Excerpt from Omerta by Mario Puzo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Mario Puzo

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  • First Published:
    Jul 2000, 316 pages
    May 2001, 384 pages

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Don Zeno, even while dying, understood that it was Raymonde Aprile who most needed the child. He would benefit most from the child's love, and he would make certain his son learned how to survive in their world of treachery.

Don Zeno was silent for a long moment. Finally he said, "Raymonde, you will be his father. And I can rest in peace."

The Don's funeral was worthy of an emperor. All the cosca chiefs in Sicily came to pay their respects, along with cabinet ministers from Rome, the owners of the great latifundia, and hundreds of subjects of his widespread cosca. Atop the black horse-drawn hearse, two-year-old Astorre Zeno, a fiery-eyed baby attired in a black frock and black pillbox hat, rode as majestically as a Roman emperor.

The cardinal of Palermo conducted the service and proclaimed memorably, "In sickness and in health, in unhappiness and despair, Don Zeno remained a true friend to all." He then intoned Don Zeno's last words: "I commend myself to God. He will forgive my sins, for I have tried every day to be just."

And so it was that Astorre Zeno was taken to America by Raymonde Aprile and made a part of his own household.


WHEN THE STURZO TWINS, Franky and Stace, pulled into Heskow's driveway, they saw four very tall teenagers playing basketball on the small house court. Franky and Stace got out of their big Buick, and John Heskow came out to meet them. He was a tall, pear-shaped man; his thin hair neatly ringed the bare top of his skull, and his small blue eyes twinkled. "Great timing," he said. "There's someone I want you to meet."

The basketball game halted. Heskow said proudly, "This is my son, Jocko." The tallest of the teenagers stuck out his huge hand to Franky.

"Hey," Franky said. "How about giving us a little game?"

Jocko looked at the two visitors. They were about six feet tall and seemed in good shape. They both wore Ralph Lauren polo shirts, one red and the other green, with khaki trousers and rubber-soled shoes. They were amiable-looking, handsome men, their craggy features set with a graceful confidence. They were obviously brothers, but Jocko could not know they were twins. He figured them to be in their early forties.

"Sure," Jocko said, with boyish good nature.

Stace grinned. "Great! We just drove three thousand miles and have to loosen up."

Jocko motioned to his companions, all well over six feet, and said, "I'll take them on my side against you three." Since he was the much better player, he thought this would give his father's friends a chance.

"Take it easy on them," John Heskow said to the kids. "They're just old guys futzing around."

It was midafternoon in December, and the air was chilly enough to spur the blood. The cold Long Island sunlight, pale yellow, glinted off the glass roofs and walls of Heskow's flower sheds, his front business.

"A million bucks," Stace said. "That's a lot of money."

"My client knows it's a big step to hit Don Aprile," Heskow said. "He wants the best help. Cool shooters and silent partners with mature heads. And you guys are simply the best."

Franky said, "And there are not many guys who would take the risk."

"Yeah," Stace said. "You have to live with it the rest of your life. Somebody coming after you, plus the cops, and the feds. "

"I swear to you," Heskow said, "the NYPD won't go all out. The FBI will not take a hand."

"And the Don's old friends?" Stace asked.

"The dead have no friends." Heskow paused for a moment. "When the Don retired, he cut all ties. There's nothing to worry about."

Franky said to Stace, "Isn't it funny, in all our deals, they always tell us there's nothing to worry about?"

Stace laughed. "That's because they're not the shooters. John, you're an old friend. We trust you. But what if you're wrong? Anybody can be wrong. What if the Don still has old friends? You know how he operates. No mercy. We get nailed, we don't just get killed. We'll spend a couple of hours in hell first. Plus our families are at stake under the Don's rule. That means your son. Can't play for the NBA in his grave. Maybe we should know who's paying for this."

Excerpted from Omerta by Mario Puzo Copyright© 2000 by Mario Puzo. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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