MICHAEL CORLEONE STOOD on a long wooden dock in Palermo and watched the
great ocean liner set sail for America.He was to have sailed on that
ship,but new in- structions had come from his father.
He waved goodbye to the men on the little oshing boat who had brought him to this
dock,men who had guarded him these past years.The oshing boat rode the
white wake of the ocean liner,a brave little duckling after its mother.
The men on it waved back;he would see them no more.
The dock itself was alive with scurrying laborers in caps and baggy clothes unloading other
ships,loading trucks that had come to the long dock.They were small wiry
men who looked more Arabic than Italian,wearing billed caps that
obscured their faces.Amongst them would be new body- guards making sure
he came to no harm before he met with Don Croce Malo,Capo di Capi of the
"Friends of the Friends,"as they were called here in Sicily.Newspapers
and the outside world called them the Ma oa,but in Sicily the word Ma oa
never passed the lips of the ordinary citizen.As they would never call
Don Croce Malo the Capo di Capi but only "The Good Soul."
In his two years of exile in Sicily,Michael had heard many tales about Don
Croce,some so fantastic that he al- most did not believe in the
existence of such a man.But the instructions relayed from his father were
explicit: he was ordered to have lunch with Don Croce this very day.And the
two of them were to arrange for the escape from Sicily of the country 's greatest
bandit, Salvatore Guiliano. Michael Corleone could not leave Sicily
Down at the end of the pier,no more than fifty yards away,a huge dark car was
parked in the narrow street. Standing before it
were three men,dark rectangles cut out of the glaring sheet of light
that fell like a wall of gold from the sun.Michael walked toward them.He
paused for a moment to light a cigarette and survey the city.
Palermo rested in the bottom of a bowl created by an extinct
volcano,overwhelmed by mountains on three sides, and escaping into the
dazzling blue of the Mediterranean Sea on the fourth side.The city
shimmered in the golden rays of the Sicilian noon-time sun.Veins of red
light struck the earth,as if re oecting the blood shed on the soil of
Sicily for countless centuries.The gold rays bathed stately marble
columns of Greek temples,spidery Moslem turrets,the oercely intricate
facades of Spanish cathedrals;on a far hill- side frowned the
battlements of an ancient Norman castle. All left by diverse and cruel
armies that had ruled Sicily since before Christ was born.Beyond the
castle walls,cone- shaped mountains held the slightly effeminate city of
Palermo in a strangler 's embrace,as if both were sinking gracefully to
their knees,a cord pulling tightly around the city 's neck.Far
above,countless tiny red hawks darted across the brilliant blue sky.
Michael walked toward the three men waiting for him at the end of the
pier.Features and bodies formed out of their black rectangles.With each
step he could see them more clearly and they seemed to loosen,to spread
away from each other as if to envelop him in their greeting.
All three of these men knew Michael 's history.That he was the youngest son of the
great Don Corleone in America, the Godfather,whose power extended even
into Sicily.That he had murdered a high police of ocial of New York City
while executing an enemy of the Corleone Empire.That he had been in
hiding and exile here in Sicily because of those murders and that now
onally,matters having been "arranged,"he was on his way back to his
homeland to re- sume his place as crown prince to the Corleone Family.
They studied Michael,the way he moved so quickly and ef- fortlessly,his
watchful wariness,the caved-in side of his face which gave him the look
of a man who had endured suffering and danger.He was obviously a man of
As Michael stepped off the pier the orst man to greet him was
a priest,body plump in cassock,his head crowned by a greasy batlike
hat.The white clerical collar was sprinkled with red Sicilian dust,the
face above was worldly with oesh.
This was Father Benjamino Malo,brother to the great Don Croce.He had a shy
and pious manner,but he was devoted to his renowned relative and never oinched
at having the devil so close to his bosom.The malicious even whis- pered that he handed over
the secrets of the confessional to Don Croce.
Father Benjamino smiled nervously as he shook Michael 's hand and seemed surprised and
relieved by Michael 's friendly,lopsided grin,so unlike that of a
The second man was not so cordial,though polite enough.This was Inspector
Frederico Velardi,head of the Security Police
of all Sicily.He was the only one of the three who did not have a
welcoming smile on his face.Thin and far too beautifully tailored for a
man who received a gov- ernment salary,his cold blue eyes shot two
genetic bullets from long-ago Norman conquerors.Inspector Velardi could
have no love for an American who killed high-ranking police of
ocials.He might try his luck in Sicily.Velardi 's hand- shake was like
the touching of swords.
The third man was taller and bulkier;he seemed huge beside the other two.He imprisoned Michael's
hand,then pulled him forward into an affectionate embrace."Cousin Michael,"he
said."Welcome to Palermo."He drew back and regarded Michael with a fond but wary eye."I am Stefan
Andolini,your father and I grew up together in Corleone.I saw you in
America,when you were a child.Do you remember me?"
Oddly enough Michael did remember.For Stefan Andolini was that rarest of all Sicilians,a
redhead.Which was his cross,for Sicilians believe that Judas was a
redheaded man.His face too was unforgettable.The mouth was huge and
irregular,the thick lips like bloody hacked meat;above were hairy
nostrils,and eyes cavernous in deep sockets. Though he was smiling,it
was a face that made you dream of murder.
With the priest,Michael understood the connection at once.But Inspector Velardi was a
surprise.Andolini,carrying out the responsibility of a relative,carefully explained
to Michael the Inspector's official capacity.Michael was wary. What was the man doing
here?Velardi was reputed to be one of Salvatore Guiliano 's most implacable pursuers.And
it was obvious that the Inspector and Stefan Andolini disliked each
other;they behaved with the exquisite courtesy of two men readying
themselves for a duel to the death.
The chauffeur had the car door open for them.Father Benjamino and Stefan Andolini ushered
Michael into the back seat with deferential pats.Father Benjamino insisted with Christian
humility that Michael sit by the window while he sat in the middle,for
Michael must see the beauties of Palermo.Andolini took the other back
seat.The Inspector had already jumped in beside the chauffeur.Michael
noticed that Inspector Velardi held the door handle so that he could
twist it open quickly.The thought passed through Michael 's mind that
perhaps Father Benjamino had scurried into the middle seat to make
himself less of a target.
Like a great black dragon,the car moved slowly through the streets of Palermo.
On this avenue rose graceful Moorish-looking houses,massive Greek-columned public
buildings,Spanish cathedrals.Private houses painted blue, painted white,painted yellow,all
had balconies festooned with oowers that formed another highway above their heads. It would have
been a pretty sight except for squads of cara- binieri ,the Italian
National Police,who patrolled every corner, rifles at the ready.And
more of them on the balconies above.
Their car dwarfed the other vehicles surrounding it,especially the mule-drawn peasant carts which
carried in most of the fresh produce from the countryside.These carts
were painted in gay,vivid colors,every inch of them down to the spokes
of the wheels,the shafts that held the mules.On the sides of many carts
were murals showing helmeted knights and crowned kings in dramatic
scenes from the legends of Charlemagne and Roland,those ancient heroes
of Sicilian folklore.But on some carts Michael saw scrawled,beneath the
ogure of a handsome youth in moleskin trousers and sleeveless white
shirt,guns in his belt,guns slung over his shoulder,a legend of two
lines which always ended with great red letters that spelled out the
During his exile in Sicily,Michael had heard a good deal
about Salvatore Guiliano.His name had always been in the
newspapers.People everywhere talked about him.Michael 's
bride,Apollonia,had confessed that every night she said prayers for the
safety of Guiliano,as did nearly all the chil- dren and young people of
Sicily.They adored him,he was one of them,he was the man they all
dreamed of becoming. Young,in his twenties,he was acclaimed a great
general because he outfought the carabinieri armies sent against him.
He was handsome and he was generous,he gave most of his criminal
earnings to the poor.He was virtuous and his bandits were never
permitted to molest women or priests.When he executed an informer or a
traitor,he always gave the victim time to say his prayers and cleanse
his soul in order to be on the best of terms with the rulers of the next
world.All this Michael knew without being briefed.
They turned off the avenue and a huge black-lettered poster on a house wall caught Michael
's eye.He just had time to see the word GUILIANO on the top line.Father
Benjamino had been leaning toward the window and said,"It is one of
Guiliano 's proclamations.Despite everything he still controls Palermo
"And what does it say?"Michael asked.
"He permits the people of Palermo to ride the streetcars again,"Father Benjamino said.
"He permits?"Michael asked with a smile."An outlaw permits?"
On the other side of the car Stefan Andolini laughed. "The carabinieri ride the trams
so Guiliano blows them up. But orst he warned the public not to use
them.Now he is promising not to blow them up anymore."
Michael said dryly,"And why did Guiliano blow up trams full of police?"
Inspector Velardi turned his head,blue eyes glaring at Michael."Because Rome in
its stupidity arrested his father and mother for consorting with a known
criminal,their own son.A Fascist law never repealed by the republic."
Father Benjamino said with quiet pride."My brother, Don Croce,arranged
for their release.Oh,my brother was very angry with Rome."
Christ,Michael thought.Don Croce was angry with Rome?Who the hell was
this Don Croce besides being pezzonovante in the Mafia?
The car stopped in front of a block-long,rose-colored building.Blue minarets
crowned each separate corner.Be- fore the entrance an extraordinary,wide
green-striped canopy lettered HOTEL UMBERTO was guarded by two door- men
stuffed into dazzling gold-buttoned uniforms.But Michael was not
distracted by this splendor.
His practiced eye photographed the street in front of the hotel.He spotted
at least ten bodyguards walking in couples, leaning against the iron railings.These men were not disguising
their function.Unbuttoned jackets revealed weapons strapped to their
bodies.Two of them smoking thin cigars blocked Michael 's path for a
moment when he came out of the car,scrutinizing him closely --measuring him for a grave.They
ignored Inspector Velardi and the others.
As the group entered the hotel,the guards sealed off the entrance behind them.In the lobby four
more guards mate- rialized and escorted them down a long corridor.These
men had the proud looks of palace servants to an emperor.
The end of the corridor was barred by two massive oaken doors.A man seated in a
high,thronelike chair stood up and unlocked the doors with a bronze
key.He bowed,giving Fa- ther Benjamino a conspiratorial smile as he did
The doors opened into a magni ocent suite of rooms;open French
windows revealed a luxuriously deep garden be- yond,which blew in the
smell of lemon trees.As they en- tered Michael could see two men posted
on the inside of the suite.Michael wondered why Don Croce was so heavily
guarded.He was Guiliano 's friend,he was the con odant of the Minister
of Justice in Rome and therefore safe from the carabinieri who olled the
town of Palermo.Then who,and what,did the great Don fear?Who was his
The furniture in the living room of the suite had been originally
designed for an Italian palace --gargantuan arm- chairs,sofas as long and
deep as small ships,massive marble tables that looked as if they had
been stolen from museums.They suitably framed the man who now came in
from the garden to greet them.
His arms were held out to embrace Michael Corleone. Standing,Don Croce was
almost as wide as he was tall. Thick gray hair,crinkly as a Negro 's,carefully
barbered, crowned a head massively leonine.His eyes were lizardly dark,two raisins embedded on
top of heavily oeshed cheeks.These cheeks were two great slabs of
mahogany,the left side planed smooth,the other creased with overgrown
oesh.The mouth was surprisingly delicate,and above it was a thin
mustache.The thick imperial spike of a nose nailed his face together.
But beneath that emperor 's head he was all peasant.
Excerpted from The Sicilian by Mario Puzo. Copyright © 2001 by Mario Puzo. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.