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The Limit: Chapter 13

Maudie arrives in Blackpool, armed and ready to battle against the upstart Dysons who are trying to "steal'' Toni Rossetti's businesses.

Peter Lacey continues his gripping crime story. To read earlier chapters please click on The Limit in the menu on this page.

He took a taxi from the station to the address Toni had given him that morning on the telephone. It was about a mile inland, along a main artery littered with traffic lights and parades of shops, and signs on lamp posts that pointed to the park, the zoo, the model village.

They turned off into a street of red-brick terraced houses. The front doors of some opened directly on to the street, others had small gardens, although many of the gardens had been demolished and paved to make car parking spaces. The houses were two-and three-storey and many had loft extensions.

Number 24 was a two-storey end-terrace, a third of the way along. Its garden was intact and there was a narrow lane a car-width wide that ran alongside to the next street.

He rang the bell and the door was opened by a vivid, black-haired young woman. Her look was an appraisement.

"You must be Maudie."

"You must be Ruth."

She opened the door wider to let him enter.

"Go through."

He went along the passage and into a small dining room at the rear. A kitchenette led off like a finger that pointed down a long thin back garden.

"I'm making tea. Unless you'd like something stronger?"

"Tea will be lovely."

He put the bag and the suitcase in a corner and sat in an easy chair where he could look into the kitchenette and watch Ruth making tea. They exchanged looks, his blank but friendly, hers suspicious.

"Toni will be here soon. Milk and sugar?"

"Yes please. Two sugars."

She brought the tea in a red mug. Hers was in a green mug.

"Is this your house?"

"No. It belongs to a friend. A girl I know. Toni rented it from her." She smiled tentatively. "An offer she couldn't refuse."

"Toni can be a persuasive girl."

Ruth stared while sipping the tea.

"We've met before, you know. Years ago. The last time you were up here."

He shrugged.

"It was a long time ago. I'm afraid I don't remember."

"No reason you should. I was young and silly and we only actually met the once. Toni wanted to keep you for herself. Everyone was a bit frightened of you."

He smiled.

"I hope they still will be."

Her mouth dropped slightly open and then she laughed. "Yes. I see what you mean." Her expression became more serious. "I think they should be."

He felt good to be taken seriously, even by a young woman whose judgment might be faulty. It helped his confidence.

The doorbell rang and Ruth jumped. He was pleased that he showed no reaction.

"That'll be Toni," she said, and went to let her in.

He stood and stretched to ease the stiffness and waited, as if for inspection, at the far side of the room. At ease, feet apart, hands held across his groin.

She came along the passage quickly and stopped in the doorway. She gave him a swift once-over, re-assessing what she had hired. Then she smiled warmly and relaxed.

"Hi, Maudie. Any trouble?"

"No trouble."

He wondered if she had been worried in case he didn't turn up. Or, worse, turned up and found to be unsuitable in the cold light of reason.

"Do you want a cup of tea?" Ruth asked. "I've just made some."

"Yes. Please."

Toni sat down and the tension went. Maudie picked up his tea and took a hardback seat by the window that looked into the back garden.

"Nice house," he said.

"It's quiet and anonymous. It's one of the few private ones left in the street. All the ones with parking areas are flats. Holiday or permanent flats. Either way, the people in them aren't curious. You've got the house to yourself. It's stocked with food. All mod cons. There's beer and whisky and stuff in the cabinet in the front room. Help yourself."

Ruth came back with the tea. Toni's was in a yellow mug. He wondered if the colours were significant. They all sat and sipped. A Technicolor tea party.

"How much does Ruth know?" he asked.

"She knows the situation. She knows you've come to help."

"Does she know how?"

"If it comes to that, yes."

He looked at Ruth.

"You know my name, that I'm from London and that I'm a villain."

"I won't tell anybody, if that's what you mean."

"That's what I mean."

She became red with anger.

"Toni. Tell him I'm safe. I won't talk."

"Ruth is my closest friend, Maudie. You can trust her. I trust her totally."

"Coppers can get very cross if you mess up their manor."

"I won't talk. I've been questioned by police before."

He raised his eyebrows in a question.

"Drugs," Toni said. "Pills and pot. The Swinging Sixties?"

He smiled.

"You've got form?"

"No. The first time we were released the next day. The second time we had to make statements at the station. We were hanging out with a rock band that kept getting busted. The police bit was heavy at the time. It happened at an impressionable age."

"They put you off drugs?"

"No. I grew up. Vodka is a lot less complicated if you want oblivion."

He laughed.

"Ruth. Are you married?"


"What about your husband?"

"He's not involved."

"But you are?"

Toni said, "He knows you're here. That I've brought someone in to help with security. He thinks I'm still negotiating with the Dysons."

"Is he a friend?"

"A very close friend."

"But he wouldn't approve if he knew the full story?"


"Wise man."

He laughed again.

"All right. But if this gets messy, two things: I want both of you out of it, totally. And if the law does get stroppy and you are whisked away to the nick, remember the golden rule: stay shtum until you get a brief. Even then you don't know nothing."

They nodded and he drank his tea.

"Nice tea," he said to Ruth. She smiled.

"Did you get what you needed in London?" Toni asked.

He nodded but made no move to open the suitcase. That was his business, not theirs. It would only make them nervous.

"Have you had a change of mind?" he asked Toni.

"No. But I think we might be able to short circuit the problem."


"By getting back Emilio's books and the papers he signed. I know where they are."
He raised an eyebrow.

"I had dinner with Steven Dyson. It was a business dinner. He pretended to increase their offer and I pretended to accept it. But I insisted on seeing the books before anything was finalised, to prove they really had them. He took me to The Life of Riley. They're in a steel filing cabinet, behind the bar in the upstairs conference room."

"So you're suggesting burglary?"

"More like armed persuasion. It would be a one-to-one situation, late at night. Two to one, counting me. We would have to persuade Steven Dyson to unlock the cabinet. It wouldn't be difficult. The key is on his key ring."

"That would be armed robbery. You start pretty close to the top, don't you? He could call the police."

"I don't think so. What we're stealing is evidence of blackmail as well as sharp business practice."

He thought about it. The books were a stumbling block to any sort of solution.

"It wouldn't end it," he said. "The Dysons wouldn't let it go at that. They can't be seen to be beaten. They'd come after you. If they can't have the business they'll wreck it. Making Steven Dyson look a burk will be a declaration of war."

"Wrong, Maudie. War was declared the night they drove over Mario's legs."


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