Carlo Rizzi was punk sore at the world. Once married into the Corleone Family, he’d been shunted aside with a small bookmaker’s business on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He’d counted on one of the houses in the mall on Long Beach, he knew the Don could move retainer families out when he pleased and he had been sure it would happen and he would be on the inside of everything. But the Don wasn’t treating him right. The “Great Don,” he thought with scorn. An old Moustache Pete who’d been caught out on the street by gunmen like any dumb small-time hood. He hoped the old bastard croaked. Sonny had been his friend once and if Sonny became the head of the Family maybe he’d get a break, get on the inside.
He watched his wife pour his coffee. Christ, what a mess she turned out to be. Five months of marriage and she was already spreading, besides blowing up. Real guinea broads all these Italians in the East.
He reached out and felt Connie’s soft spreading buttocks. She smiled at him and he said contemptuously, “You got more ham than a hog.” It pleased him to see the hurt look on her face, the tears springing into her eyes. She might be a daughter of the Great Don but she was his wife, she was his property now and he could treat her as he pleased. It made him feel powerful that one of the Corleones was his doormat.
He had started her off just right. She had tried to keep that purse full of money presents for herself and he had given her a nice black eye and taken the money from her. Never told her what he’d done with it, either. That might have really caused some trouble. Even now he felt just the slightest twinge of remorse. Christ, he’d blown nearly fifteen grand on the track and show girl bimbos.
He could feel Connie watching his back and so he flexed his muscles as he reached for the plate of sweet buns on the other side of the table. He’d just polished off ham and eggs but he was a big man and needed a big breakfast. He was pleased with the picture he knew he presented to his wife. Not the usual greasy dark guinzo husband but crew-cut blond, huge golden-haired forearms and broad shoulders and thin waist. And he knew he was physically stronger than any of those so-called hard guys that worked for the family. Guys like Clemenza, Tessio, Rocco Lampone, and that guy Paulie that somebody had knocked off. He wondered what the story was about that. Then for some reason he thought about Sonny. Man to man he could take Sonny, he thought, even though Sonny was a little bigger and a little heavier. But what scared him was Sonny’s rep, though he himself had never seen Sonny anything but good-natured and kidding around. Yeah, Sonny was his buddy. Maybe with the old Don gone, things would open up.
He dawdled over his coffee. He hated this apartment. He was used to the bigger living quarters of the West and in a little while he would have to go crosstown to his “book” to run the noontime action. It was a Sunday, the heaviest action of the week, what with baseball going already and the tail end of basketball and the night trotters starting up. Gradually he became aware of Connie bustling around behind him and he turned his head to watch her.
She was getting dressed up in the real New York City guinzo style that he hated. A silk flowered-pattern dress with belt, showy bracelet and earrings, flouncy sleeves. She looked twenty years older. “Where the hell are you going?” he asked.
She, answered him coldly, “To see my father out in Long Beach. He still can’t get out of bed and he needs company.”
Carlo was curious. “Is Sonny still running the show?”
Connie gave him a bland look. “What show?”
He was furious. “You lousy little guinea bitch, don’t talk to me like that or I’ll beat that kid right out of your belly.” She looked frightened and this enraged him even more. He sprang from his chair and slapped her across the face, the blow leaving a red welt. With quick precision he slapped her three more times. He saw her upper lip split bloody and puff up. That stopped him. He didn’t want to leave a mark. She ran into the bedroom and slammed the door and he heard the key turning in the lock. He laughed and returned to his coffee.
He smoked until it was time for him to dress. He knocked on the door and said, “Open it up before I kick it in.” There was no answer. “Come on, I gotta get dressed,” he said in a loud voice. He could hear her getting up off the bed and coming toward the door, then the key turned in the lock. When he entered she had her back to him, walking back toward the bed, lying down on it with her face turned away to the wall.
He dressed quickly and then saw she was in her slip. He wanted her to go visit her father, he hoped she would bring back information. “What’s the matter, a few slaps take all the energy out of you?” She was a lazy slut.
“I don’t wanna go.” Her voice was tearful, the words mumbled. He reached out impatiently and pulled her around to face him. And then he saw why she didn’t want to go and thought maybe it was just as well.
He must have slapped her harder than he figured. Her left cheek was blown up, the cut upper lip ballooned grotesquely puffy and white beneath her nose. “OK,” he said, “but I won’t be home until late. Sunday is my busy day.”
He left the apartment and found a parking ticket on his car, a fifteen-dollar green one. He put it in the glove compartment with the stack of others. He was in a good humor. Slapping the spoiled little bitch around always made him feel good. It dissolved some of the frustration he felt at being treated so badly by the Corleones.
The first time he had marked her up, he’d been a little worried. She had gone right out to Long Beach to complain to her mother and father and to show her black eye. He had really sweated it out. But when she came back she had been surprisingly meek, the dutiful little Italian wife. He had made it a point to be the perfect husband over the next few weeks, treating her well in every way, being lovey and nice with her, banging her every day, morning and night. Finally she had told him what had happened since she thought he would never act that way again.
She had found her parents coolly unsympathetic and curiously amused. Her mother had had a little sympathy and had even asked her father to speak to Carlo Rizzi. Her father had refused. “She is my daughter,” he had said, “but now she belongs to her husband. He knows his duties. Even the King of Italy didn’t dare to meddle with the relationship of husband and wife. Go home and learn how to behave so that he will not beat you.”
Connie had said angrily to her father, “Did you ever hit your wife?” She was his favorite and could speak to him so impudently. He had answered, “She never gave me reason to beat her.” And her mother had nodded and smiled.
She told them how her husband had taken the wedding present money and never told her what he did with it. Her father had shrugged and said, “I would have done the same if my wife had been as presumptuous as you.”
And so she had returned home, a tittle bewildered, a little frightened. She had always been her father’s favorite and she could not understand his coldness now.
But the Don had not been so unsympathetic as he pretended. He made inquiries and found out what Carlo Rizzi had done with the wedding present money. He had men assigned to Carlo Rizzi’s bookmaking operation who would report to Hagen everything Rizzi did on the job. But the Don could not interfere. How expect a man to discharge his husbandly duties to a wife whose family he feared? It was an impossible situation and he dared not meddle. Then when Connie became pregnant he was convinced of the wisdom of his decision and felt he never could interfere though Connie complained to her mother about a few more beatings and the mother finally became concerned enough to mention it to the Don. Connie even hinted that she might want a divorce. For the first time in her life the Don was angry with her. “He is the father of your child. What can a child come to in this world if he has no father?” he said to Connie.
Learning all this, Carlo Rizzi grew confident. He was perfectly safe. In fact he bragged to his two “writers” on the book, Sally Rags and Coach, about how he bounced his wife around when she got snotty and saw their looks of respect that he had the guts to manhandle the daughter of the great Don Corleone.
But Rizzi would not have felt so safe if he had known that when Sonny Cotleone learned of the beatings he had flown into a murderous rage and had been restrained only by the sternest and most imperious command of the Don himself, a command that even Sonny dared not disobey. Which was why Sonny avoided Rizzi, not trusting himself to control his temper.
So feeling perfectly safe on this beautiful Sunday morning, Carlo Rizzi sped crosstown on 96th Street to the East Side. He did not see Sonny’s car coming the opposite way toward his house.
* * *
Sonny Corleone had left the protection of the mall and spent the night with Lucy Mancini in town. Now on the way home he was traveling with four bodyguards, two in front and two behind. He didn’t need guards right beside him, he could take care of a single direct assault. The other men traveled in their own cars and had apartments on either side of Lucy’s apartment. It was safe to visit her as long as he didn’t do it too often. But now that he was in town he figured he would pick up his sister Connie and take her out to Long Beach. He knew Carlo would be working at his book and the cheap bastard wouldn’t get her a car. So he’d give his sister a lift out.
He waited for the two men in front to go into the building and then followed them. He saw the two men in back pull up behind his car and get out to watch the streets. He kept his own eyes open. It was a million-to-one shot that the opposition even knew he was in town but he was always careful. He had learned that in the 1930’s war.
He never used elevators. They were death traps. He climbed the eight flights to Connie’s apartment, going fast. He knocked on her door. He had seen Carlo’s car go by and knew she would be alone. There was no answer. He knocked again and then he heard his sister’s voice, frightened, timid, asking, “Who is it?”
The fright in the voice stunned him. His kid sister had always been fresh and snotty, tough as anybody in the family. What the hell had happened to her? He said, “It’s Sonny.” The bolt inside slid back and the door opened and Connie was in his arms sobbing. He was so surprised he just stood there. He pushed her away from him and saw her swollen face and he understood what had happened.
He pulled away from her to run down the stairs and go after her husband. Rage flamed up in him, contorting his own face. Connie saw the rage and clung to him, not letting him go, making him come into the apartment. She was weeping out of terror now. She knew her older brother’s temper and feared it. She had never complained to him about Carlo for that reason. Now she made him come into the apartment with her.
“It was my fault,” she said. “I started a fight with him and I tried to hit him so he hit me. He really didn’t try to hit me that hard. I walked into it.”
Sonny’s heavy Cupid face was under control. “You going to see the old man today?”
She didn’t answer, so he added, “I thought you were, so I dropped over to give you a lift. I was in the city anyway.”
She shook her head. “I don’t want them to see me this way. I’ll come next week.”
“OK,” Sonny said. He picked up her kitchen phone and dialed a number. “I’m getting a doctor to come over here and take a look at you and fix you up. In your condition you have to be careful. How many months before you have the kid?”
“Two months,” Connie said. “Sonny, please don’t do anything. Please don’t.”
Sonny laughed. His face was cruelly intent when he said, “Don’t worry, I won’t make your kid an orphan before he’s born.” He left the apartment after kissing her lightly on her uninjured cheek.
* * *
On East 112th Street a long line of cars were doubleparked in front of a candy store that was the headquarters of Carlo Rizzi’s book. On the sidewalk in front of the store, fathers played catch with small children they had taken for a Sunday morning ride and to keep them company as they placed their bets. When they saw Carlo Rizzi coming they stopped playing ball and bought their kids ice cream to keep them quiet. Then they started studying the newspapers that gave the starting pitchers, trying to pick out winning baseball bets for the day.
Carlo went into the large room in the back of the store. His two “writers,” a small wiry man called Sally Rags and a big husky fellow called Coach, were already waiting for the action to start. They had their huge, lined pads in front of them ready to write down bets. On a wooden stand was a blackboard with the names of the sixteen big league baseball teams chalked on it, paired to show who was playing against who. Against each pairing was a blocked-out square to enter the odds.
Carlo asked Coach, “Is the store phone tapped today?”
Coach shook his head. “The tap is still off.”
Carlo went to the wall phone and dialed a number. Sally Rags and Coach watched him impassively as he jotted down the “line,” the odds on all the baseball games for that day. They watched him as he hung up the phone and walked over to the blackboard and chalked up the odds against each game. Though Carlo did not know it, they had already gotten the line and were checking his work. In the first week in his job Carlo had made a mistake in transposing the odds onto the blackboard and had created that dream of all gamblers, a “middle.” That is, by betting the odds with him and then betting against the same team with another bookmaker at the correct. odds, the gambler could not lose. The only one who coud lose was Carlo’s book. That mistake had caused a six-thousand-dollar loss in the book for the week and confirmed the Don’s judgment about his son-in-law. He had given the word that all of Carlo’s work was to be checked.
Normally the highly placed members of the Corleone Family would never be concerned with such an operational detail. There was at least a five-layer insulation to their level. But since the book was being used as a testing ground for the son-in-law, it had been placed under the direct scrutiny of Tom Hagen, to whom a report was sent every day.
Now with the line posted, the gamblers were thronging into the back room of the candy store to jot down the odds on their newspapers next to the games printed there with probable pitchers. Some of them held their little children by the hand as they looked up at the blackboard. One guy who made big bets looked down at the little girl he was holding by the hand and said teasingly, “Who do you like today, Honey, Giants or the Pirates?” The little girl, fascinated by the colorful names, said, “Are Giants stronger than Pirates?” The father laughed.
A line began to form in front of the two writers. When a writer filled one of his sheets he tore it off, wrapped the money he had collected in it and handed it to Carlo. Carlo went out the back exit of the room and up a flight of steps to an apartment which housed the candy store owner’s family. He called in the bets to his central exchange and put the money in a small wall safe that was hidden by an extended window drape. Then he went back down into the candy store after having first burned the bet sheet and flushed its ashes down the toilet bowl.
None of the Sunday games started before two P.M. because of the blue laws, so after the first crowd of bettors, family men who had to get their bets in and rush home to take their families to the beach, came the trickling of bachelor gamblers or the diehards who condemned their families to Sundays in the hot city apartments. These bachelor bettors were the big gamblers, they bet heavier and came back around four o’clock to bet the second games of doubleheaders. They were the ones who made Carlo’s Sundays a full-time day with overtime, though some married men called in from the beach to try and recoup their losses.
By one-thirty the betting had trickled off so that Carlo and Sally Rags could go out and sit on the stoop beside the candy store and get some fresh air. They watched the stickball game the kids were having. A police car went by. They ignored it. This book had very heavy protection at the precinct and couldn’t be touched on a local level. A raid would have to be ordered from the very top and even then a warning would come through in plenty of time.
Coach came out and sat beside them. They gossiped a while about baseball and women. Carlo said laughingly, “I had to bat my wife around again today, teach her who’s boss.”
Coach said casually, “She’s knocked up pretty big now, ain’t she?”
“Ahh, I just slapped her face a few times,” Carlo said. “I didn’t hurt her.” He brooded for a moment. “She thinks she can boss me around, I don’t stand for that.”
There were still a few bettors hanging around shooting the breeze, talking baseball, some of them sitting on the steps above the two writers and Carlo. Suddenly the kids playing stickball in the street scattered. A car came screeching up the block and to a halt in front of the candy store. It stopped so abruptly that the tires screamed and before it had stopped, almost, a man came hurtling out of the driver’s seat, moving so fast that everybody was paralyzed. The man was Sonny Corleone.
His heavy Cupid-featured face with its thick, curved mouth was an ugly mask of fury. In a split second he was at the stoop and had grabbed Carlo Rizzi by the throat. He pulled Carlo away from the others, trying to drag him into the street, but Carlo wrapped his huge muscular arms around the iron railings of the stoop and hung on. He cringed away, trying to hide his head and face in the hollow of his shoulders. His shirt ripped away in Sonny’s hand.
What followed then was sickening. Sonny began beating the cowering Carlo with his fists, cursing him in a thick, rage-choked voice. Carlo, despite his tremendous physique, offered no resistance, gave no cry for mercy or protest. Coach and Sally Rags dared not interfere. They thought Sonny meant to kill his brother-in-law and had no desire to share his fate. The kids playing stickball gathered to curse the driver who had made them scatter, but now were watching with awestruck interest. They were tough kids but the sight of Sonny in his rage silenced them. Meanwhile another car had drawn up behind Sonny’s and two of his bodyguards jumped out. When they saw what was happening they too dared not interfere. They stood alert, ready to protect their chief if any bystanders had the stupidity to try to help Carlo.
What made the sight sickening was Carlo’s complete subjection, but it was perhaps this that saved his life. He clung to the iron railings with his hands so that Sonny could not drag him into the street and despite his obvious equal strength, still refused to fight back. He let the blows rain on his unprotected head and neck until Sonny’s rage ebbed. Finally, his chest heaving, Sonny looked down at him and said, “You dirty bastard, you ever beat up my sister again I’ll kill you.”
These words released the tension. Because of course, if Sonny intended to kill the man he would never have uttered the threat. He uttered it in frustration because he could not carry it out. Carlo refused to look at Sonny. He kept his head down and his hands and arms entwined in the iron railing. He stayed that way until the car roared off and he heard Coach say in his curiously paternal voice, “OK, Carlo, come on into the store. Let’s get out of sight.”
It was only then that Carlo dared to get out of his crouch against the stone steps of the stoop and unlock his hands from the railing. Standing up, he could see the kids look at him with the staring, sickened faces of people who had witnessed the degradation of a fellow human being. He was a little dizzy but if was more from shock, the raw fear that had taken command of his body; he was not badly hurt despite the shower of heavy blows. He let Coach lead him by the arm into the back room of the candy store and put ice on his face, which, though it was not cut or bleeding, was lumpy with swelling bruises. The fear was subsiding now and the humiliation he had suffered made him sick to his stomach so that he had to throw up. Coach held his head over the sink, supported him as if he were drunk, then helped him upstairs to the apartment and made him lie down in one of the bedrooms. Carlo never noticed that Sally Rags had disappeared.
Sally Rags had walked down to Third Avenue and called Rocco Lampone to report what had happened. Rocco took the news calmly and in his turn called his caporegime, Pete Clemenza. Clemenza groaned and said, “Oh, Christ, that goddamn Sonny and his temper,” but his finger had prudently clicked down on the hook so that Rocco never heard his remark.
Clemenza called the house in Long Beach and got Tom Hagen. Hagen was silent for a moment and then he said, “Send some of your people and cars out on the road to Long Beach as soon as you can, just in case Sonny gets held up by traffic or an accident. When he gets sore like that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. Maybe some of our friends on the other side will hear he was in town. You sever can tell.”
Clemenza said doubtfully, “By the time I could get anybody on the road, Sonny will be home. That goes for the Tattaglias too.”
“I know,” Hagen said patiently. “But if something out of the ordinary happens, Sonny may be held up. Do the best you can, Pete.”
Grudgingly Clemenza called Rocco Lampone and told him to get a few people and cars and cover the road to Long Beach. He himself went out to his beloved Cadillac and with three of the platoon of guards who now garrisoned his home, started over the Atlantic Beach Bridge, toward New York City.
One of the hangers-on around the candy store, a small bettor on the payroll of the Tattaglia Family as an informer, called the contact he had with his people. But the Tattaglia Family had not streamlined itself for the war, the contact still had to go all the way through the insulation layers before he finally got to the caporegime, who contacted the Tattaglia chief. By that time Sonny Corleone was safely back in the mall, in his father’s house, in Long Beach, about to face his father’s wrath.