Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Godfather L4 (part 3)

Chapter 9: A Good American Wife

In the first weeks of married life, Michael and Apollonia went for walks in the hills and drove around the countryside in their small black car. But news of the wedding had reached Michael's enemies. Don Tommasino told Michael that it was too dangerous for him to leave the house. He put men with guns around the house to guard him, and told Fabrizio and Calo to stay with Michael all the time. Although he was a prisoner in his home, Michael wasn't too unhappy. He had Apollonia. He spent the time teaching her how to speak English and how to drive the car.

One morning, Don Tommasino came home to tell Michael that Sonny was dead. It wasn't safe for Michael to stay in the house any more. He had found a safe house outside Syracuse, and he would have to leave at once. Apollonia could live with her parents for a short time. She could join him later.

The next morning, Michael stood at his bedroom window and saw Fabrizio sitting in a garden chair.

'Get the car,' Michael called down. 'I'm leaving in five minutes.'
'Is your wife coming with you?' Fabrizio asked.
'No, I want you to take her to her father's house until I'm safe.'
Michael washed, then went downstairs to the kitchen, where he found Calo having breakfast.

'Where's Apollonia?' Michael asked.
'She's in the car,' Calo said, his mouth full of bread. 'You'll get a surprise. She's driving it alone. She'll make a good American wife.'

Michael smiled and went outside. Apollonia was sitting in the car, her hands on the wheel. She laughed and waved at him. But Michael was annoyed to see Fabrizio about to disappear through the garden gates.

'Fabrizio. Where are you going?' Michael called.
Fabrizio looked over his shoulder at Michael, then continued to walk quickly away. Michael watched him go, confused at first. Then he looked at the car. Suddenly, without thinking, he realized there was danger.

He shouted to Apollonia: 'No! No!' But she never heard him. There was a loud explosion and Michael was thrown to the ground. When he looked up, pieces of burning car were lying all over the garden. The bomb, which someone had intended for him, had killed his beautiful, innocent wife instead.

Chapter 10: No Revenge

The secret meeting between the heads of the five New York families and all the other important families in America took place in a large room above a bank. Everybody sat around a large table, each head with his Consigliori sitting close behind. Don Corleone, who had invited them all, was the first to stand up and speak.

'How did things get so far?' he said. 'It's so unnecessary.' He looked at the small man with dark, oily hair and shadows under his eyes who was sitting opposite him. 'Tattaglia, you've lost a son. I've lost a son too. Why can't we stop this foolish war now before more people die?'

A handsome man with silver hair who sat at one end of the table began to speak. This was Barzini. 'We all know Don Corleone is an honest man,' he said. 'We can trust him.'

'Yes, 'Tattaglia said to Barzini. 'He has many important friends. But he refused to share them with us.'
'I only ever refused to help you once,' Don Corleone looked at Tattaglia. He was thinking about the meeting with Sollozzo. 'I refused to help you because I don't like the drugs business.'

'Times have changed, 'Barzini said.' A man who refuses to help his friends is not a true friend. Don Corleone must share his important friends in Law and Government with us. We will pay him well for his help, of course.'

The Godfathers talked for a long time. Finally Don Corleone said: 'I'm a man you can trust. I'll do whatever I can for peace.'

'Then we all agree,' Barzini smiled. 'The drugs business will be permitted, but controlled. And Don Corleone will share his important friends with us.'
'If Don Corleone promises not to take revenge on us for his son's death, 'Tattaglia said.

Don Corleone looked sadly at Tattaglia. 'Is revenge going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me? I promise, there will be no revenge. But only if my youngest son is permitted to come back safely. He has had to live abroad since that Sollozzo business. I want him home. But I warn you, if anything happens to my son - if he mysteriously falls off the boat on his way home, or if he's hit by lightning after he returns —then I will blame some of the people in this room. That, I will not forgive. But if my son is permitted to return safely to New York, then I promise I will not be the one to break the peace we have made here today.'

At this, he stood up and opened his arms to Tattaglia. Tattaglia stood up too, and the two men walked around the table. They met behind Barzini's chair and hugged each other warmly. Then all the Godfathers in the room stood up and began to hug and kiss each other, congratulating each other on the end of the war.

Chapter 11: Ghost from the Past

One autumn afternoon, as Kay was walking home, she saw a large black car parked outside the school where she was a teacher. Next to the car, there was a serious-looking man in a black hat and long black coat, watching her. Kay stopped as if she had seen a ghost.

'Michael,' she said. 'How long have you been back?'
'About a year,' he said quietly. Then, walking slowly towards her, he said: 'It's good to see you Kay'

They walked together through the park, hands in pockets, a little shy with each other after so much time. 'I'm working for my father now,' Michael explained. 'He's been sick. Very sick.'
'But you're not like him,' Kay replied. 'I thought you weren't going to become a man like your father.'
'As I've grown older, I've learned to respect him more. He's just an ordinary man who loves his family, that's all.'
'Ordinary men don't have other men killed,' Kay said.
'Listen, Kay,' Michael stopped walking and looked her in the eyes. 'In five years' time, my family will have no more problems. We'll be a lawful, respectable family. Trust me. That's all I can tell you about my business.'

Kay's eyes filled with tears. 'Michael, why did you come here?' she said. 'What do you want with me after all this time? You didn't call. You didn't write ...'
'I came here because I need you. I care for you.'
'Please stop it.'
But Michael went on: 'Because I want you to marry me.'
Kay shook her head. 'It's too late.'
'I promise I'll do anything you ask,' Michael continued in a soft, calm voice. 'Let's forget the last two years. What's important is that we have each other, that we have children together. Kay, I need you. And I love you.'

As Michael was speaking, Kay kept looking away. She didn't know what to say. Michael had changed. He was different now. There was something cold about him, something hard.

But in the end, this didn't matter. Before she could answer him, the large black car drove up and stopped next to them. Michael opened the back door for her and waited. In her heart, Kay realized that she still loved him. Without a word, she stepped inside the car.

Chapter 12: Many Changes

As months turned into years, there were many changes. Michael and Kay got married and had two children. Connie and Carlo Rizzi moved with their children into a house on Long Island, to be near the rest of the family. Fredo was sent to Las Vegas, where the Corleones had bought one hotel and were planning to buy many more. Barzini was taking advantage of the peace between the five families, and was beginning to take over a lot of the Corleone family business in New York. Tessio and Clemenza wanted to fight Barzini before he became too strong, but Michael, who had spent long hours talking to Tom Hagen and his father, learning the family business, told them to be patient.

At first, Tessio and Clemenza didn't like taking orders from Michael. They tried to talk to Don Corleone instead. But the old man said: 'Do you trust me?'
'Yes, Godfather,' Tessio and Clemenza replied.
'Then be a friend to Michael He's head of the family now Do as he says'

One afternoon, Michael sat in the garden with his father Don Corleone had put on a lot of weight and moved very slowly He spent most of his time in the garden, looking after his plants, or just sitting under a tree, drinking wine, thinking about the past. But his mind was still sharp Michael always came to him for advice.

'Be careful of Barzini,' he told Michael 'He'll move against you first.  He'll arrange a meeting with someone that you trust. He'll promise you safety. But at that meeting, he'll kill you.'

Don Corleone drank some red wine, and suddenly changed the subject.'Are you happy with your wife and children?’ he asked

'Very happy,' Michael said softly He wanted to hear more about Barzini, but he respected and loved his father too much to hurry him.
'That's good,' said Don Corleone. He looked around the garden for a moment with a sad look in his eyes, then said 'I'm sorry I can't stop thinking about Barzini. It worries me. I always thought Sonny would be head of the family. I never wanted this for you. There just wasn't enough time.

Michael gently touched his father's arm 'Don't worry, Father,' he said. 'I'll take care of it.'

Don Corleone nodded, smiled to himself, and then looked suddenly serious as if he had forgotten to tell Michael something important.
'What's the matter, Father?' Michael asked.
'Listen,' Don Corleone raised one finger. 'Whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting — he's the traitor.  on't forget that'
Then, standing with great difficulty, he touched Michael lovingly on the cheek and walked slowly back to the house, out of the sun.

One Sunday morning, while the women were at church, Don Corleone was playing with his grandson among his tomato plants in the garden. As he tried to run away from the little boy who was chasing him, he suddenly found it hard to breathe. It was as if the sun had come down very close to his head. He stopped running and started to cough as he tried to get air into his chest.

 The little boy laughed, thinking this was part of the game. Don Corleone bent forward, coughing more and more, and then he felt it: an explosion of fire inside his chest. With a cry of pain, he fell back among his tomato plants, dead.

All his life, people had tried to kill him. They had failed. In the end, Don Vito Corleone died a natural death, playing with his grandson in his garden on a peaceful Sunday morning.

Chapter 13: Traitor

At the funeral, Michael sat with his family as people walked past, one by one, throwing flowers on to his father's grave Michael studied their faces carefully Clemenza, Tessio, Enzo the butcher, Johnny Fontane, all the people that his father had helped in his long and dangerous life. Some of his enemies were at the funeral, too.  Barzini threw a red rose into the grave, and lowered his eyes respectfully in Michael's direction.

Michael stared at him coldly as he turned and walked away. A few minutes later, Tessio walked up to Michael and whispered something in his ear. Michael stood up and walked away from the grave to hear what Tessio wanted to say.

'Barzini wants to arrange a meeting, 'Tessio said 'He says we can solve all our problems.'
'Did you talk to him?'
'Yes I can arrange everything. Trust me'

Michael looked at Tessio. He had known him all his life He had always been like an uncle to him. But Michael remembered his father's words, 'Whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting, he's the traitor,' and he felt a great sadness in his heart.

'All right,' Michael said quietly, and he returned to his seat by his father's grave. He told Tom, who was sitting next to him, about his conversation with Tessio.

Tom shook his head sadly 'I always thought it would be Clemenza,' he said.

'No,' said Michael. 'This is a clever move, and Tessio's cleverer than Clemenza. But I'm going to wait. I've decided to be godfather to Connie's baby, and then I'm going to meet Barzini, Tattaglia and all the heads of the five families.'

He watched Tessio who was standing some distance away, shaking hands and talking with Barzini. He hadn't told Tom the whole truth. Tom was not a Consigliori any more, so he didn't know everything in the way that he used to. The truth was that Michael had already decided to kill all his enemies. They were going to die on the day he stood as godfather to Connie's child.

Chapter 14: Michael Rizzi, Go in Peace

As Michael walked into the church with Kay, Connie, Carlo and the rest of the family, his men were all over New York, getting ready to kill his enemies. Pete Clemenza kissed his wife goodbye and left the house carrying a large flower-box under his arm.  Michael's personal bodyguard, Albert Neri, was putting on a policeman's uniform. Clemenza's close friend, Rocco Lampone, was sitting with his eyes closed in a large hotel, while a man gave him a shave. Two other men who worked for the family were checking their machine-guns in a small, apartment room somewhere in a cheap part of the city.

Kay stood in the church, Connie's baby sleeping in her arms. The priest spoke Latin and touched the baby's cheeks and mouth with water. Then he asked Michael: 'Do you believe in God the Father, the Maker of
Heaven and Earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ?'

Michael said: 'I do.'

Albert Neri was standing on the sidewalk (pavement-UK) in his policeman's uniform. He was talking to the driver of a car which was parked in front of the Plaza Building, trying to make him move away. The driver  shook his head and refused to move.

Pete Clemenza was running up a lot of stairs in a dark hotel, the flower-box under his arm. His fat face was hot and red, and he was very short of breath.

Rocco Lampone checked his face in the mirror, paid the man in the hotel who had given him the shave, and calmly walked out of the door.

The two men with machine-guns looked at each other and, without a word, walked out of their apartment.

At the baptism the baby in Kay's arms woke up and began to cry. He didn't like the water on his face.

Barzini appeared at the top of the steps of the Plaza Building with his bodyguard. Looking down, he saw his driver arguing with a policeman on the sidewalk, so he sent his bodyguard down to find out what the problem was.

Rocco Lampone waited near the desk in the hotel entrance, and smoked a cigarette.

Pete Clemenza reached the top of the stairs and rested against a wall outside a lift, completely out of breath.

'Michael Francis Rizzi,' the priest spoke to the crying baby. 'Do you refuse Satan, and everything that Satan does?'

Clemenza waited outside the lift. Suddenly, the doors opened and a small, thin man with silver hair, a red flower in the buttonhole of his expensive suit, stepped out. It was Cuneo, one of the New York Godfathers who had been at the meeting with Don Corleone three years before. He stopped when he saw Clemenza, a look of confusion on his face. Clemenza lifted his short, fat leg and kicked Cuneo hard in the stomach. Cuneo fell backwards into the lift. Clemenza quickly opened his flower-box and took out a large shotgun. He pointed it at Cuneo and fired.

'I do refuse Satan,' Michael spoke quietly to the priest, answering for the baby. 'And everything that Satan does.' The baby went on crying.

A man in a white suit walked past the desk where Rocco Lampone was waiting. He was on his way out of the hotel. This was Stracci, another New York Godfather. As he was half-way through the revolving doors, Lampone ran from the desk and locked the door to stop it turning. Stracci was caught inside. He tried to push, but the doors wouldn't move. He hit the glass with his hands. He turned round and found himself face to face with the end of Rocco Lampone's gun. He put his hands up and pressed himself against the door behind him. Rocco fired and the bullets crashed through the glass of the door straight into Stracci's heart

Philip Tattaglia had left his bodyguards outside in the street while he had a secret meeting with his girlfriend in a small room in a cheap part of New York. This was his last mistake. As he was kissing her, the door burst open and two men with machine-guns rushed in. As Tattaglia looked around for his gun, the girl jumped to her feet and screamed. The gunmen opened fire and Tattaglia and the girl fell back in a shower of bullets. Then the gunmen left as suddenly as they had appeared, leaving behind them a smoke-filled room and two dead bodies in a pile of torn and bloody pajamas.

The priest held a silver spoon above the baby's head, and let drops of water fall on to the baby's face. 'In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et SpintusSancti,' the priest said . . .

... Barzini's bodyguard ran down the steps of the Plaza Building and called to the policeman, who was writing something in his notebook. The policeman put away his notebook, took out his handgun and shot the bodyguard dead. The driver of the car put up his hands but there was no pity in Albert Neri's heart. He killed him too. Barzini, who was halfway down the steps, turned and began to walk quickly back up towards the building. He was a proud man. He never liked to run too fast for anything, not even when his life was in danger. This gave Neri the time that he needed to go down on one knee, point his gun carefully up at Barzini, and shoot him three times in the back. Barzini stopped, as if in surprise, then fellbackwards down the steps.

Suddenly, inside the church, the baby stopped crying.
'Michael Rizzi, go in peace,' the priest said. 'And God go with you always. Amen.'
'Amen,' Michael Corleone said softly, and lowered his eyes knowing that, by now, all his enemies were dead.

Chapter 15: Family Business

As the family stood on the steps outside the church, Carlo Rizzi shook Michael's hand. 'Thank you, Godfather, thank you,' he kept saying, tears of happiness in his eyes.
'I was pleased to do it,' Michael said, then added, without smiling, 'Now, Carlo, could you go and wait for me in the house? I'm afraid we can't go with our families to visit Las Vegas today. We'll have to wait here for a couple of days. You can join Connie and your children then, OK?'

'OK,' Carlo said. He knew better than to show he was unhappy. Michael had been very good to him. He had welcomed him into the family; he had been godfather to his son. He did whatever Michael wanted him to do. He never argued.

When Carlo had gone, Michael kissed his wife and his sister, and left them on the steps outside the church. He had more business to take care of.

Tessio was ringing Barzini's office from the wall-phone in Tom Hagen's kitchen, not knowing that Barzini was already dead.

'Tell Barzini we're on our way to Brooklyn,' he said. After the call, he turned to Tom, who was waiting for him, and said: 'I hope Mike gets what he wants from the meeting tonight.'

'I'm sure he will,’ Tom nodded seriously.
He followed Tessio out of the house. They were half-way across the street to Michael's house when they were stopped by a bodyguard.

'The boss says he'll come in another car,' the man said. 'He says you two can go before him.'
Tessio looked worried. 'He can't do that,' he said, turning to Tom. 'That spoils all my arrangements.'

Three more bodyguards appeared from nowhere and stood around him.
Then Tom said gently: 'I can't go with you either, Tessio.'

Tessio understood everything immediately. He knew that he was going to die for trying to betray Michael. He looked at Tom sadly and said: 'Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.'

'He understands that,' Hagen nodded.

Tessio paused for a second. He was a brave man, but he couldn't stop himself from showing Tom a moment of plain, human weakness. 'Tom, can you help me?' he asked. 'As a friend?'

Tom shook his head and looked away. He didn't want to show his feelings, but inside he felt sick. Tessio had always been the best soldier in the Corleone family. 'I'm sorry, Tessio, I can't do that,' he said, and walked away.

Tom watched from his window as the four bodyguards led Tessio towards a waiting car and drove him away for his meeting, not with Barzini, but with death.

Carlo Rizzi was sitting in his front room, making a phone-call, when something made him turn round. Michael was watching him from the doorway. Tom Hagen and a bodyguard were standing quietly behind
him. Carlo saw the icy look in Michael's eyes, and he felt his whole body go weak.

'Carlo, you have to answer for Sonny,' Michael said.
Carlo didn't answer. He stood up, pretending not to understand.
'You betrayed Sonny,' Michael continued in a cold, flat voice. 'Did you really think you could fool a Corleone? You played a game, didn't you? You made Sonny angry by hitting your own wife. You knew that he'd come to help her.'

Carlo began to shake with fear. 'I promise you, on my son's life, I'm innocent. Mike, don't do this to me, please!'

But Michael calmly made him sit down next to him. 'Barzini's dead,' he said quietly, not taking his eyes off Carlo's frightened face. 'Philip Tattaglia's dead too. Cuneo, Stracci, they're all gone. Today, I'm taking care of all family business. So don't tell me you're innocent. Don't lie to me.'

Carlo started to cry, but he didn't say anything. Tom Hagen gave him a drink, and Michael put a brotherly arm around his shoulder. 'Don't be afraid,' he said. 'I'm not going to kill you. You're my sister's husband. I'm your son's godfather. No. I'm going to throw you out of the family business. I'm putting you on a plane to Las Vegas to join your family. I want you to stay there. That's going to be your punishment. Now please, don't tell me you're innocent, because that insults my intelligence. It makes me very angry. Tell me what happened. Who killed Sonny? Barzini or Tattaglia?'

Carlo stopped crying and looked up with a sudden feeling of hope. He saw Michael's eyes close to his. They looked warm and full of forgiveness. He swallowed the rest of his drink and smiled at Michael with a grateful look in his eyes.

'It was Barzini,' he said quietly.
' Good. Good,' Michael said, nodding to himself. He stood up and turned towards the window. 'There's a car waiting for you outside,' he said. 'It'll take you to the airport. I'll call Connie to tell her you're coming.'

Carlo stood up and tried to speak. 'Michael, please ...'
But Michael turned on him angrily, his eyes cold and hard again. 'Get out of here,' he said. 'I never want to see you again.'

When Carlo left the house, he saw two men putting suitcases into the back of his car. He got into the passenger seat and waited for someone to drive him away. He didn't see Pete Clemenza sitting quietly behind him in the back seat.

'Hello, Carlo,' Clemenza said.

Before Carlo could turn round, Clemenza threw a smooth thin cord around Carlo's neck and pulled hard. Carlo fought and tried to escape. His body jumped around like a fish on the end of a line. His foot crashed through the front window of the car, but Clemenza was too strong for him. He pulled the cord until it cut into Carlo's throat. A minute later, Carlo Rizzi was dead.

Michael, who had watched it all from the front of the house, turned away, followed by Tom Hagen. He had taken care of all the family business in one day. The Corleones were now the strongest family in New York. He had reason to feel proud.

When Connie heard that her husband was dead, she flew back at once to see Michael. She ran straight into his office and screamed at him: 'You killed my husband! You waited until Papa died and then you killed him! You blamed him for Sonny. You always did. Everybody did. You never thought about me! What am I going to do?'

Michael sat quietly at his desk. Kay tried to calm Connie down, but Connie pushed her away, ran around the desk and started to kick and hit her brother, crying and screaming the whole time.' You stood godfather to our baby! You cold-hearted killer! You animal! You ...!'

Michael didn't try to move away. He let Connie scream at him and hit him. Finally, she was taken away into another room, and Michael was left alone with Kay in the office. He walked around the room, feeling uncomfortable at the strange look Kay was giving him. She was shocked by what had happened. She was also a little afraid.

'She's gone crazy,' Michael tried to explain. 'Understandable, I guess.’

Kay could hear Connie screaming from the next room. She looked her husband in the eye and said: 'Michael, is it true?'
'Don't ask me about my business, Kay,' he replied.
'Is it true?' she repeated.
Michael repeated his reply.

When she asked him for the third time, he crashed his hand down on to the desk. 'Enough!' he shouted.
Kay lowered her eyes and bit her lip. Finally, Michael said: 'All right. This one time. I'll let you ask me about my business.'

'Is it true?' she whispered.
Michael looked at Kay. He stood completely still. Then he shook his head and softly answered: 'No.'

Kay was so happy that she almost started crying. She ran up to her husband and hugged him. A few minutes later, she moved back and looked at him. 'I guess we both need a drink,' she tried to laugh.

She left the office to get a drink. She was about to take the two glasses back into the room when she saw several men entering the office from another door. One of them was Pete Clemenza, the funny little fat man she had first seen dancing at Connie's wedding many years before. She watched in silence as he lowered his head, kissed Michael's hand and said, in a deep, respectful voice: 'Don Corleone.'
Then someone gently closed the door, and Kay was left outside, alone.

Her new life as the Godfather's wife had only just begun.