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 for free through Amazon.com, iBooks, Kobo, Nook and Smashwords.
Giles had lost track of time in all the excitement and confusion. She had assumed it was a little past eleven but, when she finally looked down at her watch, the hour hand was close to the two. Hours and minutes felt all the same to her and the hustle and bustle of the crime scene passed before her eyes as though it were in a world of its own.
At the far side of the field, sat cross-legged close to bramble bush between the watchful eyes of two constables, Barker glared coldly out at her. He had descended from the elegant heights of public politics to the lowest form of criminal in a matter of weeks – though Giles would argue the transition was not as far as some might suggest. Revealed and isolated, there was little he could do but sit and wait. The last hope he had – the final resort – had been his undoing.
A short distance away, Harris finished up with Bellamy and, with a brief shake of the hand, the two parted ways. With the hard work on the crime scene done, Harris took a moment to breathe it all in – his eyes lingering for one more time on the blood stained pillbox and the crumpled red grass where the body once lay.
Only when he was completely satisfied did he walk smartly towards Giles, stopping a few feet in front of her. He didn’t need to speak his gratitude – his smile had already done that for him – but he said it nonetheless:
‘I couldn’t have done this without you, Giles,’ he said.
‘Eve,’ Giles replied. ‘My name is Eve.’
‘All right… Eve.’
He turned his head to follow Giles’ gaze. Barker hadn’t moved for nearly thirty minutes – as still as a statue, he had been glaring straight at her. But it wasn’t intimidating – that wouldn’t be the right word for it at all – pleadingly might be a more apt description.
‘He’ll be taken back to the station,’ Harris explained. ‘We’ll charge him with murder. I could even toss in a ‘wasting police time’ if you’d like?’
‘It won’t make a difference,’ Giles replied sullenly. ‘You haven’t got enough to convict him.’
Harris sucked at his lips. ‘There’s time. Besides it’s not like we have nothing: there’s the discrepancy of the shot range for starters. And the casing – I’m sure it will turn up eventually…’
Giles shook her head.
‘If you haven’t found it now, you’re not going to. More than likely it’s at the bottom of the river.’
‘Yes,’ Harris replied, although he didn’t seem to be in agreement with her. ‘Well, that’s not your problem anymore.’ He held out a firm hand to her. ‘Thank you for your help. I trust you’ll be available for testimony if we need it?’
Giles ignored the outstretched hand. Over the last thirty minutes an idea had been forming in her mind – an unsettling idea that had gripped hold of her and refused to let go. Despite every conscious attempt on her part to brush it aside, the idea had held firm, festered and spread until every single thought of her’s was consumed by it – consumed by a single question.
She snapped her head towards Harris, her face set and unyielding as she said:
‘Detective Inspector, I wonder if I might ask a favour?’
Harris was only too happy to oblige until Giles told him what she wanted. The colour drained from his face and a sense of doom seemed to take hold of him.
‘Absolutely not,’ he replied. ‘This is still my investigation, Giles. This man has been arrested for murder. I can’t possibly…’
‘We both know you haven’t got a case,’ Giles interrupted, speaking quietly so that no one else could hear. ‘Any good lawyer will get it thrown out within the hour, and Daniel Barker will be able to get himself a good lawyer.’
‘But what you’re talking about is madness. He’s been manipulating us from the first moment and now he’s got you right where he had me only an hour ago. I can’t allow you to buy into this…’
‘But he knows something about my case.’
‘Then let us take him in, get him locked down and then I can let you talk to him. Just wait one hour until we have him processed and then you can question him to your heart’s content…’
‘Five minutes.’ She held up the fingers of her left hand. ‘Just five minutes alone with him. That’s all I’m asking for…’
‘I’m going to need a damn sight more than that, Eve,’ Harris replied. ‘This man is looking at a murder charge – any hint that we haven’t done this thing by the book and his lawyers will eat us alive. It’s going to be hard enough to explain why I let you help in the first place without you following your own lines of inquiry into a separate case…’
‘Daniel Barker didn’t kill that man.’
To say that Harris didn’t understand would be a gross understatement. He blinked twice and his mouth dropped open slightly, but no sound came out – nothing distinguishable as sound at any rate. When he finally did speak, it almost seemed as though it had come from somewhere else, as his lips barely moved and his whole body was stiffened with nervous tension.
‘What the hell are you playing at?’
Giles had little time to explain – in truth, she couldn’t really explain it herself. But somewhere in the back of her mind a small voice willed her on.
‘I mean…’ she hesitated, ‘… he might not have killed that man.’
Harris would have laughed if the matter weren’t so serious.
‘Are you out of your mind?’ he spluttered. ‘The whole morning you’ve been on my back, desperate to prove that Barker is a murderer. You’ve finally convinced me and now you’re saying he didn’t do it.’
‘I know it doesn’t make sense…’
‘You even found the evidence that refuted his story for Christ’s sake. You practically got a confession out of him…’
‘But I didn’t, did I?’ Giles fired back. ‘What did he admit to? Nothing? Writing a couple of names on two train tickets and planting them at the scene. That doesn’t mean the rest of his story isn’t true…’
‘It poses a credibility problem if nothing else…’
‘Five minutes. That’s all I need and then he’s all yours, I promise.’
Harris sighed deeply. He had gotten over the shock now and his mind was begging to work. Even now, Giles could see the cogs turning in his brain as the colour returned to his face.
‘You tell me one thing,’ he muttered, moving in menacingly close to Giles. ‘Who is this man to you?’
‘He’s no one…’
‘No, no,’ he interrupted, waggling a rigid finger at her. ‘Don’t give me that. An hour ago you would have made it your mission in life to see Barker ended, now you can’t wait to get him on side. What was it about the Bluebell Killer that made you change your mind?’
‘Five minutes,’ she said. ‘Let me talk to him for five minutes. Just to find out what he knows – if he really is who I think he is. Anything about the murder will be strictly off limits, I promise…’
‘And who do you think he is? Clearly not Daniel Barker the extreme politician. Clearly not the man who would have you and everyone like you drummed out of the country…’
Giles smiled warmly back at him. ‘If he is who I think he is, I promise you will have an explanation…’
‘You’ll give me one anyway.’
He turned to look at Barker and then, with a slight swoop of his hand, he finally relented and gestured for Giles to approach. If appreciation could ever be conveyed by a nod, Giles demonstrated it in that moment. She stepped past him and marched quickly up to Barker, aware that Harris was gesturing something over her shoulders. As though on cue, the two constables stepped away from Barker as she arrived and walked a few metres away, giving them plenty of space.
She didn’t want Barker’s approval – but she got it anyway.
‘Very nice,’ he said, shifting his weight to get slightly more comfortable. ‘The power you must wield Detective Sergeant Giles. You must be a truly formidable opponent…’
‘You would know. That’s how you got into this mess, isn’t it?’ She let the question hang for a few seconds. ‘Who are you?’
A sly grin etched its way across Barker’s face.
‘I didn’t mean to kill him,’ he said soothingly. ‘You have to believe that.’
‘I didn’t ask…’
‘No,’ Barker agreed. ‘But you are curious.’
The silence that followed was almost unbearable. Five minutes is never enough time to do anything and, as the silence ate away at it, Giles’ began to feel the strangest sensation of fear and panic – although she had no real reason to be.
‘You know,’ she said, ‘they have all the evidence they need to put you away.’
Barker’s mouth curled with a momentary glimpse of anger. ‘Evidence based on prejudice is no evidence at all.’
‘Coming from a man with your ideological background, that’s really touching…’
Barker paused, took a deep breath and steadied himself. ‘It’s just politics. It’s nothing personal.’
‘Not to you maybe…’
Although she didn’t show it, inside Giles felt like smiling. For the first time since she had laid eyes on Barker, she felt the cautious feeling of triumph moving through her body. Barker, the man who made it acceptable to hate others in Britain, was accused of murder and the evidence was pointing towards a probable conviction. The man who inspired so much ill feeling was facing a lifetime in one of the darkest buildings in Britain…
Good riddance to him…
Deep inside her, a hissing beast wiggled around, willing Giles to turn and walk away.
‘You can’t allow them to take me in,’ Barker protested, crossing his arms and staring confrontationally around at the surrounding officers.
‘I can’t stop them. This isn’t my jurisdiction.’
‘What if I made it your jurisdiction?’
‘Why am I here?’
‘Don’t you understand? It’s all linked together. The killer you’re hunting, the man who tried to have me killed – it’s the same person.’
Giles chuckled. ‘The Bluebell Killer is dead. You know that as well as I do.’
‘Then why does he want us both dead?’
Barker glanced around. The ring of uniformed officers didn’t seem to be listening but he didn’t want to take any chances. He leant forward a little and whispered:
‘You were so close to bringing him down. So close.’
‘I did bring him down,’ Giles replied. ‘I have my scars to prove it…’
She reached up and touched the scarf around her neck. Barker’s eyes narrowed to look at the silk material, but Giles kept it firmly in place. Barker shook his head.
‘You found Donnovan, but that man is not the whole story,’ he muttered, his eyes narrowing on her. ‘You should really have followed the money…’
If there was ever any doubt in Giles’ mind about who Daniel Barker was to her, it had all but gone now. Inside her stomach, the beast wriggled a little and whispered to her.
Is that enough for you?
Giles took a step forward. Had it been any other person, she might have risked a smile. Instead, she stared at him for a moment before giving a short, courteous nod.
Hidden behind a desk in the Kent Force Control Room, Alison Carew peered subtly over the top of her computer. At the next desk in front, Lawrence Heller was doing his usual tea run, moving from desk to desk to take their orders as he did at this time every morning. As he stopped at the desk before Alison’s, his eyes momentarily flickered up to see her peering out at him. With what she hoped was with a casual demeanour, Alison allowed her eyes to wander around the room before she slinked back into her chair and pretended to resume her typing.
She had hoped that this would be the day when Lawrence would extend his generosity as far as her relegated position at the back of the Control Room, that finally she would be accepted as one of the team. But, as he did everyday, Lawrence merely chuckled to himself and went off to grab the beverages for the rest leaving Alison with the cold, hard feeling of undeserved misery and uselessness.
She had never been one of the team. Ever since they found out who her father was, Alison had been the person to avoid. She was the daughter of the Former Prime Minister; the man who not only successfully led the country blindly in to near bankruptcy, but had also flourished his achievement with a couple of illegal wars that tore the straps of Britain’s communal camaraderie to shreds. For those who didn’t like the current government, Edmund Carew was the target of all their abuse and, as his daughter, Alison was no less a focus of their brutal remarks.
It had been this isolation that had made Alison so eager to run the secretive errands for the top dogs of the Force. Occasionally that meant snitching on the others in her team much to their disgust and irritation but, given her already well-established unpopularity, it had made little difference to her day-to-day existence.
Although, the occasional cup of tea would have been nice…
It had been a slow day so far. The only real incident had been the body found by the River Eden earlier that morning. The Bank Holiday usually brought its fair share of drunken scuffles and domestic disturbances but nothing that seriously strained them. Today there had hardly been any so far. But the day was still young and afternoon rush would soon be in full swing…
Alison listened attentively to the radio chatter coming from the scene at Edenbridge, watching jealously as Lawrence returned with a tray full of teas that he dished out gleefully to the rest of the team. She had little to do after the initial call out save for recovering some contact details for Detective Sergeant Giles for the DI on scene. The waves had been effectively silent ever since.
But now the radio was positively buzzing with activity as the team packed up to head back.
‘Dispatch Control, do you read me, over?’
Alison cleared her throat and adjusted her headset to bring the microphone closer to her mouth. ‘This is Dispatch, reading you clearly, over.’
‘Please advise the station, we are bringing in a suspect, over.’
Alison’s nimble fingers darted over her keyboard as she typed in the information. ‘Copy that. Central has been advised. What is the identity of the prisoner, over?’
‘Suspect’s name is Daniel Barker, over.’
She couldn’t stop herself. The mere mention of that man’s name caused her to freeze and draw a large breath of shock. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard and her mind formed an image of the man they had in custody; the man who’s youthful charm and wit had not only ousted her father but made him the most hated man in Britain. Daniel Baker – the man who ruined her father’s career…
And her life.
Vengeance comes in all forms. For Alison Carrew, the idea of Barker plunged into a jail cell was justice enough for what he’d done. But she was sure her superiors would want to know about it as well – after all, something as serious as Barker being brought in for murder…
‘Copy that. They’ll be ready. Out.’
The radio went silent.
Alison stared at the screen in silence, her fingers slowly reaching for her jacket pocket. From it, she removed a mobile phone that she tucked inside her sleeve as she quietly got to her feet and moved towards the door. From his desk, Lawrence watched her with a mischievous smile as she crossed the office and stepped through the door that led to the kitchen.
It was a cramped little kitchen, barely large enough for more than a couple of people to squeeze inside. She filled up the kettle and turned it on before taking out her phone and typing a text message.
Daniel Barker to be brought in. Suspected of murder in Edenbridge.
Satisfied, she hit the send button and waited until the message was gone before pocketing the phone. A few moments later, the kettle was boiled and Alison poured herself a cup of tea that she carried delicately back to her desk before continuing with her work.
She had a feeling that today was going to be very satisfying…
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.
To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!