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The Cuban Connection by Kevin Surface Excerpt 5

SANTINO CABRESE SAT STOICALLY IN the Italian leather chair situated in the far corner of his extravagantly decorated den. It was a chilly evening outside, and he stared reflectively into the bright orange flames that roared skyward up the stone chimney into the cloudless night.

Across from him, on the other side of the fireplace, was his consigliore, Johnny Bustamante. His trusted advocate looked more like a scholar than a Mafi a adviser. Th e glasses that sat atop his long, thin, pointed nose were almond-colored hornrims that had to be specially designed because of the narrowness of the bridge at the top of his nose. His roan-colored hair was thinning, especially on the top of his scalp, and had small streaks of dark brown mixed in on the sides. At 6'0" and 180 pounds, he was a person of average height and weight, and liked to dress impeccably. To the average person, he looked like just another ordinary, successful businessman, until you looked into his eyes. They were the lightest color of hazel, with two small black dots for pupils, emitting a cold, calculated stare that was in sharp contrast to his subdued manner and emotionless personality.

In the early history of the American Mafia, the consigliore was elected by the membership, instead of chosen by the boss of the family. The logic was that a good consigliore could give his advice on what was "right," rather than what was in his boss's best interest. Cabrese considered this process absurd, and decided the "boss" needed someone he could confide in, and more importantly, give him the legal and politically correct avenue to pursue what the "boss" deemed as appropriate for the family.

No one took exception to this in the family, and it became the norm, rather than the exception.

Don Cabrese took another long draw off his hand-wrapped Cuban cigar, blowing the small rivulets of smoke toward the open fireplace. He held the cigar in his short, grubby fingers, which had become increasingly gnarled by rheumatoid arthritis. Piss on this disease, he thought. They can find a cure for polio but can't do a damn thing about chronic arthritis.

"What do you think, Johnny? Do you think we can get the Salvatore family to go along?"

"I really don't know, Godfather. I'm cautiously optimistic, but we need to proceed with due diligence."

At two to three hundred members, the Cabrese family was the largest of the five New York crime families. The Boss, Santino Cabrese, sat atop the food chain of the Cosa Nostra family. Usually, there was an Under Boss who reported directly to the head of the family. In the case of the Cabrese family, there were two sons who shared this position. Michael and Antonio Cabrese were as opposite in their personalities as the north from the south, but each fulfilled a distinct purpose within the organization. Michael was suave and dignified, while Antonio was physically imposing, with a brutish style that more than intimidated the ordinary person. They were their father's right and left hands. Cabrese had one other younger son who had graduated from the Naval Academy, and fully intended to make a career out of the service. His youngest child, Anita, had graduated from Fordham University and then Yale Law School. A little more than a year ago, she had married a wealthy New York state senator and lived happily on Long Island. There were two off spring in the family and two outside the family. Th is suited Santino Cabrese just fine.

"Do you think Benito Salvatore will go along?"

"I think he agrees with us about going into Cuba again, but I don't know if he'll go along with our idea on how to accomplish it." Benito Salvatore was the chief of the Salvatore family, a powerful crime family in Miami, Florida. "Well, he was with us on the Bay of Pigs thing, which would have succeeded if not for the duplicitous blundering of the military and the CIA. It was a comedy of errors from the onset, except that none of us found it the slightest bit amusing. He's old school like me, and I know he feels the same way I do about drugs and drug trafficking. It's way too dangerous. We need to stick with gambling and racketeering. That's what got us to where we are," Don Cabrese stated emphatically.

With that said, he rose from his leather chair, and took the fireplace poker from its stand and began to stoke the slowly diminishing fire, the ashes rising spirally up the chimney as he did so. The poker's handle was dwarfed by his large hands. If it were not for the occasional manicure, one would have mistaken his hands for those of a dockworker. At 5'10" and 195 pounds, he was a burly, stocky man with a barrel chest and short arms. His suits had to be tailor-made as his forty-four-inch chest clashed with his thirty-six-inch waist and short-sleeve coat. His inseam was a thirty-two and his dress shirt had to have a seventeen-inch collar. The combination of the above was a tailor's nightmare, but he had some of the best tailors on the East Side, who were more than happy to oblige him. His hair had receded to just above his ears, all the way around the circumference of his head, but still retained the dark brown tint of his youth.

There was an abrupt knock on the door to the study, as Michael Cabrese let himself in.

"Hi, Pop, am I interrupting anything?"

Michael and Antonio were the only two people who were allowed to refer to the Don as "Pop."

"No more than usual," quipped his father.

"How's it going, Johnny?"

"Pretty good, Michael, and yourself?"

"Just great, thanks. So what happens to be the topic tonight? Is it the Cuban issue?" Michael continued as he made his way over to the wet bar to pour himself a glass of scotch. "You want a drink while I'm over here, Johnny?"

"No thanks, Michael, not right now. Maybe later."

"Suit yourself," retorted Michael as he made his way to the settee across from the fireplace.

"I was just asking Johnny about the Salvatore family going along with our idea regarding the Cuban situation," interjected the Don.

"Well, Pop, I think they'll go along if we push it hard enough. However, we may have a problem with the Buglioso and Luchesi families. As you know, the bosses are old and the under bosses and a couple of key captains are dictating the policy now. They reflect the younger breed, who thinks that drugs are the financial future and security of their respective families." The Buglioso and Luchesi families were two of the "New York Five" Mafia families.

"I've decided not to involve any of the other New York crime families regarding our little venture. It'll just be us and the Salvatore family. I've decided we don't need them, plus they'll just get greedy and muddle things up."

"What happens when they find out?" asked a curious Johnny Bustamante.

"What have I always told you, Johnny?" asked the Don rhetorically. "Make the deal happen first, then explain it afterward. After they're through getting pissed off , what are they going to do?" Silence lingered in the air, as no one dared to speak. It was inherently understood that the conversation was finished. Any further utterances were at their own risk.

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