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.”
“First things first...” Sofia made the running again as, prosecco in her right hand, she placed her left over Paolo’s across the table, “I like you Paolo... a lot... I find you exciting. You did scare me though at first, but that was my own fault, I goaded you.”
“Sor...” started Paolo.
“No need for sorrys. My own fault. Let me continue... I have an idea you have designs on Livia, but she’s not here and I am. I’m happy to share you later. OK?....... Now... tell me... what was going on last night?”
’Not another fucking interrogation.’ thought Paolo.
Paolo’s interview ended at 4.40pm and he left the police station, having given nothing more away than the previous night. DI Jackson was getting nowhere and realised he never would with Paolo. The guy might actually be innocent, hard though that might be to believe!
Paolo had enough time to jump on the DLR and Underground and get to Knightsbridge to meet Sofia at 5.30pm. Unlike her sister, Sofia was there five minutes early at 5.25pm.
“Let’s find a bar in Beauchamp Place” suggested Sofia, linking arms with Paolo and leading him away. Like her sister, she was in charge.
Paolo’s cool challenge caught the DI on the hop. He couldn’t follow up on his claim. He moved to quizzing Paolo about the ransom demanded.
Paolo did as he had earlier and denied any knowledge of a ransom, saying that Tony had kept that to himself, adding that he thought that Tony may have been told to keep schtum about that side of things. Paolo insisted that he was just there as a bodyguard.
“Well why would Mr Monelli need one of those then?”
“If someone was on the loose cutting off fingers, then wouldn’t you want one?” retorted Paolo.
The detective inspector and his sidekick used tried and tested police techniques to unnerve Paolo, firstly asking him if, like his boss, he wanted a legal representative present.
“Why on earth would I need one?” asked Paolo quizzically. No reply, but a shrug of the shoulders from the DI.
Then they used smirking looks regularly exchanged between the two of them and the occasional “Oh really?”, suggesting disbelief. But Paolo wasn’t fazed at all... he was telling the truth after all - he’d almost convinced himself!
“Some of your statement doesn’t match Mr Monelli’s account Mr Fano!”
“Oh really?” parried Paolo.
Paolo arrived at Limehouse Police Station at 2.55pm, five minutes early. He wanted to demonstrate that he was fully cooperating with the Metropolitan Police. The detective inspector was running late by 15 minutes as his interview with Tony at Walthamstow had run over. Paolo was OK about that, secretly wondering if he was being kept waiting so they could see if he was getting edgy and hot under the collar. He wasn’t.
Paolo was really very cool. He doubted that Tony would have said anything to undermine him - he just wouldn’t.
When the DI arrived, Paolo repeated his earlier story.
Paolo mentioned he too had to go to see the police and he must leave by 2.30pm to make sure he was there on time.
"I don't want to be late." he said, adding, "By the way, I don't think Tony wants any mention of a ransom, so if the police want to interview you, maybe best not to mention it, otherwise they'll start 'crawling all over the books', so Tony says."
Then at 2.00pm, Marcia jumped up declaring she needed to go and relieve her childminder, paid and left, after inviting Paolo round next week for some 'afternoon delight'.
Paolo was taken aback, and rather swift with his reply.
"Livia's the last person to be involved in this let alone masterminding it!" he insisted quickly. "And she's away for weeks in the Caribbean, where Terry should have gone with her. How could that stack up?"
"I suppose... but you were a bit quick to defend her then Paolo. Are you rather sweet on her too? Are you? Another woman I've got to fight for you, eh? And with her pretty face, maybe I shouldn't blame you!"
"You look pretty damn good yourself Marcia."
"Why thank you kind sir!"
"OK, so what don't you trust Tony about?" Paolo was relaxing slightly.
"Well he told me he'd had to pay a ransom. A million pounds he said..."
"No that's wrong." Paolo interrupted.
"Well half a million then maybe..." Marcia conceded. "And half that was my money too!"
"It wasn't. It was only 400K!" Paolo was trying to reassure Marcia, but he had fallen into her trap. Now she knew about the ransom. Tony had been tight-lipped about it!
Marcia leaned forward, touched Paolo's hand and whispered across the table.
"Paolo, do you think Livia could possibly be behind this?"
Over a classy lunch, Marcia quizzed Paolo on exactly what went on the previous evening and what had led up to it. To make Paolo feel more comfortable telling her, she told him about how Tony had broken down and told her all earlier.
"So why do you need it from me too?" Paolo dared to ask, with a look of suspicion on his face.
"Look Paolo, I've indicated earlier that me and Tony aren't exactly bedfellows right now, so I need to know he's telling me the truth. Amazingly, I actually want to help him. if only for Giovanna."
Paolo was worried by what Marcia had said. It seemed to him that he’d accidentally, or possibly deliberately been drawn into a situation representing a potential threat. Given his involvement in Terry’s murder and extortion, the sensible thing would be to run a mile from both Marcia and Sofia. Marcia, it seemed, had set her sights on Paolo as her stud. With the deadly secrets he carried, there was no way he could cut and run now.
Paolo felt that Marcia had him by the short and curlies and now planned extortion... of information.
...and what else would Sofia want?
"I don't need to ask Paolo, Sofia will have provided wonderful sex. She's physical and just what a young man needs. However...... there is something I should tell you about my little sister....."
Marcia had used long pauses to start and end her last sentence. It raised the anticipation of what she was about to divulge.
"Sofia is sleeping with Tony." she revealed.
Paolo's involuntary sharp intake of breath indicated his shock. Marcia didn't wait for his response.
"But I'm not bothered. I prefer my sex with you, but once today is plenty enough! Now tell me all about Terry...."
Paolo’s coyness about his ‘early rising’ meant an awkward start to lunch. Excited by Marcia, Paolo was also embarrassed.... and further embarrassed when she asked directly.
“Did Sofia come to see you in the middle of the night too?”
Paolo was taken aback.
“No need to lie Paolo, I know her perfume and I smelt it on your sheets, and on you. And don’t worry, I won’t ask which sister was best!” Marcia chuckled at Paolo’s continuing discomfort, adding, “and I’m not about to suggest a rematch if that’s what you thought! I’m a married woman you know!”