The sound of the electric razor shearing off his hair started filling Roland’s head, but it was better than the recurring sounds of police sirens and shouting that he’d heard when escaping prison. That sound was worse because that was Ro’s fault that they were after him. Ro, who beat his now ex-wife almost half to death. Now he was being forced to shave his head so that it’d be harder for police to recognize him. Who cares? His wife was a neglectful woman; the only reason Ro almost killed her was because she’d started smacking him for getting fired from work for sleeping on the job…again. That was enough to bring Ro out and start wailing on her.
“You wanna hurry. I don’t want that bitch to have a chance of even finishing up with those little bastards,” Ro said. Roland looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. He was tired and wished that he could just sleep. But he just has to kill Sheila, he thought.
“Darn tootin’ I do, now hurry,” he said. “Hurry the fuck up.” Roland turned off the electric razor and set it on the counter. Sheila was in charge of a talent show that the town was putting on, so Ro figured that they could kill Sheila as she was leaving (this would have to be after everyone else left, so that there’d be no witnesses). But he didn’t want to kill Sheila; Ro did. And he wasn’t so easy to control.
“I don’t wanna do this,” Roland said, walking down the hall and going into the bedroom to put on a clean shirt.
“You don’t got a choice. I’m in charge of us, and I say that Sheila dies,” Ro said. “After all, let’s not forget that you’d be a lame gimp with a dominant lady if not for me.” That was hardly true; Ro showed up some time before Sheila started hitting him, around the time when he was in high school and was being bullied. He’d had people come and go since he was a child, but Ro stuck around the longest, much to his disappointment. He’d feel better if Ro just left. Then he could try and get his life back on track.
“Fine,” he said, then walked out to the car. Ro had stolen a car after they’d escaped from prison, and they’d returned to this town so he could get his “revenge” on Sheila, and Roland was forced to cooperate; Ro was very hard to control, much harder than anyone else that Roland had known.
He slipped into the driver’s seat and started driving. Apparently, tonight was when Sheila was having the talent show kiddies rehearse. He didn’t know where Ro got the idea that it’d only be children competing; there’d probably be adults too. While he was driving, he simply stared out through the windshield and watched the world passing by in front of him. It was evening, so all the nighttime lights were coming on. That’s what he liked about nighttime: all glowing and stuff.
* * *
Once they got to where the practices were taking place (it looked like the cafeteria of an elementary school), Roland climbed up what reminded him of a fire escape ladder to get up on the roof, where a couple of windows were cracked open. This was probably so Ro could get a good look at how many people were in there and so he wouldn’t be in an obvious position when the other people left. He took a seat on the ledge where the windows were. He didn’t really care about waiting, but it was nice to see the people rehearsing.
So far, the first person singing was a teenager singing some pop song. She was pretty good.
“You could at least watch this while waiting. You can’t clean your gun for this long,” Roland said. He could imagine Ro giving him a death glare.
“Shut yer trap,” he said. “I could care less about some talent show.” Roland pulled some little thingy from his pocket and attached it to the nozzle of a gun. A silencer, he thought. He turned his attention back to the rehearsals. He’d rather just sit inside and watch; he felt like a stalker when sitting up on a ledge and looking through a window.
It seemed like it was mostly girls participating, all singers. Well, save for one girl with a violin. There were three other girls with instruments: one with a keyboard, and two with guitars. Of course, they were probably going to play those for singing too. A lot of these girls were really good. He turned his focus to Sheila, who was sitting on top of one of the cafeteria tables with another lady and watching the girls perform. So, she dyed her hair, he thought. It used to be a dishwater blonde; now it was a chocolate-y mousse-y color.
There were only seven girls there, and about five of them went up already. Right now, it was some punk-rocker teen singing. That only left the girl with the violin, then two girls with the guitars, and another girl with turquoise-colored hair. The girls who already went up were really good.
“Why are you enjoying these acts? They’re all shit,” Ro said. Roland looked back through the window (the girl with turquoise-colored hair was going up now), then looked up at the sky. It was a clear, starry night.
“I have nothing else better to do,” he said, then turned back to watch again. Ro didn’t say anything else; he just stayed silent. After the girl with turquoise hair were the two girls with guitars, singing some Taylor Swift song. They sounded really good together. He wished that he could just watch the show rather than wait here with Ro. But, whatever Ro said had to be done had to be done.
Once the guitar girls finished, it seemed like the girl with the violin was going up. Once she turned to face the audience (and Roland), his heart probably skipped a beat. First, this girl was not a girl, she was a woman. She was maybe twenty-three or so. Second, she was beautiful, even more so than Sheila. She had this adorable little heart-shaped face and the pinkest cheeks he’d seen any woman have. Her hair was a honey-blonde and pulled to the side in a loose braid. Her eyes were a beautiful grey and highlighted her peachy-cream skin tone.
Once she started playing, he felt like he was melting. He’d never heard any kind of music played so beautifully on a violin. The entire time she performed, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. It seemed like she was glowing as she played, just enveloped in a beautiful golden light. This lady, he knew that this was the lady for him. He may not have known her name or her interests or anything, but he knew this was the lady for him.
“Who’re you looking at all googly-eyed?” Ro asked. Oh, I forgot, he’s still here, Roland thought. He broke his gaze away from her and looked down at the gun in his hands. He could tell that Ro now had his attention turned to her. “Sexy little thing.” That irritated Roland a little bit. Sexy, no. She was absolutely beautiful
* * *
After that, it was a little bit of a blur. The only thing he seemed to recall was Sheila referring to the beautiful lady as “Elle” and seeing her walk to her car (a lime-green Ford Fiesta). After that, it seemed like he travelled through time. He was in his car, in front of some catholic school, with some putrid smell coming from the back seat. He checked the clock. 2 in the morning. He really didn’t want to turn and look in the back, but Ro forced him too. Sheila was lying down in the back, blood oozing from a terrible hole in her temple. It looked like barbeque sauce. He fought the urge to vomit.
“What’s wrong? Don’t like seeing that?” Ro asked. Roland turned back around, and shook his head. He wasn’t quite as fond of seeing blood as Ro probably was. Ro didn’t really seem to care about what he’d done. Of course, this meant that they’d be going back to jail if the cops found out.
“We’re gonna get arrested, I know it,” he said, taking deep breaths to try and control his urge to vomit.
“Says who? There’s a manhole right over there,” Ro said. Roland looked at the manhole, then at the body in the back, and got out of the car. The manhole wasn’t properly closed (probably the product of some careless construction worker), and he was able to lift it and drop Sheila’s body down. Sure, it hid the body for now, but it wouldn’t do much good if said careless construction worker came back. He looked around. No one on the street, obviously; it was 2 in the morning.
As he was heading back to his car, something across the street from the Catholic school caught his eye. That lime-green Ford Fiesta. This must’ve been where that lady (Elle) lived. Why Ro chose to follow her, he hadn’t the slightest idea. He crossed the street over to her house. There were white flickering lights coming from the window, so maybe she was still up. He tip-toed to the side window, where the blinds were only partly-drawn and he peeked inside. She had the TV on, showing some movie with Chloe Grace Moretz, but she was asleep and leaning on the shoulder of some guy, who was resting his head on her head. He lifted his head (as if he’d just woken up), and looked down at her with a loving look on his face. He turned off the TV and picked her up, and carried her into a hallway. Roland climbed over this gate and walked around to a window on the other side of the house. The guy was putting her to bed, then climbed into bed with her.
“So, she has a boyfriend?” Ro said suddenly.
After that, Roland blacked out again. He was still in the side yard of the house, but now it was sunrise. The sky was all orange and pink, so he assumed it must’ve been six am. He looked back through the window; she was still in bed, but now the guy was gone. He looked down at his hands; no blood, but they looked strained, like he’d been lifting something really heavy. He looked back toward the fence.
“What did you do, Ro?” Roland asked quietly.
“Eh. Just made her available. She is a sexy little thing, after all,” he said. Roland glanced back at her for a moment.
“You killed her boyfriend, didn’t you?” he asked. He was trying to keep his voice down, so as not to wake her up.
“That wasn’t her boyfriend. That was her fiancé.” Ro said. Roland’s eyes widened a little. “You’re welcome.”
“No, that’s not what I—why do you even—I mean…” He couldn’t even find the right words to express how terrible this was.
“Hey, you wanted her, now she’s available. You should confront her at that talent show and tell her your feelings,” Ro said. This weird sarcastic support didn’t sound anything like how Ro was.
“But, that’s not what I— “
“Hey, this’ll totally work. Trust me, I’ve stuck with you long enough,” Ro said, interrupting him before he could finish that sentence. Roland didn’t want to say anything else, he just turned and watched her sleep. She seemed so peaceful. Maybe he would confront her at the talent show and tell her his feelings.
* * *
When she actually did wake up, she seemed slightly concerned as to where the guy was. She sat up in bed, looked around a little bit, then got out of bed and went to the kitchen. It made Roland feel guilty, since she had no idea what actually happened to her fiancé. It made him want to tell her what actually happened. But she probably wouldn’t believe him about Ro. And Ro might as well have popped out and done something to her.
She picked up her cell phone and dialed in a number, and a soft vibrating came from Roland’s pocket.
“You took his phone?” he asked, making sure to keep his voice down so she wouldn’t hear. Killing the guy was one thing, but he had to take his phone too?
“I wanted to make it seem like he left the house of his own choosing, so I stole his phone, keys, and wallet,” he said. Roland felt into his pockets, and indeed found a set of keys and a wallet. After a moment, the vibrating stopped. He looked back inside, and found she was drumming her fingers on the kitchen counter anxiously.
“Hi, this is Allen. I’m unable to pick up my phone right now, but leave a message and I’ll get right back to you,” the phone droned. She didn’t seem to hear it, which was a relief.
“Hey Allen, where are you? I woke up this morning, and you were gone. If you can, call me back or text me. I’ll be here. Okay, bye,” her voice came, apparently leaving a voicemail for him. Her voice sounded so soft and sad, like she was afraid he left her. That made Roland feel even more guilty. He sat down, leaning his back against the side of the house, and pulled the phone from his pocket. He typed in “Don’t worry, I just went out with some friends. I’ll be home later. XXX”, and sent it. He peeked through the window again. She apparently got the text, because she was looking at her phone and smiling. Doesn’t help with the guilt, though, he thought.
She made herself some coffee and cereal, and sat down on the couch to watch TV. Apparently, Sheila was reported missing, which was filed by her new boyfriend. Even though she was “missing”, they were still having the talent show put on that night; it’d be hosted by the other woman, Linda Baxter.
After breakfast, she went back to her room and started getting changed. He was not going to spy on her changing; his mother had taught him to be respectful of women he didn’t know, and that stayed with him. She finished changing into what was apparently workout gear, and went to the front room. He followed her there, and found it filled with workout stuff. Weights, jump ropes, a big rubber ball, and a treadmill. She started on the treadmill.
“Healthy chick,” Ro said. Roland shook his head.
“Why won’t you go away?” he whispered. Ro didn’t answer. He knew Ro too well to know what his intentions would be for her. Ro’s plans for her (if he actually had any) were probably just sex, sex, sex. That wasn’t what Roland wanted; he wanted to get to know her, and fall in love with her for her personality as much as for her looks.
She continued her workout for about an hour, spending fifteen minutes on each workout thing. After that, she went and took a shower. He stayed under the window for the front room. He could hear the shower going, and he assumed that most people showered after working out, so he didn’t bother following her back over there. He just sat there under the window and looked at the sky. It was pretty overcast, and there was a good chance that it might rain. He didn’t really care though; he could handle a little rain.
Once he heard the shower stop, he gave about ten minutes before crossing around the backyard again and back to the window with the partially-drawn blinds. She left her hair wet, and dressed in a green flannel top and black leggings. She had her violin case in hand, and Roland assumed that she was going to practice for the talent show. That was smart. Once she had the violin set up on her shoulder, he sat back down and listened to the beautiful melody she’d played the night before. It made him kind of anxious for tonight. He was going to confront her about his feelings.
“Wait, wouldn’t she reject me because she had a fiancé?” he asked.
“Nope, she’ll have to love ya,” Ro said in that same sarcastically sympathetic tone. Ro never sounded sympathetic, so Roland figured that he must’ve been lying. Nevertheless, he simply took that as a genuine answer and listened to her play. He wondered what kind of outfit she’d wear. He’d seen a lot of people dress up for shit like this, so he thought of her maybe dressing in a blouse and a cute skirt. Maybe a pretty yet casual dress. Or maybe she’d just wear what she had on now. Not everyone dressed up for these occasions, and maybe she was one of those people. You couldn’t really judge people based on how they looked; he’d see when she actually got changed for the talent show.
Ro had grabbed a flier for the talent show when he killed Sheila (that’s what he said, anyway), and it said the talent show would be happening at 6:30 in the evening. And since it was February, that meant that it would get dark early.
* * *
Once 5:45 rolled around, she retreated to her room and started getting changed. She’d sent a text to her fiancé, asking where he was and saying that the talent show was starting soon. He sent a text back saying that he would meet her there; she texted back a smiling face emoticon and a “See you there”. He smiled at the text.
He waited in his car, trying to think of what exactly he’d say to her when he confessed his feelings. He wanted to tell her that she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and how he’d wanted to get to know her better. Then he started thinking of things she’d most likely say, like the fact that she was engaged or that she wasn’t interested. That would most likely be her response.
He was pulled from his thoughts when he saw her open the door of her house. She wasn’t dressed super fancy, more like a mix of casual, girly, and grunge. She was dressed in a red plaid dress that resembled a flannel shirt, black leggings, and a pair of those ankle boots that had no heels. The porch light she turned on highlighted her blonde hair.
Once she drove her car to the corner of her street, he started his car and followed her, making sure to stay at a safe distance so she wouldn’t notice him. His plans were to sneak in backstage and hide from the other contestants so he could pop out at the end of her performance and congratulate her. He was sure that would get a small smile out of her. He was also hoping it didn’t make him seem like some creep. All he wanted was to let her know that he meant no harm, and that he just wanted to get to know her better.
Once she parked in front of an auditorium, he parked in the parking lot next to it. He could hear her chatting with another contestant inside the doors, the other girl telling her not to use the back exit on the right because there were sandbags in front of it to keep the rainwater out. Smart, because now it was raining. He entered through the back exit on the left and snuck inside. No one was behind the curtains yet, and he hid under a desk that was cluttered with pencils, a set of headphones with a little mic attached, and a little control panel. That must’ve been where the stage manager for plays told the lights and sound booth people when to activate lights and sound.
After a while, the audience started showing up; he could hear their chattering voices as they piled in. Then after a moment, the other lady host (Linda Baxter) announced that the talent show was now starting. He fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat. He was nervous about confessing his feelings to her. What if she rejected him? That was a really big possibility. He was just hoping that she’d be polite about it. A simple “that’s so sweet, but I’m spoken for” would make him feel a little better. Sure, she wouldn’t be reciprocating his feelings, but she’d be polite rather than standoff-ish.
Now that he was actually inside, he could hear everyone’s names being announced before they went up. Amanda Barnes was first, with that same pop song. Then Lilly James, then Samantha Perry. He found each act boring now; he was anticipating Elle’s performance. He wanted to hear her beautiful violin melody. Then she’d come backstage and he’d pop out, congratulate her, and confess his feelings. And hopefully, she’d be polite about it if she turned him down.
Then Serene Marx, then Jenna Moore, Maria Rhodes, and Yolanda and Zena Barker. Finally, they called her name out: Elle Larsen.
Once she started playing her violin, he melted in his seat. She played so beautifully. He just wanted to wrap his arms around her when she came backstage, to just lift her up and spin her around. But that would be coming off as crazy and would earn him some screams and a smack to the face. And that’s not what he wanted.
“Show’s over,” Ro said. He was standing before Roland now, pointing to a fire alarm. Roland shook his head, wanting Ro to stop, but Ro pulled the switch and the sounds of sirens filled the auditorium. There were people screaming, questioning where the fire was and calling for someone to call 911. He looked over at Elle, she was heading towards the back doors. Ro was quicker, and pulled a rope loose. She quickly fell back, panting hard from the shock of almost having a sandbag smash her skull.
“Oh my God, what’s wrong with you?” Roland shouted. Ro paid him no attention, just walked up to her and outstretched a hand. “No, don’t trust him!” She didn’t notice; she took his hand, and he pulled her up into his arms and stuck his tongue down her throat. That was too much for Roland, and he pushed Ro away so now he was left holding her. She was biting his tongue and pushing at him, and he released her from his grasp. Blood was now filling up in his mouth.
“W-What’s wrong with you? I thought you were going to help me!” she shouted. Nothing in her eyes now but anger, shock, distrust, and fear. He had to let her know that it wasn’t him who’d violated her like that.
“No, I—that wasn’t me…I mean, you saw it as—I mean, it was me physically, but…” He just couldn’t find the right words, and she was backing away from him in fear. “No, no, that wasn’t, I mean I…” His futile attempts to explain himself only made it worse. She was completely afraid of him, and him walking after her wasn’t helping. Ro was pushing him to walk closer to her until she was up against the wall.
“Stay away from me!” she demanded. He got one step closer (thanks a lot, Ro), and she struck him hard in the side of the head with a broom. He crashed to the floor and she made a beeline for the door. He watched as Ro stood up, looking at her with rage burning in his eyes. There was no more lust, only anger and hatred. He saw this look when Ro was beating Sheila. Now he meant to kill Elle.
“You fucking bitch!” Ro yelled, pushing himself to stand and lumbering toward her. Roland looked at her; she was struggling to get the door open. Oh God, the sandbags, he thought. Ro caught her just as she was able to get the door open. Roland followed him outside and found him with his hands around her neck and forcing her up against the wall, squeezing the life out of her.
“No, stop!” Roland yelled, pushing at Ro to try and break his grip on her.
“Shut it,” Ro said, squeezing her neck even harder. Roland could see the life fleeing from her eyes, and he gave Ro one more push. Now he was left with his hands around her neck and he released her. She collapsed down into his arms. He placed a hand on her neck. There was a pulse. Good, she’s still alive, he thought.
“Great job, I was about to kill her,” Ro exclaimed in irritation.
“I’m not gonna let you kill her,” he said.
* * *
When he got back to his house, she still hadn’t woken up. Ro must have strangled her really badly. He could see the bruises forming on her throat. He parked the car and carried her inside the house. He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t him that had attacked her like that; he wanted to explain that it was Ro. He’d found out what he had when he was in high school; his mother took him to a mental place so they could get a proper diagnosis.
He carried her up to a spare bedroom and laid her down on the bed. He really hoped that she wasn’t severely hurt, especially after almost having a sandbag bash her brains in. He held her hand in his. It was slightly callused, maybe from her workout stuff. He really hoped that he’d be able to keep Ro under control, to keep him from killing her.
Her eyes were now starting to flutter open. He held his breath as she was looking around at the room. Then her eyes landed on him, and she forced herself to sit up and started trying to back away. The idea to let her hand go never occurred to him, and she was frantically trying to pull loose from his grasp. After a moment, he realized and let go of her hand. That didn’t alleviate her panic.
“What are you? Some pervert?” she demanded. He started shaking his head. If anything, Ro was the pervert.
“No, I just…I….uh. I, uh, don’t wanna hurt you,” he said softly. She didn’t seem to believe it.
“Then why did you kidnap me?” she shouted. That idea was something he thought of, not Ro. It was kind of like a Beastly thing: have her stay here for a little while so he could show that he didn’t mean any harm. Well, almost like Beastly. He never saw the movie, only heard some vague details about the plot. She didn’t wait for an answer, just headed for the door. That was funny, he was sure he left it open.
She tried opening the door, but it was like it was locked. How could it be locked? He wouldn’t have locked it. He got up and went to the door (she flinched and moved out of his way) and he started trying to open the door. It wouldn’t budge.
“Ro, you bastard!” he shouted. Ro must’ve blacked him out and locked the door. Just to spite him. He wanted to punch Ro in the face right now. He looked back at her; the fear and anger was gone. All that remained was pure confusion, like she had no idea what he was talking about. Oh yeah, I didn’t explain, he thought.
Before he could open his mouth to explain, the sound of children screeching and adults laughing from outside caught their attention. She quickly ran for the window, and he followed. The next door neighbors were roasting marshmallows. She started banging on the window and screaming.
“Hey! Up Here! Hey!” she yelled. Ro grabbed her by the shoulder and threw her to the floor. He shut her up by shoving his fingers in her mouth, almost like the one Cenobite from Hellraiser did to Kirsty.
“Shut up! Yer a single whore now!” he yelled. He ripped her dress apart, revealing a white cami on underneath. Oh my God, he’s gonna rape her, Roland thought. He started pushing at Ro, trying to keep him from ripping her leggings off. He was eventually able to push him off of her, and backed up until he was sitting underneath the window. She pushed herself to sit up, then backed away from him so she was in the corner. The fear had returned to her eyes.
“What did you mean by ‘single whore’?” she asked. Her voice was shaking. Roland knew why Ro revealed that he killed her fiancé: to spite her. It was to spite her, and to make her hate him. “What did you do to Allen?” He shook his head.
“It wasn’t me,” he said softly. “I mean, it was this body—physically—that did it, but it wasn’t me.” Even he couldn’t understand what he was trying to say, and it was obvious she didn’t either. She shook her head, and buried her face in her knees. The soft sound of her sobbing made him feel even more guilty. He did not want to kill her fiancé, but Ro did.
“You bastard,” she mumbled. “You bastard.” He buried his face in his knees, upset that she now hated him because of what she thought he did. It wasn’t him who did that, it was Ro. He wanted to go over there and hug and comfort her, but knew that wasn’t smart. Not while she was angry at him. He hugged his knees. He was trying to figure out a way to explain that it wasn’t him that killed her fiancé.
He looked back up at her; he could tell from her posture that she was seriously upset. Yeah, now would not be a good time to try and comfort her. But, then again, she probably wouldn’t listen to him. Ro made her hate his guts.
* * *
She eventually stopped crying and just leaned her head against the wall, staring at the floor. Her eyes were all red from crying. He just sat there, staring at her. He didn’t really have anything else to stare at while he was waiting for the police to arrive. After Ro attacked and almost raped her, the sound of the family next door was gone. He was sure they must’ve gone inside and called the police. That’s what you did when you saw domestic abuse. That is, if that’s what they thought it was.
She glanced up at him and caught his staring at her.
“What’re you staring at?” she grumbled. He shook his head.
“You’re pretty,” he said softly. She looked back down at the floor, an angry look returning to her face.
“Perv,” she said.
“Ro’s the perv, not me,” he said. He didn’t expect her to reply, but she did. That confused look returned.
“This ‘Ro’ person, is that how you refer to yourself?” she asked. The hate was still in her voice, but it was mixed with confusion.
“No, he’s like…an alternate form of me, I guess. You know, like Fight Club,” he said. I could’ve just said like Fight Club, he thought. She was shaking her head. He assumed she was probably still confused.
“So, like a split personality?” she asked.
“I guess,” he said. “And, I’m sorry about what Ro did. Believe me, it’s not what I wanted to do.” She stared at him for a moment, then leaned her head back against the wall.
“Okay,” she said. She still had a little hate in her voice, but it was subtler now. Now he could hear the whooping siren of the police approaching. He knew it: the family called the police. She apparently heard it too, because she immediately shot up. He now knew that he wasn’t the guy for her. She may have been perfect to him, but he wasn’t perfect for her. No matter what, she was going to hate him for what Ro did. He was going to go back to jail, and he’d never get the genuine feeling of hugging her, of seeing her laugh, or of kissing her. And that would probably be fine for her.
As the sounds of the sirens came closer, he got up, walked over to her, and kissed her. Nothing inappropriate, just a genuine, small kiss. She didn’t really fight much, just flinched, froze, and straightened up in shock. When he pulled away, she was still frozen. She’d risen her arms as a form of defense, and they just stayed lifted.
“W-Why did you do that?” she asked. No hate now, just shock. He could hear the police bust the door open downstairs. Now was the time that Ro decided to stay unseen.
“I wanted to see what it’d be like to kiss you before I go back to jail,” he said. He put a hand to her arm and pushed her to the side so the police busting the door in wouldn’t bash into her.
“Back—wait, why? Why me?” she asked. He must’ve shocked the hate out of her, because the hate in her voice was just gone. The sounds of the police rushing up the stairs grew louder.
“Because, even though I don’t know you, I love you.” She didn’t respond that time. He banged his hand on the door, then retreated to the center of the room. The police broke the door down and demanded that he kneel down on the floor with his hands on his head. Another officer was questioning Elle if she was all right. He didn’t hear her answer. As they put the cuffs around his wrists and started leading him out, he glanced back at Elle to get a last look at her beautiful, perfect face. What he saw from her was something he never expected to see, especially after everything that’d happened. After what Ro had done.
She was blushing.