In the New Hampshire village, every foreign phenomenon was properly noticed by housewives peering from windows, storekeepers lounging behind their doors. And so when the black automobile bearing New York license plates stopped in front of the Adams’ home, every citizen knew about it in a matter of minutes.
Kay Adams, really a small-town girl despite her college education, was also peering from her bedroom window. She had been studying for her exams and preparing to go downstairs for lunch when she spotted the car coming up the street, and for some reason she was not surprised when it rolled to a halt in front of her lawn. Two men got out, big burly men who looked like gangsters in the movies to her eyes, and she flew down the stairs to be the first at the door. She was sure they came from Michael or his family and she didn’t want them talking to her father and mother without any introduction. It wasn’t that she was ashamed of any of Mike’s friends, she thought; it was just that her mother and father were old-fashioned New England Yankees and wouldn’t understand her even knowing such people.
She got to the door just as the bell rang and she called to her mother, “I’ll get it.” She opened the door and the two big men stood there. One reached inside his breast pocket like a gangster reaching for a gun and the move so surprised Kay that she let out a little gasp but the man had taken out a small leather case which he flapped open to show an identification card. “I’m Detective John Phillips from the New York Police Department,” he said. He motioned to the other man, a dark-complexioned man with very thick, very black eyebrows. “This is my partner, Detective Siriani. Are you Miss Kay Adams?”
Kay nodded. Phillips said, “May we come in and talk to you for a few minutes. It’s about Michael Corleone.”
She stood aside to let them in. At that moment her father appeared in the small side hall that led to his study. “Kay, what is it?” he asked.
Her father was a gray-haired, slender, distinguished-looking man who not only was the pastor of the town Baptist church but had a reputation in religious circles as a scholar. Kay really didn’t know her father well, he puzzled her, but she knew he loved her even if he gave the impression he found her uninteresting as a person. Though they had never been close, she trusted him. So she said simply, “These men are detectives from New York. They want to ask me questions about a boy I know.”
Mr. Adams didn’t seem surprised. “Why don’t we go into my study?” he said.
Detective Phillips said gently, “We’d rather talk to your daughter alone, Mr. Adams.”
Mr. Adams said courteously, “That depends on Kay, I think. My dear, would-you rather speak to these gentlemen alone or would you prefer to have me present? Or perhaps your mother?”
Kay shook her head. “I’ll talk to them alone.”
Mr. Adams said to Phillips, “You can use my study. Will you stay for lunch?” The two men shook their heads. Kay led them into the study.
They rested uncomfortably on the edge of the couch as she sat in her father’s big leather chair. Detective Phillips opened the conversation by saying, “Miss Adams, have you seen or heard from Michael Corleone at any time in the last three weeks?” The one question was enough to warn her. Three weeks ago she had read the Boston newspapers with their headlines about the killing of a New York police captain and a narcotics smuggler named Virgil Sollozzo. The newspaper had said it was part of the gang war involving the Corleone Family.
Kay shook her head. “No, the last time I saw him he was going to see his father in the hospital. That was perhaps a month ago.”
The other detective said in a harsh voice, “We know all about that meeting. Have you seen or heard from him since then?”
“No,” Kay said.
Detective Phillips said in a polite voice, “If you do have contact with him we’d like you to let us know. It’s very important we get to talk to Michael Corleone. I must warn you that if you do have contact with him you may be getting involved in a very dangerous situation. If you help him in any way, you may get yourself in very serious trouble.”
Kay sat up very straight in the chair. “Why shouldn’t I help him?” she asked. “We’re going to be married, married people help each other.”
It was Detective Siriani who answered her. “If you help, you may be an accessory to murder. We’re looking for your boy friend because he killed a police captain in New York plus an informer the police officer was contacting. We know Michael Corleone is the person who did the shooting.”
Kay laughed. Her laughter was so unaffected, so incredulous, that the officers were impressed. “Mike wouldn’t do anything like that,” she said. “He never had anything to do with his family. When we went to his sister’s wedding it was obvious that he was treated as an outsider, almost as much as I was. If he’s hiding now it’s just so that he won’t get any publicity, so his name won’t be dragged through all this. Mike is not a gangster. I know him better than you or anybody else can know him. He is too nice a man to do anything as despicable as murder. He is the most law-abiding person I know, and I’ve never known him to lie.”
Detective Phillips asked gentiy, “How long have you known him?”
“Over a year,” Kay said and was surprised when the two men smiled.
“I think there are a few things you should know,” Detective Phillips said. “On the night he left you, he went to the hospital. When he came out he got into an argument with a police captain who had come to the hospital on official business. He assaulted that police officer but got the worst of it. In fact he got a broken jaw and lost some teeth. His friends took him out to the Corleone Family houses at Long Beach. The following night the police captain he had the fight with was gunned down and Michael Corleone disappeared. Vanished. We have our contacts, our informers. They all point the finger at Michael Corleone but we have no evidence for a court of law. The waiter who witnessed the shooting doesn’t recognize a picture of Mike but he may recognize him in person. And we have Sollozzo’s driver, who refuses to talk, but we might make him talk if we have Michael Corleone in our hands. So we have all our people looking for him, the FBI is looking for him, everybody is looking for him. So far, no luck, so we thought you might be able to give us a lead.”
Kay said coldly, “I don’t believe a word of it.” But she felt a bit sick knowing the part about Mike getting his jaw broken must be true. Not that that would make Mike commit murder.
“Will you let us know if Mike contacts you?” Phillips asked.
Kay shook her head. The other detective, Siriani, said roughly, “We know you two have been shacking up together. We have the hotel records and witnesses. If we let that information slip to the newspapers your father and mother would feel pretty lousy. Real respectable people like them wouldn’t think much of a daughter shacking up with a gangster. If you don’t come clean right now I’ll call your old man in here and give it to him straight.”
Kay looked at him with astonishment. Then she got up and went to the door of the study and opened it. She could see her father standing at the living-room window, sucking at his pipe. She called out, “Dad, can you join us?” He turned, smiled at her, and walked to the study. When he came through the door he put his arm around his daughter’s waist and faced the detectives and said, “Yes, gentlemen?”
When they didn’t answer, Kay said coolly to Detective Siriani, “Give it to him straight, officer.”
Siriani flushed. “Mr. Adams, I’m telling you this for your daughter’s good. She is mixed up with a hoodlum we have reason to believe committed a murder on a police officer. I’m just telling her she can get into serious trouble unless she cooperates with us. But she doesn’t seem to realize how serious this whole matter is. Maybe you can talk to her.”
“That is quite incredible,” Mr. Adams said politely.
Siriani jutted his jaw. “Your daughter and Michael Corleone have been going out together for over a year. They have stayed overnight in hotels together registered as man and wife. Michael Corleone is wanted for questioning in the murder of a police officer. Your daughter refuses to give us any information that may help us. Those are the facts. You can call them incredible but I can back everything up.”
“I don’t doubt your word, sir,” Mr. Adams said gently. “What I find incredible is that my daughter could be in serious trouble. Unless you’re suggesting that she is a”— here his face became one of scholarly doubt— “a ‘moll,’ I believe it’s called.”
Kay looked at her father in astonishment. She knew he was being playful in his donnish way and she was surprised that he could take the whole affair so lightly.
Mr. Adams said firmly, “However, rest assured that if the young man shows his face here I shall immediately report his presence to the authorities. As will my daughter. Now, if you will forgive us, our lunch is growing cold.”
He ushered the men out of the house with every courtesy and closed the door on their backs gently but firmly. He took Kay by the arm and led her toward the kitchen far in the rear of the house, “Come, my dear, your mother is waiting lunch for us.”
By the time they reached the kitchen, Kay was weeping silently, out of relief from strain, at her father’s unquestioning affection. In the kitchen her mother took no notice of her weeping, and Kay realized that her father must have told her about the two detectives. She sat down at her place and her mother served her silently. When all three were at the table her father said grace with bowed head.
Mrs. Adams was a short stout woman always neatly dressed, hair always set. Kay had never seen her in disarray. Her mother too had always been a little disinterested in her, holding her at arm’s length. And she did so now. “Kay, stop being so dramatic. I’m sure it’s all a great deal of fuss about nothing at all. After all, the boy was a Dartmouth boy, he couldn’t possibly be mixed up in anything so sordid.”
Kay looked up in surprise. “How did you know Mike went to Dartmouth?”
Her mother said complacently, “You young people are so mysterious, you think you’re so clever. We’ve known about him all along, but of course we couldn’t bring it up until you did.”
“But how did you know?” Kay asked. She still couldn’t face her father now that he knew about her and Mike sleeping together. So she didn’t see the smile on his face when he said, “We opened your mail, of course.”
Kay was horrified and angry. Now she could face him. What he had done was more shameful than her own sin. She could never believe it of him. “Father, you didn’t, you couldn’t have.”
Mr. Adams smiled at her. “I debated which was the greater sin, opening your mail, or going in ignorance of some hazard my only child might be incurring. The choice was simple, and virtuous.”
Mrs. Adams said between mouthfuls of boiled chicken, “After all, my dear, you are terribly innocent for your age. We had to be aware. And you never spoke about him.”
For the first time Kay was grateful that Michael was never affectionate in his letters. She was grateful that her parents hadn’t seen some of her letters. “I never told you about him because I thought you’d be horrified about his family.”
“We were,” Mr. Adams said cheerfully. “By the way, has Michael gotten in touch with you?”
Kay shook her head. “I don’t believe he’s guilty of anything.”
She saw her parents exchange a glance over the table. Then Mr. Adams said gently, “If he’s not guilty and he’s vanished, then perhaps something else happened to him.”
At first Kay didn’t understand. Then she got up from the table and ran to her room.
* * *
Three days later Kay Adams got out of a taxi in front of the Corleone mall in Long Beach. She had phoned, she was expected. Tom Hagen met her at the door and she was disappointed that it was him. She knew he would tell her nothing.
In the living room he gave her a drink. She had seen a couple of other men lounging around the house but not Sonny. She asked Tom Hagen directly, “Do you know where Mike is? Do you know where I can get in touch with him?”
Hagen said smoothly, “We know he’s all right but we don’t know where he is right now. When he heard about that captain being shot he was afraid they’d accuse him. So he just decided to disappear. He told me he’d get in touch in a few months.”
The story was not only false but meant to be seen through, he was giving her that much. “Did that captain really break his jaw?” Kay asked.
“I’m afraid that’s true,” Tom said. “But Mike was never a vindictive man. I’m sure that had nothing to do with what happened.”
Kay opened her purse and took out a letter. “Will you deliver this to him if he gets in touch with you?”
Hagen shook his head. “If I accepted that letter. and you told a court of law I accepted that letter, it might be interpreted as my having knowledge of his whereabouts. Why don’t you just wait a bit? I’m sure Mike will get in touch.”
She finished her drink and got up to leave. Hagen escorted her to the hall but as he opened the door, a woman came in from outside. A short, stout woman dressed in black. Kay recognized her as Michael’s mother. She held out her hand and said, “How are you, Mrs. Corleone?”
The woman’s small black eyes darted at her for a moment, then the wrinkled, leathery, olive skinned face broke into a small curt smile of greeting that was yet in some curious way truly friendly. “Ah, you Mikey’s little girl,” Mrs. Corleone said. She had a heavy Italian accent, Kay could barely understand her. “You eat something?” Kay said no, meaning she didn’t want anything to eat, but Mrs. Corleone turned furiously on Tom Hagen and berated him in Italian ending with, “You don’t even give this poor girl coffee, you disgrazia.” She took Kay by the hand, the old woman’s hand surprisingly warm and alive, and led her into the kitchen. “You have coffee and eat something, then somebody drive you home. A nice girl like you, I don’t want you to take the train.” She made Kay sit down and bustled around the kitchen, tearing off her coat and hat and draping them over a chair. In a few seconds there was bread and cheese and salami on the table and coffee perking on the stove.
Kay said timidly, “I came to ask about Mike, I haven’t heard from him. Mr. Hagen said nobody knows where he is, that he’ll turn up in a little while.”
Hagen spoke quickly, “That’s all we can tell her now, Ma.”
Mrs. Corleone gave him a look of withering contempt. “Now you gonna tell me what to do? My husband don’t tell me what to do, God have mercy on him.” She crossed herself.
“Is Mr. Corleone all right?” Kay asked.
“Fine,” Mrs. Corleone said. “Fine. He’s getting old, he’s getting foolish to let something like that happen.” She tapped her head disrespectfully. She poured the coffee and forced Kay to eat some bread and cheese.
After they drank their coffee Mrs. Corleone took one of Kay’s hands in her two brown ones. She said quietly, “Mikey no gonna write you, you no gonna hear from Mikey. He hide two— three years. Maybe more, maybe much more. You go home to your family and find a nice young fellow and get married.”
Kay took the letter out of her purse. “Will you send this to him?”
The old lady took the letter and patted Kay on the cheek. “Sure, sure,” she said. Hagen started to protest and she screamed at him in Italian. Then she led Kay to the door. There she kissed her on the cheek very quickly and said, “You forget about Mikey, he no the man for you anymore.”
There was a car waiting for her with two men up front. They drove her all the way to her hotel in New York never saying a word. Neither did Kay. She was trying to get used to the fact that the young man she had loved was a coldblooded murderer. And that she had been told by the most unimpeachable source: his mother.