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Книга The Godfather. Страница 39

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Broadway wasn’t that crowded on this cold winter night, even though it was near theater time. Michael flinched as a long black car pulled up to the curb and the driver, leaning over, opened the front door and said, “Get in, Mike.” He didn’t know the driver, a young punk with slick black hair and an open shirt, but he got in. In the back seat were Captain McCluskey and Sollozzo.

Sollozzo reached a hand over the back of the seat and Michael shook it. The hand was firm, warm and dry. Sollozzo said, “I’m glad you came, Mike. I hope we can straighten everything out. All this is terrible, it’s not the way I wanted things to happen at all. It should never have happened.”

Michael Corleone said quietly, “I hope we can settle things tonight, I don’t want my father bothered any more.”

“He won’t be,” Sollozzo said sincerely. “I swear to you by my children he won’t be. Just keep an open mind when we talk. I hope you’re not a hothead like your brother Sonny. It’s impossible to talk business with him.”

Captain McCluskey grunted. “He’s a good kid, he’s all right.” He leaned over to give Michael an affectionate pat on the shoulder. “I’m sorry about the other night, Mike. I’m getting too old for my job, too grouchy. I guess I’ll have to retire pretty soon. Can’t stand the aggravation, all day I get aggravation. You know how it is.” Then with a doleful sigh, he gave Michael a thorough frisk for a weapon.

Michael saw a slight smile on the driver’s lips. The car was going west with no apparent attempt to elude any trailers. It went up on to the West Side Highway, speeding in and out of traffic. Anyone following would have had to do the same. Then to Michael’s dismay it took the exit for the George Washington Bridge, they were going over to New Jersey. Whoever had given Sonny the info on where the meeting was to be held had given him the wrong dope.

The car threaded through the bridge approaches and then was on it, leaving the blazing city behind. Michael kept his face impassive. Were they going to dump him into the swamps or was it just a last-minute change in meeting place by the wily Sollozzo? But when they were nearly all the way across, the driver gave the wheel a violent twist. The heavy automobile jumped into the air when it hit the divider and bounced over into the lanes going back to New York City. Both McCluskey and Sollozzo were looking back to see if anyone had tried doing the same thing. The driver was really hitting it back to New York and then they were off the bridge and going toward the East Bronx. They went through the side streets with no cars behind them. By this time it was nearly nine o’clock. They had made sure there was no one on their tail. Sollozzo lit up a cigarette after offering his pack to McCluskey and Michael, both of whom refused. Sollozzo said to the driver, “Nice work. I’ll remember it.”

Ten minutes later the car pulled up in front of a restaurant in a small Italian neighborhood. There was no one on the streets and because of the lateness of the hour only a few people were still at dinner. Michael had been worried that the driver would come in with them, but he stayed outside with his car. The negotiator had not mentioned a driver, nobody had. Technically Sollozzo had broken the agreement by bringing him along. But, Michael decided not to mention it, knowing they would think he would be afraid to mention it, afraid of ruining the chances for the success of the parley.

The three of them sat at the only round table, Sollozzo refusing a booth. There were only two other people in the restaurant. Michael wondered whether they were Sollozzo plants. But it didn’t matter. Before they could interfere it would be all over.

McCluskey asked with real interest, “Is the Italian food good here?”

Sollozzo reassured him. “Try the veal, it’s the finest in New York.” The solitary waiter had brought a bottle of wine to the table and uncorked it. He poured three glasses full. Surprisingly McCluskey did not drink. “I must be the only Irishman who don’t take the booze,” he said. “I seen too many good people get in trouble because of the booze.”

Sollozzo said placatingly to the captain, “I am going to talk Italian to Mike, not because I don’t trust you but because I can’t explain myself properly in English and I want to convince Mike that I mean well, that it’s to everybody’s advantage for us to come to an agreement tonight. Don’t be insulted by this, it’s not that I don’t trust you.”

Captain McCluskey gave them both an ironic grin… “Sure, you two go right ahead,” he said. “I’ll concentrate on my veal and spaghetti.”

Sollozzo began speaking to Michael in rapid Sicilian. He said, “You must understand that what happened between me and your father was strictly a business matter. I have a great respect for Don Corleone and would beg for the opportunity to enter his service. But you must understand that your father is an old-fashioned man. He stands in the way of progress. The business I am in is the coming thing, the wave of the future, there are untold millions of dollars for everyone to make. But your father stands in the way because of certain unrealistic scruples. By doing this he imposes his will on men like myself. Yes, yes, I know, he says to me, ‘Go ahead, it’s your business,’ but we both know that is unrealistic. We must tread on each other’s corns. What he is really telling me is that I cannot operate my business. I am a man who respects himself and cannot let another man impose his will on me so what had to happen did happen. Let me say that I had the support, the silent support of all the New York Families. And the Tattaglia Family became my partners. If this quarrel continues, then the Corleone Family will stand alone against everyone. Perhaps if your father were well, it could be done. But the eldest son is not the man the Godfather is, no disrespect intended. And the Irish Consigliere, Hagen, is not the man Genco Abbandando was, God rest his soul. So I propose a peace, a truce. Let us cease all hostilities until your father is well again and can take part in these bargainings. The Tattaglia Family agrees, upon my persuasions and my indemnities, to forgo justice for their son Bruno. We will have peace. Meanwhile, I have to make a living and will do a little trading in my business. I do not ask your cooperation but I ask you, the Corleone Family, not to interfere. These are my proposals. I assume you have the authority to agree, to make a deal.”

Michael said in Sicilian, “Tell me more about how you propose to start your business, exactly what part my Family has to play in it and what profit we can take from this business.”

“You want the whole proposition in detail then?” Sollozzo asked.

Michael said gravely, “Most important of all I must have sure guarantees that no more attempts will be made on my father’s life.”

Sollozzo raised his hand expressively. “What guarantees can I give you? I’m the hunted one. I’ve missed my chance. You think too highly of me, my friend. I am not that clever.”

Michael was sure now that the conference was only to gain a few days’ time. That Sollozzo would make another attempt to kill the Don. What was beautiful was that the Turk was underrating him as a punk kid. Michael felt that strange delicious chill filling his body. He made his face look distressed. Sollozzo asked sharply, “What is it?”

Michael said with an embarrassed air, “The wine went right to my bladder. I’ve been holding it in. Is it all right if I go to the bathroom?”

Sollozzo was searching his face intently with his dark eyes. He reached over and roughly thrust his hand in Michael’s crotch, under it and around, searching for a weapon. Michael looked offended. McCluskey said curtly, “I frisked him. I’ve frisked thousands of young punks. He’s clean.”

Sollozzo didn’t like it. For no reason at all he didn’t like it. He glanced at the man sitting at a table opposite them and raised his eyebrows toward the door of the bathroom. The man gave a slight nod that he had checked it, that there was nobody inside. Sollozzo said reluctantly, “Don’t take too long.” He had marvelous antenna, he was nervous.

39

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