Heller awoke, much refreshed, feeling he had caught up with what they call on that planet "jet lag." Of course, a spacer seldom cares what time he sleeps, for all his days in flight are apt to be out of phase with the planets he visits.
So compared with to cross-continental flight, flying through deep space for a week and landing in a random time zone on a new planet with potentially shorter or longer days is absolutely no sweat to a seasoned spaceman. Pleh.
Clothes! Geovani walks in to give Heller "a summer-weight suit of the blackest black with an indigo velvet flared collar," black shirt on black bow tie on black pearl studs, tailor-made for a dead executive, but just so happens to fit Heller perfectly, a metaphor for the whole planet. All tuxed up, Heller leaves the bedroom to find Babe "dressed in a beige silk safari suit with a wide collar and ruby buttons, suitably attired for a war."
Food! Heller eats some antipasto while discussing the "war" plan. A menu's worth of Italian dishes is thrown at him, because the poor little boy looks so thin, and Babe Corleone is so Italian, and old Holy Joe always said "there was nothing like going to war on a full stomach unless it was getting stuffed at Sardine's afterwards." Glad that wasn't the saying Heller bluffed Babe into remembering last chapter. Babe plays "The Ride of the Valkyries" to help Heller's digestion and prevent him from doubling over in the middle of a firefight because she insisted he have a second helping of greasy, cheese-smothered starch.
Danger! Babe knows that an undefined "they" meet with Faustino every week at eleven at night for a round of payoffs, with guards outside and Faustino himself certainly armed. When it comes time to set the timetables, Babe balks at Heller's plan to, after being inserted via "a kind of helicopter" onto the roof, reach Faustino by going through a window. Declaring war on a rival mob is one thing, but this stuff about a thirty-fifth story window? Even with a safety line? "If you insist on this, the whole thing is off. You might FALL!"
I don't think a willingness to deal in drugs is the only reason Faustino's outfit has been beating the Corleones.
Heller points out that it's a little late to start changing things, and Babe back down, only to get scared again when she notices the part of the plan involving explosions. Heller really omitted some stuff when he "sketched out" his strategy last chapter. But I'm not surprised Babe agreed before fully understanding what she was getting into, because this author has a thing about people agreeing to follow the book's hero before they know what they're getting into, or even their new leader's name.
Once night falls they all get in limos and head out. The Heller-induced catastrophic fuel shortage has some advantages, mainly that the roads are completely empty, and the shutdown of oil power plants means that there won't be any floodlights or streetlights working. In fact, New York City is almost invisible, with only a few aircraft beacons lit on the top of the skyscrapers. Yet nothing about the last two chapters indicates that Babe's apartment is having trouble powering phone lines, air conditioning, showers, or a kitchen able to prepare an absurd amount of pasta. No mention of power rationing or anything. It's like this critical fuel shortage only matters when it's convenient, and certainly isn't causing the collapse of modern society or anything like that. Which is weird coming after the Russian apocalypse.
In the car, Heller uses the limo-phone to check for any messages from Krak at his penthouse (His Majesty's condition remains unchanged). Babe can't help but eavesdrop.
"Who was that?" said Babe. "Some girl? It's very important that you marry well, Jerome. You must introduce her to me."
"Oh, you'd approve of her," said Heller. "She's from the same country as that Prince Caucalsia I told you about. The one that belongs at the top of your family tree."
Some people are just born better than others, remember.
"Really?" said Babe.
"Oh, yes," said Heller. "And she's blond, tall, blue-eyed except when they are gray, very beautiful, talented, educated. She's also an aristocrat."
Physical appearance first and foremost, skills and learning second, breeding third. Absolutely nothing about what kind of person Krak is outside her meat and circus diploma.
"Jerome!" said Babe, looking a him. "You're in love!"
Heller laughed. "I plead guilty. And she'll love you, too, when she meets you. Who wouldn't?"
Someone with an appreciation for the sanctity of free will. Someone who likes mentally-stable individuals who aren't prone to destroying people's lives based on jealous delusions. Someone who doesn't restrict his or her standards of beauty to the Aryan ideal. Someone who likes women to stand as equal partners in a marriage instead of worshiping their husband. Someone who - wait, wait, Heller was talking about a hypothetical person loving Babe. In that case: someone with an appreciation for the rule of law. Someone who values human life. Someone who opposes desecrating the dead and invoking Satan during a church service. Someone who likes women who don't fall victim to illusions that they warn other people about...
Anyway, Heller starts talking about the engagement party they'll have once this "war" thing is over, so either he's lying, has forgotten about His Majesty and the situation on Voltar, or plans to bring a mummified heroin addict along for the festivities while he postpones dealing with a galactic coup. Babe is thrilled to learn that Krak is a countess, and the planned festivities at Madison Square grow all the more extravagant.
"But promise me faithfully one thing, Jerome."
So was Holy Joe really betrayed and murdered by a bodyguard, or did he trip on a flight of stairs and give his widow a complex?
Back to Chapter One