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The Limit: Chapter 8

Toni Rossetti, though involved in a desperate battle to retain the ownership of a thriving Blackpool business empire, still manages to enjoy a few laughs with an old friend.

To read earlier chapters of Peter Lacey's crime novel please click on The Limit in the menu on this page.

The memory of the car park was one she had tried to block from her mind. But sharing the burden of her problems with Maudie had been like visiting a psychiatrist. She now felt strong enough to face it—and to attempt to exorcise it from her nightmares.

She lay back on the bed in her hotel haven, and remembered every detail.

It happened after she had seen the Dysons. The day had been fraught and a night out with Ruth was a welcome relief. Her friend's bubbling personality lifted the gloom and, once again, made Toni doubt the seriousness of the brothers' threats.

They dined at a country pub grill room before calling at Dolly's for an hour. Toni wanted to make a proprietorial appearance. They chatted with Jimmy Doc until midnight, when Ruth suggested a nightcap at a gambling club where the atmosphere was more restrained.

Instead of disco there was the rhythmic click of chips, the murmur of croupiers and the swish of cards on green baize. Two games of chemin de fer were in progress.

"This is the serious room," Ruth said. "Roulette and the amateurs are downstairs."

Toni recognised three or four faces. They were elderly and wealthy. From a Blackpool of another age. They acknowledged her with nods from across the tables and one held her hand paternally for a few moments while he asked about Mario and said she had a look of her father.

"They're the last of their generation," Ruth said, as they nursed vodka and tonics. "I know people keep saying it, but it's true - the town has changed. There's no longer the money here. Oh, the landladies go off to Benidorm every November, but they do it with the rates money these days.

"It used to be that the profits made in Blackpool stayed here. There were lots of men like your father and grandfather. They lived here, made their money here, and spent it here. Not now. The multinationals have moved in and it's become London money. It goes straight down south to the corporation banks.

"Have a walk around town and you'll see the results. It used to be that the dress shops here rivalled London. They weren't for holidaymakers, they were for people like you and me. Rich bitches. Now they're either closing down or changing their stock. Have been for the last ten years. Nobody's spreading the gravy any more. It's all going south. Delfont. First Leisure."

Toni said, "So people like Steve and Eric Dyson are more than welcome?"

"I should say so. Young, pushy. They get things done and they spend. They give everybody hope."

"Not everybody."

"No. Not everybody."

Toni yawned.

"You've lost your stamina," Ruth laughed.

"I've got old."

"Maybe you should settle down. Try marriage again."

"I've tried marriage."

"Third time lucky?"

"There's no such thing as luck. You make your own."

"You're too cynical. You never know. You might meet Mr. Right. Fall in love."

"I used to fall in love. Now I just fall in lust.

"Ooh. Bitch."

Toni yawned again.

"Excuse me," she said sheepishly.

Ruth shook her head.

"No stamina. Not even for lust. I remember when . . . ."

"Not memory lane. It makes me feel older."

"Okay, Cinderella. I'll take you home."

A dinner-jacketed all-in wrestler unlocked the door to let them out and Ruth made sotto voce comment on the cut of his trousers.

"It looks like a piece of lead piping," she said. "With my luck, that's what it would be."

They both laughed as they crossed the car park.

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