It was nearly four o’clock in the morning as they all sat in the corner room office— Sonny, Michael, Tom Hagen, Clemenza and Tessio. Theresa Hagen had been persuaded to go to her own home next door. Paulie Gatto was still waiting in the living room, not knowing that Tessio’s men had been instructed not to let him leave or let him out of their sight.
Tom Hagen relayed the deal Sollozzo offered. He told how after Sollozzo had learned the Don still lived, it was obvious that he meant to kill Hagen. Hagen grinned. “If I ever plead before the Supreme Court, I’ll never plead better than I did with that goddamn Turk tonight. I told him I’d talk the Family into the deal even though the Don was alive. I told him I could wrap you around my finger, Sonny. How we were buddies as kids; and don’t get sore, but I let him get the idea that maybe you weren’t too sorry about getting the old man’s job, God forgive me.” He smiled apologetically at Sonny, who made a gesture signifying that he understood, that it was of no consequence.
Michael, leaning back in his armchair with the phone at his right hand, studied both men. When Hagen had entered the room Sonny had come rushing to embrace him. Michael realized with a faint twinge of jealousy that in many ways Sonny and Tom Hagen were closer than he himself could ever be to his own brother.
“Let’s get down to business,” Sonny said. “We have to make plans. Take a look at this list me and Tessio made up. Tessio, give Clemenza your copy.”
“If we make plans,” Michael said, “Freddie should be here.”
Sonny said grimly, “Freddie is no use to us. The doctor says he’s in shock so bad he has to have complete rest. I don’t understand that. Freddie was always a pretty tough guy. I guess seeing the old man gunned down was hard on him, he always thought the Don was God. He wasn’t like you and me, Mike.”
Hagen said quickly, “OK, leave Freddie out. Leave him out of everything, absolutely everything. Now, Sonny, until this is all over I think you should stay in the house. I mean sever leave it. You’re safe here. Don’t underrate Sollozzo, he’s got to be a pezzonovante, a real.90 caliber. Is the hospital covered?”
Sonny nodded. “The cops have it locked in and I got my people there visiting Pop all the time. What do you think of that list, Tom?”
Hagen frowned down at the fist of names: “Jesus Christ, Sonny, you’re really taking this personal. The Don would consider it a purely business dispute. Sollozzo is the key. Get rid of Sollozzo and everything falls in line. You don’t have to go after the Tattaglias.”
Sonny looked at his two caporegimes. Tessio shrugged. “It’s tricky,” he said. Clemenza didn’t answer at all.
Sonny said to Clemenza, “One thing we can take care of without discussion. I don’t want Paulie around here anymore. Make that first on your list.” The fat caporegime nodded.
Hagen said, “What about Luca? Sollozzo didn’t seem worried about Luca. That worries me. If Luca sold us out, we’re in real trouble. That’s the first thing we have to know. Has anybody been able to get in touch with him?”
“No,” Sonny said. “I’ve been calling him all night. Maybe he’s shacked up.”
“No,” Hagen said. “He never sleeps over with a broad. He always goes home when he’s through. Mike, keep ringing his number until you get an answer.” Michael dutifully picked up the phone and dialed. He could hear the phone ringing on the other end but no one answered. Finally he hung up. “Keep trying every fifteen minutes,” Hagen said.
Sonny said impatiently, “OK, Tom you’re the Consigliere, how about some advice? What the hell do you think we should do?”
Hagen helped himself to the whiskey bottle on the desk. “We negotiate with Sollozzo until your father is in shape to take charge. We might even make a deal if we have to. When your father gets out of bed he can settle the whole business without a fuss and all the Families will go along with him.”
Sonny said angrily, “You think I can’t handle this guy Sollozzo?”
Tom Hagen looked him directly in the eye. “Sonny, sure you can outfight him. The Corleone Family has the power. You have Clemenza and Tessio here and they can muster a thousand men if it comes to an all-out war. But at the end there will be a shambles over the whole East Coast and all the other Families will blame the Corleones. We’ll make a lot of enemies. And that’s something your father never believed in.”
Michael, watching Sonny, thought he took this well. But then Sonny said to Hagen, “What if the old man dies, what do you advise then, Consigliere?”
Hagen said quietly, “I know you won’t do it, but I would advise you to make a real deal with Sollozzo on the drugs. Without your father’s political contacts and personal influence the Corleone Family loses half its strength. Without your father, the other New York Families might wind up supporting the Tattaglias and Sollozzo just to make sure there isn’t a long destructive war. If your father dies, make the deal. Then wait and see.”
Sonny was white-faced with anger. “That’s easy for you to say, it’s not your father they killed.”
Hagen said quickly and proudly, “I was as good a son to him as you or Mike, maybe better. I’m giving you a professional opinion. Personally I want to kill all those bastards.” The emotion in his voice shamed Sonny, who said, “Oh, Christ, Tom, I didn’t mean it that way.” But he had, really. Blood was blood and nothing else was its equal.
Sonny brooded for a moment as the others waited in embarrassed silence. Then he sighed and spoke quietly. “OK, we’ll sit tight until the old man can give us the lead. But, Tom, I want you to stay inside the mall, too. Don’t take any chances. Mike, you be careful, though I don’t think. even Sollozzo would bring personal family into the war. Everybody would be against him then. But be careful. Tessio, you hold your people in reserve but have them nosing around the city. Clemenza, after you settle the Paulie Gatto thing, you move your men into the house and the mall to replace Tessio’s people. Tessio, you keep your men at the hospital, though. Tom, start negotiation over the phone or by messenger with Sollozzo and the Tattaglias the first thing in the morning. Mike, tomorrow you take a couple of Clemenza’s people and go to Luca’s house and wait for him to show up or find out where the hell he is. That crazy bastard might be going after Sollozzo right now if he’s heard the news. I can’t believe he’d ever go against his Don, no matter what the Turk offered him.”
Hagen said reluctantly, “Maybe Mike shouldn’t get mixed up in this so directly.”
“Right,” Sonny said. “Forget that, Mike. Anyway I need you on the phone here in the house, that’s more important.”
Michael didn’t say anything. He felt awkward, almost ashamed, and he noticed Clemenza and Tessio with faces so carefully impassive that he was sure that they were hiding their contempt. He picked up the phone and dialed Luca Brasi’s number and kept the receiver to his ear as it rang and rang.