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Книга The Godfather. Страница 19

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Don Corleone said, “And what is the percentage of the Tattaglia family?”

For the first time Sollozzo seemed to be nervous. “They will receive something from my share. I need some help in the operations.”

“So,” Don Corleone said, “I receive fifty percent merely for finance and legal protection. I have no worries about operations, is that what you tell me?”

Sollozzo nodded. “If you think two million dollars in cash is ‘merely finance,’ I congratulate you, Don Corleone.”

The Don said quietly, “I consented to see you out of my respect for the Tattaglias and because I’ve heard you are a serious man to be treated also with respect. I must say no to you but I must give you my reasons. The profits in your business are huge but so are the risks. Your operation, if I were part of it, could damage my other interests. It’s true I have many, many friends in politics, but they would not be so friendly if my business were narcotics instead of gambling. They think gambling is something like liquor, a harmless vice, and they think narcotics a dirty business. No, don’t protest. I’m telling you their thoughts, not mine. How a man makes his living is not my concern. And what I am telling you is that this business of yours is too risky. All the members of my family have lived well the last ten years, without danger, without harm. I can’t endanger them or their livelihoods out of greed.”

The only sign of Sollozzo’s disappointment was a quick flickering of his eyes around the room, as if he hoped Hagen or Sonny would speak in his support. Then he said, “Are you worried about security for your two million?”

The Don smiled coldly. “No,” he said.

Sollozzo tried again. “The Tattaglia family will guarantee your investment also.”

It was then that Sonny Corleone made an unforgivable error in judgment and procedure. He said eagerly, “The Tattaglia family guarantees the return of our investment without any percentage from us?”

Hagen was horrified at this break. He saw the Don turn cold, malevolent eyes on his eldest son, who froze in uncomprehending dismay. Sollozzo’s eyes flickered again but this time with satisfaction. He had discovered a chink in the Don’s fortress. When the Don spoke his voice held a dismissal. “Young people are greedy,” he said. “And today they have no manners. They interrupt their elders. They meddle. But I have a sentimental weakness for my children and I have spoiled them. As you see. Signor Sollozzo, my no is final. Let me say that I myself wish you good fortune in your business. It has no conflict with my own. I’m sorry that I had to disappoint you.”

Sollozzo bowed, shook the Don’s hand and let Hagen take him to his car outside. There was no expression on his face when he said good-bye to Hagen.

Back in the room, Don Corleone asked Hagen, “What did you think of that man?”

“He’s a Sicilian,” Hagen said dryly.

The Don nodded his head thoughtfully. Then he turned to his son and said gently, “Santino, never let anyone outside the family know what you are thinking. Never let them know what you have under your fingernails. I think your brain is going soft from all that comedy you play with that young girl. Stop it and pay attention to business. Now get out of my sight.”

Hagen saw the surprise on Sonny’s face, then anger at his father’s reproach. Did he really think the Don would be ignorant of his conquest, Hagen wondered. And did he really not know what a dangerous mistake he had made this morning? If that were true, Hagen would never wish to be the Consigliere to the Don of Santino Corleone.

Don Corleone waited until Sonny had left the room. Then he sank back into his leather armchair and motioned brusquely for a drink. Hagen poured him a glass of anisette. The Don looked up at him. “Send Luca Brasi to see me,” he said.

* * *

Three months later, Hagen hurried through the paper work in his city office hoping to leave early enough for some Christmas shopping for his wife and children. He was interrupted by a phone call from a Johnny Fontane bubbling with high spirits. The picture had been shot, the rushes, whatever the hell they were, Hagen thought, were fabulous. He was sending the Don a present for Christmas that would knock his eyes out, he’d bring it himself but there were some little things to be done in the movie. He would have to stay out on the Coast. Hagen tried to conceal his impatience. Johnny Fontane’s charm had always been lost on him. But his interest was aroused. “What is it?” he asked. Johnny Fontane chuckled and said, “I can’t tell, that’s the best part of a Christmas present.” Hagen immediately lost all interest and finally managed, politely, to hang up.

Ten minutes later his secretary told him that Connie Corleone was on the phone and wanted to speak to him. Hagen sighed. As a young girl Connie had been nice, as a married woman she was a nuisance. She made complaints about her husband. She kept going home to visit her mother for two or three days. And Carlo Rizzi was turning out to be a real loser. He had been fixed up with a nice little business and was running it into the ground. He was also drinking, whoring around, gambling and beating his wife up occasionally. Connie hadn’t told her family about that but she had told Hagen. He wondered what new tale of woe she had for him now.

But the Christmas spirit seemed to have cheered her up. She just wanted to ask Hagen what her father would really like for Christmas. And Sonny and Fred and Mike. She already knew what she would get her mother. Hagen made some suggestions, all of which she rejected as silly. Finally she let him go.

When the phone rang again, Hagen threw his papers back into the basket. The hell with it. He’d leave. It never occurred to him to refuse to take the call, however. When his secretary told him it was Michael Corieone he picked up the phone with pleasure. He had always liked Mike.

“Tom,” Michael Corleone said, “I’m driving down to the city with Kay tomorrow. There’s something important I want to tell the old man before Christmas. Will he be home tomorrow night?”

“Sure,” Hagen said. “He’s not going out of town until after Christmas. Anything I can do for you?”

Michael was as closemouthed as his father. “No,” he said. “I guess I’ll see you Christmas, everybody is going to be out at Long Beach, right?”

“Right,” Hagen said. He was amused when Mike hung up on him without any small talk.

He told his secretary to call his wife and tell her he would be home a little late but to have some supper for him. Outside the building he walked briskly downtown toward Macy’s. Someone stepped in his way. To his surprise he saw it was Sollozzo.

Sollozzo took him by the arm and said quietly, “Don’t be frightened. I just want to talk to you.” A car parked at the curb suddenly had its door open. Sollozzo said urgently, “Get in, I want to talk to you.”.

Hagen pulled his arm loose. He was still not alarmed, just irritated. “I haven’t got time,” he said. At that moment two men came up behind him. Hagen felt a sudden weakness in his legs. Sollozzo said softly, “Get in the car. If I wanted to kill you you’d be dead now. Trust me.”

Without a shred of trust Hagen got into the car.

* * *

Michael Corleone had lied to Hagen. He was already in New York, and he had called from a room in the Hotel Pennsylvania less than ten blocks away. When he hung up the phone, Kay Adams put out her cigarette and said, “Mike, what a good fibber you are.”

Michael sat down beside her on the bed. “All for you, honey; if I told my family we were in town we’d have to go there right away. Then we couldn’t go out to dinner, we couldn’t go to the theater, and we couldn’t sleep together tonight. Not in my father’s house, not when we’re not married.” He put his arms around her and kissed her gently on the lips. Her mouth was sweet and he gently pulled her down on the bed. She closed her eyes, waiting for him to make love to her and Michael felt an enormous happiness. He had spent the war years fighting in the Pacific, and on those bloody islands he had dreamed of a girl like Kay Adams. Of a beauty like hers. A fair and fragile body, milky-skinned and electrified by passion. She opened her eyes and then pulled his head down to kiss him. They made love until it was time for dinner and the theater.

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