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.
Sofia had been fiercely on the attack all day. Paolo was very much on his back foot. And then this tease. Paolo seemed to have nothing to lose.
“OK Sofia. I’ve levelled with you... how about some recognition?
“So you want a reward, eh Paolo? What had you in mind.. a quickie or a shagathon?”
“Do you think you have the energy for a shagathon...?
“At your age!” Sofia finished what she imagined would’ve been his riposte, adding “you cheeky little bastard!”
Making claws like a cat, she went as if to scratch him. They both ended up to scratch.
Paolo had dealt with Tony well. He was in the clear... or so he thought.
“So that tart gave you the clap eh?”
If Paolo had remotely thought that Sofia was finished her grilling, then he was wrong.
“No, not at all. I don’t have chlamydia, Not now, not ever!”
“So why lie to Tony?... I assume it was Tony?”
“It was Tony and I didn’t want to see him until tomorrow afternoon. I’m busy before then.”
“Shagging someone else I don’t doubt!” Sofia insisted.
“Well there’s not much chance with you tonight, is there?” Paolo fought back.
“Sorry Tony, but I’ll come in when I’ve had the treatment. The only thing is these bloody hospitals keep you waiting for hours, probably because you’ve got the clap and they wanna make you suffer!”
“Who’d you get it from then? Nobody I fucking know I hope!”
“Nobody you’d wanna know Tony!” Paolo, seeing he was getting off the hook, added “and nobody I can complain to anymore!”
Tony twigged, or he thought he had. Sofia in the background Drew the same conclusion.
“Oh, I get it Paolo. See you tomorrow afternoon... and for fuck’s sake, keep your trousers zipped!”
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?”