The Watch Thief, Chapter 14

January, 1911. Watford, England.

Park View was less a home for her husband than an office: Wayside couldn’t have been more different. The house was roomy enough for the boys to spread jigsaw puzzles over tables. Krausz, twenty-one and living with them, would play cards on Sunday afternoons. His uncle would pretend to lose so the lad could have some extra money in his pocket. The nearby River Gade was a gentle sound, streaming away all their problems. It would flow through Cassiobury Park where Margarethe would take the boys and they’d run among the trees or play football with whomever was around. Sometimes the air was too cold but there was a beauty to even that. She felt it encapsulated England: the marshes, the bowling green and the kind neighbours. More importantly she hoped he wouldn’t disappear to London every day. After the Commons it was the casinos of Monte Carlo and Nice. He told her all about his system for blackjack, judging the size of
the split deck and the temperament of the dealer. Of roulette, watching the players and calculating when his chance would come around: once in every three or four spins of the wheel, sometimes
twice in a row. How he described it. She was like that ball caught up in the energy and thrill of his gamble. Their adventure! Three times a week he would cable her £100. She missed him but the money paid for six helpers including a cook and a housemaid. They lived extravagantly. He was there with the paid nurse when she screamed in labour. They brought a new life into their new home, Clifford, born the month of May. He had his father’s nose.

Work in Galicia continued to take Trebitsch away from them. His travelling case was specially made with morocco and pigskin, with fitted pouches for toiletries, whiskey, stationery, all kinds of things. The boys next door played with theirs and the schoolyard heard Mr. Lincoln was a pioneering oil-man overseas. When he came back, Julius took his brothers to meet him at the station. At home,
he sat them down to pronounce names of places in Galicia: Boryslaw and Tustanowice. She knew he’d leave again, was sure he was having an affair. The mother-in-law had advised her to show discretion to him. One night they held a dinner party and a guest remarked that with so many trips abroad he must have been tempted to stray. He swanned on about his faithfulness at great length. Though he’d met many countesses and businessman’s daughters he was focussed on the investment and the gushing of wells. She threw a crystal goblet across the dining room. Oh, they still quarrelled. He threw another right back.

Despite this, she said her life in Watford was the happiest she’d ever been.

If Watford was the promise of a new space, Strada Cosma was all their happiness and opportunity withdrawn into static boxes. Julius, Ignatius and John were enrolled in boarding school and remained in England. Eddie was sick over his mother on the train. They traveled for days: through Brussels and Nuremberg, into Vienna and Budapest, where Trebitsch’s nephews waved to them from the platform. Then it was Timisoara, the first sign they were in Romania and on and on to
Bucharest. They leased a home near King Carol’s palace on the banks of the Dâmbovita. It was previously a hotel. They had fifty rooms but lived on the bottom two floors, bricking up the others for it was impossible to heat. Margarethe had begun to lose weight and could feel the damp of the old building going through her. She’d thought Eddie and Clifford might see more of their father. Daddy go. Daddy go. She explained to Clifford, not two years old, that he missed them all terribly. He told her, Margarethe, I was out at out at Bustenari, supervising the drilling at Steaua and Astra Romana, and guess what? We’ve named one of the wells in Tosca ‘Margarethe’. They got letters from the boys: Julius wrote for permission to join the school’s cadet corps. They refused. Ignatius had scored highly in his tests and was talking with excitement about visiting.

Their English butler and a servant accompanied her shopping because she couldn’t understand the Roumanian tongue. The streets were windy and humid. The buildings were six storeys or twice that. There were parks and gardens but they were a distance. There were fast cars and people shouting at all hours. Bucharest was just like any other city and the people were rich maybe snooty, or poor, perhaps violent. The Lincoln family belonged to the haves. They had a refrigerator, a rarity, and there were so many taxis at the house it was as if they had a second motor car. Trebitsch boasted of earning £20,000 from Galician Oil but then told her he’d taken a loan of £4,000 from an American insurance company. Margarethe wondered sometimes if they were living beyond their means. It was no use arguing with him. One day she found a letter, half-written, pleading with Goldstein for money. It said they were penniless. She couldn’t understand. As she moved to replace it on the pile,, she paused. The next letter was scrawled kisses and hugs: Anna; New York; devoted. Margarethe’s eyes reddened like fire. She’d been here before. Him hopping the beds of Europe. The dam burst, tears ran a cheek, then hotter, faster and it was all wrong. Under her own cries she heard Clifford sobbing and composed herself.

Two months after the Trust was liquidated, he came home from the wells ranting and raving about the Parker Company man. Lucey reneged on the deal, had told the press there never was a deal! He was wrapped in his sorrow and she held her tongue still. Then he put an envelope of money in her hands; assets he’d recovered from selling off machinery.

The boys were to visit at Christmas. Julius’s boarding school wrote to them saying that he had run away. Ignatius, only nine, arranged for he and his younger brother to travel across Europe, just the two of them. The young son insisted on making all the arrangements and they travelled the week Calais to Cologne, through Linz and Brasov. On Christmas Day, they had crisped succulent turkey. There were boiled and roasted potatoes, gravy and vegetables which Ignatius lined up on his fork like a skewer kebab. The servants roasted parsnip and carrots, boiled potatoes and crisped succulent turkey. They drank hot wine and sang around a great fire. Among the presents, Trebitsch had brought them Parker drill pieces. He was already talking about another oil enterprise out of the London office. In the New Year she saw them all off at the station, emerging alone, from the locomotive’s cloud of black burned coal.

February, March, the months went by on Strada Cosma. He wrote of course. He’d given up the Lincoln & Co. office in Islington but was hopeful Premier Oil’s London branch would find him work. Julius wrote: he had lied his way into the British Army and was training as a bombardier in the artillery. She had few friends and with two babies to look after struggled to get out, now the servants were departing. Krausz returned in April, gave the others notice and lent a hand packing boxes were he could. His time was mostly spent trying to find buyers for the wells. In June, Margarethe, Eddie and Clifford reached London in May.

Her husband found them a boarding house in Bloomsbury. Torrington Square smelled of old cabbage, gravy and loneliness. People said good morning in shame. Everything was dark and the people seemed to have no attachments. They employed a nanny, Mrs. Williamson, who turned out to a be a terrible bigot. Trebitsch caught her stealing, fired her on the spot. Most days he worked out of the Liberal Club, enduring insults while trying to secure a position with Premier Oil.
Occasionally they went out. He showed her the churches of Whitechapel, they went for an evening at the Shoreditch Music Hall. But Margarethe remembered being alone the day the papers reported that Archduke Ferdinand had been shot. A clammy sweat came over her and she sat in a sickly state watching the clock for hours.

As a German by birth, Margarethe had to register with the police after the war broke out. Long forms and signatures and understandings that she could be interned or deported. The flat was
too small for them. Trebitsch paced and spoke of enemies around every corner, a black cloud on him. The Daily Mail and John Bull printed tales of occupations and captured regions, troops bombing their way through wet land and cruisers set on fire in rivers. Everyone must do their bit. The Liberal, Henry Dalziel, had helped Trebitsch in the past and was reaching out to find him work in the War Office. She listened patiently while he updated her. Every day there was nothing. Finally, Dalziel found him a job at the Post Office but there was little money in it. He soon talked of quitting and they argued about this.

The argued about Julius serving in Kitchener’s army, somewhere in France. God knew where! They argued about overdue rent and John’s tuition fees. Few dinners went by without arguments. One night Detective Inspector Ward knocked at the door and his Chief, Basil Thomson. Thomson said they were investigating a report one or both of them were German spies. Trebitsch said no, the charges were grossly offensive, inexcusable! He and his wife were long naturalised and known to the government, in fact he was once part of that government! Ward explained that in accordance with the Defence of the Realm Act they had go take Mrs. Williamson’s complaint to the Gloucester Constabulary very seriously. Trebitsch laughed. Williamson? Mrs. Williamson? Margarethe told the detectives about their ex-nanny, the watch she’d tried to steal and her vendetta. Thomson said not many would have been so forgiving. However, he was satisfied Williamson was wasting their time and apologised forinterrupting the evening.

Mount Pleasant Sorting Office was tedious and menial and they could have found something more suited to his talents. She consoled him with reminders he was in a position to to protect ordinary Germans. He hated the victimisation, hated Edward Grey’s idiotic slaughter. In early November German boats shelled Yarmouth beach and sank a British submarine off the coast. The next day the workers singled him out for abuse. He quit before the day was done. He was sour to the core but she knew him. He was never in this mood for long. He was creative and sometimes an idea would land on him and he’d work it until it came to pass. The next day he told her he had attended
the first of several job interviews for a position with Military Intelligence. After all, the Post Office had him checking the mail for enemy communications. It was all connected. They sat in front of
a roaring fire and he put her mind to rest about Julius’s safety and that of her mother, who was somewhere in Rotterdam. He was an energetic reader and was able to tell her all about the war,
divining the strategies of the major powers based on the personalities and their aims. As ever he saw ways around the doom that was everywhere in the world. He wondered if Captain Kenny was
as impressed by his skills as he claimed to be. Nothing came easy for him, he said. She reminded him how he’d defied the ministry in Brecklum by marrying her. McCarter, Rowntree and Lloyd George saw his worth: Captain Kenny would too.

MO5 continued to put off his final interview, the weeks went by. She worried were the money was coming from and had no interest in a job making bullets to be used against her own people. On December 16th, they were talking about the boys returning home. The date was fixed in their minds, the night twenty-seven warships hit the nearest coast killing hundreds. Two days later he came home with news MO5 had asked him to spend a few weeks establishing contacts in Rotterdam. He would look for Margarethe’s mother while he was there, but had to leave right away. John, eight years old, had hoped his father would be there to answer his questions about Santa Claus. Ignatius said there was no such person.

In January the Germans struck Yarmouth again by mighty zeppelin, and Norfolk: terror from the skies. Winter seemed to drag on: rations and alarms, suspicions and fears. She found another loan letter to Goldstein, this time requesting £100. Margarethe said nothing. He came clean about it on his own. MO5 were delaying his payment. She pawned necklaces.

He had a meeting with the Admiralty at the end of the month and hoped he would be paid then. As the date got closer, he became more frantic and agitated. He wrote notes to present himself as best he could. When he returned that afternoon he was quiet and unresponsive: still agitated. After dinner, the babies were put to bed and he told her he would have to go. Dangerous men were after him. Not even his colleagues could protect him. If he was in England they would hurt his family to get to him.

They held one another all night. She wept and he told her to be brave for the boys. He couldn’t leave her much money but would send more when he could. Margarethe didn’t sleep. She stayed with him until 5am when he kissed her a final time. Then he got up and she listened to him creep down the stairs to where his bags were packed. He closed the front door and it was like her soul was shut out.


c. Andy Luke, 2017

The Watch Thief runs one chapter a week. You can find more here.
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We Shall Not Be Stapled

Shout it in the streets. Get down to the Orange band and tell them too. Tell your friends carrying messages over the border.

The Comic Book Guys have been immensely supportive of Axel America. I’m delighted to be featuring in this cosy spot lunchtime launch. There’s a raft of old and new material (see here) including pieces by myself, and an unseen Sir Reginald piece from 2006.

I’ve been working on the launch of my exciting Patreon project and my new book, Ignacz the Watch Thief. The campaign starts on Tuesday 9th at – there’s little there, but you can bookmark it.

Before that, I’ll be appearing at the Enniskillen Comic Fest this weekend. On Saturday morning, hosting a ‘Breaking Into Comics’ panel featuring Colin Mathieson (Accent UK), Jenika Ioffreda (Midnight Tea), Ciaran Marcantonio (Neon Skies) and Grainne McEntee (Bubbles O’Seven: Simian Agent) From there, I can mostly be found at the Sector House 13 table. They’ll be selling a zine edited by Laurence McKenna and Peter Duncan…well, it’s a glossy zine, with a strip beautifully painted by Ryan Brown, and marvellously written by Laurence, a feel much like The Shield, which is a perfect tone for a Mega City One Judges story. I’ve a prose-poem in there. I’m Likin’ It. Actually, that’s the name of the story. It’s good.


25/05/2016: Joyful deadlines: Blogging Axel America

Axel America is set around the November 8th U.S. elections, so I’ve plenty of reason for getting it out there soon.

Some authors disparage deadlines and writing for the market. Underneath those there’s structure, definition. In the emotional storm times, those can be something to cling to, a way forward. Late April, early May, the time between drafts, took a lot out of me; demanded time to recover. Time I’d set aside for scratching my arse and watching Babylon 5 repeats was replaced with great mourning and celebrating. When I was ready to go back to work, there was plenty, but thankfully I had lots of plans.

Richard wasn’t keen on a show-down in Chapter 4, between Axel and his foe Morgan Rump. “It comes out of nowhere,” he said, and he was right. I printed out the chapter list and decided a re-shuffle was in order. My solution was to bring forward Chapter 5 re-establishing Rump as a threat, but as Chapter 3, thus better establishing him in the rising action. Chapter 1 is an ensemble piece, but doesn’t focus on Axel. (A surprise, as Axel dominates every scene he’s in.) I was loathe to create a new Chapter 2 and alter the opening act structure, being as how I’m at third re-draft but starting out from the vaguest scenario, Axel in studio, I got building, centralising his own world of chaos, and complimenting the new arrangement. The new Chapter 4 also benefited from an extra few pages settling the reader into a more casual read. The original chapter 3 was also set-up, but got pushed back, which is alright as its non-essential, except for being a real peach.

Above: Sean Duffield’s thumbnails for the characters on the cover

My redraft.txt detailed three vital sub-plots I’d identified as not getting their due. Re-reading the MS, I made notes on the chapter listing where they’d been mentioned, and where they could be grown and expanded on. Then, I wrote those in, and noted that I had. Then I discovered spelling mistakes. And more spelling mistakes. The whole document, infected with them! A look under the hood revealed my version of Open Office was not playing ball. Everything got exported to Word. Spells and grimoire re-working took much less time than expected; two days. I think this must be the easiest re-write I’ve done for the reason detailed notes were kept, the sort a scrutinising editor or proofer might hand me. It always seemed another job had to be done, but I knew what the job was. I ran across new tasks on the way there. In one chapter I’d scrupulously pinned down location details. When I put the address in, I realised the text could be made so much better by capitalising on why I’d chosen that location above others, and so strengthened the atmosphere. Spell and grammar checks on new lines and paragraphs, the document by now edging towards 43k.

By now, its May 16th and Sean had sent through the finished rough cover which looks incredible. I’m talking with Enniskillen author Andrew Gallagher about the route to publication on his own books. I met Andrew at the Enniskillen Comic Fest selling his fictions, ‘Escape from Fermanagh’ and ‘Fermanagh Exorcism.’ Both are published out of his own house, AG Publishings. The books are well formatted and clean, the stories are easy-read riveters, horror hoots. We talk about my visiting him for a chat to see if he can’t talk me through the process, which frankly I’ve not had a handle on since carting ten supermarket trolleys of Absence to the post office. There should have been a photo of that. Self-publishing is all fun and games until somebody loses control of a cart on a kerb. Thankfully Andrew has an iron grip and a peer talk will help steer me right. Enough puns. I’ll leave it there for now and update again in a few days.

Flesh Mob – Update

I made the tough decision to put novella, Axel America, to one side for a while. The notion was to have it out for Belfast Book Week, but in a nutshell, the ratio of I’d-be-a-wreck to post-production-readiness is too wobbly. I feel sure the tale will resurface somewhere. I’ve been thinking over my working habits and how it might be time to go back to shorts.

In other news, my short story ‘Flesh Mob’, is in the running for a Titania (best of anthology) prize. Here’s a pitch I found behind a box,

Corpses move and feast on the innards, and city folk cram into the Occupy Belfast building! Now 99% are assembled, will they hold their safe-haven against the rotters as the summer brings another threat from outside? Andrew Luke, author of  Absence,  Twelve  and  To End All Wars,  draws on his knowledge of the Occupy movement, abuse survivor therapy and neuro-philosophy to create an all-inclusive edutainment of chomping rotters and ways to hit them.

IMG_20160321_173524 (1)

Oh look, got paperback! That’s Art reading the anthology at Farset. We were both so excited by the story, this is the only photo where he sat still.

‘Flesh Mob’ is in Tense Situations, which you can get through lots of different book-stores around the world. A good percentage of the sale price goes to Action Cancer. For a short while you can vote for the 2016 Titania Award for best story in collection at so please do. More info at that link.

 Right, I’m off to see Mark Thomas at the Black Box. Have a good evening you.

The Updates

I was interviewed by Owen Quinn at last week about my involvement in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary celebrations. There’s also some stuff in there about my observations of the the Irish comics industry and as a writer in Belfast. Here’s the link.

I’m on holiday so it’s to you to promote if you like. Here’s today’s prose.

The Updates

There wasn’t time to mourn. Emails were stacking up, not read, without answer. One future timeline Christine made a list of names. Each blog would be combed for tastes of art, developmental detail (Jim remarried), traves unraveled, new jobs. The claimed Judas was Facebook cloaking love in popularity. The sulk came in the lettle embroiled, a decaffinated hold stirred a three year resolution.
The first person she followed was far out and clicked again to a vault of changes, towards when she knew Ed. On the way she saw a scar. He was without a beard and he was talking about the day Michael Gove was executed. Wait. Michael Gove was executed? How the hell could she have missed that? She scrolled on – recipe for tira masu, oh he’s building an extension, writing an album, his beard is back. And with each update their friends commented and some were not there, and new ones were added. It soothed. Christina still lusted for the bridges, wanted to be there now. Tiredness set in and for the final two hours of reading, little absorption. Unprepared for the reunion, it drove her and the rest came inbetween.


Huge Spoilers for Walking Dead Spin-Off



Daryl is the spin-off from AMC’s The Walking Dead, greenlit by A. C. Coffay November 2013. Norman Reedus stars in the title role, with Melissa McBride and Michael Rooter, reprising their roles as Carol and Merle respectively. Logan rounds out the cast as Daryl Junior. The series runs simeoultaneously with the Series 5 of Walking Dead.


The series follows Daryl’s departure at the end of the The Walking Dead (Season 4), reuniting with Carol Peletier. With his son and zombie brother, they live in a caravan on the edge of a bear forest: well furnished, and outside covered in wee. The steps of the home are made of brick which he uses to chop things on. There would be a lot of chopping – wood, metal, bacon, plastics. The group remain in the caravan until the mid-season break, “Underneath the Bridge”.


The show is produced by Robert Kirkman and Frank Darabont and showrunner Ed Wrankler. A communications oversight caused the show to lose it’s original title, Daryl on Arrival. The name instead was given to the pilot episode and after the hiatus, the live talk show hosted by Chris Hardwick.

The four year old Logan’s hair was perfectly combed to match Reedus, and his chin. Michael Rooter’s phrase, “Bruggh Fckprk Arsss”, became a breakout meme of 2014.

It is the first show to use a consumible product consultant Sonya Weenikiller. [citation needed]

“Ambition” in which Reedus sings “Welcome To The Jungle” surpassed The Walking Dead episode [citation needed] with viewing figures of 89 million. [citation needed] The show met criticism from it’s lessening focus on zombies [citation needed] but was generally praised [citation needed], although several guests from the pilot show made brief appearances including Danai Gurira and David Morrissey [citation needed]

Episode No. Title Synopsis
01 Daryl On Arrival Daryl is on the road with his friend, Jean (Michelle Pfeiffer), who reveals her son is theirs. They unite with Carol at her caravan, but Daryl is sad Merle can’t be there to see young Junior. The woman help him dig up Merle’s body. Carol teaches Daryl to sow using his special bacon thread, and Merle is reanimated. However, a zombie attacks and eats Jean before Merle bites it through the bum. Merle then attacks Carol and Daryl cries. He doesn’t attack blood family and Carol arranges to visits him in The Paddock. As time passes, the family get a brown labrador called Hound who links his chin. Daryl insists that the family live in his treetop biouvac house. Carol is sad. He builds a smaller biouvac for Merle and she is sadder so he sees she is right. They relocate to the caravan.
02 Digital Fortress Daryl brings home bacon but is sad so he sets out to fix television. He gets back Cult Movies (screening Clint Eastwood and Scoresese films), and Fox Kids, which are having an X-Men cartoon marathon. Eventually television falls off again, but before that Daryl decides he will fix the internet. Daryl, Carol and Merle fall out over whether Twitter should be switched back on. Merle has to be put on a choke chain, although is still allowed to run free sometimes.
03 Thanksgiving Daryl decides he will break the Guinness record and goes looking for the longest strip of bacon ever. While he is stuck in a particularly dense forest, the group plays football. When it is kicked into a zombie bowl, they combine their efforts to get it back out. Daryl brings back deer for dinner with honeyed berries wrapped in bacon.
04 Submarine Daryl and Hound find a submarine and using torchlight, they get it started and find a healthy pig in there. Carol becomes abusive with Junior at the sight of a helicopter in the sky. Junior and Merle conspire to put her in her own pit!
05 Merle’s Babies Hound alerts Daryl to Merle chasing a random baby through the grass, that he wants to eat. He and Daryl stop speaking. Carol teaches Junior about pirahnas and toothache. Daryl has a machete she calls the bacon peeler. Hound is left to reunite the brothers. They both bring Carol flowers. Daryl’s are the nicest.
06 Ambition Daryl and Carol get sad and Daryl leaves and finds a juggernaut big-rig. Carol leaves Merle to push Junior in his stroller, and steals a fire-truck. Daryl sings and there is almost a crash with Merle and Junior in the middle. Merle’s zombie brain crashes Junior into a ditch, saving his life.
07 Christmas The family decorate Daryl’s tree with zombie bits shaped which they hacksaw into the shape of baubles, novelty trees and boxes and bacon strips. Carving, they explain to Daryl Junior the meaning of Xmas with tales of their lives before the zombie outbreak. Carol tells of the time she and Sofia got covered in cake mix but used it to trap and humiliate a burglar. Daryl tells of the time he was drinking beer and woke up in a rabies babies animal sanctuary and how it broke his heart to kill that giraffe. Merle’s story makes less sense, but Daryl translates to explain that Merle set fire to a department store.
08 Underneath The Bridge Carol is alarmed when she learns Merle and Junior are missing. Hound tracks their scents to a lakeside cabin were smokers Tog (Charles Baker) and Toe (David Costabile) have Merle in a trap. Daryl learns the men are living without bacon and flips out.  However, they tell him Junior is in the lake and he calms down and wrestles an alligator. Carol suggests he use his submarine and they locate Junior under a waterfall at the gates of Atlantis. The Atlanteans tell them that people are like bacon to zombies and invites them in to share cheesecake and a selection of wines. However Hound (who has a fear of water), will have to remain outside and Daryl cannot do that to his son. Tog and Toe depart with Daryl’s group.
09 Enter The Dragon Months have passed between new episodes. Daryl climbs inside a mountain volcano and ends up in a cave where a dragon keeps a pack of bacon smokes under it’s wings. The Family must pitch a tent at the base to retrieve and defeat it. Tog dies in the attempt and Toe is injured, but Daryl comes back with the smokes.
10 Bacon Sandwich of Doom The crew find a log cabin. Daryl paints it. Toe dies from a urinary infection. Hound tries to help but dies of doggy death. Auntie Michonne (Danai Gurira) arrives from the prison.
11 Mandatory Maintenance The Governor (David Morrissey) becomes Akela to some boy scouts. No regular cast members are featured in this episode.
12 The Vendetta of The Governor The Governor kills the scouts. Return of regular cast in last five minutes. The Governor hides explosives on the backs of their clothes. Then he gets to a brilliant hill view and gets Daryl, Carol, Merle and Michonne in crosshairs of a laser rifle. We see him perfect the focus. It’s definitely going to happen. He’s going to kill one or two people minimum.
13 Happy Birthday Junior Carol must subject Junior to neglect to cover up birthday love surprise while the boys shop but it is at odds with what she wants. The infant is put at risk from a reanimated Hound. Auntie Michonne brings Junior a gift of shruiken stars. Merle steals a car. However, the Governor shows up and tries to sabotage the traps. Then he steals hares. Nobody gives a fuck much because Daryl has made his son a bacon cake. They have a nice party. Michonne and Daryl do pinatas before she goes home.
14 Close Quarters The Governor moves in to a log cabin across the street. It’s mostly soggy cardboard boxes with old paint tins. He spits on the floor. He is outside painting his cabin. Daryl is forced to give his a second coat.
15 Paint Your Cabin! Wars of staring and sneering increase as both groups paint. The Governor growls against teak but Daryl has a darker stain.
16 Candles and Smoke Daryl reveals that his paint mix contains bacon. The Governor cries and yells that he will leave and get his own beans. Then he does that. Everyone goes to sleep for the final thirty minutes.