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Книга The Godfather. Страница 37

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McCluskey sighed and got ready to leave the station house. Problems, always problems. His wife’s sister in Ireland had just died after many years of fighting cancer and that cancer had cost him a pretty penny. Now the funeral would cost him more. His own uncles and aunts in the old country needed a little help now and then to keep their potato farms and he sent the money to do the trick. He didn’t begrudge it. And when he and his wife visited the old country they were treated like a king and queen. Maybe they would go again this summer now that the war was over and with all this extra money coming in. McCluskey told his patrolman clerk where he would be if he was needed. He did not feel it necessary to take any precautions. He could always claim Sollozzo was an informer he was meeting. Outside the station house he walked a few blocks and then caught a cab to the house where he would meet with Sollozzo.

* * *

It was Tom Hagen who had to make all the arrangements for Michael’s leaving the country, his false passport, his seaman’s card, his berth on an Italian freighter that would dock in a Sicilian port. Emissaries were sent that very day by plane to Sicily to prepare a hiding plate with the Mafia chief in the hill country.

Sonny arranged for a car and an absolutely trustworthy driver to be waiting for Michael when he stepped out of the restaurant where the meeting would be held with Sollozzo. The driver would be Tessio himself, who had volunteered for the job. It would be a beat-up-looking car but with a fine motor. It would have phony license plates and the car itself would be untraceable. It had been saved for a special job requiring the best.

Michael spent the day with Clemenza, practicing with the small gun that would be gotten to him. It was a.22 filled with soft-nosed bullets that made pinpricks going in and left insulting gaping holes when they exited from the human body. He found that it was accurate up to five of his steps away from a target. After that the bullets might go anywhere. The trigger was tight but Clemenza worked on this with some tools so that it pulled easier. They decided to leave it noisy. They didn’t want an innocent bystander misunderstanding the situation and interfering out of ignorant courage. The report of the gun would keep them away from Michael.

Clemenza kept instructing him during the training session. “Drop the gun as soon as you’ve finished using it. Just let your hand drop to your side and the gun slip out. Nobody will notice. Everybody will think you’re still armed. They’ll be staring at your face. Walk out of the place very quickly but don’t run. Don’t look anybody directly in the eye but don’t look away from them either. Remember, they’ll be scared of you, believe me, they’ll be scared of you. Nobody will interfere. As soon as you’re outside Tessio will be in the car waiting for you. Get in and leave the rest to him. Don’t be worried about accidents. You’d be surprised how well these affairs go. Now put this hat on and let’s see how you look.” He clapped a gray fedora on Michael’s head. Michael, who never wore a hat, grimaced. Clemenza reassured him. “It helps against identification, just in case. Mostly it gives witnesses an excuse to change their identification when we make them see the light. Remember, Mike, don’t worry about prints. The butt and trigger are fixed with special tape. Don’t touch any other part of the gun, remember that.”

Michael said, “Has Sonny found out where Soliozzo is taking me?”

Clemenza shrugged. “Not yet. Sollozzo is being very careful. But don’t worry about him harming you. The negotiator stays in our hands until you come back safe. If anything happens to you, the negotiator pays.”

“Why the hell should he stick his neck out?” Michael asked.

“He gets a big fee,” Clemenza said. “A small fortune. Also he is an important man in the Families. He knows Sollozzo can’t let anything happen to him. Your life is not worth the negotiator’s life to Sollozzo. Very simple. You’ll be safe all right. We’re the ones who catch hell afterwards.”

“How bad will it be?” Michael asked.

“Very bad,” Clemenza said. “It means an all-out war with the Tattaglia Family against the Corleone Family. Most of the others will line up with the Tattaglias. The Sanitation Department will be sweeping up a lot of dead bodies this winter.” He shrugged. “These things have to happen once every ten years or so. It gets rid of the bad blood. And then if we let them push us around on the little things they wanta take over everything. You gotta stop them at the beginning. Like they shoulda stopped Hitler at Munich, they should never let him get away with that, they were just asking for big trouble when they let him get away with that.”

Michael had heard his father say this same thing before, only in 1939 before the war actually started. If the Families had been running the State Department there would never have been World War II, he thought with a grin.

They drove back to the mall and to the Don’s house, where Sonny still made his headquarters. Michael wondered how long Sonny could stay cooped up in the safe territory of the mall. Eventually he would have to venture out. They found Sonny taking a nap on the couch. On the coffee table was the remains of his late lunch, scraps of steak and bread crumbs and a half-empty bottle of whiskey.

His father’s usually neat office was taking on the look of a badly kept furnished room. Michael shook his brother awake and said, “Why don’t you stop living like. a bum and get this place cleaned up?”

Sonny yawned. “What the hell are you, inspecting the barracks? Mike, we haven’t got the word yet where they plan to take you, those bastards Sollozzo and McCluskey. If we don’t find that out, how the hell are we going to get the gun to you?”

“Can’t I carry it on me?” Michael asked. “Maybe they won’t frisk me and even if they do maybe they’ll miss it if we’re smart enough. And even if they find it— so what. They’ll just take it off me and no harm done.”

Sonny shook his head. “Nah,” he said. “We have to make this a sure hit on that bastard Sollozzo. Remember, get him first if you possibly can. McCluskey is slower and dumber. You should have plenty of time to take him. Did Clemenza tell you to be sure to drop the gun?”

“A million times,” Michael said.

Sonny got up from the sofa and stretched. “How does your jaw feel, kid?”

“Lousy,” Michael said. The left side of his face ached except those parts that felt numb because of the drugged wire holding it together. He took the bottle of whiskey from the table and swigged directly from it. The pain eased.

Sonny said, “Easy, Mike, now is no time to get slowed up by booze.”

Michael said, “Oh, Christ, Sonny, stop playing the big brother. I’ve been in combat against tougher guys than Sollozzo and under worse conditions. Where the hell are his mortars? Has he got air cover? Heavy artillery? Land mines? He’s just a wise son of a bitch with a big-wheel cop sidekick. Once anybody makes up their mind to kill them there’s no other problem. That’s the hard part, making up your mind. They’ll never know what hit them.”

Tom Hagen came into the room. He greeted them with a nod and went directly to the falsely listed telephone. He called a few times and then shook his head at Sonny. “Not a whisper,” he said. “Sollozzo is keeping it to himself as long as he can.”

The phone rang. Sonny answered it and he held up a hand as if to signal for quiet though no one had spoken. He jotted some notes down on a pad, then said, “OK, he’ll be there,” and hung up the phone.

Sonny was laughing. “That son of a bitch Sollozzo, he really is something. Here’s the deal. At eight tonight he and Captain McCluskey pick up Mike in front of Jack Dempsey’s bar on Broadway. They go someplace to talk, and get this. Mike and Sollozzo talk in Italian so that the Irish cop don’t know what the hell they are talking about. He even tells me, don’t worry, he knows McCluskey doesn’t know one word in Italian unless it’s ‘soldi’ and he’s checked you out, Mike, and knows you can understand Sicilian dialect.”

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