"The cocksucker kept givin' me the malocchio," little Salvator Fiore was complaining, "so I finally hadda burn 'im."
Nick Vito laughed, for anyone who was stupid enough to fool around with the Little Flower had to be out to lunch. Nick Vito was enjoying himself in the farmhouse kitchen with Salvatore Fiore and Joseph Colella, talking over old times, waiting for the conference in the living room to end. The midget and the giant were his best friends. They had gone through the fire together. Nick Vito looked at the two men and thought happily, They're like my brothers.
"How's your cousin Pete?" Nick asked the giant Colella.
"He did cancer and he's under the hammer, but he's gonna be okay."
"Yeah. Pete's good people; he's just had a little bad luck. He was back-up man on a bank job, but it wasn't his stick, and the fuckin' cops tagged him and put him away. He did hard time. The hacks tried to turn him around but they was spinnin' their wheels."
"Hell, yes. Pete's got class."
"Yeah. He always went for big bucks, big broads and big cars."
From the living room there came the sound of raised, angry voices. They listened a moment.
"Sounds like Colfax has a bug up his ass."
Thomas Colfax and Michael Moretti were alone in the room, discussing a large gambling operation that the Family was about to start in the Bahamas. Michael had put Jennifer in charge of making the business arrangements.
"You can't do it, Mike," Colfax protested. "I know all the boys down there. She doesn't. You must let me handle it." He knew he was talking too loudly, but he was unable to control himself.
"Too late," Michael said.
"I don't trust the girl. Neither did Tony."
"Tony's not with us anymore." Michael's voice was dangerously quiet.
Thomas Colfax knew that this was the moment to back down. "Sure, Mike. All I'm saying is that I think the girl's a mistake. I grant you she's smart, but I'm warning you, before she's through she could send us all away."
It was Thomas Colfax whom Michael was concerned about. The Warner Crime Commission investigation was in full swing. When they reached Colfax, how long would the old man stand up to them before he cracked? He knew more about the Family than Jennifer Parker could ever know. Colfax was the one who could destroy them all, and Michael did not trust him.
Thomas Colfax was saying, "Send her away for awhile. Just until this investigation cools down. She's a woman. If they start putting pressure on her, she'll talk."
Michael studied him and made his decision. "All right, Tom. Maybe you've got a point there. Jennifer may not be dangerous, but on the other hand, if she's not with us a hundred percent, why take unnecessary chances?"
"That's all I'm suggesting, Mike." Thomas Colfax rose from his chair, relieved. "You're doing the wise thing."
"I know." Michael turned toward the kitchen and yelled out, "Nick!"
A moment later Nick Vito appeared.
"Drive the consigliere back to New York, will you, Nick?"
"Sure thing, boss."
"Oh. On the way I want you to stop and deliver a package for me." He turned to Thomas Colfax. "You don't mind?"
"Of course not, Mike." He was flushed with his victory.
Michael Moretti said to Nick Vito, "Come on. It's upstairs."
Nick followed Michael up to his bedroom. When they were inside, Michael closed the door.
"I'd like you to make a stop before you get out of New Jersey."
"I want you to drop off some garbage." Nick Vito looked puzzled. "The consigliere," Michael explained.
"Oh. Okay. Whatever you say."
"Take him out to the dump. There won't be anyone around at this time of night."
Fifteen minutes later the limousine was headed for New York. Nick Vito was at the wheel, with Thomas Colfax in the passenger seat beside him.
"I'm glad Mike decided to sideline that bitch," Thomas Colfax said.
Nick glanced sideways at the unsuspecting lawyer seated beside him. "Uh-huh."
Thomas Colfax looked at the gold Baume & Mercier watch on his wrist. It was three o'clock in the morning, long past his bedtime. It had been a long day and he was tired. I'm getting too old for these battles, he thought.
"How far out are we driving?"
"Not far," Nick mumbled.
Nick Vito's mind was in a turmoil. Killing was a part of his job and it was a part he enjoyed, because of the sense of power it gave him. Nick felt like a god when he killed; he was omnipotent. But tonight, he was bothered. He could not understand why he had been ordered to blow away Thomas Colfax. Colfax was the consigliere, the man everyone turned to when they were in trouble. Next to the Godfather, the consigliere was the most important man in the Organization. He had kept Nick out of the slammer a dozen times.
Shit! Nick thought. Colfax was right. Mike should never have let a woman come into the business. Men thought with their brains. Women thought with their pussies. Oh, how he'd love to get his hands on Jennifer Parker! He'd fuck her until she cried 'Uncle' and then -
"Watch it! You're going off the road!"
"Sorry." Nick quickly steered the car back into his lane.
The dump was a short distance ahead. Nick could feel the perspiration popping out under his arms. He glanced over again at Thomas Colfax.
Snuffing him out would be a cinch. It would be like putting a baby to sleep but, goddamn it! it was the wrong baby! Someone was giving Mike a hand job. This was a sin. It was like murdering his old man.
He wished he could have talked it over with Salvatore and Joe. They could have told him what to do.
Nick could see the dump ahead to the right of the highway. His nerves began to tighten, just as they always did before a hit. He pressed his left arm against his side and felt the reassuring bulk of the short-barreled .38 Smith & Wesson nestling there.
"I could use a good night's sleep," Thomas Colfax yawned.
"Yeah." He was going to get a long, long sleep.
The car was nearing the dump now. Nick checked the rearview mirror and scanned the road ahead. There were no cars in sight.
He put his foot on the brake suddenly and said, "Goddamn it, it feels like I'm getting a flat."
He brought the car to a stop, opened the door and stepped out onto the road. He slipped the gun out of its holster and held it at his side. Then he moved around to the passenger side of the car and said, "Could you give me a hand?"
Thomas Colfax opened the door and stepped out. "I'm not very good at - " He saw the raised gun in Nick's hand and stopped. He tried to swallow. "W-What's the matter, Nick?" His voice cracked. "What have I done?"
That was the question that had been burning inside Nick Vito's mind all evening. Someone was running a game on Mike. Colfax was on their side, he was one of them. When Nick's younger brother had gotten in trouble with the Feds, it had been Colfax who had stepped in and saved the boy. He had even gotten him a job. I owe him, goddamn it, Nick thought.
He let his gun hand drop. "Honest to God, I don't know, Mr. Colfax. It ain't right."
Thomas Colfax looked at him a moment and sighed. "Do what you have to do, Nick."
"Jesus, I can't do this. You're my consigliere."
"Mike will kill you if you let me go."
Nick knew that Colfax was telling the truth. Michael Moretti was not a man to tolerate disobedience. Nick thought of Tommy Angelo. Angelo had been the wheel man on a fur heist. Michael had ordered him to take the car they had used and have it crushed in a compactor in a New Jersey junkyard the Family owned. Tommy Angelo had been in a hurry to keep a date, so he had dumped the car on an East Side street, where investigators had found it. Angelo had disappeared the next day, and the story was that his body had been put in the trunk of an old Chevy and compacted. No one crossed Michael Moretti and lived. But there is a way, Nick thought.
"Mike don't have to know it," Nick said. His usually slow brain was working rapidly, with an unnatural clarity. "Look," he said, "all you gotta do is blow the country. I'll tell Mike I buried you under the garbage so they'll never find you. You can hide out in South America or somewhere. You must have a little dough stashed away."
Thomas Colfax tried to keep the sudden hope out of his voice. "I have plenty, Nick. I'll give you whatever - "
Nick shook his head fiercely. "I ain't doin' this for money. I'm doin' it because" - How could he put it into words? - "I got respect for you. The only thing is, you gotta protect me. Can you catch a mornin' plane to South America?"
Thomas Colfax said, "No problem, Nick. Just drop me off at my house. My passport's there."
Two hours later, Thomas Colfax was on an Eastern Airlines jet. It was bound for Washington, D.C.