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XXVI.
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Russo’s eyes grew to the size of saucers. Of course Peter was involved. He suddenly wondered why he hadn’t considered his involvement sooner. Looking to his left, he saw Luca glancing back and forth between him and the doctor.

“Who the hell is Peter?” Luca asked, annoyed that his brother and George seemed to be in on a secret he was not privy to.


George groaned, too tired to respond to the question.

Russo yanked the older man back into his reading chair. He knocked over a side lamp in the process, sending a eerie shadow over the entire room. It took all of the doctor’s strength to not slump out of the seat.

“He is some guy Grace used to know. I think she may have gone to school with him. She ran into him in the city the day Mother made me take Grace to get her dress for the Governor’s ball.”

Luca swallowed hard. He didn’t know what to make of this information. He was confused and angry and hurt. His hands balled into fists turning his knuckles white.

“Why haven’t I heard of him before? He knows my wife and you didn’t think to tell me, Russo?”

Russo could tell his brother, the normally fully composed Luca, was unraveling at the seams.

Luca stomped over to where George sat. He drew his fist back and swung through connecting squarely with the man’s nose.

The crunch amid the deafening silence told him he’d broken it.

“You’re going to tell me everything you know about this man, do you understand?”

George cowered back into the upholstery. He nodded as best he could despite the pain radiating through his body.

“H-his name is Peter Schepp. He and Grace went to school together until a year and a half ago. H-he loved Grace. Probably still does.”

Russo had to restrain his brother from acting rashly and motioned for the doctor to continue talking.

“Anyways, ‘bout a year ago, he started getting involved with some gangs to make some extra money. He got in with the group down in Philadelphia. Around that same time, I was between jobs and things were tough for Gracie and I.

“I ran into Pete not long after that, and he said he could help me out financially if I would give him my blessing to marry her. I liked the kid and I needed the money so I agreed. He gave me the money and told me to keep Grace uninvolved until he got back. Said he had some business to take care of in Philly and that he’d be back in a few months.

“Well, when he was gone, we never heard from him. He was gone longer than I thought he’d be too. He just got back in town a few months ago. Maybe ten weeks?

“Anyways, he came here a few days after you took my girl. He was looking for her. I told him what had happened. He was furious that I had let Grace go off to be married. He was even more furious when I told him it was you she’d be marrying.

“Peter didn’t seem to believe me much when I said it wasn’t my fault, that she had been the one to decide to marry into the Venzetto crime family.  He said that in order to make it up to him, to pay back all the money he gave me, I’d have to help get Grace back and take down the Venzetto family in doing so.”

“How’s that working out for you, George?” Russo quipped.

The doctor didn’t answer.

Luca stepped back to lean against a wall. He was quiet.

Russo was too busy with asking more questions to pay attention to his little brother. So he failed to notice Luca take out his revolver and sidle towards the confrontation. His finger flirted with the trigger, but never pulled back hard enough to send a bullet into the man’s head.

“You sold your daughter in marriage once before. What kind of son of a bitch does that to an innocent girl twice?” Luca had their attention now. He grinned at the fear in George Hanson’s eyes seeing the gun pointed directly between his eyebrows.

“You don’t deserve to be in her life. Hell, you don’t deserve to live at all. You are a cold, heartless bastard who should burn in hell for the rest of -“

The cacophony of a single round interrupted Luca into a stunned silence.

He watched as blood ran down the side of doctor’s face from the bullet hole in the center of the man’s right temple. His eyes just moments ago filled with such exhilarating fear were now cold and dead. 

Luca searched frantically for the source of the shot. His eyes wandered until they landed on the gun, an extension of his brother’s hand. Russo. Russo had taken the shot.

Luca opened his mouth to say something, but no words came. He didn’t know what to feel. He was angry of course, but there was something else there he couldn’t quite define. How could Russo take something like this away from him?

Russo saw the pleading in his little brother’s eyes, in his slacken posture. All he could think about in that moment was the thirteen-year-old boy with a knife in his hand, ready and eager to kill. He saw a young man with a wife that he loved with every fiber of his being and would do anything to protect. He saw his brother eager to please their father, to do right by the family business.

However in the same moment, he saw himself. He saw his first kill and his second, third and fifth. He saw the kid with the crazed look in his eye wondering why anyone would ever enjoy killing another why he did. He saw himself struggling to do what’s right every day and he saw himself willing to make every difficult call necessary to protect his family.

It’s better that I have more red on my hands, Russo thought.

He knew what would have happened had Luca been the one to kill the doctor. He’d wake up to his wife’s face every morning and see traces of George in her. It would eat him up.

No one knew better than Russo that the truth was inevitable. Grace would find out if Luca had killed her father and she would never forgive him. Luca was in love with Grace. If she left, it very well might kill him.

Russo couldn’t let that happen.

He placed a hand on his little brother’s shoulder.

“It’s better this way.”

Luca nodded, still not fully comprehending.

“Don’t worry, Luca. We’re going to get him.”

Luca knew he was referring to Peter.

He nodded, wiping his nose. He finally felt as if he was regaining himself. He didn’t feel like he was having an out of body experience anymore and that is just what it had felt like. He had scared himself. Luca had never felt such blind rage as he had toward that man. If Russo hadn’t been there to end things, Luca wasn’t sure he would have had the will power to stop himself from tearing George limb from limb- literally.

There was a faint morning light beginning to pilfer through the curtains, which were now smattered with gray matter and blood.

“I-I should get back to Grace. It’s been a long night for her too. She was scared when I left, I should see if she’s okay.”

“I’ll call Benny to get this taken care of.” Luca nodded.

“Oh and Luca? Make sure you shower before you see Grace, you stink.”

Russo’s mouth twitched in what may have been a brief smile if the circumstances were different. 

He had just saved Luca from himself.

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