Balance of Power, 27

“Dude… are you gonna, like, eat those?” A disheveled Adonis with startling gray eyes and sun-streaked blonde hair stared hopefully at the twin packs of honey-roasted peanuts. He was about eighteen years old and wore a necklace made of polished puka shells.

Sabrina was amused despite her foul mood. “No, dude ,” she imitated him with uncanny accuracy, “they are all yours.”

“Righteous!” He leaned in unnecessarily close and grabbed the popular airline fare from the flimsy tray hovering over Sabrina's lap. “My name's Brian, by the way.” He spoke with the almost trademark cadence the California surfers used. Sabrina had spent a summer in California with Cassandra and one of her generous ‘benefactors'. She recognized the accent.

“I was expecting something more like ‘Moon Doggie'.” As she suspected, the blond specimen beside her was oblivious to Sabrina's teasing.

“No, it's Brian,” he asserted. His head shook like one of the little dashboard trinkets sold at quaint filling stations. “But Moon Doggie is a totally righteous name.”

Sabrina resisted the urge to shake her head. Instead, she flipped through the pages of a very outdated travel magazine taken from her seat pocket.

“I am on my way to visit my dad,” Brian announced into the silence. “He's like, totally bummed. He thought Tiff was going to be, like, his monster wave.” The young man searched Sabrina's expression for signs of comprehension. “You know… the one you live your whole life waiting for?”

“Tiff is your mother?”

Brian searched the empty peanut packets in case he had missed any. “No way! Tiff is, like, step-mom number five.” His brow furrowed. “Or maybe number six. My dad is, like, this mondo rich stock dude. He gets married a lot.”

Rich. And soon to be without a wife. Those facts should have automatically started Sabrina's gears turning. Almost from childhood she had been taught that there was nothing more thrilling than parting a man from his money and leaving him grateful you did so. A cat's nature, she was told, was to catch and kill mice. Sometimes the cat played with the mouse before killing it and sometimes it even let the mouse go. So it was with women and men. It was nature.

“Maybe your father will have better luck next time.”

Not even Brian could misunderstand Sabrina's tone. It was totally polite but there was no mistaking the young woman's desire to put an end to her participation in the conversation. The subject of wealthy older men threatened to pull Sabrina toward thoughts she didn't want to have.

Balance of Power, 28

California Brian sat snoring lightly; his head nestled intimately upon Sabrina's shoulder. She hadn't bothered to shrug him back into place in his own chair. He was harmless. And there wasn't much longer to go before the pilot would announce the plane's approach to their destined New York airport.

‘Why did I ever waste my time with you?'

Cassandra DuMonde's resentful bitter voice suddenly echoed inside Sabrina's mind. And despite her determination not to revisit her past, the young woman was instantly transported back to her thirteenth birthday. Cassandra had managed not only to remember her daughter's birthday, but had chosen to celebrate the occasion with Sabrina as well.

The day began with unexpected promise. Sabrina awoke to the unfamiliar aroma of breakfast cooking in the kitchen. Cautiously she crept down the hallway and peered through the kitchen's doorway.

“I don't think a burglar would cook you all of your favorites,” Cassandra DuMonde told her daughter without turning around. She busied herself at the stove a bit longer. “Happy Birthday!”

Sabrina stared dumbfounded at the mouthwatering array of foods on the table. She quickly glanced over at her mother before allowing her attention to be drawn back to the kitchen table. “Happy birthday?”

“Yes,” Cassandra beamed at the thirteen year old Sabrina. “Happy Birthday. Today you are a woman.”

For a while that day had been her dream come true; time alone with Cassandra like a real mother daughter duo. Sabrina smiled as she remembered those treasured details. They had laughed and talked. Her mother swept Sabrina's glossy locks up into a sleek French twist and then painted her nails a delicate translucent pink. Cassandra made her feel as though nothing else mattered on that day but Sabrina. It was perfect.

Until her mother's latest gentleman friend came calling with an arm full of gifts for the birthday girl. His name was Roy Hartley. He was an up and coming young politician – now senator. Sabrina would never forget him. Or the rest of that birthday.

“Happy birthday!”

Sabrina's eyes flickered to Cassandra. “Don't just stand there,” her mother replied, her voice sharpening. “Roy has brought those for you.”  

“Thank you.” Sabrina tried not to flinch from the moist kiss Cassandra's lover placed upon her cheek, nor the warm breath he quickly blew into her ear. Roy Hartley held the thirteen-year-old girl far too closely and far too long. But eventually, to Sabrina's relief, the embrace ended.

Sabrina was confused. From the moment she had laid eyes upon Roy Hartley, she recognized him for what he was. He was a predator of the worst kind. So why didn't Cassandra recognize him as well? Wasn't she the one who had taught Sabrina such lessons?

Roy Hartley had eyes for no one but Sabrina. Throughout dinner and during an uncomfortable hour afterward he kept his gaze on the young girl and dutifully replied to Cassandra's conversation, though it was obvious his attention was elsewhere.

“Go put all your gifts in your room,” Cassandra finally ordered shortly.

When Sabrina returned, her mother and Roy Hartley were in the midst of a heated debate near the front door. Despite her anger, Cassandra calmly opened the front door and silently directed her lover to vacate the premises. “I will send someone for my things,” Cassandra informed him coolly.

“Don't bother. There's nothing at the penthouse for you.”

“Really? Maybe I should let the public decide.”

Hartley's face grew red. “Bitch.”

Cassandra slammed the door in his face. “I knew that he wasn't a nice man,” Sabrina pointed out to her mother. “I'm so glad you-“

Sabrina's voice failed when Cassandra leveled a look of pure venom her daughter's way. “I knew,” Cassandra hissed, “that having you would eventually ruin my life. What the hell was I thinking?”

Years passed before Sabrina figured out the reason for her mother's intense anger that day. For the first time in her life, Cassandra DuMonde's formidable talents regarding the male sex had been nullified by another female. Her thirteen-year-old daughter, to be more precise - adding insult to injury.

It did not matter that Sabrina did not seek such attention. Nor did it matter that Roy Hartley's scrutiny was highly distasteful to the teenager. Or that it was unethical, immoral and unnatural. All that mattered was that some man Cassandra DuMonde had chosen had dared not consider the stunning beauty the absolute center of his universe or danced to her music accordingly.

Knowing that her mother was accustomed to such blind adoration from her lovers, Sabrina wondered for the thousandth time just how Michael Corleone had ended up in Cassandra DuMonde's bed.


Balance of Power, 29

Everyone agreed that there was only one other job that brought along with it a greater level of pride and admiration in the neighborhood. They all also acknowledged – privately, of course – that of the two jobs he no doubt had been given the more difficult one. As driver to the consigliere of the Corleone family, it was his duty not only to provide for the silent lawyer's comfort, but to ensure his absolute safety as well. For so many reasons that he could not recount, his life depended on keeping his passenger safe and happy.

A quick glance in the rearview mirror showed Tom Hagen to be in the exact position he had been in since the limousine came to a stop. Consigliere Hagen was of German-Irish descent. His features were nothing extraordinary and therefore led many a person to underestimate the intelligence and strength that lay behind the almost bland exterior.

“She is on her way.”

Tom Hagen did not respond to the man's announcement. Whatever emotion he might have toward the upcoming encounter did not show on his face. His expression remained as impassive and inscrutable as always.

Large, blunt hands rested lightly atop a thick leather folder resting in his lap. Much like Tom Hagen himself, the ordinary dossier gave no indication as to its contents.

The back door of the limousine opened. Sabrina DuMonde faltered when she saw who occupied the back seat of the big armored car. Tom Hagen wondered if the young woman had prepared herself for another encounter with her newfound father. “Hello, Mr. Hagen,” Sabrina greeted him coolly.

Tom had to give her credit. She recovered nicely from the surprise of seeing him. Sabrina slid into the back seat opposite him and met his gaze head-on. It was apparent from the set of her lovely features that a line had been drawn in the sand between them. The silence that stretched out in the back of the limo was Sabrina's challenge to her uncle to be the first to cross that line.

He was amused by his niece's fearlessness. It was the bravado of innocence. Though Sabrina had demonstrated a basic knowledge of Michael and the Corleone family, she had no clue as to the scope of Michael's power or the inevitability of his wishes.

“Have you reconsidered your position on traveling to Italy?” Tom saw the flash of surprise in her eyes. His decision to break the silence surprised the young woman. He was sure she had expected to engage him in a long and silent test of wills.

“I never ruled it out,” Sabrina replied tersely. “But when I do go… if I do go, it will be on my timetable.”

Tom acknowledged her statement with a small nod. “It is now ten twenty-one.” He consulted a plain old-fashioned pocketwatch for confirmation. “In precisely nine minutes,” he leaned over and gently placed the bulging leather dossier he held onto Sabrina's lap, “several federal agencies will commence a raid on the operations of this man.” Pictures of her old friend and neighborhood crime lord Bobby Texador spilled out of the file. “Whether Mr. Texador will find himself beneath the umbrella of your father's ‘ influence' at that time will depend solely on you.”

Sabrina could only swallow the bitter taste that filled her mouth. The thorough dossier on Roberto Texador contained enough misdeeds to imprison him for the remainder of his natural life. She couldn't stand by and let that happen. When she was a young girl left on her own by Cassandra DuMonde, Bobby Texador – for his own reasons – had taken it upon himself to protect her. Sabrina traveled the neighborhood unmolested, and Cassandra's expensive upscale home was off-limits to anyone who might have been attracted to it's contents.

“Three minutes,” Tom Hagen announced.

“I will go.”

The Corleone consigliere took the folder from Sabrina's unresisting fingers. He closed it firmly and then tapped on the window. The back door of the limousine swung open and Tom Hagen climbed out.

“Wait!” Sabrina cried. “Aren't you going to call them? Make sure Bobby is safe?”

“There is no need,” he replied, beckoning the young woman to accompany him toward a private runway and waiting jet. “Your father was confident that you would ultimately choose wisely.”