Книга The Godfather. Содержание - Chapter 30

He ignored their surprise and Albert Neri started ushering them out. Michael said sharply, “Tom, stick around a few minutes.”

Hagen went to the window that faced the mall. He waited until he saw the caporegimes and Carlo Rizzo and Rocco Lampone being shepherded through the guarded gate by Neri. Then he turned to Michael and said, “Have you got all the political connections wired into you?”

Michael shook his head regretfully. “Not all. I needed about four more months. The Don and I were working on it. But I’ve got all the judges, we did that first, and some of the more important people in Congress. And the big party boys here in New York were no problem, of course. The Corleone Family is a lot stronger than anybody thinks, but I hoped to make it foolproof.” He smiled at Hagen. “I guess you’ve figured everything out by now.”

Hagen nodded. “It wasn’t hard. Except why you wanted me out of the action. But I put on my Sicilian hat and I finally figured that too.”

Michael laughed. “The old man said you would. But that’s a luxury I can’t afford anymore. I need you here. At least for the next few weeks. You better phone Vegas and talk to your wife. Just tell her a few weeks.”

Hagen said musingly, “How do you think they’ll come at you?”

Michael sighed. “The Don instructed me. Through somebody close. Brazini will set me up through somebody close that, supposedly, I won’t suspect.”

Hagen smiled at him. “Somebody like me.”

Michael smiled back. “You’re Irish, they won’t trust you.”

“I’m German-American,” Hagen said.

“To them that’s Irish,” Michael said. “They won’t go to you and they won’t go to Neri because Neri was a cop. Plus both of you are too close to me. They can’t take that gamble. Rocco Lampone isn’t close enough. No, it will be Clemenza, Tessio or Carlo Rizzi.”

Hagen said softly, “I’m betting it’s Carlo.”

“We’ll see,” Michael said. “It won’t be long.”

* * *

It was the next morning, while Hagen and Michael were having breakfast together. Michael took a phone call in the library, and when he came back to the kitchen, he said to Hagen, “It’s all set up. I’m going to meet Barzini a week from now. To make new peace now that the Don is dead.” Michael laughed.

Hagen asked, “Who phoned you, who made the contact?” They both knew that whoever in the Corleone Family had made the contact had turned traitor.

Michael gave Hagen a sad regretful smile. “Tessio,” he said.

They ate the rest of their breakfast in silence. Over coffee Hagen shook his head. “I could have sworn it would have been Carlo or maybe Clemenza. I never figured Tessio. He’s the best of the lot.”

“He’s the most intelligent,” Michael said. “And he did what seems to him to be the smart thing. He sets me up for the hit by Barzini and inherits the Corleone Family. He sticks with me and he gets wiped out; he’s figuring I can’t win.”

Hagen paused before he asked reluctantly, “How right is he figuring?”

Michael shrugged. “It looks bad. But my father was the only one who understood that political connections and power are worth ten regimes. I think I’ve got most of my father’s political power in my hands now, but I’m the only one who really knows that.” He smiled at Hagen, a reassuring smile. “I’ll make them call me Don. But I feel lousy about Tessio.”

Hagen said, “Have you agreed to the meeting with Barzini?” ’

“Yeah,” Michael said. “A week from tonight. In Brooklyn, on Tessio’s ground where I’ll be safe.” He laughed again.

Hagen said, “Be careful before then.”

For the first time Michael was cold with Hagen. “I don’t need a Consigliere to give me that kind of advice,” he said.

* * *

During the week preceding the peace meeting between the Corleone and Barzini Families, Michael showed Hagen just how careful he could be. He never set foot outside the mall and never received anyone without Neri beside him. There was only one annoying complication. Connie and Carlo’s oldest boy was to receive his Confirmation in the Catholic Church and Kay asked Michael to be the Godfather. Michael refused.

“I don’t often beg you,” Kay said. “Please do this just for me. Connie wants it so much. And so does Carlo. It’s very important to them. Please, Michael.”

She could see he was angry with her for insisting and expected him to refuse. So she was surprised when he nodded and said, “OK. But I can’t leave the mall. Tell them to arrange for the priest to confirm the kid here. I’ll pay whatever it costs. If they run into trouble with the church people, Hagen will straighten it out.”

And so the day before the meeting with the Barzini Family, Michael Corleone stood Godfather to the son of Carlo and Connie Rizzi. He presented the boy with an extremely expensive wristwatch and gold band. There was a small party in Carlo’s house, to which were invited the caporegimes, Hagen, Lampone and everyone who lived on the mall, including, of course, the Don’s widow. Connie was so overcome with emotion that she hugged and kissed her brother and Kay all during the evening. And even Carlo Rizzi became sentimental, wringing Michael’s hand and calling him Godfather at every excuse— old country style. Michael himself had never been so affable, so outgoing. Connie whispered to Kay, “I think Carlo and Mike are going to be real friends now. Something like this always brings people together.”

Kay squeezed her sister-in-law’s arm. “I’m so glad,” she said.

Chapter 30

Albert Neri sat in his Bronx apartment and carefully brushed the blue serge of his old policeman’s uniform. He unpinned the badge and set it on the table to be polished. The regulation holster and gun were draped over a chair. This old routine of detail made him happy in some strange way, one of the few times he had felt happy since his wife had left him, nearly two years ago.

He had married Rita when she was a high school kid and he was a rookie policeman. She was shy, dark-haired, from a straitlaced Italian family who never let her stay out later than ten o’clock at night. Neri was completely in love with her, her innocence, her virtue, as well as her dark prettiness.

At first Rita Neri was fascinated by her husband. He was immensely strong and she could see people were afraid of him because of that strength and his unbending attitude toward what was right and wrong. He was rarely tactful. If he disagreed with a group’s attitude or an individual’s opinion, he kept his mouth shut or brutally spoke his contradiction. He never gave a polite agreement. He also had a true Sicilian temper and his rages could be awesome. But he was never angry with his wife.

Neri in the space of five years became one of the most feared policemen on the New York City force. Also one of the most honest. But he had his own ways of enforcing the law. He hated punks and when he saw a bunch of young rowdies making a disturbance on a street corner at night, disturbing passersby, he took quick and decisive action. He employed a physical strength that was truly extraordinary, which he himself did not fully appreciate.

One night in Central Park West he jumped out of the patrol car and lined up six punks in black silk jackets. His partner remained in the driver’s seat, not wanting to get involved, knowing Neri. The six boys, all in their late teens, had been stopping people and asking them for cigarettes in a youthfully menacing way but not doing anyone any real physical harm. They had also teased girls going by with a sexual gesture more French than American.

Neri lined them up against the stone wall that closed off Central Park from Eighth Avenue. It was twilight, but Neri carried his favorite weapon, a huge flashlight. He never bothered drawing his gun; it was never necessary. His face when he was angry was so brutally menacing, combined with his uniform, that the usual punks were cowed. These were no exception.

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