The Doll Collector

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Chapter 59

Through the years, Dan had returned home to find Jennifer wearing any number of things. Outfits had ranged from the simple attire of a housewife to the dress-to-kill look she had used when they were heading out for an evening together. She had, on occasion, even managed to arrange for the kids to be elsewhere, and for a more revealing outfit to get her husband’s heart racing from the moment he walked through the door.

On this occasion, she was wearing her normal clothes, but with a beaming smile. She had tried to repress it, knowing Dan would not be in the mood for merriment, but she had failed.

It was possible that Dan had received the news as well as her, but she knew what the man did when he sulked. He would have shut himself off from the world, unwilling to give any more attention to the people, places and things that had just brought him so much misery.

No, Dan was walking through the front door as the dejected being she was expecting. He was, of course, surprised that his own wife looked far happier. The reason for her happiness? She had answered the phone. He had not.

Dan said nothing. He stared at her, a look of disgust written across his face, along with a million questions.

“You know, Dan,” she said, taking his hand and drawing him further into the house, “you should really answer your phone from time to time.”

He frowned at her. He wore a look of scepticism, as if he was preparing himself to hear some nonsense that needed to be dismissed out-of-hand.

“Suffolk Police called about twenty minutes ago,” she said. “The girl in that car wasn’t Abigail.”

Dan’s eyes grew wide and his mouth popped open. After a moment his mouth started to move, but no sound came out. For the second time in as many minutes he was speechless.

“A Senior Forensic Pathologist did a preliminary check on the body, and referred to the dentition – the teeth.”

Dan nodded, looking confused and unsteady on his feet. Jennifer recognised that this was quite the bombshell as she dragged him to the sofa and almost forced him to sit down.

Jennifer cleared her throat and continued, “He photographed the teeth and used a smartphone app to check the age of the girl.”

Dan was staring into space, staying silent. Who knew if he was listening to any of this?

“Well, he said that the test could usually determine age within a few weeks with a ninety five per cent success rate.” She put a hand to his jaw and moved his face until their eyes met. “The girl was at least three years younger than Abigail. Every test so far has shown that this girl, whoever she was, is a lot younger than our Abigail.”

There was a hint of recognition in Dan’s eyes. Only seconds later he spoke for the first time since setting foot inside his house. “They’re sure?”

Jennifer nodded, feeling tears of a different type roll down her cheeks. “Everything about the development of that girl doesn’t match. Do you know what this means?”

Dan nodded. “Abigail is still out there somewhere.”

Jennifer nodded with a wide smile on her face.

“And we’re celebrating the death of someone else’s daughter,” Dan said before wincing.

Jen’s eyes diverted down to the floor. Her cheeks felt warm. I hadn’t considered the other side of this.

It was Dan’s turn to stare at the floor as he shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You’ve just told me our daughter is still alive and I guilt-trip you.”

She squeezed his left hand with her right and wiped a tear from her eye with the other. “No, you’re right.” She paused for a moment and said, “I was just so relieved with the news that I didn’t give a thought to that other poor girl and her family.”

Dan squeezed back. “No, it’s not our job to think about them. The police will be busy identifying her before informing the family. We just need to figure out where Abigail was, if she wasn’t in that car.”

Several seconds went by, both of them sitting motionless on the sofa. Jennifer looked up at the clock and was about to speak when Dan said, “You say he used a smartphone app to figure out the age of the girl?”

She nodded. “At first, yes.”

“Wow.” He raised an eyebrow. “They really do have an app for everything!”

She smiled and patted his hand before letting go and standing up. “What do we do now?” she asked.

Dan shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never had a subject come back from the dead before.”

Jennifer stared daggers at Dan.

He shrugged again with one eyebrow raised and his head cocked to the side. “Too soon?”

She nodded.

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