There's another guy there too, trying to talk her out of it since, y'know, it's a rival mob family's funeral and the place will be swarming with Narcotici's "lice." Not that Babe's coming unprepared - there's a dozen thugs with riot shotguns waiting outside the car. Since he can't make any headway, Unnamed Naysayer appeals to Heller as the voice of reason.
"Mrs. Corleone," said Heller, "why don't I just step over to that church and see what's really going on? Then we'll know for sure whether it's safe or unsafe. We don't want you in the middle of a gang fight."
"They'll shoot you!" said Babe in sudden alarm. "Take ten or twelve men!"
"No," said Heller. "I'll be all right. I'll wear this ski mask."
Oh yeah, a mobster wouldn't get an itchy trigger finger when approached by someone in a ski mask. And they'd certainly never kill someone unless they were absolutely certain who they were. Also, "what's really going on?" I think, based on the fact that it's a funeral, that these guys plan on sticking a corpse in the ground. As opposed to throwing a rave or playing cards.
Heller takes his gun, that golden "Llama" .45 pistol, and on his way out has to say "You stay there." You see, he brought that cat along with him, the one that helped killed Silva, who is yowling in protest at being left behind. And then it follows Heller's orders and stays put. I'm now skeptical that Hubbard ever owned a cat.
So our hero sets forth to "investigate" a rival mob family's funeral to see if it's "safe." Gris is of course gleeful at this situation, since Heller's liable to be shot. He does remember that he doesn't have Heller's platen yet so it'd be a huge inconvenience if Heller were killed, so Gris instead assumes that the rival mobsters will only wound him with a bullet. Gotta admire the man's optimism. While continuing to loathe him for all his other qualities, of course.
Heller steps inside the spacious, gothic but "small" Our Lady of Gracious Peace cathedral. Sure enough, there's an open casket. Sure enough, there's a whole mob of mobsters standing around with shotguns out and ready. And to make matters worse, Razza Louseini is there! You don't know this, but he's Narcotici's consigliere, and you don't remember this, but he's the man who "fingered" Heller in the Howard Johnson waaaay back in Book Two. Gris is elated: "He would probably recognize Heller! Marvelous! A good, disabling wound in Heller was exactly what I needed!"
It's like the Countess Krak "plan" of his. Gris wants something to happen, and assumes that someone who he has no control over or contact with will do exactly what he's expecting. At least Terl knew how important it was to get Leverage over someone and make them oh God I'm referencing Battlefield Earth as a positive example.
Louseini (oh I get it, "louse"-ini!) is trying to convince his boys to stay put and bury Silva properly, but they're complaining that they've already lost so many men this year, and they've got better things to do. A priest asks for pallbearers, but one of the thugs points out that even though Silva died doing family business and killed a hated rival for them, he's still "a traditore, a traitor." Because once again, you the reader are an idiot unable to make an educated guess as to the meaning of a foreign word, and you lack the attention span to remember the last time the author defined this word for you.
I don't think consigliere has ever been defined.
The priest is taken aback by the whole "traitor" thing: "All are equal in the eyes of God, but a traditore . . ." Even Jesus has limits, y'know. But at this point one of the Narcotici goons spots Heller and advances in a no-doubt menacing fashion, demanding to know who this masked newcomer is and whether he's a spy. The priest calls for peace in this house of God and tries to be diplomatic, inadvertently emasculating an entire group of antagonists.
"My son, you are masked," said the priest. "What is your name?"
Well, I suppose a Royal officer doesn't lie to a priest. He said, "Here on this planet, they call me Jerome Wister."
"But I'm not an alien!"
The noise was such that I couldn't tell what happened for a moment. It was a dreadful smashing sound.
Men were going out those leaded windows in a rocket stream!
Screams of panic!
Shattering crashes of riot gun butts hammering out panes to clear the way!
Yes, this is happening. The place was "absolutely crammed" with heavily-armed mob soldiers, and this is happening.
Men were pouring out onto the shrubbery outside!
Limousines were roaring to life!
The room was empty.
The limousines were gone.
A tinkle of broken glass fell with one last sound upon the floor.
YOU OUTNUMBER HIM "ABSOLUTELY CRAMMED"-TO-ONE, YOU COWARDS! HE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE HIS CAT WITH HIM!
But there you have it. The Narcotici mob, the closest thing we have to an organized opposition to Heller now that Mr. Bury has given up on physical confrontations in exchange for undirected and meaningless bad publicity, is so terrified of our book's hero that they flee at the sight of him. So much for tension or conflict or excitement.
And yet it's still going to take six books to wrap this wretched story up.
So Heller steps out, tells Babe that it's safe, and the Corelone mob moves in to give Silva "a funeral he is not likely to forget," with the still-nameless cat hitching a ride on Heller's shoulder. They go up to Silva lying in state, and Gris notes that the morticians did a good job rebuilding his face after the whole "broke every bone in his body" thing. Let the festivities begin.
Babe towered over it. She lifted her red veil.
"Traditore!" she said.
SHE SPAT ON SILVA!
The priest drew back in horror.
Suddenly the cat let out a snarl!
It rocketed off Heller's shoulder!
It went straight at Silva's face, snarling and clawing!
RAKE! RAKE! RAKE!
Heller hurriedly reached over and pried the cat off. As he held it, it kept snarling and hissing the way only a cat can do! It was hard for Heller to hold it. No cathedral organ for Silva. Those sounds of hate reverberated through the vaults.
Yeah, take that, you... guy who killed another guy we never met, off-screen, before the book even started. Yeah. We hate you... so much. Grr.
Is Silva representing one of Hubbard's enemies or something? It just seems like he's expecting us to really enjoy this for whatever reason.
While the "powerless" priest continues to cower, all the Corleone mob soldiers come up one by one to stab Silva's corpse in the chest, spit on him, and shout "Traditore!" Which is no longer being translated. Thanks for showing some faith in our cognitive processes, Hubbard.
When that's done, Babe gets a branding iron, heats the end with a blowtorch, and marks Silva's corpse with a T on each cheek, branding him as a - you guessed it - traitor. But she's not through.
Babe was not through.
She took the other iron and began to heat it.
Father Paciere wailed.
It was a cross!
It glowed cheery red.
She again approached the casket.
She lifted her red-veiled face to the vault of heaven. She cried, "MUEM SUPROC TSE COH!"
She plunged it down on his forehead. The cross was upside down!
Oh, Gods, I suddenly understood. The words Hoc est corpus meum are the words of Holy Communion. They mean "This is my body," in Latin. When they are said backwards, over an inverted cross, the grace of one of their Gods is taken from the individual, not given to him. He would receive the reverse of forgiveness. BLACK MASS!
That's... it's just... the weird thing is that this almost certainly isn't one of Hubbard's childhood interests popping up in Mission Earth. The modern conception of a Black Mass as a sort of dark ritual only popped up in the 50's or 60's as a side-effect of heavy metal music. Earlier Black Masses in the medieval era were either parodies of Catholic rituals or sensationalized rumors accompanying witch hunts. Or so says my 5-minute research on Wikipedia.
So this nonsense is probably Hubbard staying trendy. He's with that Satanism stuff, kids! Buy his books!
After she's done invoking the powers of Satan to curse her enemies, the priest declares that it'll take thirty Pater Nosters and thirty-one Ave Marias for Babe to make up for desecrating a church.
"It's worth it," said Babe. "The dirty, filthy traitor! Now you cannot bury him in consecrated ground!"
"No, we cannot," wept the priest, "though it is doubtful if even God would accept a traitor."
Let's see... "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace," that's Ephesians 1:7... "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," that's Colossians 1:13-14...
Babe suggests the church dispose of Silva's corpse by throwing it in a pig trough, but the priest protests that they'll get in trouble for poisoning the pigs, so Babe tells him to donate the body to I. G. Barben Pharmaceuticals to make poison. The priest thinks that's workable. If only, though, if only there were something he could do to consecrate Silva's body, to undo the Black Mass. If only he, a cleric of the lord, had the power to bless people and conduct religious rituals.
You are a rubbish priest, Father Paciere.
Well, Babe and everyone leaves the funeral, quite satisfied. I leave the chapter somewhat worried that I've had to research some occult rituals, but take heart that I might have balanced it out by going through bible verses. And Gris, well, Gris has an idea.
Hey, why didn't any of the Corleone gunmen engage the Narcotici guys when they were swarming out of the cathedral? Your sworn enemy crashes through the windows and runs at you and you don't take a few shots? No worries about shedding blood on holy ground, priest says you'll just have to say the magic words a few dozen times to make up for it.
Back to Chapter One