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The Limit: Prologue

...And now, an extra-special treat for Open Writing readers.

Today we begin the serialisation of The Limit, a crime novel by Peter Lacey. Peter is a professional and polished writer, a gifted story-teller.

Make an appointment with your computer every Monday for the latest episode of The Limit. You are guaranteed a thrilling read.

Mario Rossetti stepped out of the back door of his nightclub and paused before walking towards the parked Mercedes.

It was one of those warm June nights that never get dark and that are filled with the promise of summer to come.

After the door had closed, he re-lit the King Edward cigar with a gold Dupont lighter. To him, even these narrow streets and cul-de-sacs reeked of optimism.
An extractor fan from the restaurant of the club whirred softly into action in the wall above his head.

Optimism and chips, he corrected. He laughed. If they ever bottled Blackpool and sold it as perfume it would come out as essence of chips.

The optimism was not just a warm night, it was real. Business was good and looking to get better, and life was full. Angie was a stay-at-home wife who was both loving and beautiful and his young family were a joy.

He refused to be depressed by the one problem that had arisen in the last two weeks. Problem? What problem? It could be dealt with; anything could be dealt with. No problem.

He exhaled smoke and felt for his keys as he stepped off the low pavement. The cul-de-sac was private and essential for staff parking in the season. The rear of the club and the chain mesh fence of a builder's yard made up its sides, and it ended in a brick wall. He had taken two steps when the Mercedes purred into life.

He stopped in surprise and was pinned in the beams of the headlights. Anger took over.


He began to run towards the car when the engine revved high and it came at him. Straight at him.

He dodged sideways but it caught him a glancing blow that threw him into the wall. His head smacked hard against the brick and he fell and rolled. His shoulders rested on the pavement and his head hurt like hell. His right leg was numb but it wasn't broken. His lightweight suit had ripped badly.

Jesus Christ, if he ever found out who they were he would have their balls.
And then they came back and he knew who they were.

The car had braked out on the street and now the reverse lights came on. The engine revved again—he could even see the tremble of the exhaust pipe—and it came hurtling backwards.

His mind froze with the inevitability and the horror.


The world had become two-dimensional: pain and blackness. The pain was intense and his only relief was the blackness of unconsciousness that intermittently covered him like a blanket. He attempted to crawl beneath the blanket but it kept slipping away. There were long stretches of time when he could do nothing but endure. His knowledge was confined to surviving the pain.

Awareness of a kind returned briefly. He was strapped down in an ambulance that swung wildly as it took corners. A white face floated in and out of vision above him. It was disembodied and did not look hopeful. He must be in a bad way. What the hell had happened?

The pain took over again but this time he managed to get beneath the blackness.
Impressions were jumbled and fleeting. Mainly there were chasms of nothing and jagged bursts of hurt. Then he felt a sharpness. He heard a calming voice and reached a plateau where the pain eased and he was able to rest.

He didn't dream but was vaguely aware of time passing, as if it were an endless grey corridor down which he floated. He acknowledged it passively until movement jostled his senses. The air smelled different. He could smell. Where was he?

Voices. Quiet, anxious, reassuring.

He recognised the anxious one. Angie. What was Angie doing out at this time of night? She should be waiting for him at home. Who was looking after Bruno and Lucia?

"Just a few minutes, Mrs. Rossetti. Don't tire him. He needs rest."

It was a Dr. Kildare script. It couldn't be real life. But he knew he was in hospital. And suddenly, he remembered.

He felt there should be more pain—he remembered the pain—and fear. But his emotions were distanced. He must be drugged to the eyeballs. Balls. He remembered that, too. He had said he would have their balls. Anger was among the emotions lapping against the morphine.

"Mario? It's me. Angie."

She took hold of his hand and he concentrated his strength to squeeze her fingers. She must have felt it because she began to cry.

He loved her deeply but she was no good in situations like this. Situations like this needed the closed ranks of the family, but it was no longer there. It had broken up, drifted apart. He smiled to himself. He could feel the presence of his father, Big Bruno Rossetti, and his grandfather, Mario the Dealmaker. Surely he wasn't that close to death? If he was, he was in good company. The family was still there, all he had to do was call.

He tried to speak but although his lips moved, no sounds came out. Angie saw what he was attempting and leaned close.

"Yes, Mario. What is it?"

His concentration reactivated the pain despite the drugs but this time he managed to form the words.

"Get Toni."

He said it in a whisper that was almost inaudible and waited until he saw the understanding in his wife's eyes. Then he let himself slip back under the waiting blanket of sleep.


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