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The Limit: Chapter 20

…A grey two-piece Chanel suit with Dior silk shirt in yellow. The high-heeled shoes and the tinted glasses were by Charles Jourdan.

She was worth looking at, if only for the labels. She knew plenty of women in town who would buy the labels from her —not the clothes, just the labels…

Toni Rossetti and hard man Maudie put on a show when they go to visit her injured brother in hospital.

Peter Lacey continues his story of the Rossetti’s all-too-literal battle to hang onto their businesses in England’s biggest holiday resort.

Toni had dressed with care. Maudie had said the trip around town would be high profile so she made sure she looked the part.

A grey two-piece Chanel suit with Dior silk shirt in yellow. The high-heeled shoes and the tinted glasses were by Charles Jourdan.

She was worth looking at, if only for the labels. She knew plenty of women in town who would buy the labels from her —not the clothes, just the labels. The practice of stitching superior labels into inferior garments had, at one time, threatened to devalue exclusivity.

Toni drove. They went first to the hospital. She had told Mario only part of what she had planned. She was slightly worried about how he would take it when she told him every¬thing. Well, almost everything.

The day was overcast and the traffic heavy along North Park Drive, with cars queuing to turn in to the zoo. The closer she got to the hospital, the faster the high dissipated.

Mario knew about Maudie. Or rather he knew that she had called in a favour and been loaned professional help. He didn't know the help was a volunteer who was past his best. It was time to introduce them.

Maudie waited in the corridor while she went in to Mario's room.

"You're looking better."

He did, too. He was still on his back but his shoulders were raised on pillows and he held a copy of the Daily Tele¬graph. He lowered the paper.

"You look pleased with yourself," he said. "What've you been up to?"

She kissed him and sat in the chair by the bed. He folded the newspaper and pushed it away.

"Why are you reading that? You know you prefer the Mir¬ror. "

"Image. I'm in a private room." He said it without humour. "What've you been up to?"

She held up her hands.

"In good time. First, you. Have you seen Mr. Simpson?"

"This morning. The left leg will mend but the right needs another operation."

"How bad?"

"Not bad. Three pins. I'll hardly notice them." He shrugged. "A slight limp. It'll make me look distinguished."

"When will they do it?"

"Next week. If it goes all right, I'll be home soon."

She was both pleased and anxious. Any operation worried her, even though Mario was making light of it. Three steel pins in his leg seemed a lot, to her.

"And now, sister, what have you been doing? It showed on your face when you came in. You've got a secret."

Toni grinned.

I’ve got the share document back. Emilio's shares. And the books. Everything."

For a moment, expression left his face in surprise.

"Got them back? How? How much?"

“For exactly what the Dysons paid—nothing."

She explained. About Maudie and about what had hap¬pened the previous night, but without reference to the bed¬room antics that had preceded the main event.

He remained silent throughout, too shocked at each dra¬matic disclosure to say anything. When she had finished, they stared at each other, she expectantly, he numbly.

Retelling the events had rekindled the excitement and she took out a packet of St. Moritz and the lighter. Bugger hospi¬tal regulations, she needed a cigarette.

By the time she had lit one, Mario's expression had changed to deep thought.

"Will it work?" he said.

"I don't know. But it's better than rolling over and playing dead."

"What about this bloke, Morgan? Is he good enough?"

"He's outside. I’ll get him."

Maudie was leaning against the wall eating a packet of crisps. It was a stance that did not inspire confidence. He offered the packet when she got close.

"Curry flavour," he said.

"No thanks. Mario would like to meet you."

He put the crisps in his pocket and brushed his mouth for crumbs.

"Let's hope it doesn't cause a relapse," he said, and fol¬lowed her into the room.

Toni introduced them and they shook hands and Mario looked past him at the door as if expecting, or hoping, for someone else as well.

He looked at Toni and she could see the cautious optimism seeping away fast. Perhaps the familiarity of the last few days had blinded her a little. From her brother's point of view, Maudie did not look a good bet.

"I do not mean this as a personal slight, Mr. Morgan, but are you . . . it?"

Maudie stood, legs apart, hands held in front of him, and nodded.

"That is correct, Mr. Rossetti."

"Toni. I think we had better talk some more ..."

Maudie butted in.

"If you have reservations, I'd be obliged if you told me. It's my neck."

"Yes. Well. Look, Mr. Morgan . . ."


". . . Maudie. Aren't you getting on a bit for this sort of thing?"

"I've had a hard life, Mr Rossetti . . ."


". . . Mario. It's done two things. It's caused premature ageing and it's made me a right bastard."

"But on your own?"

"If you had wanted an army, you could have had an army. But armies tend to fight battles and this way is a subtler form of persuasion. Also, armies have a habit of occupying con¬quered territory after the war is over."

Toni's confidence began to regain ground. He was making a stronger case than she could have done.

"Listen. Don't worry," she said. "Maudie has things under control."

"Well . . ."

'There's no point in worrying," Maudie said. "It's too late to worry. It's started. I'm involved and you've made your stand. If I walk away now, you're finished. For better or worse, you're stuck with me."

It was a succinct summation of the situation. But Toni wished he had phrased it with a little more diplomacy.


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