If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the first three chapters can be found here.
The search was completed and still Giles insisted that they check again. The constables scowled at her from across the evidence table but they did as they were told and systematically went through every pocket, pulling each one inside out so that Giles could see they were empty before moving on to the next.
She had no authority here – Giles knew it, but they didn’t seem to. Giles imagined that if Harris knew what she was doing he would have put a stop to it in an instant. But – at the moment – he was far too distracted by the search of the pillbox to pay her any attention. And besides, it wasn’t like she was tampering with evidence. She’d been sure to allow the officers to do all the handling – if anything ever came of it, there would be no question that she hadn’t handled any of the evidence directly…
She glanced over towards the bunker. Stood by the opening, Harris and his sergeant peered motionlessly in through the opening, watching as the bright torchlight of the SOCO swung back and forth as he made his search.
Part of her hoped that they would find the bullet casing in there. She would hate Harris to think that she’d distracted him just so she could wander around his crime scene unimpeded. Of course that was exactly what she had done, but she didn’t want him to know that. The chances were the bullet casing would be in there – either that or at the bottom of the river – and, if they were, that would put an entirely different spin on the day’s events.
It’s the only place it could possibly be…
She turned back to constable.
‘That’s all, Sarge,’ he said, dropping the trousers back in the evidence bag and dropping it to one side.
Giles stared down at the three items in the bags in front of her, scrutinising them with every analytical skill she possessed.
‘So let’s be clear,’ she muttered. ‘We have a phone, a wallet and a set of keys.’
‘Right,’ the officer replied, rolling his eyes as he leant against the table. ‘And definitely no train ticket.’
‘Of course, I’m bloody sure.’
‘What about in his wallet?’
‘Not there either,’ he replied, picking up the bag with the wallet inside. Keeping it inside the bag, he carefully opened the wallet and showed Giles the contents. ‘Look, see? A couple of twenties, some loose change, his Britain’s Own Party membership card, National Insurance card, picture of his wife and kid, debit card, credit card and no train ticket.’
Giles stared down at the wallet. She asked him to run through the contents a couple more times before she was finally satisfied. With a nod of thanks she stepped back from the table and stared off towards the pillbox.
‘So, if Barker didn’t have it, there’s only one place it can be…’
She watched for a few moments as the torchlight hovered in the air as the SOCO inside the pillbox scrutinised the floor. A little beyond, Giles could see the swaggering figure of Daniel Barker pacing back and forth, nervously looking towards the hive of activity that was building up around the little concrete structure. Already, Harris was beckoning more SOCOs over to the new site. He helped two more climb in and passed them their equipment before peering anxiously in through the wide opening.
Giles knew there was only a little more time left.
She had to take her chance now.
With a quick glance around, Giles made her way swiftly and silently down the path towards the next field. When she reached the field boundary, she glanced back over her shoulder towards the pillbox before moving stealthily behind the hedgerows. From there, she walked smartly up towards the small group of officers who stood around Barker.
She had no real need to flash her warrant card, but she did so all the same as a burly sergeant moved forward to intercept her.
‘I need to speak to this man, Sergeant,’ she barked with clipped precision.
She had no authority over him – they both knew that. They were both sergeants, just with different responsibilities – but Giles often found that many uniformed officers were a lot more likely to back down if she behaved like she had additional authority over them.
This sergeant was not one of them.
‘I’m sorry, Detective,’ he replied. ‘I can’t let you speak to him without prior approval from Detective Inspector Harris.’
‘But I have approval,’ Giles replied quickly, glancing towards Barker who stood watching the exchange with increasing interest. ‘I was here with Harris only half an hour ago.’
‘I understood that he had you escorted from the scene…’
‘And yet I’m still here,’ Giles fired back. ‘What does that suggest to you, Sergeant?’
The sergeant stared blankly at her, his hands twitching as he reached up for his radio.
‘If you don’t mind, I’ll just check.’
‘Course I don’t mind,’ Giles shrugged, stepping around him. ‘Harris told me I wouldn’t have any problems but if you want to disturb him to prove him wrong then that’s your concern. I’ll just get on with talking with this man whilst you get dressed down.’
It was a gamble and one that she was almost certain wouldn’t work. And yet, as she stepped around the sergeant he made no move to stop her from carrying on straight to Barker. Even when she arrived in front of the former politician, the sergeant still hadn’t called it in, although his hand remained glued to his radio as he stepped away to give them some space.
Now dressed in a cheap shirt and pair of trousers, Barker looked a mere shadow of the man that Giles had come to hate. But his body still stood rigid with the public school boy propriety that had been drilled into him since his formative years. He sucked slowly on a cigarette, pondering Giles with eyes that appeared almost hypnotic now that she could see them up close.
He flashed a smug grin and took a long drag of his cigarette as his eyes wandered up Giles’ body.
‘Well played, Giles,’ he said, exhaling the smoke up into the air above Giles’ head. ‘I have to admit I was sceptical at first, but after seeing that display…’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Giles replied, dismissing him with a wave of her hand.
Barker crooned: ‘Of course not,’ and tapping his nose with his index finger, whispered, ‘mum’s the word.’
Giles scowled, shooting a glance over her shoulder at the sergeant. He was a good ten metres away, but he watched their exchanges like a hunting hawk. She turned back towards Barker.
‘I have some questions.’
‘I thought you might.’
‘Are you going to answer them?’
‘I might. You get me out of this mess and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.’
‘And why would I do that?’
‘Because you didn’t sneak up here and con your way into talking with me to solve a murder.’
Giles hesitated. She could see how the man got so far in politics. He was sharp and blunt – he could almost have been a lawyer in a previous life – and his eyes shone with an intelligence that far surpassed the usual person that Giles would interview day-to-day.
Barker tilted his head to one side, pondering Giles until a shuffle of footsteps from a nearby constable snapped him out of whatever thought he’d been thinking.
‘So,’ he said, clapping his hands together. ‘Shall we begin?’
Giles sneered: ‘You’re not my informant.’
‘And you’re not the detective I thought you were, but we all make mistakes.’ Baker glanced around to check for anyone listening. ‘I must admit, I didn’t do my research thoroughly enough. I knew enough to know that I couldn’t trust your DI with the information, but Giles seemed like a good, strong English name that I never imagined it might belong to a chink…’ He eyed her curiously. ‘Your father’s?’
‘Yes, of course,’ he replied, glancing down at her wedding ring. ‘It was a mistake that I will not be lightly making again. However, you are who you are – neither of us can help that. And, as it happens, you seem to be rather a capable detective and, more importantly, you are the one I have been dealing with up until now…’
‘You’re fishing…’ Giles muttered, shaking her head knowingly.
For a moment, his eyes left Giles and drifted across the field towards the pillbox. Giles turned to follow his gaze. They couldn’t see it from where they were – the hedgerows obscured it from view – but it was clear that something was going on. From beyond the hedgerows, Giles could hear the excited calling of Harris marshalling his officers and through the gaps in the bushes she could see the occasional flashes of white overalls as the SOCOs descended on the pillbox.
She turned back towards Barker, noting with satisfaction the look of intensity on his face.
‘It’s only a matter of time, you know,’ she said firmly. ‘They’re tearing that pillbox apart as we speak.’
Barker shrugged. ‘I trust they will do a thorough job.’
Giles chuckled, shaking her head as she tried to control her emotions.
‘You don’t seriously expect to get away with this, do you?’ she asked between laughs. ‘A guy ends up dead with his head blown in and you’re the chief suspect. It’s only a matter of time before the evidence falls overwhelmingly against you. And no golfing experiences with Harris’ superior officer is going to change that…’
‘Unless, of course, I didn’t do it.’
‘I find that hard to believe…’
‘Really?’ Barker interrupted, ripping his attention away from the direction of the pillbox. ‘Then why are you here?’
Giles smiled – an uncomfortable feeling of glee crept into her body, filling her mind with excitement and satisfaction. She had always wondered why good people turned bad and now, with vengeance so close, she could understand it. But she was better than those people – she wouldn’t bring about Barker’s demise. She would just sit back and watch it happen.
‘Because I want to remember,’ she muttered. ‘I want to remember how cocky you looked before Harris finds what he is looking for and wipes that smile from your face. You see I know you murdered that man. I don’t know why, but I don’t really care. I’m just going to be as much help as I can to investigation and know – deep in my heart – that I am helping to bring down the man who brought so much fear and terror to my people. And when you come crashing down, I will be there to see it.’
She waited for a long while, staring hard at Barker, willing him to react. But he didn’t move. He didn’t even blink. He just turned his head away from her and looked back towards the pillbox, his face glowing with confidence.
After a few moments, Giles could feel a surge of anger pulsing through her veins. She turned away from him and began to walk away. It was only when she passed the sergeant that Barker spoke again, calling out to her as she marched back towards the pillbox.
‘I’m a confident man, Detective Giles,’ he shouted. ‘That should tell you everything you need to know.’