Prison Vienna Josefstadt.
10 June, 1921.
Officer Daly passed the screaming addicts and the inmate mopping away the old man smell. The drip-drip-drip fell like seeds in the corner of the cell, where the prisoner looked to imaginary people and country fields. Daly’s keys turned like crashing waves and the bars rolled back with a roar. Lincoln sat under a furrow of light, fields of sparkling dust shifting. He seemed almost unaware of the guard at first. Then he stood. His eyes were hot and blinking, jittery. Daly tilted the handcuffs and the reflection hit Lincoln’s eyes like a flash-light. Then he was taken down, down to the lower court.
Michael had invented his own short-hand for high-speed transcription in court. The prosecution failed to establish their charges and now the man was facing a new charge of false identity. It was all in the paper’s files. Police evidence was presented. Found on his person were Hungarian passports under the names Thomas Lorincz and Theodor Lakatos; Wilhelm Ludwig, issued by Reich Central Office in Berlin; here in Vienna, identity papers for Dr. Johnann Lange; Theodor Lambrecht; Dr. Tibor Lehotzky; from Munich, Karl Lamprecht and Heinrich Lamprecht, and from the Czechs, Thomas Lamprecht. Michael wrote just Lamprecht. Defendant said mitigating circumstances, people out to get him, Prónay. Sentenced one month, time served four months, freed immediately. Michael found him outside the court room.
“After four months in prison, where will you go next?” he asked.
“My destination is a profound secret. I shall disappear as if the Earth had swallowed me, and shall reappear in an unexpected quarter within eight years.”
It is mid-July, George Buchanan’s last day on the job. The recent loss of his wife has stripped Michaelangelo’s ceiling from him. It is four years since losing his dear friend Nicholas the Tsar, and he has worked two years in Rome and never seen the empire’s colosseum. He walks back through culture-laden streets of this millennia old capital, his mind fired by the lunch conversation with an American reporter. Trebitsch Lincoln is in Rome, under some false identity, and had tried to sell his story to the press man. People swallow one another up in Rome and Buchanan wonders if he might spot this chameleon trickster among the faces. At the embassy, the sixty-seven year old cables the news to Eyre Crowe of the Foreign Office, with a promise to ascertain Lincoln’s movements.
In Washington D.C. ten mornings later, J. Edgar Hoover takes a report from the pile on his desk. It is addressed to him and from overseas, two facts which appeal to his ego. The diplomat in Rome, Colonel Matthew Smith, is concerned on hearing Trebitsch Lincoln intends to visit America. Smith has ascertained that the American missions in Europe have been warned to refuse him a visa. The deputy head of the Bureau of Investigation knew this full well. He was still at law school during Lincoln’s previous adventures in New York. Hoover nods firmly, sure the rogue will not be allowed the same liberties.
To the north, in the nook close to Yugoslavia, sits Trieste. It is built into a hillside and there are temples to Athena and Zeus. Coffee shops dot the streets like a plague, still carrying reference to the Austro-Hungarian empire. The spoils of the peace treaty say this is the Italian Riviera and these are now Italian people. Forced Italianisation, a victory the White Internationals failed to find, and of course anger is expected. It is September, and Joseph Haven is troubled by Trebitsch’s appearance in Trieste. In the embassy he reads a telegram from his contemporary Digby Wilson, in Budapest. Wilson’s message says Lincoln aims to chase book royalties in New York, proceeds which will fund his visit to Tibet where he will cause the natives to rise up against England. Joseph Haven sighs. Lincoln has been the talk of diplomatic circles for weeks now. Across the city, the San Giusto Castle gardens the Great Square, which in turn faces the Adriatic Sea. The coal and port industries gather around there, and millionaire Albert Otto waits in line to embark on a large passenger liner.
The new friends watch from the deck as Trieste leaves them. Patrick Keelan says this will be his longest trip by sea. He confesses to being stirred by those memories and primed for new hopes. Albert Otto of Kansas smiles. The sea air is good for the skin and Keelan is paler than most. Keelan is not Irish. Through the noise of the turbine steam engines he shouts that he is from the homeland of Houdini. Otto hears a fantastic story over dinner. Keelan is putting the seas between himself and a band of killers. There are fifteen hundred passengers but they both meet on deck the next day, over the Mediterranean.
“I have contained my excitement. Is this not a great opportunity?” asks Keelan. “It is as if the past is collapsing behind us.”
The words resonate as two continents sidle round them like a pincer at the Strait of Gibraltar. Then Spain and Morocco are like tides going out. Otto notices how Keelan’s mood rises. The North Atlantic astounds them. It is a monster. Yes, says Otto, but it might be the closest we get to the face of God. The roar of the engines belongs to the ocean. They become hypnotised. On the sixth day Keelan announces they are perched on God’s shoulder, each wave an aspect, angelic voices chattering in the dark swirls that can only be penetrated by iron hulls. Otto knows his new friend’s real name and is concerned he may not be admitted to America. He is assured that a holy guardian protects them. On the eighth day, the goddess crystallises in physical embodiment. Flame eternal, she rises up from Ellis Island, lit eyes looking into their souls. She is surely looking down with approval as Patrick Keelan passes through the gate for no-one blocks his way.
Hotel lifts are like any other. Each rivet in the rail must accurately match to create a road for vertical transportation. The scaffold cage comes later and is built inside the shaft. Five years Joseph Schlesinger has been doing this. His apprentice shrugs. He would prefer to know about their brothers. Joseph relents. After your last visit, he says, we all changed our names. Lajos is Louis Tarcei and Simon, Simon does not want to see you. He curses Simon, and Joseph says they should assemble the dollies. The work is specialised, but monotonous. In the months ahead they work from hotel to hotel. Joseph notices how the passing guests make his apprentice brother paranoid.
Marshal Proctor’s brown hair was tinged silver, and sparse. He sat in that same two desk office, in the seat once belonging to Francis Johnston, Stubble clung to him like a skin condition, cleaved by no amount of shaving. He is handed The Tribune, 3rd November, and reads. The article begins with Trebitsch Lincoln admitting to breaking immigration law. The reporter sat beside Proctor sees his shock, and when he reads aloud, his weariness.
“’I will petition the government to allow me to stay here as a political refugee. If I am refused, I will slip out even more mysteriously than I came in.’”
“What is your reaction to this, Marshal Proctor?”
“This person is unfit to be in this country. His morals border on degeneracy. All this talk of political offence and spying? Pure bunk. He’s just an ordinary thief who violated a trust and took his employer’s money.”
Julia Trebitsch gathered her large petticoat, like pulling on life. Edward wanted to know about the coffee stain on the table cloth. Who did it? Would it not come out? His Uncle Sandor set the pot on the stand. Margarethe had been to all the Budapest diplomats: the Americans, British, Germans, and all had refused to give her a travel permit. Sandor pities her. Julia mentions that she isn’t wearing her ring. It had been pawned in Vienna, she says, so John could travel and find work. Sandor said she deserved much better than his fool brother.
“Trebitsch has a special kind of brain. He thinks he might earn money in Italy,” said Margarethe.
“I work in the hospital, every day,” said Sandor. “Attending to Prónay’s victims. It has always been fearful, but I provide.”
Julia said it may be much worse, but they seemed to be protected. Edward asked his Uncle Sandor if they were protected because of his father. No one answered right away.
The late January moon followed the seventeen year old. From the crypt of St. Martin’s to here on the benches of the Thames embankment it is a pummelling hydraulic freeze which grips him. At the Niagara Falls, says The Times, the cheapest publicly owned hydro-electric power system has gone operational. The rain plants a water rosette on the type, and the boy looks across the page. Trebitsch Lincoln is released on bail. Put up by Mr. Albert Otto at Ellis Island immigration office. He claims a valuable knowledge of European politics, highly sought after by American diplomats. Another pelt of rain slides down past John Lincoln’s off-white fingers. As the stranger approaches, the paper falls under the bench, onto his bag.
“Change?” he whispers.
Every large paper in Britain was owned and managed by the Harmsworth boys. The youngest, Cecil, was the not-so Permanent Under-Secretary. Eyre Crowe would take his place, and Crowe’s would be taken by William Tyrrell. Foreign Office talk revolved around Gandhi’s arrest and British troops in Georgia. Over the Georgia issue the minister had been so insistent they remain he’d threatened to resign weekly. Draft letters were everywhere, and Crowe had written a few for himself.
“This fellow, Trebitsch Lincoln. Washington has issued a deportation order for him,” said Harmsworth.
Tyrrell looked away. Crowe shuffled documents.
“No reaction?” asked Harmsworth.
“The man is an impostor and a scoundrel of little interest,” said Crowe.
The filing cabinet railed open and Harmsworth rifled through it. “He’s to leave America in thirty days, making his own way out. He’s full of anti-British sentiment, and I say, worth keeping an eye on.”
On the train through Ohio state, Isaac Laquedem told a young couple of his love for travel. At any station he could turn round for Paris or Ethiopia. At Pittsburgh, he spoke with insight about Germany being refused an international loan, and in Cleveland, he pontificated on Mussolini’s mass rallies. Rain poured down outside and the conversation was pleasantly distracting. Crossing Michigan they fixed their eyes on the wonder of Lake Erie. The couple left at Detroit. Their seat was taken by a rail-road worker, come with news of the massacre at Herrin Mine. Twenty-one strikers and police had been killed in the shoot-out. The miners were just the beginning: rail-workers were preparing a nationwide strike. Isaac Laquedem decided he would get off before Illinois, where the farmers had arranged their fields by plough. He used them to cross easily to the main road and found a hotel. At the front desk, he wired Mr. Albert Otto for a loan of £15,000 which allowed him to pay the bill a week later. The strike began early July and the news came over WDZ-AM. The maid was arranging his pillowcases, and complimented him on how they where embroidered with his initials. He took a bus for Kansas City, saw a fire smoke between a mound and a lake. A man with a horse stood between them watching the flames. Wichita was quiet. Parents reprimanded a screaming child as they left Albuquerque, where the land is red. The sound woke the wanderer from the nightmare of those gunned down by Ehrhardt in Berlin. His bus journeys followed the train route, he said, out of stubbornness. He also dreamed of Stephani and Prónay and smiled as he woke in the city of Gallup. He crossed Arizona: Flagstaff’s beautiful forest, and Kingman, where he stayed a few days. A botanist at the hotel showed him the spiderwort, it’s leaves long, thin and blade-like. This one was rare for it had eight anthers and four blue-green petals. He took it as a good luck sign for his weekend at Vegas, but he was unlucky. In golden Los Angeles, a cable reply from Washington’s said he was to leave at once or be deported to Hungary. He wrote to Margarethe of his time working on the railways and regretted doing so as the envelope dropped. The news there led with reports on China’s eastern coast decimated by the deadliest typhoon in history.
Trebitsch had never seen an ocean quite like the Pacific.
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