Tom leaned back in his chair, hands clasped, as he witnessed the events unfolding. In a matter of a few short days, life had completely been upended for the Corleone family. Don Vito Corleone, the leader of the family whose omnipresence served as a calming force against the unforgiving rapids of Mafia society, had nearly been extinguished. His life had nearly ended on a street, next to a discarded bag of fruit. The ensuing chaos had been swift; Sonny, the eldest, had assumed Vito's role. However, the cantankerous underboss possessed none of the mellowness and calm rationale of his predecessor. His rashness and penchant for violence only grew in the face of his expanded power. Unlike the Don, he eschewed all advice and voices of wisdom. Sollozzo had shot his father over his refusal to join the drug trade. Sonny's eagerness at the prospect of the deal, in stark opposition to the Don's reluctance, was all the impetus Sollozzo needed to destroy the Don. In a way, a small way, Sonny was responsible for the attempt on his father's life. Perhaps, his zeal for revenge, much greater than normal, was an act of atonement. Sonny viewed Tom's suggestions for peace and negotiation as weak and treacherous. In a world where, ideally, no actions or retaliation should be taken personally, Sonny had fallen for the bait. But with the Don out of commission, Tom felt pushed away, constantly reminded of his orphaned status that despite the Don and his wife taking in the scraggly ten-year-old, he remained nothing more than a house guest, a charity case, a figure of pity.
Tom had to tear himself away from his thoughts, for right now there were matters of greater importance: seeking revenge against Sollozzo. According to the message, Sollozzo and McCluskey, a corrupt cop that displaced Michael's jaw, sought a meeting with Michael to discuss the state of affairs. Everyone smelled a trap. The two attempts on the Don's life had failed; Sollozzo would need a victory either for personal pride or because his position with the Tattaglias is tenuous due to the failure. In either scenario, eliminating one of the Don's heir, while knowing full well that Sonny may be interested in participating in the developing drug ring, would ensure success for Sollozzo.
The men gathered in the room, awaiting the plan. Normally, when the Don called a meeting, there would be a calm discussion, a well-formulated plan, and information and personnel thoroughly vetted. But Sonny wanted to move without first planning the steps. Tom had to drill into his mind that killing a police officer would cast the Corleone family as pariahs, with their allies scurrying like rats in an alley. Finally, Sonny leashed his temper, if only for a moment, and sat back in his chair.
Michael, the youngest Corleone son, who originally defied his father by joining the military, spoke up. Originally, the Don had no intention of exposing Michael to the poison of the family business. No, Michael was the family's ticket to legitimacy, a pathway out of the underbelly, a light guiding them out of the shadow of illicit trading. But as Michael sat painting a vivid plan of his revenge against Sollozzo and McCluskey, Tom could detect the transformation. His body naturally molded into his father's chair, his posture evoked confidence, his dusky brown orbs darkened, and his legs were crossed and relaxed. While the other men laughed at the plan, Tom rolled his eyes uncomfortably. It was a sound plan, but with the same problem Tom had already told Sonny: the killing of a cop is practically forbidden. But Michael spun in his chair and countered with McCluskey's corruption; he was a police officer mixed up in drugs. If they could somehow get the newspaper people on payroll to run with that story, then the killing could be justified. It was hard to admit, but Michael, the college kid, the one who did not want to be involved in the family business, had a point.
"It's not personal, Sonny, it's strictly business," Michael stated, as a distinct chill engulfed the room.