, though they also held a glimmer of what I recognized as interest... or possibly, curiosity. Raven studied me over the rim of his coffee cup. I couldn’t read his face, or thoughts, and that unnerved me.
With a thud, I set my cup down and rose to leave. He snaked his hand out, encircled my wrist, and stopped me in my tracks.
He released me and asked, “So what did this irregular something feel like?”
“Maybe a hand? I’m not sure.” My mouth dried like parched desert sand. I tried to swallow, but couldn’t.
“A hand?” A tiny smirk lingered around his tempting mouth. Disbelief widened his eyes.
With a shrug, I said, “That’s what it felt like to me. I didn’t dig deep or wait around to check it out. I came here instead.”
“Why here?” Raven’s eyes took on an inquisitive gleam.
My patience snapped like a taut piano wire. “Look, will you help me or not? I didn’t imagine this.” I stood up from the chair to walk away. Again, he stopped me short.
“So if it is a hand, maybe there’s a body that goes with it?” His skeptical gaze never left mine, though a tone of interest entered his voice. “Would you show me where this supposed body is?”
Maybe he believed me, maybe he didn’t, and maybe he’d just taken my story with a grain of salt. When someone – especially a stranger you just met – talks murder or death in any form, it’s not always taken seriously. Unless you happen to be a cop, of course.
Is this guy a cop? Oh, great. It suddenly occurred to me that he had gotten home late. Perhaps he’d been looking around the neighborhood. Worse than being a cop, maybe he was the one who buried the body in the sand trap.
Nervous because of that thought – more than the fact that a dead body lay so close to home – I swallowed hard. Our eyes met. I had the feeling he could read me. I glanced away, then mumbled something about minding my own business.
“Do you want to go now, before people start playing golf?” I finally asked the question and stood up, struggling against the urge to flee.
“It’s only six o’clock, Sarah. I highly doubt anyone will be teeing off now. Perhaps you’ll be good enough to wait until I put some shoes on.”
Raven sat opposite me while he slipped the sneakers onto his feet. He tucked his cell phone into his pocket before we strode across the street onto the golf course.
Mist covered low-lying areas. Dew topped the crisp, lush grass. In no time, we’d hiked the short distance to the sand trap.
Dog tracks and my prints had disturbed the ground. I could see where my hands had gouged into the sand. I envisioned the body underneath the surface and a shiver rippled down my back. My head buzzed, dizziness descended, my legs weakened. I reached out and grasped Raven’s arm for support.
“What’s the matter?” Raven asked as his hand encircled my arm.
I was unable to answer, so gripped him tightly. A thin sheen of sweat broke over my skin. A sharp image of the woman’s body broke through my defenses. I began gasping like a dying fish because I couldn’t breathe. This is the worst yet.
I slumped to my knees and leaned forward in an effort to drag oxygen into my lungs. My body shook. Darkness crowded in, and I knew that, at any moment, I would drown in it.
When Raven shook me hard, I started breathing normally and felt my eyeballs roll back into place.
“Sarah, snap out of it.” Raven’s voice came from far away, and he dragged me to my feet.
“I’m here, I’m here. Stop rattling my bones.”
“You nearly passed out. If this is too much for you, go home. But before you do, I need to know where you think the body is.”
“She’s buried there.” I pointed toward the disturbed sand. With a cautious step, I kneeled onto the surface and swept a couple scoops aside to reveal the fingers of a woman’s hand. Diamond-set bands circled the third finger. I sat back on my heels. These were the gems I’d envisioned. I knew she’d have long blond hair.
“Step away from there, Sarah. I want you to go home and call the police. Have them respond without sirens. Give them your address. Got that?”
Raven’s serious, all-seeing eyes scanned my face as he spoke. His strong hands clutched my shoulders tightly as he stared at me.
I figured he thought I’d land flat on my face in a dead faint. I couldn’t tell him how I really knew the body was there, other than the fact that I’d fallen and felt her under the sand. He’d just think of me as a lunatic and who needed that? I’d already suffered through that once, thank you very much. I nodded and stumbled across the grass toward the house, reluctant to be the one to alert the authorities. I glanced over my shoulder.
Raven was talking on his phone, but I couldn’t hear the conversation. He glanced at me and then turned away. I kept moving.
About The Author
JM Griffin grew up in the Maine countryside. Inspired by the Nancy Drew mysteries, JM wrote her first story at age twelve.
With 5 books written and more in the works, JM's first book in the Vinnie Esposito series published in February of 2009. The first and second Vinnie Esposito novels have been re-released through Lachesis Publishing. The third novel in the series, Dead Wrong, was released in ebook format in October 2010, and in paperback in April 2011. Stay tuned for more of the Vinnie Esposito series.
In addition to the Esposito series, JM has written a mystery featuring faeries, pixies, murder, tea and cupcakes. Lyrical Press, Inc. presented the ebook on August 16th of 2010. The paper edition was released in June 2011 and is available on Amazon
Murder on Spy Glass Lane, a novel filled with the antics of Sarah McDougall, a psychic artist, her Bassett hound Sparky, and their swashbuckling pirate-like neighbor was published as an ebook in January 2012. The paper version of this book became available January 1, 2012 HERE
JM and her husband John reside with two crazy cats who rule the roost in New England. Their home is surrounded by a forest, a nearby reservoir and natures creatures.