They say women are fantastic observers and that time and time again men give themselves away. Sofia was particularly adept at reading men. She’d correctly pinpointed Paolo’s fear of Mary Flaherty and would make it her business to find out the nature of the woman and the nature of her threat. She also noticed how a couple of times while opening up about his concerns, Paolo’s eyes almost imperceptibly flicked to the large diamond sparkling on her finger. But she didn’t plan to follow that up... yet.
There would be time for that later, when she fully understood Mrs Flaherty.
“This Flaherty woman has really got to you Paolo, hasn’t she? She’s scaring you pretty bad... even more than Livia. Yes?” Sofia was staring into Paolo’s eyes; it made him very uncomfortable... and it showed! It caused her to rethink her earlier belief that he was telling her all.
“There’s something you’re keeping from me about this Mary Flaherty and I have this strange feeling it’s something I should be worried about it. I don’t know why, but I feel it in my waters! You must tell me all about her... and why she scares the shit out of you!”
“Well I’m the poor sod who’s supposedly organising the funeral, but not!”
“Not?” queried Sofia, “how so?”
“Mary Flaherty has a brother who’s in the funeral business and she’s leaned on him to provide a quote, an unbeatable quote, for getting shot of Terry... ‘mates rates’. Apparently I have to liaise with him about everything. That would be easy, except that I smell a rat, and that rat is called Flaherty. I’ve been racking my brains to think what she’s got up her sleeve... and what’s in it for her...”
“Kind support to a friend, maybe?”
“You must be kidding!”
“So tell me about this Flaherty woman... where does she fit in?” asked Sofia.
“I wish I knew. Livia’s been back almost no time and suddenly this woman is her new best friend. I don’t think she’s got anything on Livia, but her old man, nasty bastard, got himself killed too... seems they’re grieving widows together... but that's rich, they both hated their husbands! I think both of them are trying to get something from each other... and I don’t mean sympathy either! And I’m going to be the expendable idiot who’s gonna help them both!”
“Oh dear... but how?”
“I think Livia hates everyone but herself!” muttered Sofia, adding, “so what makes you think she’s setting you up, Paolo, for what?”
“I just get the feeling that there’s more to this funeral than sending Terry on his way to Hell. Sure, it’ll be the grand gesture, a showy event worthy of a top Italian family, but one where everyone there, except Tony and Terry’s son too, is not only saying goodbye, but also good riddance to the bastard! I know there will be more to it though, because Livia’s involving Mary bloody Flaherty. And she spells big T trouble!”
Sofia waited for Paolo. There was a pause and then he looked around, furtively, as if everyone in Langan’s was listening to him. ‘Great!’ thought Sofia, ‘he plans to tell me all... otherwise why would he be so concerned? And who the hell here knows him anyway!’ She was aware that as far as her own plans were concerned, information was power. But she really liked Paolo anyway, silly boy!
“Well,” started Paolo, “Livia hasn’t said anything concrete but I think she might be setting me up. Her big thing right now is organising Terry’s funeral. But she hated him!”
“Right then Paolo...” Sofia was taking charge now. “Looking at this positively, your obsession with Livia has in one sense been satisfied; you’ve done the deed so you can tick that off the list. Done! I’ll be honest with you Paolo, I’m a little bit jealous, but you must see that Livia’s not for you. Never again!”
Paolo’s grunt and silence suggested he wasn’t necessarily convinced, but he said nothing.
“You must trust your instincts,” continued Sofia, “Livia’s up to something bad... but beware, you don’t want it to rebound on you, do you? So tell me all about it.”
While Sofia was grilling Paolo at his flat, Tony called his mobile. “I want you in the office at 9.00 tomorrow, I’m going to buy you lunch!” Paolo had a very busy next day; sex at 11.00 with Marcia and then a meeting with Livia at Noon. He lied to Tony he had a hospital appointment, for chlamydia and couldn’t see him. The chlamydia lie got him off the hook. Why was Tony so friendly now?
Capricious Sofia, having extracted most of the truth about the diamond, suddenly softened and sex was on again. Then she flew, leaving Paolo confused.
Livia needs Paolo to meet Mary Flaherty. He will be the go-between... the fall guy if anything goes wrong. Livia summons him to her house the following day to discuss Terry’s funeral. “Don’t be late!”
In the meantime, Sofia meets Paolo again. There will be no hanky-panky, just answers! In a combination of confession by him and brilliant deduction by her, Sofia finds out how Paolo got the diamond, but not from whom.
Who else might know?
Well then why don’t I wear the ring and if anyone else sees, and knows, that will flush them out!
Livia confronts Tony, and gives him both barrels. How dare he send his monkey to quiz her!.. none of his business! Tony is intimidated as Livia turns the recently widowed guilt screw. Nonetheless, Tony threatens... stay away from her... or else! Livia laughs, warning against recriminations on Paolo. If she discovers Paolo’s been harmed... “I’ll get you!” Tony knew she would!
Paolo must stop Sofia flashing that diamond around. They meet briefly... she’s wearing that ring! WTF! cries Paolo. Angry Sofia asks how he got it. She leaves, kneeing Paolo’s crotch as she goes. She’ll make him fess up later...
Paolo worries about the Livia-Mary Flaherty situation and the possibility that she knows about him stealing the huge diamond clitoral ring given by her husband to his tart who was killed. The one Paolo gave to Sofia, whom he must tell to keep it out of sight.
But, given only 48 hours, he calls Livia first asking about Mary Flaherty. Livia tells him that Mary’s brother is an undertaker helping her with Terry’s funeral. She tells him she’s going to give Tony a piece of her mind. Then she, Mary and Paolo must meet to sort out Terry’s funeral.
Paolo’s dream has just come true. Livia has finally allowed him access to her body. Wanting to keep her sweet, he agrees to help her with Terry’s funeral. But worryingly there’s no suggestion of more intimacy.
Tony’s getting dangerously deranged. He’s heard that Flaherty’s wife and Livia have been talking and he’s paranoid. Threatening Paolo with a gun, Tony orders him to find out quickly what business goes on between Livia and Mary Flaherty. Paolo has just 48 hours.
Paolo knows Mary Flaherty to be a ball breaker, and he certainly doesn’t want to piss off Livia right now. Tricky!
Sofia didn’t bother to wait. “So Livia’s let you at her has she? One off your bucket list then! Lovey-dovey Livy! That must mean she expects you to do something really nasty for her. So what’s brought on the change Paolo? You should be on Cloud 9... or didn’t she live up to your overblown expectations?.... or is she treating you like shit now?”
Paolo didn’t bother to answer any of this, but said. “Livia is not a nice person. In fact I think she’s evil!”
“That’s pretty rich coming from Mr Fingersnipper!” laughed Sofia. “But pretty accurate too!
“Well I think she’s up to something!” announced Paolo. “Something I can’t quite put my finger on.”
“O...K...,” replied Sofia slowly and cautiously, “so is it something I should be worried about too? Might it affect me?”
“I don’t know.” replied Paolo with a small shake of the head.
Sofia was interested, but cool. “But you’ve always fancied your chances with Livia, haven’t you? What’s changed?”
“Well...” Paolo wasn’t denying anything, so Sofia decided to put him straight.
“Paolo, forget Livia... she will never let you near her!”
Paolo gave a look that gave lie to Sofia’s assertion. Sofia noticed.
“It’s Livia.” started Paolo.
“What’s Livia? What about Livia? I thought you were sweet on her Paolo... and that might be an understatement!”
“You said you saw her the other day. What was that about?” Paolo should have known he was really pushing his luck with Sofia.
“What kind of question is that Paolo?” Sofia said, anger clear in her voice. “Who says my meeting with her is any of your business?” She might have got up and left right there and then, but Sofia was keen to know what was bugging Paolo. She was always suspicious of Livia. “Well?”
“Actually Paolo, I haven’t worn it out before because you were so bothered. I chose this restaurant because it’s the last place either me or the ring would look out of place. Just you and your silly paranoid ideas... they’re out of place! I wanted to wear it to say thank you to you... somewhere safe. It’s a lovely stone and it was really nice of you to let me have it. But now I’m not so sure.”
“So sorry Sofia, of course you’re right. And it does look lovely. You too!”
“OK, so once again, why the urgency Paolo?”
Paolo couldn’t miss Sofia’s ring. The ring that could spell a lot of trouble for them both. Why was she wearing it here, not just in public view, but clearly flaunting it outrageously?
“Why are you wearing that Sofia?” Paolo, whispering, moved his right hand, covering the ring. “I told you how dangerous it could be for us both didn’t I? Are you mad?”
“So mad that you won’t get lucky tonight after all Paolo! Who on earth knows you here and who thinks my diamond is anything out of the ordinary in a place like this? Who’s mad exactly?”
Few diners can have missed Sofia, because the way she looked, the way she walked and the huge diamond weighing on her right hand said ‘here’s someone special’. They might have thought ‘who’s the sheepish lad on her tail?’ Paolo was embarrassed by the way Sofia was drawing attention to herself, and it showed.
He was relieved when the waiter helped her into her seat at the far side of their table. She had a view of the other diners. He sat opposite.
“So what’s with the urgency Paolo?” Sofia touched his left hand with her right.
“What the fuck?”
Were he not preoccupied by the fluidity of Sofia’s bottom, Paolo might have noticed the electric blue clutch bag in her right hand swinging by her side. But even if he had, he wouldn’t have seen what she was determined that everyone else in the restaurant would, the enormous sparkler on her finger. But clutching the bag ensured that it was hidden from Paolo’s view.
As she reached the upstairs room, her hand and bag moved up in front of her, just beneath her breasts, for the sashay to their table.
Everyone there was going to see that diamond ring.
Sofia moved away to speak to the nearby waiter, who asked her to follow him. Paolo followed them without a word. He watched ahead as Sofia’s bottom moved from side to side in a smooth, wavelike motion. As natural as the swing of a pendulum as she was led to the stairs. Had she turned round, she might have noticed the stares of many of the other diners, men in undisguised admiration and women too, albeit tinged with some envy.
At the stairs the waiter beckoned them up. Sofia led the way, keeping two steps ahead of Paolo. Lucky Paolo!