If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available for free through Amazon.com, iBooks, Kobo, Nookand Smashwords.
‘How did they find us?’
Barker peered out of the bushes at one end of the layby. Shakily puffing on a cigarette, he scrutinised each car that passed by. There had been no sign of Doyle so far, but Giles knew he wouldn’t be far behind.
Crouched down behind a blue Nissan Micra, Giles straightened out a coat hanger. There hadn’t been much in the back of the Ford for her to go on – a couple of old magazines, some empty soft drink bottles, an empty popcorn bag – but the spare suit, complete with clothes hangers, had provided her with a much needed opportunity. She straightened out the hanger, looping the end to form a hook, and glanced up at Barker, smiling mischievously.
‘I told my contact that we were going to jump the train at East Croydon. She was the only one know knew…’
‘What about your team? You said you’d contacted them.’
‘Don’t be an idiot,’ Giles shot back. ‘I told you that because I didn’t trust you. I still don’t.’
She took a moment to consider the man loitering in the bushes. The spare suit had been a surprisingly good fit for Barker. He almost looked smart now they had dispensed with the standard issue police trousers and shirt. Only the keenest observer would notice that the trousers were just that little bit too long and the collar just a little bit too tight – but now Barker had it unbuttoned it was barely noticeable anyway. He looked just like everyone else in the city.
That was the whole point.
‘Besides,’ Giles continued. ‘I knew you wouldn’t approve. But if there was anyone I thought I could trust, it would be Alison Carew…’
‘Carew?’ Barker spluttered. ‘Edmund Carew’s daughter?’ He slapped his hand angrily on his thigh. ‘Well, that explains everything.’
‘It doesn’t explain why a legitimate detective wants you dead,’ Giles returned sharply. ‘It doesn’t explain who has the influence and control a handful of police officers. The incident at the station was only the beginning – they won’t stop after just one failed attempt.’
She stood up, the straightened coat hanger in her hand, and carefully fed the wire through the open gap at the top of the passenger side window. Carefully, she lowered the hook down the inside of the window, inching it ever closer to the door handle.
From the shadow of the bushes, Barker watched with interest.
‘This is the second time someone tried to kill me, Giles,’ he said bitterly. ‘Not the first.’
Giles chuckled a little to herself.
‘Mr Barker,’ she said coldly. ‘You and I both know that isn’t true.’
The central locking clicked open. Giles swiftly retracted the wire and opened the passenger side door a fraction and waited for a moment for the sound of alarm. Finally, with a smile of satisfaction, she stepped away from the car and towards Barker who, looking rather flustered, retreated back a few steps.
‘Are you getting in or not?’
She didn’t wait for a response.
She marched around to the driver’s side door and, with a quick glance at the passing traffic, pulled it open and ducked down into the seat. Barker waited nervously by the bushes, scanning the passing traffic wildly until he finally felt confident enough to make a dash for the car. By the time he joined Giles in the passenger seat, she was already well engrossed in hotwiring the vehicle. He pulled shut the door and glanced nervously through the back window just as the engine choked into life. With a small smile of satisfaction, Giles shifted the car into gear and pulled her seatbelt around her body.
‘I haven’t done that in years,’ she said triumphantly.
‘A little thief in your younger years, were you?’
Giles ignored the quip, glanced over her shoulder and gently pulled the car out into the traffic.
Barker fidgeted beside her, examining the variety of levers and switches around the base of the seat. Finally he found what he was looking for, pulled on the lever and pushed the seat back until he’d gained enough legroom to sit comfortably. When he finally got himself settled, he glanced back behind them once again and muttered:
‘I would have thought you’d go for a speedier car.’
‘You thought wrong,’ came the reply. ‘Doyle knows we have his car. He’ll know that I’ll be changing it for another as soon as I can. But no one will expect us to be driving round in a Micra.’
‘And what if they find us? How do you propose to outrun them?’
Giles smiled playfully.
‘No one expects a Micra driver to be fast.’
They said little else to each other until Giles had safely made it back on to the main road towards London. As they merged in amongst the traffic, Giles cruised the car along at the speed limit, checking the rear view mirror periodically. Beside her, Barker took out a cigarette and contemplated it for a moment, chuckling to himself.
‘I assume it was these that gave me away,’ he said jovially.
Giles risked a quick glance at him.
‘Nothing about the pillbox made sense,’ Giles replied. ‘The openings were large enough to crawl through, but not so much that you think to do it in a panic. The inside smelt heavily of gunpowder and damp cigarette – you’d obviously waited around for a cigarette so you weren’t in any hurry. The missing bullet casing was just the final straw.’
Barker chuckled and took a long drag of his cigarette.
‘I’ll bear that in mind next time.’
Giles tried her best to suppress a scowl. She turned over her right shoulder to pretend to look for traffic as she merged into the fast lane and didn’t turn back again until she was sure she was under control. Not that it mattered. Barker was lounging back in the passenger seat like a man without a care in the world. He probably wouldn’t have cared even if he did know what she was thinking.
He’s not even trying to deny it, Giles thought. The sick bastard…
‘What did you do with the casing?’ she asked, trying to remain as casual as possible. ‘Just out of interest.’
Barker exhaled smoke through the small gap in the window, raising his eyebrow with coy triumph.
‘Did you throw it in the river?’
Barker smiled. ‘Nice try, Giles.’
‘After all this time, don’t you trust me?’
‘When the ink is dry on my immunity agreement, I will trust you with whatever you want. Until then I’m not saying anything – not about the Bluebell Killer, not about the guy in Edenbridge.’
He took one last drag of his cigarette before tossing it out the window. As he closed the glass behind him, he peered up at the signposts with casual interest.
‘Where is this safehouse anyway?’
‘Just on the fringes of Brixton,’ Giles replied. ‘You’ll be safe there.’
‘Is that where your boss is meeting us?’ Barker fired back. ‘I mean, that’s who you were talking to on the phone, wasn’t it?’
‘Something like that.’
For the next twenty minutes or so, Alison Carew sat quietly in her seat, deep in thought.
What have I done?
Was her contact right? Had she really been exposed? Maybe she was the only person that Giles spoke to and she would be suspicious, but they had been friends for years – she wouldn’t really suspect her?
It didn’t matter now. The order had been given.
She didn’t attempt to calm herself. It would have done her no good and, besides, it was all part of the plan.
As time ticked on, her heart rate quickened and her hands began to feel clammy with terrified sweat. Her reflection in the computer screen gradually turned pale and ghostly and, she could feel her mind fogging over with confusion.
Her twenty minutes were up.
Alison started to breathe heavily – quietly at first but progressively getting louder as time wore on.
Shot sharp breaths, she told herself. Quicker.
Five minutes later even Lawrence began to notice. With a wry smile on his face, he turned from his desk and stared at her at her quivering body, enjoying every moment right up until she finally took her chance.
Leaping out of her chair, Alison moved swiftly across the control room, heading for the toilets at the end of the adjoining corridor. Cradling her stomach and screwing her face up as hard as she could, she barrelled past people in the corridor and raced through the toilet door, locking herself safely inside one of the cubicles.
Once inside, she turned to face the toilet and bent down onto her knees. With her left hand, she forced her fingers down her throat and waited as her neck pulsed and her mouth wretched.
The display had its desired effect.
As she vomited into the bowl, she heard the toilet door open and a woman’s voice drifted through the cubicle door.
‘Are you alright, Alison?’
It was Carrie Unsworth, the shift supervisor. Shoving her fingers down her throat again, Alison waited until the last possible moment before retrieving them and trying to speak.
‘I’m fine, thank you, Carrie…’
Her body instinctively did the rest.
Ten minutes later, with her permission to leave granted, Alison descended the steps out of the Headquarters building and moved quickly across the car park. The taste of vomit was vile in her mouth, but she hadn’t had time to clear it.
Every second counted.
She was in her car with the engine running when she received the next message.
‘Go to this address. Someone will meet you there. Wait for him.’
She had no idea how much time passed as she peered down at her phone. Her mind was flushed with questions and thoughts. Whatever she had done, it was obviously serious enough for her contact to want to get her out of there.
But it can’t have been illegal, she mused. I’m only following orders, so why the rush to get me to safety?
She locked her phone and slid it into her pocket. She turned on the engine and, as the car vibrated rhythmically beneath her, she rapped her fingers against the warm leather of the steering wheel.
Her contact hadn’t believed that Giles would be heading to a safe house. They thought it was a rouse straight off.
But Eve wouldn’t think that I would do anything to hurt her…
Even as she shifted her car into gear, she still hadn’t quite made up her mind.
What if Eve was telling the truth? What if this is our chance to apprehend Barker?
She pulled out of her parking space and made her way towards the car park exit.
What if I could be the one to catch him? Surely that would make up for what he did to my father?
As she turned out of the car park, there was only a short stretch of the road until the T-junction marked the main road. She knew it well. Turning left would take her south towards the river – towards Vauxhall, Battersea and Brixton. Turning right would take her north towards East Finchley where she’d been told to wait.
She flicked her indicator and pulled out on to the main road – negotiating her way through a series of one-way streets and crossing over the river…
Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant– the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow.
To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!