In Catholic Italian families, even those who have grown up outside Italy, procreation in general and succession issues in particular are big things with the menfolk. Women’s roles are simple… sex, running a good home and producing and raising kids... and preferably boys. The men attend to the business and the womenfolk are expected to attend to the needs of the men, whatsoever they may be. An historic role, albeit completely blown apart by modern generations of women.
But it was a role frozen in time in the Monelli households. The honour and standing of the family depended upon it.
For a couple of years Tony, Terry, Livia and baby Luka lived in a pretty shitty dump in the East End of London, with regular, if uncomfortable, visits from Marcia. When she was there, the atmosphere was brittle, so as soon as possible, Marcia and Tony found somewhere else. Despite the fact that there was no love lost between the two women, and each twin's questionable attitude to his brother's girl, they all got married at a joint ceremony with what was then their band of criminals as witnesses.
Both twins married, separate homes, thriving 'business', it all bode well.
Before either twin married, Livia became pregnant with what would be her only son Luka. Papa Monelli went crazy and kicked Terry out of the house on account of bringing shame to the whole family. When Terry went, naturally Tony followed.
Contacting some of the less than savoury characters from their schooldays, they found the only way to survive was by dishonest means. Theft, street gambling (rigged of course) and the narcotics business, as their network expanded. Drugs provided a significant jump in income. Tony rose quickly to the top, with Terry as his number two. Terry knew his place.
Neither twin liked the other's choice of 'life partner'. The falling in love thing, which naturally hit Tony first, was catalyst for a slight distancing between them. Not so much a wedge between them but someone else in the mix changing the dynamic. Shortly after Tony met Marcia, Terry discovered Livia.
Both women were pushy, attractive in a rather tarty, showy way and very, very determined. Each twin could see shortcomings in the other's choice, but was besotted with his own. Terry said little to Tony about Marcia, but Tony couldn't help trying to undermine Livia.
Neither wanted to share!
As teenagers, Tony and Terry had done a fair bit of horsing around with girls. They weren't tall, but they both had the young Italian good looks that were magnets for emerging young women. However, their father was quite a martinet and he was given plenty of reasons to wield the belt to his young twins when they stayed out late with 'cattive ragazze'.
Tony was Terry's ticket to ride, metaphorically and literally speaking, with these 'bad girls'. And their sharing instinct was acted out playing 'secret swapsies' with their girls to double their women count.
Until love crashed in.
From ‘first peck’, Tony Monelli was going to be leader. As his character built, his twin Terry naturally deferred to his brother. There was no doubt about their fraternal love, but in early arguments and rough and tumbles, and there were many, Tony almost always came out on top.
Nonetheless, they shared the limited things available to a poor Italian immigrant family, but inasmuch as Terry looked up to his twin, Tony felt a responsibility to look out for Terry. Tony was his protector.
The arrangement was great, until women came along. Hormones have a habit of messing things around.
Just 10 minutes between each identical twin being born can make a surprising difference. Firstly, neither twin forgets this and the microscopically older makes sure it’s known. So equality starts unequal. This often sets the ‘pecking order’, which is mildly offset by nature's bond.
Then, possibly because of the historic significance of primogeniture, the pecking order is firmly set among family and those the twins subsequently meet. In the twin dynamic, outsiders defer to the older and from then on the implicit level of seniority is cemented.
The older gets stronger, the younger becomes slightly marginalised.
For example, the Monellis.
The thing with identical twins is one of sharing. At the point of conception, the twins share the most fundamental thing, their DNA. Because of this, there is an incredible natural bond and growing up together strengthens this. But their personalities don’t always turn out exactly the same, and life experiences shape the dynamics of their relationship.
For Tony and Terry, ‘twinliness’ was a terrific advantage, especially for the profession they chose. Sharing DNA was a blessing in the early days. It provided a critical element of legal doubt when determining guilt.
But changing personalities change other things, like sharing.
Tony was particularly interested in a text from Terry’s wife Livia, who, surprisingly, hadn’t been injured because she had broken down at the very start of Terry’s funeral and had asked to be taken out of the church for air. Her son Luka had taken her out. It hadn’t seemed surprising to Tony back then, but now it did.
’Tony Darling. I’ve got to see you fast... without Terry - isn’t he dead? Tell me where you are.’
‘The fuck I will, bitch!’ Tony thought. ‘Why should I trust a cheating cow like you?’
Tony knew... because she’d cheated with him.
Tony didn’t really care for all the platitudes he got. What interested him was who started asking questions about his whereabouts and how they wanted to come and see him. What and if they said anything about Terry, then that might give a clue, a gut feel for possible treachery.
’Where are you Tony? Are the cops there? Where’s Terry holed up? How come he ain’t dead?’
‘I ask the fucking questions,’ thought Tony.
Suspect number 1.
’What makes you think Terry’s alive, Boss?.....’
‘Funny to ask that first!’ thought Tony. ‘Maybe this one knows much more.’
Suspect number 2.
Tony reckoned on three different responses to his text and that’s just about what he got.
‘So glad your both safe and OK Tony/Terry. Still don’t know how you ain’t dead Terry but it’s like the suns come out knowing you ain’t. I’ll find the bastard whatever I do. He’s a dead man. Keep safe!’ This was typical of a number of responses. This type of response and offers of help reassured Tony.
Two close henchmen went through a whole list of possible suspects, ruling nobody out, but one or two in. OKaaay!
Then two interrogative ones arrived... interesting!
Tony worked on instinct, his main modus operandi. That and assumption of guilt. He knew that everyone in his team were just as likely to try to get him as any rival ‘institution’. It wasn’t paranoia, it was fact.
He felt he would know from responses to his text who was hiding something and who was trying too hard. What he didn’t consider, however, was, on the assumption that Terry was still alive, what role he might have played in the attack. This may have been his one Achilles heel.
But Terry was the one and only person Tony trusted.
Tony's text to his contacts read as follows:
'Tony and Terry announce 'bizniss as usual'. Evryone getting this text gotta reply an tell us what they know about who tried to rub us out. Pronto. Capeesh?'
Even if Terry had been in the coffin, Tony figured he'd have been blown to smithereens and nobody would have hung around to check. In that he was correct. By making out that his brother was still alive, it would strengthen Tony's power base. He reckoned he'd lit the blue touch paper. He was just waiting to see what sparks might fly, from where.
Needing to economise on texting to keep it under the blankets (literally), Tony decided he must contact his entire mailbox and put them to the test. At this point, he still had no definitive knowledge that Terry hadn't been in the exploding coffin, but, feeling that his twin was still alive, he also felt strongly that someone out there knew exactly where Terry was, and represented a threat. The call from Terry in the church was no electronic glitch. Someone knew. Someone had rigged the coffin bomb to Terry's phone.
It was inconceivable that the someone could be Terry himself!
Tony feared for his brother Terry. He was increasingly of the opinion that Terry was still alive and that the funeral had been a setup. Nobody had told him that the forensic team had found no trace of anything organic in the coffin, and certainly not a human body. Nonetheless, Tony was a man of instincts and the bonds between identical twins can be so strong that something in the ether binds them together and inter-twin communication is often spookily telepathic.
Tony felt his twin brother was still alive and that Terry was very afraid.
But where, and why?
Speed of reply to texts would be important for Tony. Paolo’s text came back fast.
'Glad ur ok boss. Marcia, fredo, tipo, priest dead (real sorry boss). Franco, cattaneo, sofia might not make it. Thought terry dead too, ain't he? Other injured probably ok. Tell me what to do. Paolo'
Never the chattiest, Paolo had nonetheless communicated plenty. His news should have been devastating. Marcia was Tony's wife of 18 years, Sofia her sister and the others were part of the twins's extended family.
Tony was barely ruffled.
'If you ain't dead Terry, you might wish you was.' he thought.
Tony got busy. At this stage he decided to use message texts rather than calls. It had more authority. It suggested he was fit, well and needing urgent answers. The one and only call was to his twin's number. As he expected, there was no reply except the voicemail message with Terry's cheery voice. But Tony wasn't feeling remotely cheerful.
He texted one of his most trustworthy goons, on account of the fact that Tony 'had lots on him' if he opened his big mouth.
'Who's dead, who's dying, where's Terry?'
Tony had an instinct that Terry was still alive.
With his phone in hand and a nurse on hand to charge it up as necessary, Tony's main problem was getting the coppers away from him so that he could help himself with his own investigations.
He got proactive.
"Are you charging me with something?" he asked DI Thompson when he 'popped in for a little chat'. When the detective answered in the negative, Tony said quietly "Then why don't you fuck off and take your monkeys with you?"
"We're here for your protection!"
"I need fixing, not protection!"
Thompson promptly left, but left a uniformed man outside Tony's room.
Top of Tony's mind, aside from dealing with the pain of his injuries, was that he was unconnected except for the drip feeding him painkillers and saline. But it was telephone connection he needed. He figured that his mobile phone had been blown to bits in the blast. But he needed connection badly.
The remnants of Tony's mobile were being examined by forensics, searching for details of recent calls and his contacts. But his contacts were encoded.
His anxiety slightly reduced when a nurse surreptitiously slid him a package. His red phone, another 'twin'.
Back in contact; back in charge!
Nobody tried to visit Tony Monelli except the police and, of course, the medical staff.
"This is what these characters do," said DI Thompson, "they say nothing and none of their cronies come near. They think they can sort out their shitty underworld issues themselves. But this is a murder enquiry and I'm not going to let the bastards off the hook that easily. I'm surprised though that he's not inquisitive about who the bomb killed. It's like he doesn't care!"
Tony Monelli cared alright, but he wasn't about to show it. If only the cops could read his mind...