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 instructions had come from his father.
He waved goodbye to the men on the little fishing boat who had brought him to this dock, men who had guarded him these past years. The fishing 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 bodyguards 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 Mafia, but in Sicily the word Mafia 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 almost 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 without Guiliano.
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 noontime sun. Veins of red light struck the earth, as if reflecting 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 fiercely intricate facades of Spanish cathedrals; on a far hillside 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 official of New York City while executing an enemy of the Corleone Empire.