‘Aw!’ thought Sofia, ‘that’s so sweet!” She’d taken Paolo’s tears to mean he’d recently lost his beloved mother. She was moved. She already liked Paolo, quite a lot in fact. This made her like him more. What’s more, the large, impressive diamond was the only thing his dying mother could leave Paolo and he’d given it to her, Sofia. ‘If ever he asks...’ she thought idly...’age gap...so what?’ But then she came back to Earth.
Paolo was making it up as he went along... playing ‘the advantage rule’. He’d expected Sofia to ask searching questions. And he’d supplied sparkling answers.
“Did you steal this diamond?” Sofia asked Paolo after he had passed it over to her and lay, spent, beside her on his bed. “Are the cops going to come knocking on my door Paolo? It’s a really cool diamond... but is it hot?”
“No worries” was Paolo’s immediate answer. “It was paid for fair and square, but the person I got it from doesn’t need it anymore. She isn’t going to want it back.”
“She?” queried Sofia.
“Couldn’t take it with her. It’s all she had left to give me!”
“Your mother?” Sofia asked. “She passed away?”
While Livia and Mary were enjoying a hilariously serious gourmet lunch, Sofia had turned down the offer of lunching with an office friend to visit one of her clients, a jeweller of some repute. Sofia had helped him a lot on a recent property search and she felt he could be trusted to be discreet if asked.
Sofia was a woman of considerable style and wanted to be able to show off her new diamond. It was terrific on its own, as an investment, but would be so much better as a statement. It would make a lovely solitaire ring.
Talk became small as both women tackled the modest feast Livia had created and somehow managed to call sandwiches. When finished eating, the serious talk, the big talk, would start again. Something told Livia that what Mary was about to tell her would be anything but trivial.
“Should’ve brought a bottle with me Livia.” said Mary as the last of the fizz dripped into her glass. “And d’ya know what? I feckin’ did! It’s in me car. Wait a sec while I go get it.”
Mary came back with a bottle, not of Prosecco, but champagne.
Celebration time, come on!
‘Oh!’ thought Livia as she watched Mary demolish the glass of Prosecco. She pushed the bottle towards Mary.
“Fill your glass Mary while I get the sandwiches.” Mary needed no further encouragement. Meanwhile, Livia went into her spacious pantry, to another fridge from which she took out two plates of open sandwiches, works of art in their own right. She removed the cling film preventing them from drying out. Livia was well prepared for an impromptu lunch.
“Feckin’ hell,” exclaimed Mary as she saw the two plates. “You must give me the address of your sandwich shop. They’re feckin’ brilliant!”
Livia went to the fridge for the Prosecco, grabbed a couple of glasses and uncorked the bottle with a pop. Wine bubbled fiercely out of the bottle before she reached the glasses.
“I reckon my Ronan was doing a bit too much of that with his feckin’ slut! I would say the fecker’s all shot, but the cow stabbed him!” More laughter at Mary’s smutty outburst.
With a clink of glasses, Livia sipped her wine. She needed to stay in control, with her wits about her. Not so Mary it seemed, who took an enormous gulp, half emptying her glass.
Livia knew Mary was driving, but thought she might have at least one glass of Prosecco. She hadn’t considered that her guest might have been a teetotaller. It came out involuntarily.
“You really don’t drink alcohol Mary?”
After a brief pause, that seemed to Livia like a lifetime, Mary replied.
“Course I feckin’ do... I’m Irish ain’t I? Is the Pope, God bless him, a Catholic? I was pulling your feckin’ plonker Livia!”
Any hint of tension from misunderstanding vanished as the two women laughed like old best friends. Livia articulated her feelings.
“I feel I’ve known you forever Mary.”
Livia glanced at her clock. It was 12.15. She couldn’t believe how time had flown... she was really having fun! Livia realised that Mary was getting around to the serious bit of what she’d come for and there was no way either of them wanted that curtailed. And besides, Livia really liked Mary and was having the best time she’d had for years. Even her recent Caribbean cruise was boring next to the past hour.
“Look Mary, why don’t you stop for a sandwich? It’s drink o’clock too; fancy a Prosecco?”
“Don’t drink.” Mary announced solemnly.
“Really?...” Livia was shocked.
“You see, the ting is,” started Mary, “while the pigs might think it’s an open and shut case of kinky sex getting violent, it simply doesn’t add up to me. The pigs are happy that someone, anyone, has taken a cont like Ronan out and that she was his lover and luckily got killed in the process too. Neat that... too feckin’ neat! I don’t believe it! There’s more to it, so I’ve been asking around the gobshites who worked for Ronan... and, without breakin’ no Commandments as such, convinced them I was making them an offer they couldn’t refuse!”
From what Mary Flaherty was saying, Livia’s ploy of spreading lots of what might be described as Catholica around her house had done the trick. The two of them were, in the eyes of Mary, of similar strength of faith. Mary didn’t know that Livia was about as unholy as could be, although regarding Commandment 5, she hadn’t actually killed... she’d just got another unholy sinner, Paolo, to do it for her.
Livia still didn’t know why Mary had made contact with her. She decided to find out.
“You hinted yesterday Mary that I might know the killer. How come?”
“Am I to understand that somehow they killed each other simultaneously? Sounds a bit unlikely to me!” Livia was still trying to understand the basic facts about the death of this woman’s husband, and, so it seemed, of his lover.
“Simultaneously... good word there Livia. I don’t get it either... I’m struggling to understand it all. I don’t mind, now, that he’s dead. He might’ve been me husband and father of me kids, but he married me, in front of God, for better or feckin’ worse, keeping him only unto me! I didn’t ask much of the cont except fidelity.
“Course I didn’t feckin’ do it. Would I be here telling you if I had?” Mary was clearly wound up, but saw it was unnerving Livia. “Sorry Livia, that was out of order... particularly after you’ve invited me over. But I’m not upset, I’m feckin’ angry, that’s what! Surely a God-fearing woman such as I can see you must be can understand that my faith alone prevents me from killing anyone? I know the Commandments and ain’t planning to break number 5!”
“...but if I’d caught them together then maybe my plans might have had to change!” Mary added.
“You sound like you had him in check!” said Livia as they discussed Mary’s late husband Ronan, whose own reputation was pretty scary.
“Clearly not a-feckin’-nuff!” spat out Mary in reply. “The dirty bastard was shagging a feckin’ whore he was. Set her up in a flat. I only found out after she killed him.”
“She killed him? Has she been caught?” Livia was confused.
“In a way I s’pose. Caught her dead too, underneath the cont!” Mary’s langauge was getting even worse, along with her anger.
Livia was quite brave then to ask. “Did you do it?”
Livia needed to get the attention off her and onto Mary.
“But that’s enough about me. It is what it is, or more accurately was what it was and isn’t any longer. When someone put him out of my misery I was on a cruise trying to escape him. He’d obviously rubbed someone else up the wrong way... but that someone decided to rub him out! What about your husband? I knew him by reputation, but yesterday was the first I heard he’d been killed. Did he beat you up too?
“You must be joking. The bastard wouldn’t’ve feckin’ dared!”
“Should you be laughing with your old man still warm in the grave?” asked Mary.”
“He’s not in the grave, he’s in the mortuary...” Livia then felt the need to put on a show of grief, sniffing, taking a tissue and dabbing her eyes.
“I’m really sorry for your feckin’ crocodile tears, but I’ve seen a few grieving widows and you, sister, ain’t one of them! Knock you about did he?”
‘Wow, this woman’s scary’ thought Livia. ‘What does she know?’ she decided to rely on the non-verbal. She just nodded her reply.
“Bastard! I knew it.” exclaimed Mary.
Livia didn’t have to wait long for the conversation to get serious.
“Your husband was mordered too?” Mary asked rhetorically. She knew, and it was obvious to Livia she did. Livia simply nodded.
“D’ya know why? Mary continued.
“No idea,” Livia lied.
“D’ya know how?”
“Uh-uh!” Livia shook her head.
“D’ya know where?”
“What are you Mary, the police?” Livia felt interrogated.
“Feck no!” replied Mary. “I’d sooner cut out me feckin’ eyes than be taken for a pigshite!”
Livia couldn’t help herself from laughing.
“What?” asked Mary, unaware of the humour in her words. Then she laughed too.
Mary Flaherty’s coarseness wasn’t at all Livia’s own way, but the woman made her laugh. Livia tended to be surrounded by people who treated her with respect, always mindful of what they imagined were her sensibilities. The exception was Tony who’d once beaten her up.
But Livia didn’t particularly mind coarseness, or foul language come to that, when it was firmly attached to humour. And this Mary woman was a laugh. However, Livia realised that eventually they would get down to serious stuff, the whole reason Mary was there. A fishing trip.
But even that would be interspersed with laughter.
The kitchen it was. Livia warmed to Mary instantaneously. She liked her direct manner. On the surface, she wasn’t remotely like Livia, but opposites attract. They could do business.
“Well” started Livia, as Mary took over the coffee-making process. “I’m not sure why you’re here, Mary... but I must say you don’t seem remotely what I had expected.”
“I dare say I’m not.” replied Mary. “And neither are you! I tought you’d be stuck up, y’know, full of airs and feckin’ shite. And yer pretty enough to be stuck up. Plenty of blokes would loik to be, I bet!”
At Mary’s opening salvo, both women burst out laughing. It was an amazing ice-breaker. They would be able to get down to business straight away. Nonetheless, out of politeness, Livia ushered Mary into the lounge, only to be told by her guest. “Oh, don’t go pissin’ about standing on feckin’ ceremony for me. Let’s go in your kitchen. You can tell a lot about a woman from her kitchen. And my shite of a husband said it was a woman’s place. And I say it’s the best place to cook something up!”
‘Wow’ thought Livia, ‘can this woman talk?’
Mary Flaherty had arrived at Livia’s at 11am sharp. Having opened the electric gates for her to come in, Livia had gone straightaway to open her front door in welcome. She was surprised at Mary’s car. It was a basic Eastern European car - the butt of silly jokes twenty years before. And it was at least 10 years old - not what you’d expect a successful villain’s wife to drive.
After a tentative handshake, Mary said “I know what you’re tinking. What’s with the shitty old car? Well I wouldn’t want to feckin’ stand out, would I?”
Livia immediately liked her.