The Doll Collector

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Chapter 84

The rain and hail pelted Dan as he exited his car, having parked it near the requisite loading dock. Ahead of him was a fully loaded cargo ship. He looked to his right, to his left, and then behind him and raised an eyebrow. Either the police haven’t cut through the red tape yet, or they’ve suddenly become very good at being invisible.

With every step closer to the ship, he could hear only the sound of his heart pounding and the noises generated by thousands of small balls of ice hitting every surface. He gulped as his feet seemed to be almost unable to carry his weight. This is it. Do or die. I hope I have backup soon.

He approached a gangway, still connecting the ship to the land and glanced around again. Where are all the staff? Surely it takes more than one guy to manage a ship this size.

Maybe the others had been paid to keep out of the way until the time of departure loomed. Maybe that’s how Sergei could sneak people on and off these vessels without anyone asking questions.

Dan’s walk turned to a run up the gangway. He was unable to keep to the languid pace, fearing that his legs would fail as his nerves were jangling. A scruffy-looking man in yellow waterproofs stood there with a look of disdain on his face. The man didn’t speak.

“Sergei sent me,” Dan said, and then he cleared his throat. “Number 37.”

The man frowned. “He sent you too? How many more should I expect?”

Dan shook his head. “No one else. Just me.”

The frown was still evident on the man’s face as he turned and walked away. Dan shrugged and followed.

Dan wasn’t a fan of hearing a faint booming sound with every footstep on the hollow-sounding metal deck beneath his feet. He didn’t much like squeezing through small gaps between massive boxes holding bone-crushing weights, but he followed.

After catching up, and being faced with climbing a series of ladders in windy, stormy conditions, he raised his eyebrows and smiled to himself. Does he really expect me to climb up there? In this weather?

Within moments three ladders were in position and the bright yellow host had opened the container door and was standing in its entrance, waiting. It was Dan’s turn to make the climb.

Hoping and praying that he would be able to stay safe long enough to save his daughter, he gripped the sides until his fists hurt and took each step, one at a time.

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