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Книга The Godfather. Страница 28

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Chapter 7

On the night before the shooting of Don Corleone, his strongest and most loyal and most feared retainer prepared to meet with the enemy. Luca Brasi had made contact with the forces of Sollozzo several months before. He had done so on the orders of Don Corleone himself. He had done so by frequenting the nightclubs controlled by the Tattaglia Family and by taking up with one of their top call girls. In bed with this call girl he grumbled about how he was held down in the Corleone Family, how his worth was not recognized. After a week of this affair with the call girl, Luca was approached by Bruno Tattaglia, manager of the nightclub. Bruno was the youngest son, and ostensibly not connected with the Family business of prostitution. But his famous nightclub with its dancing line of long-stemmed beauties was the finishing school for many of the city hookers.

The first meeting was all above-board, Tattaglia offering him a job to work in the Family business as enforcer. The flirtation went on for nearly a month. Luca played his role of man infatuated with a young beautiful girl, Bruno Tattaglia the role of a businessman trying to recruit an able executive from a rival. At one such meeting, Luca pretended to be swayed, then said, “But one thing must be understood. I will never go against the Godfather. Don Corleone is a man I respect. I understand that he must put his sons before me in the Family business.”

Bruno Tattaglia was one of the new generation with a barely hidden contempt for the old Moustache Petes like Luca Brasi, Don Corleone and even his own father. He was just a little too respectful. Now he said, “My father wouldn’t expect you to do anything against the Corleones. Why should he? Everybody gets along with everybody else now, it’s not like the old days. It’s just that if you’re looking for a new job, I can pass along the word to my father. There’s always need for a man like you in our business. It’s a hard business and it needs hard men to keep it running smooth. Let me know if you ever make up your mind.”

Luca shrugged. “It’s not so bad where I’m at.” And so they left it.

The general idea had been to lead the Tattaglias to believe that he knew about the lucrative narcotics operation and that he wanted a piece of it free-lance. In that fashion he might hear something about Sollozzo’s plans if the Turk had any, or whether he was getting ready to step on the toes of Don Corleone. After waiting for two months with nothing else happening, Luca reported to the Don that obviously Sollozzo was taking his defeat graciously. The Don had told him to keep trying but merely as a sideline, not to press it.

Luca had dropped into the nightclub the evening before Don Corleone’s being shot. Almost immediately Bruno Tattaglia had come to his table and sat down.

“I have a friend who wants to talk to you,” he said.

“Bring him over,” Luca said. “I’ll talk to any friend of yours.”

“No,” Bruno said. “He wants to see you in private.”

“Who is he?” Luca asked.

“Just a friend of mine,” Bruno Tattaglia said. “He wants to put a proposition to you. Can you meet him later on tonight?”

“Sure,” Luca said. “What time and where?”

Tattaglia said softly, “The club closes at four in the morning. Why don’t you meet in here while the waiters are cleaning ups.

They knew his habits, Luca thought, they must have been checking him out. He usually got up about three or four in the afternoon and had breakfast, then amused himself by gambling with cronies in the Family or had a girl. Sometimes he saw one of the midnight movies and then would drop in for a drink at one of the clubs. He never went to bed before dawn. So the suggestion of a four A.M. meeting was not as outlandish as it seemed.

“Sure, sure,” he said. “I’ll be back at four.” He left the club and caught a cab to his furnished room on Tenth Avenue. He boarded with an Italian family to which he was distantly related. His two rooms were separated from the rest of their railroad flat by a special door. He liked the arrangement because it gave him some family life and also protection against surprise where he was most vulnerable.

The sly Turkish fox was going to show his bushy tail, Luca thought. If things went far enough, if Sollozzo committed himself tonight, maybe the whole thing could be wound up as a Christmas present for the Don. In his room, Luca unlocked the trunk beneath the bed and took out a bulletproof vest. It was heavy. He undressed and put it on over his woolen underwear, then put his shirt and jacket over it. He thought for a moment of calling the Don’s house at Long Beach to tell him of this new development but he knew the Don never talked over the phone, to anyone, and the Don had given him this assignment in secret and so did not want anyone, not even Hagen or his eldest son, to know about it.

Luca always carried a gun. He had a license to carry a gun, probably the most expensive gun license ever issued anyplace, anytime. It had cost a total of ten thousand dollars but it would keep him out of jail if he was frisked by the cops. As a top executive operating official of the Family he rated the license. But tonight, just in case he could finish off the job, he wanted a “safe” gun. One that could not possibly be traced. But then thinking the matter over, he decided that he would just listen to the proposition tonight and report back to the Godfather, Don Corleone.

He made his way back to the club but he did not drink any more. Instead he wandered out to 48th Street, where he had a leisurely late supper at Patsy’s, his favorite Italian restaurant. When it was time for his appointment he drifted uptown to the club entrance. The doorman was no longer there when he went in. The hatcheck girl was gone. Only Bruno Tattaglia waited to greet him and lead him to the deserted bar at the side of the room. Before him he could see the desert of small tables with the polished yellow wood dance floor gleaming like a small diamond in the middle of them. In the shadows was the empty bandstand, out of it grew the skeleton metal stalk of a microphone.

Luca sat at the bar and Bruno Tattaglia went behind it. Luca refused the drink offered to him and lit a cigarette. It was possible that this would turn out to be something else, not the Turk. But then he saw Soltozzo emerge out of the shadows at the far end of the room.

Sollozzo shook his hand and sat at the bar next to him. Tattaglia put a glass in front of the Turk, who nodded his thanks. “Do you know who I am?” asked Sollozzo.

Luca nodded. He smiled grimly. The rats were being flushed out of their holes. It would be his pleasure to take care of this renegade Sicilian.

“Do you know what I am going to ask of you?” Sollozzo asked.

Luca shook his head.

“There’s big business to be made,” Sollozzo said. “I mean millions for everybody at the top level. On the first shipment I can guarantee you fifty thousand dollars. I’m talking about drugs. It’s the coming thing.”

Luca said, “Why come to me? You want me to talk to my Don?”

Sollozzo grimaced. “I’ve already talked to the Don. He wants no part of it. All right, I can do without him. But I need somebody strong to protect the operation physically. I understand you’re not happy with your Family, you might make a switch.”

Luca shrugged. “If the offer is good enough.”

Sollozzo had been watching him intently and seemed to have come to a decision. “Think about my offer for a few days and then we’ll talk again,” he said. He put out his hand but Luca pretended not to see it and busied himself putting a cigarette in his mouth. Behind the bar, Bruno Tattaglia made a lighter appear magically and held it to Luca’s cigarette. And then he did a strange thing. He dropped the lighter on the bar and grabbed Lucas right hand, holding it tight.

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