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The Limit: Chapter 38

As Toni Rossetti waits for the fateful meeting with the man who will stop at nothing to seize her family’s business empire she reflects on her life, past and present.

Peter Lacey’s crime thriller builds towards a violent climax. To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_limit/

She went into one of the many cafes and bought an espresso coffee. The gurgles of the machine reminded her of the sixties, black and white mini dresses, pep pills and northern soul at the Twisted Wheel.

One of the disc jockeys had been keen on her. A lean and good-looking bloke with a mind as sharp as his clothes. He'd gone on to make a fortune in hairdressing in London.

Perhaps she should have married him, settled down, had kids before the trouble with her first husband had come along. But the future had been too enticing. All those possibilities for a single girl . . .

She had forever remained a single girl, despite two marriages. A wedding certificate didn't change your life. Kids changed your life. So here she was, still single, still chasing.

It might all have been different if. Always if. If she hadn't married her first husband was a good one to start with.

She should have insisted they married during the season. If she had, he might not have turned up. If she had, no one would have turned up, including the family. The season dominated life.

Blackpool people took holidays out of season, decorated their houses and businesses, socialised and had parties out of season. Her father had died out of season. So she had dutifully waited until early November to be married, after the holidaymakers had gone.

He had been a hotelier and she had said yes to spite a friend. That hadn't been the only reason but it had been a contributory factor. It didn't last long after she discovered his violent temper. He was a lovely man until provoked and, she had to admit, she had been good at provoking him. One hiding too many made her walk out. Divorce and another wedding followed.

Only then did she discover the legacy of her first marriage. A punch in the stomach had damaged fallopian tubes that no amount of fertility treatment would put right. She would never have children.

Without a child she saw no reason to remain with her second husband. She divorced again.

But if she had married the disc jockey . . . ?

When she rejected him, he left town. If she had said yes, he might now be blaming her for lost opportunities.

She drank the coffee.

If she had said yes. Would reality have been better than the dreams? They could now be living in St. Annes with two kids, a dog and a seasonal business that gave them the winter to themselves. They might have been very happy. She would have been very happy.

The smudger she had seen earlier came in, grinned at her in recognition when their eyes met, and went to the self-service counter.

Paranoia came knocking. What was he doing here? Was he following her? Was he one of Dyson's mob?

She forced herself to calm down. Smudgers worked hard, long hours, like everyone else in the season. Like everyone else, they needed a break, now and then.

He came towards her. The camera was hanging on its strap around his neck and he carried a coffee.

"Anybody sitting here?" No.

"Do you mind?"

"Not at all."

He sat down and put his bag on the floor. He was in his late twenties, quick eyed and personable. A charmer rather than a looker, the sort whose personality made you forget that the nose was slightly too big and the mouth too mobile.

Wrong time, wrong place. Otherwise . . .

"The name's Dave." He poured sugar into his coffee. "You're not on holiday. Local?"

"Sort of."

"Sort of. Intriguing." He sipped the coffee. "I'm sort of, too. From Bolton, but the perks are better here." He winked.

She smiled but didn't reply.

"How come you're on your own? Meeting someone?"


"Not me?"


He pulled a face.

"Shame. Still, I'm on duty anyway." He looked towards the counter. "Grabbing a bite before it gets busy. It'll be bloody murder later." He touched the camera. "I take snaps." He grinned. "I could give you a special rate."

"I'm sure you could."

"I don't suppose there's any point in asking for your phone number?"

Her smile broadened. She was right. He was better looking already.

"Why don't you give me yours?" she said.

"Eh?" His eyes widened, then he grinned. "With pleasure." He took a business card from his top pocket. "I'm usually in until twelve. Mornings. You probably won't call but I can dream. And in case it helps, let me stress that I'm very clean, have all my own teeth and know a very reasonable Chinese. He's also very clean and has all his own teeth."

She laughed.

"I'll bear it in mind."

A bored youth in chef's uniform shouted from the counter.

"Bacon and egg sandwich."

"Here." Dave raised his arm and the youth brought it across.

"It's not a growler is it, Liam? The last one I had got me by the throat."

"This one's tenderised. Personal. I've been kicking it up and down behind the range for two hours. Washed my boots first."

"Everybody in this town's a comedian." He shook his head. "You'd better hurry or you'll miss the second house at the North Pier."

Liam walked back to the counter and Toni watched his boots. She could imagine he did kick the bacon about. It would relieve the boredom and repay the rudeness. She wondered how many rashers of growler bacon he had handy for drunks and loudmouths. It paid to be polite.

"Mm." Dave lifted the top off the sandwich and looked inside. He put salt on the contents and replaced it. "If you were thinking of going, now would be a good time."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm thinking of my image. These are messy buggers. One mouthful, wrong pressure in the wrong place, the yolk goes ape and I ruin a beautiful friendship, not to mention your cardy."

Toni laughed and picked up her bag.

"It's a long time since I've been sweet talked so effectively." She got up. "I was going anyway."

"Don't forget to call."

"I just might. Have a nice night."


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