“I want to get out of here soon. How was London and Hamburg?” Jozsef asked.
“I was only briefly—“
Lajos interrupted them. “You should stay and finish your studies, Jozsef.”
“We can’t all be big academia stars,” said Jozsef.
Ignacz laughed. “Yes. Not every academy is so responsible. I have been accepted by Reverend Frank of the Hamburg seminary. Perhaps Jozsef can come and visit me when he’s of age.”
“Our parents are struggling,” said Lajos. “He’ll need to pay his fare, not lie about all day.”
Lajos lifted the sheet of paper from Ignacz’s mattress and read aloud, “’To the glory of Israel.’ Is this more of your spiritualist journalism?”
Ignacz shifted uneasily and took the page back. Bending down, he put the page back with the jotter. “It’s a letter to my beloved, Margarethe. But yes, my journalism is rewarding.” He re-covered the coins and jewellery.
“Does it pay my rent?” said Lajos.
“What do you care?” asked Ignacz. “Aren’t you a Socialist?”
“I might go that way,” said Lajos. “The party are very keen.”
Jozsef laughed. “The Professor wants to be Mayor!”
Ignacz laughed too. “You can improve the city’s health and educational standards.”
“Clean up all the crime,” said Jozsef.
“It has been bad,” said Lajos. “There are more street muggings, even some house break-ins.”
“The man taking the watches?” asked Jozsef.
“Same person as two years ago,” Lajos told them. “One of my students in the know says the constabulary have identified him.”
The year went by, and Captain Johann Kahlor and his wife got used to the visitor. Johann noted he spoke respectfully always, was engaging, even wonderful company, but there was a streak of…impetuousness? Condescension? Fakery? He was serious about his ministerial training. Johann followed him to the Hamburg College a few times. He knew his scriptures.
Their daughter, Margarethe, took in all his promises of love and a life by his side. The girl’s tiny face shifted around her glasses, black curls bunched off her smiling cheeks when he came by. She defended his anger and his absences. The child made her fiercely protective of their futures: five minutes better parenting in Ignacz than the bastard who abandoned her. Johann and his wife saw he was good with Julius Tut. Julius wailed and bawled and Ignacz took him in his arms and everything was good. It would be good. Ignacz would become a minister, and look after their daughter and grandson. He was practically family.
Two years went by. At the dawn of a new century Ignacz arrived alone, off the boat to Montreal.
Image attribution: Afraid Of Global Warming, Ebay.
Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.