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The Limit: Chapter 30

..."They want to meet you. You have to phone Steven Dyson within the next half hour." He paused. "They're demanding, not asking. I don't like it, Toni. You'd be a fool to go. Maybe it's time for the police."...

What will be the outcome when Toni Rossetti meets the evil Steven Dyson, who is more than willing to use violence to take over her family's Blackpool business interests.

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

Jimmy Doc told her on the telephone that Gerard had come round in mid-morning. He had been stiff and complained of a severe headache. He remembered nothing of his night outdoors. His last recollection had been playing poker at the flat of a total stranger who had been both a good loser and a generous host, with an inexhaustible supply of whisky.

Gerard also had a needle mark in his arm.

The bingo manager had started sneezing and the Doc had taken him home and put him to bed. When he had left, he was sleeping again.

"He'll be all right," Jimmy Doc said. "He's had more drugs than Boots the Chemist in his time. His stomach carries a government health warning."

Toni stayed with Stuart and Ruth. To go back home meant she would be cut off without a telephone and to go to the club might indicate eagerness. She felt she still had a facade to maintain.

The Doc called again at two forty-five.

"They want to meet you. You have to phone Steven Dyson within the next half hour." He paused. "They're demanding, not asking. I don't like it, Toni. You'd be a fool to go. Maybe it's time for the police."

"We're long past that, Doc. I'll call you later."

The reason and hope of a few hours before were now evaporating. The sense of fatalism was returning.

Why couldn't she be resolute? A woman of action. Was it normal for emotions to change so quickly? Was it her lack of attitude?

If she was determined to see it through and make it work then it would work. She would be resolute and make the telephone call. She would meet Steven Dyson and make a deal that included Maudie's safety.

And in her handbag she would take the Mauser automatic.

Steven Dyson was blatantly and fraudulently soft-spoken and considerate on the telephone.

"I'm so glad you called, Toni. We've been so worried about you."

"l'm fine."

"Good. I hope you're well enough for a meeting to finalise things?"

"When and where?"

"Tonight. Midnight. Riley's."

"No. Somewhere more public."

"You're in no position to make conditions, Toni. The merchandise you want is perishable. It needs careful handling."

"I don't trust you, Steven. Simple as that. Four o'clock. Draper's Coffee Lounge. You know where it is?"

"Or course."

"Four o'clock, then. We'll talk with an audience."

*

Toni arrived at the coffee lounge, the same one she had introduced Maudie to, at seven minutes past four. Steven Dyson had a table by the window but he wasn't admiring the view. He was watching the door.

He got to his feet at her approach and smiled blandly. She sat and looked out at the holidaymakers who were packing the promenade. They had been driven from the sands by the incoming tide and wandered like refugees, clutching the impedimenta of beach life.

"What would you like?" he asked.

A waitress hovered. Her uniform looked cool and formal in contrast to the hot and dishevelled crowd outside. She ordered a pot of tea because it was served in a silver service. Perhaps it was an idea she could export to America.

"You look terrific, Toni."

She knew she did. She had taken care to look terrific. A linen dress in classic lines and a wide-brimmed straw hat.

"Let's make this as brief as possible," she said. "You pollute the air."

He laughed.

"You didn't always have such an aversion to me. As I recall, you quite . . . enjoyed the physical side of our relationship."

"There never was a relationship. It was business. Enjoyment? I'd rather screw a frog."

He laughed again, but he wasn't amused.

"You should be nice to me. Polite at least."

She took her time lighting a cigarette.

"Why? I loathe you."

The tea arrived and Dyson maintained his smile while it was served.

When the waitress had gone, Toni said, "Business."

"All right. For some reason I find difficult to understand, you want Morgan back. That's agreeable. In return, we want your brother's signature on a contract of sale."

He reached beneath the table for a briefcase that he opened on his knee. He removed a large brown envelope that he handed to her. "The price is now 100,000. Very generous, in the circumstances."

Toni put the envelope on the table without opening it.

"Is Maudie unharmed?"

"Of course. Get the contract signed and you can have him back."

"When?"

"As soon as you like."

"Nine o'clock tonight at the Pleasure Beach. Outside the Fun House, by the laughing clown."

"The laughing clown?"

"He sits in a glass case and laughs."

"The contract?"

"It will be signed."

"Then I'll have Morgan there, and a banker's draft. Don't try anything foolish, Toni. People would only get hurt."

"I'll be there with the contract and I'll be alone. I just want to get this finished

"Don't we all."

He left without saying goodbye and she remained to drink the tea and envy the holidaymakers beyond the double glazing.

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