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Description: By Paul Young

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Baranov Mansion
« on: July 22, 2014, 01:25:17 PM »
 Baranov Mansion
By Paul Young
 
Submitted for:
Best Themed Work
Best Original Work
Fan Favorite
           
           
            Jeff Greyson stood on a hill that overlooked a creepy old house, camera in hand ready to shoot.  He’d been all over the world as a cameraman for a very popular TV series, Ghost Stories.  He couldn’t say that he loved his job, but going into spooky old houses didn’t really bother him.
            “And…action!”said Kim Childs, the director.
            Jeff pointed the camera at Rose.  “Rose Williams here.  Today on Ghost Stories, we’re in Hingu, Estonia, overlooking the Baranov mansion, a building that most of the locals believe to be haunted.  As we have done in other episodes, we will explore the house and report any paranormal activity we find inside.”
            Rose tucked a tuft of long, blonde hair behind her ear.  “To help us shed some light on this mysterious house, Masha Teigi, a Hingu local, has graciously offered to accompany our crew inside the mansion.  Masha, what’s the history behind this place?”
            Masha cleared her throat.  She was at least five inches shorter than Rose.  Probably five feet four, thought Jeff.  She had short, black hair and a slightly crooked nose, making her look incredibly Slavic.  She spoke with a heavy accent.  “Thank you, Rose.  I grew up in Hingu and have heard many stories about this place.  The Baranov mansion is so named because Yuri Baranov, a Russian capitalist, had it built in 1865 after he made millions in Russia.  He oversaw the production of a large sum of icebreaking ships called ‘Pilots’that could skim on top of a frozen river or sea and break the ice behind it allowing other ships to follow.  Baranov sold his inventory to many European countries before the chilling winter set in, and eventually moved here to Hingu.”
            “Fascinating,”said Rose energetically.  “And how did it become haunted?”
            “Well, the Baranovs lived in the house for nine years before the entire family disappeared.  No one in Hingu ever saw a Baranov again.” 
            “Compelling,”Rose said, winking at the camera.
            Masha nodded.  “The property was sold at auction in 1880 but was promptly abandoned.  Even the Estonian government issued orders to have the house demolished, but the demolition crew and all their equipment disappeared as well.”
            “Sounds spooky,”Rose shivered.  “We also have with us the Dermont Valley medium, Gary Gaimon.  Gary, what kind of vibes are you getting from this estate?”
            Gary, who was tall and skinny, pushed up his glasses and said, “Rose, this place has some strong vibes connecting to the afterlife.  I’m feeling multiple auras lofting in our direction even from this far away.”
            Jeff glanced up at the top of the screen and noticed something amiss.  “Hold up, the camera wasn’t recording.  We’re going to have to start over.”
            Rose shot Jeff a look that could have killed him.  “Are you kidding me?!”she screamed.  “Jeff, you’ve been with me for thirty-nine episodes, and you can’t even remember to push the record button?  What am I paying you for?”
            “I’m sorry,”Jeff apologized.  “Must be the jet lag.”
            The director, Kim, took a step forward.  “Let’s take it from the top, Jeff make sure the camera is recording, and action!”
            After the reshoot, the team descended the hill and walked up the lane to the house.  Kim muttered in Jeff’s ear.  “Hey, sorry about Rose getting after you.  Sometimes she can be a little haughty.”
            Jeff nodded in agreement.  “She is a hottie.”
            As the team approached the lofty manor, Jeff noticed a young man leaning against a black BMW and staring at the house.  Once they were in earshot, the man turned around and nodded in their direction.  He wore a suit and tie with a pair of sunglasses perched atop his head.
            “Mr. Popov?”Rose inquired, lengthening her stride to shake his hand.
            He smiled, showing a few crooked teeth, and raised both hands as she approached.  “I’m sorry, my dear, I’m a, how you say, germaphobe.”  His accent was even heavier than Masha’s.  “You can call me Vlad.  ‘Mr. Popov,’it’s too formal.”
            Rose lowered her hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Vlad.”  She turned around to address her team.  “Vlad is planning on buying this house after we check it out.  He’s the one who funded our trip up here.”
            He nodded.  “It was no problem.  The house will be one of my many houses.  The Estonian government has allowed me to purchase it if I give them a few shares of my company.”
            Jeff realized this man’s company must be huge.  “What is the name of your company?”
            “Well,”Vlad elongated.
            “Jeff,”Rose interrupted, “don’t ask personal questions.  This is business.”  She strode over to Vlad.  “Are you ready to go inside?”
            Vlad shifted his feet.  “To tell you the truth, I’ve come to terms with going inside an old, dusty house, but rumors of ghosts give me pause.”
            Jeff saw Masha nodding out of the corner of his eye.
            Rose gave a shrill laugh.  “Vlad, I assure you, there is no such thing as ghosts.  Just stay behind the cameraman so we can get the footage we need, and we will debunk the rumors for you.”
            Vlad still hesitated.  “But your TV show is about finding ghosts.  How can you explain all the haunting things you have seen?”
            Rose smiled.  “You’ll see.  Shall we go in?”
           
            “Roll camera,”  Kim said as the group walked up the porch steps.  For being the middle of the day, it was unexplainably dim.  “And, action.”
            Rose spoke quietly.  “The Baranov mansion, a massive structure cut into the surrounding Hingu forest, has withstood the test of time for over a hundred thirty years without any help from human hands.  We will be the first people inside in decades.  Gary, our medium, will cut the lock.”
            Gary stepped into the frame and opened his briefcase.  He produced a small pair of bolt cutters and approached the door.  The handle was chained with a rusty, old-looking padlock dangling down.  With a bit of effort, Gary split the chain in two places, and the heap of rust dropped to the ground noisily.
            Cautiously, Rose pulled the door open.  Except for the small amount of light from the front door, the inside was completely black.  Rose set her chin, flipped on a flashlight, and walked in.
            The others followed, each turning on a flashlight before entering the house.  As Jeff entered, he noticed his camera rapidly changing focus to account for the darkness.  As in most mansions Jeff had explored while being a cameraman, the first room was a high-vaulted, open area with two curved staircases that led to the upper level.  Portraits hung on the walls and whatever furniture was here last seemed to be rotting away in piles of wood and ripped fabric.  Layers of dust clung to everything.
            Masha caught her breath, and moved to a series of portraits on the right wall and began to blow the dust off each one.  “Here,”she said catching everyone’s attention.  The portraits depicted different sections of what must have been the same frozen river.  From left to right, they all showed the white river completely covered in ice except the far right portrait which showed a boat breaking the ice.  Masha ran her fingers across the boat and read the foreign letters.  “Peeloht, Pilot.  This is why the Baranovs were famous.  The boats would cut though the ice and make the river accessible.”
            Rose came to Masha’s side.  “Interesting.  The Baranovs were proud of their work enough to display it for everyone to see.”  She shined her flashlight across the room to the mantle.  “There’s a big portrait above the fireplace, too.  Let’s see what it is.”  She pulled a chair next to the mantle and stood on top of it, brushing off the dust to reveal a family of four sitting on a bench.  The father had the son on his knee while the mother had the daughter sitting next to her. Rose approached.  “I wonder what their names were.”
            “I know the answer,”said Masha.  “We had a chant growing up that we used to tease our friends or younger siblings: Yuri, Alexandra, Katya, and Vova.  Watch out, or they’ll get you.”  Everyone looked at Masha, who shrugged.  “It sounds better in Estonian.”
            “Cut,”Kim said.
            Rose let out a deep breath.  “Let’s set up in here.  Jeff and Kim, let’s get a motion sensor installed above the fireplace and another at the front door looking in.”
            “Motion sensors?”asked Vlad.  “For ghosts?”
            Rose smiled knowingly.  “No such thing, remember?  We put up the motion sensors for the audience.  They are very sensitive, so if something as simple as the sun going behind the clouds were to happen, they’d go off.  Then, we pull out our screens, look at the empty room as though we are seeing something real happen, and edit it back at the studio.” 
            “Done,”Kim called from the fireplace.  Jeff was also done installing one at the front door.  He nodded in Rose’s direction.
            “Alright, get ready everyone,”Rose called.
            Kim cleared her throat.  “Action.”
            Rose pointed to the sensors and described them to the camera.  “If anything were to happen in this room while we are gone, we’ll get to see it.  After all, ghosts never like to be seen.”  She turned to the medium.  “Gary, what kind of feeling are you getting from the house so far?”
            “Well, Rose, I’m really feeling some activity throughout the entire house.  I can sense a large amount of energy coming from the right side over here.”
            Rose lifted her hand and scratched an eyebrow.  Jeff knew that was a signal for him.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone.  Trying to keep the camera as still as possible, he opened an app and pushed a button.  A creaking door sound filled the silence.  Jeff put his phone away and turned his attention back to the camera.
            “Did you hear that, Gary?”Rose said looking around.  “I think that came from the right side, just like you said.  Follow me.”
            The crew followed Rose back across the main room to a hallway to the right.  Jeff kept the cameras rolling because anything that wouldn't work for the show could be edited out.  He glanced over to the pictures of the boat and river and stopped in his tracks. 
            “What is it?”Masha asked, seeing his sudden halt.
            “I thought the boat was in the last portrait,”Jeff said rather shakily.
            Masha nodded.  “It is.”  She turned to look at it too and caught her breath.  The Pilot ship was in the second to last picture, and a river of broken ice took last place.
            By this time, the rest of the team stopped to see what the commotion was about.  “Why are we stopping?”asked Rose annoyed.
            Masha pointed to the wall of pictures.  “They’ve changed.”
            Rose studied the pictures.  “It’s still a boat and a river.  I don’t see what you mean.”
            Masha scoffed.  “You don’t see that the boat is now in the second picture?  It’s moving!”  Her breathing became heavy.
            “That can’t be,”breathed Kim.  “It is changing.  Rose, nothing like this has ever happened before.  Something is going on.”
            “It has to be a trick,”Rose concluded.  “Let’s just keep on track and forget about the pictures.”
            Though Jeff tried, he couldn’t put the pictures out of his head.  Something strange was going on.  Had Vlad switched the pictures while he was behind the camera?  Was someone else here?  He thought about the rusted padlock.  It had been there for a long time.  Someone must have snuck in a different way.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone again.  He shut down the sound effect app and opened the motion sensor app.  He swiped the switch that turned the motion sensors on.  When something happened in there, his phone would beep, and he could see what was changing the pictures.
           
            Rose pushed a door in the hallway and it swung open.  “I think I saw something move in here.  Jeff, get the camera zoomed in here.”
            Jeff pointed the camera into the empty room.  A broken window glinted off the lens, and Jeff noticed a few stray leaves dotting the floor.  “There’s nothing,”he said, and they all took tentative steps inside.  The room was the size of a large bedroom suite, though no furniture was cluttered inside. 
            Jeff noticed Kim checking out a door to the left.  “It’s a bathroom,”she informed, “with a weird-looking toilet.”  She caught her breath.  “This vanity is beautiful.”  She began wiping the dust off of the counter with the sleeve of her shirt.
            “Rose,”said Gary uneasily, “I know we have different beliefs about the afterlife and ghosts, but I am getting anxious about this place.  There’s something wrong here.”
            Rose turned her head away from the medium.  “Gary, nothing is wrong here.  This is just like every other old house.”  She walked over to the broken window and lightly ran her finger across the sharp edge so as to not draw blood but still feel its dangerous edge.
            A blood-curdling scream came from the bathroom, and Kim burst into the room, running full on for the exit.  She passed Jeff without a glance, screaming about the mirror.  He saw terror in her eyes and her screams continued.  “Kim,”he managed as she passed, “what did you see?”
            “Urg,”Rose grunted, “whatever it was, she made me cut my finger.”
            Jeff saw a few drops of blood hit the dusty floor.  “We’d better go after her.”
            The team followed the screams, which turned into hysterical sobs farther down the hallway.  Had Kim forgotten which way was out?  She just delved deeper into the house.  Jeff found her first huddled in a corner of a dining room.  The table in the center stood on three and a half legs and tipped to the side.  The chandelier still clung to the ceiling but only just. 
            “Kim,”Jeff called, “what happened in there?”  He bent down by her side and lifted her chin.  When their eyes met, he got scared himself.  She wasn’t supposed to be genuinely frightened.
            “We need to get out,”she managed between her sobs.  “It’s coming for me, for us!”
            Jeff shook his head.  “I don’t understand.  What’s coming?”
            Just then a loud pounding came from the wall behind Kim, and she leaped up and scrambled across the table.  The pounding continued. 
            “I think she’s right,”commented Vlad.  “I don’t want to buy the house any more.  We should leave immediately.”
            “Nonsense,”Rose said.  “We are getting some good footage.  Jeff, can you find out what’s making that noise?”
            Jeff reluctantly searched the wall for any kind of opening.  He was used to fulfilling idiotic request from Rose.  He found a small handle that opened a cabinet recessed into the wall.  He pulled and pointed the camera into the opening.  Sitting inside the large cabinet was a man, bound and gagged.  His clothes were caked in dust, and he had a very expensive watch on his wrist.
            “Who are you?”Jeff asked, pulling the gag from the man’s mouth.  The man was cut and bleeding in several places. 
            He coughed before answering.  “I am Vlad Popov.”
            “Vlad Popov?”Rose said wonderingly.  “But Vlad Popov is right here.”  Everyone turned their heads to the man they thought was Vlad.  He had a devilish grin on his face.
            “Who are you?”Masha inquired.
             The man they had met outside the house spoke calmly.  “It is true, I am not Vlad Popov.  You can call me Vova.”  A flicker of movement twinkled next to Vova’s head, and he slowly began to evaporate into thin air.
            As Vova disappeared, he recited the same chant Masha had mentioned earlier.  “Yuri, Alexandra, Katya, and Vova.  Watch out or they’ll get you.”  His voice hung in the air, but his body was gone.
            Another scream filled the air, and Jeff was surprised to see that it was Rose, hands clenching her head, as she fell to her knees.  "Ghost? He's a ghost." She was having trouble breathing. "There has to be some explanation."
            Gary, now frightened, knocked a chair over in frustration.  "I told you, Rose, that something supernatural is going on.  Now, we are deep inside a mansion full of spirits, and you ticked off their leader."
            Jeff trembled. "You mean there's more than one?"
            Gary nodded and put up a finger.  "Not just one.  I can feel them everywhere.  Its like they’re swirling around us like a tornado.”
            Jeff turned to Kim, who was still sitting up against the wall, “What did you see in the mirror?”
            “A young girl brushing her hair.  She looked straight at me and said, ‘Are you here to play?  You run and hide.  I’ll come find you.’”
            “Katya,”said Masha softly.
            “They’re here,”Jeff breathed.  “The Baranovs are back.”  Jeff checked his phone.  So far nothing had set off the motions sensors.  As he zoomed in to the far wall, he could see the pictures had changed again.  The Pilot boat was now in the third frame, two frames farther than the last time he had seen it.  Nothing had moved in the room where these paintings were since he had left it, but the pictures were different.  He noticed another boat in the last portrait and zoomed in on it.  He read the name of the new boat and his blood ran cold.  The boat’s name was ‘Vova’.  He put his phone away.  “What do we do now?”
            Gary closed his eyes.  “Something is coming, and it sounds like it has an engine. We need to move.”
            Jeff helped Kim stand and herded everyone to the door.  A crash came from behind him, and he turned to see a transparent construction backhoe breaking through the wall sending chunks of flying wood across the floor.  The driver of the machine was a man wearing a hardhat and reflective vest.  His eyes met Jeff’s, and he suddenly became angry.  The ghost put his equipment into gear and charged forward.
            “Move!”Jeff yelled to the rest as they skirted down the hallway.  Within seconds, the wall behind them exploded into pieces, and the backhoe stuck itself in the next wall.  Jeff could hear the machine try to reverse, but it was unable to free itself from the wall.  The team ran down the hallway and turned a corner.
            A slight whimper came from the front of the group as Rose said, “Ghosts cant hurt us.  They will pass right through us.”
            Gary grunted in frustration.  “Didn’t you see what just happened back there?  A wall came crashing in on us.  That can hurt us.”
            “We’ve got to get out of here,”Masha said.
            Jeff’s phone began to beep indicating motion in the front room.  He pulled it out and looked at the screen.  A small clinking sound came from the speaker, and a section of light was dancing back and forth in the entryway.  Jeff put the two together.  “Someone is chaining up the front door again.  We can’t go back that way.”  Before shutting his phone off, he took a moment to glance at the portraits on the wall.  The Pilot boat was now in the first picture followed by the Vova, the Katya, the Alexandra, and the Yuri.  Two portraits at the end were left unoccupied.
            What does this mean? Jeff thought.  What do these boats symbolize?   The best answer he could come up with was that the house was now evolving around them, changing to accommodate their guests, and leading them to what?  Death?  He was unsure, but he resolved to do everything he could to get these people out.
            “What do they want, Gary?”Jeff asked trying to come up with a makeshift plan.  “Don’t ghosts have a secret vendetta or unfinished business they want you to do to let them pass into the afterlife?”
            “Sort of,”Gary responded as they tiptoed down the hallway.  “The reason they are still here is because they are linked to something.  It pulls them away from the place they want to go, heaven or nirvana, whatever you want to call it.  They are stuck in our world and cannot move until the link is broken or resolved.”
            “So, what’s the link?”Jeff asked hoping the medium could shed some light on their situation.  “What’s keeping the Baranovs here?”
            They passed through a swinging door and entered a large kitchen.  Old pots and pans hung from the ceiling.  A large counter and cabinets decorated the walls, and there was a door leading to the porch made of splintering wood.  “It must be the house,”Gary said striding to the porch door and giving the handle a tug.  “Urg. Jammed.”
            “The house?”Kim said drawing a shaky breath.  “What do we do?”
            “We get out.  That’s the easiest thing.  If we can escape, the ghost can go on haunting this place, but we stay alive.”
            Jeff climbed on the counter and put up another motion sensor.  He wanted as much of the house being monitored as possible.  As he stepped back down from the counter he glanced at a swaying pot and noticed something in the reflection.  A young girl with long blonde hair sat rocking in a chair.  She had a toy wrapped up in her arms.  She looked directly at Jeff and said, “Have you seen Kim?  I’m looking for her.”
            Jeff jumped down from the counter and moved as far away from the reflection as possible.  “We need to go,”he said turning back to the hallway, but he looked up just in time to see Vova striding toward him.  He backed into the kitchen as the ghost entered.
            “Greetings, honored guests,”Vova scanned the entire group.  “Welcome to the Baronov mansion.  It is my job to make sure you stay here for a very long time.”
            With a sudden burst of bravery, Rose stepped forward.  “You can’t hurt us, Vova.  You’re a ghost.”
            A smile crept onto his face.  “Rose, you’re a smart girl.  Being a ghost does mean that I cannot hurt you myself, but ghosts, just like any other beings, have the ability to adapt to their surroundings and evolve.”  Vova reached down to a drawer and pulled.           
            The drawer slowly opened.  In his years of haunting, Vova had figured out how to make contact with the things of this world.  Vova delicately put his hand into the drawer and drew out a long butcher cleaver.  Though it wavered in his hand, it posed a huge threat to everyone.
            The ghost continued, “It is very miserable in this place, but you know what they say, ‘Misery loves company’.”  The ghost advanced.
            A sudden crash echoed in Jeff’s ears.  “This way everyone!”  Gary yelled.
            Jeff turned to see Gary had kicked the door to the porch open and was funneling people out.  He grabbed Rose and headed for the door.
            Being outside relieved Jeff, who thought they would never make it out, but his relief disappeared when he realized that being outside may have been worse than staying in the kitchen. 
            Huge ghostly machinery loomed over them.  The destruction crew was poised in the backyard ready to demolish.  The foreman stood closest to the house with his hands in the air facing his crew.  He made a gesture with his hands that made him look like a conductor of an orchestra, and a huge wrecking ball began to fall towards them.
            Jeff pushed everyone faster as the ball came in contact with the house feet behind them.  The wooden siding shattered.  The foreman moved again conducting his symphony, and three more wrecking balls flew toward the house.  “Go around the porch and get out of here!”  He pushed them forward and stepped back as a wrecking ball slammed into the house where he had been standing.  The ground shook violently beneath his feet and he jumped from the porch to the yard.
            The foreman again moved his arms and multiple engines blared to life.  At least seven bulldozers charged the house ready to do some serious damage.  Jeff had no choice but to enter through the cellar door under the porch and get as far in as he could before the dozers hit.  He entered a large storage room filled with boxes and crates, put his hands on his head, and fell to his knees to brace himself for the wreckage that was about to happen.
            He waited, breathing heavily, but nothing happened.  He spared a glance behind and saw the sun beginning to set above the trees.  Where did the bulldozers go?  Why had they stopped?  Returning to the backyard, Jeff noticed the entire ghostly battalion had vanished completely.  The porch railing that had been smashed to pieces moments ago was reassembled. 
            He returned to the cellar thinking he was crazy for going into the house again, but he had seen something down there that could help.  He reached the crates and uncovered a stack that had a word printed on the side, ‘dinamit’.  “That’s what I need,”he said aloud.  He only hoped the others made it out.
            Jeff glanced down and noticed he no longer had his camera in his right hand.  Somewhere along the way, he must have dropped it.  Like that matters, he thought.  After this, I’m done with Ghost Stories.
            He pried the top off a crate with a rusty wrench he found on a nearby shelf and looked at his prize.  Filling the crate from top to bottom were sticks of dynamite with a note attached.  It wasn’t in English, so he stuffed it in his back pocket and picked up a stick of dynamite.  He weighed it in his hands, and then noticed a spool filled with fuse. 
            He quickly went to work tying fuses and stretching out the long fuse.  If he could get this thing lit, it could solve everyone’s problem.  Gary had told him severing the link that bound the ghosts to the earth would help them move on.  Apparently, both the Baranovs and the construction crew were bound to the house as long as it stood.  I’m about to fix that, Jeff thought, and pulled out a lighter from his left pocket. 
            His phone started beeping, and as much as he wanted to ignore it, he thought it might be one of his crew mates still inside the house.  He pushed a button, and his phone blared to life.  The living room was peaceful and quiet.  He zoomed in again on the portraits of the ships and noticed all the paintings filled with boats except one.  Pilot came first breaking the ice for the others to follow, then, Vova, Katya, Alexandra, and Yuri.  One other boat entered the river and he dropped his phone.  The name on the last boat was Jeffrey.
            The light inside the cellar faded suddenly and Jeff whirled around to see Vova standing in the entry way, butcher knife glinting in the sparse sunlight.  “Jeff,”he said calmly.  “It’s over.  There is no need to run.  Though the others have fled, we will find a place for you here.  This will be your new home.”  Vova reared back and threw the knife.
            Jeff turned just enough for the knife to bury itself in his shoulder.  The pain intensified enough that his knees gave out, and he collapsed to the ground.  He eyed the fuse resting on the ground, and with a flick of his thumb, he lit it.  The bright light of the burning fuse crackled and sparked as it followed the path Jeff had set for it.  In a few seconds, this whole house would be blown to bits.
            “What are you doing?!”asked Vova in a panic.  “No!”
 
           
            Kim Childs stumbled into her Estonian hotel room.  She had never had a worse day.  She had entered a haunted house, quit her job, and, most importantly, lost a friend.  There’s no way Jeff could have made it out of the house.  She remembered the explosion so vividly.  The heat that bathed her face when the house blew up still burned.
            She stumbled over to the sink and ran the cold water.  Cupping her hands she rinsed off her face, hoping the fear would wash off too.  She grabbed a towel and dabbed her face just before looking into the mirror.
            Katya glared back at her.  “Found you.”  Arms reached out of the mirror and grabbed Kim, pulling her inside.
 
           
            “Yes, I quit.”  Rose hung up the phone.  That was the end of her career.  No more Ghost Stories for me, she thought, and glanced around the room she was in.  It was a museum of art.  She hoped a little culture would clear her mind of the things she had witnessed that day. 
            A young man with a huge grin on his face approached a microphone.  “If I could have your attention, please.  Step forward and admire these new paintings acquired from an unknown  source.  They will make a lovely addition to the collection we have.”
            Rose meandered over to the new set of paintings and caught her breath.  The Pilot, along with six other ships adorned the wall.  At the end of the line, after the Baranov ships, Rose saw two names, Jeffery and Kimberly, her partners.
            “We are also pleased to announce the finding of one more painting belonging to the same collection.  We unveil it here for the first time.”  Two men brought out the veiled painting and placed it in line with the rest.  One man withdrew the cover and folded it over his arm.
            “Rose,”she read aloud, and gland over at the man who unveiled it.  He stood smiling with his crooked teeth and nodding his head slightly.  Vova stared right back at her.
 

 

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