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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 21

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 Twenty-One

Harris’ phone buzzed as he stepped off the train. His hand dived into his pocket and he retrieved the vibrating phone as he headed smartly up the platform with Parsons following close behind him. At the end of the platform, a group of armed officers waited for them, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible whilst keeping a sharp look out for the two detectives marching towards them.

Harris didn’t recognise the number, but he answered it anyway:

‘Harris.’

‘Harris, this is Commander Declan,’ the voice on the other end announced. ‘Met Police.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘You are running the Barker case, am I right?’

Harris shot a glance towards Parsons.

‘Yes, sir,’ he replied hesitantly.

‘Are you tracking Barker now?’

‘We believe they are heading towards London Bridge station, sir. We’re here now but no sign so far…’

‘Well, there won’t be, Detective,’ the irritated voice replied. ‘I have some information for you…’

Harris moved through the barrier and hung up the phone. Parson was already a few metres ahead, making their introductions to the armed response team. He knew something was up the moment Harris joined them.

‘Bad news?’

‘Barker,’ Harris replied simply as his mind struggled to find the right words to describe what he just heard. ‘There was a shooting in Brixton. Apparently Barker was seen fleeing the scene with a woman matching Giles’ description…’

Parson bit his lip angrily. ‘I knew we shouldn’t have trusted her.’

‘I’m not so sure,’ Harris replied thoughtfully. ‘The address belongs to Giles’ sister. The victim has been identified as a police dispatch officer – someone called Alison Carew…’

‘Bugger,’ Parsons replied. ‘Not one of ours…’

‘But get this. She was the daughter of Edmund Carew…’

‘Jesus Christ…’

‘And a close friend of Giles herself.’

‘You think she was helping them? That Barker offed her to cover their tracks?’

Harris waved him away – he had something else on his mind. Alison Carew had been the one passing on Giles’ whereabouts. She had been the one to tell them they were heading towards London Bridge station.

Even as Parsons briefed the armed officers, Harris couldn’t help thinking that he had just been massively played…

 

‘Keep going,’ Barker ordered, keeping the gun level with Giles’ waist.

Ever since they left Claverdale Road, Barker had been slumped as low as he could possibly get into the passenger seat of the Micra. Every time he heard a police siren, he pressed the gun tighter into Giles’ body – a helpful reminder that she wasn’t to try attracting anyone’s attention.

Giles drove as sensibly as she could. She knew Barker couldn’t see over the dashboard to work out where they were, but she had an idea that he knew vaguely where she was going. As she drove through the busy streets, she kept her driving as strictly to the speed limit as possible and – wherever she could – she let others pull into the lane in front of her.

She was in no hurry.

She needed all the time she could get.

As the car crept closer to the Thames, Giles’ mind flashed with images of Alison lying sprawled on the floor. The first respondents were sure to have arrived by now – trampling through her sister’s house like it was just another crime scene.

What the hell is she going to say when she gets back?

Giles shook it from her head. There was no time for that now. She had to focus on one thing and one thing only – getting through the rest of the day alive.

It was only after they crossed the junction near to the Brixton Academy that a thought seemed to occur to Barker. With his gun hand still firmly planted in Giles’ waist, he gestured with his spare hand – clicking his fingers at her.

‘SIM card,’ he barked.

‘Sorry?’

Giles knew exactly what Barker was after – that didn’t mean she was going to make it easy for him.

‘The SIM card you took from that girl’s phone,’ he explained. ‘Give it to me, now.’

‘That girl had a name…’

She winced as Barker pressed the gun in even tighter.

‘SIM card. Now.’

There was nothing she could do to resist him anymore. Keeping her eyes set on the road, she reached into her pocket and pulled out the small SIM card, tossing it to her side without even looking for Barker’s hand. As he fumbled to retrieve it, he pressed the gun hard against her skin, relaxing only when the card was safely in his hand.

He examined it for a moment before placing it against the dashboard and smashing it a couple of times with the butt of his gun.

‘What are you doing?’

Barker glanced triumphantly up at her.

‘That card has evidence on it,’ he declared. ‘Now you need to keep me alive.’ He picked up the remnants and dropped them delicately on Giles’ lap. ‘Here, have a souvenir.’

Giles glanced down at the shattered pieces of plastic and metal.

‘They’ll need supporting evidence,’ she muttered. ‘They won’t honour an immunity agreement if you can’t prove it. You’ve just destroyed your chance of freedom…’

‘Don’t worry about it. They’ll get their evidence.’

Barker leant up a little, risking a glance over the dashboard. They were on the other side of Brixton now, but still he didn’t feel safe.

Giles glanced in the rear view mirror – not a police car in sight.

‘You think they’ll just let you walk away?’ she asked. ‘After what you did to Alison and that guy in Edenbridge…’

‘That’s kind of what an immunity agreement is for, Giles,’ Barker smirked. ‘They let me go and I give them something better. Simple trade.’

‘Aren’t you afraid of your conspiracy?’ Giles fired back. ‘How do you know you can trust who I’m taking you to?’

Barker settled himself back down in his seat and peered up at Giles.

‘You know, for all your morals and your hatred of people like me, you aren’t half corrupted yourself. You think that girl… Alison? You think she was innocent in all this? She was up to her neck in it. She was your friend and she nearly had you killed. And as for the guy in Edenbridge, don’t even get me started on what he was. Those people I killed are not deserving of your sympathy – not for one moment. And that’s just what Harris and people like him will think of you if I put a bullet in your head right now – just another chink who broke the rules…’

‘So, who was he?’ Giles fired back. ‘Who was worth you travelling to Edenbridge?’

‘Like I said before, just some hit man who couldn’t do his job properly…’

Giles felt him shuffle his shoulders back as he tried to stretch them out.

‘Why so coy, Daniel?’ she asked. ‘Like you said, you get your immunity either way so what does it matter?’

‘It matters because I haven’t got my deal yet.’ Barker lowered the gun slightly as he swapped hands, stretching out his fingers to restore the blood flow.

‘You have a deal with me…’

‘That you broke when you tried to go around me with that Carew bitch. I don’t trust you, Giles, not after that. I don’t say anything until I have that paper. Signed. In my hands.’

He brought the gun away from her waist and lowered it into his lap. As he relaxed in the passenger seat, his arms shook with nervous tension and his eyes strained hard to try to recognise the passing buildings that towered over the roadside.

‘Do yourself a favour,’ he mumbled. ‘Just drop it. You’re going to drive yourself mad thinking about it. Just focus on what we need to do.’

‘And what do we need to do?’

‘We’re going to Scotland Yard,’ he replied. ‘But we’re going to make damn sure that the world hears my story the same time they do…’

 

The armed response team moved quickly across the station, following behind a couple of plain clothed officers who moved through each section of the terminus in their search for Giles and Barker. Parsons had even sent a few into the nearby Shard building to start sweeping the CCTV cameras there, just in case they had chosen a more obvious place to hide.

Meanwhile, in a small office building that was usually passed unnoticed by the multitude of passengers that traipsed through this station, Harris sat with the station security – watching the screens carefully as a train pulled neatly alongside the platform and the travellers hopped off before heading towards the ticket barrier.

This had been the fifth time that Harris had made them replay the security footage and the operator next to him was starting to get a little restless. Harris scrutinised each passenger’s face, the way they walked and who they were travelling with – and still he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Giles or Barker. And all the while his mind was gripped with a terrible thought – a horrific idea that made him shiver with panic.

Did that Carew woman con me?

For the tenth time in as many minutes, he glanced back down at his phone and reread the message:

‘Giles reported heading for Borough Market. Intercept her there.

He should have known something was up the moment he received that message. It hadn’t occurred to him at the time – he thought it was just some dispatch operator being over efficient – but now his confidence was shaken.

The news that Parsons called in didn’t help either.

‘Sir, we just got to Borough Market. There’s no sign of her.’

It was as Harris had feared.

‘Do they have a CCTV control room there?’

Parson paused for a moment as he spoke to another officer.

‘Yes, sir. There’s a sub station nearby.’

‘Then get in there. I want to be sure that Giles and Barker haven’t been there in the last hour…’

‘Yes, sir, but…’

‘But what, Sergeant?’

Parsons hesitated.

‘But, if Giles and Barker were last seen in Brixton. Why would they still be coming here?’

It was a good question – although Harris didn’t like to admit it.

‘Just do it.’

He hung up the phone and pondered it quietly.

They have to still be on their way here, he thought. They have to be.

It was the only hope he had.

He raised the phone to his tired eyes and scrolled back through his recent calls. One of the Met team had managed to get hold of Giles’ mobile number from one of her team and Harris had already called it three times to no avail.

Whispering a silent prayer, Harris selected the number and raised the phone to his ear. There wasn’t even a ring tone before the number switched to Giles’ voicemail.

This is Evelyn Giles, I’m not available at the moment. Please leave a message and I’ll…

Harris hung up the phone, thrusting it angrily into his pocket.

Dammit, Giles. Where are you?

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!

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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 18

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 Eighteen

‘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?

Would she?

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…

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 Two

Over the next thirty-odd weeks, I will be releasing my debut novel – The Bluebell Informant – chapter by chapter. If you missed Chapter One, you can find it here.

If you can’t wait for the next instalment, you can download a free Kindle version from here, or download from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. A kindle version is also available on Amazon, currently priced a £0.99 ($1.23) and paperback editions are in the works as well.

Chapter Two

‘You’re DS Giles?’

The officer on duty at the cordon stared down at Giles’ warrant card. He examined her picture for a long time, taking in her long black hair and piercing grey eyes before glancing up once more.

‘Is that a problem?’

The officer shook his head tautly. ‘No. No problem at all. You’re just not what we expected, that’s all…’

He handed the warrant card back to Giles.

‘And what were you expecting, Constable?’

The officer’s eyes squinted in the bright sunshine. Lowering his gaze, he stared off to a point somewhere over Giles’ shoulder where three or four football matches were in session in the great expanse of the recreation ground. He watched the nearest game, his mouth pouting as his mind racked for an appropriate response.

Giles already knew what this was about. It was a testament to the times they were living in. A few months ago, her reputation would have spoken for itself. But now, every time she arrived at a crime scene, she would receive the same suspicious looks – the same guise of thinly veiled disgust.

Unbelievable…

The officer glanced back at her, his eyes lingering on the white, silk scarf around her neck. Then he gave her a quick smile and, as though the uncomfortable moment had never happened, lifted up the cordon tape for her to pass underneath and beckoned her through.

Giles stared for a moment, her whole body itching to lay into him for his disgraceful attitude. He could sense it as well for, as she stepped forward and ducked down, he lowered the cordon ever so slightly forcing her to fumble awkwardly to the ground and wriggle under the tape.

‘Oops,’ he muttered jovially. ‘Sorry, ma’am.’

Scrambling back to her full height, Giles glared at the constable, wanting nothing more than to dress him down right then and there. But prudence got the better of her – sure, she was a superior officer but she knew who would come off worse in such an altercation.

He was in his own patch and she was an undesirable.

‘DI Harris is waiting for you across the bridge.’

Giles gave a curt nod of thanks and made her way towards the thin wooden bridge that crossed into the next field. Behind her, the officer giggled quietly to himself and she could feel his eyes watching her as she moved up the creaking steps and over the sturdy structure. Beneath her feet, a feeble brook flowed down towards a tributary where it joined a larger river in a series of shallow, but ferocious, weirs that crashed its way down stream towards the town of Edenbridge.

Giles reached up and pulled her scarf a little tighter, pulling it as close to her skin as she could bear.

She hadn’t thought much of the town as she had driven through it. True, there was a lot more greenery – trees, open fields, hedgerows – than one might expect from a town with a population of eight thousand people, but the vast majority of the architecture seemed rather bland and unappealing. The exception to this, of course, were the numerous Tudor-style houses that made up the old town which, standing in the shadow of the local church, stood as impressive monuments to the town’s long history.

And a little further down river, Giles knew, was Hever Castle – the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. A grand estate that, in the wake of Anne’s execution for treason against King Henry VIII, had been effectively pawned off by the crown to buy the king’s next divorce. The estate had survived it, but now it stood as a testament to that terrible time – a memorial to how easily power could be ripped from those who would seek to betray.

Giles stepped off the bridge on the other end, her feet landing rigidly on the unforgivingly hard mud. The field in front of her was lined squat shrubs interspersing tall, ash trees on one side, and a collection of beech and oak trees and thickets that flanked the path of the river on the other. Flurries of bluebells grew beneath the shadows of the riverside trees, stretching out towards the edge of the path like a soft, violet carpet. The cool airy freshly cut grass reminded Giles of happier times – sweet, spice and earth – bringing back memories of a childhood long forgotten.

She followed the path, adjusting her step so as not to trip on the hardened imprints of a hundred dog walkers, until a short, rake-like man appeared from around the corner. Dressed in a slightly old and tattered suit, the man headed straight towards her, a large smile enveloping his face – a smile that rapidly diminished as he came within a few feet of Giles. He came to a stuttering halt and glanced curiously at her, his eyes drawn steadfastly to her face as his mouth slowly began to drop open.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles?’

Giles recognised the anxious whining of his voice straight away. She flashed him a brief smile and stepped forward, her hand outstretched.

‘Detective Inspector Harris…’

‘Please, call me Will…’

He almost withdrew from her, as though the touch of her hand might bring about some awful injury. His eyes remained steadfastly locked on her and it was several seconds after he noticed the awkwardness of her smile that he quickly stepped forward and grasped hold of her hand. His fingers were ice-cold and lacked confidence as they wrapped around Giles’ palm, barely grasping a firm enough hold to even hold contact.

Giles smiled. ‘You’ve been out here for a while.’

Harris released his grip and shuffled a couple of steps back.

‘Yes, quite,’ he replied, rubbing his hands together. ‘Our victim was discovered a couple of hours ago. Luckily I only got here shortly after I called you.’

He hesitated. His eyes quivered this way and that as they scanned Giles’ face and his tongue gently licked his top lip.

Giles pulled her silk scarf a little tighter around her neck. Beneath the smooth material, the old scar that ran across her flesh ached although there was no reason for it to. As the wind picked up around them, Giles thought she could hear a voice on the wind. The maniacal cackling of a ghost long gone…

Harris stared in silence as Giles, uncomfortable under his gaze, lowered her face towards the ground a little – concealing the already hidden scar from view.

‘Is there a problem?’ she asked tentatively.

Harris’ eyes registered surprise for only a moment before the broad smile returned, although somewhat half-heartedly.

‘No. Not at all. You are just…’ He hesitated for a moment. ‘You’re just not what I expected.’

A pulse of anger surged through Giles’ body. The scar in her neck ached a little more as her jugular pounded against her skin and her hands impulsively tightened into fists. For all the tension coursing through her body, Giles managed to keep a measure of control, but it was not enough to hide it from Harris. But the detective who, to Giles at least, seemed little more than a nervous excuse of a man, barely reacted to the display. On the contrary, he even raised a small smile towards her – a smile that Giles forced herself to reciprocate.

‘That’s the second time I’ve heard that comment in as many minutes…’

‘I should imagine so,’ he replied. ‘No one in their right mind would ever have suspected that you might turn out to be…’ He hesitated. ‘Well, that you were…’ He paused again. ‘You know?’

‘Asian?’

A slight waft of relief swooped over Harris’ face. ‘Yes, exactly. Asian.’

Giles tried her best to hide her sneer, although the coarse tone of her voice told the whole story:

‘Have you a problem working with Asians, Detective Inspector Harris?’

‘No. Not at all…’ Harris stuttered. ‘I’m just worried that I may have wasted your time…’

‘Because someone like me can’t do the job as well as you white folks…’

‘That’s not what I said at all…’

‘Then what are you saying?’

Harris stared back at Giles, his mouth falling even further open as he looked upon the fiery detective. As Giles glared back at him, she could see his mind racing – the cogs of his brain turning rapidly. He reached up and loosened his tie, pulling his collar out a little to allow the air to get to it and swallowing hard as he tried to form a coherent sentence.

‘I’m not the man you think I am.’

‘I’m not the one passing judgement.’

Harris licked his lips again and sighed heavily. Slowly, he nodded his head in agreement.

‘Somehow, I don’t think explaining myself will do me much good at this stage,’ he said, raising his hand to gesture down the pathway. ‘Maybe it would just be better if I show you.’

He didn’t wait for a reply. As he turned away, Giles saw Harris shaking his head slowly from side to side – whether from his own ineptitude or from his disgust at Giles, she had no way of knowing. She allowed the anger to subside a little and for her fists to unclench before she began to follow him.

They passed a small collection of trees and bushes that was surrounded almost entirely by more bluebells on their way towards the next corner. As Giles passed it by, a slight rustling of breaking twigs and grass caught her attention and, as she peered into the violet mass of flowers, she thought she saw two black eyes peering out at her. No sooner had she moved a few steps further and blinked had the two eyes vanished in amongst the undergrowth.

No time to explore the wildlife, Eve…

‘I know,’ she muttered.

She followed behind Harris as the pathway swooped around, following the course of the river, to reveal a small grassy area that seemed overgrown and unkempt. At the far side of this clearing, a set of bushes and small trees arched and twisted back and forth as they clambered up and around a small, squat, concrete building that sat, cold and lifeless next to the opening through to the next field. Wide, rectangular openings punctured the sides of this hexagonal oddity and the whole structure looked as though it had been half-built into the ground, for the highest point was no higher the head the heads of the SOCO officers that carefully searched the area.

Harris came to a stop at the edge of the clearing and waited for Giles to catch up. As she came alongside him, he stared with pride towards the dilapidated concrete box, puffing out whatever remained of his chest and placing his hands arrogantly on his hips.

‘Beautiful isn’t it?’ he asked, gesturing towards the bunker. ‘It’s an old World War Two pillbox. Built by us to stop the Germans crossing the River Eden in an invasion. There’s hundreds of the buggers lining the river.’

‘Why is it still here?’

‘It’s our heritage, isn’t it? It’s important for us to know where we come from…’

‘I wouldn’t know,’ replied Giles sarcastically.

Harris ignored the quip. ‘Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters. If it keeps them off the street then I say keep the bunkers standing.’

And why am I here?

As if in answer to Giles’ unspoken question, a couple of SOCO officers who had been kneeling down beside the pillbox stood up and back to reveal a crumpled corpse, sprawled up against the wall. The figure, a man that Giles supposed to be in his thirties or possibly forties, lay hard against the pillbox, his head contorted at a strange angle – his face calm and peaceful. Behind his head, blood splatters painted the wall and his clothing, as well as staining a small patch of grass ten or twelve metres in front of him.

Harris led Giles over to the pillbox, stepping around the SOCO photographer as he lined up to take a shot of the corpse. When the photographer was done, Harris moved in a little closer to the body, gesturing for Giles to do the same. As Giles knelt down beside the body, she could feel the eyes of the investigating team burning into the back of her head and the subsided anger began to brew once more.

‘What do you think?’ Harris asked, watching Giles intently.

Giles leaned a little closer, her eyes quickly scanning the body.

White male. Probably late thirties. Head slumped to one side. Large wound to the back of his head…

‘There’s a lot of blood on the wall,’ she said quietly. ‘He either had his head bashed against it or it was a gunshot injury…’

‘We found a bullet in the back of his head,’ confirmed Harris. ‘Go on.’

Very large opening. No obvious exit wound…

‘He was shot at long distance, I reckon. The victim probably turned his head at the last minute judging by the lack of an exit wound. The bullet blew out a large portion of his skull which is why he didn’t survive it…’

‘That’s our assessment as well…’

So what are you asking me for?

Giles turned her attention to his clothes.

Dark green coat – covered in blood. No surprise there.

Black waterproof trousers. Thick socks. Grey leather walking boots.

She leant forward and sniffed his lips.

Mint.

‘Well, he was a regular walker,’ she announced. ‘Probably enjoyed country hikes or geocaching or something like that.’

‘Why’d you figure?’

Giles smiled, gesturing to his clothing.

‘This man came out here for a walk. He’s wearing his waterproofs even though it is a nice sunny day. That implies to me that he wears these clothes out of habit.’ She gestured to his boots, leaning forward to pick some dried mud off the soles. ‘His boots are quite expensive, built for purpose. He has dried mud on them because he recently went out walking in the mud on a wet day.’

Harris chuckled. ‘A regular walker…’

‘Exactly.’

The victim’s features were relatively recognisable amongst the blood. His glazed over, green eyes; his skin tight against his cheekbones and long jaw; his neat brown hair, freshly gelled and styled; the small amount of stubble around his chin.

‘Do you know who he was?’ Giles asked, reaching down for the victim’s right hand.

‘No idea. He had no wallet or anything on him. A woman called the police when she came across him and another man but, so far, neither of them can tell us who he was. I don’t suppose you’ve seen him before, have you?’

‘No, why would I?’

Harris shrugged. ‘Just a punt, I guess.’

Giles sat back up. ‘Well, I can’t tell you who he was, but I can tell you he’d been married for some time.’

Harris stared blankly at her. Giles gestured down to a small, gold wedding ring on the victim’s finger.

‘Wedding ring,’ she explained. ‘His skin is quite tanned, probably as a result of all the walking he does. But the skin under the wedding ring is white as a sheet. Whatever prompted him to take up walking happened after he got married…’

‘I see…’

Harris stared down at the body for a good, long while before he slapped his thighs and sprang to his feet. With a renewed sense of energy, he reached forward and held his hand out for Giles to take, beaming as he did so.

‘Well, thanks for all your help, Giles,’ he said taking her hand a little more roughly than Giles would have liked. ‘You’ve been a great help. I’ll let you get back to your Bank Holiday.’

Before Giles could respond, Harris moved past her and sauntered his way back towards the path, heading in the direction of the next field where a group of uniformed officers were gathered around a tall, smartly dressed, man. Giles glanced back down at the body, racking her memory for any recollection of the poor man at her feet before she finally turned on her heels and chased after the retreating DI.

‘Is that is?’ she called out, overtaking Harris and bringing him to a stop. ‘Is that all you brought me down for?’

‘I told you I thought I had wasted your time,’ he replied, raising his hands defensively. ‘I apologise for the inconvenience…’

He tried to step past her but Giles, with an air of defiance in her eyes, stepped across to block his path.

‘You called me all the way down here to identify a dead man? Couldn’t you just have emailed me the crime scene photographs?’

‘I’m not really one for technology…’

‘So you summoned me down here? An hour driving for this?’

Harris swallowed hard. ‘I prefer the personal touch myself but perhaps on this occasion it wasn’t the most efficient use of anyone’s time…’

He took a step forward, hoping this action would force Giles out of his way. As he made contact with her, Giles stood firm, forcing Harris to retreat back, his face knotted with irritation.

‘What do you want from me, Evelyn?’

‘My friends call me Evelyn, Inspector Harris. You can call me Giles.’

‘Fine,’ Harris shot back. ‘What do you want?’

Giles let the question hang for a moment. She hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. Something about this whole scenario hadn’t made sense from the beginning, and it wasn’t to do with some casual racism either. Something about the death of the man affected Giles personally, or at least there was the potential it could. As she glared back at Harris, she felt his eyes drift over her shoulder as he looked towards the group of officers behind her.

What is it with people looking past me today?

“I think we have one of your informants’. That was what you said.’

Harris nodded. ‘Yes. At the time, that was my thought on the matter…’

‘But now you don’t think that.’

‘Evidently…’

‘But not because I didn’t identify the body,’ Giles said slowly, her eyes narrowing in to watch Harris’ reaction. ‘There was something that made you think you were wrong the moment you laid eyes on me. You already knew I was a woman so it wasn’t that…’ She saw Harris’ lip quiver. ‘It’s something to do with my ethnicity.’

Harris cleared his throat, his eyes darting around to look at anything apart from Giles.

‘I told you I had made a mistake…’

‘But how did you? There was nothing on that body that suggested he disliked Asian people. There was no membership card for the Britain’s Own Party. He wasn’t wearing a t-shirt with the slogan, ‘Britain for Whites’ on it. So how did you…?’ She hesitated. ‘You weren’t talking about the dead man, were you?’

Harris smiled and manoeuvred himself to step around Giles.

‘I’m really sorry but I have work to do. Thanks for coming down.’

This time he made it past her.

Giles span quickly around, walking just behind Harris as the path narrowed before moving in to the next field. Up ahead, the uniformed officers turned to watch as they approached and Giles began to smell the whiffs of smoke from the smartly dressed man’s cigarette.

‘There was another man,’ Giles said. ‘Someone else who you thought might be my informant.’

‘Yes, but we now know that isn’t true…’

‘Why not, sir? There must have been something to link me to this guy, or else you wouldn’t have called me out here…’

‘Yes, there is, but I can categorically say that he isn’t your informant.’

‘How would you know that?’ Giles blurted out, reaching forward and pulling Harris back around to face her. ‘If you don’t let me talk to him, how will you ever know?’

‘Because I already know, alright?’

Harris’ voice was loud enough that everyone stopped to watch. For a moment, the two detectives stood silently, glaring at each other as a smooth, spring breeze began to pick up around them. The leaves began to rustle in the trees and the carpet of bluebells rolled back and forth like a comforting duvet being aired over a bed.

Finally, Harris turned to the group of officers and slapped his thighs in surrender.

‘Fine,’ he muttered. ‘You can talk to him. But, I can guarantee you, you will not enjoy the experience…’

‘Why?’ Giles asked as Harris turned his back and marched towards the group of officers. ‘Who is it that could be so bad?’

Harris didn’t stop to answer. He marched straight up to the group of officers, signalled for a sergeant to come to him and engaged in a short, brief discussion. The sergeant nodded apprehensively before turning to signal for the rest to back away, leaving the smartly dressed man stood alone and isolated in a ring of police officers.

Giles hadn’t looked at him properly before – if she had, she might have realised it sooner. Behind the haze of cigarette smoke, the man stared out at Giles like a dragon considering its prey. His lips curled in disgust and his cold eyes drilled into Giles’ like an unforgiving branding iron. Despite the sunshine, the air around them seemed to grow cold with the breeze and Giles tugged furiously at her scarf, willing it tighter with every tweak.

Harris had been right. She wasn’t going to enjoy the experience.

 

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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In Search of the Perfect Cover Design

Just over a year ago, I wrote a couple of posts about my ideas for the cover of The Bluebell Informant. In those posts, I talked a little bit about the vision I had for the book and how I wanted my cover to stand out amongst all the other authors out there who are vying to find a place in the market.

Shortly after one of those posts, I was asked the following question and – at the time – I was a little stumped about how to answer it:

Why do you bother spending so much time working on your cover? Surely, if you just get a decent designer to make it for you, you don’t need to bother with all that? Why don’t you just focus on writing?

It’s a good question (well three questions really), and there are many authors asking the same thing. To my lasting regret, I wasn’t able to give this person a particularly great answer. I rambled on about how I had a set vision and I wanted everything to be just so, but in truth I wasn’t really sure why I was doing it. As the writer had suggested, I was planning on approaching a professional cover designer anyway, and – if they were any good – they really should be able to take my ideas and create something worthy of the story I wrote…

And therein lies the problem.

Finding that right designer is incredibly difficult. Just as there are thousands of authors desperately trying to get readers to read, there are thousands of cover designers trying to get authors to hire them to make their book cover. And, as with authors, some are good, some are bad and some are awful…

And now, in hindsight, I have the answer to these three questions. I have gone through quite a varied process with designing the cover for The Bluebell Informant and I am immensely thankful for the fact that I took the time a year ago to make some rather crude drawings so that I could get my ideas down on paper. Because – if I hadn’t done that – I’m not sure I would have ended up with the right cover now.

I approached a cover designer a few months ago to design the cover for The Bluebell Informant. He was a lovely chap, very helpful and very keen to make everything right for me – but he had the awful habit of calling me “sir”, which – despite my best efforts – is a habit he continues to do to this day.

I gave him a lot of reference material and sent him the sketches and crude photoshop version that I made of the cover, but I never felt like he really got it. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the cover, it just didn’t ever feel quite right and – despite trying to explain it to him – I eventually settled for a cover that I wasn’t entirely happy with.

Roll a few months later. I approached the same designer to create a cover for the Giles novelette that I will be giving away for free with The Bluebell InformantGotcha. I think I wanted there to be a continuity in the designs of my books. I wanted people to instantly recognise them as mine and using the same designer seemed like the best way of ensuring that. However, after a couple of drafts it seemed that I wasn’t quite going to get what I wanted for Gotcha either…

And then luck stepped in.

For some reason, and I’m not entirely sure why, the designer dropped out of the project for personal reasons. I took the opportunity to present the Gotcha project to another designer and the results I got were fantastic. Not only did she understand it from the off, but she also was able to replicate the tone of the piece and provide me with three different alternatives to pursue. Even though she was offering unlimited revisions, I ended up going for one of her designs with very little changes.

And then the idea struck me.

I invested a little bit more money and asked her to have a crack at designing the cover for The Bluebell Informant. And I think you’ll agree, the results are amazing. Again – she gets the tone right, the style right – and she even inadvertently built a subtle visual hint to the story into it as well.

But what has this got to do with my initial designs? If I line them up one by one, there is barely anything that links my first design to the final design except the presence of bluebells (and let’s be honest, with a name like The Bluebell Informant that can hardly be a surprise). And yet, if I hadn’t made those initial drawings, I wouldn’t have quite been able to put my finger on what was wrong with the first cover I had commissioned.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-21-35-51So, yes, I would always say use a professional. And I would also say try one or two people as well because individual skills and styles play a huge amount into the production of a successful cover design. But most importantly, have a clear idea of what you want the design to look like, and use the designer who is able to show you that you were wrong, whilst still keeping the essence of your idea…

Because those are the ones who are worth their weight in gold…

The Bluebell Informant will be available to download for free from 7th April, 2017. Those who do grab a copy will get Gotcha for free as well!

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…