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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 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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