1931 Late December Somewhere in Chinatown
On the other side of Manhattan stood a small, inconspicuous building.
Written on the paltry signboard was ‘Daily Days’.
One of the small newspapers trapped between the fierce competition of the ‘New York Times’ and the ‘New York Tribune’. Also known as the ‘DD Newspaper Agency’.
But publishing newspapers was just a front. Their true face was an ‘information agency’, but on the whole, their income seemed extremely abundant.
Normally, places of the information-gathering sort could never have only one stronghold. Just like in movies and stories, information should change hands stealthily in the corner of bars or deep within alleyways— that was the kind of feeling one would get. Because it wouldn’t be the slightest bit strange for the information agency to disappear at any time once they were revealed to outsiders.
‘Occupations’ doing similar lines of work to detective agencies were truly unique in this business world- naturally, occupations like news reporting and the police were completely different matters.
This small building in a corner of Chinatown was the headquarters of the editorial department. Chinese comprised over half its workers, although there were some other nationalities. And the newspapers published; there were of three kinds: Chinese, English and Italian.
Stepping on old papers that had fluttered down onto the road, a few men walked into this small building.
The entire layout of the place was clear with just a glance, and a few workers who should be reporters and editors were strolling idly around the room to the accompaniment of the air and noise of chaos.
Seeing Asians everywhere at first, the men furrowed their brows. Then, a white man walked in from the inner part of the building.
Other districts aside, it was extremely rare to see white people working in Chinatown. The men revealed startled expressions as they watched the white man walk over. On one side of the table, that white man spoke to the stunned men.
“Welcome, how I may help you?”
A torrent of exceedingly ordinary New York English flowed from the man’s mouth.
“Would you like to subscribe? Aah, my apologies. I’m in charge of the English desk. My name is Nicholas.”
Faced with Nicholas who had introduced himself up-front, the man with a large coat folded over his arm said arrogantly,
“We’re not interested in your papers. We’re just here to buy information.”
Hearing these impolite words, Nicholas replied, looking a little hurt,
“Our newspapers are very good… Then, what information would you like to know?”
"Do you know about the accident that happened on Mulberry Street yesterday?"
In response to the man's query, Nicholas offhandedly outlined the incident in question.
"Yes, the collision between a truck and an automobile that happened a little after one in the afternoon yesterday, yes? It'd be better to refer to it as an incident rather than an accident, where the culprit driving the truck escaped. The two victims of the hit-and-run are respectively called Sam Buschetta and Anselmo Jonel. The culprit is currently still on the run, and he’s a man with a scar on his neck--- Am I correct?"
The sudden wave of information stunned the men into exchanging dumbfounded looks. What Nicholas had just said was information that only a small number of people should know, including those involved and the police.
Watching the guys who were at an utter loss as to what to do, Nicholas continued briskly,
"And the two victims were members of the renowned Mafia Runorata Family based in New York--- and also, your brethren."
Hearing these careless words, these guys’ bodies were like they’d been frozen. They hadn't identified themselves nor were they intending to, but this white man had already seen through their real identity--
But we can't be thrown so easily. Maybe he just guessed correctly based on our attire and appearance. If we reacted unusually, wouldn't that be falling for his ploy?
“Yeah. Since you already know all these details, you should also know why we have come?”
Although they looked very composed, their palms had been sweating for quite a while.
“The whereabouts of that guy with the scar on his neck. Any related information will do---”
“Scottish immigrant. 22 years old.”
Nicholas replied blandly without even waiting for the man to finish.
“Starting from now, you would need to pay for what I’ll say.”
In their impatience to hear news, the men had been completely unaware that the ‘transaction’ had already begun.
“The information you want to know- 500 dollars, cash. On top of that, you need to provide us with a piece of ‘information’ in return.”
“Ah, well, it’s telling us what we wish to know— that’s to say, what was inside the case that was stolen. You don’t have to hide it- someone already ‘reported’ that what was stolen was a large black case earlier on.”
Nicholas gave a jovial smile as he explained. That expression and tone of voice mingled to create a kind of unspeakable terror.
“You think we’ll tell you?”
“Then forget I said anything and please be on your way!”
“… I want to ask, if we tell you and the police came to ask, how would you answer?”
“Then naturally it’s business!”
The guys listening to this were so pissed off that the throbbing veins at their temples were about to pop.
“Don’t screw around with me! I guess you don’t want to live!”
Every other editorial member turned their gaze onto the agitated men.
On regaining their composure, their anger suddenly changed into confusion.
The Asian reporters in the room were all expressionlessly holding guns, the muzzles pointing at them, already in a semi-circle around them. At first glance they looked chaotic and disorderly, but in reality all the muzzles avoided Nicholas.
Looking at things this way, the numerous tables and mounds of books formed advantageous concealment for their opponents, whereas on their side, there was no cover whatsoever. Just like a small enemy regiment surrounded by countless city walls and trenches.
These guys were so scared that they broke out in cold sweat. Nicholas lifted a hand, and the reporters and editors put away their guns.
“My apologies. You can’t be too careful in our trade.”
After speaking, he dipped his head as though nothing had happened, and picked up the conversation again.
“Ah well, listen calmly. Even if we sold that information to the police, that cannot be used as incriminating evidence against you. It’d better if you thought about how to destroy the evidence instead.”
As Nicholas blathered on about some nonsensical reasons, he slowly outlined some of the internal rules of the information agency.
“Of course, you may think that you would be punished by your superiors as a result, but you don’t have to worry about that. Our principle is to keep the sources of information a secret. You have no choice but to believe this. If by any chance something unfortunate happens to the Runorata Family, pretend that you saw nothing and that you never came here. This should be all right?”
“The man called Roy Maddock. Where does he live--”
After a long moment of dazed confusion, the Runorata men still ended up answering unwillingly.
After obtaining the news they wanted from The Informer, they still had to provide information on their side. But--
“Money was inside the case. The protection fees we collected.”
These guys thought that there was no need to say the truth about drugs and the like, and so made up what they thought was a perfect lie. This kind of lie wouldn’t be seen through, because it was something that had never mattered in the first place.
Hearing that, Nicholas gave a somewhat hard-pressed smile.
“If you’re going to lie, at the very least come up with something a little more creative. Otherwise, we will provide information equivalent to your wonderful lies. Now, as for your lie, it’s a little…”
Nicholas shook his head at the guys who were deploying sophistry, and continued,
“The Runorata Family’s territory isn’t on this side, is it? Furthermore, your ‘protection fees’ are usually collected at the beginning of the month, no? A collection at this time is impossible, so please think carefully before lying again.”
Seeing that his opponents no longer had the power to resist, Nicholas pressed on,
“What was inside should be the ‘drug’, right? The newest drug circulating around the Gandor Family’s territory recently. It was stolen in transit, am I right? Yes or no? You have five seconds.”
At the sudden question, one of the men unknowingly nodded.
Having obtained such a definite answer, Nicholas tossed them a line before returning to his own desk.
“Thank you for your patronage.”
“Miz, dis oughta be the ‘’formation stop’ my child’ood frien’ izzat.”
As she spoke, she led Eve into the small building.
“Is this a newspaper agency?”
There was anxiety on the girl’s face, perhaps due to the nervousness of being in a big city for the first time.
With Samasa in the lead, they had come to the small newspaper agency in Chinatown. Scrawled on the signboard was ‘DD’.
Although they had come to the villa in New York, how could they possibly find out what had happened to her older brother, Dallas? Eve was very impatient in the beginning. Because no one knew anything about her brother’s friendship circles, or even about the work he was doing.
Just as everyone was fretting about that, Samasa suddenly shouted,
“Mizz! If yah wanna know sumthin’, then yah gotta go t’ th’ ‘Th' Informer’ an’ ask, y’ can’t go wrong goin’ there!”
“What nonsense… The Informer? You’d let our lady meet those rotten hoodlums?”
“Oyy, Benjamin. Yah sayin’ mah good frien’s a hoodlim?”
“Quiet! Your childhood friend must have had linguistic difficulties too- can we really trust information from that kind of person? Also, my name is Ben-ya-min! How many times must I repeat myself before you understand!? Please refrain from using English when calling my name!”
The old steward Benjamin vehemently retorted.
But there simply was no other way, so in the end they could only try their luck…
“What is this, a newspaper agency? Hmph, then we may be able to trust them to a certain extent, Miss.”
As he spoke coolly, the old steward opened the door for his mistress.
At first, Eve didn’t dare to walk in front. The old steward opened the door— then Samasa pressed against her from behind and pushed her in.
“A-, acting just like members of a comedy troupe!”
The old steward grumbled as he shut the door. The chaos before them, the jumble of conversations in languages never heard of before- both suddenly assaulted the brain. For a young mistress who had never seen the workplace of ordinary folk, the scene before her eyes was just like as if she’d come to an alien planet.
Hearing the old steward’s call, Eve regained her composure.
“Ah… Excuse me for interrupting while you’re busy. Please, could you spare us a little time?”
As she spoke politely, Eve surveyed her surroundings uneasily.
To comfort Eve, Samasa placed her round, fat hand on her shoulder.
“Dun mindat, ring up dat Elean if y’dun mind… s’friend, lukin’ for ‘im.”
The old steward’s eyes popped and his jaw dropped at that- he simply couldn’t catch Samasa’s meaning. Eve leaned in to whisper in his ear,
“Don’t worry, Samasa just told them to call Elean… Yes, just that.”
The old steward felt a little embarrassed at having his mistress translate for him, and so he seized hold of someone who knew English and told him the purpose of their visit.
When Nicholas learned of their intention, he proceeded up the stairs to the second floor.
After a while, he brought along a peculiarly dressed person down. Like Samasa, he was black, but he wore a black, traditional Chinese Tang suit.
When passing by the Asians, he exchanged a few words with them, speaking fluent Chinese. On top of that, he wore a very strange pair of glasses, making him stand out even more from the norm.
The instant the man recognized Samasa he made a very welcoming pose, greeting his friend with New York-accented English.
“Sa---masa! Long time, long time no see! Just how many years has it been since we last met! Wonderful! Today is absolutely wonderful! I must offer my thanks for such an exciting day for all the people in this city!”
This body that was taller than the average person by 2-3 times immediately enveloped the old friend in a hug. But, even with his arms fully stretched out, he could only reach around Samasa’s upper back. Locked in the strange embrace, they rejoiced at seeing each other again.
“Aaah, reminiscing can wait ’til later. First, let’s talk about your mistress’s business? According to the rules, we have to take a fee of 500 dollars in order to tell you the news you want to know of, but since it’s Samasa’s mistress, I’ll provide this service free this time!”
The mistress and her servants were invited to the reception room. Eve and Samasa sat on the sofa, while the old steward stood dignifiedly by the door.
The black man dressed in the Tang suit— Elean Duga eyed the old steward with considerable interest as he said to Eve,
“Oh my, oh my, oh my? Miss Eve Genoard’s request is to find ‘Dallas Genoard, whose whereabouts have been unknown since a year ago’— right now, my men are already collecting the information, and they’ll come back and tell me shortly, I’m guessing very soon. No, no, really. Soon, soon! So, about your brother? I’m sure he’ll be fine! Relax, there isn’t anything in this city we don’t know about. And my men should be coming back with news about your brother shortly—”
Elean was interrupted by the knocking on the door.
“Oh my, come in, come in, come in!”
The old steward immediately opened the door and an Asian holding what appeared to be a document entered. That man’s complete lack of expression made Eve feel a little uneasy. But she had no choice but to wait and see Elean’s reaction when he reads that document.
At first, Elean was even humming a tune as he opened the document to have a look. Then suddenly, he stood up and walked over to the window, his hands shaking.
Outside, the sun was already setting, the evening glow reflecting off the tiles of the roofs, dazzling one’s eyes.
As Elean gazed out at the scenery, he slowly said,
“Yes. When did it start! I used to be a proud person- ‘proud’ almost seems too positive- and I kept conning myself. In other words, ‘I didn’t know my place’. I realized this couldn’t continue. I always thought that, but in the end I still couldn’t change. This kind of rashness is just like taking drugs- once you’ve touched it, you can never be free of it.”
Although she didn’t understand a single thing of what he said, she could sense he was avoiding the topic.
“Th-, then, please tell me! My brother, Brother Dallas, where is he!”
Agitated, Eve stood up, and the old steward didn’t know what to do. In direct contrast to Eve’s agitation, the information agency was very tranquil.
“Aah, excuse me. Truly, my apologies. Today was supposed to be a ‘wonderful day’. But I, I seem to be a harbinger of misfortune, a bastard who not only tells others of bad news, but seeks to make profit by doing so. I really want to tell you, tell you that your brother is fine, but a realist information agency will never tell lies. As for our clients, we will never give them false news, I really want to tell them good news, but I can’t, aah, aah, sometimes I truly loathe this from the very depths of my heart. I--”
“Quit foolin’ ‘round or I’ll turn on yah!”
Samasa shook Elean violently as she shouted angrily. Finally, he came to the ‘conclusion’.
“Every time I tell my clients this type of news, I feel somewhat guilty. But even so, I’ll be frank!”
Sinking into complete depression, Elean pronounced that bad news.
“Your older brother, Dallas Genoard, is currently at the bottom of a river. In the dark, cold, deep depths of Hudson River, thrown into a drum along with two cohorts and sunk to the very riverbed.”
Hearing Elean’s toneless reply, Eve’s heart froze over momentarily.
It was like time had stopped- she could only hear the deafening sounds of her heart beating and her own breathing in this world. Eve suppressed her almost collapsing emotions, struggling to squeeze out breath from the depths of her lungs.
“Is… is that really true?”
“I am very sorry- it’s absolutely accurate. Furthermore, we even know who did it. Just a small organization called the Gandor Family…”
She couldn’t remember what came after that.
By the time she had regained consciousness, Eve was already holding a fork and knife, sitting in front of a dining table.
It began in that instant- her mind blanked out, and she didn’t even know how she came back to the villa. Sitting at the side of the enormous dining table was Samasa, although it was obvious that she had already eaten. Benjamin was just standing silently by Eve’s side, and it was likely that he still hadn’t eaten.
Eve had just been sitting like that all the while, then, as though having made a decision, opened her mouth to say,
“Mr. Benjamin… Ms. Samasa. Truly, thank you very much.”
Hearing such words, Samasa and Benjamin both turned their gazes onto Eve.
“Miss! Is something the matter, how could you say something like that to us! Please don’t scare us! You must take care of yourself!”
“Yeah! Once ye be fillin’ that belly o’ yours, then you’ll be full of energy!”
“Truly… thank you!”
Seeing Eve give a weak smile, Samasa said loudly and forcefully,
“Dun take it t’heart! Those guys at th’ information agency ain’t righ’, we kent really trust ‘em!”
“Precisely! Well said! Not a single word those queer scoundrels said was true, so please don’t believe them, Miss!”
The two were desperately trying to comfort Eve, and at that, Eve just smiled a little.
“Thank you, you two. I’m a little tired today, so I’ll go upstairs and rest first.”
Eve’s words weren’t the slightest bit like what a master would say to his servants, and with a thin smile, she left the dining hall.
The food on the table was untouched, and just continued getting colder.
--- Really, all this. I didn’t think it would be like this.
Most of the people who disappeared in Manhattan were no longer in this world. I should already have known this. But what was I still hoping for? Could it be, I was still clinging onto the faint hope of a sudden miracle? The power of prayer was already used up that time. Aah, what a foolish deed I did.
There was no need to wait for a miracle then.
If I just had a bit more courage, couldn’t I have just stopped Dallas from leaving home?
That was just, just a prayer born out of the intense desire to escape the terror.
--Aah, the time I truly wished a miracle would happen was when Father and Big Brother died. Of course, I knew that the dead could not be resurrected, but at the very least, at the very least I had hoped that Brother Dallas would be safe.
But the miracle still didn’t happen.
If there was such a thing as a ‘life’s wish’, if it could really come true, then I no longer had this power. So I should have known all this, I should have realized it from long ago. But why, why was I still so sad?
I never liked Brother Dallas. He was uneducated and unskilled, base and shameless, immoral, and frequently made himself hated. But what came to mind was the scene when we met for the last time.
On the next day after God’s emissaries, the thieves, came- that gentle face as he taught me billiards.
--Aah, why, why was Brother kind only to me, so gentle and so genial? Why didn’t he treat me like the others and do hateful things?
Without being conscious of it, Eve was caving in to her own fear. Her past stubbornness; when she thought about it, grief, regret and other complicated emotions tangled together and she couldn’t pull free.
--Could I only cry? When would I finally be able to forget? When Father and my two brothers had passed away, was all I could do just cry? Like a year ago, would I only rely on others, only continue to pray?
She contemplated these thoughts. If there was still even a sliver of chance, she decided she would never let it go.
I couldn’t continue like this anymore. Now, what I had to do was— get revenge for Brother.
As Eve and the other two were departing from DD, a man entered the building.
On that man’s face was a somewhat arrogant smirk. Unlike Nicholas’s, which gave people the feeling that he was bright and capable, this man’s smile seemed like he was sizing up something.
The man opened the editorial department door, just as Nicholas and Elean were about to walk out.
“Aah, you’re back, Henry. Elean’s not in a good mood and it’s also time for me to get off work, so I’ll leave this place in your hands.”
“No, no. Thank you for your hard work.”
The man called Henry gazed after the two’s backs with a flattering smile.
“Rest assured, you can leave the rest to me. Do have a leisurely drink.”
“… It’s because it’s you that we can’t relax, but the director and vice-director aren’t here, damn it!”
Nicholas gave a worried shake of his head and led Elean out of the newspaper agency.
Henry watched them cheerfully and confidently, sniggering softly,
“Oh my, it’s been quite a while since I last received clients alone. It’d be great if an admirable client came!”
His wish was about to be fulfilled.
A man sidled suspiciously into the agency, his face concealed by a hat and a scarf, and a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. All the editorial staff simultaneously stopped what they were doing and slowly reached into their breast pockets or into drawers. Then, unshaken, the entrant proclaimed loudly to everyone, “I have information I want to report, is there someone who can speak English”. What was said was actually faltering Chinese.
By chance, Henry was just returning after finishing preparatory work. With a discomforting smile plastered on his face, he said very happily,
“If you don’t mind, you may speak to me.”
A bar under the Martillo Family’s jurisdiction The ‘Alveare’
Somewhere inside the Alveare, Elean and Nicholas were drinking honey-blended wine. The spacious shop front was decorated beautifully, making this place feel more like a high-class restaurant than a bar.
“Is he okay, that Henry guy?”
“At least he’s much, much, much stronger than me. Aah, I’m no good. No good, no good, no good. If something is no good then all of it isn’t good.
“You really aren’t any good. Don’t take it to heart- since you’re hiding it, don’t have those pointless expectations. So from now onwards, you must improve in controlling your own emotions. This isn’t the first time I’ve told you this.”
A waitress in a qipao came bearing the dishes, and Elean silently watched as he rested his chin on his hand. Then, as though suddenly remembering something, he lifted his head.
“That’s right! I remembered something.”
“That Dallas guy. He seemed to know a special secret.”
In the whole of DD, only the director and vice-director had access to those special secrets. But it was possible that those kinds of documents simply didn’t exist. Or maybe those secrets were all stored in their heads, but this wasn’t something anyone could verify.
“Isn’t that Dallas fellow a delinquent? What kind of big secret would he know… no, wait, wait.”
Nicholas suddenly came to a halt, and downed all the wine in the glass.
“The ones who disposed of Dallas were the Gandors, right? So, is it related to the ‘immortals’?”
“Aah, yes, that’s right.”
‘Immortals’. This abruptly introduced, unreal word was unconditionally accepted by Elean. To them, ‘immortals’ were people who undoubtedly and really existed, and they had actually seen them before. For example, the waitress who just served the dishes was one of them.
Information regarding immortals was also trickling in gradually.
200 years ago, alchemists aboard a ship that was headed towards this continent obtained the power of immortality. But there were also limitations for immortals, which were that no false names could be used between immortals or in public arenas, and that they could ‘eat’ one of their own through their right hand.
Next, an incident a year ago caused some immortals to appear in this city. The Martillo Family’s executives, the waitress, the shopkeeper of the Alveare and the three Gandor brothers.
According to the information, there were a few others as well, but Nicholas didn’t know their names. Perhaps the bosses knew who they were!
“Hey, if we don’t ask the director ourselves we’ll never know.”
The two finished here, then continued drinking and eating.
At this moment, a new customer walked in. It was a girl around twenty years old, carrying a very large black, leather case in one hand. The two people from the information agency immediately recognized that girl.
“That girl, isn’t she the waitress for the Gandor Family’s bar?”
“Aah, that’s right. I believe she’s called Edith?”
Nicholas remembered something. He neglected to tell the Runorata Family’s men during the day that this girl was related to the person who stole their drugs— she was Roy’s girlfriend.
And— that leather case tightly held in one hand.
Not quite believing what he saw, Nicholas watched Edith’s every move alertly.
“Ah— Werucome-- Edith, you not here for long time ah!”
“Yes, Lia. You’re still as well as ever!”
As Edith greeted her good friend wearing the qipao, she revealed a burdened expression.
Lia Linshan was immediately worried at seeing such an expression on Edith’s face. At this moment in time the seats hadn’t been filled, so she wasn’t very busy now.
“What happen? You seems like problems on your heart?”
“No, that… Oh, actually, I have something I really need you to help me with.”
As Edith said with a troubled expression, she handed the black case over.
“This suitcase, can you please help me keep it for a bit?”
Let’s turn back time to the afternoon.
“That’s why I said, why did you bring it here!”
From the flat Edith rented came the sounds of an argument over a large suitcase.
“I really don’t know what you were thinking, to actually do this kind of ridiculous thing!”
“There’s no use saying anything now. Look, the past won’t come again, what shouldn’t have been done has also become reality. I want to forget everything that has happened, but that’s not possible either. Now, look, we better think about how to deal with this.”
His verve from yesterday gone, Roy at this moment had become meek and humble as he continued to explain to Edith, who was rolling her eyes.
“Really! What were you doing! It’s precisely because you always say that when you’re taking drugs, ‘the entire world merges with me’ and that kind of ridiculous bull!”
“I can’t help it, it’s because I really want to become that way that I take drugs, then, people who experience that feeling, even just once, can’t ever forget it, especially for weak-willed people like me.”
“If you can actually calmly psychoanalyze yourself, then why touch that stuff in the first place! Bastard!”
What followed was Edith using a whole hour to continue berating Roy, and in the interval she used the word ‘bastard’ at least 300 times.
At the end of the scolding, Edith felt exhausted, and she took in a deep breath.
“But I’m surprised you didn’t touch the stuff in this case. This makes me feel a little relieved.”
“Actually… I really wanted to use it. But if I even touch this stuff, those Runorata people will never let me get away with this… I, I’m really scared. Those guys can do anything. Those Runorata people, I know full well what they…”
“That’s to say, because you were scared you didn’t touch that stuff. So I’m saying you couldn’t possibly have snapped out of it… But normally you’d take it even though you feared the effects of the drug, but this time you didn’t. So there are times when even Roy the junkie is scared of death!”
Seeing Edith’s too-good-to-be-true expression, Roy answered a little shakily,
“I’m scared, those guys— especially that Gustavo, they’re extremely cruel, won’t give the slightest warning or threat, and even innocent people are slaughtered without exception. I don’t care if I die. It’s just, it’s just—”
The spineless Roy couldn’t speak. Perhaps she understood his sincerity, or perhaps she didn’t, Edith immediately calmed down and hugged the trembling Roy.
“Sorry. Thank you.”
With that, Edith took the black leather case and stood up.
“Although it took a long time, you finally kept your promise. So this time it’s my turn. Roy definitely won’t die. I don’t care if it’s those assholes are from the Runorata Family or the Gandors, I’ll protect you.”
As she spoke, she lifted the suitcase, turned and walked to the door.
“Where, where’re you going?”
“Anyhow, this case is our ‘trump card’. But it’ll be easily stolen if we keep it- if we’re caught together in the end then everything’s over. So first we need to find a trustworthy person to hide this with.”
“What! No way, that person’ll get involved too.”
“That’s not a problem. The Runorata Family now only cares about dealing with those small organizations, and there’s a place they definitely won’t touch. I’ll go there to find a friend who’ll help.”
“So, that’s how it is… I know this really isn’t very nice, but… sorry!”
“If you wanna say sorry, why not beg ah!”
In a corner of the ‘Alveare’, Edith and Lia were conversing quietly.
“--- That’s right. Sorry. Never mind…”
“But, actually is okay. First I help you keep?”
Edith widened her eyes at such a ready response.
“Can see, Edith is really liking Roy ah!”
This kind of joking tone only served to make Edith feel a little worried.
“Is, is it really okay? That and, if possible, don’t let the Martillo Family people know, okay? The people here seem to be on very good terms with the Keith, Luck brothers.”
“Only business cooperation, no problem. No problem, but my room has no lock, only can give other trusting people.”
Although there was a stumped feeling in her words, perhaps it would be even safer if this item passed through several hands.
“Right, the people Lia can trust, I can also trust. Then I’ll leave it to you, thank you very, very much!”
Gazing after Edith’s receding back, Nicholas and Elean, who had been attentively eavesdropping, collectively exhaled a sigh.
In the bar, it would usually be difficult to hear Edith and Lia’s dialogue from where they were sitting, but Nicholas and Elean were used to the noise and racket of the editorial department, and so they could more or less make out the general content.
“My, my, we’ve really picked up a seriously juicy tidbit of information. How should we use it?”
“No matter what, we’ll report it to the Director tomorrow. Having gotten such a valuable piece of information, the Director’ll no longer regard us as useless, idle people!”
“Us…? Don’t lump me together with an idle person like you!”
Elean was stunned by such a response, and Nicholas smirked as he drained the entire glass of wine.
“Obtaining information directly isn’t our forte.”
“I see, I see. I fully understand what you’re trying to say.”
At the same time, Roy and Henry were chatting in the newspaper agency.
“That’s to say, what you want to know is this? The Runorata Family’s weakness?”
“Aah, ye-, yes. From stealing the drugs until now, no matter what, I can’t let them get me, or my friends, so I have to do something.”
Roy’s palms sweated as he explained the entire situation from start to finish. At this, Henry smiled as he complimented Roy,
“Oh my, the big secret you confessed today certainly is very important information. However, the question is money. If you want to know an even greater secret, in theory I will need at least 5000 dollars.”
“Five, five thousand dollars!?”
To buy drugs, Roy had spent virtually all the money he had, so requiring him to pay so much money at once was absolutely impossible. Furthermore, at a recessionary time like this, even average people couldn’t offer up such a large sum.
As Henry smiled, he suggested a compromise.
“That’s not to say there’s no other way. This isn’t a normal transaction, and as a firm it’s difficult to give you guaranteed information—”
Standing up from the chair in the reception room, Henry leaned close to Roy’s ear.
“Right now I’m not a worker here, just a person talking to himself, and you accidentally overheard it, how does that sound?”
“Is, is that okay?”
Seeing Roy’s gleaming eyes, Henry smiled gave a smile of satisfaction.
“Do you know the millionaires, the Genoards?”
Roy shook his head.
“Based in New Jersey, they are millionaires primarily involved in the textiles industry, but that’s just on the surface. Underneath that, they manage factories that manufacture marijuana, cocaine and other drugs, then profit by selling these drugs to the market through the Runorata Family. That’s to say, every generation of the Genoard family -- actually, only up to the second generation-- controlled the source of drugs, and held an extremely high status in the underworld.
Roy’s eyes popped at the suddenness of the news. It actually wasn’t totally unrelated to him, and it was possible that the new drugs that appeared on the market a few days ago, and the marijuana and cocaine that he took in the past were all manufactured by them.
“Ah, but, after the first generation head of family passed away, his son and his eldest grandson inherited the family business. Since then, their relationship with the Runorata Family… especially with Gustavo, took a turn for the worse, perhaps because they couldn’t reach a consensus on the matter of money.”
“---Then, they crafted a story and killed the head and the eldest grandson, and the Runoratas took over the Genoard factory. They acquired the cover businesses, threatened important staff, and so that was how they finally swallowed up the Genoard business.”
Having heard all of the above, Roy shouted excitedly,
“Good, good! This is my saviour—”
“Don’t be hasty. Right now there isn’t any evidence- all the witnesses have been bought by them.”
“Then doesn’t that become meaningless?”
“But there’s still one more key person. In addition, that person is currently in Manhattan.”
“It doesn’t matter whether that person knows of it or not. So long as that person exists, then this person will be a trump card against the Runorata Family. You just have to be able to protect that person’s safety.”
Henry smirked, just like a demon mocking people’s misfortunes.
“Use that person as a shield, then negotiate with the Runoratas after you’ve left this place with your loved ones. Then, not only will your friends be safe, but you may even receive a greater reward. Then, release that person once you’ve reached a safe place. This way, no one gets killed or hurt; just that one person gets imprisoned for a few days. This is the best method.”
As though hypnotized by that smile, Roy resolutely stared at Henry.
Henry’s lips turned up in an evil smile, and slowly pronounced that person’s name,
“That person is the granddaughter of the head, and also the youngest daughter of the Genoard family — Eve Genoard.”
At the same time The Gandor Family office
In an alleyway just off Mulberry Street, in the basement of a small jazz bar, there was an area as large as that on the surface. This was the Gandor Family’s office, the core of the organization, unfolding in a stately manner before one’s eyes.
“And, how’s that idiot?”
Next door to the large saloon where the underlings were gathered, the three bosses were sitting in the small parlor.
“I’m letting Tick handle it. Though I’m not sure whether the guy has any nerves left to feel the pain.”
In response to the question by Berga, the heavy-set second-oldest, Luck, the youngest, replied blandly,
As usual, the eldest, Keith, didn’t speak, silently shuffling poker cards by himself.
At this moment, there was knocking on the door, and an easygoing voice carried into the room.
“Good day everyone, it’s Tick.”
“Aah, Mr. Tick. Please come in.”
Then, the door opened, revealing a youthful face; just like that of a young man who ran a flower shop.
--Except, he had a pair of two-feet-long scissors in each hand.
Although nothing dripped, the blades were covered in red from tip to handle.
“Hopeless, hopeless, absolutely hopeless! That guy’s taken too much drugs- he just doesn’t have the conscious of a normal person anymore.”
His eyes squinted in a smile, he waved pacha pacha with his hands. Because he had already anticipated this, Luck just gave a soft sigh.
“Spending another month on him won’t hurt- it’s not too late to try again once the medication has passed.”
“No, no need. Forget him, dump him at the door of the police station tonight.”
Tick smiled an innocent smile like a kid, leaving as he waved the large pairs of scissors about- gechi gechi.
“Is it okay? That was the guy who cut off your head with a knife, right?”
Hearing Berga’s question, Luck shook his head with a weary expression.
“Doesn’t matter. Someone definitely paid him to do it. That was just a drug addict who couldn’t even control himself, so even if we were to kill him, people would just say he died from a drug overdose.”
As Luck spoke, he pondered.
Recently, he’d been acting like nothing mattered anymore, and he was aware of this. But, in the past--- compared to the Luck a year ago, he had changed into a completely different person, to one who was so rational and benign. If it were the past him, he would have sent that junkie to the other world long ago. No, it was likely his past self would have already been long dead.
Yet now, he felt that there simply wasn’t such a need. The attack was by a junkie, and furthermore, it had no impact whatsoever on the organization’s reputation, so his ‘anger’ simply wouldn’t rouse. He understood the reason. A year ago, the ‘wine of immortality’ incident happened on this very street. Because he had become involved, he had also become immortal.
But those who didn’t kill would be killed. In this world of unwritten laws, he would never be killed. These so-called unwritten laws had no meaning.
--Humans, once they obtained an immortal body, became soulless creatures. Even so, Keith-bro and Berga-bro haven’t changed much up to now.
Besides Berga, who became ‘more unyielding’ due to his immortal body, big brother Keith just paid more attention to his sense of duty towards work. In comparison, he had fallen into such a disgraceful state.
“But, if not for that, I’d have departed from this world long ago.”
“… But, I’m someone living in such a world, I can’t die… This is all reality.”
Perhaps because he couldn’t tell what his younger brother was thinking, Berga didn’t press the issue.
“Is that so, yeah, never mind, let’s just do it your way!”
“But what shocks me is that the same thing happened to Firo last year, and he raised such a tremendous fuss about it. While us, when our throats get cut, we can’t even get revenge- how deplorably weak we are.”
Firo Prochainezo. A childhood friend of the three Gandor brothers, and now a young executive of the Martillo Family, which commanded a very large territory. A year ago, like, Luck, he had also been attacked by a junkie, but he didn’t get hurt at all.
“Honestly, once you become immortal, your instincts become dull.”
“But you’ve always been a guy who never liked fighting. Weak guys will only do weak things, right?”
“It’d be bad if they don’t do weak things.”
Watching the two quarrel, the eldest who had never said a word, Keith, suddenly looked at his watch, then stood up and pulled on his coat.
“Aah, it’s time to go home, Keith-bro.”
“Is Mrs. Kate well?”
Hearing his wife’s name, Keith donned his hat and gave a light nod of the head. It was a nod, but it was rare that he ever uttered a reply.
“Eh, Luck. Are you happy like this? You should hurry up and find a girlfriend too.”
“Eyes forward, take a look at yourself.”
“Ah, with that villainous face of yours, looks like it’ll be a difficult task!”
I really don’t want to be lectured by Berga-bro of all people. Although he thought that, he didn’t say it aloud. Because Berga, too, was already married.
“Say, has Berga-bro made up with Mrs. Kalia yet?”
“……You’ll understand once you’ve married. It’s troublesome.”
Perhaps those words held significance or they were just words plucked from the air, Berga also acted as though he was about to leave. Luck had never felt lonely because he was by himself, so as usual he watched his two older brothers depart. However, the entire atmosphere in the room became tense the next moment.
“Boss! Boss! There’s trouble!”
Berga roared to the underling. Then, another one of his men appeared, blood-drenched, before their eyes. He was one of the executives in charge of the surrounding race tracks. It was obvious he had taken remarkable damage, but this man kept his back straight before his bosses and reported without any change in expression.
“Sorry, boss. The enemy’s attack took us by surprise. We immediately retaliated, but only caught one alive. This is all my fault.”
Behind the man who was coolly reporting, between the rows of snooker tables, lay a man Luck didn’t recognize, oblivious to the world around him.
A stern voice sounded in the room. Keith, who rarely spoke, said this, inquiring further information about the situation.
“Because the races had just finished, no customers were injured. The money has already been dispersed by my men. Other than injuries to the shopkeeper and I, there were no other damages.”
Although bleeding from various gunshot wounds, that man still kept a faint smile on his face till the very end. At this, Keith just said a line.
“Thank you for your hard work.”
What was most commendable was that this man bowed respectfully before exiting.
Although such a momentous incident had occurred, most people within the organization were extremely calm, and someone was administering first aid to the injured executive. The underling who had run in shouting and panicking was a recently-joined newcomer; he stood in the room filled with the stench of blood, his face whiter than sheets. Standing by the newcomer’s side, the other members all bowed to the three bosses.
“Boss… We just received a report that three other places have also come under attack. A bar, a casino and a motel. Our men all quickly returned fire, and only a few brothers have been lightly injured.”
Hearing the report, Keith took off the coat he had already put on; Berga angrily shook his fists; Luck looked very calm on the surface, merely creasing his brow was how he dealt with the matter.
“Attacked at the same time……? We and the surrounding organizations have always abided by the truce - there weren’t any signs of instability.”
“These guys coming out of nowhere, once I find them I’ll kill them all!”
At this moment, the man lying at the centre of the room stirred. It was the guy who had been captured alive by the executive during the sudden attack on the race course.
This fellow sensed something was wrong, and gave an agonized cry.
“Hey, wait a sec, ‘ooh’? Did you just say ‘ooh’?”
Berga jumped up and stomped heavily on the man’s chest. Without any warning, the tips of his feet launched a sudden attack at the man’s chest.
“What ‘ooh’! Did you never think you’d end up like this? You dare come here without ever dreaming that you’d be mobbed by us, killed by us? You just wanna have a little knockabout with us? Huh? Huh?”
Berga was still venting his frustration by wildly kicking that guy, when Luck slowly approached from the side.
“My, my, I finally know the true face of the one who slit my throat.”
Staring at the fox-eyed man standing to one side, the pitiful captive shouted as he spat blood,
“Can’t be!? You bastard, didn’t your throat already get cut---!”
“Indeed. And you didn’t come to rescue your comrade afterwards but ran away. Ah well, I guess you were all deep in the thralls of drugs, so you dared to pick a fight with us on our territory, you folk who think too highly of yourselves.”
As Luck spoke with a look of indifference, he shouted at the innermost door in the basement,
“Mr. Tick! Mr. Tick!”
“Yes? Is something the matter?”
Tick poked his head out from inside, still holding in his hands the large pairs of scissors from just now.
“Take care of another one for me.”
Watching the object in the hand of the man who was walking towards him, the captive broke out in cold sweat, and every muscle trembled. Tick ambled in the direction of the man, revealing a sincere, sorrowful expression.
“You see, I have to first apologize to you. I’m sorry.”
Could it be that to start of with, it was time for apologies and not ‘underground interrogation’? It didn’t matter, because when the captive heard his next words, he wept harder in his heart.
“The blood and grease from the previous person hasn’t been cleaned off yet, and there are no spares I can use now. So, you see, I might not be able to cut as well—”
The pairs of scissors in both his hands were waved around, making ‘geshi geshi’ sounds, he came closer and closer.
“I think it’s going to hurt a lo---t. Twice as much as the previous person.”
“Wa-, wa-, wait a minute! I’ll talk! I’ll tell you anything!”
“Do---n’t talk like that. Show me the killing intent you had when you attacked the Gandors.”
Tick said as he continued approaching. For a second, Luck had a sudden urge to stop his advance.
“Say, Nicola, who was the one who shot you?”
Luck turned to the executive who had reported while covered in blood. As the man called Nicola wrapped the bandages, he slowly answered.
“It’s this guy. So I was a little harsh on his men. My personal feelings got in the way, please forgive me.”
Luck didn’t care about the personal feelings he spoke of; he drew closer to the captive, declaring with a faint smile,
“Ah, Nicola said it himself. Because it wasn’t easy.”
--Aah, furthermore. There was the feeling of ‘anger’ in the deep recesses of my heart: this was good. The anger at the enemies who injured Nicola, injured my men, rushing up.
His occupation would definitely anger people, because it was an occupation where lives could be lost at any time purely for the sake of money. This wasn’t strange at all. Although he understood that, standing aside and doing nothing when friends were hurt was a completely different matter.
Luck felt a little bit more at ease, as the agonized cries sounded in his ear.
--Aah, come to think of it, that guy should be wailing as well. No, that shouldn’t be possible underwater. A year ago, those scum who murdered our four men, those possessing incomplete ‘immortal bodies’, low-life scoundrels who continue to pay for their crimes in the dark depths of the river. What was the leader called again?
--Something like, Dallas, Ge-… Ge-…? What was it? Aah, I really didn’t want to dig up the past.
Luck struggled with past memories as he lightly bit his lower lip.
The anger residing in his body would never vanish.
Same day, late at night DD Newspaper Agency
Standing before the newspaper agency, Keith slowly opened the door.
Although it was already late at night, there were still people working industriously. One of them recognized Keith and immediately picked up the internal phone and called some room. After a brief dialogue, the Asian opened the door leading to the second floor and gave Keith a Chinese bow, clasping his left hand over his right fist before his chest.
Keith silently walked up to the second floor, heading straight for the innermost door. Phones rang continuously in the various rooms on the way. There were workers busy receiving calls in every room, but even so the phones didn’t stop ringing. Just how many phones were there- this was a question people would ask every time they came to the second floor.
On the innermost door was a plaque saying it was the Director’s Suite, and from inside came the same chorus of phone rings.
“You came, Keith. No, I should say, you should come.”
As the door opened, this voice sounded from within. The voice originated from behind the mountain of information before his eyes, but other than his voice, the man himself couldn’t be seen, so there was no way of judging whether it was the voice of a young or old person. Keith surveyed the surroundings, to see more than half the room buried in a large quantity of paper.
“Amazing, isn’t it. Just like comedies in the era of silent movies- there isn’t even space to organize the information. I didn’t prepare any chair for you- recently, I’ve been entering through the window with a ladder. Once I even had a policeman point a gun at me.”
Although the phones didn’t stop ringing, Keith could still clearly hear the speaker’s voice.
“Then, what kind of ‘information’ are you here for? I received news that a bunch of poor folks barged into your territory, and I’m guessing you already know what kind of people they are, and what their goals are?”
As long as there were people living there, this information agency will be the first to gain the overall picture of what was happening. The information agency struck ‘contracts’ with various types of people, obtained various kinds of information through the phone and through rumors, and pay out rewards at regular intervals. This was the setup of the information agency. All sorts of people sent them news- the top residents, the florist at the corner of the street, and even the police and Mafia members.
Keith came here having obtained full understanding of the basic groundwork of the situation, so he wasn’t the slightest bit surprised by the voice coming from behind the mountain of information, and just calmly listened to him speak.
“Your enemy is a single person in the Runorata Family called Gustavo Bujetta. He is the one put in charge of entering the Manhattan scene. Of course, the Runorata Family is a large New York family with much power, but they don’t have any territory in Manhattan. Manhattan is primarily controlled by five large families: large organizations from Chicago and San Francisco or else organizations with even more influential supporters behind them. They want to set foot here and have decided that they would not have direct conflicts with these organizations. So they chose new organizations like yours with no support of other large organizations, and slowly expand once they had conquered you. Am I right so far?”
Keith didn’t speak, waiting for him to continue. The speaker also seemed to be confirming this, and once again opened his mouth to the sounds of phone rings.
“Small organizations like yours with no other large organizations to rely on ended up joining the ranks of their delectable prey. Others in the same situation as you are the Martillos, but their leader came from the same village as the Runorata don, Bartolo.”
There wasn’t any sorrow in his words; on the contrary, they poured into Keith’s ears just like flowing water.
“Gustavo is a battle maniac. Before he struck against your men, he distributed drugs on your turf, probably in order to increase your burdens. But regretfully, I don’t have any reliable information about their true motives. No negotiations, no warnings and also no declarations of war beforehand, simply acting according to his own intentions. He seems to have ascended to the executive board using these means. Just as birds that take the lead are shot, he’s garnered discontent from quite a few members of the organization. Bartolo also doesn’t feel that conquering the whole of Manhattan is necessary, because he knows it isn’t possible for a large organization like the Runorata to completely take over the area. In other words, Gustavo is no longer useful. In reality, what appears to be a promotion is actually a demotion, only that he’s not aware of it yet.”
As he took down his voice by a notch, he revealed the inner workings of the Runorata Family.
“But no matter what, to the Runorata Family don, Gustavo has never been someone to be underestimated, because he’s someone who has experienced the ‘Night of the Sicilian Vespers’.”
“Night of the Sicilian Vespers” was a pan-country incident in September of that year which caused quite a sensation- an ‘extermination’ orchestrated by Lucky Luciano and others. So they could establish a new Mafia system, they murdered over 30 Mafia bosses who still held onto the old school of thought. Then, they set up a Commission of 6 members to lead the newly reorganized ‘Cosa Nostra’.
“Although the Runorata don still follows the old school of thought, he moves with the crowd, and continues the organization’s activities with the guidance of the ‘Cosa Nostra’. That alone is enough of an indicator of his power. Just think, it’d be good if that kind of guy was backing Gustavo. But he’s just there - he’ll never directly help Gustavo. If you understand this, then good.”
He finished speaking, and the phones suddenly ceased their racket.
“I’ve temporarily cut the phone line. So I can hear you better.”
From behind the mountain of information came the voice of the The Informer director. The curiosity in that voice was obvious.
“Now, Keith. You may even know all this. What’s next is for you to say why you came, what’s your purpose and what do you want to know? Of course, depending on the importance of the information I will charge different prices, but what you say will definitely be precious information. The last time I heard you say more than 5 words was 3 years ago. That should be when there was a clash with the Martillo Family. Such serene silence is really an eye-opener for me, but as long as the information is useful I’m happy!”
The voice behind the information heap suddenly stopped, and for a moment silence enveloped the entire room.
Then, Keith finally opened his mouth-------------
Gustavo was sorting through his men’s reports, when he suddenly pounded the table.
“Shit! The hell’s up with this- after killing one of their bosses and mobilizing so much manpower, they didn’t even touch a hair on their heads and they even ended up being captured alive.”
To he who thought Luck had already died, the opposing organization’s calm response was completely outside of his expectations.
That motley rabble shouldn’t be hard to handle, right? And even though they found out the guy who stole the drugs, all that was left in his residence was the smell of vomit, so if this continued, he was really screwed. He initially thought he could get some credit from his boss with this, but then it amounted to the same as adding another black mark to his record.
At the temporary stronghold of the organization-- in a hotel room on Wall Street, Gustavo was desperately trying to think up strategies. But the only thing on this man’s mind was how he could speed up his promotion, so he wasn’t able to come up with any good ideas until now. Although he really wanted to use explosives to blast away all their stores, he currently had no explosives at hand, so if he was planning to go through with this, he’d need to ask Bartolo for help- but how would he explain the failure this time?
“Damn it, there still aren’t enough people? Next time I’ll be sure to gather enough men to give them a vicious—”
“Are you, all, right? You, don’t, look, too well.
Gustavo jolted in surprise at the sudden voice coming from behind.
“B-, Begg! Why’re you here? You scared the crap outta me! Jesus!”
“Didn’t, I, con, tact you, before, I came, over today? I, wanted, to, see, the ef, fective, ness, of, the drugs I, made.”
“Tch! I’m very busy now, next time!”
“Can’t. At, the end, of this, month, I, need, to, pick up, some, goods, from the, train, sta, tion. It’s, very, heavy, so I, need to, bor, row, a few of, your men.”
“You’re frickkin’ kidding me! I’m not that jobless… Goods? Ingredients for your drugs?”
If it was that then he couldn’t take this matter lightly. But what followed shocked Gustavo.
“Something, more, trouble, some. Some, pow, erful, ex, plosives, my friend, made.”
Gustavo mulled over this sentence for a long while before the meaning sank in.
“Can you tell me more about it?”
“That’s the current situation- we’re counting on you. Oh? You still can’t predict how things will go?”
In the office in the basement of the jazz bar, Luck was giving a call to someone. The surrounding men all stood to one side, anxiously watching their boss, totally clueless as to who their boss was calling.
“So that’s settled. Then, we’ll be waiting for your arrival at the end of this month. Ah, it’s an honor for us too.”
“It’s OK! He’s coming here at the end of this month by train.”
Berga gave a whistle and even Keith revealed a rare, faint smile.
“Now, listen, everyone. For the time being, no one is to act alone without orders. Post notices on all casinos and bars saying ‘Closed due to renovations’. No one is to show their faces without receiving orders- lay low and stay underground. Do you understand?”
Some executives excluded, the men became restless at being issued such an order so suddenly.
As though representing everyone, Tick asked, puzzled,
“Just who, who is coming?”
“Aah, that. If I didn’t tell everyone, you all won’t be able to take it lying down. My apologies.”
Very different from how he was normally, Luck couldn’t conceal his glee and slowly said a name.
“The legendary, no. 1 freelance assassin in this world, ‘Vino’…… Claire Stanfield.”
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