The Doll Collector

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Chapter 45

David had moments when he hated his job, and others when he enjoyed it. So many others experienced the same thing, but most of those worked on the right side of the law.

David photographed girls for Sergei, although it was commonplace for the boss to alter his job role. Outfits, editing and recruitment were all sorted out by the boss, or they were other responsibilities he would assign to others, but other ad-hoc tasks had become part of David’s everyday life.

Today, David would enjoy his job. The girl for whom he was setting up was one of his favourites. Antonia was one of the younger girls at the age of eleven, but she looked at least a year older. She didn’t seem to like Sergei much, but she was begrudgingly obedient.

There was a rebellious spirit lurking behind her bright green eyes that suggested that she would not bend to the boss’s will forever. Despite the fire he had seen in her personality, she was polite to him. She would listen, and cooperate when his suggestions were made.

In the year she had been under Sergei’s employ, Antonia’s light brown hair had grown to an incredible length, and it had become a feature of several photoshoots. If it continued to grow, David wanted to do a Rapunzel-style shoot which would drive their clients wild.

Up until now, the girl’s young, thin body had remained clothed, but the time for showing more would soon be at hand, especially if Sergei got his way. David was all too familiar with the difference between the smiles of the clothed, almost-modest girls and the expressions of those who disrobed time and time again. There was a look of self-loathing in the faces of the older girls that no amount of airbrushing could hide. Antonia’s smile was pretty, and David hoped that he would get to see it for many months to come.

After setting up the camera and arranging the furniture, Sergei would usually arrive with the girl. Today, he walked in the room without the girl, without an outfit, and without an explanation.

David scowled. “Where’s Antonia?”

Sergei looked around like a panicked parent before turning and smiling at David. “She’s not here,” he said. “I have assigned her to something else this morning.”

“But I’ve set this all up for her,” David complained. He wanted to ask why he was wearing such a smug look, but he knew that he would give his reasons momentarily.

“She’s with a local client,” Sergei said as he repressed a smirk.

“A client? But she’s still only-“

“Only eleven?” Sergei asked before laughing in derision. “Do you know what most of these girls have done by the age of eleven?”

David didn’t want to dwell on the answer to that question. Instead, he lowered his shoulders as asked, “When will she be coming back?”

Sergei looked at his watch. “An hour should do the trick.”

“What trick?” David almost spat the words out at Sergei, who glared at him.

“She needs, I think, a lot more to be… humbled.”

David, once again, resisted the urge to correct his broken English, focussing instead on the importance of the words he had used.

“You think her behaviour’s been a threat to you?”

“David,” said Sergei, sounding like the father, trying to exercise patience whilst explaining something to his stupid son. “I see almost everything as a threat to my way of life.”

David did not respond as he felt Sergei’s cold stare. “You would be wise to recognise these threats yourself. Yes?”

David nodded and turned around, facing his camera equipment.

“Take the morning off,” Sergei said in a loud voice as he retreated towards his private office at the end of the room. “Go for a swim, relax, and be ready to do as you are told after lunch.”

The door closed in a half-slam. Something had upset him this morning, and David knew better than to poke an angry bear with a big stick.

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