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Книга The Godfather. Страница 49

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He had been expecting something outrageous. After all, he had heard the legends of Hollywood depravity. But he was not quite prepared for Deanna Dunn’s voracious plummet on his sexual organ without even a courteous and friendly word of preparation. He kept sipping his drink and watching the movie, but not tasting, not seeing. He was excited in a way he had never been before but part of it was because this woman servicing him in the dark had been the object of his adolescent dreams.

Yet in a way his masculinity was insulted. So when the world-famous Deanna Dunn was sated and had tidied him up, he very coolly fixed her a fresh drink in the darkness and lit her a fresh cigarette and said in the most relaxed voice imaginable, “This looks like a pretty good movie.”

He felt her stiffen beside him on the couch. Could it be she was waiting for some sort of compliment? Nino poured his glass full from the nearest bottle his hand touched in the darkness. The hell with that. She’d treated him like a goddamn male whore. For some reason now he felt a cold anger at all these women. They watched the picture for another fifteen minutes. He leaned away from her so their bodies did not touch.

Finally she said in a low harsh whisper, “Don’t be such a snotty punk, you liked it. You were as big as a house.”

Nino sipped his drink and said in his natural off-hand manner, “That’s the way it always is. You should see it when I get excited.”

She laughed a little and kept quiet for the rest of the picture. Finally it was over and the lights went on. Nino took a look around. He could see there had been a ball here in the darkness though oddly enough he hadn’t heard a thing. But some of the dames had that hard, shiny, brighteyed look of women who had just been worked over real good. They sauntered out of the projection room. Deanna Dunn left him immediately to go over and talk to an older man Nino recognized as a famous featured player, only now, seeing the guy in person, he realized that he was a fag. He sipped his drink thoughtfully.

Johnny Fontane came up beside him and said, “Hi, old buddy, having a good time?”

Nino grinned. “I don’t know. It’s different. Now when I go back to the old neighborhood I can say Deanna Dunn had me.”

Johnny laughed. “She can be better than that if she-invites you home with her. Did she?”

Nino shook his head. “I got too interested in the movie,” he said. But this time Johnny didn’t laugh.

“Get serious, kid,” he said. “A dame like that cn do you a lot of good. And you used to boff anything. Man, sometimes I still get nightmares when I remember those ugly broads you used to bang.”

Nino waved his glass drunkenly and said very loud, “Yeah, they were ugly but they were women.” Deanna Dunn, in the corner, turned her head to look at them. Nino waved his glass at her in greeting.

Johnny Fontane sighed. “OK, you’re just a guinea peasant.”

“And I ain’t gonna change,” Nino said with his charmingly drunken smile.

Johnny understood him perfectly. He knew Nino was not as drunk as he pretended. He knew that Nino was only pretending so that he could say things which he felt were too rude to say to his new Hollywood padrone when sober. He put his arm around Nino’s neck and said affectionately, “You wise guy bum, you know you got an ironclad contract for a year and you can say and do anything you want and I can’t fire you.”

“You can’t fire me?” Nino said with drunken cunning.

“No,” Johnny said.

“Then fuck you,” Nino said.

For a moment Johnny was surprised into anger. He saw the careless grin on Nino’s face. But in the past few years he must have gotten smarter, or his own descent from stardom had made him more sensitive. In that moment he understood Nino, why his boyhood singing partner had never become successful, why he was trying to destroy any chance of success now. That Nino was reacting away from all the prices of success, that in some way he felt insulted by everything that was being done for him.

Johnny took Nino by the arm and led him out of the house. Nino could barely walk now. Johnny was talking to him soothingly. “OK, kid, you just sing for me, I wants make dough on you. I won’t try to run your life. You do whatever you wants do. OK, paisan? All you gotta do is sing for me and earn me money now that I can’t sing anymore. You got that, old buddy?”

Nino straightened up. “I’ll sing for you, Johnny,” he said, his voice slurring so that he could barely be understood. “I’m a better singer than you now. I was always a better singer than you, you know that?”

Johnny stood there thinking; so that was it. He knew that when his voice was healthy Nino simply wasn’t in the same league with him, never had been in those years they had sung together as kids. He saw Nino was waiting for an answer, weaving drunkenly in the California moonlight. “Fuck you,” he said gently, and they both laughed together like the old days when they had both been equally young.

* * *

When Johnny Fontane got word about the shooting of Don Corleone he not only worried about his Godfather, but also wondered whether the financing for his movie was still alive. He had wanted to go to New York to pay his respects to his Godfather in the hospital but he had been told not to get any bad publicity, that was the last thing Don Corleone would want. So he waited. A week later a messenger came from Tom Hagen. The financing was still on but for only one picture at a time.

Meanwhile Johnny let Nino go his own way in Hollywood and California, and Nino was doing all right with the young starlets. Sometimes Johnny called him up for a night out together but never leaned on him. When they talked about the Don getting shot, Nino said to Johnny, “You know, once I asked the Don for a job in his organization and he wouldn’t give it to me. I was tired of driving a truck and I wanted to make a lot of dough. You know what he told me? He says every man has only one destiny and that my destiny was to be an artist. Meaning that I couldn’t be a racket guy.”

Johnny thought that one over. The Godfather must be just about the smartest guy in the world. He’d known immediately that Nino could never make a racket guy, would only get himself in trouble or get killed. Get killed with just one of his wisecracks. But how did the Don know that he would be an artist? Because, goddamn it, he figured that someday I’d help Nino. And how did he figure that? Because he would drop the word to me and I would try to show my gratitude. Of course he never asked me to do it. He just let me know it would make him happy if I did it. Johnny Fontane sighed. Now the Godfather was hurt, in trouble, and he could kiss the Academy Award good-bye with Woltz working against him and no help on his side. Only the Don had the personal contacts that could apply pressure and the Corleone Family had other things to think about. Johnny had offered to help, Hagen had given him a curt no.

Johnny was busy getting his own picture going. The author of the book he had starred in had finished his new novel and came west on Johnny’s invitation, to talk it over without agents or studios getting into the act. The second book was perfect for what Johnny wanted. He wouldn’t have to sing, it had a good gutsy story with plenty of dames and sex and it had a part that Johnny instantly recognized as tailor-made for Nino. The character talked like Nino, acted like him, even looked like him. It was uncanny. All Nino would have to do would be to get up on the screen and be himself.

Johnny worked fast. He found that he knew a lot more about production than he thought he did, but he hired an executive producer, a man who knew his stuff but had trouble finding work because of the blacklist. Johnny didn’t take advantage but gave the man a fair contract. “I expect you to save me more dough this way,” he told the man frankly.

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