بخش 23

کتاب: پدرخوانده / فصل 23

بخش 23

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Tom Hagen’s voice was cool. “Johnny, the Godfather wants me to come out and see you and set some things up that can help you out now that the picture is finished. He wants me to catch the morning plane. Can you meet it in Los Angeles? I have to fly back to New York the same night so you won’t have to worry about keeping your night free for me.” “Sure, Tom,” Johnny said. “And don’t worry about me losing a night. Stay over and relax a bit. I’ll throw a party and you can meet some movie people.” He always made that offer, he didn’t want the folks from his old neighborhood to think he was ashamed of them.

“Thanks,” Hagen said, “but I really have to catch the early morning plane back. OK, you’ll meet the eleven-thirty A.M. out of New York?”

“Sure,” Johnny said.

“Stay in your car,” Hagen said. “Send one of your people to meet me when I get off the plane and bring me to you.”

“Right,” Johnny said.

He went back to the living room and Ginny looked at him inquiringly. “My Godfather has some plan for me, to help me out,” Johnny said. “He got me the part in the movie, I don’t know how. But I wish he’d stay out of the rest of it.”

He went back onto the sofa. He felt very tired. Ginny said, “Why don’t you sleep in the guest bedroom tonight instead of going home? You can have breakfast with the kids and you won’t have to drive home so late. I hate to think of you all alone in that house of yours anyway. Don’t you get lonely?” “I don’t stay home much,” Johnny said.

She laughed and said, “Then you haven’t changed much.” She paused and then said, “Shall I fix up the other bedroom?”

Johnny said, “Why can’t I sleep in your bedroom?”

She flushed. “No,” she said. She smiled at him and he smiled back. They were still friends.

When Johnny woke up the next morning it was late, he could tell by the sun coming in through the drawn blinds. It never came in that way unless it was in the afternoon. He yelled, “Hey, Ginny, do I still rate breakfast?” And far away he heard her voice call, “Just a second.” And it was just a second. She must have had everything ready, hot in the oven, the tray waiting to be loaded, because as Johnny lit his first cigarette of the day, the door of the bedroom opened and his two small daughters came in wheeling the breakfast cart.

They were so beautiful it broke his heart. Their faces were shining and clear, their eyes alive with curiosity and the eager desire to run to him. They wore their hair braided old-fashioned in long pigtails and they wore old-fashioned frocks and white patent-leather shoes. They stood by the breakfast cart watching him as he stubbed out his cigarette and waited for him to call and hold his arms wide. Then they came running to him. He pressed his face between their two fresh fragrant cheeks and scraped them with his beard so that they shrieked. Ginny appeared in the bedroom door and wheeled the breakfast cart the rest of the way so that he could eat in bed. She sat beside him on the edge of the bed, pouring his coffee, buttering his toast. The two young daughters sat on the bedroom couch watching him. They were too old now for pillow fights or to be tossed around. They were already smoothing their mussed hair. Oh, Christ, he thought, pretty soon they’ll be all grown up, Hollywood punks will be out after them.

He shared his toast and bacon with them as he ate, gave them sips of coffee. It was a habit left over from when he had been singing with the band and rarely ate with them so they liked to share his food when he had his odd-hour meals like afternoon breakfasts or morning suppers. The change-around in food delighted them–to eat steak and french fries at seven in the morning, bacon and eggs in the afternoon.

Only Ginny and a few of his close friends knew how much he idolized his daughters. That had been the worst thing about the divorce and leaving home. The one thing he had fought about, and for, was his position as a father to them. In a very sly way he had made Ginny understand he would not be pleased by her remarrying, not because he was jealous of her, but because he was jealous of his position as a father. He had arranged the money to be paid to her so it would be enormously to her advantage financially not to remarry. It was understood that she could have lovers as long as they were not introduced into her home life. But on this score he had absolute faith in her. She had always been amazingly shy and old-fashioned in s@x. The Hollywood gigolos had batted zero when they started swarming around her, sniffing for the financial settlement and the favors they could get from her famous husband.

He had no fear that she expected a reconciliation because he had wanted to sleep with her the night before. Neither one of them wanted to renew their old marriage. She understood his hunger for beauty, his irresistible impulse toward young women far more beautiful than she. It was known that he always slept with his movie co-stars at least once. His boyish charm was irresistible to them, as their beauty was to him.

“You’ll have to start getting dressed pretty soon,” Ginny said. “Tom’s plane will be getting in.” She shooed the daughters out of the room.

“Yeah,” Johnny said. “By the way, Ginny, you know I’m getting divorced? I’m gonna be a free man again.”

She watched him getting dressed. He always kept fresh clothes at her house ever since they had come to their new arrangement after the wedding of Don Corleone’s daughter. “Christmas is only two weeks away,” she said. “Shall I plan on you being here?”

It was the first time he had even thought about the holidays. When his voice was in shape, holidays were lucrative singing dates but even then Christmas was sacred. If he missed this one, it would be the second one. Last year he had been courting his second wife in Spain, trying to get her to marry him.

“Yeah,” he said. “Christmas Eve and Christmas.” He didn’t mention New Year’s Eve. That would be one of the wild nights he needed every once in a while, to get drunk with his friends, and he didn’t want a wife along then. He didn’t feel guilty about it.

She helped him put on his jacket and brushed it off. He was always fastidiously neat. She could see him frowning because the shirt he had put on was not laundered to his taste, the cuff links, a pair he had not worn for some time, were a little too loud for the way he liked to dress now. She laughed softly and said, “Tom won’t notice the difference.” The three women of the family walked him to the door and out on the driveway to his car. The two little girls held his hands, one on each side. His wife walked a little behind him. She was getting pleasure out of how happy he looked. When he reached his car he turned around and swung each girl in turn high up in the air and kissed her on the way down. Then he kissed his wife and got into the car. He never liked drawn-out good-byes.

Arrangements had been made by his PR man and aide. At his house a chauffeured car was waiting, a rented car. In it were the PR man and another member of his entourage. Johnny parked his car and hopped in and they were on their way to the airport. He waited inside the car while the PR man went out to meet Tom Hagen’s plane. When Tom got into the car they shook hands and drove back to his house.

Finally he and Tom were alone in the living room. There was a coolness between them. Johnny had never forgiven Hagen for acting as a barrier to his getting in touch with the Don when the Don was angry with him, in those bad days before Connie’s wedding. Hagen never made excuses for his actions. He could not. It was part of his job to act as a lightning rod for resentments which people were too awed to feel toward the Don himself though he had earned them.

“Your Godfather sent me out here to give you a hand on some things,” Hagen said. “I wanted to get it out of the way before Christmas.”

Johnny Fontane shrugged. “The picture is finished. The director was a square guy and treated me right. My scenes are too important to be left on the cutting-room floor just for Woltz to pay me off. He can’t ruin a ten-million-dollar picture. So now everything depends on how good people think I am in the movie.” Hagen said cautiously, “Is winning this Academy Award so terribly important to an actor’s career, or is it just the usual publicity crap that really doesn’t mean anything one way or the other?” He paused and added hastily, “Except of course the glory, everybody likes glory.” Johnny Fontane grinned at him. “Except my Godfather. And you. No, Tom, it’s not a lot of crap. An Academy Award can make an actor for ten years. He can get his pick of roles. The public goes to see him. It’s not everything, but for an actor it’s the most important thing in the business. I’m counting on winning it. Not because I’m such a great actor but because I’m known primarily as a singer and the part is foolproof. And I’m pretty good too, no kidding.” Tom Hagen shrugged and said, “Your Godfather tells me that the way things stand now, you don’t have a chance of winning the award.”

Johnny Fontane was angry. “What the hell are you talking about? The picture hasn’t even been cut yet, much less shown. And the Don isn’t even in the movie business. Why the hell did you fly the three thousand miles just to tell me that sh@t?” He was so shaken he was almost in tears.

Hagen said worriedly, “Johnny, I don’t know a damn thing about all this movie stuff. Remember, I’m just a messenger boy for the Don. But we have discussed this whole business of yours many times. He worries about you, about your future. He feels you still need his help and he wants to settle your problem once and for all. That’s why I’m here now, to get things rolling. But you have to start growing up, Johnny. You have to stop thinking about yourself as a singer or an actor. You’ve got to start thinking about yourself as a prime mover, as a guy with muscle.” Johnny Fontane laughed and filled his glass. “If I don’t win that Oscar I’ll have as much muscle as one of my daughters. My voice is gone; if I had that back I could make some moves. Oh, hell. How does my Godfather know I won’t win it? OK, I believe he knows. He’s never been wrong.” Hagen lit a thin cigar. “We got the word that Jack Woltz won’t spend studio money to support your candidacy. In fact he’s sent the word out to everybody who votes that he does not want you to win. But holding back the money for ads and all that may do it. He’s also arranging to have one other guy get as much of the opposition votes as he can swing. He’s using all sorts of bribes–jobs, money, broads, everything. And he’s trying to do it without hurting the picture or hurting it as little as possible.” Johnny Fontane shrugged. He filled his glass with whiskey and downed it. “Then I’m dead.”

Hagen was watching him with his mouth curled up with distaste. “Drinking won’t help your voice,” he said.

“fu@k you,” Johnny said.

Hagen’s face suddenly became smoothly impassive. Then he said, “OK, I’ll keep this purely business.”

Johnny Fontane put his drink down and went over to stand in front of Hagen. “I’m sorry I said that, Tom,” he said. “Christ, I’m sorry. I’m taking it out on you because I wanta kill that bastard Jack Woltz and I’m afraid to tell off my Godfather. So I get sore at you.” There were tears in his eyes. He threw the empty whiskey glass against the wall but so weakly that the heavy shot glass did not even shatter and rolled along the floor back to him so that he looked down at it in baffled fury. Then he laughed. “Jesus Christ,” he said.

He walked over to the other side of the room and sat opposite Hagen. “You know, I had everything my own way for a long time. Then I divorced Ginny and everything started going sour. I lost my voice. My records stopped selling. I didn’t get any more movie work. And then my Godfather got sore at me and wouldn’t talk to me on the phone or see me when I came into New York. You were always the guy barring the path and I blamed you, but I knew you wouldn’t do it without orders from the Don. But you can’t get sore at him. It’s like getting sore at God. So I curse you. But you’ve been right all along the line. And to show you I mean my apology I’m taking your advice. No more booze until I get my voice back. OK?” The apology was sincere. Hagen forgot his anger. There must be something to this thirty-five-year-old boy or the Don would not be so fond of him. He said, “Forget it, Johnny.” He was embarrassed at the depth of Johnny’s feeling and embarrassed by the suspicion that it might have been inspired by fear, fear that he might turn the Don against him. And of course the Don could never be turned by anyone for any reason. His affection was mutable only by himself.

“Things aren’t so bad,” he told Johnny. “The Don says he can cancel out everything Woltz does against you. That you will almost certainly win the Award. But he feels that won’t solve your problem. He wants to know if you have the brains and balls to become a producer on your own, make your own movies from top to bottom.” “How the hell is he going to get me the Award?” Johnny asked incredulously.

Hagen said sharply, “How do you find it so easy to believe that Woltz can finagle it and your Godfather can’t? Now since it’s necessary to get your faith for the other part of our deal I must tell you this. Just keep it to yourself. Your Godfather is a much more powerful man than Jack Woltz. And he is much more powerful in areas far more critical. How can he swing the Award? He controls, or controls the people who control, all the labor unions in the industry, all the people or nearly all the people who vote. Of course you have to be good, you have to be in contention on your own merits. And your Godfather has more brains than Jack Woltz. He doesn’t go up to these people and put a gun to their heads and say, ‘Vote for Johnny Fontane or you are out of a job.’ He doesn’t strong-arm where strong-arm doesn’t work or leaves too many hard feelings. He’ll make those people vote for you because they want to. But they won’t want to unless he takes an interest. Now just take my word for it that he can get you the Award. And that if he doesn’t do it, you won’t get it.” “OK,” Johnny said. “I believe you. And I have the balls and brains to be a producer but I don’t have the money. No bank would finance me. It takes millions to support a movie.”

Hagen said dryly, “When you get the Award, start making plans to produce three of your own movies. Hire the best people in the business, the best technicians, the best stars, whoever you need. Plan on three to five movies.”

“You’re crazy,” Johnny said. “That many movies could mean twenty million bucks.”

“When you need the money,” Hagen said, “get in touch with me. I’ll give you the name of the bank out here in California to ask for financing. Don’t worry, they finance movies all the time. Just ask them for the money in the ordinary way, with the proper justifications, like a regular business deal. They will approve. But first you have to see me and tell me the figures and the plans. OK?” Johnny was silent for a long time. Then he said quietly, “Is there anything else?”

Hagen smiled. “You mean, do you have to do any favors in return for a loan of twenty million dollars? Sure you will.” He waited for Johnny to say something…Nothing you wouldn’t do anyway if the Don asked you to do it for him.”

Johnny said, “The Don has to ask me himself if it’s something serious, you know what I mean? I won’t take your word or Sonny’s for it.”

Hagen was surprised by this good sense. Fontane had some brains after all. He had sense to know that the Don was too fond of him, and too smart, to ask him to do something foolishly dangerous, whereas Sonny might. He said to Johnny, “Let me reassure you on one thing. Your Godfather has given me and Sonny strict instructions not to involve you in any way in anything that might get you bad publicity through our fault. And he will never do that himself. I guarantee you that any favor he asks of you, you will offer to do before he requests it. OK?” Johnny smiled. “OK,” he said.

Hagen said, “ Also he has faith in you. He thinks you have brains and so he hildres the bank will make money on the investment, which means he will make money on it. So it’s really a business deal, never forget that. Don’t go screwing around with the money. You may be his favorite godson but twenty million bucks is a lot of dough. He has to stick his neck out to make sure you get it.” “Tell him not to worry,” Johnny said. “If a guy like Jack Woltz can be a big movie genius, anybody can.”

“That’s what your Godfather figures,” Hagen said. “Can you have me driven back to the airport? I’ve said all I have to say. When you do start signing contracts for everything, hire your own lawyers, I won’t be in on it. But I’d like to see everything before you sign, if that’s OK with you. Also, you’ll never have any labor troubles. That will cut costs on your pictures to some extent, so when the accountants lump some of that in, disregard those figures.”

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