The Watch Thief: Prologue

1894,  Paks, Budapest.

Nathan’s arm dripped from hot towel. He scrubbed, ceasing the stink of brine finally. On top of the wealth of Julia’s family he was two months into his role as a financier: he knew he’d never have to worry about money again. A slide of soap flowing from his pit, trickled the chest. The baby, Simon, wailed from another room. A firm dry on stolid towel then, comb and mirror to carve the beard. His hair was black and malleable. Despite a forward nose, piercing eyes, it was common for the grain merchants to pass by before doubling back. The child’s dirge escalated into cacophony, complaints in baritone, laughter gathering to chorus. Into the bedroom came Sandor, trying to run, giggles before a fall. He looked at his father, curious and pained. Then his chaser, Jozsef, came and stopped by his brother.

“You fell,” said Jozsef.

“Stop! Your synagogue clothes are not for play. Do not be so disrespectful. Go and wait!”

Nathan huffed and jangled the hangers as he took his shirt down. He buttoned breast and cuffs and reached for his caftan. He touched the fringe of the robe and took the shtreimel onto his head, fur sparking fingers.

The other room was quiet then. A large room with tall ceiling chandeliers casting light on the plush table and chairs re-made from the clutter of the boys’ adventures. Julie held Simon in her arms. He only uttered vowels and the tap as he tugged on his mother’s sleeve. Julie carefully lifted it back in accordance, then set to lining up the boys in order of age for dress inspection. Nathan entered and drew up to Vilmos. Months short of a man, he could count on him. Next to him, Lajos, as academically gifted; he wore a stubborn smile.

“Where’s Ignacz?” Nathan asked.

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries and bonus art.

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