|“||Tick... You can take the rest of the day off. This bastard here's gonna have to deal with me. [...] I might not be a torture specialist like you, but if he's not going to die no matter what I do to him... I might as well have a ball. Let off some stress.||”|
Nicola "Nico" Cassetti (ニコラ・「ニコ」・カセッティ Nikora "Niko" Kasetti) is a capo of the Gandor Family who is renowned for his unmatched fighting skills. He runs a betting parlor under Gandor influence.
Nicola is a short-haired brunet, and sports a beard. A scar is etched across his nose and left cheek. His appearance was revealed with his illustrated debut in the 2015 BACCANO! Manga.
When working, Nicola talks and acts with professional sobriety - and he is upfront with his personal transgressions, admitting to his own superiors when his personal feelings and temper have gotten the better of him. When his personal feelings get the better of him, this usually means he ends up dealing with them by inflicting physical violence on the wrongdoer who is to blame.
Nicola has shown nothing but stalwart loyalty to the Gandor brothers, and cold rejection of traitors to the Family. Nicola does have a softer, friendlier side to him - he is seen smiling and laughing with the brothers in Chapter 010 of the manga, and he and Lisha Darken were mutually romantically interested in each other prior to December 1931. The first time he and Graham Specter fought, he elected to let Graham go on the grounds that Graham 'was a kid', rather than kill him. One might say that there is a certain wryness to Nico.
It is likely that Nicola shares the same unfavorable view towards drugs that the Gandors have.
Although it is uncertain as to when Nicola joined the Family, it is known that he was already a member of the Family when the previous Gandor don passed away. Nicola and a few other Gandor men met in the days following the don's death to discuss the future of the family. They all are concerned that the Family is done for, and one of them is already making plans to sell the territory to anothe rmafia outfit. Nicola especially thinks that they shouldn't drag the don's sons into the business, but the conversation is interrupted when two of the sons - Berga Gandor and Luck Gandor - step into the room. Luck says that it is the eldest son (Keith Gandor) enters through the doorway. He is covered in blood, and dragging two corpses behind him. Luck declares that he and his brothers will take over the Family.
In 1927, the Gandor Family is thrown into an uproar when they find Keith's bloody jacket (and a smashed lollipop) in an alleyway. With the don kidnapped, the two remaining brothers attempt to mount a search with as many as few people (including their men) in the know as possible. Nicola is one of the select few who are aware of Keith's kidnapping, and he contacts the gambling den and the bookie's to see if Keith has stopped by them at all. Keith has not. In light of this news, Luck orders Nicola to continue investigating other places without letting his subordinates notice.
Keith is eventually found to be safe on the first day of the San Gennaro festival.
At some point in the years leading up to 1932, Nicola ends up fighting with Graham Specter. He easily defeats Graham, but decides to spare Graham's life by treating him as a child. (If it had not been for that, it's likely that Graham would currently be at the bottom of the Hudson). Graham would return to take revenge on Nico multiple times, but Nicola just about always emerged the victor. By the summer of 1932, Nicola would have six wins to one loss against Graham.
In November 1930, Nicola and several other Gandor members gather around a table in which the three Gandor brothers are playing poker - anticipating an upcoming confrontation between the brothers and Jorgi, their master of finances. When Jorgi eventually enters the room, the Gandors invite him to play cards with them. Nicola witnesses the game turn to Russian Roulette (they are all aware that Jorgi has been embezzling money from the Gandors) and Jorgi's attempt to shoot Keith with the roulette gun. His attempt fails (the bullets are actually blanks), and a few Gandor men stuff Jorgi into a gunnysack and take him away upstairs. It is implied that they drive Jorgi to the sea and drown him there.
In December 1931, Nicola is working his usual beat at the horse races when the the race tracks are cased by a group of Runoratas sporting tommy guns. Nicola and his men fight back against the surprise attack, but they only manage to take one Runorata alive. During the fight, Nicola suffers a serious gunshot wound from the tommy guns. In the aftermath of the gunfight, Nicola and his men take the captive Runorata back to the Coraggioso, the Gandors' base of operations. Though he is covered in his own blood and presumably in immense pain from the gunshot wound, Nicola keeps his back straight and his expression neutral as he addresses the three Gandor brothers. He apologizes for only having one alive captive and blames himself for how the fight turned out.
Keith asks for a damage assessment, and Nicola reports with a grin that no customers were injured since the races had just finished. Furthermore, other Gandor men have already dispersed the money the Gandors had reaped from the races. Keith thanks him for his hard work, and Nicola bows respectfully toward him before exiting the room. Someone administers first aid to him to stop the bleeding while other Gandor men run into the room and report that three other places under their influence have come under attack.
The captive Runorata stirs, and Luck identifies him as one of the men involved in slitting his throat. Luck calls for Tick to 'take care' of their prisoner, and Tick observes that his scissors aren't clean so the torture will probably hurt even more than normal. Thinking a bit, Luck turns and asks Nicola for the identity of the man who shot him. While Nicola wraps bandages over his wounds, he identifies their prisoner as the man responsible. He admits that he was a 'little' harsh on the captive's men as a result, and apologizes for letting his personal feelings get in the way of his work.
By the summer of 1932, Nicola has recovered enough from his wounds that he's active around New York once more. Up until that summer he had grown sweet on a prostitute named Lisha Darken, and she liked him in return. However, at some point he gives her an ultimatum: he'll never see her again if she doesn't quit drugs. Lisha tries to get clean, but in the end she is killed that summer by the serial killer Ice Pick Thompson. Nicola is upset by her passing.
In August, Nico arrives at the Coraggioso and heads to the basement to meet with Lester, a newspaper reporter who has given the Gandor Family pertinent information in the past. Nicola apologizes for making him wait, and remarks that Lester always gives the Gandors the "best info" in town. He hopes that their business deal will be a lasting one. The two then turn their attention to the reason they've met - Ice Pick Thompson. Nicola relays that the Gandors have been scoping out the police during their investigation of the serial killings, but that the "fifth victim" (Lisha) may have been killed by someone other than Ice Pick Thompson, since she was stabbed downwards in the neck while the other four were first stabbed from underneath. HIs eyes narrow to slits while he talks, but he keeps all emotion out of his voice.
Lester appears unsurprised, and explains that 'Ice Pick Thompson' is more than one person. He claims that the main culprit is an assassin-for-hire named Raz Smith, and that Smith has been hiring street delinquents to murder people connected to the Gandors. Nicola wants to know what an assassin like Smith has against the Gandor Family, but Lester fails to provide an answer.
Maria Barcelito pokes her head out from behind Nico at hearing Smith's name. She chirps that she knows Smith - Berga once punched Smith in the face and sent him to the hospital. Nico stands ("that's it, then"), and when one of his subordinates asks what he's doing Nico assures him that he isn't planning on making trouble while his bosses are out. He's just going to have a talk with Smith, that's all. Maria - oblivious to his grave demeanor - offers herself as extra manpower, but he only mumbles that she can do what she wants in response.
He ascends the stairs quietly, followed by Maria and several of his men. Right before he exits, he turns to Tick and says that Tick needn't go to the trouble of cleaning his scissors -- he feels like hearing a lot of screaming. With that, he and his entourage leave and head for the old factory that Graham's gang usually hangs out in. It is empty when they arrives, and he finds a phone to call the Coraggioso with and inform them of the problem. He asks the Gandor member over the phone to see if Lester has any other ideas as to where they might be. After a little while, the member picks up the receiver again and tells him to try looking in a certain condemned building near Grand Central Station.
He and his group arrive at the condemned building, and wait inside for Smith to stop in. When Smith does enter the deep recesses of the building, Maria erupts out of hiding and the two physically clash. When the fighting comes to the briefest of standstills, Nicola has his men cock their guns (tommy guns and sawed-off shotguns) at Smith. Smith is made aware of their presence for the first time, and when Maria complains that she and Smith are clearly having some fun Nico counters that from where he stood, it looked like things might not end so nicely. At any rate, he can't let a member of the Family be injured while the bosses are out.
His expression devoid of emotion, Nicola identifies Smith as "Raz Smith," and Smith acknowledges that he is who he is while bluffing through his fear. Nico snorts at the the ridiculousness of what he's just witnessed: an idiot fighting off a sword with a gun, he can get, but getting into an actual swordfight with his guns? Nicola lights a cigarette and introduces himself as a member of the Gandor Family - before wondering if Smith can even comprehend the mess he's in. Smith states that he can't really comprehend why the Gandor bosses are apparently so scared of one measly assassin, and Nicola's eyes narrow at what he perceives to be Smith playing dumb. Deepening his voice, Nicola calls Smith 'Ice Pick Thompson.'
Smith is struck speechless at the accusation, and Nicola takes his silence as proof of his guilt. He orders his men to take Smith away; when Smith finally protests, Nico dismissively says that anything else he has to say will be heard through Tick. He turns away from the assassin - just in time to notice a blur of blue and a spinning silver disc in front of him. A chill runs down his spine as he identifies the intruder as Graham. Graham stops the wrench mid-spin and cries out that 'this sad story' should just 'end.' He demands to know what the Gandors are trying to do with 'Boss Smith.'
Smith is the first to react to this, shouting at Graham that he's an idiot and that he'd told Graham earlier to do whatever he felt like. Graham shoots back that he felt like coming here, and asks what exactly is going on. Frankly, Smith would like to know that himself. Nico frowns at Graham and tsks that every time they meet, Graham is causing the Gandors trouble somehow. Graham finally recognizes him, and when Nicola asks what Graham is doing here his answer is less than helpful. Nico clarifies: how does Graham know Smith the assassin?
Maria reminds Nico that Lester had said Graham was either the killer or one of his friends, but Nico denies this - he knows that Graham is no murderer. Graham obliviously asks Smith why he's fighting the Gandors, and Nicola sighs that Graham really must have had no idea - that Smith is Ice Pick Thompson. Graham finds this a nonsensical claim, laughing that Smith has never actually killed anyone before, assassin though he may be. All eyes go to Smith, who states: "It's true I'm Ice Pick Thompson."
Nicola asks if this is an admission of guilt, and Smith claims that he has definitely killed four men up until now, but that the fifth one is still out there. Smith declares that none of those murders were for money - they were for vengeance. Smith proceeds to deliver an exceedingly long (and mostly off-page) monologue of 'his' motivations behind each murder, ending with 'his' desire to kill the man responsible for the death of Paula Wilmans. He asks if they want to know anything else, and Nicola mentions that Carl Digness had told them the connection between the victims - that they may have approached the Gandor Family with ulterior motives. He reminds Smith that in the end, he is still the one responsible for killing Gandor men, and that it will be up to Tick to see if Smith is telling the truth or not.
(Privately, Nicola has been considering the possibility that Smith might be lying - Smith claimed that Paula was like a sister to him, but Nicola felt no affection or sadness from Smith when he was telling his story).
Nicola prepares to signal his men to disarm Smith, but Graham hurls his wrench through the space between him and Smith. The wrench lodges itself deep into the wall. Annoyed, Nico asks Graham if he isn't going to at least try and behave himself. Graham apologizes, but says that he just can't allow Smith to be taken away without a fight. Nico questions this - is Graham seriously going to help Smith even if he's Ice Pick Thompson?
Graham points out that he keeps company with a "freaking awesome homicidal lunatic", someone who kills people just for the hell of it. The Gandor men move to aim their guns at Graham, but Nico orders them to lower their guns. At their objection, he notes that the gunshots from Smith's fight with Maria have almost certainly caught the attention of police officers in the vicinity, and he's not about to allow any more gunshots that could draw the police in closer.
Maria darts over and asks if that means it's her turn to have a little fun, but Nico wryly grins and shakes his head. He then steps forward, clearly signaling his intent to handle the matter personally. Smith looks over to Graham and asks just how strong Nicola is; Graham pulls his wrench out of the wall and cheerfully admits that he has one victory to six losses against the Gandor capo. He quips that Nico is no good at fighting off tommy guns - the Runoratas had nearly killed him 'the last time.' Smith muses that Nicola might be some sort of monster for having survived getting shot by tommy guns.
Maria ignores Nicola's stance and prepares to draw her katanas. Graham wants to know what Elmer C. Albatross had whispered to Smith earlier that day, but Smith only replies that he'll tell Graham if he gets out of this situation alive. As tensions rise, Nicola suddenly twitches with the realization that something has changed on the street outside the building. He mumbles to his men that they're going to clear out now, and Maria questions the sudden change in heart.
Nicola relaxes, and his underlings look toward the entrance of the building. Shaft pants for breath in the doorway, leaning against the wall in fatigue. Behind him stand a crowd of about twenty street delinquents. Shaft gasps out complaints towards Graham, asking him if he realizes just how hard it was for him to round up all the boys at this hour. He adds that he's contacted their pals at Millionaires' Row, and that they ought to show up any minute now. Surprised, Graham asks Shaft if he's planning to wage war with humanity.
Nicola advances towards the entrance, and Shaft gets out of his way automatically. Maria pouts about him avoiding a fight, and he retorts that if the Gandors go up against a mob of this size then it'll be all out war. Maria argues that she and Nicola could take them on alone, but Nicola is adamant. The bosses have not given him permission to let any of his subordinates get hurt, nor permission to "annihilate these brats."
At the entranceway, Nicola stops and turns to Smith. He says: "Lemme ask you one last thing. Even if you're lying about being Ice Pick Thompson...you're not the one who killed Lisha... am I right?" Smith swears that that, at the very least, is true. Nicola wants to know who really killed her, and Smith replies that would be his "last target" - Lester.
Armed with this newfound knowledge, Nicola, Maria, and his men return to the Coraggioso. Upon descending into the basement, Nicola's attention is first drawn to Mark Wilmans, a boy holding a bloody ice pick. The boy is standing next to Elmer, and they are surrounded by Gandor men. Nico's gaze then goes to Lester, who is groaning in agony on the floor. He sighs, and asks the boy if he is Mark Wilmans. Mark is taken aback, and Nicola explains that Lisha never stopped talking about Mark - that there was a child who looked after her instead of the other way around.
He asks again if the boy is Mark, and Mark slowly replies that 'Mark Wilmans' was just killed by an assassin. He cannot look Nico in the eye, and adds, "I'm just a serial killer. Ice Pick Thomp--" Nico cuts him off there, and announces that he's just come back from talking to Ice Pick Thompson in the flesh. He wants towards the middle of the room, and one of his subordinates explains the situation to him -- including how Lester is now 'just like their bosses' (he drank the incomplete immortality elixir).
Nicola looks down at Lester - who lies stricken with grievous injuries that he will suffer from for the rest of his life - and crushes Lester's left hand with his right foot. Lester screams, and his fingers rapidly regain their original shape. Nicola calls over to Tick and informs him he can take the rest of the day off. With a look of pure ice (trying as he might to suppress his emotions with every ounce of self-control he has), Nico declares that 'this bastard' will have to deal with him. He may not be a torture specialist like Tick, but if Lester's not going to die no matter what then he might as well have a ball and let off some stress.
Elmer sighs, and crouches down by Lester's side. It is unknown if Nicola hears what Elmer whispers to Lester, but in the end, Lester refuses Elmer's offer.
In 1935-B: Dr. Feelgreed, Luck is confronted with the reality that the Gandors need to strengthen their forces. He muses that among their capos, Nicola is their best fighter - however, apparently Nicola is still "recovering from getting shot to hell year before last" so they can't push him too hard. Since 'the year before last' was 1933, one would assume that Nico was embroiled in an unknown conflict that occurred off page.
It is possible that Ryohgo Narita was referring to Nicola's brush with death in December 1931 and "the year before last" was a mistype or error, but Nico was clearly already back on his feet by August 1932.