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Tuesday, 04 April 2006
Robert (Bob) Bailey
Henry Ford High School
Class of 1966

Coauthored by Bob Bailey and Don Grillo

Robert Bailey
Robert Bailey
Bob is a renowned author of three novels which chronicle the adventures of Art Hardin, a private investigator working out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  His first action-packed thriller, PRIVATE HEAT, won the Josiah W. Bancroft Award at the Florida First Coast Writer's Festival in 1998 and was nominated for the 2003 Shamus Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America. A second Art Hardin mystery, DYING EMBERS, was released in March 2003 and Bailey has just completed his third novel, DEAD-BANG, due to be released in 2006 by publisher M. Evans & Company, Inc.

Bob grew up in Detroit Michigan on Archdale which is two blocks east of Southfield Hwy and just north of Trojan. Bob writes:

I remember Trojan when it was a gravel cross street and we still had an alley.  There were no fences in the yards until I was seven or eight.

 

Bob attended Coffey Elementary and remembers when the school had only eight rooms. All of the students were sent to Larned School during the expansion construction and when it was finished, he went back to Coffey as it had been enlarged to include a junior high.

While I was at Coffey School, around the sixth grade, I became the columnist for the school paper and wrote the column “Hershal,” I was a bug. The column was written in all lower case because, being a bug, I couldn't hit the shift key and strike a letter at the same time.   My class produced the “Coffey School Coloring Book” as well.

Some of Bob’s best memories from junior high happened on Fridays.

On Fridays, gym class was devoted to dancing. We partnered-up and learned the Foxtrot, Virginia Reel, and something else involving the bleking step. I really enjoyed that and fell in love with a different girl every Friday. One girl who stands out in my mind was Sandy Stern.  I used to pester her mercilessly (passed for flirting in those less enlightened years) until one day when she turned around and laid a roundhouse on the side of my head that had me seeing circling birds like a cartoon character.

Sometime after that, Sandy and Bob won the Twist Contest at the ninth grade graduation party.  

We all had our favorite places to hang out and one block over from Bob’s house was Fox Park where Bob and his friends would go and even a few times got themselves into some mischief.

I remember Dave Fisher, Bill Kitchen and Allan Wolf; Dave was the ringleader, the kid who had all the fireworks.  One day we were lighting them off and his mother appeared in full “what-for” and dragged him home.  After he left, we shot some more fire crackers to cover for him.  Bill Kitchen's dad owned a restaurant up on Northwestern highway and had a hot chocolate machine in his kitchen.  Allan Wolf had the best collection of Playboy Magazines on the street.  One day his mother found them and taped up all the centerfolds on his bedroom walls.  I thought, “What a cool mom.”  Allan took them down; guess he knew his mom better than I did.

As youngsters many of us had encounters with bullies. Bob too crossed paths with a bully and recalls:

I met Skipper, outside of Coffey School.  Skipper is a redemption story.  He was a bully who attended IHM, down by Bow School.   My first meeting with him involved threatening and harassing me while I was trying to work the combination lock on my bicycle.  He told me what crap public schools were and about how his parents had to pay for his education and the education of leaches like me.  I told him, he could attend public school if he wanted.  He disdained that idea.  A couple years later I was walking home from the Friday night dance at the school with Ray Wiener.  When we got to Pembroke and Lindsay, a car screeched up and out jumped old Skip and four other lads I didn't know and never met.  They told me to get lost, but I stayed.  They jumped Ray, who put up a struggle but soon enough was yoked up.  They called him a "Jew Boy" and said a lot of ugly things.  I kept saying, "What are you doing?" and "Are you nuts?" They let Ray go and he never talked to me again.  I walked him the rest of the way home but had to stay out of reach because he was angry with me for not jumping in the fight.  God knows I did not cover myself with glory.  I missed his friendship.  Anyway, ole Skipper turned up as a student at Coffey School.  He made friends, took jazz dancing classes with Sandy Stern and Wendy Donovan (who I sat behind and was one of my many secret loves and who had a luscious neck with freckles) and turned into a friendly and decent fellow.  Once Skipper, Sandy and Wendy coached me from the wings while I lip-synced "Get me to the Church on Time" for the auditorium class.  I don't know if Skipper ever apologized to Ray Weiner, I hope so and I hope Ray forgave him, but I don't know.

On March 28, 1963 the new gym, pool, auditorium, and laboratory facilities at Ford were dedicated.  Bob started 10th grade at Ford the following fall. The new Southfield expressway plowed through his neighborhood and changed his walk to school. Times were tougher then and Bob writes:

I didn't have money to ride the bus or eat lunch most days.  At home we didn't have hot water.  I took gym every semester so I could get a shower.  Now and then we were without heat in the winter and quality time was having the phone and the lights on at the same time.  My parents had divorced when I was nine.  My sister and I worked full time after school.  With my mother, my sister and I all pulling together, we managed to save the house and slowly our lives improved.  My after-school employment started with small jobs.  I worked at John's Party Store on Eight Mile, at the concession stand in the Grand River Drive-In Theatre, at a lunch counter at Arlans discount store (a roller rink after that) and in the concession stand of the West Side Drive-In Theatre.  By 11th grade I was the "Lead man" at the West Side, sort of a floor supervisor.  General Cinema bought the Dearborn Drive-In and since I'd made enough money to have a car (red Corvair convertible with a white top and wire wheels, real wire wheels with knock off hubs) I went to the Dearborn as a Lead man.  By the twelfth grade I was the concession manager at the East Side Drive-In Theatre.  I met my wife, Linda, while working at the Dearborn Drive-In.   For my senior year at Ford I pretty much took Mondays off because I had to do the inventory at the theatre and reconcile the week's cash receipts and vending sales.   My councilor, Mr. Croll, was pretty much in a tatter over that one.

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Rounding out Bob’s circle of friends were Bill Greenshields, Nancy Lonpre', Lynn Canchester and Jim Rose (picture unavailable).

Nancy was a breathless beauty, Lynn a sweet and soulful friend, and Bill and I had been wandering bad news since grade school. Jim, an excellent fellow of infinite jest had a black belt in Karate, played the guitar well, and sang passably.  The ladies liked him a lot.

Judith Anne Teresa Ringle was the love of my life.  The good thing about unrequited love is that it rarely gets damaged by the interaction of the participants.  Her parents thought I was a safe date, and they were right.  She was always safe with me.   I went to her prom (she attended a Catholic high school in Livonia); she went to mine.   In those days I wasn't too soave or debonair.  In the end, I just wasn't her cup of tea.  She never wrote while I was in the military and started not taking my calls.   I did the one thing I thought would make her happy.  I got lost, and with deep and sincere love.  I still wonder about her now and then.

Secrets I never shared with my friends:  The football coach approached me to play running back.  I turned him down.   Told him I had to work, which was true.  I also told him that at five foot seven and a hundred and fifty-five pounds I would be cannon fodder for the other team.  He couldn't believe I didn't jump at the opportunity.  In hindsight, I think I was too small to get a college scholarship, even if the gorillas they set on me encouraged me to run really fast.   Second secret:   The Modern Dance coach approached me to join the dance group because I had the build and strength for the lifts.  I turned her down because I didn't want to appear on stage in tights.  In hindsight, a stupid move.   The dancers were stunning and I was already in a fistfight every couple weeks.

Yes, we had fights.  They were all tougher than me, but I was a silver tongued devil, and being genetically Irish, lacked the ability to back down.   I collected some lumps but I don't think my life was ever in danger.  In those days we "dissed" each other as an intramural sport.  We didn't expect to get any "props."   The teachers didn't mind telling us we were idiots.   We grew up together from kindergarten to high school and never thought of stabbing or shooting each other.  We sorted ourselves into "Frats" and "Greasers."  (I don't know what I was, best to ask someone else.)  It was the time before bussing turned two generations of kids into pathological loners.

High school seemed to go on forever.   I worked all night and we went to school all day.   By senior year I was exhausted and angry about the mess I had made of my opportunities in journalism.   I skipped commencement but went to the graduation.

Working full time was like a vacation and then I was drafted.  Never considered not going and pretty much figured I was dead the day they swore me in.   Figuring out that you are already dead makes the wartime military a lot easier to deal with.  I took a battery of tests and went off to basic training on the only train ride I have taken in my life.   I ended up at Fort Leonard Wood (nick name, Little Korea, because it is in the Ozarks and was cold as hell) in November of 1966.    We started out in tents where the butt cans froze solid, moved to Quonset huts, and then finally into new barracks where they kept the windows open at night to ward off meningitis.   Half the company developed upper respiratory infections and we were quarantined until December.   In December they sent us home for Christmas with the directions to get "our affairs in order."  Lucky for me, at eighteen you don't have too many affairs.   I wore my dress greens and took my girlfriend, Judy, to the Raven Gallery for a New Year’s Party where, you guessed it, I started a fight.   The fellow who was part of the couple we shared a table with delighted in squeaking the balloon and making the ladies squeal.  I laughed and asked him to quit.  He didn't.  I popped his balloon with my fork.  He got surly and I grabbed him by the hair, held the fork under his eye, and asked the ladies if they fancied an hors d'oeuvre.   The management elected not to throw me out and found another unformed servicemen and his date to sit with us.  Judy was not impressed (I hadn't been trying to impress her--frankly, I don't know why I boiled over so fast) and that was pretty much the end of Judy and me. 

I returned to Fort Lost in the Woods to finish boot camp and learned that I had been selected for Officer Candidate School.   The life expectancy of second lieutenant in combat is measured in seconds but when you are already dead the details matter little and the money was much better.   As a private I made fifty-six dollars a day, once a month, whether I needed it or not.  As a Candidate, that sum grew to a princely one hundred and fifty-two dollars a day, one day a month.  I still had to help with the bills at home.  My mathematical skills landed me in Artillery and off I went into advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma where I learned fire direction at an OCS Prep program that lasted eight weeks.   A lot of folks think that OCS is six months of trying on hats.  We started OCS with a class of one hundred sixty-eight; we graduated fifty-three.  Some fellows didn't make it.  They found the academics boring and the discipline (hazing and harassment) tedious.  I found it amusing and my silver tongue landed me on disciplinary tours every weekend.  I kept Judy's picture on my desk through OCS but by the end of OCS she had moved on and I volunteered for all insanities available—Airborne, Ranger, explosive ordinance disposal, language school (Southeast Asian), flight school—and there were some others.   The Army being what it is, you never get what you ask for.  They sent me to Fort Campbell as a training officer in a basic training brigade.

While in the military, I married Linda Lear, whom I had met while working at the Dearborn Drive-in.  She would be my wife and good friend for thirty-five years until she passed away.  We had our first son, Sean, who was born in 1968 at Fort Campbell Kentucky.  I was discharged in 1970 and  returned to work managing the concession stand at the Dearborn Drive-in.  We moved into a basement apartment in Linda's parent’s home in Garden City.  I was soon promoted to manage the West Side Drive-in Theatre.   Linda took a job as the manager of the Dearborn Drive-in concession stand.  In a year we had saved enough money for a down payment on our first house.

The house was on Salem Street, between Six Mile Road and Grand River Avenue (not far from Giegers Hi-burger where I had misspent some of my youth drag racing between the Telways on Telegraph.).  The house was beautiful, a red brick two-story Dutch Colonial with a giant beechnut tree in the front yard.   It had a garage with a sun porch and a cement drive.  The back yard sported three large oaks and red raspberries along the back fence.  We always planted a garden with plenty of tomatoes and cucumbers.  My second son, Eric, was born in 1978 while we lived on Salem--but that gets me ahead of myself just a bit.

By 1972, daylight savings time was tanking the drive-in theatre business.  I went to work for Foodmaker Inc. as a contract manager for Jack-in-the-Box restaurants.   Yes, when you were screaming at the plastic clown, I was the guy screwing up your order.  My first "Jack" was up on Allen Road near Goddard.  When a new state of the art "Mark-five" was built in Ypsilanti near Eastern Michigan University, I was promoted to that location.  Linda came and worked with me, helped me set up and train a new crew.   By 1975, Foodmaker had 22 restaurants in the Detroit Metro area and decided it was time to unload the old contract managers, those who helped them build the district and who they paid very well.  I made a little over five hundred a week, which was far from shabby in those days.  They decided in favor of corporate hire managers who where paid at one-third to one-half of the contract manager's wage.  When they had flushed us all out of the 22 restaurants, their business swizzled down the toilet and their were no more tacos and bonus-jacks for the Detroit crowd. 

When I left the restaurant business Linda wanted me to find employment with more conventional hours and I had decided that it was time for me to avail myself of my GI educational benefits.  (I was still in the Army Reserves, but those days were a little less exciting for reservists than they are now.)  I got a job as a stocking supervisor with Great Lakes Sugar and Warehousing.  They were located on East Milwaukee where the Poletown Cadillac plant is now.  We had a million square feet of Uniroyal tires and not a bag of sugar.  I enrolled in Wayne State University looking for a liberal arts education but got shunted into the "College of Life Long Learning."   I attended for two years but on résumés I don't usually mention the CLL part.  Anecdote:  They brought in some fellow from Angola who rattled off something in a language that I didn't understand and said that it was a local "wisdom" meaning,  "Just because I fight for communist rebels doesn't mean I am a communist."   I wore my reserve uniform to the class that day—I was a Captain by then—and offered an old American wisdom, "A man that sleeps with dogs wakes up with fleas."  I wasn't real popular with the teaching staff after that.  My grades suffered and so that was basically the end of my "education" at Wayne State University.  At the warehouse I had worked my way through most of the jobs—truck dock, rail dock, detailing, —and had supervised all the shifts.   We had a strike and the security director had his car shot-up on the way home and quit.  The next day after the pickets arrived I grabbed a broom and swept the nails out of the driveway and they offered me the security director’s job.  I took the offer (the money was to good to pass up) and I would still be working at Great Lakes if they had not torn it down to make way for the Poletown Cadillac Plant.

ImageWhile working as the security director I ran into some fellows who worked for World Investigations and Security Engineers.  I did a few odd jobs for them and, when the warehouse folded, they offered me a position as the Western Michigan Operations Supervisor.    I wasn't all that sure about moving so they paid for a long weekend for Linda and me at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids (was the Pantlin Hotel in those days).   Linda and I loved the city and we had always wanted a lakefront home.  We found that we could actually afford a couple of acres with lakefront, something we had no chance for anywhere within an hour of Detroit.  So we put our house on the market and made the move.   I had an office in Kentwood (an awful lot like Art Hardin's in the mystery series I write).  Our third son, Adam, was born out here. His eyes kind of glaze over when I talk about old times in Detroit.

The warehouse closed in 1978 and I worked for WISE’s until 1985 when I got my own license, bought WISE's existing contract in west Michigan, and opened Global Investigative Service.  I traded subcontract work with WISE’s and my relationship with those fellows remains good to this day.   We set up our office in the house; Linda did the accounting and I did the snooping.  Business was good and I had surveillance and industrial undercover operations running all over the U.S. and even a few offshore for which I used local subcontractors.   We did product liability, liability loss, background investigation, and an awful lot of workers compensation.   The investigative industry is a service industry and so it is very labor intensive.  Profit margins are thin but if you are busy, life is good.  In 1997, I banged up a leg, broke my ankle and knee, and went in for some "simple surgery" that went septic.  I ended up in the hospital with a catheter in my spine and basically unconscious for two weeks.   When I left the hospital, I was jaundiced (hell, I was yellow, including the whites of my eyes) because the antibiotics injured my liver and I was in a wheel chair, unable to walk.   I had to file bankruptcy, but Linda, ever the trooper, took a job with HR Block (She had been preparing returns part time for years in the tax season) as an assistant district manager.   She had to move back to the Detroit area and lived in the basement apartment that we had lived in after the military.   Adam was still in high school and dropped out to help me around the house and drive me to rehab.  He also took a McJob to help out financially.   I took out my frustration on the IBM Selectric typewriter in the office (the rest of the equipment had been sold) and wrote PRIVATE HEAT.  In that year I got back on my feet, from wheel chair to crutches, to a cane with braces, then finally just walking badly.   I do very well now and can even run from bill collectors as long as they are fat and old.   With Linda's employment we managed to refinance the house and settle our chapter eleven.   Adam got his GED and PRIVATE HEAT won the Josiah Bancroft Award at the Florida First Coast Writer's Festival in 1998.

Linda was promoted to district manager but had to move to Virginia.   I went with her and the boys followed, except for Sean who stayed here at the house on the lake.     Eric and Adam enrolled in Junior College in Richmond.    I found an agent and a publisher.  PRIVATE HEAT was published in 2001.  In 2002 it was nominated for a Shamus Award, however, it didn't win.

All of this sounds like a fairytale and like all fairytales there are some very ugly parts.   I left out my drinking, Linda's depression and . . . stuff.

Linda had a massive heart attack and died in my arms.  Not a Hollywood scene—it was a scene with mouth-to-mouth breathing and chest compressions, with my son, Adam, relaying coaching from the 911 operator while my son, Eric was waiting in the parking lot to flag in the ambulance crew.  I told Linda to "hang on" and come back to us" when I should have told her, "I love you."

Linda came back to me in a dream set in the upstairs of my grand parent's home, which is also gone and only exists in my memory.   She was young again and kind of smug about it.  She walked past me, without speaking, through a curtain to the back bedroom.  I followed her and we laid down on an old feather-tic bed while she held me and I sobbed in her arms.

I had finished DYING EMBERS and regretted the title because Linda had done the critique and line edit on the final draft.  I dedicated the book to her citing a stanza from "Annabell Lee," a poem Linda had liked to have me to recite in private moments.

I had been working on a novel titled A TISKET, A CASKET but found I had to set it aside.  I wrote DEAD-BANG.  Of course, Linda was Wendy Hardin and in DEAD-BANG Wendy has a major role.  I had hoped that writing the book would be like a waltz with Linda as my Muse.  Instead it was like splitting open my belly and examining my intestines an inch at a time.  The book took a year to write.

With the book finished, Adam and I moved back to Michigan.  Eric stayed on in Virginia to attend Lynchburg University.  Our house on the lake had become dilapidated something Linda had been sad and angry about.   The boys, Sean and Adam, and I decided to renovate it   Sean moved out.  Adam did a complete "tear out."  The house had been "stuck in the seventies," shag rug, paneling, the whole nine yards and it all went into the dumpster except the studs and rafters.  Sean did a complete rewire and plumbing job.  We put in drywall, hardwood and ceramic floors, a kitchen with custom cabinets and granite counter tops, and a bathroom with marble tile and a two party, ten jet Jacuzzi bathtub.   It is spring and the job is done except for some trim and a final paint job (white is very unforgiving).   I am going to sell the house.  Adam is going to attend Indiana University.  I am conjuring a new novel…and a new life.


PRIVATE HEAT
An Art Hardin Mystery
Robert Bailey
M. Evans & Company, Inc.
February 2001
Genre: Mystery
Format: Hardcover 

ImagePrivate Detective and retired counterintelligence officer Art Hardin usually stays away from the flashy kind of PI work, paying his bills by doing surveillance, checking up on false disability claims, and the like. So when the senior partner one of the premier legal firms in Grand Rapids approaches Hardin about a job protecting his niece from her soon-to-be ex-husband for a couple of days, Hardin isn’t exactly eager to take on the job—not the least because the niece herself is under house-arrest pending a murder investigation of her former boss...and the sudden disappearance of eleven million dollars.

However, Hardin finds that the fee offered is too great to pass up, and takes on the job of making sure the niece stays alive to answer for the missing money and the murder. Of course, after a hatchet attack, a house burnt down, and a few violent encounters with some crooked cops, Hardin can hardly wait for the assignment to be over.  But when the husband is found murdered, the niece attempts suicide, and Hardin is brought in on a trumped-up warrant for the crime, it’s no longer a case that he’s willing to walk away from—even if he could. It’s just Art Hardin’s luck that when things seem to be bleakest—that’s when they get even bleaker.  Dirty cops, hard-nosed Feds, dastardly attorneys and desperate criminals are just the beginning.  The real adversary comes from out of Art Hardin’s past, and lurks just out of sight.  This remarkably well-crafted story has the trademark qualities of a superior detective mystery: deft plotting, lively dialogue and characters that seem as real as your friends. PRIVATE HEAT is the beginning of a very exciting new series.

It "deserves praise for sheer action and suspense...Bailey has a good sassy sense of humor."  In this "hard boiled homage...there's no denying his narrative drive, which keeps the reader moving right along until the last page."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (December 17, 2001)

"First-novelist Bailey delivers a well-constructed, action-packed thriller....  A series to watch."—Gary Niebuhr, BOOKLIST (January 1 & 15 2002)

"Well-focused episodes...clever plotting, crisp prose, and thrilling action commend this to all collections."—LIBRARY JOURNAL (March 1, 2002)

"PRIVATE HEAT is Robert Bailey's first novel and the first in his Art Hardin series. No doubt, Bailey will quickly gather many devoted fans (including myself) with this action-packed, well-crafted thriller. His vivid characters and brilliant sense of humor won me over. I look forward to reading more from this talented new author."—THE MYSTERY REVIEW (Spring 2002)

A "knockout debut private eye novel.... There are a few classic scenes that would be great for a movie version.... Full of high speed, adrenaline-charged action and vividly drawn characters, Bailey's classic hard-boiled effort is a real gem, easily a candidate for best first private eye novel of the year honors."—Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book shop and reviewer for the LANSING STATE JOURNAL

DYING EMBERS
An Art Hardin Mystery
Robert E. Bailey
M. Evans & Company, Inc.
April 2003
Genre: Mystery
Format: Hardcover 

ImageArt Hardin, retired military intelligence officer turned private investigator, is content with his regular caseload involving insurance fraud and employee theft. So, when a wealthy industrialist approaches Art to find an old flame, he's wary of taking on the case. Only when pressed by his wife, Wendy, does Art agree to help, but only if the decision to make contact is left to the old flame. 

The old flame, a reclusive but prominent artist who has changed her name, turns up dead shortly after Art locates her. His client charged with murder and his detective's license revoked, an angry Hardin then finds himself the subject of "professional" surveillance, his office ransacked, and his life up for grabs as a shoot-out erupts on the street.

The FBI, long on requests and short on information, approaches Art for his help—act as bait. Seemingly out of options, Art agrees, but with an ace up his sleeve. Aided by an outlaw motorcycle gang, Art decides that this time, the bait is going to bite back.

"Bailey, himself a retired P.I., imbues his second [novel] with that reassuring been-there-done-that confidence, plus considerable style and brio."—KIRKUS REVIEWS

"'Mean street' may seem more desperate running through Detroit or Chicago than through Grand Rapids, Mich., but Bailey's second Art Hardin mystery (after 2002's PRIVATE HEAT) showcases a PI who could hold his own anywhere...The author ably mixes action and exposition, as Hardin's seemingly simple quest spills over in all directions as the body count rises...Buckle up and enjoy a wild ride through the mean streets of Grand Rapids."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"DYING EMBERS by Robert E. Bailey is the nifty sequel to his acclaimed PRIVATE HEAT, featuring tough Grand Rapids private investigator Art Hardin...Bailey's at his creative best in the book's last half, as violent confrontations and frenzied, frantic action on the gritty streets of Grand Rapids lead to stunning revelations and an explosive conclusion."—LANSING STATE JOURNAL

"The second Hardin thriller is packed with sharp dialogue, stark violence, and details of real-world investigatory work. An intriguing new voice for mystery fans."—BOOKLIST (May 1, 2003) 

DEAD BANG
An Art Hardin Novel
Robert E. Bailey
M. Evans & Company, Inc.
May 1, 2005
Genre: Mystery
Format: Hardcover 

ImageSome secrets age well, others tend to fester. Art Hardin, a private investigator and retired counterintelligence officer, is a man of many secrets. One of these secrets has fallen into the hands of a local TV muckraker which can cause enough trouble to keep most noir detectives busy for three hundred pages--Art's not that lucky.

Just after Art locks horns with the journalist, his wife, Wendy, takes him to the airport to pick up a young friend returning from a Caribbean vacation. Karen Smith deplanes with a fabulous tan, a new beau, and a suitcase full of money--Karen doesn't know about the money, but her new Middle Eastern boyfriend does. Using a Canadian passport to enter the US, he put the money in Karen's suitcase so he wouldn't have to carry it through customs.

After a donnybrook and a shootout at Karen's house the money disappears. Lots of people want it. Some of them kidnap Karen, some of them set off a bomb at the TV station while Art is on the air with the muckraker.

 

After that, things get nasty.


 

You may purchase Bobs books on www.amazon.com 

 

 
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