- Pages: 16
- Word count: 3898
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As Vincenzo Zeno lay dying in his village of Castellammare del Golfo, he called on three men that owed him one last favor. They were Raymonde Aprile from New York, Octavius Bianco from Palermo, and Benito Craxxi from Chicago. The Don had a three year old child whose mother died at childbirth who would need a father to raise him. He chose for his son to go with Raymonde Aprile and be brought up in his family. When the Don returned from Sicily with Astorre, he came home to find his wife dying of cancer. So he placed Astorre in the custody of his closest advisor, Frank Viola.
But this plan quickly reversed itself when the Don found out that Viola had ambitions to succeed him. Astorre then moved back in with Don Aprile because his “father” committed suicide in the trunk of his car, and his mother died of a brain hemorrhage. This is when the Don officially became the uncle to Astorre. Starting at the age of ten, Astorre would accompany the Don on trips to Sicily. They would go every year for a month in the summer. On Astorre’s first visit to Sicily, they were kidnapped by a local Mafioso by the name of Fissolini. While kidnapped, Don Aprile warns Fissolini of his power and of the huge mistake he was making.
The next morning Bianco was there with his men to rescue the Don and Astorre. After hearing what Fissolini has to say, he makes up his mind to have them all killed. But before he makes the order to do so, Astorre begs for mercy insisting that they didn’t harm them. The Don grants his wish but tells the men that they will be at his command for the rest of their lives. This was when the Don and his nephew became extremely close. Don Aprile loved the boy for persuading him to show mercy, and Astorre loved his uncle for sparing the lives of the men.
When asking his uncle questions on whether his children know about the Don’s power, Astorre tells him, “‘I won’t tell them about anything, not even about the kidnapping. ‘ The Don felt a surge of pride. Omerta had been bred into his genes. (pg. 35)” Astorre remained in New York for most of his childhood with his uncle and three cousins: Valerius, Marcantonio, and Nicole. It was Nicole who prompted Astorre to begin his destiny. She fell in love with him and the Don knew this could not go on. When Astorre was sixteen, Don Aprile ordered him to study in London with Mr. and Mrs. Pryor. Mr.
Pryor was a chief executive of a private bank that had ties to Palermo. Here Astorre had taken many business classes in banking to help him run the banks when the Don passed on. It was also here that he fell in love with a girl named Rosie Conner. But after one year in London, Don Aprile ordered Mr. Pryor to send Astorre to live with Octavius Bianco. While he was there, he trained with weapons and explosives. He also led a very elegant lifestyle of the rich and famous. Astorre would stay in touch with his love Rosie visiting every month or so. After some time away from Rosie, he got a message to come to her aid at once.
When he got there, he found out that Rosie had been having sex with her professor and he had a heart attack. His body was lying naked in her bed. Astorre took Rosie with him and went to Mr. Pryor’s. They explained the situation to Mr. Pryor and he took care of everything. The next day Rosie returned home to find every looked normal and no dead body. In Sicily, Astorre became Bianco’s right hand man against the Corleonesi cosca. At the time, there had been a major battle between the Corleonesi and Bianco’s cosca. There differences had been settled on multiple occasions but would not last long before more blood was shed.
In a last attempt to reconcile their differences, Bianco and Astorre and other bodyguards met with Tosci Limona at a corrupt judge’s house in Palermo. At the end of dinner, as they prepared for a final discussion, the judge excused himself for a moment. Astorre went to the window and glanced down at the driveway to see the judge get into a car and speed off. He knew instantly what was going on. He grabbed his gun and fired into Limona’s face, then to his bodyguards. Astorre’s men all drew fire on them and it was over in seconds. Another problem arose in a nearby cosca when Fissolini slept with his nephew’s wife.
His nephew, Aldo Monza, was a respected man and his wife was a niece of Bianco’s. These were the men who are at Don Aprile’s command so Astorre had to step in. Astorre knew it was Aldo’s responsibility to kill Fissolini but he told him he must spare the life of his wife. So before the next meeting of the Fissolini cosca, they had his younger brother killed, for fear of retaliation. Then Aldo himself carried out what had to be done to Fissolini. As church let out that day, a white horse trotted up with Fissolini’s body and mounted to the top of his head laid his penis and testicles.
After Monza’s wife saw this, Astorre took the wife and child to Palermo and safety. Six months after the killing of Limona, a good friend of Astorre, Nello Spara, invited him to his villa for the weekend. While there, they would have the company of two beautiful dancers from Nello’s club. During his stay they were playing in the ocean when all of the sudden Astorre saw that Nello had set a trap. He popped his head out of the water to see a boat coming toward him; when he looked for Nello, he found that he was standing on the beach. He was shot in the throat by a man on the boat. It took Astorre four months to recover from this incident.
He concluded that Nello must have been related to the Corleonesi cosca and set him up. Astorre’s female friend Buji, who with him at the time of the shooting, would stop by to see how he was doing. Near the end of his recovering period, Buji brought him a two inch wide gold neckband and at the center hung a disc of the Virgin Mary. The disk had been treated with adhesive to always cover up his scar. After this incident it was time that Astorre would return to the United States through London. Aldo Monza was sent directly to New York City to stay with Don Aprile. Astorre spent a year in London with Mr. Pryor.
During his stay he found out that Rosie had moved to New York to pursue her education at NYU. Once Astorre was back in New York, they had a family gathering. Over dinner, Valerius invited the family to his son’s confirmation. The Don accepted his invitation. Frank and Stace Sturzo arrived at John Heskow’s house in Long Island. Heskow was their broker; Frank and Stace were professional hit men. They made the drive to be sure they couldn’t be traced after the hit. Heskow explained that the job he had was a hit on Don Raymonde Aprile. At first the twins were very skeptical, then convinced by the payout of one million dollars.
It was a cold Sunday afternoon on the day of the confirmation. The Don was there handing out gold coins to the children. As he came walking out of the church with Astorre, a large black vehicle pulled up. Two men with masks got out of the car; one man took two shots at Don Aprile, one in the head and one in the throat. The other man sprayed a burst of bullets over the crowd. Then the vehicle sped off to the sound of screaming. The Don’s children did not see a single thing that happened. But Astorre was aware of what went on. He noticed that the shooters were athletic and both left handed.
He saw the car pull up and went to duck and could not pull the Don down in time. No law enforcement agency really seemed to care about Don Aprile’s death. But there was an FBI agent, Kurt Cilke, who decided to take a hand in the case. He was the man who was responsible for the great 1990’s mafia blitz who locked up all the big players in the New York mafia families. The only people he didn’t get were Don Aprile and Timmona Portella. But Cilke found it strange that after all the years involved in crime, Don Aprile had finally retired and now he had been killed. Cilke went and did a bunch of interviews.
He first talked to the children and realized they had nothing to do with the Don’s life of crime. The next two people he went to see were the city’s chief of detectives, Paul DiBenedetto, and assistant chief of Detectives, Aspinella Washington. Neither of them would cooperate with the FBI; in short, they were bribed. Finally he interviewed Astorre. He found nothing suspicious of him other than a gold medallion around his neck that never moved. Now it was Astorre’s turn to start investigating. First, he met with Craxxi in Chicago. Astorre told him all that he knew of the shooters.
Craxxi gives him his opinion that there is a good chance that it could have been the twins from Los Angeles. He also tells him there is a good chance that Timmona Portella could be behind the whole thing. This is because he needs a place to launder his drug money and he has been showing interest in the Aprile banks. He also instructs him to bring in Mr. Pryor to run the banks for him. A few months after the Don’s death Astorre decided to see Rosie again. He was greeted very warmly but was only there to do business. He told her about the Sturzo brothers and what he wanted her to do.
He would pay her twenty thousand dollars for expenses and another one hundred thousand dollars when done. She agreed. The Sturzo twins were getting ready to make their return to New York for their other half a million dollars. On the way they stopped in Scottsdale, Arizona for an introductory course in tennis. During their stay, the twins became acquainted with a girl named Rosie who they immediately both fell in love with. For the next two weeks, the twins would wine and dine with Rosie while alternating who would sleep with her that night. Before she left she gave each of the Sturzos a ring to show to remember her by.
Then she gave them her number and told them if they were ever in New York to give her a call. The Sturzo twins headed to Long Island to meet up with Heskow. It was time to pick up the other half of the money. After the pick up, they met up with Rosie who took them for a night on the town. While out with the twins, Rosie made arrangements to pick them up the following day, the day before Christmas Eve, and go with her upstate to a family owned cabin for the holiday. When they got there, they realized that it wasn’t a Christmas party and that Rosie was bait.
Astorre arrived at the safe house to find the Sturzo Twins handcuffed and lying on the ground. He separated the two into separate rooms. He first questioned Frank. Frank was a real hard ass and was of no help to Astorre. Then he went in to see Stace. The main information he was trying to extract was who their broker was. While talking with Stace, Astorre convinced him to tell the truth by threatening to have Frank cut up piece by piece until he talked. At this offer, Stace accepted the agreement and told him how it was Heskow who gave them the contract.
Astorre was satisfied with the information and ordered that both men be shot in the back of the head. But Monza did not obey these orders and had the men hung. He felt, like Don Aprile, that mercy could only come from God. Astorre was preparing for war. He had Mr. Pryor come in to take control of the banks. When Mr. Pryor arrived, they had a meeting with Craxxi in Chicago. They discussed the manner in which Astorre should go after Heskow. Craxxi only advised him to be very clever because Heskow is a man who is very good at bargaining. One night in January Heskow went to see his son play basketball at the Madison Square Garden.
He returned home to find Astorre and several of his men. After trying to tell Astorre he has no idea what he is talking about, he gives up his client. “The man who hired me to broker the deal and gave me money is Timmona Portella. The NYPD nonsurveillance I bought…. As for the FBI guarantee, Portella gave it to me…. he told me he had this guy Cilke in his pocket. (pg. 178)” Astorre also found out that Timmona has another contract with Heskow. For him. Heskow was going to pay two detectives a half million dollars to knock him off. Astorre gets the details of the money exchange and warns Heskow not to leave with the detectives.
Aspinella Washington and Paul DiBenedetto had been bribed by Heskow to make the hit on Astorre. So they met up to make the money pick-up from him. As they were leaving, Paul gets into the driver seat and instructs Aspinella to put the money in the trunk. Once getting into the car, Paul asks her to check the trunk one more time to make sure it is locked. At that moment Paul turned the ignition. The explosion killed Paul and left Aspinella in the hospital. One night after a visit from Rosie’s, Astorre got a message to call Heskow. When Astorre met up with Heskow, he informed him that Timmona kidnapped Marcantonio.
He also let him know where he can find Portella’s brother Bruno. After hearing this, Astorre went to Bruno’s to have some bargaining power with Portella. Now that Astorre had Bruno, he simply made arrangements for a trade. They all met at a restaurant in a private room. After the two bargaining instruments were returned to their proper families, Astorre and Portella had some business to discuss. He explained to Portella that Cilke was going to double-cross him then come after him. Astorre reassured him by playing a tape of a previous conversation he had with Cilke.
He then told Timmona that if he knocked off Cilke, he would sell the banks to him. Portella accepted the offer. When Astorre received word that Heskow wanted a meeting, he went straight to his home. Heskow informed him that Portella wanted to put a hit on Cilke. And since Heskow had to set it up, he told Astorre that he would have to leave the country. He explained that the plan called for an assault team to ambush the house then they are flied back to South America. This part bothered Astorre because he did not want to see Georgette or her daughter be killed.
The next day, Astorre arrived at FBI headquarters with Nicole to have a meeting with Cilke. Astorre explained to Nicole how had information that Cilke’s house was going to be ambushed. So they came up with the story that a stranger came up to Astorre and informed him with Nicole as his witness. This was the story they told Cilke in his office. He didn’t buy the story, but he still took the precautions. The day before the scheduled assault on Cilke, Heskow drove to the airport for his flight to Mexico City. He was well prepared with fake ID’s, passports, and one hundred thousand dollars.
But as he was waiting for his flight, he wasn’t prepared to run into the detective he paid off, Aspinella Washington. At that moment she took him into an interrogation room in the airport. She demanded to know who set her up. And without hesitation Heskow told her that Astorre was responsible for the explosives. After hearing this she pulled out a gun, shot Heskow in the neck, and placed a throwaway on him. When people came in after shots were fired, she told them “He tired to bribe me and then he pulled a gun. (pg. 222)” The next night Portella launched his attack on Cilke’s house.
His assault team was greeted by the FBI. The minute they stepped out of their vehicles, the FBI opened fire. Their orders they had were a little different, but this was the end result they were looking for. A few days passed and Cilke called for another meeting with Astorre and Nicole. He wanted more information out of Astorre but he could not get anything with Nicole stepping in when necessary. As the two of them were on their way out, Cilke said to Astorre, “Your beloved Don was the man who killed your father when you were only two years old. pg. 213)” After hearing what Cilke said, he immediately flew to Chicago with Mr. Pryor to meet Craxxi. He needed some explanations. When he got there, he heard the real story. Craxxi explained to him that he had been the son of the great mafia chief, Don Zeno. When he was dying he had Raymonde Aprile take him as his own son. But when Don Aprile’s wife died, he made the bad decision to send Astorre to live with the Viola Family who turned out to be a traitor and had to be executed. But at this Astorre was not really surprised.
The meeting ended with good news that Grazziella, in Corleone, wanted to have a meeting with him and Bianco. Inzio Tulippa was a the leader of a drug cartel in Columbia who was partners with Marriano Rubio, the Consul General for Peru, and Timmona Portella whose main interest was the Aprile banks. They had all invested millions to get the Aprile banks and still had no success. The plan they implemented was for Astorre to be killed, or snatch Nicole to bargain with Astorre. Rubio was against the Nicole idea because they were currently dating occasionally. But he eventually consented as long as she was not harmed.
Rubio set the plan into action and invited Nicole on a date to a Peruvian Ball at the consulate. After the ball Nicole took a limo home with her bodyguard. When they arrived at her apartment, they got out and were immediately surrounded by four men. At that moment another group of men appeared which sent three of the men running. Astorre put a gun to the fourth mans head and shot him. He sent Nicole up to her apartment and instructed her to tell the police her bodyguard was shot and she fainted. As soon as Astorre left she called the police. The next day Astorre flew to Palermo to meet with Grazziella.
Grazziella informed him he wanted to help him because he was being cheated out of drug money by Portella and Tulippa. He also wanted to help him because he spared the life of his nephew Nello. He told Astorre he would inform him of the perfect time to strike. Now it was time for Astorre to get the final things in place to attack. He first called on Nicole and had her meet with Marriano Rubio. When she met with him, she told him that she was tired of Astorre being in charge of the banks and eluded to him working late at his macaroni shop the following night.
The seeds were being planted. The following night Astorre stuck around after work with four of his most qualified employees. He was waiting. Astorre was watching his video monitor and saw a half a dozen men entering the back of the building. His own men were in position in the rafters and waiting to fire on command. When Portella and Tulippa arrived with a few bodyguards, Astorre greeted them and took them for a tour of his macaroni shop. At the commencement of the tour, shots rang out and three men fell from the ceiling. Then appeared Aspinella Washington.
Astorre realized she must have gotten to Heskow. She made everyone drop their weapons then fired two shots into Portella’s stomach. Cilke had been waiting outside and quickly moved in after seeing that Tulippa, Portella, and Washington had arrived. When he got inside he found Aspinella with a gun to Tulippa’s neck. They exchanged words over who was involved in the different conspiracies. Then they exchanged bullets. Four of which Cilke took directly in his forehead. Aspinella was not fatally wounded but lay unconscious. Astorre called on Tulippa while holding a stiletto in his hand.
He dropped the stiletto and told Inzio it was time to meet his fate for killing the Don. Tulippa picked up the stiletto and charged at Astorre. Astorre threw the man to the ground and in a split second, snapped his neck. Five minutes later the FBI showed up. Aspinella was taken to intensive care. When the FBI saw the surveillance tapes of what happened, they concluded that Astorre, who dropped the knife and raised his hands, had acted in self defense. In Mario Puzo’s Omerta, The nephew of Don Raymonde Aprile, Astorre, defends his family and family fortunes against his uncle’s last mafia rival, Timmona Portella.
The present day conflict starts when Don Raymonde Aprile is gunned down at his nephew’s conformation. Portella was the one ultimately responsible because of his interest in the Aprile banks to launder drug money. Astorre seeks vengeance for his uncle’s death, as he had been trained all his life to do so. His responsibility was to protect the Don’s children, and his banks. Don Aprile had specific instructions for Astorre not to sell the banks which is why he made him the primary owner of them. Timmona tries time after time to take down Astorre but with no success.
In the end, Astorre is the last man standing; he defends his family, his family’s banks, and rids himself of his enemies. I thought this book was overall entertaining. It was very enjoyable to read and I liked the way Mario Puzo tells a story. I particularly liked how Puzo cuts in and out to different places and time periods. He really builds up the story from all angles. For instance, in the time leading up to the hit on Don Raymonde Aprile, he would start with what the Sturzo brothers were doing.
Then back up to the events that lead up to hit in the Aprile family’s perspective. The only part of the book that I was disappointed with was the randomness of all the people showing up in the end. It just seemed it ended a little too abrupt. For example, when Aspinella appears out of nowhere with a rifle and she picks off Astorre’s men in the rafters. Other than that, I thought it was a good book, fun to read and would recommend it to a friend. I would say this book sparked an interest in crime novels because I have just started reading Fools Die.