« 20 – The Gaily Painted Cart | Main | On Boyhood »

The Limit: Chapter 19

…"What do we do today?" she asked.

"Normal business. Only I go with you. High profile. Let them see us and make up their minds. If they're going to reply, it'll be today or tomorrow. It's a small town. They can't leave it too long. Give it a week and start breathing easier. Two, and I can go home."...

Hard man Maudie and Toni Rossetti wait to see whether the Dyson family will strike back.

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

It was a quiet night. No one disturbed its peace. He cleaned the .38 Smith and Wesson and wondered whether they had been good or lucky.

Time was, he had never doubted his own abilities. Self-doubt was a killer, made you think twice, hesitate, and give the other bloke time to do you, before you could do him.

But night was a poor time for memories. Without the dis-tractions of daytime, the memories usually came out sad.

He made a pot of tea and put on a video of a Mario Lanza musical—the tape collection seemed to consist solely of Ma¬rio Lanza musicals—and drowned the past in colour and sound.

The night went by with more tea, a couple of catnaps and the radio. By dawn, he also considered he had consolidated his friendship with Jane the bull terrier.

He got up and his leg almost gave way. It had been aching, with varying degrees of ferocity, since he had travelled north. He blamed the dampness and the unusual amount of activity he had been engaged in during the last few days. Normally his exercise consisted of getting in and out of a deckchair in the Tout's shop, or walking the thirty yards to the public bar of The Drum.

The twinges eased as he walked slowly around the room, working the limp away before Toni saw it. He would call at a chemist's shop later and get something for it. Fiery Jack or Deep Heat, lotions and sprays with names like blue films. He had noticed the similarity before and had made a joke about it in The Drum.

"It's the closest I get to sex, these days," he had said.

Now, despite the limp, he thought he might be in shape to try something more substantial than memories.

When the job was done, he would find a middle-aged lady who had taken care of herself and give it a whirl. Nothing young and flighty, somebody he could talk to as well as ro-mance.

With his newfound pride and ten grand in his pocket, who knew what might happen?

He washed and shaved in the downstairs shower room and was cooking bacon and eggs when Toni came into the kitchen. She was wearing jeans and a silk blouse and looked ready to take on the world.

"Smells good," she said.

"I'll do you some."

"No thanks. Much as I'd like. I'll stick to grapefruit and muesli."

"Are you on a diet?"

"No. I eat healthy."

He nodded, and put another slice of bread in the frying pan.

"It works. You look healthy enough for both of us."

They ate together in the kitchen, reading the morning pa¬pers while Radio Two provided the perfect domesticated backdrop.

"What do we do today?" she asked.

"Normal business. Only I go with you. High profile. Let them see us and make up their minds. If they're going to reply, it'll be today or tomorrow. It's a small town. They can't leave it too long. Give it a week and start breathing easier. Two, and I can go home."

Home? The bedsit above the shop in Brick Lane? Not with ten grand. He didn't know where he would go but it would not be back to a dosshouse bedsit. Anyway, two weeks was a long time. The game might only be starting.

Mrs. Bradshaw had been housekeeper for the Rossettis for twenty years without ever forgetting her place. She was el-derly and smiled a lot and was comfortable to have around. Monday to Friday, she cleaned, looked after the children when they were there, did the food shopping and cooked lunch.

She arrived, as always, at nine o'clock prompt, and would remain in the house until five. Maudie took the opportunity to take a nap upstairs.

He had acquired the habit of napping as he got older. As his life drifted away, his body had become less inclined to spend a large part of what was left sleeping.

It was not by choice that, back in the East End, he had sat awake in bed reading paperbacks and listening to the radio half the night. His mind refused to succumb to sleep. To compensate, he napped at odd times during the day, light snatches of slumber in the deckchair, from which he rose like a boxer at the ring of the shop bell.

He got up at ten thirty, teased the pain from his leg, show-ered and dressed with care. It was important to look the part. He wore the suit.

The old-fashioned cut-throat razor went into the inside pocket he had adjusted for the purpose. It was the only weapon he would carry. The shooter he had used the night before would stay at the house. If the Dysons retaliated, it would not be with violence in broad daylight. Only mugs carried shooters for show. If there was any trouble with the law, a razor could more easily be disposed of or explained.

The bouncer from the club had arrived at ten. He sat in the kitchen with the Daily Mirror crossword and a cup of coffee. He was a big lad in his late twenties, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt that said Harvard.

"Good morning."

"Ah do, chief."

"You know what to do?"

"Aye. No one comes in unless t'old lady says so."

"You don't even open the door unless Mrs. Bradshaw says so."


"Where's Miss Rossetti?"

"In t'study."

He knocked on the door, self-consciously, before entering. She was behind the desk. She had changed out of the shirt and jeans into more formal clothes, and looked a million dollars.

"Good rest?"

"Just the ticket. Where did you find the Harvard gradu¬ate?"

"Julian? He's from Barnsley. It's the third season he's been with us. He used to be a miner before they started closing the pits."

With a name like Julian it was no wonder he had left Barnsley, Maudie thought, then laughed at himself for his own name.

"Do you have somewhere I can put this?"

He held up a bundle wrapped in chamois leather that contained the gun and its accessories.

The far wall was half bookshelves and half cupboards. Toni opened one of the cupboards to reveal a safe. She opened its door and stepped aside to allow him to place the bundle on the middle shelf. She locked the safe, went back to the desk and wrote something on a slip of paper which she handed to him.

"The combination. In case I'm not around when you want it back."

It was another sign of trust, or there were two safes. Prob-ably both. Toni wasn't daft. She wouldn't be so free with the combination of the one that really mattered.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"Yes. I’ll call a cab."

"No. We'll go in the Merc."

"Traffic's bad in the season. Nowhere to park."

"It doesn't matter. We'll park conspicuous and pay the tickets. Let them see us."


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.