The Doll Collector

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Chapter 40

With a heavy heart, Dan had spent almost an hour debating the ransom demand with his wife over the phone, often through gritted teeth, pacing the floor of the average sized hotel room.

Prior to the phone call he had provided a copy of the email to local police with a shrug of his shoulders. They wouldn’t be able to determine its origin any more than he had been able to.

The discussion with Jennifer had started out awkward, and had ended up an argument. He was, of course, keen to confirm that their daughter was worth twenty five grand, and that he would happily have obtained the money if he could guarantee the safe return of Abigail.

Dan’s reluctance, not understood by Jennifer, was a result of his former career in the police. He had spent a number of years attempting to understand the minds of criminals. The complexities of such minds were beyond his understanding, or his unwillingness to debase himself. With all that he did not know, we was convinced of one thing: Criminals were no good at keeping their promises. Their word meant nothing. Few had any honour at all.

If Dan had arranged to wire the money to the account as suggested in the email, he might never get a call that would lead him to their daughter.

Jennifer had suggested that the money could be provided by raiding their savings account and by selling cars. She had also suggested a quick loan secured on their home. In her mind, even the bleakest of possibilities needed to be explored and exhausted. It was her belief that it would be worth paying the money ‘to see if he would do what he said’. That wasn’t good enough for Dan.

Dan had gone through periods of being a gambling man, although he had never been good enough or bad enough to make any drastic change to his livelihood. Any willingness to throw caution to the wind or to try his luck certainly did not extend to situations where lives were at stake. A cautious approach was essential, especially when the life at stake was his own flesh and blood.

There was also no telling how the man would react as soon as he received the money. Instead of keeping his promise, what if Joshua Billings found a way to flee the country with their girl as well as the ransom? They would never see her again. What if he decided to push his luck, attempting to milk his newfound cash-cow for a few more grand that he didn’t have?

While considering his side of the argument, a thought occurred to Dan. He knew some of the history of this man. He knew the man had his own money, and plenty of it. Twenty five thousand pounds was likely to make little difference to him financially if he still had money in reserve.

Dan was aware that the ransom request was serious, but much like the DVD, there was a sense that the kidnapper was playing some kind of a game. This was not some kind of last ditch attempt at funding his lifestyle. Even with such thoughts crossing his mind, Dan was unsure about his next move. The same question circled again and again, awaiting an answer he could not provide. Would wiring the money increase or reduce the chances of saving my daughter?

The police had called following his long-distance argument with Jennifer. They had suggested that the money, if paid, would never be seen again. They also confirmed Dan’s suspicions that it was far from certain that paying such a sum of money would make any difference in the hunt for Abigail.

Dan still stood in his hotel room, his phone still in his right hand, tapping his toes and fidgeting. He had a list of a handful of towns that matched the criteria he had settled on the previous evening. I would rather spend our money travelling to try to find our daughter.

He picked up his belongings and decided he would drive on, determined to at least reduce the distance between Abigail and himself, if he was correct about their approximate location.

He checked out of his room, handed the key in at reception and proceeded to fill up the tank of his car. In just a few minutes he was driving in a roughly south east direction. He hoped that with some luck, he could find his daughter before this monster did anything to hurt her, or before he had to figure out whether to part with a vast sum, potentially pointlessly.

After only a minute on the road, he received a phone call through the Bluetooth stereo. The police were about to inform him of a sighting in the seaside town of Lowestoft, Suffolk. The news would spur Dan on during his drive. He was heading in the right direction.

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