Paolo was in a fix. Given Tony’s current behaviour, Paolo didn’t want to cross him by refusing to meet or go into the office. But then there was Marcia expecting him at 11.00 for a little something... and of course there was Livia and their meeting with Mary Flaherty. He had to think fast.
“I’ve gotta go to hospital tomorrow.” That was all Paolo could come up with at short notice.
“What for?” Tony was trying to be calm.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell Paolo... can’t you keep your knob under control?
“No!” mouthed Sofia in the background.
“Paolo, I want you back in the office tomorrow!” Tony never beat about the bush.
Paolo indicated silently to Sofia that he had to talk on his mobile. She was smart enough to guess it might be smart to keep quiet.
“But Tony, you said 48 hours!” Paolo had plans tomorrow and wanted to use Tony’s instructions to keep him away from the office.
“I know... but something’s come up. I need you back here 9am sharp. I talked to Livia; that’s OK. Oh, and I’m gonna buy you a good lunch in the West End!”
‘Oh shit’ thought Paolo.
Tony needed a friend. That friend would be Paolo. In order to get Paolo back on stream, Tony needed to do the unthinkable... apologise! He knew that Paolo would be keeping away until his 48 hour deadline was up. But Livia had stormed in and told him what was going on. He hadn’t liked it, but it showed that Paolo hadn’t ducked the task, so all was forgiven. Forgive what, he couldn’t remember!
Paolo was trying to work out what to tell Sofia about ‘that tart’ when his mobile rang. It was Tony.
A moment’s respite, but only a moment!
Tony meanwhile was finding it difficult to focus on work and difficult to control his mood swings. For the first time in his brutal, but successful career, he was lost. The only one of his crew he actually trusted was Paolo and he had to admit that he’d not treated the young man well recently. He needed a friend right now, and Paolo seemed the best available, despite the age gap.
Tony and Terry had had a good relationship, although there was never any doubt who was the boss. But Tony had guilt running through his veins like lettered rock!
Paolo wasn’t going to get anywhere trying to change Sofia’s mind. She was a very determined woman and once she’d decided on a course of action, there was no way to stop her. She might just have a point, but it would surely have him constantly looking over his shoulder, particularly if she insisted on telling everyone that he had given her the ring.
“OK, OK... but can you not involve me in it?”
“But you are involved, Paolo, aren’t you? You’re up to your balls in involvement, all over the place. Now then, tell me all about that tart...”
“No, no, no Sofia, fuck no! You need to wait until any dust has settled. Don’t flash that diamond around yet. It might prompt a load of questions right now if there’s anyone around who’s looking for it!”
“That’s exactly it, isn’t it Paolo. You’re not confident that only you know of it’s existence... and you're scared shitless! But I say that if there’s anyone out there who thinks they have a claim on my diamond, by wearing it, that might flush them out. And then you’ll know what to do about them.”
“Like what?” demanded Paolo.
“Like termination perhaps?”
“Keeping the ring under wraps for a while? That does make a lot of sense Paolo. But how much of ‘a while’ is a while, eh?” Sofia seemed to be convinced.
Paolo simply said “Dunno... not long I guess.”
“But that’s it, isn’t it Paolo? You guess. Well maybe your guessing takes too long! I have a better idea... well I guess it is. Why don’t I just wear it and show it off. I’m really proud of it and I want everyone to know you gave it to me. I guess you’d want me to give you the credit?”
“How do you think, Sofia?” Paolo was banged to rights. No escaping.
“You were shagging the tart with the diamond in her fanny, as I suggested earlier! How does that make me feel, Paolo? I’ll tell you... it makes me feel maybe I ought to get a test for the clap pretty damn soon. And it makes me also wonder who else might’ve been getting rather too close to the sparkler?”
“She really liked me, I’m sure I was the only one.”
“OK... says me... but that’s good reason to keep the ring under wraps for a while.”
“Relax, Paolo!” Strangely, Sofia was smiling. “I understand what you’re capable of. I know what you’ve done. I know you’d only do bad stuff to someone who deserved it... and I know how generous you’ve been giving me the diamond. But I do need to know if anyone’s looking for it.”
“How would anyone know about it? The guy, who I won’t name, a very married man, had a girlfriend he was crazy about. In fact he was crazy. He got her a diamond, but only for her pussy. Nobody knew.”
“Except you Paolo... and how come you knew that?”
The only thing Paolo omitted to describe was the hand he played in the woman’s ‘mercy killing’, the help he’d given Nicole to find ultimate enlightenment, or whatever might or might not be coming to her. Best not to mention that.
“Killed each other? That sounds a bit too neat, Paolo! How on earth could they both kill? Surely, the first to die instantly stops any attempt to kill. Surely one of them must’ve survived?”
“It takes a while to bleed to death, Sofia... enough time to finish the job!”
“That answer doesn’t ring true!”
Instinctively, Paolo protected his groin.
“You’re not making much sense here! How the hell can this diamond be a secret only you and two dead people know... and how could you have stolen it if you weren’t there? Sofia waited for a reply.
Paolo would have to make his reply good, because this woman’s deductive powers were impressive. The truth might be the only option.
“I was hiding in a broom cupboard outside. I’d scarpered when we heard him coming. There was a helluva row and they killed each other. A terrible mess, blood everywhere.... but why leave the diamond? She didn’t need it anymore.”
Sofia took time to think through what Paolo had said, and left unsaid. She was smart. She could work things out.
“Jealousy. And nobody else knows about it... and you got the diamond! That means you must have been there when they killed each other or shortly after. Jealousy... does that mean you were the one causing the jealousy?” Sofia was on a roll.
Paolo said nothing. He wasn’t about to interrupt for fear of getting into deeper shit, prompting more difficult questions.
“So you were shagging some guy’s woman and he caught you at it?”
“No! I wasn’t there!”
Sofia shook her head slightly.
“Let me get this straight... this diamond was worn in a secret place... by a man... a gay man maybe?
“Who said anything about gay men?” Paolo realised that in pointing to his own crotch, Sofia had got the wrong end of the stick. But on the other hand, if he’d pointed to Sofia’s crotch, she might retaliate, painfully!
“It seems to me I need more details, Paolo... tell all I said!”
Paolo coughed again.
“Did you kill this couple, Paolo?” Sofia continued.
“I didn’t have to... they killed each other!”
“Jealously!” replied Paolo.
“The truth?” said Paolo.
“And nothing but it!” added Sofia, with a slight upward jerk of her right knee. Paolo got the message.
“It is stolen,” he answered truthfully, adding “but the person who wore it won’t be coming looking for it...”
“And why’s that?”
“On account of being dead!”
“Interesting!” mused Sofia. “But who else might know about it... and come looking for it?”
“Just the two of them.”
“Surely others would know about a big stone like this?”
“Not if they couldn’t see it!”
Paolo double-pointed down to his crotch.
On the dot of 8pm Sofia arrived at Paolo’s flat. As always, she was very well turned out, but not in a sexy curve-enhancing tight dress or skirt, but trousers and jumper. She was there for business, not pleasure... and certainly not for Paolo’s pleasure.
She glided in and didn’t beat about the bush.
“No need to cross your legs this time, Paolo,” she said, “unless you tell me lies that is!”
Paolo coughed slightly and an involuntary reaction down below was a sharp reminder to take care what he said.
“Where the fuck did you get the diamond?”
Paolo may have been off work for a couple of days, but it was a very busy break. Seeing his three lovers in turn plus another woman he was very unsure of, all in the period of 24 hours... that would be full-on!
Meeting Sofia would be very difficult he thought as he still had the memory of his aching testicles. He had no idea how much to tell her about her diamond.
Sex with Marcia would be good, but it would have to be a quickie.
Meeting Livia and Flaherty’s widow could be both interesting and very dangerous!
Marcia liked sex. She just didn’t like sex with her husband. And, it seems, he was no longer bothered about anything physical with her either. Was he getting something somewhere else? Maybe, but Marcia didn’t care. Was he now of different sexual persuasion? She doubted that, but couldn’t care either way.
So why did she stick with Tony? Simple... he was her meal ticket, she had status and a very comfortable life. She had a child she doted on, when she wasn’t getting laid.
She had the regular attention of two men who wanted her. What was not to like?
Paolo had to live with the fact that there would be no sex tonight with Sofia, and none with Livia. So he called Marcia.
“Paolo, where’ve you been and who’ve you been with? It’s certainly not been me for a while, has it?”
“I could come now,” he suggested. “If you’ve a slot in your diary.”
“Any slot today is not for you, my boy! I have to collect my daughter from the childminder later. But come over at 10 am tomorrow and I’ll slot you in! My breakfast workout won’t have taken long!” She laughed a very dirty laugh.
While he was making his way back from his meeting with Sofia, Paolo, who was still feeling a bit sore got a call on his mobile from Livia. She didn’t go in for chit-chat, she just told him.
“Paolo, I need you to come over to my house for 12 Noon tomorrow. I want you to meet Mary Flaherty and then liaise with her and her brother to sort out Terry’s funeral. I want it done properly, as befits his status. Don’t be late will you?”
“Er, no!” Paolo didn’t have time to make any excuses. “I’ll be there.”
Tony had given Paolo 48 hours, so he would jolly well take them in full, that’s what Livia thought anyway. So she called Mary Flaherty and invited her over again the next day for lunch. Mary tried to get Livia to go over to her house, for the ‘return match’, but Livia explained that there was a young man she wanted Mary to meet, about Terry’s funeral. Someone who would be involved.
Mary assumed it was a toyboy that Livia hadn’t mentioned so far. “Oh really?” Mary replied. “OK then, I’ll come tomorrow and meet this ‘young man’ of yours.”