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The Limit: Chapter 37

Time passes slowly as Toni waits for her fateful meeting with stop-at-nothing Steven Dyson who is trying to gain control of the Rossetti family business.

To read earlier chapters of Peter Lacey’s thrilling crime novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_limit/

There was almost an hour to kill. That phrase again. As if time was an enemy. It was.

She had spent the best part of her life killing time, staying busy to avoid the emptiness. The only period in her life when time was an ally was childhood, when she had looked forward to birthdays or Christmas.

Even then it was fickle, passing slowly before the event and speeding up when it arrived. It was as if good times were either anticipated or remembered, but never actually experienced.

Time warped reality. What had happened in the past weeks, last night even, was memories. It was only real while it happened, while the fear or excitement could be tasted.

Now she was in limbo again, reliant, as ever, upon time. There was no anticipation, no quickening of the senses. There was an hour to kill before reality returned.

She parked the car in a side street near the Promenade and walked on to the front. The air had a chill that was more noticeable because the day had been so hot. Heavy clouds filled the horizon over the Irish Sea with the threat of a summer storm.

She wore the same dress she had worn for the coffee-room meeting with Steven Dyson a few hours before, but now wore a tan Jaeger cardigan with it, and leather gloves, and had swopped the high heels for flat shoes. The large raffia bag on her shoulder contained the brown envelope he had given her.

Families wandered the Promenade, past the arcades, cafes and pubs, faces glowing from a day on the beach. Those without kids were in the bars, spending their holiday money and getting louder by the minute.

A photographer bumped into her as she hesitated outside the Sleaze Bar, grinned an apology, and went in, bag on shoulder, camera in one hand and tickets in the other.

A smudger. It was a good name. Few had ever had any training so their results were unlikely to win awards. And if their pictures were out of focus, so what? The punters were usually out of focus, too.

They captured smiling, drunken faces by the thousand, immortalising small slices of holiday. The punters treasured their six by fours. The pictures proved they had had a good time. She walked on.

The sights, sounds and smells were dominated by frying onions and fish and chips. At times, where the quick-snack joints lapped each other's counters, the pavement was carpeted with half-filled polystyrene trays. The revolting debris of fast food.

Outside a fancy goods shop she swung a rack of cartoon postcards. Fat women, small men in bowler hats and moustaches, busty blondes showing stocking tops. They had hardly changed in thirty years.

At a nearby stall three girls were choosing silly hats. They squealed with laughter as they tried them on and made fun of each other in Yorkshire accents.

Toni had forgotten how northern accents varied so much. When her father had been alive he had always had a calendar that listed the textile holiday dates of the cotton towns of Lancashire and the woollen towns of Yorkshire. Week by week the accents had changed. Accrington different from Blackburn, Huddersfield different from Bradford.

Their residents were still coming here on holiday, even though textiles was no longer king. The girls had probably saved their giros for a week of escape.

"Ooh, that's a right belter, Michelle. Look. Look, our Debbie. Intit? Intit a right belter?"

"It's a bit mucky, though. I mean. Lads'll think you're a right fast cat."

"Well they won't be far wrong, will they? Do owt for a chocolate biscuit, won't you, chuck?"

Toni laughed with them, envied them. The only complications they had tonight were finding three young men and then finding their way back to the boarding house through the alcohol.


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