Book Showcase: A WOLF IN THE WOODS by Nancy Allen

A Wolf in the Woods

by Nancy Allen

on Tour March 1-31, 2018



Synopsis:


A Wolf in the Woods by Nancy Allen

McCown County assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold is prepping an assault case when a girl is found beaten and bloodied at a roadside no-tell motel. Elsie tries to convince the teen to reveal who attacked her, but Mandy is too scared—and stubborn—to cooperate… and then she disappears. Elsie’s positive a predator is targeting the Ozark hills, yet the authorities refuse to believe their small town could be plagued by sex trafficking.

Then middle school student Desiree Wickham goes missing, but only Elsie suspects it could be connected to Mandy’s assault. As she digs deeper into the events leading up to Desiree’s disappearance, she stumbles upon an alarming discovery: local girls are falling prey to a dubious online modeling agency, and never seen again. Elsie shares her concerns with Detective Ashlock and the FBI, but they shut her out.

She takes matters into her own hands and lands an interview with the head of the modeling agency. But when she meets him face-to-face, she discovers the fate of Desiree and Mandy… and becomes his newest captive. Elsie’s desperate to free the girls—and save herself—before the unspeakable happens. And she’s in for the fight of her life.



Book Details:


Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0062438786 (ISBN13: 9780062438782)
Series: Ozarks Mysteries #4 | Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | HarperCollins


Read an excerpt:

Prologue



A dark haired man lounged behind a battered desk in a second floor room at an EconoMo motel that sat on the highway in flyover country, Missouri. He pulled up Skype on his laptop and studied his own image on the computer screen, rubbing the tattoo that covered his neck. Behind him, the unmade bed was visible on the screen. A thin cotton sheet covered the form of a young girl.

He adjusted the angle to cut her from the shot. The bed disappeared, replaced by beige curtains at the window, hanging askew on the rod.

The place was a dump. He could afford better accommodations, without a doubt. It was business, and business was booming. His greatest challenge was procuring sufficient supply to meet the constant demand.

On the desktop, bottles were scattered near the computer. Alprazolam. Oxycodone. Rohypnol. Diazepam. Three value packs of Benadryl: cherry flavored. A plastic bottle of Aristocrat vodka sat beside a jumbo container of Hawaiian Punch.

As he pushed them aside, the bottle of roofies rolled off the desktop and onto the dirty carpet. He caught it just before it rolled under the dresser.

A ding notified him: his Skype appointment was ready. Right on time. He liked the girls to be punctual.

He hit the button on the mouse and fixed a smile on his face. “Lola! How you doing, baby!”

A giggling girl with a mane of curly blonde hair greeted him onscreen. “Tony, you’re so funny. I’m not Lola, I’ve told you a zillion times.”

“But you look like a Lola. If you want to make it in the modeling trade, you’ll have to project glamour. Drama.” He stretched his arms over his head, displaying muscled biceps covered in ink, and locked his hands behind his neck.

“Cool.” Her eyes shone.

“Leave that country girl persona behind in Podunk. Where are you from again?”

“Barton. Barton, Missouri. Where’s Podunk?”

He laughed, running his hand over his thick hair. “Podunk is where you’re sitting right now. What you’re itching to ditch. How’s life?”

Desiree shrugged, pulling a face.

“They still giving you shit at school, baby?”

She rolled her head back onto her neck. “All. The. Time.”

“And how’s living at home?”

“Lame.”

“Wish you could leave it all behind?”

“Totally.”

The girl turned her head; he heard a whisper from someone off-screen. Sharply, he asked: “Are you alone?”

A second head appeared over Lola’s shoulder. He saw a mixed race girl. She was taller than Lola, but he pegged her at the same age: an adolescent, around fourteen.

And she was a diamond in the rough—a black diamond. Unblemished skin, full lips, high cheekbones. Lola said, “You asked if I had any friends who wanted to meet you.”

He smiled, tapping his hand on the counter. “Who’s this?”

The tall girl looked at her friend, then into the computer. “I’m Taylor Johnson.”

“And you’re interested in modeling?”

She blinked. A nervous twitch. He shot a grin, to reassure her. “You’ve got the bone structure for it.”

The tall girl pinched her lips together. “Maybe. I think so.”

“We’ll need to conduct some auditions by video, maybe an interview, before you can qualify for a live shoot at the agency.”

She looked skittish. He wouldn’t get anything from her today.

“Let’s just get acquainted, okay?” He was about to launch into his patter: find out her story, gain her trust.

But a moan sounded from the bed behind him. The girl was coming around. He glanced over, fearful that she might raise a ruckus that could scare off his new prospects.

Tony picked up his phone. “Aw shit. Call’s coming in from one of our clients. I gotta take it.” He winked and shut off Skype just in time.

In a weak voice, she said, “Tony. Help me. Please, take off the cuffs.”

He sighed. Picking up a dirty plastic cup, he poured a measure of vodka and Benadryl, and topped it off with the red punch.

The girl spoke again, in a pleading tone. “Don’t make me do it, Tony. It hurts.”

He stirred the drink with his finger and walked toward the bed. “Mandy, Mandy. You look like you could use a magic drink, baby. This will fix you right up.”

The girl tried to sit up as he extended the red plastic cup. Tony stared down at her, shaking his head. “What’s that saying? ‘The customer is always right.’ You know what you got to do.”

The girl began to thrash against the mattress. But she was handcuffed to the metal bed frame.

***


Excerpt from A Wolf in the Woods by Nancy Allen.  Copyright © 2018 by Nancy Allen. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. 
All rights reserved.




Nancy Allen

Author Bio:



Nancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks.


She tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University.


Catch Up With Ms. Allen On:


nancyallenbooks.com
Goodreads – Nancy Allen
Twitter – @TheNancyAllen
& Facebook – NancyAllenAuthor




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2016 Book 127: THE WAGES OF SIN by Nancy Allen

The Wages of Sin: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen 
ISBN: 9780062438768 (paperback – available June 14, 2016)
ISBN: 9780062438751 (ebook)
ASIN: B0166JUGPM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 12, 2016 
Publisher: Witness Impulse 


In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom’s boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.

When Madeleine’s first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie’s advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general’s office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O’Hara joins the defense.

Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows… 



A pregnant woman is viciously beaten and dies. Her boyfriend is the murderer. The pregnant woman’s six-year-old daughter is a witness to the beating. Elsie Arnold, a prosecuting attorney in rural Barton City, McCown County, Missouri has the chance to try a death penalty case in The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen.

Normally, Elsie Arnold, is the last person in the prosecuting attorney’s office expected to assist in a death penalty case, but there are major issues within the prosecuting attorney’s office that afford her this opportunity. The chief assistant prosecuting attorney had to recuse himself as he witnessed the defendant beat the accused at a campsite just a few days prior to the murder. Elsie’s best friend and fellow assistant prosecuting attorney, Breeon Johnson, recuses herself because she doesn’t believe in the death penalty. Elsie is relatively confident she can more than handle this case as second chair with her boss, prosecuting attorney Madeleine Thomas, until her boss decides to contact the States Attorney General’s office for assistance, and enter Samuel Parsons. Just as things are heating up with Elsie’s professional life (or so she thinks), her personal life is slowing down as her lover, Detective Robert Ashlock, has obtained custody of his fourteen-year-old son. Unfortunately for Elsie, she has to function as the liaison between the prosecuting attorney’s office and Family Services on behalf of the six-year-old witness, establish a relationship with a six-year-old witness, and do all of the scut-work for the legal case against the murderer. It isn’t until the actual trial begins, that Elsie begins to realize that all is not as it appears and there’s a lot more to this case than meets the eye. Will she be able to determine all of the major players before it’s too late for her witness and her case?

The Wages of Sin is the third book in the Ozarks Mystery series by Nancy Allen and the first book in this series that I’ve read. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to read the previous books in this series in order to understand what is happening in the current book, as each book seems to function as a standalone with recurring characters. I found The Wages of Sin to be a rather quick read. Ms. Allen provides plenty of colorful characters to keep things interesting (Elsie and Ivy are a riot!). Ms. Allen seems to capture the essence of rural life without being apologetic about the poverty, deprivation, or depravation. If you enjoy reading mysteries  or legal thrillers, then look no further as The Wages of Sin is equal parts mystery and legal thriller.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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The Wages of Sin

Excerpt: THE WAGES OF SIN by Nancy Allen

The Wages of Sin: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen 
ISBN: 9780062438768 (paperback – available June 14, 2016)
ISBN: 9780062438751 (ebook)
ASIN: B0166JUGPM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 12, 2016 
Publisher: Witness Impulse


In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom’s boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.

When Madeleine’s first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie’s advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general’s office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O’Hara joins the defense.

Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows… 



Read an excerpt:

Oh my God. Let this be over, Elsie thought, doodling on the page of a legal pad. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Elsie Arnold had been tied up in Judge Carter’s court for nearly two hours that morning, representing the State of Missouri in a preliminary hearing. The criminal defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree. Only Judge Carter, Elsie thought, would be coldhearted enough to subject her to a robbery prelim on the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend.

Public Defender Josh Nixon was grilling the bank president, Donna Hudson, in cross-examination.

“So you were present at the time of the alleged robbery?”

“Yes—I said so. In my office.”

“But isn’t it true that, if you were shut up in your office, you did not have occasion to hear whether the defendant threatened any harm?”

“The buzzer sounded. I heard it.” The woman sat stiff, with righteous indignation in every wrinkle of her face.

“The alarm, right? But you didn’t hear any statements made by the defendant, did you? Because you remained safely in the back of the bank.”

“I saw the bomb.”

A comical grin grew on the defense attorney’s face; Elsie closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see it.

“The bomb?” he repeated.

“The box. The box with the tape.”

The criminal complaint filed by the prosecution did not allege that the defendant had threatened the bank employee with a bomb. The criminal charge stated that the defendant threatened the use of what appeared to be a bomb.

“Describe this box, please.”

“It was a box, about this size,” she said, making a rectangle shape with her hands. “And it was covered with duct tape.”

“Did the defendant detonate this deadly bomb? This dangerous instrument you described?”

The banker eyed the defense attorney with resentment. “You know what happened.”

“Tell me. For the record.”

“The bank teller gave him the money. Everything in her drawer. He ran out, left that box on the counter.”

“Then what happened?”

“The bomb squad came and took over.”

“What did they do? If you know.”

“They exploded it.” The lines deepened around the woman’s mouth. “They blew it up. And the mess went everywhere.”

“Mess? What kind of mess?”

Elsie wanted to cover her ears to block out the answer that was coming.

“The chocolate, the cherries.”

Josh Nixon leaned on the empty jury box, nodding sagely. “So the bomb was not a bomb at all? It was—what did you say?”

“A box of candy. Chocolate-covered cherries. Wrapped in duct tape.”

“And for the record, Ms. Hudson: was the money recovered? The money from the bank teller’s drawer?”

“Yes, it was. But—”

Before she could complete her sentence, the defense attorney turned his back to her, cutting the witness off. “No further questions,” he said, and walked back to the counsel table. Nixon slid into his seat, stretching his long legs out in front of him and tucking his longish sun-streaked hair behind his ear. He hadn’t bothered to don a tie.

Judge Carter, a slim man in his forties with prematurely silver hair, peered at Elsie over his glasses. “Redirect?”

Elsie stood at the counsel table, looking at the bank president with an encouraging face. “But did it appear to be a bomb? When the defendant threatened the teller with it?”

“Objection,” Nixon said, sitting up straight. “The witness wasn’t present, has no way of knowing other than hearsay!”

Elsie barked back. “You’re the one who opened the door on this line of questioning. In your cross-examination.”

The bank president rose from her chair, the picture of aggrieved fury. “What I want to know,” she said, “is who is going to pay? For that mess? The cleaning of the bank lobby?”

Judge Carter slammed the gavel. The bank president jumped, startled, and hopped back onto her seat on the witness stand.

“Ms. Arnold—further questions?”

“No.”

“Any further witnesses on behalf of the defense?”

“No,” said Nixon.

The judge turned to his clerk. “The court finds probable cause. Defendant is bound over to Circuit Court on the charge of robbery in the first degree. Arraignment to be held Friday at 9:00 A.M.”

When the judge left the bench, Josh Nixon turned to whisper with his client, a long-haired young man with a bushy mustache. The president of Bank of the Hilltop, Donna Hudson, stormed off the witness stand and bore down on Elsie.

“How could I be treated this way in a court of law?”

“No one meant to mistreat you,” Elsie said in a soothing voice. “It was just cross-examination—the defense attorney gets to ask questions. I explained that to you before.”

“But I am the victim. My family owns the bank.”

“That’s right, Donna. But the defense has the right to confront the witnesses against him.”

“Who gave that criminal the right to confront me? I am a taxpaying citizen.”

Elsie backed up a step, angling to make a getaway. “The US Constitution. Sixth Amendment.”

The banker’s eyes narrowed; Elsie sensed that the woman didn’t appreciate the finer points of the Bill of Rights.

“When will the court make him pay for the cleanup? The cleanup of the bank lobby?”

Edging closer to the door, Elsie shook her head. “Hard to say. You think this guy has any money?”

Mrs. Hudson’s unhappy expression showed that the conversation wasn’t over. But as she was about to speak again, Elsie’s friend and coworker, Breeon Johnson, hurried into the courtroom and grabbed Elsie’s arm.

“Downstairs,” Breeon said.

“Now? Right now?” Elsie asked.

“Just one darned minute,” Donna Hudson said. She opened a Louis Vuitton handbag and pulled out a Kleenex, rubbing furiously at her nose. Elsie eyed the bag with curiosity. It was probably the real article. Though as an employee of a rural county in the Ozarks, Elsie didn’t have sufficient acquaintance with designer goods to distinguish the genuine product from a knockoff.

Elsie gave Breeon an inquiring look. “Can you wait a sec?”

Breeon tugged at her arm. “Can’t wait. It’s an emergency.”

Elsie could see from Breeon’s face that she was deadly serious. “Okay,” she said. Looking back at the banker, Elsie spoke hastily. “The system is working, Mrs. Hudson. Your bank robber has been bound over; he’ll be arraigned in Circuit Court, and his case will be set for jury trial. I appreciate your cooperation, and your testimony. But I have to get downstairs.” She looked over to the door; Breeon had just vanished through it. “Something major is going on.”

“But will he pay?”

The woman’s voice rang in Elsie’s ears, and she was tired of hearing it. Turning away, she said, “Yeah. Yes, Mrs. Hudson. He’ll pay.”

“How?”

“The old-fashioned way, I expect. With his liberty.”

The banker protested, her voice shrill, but Elsie departed at a fast pace, and scrambled down the worn marble staircase of the McCown County Courthouse, catching up to Breeon at the back entrance to the Prosecutor’s Office.

“What?” Elsie demanded, as Breeon punched the security buttons to access the private entrance. “What is it?”

Breeon shook her head in disgust. “Another murder. They found the body in a trailer home, right outside the city limits. Can you believe it?”

“Again?” Murder cases were rare in rural McCown County, a small community nestled deep in the Ozark hills of southwest Missouri. Elsie had handled a murder case over the summer, prosecuting a juvenile for the death of a bus driver. A second homicide, occurring within such a short period of time, would shake the entire community.

“Yeah, another woman,” Breeon said, pushing the door open. “But a young one this time.”

“Aw, shit,” Elsie said.

Breeon gave her a look, righteous anger evident in her face. “She was eight months pregnant.”

The news stopped Elsie in her tracks. “A double murder,” she whispered.

© Nancy Allen




Author Bio:

Nancy Allen




Nancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She has tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University. Her first novel, The Code of the Hills, was published by HarperCollins in 2014. The Wages of Sin is the third book in her Ozarks mystery series.






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The Wages of Sin

Guest Post: Nancy Allen, author of THE CODE OF THE HILLS



How do you come up with a likeable heroine? Nancy Allen, author of The Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery, stops by to answer this question. The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to present to you Nancy Allen:




Fictional Heroines: A Recipe
By Nancy Allen

What makes heroines tick? Why do readers fall head over heels to embrace one female protagonist, while another leaves them cold?

I think it’s the right combination of ingredients: V/V, U/R. The heroine must possess the essential elements of Virtue and Vulnerability, and be simultaneously Unique and Relatable.

Think of the women we love in fiction: Skeeter in The Help, Clare Fergusson in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s series, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. They have the V/V factor. All heroines must exhibit strength, whether they are battling racism, or fighting crime, or solving mysteries. It requires a healthy dose of virtue to get the job done.

But a heroine who is all goodness and light is a bore. I didn’t read each and every volume of Spencer-Fleming’s series because I wanted to hear heroine Clare Fergusson, an Episcopal priest, preach on Sunday. No, indeed; I wanted to see Clare struggle with her unbridled lust for a hunky married cop. The vulnerability factor, the contest of strength and weakness, converted her woman-of-the-cloth heroine from a potential yawn to a persona who kept me riveted to the page.

Similarly, Skeeter’s fight against the racist practices of the 1960’s Deep South was heightened by her angst, fear, and uncertainty as she met in secret with the maids whose stories fueled an expose. And Stephanie Plum’s employment background in lingerie does not equip her for the job of crimefighter; but the fact that she stumbles makes us root for her.

Also, the heroine has to be unique in some way. We don’t want to see the same woman over and over again in fiction. Stock female characters bore us; in the mystery and suspense genre, we’ve all seen the hard-boiled female detective, the brilliant-but-introverted medical examiner; the tough-as-nails female lawyer. If the character isn’t invested with traits that set her apart, we toss the book before we reach page 50. A heroine needs a streak of something unexpected, either in her background, like Clarice Starling of The Silence of the Lambs, or her history (addiction issues, personal disasters), or her personality.

But while we want something unique, the heroine must remain relatable. A heroine who is too beautiful, too brilliant, too infallible makes us suspicious. Why should we care about her? We don’t like those women in real life—the acquaintance who never has a hair out of place or a run in her hose. Why would we like her in a book? Who wants to read about that?

So we love Skeeter’s frizzy hair in The Help; Stephanie Plum’s family dinners with kinfolks who deliver a put-down with a hug. We want to see a heroine eat a doughnut, sleep through the alarm, walk into a kitchen full of dirty dishes. Leave the infallible heroines to the dystopian fantasies, targeting the the high school set (no doughnuts or dirty dishes in Chasing Fire). Real women need protagonists who contend with life’s realities.

When crafting the heroine of my novel, The Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery, I tried to follow my own advice. Elsie Arnold, the assistant prosecutor in my legal thriller, embodies the V/V contrast. She’s smart, dedicated, hard-working—important virtues in the legal field. But Elsie has feet of clay. Her personal life is messy. She puts up with a bad boyfriend because he’s easy on the eyes; to relax, she heads to the local bar (not the gym); she makes mistakes in her case that threaten the outcome. Elsie is a good/bad girl.

And it’s important to remember the U/R quotient as well. Elsie is a hillbilly, born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks, with the quirks inherent in natives of that area; that’s something you don’t see in fiction every day. She’s also a feminist fighting for women in the good ole boy community.

But she is truly relatable. Elsie buys McDonalds burgers at the drive-through and eats in the car. She watches reality TV and buys her shoes at Shoe Carnival. She turns to her mother for comfort and counsel, then rejects her advice—just like we all do.

Whether I invested Elsie with the right measures of V & V, U & R? Only time will tell. The Code of the Hills will be released by HarperCollins on April 15, and Elsie will be put to the test. I hope she lights up the page!




About the author:

Nancy Allen is a member of the law faculty in the College of Business at Missouri State University. She practiced law for 15 years, serving as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and as Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. When Nancy began her term as prosecutor, she was only the second woman in Southwest Missouri to serve in that capacity. During her years in prosecution, she tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and she served on the Rape Crisis Board and the child protection team of the Child Advocacy Council. The Code of the Hills is her first novel.




Connect with the author:     Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter 



A powerful debut thriller set in the Ozark hills, about a young female prosecutor trying to do right by her vulnerable clients-but by breaking their silence, she herself may fall victim to The Code of the Hills. Elsie Arnold may not always have it all together, but a raucous night at the bar now and then is just how she blows off steam after a long week of hard-fought trials. When she is chosen to assist on a high-profile incest case, Elsie is excited to step up after four years of hard work as an attorney for the prosecutor’s office, and ready to realize her ambition of becoming the Ozarks’ avenging angel. There might even be media attention.

But as soon as Elsie she begins to sink her teeth into the State of Missouri vs. Kris Taney, things start to go wrong -which is when her boss dumps the entire case on her. The star witness and victim’s brother, who has accused Taney of sexually abusing his three daughters, has gone missing. The three girls, ages six, 12, and 15, may not be fit to testify, their mother won’t talk, and the evidence is spotty. To make matters worse, it seems that some people in town don’t want Elsie to lock Taney up – judging by the death threats and chicken parts left for her to find.

Elsie is determined to break the code of silence and find out what really happened, refusing to let a sex offender walk, but the odds – and maybe the community – are against her. Even as Elsie fights the good fight for her clients, she isn’t so different from them: her personal life is taking a one-two punch as her cop boyfriend becomes more and more controlling. And amidst all of the conflict, the safety of the three young Taney girls hangs in the balance.



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