Had Livia forgotten the encouragement she had given to Paolo before she went away and Terry’s demise? From Paolo’s perspective, he was still the crown prince, waiting. From Livia’s perspective he was a means to an end, and the end she’d already allowed him to achieve in having sex with her was no more than a dead end, literally if necessary. Livia was a user, a manipulator, as ruthless as a mantis. Livia was ideally suited to take over from Tony, having ‘made him redundant’ along the way.
Livia had qualities for sure, and she was determined to exploit them.
“So who else then?” asked Livia. “Who could do the job and is someone we could trust?”
“Well both our kids are far too young.” Replied Marcia, “and looking round the crew, there’s not a lot of choice. Franco’s the best tough guy, but has neither the brains or the subtlety to run the show. Paolo has been pretty close to Tony, and he seems to have ambition and probably knows what’s what...”
“Paolo?...” exclaimed Livia, “Gimme a break... he’s no more than a child... an adolescent, more interested in exercising what’s in his pants! Paolo? Boss? No bloody way!”
“Would you want your greedy little sister in control of your future though?” This was Livia’s million dollar question and both of them knew the answer.
“I think I’ve probably answered that already... no bloody way! Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister... but I know her too well and there are still silly little unresolved issues from our childhood that might crop up and if Sofia had the whip hand... then I’d have to kill her!” Both women instantly burst into laughter. But the underlying truth seemed to disqualify Sofia from the top job.
But would Sofia agree?
“Sofia? Well she’s certainly got the balls for it, and she’s bright... brighter than me. But she’s got a pretty good job in Town which she likes. It gives her plenty of freedom and enough to live reasonably well on.” Marcia was articulating her thoughts.
“But is enough enough? From what I know of her, admittedly nothing like as much as you Marcia, she is extremely ambitious and not even the sky’s the limit!” Livia was pushing hard. She needed the low down on her competition.
“Yeah, well she’s always been a greedy cow!” Marcia laughed, but meant it.
“When you say any one of us, do you mean us two?” Marcia was getting her head around the implications of what Livia had said.
“Maybe...” answered Livia cryptically, adding “if either of us could be bothered with the responsibility. “I’m not sure I’d want to do it,” she lied, “my life’s looking up right now and with Terry’s insurance payout, I should have enough to live on.”
“Probably not my thing either, except to keep the money rolling in.” Marcia wouldn’t admit to plans to take over either, “Who else then?”
“Sofia’s an ambitious girl isn’t she?” supplied Livia.
Livia's face went all serious.
"Sure he's suffering right now, just like he's made lots of others suffer over the years, including you I imagine, otherwise why would you be so against him? My worry is that the business might be suffering, and with a fifty percent share in it, I could be suffering too. And so could you Marcia; your little bubble could burst at any time!"
"Marcia was taken aback by this.
"So what do you suggest we do then Livia?"
"We need a replacement... really soon!"
"Like who?" came the question.
"Any one of us." Livia answered.
Livia was off the hook... because Marcia didn't seem to give a fig. Livia had gleaned something from her questioning though, or so she imagined. Marcia and Sofia weren't that close and Livia doubted that Marcia knew if Sofia was servicing Tony now and then. And she guessed Marcia wouldn't even care if she were anyway.
Undaunted, Livia continued. "So what are we going to do about Tony then?"
"Do about him?"
"Yeah, do about him!" confirmed Livia.
"Do him in you mean?"
"Not exactly, but didn't we agree to make him suffer?"
"And you don't think he is already?"
But Livia was on a roll, she would push her luck once more.
"Hates his guts eh? Or is she telling you how she hates his guts? Sometimes you know, women work in devious ways..."
"...and there speaks one who should know!" Marcia parried, then laughed out loud, adding. "What are you up to you little minx, stirring up a family civil war?"
Marcia's reaction was not quite what Livia had planned, so she backed off.
"Ah... you've rumbled me Marcia. I'm just winding you up. I don't get a lot of fun these days. Gossiping that's all I do!"
"Do you think he's got someone else on the side maybe?" asked Livia. "Someone he can talk to... someone who'll listen to him and his ravings... someone who'll see you off?" Livia was deliberately stirring but wanted to test things, in particular if Marcia was aware or suspicious of Sofia providing Tony any weekend cocoa.
But Marcia seem unfazed by Livia's directness. "Unless he's got a hot date at his office... and I wouldn't have thought that was his style... the only other women here at home are me and occasionally Sofia. I'm always here and Sofe hates his guts!"
Livia wasn’t at all bothered who Marcia was at it with, but the opportunity to talk about Tony had been presented to her.
“Tony’s completely cut himself off then it seems?” Livia probed. “The odd occasions I’ve spoken to him about Terry, he’s been really weird. Like he’s closed off. Is the business suffering do you think?”
“Not sure... I bloody hope not, although what grip he’s got on it I can’t tell. I assume it’s OK, but he’s still got stacks in the bank to fall back on.... well I think he has! You’ve got me worried now Livia!”
“Having a ball? How great! How many balls though?” Livia laughed a grubby laugh, which set the lunch going really well. Marcia responded.
“Why? What’ve you heard? Who’ve you been speaking to?” she said, giggling herself, having twigged Livia’s question.
“It’s just that with Tony behaving like a zombie, it’s difficult to imagine life being a ball as such round your house.” Livia was still laughing.
“Fair point I guess, but as for Tony, we’re ships that pass in the night, except that we don’t pass or do anything in the night!” Marcia also saw the funny side of things.
Livia’s lunch with Marcia was an altogether different and more relaxed affair. It may have been that Marcia was in some way fulfilled. Living in a smart house in a ‘nice area’, she didn’t have to do much except what she wanted. What she wanted included a couple of men now and then, neither of whom was Tony, who kept his distance, and one of whom, Franco, was more ‘now’ than ‘then’, a very frequent visitor to check the kitchen he’d fitted... after-sale servicing.
In the local Moroccan restaurant, Livia asked Marcia how she was.
“I’m having a ball!”
Livia wasn’t so much needy as greedy. Her plans were quite simple... Tony would be removed, permanently, and she would take over the running of the business. Whilst the two other women might present complications, Livia had no doubt that ultimately they could be ‘managed’ or sacrificed. Sofia would seem to be the bigger threat, but Livia’s next lunch engagement with Marcia should provide more information... and information is power.
Paolo’s role was errand boy with knife. He was extremely useful right now and could be scapegoated at any time. His apparent love for Livia was to be exploited mercilessly.
The lunch ended when Sofia checked her watch and announced that she was late and had to race back to the office. Whoosh! She was away, but Livia was pleased with what she’d discovered. Next it would be Marcia’s turn.
Sofia, slightly the worse for drink as she sped back to her office, wondered why Livia had wanted to meet. She had the feeling she’d just been probed, but wasn’t sure why. She put that question onto the back burner as she successfully made the excuse to colleagues about having had to be a sympathetic ear for a needy friend.
Livia decided she’d probed Sofia enough... and she’d found out things... not definite things, but she now had strong hunches. Firstly, Livia was certain there was a romantic involvement, as yet unresolved - the ring thing. Secondly, Sofia had almost certainly slept... and might still be sleeping with Tony. Livia was pretty certain he wasn’t the romantic interest... so Sofia was probably attending to Tony’s needs... for her ultimate gain.
That might mean she had ambitions to take over the business if anything happened to Tony.
If true, Sofia herself might be trying to use Livia and Marcia.
That wouldn’t do!
Livia wasn't convinced. She knew Tony of old. Sure, he was a bully and had beaten her viciously back when she was playing him and Terry. But she also knew that when it came to women and sex, Tony was a shy guy and most unlikely to make the running.
She was pretty certain Sofia and Tony had been doing it, regularly... as a weekend activity of which Marcia was unaware... or knew about and didn't care. Livia was pretty sure Sofia would have initiated it, probably just for the hell of it.
So maybe the sisters weren't so close.
"Is that why you don't go there so often now maybe?" Livia was on the case. "Has he ever...?"
Another nod from Sofia.
"More than once?" Livia probed further.
"More than more than!" Sofia was adding fuel to the fire... and she was on a roll. Livia seemed to be getting really wound up. "Why are you bringing all this up Livia?"
"Because I don't like that bullying creature getting away with it! Did you tell Marcia?"
"I couldn't. He said he would beat me up if she got wind of it!"
"So why go back?"
"She's my only sister."
Livia was hard-wired to pick up on things, particularly drink-fuelled off the cuff remarks.
“But you’re there at weekends, aren’t you?.... If you’re saying what I think you might be saying, Sofia, you either like to live dangerously or have, let’s say, a very interesting taste in men. Or maybe you’re playing a game of your own that requires considerable skill! Are you sleeping with Tony yourself?” Livia was very direct.
Sofia realised her slip. “Absolutely not! Perish the thought! How could you think that of me Livia?”
“But Tony’s tried it on with you though?”
“You’re not suggesting your sister’s a slapper are you?”
“Well, Let me put it this way, Marcia's taste in men is quite catholic.” Sofia had barely recovered from laughing.
“But Tony’s a Catholic isn’t he?” Livia giggled.
“There’s Catholic and catholic... and then there’s Tony!”
“What’s he then?” tittered Livia.
“A belief system all of his own. A complete madman... dangerous too!”
“Why does Marcia stick with him?” asked Livia.
“He’s her meal ticket, she spends how she likes... and shags who she likes too!”
“And Tony gets none?”
“Not during the week!” drink and bravado had loosened Sofia’s tongue.
Livia’s fictitious appointment had been simply an excuse for why she was up in London, but it could also indicate that she might be preoccupied right now.
“Enough about me,” she said, “I wonder how poor Marcia is coping with Mr Grouch?”
“Mr Grouch?” asked Sofia more naively than might be expected. “Is that her bit on the side?”
“Haha!” laughed Livia. “I meant Tony... how fascinating... Marcia’s got another man eh?”
“Wouldn’t put it past her. Wouldn’t blame her either. There’s nothing going on with Tony!”
“I wonder who he is.”
“West Ham United maybe?”
Lunch erupted into laughter.