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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 32)

2006-07-07 17:32

  “You hang around me, Mike,” he said, “you're gonna hear things you don't wanta hear.”

  Michael lit a cigarette. “I can help out,” he said.

  “No, you can't,” Sonny said. “The old man would be sore as hell if I let you get mixed up in this.”

  Michael stood up and yelled. “You lousy bastard, he's my father. I'm not supposed to help him? I can help. I don't have to go out and kill people but I can help. Stop treating me like a kid brother. I was in the war. I got shot, remember? I killed some Japs. What the hell do you think I'll do when you knock somebody off? Faint?”

  Sonny grinned at him. “Pretty soon you'll want me to put up my dukes. OK, stick around, you can handle the phone.” He turned to Tessio. “That call I just got gave me dope we needed.” Hd turned to Michael. “Somebody had to finger the old man. It could have been Clemenza, it could have been Paulie Gatto, who was very conveniently sick today. I know the answer now, let's see how smart you are, Mike, you're the college boy. Who sold out to Sollozzo?”

  Michael sat down again and relaxed back into the leather armchair. He thought everything over very carefully. Clemenza was a caporegime in the Corleone Family structure. Don Corleone had made him a millionaire and they had been intimate friends for over twenty years. He held one of the most powerful posts in the organization. What could Clemenza gain for betraying his Don? More money? He was rich enough but then men are always greedy. More power? Revenge for some fancied insult or slight? That Hagen had been made the Consigliere? Or perhaps a businessman's conviction that Sollozzo would win out? No, it was impossible for Clemenza to be a traitor, and then Michael thought sadly it was only impossible because he didn't want Clemenza to die. The fat man had always brought him gifts when he was growing up, had sometimes taken him on outings when the Don had been too busy. He could not believe that Clemenza was guilty of treachery.

  But, on the other hand, Sollozzo would want Clemenza in his pocket more than any other man in the Corleone Family.

  Michael thought about Paulie Gatto. Paulie as yet had not become rich. He was well thought of, his rise in the organization was certain but he would have to put in his time like everybody else. Also he would have wilder dreams of power, as the young always do. It had to be Paulie. And then Michael remembered that in the sixth grade he and Paulie had been in the same class in school and he didn't want it to be Paulie either.

  He shook his head. “Neither one of them,” he said. But he said it only because Sonny had said he had the answer. If it had been a vote, he would have voted Paulie guilty.

  Sonny was smiling at him. “Don't worry,” he said. “Clemenza is OK. It's Paulie.”

  Michael could see that Tessio was relieved. As a fellow caporegime his sympathy would be with Clemenza. Also the present situation was not so serious if treachery did not reach so high. Tessio said cautiously, “Then I can send my people home tomorrow?”

  Sonny said, “The day after tomorrow. I don't want anybody to know about this until then. Listen, I want to talk some family business with my brother, personal. Wait out in the living room, eh? We can finish our list later. You and Ctemenza will work together on it.”

  “Sure,” Tessio said. He went out.

  “How do you know for sure it's Paulie?” Michael asked.

  Sonny said, “We have people in the telephone company and they tracked down all of Paulie's phone calls in and out. Clemenza's too. On the three days Paulie was sick this month he got a call from a street booth across from the old man's building. Today too. They were checking to see if Paulie was coming down or somebody was being sent down to take his place. Or for some other reason. It doesn't matter.” Sonny shrugged. “Thank God it was Paulie. We'll need Clemenza bad.”

  Michael asked hesitantly, “Is it going to be an all-out war?”

  Sonny's eyes were hard. “That's how I'm going to play it as soon as Tom checks in. Until the old man tells me different.”

  Michael asked, “So why don't you wait until the old man can tell you?”

  Sonny looked at him curiously. “How the hell did you win those combat medals? We are under the gun, man, we gotta fight. I'm just afraid they won't let Tom go.”

  Michael was surprised at this. “Why not?”

  Again Sonny's voice was patient. “They snatched Tom because they figured the old man was finished and they could make a deal with me and Tom would be the sit-down guy in the preliminary stages, carry the proposition. Now with the old man alive they know I can't make a deal so Tom's no good to them. They can turn him loose or dump him, depending how Sollozzo feels. If they dump him, it would be just to show us they really mean business, trying to bulldoze us.”

  Michael said quietly, “What made Sollozzo think he could get a deal with you?”

  Sonny flushed and he didn't answer for a moment. Then he said, “We had a meeting a few months ago, Sollozzo came to us with a proposition on drugs. The old man turned him down. But during the meeting I shot off my mouth a little, I showed I wanted the deal. Which is absolutely the wrong thing to do; if there's one thing the old man hammered into me it's never, to do a thing like that, to let other people know there's a split of opinion in the Family. So Sollozzo figures he gets rid of the old man, I have to go in with him on the drugs. With the old man gone, the Family power is cut at least in half. I would be fighting for my life anyway to keep all the businesses the old man got together. Drugs are the coming thing, we should get into it. And his knocking off the old man is purely business, nothing personal. As a matter of business I would go in with him. Of course he would never let me get too close, he'd make sure I'd never get a clean shot at him, just in case. But he also knows that once I accepted the deal the other Families would never let me start a war a couple of years later just for revenge. Also, the Tattaglia Family is behind him.”

  “If they had gotten the old man, what would you have done?” Michael asked.

  Sonny said very simply, “Sollozzo is dead meat. I don't care what it costs. I don't care if we have to fight all the five families in New York. The Tattaglia Family is going to be wiped out. I don't care if we all go down together.”

  Michael said softly, “That's not how Pop would have played it.”

  Sonny made a violent gesture. “I know I'm not the man he was. But I'll tell you this and he'll tell you too. When it comes to real action I can operate as good as anybody, short-range. Sollozzo knows that and so do Clemenza and Tessio, I 'made my bones' when I was nineteen, the last time the Family had a war, and I was a big help to the old man. So I'm not worried now. And our Family has all the horses in a deal like this. I just wish we could get contact with Luca.”

  Michael asked curiously, “Is Luca that tough, like they say? Is he that good?”

  Sonny nodded. “He's in a class by himself. I'm going to send him after the three Tattaglias. I'll get Sollozzo myself.”

  Michael shifted uneasily in his chair. He looked at his older brother. He remembered Sonny as being sometimes casually brutal but essentially warmhearted. A nice guy. It seemed unnatural to hear him talking this way, it was chilling to see the list of names he had scribbled down, men to be executed, as if he were some newly crowned Roman Emperor. He was glad that he was not truly part of all this, that now his father lived he did not have to involve himself in vengeance. He'd help out, answering the phone, running errands and messages. Sonny and the old man could take care of themselves, especially with Luca behind them.

  At that moment they heard a woman scream in the living room. Oh, Christ, Michael thought, it sounded like Tom's wife. He rushed to the door and opened it. Everybody in the living room was standing. And by the sofa Tom Hagen was holding Theresa close to him, his face embarrassed. Theresa was weeping and sobbing, and Michael realized that the scream he had heard had been her calling out her husband's name with joy. As he watched, Tom Hagen disentangled himself from his wife's arms and lowered her back onto the sofa. He smiled at Michael grimly. “Glad to see you, Mike, really glad.” He strode into the office without another look at his still-sobbing wife. He hadn't lived with the Corleone Family ten years for nothing, Michael thought with a queer flush of pride. Some of the old man had rubbed off on him, as it had on Sonny, and he thought, with surprise, even on himself.

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