The Doll Collector

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Chapter 88

Dan rushed to Abigail and hugged her, keeping hold for several seconds more than was normal. Not that Dan or Abigail were usually huggers anyway. Their usual stand-off approach to greetings and goodbyes could be set aside at that moment.

He let go, put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away to arm’s length, looking her over from head to foot, inspecting her for any signs of damage. “Are you okay?” he asked. “Are you hurt?”

She wore a pained smile as she shook her head. He could see her eyes getting tearful. “No Dad, I’m not okay, and no I’m not hurt.”

Dan looked into his daughter’s eyes, feeling tears form in his own. I want to talk to her about everything. I want to see if she’ll be okay in a little while or if she needs help to ever feel okay again.

“Dad?” she said, sounding uncomfortable, “Why are you just staring at me?”

Dan looked away and shook his head, letting go of her. “We’ll have time to catch up later. First, we need to get out of this box.”

He pushed and pulled and twisted at every metal pole and connection. He looked around at the four corners, at the inside of the doors and at the far side of the container. We’re not getting out of here unless someone opens up from the outside.

“The police are on their way,” he said, unsure whether he was trying to comfort Abigail or himself.

“How will they know which container we’re in?” she asked.

“They’ll have the same information I had, and I found you.”

Abigail attempted to lift up the carpet, looking for any kind of escape hatch, buried underneath. Dan scowled. Not much chance of that.

“So what, did you have a map or something?”

Dan shook his head. “A number.”

Abigail stopped tugging at the carpet and stared at him. “A number? How did you find me with that?”

Dan pointed down to the floor as if pointing towards the man in yellow. “The guy in the waterproofs. He knew where to bring me.”

“And you think he’s just going to roll over when the police ask him, ‘Hey, do you happen to be directing people to a shipping container used for people trafficking?’ I’m not so sure.”

Dan smiled. Such cynicism from one so young. I don’t know whether to be embarrassed at my example or proud.

“So did you tell the police anything more after you got here?”

Dan pouted and bowed his head slightly. “I didn’t think to call them back.”

There was a look in Abigail’s eyes he had not seen before. It wasn’t exactly a look of disappointment or sadness. It was more like a look of resignation. She was not resigned to their fate. She had, however, had a previous realisation reinforced. That of parental fallibility. It was as if her eyes were saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m smarter than you in a situation like this’.

With Dan pondering his next move in silence, despite the storm still hammering on the steel roof, he heard something from several feet beneath them. Something was happening on the other side of those dark red doors, down on the deck. Could this be the police?

There was talking, arguing. Two different voices, too muffled to be understood at such a distance through a storm.

Following several dull thuds and crashes, there was a distinctive bang that echoed up through the container canyon towards them. It was the sound of a heavy door slamming shut at speed, or it was the sound of a gunshot. The sound was followed immediately by a brief, higher pitch metallic sound. A bullet ricocheting.

The noises faded into the elements, leaving Dan once again listening to nothing more than hail stones on steel. Then, other sounds emerged. The sound of ladders being positioned and climbed. The first climb sounded muffled. The second was clearer. Then, the third ladder was in place, just below them.

Dan moved away from the door and held his breath for a moment. “The ladder’s there again.” He looked across towards Abigail. “Someone’s coming.”

At the moment his eyes fell on his daughter again, he saw a right hand cover her mouth from behind and a left arm hook around her neck.

His heart pounded as he looked on at his daughter, wide-eyed. Joshua, it seems, is awake again, and he’s not happy.

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