The Doll Collector

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Chapter 54

There was only so much toe-tapping and humming that Joshua could stand, and his patience was starting to wane. Dan Castle had been given plenty of time, and he was still not there. His moment of justice cannot be adjourned forever. He must arrive soon.

His trusty netbook, the mini laptop with a barely big-enough screen and keyboard, was on his lap, where such computers were supposed to be. For the past four years he had carried the lightweight machine with him around the country, and it worked as well now as it had on the day he bought it, albeit somewhat slower.

Nearly everyone seemed to want a tablet, a phablet or some other kind of gadget, which all lacked a physical, durable keyboard. Such devices announced their portability and kept their limited functionality quiet. When he needed to type, he wasn’t going to do it on anything that hadn’t been built for digital production, rather than media consumption. The netbook works for me. I have no desire to buy an iAnything.

He was glad that his plan was being executed on a dry day, even if the clear skies meant colder temperatures. He could use the waiting time to type an email that would prove essential to the recoup of the full ransom from Mr Castle.

In offline mode, he started to compose his email using the same anonymous email software he had used successfully in the past. He pursed his lips together and clenched a fist for a second or two, sending a faint sensation of pins and needles through the cold hand. I may not have time to compose this, giving it the time it deserves now, but I can at least make a start.

The first sentence had been auto-saved as a draft email when Joshua looked up again. A silver car he recognised was approaching. His eyes followed the car as he closed the lid of his laptop and replaced it in its bag.

The car drove into the car park at a relaxed pace, no doubt the result of the traffic encountered on the final leg of the journey. The silver car was parked parallel to his red vehicle, four spaces to the right.

Private Investigator-turned-puppet, Dan Castle, exited wearing a cheap suit, leaving the engine running. He’s hoping to get the girl and go. He tried to suppress a beaming grin and felt himself failing. He’s in for a surprise.

Joshua wriggled in his seat and relaxed his shoulders. I feel like I’m watching a movie. Where’s the red velvet upholstered chair? Where’s my popcorn?

Dan Castle looked too calm to be a worried parent, rushing to the aid of his child. Had Joshua not recognised him, he would have wondered whether the man was in the vicinity to deliver a package, or to complete some other mundane task.

Surely a concerned parent would have looked concerned, worried, or at least relieved at the prospect of rescuing their daughter from evil.

Dan, the man in the starring role, did not look emotionally involved at all. It was almost enough for Joshua to want to yell ‘Cut!’ and to reset the whole scene, but there was no need to replay events. He would do that in his mind afterwards.

Dan ambled to the back of Joshua’s car. He crouched and looked at the rear license plate for several seconds. He nodded slightly and moved to open the lid of the boot.

Joshua put the thumb of his left hand on the big button on the side of the walkie-talkie.

Lights... camera... action!

He pressed the button.

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