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The Limit: Chapter 41

...The engine below them hooted. It drowned Curtis's words. Maudie took the gun from his waistband and shot him while it was still sounding...

Peter Lacey’s thrilling crime novel builds to a deadly confrontation in the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool.

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

Ruth stayed off the Promenade and took the back streets, burning the road with short bursts of acceleration between the junctions. She made good time.

Maudie laid the shotgun on the back seat and covered it with the trenchcoat.

"She's meeting them at the Fun House. I want the closest entrance. Drop me and wait in the car."

"Main entrance. Go straight in, past Noah's Ark, left, up the slope. You can't miss it."

He took the Luger from his belt, checked its action and cocked it before replacing it. His leg ached like hell and he had shooting pains in his chest. It wasn't a question of missing it, it was a question of making it.

"There," she said, turning right onto a long road of boarding-houses. The road had been reduced to a single lane by parked cars.

To the left, beyond a car park and high wall, he could see the fretwork structures of the Big Dipper, the Grand National and white-knuckle rides.

She went fast along the road, past the car park entrance, and braked outside a white circular building.

"Time?" he said, opening the door.

"Ten past nine."

He started to run and almost fell when his left leg buckled. All he could manage was a shuffling lope in which he dragged it by willpower. Quasimodo to the rescue.

The noise, lights, smells, faces and pain were a kaleidoscope. They hit his senses in a random attack. The rumble of a high-speed ride, the shrieks of its passengers, a fat woman pushing a hot dog into her mouth and mustard dribbling on her chin like seagull shit.

Past Noah's Ark and up the slope. He hurt all over and he wheezed the air into his lungs. A huge black spider spun in front of him, lifting cages of people in banked spirals. Beyond it was the Fun House.

He kept moving, his eyes searching. Anger berated his body for being so weak. The laughing clown still laughed but Toni was not there.

Too late.

Too late?

He stopped by the clown. Its laughter mocked him. His eyes bore through the crowds, willing her to be there.

The carousel. Past the carousel. He saw them. Two men holding her, walking her away. He went after them.

One of the men was Carl Curtis but the other was an unknown. There was no sign of Steven Dyson. Then he saw him — and Dyson saw Maudie.

Steven was a short distance ahead, masked by the threesome that followed. He stepped to one side and turned to speak and their eyes met.

The words were stillborn. Instead he cursed a profanity that Maudie could lip read at this distance. The threesome stopped and the two men holding Toni looked back. Toni twisted but was unable to turn her head.

They moved on, attempting to increase their pace, Toni attempting to hamper them.

Past Alice in Wonderland and, unbelievably, he was gaining and the pain did not seem so bad.

Alongside the Ghost Train a public ramp climbed to a higher level. It was narrow, people closer together, and it slowed them even more. Maudie again closed the gap.

The top of the ramp provided an open crossroad of entertainment. A doughnut bar to the left, shops, arcades and log flume to the right. They had gone straight ahead, along a raised walkway. Curtis and Toni, Dyson in front . . .

The other man?

He saw him coming from the side of the doughnut bar at the last moment. In attempting to get out of the way, he staggered and held out his left arm for support. The heavy took it gratefully, and reached for Maudie's other arm. He didn't make it.

Maudie ripped the knife free, sprang the blade and followed his stagger through by pushing it upwards into the man's body. It jolted as it chipped a rib but it went in all the way.

The young man's menace had become dead weight. Maudie supported him for a second, then let him slide off the blade. He closed it as he turned away and continued along the walkway, slipping it into his trouser pocket.

As always, it would take time before people reacted.

Another drunk.

Don't get involved.

Dyson, Curtis and Toni were twenty yards ahead. Dyson gave orders and took money out of his pocket. He thrust it through the window of a kiosk. The three of them went through a turnstile and on to an iron bridge that went across a narrow-gauge railway.

Stairs at the other side led down to the platform of a station. A train waited below, scaled-down engine and one operator, and behind, carriages straight out of toytown. Three open, one enclosed, two more open. Each had eight pairs of seats, all facing forward. The deteriorating weather meant there was only a handful of passengers.

At the turnstile the woman said, "Your friend paid."

He pushed through onto the bridge, hand going under his shirt. Curtis waited at the other end, filling it with his bulk.

Below, on the platform, Steven Dyson was pushing Toni towards the rear of the train where there were no travellers.

"It's over," Curtis said.

His right hand hung casually at his side. It held a revolver, its snout extended by a silencer.

Maudie had never believed in chat for the sake of it. Chat took a fraction of concentration that could be better used on action. He held on to the bridge rail with his left hand and doubled forward to get his breath. He felt like death.

Curtis continued to talk.

"You've done well, for an old man. But now ..."

The engine below them hooted. It drowned Curtis's words. Maudie took the gun from his waistband and shot him while it was still sounding.

The bullet hit Curtis high in the chest. It shut him up but did not knock him over. Maudie fired again but nothing happened. The damn thing had jammed. Blasted Melvyn. Blasted amateurs. He used both hands to re-cock it but a blow sent him sprawling on to his backside.

He looked along the bridge and saw that Curtis was still at the far end, his back against the steel mesh. For a moment, Maudie was puzzled as to who had hit him. When his left arm would not work he realised he had been shot in the shoulder.


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