I’ve been talking a lot about The Bluebell Informant and the main character of Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles over the past few weeks. Part of that has, admittedly, been to spread the word a little about this upcoming book. But part of it has also been because of the sheer amount of excitement I have had putting this story together.
What started as just a character building exercise for my novel, Obsession, has now grown in to a fully fledged story in its own right. I have learnt so much about Giles (who she is, where she’s come from, why she acts the way she does) that my initial picture of her has been completely blown out of the water and replaced with a living, breathing entity.
At least, that’s how it seems to me.
I figured its about time I showed you all what its all about.
Today, in this post, I am releasing the first chapter of The Bluebell Informant here on my blog for all you lovely blog-readers and fans to see what I’ve been up to over the past few months.
Have a read and tell me what you think.
Daniel Baker sat quietly in the darkest corner of the most secluded room he could find. The dark, brown fluid swirled around the bottom of the whiskey glass as he rotated it in the air, thinking about how everything had gone so spectacularly wrong.
He had built a career off the backs of his friends; for every speech they were there to support him. Behind the scenes they formulated plans and schemes, spread fear and distrust, herded people to Baker’s cause. But none of them were here now. They were off celebrating in the bright lights and drunken throes of victory. With the glee of triumph had come the bitter pill of defeat, bringing with it momentary pats and kind words of sympathy before they all gallivanted off into the night to enjoy their success.
Anonymity was Baker’s only friend now. The only friend he even wanted. The wolfhounds of the tabloid press, his one-time allies, were surely out there now, hounding every pub and bar from London to Edinburgh to find him. To break his soul even more than it had done already. He hoped that, for a time at least, the seclusion would somehow shield him from the rest of the world, keep him hidden until he was ready to stir out of the dark and emerge to fight once again.
But it wasn’t enough.
The route through to the next room had no door to close and the sounds of the early morning drinkers drifted in, contaminating his safe haven. One by one, they crept up to the doorway and peered inside, nudging one another gleefully and daring their friends to be the first to step through. Out of the darkness, Baker’s once approachable eyes glared out with ferocity. He sucked hard on his cigarette, breathing the toxic smoke deep into his lungs before blowing it out forcefully towards his observers. His fingers scratched at the whiskey glass whilst the ice tapped rhythmically against the side.
When he could bear their curious looks no longer, he threw his head back and tossed the whiskey down his throat, barely allowing his tongue to taste the liquid as it cascaded down.
His throat seized up. He plunged the whiskey glass down on the table and clutched his neck as he coughed the liquid back up again. The first wave of spectators backed away from the door as Baker heaved deeply to clear his trachea, but they still watched with interest. Perhaps this was to be the end of the Baker Story.
But it wasn’t. Regaining his breath, Baker slouched back in his chair, delicately wiping his lips where the phlegm had congealed. His blood-shot eyes glared back up at the crowd outside the door, causing them to scatter back in to the main bar of the pub. They would not ask any questions today, not if they knew what was good for them.
Baker was grateful for the solitude.
He banged the glass loudly on the table. ‘Another!’
With obvious distaste, the bartender set down the glasses he was cleaning and moved over to the optics to poor another whiskey. He tried not to make eye contact with Baker as he brought the drink out from behind the bar and in to Baker’s room. Through the murkiness of the smoke, the bartender had to hold his breath as he quickly deposited the drink before darting back towards the door. He had considered demanding that Baker extinguish his cigarettes. It was after all a legal requirement. He had planned it all out in his head. He was going to tell Baker that it was a fineable offence and that he would have to leave if he didn’t stop. But in the face of it, he baulked every time. No one was going to be the one to confront Baker…
Not after the day he’d just had.
He had just finished his fourth whiskey of the day and lit up his ninth cigarette of the afternoon when the silhouette of a large, bald headed man appeared through the smoke. His tailor-made suit clung desperately to his body, moulding the shape of the unsightly man into something akin to attractiveness. A purple tie hung half-tied around his neck and his white shirt bore all the hallmarks of a heavy bout of partying: breadcrumbs, red wine stains and sweat.
He didn’t ask whether Baker wanted company but simply crossed the room and took the seat next to him, a sneer stretching beneath his disjointed nose. There were no more thoughts of solitude, no more wishes of being left alone. Baker wasn’t going to stop him. Not this man.
‘I am surprised to find you here,’ the man said, clicking his fingers for the bartender, who promptly jumped from behind the bar and jogged over to take his order. ‘I would have thought you’d be celebrating with the rest of them.’
The bald man ordered two more whiskeys and, as the bartender turned his back, removed a large Cuban cigar from his jacket pocket and proceeded to light it. The two men sat quietly as they waited, Baker inhaling from the cigarette, his visitor sucking loudly on his cigar. The bartender returned with their drinks, keeping his eyes pinned to the floor as he approached. The bald man opened his legs, pointed his large belly towards the bartender and rolled the cigar smoke around in his mouth.
‘What’s your name boy?’
The bartender was probably in his thirties but, rather than being offended by the comment, continued to place the drinks down on the table whilst keeping an obvious distance from the two men.
‘Tom Richardson, Mr Haines.’
‘Do you like it here, Tom?’ Haines asked, slowly rubbing his fat thighs. ‘Do they pay well?’
‘It’s a good job, Mr Haines.’
‘Maybe you might like to work for me?’
Tom’s eyes flickered with fear. He quickly stood up straight and paced out of the room in to the fresher air. As the sounds of his coughing drifted in through the door, Haines sniggered to himself and sat back up straight. He grabbed hold of his glass and, with his smile still tinted with glee and his eyes sparkling with mischief, he raised it in a toast and took a sip.
‘To your success.’
Baker did not join him.
Haines noticed but didn’t react. With his eyes glued on Baker, he finished his sip, lowered his glass and continued to play with his cigar as he watched Tom through the open doorway.
‘You lied to me,’ Baker said. ‘You went back on your word.’
‘I disagree. I believe I fulfilled my part admirably.’
‘The agreement was that I would gain power…’
‘The agreement was that your party would gain power.’ Haines tore his eyes away from the barman. ‘There was never any specific mention of what would become of you.’
‘It was implied…’
‘I don’t do business by implication, Mister Baker.’
Baker sunk back into his seat. All the fight had gone out of him and, even if it hadn’t, there was little that could be done about it now. Haines’ emphasis on the word ‘Mister’ did little to breathe fire back into his battered ego. Reluctantly, he reached across and took a drink from the fresh whiskey, allowing it to slide easily down his throat until the glass was all but drained.
Haines nodded approvingly, snapped his fingers and ordered two more drinks from the bar. When Tom returned this time, Haines paid him no attention. He’d had his fun, now there was a new game to play.
‘I would have thought you would be more happy about this scenario,’ he explained. ‘What was it you said during the campaign, ‘Britain needs a party capable of making the tough choices’? Well, you certainly got the British people on your side; now they have a government capable of making the tough choices. But they didn’t really like you, did they?’ He chuckled, taking another suck on his cigar. ‘I suppose Dobbs would be the best replacement for you. He hasn’t got the same man-of-the-people appeal as you, but he’s been in my pocket longer. In a few weeks, when they do the vote, you’ll be able to relax unbothered, nothing more than a footnote in the history books…’
‘Will you rig that one as well?’
Haines’ eyes sparkled. He took another puff on his cigar.
‘Of course,’ he said, ‘having fulfilled my side of the bargain, I fully expect you to fulfil yours.’
Haines smiled, sliding his untouched whiskey across the table. Baker peered down at the clear, amber fluid as it swirled around the semi-transparent rocks of ice. Dashed against them and sinking to the bottom of the glass were all his hopes and dreams; his ambitions and desires for the future…
A sixth won’t hurt.
‘I have nothing left to give, you saw to that…’
He drained the glass, squinting as the bitter taste caught in the back of his throat. Haines leant forward and placed a hand on Baker’s upper thigh, squeezing it tightly. Baker felt the bald man’s hand before he saw it; the warm palm pressing hard on Baker’s thigh whilst pudgy digits squeezed and relaxed, stretching as though they intended to creep further up his leg. Under the hypnotic gaze of those eyes, Baker froze and waited as he felt Haines’ breath on his neck.
‘Oh, I don’t think that’s entirely true. Do you, Mister Baker?’
Evelyn Giles let the phone ring.
It was a Bank Holiday and there was no way she was going in to work. Not again.
From the kitchen window, the world outside was bright and sunny. The crisp, cool air wafted through the open window, floating the suggestion that spring was nearly over and the summer would soon be here. The blue sky, scattered with the merest suggestion of small, puffy clouds hung like a great protective veil over the city and the cheerful sound of children playing drifted up from the park at the foot of her apartment block.
As the phone shrilled from the lounge, Giles continued to beat the cake mixture in the large ceramic bowl, trying to make as much of a racket as possible so as to drown it out altogether.
But the phone continued with persistence and soon, as the interruption reached its limit, Jason emerged from the bedroom and shot across to pick it up. The stocky, thin figure of her husband arrived at the telephone long before Giles’ reacted to tell him to stop. As he stood, speaking with whoever was on the other end, Giles began to regret not taking it off the hook earlier.
Will I never learn?
Her eyes levelled on Jason’s back. Water from the shower dripped delicately off his bronzed back, disappearing into the neat white towel around his waist. As he talked on the phone, Giles smiled to herself as her eyes continued down to his bare legs, promising herself that she would follow when he went back to the shower.
When he turned around, the idea was shattered.
‘Eve,’ he called out. ‘It’s important.’
Giles took as long as possible to set down her bowl, wash her hands and then saunter through to the lounge. As she approached, Jason’s eyes glinted with a curious resignation. No one in the world knew her better than her husband and Jason was wise and patient enough to know there was no point in attempting to intervene. Whoever was on the other end was going to get one hell of a shock. Nothing short of an emergence was going to ruin this Bank Holiday – that was what they had both agreed.
He handed her the phone, planted a delicate kiss on her cheek and headed back towards the bedroom. Giles watched him walk away, her eyes locked firmly on his muscular back until he had disappeared behind the door. She lifted the receiver to her ear.
‘Giles,’ she barked. Her smile had vanished and her dulcet tones had given way to something more clipped and professional.
‘Detective Sergeant Giles?’
The voice on the other end of the phone belonged to a man, that much was clear. But his words with taut, his pitch was laced with anxiety that became clearer and more defined once Giles confirmed her identity.
‘Detective Inspector William Harris, Kent Police. I was wondering whether I could steal an hour or so of your time?’
‘I’m afraid that’s not possible. I have plans.’
She didn’t know Harris and perhaps it was this that made it easier for her to rebuke him. For one horrible moment, Giles wondered whether she had been too abrupt on this occasion. She did have a reputation to uphold after all. She had been slated for good things in the future. Her superiors found her always willing and able – no job was too difficult; the soul of discretion and a stickler for the rules. She was their model officer to represent the service in times where the integrity and honesty of the force was under close scrutiny. And yet here she was, callously shooting down a fellow officer with her bluntness and unwillingness to accommodate them. A senior officer no less.
The voice that replied seemed more confident and steadfast than before, but through the cold, hard plastic of the receiver, Giles could still hear the anxiety it masked.
‘I think you will break your plans when you hear what I have to say.’
Giles didn’t reply for a moment. Her eyes flickered longingly between the baking in the kitchen and the bedroom door, wanting nothing more than to tell Harris to call again another day. But the fear, and she had no doubt it was fear, in his voice began to sow a familiar, yet unwelcome, seed of interest in her mind.
‘What can I do for you, sir?’
‘There has been a murder. The body of a man has been discovered in a field near the town of Edenbridge. We were hoping you might come and have a look, if it’s not too much trouble?’
It is too much trouble. This is my day off.
‘With the greatest of respect, sir, a body in Kent is a little outside of my patch…’
‘Granted. But the circumstances of the case may well interest you.’
It can wait until tomorrow.
The door to the bedroom opened and Jason emerged, the towel now replaced by a pair of jeans and a white, open shirt. He peered across at Giles and mouthed, ‘Is there a problem?’
No, there is no problem. Nothing is going to ruin this Bank Holiday.
Giles let loose a small smile before turning away from her husband.
‘Well, I haven’t arrived at the scene yet, but my officers inform me that there is some evidence that may pertain to you or maybe one of your cases…’
It can definitely wait until tomorrow.
‘I don’t understand…’
You don’t need to understand. Deal with it tomorrow.
Harris took a deep breath on the other end of the line.
‘I think we have the body of someone who has been giving you information,’ he explained. ‘I think he may be one of your informants…’
You are off-duty. This can wait until tomorrow.
Giles raised her hand and squeezed her temple between her thumb and middle finger. The voice in her head fell silent and her mind was once again able to think clearly.
Giles lowed the phone and wandered back in to the kitchen. She reached the counter just as Jason turned around. He handed her a cup of fresh Italian coffee, his keen eyes surveying her as she sipped at it gratefully. As though he already knew, his face began to fall and disappointment settled in. With his eyes glued to the floor, he fell back against the counter and drank bitterly from his own cup.
‘Another Bank Holiday gone then?’