بخش 53کتاب: پدرخوانده / فصل 53
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It had, of course, suffered serious misfortunes. Freddie had proved to be nothing more than an innkeeper and ladies’ man, the idiom for ladies’ man untranslatable but connotating a greedy infant always at its mother’s nipple–in short, unmanly. Sonny’s death too, had been a disaster. Sonny had been a man to be feared, not to be taken lightly. Of course he had made a mistake in sending his younger brother, Michael, to kill the Turk and the police captain. Though necessary in a tactical sense, as a long-term strategy it proved to be a serious error. It had forced the Don, eventually, to rise from his sickbed. It had deprived Michael of two years of valuable experience and training under his father’s tutelage. And of course an Irish as a Consigliere had been the only foolishness the Don had ever perpetrated. No Irishman could hope to equal a Sicilian for cunning. So went the opinion of all the Families and they were naturally more respectful to the Barzini-Tattaglia alliance than to the Corleones. Their opinion of Michael was that he was not equal to Sonny in force though more intelligent certainly, but not as intelligent as his father. A mediocre successor and a man not to be feared too greatly.
Also, though the Don was generally admired for his statesmanship in making the peace, the fact that he had not avenged Sonny’s murder lost the Family a great deal of respect. It was recognized that such statesmanship sprang out of weakness.
All this was known to the men sitting in the room and perhaps even believed by a few. Carlo Rizzi liked Michael but did not fear him as he had feared Sonny. Clemenza, too, though he gave Michael credit for a bravura performance with the Turk and the police captain, could not help thinking Michael too soft to be a Don. Clemenza had hoped to be given permission to form his own Family, to have his own empire split away from the Corleone. But the Don had indicated that this was not to be and Clemenza respected the Don too much to disobey. Unless of course the whole situation became intolerable.
Tessio had a better opinion of Michael. He sensed something else in the young man: a force cleverly kept hidden, a man jealously guarding his true strength from public gaze, following the Don’s precept that a friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemy overestimate your faults.
The Don himself and Tom Hagen were of course under no illusions about Michael. The Don would never have retired if he had not had absolute faith in his son’s ability to retrieve the Family position. Hagen had been Michael’s teacher for the last two years and was amazed at how quickly Michael grasped all the intricacies of the Family business. Truly his father’s son.
Clemenza and Tessio were annoyed with Michael because he had reduced the strength of their regimes and had never reconstituted Sonny’s regime. The Corleone Family, in effect, had now only two fighting divisions with less personnel than formerly. Clemenza and Tessio considered this suicidal, especially with the Barzini-Tattaglia encroachments on their empires. So now they were hopeful these errors might be corrected at this extraordinary meeting convened by the Don.
Michael started off by telling them about his trip to Vegas and Moe Greene’s refusing the offer to buy him out. “But we’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse,” Michael said. “You already know the Corleone Family plans to move its operations West. We’ll have four of the hotel casinos on the Strip. But it can’t be right away. We need time to get things straightened out.” He spoke directly to Clemenza. “Pete, you and Tessio, I want you to go along with me for a year without questioning and without reservations. At the end of that year, both of you can split off from the Corleone Family and be your own bosses, have your own Families. Of course it goes without saying we’d maintain our friendship, I wouldn’t insult you and your respect for my father by thinking otherwise for a minute. But up until that time I want you just to follow my lead and don’t worry. There are negotiations going on that will solve problems that you think are not solvable. So just be a little patient.” Tessio spoke up. “If Moe Greene wanted to talk to your father, why not let him? The Don could always persuade anybody, there was never anyone who could stand up to his reasonableness.”
The Don answered this directly. “I’ve retired. Michael would lose respect if I interfered. And besides that’s a man I’d rather not talk to.”
Tessio remembered the stories he’d heard about Moe Greene slapping Freddie Corleone around one night in the Vegas hotel. He began to smell a rat. He leaned back. Moe Greene was a dead man, he thought. The Corleone Family did not wish to persuade him.
Carlo Rizzi spoke up. “Is the Corleone Family going to stop operating in New York altogether?”
Michael nodded. “We’re selling the olive oil business. Everything we can, we turn over to Tessio and Clemenza. But, Carlo, I don’t want you to worry about your job. You grew up in Nevada, you know the state, you know the people. I’m counting on you being my right-hand man when we make our move out there.” Carlo leaned back, his face flushed with gratification. His time was coming, he would move in the constellations of power.
Michael went on. “Tom Hagen is no longer the Consigliere. He’s going to be our lawyer in Vegas. In about two months he’ll move out there permanently with his family. Strictly as a lawyer. Nobody goes to him with any other business as of now, this minute. He’s a lawyer and that’s all. No reflection on Tom. That’s the way I want it. Besides, if I ever need any advice, who’s a better counselor than my father?” They all laughed. But they had gotten the message despite the joke. Tom Hagen was out; he no longer held any power. They all took their fleeting glances to check Hagen’s reaction but his face was impassive.
Clemenza spoke up in his fat man’s wheeze. “Then in a year’s time we’re on our own, is that it?”
“Maybe less,” Michael said courteously. “Of course you can always remain part of the Family, that’s your choice. But most of our strength will be out West and maybe you’d do better organized on your own.”
Tessio said quietly, “In that case I think you should give us permission to recruit new men for our regimes. Those Barzini bastards keep chiseling in on my territory. I think maybe it would be wise to teach them a little lesson in manners.”
Michael shook his head. “No. No good. Just stay still. All that stuff will be negotiated, everything will be straightened out before we leave.”
Tessio was not to be so easily satisfied. He spoke to the Don directly, taking a chance on incurring Michael’s ill will. “Forgive me, Godfather, let our years of friendship be my excuse. But I think you and your son are all wrong with this Nevada business. How can you hope for success there without your strength here to back you up? The two go hand in hand. And with you gone from here the Barzini and the Tattaglia will be too strong for us. Me and Pete will have trouble, we’ll come under their thumb sooner or later. And Barzini is a man not to my taste. I say the Corleone Family has to make its move from strength, not from weakness. We should build up our regimes and take back our lost territories in Staten Island at least.” The Don shook his head. “I made the peace, remember, I can’t go back on my word.”
Tessio refused to be silenced. “Everybody knows Barzini gave you provocation since then. And besides, if Michael is the new chief of the Corleone Family, what’s to stop him from taking any action he sees fit? Your word doesn’t strictly bind him.” Michael broke in sharply. He said to Tessio, very much the chief now, “There are things being negotiated which will answer your questions and resolve your doubts. If my word isn’t enough for you, ask your Don.”
But Tessio understood he had finally gone too far. If he dared to question the Don he would make Michael his enemy. So he shrugged and said, “I spoke for the good of the Family, not for myself. I can take care of myself.”
Michael gave him a friendly smile. “Tessio, I never doubt you in any way. I never did. But trust in me. Of course I’m. not equal to you and Pete in these things, but after all I’ve my father to guide me. I won’t do too badly, we’ll all come out fine.” The meeting was over. The big news was that Clemenza and Tessio would be permitted to form their own Families from their regimes. Tessio would have his gambling and docks in Brooklyn, Clemenza the gambling in Manhattan and the Family contacts in the racing tracks of Long Island.
The two caporegimes left not quite satisfied, still a little uneasy. Carlo Rizzi lingered hoping that the time had come when he finally would be treated as one of the family, but he quickly saw that Michael was not of that mind. He left the Don, Tom Hagen and Michael alone in the corner library room. Albert Neri ushered him out of the house and Carlo noticed that Neri stood in the doorway watching him walk across the floodlit mall.
In the library the three men had relaxed as only people can who have lived years together in the same house, in the same family. Michael served some anisette to the Don and scotch to Tom Hagen. He took a drink for. himself, which he rarely did.
Tom Hagen spoke up first. “Mike, why are you cutting me out of the action?”
Michael seemed surprised. “You’ll be my number one man in Vegas. We’ll be legitimate all the way and you’re the legal man. What can be more important than that?”
Hagen smiled a little sadly. “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about Rocco Lampone building a secret regime without my knowledge. I’m talking about you dealing direct with Neri rather than through me or a caporegime. Unless of course you don’t know what Lampone’s doing.” Michael said softly, “How did you find out about Lampone’s regime?”
Hagen shrugged. “Don’t worry, there’s no leak, nobody else knows. But in my position I can see what’s happening. You gave Lampone his own living, you gave him a lot of freedom. So he needs people to help him in his little empire. But everybody he recruits has to be reported to me. And I notice everybody he puts on the payroll is a little too good for that particular job, is getting a little more money than that particular exercise is worth. You picked the right man when you picked Lampone, by the way. He’s operating perfectly.” Michael grimaced. “Not so damn perfect if you noticed. Anyway the Don picked Lampone.”
“OK,” Tom said, “so why am I cut out of the action?”
Michael faced him and without flinching gave it to him straight. “Tom, you’re not a wartime Consigliere. Things may get tough with this move we’re trying to make and we may have to fight. And I want to get you out of the line of fire too, just in case.” Hagen’s face reddened. If the Don had told him the same thing, he would have accepted it humbly. But where the hell did Mike come off making such a snap judgment?
“OK,” he said, “but I happen to agree with Tessio. I think you’re going about this all wrong. You’re making the move out of weakness, not strength. That’s always bad. Barzini is like a wolf, and if he tears you limb from limb, the other Families won’t come rushing to help the Corleones.” The Don finally spoke. “Tom, it’s not just Michael. I advised him on these matters. There are things that may have to be done that I don’t want in any way to be responsible for. That is my wish, not Michael’s. I never thought you were a bad Consigliere, I thought Santino a bad Don, may his soul rest in peace. He had a good heart but he wasn’t the right man to head the Family when I had my little misfortune. And who would have thought that Fredo would become a lackey of women? So don’t feel badly. Michael has all my confidence as you do. For reasons which you can’t know, you must have no part in what may happen. By the way, I told Michael that Lampone’s secret regime would not escape your eye. So that shows I have faith in you.” Michael laughed. “I honestly didn’t think you’d pick that up, Tom.”
Hagen knew he was being mollified. “Maybe I can help,” he said.
Michael shook his head decisively. “You’re out, Tom.”
Tom finished his drink and before he left he gave Michael a mild reproof. “You’re nearly as good as your father,” he told Michael. “But there’s one thing you still have to learn.”
“What’s that?” Michael said politely.
“How to say no,” Hagen answered.
Michael nodded gravely. “You’re right,” he said. “I’ll remember that.”
When Hagen had left, Michael said jokingly to his father, “So you’ve taught me everything else. Tell me how to say no to people in a way they’ll like.”
The Don moved to sit behind the big desk. “You cannot say ‘no’ to the people you love, not often. That’s the secret. And then when you do, it has to sound like a ‘yes.’ Or you have to make them say ‘no.’ You have to take time and trouble. But I’m old-fashioned, you’re the new modem generation, don’t listen to me.” Michael laughed. “Right. You agree about Tom being out, though, don’t you?”
The Don nodded. “He can’t be involved in this.”
Michael said quietly, “I think it’s time for me to tell you that what I’m going to do is not purely out of vengeance for Apollonia and Sonny. It’s the right thing to do. Tessio and Tom are right about the Barzinis.”
Don Corleone nodded. “Revenge is a dish that tastes best when it is cold,” he said. “I would not have made that peace but that I knew you would never come home alive otherwise. I’m surprised, though, that Barzini still made a last try at you. Maybe it was arranged before the peace talk and he couldn’t stop it. Are you sure they were not after Don Tommasino?” Michael said, “That’s the way it was supposed to look. And it would have been perfect, even you would never have suspected. Except that I came out alive. I saw Fabrizzio going through the gate, running away. And of course I’ve checked it all out since I’ve been back.” “Have they found that shepherd?” the Don asked.
“I found him,” Michael said. “I found him a year ago. He’s got his own little pizza place up in Buffalo. New name, phony passport and identification. He’s doing very well is Fabrizzio the shepherd.”
The Don nodded. “So it’s to no purpose to wait any longer. When will you start?”
Michael said, “I want to wait until after Kay has the baby. Just in case anything goes wrong. And I want Tom settled in Vegas so he won’t be concerned in the affair. I think a year from now.”
“You’ve prepared for everything?” the Don asked. He did not look at Michael when he said this.
Michael said gently, “You have no part. You’re not responsible. I take all responsibility. I would refuse to let you even veto. If you tried to do that now, I would leave the Family and go my own way. You’re not responsible.”
The Don was silent for a long time and then he sighed. He said, “So be it. Maybe that’s why I retired, maybe that’s why I’ve turned everything over to you. I’ve done my share in life, I haven’t got the heart anymore. And there are some duties the best of men can’t assume. That’s it then.” During that year Kay Adams Corleone was delivered of a second child, another boy. She delivered easily, without any trouble whatsoever, and was welcomed back to the mall like a royal princess. Connie Corleone presented the baby with a silk layette handmade in Italy, enormously expensive and beautiful. She told Kay, “Carlo found it. He shopped all over New York to get something extra special after I couldn’t find anything I really liked.” Kay smiled her thanks, understood immediately that she was to tell Michael this fine tale. She was on her way to becoming a Sicilian.
Also during that year, Nino Valenti died of a cerebral hemorrhage. His death made the front pages of the tabloids because the movie Johnny Fontane had featured him in had opened a few weeks before and was a smash hit, establishing Nino as a major star. The papers mentioned that Johnny Fontane was handling the funeral arrangements, that the funeral would be private, only family and close friends to attend. One sensational story even claimed that in an interview Johnny Fontane had blamed himself for his friend’s death, that he should have forced his friend to place himself under medical care, but the reporter made it sound like the usual self-reproach of the sensitive but innocent bystander to a tragedy. Johnny Fontane had made his childhood friend, Nino Valenti, a movie star and what more could a friend do?
No member of the Corleone Family attended the California funeral except Freddie. Lucy and Jules Segal attended. The Don himself had wanted to go to California but had suffered a slight heart attack, which kept him in his bed for a month. He sent a huge floral wreath instead. Albert Neri was also sent West as the official representative of the Family.
Two days after Nino’s funeral, Moe Greene was shot to death in the Hollywood home of his movie-star mistress; Albert Neri did not reappear in New York until almost a month later. He had taken his vacation in the Caribbean and returned to duty tanned almost black. Michael Corleone welcomed him with a smile and a few words of praise, which included the information that Neri would from then on receive an extra “living,” the Family income from an East Side “book” considered especially rich. Neri was content, satisfied that he lived in a world that properly rewarded a man who did his duty.
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