In the state that Tony was in, Paolo knew it wasn’t smart to question him. He did need to know though which Teminal, which flight, where to, what time. So he asked.
“Oh I don’t fucking know... 3 or 5 to Bar-fucking-bados, lunchtime.” was all Tony could manage.
“OK, OK, I’ll find it.”
“You’d better find him too!” threatened Tony.
“But what if he doesn’t wanna be stopped?” Paolo had demanded.
“Then make him!” Tony sounded apoplectic.
The way he was raging, Paolo almost expected Tony to tell him to kill Terry.
Now that would have been ironic.
After Paolo despatched Terry to enjoy whatever promises were in his promised land, cleaned up any small signs of spilt blood, which, due to his technical skills, were few, and laid Terry neatly in the car boot, he sent Terry’s text to Tony. Paolo smiled at Tony’s predictable repeated attempts to speak to Terry. Then he switched off Terry’s phone and removed the SIM card. Job done.
Then Paolo visited Terry’s home gym for some heavy weights that had pumped their last iron.
Tony called Paolo, almost speechless.
“Terry’s gone fucking AWOL! Get to Heathrow and stop him flying out!”
As he cruised north up the M11 later in the day, Paolo reflected how easy it had been.
No need to break in to Terry’s house, although Livia had the foresight to give him keys and security codes, just in case.
No need for a struggle as he slid the knife into Terry from behind while helping put the luggage into the boot of Terry’s own car, in Terry’s own garage. Plenty of time to clean up any spilt blood and put Terry into the boot of the SUV.
And on time he’d received the call from Tony he’d expected.
Tony would pick up Terry at 09.30, saying that would leave plenty of time to get round London and be at the airport two hours ahead of departure time. Terry agreed, knowing he would be getting there well before that anyway, having made secret arrangements with Paolo. Terry thought Paolo seemed trustworthy, even though he would now need to keep him away from Livia.
At 9.10am, Tony got a text.
'Tony - I got worried about missing flight. Took a taxi. Sorry!'
Tony called Terry immediately... and again... and again.
"Pick - fucking - up!"
Terry's phone went dead. Terry was dead too.
So Livia had been absolutely right. Tony was insisting on taking Terry to catch his flight and, he could imagine it... something would delay him and Terry's opportunity to connect with the cruise in Barbados would be lost.
Terry lost no time in contacting Livia.
"Well here's what you do Terry. Ask Paolo to drive you to Heathrow early and on the way text Tony before he leaves home to collect you. But whatever you do, don't tell Tony that Paolo's involved. Paolo won't say anything to Tony because I think he's rather sweet on me!... And text, don't speak!"
After Terry had dropped off Livia at Southampton, forced by Tony to delay, a long week followed for him. The atmosphere was palpable. Terry's resentment of Tony's bullying and his inner feelings of self-loathing were a strange, bitter cocktail.
Terry's flight to Barbados to pick up the cruise and Livia was scheduled at 1pm from Heathrow on Saturday. On Thursday evening, just before they went home, Tony announced to Terry.
"I'll take you to the airport on Saturday."
"Thanks Tony, that's very kind, but I've got it covered."
"Well now you've got it uncovered. I'm taking you! I insist!"
Hearing about Livia and Terry's impending big trip, Marcia and Sofia were anxious to hear about the other big trip Terry should be going on.
"Think she's bottled it Sofe?" Marcia asked her sister. "Livia hasn't said a word about it for ages. We must meet her urgently to find out what's going on. I still don't trust the bitch!"
"I don't trust anyone; it's best that way. Except you of course!" Sofia lied.
They all met up in London. Livia convinced the others that all was under control.
"Our holiday is the start." she announced cryptically. "You'll see!"
“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.