Nader Schasschule (ネイダー・シャズクール, Neidā Shazukūru) is a con artist and ex-member of the Lemures, after his attempted betrayal of Lemure leader Goose Perkins failed 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 left him with visible burns on his face, neck, and left hand, and cost him his right hand completely. In place of his right hand he wears a realistic (metal) prosthetic, and he tends to cover up his burns with natural makeup.
As a child, Nader was a bit of a dreamer, 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 belief 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 bad ways, and he expresses constant discomfort with the dangerously violent ways of the people surrounding him. He also is very 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 - e.g. 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 show up at Union Station, the same station the Flying Pussyfoot is set to depart from that very night. Members of the Russo family show up in pursuit of Nader, and a passerby (who is accompanied by his girlfriend) springs to Nader's defense, jumping into their line of fire in order to protect Nader, risking his own life. Nader, reminded of his own passionate childhood declaration to be a just hero, shoots one of the Russos in order to protect Jacques-Rosé (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 tracks and comes across a near-dead Goose crawling along the tracks. Nader handcuffs him and tells Goose that he should have killed him (Nader) "when he had the chance." One of the policemen hurries over and Nader informs him that he is fairly sure Goose has just died. As Goose's corpse grows cold in the frigid wind, Nader walks off and muses that maybe he should return home and 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 won't see what a 'loser' he's 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 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?)
Nader remembers that Hilton was Huey's messenger that frequently made contact with Goose. Panicked at the thought of being stalked, he runs all the way to the main street of his hometown, and sighs in relief upon recognizing the faces of the townspeople. A little girl greets him, and Nader smiles and pats her on the head, asking her if there's something the matter - only for the girl's smile to vanish. She threatens him (she is one of Hilton's vessels) and Nader hightails to the police station and begs the officers to lock him up.
He spends the next three years in protective custody, and is released in 1935 outside a New Jersey prison alongside Alcatraz prisoner Ladd Russo. Ladd remarks that he doesn't recall seeing Nader in prison, at which Nader demurs and says that he saw Ladd 'plenty.' Ladd calls him out on his lie but isn't bothered that he was lied to. Ladd introduces himself (Ladd Russo), and Nader collapses to the ground and pleads for his life. Ladd tells Nader to get a grip and hoists him to his feet. Ladd might be a Russo, but he's just a 'small fry.' And since the Russos hate them both, it seems to him that the two of them should become 'pals.'
At Ladd's prompting, Nader gives him his real name, which Ladd has never heard of. This is a good thing, he assures Nader, and anyway, Nader doesn't have to worry about Ladd killing him. Nader sighs and asks if Ladd can leave him alone, noting that if he sticks with Ladd he could very well end up the target of the Russos. Ladd appreciatively comments on Nader's fear, and compares him to his childhood friend Who. Nader expresses jealousy that Ladd has friends at all. Ladd brings up the Flying Pussyfoot, observing that it's pretty obvious Nader knows more about it than he'd like to admit. With his arm(s) around Nader's shoulders, Ladd whispers in Nader's ear that they're being followed and that Nader better not turn to look. As they continue walking, Ladd continues quietly muttering to Nader about their followers -- two in a car, and three pretending to make conversation at a street corner, though there might be more who are actually competent at stalking people. Ladd explains that he's gotten pretty good at spotting these sorts of people thanks to his uncle Placido asking him to keep an eye out for folks like them, and Nader silently panics at the mention of Placido.
The two of them reach a deserted street, and Ladd removes his arms from Nader's shoulders as he talks, bending over to pick up a brick lying on the ground. A black car (the one tailing them) slowly trundles down the road, and Nader starts to formulate escape plans. Ladd ignores him and throws the brick at a breakneck speed into the car's windshield. A fray ensues, during which Ladd clambers onto the roof of the vehicle as the driver tries to make a getaway by driving recklessly through the streets. Ladd punches a hole through the car's roof with his metal arm and pulls Nader up with his other hand by his waist. The ruckus comes to a halt 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 car and asks the 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 his cheerful reunion with his friends, Nader collapses to the pavement. As he lies there, the rain causes his natural makeup to wash off, much to Shaft's consternation.
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's been run out of Chicago, and is probably dead. He tells Nader that he's in luck, 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 hadn't betrayed the Lemures for the sake of greater power within the Russos, but because he was terrified of Huey instead). Nader, struggling to find an answer, wonders why he became a con man in the first place, reasoning that if he had to pick the critical junction in his life wouldn't becoming a con man fit the picture? He muses on his own motives. He'd wanted strength, always wanted it, and hadn't cared whether it was legitimate or criminal as long as it was enough to do whatever he wanted. And by using the strength of others, by "taking their skin and wearing it as his own" maybe he'd find true strength for himself someday. He thinks back to a 'weirdo in the Chicago train station' and further back still to Sonja.
After brooding some more, Nader tunes back into the surrounding conversation. Ladd is chuckling over the fact that he is the only Russo left, only for Shaft to pipe up and correct him with the information that Ladd's (first) cousin (1x removed) Ricardo Russo is still alive. Ladd flippantly describes the deaths of Ricardo's parents 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 and soon a line of eight expensive cars passes 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 for his normalness before considering the likes of Lua, Ladd, and Graham. He concludes that this is a car that he should not be in under any circumstances...but at the same time, Nader needs information. He starts up a conversation about the Runoratas with Shaft, who says that they're cutting into a turf war between some of the local Families, and thus have made many enemies. Shaft then brings up a big hotel they own in New York. According to him, the hotel's entire basement floor is a restaurant, and below the restaurant there's another floor that's going to house a great big casino - or at least, that's the rumor.
Ladd perks up at the mention of the casino, and recalls that Firo Prochainezo had mentioned he was the manager of a casino while in prison. He proposes to Nader that they find the casino and bet their life savings there. Graham gives Shafts 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 the man holding the money. The three-way conversation between Shaft, Graham and Ladd turns to Who (Shaft/Sham had brought up Who in an effort to divert Ladd from the casino) and Shaft offers to drive Ladd to the clinic Who's now working at.
Ladd seems to like the idea, and he takes out his wallet and hands Nader a thick wad of cash, asking him to go "warm up to the roulette" for him in advance. At Nader's puzzlement, Ladd tells him he doesn't care if Nader wins or loses as long as he "makes a show of it." Nader cautiously asks if Ladd's considered that Nader might just take the money and run away. Doesn't matter, Ladd replies. that just means I lost my bet on you, right? Nader is further convinced of Ladd's abnormal personality, and that he is completely terrified of the man. Ladd mentions that he'd like to ask Nader some things about the Flying Pussyfoot, but if Nader runs off Ladd will drop the matter; Nader interprets this as "if you run I'll kill you," not realizing that Ladd has a policy of not killing friends. Nader asks Ladd if he can keep the winnings, simultaneously realizing his 'deplorability.'
A few minutes later, Nader enters the Martillo casino and takes stock of the joint, knowing that he shouldn't rely on his previous experience in Chicago's gambling dens. He sees a young man (Firo) in the office, and considers endearing himself to Firo as a means of getting in tight with the Martillo family. As his lips curl involuntarily into a smile, Nader mentally backpedals, scolding himself for reverting back to the type of thinking that landed him in trouble in the first place. Nader resolves that today he will gamble to his heart's content, and that tomorrow he will abandon the criminal world, fade into the cityscape and look for a legitimate job. After all, Huey's people won't be able to find him in such a large city. Deep down, however, he knows that he's still within the grasps of the underworld, and likely won't be able to escape.
(Possibly after some 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. Card games are out, considering his prosthetic hand can't perform the precise movements necessary for card games, and he doesn't want to draw more attention to himself by using only his left hand. After ten miniutes, Nader finally decides to chance the roulette table. Before he can move, however, he is approached by Melvi Dormentaire, who asks him if something is the matter. Nader's hands instinctively move to protect his throat and chest, and Melvi comments upon his 'interesting' reflexes. The teenager apologizes for startling Nader and hands him the cheapest type of token for the slot machine. Nader refuses, but the boy tells him to think of it as his lucky token.
Nader accepts it grudgingly, and puts the token in the slot machine. The reels come to a halt: . Nader has won the jackpot. Tokens spill from the mouth of the machine, which plays celebratory orchestral music. Inevitably, everyone's attention is drawn to Nader's win. The teenager congratulates him and begins clapping, at which the other patrons join in to shower him with applause. Nader, who by now is completely sure of his own failings (calling himself a "screwup" and a "loser") cannot believe he won fair and square, and suspects the boy of setting him up. 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 too young to be a manager.
Nader turns to inculpate the teenager, but goes pale when he finds the boy gone. Firo asks him who exactly introduced him to the casino; Nader widely smiles and names Ladd, thinking that the namedrop will save him. Firo's smile freezes, and he coldly asks Nader if Ladd has been released from prison. As Nader struggles for an answer, they are interrupted by a "violent noise" from the entrance and a screech from Jacuzzi Splot, who is upstairs outside the casino. A moment later, Christopher Shouldered emerges from the staircase, grinning widely. He is soon followed by a man with a tommy gun, whom Firo recognizes as the cheat he'd intercepted earlier. The man fires at the ceiling, causing the casino's patrons to scatter. A woman in a black suit races down the stairs, causing Nader and the others to let out cries of surprise, and takes out the shooter, leading to a round of applause.
Firo apologizes to the crowd for the disturbance, and informs them that the police might be on their way thanks to the gunshots. The customers scramble for the exit. As Firo deals with the mayhem (and is introduced to Ricardo), Nader heads over to the exchange counter, intending to exchange his chips for cash. Firo spots him and reaches his side just as Nader is accepting the money, and says "...You weren't thinking you could leave just like that, were you, sir?" Nader denies that he cheated (despite Firo not bringing the subject up) and Firo waves that to the side, bringing up Ladd once again.
At the sound of a commotion behind them, the two turn and spot Christopher and Graham in a stand-off. The two face off despite Firo's attempts to stop the fight, and his attention is soon diverted by the appearance of Ladd and Lua. Dialogue is exchanged, and Firo returns to the fight, while Nader asks Ladd about what happened with Who and the clinic. Ladd exclaims over the money (ten times what he gave him) in Nader's arms, and asks if Nader is a cardsharp - maybe Placido was after him for ripping off casinos? This catches Firo's attention in a bad way, and Nader shouts desperately that no, he hadn't cheated, and after all the big Chicago troublemaker is Pamela, right?
Jacuzzi enters the casino a few minutes later, and Ladd stalks up to him, quoting Jacuzzi's promise to make the Russos pay for hurting his friends to him back in 1931 on the Flying Pussyfoot. He asks Jacuzzi whether or not he's going to follow through on that, and Jacuzzi responds in the affirmative, causing Nader to stare at him agape and in shock. The scene is thrown into disarray again at the appearance 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 ring out in th the room. The room soon devolves into chaos, and Nader seizes his chance and makes a break for it, running up and out of the casino with his cash. Once outside, he takes off his jacket to cradle the money, desperate to escape from such dangerous individuals.
More significantly, Nader realizes this is also a chance for him to change as a person. Nearby, he sees Czeslaw Meyer and Mary Beriam conversing, and the image reminds him of his childhood days with Sonja and his promise to be a hero. He tentatively decides to return the money and clear his conscience. Before he can make a move, he he stopped by Annie, who recognizes him as Nader. Annie reveals herself to be Hilton (or rather, one of Hilton's vessels) and Nader shrieks, tearing down the street in a flurry of survival instincts. As he runs, he witnesses several planes flying overhead and wonders just what in the hell is happening in Manhattan. Completely overwhelmed, Nader deliriously wonders if he'd somehow fallen down the rabbit hole to Wonderland after leaving prison, or perhaps this was all just a dream he was having under the factory rubble back in 1931. He continues to wallow in delusions he might just want to be real, and with tears welling in his eyes Nader silently wails out I don't know. Someone, someone please, just tell me what to do! and how does one even begin to become a hero anyway? And so it is all he can do to run, "lost in every possible way."
Finally, Nader runs into a group of homeless men returning home to a lodging facility after working on a nearby construction site (construction for Ra's Lance), and joins them in their commute. Once they arrive at the facility, Nader talks to a food distribution worker, who informs him that the facility is accepting new tenants. Nader shoves a wad of bills into the man's hand, and secures himself a place to live. Nader buys a pillow from a nearby store and replaces the cotton with the casino cash. His new room has only the cheapest bed and furniture, and cobwebs and mice-gnawed wood adorning it (not to mention there is constant noise from the other tenants shouting, sobbing and screaming). Still, Nader considers it better than (a vague allusion to) "the last one," a hive of thugs and prostitutes that lacked for light and was prone to fires.
Nader wearily consider his situation, noting miserably that before he'd lied to and deceived his superiors, and though he'd resolved to change here he was lying about being poor just so he could live in the facility. Once again, Nader wonders how his life had come to 'this,' all the while continuing to stuff his pillow with money. He wonders what his first scam was in particular, and inevitably his thoughts turn to that singular vow he'd made to Sonja back when he was twelve years old. Nader can only call the vow a 'con' now that he's older, but still, he mumbles, he "didn't...mean to lie" at the time. His dream had been to protect Sonja and be her hero, but instead he'd become a "clichéd con man" (and a failed one at that), a (failed) traitor to a terrorist group, and had wound up ensconced in a poorhouse.
Nader tries to clearly picture Sonja's face, which after ten years or so 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, filled with hatred, and she curses at Nader, "death to traitors." Nader jolts awake and falls off the bed. Nader, upset at having his memory replaced by Annie/Hilton, curses her name and the Lemures and wonders why they can't just leave him alone. Calming down, he thinks over his situation and considering escaping Manhattan entirely. This idea he discards quickly. 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's likely the FBI will be suspicious at such a large deposit of money, plus it could make him known to Huey's information network.
Once again, 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 Lemure 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 Lemure 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 Lemure 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 party at Ra's Lance, hosted by the Runoratas. 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 Liza 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, Liza 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. Liza 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. Liza 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, Liza's just a bunch of birds. And speaking of Liza'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.