Livia knew Mary was driving, but thought she might have at least one glass of Prosecco. She hadn’t considered that her guest might have been a teetotaller. It came out involuntarily.
“You really don’t drink alcohol Mary?”
After a brief pause, that seemed to Livia like a lifetime, Mary replied.
“Course I feckin’ do... I’m Irish ain’t I? Is the Pope, God bless him, a Catholic? I was pulling your feckin’ plonker Livia!”
Any hint of tension from misunderstanding vanished as the two women laughed like old best friends. Livia articulated her feelings.
“I feel I’ve known you forever Mary.”
Livia glanced at her clock. It was 12.15. She couldn’t believe how time had flown... she was really having fun! Livia realised that Mary was getting around to the serious bit of what she’d come for and there was no way either of them wanted that curtailed. And besides, Livia really liked Mary and was having the best time she’d had for years. Even her recent Caribbean cruise was boring next to the past hour.
“Look Mary, why don’t you stop for a sandwich? It’s drink o’clock too; fancy a Prosecco?”
“Don’t drink.” Mary announced solemnly.
“Really?...” Livia was shocked.
“You see, the ting is,” started Mary, “while the pigs might think it’s an open and shut case of kinky sex getting violent, it simply doesn’t add up to me. The pigs are happy that someone, anyone, has taken a cont like Ronan out and that she was his lover and luckily got killed in the process too. Neat that... too feckin’ neat! I don’t believe it! There’s more to it, so I’ve been asking around the gobshites who worked for Ronan... and, without breakin’ no Commandments as such, convinced them I was making them an offer they couldn’t refuse!”
From what Mary Flaherty was saying, Livia’s ploy of spreading lots of what might be described as Catholica around her house had done the trick. The two of them were, in the eyes of Mary, of similar strength of faith. Mary didn’t know that Livia was about as unholy as could be, although regarding Commandment 5, she hadn’t actually killed... she’d just got another unholy sinner, Paolo, to do it for her.
Livia still didn’t know why Mary had made contact with her. She decided to find out.
“You hinted yesterday Mary that I might know the killer. How come?”
“Am I to understand that somehow they killed each other simultaneously? Sounds a bit unlikely to me!” Livia was still trying to understand the basic facts about the death of this woman’s husband, and, so it seemed, of his lover.
“Simultaneously... good word there Livia. I don’t get it either... I’m struggling to understand it all. I don’t mind, now, that he’s dead. He might’ve been me husband and father of me kids, but he married me, in front of God, for better or feckin’ worse, keeping him only unto me! I didn’t ask much of the cont except fidelity.
“Course I didn’t feckin’ do it. Would I be here telling you if I had?” Mary was clearly wound up, but saw it was unnerving Livia. “Sorry Livia, that was out of order... particularly after you’ve invited me over. But I’m not upset, I’m feckin’ angry, that’s what! Surely a God-fearing woman such as I can see you must be can understand that my faith alone prevents me from killing anyone? I know the Commandments and ain’t planning to break number 5!”
“...but if I’d caught them together then maybe my plans might have had to change!” Mary added.
“You sound like you had him in check!” said Livia as they discussed Mary’s late husband Ronan, whose own reputation was pretty scary.
“Clearly not a-feckin’-nuff!” spat out Mary in reply. “The dirty bastard was shagging a feckin’ whore he was. Set her up in a flat. I only found out after she killed him.”
“She killed him? Has she been caught?” Livia was confused.
“In a way I s’pose. Caught her dead too, underneath the cont!” Mary’s langauge was getting even worse, along with her anger.
Livia was quite brave then to ask. “Did you do it?”
Livia needed to get the attention off her and onto Mary.
“But that’s enough about me. It is what it is, or more accurately was what it was and isn’t any longer. When someone put him out of my misery I was on a cruise trying to escape him. He’d obviously rubbed someone else up the wrong way... but that someone decided to rub him out! What about your husband? I knew him by reputation, but yesterday was the first I heard he’d been killed. Did he beat you up too?
“You must be joking. The bastard wouldn’t’ve feckin’ dared!”
“Should you be laughing with your old man still warm in the grave?” asked Mary.”
“He’s not in the grave, he’s in the mortuary...” Livia then felt the need to put on a show of grief, sniffing, taking a tissue and dabbing her eyes.
“I’m really sorry for your feckin’ crocodile tears, but I’ve seen a few grieving widows and you, sister, ain’t one of them! Knock you about did he?”
‘Wow, this woman’s scary’ thought Livia. ‘What does she know?’ she decided to rely on the non-verbal. She just nodded her reply.
“Bastard! I knew it.” exclaimed Mary.
Livia didn’t have to wait long for the conversation to get serious.
“Your husband was mordered too?” Mary asked rhetorically. She knew, and it was obvious to Livia she did. Livia simply nodded.
“D’ya know why? Mary continued.
“No idea,” Livia lied.
“D’ya know how?”
“Uh-uh!” Livia shook her head.
“D’ya know where?”
“What are you Mary, the police?” Livia felt interrogated.
“Feck no!” replied Mary. “I’d sooner cut out me feckin’ eyes than be taken for a pigshite!”
Livia couldn’t help herself from laughing.
“What?” asked Mary, unaware of the humour in her words. Then she laughed too.
Mary Flaherty’s coarseness wasn’t at all Livia’s own way, but the woman made her laugh. Livia tended to be surrounded by people who treated her with respect, always mindful of what they imagined were her sensibilities. The exception was Tony who’d once beaten her up.
But Livia didn’t particularly mind coarseness, or foul language come to that, when it was firmly attached to humour. And this Mary woman was a laugh. However, Livia realised that eventually they would get down to serious stuff, the whole reason Mary was there. A fishing trip.
But even that would be interspersed with laughter.
The kitchen it was. Livia warmed to Mary instantaneously. She liked her direct manner. On the surface, she wasn’t remotely like Livia, but opposites attract. They could do business.
“Well” started Livia, as Mary took over the coffee-making process. “I’m not sure why you’re here, Mary... but I must say you don’t seem remotely what I had expected.”
“I dare say I’m not.” replied Mary. “And neither are you! I tought you’d be stuck up, y’know, full of airs and feckin’ shite. And yer pretty enough to be stuck up. Plenty of blokes would loik to be, I bet!”
At Mary’s opening salvo, both women burst out laughing. It was an amazing ice-breaker. They would be able to get down to business straight away. Nonetheless, out of politeness, Livia ushered Mary into the lounge, only to be told by her guest. “Oh, don’t go pissin’ about standing on feckin’ ceremony for me. Let’s go in your kitchen. You can tell a lot about a woman from her kitchen. And my shite of a husband said it was a woman’s place. And I say it’s the best place to cook something up!”
‘Wow’ thought Livia, ‘can this woman talk?’
Mary Flaherty had arrived at Livia’s at 11am sharp. Having opened the electric gates for her to come in, Livia had gone straightaway to open her front door in welcome. She was surprised at Mary’s car. It was a basic Eastern European car - the butt of silly jokes twenty years before. And it was at least 10 years old - not what you’d expect a successful villain’s wife to drive.
After a tentative handshake, Mary said “I know what you’re tinking. What’s with the shitty old car? Well I wouldn’t want to feckin’ stand out, would I?”
Livia immediately liked her.
Livia didn’t know quite what to expect from Mary Flaherty. The fact that the woman had been married to an influential crime boss might suggest that she would be rather flashy, but then her devout Catholicism might suggest that she would be more modestly inclined. The reality was a halfway house. Mary Flaherty was tending to plumpness, without being what would be described as fat. She was dark haired with a warm attractive face. Her Irish accent was broad, surprising for one who had lived in London for over 25 years.
But her foul mouth didn’t remotely match her looks.
Making ‘elevenses’ special for Mary Flaherty’s visit meant a shopping trip. Livia quickly raced to the local deli for homemade cakes and pastries and a bottle of Prosecco, for chilling down just in case they got on really well and elevenses morphed into lunch. But food aside, the most important things that Livia bought were non-consumables.
Livia recalled that that the Flahertys were Catholic, as so many of Irish ancestry were. She had also heard that Mrs Flaherty, Mary, was very religious. Livia sourced crucifixes, pictures of Our Lady and rosaries to display, as would any good Italian family.
With arrangements made for Mary Flaherty to come to the house at 11.00 the next day, Livia put the phone down and started thinking. Mary’s veiled hint regarding Tony left plenty unsaid and implied. As far as that Flaherty woman was concerned, Tony was suspect number one. And Flaherty vengeance was legendary. Maybe this might present an opportunity for Livia’s long-term plans, and maybe she could kill two birds (or men) with one stone, and once again be free of suspicion herself.
Mid-morning coffee would be a bit special. Friend-making was item number one on the agenda.
“We should meet.” Livia wasn’t one to shy away and so showed her lack of fear by taking the initiative to suggest meeting. “And soon by the sound of it! Can you come over to Ongar, because my son’s here and he’s very cut up about his father’s death. I can’t leave him?”
“Is it secure?” asked Mary Flaherty. “I’m not walking into enemy territory lightly!”
“I’m not your enemy Mary” Livia replied, “and since Terry was abducted and killed I’ve changed all the locks. Not even his brother Tony can get in.”
“Ah yes... Tony!” Mary Flaherty mused suspiciously.
“Do you mean to say you killed him?” Livia was trying to understand what the woman was actually saying.
“Course not, the fecker’s left me kids fatherless, shithouse that he feckin’ was. But I’ve lost a husband; I’m a feckin’ widow now like you. And some fecker’s gonna pay for it. Police reckon some tart killed him in self defence, but I think it was an organised job and moi finger seems to be pointing in the Monelli direction!”
“You don’t imagine I killed your husband do you?” Livia was horrified.
“Not you, but you might know someone who did!”
With suspicion in her voice, Livia took the phone from her son and asked tentatively.
“Hello, who is this?”
“You don’t know me but moight have heard of me husband, Ronan Flaherty.”
Ah, yes, now Livia knew exactly who she was. And knew the stories of what an arsehole her husband was and how his wife was a hard-faced bitch.
“Ah yes, and how is Mr Flaherty?” Livia hadn’t heard.
“Dead!” came the reply.
“Oh...!” Livia was quite taken aback by the directness of the woman. “I am sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be. The fecker had it coming!...”