On that August morning, Trebtisch was in no great hurry to reach the embassy on Bucharest’s Jules Michet. The British ambassadors were a tight group despite their geographical dispersal. Gripped by paranoia that Sir Bertie had somehow tainted their attitudes of British ambassadors, he thought long on bailing out of his appointment with Conyngham Greene. He wandered the halls of the Drama in the University of Bucharest, and in and out of the Religious Studies department. He found the library, closed, and let out a loud snort.
“You could try the Romanian Academy Library. I am going there myself if you need a guide.”
Trebitsch understood the Romanian tongue well enough. He thanked the student, Dumitri , and explained he was a visiting professor. Investment banking, he said; good enough for his brother, Vilmos. As they walked along Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu, Dumitri talked about his Geology degree. Dumitri’s interest lay in breakthroughs in drilling technology, particularly the new Parker-Rotary machines. After graduation, his expertise might be called to the un-tapped Balkan oil fields. At Calea Victoriei, they parted ways with fond farewells.
The Academy Library was busier than expected. Trebitsch was quickly bored and confused. Talking about books, he thought, was more inspiring than reading them. As he walked back along the boulevard, he thought of all the data he’d shored up. How it was set against his future so even time’s erosion could not devalue it. He walked by a street performer, five balls in the air, catalysed into one remarkable flowing performance. A sturdy temperance preacher converted words, from hundreds of thousands of years before Romanian language existed, with relevancy. Two men on a bench stared at the preacher a moment and returned to their clutch of documents. The researcher saw something in the type which the secretary brought his weight upon. By the time Trebitsch reached Jules Michet he was unafraid.
Conyngham Greene had a receding hairline, skull face and a walrus moustache covering swollen cheeks. Trebitsch went to work immediately on him. Greene was, he said, still bright enough to understand the progressive nature of Rowntree’s enterprise: his contribution would be among the great and good. The diplomat’s eye moved as if peep-holing from some painting and he got up and went to exactly where the requested books sat.
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.