The Doll Collector

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Chapter 72

As David helped to treat Sergei’s injuries, he felt jealous of the girl who had managed to escape from this man’s clutches. She had timed it right, whacked him, and run off into a maze of streets, leaving the big Russian in a heap on the floor. By the time he had come to his senses, the girl was gone.

He had lost count of the amount of times he had considered doing something as drastic over the past ten years, hurting his angry boss and making a break for freedom. The only thing that had held him back was a sense of some kind of misguided loyalty to the man. After all, he had Sergei to thank for his freedom, and he was now reliant on the man for keeping him hidden from those who wanted him back behind bars.

Sergei’s head wound had been held using Steristitches before being bandaged. The bleeding had slowed down to the point of almost stopping completely. Thank God for that. I’m not prepared to go walking into a hospital with this man.

David still had the basic First Aid skills he had acquired in his old professional life, many years earlier. It all felt like a lifetime ago.

As the main First-Aider for a high-end property management company, he had treated a similar head wound several years earlier. His day-to-day work was interrupted when a colleague, slim and tall, had tripped on a step and gone down like a Giraffe that had been shot. His head had flopped forward, crashing onto the corner of another step, and he needed medical attention.

In an office block in Hampshire in the mid-nineties, people were not as concerned by head injuries as they seemed to be today. A quick clean and the application of a bandage, and Simon, the lanky colleague, had resumed his work of filling premium office space with high-paying tenants.

Aside from the daily grind, David had used some creative accounting to give himself a taste of the high life. That high life was smashed into a thousand pieces on the day the police knocked on the door of his luxury home. He read the piece of paper being waved in his face as he felt a knot in his stomach. He was halfway to bank-rolling his extravagant retirement, but it was all over.

There were no excuses, no one else could be implicated. In short, there was no chance of a good defence. Out on conditional bail, he had that same earth-shattering feeling when the police again knocked on the door, confronting him with allegations of viewing and sharing child abuse material.

Once again, with a new round of questioning, there were no excuses. He knew the DVDs were illegal when he had them shipped from Germany. He was also aware of the illegal content he had started to download from newsgroups on the Internet. Guilty as charged.

The first few days in prison were the worst. The stigma of being a “kiddie fiddler” could not be shaken off like dust from his once expensive lapels. Beaten and abused in more ways than one, he was grateful when some unknown lawyer had taken an interest in him, arranging for the transfer to a facility of lower security.

The phone started to ring in Sergei’s hotel room, snapping David back to the present. He was about to stand up to answer it when Sergei waved the palm of his hand at him in a dismissive gesture. The Russian stood up and answered the phone. David resumed his reverie.

The armoured van used for his transport was far from glamourous, but he didn’t care, as long as he got away from that hellhole. Anywhere was better than there. Anything was luxury compared to his treatment by his fellow inmates.

An hour into the journey, an explosion ripped through the front of the van, causing it to flip up in the air before crashing down again. The jolt threw him and the prison guard off the wooden benches and onto the hard floor.

Dust filled the air as David looked towards the front of the van, visible through a steel cage-like structure. Blood covered a chattered windscreen, and the front of the van was covered in fire and smoke. He could see more of the tarmac of the road than should have been visible from his angle. The van was still hurtling along at some speed, but it was no longer using its wheels.

The tarmac ended as he continued to watch, replaced by grass and mud. A moment later the van tipped onto its right side as David was thrown on top of the prison guard who wasn’t moving. After a few seconds of metal shrieking against gravel and dirt, the van came to a complete stop.

The next thing David remembered with any clarity was sitting alongside Sergei in the front of a Mercedes E Class. The Russian had explained that he was hiring, and that he thought David was a good fit for his organisation.

If David agreed, he would have somewhere to hide from the authorities, a place to indulge in his darkest fantasies, and he would live in comparative luxury. With no viable alternative, David agreed to the terms.

For the previous twenty years he had been subject to Sergei. Twenty years. He scowled. I would have long since been freed from prison if that hadn’t happened.

He had grown from simple servant to right-hand man, involved in everything, witnessing everything.

He wanted to run. He had the most intense desire to hit the man hard in his stupid, stubborn head and never look back, but he would be found by the police, and he would serve a longer sentence than he had been given all those years ago. They wouldn’t believe his story. Who would believe the word of a thief and a wannabe child abuser who had been hidden for two decades?

He had long since accepted his lack of an alternative to his current lifestyle. There were perks, of course, but the summoning and dismissal of girls, like Abigail, sickened him. Today she had been Alicja, tomorrow she would be someone else’s play thing, assuming she was still alive. Even the girls who were successful could only hope to become the prostitutes and porn stars of tomorrow. Some legacy. I should’ve rotted in prison. It’s where I belonged.

“It seems you’ve landed on your feet, my friend,” Sergei said over the phone with a smile, bringing David back to the present again. “You have about an hour until we arrive to do something you want to do with the girl. Consider it a finder’s fee.”

He hung up the phone and looked at David. David looked back, expressionless, unsure what to say.

“It seems one of my clients has found our runaway girl. Thankfully she found this man out of so many, who might have involved the police.” He bore his perfect teeth in a wide grin.

David nodded. “We’ll leave and collect her then, I suppose.”

Sergei got to his feet and wobbled a little. He put a hand to his head and said, “I think the hit to the head has prevented me from keeping proper balance.”

David nodded again. “I’ll drive.”

Sergei shook his head, wobbled again, clutched his chair and said, “I should not have done that. Sir David, as much as I would like to walk, you may be right.”

Sergei turned to the other man in the room. He had two suitcases next to him and was waiting around for something. “Your transport out of the country is confirmed. It leaves tonight. I’ve emailed you the details.”

The man nodded and stood up, hesitating to take a step forward, as if in the presence of royalty and unsure how to greet it. “I have the email. It’s about time I also made a move.” He walked to Sergei and shook his hand. “Thank you for your assistance. It has allowed me a chance at a new life.”

Sergei smiled and nodded before saying, “Take care, my friend.”

David scowled slightly as he watched the man leave. Another one leaves. I still remain.

Sergei donned his coat and gestured at David to accompany him. His job description had changed in the past few minutes from photographer to first-aider to bodyguard. I wonder what I’ll be doing an hour from now.

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