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Previous Chapter - Chapter 6: There is No Other Path in Life

Next Chapter - Connecting Chapter: The Police Can Do Nothing

Synopsis Edit

Jacuzzi Splot walks through the pouring rain down a major New York street. With tears in his eyes, he wonders if his friends are worried and considers calling them. Rail teases him and tells him to pull himself together lest he be snubbed. Jacuzzi states that no matter how much people might mock him, he'll do whatever it takes so long as his friends are safe. Rail wonders if he has any pride.

Behind Rail, Christopher Shouldered remarks that everyone needs to stand a little teasing. The narrative quickly recaps how the "motley band" headed off together for Firo Prochainezo's casino, with Ronny Schiatto taking the lead. At the moment, Isaac & Miria should be back at The Alveare receiving their jobs from Molsa Martillo. It also recounts how Ricardo Russo told Jacuzzi that the Russo Family currently holds no hostility towards Jacuzzi's gang.

Jacuzzi privately worries about Ladd Russo as they walk. Christopher recounts an ancient torture involving live mice, much to Jacuzzi's terror. Ricardo invites Rail and the others over to his (her) apartment for the evening, but Rail scoffs at the offer and at Ricardo's apparent drive to revive the Russo Family all on her own. Ricardo mutters that it might be better if they all didn't visit Firo's casino after all, only to change tunes and suggest that they hurry there as fast as possible.

1935-A Ch7 Annie

"Annie" speaks with Ennis and Czeslaw Meyer.

Behind Jacuzzi and co., Ennis covertly follows them on the way to Firo's casino (she is concerned that Christopher will do something outrageous). Czeslaw Meyer hails her and asks why she's following the group. Not just her - both people present. At his callout, "Annie" (secretly a vessel of Hilton) emerges from hiding, and Ennis recognizes her as one of the Alveare's waitresses.

Annie admits that she followed Ennis out of the Alveare since Ennis looked upset earlier. Ennis apologizes for the trouble, watching Jacuzzi disappear out of the corner of her eye. Annie asks what Firo is to Ennis, and Czes realizes that Annie must have a crush on Firo.

Ennis is nonplussed by Annie's question ("family," she says), and Czes simply sits back and watches Annie start a one-sided rivalry with a completely oblivious Ennis.

Meanwhile, Sham shares his concerns over the events that are about to "go South" in Firo's casino with Ricardo, whose consciousness he shares. Part of his concern stems from the fact that his vessel Shaft is currently driving Ladd, Graham Specter, Lua Klein, and Nader Schasschule to the casino itself. Sham is highly nervous over the chaos that will ensue should Christopher and Graham reunite, the latter of whom is currently giving Shaft directions to the casino (while recounting his fights with Nicola Cassetti).

Sham has Shaft suggest that Ladd go see his old friend Who before he visits Firo, vaguely alluding to brewing trouble. Ladd is pleased to learn that Who is still alive, and he agrees to Shaft's plan. Sham's relief is short-lived; Ladd hands Nader a wad of cash and asks him to warm up the roulette in the meantime. After a show of disbelief, Nader reluctantly acquiesces, and Shaft drops him off at the casino.

Inside the casino, Nader spots a teenaged looking fellow (Firo) surveying the crowd from an office window. Nader briefly considers getting Firo to like him (earning him an 'in' with the Martillo Family) and immediately panics, cursing himself for nearly reverting to his old con-man ways. He resolves to leave the world of crime behind after gambling to his heart's content today, disappearing somewhere to where Huey Laforet's minions cannot find him.

Inside the office, Luck Gandor asks Firo what the matter is. Firo points out Nader to Luck and says that he's been acting odd (Nader smacked himself in the face earlier), though Luck isn't very concerned. Firo admits his nerves are jangled after receiving an invitation from the Runorata Family to to come to their casino party at Ra's Lance - an invitation that the Gandor Family also received. Luck notes that it's an invitation they can't ignore as much as they might want to.

The narrative flashes back to a few days before: Molsa had talked to Firo about the new skyscraper Ra's Lance and the illegal casino inside it, and he was the one to inform Firo about the Runoratas' invitation. Molsa had explained that all the mafia outfits received one, and that while his guts tells him to refuse he doesn't think the Family has a choice in the matter. Since Firo is the one in charge of the Martillo casino, Molsa will let him decide whether or not he wants to personally deal with the situation.

After a long night of hesitation, Firo finally agreed to go to the party himself out of a need to be useful to the Family. He and everyone else are sure the party is a trap - what else would it be? Considering the possibility of a police raid, Firo told Molsa to completely disassociate Firo with the Family should he be thrown into prison. Molsa agreed: He wouldn't say a thing - just slit Bartolo Runorata's throat himself.

Back in the present, Firo complains about the Runoratas to Luck, and the two confer about the Runoratas' motives. Firo can't believe his luck: he finally got out of Alcatraz, only to be tangled up in this nonsense.

Out on the floor, Nader pretends to take a break as a pretense for observing the other gamblers. After ten minutes of consideration (he decides not to play cards, since his prosthetic hand would be clumsy and attention-drawing), he decides to start off with the roulette. Before he can do anything, however, Melvi Dormentaire approaches him and remarks that he is acting strange. Nader instantly flings up his hands to protect his throat and chest. Melvi comments on his 'interesting' reflexes, and apologizes for startling him. He offers Nader one of his slot machine tokens (the cheapest kind) as another apology.

Nader attempts to decline, but Melvi insists he give it a spin. Nader cautiously thanks him, apologizes, and inserts the token into the nearest slot machine. He is essentially ignorant about the new machines, and waits vacantly for the reels to stop.

And then he hits the jackpot.

[7][7][7]

The machine bursts into loud celebratory music, drawing everyone's attention to Nader.

On the stairs, Jacuzzi (just arriving) cringes at the din, not recognizing the sound. Ronny remarks that someone must have just won the slot machine jackpot, much to Jacuzzi's envy. Ronny is bitter in contrast, since the House (aka the Martillos) don't exactly like jackpots. He continues down the stairs.

Inside the office, Firo swears - he knew Nader was up to something. Luck thinks it's a coincidence, but Firo points out that a) Nader is completely shady, and b) The Jackpot is only supposed to happen once every ten days or so on all of the slots combined. And the last jackpot was just yesterday. Firo assures Luck that he's just going to go out and congratulate the guy to make sure everything's kosher.

Outside, Nader freezes in shock at the sight of tokens spilling forth from the machine. Melvi leads the other gamblers in a round of applause, much to Nader's discomfort. He knows his luck isn't this good, not a loser like him. It dawns on him that Melvi may have set him up, and that he is about to be drawn into something much bigger than he can handle.

1935-A - Nader and Firo

Nader Schasschule sees that Firo Prochainezo is not pleased to hear Ladd Russo's name.

Firo approaches Nader and congratulates him; Nader is confused that the 'kid' is talking to him. Firo introduces himself and explains that he is the manager before thanking Nader for his good luck. Nader is taken aback that someone as young as Firo is the manager, and he stutters that Firo has it 'wrong.' Firo wants to know what he has wrong. Nader looks around for Melvi, but is horrified to find that the youth has disappeared into the crowd. He is sure now that Melvi "screwed him."

Firo asks Nader who introduced him to this casino, and Nader finally recognizes Firo's name as the buddy Ladd was referring to earlier. He smiles widely and informs Firo that it was Ladd, assuming that the connection will save him. Instead, Firo's smile freezes (much to Nader's alarm). Firo coldly asks Nader if that means that Ladd has been released.

In front of the casino, Ennis, Annie and Czes loiter outside the building as Ennis dithers on whether or not she should enter the establishment (she doesn't want to interfere with Firo's work). Annie forcefully encourages her to go inside. While the two women talk, a man barrels between them and down the stairs. Czes finally gets their attention and points out that that man was carrying a gun.

Inside the casino, Jacuzzi and Christopher clap alongside the other gamblers in polite celebration on Nader's behalf. Ronny watches Firo and Nader from the foot of the stairs, and Rail and Ricardo share a sober look. Jacuzzi is envious over Nader's win, and Rail smirks that Nader doesn't look very happy about it before asking if that "kid" with him is supposed to be Firo. Ronny quietly advises Rail not to call Firo a kid to his face, since it's something of a complex on his part.

Rail is honestly surprised that Ronny is implying Firo is actually older than them and Ricardo. Ronny opens his mouth to reply, but at that moment the casino employee standing guard at the door tumbles down the staircase. Jacuzzi shrieks, drawing the attention of Firo. Firo looks over and is shocked to see Christopher in the casino. Christopher waves.

Seconds later, a man carrying a tommy gun hurtles down the stairs. Firo recognizes him as the cheat he'd thrown out of the casino earlier. The cheat fires a slew of bullets into the ceiling, causing the patrons to panic. Ronny reaches for his knife, but stops as Ennis flies down the stairs and lands a kick on the man's collarbone, plucking the gun out of his hands. The collarbone cracks, and the man passes out as she slams the butt of his gun into his mouth.

The patrons clap enthusiastically for Ennis their savior. She is just relieved to see that Firo is unhurt, as Firo is with her. Christopher is the only discontent person in the room. Firo stiffens when he spots Ronny (the older exec has just witnessed him 'screw up') and he addresses the entire room with authority. He apologizes for the disturbance and warns them that the police may be drawn by the gunshots, so the casino will now be closing.

The customers panic at the thought of the police; some scramble for the exchange counter while others dash for the exit. Firo unhappily thinks that he's about to lose half of his clientele. He and Ennis exchange relieved words, and Christopher glibly comments on what a disaster that all was. Firo is not pleased to see him. Next to Christopher, Ricardo introduces himself and explains that he and Christopher will be working as Firo's subordinates by Molsa's orders.

The name 'Russo' reminds Firo of Ladd and Nader, and he spots Nader at the exchange counter trying to get cash for his tokens. Firo dashes towards him.

Outside, Annie and Czes watch as the customers pour out of the casino and scatter down the street. Meanwhile, Ladd, Graham, Lua, and Shaft arrive on the scene, and Ladd asks them if the 'firecrackers' he heard came from the casino. Czes stiffens upon seeing Ladd, but Ladd ultimately does not recognize him (though he finds Czes familiar). Annie glares daggers at Ladd (Hilton's reaction), but Ladd of course does not know who she is. He enters the casino.

Inside, Firo blocks Nader from leaving the casino, his employees having tied up the cheat with the gun. Nader implores that he wasn't cheating, but Firo is more interested in Ladd at the moment. Nearby, Ricardo advises Christopher that he might want to turn around. He does, just in time to see a silver wrench spinning at him with incredible speed. The thrower of the wrench was Graham, who grins at Christopher from the staircase. Christopher deflects the wrench, and it lands on the hapless gunman cheat on the floor.

Graham launches into a rant about winning streaks, and he and Christopher fight (all the while talking about Graham's Sister). The few remaining patrons desperately try to escape, and Firo shouts at the two to stop. Ricardo advises him to leave the two alone, and turns his attention towards Ladd at the top of the stairs. Ladd is accompanied by Lua, whom Firo assumes is his fiancee. Ladd informs Firo that there's no stopping Graham when he's like this.

As Firo inches towards the fighters (hoping to stop them), Nader asks Ladd about his supposed visit to Who. Ladd replies that the clinic is takin' the day off, and he is impressed to see the large amount of cash in Nader's arms. He speculates that maybe Nader is a card shark, which once again draws Firo's suspicious attention. Nader denies cheating, pointing out that the big Chicago troublemaker is Pamela. Ladd recognizes the name; his uncle Placido Russo once put a bounty on her. Ricardo knows even more: apparently Pamela robbed a museum and is on the run from the police.

Ladd is pleased to see his cousin Ricardo, whom he has heard has inherited the Russo Family. He doesn't want the Family anyway, and besides - apparently all that's left of it is Ricardo and Christopher. He offers Ricardo a family discount should his cousin ever need him to perform a hit on someone. Ricardo declines, explaining that he (she) doesn't plan on following in Placido's footsteps. Ladd thinks that Ricardo is a better person than Placido, going for an honorable Mafia and all.

He then recognizes Jacuzzi in the corner, who stares at him with wide eyes. Jacuzzi pales when Ladd identifies him, and Ladd remarks on how the day is full of surprises. Not only did he finally see Firo again, he reunited with "the don of the Russos" and the Russos' famous bounty Jacuzzi. Ladd recalls Jacuzzi's threat to him back on the Flying Pussyfoot, much to Jacuzzi's dismay. Instead of begging for forgiveness, Jacuzzi instead shouts that he hopes Ladd is looking forward to retribution. Ladd calls him 'interesting' and says that he is glad he let Jacuzzi live back on the train.

1935-A Ch7 threeway fight

In the middle of fighting, Graham calls out to Ladd and asks him not to kill Jacuzzi, since he's Graham's friend. Christopher uses the opportunity to seize Graham's wrench and hurl it at Ladd. Jacuzzi shouts a warning, and Ladd spins 'round and deflects the wrench with his metal arm. The wrench flies towards Rail, only for Ennis to kick it away before impact. Graham wants to know why Chris attacked Ladd - Christopher replies that he'd just wondered what Graham would do if he attacked someone Graham cared about.

Ladd takes Christopher's actions as an opportunity for him to join the fray, and he and Christopher begin fighting, snapping the roulette table in half in the process. Rail pulls something (probably a bomb) out of their pocket to aid Christopher while Graham protests that Christopher is his, not Ladd's.

Christopher seizes a splinter from the roulette as Ladd prepares to strike him with his metal arm. Firo realizes that one of them is about to die no matter what, and he prepares to throw himself in between the two of them to take the hit.

Out of the blue, the celebration music signalling a slot machine jackpot rings out across the room. Everyone looks towards the slot machines with nothing but doubt in their minds. By the machines in question stand a young man (who looks just on the cusp of outgrowing teenagehood) and a taller, bearded man wearing thick glasses and a low hat. Firo thinks the younger one looks familiar, but can't place from where.

The youth smiles warmly and claps as the music comes to an end, congratulating everyone on the room for their interesting show. Ladd asks who he is, and the youth introduces himself as Melvi with a bow. Ladd insults the name, and asks why doesn't he pay for the show if he liked it that much. Melvi considers this, and scoops up a handful of the tokens flowing from the machine as an offering. Ladd scoffs, and Graham (with a sharp breath) turns to the recently arrived Shaft and Lua and warns them that the situation is 'bad.' Melvi is the sort of person Ladd hates the most.

Melvi gives Ladd a troubled smile, and inserts tokens into slot machines two through six. All five of them land on jackpots. The celebratory music is cacaphonic, and Firo grits his teeth. All seven machines going off on the same day is impossible - Melvi has cheated. The atmosphere turns tense, but Melvi counters it with an affable smile. He spreads his arms wide as the cacophony plays and the tokens spill from the machines, as if to symbolize that he is the master of them.

When the noise finally stops, he explains to Firo that he'd wanted to see more of their 'show,' but he had to stop it otherwise he wouldn't have had time to greet Firo - and of course, Firo will be coming to see his show in turn.

Outside the casino, Czes stops Annie from entering the casino, much as she wants to. Mary Beriam arrives on the scene and immediately recognizes him, and he recognizes her as the girl he'd interacted with on the Flying Pussyfoot - now a few years older. She is happy to see him, and expresses gratitude for his actions back on the train. Behind Mary Carzelio Runorata asks if Czes is the one who saved her back on the Flying Pussyfoot, and then advises her to wait outside with Annie and Czes while he and his group 'visit Melvi.'

He enters the casino with Gabriel and Juliano and several other Runorata men and women. The group descend the staircase, and Melvi (with a fake smile) politely greets Cazze at the bottom of the stairs. Melvi formally introduces himself to Firo as a casino dealer who will be working at the Runoratas' soon-to-be-opened casino. Cazze eagerly thanks Firo for joining their festivities.

Firo asks Melvi if all of this mayhem was his idea of a 'greeting,' and Melvi shrugs and admits that he was looking forward to seeing how Firo would deal with the cheater (Nader), the slot machines, and the cheat with the gun. He calls the results 'exhilarating,' and then says that he has run out of time to chat. Firo again wonders why Melvi looks so familiar.

Ladd, meanwhile, has pinpointed Melvi as someone who thinks he definitely won't die, thanks to his connection with the Runoratas. Melvi agrees that he certainly won't die, and certainly not by the likes of Ladd. Filled with bloodlust, Ladd leaps towards Melvi with the intention of punching him with his metal prosthetic.

The bearded man by Melvi's side grabs Ladd's arm with one hand and slams him into the wall. Ladd proceeds to attack the man, who in turn dodges every single one of Ladd's attacks before sending him to the ground with one hit. Firo is very impressed with the bearded man, but Luck is not, having seen right through the man's disguise.

The man removes his beard, hat and glasses -- he is in fact Felix Walken, formally known as Claire Stanfield. He sheepishly informs Firo that he's fighting for the other side this time.

Elsewhere in New York Huey and Chané Laforet continue their long overdue reunion in Chané's secret apartment. Huey has heard that Chané has a lover - someone that he finds fascinating. He explains that he has already met Felix, and that the two of them made a contract together.

1935-A Ch7 Recognition

Ladd Russo recognizes Felix Walken.

Back in the casino, Felix explains that he's contracted to Huey to act as Melvi's bodyguard. Firo has countless questions for Felix, but they're rendered moot when Ladd explodes in furious recognition of his hated nemesis. He is filled with bloodlust - in contrast, Felix is pleased to see that both Ladd and Lua are still alive. Lua pales in recognition of his face. He apologizes for using her back on the train, but then notes that she probably expected she'd run into trouble associating with Ladd.

Ladd immediately launches into another fight with Felix, and Christopher makes to join in - only to end up fighting Graham, who warns him that this is Ladd's fight. Luck calmly advises Firo to usher his employees outside the building, along with the children and Ennis. Firo looks towards the stairs, and spots Nader fleeing up them and out the door. Furious that the "one who started everything" is runing away, Firo makes to shout at him. At his side, Melvi suggests he leave trash like Nader alone.

Firo snarls at Melvi with unbridled hatred, and Melvi whispers in his ear that he's just revealed the real 'him,' which won't do. A dealer must always keep his poker face. Firo warns him that were he not with the Runoratas Firo would send him to the bottom of the Hudson. At any rate, he knows now that Melvi is obviously planning something for the party.

Melvi proposes that the two of them play a 'game' at the party. Firo supposes he wants to steal Martillo turf or money, but instead Melvi takes a deep and leans in close, speaking so that only Firo can hear. He claims that what he wants is the knowledge of Szilard Quates before biting his lip. Blood trickles down from the cut, only to retract back into the wound seconds later. The cut reseals.

He looks forward to a 'good match.'

Melvi calls out to Felix and informs him that they will be leaving soon, so playtime is over. Ladd gasps that the fight isn't over, but Felix corrects him. The fight never begun. He invites Ladd to try again sometime. Ladd picks up the baccarat table and prepares to throw it at Felix, only to freeze when Melvi pulls out a gun from his jacket and aims it at Lua. Immediately, Ladd's murderous intent transfers to Melvi, who smiles and pockets the gun once more. He calls that a 'warning,' and repeats his desire to put the confrontation on hold for now.

Ladd responds that in prison he swore that Felix and Huey would be the two people he'd definitely kill when he was freed. Melvi is now number three on his list. Melvi, Felix, and Cazze head for the stairs, and Cazze quickly apologizes to Firo for the damage and offers to pay for the repairs. At the bottom of the stairs, Melvi whispers to Ronny that he's only concerned with Firo, not the Martillo Family. Ronny notes that starting a fight with Firo means starting a fight with the Family no matter what. Melvi takes his first step onto the staircase.

Outside the casino, Nader cradles the money in his jacket and spots Mary and Czes talking to each other. The scene reminds him of his childhood promise with Sonja Bake to be a hero, and he considers returning the money to the casino to clear his conscience. Annie glares at him, and walks forward so that only Nader can hear what she has to say. Then, Hilton (through Annie) asks out loud what Nader is doing here. Nader recognizes Hilton's tone and blanches. Hilton accuses him of being involved in a certain Chicago incident, and declares that Hilton never forgives traitors.

Nader shrieks and runs away.

1935-A Ch7 Gretto-Maiza

Maiza Avaro recognizes Melvi Dormentaire's face as that of his brother, Gretto Avaro.

Maiza Avaro (freshly arrived) watches Nader flee and wonders briefly what is going on. He surmises that there is indeed trouble in the casino, and greets Czes and Annie (who are with Mary) at the entrance. He orders them to leave the premises and find shelter as quickly as they can before entering the casino himself.

At the top of the stairs, he spots Firo standing in the middle of his now utterly demolished casino. Maiza hurries down the steps in concern (calling out to Firo), but just as he reaches the last step, he passes Melvi. Melvi excuses himself, nods, and vanishes up the stairs followed by his entourage. Maiza stares after him in shock, muttering the name of his deceased brother - Gretto Avaro - under his breath.

As soon as Firo hears Gretto's name, he realizes that the reason Melvi looks so familiar is because he shares the same face as Gretto, whose memories Firo now possesses via Szilard.

Outside the casino, Czes takes off as soon as Felix emerges from the casino entrance. Cazze escorts Mary to their car (he has a letter from Bartolo to give to her father Manfred Beriam). Tim (who'd been standing by the car) approaches Melvi and confronts him over his actions. Gabriel and Juliano do not move, since they know who Tim is. Melvi assures Tim that he won't do anything that is forbidden and that he will fulfill all his orders - as long as he does that, he's free to do whatever he wants just like the rest of Huey's followers. He and Tim express mutual loathing for one another before he heads for his own car.

Melvi mutters that he is only following his "master's" instructions.

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