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Крестным Отцом Метод чтения Ильи Франка Книгу подготовил Илья Франк - старонка 25



Johnny felt a sense of relief. It couldn't be too serious, all Nino had to do was take

care of himself. "You mean in one of those joints where they dry you out?" Johnny

asked.

Jules went over to the bar in the far corner of the room and made himself a drink.

"No," he said. "I mean committed. You know, the crazy house."

"Don't be funny," Johnny said.

188

"I'm not joking," Jules said. "I'm not up on all the psychiatric jazz but I know something

about it, part of my trade. Your friend Nino can be put back into fairly good shape unless

the liver damage has gone too far, which we can't know until an autopsy really. But the

real disease is in his head. In essence he doesn't care if he dies, maybe he even wants

to kill himself. Until that is cured there's no hope for him. That's why I say, have him

committed and then he can undergo the necessary psychiatric treatment."

There was a knock on the door and Johnny went to answer it. It was Lucy Mancini.

She came into Johnny's arms and kissed him. "Oh, Johnny, it's so good to see you,"

she said.

"It's been a long time," Johnny Fontane said. He noticed that Lucy had changed. She

had gotten much slimmer, her clothes were a hell of a lot better and she wore them

better. Her hair style fitted her face in a sort of boyish cut. She looked younger and

better than he had ever seen her and the thought crossed his mind that she could keep

him company here in Vegas. It would be a pleasure hanging out with a real broad. But

before he could turn on the charm he remembered she was the doc's girl. So it was out.

He made his smile just friendly and said, "What are you doing coming to Nino's

apartment at night, eh?"

She punched him in the shoulder. "I heard Nino was sick and that Jules came up. I

just wanted to see if I could help. Nino's OK, isn't he?"

"Sure," Johnny said. "He'll be fine."

Jules Segal had sprawled out on the couch. "Like hell he is," Jules said. "I suggest we

all sit here and wait for Nino to come to. And then we all talk him into committing himself.

Lucy, he likes you, maybe you can help. Johnny, if you're a real friend of his you'll go

along. Otherwise old Nino's liver will shortly be exhibit A in some university medical lab."

Johnny was offended by the doctor's flippant attitude. Who the hell did he think he

was? He started to say so but Nino's voice came from the bed, "Hey, old buddy, how

about a drink?"



Nino was sitting up in bed. He grinned at Lucy and said, "Hey, baby, come to old

189

Nino," He held his arms wide open. Lucy sat on the edge of the bed and gave him a hug.

Oddly enough Nino didn't look bad at all now, almost normal.

Nino snapped his fingers. "Come on, Johnny, gimmee a drink. The night's young yet.

Where the hell's my blackjack table?"

Jules took a long slug from his own glass and said to Nino, "You can't have a drink.

Your doctor forbids it."

Nino scowled. "Screw my doctor." Then a play-acting look of contrition came on his

face. "Hey, Julie, that's you. You're my doctor, right? I don't mean you, old buddy.

Johnny, get me a drink or I get up out of bed and get it myself."

Johnny shrugged and moved toward the bar. Jules said indifferently, "I'm saying he

shouldn't have it."

Johnny knew why Jules irritated him. The doctor's voice was always cool, the words

never stressed no matter how dire, the voice always low and controlled. If he gave a

warning the warning was in the words alone, the voice itself was neutral, as if uncaring.

It was this that made Johnny sore enough to bring Nino his water glass of whiskey.

Before he handed it over he said to Jules, "This won't kill him, right?"

"No, it won't kill him," Jules said calmly. Lucy gave him an anxious glance, started to

say something, then kept still. Meanwhile Nino had taken the whiskey and poured it

down his throat.

Johnny was smiling down at Nino; they had shown the punk doctor. Suddenly Nino

gasped, his face seemed to turn blue, he couldn't catch his breath and was choking for

air. His body leaped upward like a fish, his face was gorged with blood, his eyes bulging.

Jules appeared on the other side of the bed facing Johnny and Lucy. He took Nino by

the neck and held him still and plunged the needle into the shoulder near where it joined

the neck. Nino went limp in his hands, the heaves of his body subsided, and after a

moment he slumped down back onto his pillow. His eyes closed in sleep.

Johnny, Lucy and Jules went back into the living room part of the suite and sat around

the huge solid coffee table. Lucy picked up one of the aquamarine phones and ordered

coffee and some food to be sent up. Johnny had gone over to the bar and mixed himself

a drink.

"Did you know he would have that reaction from the whiskey?" Johnny asked.

Jules shrugged. "I was pretty sure he would."

Johnny said sharply, "Then why didn't you warn me?"

"I warned you," Jules said.



"You didn't warn me right," Johnny said with cold anger. "You are really one hell of a

190

doctor. You don't give a shit. You tell me to get Nino in a crazy house, you don't bother

to use a nice word like sanitorium. You really like to stick it to people, right?"

Lucy was staring down in her lap. Jules kept smiling at Fontane. "Nothing was going

to stop you from giving Nino that drink. You had to show you didn't have to accept my

warnings, my orders. Remember when you offered me a job as your personal physician

after that throat business? I turned you down because I knew we could never get along.

A doctor thinks he's God, he's the high priest in modern society, that's one of his

rewards. But you would never treat me that way. I'd be a flunky God to you. Like those

doctors you guys have in Hollywood. Where do you get those people from anyway?

Christ, don't they know anything or don't they just care? They must know what's

happening to Nino but they just give him all kinds of drugs to keep him going. They wear

those silk suits and they kiss your ass because you're a power movie man and so you

think they are great doctors. Show biz, docs, you gotta have heart? Right? But they

don't give a fuck if you live or die. Well, my little hobby, unforgivable as it is, is to keep

people alive. I let you give Nino that drink to show you what could happen to him." Jules

leaned toward Johnny Fontane, his voice still calm, unemotional. "Your friend is almost

terminal. Do you understand that? He hasn't got a chance without therapy and strict

medical care. His blood pressure and diabetes and bad habits can cause a cerebral

hemorrhage in this very next instant. His brain will blow itself apart. Is that vivid enough

for you? Sure, I said crazy house. I want you to understand what's needed. Or you won't

make a move. I'll put it to you straight. You can save your buddy's life by having him

committed. Otherwise kiss him good-bye."

Lucy murmured, "Jules, darling, Jules, don't be so tough. Just tell him."

Jules stood up. His usual cool was gone, Johnny Fontane noticed with satisfaction.

His voice too had lost its quiet unaccented monotone.

"Do you think this is the first time I've had to talk to people like you in a situation like

this?" Jules said. "I did it every day. Lucy says don't be so tough, but she doesn't know

what she's talking about. You know, I used to tell people, 'Don't eat so much or you'll die,

don't smoke so much or you'll die, don't work so much or you'll die, don't drink so much

or you'll die.' Nobody listens. You know why? Because I don't say, 'You will die

tomorrow.' Well, I can tell you that Nino may very well die tomorrow."

Jules went over to the bar and mixed himself another drink. "How about it, Johnny,

are you going to get Nino committed?"

Johnny said, "I don't know."




191

Jules took a quick drink at the bar and filled his glass again. "You know, it's a funny

thing, you can smoke yourself to death, drink yourself to death, work yourself to death

and even eat yourself to death. But that's all acceptable. The only thing you can't do

medically is screw yourself to death and yet that's where they put all the obstacles." He

paused to finish his drink. "But even that's trouble, for women anyway. I used to have

women who weren't supposed to have any more babies. 'It's dangerous,' I'd tell them.

'You could die,' I'd tell them. And a month later they pop in, their faces all rosy, and say,

'Doctor, I think I'm pregnant,' and sure enough they'd kill the rabbit. 'But it's dangerous,'

I'd tell them. My voice used to have expression in those days. And they'd smile at me

and say, 'But my husband and I are very strict Catholics,' they'd say."

There was a knock on the door and two waiters wheeled in a cart covered with food

and silver service coffeepots. They took a portable table from the bottom of the cart and

set it up. Then Johnny dismissed them.

They sat at the table and ate the hot sandwiches Lucy had ordered and drank the

coffee. Johnny leaned back and lit up a cigarette. "So you save lives. How come you

became an abortionist?"

Lucy spoke up for the first time. "He wanted to help girls in trouble, girls who might

commit suicide or do something dangerous to get rid of the baby."

Jules smiled at her and sighed. "It's not that simple. I became a surgeon finally. I've

got the good hands, as ballplayers say. But I was so good I scared myself silly. I'd open

up some poor bastard's belly and know he was going to die. I'd operate and know that

the cancer or tumor would come back but I'd send them off home with a smile and a lot

of bullshit. Some poor broad comes in and I slice off one tit. A year later she's back and

I slice off the other tit. A year after that, I scoop out her insides like you scoop the seeds

out of a cantaloupe. After all that she dies anyway. Meanwhile husbands keep calling up

and asking, 'What do the tests show? What do the tests show?'

"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

192

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

lines. 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 me 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 together 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 an 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 conscious 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.

193

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 look 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 fell 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.

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