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.”
Livia meanwhile was making her own plans for Paolo and that did not involve sex with the boy again.
After giving Tony a good talking to, she swept out of his office and away, although 5-footers rarely ‘sweep’ anywhere. However, the sheer drama of her departure was plenty enough to leave Tony awestruck.
Even though sex would not be on offer, Livia did need to get Paolo round to her house again... for a meeting with Mary Flaherty. Livia needed Paolo to be the go-between, and if anything went belly-up, he would naturally be the fall guy.
Paolo’s doubling up after Sofia had kneed him in the crotch was more from shock than severe pain. He just hadn’t been expecting it. Sofia was pretty tough, but the constraining effect of her tight skirt meant that knee impact was limited. He felt it, nonetheless, but his undercarriage remained intact, if a little achey.
He wanted to ask what that was for, but he knew. He knew too that he’d better be in his flat at 8pm when Sofia was coming round... and that that would be the extent of coming that night.
Making love to Livia must wait.
“No... I don’t have time now. Tell me this evening... and tell me all. 8 o’clock, your place. And if you think you can use the time until then to come up with some claptrap pack of lies, forget it. I can tell when you’re lying!”
Sofia’s anger hadn’t subsided although to Paolo she seemed to be suggesting an evening that would end by normalising their relationship. Normal servicing would resume. He stood up as she did and foolishly went for a goodbye kiss. He got a knee-jerk to the groin!
Paolo bent double. Sofia whirled and strode off.
Paolo had been OK with Sofia thinking it had been his late mum’s diamond. It had somehow made more of the trade. However, right now he was cornered and had to get himself out of trouble.
“OK, Sofia, it’s true. It might be stolen, but I don’t know. Apparently the previous owner didn’t need it anymore.”
“On account of being dead maybe?” Sofia was still angry and her comment hit the mark and it showed on Paolo’s face.
“No, yes, maybe. I don’t know Sofia...”
“You do know a hell of a lot more about it, Paolo! Tell me now!”
Sofia quickly withdrew her right hand.
“What! What kind of a greeting is that?” Sofia more than bristled. If Paolo had thought before showing horror at seeing the big diamond sparkling on Sofia’s right ‘ring finger’, he could have avoided her instant mood change. He tried, unsuccessfully, to backpeddle.
“Sorry, sorry... but I thought we agreed you wouldn’t show it off yet? People might start asking questions because it’s obviously worth a fortune.”
Sofia was now blazing mad. She had once again been humiliated by this cocky young man.
“This wasn’t your mother’s diamond was it? You bloody stole it!”
She might be just grabbing a sandwich with Paolo, but the hand holding that sandwich would be carrying something else too. It was her way of reminding Paolo... nudging him maybe into greater commitment.
Paolo had bought the sandwiches and was sitting in a square near Sofia’s office when she bounced up with a jaunty gait, looking highly desirable. She might only have a rushed half-hour, but her warm smile and peck on both cheeks showed Paolo she was pleased to see him.
She sat down and he proffered the sandwich. The hand taking it sparkled.
“What the fuck!”
While Livia was giving Tony both barrels, Paolo, who’d been ordered to stay away, decided to see Sofia. He needed her to keep that diamond off her finger and out of sight. He almost regretted trading it for Terry’s finger. Almost. He called with a view to meeting for lunch.
“I’m very busy, Paolo. Is it important? Can’t it wait until this evening?”
“Can’t do this evening.” replied Paolo, “a quick sandwich maybe?”
“OK, but just half an hour though.”
Paolo couldn’t ‘do this evening’ because he was hoping to get a return match with Livia. Hoping, with fingers crossed.
Another hmmph from Tony signalled concession. But Livia hadn’t finished.
“I know what you’re going to do now Tony. When I’ve left and that young goon comes back to report the ‘Flaherty mystery’, you’ll take it out on him, poor sod! I don’t like the cocky little git, but this is between you and me. He had the guts to come and ask me out straight about Flaherty’s widow - more than I could say for you!” He’s got your answer from me and so if I hear anything bad, I promise I’ll get you!
Tony was absolutely certain she would!?
‘This little bitch is getting too cocky for her own good’ thought Tony. ‘If she wasn’t Terry’s wife I would have her whacked.’ Nonetheless, whether or not she was too big for her platform soles, Tony would neither have Livia killed nor beat her up again. He’d made some stupid promise to Terry at the time of the savage beating to which she referred.
“You just do what you fucking want, so long as you keep that family away from my business.”
“Our business!” Livia asserted. “What’s Terry’s is mine now and you’d better not forget it!”
Balls of steel!
Tony had to respond to Livia’s last comment... but she didn’t seem to have given him much room for negotiation. He didn’t know what to do, so he did what he always did when confronted, he behaved like the bully he was.
“You will stay away from that family!” Tony said slowly, articulating every word for emphasis and menace. “Or you will regret it!”
“So what will you do if I don’t, Tony, beat me up again?” Tony made a hmphh noise as he always seemed to do when someone started to challenge him. “I have photographic evidence you know!”
Tony was about to challenge Livia, but she got in first.
“Don’t get huffy, Tony. Just hear what I have to say, which should provide you some kind of reassurance. There is another reason for me seeing Mary, a very practical one. I need to find an undertaker who understands the kind of funeral we Monellis expect.” Livia was deliberately including herself under the ‘Monellis’ banner... ‘family’.
“So?” asked Tony.
“So Mary Flaherty’s little brother is one such undertaker and, in the absence of any bloody help from you, I’m thinking of using him, whether you like it or not!”
Tony was ready to speak. “What can you find funny about Terry’s death then?”
“Nothing, absolutely nothing, and we weren’t laughing about Terry, or Ronan come to that, but the woman has an incredible natural wit... and I really liked her.”
“You should keep away from the Flahertys... they ain’t good for your health!” Tony warned, trying to add a touch of menace, but at the same time fearful that any moment Livia might explode again.
“Well someone wasn’t good for Flaherty’s health!” she replied, “nor Terry’s, without me having even met Mary! They’re both dead healthy but not funny!”
Tony kept quiet. What she’d said was true. He was deeply suspicious of anything to do with the Flahertys at the best of times, but now that Ronan was dead, even more so.
“Do you want to know why?” continued Livia. Tony nodded his head without saying anything.
“Mary Flaherty came round to see me because we had both just lost our husbands in violent circumstances... and in our husbands’ line of business, there aren’t too many shoulders to cry on you can trust. She was very sympathetic and I hope I was to her too... and she’s bloody funny!”
Livia was on top form, at the top of her voice. Tony was desperate for her to quieten down for fear that nearby office occupants would hear everything, and in particular that a woman was getting the better of him. He tried...
”Shhhhh!” he whispered.
“Don’t you bloody shhhh me, Tony Monelli. Worried others will hear what a shit you are, are you?” But Livia did then moderate the pitch of her voice because she had more to say and it might sound indelicate... and nobody else’s business anyway.
“You’re shhhhitting yourself, Tony, because I met up with Mary Flaherty!”
“Now look here Livia...!” started Tony, remaining seated as Livia stood in front of him, hands on hips.
“No!” Livia was shouting now. “You look here! Where were you when I had to go identify Terry? Where were you when I was at home grieving with Luca... we didn’t see hide nor hair of you. And where were you when I was trying to organise a funeral for poor Terry. You’ve been no bloody help at all... and it seems you still think Terry’s somehow alive despite my positive identification. You clearly don’t believe me!”
“Of course I do...”
Tony was in his office brooding over documents from his accountant when Livia stormed in. He was taken aback, and a little fearful, although he didn’t know why.
“What are you, Tony Mo-bloody-nelli, doing getting your monkey to question me about who I mix with? What bloody business is it of yours?”
This tiny, beautiful woman stood just five foot tall, but seemed like a mountain to Tony.
“What, what, Livia... what are you on about? I-I-I...” Unusually, Tony stuttered as he struggled for what to say.
“You, you, you... It’s always about bloody you Tony!”
“How long before you have to report back to Tony?” Livia was in charge.
“48 hours he said, but I want to get back to him sooner.” Paolo wanted this sorted as soon as possible.
“Do you know if Tony’s in his office now?”
“He should be; he was earlier...”
“Well keep away from there until I say it’s OK. I’m going to have a word, more than a word, with Tony bloody Monelli. I’m on my way shortly. Stay well away, Paolo!”
“But someone needs to be there... to protect you!”
“Are you kidding!”
Livia Monelli - balls of steel!