The Doll Collector

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Chapter 17

Joshua held back on the urge to smash his mobile phone against the wall. He probably wouldn’t be using it again, but it was best to wait until he was sure before reacting rashly.

He took a deep breath and reviewed the conversation in his mind. A nosey letting agent had peered too deeply into his file, despite his exemplary showing as a tenant for almost six months.

I hate references. What’s the point? Most were given by friends, relatives, former colleagues or people who had little to gain from be completely honest. He had heard that in some circles that references had been devalued further. Former bosses were not allowed to provide a poor reference for fear of prejudicing an application. He tutted and shook his head again. Utter nonsense.

He had work to do in fabricating communication from his non-existent references if he was to stave of inspection or eviction. They hadn’t threatened to do either, but he knew it would require drastic action eventually. That was the key word: eventually.

He looked at his watch. A quarter to six on a Saturday night. The woman wouldn’t expect things to be resolved in the last few minutes of the working day. I suppose I have at least a day to come up with something. If the letting agent was kind, he could push that to a week, but he didn’t want to take any chances.

Within minutes, Joshua had resolved to take the drastic, but inevitable step. By the end of the coming week I’ll reside in another part of the country, scouting my next group of girls. He smiled as he squeezed his cheap mobile phone so hard that he heard the plastic crack somewhere. A collector cannot leave his work unfinished. The collection must be complete.

Joshua let out a long sigh as he spun around in the hallway, unsure for a moment which way to go. He would have to spend his time doing unproductive things when he could have been working on his next piece.

This woman was trying to take back control. No one has caused me to feel so helpless for a long time, and they paid dearly.

Looking at his watch again, only a few seconds had passed. The watch face stared back at him as if it was a wide-eyed face, shaking slowly from side to side saying, ‘I told you so’. He probably had two days before suspicion would really start to affect his methods.

He pinched his lips together and furrowed his brow. I don’t have time to add these two to my collection. Who to choose: Abigail or Bethany?

Abigail was the perfectly formed girl for whom he had been seeking through the years. She was exactly as he hoped she would be physically, but her mind was all wrong. Her uniform, as much as the girl could make anything look good, was not his favourite. The brown and blues did not work well together in his opinion. In fact, that uniform had almost caused him to overlook her on his initial rounds a couple of months ago.

Since he had first noticed her, he had been waiting to see the symmetrical face, high cheekbones and the swagger with which she walked to school. He, of course, had no idea of her strong will until she was already tied to a bed in his home.

Bethany was a pretty girl, who would fill out the perfect school uniform in the next year or two. She was several months away from starting to show her physical potential. She was more timid, and he could manipulate her more easily. He rolled his eyes. Remember why you’re doing this. You’re not here for the cheap thrills of manipulation.

His actions were undertaken to commemorate beauty, to immortalise it before these girls grew up and left their gentle childlike life behind them. With a reminder of his mental mission statement, Joshua had already made his decision.

He looked at his watch, almost looking for advice as well as seeing the time. Sadly, despite his imaginings, his was not a watch from some strange fiction. It simply show the time and ticked mercilessly from one predefined point to another.

“Okay,” he whispered to himself, “Abigail it is… but what can I do with Bethany?”

He often thought better when speaking aloud, but he wanted to guard his innermost thoughts from the girls within the sound of his voice. At least one of them would be able to hear him and might sense a weakness that they would try to exploit to regain their freedom.

He was questioning his own choices as he removed the chair, the slightly shaped lump of wood and the carving tools. He turned off the light and looked across the room, only able to see as far as the girl’s face through the borrowed light from the hallway.

Bethany’s shoulders dropped as she looked at him quizzically. Apparently I’m not the only person questioning my actions. Whatever desires he had to touch the girl, to get a sense of the body that he had hoped to add to his collection, had vanished. His cloud of lustful thoughts had been decimated by the oncoming projectile of that woman in the letting office.

Perhaps paranoia was starting to grip him. As a man who had captured and killed a number of girls, he had to let the paranoia in. He had to listen to that voice that screamed at him to get out, otherwise he would not continue to avoid being caught. When I stop listening to that vociferous voice in my head, I might as well hand myself in to the police.

Maybe his mind was so caught up in things of no consequence that he had somehow let his guard down already. He had needlessly involved Abigail’s father. There was no requirement in requesting ransoms, especially when I have money. All I’ve done is to turn the attention of a private investigator in my direction.

It was likely that the call from the letting agent was the direct result of his favourite female’s father getting involved. If so, then Joshua had less time than he had originally considered.

Rather than kick himself for his mistakes (for fear of continuing to kick himself until his legs couldn’t stand it), he resolved to move forward. The plan needs to change.

No longer would he have time for any fun with either girl. He would have to return Bethany. He would have to return Abigail before long if he wanted to stop Dan Castle stomping all over his life until there was nothing left but rubble

He walked out of Bethany’s doorway and back into Abigail’s room. She was sleeping soundly. He watched again, acutely aware of his lack of time for doing so.

I can’t begin to explain this, but I’m not ready to let go. There was more to this girl than he had seen and he was intrigued by her more than he had been by any former female. He chose to ignore the screaming voice in his ears and fling himself headlong towards unknown dangers. Regardless of the risks, Abigail stays with me for the moment.

A smile crossed Joshua’s face. Maybe I can experience the best of both girls. He peered into the room of each. They were fairly close in size. Bethany’s school outfit, at a stretch, would fit Abigail. He imagined the confusion on the faces of all involved when the younger of the two was returned home in the uniform of a completely different girl.

Abigail’s father, the private investigator was almost certainly the man stirring up trouble for Joshua. I’ll give the man more to investigate. Throw him off the scent, if only briefly. His heart rate increased and his breathing intensified as he considered the thrill of the chase.

Dan Castle, big-shot investigator was no doubt throwing everything at his investigation, looking for clues. If the man wants to hunt, who am I to disappoint?

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