《教父》有声名著第十四章(04)

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2010-8-25 15:59

《教父》有声名著第十四章(04)

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教父是1969年美国出版的长篇小说,是美国出版史上的头号畅销书,早在七十年代初就已经拍成电影,发行世界各国,到普遍的欢迎美国纽约五大黑势力集团之一的维托•考利昂一家采用多种极端手段,实现了在整个美国黑势力团体中的独尊地位。在这场斗争中有黑团伙之间的火拼;有走私贩毒的嚣浪;有赌场的烟云;有红灯区的人欲横流。本书被认为是描写资本主义社会中黑社会现象的最具权威的作品

这是美国作家马里奥普佐 (Mario Puzo)成名小说《教父》(The Godfather)的有声读物和电子书,不是电影录音。



Chapter 14
(4)
Vito Corleone took a roll of bills out of his pocket and peeled off three tens. "Here is the six months' increase in advance. You needn't speak to her about it, she's a proud woman. See me again in another six months. But of course you'll let her keep her dog."

"Like hell," Mr. Roberto said. "And who the hell are you to give me orders. Watch your manners or you'll be out on your Sicilian ass in the street there."

Vito Corleone raised his hands in surprise. "I'm asking you a favor, only that. One never knows when one might need a friend, isn't that true? Here, take this money as a sign of my goodwill and make your own decision. I wouldn't dare to quarrel with it." He thrust the money into Mr. Roberto's hand. "Do me this little favor, just take the money and think things over. Tomorrow morning if you want to give me the money back by all means do so. If you want the woman out of your house, how can I stop you? It's your property, after all. If you don't want the dog in there, I can understand. I dislike animals myself." He patted Mr. Roberto on the shoulder. "Do me this service, eh? I won't forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me, they'll tell you I'm a man who believes in showing his gratitude."

But of course Mr. Roberto had already begun to understand. That evening he made inquiries about Vito Corleone. He did not wait until the next morning. He knocked on the Corleone door that very night, apologizing for the lateness of the hour and accepted a glass of wine from Signora Corleone. He assured Vito Corleone that it had all been a dreadful misunderstanding, that of course Signora Colombo could remain in the flat, of course she could keep her dog. Who were those miserable tenants to complain about noise from a poor animal when they paid such a low rent? At the finish he threw the thirty dollars Vito Corleone had given him on the table and said in the most sincere fashion, "Your good heart in helping this poor widow has shamed me and I wish to show that I, too, have some Christian charity. Her rent will remain what it was."

All concerned played this comedy prettily. Vito poured wine, called for cakes, wrung Mr. Roberto's hand and praised his warm heart. Mr. Roberto sighed and said that having made the acquaintance of such a man as Vito Corleone restored his faith in human nature. Finally they tore themselves away from each other. Mr. Roberto, his bones turned to jelly with fear at his narrow escape, caught the streetcar to his home in the Bronx and took to his bed. He did not reappear in his tenements for three days.

Vito Corleone was now a "man of respect" in the neighborhood. He was reputed to be a member of the Mafia of Sicily. One day a man who ran card games in a furnished room came to him and voluntarily paid him twenty dollars each week for his "friendship." He had only to visit the game once or twice a week to let the players understand they were under his protection.

Store owners who had problems with young hoodlums asked him to intercede. He did so and was properly rewarded. Soon he had the enormous income for that time and place of one hundred dollars a week. Since Clemenza and Tessio were his friends, his allies, he had to give them each part of the money, but this he did without being asked. Finally he decided to go into the olive oil, importing business with his boyhood chum, Genco Abbandundo. Genco would handle the business, the importing of the olive oil from Italy, the buying at the proper price, the storing in his father's warehouse. Genco had the experience for this part of the business. Clemenza and Tessio would be the salesmen. They would go to every Italian grocery store in Manhattan, then Brooklyn, then the Bronx, to persuade store owners to stock Genco Pura olive oil. (With typical modesty, Vito Corleone refused to name the brand after himself.) Vito of course would be the head of the firm since he was supplying most of the capital. He also would be called in on special cases, where store owners resisted the sales talks of Clemenza and Tessio. Then Vito Corleone would use his own formidable powers of persuasion.

For the next few years Vito Corleone lived that completely satisfying life of a small businessman wholly devoted to building up his commercial enterprise in a dynamic, expanding economy. He was a devoted father and husband but so busy he could spare his family little of his time. As Genco Pura olive oil grew to become the bestselling imported Italian oil in America, his organization mushroomed. Like any good salesman he came to understand the benefits of undercutting his rivals in price, barring them from distribution outlets by persuading store owners to stock less of their brands. Like any good businessman he aimed at holding a monopoly by forcing his rivals to abandon the field or by merging with his own company. However, since he had started off relatively helpless, economically, since he did not believe in advertising, relying on word of mouth and since if truth be told, his olive oil was no better than his competitors', he could not use the common strangleholds of legitimate businessmen. He had to rely on the force of his own personality and his reputation as a "man of respect."

Even as a young man, Vito Corleone became known as a "man of reasonableness." He never uttered a threat. He always used logic that proved to be irresistible. He always made certain that the other fellow got his share of profit. Nobody lost. He did this, of course, by obvious means. Like many businessmen of genius he learned that free competition was wasteful, monopoly efficient. And so he simply set about achieving that efficient monopoly. There were some oil wholesalers is Brooklyn, men of fiery temper, headstrong, not amenable to reason, who refused to see, to recognize, the vision of Vito Corleone, even after he had explained everything to them with the utmost patience and detail. With these men Vito Corleone threw up his hands is despair and sent Tessio to Brooklyn to set up a headquarters and solve the problem. Warehouses were burned, truckloads of olive-green oil were dumped to form lakes in the cobbled waterfront streets. One rash man, an arrogant Milanese with more faith in the police than a saint has in Christ, actually went to the authorities with a complaint against his fellow Italians, breaking the ten-century-old law, of omerta. But before the matter could progress any further the wholesaler disappeared, never to be seen again, leaving behind, deserted, his devoted wife and three children, who, God be thanked, were fully grown and capable of taking over his business and coming to terms with the Genco Pura oil company.

But great men are not born great, they grow great, and so it was with Vito Corleone. When prohibition came to pass and alcohol forbidden to be sold, Vito Corleone made the final step from a quite ordinary, somewhat ruthless businessman to a great Don in the world of criminal enterprise. It did not happen in a day, it did not happen in a year, but by the end of the Prohibition period and the start of the Great Depression, Vito Corleone had become the Godfather, the Don, Don Corleone.

It started casually enough. By this time the Genco Pura Oil Company had a fleet of six delivery trucks. Through Clemenza, Vito Corleone was approached by a group of Italian bootleggers who smuggled alcohol and whiskey in from Canada. They needed trucks and deliverymen to distribute their produce over New York City. They needed deliverymen who were reliable, discreet and of a certain determination and force. They were willing to pay Vito Corleone for his trucks and for his men. The fee was so enormous that Vito Corleone cut back drastically on his oil business to use the trucks almost exclusively for the service of the bootlegger-smugglers. This despite the fact that these gentlemen had accompanied their offer with a silky threat. But even then Vito Carleone was so mature a man that he did not take insult at a threat or become angry and refuse a profitable offer because of it. He evaluated the threat, found it lacking in conviction, and lowered his opinion of his new partners because they had been so stupid to use threats where none were needed. This was useful information to be pondered at its proper time.

Again he prospered. But, more important, he acquired knowledge and contacts and experience. And he piled up good deeds as a banker piles up securities. For in the following years it became clear that Vito Corleone was not only a man of talent but, in his way, a genius.

He made himself the protector of the Italian families who set themselves up as small speakeasies in their homes, selling whiskey at fifteen cents a glass to bachelor laborers. He became godfather t Mrs. Colombo's youngest son when the lad made his confirmation and gave a handsome present of a twenty-dollar gold piece. Meanwhile, since it was inevitable that some of his trucks be stopped by the police, Genco Abbandando hired a fine lawyer with many contacts in the Police Department and the judiciary. A system of payoffs was set up and soon the Corleone organization had a sizable "sheet," the list of officials entitled to a monthly sum. When the lawyer tried to keep this list down, apologizing for the expense, Vito Corleone reassured him. "No; no," he said. "Get everyone on it even if they can't help us right now. I believe in friendship and I am willing to show my friendship first."

As time went by the Corleone empire became larger, more trucks were added, the "sheet" grew longer. Also the men working directly for Tessio and Clemenza grew in number. The whole thing was becoming unwieldy. Finally Vito Corleone worked out a system of organization. He gave Clemenza and Tessio each the title of Caporegime, or captain, and the men who worked beneath them the rank of soldier. He named Genco Abbandando his counselor, or Consigliere. He put layers of insulation between himself and any operational act. When he gave an order it was to Genco or to one of the caporegimes alone. Rarely did he have a witness to any order he gave any particular one of them. Then he split Tessio's group and made it responsible for Brooklyn. He also split Tessio off from Clemenza and made it clear over the years that he did not want the two men to associate even socially except when absolutely necessary. He explained this to the more intelligent Tessio, who caught his drift immediately, though Vito explained it as a security measure against the law. Tessio understood that Vito did not want his two caporegimes to have any opportunity to conspire against him and he also understood there was no ill will involved, merely a tactical precaution. In return Vito gave Tessio a free hand in Brooklyn while he kept Clemenza's Bronx life very much under his thumb. Clemenza was the braver, more reckless, the crueler man despite his outward jollity, and needed a tighter rein.

The Great Depression increased the power of Vito Corleone. And indeed it was about that time he came to be called Don Corleone. Everywhere in the city, honest men begged for honest work in vain. Proud men demeaned themselves and their families to accept official charity from a contemptuous officialdom. But the men of Don Corleone walked the streets with their heads held high, their pockets stuffed with silver and paper money. With no fear of losing their jobs. And even Don Corleone, that mgt modest of men, could not help feeling a sense of pride. He was taking care of his world, his people. He had not failed those who depended on him and gave him the sweat of their brows, risked their freedom and their lives in his service. And when an employee of his was arrested and sent to prison by some mischance, that unfortunate man's family received a living allowance; and not a miserly, beggarly, begrudging pittance but the same amount the man earned when free.

This of course was not pure Christian charity. Not his best friends would have called Don Corleone a saint from heaven. There was some self-interest in this generosity. An employee sent to prison knew he had only to keep his mouth shut and his wife and children would be cared for. He knew that if he did not inform to the police a warm welcome would be his when he left prison. There would be a party waiting in his home, the best of food, homemade ravioli, wine, pastries, with all his friends and relatives gathered to rejoice in his freedom. And sometime during the night the Consigliere, Genco Abbandando, or perhaps even the Don himself, would drop by to pay his respects to such a stalwart, take a glass of wine in his honor, and leave a handsome present of money so that he could enjoy a week or two of leisure with his family before returning to his daily toil. Such was the infinite sympathy and understanding of Don Corleone.