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Книга The Godfather. Страница 29

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Luca reacted instantly, his body slipping off the bar stool and trying to twist away. But Sollozzo had grabbed his other hand at the wrist. Still, Luca was too strong for both of them and would have broken free except that a man stepped out of the shadows behind him and threw a thin silken cord around his neck. The cord pulled tight, choking off Lucas breath. His face became purple, the strength in his arms drained away. Tattaglia and Sollozzo held his hands easily now, and they stood there curiously childlike as the man behind Luca pulled the cord around Lucas neck tighter and tighter. Suddenly the floor was wet and slippery. Luca’s sphincter, no longer under control, opened, the waste of his body spilled out. There was no strength in him anymore and his legs folded, his body sagged. Sollozzo and Tattaglia let his hands go and only the strangler stayed with the victim, sinking to his knees to follow Lucas falling body, drawing the cord so tight that it cut into the flesh of the neck and disappeared. Lucas eyes were bulging out of his head as if in the utmost surprise and this surprise was the only humanity remaining to him. He was dead.

“I don’t want him found,” Sollozzo said. “It’s important that he not be found right now.” He turned on his heel and left, disappearing back into the shadows.

Chapter 8

The day after the shooting of Don Corleone was a busy time for the Family. Michael stayed by the phone relaying messages to Sonny. Tom Hagen was busy trying to find a mediator satisfactory to both parties so that a conference could be arranged with Sollozzo. The Turk had suddenly become cagey, perhaps he knew that the Family button men of Clemenza and Tessio were ranging far and wide over the city in an attempt to pick up his trail. But Sollozzo was sticking close to his hideout, as were all top members of the Tattaglia Family. This was expected by Sonny, an elementary precaution he knew the enemy was bound to take.

Clemenza was tied up with Paulie Gatto. Tessio had been given the assignment of trying to track down the whereabouts of Luca Brasi. Luca had not been home since the night before the shooting, a bad sign. But Sonny could not believe that Brasi had either turned traitor or had been taken by surprise.

Mama Corleone was staying in the city with friends of the Family so that she could be near the hospital. Carlo Rizzi, the son-in-law, had offered his services but had been told to take care of his own business that Don Corleone had set him up in, a lucrative bookmaking territory in the Italian section of Manhattan. Connie was staying with her mother in town so that she too could visit her father in the hospital.

Freddie was still under sedation in his own room of his parents’ house. Sonny and Michael had paid him a visit and had been astonished at his paleness, his obvious illness. “Christ,” Sonny said to Michael when they left Freddie’s room, “he looks like he got plugged worse than the old man.”

Michael shrugged. He had seen soldiers in the same condition on the battlefield. But he had never expected it to happen to Freddie. He remembered the middle brother as being physically the toughest one in the family when all of them were kids. But he had also been the most obedient son to his father. And yet everyone knew that the Don had given up on this middle son ever being important to the business. He wasn’t quite smart enough, and failing that, not quite ruthless enough. He was too retiring a person, did not have enough force.

Late in the afternoon, Michael got a call from Johnny Fontane in Hollywood. Sonny took the phone. “Nah, Johnny, no use coming back here to see the old man. He’s too sick and it would give you a lot of bad publicity, and I know the old man wouldn’t like that. Wait until he’s better and we can move him home, then come see him. OK, I’ll give him your regards.” Sonny hung up the phone. He turned to Michael and said. “That’ll make Pop happy, that Johnny wanted to fly from California to see how he was.”

Late that afternoon, Michael was called to the listed phone in the kitchen by one of Clemenza’s men. It was Kay.

“Is your father all right?” she asked. Her voice was a little strained, a little unnatural. Michael knew that she couldn’t quite believe what had happened, that his father really was what the newspapers called a gangster.

“He’ll be OK,” Michael said.

“Can I come with you when you visit him in the hospital?” Kay asked.

Michael laughed. She had remembered him telling her how important it was to do such things if you wanted to get along with the old Italians. “This is a special case,” he said. “If the newspaper guys get ahold of your name and background you’ll be on page three of the Daily News. Girl from old Yankee family mixed up with son of big Mafia chief. How would your parents like that?”

Kay said dryly, “My parents never read the Daily News.” Again there was an awkward pause and then she said, “You’re OK, aren’t you, Mike, you’re not in any danger?”

Mike laughed again. “I’m known as the sissy of the Corleone family. No threat. So they don’t have to bother coming after me. No, it’s all over, Kay, there won’t be any more trouble. It was all sort of an accident anyway. I’ll explain when I see you.”

“When will that be?” she asked.

Michael pondered. “How about late tonight? We’ll have a drink and supper in your hotel and then I’ll go to the hospital and see my old man. I’m getting tired of hanging around here answering phones. OK? But don’t tell anybody. I don’t want newspaper photographers snapping pictures of us together. No kidding, Kay, it’s damned embarrassing, especially for your parents.”

“All right,” Kay said. “I’ll be waiting. Can I do any Christmas shopping for you? Or anything else?”

“No,” Michael said. “Just be ready.”

She gave a little excited laugh. “I’ll be ready,” she said. “Aren’t I always?”

“Yes, you are,” he said. “That’s why you’re my best girl.”

“I love you,” she said. “Can you say it?”

Michael looked at the four hood sitting in the kitchen. “No,” he said. “Tonight, OK?”

“OK,” she said. He hung up.

Clemenza had finally come back from his day’s work and was bustling around the kitchen cooking up a huge pot of tomato sauce. Michael nodded to him and went to the corner office where he found Hagen and Sonny waiting for him impatiently. “Is Clemenza out there?” Sonny asked.

Michael grinned. “He’s cooking up spaghetti for the troops, just like the army.”

Sonny said impatiently, “Tell him to cut out that crap and come on in here. I have more important things for him to do. Get Tessio in here with him.”

In a few minutes they were all gathered in the office. Sonny said curtly to Clemenza, “You take care of him?”

Clemenza nodded. “You won’t see him anymore.”

With a slight electric shock, Michael realized they were talking about Paulie Gatto and that little Paulie was dead, murdered by that jolly wedding dancer, Clemenza.

Sonny asked Hagen, “You have any luck with Sollozzo?”

Hagen shook his head. “He seems to have cooled off on the negotiation idea. Anyway he doesn’t seem to be too anxious. Or maybe he’s just being very careful so that our button men won’t nail him. Anyway I haven’t been able to set up a top-notch go-between he’ll trust. But he must know he has to negotiate now. He missed his chance when he let the old man get away from him.”

Sonny said, “He’s a smart guy, the smartest our Family ever came up against. Maybe he figured we’re just stalling until the old man gets better or we can get a line on him.”

Hagen shrugged. “Sure, he figures that. But he still has to negotiate. He has no choice. I’ll get it set up tomorrow. That’s certain.”

One of Clemenza’s men knocked on the office door and then came in. He said to Clemenza, “It just came over the radio, the cops found Paulie Gatto. Dead in his car.”


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