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The Limit: Chapter 29

...She refused to cry and she refused to forget the recent events. She wanted to remember them in detail and use them to fire her hate....

After a night of shock and horror Toni Rossetti is determined to continue her fight against the evil Dysons, who are trying to take over her family's business.

Peter Lacey continues his tough no-compromises crime story.

Toni awoke in confusion in someone else's bed.

"Sorry, love. I didn't know anyone was in here."

An elderly woman in a patterned nylon overall apologised from the doorway, retreated and closed the door.

The confusion went. Toni was at Ruth and Stuart's. The woman was their cleaner. She was safe.

She relaxed under the covers and reflected on what had happened.

Releasing Paolo from above the back door had been difficult. She had used step ladders, pliers and a heavy claw hammer before the carcase had come loose. Her strength had surprised her, and she had managed to lower the dead watchdog onto the clean white sheet she had laid out as a shroud. She had been determined not to drop him.

She dug a grave near the rhododendrons where he used to enjoy rooting, lay him to rest and covered him. All the time, Gerard slept.

The work was accomplished as if she were taking part in a dream. It was only when she had replaced the tools and cunpleted hosing down the pool of blood that she realised she herself was in a mess.

Her clothes were smeared with soil and blood, and she stripped to her underwear in the garden and put the jeans, and shoes in a dustbin before going upstairs for a shower.

The numbness lasted while she dressed and drove to Ruth's. She realised she was in a kind of shock when she became aware that she was still hammering on the front door, although Stuart had shouted from the bedroom window that he was coming.

It was seven o'clock and the streets were deserted. The sea air smelled fresh. Beyond the garden wall, she could see a milk float approaching as the door opened.

"Good God, Toni. Get in here."

She was pulled inside. It was a good job the streets had been empty. She still held the gun in her right hand.

Ruth took hold of her, arms protective and guiding, and they went into the kitchen.

They didn't demand explanations but made her comfortable and gave her hot sweet tea to drink. She could feel the numbness draining away and her emotions returning and was frightened that she might lose her grip and break down.

She refused to cry and she refused to forget the recent events. She wanted to remember them in detail and use them to fire her hate.

Stuart was shocked when she briefly told them about Gerard, but he posed no delaying questions. He telephoned Jimmy Doc and asked him to go round to the house to look after the bingo manager.

Only then, when she knew help was on the way, did she tell them everything that had happened.

Ruth held her hand and Stuart sat silent and numb. For him, the story was even more unbelievable because he hadn't known Toni's original reasons for bringing Maudie north from London. But there were no recriminations, only sympathy and concern. Whatever needed doing now, he was there to provide support.

When she had finished, the tiredness lapped in, almost as if it had been waiting for her willpower to weaken.

"You need sleep," Ruth said.

"Can't sleep. Too much to do." She stifled a yawn and struggled to stifle concern that she knew could turn to panic. "What about Maudie? What will they do?"

"He'll be all right," Stuart said. "They won't hurt him. They said they'd call you. That means they still want to talk business."

"But if they phone and I'm not there . . ."

"They can't phone the house," he said. "The line's out. They'll probably call the club. I'll tell Jimmy Doc. He can take the message. But right now you need to rest."

She allowed herself to be persuaded that everything would be all right, even though she knew it wouldn't, and went to bed.

Despite everything, she fell asleep almost immediately.

And now?

It was one o'clock. The five hours' sleep had left her surprisingly calm. Earlier, in the trauma of dawn, she had foreseen nothing in the future but mutual destruction. She had visualised walking alone into the Dysons' club and shooting them both dead before either being shot herself or arrested for murder.

Maudie, she had told herself, was already as dead as poor Paolo and all that was left was revenge.

Sleep and the cushion of safety had activated hope and reason. The horrors she had wanted to preserve in her memory were already diluted. She got out of bed and prepared for a busy day.

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