“He’s not going to stage a car breakdown just to stop me catching the plane!” insisted Terry.
“Terry, you must know Tony by now. He is certain to pull some kind of stunt to stop you coming out to Barbados, or anywhere else. He needs you around him for the exercise of his power. Trouble is though, he exercises that power on you! Now, if you don’t want to join me...”
“You know I do,” Terry interrupted.
“Well be warned and have something up your sleeve in case I’m right... and I know I am. I know how Tony thinks.”
On the journey to Southampton for Livia to join the ferry, she told Terry she would meet him at the airport in Barbados. He was still a little edgy about Tony’s disapproval and yet was feeling pissed off that he had agreed to delay his holiday for a week. Livia didn’t make him feel worse, but gave him a warning.
“You know what will happen Terry,” she said. “Tony will insist on taking you to the airport and, you know what... the car will break down and you’ll miss your flight!”
Time would show that Livia had guessed uncannily correctly.
Paolo’s new found confidence took a knock when Livia told him about the holiday she and Terry had planned. That meant she wouldn’t be around for ages and if she was away with Terry, he might just be able to win back her affections.
Disappointment showed on Paolo’s face and he made to suggest that they should ‘complete’ their relationship now. He was in earnest.
“No Paolo, it’s too risky right now. Do I detect a bit of jealousy that Terry will have me to himself for three weeks? Well let’s try and find a way to ensure he doesn’t...”
“Don’t worry about Marcia or Sofia, I have plans!” Livia said cryptically.
She chose not to tell Paolo that she'd been meeting the two women. He didn’t need to know that. Rather, she dismissed them both savagely, describing Marcia as ‘an utter head case and loose cannon’ and Sofia as ‘a vicious, conniving little bitch, who’s cheating on her own sister'.
“I don’t trust either. I think they might be after Tony’s job themselves. They’re dangerous, and won't be around long!”
Paolo realised he was in deep, in many ways, but, compelled to please Livia. He was just a man.
With Livia’s encouraging words still ringing in his ears, Paolo chewed things over with her. She confirmed the others were weak and were continually manipulated by Tony in such a way that none of them fully trusted any one. This, she said, was how Tony had been able to keep control. He also ‘had something on’ each and every one of them, “probably you too Paolo” adding that with Tony gone, everyone would be happy.
“What about Marcia though?” Paolo asked.
“She hates Tony's guts... and as for her sister Sofia, she's really trying to screw him, by screwing him!”
While the company activities were booming, the other ‘associates’ seemed happy to go along with Tony’s demands of loyalty. However, the implications of terminal ‘sanctions’ for disloyalty didn’t fit well. Tony achieved loyalty under duress from a group not smart enough to unite and challenge, while Tony exploited their weaknesses.
Paolo needed to think it through before he acted.
He judged that the others might not be so averse to a new leader. The twins’ regime was autocratic, treating them all like shit. Tony blew hot and cold and Terry was a mere gopher. And Marcia was an unknown quantity.
Suitably buoyed up, Paolo grew inside his frame. The gauntlet had been thrown down by Livia and he was helpless to resist. She wanted him to run the ‘company’ and was happy to submit herself to him… but only after some tidying up was accomplished. That tidying seemed to take the form of removing Terry and Tony in turn… permanently. A very tall order, but physically a tall young man, Paolo suddenly became even taller. How would the others take it? Tony always demanded loyalty… or else… and clearly thought he commanded it, but Paolo wasn’t so sure about that.
If Paolo hadn't been so eager to please and collect on Livia's promise, he might have stood back, put his feelings on hold and been more questioning. But he was young, captivated and encouraged and flattered in the most disarming way so he was mere putty in Livia's expert hands. She had him under her spell. He didn't respond directly.
"What exactly do you want me to do then?" he asked her, sounding as tough and confident as he could.
"I want you to take over the business... and take me too! You know you can!
It'll mean redundancies though."
"What Terry?" Paolo asked, disbelievingly. "But they're brothers, they're twins... joined at the hip!"
"Yes... you'd think so, but have you seen how Tony treats Terry?" Livia pressed.
"I suppose..." Paolo admitted.
"Tony treats him like shit!"
"That's just brothers; it's only natural."
"But Tony takes it too far and does it in front of you guys, so it's natural that Terry hates his guts." Livia added.
"Tony would be lost without Terry!"
"You think so? I think he'd be half a man, as lacking in spunk as Terry!" Livia hesitated. "Are you a whole man Paolo?... Well are you?"
Paolo was trying to process all of what Livia was suggesting and asking. He would need to clarify what exactly she meant, but in the meantime, she had asked a very direct question, a leading one at that. He answered.
"Tony calls it his 'redundancy programme'. The difference, he says, is that we don't fuck up their lives, we end them. Much more humane he reckons."
"Until it happens to him, I guess." Livia added, ruefully.
"I can't see that happening." said Paolo.
"I thought I couldn't either, but he does seem to collect enemies."
"Like my husband!"
"Hey... that's too much to take in. Do you realise what you're saying Livia?"
"I'm saying every dog has his day... but staying top dog too long isn't good for business. But then I have no idea what the business is, except it probably isn't legal. What do you guys do that makes the money? Drugs, robbery, protection, gambling, prostitution?" Livia wanted to understand the business.
"Some drugs, some protection and, let's say, banking. We don't do prostitutes. Too unreliable says Tony." answered her young suitor.
"Banking? Do you mean money laundering? Does any of it ever involve killing people?"
"In order to take this thing crackling between us to the next level, we're going to need to work together. I hate to say this Paolo, but I see you acting the lackey for Terry and Tony... "do this", "do that", and yet I know you're much better than that. You're so much more intelligent than the twins put together, except you don't seem to have much ambition..."
Following so close on the slight kickback he'd received earlier, Paolo quickly put her right.
"I've plenty of ambition, you'll see!"
"You should already be running the show by rights!" Livia challenged.
Paolo was immediately on autopilot. His hands were everywhere. It seemed Livia had suddenly made his dreams and fantasies all come true. But Livia was still very much in control.
She pulled back. “Hey Paolo, not like this, not here, not now. If we’re going to do this, and we are... let it be the best it can. Let’s wait, let’s anticipate. Our time will come and it will be the best, but it needs to be at the best time. And that’s not now, not hurried. There are things to get in place first.”
Paolo, deflated, could only nod.
“I like you Paolo, I like you a lot.”
Paolo was taken aback by what Livia had said. He’d just called round to her house to collect her car to take it for a service. Not knowing what to say, he said nothing. This might be an awful trap.
“I think you like me too... I mean I think you like me a lot!”
“Who wouldn’t?” he managed. “But...”
“But there’s my husband!”
“One of the bosses.”
“That may not be the case for ever...”
“Which? Husband or boss?”
“Either, both, whatever!”
Suddenly, Livia kissed him, and Paolo kissed back.
Knowing Paolo was sweet on her, Livia encouraged him while simultaneously keeping him at bay. She was merciless. He knew that to consider a move on her was impossible. But she would tantalise him, with physical closeness, casual touches, furtive eye contact and more. He ought to have kept his distance, but he was a man and the growing intensity of his feelings, together with the dangerous thrill of forbidden and poisonous fruit was overwhelming. He wanted her so badly that reason was in jeopardy.
But he was smart. His time might come one day.
Indeed! But on Livia’s terms.
Next to Terry, Paolo was Tony’s most trusted ‘associate’. Paolo was about 10 years younger than the rest, late 20s, enthusiastic and bright. It was to Paolo that the twins turned when they needed something technical.
Paolo was a quick learner, but tended to keep that under wraps as he was aware that Tony, in particular, had a problem with people who got too smart.
But Paolo had a secret. A secret passion. A secret painful passion for the very pretty and utterly bewitching Livia, the wife of one of his bosses.
But Livia knew that... and would exploit it.
Livia left from Southampton. She was delighted, without showing it as she said a long, lingering goodbye to Terry, as if it was the last. Terry had insisted upon driving her to the port, along with an enormous amount of luggage. She was on her own. Free! No Terry and his neediness.
Livia had known that in the end Terry would acquiesce to Tony’s demands, and indeed, if he hadn’t, then she would have had to revert to Plan B.
But Plan A it was. And tonight she was free to enjoy herself, with, or without, whomsoever she might choose.
Livia lost no time in doing her research. Terry meanwhile was getting increasingly anxious about Tony’s reaction. Livia, worrying that Terry might back out, booked a first class cabin on a 23 day cruise of the entire Caribbean and presented him with a fait accompli. Terry was angry, but he sublimated it, given that things were going so well with Livia. He would need to get Tony’s OK first. Tony wasn’t happy.
Livia knew how it would be and offered Terry a compromise. Her compromise was to allow Terry to fly to join her in Barbados after a week.
“Not around. What do you mean by that?” asked Terry, suspiciously.
“Well how about we take a holiday? A long holiday. A holiday of a lifetime. A cruise maybe? Tony will pretty soon realise how much he needs you... and then when you return, you can adjust the balance of power.”
This could be an endurance test, but Livia might get to places she’d never been, because Tony didn’t encourage Terry to go anywhere for too long.
Terry thought about Livia’s suggestion. He could easily afford it. Luka would be away at boarding school. But...
“Tony won’t like it!”
“Get even? What do you mean by that?”
Terry’s question suggested he might be tacitly interested in redressing the balance, but if that meant turning on his twin, well that would be something else. But Livia knew just how far she could push Terry.
“Look Terry, I don’t mean you should beat him up or bump him off, no way! But if his bullying you is bugging you, then you might consider doing something about it. You’ve told me how much you do for him and never get the credit, well maybe see how he copes when you’re not around.”