December 1897, Budapest
Ignacz’s curls were black like his sparkling eyes and rounded a handsome face. He conducted his breath, arms arching to jacketed diaphragm, and travelled that breath up under a black tie.
That didn’t sound as it should.
His parents were arguing in the next room; again. Jozsef was in the middle of them. Ignacz’s eyes drifted back through the mirror, around the room he shared with Lajos: clothes and sheets, school books, anti-bourgeois pamphlets…
Wrong pitch. No. Wrong time? Das Rheingold then, in German.
“Justice in sharing fits us brothers…”
“Lajos teaches! Vilmos works at the bank!”
He could hear his mother’s voice too. “We simply cannot afford luxury these days.”
He fixed into steely resolve, assumed the form of Don Giovanni, crouched; looking into the mirror, his head filled with the libretto.
“What do you do?” came his father’s shout. “You contribute nothing!”
“You should be more like your brothers,” he heard his mother say.
“You are talking to me,” yelled Ignacz, shaking a finger. “You are talking to me.”
“Ignacz, be quiet there!” his father called. “Hell will have the pair of you.”
His mouth sank, teeth fierce under lips. He summoned up Landgrave.
“You heard it! His sinful lips have confessed his fearful crime. He has shared the joys of Hell, he has dwelt within the Venusberg! Abominable! Monstrous! Damnable! Steep your swords in his blood! Let him be condemned and banished and sent back to the bottomless pit of Hell!”
As he spoke, the air was charged with floating balls of silver like mercury. Stretching fingers rigidly, it was as if atoms were popping out around him. Strangely familiar yet alien faces: of a vicar, a monk, shapes of hats and a zeppelin. The spheres were gold too, engraved with dates and unreadable words. The door to the room was flung open.
“What is the name of this nonsense?” said Nathan.
“Tannhauser,” Ignacz replied, “to the highest standards of the Budapest School of Performing –“
“You’re wasting your time. And causing a noise.”
“Oh I will cause a noise on the world stage: in Paris, New York and –“
His father laughed.
“You think this is a waste? I’ll make more money than you earn.”
Ignacz’s eyes drifted over to the last of the mercury floaters, and then saw an atmospheric change as his father took off his belt. Ignacz charged, threw the old man against the door, and roughed him to the ground.
“Nathan! Nathan!” his mother screamed, but he cut between her and the younger boys, got the door open.
“Ignatius, I forbid you to—“
The door slammed, he raced down the steps and out, caught by night air, the chill shaping his stark exit and the balls of silver mercury returning to his eye-line.
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.