Secret Society
173 pages
English

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Secret Society

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173 pages
English

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Leon Garber has his reasons for ridding the world of abusive people, call it justifiable homicide. Opportunity comes knocking from Like-Minded Individuals, Inc., a global company fulfilling the needs of clients: new identities, security, and even lists of potential “projects.” But let’s not call it “serial killing” (such a nasty term). For Leon, it’s a dream come true.  However, LMI’s put a target on Leon’s back, with no indication of why. LMI, the police, sanctioned hit men, and a vicious psychopath are after Leon. He collides with other Like-Minded Individuals: The Good Samaritan Killer, The Mad Doctor, Donnie and Marie (don’t ask). Heads are chopped, dropped, and swapped as Leon fights for his life. But nothing will keep him from finishing his current project. Not even the chance to fall in love. Sometimes a killer business idea is just that. Killer.

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Publié par
Date de parution 20 septembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781772996586
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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Secret Society
Killers Incorporated, Book 1
By Stuart R. West
Amazon Print ISBN 978-1-77299-653-1
Copyright 2015 by Stuart R. West Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this boo k. Dedication I’d like to thank Jeff Chapman, Patricia McQueen, Gail Roughton, Meradeth Houston and Penny Ehrenkranz for their invaluable contributions to the Like-Minded Individuals saga. Also, I’d like to dedicate this book to abuse victi ms everywhere. Don’t take it, there are options out there for you. Above all, don’t blame y ourself, the worse possible self-abuse. Finally, and as always, this book goes out to Cydne y, my swan, and Sarah, my cygnet.
Chapter One When Like-Minded Individuals, Inc. calls, it’s seri ous: snap to attention, drop everything serious. Since Leon relocated to Kansas, he hadn’t received one message from them. LMI doesn’t exactly send out birthday gr eetings. But after his LMI sanctioned cell phone buzzed last night, he found h imself doing something he loathed —visiting the mall during the holidays. Strange place for a LMI meeting. Even stranger text message.Mandatory meeting at Barton Mall for SX-6209. Be on the bench in fron t of Dottie’s Dogs tomorrow at noon. No indication what the meeting regarded. It couldn’ t be about a transfer. He had six months left on his Kansas stint. As Leon sat on the bench, the hair prickled on his neck. He recognized the warning sign—his survival instincts kicked in, sending him an internalbeware“text.” Experience, another old friend, taught him to alway s scope out a rendezvous early. He looked for odd details that didn’t belong: shopp ers without bags, dawdling people going nowhere, a mumbling man with a hand placed ov er an ear. Knowing how to spot the little things kept one out of prison. And alive . On this unseasonably warm Monday, he wore a sports jacket, tie, and light tan khakis. Nothing announcing, “I kill people who dese rve to die.” Sunlight burning through the windows baked him. Swe at blossomed under his arms and he considered ditching the jacket. “Santa Baby” blared over the loudspeakers, an endless loop worming into his mind. A woman, pushing a stroller, sat on the bench next to Leon. She let out a weary shopper’s sigh, one demanding acknowledgment. Unlik ely she was the one he was supposed to meet, however. After several encounters with fellow LMI clientele, though, Leon never discounted anyone. “What a beautiful baby,” said Leon. “Boy or girl?” “A girl. Four months old.” “Beautiful. Just beautiful.” Leon leaned over, his hand wavering above the baby. “Ûo you mind?” She frowned, blinked at him, finally smiled. The fa miliar trajectory. First distrust, then curiosity, and eventually, acceptance. Simply because he was handsome. At least he’d been told so in the past. He didn’t buy it, no t for a minute. Whenever Leon looked in the mirror, all he saw were faults. His asymmetr ical visage, the crooked nose. Over time he learned to use others’ barometer of his app earance to his advantage. People trust attractiveness more than ugliness, simple hum an nature. “Ah, no. Go right ahead,” she replied. Leon tickled the baby’s belly. As if telling him to stop, the baby latched onto his finger. “Quite a grip she’s got there.” “Yep, she’s my strong little gal.” Leon lifted a flap of the blanket, checked the baby ’s legs for signs of bruises, burns, or cuts. Old habits die hard. The nature of his wor k. Satisfied, Leon smiled. “You must be very proud of her.” “I am. We are.” Maybe the woman had survival instin cts of her own. Suddenly she jumped to her feet. “Have a nice day. It’s gorgeous outside.” She scurried off, wheeling her daughter away, but not before tossing him one l ast glance. A raucous group of teenagers gathered in front of Û ottie’s Ûogs. Two girls, basic chic skin and bones, stood idly while the boys atte mpted to one-up each other with loud
bravado.Definitelyduals” tended tonot whom he was there to meet. “Like-minded indivi work alone. Except, of course, for the Missouri rep resentatives. A chill rippled across his skin, ants on parade, as he remembered that enc ounter. Shoppers, paper bags straining in their fists, hurr ied through the crowded mall. Holiday stress wrinkled their faces. Nothing out of the ordinary. At forty minutes past noon, Leon’s party still hadn ’t shown. Maybe LMI canceled the meeting. Some red-tape snafu. As Leon stood to leav e, he spotted a young man in a dark blue hoodie swaggering toward him. He stopped in front of Leon, jutting out his soul-p atched chin. “Yo, you Owen Gribble?” Even though his eyes blazed blue and aler t, his heavy eyelids suggested arrogance. Long, blond locks spilled from his knit cap. A small ponytail secured his hair in the back, nothing more than a knot. Thick biceps anchored his broad shoulders. If the kid cleaned up, he’d probably look half decent. “I’m Owen Gribble.” Of course Owen Gribble wasn’t h isrealname. “Gribble” was the alias LMI supplied Leon for his Kansas term. The ir ony hadn’t escaped him how “Owen Gribble” was dangerously similar to Leon Garber. So metimes Leon suspected LMI had a puckish sense of humor. As a general rule, Leon avoided unnecessary physica l contact. He extended his hand anyway. A necessary evil he learned to barely tolerate during his years in the corporate sector. “And you are?” Ignoring Leon’s gesture, the kid slumped onto the b ench. “Call me Cody.” “Okay,Cody. So, what’s this meeting about?” Leon sat back dow n. “It’s time for you to go, Gribble.” “Excuse me?” “I said it’s time for you to go!” “I don’t understand what—” “What? You don’t talk English?” “Yes, I ‘speak’ English. I’m beginning to wonder if you do.” “Ûon’t jack with me!” Cody’s brow arched high, his eyes wide and unreadable. “I’m not ‘jacking’ with you. I just don’t understan d why this meeting is taking place.” “Look, LMI told me Kansas is nowmyturf, and you need to start packin’.” “This has to be a mistake.” A fist took hold of Leo n’s stomach and squeezed, letting him know there’d been no mistake. In Leon’s five-pl us-year association with LMI, they’d never made a mistake. Efficient, careful, and very thorough—LMI were true professionals. “I know what I know, what I was told. You’re suppos ed to bounce.” “Cody, please keep your voice down. Who told you th is?” “Who the fuck you think? Wyngarden!” Wyngarden. Although Leon had never met the man, he’d spoken w ith Wyngarden over the phone numerous times. He assigned Leon his projects and new identities. If Wyngarden wasn’t the CEO of Like-Minded Individuals , Inc., he certainly met top brass criteria. “Fine, tell me exactly what Mr. Wyngarden said.” Cody rolled his eyes, a petulant child. “Hesaid, ‘Yo, Cody, tell Owen Gribble you’re taking over Kansas now. He’s out, you’re in.’ Wynga rden said he’d set up our meeting. Here we are. How many times I gotta’‘splainit to you?” “I’ve only been in Kansas for a year. It’s not time for me to leave. Ilike Kansas.” Leon never lost control, prided himself on the fact . Yet now anger stirred, prompting him into arguing with a ridiculous, overgrown kid in a mall.Dangerous. Leon paused, took a
deep breath, and lowered his voice. “Okay. I know y ou’re just the messenger. I don’t doubt your integrity or question your intent.” Cody squinted, obviously puzzled. Leon dummied down. “Um…I believe what you’re saying. Jus t please try and understand my position. I’ve followed all the dictates…” Another bewildered look from Cody. “…all the rules LMI put in place. To the letter. I’m supposed to have another six months left in Kansas. Ûid Mr. Wyngarden happen to give you a reas on why this sudden change of heart?” “You’re nothearingme, old man! Itol’you everything Iknow.” “I’m not old. I’m forty…barely middle aged.” Cody rocked his head back and snorted. “It’s like I said, old man, you’reold. You’re older than the Mayflower!” Leon knew he shouldn’t rise to the challenge. Ûefin itely not the best way to defuse the situation. Even a saint’s patience would be tes ted by this kid, though. “I’m going to ignore the fact I’m shocked you even know about the Mayflower. You’re a young, inexperienced, ignorant kid. How old are you? Fresh out of high school? Twenty-three, maybe? And you think you’ve got the world by the ta il.” “You don’tknowme.” Cody bolted up and pivoted on his heels. Like a vicious dog, he hung his head, shoulders up, and growled. “Youknowwho I am, old man?Do you? I’m theDenver Decapitator. Iripped Ûenver a new ass. I got twelvekillsmy name! to I’mnationwide.” Everyone knew about the Ûenver Ûecapitator, of cour se. Last year, national headlines immortalized the Ûenver murders of seven people, all of them beheaded by power saw. The victims’ heads were left behind as a macabre calling card, the bodies never found. The murders were crass, sloppy, and bl oody. Ûefinitely not Leon’s style. Ûue to the amateur method of the murders, it surpri sed Leon the Ûenver Ûecapitator had never been caught. Having now met him, it seeme d an unbelievable miracle.Ifthe kid truly was the Ûenver Ûecapitator. “Cody, calm down. People are watching us. Ûo you wa nt to get caught?” Leon’s pacifying words blew over the kid’s head. Cody seet hed, a furious jack-in-the-box ready to spring. Maybe an appeal to his ego would quiet h im. “Cody, I have heard of your work. Now, sitdown.” Grinning, Cody fell back onto the bench. “So, old m an, you’ve heard of me, huh? Whaddaya’ think? Wicked, right?” “Cody, I think you need refinement. You’re too vola tile—” “I don’t neednothin’, old man!” “Shh. I’m just trying to help you.” “I don’tneedyour help! You don’t got nothin’ for me. What haveyoudone?” “I’m a private person. I prefer to keep my work as quiet as possible.” Cody ripped out violent laughter. A woman walking a child on a leash distracted Leon. Hard to believe people still used child leash es; they seemed tantamount to abuse. Leon forced himself to focus. One matter at a time. “Just as I thought, old man, you’re nothin’. I shou ld be teaching you a thing or two. I mean, justlookat you! You’re wearing khakis…and a sports jacket. What is this? Like, the nineties?” Leon waited a beat, weighing his words carefully be fore letting them fly. But sometimes his inner censor had a mind of its own. “ And you’re dressed like some desperate high school kid who never grew up. What’s wrong, Cody? Trying to live out your failed high school dreams? I’ll bet you even d rive a white van…with no windows.” When Cody’s smile faded, Leon knew he hit the sweet spot.Got you.
“It’sgreen. So, what, yo? My ride’s a tricked out killer van.” “What a cliché. You may as well have ‘serial killer’ painted on the side of your van.” “What doyoudrive? A Beemer?” “No.” But the kid wasn’t far from the truth. “What I drive is none of your—” Fast as a rattlesnake, with a bite nearly as bad, C ody snapped a fist into Leon’s gut. Leon doubled over, coughing into his lap. “I’mdoneyou, old man. You’re out. I’m with in. Kansas is mine. If you don’t go now…well, let’s just say, it’s on. It’son,old man!” By the time Leon straightened, Cody had reached the mall exit. Leon scrambled off the bench, following at a safe distance. Standing w ithin the double-door exit, he watched Cody cross the parking lot to his van. His tires screamed across the pavement, leaving black exclamation marks announcing his hoth eaded departure. Fool, Leon thought.Probably the only way he drives. He raced outside. The van jagged into the adjoining street, but not before Leon committed the license plate number to memory. The kid rattled Leon, uncomfortably so. Even though Cody seemed less than bright, he appeared to possess a dangerous strong-willed te nacity, a mad dog surviving on the streets through primal rage and instinct. If Cody t ruly was the Ûenver Ûecapitator and responsible for twelve murders, he might be abigproblem. Like-Minded Individuals’ involvement posed an even larger problem, though. As far as Leon could tell, he’d done nothing to fall out o f favor with them. Maybe Cody lied just so he could strong-arm his way into Kansas. A sick feeling in Leon’s gut—a familiar feeling—told him otherwise. Worst of all, Cody called himold. Unacceptable.
ChapterTwo Leon swiped a finger over the piece of adhesive tap e secured at the top of his apartment door. Unbroken. One could never be too ca reful with the crime rate so high these days. This particular apartment offered many benefits for a man in Leon’s profession. The outdoor entryway meant fewer doors to maneuver thro ugh should he ever have to leave in a hurry. The alley next to his apartment supplie d another potential escape route. Although already late returning to his day job, the call couldn’t wait. And he didn’t dare make the call at the accounting office with hi s cubicle cohorts listening in. Leon punched the speed dial number, the only one program med into the cellophane wrapped phone. “LMI, Inc., answered the woman. “How may I direct your call? “SX-6209, Āansas, for Mr. Wyngarden, please. A brief pause felt uncomfortably longer. “One momen t, sir. The songHappy Together crackled through the phone, an appropriate choice for Leon’s mutually beneficial alliance with Like-Minde d Individuals, Inc. He wholeheartedly wanted it to stay beneficial. “I’m sorry, sir, Mr. Wyngarden is in a meeting righ t now. May I take a message? “Please have Mr. Wyngarden call SX-6209. Another p ause. “Did you hear me? SX-6209. “Yes, sir. SX-6209. “Please tell him it’s urgent. I believe there’s bee n a mix-up. The woman hung up midway through his sentence. The receptionist’s chilly response went beyond the cold shoulder treatment. It felt like a new Ice Age, and he was the last of the dino saurs, struggling to survive and come in from the cold. Leon cracked his neck and stretched out on his bed, wondering where he went wrong… * * * Five and a half years ago, Leon worked as a full-fl edged member of corporate America in one of Los Angeles’s finest accounting f irms. One day—a typically mind-numbing, number-crunching day—a strange email blink ed onto his screen, an unexpected harbinger for some drastic life changes. No title in the subject line, however the anonymous writer had plenty to say in the email’s body. We know who you are, and we know what you do. We wo uld like to make you a satisfying offer. Please understand this is in no w ay a threat, merely a business proposition. If you are curious, meet our represent ative at one o’clock tomorrow afternoon at the Royal House Coffee Shop. After hea ring what we have to offer you, you may either accept our conditions or walk away, no s trings attached. Leon fired off a follow-up.Who is this? What do you want? Seconds later, the message bounced back as “undeliverable. The implications staggered Leon. Someone knew about his extracurricular activities.Impossibleg care to hide the. He’d been discreet in his work, taking painstakin bodies. He avoided being caught on camera and alway s wore gloves. As far as he
knew, he’d never had a witness to his projects. How could someonepossibly know about his work? Only one way to find out. No choice . For the first time since Leon began his mission, he felt extremely vulnerable. * * * The Royal House Coffee Shop (“regal coffee for roya l occasions), a quaint little café, was located within walking distance from Leon ’s office. Arriving before the lunch crowd, Leon snagged a tab le in the back, keeping his gaze locked on the front door. Every time someone entere d, he lowered his magazine to study the person’s actions. Promptly at one o’clock, the bell above the door ti nkled. A tall, gaunt man wearing a black tailored suit entered. He carried his briefca se in front of his chest like a shield and wound his way between the close-set tables toward L eon. “Mr. Garber, he said, proffering his hand. “I am M r. Summers of LMI, Inc. Leon stood and shook his hand before returning to h is seat. “What’s this about, Mr. Summers? “Summers seemed such an inappropriate na me. Flesh under the man’s eyes sagged, weighed down by seriousness. Bushy eye brows overcompensated for his bald scalp. His long nose jutted over his mouth, a buzzard’s beak. Leon had met funeral directors with more vitality. Mr. Summers swept his hand over the table. “May I? Leon nodded. Mr. Summers edged out the chair and sat down. With the briefcas e wedged just below his chin, he spoke in a hushed tone. “Mr. Garber, I represent Li ke-Minded Individuals, Incorporated. We are a—shall we say—extremely exclusive and discr eet nationwide organization dedicated to providing individuals such as yourself…services. “‘Individuals such as myself?’ You mean accountants ? I already belong to several organizations. Summers’s lips curled up, not quite a smile. “Mr. G arber, we’ve done our research. We know you’re a very successful accountant. Accoun ting’s not what we’re interested in. “Why don’t you just say what’s on your mind? “Yes, well… He coughed into a cupped fist, shuffli ng a round-robin glance at the other coffee house patrons. “We know of your—shall we say—proclivity for unusual hobbies. Leon’s heart spiked, knock-knock-knocking at his ch est’s door. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. “Mr. Garber. One of Summers’s eyebrows raised, poi nting toward his bald pate. “You…handle abusers. You dispose of them. “This is insane. I don’t know what you’re talking a bout. Are you with the police? The FBI? Deniability is always a safe, if passive, opt ion. Maybe Leon’sonly option. “If so, you’ve obviously mistaken me for someone else. I th ink we’re done— “Mr. Garber, I’m quite used to this reaction whenev er we attempt to indoctrinate a new client. Please take a moment to let this all si nk in. And no, I am in no way affiliated with any law enforcement agency, lawyers…or relativ es of your past victims. The waitress dropped off Leon’s cappuccino. “What c an I get for you? she asked Summers. “Nothing, thank you. Without affording her a glanc e, he dismissed her with a wave. His hand slapped back onto the briefcase with nervo us speed. “Now. Since I’ve
absolved myself from any potentially damaging affil iations, would you like to hear more? A claustrophobic box dropped over Leon, caging him. Tightening. He wanted to leave—neededleave. He didn’t. Against his better instincts, curiosity won the battle. to “Okay, talk to me. “Very good. Like a magician, Summers’s hand vanish ed into the briefcase and produced a brochure. “This is what Like-Minded Indi viduals, Inc. is all about. He scooted it across the table with his fingertips, in ch by inch, slowly tempting Leon with his forbidden fruit. The pamphlet rattled in Leon’s hands. Much to Summe rs’s apparent amusement, Leon set it down for steadier reading. The verbiage read like typical corporate propaganda—all vague goals and hollow promises. A p hoto of a round man, beaming like a waxy car salesman and stuffed into a suit, d ominated the first page. The caption below read,Arnold Wyngarden, CEO of LMI, Inc. His mission statement heralded his dedication to aiding “Like-Minded individuals stri ve for excellence in their undertakings. Leon shoved the brochure back toward Summers. “This isn’t applicable to me. Summers chuckled. “Yes, well. They make me present this brochure to all prospective clients. He slipped it back into his c ase. “Not really sure why. He tapped his lips three times, taking his sweet time. “It is n’t really applicable; I agree with you. “Get to the point, Mr. Summers. What at first seem ed like a life-threatening situation had now unraveled into a surrealistic exe rcise in futility. “Mr. Garber, for a yearly fee—an admittedly steep o ne—we can deliver what you need. “What do you think I need? “For starters, how about a list of potential, ah, ‘ projects’? Immediately, Leon liked the term “projects. Much more palatable than “vict ims. “We will procure you a guaranteed list of abusive adults—those who perpetr ate their heinous crimes against humanity. With great restraint, Leon maintained a solemn face . His underlying excitement bubbled to a fast boil. Sometimes he worried about making mistakes in his work. Even though he researched carefully, very thorough in hi s homework, the margin for error was higher than he wished. Nagging doubts persisted like an itch in an unreachable place. Finding proven abusers had been tough. Summe rs’s offer sounded ludicrous… and too fantastic to be true. “I’m listening. “Yes, that aspect is usually appealing to our clien ts. We also offer a certain amount of protection— “Protection? “We’ve discovered an excellent business model. It t ruly works. We have—shall we say—‘representatives’ in many states across this great country of ours. We set them up with new identities, place them in jobs, supply tra nsportation complete with valid tags and registration. We provide storage facilities for , ah, ‘work spaces.’ And I’m sure you’ve come across situations before where much nee ded, ah, chemicals or tools are hard to come by. We arrange for you to receive thos e. We provide top-notch technical and computer support from some of the finest talent in the world. We even have cleanup crews if so required. Summers pulled out a pair of wire-framed glasses and cleaned them with a cloth. “Although—for some inexp licable reason—we’ve found most of our clients prefer to do their own, ah, ‘cleanin g up.’ Don’t really understand why myself. Anyway, the model I spoke of earlier…we’ve found it very effective to move our representatives to different states after a year-an d-a-half’s time. This throws a wrench
into local authorities’ knowledge of any, ah—shall we say—‘serial play’ occurring in their states. It also confuses the FBI and other interested organizations. Now, I do realize this makes it hard for one to set down roots, but it’s b een our experience, by nature, you like-minded individuals are loner sorts. So it hasn ’t been an insurmountable problem for our clients in the past. “Mr. Summers, what you’re saying sounds preposterou s— “Yes, it does sound like an excellent opportunity, doesn’t it, Mr. Garber? “If—and I stressif—I am who you say I am— “Oh, you most definitely are. If you k how you came by thisbelieve I have done…certain things, might I as information? Summers grinned, very pleased with himself. “Mr. Ga rber, although we certainly admire the caution and precision you utilize in you r, ah, undertakings, we, at LMI, Inc. make it our business to know our potential clientel e. As I said, we have some of the finest computer minds in the world working for our organization. You’d be surprised what they’re able to uncover. A chill ran down Leon’s spine. If this mysterious o rganization uncovered Leon’s hobby, could the FBI be far behind? “I’ve been very careful. “Yes, you have, which is one of the reasons why we’ ve chosen you to join us. Our clientele is made up of only the most discreet and cautious like-minded individuals. We don’t go after every cannibalistic hillbilly workin g the field. Sudden laughter spilled out in an uncharacteristically high-pitched tone. “We a lso pursue only the most affluent like-minded individuals. And from the looks of your port folio— He tapped his briefcase. Leon wondered just how much damaging information Su mmers carried around with him. “You shouldn’t have any problem at all keeping up w ith our yearly dues. As I said…itis costly. “How do I know this is on the level? Not some sort of scam? “Mr. Garber, there’s obviously a certain amount of risk we assume, as well. Consider us the world’s finest, most cautious insur ance agency. I can assure you our organization is quite lucrative, and we have no des ire to see it end. It’s in our best interests to see you flourish. He dashed a hand in to his briefcase again. “Here’s a contract. We expect every client to sign it. He ha nded the thick document to Leon. Leon flipped through the pages and placed it face d own on the table. “A contract? “Yes. We’re very thorough, and we have some fine le gal minds tending to our needs. In this contract, you’ll find a very strict agreement of confidentiality. Summers’s smile slowly diminished. He placed his glasses on h is hawk-like nose, pressing them up with a finger. “We fully expect this to adhere to b oth parties. We keep your secrets quiet and confidential. In the case you should be caught— knock on wood… he rapped the plastic tabletop several times, “you will be bound by this contract to remain silent regarding us. “This is unbelievable.Your organization haslawyerswho can enforce this contract? What am I supposed to do? I can’t exactly take it t o my lawyer and say, ‘Hey, can you look this over’? “Mr. Garber, the wording in the contract is very…di screet.Discreet. Summers’s favorite catch-phase. “It will pass the scrutiny of any lawyer. Yet, at the same time, itis a binding contract. Itwillhold up in court. He sighed, a hissing radiator. “We’ve not yet had a need for a messy court battle, and we intend on the status quo remaining so. Summers patted Leon’s hand several times. Startled, Leon wrenched his hand away. “Trust me, Mr. Garber; it’s necessary to insure our mutual safety.
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