Книга The Godfather. Содержание - Chapter 31

Michael and the Don walked him out to his car. The Don shook his hand and said, “You’re a fine fellow. My son Michael here, I’ve been teaching him the olive business, I’m getting old, I want to retire. And he comes to me and he says he wants to interfere in your little affair. I tell him to just learn about the olive oil. But he won’t leave me alone. He says, here is this fine fellow, a Sicilian and they are doing this dirty trick to him. He kept on, he gave me no peace until I interested myself in it. I tell you this to tell that he was right. Now that I’ve met you, I’m glad we took the trouble. So if we can do anything further for you, just ask the favor. Understand? We’re at your service.” (Remembering the Don’s kindness, Neri wished the great man was still alive to see the service that would be done this day.)

It took Neri less than three days to make up his mind. He understood he was being courted but understood more. That the Corleone Family approved that act of his which society condemned and had punished him for. The Corleone Family valued him, society did not. He understood that he would be happier in the world the Corleones had created than in the world outside. And he understood that the Corleone Family was the more powerful, within its narrower limits.

He visited Michael again and put his cards on the table. He did not want to work in Vegas but he would take a job with the Family in New York. He made his loyalty clear. Michael was touched, Neri could see that. It was arranged. But Michael insisted that Neri take a vacation first, down in Miami at the Family hotel there, all expenses paid and a month’s salary in advance so he could have the necessary cash to enjoy himself properly.

That vacation was Neri’s first taste of luxury. People at the hotel took special care of him, saying, “Ah, you’re a friend of Michael Corleone.” The word had been passed along. He was given one of the plush suites, not the grudging small room a poor relation might be fobbed off with. The man running the nightclub in the hotel fixed him up with some beautiful girls. When Neri got back to New York he had a slightly different view on life in general.

He was put in the Clemenza regime and tested carefully by that masterful personnel man. Certain precautions had to be taken. He had, after all, once been a policeman. But Neri’s natural ferocity overcame whatever scruples he might have had at being on the other side of the fence. In less than a year he had “made his bones.” He could never turn back.

Clemenza sang his praises. Neri was a wonder, the new Luca Brasi. He would be better than Luca, Clemenza bragged. After all, Neri was his discovery. Physically the man was a marvel. His reflexes and coordination such that he could have been another Joe DiMaggio. Clemenza also knew that Neri was not a man to be controlled by someone like himself. Neri was made directly responsible to Michael Corleone, with Tom Hagen as the necessary buffer. He was a “special” and as such commanded a high salary but did not have his own living, a bookmaking or strong-arm operation. It was obvious that his respect for Michael Corleone was enormous and one day Hagen said jokingly to Michael, “Well now you’ve got your Luca.”

Michael nodded. He had brought it off. Albert Neri was his man to the death. And of course it was a trick learned from the Don himself. While learning the business, undergoing the long days of tutelage by his father, Michael had one time asked, “How come you used a guy like Luca Brasi? An animal like that?”

The Don had proceeded to instruct him. “There are men in this world,” he said, “who go about demanding to be killed. You must have noticed them. They quarrel in gambling games, they jump out of their automobiles in a rage if someone so much as scratches their fender, they humiliate and bully people whose capabilities they do not know. I have seen a man, a fool, deliberately infuriate a group of dangerous men, and he himself without any resources. These are people who wander through the world shouting, ‘Kill me. Kill me.’ And there is always somebody ready to oblige them. We read about it in the newspapers every day. Such people of course do a great deal of harm to others also.

“Luca Brasi was such a man. But he was such an extraordinary man that for a long time nobody could kill him. Most of these people are of no concern to ourselves but a Brasi is a powerful weapon to be used. The trick is that since he does not fear death and indeed looks for it, then the trick is to make yourself the only person in the world that he truly desires not to kill him. He has only that one fear, not of death, but that you may be the one to kill him. He is yours then.”

It was one of the most valuable lessons given by the Don before he died, and Michael had used it to make Neri his Luca Brasi.

* * *

And now, finally, Albert Neri, alone in his Bronx apartment, was going to put on his police uniform again. He brushed it carefully. Polishing the holster would be next. And his policeman’s cap too, the visor had to be cleaned, the stout black shoes shined. Neri worked with a will. He had found his place in the world, Michael Corelone had placed his absolute trust in him, and today he would not fail that trust.

Chapter 31

On that same day two limousines parked on the Long Beach mall. One of the big cars waited to take Connie Corleone, her mother, her husband and her two children to the airport. The Carlo Rizzi family was to take a vacation in Las Vegas in preparation for their permanent move to that city. Michael had given Carlo the order, over Connie’s protests. Michael had not bothered to explain that he wanted everyone out of the mall before the Corleone-Barzini Families’ meeting. Indeed the meeting itself was top secret. The only ones who knew about it were the capos of the Family.

The other limousine was for Kay and her children, who were being driven up to New Hampshire for a visit with her parents. Michael would have to stay in the mall; he had affairs too pressing to leave.

The night before Michael had also sent word to Carlo Rizzi that he would require his presence on the mall for a few days, that he could join his wife and children later that week. Connie had been furious. She had tried to get Michael on the phone, but he had gone into the city. Now her eyes were searching the mall for him, but he was closeted with Tom Hagen and not to be disturbed. Connie kissed Carlo good-bye when he put her in the limousine. “If you don’t come out there in two days, I’ll come back to get you,” she threatened him.

He gave her a polite husbandly smile of sexual complicity. “I’ll be there,” he said.

She hung out the window. “What do you think Michael wants you for?” she asked. Her worried frown made her look old and unattractive.

Carlo shrugged. “He’s been promising me a big deal. Maybe that’s what he wants to talk about. That’s what he hinted anyway.” Carlo did not know of the meeting scheduled with the Barzini Family for that night.

Connie said eagerly, “Really, Carlo?”

Carlo nodded at her reassuringly. The limousine moved off through the gates of the mall.

It was only after the first limousine had left that Michael appeared to say good-bye to Kay and his own two children. Carlo also came over and wished Kay a good trip and a good vacation. Finally the second limousine pulled away and went through the gate.

Michael said, “I’m sorry I had to keep you here, Carlo. It won’t be more than a couple of days.”

Carlo said quickly, “I don’t mind at all.”

“Good,” Michael said. “Just stay by your phone and I’ll call you when I’m ready for you. I have to get some other dope before. OK?”

“Sure, Mike, sure,” Carlo said. He went into his own house, made a phone call to the mistress he was discreetly keeping in Westbury, promising he would try to get to her late that night. Then he got set with a bottle of rye and waited. He waited a long time. Cars started coming through the gate shortly after noontime. He saw Clemenza get out of one, and then a little later Tessio came out of another. Both of them were admitted to Michael’s house by one of the bodyguards. Clemenza left after a few hours, but Tessio did not reappear.

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