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A treasured memory

A treasured memory

Recently I was asked about a happy memory and though there are quite a few in my life, this memory stands out.

Back in 2012, I released my first book, A Pirate’s Wife and was invited to be part of a launch for first-time authors in Randburg.

It was a difficult time financially, and I had to borrow a dress from my mother to fit in with the dignified crowd. Because we had no car, my dad offered to drive me, and I was chauffeured to this beautiful occasion feeling like a million bucks.

The day was covered in dark clouds, rain pounding the car from the moment we got in until we reached our destination. We were drenched once we stepped out of the car. But when I stepped into the hall, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, on a poster, was my book and my name printed in bold letters. A Pirate’s Wife by Lynelle Clark.

That elevation boosted my frail ego tremendously. I never thought I would ever witness the day where I would see my book on a table for all to see. Among fellow writers, equally excited about this big event.
The hall itself was flooded and the organizer and her helpers had a mop drying the floor as quickly as possible. Can you imagine the scene?

Here we were all dressed in bling with mops and brooms to save the day… But yet everyone’s books remained dry, including my poster, neatly printed on a large canvas.

At the time, I couldn’t afford to print the book, but the organizer show-cased my book in such a way that everyone could see it. The pride that swept through me I cannot put into words. I thought nothing could beat that at all.
Once normality returned, photos were taken. Those interested in my book asked about the conception, and I could relive the process and story once again. Connecting with readers felt terrifying but fulfilling simultaneously.

A few years later, I finally held the paperback in my hands and that feeling came close to that first impression of that event.
There are no words that can describe how you feel. Seeing, feeling, and leaving through your own book leaves you speechless and thrilling at the same time.

Now, after seven books, I still feel the same every time I hold a book. It is the result of hard work, hours of labour and dedication that no one can take away from you.

No matter how it looks around you, that feeling surpasses that and boosts you in a way that nothing else can. It gives you the freedom of expression without the judging. Liberating you from the hold we sometimes put on ourselves.

And the feeling that propels you to begin the entire process once more.

Chapter 12

Synopsis  Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11

Tripp Calloway

A Whiff From The Past

After dinner, the three men went their separate ways and Tripp went outside. His coffee mug going with him to the bench overlooking his beloved mountains.

He is just stretching his leg when he hears the faint sounds of a car approaching. Then the click-clack as they cross the cattle grid. He stands up and leans against the porch post and takes the last of his coffee as his eyes penetrate the darkness.

The door opens and Travis comes over and stands next to him.

“Who is it, dad?”

“Don’t know.” Tripp walks down the steps as a taxi stops in front of him and the back door opens. Travis appears next to him, and they glance at each other. They freeze and stare at her, dumbfounded as the woman closes the door. She places a small overnighter on the gravel and the taxi speeds away. Leaving them in a dust cloud. But none of that does the son and father notices.

They haven’t seen her in twenty-four years. The black hair is shorter and as she comes closer, they can see it has turned grey. The rest of her looked the same and once she stops inside the pocket of porch light, they take a deep breath.

For Travis, it felt more like a stab in the gut and his face turns silent, his jaw locking shut.

“Travis. Tripp.” She says carefully and moves her shoulder bag to the other shoulder.

“Sonja, what are you doing here?” Tripp asks. Travis disappears into the darkness without another word. Tripp watches his son, then glances back at her. And stands to the side for her to get up on the porch.

“I know this is unexpected, but I wanted to see Travis.” She begins, her Mexican accent rolling easily from her mouth. As if she was back from her day trip.

“I don’t think you have any business seeing him. Or pitch up here.”

“He is my son, Tripp. I have a right.”

“You have no right. You signed that away years ago. Remember?” Tripp says and clutches his mug tighter. His knuckles turn white before he let go of the excessive hold. The mug dangling on a fingertip.

“Yes, but much has changed. I need to see him.” She says and cranes her neck. Her face was now fully exposed in the light. Huge brown eyes imploring him to understand. Life has made a permanent mark on her. Her skin seemed healthy, but underneath the makeup, signs of neglect were visible. Two tooths were missing from the front.

“That I cannot help you with, Sonja. He is a grown man now.” Tripp says, turns and opens the door.

“Tripp, please. Is it possible to stay the night? I promise to be gone by tomorrow.” She says, stopping him before he put his foot over the thresh hold.

“That’s not a good idea.”

“Surely you won't expect me to leave at this time of night?

Tripp turns around slowly, then stares at her for a while before he responds. The sharp replies that tumble in his mind, threatens to spew from him in icy bitterness. But he decided to change not too long ago. God has a way of putting him on the spot. When he turned a page, he never even thought of his ex. She hasn’t featured in his mind in a very long time, and to see her face to face brought all the ugliness back. Even his parents warned him about her. His mother was correct in her observation, and she didn’t prove them wrong. Travis was just a baby, still in need of the nurturing care of a mother. But she left. No one forced her. She made the decision.

He didn’t want her here. He didn’t want her back in Travis’ life. She caused enough damage to their son. He straightens his shoulders then moves into her line of sight with a blatant stare.

“What did you expect, Sonja? A warm welcome and all is forgotten?”

“No, but at least a chance to explain.”

“The time you had to explain also expired a long time ago. We have moved on. You should do the same.” He turns and disappears into the house. The bitter words on the tip of his tongue. Leaving his ex-wife on the porch is a way to protect himself but also her. He made his peace with her.

“Tripp!” she calls but gets no reply. She looks around the neat yard, now so different from when they moved here years ago. She was wide eyed and expectant to live the life of a rich ranch wife. But things didn’t change overnight, and she left without a second glance.

The part that Tripp’s parents played, the springboard that helped her along. She has a few regrets in her life, but leaving her son was the biggest. If she had stayed, she would have got what she wanted. She knows now she was foolish back then. That one act caused so many other problems in her life.

She didn't know where to go and looked around. The dark blanket that covers the yard gives its secrets away. One light shows it to be a barn. She glances at the backdoor then back to the light. Indecisive on her next step.

Inside, Tripp watches her. The darkness covering him. Then he prays.

“Lord, what must I do? I can’t let her stand there. I can’t invite her in.” He is reminded of a room at the top of the barn. Not the perfect place for a woman, but if he takes a bed upstairs, she can use it until tomorrow. He simply couldn’t let her come in. He has to think of Travis, and it was clear he is shaken by her appearance.

With his mind made up, he walks out and finds her in the same spot he has left her.

“There is a room on top of the barn. It hasn't been used in a while. A storage room, but if you don’t mind sleeping there tonight, you can use it?

“That sounds good. Thanks Tripp.” He stops to say something else but let it go then walks into the house, switched on the light and get a torch.

Chapter 11

Synopsis  Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10

Simone

The Chameleon

Simone returns from the spa in high spirits. It feels like she is walking on air. Though she won’t admit it, the pampering did her good and her entire body agrees. After her restless night it helped to mind her at ease. Even the haircut did wonders. It is time to enjoy a light lunch at her favourite restaurant and then spoil herself with a good wardrobe-therapy.

John has made up for his behaviour of the previous night by depositing a few thousand rand into her account. Nothing like a good guilt trip to make the man realise the error of his ways. And she made sure her nest egg is topped up as well.

Her mother once told her it was good for a woman to have a separate account. One that the husband knew nothing about, and she has followed that advice religiously throughout her marriage.

Ready to walk into the restaurant, a shadow covers her from the left and she looks up. The tall man’s face is obscured so that she cannot recognise him as he opens the door for her.

“Thank you.” She speaks first.

“You welcome.” The voice sounds familiar and once inside in the warmer interior, she turns around to look at him as a déjà vu moment slips in shivers down her back.

“Do I know you?” she asks and observes the well-dressed man with keen interest.

“I don’t think so. The name is Dieter Combrinck. I’m new in Cape Town.” His voice had a finishing to it she only heard once before.

“From where are you?” she asks, still baffled about the impression that she knows him from somewhere.

“Originally from England. I live in Johannesburg for the last couple of years. And you?” he explains and shrugs out of his blazer. His shades on the top of a shaven head. A leather cap dangles from his one hand.

“From Cape Town.” She replies.

“Hello Mrs Stevenson. Welcome back.” The concierge says, and she smiles.

“Hello Becca. So good to see you.”

“You too, Mrs Stevenson. Same table?” the younger woman asks. Her ponytail swishing behind her as she turns her head to the interior of the room, then back. She follows her gaze and notice the full tables at once.

“If it is available, I will love that.”

“It sure is. Will the gentleman join you?”

Simone glances towards him, then shakes her head. “No, I will eat alone.” And removes her scarf.

“Now you break my heart. Surely, we can enjoy a lunch together?”

“I don’t know you, Mr Combrinck.”

“Then it is an excellent opportunity to do so, don’t you think?” his polished manner grinds her nerves. The superfluous tangible, and she frowns.

“I am a married woman, Mr Combrinck.”

“And don’t married woman get hungry?” he asks and lifts a bushy eyebrow.

“Yes, we do. But this is inappropriate.” She says and shrugs out of her coat. Ready to bolt to her table.

Becca is watching the entire conversation with indifference, a menu in her hand. Then glances behind her as if she is looking for an escape route. Simone steps to the side when he stops her. A hand resting on her arm.

“Believe me when I say I want nothing more than a table, good food, and companionship. That’s all.” He says and holds his free hand in the air.

“I don’t think so, Mr Combrinck. Good day.” She replies and walks away. Becca covering her back.

“Must I ask security to remove him?” she asks when Simone takes a seat.

“It’s sweet, but I don’t think he will be a problem.” Simone says, then opens the menu.

“Call when you are ready.”

“Thanks Becca.”

“Simone Stevenson. How great to see you?”

Simone looks up from the menu and smiles appropriately. Marjorie is the wife of Benjamin Becker, or Ben, as they all call him. A dull man that can put you to sleep, both in his talk and court cases. Yet brilliant in what he does. He is the partner at Stevenson, Eisenberg, & Becker.

A true socialite from her bottle blond hair to her imported Italian shoes. Marjorie towers over most women without shoes with a body of an athlete and a mind of a bulldog. She is the complete opposite of Ben. Her lively persona has opened many doors for the company, local and abroad. Though she studied law, she never took the bar exams but was a camp fighter for everyone that was wronged. In many cases acting as a paralegal.

Her charity work is another passion of hers and they have worked on several of these charity boards together.

“Hello Marjorie. How are you?”

“I am very well. I understand you were away?” she asks and place a strand of hair behind her ear. A large golden hoop hangs from the lobe, catching the afternoon sun.

“Yes, I visited my son in America.” She informs her and place the menu on the table.

“Oh, lovely.” Just then, a man calls her name, and she waves at him.

“We must visit soon and catch up, Simone dear. It was lovely to see you.”

“You too, Marjorie.” Ready to give her order, she sees Dieter Combrinck leaning over his menu and studies him.

“What will you have?” the waiter asks, and she orders a bowl of mushroom soup.

“Will that be all?”

“I will like a macchiato, please.”

“It will be ready soon.” The waiter says and disappears. Simone nods, then returns her gaze to the man across the room. He looks up and their gazes meet. He nods, smiles and lifts his beer glass to her, and she looks away.

Why is he so familiar? I know him, but from where? Never one to forget a face, Simone struggles to pinpoint him. He is familiar but a stranger. The conflicting reaction baffles her.

The one thing that stands out, however, is that he isn’t from England. He is a local and tanned. The inlanders aren’t that tanned, yet he doesn’t look like a surfer. Though in a denim and blazer he looks rough, as if he has seen the worst of the worst. There was nothing refined about him, no matter how hard he tries to say otherwise.

Puzzled, she glances towards him, then returns her gaze to the view outside the large window.

The ocean’s restlessness covers in a grey mist that hung low across the surface. The sun was hidden behind a blanket of clouds. Yet a ray or two slips through between the crevices and touched the earth in pockets of make-believe warmth.

“Here ma’am.” The waiter says and place a cup of steaming coffee before her. Followed by her bowl of soup and a breadbasket.

“Thank you.”

“You have the right idea.” Dieter Combrinck says and takes the empty seat across from her. Placing his beer on the table.

“Mr Combrinck.” Simone's annoyance rising, then looks around the restaurant. At the back, Marjorie was engrossed in conversation, not watching her.

“Call me Dieter. I’m not great with formalities. My mother always insisted on the proper manners, but today it is so old-fashioned.” He says without missing a beat. “My brother, on the other hand, is as stiff as our upbringing demanded.” The condescending smirk hidden behind a hand as he wipes his mouth.

“Please leave or I will call the security.”

“That’s unnecessary. I just want to talk, and you have such a wonderful accent.”

“In that case, I will go.”

“No, please stay.” He insists.

“Is everything alright here, Ms Stevenson?” Becca appears just behind the man and Simone glances up to her. Then return to him. The nagging thought of knowing him prominently in her mind. That she doesn’t trust him, another thought that causes her to stay on alert. Once her stomach growls she decides to stay.

“Please. I won’t be a bother. The lady can trust me.” He insists.

“Ms Stevenson?” Becca asks and raise a manicured eyebrow. Simone looks at her bowl, then at him, and nods. “It’s okay Becca.”

“Does Ms Stevenson have a name?” he begins once Becca steps back.

“Let’s keep it formal.” She insists, and he grins.

“Alright then. Formal it is.” Simone brings the spoon to her and keeps her gaze on the soup. The aroma reminding her how hungry she was.

Dieter Combrinck leans back and takes his glass and remains unnaturally quiet. But not refraining from her. Whatever he is thinking shielded behind years of practise. The beer, though, goes down perfectly, and he smacks his lips and smiles when she looks up.

Simone Stevenson, they are right about you; he thinks. As cold and indifferent as the weather outside. No doubt your husband’s doing, and he grins inwardly. Keeping his face straight. Surely, underneath all the feminine control, must be a woman of fire?

He takes another gulp, then waves the waiter closer.

“Hamburger and chips with all the trimmings. Don’t be skimpy with it either.” He orders. “And bring another beer.”

When Simone places her empty bowl to the side, and glances up at him. Her unease is visible in her straight shoulders and pinched mouth.

“So, what does Capetonians do for fun around here?” he asks. Studying her in such a way that leaves her uncomfortable. She looks around and once she sees the waiter, waves at him.

“Can I have the bill, please?” she asks once he has reached the table.

“Sure. Anything else?”

“No, I am done.” She replies and the waiter takes her bowl and empty cup.

“I hope you are not leaving on account of me?” he says.

“I have another appointment.”

“We should do this again.”

“There won’t be another time.”

“I heard so much about Cape Town's hospitableness.”

“I will recommend going to a local pub or information centre. Excuse me.” She says icily, and gets up, takes her bag, and slings it over her shoulder.

“I hope we see each other again.” He says and watches as she walks away. Entwining the scarf around her long neck.

If Simone looked back, his glare would have frightened her, but she didn't. Pays the bill at the front, puts on her coat and leaves.

Dieter Combrinck, your work is cut out for you. One of these days, she will eat out of your hand. Play it easy. He lifts his glass to the couple staring at him at the other table and they look away. He then sits back when his plate arrives.

His thoughts with his plan.

 

Chapter 10

Synopsis  Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9

Awkward Moments

“Mindy, there is a call for you!” her roommate calls. She came home just over an hour ago. Her feet were killing her after the long shift. She wanted to lie in bubbles and forget everything. The warm water covers her body enticingly. She has no intention of getting out, not until her fingers are wrinkly and her body unwind.

“Who is it, Amanda?” she calls back and heard her moving closer.

“He said you met on the plane, a Harold somebody,” she replies through the closed door, then opens the bathroom.

“Hey, leave some warm water for me too,” she whines as she peeks in.

“Yeah, yeah.” she says lazily and groans when the man’s image appears in her mind, “Tell him to call back,” Mindy says reluctantly, “I will get out, now.”

“He sounds very interested and said he will wait.” Amanda teases.

“Tell him to call back, please, Amanda.” Mindy insists, then opens one eye and glances at her.

“Okay, but if he calls back, you will answer the phone, and hurry. I have a hot date tonight.”

“Yeah,” Mindy says absently, shutting her eyes, and the door closes. They both worked for the South African Airlines, flying all over the world. They met during the flight attendant course three years ago and never looked back.

It was only the constant harassing of men that she didn’t care for. She wants a man that would sweep her off her feet the moment she meets him. Not trying to sweet-talk her, but seeing her for who she is. She wants to feel loved, being caressed by his eyes and hands, thinking she is the only one for him. The Harold’s of the world are interested in her body and not her thoughts. Sometimes she curses her beauty. Though it has served her well in the past, people don’t take her seriously and she remains a pretty face with no brain. Though a trained flight attendant, she has done a business and IT course at college. Preparing herself for the day, she will tire of the current job. That day is crawling closer.

Mindy remembers Harold what’s his name. He sat in business class just behind the beautiful brunette and was a nuisance throughout the trip. He demanded attention in the most obnoxious ways. Tracy gave him her number without her consent. She has no desire to meet him, and she groans, then slides down into the bubbles. Immersing her blond head within its depths.

“Mindy!” Amanda calls again, what feels like seconds later.

“Yes!” she calls, frustrated.

“Harold again.” Reluctantly, she left her warm bath and walks out, the towel wrapped around her body. Leaving droplets all over the floor.

“Mindy speaking,” she tries to conceal her frustration, but it is useless.

“Hi there, beautiful,” the man says. “Did I disturb you?”

“Yes,” rolling her eyes and he chuckles.

“You want to go to a movie tonight?”

“I am tired, Mr Reeves.”

“Harold, please,” he insists, “I would like to get to know you. What do you say?”

“No.” and tightens the towel surrounding her tiny frame.

“Oh, come on. A beauty like you should enjoy the nightlife.”

“And I am tired. Unlike you, I worked until an hour ago.” She counters.

“You don’t have to do anything. Just smile and look pretty. I will do the rest. Seconds of silence follow, and he clears his throat. “Please.”

She has no reason to stay in. Tomorrow is her day off before she will leave for Europe. Again, his whiny voice reaches her ears, “Please, Mindy, I will behave. I promise.”

“Okay then, but I’m tired and don’t want to stay out late.”

“Yes sure, I will pick you up at seven thirty and deliver you promptly back at ten, is that okay?” she nods then realises the man cannot see her and responds, “Sure, okay, I will be ready.” After a moment of hesitation, she gives him her address.

Once she ends the call, she catches Amanda’s inquisitive stare on her. “So, are you going?” Dimples playing in both cheeks.

“Yes.” Mindy says and walks to her room.

“Does that mean you are done in the bathroom?”

“Yes.” She calls back and closes her bedroom door.

~*~*~*~

“Did you call Tripp Calloway, Tracy?” Ben Marshall asks his youngest and only daughter. “Yes dad, he said I can see him tomorrow morning at nine.” Tracy answers as she returns from the stables. Walking up the porch to where they are enjoying the late afternoon.

“What is this, dad?” Adam asks, her older brother by two years.

“Tracy is going to help at the Calloway Ranch with their books and administration. I saw Tripp on Sunday and he asked if I knew someone who could assist him. I told him about Tracy who is helping me.” Ben answers Adam, the third of his four children.

“Why don’t we give her enough to do?” Adam asks with a smirk.

“Yes, brother, but it still gives me enough time on my hands to help Tripp and built a nest egg.” Tracy replies as she sits next to her father on the two-seater couch overlooking the ranch. The best view of the valley as the sun dips lazily down into its earthen vessel.

“Is this about the car you want to buy, or about the new ranch hand, James?” Adam asks, his eyes gleaming with tease and she blushes but keeps her mouth shut.

“You have a crush on that man for a while now,” Ben adds his two pennies. His face is relaxed and genteel. Father and brother glancing at her but she remains fixed on the sunset. Her crimson cheeks are her only response.

“Yeah, dad she does. I have seen her watching him when he won his first rodeo event, and the new guy has skills. I heard he’s from the city.” Adam continues. She gives him a shy look and disappears inside the house.

“Our baby sister has it bad, dad.”

“Quit teasing her, Adam, I like the young man. He is a good worker, scared of nothing. Tripp has trained him well. She cannot go wrong.” Ben says.

He had had an eye on James since he had arrived. James has improved a lot in a short period. Tripp only speaks fondly about him. Time will tell if anything grows from it.

But Tracy cannot go wrong with the Stevenson boy.

“Do you think the feelings are mutual, dad?” Adam grins at his sister’s speedy exit into the house. No doubt to begin with supper.

“Yeah. I have watched him. He seeks her out at church on Sunday’s and at the dance the other night he didn’t leave her side. They look good together.”

Adam must agree. Ben Marshall will love to see them all married with children. Ever since their mother’s death, he misses family around him.

He, himself wasn’t ready, but yes, one day he would love to settle down and have his own family. He is building his own place not too far from his family farm. Besides, he hasn’t found the next Mrs Marshall yet, but when he sees her, he will know.

Jacob or Seb are the two anomalies in the family. They are sworn bachelors. Tracy has a good chance of marrying and having children before them.

Adam had seen the interest between them and, like his father, he likes the South African. But he will keep a close watch over her. He won’t make it easy for the foreigner and grins.

~*~*~*~

The next day, golden brown eyes watch the young woman as she walks up the gravel road to the main house.

Dressed in a pale blue summer dress, her feet covered by a pair of worn cowboy boots, her hips swayed enticingly with each step. Her long hair curtains her back in soft curls he wishes to touch. She is picture perfect. The glimpse will keep him going, but he wants to speak to her. The perfect opportunity will be at lunch when she is done with her day.

As the daughter of a rancher, Tracy loves the outdoors and ranching as much as he does. He treasures the moments in church, especially when she brushes against him. The faint scent of roses reminds him of his grandmother’s garden back on the Malmesbury farm.

Tracy always smiles, her dimples a permanent feature on her lovely face, and now she is here. When he heard she will work in the ranch office twice a week, he was ecstatic. It is the ideal time to get to know her.

Reluctantly, he left his post and continued to his assigned work for the morning. Then rushes back as she steps out of the house soon after. With long strides, he walks towards her and stops in front of her. Their gazes’ locks and they smile with an easy familiarly.

Out of the corner of his eye, he notices Buck and Roger talking while they are looking at them. This boost his confidence and he breaks the silence.

“Hi there,” he greets with a big grin and steps into their line of sight.

“Hi James.” she replies sweetly.

“Did your day go well?”

“Yes, thank you, James,” she answers and walks on towards the car standing at the end of the driveway. He follows her, wondering what to say next.

Come on, James, you are clever. Say something to keep her longer.

“Do you want to go riding with me before you leave?” Once the words are out, he wants to kick himself. With her dress, she can’t do that.

“That will be great, James.” Dumbstruck, he looks at her. Did he hear correctly? No way, he thought. Even shy, Tracy likes the surprised expression on his face.

Tracy has waited awhile for him to make the first move. Ever since she has seen him two years ago, she liked him. Over the years, her interest has grown. Finally, her wait is over, and repeats: “Yes James, I will.”

A smile breaks across his face, and he reaches for her. Then, remembering the onlookers, he steps aside. Allowing her to brush past him and her perfume drifts towards him. Leaving his heart in a gallop, and his palms wet. Sheepishly, he follows her to the stables.

He quickly saddles two horses while perfectly aware that she is watching him the entire time. He helps her to mount her mare, and they left the stable.

He leads her to one of his favourite spots on the ranch. The natural rock formation gives them a magnificent view of the mountains and river. He dismounts, then helps her down, his hands reaching for her small waist. When her feet touch the earth, he doesn’t let go. Their eyes met and kissed her softly for the first time.

The connection is everything he thought it would be. With all shyness gone, he takes her eager mouth and kissed her as he had dreamt about so many times.

Tracy reaches for him on tiptoes, her arms wrap around his neck as she leans into him. The moment to big as the midday sun kissed their union in its warm embrace.

Breathlessly, he came up for air, brush away tresses of strawberry blond hair and whispers, “I like your hair.” he grins, and she blushes.

He let go, takes her hand, and leads her to the rocks. They sit down and enjoy these first moments of alone time.

Their talk is simple. It began as a hesitant feel but after a while the words flowed easily between them and when he reaches for her hand; she places a tanned hand in the palm of his.

The moment kissed with a ray of sunlight, and they smile at each other.

All the way back to the stables, they stay close. By the time they enter the yard, all eyes turn to them and Travis grins.

James helps her down, then walks her to the car and kissed her, openly. With no hesitation. The message is clear to all who watch, Tracy Marshall is taken.

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