Astrid was a pretty thing, as long as she smiled with her mouth closed. Her big crooked teeth marred an otherwise youthful, slender face, framed in full golden locks that curled without any incentive and rested on porcelain shoulders. She had big brown eyes and full red lips, ripe for kissing. Her bosom didn’t exactly fill his hands, and her hips were too narrow, but her lovemaking was always so energetic that Gabe was willing to forgive her physical scarcities. When it was his turn to take control, he grabbed her by the waist and flipped her over. She shrieked with delight as he grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled her head back. He exhaled into her ear. “Do you want me to stop?”
“No,” she gasped, reaching back to rake her nails along his thigh.
He thrust violently, pressing her face down against the pillow. She loosed a muffled wail of pleasure. Her back curved outward, revealing just how skinny she was as the notches of her spine jutted from her skin. When he was spent, he collapsed beside her. She grinned at him, lips parting to reveal awkward teeth.
“What should we do now?” she asked cheerily.
“Get married, I suppose,” he answered.
“Very funny,” she said, lightly slapping his broad chest.
“I should get some rest,” he said. “Wake me at dusk, would you?”
It was midday, but it might as well have been midnight in Astrid’s little room on the second floor of The Hellbound Strumpet. It was a new establishment owned by a wealthy privateer named Nedly. According to gossip, Nedly enforced a strict hiring policy, sampling each whore himself before deciding whether to employ them. Gabe had pressed Astrid for the truth of this rumor, but she remained coy, which he took as a confirmation. The exterior resembled every other new building on Nassau, lacking the former island charm. The lower floor had been refurnished with cushioned chairs and soft carpets. Candles lined the walls, and the thatched windows didn’t let a single beam of outside light in. The second floor was partitioned into six rooms separated by thick red drapes with gold accents that glimmered in the candlelight. It was impossible to see through the drapes, but the pleasurable moans of strumpets and their patrons formed an unending chorus.
Despite the constant noise, Gabe’s heavy eyelids threatened to close.
“Sleep’s gonna cost you, dearie,” Astrid said, tickling one of his nipples.
“Count your coin again,” he said, turning away from her. “I gave you enough for the whole day.”
“The extra was for the key,” she reminded him sourly.
He let one arm fall over the bed, fingers brushing his black leather coat crumpled on the floor. He felt about until his hand closed around the hard object in the inner pocket: the key that Astrid had given him before passion took priority.
She leaned against him. “I don’t think the chef ever realized where he lost it.”
“‘Lost’ would be the wrong word,” Gabe chuckled.
She smiled coyly behind a raised shoulder. “Lost is still lost, even when it’s stolen.”
“Wouldn’t be the first thing lost in here.”
Her smile widened into a toothy grin. “Won’t be the last. Anyway, he didn’t come back looking for it. I hope he wasn’t fired.”
“If he wasn’t, he will be.”
“That’s too bad,” she sighed sadly.
“You knew there’d be consequences, and you did it anyway. Feeling bad about what you did isn’t going to change what you did.”
“My point is, I done a lot for you. Don’t wager you could get into the governor’s house without a key.”
He grunted. “I’d find another way.”
She trailed her fingers toward his crotch yet again. “A much harder way.”
He snatched up her hand and set it on her hip. “The task is greatly eased, thanks to you. That what you want to hear?”
She rolled onto her back with a sigh. “Not really.”
“Should I spend the next few hours pondering a suitable answer?”
“Ponder whatever you like,” she haughtily replied, fidgeting with her nails. “All this for a silly redhead. What’s so special about that wench, anyways?”
“That wench is worth a lot of money,” he answered.
“You fancy her?” The question appeared casual, but her voice was pitched noticeably higher than usual. Her eyes shifted his way for an instant.
“I don’t even know her.” His encounter with Katherine had been brief, but he hadn’t forgotten her wild red hair and forward demeanor. There was something undeniably alluring about her, but he hadn’t had enough time to discover what that was. He would have liked to get to know her a little better, but his mind had been on other things. You’ll have plenty of time to get to know her soon enough.
“Do you want to know her?” Astrid asked nonchalantly.
“Enough with the questions,” he snapped. A whore feigning jealousy would usually amuse him, but he was tired and irritable. “I need sleep.”
“You’re no fun,” she pouted.
He closed his eyes. A line of soft orange light filtered through the seam of his lids. “Not when I’m sleeping.”
He felt her groping him. “Oh, I bet I could have some fun with you when you’re asleep.”
“If something comes up, you’re welcome to it. I’ll be none the wiser.”
She giggled. “You’ll have sweeter dreams, I wager.”
I doubt it. His dreams were rarely sweet.
Five minutes later, he was asleep and dreaming of a very different whorehouse on the other side of Nassau. The Strapped Bodice was a two story building that had been constructed around twin palm trees ascending through a spired roof that was shrouded in tattered sails. Inside, candles were set in small circular patterns on the floor, with a strumpet lounging in each circle, in varying degrees of undress, beckoning with a hooked finger and a fetching smile.
His gaze fell on a Spanish girl with a deceptively shy grin. She had thick black hair, copper skin, large lips, and a full bosom threatening to burst out of a loose-fitting bodice with straps that drooped over her shoulders. Her name was Annabelle. She was very beautiful, but he knew better than to go to her. Distantly he knew she had been dead a long time, but that didn’t lessen his trepidation. “Come over here, handsome,” she said.
“Not tonight,” he curtly replied. “I’m here for another.”
“You don’t know what you’re missing.”
He scoffed. “Yes, I do.”
She wrinkled her pretty face and looked away. For an absurd instant, he felt sorry for her.
He ascended the spiral staircase to the second floor. The hemp drapes were much thinner than those of The Hellbound Strumpet, with the silhouettes of groaning men and women projected against them. Gabe moved through the thin hallway, flanked by writhing shadows, until he reached the last partition on the right. He cast a glance over his shoulder to make sure no one had followed him, and then he dove in.
“Hello, Mr. Jenkins,” Blackbeard said, standing tall in the middle of the room in a long dark coat, with rows of pistols running down his broad chest. Smoke rolled up over his face from the glowing fuses lodged in his great beard. Blue eyes gleamed through the haze. Rows of white teeth split his beard. His leathery cheeks shriveled and blackened as he grinned, the skin flaked away like burnt paper, and tiny orange flames lapped at the cracks from within. “It be time to wake up.”
Gabe woke to Astrid shaking his shoulder, her face close to his. “It’s time to wake up,” she urged.
He cast a groggy glance around the room, as if that would help him determine the time. It looked exactly the same as before. “It’s dusk?”
“Well that’s what it means when the sun goes down, don’t it?”
He sat up. How could it be dusk already? The dream had seemed no longer than a minute. Yet his limbs felt stiff, as if he hadn’t used them in hours. He tilted his head and heard a crack in his neck. It took him longer than usual to get his breeches, shirt, and boots on. He tied his blue sash around his waist and slipped on his coat. He glanced at his pistol, but decided it wouldn’t be much use. He would need to be quiet. The report of a gunshot would draw every guard in the house down on him. Instead, he tucked his favorite weapon into his sash: a Turkish Ottoman dagger with a curved, double-edged blade. The ribbed horn hilt was mounted in silver, with four round turquoise stones. The blade, which he kept dangerously sharp, fit snugly into a steel scabbard. It was a perfect weapon for opening a man’s throat or belly.
Astrid’s hands slid around his sides. He pulled away. The time for distraction was over. He reached into his coat pocket, closing his fingers over the key once again, cold against his palm.
“Be careful,” she told him.
He didn’t turn to face her. “If I’m not, will you attend my hanging?”
“As long as it’s in the morning.”
“They always are.”
He swept back the thick curls of his black hair and ducked out of the room. He had never been very good at farewells, so he tended to avoid them altogether. Just as his father, Henry, had when he left for New York on business in 1714 and never returned, leaving a fifteen year old Gabe and his mother, Moll, to care for the family’s tobacco farm in Virginia. The tobacco act, passed by Governor Spotswood in 1713, had seriously hindered the farm’s exports. Henry had been in a constant state of panic thanks to strict regulations that would eventually require all leaf exports to be inspected. Henry took on more slaves and supplies, struggling to raise the quality of the farm’s tobacco. Perhaps the increased burden had simply driven him to escape and start a new life.
Gabe’s mother had been a graceful woman with a kind face and the same curly black hair. He couldn’t fathom why any man in his right mind would abandon her. He wasn’t sure exactly when his mother stopped referring to Henry as her husband. At some point or another Henry simply became, “Your father.”
“I can’t remember his face,” Gabe had told his mother once, over dinner, a year after his father had departed. That wasn’t entirely true, but he wanted to talk about it, since his mother rarely broached the subject. And maybe he wanted a reaction out of her. Anything would have comforted him. He needed to know she still cared.
“I remember it,” she said, not looking at him, knuckles white as she gripped a fork and mashed it into a potato. She seemed to be pretending that the potato was his father’s face. And then he knew that she did care, but not in the fashion that he had hoped.
He pushed a bit further. “Sometimes I wonder if he truly existed at all.”
He would never forget the shadow that passed over her face as her eyes then lifted to meet his. All traces of kindness faded for a terrible and thankfully fleeting moment. “You’re living proof that he did,” she had said.
That was the worst of it. The next day and every day since, Moll was exceedingly motherly to him. It was as if she had made a resolution to never treat him ill again. He loved her for that, even if he never found the appropriate moment to tell her.
Gabe was an only child with no friends, and the farm’s many acres separated it from other settlements, so he looked to the younger slaves for camaraderie. It took some time to earn their friendship, as Henry had flogged several newly hired slaves for slaughtering a fat hog. Henry had made it clear he didn’t like Gabe “fraternizing with negroes.” When the slaves finally realized Henry wasn’t coming back, they warmed up to Gabe.
Immediately following his father’s disappearance, Gabe increased his duties on the farm, planting seeds in the beginning of the year, moving young plants to larger fields, removing pesky tobacco worms, topping the plants, harvesting, and hanging and curing the tobacco for nearly two months. After a full year of this, he was an expert. Tobacco prices were steadily rising towards a staggering two cents per pound. Gabe’s future was looking bright, even without his father.
Unfortunately, all that changed on a particularly dry summer day when the house and ninety percent of the crops were lost in a terrible fire. The fire had burned too quickly and too successfully, as though aided by unnatural forces. Moll was forced to sell off the slaves, including Gabe’s closest friends, and she and Gabe moved to live with Moll’s sister, Lilly, in Barnstable, Massachusetts. Lilly ran a profitable fishing company. Gabe’s mother soon accepted the deed to an inn that catered primarily to fishermen, and she supervised it personally. From then on, her attention was thoroughly diverted from Gabe, who spent much of his time exploring the docks, memorizing every inch of every type of ship, and befriending salty fishermen. They liked him, and they favored him with tales of pirates and adventure on the high seas.
At seventeen, Gabe got it in his head that he could find his father and bring him back home. A crusty fisherman named Hawkins claimed he knew a Henry Jenkins, who had chartered a ship to England. Confused and curious, Gabe enlisted with a ship bound for England, but it was raided by none other than Edward Teach in the Atlantic. He was given the choice between a slow death and joining Teach’s crew. He chose life. He still wasn’t sure he had made the right decision.
Whenever Teach’s pirates took a British merchant ship, Gabe questioned the crew about their employers, but none of them knew a Henry Jenkins. After a while, Gabe decided Hawkins’ gossip had been false, and he gave up hope of ever finding his father.
Over the past year he dwelled less on his father and more on his mother. He often wondered if she had sent anyone to find him, but he concluded that she hadn’t, given that she hadn’t shown much interest in finding his father. She probably saw Gabe’s departure as confirmation that he was so very much like his father. She had been so busy with the inn, he doubted she had much time to dwell on the absent men in her life. Still, something told him he could always go back and she would not turn him away. But he knew she would not welcome him with open arms and a loving smile, not after leaving her without so much as a goodbye. She had probably taken a new husband by now. He liked to think she had. It absolved him of the burden.
I have been out here too long, he realized as he left The Hellbound Strumpet and started up the main street, putting the harbor to his back. Too much had happened over the past three years. He couldn’t go back to a simple life. Murderers don’t deserve simple lives.
The sun had vanished, leaving a salmon-pink horizon beyond the western exit of the channel between Providence and Paradise Island. He strolled through the bazaar, which was mostly empty, as the vibrant tarps, curtains, and red roofs gradually surrendered their colors to the bluish-greys of twilight. All of the merchants had closed shop for the evening. The windows of double-storied buildings on either side of the street flickered orange, and shadows moved within. Stars dotted the darkening sky, too many to count, like sea-salt scattered over a black table. The clouds had all gone, and the moon would be up soon. A woman’s giggles drifted out of one of the windows, interrupted by a man’s boisterous laugh, and then she started screaming playfully. “You’ll have to catch me,” she teased. “Oooh, slow down, you brute! Stop it! Stop it!” She burst into another fit of giggles.
Gabe pushed up the street, his legs already burning. He hadn’t been sleeping very well over the past week. He knew he needed to be alert, but that had only made sleep more difficult. And when he did sleep, his dreams allowed him no peace.
Twilight had nearly faded to the prosaic black of night by the time he made it to the top of the street, which slimmed into a narrow, winding road that cut through the thick jungle. He followed the road for about a mile, wary of the dark trees on either side. He didn’t care for jungles. He preferred to see what was ahead of him. He heard birds chirping and monkeys screaming. The monkeys’ voices were particularly eerie. At times it seemed they were calling his name, hoping to draw him into the wilds.
He stuck to the road, knowing he would have to dive into the trees if a carriage or a patrol approached. Fortunately his journey was uneventful. Eventually the road opened upon the grounds of the governor’s estate. The two story white mansion stood proudly atop a grassy hill, surrounded by lush gardens, which were no doubt colorful by day. The mansion had been constructed within the last few months, and its pristine white walls seemed to glow in the night. The portico covering the grand entrance consisted of four pillars supporting a triangular roof with a small, pentagonal hollow in the middle, which looked to Gabe as though it should house a clock.
Only two of the windows were illuminated, both on the second floor. One was large, near the center of the house—probably Rogers in his study—and the other was on the far eastern side, with a slender shadow moving back and forth. This room looked smaller, designed for a guest. The maids’ quarters would likely all be downstairs. That has to be Katherine Lindsay, he decided.
A ten foot white wall bordered the base of the hill in a twenty acre square, with a giant arched gate at the front, which opened to a pebbled road that led right up to the front porch. Two sentries were posted outside the gate in long coats, deep maroon in the night, carrying muskets. Gabe skirted the jungle, which had been cleared twenty paces from the gate on all sides, so no one could use the foliage to get over the wall. He made his way around to the eastern wall.
It took him a few uncertain moments searching in the dark before he rediscovered the spot where he’d buried his grapple and rope a day past, when he had scouted the grounds. He found the little mound beneath a notably tall palm tree at the edge of the jungle. He dug fast, until his fingers brushed metal. He pulled the three-pronged grapple and the attached rope out of the hole and shook the dirt off. He glanced around to make sure no sentries were patrolling this side. They weren’t. He scurried over to the wall, pressing himself flat against it. He looked around again. No one was coming. He let the grapple hang two feet from the rope, and started to swing. He released, and the grapple sailed over the top of the wall. It struck the other side with a thunk that echoed off the house. Gabe lowered his head, mouthing a silent prayer. When he was certain no one had heard, he gave the rope a firm tug to make sure it was secure. He took off his coat and his shirt. He tore two strips of fabric from the shirt and wrapped them around each hand. He bunched up what was left of the shirt and tossed it into the jungle. He put his coat back on, leaving it unbuttoned and his chest bare. He hefted himself up the rope, placing his feet against the wall. He quickly reached the top and threw his arms over. As he crawled up, he saw the moon peaking over the jungle. The grapple, freed of his weight, slipped off the wall and fell within the grounds, landing quietly in a patch of grass. The rope whipped past Gabe’s face, stinging his cheek, and he snatched it. He started over the top, and the hilt of his dagger let out a teeth-chattering screech as it scraped along the wall. He hunched low, straddling the top of the wall.
A spot of red was moving toward him. “‘Ello? Is someone there?”
Gabe smacked his forehead lightly on the top of the wall, hissing through his teeth. “So close,” he whispered to himself.
“Oy! Oy, there! What’re you doing up there? Stop that!” the sentry barked, running up to the wall and fumbling to aim his musket. The man stepped on a prong of the grapple and yelped, hopping on one foot. “What in the bloody hell?”
Gabe realized he was still holding the rope, stretched taut to the grapple. He jerked hard, swinging his arm over his head, propelling the grapple into the air. The sentry gawked downward as the grapple shot toward his face. One of the prongs entered his mouth, lifting him off his feet, and his head twisted until his neck gave with a sickening snap. Gabe released the rope and let the man crumple to the grass. He rolled off the wall, landing on his feet beside the corpse, and glanced around. He didn’t see anyone else. “Lucky,” he muttered. He grabbed the sentry by the ankles and dragged him behind a hedge. “Well, maybe not for you.”
He made his way to the north side of the house, which overlooked a large garden. Carefully trimmed hedges and red-pebbled walkways swirled elegantly around an unfinished stone fountain. The top rim of the fountain was resting to one side, waiting to be set in place.
Gabe continued on until he found a dark stairway cut into the ground, flanked by stacked empty crates that smelled of poultry and fruit. At the foot of the stairs was an unpainted door. Gabe reached into his coat pocket, feeling for the key. Panic swelled in his throat. It’s gone! Had he dropped the key when he took off his coat for a second?
And then he checked the opposite pocket, and cold metal greeted his fingers. He sighed, shaking his head at his stupidity. He stuck the key in the lock, closing his eyes before turning it. The bolt released. He carefully opened the door and moved inside.
“May I help you, sir?”
Gabe nearly leapt out of his breeches.
An ancient face with a hooked nose stared at him from beneath a white wig. The old man wore a long blue butler’s coat.
Gabe glanced around the kitchen. “I’m the chef’s apprentice.”
“The chef has been sacked for losing his key, sir.”
Gabe presented the key. “Then I’m the new chef!”
“Your timely arrival is most coincidental,” the butler drawled, blinking slowly.
“I assure you this is not what it looks like.”
“And what does it look like?”
Gabe hesitated. “Whatever it is not . . . is what it looks like. Which it isn’t.”
“That makes no sense, sir.” The butler’s half-lidded eyes trailed Gabe’s shirtless chest. “And a chef without a shirt is a poor chef. You’ll get chest hairs in the soup. Not that you have many chest hairs.”
Gabe sighed. “You make a fine point.” He kneed the butler in the groin, doubling him over his leg, and then brought his elbow down on the back of his head. He took off his coat and set it on a counter, with every intention of coming back for it; he liked this coat. He stripped the unconscious butler of his coat and slipped into it. He started for the exit, and then halted. He plucked the wig off the butler’s head and fit it snugly over his own, tucking his thick curls in as best he could. He imagined he looked ridiculous. It was hardly a foolproof disguise, but it would hopefully be enough in the dark, from a distance.
He ascended a slim stairway to a long, gloomy hallway with doors on either side. It smelled of fresh paint. Indistinct faces stared at him from large paintings lining the walls between the many doors. He moved down the hallway as quietly as possible, until it opened to the foyer. The large front door was on his left, and a grand staircase on his right. He heard two female voices whispering and saw a faint orange glow coming from the hallway on the opposite side of the foyer. He darted for the staircase, moving quietly up the wide steps, curving around in a half-circle to the second floor. An extravagant chandelier was hanging in the center of the half-circle.
As he reached the top, a butler passed by carrying a silver tray of fruit toward the west wing. Luckily, Gabe didn’t need to go that way. He clutched his wig and hurried down the eastern hallway, glancing over his shoulder repeatedly. He reached a door at the end with a strip of light in the crease beneath it. The door was bolted twice from the outside. He chuckled. Are they holding a woman in here, or a dragon?
He slid both bolts back and opened the door, glancing one last time down the hall. He clutched the hilt of his dagger, knowing that Katherine might require some encouragement. He didn’t like the idea of threatening a woman with a blade, but he would do what he had to. He plunged into the room, closing the door behind him.
A brass lamp flickered gently on a little bedside table. Propped against a plethora of luxurious pillows, with one leg raised, Katherine Lindsay lifted an eyebrow over the thick tome she was reading. She let the book fall into her lap. The left half of her face was lit, with that side of her mouth curling into a curious smirk. Her red lips were far less chapped than the last time he’d seen her. Her intelligent eyes narrowed. The light revealed thin scars; one ran in a slant down an otherwise smooth cheek and another pervaded her eyebrow. The untamable curls of her red tresses rolled over her shoulders, like fire tumbling from her scalp, highlighted with orange strands. She wore a short-sleeved, plain white chemise with a low neckline that bared the top of her breasts. The skirt of the gown had fallen back from her raised leg, revealing creamy skin.
She slammed the book shut, tucked it under her arm, and hopped out of the bed. The skirt dropped to cover her leg. Gabe glimpsed a voracious curiosity in her flaring pupils, like a cat that has caught sight of a loose twine of yarn and will not look away for fear of losing it. “You’re not a butler,” she said. Her voice was husky, and her neck muscles strained when she spoke, as though words pained her.
Gabe removed his wig and ran a hand through his hair, which was damp with sweat. He hadn’t realized how much energy he’d been exerting. “My name is Gabe Jenkins. I’m here to . . . ” he paused before he could say, “rescue you,” because that wasn’t exactly true.
“Kill me?” she suggested.
The curves of her hips swayed through the thin fabric as she casually stepped before the lamp. “I know you, don’t I? Yes, I remember you from Crusader. You were there. You took part in the mutiny. That dreadful whore had a hold over you, if I recall.”
He was tired of being reminded of that sad affair, though he knew he had no one to blame but himself. “Annabelle had no hold over me.”
Blackbeard, on the other hand . . .
“Did she not take you into her bed?” Katherine wondered.
“She tried,” Gabe replied.
Annabelle’s final request of Gabe had been born of jealousy and desperation. She had instructed him to murder Katherine after she realized her mistake in bringing Katherine before Charles Vane. Gabe refused, for it was clear Annabelle no longer served Blackbeard. She had hoped her beauty would be enough to coax Gabe into murder, with the not-so-subtle promise of the fruit between her legs. Their parting had not been pleasant. It was the last time he saw her, before Vane tossed her to her death.
“Are you certain you aren’t here to kill me?” Katherine asked. She might have been asking him to pass the salt, for all the concern she showed. “All I need do is scream and the entire house will rush to my aid.”
“Why would I kill you?” he asked.
She shrugged. “Retribution for Blackbeard.”
He frowned. “Retribution? It’s not like you killed him.”
“Really?” she asked, cocking her head. “Who do you think killed him?”
“Why, Captain Dillahunt, of course.”
Her face bunched with irritation, mouth shrinking as she pursed her lips, elegant nose wrinkling around flaring nostrils. Her words were quick and sharp. “Oh I’m sure that’s what he tells everyone. In point of fact, I blew up Queen Anne’s Revenge. The fire killed Blackbeard. Thus, I killed Blackbeard.”
He tried not to look impressed. Something about her vehemence convinced him she was telling the truth. “I didn’t know that. Regardless, I’m not here to harm you. I have no loyalty to a dead man.”
She clutched the large book to her stomach, muscles straining visibly in her arms. He wondered if she intended on using it to bludgeon him over the head. It was certainly heavy enough. “So what are you doing in my bedroom? I hope you’re not expecting to rape me. That would end poorly . . . for you.”
“I’m only here to kidnap you,” he answered, flashing a grin. “I’d appreciate if you didn’t put up much of a fuss.”
To his surprise, she looked distinctly relieved. “It’s about goddamned time,” she said, carelessly tossing the large book to the floor. Gabe cringed as it thumped loudly. She moved to the window, unlatching it and swinging the shutters open. A cool breeze wafted in, pressing her gown against the smooth contours of her body. “Rogers confined me to this room for a reason. Unless you’ve brought rope, we can’t go out this window. There’s no ledge. Believe me, I’ve tried. Have a look for yourself.” She moved aside, gesturing to the window.
He allowed himself a shrewd smile and stayed right where he was. “I’ll take your word for it.”
After a moment she smiled in turn. “Good. I would have been disappointed if you’d gone for it.”
But that wouldn’t have stopped you from giving me a shove. He kept his eyes on her as he reached for the door handle behind him. “We’ll go back the way I came in, through the kitchen.”
“I’m sure there’s an easier way.”
He shook his head. “I’m not leaving without my coat.”
“Fine. After you.”
He drew his curved dagger. Her eyes widened. He gestured at her with the blade. “It’s only a precaution, should you decide to alert anyone.”
The edges of her lips turned downward. “And I took you for the chivalrous sort.”
“Oh, I am.” Gabe opened the door. “Ladies first. I insist.”
Excerpt from THE DEVIL’S HORIZON
by Matt Tomerlin.
Copyright © 2013 by Matt Tomerlin. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, reposting, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without express written permission of the author.