~ a short story
As always, Detective Cobe riffed to his partner while on patrol. On past and present. On the law and its shadow. Stuck in traffic in the middle of Times Square, the rain pattered their windshield as jacketed and umbrella-wielding New Yorkers bustled through the grime outside.
“The Corleone family crime dynasty has been headed up by two generations of heroic tyrants, in Vito Corleone and then his youngest son, Michael Corleone. Each are complex manifestations of American myth. Paragons of our ideals of success and manhood, case studies on leadership and pathology in the modern world. Killers, but loving fathers, too…”
Detective Cobe’s eyes drew up to the rain clouds, beyond them. He took a long drag on his cigarette.
“Essentially, both are legends that grew from nothing. Well, one more than the other; Vito came from the dirt, Michael fell from the tree and didn’t roll far.”
Cobe swayed his hands, puffed smoke between his teeth.
“They achieved their place of prominence in the world by doing whatever it took. They built their prosperity by any means necessary. Exemplars of a wayward meritocracy. In many ways, the Corleone clan represent the American dream manifested into a stark reality; beyond the law, beyond good and evil — they are a tight-knit family of immigrants that built an empire of multi-generational power and wealth. Who am I to judge? … Just because it’s my job? C’mon. Get outta ‘ere…”
The detective sighed and put out his cigarette on the tray between him and his partner.
“But… somewhere along the way they diverted. In his rise to godfatherhood, Vito was concerned with the community first and foremost. Outside of his own family’s security of course, that of his wife and children. He kept the rival families, the violence, in line. He stayed his hand from reprisal for all but the most vile of acts. Don Vito was a bulwark against worse wolves…”
A flash of distant lightning followed by nearing thunder shook their car, just slightly.
“You could say Michael’s ruthless quest for power featured the same level of care for his family, a conviction that they be kept safe. But in the end, Michael’s willingness to kill, and his thirst for vengeance, overruled the construction of any kind of equilibrium within the community, turning its alleys and storefronts and flows into centers for massacre. Michael was captured more by both greed and paranoia, so he became an assassin. Sure, he took the empire ‘further’ than Vito, his father, ever did. But what did it cost the family? What did it cost him…?”
Cobe paused while he ran his hands across the leather of the wheel. He ran the wipers at maximum.
“All complexities aside, us lawmen have to stop people like Michael. Full stop. Vito, however…”
Detective Cobe watched the cars in front of him clear out for the green. Then, he pushed the gas as he finished his rant.
“Vito we can abide. Vito is the kind of mafia man every city should be yearnin’ for.” ~