SPOILERS: The Godfather, Parts I and II.
Al Neri opened the door to the vast office overlooking Lake Tahoe. At the opposite end, he noticed his boss facing the sparkling, still waters of Lake Tahoe. Al knew that his boss' daily contemplation of the picturesque view did not offer the expected solace from daily dealings in the darkened, cavernous office. Instead, Al's boss would ponder the most difficult decision he ever had to make.
A decision that Al himself carried out on a small boat hundreds of yards from the shore.
Al planned on waiting a few seconds, hesitant to interrupt his boss' meditation. Nonetheless, his boss asked, "Is he here?"
Shutting the door behind him, Al said, "Yes."
Al's boss nodded, then turned around and looked at him with haunted and intense dark eyes. "Have him come in."
Al looked back and strided towards his boss. Settling a few feet in front of him, Al said in a quiet voice, "He actually has a small entourage, Michael. A secretary and a butler he insists on bringing in."
Michael stared at Al for a few seconds, cocked his head, and shrugged, "That's fine."
As Michael walked towards his desk chair, Al asked, "Are you sure, Michael?" Looking towards the closed door, he added, "The dame seems harmless, but I'm not sure about the butler. Some big Oriental guy. Looks like a wrestler."
Michael picked up his grey suit jacket from the back of the chair and put it on. "Just stay here while they're in the room. I'm sure you can handle him if he tries anything. Somehow, I doubt he would, at least if his secretary's around. My client today is different from the people I usually see here, and I want to keep things congenial."
Al nodded, walking back to the door and opening it. Michael heard a muffled, "Mr. Corleone will see you now." Within a few moments, a short and slightly rotund orange-haired man in a brown suit and black bow tie entered the room.
Walking towards the man, Michael said with cautious cordiality, "Mr. Goldfinger. A pleasure to meet you."
Looking closely at the lapel on Goldfinger's jacket, Michael could almost swear that it was stitched with thin strands of gold.
Taking Michael's outstretched hand, Goldfinger replied with almost exaggerated conviviality, "The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Corleone. Thank you for allowing me to come out here." To Goldfinger's left stood a woman wearing a pale yellow skirt and jacket, with straight blond hair that fell over her shoulders. To his right, a stocky mustachioed man in a butler uniform, with a bowler hat tucked under his right arm.
Al closed the door.
Letting go of Michael's hand as he turned towards the woman, Goldfinger said, "This is my secretary, Jill Masterson."
Smiling at Michael, Jill leaned forward and offered her hand to him. With a voice that put Al in mind of a British version of the recently deceased Marilyn Monroe, she asked, "How do you do, Mr. Corleone?"
Michael took her hand. "I do good... Well."
Still smiling, Jill nodded at Michael. "I'm sure you do both."
"Heh," Goldfinger ejaculated. "As you can see, Mr. Corleone, Miss Masterson has quite a way with words."
Jill noticeably blinked twice, her smile fading slightly.
Turning to the man at his right, Goldfinger said, "And this is my manservant, Oddjob."
Letting go of Jill's hand, Michael turned to Oddjob. Michael offered his hand, but Goldfinger's manservant only smirked at him.
With a chuckle, Goldfinger added, "Oh, I forgot to mention, Mr. Corleone. Oddjob doesn't shake hands. His grip is quite powerful, as a few people have been unfortunate enough to find out."
Still eyeing Oddjob, Michael nodded once before turning back to his guest. "Oddjob? What's his real name?"
Goldfinger shrugged. "Some Korean name, I don't remember what. Still, 'Oddjob' seems more appropriate."
Turning to Al, Michael asked, "Al, could you take... Oddjob's hat?"
"Oh, that won't be necessary," Goldfinger interjected "He likes to keep it with him at all times." He paused and turned to Oddjob. "We all have our little idiosyncracies, eh?"
"Does he understand English?" Michael asked.
"Oddjob is mute," Goldfinger said. "Besides, he doesn't have to say anything. He does what I tell him, no questions asked." Turning to Jill, Goldfinger added, "If only you could take lessons from him, Miss Masterson."
As if by magic, Jill's smile returned. "Yes, Mr. Goldfinger."
Goldfinger laughed. "I take back what I said, then. Perhaps you could teach him that."
As Goldfinger spoke, Michael turned to Al, nodding for him to stand next to the desk. Al nodded back and took his position. Turning back to his guest, Michael said, "Now that we're done with the pleasantries, I think we should get to business."
"Oh, yes. Of course," Goldfinger replied amiably.
Indicating a chair facing his desk, Michael said, "Please, have a seat. I'm sorry I didn't have additional chairs set up. I was only expecting you."
"I'll get two more," Al said, walking away from the desk to grab two more chairs in the office.
After settling into his chair, Goldfinger looked out the window. "Magnificent view you have of Lake Tahoe."
"Yes," Jill added, turning to Michael as he settled into his desk chair. "It is quite lovely."
"You get used to it over time," Michael said. "Unfortunately, every so often, it brings back memories of the time my brother drowned."
Al set a chair behind Jill.
"Oh, dear," Jill said softly as she lowered herself into the seat. "I'm so sorry."
His genial expression giving way to displeasure, Goldfinger turned towards Jill. After looking back at him, she lowered her head.
"My condolences, Mr. Corleone," Goldfinger added with formal sobriety.
"It was over four years ago. He went fishing, and..." Trailing off, Michael made an invisible circle in the air with his right hand.
Jill leaned forward in her chair.
"I'm sorry if that brings back such bad memories for you," Goldfinger said.
Al placed a chair behind Oddjob. Before settling into it, the manservant used both hands to grasp the sides of his bowler, which made an unusual "clunk" as he placed it on Michael's desk. Michael eyed the hat, than gave Al a puzzled look. A hat isn't supposed to make that kind of a noise. Michael thought.
Looking at Michael, Goldfinger commented, "I suppose a bowler is highly unusual in this day and age. Hats of all kinds are becoming passe, especially with your President Kennedy not wearing one to his inauguration."
Al settled back into his own chair, also eyeing the bowler.
"Well, actually, he did," Michael said. "He took it off during his inaugural speech."
Goldfinger waved his right hand dismissively. "In any case, I wouldn't invest in the hat industry anytime soon." Goldfinger leaned forward in his chair, raising his right index finger. "But gold. That will never go out of style."
As Goldfinger resettled his back against the chair and clasped his hands in front of his gut, Michael said, "I understand you have made quite a fortune from gold."
"I have done quite well with gold, yes. Among other things. Metals manufacturing. Thoroughbreds." Goldfinger lowered his eyebrows. "But gold is my passion, Mr. Corleone. In addition to bringing one wealth and power, it is the most beautiful and rarest of metals. I like to surround myself with gold. If I could, I would build a palace out of gold." He shrugged. "Pardon my indulgence in hyperbole. What I am saying is, I will do business with anyone who can help me increase my stock in gold." Goldfinger paused. "I come to you, Mr. Corleone, because you seem like the kind of man who could assist in my endeavor."
"I was thinking in terms of a partnership," Michael said.
"Oh, it would be. I assure you."
"My plan is to divest my gambling interests, and to use the money to invest in gold."
Goldfinger cocked his head slightly. "I think we need to clarify the finer points of what I have in mind, Mr. Corleone." He turned to Jill. "Miss Masterson. Could you step outside for a while?"
Jill stood from her chair. "Yes, Mr. Goldfinger."
"Al," Michael said. "Please escort Miss Masterson out."
After nodding silently, Al walked to Jill and accompanied her to the door. As Al opened it, Jill turned her head back towards Michael for a moment. He noticed that she appeared a bit less convivial than she had let on initially. As Michael scrutinized Jill's face further, he thought that he could sense fear, perhaps even pleading, in her pale blue eyes.
Michael tried to imagine what might have prompted Jill's fear. As head of the Corleone family, he had seen such an expression quite a few times. Michael always took it as a sign that the bearer had transgressed against him, and that he needed to act against them. His external enemies never gave him the chilling benefit of seeing their fear. Variations of that grimace always appeared to his enforcers, right before they summarily executed those who had crossed their Godfather. Instead, Michael saw it in his internal enemies. Carlo. Fredo. Even Kay, who, unlike the other two, did not pay the ultimate price. But Jill seemed like a special case. Perhaps she had plans to sabotage the deal Michael was about to make with Goldfinger, but she sensed that he was not a man to cross. That she was in the presence of a man who could crush her easily, just as he had crushed others who had gotten in his way.
Until the door shut behind Al and Jill, Michael fixed a stone-faced expression in their direction.
"Lovely girl, Miss Masterson" Goldfinger commented. "What we are about to discuss might be too much for her."
Turning towards Goldfinger, Michael asked, "Why did you bring her in, then?"
"That is of no consequence. I think we have reached the point where we need to discuss the purpose of my visit."
"I thought we were already doing that." Indicating Oddjob, Michael asked, "And why not have him step out? It only seems fair since I asked Al to leave with Miss Masterson."
Oddjob turned to Goldfinger, who shrugged his shoulders. "Okay." He looked at Oddjob and nodded towards the door, prompting the manservant to stand up and walk towards it. After Oddjob exited, Goldfinger added, "As you can see, Mr. Corleone, I am a fair and reasonable man. Just like your father before you."
"You know about my father?"
"Let's just say, I'm not the only one who has done his research."
"I'm sure you and he could have shared some interesting stories about being immigrants."
"Immigrating from Latvia to England at age 20 is not quite the same as immigrating from Sicily to New York at age nine, Mr. Corleone. And, despite its color, olive oil is not on a par with gold, or with the range of investments I have made."
"What you have accomplished is quite impressive, Mr. Goldfinger. But my father did very well for himself."
"I'm sorry if I have offended you, Mr. Corleone. Besides, I already know that he was shrewd enough to have a diverse range of, shall we say, investments."
"He was an olive oil importer."
"I think we both know perfectly well what I'm talking about, Mr. Corleone." Goldfinger paused for a moment before continuing. "Bootlegging. Union corruption." Another pause. "And then there's gambling."
"Gambling is legal in Nevada."
"Oh, yes. Of course. I have visited a casino or two here myself, in fact. But some your own connections in that area have died rather violently."
Elbows on his desk, Michael folded his hands. His eyes had widened only slightly, but he felt as though they had bulged out of his head. "Where have you heard this?"
"From others in your illustrious profession. A few of them told me about you unprompted. I can sense that they fear you, or they at least respect your power."
"I'm flattered," Michael said sardonically. "But, with all due respect, why would you trust the word of a bunch of hoodlums? They are not men of honor."
Goldfinger chuckled. "And you are, Mr. Corleone? Your father was a man of honor?" Rubbing his eyes with the index finger and thumb of his right hand, he added, "I can hardly think of a better way to justify murder."
"I've never killed anyone."
Resting his right hand in his lap, Goldfinger replied, "Oh, of course not. Your soldiers killed Moe Greene. Emilio Barzini. Hyman Roth. Perhaps others. Of course, that cannot be proven. Especially if one has connections to a certain hatless Commander-in-Chief."
"You do what you have to do to protect your family."
"Too bad we can't ask your brother who drowned. He might have told me more."
Michael's intertwined fingers rubbed slowly around each other.
"Relax, Mr. Corleone. I'm simply here to do a business deal. Not much different from others you have done in the past, but with a much higher return on your investment."
"I'm not interested. Especially if you're soliciting assistance from hoodlums."
"This is a 'golden' opportunity. Pardon the expression, literal though it may be. Many of your colleagues in the underworld have already expressed interest in my offer." After a pause, Goldfinger added, "For instance, I have already spoken about this with your friend 'The Napper.'"
"Solo?" Michael asked incredulously, recalling previous dealings with the New York-based mob boss. "The man is a no good, double-crossing swindler."
"And you wouldn't want him to get a piece of the action on the next big thing, while you get nothing. Would you, Mr. Corleone?"
"You don't understand, Mr. Goldfinger. I'm not interested in..."
"You are a smart man, Mr. Corleone. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to meet with you. How many mob bosses have attended an Ivy League school? How many have played the game as well as you? All I ask is that you..."
"All I ask, is that you leave."
Looking back at Michael's stoic stare, Goldfinger blurted, "One thousand percent."
Michael shook his head slowly at Goldfinger's bait. "You don't understand. I agreed to meet with you because I thought that we could make a legitimate business deal. Not to get in on some scheme that already sounds fishy, never mind outlandish. You insult my integrity and my intelligence, Mr. Goldfinger."
"And you don't understand, Mr. Corleone, that you could make one thousand per-cent of your share for delivery of goods and services, once my plan is executed."
Michael got up and started walking to the door. "That doesn't even make any sense."
"A guaranteed upfront payment of one million dollars." Goldfinger turned his head as Michael passed him. "Ten million when I execute my plans. You are the only one who knows of this offer."
Michael opened the door. Turning to Goldfinger, he quietly said, "Get out."
Sitting across from each other at a table outside the office, Al and Jill turned to look into the room. Oddjob stood in a corner, his hands clasped in front of him as he held his bowler.
Goldfinger furrowed his brow. "You're making a huge mistake."
"And you're making one if you don't leave."
Getting up from the chair, Goldfinger pushed it back hard enough to make it fall to the ground. As Al quickly got up from his own chair, Michael turned around and shook his head at him. Jill also stood up, while Oddjob started walking towards the entrance to the office.
Striding quickly to the door, Goldfinger walked up to Michael. Raising the index finger of his right hand and pointing it at Michael, Goldfinger said, "You don't realize with whom you are dealing, Mr. Corleone. Like you, I have had my share of enemies. But I also have excellent people to protect me from them."
As Goldfinger walked out of the office, Michael said, "I just want you to get out of my house, and to take your business elsewhere." He turned to Al. "Make sure they leave here safely."
As Al nodded and walked towards Goldfinger to escort him out, Oddjob and Jill joined them. Looking with confusion at her boss, she asked, "Mr. Goldfinger? Are we leaving already? What's going on?"
"That is none of your concern," Goldfinger replied. "Let's just say that Mr. Corleone wouldn't know a golden opportunity if one landed on his head."
Sitting in shirtsleeves in his office chair, Michael wiped his forehead with a handkerchief.
Al walked into the office. "They're gone now, Michael," he said, closing the door.
"Good." After a few moments, he added, "He said something about talking to other families, which is how he decided to talk with me." Michael shrugged. "Why would someone like Auric Goldfinger want to get involved with the mob over here, anyway?"
"Some international scheme?"
"Unless he just wants to set up something here in the U.S."
"Maybe something to do with horse racing. He has that stud farm in Kentucky."
Michael leaned back in his chair. "Why would someone with his business acumen claim that I could make a thousand percent of a flat fee of one million dollars for my services to him?"
"Huh?" Al asked.
"Yeah, that's what I thought, too. It's so outlandish, it sounds like he's involved in something suspicious. Maybe Goldfinger is becoming delusional, or desperate, and he's turning to the mob for something here."
Al reached into the breast pocket of his suit jacket, taking out a folded slip of paper. "Don't take this the wrong way," he said, handing it to Michael. "The dame gave this to me."
Taking the paper and unfolding it, Michael looked at it for a few seconds.
7 P.M. tonite
"Miss Masterson wants to meet me there?"
Al shrugged. "I guess so."
Setting the paper on his desk, Michael said, "I figured she was Goldfinger's secretary, in the euphemistic sense."
"Probably eye candy to show his status. Why else would he bring her in here, and then ask her to leave?"
Michael folded his hands, pressing his chin against the tops of his fingers. Slowly and deliberately, he said, "Maybe to see if I..." Michael stopped.
"Like the merchandice?" Al proffered.
Michael shook his head slowly. "But he has already played his hand. If Goldfinger put her up to this, his trap would seem pretty obvious." After a pause, Michael added, "When you were taking her to the door, she gave me this look. One I hadn't seen since..."
Michael stopped. Al nodded.
"But what if that's part of some ploy?" Michael asked.
"Anything could be a ploy," Al reminded him.
Leaning back in his chair, Michael said, "Then let's have one of our own at the ready. Floria's is pretty safe, though I think you and a few other men should come along. Just in case."
Al stared at Michael. "You really want to go through with this?"
Michael nodded. "If Miss Masterson is planning something, I can do the same with her. There's something strange about what Goldfinger proposed. Whatever I find out, I have a feeling that Bobby would be very interested in hearing about it. Especially if Goldfinger has begun making deals with other families."
"You think you've cultivated enough good will with the A.G. to do this?"
"I've defeated my enemies before, Al, and I can do it again." Michael folded his hands in front of his face. "This time through legitimate means. If Miss Masterson gives me what I want."