The United States of America enacted Prohibition in 1920, and repealed it in 1933; in total, it lasted for 13 years. During this period, all manufacture, retail, and distribution of beverages with alcohol content of more than 0.5% was declared illegal.
The most obvious result of this act was the rise of the mafia. Before this, the mafia had mostly earned its money from gambling, robbery, and so-called protection fees. But now, through the sale of moonshine, the mafia’s profits swelled by leaps and bounds.
As the mafia’s power grew, violent incidents erupted more and more frequently. Conflicts between the different mafia factions also intensified, due to the greater sums of money at stake. The powerful mafia was able to foment corruption among the police force through methods such as threats and bribery, and even managed to intimidate the officers of the Bureau of Prohibition.
It was not just the mafia who grew wealthy from Prohibition; the countries neighboring the United States, which had not enacted laws against manufacturing alcohol, also took advantage of this to rake in a profit. One might say that the proliferation of smuggling was another distinctive consequence of the Prohibition edict.
After Prohibition was repealed, value-for-money liquor could be openly sold, and the underground distilleries were also eliminated. This meant that the mafia’s core source of revenue thus vanished.
From a distance came the laughter of children.
Cerotto, seeing his own child among the group, couldn’t hold back a smile.
Today the church had organized an event - a picnic after the Sunday service. The moment the children had been waiting for, the time for smashing the piñata, had finally arrived.
The animal-shaped object stuffed full of candy was raised up high, and swayed back and forth with each strike from the sticks.
After innumerable blows, the head portion of the piñata was finally split by a single crack, and the candy that filled it began tumbling out. The children cheered.
The children dashed here and there, competing to grab the candy. The parents instead sat on the picnic mats spread out on the lawn, and called encouragement to their children. A few among them were holding cups brimming with wine or beer.
Just a few years ago, this would have been an illegal activity. But now, it was something they could do openly under the warm sunlight.
Such was the change in times.
Cerotto’s past must have been rather ghastly, for it to be summed up in that one sentence.
Cerotto had been an information broker in this town that was under the mafia’s grip.
Of the people who had been close to him at the time, so few of them were still alive and about. The person he’d called his older brother, the residents who had fled after betraying the cops, the friend he’d known since he started out as an information broker, and this friend’s best friend…
Even the head of the Family, too, had…
Recalling them, Cerotto couldn’t help but feel somewhat sad. He took a swig of the beer that his wife handed to him.
As he drank this weak liquor which had absolutely no kick to it, Cerotto remembered that liquor which had been many degrees stronger and extraordinarily delicious.
At first, it had just been a liquor secretly brewed in that person’s kitchen, but later it was bestowed the grand name of Lawless Heaven, and entered large-scale production - and yet today it was gone without a trace.
Like the spinning of a zoetrope, the memories of that time drifted in a stream through Cerotto’s mind.
As though it wasn’t enough getting my car stolen by Nero and Avilio, I’d also been taken for a thief by the shopkeeper. Talk about bad luck. I was knocked out by that punch, and when I finally managed to regain consciousness, it was to find myself about to be handed over to the police to be dealt with.
The people I was traveling with stole my car, and I was so shocked I dashed out of the store. I have money, and I’ll be sure to pay.
Even during such a simple explanation, I could sense several times that my life hung in the balance. If not for the shopkeeper’s daughter next to me lending her support, I’d probably have been left to the tender mercies of the police.
I managed to pay for the cans, but I didn’t have the money to buy a new car. Besides, I had no idea if I’d be safe if I returned to Lawless. After all, the people I was dealing with this time were the Galassias - big shots in Chicago.
I’d driven the car that carried Nero and Avilio. If a single word of this were to get out, I’d definitely be done for.
“There’s no going back for a while…”
I muttered these words to myself, but for some reason, they won me the deep sympathy of the shopkeeper’s daughter. She asked her father to hire me to work in the store. While he gave in to his darling daughter’s request, the gaze he turned on me grew increasingly harsh.
I dutifully followed orders and worked hard. One day, out of the blue, Nero appeared in the store to buy something, causing me a real fright.
“Hey, hey, what are you doing here? This can’t be good!”
I involuntarily let out a yell, but Nero just smiled wryly and said, “You’re as much of a pushover as ever, I see.”
“I haven’t forgotten that you two stole my car!” I bellowed.
“If the car was really returned, you’d be the one in trouble,” Nero replied with a laugh.
It seemed that Nero had already been found by the Galassia underlings.
While on the run, aimless and with no real plan in mind, he’d just happened to pass by this spot. It seemed that it was actually easier to hide right under your pursuers’ noses, by laying low in nearby places. Cities were the best place to lose yourself. Nero said all this with a smile.
But I couldn’t help but think - Could it be that this guy actually wants to die…?
Throughout the conversation, there was no mention of Avilio, who should have been traveling with him.
He wasn’t by Nero’s side. I also sensed that this was something which couldn’t be discussed.
Apparently it had been Nero and his lot who had murdered Avilio’s family. The one who had given the order to kill Corteo was also Nero. And so Avilio had taken away Nero’s kin, his companions, even the Family.
These two people couldn’t possibly continue to coexist amiably.
But for some reason, on the front passenger seat of the car lay a pineapple can, and Nero kept glancing over at it many times.
It was as though Avilio was there…
Just as I had liked Corteo, Nero too had liked Avilio.
He must have been rather fond of him; he’d brought him everywhere he went.
Avilio, too, had gotten along very well with Nero. Although their personalities were exact opposites, no matter what, they were a good match for each other.
And yet, despite all that… This mafia crowd really was beyond saving.
No wonder Corteo had hated them.
Nero gave me a sizable sum of money, and departed this town in that hopelessly beaten-up car.
The shopkeeper’s daughter asked, “Was that a friend of yours?”
I laughed bitterly and shook my head, and told her it was the car thief. She was furious for a while, but eventually she started laughing.
I took out the money Nero had given me. She said, “It won’t buy a car, but it should be enough to pay for two train tickets and still have some left over.”
Before I managed to sort out what on earth this sentence meant, a cry had already escaped my mouth, “No!”
I couldn’t put the woman I loved in danger. I couldn’t bring her to Lawless.
Faced with her tears, I found it extraordinarily difficult to explain the whole situation. And the shopkeeper even charged forward to hit me.
Can you just let people finish talking before you start hitting them! Please!
In the end, I had to tell the whole story in full detail.
“Please don’t tell the Galassias…”
Trembling with fear, I begged them to keep the secret. This wasn’t for my sake, but for Nero’s.
“Hmph! Like we’d want to get mixed up with that mafia sort!”
The shopkeeper told me to stay here for the time being. Hearing this, I let out a sigh of relief, though even the shopkeeper’s daughter called me “a pushover”.
Taking my hand in hers, she said, “After everything’s settled down, how about we go back together?”
Because of this, I got hit by the shopkeeper again - but the incredible thing was that this time, I didn’t feel any pain. Even when the spot where I was struck became swollen, with her tender care, the pain was nothing to speak of! …or at least I could bluff that much.
Before we received any news of Lawless, Prohibition was repealed.
Even the grocery store run by the shopkeeper began to sell low-proof alcohol.
The moonshine breweries in this town vanished one by one, replaced by ordinary stores that could sell alcohol.
Everyone said that the times had changed.
The newspapers said that the mafia in Chicago had gotten involved in a fierce battle with the FBI. After that, together with the shopkeeper’s daughter who was now my wife, I returned to Lawless.
In Lawless, no one knew what had become of Nero afterwards.
No one had any idea whether he was dead or alive.
With Orco, Fango, and Vincent all gone now, Lawless could be said to be incomparably peaceful. Apparently the Galassias had returned to Chicago without having taken control of the town. With the end of Prohibition, the Galassias had most likely lost the power to control somewhere as distant as Lawless.
I’d assumed that the playhouse where the tragedy took place would have been shut down, but in fact, it was operating just fine. The house where Corteo formerly lived now had a new tenant. The church on the island, in contrast, was unsurprisingly abandoned, given how severely the past shootouts had damaged the buildings. As for the Island, it seemed that it was soon to be reopened. Orco’s restaurant and the Vanetti mansion, too, now had new owners.
Ah, the times really had changed. I felt this very keenly.
Bearing flowers, my wife and I went to pay our respects at the graves of Corteo, my brother, and others.
At the same time, I said a small prayer for Avilio and Nero.
Although I have no idea what became of you two…
I didn’t have the slightest wish to know how those two guys ended up. I never wanted to find out.
“Papa! Mama! Look at this!” Hearing his son’s voice, Cerotto opened his eyes that had been tightly shut. His son’s small hands were brimming with sweets, chocolate, and packets of cookies.
“Whoa, are you sharing these with Papa and Mama?”
“What a good child.”
His son broke into a satisfied smile at the praise and the pat to his head. But in the moment Cerotto took away the chocolate he loved, a trace of sadness was visible on his little face.
Cerotto tore open the wrapper, and fed him the chocolate. His son’s downcast face instantly brightened with happiness.
“Mmhmm, it’s good, isn’t it.”
“Papa! I love you soooooooo much!”
As Cerotto took his son in his arms, he could smell the unique fragrance that children have…
Lawless had become a peaceful place. I was running a grocery store in this town that was slightly larger than my wife’s hometown. For some reason, the shop on that small street was the original store, and this one in Lawless was only considered the second branch. This had been the condition for marrying her, and I had to agree.
My store had no need to be scarred with bullet holes. I never wanted a time like that to come again.
Instead, I wished that peace could last forever. This was what I prayed for.
Corteo, Nero, and Avilio were smiling and nodding-
That’s the feeling I had.