a mystery man
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
  click here for a "printer friendly" version

by Andrew Lee-Hart





The numbers, names, facts and tunes, are all in my head, in meticulous rows, waiting to be called upon. My brain is such a well-ordered machine and I am most proud of it; treating it with respect and care; an alien being, that has appeared within me, and enables me to work miracles.


The hall was cold and there were only a couple of hundred people in the audience; I had hoped that we had moved on from such pitiful numbers but travelling in the North, was akin to when I first started in London, seven or eight years ago. However word would soon start to spread throughout this Lancashire town and its vicinity and the people would come flocking; wanting to be amazed or to try and catch me out.


Mary pointed at an elderly woman in the audience.

“And you madam; what question have you got for the great memoriser?”

She shuffled and looked embarrassed, and Mary smiled at her encouragingly. Shyly smiling, she stood up and looked directly at me; but with all the palaver it was a disappointingly mundane question.

“Who lives at 36a, Inchbald Close.”

I could picture the Accrington Street directory; page upon page, which I had memorised last evening whilst Mary bustled about the warm room before settling down to her darning. For a moment I could not quite read the page I needed; it was blurred, but gradually it came into focus, until I could it clearly.

“36a?” She nodded, and then I paused for a moment, just for the effect “a Mr John Keighley, clerk.”

The woman almost curtsied and smiled.

“Am I right?”

“Yes Sir.” She said, and as the people round about her applauded, she sat down, looking embarrassed but pleased.

“Is that your son?” I asked kindly, understanding that she was a proud mother.

She smiled again, “yes sir.”

“And I am sure he does you proud.”

She said something else, but it was lost in further applause.


“And you madam” came Mary’s voice again, to my left. I could see that she was feeling confident now, the audience may have been relatively small, but they had been convinced that there was no trickery going on and were settling down to enjoy the show.  Having Mary as my assistant was such a boon; we were such a good team, it was as if I had known her forever.


A younger woman stood up, at first I thought she was in her mid-twenties; about Mary’s age, but as she spoke and I saw her clearly I realised that she was very young indeed, fifteen or sixteen, just very weary and possibly something more.

“Where is my Johnnie?” She cried, her voice plaintive and sad.

There was a titter from the audience, but I waved them into silence, and then I looked at her and it was as if there was only her and me in the hall.

“Tell your mother everything” I said to her as she looked at me, scared and angry, “don’t chase after him, he is worthless”. She continued to stare at me defiantly, and I knew that she would ignore me, but I had to try.

“In the name of G-d, do as I say girl, it will not end well otherwise, he has gone and he isn’t coming back for you, not now.”


And then as she sat down, glowering at all around her, I shivered; I could see him, standing right at the back of the hall in the act of leaving; just a glimpse before he headed into the summer evening. But then that is all it ever was, a figure in a crowd. This was the third time now; a half-remembered echo that even my meticulous brain could not remember.  As Mary found someone else and the questions kept flowing; names or addresses, dates, songs and quotations, at the back of my mind, my brain was working trying to find a name or something but for once in my life it was helpless.


The fire in the room was far too hot - it was July for goodness sake - but Mary seemed to enjoy the heat, luxuriating in it, perhaps she had spent her life in the cold and damp and was making the most of this comparative luxury. I sat in a comfortable chair whilst she massaged my head using olive oil and spices. Slowly her fingers stroked my scalp and I relaxed, feeling my brain soaking it in, oiled so that its facts and figures remained supple and unclogged, like a well-tended machine. Look after my brain and it would look after me, except that this time it had failed and I did not know why.


“You did well, Mr Farthing,” she told me as she continued to massage my head; it felt most sensual, with her bust occasionally brushing the back of my neck, and her breathing heavy.  She worked hard at her task, knowing that both our livelihoods depended upon it.

“Thank you, Mary. This trip is proving to be most successful, I am so glad that you suggested it; and I am sorry I doubted you. Sometimes it does to eschew your usual habits and try somewhere new.”

And then, realising that I was sounding like a teacher, I reached up and stroked her hand, to show her how much I was grateful for her being there. For a moment her hand lay limp in mine, but then she squeezed it back, and lightly kissed the top of my head, like a mother to a rather clever child.


She was my third assistant, and by far my best; kinder and more in tune with my sensibility. She had appeared out of nowhere, coming to my lodgings, when I was staying in Walthamstow, and asked if I needed an assistant, telling me that she had heard that this might be so.  And indeed it was, as the exotically named Sheba had told me two days ago that she was leaving, that her (so far unmentioned) husband did not approve of her working for me. I suspected that she had had a better offer and whilst she had not been great; forgetful (ironically) and sulky, she was attractive which helped attract the men, and our occasional romantic interludes had been most pleasurable and educational.


At that first meeting Mary, had appeared quiet, with little to say for herself and I had doubts about her suitability, but there was nobody else and as I had an engagement in two days’ time I decided to risk it. During our intensive rehearsals she soon picked up what she needed to know and indeed admitted to having seen my show a few months earlier. Even so I was not convinced, as she seemed most constrained and quiet, but as soon as she stood on stage, in Sheba’s costume, which was only a little too large for her, she lost her shyness; rather exuding glamour and confidence, but without taking over the show, she controlled the audience from the start. I have never regretted taking her on, and I just hoped she would not leave me; get married or get a better offer.


“I saw someone” I told her after awhile, “just for a moment, and then he disappeared.”

“Who was it?  Presumably you remember.”  She continued to massage my head as she spoke, but more slowly as if in thought.

“But that’s the thing I can’t, this is the third time, and when I first see him there is a flash as if he is on the edge of my memory and then it is gone.”

“I am sure you will remember, sooner or later. Maybe in the morning after you have slept.”

And then she dried my hair and left me to my prayers and to sleep.


I dreamt that I was a child, still living in Acton, my father holding up the Torah the magnificent scrolls, and asking me to join him, but I refused. And there was my mother, who I did not remember, but I knew that it was her in front of me, a haunting face in tears, calling my name and reaching for me. But I pushed away and ran out of the house into London, but it was not London at all, but a city with ancient buildings and I realised that it was Jerusalem. And women dressed in black reached for me and I pushed past them. And then in front of me, was an elderly man, looking at me with hatred and it was him and I knew that I had done something to hurt him, but I did not know what.


And then I woke with a cry and there was a smell of vanilla, and someone was lying beside me.  I felt confused for my dream and frightened and held her tight, not sure if she was real or still a part of my dream.


“Let me stay.”

“But you are so young and…”

“My family think we are man and wife anyway and you will never find anyone else; there is no good Jewish girl waiting for you.”

“But Mary…”

But she was too strong for me and with her beside me I slept more easily; her smell of spices and sweat and the softness of her body, which seemed magically to fit so closely to mine, as if we were one being.


 And the next morning as I bound my phylacteries to my arm and forehead and prayed, I heard a voice from my bed.

“What are you doing?” I had forgotten she was still there.

“Just my devotions.”

And I continued to pray whilst she lay in bed completely covered up, the ancient words giving me comfort and a sense of permanence. Mary must have fallen back asleep because when I had finished praying she was snoring gently, so I left her whilst I washed and dressed slowly and then went out into Accrington to buy food and necessities for the day ahead, whilst trying to remember the man from last night, but again without success.





The schul was only small and hard to find, hidden away in a side street off The Headrow in Leeds but once inside it seemed larger and it was the familiar ritual and gossip, that reminded me of home, even though the names were different. Afterwards the Rabbi spoke to me; a broad Yorkshire accent although there was an ascetic look about him.

“Farthing…your father is Moshe?.”

“No Jacob is my father, Moshe is my Uncle, my father’s older brother. They work together after coming over together from Russia.”

The Rabbi nodded, and I thought that this was the end of the conversation, but the Rabbi kept his hand on my sleeve as he nodded at members of his congregation.


“So you are an entertainer?”

“Of a sort; I have a wonderful memory, so people come and watch and try to catch me out.”

As I told the Rabbi about my work, not for the first time I felt that what I did was trivial, especially compared to my father and Uncle; who had come to England from the East to escape persecution and who had begun a new life; setting up their shop, making and repairing clothes and working all hours to be successful and provide for their wives and their children. Even now they were settled they still had to work long hours, with the Sabbath, the only day of rest. And what was I? Just a performer, like a sideshow in a travelling fair, going from town to town back in the old country. I must have been a disappointment to them; a step back to the past that they had hoped to leave behind.


“Of course, as Jews we are not supposed to dabble with the occult” the Rabbi mused, as if to himself.

“It is not the occult; it maybe trivial but it is my memory, I do not pray to Devils or to anyone else.”

The Rabbi smiled slightly.

“If you need anything, please come to me. If you want to settle down in Leeds, I can find you work.”


For a moment the offer was tempting; a new city and a new start, but then I thought of Mary and I knew I could not abandon her. As I talked to this man who seemed more of a business man than a Rabbi, I wondered where she was and what she was doing. She was probably in our lodgings sewing or asleep before the fire, keeping her warm from the cold Yorkshire summer. My heart stirred at the thought of her, and as soon as I could, I headed towards the door to find her. But just as I left the building, and headed out into the city, somebody turned to me, also on his way out.


It was just a statement, no question or the prelude to anything else, the accent southern, and from an older man. And then the man was past me and away down the street.


I hurried after him, all thoughts of Mary forgotten. But it was the Sabbath morning and the Leeds streets were busy and I could not catch up with him, despite his walking slowly; an old man’s pace. As I hurried along, I could see him just in sight but always on the verge of disappearing from view. I pushed past what seemed like the whole population of the city, and yet in my heart I knew that I would never reach him.


And then I barged into a middle-aged lady who berated me, in the strongest Yorkshire dialect, before recognising me, and instantly becoming polite and apologetic, and her accent easier to understand.

“Oh me and my husband saw you at The Palace. You were wonderful; how do you do it? We were trying to work it out; my husband thought that there must be someone behind the curtain whispering the answers, he said that he could hear whispering.”

I laughed, before trying to assure her that there was no trickery in my show, whilst at the same time trying to see the object of my chase, who I could just spy in the distance, becoming smaller and smaller, before eventually disappearing into the crowd.

“I have just trained my memory, from my youth,” I told her, resigned to having lost my quarry.

“How wonderful,” she responded, but I felt that she did not believe me, and I wondered if in fact, it was all trickery, or as the Rabbi had suggested a compact with Dark Forces.


I realised that not only had I lost the man I was following, but that I did not know how to get back to our lodgings.  Fortunately Mrs Smythe knew the address where we were staying, and the two of us walked the streets of the city, whilst she talked, apparently having nothing else to do on this Saturday morning, or else she relished being escorted through the Leeds suburbs, by an exotic-looking man.


“Everyday he is there. Just a glimpse, or sometimes he says my name. I saw him again tonight.”

Mary continued to do her hair, “perhaps he is just a regular, who cannot get enough of your feats,” but I could tell that she was worried, perhaps worrying that I was losing my memory, and with it our livelihood.

“But he knows my name and I saw him at the synagogue and in the city centre; in Leeds and now here in Keighley.”

“Point him out to me when you see him next.”

“But you are never there; I only see him when I am alone.”


“What does he look like?” she asked.

And I concentrated, trying to picture the man; I could remember that he was always smartly dressed, perhaps a bit “flashy”, but good clothes, well-made, and he seemed confident and yet when I tried to picture him there was nothing special about him; an older man, but with authority about him.”

“I think that he looks like my father. But I am not sure.”

“So he is old; I didn’t realise.” And she seemed to be thinking to herself, as if this made it more serious.


“Perhaps we need a holiday” she suggested after a few moments; “return to London and see our families.”

I felt that she only half-meant this; that she seemed very happy and growing more so every day, and she never talked of missing London and her family. And lying together at night, holding and being held; it was as if we were married; whispering our secrets and talking of the future, a future always together. Physical love I knew of, but not this calmness, this belonging…perhaps this was love, and once we were back in London, with family and tradition this intimacy would disappear.


I thought about it, and wondered if perhaps she was right; the man had only appeared since our travels, and in truth he made me frightened, as if he were someone from my past had, come to claim me; perhaps from Russia, a dybbuk or a demon.

“Perhaps you are right. Once we have fulfilled our engagements in Bradford we can return. I don’t want London to forget us. We can get rooms away from my family, be together.”

“Do you want me to stay with you?”

I shrugged with feigned diffidence, “unless you have somewhere else to go.”

“No, no I don’t.”





“You have seen him again haven’t you.”

“How do you know?”

“You are nervous; always looking around you. I know you, more than I have ever known anybody. I can see that you are frightened.”

“I am not sure if he is here…can he really have followed us to London?…But yes I have caught glimpses, but maybe I am imagining it, just a fantasy in my brain.”

We were quiet for a moment or two, and then she spoke cautiously, as if she did not want to scare me.

“There is something that I need to tell you,” and she looked down at her stomach and then our eyes met and I understood.

“Oh” I said, “oh”.

“It was bound to happen” she said. “Do you mind?”

“No, not at all.”

And I didn’t; it meant responsibility and that this illicit union was real, but I was glad nonetheless and I could tell that she was too.


“I heard that you were in London.”

I hugged my brother David, who seemed to have aged, but in a good way; more mature, a man of sensitivity and intelligence.

“Yes the North was too cold and empty; I needed a break.”

“Are you still doing your magic tricks?”

“Of course”, and I laughed, because what else could I do?


David had caught me in a café, drinking coffee, having bought a street directory and other items to memorise.

“Why don’t you come back home? You know there is a room for you.”

“It is complicated.”


“She is called Mary and she is going to have my child.”

David swore in Yiddish.

“She was my assistant and….well now she is my responsibility.”

Although she had always been more than my assistant and was more than my responsibility.


We talked; he told me of his family and our father, and how the family business was thriving. But then I became aware of somebody in the corner.

“You seem distracted.”

“There is someone over there; he must have just come in. I am sure I know him.”

“Really? So your infallible memory is proving uhm…fallible. How ironic.”

“So you don’t recognise him?” I asked, hoping that David would know him, and end all the mystery.

“No.” he looked, “I don’t think he is from hereabouts; he looks much too wealthy and distinguished for us; perhaps he goes to the Bevis Marks synagogue. You could always ask him.”

“Not so easy, I have tried to, but he just disappears into the mist.”

“Well come and see the family; they miss you and I won’t tell them about your little shiksa.”

“I will do. I promise.”


She looked at me strangely, pale and frightened.

“Are you okay my dear?”

“Yes, just a little unwell. The baby.”

But she seemed frightened and later when we went to bed she clung to me.

“Perhaps we should tour again” she suggested timidly, “abroad, maybe Europe or the East.”

“But you are expecting our baby.”

“I know…” and she snuggled closer, and then later I woke to the sound of her tears.


We had a residency in Highgate Apollo, and Mary carried on, seemingly unaffected by her pregnancy, although I knew she could not go on for much longer. Already she had had to let out her costume twice.

“That’s the man?” I whispered, as we bowed at the end of the show, “right at the back, just turning away.”

But she refused to look and then when she did, she flinched.

“You know him don’t you?”

“No, it was our baby, it moved.”

And as the audience continued to applaud, I forgot about everything except the child in her womb. But then I caught her looking in the direction the man had stood, and she was most frightened, and remained so for the rest of the night, and I realised that she had lied and I wondered if he had tried to get to me through her.


Two days later I received a telegram; “Father is dying,”

“I will have to go” I told Mary, who held me tight looking worried, and for a moment I did not want to leave her, was scared to, but he was my father and I felt guilty having not seen him since my return to London, although he knew I was here.


I arrived at the house I remembered so well; the smells, the sights and I wondered why I had left it. I felt a nostalgia for my youth; it had been hard but then so was my life now, and at least I had been surrounded people I knew and was secure, whereas now I felt rootless and as if I did not know what I was doing. I should be here, working in my father’s shop and living at home, with the familiar food and conversations. And then I remembered the claustrophobia and the tedium; everything ordered, and the lack of femininity in our household; with just David and my father. A cold and austere life, and now I had Mary and our child and they were the most important thing in my life.


I walked in without knocking, expecting the house to be full of my relatives, but there was just my father sitting, as he always did, at the kitchen table writing down figures. He looked up and I realised that he had become an old man since I saw him last.

“Amos” and we hugged and kissed; he barely reaching to my shoulders.

“I was told you were ill, dying.”

His father smiled, “I was a little ill, a touch of flu maybe. But I will live for a few years yet.”


I sat down and we talked, as if I had never been away, never travelled and never argued. I told him about my tour in the North.

“Why don’t you come into the firm? You cannot do these parlour games forever, and we are very successful but could do with someone like you, your Uncle and I are getting old and are wanting to take it easy.”


I thought that he was probably right, that I needed to create something that would last, something for my child. But that got me thinking about Mary and I wondered how I could work in my father’s business with a gentile lover.

My father saw me hesitate, “yes I know about your mistress, but this is business, I won’t interfere. I never have, you should know that.”

We made no firm arrangements, but I promised to visit their shop the following week, and I felt happier than I had done for awhile, even though I knew it was going to be a difficult decision to make.

“I am so glad you sent that telegram, otherwise we never would have talked.”



I hurried to our rooms; worry threatening to overwhelm me. I was breathing heavily, daring not to think of what I might find; Mary dead or being held with a knife to her throat. I burst into the door of our rooms, but Mary was not there, the only reminder of her presence was an empty cup and the fire that was still warm, as if she had only just left.


I hurried out again; to the shops that she frequented, and then Heaton park where she would walk for exercise and peace, but there was no trace of her. I hoped that when I returned that she would be there, cooking or asleep having exhausted herself, and then she would wake up and take me in her arms. I slowed down to give her more time to return, but the rooms were still empty and the fire was now cold.


By the time the sun had set, and the lamps were lit she was still not there, and I walked the streets of Leyton knowing that she was not coming back and that wherever she was I could not find her.





And then – a week later - he appeared one morning and talked to me.  Since Mary’s disappearance I had done little except walk in the area around our lodgings; and in particular Heaton Park. I had cancelled the two shows I had booked, realising that I no longer wanted to do my act.  Whether Mary returned or not, that part of my life was over with.  


As I walked I tried to understand what had happened, and why he had taken Mary. The guilt overwhelmed me; if she had never met me, she would have been safe at home.


“Mr Farthing?”

Despite the cold weather, he was sitting in the outside café, drinking tea; wearing an expensive looking coat and hat. But underneath all his wealth he was old and frail, and I wondered why I was so scared of him. I could see the tan and dark features, that made me think that he was one of us, however much he might try to hide it. He gestured for me to join him, and as if he controlled me, I sat down opposite him. A waitress came over to us, shivering slightly, and I ordered some orange juice. I stared at the man as I waited for my drink and even though I was a close I had ever been I still could not remember how I knew him.


“What have you done with Mary?” I asked once my drink had arrived.

“Oh Hannah? She is perfectly safe, back where she belongs.”


“Hannah, but call her Mary if you wish, if that’s what she called herself, it doesn’t much signify.”

“But why did you take her, when it was me you wanted?”

He laughed, “you? What on earth would I want with you?”

There was a silence between us; I could smell his expensive scent and the autumn wind.


“Hannah – or Mary – was my mistress, and still is of course,” he looked at me as if amused, “I had to go abroad and when I returned…well she was gone. It took me awhile to find her, and by the time I discovered that she had run away with a Yiddisher trickster…well you were up in the provinces, so I followed you; neglecting my various projects to do so. You cost me a lot of money, more than you will have ever seen in your life.”

When I had first sat down he had appeared calm and polite, but now he seemed disgusted with me, his face pale and cross looking, as if it was beneath his dignity to deal with the likes of me.


“You cannot take her” I said, frightened but angry, “she is mine, and she is expecting our child.”

“She went willingly, she knew that you could not protect her, not really. I have money and power. What are you?” And he spat between us. “I only came to tell you, because she insisted upon it. She wanted you to carry on with your life, and not pine for her.”

“This is monstrous.”

“No it isn’t. She is safe and she is happy.”

And we continued to sit and sip our drinks, whilst I tried to gather my thoughts.

“But I knew you. I recognised you.”

He looked surprised.

“Well we went to see your stage show a couple of times, perhaps you remember me from that, although we did not speak to you. Perhaps you are not a charlatan after all.”

He shivered slightly, “that is how Hannah got this fanciful notion…I wish to God that we never went, then none of this would have happened. Now I really must go, I have wasted enough time with you as it is.”


And he was gone.  In the distance a carriage was waiting for him at the edge of the park, and I watched his coachman help him in and wrap him in a cloak.


It took me weeks to find out who he was. Lord M-, a business man with powerful friends. Discrete and wealthy.  And it took me even longer to find out where Mary was, hidden away in a small flat in Highgate, but if you persevere you eventually discover things, and I had nothing else to do with my time.


One Sunday morning I knocked at the entrance.

“I have come to see Hannah. I am her brother”, I told the slatternly woman who answered the door. She glared at me and then without a word she went upstairs, and eventually she returned looking at me very suspiciously, but she let me in, and I went upstairs, and there she was, pale and tired but Mary.

“I knew it was you,” she told me, “I knew that you would come.”

I held her tightly and she seemed to collapse into me.

“Come and see your son.”

And there he lay in the next room, dark and beautiful, lying quietly in his cradle.


“Come with me, come now.” I told her.

“But I can’t, he will find us.”

“We are opening up shops in Italy” I told her, “I am going to Napoli, I can go next week, it is all ready for us.”

“But he will find us; he has men everywhere.”

“You cannot keep running forever. One day he will be tired of you and will leave you. Come with me and start a new life, whilst we can. He is old and feeble, you cannot stay with him.”

She looked shocked at my description of the man, as if she had not realised, how he appeared. And suddenly she seemed to make up her mind and packed a bag whilst I gathered up our son. We hurried out of the flat, the old woman shouting after us.

“Where will we go?” she asked, as we sat together on the omnibus.

“I have a friend who will let us stay” I told her, “we will be safe from him at least for a few days and then we will be off.”





We got on the ferry at Dover with no problems, although Mary was convinced that we were being stared at, but there was nobody I recognised. We had borrowed clothes from my friend Nathan and his wife and looked like Jewish pedlars back off to Eastern Europe. And we spoke little and tried to hide amongst the other passengers, but in the end if anyone was after us, they knew that there were three of us and our ages, and no disguise could hide that.


She huddled close to me, whilst I held onto Moshe; a suitable composition for one of those sentimental painters which are so popular.

“Don’t worry; we will be met in Calais and then by coach to Italy.”

But as France drew nearer, she became more and more nervous and so did I, pacing about the deck, and looking into the grey sea below us. And then as drew into the harbour at Calais I could see three figures staring out to sea, waiting for the boat to land; and I knew that they were Mary’s lover and two other men, standing, watching the boat intently. And then Mary saw them too, and clung to me with a moan.

“What shall we do?”

“They can’t just take us.” I said, not truly believing it, having invested the old man with the same powers that Mary had.


We saw an old couple; French by the look of it who looked friendly or at least kind, and we stood close to them as we disembarked. They seemed a respectable and wealthy couple, and after glancing at each other, they allowed us stand closer to them, as if realising that we needed help.  We left the ferry together and were on French soil and there were the three men stood waiting for us; Lord M-, looking old and tired, and two younger men, glancing at each passenger as they walked past. And then they saw us coming towards us.

“Excuse me” Lord M- called out, with a voice redolent of privilege and of getting what it wanted, but also shaky and aged.

“These two and their baby, they are wanted.”


For a moment there was silence, and the bored looking customs officials, stirred and as if unsure what to do, and before they had chance to make up their minds the elderly French man looked at the three English men with impressive hauteur.

“Non monsieur.” And then he pushed us past them, with his wife glowering at them most fiercely.

But Lord M- made a run for us, no longer the respectable English squire, “get the man” he shouted, “the girl is mine”.


They came at us, and for a moment he had her, and I watched in horror as he manhandled her away from us, whilst the two men grabbed the baby and me. But then I watched as Mary seemed to embrace him and they stood glued together for a moment, until she let him go; he made the faintest of sounds and fell backwards and she let him fall. His two men, stood still in shock and then ran towards their master, forgetting all about Moshe and me.


In the confusion the Frenchman pulled Mary away from the prone figure on the ground, as she stood there in shock, and I followed them, the baby asleep in my arms. His carriage was waiting, and we were helped aboard, and were gone into the foggy morning, leaving behind chaos.


“I had a knife, I knew that I would need it. I could not let him take me.”

Mary was shaking, looking scared, slumped in my arms. Monsieur Alarie, looked at us, and in a mixture of French and English I told him what had happened. He tutted whilst his wife saw to Mary.

“I think your wife killed him”, he told me.  “It was all confusion, but they will try to look for you, but there is nobody behind us and Philippe rides quickly.”

“We are heading for Napoli” I told him.

He nodded, “good you might be safe there, I know of somewhere you can hire a coach….But for the moment just rest.”





Perhaps it was too good to last, perhaps the happiest days of our lives were roaming around the North of England; free and full of excitement; falling in love.  But even then he had been following us, ready to pounce.  Now in Napoli there was a shadow and Mary continued to be frightened, convinced her pursuer was not dead.


The shop did well, or at least enough for us to make a living and pay our three workmen, but soon Mary was asking to move.

“I cannot settle here; you are amongst your own people, but I am a gentile and so is our son.”

“But nobody has been rude, they have tried to make you welcome. You will get used to Italy, and at least it is hot. And you have talked of conversion.”

She looked at me; “they will never accept me. The looks they give me…, it is just that you don’t see.”

I wondered if this was true. Everything had been ready for us when we arrived and the tailors in our shop were polite and hard-working. I had enjoyed working hard and setting up the business, meeting our customers and selling our clothes. My previous life as a travelling showman seemed long ago, a youthful folly that I looked back on with embarrassment. But she and the baby were on their own during the day and perhaps she needed distraction to help her forget the past and man who had kept her and did not want to let her go.


When we explored about Napoli I saw her looking about her; nervously.

“He is dead.” I told her.

She just shook her head, but refused to talk about it. The city was beautiful and I loved walking around, far more than I had done in London, and I wanted this to be our home, to settle down. Moshe seemed to be thriving in it too; becoming brown and healthy, a little bambino. But Mary, just looked frightened all the time, frightened and scared; nothing like my sexy and confident assistant from her time on the stage, but then that had only ever been an act.


“Oh Mary, you are safe here,” I told her later in bed.

“Why do you call me Mary?” she asked, “my name is Hannah.”

“But that is the name you chose, and that evil man called you Hannah.”

“But Hannah is the name I was born with. When I was with you I was living a lie.”

There was silence, and I felt her anger and sadness.

“I want to leave here” she said after awhile, “take my son and go. You do want you want.”

“He is dead” I told her, “we watched him die.”

“No we watched him stumble; people like that do not die like that, if ever. He will find us, we need to keep one step ahead.”

I tried to console her, held her close, but then Moshe started crying and she went to him and by the time she returned I must have been asleep.


“Someone came looking for you” Andreo told me, “An Englishman. A Lord.”

I blanched.

“You just missed him. He said he would go to your apartment, that he knows where you live. Don’t you know him?” He asked seeing the expression on my face.

Without thinking I ran back the few streets to Hannah, remembering that time in London, when she disappeared. It was only when I reached our apartment that I realised I had been stupid and that he had no idea where I lived but had followed me to get to Hannah.  And then I heard a noise behind me, and then the largest pain in my head and I fell.


When I woke Hannah was sitting on the chair, whilst Moshe lay in her arms, trying to escape.

“He is in there” and she pointed to the bathroom, “I didn’t realise that he was so weak, you were right. He was so easy to kill this time.”

She looked at me calmly and with a faint smile on her face. And there in the bathroom he lay, so skinny and pathetic, but with more blood than I imagined that a thin old man could contain, spread out over the cold marble floor, already beginning to congeal.


“Come”, I told her, “we need to move him, I will get a couple of the boys from the shop.” Then all of a sudden, my head felt heavy and I sat down feeling sick, unable to move for a moment, but she looked at me.

“No, we need to leave him, I need to know where he is.”

“But he is dead, he is just a dead old man.”

“No my love, he will never die and I need to stay for when he rises again, and I will stab him again and again, to protect us all.”


And then, as I took our son out of her arms, she shivered violently; unable to ever get warm, despite the warmth of Italy and despite the warmth of my love.



Rate this story.

Copyright is reserved by the author. Please do not reproduce any part of this article without consent.


© Winamop 2023