Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

The Mimic

a novel by

Mordechai Stone

Chapter One

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Scottish Highlands

November 2014


People travel to the most desolate places on earth for varied reasons. Some seek adventure mastering mountains like the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes others seek the peace and solitude of a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas. Others move to the desolation to escape the horror of their lives. And some so detest what they’ve become they punish themselves by withering alone at the end of the world, melting into that desolate place never to be heard from again.

The Scottish Highlands welcome adventurers, escapees and the self-punishing equally. Once home to a thriving population of competing Scottish clans the barren mountains now hold the distinction as the least populated area in all of Europe. Few roads exist to serve the far-flung, sparsely populated towns and villages. One of these, the A835 roadway, links Inverness to the North of Scotland.

The two lane road begins just seven miles northwest of Inverness at Tore and wends its way through the stark Scottish countryside to Ledmore Junction a distance of 66 miles. At the 59-mile mark Old Moss Road crosses the A835. Take a left, heading west and you enter the quaint town of Ullapool nestled on the shores of Loch Broom, home to 1300 people and famous book and music festivals. Take a right and Old Moss rises to the east toward Rhidorroch House, overlooking the waters of Loch Achall. Further down Old Moss stands the East Rhidorroch Lodge and the end of civilization. But the road continues for another couple of miles before it abruptly stops. And it is at this destination at the edge of the world that the stranger parks his rented Range Rover.


Rain spattered against his overcoat as he trudged up the path to the cottage set in a small meadow at the top of the rise. As he walked he pulled his collar up and tugged his hat lower on his forehead to shield his neck and face from the large drops that fell from a grey sky. A satchel hung over his right shoulder

and he huddled its reassuring weight close to his body. Stepping on the worn flagstones that formed a path from the road below he raised his eyes to examine the centuries old Highland cottage built from large stones harvested and dragged from the surrounding hills.

A low stonewall surrounded the house separating it from the rest of the barren meadow. Two stone chimneys rose from either end of the house with a third rising from the roof slightly off center. It was from this chimney that white smoke floated, rising against the falling rain.

Four recessed windows faced the slope leading to the road. Two located at each end of the house were shuttered. Lights peaked from the two windows closest to a thick wooden door set in the stone edifice at its center. Instead of giving off a feeling of inviting warmth the stone cottage gave off an aura as bleak as its surroundings.

The stranger had not travelled all these miles seeking adventure or solitude or escape from some personal calamity. He stood shivering on this bitterly cold and wet evening on the side of this hill for the only other reason men ventured into the hunt their fortune. And in that cottage if he conducted his business in an efficient manner there was a fortune to be made.

A blast of icy wind cut across the meadow. No trees grew in the Scottish Highlands to impede its advance. The man, still shivering, gathered his coat closer about him and approached the door. Without hesitation he reached out and rapped on the wood.

After a moment the door opened revealing a man, late 60’s in appearance, disheveled thinning grey hair topping a face gaunt and pasty as if ravaged by a debilitating illness. The man was in fact 52 and the illness he suffered from was rejected love, the most debilitating illness of all. He held a double-barreled shotgun in the crook of his right arm. The stranger noted the crazy eyes and the stench of whiskey and body odor and reminded himself to be bold and smart at the same time.

“Gustav Henrik?”

“You can go back the way you came.” The accent of polished Cambridge English contrasted with the Scottish brogue normally heard in the Highlands.


“Piss off.”

Henrik started to slam the door in the stranger’s face but something about the man made him hesitate.

“You from my publisher?”

“No, sir.”

“American. Well you came all this way for nothing. I don’t sign autographs and I can’t tell you about the meaning of life.”

The stranger smiled. “I don’t want an autograph. And what I can do, if you give me a moment, is return some meaning to your life.”

“Arrogant bastard.”

Henrik slammed the door in his face.

The stranger waited patiently. After a few moments the door opened a crack. Henrik stared at him.

“And how will you do that?”

“Invite me in and I’ll tell you.”

Henrik looked him over then opened the door. As the stranger stepped onto the threshold of the cottage Henrik reached out and grabbed the door blocking his path.

“If you lied and I find out you’re a solicitor from my publisher or some kind of literary fanatic I will shoot you and bury your corpse in the moors where it will never be found.”

“Then let us both pray I am neither.”

Henrik released his hold on the door.

“You pray. I told God to sod off years ago.”

Henrik turned and disappeared into the house leaving the stranger to hang his wet hat and coat on pegs to the right of the front door.


A large stone hearth dominated the center of the living room. There a large fire burned attempting to warm the cold cottage to little effect. Occasionally a

drop of rain would fall through the flue onto the burning logs and give off a brief hiss.

Books lined cases set against the walls. A couch and several chairs were scattered randomly throughout the room. Most were stacked with an assortment of papers and books. A table had several dirty dishes, scattered papers and open books strewn on its surface. A solitary chair sat under the table. The table hadn’t seen guests in a long time.

The two men were seated in chairs close to the fire facing one another. Henrik’s shotgun rested across his lap. He eyed the stranger with an expression of suspicion and contempt.

The stranger seemed pleased with himself as he looked about the room. Henrik watched the stranger take in his mess.

“I let the housekeeper go. I don’t like intrusions,” he said then leaned forward in his chair. “Any intrusions.”

“Grieving is a solitary task.”

“What the fuck would you know about it?”

“Fortunately...not a thing,” he smiled.

The stranger reached in his shirt pocket and retrieved a thin, gold case. He popped it open revealing a stack of business cards. Retrieving one he snapped the case shut and returned it to his pocket. He leaned forward and offered the card to Henrik. Henrik looked at it for a moment before snatching it from his hand.

“Jason Hubbard, literary agent,” he read from the card. “I’ve got a bleeding literary agent.”

The stranger, whose actual name was John Jenks, leaned back in his chair clasping his hands across his stomach.

“I don’t want to represent you, Mr. Henrik,” he paused, letting the statement sink in. “May I call you Gustav?”

“You may call me anything you want but in this house you’ll address me as Professor Henrik.”

“Even though you haven’t taught a class in two years?”

Henrik grimaced. He lifted the shotgun off his lap and cocked one barrel. “I think it’s time for you to leave.”

“Of course that’s where you met her, in your class, so I can see why you took a leave of absence. The memories must be a bitch.”

Now Henrik smiled as he cocked the other barrel. “Now you’ve gone and done it.” He stood and brought the shotgun to his shoulder and pointed it at Jenk’s face.

“If you kill me you will never be able to get back at her.”

Henrik sighted down the barrel.

“There is no getting back at her. Why do you think I’m here?”

“You are here because she took the most precious thing in the world to you.” Jenks reached in his jacket pocket and retrieved a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. “Do you mind?”

“Man has a right to a final cigarette before his execution.” Henrik coughed and Jenks got a blast of whiskey breath. He lit his cigarette and exhaled as he snapped his lighter shut. The smoke travelled up the barrel into Henrik’s face. Henrik coughed again.

Take that, you fucking drunk.

“You did that on purpose.”

“Gustav, you will find there is very little I do without purpose,” Jenks responded resting his lighter and pack of smokes on the arm of the chair. “Now if you take a seat we can get down to business.”

Henrik’s lip rose in a snarl.

“You are damn sure of yourself, Mr. Hubbard.”

Jenks smiled in response. He looked at the table and spied a decanter half filled with amber colored liquor. Jenks started to rise and Henrik shoved the shotgun barrel into his chest.

“Thought we’d have a drink, Gustav. The fire’s just not doing the job.”

Gustav snarled again then lowered the barrel. “Damn you.”

“Fine then.”

Jenks rummaged around on a shelf and found two clean glasses. He poured four fingers in each glass and handed one to Henrik. Henrik took the glass and sat down with the shotgun once again across his lap.

Jenks sniffed at his glass. “Oban. Single malt.”

“You know your scotches, Mr. Jenks.”

“Some better than others.”

Jenks took his seat and had a sip of his drink.

“On with your business. And don’t bore me. I find literary agents tedious and dull.”

“Then I’ll try to make myself as interesting as possible. I would like to give you back what she took. And I’m not talking about money and property and your standing in the academic community.”

“What else is there?”

“She was your muse. When you met her in your Russian lit class something happened, something magical. Shortly after the romance blossomed you embarked on the most proficient writing period of your life. Your prose took on passion and fire. The dull writings of the boring Russian lit professor were replaced by something that inspired a generation of writers and readers. And as the relationship deepened into marriage your talent soared to even greater heights. Critical acclaim, financial success, literary awards all yours. Then came that day two years ago when-”


“I’m sorry. I got ahead of myself...your father was a Nazi pilot.”

“German pilot...never a Nazi,” Henrik stammered.

“Yes. He had to put down in Sweden due to mechanical difficulties during the war.”

“His plane was shot full of holes and he was wounded.”

“Which is where your mother, the Swedish doctor, comes in. She treated him and nursed him back to health. Sweden was neutral so your father was interned for the duration, which made it convenient for him to court your mother, which

he did. After the war the newlyweds emigrated to England so your mother could accept a prestigious surgical position in London where you were born.”

“What does this have to do with anything?” Henrik asked angrily.

“Unpleasant growing up in a country your German father bombed,” Jenks stated.

Henrik paused and seemed to deflate at the memory. “You have no idea,” he replied despondency taking over for anger. Henrik rested his chin on his chest staring at the glass in his hand.

“You retreated into writing. The craft became your refuge. You showed early promise and won several prizes but the gift never seemed to mature. Accepted to Cambridge you made top marks in Russian literature and, well, lesser grades in creative writing. In order to save your scholarship you eventually switched your discipline to Russian lit and graduated at the top of your class. Seemed you could read better than you could write. More education and a doctorate followed. But the professorship never quite made up for the writing did it?”

Henrik looked up but didn’t respond.

“You had several short stories published in mid level lit publications and one novel that never took off. One critic described it as banal.”

“Is there a point to all this?”

“Before her you were a hack. After you met her, absolute genius. And now?”

“Time for you to go,” Henrik croaked but he did not rise to show Jenks the door.

Jenks paused for a moment then flicked his cigarette into the fire.

“Every writer has a muse, their creative spark. And when she walked out the door she took that creative spark with her. And what’s worse...she knew she was doing it. Knew it would destroy you. And from the looks of it she’s achieved her goal.”

Henrik blinked tears from his eyes. He drank his scotch in one gulp and let the glass fall to the floor. He lifted his head and looked at the fire.

“You said you could help me get it back. The spark.”

“No, Gustav. I said I could help you get back at her. I can help you wipe that smirk off her face.”


“You are going to publish the greatest novel of your career.”

“I can’t put two words together that make sense to me. How am I supposed to write the greatest novel of my career?”

“I said you’d publish it.” Jenks drained his glass and rose from the chair. He crossed the short space to Henrik and leaned over, his mouth hovering by Henrik’s right ear. “Someone else will write it.”

Jenks moved to the table and refilled his drink. He didn’t offer to pour another for Henrik before taking his seat.

Henrik looked up his eyes clearing. “A ghost writer? You are insane. I am one of the most widely read authors in the world. I have a very specific voice. The critics and the academics would figure it out instantly and I’d never be taken seriously again.”

“You’re not being taken seriously now. You abandoned the classroom and the literature chair at Cambridge. Took a one million pound advance from your publisher and your manuscript is two years overdue. And your ex-wife is laughing in your face that is when she’s not banging her newest young lover.”

Henrik grabbed the shotgun off his lap and stood all in one motion. But Jenks was faster, younger, stronger. He yanked the shotgun out of Henrik’s hands and shoved him back in his chair. Quickly he popped open the breech, extricated the two shells and tossed them in the far corner of the room. Jenks set the shotgun on the table and turned toward Henrik.

“I offer you a chance at revenge and this is the way you treat me, Gustav?”

“Screw your ghostwriter. My ex-wife can laugh all she wants. They can have their advance back. I will not be humiliated further.”

Jenks picked up the decanter of Oban, pulled off the stopper and took a long, satisfying sniff. He replaced the stopper and set the decanter back on the table.

“I represent one client. He is not a ghostwriter. That would be like calling Einstein a science teacher. My client is a freak of nature. He is a perfect mimic. He can do your voice, only better.”

“That is impossible.”

Jenks smiled. This was the fun part. He walked to his chair and reached for his satchel. Setting it on the chair he opened it and retrieved a thick manuscript.

“You are the preeminent scholar on Russian literature outside of that country.”

“Some might say inside as well.”

“And your favorite Russian writer?”


Jenks handed him the manuscript.

“Read and decide, Professor Henrik.”

Henrik hesitated before taking the manuscript. Curiosity got the better of him and he opened it and began to read. After a few pages he looked up at Jenks in disbelief.

“This can’t-”

“Just keep reading,” Jenks interrupted. Jenks threw more wood on the fire and settled back in his chair, lighting another cigarette.

After an hour Henrik closed the manuscript. He sat back in his chair and moved his head side to side to alleviate cramped muscles. When he was done he stared at Jenks.

“This is a lost novel. That is the only explanation.”

“So Dostoyevsky was running around in the jungles of Nicaragua in 1988?”

“I...He...He would have to know have lived in Russia.”

“He did. For three months. He is a mimic with words and languages. He wrote in Russian then translated his own writing into English.”

“Not possible.”

“To date he has written 17 number one four different languages. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker and even a Hugo.”

“And no one knows he exists?” Henrik asked, disbelieving.

“Seventeen other authors know of his existence and they’re not talking, but the only person on the face of the planet who knows his name is yours truly, Jason Hubbard, literary agent.”

“How does he do it?”

“Who the hell knows? Some people can work at a Rubik’s Cube for a lifetime and never figure it out. A gifted few can stare at it for one minute then solve the puzzle in eight seconds. He will research your work and when it clicks in his mind he will know your voice better than you do. Once it clicks it will only be a matter of weeks before he completes the first draft,” Jenks stated. “What do you say?”

“I am an academic. Taking credit for work not my own. I don’t think...”

Jenks leaned forward and rested his hand on Henrik’s knee.

“Wipe the smirk off that bitch’s face, Gustav. Then she will know she no longer owns you. Your success will stab her in the heart.”

Henrik looked at Jenks with desperate hope mixed with doubt. Jenks had seen the look before and knew the deal was done.

“He will have my voice? No one will ever know?”

“He had Dostoyevsky’s as well as seventeen other writers. As to the latter? Our service comes with complete discretion.”

Jenks didn’t add that his client did not possess a writer’s voice of his own. But that was his client’s cross to bear. Jenks waited patiently. Finally Henrik seemed to arrive at his decision. He looked at Jenks, his hands plucking nervously at his pants.

“And what is it you want for this...service?”

“Half, Mr. Henrik. We require half of everything you make on this book,” Jenks responded pulling a contract out of his satchel. “Including any ancillary income from movie options, paperback rights, etc.”

Jenks handed the contract to Henrik who stared at it in disbelief. Jenks reached into the satchel and retrieved a pen. He held it out in front of Henrik. Flames reflected off the shiny metal.

“And since you already received your advance...well a check for half of that will suffice to get started.”

Henrik hesitated then took the pen. He noticed an inscription engraved in the metal.

“Ut Sementem Feeceris,” he read aloud, then translated the Latin. “You reap what you sow.”

Henrik looked at Jenks whose face revealed nothing. After a moment Henrik lowered his head and scribbled his signature.


His phone rang as he sat on the dock staring at the setting sun. He sighed and let it ring one more time before picking it up. He flipped the phone open but said nothing. The ring tone told him who was waiting on the other end.

“We have a new client.”

Jenks paused for dramatic effect.

“Gustav fucking Henrik,” he remarked, self-satisfied. “It was the Dostoyevsky that got him. Jesus we were still in college when you wrote that.”

Nothing is nothing, he thought.

“Bastard almost shot me before I closed the deal.”

I almost wish he had.

“Don’t worry. I got 13 pages of some manuscript he was working on years ago. It will suffice for a start. From a quick read it looks like you’re going to have to go to Spain.”

He closed the phone breaking off the call. Looking at the sun as it dipped below the horizon he slowly shook his head side to side.

“Et tu, Gustav?” he asked, disgusted.

He slowly got to his feet and turned his back on the explosion of colors, oranges, yellows, purples and blues climbing the sky from the horizon. He began the long walk back to his house.

Nothing is nothing.