Chapter 21

But it was to be nearly another year before Don Corleone could arrange for his son Michael to be smuggled back into the United States. During that time the whole Family racked their brains for suitable schemes. Even Carlo Rizzi was listened to now that he was living in the mall with Connie. (During that time they had a second child, a boy.) But none of the schemes met with the Don’s approval.

Finally it was the Bocchicchio Family who through a misfortune of its own solved the problem. There was one Bocchicchio, a young cousin of no more than twenty-five years of age, named Felix, who was born in America and with more brains than anyone in the clan had ever had before. He had refused to be drawn into the Family garbage hauling business and married a nice American girl of English stock to further his split from the clan. He went to school at night, to become a lawyer, and worked during the day as a civil service post office clerk. During that time he had three children but his wife was a prudent manager and they lived on his salary until he got his law degree.

Now Felix Bocchicchio, like many young men, thought that having struggled to complete his education and master the tools of his profession, his virtue would automatically be rewarded and he would earn a decent living. This proved not to be the case. Still proud, he refused all help from his clan. But a lawyer friend of his, a young man well connected and with a budding career in a big law firm, talked Felix into doing him a little favor. It was very complicated, seemingly legal, and had to do with a bankruptcy fraud. It was a million-to-one shot against its being found out. Felix Bocchicchio took the chance. Since the fraud involved using the legal skills he had learned in a university, it seemed not so reprehensible, and, in an odd way, not even criminal.

To make a foolish story short, the fraud was discovered. The lawyer friend refused to help Felix in any manner, refused to even answer his telephone calls. The two principals in the fraud, shrewd middle-aged businessmen who furiously blamed Felix Bocchicchio’s legal clumsiness for the plan going awry, pleaded guilty and cooperated with the state, naming Felix Bocchicchio as the ringleader of the fraud and claiming he had used threats of violence to control their business and force them to cooperate with him in his fraudulent schemes. Testimony was given that linked Felix with uncles and cousins in the Bocchiochio clan who had criminal records for strong-arm, and this evidence was damning. The two businessmen got off with suspended sentences. Felix Bocchiochio was given a sentence of one to five years and served three of them. The clan did not ask help from any of the Families or Don Corleone because Felix had refused to ask their help and had to be taught a lesson: that mercy comes only from the Family, that the Family is more loyal and more to be trusted than society.

In any case, Felix Bocchicchio was released from prison after serving three years, went home and kissed his wife and three children and lived peacefully for a year, and then showed that he was of the Bocchicchio clan after all. Without any attempt to conceal his guilt, he procured a weapon, a pistol, and shot his lawyer friend to death. He then searched out the two businessmen and calmly shot them both through the head as they came out of a luncheonette. He left the bodies lying in the street and went into the luncheonette and ordered a cup of coffee which he drank while he waited for the police to come and arrest him.

His trial was swift and his judgment merciless. A member of the criminal underworld had cold bloodedly murdered state witnesses who had sent him to the prison he richly deserved. It was a flagrant flouting of society and for once the public, the press, the structure of society and even soft-headed and soft-hearted humanitarians were united in their desire to see Felix Bocchicchio in the electric chair. The governor of the state would no more grant him clemency than the officials of the pound spare a mad dog, which was the phrase of one of the governor’s closest political sides. The Bocchiochio clan of course would spend whatever money was needed for appeals to higher courts, they were proud of him now, but the conclusion was certain. After the legal folderol, which might take a little time, Felix Bocchicchio would die in the electric chair.

It was Hagen who brought this case to the attention of the Don at the request of one of the Bocchiochios who hoped that something could be done for the young man. Don Codeone curtly refused. He was not a magician. People asked him the impossible. But the next day the Don called Hagen into his office and had him go over the case in the most intimate detail. When Hagen was finished, Don Corleone told him to summon the head of the Bocchicchio clan to the mall for a meeting.

What happened next had the simplicity of genius. Don Corleone guaranteed to the head of the Bocchicchio clan that the wife and children of Felix Bocchicchio would be rewarded with a handsome pension. The money for this would be handed over to the Bocchicchio clan immediately. In turn, Felix must confess to the murder of Sollozzo and the police captain McCluskey.

There were many details to be arranged. Felix Bocchicchio would have to confess convincingly, that is, he would have to know some of the true details to confess to. Also he must implicate the police captain in narcotics. Then the waiter at the Luna Restaurant must be persuaded to identify Felix Bocchiochio as the murderer. This would take some courage, as the description would change radically, Felix Bocchicchio being much shorter and heavier. But Don Corleone would attend to that. Also since the condemned man had been a great believer in higher education and a college graduate, he would want his children to go to college. And so a sum of money would have to be paid by Don Corleone that would take care of the children’s college. Then the Bocchicchio clan had to be reassured that there was no hope for clemency on the original murders. The new confession of course would seal the man’s already almost certain doom.

Everything was arranged, the money paid and suitable contact made with the condemned man so that he could be instructed and advised. Finally the plan was sprung and the confession made headlines in all the newspapers. The whole thing was a huge success. But Don Corkone, cautious as always, waited until Felix Bocchicchio was actually executed four months later before finally giving the command that Michael Corleone could return home.

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