Paolo kept busy for the next couple of days. He was in the office early and left late each evening. He was being helpful to his boss. He needed to keep on Tony’s good side if his plans were to succeed.
Sofia arrived at his flat at 7.30pm, on the dot this time. Dressed uncharacteristically practically, her coat provided large inner pockets for her stash. She pushed her way in. The atmosphere was cool. The exchange was very businesslike, no words uttered, until Paolo asked...
“S’pose a shag’s out of the question?”
“Why you cheeky bugger!” Sofia wasn’t saying no.
All the arrangements were in Sofia’s court. Paolo’s apparent trust of her... and given that he had already sacrificed his £200k, she was inclined to take the risk that doing the exchange at his flat would be safe, and that he wouldn’t have any tricks up his sleeve.
Paolo wasn’t about to do anything to jeopardise getting his hands on Terry’s last finger. And although Sofia would be handing over her embarrassing photos too, Paolo realised he could never really be sure that should anything untoward happen to her, more copies might emerge.
Sofia would be staying very much alive.
Sofia’s affirmation of Paolo’s proposed deal required a bit of organisation. First, Sofia had to find and remove Terry’s finger from the back of her freezer. Secondly, she had to get the envelopes back from her solicitor. At no time had she had any intention of dobbing Paolo in, either to Tony or the police, but having witnessed at first hand - his hands around her neck - his violent, maybe murderous streak, the precaution of lodging the incriminating material seemed sensible.
Then a time and place for exchange needed to be arranged. They would meet at Paolo’s flat on Friday evening.
Sofia was moved that Paolo should say he would trust her. Trust wasn’t a thing in great supply in her life. She was touched. Part of her was delighted at the prospect of owning such a large, beautiful diamond, but a small part of her was slightly disappointed that Paolo hadn’t used the diamond to propose marriage to her. A sweet opportunity lost maybe, but wouldn’t that diamond make an impressive engagement ring? Fit for a gang boss and his lady. Such ephemeral thoughts disappeared as quickly as they came.
“OK Paolo... it seems like we might have a deal.”
“Silly boy! I like you, Paolo, I really like you... Sure, you can be a complete idiot sometimes.” Sofia was maybe giving too much away in this current negotiation. “Not that that has anything to do with the trade you’re suggesting.”
She continued, “ Let me get it straight. If I give you the little thing I have in my deep freeze, and give you all the copies of the photos I lodged at my solicitors, you will give me that stone?”
“But I could easily print off more photos... yes?”
“Yes. But I’ll trust you that you won’t.”
Sofia tried her best to keep as cool as a cucumber when she saw the large diamond in Paolo’s hand. However, she couldn’t avoid a small intake of breath when she realised rage beauty and magnitude of the stone. Paolo, of course, noticed her reaction.
“Paolo, have you become a jewel thief? Where did you get this? Why are you willing to trade it?” Sofia was genuinely surprised at the diamond Paolo showed her.
“My survival, that’s all” he answered.
“Did you really think I would throw you to the pigs... or Tony?... particularly after your generous ‘settlement’!”
Paolo stood as Sofia got near to him. She greeted him with an uncharacteristic handshake, proffering her right hand in a very businesslike way. He invited her to sit down. All very formal.
“Well Paolo?” she asked. The ball was firmly in Paolo’s court.
“Well,” he mimicked, “you have a certain frozen object and some... let’s say, embarrassing material which I would like to obtain... for peace of mind. A trade.”
“Indeed, Paolo?” queried Sofia, “and what might you have to trade that you feel would match that embarrassing material?
Putting his left hand forward, Paolo unfurled his fingers.
Paolo got to the British Library early so he could find a place to sit which he felt wouldn’t be covered by security cameras. He texted Sofia his location.
Sofia’s trip to the Library was easy from Knightsbridge on the Piccadilly Line. Even so, she was late, of course. Paolo couldn’t mistake her. She walked, or rather swayed, in a leisurely fashion, the movement of her hips, the swish of her hair and the proud set of her head causing other heads to turn.
‘Fabulous’, thought Paolo, ‘but why the fuck does she have to draw such attention to herself!’
“Ha-fucking-ha,” Paolo wasn’t letting Sofia’s taunts put him off his stride.
Sofia was intrigued. “So how will I find out what it is you have to trade then Paolo?”
“We have to meet. Not my place... somewhere neutral, but not too crowded. The British Library maybe. Do you know where that is, Sofia?”
“Of course... do you take me for an illiterate, Paolo?” Sofia was bristling. She was mildly insulted.
Nonetheless, what Paolo had ‘in his hand’ was intriguing and she wasn’t letting a little insult get in the way.
They arranged to meet after work next day.
“I’m proposing a trade. Something I want for something I’ve no doubt you’ll want.” Paolo wasn’t wasting time on chit-chat. He wasn’t trying to warm her up for any restoration of sexual favours. This was business.
“And what exactly is it you want then?” Sofia asked coldly.
“Well it’s not your body. I think you already know what I’m after.”
“I think maybe I do, but I just can’t put my finger on it!” she replied, tauntingly. “But whatever makes you think I would trade it?”
“I don’t, until you see what’s in my hand?”
“Your cock maybe, Paolo?”
“Is that you Paolo, is that you? Don’t you get the message? I don’t want to speak to you,” Sofia set out her stall, but secretly wanted to hear what Paolo had to say.
“Well don’t speak then, just listen. I’ve a proposal - something you might want. In fact you might want it a lot.” Paolo was firm in his response.
“If you mean your cock, Paolo, you can forget that right away!”
“Hardly! My cock doesn’t sparkle! And you’ll not forget this one!” Paolo wasn’t fazed by Sofia.
’Oh my god! He’s not actually proposing, is he?’ thought Sofia.
“Tony? Is that you Tony? Not your usual phone.” Sofia was surprised to see Tony’s name appear. Ordinarily she wouldn’t have thought twice, but it didn’t say Tony, but rather Tony Monelli. This was from a time before she took him into her bed.
Paolo had just one shot. “I’ve got a deal for you.” he said, quickly adding “I’m sure you’ll at least want to hear about it.
“Who is this?” Sofia asked, but she knew his voice. She’d almost got over his rejection of her... and, despite her toughness, she still liked him, particularly in the bedroom department.
On past experience, Sofia was likely to ignore his calls when she saw Paolo’s name pop up. He tried, and she ignored him again and again. Forgiveness was not forthcoming.
He gave up, deciding he would call Marcia the next day, ostensibly to arrange their next engagement, but also for him to pump her for information about Sofia’s whereabouts and plans.
But he wanted to get in touch now, while top of mind. Suddenly he remembered he had another mobile, one Tony had given him for some reason when he’d got an upgrade. Sofia wouldn’t know it was Paolo calling.
Paolo took the diamond and weighed it roughly on his electronic kitchen scales. Then he went online looking to get an idea of its value. Of course, there were all sorts of caveats depending on quality, colour and cut. However, even on the pessimistic side, he estimated it must be worth over £5,000. Definitely tradeable.
His concern was that Sofia had evidence that could not only send him to jail for a long time, but, possibly worse, result in his execution, and not a pleasant one either. What would it take to destroy that evidence?
And how to make contact?
Paolo went home and far from taking it easy, started to put a new plan into action. Livia was now his enemy... and Sofia no longer a friend or ally. But Paolo had a plan to reverse that. Maybe.
He examined the clitoral ring he’d removed from Nicole when she no longer needed it. He breathed on the large diamond and polished it. It sparkled. The ring itself was damaged where he’d cut it through. He wouldn’t restore it to its original use, intriguing though that was. He didn’t want anyone else involved. He prised the diamond from its setting.
Tony was in a bad mood and uncommunicative when Paolo arrived back at the office. Paolo’s deliberate throwaway line about Livia going after Tony had rattled him more than Paolo could hope for.
Paolo busied himself, tried to be helpful by asking Tony if there was anything he wanted him to do, only to be rebutted with “I want you to shut the fuck up!” which Tony then excused by adding “Sorry Paolo, it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve got a splitting headache right now. You’ve done your best. Why not fuck off home and have an early night, OK?”
Tony hung up without further word.
Paolo rang the entry phone. When Livia answered he said he was returning the car. Without comment, she buzzed him in. He garaged the car, posted the keys and returned to his own humble transport. The detective was still there.
The policeman may have just been a nice guy comforting a bereaved woman or might have been trying to get information out of Livia while she was vulnerable. Either way, he neither seduced nor was seduced by her. And he deduced absolutely nothing.
Because Livia was far, far too smart to give anything away.
“Get in there right now and kill the bastard copper!” Tony barked his order in an uncharacteristic loss of common sense. Paolo was thinking straight though. There was no way he was killing a copper. He reasoned with Tony.
“Tony, if the guy’s shagging Livia, he’s done it already. As for Livia, she’s a very smart cookie. There’s no way she’s going to spill the beans about anything, if that’s what you’re worried about. She has far too much to lose herself. Maybe she was simply far too distraught to leave alone.”
“Unless she’s out to get you!”
Paolo had sowed the seeds that maybe other seeds were being sowed right there, right now.
Tony asked outright. “Do you think the bastard’s shagging her in there?”
“Well Livia does seem very vulnerable right now and some men might take advantage of her. After all, she’s a beautiful woman.” Paolo was adding fertiliser.
“I don’t pay you to notice how good looking my sister-in-law is. I pay you to keep fuckers like that copper away from her!” Tony was angry and taking it out on Paolo.
Tony’s real concern was that she was colluding with a copper.
“What’s he up to? What’s she up to come to that?” Tony had concern in his voice along with the anger now.
Paolo recounted the events of the afternoon to Tony, including the hostility shown to him by Livia.
“She really doesn’t like me, Tony. Seems to think I’m beneath her, just an oily rag.”
“Yeah, she can be stuck up!” Tony interjected.
“Insisted on going in on her own, although she looked pretty shaky to me, and then she comes out over an hour later very pally with this copper, who drives her back here.”