He ducked from the horses on the bridge over the Danube, away from wheels, passed bonnets and gowns. He smirked at the Vigszinhaz theatre in construction, future inheritance.
The line into the smaller Municipal Theatre bubbled. Barely fifteen years but short enough to disappear from security. In the scarlet carpeted foyer he spied a few of the Magyar nobility who could recognise him to Nagypapa. He kept his head down, hid under the black curls, and followed them.
Violins and harps swirled against the walls, the Fowler’s bass with the horns. The audience catcalled.
“Bring us Wagner’s second. The man who made Das Rheingold!”
“Quiet,” said a man.
“Where’s Mahler?” came the response.
Rumours of Gustav Mahler’s politically motivated ‘resignation’ appeared true. The star was nowhere. Ignacz sensed the attendants would come, so left his seat and scurried to another row, one with younger men.
On stage, tenth century Germans expel Hungarians. Their Count Telamund accuses Dutch Elsa of murder: “Where’s Mahler?”
The boys were from the local Drama school and recognised Ignacz. “Look! The little gyerek who tried to sneak into our lectures. What’s your name?”
“Looks like you missed another chance to see Professor Mahler.”
Another lad laughed odiously.
“Where’s Mahler?” asked Ignacz, sharply.
They laughed again. Timpani and triangle were muted underneath the raucous, clarinets too.
“That’s enough you boys,” said an attendant.
Ortud prayed to Wodan in soprano. “Bless me with guile and deceit, that my revenge may be sweet!”
Calls came for Budapest commissioner Count Zichy to play the lead villain. Trumpets and flutes inspired tumultuous notes in the front row.
“Alright boys, I’m asking you to leave, quietly.”
An arm touched Ignacz’s jacket.
“Oh no, we can’t have a German play!” he said, and the touch became a grip. He was stood up then, and responded by bolting his feet to the floor. “Where’s Mahler?” he roared. Then he stomped the floor, shouting it again.
As if on cue, something hit the stage. In the middle rows, people were pushing one another. The calls echoed round the hall ten, twenty times. Where’s Mahler? A punch was thrown. Ignacz was dragged a few feet, before the guard left to break up a fight. He dodged rotten fruit and outside, passed six police on their way in.
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.