Category Archives: Sneaky Snippets

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Three

Over the next thirty-odd weeks, I will be releasing my debut novel – The Bluebell Informant – chapter by chapter. If you have missed any chapters, you can find the full list with links here.

If you can’t wait for the next instalment, you can download a free Kindle version from here, or download from SmashwordsBarnes and Noble and Kobo. A kindle version is also available on Amazon, currently priced a £0.99 ($1.23) and paperback editions are in the works as well.

Chapter Three

Daniel Barker was taller in person. He stared hard at Giles through the haze left by his cigarette, his short brown hair moving only slightly with the strong breeze.

He stood with his back straight and his hands firmly down by his sides, projecting the archaic but traditional image of an English gentleman. The shirt he wore – with its sleeves rolled up the way politicians do when they want to look casual – was covered in a long streak of blood that started up by his shoulder and crossed his body to his waist like a great ceremonial sash. His jeans were splattered as well, but not to the same extent, and his smart trainers bore no signs of blood, although the soles were covered in a small scattering of grey dust.

Taking a long drag from his cigarette, Barker pondered Giles. He took his time, allowing his eyes to creep down her body, pausing on her breasts and her naval, before blowing out his cigarette smoke and flicking the butt down on to the ground.

‘What’s the story, Harris?’ he said, finally ripping his eyes away from Giles and turning towards the DI, his face seeming to relax the instant he did so.

Harris cleared his throat. ‘I’ve brought someone to see you.’

Barker’s eyes flickered back towards Giles. ‘So I see.’ They returned to Harris. ‘Perhaps you think that this might rattle me somehow?’

Harris didn’t reply. The anxious DI seemed to cower under Barker’s forceful stare. It wasn’t hard to see why. The former politician, whilst he appeared approachable and likeable on the television, had taken on a more commanding veneer. He glared at Harris with public school superiority, tightening his jaw muscles and widening out his shoulders in a primeval display of dominance.

‘I know your superiors, Harris,’ he continued, stepping a little closer, invading Harris’ personal space. ‘Chief Inspector Robshaw is a close personal friend of mine – we play golf once a month at my club. I’m sure he would have a lot to say about your pathetic attempts at psychological mind games…’

‘I assure you that is not the intention…’

‘Spare me your excuses,’ Barker replied, swatting the comment away with an arrogant hand. ‘You know my politics.’ He turned to face Giles. ‘You know my views on the Chinks.’

A ripple of anger crossed Giles’ body. What made it worse was that Barker could see it as well. A small smirk crept across his face and he took a little step forward, angling his body so that he slid in between Giles and Harris effectively cutting her out from the conversation.

‘Now, you want to know what went down here,’ he muttered. ‘I told you that I am not prepared to talk until I have spoken with Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles. I will not utter a word until she is here so I suggest that you stop wasting both of our times with your pathetic excuse at crime solving and start working on bringing DS Giles here. Do you understand?’

Harris opened his mouth to reply, but Giles was quicker off the mark. She cleared her throat, tapped Barker on the shoulder and said:

‘She’s already here.’

Surprisingly, Barker’s face didn’t register the astonishment that she’d hoped. Although she couldn’t see it, she felt him roll his eyes before turning his head to face her again. The smirk was still plastered across his face whilst his eyes burned with loathing.

‘Of course, you are,’ he said, before turning his head back to Harris.

‘I assure you, I am.’

This time, Barker didn’t even both to turn back. ‘A very nice idea,’ he sneered, ‘but DS Giles is British – a hard-working, model detective. Not a scumbag chink with her hands halfway in the welfare pot…’

Giles reached into her pockets whilst she tapped him on the shoulder. He turned his head once more, his face now displaying more than just a mild irritation, his mouth open and ready to lay into her once again. As his eyes fell on the warrant card, his mouth dropped open slightly and all colour vanished from his face. Without his reddish cheeks his face appeared rather gaunter than before and, as he read and reread the name on the warrant card, his lips seemed turn a hint of blue and sink into themselves.

‘You?’ he spluttered. ‘You’re Giles?’

Giles smiled. ‘Everyone seems so surprised by that today. Now I’m beginning to understand why.’

‘But you can’t possibly be…’

Harris stepped beside Giles and said: ‘I assure you she is…’

‘DI Harris has suggested that you might be one of my informants,’ Giles continued, her anger tinted with the slightest hint of enjoyment. ‘But, if I’m honest, I can’t see you ever coming to a chink when there are so many perfectly good, white officers to work with. To be frank, I’m surprised you even stretched as far as a woman…’

Barker stood, his mouth open but no words forming. His eyes fluttered between Harris and Giles, staring intently as though trying to see through their words to find the lie. The sneer had all but gone and what remained was nothing more than abject panic.

How unbelievably satisfying…

Giles flashed a sarcastic smile. ‘Good day to you gentlemen.’

 

Once out of sight of Barker, Giles headed straight across the crime scene to where the SOCOs had set up an evidence table beneath a white, fabric shelter. She ignored the words of protest from the officer stationed here and moved straight past him to stare down at the array of plastic bags containing everything from items of clothing to strands of hair and grass that cascaded over the table top. She had to hand it to the SOCOs here; they did a thorough job.

Bag by bag, Giles made her way along the table, examining each item, even holding some up to the light as she carefully set her mind on the evidence at hand. She didn’t even give any concentration to talking as the SOCO officer coughed beside her and said:

‘Excuse me, ma’am, what are you looking for?’

She simply raised a lone finger at him, not even bothering to tear her eyes away from the table before her. A few moments later, she caught sight of a flash of orange in amongst the translucent bags. With lightning fast speed, her nimble hands swooped down and plucked up the item in question, holding it up to the light.

A train ticket.

Outbound part of a return.

London Bridge to Edenbridge Town.

‘Today’s date?’

Today’s date…

Giles finally turned towards the SOCO stood next to her.

‘This ticket,’ she announced, thrusting it under his nose. ‘Was it found on the victim or did Barker have it?’

‘Sorry?’

‘The ticket. Barker or John Doe?’

The SOCO thought for a moment. ‘John Doe. It was in his pocket…’

Pity…

Giles thrust the ticket back down on the table and resumed her search, feigning ignorance of Harris’ calls as he marched across the crime scene towards her:

‘Giles. What the hell do you think you’re doing?’

Giles shook her head, moving on to the next bag.

Dog leash. Choke chain.

‘Looks new,’ she muttered.

Too new?

She examined the leather of the handle, staring hard down at the edges where the stitching had frayed slightly.

‘It’s been used enough…’

She was out of time. Harris stepped around her and quickly barred her way as she attempted to reach forward for another bag. Staring deep into her eyes, Harris was less of a shadow than he had been before – his firm grip exuded confidence; his voice was firm and steady:

‘Giles, what are you doing?’

Giles pulled herself away from him, trying to reach around for the next bag. With one hand, Harris batted her arm away from the evidence table and, with his other, he forced her back a few steps, taking her well out of reach.

‘This is my crime scene,’ he said, grabbing hold of her wrist and pushing it up against her shoulder.

‘And I’m helping you solve the case…’

With a twist of her wrist, Giles levered herself out of his grip and, with expert agility, pounced around him to approach the table once more. She reached out for the next bag, pulling it sharply towards her and holding it up to examine the jacket inside.

Blood-stained.

‘Blood matches the markings on Barker’s shirt…’

‘Well, it would do, muttered Harris, moving alongside her again. ‘It was the jacket Barker was wearing…’

Giles looked closer.

High-end jacket. Tweed.

‘Tailored?’

She looked closer still.

Tailored…

‘Look, Giles, what the hell are you after?’

Giles set down the jacket and continued to rifle through the rest of the evidence bags, occasionally stopping at something of interest, but otherwise moving briskly through them.

‘Barker seems insistent on drawing me into this thing. I want to know why.’

Harris let loose a single laugh.

‘Well, it’s like he said. He probably thought you were some sexy little thing from the city, not some grizzled dinosaur…’ He hesitated as Giles glared up at him. ‘No offence,’ he muttered. ‘He probably thought you were some home-grown girl that he could manipulate into getting him off the hook. There’s no more to it than that…’

‘I was brought up here, you know?’

‘Yeah,’ Harris replied, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning back on to his heels. ‘But you’re not really one of us, are you?’

He hesitated again under the chill of Giles’ icy stare.

As he went silent, Giles picked up a smaller evidence bag containing a small torn off piece of white and blue patterned paper. She only gave it a second of her attention before depositing it back down with the rest of the bags…

Good old SOCOs, she thought. Everything and anything is evidence

‘Tell me, Inspector Harris,’ she said as she continued rummaging through the bags. ‘Did you vote for him?’

She paused to stare up at him. His face was a picture – somewhere between pride, fear and utter confusion.

‘It’s all right if you did,’ she continued, returning to the bags. ‘Everyone has to vote with their own conscience. Did you vote for him?’

Harris hesitated.

‘Is that really appropriate, Sergeant?’

‘Because if you did, that would change the dynamics of your relationship, would it not? You’re no longer detective and suspect but leader and follower. The roles would be reversed. Under those circumstances, it wouldn’t be unnatural for you to want to believe in him…’

‘Are you suggesting that I would lie to get that man off a murder charge?’

‘I’m suggesting I was brought here for one reason only – to get Daniel Barker off the hook,’ Giles replied, turning to face the DI. ‘You summoned me here – you were most insistent that I come– but the moment you laid eyes on me you couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Why?’

Harris shook his head, his lip curling with disgust.

‘I’m not sure I like your tone, Detective…’

Giles shrugged.

‘You brought me here.’ She turned back to the evidence bags and gave another cursory scan. ‘And don’t worry, I don’t think that’s the case at all. You seem as anxious to get this one right as I am…’

‘Which is precisely why I am getting you off my crime scene, right now…’

Harris signalled to a couple of officers who quickly lumbered over the dodgy ground towards them. Giles ignored their presence, still shifting through the bags as their footsteps got closer and closer.

She reached forward and picked up the most important bag of all – the one containing a Glock 21 semi-automatic pistol. She examined it closely, feeling – with a certain satisfaction – Harris retreat a step or two away from her as he eyed the weapon in her hand. She didn’t take it out of the bag, but did carefully finger the weapon through the plastic, examining every groove and scratch before placing it back down on the table.

‘There was something on this crime scene that convinced you to call me, wasn’t there?’ she muttered, turning slightly towards Harris as she spoke. ‘Something that was undeniably linked to me; that was convincing enough for you to summon me all the way down here…’

Harris gave a brief shake of the head.

‘Like I told you, I was on my way here myself when I called…’

‘Your hands are cold, Harris,’ Giles announced. ‘Too cold to have only been out here for an hour or so. My guess is you’ve been here on site for at least two maybe three, am I right?’ She turned back to the bags. ‘No, there was something amongst this lot that forced you to get me down here. You would never have wanted me here if there wasn’t.’

The two constables arrived next to Harris, staring at him for orders as the DI watched Giles move through the bags once again.

‘I hear you have a good reputation, Giles,’ he announced. ‘But on this occasion, I’m afraid you’re wrong.’ He turned to the two constables. ‘Please escort Detective Sergeant Giles off the crime scene.’

Before Giles had a chance to react, she felt a firm hand on her shoulder and could barely stop herself from being spun back towards the bridge. With an officer pressed in tight on either side, she was marched swiftly back towards the path.

‘I can help you, Harris,’ she protested, resisting as much as she could between the burly arms of the two uniformed men. ‘If Barker has been trying to play you, he’s been trying to play me as well. We can bring him down together…’

Harris remained stood by the evidence table, his hands still firmly in his pockets as he rocked back and forth on his feet. All about him, SOCOs, constables and detectives alike all stood to watch as DS Giles was forcibly removed from the area. As Giles stared wildly back over her shoulder, she thought she could see a faint hint of a smile on Harris’ face.

‘Thanks for the offer, Giles, but I’m sure us small-town, rural boys can take it from here…’

Giles squirmed a little more. With each movement of resistance, the constables’ grip grew tighter on her shoulders. She threw her head back, making the whole scene turn upside down and bellowed:

‘I wouldn’t count on that. You haven’t seen what’s missing yet, have you?’

With that, the officer on her left reached up and threw her head forward, holding it in place as they frog marched her closer to the bridge. With every violent jerk, Giles began to realise the truth. She could no longer look back towards Harris – she could no longer see the crime scene. All she had was her mind and the mental images that she would summon up to remind her of what was there.

Those would fade and all but vanish in a matter of seconds.

And then she would be left with nothing…

‘Wait.’

At the sound of Harris’ voice, the two officers juddered to a halt and waited as Harris jogged up alongside them. He stared hard at Giles, pacing a little back and forth in front of her, kicking up dust and mud from the grass as he did so.

‘What are you talking about?’ he asked eventually. ‘What’s missing?’

Giles laughed.

‘Oh, come on, it’s obvious,’ she replied. ‘A man with a gaping bullet wound in the back of his head. A Glock by the body. Shots fired out on the grass…’

Harris moved a little closer.

‘Tell me.’

Giles smiled.

‘Where’s the bullet casing?’

The question seemed to completely confound Harris. Even as he stood before her, Giles could see his mind turning, trying desperately to recall whether he had seen one. As he had done before, his eyes wandered over Giles’ shoulder, looking back towards the crime scene…

Back towards the body lying slumped against the bunker wall…

His eyes snapped back to her.

‘The bullet casing is missing,’ he muttered, more to himself than in confirmation.

Giles nodded. ‘And that’s not the only thing,’ she replied. ‘But the casing is important…’

Harris shook his head in confusion.

‘You know where it is?’

Giles nodded again. ‘It’s so obvious, you’ll kick yourself when I tell you.’

Harris thought hard, his eyes flickering between Giles and the crime scene. Finally, and with an air of great reluctance, he nodded to the two constables who instantly released Giles. Stretching her neck and arms out, Giles reached up and pulled her scarf tighter about her neck as Harris took a step or two towards her.

‘You show me where it is,’ he demanded.

‘Oh, I’ll show you,’ Giles replied, flicking her hair back playfully. ‘Just as soon as you show me what it was that made you sure enough to bring me down here.’

nick1Nick 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!

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Two

Over the next thirty-odd weeks, I will be releasing my debut novel – The Bluebell Informant – chapter by chapter. If you missed Chapter One, you can find it here.

If you can’t wait for the next instalment, you can download a free Kindle version from here, or download from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. A kindle version is also available on Amazon, currently priced a £0.99 ($1.23) and paperback editions are in the works as well.

Chapter Two

‘You’re DS Giles?’

The officer on duty at the cordon stared down at Giles’ warrant card. He examined her picture for a long time, taking in her long black hair and piercing grey eyes before glancing up once more.

‘Is that a problem?’

The officer shook his head tautly. ‘No. No problem at all. You’re just not what we expected, that’s all…’

He handed the warrant card back to Giles.

‘And what were you expecting, Constable?’

The officer’s eyes squinted in the bright sunshine. Lowering his gaze, he stared off to a point somewhere over Giles’ shoulder where three or four football matches were in session in the great expanse of the recreation ground. He watched the nearest game, his mouth pouting as his mind racked for an appropriate response.

Giles already knew what this was about. It was a testament to the times they were living in. A few months ago, her reputation would have spoken for itself. But now, every time she arrived at a crime scene, she would receive the same suspicious looks – the same guise of thinly veiled disgust.

Unbelievable…

The officer glanced back at her, his eyes lingering on the white, silk scarf around her neck. Then he gave her a quick smile and, as though the uncomfortable moment had never happened, lifted up the cordon tape for her to pass underneath and beckoned her through.

Giles stared for a moment, her whole body itching to lay into him for his disgraceful attitude. He could sense it as well for, as she stepped forward and ducked down, he lowered the cordon ever so slightly forcing her to fumble awkwardly to the ground and wriggle under the tape.

‘Oops,’ he muttered jovially. ‘Sorry, ma’am.’

Scrambling back to her full height, Giles glared at the constable, wanting nothing more than to dress him down right then and there. But prudence got the better of her – sure, she was a superior officer but she knew who would come off worse in such an altercation.

He was in his own patch and she was an undesirable.

‘DI Harris is waiting for you across the bridge.’

Giles gave a curt nod of thanks and made her way towards the thin wooden bridge that crossed into the next field. Behind her, the officer giggled quietly to himself and she could feel his eyes watching her as she moved up the creaking steps and over the sturdy structure. Beneath her feet, a feeble brook flowed down towards a tributary where it joined a larger river in a series of shallow, but ferocious, weirs that crashed its way down stream towards the town of Edenbridge.

Giles reached up and pulled her scarf a little tighter, pulling it as close to her skin as she could bear.

She hadn’t thought much of the town as she had driven through it. True, there was a lot more greenery – trees, open fields, hedgerows – than one might expect from a town with a population of eight thousand people, but the vast majority of the architecture seemed rather bland and unappealing. The exception to this, of course, were the numerous Tudor-style houses that made up the old town which, standing in the shadow of the local church, stood as impressive monuments to the town’s long history.

And a little further down river, Giles knew, was Hever Castle – the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. A grand estate that, in the wake of Anne’s execution for treason against King Henry VIII, had been effectively pawned off by the crown to buy the king’s next divorce. The estate had survived it, but now it stood as a testament to that terrible time – a memorial to how easily power could be ripped from those who would seek to betray.

Giles stepped off the bridge on the other end, her feet landing rigidly on the unforgivingly hard mud. The field in front of her was lined squat shrubs interspersing tall, ash trees on one side, and a collection of beech and oak trees and thickets that flanked the path of the river on the other. Flurries of bluebells grew beneath the shadows of the riverside trees, stretching out towards the edge of the path like a soft, violet carpet. The cool airy freshly cut grass reminded Giles of happier times – sweet, spice and earth – bringing back memories of a childhood long forgotten.

She followed the path, adjusting her step so as not to trip on the hardened imprints of a hundred dog walkers, until a short, rake-like man appeared from around the corner. Dressed in a slightly old and tattered suit, the man headed straight towards her, a large smile enveloping his face – a smile that rapidly diminished as he came within a few feet of Giles. He came to a stuttering halt and glanced curiously at her, his eyes drawn steadfastly to her face as his mouth slowly began to drop open.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles?’

Giles recognised the anxious whining of his voice straight away. She flashed him a brief smile and stepped forward, her hand outstretched.

‘Detective Inspector Harris…’

‘Please, call me Will…’

He almost withdrew from her, as though the touch of her hand might bring about some awful injury. His eyes remained steadfastly locked on her and it was several seconds after he noticed the awkwardness of her smile that he quickly stepped forward and grasped hold of her hand. His fingers were ice-cold and lacked confidence as they wrapped around Giles’ palm, barely grasping a firm enough hold to even hold contact.

Giles smiled. ‘You’ve been out here for a while.’

Harris released his grip and shuffled a couple of steps back.

‘Yes, quite,’ he replied, rubbing his hands together. ‘Our victim was discovered a couple of hours ago. Luckily I only got here shortly after I called you.’

He hesitated. His eyes quivered this way and that as they scanned Giles’ face and his tongue gently licked his top lip.

Giles pulled her silk scarf a little tighter around her neck. Beneath the smooth material, the old scar that ran across her flesh ached although there was no reason for it to. As the wind picked up around them, Giles thought she could hear a voice on the wind. The maniacal cackling of a ghost long gone…

Harris stared in silence as Giles, uncomfortable under his gaze, lowered her face towards the ground a little – concealing the already hidden scar from view.

‘Is there a problem?’ she asked tentatively.

Harris’ eyes registered surprise for only a moment before the broad smile returned, although somewhat half-heartedly.

‘No. Not at all. You are just…’ He hesitated for a moment. ‘You’re just not what I expected.’

A pulse of anger surged through Giles’ body. The scar in her neck ached a little more as her jugular pounded against her skin and her hands impulsively tightened into fists. For all the tension coursing through her body, Giles managed to keep a measure of control, but it was not enough to hide it from Harris. But the detective who, to Giles at least, seemed little more than a nervous excuse of a man, barely reacted to the display. On the contrary, he even raised a small smile towards her – a smile that Giles forced herself to reciprocate.

‘That’s the second time I’ve heard that comment in as many minutes…’

‘I should imagine so,’ he replied. ‘No one in their right mind would ever have suspected that you might turn out to be…’ He hesitated. ‘Well, that you were…’ He paused again. ‘You know?’

‘Asian?’

A slight waft of relief swooped over Harris’ face. ‘Yes, exactly. Asian.’

Giles tried her best to hide her sneer, although the coarse tone of her voice told the whole story:

‘Have you a problem working with Asians, Detective Inspector Harris?’

‘No. Not at all…’ Harris stuttered. ‘I’m just worried that I may have wasted your time…’

‘Because someone like me can’t do the job as well as you white folks…’

‘That’s not what I said at all…’

‘Then what are you saying?’

Harris stared back at Giles, his mouth falling even further open as he looked upon the fiery detective. As Giles glared back at him, she could see his mind racing – the cogs of his brain turning rapidly. He reached up and loosened his tie, pulling his collar out a little to allow the air to get to it and swallowing hard as he tried to form a coherent sentence.

‘I’m not the man you think I am.’

‘I’m not the one passing judgement.’

Harris licked his lips again and sighed heavily. Slowly, he nodded his head in agreement.

‘Somehow, I don’t think explaining myself will do me much good at this stage,’ he said, raising his hand to gesture down the pathway. ‘Maybe it would just be better if I show you.’

He didn’t wait for a reply. As he turned away, Giles saw Harris shaking his head slowly from side to side – whether from his own ineptitude or from his disgust at Giles, she had no way of knowing. She allowed the anger to subside a little and for her fists to unclench before she began to follow him.

They passed a small collection of trees and bushes that was surrounded almost entirely by more bluebells on their way towards the next corner. As Giles passed it by, a slight rustling of breaking twigs and grass caught her attention and, as she peered into the violet mass of flowers, she thought she saw two black eyes peering out at her. No sooner had she moved a few steps further and blinked had the two eyes vanished in amongst the undergrowth.

No time to explore the wildlife, Eve…

‘I know,’ she muttered.

She followed behind Harris as the pathway swooped around, following the course of the river, to reveal a small grassy area that seemed overgrown and unkempt. At the far side of this clearing, a set of bushes and small trees arched and twisted back and forth as they clambered up and around a small, squat, concrete building that sat, cold and lifeless next to the opening through to the next field. Wide, rectangular openings punctured the sides of this hexagonal oddity and the whole structure looked as though it had been half-built into the ground, for the highest point was no higher the head the heads of the SOCO officers that carefully searched the area.

Harris came to a stop at the edge of the clearing and waited for Giles to catch up. As she came alongside him, he stared with pride towards the dilapidated concrete box, puffing out whatever remained of his chest and placing his hands arrogantly on his hips.

‘Beautiful isn’t it?’ he asked, gesturing towards the bunker. ‘It’s an old World War Two pillbox. Built by us to stop the Germans crossing the River Eden in an invasion. There’s hundreds of the buggers lining the river.’

‘Why is it still here?’

‘It’s our heritage, isn’t it? It’s important for us to know where we come from…’

‘I wouldn’t know,’ replied Giles sarcastically.

Harris ignored the quip. ‘Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters. If it keeps them off the street then I say keep the bunkers standing.’

And why am I here?

As if in answer to Giles’ unspoken question, a couple of SOCO officers who had been kneeling down beside the pillbox stood up and back to reveal a crumpled corpse, sprawled up against the wall. The figure, a man that Giles supposed to be in his thirties or possibly forties, lay hard against the pillbox, his head contorted at a strange angle – his face calm and peaceful. Behind his head, blood splatters painted the wall and his clothing, as well as staining a small patch of grass ten or twelve metres in front of him.

Harris led Giles over to the pillbox, stepping around the SOCO photographer as he lined up to take a shot of the corpse. When the photographer was done, Harris moved in a little closer to the body, gesturing for Giles to do the same. As Giles knelt down beside the body, she could feel the eyes of the investigating team burning into the back of her head and the subsided anger began to brew once more.

‘What do you think?’ Harris asked, watching Giles intently.

Giles leaned a little closer, her eyes quickly scanning the body.

White male. Probably late thirties. Head slumped to one side. Large wound to the back of his head…

‘There’s a lot of blood on the wall,’ she said quietly. ‘He either had his head bashed against it or it was a gunshot injury…’

‘We found a bullet in the back of his head,’ confirmed Harris. ‘Go on.’

Very large opening. No obvious exit wound…

‘He was shot at long distance, I reckon. The victim probably turned his head at the last minute judging by the lack of an exit wound. The bullet blew out a large portion of his skull which is why he didn’t survive it…’

‘That’s our assessment as well…’

So what are you asking me for?

Giles turned her attention to his clothes.

Dark green coat – covered in blood. No surprise there.

Black waterproof trousers. Thick socks. Grey leather walking boots.

She leant forward and sniffed his lips.

Mint.

‘Well, he was a regular walker,’ she announced. ‘Probably enjoyed country hikes or geocaching or something like that.’

‘Why’d you figure?’

Giles smiled, gesturing to his clothing.

‘This man came out here for a walk. He’s wearing his waterproofs even though it is a nice sunny day. That implies to me that he wears these clothes out of habit.’ She gestured to his boots, leaning forward to pick some dried mud off the soles. ‘His boots are quite expensive, built for purpose. He has dried mud on them because he recently went out walking in the mud on a wet day.’

Harris chuckled. ‘A regular walker…’

‘Exactly.’

The victim’s features were relatively recognisable amongst the blood. His glazed over, green eyes; his skin tight against his cheekbones and long jaw; his neat brown hair, freshly gelled and styled; the small amount of stubble around his chin.

‘Do you know who he was?’ Giles asked, reaching down for the victim’s right hand.

‘No idea. He had no wallet or anything on him. A woman called the police when she came across him and another man but, so far, neither of them can tell us who he was. I don’t suppose you’ve seen him before, have you?’

‘No, why would I?’

Harris shrugged. ‘Just a punt, I guess.’

Giles sat back up. ‘Well, I can’t tell you who he was, but I can tell you he’d been married for some time.’

Harris stared blankly at her. Giles gestured down to a small, gold wedding ring on the victim’s finger.

‘Wedding ring,’ she explained. ‘His skin is quite tanned, probably as a result of all the walking he does. But the skin under the wedding ring is white as a sheet. Whatever prompted him to take up walking happened after he got married…’

‘I see…’

Harris stared down at the body for a good, long while before he slapped his thighs and sprang to his feet. With a renewed sense of energy, he reached forward and held his hand out for Giles to take, beaming as he did so.

‘Well, thanks for all your help, Giles,’ he said taking her hand a little more roughly than Giles would have liked. ‘You’ve been a great help. I’ll let you get back to your Bank Holiday.’

Before Giles could respond, Harris moved past her and sauntered his way back towards the path, heading in the direction of the next field where a group of uniformed officers were gathered around a tall, smartly dressed, man. Giles glanced back down at the body, racking her memory for any recollection of the poor man at her feet before she finally turned on her heels and chased after the retreating DI.

‘Is that is?’ she called out, overtaking Harris and bringing him to a stop. ‘Is that all you brought me down for?’

‘I told you I thought I had wasted your time,’ he replied, raising his hands defensively. ‘I apologise for the inconvenience…’

He tried to step past her but Giles, with an air of defiance in her eyes, stepped across to block his path.

‘You called me all the way down here to identify a dead man? Couldn’t you just have emailed me the crime scene photographs?’

‘I’m not really one for technology…’

‘So you summoned me down here? An hour driving for this?’

Harris swallowed hard. ‘I prefer the personal touch myself but perhaps on this occasion it wasn’t the most efficient use of anyone’s time…’

He took a step forward, hoping this action would force Giles out of his way. As he made contact with her, Giles stood firm, forcing Harris to retreat back, his face knotted with irritation.

‘What do you want from me, Evelyn?’

‘My friends call me Evelyn, Inspector Harris. You can call me Giles.’

‘Fine,’ Harris shot back. ‘What do you want?’

Giles let the question hang for a moment. She hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. Something about this whole scenario hadn’t made sense from the beginning, and it wasn’t to do with some casual racism either. Something about the death of the man affected Giles personally, or at least there was the potential it could. As she glared back at Harris, she felt his eyes drift over her shoulder as he looked towards the group of officers behind her.

What is it with people looking past me today?

“I think we have one of your informants’. That was what you said.’

Harris nodded. ‘Yes. At the time, that was my thought on the matter…’

‘But now you don’t think that.’

‘Evidently…’

‘But not because I didn’t identify the body,’ Giles said slowly, her eyes narrowing in to watch Harris’ reaction. ‘There was something that made you think you were wrong the moment you laid eyes on me. You already knew I was a woman so it wasn’t that…’ She saw Harris’ lip quiver. ‘It’s something to do with my ethnicity.’

Harris cleared his throat, his eyes darting around to look at anything apart from Giles.

‘I told you I had made a mistake…’

‘But how did you? There was nothing on that body that suggested he disliked Asian people. There was no membership card for the Britain’s Own Party. He wasn’t wearing a t-shirt with the slogan, ‘Britain for Whites’ on it. So how did you…?’ She hesitated. ‘You weren’t talking about the dead man, were you?’

Harris smiled and manoeuvred himself to step around Giles.

‘I’m really sorry but I have work to do. Thanks for coming down.’

This time he made it past her.

Giles span quickly around, walking just behind Harris as the path narrowed before moving in to the next field. Up ahead, the uniformed officers turned to watch as they approached and Giles began to smell the whiffs of smoke from the smartly dressed man’s cigarette.

‘There was another man,’ Giles said. ‘Someone else who you thought might be my informant.’

‘Yes, but we now know that isn’t true…’

‘Why not, sir? There must have been something to link me to this guy, or else you wouldn’t have called me out here…’

‘Yes, there is, but I can categorically say that he isn’t your informant.’

‘How would you know that?’ Giles blurted out, reaching forward and pulling Harris back around to face her. ‘If you don’t let me talk to him, how will you ever know?’

‘Because I already know, alright?’

Harris’ voice was loud enough that everyone stopped to watch. For a moment, the two detectives stood silently, glaring at each other as a smooth, spring breeze began to pick up around them. The leaves began to rustle in the trees and the carpet of bluebells rolled back and forth like a comforting duvet being aired over a bed.

Finally, Harris turned to the group of officers and slapped his thighs in surrender.

‘Fine,’ he muttered. ‘You can talk to him. But, I can guarantee you, you will not enjoy the experience…’

‘Why?’ Giles asked as Harris turned his back and marched towards the group of officers. ‘Who is it that could be so bad?’

Harris didn’t stop to answer. He marched straight up to the group of officers, signalled for a sergeant to come to him and engaged in a short, brief discussion. The sergeant nodded apprehensively before turning to signal for the rest to back away, leaving the smartly dressed man stood alone and isolated in a ring of police officers.

Giles hadn’t looked at him properly before – if she had, she might have realised it sooner. Behind the haze of cigarette smoke, the man stared out at Giles like a dragon considering its prey. His lips curled in disgust and his cold eyes drilled into Giles’ like an unforgiving branding iron. Despite the sunshine, the air around them seemed to grow cold with the breeze and Giles tugged furiously at her scarf, willing it tighter with every tweak.

Harris had been right. She wasn’t going to enjoy the experience.

 

nick1Nick 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!

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter One

Daniel Barker sat silently in the darkest corner of the most secluded room he could find.

The whiskey glass in his hand was cold to touch. The ice had long since melted away, but the chill still remained. The light-brown fluid swirled around the base as he rocked the vessel from side to side – his eyes gazing at a spot that even he couldn’t see. His mind dreaming dreams that would never become reality.

He was in grief – or at least what he supposed was grief. Every droplet of happiness had been sucked from what little remained of his soul and the heavy, empty feeling in his chest wounded him more than anything else could ever have done. And yet there was no physical pain – only the dull sadness of knowing that he would never again experience what had made him so contented for all these years.

He had built a career off the backs of his friends. For every speech he made they were there to listen, for every step he took they were by his side. Behind the scenes they formulated plans and schemes, spread fear and distrust and herded people to Barker’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 fleeting pats on the back and kind words of sympathy. And then, like the parasites that they were, they’d scuttled off into the night leaving Barker alone with his misery.

Anonymity was Barker’s only friend. The only friend he wanted. The wolves of the tabloid press, his one-time allies, were surely out there now, hounding every pub and bar from London to Edinburgh, trying desperately to find him. And find him they would. And when their relentless questions and immoral bluntness had utterly shattered his already fractured ego, they would skulk back to their editorial caves and wait for another day.

For another victim.

Barker had 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 more.

But hope 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 Barker’s 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, Barker’s once approachable eyes glared out with ferocity. He forced hard on his cigarette, breathing the toxic smoke deep into his lungs and then, with a great jolt of exertion, expelled the grey, airy mass out of his nostrils and towards his observers.

The vultures at the door giggled quietly – unthreatened and unperturbed.

Recoiling further into the shadows, Barker threw his head back and tossed the last of the whiskey down his throat, barely allowing his tongue to taste the liquid as it cascaded down.

As the glass hit the table, the dull pain returned. His lungs stung and the back of his throat crumpled as he retched and convulsed. His face turned blue and his panicking mind thought of nothing else but death as he struggled for breath.

He clutched hold of his neck and instinctively jumped up from his seat, smashing the table as he did so. The domino-wave of disturbed furniture sent a single bar stool skidding towards the door but Barker didn’t care. His mind was set on one thing along – forcing the whiskey back out of his lungs.

The vultures backed away a little as they watched Barker cough the liquid back up again. No one was interested enough to come to his aid. But nor did they turn their backs as Barker, face purple and contorted, struggled to regain control of himself. After all, they might be about to witness history – perhaps this was to be the end of the Barker Story.

But it wasn’t.

Regaining his breath, Barker slouched back in his chair, delicately wiping his lips where the phlegm had congealed. His blood-shot eyes glared up at the crowd outside the door whilst he breathed steadily, pressing his hand hard against his chest like a man trying to stem a gunshot wound. Little by little, his strength returned to him and the stinging sensation died down.

With the excitement over, the crowd slowly dispersed back into the main bar, occasionally throwing curious glances back towards the smoke-filled room but otherwise leaving Barker in peace. They would not ask any questions today, not if they knew what was good for them.

Barker was grateful for the solitude.

‘Another!’ he called out, banging his glass loudly on the table.

The nearby bartender glared into the gloom with unveiled distaste. He set down the glasses he’d been cleaning, moved over to the optics and poured out another whiskey. He tried hard not to make eye contact as he brought the drink out from behind the bar and deposited it in front of Barker. Through the murkiness of the smoke, Barker thought he heard the young man mutter something about smoking indoors as he retreated back through the door.

Barker had neither the strength nor the compulsion to challenge him. The bartender had already had several opportunities to demand Barker extinguish his cigarettes and he had baulked every time.

No one was going to confront him openly…

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 Barker wanted company. He 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. Barker wasn’t going to stop him.

Not this man.

‘I am surprised to find you here,’ the man said, clicking his fingers dramatically. ‘I would have thought you’d be celebrating with the rest of them.’

The bartender promptly jumped out from behind the bar and walked swiftly back into the murky room. 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 of them sat quietly as they waited – Barker 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. As he set them down, 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?’

‘Tom Richardson, Mr Haines.’

The bartender was no boy. To Barker’s eyes, he seemed closer to his early thirties – probably a former student who, like so many graduates, had fallen on hard times and joined the masses of the working class. A man who, despite his intelligence and ambition, had been driven down to the lowest rung of society by betrayal and fear. It was that same fear that controlled him now as he flashed Haines a token smile whilst keeping his eyes firmly glued on the two drinks he was delivering.

Haines felt it as well. Slowly, his hands crept up and down his fat thighs, his tongue licking sickeningly at the side of his mouth.

‘Do you like it here, Tom?’ he asked. ‘Do they pay well?’

‘It’s a good job, Mr Haines.’

‘Maybe you might like to work for me?’

Tom didn’t answer. His eyes flickered with apprehension and – with an unusual sense of haste in his stride – he paced out of the room and into the fresher air. Haines sniggered to himself as the sound of Tom’s coughing and hurling drifted back through the open door. He picked up his glass and, with his eyes still tinted with glee and sparkling with mischief, he raised it in a toast.

‘To your success.’

He took a long sip.

Barker didn’t join him.

Haines couldn’t have failed to notice. But he didn’t react. He finished his sip and set his glass back down on the table. In the silence that followed, Barker was aware only of the rhythmical tapping of the ice against the inside of the whiskey glass and of Haines’ predatory eyes as they watched Tom, now ghostly-pale, pottering around behind the bar. Something about the way Haines toyed with the cigar in his hand made Barker feel distinctly uneasy and, in that moment of quiet contemplation, he wondered how he had never felt it before.

‘You lied to me,’ Barker said. ‘You went back on your word.’

There was little reaction in Haines’s eyes save for a small glimmer of distaste.

‘I disagree. I believe I fulfilled my part most effectively.’

‘The deal was that I would win…’

‘The deal was that your party would win.’ 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 Barker.’

Barker sunk back into his seat. All the fight had gone out of him. 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 Barker’s battered ego. Reluctantly, he reached across and took a dose of fresh whiskey, allowing it to slide easily down his throat until the glass was all but drained.

Haines nodded approvingly. He snapped his fingers and ordered two more. 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’d be happier,’ 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 a lot longer. In a few weeks, when they do the vote, you’ll be able to relax. No more media attention. No more abuse for the left-wing hippy fascists. 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.

‘That is no longer your concern,’ he said. His eyebrows flickered up and down as he flashed the briefest of sneers. ‘And, of course, having fulfilled my side of the bargain, I will naturally be expecting you to fulfil yours.’

Haines smiled, sliding one of the whiskeys across the table. Barker peered down at the inviting 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 Barker’s upper thigh, squeezing it tightly.

‘Oh, I don’t think that’s entirely true. Do you, Mister Barker?’

Evelyn Giles let the phone ring.

It was a Bank Holiday and there was no way she was going into work.

Not again.

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 that 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 beat the cake mixture a little harder, clattering the wooden spoon against the large ceramic bowl in an attempt to drown out the persistent ringing. She leant a little closer, breathing in the scent of sugar and flour that fused seamlessly with the wholesome aroma of fresh grass and pure air from the outside world. She watched as the light yellow mixture lapped and folded over itself in the bottom of the bowl, slowly becoming thicker as the wooden spoon smashed it about.

The phone continued its relentless cry.

Giles reached out for a bag of chocolate chips and gently distributed them into her mixture. As the last chip fell into the bowl, Giles eyed the phone with renewed irritation. The welcoming heat of the oven beneath the counter begged her to stay put and Giles was not about to argue.

This day off had been a long time coming, and no trouble at work was going to ruin it.

Giles spooned her mixture on to a baking tray and took up her position, crouching down in front of the oven as the dozen or so small blobs slowly melted to form warm and deliciously gooey cookies.

The phone rang again.

Beneath her breath, Giles cursed the obstinacy of the inanimate device but remained at her post by the oven. She didn’t notice the bedroom door swing open, nor did she register Jason crossing the lounge until it was too late. The stocky, thin figure of her husband arrived at the telephone long before Giles could react and she could do little more than watch helplessly as he stood, speaking with whoever was on the other end of the line.

‘I should have taken it off the hook,’ she muttered to herself.

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. Giles smiled as her eyes continued down to his bare legs – if it came down to a choice of baking or following him back into the shower, she knew which one she would take.

The idea was shattered as he turned to face her.

‘Eve,’ he called out. ‘It’s important.’

Giles took as long as possible to set down her bowl, wash her hands and 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 emergency 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.

‘Giles,’ she barked into the receiver.

Her smile had vanished and her dulcet tones were now 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 were taut and his pitch was laced with anxiety.

‘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. She wasn’t often blunt towards senior officers, but on a day like today…

The voice that replied was more confident and steadfast than before, but through the cold, hard plastic of the receiver, Giles could still hear the unease 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 just outside 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 dead 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.

‘What circumstances?’

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.

‘It would appear the victim knew who you were…’

You are off-duty. This can wait until tomorrow.

‘… and I don’t think he was a friend…’

Giles raised her hand and squeezed her temple between her thumb and middle finger, willing the argumentative voice in her head to stop.

‘I don’t want to cause alarm,’ Harris continued. ‘But I think we have one of your informants…’

The breath caught in Giles’ throat. The voice in her head fell silent and, in that short moment, she could think clearly once again.

The decision came swiftly.

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!

 

Sir Tendeth – A Detective

There comes a time once every so often when, as a writer, I feel the need to write something that is a little different to my normal work. Usually, it’s prompted by a newspaper article or something like that but – considering the news seems so dire and negative lately – you won’t be surprised to know that I sourced my inspiration from somewhere else this time.

When I was a child, one of my favourite books was a lovely little children’s book called Gideon Gander Solves the World’s Greatest Mysteries by David Henry Wilson (if you happen to come across, I thoroughly recommend it). I suppose, in a small way, this book is responsible for my descent into crime writing – it follows the story of a gander who thinks he is a detective and goes around solving crimes inspired by well-known nursery rhymes and tales  (Georgie Porgie, Black Sheep, Solomon Grundy to name a few examples).

Anyway, I found this book online lately and had to buy it – one of my lasting regrets up to this point had been that I ever got rid of that book. And, although I haven’t actually had the time to sit and read it yet, it got me thinking about the stories I tell. And I ended up writing this short character introduction. It might be the start of something, it might just end up being one of those fun oddities that I engaged with one afternoon. But for the time being it is just the start of a story.

As you’ll see – the dark doesn’t have to corrupt everything…

Enjoy

Sir Tendeth – A Detective

It can be said that the oddest things may occur in the most unexpected of circumstances. Never had this been truer than of the unexpected set of events that followed the arrival of Sir Tendeth at the court of King Wilhelm.

Sir Tendeth had left the court of King Arthur of Camelot under something of a cloud. Despite all his passion and ambition, he had never felt truly appreciated for his skills nor did he feel that he had been given the right conditions in which to flourish.

‘A mighty oak tree cannot be expected to reach its true height if it is planted in a desolate and rocky outcropping,’ he would say to himself. ‘Nor can you expect to build a great cathedral from nothing but leaves, or weave gold from silk.’

It had thus been, on a rather dull and uninspiring day, that Sir Tendeth had approached King Arthur and demanded he be released from his duties so that he could pursue his own destiny. He had every reason to expect the good King to be delighted with this wonderful display of initiative – after all, this was the same Arthur who had been so supportive of Sir Gawain’s expedition against the Green Knight and Sir Galahad’s quest to find the Holy Grail.

However, the response that Sir Tendeth got was entirely unexpected. After several hours of shouting and marching back and forth, Sir Tendeth found himself on the receiving end of a long lecture about duty and courage. At the end of this argument, in which Sir Tendeth was not allowed to speak, he found himself ejected through the front gates with strict instructions never to return to the hallowed walls of Camelot ever again.

Sir Tendeth couldn’t understand it himself. Arthur has said something about his timing being inappropriate – but what was inappropriate about venturing out on a personal quest?

It took him a while to make his way through the massive army that stood outside the gates. In fact, it was only after he explained the exact layout of the city to the army’s general that he was eventually allowed to go free.

A few days later, he arrived in a small village where an old beggar woman told him that Camelot had been destroyed by the army of Prince Mordred. The name rang a bell in Sir Tendeth’s mind, although he couldn’t rightly place it. For a little while, he thought it might have been the name of the general he’d spoken to, but he soon decided he was wrong:

‘It can’t have been him,’ he muttered to himself. ‘He was such a nice man.’

And so he continued on his journey, not knowing in which direction he was going or how far he might be expected to travel. All he knew was that an adventure was waiting for him somewhere on the horizon and he was going to find it.

It was a little over a week later that he finally spotted the walls of Caeredon. The city was smaller than Camelot and a little shabbier, but it was nestled high up in a mountain pass and commanded a great view of the surrounding fields and marshlands.

‘If ever I am to find a quest, this place will be it,’ Sir Tendeth announced proudly as he began the long trudge across the watery land. ‘In this place, I will finally make a name for myself.’

And a name for himself, he made.

Arriving at the gates, Sir Tendeth found the gates closed and barred. As he pressed against the hard wood, he found that they wouldn’t budge even an inch and, cursing his bad fortune, he proceeded to shout up to the deserted ramparts above him.

‘Hallo,’ he called out. ‘Is anyone there?’

‘Hallo,’ came the reply. ‘Is anyone there?’

That’s odd, thought the knight. That fellow sounds like me.

He clapped his hands over his mouth and yelled as loudly as he could.

‘Greetings. Whom am I speaking to?’

‘Greetings,’ came the faint reply. ‘Whom am I speaking to?’

Under normal circumstances, Sir Tendeth might have thought the fellow’s manner to be impudent but, given that he was very much locked outside the walls, he felt he had little choice but to answer:

‘I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

There was a brief pause before the faint voice replied:

‘I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

The ruddy cheek, the knight thought, trying desperately to control his temper.

‘No, I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

‘No, I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

‘Now look here,’ Sir Tendeth replied, beginning to feel more than a little frustrated by now. ‘If you are going to play such silly games, I demand that you come down here this instant…’

No sooner had he spoken, there was a scuffled of sound behind the heavy gates followed by scraping of wood as a small slat moved aside revealing a pair of green, beady-looking eyes.

‘What’s your game then?’ the beady eyes asked.

‘I could ask the same of you,’ Sir Tendeth replied, stepping forward towards the gate. ‘What’s the idea of keeping me waiting out here?’

‘I dunno,’ beady eyes replied. ‘Why? What’s so special about out there?’

Sir Tendeth thought for a moment. ‘I’m not sure really. It’s where I ended up I suppose. But now I want to come in.’

The beady eyes blinked and quickly scanned him up and down.

‘We don’t accept cold-callers.’

‘I’m only cold because you’re keeping me out here,’ replied Sir Tendeth. ‘If you would only let me in…’

‘Why? What are you selling?’

‘Nothing,’ Sir Tendeth replied. ‘I am on a quest and wish to come in.’

At this, the beady eyes widened. For the first time, they seemed to take in Sir Tendeth’s battered armour and the knobbly sword that hung from his belt. They scanned him for a good minute before they blinked once more and said:

‘You’ve been sent here to help us?’

‘Yes,’ Sir Tendeth replied confidently.

The eyes disappeared for a moment. Behind the door, Sir Tendeth could hear the sound of muffled conversation before a new set of eyes appeared at the opening – bright blue, and friendlier than the first pair.

‘Where did you say you came from?’

‘From Camelot,’ the knight replied. ‘I am Sir Tendeth of the Knights of the Round Table.’

The blue eyes widened:

‘He’s come!’

With that, the opening snap shut. Not really sure what to do, Sir Tendeth waited as he heard the scurry of quick feet racing back and forth behind the gate. After a minute or so, the sound stopped and Sir Tendeth could hear the massive wooden bars being lifted out of the lock. In the next instant, the door creaked and puffed out a small gust of yellow dust before slowly swinging open to reveal the city within.

Sir Tendeth had been right – it was shabbier than Camelot. Where Camelot had great marble fountains and immaculately white-paved roads, Caeredon had a couple of grubby stone wells and a muddy lane that weaved in and out of the wooden, thatched houses of the city. Even the keep tower, which towered over the rest of the city, looked like it hadn’t been repaired in several centuries and was ridden with ivy and bright green moss.

He stepped in through the gate, staring at his new surroundings. Now that he was inside, he was sure that his quest was leading him here. Perhaps it was his destiny to become the governor so that he might make this place more habitable. Or maybe his quest would be to establish some sort of working sewage network. Whatever his fate, it would be inextricably linked to this city and Sir Tendeth would prove himself at last.

He felt a small tug on his tunic as the beady eyes cleared his throat. Turning towards it, Sir Tendeth almost jumped out of his skin as he found himself staring down at two of the most awful-looking creatures he had ever seen. About the size of a child, each one had green, rippled skin, long sagging ears and fat, pudgy noses. Where their toenails should be, these creatures had long claws that tapped excitedly on the floor whilst their great bellies wobbled, exposed from beneath their pale orange tunics.

‘What the devil?’

‘No, sir,’ the one on the left replied. ‘Not devils. Goblins.’

The one on the right sniffed with irritation, his beady eyes staring angrily up at Sir Tendeth. ‘Not as bad as devils. Nowhere near as bad…’

‘I apologise,’ Sir Tendeth replied, glancing back and forth at these two beasts as his hand gripped hold of the hilt of his sword. ‘I have never seen a goblin before.’

‘Well,’ replied beady eyes. ‘Now you have.’

‘Yes, indeed,’ Sir Tendeth replied, glancing back at the deserted city behind him. ‘Are all of the people here like you?’

‘Oh no, sir,’ replied the one on the left, his blue eyes shining eagerly up at Sir Tendeth. ‘We are the last two – fated to serve King Wilhelm for the rest of our lives as compensation for the Goblin War…’

‘Though I don’t see why it was our fault,’ muttered beady eyes. ‘It wasn’t us who burned his library…’

‘Indeed, brother,’ replied the other, giving his companion a short nod. ‘My name is Gob and this is my brother Bog.’

Sir Tendeth nodded to each in turn. ‘Very pleased to meet you,’ he replied. ‘Now, if you don’t mind, I have a quest to fulfil…’

‘Oh yes, of course,’ replied Gob. ‘We are to take you to the King immediately…’

‘Although I don’t see the point,’ added Bog. ‘No one else has managed it – why should he?’

‘Hush brother,’ Gob said with a snap, before turning to Sir Tendeth. ‘Will you follow me, sir?’

Gob and Bog led Sir Tendeth up the sludgy street, making their way towards the keep in the centre of the city. As Sir Tendeth slipped and slid on the wet, muddy ground, he imagined that he caught sight of faces peering out through the windows as he past by, although – as soon as he turned to look – they seemed to vanish in a flash as though they were never there at all.

Arriving at the keep, Gob scuttled forward and leapt up into the air, grabbing hold of a large iron knocker. He placed his feet firmly on the door and kicked off, somersaulting through the air and landing gracefully on the floor as the knocker smashed against the wood. They waited for a few moments before the door opened up a crack and another set of eyes peered out at the two goblins.

‘Well? What is it Gob?’

Gob pointed excitedly towards the knight. ‘He’s here. He’s come.’

Sir Tendeth stepped forward and cleared his throat.

‘I am Sir Tendeth of the Knights of…’

The door slammed shut.

Sir Tendeth turned towards the two goblins:

‘Was it something I said?’

Before they could answer, the rattling of a large chain could be heard behind the door and, before Sir Tendeth could react, it swung open to reveal a rather normal looking guard, dressed in fine armour and a clean tunic. He stared at Sir Tendeth for a moment before gesturing for them to follow him inside.

The guard led the party through the next courtyard, up a set of winding and unnecessarily thin stairs, along a dark corridor, up another set of stairs and into a large room. Without stopping, the guard led them through this room to another set of stairs that, to Sir Tendeth’s surprise, seemed to head back down again until it reached a large set of thick, oak, double doors guarded by two very alert and – in Sir Tendeth’s opinion – terrified guards.

‘Who goes there?’ One asked, raising his spear towards the party.

‘Shut up, Kevin,’ replied the first guard. ‘It’s only me.’

‘Oh,’ Kevin replied, lowering his spear a fraction as he peered up at Sir Tendeth. ‘And who is this unsightly thug?’

‘I am Sir Tendeth of…’

‘I wasn’t asking you,’ replied Kevin, snarling menacingly.

‘He is from Camelot,’ explained Gob. ‘He’s going to solve our little problem.’

Kevin considered this for a moment before gently lowering his spear. ‘Well, good luck to him, I say.’

He nodded to his companion and, together, they pushed open the doors.

The room beyond was magnificent. A long, red carpet led from the door straight down the centre of the room that towered high above them. Two large stained glass windows adorned the walls on either side and, at the far end of the room, a large, golden throne overlooked the entire space.

As the party entered the room, Sir Tendeth watched as a mass of people stopped and turned to face towards them. As Gob and Bog led the way towards the throne, the crowd stepped back, staring at Sir Tendeth with a mixture of excitement, trepidation and wonder. As the last of them retreated, Sir Tendeth’s eyes fell on the elderly – but no less regal looking – king who slouched in the throne. His dull eyes watched Sir Tendeth with disinterest as Gob rushed forward and jumped up on to the arm rest to whisper in his ear. Only then did his eyes widen and his wrinkled face broaden into a large smile.

‘You are from Camelot?’ he bellowed, his voice echoing around the cavernous room.

The knight stepped forward.

‘I am Sir Tendeth of the Knights of the Round Table. I have come to complete a great quest…’

The king’s smile grew even wider. His hand slammed hard on the arm rest, causing Gob to jump backwards and land awkwardly on the stone floor. King Wilhelm’s eyes glistened mischievously as he looked down at Sir Tendeth before he let out a loud, heart filled laugh that was nervously imitated by the surrounding crowd.

‘You are here to solve our mystery, are you?’

‘Yes, your Majesty,’ replied Sir Tendeth, placing a proud hand above his heart – well, at least it would have been his heart, but he wasn’t entirely sure where the heart was, so instead he placed it proudly on his stomach.

The King beamed about the room with what seemed to be an odd mixture of pride and relief.

‘So, you are the detective,’ he announced.

Sir Tendeth wasn’t really sure what he meant. He’d never heard the word before – at least he didn’t think he had. He was about to reply when his mind wandered to the last thing that King Arthur had said about him:

‘You are a traitor, Tendeth. A coward. A defector…

At the time he hadn’t been sure what King Arthur had meant, but it seemed obvious to him that the king must have sent word ahead that Sir Tendeth was on his way – perhaps Arthur hadn’t been disappointed after all.

In the next moment, Sir Tendeth’s mind wandered to a comment his old nurse-maid used to say about him when he was a small child. He’d always thought that she’d been talking about the way he walked for, as a child, his legs had been malnourished and under-formed, but now that he heard King Wilhelm use a similar word, he began to wonder whether the nurse had secretly known he’d be destined for greatness.

He used that word now – it seemed like the right time.

With a great swagger of pride, he took a single step forward and, with his clearest and most impressive-sounding voice, he declared:

‘Yes, your Worshipfullness. I am defective…’

It’s hard to say whether the king heard what Sir Tendeth had said, or simply what he wanted the knight to have said. Either way, he beamed once again, levered himself off his throne and waddled over to the knight, clapping him hard on the shoulder.

‘Very good,’ he replied, giving Sir Tendeth’s shoulder and uncomfortable squeeze. ‘Then you had best get to work. For you, my boy, have a lot of it to do…’

Sneaky Snippets 21/9/16

Ali wants to be a writer. Like most writers he knows that he not only has a book in him; he has a library. His imagination is teaming with great stories that he can’t wait to unleash on the world…

So he settles down and starts writing his story. It’s a novel with dragons and sword fights and damsels in distress. Whenever anyone asks him about it, he talks with enthusiasm and his friends respond by saying they’ll read it when he’s finished.

Ali makes good progress to start with. He writes a chapter a day – three to four thousand words in a matter of hours. Every day – without fail – after he gets home from work.

Pretty soon he is half way through. But then Ali starts to have a problem. He doesn’t know where he needs to go from here. His story sounds a little like that book he read a few months ago and, even though he knows he hasn’t copied it, he’s worried that people will say he has.

A little more cautiously now, he carries on – growing more and more concerned and unsure of himself with each chapter.

He stops talking about it to his friends – instead he talks about new ideas that he’s had that are much better than the novel he’s writing at the moment.

Eventually, he gives up writing the novel and starts on the new one instead. This one is much better. It’s about a spy fleeing a corrupt country with half the army on his tail. He ploughs through the first few chapters but something still isn’t right.

Soon he gives up this story for another one.

And then another one.

Until finally, Ali stops writing altogether. Instead he can be found lounging in front of his computer watching cat videos on Facebook. Or out in the pub drinking with his friends and making fun of guys in the street who are enthusiastically talking about the book they’re writing.

Pretty soon, Ali’s friends realise what they thought they knew all along.

Ali is never going to be a writer.

From Defeating Writer’s Block – ©Nick R B Tingley 2016

Sneaky Snippets is a weekly segment of short extracts of my work – usually something I’ve been working on in the past week or so.

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Sneaky Snippets 14/9/16

On Wednesday morning, a body landed in my back garden. It had been thrown out of a plane and landed smack bang in back corner section in between the vegetable patch and the decking – that little patch of grass that Mum had been religiously working on after the dog had ripped it up the other week.

I threw on my clothes and rushed excitedly downstairs to where Mum was cleaning up the remnants of last night’s takeaway. I told her what had happened. She listened with feigned interest as I told her the details before finally rolling back her eyes and giving me that submissive, yet grateful, smile and said:

‘Go on then.’

I gave her a large peck on the cheek, told her how much I loved her before she shooed me off. I legged it outside, reaching deep into my pocket for my phone as I approached the crime scene.

I was off on another adventure.

From Virtual Detective ™  ©Nick R B Tingley 2016

Sneaky Snippets is a weekly segment of short extracts of my work – usually something I’ve been working on in the past week or so.

Did you like what you read? Do you want to learn more about Virtual Detective ™?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below and subscribe!

As always, if you do like what you’ve read, make sure to hit that like button or (if your not a fellow blogger) let me know in the comments and share this post on Facebook, Twitter and anything else you can think of.

Sneaky Snippets – 7/9/16

‘Excuse me, sir?’ the Customs Officer said. ‘Can you open this crate up, please?’

The Man who Bought the Bullet remained calm and helpful. ‘Is there a problem?’

The Customs Officer was in no mood for conversations or explanations.

‘Just open it up, please.’

The Man who Bought the Bullet ordered his men to open the crate. As the lid was unscrewed, he retreated a little back into the shadows and reached inside his pocket. He didn’t remove the gun, not at first at any rate, he simply flicked off the safety catch. It was just a precaution – he never intended on using it. Getting caught in a fire fight in a heavily guarded dock was suicide…

But it made him feel better at any rate.

From The Bullet with My Name on It – ©Nick R B Tingley 2016

Sneaky Snippets is a weekly segment of short extracts of my work – usually something I’ve been working on in the past week or so.

Did you like what you read? Do you want to learn more about The Bullet with My Name on It? What do you suppose is in the crate? And who is The Man who Bought the Bullet?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below and subscribe!

As always, if you do like what you’ve read, make sure to hit that like button or (if your not a fellow blogger) let me know in the comments and share this post on whatever social media you have at your disposal.