The Doll Collector

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Chapter 81

After enough time in the cold to lose the feeling in his toes, Dan was permitted to enter the hotel, escorted the entire time by DS Cole.

After a lecture in the lift, and confirmation of his knowledge of crime scene etiquette, Dan was shown into the hotel suite. He recognised it instantly as the room in the photographs he had seen several hours earlier.

He was, of course, able to see far more of the huge room than he had been able to see in the photographs. In addition, the contents of the room would have looked vastly different before the police photographer had placed numbered yellow tags next to everything, including every bottle of alcohol and glass on the coffee table. Items that had already been photographed were being accumulated in a pile of filled and sealed plastic evidence bags.

Dan had rarely been reminded of his comparative freedom from rules when compared to the police officers surrounding him. I’d forgotten how tedious a task it is to put everything in its own plastic bag. He smiled. Thank God I hardly have to resort to such methods.

DS Cole pointed ahead of them as they walked. “The computer is in that room.”

As they entered, Dan looked around and took up his position in the only seat in the room. He glanced around. “Do you have a spare video camera and tripod to record what I’m doing?” he asked.

The officer shook his head. “That stuff would be provided by the Hi-Tech guys when they need it.”

Dan nodded at the blank pad of paper and pen sitting to his left in the edge of the table. “I assume you’re happy for me to document my actions here?”

DS Cole nodded.

Dan picked up the paper and started to write. He checked the date and time on his watch and scribbled it down. “Has anyone even tried to use this yet?” he asked as he wrote.

DS Cole shook his head. “It’s more than my job’s worth to let any half-brained PC get their hands on a live computer exhibit, especially for a child abuse case.”

Dan nodded and turned on the monitor. A light in the corner glowed orange, and he jiggled the mouse to wake up the computer. The monitor lit up bright blue, showing a circular photo of Sergei Grekov next to his name.

Dan clicked on the name with the mouse and the login screen disappeared. He smiled. Computer security at its finest. He immediately reached for the notepad. “He doesn’t have a password set. I got straight in.”

His apprehension grew as the Desktop loaded. If I don’t find anything on here, I may never see Abigail again.

Two windows were open. The first was a web browser. One tab was open showing the web page entitled ‘Pretty Little Angels’, showing a number of girls in provocative poses, along with the text, ‘Russia’s #1 child modelling website’. There was no doubting the contents of such a website. He had seen so many like it during his days in the Hi-Tech Crime Unit.

The second window was for Sergei’s email. On the left was a list of emails received, highlighted in different colours. On the right, the contents of the top email were shown. It was an invoice for the renewal of some Russian-based server space.

He clicked through several of the recent emails. A small fire seemed to start in his chest as his frustration and desperation grew into significant heartburn. These seem to have nothing to do with anything. After going back a day, he changed tactic and opened the Sent folder.

The most recent email in his Sent folder looked like junk. As he opened it, he saw the word ‘Joshua’ and the index finger of his right hand froze in an extended position. “This is it,” he said pointing to the screen. “It was sent less than two hours ago”.

He scanned the text of the email, looking for information that would be vital in finding his daughter. There were details of a cargo ship, due to leave from Dover at 17:00 that afternoon. The owner had been handsomely paid to provide a container for Sergei’s constant use for the trafficking of young girls.

The email contained a personal note to Joshua, stating that he would have access to ‘more everyday comforts than one would usually expect when travelling as cargo’. It was clear that this was Joshua’s route out of the country, away from British law enforcement, and probably off to an extradition-free country.

He scribbled the headlines on the piece of paper and looked at his watch. Less than three hours to get there, assuming Abigail’s with him.

“Right,” Dan said, standing up, “I’m going to Dover to get my daughter.”

DS Cole’s eyes widened. “Mr Castle, you’d be best advised to wait for the police to deal with this.”

Dan wasn’t listening. He was already walking out of the hotel suite with DS Cole close behind.

Ignoring the constant warnings of the officer, Dan was soon back at his car, ready to leave. He input the destination of Dover into the navigation software of his phone, and bid farewell to DS Cole and everyone else who would still be processing this scene for some time.

He put the car into gear and exited the car park, a stern look on his face and his hands gripping the steering wheel as if clinging onto the edge of a precipice. There’s no way I’m sitting back and letting the police get there too late again. This time I’m getting to my daughter first, and no one’s going to stop me.

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