Gracie always laughs when gambling customers talk about luck. How they want good luck or have had a lucky streak or, more often, are disappointed in lack of luck and also winnings. And that of course means losses. The vibrant young blonde is quick to declare that she's never had any real good luck her entire life and frankly, she doesn't expect to have any in the future. Johnnie used to say that 'you make your own luck'. How did that turn out for him though?
If she thought for a bit on her pessimism though, it wasn't quite true. She would have to admit that she did have eight or was it nine glorious months before it came to a sudden violent end. But that's getting ahead of ourselves, let's back up a bit here.
Grace was born to Bertrand and Sylvia Stroud, the second of two children. She was preceded by her brother, Robert. The two were three years apart. Grace vaguely recalled something about another birth when she was quite young but something bad must have happened because her and Robert never saw even a glimpse of a possible sibling. She did ask when she got older but Mama said she did not want to talk about it. That was the last time it was ever a topic of conversation.
The Stroud family were poor, living a rough neighborhood in Boston. Her father was a drunk, he went from one lousy job to another but with his drinking problem couldn't keep any for long. Least he wasn't one of those mean drunks, in fact he could be quite jovial at times, regaling the children with stories of his past. Bertrand was a French Canadian, though he never spoke French that she knew of. He would talk of his exciting life as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounties. Grace believed every word when she was a kid, as she grew up she realized it was all lies. Though she had to admit he had been a pretty entertaining liar.
Her mother wasn't much better when it came to parenting but she at least tried. Scraping by on what food they could get, she stretched the meals and since clothing was at a premium she was always sewing and patching. Her biggest weakness though was not her fault, she was very sickly. As for doctors, those were in hospitals and both were out of reach for the impoverished Strouds. Quiet persevering Sylvia hung on for as long as she could but passed away soon after Grace's thirteenth birthday.
Her brother was already almost a stranger by then, spending most all of his time out on the streets making whatever money he could thru petty crime. He'd dropped out of school by then too. Grace though stuck it out though she was an average very disengaged student. She also tried to take care of her father, who sank further into alcoholic oblivion with the loss of his wife. Grace came home one day to find that they had been suddenly evicted from their claptrap property for being too far behind in rent. And that was that, pretty much the end of the family, not that it had been much of one anyhow.
Grace managed to find a school friend to stay with, just til she could figure out a more permanent place to live. Robert didn't care as he was already on his own, having joined some local toughs to pursue petty crime. As for her father, he didn't make it past the next winter, being found frozen to death huddled under a bridge. He was given a pauper's burial by the city, attended by no one he had known, not even his children.
Grace soon found herself a job washing dishes in a small diner. Two different times she had to literally beat off the lecherous cook who had the hots for her. Then out of nowhere her life changed and this time for the better. Johnnie showed up. He had come into the diner on a night when Grace was substituting for a waitress who had not shown up for her shift. She waited on him. She knew who he was of course by name and reputation.
Johnnie O'Doul was tall dark and handsome and when he wanted to, he just oozed charm. He wore fashionable suits, polished shoes, and actually owned a car! His was a rising name among the Irish hoodlums. He was brash, relentless, and he seemed to be able to get away with everything he tried. He was twenty-five and acted like he had the world at his beckon call. But one thing he didn't have was Grace and after that first meeting, he determined he wanted her. Grace never quite figured it out why he was so taken by her but she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. A handsome man with actual money to his name was interested in her!
They dated for a few weeks before she lost her virginity to him in a hotel room that had more (and nicer) furniture in it than her whole family home. It was magical, Grace was completely and hopelessly in love. The next few months were a whirlwind of parties and car rides in the countryside. He bought her nice clothes, jewelry, she could go to one of those fancy hair salons. Johnnie took her everywhere, well except on his gang jobs. She knew what he was but she did not ask questions. The male figures in her life, her father and her brother, paled into insignificance compared to Johnnie.
If he had asked, she would have instantly accepted a marriage proposal but he never did. But he did ask her to go with him to a new city, Miami, Florida. Hell, she had thought that was the other side of the world but Johnnie said he had some golden business opportunities there and he wanted her to accompany him. Like the answer was ever in doubt. If Johnnie had jumped off a cliff Grace would have no doubt launched herself right after him.
Johnnie was his same brazen self upon arrival in Miami and said he knew what he was doing. But this wasn't Boston, his home turf. He was an outsider now and it proved a lot more difficult than he had expected. In the best of times, the gang life was dangerous and he was making enemies as he pushed boundaries, trying to carve out a piece of the action. Caroline worried for him and even begged they go back to Boston. Johnnie only smiled and assured her he was on top of things. A month later he barely ducked a shotgun blast in a local bar from an unknown assailant. His tactics became more desperate as he sought out new allies, his longtime Boston connections were of no help in Miami. The Italian mobsters were a lot stronger than the local Irish ones and that mattered.
One day he announced to her he needed to go meet some gentlemen. Johnnie called all those in his line of work 'gentlemen' though Grace knew damn well they were anything but.
Despite her protests not to go, he claimed if he could make this deal, everything was going to turn around for him....them. He promised her by this time next year, she would be living in a fancy mansion with servants to attend her every whim. He kissed her then flashed that confident, no more than that, arrogant grin of his and left.
Johnnie O'Doul was found shot seven times by what the press (and later police too) said were unknown assailants. Grace's world came crashing down. They had never been married so she had no claims to his possessions and finances. Turned out he had been almost out of funds fruitlessly spent in Miami as he battled for power. She pawned off her jewelry, well except for one ring she wanted to keep as a memento of their good times together. Then she found herself an upstairs apartment. She knew she would need a job to scratch out a living, just like the days before Johnnie.
Just barely twenty, it seemed like her life was already over. She would never find another Johnnie, that had been a once in a lifetime thing. Jaded, bitter, saddened she spent a long night with only a bottle of scotch for company before she made up her mind. She was going to get revenge for Johnnie. She was going to find out who the men were who murdered Johnnie. Then she was going to kill them.
It was crazy, yeah. She might well die trying but she didn't care. No matter what it took, she was going to look those bastards in the eyes and take their lives like they took hers.