Книга The Godfather. Страница 103
He had not once raised his voice but his words had a sobering effect on both Greene and Freddie. Michael stared at both of them, moving away from the table to indicate that he expected them both to leave. Hagen went to the door and opened it. Both men left without saying good night.
The next morning Michael Corleone got the message from Moe Greene: he would not sell his share of the hotel at any price. It was Freddie who delivered the message. Michael shrugged and said to his brother, “I want to see Nino before I go back to New York.”
In Nino’s suite they found Johnny Fontane sitting on the couch eating breakfast. Jules was examining Nino behind the closed drapes of the bedroom. Finally the drapes were drawn back. Michael was shocked at how Nino looked. The man was visibly disintegrating. The eyes were dazed, the mouth loose, all the muscles of his face slack. Michael sat on his bedside and said, “Nino, it’s good to catch up with you. The Don always asks about you.”
Nino grinned, it was the old grin. “Tell him I’m dying. Tell him show business is more dangerous than the olive oil business.”
“You’ll be OK,” Michael said. “If there’s anything bothering you that the Family can help, just tell me.”
Nino shook his head. “There’s nothing,” he said. “Nothing.”
Michael chatted for a few more moments and then left. Freddie accompanied him and his party to the airport, but at Michael’s request didn’t hang around for departure time. As he boarded the plane with Tom Hagen and Al Neri, Michael turned to Neri and said, “Did you make him good?”
Neri tapped his forehead. “I got Moe Greene mugged and numbered up here.”
On the plane ride back to New York, Michael Corleone relaxed and tried to sleep. It was useless. The most terrible period of his life was approaching, perhaps even a fatal time. It could no longer be put off. Everything was in readiness, all precautions had been taken, two years of precautions. There could be no further delay. Last week when the Don had formally announced his retirement to the caporegimes and other members of the Corleone Family, Michael knew that this was his father’s way of telling him the time was ripe.
It was almost three years now since he had returned home and over two years since he had married Kay. The three years had been spent in learning the Family business. He had put in long hours with Tom Hagen, long hours with the Don. He was amazed at how wealthy and powerful the Corleone Family truly was. It owned tremendously valuable real estate in midtown New York, whole office buildings. It owned, through fronts, partnerships in two Wall Street brokerage houses, pieces of banks on Long Island, partnerships in some garment center firms, all this in addition to its illegal operations in gambling.
The most interesting thing Michael Corleone learned, in going back over past transactions of the Corleone Family, was that the Family had received some protection income shortly after the war from a group of music record counterfeiters. The counterfeiters duplicated and sold phonograph records of famous artists, packaging everything so skillfully they were never caught. Naturally on the records they sold to stores the artists and original production company received not a penny. Michael Corleone noticed that Johnny Fontane had lost a lot of money owing to this counterfeiting because at that time, just before he lost his voice, his records were the most popular in the country.
He asked Tom Hagen about it. Why did the Don allow the counterfeiters to cheat his godson? Hagen shrugged. Business was business. Besides, Johnny was in the Don’s bad graces, Johnny having divorced his childhood sweetheart to marry Margot Ashton. This had displeased the Don greatly.
“How come these guys stopped their operation?” Michael asked. “The cops got on to them?”
Hagen shook his head. “The Don withdrew his protection. That was right after Connie’s wedding.”
It was a pattern he was to see often, the Don helping those in misfortune whose misfortune he had partly created. Not perhaps out of cunning or planning but because of his variety of interests or perhaps because of the nature of the universe, the interlinking of good and evil, natural of itself.
Michael had married Kay up in New England, a quiet wedding, with only her family and a few of her friends present. Then they had moved into one of the houses on the mall in Long Beach. Michael was surprised at how well Kay got along with his parents and the other people living on the mall. And of course she had gotten pregnant right away, like a good, old-style Italian wife was supposed to, and that helped. The second kid on the way in two years was just icing.
Kay would be waiting for him at the airport, she always came to meet him, she was always so glad when he came back from a trip. And he was too. Except now. For the end of this trip meant that he finally had to take the action he had been groomed for over the last three years. The Don would be waiting for him. The caporegimes would be waiting for him. And he, Michael Corleone, would have to give the orders, make the decisions which would decide his and his Family’s fate.
Every morning when Kay Adams Corleone got up to take care of the baby’s early feeding, she saw Mama Corleone, the Don’s wife, being driven away from the mall by one of the bodyguards, to return an hour later. Kay soon learned that her mother-in-law went to church every single morning. Often on her return, the old woman stopped by for morning coffee and to see her new grandchild.
Mama Corleone always started off by asking Kay why she didn’t think of becoming a Catholic, ignoring the fact that Kay’s child had already been baptized a Protestant. So Kay felt it was proper to ask the old woman why she went to church every morning, whether that was a necessary part of being a Catholic.
As if she thought that this might have stopped Kay from converting the old woman said, “Oh, no, no, some Catholics only go to church on Easter and Christmas. You go when you feel like going.”
Kay laughed. “Then why do you go every single morning?”
In a completely natural way, Mama Corleone said, “I go for my husband,” she pointed down toward the floor, “so he don’t go down there.” She paused. “I say prayers for his soul every day so he go up there.” She pointed heavenward. She said this with an impish smile, as if she were subverting her husband’s will in some way, or as if it were a losing cause. It was said jokingly almost, in her grim, Italian, old crone fashion. And as always when her husband was not present, there was an attitude of disrespect to the great Don.
“How is your husband feeling?” Kay asked politely.
Mama Corleone shrugged. “He’s not the same man since they shot him. He lets Michael do all the work, he just plays the fool with his garden, his peppers, his tomatoes. As if he were some peasant still. But men are always like that.”
Later in the morning Connie Corleone would walk across the mall with her two children to pay Kay a visit and chat. Kay liked Connie, her vivaciousness, her obvious fondness for her brother Michael. Connie had taught Kay how to cook some Italian dishes but sometimes brought her own more expert concoctions over for Michael to taste.
Now this morning as she usually did, she asked Kay what Michael thought of her husband, Carlo. Did Michael really like Carlo, as he seemed to? Carlo had always had a little trouble with the Family but now over the last years he had straightened out. He was really doing well in the labor union but he had to work so hard, such long hours. Carlo really liked Michael, Connie always said. But then, everybody liked Michael, just as everybody liked her father. Michael was the Don all over again. It was the best thing that Michael was going to run the Family olive oil business.