The Watch Thief: Prologue 2

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?”

“Ignacz.”

“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.

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The Watch Thief: Prologue

1894,  Paks, Budapest.

Nathan’s arm dripped from hot towel. He scrubbed, ceasing the stink of brine finally. On top of the wealth of Julia’s family he was two months into his role as a financier: he knew he’d never have to worry about money again. A slide of soap flowing from his pit, trickled the chest. The baby, Simon, wailed from another room. A firm dry on stolid towel then, comb and mirror to carve the beard. His hair was black and malleable. Despite a forward nose, piercing eyes, it was common for the grain merchants to pass by before doubling back. The child’s dirge escalated into cacophony, complaints in baritone, laughter gathering to chorus. Into the bedroom came Sandor, trying to run, giggles before a fall. He looked at his father, curious and pained. Then his chaser, Jozsef, came and stopped by his brother.

“You fell,” said Jozsef.

“Stop! Your synagogue clothes are not for play. Do not be so disrespectful. Go and wait!”

Nathan huffed and jangled the hangers as he took his shirt down. He buttoned breast and cuffs and reached for his caftan. He touched the fringe of the robe and took the shtreimel onto his head, fur sparking fingers.

The other room was quiet then. A large room with tall ceiling chandeliers casting light on the plush table and chairs re-made from the clutter of the boys’ adventures. Julie held Simon in her arms. He only uttered vowels and the tap as he tugged on his mother’s sleeve. Julie carefully lifted it back in accordance, then set to lining up the boys in order of age for dress inspection. Nathan entered and drew up to Vilmos. Months short of a man, he could count on him. Next to him, Lajos, as academically gifted; he wore a stubborn smile.

“Where’s Ignacz?” Nathan asked.

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.