“Apparently my boy, me son Conor, it was who took the tart off your Paolo...” Mary continued.
“He’s not my Paolo!” Livia quickly insisted.
“Whatever... seems Conor got gazumped when Ronan met her and the little tart decided to go for power, experience... and money! No feckin’ taste though if she’d settle for Ronan!”
Mary stopped, looking thoughtful for a moment before she continued.
“But hang on... what the feck does that say about me!” she started to laugh, which started Livia off and removed any slight tension she’d suddenly been experiencing.
“What the feck?” said Livia to more laughter.
“One of my boys?” Livia was confused and appalled. “The only boy I have is upstairs... my son, who’s off school. I don’t have any other boys!”
“No, not you Livia. One of the guys who works for the Monellis. Young chap. Paul or something they said. D’you know any Pauls?”
“I don’t know anyone called Paul... but there is Paolo.” Yes, thought Livia, this might be a way to get rid of Paolo, making her own position more secure. “He’s a cocky little sod!”
“Think you moight be getting me wrong there Livia. I’ve no gripe with the boy!”
“Was that all you had to do?” asked Livia, clearly impressed.
“Well, me brother did send me some pictures to show em too! One of the fellers was actually feckin’ sick when he saw em! Worked a treat. Spilled his guts too! It seems they all knew. They knew Ronan had a tart, had set her up in a flat somewhere east and was jealous as feckin’ hell if anyone else even looked at her. She was pretty too, the cow! I think the fecker was actually in love. Silly cont!”
“Seems he stole her from one of your boys!”
“How on earth did you manage to get anything out of them Mary? Surely they’re a pretty hard bunch, given their line of work?” Livia was curious how this woman exercised control.
“You could say I used me assets well... me assets being me family. I’ve lots of family - we’re Irish Catholics, what else would you expect? One of me brothers was a surgeon before he was struck off - long story! I suggested he moight cut off their bollocks and replace them with walnuts if they decided not to open up. Men seem to be strangely sensitive about their bollocks!”
“Fecking bollocks? How come?” Livia was inadvertently becoming infected with Mary-speak, but she was intrigued.
“Well foirst, he was fully clothed. If you’d seen him you’d know that’s hardly feckin’ kinky! Second, according to estimated time of death, he could‘ve only got there a short toim before. ‘Cos I know exactly when he left home. Course, I didn’t tell the conts that! Someone else must’ve been involved! So that’s when I knew I had to interrofeckingate the slimy gobshites who worked for him. Someone had to feckin’ know something.”
“And did they?” asked Livia.
“Too feckin’ right they did!”
“Anyway”, continued Mary, “when he read that particular text, he immediately went feckin’ apeshite! Started feckin’ effin and bloinding, grabbed his car keys, even though he was full of Guinness and shot off like a feckin’ rocket. Last time I saw him til I identified his feckin’ body.”
“So what happened then?” asked Livia.
“The pigs said they found him fully clothed lying on a naked tart, dead, with a kitchen knife stuck in his neck. Blood feckin’ everywhere. And apparently he’d strangled the feckin’ tart too! Kinky sex gone wrong the pigs said... but I say that’s feckin’ bollocks!”
Having done justice to Livia’s lunch, and, in the case of Mary, having consumed far more alcohol than sensible, it was time for some serious talking, albeit still likely to be interspersed with giggling. Livia triggered the change.
“So tell me Mary, what exactly happened to your husband and how can I help?”
“Well... the forst inkling I got of anyting was when all of a sudden very late on Saturday night me feckin’ husband gets a text. It wasn’t so unusual for him to get texts on his mobile, except I’d already told the fecker that weekends were sacrofeckinsanct!
Sofia’s jeweller client had asked no questions of the provenance of the diamond, whatever he might have wondered privately. Having shown her various ring styles, he’d undertaken to have something ready for a week’s time. That would be a very long wait for a diamond-loving girl like Sofia. He had given her a discount, but even so, it wasn’t by any means cheap. But right now, Sofia still had plenty of means, thanks to Paolo’s carelessness.
Sofia's new best friend, in the right setting and on the right finger, with no questions asked, was worth it’s weight in... diamonds.
By the time Sofia got back to the office from her lunch break, her new diamond was on its way to be set in a platinum ring. Her jeweller client had told her that the diamond was indeed a very fine specimen and was already cut in the ‘round brilliant’ style, for maximum sparkle... and Sofia wanted sparkle. The ring would be simple to maximise the impact of her round brilliant sparkling jewel.
Part of her would have loved it to go on her ‘ring finger’, but she opted for the right hand instead. One day maybe, maybe one day!
‘Aw!’ thought Sofia, ‘that’s so sweet!” She’d taken Paolo’s tears to mean he’d recently lost his beloved mother. She was moved. She already liked Paolo, quite a lot in fact. This made her like him more. What’s more, the large, impressive diamond was the only thing his dying mother could leave Paolo and he’d given it to her, Sofia. ‘If ever he asks...’ she thought idly...’age gap...so what?’ But then she came back to Earth.
Paolo was making it up as he went along... playing ‘the advantage rule’. He’d expected Sofia to ask searching questions. And he’d supplied sparkling answers.
“Did you steal this diamond?” Sofia asked Paolo after he had passed it over to her and lay, spent, beside her on his bed. “Are the cops going to come knocking on my door Paolo? It’s a really cool diamond... but is it hot?”
“No worries” was Paolo’s immediate answer. “It was paid for fair and square, but the person I got it from doesn’t need it anymore. She isn’t going to want it back.”
“She?” queried Sofia.
“Couldn’t take it with her. It’s all she had left to give me!”
“Your mother?” Sofia asked. “She passed away?”
While Livia and Mary were enjoying a hilariously serious gourmet lunch, Sofia had turned down the offer of lunching with an office friend to visit one of her clients, a jeweller of some repute. Sofia had helped him a lot on a recent property search and she felt he could be trusted to be discreet if asked.
Sofia was a woman of considerable style and wanted to be able to show off her new diamond. It was terrific on its own, as an investment, but would be so much better as a statement. It would make a lovely solitaire ring.
Talk became small as both women tackled the modest feast Livia had created and somehow managed to call sandwiches. When finished eating, the serious talk, the big talk, would start again. Something told Livia that what Mary was about to tell her would be anything but trivial.
“Should’ve brought a bottle with me Livia.” said Mary as the last of the fizz dripped into her glass. “And d’ya know what? I feckin’ did! It’s in me car. Wait a sec while I go get it.”
Mary came back with a bottle, not of Prosecco, but champagne.
Celebration time, come on!
‘Oh!’ thought Livia as she watched Mary demolish the glass of Prosecco. She pushed the bottle towards Mary.
“Fill your glass Mary while I get the sandwiches.” Mary needed no further encouragement. Meanwhile, Livia went into her spacious pantry, to another fridge from which she took out two plates of open sandwiches, works of art in their own right. She removed the cling film preventing them from drying out. Livia was well prepared for an impromptu lunch.
“Feckin’ hell,” exclaimed Mary as she saw the two plates. “You must give me the address of your sandwich shop. They’re feckin’ brilliant!”
Livia went to the fridge for the Prosecco, grabbed a couple of glasses and uncorked the bottle with a pop. Wine bubbled fiercely out of the bottle before she reached the glasses.
“I reckon my Ronan was doing a bit too much of that with his feckin’ slut! I would say the fecker’s all shot, but the cow stabbed him!” More laughter at Mary’s smutty outburst.
With a clink of glasses, Livia sipped her wine. She needed to stay in control, with her wits about her. Not so Mary it seemed, who took an enormous gulp, half emptying her glass.
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.