On East 112th Street a long line of cars were doubleparked in front of a candy store that was the headquarters of Carlo Rizzi's book. On the sidewalk in front of the store, fathers played catch with small children they had taken for a Sunday morning ride and to keep them company as they placed their bets. When they saw Carlo Rizzi coming they stopped playing ball and bought their kids ice cream to keep them quiet. Then they started studying the newspapers that gave the starting pitchers, trying to pick out winning baseball bets for the day.
Carlo went into the large room in the back of the store. His two "writers," a small wiry man called Sally Rags and a big husky fellow called Coach, were already waiting for the action to start. They had their huge, lined pads in front of them ready to write down bets. On a wooden stand was a blackboard with the names of the sixteen big league baseball teams chalked on it, paired to show who was playing against who. Against each pairing was a blocked-out square to enter the odds.
Carlo asked Coach, "Is the store phone tapped today?"
Coach shook his head. "The tap is still off."
Carlo went to the wall phone and dialed a number. Sally Rags and Coach watched him impassively as he jotted down the "line," the odds on all the baseball games for that day. They watched him as he hung up the phone and walked over to the blackboard and chalked up the odds against each game. Though Carlo did not know it, they had already gotten the line and were checking his work. In the first week in his job Carlo had made a mistake in transposing the odds onto the blackboard and had created that dream of all gamblers, a "middle." That is, by betting the odds with him and then betting against the same team with another bookmaker at the correct. odds, the gambler could not lose. The only one who coud lose was Carlo's book. That mistake had caused a six-thousand-dollar loss in the book for the week and confirmed the Don's judgment about his son-in-law. He had given the word that all of Carlo's work was to be checked.
Normally the highly placed members of the Corleone Family would never be concerned with such an operational detail. There was at least a five-layer insulation to their level. But since the book was being used as a testing ground for the son-in-law, it had been placed under the direct scrutiny of Tom Hagen, to whom a report was sent every day.
Now with the line posted, the gamblers were thronging into the back room of the candy store to jot down the odds on their newspapers next to the games printed there with probable pitchers. Some of them held their little children by the hand as they looked up at the blackboard. One guy who made big bets looked down at the little girl he was holding by the hand and said teasingly, "Who do you like today, Honey, Giants or the Pirates?" The little girl, fascinated by the colorful names, said, "Are Giants stronger than Pirates?" The father laughed.
A line began to form in front of the two writers. When a writer filled one of his sheets he tore it off, wrapped the money he had collected in it and handed it to Carlo. Carlo went out the back exit of the room and up a flight of steps to an apartment which housed the candy store owner's family. He called in the bets to his central exchange and put the money in a small wall safe that was hidden by an extended window drape. Then he went back down into the candy store after having first burned the bet sheet and flushed its ashes down the toilet bowl.
None of the Sunday games started before two P.M. because of the blue laws, so after the first crowd of bettors, family men who had to get their bets in and rush home to take their families to the beach, came the trickling of bachelor gamblers or the diehards who condemned their families to Sundays in the hot city apartments. These bachelor bettors were the big gamblers, they bet heavier and came back around four o'clock to bet the second games of doubleheaders. They were the ones who made Carlo's Sundays a full-time day with overtime, though some married men called in from the beach to try and recoup their losses.
By one-thirty the betting had trickled off so that Carlo and Sally Rags could go out and sit on the stoop beside the candy store and get some fresh air. They watched the stickball game the kids were having. A police car went by. They ignored it. This book had very heavy protection at the precinct and couldn't be touched on a local level. A raid would have to be ordered from the very top and even then a warning would come through in plenty of time.
Coach came out and sat beside them. They gossiped a while about baseball and women. Carlo said laughingly, "I had to bat my wife around again today, teach her who's boss."
Coach said casually, "She's knocked up pretty big now, ain't she?"
"Ahh, I just slapped her face a few times," Carlo said. "I didn't hurt her." He brooded for a moment. "She thinks she can boss me around, I don't stand for that."
There were still a few bettors hanging around shooting the breeze, talking baseball, some of them sitting on the steps above the two writers and Carlo. Suddenly the kids playing stickball in the street scattered. A car came screeching up the block and to a halt in front of the candy store. It stopped so abruptly that the tires screamed and before it had stopped, almost, a man came hurtling out of the driver's seat, moving so fast that everybody was paralyzed. The man was Sonny Corleone.
His heavy Cupid-featured face with its thick, curved mouth was an ugly mask of fury. In a split second he was at the stoop and had grabbed Carlo Rizzi by the throat. He pulled Carlo away from the others, trying to drag him into the street, but Carlo wrapped his huge muscular arms around the iron railings of the stoop and hung on. He cringed away, trying to hide his head and face in the hollow of his shoulders. His shirt ripped away in Sonny's hand.
What followed then was sickening. Sonny began beating the cowering Carlo with his fists, cursing him in a thick, rage-choked voice. Carlo, despite his tremendous physique, offered no resistance, gave no cry for mercy or protest. Coach and Sally Rags dared not interfere. They thought Sonny meant to kill his brother-in-law and had no desire to share his fate. The kids playing stickball gathered to curse the driver who had made them scatter, but now were watching with awestruck interest. They were tough kids but the sight of Sonny in his rage silenced them. Meanwhile another car had drawn up behind Sonny's and two of his bodyguards jumped out. When they saw what was happening they too dared not interfere. They stood alert, ready to protect their chief if any bystanders had the stupidity to try to help Carlo.
What made the sight sickening was Carlo's complete subjection, but it was perhaps this that saved his life. He clung to the iron railings with his hands so that Sonny could not drag him into the street and despite his obvious equal strength, still refused to fight back. He let the blows rain on his unprotected head and neck until Sonny's rage ebbed. Finally, his chest heaving, Sonny looked down at him and said, "You dirty bastard, you ever beat up my sister again I'll kill you."
These words released the tension. Because of course, if Sonny intended to kill the man he would never have uttered the threat. He uttered it in frustration because he could not carry it out. Carlo refused to look at Sonny. He kept his head down and his hands and arms entwined in the iron railing. He stayed that way until the car roared off and he heard Coach say in his curiously paternal voice, "OK, Carlo, come on into the store. Let's get out of sight."
It was only then that Carlo dared to get out of his crouch against the stone steps of the stoop and unlock his hands from the railing. Standing up, he could see the kids look at him with the staring, sickened faces of people who had witnessed the degradation of a fellow human being. He was a little dizzy but if was more from shock, the raw fear that had taken command of his body; he was not badly hurt despite the shower of heavy blows. He let Coach lead him by the arm into the back room of the candy store and put ice on his face, which, though it was not cut or bleeding, was lumpy with swelling bruises. The fear was subsiding now and the humiliation he had suffered made him sick to his stomach so that he had to throw up. Coach held his head over the sink, supported him as if he were drunk, then helped him upstairs to the apartment and made him lie down in one of the bedrooms. Carlo never noticed that Sally Rags had disappeared.
Sally Rags had walked down to Third Avenue and called Rocco Lampone to report what had happened. Rocco took the news calmly and in his turn called his caporegime, Pete Clemenza. Clemenza groaned and said, "Oh, Christ, that goddamn Sonny and his temper," but his finger had prudently clicked down on the hook so that Rocco never heard his remark.
Clemenza called the house in Long Beach and got Tom Hagen. Hagen was silent for a moment and then he said, "Send some of your people and cars out on the road to Long Beach as soon as you can, just in case Sonny gets held up by traffic or an accident. When he gets sore like that he doesn't know what the hell he's doing. Maybe some of our friends on the other side will hear he was in town. You sever can tell."
Clemenza said doubtfully, "By the time I could get anybody on the road, Sonny will be home. That goes for the Tattaglias too."
"I know," Hagen said patiently. "But if something out of the ordinary happens, Sonny may be held up. Do the best you can, Pete."
Grudgingly Clemenza called Rocco Lampone and told him to get a few people and cars and cover the road to Long Beach. He himself went out to his beloved Cadillac and with three of the platoon of guards who now garrisoned his home, started over the Atlantic Beach Bridge, toward New York City.
One of the hangers-on around the candy store, a small bettor on the payroll of the Tattaglia Family as an informer, called the contact he had with his people. But the Tattaglia Family had not streamlined itself for the war, the contact still had to go all the way through the insulation layers before he finally got to the caporegime, who contacted the Tattaglia chief. By that time Sonny Corleone was safely back in the mall, in his father's house, in Long Beach, about to face his father's wrath.