LIVING DOLL‘Look what Mr Masters gave me,’ Hattie said.Tom stared astonished at the object that Hattie had placed on the kitchen dresser. Eighteen inches high, porcelain faced with glassy blue, expressionless eyes, curly eyelashes, red lips and ash blonde hair fanning round her face, the doll was dressed in a salmon pink frock.‘His plaster cast came off a couple of days ago and he’s managing OK now, so he doesn’t need me anymore.’When their reclusive neighbour Mr Masters, who lived on his own in the big house with the large garden at the bottom of the lane, slipped in the supermarket and fractured his leg, Hattie had stepped in to do his shopping and cook himtasty meals that he’d heated up in the microwave.‘It was really weird,’ Hattie said.‘Meaning?’ Tom took out a bottle of wine from the fridge, uncorked it and filled two glasses.‘He showed me into his study and there they were- rows upon rows of dolls.All dressed differently but all uncannily identical to look at except there was one that was covered in tattoos and boasted lip and navel rings. He asked meto select one as a thank you present for all we’d done for him. I demurred but he just wouldn’t take no for an answer and ended up choosing this one himself. In fact, he practically thrust it into my hand.’‘Crazy having that kind of hobby. Is he a perv?’‘I can’t complain. He’s always been pretty decent to me,’ Hattie said. ‘And generous. But he’s no perv. He’s probably just an eccentric collector and they say living alone can addle you.’‘Well, we’ll have to make room for the thing or else hand it into a charity shop,’ Tom said. ‘Hey,’ he bent down to pick up pages of that day’s newspaper that were fluttering to the floor. ‘What’s it with that draught?’ He got up and went into thehall to find the front door wide open. ‘Hattie you’re losing it- you forgot to shutthe door.’‘Not guilty,’ Hattie said. ‘You were last in so it must have been you.’‘Me? Never!’ said Tom as he banged it shut.They moved some of the books from the topmost shelf of the bookcase on the bedroom landing to make space for the doll. She gazed down at them as they went in to the bedroom at night and when they emerged in the morning.The next few weeks were possibly the worst they’d experienced since their recent marriage. Their cat disappeared and they roamed the neighbourhood desperately sticking lost kitty notices on lamp posts and trees. Then Hattie was knocked down by a bicycle on her way to the train station. Tom cooked a steak and kidney pie for supper and they returned from work to find it on the kitchen table,half eaten whilst the champagne they were keeping for Christmas lunch had been spilled onto the floor. The few pieces of jewellery Hattie owned were missing from the jewel case only to be discovered in the oven. At night they tossed and turned trying to identify what sounded like heavy breathing that kept them awake.Hattie, returning from the gym, found the doll by the front door. Tom denied moving it. How could it have got there they wondered? They didn’t employ a cleanerand no one could have accessed the house in their absence. Tom promptly put thedoll back on top of the bookcase.They bought a spruce and decorated it with Christmas tree baubles and a pretty Christmas fairy. A few days later they found the doll gracing the topmostbranches of the tree; the fairy nowhere to be seen. Hattie accused Tom of messing with her and they had a little row. That evening, after the doll had been relegated to its patch, they smelled a strong whiff of gas and had to summon the emergency gas man and when Hattie logged into online banking she found their joint bank account had been hacked and a substantial sum siphoned off. The next morning as Tom was shaving he noticed the doll perched on the edge of the bathtub.A creepy feeling engulfed him.Tom said nothing to Hattie. When he got to work he called her on his mobileand told her to meet him in the lunch hour as they was something he wanted to discuss that couldn’t wait until they got home.