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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!

Do your bit for Safer Internet Day 2017

Today – Tuesday 7th February – is Safer Internet Day 2017. At least it is in Britain (I’m not so sure about the rest of the world).

It’s a day when we teach our children and youngsters how to be safe online – what to do when their being bullied, how they should approach explicit material (like pornography) and – most importantly in my mind – how to stop themselves from being taken advantage of.

I think it’s a terribly important message. Children these days have such ready access to the internet and its infinite resources that its often hard for them to tell what is genuine and what isn’t. Let’s face it – if the multitude of information flying about pre- during and post- the several surprising elections we’ve had this year is anything to go by – most adults don’t really know how to do that either.

It is so easy for a child or vulnerable adult to get conned into spending money, or putting themselves into situations where they can be exploited or blackmailed or groomed by some sexual predator or another that it is difficult for us to know where to begin. Do we cut them off from the internet altogether? Do we just let them get on with it and hope for the best? Or do we risk unleashing the dragon and telling them about these things, knowing that their natural curiosity will lead them to find about them sooner or later?

It’s a tough call. But one that we have to make.

I – for one – believe we need to be setting the example for our children. For several months now, I’ve been working on a project around Internet Safety and one of my latest DS Giles short stories even covers the subject (in a manner of speaking)¹. And I honestly and truly believe that we need to be setting the example. It’s not enough for us to preach to them about being nice and honest and respectful to others online whilst we go about hurling insults at each other over election results that (whatever you might call them) are at the very least legitimate. We can’t expect our children to do things that we ourselves are not capable of doing – and we can’t expect them to follow our lead and keep themselves safe when they see that we can’t even take our own advice and be pleasant to each other, no matter what our differences may be.

I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to do, the good things in life never are. But it is the right thing to do. We need to educate our children about the dangers out there and we need to set the example so they don’t look at us and see a bunch of rowdy hypocrites.

Start making the change today and say something nice to someone when online – even if it’s just for one day.

Go on. Do it for your kids…

 

¹The short story in question, Gotcha, will soon be released as an additional bonus story for anyone who buys The Bluebell Informant, due for release this April (for free!!!). Stay tuned for all the latest updates.

Sir Tendeth – A Detective

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

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

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

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

Enjoy

Sir Tendeth – A Detective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a name for himself, he made.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Greetings. Whom am I speaking to?’

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

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

‘I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

There was a brief pause before the faint voice replied:

‘I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

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

‘No, I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

‘No, I am Sir Tendeth of Camelot.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘We don’t accept cold-callers.’

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

‘Why? What are you selling?’

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

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

‘You’ve been sent here to help us?’

‘Yes,’ Sir Tendeth replied confidently.

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

‘Where did you say you came from?’

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

The blue eyes widened:

‘He’s come!’

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

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

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

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

‘What the devil?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Well? What is it Gob?’

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

Sir Tendeth stepped forward and cleared his throat.

‘I am Sir Tendeth of the Knights of…’

The door slammed shut.

Sir Tendeth turned towards the two goblins:

‘Was it something I said?’

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

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

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

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

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

‘I am Sir Tendeth of…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The knight stepped forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yes, your Worshipfullness. I am defective…’

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

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

Why be a Ghostwriter?

2016 has been about many things: celebrity deaths by the dozens, war, hatred, oppression and bad politics.

But for my writing, 2016 will go down as the Year of the Ghost.

That’s right, this year I am proud to say that I’ve actually been making regular money as a writer. Not writing my own work, you understand – but by writing for other people.

Ghostwriting is one of those beasts that most writers don’t like talking about. When we first start out, many of us see it as a bit of a sell-out – we’re not confident that our own writing will sell, so we write for other people so we get paid either way…

Most writers don’t like ghostwriting because it takes away from the glory of being an author. Sure you get paid, but someone else gets to take all the credit for your hard work. I mean, why would you do that to yourself?

Well, to understand that question, we have to examine what it is that drives us to writing. Why do we really do it all in the first place?

What do we get out of being an author?

Why do people want to be authors? Well, ultimately the reasons can be broken down into various different branches, but generally the instinct that drives us to become an author usually links back to a combination of these reasons:

  1. I want to be famous

In my opinion, possibly the worst reason to become an author. There are plenty of ways of becoming famous without needing to write anything – in fact, those who are driven by this desire for attention usually do so with their extreme (and usually ridiculously unhelpful) ideologies and they become hated relatively quickly – Katie Hopkins is a lovely example.

2. I want to be rich (or at least be able to quit my day job)

Again, not a great reason to become an author. Sure there are the E. L. James and J. K. Rowlings of this world who do make a bundle from their writing, but those examples are very few and far between. Most writers, by contrast, usually end up working a day job just to pay the bills whilst writing late into the night…

3. I want to write

You would have thought this would be first on my list of reasons, but it’s surprising how many ‘authors’ you encounter who can regale you with their novels and really drum up excitement, but when push comes to shove they haven’t ever written a single word of it – and probably never will. You’d assume that a desire to write is fundamental to being an author, but you’d be surprised how many authors out there are not – in fact – writers…

4. I want to tell stories

Arguably the best reason to become an author – you’re head is brimming with stories that keep you up all night and entertain you in even your darkest moments. And best yet you want to share them with the world.

5. I have a message that needs to be told

Possibly the most noblest of reasons to be an author, but also the most dangerous. We can all think of stories that are remembered for their political or social messages (generally 1984 or Of Mice and Men springs to my mind with this one), and it is certainly a good reason to write a story. But it shouldn’t be used as the sole reason for writing a story otherwise you end up with works of non-fiction that are utterly dark and open to fanaticism (Mein Kampf for example).

Generally, each author will have a combination of these reasons driving their writing endeavours. They may not necessarily admit to points 1 or 2, but they almost certainly are partly driven by at least one of them.

And it is actually these two points that make the biggest impact on a writer’s decision to become a ghostwriter…

What’s the benefit of becoming a ghostwriter?

  1. I want to be famous

Obviously, being a ghostwriter is not going to win you great acclaim from your adoring fans. One of the basic rules (usually) of being a ghostwriter is that you get little or no credit for the work you have done. Any credit you do get is usually concealed in the Acknowledgements section of the book, usually in the form of ‘Thanks to …. for all his/her help during this project.’

But, to say that you don’t get any recognition for your work is entirely untrue. Since I started ghostwriting, I have had people approach me to ask me to do little bits and pieces for them. Apparently, one of my earlier clients had been singing my praises, which led to my name being bandied about by those who were looking for a good ghostwriter to work with. And the more work you do, the more you get talked about – sure it’s in the very veiled world of ghostwriting, hidden far from the public eye, but it’s still fame of a sort.

2. I want to be rich (or at least be able to quit my day job)

Let me be absolutely clear on this: ghostwriting is the only for of novel writing where you can guarantee that you will be paid for your efforts (unless you’re already well established and the publishers are offering a huge advance). Better yet, you know exactly how much you are going to be paid before you ever start work (unless you do payment by time worked in which case you can make a relatively good guess).

When you write your own book, you are plagued by doubt: Will anyone buy it? Will I make more than a couple of quid after expenses? Is it worth me investing in a decent cover if no one’s going to buy it anyway?

All these questions become null and void when you ghostwrite for someone. Why? Because  it’s not your problem. If the book doesn’t sell, you’re not the one who will endure endless sleepless nights over it because you’ve already done your bit. You can move on to the next paying job and never have to deal with the stress of it all…

3. I want to write

Despite what some authors will have you believe, ghostwriting is still writing. Yes, you are restricted sometimes by what you can and can’t write, but that ultimately comes down to the client you work with (and guess what, you don’t have to accept a job if it doesn’t suit your style). But that, actually, is no different than working with an agent or an editor or a publisher. Unless you choose to become completely indie, you will always have to give ground to someone, so why not a paying client?

4. I want to tell stories

Now this is the difficult bit. Yes, you are telling stories – but they are someone else’s. Some clients are great and let you run loose with whatever idea you happen to have, but I (for one) don’t tend to go for those jobs. Whilst I have stories to tell, I want to be able to tell them in my own way (plus I’d quite like the recognition for the stories I come up with myself). I’m happy taking other people’s ideas and adding my own flair and storytelling style, but I draw the line at creating something from scratch. That is just one of my rules.

5. I have a message that needs to be told

This is the one thing that you can never guarantee with a ghostwriting project and – again – it ultimately comes down to the client you’re working with. Some are happy for you to insert your own political or social messages into the work, others may disagree with your view point and others still don’t want their work to be message-motivated at all. And, as with all ghostwriting projects, it is up to you as a writer to distinguish between the projects you’ll be happy working on and those that would feel like you’re losing a bit of your soul to.

That being said, it doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in your views in a subtle, character-driven way. In fact, most clients I’ve worked with seem to love that!

Ultimately, deciding to become a ghostwriter comes down to two things: what are your reasons for being an author, and how many of those reasons can be achieved by being a ghostwriter?

If you are in it all entirely for the fame and glory, then don’t bother being a ghostwriter. It will frustrate and depress you, and you’ll probably earn a reputation for being difficult to work with in the process (not something you want if you need to work alongside another author at some point in the future).

Likewise, if you just have a message you want to broadcast, piggy-backing off someone else’s project will only lead you to disaster. At the end of the day, the client calls the shots and I can imagine there is nothing more frustrating than putting in all that work and then being ordered to remove all your ‘message material’.

However, if you want to be an author because of a combination of factors, then it may be worth looking in to.

After the Year of the Ghost, I have learnt a lot about my writing skills. I have learnt what people appreciate about my writing and what people find annoying or distracting. But most importantly, I’ve received a huge amount of recognition for the work I have been doing – far more than I anticipated given that I was essentially acting as the hidden mistress of several people’s literary careers.

And it is for that reason that now, with 2017 around the corner, I can approach my own work with a renewed sense of excitement. Sure, the perils are still the same – I won’t know if any of my works will sell until they are finally published – but at least I now know that there are people willing to pay for my work.

And that, my friends, is all the confidence I need…

 

 

Four Titles for 2017

Well, 2016 is nearly over.

Now is the time of year where people look back at the year gone by and think about what they’d like to change about themselves. Maybe they want to lose weight, or join a gym. Perhaps they want to finally write that novel they’ve been thinking about for five years. Maybe they want a new car, or a kid, or look for a new job, or give up chocolate, or only eat smoked salmon on special occasions…

Now comes the flurry of New Year’s Resolutions.

And, in a way, what I’m about to announce could be seen as a sort of New Year’s Resolution – but I like to see it more as a marketing plan…

So, without further ado…

It is my very great pleasure to announce that Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles will leap into the published world this year!

That’s right, after nearly three years of wrangling with her – and two years of writing her first novel – The Bluebell Informant will be available to read from April this year!

But there’s more.

I’ll be releasing it for free!

That’s right – free!

But wait, there is still more to come.

The release of The Bluebell Informant will mark the start of a (punishing) release schedule over the next twelve months. Following in the wake of The Bluebell Informant, I intend to release not only the next instalment in the Giles series, The Court of Obsessions, but also a collection of my short stories AND the first in my Patrick Conroy series, The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow.

That’s right – four books of varying lengths will be released over the course of 2017.

I think it’s safe to say that 2017 is going to be a very tough, yet hopefully rewarding, year for me.

Want to be first to know when these books are being released?

Sign up to my Nick R B Tingley New Releases newsletter for more details.

In the meantime, I thought I’d leave you with something quite exciting – the cover art for
The Bluebell Informant.

3dmodel

Excited yet?

I know I am…