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The Limit: Chapter 32

Can Maudie possibly fight back after the beating he has taken.

Peter Lacey’s crime novel, set in Britain’s major seaside resort, moves up another notch on the thrill scale.

To read earlier chapters of this gripping tale please click on The Limit in the menu on this page.

His feigned sleep became real and he awoke to the sound of their voices.

"Dirty sod's pissed himself."

Someone kicked his foot. He tensed and opened his eyes.

"Come on, grandad. Time to get dressed."

Graham held Maudie's shirt and jacket.

As they dressed him, he feebly fought to hold on to the whisky bottle. They laughed and when they had finished, Graham took it from him and poured the remains of it over his head.

"Don't worry. There's another," he said. And then, to Melvyn, "Get the van."

Melvyn opened an up-and-under door and walked out into a yard that was enclosed by a high red-brick wall. He climbed into a grey Transit and reversed it until it was alongside Maudie. He climbed out and walked round to open a sliding door in the nearside.

"There you go, grandad." Graham grinned with his white even teeth. "A free ride home to the Smoke."

They picked him up by the arms and he groaned and rolled his eyes. They pushed him inside and propped him up alongside the open door.

"What did I say?" That bloody grin again. "Something to drink on the way."

He took the top off another bottle and pushed it into his arms.

The sliding door shut and for a few seconds he was alone. He tipped some of the scotch on to his jacket. He could sense that his pockets were empty. Wallet, keys, handkerchief. Nothing in his trouser pockets either, and they had taken his watch before the beating started. He was unidentifiable. An inebriate dosser.

Melvyn climbed back into the driving seat, started the engine and drove into the yard. The warehouse door rattled shut and Graham got into the passenger seat. They set off.

He moaned when they went over bumps and slumped to one side when they went round a corner, although he struggled to keep the bottle straight.

Graham leaned over from the front to push him upright again.

"That's it, grandad. Don't spill it."

He took a noisy drink and both men laughed.

Before long the road straightened and they picked up speed. There were no more bumps. They had reached the motorway. The M56, the Sunshine Highway.

He poured away more of the scotch, on to the floor of the van, and took more noisy swigs. He moved the position of his legs, raising his left knee so that he could rest his head upon it. He could feel Graham watching him.

He dropped the bottle and let it roll away. His breathing was deep and laboured and he made no attempt to move.

"Silly old sod's asleep," Graham said.

The fingers of his right hand rested against the sole of his left shoe. At least they hadn't pulled his fingernails.

Ten, fifteen minutes. A change of speed.

"Outside lane. Stay right," Graham instructed. "Two or three miles and there's a long downhill. It belts along."

The van leaned into a long gradual bend, levelled, and the sound of traffic increased. There were heavy wagons, now, as well as family saloons. They accelerated. They had joined the M6, the main arterial route through the north-west. Blackpool was a resort well served by motorways, he had noted from the maps. Good for getaways. Good for accidents.

Graham climbed into the back and shook his shoulder.

"Wake up, grandad. Nearly there."

Maudie raised his head as if with great effort and squinted at the even teeth.

"Silly old sod. Coming all this way and thinking you could still do the business. Just you and a bunch of hairy-arsed Jocks." He shook his head.

The van picked up more speed as it started downhill.

The fair-haired thug crouched alongside Maudie and slid open the van's side door. The air was warm with both summer and fumes.

It was beaten into shapes of sound as different vehicles were overtaken. Soft and smooth for a car, heavy and menacing for a lorry.

Graham retrieved the whisky bottle and balanced himself behind the seats to look over Melvyn's shoulder at the traffic ahead.

"The cement truck. Hold position in front of it."

He turned back to Maudie who still squinted, helpless and bemused.

"You don't want to go without your bottle, do you?"

He leaned forward, pushed it into Maudie's jacket pocket, and took hold of Maudie's lapels with both hands.

"Bye, bye, grandad."

He still grinned.

Maudie raised his right hand feebly, almost as if he intended to wave, and wiped it quickly across the man's fore-head.

"Ready!" shouted Melvyn from the driver's seat.

"For Christ's sake . . . ?"

Graham's voice changed from quizzical to sudden awareness as the blood spurted into his eyes. His mouth fell open slackly, the grin gone, and he released the lapels to put his hands to his face.

"Tommo! Ready!" urged Melvyn.

The cement truck thundered outside the door.

Maudie braced his back against the side of the van, lowered his left knee and kicked hard with his right leg. His foot connected fiercely with Graham's testicles and the young thug's balance tipped forward. Maudie aided his shift in equilibrium by pulling his tie and pushing his left shoulder.

He went head first through the door without a sound.

"Bloody hell!" said Melvyn.

The van veered. Melvyn looked over his shoulder, his face white. He steered with one hand and fumbled in a pocket with the other.

Maudie gathered his strength and rolled across the van until he was behind the driver's seat. He pulled himself to his knees, holding on to Melvyn's shoulder with his left hand. His right hand held the bloodstained half of the razor blade that had been hidden beneath the sole of his shoe. He lowered it in front of Melvyn's face until it rested against his throat.

Thank God they hadn't pulled his fingernails.

"Watch the road, son," he said. "We don't want an accident."


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