The Doll Collector

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Chapter 32

Joshua had always been sure of his choices. Whether they were long and deliberate or off the cuff, his decisions up until Friday, had made sense.

Arriving in a cold, windy town, long after the tourist season had slowed to a halt, Joshua at had least been able to choose a sensible place in which to stay. It seemed most of the guest houses still advertised their vacancies, however unenthusiastic they might have been in drawing anyone’s attention.

Taking advantage of the lack of formalities of a desperate mid-range Bed and Breakfast, he had obtained a room on the top floor, looking out over the sea. He had chosen the upper floor, hoping that any other guests would have preferred a room a floor or two below, as close to the front desk as possible. Three flights of old wooden stairs would also work well as a creaking early-warning alarm, should others have any luck in locating him.

Having already inspected the room and leaving Abigail to get ready for bed, Joshua had walked out of the front door to collect his suitcases. The car was immediately in front of him as he descended the steps to street level.

Even in November he enjoyed the sound of the waves lapping the shore. He stood for a moment and closed his eyes, letting his shoulders relax as he timed his breathing to match the rhythm of the waves. His eyes opened as a new wave of determination seemed to come from within. I am in charge. I control my destiny, and my work with Abigail is not yet complete.

Picking up his cases and locking his car, he made his way through the entrance and past the front desk. The man behind the desk had dark hair, turning grey, covering every millimetre of the top of his square head and a welcoming smile that further emphasised the sharp edges of his jaw line. Handing over the key earlier, Joshua had noticed large, rough hands. He had not spent his life behind a desk.

Despite the welcome, the man, no doubt in charge, had refused to divulge whether other guests were currently occupying any other rooms, but Joshua felt as if he and the girl were alone, except for the manager.

He strode up three flights of creaking stairs. A minute later he was secure in the room with his possessions. With the door locked and the key hidden, the sleeping Abigail would be unable to escape.

Accustomed to moving around in the dark, Joshua didn’t turn on any lights. He undressed and prepared for bed. It had been a very long day. My work can wait until tomorrow. Mr Castle won’t find me until I lure him here.

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