In the Shadows
True to her word, Grace was ready within the hour. She found a beautiful red and black dress tucked away in the back of her closet. It fell just below her knee, leaving the majority of her legs bare in true flapper fashion. Gia had undoubtedly stuck it in there before Luca and Grace moved in.
As they arrived at the club, Luca helped her from the car. Grace had never seen New York so alive before. Sure, she’d lived in the city for weeks now, but she hadn’t been out and about late enough to see the vibrant nightlife. Everywhere she turned, there were lights and noises, some of which, she’d never heard before. The only word that came to her mind to describe what surrounded her was incredible.
Luca ushered Grace into what appeared to be a nondescript café. Grace was less than impressed to see that the inside also looked like nothing more than a nondescript café. There were candles lit on every table and a pianist in the corner, but the crowd was rather old, and the atmosphere was stiff.
She tried not to sound disappointed when she asked Luca if this was the party he had described earlier. Luca laughed heartily behind her.
“No, my dear. You’ll see we only need to come through here to get to where we are going.”
He led her to the back of the café where the kitchen staff was at work. There was a narrow door next to the icebox along the far wall.
One of the cooks with a stained apron came over to them.
“What business do the two of you have here?”
“Just going out back,” Luca replied cryptically. He urged Grace toward the narrow door, where he knocked three times loudly.
A hatch was opened at eye level, revealing the face of a man Grace assumed was big and burly.
“Who have you come to see?” the man asked through the door.
“Only my very good friends Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker.”
The man shut the hatch. Grace had no idea what was going on, and was going to say something, but the door opened in front of them. The man was revealed in his entirety and granted them passage.
“Mr. Luciano welcomes you.”
Luca tipped his hat in the bouncer’s direction.
The two walked a short distance down a poorly lit hallway before reaching another door. This one was unguarded and they walked right in.
Grace had never seen anything like the sight in front of her. The only thing that came remotely close was her wedding reception and even that seemed tame compared to this.
Everywhere she turned there were young people dancing. They were doing moves she’d never seen before. There was a flurry of feathered headpieces and sharp tuxedoes out on the dance floor. Jazz music floated through the air and mingled with the sound of the swishing of flapper dresses.
The air smelled of cigarette smoke and the undeniable scent of alcohol. There were glasses and bottles of every sort of drink imaginable, champagne, beer, wine, vodka and whiskey. They all melded together in the form of a bitterly sweet stench and reddened cheeks.
“What do you think?” Luca asked her.
“I think this is amazing, Luca! Thank you for bringing me here.” Grace stood on her tiptoes and placed a chaste kiss on her husband’s lips.
Luca’s face lit up like a cheeky schoolboy’s.
“I should take you out more often.”
Grace felt her cheeks heat.
“Oh hush,” she playfully swatted at his chest.
To the right, the couple saw Valentino schmoozing with some local politician.
“Ah! There’s father. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be here tonight.”
“Well then, we should go and say thank you,” Grace suggested.
She grabbed Luca’s hand and led him through the energetic crowd. The two bobbed and weaved, avoiding dancing kicks and flinging arms of inebriated partygoers.
They finally reached the table Valentino was standing near just in time to hear him say goodbye to whomever it was he had been conversing with.
“Mr. Venzetto, Luca and I just wanted to say thank you for the invitation to your friends party tonight. Everything is simply; well, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Valentino let out a hearty laugh.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. “
Grace affirmed his statement with a nod. She watched as Valentino switched his persona and became more serious when he spoke to Luca.
“Have you seen Charles? He’s supposed to be back by now.”
“I’m sure everything is fine, father. Russo likes to do his own thing. You know that,” Luca said dismissively.
“While that may be true, Charles has never disobeyed an order. I told him to be back by six. It’s almost nine. It’s very unlike him to be late.” Grace could tell by the agitation in his tone that Valentino was genuinely concerned.
“Perhaps he’s back in the city and just didn’t know you’d be here tonight?” Grace supplied, feeling very much like an intruder on a conversation she wasn’t meant to be a part of.
Luca wrapped his hand around Grace’s waist, pulling her attention towards the bar on the opposite side of the speakeasy.
“Something tells me he figured it out.”
Sure enough, leaning on the edge of the bar, shot glass in hand was none other than Russo Venzetto.
Grace watched as he flung his head back, emptying the tiny glass in his hand.
Her eyebrows furrowed. There was something wrong with him. Even from across the way, Grace could tell his hair was mussed and his shirt was wrinkled. That was odd for Russo. He prided himself on always being put together.
In an almost simultaneous manner, Grace’s eyes met Russo’s. She watched as he slammed the shot glass down on the bar top. He stalked towards them, pushing people out of the way. As he neared, Grace could see the slightly crazed, intense glint in his eye.
“Charles! You’re late. I was beginning to worry that something was wrong,” Valentino raised his arms in a welcoming fashion.
The muscle in Russo’s jaw tightened.
“We need to get out of here.”
“Wait, what?” Luca didn’t comprehend what his brother had said.
“We need to get out of here. Now. Peter’s got this place surrounded. He’s going to destroy the place. It’s going to be a massacre.”
“Are you sure?” Valentino asked.
Russo gave one sharp nod.
Suddenly there was a flurry of motion between the Venzetto men. Russo led his father through the crowd and Luca grabbed Grace’s wrist, pulling her along.
“Wait! Peter as in Peter Schepp?”
“The one and only,” Russo called back sardonically.
Grace stopped in her tracks. She shook her head.
“That’s impossible.” No one heard her words over the volume of the music and happy chatter of unassuming partiers.
Luca tugged on her wrist. She followed him out of the same door they had entered not an hour earlier.
It was seemed colder out now than it had been. Perhaps that was because there was nothing to be excited about anymore. Perhaps it was because the streets were nearly empty. Grace did not know for sure.
“Stay close to me,” Luca ordered, gently placing a kiss to her temple.
“Luca, what’s going to happen?”
Luca stopped dead in his tracks, looking off into the distance. He was watching intently at something in the darkness that Grace could not see.
There was a flash of movement in the shadows. Before she could comprehend what was happening, Luca shoved her body behind him straight into Russo’s arms.
Luca yelled for them to get down, but Grace’s blood was pounding in her ears so loudly, she didn’t hear him.
Grace ran into a hard body. She knew it was Russo without turning her sight away from her husband.
The moment was silent for a split second before three gunshots rang out like thunder in quick succession.
Russo shielded her from the danger. She struggled in his grasp to get back to Luca.
She finally broke loose just in time to see Luca stumbling backwards.
He was staring straight at her. Her eyes flicked back and forth between his face, twisted in agony, and the three ever growing spots of blood seeping through his shirt.
Grace felt her heart stop and race at the same time.
She called out, but made no sound.
Russo restrained her as Luca took one more step back before falling to the ground.
“Luca!” she yelled.
She elbowed her captor to get away. His grip gave way without any trouble. She ran to where her husband lay on the asphalt. Grace felt her knees grow slick from sitting in his blood.
“Luca?” she called again, this time more urgently. There was no response. None at all.
"Luca, look at me. Look at me right now. I love you. I love you and I need you. Open your eyes. Luca you can't do this. I love you!"
She had never said those word to him before and now it was too late. He would never hear them.
Grace shook his shoulders, hoping for some response that she knew deep down she would not get. The glazed look in his eyes told her that she was going to get no response. Still, she tried.
Grace was barely aware of the tears streaming down her face, blurring everything in the world. She looked up, looking for something, someone, anything to help her dying husband.
“Somebody call the police! Somebody help! Please!”
Grace looked around frantically for someone, anyone to help. Every face she saw stared on in morbid shock. No one moved to help her. She looked to Russo who stood still as a statue behind her. His face was solemn.
“Russo, help me. Help Luca!”
He didn’t move. It seemed as though he was watching the same alleyway Luca had been watching just moments before.
There was another bolt of movement, and more shots were fired.
Russo returned fire this time, shooting at a ghost like target.
Through the glassiness of her tears, Grace could only make out figure running away from the scene. It was a familiar figure, one she had known well. It was one she had played games with as a child. It was the one that had taken her husband’s life.
It was Peter’s.
YOU ARE READING
Love and LiquorHistorical Fiction
Its New York, 1924, and Prohibition is in full swing, which means so is the Mafia. Grace Hanson is a seventeen year old that's just graduated from high school, waiting for her life to begin. In the meantime, she lives with her father, Dr. George Ha...