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The Limit: Chapter 40

Toni Rossetti heads for Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and a fateful meeting with Steven Dyson, the man prepared to use violence to seize control of her family’s business interests.

Peter Lacey’s novel moves towards a ruthless climax.

To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_limit/

The meeting with the photographer had given her an unnatural high. She had to restrain herself from laughing as she left the coffee bar. In doing so, she became aware that her emotions were on a roller coaster. The Pleasure Beach was an appropriate rendezvous.

She continued along the promenade towards Europe's big-gest funfair. Everything in this town had to be the biggest and best. The illuminations were The Greatest Free Show on Earth, the beach Eight Miles of Golden Sands. This was a resort with three piers, rather than one, and a copy of the Eiffel Tower on its seafront.

It was a town built with brash kiss-me-quick showman¬ship. Was it any wonder it had failed to prepare her for the rest of her life?

Her emotions were faulty. Stress had taken its toll. She was no longer thinking logically. The last half hour she had indulged in the sort of retrospection a condemned man might be expected to wallow in. It served no purpose, espe-cially as she was not condemned. She should be planning what she was going to do, but the truth was she didn't know. It was a truth from which she had been trying to hide.

Certain events had been set in motion. They could de¬velop in different ways. She was part of them and, hopefully, would be able to influence their course.

Since the previous night she had gone from fatalism to aggression to bland optimism and back. What she had to do now was bottle the confusion. At the Pleasure Beach she had to be decisive.

The envelope containing Steven Dyson's contract was no-ticeable in her bag. She had forged her brother's signature upon it. That was the price Steven had set for Maudie's freedom. If he reneged, she had the weapon.

She didn't know if the exchange would work or if Steven Dyson intended to go through with it. But it was all she had and she had to make something work. In the final analysis, she would at least settle part of the score.

Now that she had re-routed her thoughts the anger was returning and pushing the feeling of helplessness to one side. The anger was directed at one man, Steven Dyson. It was easier to handle that way.

Make him the culprit, place the total responsibility for everything upon him — her brother's injuries, Emilio's exile, Maudie's pain and her own suffering.

Toni entered the Pleasure Beach at eight forty-five but did not go straight to the Fun House. She mingled with the wan¬dering crowds and used their anonymity for cover.

From different vantage points she viewed the meeting ground. Steven wasn't there yet. She also looked for Dyson associates, but what would they look like? They would hardly be wearing evening suits and carrying iron bars.

A group of people gathered to listen to a spieler pull punt¬ers for a bingo game. She joined them.

"Where you from, love?"

"Dublin," said a young woman.

"Blimey. No wonder you're late. Here, take a seat and have a rest. It's a long walk back.

The laughter surrounded her.

"And you, love. Where are you from?"


"Aberystwyth! Wales! The land of song and sheep. Here!

Did you hear about the Welsh sex shop? It sold blow-up sheep."

More laughter.

"No offence, no offence. Come on now, take a seat, the next game's about to start. We give away fun as well as prizes here."

Toni moved on. She climbed a tower that led to the chair lifts that made slow traverses across the funfair from high wires. A window halfway up the tower gave her a clear view of the Fun House.

The clouds had closed in from the sea and the lights below her shone brighter in the unseasonal darkness. The crowds were thinning as the storm got closer, with parents taking their children home to guest-house family rooms.

At exactly nine o'clock Steven Dyson came into sight be¬low her, walking past the mechanical camel races and games of chance. He went up the slope and stopped in front of the glass case that held the laughing clown.

He was alone. A slim young man in dark slacks and a sweater, looking for his date. The clown rolled with laughter and Dyson waited, arms folded, and scanned the groups of people that approached and passed.

He seemed relaxed, at ease. She could see no one nearby who looked like a threat. She could see no sign of Maudie. Had she really expected them to bring him to such a public place?

She waited, watching Dyson wait. Ten minutes. Eleven. It was as if she were waiting for a sign to let her know it was all right to go ahead with the exchange — forged document for damaged friend.

But there would be no sign. The decision had to be hers. The resolve had slipped.

Steven Dyson looked at his watch and changed posture

impatiently. It was the only sign she would get. She descended the tower and walked towards him.

He smiled when he saw her.

"Toni I'd almost given you up."

He pushed past a three-generation family who were watching the clown and embraced her. It looked like a perfectly normal greeting but it took her aback. Both his arms were round her and his right hand was inside her open cardi¬gan.

"I have to be sure, my dear," he said quietly, the grin still in place. "Your friend has a fondness for noisy weapons."

His hand felt both her breasts and she steeled herself not to struggle. A search had been half expected but not in so public a fashion. She looked over his shoulder but no one was taking any notice.

He remained smiling when he released her and took the raffia bag from her shoulder.

"Allow me."

She attempted to step away from him but backed into somebody. More hands held her by the arms.

"Don't struggle. Smile. You're having a good time," Steven said. "You're with old friends. Say hello to Carl."

"Hello, Toni love."

Carl Curtis. The man's grip was iron. There was no point struggling.

"Toni!" A second man appeared at Dyson's shoulder. "You look smashing."

Dyson searched the bag.

"Keep smiling if you want to see Morgan. Ah." He found the gun. "Now that is naughty."

He palmed it, slipped it beneath his sweater and into the waistband of his trousers. He handed her back the raffia bag and Curtis let go of her arms.

"Where's Maudie?"

"All in good time."

"We had a deal. The contract for Maudie."

"Quite so. But not here. He's in a van. It's not far. Shall we ... ?"

"No. Bring him here. I've brought the contract, you bring Maudie."

The grin froze on Dyson's face.

"My dear. Please don't make a scene. Carl could really hurt you if he tried." Curtis gripped her arms again. "Now. I must insist that you come with us. Your laughing clown is getting on my nerves."

To an outsider they simply looked a part of the jostling, high-spirited crowd that wandered from one attraction to the next. She looked beyond the clown, up to the long window above the Fun House entrance. A line of teenagers was look¬ing out, leaning on a rhythmically shuffling plank. They formed a crazy noncommittal chorus line for her abduction. They took no notice. No one was taking any notice.

She kicked backwards and her heel connected with Curtis's ankle.

"Bitch!" he hissed, and tightened his grip so that she cried out.

"Alan. Help him. Let's move her. And please, Toni. Don't make them hurt you."

Alan and Curtis flanked her. They held an arm each, their arms round her waist and shoulders, a friendly threesome, although the woman in the middle would perhaps appear to be a little loud, a little the worse for drink.

But so what? So were many others. Steven Dyson led the way.


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