Livia’s screaming seemed to go on for ages, prompting the mortuary assistant to go to drop the sheet back over Terry’s head, so make it easier for her. But Livia wasn’t having this. The last thing she wanted was to curtail her histrionics. This had to be her finest hour, a tour de force no less.
“Stop!” she screamed. “Show me what they did to my Terry. Show me now!”
The mortuary assistant was taking his lead from the detective, who glanced down at Livia and then nodded. The white sheet was pulled back to reveal most of Terry’s body.
In the room, the white-coated mortuary assistant beckoned them over to what looked like a bank of large office drawers. He waited until Livia, who was still being steadied by the detective, was near. Then, following a nod from the detective, he pulled out the drawer to reveal a figure covered by a sheet. He lifted the sheet to reveal Terry’s head, cleaned up after his involuntary maceration in the river.
Livia looked, and after what seemed like an age but was just a couple of seconds, she screamed, suddenly dropping all her weight on the detective’s arm.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” asked the detective.
“No... I’m not!” said Livia, seemingly struggling to keep her composure. “But it’s got to be done sometime and it’s got to be done by me because his bloody brother seems to have lost the plot. So best I get it over with now. Then I’ve got to find out how to tell my son...” at this she sobbed... “He’ll be devasted, poor boy.”
Then Livia steadied herself, gave a little cough and declared, “let’s get it over with” and moved forward towards the room where the bodies were stored.
Livia’s objective for this mortuary visit was twofold, although the one would help with the other. First and foremost, she had to convince the police of her genuine grief, misery and sense of hopelessness following husband Terry’s untimely death. She had to make certain her alibi, together with her sense of loss, kept the finger of suspicion well away from her, whatever tricks young Paolo might think he had up his sleeve.
Secondly, there was the matter of Terry’s life insurance. She wanted to avoid any chance of the insurance company getting one of their own investigators on the case.
As Livia reached the door, a man approached from her right. He went to take her arm, first checking for her approval. He was clearly a detective assigned to accompany her to the identification of the body and subsequently make a report on the outcome. She allowed him to take her arm. She visibly flopped a little, catching the detective slightly off-guard as she let him take some of her modest weight.
Paolo watched the performance from Terry’s car. He had to admit to himself that she had put on a wonderful performance. She would be a powerful adversary.
The small woman walking towards the door of the mortuary had the look of someone not wanting to be there. Twice during the short slow walk she half-turned, as if to go back, twice deciding to continue, albeit with heavy feet and heavier countenance. A close examination of the woman’s face would reveal to the casual onlooker an expression as though the entire world was weighing her down, watery eyes and trace of mascara on the run. She was smartly dressed, but that served to emphasise her reluctance.
But the onlookers weren’t casual, as she knew they wouldn’t be.
The rest of the journey to see the body went in frosty silence. Livia sat in the back of the car a masterpiece of cold, beautiful haughtiness. Paolo pulled up and made no attempt to get out and open the door for her as one might expect of a chauffeur. To Paolo’s silent delight, Livia’s composure was rather compromised as the small woman struggled down from the large SUV, her skirt riding up.
However, it provided Livia the ideal launchpad for her transformation into a distraught, grieving widow for anyone around who might be watching. And they were.
After Paolo’s ‘speech’, a silence reigned in the car you could cut with a knife. Then Livia spoke.
“And you think because of that I should let you shag me, Paolo. Is that it?”
“That might’ve been nice before I realised how you used me, but right now, I think I’ll settle for repayment of the two hundred grand you squeezed out of me. That seems a better deal now, and one you can afford, given the huge life insurance payout heading your way.” Paolo was deadly serious.
“In your dreams little man!” Livia replied.
’And your nightmares,’ thought Paolo.
Paolo arrived at Livia’s at 1.45pm and was sent to the garage to get Terry’s car out. He wasn’t invited in.
At 2pm, Livia swept out, ignoring Paolo’s opened passenger door. She would sit in the back, with Paolo as chauffeur. That pissed him off!
“Now look here Livia,” he said, “you know and I know you have Terry’s blood on your hands as much as me. What you don’t know is I have the means of taking you down as much as you can get me. Don’t think being miles away on a cruise gets you off the hook!”
Paolo asked Tony to clear it with Livia, as he said she might be rather cool towards him for some reason best known to herself.
“I think she might see me as a mere lad,” he told Tony, indignantly. “I think she might prefer to go with you.”
“Well that ain’t gonna happen. She’ll get who I say or she can find her own fucking way there!” Tony insisted. “Leave it to me.”
Tony called Livia and told her the score. Paolo would drive her... in Terry’s car.
“Well make sure your lad gets me there on time!” she concluded.
“Is anyone accompanying her?” Paolo asked about Livia’s trip to identify husband Terry’s body.
“I’m not fucking going with her!” Tony announced. “If you’re so bloody interested, why don’t you take her? She’s due at the mortuary at 3pm. I suggest you pick her up at 2. But if I hear you’ve been trying it on with her, you’re in the ground, even if you’re a star right now!”
“OK!” Paolo was perhaps a little too hasty to agree. On reflection, he realised tomorrow was Tuesday. He was about to piss off Marcia once more!
...but then it was Livia!
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.