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I have put no inconsiderable thought and effort into this endeavor. You see, the domain of a man’s upper lip is his sovereign ground game You have five minutes to shave it off. Every Mortdecai man before me had the same. Why can’t I? Oh, I happen to be terribly fond of it, and I have had every intention of seeing it through. You mean it’s going to get bigger? It will come to fruition, yes. Oh, darling game You really won’t shave it off? I can’t, my duck. Not at this juncture. It’s not even fully corked. It’s a baby. Jock? Yes, madam? Please, will you make up the guest bedroom for Mr. Mortdecai? Already have, madam. And I shan’t be having dinner downstairs this evening. I’ll just have a supper tray in my room. Very good, madam. I do believe Jock has informed you that we are staring down the barrel of insolvency. What do you plan to do about it? Right. Yes, well game That game Well game Quite. First thing we’re doing is selling off that Sheridan. My sweet little love beast, I am sure that we will come up with the necessary funds by the end of the month. What is today, the fifth! The th, sir. All right. That gives us six game Four days, sir. Jock? Please can you take the Sheridan up to London in the morning? I’m entering it in the Autumn Masters Auction. Right you are, madam. Come, come. Let’s not be rash. We cannot go about selling off family heirlooms willynilly. I’m afraid I shall have to put my foot down, darling. Sorry? With your permission, of course. Bugger it. Oh, there he is. She’ll come around, Jock. How could she not? She’s only human, sir. A quick aside about Jock. In addition to being my manservant and thug, he also maintains an enviable rate of sexual intercourse, which can be occasionally problematic. Recently, after we’d concluded the sale of a painting to a wealthy turkey farmer game What was that? Get your head down, sir. What have you done now, man? Onward, Jock! Onward! Don’t shoot, farmer! Dad! What the hell are you doing? Jock! Jock, wait! Jock! I have me own apartment! Crikey, man! The farmer’s daughter? I only gave her the onceover. Where do you find the time? Sorry, twiceover. Dear, sweet, simple Jock. Every man should have a Jock, don’t you think? Meanwhile, not far away, our fortunes were about to become intertwined with one of the art world’s greatest mysteries. And a dead hag. Bull’seye. Miss Bronwen? Everything all right? Get back behind the tape! Excuse me. This is a crime scene. Hello? Who is this guy? You and your men have done an admirable job stomping all over the place. Your services are no longer required. Sorry, Inspector Martland, sir. Sorry, sir. I had no idea, sir. Can I have all Thames Valley police officers back in their cars, please? There’s been a jurisdictional change. That painting could be anywhere by now, sir. Yes, I suppose it could. You know we’re going to have to ring him, don’t you, sir? No, I do not know that, Maurice. No one knows the filthy underside of the art world better than he, sir. He is the filthy underside. Why did it have to be art? Inspector Alastair Martland. MI. Martland and I met at Oxford. Once in a while I provide him with some offtherecord help with the seedier side of art collecting. And in exchange, he gives me a wide berth to ply my craft. He is also desperately in love with my wife. Rather annoying, really. What? Inspector Martland, sir. What does that blighter want? Tell him to ring back when my marriage isn’t falling apart. No, he’s here, sir. He is? Oh, all right. Wheel him in. Don’t get up. I wasn’t going to. Beware the carafe on the top shelf. It contains water. Ignoring some of the more inviting bottles on the drinks tray, he reached underneath for the big decanter, and poured himself a gross amount of what he thought was my Taylor ‘. Score one for Mortdecai, for I had filled it with an invalid port of unbelievable nastiness. Oh, excellent. Score two. Bit of cheese to go with that? I should think the special one, Jock. What is that infernal thing on your lip? Is there a purpose to your presence? You’re in the hole to Her Majesty’s government to the tune of eight million quid, old boy. I had no idea I was so deep in Her Majesty’s hole. God, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God game That’s not natural. What do you think? I think this woman has need of a chiropractor. Bronwen Fellworthy, Oxford art restorer. Did you know her? Slightly. I do recall a vague memory of her having once, involuntarily, one would hope, releasing a fart of such frightening power and timbre that I feared she had done herself a horrible mischief. Cheese. Thank you. Three months ago, a small Spanish museum sent her a Goya to be cleaned. Last night she was killed. Painting has disappeared. Sad news, particularly for her. But I don’t see what it has to do with me. Well, if my men start asking questions, then the Goya disappears without a trace. But you, a known trafficker of stolen art, well, you could make some inquiries. Why would MI be interested in the theft of a middling Goya? Emil Strago. Fundamentalist, revolutionary. Trained in Syria, fought in Senegal. An expert in special warfare. He’s linked to a number of terror attacks all around the world. All right, he’s unpleasant. What of him? Well, we believe he entered the country with the purpose of finding that painting. Why? We don’t know why. But if Strago is involved, well, suffice it to say, it’s a matter of urgent national security. And you would like me to find it before he does? Precisely. I’ve given you a lot of rope over the years, Charlie. But now you’re dangling off the end of it. Help me find that painting, or I’ll have the magistrate open that file and prosecute at random. It was a catalogue of some of my more unseemly escapades. The file was fat and wellhandled, like a Welsh barmaid. It is apparent that you are wellversed in the stick. But what of the wellknown carrot? What’s in it for me, as they say? Good God, man! We’re talking about a bloodthirsty extremist threatening the lives of your countrymen. Well, if you won’t do it for me, do it for Queen and Country. No! All right, Queen and Country, travel and living expenses,



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