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The Limit: Chapter 23

...The telephone rang at ten past one and Maudie answered it. The voice at the other end was without expression.

"There's a present on the back lawn."

The line went dead.

The .38 Smith and Wesson, with the silencer already fit¬ted, lay on the table alongside a pair of surgical gloves in a cellophane packet. Maudie put on the gloves, picked up the gun...

The Dysons, trying to wrest control of the Rosseti’s Blackpool business interests, finally hit back.

To read earlier chapters of Peter Lacey’s fast-paced crime novel please click on The Limit on the menu on this page.

Nothing happened for three days. They kept up appearances around town, and Toni and Jimmy Doc and his relatives relaxed visibly as time progressed. But Maudie became more uncomfortable, despite the lightweight suit. So far it had been a phony war. A lot of bluster and one victim. Now it felt like a phony peace.

The weather remained hot and oppressive and his leg con¬tinued to ache. Not all the time, but first thing after a nap or after he had been walking for a while without a rest. He used the deep-heat potions at night and washed them off in the morning.

Jimmy Doc phoned on Sunday lunchtime. Maudie took the call.

"There was trouble at Riley's last night," Jimmy said. "A crowd of Scots, down from Stirling for the weekend. The bouncers over-reacted a wee bit."

"Will the Dysons have trouble with the police?"

"It's possible. It depends. The lads were kicked out of Riley's. Then Dysons' heavy mob followed them and badly damaged them well away from the club. The lads themselves might not tell the police. The code of the hardmen."

"Perhaps someone can drop a hint in the right ear."

That night, the phony peace ended.

They had watched a late-night film together on television. When Toni went to bed, Maudie settled into an armchair with a paperback and world service radio.

The telephone rang at ten past one and Maudie answered it. The voice at the other end was without expression.

"There's a present on the back lawn."

The line went dead.

The .38 Smith and Wesson, with the silencer already fit¬ted, lay on the table alongside a pair of surgical gloves in a cellophane packet. Maudie put on the gloves, picked up the gun and went to the kitchen where he switched on the lights to illuminate the back garden.

He retraced his steps into the hall and went upstairs. Toni was standing in the doorway of her room, wearing jeans and a sweater. She had taken to going to bed prepared for sudden eventualities.

"I heard the phone."

He nodded and led the way into the bedroom he had been using. It overlooked the back garden.

"Close the door," he said, when she followed him in. "Don't switch on the light. They said there's something on the lawn."

The curtains were open and they stood side by side in the darkness and looked out. At the far end of the lawn was a large bundle of what appeared to be old clothes. It rolled over and they saw it was a man.

"Oh, my God." Toni moved closer to the window. "It's Gerard."

Maudie's mouth went dry and butterflies began to mate in his stomach. His leg began to throb. Had it just started or had he only noticed it now he knew he was required to take action?

Gerard was lying on his side. His hands were tied behind his back and, from the way his legs were bent, they were also tied to his ankles. He lay in a shapeless lump. His stomach stretched his shirt like an overstuffed sandbag. He was to¬tally motionless.

There was no movement from anywhere in the garden. Where was Paolo? Why hadn't the dog raised the alarm when the intruders had brought Gerard over the wall?

He scanned the two greenhouses at the side of the long lawn, and the garden shed at the far end. No shadows moved. The shrubbery was still. But where was Paolo? Poisoned meat?

"Where's your shooter?" he asked.

"In the bedroom."

"Get it."

When she returned carrying it, he noticed she was wear¬ing tan leather gloves. She had remembered his advice. They went downstairs.

Toni switched off the burglar alarm and Maudie put on his jacket. He would need the razor in its inside pocket to cut Gerard free. He led the way to the side door that led into the garage. Jane trotted at their heels.

"Stay back," he said to Toni.

He opened the door and let the kitchen light spill into the garage.

"Go, Jane!" he said.

The white bull terrier went into the garage on a hunt and they listened to her sniffing around.

When he was satisfied, he reached around the jamb and switched on the internal garage lights. He was reassured when they came on. It indicated that no one was inside.

Nonetheless, he took his time making sure that the garage and the two cars, Mario's Merc and Angie's Honda, held no uninvited visitors.

"It's okay," he told Toni.

She stepped into the kitchen doorway, the Mauser auto¬matic in her right hand. He went to the door that led from the garage into the back garden.

"Turn the lights off and come here." She did so and by the time she had joined him, he had unbolted and unlocked the outer door. "Lock it behind me. Then go into the house and lock the kitchen door, too. Take Jane with you. Switch the alarm back on. I'll bring Gerard to the french windows. Don't switch the alarm off until I get there. Okay?"

Her face was tense but determined.


He smiled.

"It'll be all right, gel. I won't be long."

She smiled back and some of the tension went.

Maudie opened the door and stepped outside, the gun held at his side. The key turned in the lock behind him and the two bolts snapped home.

He remained standing against the wall and stared into the darkness of the shrubbery and the greenhouse rather than at the illuminated lawn.

Nothing moved.

He shivered. Standing around like this made him feel the cold. He went along the path that went through trellised arches covered in climbing roses. There were three arches and at each one he paused to look and listen.

Still nothing but normal night sounds and the rustle of a breeze in the trees.

Where was Paolo?

He reached the first greenhouse and tried the door. It was locked, the key on the outside. The second greenhouse was the same. He waited with his back against it and, for the first time, gave his attention to Gerard.

The obese bingo manager was unconscious. The ropes that bound him did not look tight but they were incapacitat¬ing. It was doubtful, because of his size, that Gerard's hands could be made to meet each other behind his back. His cap¬tors had settled for a four- or five-inch linking rope that was also attached to his ankles. He would be unable to straighten his legs and, with his cumbersome shape, he would be unable to move very much, if at all.

The garden remained peaceful. The tied body was a con¬tradiction.

Gerard lay like a prize exhibit under the garden spotlights. He was the Dysons' reply that the challenge had been ac¬cepted. It had been inevitable. He had only been fooling himself with the hope that they would lose bottle and back off. There was no way they could afford to.

At this distance, Gerard did not look badly hurt. But Maudie knew from experience that his trousers could con¬tain all manner of mischief.

He took the razor from its inside pocket and stepped on to the lawn.

Still quiet.

Where was the bloody dog?

Maudie knelt on his right knee, his left leg complaining despite the care with which he made the manoeuvre, and he sensed the danger a second before it arrived.

He tried to push himself sideways so he could roll to safety and cover himself with the gun, but the damned leg let him down.

It gave way, and tilted his body obligingly towards the danger instead of away from it.

He felt the blow and the inside of his head momentarily exploded. The illuminations had come early, but they didn't last long. They were engulfed in blackness.


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