The Doll Collector

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Chapter 76

As much as Dan had longed for the moment, minutes away, it didn’t relieve the pounding of his anxious heart. He noticed more and more place names on the road signs with which he was not familiar in the slightest. He raised an eyebrow, puffed out his cheeks and let out a long sigh. I’m in unfamiliar territory in more ways than one.

His technical and private investigator skillset had been the cause of travel across the UK, but his work had not yet taken him into the heart of the capitol. There were probably a hundred organisations that would offer the same services as he did, so he had never previously expected to be there for anything other than a sight-seeing trip.

His drive south had been done quicker than he had feared, and was only partially punctuated by interrupting phone calls.

Following his initial call, DS Cole had called again an hour later with good news. The police had taken him seriously. They had verified his findings and cross-referenced it with their own intelligence. The evidence was stacking up against the Hyndburn Hotel.

They would seek warrants, instruct staff, and would raid the hotel, all before his arrival. The manager would be encouraged to assist the police in their search of the premises. Any children they would find, including Abigail, would be immediately placed in the care of child protection officers who would take care of their immediate needs.

Dan looked at the dashboard clock. They should be there by now, knocking on doors or knocking them down. He raised his eyebrows as he stared at nothing but the traffic building on the road ahead. Who knows what they’ll find there?

The hotel wasn’t huge. Forty rooms were spread across four floors. There was a good chance that the search of the irrelevant parts of the building would be finished before Dan would pull in to the car park. Assuming they were due to find children or illegal images, a more thorough, methodical search would then need to take place.

As each minute gave way to the next and Dan edged closer to the centre of London, there was excitement and dread in his heart. His acid reflux had tried on several occasions to slow down his journey, but even the scorching, eye-watering burning of his throat and chest could not deter him in the slightest. I’m getting to my daughter, and I’m taking her home tonight.

His cheeks felt warm and his brow was hot like he had a fever. It was as if his body was manifesting the outward signs of failure and embarrassment. If he was right, he could have helped the police to take down a substantial player in the production and peddling of paedophilic pornography. If he was wrong, however, his own reputation as a private investigator might never recover. More importantly, the last link to his daughter would be severed.

He looked up at the next road sign. For a second, he could imagine the place names on that brief list being replaced and personalised for his benefit. Glory and Redemption, 3 miles. Humiliation and Despair, 3 miles. I wonder what will await me at my destination.

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