The Doll Collector

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Chapter 30

Joshua felt beads of sweat running down his neck. His heart had been pounding for most of the past two hours. He was out of control, and he knew it.

He should have just left the girl behind and moved on to another place. As the wheels of the car worked harder than ever to keep him on the road, the wheels of his own plans were coming off. His life was becoming a catalogue of mistakes since abducting Abigail. Why did I send the DVD? Why didn’t I just let him figure it out instead of turning the whole thing into a game?

His record with recreation was clear. He had never been any good at winning. If his previous record continued, he would lose this game as well.

He tutted to himself. If I hadn’t instigated a game of cat and mouse I would’ve had more time. A day. Maybe more.

He was speeding along the A1 heading south, not entirely sure where he was going. He needed somewhere remote. Somewhere off the beaten track, where less people would be looking for him.

Get rid of the girl. She’s costing time and causing problems. His teeth were clenched and his hands gripped the steering wheel, turning his knuckles white. As the miles accumulated he had hoped to feel safer. He gulped down nothing but air. I don’t think I could feel safe anywhere.

“You’ll get caught,” came the voice from the passenger seat, courtesy of the girl now handcuffed to the door handle. “When criminals do the things you’re doing, they don’t usually get far. Did you know my Dad is a P.I? He’s made a living and a career out of tracking people like you, and he tells me about his cases.”

“Shut up,” was all Joshua could say in response.

“Why did you pull the gun on that woman? The police will be looking for you. They’ll know your car, your new look and your real accent.” The girl, wordless for so many miles, at that moment seemed incapable of staying silent. She carried on pointing out the flaws in his plan. She’s not afraid of me anymore. I knew there was a reason why I kept drugging girls like her.

“They’ll also know where you’ve been so far,” she continued, “and they could probably figure out where you’re going before you even know.”

“Shut up little girl!” Joshua shouted so loud there was a ring in the air afterwards. He held the steering wheel with his left hand and removed the gun from his right coat pocket with the other before pointing it at her head, crossing his other arm.

The girl rolled her eyes and tutted, turning her head to watch the background whiz past as she spoke in the direction of her window. “Do you think that’s safe to do when you’re already speeding? Shooting someone in a moving car is surely a bit of a crazy thing to do.”

Joshua shook his head. How can she show such contempt under these circumstances? What’s wrong with this girl? Even with a gun pointed at her face she didn’t stop with her criticisms. Somehow she had changed from innocent schoolgirl to nagging wife in less than two days. It seemed she had something else to say, and Joshua couldn’t do a thing to keep her quiet, intent on driving as far away as possible in double quick time.

“You know what else is interesting,” she said, as if reading from an encyclopaedia. “That woman had an iPhone. Did you know that most iPhone owners use a service that tracks their location in case their phone is stolen?”

Joshua slammed his foot on the brakes as if he was about to hit something. The screech of tyres was loud enough to drown out her words and shock her into silence. Through the smoke from the hot rubber he could see that the lane behind them was clear. With the car stopped dead in the middle of the road, Joshua calmly started the car moving again and eased it onto the hard shoulder. “Abigail, please elaborate.”

“You didn’t know about that?” Abigail asked with a wicked smile. “You should really stay up-to-date with tech. It can really mess with the plans of people like you.”

Joshua stopped listening for a moment, her words being drowned out by the pounding of his heart in his chest. They’ll know exactly where I am.

“The police have portable devices for tracking stolen smartphones now,” she continued as Joshua forced himself to listen. “They probably have road blocks up ahead, or police cars following you. There could even be a helicopter up there somewhere.”

She waved her hand in a vague gesture towards the sky, speaking as if her words were of no consequence whatsoever. I don’t remember her being like this before. Have I done this to her?

Joshua’s eyes widened. Abigail wore a huge, beaming smile, seeming to find his sudden fear to be the highlight of her day, or her week. He couldn’t read this girl at all. Things were getting out of hand far quicker than he could have imagined. Is she joking? Can they really do that?

He looked up at the sky. He could not see or hear any signs of the police following from overhead, but they had no need to go to such lengths. They could track him by barely lifting a finger.

He fished through his pockets until he found the offending phone. There was no indication that it was being tracked, but that was probably the point. There was a section in the top next to the power button that would have held the SIM card. It wouldn’t open and he couldn’t figure it out. In frustration he lowered his window and threw the device onto the road.

“That deals with that,” he said, letting a smug smile show on his face.

“Yes, they can’t track you anymore, but they’ll be waiting for you somewhere down this road. CCTV can track you now anyway.” Her face was straight, but her tone became sarcastic. “I’m sure throwing a phone out of a window will solve all of your problems.”

She rolled her eyes again. Joshua clenched a fist. He couldn’t handle the sarcasm, the bold-faced cheekiness of this girl.

He put the gun down on his lap and slapped Abigail across the face. She stared at him, wide-eyed, open-mouthed. For the briefest of moments he thought he saw tears forming in her eyes. Then, before he could register the change, she smiled back, ducked her head slightly, and reached across his lap. In one movement she managed to grab the gun and fling it out of the window, still open. He could hear the steel scrape along the tarmac as it slid to join the phone on the carriageway.

He put the window up, looking at Abigail in disbelief. “What the Hell are you doing you little bitch?!” He could not hide his anger, attempting to vent his fury with words alone. “Do you want me to kill you? I don’t need a gun to do that!”

“I know you don’t,” she said with a straight face before cracking a wicked smile. “It’s a good job you don’t need one, isn’t it?”

Joshua shook his head, looking at the girl, aghast. Such a sinister streak in one so young.

Had he been wrong about this girl? Despite the physical evidence to the contrary, there was nothing innocent about the head on those slender shoulders. She seemed to be begging for the same punishment he had dished out to Sandra. The time was this: She knew he wasn’t going to hurt her. His code prevented him from doing so. He goes his teeth again. She’s using my own rules against me. I can’t win.

He wasn’t sure what to do next. He could manage without his gun, but life would be so much easier with it. In order to retrieve it he would have to leave the car and cross a potentially deadly multi-lane road, avoiding cars and trucks flying along at any sped within twenty miles per hour of seventy.

There was enough traffic around for the retrieval of his gun to attract attention. Even without seeing further attention to himself, it was conceivable that motorway police would be stationed nearby and could be at his location in minutes. He unfastened his seatbelt and reached for the door latch. I don’t need to draw more attention to myself right now, but I have no choice.

Joshua looked over his right shoulder to see a gap in traffic, and then ran to retrieve his gun. Having done so he ran back to the car and quickly slammed the door shut. He had not expected to be so out of breath from such a short run.

Abigail was grinning at him, no doubt pleased with herself for the delaying tactics. He ignored her and went to start the car engine. There was no key in the ignition.

He closed his eyes and leaned back against the headrest, forcing himself to breathe deeply, once, twice, three times. “Abigail,” he said in a measured tone, “return the keys now or you’ll end up lying in a shallow grave by the side of this car.”

She pointed out of the window, now lowered, at the grass verge. He started hyperventilating. Has she really thrown the keys from the car while I was on the road?

“If the last thing that went through your mind was to throw my keys away,” he said in a low tone after getting his breath back, “the next thing to enter your mind will be a bullet from this gun.” He pointed the gun at the side of her head.

She handed over the keys.

Good. I don’t want to be the guy who shot a fourteen year old girl and left her by the side of the road. He would be despised and hunted down even quicker than he would otherwise anticipate.

He started the engine, glanced over his shoulder, and pulled out onto the road. If the phone had been tracking their location the police would know it had stopped moving. They would also know the direction in which he had been travelling. Instinct told him to turn around and head north, but he fought against it and continued to drive south until he reached the next junction, which was within sight.

He headed down smaller roads, looking out of one side and then the other. I need somewhere to ditch the car, possibly the girl. I need a plan.

He had enough cash to buy a different car, but he would need to find a seller who wasn’t bothered about checking registration details, driver’s licenses or insurance. He would also need to find someone who would turn a blind eye to the teenage girl in the passenger seat, handcuffed to the door.

In recent years, moving from place to place had been simple. Everything this time was infinitely more difficult. Why did I bring her along? At this point, even killing Abigail wouldn’t get the police off Joshua’s back.

All-of-a-sudden he felt like he should pursue the ransom idea. This girl has caused me so many problems that I deserve to be compensated. There needed to be a suitable reward for his efforts in controlling such an uncontrollable child.

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