The Doll Collector

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Chapter 42

I was wondering when something like this might happen, Joshua thought to himself as he ascended the stairs, removing the handgun from his pocket as he continued his slow climb. I can’t hope to keep a clever girl in captivity forever, and I certainly can’t expect my efforts to stay a secret.

The front desk had been vacant on his return. Something serious had removed the staff from the ground floor. There was a room immediately behind the front desk, but the door was open and there were no signs of anyone sitting in the small gloomy space.

As he walked up the final flight of stairs he could hear their voices. Three of them. One was Abigail. Another voice was probably the manager, the man usually sitting somewhere near the reception desk. There was a third voice, either belonging to another staff member or to some concerned citizen who had stumbled upon the situation. No doubt the third voice belonged to the woman who had alerted the manager.

Joshua moving up one step at a time, hoped that his deliberate, methodical approach would give the two intruders plenty of time to consider their options. They would be thinking of hiding, making a hasty retreat, or standing their ground, waiting for the police to arrive. He assumed they had already been called from the words he overheard.

With the gun in his hand, Joshua shrugged. There’s no such thing as privacy anymore, especially in hotels and guest houses. A ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign didn’t always mean anything to an ignorant cleaner. He had bigger issues to deal with than a breach of his supposed privacy, and by the time he reached the top of the stairs, an almost alien confidence seemed to push him towards acting out the plan he had formulated in the last few moments.

With the gun held out in front, he strolled into the room as if he owned the place, shoulders raised and chest puffed out. The idea, so he was told, was to make himself look as big and menacing as possible. The gun would, of course, amplify the effect.

He seemed to ignore the manager, kneeling in front of Abigail, frozen to the spot, and pointed the gun at the right temple on the side of the woman’s head. She was dressed in casual clothes, covered in an ugly green apron. Clearly the cleaner.

“I’m guessing you didn’t see the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign?” Joshua asked.

The woman stuttered and stumbled over her words in response, terrified. “It was on the floor. I only saw it after I opened the door.”

Joshua let a faint smile show on his lips for a moment. “After seeing the girl, I suppose I couldn’t have expected someone like you to just lock the door and walk away, could I?” It was his second question, phrased like an assumption.

The young woman shook her head, tears falling from her cheeks. “I couldn’t just walk away. I had to let the manager decide what to do.”

There was a nervousness in her voice. Having a gun pointed at one’s head is a new experience for most. Joshua let a wicked smile creep across his face. It’s as if she’s aware that her actions, and her words, have become a self-imposed death sentence, and she’s acting like she’s got something to live for.

Joshua took a deep breath before saying, “I would like you and your manager to stand up, put your mobile phones on the bed, and step inside the en-suite immediately.”

The manager turned around and stood up in one slow movement, his arms extended with his palms open. He took a mobile phone from his pocket, holding it as gingerly as he might hold an unexploded grenade. It was a new smartphone with a large touchscreen that seemed to be too large to fit comfortably in the palm of one’s hand. He placed the phone carefully on top of the bed and paused after doing so, opening his mouth to speak, and then clamping his mouth shut. He didn’t want to exacerbate the situation. He was a smart man.

The cleaner stood up, shaking more than anyone he had seen that wasn’t suffering from a degenerative disease. She placed her mobile phone next to her manager’s on the bed. It was a smaller, and ancient by modern standards. Traditional, full keypad, with a limited feature list, and a battery that would have lasted more than a day.

Both people shuffled obediently into the en-suite that looked a lot like a modified Porta cabin stuck inside original dimensions of the room. With the door closed they would be entombed in the plastic box. The door opened outwards into the room, which was to Joshua’s advantage.

Joshua discovered that the chest of drawers, large, wide and five drawers high, was moveable. He threw the empty drawers onto the bed and dragged the unit, tipping it towards the door until it wedged itself diagonally into the gap between the door and the wall opposite.

He paused to catch his breath, leaning against the plastic wall next to the drawers. No one’s getting out of there any time soon without help. He walked towards the obstruction and stamped on the back board of the unit, causing it to fall to the floor, providing a means of walking past the door and out of the room to freedom.

He picked up his remaining suitcase and carried it quickly down the stairs, out of the guesthouse, and into his new car. I’ll need had both hands free for controlling the girl.

He raced back up the stairs, seeing the room in exactly the same condition in which he had left it. The people were trapped in the bathroom, but they seemed to be quietly awaiting his exit before testing the strength of the plastic walls. He nodded by way of approval. They know better than to argue and to fight this.

He knelt on the floor next to the Abigail, putting his gun down, he transferred the girl’s cuff from the radiator to his own left wrist. He then picked up the gun before gesturing for the girl to stand up and walk towards the door. The meaning of his half-mime was obvious, and she obliged, again unwilling to fight when it seemed entirely useless to do so.

Abigail cooperated in a manner that suggested she was either tired or defeated.

He started to wonder whether the girl’s father would give in to his demands. If the man didn’t, what would he do next? If he wired Joshua the money, would he immediately release the girl, or was there an opportunity for more games?

He had been doing the same thing for so long that the change with this girl in tow was quite refreshing. The thrill of the chase added something to his life. He felt more alive than he had felt in years.

Previously only time alone with young girls would have been invigorating for him. Now, he was starting to realise that fun and games with a private investigator and his daughter could make life a lot more entertaining, even if the thrill could only ever be fleeting.

Joshua’s mind and his heart both told him that he could not hope to run from town to town abducting young girls forever, especially with police all over the UK searching for him. His efforts to rent properties, stay in hotels or be anywhere near a school would likely all be thwarted in the future. This is probably the last young girl with whom I can spend my time, he thought. I’m not quite ready to let go of it all just yet.

Giving up Abigail would be an indication of his giving up his current way of life. As much of an annoyance as the girl had been, there was something about her that he adored. She had an engaging personality that he could never carve into a doll as a physical memory.

He led her by the arm as he made his way to the base of the stairs. Giving up the girl signifies giving up everything. I’m not giving up.

Maybe I can test this P.I. He half-smiled, half-grimaced as he crossed the threshold with the girl, covered only by one white towel. What if I could control the father as well as the daughter?

Throwing the naked girl into the back of the car, Joshua had never felt such power. He attached the cuffs to the door. She did not even bother to speak.

With Abigail in place, still seemingly unwilling to struggle, he climbed into the driver seat and started another journey, unsure of his destination.

I need to change this plan, and I need to do it quickly. I am in control, and no one can take that away from me.

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