Monday, October 7, 2013

Part Seventy, Chapter One - Hubbard Always Calls It a Satchel, Never a Bag

Look, up in the sky...

Heller launched himself into the first gray of the dawn.  Unseen, flying at a thousand feet like a javelin through the whistling air, he headed southwest.  The blackness and the lights of the Hudson lay below.  A very faint pink strand of cloud heralded the eastern sun.

No, he couldn't have taken the Rolls-Royce, don't even ask. 

Quite unlike him, his mind was filled with misgivings and doubt.  But like a gambler who stakes all on one last throw, he had to take the chance.

The first glimpse of Jettero Heller's thoughts in a while, after two or three chapters of pure dialogue and narrated actions.  Don't get used to it.

We get a page and a half or so of exposition; Heller needs to win his own war before the United States starts its war on Monday, and he needs troops to do it because he hasn't recognized the fact that he's basically a video game protagonist who could storm the Reichstag all on his own.  But hey, remember Babe Corleone?  The mob boss Heller had a falling out with, what was it, three books ago?

But she had soldati and, in his extremity, Heller thought just possibly he might be listened to.  He was taking a long chance.

So because Heller really needs those soldiers, he thinks that's what will make Babe forget all that bad publicity crap and forgive him and help him.  Like I ran over your grandma half a year ago, but my car just broke down and I desperately need to get to work in five minutes, so will you loan me yours?

He lands his hover-sled on the roof of Babe's apartment, which is of course defended "like a fort" against an attack from any direction but the sky.  Heller comes across "Geovani!  Babe's bodyguard!" who is "sitting in a chair by the elevator!" in an apparently exciting manner.  Heller playfully sneaks up on him, makes a finger-pistol, pokes the mobster in the back of the neck with it, and tells the guy to freeze, before adding "it's a friend."  The mobster is so surprised he invokes the sacred monkeys, "Sacro scimmie!"  I'm not sure why some people knock Catholicism, it's starting to sound fun.  Demonic invocations, monkeys...

Babe is alerted to the commotion, and we get our reunion.  Babe, who you might remember disowned Heller for his, ah, "betrayal" that she read about in the newspaper, breaks down in tears and sobs how happy she is Heller stopped being mad and came to visit, so she can beg forgiveness... wait, what?  See, Babe's figured out that Heller was actually duping her rival Faustino by "admitting" way the unholy hell back in Book Five (or was it Six?) that he threw that car race way the unholy hell back in Book Three, thereby forcing Faustino to pay back all those bets and giving the Corleones control of the numbers racket.

Or in other words, the book's villains are inadvertently defeating each other.

So Heller explains that he was afraid she was mad at him, but of course nobody could stay angry at Jettero Heller for long, and it all ends in hugs and tears and forgiveness and let's get this boy some milk and cookies!

I'm serious about the milk and cookies.  The mob boss orders her grizzled bodyguard to fetch some for little baby Heller.

Heller states that he has a way for Babe, the heroic murderous mobster who does not push drugs, to finally conquer Faustino, the evil murderous mobster who does push drugs.  He outlines his plan, and of course it's far too risky, Babe isn't willing to endanger the life of her "only son" - naturally, this strange kid who fell into her life a year ago is now more precious to her than any other member of the Corleone criminal family.

Heller took a shot in the dark.  "Well," he said, hoping it would awaken her nostalgia for her dead husband and hoping she would supply something he only thought existed, "You know what 'Holy Joe' used to say."

Babe nodded thoughtfully. "'The only good enemy is a dead enemy.'  You've got a point, Jerome."

"Then that settles it," said Heller.

She surged up, eyes glowing.  "I'll make the calls."

Yes, it's up to Heller to reinvigorate the mob boss so that she acts like a mob boss, shaking off the depression she'd settled into after her estrangement from, again, Heller.  I'd ask how in the world this woman managed to gather a criminal empire, but then I remember she basically married into it and inherited control from her husband.

Also, good thing for Heller that Holy Joe always talked to his wife about killing his enemies, or else Babe might be wondering how "(bleep) the Knicks" was relevant to the situation.

So Babe musters the mafia, while Heller showers, breakfasts, and prepares for a post-dawn night's sleep.  He also lets that damned cat out of his satchel, suddenly reminding the reader that Heller's had a live tomcat stuck in a bag for the entire chapter.  And that makes the whole thing worth it for me, the mental image of Heller trying to fly all dignified through the air on his space sled, but this satchel on his back is bucking and screeching like Lucifer during a root canal.  Or he and Babe having their heartwarming moment while his luggage yowls to itself.  Or the cookies being ruined by the aroma of a litter box wafting through the apartment.

If you're wondering why Heller brought the cat along, come on!  Of course the cat plays a key role in his upcoming "war."

Back to Part Sixty-Nine, Chapters Six and Seven 

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