Francis Blake looks up for his paper.
"The blasted nerve!"
Blake closes the paper.
With a sigh Blake puts down the paper and heads for Mortimer's study.
"You'll give yourself a stroke, old man."
Mortimer's face is as red as a tomato. He shakes a book by one cover.
"You wouldn't believe what he's done this time!"
"Of course I would. Did he order a custom Buick?" The "he" in question is Colonel Olrik who walked in Mortimer's skin for months before being forced back into his own body. Olrik had played his part extremely well using illness as a cover for any discrepancies, but now that Mortimer is back Blake is wondering how he never noticed the strangeness sooner.
There was the gin, to start with. A day after Blake came home with his false friend, a bottle of very expensive gin appeared in the liquor cabinet. The consumption of pipe tobacco decreased, walks and meals were often taken at unusual times, and Blake was surprise to see light under Mortimer's door at all hours of the night. Both Blake and Mortimer agree that it's fortunate that Olrik didn't do even more damage – thank goodness for the Gondwana distraction – but a few days ago Mortimer discovered a truly reprehensible crime: Olrik had reorganized the library and ordered new books on Mortimer's accounts.
"Look at this, Francis!" Mortimer points to a new stack of books amidst torn wrapping paper.
"At least some of the military history is interesting," Blake says, picking up a controversial analysis of the Russian revolution. Mortimer doesn't hear a word.
"Popular science! Basic physics! Was he planning to fake his way through my life? Ridiculous! I have no idea what this one even is – fables in Cantonese? And what language is this?"
"Finnish? Hungarian, maybe? Sorry, old man, I really don't know. Can you take them back?"
"Oh, these will go back, unless you want any. Nearly a hundred pounds worth of books! But look at this." Mortimer hands his friend a recently published account of the Yellow Empire under Basam Damdu. It appears brand new, but as Blake flips through the pages he sees penciled notations throughout. Apparently Olrik had disagreed with the author on many points.
"Do you mind if I keep this, old man? And, um, the Russian history if you don't mind."
"Be my guest, Francis." Mortimer has run out of steam and is tired as well as irritated.
"I would like to visit Olrik in prison and punch his nose for him. I may just do that."
"I'm sorry, Phillip. I can't imagine how annoying and mortifying all this is."
"He went through my files. He read my memoir notes. He rifled through pictures of my family and friends." Mortimer shakes his head in disgust.
Blake quietly tidies the new books into stacks and repackages them as best as he can. This is not Mortimer's first outburst since they got back.
"We'll return these tomorrow, Phillip. I'll help you get the place back the way you had it."
"Thank you, Francis. I'd still like to kick him. I wish I'd had the word "criminal" tattooed across his chest while I had the chance."
"If we meet Olrik again, I'll hold him down for you."
Blake pats his friend on the shoulder and goes back to his paper. Before he finishes a single paragraph Mrs. Benson interrupts him, clearly upset.
"I'm so sorry, Captain, but I've been taking stock of the pantry, and there are so many odd items there."
"I can't imagine where it all came from. What on earth are lingonberries? I'm not even sure of the language on some of the labels."
"Lead me to it, Mrs. Benson." Blake tosses his newspaper back on the table. "We'll sort it out together. Just don't mention any of this to Professor Mortimer."