Книга The Godfather. Содержание - Chapter 29

The Don moved to sit behind the big desk. “You cannot say ‘no’ to the people you love, not often. That’s the secret. And then when you do, it has to sound like a ‘yes.’ Or you have to make them say ‘no.’ You have to take time and trouble. But I’m old-fashioned, you’re the new modern generation, don’t listen to me.”

Michael laughed. “Right. You agree about Tom being out, though, don’t you?”

The Don nodded. “He can’t be involved in this.”

Michael said quietly, “I think it’s time for me to tell you that what I’m going to do is not purely out of vengeance for Apollonia and Sonny. It’s the right thing to do. Tessio and Tom are right about the Barzinis.”

Don Corleone nodded. “Revenge is a dish that tastes best when it is cold,” he said. “I would not have made that peace but that I knew you would never come home alive otherwise. I’m surprised, though, that Barzini still made a last try at you. Maybe it was arranged before the peace talk and he couldn’t stop it. Are you sure they were not after Don Tommasino?”

Michael said, “That’s the way it was supposed to look. And it would have been perfect, even you would never have suspected. Except that I came out alive. I saw Fabrizzio going through the gate, running away. And of course I’ve checked it all out since I’ve been back.”

“Have they found that shepherd?” the Don asked.

“I found him,” Michael said. “I found him a year ago. He’s got his own little pizza place up in Buffalo. New name, phony passport and identification. He’s doing very well is Fabrizzio the shepherd.”

The Don nodded. “So it’s to no purpose to wait any longer. When will you start?”

Michael said, “I want to wait until after Kay has the baby. Just in case anything goes wrong. And I want Tom settled in Vegas so he won’t be concerned in the affair. I think a year from now.”

“You’ve prepared for everything?” the Don asked. He did not look at Michael when he said this.

Michael said gently, “You have no part. You’re not responsible. I take all responsibility. I would refuse to let you even veto. If you tried to do that now, I would leave the Family and go my own way. You’re not responsible.”

The Don was silent for a long time and then he sighed. He said, “So be it. Maybe that’s why I retired, maybe that’s why I’ve turned everything over to you. I’ve done my share in life, I haven’t got the heart anymore. And there are some duties the best of men can’t assume. That’s it then.”

During that year Kay Adams Corleone was delivered of a second child, another boy. She delivered easily, without any trouble whatsoever, and was welcomed back to the mall like a royal princess. Connie Corleone presented the baby with a silk layette handmade in Italy, enormously expensive and beautiful. She told Kay, “Carlo found it. He shopped all over New York to get something extra special after I couldn’t find anything I really liked.” Kay smiled her thanks, understood immediately that she was to tell Michael this fine tale. She was on her way to becoming a Sicilian.

Also during that year, Nino Valenti died of a cerebral hemorrhage. His death made the front pages of the tabloids because the movie Johnny Fontane had featured him in had opened a few weeks before and was a smash hit, establishing Nino as a major star. The papers mentioned that Johnny Fontane was handling the funeral arrangements, that the funeral would be private, only family and close friends to attend. One sensational story even claimed that in an interview Johnny Fontane had blamed himself for his friend’s death, that he should have forced his friend to place himself under medical care, but the reporter made it sound like the usual self-reproach of the sensitive but innocent bystander to a tragedy. Johnny Fontane had made his childhood friend, Nino Valenti, a movie star and what more could a friend do?

No member of the Corleone Family attended the California funeral except Freddie. Lucy and Jules Segal attended. The Don himself had wanted to go to California but had suffered a slight heart attack, which kept him in his bed for a month. He sent a huge floral wreath instead. Albert Neri was also sent West as the official representative of the Family.

Two days after Nino’s funeral, Moe Greene was shot to death in the Hollywood home of his movie-star mistress; Albert Neri did not reappear in New York until almost a month later. He had taken his vacation in the Caribbean and returned to duty tanned almost black. Michael Corleone welcomed him with a smile and a few words of praise, which included the information that Neri would from then on receive an extra “living,” the Family income from an East Side “book” considered especially rich. Neri was content, satisfied that he lived in a world that properly rewarded a man who did his duty.

Book Eight

Chapter 29

Michael Corleone had taken precautions against every eventuality. His planning was faultless, his security impeccable. He was patient, hoping to use the full year to prepare. But he was not to get his necessary year because fate itself took a stand against him, and in the most surprising fashion. For it was the Godfather, the great Don himself, who failed Michael Corleone.

* * *

On one sunny Sunday morning, while the women were at church, Don Vito Corleone dressed in his gardening uniform: baggy gray trousers, a faded blue shirt, battered dirty-brown fedora decorated by a stained gray silk hatband. The Don had gained considerable weight in his few years and worked on his tomato vines, he said, for the sake of his health. But he deceived no one.

The truth was, he loved tending his garden; he loved the sight of it early on a morning. It brought back his childhood in Sicily sixty years ago, brought it back without the terror, the sorrow of his own father’s death. Now the beans in their rows grew little white flowers on top; strong green stalks of scallion fenced everything in. At the foot of the garden a spouted barrel stood guard. It was filled with liquidy cow manure, the finest garden fertilizer. Also in that lower part of the garden were the square wooden frames he had built with his own hands, the sticks cross-tied with thick white string. Over these frames crawled the tomato vines.

The Don hastened to water his garden. It must be done before the sun waxed too hot and turned the water into a prism of fire that could burn his lettuce leaves like paper. Sun was more important than water, water also was important; but the two, imprudently mixed, could cause great misfortune.

The Don moved through his garden hunting for ants. If ants were present, it meant that lice were in his vegetables and the ants were going after the lice and he would have to spray.

He had watered just in time. The sun was becoming hot and the Don thought, “Prudence. Prudence.” But there were just a few more plants to be supported by sticks and he bent down again. He would go back into the house when he finished this last row.

Quite suddenly it felt as if the sun had come down very close to his head. The air filled with dancing golden specks. Michael’s oldest boy came running through the garden toward where the Don knelt and the boy was enveloped by a yellow shield of blinding light. But the Don was not to be tricked, he was too old a hand. Death hid behind that flaming yellow shield ready to pounce out on him and the Don with a wave of his hand warned the boy away from his presence. Just in time. The sledgehammer blow inside his chest made him choke for air. The Don pitched forward into the earth.

The boy raced away to call his father. Michael Corleone and some men at the mall gate ran to the garden and found the Don lying prone, clutching handfuls of earth. They lifted the Don up and carried him to the shade of his stone-flagged patio. Michael knelt beside his father, holding his hand, while the other men called for an ambulance and doctor.

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