Marcia went to the kitchen, got Giovanna down, cleaned her up and put her into the playpen with some toys. Simultaneously, she made a pot of coffee and laid a tray with toast and jam. Still in her bathrobe, she glided through to Paolo’s room, set down the tray as Paolo woke. With one action, she whisked the bedcovers off.
“Time to get up Paolo!” she announced, looking down at him and adding cheekily, “Oh... I see you already are!”
Paolo was embarrassed. He moved to cover himself. This was after all the boss’s wife... the boss, who was upstairs!
At 6.45am Marcia left Tony’s bed to take over baby duties as Sofia had to leave for work in London by 7.30. Tony hadn’t been interested in sex; he was still exhausted and now sleeping very deeply. It would be several hours before he would wake naturally.
Marcia went downstairs to give Giovanna her breakfast and had a shower while the baby was safely strapped in her highchair. She then heard a noise coming from the downstairs bedroom. She went to investigate and saw Paolo with the bedclothes half covering his naked body. Marcia lingered, admiring what she was seeing.
Sofia was back in her own bed, having been away a mere ten minutes. It would be another hour or so before the baby would wake and Sofia would bring to her own bed until Marcia was ready. Not really the actions of a mid-night sexual predator.
In his bed downstairs, a very contented Paolo was asleep again. After Sofia left he reflected on the previous ten minutes, almost wondering if he had been dreaming. Then sleep hit him.
In Tony’s bedroom, Marcia was trying to encourage him to do something with her to take his mind off things.
Sofia put her hand over Paolo’s mouth to stop him saying anything. He instinctively kissed it. He continued to lie there on his back.
“Ssshh!” she whispered. Then, like a snake, her left leg slithered over Paolo and, using her hand as girl guide, she sat astride him and slowly exercised herself on him until he exploded. “Ssshh!” she repeated, to keep any noise down. She was sure that if Tony found out, particularly as he was right now, both she and Paolo would be in trouble.
Then she left the room as quickly as she’d arrived, with her milk.
At 4.30am, Sofia went off, glass in hand, which she filled with more milk before slipping into Paolo’s bedroom, quietly locking the door, slipping off her nightdress and sliding naked under the bedcovers. She found her quarry and it was still in salute-mode, but this time Paolo stirred enough to realise what was going on.
Fragrances connect the nasal passages to the hardwiring in the brain and transport the recipient to the person, time and occasion when first encountered. Paolo instantly knew that this was Sofia lying next to him encouraging him to do with her what men do.
Marcia didn’t know what to expect when Tony awoke, but she would let him sleep as long as necessary. She was so calm about being there, planning that even if when he woke he wanted the physical workout that rough, unsophisticated sex might offer, she would go along with it. This was the closest Marcia got to being nice to him in recent years and, surprisingly, she felt quite good about it.
Underneath it all though, she knew that she was dealing with the results of savage revenge... and, given Tony’s recent suspicious looks, she wanted to act beyond suspicion.
Back in her bedroom, Sofia planned to return to see Paolo before dawn.
Marcia may have been working on the principle of keeping friends close and enemies closer, or she might possibly have felt genuine sympathy for Tony, despite everything that had gone before. But at 3.30am, with Tony still sobbing in his bedroom, Marcia went in, sat on the bed and put her arm round him. He didn’t resist or say anything. She slid under the covers and silently persuaded him to do the same. Then she simply kept her arms round him until eventually he went to sleep.
Marcia went straight back to her bedroom, while Sofia said she was off to the kitchen for a glass of milk. She thought she had heard someone else arrive back with Tony and was curious. She got her milk and headed off to the spare room to investigate. Opening the door, she saw in the half-light that Paolo was sound asleep.
Putting down the glass, she lifted the bedcovers and slid in beside Paolo. She put her arms round him... and then down, but whilst 'on parade' below, there would be no waking him yet. She would return later.
The two women opened Tony's bedroom door gingerly and saw him, fully-clothed spreadeagled on his bed, face down. He was neither expecting nor wanting visitors. He was shaking and sobbing into the pillows.
"Tony..." Marcia and Sofia called simultaneously.
"Go away... get out!" Tony managed to say. The two women turned to each other, raised their hands and Marcia nodded towards the door, which they closed after leaving. Only then did they allow themselves a gleeful grin. They didn't know exactly what had gone on, but were pretty certain it involved Tony's brother... and not in a good way.
Tony's executive house, in a gated community in Chigwell, had six bedrooms. The sixth was tucked away on the ground floor next to Tony's study. There Paolo crashed down. He quickly stripped off and jumped into bed. Seconds later he started a deep contented sleep.
Upstairs, both Marcia and, as she was staying over, Sofia heard Tony arrive and couldn't but hear his continuous sobbing. He had opened the floodgates and was releasing grief, although he was trying to stifle it lest anybody heard.
The two bodies that did hear met on the landing. They went together to Tony's bedroom...
Paolo was uneasy about saying nothing to Tony, but understood why conversation wasn't the flavour of the moment. Tony must be hurting really badly on a number of fronts... Terry's probable demise, the money, the speeding ticket, the helplessness and the dealings with the police. But if he was in anguish, he wasn't saying anything or making a sound. Tony merely stared straight ahead.
The only thing Tony finally said was "Take me home Paolo. You can crash down in one of the rooms too.... but let's not talk now."
Paolo did as instructed. It was 2.25am. He was knackered.
Paolo turned the SUV carefully in the narrow road and drove off the way they'd come, slowly. He wasn't taking chances. Tony said nothing.
Paolo slowed further as they passed the police activity by the river so Tony could see what he could. He saw nothing but four or five policemen with searchlights. As Paolo slowed, the police car following them did a quick bust on the siren to tell them to vamoose. There was nothing that Polo wanted to do more than get away.
"Tony, I'm so sorry.." Paolo started.
"You're a good friend Paolo, but zip it! Capiche?"
The two men were accompanied back to Tony's car from the two police vehicles. They were free to go home.
The officer who had cautioned Tony regarding speeding suggested.
"I would drive home very carefully sir. You appear to be very upset, which is maybe understandable. Indeed, under the circumstances, if your friend here has valid insurance, I would recommend that he does the driving."
That was the only concession to Tony's feelings. He was a smartarse bully-boy and that didn't generate a lot of sympathy. Surprisingly, Tony beckoned to Paolo to drive, which indicated how upset he was.
As the police officer wrote out the tickets, Tony was shaking, partly with rage, partly with anxiety.
“You found my brother Terry?” he demanded of the policeman, who didn’t look up, merely carrying on writing out the tickets, but did manage to mutter “I ain’t saying nothing... sir!”
“What?” Tony barked. His anger didn’t faze the policeman, who clarified.
“I’m not at liberty to say sir. It’s a police matter.”
“It’s a fucking family matter... concerning my brother. Is he in the river?”
“All I can tell you sir is that anyone we find in that river won’t be swimming!”
The police were needed back with the others. They had no time to take Tony off to the local station for questioning, particularly now Paolo had told all and how it had all fitted into place with the anonymous tip-off of a body in the river they’d received earlier.
Tony still insisted “I’m saying nothing without my lawyer”
“We’re not proposing to wake your solicitor to drive here at this time of night... and your friend has apparently told us everything. We’ll need to speak to you later... but there is the matter of speeding and failing to stop...
“I’ll say nothing without my lawyer. I know my rights!” Tony never spoke to police.
“Do you know how guilty that makes you seem, sir?” Tony said nothing.
By contrast, in the other car, Paolo said everything... well, not exactly everything. He explained how Tony’s twin brother was kidnapped and a compounding ransom had been demanded... about the fingers in the pies in the post, the cryptocurrency requirement, the need for proof of life and tonight’s race to the location coordinates provided. He said Tony had dealt with any ransom payment and he, Paolo, was Tony’s bodyguard.
All very believable.
As he handed over Tony’s mobile phone to the policeman, Paolo switched it off, meaning that it couldn’t be accessed without the security code, which, if asked, he would claim he didn’t know and Tony wouldn’t tell the police on principle anyway.
The police asked the two of them to get out of the car and indicated for each of them to go to a different police car to answer some questions.
“Don’t say nothing!” Tony instructed Paolo.
“We’ve got to Tony, otherwise they’ll think we’re up to no good!” Paolo called to him.
But Tony wanted his lawyer there.
It was six minutes to Midnight and Tony’s luck had just run out just as Paolo’s had come up trumps. It didn’t matter if there actually was a mobile signal because Tony’s belief was that there wasn’t, and that was enough to ensure that the Midnight cancellation deadline would be missed and all that that meant.
It had been such a close thing for Paolo, but with that spot of luck, he was both in the clear as far as Tony would be concerned and in the money too!
There was now just the rather tricky issue of the police...
Tony couldn’t have escaped by swerving right as he’d go straight into a field and to the left was the river. The police arrived at both sides of the SUV and indicated to Tony and Paolo to lower the windows, which Tony reluctantly did, slowly, buying time while Paolo continued to fiddle with the phone. The police wanted to suss out if the two were armed before ordering them out of the car.
“Hand me the phone please sir,” instructed an officer on the passenger side, adding, “whoever you’re calling, you’ll be lucky to get a signal round here anyway!”
Tony reckoned he was getting away from the pursuing police car, but his hopes were dashed when ahead he spotted more flashing blue lights and another police car acrossways, blocking the narrow road. He had no option but to step on the brakes and stop. They’d been caught in a pincer movement as the police knew the connecting road system much better than Tony.
The game was up as the police, wearing body armour, came up to the car from both directions. Tony sat where he was in the driver’s seat while, for effect, Paolo was fiddling with Tony’s mobile...