The Doll Collector

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Chapter 36

Dan’s eyes shot open. He had a sideways view of the desk upon which his head was resting. He lifted and turned his head, sending pain through the muscles of his neck and shoulders. He winced. I paid for a bedroom with a pocket-sprung mattress and I slept at the desk. What a waste.

He looked behind him at the bed, turning his head in slow, gentle movements until the muscles felt more relaxed. The bed sheets were unruffled. He hadn’t so much as sat on the bed since he collected the key card. Instead he had slumped and slumbered in the chair in which he had been sitting, examining a map.

He rubbed his eyes with his fingers before running his hands over the top of his head. He thought about breakfast, and then he thought about Abigail. She’s still out there somewhere. Breakfast can wait.

He slapped his cheeks twice each with the palms of his hands in an effort to complete the job of waking up. He then returned his attention to waking up his laptop by pressing the power button. In a moment he was greeted with a password prompt, and he could once again see the last map he had seen the night before.

Before reconsidering likely destinations, he checked his email. Amongst the usual junk, he found one new email from an unknown address. He opened it, expecting to mark it as junk and move on, but then he noticed the importance of the content of the mysterious message.

Mr Castle,

I said I would be in touch regarding a ransom for your daughter. She is safe and well, and her personality has certainly shown over the past few days, as I’m sure you have noticed. You now know who I am, and the things I’m believed to have done. You’ll also know that I’ve been untraceable by the police for the past few years, so I know how to disappear.

I am writing to invite you to pay the amount of £25,000 for the release of your daughter, and to compensate me for my time in taking care of her.

The wire transfer details are included at the end of this email. You will not be able to obtain anything about me when you investigate these details. By the time you have obtained the legal authority to find out my information, it will no longer be valid.

You have 48 hours to transfer the money. As soon as you have paid me in full you will receive a call from me. When you trace the call (as I’m sure you’ll arrange to do), you will find the phone in the possession of your daughter. I will not be there.

Sincerely,

Joshua Billings (the name isn’t a secret anymore, is it?)

Dan’s eyes darted to the detailed email information as soon as he finished reading. The email was sent from an unusual-looking Hotmail address, probably registered for the purpose of sending one email. Further tracking of the details showed an IP Address, which in a few further seconds was found to be based somewhere in Johannesburg, South Africa. He had used a proxy or IP spoofing to make the email untraceable.

Dan leaned back and placed his hands behind his head. I can’t find him. I can only wait for him to find me.

With two days to find and transfer the money, he needed to start moving. He picked up his phone from the desk. His wife, and DC Brokes would be interested in the ransom request.

His shoulders dropped and the call connected. I know how she’ll react, and I’m not sure it’ll help the situation.

Jennifer answered the phone. Dan took a deep breath before starting to tell her about the email.

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