Wiseguy | Study Guide

Nicholas Pileggi

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Wiseguy | Chapter 17 | Summary

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Summary

Within days, the dream score for the men begins to turn into a nightmare and becomes the beginning of the end. Hill doesn't even know the robbery has taken place until he hears about it all over the news later that morning. Hill meets Burke, who gives him cash, and when Burke asks Hill to bring Krugman to a meeting place later that night, Hill realizes Burke is planning to kill Krugman. Hill does his best to talk him out of it, and finally Burke yields. But Hill realizes what Burke really wants is Krugman's portion of the heist money.

It comes to light one of the heist trucks, which Stacks was supposed to dispose of, was discovered by the police, with fingerprints and ski masks inside. Tommy DeSimone and Angelo Sepe kill Stacks in his apartment that weekend for his error, and Hill worries Krugman will be next. At a Christmas party Hill realizes one of Vario's own sons doesn't realize their crew did the heist, even though Vario's other son was in on it. The crew realizes they also have constant surveillance on them from the Feds. A few weeks later, the Gotti crew murders Tommy DeSimone for his killing of Billy Batts. Vario gives them permission for the murder after they show him proof. Burke and Hill realize they can't do anything to avenge DeSimone's death, because they aren't full Italians, and so "on this level" they don't belong. Krugman senses something is afoot after Stacks's and Tommy's deaths, and then he, too, is killed. Hill realizes even though he and Burke are friends, Burke would have no problem killing him, either.

Analysis

The uneasiness Pileggi established in the previous chapter—juxtaposing the crew's arrogance at the outcome of their heist with the small details that might come back to haunt them—begins to manifest. It is surprising Hill isn't even aware the robbery has occurred until he hears about it on the radio, but he was careful to note in Chapter 16 "knowing what's not necessary is only trouble," a maxim he seems to abide by in this case.

It's significant one of the only times Hill seems to show pity or concern for another person's life is when he realizes Burke is planning to murder Krugman. Pileggi doesn't clarify whether he believes this is a kind of evolution on Hill's part, or whether he just feels guilty over having gotten Krugman involved, neither does Hill offer any self-reflection on his sudden altruism either. For his part Burke shows himself to be as cavalier about murder as ever, wanting to kill Krugman only because he's become greedy and wants his portion of the money. He never stops to consider what the impact will be on Krugman's family. Only after Krugman is killed does it truly seem to dawn on Hill that Burke would be just as quick to murder him as well if the idea struck him, and in a way this revelation is the beginning of Hill's realization of his possible fate and the true risk of being involved in organized crime. He knows he is no longer invincible, which Pileggi emphasizes as a real turning point in Hill's evolution as a wiseguy. Hill pointedly observes after the killing of Stacks "the truth is that nobody ever knows just how much trouble he's in," which seems to foreshadow he, too, will find himself in trouble soon without realizing it soon enough.

The killing of Stacks for his carelessness is only one more murder that amounts to a "firing" on Burke's behalf, but it also illuminates the relationship between the men involved in the heist is beginning to sour. Even Hill seems to get wind other relationships within their larger crew are beginning to fracture, such as the fact one of Vario's sons was in on the heist while the other had no knowledge of it. Pileggi illuminates how, in a way, this is the beginning of the end, when the members of this once-close community begin to turn on each other. This only breeds further paranoia and resentment, a volatile combination among men who are quick to resort to violence and murder to settle disputes. The conflict escalates to the highest level when Vario allows the Gotti family to murder DeSimone for revenge, and it further highlights even though Hill and Burke are respected and revered, their "outsider" status as non-Italians blocks them from certain levels of entry into the Mafia.

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