Tony moved his head to get a closer look. The awful smell of putrefaction hit his nose and he instantly threw up all over the finger itself, ironically replacing the smell of rotting flesh with one of bile. Paolo was quick to help, getting a chair for Tony to sit on.
“Are you OK boss?” he asked with a false note of concern. “Can I get you anything?”
“Get me outa here will you?”
“Sure Tony, sure. Tell you what, I’ll drive you home for a while, come back here and clear all this up and pick you up later.”
“Are you taking the fucking piss, Paolo? Cos if you are I’ll cut your fucking nuts off!” Clearly Paolo had gone too far.
“No Tony, absolutely not. I don’t know what I’m saying. This whole business has been so shitty for you and for me, as well as for Terry of course. Sorry Tony. I only want to help you... honestly I do.”
Somehow, Paolo’s apparent penitence did the trick and Tony’s attention turned to the rotting finger. Paolo became his ally and support again. His anger turned towards the perpetrators.
“Bastards! Fucking vicious bastards!”
‘Et tu, Antonio.’ thought Paolo.
It wasn’t Terry’s cock of course, but Paolo couldn’t resist winding up Tony. He heard Tony’s exclamation of shock through the office walls and smiled. If he’d been a betting man he’d have wagered on Tony’s legs being firmly crossed. Paolo continued..
“Whatever it is, it smells fucking awful. It’s rotting!”
Tony came racing out of his office. He couldn’t curb his horror, disgust... and curiosity.
Having laid the bait, Paolo had expected Tony to come through to see for himself. So he got in first..
“Looks like another finger,” he continued, “more bone than boner!”
Tony wasn’t laughing though.
“Bloody hurry up Paolo!” Considering Tony had insisted he didn’t want to know the contents of the package, he was mighty impatient to find out.
Paolo trod a fine line, taking his time over the layers. He wanted to wind Tony to the maximum without getting extreme anger focused on himself. Paolo was masterly. He debated whether to remind Tony that he’d not wanted to find out what was inside, but thought the better of it.
Instead, unwrapping the final layer he called. “Tony, you don’t want to see this!”
“Why? What is it? Is it Terry’s cock?”
Paolo did as told. Tony was in such a state that he shouldn’t cross him. But Paolo unwrapped it very carefully, meticulously, layer by layer, almost as if he was waiting for the music to stop each time. It was part of his strategy of winding Tony up so tight his spring might snap. A dangerous game, but if challenged on his snail-like progress, Paolo would argue that he didn’t want to miss anything that might be in the intermediate layers, or risk damaging whatever was inside.
“What’s inside?” shouted Tony.
“Still unwrapping.” Paolo replied, his strategy working well.
“I binned it Tony. Like you told me to. You didn’t want to know what was inside.” Paolo acted surprised and hurt at Tony’s reaction... but he’d expected it. “Sorry, I must have misunderstood.”
Tony said nothing, but pushed past Paolo, going out of the building to rummage in the waste bin and retrieve the package, which he brought back into the office. Meanwhile, Paolo had left Tony’s room and gone back to the outer office.
Tony roughly handed the package to Paolo.
“Open it! Open it now!” ordered Tony, stomping off into his office, slamming the door behind him.
Tony was having some kind of trauma. The tough guy was riven with a combination of anger, guilt and overwhelming sense of loss, but irrationality was taking over too. Tony couldn’t believe Terry was dead. He felt that somehow ‘he knew’ his twin was alive, but he wouldn’t go to see the body to resolve it once and for all. He thought if he did, then all hope might disappear.
Paolo put the package, unopened, in the office rubbish bin outside.
“What was in it?” Tony demanded later.
“No idea, Tony, I binned it like you said.”
“You fucking WHAT?”
“Take it away Paolo; take it away and get rid of it.” Tony had decided and was mighty relieved to have done so. “And don’t tell me what’s inside... unless it’s my fucking money back!” he added.
“Don’t you want to know what’s in it?” Paolo was surprised that having stared at the unopened parcel for days, Tony wouldn’t want to discover its contents. He certainly seemed to be ‘losing it’. Tony reverted to anger.
“Course I do, but I fucking don’t!” he shouted. Then he instantly mellowed. “Paolo mate, do me a favour and get fucking rid of it.”
“Even?... even for what?” asked Paolo. “I didn’t think you had many enemies out there, Tony.”
“You know this business, Paolo, all about reputation and cock stands... and jealousy. Who’s the biggest cock on the block? Anyone seeing someone tough... thinking they’ve got the biggest bollocks... will want to cut them down!”
“So, Terry had the biggest bollocks and they’ve cut them off... and sent them to you?” Paolo was pushing his luck.
“Don’t be a prat Paolo! I’ve got the biggest bollocks and.... fuck me, I don’t know!” Tony was getting confused while Paolo laughed inwardly at his expense.
“The only way to find out is by opening the package, or getting me to do it.” Paolo was slightly emboldened by Tony’s softening attitude towards him. “I don’t know how to say this Tony, but do you believe Terry’s still alive somewhere... being slowly tortured, and whatever’s in that package might be a small part of him, like another finger... or worse?”
“I don’t know what to think! Daft as it might seem, he’s my twin and I feel he’s still alive!”
“But you paid them off Tony!”
“Maybe they’ve got their money and now they’re getting their revenge!”
“Take a look Paolo.” Tony pointed to the package. “What do you make of it?”
Paolo knew exactly what to make of it but went through the motions of examining it and reading the note on the top.
“It’s very light” he said, weighing it in his hand, “for its size. Do you think it’s some kind of joke?” he added. “And I’ve no idea what the message means!”
“It’s pass the fucking parcel,” supplied Tony. “Layers and layers of fucking wrapping paper. When the music stops... etfuckingcetera... I’m guessing what’s inside is another part of Terry! But which part?”
“Sad?” Tony inquired calmly and in direct contrast to his earlier testiness.
“You’ve seemed concerned and quite distant, Tony.” replied Paolo. “I guess the Terry thing must be terrible and, if you don’t mind me saying, that package seems to have spooked you!” Paolo pointed. He was taking a chance on Tony’s wrath.
What he got was an unexpected sigh from Tony, for whom Paolo’s hitherto unwelcome intervention prompted some welcome relief. Tony realised he’d shunned the very person who’d helped him most throughout the negotiations over Terry’s abduction, despite the unhappy outcome.
“Sorry Paolo... you’ve been a great help.”
Paolo decided to keep his head down and be as helpful to Tony as possible. On the odd occasion he was allowed in Tony’s office, he saw the package containing the finger unopened and unmoved and saw Tony gazing at it with a mixture of intrigue and discomfort. Tony said little, but spoke gruffly. About the fifth time Paolo went into the office, he asked if there was anything he could do to help Tony.
“Help me? Do you think I’m in need of help. Do you think I’m mad?” Tony barked angrily.
“Not mad but sad”, Paolo dared reply.
Paolo would have expected Tony to have shown him the package when it arrived and was rather nonplussed when he didn’t. He couldn’t ask about it as that might have aroused suspicion, particularly as Tony had been very withdrawn and uncommunicative recently. However, Paolo did find reason to go in to see Tony in his office. He immediately saw the package, unopened, on Tony’s desk. He felt he couldn’t ask “What’s that?” as Tony wasn’t exactly welcoming of the intrusion into his space.
‘Oh well,” thought Paolo, ‘he’ll have to open it eventually or it will stink the place out!’
Paolo decided it would be best if he could restore the relative closeness he and Tony had enjoyed during the extortion process. If he could combine this with messing further with his boss’s mind, that would be perfect.
Paolo defrosted the finger, wrapped it first in cling film and then many layers of wrapping paper as would be appropriate for a children’s party game of ‘pass the parcel’. The legend ‘When the music stops brother...’ was on top of the parcel, which arrived in a box.
When it arrived, Tony said nothing and did nothing. He left the package unopened.
Having gone to so much risk to get back from Sofia the last of Terry’s fingers, Paolo should have disposed of it immediately. But on the evening of the exchange for the diamond, Paolo was more interested in servicing Sofia’s carnal needs... and his own, so the finger went temporarily into his small freezer compartment as it had remained frozen inside the Jiffy bag it arrived in. He hadn’t thought through what he would do with it... once more he had been seduced by Sofia’s fabulous body.
The finger remained in the freezer until Paolo came up with an idea.
Paolo was getting the brunt of Tony’s oddness. He’d tried to keep close up tight, but the boss was putting up a barrier, despite Paolo’s efforts. Tony was taciturn and ‘locked in’, often literally. It seemed like he was carrying a huge burden of guilt about his brother’s death which Paolo couldn’t understand. Paolo obviously knew full well that Tony was entirely innocent of Terry’s death so he wondered what other recriminations Tony was meting out on himself and why.
Maybe Paolo could push Tony over the edge. And maybe he had a little something to help him do it.
Tony wasn’t sure if he should grieve or whether Terry was alive somewhere and he, Tony, should be putting all his resources into finding him. He’d already been responsible for executing two men, wrongly if his current instinct about Terry was correct. But then those two men were killed on Tony’s instincts... so maybe his instincts weren’t so good.
His current instinct could easily have been checked had he been prepared to go and identify Terry’s body. He didn’t trust Livia to tell him the truth... and somehow, if he didn’t see Terry’s body, he still had hope.
While Livia and Mary were finishing lunch, Tony was brooding. Livia had been right; Tony was behaving quite oddly. He’d lost his twin... and his edge. Good!... all part of the plan to make him suffer that the two wives and Sofia had agreed. He was suffering.
Not a particularly social animal, Tony occasionally met people for lunch, if only to oil the wheels. But now he kept himself locked in his office. He felt guilty about his twin Terry’s death. What more could he have done?
Was Terry actually dead? Tony felt he might not be! He wasn’t sure.
This was incredible, thought Livia, a fantastical plot developed and given credence before her eyes. She realised that the less she said, the more convincing a fabrication this woman Mary was building for her. Why, Livia could almost have believed it herself. The remaining question for her was how best to use it... and maybe use Mary Flaherty too! For the first time since her convent school, Livia was starting to appreciate the potential of the Bible.
“Has he ever tried it on with you Livia?”
With saying less making more, Livia simply nodded.
“I knew it... the morderin’ fecker!”