Paolo realised that 'helping Livia' with the funeral meant that he'd be doing all the legwork. But hey, she was worth it, wasn't she? At least she must trust him.
Trust wasn't something Livia was overstocked with. Paolo was just a part of her plans.
"Mary, after all that stuff about the diamond, I trust Paolo will be in safe hands to go and meet your brother with you?"
"Oi'll neither say another word or tink another tought about it. Paul here knows what he's got to do!"
Paolo knew exactly what he'd got to do... keep Sofia well away!
"Bury Terry! Yer a poet who doesn't know it!" Mary couldn't be, or appear to be serious for long.But this was business and so she played serious.
"So you're wanting me to be go-between?... because that's not what I do!"
"No, Mary, all I'd like from you please is an introduction to your brother and then Paolo here can talk to him about the detail. Oh, and whilst I know our families haven't always been the best of friends, it would be nice to know we weren't being ripped off!"
"Aw Livia, how could yer tink dat?"
Paolo was irritated by the way Livia had dismissed him as 'boy', just as Mary had earlier. He was irritated that she'd distanced herself romantically from him with a wave of her hand. And he was irritated that she didn't remotely seem to care about any other sexual exploits he'd been or might be engaged in. But Paolo loved Livia... truly, madly, deeply.
For her part, Livia was keen to get down to business, her business. The businesslike tone she adopted verged on the brusque.
"Now Mary... I'd like to engage the services of your brother Donal to bury Terry."
During Mary and Paolo’s exchange about the diamond, Livia looked on mildly amused. It was clear that Mary was convinced that Paolo knew something about the diamond. Livia didn’t really care, except that it was getting in the way of her agenda, Terry’s funeral arrangements. She called time on it.
“Well Paolo, you’ve been warned, so perhaps now we can get on with what we’re here for... we still have to bury my Terry, diamond or no diamond. But I reckon if that diamond’s stuck to some other woman’s fanny now, then you’ve really got your work cut out boy!”
“You’re obviously a man in d’know too, Paul. Was it pigs do yer think? Real tempting for an underpaid scab of a pig. Worth thousands by all accounts!”
Mary had it in her mind that Paolo knew more than he said.
“You’d be smart to keep yer eyes open Paul, looking out for that diamond. Whoever’s got it won’t be able to resist flashing it around, mark my words. But it’s moine, by roit in anyone’s book and I aim to get it back. An’ if I find you know something boy, better hang on tight to yer feckin’ nuts!”
“Oi think ya do know. Word woulda got round. Oi found out and a wife’s usually the last one to foind out!” Mary wasn’t giving an inch.
Paolo took the questioning to her.
“What exactly was this diamond?”
“A big feckin’ diamond stuck to her fanny, can yer believe it? I know it’s true, ‘cos my Conor’s pal Aidan told me. He knows lots... and told me everyting... eventually... after oi’d scared the living shite out of him! Nobody’s said anyting about it so I reckon some fecker has had away wid it! Any ideas who that moight be, Paul?”
If Paolo remotely thought he could close Mary Flaherty and the subject down, he was mighty wrong.
“Well let me ask yer this den... did me son tell you about me bastard cheatin’ husband buying that tart of yours a feckin’ great diamond?”
Oh shit! She knows. How can she? Paolo was completely thrown. What could he say?
“She’s not my tart!” he said to buy a second or two of time to think.
“...and I don’t know anything about any diamond. I haven’t seen Nicole or Conor for a year or so. So how on earth would I know?”
“Power and money eh? Know her well did you? What was her name?”
Mary wasn’t letting up. Paolo figured that honesty was the best policy.
“Nicole... don’t recall her surname, we hardly went out for long.”
“And how much do you think she was into jewellery?” Mary’s increasing focus on her husband’s mistress was heading into dangerous territory for Paolo. He had to distance himself, but the jewellery question suggested that maybe Mary knew a hell of a lot more than he’d have expected. He must close this down.
“Not the kind of thing I notice, so I’ve no idea.”
“Stole her from you did he? A good-looking boy like you clearly wasn’t treating her right if my Conor could steal her away! So how comes she ends up being my husband’s shagbag?”
Paolo wasn’t sure how much Mary actually wanted to know and how much she was probing him to check his involvement, if any, in Ronan’s death. He tried to distance himself.
“I’ve no idea. I can only think that he must have seen her with Conor and made a move on her. She was the kind of girl who would be swayed by power and money.
“It wasn’t loik that wasn’t it? Well how was it then?” Mary’s tone was challenging. Paolo shot a look towards Livia, who didn’t come to his rescue by changing the subject to Terry’s funeral. Instead, her look indicated that she wanted to know too.
“The truth is that I didn’t so much introduce that girl to Conor as he stole her from me!” It was indeed the truth, although Paolo omitted to say that he wasn’t bothered by it at all.
“Are you sayin’ my Conor’s a thief?”
“Well yes... in a way!”
“Oi can’t say oi’d disagree wid dat!”
“Noice bloke, ya say? It must be a different Conor, I reckon, ‘cos my boy’s a gobshite!”
Paolo didn’t know how to react... except cautiously.
“Ah, get away wid ya! Oi’m jokin’... well half-jokin’...”
Mary’s wit was confusing Paolo. Was this woman for real? Was she dangerous as Livia had intimated in his briefest of brief briefings?
Then off she went again...
“Paul, Paul, Paul... Come to think of it aren’t you the fella who introduced my Conor to the little tart me bastard husband took up wid?”
Paolo needed to put the facts straight. “It wasn’t like that!”
Glasses charged, all sitting round Livia’s kitchen table, the conversation was about to start. First though, Mary looked Paolo straight in the eyes across the table and asked.
“I feel I should know you Powlo, or is it Paul? Aren’t you da young fella my boy Conor mentioned? But he said yer name was Paul. Drinking mates sometimes he said. Works for the Monellis. Is dat you?”
Paolo had half expected to be linked in some way to her son during the course of the conversation. He admitted, “Yeah, I’ve had a drink now and again with Conor. Nice bloke.”
Livia decided not to comment. If Mary wanted to believe Paolo was her toyboy, what of it? She deigned at last to speak to Paolo politely.
“Can you pour Mary a glass of wine please Paolo... and one for me and you? What kind of wine do you prefer, Mary? Red, white, fizz?”
“Irish!” replied Mary.
“Really? Do they make wine in Ireland, Mary? I’ve never heard of it.” Livia had been taken in.
“Course they feckin’ do... they pump it outa da River Liffey and call it Guinness. Only kidding... I’d like a glass of red if you please.
Livia continued, still ignoring Paolo. “Go through to the kitchen Mary... I don’t suppose you fancy a little drink before we get down to business?”
“No I don’t, Livia,” replied Mary, “I fancy a feckin’ big drink!”
More laughter as Livia beckoned Mary past Paolo into the kitchen. Mary strode ahead; she knew where to go. Several paces behind, as Livia passed Paolo, she told him very quietly, “We mustn’t seem too pally! Catholic and all that!”
“And don’t think I can’t be hearin’ yer sweet nuthins back there!” called Mary over her shoulder. “Good feckin’ luck to yer both!”
While the two women were engaged in their greeting ritual, Paolo hung back, leaning on the kitchen door jamb.
Mary spotted him over Livia’s shoulder, saying. “And who’s dis Livia, you little minx! Who’s your toyboy here den!”
Paolo was an instant mix of irritated and embarrassed. His irritation was compounded by Livia’s reply.
“Oh that’s Paolo” she said, without turning to look at him. “He’s no toyboy of mine! Not a chance!”
“Well he looks in reasonable shape if that’s what you loik... and I feckin’ do!” Mary and Livia laughed like drains at Paolo’s expense. He just scowled.
Livia was pissed off with Paolo too. He was 15 minutes late getting to her house, leaving no time to brief him about Mary Flaherty. She actually wasted valuable time giving him a verbal bollocking at the expense of relaying even a little information about Mary. All she managed before the bell chimed to announce Mary’s arrival was to tell Paolo that her guest was very Irish, very Catholic, very direct, very funny but probably also very ruthless.
“Well look at you, Livia Monelli! Aren’t you a picture to be sure!”
The two women embraced like old and dear friends.
“No Marcia, I really can’t!” Paolo had to stop this.
“Why, Paolo, why?”
“I’ve got a meeting I’ve got to go to.” Wouldn’t the woman give him a break?
“Ah, Livia... it’s always about Livia. Got enough left in your tanks to satisfy her Paolo?”
“It’s not like that. We have to see someone about Terry’s funeral.” And that was as much as Paolo was going to say.
“Livy’s little helper eh? Watch out she doesn’t pay you in poisoned lollies little man!”
Marcia was pissed off, belittling Paolo, but decided to leave it there. For now.
Paolo tried the Tony card. “I’ve got a meeting with Tony”
“Well he doesn’t count now, does he? I want you to stay here; stay for lunch. I’ll call Tony and tell him you’re doing an errand for me...”
“No, no Marcia, he’s acting a bit strange right now. I don’t want to upset him.”
“Upsetting him? Now that would be fun!... and as for being strange, well hadn’t you noticed, he’s always been strange... and the strange thing is that I married him... and even stranger that I’ve stuck with him. No Paolo, you really must stay for lunch!”
Paolo was upset and confused after Sofia left so abruptly. On the plus side though, he hadn’t expected anything physical that night, so he’d got a bonus. And normal relations, whatever they might be, had been restored.
Also, there would be nothing to distract him from his busy agenda the next day. Item 1: Marcia... the usual; Item 2: Livia and Mary Flaherty... the unusual; Item 3: Tony.
As it turned out though, Item 1 took a lot longer than usual. Marcia wanted him to stick around. She sensed his next appointment.
It’s funny how women have these sixth senses.
Sofia wanted to keep Paolo interested,, she did after all have a soft spot for him. Even if he’d stolen the diamond in circumstances she didn’t really care to think about, he still gave it away to her. She was a tough girl, but nonetheless she was a romantic at heart too. Paolo would do nicely... if ever he asked!
Nevertheless, Sofia still had a nagging need to find out more about her diamond’s previous owner, but she would leave that until later. After they had enjoyed each other, Sofia got up, dressed and went home, to objections from Paolo.