Nader Schasschule (ネイダー・シャズクール, Neidā Shazukūru) is a con artist and ex-member of the Lemures, following his failed coup against Lemur leader Goose Perkins in 1931. He attaches himself to Eve Genoard in 1935 in order to worm his way into Ra's Lance, where he plans to take down Huey Laforet and the Runoratas.
Nader has naturally blond hair, but by 1935 he has dyed it black and hides his blond roots with a hat. His attempted murder in 1931 leaves him with visible burns on his face, neck, and left hand, and costs him his right hand. He now wears a realistic metal prosthetic in place of his right hand, and typically conceals his burns with natural makeup.
Nader was a dreamer in his youth, wishing fancifully that he could become a hero that would protect Sonja from any dangers.
In his teens, however, Nader grew to crave strength, the type of strength that would allow him to do whatever he pleased. He had no compunctions about throwing himself into the criminal world, leeching off strong individuals so as to gain more power for himself. Such actions stroked Nader's ego, leading him to believe he could pull off bigger and bigger heists.
Nader has described himself as having a "silver tongue" - which likely has a kernel of truth to it, considering he was able to worm his way onto the good sides of several authority figures in the past.
In his early twenties, Nader's personality shifts as he becomes increasingly self-aware of his own failings, calling himself a "loser" and a "screwup." This is very much in part due to his recalling the childhood promise he'd made to Sonja, comparing the ideal he'd wanted to live up to at the time and the reality of himself now. He appears to honestly want to change his conniving practices, and he expresses constant discomfort with the dangerously violent ways of the people surrounding him. He also is extremely prone to succumbing to his fears and base instincts during this time, taking flight at the first opportunity he gets. His obvious fear of death is what endears him to Ladd Russo.
In 1935, Nader falls into a somewhat cyclical thought cycle, constantly feeling helpless and indecisive in the face of his own dilemmas, followed by swelling anger at Hilton and the Lemures for being relentless in their meaningless pursuit of him. Equally recurring is his desperate desire to identify when his life 'went wrong'.
Nader also has a habit of looking down upon others - including Doctor Fred as a hypocrite, the tramps and the homeless as "washouts" - which is almost certainly a hangover from his con artist days. Nowadays, however, Nader is quick to recognize such thoughts and chastise himself for being so dismissive.
It could also possibly be said that Nader has a vivid imagination, more than once succumbing to pseudo-delusions when he is in an overwrought or highly paranoid state.
Nader tends to set himself goals that are impossible to achieve without meeting certain difficult conditions, so as to ensure that he never has to see those promises/goals through. He is aware of his reliance on excuses to protect him, and he is aware that he has been relying upon excuses throughout his entire life - excuses to explain away his gambling failures, for example.
Nader was likely born around 1912, and grew up in a farming community on the outskirts of Chicago, helping his father out with the manual labor required to maintain their corn farm. During his childhood he became friends with his neighbor Sonja Bake, five years or so his junior. In 1924, Nader (in his early teens) observes Sonja carrying a heavy bag into the forest, and remarks on it to his father. His father advises Nader that it might be a good idea if he stays away from Sonja's family, since they've been acting odd lately. That same year, Nader (about twelve years old) promises to Sonja that he will become "a hero."
Still in his early teens, Nader flees his village (probably also in 1924) and makes his living as a con artist, leeching off the strong people like gang leaders and small time Mafia capos around him. He joins the Lemures right after his sixteenth birthday (so perhaps around 1928) and instead of earning favor with their master Huey Laforet he "[waits] on Goose hand and foot," waiting for an opportunity to benefit him. After Huey is arrested, he contacts Placido Russo, don of the Russo family, and proposes that he'll have the Lemures betray Goose and defect to the Russo family. Nader uses his 'silver tongue' to his advantage and begins turning the Lemures to his side, exerting intense relentless pressure on some of the more indecisive ones like Upham instead of giving up on them. To his growing allies, he promises that after they defect to the Russos they'll move on to take over the entirety of Chicago (by taking advantage of Capone's fall). In reality, he plans to use them to take over the Russo Family for himself.
On December 29, 1931, Nader is among the fifty plus Lemures who have been gathered by Goose Perkins in an abandoned factory south of Chicago for an important meeting. Goose announces that there are traitors in their midst, and asks that the traitors step forward to reveal themselves. All fifty of the Lemures smile and take one step forward; with a condescending smile Nader shouts, "how does it feel to be betrayed by everyone, Goose?" and pulls out a gun. He and Goose exchange barbs, and Nader freely informs him of their plan to take over Chicago via the Russos. Goose says that he'd looked into all the traitors and cuts off the exchange by raising his hand into the air, signaling for a bloodbath to commence. Twenty-odd Lemures in the front rows are gunned down by the thirty or so Lemures in the back rows, who proceed to point their guns at Nader.
Goose informs Nader that the 'traitors' he'd referred to earlier were the men who'd betrayed Nader, not the ones who'd betrayed him. Nader pulls out a black handgun from his pocket, only for Chané Laforet to completely sever his right hand from his arm with one of her knives. Agonized, Nader cries that he'd thought Chané had died when Huey was arrested. Goose stops Chané from killing him, opining that they shouldn't allow him a 'quick death.' Goose proceeds to tie Nader up and weld the factory doors shut, ordering his men to stop Nader's wrist from bleeding and to destroy the factory vehicles. After the Lemures vacate the premise, Goose orders Spike to snipe the white box outside the building. The box is set alight, and a minute later, the factory implodes.
Inside the factory, Nader shields himself from the blast with the corpses of his former allies, barely managing to escape with his life, albeit with severe injuries, including several permanent burns to his face, neck, and remaining hand. It is likely he would have died were it not for the aid of a doctor passing through the area.
Nader makes a deal with some of Victor Talbot's subordinates (who were chasing the Lemures): he'll help them in exchange for the wiping of his criminal record. On December 30, Nader and his police escort travel to Chicago's Union Station, the same station the Flying Pussyfoot is set to depart from that very night. Members of the Russo Family attack the escort while it is in transit, but a passerby (with his girlfriend as witness) risks his own life by springing to Nader's defense. Nader, reminded of his childhood promise to be a hero, shoots one of the Russos in order to protect the passerby from harm. The conflict comes to an end, and Nader rejoins the police escort.
He later joins the police in their investigation of the Flying Pussyfoot incident by the railroad, which leads to him discovering Goose crawling next to the tracks in a near-dead state. After restraining Goose with handcuffs, Nader proceeds to gloat about his deal with the police and the utter failure of the Lemures' cause. His hate-filled taunt that Goose was never cut out to be a soldier proves to be the last words Goose ever hears.
One of the nearby policemen hurries over, warning against any escape attempts, and Nader informs him of Goose's death. As Goose's corpse grows cold in the frigid wind, Nader walks away and muses over potentially returning home to work on his father's farm.
True to his word, Nader returns to the cornfields of his childhood in 1932, and he learns that Sonja has left home. He is disappointed out of loneliness, but also relieved that she will not see what a 'loser' he has become. The day after he returns home, tragedy strikes and the family's barns and cornfields burn to the ground. Nader goes to his old room in his still-standing family home, and finds a note from Hilton on his bed: "Why don't you tremble in fear for a change like the traitor you are, dear?
Panicked at the thought that one of Huey's messengers is stalking him, Nader flees from the house and runs until he reaches the main street of his hometown. He is relieved by the sight of familiar faces, and suspects nothing when he is approached by a little girl; however, his fear returns with a vengeance when the girl – a vessel of Hilton – threatens his life. He immediately hightails it to the local police station and begs the officers to lock him away.
Nader spends the next three years in protective custody, and is released in 1935 outside a New Jersey prison alongside Ladd Russo, an ex-prisoner of Alcatraz. Ladd remarks that he does not recall seeing Nader in prison, at which Nader demurs and says that he saw Ladd 'plenty.' Ladd calls him out on his lie, though he is not particularly bothered by the falsehood, and introduces himself.
Upon hearing Ladd's name, Nader crumples to the ground and shameless pleads for his life. Nonchalant, Ladd hoists him to his feet and assures Nader that he is mere 'small fry'. Furthermore, the Russos hate Ladd just as much as they hate Nader, which Ladd sees as reason enough for the two of them to become 'pals.'At Ladd's prompting, Nader reluctantly admits his real name. It turns out that Ladd has never heard of him, but he already had no interest in killing Nader in the first place. Only slightly reassured, Nader requests to be left alone on the grounds that associating with Ladd could place him in the Russos' crossfire.
Appreciative of Nader's fear, Ladd compares Nader to his cowardly childhood friend Who – and Nader is simple envious that Ladd has friends at all.
Ladd changes the subject to the Flying Pussyfoot, since it is obvious Nader knows more about it than he cares to admit. While the two walk, he wraps an arm around Nader's shoulders and whispers that they are being followed: by his count, there are at least two men in a car and three pretending to make conversation at a street corner – though it is possible that there are competent ones unaccounted for.
Once they reach a deserted street, Ladd releases Nader and picks up a brick lying on the ground. The black car that has been tailing them slowly trundles down the road, but Ladd ignores Nader's suggestions for escape plans and throws the brick at a breakneck speed into the car's windshield. A fray ensues, during which time Ladd clambers onto the vehicle's roof and punches through it with his metal arm, simultaneously pulling Nader upward with his free hand. The ruckus ends when the car crashes into the wall of a house, knocking both the driver and his comrade out on impact.Ladd, with Nader in tow, approaches a nearby vehicle and asks its driver if he can spare a seat or two. The driver turns out to be Shaft, who conveniently is accompanied by Graham Specter and Lua Klein. While Ladd has a cheerful reunion with his friends, Nader collapses to the pavement. As he lies on the ground, the rain washes off his concealing makeup.
Nader is hustled into the car's passenger seat, and the group of five continue on their way. Ladd takes the opportunity to catch up on four years worth of family news, including the fact that Placido has been run out of Chicago and is likely deceased. He tells Nader that he is lucky, and Nader shudders, wondering where he went wrong in life. As he reflects on his life choices, he blames Huey for his life being "screwy" and expresses discomfort with Huey's personality (he realizes that he did not betray the Lemures for the sake of climbing the Russo ladder, but because he was terrified of Huey instead).
Struggling to find an answer, Nader wonders why he became a con man in the first place and reasons that if he had to pick the critical junction in his life, becoming a con man just might fit the picture. He muses on his own motives: He had always wanted strength, never caring whether it was legitimate or criminal as long as it was enough to do whatever he wanted. Through using the strength of others, by "taking their skin and wearing it as his own," he had convinced himself he would someday find true strength on his own. Both Sonja and the 'weirdo from Union Station cross his mind.
After brooding some more, Nader tunes back into the surrounding conversation. According to Shaft, Ladd's (first) cousin (1x removed) Ricardo Russo is still alive. Ladd flippantly recalls how Ricardo's parents died and Nader fights the urge to drop his head into his hands, lamenting that all they talk about is violence.
Graham (who is perched atop the roof of the car) taps on Ladd's window and informs the group that there is a long line of cars behind them. Shaft drives closer to the curb so that the line of eight expensive cars can pass by, followed by a large truck and two motorcyclists. Ladd takes interest at the prospect of money, and urges Shaft (who identifies the entourage as probably Runorata) to ram into the cars. Shaft objects both to the violence and the possibility of death, and Nader looks at him fondly before comparing him to the likes of Lua, Ladd, and Graham.
Concluding that this is a car that he should not be in under any circumstances, but that he needs information nonetheless, he asks Shaft about the Runoratas. Shaft explains that the Family is cutting into a turf war between some of the local Families, making many enemies in the process. Rumor has it that a huge secret casino is planned for the Runoratas' large hotel in New York.
Ladd perks up, having remembered that a prison buddy called Firo Prochainezo mentioned being a casino manager. He proposes to Nader that they find Firo casino and bet their life savings there. Graham gives Shaft directions to the Martillo casino in question – he knows where it is because he once "hit the jackpot" there when he was broke. Shaft is dubious, and Graham clarifies that he had knocked out a man in possession of money. The three-way conversation between Shaft, Graham and Ladd shifts to the topic of Who, and Shaft offers to drive Ladd to the clinic Who works at.
Shaft's idea is taken in stride, and Ladd hands a thick wad of cash to Nader and asks him to "warm up to the roulette" for him in advance. At Nader's confusion, Ladd clarifies that he does not care if Nader wins or loses so long as he "makes a show of it." The possibility that Nader might simply take the money and run is a non-issue, as far as he is concerned.
Nader is further convinced of Ladd's abnormal personality, and that he is completely terrified by him. Ladd also adds that he would like to ask Nader a few questions about the Flying Pussyfoot, but that he will not press the matter if Nader flees. Nader interprets this as "if you run I'll kill you," not fully comprehending that Ladd has a policy of not killing friends. As he asks Ladd if he can at least keep the winnings, he internally acknowledges his 'deplorability.'
A few minutes later, Nader enters the Martillo casino and takes stock of its operations. Upon spying a young, baby-faced man (Firo) in the casino's office, he briefly considers endearing himself to Firo as a means of integrating himself with the Martillos – but as soon as he realizing he is smiling he backpedals, scolding himself for reverting back to the type of thinking that landed him in trouble in the first place. Nader resolves to spend spend the day gambling to his heart's content, and that tomorrow he will abandon the criminal world, fade into the cityscape and look for a legitimate job on the basis that Huey's followers will not be able to find him in a large city. Deep down, however, he is aware that he will likely not be able to escape while still in the underworld's clutches.
After an unknown period of time, Nader moves to a corner of the casino and pretends to be on break, using the opportunity to watch the other gamblers and consider his options. His prosthetic hand cannot perform the precise movements necessary for card games, and he does not want to draw more attention to himself by solely using his left hand. It takes him ten minutes to decide on trying roulette, at which point he is approached by Melvi Dormentaire and asked if something is the matter. Nader's hands instinctively move to protect his throat and chest; Melvi comments upon his 'interesting' reflexes, apologizes for startling him, and hands over the cheapest token for the slot machine. Nader refuses, but Melvi assures him to think of it as his lucky token.
Nader grudgingly accepts the gift and inserts it into the slot machine. The reels come to a halt: . The machine bursts into celebratory orchestral music at the jackpot, tokens spilling from its mouth. Inevitably, everyone's attention is drawn to Nader's win, and Melvi leads the patrons in a round of congratulatory applause. Nader cannot believe a 'loser' like him won fair and square, and suspects Melvi of setting him up for something. Firo emerges from the office and offers his own congratulations, introducing himself as the manager of the casino. Nader is highly confused, since Firo looks far too young to be a manager.
Nader turns to inculpate Melvi, paling when he finds Melvi gone. When Firo asks him who introduced him to the casino, he smiles and names Ladd on the assumption that the namedrop will save him – but Firo's own smile only freezes, and he coldly asks Nader if Ladd has been released from prison. Before Nader can figure out the 'right' answer, their conversation is interrupted by a "violent noise" from the entrance and a screech from Jacuzzi Splot, who is upstairs outside the casino. A moment later, a widely grinning Christopher Shaldred emerges from the staircase.
Not long afterward, a man who had earlier been thrown out for cheating bursts into the casino with a newly-acquired tommy gun. He fires the gun at the ceiling, scattering the casino patrons, but a woman in a black suit races down the stairs and dispatches him with minimal fuss. The patrons are immensely relieved.
Firo apologizes to the crowd for the disturbance, warning them that the police might be on their way due to the gunshots. The patrons' mass scramble for the exit diverts Firo's attention long enough for Nader to sneak over to the exchange counter, intending to exchange his chips for cash. However, Firo notices and reaches him right as he is accepting the money. Nader denies that he cheated (despite Firo not broaching the subject) but Firo waves the concern to the side as he is far more interested in Nader's connection to Ladd.
At the sound of another commotion, the two turn and find Christopher and Graham in a stand-off. Firo's attempts to call off the fight go unheeded, and are temporarily interrupted by the arrival of Ladd and lua. Once Firo's attention returns to the fight, Nader tries asking Ladd about Who and the Clinic. However, Ladd is so impressed by Nader's money (ten times the original amount Ladd gave him) that he asks if Nader used to be a cardsharp.
The epithet catches Firo's attention in a damning way, and Nader can only desperately insist that he did not cheat, that the the big Chicago troublemaker is Pamela and not him.
Jacuzzi enters the casino a few minutes later, and when Ladd asks if he plans on following through on his threat to make the Russos pay in 1931, answers in the affirmative. Nader is utterly stunned by his response. The scene is thrown into disarray again by the reappearance of Melvi and his bodyguard (a disguised Claire Stanfield); Melvi wins the jackpot on all the remaining slot machines, causing a cacophony of noise to fill the area.
When the casino devolves into chaos, Nader seizes his chance and successfully flees the casino, using his jacket to cradle his won money. At the same time, he realizes this is also a chance for him to change as a person.
Two children called Czeslaw Meyer and Mary Beriam are conversing outside the casino when he exits the building, and their presence reminds him of his childhood and his promise to be a hero. Guilt-ridden, he tentatively decides clear his conscience by returning the money to the casino.
He is stopped by Annie before he can re-enter the building, who reveals herself to be a HIlton vessel. With a shriek, Nader tears down the street in a flurry of survival instincts. The extraordinary sight of several seaplanes flying overhead completely overwhelms him to the point of deliriousness, where he wonders if he somehow fell into Wonderland or was even dreaming underneath the Chicago factory rubble.
As he wallows in delusions he might just want to be real, and with tears welling in his eyes, he silently begs for someone to tell him what to do.
Eventually, Nader encounters a group of homeless men returning home to a lodging facility from their construction work on Ra's Lance, and joins them in their commute. Once they arrive at the facility, Nader talks to a food distribution worker, secures lodgings at the poorhouse, and later buys a pillow from a nearby store and replaces the cotton with the casino cash. Despite his room's cheap furnishments and the constant surrounding noise from neighbors. Nader considers it better than "the last one," a hive of thugs and prostitutes that lacked for light and was prone to fires.
Safe for the time being, Nader wearily considers his situation with a slightly more level head. He is downright miserable over the fact that, despite resolving to stop lying to and deceiving his superiors, he has now lied about being poor just so he can live in the facility.
While stuffing his pillow with money, Nader once again wonders how his life had come to 'this' and what would count as his first scam. His thoughts inevitably turn to the singular vow he made to Sonja back when he was twelve years old; now that he is older, it seems obvious that the vow was a scam; however, he wants to believe that he did not mean to lie at the time. His dream had been to protect Sonja and be her hero, but instead he had become a failed, clichéd con man, a (failed) traitor to a terrorist group, and was now ensconced in a poorhouse.
Nader tries to clearly picture Sonja's face, which after ten to eleven years has become blurred in his memory. As he loses himself in his memories, hoping to allay his fears, Sonja's blurred face warps into Annie's. Annie, her face full of hatred, snarls, "death to traitors," and he jolts awake and falls off the bed. Upset at having his memory replaced by Annie/Hilton, Nader curses Hilton and the Lemures and wishes that they would leave him alone.
Calming down, Nader entertains the idea escaping Manhattan entirely - and swiftly discards it Option two: He sticks with the lot of tramps and the homeless and continues to lurk in the city's shadows. Option three: he uses his new mini-fortune to finance a new enterprise in the middle of the Depression, although this option will sink if he should happen across a robber. Option four: he takes the money to a bank, except if he does it is likely the FBI will be suspicious at such a large deposit of money, not to mention it could make him known to Huey's information network.
Nader's thoughts spiral into a familiar pattern - he is wrought with indecisiveness ("what can I do?") and helplessly asks the sky why they still, after all these years, persisted in chasing after a "low level grunt" like himself. Nader decides he ought to get some rest, but is dismayed to realize he has no blanket at a time of year in which people can freeze to death, and he considers leaving the room to ask for one. Suddenly, he hears a rap at his door, and Nader instinctively hides the pillow behind his back, wildly speculating that it must be one of Huey's subordinates come to kill him. Irrationally, he considers jumping out the window despite the fact that he is on the third floor. The visitor asks through the door in a relaxed tone if Nader is alright--he'd heard a loud noise and wanted to check up on him." Nader apologizes, and the man tells him that he lives in the room directly below Nader, and works as an assistant manager at the facility. Nader cautiously goes to unlock the door, and sees that the man looks thin and rather unhealthy. Nader introduces himself as Goose, and the man responds in turn, introducing himself as Roy Maddock.
A few hours later, the intense drowsiness Nader had experienced dissipates. Tantalized by the smell of food from the downstairs cafeteria, Nader staggers in the direction of the smell, having not eaten anything since lunch the day prior. Roy greets him in the cafeteria, and informs him that since breakfast is included in Nader's rent, it's free. Roy takes both his and Nader's breakfast and sets them down on a nearby table, mentioning that Nader's lucky that the cafeteria is empty - yesterday several people were yelling about how the city was at war thanks to the planes flying overhead. The two discuss Dr. Fred (the facility's owner) and some of the more charitable big Chicago mafia families, Nader's prosthetic, and Roy's drug history. Roy asks Nader about his facial burns, and Nader vaguely explains that he'd been the target of a Mafia family.Roy reassures him that if the mafia comes after him, there are plenty of tough guys in the building who'll take them on. Dr. Fred doesn't discriminate on lodgers, and there's a tacit understanding in the hotel building that nobody will snitch on their fellow man.
Nader silently and derisively mocks Dr. Fred for being a hypocrite as he spoons his chili into his mouth, and to his surprise it is rather tasty (an opinion his shares with Roy). He's reminded of his hometown, and in the next instant he is disgusted himself for thinking so dismissively of the doctor who'd provided him with the food in the first place. At the same time, he is a little surprised at his own disgust, finding it odd that a man so used to betraying others would now be self-critical over such a minor point. Burdened by the debt of his past, a slave to his own karma, Nader knows that he definitely made a mistake somewhere along the way, and again he fruitlessly wonders where and why that was. Nader pushes his thoughts to the back of his mind and emphasizes his affinity for the chili. Roy laughs and tells Nader he should tell it to today's cook himself, who's here in similar circumstances to Nader.
Roy calls the cook over and says he'd like to introduce him to Nader, the 'newbie' who liked his cooking. Roy introduces Nader as 'Goose,' and as Nader momentarily freezes (realizing it was probably a bad idea to use his former boss' name as an alia) he asks Upham why he looks surprised. Nader tenses at Upham's name, and Upham slowly asks him if he could possibly be Nader Schasschule. Nader cannot believe that Upham of all people is here, remembering him as one of the first Lemur men Nader had proposed his plan of betrayal to. Nader violently knocks back his chair, drops his spoon and picks up a fork, the tines of which he holds to Upham's neck.
Nader testily asks Upham if Hilton had sent Upham to kill him; Upham, shocked, questions how Nader can be alive at all after what happened back in 1931. Nader, much more terrified than Upham is (despite the fork), shouts that there's no way a Lemur would be hanging around 'here' without orders from Hilton and silences Upham's protests that he quit the Lemures. Roy attempts to calm Nader down and break up the fight, but Nader, running on sheer paranoia, sinks back a little into delusion, entertaining the possibility that it just might be safer for him to kill Upham and go back to prison. He begins to apply pressure to the fork at Upham's throat, ignoring Upham's strangled pleas.
At the feeling of the cold barrel of a gun pressed to his temple, Nader freezes as the gun's owner - one Raz Smith - addresses him (with added comments by the man's apprentice, Mark Wilmans). Nader feels like he might have cried were he not completely frozen in fear, and Roy shouts that Raz is only making things worse. The confrontation is dispelled when Alkins, one of the drunk patrons of the facility, smashes a liquor bottle onto Nader's face, causing him to drop the fork and crumple to the ground in pain. Both Roy and Upham ask Nader if he's okay, and Nader miserably thinks that he'll never be able to become a hero before blacking out.
Nader proceeds to have a lucid dream of his childhood, back when the barn wasn't burnt down, and sees Sonja sitting on a swing, her face blurred. She asks Nader when he will become her hero, and asks excitedly about the men behind him. The men behind him, of course, are the Lemures holding Tommy guns, pointing their barrels at him. Nader weakly asks them to stop, and then hears a voice at his feet ("What are you telling us to stop, Comrade Nader?"), at which point the scenery is replaced with a vast wasteland. Railroad tracks now run under the swing, and at Nader's feet Goose Perkins crawls along the ground, his tongue torn out and dangling loosely as blood flows from his mouth. Nader understands that Goose has bitten off his own tongue in an attempt to commit suicide. Despite his tongue, Goose somehow manages to speak to Nader perfectly, his voice growing louder and louder. He suggests to Nader that Sonja is "in the way," and that Nader knows she is in the way, because if Sonja didn't exist there wouldn't be any promises for Nader to keep and he wouldn't have to feel as guilty as he does.
Sonja's swing begins to shake as two trains hurtle towards each other on the same track, and Goose continues hissing at Nader that if she weren't around, then Nader could just do what he's always done: take advantage of others for his own benefit. Nader feebly says that isn't true, staring as Sonja sits on the swing, smiling at him and completely oblivious to the trains hurtling toward her. Still, her face is mostly blurred. Nader kicks Goose and dashes towards Sonja at full speed, even as Goose says that "it's pointless. You won't make it in time. You're only pretending that you did all you could...then, isn't a con man like you just deceiving himself? You've done all you can, Comrade. You just lost to fate." Nader screams at Goose to "shut up," and reaches his right hand out to Sonja, believing that if he "took her hand and held her close he could remember her face."
A scrap of silver light obliterates his right hand, and Nader remembers too late that he no longer has a right hand. Blood spurts from his wrist, and in his peripheral vision a woman appears, a woman that Nader remembers perfectly. Observing him as if he were filth, Chané takes her bloody knife and goes straight for Nader's throat just as the trains collide into Nader simultaneously --
-- and Nader bolts upright into a sitting position in bed, screaming. He takes a good long look at his fake hand, and closes his eyes to take a deep breath. He hears Roy ask him if he's alright, and upon opening an eye, he sees Roy and Upham standing near his bedside. It is a little after midday, and Roy tells him that Upham filled him in on the whole Lemur business, and Nader, acting brave, asks Roy while he (Nader) is still alive. Upham lets out an enormous sigh and says that he's 'kinda' in the same situation as Nader, having abandoned the Lemures on the train and gone on the lam. He states that he'd never heard of Hilton until Nader brought her up. Nader still can't bring himself to believe Upham, but he recalls Upham's apparent concern for him in the cafeteria and apologizes for threatening to kill him with a fork. After all, Upham had betrayed him to Goose, so they might as well call it even. They exchange a few brief words and then Nader asks Roy if he will kick him out. He will not, as it turns out - there's nothing good that'll come out of the police visiting the facility anyway.
Nader's thoughts turn toward the waitress Annie/Hilton, and he asks Roy if he knows where she might work, describing her clothing. Roy names the Alveare, a restaurant run by the Martillos. Nader is highly unsettled at the mention of the Martillo family, barely comprehending that all the events he'd passed through were connected in some way. He conjures up a feeling/image of a 'great current of fate' brushing against his back, the same current that he'd ignored back in 1931 and subsequently lost him his right hand. Nader is faced with two choices. Option one: run away so as not to get caught up in the current. Option two: Potential getaway by riding it out. Indecisiveness tugs at him (what should I do?) and Roy smiles kindly at him and asks if he has family, or a girlfriend, or an old friend he could rely upon. Nader involuntarily thinks of Sonja.
Roy advises Nader to think of him and Upham as his friends, but Nader's thoughts are still with Sonja. He worries that Hilton might have 'done' something to her, and wars with a new internal conflict on whether or not he should go off in search of her. Potential one: If he sees Sonja, something might change. Potential two: the way he is now, she might end up becoming a fugitive too, which means he shouldn't go see her -- no, that's an excuse. Nader struggles with himself for several long moments, wishing if only there was a current...to push him forward and immediately countering himself: I'm still just looking for a reason not to move. Nader finally notices that there are bandages wrapped around his scars, and learns from Roy that Doctor Fred had patched him up. Nader mutters about payment, but Roy says the doctor said to consider it an 'additional service' and really, Nader might as well spit it out if they knew each other already. Nader thinks of the doctor who healed him back in 1931 and his eyes widen.
Doctor Fred arrives and Nader's memories resurface, confirming that it was indeed Fred who'd patched him up four years ago. Nader begins to cry at the reunion, and ever so slightly feels optimism that just maybe, things might work out for the better. His cautious optimism is shattered by the voice of Ladd Russo, who steps out from behind Fred and greets Nader with an upbeat smile.
Thirty minutes later finds Ladd and Nader alone. It turns out that the clinic Ladd's friend Who works at is Fred's clinic. Nader is more concerned about the money, but Ladd tells him not to worry about it. Nader finally confesses his involvement with the Flying Pussyfoot to Ladd, and Ladd grins at the mention of Huey and wonders half-heartedly if a low-level grunt like Nader might know where Huey's hiding out. Nader sighs in relief as Graham's voice spills out from the hallway, accompanied by the voices of Isaac and Miria. Nader envies the pair and wishes that he could be as carefree as they are, becoming uncharacteristically sentimental. He figures that their attitudes remind him of Sonja's attitude as a child.
The scene is interrupted by a commotion from the first floor, and everyone in the vicinity of Nader's room heads down to see what's the matter. It turns out to be Raz Smith facing off against Maria Barcelito in the cafeteria, with Luck Gandor attempting to mediate the fight. Roy identifies the mediator as Luck to Nader, explaining that Luck is one of the mafia bosses who's got an investment in the lodging facility. The investment, not to mention the fact that Roy's girlfriend works at the Gandor's jazz hall, mean that Luck has done a lot for Roy, all things considered. Nader silently screams at the thought of getting entangled with another gang.
Meanwhile, Luck is briefing Smith and Alkins on a job he'd like them to do concerning an upcoming Runorata-hosted party at Ra's Lance. He mentions that the terrorist Huey Laforet might be involved in the incident, causing Nader's spine to 'bend with a crack.'
Ladd and his entourage soon leave the building. Nader shakes in the aftermath, and determines that he needs to "confirm the flow" of the current. Apparently, "confirming the flow" was an expression Nader used frequently when running away from an important decision, tying it to probability and chance - to paraphrase, "if the conditions are right, I'll pull off a win; if I fail, there's a 5/6 chance that I'll make up an excuse for it, e.g. if only it hadn't rained that night." This time, Nader decides to ride the current and march into the Runorata casino, with the intent of crushing Huey. Once Huey is brought to his knees, Nader will be able to triumphantly return to Sonja back home in Illinois. After some internal monologuing, Nader asks Roy if he knows any rich people that are connected with the Runoratas, and Roy names Eve Genoard in New Jersey but doesn't know much more than that. Nader is almost relieved, and is about to change the subject when Isaac and Miria interrupt gleefully, exclaiming that they'd 'cased that joint' so many times they knew the mansion perfectly.
Five hours later, Nader travels to New Jersey (courtesy of Shaft, as offered by Graham) in an expensive tuxedo, carrying a briefcase full of cash. He arrives at the Genoard manor come nightfall, and the Genoard butler Benjamin ushers him in to meet Eve. Here is perhaps the first time the reader sees Nader put his 'silver tongue' to good use, speaking formally and loquaciously to the Genoard heiress. He introduces himself as a professional gambler, taking out a deck of cards and performing the flashy riffle shuffle for Eve, who is bedazzled. He brings up the upcoming party at the Runorata's casino Ra's Lance, and explains that he has not come here to market his skills to Eve. Rather, he wants an 'in' to the party where he believes is a fertile ground for testing his gambling skills. He opens the briefcase to reveal the money, and declares that not only will he provide the bankroll, he'll give Eve all the profits if he wins big. He formally requests that Eve allow him to accompany her to the party as her official guest.
Nader's inner thoughts are nowhere near as calm or collected as his words, and, sweating, he thinks that there is no way whatsoever that Eve is going to believe in professional gambling and expects that any minute now Eve will become suspicious and ask him what his real deal is. He is taken aback when Eve earnestly agrees to his proposal, albeit with a few conditions. Namely, rather than accepting his money, Eve would like him instead to persuade her brother Dallas to return home. At that moment, Nader finally realizes that he is not on the verge of a current, but rather, he has already stepped into a giant whirlpool. And so, Nader would continue sinking into that darkness, "unable to hold onto even a simple desire for his own sake, just like the others."
Once negotiations are complete, Nader finally makes it back to the housing facility in the dead of night. Entering the cafeteria, he collapses onto the nearest table, drawing the attention of Roy. Nader asks Roy in bewilderment how Eve could have trusted someone like himself so easily. He recalls his thought process leading up to the meeting - how he'd resolved to fight Hilton and the rest of Huey's sect head-on, telling himself that if he could deceive a rich person to help him sneak into the casino, he'd do everything in his power - including endangering himself - to see his goal through. However, Nader is acutely aware that he'd made such a promise with the confidence that nobody would actually agree to his proposal (and that there'd be no available rich individual in the first place). In other words, he'd laid down conditions that practically guaranteed him a reason to run away.
Nader repeats his question, and Roy murmurs that Eve's a 'good kid' who's been through a lot. Nader whinges about his upset stomach, and how he feels unable to do anything, at which Roy advises him to not be so negative; after all, Roy had done something 'stupid' before and put his life on the line, but it went 'miraculously well,' and Roy's eyes drop to a large scar on his wrist.
Nader smiles self-deprecatingly and drops his head into his arms, realizing that now that his life actually is on the line he doesn't (predictably) know what to do. He'll never become a hero at this rate. Roy notes astutely that Nader keeps using the word 'hero' out of context -- after all, heroes come in all different kinds. He asks Nader what his ultimate goal is, because since Roy doesn't know Nader's goal he can't figure out the right kind of advice to give him. Nader continues with his deflated tone, head in arms, asking why Roy would bother caring about him, he shouldn't be so nice to a guy like him, especially after Upham presumably told Roy all about what a scumbag Nader is.
At Roy's silence, Nader finally mutters "there was this one guy" and he proceeds to summarize the chaos that took place in 1931 - when a passerby left to Nader's defense when he was being chased by the Russos. Nader recalls wistfully how the man's selflessness and heroism was inspiring, and even caused him to shed a few tears at the time. The man was living proof that heroes weren't just for fairy tales - that anyone could become a hero if they wanted. Nader weakly pounds his left fist against the table, cursing his own nothingness. He starts sobbing, desperately asking why he is the way he is and why he can't become someone like that passerby.
Roy thoughtfully says that "people like [that passerby] are pretty incredible," and points out that one can't become a hero "just like that." Rushing into an early death in the name of courage isn't heroic, more like idiotic. Plenty of people survive bad situations on dumb luck alone and are called heroes. Roy then asks Nader a question that denies Nader's thoughts at their very core: "do you really need to become a hero in the first place?" He follows that question with another - does Nader want to be a hero for the adulation? Roy considers the question further - perhaps the salient issue is not the manifestation of heroism, but the person for whom Nader wants to become a hero. Roy tells Nader that he's grateful to him for expressing his feelings. Nader isn't fully released from his bleak thoughts, darkly comparing himself to Davy Crockett. Roy and Nader discuss the Battle of the Alamo, and Roy suggests that Nader find a compromise. Rather than trying to take on the likes of terrorists, perhaps Nader should be the sort of hero who saves the starving, the poor, the cold.
Nader mutters that "a real hero would be too busy to save guys like us."
Some time later, it is finally the start of the Runorata party at Ra's Lance, Nader and Eve sit down at a 'classy' restaurant on the third floor of Ra's Lance. Despite the fact that they are indoors, Nader does not take off his hat; he keeps it low over his eyes, and keeps his heavy scarf wrapped around his neck. At Eve's inquiry, Nader says that he his deliberately hiding his face so that the other gamblers won't be able to figure out his 'tells'. Eve enthusiastically buys into the lie and apologizes, but Nader quickly assures her there's nothing to apologize for. Inwardly, Nader is anxious over Hilton discovering him, and he begins to feel guilty for once again conning someone - in this case, lying to Eve. He really did have a knack for it. He continues talking, explaining that since the two of them will be at Ra's Lance for three days, they ought to spend the first day checking out the playing field and asking around about her brother. Eve sincerely thanks Nader for indulging her in her 'selfish' desires, and Nader cannot bring himself to look into her eyes, knowing that he is a liar. Nader thinks that Dallas must be a real jerk for making Eve suffer, only to recognize his hypocrisy with Sonja. He muses that he probably doesn't have a right to call anyone a jerk at this point in time, and resolves to withhold judgment about Dallas until they meet in person.
Nader is soon distracted by a bird perched on a lamppost outside a window, and when Eve asks about his nervousness he points the bird out to her. It is glaring at him almost with murderous intent (unbeknownst to him, the bird is one of Hilton's vessels). Nader spends the rest of his first day observing the playing field (and on the lookout for Dallas), watching the flow of money between the bookkeepers, winners and losers at the gambling tables. The whole gambling scene feels reserved and moderate, nothing out of the ordinary. Well, except for an odd couple placing high bets regardless of the money flow, and one woman who kept winning game after game - inconspicuously.
Nader focuses his attention on her, purposefully 'fading into the background' by placing small bets, acting as part of the scenery. Nader's 'past self' has, little by little, been reawakening in Ra's Lance. Nader realizes that the woman is cheating, and follows out of the building around midnight, confronting her near the harbor. He announces that he's 'figured out' her scheme, and proposes that they work together, all the while smiling confidently. Despite the sweat on his back and hand, and the fear in his heart, the narrator again points out that Nader is slipping back into his old con artist shtick, revealing none of his inner turmoil on his face.
The woman neither confirms nor denies his suspicions, and instead asks if his goal is money. Nader is more interested in whoever is backing (sponsoring) the woman. Nader's plan is completely akin to his modus operandi of his teenaged years - he'll get in good with the woman's employer, and from there take on a position of power that might help him out in his grand dream to oppose Huey's sect. He introduces himself using his real name, and the woman gasps in recognition. Nader stiffens, thinking she must be one of Huey's people, and does a heel turn, fully prepared to abandon Eve and abscond with the money from Firo's casino. Excuses run through his mind - chosen the wrong person, if he went in any deeper he'd just keep losing but he stops in his tracks when the woman asks him if he's a friend of Sonja's. He whirls around questioningly, and approaches the woman in a fit, when suddenly a voice calls out to him from the darkness: found you, traitor...
Once again, Nader spins around in panic, but sees nobody there. He manages to squeak out Hilton's name, and Hilton delightedly replies that he can just call her Leeza instead. Nader continues turning in place, looking for the source of the voice. The casino hustlier's eyes widen, and Nader follows her gaze upward to see countless birds perched atop buildings, power lines, flying in the sky -- all staring at him. Hilton -- or rather, Leeza Laforet, informs Nader that she won't be the one to kill him. No, his fated killer is --
The sharp shing of metal on stone sounds from down the road. It is Chané, who hurtles down the street, ricochets off the wall and closes in on Nader. Nader mumbles her name in shock as her blade streaks toward his neck, and at the last moment he remembers Sonja and his body moves. He manages to knock the blade away with his metal prosthetic hand. Nader tries to run, but Chané is at his back in a mere moment. Nader is saved by a small egg-shaped object with a timer that comes flying down the street -- it is a bomb. Leeza cries for Chané to get away, and one of her birds swoops down and retrieves the bomb, flying up into the sky. A few seconds later, the bomb explodes, killing the bird. The casino hustler takes the opportunity to get out of there as two or three more egg bombs -- these ones smoke bombs -- fly down the street and explode. Leeza realizes they must be Rail's handiwork, and shouts for Rail to emerge from hiding to no avail.
As the smoke billows out, someone grabs Nader (whose hearing has been shot thanks to the bombs) by his false hand and leads him through the fumes. As Nader's hearing clears up, he hears Rail (the child who'd led him to safety) ask if he's alright, and another child (Czes) immediately scolds Rail for reckless behavior. Rail dismiss Czes' concern; after all, Leeza's just a bunch of birds. And speaking of Leeza's birds...Rail calls out to Shaft, who is standing a little ways down the road, and asks him how he knew about the birds in the first place. Someone, perhaps Nader, asks Shaft if he isn't one of Ladd's boys, and Shaft sighs with a correction (more like Graham's man) and apologizes for the increasing amount of pressure building upon him. Nader, who has no idea as to Rail's identity and now knows there is more to Shaft than meets the eye (that is to say, he is unaware that Shaft is actually one of Sham's vessels) internally screams and wonders what in the hell he's gotten himself into.
- Though Nader is a con artist, he has only 'conned' a rich person with an investment scam once.
- His basic scheme was as follows:
- He would find someone powerful and use their strength as his own, deceiving them and gaining their favor, until he destroyed that same organization in favor of another. And once he felt that he had gone as far as he could go in the next group, he would look outside for an even stronger group and sell himself to them without a hint of hesitation.
- Nader appears to have idolized or at the very least admired Wyatt Earp and Jesse James in his youth, using them as comparisons when he announces to Sonja he wants to become a hero.
- It is perhaps telling that Wyatt Earp was a gambler (albeit a marshal) and Jesse James was a famed outlaw.
- Nader supposedly has good intuition to match his silver tongue. It's when he ignores his intuition and decides to team up with Placido Russo do things go sharply south for him.
- It is very possible that Nader's community growing up was a German farming community, given that he and Sonja both have German names.