Let the Secrets Die, on Amazon


Read about Andi Wittwer on APG news.


Wittwer will introduce her new book, “Let the Secrets Die,” the first in the Jewell Johnson Mysteries series. She also will discuss the “family” next door, an important part of the series.

Rural Wisconsin is a perfect place to “hide out.” Low population density, deep woods, swamps, back roads, and beautiful lakes are great for refuge. Some of those refugees were actually escapees — folks running away from something, and up in the Northwoods they could lay low or even disappear.

While some of those “lying low” were political dissidents, others were criminals and gangsters from the cities who had worn out their welcome in the south. Northern Wisconsinites knew great poverty so accepting a little bribe, selling goods and services or working for mobsters was accepted as fairly normal routine — don’t ask, don’t tell.

In “Let The Secrets Die,” Wittwer uses time as a medium to dig up some of those secrets that underlie Northern Wisconsin communities. In the Jewell Johnson Mysteries the reader will be a kind of historical archaeologist, digging up layers of secrets that include gangsters, politicians, the FBI, and others to answer the question, “Why did Sig die?”

There’s No Honest Retail

I met an elderly glove salesman many years ago, when I was working at a hardware store. That may seem rather uninteresting. He was nondescript as well. He drove an old car and wore an old brown overcoat. For many years, he would show up out of the blue one time in the fall and then in the spring. His white hair was a little too long but his handshake was strong and his smile was kindly under his shrewd blue eyes.

I enjoyed talking while I picked out gloves for our store to sell. It was complicated. There’s so many categories – kids, womens, and mens, working gloves, gardening gloves, hunting gloves and then many sizes. I made spreadsheets about how many gloves we sold by season and what kind sold the best. I had a list of customers who had specific needs. That old guy wasn’t our only glove salesman; young, pushy, hurried, etc. but this guy was my favorite. I would listen to him tell me what was the best buy and then his best sellers and I would choose several hundred pair of gloves to purchase out of his trunk. His prices were always the best.

I loved this process, the buyer’s sense of retail vs the seller’s need to earn. One day the old man sat down with me in the hardware breakroom, and proceeded to tell me his personal story – about how all his life, he had sold gloves out of his trunk in three states. He said he knew this kind of business was going away and wanted to know if I would type up his story. It was hand-written on notebook paper. I agreed and we parted.

Not long after that I received his story in the mail and over a period of a couple months, in my spare time, I typed it into book form. Then I mailed it back to him. I never heard from him or saw him again. For many years, I kept his story in my computer. He was a very interesting man.

This salesman taught me a very important lesson about life and salesmanship. When I asked him what he thought I should sell gloves for he said “There is no honest retail.” He said that nothing has a real retail but it does have a true cost. Knowing the real cost is what we all need to know in life. He said that the big stores were no better than a canny glove salesmen. He had been able to live in the margin between his cost and his sales but the big companies undercut that margin to the point where he and other salesmen couldn’t survive.

Now I find myself that old person. I look around and see small businesses are disappearing. Everything I buy has an inflated retail. In this modern economy, how do we interpret the lesson of the canny traveling glove salesman? Businesses and government know what people want and what they are can pay. But nowadays, how do we establish the real cost? What is a life or survival worth, for example? Can you pricetag happiness? What are we deserving of; and what must we earn? I don’t think I am as shrewd as that old glove salesman. I can’t answer these questions.

Define Character

Character is what defines you as a human being.

It’s what people see in you.  It’s what people will say about you when you turn your back or after you pass away.  Character is one of the most important things you have.  Do you invest in yours?  Do people see your faith in what you do? Is your character reflected in you service to God?  Remember, when you die, Jesus will say, “Welcome brother/sister; job well done” or “I never knew you!”

Character is something that you hold fast to inside, and that people see in you on the outside. More importantly, it is something that God sees in you always.

Romans 5:3-5 – “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5 shows us that in suffering true character is formed which pushes us to hope because we have God’s love “poured into our hearts”.   

Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Character is shown in how you respond in any situation. Your actions can speak louder than words. You and I have to be on guard against the devil, so that when adversity comes our way we can still exhibit the fruits of the spirit in word and deed. How can we shine for Jesus, if we reveal darkness through our actions in the world?

Colossians 3:12-15 – “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”

Your character defines how you live your life.Your character is your judge. How do you treat those near you?  Do you truly love them or retaliate against them? Focus on the future… eternity.

1 John 4:8 – “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

The poor man who walks with Jesus, can rejoice in his passing.

Proverbs 28:6 – “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”


You make provision for your flesh and the world when you sin.

Romans 13:14 – “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Matthew 12:35 – “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Are you a blessing to those around you or are you a ‘stumbling block’?

Matthew 23:25-26 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

You may fool men with fake “character”, but you can’t fool God. He’s knows our hearts and our intentions.   

Titus 1:15-16 – “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.  They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works.  They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

You may say you believe in God, but your actions and words, will prove if you do or do not.

Acts 20:36-38 – “And when he (Paul) had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”

Most of all, character is something that you hold fast on the inside, not just what people see on the outside.  More importantly, it is something that God always sees in you. You can see your own character through Him.

Is That a Crown of Glory on Your Head?

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:20

I was downtown yesterday at the Fall Festival and a lady I saw had beautiful white hair, and she was so pretty and active! But the interesting thing is –  no, the INTRIGUING thing  – about her hair is that it was purple on the ends. She had this sweet halo of purple that exactly matched her outfit! I thought to myself, I want to do that-but then I realized I don’t have all white hair-it is kind of grey, and black, and red, and brown, and white! But oh well. I sure admired her hair!

This led me to think about my hair. The Bible says that your wisdom makes your silver hair a complement – but it could be an insult, or a crown. If you have wisdom to match your gray hair, then the hair color and your wisdom complement each other. If you have more gray hair than wisdom; the Proverbs say your hair is visible evidence you are a fool.  But if you have developed wisdom, then your silver hair is a crown of glory, for it declares a godly life, lived well.

“Respect your elders” is a common expression and an important Bible commandment. We are supposed to show special honor to those who are older than ourselves. The Ojibwe, our neighbors at LCO; say that our elders are always to be honored and cared for…Our Father said it this way, in Leviticus 19: 32 “‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Clearly, we should respect those who have hair that is their crown of glory! Yesterday I sat with a 92 year-old great-grandma at a funeral, and while we waited outside in the cemetery she shared fascinating anecdotes about her life with me, while she held my hand. I was intrigued and interested by her stories about her marriage and her life, and her hand warmed my own, cold one. Her white hair literally gleamed in the sunlight above her snapping blue eyes as we sat there.

In the King James Bible it refers to grey hair as “hoary” or aged. A “hoary head” is gray or white hair, where aging has replaced the hair color of youth with gray or white in Isaiah 46:4. You may have noticed that the hair of our Presidents often turns grey in only four years of their being in office. Perhaps, graying hair is just related to stress and worry?! Hoary in the Bible means anything white or gray. And such hair color on old men is considered a beautiful thing. “The glory of young men is their strength; (it says in Proverbs 20:29), and the beauty of old men is the gray head”.  (I think we have to imagine that guys with bald heads are really gray.)

But remember that both old men and women are to be respected. This is God’s ordinance. In Isaiah 3:5 it says the community of an ungodly and wicked generation, despises their old people. “Let us not be that generation” is my prayer. Proverbs 23:22 says-“Though age will reduce a mother or father’s abilities, they is still to be honored”. The Gospels in the New Testament commands that older men and women should be respected: don’t you love that quote from Timothy’s first letter:

I Tim 5:1-2 5 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

Gray or white hair on an older person should be a badge of honor – a crown of glory! It is a change that God has ordained in our hair color that indicates age, maturity, and experience. American women are sometimes ashamed of their hair color, but I think aging should mean greater wisdom, holiness, love of Christ, and godly example. Now, some may say that this is not always the case, so Solomon, the Wise limited the proverb to those who actually seek these virtues.

But God did not limit our respect to those who are the examples, He says the elders should be treated with respect, cared for and uplifted. Jesus made a point of how widows, children, the handicapped and the ill should not be neglected but they should be cared for by their community. He didn’t say they had to be the smartest or the best members of the community-he said we should care for each other and pay respect to each other, especially the aged.

Think about the silver hair of the old couple Zacharias and Elisabeth (Luke 1:5-7)? They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless. What glorious silver crowns they had! And what did God do for them? He gave them John the Baptist, the precursor to Christ!

Simeon was an old man, whose goal was to see The Christ (Luke 2:25-35). The old widow Anna, presented herself to the Lord in holy and sober worship (Luke 2:36-38). Paul, near death, did not “count his assets” but rather he took the time to describe his faithful life (II Tim 4:6-8).

For a father to be a great father; he should train his children in the fear of the Lord as seen in Ephesians 6:4. Every one of our children and grandchildren is another opportunity for you to build a family tree in the kingdom of God. And today we hope they will honor your gray head as a crown of glory for the investment in their souls.

The Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified appearance has head and hairs white like wool, as white as snow in Revelations 1:14. It is definitely a crown of glory to Him, for He is the Ancient of Days and Everlasting Father though He is absolutely ageless in Revelations 1:18!

So I think I would love to show off my “own crown of glory”, through aging and gaining greater wisdom, holiness, love of Christ, and a godly example. What a joy it is to have made it to where I am in my life-and I hope you feel the same way! I thank God for your presence here today, not just the young – but the elders, because it shows we are on a path to gaining that shining solver crown! Maybe mine will have a light tint of Purple!

Let us pray together:

Heavenly Father, We love you deeply. You have brought us here today to share our love for You in song and scripture. You are so wonderful, so marvelous, so good to each of us. We lift our voices in praise for your infinite and generous mercy and grace for us.

Even as we struggle with the aches and pains of aging, even as we find it harder to reach out to You; we have faith that you will continue to be with us in our souls, and in our memories.

Father we ask for healing and strength for those of us who are ill or struggling. We ask for comfort and safety for those of us who are simply waiting and resting here at Water’s Edge. We especially ask for wisdom, discerning, love and gentleness for those who care for the residents here in the nursing home, in the hospital and in the offices of the Medical campus. Bless their hands and hearts Father that they would hear your guidance as they work here each day. We ask for that silver Crown of Glory, to be ours as we seek your heavenly Kingdom. Fill us with wisdom, love, grace and mercy so that we can know holiness here on earth.

Thank you Father for your Holy Presence here at Water’s Edge today.

We pray through the Holy Name of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Chapter Eight, Done Running

Because I Could Not Stop For Death   Emily Dickenson

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

      It is autumn, October- cool and impending rain. Jewell wakes up after the break in at the Inn, to find Abby staring in her face waiting for her. Malin and Jake join her for breakfast in the dining room and then they leave. Jewell learns that Tom is working on a strange investigation. She realizes that her friends, the Widmers are worried about her taking pills. Ben brings a horse carriage and Jewell rides with Abby and Ben back to the farm, has a panic attack and is taken back to the Inn. She and Jake relax in the parlor and Peter shows up. They go out to the veranda and see an eagle over the lake.  Peter talks about the significance. They sit on the veranda in the cool evening as it gets dark and the lights come on. Peter shares his story about his life. Peter and Jewell discuss losing parents, then Jake and Peter talk about war. Finally talk turns to the story about the skeleton and Peter reveals what he knows.

What, Me Worry?


Did the news today make you feel over-worried and insecure? Are you struggling with fear about daily things in your life? Perhaps you should adjust your focus.

Normally we don’t worry about lack of gravity or about the solar system. Our planet is a tiny blue bubble of water and rock, compelled to swing around the sun in a grand waltz by an invisible pull that holds her and her seven sibling planets in orbit. A teeny-tiny deviation in those orbits would affect you and me in a huge way.

Think about your focus. We humans tend to only see things that are right here in our faces, like today’s weather report, politics, family issues, community affairs, or network media. But WebMD.com says that chronic worrying can affect your daily life so much that it may interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. People who worry excessively can be so anxious that they seek relief in self-harming lifestyles including overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs. Can you focus on the things you can control and allay your worries?

Write down a list of those troublesome issues. When you write worries down, it helps to visualize which ones are actually not in your control. Perhaps having someone review the list with you will relieve your fears. Cross off those fears that you can’t or won’t deal with. Focus on the issues that give you the most satisfaction to handle right now and cross them off. If you are worried about politics, write a letter to your representatives expressing your fears and opinions. Give your worry about the weather and the universe to God. Psalm 34:4 “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”.

The J J Mysteries


In the spring of 1971, Jewell Johnson graduates from high school, and spends her summer at The Linger Inn, in Northern Wisconsin near Hayward. Her grandparents built up the lakeside bed and breakfast and their farm over many years–and now it hides many secrets. Jewell is the catalyst as the mystery in her family’s history unravels and the truth about her father’s early death is revealed. The first in the trilogy, “Let the Secrets Die” introduces Jewell and her family. “Done Running” will reveal the historical the warp and the weft in the fabric of her own life. “The Secret of San Pedro la Laguna” will reveal the facts of her father’s secret life in Guatemala as she collects the threads to understand him.

Andrea Marple Wittwer is an educator, longtime historian and pastor from Hayward, WI. She works for the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College.

SUNDAY MORNINGS, Picture by Theresa Kocha

I love Sunday mornings. There is a special aura in the rising sun and a nuance in the song of the birds.  I wake in confusion usually…I always struggle to figure out what day it is and what my schedule for the day is…and then I remember that it is another blessed Sunday. I will either preach or sit back and listen. I am filled with the beauty of His Word and feel transformed. I read His Word and converse with Him every day but I find that when another preacher is teaching and translating – it takes on a different glow. It isn’t about the sanctuary or the building- it is my attitude of feeling more, inviting more – yearning for more. In my praise and worship there is a sense of giving and servanthood in giving up myself to another.

Growing up, Sunday morning meant the CBS  Sunday morning program which I loved.  But as a kid, I rolled over and groaned on Sunday mornings when I realized there would be no school and most neighborhood kids would be unavailable because they were at Gramma’s house or at some church activity while I had to avoid the darkened living room where my father was watching football on two TV’s. There was no reason to go to town so we were stuck at home to entertain ourselves with games or in my case-immersion in a book in a corner.My Gramma lived thousands of miles away and didn’t cook.

When my five kids were growing up Sunday was a gardening day or extra time to catch up on laundry. Ron and I were usually busy with something on Sundays so church seemed out of the question. I would talk to God about a million things while I worked. He was always available, always ready to comment on my thoughts. On Saturday afternoon our kids went go to church with Leona and Fred (my in-laws), so I didn’t feel I was neglecting their spiritual growth. They went to Catechism on Wednesdays with Gramma and I would have time to clean up after supper and maybe write, work or study for a little while.

Somewhere in the middle of all the chaos of growing older, I discovered that I longed for Sunday morning to be more meaningful. I wanted to luxuriate in the Word. My pastor seemed to speak into so many of the thoughts I had during the week. He addressed my sorrows, my fears – my angst. When I thought I was going crazy from sickness and life strain, I would lean back and let those words remake me and guide me. Fortunately I had a pastor whose message was so loving and full of understanding. There was none of the condemnation I heard from other people. “Come, come to the water…” he’d say. We would sing songs like “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants after You.” Then, I was healed one Sunday morning. I actually felt the wound stop bleeding and the skin close. The pain was over and I was renewed.

Sunday morning is my solace and my prayer. Thankyou Father for resting with me here.

Am I White?

Enoch Marple1790-1886
My great-great Grandfather, a typical Englishman named Enoch from the mid 1700’s

I sent my DNA spit-sample to Ancestry.com and discovered I am:

  •  36% Scandinavian
  •  28% Europe Western
  •  20% Irish
    • 9% Ibero-European-mostly centered in France and Spain
    • 1% Mali
    • 1-2% South Indian
    • 1-2% Caucasus

I’m mostly white. That is, if the Western European percentage is still considered mostly white. I imagine they were swarthy. Some of my ancestors came from the Middle East…is that white or not? If not; then I am about two-thirds white. That is, my family is mostly Swedish, some English and a little Irish. That is certain from my father’s careful forty-year study of our genealogy. So I’m pretty white, I suppose. Actually, my skin is pretty transparent-you can actually see my blue veins through my skin… I am pasty white-like plaster, the underside of a mushroom white or a fish’s belly. I am so white I’m reflect-the-sunshine-white. I should be called “Snow White”. When I go out in the sun I burn bright red and blister within minutes…I don’t tan. I am actually allergic to the sun. So I live in the north where most of the year is colorless like me (except my odd, blue-green eyes).

I guess I take after my mother’s, mother’s, Eichman family who  came from somewhere in Austria-Hungary but more likely they were generally Celtish. Her father’s Conklin forebears were Irish and Welsh. My short, tough, feisty little mom, with her tiny feet was of nominal Welsh/German ancestry. They came to America to escape the Great Potato Famine and the rigors of mining. Poor, and decrepit they washed up on the shores of the American East Coast- met and married in Prescott.

Still, all in all, I really look white. Even my hair is now grey, streaked with pure white. I like to eat white foods like sugar, fish, potatoes, cake and bread. I’m allergic to shellfish. I speak Spanish and French haltingly-those are “white” languages. My red-headed gramma, Elin Ackenbohm, was from the southern plains of Linkoping, Sweden. Her people were probably farmers. My very tall, dark-haired and hawk-nosed aunt, Ina, was a dark Swede (my dad said) but she spoke fluent Swedish. My grandad Charles Marple’s ancestors were Quakers who came from England and Wales.

But go figure! The DNA test shows that I have genetic ancestors in Mali, Africa. Like a classic Mediterranean soup, I am also 1% black and 2% South Indian. Some people say that if I have any other racial characteristics, I am not white.

Is it a coincidence that all of my life I have wanted to sojourn to Timbuktu, an ancient dusty city in the African desert? The Mali Empire was a center of Muslim scholarship. It is still a wonderful and mysterious desert place. The Kingdom of Tombuto was probably founded in 1213 or 1214. Maybe my relatives could have wandered through there in those days.

South Indian? Like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. I long desired to take the Orient Express and adventure the mountain ranges of the Himalaya, & Hindu Kush. Twenty years ago I planned to be a hospital missionary in Kathmandu, a city high in the Himalayas. Going more south, perhaps I am a distant relative of the famous Indian Mahatma Gandhi! Oddly, I thought my mom even looks East Indian and we shared an inordinate interest in ancient Buddhist beliefs. I mentored a little girl Nayani from Sri Lanka for many years and I just love two elaborately decorated elephants like those from S. India on the shelf in my kitchen. They are very out-of-place there among my other artifacts. Could my genes have travelled to Europe via a Mongolian Sherpa family from the steep slopes of the Himalayas or perhaps through the daughter of a fierce Gurkha fighter? My luck? More likely members of the lowest Indian caste, the Dalit, and total outcasts of society.

So if I am Caucasian, I’d come from the Caucasus region- extending from the Anatolian Peninsula and the nation of Turkey, (bordered by the Mediterranean), to the Caucasus Mountains, which form its northern boundary along Russia’s southwestern edge. There, the nations of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are nestled in the highlands between the Black and Caspian Seas. In the south, it stretches from Syria to Iran, reaching all the way to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

A historical fascination I had as a child was the archaeological excavation of Troy. Remember the story of Troy in the Iliad- Homer’s retelling of when Mycenaean Greeks laid siege to the ancient Lydian city of Troy? This was most likely part of the ancient Hittite Empire. Am I related to powerful King Cyrus who freed the Jews from slavery in Babylonia? Is my blood linked with Cyrus’s descendants Darius and Xerxes? The arrival of Turkic peoples from Central Asia brought the Turkish language and Islam to the west.

Am I white? Probably not in “essence”. I am mongrel. I am a typical American, a product of thousands of years of miscegenation, of global culture-clashing and washing. Imagine a cosmic genetic mixing bowl or a DNA blender. My RNA and DNA are multi-colored and multi-directional. If I transplant to Mars, am I still American? If I am on a wandering space-ship, does it matter if I am white, yellow, red, brown, or black? Does my skin color define my essence? I’ve read about sloths that have changed their behavior and thus color by slowing down and absorbing green chlorophyll in their fur so they can camouflage their real color. Maybe that’s why young people are tattooing themselves and dying their hair in crazy colors. It is their camouflage.

I am a Jesus follower by my choice but not by my birthright, since a few of people in my genetic line were most likely Mohammedans. Some would say I need to split my fractured body and soul and send it back where it came from like small splintered shards of glass from a broken vase. Do you?

History’s Little Mysteries

One of the things I love about studying history is the sense of how interpretations are overlapped by time. So often what we think is “truth” is opinion, even when we are looking at “facts”.

In my Jewell Johnson Mysteries I hope to recreate the past and then several possible interpretations. In book one, “Let the Secrets Die”, I introduce the central character, Jewell Johnson’s father. In Epitaph, Sigurd Johnson meets his untimely end. Do we know why? Maybe.

You meet Sven, Mary and Jewell Johnson who each will play a big part in his life. Sven and his brother Nels come to Northern Wisconsin from Sweden and the things they see are real, from Minneapolis’s Depot to Lake Makoons. By the way, Makoons is the Ojibwe word for ‘Little Bear’. When I was a girl swimming at Round Lake there was a big old resort that sat on the side of Hinton Bay. I used to swim out into the lake and stare at that big ol’ place. It is no secret that Anthony Judson Hayward and Philetus Sawyer were very important to the past in Hayward. The man who did most to begin the town is Robert Laird McCormick and there is not a street or a monument of any kind left to remember him…why? That remains history’s mystery.

I studied local history, genealogy, anthropology and archaeology all of my life, digging into local history in towns and villages all over America. I love the little inside stories and I will sit and listen for hours when elders tell their personal history. Have you ever seen a swarthy guy and wonder why he is so angry looking? I did-and I would make up stories about him in my mind. What about teachers, waitresses, clerks, bank tellers, bag-ladies and everyday people you meet and chat with? I am always interested in their stories no matter how big or small. Gangsters, lumberjacks, a sheriff or Tribal Elders are all fascinating to me. Those collected stories have become part of Jewell Johnson’s story.

Jewell’s next adventure again begins with a chapter called “Epitaph” and more details about how Sigurd died. In “Done Running” and book three, “The Secrets of San Pedro La Laguna” the reader will uncover deeper and deeper levels of the peculiar secrets of Sigurd Johnson and how events led inevitably to his death.



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