We Are Holding the President Hostage
What he wanted near him, to touch,
was Maria, his little girl, his grandson, Joey, Rosa, his boys.
    Finally he stood up and shook himself like an old dog. When
the knock came, he knew he had recovered, although the aching pain remained
inside him. Mrs. Santos opened the door quietly. Even in the darkness he could
imagine her sour, perpetually frowning dark face. Their relationship was based
on sarcasm, mutual disdain, and absolute fealty to each other's welfare.
    "You can't starve, you old goat," she croaked.
Her skin was wrinkled, her body bowed. But her eyes were clear, her look
fierce. Bent and wiry, she was as tough as aged leather.
    "Put the light on."
    She flicked the switch. Suddenly the room was bathed in
light.
    "The boys?" he asked.
    She made a movement with her head.
    "You bring me food and tell them to come in."
    He waited as they filed in, filling the small room. With
the exception of Benjy, they were an aging, gray, bulky-looking group. In this
atmosphere, pushed close together on the couch and chairs, they looked like
overripe fruit that had rolled out of its sack and rearranged itself
helter-skelter in the room.
    "We saw it on the television," Vinnie said, his
voice gruff and rasping. "A statement from the President. He said they
better stop pushin' us, that they better release our people. All of them."
    "Same old shit," Benjy said. "We should go
in an nuke 'em all. Crazy shits."
    "They showed pictures," Angelo said, as always
his pencil and pad at the ready. "Maria and the boy."
    He was glad he hadn't seen them. What he needed most now
was to contain his emotions.
    "Did they say she was my daughter?" the Padre
asked.
    The men looked at each other, as if they were not quite
certain what answer would please him. Finally it was Rocco who spoke.
    "Nothing. We would remember."
    The Padre was not sure whether the knowledge of their
relationship would make Maria and Joey's situation better or worse.
    Robert and Maria had gone to great pains to keep Maria's
identity hidden. He had, of course, secretly disapproved. But he understood. It
wouldn't have helped Robert's career if the university people knew he was
married to the daughter of a so-called Mafiosa boss. It crossed his mind that,
had their captors known who he was, they might have thought twice about
kidnapping Maria and Joey.
    "We got something in Egypt?" the Padre asked
Angelo.
    "They got gambling there. And junk. Girls. Not too
organized. Too many cooks, too much religious shit. Lot of rackets but heavy
stuff. Arms. Things like that. Lotta Sicilian connections."
    "We take some of theirs, we get them back. Right,
Padre?" Carmine, the Canary, said, the deep creases in his bovine face
showing his concern.
    "Like who?" the Padre asked gently.
    "Everybody got somebody."
    "We need the horses," the Padre said.
    "Then we'll get 'em," Vinnie snapped.
    He knew they all shared his frustration and it made him
feel better to hear their talk, their bravado. Naturally, he would send word to
the other American families. All would be eager to help, to return his many
favors. Perhaps someone would even have an idea, a connection, the ability to
make a deal. He would pay any price, of course. What were worldly goods
compared to the life of his daughter and grandson?
    The men stayed with him half the night, for which he was
grateful. Although he had first sought seclusion, he now dreaded it. But his
mind had finally begun to operate and he had ordered the Pencil to send
emissaries to the families, mostly to learn about connections in the Arab
world. He also ordered a sweep of all their inside contacts on the federal
level. From long experience he knew that before anything could be done,
information was needed. Information always came before action.
    He stayed near the phone in his house, afraid he might miss
a call on his way between the house and Luigi's. And, of course, he continued
to make decisions for the organization. Above all, the organization must
continue to operate.

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