Franco told Marcia his story of how his parents had lived in Italy in a remote part of Campania when he was very young and had been murdered, while he was playing at another kid’s house nearby. They must have been involved in something bad. He was taken under the wing of an aunt, who subsequently moved with him to the UK. She had died some years ago.
He also talked politics and Italian culture and Marcia realised this burly man was quite clever, but hadn’t had the breaks to take advantage of it. She became oddly attracted to him.
Like most of the gang members, Franco had a day job. He’d trained as a carpenter and had secured a job with a chain of kitchen suppliers. He was a fitter. Being instinctively tight-fisted, when Tony had been nagged into giving Marcia a new kitchen, he asked Franco to do it for him on the side, on the cheap.
At first Marcia didn’t really notice Franco - a big, burly kitchen fitter. But when he started suggesting little enhancements to the kitchen which he would do at no extra cost, she warmed to him and often chatted as he worked.
It was Franco and Franco alone who came up with the idea of connecting Shaun, Ireland and the Troubles. He’d worked it out beforehand and got the pizza box and spraypaint ready without Tony’s say-so. Tony only realised Franco had done it afterwards when he saw it on the news. His impression of Franco soared. ‘What smart thinking’ he thought ‘I never knew he had it in him’.
Franco was happy being whatever anyone cared to think. He liked his work, although he got the bum jobs.
Paolo noticed how smart Franco was though. Marcia had noticed that too!
Franco was a big guy and it was assumed he had brawn, not brain. Tony rated Franco for the kind of dirty job he told him to do. He was reliable at that, but hardly Brain of Britain.
Accordingly, most of the others thought Franco was a bit thick. Not only was he not thick, he wasn’t Franco either! Franco was really Frank; Frank Smith, English born and bred, but to be accepted by the Italians, he’d created his alter ego. Frank became Franco and Smith became Russo, the most popular Italian surname. He created a convincing back story too.
Franco treated himself to a pizza. He liked the irony. He called Tony’s mobile to report progress, speaking in code; he enjoyed that.
“Hello Tony. I thought I should give you an update on the latest redundancy programme. The terms were fair. The settlement took into account the future needs of the staff member and it was delivered personally. I don’t believe he will be in any position to appeal.”
“You’re a good man. It’s good to have you running the HR team.” Tony played suit, certain the job had been done well. He didn’t know just how well though.
One of the cheekier tabloids ran the story on the front page the next day. PIZZA ‘TOPPING’ it proclaimed. It went on to mirror the DI’s view of what had occurred. It suggested it was an Irish liberationist act. Shaun was possibly a ‘grass’ who was despatched in a cold, brutal way.
Shaun’s girlfriend initially denied that Shaun had anything to do with any Irish political movement until she was offered an undisclosed sum of money by another tabloid to ‘tell all’... which she did... and more. Her imagination grew to match her fee. Well after all... he was dead!
Franco put the spraycan back in his pocket calmly, unscrewed the silencer from the gun and put both inside his leather jacket. He tossed the pizza box on top of Shaun’s body and quickly left, mounted the scooter, whose number plates were remarkably dirty, so much so that you couldn’t read them. He drove off in the style of an ordinary pizza delivery boy... quickly.
Shaun’s girlfriend found him, screamed and called the police who arrived promptly. The detective inspector investigating took one look at Shaun and one look at the graffito. He was quick to make up his mind.
“I didn’t order no pi...” Shaun didn’t have time to finish as he noticed a flash and instantaneously never noticed anything again. The pizza delivery guy was standing and delivering. His right hand under the large pizza box had squeezed the trigger of a silenced handgun inside, on its side.
The single bullet pierced the box, powering straight into Shaun’s forehead, close, neat and deadly. The impact knocked Shaun over backwards into the hallway. Franco walked in, closed the door and stepped over Shaun’s body. He took out a black spraycan from his pocket.
The graffito was pure Continuity IRA.
It was 6.30pm and Shaun had arrived back five minutes before to his small flat in Romford. He hadn’t noticed the man standing astride the black motor scooter. Why should he? Pizza delivery guys were ten a penny at this time of night round there. If he’d noticed maybe he would have asked himself ‘what’s such a big guy doing on a small scooter’.
The knock on his flat door surprised him. Visitors normally had to be ‘buzzed in’ first. He was further surprised when he opened the door to see a big guy holding a pizza box up high.
With that, the call was over. Before Paolo returned, Tony needed a word with Franco. Tony was definitely instinctive, but he was also impetuous. He had to sort things now to be able to get on with life.
Satisfied that Franco was suitably briefed, Tony could concentrate on getting some real work done. Work that would start to recoup the fortune he’d just lost to Shaun. His money was too difficult to recover without the cops getting aroused, so he reconciled himself to taking a hit. With Franco on the case Tony saw it as a hit for a hit.
“Could Shaun have done this to Terry?” Tony asked the important question.
“I’ve no idea, but Shaun really went off with his tail between his legs and being such a cocky young man, that would have hurt. But whether it was enough to make him get even is anyone’s guess. It would make sense though, I guess.”
“OK, Liv, let’s leave it at that.” It was enough for Tony, who changed the subject. “Sorry to ask, but the cops say someone's gotta identify the body. You’re Terry’s next-of-kin. Are you OK with that, Liv?”
“I’ll try my best.”
Tony was being sensitive asking Livia how she felt before he launched into the real reason for his call.
“It comes and goes.” Livia replied “I’m still a bit in shock.”
“Of course, of course.” said Tony sympathetically.
“Any ideas who killed Terry yet?” she asked, paving the way for Tony’s real purpose.
“How well do you know Shaun?” he asked.
“Oh Shaun!” Livia laughed, “Oh I know Shaun. The cheeky bugger tried it on with me once. All that Blarney. Quite charming... until I told Terry about it. Terry went absolutely fucking mad! Told Shaun he was ‘dead meat!’”
After lunch, Tony asked Paolo to take a package to an address in West London. This would give Tony time to speak to Livia on the phone.
Paolo was delighted to get away. He wasn’t fooled. He knew exactly what Tony would be doing. He thanked his lucky stars that he’d sent the text to Livia in advance. This was one of the ways she could ‘make it worthwhile’ for him handing her half his ransom.
Paolo was keen for things to be clear, and subsequently to be ‘cleared up’ as soon as possible. Then Tony would stop the search.
When Paolo got back to the table Tony spoke.
“The cops said I gotta go identify the body.”
“Of course you must.” agreed Paolo.
“Of course fucking nothing!” said Tony tetchily. “I ain’t seeing no body, particularly if it’s Terry’s. Can you understand that Paolo? Does it make sense? Will they all think it strange?” Tony’s worry, perhaps that he might appear unconcerned about his twin, rather gave away his vulnerability. He had had his outpouring of grief. He didn’t want anything triggering any more.
“I understand totally Tony. You don’t have to. Livia’s his next-of-kin after all.”
Tony thought for a moment, before speaking.
“You see Paolo, people without Italian values ain’t got the same sense of loyalty we do. It ain’t in their blood. Do you know how Shaun got on with Terry. Did they get on? Did they?”
Once again Paolo swerved the question with his reply.
“I’ve no idea Tony. You’d better ask Livia when she gets back.”
Paolo realised Tony wouldn’t wait that long. He would probably call her straight after lunch. Paolo needed to prime her first. He went for a pee shortly afterwards and texted an advance warning. Over to Livia!
Over lunch in a local East End Italian restaurant, the conversation turned to Shaun, the only non-Italian member of the gang. Paolo let Tony make the running. He started by explaining why he’d taken Paolo to lunch.
“Quite frankly you’ve earned this Paolo; you’ve been a loyal friend. You have friends among the boys. You probably know ‘em better than me ‘cos you fix all their computers. What do you think of Shaun... honestly?”
“Well thanks Tony. Honestly, I’ve always liked Shaun. He’s different to us, but...OK I guess.”
Paolo wasn’t going to be executioner. Livia could do that!
Nothing more was said about Shaun all morning. Tony busied himself doing this and that and answering the stream of phone calls asking after him and trying to get an update on what they’d heard about Terry, who’d been named on the mid morning news feeds...”thought to be Terence Monelli, who’s rumoured to have underworld connections...”
Tony said very little, but thanked the callers for their support.
At 12.30, Tony announced “Come on Paolo, I’m gonna buy you lunch, Italian lunch!. Get your coat.” Tony’s emphasis on Italian signalled that he was brooding over letting non-Italians into the ‘business’.
"Fens?" Tony questioned. "Where the fuck's that?"
"Up beyond Cambridge. The flat place with the river they sent us after Terry. Where they found the body. It's called The Fens."
"Oh!" exclaimed Tony, whose mind was whirring. "Shaun! Fucking Shaun! I'll kill that Irish fucking bastard. Never should have let him in. He's a fucking crook!"
"Steady on Tony!" Paolo's voice of caution and reason belied his feeling of huge amusement inside. And pride! He knew how Tony worked and was working him. "Let's not jump to any conclusions... yet."
Paolo knew that the 'yet' had made up Tony's mind.
"Tony, don't you think we ought to leave this to the police?" suggested Paolo.
"Fuck no!" Tony exploded. "We find; we fix, capiche?"
Paolo expected that answer. He was as comfortable manipulating Tony as he was uncomfortable being manipulated by those women. Tony was brutal and instinctive, but not that bright. He made sure though that he had bright people around him.
"Do I think it's an inside job?" Paolo repeated Tony's question. "I think it might be. Someone clearly knows you and Terry and possibly knew how you would react. Who do we know grew up in the Fens?"
Tony and Paolo spent an hour or so talking through things. Firstly, they checked their stories to the police. Tony was pleased about the ransom denial. He had visions that if he let out that he'd paid a ransom, the police would have justification in going through his finances with a fine-toothed comb. That wouldn't do at all.
Tony quizzed Paolo about how likely it was that he would get somewhere with the 'fucking phone fiddling'. Paolo sounded doubtful.
"OK, fuck that then, let's talk about who coulda done this. Do you think it was an inside job Paolo?