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!
Paolo was mighty relieved. On the one hand there was a plausible(ish) commercial reason why Livia and Flaherty’s wife should be speaking to each other, and on the other, his relationship with Livia was unharmed in the asking.
Paolo continued, “Thanks for telling me. I’ll relay that to Tony.”
“No Paolo, I will tell Tony myself and tell him good. How dare he suggest what I think he’s suggesting when he’s not even prepared to accept that Terry’s dead, let alone bury him! I can handle Tony alright, and if he gets remotely heavy with you... well he’ll regret it!”
“Ah, I see... Tony’s using his godson to spy on me. I wondered what he was doing calling my son... and now I know!”
“Sorry Livia... but you asked...”
“Don’t fret Paolo, don’t fret. It’s to your credit that you were honest with me. And I’ll give you the answer for Tony... which also happens to be the truth. I was going to call you about Mary Flaherty, because you agreed to help me with Terry’s funeral and her brother happens to be an undertaker who specialises in the kind of funeral I want for Terry.”
“Thank fuck for that!”
That was definitely not the response Paolo expected. Maybe this was going to be easy, but then she added.
“What makes you ask?”
For once in his relatively short life, Paolo decided that honesty would be the best policy. He told it straight.
“Tony heard that you and Mary Flaherty were getting very pally and told me to find out what it was about.”
“Oh he did, did he? And so you just do what he says?”
“Pretty much!” replied Paolo honestly. “Tony’s close to the edge right now... dangerously so!”
“So tell me Paolo, who’s the snitch?”
Paolo needed to phone Livia, and soon. But he hesitated. His current status with her was something he was keen to protect. She had given him the time of his life. He was so utterly smitten. But she had drawn back at the end. He hoped it was just his oversensitivity and that he was merely imagining things. But this call might be difficult. He called her number.
“Hi Paolo, I was about to call you. What was it you were going to say?”
“Do you know Mary Flaherty?” No beating about the bush.
“Wow Paolo... are you bloody psychic?”
Mary Flaherty and Sofia... two problems needing solutions, But which of the two had more urgency?
First things first decided Paolo. His decision was prompted by the simple fact that Tony had given him a 48 hour deadline. Paolo was really concerned about Tony’s state of mind. He didn’t think that ordinarily Tony would shoot him... the boss knew that Paolo was one of his most trusted allies... but a little slip, or fit of uncontrolled anger, and who knew?
Paolo needed to find out fast about why Mary Flaherty went round to see Livia. But how would she react?
Paolo’s task was tricky. On the one hand, given his restored romantic relationship with Livia, the last thing he wanted to do was to put that in jeopardy. Neither did he fancy stirring up the Flaherty hornets’ nest. He didn’t know Flaherty's widow but earlier he’d heard that she was a ball-buster from her son. He couldn’t help wondering if she knew something about what went on in Basildon... that ‘something’ being who else might have been involved.
Or maybe she somehow knew about that diamond. So now he had to stop Sofia flashing the sparkler around as well!
“Now piss off and find out. You’ve got two days, that’s all. I don’t wanna see you ‘til you’ve got all the answers. Don’t come back without ‘em. And don’t think I wouldn’t use this!” said Tony, jabbing his forefinger at the gun on the desk.
Paolo knew what he needed to do... get away from that nutter fast and worry about how he would find out what business Livia and Flaherty’s widow had with each other later.
Away from the office, Paolo wondered if he had pushed Tony too far earlier. Did he, Paolo, push him over the edge?
“I can’t imagine why, Tony”
“Well that’s why you’re gonna find out, ain’t it?” Tony’s tone was instantly more steely, goading challenge from Paolo, who eyed the gun still lying on the desk in front of his boss. He replied.
“I’ll do my best...”
“You’ll do more than your fucking best... you’ll find out! Report back in 48 hours. You’re pretty good with a deadline aren’t you boy?” Tony’s earlier conciliatory lapse was gone. He seemed to have flipped back.
“Yep, yep... I’ll find out.” Paolo wasn’t about to negotiate with this increasingly mad man. But he’d get Tony, eventually.