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The Limit: Chapter 44

After the violence dies down Tony Rossetti tries to get the seriously injured Maudie to safety.

Peter Lacey’s crime novel is so real you can taste it.

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

It wasn't over yet and the knowledge bothered Maudie. Toni was still a problem. She was there, trying to make him comfortable.

She was saying his name, murmuring her concern, vehe¬mently declaring he would be all right.

He smiled and allowed her to straighten him into a sitting position on the seat, despite the pain.

The train continued to rumble on its way, the engine hoot¬ing. People beyond it, in the gloom and flashing neon, contin¬ued to laugh and shriek in fun.

Toni cradled his head and began to cry. He didn't want her to cry. Not here. Not yet. He struggled to sit up prop¬erly.

"No tears, gel. Still things to do. You've got to get clear before the police arrive."

She stopped crying and looked at him.

"We've got to get clear, Maudie. I'm not going anywhere without you."

"Now don't be stupid, gel. I'm in no fit state."

His words steeled her.

"We go together or we don't go at all."

"Listen. The Dysons are done for. You're in the clear."

"Maudie. You listen. I'm not leaving you. If I leave you, it's all been for nothing. I did everything like you said. I wore gloves. We're both in the clear. We're both going."

He laughed. The pain wasn't too bad now. Either that or it had stopped registering. He just felt incapable of moving.

"You're a headstrong girl, Toni Rossetti, and we made a lovely team. But you don't know when you're beat."

"Neither do you. And that's why you're too precious to leave on a train to nowhere."

He shook his head in exasperation and to shake away the tears he felt threatening.

"I can't walk, Toni."

"You can lean on me."

"And how far do you think we'll get?"

"As far as we need to." She was fervent. "You're coming with me, Maudie. If I have to drag you."

He realised she was not going to be dissuaded. It meant reorganising his thoughts. He looked at the gun. He had planned to use it on himself. Anything, he felt, was prefera¬ble to going back inside. But now, Toni's determination meant he would have to risk that possibility. He dropped the gun out of the carriage.

"We'll give it a go, gel."

She kissed his cheek before taking off her cardigan.

"This will hide the blood on your shirt."

She helped him to put his right arm into the sleeve but his left was useless and she draped the rest of the garment over his wounded shoulder.

"Where does this bleedin' train go to?" he asked.

"Back to where we started."

He chuckled at the irony.

"That's about bleedin' par for the course."

"When it gets to the station, we get off on to a different platform. There's an exit close to where we'll stop. There are still plenty of people about, plenty of drunks. If you stagger, it won't be noticed."

He nodded.

"Ruth brought me," he said. "She's waiting with a car at the main entrance. By the round, white building. If we can make it that far."

"We'll make it."

Maudie was not too sure. Much more exertion and he would pass out and she wouldn't be able to carry him alone. He also knew she wouldn't walk away if he did. Christ. He would just have to make sure he didn't pass out.

"We're nearly there," she said, and the train slowed round the last bend as it came back into the station.

On the bridge at the far end of the platform a group of people had gathered round the body of Carl Curtis. They were indecisive and appeared to be waiting for the police. That was good. If the law wasn't here yet, there was still a chance.

Toni was right. The carriage stopped almost alongside the exit. With her help he got out. She pulled his right arm around her shoulder and they walked slowly through the gate.

The pain had returned with the movement and he felt so weak he wondered how he could stand. He knew he was leaning heavily on Toni but she was taking the strain and forcing him to match her paces.

"We have to go up," she said.

They climbed steps. He didn't know how many, just that there were too many. It felt like Everest. When they finished they were at the crossroad at the top of the ramp where Maudie had dealt with the heavy.

A semicircle of holidaymakers faced the doughnut stand, strangely silent. Those at the back craned over shoulders for a glimpse of death. A youth continued to eat chips while he looked, then turned to exchange an excited but muted comment with a friend.

Thunder rumbled and the sky darkened. They headed down the ramp but after only a few yards he knew he couldn't last much longer. The first heavy drops of rain fell and people began to run for shelter, jostling them so that they had to stop, Toni taking virtually all his weight as he clung to the side of the ramp.

"It's no good, gel. I've had it."

"Damn you, Maudie. I'm not going to lose you, too. Try, you old sod. Try."

He tried and they made it to the bottom of the ramp. They staggered on and he saw Alice in Wonderland statues and wondered whether they were real or if he was hallucinating.

They could do with a white rabbit, to carry him to safety. A white rabbit or a hole in the ground down which he could fall without effort and find undisturbed sleep.

Toni moved and was replaced by a powerful arm that lifted him virtually off his feet. They began to cover the ground quickly. In his confused state he still thought of white rabbits and when he turned to look, he half expected to see whiskers and pointed ears.

It was no rabbit. It was Stuart Shapiro. They were going to make it.


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