It’s summer… A time for Lizzy Seabrook, a headstrong 13 year old to cavort with her girlfriends and catch a few ‘rays’.
The last thing she expects when she takes her dog for a walk in the woods is to encounter Victor Trenton, a deranged recluse, hiding from the law.
The Ragman is the story of a young girl’s attempts to survive ‘on the run’ with a murderous, psychotic man, and the strange alliance she forms with the mysterious psychic Celia Damson, in an effort to reunite her with her mother.
Time marches on
Each day to a different drumbeat
Sometimes Joyful and sometimes not…
Andrea Seabrook, a 32 year-old single mother, walked out the employee entrance of the Tillington Lumber Mill thinking that her day couldn’t possibly get worse. She had spent the last twenty minutes getting reamed out by Rudy Cantwell, the department foreman. Rudy was a fifty-something, brush-cut wearing, tobacco chewing ex-marine, who believed that women were only good for three things, cook’n, clean’n and make’n babies.
Her day started out okay, but it went to shit in fairly short order. She was assigned to work on one of the oldest pieces of equipment in the mill and it was constantly breaking down. When it locked up for the third time in less than an hour, she knew her day was officially fucked; there was no way she would meet her production quota.
So, when Rudy called her into his office at the end of her shift, she was prepared for the worse. As he ranted about her incompetence, she stared at the floor and bit her lip. She would have loved to tell him to shove the job up his ass, but living in a small rural town, where the ‘Good ole boy’ network ran deep; a young woman had little recourse. She had two choices; quit and end up on public assistance, or suck it up. Quitting sounded pretty good, but with a daughter to look out for, rent to pay and a good for nothing loser of an ex-husband, who never made child support payments; she chose to suck it up.
As she pulled out of the employee parking lot, she looked in the rearview mirror and sighed, God, I hate this place.
Across town, Andrea’s daughter, Lizzy, sat on the front steps of their trailer-home. She was playing with her dog, Jack, a big burly German Shepherd, while she waited for her mother to get home.
For Lizzy, summers were a mixed blessing. She loved the warm weather and being out of school. But, she hated that her mother worried about her being home alone. If she wasn’t across the street at her friend’s house, her mother insisted that she stay close to the trailer.
Lizzy looked at her watch and then to Jack, who was lying at her feet. “Well, it looks like Mom’s going to be late again. We might as well go in and see what’s on TV.”
Twenty minutes later, Andrea pulled into the Trailer Park, and parked across the street from her trailer. She was still pissed about work as she walked across the street. Leave it go, she chided herself, as she opened the screen door and walked inside.
The moment she stepped into the living room, Jack ran over and sat at her feet. He pawed at her leg as Lizzy jumped up from the couch and clicked off the TV.
“Hi, Mom,” she said and gave her a hug. “You’re late.”
Andrea kissed her daughter’s forehead. “Don’t get me started.”
Jack nudged her leg and whined for attention. She reached down and patted his head. “Good boy! I’m glad to see you too. Now, go lay in your bed. Mommy’s tired.”
Jack obediently walked over to a stack of old blankets beside the couch and lay down.
Andrea handed her lunch pail to her daughter. “Would you put that on the counter, please,” she said, and then plopped down onto their threadbare recliner. “Gosh, it’s hot in here!” she said, and unbuttoned her work shirt.
Lizzy walked into the kitchen and set the lunch pail on the counter. “It’s July, Mom… Of course it’s hot,” she said sarcastically.
Andrea frowned. Her daughter was more like her than she liked to admit; especially when it came to a sharp tongue. At 13, Lizzy was small for her age, standing just 5 foot, 4; whereas she was 5 foot, 9. They were both slim and had straight blonde hair. Hers was cut shoulder length. Lizzy’s, on the other hand was much longer and she liked to wear it pulled back in a ponytail. Thankfully, the only thing that her daughter had inherited from her deadbeat father was his deep-blue eyes. Andrea’s were green.
Lizzy opened her mother’s lunch pail and smiled when she saw a leftover. “Hey, can I have the Twinkie?”
Andrea unlaced her work boots and kicked them off. “Sure... Not to ask a silly question but, why isn’t the air conditioner on?”
Lizzy tried to answer, as small bits of yellow cake fell out of her mouth. “Schorry…” She held up a finger and swallowed. “Sorry. The air conditioner is on the fritz again.”
Andrea grumbled and got up from her chair. “Obviously you didn’t think of opening the windows.”
Lizzy stuffed the remains of the Twinkie in her mouth and shrugged. She walked back to the living room and plopped down into her mother’s chair. “So… How was work?”
Andrea finished opening the windows and then lay down on the couch. She jammed a throw pillow under her head and frowned. “The usual... Same crap, different day.”
Lizzy frowned. “If you hate it so much, why don’t you quit?”
“Because your Daddy never sends his child support and when you live in a small town like this, a person is lucky to have any kind of job.”
Jack got up from his bed and walked over to the couch. He nudged Andrea’s leg and whined.
“No, you are not getting up,” she said and pushed him away with her knee. “It’s too hot to share and I’m too damned tired to make room for you.”
Lizzy walked over, knelt next to her dog and patted his head. “She’s just being crabby,” she whispered into his ear. Then, she looked at her mother. “He misses you; that’s all.”
“I know he does. But, I’ve had a long day and I have a splitting headache. Would you be a sweetheart and get me a couple of aspirin and a glass of water?”
“Sure!” her daughter replied and effortlessly sprang to her feet. She walked to the bathroom and was back in an instant. One hand was closed around the pills and the other clutched a glass of water. “Here you go. Sit up when you take them. You don’t want to choke.”
Andrea smiled. “Yes, Mother,” she said, as she propped herself up on one elbow.
Jack slunk over looking to be forgiven and nudged her hand with his nose.
Andrea lost her grip and dropped the glass on the cushion. “Damn it, Jack!” she yelled, and brushed the water from her shirt.
The German Shepherd retreated under the coffee table with his tail tucked under his rump.
“Cripes, Mom! It was an accident. He didn’t mean to do it.”
Andrea’s temper flared. “You know what, young lady? I have had just about as much as I can take for one day. Why don’t you take your dog for a walk? Just be sure to stay out of the woods.”
“Fine,” Lizzy grumbled, as she walked slump-shouldered to the front door. She took Jack’s leash off a hook and called him. “Come on boy. Let’s go for a walk.” The Shepherd crawled out from under the table and sat obediently at her feet as she attached the leash to his collar.
Andrea knew that she was taking out the day’s frustrations on her daughter, but she didn’t have the energy to be cheery. She could see that Lizzy was angry and knew that she would leave without kissing her good-bye if she didn’t speak up. So, even though she had a splitting headache, she did her best to put a smile on her face. “What? No kiss good-bye?” she asked with outstretched arms.
Her daughter obediently walked to the couch with a frown on her face and kissed her cheek.
“You call that a kiss?” Andrea asked and grabbed Lizzy’s face. She pulled her close and said, “Now this is a kiss.” She kept her lips pressed against her daughter’s until Lizzy began to squirm. “I’m sorry I lost my temper, Honey. I love you.”
Her daughter smiled and dimples formed in her cheeks. “I love you too, Mom.”
Andrea reached up and traced a small cross on Lizzy’s forehead as she recited, “Bless you and protect you.”
Lizzy smiled and repeated the ritual on her mother’s forehead. Then, she turned and walked to the door.
Andrea watched her daughter walk out and then remembered that she forgot to tell her to be home in time for dinner. She got up, ran to the door, and leaned out. Lizzy was already two doors down. “Don’t be late for dinner,” she called out.
Lizzy stopped and turned. “I know…”
“Be home by 4:30,” they said in unison.
The sun warms the heart
And the soul…
Lizzy walked to the end of her street and stopped. Going to the right would take her to Hilliard; a boring two-lane road with nothing to look at but crappy old houses. If she disobeyed and turned right, the street would dead-end at 100 square miles of lush, green forest. As much as she disliked living in a trailer park, being near the woods was one of the few things that made life there bearable.
Lizzy looked back over her shoulder. She wanted to be sure her mother wasn’t sitting on the front steps and then headed for the woods. Her dog must have sensed where they were going because the moment they turned right, his tail started to wag and he strained at his leash.
As they approached the edge of the woods, Jack started to bark happily and kept looking back at her as if he was urging her to hurry up.
Lizzy loved walking in the woods. The trees shut out the noise of the outside world and provided cool shade from the summer sun.
As she walked down a sun-dappled path, she decided to visit one of her favorite spots. She stopped and looked at her watch. If she walked quickly and Jack cooperated, she could get to the stream and have plenty of time to hang out. Then, if she raced home, she might only be a half-hour late. She knew her mother would be angry, but it was worth the risk. She gave Jack’s leash a tug. “Come on, Boy, we’ve got to run.”
Twenty minutes later, the forest path opened up onto a clearing bisected by a shallow stream. Lizzy looked down at her watch and smiled. They made it there with plenty of time to spare.
Jack stopped at the edge of the stream, panting. He lowered his head and lapped at the water.
“Great idea!” Lizzy said and kicked off her sneakers. She waded in the rushing water until it washed over the tops of her feet. She hiked the loop of Jack’s leash up over her wrist and onto her forearm as she bent down. She cupped her hands and scooped the crystal clear water to her mouth. It was cold and almost tasteless. She closed her eyes, enjoying the sensation, as the water chilled her insides as she drank. “Gosh, I love this spot,” she said between mouthfuls.
After she quenched her thirst, Lizzy walked to a large flat rock protruding from the middle of the stream and sat down. She tilted her head skyward so the sun could warm her face. If there was a heaven, this is how she pictured it.
Lost in a daydream, she didn’t notice that Jack had caught the scent of an animal on the far side of the stream. He stood at rapt attention, his nose held high, sniffing the air. Then, his keen eyes spotted a fox peering out from under a bush and he bolted. His leash went taught and yanked Lizzy backward off her perch. Her arms flailed in the air as she tried to keep her balance. But, it was to no avail and she tumbled backward into the stream. As she fell, Jack’s leash slid off her arm and through her fingers.
“NO JACK!” she yelled, but it was too late. He was already across the stream in pursuit of the animal. She scrambled to her feet and ran to the bank. She hurriedly slipped on her sneakers and gave chase. Mom will kill me if I come back without you, she thought, as she splashed through the water and ran into the woods after her dog.
Lizzy ducked under branches, dodged rocks, and did her best to skirt the briar patches. But, as careful as she tried to be, the thorns tore at her bare legs and arms. She almost caught up to her dog once, when it appeared that he had cornered the fox. But, as she reached for his leash, she saw the animal dart past her leg. Before she could react, Jack turned and ran past her, careening off her legs, sending her to the ground. “Shit!” she shouted, and watched him disappear over a hill.
What causes evil to enter
A man’s heart…
Victor Trenton was a miserable, 41-year old alcoholic. The only activity he could draw even a modicum of pleasure from was hunting; except when it was hot.
His day started out okay. He’d slid out from under his covers at the crack of dawn and walked to the kitchen sink to take a leak. He got up on his tiptoes and pissed over the rim. Halfway through, he lost his balance. His stream hit the front edge of the countertop and splashed back on his hand. He cursed as he wiped his hand on the front of his undershirt. He thought about it for a moment and then laughed. “I guess a little piss never hurt anyone.” For a brief moment, he actually thought about changing his shirt, and then decided that it could wait. I got more important things to do… Like cracking open a bottle of whiskey. He grabbed a bottle off the shelf, spun off the cap, and took a swig. “Ahhh… Just the medicine a grow’n body needs,” he said and wiped his mouth with the side of his hand. He loved the earthy taste of the whiskey and the way it warmed his insides; not to mention its ability to steady his hands. He took another swig and set the bottle on the kitchen table. Then, he took his pants off the back of the chair and slid them on. As he dressed, he decided to check his traps and do a little hunting. He had seen a big buck on the other side of the river the other day and missed the shot. But, now he knew where it was rutting. He vowed that sooner or later, he would have that buck’s rack hang’n on the wall of his cabin.
Vic picked up the whiskey bottle and walked to the front door of the cabin. He took another sip and then set it on the shelf next to the door. Then, he put on his hunting vest and filled the pockets with extra ammunition. He patted his hunting knife to make sure it was in its sheath and then filled his whiskey flask. Once it was safely stored in his back pocket he was all set to face the day. Before he walked out the door, he picked up the whiskey bottle and drank what was left in two big gulps.
He stepped outside and looked around the abandoned campground. Over the years it had been a logging camp and then a Boy Scout camp. When it was still in operation, the campground had been ringed with plywood bunkhouses. Now, they were all either vandalized, burned down, or just plain stoved in by the winter snows. In the center of the clearing, there was a large block building that had served as a mess hall for the loggers and then the scouts. But, even its roof had succumbed to years of harsh weather. With the exception of the one cabin Vic had rebuilt and called home, it was the only other structure still standing. The only other landmarks were an old oak tree that stood halfway between the block building and his cabin and the remains of a dried up well.
Five years ago, when he first stumbled across the camp and decided to make it his home, he thought that the well could make a decent root cellar and a great hiding place if needed. So, for the next year, he pulled bucket after bucket of dirt, clay and rock from the bottom of it. Once he had cleared the main shaft, he broke through the wall at the bottom and excavated a small room. With the room completed, he removed what was left of the small stone wall that ringed the top and replaced it with a wood cap and a lockable trap door.
Vic stepped off the porch and walked to the well. When he got to the cap, he knelt down and checked the padlock. If another hunter stumbled across the cabin, he wouldn’t find much of use to steal, but his root cellar was another matter. Not only did it hold his food stores; it also held an old fashioned sailor’s trunk. Inside the padlocked trunk, he kept all his worldly possessions, including the money he had amassed after years of break-ins and convenience store robberies. All told, it amounted to just under eight thousand dollars.
He gave the lock another good yank, just to be sure. “Safe and sound,” he said, and then headed for the woods.
Lizzy struggled to climb the steep hill after her dog. Her legs, arms and face were covered with scratches and she was weary from the chase. She clawed at saplings and the tall grass as her feet slipped on loose rock and pebbles. Salty sweat stung her eyes as it ran down her face. She could hear Jack barking and prayed that his leash had gotten caught. She crawled on her hands and knees the last five feet and finally made it to the top of the hill.
To her relief, she saw that Jack barking at his quarry, no more than ten feet away. He was tugging at his leash, which had gotten tangled around the ragged end of a tree stump.
Lizzy struggled to her feet and made her way over to her dog. “I’m going to kill you! Look at me. Look what you did!” she shouted, as she tried to free his leash.
Jack regarded her for a moment and then returned to what he was doing.
Lizzy tugged at the leash, but with the dog pulling it taught, she didn’t have the strength to pull it free. “Darn it, Jack,” she scolded and then walked around to the front of the stump, hoping to distract him.
Jack was standing at the edge of a steep ravine, fighting to get to the bottom and continue the chase. Lizzy looked over the edge; it was a long way down. At the bottom, the hill gave way to a large marsh that was turning into a mud hole in the heat of the summer sun. She turned and looked at her dog. “You’re darn lucky you got stuck. Do you see how steep that is? You could break a leg getting down there.”
Lizzy tried to push him backward, but he wouldn’t budge. The only thing left was to wait until he lost interest or unhook his leash and hope she could hang onto his collar. She looked at her watch and gasped when she saw the time. She didn’t have an option, she would have to try and unhook him.
She stepped over the dog and straddled his sides. Then, she grabbed his collar with one hand and unclipped his leash with the other. The moment he heard the click of the hasp he lurched forward pulling her with him. He skittered down the hill as she tumbled down after him.
Jack reached the bottom and deftly ran around the bank of the mucky pond. Lizzy was not as lucky. She tumbled off a small rise and fell the last five feet, landing in the mud. She tried to push herself up, but her hands kept sinking into the slop. She was tired, bruised, and at her emotional limit.
Frustrated, she screamed and pulled her hands free. She prided her self as being ‘one tough cookie’ as her mother would say, and she hardly ever cried. But, under the current circumstance, she could no longer hold back her tears. She gave up on the idea of catching her dog. All she wanted was to get free of the mud and go home. She knew her mother would be furious, but that didn’t matter anymore.
She looked into his eyes
And in them, she saw an abyss
She saw the flames of hell
Vic pulled a severed animal’s paw from the jagged jaws of a steel trap and tossed it aside. Then, he yanked the trap from the ground and threw it. “God damn… Son-of-a-bitch’n… Animals!” he yelled and grabbed the flask from his back pocket. He flipped open the stopper with his thumb and finished off the whiskey.
He had been tromping around those God forsaken woods since morning and all he had to show for it were a couple of anemic looking rabbits and a small fox. Maybe I’ll have better luck across the river, he thought. “Hell, I might even run into that buck I saw the other day.” He shoved the empty flask back into his pocket and headed toward the river.
Thirty minutes later, he stood at the edge of the escarpment and looked out over the Tillington River. The current was swift, but manageable. He turned and made his way down a steep embankment to the riverbank were he had a rowboat hidden among the reeds. He dropped his meager catch into the bow, got in, and pushed off with an oar.
He took his time rowing across, being in no particular hurry. When he reached the other side, he grounded the boat, tied it off, and headed for the marsh.
Vic looked at his watch as he picked his way through the trees and underbrush. The numbers on the dial looked fuzzy. He shook his head and looked again, but they appeared no clearer.
Between the heat of the day and the alcohol in his system, he knew a monster headache was about to erupt. And, he was getting damned tired of searching for that deer. He decided he would go as far as the marsh. If he didn’t see the buck, he would head back to his cabin and wash down a couple of aspirin with a nice, tall glass of whiskey. Better yet, a bottle, he thought as he walked into a clearing.
In the open, the sun’s rays beat unmercifully down on his head. He pulled out a hanky and wiped the sweat from his brow. “This is bullshit!” he shouted and turned around. As he started back, he heard a noise coming from the woods on the far side of the clearing. He turned, raised his rifle, and peered into the sight. A brown and black animal emerged from the underbrush and he fired. The bullet careened off a tree trunk near the animal sending splintered bark into the air. The animal yelped and went to ground. He chambered another round and began to squeeze the trigger when his alcohol soaked brain discerned what he was shooting at. It’s a God damn dog! If that son of a bitch spooked my deer… he fumed. “I oughta shoot yer ass,” he grumbled. As he was about to pull the trigger, he heard someone scream. Settling the score with the dog, which had turned tail and run, was no longer a concern.
His curiosity peaked; Vic crossed the clearing and headed toward the sound. He stopped at the edge of the woods so he could take a look without letting on that he was there. Unfortunately, he stepped on a weathered branch. When it snapped, it sounded like a firecracker going off. “So much for sneak’n up on’m,” he said, and stepped into the clearing, his rifle at the ready.
Lizzy managed to pull herself free of the muck and rested at the base of the hill. She was about to call one last time for her dog when she heard the gunshot. “JACK!” she yelled, as fear gripped her heart. She got to her feet and started to walk around the marsh. She was almost halfway around when she heard a noise. She stopped and let out a sigh of relief. “Jesus, Jack, I thought you might have been…” She didn’t finish the sentence. She had expected to see her dog come out of the woods, not a man.
The hunter was wearing khaki colored pants, a tee shirt and a camouflage vest. She wondered if he had heard her scream and came to help. She should have felt relieved, but something about him frightened her. He had long dark hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in weeks and a thick black mustache that covered his mouth. The rest of his face and neck were shadowed with dark beard stubble. She hoped that he would turn and leave. But, as he scanned the marsh, he spotted her and smiled. She felt a chill run down her spine as his face transformed into something evil.
Vic stepped out of the woods and looked around. He saw a young girl, caked with mud, standing on the opposite side of the marsh, directly across from him. It can’t be, he thought. He rubbed his eyes and took a second look. It’s gotta be her, he reassured himself. “Well, I’ll be dipped in shit. It’s Molly!” he said, as a broad grin spread across his face. He lowered his gun and gave her a quick wave. When he started toward her, the last thing he expected was to see her turn and head in the opposite direction. “Hey, Molly! It’s yer Daddy! Don’t be afraid.”
The girl stopped and got a worried look on her face. “I’m not your daughter!”
Vic clenched his jaw. “There’s no reason ta speak to me like that. I understand if yer still a little raw about yer mother, but I’m still yer father. Now, get yer ass over here!” he demanded.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” she shouted.
As she backed away from him, she lost her footing. Her right foot slipped into the muddy water and sunk down. She frantically tried to pull her leg out. It finally came free with a slurpy sound, but the mud claimed her sneaker. Freed of the muck, the girl started to run.
“Damn you, Molly!” he shouted and picked up a small branch. He flung it at her feet. “Gotcha!” he laughed cruelly, as it struck her ankle and sent her sprawling. Before she could get up, he was on her. He grabbed her arm and pulled her onto her feet. “What’s gotten into you, Girl?”
The young girl glared at him and yanked her arm free of his grasp. “I told you, I am not your daughter!” she insisted and took a step backward.
Vic grabbed the front of her blouse. “You ain’t go’n nowhere, Missy,” he hissed. “You’re just like that bitch mother of yours… Full of piss’n vinegar!”
The girl tried to pull free. “Let… Go of ME!” she demanded.
Vic yanked her back, ripping her blouse and tearing a gold necklace from her neck. He reached down and picked it up with his free hand and studied it. He was having a hard time focusing on the small figurine that dangled at the end. It looked like a pig with wings. “What the hell is this?” he asked, holding the broken necklace in front of her face.
Tears threatened to spill from the girl’s eyes. “You broke it, you jerk! My Grandmother gave that to me!” She tried to grab it from his hand.
Vic jerked it out of her reach and tossed it aside. “Bullshit! You got no grandma… What? You gonna cry over a piece of shit necklace?”
“You’re a piece of dog crap!” she blurted.
“You… Little… Snot!” he spat back at her and slapped her with the back of his hand. She stumbled backward, lost her balance and fell. There was a hollow thud as her head hit the ground.
Vic dropped to his knees. “Ohhhh shit! I killed her…” He held her by the shoulders and sat her up; her head lolled backward. “I’m sorry, Molly. I didn’t mean to hit you. Speak to me!” he implored. He put an arm around her back and lifted her higher so he could put his ear to her chest. Thank God; she was still breathing. He had lost his daughter once and he’d be damned if he’d lose her again. “Don’t worry, Babygirl. I’ll take you home and fix ya right up. Then you’ll see that I’m a good father!”
Vic slung his rifle onto his shoulder and picked up the girl’s limp body. As he started around the marsh, he heard the distinctive growl of an angry dog. He looked toward the woods and saw the German Shepherd barring his way. The dog’s ears were laid back and the fur along his spine was standing up. The dog bared his teeth and lunged forward, cutting across the muddy water. His paws immediately sunk in, but he was not deterred. His bark was like the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun. Saliva flung from his jowls as the dog tried to get at him. But, the more the Shepherd tried to move forward the deeper it sank into the mud.
“Serves ya right, ya dumb animal,” Vic sneered. “You’re just lucky my hands are full.”
Vic walked around the marsh, carefully keeping one eye on where he was stepping and the other on the dog. He thought he had made it safely to the woods when he heard an odd sucking sound. He turned and saw that the dog had almost freed itself. And, it looked like it still wanted a piece of him. “I guess we need ta have a little talk.”
Vic set down the girl and walked back to the edge of the marsh. He took his rifle off his shoulder and pointed it at the dog’s head. He knew that the animal was trying to protect the girl and he admired its fearless spirit and loyalty. “It would be a shame to put you down,” he said and lowered his gun. “Now, look here. I’m taking the girl home with me and there’s nothing you can do about it. So, you got two choices. Either you can free yerself and find another master, or you can come after me and be DEAD!” To emphasize the point, he raised his gun again and put his finger on the trigger. “So, what’s it gonna be?” The dog stopped snarling. “Good. You made the right choice.”
Vic slung his gun back over his shoulder. Then, he calmly turned, picked up the girl, and walked into the woods.
More Than A Mystery
A great novel filled with suspense, layers and depth.......
A glimpse into human behavior and the ripple effect of trying to right a wrong, reinventing events of the past to accommodate the conscience, and the cold shock of reality when the mirror reflects the truth.
The frustration, fear, and anger experienced when others try to cage you into an identity that is not you, and the bitterness, hopelessness, and loss of self when you finally submit.
The process of recognizing and accepting your gifts and talents, building confidence and overcoming your insecurities, reaching out for the greater good to help others.
An excellent mystery that draws you into the characters, and keeps you turning the pages in anticipation as the story moves at an avalanche pace of tension and excitement.
Looking forward to the next book..............a sequel perhaps??
The Ragman is a good read! The story is fast moving and will keep you reading. The main characters really captured my attention. I would recommend this to any reader who likes suspense.
I just finished reading "The Ragman". I have to say, this is one of the best books I have read this year.
The storyline keeps you in suspense through the whole book. I would suggest everyone read this book. It will keep you guessing right up until the end.