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Книга The Godfather. Страница 99

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“So I hired an extra secretary to take all those calls. I saw the patient only when she was fully prepared for examination, tests or operation. I spent the minimum possible time with the victim because I was, after all, a busy man. And then finally I’d let the husband talk to me for two minutes. ‘It’s terminal,’ I’d say. And they could never hear that last word. They understood what it meant but they never heard it. I thought at first that unconsciously I was dropping my voice on the last word, so I consciously said it louder. But still they never heard it. One guy even said, ‘What the hell do you mean, it’s germinal?’” Jules started to laugh. “Germinal, terminal, what the hell. I started to do abortions. Nice and easy, everybody happy, like washing the dishes and leaving a clean sink. That was my class. I loved it, I loved being an abortionist. I don’t believe that a two-month fetus is a human being so no problems there. I was helping young girls and married women who were in trouble, I was making good money. I was out of the front tines. When I got caught I felt like a deserter that had been hauled in. But I was lucky, a friend pulled some strings and got pie off but now the big hospitals won’t let me operate. So here I am. Giving good advice again which is being ignored just like in the old days.”

“I’m not ignoring it,” Johnny Fontane said. “I’m thinking it over.”

Lucy finally changed the subject. “What are you doing in Vegas, Johnny? Relaxing from your duties as big-time Hollywood wheel or working?”

Johnny shook his head. “Mike Corleone wants to see me and have a talk. He’s flying in tonight with Tom Hagen. Tom said they’ll be seeing you, Lucy. You know what it’s all about?”

Lucy shook her head. “We’re all having dinner tether tomorrow night. Freddie too. I think it might have something to do with the hotel. The casino has been dropping money lately, which shouldn’t be. The Don might want Mike to check it out.”

“I hear Mike finally got his face fixed,” Johnny said.

Lucy laughed. “I guess Kay talked him into it. He wouldn’t do it when they were married. I wonder why? It looked so awful and made his nose drip. He should have had it done sooner.” She paused for a moment. “Jules was called in by the Corleone Family for that operation. They used him as a consultant and as observer.”

Johnny nodded and said dryly, “I recommended him for it.”

“Oh,” Lucy said. “Anyway, Mike said he wanted to do something for Jules. That’s why he’s having us to dinner tomorrow night.”

Jules said musingly, “He didn’t trust anybody. He warned me to keep track of what everybody did. It was fairly straight, ordinary surgery. Any competent man could do it.”

There was a sound from the bedroom of the suite and they looked toward the drapes. Nino had become concious again. Johnny went and sat on the bed. Jules and Lucy went over to the foot of the bed. Nino gave them a wan grin. “OK, I’ll stop being a wise guy. I feel really lousy. Johnny, remember about a year ago, what happened when we were with those two broads down in Palm Springs? I swear to you I wasn’t jealous about what happened. I was glad. You believe me, Johnny?”

Johnny said reassuringly, “Sure, Nino, I believe you.”

Lucy and Jules looked at each other. From everything they had heard and knew about Johnny Fontane it seemed impossible that he would take a girl away from a close friend like Nino. And why was Nino saying he wasn’t jealous a year after it happened? The same thought crossed both their minds, that Nino was drinking himself to death romantically because a girl had left him to go with Johnny Fontane.

Jules checked Nino again. “I’ll get a nurse to be in the room with you tonight,” Jules said. “You really have to stay in bed for a couple of days. No kidding.”

Nino smiled. “OK, Doc, just don’t make the nurse too pretty.”

Jules made a call for the nurse and then he and Lucy left. Johnny sat in a chair near the bed to wait for the nurse. Nino was falling asleep again, an exhausted took on his face. Johnny thought about what he had said, about not being jealous about what had happened over a year ago with those two broads down in Palm Springs. The thought had never entered his head that Nino might be jealous.

* * *

A year ago Johnny Fontane had sat in his plush office, the office of the movie company he headed, and felt as lousy as he had ever felt in his life. Which was surprising because the first movie he had produced, with himself as star and Nino in a featured part, was making tons of money. Everything had worked. Everybody had done their job. The picture was brought in under budget. Everybody was going to make a fortune out of it and Jack Woltz was losing ten years of his life. Now Johnny had two more pictures in production, one starring himself, one starring Nino. Nino was great on the screen as one of those charming, dopey lover-boys that women loved to shove between their tits. Little boy lost. Everything he touched made money, it was rolling in. The Godfather was getting his percentage through the bank, and that made Johnny feel really good. He had justified his Godfather’s faith. But today that wasn’t helping much.

And now that he was a successful independent movie producer he had as much power, maybe more, than he had ever had as a singer. Beautiful broads felt all over him just like before, though for a more commercial reason. He had his own plane, he lived more lavishly even, with the special tax benefits a businessman had that artists didn’t get. Then what the hell was bothering him?

He knew what it was. The front of his head hurt, his nasal passages hurt, his throat itched. The only way he could scratch and relieve that itch was by singing and he was afraid to even try. He had called Jules Segal about it, when it would be safe to try to sing and Jules had said anytime he felt like it. So he’d tried and sounded so hoarse and lousy he’d given up. And his throat would hurt like hell the next day, hurt in a different way than before the warts had been taken off. Hurt worse, burning. He was afraid to keep singing, afraid that he’d lose his voice forever, or ruin it.

And if he couldn’t sing, what the hell was the use of everything else? Everything else was just bullshit. Sing was the only thing he really knew. Maybe he knew more about singing and his kind of music than anybody else in the world. He was that good, he realized now. All those years had made him a real pro. Nobody could tell him, the right and the wrong, he didn’t have to ask anybody. He knew. What a waste, what a damn waste.

It was Friday and he decided to spend the weekend with Virginia and the kids. He called her up as he always did to tell her he was coming. Really to give her a chance to say no. She never said no. Not in all the years they had been divorced. Because she would never say no to a meeting of her daughters and their father. What a broad, Johnny thought. He’d been lucky with Virginia. And though he knew he cared more about her than any other woman he knew it was impossible for them to live together sexually. Maybe when they were sixty-five, like when you retire, they’d retire together, retire from everything.

But reality shattered these tests when he arrived there and found Virginia was feeling a little grouchy herself and the two girls not that crazy to see him because they had been promised a weekend visit with some girl friends on a California ranch where they could ride horses.

He told Virginia to send the girls off to the ranch and kissed them good-bye with an amused smile. He understood them so well. What kid wouldn’t rather go riding horses on a ranch than hang around with a grouchy father who picked his own spots as a father. He said to Virginia, “I’ll have a few drinks and then I’ll shove off too.”

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