Counting the driver, there were four men in the car with Hagen. They put him in the back seat, in the middle of the two men who had come up behind him in the street. Sollozzo sat up front. The man on Hagen’s right reached over across his body and tilted Hagen’s hat over his eyes so that he could not see. “Don’t even move your pinkie,” he said.
It was a short ride, not more than twenty minutes and when they got out of the car Hagen could not recognize the neighborhood because darkness had fallen. They led him into a basement apartment and made him sit on a straightbacked kitchen chair. Sollozzo sat across the kitchen table from him. His dark face had a peculiarly vulturine look.
“I don’t want you to be afraid,” he said. “I know you’re not in the muscle end of the Family. I want you to help the Corleones and I want you to help me.”
Hagen’s hands were shaking as he put a cigarette in his mouth. One of the men brought a bottle of rye to the table and gave him a slug of it in a china coffee cup. Hagen drank the fiery liquid gratefully. It steadied his hand and took the weakness out of his legs.
“Your boss is dead,” Sollozzo said. He paused, surprised at the tears that sprang to Hagen’s eyes. Then he went on. “We got him outside his office, in the street. As soon as I got the word, I picked you up. You have to make the peace between me and Sonny.”
Hagen didn’t answer. He was surprised at his own grief. And the feeling of desolation mixed with his fear of death. Sollozzo was speaking again. “Sonny was hot for my deal. Right? You know it’s the smart thing to do too. Narcotics is the coming thing. There’s so much money in it that everybody can get rich just in a couple of years. The Don was an old ‘Moustache Pete,’ his day was over but he didn’t know it. Now he’s dead, nothing can bring him back. I’m ready to make a new deal, I want you to talk Sonny into taking it.”
Hagen said, “You haven’t got a chance. Sonny will come after you with everything he’s got.”
Sollozzo said impatiently, “That’s gonna be his first reaction. You have to talk some sense to him. The Tattaglia Family stands behind me with all their people. The other New York families will go along with anything that will stop a full-scale war between us. Our war has to hurt them and their businesses. If Sonny goes along with the deal, the other Families in the country will consider it none of their affair, even the Don’s oldest friends.”
Hagen stared down at his hands, not answering. Sollozzo went on persuasively. “The Don was slipping. In the old days I could never have gotten to him. The other Families distrust him because he made you his Consigliere and you’re not even Italian, much less Sicilian. If it goes to all-out war the Corleone Family will be smashed and everybody loses, me included. I need the Family political contacts more than I need the money even. So talk to Sonny, talk to the caporegimes; you’ll save a lot of bloodshed.”
Hagen held out his china cup for more whiskey. “I’ll try,” he said. “But Sonny is strong-headed. And even Sonny won’t be able to call off Luca. You have to worry about Luca. I’ll have to worry about Luca if I go for your deal.”
Sollozzo said quietly, “I’ll take care of Luca. You take care of Sonny and the other two kids. Listen, you can tell them that Freddie would have gotten it today with his old man but my people had strict orders not to gun him. I didn’t want any more hard feelings than necessary. You can tell them that, Freddie is alive because of me.”
Finally Hagen’s mind was working. For the first time he really believed that Sollozzo did not mean to kill him or hold him as a hostage. The sudden relief from fear that flooded his body made him flush with shame. Sollozzo watched him with a quiet understanding smile. Hagen began to think things out. If he did not agree to argue Sollozzo’s case, he might be killed. But then he realized that Sollozzo expected him only to present it and present it properly, as he was bound to do as a responsible Consigliere. And now, thinking about it, he also realized that Sollozzo was right. An unlimited war between the Tattaglias and the Corleones must be avoided at all costs. The Corleones must bury their dead and forget, make a deal. And then when the time was right they could move against Sollozzo.
But glancing up, he realized that Sollozzo knew exactly what he was thinking. The Turk was smiling. And then it struck Hagen. What had happened to Luca Brasi that Sollozzo was so unconcerned? Had Luca made a deal? He remembered that on the night Don Corleone had refused Sollozzo, Luca had been summoned into the office for a private conference with the Don. But now was not the time to worry about such details. He had to get back to the safety of the Corleone Family fortress in Long Beach. “I’ll do my best,” he said to Sollozzo. “I believe you’re right, it’s even what the Don would want us to do.”
Sollozzo nodded gravely. “Fine,” he said. “I don’t like bloodshed, I’m a businessman and blood costs too much money.” At that moment the phone rang and one of the men sitting behind Hagen went to answer it. He listened and then said curtly, “OK, I’ll tell him.” He hung up the phone, went to Sollozzo’s side and whispered in the Turk’s ear. Hagen saw Sollozzo’s face go pale, his eyes glitter with rage. He himself felt a thrill of fear. Sollozzo was looking at him speculatively and suddenly Hagen knew that he was no longer going to be set free. That something had happened that might mean his death. Sollozzo said, “The old marl is still alive. Five bullets in his Sicilian hide and he’s still alive.” He gave a fatalistic shrug. “Bad luck,” he said to Hagen. “Bad luck for me. Bad luck for you.”