Here’s what you do: read through each of the scenes below, which were written by one of six popular authors. Collect the KEYWORDS from each scene. Once you have the keys and have figured out whodunit, send an email to email@example.com with the subject line WHO?
Entries will be received until 3 p.m. EST on Wednesday 30 May.
WHO? Volume 1
Quinn by Roseanna White
See it at www.ChristianReviewofBooks.com
Of all the displays in this New Mexico museum, it was the room containing Native American artifacts that always made the hairs on the back of Quinn’s neck stand up. He hated leading his tour groups in here. His fingers inevitably got itchy and hovered over the two-way radio on his belt.
He stepped into the room after the last of his six guests. They were chatting among themselves, most of them focused on the one other man in the group, an old guy who had introduced himself as Grandfather. Quinn kept several feet away from them, staying near the exit. So when the sound of metal screeching over metal sung out from right behind him, he jumped and spun.
The metal security gate came crashing down, its criss-crossing slats sliding between him and the rest of the museum. Quinn’s eyes moved from the obstacle to the unobtrusive camera and security console secured near the ceiling in the corner. Its red light was flashing angrily, signaling the sounding of a silent alarm. Apparently, a silent alarm from this room.
"Hey!" It was the woman with the wild black hair who was all but punching him in the shoulder to get his attention. When she motioned toward the lowered gate, her crimson talons almost nicked him. "What's the big idea?"
"Just stay calm, ma'am." Even as he spoke, Quinn was palming his radio off of his belt and pressing the call button. His eyes, however, were moving over the other occupants of the room, trying to identify what had triggered the alarm. Everything looked to be in place. The Native American pottery was all under its glass casings, the tools in their proper displays. And the faces of his tour group were all identical masks of confusion. "Mack, it's Quinn. What's up? We just got locked into the Indian display."
The static from his radio screeched out briefly before his friend's voice interrupted it, the high-pitch squeal making talon-woman wince. "There's been a breach in security."
Obviously, the whole group heard that. The overweight, auburn haired girl who was standing off by herself shifted from one foot to another and darted a glance at the one man in the group. He had introduced himself as Grandfather and had just been sharing with them all that he was one-quarter Nez Perce so had been eager to get to this room. Now the old guy was looking with wide eyes at Quinn as if he was responsible for this unforseen turn.
He pushed the button again. "In here?"
"Negative. The room you just came from. A book's gone. Cameras were blocked, but it's gotta be someone from your group, they're the only ones who've been through."
The woman still standing at his side put her hands on her hips and rolled back her shoulders. "All right. Which one of you idiots ruined my day?"
"I'm a cop, buddy, I can handle this."
Quinn sighed and rolled his eyes as the woman marched over to the overweight girl and all but poked a finger in her chest.
"You. What's your name?"
The girl cast another look at the old man, who stood with his hands in his pockets, looking on mournfully. "Jessica. But I didn't do anything, I swear. Why would I want something from some stupid museum, anyway? I was talking to Grandfather the whole time."
That, of course, just made Madam Cop turn her pointed finger on the old man. "Well you've seemed mighty interested in everything here."
Grandfather just smiled and raised his empty palms up in a peaceful gesture. "Calm down, Marina. I was right beside you, wasn't I? Wouldn't you have noticed if I had pocketed a . . ." His brows knit, making the wrinkles of his eyes fan out. He looked over at Quinn again. "What was taken, son? Did he say a book?"
Quinn just nodded and glanced at the other three women in the room. Gracie, a schoolteacher scoping the place out for a possible field trip–or so she said–was standing with mouth agape and long auburn hair still pulled over one shoulder. She had mentioned how chilly the air conditioner was, and her white sundress didn't do much to keep her warm. Beside her was Tiffany, whose posture had shifted over the past minute from sultry to uncertain. He'd been flirting with them both off and on for the whole tour. Only Tiffany had flirted back.
But it was the third woman he settled his gaze on. With her flyaway red hair, Maxine Webb looked like a total airhead. But he knew better. She was the one he pointed at. "Is this all part of one of your acts?"
Tiffany raised a perfectly shaped brow and pivoted a little on one stiletto. Quinn had noticed from the outset that her shoes were about as practical for a walking tour as her black dress with the plunging V neck that dipped low enough to make him smile. She looked at Max as if noticing her for the first time. "Huh?"
"Ms. Webb's with our security company." Quinn clipped his silent radio back onto his belt. "They like to stage robberies–to test their systems."
Max shook her head. There was worry in her eyes. "If this were one of ours," she said in her Texas drawl, "I'd be behind a computer tracking Desi, not locked in here with you."
Gracie rubbed a hand over one goose-bumped arm. "Or maybe that's what you want us to think. I saw an empty display case in that other room—that must have been where the book had belonged. I was the last one that went by it–which means it could have been any of you. Or all of you, working together." She paused and shifted from one strappy heel to another, tilting her head and obviously evaluating her own words. Then she wrinkled up her nose. "Okay, probably not. Still."
Marina let out a near-growl. "Well, let's do a search. Obviously neither of our beauty queens have it hidden in their little dresses, and I can vouch for Grandfather." She narrowed her gaze on Jessica again. "What have you got under that baggy sweater?"
Tiffany snorted and tossed an auburn lock out of her face. "Nothing a few weeks in the gym with me couldn't fix. Seriously, Jessica, let me give you my card. I could do wonders for you."
Jessica just sent Tiffany a dirty look. Quinn stepped into the middle of their loose circle before Officer Marina could ask any more questions or Gracie could come up with a more intricate conspiracy theory, raising a hand to get everyone's attention. "Okay, look. One of you took it–and there's nowhere to go. Maybe you stashed it somewhere in the hall or had an accomplice, I don't know. But you're not getting away with it. There are enough of us here that someone had to have seen something. So let's just figure this thing out, okay?"
He paused and looked from one suspect to another until they were all staring back at him. "One of you is a thief. The only question is, who?"
Marina by Cyndy Salzmann (From Crime & Clutter)
Read it on her blogs at http://blog.cyndysalzmann.com and http://canblog.typepad.com/canbookmarketing/
Amateurs! Marina shook her head and stalked over to the tour director. He was spending more time ogling the chick in the black dress than trying to figure out who swiped the book. If she let him handle the interrogation, they’d be locked in this tepee room all night.
Marina slapped Quinn on the shoulder. “Why don’t ya let me handle this, Bubba?”
“Bubba? Did you just call me Bubba?”
Marina grinned and pulled a notebook from her leather shoulder bag. “Just a figure of speech.”
Jessica giggled and Quinn shot her a dirty look.
Marina put her arm around Quinn’s shoulder and lowered her voice. “Listen, we all want to get outta here. And to be perfectly honest, you makin’ time with the suspects isn’t getting us any closer to that goal.”
Before Quinn could respond, Tiffany stepped forward. “Suspect! How dare you refer to me as—”
“Back off, Barbie doll,” Marina growled. “Or would you rather head down to the station to talk about how that strand of auburn hair ended up near the empty display case?”
Max by Jill Elizabeth Nelson (From Reluctant Burglar & Reluctant Runaway)
Read it on her website at www.jillelizabethnelson.com/artisticblogger.shtml
Whoa! Maxine Webb jumped and whirled at the crash of a metal gate slamming shut behind the museum tour group. Her gaze darted from the mesh grill, to the furiously flashing red light on the security camera, to the lady’s man tour guide, Quinn, who’d quit making cow eyes at every shapely young thing in the group and was now jabbering into his walkie-talkie.
At least she could see the security system she and her boss had designed was doing its job. The alarm would be raising a ruckus in the control room, but not here. Nothing but excited conversations going on around her. Too bad she couldn’t overhear what the guide was saying to his contact outside this Indian artifact display room where they were now captive. Max stepped closer to Quinn and caught a few words about a missing book.
A book? She turned and squinted toward the barred gate into the room they’d just passed through. Is that what had been in the empty case? She’d thought it was funny the lid was open on an empty case. But not so much that she’d said anything when Casanova Quinn hustled them onward. Museums changed displays all the time.
Marina, a black-haired woman with fire-red fingernails, told the tour guide where to get off, announced she was a cop, and then made a bee-line for the most vulnerable person in the room, an overweight redhead who’d mumbled an introduction as Jessica at the beginning of the tour. Good thing Chief Grandfather flanked the frightened girl, or one dyed-in-the-wool Texan might be tempted to ride to the rescue. But that tough old Nez Perce Indian could handle Lady Cop. Yikes! She was beginning to think like her boss and best friend, Desiree Jacobs, and nickname everyone by appearance or occupation.
The tall, pretty school teacher drifted toward her. Gracie, wasn’t it? The gal had gorgeous auburn hair. Max’d trade her a head full of poofy red curls any day, but the poor thing had goose-bumps on top of goose-bumps chasing themselves up her bare arms. Max ran a hand up her own cardigan-clad arm. She always brought a sweater to a museum, even in the summer time. Experience as a museum security electronics EXPERT had taught her the need.
She smiled at Gracie. “This is so not my cuppa Joe! Bein’ a suspect in a museum theft? Now if Desi were here, she’d be eatin’ this up and figure out whodunit in no time. Not me. I’m happy to add window dressin’ in the background, thank you very much.”
Gracie’s answering smile fluttered a little at the corners. “Maxine, I’m . . . I’m really sorry for my earlier accusations. I’m a little skittish with the confinement and want this over as soon as possible.”
“Don’t we all.” Max ran a hand across her hair. Pesky stuff just wouldn’t settle down. “You seem pretty bothered by the gates. Something got you spooked?”
The teacher sucked in an audible breath, and her gaze darted away. “I’m beyond cold and a tad claustrophobic, that’s all. Can I ask you something?”
Gracie flashed an off-white business card. “On my way here, I picked this up near the empty display case in the other room. I’d planned to return it to Tiffany, assuming it was hers, but I wanted to ask you about it first. Didn’t you mention needing to get back in shape to keep up with your friend Desi?”
Max plucked the card out of Gracie’s fingers and studied it. “American Gym? Not on your life. I have two little ones that keep me hoppin’.”
“But didn’t you say—”
“Mrs. Lang? Can I ask you a few questions?” Quinn’s sharp tone brought both their heads around.
Uh-oh! Max pressed her lips together. Third degree comin’ for the lovely schoolmarm, while he eats her up with his eyes. Somebody fit this guy with a pair of blinders like an old plow horse.
Max stepped forward. “Whoever snatched the book was wearin’ high heels. I heard that tell-tale clickety-clack right before I noticed the case was empty.”
Tiffany, the statuesque physical trainer and second biggest flirt in the group, stared down at her stiletto-heeled shoes and went as red as Marina’s fingernails.
Quinn glared at Max.
A bit too fluffy and old enough to be your big sister, am I? She grinned at him.
His gaze fell away—straight toward the spike heels of Gracie Lang’s trendy sandals.
Gracie by Amy Wallace (From Ransomed Dreams)
Visit her website at www.defendersofhope.com
With a shudder, Gracie surveyed the small museum room filled with colorful Native American pottery. Other than the frigid air and imposing metal gates which enclosed the small group of seven, she would have loved this fascinating tour. Her students, James and Susannah especially, would have been enthralled by the docent-led exploration of pottery, tools and ancient art.
As it was now, she didn’t plan on ever returning. Too many unpleasant memories. She watched the now very obtrusive security cameras whirr to catch all movement, every person but Quinn a study in controlled fear. Had the video captured the theft?
While Marina, the outspoken and opinionated lieutenant, raked poor Jessica over with veiled accusations, Gracie crossed the room to stand by Maxine.
Quinn continued his discussion with Tiffany, no flirting smiles but pure male interest still smoldered in his eyes. His stiffened posture and quick glance at her movement signaled she was next and blared his displeasure with her choice of companions.
“Maxine, I’m… I’m really sorry for my earlier accusation. I’m a little skittish with the confinement and want this over with as soon as possible.”
“Don’t we all.” Maxine smoothed her fly-away red hair and narrowed her eyes. “You seem pretty bothered by the gates, something got you spooked?”
Deep breath. No need spilling the upside down story of her recent problems to a complete stranger. Time with her FBI AGENT beau and his partner had taught her the value of limited words. And cold showers. But she didn’t need those thoughts making everything worse. Getting ahead of God’s timing with Steven ranked high on her “to be avoided” list.
Now she was minutes away from possibly being accused of theft and adding museums to her black list.
“I’m beyond cold and a tad claustrophobic, that’s all. Can I ask you something?”
Gracie pulled out a small, mostly white business card. “On my way in here, I picked this up near the empty display case in the other room. I’d planned to return it to Tiffany, assuming it was hers, but I wanted to ask you about it first. Didn’t you mention needing to get back in shape to keep up with your friend Desi?”
Maxine snatched the card. “American Gym? Not on your life. I have two little ones that keep me hopping.”
“But didn’t you say—”
“Mrs. Lang? Can I ask you a few questions?” Quinn’s lazy once-over had her wishing again for Steven’s company on this excursion. Then he could defend her to Quinn while she concentrated on decoding the mystery at hand.
Maybe if she could piece together the clues for Quinn, he wouldn’t bother her long or question her too much. With her recent assistance in solving her family’s cold case murder, this problem should be easily overcome.
After all, she’d survived much worse than this.
Tiffany by Trish Perry (From The Guy I’m Not Dating & Too Good To Be True)
Visit her website at www.trishperrybooks.com
Now, really. Why would I steal a book? I mean, I won’t claim I’ve never stolen anything—I’ll be honest with you about that. And I’m truly sorry for what I’ve stolen in the past. I’ve stolen clients from other trainers at the gym. I’ve stolen other girls’ boyfriends without hardly trying. I even tried . . . well, I’m not proud about any of these things, but the worst black blotch next to my name in the Big Book of Pluses and Minuses is probably that I tried to steal a husband once. A long time ago. People, see? I’ve stolen people.
But a book? Puh-leeeeze. Do I have time for book reading? When I’m too old to mingle with the singles, I’ll consider reading books. For now? Maybe People magazine once in awhile. So if someone steals your copy of People, you go on ahead and come looking for me. Ha! Again, I’m willing to admit I steal people. People, get it?
I’ve got to say, though, this museum is like Fort Knox in the SECURITY department. How did they manage to lose a book? I wandered away ever so slightly from that schoolteacher chick—Gracie—and that cute guide, Quinn, and you’d think I was Obie-Wan Kenobi—
No, wait, that’s wrong. Osama Bin Laden. You’d think I was Osama Bin Laden, the way the guards all hopped-to and shuttled me back to the group.
See, what happened was I thought I was going to be able to just wander around on my own when I came to the museum. But they make you go in groups here. So I get put with a bunch of women and this old guy, who turns out to be really kind of sweet. He was part Indian—not the Bollywood kind, but the other. Like Cher. He reminded me of my granddaddy when he smiled. I really miss my granddaddy—he died when I was just a kid, and absolutely no one will ever take his place. So, this Indian guy—oh, that’s right, it’s Native American, sorry. He seemed to know a lot about all of the things we were looking at, almost as much as Quinn, our guide. I decided to tag along and listen to what he said, but I don’t think he knew how closely I was listening to him. Not that he said anything mean about me; he just didn’t seem to notice me much.
I was also sticking pretty closely to Quinn, because, of course, he knew a bunch of stuff, working for the museum and all. To be honest, I stuck close to him because he was good looking, too. And flirty. No ring on the finger, plenty of confidence, securely employed—definitely worth a mild pursuit. But then I noticed he was flirting with that schoolteacher, too. Gracie. Guess he was into how we both looked. She has long hair pretty close to my color. She’s in pretty good shape, too. But I think she said she had a boyfriend, and she ignored him, as far as I could tell.
Still, I needed to play less than available after seeing that kind of behavior—Quinn’s flirting with both of us. So I wandered. Nothing sinister, just an effort at nonchalance. So he wouldn’t think he was some kind of gift. I just wanted to drop out of his line of vision briefly and see if he missed me. I thought it was working, and he did seem troubled that I wasn’t with the group for every minute he was in charge of us.
I can’t say whether or not I even noticed that book they’re talking about. I was looking at other things and was able to, you know, absorb culture on my own, the way I had hoped to. I didn’t go far, just out of Quinn’s sight for a while, and I can even tell you what I saw. Some of the paintings were modern, which I thought was just plain awful. No people in them. Or even dogs or cats. And I caught a glimpse of some sculptures. Also modern. What’s up with that, anyway? One thing I learned is that I like art to look like real life. I wonder if that’s okay, culture-wise.
The only reason I’m even here in the museum is because I figured I needed to get a little more sophisticated. I certainly wasn’t exposed to museums and such down home in South Carolina. Mama and Daddy just aren’t that kind of people. But I hear my co-worker, Kara, and her best friend, Ren (another schoolteacher, like that Gracie girl, sheesh), when they get talking sometimes. It’s a little intimidating when they talk about stuff I don’t get. Just once, I’d like to surprise someone by knowing something about art or whatever.
Thing is, I seem to attract men as easily as that Maxine lady seems to attract static electricity with her hair. But I’m a little weak in the relationship-longevity department. And I’m not particularly gifted with making friends with women, either. I’m wondering if I need to broaden my horizons. You know, smarts-wise.
I thought I came off well in Quinn’s eyes, despite my having to gracefully shrug off a few catty remarks that Marina woman threw my way. I swear, the woman could make a sarcastic remark without even opening her mouth. Just by looking at you and using her eyebrows. She was one tough broad, I think.
I just hope they get us out of here soon. Sometimes I’m kind of claustrophobic, and I’m nervous about everyone sucking up all the air, especially that big girl, Jessica. Man, I wish she’d come to the gym and let me whip her into shape. She wouldn’t look half bad. I offered her my card, but I think she’s in denial. At least I tried.
So, come on, museum people, and get us out of here. My shoes are killing me. And I have a manicure in a couple of hours; my nails are looking wicked ugly.
Jessica by Nikki Arana (from As I Have Loved You)
Visit her website at www.NikkiArana.com
Jessica folded her arms across her chest and blinked back tears. First she’d been signaled out by that loud mouthed Marina and then insulted by the red-headed Barbie, Tiffany.
Jessica tossed her head. She wasn’t surprised Miss Tiffany had a cross dangling above her cleavage. Typical Christian, always judging people. And that remark, “I could do wonders for you.” Jessica adjusted the shoulder strap on her purse and ran her hand over the front latch, making sure it was securely closed. I’ve got something that could do wonders for you, Missy.
She never should have come on the tour. And she never would have if her fiancé’s mother, Leigh, hadn’t made her feel stupid for not even knowing there was a museum in town. She stifled a grin. Thanks to Leigh she had a brand new place to meet her contact in the future.
“Who cares about this stuff, anyway?” Jessica shifted from one foot to the other and motioned at the cases full of artifacts. “It’s all hundreds of years old, and I can’t imagine any of it was useful even when it was new.”
The man who called himself simply Grandfather smiled. “You’d be surprised how valuable those tools were to the people who used them, young lady. My grandfather benefited from similar items in his tribe and managed to survive in the Wallowa mountains.”
She felt heat creep up her neck. “I’m so sorry. You’re. . . an Indian? I guess when you said that about your ancestors, I didn’t realize. . . I thought. . .”
He chuckled and actually reached over to pat her shoulder, like she was an old friend or something. “Don’t worry, my dear, I’m not offended, nor do I have any designs on your hair.”
It took a minute for his implication to sink in. “Oh my gosh! Like I thought you were going to scalp me or something?” She turned and walked away.
Jessica glanced around the room for a place to sit down; her legs were killing her. Even though the tour had hardly started, walking on the hard floors had sent shooting pains up her calves. Not seeing anything to sit on, she backed up against the wall behind her and slid to the floor. Clutching her purse in her lap, she eyed the other people in the room.
Her eyes settled again on Grandfather. He’d gone out of his way to walk with her when she’d fallen behind as they’d moved between rooms. She’d wondered if he was an undercover cop. Nobody was nice without a reason. She’d been RELUCTANT to talk to him. No point in encouraging anyone’s interest.
Her gaze shifted from Tiffany to Gracie, both of whom had their backs to her. The image, suddenly familiar, triggered a memory. As the docent had been speaking about the displays in the room they’d just left, Jessica had been scanning the area, looking for a place to sit. And she’d caught a glimpse of a woman talking to a man in the hall and handing him something. She closed her eyes a moment, then looked back at Tiffany and Gracie. She pulled her lower lip between her front teeth and bit down. She wasn’t positive, but she was pretty sure it had been one of them. Whatever. She wasn’t going to get involved.
Jessica’s heart started to pound as Quinn moved toward her. Tightening her grip on her purse she lifted her chin and stared him straight in the eye. She could feel her palms starting to sweat.
It wasn’t the book, it was the baggie of loose leaves and the cigarette wrappers in the bottom of her purse that she was worried about.
Grandfather by Miralee Ferrell (From The Other Daughter)
See it on her blog at www.miraleesdesk.blogspot.com
Grandfather looked around the room, trying not to smile at the antics of the younger generation. Seemed like flirting and arguing was more popular than the Native American display they’d stopped to view.
“Who cares about this stuff, anyway?” The plump red-head beside him shifted from one foot to the other and pointed at the artifacts in the glass case. “It’s all hundreds of years old and I can’t imagine any of it was useful even when it was new.” She brushed her hair out of her eyes.
He searched his memory, groping for her name. Ah, yes…Jessica. “You’d be surprised how valuable those tools were to the people who used them, young lady. My grandfather benefited from similar items in his tribe and managed to survive in the Wallowa mountains.” He tempered his words with a smile.
A slow blush crept above the neck of Jessica’s baggy sweater and stained her cheeks. “I’m so sorry. You’re…an Indian?” She whispered. “I guess when you said that about your ancestors, I didn’t realize…I thought…”
He chortled and patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry, my dear, I’m not offended, nor do I have any designs on your hair.”
A frown creased her face. “Oh my gosh! Like I thought you were going to scalp me or something,” she glared and walked away.
Grandfather shook his head and grinned. Young people now-a-days didn’t seem to have a sense of humor, or an appreciation of things from the past. Too bad his FAMILY couldn’t have come…his grandson David and wife Susanne’s two youngsters would’ve loved this museum. Oops…three youngsters. He’d almost forgotten their newest addition, Brianna, who’d recently arrived on the family’s doorstep, claiming to be David’s Other Daughter. The kids would get a kick out of seeing some of the tools and pottery that his own great-grandfather had used.
Though maybe it was for the best they weren’t here, given this latest development. Grandfather watched as Quinn went from person to person, talking to them about what they’d seen. Grandfather didn’t know what he could really add, so he just went on studying the artifacts around him and bided his time.
“Ah-hem.” A deep vibrato voice at Grandfather’s elbow swung him around.
“Yes, Mr. Quinn?” Grandfather glanced at the man whose eyes kept darting from one woman to the other, but always seemed to return to Tiffany of the low neckline.
“Where were you when the book disappeared?”
“Yeah, you seemed awfully interested in all the displays in the book room,” Marina the cop chimed in.
Grandfather waved his hand in the air and smiled. “Calm down, folks. If there’s one thing my great-grandfather Raven passed down to his children and grandchildren, it was honesty and truthfulness. I’ve been chatting with Gracie and Jessica…and Marina, I spent some time with you earlier, too.”
Gracie stepped forward, swishing her long, auburn hair around her bare shoulders. “My boy-friend and my dad both have experience in the intelligence field, and I’ve learned a lot from them. I think it’s a conspiracy, that’s what. Maybe someone at the museum has it in for some of us.” She crossed her arms and glared at Quinn, then swiveled her glance back to Grandfather. “What did you see, Grandfather? If I may call you that?”
“Certainly,” Grandfather replied. “Let’s see…while we were in the antiquities book room I remember you chatting with me about some of the older volumes and I shared a story with you that’s been passed down through the generations among my people.”
Gracie nodded, her face beaming. “That was so interesting! He was telling me about his great-grandfather, Little Raven when he was just a boy…why you’d never believe…”
“Pu-leese!” Rasped Marina, stomping her foot and silencing Gracie. “Go on Grandfather, then what?”
“I noticed everyone leaving the book room headed for the Native American display, and I hurried to catch up. Jessica’s foot seemed to be bothering her, so I walked the rest of the way with her and we were together almost till the alarm sounded. I’m afraid I can’t add much more.” He shrugged and pulled off his cap, running his fingers through his iron gray hair.
“Right,” drawled Max. “Then the lovely gate came crashing down, and here we all stand, trapped, tired and wanting to go home. Whoever has the book, how ’bout fessin’ up, ya hear?” She ran a hand over her fly-away hair, but only succeeded in sending it spiraling into more absurd directions.
He turned to the group. “I agree. I’m sure whoever took it simply forgot they were carrying it. If you’re embarrassed and are having a hard time letting us know, we’ll understand.”
“Humph,” snored Marina. “You might, Grandfather, but I won’t. Theft is theft and someone’s going to pay.”
The game is afoot! Cast your vote, and then let me hear your super-sleuth ideas.