Hurtling along the M1, Dan was hoping to get to the Hyndburn Hotel in the east end of London before anything else could happen to Abigail. She had been there just hours ago, being photographed for an illegal child pornography website. He had provided his old laptop to the police, and had informed them of his observations in the images that had been sent by email.
Much to their dismay, he had dropped off the laptop, given them a list of his own observations, and then he left, telling them that he was going to the hotel in question, right now.
The police asked if he would rather await forensic confirmation of his findings, or for the MET police to set up some kind of operation, but Dan was not keen on listening. Doing what they want now will only slow me down.
If the police wanted to get to Joshua, Abigail and whatever was going on in that hotel, they would simply need to get there ahead of him.
He looked at the clock on the dashboard. Eleven o’clock. An hour in, probably three hours of his journey lay ahead of him, if he stayed clear of any problems. If only I could get there faster. He smiled as a thought crossed his mind. Maybe now Jennifer will listen when I suggest a sports car for our next family vehicle!
Using his Bluetooth stereo, Dan had already called Jennifer and updated her on everything that had happened in the last ninety minutes. She seemed happy to leave the rescue to Dan, happy to stay behind and man the fort, waiting for the call from her daughter, safe and sound.
Dan shook his head as he considered the reluctance of police officers to make a move. He could have got to London much quicker in the back of a police car, sirens blaring, despite knowing that authority would not be given for such things, and certainly not at his demand.
As things stood, unless he heard back from the MET, he was storming the hotel on his own. That was a daunting thought.
The police near his home would either sit on the evidence he had provided, shaking their heads, or they would be furiously working to verify it, and to contact their counterparts in London. As soon as they can pass the buck on this one, with things as they are, they’ll do it.
He knew that the threat of a civilian screwing up a possible big bust would be enough to force the hand of an officer or two. When there was an added threat of media exposure, turning this in to a high profile case, he knew that they would be keen to beat him to that hotel.
He tapped the steering wheel with his fingers as he realised he was levelling out at around 95 miles per hour. He looked at his sat-nav. In less than four hours, I’ll have her back.
With his eyes glued to the road ahead, his mind started to wander to thoughts of revenge. What could he do to the man who had kidnapped his daughter? What could he do to the man that had degraded her for a few photographs? They needed to be made to pay for their horrendous crimes against girls of various ages. The girl that had been left lying on that bed, and all others who had fallen victim, would cry from the dust for justice to be meted out to these men.
His thoughts were interrupted by a call, far sooner than he had expected.
“Mr Castle,” said the calm, deep voice of the man on the other end of the line, “my name is Detective Sergeant Cole of the Metropolitan Police”.
Dan nodded as he returned a casual greeting.
“We have received intel from our colleagues in Greater Manchester regarding a location for your kidnapped daughter. My understanding is that you think there are children being detained and abused at the Hyndburn Hotel in London. Is that correct?”
Dan nodded. “Yes, DS Cole. I believe my daughter to be among those who are still present at that location and I’m heading there now.”
“Mr Castle,” the voice of DS Cole sounded increasingly stern. “I can only advise as strongly as possible that you stand down and wait for the police to handle this matter. We have experience in dealing with circumstances of kidnapping and responding to child protection scenarios.”
“How long until you anticipate being able to handle this?” Dan asked.
“There are still logistical matters that need to be worked out. I would expect it to happen tonight or tomorrow morning.”
“You’ll have until I arrive, officer,” Dan said in an equally stern voice. “You may or not be aware that I am also experienced with a number of police matters, and I cannot sit idly by while someone takes my daughter somewhere else. Would you?”
The Sergeant cleared his throat. “I understand your reluctance, Mr Castle, but I can assure you that we’ll deal with this as quickly as possible.”
“Then I expect I’ll hear from you when you’ve visited the hotel.” Dan felt a lump in his throat and swallowed to try to remove it. “I’m three hours away from saving my daughter, and I’m not willing to let anything get in my way.”
There was a sigh from DS Cole. “I’ll call you back with our plans within the hour. Take it easy on the roads in the meantime.”
“I will,” said Dan before they thanked each other and the call ended.
Dan knew how these cases worked. They took substantial planning. They required the calling in of extra men to work extra shifts. It was complicated and expensive. It was bordering on impossible to achieve this within twelve hours, let alone in three.
Regardless of their typically slow procedures and practices, they had a deadline. They would not want to fail, getting news coverage for days for all the wrong reasons.
Doubts came flying in to his mind, one hot on the heels of another. What if the location was wrong? What if there was no one at the hotel? What if some kind of horrible hostage situation would arise? What if this was some kind of misdirection from Joshua, who would take his daughter and run off somewhere?
The final question was almost too much to bear. With the stuff that’s been going through her head, what if Abigail doesn’t want to come home?
This was a gamble. This time it wasn’t just him he was putting at risk, but all sorts of other police officers and anyone inside that hotel. He had to hope and pray that his deductions were right. If he was wrong, he had thrown away the final chance of ever seeing his daughter again.
Instinct seemed to suggest that he was correct about his daughter and about that hotel. A part of him believed he would show up at that place and save his daughter, but another part of him seemed to believe that this was all far from being over.