The Doll Collector

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Chapter 82

David had been interrupted whilst browsing the shop he frequented for camera supplies by the buzzing of his phone. He had a new voicemail from Sergei. He smirked. I’m always glad when a weak phone signal indoors provides a reprieve from another conversation with that man.

The message was brief, but it was clear of Sergei’s intentions. David was to re-use today’s memory cards, wiped of Alicja’s photos, for tomorrow’s photoshoots. The girl was gone. There was no opportunity to assess. They just needed to get back to business. David rolled his eyes as the voicemail message ended. The man’s always trying to save a few quid.

David replaced the new memory cards, the maximum capacity that his aging camera would accept. The man behind the counter, always friendly to David, offered him a few minutes to test the newest Nikon SLR.

As David held the substantial weight of the camera in his hands, he fantasised of a different life, with the expensive device belonging to him and only to him. If only I could take one of these, travelling the world to capture the most glorious of vistas, breath-taking mountain ranges, perfect beaches. He gritted his teeth. Instead, I play with lighting and cheap equipment, seeking perfection in an imperfect setting.

Placing the camera on the counter as if returning a priceless artefact to its rightful place, David then looked at his watch. I’ve been gone almost an hour. He’ll be cursing me for wasting time instead of preparing for tomorrow’s shoots.

He removed the phone from his pocket again and dialled Sergei’s number. It rang once, twice, three times and then four. This is not like Sergei. He always answers his phone.

He shrugged and hung up. He’s either in another room or he’s out scouting for Alicja’s replacement. He dialled the hotel’s front desk to be sure.

“Hyndburn Hotel, how may I help you?” He recognised the voice of the pretty red-head who was usually stationed at the desk.

“Sergei’s room please.” He requested.

“Sorry sir, I can’t put you through.” The girl’s voice was quiet, too quiet.

David sighed. “You know who this is? He’ll want to speak to me.”

“It’s not that,” she said, her voice getting quieter, right down to the level of a whisper. “Even if was here, I couldn’t put you through.”

“Why not? What’s going on?” David asked, realising that he had almost whispered, despite having no need to do so.

“The police are here, searching through everything.”

David panicked, removing the phone from his ear and ending the call. The police have found Sergei. They’ve put an end to it all.

David’s head could not have been spinning anymore if he’d spent the past day on a carousel. It’s over. I’m free, but what options do I have?

David only ever used the money Sergei had provided. He had no funds, no property, and no possessions of any kind. He was, at that moment, using Sergei’s second car. I’ve got nothing but a chance to run and a full tank of petrol. He thought for a moment. Maybe that’s enough.

Having hurried back to the car, he got in and looked at the dashboard. I wonder if I can make it on time. Maybe I can call and buy myself another hour.

Pulling his phone from his pocket at the same time as starting the car’s ignition, David pursed his lips together as he once again held the phone to his ear.

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