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The Limit: Chapter 2

...Blackpool has always been hard. You have to be hard to survive on the Golden Mile during Glasgow Fairs...

The Rossettis have been part of the Blackpool scene for decades, running nightclubs, bingo halls, pubs. But someone is muscling in on their scene. Someone prepared to use extreme violence. The Rossettis need help...

Antonietta Rossetti, hot-winged from Seattle, is arranging that help, as Peter Lacey reveals.

To read earlier chapters of this gripping story please click on The Limit in the menu on this page.

Antonietta Rossetti hadn't hesitated when she received the call. Within thirty-six hours she had handed over the running of the beauty salon and dress shop to her manageress, grabbed six thousand dollars in readies, and made the connection from Portland to Seattle for the Polar flight to Heathrow.

Angie hadn't made a lot of sense on the telephone but then Angie rarely did. Her helplessness was part of the reason why Mario loved her so much. When Toni finally arrived in Blackpool, other things didn't make sense either.

She had come dashing home on a Pan Am white charger to make everything right for her kid brother and discovered that she couldn't. Mario was out of intensive care but would be in hospital for some time and Uncle Emilio had done a runner to Malta, leaving problems well beyond the scope of normal man-management or bent accounting.

Three days later, the problems had got even bigger. She needed help. The sort of specialised help that wasn't available in Blackpool.

The police theory was that joyriders had run over Mario by accident when he disturbed them. They had abandoned the car, undamaged, five miles out of town. She used it to drive to London.

She had come alone and hadn't told anyone where she was going. It had been a long shot and it had come off—sort of. Perhaps she had made the trip to fool herself into believing activity was the same as action. Perhaps she had been living too long on American dreams for reality to register.

But she had found Maudie and she had rehearsed the story in her mind during the drive south. He might still have contacts and he might still be able to help. And, when it came to the bottom line, he was all she had.

She began to tell him and once she started talking it became a relief to unburden herself, to be able to confide in someone else.

"You know the family, Maudie. We've always been close, always had respect. It was earned through three generations. Grandfather, my father and now Mario. We've been in Blackpool since 1934. Now somebody wants us out."

She paused, took from her handbag a packet of St. Moritz and the gold Dupont lighter that had been a present from her brother, and lit a cigarette. Maudie pushed across a saucer to use as an ashtray.

"They're called Dyson Enterprises. Two brothers, Eric and Steven. Eric was an accountant in Manchester. He looked after the books for a string of strip joints, drinking clubs and dives around Ancoats and Moss Side. Neighbourhoods that are less than salubrious. He was involved in prostitution and drugs without getting his fingers dirty. He made a lot of contacts into the bargain.

"Steven Dyson is two years younger, in his mid-thirties. Flasher than his brother. Upper-class flash. A university dropout who went to Morocco or somewhere. When he got back to Manchester he cut his hair, bought a suit and went into public relations.

"They teamed up and went to Blackpool three years ago and bought partnerships in two businesses. Sedgwick's betting shops and Bateman's bingo halls. Within months, their partners sold out and retired to the sun.

"Leo Sedgwick and Arnold Bateman were fixtures in the town, like the Tower Circus. They were not retiring types. Leo left after someone set fire to his Rolls-Royce. Arnold put minders in his bingo halls but someone put his minders in hospital and suddenly he couldn't get replacements."


"The Dysons are respectable and clever. The violence is non-attributable. Eric is a Rotarian. They support charities. Steven's leading a drive to raise funds for the football club. They get their pictures in the local paper every other week, doing good. They're popular. They make money and they spend it.

"Last year they bought a run-down pub and have turned it into a fun bar called The Life of Riley. It mints money. Blackpool likes success and they're successful. They also haven't challenged any of the big companies. They've concentrated on small independents. Mario is the biggest they've tackled."


She took a long drag on the cigarette before replying, taking comfort from the menthol hit at the back of her throat.

"When my father died twenty-one years ago, he left a public house, a nightclub and two bingo halls. I was sixteen, Mario was fourteen. He was too young to take over and I was never considered. I was a girl. Uncle Emilio ran things for four years. He meant well but he had no head for business. By the time Mario was eighteen, we had lost the pub and one of the halls. Emilio got a twenty per cent shareholding of Rossetti Entertainments as a payoff and Mario rebuilt.

"Mario now has three halls, a nightclub, a share in a sea-front hotel and bar, and the long-term lease of a prime site that has four shops and cafes, all bringing in rent. He's done well. He looked after Uncle Emilio, too. He let him run the bingo halls. But Emilio always had a weakness—gambling. And that's how the Dysons moved in.

"Emilio was always a mad punter. Years ago my father had to bail him out when he got in over his head. It was well known around town and, ever since, when Emilio gambled or had a bet it was strictly cash. The Dysons must have known. They gave him an account. It didn't take long before he owed them fifteen thousand pounds."

Maudie whistled.

"Then they extended his credit. Another fifteen. They took his shares in the business as security. He signed documents and when he'd lost the extra, they kept the shares. They became twenty per cent partners of Rossetti Entertainments. That's the bingo halls and the club."

"Is it legal?"

"As legal as it needs to be. They have Emilio's books for the halls. The ones for the taxman and the other set. But they're not content with twenty per cent. They want the lot. They made Mario an offer and threatened to make the books public if he didn't sell. Mario turned them down flat. The bingo would be no good to them if it was straight. You need the bunce off the top to make it worthwhile. He offered them forty grand for the shares back and called their bluff."

"And they ran him down?"

"With his own car outside the club. He's got broken legs and internal injuries." She shrugged. "They say he's comfortable. He'll be all right."

"Are you sure it was the Dysons who ran him down?"

"They had it done. They have more muscle than they need for running their business. Some of it professional. I made enquiries. They have a team of persuaders run by two thugs from Manchester, Paul Unsworth and Carl Curtis. Curtis served five years for manslaughter.

"Blackpool has always been hard. You have to be hard to survive on the Golden Mile during Glasgow Fairs, but that's mindless violence. You can cope with that. When it's planned it becomes frightening."

She stubbed out the cigarette and remembered the last three days.

"I went to see them. To make them a fresh offer to get the shares back, before I was convinced they were responsible. It was all very civilised, in the boardroom at their offices at The Life of Riley. They said they were sorry about Mario's accident, turned me down and insisted they wanted to buy Mario out. The intimidation started later.

"There was trouble at Dolly's, that's Mario's nightclub, when four heavies tried to wreck the place. I was threatened in a car park." She laughed, and wondered if it sounded brittle. "It was intended to show me that the streets at night are not safe for a woman alone." She could still taste the revulsion of the encounter. "And they sent this to Mario."

She reached in her handbag and took out a photograph that she gave to Maudie.

"Don't tell me," he said. "This is Mario's wife and kids?"

"That's right. A polaroid snapshot in the park. Angie probably never even knew it had been taken. It arrived at the hospital in an envelope. No message, no threat, just the photograph."

"What did Mario say?"

"He said he might sell. His wife and kids are his world."

"What did you say?"

"I got him to send Angie and the kids to stay with Mother. She married again and lives in Rimini. They went yesterday. Then I asked him to give me more time to work something out."

"And you came here, looking for Clint Eastwood?"

She lit a second cigarette.

"No. I came for help. Any help you can give, Maudie."


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