Sofia’s arrival took Paolo by surprise. She had got in the outside door to the building, which hadn’t quite clicked shut, and the first he heard was the single rap on his flat door, which, coming after his troublesome thoughts, spelt danger.
But there she was wearing a beige trench coat, and as he opened the door, her familiar perfume caught his nostrils again, prompting instant excitement.
“Hello Paolo” she said intriguingly.
“Hi” was all the surprised Paolo could muster.
“I found I had nothing on,” she added, smiling broadly.
Other than the trench coat, she was speaking the truth.
Paolo thought he might be able to reschedule Sofia for Friday night, but, like her sister before her, she wasn’t answering his calls either. That worried him.
He was concerned that now Franco seemed to be in the clear, Tony might start looking for another suspect and that might be him. Sofia had considerable power over him, and, if true that she was also intimate with Tony, then Paolo might be vulnerable.
But he countered this rationalising that by saying anything to Tony, Sofia might implicate herself. Nonetheless, his thoughts rather ruined his Friday evening.
And then Sofia dropped by.
As instructed, Paolo spent the next three days tailing Franco, reporting back daily. To make things easier, Paolo let Franco know and they even ate their sandwiches together at lunchtimes, such was the idiocy of the activity. Over a pint late on Thursday, Paolo suggested that Franco contact Tony, telling him he’d noticed that Paolo was following him and confront Tony as to what that was all about.
Franco’s bluntness in asking if there was any question about his loyalty convinced Tony that he was wrong to suspect him.
Accordingly, Paolo was called off, allowing Franco to recommence shagging Marcia.
Paolo decided he would report back that he’d followed Franco to work and home again, watched him in his local pub and nothing suspicious seemed to be going on, although he did say that he couldn’t discover Franco’s whereabouts that morning - when Franco was waking up Marcia. That way Paolo left a window of doubt regarding Franco’s activities.
But Tony wasn’t letting Paolo off that easy.
“I want you with him at all times. If he goes out, you go out too, if he pisses, you piss but outa sight, if he shags anyone... be there!”
’Been there!’ thought Paolo.
With the subject changed to football and the barmaid, Paolo gave up. He hoped that Marcia might be able to scare Franco into leaving, but he doubted it. Marcia obviously enjoyed Franco’s early morning wham-bam, so if he wasn’t concerned, then she would surely continue to be up for it.
Franco’s bold, unmoved reaction had surprised Paolo. It got him to think carefully about his next action. If he spilled the beans to Tony that Marcia was having early morning wake-up calls from Franco, then he, Paolo, might well be tasked with Franco’s torture and murder.
“Well I admire your guts if you can laugh at that, Franco! Tony can’t think of anything but revenge right now and you’re firmly in his sights.” Paolo was surprised at the relaxed way Franco received his warning.
“Look mate,” replied Franco, “Tony doesn’t do torture himself. If he needs it done he gets one of his goons, like me or you, to do it for him. Now I don’t wanna be rude, mate, but I can’t somehow see you having what it takes for torture. Ain’t saying you couldn’t kill... but you’d want it clinical.”
Paolo was rendered silent.
Paolo needed to scare the living daylights out of Franco. He would describe how Terry had been murdered and dedigitised and then tell Franco how Tony was planning far worse for him. It wouldn’t just be fingers removed along the way but ears, eyes, nose... plus testicles and cock slice by slice.
That should get Franco to move on fast, or to kill Tony, either of which suited Paolo.
Waiting at Franco’s place when he returned from work, Paolo dropped by and asked the big man if he fancied a beer.
Over several beers, Paolo issued his warning.
“Will you warn Franco or shall I... or both?” Marcia asked Paolo before he left. “There is no way he killed Terry, now is there?”
“We’ll both warn him, although I need to watch my step, because Tony is even pointing fingers at me now in his frustration.” Paolo replied.
“You, Paolo, don’t make me laugh! You’re the last person to murder Terry. I think you’re Tony’s most trusted ally. And you’re too soft!”
‘Excellent!’ thought Paolo, ’Sofia’s kept it to herself.’
Agreed. They would both warn Franco. Paolo would aim to scare Franco enough to force him to disappear.
Marcia led Paolo to the downstairs bedroom. He knew the way already. Inside, she pushed him back on the bed, kneeling to unfasten his belt. He realised that once again, Marcia would be in charge, so he just lay there, compliant.
After she had had her way with him and finally conceded conclusion for him, he probed about her and Franco.
“Franco’s big, but unsubtle. Big and bullish is a good wake-me-up, but control is much more satisfying. You’re the cream to Franco’s coffee, Paolo. Despite your change in plans, it’s been a good start to the week!”
Marcia was smart. She knew the implications of Paolo’s comment. She could go on the attack and threaten him or confound him with an unexpected response. She chose the latter.
“Yes I noticed that as he left. Poor old Franco. The way he’s built, he struggles to keep it all contained. But who’s complaining!” Marcia wasn’t one to be fazed by anything.
“So, Paolo, what have you come for?” she continued, reclaiming the initiative.
“I needed to explain why I can’t make it tomorrow.”
“So why not make it today? An adjustment to your schedule maybe?”
She beckoned, Paolo followed.
Paolo explained that Tony was now convinced that Terry’s killer was still at large and that Franco was suspect number one... and that he, Paolo, had been ordered to tail him closely and report back on anything suspicious.
“What! Franco? That great lump! Now I know Tony’s lost his marbles!” Marcia was adamant that Franco didn’t have the brains for anything so devious.
“Well anyway,” said Paolo, rather matter-of-factly, “the first place Franco went today is right here, your house.”
“Absolutely correct.” said Marcia quickly. “He had to make some adjustments.”
“Yes, I saw him adjusting himself earlier!”
Seeing the new homes site, it was pretty obvious to Paolo that Franco would be there for the rest of the working day, so he drove back to Tony’s, where he parked on the road and pushed the intercom at Tony’s gates.
Marcia, who’d so far ignored his attempts to speak to her on the phone asked “Who is it?” Hearing Paolo answer and implore her that he must speak to her to explain, she said “Persistent little bugger, aren’t you? I suppose you’d better come in.”
On seeing Paolo...”Does Tony know you’re here?”
Paolo shook his head.
In the event, Paolo decided to follow Franco’s van to see where he was headed. Then, dependent upon a subsequent conversation with Marcia, if she would speak to him, he would decide his next course of action carefully.
Tailing Franco took Paolo to a building site for new homes. Franco took his tool bag and headed for a nearby house, close to completion, where he was greeted by another workman who called over to him jokingly, “What time do you call this, Frank?” All Franco said was “Private client.”, tapping his nose knowingly, then grasping his crotch. They both laughed.
Paolo’s discovery and assumptions seeing Franco leaving Tony’s house after a carnal assignation with Marcia (surely?) led him to consider three courses of action.
Report back to Tony his findings and suspicions. That might shortcut the process, shortening Franco’s life dramatically, thereby taking Paolo off the suspects list. (Although Marcia might be punished... and inform Sofia... who might then tell Tony a different story)
Tell Marcia that Tony made him tail Franco, and why.
Or... Paolo could confront Franco and advise him to ‘disappear’, thereby avoiding gruesome death inflicted by Tony (but, importantly underscoring his guilt).
Or maybe all three?
Paolo’s first reaction was to think what work Franco was doing in Tony’s kitchen. Nothing he could think of as when Paolo was last there Marcia proudly showed off her terrific new kitchen.
Paolo didn’t remotely think that Franco would be Marcia’s type, in fact the thought of the guy being there for adulterous purposes didn’t occur to him...
...Until around 11.30 when he saw Franco emerge from the gates adjusting his trousers and unconsciously rearranging his ‘tackle’. ‘Really?’ thought Paolo... then he said out loud to himself “Fucking slapper!”, failing to see the irony of his assertion. “The bitch!”
It was quite early, but a kitchen fitter would be up and away much earlier, so no surprises when Franco’s van was nowhere near the address Paolo had been given. Franco would already be on the job. But Paolo couldn’t risk asking neighbours where. It was anyone’s guess. He could do nothing until Franco got home that evening.
Paolo was glad to be away from Tony. Maybe he could use the time making it up with Marcia. He tried her phone a few times, but she didn’t pick up. He drove over to her place.
And he found Franco’s van.
It wasn’t just Sofia that Paolo had to disappoint. There was also the small issue of his afternoon tryst with Tony’s wife Marcia. He left the office to call her on the pretext of getting Tony a coffee. Marcia was not at all happy. She didn’t believe his story that Tony needed him elsewhere.
“OK Paolo, what day can you come?
“Dunno yet... sorry!” was his unhappy reply.
Marcia disconnected after a cryptic “You will be sorry!”
Things were going belly-up for Paolo. He was bothered. Added to which, how would he tail Franco?
First, find Franco’s white van.
“I’m really disappointed, Paolo. What’s more important than a night with me?” In a turn of events, it was Sofia giving Paolo a hard time.
“Ask Tony.” was Paolo’s answer. “He’s convinced that Terry’s killer is still alive.”
“Well... yes... he is... and I was expecting to have some of that life in me tonight!”
“Franco’s suspect number one now,” Paolo explained, “and you’re not above suspicion either Sofia... Tony’s in quite a state.”
“I know... I was with him yesterday y’know? And I have the means to prove who’s the real culprit remember!”
Paolo remembered alright... and shuddered silently.
“Right now I’m suspecting everyone, even you Paolo, although I reckon you might be too sex-mad and stupid to pull off something like murdering Terry! But I’m not ruling you out. The only one in the clear is Terry’s missus, for obvious reasons.... but that’s a bit convenient too!”
Paolo did his best to hide the fact that Tony had rattled him as well as fucking up his planned sexploits well and truly.
“Sure Tony, no problem. I’ll tail Franco.”
“Night and day y’hear? I want to know even when he farts! And if he starts spending my money!”
Paolo’s instant and visible lack of enthusiasm, prompted by this order from Tony, sparked a mini fit from the boss.
“What’s that fucking look for Paolo? You fucking lost your fucking bottle? Or should it be Franco I’m asking to follow you... and you know what to expect from him!”
Paolo quickly responded, instantly worried that the tables might be turned on him. “No, Boss. I’ll tail him. It’s just that I’ll need to cancel someone tonight.”
“Some tart I imagine!” retorted Tony. “You wanna keep your knob turned off, Paolo... or it might drop off. Or get blown off!”