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The Limit: Chapter 7

...It was that percentage of detectable deceit that had given her a moment's disquiet. She became more at ease when she recognised it. The breed might be clever and successful and, in Steven Dyson's case, dangerous, but they all had one common factor. They were little boys who wanted their own way and who got very cross when someone said no....

The Dysons are determined to dominate the gambling scene in Britain's leading holiday town - but Toni Rossetti is equally resolved to fight them all the way.

Peter Lacey continues his taut crime novel.

Discovering the truth about the Dysons had started with Stuart and Ruth Shapiro.

Stuart had been a family friend for more than twenty years. At one time, in her teens, they had been flirtatious without anything ever happening. Instead, she had introduced him to her best friend, and he had married her.

He was a big but gentle man. His father had unsuccessfully attempted to push him into a profession but he had quit as a trainee surveyor after less than a year and got a job painting the Tower. It was steady work, like the Forth Bridge. Once it was finished, the gang started all over again. Then his father relented, gave him a stake, and he went on the markets.

He had become a market baron. He had knitwear stalls in four permanent markets in Blackpool, Preston, Blackburn and Burnley, and others at occasional markets in towns within a seventy-mile striking distance. He drove a Volvo with an in-car telephone and a horde of gadgets.

He was a born salesman but now concentrated on administration, stock control, collecting the takings and fiddling a healthy percentage with which to keep his wife up to her ears in thick pile carpet and gold lavatory fittings. Since the break-up of Toni's second marriage he had been exhorting her to stop fooling around and settle down with a "proper chap."

Ruth had remained Toni's closest friend. She laughed at the luxury and put plastic covers on the furniture as a joke. She drove a sports car and got heavily drunk with the girls at least once a week.

She stayed well clear of the market stalls but occasionally took a job on cosmetic counters in the big stores to relieve the boredom and stock up on creams, lotions and make-up. Ruth was mad and larger than life.

The couple had no children and visited Toni in America at least once a year. They came to the house the first evening she was back. When she began telling them what Mario had said about the Dysons, she was confident they would say there had been a mistake. That this sort of thing didn't happen in Blackpool.

But they didn't. These things did happen since Steven and Eric Dyson had been in town.

Stuart told her about Leo Sedgwick and Arnold Bateman, the burnt out Roller and the broken arms of the bingo hall bouncers.

"The local tearaways soon got the message. Tearaways like stacked odds. These were stacked against. Arnold couldn't buy protection."

The shock was profound. It was followed by outrage. Mario had been telling the truth. He had been deliberately run down, his body mangled, in an attempt to make him sell.

The Rossettis had worked for three generations for what they had. The Dysons wanted it a lot quicker and were prepared to use broken limbs and blackmail to get it.

"I'm not going to let it happen to Mario. I know this town. Better than the Dysons ever will. And the family still has influence and friends here. I'm going to fight them."

Stuart looked grim.

"Toni. The family always had influence but it was never the Mafia. If you tell people about the Dysons they won't believe you. They won't want to believe you. When I heard the rumours, I didn't. The Dysons are respectable, they're clever and they have all the right contacts in all the right places.

"They also have a small army. Okay, anyone can hire seasonal woodentops as bouncers. No brains but a dinner jacket. But they have pros from Manchester and two very nasty characters in charge.

"And where are you going to find your friends? Carleton Cemetery? The old crowd from your father's and grandfather's days are gone. What have you got left, apart from us?"

The names went through her mind. In-laws, cousins, contacts from the old days. Marcello Nicolato and Anthony Maselli, both dead, their children anglicised and spending their inheritance out of town. The hardman Luciano Pisani, retired to Naples with a wife thirty years his junior; Abe Goldman of hamburger fame, asthmatic in St. Annes. Uncle Vittorio dead, Uncle Emilio on the run in Malta.

"So what do I do, Stuart?"

"God knows. Negotiate? Maybe this time they'll settle for a genuine partnership."

But that wasn't good enough. They had hurt Mario and she wanted to hurt them back. Selling out or accepting them as partners was out of the question. She had to talk to them face to face, had to see with whom she was dealing. Reputation was a false yardstick by which to measure anyone. She had to judge them for herself.

They had been eager to meet her. She had gone the next day, armed with Mario's authority to offer up to 100,000 for the return of the shares.

The frontage of The Life of Riley was painted green. The name was picked out in five-foot-high pink letters at first-floor level. The taxi took her round the corner and stopped alongside the rear extension, a plain white-stuccoed two-storey building. She was met by Steven Dyson, who pressed her hand with more intimacy than necessary for a formal greeting.

He was elegant, in an Austin Reed suit, and had an undefined air that fascinated as well as caused her disquiet. His brother was waiting, he said, in an upstairs conference room. He indicated a flight of stairs and she suspected his manners. A real gentleman would have led the way; he wanted to catch her rear view.

The conference room was a thirty-foot by fifteen-foot lounge, decorated and furnished with Habitat taste, with a bar in one corner. Very suburban Cheshire.

Eric Dyson was a large avuncular man with a prematurely bald head and shiny pink cheeks. Toni knew he was late thirties but he could have passed for middle fifties. He would have looked good at a Greyfriars' reunion.

These were Mario's hit men?

Steven had poise. No affectations and little jewellery. A black signet ring and a Rolex. She had met his type before. The two years she had lived in Richmond and the movie parties. Men who were totally self-assured and used to getting what they wanted. The charm oozed and people acquiesced. It was due to a combination of breeding, education and good looks. Steven Dyson had it all, but what gave him an extra edge was that he almost totally hid his condescension. Almost.

It was that percentage of detectable deceit that had given her a moment's disquiet. She became more at ease when she recognised it. The breed might be clever and successful and, in Steven Dyson's case, dangerous, but they all had one common factor. They were little boys who wanted their own way and who got very cross when someone said no.

They exchanged polite small talk about Mario's well-being and Emilio's whereabouts before finally getting down to business. Eric negotiated while Steven spent most of the time looking at her legs. Toni made her top offer and Eric countered with 200,000 for the whole business. She closed the discussion.

"Rossetti Entertainments is not for sale."

"Perhaps Mario should decide," Eric said. "Perhaps he will see things differently. You will be returning to America but he has to live here. Early retirement could be attractive to him. While he still has what's left of his health."

The directness of the threat surprised her. She hadn't thought he would be so obvious.

Downstairs, Steven apologised for his brother. "I'll talk to him. I would hate things to get acrimonious between us." He smiled. "Perhaps I can offer you dinner?"



"Not tonight." She smiled back and tried to make it warm. She pressed his fingers when they shook hands. "I'll call you."

Eric talked business but Steven played games. She liked games. But that was before she discovered the sort of games he had planned.


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