(One Week Later)
Michael Corleone's view of Lake Tahoe was the same as the one he had on that infamous day from five years ago. The day he heard the slight pop of a pistol, coming from the same direction as the tiny shadow of a small fishing boat. Soon after, a tinier shadow fell from the boat into the water. Michael saw just enough to know that the job was done. That he had dispensed the necessary punishment to his own flesh and blood, as vengeance for the harm that nearly befell him and his family.
By the time Michael ordered Al Neri to carry out the act of proxy fraticide, the same family he tried protecting had gone. Sonny, shot to death a decade before. Pop and Mama, passed away. Kay, gone with Anthony and Mary. Tom, dismissed for his apparent disloyalty towards Michael. Only Connie was left, desperately latching herself to younger men as she pushed 40.
Of course, Michael did have other family. The kind that had started becoming a jocular colloquialism, ever since those hearings... also five years ago. Although he originally made the promise to get away from that life for Kay's benefit, Michael knew that he also needed to do so for his own sake. That he needed to disassociate himself from the people who kept trying to reel him back into games of chicken that ended in murder.
The telephone in Michael's office interrupted his ritualistic contemplation.
When would the water stop beckoning his attention?
Michael picked up the receiver. "Hello."
A voice with a distinct Boston accent greeted him. "Michael? This is Bobby. How are you?"
Although not intimidated by any man, Michael knew that he needed to keep his guard up when receiving a call from a former Attorney General of the United States. Fortunately for him, it typically meant the occasional bit of "friendly advice."
"Very well. Thank you," Michael said, his tone of voice more rigid than usual.
"I'm calling because, ahh... Because your tip to us, ahh... saved our country's economy. In fact, it saved the economies of many countries. The economy of the Free World."
Thinking that Bobby was making an accusation veiled in sarcasm, Michael asked, "What are you talking about?"
"You remembah that meeting you informed me about, the one with Auric Goldfingah?"
"Yes, and I didn't make any kind of business deal with him."
"I'm, ahh, not saying you did. If you had, you would have ended up dead."
"What? By whose orders?"
"I think you know. What I can say is that the bodies of, ahh, some heads of majah families were found in a lime pit at Mistah Goldfingah's stud fahm in Kentucky. Anothah one remains unaccounted for. Ahh, 'Nappah' Solo. You made a wise decision, Michael, in more ways than one."
A cold chill passed through Michael.
"Nothing new for you," Bobby continued, "and it saves the Justice Depahtment some problems. I'm sure there will be some struggles, ahh... You know?"
"Rest assured, I'm not interested," Michael said.
"Oh, I know. What I am saying is that you deserve a second chance, Michael. At least Hoovah hasn't been all that interested in your activities, though he wasn't all that interested in Mistah Goldfingah, either. He was too busy keeping an eye on Doctah King. So we thought the CIA should move in instead."
"Did they capture Goldfinger?"
"It was actually, ahh..." A pause. "That's classified."
"At any rate, I just wanted to thank you for your help. It shows that you want to look beyond your own interests."
Michael started to sound more relaxed. "I'm glad to have assisted with your efforts."
"I hope that you will now explore other opportunities, Michael. I know you have been wanting to do that for years. To divest some of your interests"
Michael noticed the door to his office cracking open slightly. "Yes, of course. I had made a promise to..." he started rubbing his right index and middle fingers between his eyes. "... to someone I cared about years ago."
Michael noticed Al Neri standing in the doorway, holding a newspaper. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Mistah Hoffa's no longer a concern, so maybe you could 'do something' about Senatah Keating."
"I'm afraid I can't."
"Just testing, Michael. The campaign should go well, even if he keeps calling me a 'carpetbaggah.' Doesn't he realize we're in New Yawk, not Alabama?"
"I even have Johnson's support," Bobby added.
"I'm sure you know to play your cards right with him."
"Of course. He has not choice. But in the meantime, I'll let you savor your success, and think about what you want to do. Let me know if I can be of assistance, too."
"Yes. Thank you."
"Good bye, Michael."
As Michael replaced the phone receiver, Al moved slowly towards him.
"This couldn't be more perfectly-timed," Michael said. Motioning towards the newpaper, he added, "Does it tell what I did?"
Shaking his head, Al said, "Nothing you did. I don't think."
Michael stood up. "What do you mean? According to Bobby Kennedy, I saved the economy of the Free World."
"I don't know. It somehow tied in with me telling them about Goldfinger."
"Sounds like this story ties in with him, too." Gravely, Al added, "You should sit down."
"What? What is it?"
As Michael sat back in his chair, Al said, "This was sent to me by someone in Florida. An issue of the Miami Beach Sun-Gazette, from a few days ago."
Taking the publication from Al, Michael asked sardonically, "Something about an old associate?" He started unrolling the paper. "Apparently, Goldfinger eliminated a number of..."
Michael's eyes widened when he saw a circled headline on the front page.
BIZARRE! BRITISH GIRL GILDED IN FONTAINEBLEAU FRACAS
British national Jill Masterson was found dead in room 231 of the Fontainebleau Hotel Tuesday evening. Masterson, 27, was nude and covered in gold paint. Circumstances surrounding her death remain mysterious. Although skin suffocation is the likely cause, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office intends to examine Ms. Masterson's body further. Head Examiner Joseph H. Davis is quoted as saying, "This is the strangest case I've ever seen."
Room 231 was checked out to another British national, Jason R. Naughton, 33. He was in town on business for Universal Imports, a company based in London, England. Naughton contacted the police upon discovering Masterson's body. He was taken in by Miami Beach Police for questioning, but later released. Police are currently investigating the possibility of other suspects...
As Michael set the newspaper on his desk, Al noticed that his boss' usual stoic expression had become more hardened.
"Anything you'd like me to do, Michael? Find out about this Naughton?"
Haltingly shaking his head, Michael said, "There's no point. I think we know who did this."
"Maybe Naughton was working for Goldfinger."
"He wouldn't have called the police."
"Maybe it was a ruse on his part. A way to fleece the police."
Michael cocked his head towards Al, exhaling through his nose. He handed the newspaper back to Al. "I can't do this anymore, Al. I'm tired of this paranoia. I'm tired of innocent people getting killed, because of decisions I have made." He stood from his chair. "This is not the life I wanted."
"We all make choices."
"And my choice ended up getting an innocent woman killed."
"What choice, Michael?"
"I could have... I don't know, taken her in. Maybe we could have..." Michael's voice trailed off.
"You can't blame yourself. She could have left him."
Turning to walk towards the large window, Michael hoped that Al would not see his expression in its reflection. "This view. This was why I built the compound here. And now, every day, I can't help but think of Fredo. He broke my heart. And he still does." Michael exhaled heavily. "Tom. Kay. Even if they're not dead, they're also gone. All the people I cared about. They're all gone."
Nothing personal, Al thought.
"I never told you about Apollonia. One of the most beautiful women I ever met. She was a child, not more than 17. But I married her. She was killed in a car explosion soon afterwards. A bomb meant for me." After several seconds of silence, Michael continued. "I marry a woman, she gets killed. I reject a woman, she also gets killed. The one who doesn't get killed divorces me, and takes my children from me. She was almost killed, too, because of Fredo." A pause. "Maybe it's better that Mary's with her, after all. She'd probably end up dead, too, somehow."
Used to Michael's calm and collected manner in business dealings, as well as the occasional loss of temper within family meetings, Al had difficulty adjusting the more personal ramblings of his boss. Even with the new revelation of Michael's first marriage, as well as his leap in logic about Mary possibly getting killed, Al decided to maintain his silence.
"I wish I could go back. Just help Pop to make sure he wasn't hurt. To keep Sonny from getting killed. To forgive Fredo for getting mixed up with Hyman Roth."
"He almost had you killed," Al finally said.
"I know this doesn't make any sense, Al."
"Leave the past where it is. You have new opportunities, Michael. You have the connections to make it possible."
Nodding, Michael turned back to Al. "I do have something for you to do, right now. Related to Miss Masterson."
"See if you can find her family. I know she at least has a sister, Tilly. She worked for Goldfinger, too."
"If they got Goldfinger, they might be looking for her as an accomplice."
"She might not be working for him now. Not after what happened to Jill. When Tilly came by with that other woman in Floria's to find Jill, she seemed very protective of her. Jill had parents, too. Family that cared for her. Certainly her sister did."
"I'm sure they know what happened, if they're still alive."
"It's more than that, Al. I only knew Jill for one day, but she made me start to think about some things. I never got to tell her. Maybe, if she has family, if she has parents, they would like to know what she did for me. Maybe I should start a charity, on her behalf. I don't know for what."
Al nodded. "I'll find them. There's nothing in the newspaper story about family, but there's probably something somewhere else."
"If you have to go to England. Whatever it takes. I want her to be remembered." Tapping at the newspaper laying on his desk, Michael looked intensely at Al "I just don't want her to be remembered only for this."
"I understand," Al said.
"Thanks, Al." Michael swallowed. "That's all," he mumbled, his voice cracking.
As Al walked towards the door, Michael turned around as well. When the door closed behind him, Michael clasped his hands tightly. He once again stared intently at the vast expanse of water beyond his window, his eyes burning as they held back even more water.