Category Archives: The Bluebell Informant

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 13

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.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Thirteen

Barker remained by the carriage doors watching the countryside race by.

He pressed his hand hard against his chest as he attempted to steady his breathing. He wiped the dribbles of sweat from his brow and took a few short, sharp breaths as though he were trying calm himself down. Every so often, he closed his eyes in deep contemplation and then would shake his head, shuffle his feet and lean up against the door as he screwed up his face in some hidden agony.

Giles watched him through the reflection of her window. Barker pushed himself a little up from the doorway and tilted his head towards her. Beneath the shadow of his brow, his keen eyes glanced at her with deceptive coolness before returning to his tormented state.

Giles smiled and shook her head.

This is all for my benefit, she thought.

This act continued for a short while. Giles had to admire the man’s staying power – he was determined that she should see what horror he was going through and seemed reluctant to move away from the door until he’d seen her notice it. Giles might have ignored him for the whole journey were it not for her own need for answers.

She turned her head away from the window and peered cautiously over the seats in front of her. She eyed the politician, willing him to look up so the façade could be over and, sensing her gaze, he too looked up and allowed himself to stare into her eyes. It only lasted for a moment and then, seeming to remember himself, Barker dropped his stare to the floor and began pacing back and forth across the carriage with such over-stated determination that Giles couldn’t help but laugh to herself.

So over dramatic.

However, despite the intensity of his desire for Giles’ attention, there was definitely something troubling Barker. His brow was arched with worry and his hands consistently rose up to his face to rub his temples. Beneath the mask of conceited emotions, there was a man who genuinely struggled with a great problem; a dark worry that had clouded over his mind and turned his skin pale.

Whatever thoughts were plaguing his mind evaporated in an instant.

Barker stared into the carriage window and used his reflection to brush himself down. His back grew straighter and his clothes were repositioned until he almost looked respectable. He glanced up at Giles and confidently stepped away from the train door, swaggering down the carriage towards her. As he collapsed in the chair opposite, he lounged back into it with the air of a man without a care in the world.

Beneath this confident guise, his eyes betrayed the fear in his mind. They slowly crept around the train, surveying each passenger with absolute scrutiny as they made their way along from seat to seat. Once satisfied that he wasn’t in any immediate danger, Barker looked at a point somewhere down the far end of the aisle and remained like that, in absolute stillness, long after Giles lost interest.

Giles had almost recovered from their race to the train. She felt normal for the most part, save for the damp patch of sweat that had accumulated in the small of her back. She squirmed in her seat a little to dispel the discomfort but she could feel it all the same.

Needing a distraction, she removed her phone from her jacket pocket and engaged the Internet browser application. Silently stuttering, the phone tried to open the National Rail webpage but, despite the abundance of signal, the screen remained infuriatingly blank.

            Bloody thing.

She refreshed the browser in the vain, hoping that it might make a difference but – infuriatingly – the progress bar advanced no further.

She felt a small tap on her leg. Barker had leant forward and pressed a single digit on Giles’ knee. He smiled at her coyly and nodded knowingly towards the phone.

‘The 12.15 is a fast train,’ he declared. ‘It has only one stop. East Croydon.’

Giles nodded but continued to concentrate on her phone, closing down the web browser and pulling up her message menu. The smile slowly disappeared from Barker’s face.

‘Don’t you believe me?’

Giles’ eyes flickered up. ‘I believe you…’ Her eyes returned to the phone’s screen.

Barker peered cautiously at her from the opposing seat. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Running interference.’

‘Interference?’

Giles nodded.

‘And what does that mean?’ Barker asked, his face immediately clouding over with suspicion.

‘You don’t need to know.’

Barker collapsed back into his chair, sniggering to himself. ‘You know, you’re going to have to trust me some time.’

‘Quid pro quo, Mister Barker. I don’t have to trust you with anything.’

The comment sounded as blunt as Giles had intended, but she hadn’t banked on the effect it would have on the man sat opposite. His smile lingered for a moment longer before disappearing with a gulp. His face fell – he looked positively crestfallen – and his hands nervously cupped each other as he rubbed the thumb of one against the palm of the other.

Giles glanced up, feeling a pang of guilt. Barker was an enigma. One minute he exuded confidence and the next he retreated into himself like a scolded schoolboy. He was weak, out of control – waiting for his misdemeanours to be tolled against him…

Misdemeanours? Don’t give him your sympathy. He doesn’t deserve it.

Giles shook her head and cleared her throat.

‘We may have a fast route in to London, but there is still very little room for manoeuver,’ she said. ‘If Harris is half as good as I think he is, we will still have a reception committee waiting for us when the train pulls in at London Bridge.’

Barker’s eyes flickered. ‘So what now?’

‘I’ve texted ahead. I need my team on standby to head Harris off. They’ll give us safe passage for the time being…’

‘And you trust your team?’

As though all injury to his pride had been forgotten, Barker leant back against his chair and calmly flung his right hand over the back of the seat beside him. His right leg crossed over his left and started to bounce rhythmically in the air. Giles had seen this image of Barker before – it had been on a late-night chat-show interview not long before the election.

Not long before everything had gone wrong for him…

Barker watched intently as Giles pocketed her phone and leant back in to her chair. There was something of an attractive quality about her, he supposed, although there was never any doubt that she wasn’t remotely his type. Still, as she stared out of the window at the countryside skimming past, he allowed his eyes to slowly wander down her face, skipping over her hidden neck until they arrived on her chest. He felt himself smile as his eyes traced the line of her bosom beneath her cotton shirt before allowing them to saunter further south.

‘You are remarkable woman, DS Giles,’ he announced, quickly flickering his eyes back up to her face before Giles had a chance to glance back towards him. ‘Most other detectives would have thrown me to the wolves and to hell with the consequences. But you risked everything – your whole career – just to protect me.’

Giles stared back at him blankly and said: ‘I still might,’ before returning her gaze back to the window.

Barker smacked his lips. He could see the tension building across Giles’ brow – the unmistakable pulse of frustration and anger. He wondered how difficult this was for her – undoubtedly nowhere near as difficult as it was for him – but probably not a walk in the park all the same. She was no happier about protecting him than he was of being in her debt. Although – she had some added benefits. She would be able to dine out on this story for years, if she didn’t end up in prison first.

Or deported.

It was almost a shame really.

He leant forward a little closer, his eyes shining with mischief.

‘So, Giles is your husband’s name?’ he mused. ‘I bet adopting an English sounding name suited you right down to the ground, didn’t it? Although I imagine your parents did the same thing when they arrived here. They adopted an English name to fit in I suppose?’ Giles’ eyes returned to stare daggers at him. ‘I mean, you hear it all the time – Chinese people giving themselves Western names to try to hide how different they are…’

Giles blinked once.

‘My father was British,’ she replied curtly.

‘Oh, I see,’ Barker replied, beginning to feel a familiar surge of supremacy coursing through his body. He was enjoying himself. ‘He was one of those. Doesn’t mind watering down the blood as long as he gets himself a child who becomes a top doctor or something. He must’ve been so disappointed when he found out you were joining the Police.’ He chuckled quietly. ‘But I bet your mother was happy. She got a free ticket to just wander into this country and enjoy the society that we spent hundreds of years crafting. She ran away from her own homeland because she couldn’t be bothered to change the things that she didn’t agree with – too lazy to make a difference to her own country. I bet she’s living off the state and your father as we speak.’

This time, Giles didn’t blink, although her jaw visibly tightened as she clenched her teeth.

‘My mother died giving birth to me,’ she said, sullenly.

Barker raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, I guess that’s something…’

‘She was a political activist,’ Giles continued, feeling the anger surging through her. ‘She devoted her life to fighting the government in China, to bring about change for her and her people. She wasn’t a militant – never that brutal. She was peaceful. She was kind. She wanted to make a difference. And one day, they arrested her. She was put in a prison where she was raped and tortured for months on end. I was born in that prison and she died bringing me into this world…’

Barker smirked. ‘So, not even a real Brit!’ He clapped his hands together scathingly. ‘I suppose that’s one way to deal with the problem. You were the daughter of an undesirable. They just flung you out and you ended up sponging off my country. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from the Chinese after all…’

A flicker of anger shot across Giles’ face. A surge of triumph filled Barker’s mind.

At last, he thought. Time to see how far DS Giles is willing to go to…

 

Giles stared hard into Barker’s eyes, her fists clenched and shaking with rage. He was trying to provoke her – she knew that. He wanted to test her. He needed her to be able to put aside her own anger for him. He needed to know that he could trust her.

This was a hurdle she had to clear if he was going to give her anything – she knew that all too well. But that didn’t make it any easier.

She could cope with the meaningless flirtation, with the sly smiles that suggested there could be some attraction between the two of them – but listening to his insults was a heavy load and Giles wasn’t sure how much she could bear.

He doesn’t expect you to shrug it off. Don’t try to hide who you are…

‘My father was a good man,’ she replied defiantly. ‘He couldn’t have children of his own, so he came to China to help those less fortunate than himself. He saved me and brought me back here, and now I am working hard to better this country.’

‘You’re only as strong as your weakest link,’ Barker replied casually. ‘If your kind wanted our country to be better, you wouldn’t be sitting on a British train.’

Giles jutted her head towards Barker, her lips snarling with anger.

‘And who are you to make that call? What makes you so damn special that you can discriminate and pass judgement on people just because of the colour of their skin?’

‘It’s not just the colour that makes the weed…’

‘You and your pathetic party of racist bigots – too short sighted to see that the people you attack are people too. Too self-righteous to believe that anyone who isn’t like you can make a positive difference in this world. Too stupid to even realise how pathetically pointless you all really are…’ She paused for a moment to draw breath. ‘You tell me something, what exactly is so great about being British…?’

Barker faked a laugh. ‘There was once a time when the rest of the world was intelligent enough that they didn’t need to ask that question. When our Empire ruled the world, everyone knew their place…’

‘What gives you the right to judge anyone as being inferior? You’re nothing but a criminal…’

Giles turned her head back towards the window. Almost as soon as the rage had appeared, it now began to subside as though the heavy weight had been lifted from her mind. After all these months of ranting into mirrors, imagining conversations and strutting away in triumph she had finally had her moment. She had faced down the man who had encouraged the destruction of her world – of her way of life.

And yet it didn’t feel good.

There was still an empty, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

It wasn’t over for her yet.

‘It’s interesting,’ Barker mused. ‘You have as much anger and disgust for me as I have for you…’

‘Maybe I should’ve left you for the wolves after all…’

‘Maybe you should’ve. But you didn’t.’ Barker’s voice had softened and, when Giles finally looked back at him, his face had relaxed from its mischievous demeanour to something more sincere. ‘You hate everything I stand for and everything about me. You deny my right to believe what I chose to believe and belittle the opinions of the British people. And yet you risk everything to help me…’

‘I don’t have a choice,’ Giles replied bitterly. ‘You have information I need.’

‘There’s always a choice, Giles. The question is, when you get what you want, are you going to be honourable enough to put your anger aside and let me walk free?’

‘I was brought up to be an honourable person…’

‘Not to DI Harris,’ Barker said. ‘You left him well and truly in the lurch. Did it never occur to you that he will probably lose his job over this? That you’ve condemned an innocent man to a lifetime of shame?’

Giles hesitated.

‘This is important…’

‘Important enough to ruin a man’s career?’

Giles’ eyes narrowed.

‘I’m not you,’ she replied firmly, allowing the last of the tension to drain from her body.

They fell into silence. Barker’s eyes covertly drifted away from Giles and began to stare back down the train.

‘Who was the man you killed?’

The question caught Barker off guard. In a flash, his hand rose to his lips and his darting eyes once again took in those around him to see if anyone had heard. With an expression panged with discomfort, he replied: ‘I really have no idea.’

‘Bollocks. He knew who you were. And you knew he was coming.’

Giles fell back into her seat and gazed out of the window. She wasn’t looking at anything in particular – something spectacular could have been happening outside those windows and she wouldn’t have noticed it. She was far away, lost in a river of her own thoughts – a collection of streams; each one filled with its own doubts and fears as it congregated a single image in her mind.

She had hoped to forget that day, but in truth she never could. It was all such a betrayal…

‘You did what?’

Giles stared at Jason, her eyes boring deep into him as her body shook and swelled with unadulterated rage. Standing before her, Jason’s mouth dropped open and he seemed to freeze to the spot as the television in the corner proudly announced the election results.

‘I don’t get what the problem is,’ he replied. ‘It’s not like I’m the only one…’

‘You bloody fool…’

‘Why? For doing what I thought was right?’

‘What was right? Do you have any understanding about what this will do to me?’

‘Oh, stop being so over-dramatic…’

That was his favourite line. Jason often used it when he thought it would win an argument, and today was one of those days. Giles shook her head in utter dismay.

‘Over dramatic?’ she repeated, her eyes ablaze with fury. ‘Did you not listen to any of the things that man was spouting?’

‘They don’t mean you,’ he replied. ‘They mean all the immigrants. You know? The ones who don’t pull their weight…’

‘Don’t be so naïve…’

Jason shook his head and strolled across the room. For a moment this seemed like the end of the argument but, no sooner had he reached the kitchen, Jason turned back around and marched straight over to her.

‘You know what your problem is, Eve? You’re too clever for your own good.’

‘Too clever? How can you be too clever?’

‘You see things as fact and fiction,’ Jason continued, pointing an angry finger at her. ‘You only see the truth you want to see and any other fact is just a lie…’

‘A lie? Jason, Daniel Barker said that there is no such thing as a good foreigner. As a man who married a Chinese-born detective, you would have thought you might see through something like that…’

‘There you go again.’ He slapped his hands on his thighs, before raising them up in victory. ‘Everything has to come back to your job, doesn’t it?’

‘No,’ Giles returned, thrusting her own finger at Jason – he wasn’t going to turn this into something else. Not this time. ‘This is nothing to do with my job – it’s about you making a stupid decision and trusting a man who would have your own wife deported if he had the chance…’

Jason could do little else but shake his head.

‘Maybe I’m not the one being stupid. Maybe – just for once – you can look at a man and, instead of deciding that you know everything there is to know about him, try seeing the world from where he stands.’ He turned towards the bedroom door. ‘Try defending Daniel Barker for once – then you might realise how wrong you are…’

He disappeared into the bedroom and slammed closed the door.

Try defending Daniel Barker for once…

Giles shook the words from her head. It had been such a bitter argument – it had almost torn them apart. In many ways, it still could.

And yet, as Giles’s eyes began to focus on a small collection of buildings on the horizon, his words began to rattle around her head, getting louder and clearer with each passing moment.

You might realise how wrong you are…

Her eyes flickered over to Barker. Maybe Jason was right – maybe she was dealing with Barker in the wrong way. The man was hiding something, that was true enough, but was he really a murderer? Had she found proof of his guilt, or simply found what she wanted to find…?

‘Try seeing the evidence from Barker’s view,’ she muttered under her breath.

It couldn’t hurt, a voice in her head replied. At worst, you’ll convince Barker that you’re willing to back him up. What do you have to lose?

‘My dignity…’

From the opposite seat, Barker’s eyes narrowed on her and his brow fell into a frown. ‘Sorry?’

Giles dismissed him with a shake of the head.

It couldn’t hurt…

She leant back again, her eyes narrowing and glazing over as she remembered the smell in the pillbox. That musky, smoke smell that she struggled to identify…

Damp cigarettes or gunpowder?

            She closed her eyes and concentrated on that smell. As it filled her nostrils, a flood of memories coursed through her mind and she slowly began to piece the crime scene back together. For the first time that day, she was beginning to be honest with herself. She had wanted Barker to be guilty, and everything she’d found at that crime scene had only convinced her of his guilt.

But is there another explanation?

DI Harris had said something about the pillboxes. It was one of the very first things he’d said to her.

Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters…

No, not that. Giles raised a hand to gently massage her temple.

True, there had been evidence of someone staying there, but there had been no sign of a second witness. If Barker had murdered the victim, anyone in the pillbox would have stayed well hidden until the coast was clear. There was no one in there when the police arrived…

So, who was in the pillbox? The voice whispered. What did Harris say?

            Giles screwed up her face and concentrated hard. The pillbox was significant – that smell had to have come from somewhere. Someone must have been in the pillbox, but no one left.

            What was it Harris said?

She replayed the day in her mind – every second from the moment Harris first clapped eyes on her to the second she first saw the body lying collapsed against the pillbox. She remembered every word he’d said – how the pillboxes had been built in the Second World War to defend the River Eden from…

That’s it, the voice muttered triumphantly. Self-defence…

Giles imagined the scene. She was stood in the pillbox, staring out at the SOCOs as they took away the victim’s body. She formed a gun with her fingers and pointed it out towards the patch of blood in the middle of the clearing…

Self-defence…

            She could see him now. Daniel Barker crouching in the pillbox, aiming a gun out at the victim – slowly pulling the trigger and watching as the air around him filled with gun powder smoke.

Giles’ eyes snapped open.

Try defending him for once…

She leant forward and stared hard into Barker’s eyes.

‘Why the pillbox?’

‘I don’t understand…’

‘Why did you climb into the pillbox?’

‘I…’ he hesitated ‘… I didn’t.’

‘There was grey powder on your shoes – powder that’s consistent with the concrete on the floor of the pillbox. The inside smelt of smoke, Barker – smoke from the gun you fired.’

‘No,’ Barker replied, shaking his head violently. ‘It was self-defence.’

‘So, where better to take refuge than a pillbox?’ She leant back in her chair, staring aimlessly at the ceiling. ‘I’ve been such a fool.’

Barker’s eyes narrowed with concern.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I thought the evidence was pointing towards you being the murderer. But I see it now…’

She glanced towards Barker.

‘Someone wanted to stop you from talking. Someone who knew about you and what you were planning on doing…’

‘Planning on doing?’

‘The message,’ Giles shot back. ‘The message you sent me three days ago. ‘Keep an eye on your mailbox’. Someone had to know what you were planning on sending me – someone clever enough to know that if we ever met I would never believe that you were innocent, no matter what the evidence.’ She sighed, shaking her head in shame. ‘I was so wrapped up in my hatred that I didn’t realise that was precisely what they were counting on…’

She let her voice trail off. She didn’t know if she believed any of it – even as she’d constructed the argument for Barker’s innocence, she’d begun to feel sick to the stomach. Even by suggesting it, she was betraying her principles and morals. She was handing Barker a sturdy defence, one that she was sure he’d utilise if the case ever came to trial – and yet, it was as legitimate an explanation as anything she’d believed about him so far. It was no more far fetched than the idea that a politician would commit a murder in such an open place…

            My God, she thought. I’m beginning to sound like him.

She was beginning to feel empty inside, like she’d sacrificed some part of her soul just by thinking it. But this was a necessary evil. If it got Barker to trust her, it was good enough for the moment.

She let out a half-hearted laugh and said:

‘This isn’t just about you, Barker. It’s about both of us. Someone wants to stop you from talking. They sent an assassin to make sure of that. But should it all go wrong and you were able to tell your story, they wanted to make sure that I’d never listen.’

‘The Bluebell Killer,’ Barker replied confidently. ‘I knew he had fingers in the government, but I had no idea he had the police in his pocket as well. He knew you were my contact. There’s nowhere else he could have got that information except through the police…’

Giles shook her head. ‘Not a hope. I kept your involvement a secret. Not even Bolton knew that I had an informant – you made it clear that’s what you wanted…’

‘Oh…’ Barker thought hard for a moment.

‘But it must be true,’ Giles continued, ignoring the awkward silence. ‘How else did the bullet casing vanish from the pillbox? Someone in Harris’ team wanted there to be missing evidence to make us question your version of events – to make sure there was no doubt in our minds that you were guilty…’

‘Or Harris himself?’ Barker muttered.

Giles shook her head. ‘Harris was sure you were innocent. It was only when I turned up that he got convinced otherwise…’

‘Thank God you turned up,’ Barker replied with a grimace. ‘But why did Harris even get your involved? Why did he bring you down to the crime scene? It certainly wasn’t just because I asked for you…’ He paused to think. ‘He needed you there to witness my downfall. He needed you to be convinced that I was nothing more than a liar and a murderer so that when I tried to talk…’

‘I wouldn’t listen.’

Barker nodded, sitting back in his chair with a strange posture – relaxed yet alert at the same time. He seemed almost like a man who’d just won a debate, savouring a moment of victory but ready for the inevitable counter argument.

Giles shook her head.

‘I can’t believe it was Harris…’

‘If not Harris, then someone on his team.’

Giles nodded. Leaning forward, she placed a comforting hand on Barker’s and smiled sweetly as she gazed into his troubled eyes.

‘Who are they, Daniel?’ She asked. ‘Who would go to this much trouble just for a back-up plan?’

Barker’s eyes twitched.

They work for Him,’ he said pointedly. ‘And He is more dangerous than you could possibly imagine.’

 

Barker let his words hang in the air. Giles waited with baited breath for him to continue, her eyes wide and ready to explore the possibilities. Barker had witnessed her mind finally open up to the world, watched as she breathed in a new way of thinking that had finally led her to realise that there was more to all of this than just her belief in his guilt.

There was truth as well.

Did he believe this newfound open-mindedness on her part was genuine?

Not a jot…

It had been all too easy. She’d been too willing to give up her convictions for the benefit of a man she didn’t like let alone trust. It was all too obvious.

She and Barker were two warriors, dancing around each other – each word they uttered was a thrust at each other’s armour; each parry another lie that they told. They were two mortals locked in a battle of wit and deceit from which only one could emerge victorious…

She may even have been as good at it as he was.

Regardless, Giles had demonstrated that she was at least willing to fake trust in him – even if she didn’t really believe it herself.

That was good enough for Barker – for the moment.

Maybe, I might just get what I want…

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 12

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.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Twelve

‘Do you have a car?’

‘What?’

            ‘A car,’ Giles muttered urgently. ‘Do you have one?’

Barker stared blankly for a moment and then nodded his head.

‘Here?’

‘Yes?’

‘What kind?’

‘What?’

It was one of those times when the mouth reacted faster than the mind. Barker opened his mouth to answer but a late thought entered his mind causing him to shut it abruptly. His eyes flickered over to the car park and he said:

‘I don’t think I understand…’

‘You want me to get you out of here?’ Giles looked up towards the clubhouse as they drew closer and closer. Most of the officers had driven away now, but Harris and his sergeant were still loitering by their car. ‘My car is by the clubhouse. Harris will have you in cuffs before we even get close. Do you have yours with you?’

Barker followed her eye line until he spotted the two detectives in the car park. With a regrettable shake of the head he said:

‘Same place as yours,’ he muttered, his voice laced with uncertainty. ‘There’s only two of them. Couldn’t we overpower them…?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

Giles sighed heavily. Time was running out.

Two cars. We won’t get to either before Harris is on to us.

            ‘Is there any other way?’

Not without running cross-country. Think.

            Barker nodded to a small footpath, slowly creeping up on their right hand side. ‘That path leads down along the river. If we follow it to the bypass and cut up the High Street…’ He checked his watch. ‘The 12.15 to London arrives in eight minutes. If we run, we might catch it.’

‘Might?’

Giles glanced up towards the car park ahead. A group of footballers were making their way across the field towards the clubhouse, jumping and cheering in their revelry as they moved closer to the two detectives. Giles’ eyes darted across the path. It was thin and surrounded by bushes, barely ten metres away and not easily visible from Harris’ position.

We might just be able to make it.

            She turned to Barker.

‘Right, wait for my word.’

 

From Harris’ position, Giles and Barker seemed to have almost slowed to a stop. Parsons had noticed it too and, with his keen ex-soldier instincts guiding him, he took a couple of steps forwards and raised his face to the sky, as though he was picking up a faint scent in the air.

‘What are the hell is she playing at?’

The troupe of footballers had reached them now. As they paraded past the waiting detectives, they sang out ‘We Are the Champions’ at full volume and jumped around with such energy and excitement that you might have thought they had just won the World Cup. One or two even gave great grinning thumbs up to the two detectives and thanked them for their support, much to the amusement of the rest of the squad.

It was Parsons who sounded the alarm. As the last of the footballers passed them by, he burst forward and began to sprint at full pelt out on to the field.

‘Bugger me,’ he cried. ‘They’ve legged it.’

Harris took a few moments longer to scan the field, but he already knew that Parsons was right. For all intents and purposes, Giles and Barker had vanished.

 

Giles hadn’t stopped to look back. The bushes surrounded them now, but she knew it was only a matter of time.

She imagined the commotion on the field behind them. The surge of footballers passing by. The glimpses of two figures sprinting for the bushes. A moment of sheer panic as Harris and his colleague stare, dumbstruck, at the empty field…

And then…

The chase.

Ten seconds – that’s how much head start Giles and Barker would have had.

And another thirty – the time Giles estimated it would take them to reach the escape route.

Forty seconds.

Giles and Barker were safely on the path, the undergrowth disappearing behind them. They pushed against the hard ground, sprinting as fast as they could in the direction of the road bridge over the river. Behind them, the first cries of Harris’ confusion were all but lost in the air whipping past their ears.            

Jumping outstretched branches, ducking unkempt strands of bush and hopping the awkward patches of hardened mud, Giles pressed hard against her legs to keep pace with the man ahead.

As he rounded the corner, there was a scream of shock as Barker almost ploughed straight into a lady walking a black cocker spaniel. Jumping the lead, Barker surged on leaving Giles to make the hurried apologies as she scooted past the confused woman.

‘Sorry,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Excuse us…’

But the lady paid her no attention. Her eyes were fixed firmly on the retreating back of Barker.

‘Is that…?

Giles didn’t hang around to hear the rest of the question.

Weaving in and out of the criss-cross of various footpaths, Barker headed straight towards the river with the confidence of a man who had travelled this path before. When they arrived at the riverside once more, he wasted no time in turning along the riverbank. Digging his heels hard into the ground, he bounded up the embankment and sprinted hard towards the bridge up ahead with Giles panting with exhaustion behind him.

They were at the bridge in a matter of seconds.

A welcome gap in the traffic allowed them to pass without pause, leaving Giles little time to glance over her shoulder.

On the riverbank behind them, Harris’ colleague pounded the ground like a speeding bull – a single figure in the distance.

He’ll never catch us…

            A horn blared out.

The gap was not as large as Giles had thought. Flinging her hands up in apology, Giles darted out of the way of the speeding car, ignoring the torrent of abuse the driver hurled in her direction. Safely back on the pavement, Giles kicked her heels in to catch up, but Barker was already well ahead.

Another thirty seconds – Barker emerged on the High Street first, speeding around to the left and bursting up the hill. Despite the aching pain in her stomach, Giles forced herself to keep running. The muscles around her diaphragm were cramping up, restricting her breathing and sending a shooting pain up the side of her chest. Her legs began to sting with the effort of smashing the tarmac ground and her breath began to rasp with the strain of it all.

Just keep breathing.

            Hesitating for a moment to look back at Giles, Barker proceeded to climb the long, yet slight, incline of the hill, barely looking at the Tudor façades of the pubs, cafes and charity shops that lined the street. All about them, shoppers scattered as Barker and Giles ploughed past them; some watching with disgust, others frozen with excited curiosity.

‘Giles!’

Giles risked a glance back.

Harris’ colleague had closed the gap. His face was calm – barely showing any sign of the exertion. His legs pounded the pavement with unwavering rhythm, inching him closer and closer to his quarry.

Some way behind him, Harris turned on to the High Street – his face purple and his legs buckling under the strain.

Good. At least that’s one problem I don’t have to deal with.

            Giles turned her head back and pushed hard to build up an extra burst of speed. Taking control of herself, she breathed deep and slowly as the tight sensation crept across her mid-section. Her legs were throbbing and aching, and a strange metallic taste now lingered on her tongue.

With each passing second, she could feel her pace slowing. Her body was starting to give up…

            Just keep going.

Up ahead, Barker gave a quick glance left and right before darting across the road and down a small side street. With a quick glance of her own, Giles crossed the road after him.

The road ahead was long, but the station was in view at the end of it. Gathering as much extra energy as she could muster, Giles forced herself faster as she passed the rows upon rows of parked cars on either side. With every stride, Harris’s colleague gained ground on her whilst Barker inched away.

She was half way down the street now. With each stride, the station got closer. With each couple of beats on the ground, a second ticked away.

Then she saw it.

A flash of green slid between the buildings. A dull, electrical hum wavered in the air as a higher pitched whine slowly lost its tone.

The long, sleek train pulled into the station platform.

As it came to a stop, the doors slid gracefully open, inviting them to come inside.

Barker was already there. He slipped around the side entrance, avoiding the ticket office, and careered on to the platform, bounding effortlessly on to the train.

The deep snarl of Harris’ colleague was closer now. Giles glanced behind her, almost thundering into a parked car as she did.

His arms swayed back and forth with masterful control, pushing through the air like a steam train. His body barely bobbed higher than an inch with each step. His nostrils flared with his heavy breath and his eyes were set, unblinking, on Giles.

No pain. No hint of fear or failure.

Once a soldier…

            Giles turned back to the train and pressed on…

She was ten metres away.

A familiar, high pitched beeping, cut through the air.

Inside the train, Barker beckoned at her, willing her faster as she rounded the side of the station building and out on to the platform.

The doors began to close.

With her last strength, Giles dived forward, her hands landing hard on the train floor and her legs scooting inside the carriage as the door sealed shut behind her.

There were no thoughts to begin with – nothing but the deliriousness of an empty mind. Giles lay, for a moment, on the floor – breathing hard and willing the fuzziness out of her brain.

Next to her, a figure bent down and offered her his hand. Giles took it without question and allowed him to help her up to her feet. Smiling gratefully at her helper, it took Giles a good second or two to realise it was Barker.

His breathing was strained as well, but he still managed his own smile as Giles’ feet finally found the ground again and began to hold her own weight. Two quivering wrecks, they stood staring at each other – her hands resting gently on his shoulders why his hands supported her waist.

His hands were warm – almost inviting…

SMACK!

Giles jumped backwards as a hand banged viciously against the glass of the door.

Harris’ colleague leant up against the train, his calm face now contorted with anger and disappointment as he pounded at the train door. Giles and Barker stared in silence at the snarling detective as the train finally began to move. He jogged alongside, keeping pace as the train picked up speed – yelling something inaudible through the glass as he began to run out of platform.

Giles could see it in his eyes. He knew it was as pointless as she did – but he wasn’t going to give up. He would chase them to the end of the world if he had to…

The last Giles saw of him was his scream of frustration as the end of the platform finally forced him to stutter to a halt. In a moment, the station had vanished from sight and Giles was treated to one last glance at Edenbridge before the train emerged out into the countryside.

Through the pounding of her own heartbeat, Giles could feel the steady beating of another. In her shock she had jumped right into Barker’s arms, pressing her back up against his chest. His hands had stayed rigidly on her shoulders but, after a few moments, his arms curled protectively around her.

Giles pushed herself away from him, stepping across to the other side of the carriage. Maybe it was her exhausted delusion, but as she stared back at him, he seemed like a different man than before. He seemed somehow strong and commanding, yet weak and vulnerable. And, despite the sweat that dribbled down his cheek, his face seemed almost inviting…

Almost human…

It was an odd sensation – one that took a long while to subside.

With a glance out at the passing countryside, Giles finally allowed herself to relax. She didn’t know why she was laughing – all she really knew was that it felt like the right thing to do. Adrenalin was coursing through her body and the triumph of escaping Harris’ men filled her with a strange sense of satisfaction. She could understand why crime appealed to some people – the feeling of victory was so addictive…

Barker could feel it too. His voice rumbled with a low chuckle and, as the two made eye contact, they both felt the urge to break out into a wave of infectious laughter. Even one or two of their fellow passengers joined in – although none of them knew why.

Giles glanced down the carriage at them, noting a couple of disgruntled faces peering out from behind newspapers and books or up from their mobile phones.

‘I think we made a noticeable entrance,’ grunted Barker, his eyes sparkling cheekily.

Giles managed little more than a nod of agreement before she turned away and wandered down the carriage in search of a seat. Her mind flitted to Harris who was doubtlessly just arriving on the empty platform. He had struck her as a worrier from the first time she’d heard his voice – she had little doubt that he would be panicking now as he paced the station platform. Through one act of kindness, he had potentially spelt the end of his career…

And yours…

            Giles slid into a seat, placed her head back against the headrest and tried her best to gather her breath. As she did so, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to think of the dead body lying propped up against the pillbox.

The dog leash…

The tickets…

The missing bullet casing…

The creature in Giles’ stomach stirred once again.

We are in so much trouble, it said spitefully. This had better be worth it.

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 11

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.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Eleven

Barker walked with the air of a man being sent to the gallows. To the casual observer, he seemed sullen and lacking in energy. He dragged his feet along the ground, kicking up dust and stones as he plodded along the pathway, whilst keeping his hands firmly bound together in front of his stomach. His head was angled down and yet, in the shadows beneath his brow, his eyes darted energetically about him.

The pair of them – Giles and Barker – moved slowly down the pathway. She muttered frantically, her hands jutting out this way and that as she pleaded with him. He said nothing at all.

Up ahead, Harris and the other detective began to cross the bridge. They stopped halfway across to check on Giles’ progress before disappearing over the other side as they emerged into the playing fields beyond.

A few minutes later, Giles and Barker arrived at the bridge themselves. Despite the melancholic plod in his stride, the politician revealed nothing of his emotions or feelings save for a sudden, uncontrollable shiver that seemed to grip his hands. He was jittery – that much was certain – but Giles observed this apparent display of fear with a cynical and professional eye, content in the knowledge that it was little more than an act for her benefit. She might have continued to believe this had it not been for the sudden crack of twigs in a nearby bush, which prompted the politician to yelp in fright and almost around the side of the bridge and into the shallow stream below.

He gripped a tight hold of the wooden barrier and peered nervously into the bracken as the creature – whatever it was – rustled its way unseen through the twigs and leaves. The longer he stared, the paler his face became. His brow was punctuated with small globules of milky sweat and his skin appeared no longer clean and youthful, but waxy and wrinkled as though premature aging had struck him in that very instant. In a moment or two, the rustling became instinct against the gentle swishing of swaying trees and grass, and Daniel Barker relaxed a little.

But the cracks were showing.

He was terrified.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Giles worked hard to control her breathing as her heart pounded ferociously inside her chest. She had been given a finite time. She had the length of the walk back to the cars to get what she needed from Barker – after that she would have to wait her turn. Beyond the footbridge, she knew she had two hundred metres – two hundred metres of rugby and football pitches – before she would have to hand him over.

They would walk across the fields, avoiding the games being played by the Bank Holiday crowd, and head across to the clubhouse where the fleet of police vehicles would wait in readiness. And when they arrived, a squad of constables would descend on him, pin him up against a patrol car and restrain his hands once more.

Giles didn’t know if Barker would cry out, but she supposed he wouldn’t. With such an audience of sporting fans, he would want to retain some element of dignity. He wouldn’t want to be remembered as the corrupt politician who was dragged away in chains. He’d want to be the noble martyr being led to quietly to his confinement. Wrongfully imprisoned but defiant to the last.

The portrait of an English gentleman…

She allowed Barker to step ahead of her on to the bridge. Her hands trembled with trepidation as they gripped the wooden handrail. This would be her chance – she knew it all too well. Harris would never allow Barker to simply go free – she knew that as well. If Barker didn’t talk now, if he didn’t tell her what she knew, she might never get another chance. He might sulk in silence, clinging on to his last trump card – never playing it as long as he was locked away from the world…

Then all this would have been for nothing…

Her mind flitted back to Jason, his face contorted with anger as he ranted about how her job was taking over her life. He had known she was a career woman when he married her, but something had changed in the past few months. All of his friends now had bouncing babies, families – and Jason had become more than a little broody.

But he knew the deal. Giles would work ten years on the force before she stopped to have children, and there were still three more to go. In truth, Giles couldn’t face the idea of bringing children into the world. Not this world at any rate.

‘If you want my help, you’re going to have to give me something,’ she said, pausing on the bridge to watch the stream trickle quietly below.

The water of the weir crashed loudly a short distance away. The easterly wind whipped up harder through the trees, causing them to sway and creak and rustle. Barker stopped to ponder the nature as well. Standing side by side the two were in perfect isolation – no one could hear them speak or catch them off guard. And yet, despite their remoteness, Giles couldn’t help shaking the feeling that they were being watched.

‘You get me out of this and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.’

‘You know I can’t do that.’

‘Well, you’re going to have to,’ replied Barker, taking on the air of the party leader once more. ‘If I end up in a police cell, I will be dead before sunrise tomorrow morning.’

‘I can assure you, you will be perfectly safe.’

Barker scoffed. ‘You don’t even know who you are protecting me from.’

‘Then tell me.’

‘I told you, when I’m safely away from here and out of police custody.’

‘Harris’ team are more than capable of protecting you…’

‘And you trust Harris?’

In the distance, Harris stopped and looked back at them, almost as though he’d been beckoned by his own name. He stood watching them for a moment until Giles finally gave Barker a slight nudge and the two descended off the footbridge onto to the perfectly cut grass of the recreation field. The police cordon had long since been removed and already several dog walkers were pacing purposefully across the field in the direction of the bridge.

Barker eyed a Jack Russell suspiciously as it bounded past them, ignoring the curious glances of recognition from its owner. Up ahead, Harris turned again and continued walking, although he continued to throw the occasional glance back at the meandering pair.

‘They have evidence that you committed a murder, Mr Barker. They’re not just going to let me walk you out of here.’

‘Then you have two problems…’

‘So, tell me what I want to know and I will have you in protective custody in a matter of hours.’

Barker laughed again. ‘I spent years relying on other people to protect me. All it ever got me was one great, big, colossal failure on the largest stage in Britain.’ His voice hissed with bitterness:

‘Do you what they told me during the election? They said there was no need to focus on my own constituency – they said it was a sure thing. The public were going to back us to the hilt and all I had to do was focus on discrediting the government.’

Giles shrugged. ‘You needed better advisors…’

Barker scowled. ‘Then, on results day, it was my constituency that didn’t fall into line – myvoters that left me out in the cold. So, I think I’m right in saying that I’ve learnt the hard way that relying on other people leads to nothing but failure. And, when my life is the stake I’m playing for, I don’t much relish the idea of putting my faith of success in someone else’s hands – especially yours…’

‘You don’t really understand your position, do you?’

‘Quid pro quo, Giles,’ he shot back. ‘You need to think of another way to get me out of this mess, because if I’m in a police cell you won’t get what you want. If I’m locked away, my information is locked away with me…’

‘The Bluebell Killer.’

Barker gave her a cold, hard look. ‘You know what? When you killed that boy, he laughed. As he lay dying on the floor, he stared into your eyes and cackled with glee. He was so pleased with himself. – so delighted with what he’d done. He’d played you like a fucking fiddle – and there you were, basking in the triumph of it all…’

It was as though Giles’ whole body shut down. Her feet staggered to a halt as the weight of memories came crashing down around her. She could see him now. Alex Donnovan lying sprawled on the floor, staring up at her as his laughter echoed through the garage. His eyes sparkling with victory.

‘How the hell do you know that?’

Barker turned and smiled. ‘Curious, isn’t it?’

He waited for Giles to take hold of herself and start walking again.

‘Alright, let’s say I believe you,’ Giles muttered. ‘Who is he? Who is the Bluebell Killer if not Donnovan?’

A curious smile crept over Barker’s face. His hand emerged from his right trouser pocket and he waggled a lone finger at the detective, tutting playfully as he did so. ‘Quid pro quo, Giles. You don’t have much time.’

Giles slowed her pace a little more. They passed through the shadow of a rugby post, momentarily flickering their faces into darkness before emerging into the light once again. She stared thoughtfully at Barker. Her hair and scarf fluttered enthusiastically in the breeze as though the wind were strong enough to swoop her right off her feet. And yet, Barker remained perfectly still – his hair didn’t twitch and his clothes didn’t quiver – unmoveable against the elements.

‘You’re not even bothering to proclaim your innocence anymore.’

‘It wouldn’t make any difference if I did,’ Barker replied, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Your situation would still be the same.’ A slight smile crept across his face as his eyes flickered across Giles’ face. ‘They say you Chinese types are good with numbers. Let’s see what odds you can come up with for a successful escape. Tick-tock.

 

Harris came to a halt next to his car and turned back to look across the playing fields. Nearby, a football match had just finished. The players and supporters cheered and applauded each other whilst the two distant figures of Giles and Barker meandered across the far rugby field.

Harris felt Detective Sergeant Parsons slide into the spot next to him.

‘They’re taking their time,’ he observed. ‘Where are they going – a funeral?’

Harris turned to his colleague. Parsons was still relatively inexperienced as a sergeant, but his keen eyes breathed in his surrounding with the air of one who had seen it all. His trimmed muscles bulged beneath his cotton shirt and his neat, short hair spoke of a time before the police force.

Once a soldier…

‘DS Giles is attempting to extract some information from the suspect before he take him in.’

‘Don’t see the point, if you ask me. Anything she gets wouldn’t stand in court.’

‘It’s to do with another case. Giles asked for some time alone with him before he gets lost in a sea of paperwork. I figured it was the least we could do after her work in the pillbox…’

‘We would have got him eventually, sir.’ Parsons’ eyes narrowed on the pair as they made a slight turn towards the bushes at the side of the playing field to lengthen their journey. ‘I don’t like it.’

Harris could see what Parsons meant. Barker was still his prisoner, no matter how much Giles had to do with him getting caught.

His prisoner. His responsibility.

His neck if something went wrong.

He turned to the rest of the team, mostly uniformed officers now, who tried to loiter causally by their patrol cars.

‘Get the rest of the team out of here,’ he ordered. ‘We don’t want Barker clocking our reception committee.’

Parsons barked some clipped orders and the officers clambered into their cars. In a moment, the engines roared into life and the cars disappeared up the lane towards the centre of town. Giles and Harris were still a fair distance away when Parsons returned.

‘How long has Giles got?’

Harris seemed to ignore the question. The footballers were making their preparations to leave the pitch, chanting and singing, clapping and excitedly recalling their own personal highlights.

But, for Harris, the game wasn’t over yet.

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 10

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.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Ten

‘So who is he then? Who is Daniel Barker to you?’

Harris had been watching as Giles and Barker talked. Giles could understand his scepticism. In the five minutes that he had allowed them, Giles had gone from a commanding figure looking for answers to a near emotional wreck.

There was no doubt in her mind who Barker was – none at all. But the lack of uncertainty only made it worse for her. He represented everything that she hated – she despised. All the time he’d been running for election, Giles had wanted nothing more that to see him fail. She had even wished – although hoped might be a more accurate word for it – that justice would somehow prevail and that he would be exposed for the bigoted and pathetic shit that he was.

She had watched with despair and dismay as the election got closer – noting the polls with uncomfortable despondency as they showed Britain’s First inching further and further ahead. It had to be rubbish – she was almost sure of it. She regularly saw the very worst of humanity but she still couldn’t bring herself to accept that people would be stupid enough to vote for it.

Individuals are bad, she would say to herself. Individuals do selfish things. But fundamentally, people are good.

She believed that right up to the day she woke up to hear the results. The British people had voted in by a clear majority – Britain’s First now formed the government. Everyone she knew seemed to have voted for them…

Even Jason…

‘They don’t mean you,’ he insisted when she found out. ‘They mean all the immigrants. You know? The ones who don’t pull their weight…’

They didn’t speak for a week.

The only silver lining in the whole horrendous affair was that Barker was totally trounced at the polls. Justice had finally prevailed – only it was a little too late.

The world had seemingly changed over night – at least for Giles. Racially motivated crime was on the rise and even her own superiors thought twice before praising her…

And it was all Barker’s fault.

She had been so eager to send him down. The opportunity to pin a murder on him had been too good to resist and the fact that he had made it so easy for her only added to her delight. She had ended him so completely…

And now it turned out he was her informant.

What kind of joke is that?

Giles dragged her eyes away from the man sat handcuffed on the floor. She had, at least, persuaded Harris not to haul him off to the station just yet. But time was wearing thin and there was little more for his team to do there.

‘I’ve never met Daniel Barker before in my life,’ she began, tightening the scarf around her neck. ‘But I’ve dealt with him before. Or – rather – I’ve had dealings with a man who called himself Max.’

‘Max?’

Giles nodded.

‘Until a few moments ago, Max was little more than a voice on the end of a telephone. At the time, I was deep in a murder investigation…’

‘The Bluebell Killer,’ Harris interrupted. ‘I read about it…’

Everybody read about it.

‘Over six months, the Bluebell Killer murdered twenty men and women. Most were successful types: bankers, web designers and entrepreneurs. At each killing he left a small bunch of bluebells on their bodies somewhere – a sort of signature for his kills. But each murder was different. Each unique. It was like he was trying to challenge himself to come up with as many different ways of killing someone…’

Harris smiled. ‘But you got him.’

‘Yes, thanks to Max.’ She glanced over at Barker. ‘The Bluebell Killer had hit his stride. He was offing two – sometimes even three – people a week. Shortly after number sixteen, I got a call. I’d discovered that the latest victim had received a large payment into his account. Max encouraged me to follow the money that led me to six of the other victims – all of whom had received the same bank transfer shortly before they died.

‘The money turned out to be a dead end, but it gave us a connection. Those killings were special. It was almost like the others were designed to disguise them – to hide the real motive for their deaths. And the link led us right to the killer.’

The image of a dark garage flitted across Giles’ mind.

‘It’s funny,’ she mused. ‘Max was always so sure that there was some giant conspiracy to protect the Bluebell Killer from being identified. It never occurred to him that it was just some nutty kid living in his grandmother’s spare room…’

Harris sniffed.

‘But that was nearly a year ago. What’s that got to do with this mess?’

Giles reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone.

‘Max fell off the radar after the bust,’ she explained. She tapped her phone a few times, selecting her text messages. ‘I didn’t hear from him for almost a year. And then, three days ago, I received this.’

She handed the phone over to Harris who stared down at it thoughtfully. The screen showed a text message from a number identified as ‘Max’.

It’s not over yet. Give me a few days and I’ll have proof. Keep an eye on your mailbox.

Harris looked up. ‘And what did he send you?’

Giles shook her head. ‘Nothing so far.’

‘And you think Barker is your informant?’

‘The only people who knew I had an informant on this were Max and myself. I never mentioned him to anyone. If Barker says he’s Max then I have no reason to doubt him…’

Harris threw a glance in Barker’s direction.

‘If he is, he’ll be able to tell you what he was planning to send to you.’

Giles laughed. ‘I’ve just ensured that he goes down for murder. He’s not going to give me anything.’

‘Not a lot I can do about that I’m afraid…’

Harris trailed off as he looked out towards the bridge. Stood by the near side, his sergeant and several constables stood waiting to move on. Everything else was packed up and gone – all they needed now was the suspect.

‘Actually,’ Giles muttered. ‘There is something you can do for me.’

 

Barker’s wrists were beginning to chafe against the harsh metal of the handcuffs. His legs had long since gone dead and his arms felt like they were going the same way. To top it all, he was gasping for a cigarette.

The two officers guarding him did little to help him. Every plea for assistance was met with the same disinterested silence or snide remarks. The only person who seemed remotely interested in even engaging him was Giles, and she wasn’t exactly on his side.

She had been his only bridge, his only life-line, and he – with his callous manner – had burned it before he’d even had the opportunity to use the leverage he held. Her response had been brutal – as though she was descended from Genghis Khan himself…

Was Genghis Khan even Chinese?

Who cares? A chink is a chink.

But he had information that Giles wanted. That would keep him alive…

Had he not spurned her…

Women can be so unreasonable.

Wandering by the pillbox, Giles and Harris walked side-by-side, talking animatedly and occasionally glancing in his direction. Giles had put aside her disliking of him – her irrational hatred – Barker was sure of it. Her face was pulsing with nervous energy and her eyes and voice were pleading to Harris with the manipulative prowess that only a woman can achieve.

He wondered what favours she was promising him – what pleasures she would be parting with to allow Barker to go free. Was she tempting Harris with a night of passion that he would never forget? Was she describing the indulgence of her skin against his, her tongue gently caressing…?

Barker caught himself out. He wiped the smile off his face and tried his best to replace the energetic feeling in his loins with his usual demeanour of distaste…

Chink slut…

He thrust his hands into his pocket and adjusted himself. His jeans were tight against his skin, but not so tight that he could hope to conceal himself from his two guards – not with his hands restrained behind his back and his jacket zipped up in an evidence bag.

Police can be so unreasonable.

Hope is a powerful ally. It was that blind, obedient hope that had seen Barker do so well in life up until recently – the same unproven optimism that told him now that Giles would be convincing enough to win him his freedom.

It was only slight – but it was hope nonetheless.

Giles had done such a good job of pinning the blame on him that it would take a masterstroke for her to undo it all. If Harris was even half-decent at his job, Barker would find himself in a police cell within the hour – locked away behind a solid metal door in a barred room. He would be as good as on display in a public gallery.

And then he would become the Bluebell Killer’s next victim…

But he had that hope.

As repugnant as it was, Giles was his one chance – his one chance of reaching the end of today in one piece.

She would want something in return, of course.

He would give her something to chew on. Something important enough for her to let him go. After all, the gorillas in their white shirts and stab-proof vests had already searched him today; she wouldn’t expect him to produce the evidence immediately…

Would she?

Barker watched the spirited discussion between the two detectives, hearing nothing of it but imagining the toing and froing all the same.

‘He is a witness to a bigger crime. If the Bluebell Killer is still out there…’

‘The Bluebell Killer is long gone, you said it yourself.’

‘But what if he isn’t?’

‘Then you can have Barker when we’re through with him.’

‘But by then it might be too late.’

Yes, it would be too late.

Time was not on Barker’s side and the thought of the restricted, small concrete police cell filled him with more dread than a death warrant. He wouldn’t be safe until he was far away from here – out of the reach of Harris of his cronies, out of sight from the public and the do-gooders…

Somewhere where the Bluebell Killer couldn’t find him.

Somewhere safe.

Far from everything…

The debate had come to a close.

Harris turned his back on Giles and marched straight towards Barker, his eyes set and sure, his true emotions hidden behind a mask of professionalism.

As the detective drew closer, Barker’s dead legs swelled with pumping blood as he readied to run. Yes, he would run if he had to. If Giles couldn’t get him out of this, his only hope would be to leg it and hope for the best. He’d been a triathlete in his younger days – he might have a chance of outrunning them all on a normal day. But with his hands fastened behind his back…?

Harris stopped a metre or so away from him, stared hard at Barker for a moment and gestured to the officers around him. Barker braced himself to flee but found to his surprise that – instead of being hoisted to his feet and dragged towards the bridge – they bent down and carefully unfastened his handcuffs before strolling off to join the rest of the team.

Massaging his wrists, Barker stared quizzically up at Harris who, with the most strained smile that Barker had ever thought possible, gave him a subtle nod and said:

‘Thank you, Mister Barker.’

He span on his heels and followed the retreating officers. He didn’t utter a sound as he passed by Giles who slowly walked forward to help the former politician to his feet. Barker would have thrown his arms out in celebration had it not been for the concerned, and somewhat apprehensive, look that was plastered across Giles’ face.

Barker paid it little heed. Whatever Giles had promised to Harris was her own affair.

For the first time in his life, Barker found himself absolutely speechless. He took a victorious deep breath and placed his hands on his hips as he stared about at the Kentish countryside, taking in the view as though he were a new-born experiencing the world for the first time.

‘I knew I could count on you,’ he whispered, smiling to his saviour gratefully and – perhaps for the first time in his life – honestly.

Giles peered cautiously over her shoulder. Harris’s team were slowly trudging over the bridge, shaking their heads in disbelief and utter confusion. Harris himself had stopped at the near side of the bridge to converse angrily with his sergeant. Barker hadn’t even noticed the sly glances they were shooting in his direction until Giles pointed it out to him.

As he looked to see what she was talking about, Giles tilted her head towards the ground and lowered her voice to an almost indistinct murmur.

‘Listen very carefully,’ she muttered. ‘We don’t have much time.’

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 9

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available for free through Amazon.com, iBooks, Kobo, Nook and Smashwords.

Chapter Nine

Giles had lost track of time in all the excitement and confusion. She had assumed it was a little past eleven but, when she finally looked down at her watch, the hour hand was close to the two. Hours and minutes felt all the same to her and the hustle and bustle of the crime scene passed before her eyes as though it were in a world of its own.

At the far side of the field, sat cross-legged close to bramble bush between the watchful eyes of two constables, Barker glared coldly out at her. He had descended from the elegant heights of public politics to the lowest form of criminal in a matter of weeks – though Giles would argue the transition was not as far as some might suggest. Revealed and isolated, there was little he could do but sit and wait. The last hope he had – the final resort – had been his undoing.

A short distance away, Harris finished up with Bellamy and, with a brief shake of the hand, the two parted ways. With the hard work on the crime scene done, Harris took a moment to breathe it all in – his eyes lingering for one more time on the blood stained pillbox and the crumpled red grass where the body once lay.

Only when he was completely satisfied did he walk smartly towards Giles, stopping a few feet in front of her. He didn’t need to speak his gratitude – his smile had already done that for him – but he said it nonetheless:

‘I couldn’t have done this without you, Giles,’ he said.

‘Eve,’ Giles replied. ‘My name is Eve.’

‘All right… Eve.’

He turned his head to follow Giles’ gaze. Barker hadn’t moved for nearly thirty minutes – as still as a statue, he had been glaring straight at her. But it wasn’t intimidating – that wouldn’t be the right word for it at all – pleadingly might be a more apt description.

‘He’ll be taken back to the station,’ Harris explained. ‘We’ll charge him with murder. I could even toss in a ‘wasting police time’ if you’d like?’

‘It won’t make a difference,’ Giles replied sullenly. ‘You haven’t got enough to convict him.’

Harris sucked at his lips. ‘There’s time. Besides it’s not like we have nothing: there’s the discrepancy of the shot range for starters. And the casing – I’m sure it will turn up eventually…’

Giles shook her head.

‘If you haven’t found it now, you’re not going to. More than likely it’s at the bottom of the river.’

‘Yes,’ Harris replied, although he didn’t seem to be in agreement with her. ‘Well, that’s not your problem anymore.’ He held out a firm hand to her. ‘Thank you for your help. I trust you’ll be available for testimony if we need it?’

Giles ignored the outstretched hand. Over the last thirty minutes an idea had been forming in her mind – an unsettling idea that had gripped hold of her and refused to let go. Despite every conscious attempt on her part to brush it aside, the idea had held firm, festered and spread until every single thought of her’s was consumed by it – consumed by a single question.

What if…?

She snapped her head towards Harris, her face set and unyielding as she said:

‘Detective Inspector, I wonder if I might ask a favour?’

Harris was only too happy to oblige until Giles told him what she wanted. The colour drained from his face and a sense of doom seemed to take hold of him.

‘Absolutely not,’ he replied. ‘This is still my investigation, Giles. This man has been arrested for murder. I can’t possibly…’

‘We both know you haven’t got a case,’ Giles interrupted, speaking quietly so that no one else could hear. ‘Any good lawyer will get it thrown out within the hour, and Daniel Barker will be able to get himself a good lawyer.’

‘But what you’re talking about is madness. He’s been manipulating us from the first moment and now he’s got you right where he had me only an hour ago. I can’t allow you to buy into this…’

‘But he knows something about my case.’

‘Then let us take him in, get him locked down and then I can let you talk to him. Just wait one hour until we have him processed and then you can question him to your heart’s content…’

‘Five minutes.’ She held up the fingers of her left hand. ‘Just five minutes alone with him. That’s all I’m asking for…’

‘I’m going to need a damn sight more than that, Eve,’ Harris replied. ‘This man is looking at a murder charge – any hint that we haven’t done this thing by the book and his lawyers will eat us alive. It’s going to be hard enough to explain why I let you help in the first place without you following your own lines of inquiry into a separate case…’

‘Daniel Barker didn’t kill that man.’

To say that Harris didn’t understand would be a gross understatement. He blinked twice and his mouth dropped open slightly, but no sound came out – nothing distinguishable as sound at any rate. When he finally did speak, it almost seemed as though it had come from somewhere else, as his lips barely moved and his whole body was stiffened with nervous tension.

‘What the hell are you playing at?’

Giles had little time to explain – in truth, she couldn’t really explain it herself. But somewhere in the back of her mind a small voice willed her on.

‘I mean…’ she hesitated, ‘… he might not have killed that man.’

Harris would have laughed if the matter weren’t so serious.

‘Are you out of your mind?’ he spluttered. ‘The whole morning you’ve been on my back, desperate to prove that Barker is a murderer. You’ve finally convinced me and now you’re saying he didn’t do it.’

‘I know it doesn’t make sense…’

‘You even found the evidence that refuted his story for Christ’s sake. You practically got a confession out of him…’

‘But I didn’t, did I?’ Giles fired back. ‘What did he admit to? Nothing? Writing a couple of names on two train tickets and planting them at the scene. That doesn’t mean the rest of his story isn’t true…’

‘It poses a credibility problem if nothing else…’

‘Five minutes. That’s all I need and then he’s all yours, I promise.’

Harris sighed deeply. He had gotten over the shock now and his mind was begging to work. Even now, Giles could see the cogs turning in his brain as the colour returned to his face.

‘You tell me one thing,’ he muttered, moving in menacingly close to Giles. ‘Who is this man to you?’

‘He’s no one…’

‘No, no,’ he interrupted, waggling a rigid finger at her. ‘Don’t give me that. An hour ago you would have made it your mission in life to see Barker ended, now you can’t wait to get him on side. What was it about the Bluebell Killer that made you change your mind?’

‘Five minutes,’ she said. ‘Let me talk to him for five minutes. Just to find out what he knows – if he really is who I think he is. Anything about the murder will be strictly off limits, I promise…’

‘And who do you think he is? Clearly not Daniel Barker the extreme politician. Clearly not the man who would have you and everyone like you drummed out of the country…’

Giles smiled warmly back at him. ‘If he is who I think he is, I promise you will have an explanation…’

‘You’ll give me one anyway.’

He turned to look at Barker and then, with a slight swoop of his hand, he finally relented and gestured for Giles to approach. If appreciation could ever be conveyed by a nod, Giles demonstrated it in that moment. She stepped past him and marched quickly up to Barker, aware that Harris was gesturing something over her shoulders. As though on cue, the two constables stepped away from Barker as she arrived and walked a few metres away, giving them plenty of space.

She didn’t want Barker’s approval – but she got it anyway.

‘Very nice,’ he said, shifting his weight to get slightly more comfortable. ‘The power you must wield Detective Sergeant Giles. You must be a truly formidable opponent…’

‘You would know. That’s how you got into this mess, isn’t it?’ She let the question hang for a few seconds. ‘Who are you?’

A sly grin etched its way across Barker’s face.

‘I didn’t mean to kill him,’ he said soothingly. ‘You have to believe that.’

‘I didn’t ask…’

‘No,’ Barker agreed. ‘But you are curious.’

The silence that followed was almost unbearable. Five minutes is never enough time to do anything and, as the silence ate away at it, Giles’ began to feel the strangest sensation of fear and panic – although she had no real reason to be.

‘You know,’ she said, ‘they have all the evidence they need to put you away.’

Barker’s mouth curled with a momentary glimpse of anger. ‘Evidence based on prejudice is no evidence at all.’

‘Coming from a man with your ideological background, that’s really touching…’

Barker paused, took a deep breath and steadied himself. ‘It’s just politics. It’s nothing personal.’

‘Not to you maybe…’

Although she didn’t show it, inside Giles felt like smiling. For the first time since she had laid eyes on Barker, she felt the cautious feeling of triumph moving through her body. Barker, the man who made it acceptable to hate others in Britain, was accused of murder and the evidence was pointing towards a probable conviction. The man who inspired so much ill feeling was facing a lifetime in one of the darkest buildings in Britain…

Good riddance to him…

Deep inside her, a hissing beast wiggled around, willing Giles to turn and walk away.

‘You can’t allow them to take me in,’ Barker protested, crossing his arms and staring confrontationally around at the surrounding officers.

‘I can’t stop them. This isn’t my jurisdiction.’

‘What if I made it your jurisdiction?’

‘Why am I here?’

‘Don’t you understand? It’s all linked together. The killer you’re hunting, the man who tried to have me killed – it’s the same person.’

Giles chuckled. ‘The Bluebell Killer is dead. You know that as well as I do.’

‘Then why does he want us both dead?’

Barker glanced around. The ring of uniformed officers didn’t seem to be listening but he didn’t want to take any chances. He leant forward a little and whispered:

‘You were so close to bringing him down. So close.’

‘I did bring him down,’ Giles replied. ‘I have my scars to prove it…’

She reached up and touched the scarf around her neck. Barker’s eyes narrowed to look at the silk material, but Giles kept it firmly in place. Barker shook his head.

‘You found Donnovan, but that man is not the whole story,’ he muttered, his eyes narrowing on her. ‘You should really have followed the money…’

If there was ever any doubt in Giles’ mind about who Daniel Barker was to her, it had all but gone now. Inside her stomach, the beast wriggled a little and whispered to her.

Is that enough for you?

Giles took a step forward. Had it been any other person, she might have risked a smile. Instead, she stared at him for a moment before giving a short, courteous nod.

‘Hello, Max.’

 

Hidden behind a desk in the Kent Force Control Room, Alison Carew peered subtly over the top of her computer. At the next desk in front, Lawrence Heller was doing his usual tea run, moving from desk to desk to take their orders as he did at this time every morning. As he stopped at the desk before Alison’s, his eyes momentarily flickered up to see her peering out at him. With what she hoped was with a casual demeanour, Alison allowed her eyes to wander around the room before she slinked back into her chair and pretended to resume her typing.

She had hoped that this would be the day when Lawrence would extend his generosity as far as her relegated position at the back of the Control Room, that finally she would be accepted as one of the team. But, as he did everyday, Lawrence merely chuckled to himself and went off to grab the beverages for the rest leaving Alison with the cold, hard feeling of undeserved misery and uselessness.

She had never been one of the team. Ever since they found out who her father was, Alison had been the person to avoid. She was the daughter of the Former Prime Minister; the man who not only successfully led the country blindly in to near bankruptcy, but had also flourished his achievement with a couple of illegal wars that tore the straps of Britain’s communal camaraderie to shreds. For those who didn’t like the current government, Edmund Carew was the target of all their abuse and, as his daughter, Alison was no less a focus of their brutal remarks.

It had been this isolation that had made Alison so eager to run the secretive errands for the top dogs of the Force. Occasionally that meant snitching on the others in her team much to their disgust and irritation but, given her already well-established unpopularity, it had made little difference to her day-to-day existence.

Although, the occasional cup of tea would have been nice…

It had been a slow day so far. The only real incident had been the body found by the River Eden earlier that morning. The Bank Holiday usually brought its fair share of drunken scuffles and domestic disturbances but nothing that seriously strained them. Today there had hardly been any so far. But the day was still young and afternoon rush would soon be in full swing…

Alison listened attentively to the radio chatter coming from the scene at Edenbridge, watching jealously as Lawrence returned with a tray full of teas that he dished out gleefully to the rest of the team. She had little to do after the initial call out save for recovering some contact details for Detective Sergeant Giles for the DI on scene. The waves had been effectively silent ever since.

But now the radio was positively buzzing with activity as the team packed up to head back.

‘Dispatch Control, do you read me, over?’

Alison cleared her throat and adjusted her headset to bring the microphone closer to her mouth. ‘This is Dispatch, reading you clearly, over.’

‘Please advise the station, we are bringing in a suspect, over.’

Alison’s nimble fingers darted over her keyboard as she typed in the information. ‘Copy that. Central has been advised. What is the identity of the prisoner, over?’

‘Suspect’s name is Daniel Barker, over.’

She couldn’t stop herself. The mere mention of that man’s name caused her to freeze and draw a large breath of shock. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard and her mind formed an image of the man they had in custody; the man who’s youthful charm and wit had not only ousted her father but made him the most hated man in Britain. Daniel Baker – the man who ruined her father’s career…

And her life.

Vengeance comes in all forms. For Alison Carrew, the idea of Barker plunged into a jail cell was justice enough for what he’d done. But she was sure her superiors would want to know about it as well – after all, something as serious as Barker being brought in for murder…

‘Copy that. They’ll be ready. Out.’

The radio went silent.

Alison stared at the screen in silence, her fingers slowly reaching for her jacket pocket. From it, she removed a mobile phone that she tucked inside her sleeve as she quietly got to her feet and moved towards the door. From his desk, Lawrence watched her with a mischievous smile as she crossed the office and stepped through the door that led to the kitchen.

It was a cramped little kitchen, barely large enough for more than a couple of people to squeeze inside. She filled up the kettle and turned it on before taking out her phone and typing a text message.

Daniel Barker to be brought in. Suspected of murder in Edenbridge.

            Satisfied, she hit the send button and waited until the message was gone before pocketing the phone. A few moments later, the kettle was boiled and Alison poured herself a cup of tea that she carried delicately back to her desk before continuing with her work.

She had a feeling that today was going to be very satisfying…

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 8

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available in its entirety for free through Amazon.comiBooksKoboNook and Smashwords.

Chapter Eight

         Another summer’s day. Another murder.

And yet Camden Lock Market carried on as though nothing had happened. The biggest melting pot of a dozen different cultures filled with tourists from countless countries – all of them pouring into the streets as the black BMW edged cautiously through the streets.

Even with the blue lights flashing on the unmarked police car, shoppers darted out in front of it, almost as though they hadn’t noticed it. And as they passed by, the backpack totting gangs of drug dealers retreated into the market stalls and watched quietly until it was safe to emerge again. Hell, not even the traffic up ahead parted to allow it prowl through.

          No respect for the police anymore.

In the back of the car, Giles poured over her briefing sheet, trying to ignore the tempting aroma of various Asian dishes infused intermittently with the slightest hint of marijuana. The file was pretty sparse, but Giles already knew all the background. The rumour was the Bluebell Killer had struck again. That would make it sixteen murders since April.

An average of two a week.

The car passed under the famous Camden Town railway bridge and continued a few hundred feet further down the road before crossing over the canal. It pulled over immediately after, sending a few camera-wielding tourists trotting out of the way as the car mounted the pavement.

Giles closed up the file and clambered out of the door and joined the others as they set off down the towpath. Her companions walked a little ahead of her, talking animatedly as they consulted the case file: DI Frank Bolton, strong and commanding, led the discussion, rattling off a list of questions; DC John Scutter, short and fat from his over drinking, listened carefully, flicking through the file, struggling to hold the pages down in the stiff breeze.

Giles had no need to listen in. She knew the case file better than anyone.

She followed the others as descended down to the canal. Up ahead, a plethora of white-clad SOCOs had set up shop next to the lock and, from where she was, Giles could see two divers slowly climbing up the lock ladders.

A suicide. It has to be.

            ‘That would be nice,’ Giles muttered.

‘What was that?’

Bolton turned to face her.

He was a shadow of the man she had first known when she became a Detective Constable four years ago. He’d lost his enthusiasm – his spark of creativity and ingenuity. Word was that he’d turned down promotion to Detective Superintendent – but Giles knew different. The Met had been slowly phasing out the role of DCI for several years and, with many of his superiors vying for promotion before their role became defunct, Bolton’s brand of creative enthusiasm did not win him any favours.

Now he consigned himself to bureaucratic detective skills – paperwork, thoroughness and diligence. He rarely even visited a crime scene if he could avoid it.

But the Bluebell Killer case was different.

It was his chance to shine.

To be noticed.

Giles flashed a short smile at him.

‘Oh, nothing.’

Bolton nodded and carried on.

The lock was empty, or as empty as it was likely to be with the huge amount of water trying to surge through the old, wooden gates. As they arrived alongside, a female SOCO waved them over and shook hands with each in turn. Dr Susan Harken smiled sweetly when she got to Giles – the dinner party from the night before clearly playing on her mind.

‘Hello Eve.’

‘Recovered yet?’ Giles asked playfully.

‘I don’t think I will look at dice the same way again…’

Bolton cleared his throat, gesturing to a nearby forensics tent. ‘Shall we get on?’

Harken led the three of them through to the tent where a large, flabby man lay facedown on the ground. As the three detectives filed in, Harken handed Bolton a soggy wallet that he passed on to Scutter to open up. Delving through the layers of leather, Scutter soon found what he was looking for.

‘Henry Jones. Thirty-six years old,’ he announced, producing a sodden, white card from the wallet. ‘A banker according to his business card. No money missing.’

‘He was found face down in the lock this morning,’ Harken explained, directing her comments towards Giles. ‘I estimate he’d been there since the early hours of the morning.’

Bolton shrugged. ‘Could he have fallen in? Night on the town, maybe?’

Harken shook her head. ‘I’ll run a tox-screen back at the lab, of course, but I don’t see anything to suggest that. Besides…’ she pointed at the victim’s neck ‘…there are ligature marks around his throat.’

‘Suicide?’ piped up Scutter.

Giles coughed. ‘No one tries to strangle themselves and then throws themselves into a lock. It’s too messy.’ She turned back to Harken. ‘Is it him?’

Harken shot a knowing look and bent down next to the body. Carefully, she placed her fingers under the dead man’s clothing and began to lift it up.

‘I called you as soon as I saw it.’

As she brought the shirt past the centre of the man’s back, Giles could see the blue-violet flowers strapped to his skin using duct tape. She didn’t react at first, aware that Harken was staring intently up at her, but Scutter was not so veiled.

‘Oh my God,’ he whispered. ‘Not another one.’

Giles let herself into the small apartment, carefully placing the keys down on the side table as she pulled her latex gloves over her fingers.

Henry Jones had been successful in his lifetime, but that success had made him a rather lonely man. His neighbours didn’t know him very well and he had little family to speak of. As Giles walked past the bare walls and shelves devoid of any personal photographs, she somehow felt less sorry for the man.

True he had been murdered but – somehow – Giles wondered whether he would have lasted much longer had that not been the case. The man who had lived here was not a man enjoying life to the full, but a man waiting to die. Waiting for the end of it all.

Maybe he did him a favour…

She made her way through to the next room, moving straight across to a large desk at the far side. She flicked through a pile of letters that lay discarded on the desk – nothing particularly intimate, just bills mostly. She opened up a bank statement and casually glanced down the transactions.

Henry Jones may not have been full of the joys of life, but he certainly knew how to party. His debit and credit card bills were littered with the names of nightclubs and off-licenses, fancy restaurants and expensive hotels.

A regular amount had been withdrawn in cash. Always the same – three hundred and fifty pounds on the tenth of each month.

Probably a hooker, Giles thought.

She was about to set the letter back down when something caught her eye – a large deposit that had been placed in Jones’ account a week or so before the murder…

Twenty thousand pounds.

‘I wonder what that’s about…’

I wonder…

 

‘Scutter.’

Scutter stirred reluctantly, sitting up from his mid-day nap and glaring at Giles as she marched across the office towards him. He knew that look well enough – and it usually resulted in more work for him.

‘Yes, boss.’

Giles handed him the bank statement.

‘I need you to look into that last deposit made into Jones’ account. It was twenty grand from an unnamed account. I need you to see if we can find anything on it.’

‘What for? We already know it was Bluebell who got him.’

‘Just do it, John…’

Giles strode away, acutely aware of Scutter cursing beneath his breath. She made her way quickly across the office and knocked on a large door that led through to Bolton’s personal office space.

Bolton peered up at her with tired eyes.

‘Eve, do we have anything yet?’

‘Nothing new,’ replied Giles, taking a seat opposite him. ‘No one seems to know much about Jones apart from the fact he was a banker. He doesn’t seem to have had any close friends or family.’

Bolton sighed. ‘Well, I don’t imagine it would do us much good anyway. It hasn’t so far.’

‘One possible lead though,’ Giles continued. ‘Jones received a large payment shortly before his death. It might be worth looking in to…’

‘How much are we talking?’

Giles told him. Bolton whistled and rubbed his large forehead, his fingers toying with the fringes of his short, black, curly hair.

‘Alright, it’s worth a shot,’ he said, leaning back in his chair. ‘The Commander is screaming to know what’s happening. The last thing he wants is to be in the dark when another ‘Bluebell Killer’ headline appears tomorrow morning…’

‘Yes, sir…’

In the next room, a phone began to ring. Giles looked up and could see Scutter gesturing wildly towards her desk. Taking her cue, Giles made her excuses and left Bolton’s office, moving swiftly across the floor and taking a seat behind her own desk.

‘Giles,’ she announced down the phone.

‘Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles?’

The voice on the end of the phone was calm and confident, quiet but well-spoken.

‘That’s right,’ Giles replied. ‘Whom am I speaking to?’

‘My name is not important. But what I want is.’

Giles hesitated. ‘And what do you want?’

‘To help.’ The voice took a long deep breath. ‘I have information on the man you have come to know as The Bluebell Killer.’ He hesitated. ‘Am I right in thinking you are the person to talk to?’

Giles’ heart skipped a beat. Her eyes darted over to the far side of the room to Bolton’s office. Through the gap in the blinds she could just about make out his strong figure, rocking back and forth on his chair as he flung small balls of paper into the waste paper basket.

‘I’m in charge of the investigation, yes…’

‘Is Frank Bolton no longer on the team?’

Giles hesitated – a pang of guilt flitting across her mind.

‘I meant that DI Bolton doesn’t usually deal with individual informants,’ she lied, reaching forward to the keypad. ‘But, if you’d like, I can see if he would be willing to talk with you…’

‘No,’ the voice replied sharply. ‘Do not trust him with this, do you understand? Do not trust anyone else with this.’

‘I can assure you that DI Bolton and my team are amongst some of the finest officers in the district…’

‘My help is for you. No one else.’ The voice sounded more urgent this time.

Giles glanced around the room. Nobody had been paying attention to her conversation.

Pity. I could use a second set of ears…

‘Alright,’ she said slowly. ‘What information have you got?’

The voice took a deep breath. ‘Henry Jones is confirmed as one of his victims, is he not?’

Giles’ eyes widened. ‘How did you know that?’

The voice hesitated a moment longer. ‘Follow the money.’

The line went dead.

 

Giles was ready the next time the mysterious caller contacted her. It had been a good few weeks and, during that time, Giles had made it her habit of recording every conversation she had on her desk line. As the phone rang this time, she gave little thought to it as she clicked on the recorder and settled back into her chair.

‘Giles.’

‘Did you find it?’

It was him.

‘Yes, I did.’

‘And?’

Giles shook her head. ‘If this is going to carry on, I’m going to need a name.’

The voice went quiet as he thought for a moment. ‘You can call me Max,’ he said finally.

‘Not your real name, I’m guessing?’

The voice chuckled. ‘I just had to look around for inspiration. Now, tell me, what did you learn?’

‘I’m not at liberty to discuss that with members of the public…’

‘Then I shall tell you,’ Max interrupted. ‘You discovered that the account that sent that large sum to Mr Jones also sent large sums to several other people, am I correct?’

Giles glanced around furtively before replying. ‘That’s right.’

‘And each is now dead – all victims of the Bluebell Killer, right?’

Giles didn’t reply at first. On a television at the far side of the room, Scutter and another officer were watching the news as the latest updates from the Houses of Parliament flashed across the screen.

‘Why does he pay them first, Max?’ she asked tentatively. ‘What’s the connection?’

‘The account is anonymous and untraceable. You will never find a link back to your killer that way.’

‘Then give me something, anything to go on.’

The voice went silent. ‘The Bluebell Killings are all different. Each method of murder is different from all the others and yet you believe, whole heartedly, that they are all linked somehow.’

‘Because of the bluebells…’

‘Any fool can drop a bunch of bluebells on a corpse, DS Giles.’

‘So what’s the point?’

‘The point is that the bluebells are a distraction, a ploy to make you think that the murders have all been committed by the same person…’

Giles’ mind stuttered to a halt.

‘What are you trying to tell me?’

The voice chuckled. ‘The bluebells are a warning. ‘Don’t mess with the Bluebell Killer’. The man you seek is powerful and with a great deal of influence…’

‘You mean a gang lord? A mafia type?’

‘In the past, bodies were got rid of quietly,’ Max replied. ‘No body. No questions. The man you seek is a new breed of terror.’

‘But who is he? Who is the Bluebell Killer?’

There was silence on the end of the line. For a moment, Giles thought she could hear the sound of a whimper echoing behind Max, followed by a hiss of quiet. When Max spoke again, his voice sounded more relax – like a great strain had been lifted from his conscience.

‘When I have more proof, I will be in touch.’

And with that, Max was gone.

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 7

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the first five chapters can be found here.

Chapter Seven

‘Mister Barker.’

Barker’s face almost dropped when he caught sight of Giles marching towards him. It was understandable enough – the image of Giles walking intently at you was enough to make any suspect squirm. But Barker was different – he had personally offended Giles long before she had ever met him, and that made her dangerous.

And that made him wary.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles,’ he said. ‘Am I right in thinking you’ve changed your mind about me?’

‘I haven’t changed my mind about anything, Barker,’ Giles spat, coming to a halt in front of the former politician. ‘I just wanted to demonstrate to DI Harris here how I got so far so quickly in the service.’

‘Oh?’ Barker eyed Harris curiously. ‘And what has that to do with me?’

‘One name,’ Giles spat. ‘One name that everybody has heard of. Granted, not everyone would necessarily know mine, but I’m sure a little digging through the headlines would come up trumps for you.’ She paused to look around. ‘I got to hand it to you though, it was a good attempt.’

‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about…’

‘You say you were fighting with the victim over the gun, correct?’

Barker blinked twice before nodding. ‘That’s right.’

‘That’s funny, because the bullet wound in the back of his head says something different. In fact, I’d stake my reputation on that bullet being fired from quite a considerable distance – probably from inside the bunker. The same bunker that you crawled into…’ she pointed at his shoes, ‘… hence the dust and powder marks on your shoes.

‘You probably disposed of the bullet casing, the same way you disposed of John Doe’ wallet, keys and phone – chucking them in the river. But you weren’t quite quick enough to hide the body, were you? You got spotted by…’ She turned to Harris. ‘What was the name of the lady who came across them?’

Harris’s hands quickly plunged into his pockets and pulled out a notebook. Rifling through the pages, he searched for the name whilst Barker stood, quivering and afraid beneath Giles’ icy glare.

‘This is ridiculous,’ Barker announced, his voice trembling a little. ‘I have already said, the man attacked me…’

Giles sneered at him. ‘You’re a politician. Lies are second nature to you…’

Beside her, Harris had finally found what he was looking for:

‘Miss Maisy Dawlish…’

‘And what did Miss Dawlish report seeing, sir?’

Harris read a few words before speaking:

‘She saw Mister Barker crouched over the victim, seemingly going through his pockets.’

Giles raised an eyebrow. ‘Going through his pockets?’

‘I had just been attacked,’ Barker pleaded. His eyes scanned all about him as though looking for a way out. ‘I had to be sure he didn’t have any more weapons on him…’

‘Or maybe you were just gathering his belongings,’ Giles said, turning back to Harris and saying: ‘What happened next, sir?’

‘Miss Dawlish said she recognised Mister Barker straight away. He told her there had been a horrible accident and that she needed to call the police…’

‘Yes, I did,’ Barker replied defiantly. ‘I had been targeted by someone, I wasn’t about to just run and leave a body lying about.’

‘You couldn’t run,’ Giles agreed, letting loose a small smirk. ‘You’d already been identified. Short of killing Miss Dawlish herself, you had to stick around to face the music…’

‘That is a preposterous suggestion…’

‘Careful, Giles.’

Giles felt Harris’ cool hand grasp a loose hold of her wrist. As she turned to him, she saw in his eyes a glimmer of fear. Whatever her convictions, this was still Harris’ investigation. Any fall out from Giles’ actions would land firmly on him – she had to tread carefully.

‘So, you sent Miss Dawlish to call for help?’ she asked, her voice a little softer this time.

‘Yes,’ Barker replied, a moment of relief and mild satisfaction crossing his face as he eyed Harris.

‘That’s a little strange. After all, you did have your own phone.’ Giles smiled cynically at him. ‘Why couldn’t you use that?’

Barker stumbled to a halt:

‘I…,’ he stammered. ‘I… Well, I was…’

‘I’ll tell you why,’ Giles interrupted again, beginning to enjoy herself. ‘Because you hadn’t counted on being seen. A well-known scumbag like you committing a murder – you wouldn’t last five minutes once the police had all the facts. You had to improvise. You found the two tickets in John Doe’s pockets…’

‘No,’ Baker replied shaking his head. ‘No, I never…’

‘And you scribbled a name on each – yours on one, mine on the other – to make it look like some sort of professional hit…’

Something snapped in Barker’s mind. Before them all, his fists curled up into balls and he looked, for just a moment, like he would lash out at them all. As his blazing eyes glared down at Giles, she could feel the hatred and anger that fuelled him and his convictions. He wasn’t a psychopath or a man just born to hate – his environment had created him that way.

‘And why do you think I wrote your name, Giles?’ he bellowed, snarling wildly at her.

As the last echoes of his voice disappeared into the distance, the scene fell silent. Everyone, from Harris to the escorting constables, stared motionlessly at Barker as he breathed heavily in and out. For some the realisation was instant, for others it took a little while. From behind her, Giles felt Harris take a step forward to examine Barker.

‘You admit it then?’ he said quietly. ‘You wrote those names on the tickets?’

Barker was the last to realise what he’d done. Even as he glared down at Harris, his eyes seemed to soften as the implication of what he had said planted a seed of terror in his mind. He took a few steps back, his eyes scanning wildly from Giles to Harris as his fingers quivered – ready for a fight.

‘No,’ he murmured. ‘No, I didn’t mean…’

Giles took a step towards him.

‘Like I said, it was a very good attempt; the bluebell fields, my name on the ticket, the brief mention of the Bluebell Killer to Harris here. Had you been anyone else, I might have been convinced.’ She leaned a little closer. ‘But the thing is I don’t like you. I despise what you stand for and nothing will give me greater pleasure than watching you fall…’

She took a step back away from him.

‘The Bluebell Killer is dead, Mister Barker,’ she said loudly for everyone to hear. ‘He isn’t coming back.’

Barker shook his head.

‘How close were you, Evelyn?’ he asked quietly. ‘Did you even know what you were looking for before I gave you a hand?’

Giles’ mind stopped. There was no anger, no disgust, no excitable logic. It was as if all conscious thought had been replaced by a moment of sheer shock and awe. Without even thinking, she stepped a little closer towards Barker, her face no more than a few inches from his. With a hushed whisper, she said:

‘What are you talking about?’

Barker smiled.

‘You think this all ended with Donnovan. You haven’t got the faintest idea what is still out there.’ For a moment, Giles thought he might kiss her as he leant forward – his lips barely an inch away from her face. ‘You were warned before. And if you want to know the rest, you’ll have to get me out of this…’

A flurry of questions rippled through Giles’ head. It forced everything about the day out of her mind. She forgot the body. She forgot the tickets. She even forgot her victorious unmasking of Barker. She forgot it all in the wake of a thousand thoughts and memories – images she had spent the last year trying to force into the back of her mind.

In the midst of the silence, Harris placed a gentle hand back on Giles’ arm and gently pulled her back from Barker. She didn’t resist, she just let herself be led back until Harris was left alone in front of Barker.

Barker – for his part – continued to stare pointedly at Giles. He barely reacted as Harris read out his rights and two uniformed officers cuffed his hands behind his back. And when Harris had finished, he allowed himself to be led over to the side of the clearing where he was sat down whilst Harris held a hurried discussion with his colleagues about what to do next.

But all that was a blur for Giles.

In her mind, she pictured tens of dead bodies. She remembered months of fruitless paperwork. She recalled the lost man-hours chasing shadows through the streets of London.

And through it all, her mind settled on a mental image of a man.

A man sat alone in the dark.

A man making furtive phone calls and collating secretive packages.

A man completely unknown to her – and yet he was closer to her than many others in her life.

But the man she imagined looked nothing like Daniel Barker. He didn’t even sound like him or speak with the same calculated intelligence. There was nothing about him that related to that vile excuse of a man that she watched sitting at the side of the field.

Everything she knew, or thought she knew, of this man shattered into a thousand pieces. Everything she assumed was gone save one thing…

A name.

A single, fake name.

Max…

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. 

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