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The Limit: Chapter 26

...There were no doubts now that she would use the gun. When Maudie had first handed it to her, she had wondered whether she would ever have the nerve to pull the trigger in anger. Now she knew there would be no hesitation, no compunction. Her tormentors were animals....

Toni Rossetti is now fighting alone to protect the family business – and the battle is life-threatening.

To read earlier chapters of Peter Lacey’s vivid crime novel please type his name in the menu on this page.

She unlocked the double doors and levelled the gun. A deep breath and she went into the entrance hall. Two, three paces. She bent close to the front door to pick up the pack¬age, half expecting a face to appear or an axe to come crash¬ing through a glass panel.

Nothing happened. The outside darkness remained undis¬turbed and she returned swiftly through the double doors, locked them and pulled the curtains closed.

Her breathing was ragged and she felt it was time for another vodka. The dog followed her into the study, where she wondered what had happened to her glass. She used a clean one and sat at the desk. The gun, the glass and the package were laid out before her.

It was a white envelope, the size of a cigarette case. She took a drink and then tore off the end of the envelope and slid out a thin cardboard box of the sort used by cheap jewel¬lery shops. She placed the box carefully in front of her and removed the lid.

They lay side by side. Four of them. Pink and limp and used. Four skin-like sheaths, sheened with slime. It took a long second for realisation to penetrate. When it did she felt sick.

She picked up the gun and ran upstairs, into her bedroom, and threw herself on to the bed. This time she didn't try to stop the tears because she couldn't stop her imagination.

Men, faces heavy with lust, saliva glinting in open mouths, hiding in the darkness outside. Trousers open, hands busy, preparing the message.

Men, prying open windows, picking locks, silently entering the house. Silent but for their breathing. Panting like ani¬mals. Fingers crooked to rip off her clothes, to pull at her body. Climbing the stairs to find her. "God!"

She pummelled the pillow and buried her sobs in its soft¬ness. She was tired. They had pushed her into their fantasy and she was almost lost. They had turned her into a wreck. But she had to fight it. Despite the tiredness. Wouldn't they laugh if they could see the state she was in? She sniffled to stop the tears and lay still in exhaustion.

And heard the panting.

Her body froze and the only sensation she felt was fear causing turmoil in her stomach and then spreading through¬out her body.

Someone was by the door behind her. The shallow panting was the focus of her terror. He wasn't moving. He was stand¬ing watching her.

Where was the gun? Why had she let go of the gun?

She opened her right eye and looked along the pillow. The gun was beside her hand. Close enough to reach. Was that why he hesitated in the doorway?

She grabbed hold of it and rolled on to her back, pointing the weapon and screaming.

Jane barked and jumped on the bed and she almost shot her.

There was no man. There was nobody.

The dog stood over her, stiff-legged with eagerness. Tail wagging, tongue lolling. Breath panting. It licked her face.

She dropped the gun and embraced the dog, crying and laughing at the same time. It was insane. They had pushed her far enough. If they wanted to break in, they could. She would give them a welcome they would not forget.

The panic had gone and she felt calm and in control again. Her mind was once more working logically. She went into Maudie's room and looked into the garden. Gerard lay still on the lawn, his head now tilted to one side, still peaceful.

The false dawn of early summer would soon be here and it would be light enough to make them retreat and leave her alone. She would fix her face. If anyone did see her, she didn't want them to know she had been crying.

She washed her face and brushed her teeth and sat at the dressing table to apply fresh make-up, taking her time, mak¬ing a good job of it. If she had to shoot someone, she wanted to look good when she did it.

There were no doubts now that she would use the gun. When Maudie had first handed it to her, she had wondered whether she would ever have the nerve to pull the trigger in anger. Now she knew there would be no hesitation, no compunction. Her tormentors were animals.

The make-up job was complete. She looked in the mirror and admired her skill rather than her looks. She blew herself a kiss. She had survived the night.

The banging started when she was halfway down the stairs. Loud banging from the rear of the house, as if some¬one was using a hammer against a door.

Her anger blazed and she went quickly through the house to the kitchen. The noise was coming from the rear door of the garage that led into the garden.

"Ready, Jane!"

The urgency in her voice communicated to the dog. It barked and bristled.

Toni followed Maudie's procedure and unlocked the door from the kitchen into the garage. She pushed it open and stepped back to cover it with the gun.

"Go, Jane!"

The dog went in and ran straight to the outer door. The bangs were louder now and the bull terrier bounced and barked.

Toni looked into the garage and switched the light on. It seemed as empty as before. She pointed the gun at the back door and fired. The sound was magnified in the echo cham¬ber of brick and concrete. The single shot splintered the wood and the banging stopped. Jane looked round in sur¬prise.

"Come on, you bastards. Come and get it."

Silence, then footsteps running.

"Jane. Come here, girl."

The dog came back into the kitchen and Toni relocked the door. For the first time since the siege had begun, she felt good. She had taken positive action and got a positive result. Soon she would be able to go into the garden and cut Gerard free. She put the kettle on and, while she waited for it to boil, she tidied up.

The used contraceptives were tipped into the lavatory and flushed away, the box and its envelope put into the waste bin. The glasses were washed and the vodka bottle replaced. She switched off the static-screened television.

The tea was refreshing and she refilled her cup and took it upstairs to the bedroom. Outside it was now fully light, al¬though still too early for people to be up and about. But there were no longer any shadows and the hazy brightness of the sun lifted her spirits. It was time to go for Gerard.

Downstairs she went from room to room, turning out the lights and opening curtains. There were no signs of the face¬less men who had prowled the grounds during the night.

Everything looked so normal that the horrors she had so recently experienced were already taking on the aspects of a bad dream rather than reality.

"Come on, Jane. Let's go see Gerard."

She unlocked the door into the garage, following the now set precautions. Jane wagged her tail. She sensed no danger and ran to the outer door eagerly and began to sniff and scratch at its base, eager for a run.

Toni unbolted the door and mentally prepared herself. She half hoped they were still out there. In the daylight she would have a clear shot. It would be good to pay them back. She pulled the door open . . . and screamed.

The thing was coming at her at head height and she stepped back, raised the gun and fired and fired and fired. Only one of the bullets hit but it didn't matter. Paolo, the second bull terrier, was already very dead.

"Oh no."

The dog had been nailed to the frame above the door. Its head, chest and forelegs hung in the open space. Its head was at a strange angle because its throat had been cut. Blood had dripped on to the path below. Jane was curiously sniffing and licking at the partially congealed pool.

Toni slumped back against the side of the Mercedes. She didn't have the motivation to shout at Jane to stop. She was totally filled with a dull anger that would only be assuaged by revenge. She wanted to hurt them back, to physically inflict pan, to make them scream.

There was a box of cloths and dusters at the back of the garage and she pushed Jane away and used them to cover the pool of blood. Then she walked without hesitation into the garden and on to the lawn.

As she approached Gerard she could hear him snoring. There couldn't be much wrong with a man who snored.

She bent over him and shook him but he remained uncon¬scious. A handful of downers and a half bottle of whisky and he would have been no trouble to anybody. He smelled. He had peed his trousers during the night.

The thick cord held him loosely but securely. She used the kitchen scissors to cut and unravel it. Even then he didn't wake up. She began to straighten his legs and arms and he rolled over into a more comfortable position of his own accord, and continued sleeping.

Toni stood up, looked around the garden and back to the house. She still had Paolo to deal with. She would bury him down here, at the edge of the lawn.

There was plenty of time. They had gone. It was over. For now.


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