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Sigmund Shaw: A Steampunk Adventure

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Chapter 2

Steal something?

That was not a request Sigmund thought he would ever hear from his sister and certainly not from her husband. Not that Sigmund wasn’t capable of thievery – he was very capable – but it was always on his own terms with the goal of providing for his family. No one had ever requested it, they never had to. But to be asked, and asked so bluntly, was surprising and a bit shameful.

He always assumed that his sister had shared his less than legal background with Jamison, but it was never talked about openly, not even insinuated. But now it was clearly out in the open. Sigmund was a thief, or, at least, had been a thief.

Pushing his shame aside, Sigmund asked with true wonderment, “Why would you need something stolen?”

Clearly struggling with the request, Jamison looked at Alexis, who gave a small nod of encouragement, and said, “It’s for Sarah. There is a chance she could walk.”

If Sigmund had been surprised before, he was dumbfounded now. It’s the greatest news that he could ever hope to hear, certainly the greatest motivation to do something illegal and overcome his conscience, but the news was impossible.

“Impossible,” Sigmund said half to himself. He had talked to countless doctors and many had examined Sarah, some even trying differing cures, but nothing was ever helpful. Most doctors simply told him that the situation was hopeless, that they all should be resigned to the fact that Sarah would never walk. Science was just too far behind her ailment.

Shaking his head in disbelief Sigmund continued, “You must be mistaken. There is no cure for Sarah. Oh, how I wish there was, but her condition is well beyond medicine.”

Alexis spoke calmly, soothingly, “Sigmund, please. Hear Jamison’s explanation.”

Sigmund started at his sister. She was clearly on the side of Jamison, which meant something – Alexis was no fool. Sigmund, carefully protecting himself from disappointment, resigned to the slightest possibility of the amazing revelation. He looked at Jamison and waited for him to explain.

“Let’s sit down.” Jamison and Alexis took the couch while Sigmund sat in the wing chair opposite them.

“Sigmund, like you, I have visited many doctors and have been given the same prognoses. I wouldn’t say that I’ve given up hope, but my optimism was near empty. Regarding this possible cure, I did not find it, it found me. You see, there is a man that started at my office recently, Jonathan Fitton. He is a kind man, helpful, a good worker. We became friends rather easily as we respected each other’s work ethic and amiable natures. Earlier this week he came to the office and was distracted, not his normal self at all. Being concerned for him as a friend and workmate I talked with him. He was flustered because of concern for his sister. She had an ailment from when she was young, a fall from a horse, that crippled her left leg. Jonathan found out about an Italian man, a doctor, who is doing remarkable procedures unlike any other of his scientific contemporaries. This doctor is currently in London and could help his sister. Of course, I thought that if he could help his sister, why not Sarah. I explained her situation, at which Jonathan said that the man could certainly help. As I said, Jonathan was in bad sorts the day he told me about all of this and that was because this remarkable healer was also remarkably expensive. He needed four-hundred pounds to get an appointment. It would be another four hundred for Sarah. To make matters worse, this Italian doctor is leaving London next week, so our timeframe is severely limited.”

Jamison paused at that point and looked down at the carpet between them. As if ashamed, he said, “Given a greater amount of time, I could raise that amount of money. But being that we have only a week, there is no way.” Returning his gaze to Sigmund, “This is why we’re asking you to steal something. It’s the only way to raise the money by next week. Believe me, I hate to ask you. I’ve never done an illegal thing in my life, but I would for this. I was even tempted to try myself, but Alexis talked me out of it, which is probably for the best. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

Sigmund leaned back in his chair and stared off into space to let it all sink in. A steam car passed by the front of the building, its lights flashing in the front window.

“Why haven’t I heard of him?”

“Apparently,” answered Alexis, “he caters almost exclusively to the rich.”

Sigmund thought, A doctor only know to the rich? Is that possible? Sigmund had seen quite a disparity between those who have a lot and those who do not; the privileges and opportunities that would never be afforded to those with meager resources. Why wouldn’t that apply to doctors and medicine? Poor families often couldn’t afford the most basic of help – even from those ghoulish men who call themselves doctors but are probably less talented than the local butcher. Was it really a stretch to think that this previously unknown layer of privilege existed?

Alexis, starting to get emotional at the very thought of her daughter being healed, locked eyes with Sigmund and implored, “Sigmund, you have provided so much for me and for Sarah. There is no denying that, nor would I try. I thought I would never have to look to you again for support, that you would be free of my burden.” She took a breath, choking back a sob. “But this is a chance that must be taken. Maybe this Italian doctor cannot help, but maybe he can! We must try, Sigmund. Please. We must.”

Sigmund nodded to himself. He knew she was right – if there was even the slightest possibility to help Sarah, it was worth every effort, regardless of price. Looking back at Jamison, he asked, “Can you trust this man? This Jonathan Fitton?”

“He is not a charlatan, if that is what you mean. He came to me having no knowledge of Sarah’s illness, for we hadn’t ever discussed it. I trust him completely. Our meeting each other – call it a coincidence, but I consider it providence.”

Sigmund knew his answer. Deep down he knew it the moment it was possible to help Sarah. He could never say ‘no’ to her. Taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, he said, “I will try.”

“Try?” Alexis asked alarmed.

“I cannot guarantee success. My talents are a little rusty but that is not my true concern. The timeframe is the problem. Locating something of value that I can get at can be time consuming. Perhaps I will find an opportunity tomorrow, or perhaps it will take a month – I have little control over that.”

“Oh, you must, Sigmund! You just must!”

Making a promise that he wasn’t sure he could keep, he looked her in the eyes and in his most confident voice said, “I’ll find a way.”

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