A clash ensues between a pillar of justice and a pillar of lies. Now, judgment shall be passed…
The Witness for the Gangsters (testimone di gangster) – a novel
autore – Keiji Ando concetto originale – Hirohiko Araki
Published in JOJO magazine 2022 WINTER
Translator – Cinda
Please contact Cinda or comment below if you have ideas for improvements.
Palermo, the largest city on the island of Sicily, looked over the glittering blue sea to the east. A market near the harbor opened early in the morning and sold fresh fish, and countless hotels and ristorantes catered to tourists.
In the lively town center, one building was especially prominent; it towered over all the rest like a fortress. This was the Palermo Courthouse—and today, the plaza in front of it was filled with a crowd of photographers and journalists.
Inside the courthouse walls, it was just as packed. Several security guards stood at the first-floor courtroom entrance. Security was unusually tight, with every entrant being subjected to a thorough search of even their shirt pockets and bags before passing through.
Currently, a skinny young man with a bandana wrapped around his head was being checked at the front of the line. The guard pulled a thermos from the man’s bag.
“What’s in this?”
The man screwed off the cap, poured coffee inside of it, and took a swig right in front of the guard.
“It’s just coffee.”
“You’re good to go,” responded the guard.
Before passing through the doors into the courtroom, the man stopped in his tracks. A bronze statue stood in front of the doorway. The statue was of a goddess of justice holding a sword and a book of law. Its expression overflowed with both elegance and severity, making it seem as if it was judging every person who came into the courtroom.
Seeing this, a look of absolute boredom rose to the man’s face.
What a joke. This place is as far from God as it gets.
There were over three hundred seats available for both the press and the public. The man chose an empty chair in the front row.
This is even more crowded than the first hearing was. Guess people weren’t exaggerating about how much attention this trial would draw.
After all, this massive trial being held against gang members was an event not to be missed.
The man looked around the room. The judge’s bench stood at the front of the room. Across from it, the prosecution bench sat to the right and the defense bench to the left.
A cage was installed in the wall behind the spectator area. Currently, it was empty, but it held the defendant during a criminal trial. This was a custom of several countries’ courts of law, Italy included.
The concept of placing defendants whose criminal status was still hanging in the balance in cages was looked down upon by some, who claimed that it could color trial participants’ opinions. Still, the custom persisted, as many defendants were part of a group of despicable criminals prepared to incite violence—a gang. A large courtroom like this was able to host trials with many defendants. One such example was the “Great Gang Trial” that had occurred seven years before. Over 220 gang members were declared guilty. The trial occurring today had 32 defendants—a small number in comparison, but it garnered much more attention.
Well, that’s to be expected, what with our prosecutor and defendants being…
Suddenly, the courtroom filled with murmurs. The doors facing the prosecution bench swung open.
A well-built man in the prime of his life walked in.
Speak of the devil… Here’s Prosecutor Falco.
He was more well-known than the star athletes who participated in the Serie A, a frequent sight in the newspapers and on TV. This was Gilberto Falco, the prosecutor appointed to this trial. Journalists’ camera shutters clicked.
The Italian government had suddenly descended into corruption ten years ago. It was rotten down to its unseen core. Gangs had been enjoying free roam of the country for a long time. Ever since the 1950s, they had been making a fortune off of the drug trade and expanding their region of influence. Incidents of gang and government collusion were common. There was no escape once a government official involved themselves with gangs, and those who tried to expose these collusions were mercilessly retaliated against. In the end, the partnership between these gangs and the government remained unbroken.
Prosecutor Falco was the one to finally put the scalpel to this festering wound on society. He was prepared to boldly face this challenge, despite the fact that in doing so, he would put his own life in danger. First, he set his sights on a smaller gang. He targeted members who wanted a way out, or “converts”, and promised them his protection. He guaranteed the well-being of their loved ones as well, which was enough to convince them to divulge information.
Falco had been nicknamed “The Seducer” by the public. When he looked into gangs, he never made light of his informants’ issues. He believed in treating them as fellow human beings and seeing their true selves. Sometimes his investigations would go on for over two years as he coaxed vast amounts of information out of people who wouldn’t crack even under police interrogation.
Beginning with Cosa Nostra, all of the gangs soon came to know of Falco’s existence—and by that time, he had too much power for one individual to hold. Even if they wanted to have him assassinated, it would be a very difficult task. The man had dozens of guards watching over his surroundings 24 hours a day. Falco himself stayed barricaded in a windowless room, leaving as rarely as he could. If a place had anything less than the most stringent of security, Falco would never be seen there.
Most of these journalists and spectators must have their sights on Falco, then.
Last time, they had come to see him at work during the first public hearing.
Today, the second public hearing would play out…
Now they want to see Falco slip up, I guess.
The skin between Falco’s brows wrinkled deeply. He had never made such an intense expression in a public place. His cheeks were sunken in; overall, he looked quite haggard.
The doors behind the defendant’s table opened. Five men walked out, led by the case’s lawyer, and took their seats. The corners of the lawyer’s mouth curled upwards; Falco, on the other hand, seemed calm.
Coming in next were prison officers, followed by the handcuffed defendants. Their appearances varied drastically. Petty hoodlums, sickly young men, people so obese their chins were imperceptible, hunched old men, and young women were all among the group. The officers all worked to cram the defendants into the cage at the back of the courtroom. There were 32 defendants in total—32 people who were suspected of being members of the gang Passione.
Finally, the doors facing the judge’s bench opened, and the judges came out, dressed in their robes.
The courtroom fell into absolute silence.
“All rise. Court is now in session.”
The bailiff’s solemn voice echoed as he spoke into the microphone.
The young man in the spectator area stood up, along with everyone else. He turned his gaze to the defendant’s table. A man with deeply tanned skin stood next to the lawyer. The name of this man who appeared to be the lawyer’s apprentice, who nobody in the court gave a second glance, was Tizzano. He was a member of Passione.
“…gonna kill him,” the young man muttered, his gaze fixed on the fellow member of his own gang.
The basic idea of this trial was quite simple.
The goal of Falco, the prosecution, was to have all 32 of the defendants declared guilty of being members of Passione.
The goal of Tizzano, the defense, was to have all 32 of the defendants declared not guilty.
And the goal of this man from Passione was…
…Kill Tizzano with my ability. That’s what my leader ordered me to do.
Thus began the second hearing of a great trial that would go down in Italian history.