For the first few seconds after Abigail awoke, searing pain shot through her head before disappearing as quickly as it had arrived. A few seconds of confusion gave way to the briefest of recollections of being able, for once, to get ready for bed without her kidnapper leering at her.
The top of a nearby bedside cabinet to her right was clear except for a small clock with bright red LED digits showing a time of three in the morning. The darkness of the room suggested that the clock was accurate.
She stretched her arms and her legs. There was no rattle. No feel of cold steel brushing an ankle or a wrist. She sat up in the bed. She was not restrained in any way.
Abigail, however, was aware that the simple nightdress had once again raised to her midriff. She shuddered as she thought about the idea of the man once again seeking pleasure from her as she slept, unaware of anything he might have been doing.
She shook her head. There’s no sense in dwelling on things I cannot change. I need to focus on getting free and being safe.
With her eyes adjusting to the darkness, she could make out objects in the room of a hundred year old house. The styles and shapes of the furniture suggested that they were far from new, and far from expensive.
She noticed a sink and a mirror on the wall in front of her. No en-suite. She had stayed in a couple of older, budget Bed and Breakfast places before. She had been informed previously that the lack of an en-suite bathroom was common in such an establishment.
There was another sound, drowned out more often than not by the snoring. She could hear the feint sounds of the waves of the sea lapping against sand and crashing against rocks.
Abigail noticed the light creeping underneath the door and finding its way through the keyhole. Locked from the inside by a key. Where would he hide it?
She climbed out of bed and looked closely at the objects around her, unable to make out every detail. The key was not next to the sink or near the portable television, on the chest of drawers near the window. It was not on either bedside cabinet. There was no phone to call for help from the front desk. In an age when people preferred their own portable devices, it was hardly surprising.
She noticed two suitcases lying next to each other on the floor and walked towards them. The cases were smaller than the luggage people took on long-haul journeys, but larger than the typical overnight bag. He’s been very protective of those cases. What’s he hiding?
She kneeled down by the side of the soft leather cases. She started to unzip one in a slow and steady manner, using her thumbs to dull the noise as much as possible. The first case contained her kidnapper’s clothes and toiletries. She closed it and turned her attention to the second case. Opening this one in the same manner as the first, she noticed that it felt a lot lighter than the first and moved across the carpet with ease as she opened it.
She would unzip for two or three seconds and the stop, look over at her captor, and then resume when she was satisfied that he was still asleep. After some time, the zip reached its farthest extremity and she lifted the lid.
She furrowed her brow as she looked at the contents. Between layers of inch-thick foam was a collection of wooden dolls, each just over a foot in length, no wider than four or five inches. It was almost impossible to make out any detail in the darkness, but Abigail was able to tell that most of the dolls were clothed. One doll, on the top layer and to the left, was misshapen, rough and barely in a human form. Tucked into an internal pocket of the suitcase she found a leather folding pack. She unzipped it in the same manner as the case, no longer looking back at the snoring man.
Inside the folding wallet she could see several sharp implements. She was grateful that she had not run her hands over the contents to identify them. Doing so would have cut her fingers to ribbons. At the bottom of the case were small pots of paint, paintbrushes and various tubes of glue. Abigail scowled again. He makes models?
At that moment she realised that the snoring had stopped. She froze, somehow hoping that her lack of movement might encourage the man to resume his slumber. A second later the light was switched on as Abigail winced at the bright light.
There was a grunt as tired eyes looked upon her, kneeling by the side of his suitcases, holding some of the contents in her hands.
“What are you doing?” he said quickly, sounding panicked.
Abigail didn’t know what to say. “I’m-”
“You shouldn’t be doing anything. Why are you rifling through my personal possessions?”
“You thought that you’d pry into every aspect of my life while I was asleep, did you?”
“I didn’t know… I was looking for something.”
“You were trying to find the key, I suppose,” said the kidnapper. “Trying to run away from me in the night?”
“No, no.” Abigail realised how panicked she sounded. “I… need to use the bathroom and the door’s locked.”
“And you thought the key would be buried deep in my suitcases?”
Abigail dropped her shoulders and looked down at her knees, placing the objects back in the case.
“I wouldn’t keep the key in there,” he said. “It’s a good job too. Who knows what you’d be doing if I didn’t wake up.”
“Sorry,” Abigail said. “I’m just tired and I need to use the bathroom. I didn’t want to disturb you for that.”
“Nonsense” he said in a harsher, deeper voice. “I need to know what you’re doing. Of course I should be disturbed.”
He covered himself with a dressing gown and padded towards her before kneeling by her side.
“I suppose you have questions,” he said, his voice calm and hushed.
“You want to know about the dolls?”
Abigail nodded again. “It’s a bit strange, isn’t it?”
He shrugged. “When you consider my reasoning you might not find it so strange.”
Abigail considered the situation. There were sharp, wood carving tools within her reach. The key was still likely to me under his pillow. She could fight free at that moment. Before she had time to react, the kidnapper grabbed the leather wallet containing the tools and put it to one side, away from her.
“You know, you’re the first girl to have seen all of these.” He said, placing a hand on her bare left knee. “You should feel quite privileged.”
That’d be right. I’m going to feel special because I know more of your secrets. I know more of the things you could kill to protect.
“Now, a lot of people… like me collect photographs, videos, magazines. Not me.”
He picked up one of the dolls, which Abigail could now see was dressed in a perfect, tailored school uniform with neat hair and a painted face. The detail was incredible.
“I make dolls. People who collect those other things are more likely to get caught by sharing them. They never seem to have enough. Most of them these days have gigabytes of pictures and videos on their computer. Not me.”
“You just carve and keep the dolls?”
He nodded. “I’ve become quite good at carving out a perfect likeness over the years. And with a single touch…” he removed his hand from her knee and stroked the doll he was holding as he sighed. “I can remember the girl, the sensations, the pleasure I felt at the time.”
Abigail felt a sudden urge to be sick, be she held herself together. If I can gain his trust, escaping will be easier.
As she thought the conversation had reached its conclusion, the man started to talk again, justifying his creations. “You see, my mother collected porcelain dolls.” He gritted his teeth and clenched the fist that had been stroking the doll. “I hated those things. Fake, cherubic and chubby little faces, gleeful, pathetically happy. They weren’t true to life. They didn’t show innocence.”
Abigail swallowed down air and continued to listen.
“Those frumpy torsos, over-dressed, tarted-up figurines showed nothing of genuine, timeless beauty.” He paused and sighed again, relaxing his hand and resuming the stroking of the doll. “I capture the essence of the most perfect girls. The ones that still have their innocence. The ones that radiate in a way that the immoral simply do not.”
Abigail knew that the half-finished doll was destined to be made in her likeness. There was a question that needed to be asked. “What did you do to the girls after you finished their models?”
He put the doll down, closed the lid of the case and shrugged. “I let them go.”
Abigail felt tension drain from her shoulders. If I let him do what he wants to do, I’ll be free.
“So you’ll let me go too?” she asked.
He nodded. “Of course. When I’m finished and the time is right, I’ll let you go.”
When would the time be right?
“Anyway, you needed the bathroom. Let’s sort you out, shall we?”
As they exited the room and walked down the hallway, Abigail contemplated making a scene, alerting others to her kidnap. Better to gain his trust and do it later. Besides, there’s probably no one else here.
As they continued their walk the man said, “Perhaps I should have asked for a room with its own en-suite instead of a shared bathroom.” He opened the door and waved a hand towards the threshold. “Not that it matters. I don’t think there’s anyone else staying here now anyway.”
Abigail walked in as her kidnapper stood guard on the other side of the door. She was surprised to see the whole of a four piece bathroom suite, albeit in an ugly shade of dark green, crammed into such a small room. Following her use of the toilet, she was shocked when she looked in the mirror whilst washing her hands.
The face in the mirror was hers, but the hair seemed like it belonged to someone else. It had halved in length and was a deep, dark red instead of the blonde it had been earlier.
After staring in disbelief for several seconds, getting used to her new look, she dried her hands and opened the door.
“You cut my hair?” she asked.
He nodded. “You need to change your look. You’ll also be wearing new clothes tomorrow.” He walked her back to the room, unlocking and opening the door. “In the morning we’ll have matching hair colour, I’ll look different and we’ll look more like a father and daughter, and less like the people on the News.”
He winced as Abigail stared at him, wide-eyed. “We’re on the News?”
He raised one eyebrow. “Of course. After your stunts earlier, this is surely not a surprise.”
Abigail rushed into the room and found the power button for the television. Without even needing to change the channel, she could see mugshots of her and her kidnapper surrounded by scrolling text.
Her own picture was cropped to show her head and shoulders, but she recognised the picture, taken during a barbeque for her younger brother’s birthday, laughing and joking with visiting family.
Abigail’s shoulders slumped as she contrasted that event with the ordeal through which she was living. She could not have imagined back then that she would ever be in a situation like this. She had seen pictures of school girls on the news before. Yet there she was, watching herself on TV, wondering when she would see any of her family again.
She knew that the majority of other girls who had shown up on the News were found, dead or alive, within days or weeks. How many of those girls might have been taken by this man?
Both pictures on the screen showed their names underneath. She pointed at the screen. “Joshua Billings.” She looked at him in triumph. “I know your real name now.”
Joshua shrugged. “So does everyone else in the country. I’ll only be found when I choose to be found. A name changes nothing.”
As she continued to watch CCTV footage showed her being dragged by gunpoint from the services earlier that day. A map was shown with three red dots. One showed Abigail’s home town, one the location of the services, and another further south, probably at the point where the phone and the gun had been thrown from the car.
Joshua, who had turned on his bedside light, walked over and turned the television off. “I think that’s enough TV for this time of night.”
Abigail returned to bed as the light was turned off. She froze as she half expected Joshua to once again grope her, but nothing happened. She stared in the direction of the ceiling. Someone might find me tomorrow. The net’s closing in and he can’t run forever.
She smiled and realised that she was utterly exhausted, despite her excitement. Her eyes closed and she was asleep in no time at all.