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The Limit: Chapter 39

...Keeping the cars between himself and the rear door, he went to the Rover and crouched behind it. His legs gave way and he fell to his knees. He steadied himself with his left hand and made sure the shotgun didn't touch the ground. He looked towards the building. The door was flanked by waste bins as big as a man, and steam came from an extractor fan high in the wall above them...

Maudie goes into action in his one-man war against the Dysons, who are trying to get their hands on the Rossetti business interests.

A nail-biting chapter!

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

They drove past Riley's and Maudie noted the dress-suited security out front. He directed Ruth into the side street, where the entrances to the office extension and the staff car park were located.

"Turn the car round and park further down the street so you can watch for me coming out. Don't leave the engine running and don't rev it when you start up again. When we drive away, drive normally. Signal at the end of the road and turn right, away from the club. Okay?"


He hesitated and then reached across with his left hand to squeeze her arm.

"I didn't want you to get involved. There was nobody else."

"Is Toni in there?"

"I don't know. I don't think so. I don't think they would be dumb enough to bring her here. I don't know if she's met them yet, but someone will know where she is and I'll make them tell me."

She nodded.

"I'll be ready. I'll do as you say."

"Good girl."

Getting out of the car was painful but once he was on his feet it wasn't too bad. Anyway, he would forget the aggrava¬tion when the action started.

He went first to the office door but it was locked as he had expected. It had a security peephole and he knew the number
of locks holding it. It was one to forget going in. Maybe one to remember coming out.

There were three vehicles in the staff car park. A Rover limousine with current registration, a Cortina and an Escort, both a few years old. The Rover was obviously management, the others staff.

Keeping the cars between himself and the rear door, he went to the Rover and crouched behind it. His legs gave way and he fell to his knees. He steadied himself with his left hand and made sure the shotgun didn't touch the ground. He looked towards the building. The door was flanked by waste bins as big as a man, and steam came from an extractor fan high in the wall above them.

He let the air out of one of the Rover's front tyres. Simple precaution in case he had to pursue or was pursued. Then, before he moved on, he had a sudden thought. He found a sharp stone on the ground and scrawled a single word along the side of the limo's paintwork.

One window in the extension overlooked the car park but no one was there. He got up and walked to the door. It opened outwards and was not locked. From within came kitchen smells. He pulled it open and stepped inside, into a small room containing mops, buckets, a dustbin and a stack of toilet rolls.

An inner door was open and led into the kitchen. Some¬body was shouting at somebody else and a pan clattered but there was little activity. Too early for meals. Not too early for music. He could hear muffled disco sounds.

He stepped into the doorway and assessed the place. A large serving hatch to the left was, at the moment, shuttered. Griddle, grills and range to his left, a central preparation table and a door to the right.

Two men in kitchen whites were at the far side of the preparation table. They both turned to stare. He stared back.

"Can I help you?"

The fat one spoke and he asked the question in a tone that was half belligerent.

"I'm here to see Mr. Dyson."

"Well you've come a funny way."

"Where is he?"

"You should have used the front door."

"Where is he?"

"Is he expecting you?"

Maudie raised the shotgun from the folds of the coat. He allowed them a second to realise exactly what it was.

"Where is he?"

Both men developed slack jaws. The fat one took a hesi¬tant step back. This time, the thin one spoke.

"Mr. Eric's upstairs."

Maudie headed for the door. Alongside it on the wall was a telephone. He ripped the handset from its wire, replaced it, then went through the door, lowering the gun back beneath the coat.

He was in the fun bar. Near the ladies'. It was a large room that was mostly filled with tables, raised crescent al¬coves on the far side, a stage beyond the shuttered food bar to his left. There was a dance floor in front of the stage. The bars ran along the wall to his right, past the ladies'.

The corner into which he had emerged was dimly lit. The rest of the room was alive with changing lights. The disco music was louder than he had expected. There were plenty of customers, even though it was still early for a late-hours night spot, and they were all young and hyperactive. They laughed and gesticulated and conducted conversations at a shout. Maudie was glad he was old.

The front entrance was at the other end of the room, to his right. Two large penguins were this side of the foyer. They were operating a double or possibly triple vetting pro¬cess as people came in.
He allowed his eyes to get accustomed to the lights. The music was beginning to hurt his ears. It was a pound to a penny the stairs were in the foyer.

He reached into his pocket and took out a canister. The door of the ladies' swung open and two girls came out giggling. Perhaps giggling was compulsory. All the girls seemed to be doing it.

They didn't notice him and departed into the throng but the light from the lavatory allowed him to check the sort of canister he held, before he stepped back into the kitchen.

The two men were at the far end of the room. They hadn't moved, but they had been whispering urgently together. His re-entrance silenced them and they looked round sharply.

"Open the serving hatches," he ordered.

They looked at each other and scurried to obey. The disco noise invaded the room and the lights made psychedelic patterns on their faces.

"You've never seen me," he said. "Have you?"

They shook their heads.

Maudie ripped the pin from the canister and threw it on to the preparation table.

"Fire bomb," he said. He pointed the gun at the hatches.

"Time to evacuate."

They went through the hatches. The thin one went first and fell out of the other side in his eagerness.

"Fire! Get out. Fire," he shouted, as he scrambled to his feet.

The fat one followed, saying nothing, concentrating on getting his bulk through the narrow space. The smoke billowed around him.

Maudie went back through the door into the bar. People
near the hatches were staring at the two chefs and the smoke. Those further back in the room had so far noticed nothing.

The thin man pushed through the tables shouting fire, heading for the front foyer. The smoke was thickening now and the fat man was trying to follow but the closest punters were finally getting to their feet and hampering his escape. He began screaming.

It amazed Maudie how slowly people reacted. They pre¬ferred to look. He walked along the side of the room, past the ladies', to the drinkers near the bar.

"Fire in the kitchens. Everybody out," he told them. To the staff behind the bars, he said, "Fire in the kitchen. Get everybody out. It's spreading fast."

He moved on quickly to avoid getting caught in the gather¬ing panic. The bouncers by the foyer had moved deeper into the room to see what was happening and he glanced back.

The smoke was white and thick near the kitchen. People were pushing, trying to get away, knocking over tables and chairs and smashing glasses.

Maudie stepped behind the bouncers and went through the swing glass doors into the foyer. Two more men in dress suits looked at him. One was standing by the door, the other sitting behind a cash desk. Beyond the desk was a flight of stairs.

"The place is on fire," he said. "Call the fire brigade."

There was no reaction.

He levelled the shotgun from beneath his coat. This time, reaction was swift.

The bouncer by the door went through it in a dive, the one behind the desk raised his hands.

"Take it. It's not my money. No trouble. Just take it."

"Where's Dyson?"

"Upstairs. In his office.


"Top of the stairs."

He walked past the cash desk and up the stairs. The climb was painful and he paused to get his breath two steps from the top. A door four feet away opened and Paul Unsworth stepped through it. The dickie suit was expensive. The pen-guins went to Burton's but he was made to measure by the best.

Unsworth stopped in shock and his eyes widened. It was the split second that was the difference between survival and death. If he had reacted immediately, he might have made it back through the door. But he didn't.

Maudie raised the shotgun into the cradle of his left hand, fired, and pumped the next cartridge into the chamber.

The elegant hardman went backwards as if plucked by a stunt wire. His feet never touched as he hit the jamb of the door he had just left, and flopped into the corridor. His white shirt was a total mess.

Maudie took the last two steps and went down the corri¬dor to the open door. One pace inside, one pace sideways. His back was against the wall, the gun covered the room.

Eric Dyson sat behind a leather-topped desk. The cigar dropped out of his mouth and continued to burn on his blotter.

Everyone, it appeared to Maudie, was in slow mo¬tion.

"Where's Toni?"

"How . . . how . . . ?"

He was so shaken he was blubbering. Maudie stepped closer, picked up the cigar with his left hand and stubbed it out on Dyson's forehead.

The man screamed, his plump hands flopping ineffectu¬ally. But the pain brought his senses back.

Maudie placed the barrel of the shotgun against his cheek.

"Where is she?"

"She's not here."

He clubbed him with the barrel.


"Steven's meeting her outside the Fun House at the Plea¬sure Beach. Nine o'clock."

Maudie moved the barrel until it pointed straight at his face.

"It's the truth. She chose the place."

He was close to blubbering again.

Maudie backed off towards the door. He was running out of time.

"Where will he take her?"

"The warehouse. To meet Mel and Graham."

He was sniffling to hold back tears. His nose was running and he was too frightened to contemplate wiping it. It was a long time since Maudie had seen anyone so frightened. It was a mercy, in a way, to pull the trigger.

A head shot wiped away the snot and did not leave a great deal else to identify. It was a necessary execution and that was justification enough.

Security had finally woken up. Two of them were coming up the stairs. At the sight of the gun they froze in mid-step. Behind them, the foyer was full of customers pushing to get out. They were wet. The smoke must have activated a sprin¬kler system.

He fired a shot into the ceiling and the duo fell flat. The plaster dusted their shoulders like heavy dandruff.

He went along the corridor, taking out another canister, pulling the pin and dropping it behind him to discourage pursuit. He turned a corner and was confronted by a locked door.

It was new and it was about the right place for a connect¬ing door into the extension. He fired into the lock. The door jumped and sagged but held at the top of the frame. He fired again at the point of resistance and the remains bounced open.

It did lead into the extension and a few yards along was the door into the conference room and Steven's suite. Be¬yond it were the stairs. Going down, his left leg gave way and he fell against the banister.

He knew the outer door at the bottom was double locked. It also opened inwards and shooting it open might be diffi¬cult. He went into the office.

A frosted glass window overlooked the street. It was fitted with a safety lock that he couldn't release. He put the shot¬gun down on a desk and gripped a chair. Picking it up hurt his ribs and made him wince. He didn't swing it, but rammed the legs into the pane, and the glass shattered outwards.

He dropped the chair, picked up the shotgun and ran its barrel along the bottom of the frame to clear the shards. It was still messy. He placed the chair beneath the window so he could step out and avoid the broken pieces of glass. It meant he didn't cut himself but it gave him a longer drop to the pavement. His left leg gave way again when he landed.

The car pulled up alongside him and he got in.

"Remember. Be normal," he said, massaging his thigh.

He noticed her hands were shaking slightly on the wheel but she signalled right and paused at the junction before pulling into the main road and driving away.

"The Pleasure Beach," he said. She turned a corner and began to speed up. "What time is it?"

"Five to nine."

"You'd better move it."


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