Книга The Godfather. Содержание - Chapter 23

Jules started to walk out of the room when Valenti said, “Attaboy, Doc, that’s telling him.”

Jules whirled around and said, “Do you always get looped before noontime?”

Valenti said, “Sure,” and grinned at him and with such good humor that Jules said more gently than he had meant to, “You have to figure you’ll be dead in five years if you keep that up.”

Valenti was lumbering up to him with little dancing steps. He threw his arms around Jules, his breath stank of bourbon. He was laughing very hard. “Five years?” he asked still’ laughing. “Is it going to take that long?”

* * *

A month after her operation Lucy Mancini sat beside the Vegas hotel pool, one hand holding a cocktail, the other hand stroking Jules’ head, which lay in her lap.

“You don’t have to build up your courage,” Jules said teasingly. “I have champagne waiting in our suite.”

“Are you sure it’s OK so soon?” Lucy asked.

“I’m the doctor,” Jules said. “Tonight’s the big night. Do you realize I’ll be the first surgeon in medical history who tried out the results of his ‘medical first’ operation? You know, the Before and After. I’m going to enjoy writing it up for the journals. Let’s see, ‘while the Before was distinctly pleasurable for psychological reasons and the sophistication of the surgeon-instructor, the post-operative coitus was extremely rewarding strictly for its neurological”— he stopped talking because Lucy had yanked on his hair hard enough for him to yell with pain.

She smiled down at him. “If you’re not satisfied tonight I can really say it’s your fault,” she said.

“I guarantee my work. I planned it even though I just let old Kellner do the manual labor,” Jules said. “Now let’s just rest up, we have a long night of research ahead.”

When they went up to their suite— they were living together now— Lucy found a surprise waiting: a gourmet supper and next to her champagne glass, a jeweler’s box with a huge diamond engagement ring inside it.

“That shows you how much confidence I have in my work,” Jules said. “Now let’s see you earn it.”

He was very tender, very gentle with her. She was a little scary at first, her flesh jumping away from his touch but then, reassured, she felt her body building up to a passion she had never known, and when they were done the first time and Jules whispered, “I do good work,” she whispered back, “Oh, yes, you do; yes, you do.” And they both laughed to each other as they started making love again.

Book Six

Chapter 23

After five months of exile in Sicily, Michael Corleone came finally to understand his father’s character and his destiny. He came to understand men like Luca Brasi, the ruthless caporegime Clemenza, his mother’s resignation and acceptance of her role. For in Sicily he saw what they would have been if they had chosen not to struggle against their fate. He understood why the Don always said, “A man has only one destiny.” He came to understand the contempt for authority and legal government, the hatred for any man who broke omerta, the law of silence.

Dressed in old clothes and a billed cap, Michael had been transported from the ship docked at Palermo to the interior of the Sicilian island, to the very heart of a province controlled by the Mafia, where the local capo-mafioso was greatly indebted to his father for some past service. The province held the town of Corleone, whose name the Don had taken when he emigrated to America so long ago. But there were no longer any of the Don’s relatives alive. The women had died of old age. All the men had been killed in vendettas or had also emigrated, either to America, Brazil or to some other province on the Italian mainland. He was to learn later that this small poverty-stricken town had the highest murder rate of any place in the world.

Michael was installed as a guest in the home of a bachelor uncle of the capo-mafioso. The uncle, in his seventies, was also the doctor for the district. The capo-mafioso was a man in his late fifties named Don Tommasino and he operated as the gabbellotto for a huge estate belonging to one of Sicily’s most noble families. The gabbellotto, a sort of overseer to the estates of the rich, also guaranteed that the poor would not try to claim land not being cultivated, would not try to encroach in any way on the estate, by poaching or trying to farm it as squatters. In short, the gabbellotto was a mafioso who for a certain sum of money protected the real estate of the rich from all claims made on it by the poor, legal or illegal. When any poor peasant tried to implement the law which permitted him to buy uncultivated land, the gabbellotto frightened him off with threats of bodily harm or death. It was that simple.

Don Tommasino also controlled the water rights in the area and vetoed the local building of any new dams by the Roman government. Such dams would ruin the lucrative business of selling water from the artesian wells he controlled, make water too cheap, ruin the whole important water economy so laboriously built up over hundreds of years. However, Don Tommasino was an old-fashioned Mafia chief and would have nothing to do with dope traffic or prostitution. In this Don Tommasino was at odds with the new breed of Mafia leaders springing up in big cities like Palermo, new men who, influenced by American gangsters deported to Italy, had no such scruples.

The Mafia chief was an extremely portly man, a “man with a belly,” literally as well as is the figurative sense that meant a man able to inspire fear in his fellow men. Under his protection, Michael had nothing to fear, yet it was considered necessary to keep the fugitive’s identity a secret. And so Michael was restricted to the walled estate of Dr. Taza, the Don’s uncle.

Dr. Taza was tall for a Sicilian, almost six feet, and had ruddy cheeks and snow-white hair. Though in his seventies, he went every week to Palermo to pay his respects to the younger prostitutes of that city, the younger the better. Dr. Taza’s other vice was reading. He read everything and talked about what he read to his fellow townsmen, patients who were illiterate peasants, the estate shepherds, and this gave him a local reputation for foolishness. What did books have to do with them?

In the evenings Dr. Taza, Don Tommasino and Michael sat in the huge garden populated with these marble statues that on this island seemed to grow out of the garden as magically as the black heady grapes. Dr. Taza loved to tell stories about the Mafia and its exploits over the centuries and in Michael Corleone he had a fascinated listener. There were times when even Don Tommasino would be carried away by the balmy air, the fruity, intoxicating wine, the elegant and quiet comfort of the garden, and tell a story from his own practical experience. The doctor was the legend, the Don the reality.

In this antique garden, Michael Corleone learned about the roots from which his father grew. That the word “Mafia” had originally meant place of refuge. Then it became the name for the secret organization that sprang up to fight against the rulers who had crushed the country and its people for centuries. Sicily was a land that had been more cruelly raped than any other in history. The Inquisition had tortured rich and poor alike. The landowning barons and the princes of the Catholic Church exercised absolute power over the shepherds and farmers. The police were the instruments of their power and so identified with them that to be called a policeman is the foulest insult one Sicilian can hurl at another.

Faced with the savagery of this absolute power, the suffering people learned never to betray their anger and their hatred for fear of being crushed. They learned never to make themselves vulnerable by uttering any sort of threat since giving such a warning insured a quick reprisal. They learned that society was their enemy and so when they sought redress for their wrongs they went to the rebel underground, the Mafia. And the Mafia cemented its power by originating the law of silence, the omerta. In the countryside of Sicily a stranger asking directions to the nearest town will not even receive the courtesy of an answer. And the greatest crime any member of the Mafia could commit would be to tell the police the name of the man who had just shot him or done him any kind of injury. Omerta became the religion of the people. A woman whose husband has been murdered would not tell the police the name of her husband’s murderer, not even of her child’s murderer,, her daughter’s raper.

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