"He ain't no button guy anymore'n I'm a fuckin' virgin. He's been workin' on the arm all his life."
"The asshole came suckin' up to me askin' me to put in the word with Mike. I said, 'Hey, paesano, I'm only a soldier, ya know?' If Mike needs another shooter he don't have to go lookin' in shit alley."
"He was tryin' to run a game on you, Sal."
"Well, I clocked him pretty good. He ain't connected and in this business, if you ain't connected, you're nothin'."
They were talking in the kitchen of a three-hundred-year-old Dutch farmhouse in upstate New Jersey.
There were three of them in the room: Nick Vito, Joseph Colella and Salvatore "Little Flower" Fiore.
Nick Vito was a cadaverous-looking man with thin lips that were almost invisible, and deep green eyes that were dead. He wore two hundred dollar shoes and white socks.
Joseph "Big Joe" Colella was a huge slab of a man, a granite monolith, and when he walked he looked like a building moving. Someone had once called him a vegetable garden. "Colella's got a potato nose, cauliflower ears and a pea brain."
Colella had a soft, high-pitched voice and a deceptively gentle manner. He owned a race horse and had an uncanny knack for picking winners. He was a family man with a wife and six children. His specialties were guns, acid and chains. Joe's wife, Carmelina, was a strict Catholic, and on Sundays when Colella was not working, he always took his family to church.
The third man, Salvatore Fiore, was almost a midget. He stood five feet three inches and weighed a hundred and fifteen pounds. He had the innocent face of a choirboy and was equally adept with a gun or a knife. Women were greatly attracted to the little man, and he boasted a wife, half a dozen girl friends, and a beautiful mistress. Fiore had once been a jockey, working the tracks from Pimlico to Tijuana. When the racing commissioner at Hollywood Park banned Fiore for doping a horse, the commissioner's body was found floating in Lake Tahoe a week later.
The three men were soldati in Antonio Granelli's Family, but it was Michael Moretti who had brought them in, and they belonged to him, body and soul.
In the dining room, a Family meeting was taking place. Seated at the head of the table was Antonio Granelli, capo of the most powerful Mafia Family on the east coast. Seventy-two years old, he was still a powerful-looking man with the shoulders and broad chest of a laborer, and a shock of white hair. Born in Palermo, Sicily, Antonio Granelli came to America when he was fifteen and went to work on the waterfront on the west side of lower Manhattan. By the time he was twenty-one, he was lieutenant to the dock boss. The two men had an argument, and when the boss mysteriously disappeared, Antonio Granelli had taken over. Anyone who wanted to work on the docks had to pay him. He had used the money to begin his climb to power, and had expanded rapidly, branching out into loan-sharking and the numbers racket, prostitution and gambling and drugs and murder. Over the years he had been indicted thirty-two times and had only been convicted once, on a minor assault charge. Granelli was a ruthless man with the down-to-earth cunning of a peasant, and a total amorality.
To Granelli's left sat Thomas Colfax, the Family consigliere. Twenty-five years earlier, Colfax had had a brilliant future as a corporation lawyer, but he had defended a small olive-oil company which turned out to be Mafia-controlled and, step by step, had been lured into handling other cases for the Mafia until finally, through the years, the Granelli Family had become his sole client. It was a very lucrative client and Thomas Colfax became a wealthy man, with extensive real estate holdings and bank accounts all over the world.
To the right of Antonio Granelli sat Michael Moretti, his son-in-law. Michael was ambitious, a trait that made Granelli nervous. Michael did not fit into the pattern of the Family. His father, Giovanni, a distant cousin of Antonio Granelli, had been born not in Sicily but in Florence. That alone made the Moretti family suspect - everybody knew that Florentines were not to be trusted.
Giovanni Moretti had come to America and opened a shop as a shoemaker, running it honestly, without even a back room for gambling or loan-sharking or girls. Which made him stupid.
Giovanni's son, Michael, was entirely different. He had put himself through Yale and the Wharton School of Business. When Michael had finished school, he had gone to his father with one request: He wanted to meet his distant relative, Antonio Granelli. The old shoemaker had gone to see his cousin and the meeting had been arranged. Granelli was sure that Michael was going to ask for a loan so that he could go into some kind of business, maybe open a shoe shop like his dumb father. But the meeting had been a surprise.
"I know how to make you rich," Michael Moretti had begun.
Antonio Granelli had looked at the impudent young man and had smiled tolerantly. "I am rich."
"No. You just think you're rich."
The smile had died away. "What the hell you talkin' about, kid?"
And Michael Moretti had told him.
Antonio Granelli had moved cautiously at first, testing each piece of Michael's advice. Everything had succeeded brilliantly. Where before, the Granelli Family had been involved in profitable illegal activities, under Michael Moretti's supervision it branched out. Within five years the Family was into dozens of legitimate businesses, including meat-packing, linen supplies, restaurants, trucking companies and pharmaceuticals. Michael found ailing companies that needed financing and the Family went in as a minor partner and gradually took over, stripping away whatever assets there were. Old companies with impeccable reputations suddenly found themselves bankrupt. The businesses that showed a satisfactory profit, Michael hung on to and he increased the profits tremendously, for the workers in those businesses were controlled by his unions, and the company took their insurance through one of the Family-owned insurance companies, and they bought their automobiles from one of the Family's automobile dealers. Michael created a symbiotic giant, a series of businesses through which the consumer was constantly being milked - and the milk flowed to the Family.
In spite of his successes, Michael Moretti was aware that he had a problem. Once he had shown Antonio Granelli the rich, ripe horizons of legitimate enterprise, Granelli no longer needed him. He was expensive, because in the beginning he had persuaded Antonio Granelli to give him a percentage of what everyone was sure would be a small pot. But as Michael's ideas began to bear fruit and the profits poured in, Granelli had second thoughts. By chance, Michael learned that Granelli had held a meeting to discuss what the Family should do with him.
"I don't like to see all this money goin' to the kid," Granelli had said. "We get rid of him."
Michael had circumvented that scheme by marrying into the Family. Rosa, Antonio Granelli's only daughter, was nineteen years old. Her mother had died giving birth to her, and Rosa had been brought up in a convent and was allowed to come home only during the holidays. Her father adored her, and he saw to it that she was protected and sheltered. It was on a school holiday, an Easter, that Rosa met Michael Moretti. By the time she returned to the convent, she was madly in love with him. The memory of his dark good looks drove her to do things when she was alone that the nuns told her were sins against God.
Antonio Granelli was under the delusion that his daughter thought he was merely a successful businessman, but over the years, Rosa's classmates had shown her newspaper and magazine articles about her father and his real business, and whenever the government made an attempt to indict and convict one of the Granelli Family, Rosa was always aware of it. She never discussed it with her father, and so he remained happy in his belief that his daughter was an innocent and that she was spared the shock of knowing the truth.
The truth, if he had know it, would have surprised Granelli for Rosa found her father's business terribly exciting. She hated the discipline of the nuns at the convent and that, in turn, led her to hate all authority. She daydreamed about her father as a kind of Robin Hood, challenging authority, defying the government. The fact that Michael Moretti was an important man in her father's organization made him that much more exciting to her.
From the beginning, Michael was very careful how he handled Rosa. When he managed to be alone with her they exchanged ardent kisses and embraces, but Michael never let it go too far. Rosa was a virgin and she was willing - eager - to give herself to the man she loved. It was Michael who held back.
"I respect you too much, Rosa, to go to bed with you before we're married."
In reality, it was Antonio Granelli he respected too much. He'd chop my balls off, Michael thought.
And so it happened that at the time Antonio Granelli was discussing the best way to get rid of Michael Moretti, Michael and Rosa came to him and announced that they were in love and intended to get married. The old man screamed and raged and gave a hundred reasons why it would happen only over someone's dead body. But in the end, true love prevailed and Michael and Rosa were married in an elaborate ceremony.
After the wedding the old man had called Michael aside. "Rosa's all I got, Michael. You take good care of her, huh?"
"I will, Tony."
"I'm gonna be watchin' you. You better make her happy. You know what I mean, Mike?"
"I know what you mean."
"No whores or chippies. Understand? Rosa likes to cook. You see that you're home for dinner every night. You're gonna be a son-in-law to be proud of."
"I'm going to try very hard, Tony."
Antonio Granelli had said casually, "Oh, by the way, Mike, now that you're a member of the Family, that royalty deal I gave you - maybe we oughta change it."
Michael had clapped him on the arm. "Thanks, Papa, but it's enough for us. I'll be able to buy Rosa everything she wants."
And he had walked away, leaving the old man staring after him.
That had been seven years earlier, and the years that followed had been wonderful for Michael. Rosa was pleasant and easy to live with and she adored him, but Michael knew that if she died or went away, he would get along without her. He would simply find someone else to do the things she did for him. He was not in love with Rosa. Michael did not think he was capable of loving another human being; it was as though something was missing in him.
He had no feelings for people, only for animals. Michael had been given a collie puppy for his tenth birthday. The two of them were inseparable. Six weeks later the dog had been killed in a hit-and-run accident, and when Michael's father offered to buy him another dog, Michael had refused. He had never owned another dog after that.
Michael had grown up watching his father slaving his life away for pennies, and Michael had resolved that would never happen to him. He had known what he wanted from the time he had first heard talk about his famous distant cousin Antonio Granelli. There were twenty-six Mafia Families in the United States, five of them in New York City, and his cousin Antonio's was the strongest. From his earliest childhood, Michael thrived on tales of the Mafia. His father told him about the night of the Sicilian Vespers, September 10, 1931, when the balance of power had changed hands. In that single night, the Young Turks in the Mafia staged a bloody coup that wiped out more than forty Mustache Petes, the old guard who had come over from Italy and Sicily.
Michael was of the new generation. He had gotten rid of the old thinking and had brought in fresh ideas. A nine-man national commission controlled all the Families now, and Michael knew that one day he would run that commission.
Michael turned now to study the two men seated at the dining room table of the New Jersey farmhouse. Antonio Granelli still had a few years left but, with luck, not too many.
Thomas Colfax was the enemy. The lawyer had been against Michael from the beginning. As Michael's influence with the old man had increased, Colfax's had decreased.
Michael had brought more and more of his own men into the Organization, men like Nick Vito and Salvatore Fiore and Joseph Colella, who were fiercely loyal to him. Thomas Colfax had not liked that.
When Michael had been indicted for the murders of the Ramos brothers, and Camillo Stela had agreed to testify against him in court, the old lawyer had believed that he was finally going to be rid of Michael, for the District Attorney had an airtight case.
Michael had thought of a way out in the middle of the night. At four in the morning, he had gone out to a telephone booth and called Joseph Colella.
"Next week some new lawyers are going to be sworn in on the District Attorney's staff. Can you get me their names?"
"Sure, Mike. Easy."
"One more thing. Call Detroit and have them fly in a cherry - one of their boys who's never been tagged." And Michael had hung up.
Two weeks later, Michael Moretti had sat in the courtroom studying the new assistant district attorneys. He had looked them over carefully, his eyes traveling from face to face, searching and judging. What he planned to do was dangerous, but its very daring could make it work. He was dealing with young beginners who would be too nervous to ask a lot of questions, and anxious to be helpful and make their mark. Well, someone was certainly going to make his mark.
Michael had finally selected Jennifer Parker. He liked the fact that she was inexperienced and that she was tense and trying to hide it. He liked the fact that she was female and would feel under more pressure than the men. When Michael was satisfied with his decision, he turned to a man in a gray suit sitting among the spectators and nodded toward Jennifer. That was all.
Michael had watched as the District Attorney had finished his examination of that son-of-a-bitch, Camillo Stela. He had turned to Thomas Colfax and said, Your witness for cross. Thomas Colfax had risen to his feet. If it please Your Honor, it is now almost noon. I would prefer not to have my cross-examination interrupted. Might I request that the court recess for lunch now and I'll cross-examine this afternoon?
And a recess had been declared. Now was the moment!
Michael saw his man casually drift up to join the men who were crowded around the District Attorney. The man made himself a part of the group. A few moments later, he walked over to Jennifer and handed her a large envelope. Michael sat there, holding his breath, willing Jennifer to take the envelope and move toward the witness room. She did. It was not until he saw her return without it that Michael Moretti relaxed.
That had been a year ago. The newspapers had crucified the girl, but that was her problem. Michael had not given any further thought to Jennifer Parker until the newspapers had begun recently to feature the Abraham Wilson trial. They had dragged up the old Michael Moretti case and Jennifer Parker's part in it. They had run her picture. She was a stunning-looking girl, but there was something more - there was a sense of independence about her that stirred something in him. He stared at the picture for a long time.
Michael began to follow the Abraham Wilson trial with increasing interest. When the boys had celebrated with a victory dinner after Michael's mistrial was declared, Salvatore Fiore had proposed a toast. "The world got rid of one more fuckin' lawyer."
But the world had not gotten rid of her, Michael thought. Jennifer Parker had bounced back and was still in there, fighting. Michael liked that.
He had seen her on television the night before, discussing her victory over Robert Di Silva, and Michael had been oddly pleased.
Antonio Granelli had asked, "Ain't she the mouthpiece you set up, Mike?"
"Uh-huh. She's got a brain, Tony. Maybe we can use her one of these days."