The rest of the journey to see the body went in frosty silence. Livia sat in the back of the car a masterpiece of cold, beautiful haughtiness. Paolo pulled up and made no attempt to get out and open the door for her as one might expect of a chauffeur. To Paolo’s silent delight, Livia’s composure was rather compromised as the small woman struggled down from the large SUV, her skirt riding up.
However, it provided Livia the ideal launchpad for her transformation into a distraught, grieving widow for anyone around who might be watching. And they were.
After Paolo’s ‘speech’, a silence reigned in the car you could cut with a knife. Then Livia spoke.
“And you think because of that I should let you shag me, Paolo. Is that it?”
“That might’ve been nice before I realised how you used me, but right now, I think I’ll settle for repayment of the two hundred grand you squeezed out of me. That seems a better deal now, and one you can afford, given the huge life insurance payout heading your way.” Paolo was deadly serious.
“In your dreams little man!” Livia replied.
’And your nightmares,’ thought Paolo.
Paolo arrived at Livia’s at 1.45pm and was sent to the garage to get Terry’s car out. He wasn’t invited in.
At 2pm, Livia swept out, ignoring Paolo’s opened passenger door. She would sit in the back, with Paolo as chauffeur. That pissed him off!
“Now look here Livia,” he said, “you know and I know you have Terry’s blood on your hands as much as me. What you don’t know is I have the means of taking you down as much as you can get me. Don’t think being miles away on a cruise gets you off the hook!”
Paolo asked Tony to clear it with Livia, as he said she might be rather cool towards him for some reason best known to herself.
“I think she might see me as a mere lad,” he told Tony, indignantly. “I think she might prefer to go with you.”
“Well that ain’t gonna happen. She’ll get who I say or she can find her own fucking way there!” Tony insisted. “Leave it to me.”
Tony called Livia and told her the score. Paolo would drive her... in Terry’s car.
“Well make sure your lad gets me there on time!” she concluded.
“Is anyone accompanying her?” Paolo asked about Livia’s trip to identify husband Terry’s body.
“I’m not fucking going with her!” Tony announced. “If you’re so bloody interested, why don’t you take her? She’s due at the mortuary at 3pm. I suggest you pick her up at 2. But if I hear you’ve been trying it on with her, you’re in the ground, even if you’re a star right now!”
“OK!” Paolo was perhaps a little too hasty to agree. On reflection, he realised tomorrow was Tuesday. He was about to piss off Marcia once more!
...but then it was Livia!
Over lunch, Paolo probed Tony gently about Livia.
“How was Livia? Hope she’s OK. What a lousy homecoming!”
“You suggesting I’m lousy?” asked Tony, but it was clear that he was just joshing.
“You know what I mean. Terrible strain on her.”
“She’s got to go identify the body tomorrow. I just hope they cover his hands!” volunteered Tony.
“I’m sure they’ll do what’s right, unless she asks to see them.” Paolo was in reassurance mode. “Have you not seen Terry yourself?”
“Absolutely not! Like you, Paolo, I’ve got no taste for the macabre.”
’Like fuck you haven’t!’ thought Paolo.
Paolo wanted Tony to see that bloodshed repulsed him, but that when it was a case of proving your loyalty, he would step up to the plate and do whatever necessary. In this way, he hoped Tony would see his intrinsic morality, fidelity and toughness of spirit.
He was therefore very pleased when, after a morning of questioning, moaning and mild hostility, Tony turned to him and said “Come on Paolo, I want to have lunch with someone I can really trust! You’ve done good. My treat.”
‘I’ve done very good, but not in the way you think!’ mused Paolo
Tony wasn't happy that Paolo had disposed of his gun. Nonetheless, he was impressed that the young man had avenged Terry’s death by killing Ronan Flaherty. Hearing Paolo going on about ‘security’ prompted Tony to quiz him about how secure everything was, how ‘clean’ he had left the scene.
Paolo didn’t go into details about the killing, although he made sure Tony was aware that he, Paolo, had done the deed, with a kitchen knife. Paolo dodged questions about details by feigning trauma.
“He had it coming, Tony, but it made me physically sick. Had to kill his tart too!”
Monday morning Paolo was in the office just before Tony.
“Why the fuck didn’t you answer your phone?” demanded Tony.
“I lost it. Had to buy a cheapo.”
“Well why the fuck didn’t you answer that one?”
“Security!” was all Paolo said, very cheekily and perhaps unwisely tapping the side of his nose. But he wasn’t concerned. He’d done a good job, on time, and felt buoyed up by that.
“So he’s dead, bastard Flaherty’s dead?”
“He sure is. Cut his neck!”
“Knife? Tony queried.
“Knife!” Paolo confirmed.
“So where’s my gun?”
“Threw it in the Thames. Security!” Paolo lied.
Paolo had parked his car a few minutes walk from Nicole’s flat. He drove back to his own flat and slept well. Job done. When he woke he would let Tony know, given that he’d given Paolo 24 hours to do that job.
Paolo decided he would text Tony. He didn’t want to speak to his boss today.
He used the untraceable mobile.
_’Irish problem solved.’ was all Paolo wrote, prompting Tony to call him on both the new, which he’d switched off, and his regular mobile, which he ignored. Paolo would have ‘misplaced’ it.
Sunday, Paolo’s day of rest.
Quietly Paolo donned a pair of latex gloves. He found some scissors in the kitchen and returned to the tragic lovers. Somehow he managed to get his hands between Flaherty’s immobile legs to the cause of the older man’s troubles, the diamond ‘ring’. It wasn’t easy with just a pair of kitchen scissors, but Paolo persevered, slowly, and finally managed to cut through the platinum ring, gingerly removing it with its diamond. He pocketed it together with Flaherty’s mobile and his own used condom, carefully tied.
He took time to clean his presence away. No trace. Nothing left to chance.
Paolo needed to remove all trace of his presence, but first there was Nicole struggling to survive. He moved over to the right, blood-free side of the bed, crouched down and carefully leant over to reach Nicole struggling under Flaherty’s deadweight. With right hand he pinched her nose and with left he covered her mouth tightly. It didn’t take long and there was no great struggle as she went. Collateral damage, such a shame but inevitable.
This way it should be an open and shut case of jealous gangster and cheating lover.
There was just one more thing though...
As Nicole’s knife entered his neck, Flaherty instinctively turned his head to the left. This action made the knife slice his carotid artery. Eyes bulging with horror, he saw blood, his blood, gushing out, accelerated by a heart pumping with rage. A fraction of a second later his hands loosened their grip on Nicole’s neck. He’d almost succeeded in killing her.
By now, Paolo was watching from the bedroom doorway. He’d not had to do anything. He watched Flaherty die on top of the now blood-soaked girl, who was struggling for breath beneath.
But Paolo’s work had just begun.
What was Flaherty thinking? Clearly he wasn’t thinking, just acting in the way he was hard-wired. He didn’t stop to think that she might have been wronged, that someone else had been responsible, that maybe she’d been doped or overcome. He just struck out in a fit of extreme rage triggered by humiliation. He didn’t allow himself time to think.
Nicole didn’t have time to think either, she had no choice. As Flaherty’s hands continued to tighten round her neck, she acted instinctively as best she could, her right hand arcing upwards to plunge her knife into his neck.
Flaherty flew through the open doorway to Nicole’s flat, stopped, scanned the hallway then piled straight into her bedroom. What he saw was exactly what Paolo had seen and photographed.
“Fucking bitch, fucking whore!” he shouted so loudly that Nicole stirred. He leapt on the bed and went to punch her in the face but for some reason stopped himself to put both hands around her neck and start to strangle her.
He would have succeeded but for the adrenalin rush Nicole experienced as she stirred and realised what he was doing. What came next took him quite by surprise.
Paolo had gambled that Flaherty would neither wish any of his henchmen along with him nor take time out to muster them. Whatever he was going to find, he wanted to keep a lid on it. He wouldn’t risk anyone finding out he’d been humiliated, or see his woman in a compromising position.
Paolo’s gamble paid off. Flaherty was alone... but nonetheless dangerous. Paolo’s email had rattled the Irishman and he was now probably tired from mounting the stairs at pace and so angry that maybe he wouldn’t exhibit his normal level of caution and control.
Advantage Paolo... so far.
Paolo was pretty good with his calculations. He heard Flaherty’s car pull up at speed outside Nicole’s building. It was 38 minutes since he sent his text. Flaherty must have been flooring it. That was good, because that meant he must be beside himself with rage and maybe a little less cautious than he should be.
Flaherty only stopped to put his key in the door from the street, after which he leapt up the stairs two at a time. At the top, he rushed past the broom cupboard Paolo was standing in, switch-blade open ready... just in case.
Paolo was banking on Flaherty coming alone. The next part of his plan was a gamble. He would have to rely upon his wits and flexibility. Now dressed, he stuffed the pistol under his belt behind his back. His switch-blade knife stayed in his hand. He would have to be out of the way when Flaherty arrived, as Paolo was sure he would in around forty minutes. Quietly leaving Nicole’s flat, he found a broom cupboard with open door he’d noticed on the way up.
He checked on the naked, comatose Nicole before waiting until he heard Flaherty arrive.
Paolo had had the foresight to invest in a cheap, used, pay-as-you-go mobile, paid for in cash. Completely untraceable. It wasn’t state-of-the-art by any means, but it had an OK camera. He had also acquired Ronan Flaherty’s personal mobile number.
The text from an unknown number that Flaherty received at 11.30pm was a photo of the diamond he had bought Nicole, in situ, with the background of her floral patterned duvet, with the legend ‘A pretty little bird tells me someone’s been polishing your diamond Ronan’.
Flaherty was on his way. Fast and alone.
Paolo let her lay there sleeping off the effects of the alcohol. He needed time to work out the finer details of his plan. He’d gone to Nicole’s flat for a shag, but that was a bonus to the main activity of saving his own skin. Survival is the most powerful instinct of all and he figured that his best chance of getting Flaherty alone, without bodyguards, was via the gangster’s secret lover Nicole.
Poor Nicole. She might end up collateral damage, but Paolo’s own survival and prosperity must take precedence. And she’d already had a fulfilling life. Very full.