Tony’s interview with the police at Walthamstow was carefully planned. Before he arrived he’d spent time briefing his solicitor on the situation.
The solicitor advised him to explain exactly what had happened and how for obvious reasons he had been warned off speaking to the police. He suggested Tony take along the fingers/pies which had been in a sandwich box in the office fridge but that, for once, he went along without his mobile phone. If they wanted him to hand it in, then best to get someone like Paolo to ‘clean it up’ first.
“And you paid them nothing!”
Paolo left the bar uneasily after taking a while paying the bill and visiting the toilet. His thought was that if Franco was tailing Sofia, he wanted him gone before emerging. He looked carefully each way down the street and then went the other way down Beauchamp Place and a rather circuitous route behind Harrods to get to Knightsbridge Underground station. He was spooked.
That had been exactly Sofia’s intention. It was a fabrication, but she wanted to unnerve Paolo and make him aware of the acute danger he was in. That would make him a softer target tomorrow night.
This was a hell of a day for Paolo. Sexually drained, twice, by dawn, lunch with one sexual predator, ducking and diving with the cops, drinks with another sexual predator, possible stalking, two prospective shag-dates and probably an update with Tony.
But on the other hand a stack of money transferred and as secure as a cryptocurrency can be.
But on the other, other hand, a call to Livia loomed. Livia, another beautiful, scary woman who seemed to have the highest level of sixth sense and intuition.
He was still infatuated with the idea of Livia... but the reality...?
The reality was that Franco had been nowhere near Knightsbridge. He hadn’t been instructed to spy on Sofia, or Paolo, but it was the kind of thing he might be told to do. Franco got the rubbish jobs like surveillance and ‘persuasion’ aka roughing up or occasionally permanently silencing people. Tony kept his people in ‘boxes’ and Franco was the ‘muscle’ and general gopher.
As Paolo had observed when discussing possible internal treachery, Franco was a lot smarter than he was given credit for by others. For instance, he wouldn’t have been spotted across the street.
Paolo wondered about Sofia.
By the time Paolo recovered from what was a really hard slap, he looked out across the street. Sofia had gone as had anyone across the street who might have been watching her. Paolo was rubbing his face as others gave him sideways looks and one guy even asked if he was OK. The women there wouldn’t have cared. Paolo had obviously insulted his female companion so they wouldn’t feel inclined to offer him any help.
As he went to settle for their drinks, he wondered what Franco might report back to Tony, assuming it was him spying on them.
Sofia whisked her hand away from Paolo’s sharply, and said calmly “Paolo, in a moment I am going to slap your face and storm out of here in a huff. I hope you’re OK with covering the drinks bill.”
“Why on earth?” Paolo looked suitably taken aback, even indignant.
Sofia continued calmly “Don’t look now, but a guy’s been standing across the road since we arrived and he looks like Franco. Tony may be checking up on me; he’s been rather suspicious recently. It’s for your benefit Paolo. See you around nine tomorrow.”
A hard slap and out swept Sofia.
Sofia closed the subject, realising she wasn’t going to be able to winkle out of Paolo the amount of the ransom paid.
“Well whatever... it’s Tony’s money, so why should I care? Marcia will take it hard though because she reckons what’s Tony’s is hers too! Now, Paolo, when am I coming round to your place again for a games night?” Sofia giggled.
Much as Paolo was relieved for the subject to be changed, and excited about ‘games’ with this fascinating woman, his diary was rather crowded next week with Marcia and Livia’s return.
“Tonight? Tomorrow?.” he suggested.
Paolo's last thought was brought into sharp focus with Sofia’s next throwaway line.
“Well, whatever ransom Tony paid, Marcia will have got it out of him and she’ll tell me. She tells me everything.” her lie about her closeness to her sister seemed very believable to Paolo. He didn’t really want the two of them sharing notes about recent events, so he decided to try and close the subject now.
“It won’t even have been half a million,” he said “a couple of hundred thou max, but no more.”
“Don’t be daft, Paolo, a life is never bargained that cheaply!”
If Sofia knew about Terry’s fingers, she didn’t say any more on the subject. Paolo started wondering if he was being a bit paranoid, imagining ‘reds under the bed’ or rather in his case in the bed. One instinct was that he should run a mile from Sofia, however tempting she was... but that was countered with a fear that if she did know something and was, as Marcia contended, sleeping with Tony, then if she became ‘a woman scorned’ the perpetual fire and fury unleashed was unthinkable.
But if Marcia found out she was sharing him with her sister....
"Let's fantasise for a moment Paolo.... imagine we're kidnappers trying to get Tony to cough up for Terry's life. Where would we start, and what would be our negotiated minimum? We know Tony's a tight-arsed bastard, but we also know he's an identical twin and would share everything with Terry, except for his power! Let's start the bidding at £2million."
"He'd never pay that!" Paolo was very uncomfortable with this 'game'.
"You're right," said Sofia, "anything over a million and I reckon Tony would cut off his own fingers to avoid that!"
'Oh fuck!' thought Paolo, 'She bloody knows!'
Sofia once again took up the slack, continuing...
"It must be someone who hates Tony with a vengeance, and Terry too I guess. That might mean it's a rival gang... or maybe an inside job... someone they've pushed around a bit too much! What do you think Paolo?"
"I dunno what to think," he replied.
"Well how much ransom do you think they got out of Tony then?"
"Nothing!" insisted Paolo, adding "it's because they got none that they killed Terry."
"Oh dear... that's a damning indictment of Tony!... But I think he paid big... or I'm a Carmelite Nun!"
Sofia moved the subject on to specifics, bouncing Paolo from his worrying thoughts.
"You went somewhere with Tony last night... and I'm guessing it was that place they found the body. I wonder why you went all the way up there to collect a dead body with police crawling all over the place. Very strange! Did Tony have the ransom or had he already paid it... and the sneaky kidnappers told him where Terry was, promptly killed him, dumped him and called the cops so Tony would be fingered."
Emphasising her last word, Sofia paused... and Paolo shuddered. Sofia noticed.
Having been caught on the hop by Sofia's veiled accusation aimed at Livia, Paolo was recovering as he thought things through. Sofia's analysis and advice seemed very plausible and it suddenly hit him that he might become a prime suspect of Tony's if he were seen to be remotely close to Livia, particularly if that closeness by any chance hinted at intimacy with the widow. Sofia's advice was extremely sound, even if there was a tinge of jealousy underpinning it.
Paolo had to distance himself completely from Livia... but that might be very difficult... and might be fraught with danger.
"Steer clear? Why's that?" asked Paolo.
"Well, she and Tony don't hit it off, seriously dislike each other. I've no idea why, but it's probably from before I started staying with Marcia to help with little Giovanna. Rumour has it too that whilst Terry adored Livia, that feeling wasn't remotely mutual and Tony knew that. If I know Tony and how he thinks, he'll realise Livia has motive and alibi... which he will suspect and so then he'll look for the means... which means who did she get to do her dirty work? So keep your distance Paolo... for me!"
Sofia was quick to notice Paolo's discomfort and stopped speaking for a moment so her words could dig in a bit deeper. By then she knew the score anyway, so she let him off the hook... well, sort of.
"Hey Paolo, relax... don't look so worried, I'm not suggesting you're involved in anything untoward. After all, you've been a good friend to Tony it seems. And maybe I'm just imagining it about Livia, although she does seem to be a rival for your attention, so maybe I'm just being bitchy!"
Then she added, "I'd steer clear though for a while."
The average man is easy to read for an astute woman, particularly one who's touching hands across a table and starring into his eyes, while confusing him by looking and smelling gorgeous. Paolo was no more than that average man. He was involuntarily giving himself away.
The mere mention of Livia... and the suggestion that she was implicated at best, and responsible at worst, for her husband's death and attempts at extortion caused a Newtonian response. He raced to defend her, then realised that in so doing, he had inadvertently acknowledged that to do so she must have had help.
“Well I don’t believe you," continued Sofia, "but let me tell you how I think it was, Paolo. I think someone abducted Terry, maybe killed him straight away, but extorted money from Tony somehow. Tony really loved Terry. You wouldn’t know, but he really did. He loves money too. Major problem! I’m asking myself what on earth were they threatening? What would they do to Terry if Tony didn’t pay up? Or maybe he did pay up somehow, but got to Terry too late. And who tipped off the cops?... This somehow all smells of Livia!”
“But she’s away!”
Paolo realised how dangerous Sofia was. If he told her anything it might get back to Tony between the sheets, assuming Marcia had told the truth, and he believed she had. And if he didn’t tell, and antagonised her, Sofia might badmouth him to Tony anyway. Best to explain...
“Tony’s been very funny about all this,” Paolo explained. “He’s been so tight lipped about Terry’s disappearance... probably been warned off telling anyone by the kidnappers. All I know is he wanted me to be his bodyguard for a crazy late night trip up north.”
“Really!” Sofia’s eyes signalled her disbelief.
“Oh shit!” said Paolo. “When?” he added.
“Saw it on the one o’clock news in the office. They hadn’t identified it as Terry though... but of course, you know it’s him don’t you?” replied Sofia.
“Huh?” was Paolo’s reaction, as if to say how did you work that one out.
“Two and two, Paolo, putting two and two together. Why else would Tony be wailing all night and you be staying over?... you knew! So what was it all about Paolo, eh?”
Sofia was worse than DI Jackson! What, if anything, did she know, and how? Pillow talk with Tony?
‘What is it with these women?’ thought Paolo, ‘always asking questions... always wanting to know things it’s better they didn’t. Always probing, like bloody Jack Russells rooting for rats. She’s no different to her sister really... why do they need to know stuff? Do they want to use it against people... me maybe? And if she’s shagging Tony, she’s not telling... that means she’s dangerous. But on the other hand, she’s unbelievably shaggable and if she wants to share... well... I’ll risk it!
Paolo's thoughts were interrupted when Sofia said “I’ve seen the news, you know. They’ve found a body.”