If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available in its entirety for free through Amazon.com, iBooks, Kobo, Nook and Smashwords.
Another summer’s day. Another murder.
And yet Camden Lock Market carried on as though nothing had happened. The biggest melting pot of a dozen different cultures filled with tourists from countless countries – all of them pouring into the streets as the black BMW edged cautiously through the streets.
Even with the blue lights flashing on the unmarked police car, shoppers darted out in front of it, almost as though they hadn’t noticed it. And as they passed by, the backpack totting gangs of drug dealers retreated into the market stalls and watched quietly until it was safe to emerge again. Hell, not even the traffic up ahead parted to allow it prowl through.
No respect for the police anymore.
In the back of the car, Giles poured over her briefing sheet, trying to ignore the tempting aroma of various Asian dishes infused intermittently with the slightest hint of marijuana. The file was pretty sparse, but Giles already knew all the background. The rumour was the Bluebell Killer had struck again. That would make it sixteen murders since April.
An average of two a week.
The car passed under the famous Camden Town railway bridge and continued a few hundred feet further down the road before crossing over the canal. It pulled over immediately after, sending a few camera-wielding tourists trotting out of the way as the car mounted the pavement.
Giles closed up the file and clambered out of the door and joined the others as they set off down the towpath. Her companions walked a little ahead of her, talking animatedly as they consulted the case file: DI Frank Bolton, strong and commanding, led the discussion, rattling off a list of questions; DC John Scutter, short and fat from his over drinking, listened carefully, flicking through the file, struggling to hold the pages down in the stiff breeze.
Giles had no need to listen in. She knew the case file better than anyone.
She followed the others as descended down to the canal. Up ahead, a plethora of white-clad SOCOs had set up shop next to the lock and, from where she was, Giles could see two divers slowly climbing up the lock ladders.
A suicide. It has to be.
‘That would be nice,’ Giles muttered.
‘What was that?’
Bolton turned to face her.
He was a shadow of the man she had first known when she became a Detective Constable four years ago. He’d lost his enthusiasm – his spark of creativity and ingenuity. Word was that he’d turned down promotion to Detective Superintendent – but Giles knew different. The Met had been slowly phasing out the role of DCI for several years and, with many of his superiors vying for promotion before their role became defunct, Bolton’s brand of creative enthusiasm did not win him any favours.
Now he consigned himself to bureaucratic detective skills – paperwork, thoroughness and diligence. He rarely even visited a crime scene if he could avoid it.
But the Bluebell Killer case was different.
It was his chance to shine.
To be noticed.
Giles flashed a short smile at him.
Bolton nodded and carried on.
The lock was empty, or as empty as it was likely to be with the huge amount of water trying to surge through the old, wooden gates. As they arrived alongside, a female SOCO waved them over and shook hands with each in turn. Dr Susan Harken smiled sweetly when she got to Giles – the dinner party from the night before clearly playing on her mind.
‘Recovered yet?’ Giles asked playfully.
‘I don’t think I will look at dice the same way again…’
Bolton cleared his throat, gesturing to a nearby forensics tent. ‘Shall we get on?’
Harken led the three of them through to the tent where a large, flabby man lay facedown on the ground. As the three detectives filed in, Harken handed Bolton a soggy wallet that he passed on to Scutter to open up. Delving through the layers of leather, Scutter soon found what he was looking for.
‘Henry Jones. Thirty-six years old,’ he announced, producing a sodden, white card from the wallet. ‘A banker according to his business card. No money missing.’
‘He was found face down in the lock this morning,’ Harken explained, directing her comments towards Giles. ‘I estimate he’d been there since the early hours of the morning.’
Bolton shrugged. ‘Could he have fallen in? Night on the town, maybe?’
Harken shook her head. ‘I’ll run a tox-screen back at the lab, of course, but I don’t see anything to suggest that. Besides…’ she pointed at the victim’s neck ‘…there are ligature marks around his throat.’
‘Suicide?’ piped up Scutter.
Giles coughed. ‘No one tries to strangle themselves and then throws themselves into a lock. It’s too messy.’ She turned back to Harken. ‘Is it him?’
Harken shot a knowing look and bent down next to the body. Carefully, she placed her fingers under the dead man’s clothing and began to lift it up.
‘I called you as soon as I saw it.’
As she brought the shirt past the centre of the man’s back, Giles could see the blue-violet flowers strapped to his skin using duct tape. She didn’t react at first, aware that Harken was staring intently up at her, but Scutter was not so veiled.
‘Oh my God,’ he whispered. ‘Not another one.’
Giles let herself into the small apartment, carefully placing the keys down on the side table as she pulled her latex gloves over her fingers.
Henry Jones had been successful in his lifetime, but that success had made him a rather lonely man. His neighbours didn’t know him very well and he had little family to speak of. As Giles walked past the bare walls and shelves devoid of any personal photographs, she somehow felt less sorry for the man.
True he had been murdered but – somehow – Giles wondered whether he would have lasted much longer had that not been the case. The man who had lived here was not a man enjoying life to the full, but a man waiting to die. Waiting for the end of it all.
Maybe he did him a favour…
She made her way through to the next room, moving straight across to a large desk at the far side. She flicked through a pile of letters that lay discarded on the desk – nothing particularly intimate, just bills mostly. She opened up a bank statement and casually glanced down the transactions.
Henry Jones may not have been full of the joys of life, but he certainly knew how to party. His debit and credit card bills were littered with the names of nightclubs and off-licenses, fancy restaurants and expensive hotels.
A regular amount had been withdrawn in cash. Always the same – three hundred and fifty pounds on the tenth of each month.
Probably a hooker, Giles thought.
She was about to set the letter back down when something caught her eye – a large deposit that had been placed in Jones’ account a week or so before the murder…
Twenty thousand pounds.
‘I wonder what that’s about…’
Scutter stirred reluctantly, sitting up from his mid-day nap and glaring at Giles as she marched across the office towards him. He knew that look well enough – and it usually resulted in more work for him.
Giles handed him the bank statement.
‘I need you to look into that last deposit made into Jones’ account. It was twenty grand from an unnamed account. I need you to see if we can find anything on it.’
‘What for? We already know it was Bluebell who got him.’
‘Just do it, John…’
Giles strode away, acutely aware of Scutter cursing beneath his breath. She made her way quickly across the office and knocked on a large door that led through to Bolton’s personal office space.
Bolton peered up at her with tired eyes.
‘Eve, do we have anything yet?’
‘Nothing new,’ replied Giles, taking a seat opposite him. ‘No one seems to know much about Jones apart from the fact he was a banker. He doesn’t seem to have had any close friends or family.’
Bolton sighed. ‘Well, I don’t imagine it would do us much good anyway. It hasn’t so far.’
‘One possible lead though,’ Giles continued. ‘Jones received a large payment shortly before his death. It might be worth looking in to…’
‘How much are we talking?’
Giles told him. Bolton whistled and rubbed his large forehead, his fingers toying with the fringes of his short, black, curly hair.
‘Alright, it’s worth a shot,’ he said, leaning back in his chair. ‘The Commander is screaming to know what’s happening. The last thing he wants is to be in the dark when another ‘Bluebell Killer’ headline appears tomorrow morning…’
In the next room, a phone began to ring. Giles looked up and could see Scutter gesturing wildly towards her desk. Taking her cue, Giles made her excuses and left Bolton’s office, moving swiftly across the floor and taking a seat behind her own desk.
‘Giles,’ she announced down the phone.
‘Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles?’
The voice on the end of the phone was calm and confident, quiet but well-spoken.
‘That’s right,’ Giles replied. ‘Whom am I speaking to?’
‘My name is not important. But what I want is.’
Giles hesitated. ‘And what do you want?’
‘To help.’ The voice took a long deep breath. ‘I have information on the man you have come to know as The Bluebell Killer.’ He hesitated. ‘Am I right in thinking you are the person to talk to?’
Giles’ heart skipped a beat. Her eyes darted over to the far side of the room to Bolton’s office. Through the gap in the blinds she could just about make out his strong figure, rocking back and forth on his chair as he flung small balls of paper into the waste paper basket.
‘I’m in charge of the investigation, yes…’
‘Is Frank Bolton no longer on the team?’
Giles hesitated – a pang of guilt flitting across her mind.
‘I meant that DI Bolton doesn’t usually deal with individual informants,’ she lied, reaching forward to the keypad. ‘But, if you’d like, I can see if he would be willing to talk with you…’
‘No,’ the voice replied sharply. ‘Do not trust him with this, do you understand? Do not trust anyone else with this.’
‘I can assure you that DI Bolton and my team are amongst some of the finest officers in the district…’
‘My help is for you. No one else.’ The voice sounded more urgent this time.
Giles glanced around the room. Nobody had been paying attention to her conversation.
Pity. I could use a second set of ears…
‘Alright,’ she said slowly. ‘What information have you got?’
The voice took a deep breath. ‘Henry Jones is confirmed as one of his victims, is he not?’
Giles’ eyes widened. ‘How did you know that?’
The voice hesitated a moment longer. ‘Follow the money.’
The line went dead.
Giles was ready the next time the mysterious caller contacted her. It had been a good few weeks and, during that time, Giles had made it her habit of recording every conversation she had on her desk line. As the phone rang this time, she gave little thought to it as she clicked on the recorder and settled back into her chair.
‘Did you find it?’
It was him.
‘Yes, I did.’
Giles shook her head. ‘If this is going to carry on, I’m going to need a name.’
The voice went quiet as he thought for a moment. ‘You can call me Max,’ he said finally.
‘Not your real name, I’m guessing?’
The voice chuckled. ‘I just had to look around for inspiration. Now, tell me, what did you learn?’
‘I’m not at liberty to discuss that with members of the public…’
‘Then I shall tell you,’ Max interrupted. ‘You discovered that the account that sent that large sum to Mr Jones also sent large sums to several other people, am I correct?’
Giles glanced around furtively before replying. ‘That’s right.’
‘And each is now dead – all victims of the Bluebell Killer, right?’
Giles didn’t reply at first. On a television at the far side of the room, Scutter and another officer were watching the news as the latest updates from the Houses of Parliament flashed across the screen.
‘Why does he pay them first, Max?’ she asked tentatively. ‘What’s the connection?’
‘The account is anonymous and untraceable. You will never find a link back to your killer that way.’
‘Then give me something, anything to go on.’
The voice went silent. ‘The Bluebell Killings are all different. Each method of murder is different from all the others and yet you believe, whole heartedly, that they are all linked somehow.’
‘Because of the bluebells…’
‘Any fool can drop a bunch of bluebells on a corpse, DS Giles.’
‘So what’s the point?’
‘The point is that the bluebells are a distraction, a ploy to make you think that the murders have all been committed by the same person…’
Giles’ mind stuttered to a halt.
‘What are you trying to tell me?’
The voice chuckled. ‘The bluebells are a warning. ‘Don’t mess with the Bluebell Killer’. The man you seek is powerful and with a great deal of influence…’
‘You mean a gang lord? A mafia type?’
‘In the past, bodies were got rid of quietly,’ Max replied. ‘No body. No questions. The man you seek is a new breed of terror.’
‘But who is he? Who is the Bluebell Killer?’
There was silence on the end of the line. For a moment, Giles thought she could hear the sound of a whimper echoing behind Max, followed by a hiss of quiet. When Max spoke again, his voice sounded more relax – like a great strain had been lifted from his conscience.
‘When I have more proof, I will be in touch.’
And with that, Max was gone.
Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant– the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow.
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