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Playing Dressup

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Colonel Olrik, late of Jacksonville Prison, Pennsylvania wakes up in a strange place, utterly confused and stiff in every limb. This is nothing new, alas. In fact, it’s happened so many times he’s developed a personal protocol for this situation. The initial check is reassuring. Whoever rescued or kidnapped him has tucked him into a large bed, uninjured and unfettered except for an intravenous line in his arm. He removes the needle and ties the tube, noting that the IV bag is nearly full and that an uncomfortable sensation indicates that a catheter was recently removed. He shudders and takes a second to feel the disgust before shaking it off. There are no words for how little he appreciates being interfered with while he’s helpless. At least he’s still wearing the prison uniform. It’s soiled and scratchy, but waking up in something else would be so much worse.

Olrik scans the room which is large, low-ceilinged, and lined with dark, wood paneling and built-in shelves, luxurious, stodgy, almost oppressive. The thick carpeting is a dull shade of sage green, as are the curtains around the… portholes? It’s not just an after effect of sedation; the room really is moving and there’s nothing but blue sky and grey waves outside What the hell? As if that weren’t weird enough, the door opens and he whips around to see an old acquaintance.

“Did you sleep well, Colonel?”

It’s Jack, one of his former employees, dressed as a steward. Jack makes it very clear that he’s no longer working for Olrik by refusing to answer questions. Instead he points out the bathroom and closet and says he’ll be back in thirty minutes. Fine. That at least gives Olrik a little time to collect himself.

As soon as Jack leaves the colonel tends to necessities. His bladder aches and he looks awful; his hair is greasy and dishevelled and there’s at least three days’ worth of beard growth. Olrik shaves carefully, brushes his teeth, and scrubs himself as best he can. Even on a luxury yacht the bathing is never quite right. He stuffs the striped uniform into a waste paper basket and throws back the closet doors.

Good god. There are two suits on the rack, one in a sage green a little brighter than the hideous carpet, the other terra cotta. There are shirts to coordinate, one pale sage, the other a light pink. Olrik picks up the hanger of the green suit, which seems to be the least offensive by a hair, and notices the dark red ascot and pocket square tucked in the pockets. Wonderful. Perfect. What could be better?

For a man who has just been freed (kidnapped?) from prison to be finicky about clothes at this point is ridiculous, and the colonel knows this. Truly, he is happy to be free, to whatever extent he is now free. It’s all just so… silly. Olrik doesn’t recognize the label, but the workmanship is perfect and the fabric top quality. Someone spent a lot of time and effort making these ugly, ugly clothes. The suits are interesting in that they tell Olrik that his host (captor?) has money and wants to express a degree of care and respect, but didn’t consider the tastes of the intended wearer, or any taste, really. The colonel appreciates a stylish uniform and has been known to indulge in high gangster drag, but he would no more choose these clothes than he’d choose, well, a baggy striped sack.

Olrik dresses quickly and smoothes his hair and moustache. The suit fits quite well, perhaps a little loose in the jacket, but just right at the cuff and hem. The colour drain his face of life and makes the puffiness under his eyes a little more obvious, but he expected that. For a moment he indulges in a mental inventory of all the times he’s worn clothes he didn’t choose in his adult life. There have been a lot of uniforms, of course; whether in the military or prison you end up standing in your shorts while someone hands you a bundle. Hospital gowns and pyjamas, always worn thin and smelling of harsh detergent. While a ward of Bedlam he’d been granted a decent wine-coloured robe and, for reasons that were never clear, a belted jacket and a hat of imitation astrakhan. Where had they come from? Of course, there’s the big one, the black trousers and emblazoned pullover he’s been forced to wear on three different occasions. How he’s grown to hate those clothes! Even now the smell of wet wool triggers bad memories. The only antidote is to recall what happened to everyone who’d crowbarred him into that costume.

Jack’s new employer has money and reach; that much is obvious. Olrik guesses that he is also a madman, but what kind? The colonel hazards a guess at saner than Septimus and Evangely, but less sane than Adrian Deloraine. He’s likely in the Basam Damdu range, someone who can pass for merely intense until he experiences intolerable stress. There’s a knock at the door. Olrik straightens his spine and adopts a nonchalant attitude. Time to meet his host.