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Книга The Godfather. Страница 14

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The seamed face was impassive, polite. “What favors can your friend do me?” Woltz asked. There was just a trace of condescension in his voice.

Hagen ignored the condescension. He explained. “You’ve got some labor trouble coming up. My friend can absolutely guarantee to make that trouble disappear. You have a top male star who makes a lot of money for your studio but he just graduated from marijuana to heroin. My friend will guarantee that your male star won’t be able to get any more heroin. And if some other little things come up over the years a phone call to me can solve your problems.”

Jack Woltz listened to this as if he were hearing the boasting of a child. Then he said harshly, his voice deliberately all East Side, “You trying to put muscle on me?”

Hagen said coolly, “Absolutely not. I’ve come to ask a service for a friend. I’ve tried to explain that you won’t lose anything by it.”

Almost as if he willed it, Woltz made his face a mask of anger. The mouth curled, his heavy brows, dyed black, contracted to form a thick line over his glinting eyes. He leaned over the desk toward Hagen. “All right, you smooth son of a bitch, let me lay it on the line for you and your boss, whoever he is. Johnny Fontane never gets that movie. I don’t care how many guinea Mafia goombahs come out of the woodwork.” He leaned back. “A word of advice to you, my friend. J. Edgar Hoover, I assume you’ve heard of him”— Woltz smiled sardonically— “is a personal friend of mine. If I let him know I’m being pressured, you guys will never know what hit you.”

Hagen listened patiently. He had expected better from a man of Woltz’s stature. Was it possible that a man who acted this stupidly could rise to the head of a company worth hundreds of millions? That was something to think about since the Don was looking for new things to put money into, and if the top brains of this industry were so dumb, movies might be the thing. The abuse itself bothered him not at all. Hagen had learned the art of negotiation from the Don himself. “Never get angry,” the Don had instructed. “Never make a threat. Reason with people.” The word “reason” sounded so much better in Italian, ragione, to rejoin. The art of this was to ignore all insults, all threats; to turn the other cheek. Hagen had seen the Don sit at a negotiating table for eight hours, swallowing insults, trying to persuade a notorious and megalomaniac strong-arm man to mend his ways. At the end of the eight hours Don Corleone had thrown up his hands in a helpless gesture and said to the other men at the table, “But no one can reason with this fellow,” and had stalked out of the meeting room. The strong-arm man had turned white with fear. Emissaries were sent to bring the Don back into the room. An agreement was reached but two months later the strong-arm was shot to death in his favorite barbershop.

So Hagen started again, speaking in the most ordinary voice. “Look at my card,” he said. “I’m a lawyer. Would I stick my neck out? Have I uttered one threatening word? Let me just say that I am prepared to meet any condition you name to get Johnny Fontane that movie. I think I’ve already offered a great deal for such a small favor. A favor that I understand it would be in your interest to grant. Johnny tells me that you admit he would be perfect for that part. And let me say that this favor would never be asked if that were not so. In fact, if you’re worried about your investment, my client would finance the picture. But please let me make myself absolutely clear. We understand your no is no. Nobody can force you or is trying to. We know about your friendship with Mr. Hoover, I may add, and my boss respects you for it. He respects that relationship very much.”

Woltz had been doodling with a huge, red-feathered pen. At the mention of money his interest was aroused and he stopped doodling. He said patronizingly, “This picture is budgeted at five million.”

Hagen whistled softly to show that he was impressed. Then he said very casually, “My boss has a lot of friends who back his judgment.”

For the first time Woltz seemed to take the whole thing seriously. He studied Hagen’s card. “I never heard of you,” he said. “I know most of the big lawyers in New York, but just who the hell are you?”

“I have one of those dignified corporate practices,” Hagen said dryly. “I just handle this one account.” He rose. “I won’t take up any more of your time.” He held out his hand, Woltz shook it. Hagen took a few steps toward the door and turned to face Woltz again. “I understand you have to deal with a lot of people who try to seem more important than they are. In my case the reverse is true. Why don’t you check me out with our mutual friend? If you reconsider, call me at my hotel.” He paused. “This may be sacrilege to you, but my client can do things for you that even Mr. Hoover might find out of his range.” He saw the movie producer’s eyes narrowing. Woltz was finally getting the message. “By the way, I admire your pictures very much,” Hagen said in the most fawning voice he could manage. “I hope you can keep up the good work. Our country needs it.”

Late that afternoon Hagen received a call from the producer’s secretary that a car would pick him up within the hour to take him out to Mr. Woltz’s country home for dinner. She told him it would be about a three-hour drive but that the car was equipped with a bar and some hors d’oeuvres. Hagen knew that Woltz made the trip in his private plane and wondered why he hadn’t been invited to make the trip by air. The secretary’s voice was adding politely, “Mr. Woltz suggested you bring an overnight bag and he’ll get you to the airport in the morning.”

“I’ll do that,” Hagen said. That was another thing to wonder about. How did Woltz know he was taking the morning plane back to New York? He thought about it for a moment. The most likely explanation was that Woltz had set private detectives on his trail to get all possible information. Then Woltz certainly knew he represented the Don, which meant that he knew something about the Don, which in turn meant that he was now ready to take the whole matter seriously. Something might be done after all, Hagen thought. And maybe Woltz was smarter than he had appeared this morning.

* * *

The home of Jack Woltz looked like an implausible movie set. There was a plantation-type mansion, huge grounds girdled by a rich black-dirt bridle path, stables and pasture for a herd of horses. The hedges, flower beds and grasses were as carefully manicured as a movie star’s nails.

Woltz greeted Hagen on a glass-paneled air-conditioned porch. The producer was informally dressed in blue silk shirt open at the neck, mustard-colored slacks, soft leather sandals. Framed in all this color and rich fabric his seamed, tough face was startling. He handed Hagen an outsized martini glass and took one for himself from the prepared tray. He seemed more friendly than he had been earlier in the day. He put his arm over Hagen’s shoulder and said, “We have a little time before dinner, let’s go look at my horses.” As they walked toward the stables he said, “I checked you out, Tom; you should have told me your boss is Corleone. I thought you were just some third-rate hustler Johnny was running in to bluff me. And I don’t bluff. Not that I want to make enemies, I never believed in that. But let’s just enjoy ourselves now. We can talk business after dinner.”

Surprisingly Woltz proved to be a truly considerate host. He explained his new methods, innovations that he hoped would make his stable the most successful in America. The stables were all fire-proofed, sanitized to the highest degree, and guarded by a special security detail of private detectives. Finally Woltz led him to a stall which had a huge bronze plaque attached to its outside wall. On the plaque was the name “Khartoum.”

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