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The Limit: Chapter 14

Hard-man Maudie takes a tour of Blackpool, the town where he will battle to protect the business interests of Toni Rossetti.

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

Ruth drove Maudie round the resort in a hire car so that he could get a sense of the pace and the size of the town.

Toni had supplied him with two street maps. One was pinned on a bedroom wall at the house, the other lay open on his lap and he followed their progress across the folds with a finger. Their route went past the properties of both the Dysons and the Rossettis.

Maudie had given Toni explicit instructions in London two days before, and the speed with which they were being carried out was hard to believe.

He was in command, in action, butterflies at six o'clock and feeling better than he had in years. It was only now that he was becoming fully aware how far his life had slumped.

Booze had veiled the truth to an extent. Not that it had been a serious problem. He hadn't had enough money in recent years for it to become a serious problem. But he had used booze to provide highs and lows in the perpetual plane of his deckchair existence.

When he was working he had always kept booze under strict control. There were a lot of blokes he had known who hadn't been able to operate without a skinful, but not Maudie. It was unprofessional.

They were driving slowly along the front from south to north. The North Pier was on the left, a busy square on the right. Trams rumbled and crowds herded at crossing points in the bright afternoon sunshine.

"Can you stop along here?" he said.

"If there's somewhere to park."

Ruth drove on, past the Metropole Hotel, turned right across the traffic into a side street and began to cruise in search of a parking place. She couldn't find one.

"Let me out and pick me up in fifteen minutes. I just want to stretch my legs."


He got out and watched the car drive away. It was hotter than he had thought. He should have changed out of the suit into something lighter.

The street was quiet. He was standing outside what looked like a chapel. He turned and walked back towards the sea.

The trams were fascinating and, at this stretch of the Promenade, their tracks swerved around the bulk of the Metropole and into the road itself, so that they mingled with ordinary traffic. They clanged warnings to cars to make way.

He crossed, skirted the concrete sculptures of a crazy golf course, and stood by the railings of the sea wall and looked at the horizon. Its vastness surprised him. He had forgotten such expanses existed. His own horizons had been so small for so long.

The sun glinted off the sea and hurt his eyes. He turned his back on it and watched the people pass by. This end of town was more sedate and the people were mainly elderly. He didn't look out of place.

Perhaps he could pick up a well-off widow before he had finished. The thought was meant as a joke but it lingered as a consideration. He could do worse.

He walked back, stretching his shoulders and trying to ease the recurring stiffness in his leg.

There was a tobacconist on the corner and he went in. It was cool and shady and the aroma of tobacco was pleasant. In the old days, when the money was easy, he had smoked cigars. He bought a packet of stubby half coronas and a box of matches and on his way out noticed a display of sunglasses. He bought a pair that adjusted to the light so that they could be worn indoors.

Back in the street, he felt self-conscious. He couldn't make up his mind whether he was playing at nostalgia, virility or being a holidaymaker.

Ruth pulled up alongside him and got in the car.

"Nice glasses," she said, and continued the tour.


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