The Doll Collector

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Chapter 8

Sergei watched as his photographer, David, methodically cleaned and packed every camera component following another successful day. Twelve sets of photographs for one day was far from record-setting pace, but it would provide their paying customers with something worthy of their monthly subscription. In the online world, where every vice is celebrated and sought, every new photograph was snapped up in double quick time.

Demand is going up, and so are my profits.

His customary scowl crossed his face as he walked to the computer in his office.

He caught sight of his tired, ageing reflection in the window to his right as he moved the computer mouse slightly. His designer stubble and slightly rotund face added to his large stature, even when he was sitting down. He had grown his hair long years earlier in an attempt to mask the scar on his right cheek. It had been there since childhood. The near-permanent stubble was sculpted to cover all but the very edge of the disfigurement of his face.

He shook his head as he glanced at himself, and then shrugged. Whatever I do, I’ll always see it, reminding me of the mistakes of my youth.

He had no need to enter a password to gain access. He avoided typing as much as possible. His large hands and oversized fingers often struggled to find the correct keys without genuine effort.

As the screen lit up, the typical famous Russian landscapes adorned his Windows Desktop, reminding him of the place of his birth, some sixty years earlier. These days he only visited when occasion required.

He gazed out of the window, past his reflection, at the glow of streetlights and chaos, disappearing into the dull November night. It would be good to shake off this London gloom for a few days, get back to the heartland. He smirked. It’s where the police think I’m living now anyway.

He inserted each of the day’s memory cards in turn, copying their contents ready for editing and uploading. Each girl, from the pretty little blonde waif to the fuller-figured brunette had provided something new for his customers.

Reviewing each photo from each set, he was again pleased to have David under his employ, and under his command. The quality of his pictures cut the editing time substantially. He treats each photograph like it belongs in a gallery. A true artist. A crop here, a tweak there, the addition of watermarks and logos, and the photos were ready. A prize for my paying perverts.

He scrunched up the right side of his face and rested his head in his palms, elbows on the desk in front of him. It’s not good to view my clientele in such a way. They keep me in hand-made leather shoes and Italian suits.

The other side of the doorway the blond-hired, medium-height David raised his eyebrows and hefted a huge bag onto his sweatshirt-clad shoulder before heading for the door. The thin scar on his chin was visible to Sergei, even from several metres away. I wonder if he still blames me for that. The usual empty compliment from Sergei saw him on his way to his own suite, one floor down.

A few moments later Sergei was putting the fast internet connection to good use, uploading hundreds of photos of various girls aged eleven to fifteen, re-routing all of his internet activity through servers based in Moscow, not London. How many times will police insist on raiding that place? Will they ever learn?

He stared at the screen for a moment, considering another website revamp. He had grown tired of the purple hues and a big collage that seemed more and more out-dated. His shoulders slumped. Each redesign requires more than changing the look. People expect more.

He looked at the clock on the wall as he sipped a glass of wine from a warm glass to his left. He pulled the kind of face suited to gulping down old milk. It wasn’t yet seven o’clock, but it would be dark enough and cold enough to increase his chances of success. He opened the top left drawer and glanced at his keys. I wonder if it’s time for another recruitment drive.

He drained the glass in his right hand whilst picking up his keys with his left. Moments later he shrugged on his woollen overcoat. He picked up a hat, dropping it on his head with an almost playful exuberance, like a child playing dress-up, as he opened his door. I could find a new girl tonight. My next star could be out there, huddling in a shop entrance, hungry for a good meal and a nice warm bed.

He grinned as he closed the door behind him. Who am I to deny some pretty little thing life’s little luxuries?

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