“Why the sudden change of heart now Livia?” Paolo still had boxes to tick.
“Tony scared me. He was acting weird! I think maybe the reason he didn’t force himself physically on me was that he’s got this crazy idea Terry’s still alive. I rejected this, and him, and now he won’t speak to me. He’s showing signs of weakness Paolo, but I’m not letting him rule my life...”
“...and my love.” she added wistfully.
“So what do you want from me then Livia?” asked Paolo.
“I want you to make love to me.” replied Livia. “It’s long overdue!”
“It’s true. I was shitty... I can’t apologise enough. But Tony was behaving very strangely towards me. He’d said you’d wanted to collect me from Southampton, but he didn’t like you ‘sniffing around me’! His exact words. He made you sound creepy Paolo... but then what happened was even creepier. I think he might’ve been trying to make a move on me himself because he said ‘If I find out that fucker’s made any move on you, I’ll have him killed!’ I couldn’t let that happen Paolo. I had to push you away!”
Paolo wanted to believe. And he did.
Paolo was not easily persuaded that this delicious woman, albeit older than him, had performed such a volte face. The savage iciness she’d exhibited towards him and her utter rejection of him couldn’t be ignored, even if he found her physically hugely desirable, despite their age difference.
“You’ve suddenly changed your tune, Livia. You must feel there’s more dirty work you need me to do!”
“How dirty do you want it to be Paolo?” Livia countered, coquettishly.
Paolo ignored the innuendo and continued.
“Something’s happened hasn’t it? Something you need fixing. You can’t fool me. Why the rejection, Livia, why?”
“You’ve been in a fucking brilliant place, Livia!” challenged Paolo, “The Caribbean... sunning yourself... having a great time!”
“Yes, you’re right, yes I was... but...” Livia agreed.
“But you left me here doing your very fucking dirty work... and then robbed me blind and treated me like shit when you’d got what you wanted!” Paolo wasn’t about to let Livia off the hook so easily.
“I know! You’re right Paolo. I did!... but I didn’t get what I wanted, did I?”
“What more could you possibly want then?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” asked Livia.
“No it fucking isn’t!”
“I want you!”
“Paolo?” asked Livia tentatively as he answered his mobile.
“Livia?... is that you Livia?”
“Yes” she replied.
“A bit of a surprise to hear from you. What do you want?” Paolo asked her suspiciously.
“Paolo, I’ve been a right bitch to you. A complete bitch!” she admitted.
“Yes you ha....” Livia gave Paolo no chance to finish as she continued.
“I have to make it up to you. I want to apologise.”
“Why the sudden change of heart, Livia?” Paolo was rather perplexed. He had converted his infatuation with her into extreme dislike.
“I was in a very bad place!”
Paolo’s grudging acceptance that Livia was a lost cause was about to turn on its head following her meeting with Mary Flaherty. Livia had thought back over the two women’s discussions and Mary’s comment about her brother ‘knowing where the bodies are buried’ bothered her. She realised that she might have been foolish not just to have distanced herself from Paolo, but also to have made him an enemy.
’Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!’ Livia thought. A thaw in relations might make her more secure... and Paolo might be actively helpful in the plans she was making.
‘Where do we go from here?’ thought Paolo. ‘We’ll do a lot more of last night’s activities’ he decided. That aside, he had no plans to take things further with Sofia... to the ‘next level’ of commitment, because that would inevitably mean exclusivity and he still had oats to spread widely. For instance, it seemed that Marcia hadn’t given any indication she was ready to stop her daylight dalliances, if Franco was still getting his cocoa there of a morning.
He accepted, sadly, that Livia was a lost cause in the love department. But the two sisters were so old!
What now for Paolo, following Sofia’s discovery of the value of the diamond he’d given her, was for him to see it for himself as a prelude to a night of pure carnal delight. Almost nothing ‘off the menu’ due to Solfia’s possibly misplaced gratitude. What a wonderful bounty for Paolo.
Sofia went over to Paolo’s small flat and they indulged in the works. A line of powder, a couple of bottles of wine and a lot of sex. By 1am, both exhausted, they fell asleep in each other’s arms.
“Where do we go from here?” asked Sofia next morning.
The question of the ring’s value exercised her too. Given her security concerns, she wanted to insure it for its full value. She decided to ask her jewellery client to have it valued for her on the quiet. She wanted to believe it had belonged to Paolo’s mother, but living among villains, she still had a hint of suspicion that it might have been stolen.
She was shocked when her client revealed the value of the ring. Between £10,000 and £12,000. “Sheesh!” she muttered on hearing the news... and then rationalised that Paolo must truly love her.
So what now?
Sofia was torn. She worried about the security of her diamond ring, but she loved it so much she wanted to wear it, and wear it all the time. She realised though that it would be thief bait and, being a woman, albeit a tough spirited one, she might attract a lot of unwanted, possibly violent attention. So she would wear it, but only when and where she was certain she would be safe.
She realised questions would be asked... questions she might not want to answer, like who gave it to her... and was that someone a serious ‘item’?
Sofia’s afternoon in the office was hardly her most productive. She couldn’t help staring at the wonderful diamond on her finger. She would take the ring off and put it on her finger again and again. She hesitated as it hovered over her ring finger, left hand. She was about to try it on that finger for size, but stopped short, out of superstition. As she did so, a single tear fell from her eye. She wanted nothing so much as to have reason to wear it there. Maybe a Paolo reason.
But the single tear was shed for herself.
Sofia couldn’t wait to collect her new ring. One week seemed an age. But patience was eventually rewarded when she took an extended lunch hour to go to her client’s premises in Hatton Garden to collect the piece.
It went straight onto her ‘ring finger’, right hand... a simple solitaire setting, which emphasised the size of the ‘round brilliant’ cut diamond. It was fabulous, she thought. It was rather scary too. It seemed to Sofia to cry out ‘steal me!’ Having worried about this all week, Sofia would wear gloves today.
No sooner declaring its beauty than hidden from view.
Mary found her keys and threw them in the air, catching them on the way down, as if to say “See Livia... nothing wrong with me reflexes!” With that she marched off to the front door, which she opened, as if she owned the place.
Stepping out, she turned her head, calling behind her. “Thanks a lot, Livia. Lovely lunch. Talk soon.” As she did so she put her right hand to her ear to indicate a phone. Livia was left, nonplussed, holding the edge of the front door, while opening the automatic gates.
Mary left.. Livia left open-mouthed.
“Ah, get away wid yer. That’s a very nice thought and I thank yer for it. But I’m not wanting to end up wid no feckin’ car. I can drive better pissed than I can sober anyway! And I can drive a feck sight better than every other fecker on the roads round here when I’m sober!”
“Really? Are you sure it isn’t the Prosecco talking?”
“Prosecco? Not being rude about yer lovely hospitality Livia, but it’s as weak as water. I piss stronger stuff than that! I’m feckin’ Irish remember. I’ll be fine. Yer a lovely woman, Livia, lovely.”
Mary had one last surprise for Livia. As she left, Livia had expected a social peck on the cheeks, but Mary grabbed her cheeks and gave her a full-on kiss on the lips, albeit not French-style.
Stopping, she stepped back
“There, look at ya... yer so pretty, y’are, I simply had to do that! If I were that way inclined, which I’m not by the way, so you can relax, you’d be me first choice!”
Livia was shocked, only recovering by asking.
“Surely you’re not going to drive home, Mary? I’ll get you a cab... on my account.”
Before Mary left, Livia asked her for details of her brother Donal, the undertaker, which she was happy to give. Mary offered to speak to him and to go along to see him with Livia. “To make sure the fecker doesn’t rip you off!”
Livia thanked Mary and said she would think about it. Trust her she might, but Livia was nonetheless hard-wired to be cautious. Besides, she had only just started thinking properly about Terry’s funeral. She would probably take Mary up on her offer, but needed thinking time first.
Right now Livia needed to process the lunch.
Lunch with Mary Flaherty was coming to and end. Mary’s warmth, sense of humour and even foul mouth had won over Livia, who was usually suspicious of new people. She liked what she saw as Mary’s fundamental honesty, Christian faith and how she was able to interpret the Ten Commandments to suit her needs. Livia liked Mary’s simple knack of making her laugh.
Somehow, through a single meeting, Livia actually trusted this woman, something enjoyed by nobody else except perhaps her own son.
Had Mary not bewitched Livia, she might have thought differently. She was after all a serious rival
Tony said little during the journey back to the office and Paolo didn’t try to start a conversation anyway. The trip was generally against the traffic flow and they arrived with five minutes to spare before the accountant’s scheduled arrival. As it happened, the accountant was 10 minutes late.
“Fucking accountant... he’s s’posed to be accurate and, like you, the fucker can’t get anywhere on time!” was the only thing Tony said, except “Paolo... thanks. Why don’t you fuck off home now!”
Paolo was in one respect delighted to go home... but would have preferred to eavesdrop on Tony’s meeting.
So engrossed was Paolo in discovering things about the business, he left himself little time to clear up the mess. Having wanted it to be spotless for Tony’s return at 4pm, Paolo worked extremely hard in order to dispose of the finger, sealing it and all the packaging in a black plastic bag, which he would throw into a convenient builder’s skip along his route to Tony’s house. The only problem was that he didn’t leave himself much time and lost some finding a skip.
Arriving at Tony’s house somewhat late he lost some of the ground he’d gained earlier.
With Tony out of the way, Paolo had free rein in his office. There was little danger of the boss turning up unannounced, so Paolo set about finding out some of the aspects of the ‘business’ that Tony didn’t share. Like names of contacts Tony preferred to keep to himself, like the bank statements Tony had got out ready for his accountant’s visit later in the day. ‘Knowledge is power, big time’, thought Paolo, with takeover plans seeded way back by Livia and growing fast in his mind.
Paolo was finding out what made the business tick, how and who.