Balance of Power, 49

Something changed after her encounter two weeks earlier with the strange woman at Claudio's restaurant. Less time was spent learning security measures from her Uncle Santino and attention was switched to dull, antiseptic business sessions each morning with her uncle Thomas Hagen. Sabrina smoothed her furrowed brow. The man was a perfectionist who did not believe in moving on to the next detail until he was convinced that Sabrina fully grasped the matter at hand. Her college professors had been less diligent in their teachings.

The objective of their business sessions still escaped her. It wasn't as though the details of the Corleone business empire were being revealed to her. Not that she'd ever want them to, Sabrina thought. That would just be one more way for her enigmatic father to securely bind Sabrina to her newfound family. And there was no way in hell she was going to let that happen.

Sabrina became aware of the silence of the room. Some time during her introspection, Tom Hagen had ceased talking. Her eyes flew to her uncle's face. Tom sat watching her impassively, much as he had done since Sabrina was first introduced to him. "Sorry," she gave him a half-hearted apology, "I got distracted."

It bothered Sabrina that she could not overcome her ingrained sense of politeness. There was no reason in the world she should apologize to one of the men essentially holding her in Italy against her will.

"Does he really expect me to waste a year of my life just so that he can flex his muscles?"

For once Tom didn't deliberately misunderstand Sabrina's nameless reference to Michael Corleone. "Your father does not see the time as a waste," Tom replied. "He would like you to become acquainted with the members of your family here."

"Don't take this personally, but based on those family members I've already met I'll pass."

Tom's mouth curved in the faintest of smiles. Sabrina's insult, however polite, amused him. "I am afraid that isn't an option for you."

"Look." Sabrina's restlessness had been building for several days. She could no longer pretend a patience she did not feel. "Why don't you and I just put our cards on the table? My father ," she said, "has proven his point. I stand in awe of his power. " Her words dripped with sarcasm. "Now can we just admit this isn't going to work and go our separate ways?"

"Pretending you are not Michael Corleone's daughter is not an option for you, Sabrina. It ceased to be an option the first time your father chose to be seen publicly with you."

Sabrina stood abruptly. Details from articles she'd read when researching her father began to fall into place. Phrases like 'no way out' and 'in or die' emerged from their burial place in her mind. Sabrina had read the words, but always thought they only applied to those misguided fools who actively sought a life among 'the Family'. "You're telling me that I'm a prisoner of this place? Of this life?"

"You are no one's prisoner, Sabrina," Tom said. "Your status as Michael's daughter places you on the radar of individuals who would gladly use you to harm him. It is simply safer for you here under the protection of the family. For that reason alone, you cannot be allowed to return to your old life."

The main comfort that had sustained Sabrina since meeting her father was the thought that when the entire strange episode was said and done the two of them would go their separate ways and live out the rest of their lives pretending they'd never met. Tom Hagen had just calmly snatched that from her. "How convenient for my father ," Sabrina spit out the words, "that he acknowledges his thug status now when he needs to totally screw with my life. Well, fuck him. And you, too." The young woman relished the distaste on Tom's face. "I'm going home. And the only way any of you will stop me is over my dead body. Or his ."

Balance of Power, 50

She'd thrown down the gauntlet. There was no going back even if she wanted to. Over six hours had passed since her bold threat and she'd not spoken to anyone about it. That surprised her. Sabrina thought for sure that she would have had an intense standoff with her father, or at least a scary encounter with her Uncle Santino. But neither had happened. They probably didn't bother confronting Sabrina about her threat because they knew it had no teeth.

Sabrina tried to analyze things from her mother's point of view. Cassandra had been a brilliant strategist. She'd had to be, to flawlessly juggle men the way she had. Cassandra would undoubtedly tell her that, having made an impossible threat, she had to find a way to back away from it without losing power to her father. Yeah, like Cassandra had any idea how to do that. Even without knowing her mother's history with Michael Corleone, the very fact that Sabrina existed told the young woman just who'd held the reins in that encounter.

Next, Sabrina considered her situation through the eyes of Bobby Texador, a criminal she'd known while growing up. Bobby would have warned her that a poorly executed bluff held deadly consequences for the most powerful of men. As a woman, Sabrina had to be even more careful in her words and actions. A woman, Bobby once counseled her, never made an idle bluff. Men only understood action.

Sabrina even tried looking at things as she imagined Tom or Sonny or even her father might. She shook her head. What was it she'd told Tom Hagen? She was leaving?? Over her father's dead body?? Yeah, right. Had she forgotten where she was? She was at the Corleone compound surrounded by people whose every thought was based on the criteria 'What would Don Corleone want?'. Not a single person there would help her leave. And they sure as hell wouldn't lift a finger toward harming their beloved 'Don'.

Unbidden, the woman from the bathroom encounter came to mind. She had made it clear that all Sabrina had to do was give them a sign that she wanted out of the Corleone sphere. They were always watching, the woman claimed. There was one big problem with that. Despite the craziness of it all, Sabrina had no desire to bring unwanted attention to her father's doorstep. She just wanted her life back her life and the freedom to live it as she chose. Idly Sabrina wondered if the threat of the strange woman would be enough to force her father's hand.

Probably not.

A single rap on the door was followed by the entrance of Thomas Hagen. He was dressed as always linen suit complete with vest and coat. He held a long white envelope in his hand. "Pack your things."

Sabrina was thrown by the command. She suspected a trap; glancing at the airline ticket inside the white envelope he handed her did nothing to ease her doubts. "After everything he's done, he is just going to let me go?"

"Your father is pained by this decision," Tom replied. "But your attitude and lack of regard for his authority pose a threat that would endanger the family. It is in the best interest of us all that you separate yourself from here." His message to Sabrina delivered, the stoic consigliere turned and left the room.

Sabrina stared at the closed door for a long time. She was totally confused by the turn of events. Uncertainly she glanced down at the airline ticket in her hand. Her flight was scheduled to depart in hours. There would barely be time to travel to the airport. Squaring her shoulders, Sabrina took her suitcase from the closet and began to pack. She did not have very many things to take. Everything she'd been given while in Italy would remain behind.

As she packed, Sabrina wondered what her final encounter with her father would be like.