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!”
“Does Ronan ever lose his temper with you? I’ve heard he can sometimes go a bit mental.” In asking this, Paolo was trying to establish not so much what Flaherty would do to him if he found him ‘in flagrante delicto’ with his woman - Paolo already knew that - but rather what he would do to Nicole as well. Her answer might affect things later on.
“He hasn’t yet,” replied Nicole, as seriously as her inebriation would allow. “But if he did, I’d kill the bastard, no matter who he is!”
“And how would you manage that?” asked Paolo, genuinely interested.
While Nicole was getting even more giggly, and silly, Paolo’s thoughts strayed to Livia. By now Tony would have collected her from Southampton, sat next to her for the journey back and breathed in her perfume. He might have put an arm round her to comfort her... and, Paolo allowed himself to imagine, one thing might have led to another and he might be in her bed right now.
He didn’t seem to consider that he, Paolo, was now on the verge of a very dirty night with Nicole, and was sharing Tony’s wife Marcia too.
Soon to be widow.
Paolo was intrigued. Nicole’s response sounded saucy. He didn’t dwell on it though, he would wait to see what ‘later’ meant. They talked briefly about her relationship with Flaherty. She said he treated her well and was very attentive when with her. But she admitted that she was glad that he wasn’t around all the time.
“He’s pretty old after all!” she declared. “Old enough to be my father... or even grandfather!” More giggles.
Then she got serious. “Of course, he stupidly thinks we’re ‘exclusive’. He’s very jealous... but also very married!... That’s not fair play...
...and he’d kill you!”
Paolo deliberately took things slowly. After all, Bolly’s not cheap, and it needed to do its trick. His challenge was to refill Nicole’s glass without giving the game away that his own glass wasn’t getting the same treatment. After all, he needed his wits about him later, and before then, as a red-blooded male, the last thing he wanted was ‘brewer’s droop’.
An hour in, Nicole was getting nicely mellow when Paolo said, “Word on the street is that Ronan’s been splashing out on diamonds for you!”
“Just one!” she giggled.
“Later!” she promised, prompting more giggles.
Paolo parked outside Nicole’s flat in Dagenham half an hour early. He wanted to remind himself of the lie of the land and also to double-check that Flaherty or any of his thugs, whom Paolo expected to recognise, weren’t around.
Satisfied that all was well, he buzzed her doorbell and the voice on the intercom told him where to go as she opened the door for him.
He bounded up the stairs to her top floor flat, carrying the bottles of Bolly, together with his secret stash of weaponry. Standing in her doorway, she flung her arms round him.
Paolo knew Nicole would be very glad to see him... and show it in a very physical way. They were both taking a chance that Flaherty would stay away, but so far he had never visited the flat on a weekend. Nonetheless, Paolo made sure he was prepared, with knife and gun, not that he let on to Nicole that he was armed. But Paolo wasn’t taking any more chances.
He did, however, let her know that he was armed with a couple of bottles of Bollinger. Paolo wasn’t taking any chances that he wouldn’t get into her knickers either.
Paolo saw his opportunity. Tomorrow was Saturday. Time for a message. Destination Nicole.
’RU free tomorrow? Takeaway? Can come east. Or whatever. Will bring bubbles if u like? Secret luvva!x’
Paolo didn’t have to wait long for a reply.
’Hi secret. Sounds nice. Chinese goes with bubbles.... goes to my head. Here at 8? Max schtum! OK? Nxxxxxxxx’
Things were looking good again... and a whole day to plan. Paolo started out with no plan but a burning need to dispose of Flaherty... and a promise. Instinct, flexibility and only if absolutely necessary, the gun. But Paolo preferred the knife.
Flaherty had to be careful. He was married to a quite formidable Irishwoman, Mary, with some pretty unpleasant connections of her own... her own family, vicious thugs... but Catholic ones, who publicly took a dim view of adultery. There would be no chance of Flaherty actually living openly with Nicole. She had a flat of her own in Basildon, far enough away to be out of Mary and her family’s sight, and away from Flaherty’s operation centre in Limehouse.
The word was he could see her weekdays, but that he had to be a family man at weekends. Or else!
It’s perhaps ironic that Paolo, a highly sexed individual, wasn’t bothered about Nicole taking up with the Irish lad. There was no fight, no scene, no recriminations. Paolo effectively gave his blessing. That made Nicole want him even more, telling him she would always have a soft spot and more for him. That knowledge was reassuring to Paolo. One day he might want to call it in.
But then Nicole got noticed by one of the Irish lad’s dad, Ronan Flaherty, and that was it... nobody else would get a look in... or anything else!
But Paolo was unfinished business...