Over lunch, Paolo probed Tony gently about Livia.
“How was Livia? Hope she’s OK. What a lousy homecoming!”
“You suggesting I’m lousy?” asked Tony, but it was clear that he was just joshing.
“You know what I mean. Terrible strain on her.”
“She’s got to go identify the body tomorrow. I just hope they cover his hands!” volunteered Tony.
“I’m sure they’ll do what’s right, unless she asks to see them.” Paolo was in reassurance mode. “Have you not seen Terry yourself?”
“Absolutely not! Like you, Paolo, I’ve got no taste for the macabre.”
’Like fuck you haven’t!’ thought Paolo.
Paolo wanted Tony to see that bloodshed repulsed him, but that when it was a case of proving your loyalty, he would step up to the plate and do whatever necessary. In this way, he hoped Tony would see his intrinsic morality, fidelity and toughness of spirit.
He was therefore very pleased when, after a morning of questioning, moaning and mild hostility, Tony turned to him and said “Come on Paolo, I want to have lunch with someone I can really trust! You’ve done good. My treat.”
‘I’ve done very good, but not in the way you think!’ mused Paolo
Tony wasn't happy that Paolo had disposed of his gun. Nonetheless, he was impressed that the young man had avenged Terry’s death by killing Ronan Flaherty. Hearing Paolo going on about ‘security’ prompted Tony to quiz him about how secure everything was, how ‘clean’ he had left the scene.
Paolo didn’t go into details about the killing, although he made sure Tony was aware that he, Paolo, had done the deed, with a kitchen knife. Paolo dodged questions about details by feigning trauma.
“He had it coming, Tony, but it made me physically sick. Had to kill his tart too!”
Monday morning Paolo was in the office just before Tony.
“Why the fuck didn’t you answer your phone?” demanded Tony.
“I lost it. Had to buy a cheapo.”
“Well why the fuck didn’t you answer that one?”
“Security!” was all Paolo said, very cheekily and perhaps unwisely tapping the side of his nose. But he wasn’t concerned. He’d done a good job, on time, and felt buoyed up by that.
“So he’s dead, bastard Flaherty’s dead?”
“He sure is. Cut his neck!”
“Knife? Tony queried.
“Knife!” Paolo confirmed.
“So where’s my gun?”
“Threw it in the Thames. Security!” Paolo lied.
Paolo had parked his car a few minutes walk from Nicole’s flat. He drove back to his own flat and slept well. Job done. When he woke he would let Tony know, given that he’d given Paolo 24 hours to do that job.
Paolo decided he would text Tony. He didn’t want to speak to his boss today.
He used the untraceable mobile.
_’Irish problem solved.’ was all Paolo wrote, prompting Tony to call him on both the new, which he’d switched off, and his regular mobile, which he ignored. Paolo would have ‘misplaced’ it.
Sunday, Paolo’s day of rest.
Quietly Paolo donned a pair of latex gloves. He found some scissors in the kitchen and returned to the tragic lovers. Somehow he managed to get his hands between Flaherty’s immobile legs to the cause of the older man’s troubles, the diamond ‘ring’. It wasn’t easy with just a pair of kitchen scissors, but Paolo persevered, slowly, and finally managed to cut through the platinum ring, gingerly removing it with its diamond. He pocketed it together with Flaherty’s mobile and his own used condom, carefully tied.
He took time to clean his presence away. No trace. Nothing left to chance.
Paolo needed to remove all trace of his presence, but first there was Nicole struggling to survive. He moved over to the right, blood-free side of the bed, crouched down and carefully leant over to reach Nicole struggling under Flaherty’s deadweight. With right hand he pinched her nose and with left he covered her mouth tightly. It didn’t take long and there was no great struggle as she went. Collateral damage, such a shame but inevitable.
This way it should be an open and shut case of jealous gangster and cheating lover.
There was just one more thing though...
As Nicole’s knife entered his neck, Flaherty instinctively turned his head to the left. This action made the knife slice his carotid artery. Eyes bulging with horror, he saw blood, his blood, gushing out, accelerated by a heart pumping with rage. A fraction of a second later his hands loosened their grip on Nicole’s neck. He’d almost succeeded in killing her.
By now, Paolo was watching from the bedroom doorway. He’d not had to do anything. He watched Flaherty die on top of the now blood-soaked girl, who was struggling for breath beneath.
But Paolo’s work had just begun.
What was Flaherty thinking? Clearly he wasn’t thinking, just acting in the way he was hard-wired. He didn’t stop to think that she might have been wronged, that someone else had been responsible, that maybe she’d been doped or overcome. He just struck out in a fit of extreme rage triggered by humiliation. He didn’t allow himself time to think.
Nicole didn’t have time to think either, she had no choice. As Flaherty’s hands continued to tighten round her neck, she acted instinctively as best she could, her right hand arcing upwards to plunge her knife into his neck.
Flaherty flew through the open doorway to Nicole’s flat, stopped, scanned the hallway then piled straight into her bedroom. What he saw was exactly what Paolo had seen and photographed.
“Fucking bitch, fucking whore!” he shouted so loudly that Nicole stirred. He leapt on the bed and went to punch her in the face but for some reason stopped himself to put both hands around her neck and start to strangle her.
He would have succeeded but for the adrenalin rush Nicole experienced as she stirred and realised what he was doing. What came next took him quite by surprise.
Paolo had gambled that Flaherty would neither wish any of his henchmen along with him nor take time out to muster them. Whatever he was going to find, he wanted to keep a lid on it. He wouldn’t risk anyone finding out he’d been humiliated, or see his woman in a compromising position.
Paolo’s gamble paid off. Flaherty was alone... but nonetheless dangerous. Paolo’s email had rattled the Irishman and he was now probably tired from mounting the stairs at pace and so angry that maybe he wouldn’t exhibit his normal level of caution and control.
Advantage Paolo... so far.
Paolo was pretty good with his calculations. He heard Flaherty’s car pull up at speed outside Nicole’s building. It was 38 minutes since he sent his text. Flaherty must have been flooring it. That was good, because that meant he must be beside himself with rage and maybe a little less cautious than he should be.
Flaherty only stopped to put his key in the door from the street, after which he leapt up the stairs two at a time. At the top, he rushed past the broom cupboard Paolo was standing in, switch-blade open ready... just in case.
Paolo was banking on Flaherty coming alone. The next part of his plan was a gamble. He would have to rely upon his wits and flexibility. Now dressed, he stuffed the pistol under his belt behind his back. His switch-blade knife stayed in his hand. He would have to be out of the way when Flaherty arrived, as Paolo was sure he would in around forty minutes. Quietly leaving Nicole’s flat, he found a broom cupboard with open door he’d noticed on the way up.
He checked on the naked, comatose Nicole before waiting until he heard Flaherty arrive.
Paolo had had the foresight to invest in a cheap, used, pay-as-you-go mobile, paid for in cash. Completely untraceable. It wasn’t state-of-the-art by any means, but it had an OK camera. He had also acquired Ronan Flaherty’s personal mobile number.
The text from an unknown number that Flaherty received at 11.30pm was a photo of the diamond he had bought Nicole, in situ, with the background of her floral patterned duvet, with the legend ‘A pretty little bird tells me someone’s been polishing your diamond Ronan’.
Flaherty was on his way. Fast and alone.
Paolo let her lay there sleeping off the effects of the alcohol. He needed time to work out the finer details of his plan. He’d gone to Nicole’s flat for a shag, but that was a bonus to the main activity of saving his own skin. Survival is the most powerful instinct of all and he figured that his best chance of getting Flaherty alone, without bodyguards, was via the gangster’s secret lover Nicole.
Poor Nicole. She might end up collateral damage, but Paolo’s own survival and prosperity must take precedence. And she’d already had a fulfilling life. Very full.
Nicole had drunk an awful lot of Bollinger. She could take her drink, but champagne has a habit of catching people unawares, particularly women. Under normal circumstances, she would have passed out earlier. But such is sex and the drugs the body itself generates internally when aroused, she kept on going. Paolo more than satisfied her, then himself, for which she stayed wide awake... an active participant.
But when it was over, her body ordered her to stop, to crash. The sparkle she’d been exhibiting was reduced to the glint of the diamond below as she lay naked and unconscious.
She didn’t realise it but her offer had given Paolo an idea. He planned to plagiarise.
But before that, his tongue was too busy to talk. Slapper. she might be, but Nicole’s body was stunning and she knew just what to do with it. So did Paolo, who was attending to her needs before any of his own. He couldn’t resist tickling his tongue on the diamond. That would have made a good story to recount in the pub sometime, but in view of what he had planned for later that Saturday evening, his activities would definitely not be broadcast.
Paolo couldn’t help his reaction. “Wow!” he exclaimed. Nicole giggled.
Removing her little lace knickers had revealed more than he was expecting. What met his eyes was perfectly groomed as might befiit the setting for a very large diamond, Flaherty’s diamond. Paolo had seen intimate piercings before, but none so stunning as this one. The large stone must have cost many, many thousands and it sat proud at the top of her divide. This was ‘later’ and he had well and truly found out.
“Like it?” Nicole asked proudly.
“Mmmmm! Ronan must like you a helluva lot”
“Wanna polish it?”
At that point, Nicole put the knife back under her pillow, and then, kneeling on the bed, she slowly removed her blouse, then her pretty black lace bra, to reveal her magnificent breasts. Then she laid back on the pillow and beckoned to Paolo to complete the task, which he was more than happy to do. Her shoes had already been discarded in her living room. What she was still wearing had been specially selected for Paolo’s benefit, and in particular for him to remove.
Skirt, black stockings, suspender belt first. Then, after a pause, her tiny black lace knickers.
“I’ll show you!” Nicole grabbed Paolo’s hand and dragged him after her to the bedroom. He didn’t take much dragging though, and she wasn’t exactly walking straight either. But inside the bedroom, she somehow leapt onto the king-sized bed and, slipping her right hand under her pillow, withdrew a long, sharp kitchen knife and swept it about menacingly.
“Fucking hell, Nik, I’m not sure I’m comfortable being around you tonight!”
“You’ve got nothing to worry about Paolo. I’ve a soft spot for you y’know! You’re a gent. But my soft spot’s getting kinda itchy. You know what that means!”