At 9.30am it arrived. Right on time. Paolo took it from the courier and put it carefully on Tony’s desk. Tony just stared at it for what seemed like ages.
“Want me to open it Boss?” Paolo asked.
“No, I gotta do it myself”, replied Tony, more civil than his mood might suggest. Then he unwrapped the parcel, slowly. pausing before lifting the lid. He opened the box not with a flourish but with a sound of anguish Paolo had never, ever heard before. The small pie within had two fingers without, or rather sticking out in a familiar gesture.
Back at his flat at around 2am, Paolo suddenly shook off his confusion for the time being when he realised that he needed to be at Tony’s office first thing, to be there when the latest grisly delivery arrived. He set his clocks and devices to wake him early before he flopped into his bed for the deep sleep he needed. But what he got was a restless few hours, waking fully before the alarms could wake him.
He arrived at the office at 8.45am. Tony was already there, grumpy, pacing and playing nervously with his fingers. Tony just grunted.
“Sofia!” Paolo called after her, “don’t go like that!” But she was gone.
Paolo was dumbstruck. How could Sofia know all that? How much more did she know... and how? Did some of what she’d said ring true? Or all of it even? He was so confused. His confusion was also overlaid with the night’s action, which he’d never anticipated, but clearly needed and craved more. He was sexually satiated right now, but emotionally all over the place.
Making her way across London in a minicab, Sofia reflected on her evening. She rubbed her sore neck, shivered, but then smiled.
“She’s got you dangling on a promise hasn’t she? How long have you been waiting? A month, two, or is it more? Well that might explain tonight’s episode; fuck-hungry and fuck-angry wouldn’t you say?” Sofia’s rhetorical questions kept coming. She didn’t give Paolo a chance to answer. “What a fool I was to think you were gay... you’re in love... that’s far worse! And you’re in love with Livia and that might be fatal!... I’m guessing it already has been for Terry, the stupid bastard!”
With that, Sofia turned and left, with a chilly memento in her handbag.
“I think I understand...” said Sofia “...at least I know Livia and how she operates. Her pretty face, model legs and perfect figure are a definite man trap. That’s why despite her treating Terry like shit, he still adores her, or maybe I should say adored her. A fit young man like you would have been ripe to manipulate. You love her, don’t you, you really think you love her!”
“Livia’s OK”, was Paolo’s answer, adding feebly “you’re pretty OK yourself.”
“I’m OK because you’ve just had me. I doubt you’ve ever done that to Livia.”
Paolo’s face told all.
“Then I think it’s Livia isn’t it? Livia’s calling you from abroad. Has she got you under her spell? She has, hasn’t she? You must be missing her. I wonder why she called? Is she wanting news about Terry’s whereabouts? ...or is he actually ‘nowhereabouts’?”
“What’s with all these questions?” Paolo was trying to get off his back foot, which, under any other circumstances would have been funny, given he was standing stark naked.
“OK, one question lover boy... was that Livia who called?”
“Another question... is Terry dead?"
No response again.
“I’ll take that as two yeses!”
Paolo grabbed his phone and answered tentatively, “Hello.” Sofia looked round the bedroom door and silently mouthed that she was leaving. Paolo shook his hand as if to say no, but continued talking in hushed tones. Sofia heard him say, “No, nobody’s here except me. Nobody’s ever here except me!” Sofia read the signs and noiselessly closed the bedroom door so Paolo could speak in private. He came out later, sheepishly, asking her why she was leaving.
“Well someone clearly wouldn’t like me being here!” she answered, adding, “was it Tony?”
Paolo should have nodded, but shook his head instead.
At that point, Sofia decided she should leave. It was 1:30am and Paolo was still fast asleep. She should make her exit before he woke so she could devise her get rich quick strategy. It would be easier if she weren’t here when he woke.
She had slipped on her skirt, borrowed a shirt of Paolo’s and written a note saying she would return his shirt and he could keep her torn knickers as a memento. She’d just picked up her coat when Paolo’s mobile rang, waking him with a jolt.
Who on earth would be ringing him so late?
Sofia's mind was racing. This was dynamite. How serendipitous!
She crept into Paolo's living room and took her phone from her handbag, Back in the kitchenette, she took snapshots of both the defrosted and frozen fingers and enough photos of the flat to be recognisable to Tony... or police with a warrant. Paolo was so fast asleep that she even dared to place the fingers on the bed next to him and chance a few shots. This was going to be her pension... or would take some unsavoury people down instead.
This was not for sharing... particularly not with Marcia.
Sofia was shocked, but smart, and quickly worked out that Paolo had a dark secret which must involve Terry and probably Livia. She quickly realised that severed fingers smacked of kidnapping and extortion. She even allowed herself a smile. Paolo was probably engaged in extorting money from Tony. She smiled at the irony. But where was Terry being held?
She decided to check out Paolo's small freezer too. There wasn't much in there either, except a strong freezer bag with what turned out to be four more fingers individually wrapped and deep frozen.
That surely meant Terry was already dead.
Despite her somewhat savoury hors d'oeuvre, Sofia was wide awake and hungry. With Paolo sleeping soundly, she went in search of food. She would rejoin him later.
She wandered into his small kitchenette, looked around for something, anything to eat. Opening the fridge door she saw very little, except a couple of small pork pies and something wrapped in clingfilm, a very small piece of cheese maybe. She chose what she thought was cheese.
It was a human finger of about two inches long, severed below the second knuckle. She stifled a reaction, realising she'd stumbled upon something rather dangerous.
Sofia's expert fingers were in demand, providing physical encouragement to the required region, while Paolo, lying back in exhausted abandon, looked down his body to his personal masseuse. He was stirring again.
What happened then was almost a dream for Paolo. He closed his eyes and let it all happen to him, this time with Sofia firmly in control. Her hands had done their duty and she was otherwise engaged. Nothing was said, how could she?
Finally, drained of everything he had below, despite his recent passive role in his own satisfaction, Paolo drifted off into an equally satisfying sleep.
Paolo lay back as he watched Sofia move to the other end of the bed. She was expert in the ways of and the ways of handling men. Paolo was in for another treat, but without the intensity of frustration that had possessed him before, or the anger. For some strange, probably body-chemical, reason, maybe 'afterglow', he trusted Sofia at this point.
The start of her ministrations involved her slim fingers taking his two most sensitive appendages in tandem. Nervously, he automatically braced himself as, inevitably, Sofia 'tweaked' them to confirm her control, and get something else moving nearby.
With that, Sofia disengaged, slid off the bed, leaving Paolo looking at her with a mixture of wonder and sheepishness. Sofia deliberately took off her torn blouse and bra, as Paolo mouthed "Sorry".
"Shhhh!" she said quietly, "they can be fixed."
Then she deliberately removed her unblemished, but creased, skirt.
Her torn knickers had already been thrown aside earlier.
She stood naked, except for a necklace, bracelet and 'hold-up' black stockings.
"Wow... absolutely stunning." was all Paolo could manage to utter.
"Lie back Paolo. Leave it to me."
Sofia was peckish. She hoped he had something left for her.
When Paolo had finished and was spent, his mood changed. But, knowing this was likely to happen, Sofia pre-empted anything he might say.
"Sorry Paolo... it was unfair of me to ask you what I did. I wanted you... and yet with no signs that any women have ever been in this place, I thought you might be too shy to do anything about it. After all, what woman arrives alone, late at a man's place who isn't looking for action?"
"No, it's me should be sorry Sofia..."
"Nonsense... but that was far too quick... Time I took over!"
Paolo set about Sofia quite roughly for him. He didn't hit her... he never would as the father he loathed regularly beat his mother. He was just very assertive and Sofia judged it sensible to appear to put up some resistance, but in reality she was partial to a bit of roughness in a man from time to time and she was rapidly recovering from her earlier fear. She 'turned up the sound effects' for Paolo's benefit.
Paolo was quick and physical; he'd been waiting too long for anything slow and sensual. His mood changed as control reverted to Sofia.
Paolo's pent-up frustration, temptation and fury was unleashed. Sofia lay where she'd been thrown, a little scared, but daring to look at Paolo at the end of the bed. He was quickly unbuckling his belt and dropping and kicking off his trousers and pants before pulling off his T-shirt. He was visibly ready for action.
Sofia knew what was next and quickly pulled up her skirt, lest it be torn apart in Paolo's lust-fuelled rage. It saved the skirt, but raising her bottom slightly didn't save her knickers. Her blouse and bra were equally roughly torn apart.
Sofia made a hollow attempt at a gasp as Paolo’s hands maintained the pressure on her throat. She hadn’t expected this and the initiative was lost as she fought for her life. Sofia hadn’t understood men that well!
Continuing the pressure, Paolo dragged her through his bedroom door. He threw her onto his bed, letting go of her neck, to which her own hands immediately went as a survival instinct. Sofia was uncharacteristically scared stiff and just lay there. Paolo was stiff too with all that temptation and weeks and months of frustration.
Sofia’s careful seduction had backfired. ’Brace, brace!’
“WHAT?” shouted Paolo, probably waking his neighbours. What happened next was a result of the mixed messaging he was receiving. He’d been surprised by the late night visit to his flat, somewhere with secrets and where few women ever came. Sofia had glided in looking stunning, spoke of her concern for Tony, about whom he was carrying guilty secrets... moved up close and touched him. Then asked if he was gay.
Sofia looked and smelt so utterly irresistible that any hot-blooded male would have admitted to anything... but not that!
Instantaneously, Paolo’s hands clasped and closed around Sofia’s neck.
Paolo didn’t quite know what to say. He played for time as Sofia was now really close to him. Her perfume was intoxicating. Her sensuality, confused with the things she was saying, was scrambling his brain.
“Who says I’m close to Tony?” he asked. “I’m just one of the guys.”
“Never mind who said what Paolo,” Sofia said softly, “let’s say the other guys are talking...”
“About what?” demanded Paolo.
There was silence for what seemed like minutes but was actually a few seconds.
“Well?” asked Paolo.
Another shorter silence built up tension.... then...
“Paolo......... tell me.... are you gay?