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Книга The Godfather. Страница 9

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“So you have woman trouble. Your voice is sick. Now tell me the trouble you’re having with this Hollywood pezzonovante who won’t let you work.” The Don was getting down to business.

“He’s bigger than one of your pezzonovantes,” Johnny said. “He owns the studio. He advises the President on movie propaganda for the war. Just a month ago he bought the movie rights to the biggest novel of the year. A best seller. And the main character is a guy just like me. I wouldn’t even have to act, just be myself. I wouldn’t even have to sing. I might even win the Academy Award. Everybody knows it’s perfect for me and I’d be big again. As an actor. But that bastard Jack Woltz is paying me off, he won’t give it to me. I offered to do it for nothing, for a minimum price and he still says no. He sent the word that if I come and kiss his ass in the studio commissary, maybe he’ll think about it.”

Don Corleone dismissed this emotional nonsense with a wave of his hand. Among reasonable men problems of business could always be solved. He patted his godson on the shoulder. “You’re discouraged. Nobody cares about you, so you think. And you’ve lost a lot of weight. You drink a lot, eh? You don’t sleep and you take pills?” He shook his head disapprovingly.

“Now I want you to follow my orders,” the Don said. “I want you to stay in my house for one month. I want you to eat well, to rest and sleep. I want you to be my companion, I enjoy your company, and maybe you can learn something about the world from your Godfather that might even help you in the great Hollywood. But no singing, no drinking and no women. At the end of the month you can go back to Hollywood and this pezzonovante, this.90 caliber will give you that job you want. Done?”

Johnny Fontane could not altogether believe that the Don had such power. But his Godfather had never said such and such a thing could be done without having it done. “This guy is a personal friend of J. Edgar Hoover,” Johnny said. “You can’t even raise your voice to him.”

“He’s a businessman,” the Don said blandly. “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

“It’s too late,” Johnny said. “All the contracts have been signed and they start shooting in a week. It’s absolutely impossible.”

Don Corleone said, “Go, go back to the party. Your friends are waiting for you. Leave everything to me.” He pushed Johnny Fontane out of the room.

Hagen sat behind the desk and made notes. The Don heaved a sigh and asked, “Is there anything else?”

“Sollozzo can’t be put off any more. You’ll have to see him this week.” Hagen held his pen over the calendar.

The Don shrugged. “Now that the wedding is over, whenever you like.”

This answer told Hagen two things. Most important, that the answer to Virgil Sollozzo would be no. The second, that Don Corleone, since he would not give the answer before his daughter’s wedding, expected his no to cause trouble.

Hagen said cautiously, “Shall I tell Clemenza to have some men come live in the house?”

The Don said impatiently, “For what? I didn’t answer before the wedding because on an important day like that there should be no cloud, not even in the distance. Also I wanted to know beforehand what he wanted to talk about. We know now. What he will propose is an infamita.”

Hagen asked, “Then you will refuse?” When the Don nodded, Hagen said, “I think we should all discuss it— the whole Family— before you give your answer.”

The Don smiled. “You think so? Good, we will discuss it. When you come back from California. I want you to fly there tomorrow and settle this business for Johnny. See that movie pezzonovante. Tell Sollozzo I will see him when you get back from California. Is there anything else?”

Hagen said formally, “The hospital called. Consigliere Abbandando is dying, he won’t last out the night. His family was told to come and wait.”

Hagen had filled the Consigliere’s post for the past year, ever since the cancer had imprisoned Genco Abbandando in his hospital bed. Now he waited to hear Don Corleone say the post was his permanently. The odds were against it. So high a position was traditionally given only to a man descended from two Italian parents. There had already been trouble about his temporary performance of the duties. Also, he was only thirty-five, not old enough, supposedly, to have acquired the necessary experience and cunning for a successful Consigliere.

But the Don gave him no encouragement. He asked, “When does my daughter leave with her bridegroom?”

Hagen looked at his wristwatch. “In a few minutes they’ll cut the cake and then a half hour after that.” That reminded him of something else. “Your new son-in-law. Do we give him something important, inside the Family?”

He was surprised at the vehemence of the Don’s answer. “Never.” The Don hit the desk with the flat of his hand. “Never. Give him something to earn his living, a good living. But never let him know the Family’s business. Tell the others, Sonny, Fredo, Clemenza.”

The Don paused. “Instruct my sons, all three of them, that they will accompany me to the hospital to see poor Genco. I want them to pay their last respects. Tell Freddie to drive the big car and ask Johnny if he will come with us, as a special favor to me.” He saw Hagen look at him questioningly. “I want you to go to California tonight. You won’t have time to go see Genco. But don’t leave until I come back from the hospital and speak with you. Understood?”

“Understood,” Hagen said. “What time should Fred have the car waiting?”

“When the guests have left,” Don Corleone said. “Genco will wait for me.”

“The Senator called,” Hagen said. “Apologizing for not coming personally but that you would understand. He probably means those two FBI men across the street taking down license numbers. But he sent his gift over by special messenger.”

The Don nodded. He did not think it necessary to mention that he himself had warned the Senator not to come. “Did he send a nice present?”

Hagen made a face of impressed approval that was very strangely Italian on his German-Irish features. “Antique silver, very valuable. The kids can sell it for a grand at least. The Senator spent a lot of time getting exactly the right thing. For those kind of people that’s more important than how much it costs.”

Don Corleone did not hide his pleasure that so great a man as the Senator had shown him such respect. The Senator, like Luca Brasi, was one of the great stones in the Don’s power structure, and he too, with this gift, had resworn his loyalty.

* * *

When Johnny Fontane appeared in the garden, Kay Adams recognized him immediately. She was truly surprised. “You never told me your family knew Johnny Fontane,” she said. “Now I’m sure I’ll marry you.”

“Do you want to meet him?” Michael asked.

“Not now,” Kay said. She sighed. “I was in love with him for three years. I used to come down to New York whenever he sang at the Capitol and scream my head off. He was so wonderful.”

“We’ll meet him later,” Michael said.

When Johnny finished singing and vanished into the house with Don Corleone, Kay said archly to Michael, “Don’t tell me a big movie star like Johnny Fontane has to ask your father for a favor?”

“He’s my father’s godson,” Michael said. “And if it wasn’t for my father he might not be a big movie star today.”

Kay Adams laughed with delight. “That sounds like another great story.”

Michael shook his head “I can’t tell that one,” he said.

“Trust me,” she said.

He told her. He told her without being funny. He told it without pride. He told it without any sort of explanation except that eight years before his father had been more impetuous, and because the matter concerned his godson, the Don considered it an affair of personal honor.

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