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, Nookand Smashwords.
Barker didn’t say another word for the rest of the journey. Occasionally, he glanced down at the clock on the dashboard or else checked the windows and mirrors for any sign of a police tail. But – for the most part – he remained relaxed in his seat.
He wasn’t even clasping hold of the gun anymore
He was truly a man content with his own protection.
He sat with his eyes closed and a slight smile adorning his face. His fingers gently tapped his thighs and his head rocked gently with the movement of the car. It was as if he knew that nothing could possibly touch him. His guardian angel was right by his side, carefully scooting in and out of traffic. It didn’t seem to matter to him that she was there under duress. She would keep him safe – no matter what.
The great towering building blocks of London had all but enveloped them in a secure safety net. As Giles navigated through the London streets, tiredness overcame Barker and he finally succumbed to the rocking and fell into the most contented sleep.
He had not revealed his hand; that flourish was being saved for the moment when he was safely away from the danger in the witness protection programme. As long as his mouth remained shut, Giles would protect him – they both knew it. And as long as a potential deal was on the cards, he wouldn’t utter a single word…
He was the man in control…
It had been such a long time…
And it felt good…
Even in the deepest recesses of his slumber, Barker felt the car come to a sudden halt. He jolted into consciousness, his eyes spinning this way and that expecting to see some police officer stood beside the window or a gun being pointed in his face…
That would have been the worst of it.
To come so far only to be foiled when victory was within his grasp would have been…
Death at this moment – in this place – would have been so undignified.
Daniel Barker sprawled against the passenger seat, his brains soaking the headrest and his eyes bulging in panic. Pale, blood-soaked…
And in a Micra of all things.
That was not the way Daniel Barker was supposed to go. But the fear of that end was all that gripped his mind as his hand sprang out towards Giles, grasping her arm for comfort.
As he took hold of Giles, his spare hand patted at his thigh in search of the weapon. To his surprise, he found it almost instantly – right where he left it. As he scooped it up in his hand, he turned it towards the detective, and pulled back the hammer in what he hoped was a threatening manner.
It took him a moment or two.
Second by second the haziness of his sleep subsided and his surroundings began to swim into view. There was no police officer, no man with a gun. Giles wasn’t trying to pull a fast one – in fact there was nothing to account for Giles’ sudden stop at all.
‘What’s going on?’
There was a glint in her eye as Giles reached across and removed Barker’s grip on her arm, placing it carefully back on his lap. She replied with only a mischievous smile before reaching across for the handle of the driver’s side door and climbing out into the quiet street.
Barker’s eyes followed her as she moved around the front of the car towards the passenger side door. Up ahead, the narrow road was spanned by a brick bridge, wide enough – Barker supposed – to be a railway bridge. A group of tourists emerged from the shadows, moving in the direction of the car and chatting excitedly as they made their way down the road before turning off a side street to Barker’s left. They paid little attention to the man quivering in the car. Instead their eyes were drawn to a large, square tower ahead of them that loomed over the low buildings around it.
Giles reached the passenger side door and pulled it open, peering cheerfully inside.
‘Are you coming?’ she asked playfully.
‘What are you doing?’ he demanded, retreating a little further from the door as a blast of cool air swept inside the car.
He raised the gun as high as he dared until the barrel was pointing directly in Giles’ face…
The detective barely paid it any attention.
‘I want a coffee,’ she replied, nodding back towards the cathedral behind her. ‘Are you staying here, or coming with?’
High on the wall of the building behind her, Barker could see a small, white road sign:
‘Where are we?’ he asked, turning around in his seat to look down the narrow street behind him.
‘Are you coming?’
Barker turned back to look at the group of tourists. They had nearly reached the far end of the street but, rather than looking up at the grey tower in front of them, their eyes were drawn to something round the corner, beyond a small car park that was covered by a glass roof with green metal supports. Barker narrowed his eyes on a small sign that arched over the car park entrance:
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Barker started to piece everything together. He had been here before – some time ago now – but he had been here. He watched the tourists disappear around the corner, pointing excitedly at something just out of sight. And then he was thrown from his thoughts by a low rumble. Looking up at the bridge ahead of him, he saw the sleek white and green snake of a train rumbling slowly towards the direction of the grey tower.
And then it hit him.
A wave of panic shot through his body like a knife driving through his skin. He turned his head sharply towards Giles, grasping a tighter hold of the gun as he waved it in her face.
He glared up at her and said through gritted teeth:
‘Are you mad?’
‘Are you coming?’
‘That’s Southwark Cathedral,’ Barker said, nodding towards the square tower. ‘Borough Market.’
‘I am aware…’
‘Borough Market is next to London Bridge Station.’
A curious smile leapt across Giles’ face.
Barker sank further into his chair, staring up at Giles as she casually shrugged and looked down the street to where the tourists had disappeared. Just round that corner, Barker knew there would be a collection of market stalls that run alongside the front of the cathedral, leading up to the giant, glass, arched building of the market entrance. There would be dozens of different stalls from all over the UK selling meat, game, fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread and pastries and cheese. Dozens of tourists and locals intermingling in one or two crowded streets where a person could get lost in the crowd so easily…
He looked down at his watch and took in the time.
The market would be closing soon. But they would have enough time to grab a coffee from one of the temporary catering vans parked up at the end of the street. He supposed it would be better than walking into the station itself to grab one from the coffee stores at London Bridge but still…
His next thought struck his brain like a hammer against an anvil. He turned to Giles and made to grab at her. She was too quick for him and, barely had his hand begin to move, she stepped back away from the car door, smirking down at him as he cowered in the front seat.
‘It’s a Bank Holiday,’ he hissed. ‘The market isn’t even open today.’
‘Isn’t it?’ Giles replied, turning up the street as though she hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about. ‘Oh well, I’m sure I can find somewhere to get a drink. If not, we’ll have to venture into the station…’
‘Don’t you dare. This is where the Edenbridge train stops. If the Kent plods are following us by train…’
‘They’ll be arriving here at any moment.’
Barker scowled up at her. He could tell by the sparkle in her eyes that Giles knew exactly what she was doing. She meant to draw him out into the open, make him feel vulnerable and exposed so that she could force information out of him. But he wasn’t going to play – not when he had gotten so far…
He crossed his arms and sank back into his seat.
‘I’m not getting out.’ He raised the gun at her, trying his best to look intimidating. ‘And you’re not either.’
Giles barely blinked.
‘Are you going to shoot me?’
‘I’ve killed two today already…’
‘In the middle of town? In broad daylight?’ Giles laughed. ‘That’s a different ball game entirely.’
Barker crossed his arms even tighter. He felt like a petulant child, but he couldn’t let Giles leave. There was no way she was going to leave him exposed like this. She needed him as much as he needed her – her career would be as good as over if she allowed him to escape.
Giles glanced up at the railway bridge. Another train was starting its slow crossing over the street as it pulled into London Bridge station. She turned back to Barker, shrugged and reached for the door.
No sooner had she slammed the door in his face had she span around and strode up Winchester Way, her feet clipping loudly on the tarmac. And Barker was left alone with nothing but his fears – and a gun.
Giles headed up the street without looking back at the car. All along the pavement, she eyed the double yellow lines on the tarmac with immense satisfaction. All the streets around here had parking restrictions, particularly the narrow ones like the street she’d pulled up in. It would only be a matter of time before a parking warden would find the car, and probably even less time before Barker would realise the precariousness of his situation.
She made her way straight past the car park to the very base of Southwark Cathedral, before turning right down Cathedral Street. On a normal day, this street would be bustling with bright stalls, sensual aromas and the calls of the market sellers whilst hundreds of customers weaved in and out of the stands. But Barker was right – this being a Bank Holiday, there was barely anyone in sight except the excitable Japanese tourists up ahead who, presumably unaware of the Bank Holiday, had made the trip down to the market anyway.
Cutting down the side street where most of these stalls are usually found, Giles treaded the tarmac and brick floor, heading vaguely in the direction of the railway bridge and The Shard, which towered up above her, seeming to cut through the clouds above like a razor through cotton. To her relief, she found a small mobile coffee store just beneath the railway bridge. She ordered a double espresso and, after giving a particularly generous tip to the server, began to meander her way back towards the cathedral. After a short distance, she stopped and leant up against the wall, tossing her coat in between the railings and enjoying the warm, roasting smell of the coffee in her hands.
She didn’t have to wait long.
She’d only taken her first sip when she spotted him racing around the corner of Cathedral Street, breathing heavily and staring around in wide-eyed panic. He spotted her on the wall and headed straight over, a sense of pure anger radiating from his body as he stamped his feet heavily against the hard ground. He moved swiftly down the small stretch of road, his eyes darting everywhere from the railway bridge to the Shard, and down the street and up at the cathedral tower behind him. He didn’t even attempt to be subtle as he clattered to a halt in front of her, snarling at her and gesturing wildly as he hissed:
‘You left me.’
Giles calmly took a long, exaggerated sip from her espresso.
‘Yes, I suppose I did,’ she replied. ‘Try not to look too nervous you’re drawing attention to yourself.’
She nodded towards the mobile coffee shop. A group of customers were stood beneath the service hatch, staring in their direction. Barker glanced up at them before sitting – as much as he could – against the low, stone wall. Even in his attempts to look relaxed, he looked out of place – much like a teacher trying to blend in with the popular kids at school.
‘You left me,’ he repeated.
‘You could have driven yourself away. You had a car after all. And a gun.’
‘I wasn’t going to leave you behind,’ Barker replied. ‘And besides, I don’t know how to hotwire a car.’
‘Well, I can think of no better time to learn. You may need that skill before the day is out.’
Giles took another sip as the customers from the coffee shop, takeaway cups in hand, walked slowly past them. One of them, an older lady, stared hard at Barker, seemingly stopping for a moment with her mouth dropping open as she recognised the former politician. A swift glare from Barker sent her on their way but she still looked back at them long after she had rounded the corner and moved down the next street.
Giles leant forward to Barker with a wry grin on her face. ‘I wonder if she recognised you,’ she said playfully. ‘The news might be full of it by now.’
Barker shook his head in disbelief.
‘Why are you doing this?’ he hissed.
Giles peered over the top of her cup and lowered it down, placing it carefully on the wall as she peered through the railings up at the cathedral.
‘I broke you away from Harris because you have something I want,’ she explained. ‘I put my career on the line for you. I could go to jail for what I have done. And in return, I got nothing by lies and coy games.’ She stared pointedly at him. ‘I don’t particularly like that arrangement.’
‘It’s the way it has to be,’ Barker replied.
‘No, it’s the way you want it to be. Not the same thing at all.’
Barker leaned forward earnestly. ‘We are exposed here!’
‘Yes, we are,’ replied Giles, beginning to enjoy herself. ‘I’m sure the Kent boys will be arriving at London Bridge any moment now. But, on the plus side, I doubt they’ll think we’d be hiding in a deserted market place. After all, what kind of fugitive stops for a coffee in the spot they are most likely to be?’
‘You are trying my patience.’
‘And you are trying mine,’ replied Giles. ‘I am fed up of running for the sake of a man who won’t give anything in return. Now you killed someone I liked – right in front of my eyes – and I never agreed to let you get away with that. Part of any deal is that we both get what we want, so we will remain here until I get what I want.’
Barker glanced around the market. Another group of people had appeared from underneath the railway bridge, heading swiftly in their direction. Giles turned to look at them, scrutinising their faces as they pounded towards them before deciding that they were probably just a bunch of lads on their way out for the night.
She turned back to Barker who nodded reluctantly as sweat dripped slowly down his face.
‘Alright fine, I’ll tell you…’
‘Oh no, I insist on going first,’ replied Giles. ‘Part of being a detective is you get to have that great revelation moment. You’re taking all the fun out of it if you don’t let me tell you what I know first…’
Barker stared at her, his eyes pleading and close to tears. ‘No, I’ll tell you everything…’
‘You know what it was that gave you away, don’t you? It wasn’t anything to do with you at all, not really. It was the dead man that didn’t make sense. He was dressed in a jacket and walking trousers. He had dried mud on his shoes from constant hikes. Whereas you were dressed in your Sunday best. Of the two of you, he was the one who looked like he belonged out there. Add the presence of that mysterious dog leash and you have the makings an assassin who fitted in better with his environment than the man he was trying to kill…’
Barker shook his head instinctively. ‘It was self-defence.’
‘Daniel, you shot my friend dead in cold blood – with expert marksmanship. Do you really expect anyone to believe that you were the innocent party in all this?’
‘The train ticket,’ Barker replied. ‘That’s my proof…’
Giles allowed herself a small smile. ‘The train tickets? You mean the ones you wrote my name and yours on to?’
‘Alright, so I did that bit to sell the story, but the tickets were still his.’
‘Oh, but they weren’t his tickets, were they?’ Giles shot back curtly. ‘They were yours.’
Barker froze. ‘Mine?’
‘No need to be so surprised, Mr Barker. You must have realised that I was on to you once we left the train. Checking your pockets at East Croydon station for a ticket you never brought was a particularly silly error on your part.’ Giles sighed with contentment. ‘It was unlucky that you didn’t think fast enough when I asked you if you had one. No man searches his pockets for a train ticket when he knows he hasn’t brought one that day. Besides which, if the ticket did belong to our victim, how did he buy one when he hadn’t brought a wallet with him? There was no loose change in his pocket to suggest he had just taken money with him. No debit or credit card. Very strange, wouldn’t you agree?’
Giles settled back against the wall.
‘I wonder if you can tell me what kind of car you drove to Edenbridge with today, Mr Barker?’ she said with a clipped precision in her voice.
‘Well…’ he hesitated. ‘I…’
‘I can make it easier for you, if you’d like?’ Giles interrupted, lifting herself up on to the wall and allowing her legs to dangle a few inches above the pavement. ‘I examined your keys back at the crime scene so I think I can narrow down the make…’
Barker sat very still and very quietly. Giles smiled at him and leant back against the railings, picking up her espresso and taking a long sip.
‘It wasn’t self defence at all, was it?’ she asked thoughtfully. ‘You knew that man was going to be out there. I bet he was walking a dog – he probably didn’t have a clue that you were hiding in the pillbox until it was too late. A single shot to the back of the head from that distance. After your demonstration with Alison, I have no doubt that you could have done it…’
Barker swallowed hard.
‘That’s a lie…’
‘But you didn’t count on that witness being so close by. You thought you’d have enough time to hide the body and make a clean getaway. But when she spotted you bent over his body, you had to improvise. You concocted the lie that you were the one who was attacked, emptied your victim’s pockets, scribbled out names on the two parts of the train ticket and then promised me information to break you out of police custody. I know exactly what you did – I never had any doubt in my mind. In fact, the only thing I don’t know is what you did with that bullet casing.’
Barker started to shake his head but was stopped from speaking by a single, solitary finger that Giles held up towards him.
‘You have heard my part. Now we will hear yours. Then, and only then, I will decide whether we continue our little journey together…’
Staring straight into Barker’s eyes, she leaned in closer.
‘Now is the time to be the informant you wanted to be, Mr Barker. What do you know about the Bluebell Killer? What did you want to tell me?’
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!