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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Sixteen

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 Sixteen

             The train glided quietly into the station, whispering as it slowed. It continued to slide along until each carriage had found its place along the platform. Only then did the sleek, green snake of smooth metal finally stutter to a halt.

A sharp beeping filled the entire carriage and the green exit buttons flashed with sickening, yet rhythmical, yellow lights. The doors gently hissed and dropped imperceptibly before sliding open allowing a rush of cool air to sweep through the carriage.

Giles was on her feet in seconds pulling Barker up behind her and darting towards the nearest door. She stopped short of the open doorway and peered out of the windows as a multitude of passengers hustled and bustled their way on and off the train. She felt Barker take a deep breath to speak but she silenced him with a gently nudge in the ribs.

Watching carefully, Giles edged closer towards the doorway, her ears straining for her signal. She doubted there was anyone on the train watching them but, given what little Barker had already said, there was always a chance they were being observed. It was an unnecessary precaution – but one she didn’t mind taking. Besides it was rattling Barker a little…

That might come in handy before the day is out…

Giles’ eyes swooped across the platform. She wasn’t entirely sure what she was looking for, but she was sure she’d see it if it was there: a police uniform, someone who looked out of place, a commuter who seemed hesitant about boarding the train.

She didn’t see anything amiss and she was about to give the nod to Barker when something caught her eye…

Strolling down a platform, wearing a tattered red-chequered jacket and ripped jeans, was a man working his way along the train in search of an emptier carriage. His head bobbed as he walked and his blonde dreadlocks bounced from side to side as he approached the door Giles was stood at…

It can’t be him.

Giles was frozen to the spot. There was no way it could be him.

The laughter had returned. The manic laughter of a dying man as he lay sprawled on the garage floor. He had smiled up at her in those last moments, almost as though he had known that it wasn’t over yet, as his giggling echoed around the garage walls…

It’s impossible.

            The man stopped short of Giles’ door. He peered inside, his eyes falling on Giles for only a second before settling on Barker. It wasn’t him. Giles knew that now. The man stood before her was younger and slightly smaller than Donnovan had been – but the resemblance was remarkable. Even the icy stare that he shot at Barker reminded her of that pathetic man…

The dreadlocked man gave Barker an inquisitive look. Giles felt her companion’s fist clench in his pocket and move a little closer behind her so that he was effectively shielded from him. The man continued to stare for a good few moments, pausing intermittently to glance up and down the platform. When they returned to the carriage, his eyes seemed to glare straight past Giles towards Barker and, for the briefest moment he let loose a singular yet unmistakable snarl.

The laughter was getting louder. Giles could feel something tighten around her neck – something metal, something sharp…

The sharp beeping returned and the green buttons flashed yellow once again. The man took one last look up the train and closed his eyes in contemplation as he stepped on to the train.

‘Giles,’ Barker hissed as the man moved quickly passed them, throwing one last hate-filled glance at Barker. ‘Giles.’

The laughing stopped abruptly. Giles was back in the moment. She darted forward, dragging Barker behind her, and jumped off onto the platform just as the doors slid closed behind them.

She didn’t wait to see what became of the dreadlocked man. From the way he was dressed he was probably just some hippie that had as much disliking for Barker’s policies as Giles did. But she didn’t want to take the chance. She strode straight towards the exit ramp and within minutes the two of them were moving along the concourse towards the exit barriers.

Giles hesitated. The barriers were closed.

‘We need a ticket’ she muttered, turning to Barker, her eyes deep with concern. She slowly pulled out her warrant card and nodded apologetically towards the barriers. ‘I can probably blag my way through, but two of us might draw too much attention…’

She looked around as the other passengers passed them by. Already some of them were throwing glances in their direction: some excitable, others in disgust. A slow rise of admiration intertwined with discontent began to slowly bubble up as more people became aware of the politician walking in amongst them. A couple up ahead, hearing the commotion, had even stopped to grab their camera phones to take some selfies of themselves with Barker in the background.

This is getting dangerous…

Giles turned back to Barker. He nervously glanced around at the parade of curious onlookers before turning his gaze back on to Giles. He seemed confused for a moment but, as his eyes focussed on the ticket barrier up ahead, they brightened in an instant and his face began to glow, courtesy of a self-assured smile. He shoved his hands into his pocket and searched for something but, after a moment or two, he paused – slowly retrieving his empty hands as he gazed sheepishly up at Giles.

‘We didn’t have time,’ he said. ‘I’ve never…’

‘No time for that. We’ll just have to improvise.’

She pressed him forward towards the barriers, ignoring the couple as they giggled when Barker passed them by. Giles directed Barker along the line of barriers to where the disabled access was located. She sighed with relief as her eyes settled on the attendant, grateful that, for once, she could find a station employee when she needed one. She approached the barrier, flashing her warrant card as she stopped at the gate.

‘Good afternoon,’ she said, her smile doing well to mask her anxiety. ‘Detective Sergeant Giles. I’m transporting a witness to the local station, but I’m afraid…’ she glanced awkwardly back at Barker. ‘… We were in a rush and didn’t purchase our tickets. I don’t suppose you would mind…?’

The attendant looked at the warrant card and back up at Giles. His bored expression and heavy bags under his eyes told the whole story. He leant on the barrier and shot a half-hearted smile.

‘I’m sorry, I can’t let you through without a ticket.’

Giles stared hard at the man. ‘I’ll be going straight to the ticket office…’

‘That’s neither here nor there,’ replied the attendant, slapping his lips together and smirking the expression of a big fish in a small pond. ‘I’ve got a job to do and rules are rules. If I start letting you through without a ticket, I’ll have every kid and granny from here to the centre of town wanting to get through for free. It’s not worth my job to…’

The speech had been well rehearsed up until that point, almost as though he had been waiting for the moment to exert his authority for a long time. But he stopped short of finishing as his eyes travelled over Giles’ shoulder and settled on the awkward man behind her. A flash of recognition flew across his face and, in that same instant, the bags disappeared and his expression lit up with such excitement that he looked as though he might explode with delight.

‘You…’ he whispered, a grin spreading rapidly across his face as his pudgy fingers pointed in Barker’s direction. ‘Oh my Lord, it’s you. Daniel What’s-his-face…’

The attendants voice was getting louder with the excitement. All about the ticket barriers, passengers and rail workers alike were stopping in their tracks to see what the commotion was about. Glancing around anxiously, Giles did her best to quieten the man but her efforts only seemed to confirm his suspicions.

‘It is you,’ he exclaimed, clapping his hands together with glee. ‘You’re famous, you are. You know I voted you. Well, not for you obviously, you’re not my MP. But I voted for the other guy…’

Barker nodded graciously and, for the first time, Giles felt as though she detected a note of embarrassment behind the politicians’ feeble smile.

The attendant stepped up to the barrier, thrusting his arm over the top to shake Barker’s hand. Barker glanced warily at Giles before slowly giving his hand to accept the gesture, much to the attendant’s delight.

‘It’s such an honour to meet you in person,’ he said, shaking Barker’s hand with vigour. ‘What you’ve done, I mean what your party is going to do, makes such a difference to men like me. My son, bright kid you know, studied English at university. He went for a job as a teacher not long ago. He didn’t get it. You know why?’

Barker shook his head, his eyes glancing around nervously.

The attendant nodded knowingly. ‘Because they hired some Chinese guy. Something about having to fulfil their quota of ethnic minorities. I mean, what is the world coming to?’

His hand slapped down on the barrier just as his eyes glanced over at Giles with a hint of smugness.

‘What is the world coming to, I say? When my boy can’t even get a job teaching English because he is white and English? So, when your lot came along, of course, I voted for you. And my boy too…’

Giles stepped smartly up to the barrier. Although her hands caused no real pressure as she placed them on the attendant’s, he felt something of the tension in her muscles that brought his rambling to an abrupt end.

‘Mr Barker is the witness to a grave miscarriage of justice that may have national implications. We need to get him to safety as soon as possible. Will you please let us through?’

‘National implications, eh? More MPs fiddling expenses, are they?’

Barker flashed that sheepish look once again.

‘Something like that.’

The attendant nodded and knowingly tapped his finger against his nose. ‘There politicians, they’re all the same.’ He turned back to Giles, his face falling to a more professional manner. ‘But I’m afraid I have my duties. I can’t let you past without approval from my supervisor.’

‘We don’t have time…’

‘I’m sorry, lady, those are the rules…’

A voice sounded out from amongst the crowd:

‘It’s all been taken care of.’

A flurry of movement could be seen behind the watching passengers as the occasional flashes of grey flittered amongst the waiting commuters. A hand reached out from the crowd, gently pressing one of the bodies out of the way to reveal the two suited men who stared out towards the barrier. The suits stepped out of the ranks of the waiting crowd and headed straight towards the disabled access, marching with the confident air of real authority.

Both men were tall and athletic-looking – the kind that you wouldn’t necessarily think much of to look at them, but you knew that underneath their pristine, expensive shirts their bodies were toned to high-heaven. They came to a stop in front of the confused attendant, their perfectly waxed shoes snapping hard against the solid, white floor.

The man ahead peered at the attendant with brown eyes that hid beneath an over-extended brow and a shock of blonde hair, whilst his companion loitered behind, his own eyes hidden behind dark, designer sunglasses. He reached into his pocket and produced a warrant card that he flashed briefly in front of the attendant’s nose:

‘Detective Sergeant Doyle, Metropolitan Police.’ He quickly dropped the card back into his jacket pocket and nodded towards Giles and Barker. ‘Myself and my colleague are here to escort Mr Barker to Croydon Police Station.’

The attendant shook his head. ‘I’ll tell you what I told her, I can’t let them through without a ticket…’

‘It’s already been cleared with you superior. Call up if you like.’

There was something in Doyle’s expression that suggested this was not the time to try his patience. For a brief moment, the attendant stood his ground as he clung to his little bit of authority, staring defiantly at the four people stood around him. Finally, the smug smile disappeared and, with his peeved eyes glued to the floor, he reluctantly reached into his pocket, pulled out a swipe card and opened the gates.

Giles gave him a short smile as she stepped through the barrier, feeling Barker fall in closely behind her. She heard him mutter a word of thanks to the unhappy attendant before turning to face the new arrivals.

Doyle held out his hand for Giles to shake. As she did so, she was acutely aware that his eyes never left Barker who hovered awkwardly behind her left shoulder. Doyle flashed a smile, revealing a perfectly formed layer of pearly white teeth:

‘DS Giles,’ he announced. ‘We’ve had a call from your DI.’

‘My DI?’

Doyle gave a single, jutting nod.

‘Yes, ma’am. He was informed immediately after you…’ he shot a sideways glance at Barker. ‘… liberated Mr Barker. It seems when he spoke to the officer in charge, there was some idea that Mr Barker here may have information pertinent to a case you guys were investigating. He also suggested that your lives might be in danger…’

‘Well, the jury isn’t out on that one yet, but it’s a definitely possibility.’ Giles allowed herself a little nervous laugh. ‘DI Jacobs spoke to Harris?’

Doyle nodded.

‘DI Jacobs has instructed us to escort you to our station and then on to West End Central where the Chief Constable will personally oversee an immunity agreement for Mr Barker in exchange for what he knows about the matter you are investigating.’

‘Jacobs said that?’

Doyle nodded again, giving a brief smile.

Giles considered him for a moment before returning the smile. ‘Thank you DS Doyle, your assistance would be most welcome.’

Barker stepped forward defiantly, grasping hold of Giles’ arms in his tight grip.

‘Wait a minute,’ he said. ‘This is not what we agreed.’

Doyle’s eyes flickered and his lips twitched. ‘It’s a pretty good deal, Mr Barker – for both of you. We could always have you both arrested, if you’d prefer.’

‘That won’t be necessary,’ replied Giles, cutting off Barker before he had the chance to speak. ‘Lead the way, Doyle.’

Doyle gave a small bow and turned towards the exit, carving a way through the crowds whilst his partner followed in tow. As soon as their backs had turned, Giles’ face sank. She fell back a little, allowing Barker to come alongside her before leaning subtly over to him.

‘Get ready,’ she whispered.

‘For what?’

‘Just be ready.’

They followed the two detectives outside where they started moving across the busy roads towards a large multi-storey car park located just a short distance from the station. As they turned into the car park, Giles quickened her pace to join Doyle at the head of the group.

‘You Croydon boys are efficient,’ she said casually. ‘I’ve always found Jacobs to be a nightmare to get hold of in a hurry.’

Doyle smiled.

‘The station is only around the corner,’ he replied, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a set of keys.

‘Still, you had to be up and out fairly sharpish…’

‘Jacobs said it was an emergency. We don’t take urgent requests lightly down here.’

Continuing inside the car park, the group moved through the structure seemingly heading towards a dark Ford that was parked up at the far end. Doyle gestured up ahead:

‘It’s just parked up there,’ he said, turning his head slightly to look back behind him. ‘So, are you based in West End Central?’

‘Not at the moment,’ replied Giles. ‘My team has been based out of Camden for the past year or so…’

‘Ah,’ Doyle replied. ‘I thought I recognised you. The Bluebell Killer, right?’

‘I was part of that team, yes…’

‘From what I heard, you practically solved the thing single-handedly.’

‘Do you always believe everything you hear?’

Doyle laughed, reaching into his pocket and producing a key fob. The Ford was only a few feet away and Doyle’s pace slowed to a standstill as he fumbled with the small device.

‘Must’ve been hard, though,’ he continued. ‘I don’t know if I could jump back on the horse after everything that happened…’

His eyes darted to the scarf on Giles’ neck.

‘You must be very brave…’

He raised his key fob, pressed the button and grunted in satisfaction as the Ford’s lights flashed and the car unlocked. Doyle gestured towards the car. ‘Please.’

Giles followed his outstretched hand and moved towards the back door of the car. As she came to a stop she saw Barker hesitate and glance towards the opening out on to the street before being ushered towards the car by Doyle’s associate. Giles waited patiently as Doyle moved around her and pulled open the back door for her. Taking a deep breath, Giles made a step closer towards the door.

Doyle didn’t react in time.

Giles had given no warning.

Her hands darted up and gripped a firm hold of Doyle’s. With a burst of strength, she jerked him forward and reached forward to grab the back of his neck.

‘Hey…’

His voice was silenced in a second as Giles thrust his head hard against the dull edge of the open car door. Doyle gave a quiet grunt of surprise as his head connected with the metal and his body went limp. Cowering in pain and grasping hold of his injured face, he fell to the ground with a dull thud.

The other detective had more time to react, but the viciousness of it all had left him frozen to the spot. As Giles darted round the car towards him, he could do little more than watch her barrel towards him. Too late, he reached inside his pocket for something as Giles tackled him by the midsection. The silenced gun went sprawling out of his hand and clattered across the ground as Giles used all her weight to bring the detective down on to the floor at Barker’s feet.

He groaned in shock as his head crashed against the concrete – but Giles wasn’t done yet.

Hooping her leg over his body, Giles positioned herself on top of him. Her hand reached out for his hair, her fingers looping, tightly in amongst the individual strands and, with the last of her energy, she slammed his loose head repeated against the hard floor.

He groaned once more and his body relaxed.

Giles released hold of his hair and leapt to her feet, looking up at Barker, who stood frozen to the spot – wide-eyed and horrified. Giles pointed down at the unconscious man at her feet and said:

‘Keep an eye on him.’

She turned on her heels and moved back around the car where Doyle was slowly coming to, a trickle of blood dripping down his face from a cut above his right eyebrow. Bending down to him, Giles placed her right hand against his neck and slammed him viciously against the car as her left searched his pockets for another gun. Inside she found nothing but his warrant card and his phone.

‘You bitch,’ he grunted as his eyes tried to focus on her.

Giles smiled as she tossed his phone aside and examined Doyle’s warrant card once again. True enough it was the warrant card of a detective sergeant and the picture on the identification was most definitely Doyle’s. She threw it aside and moved in closer to her victim.

‘Who are you working for, Doyle?’ she asked, squeezing his neck slightly as she leaned forward.

‘What are you talking about…?’

Giles thrust his head hard against the car. The detective groaned in agony as the metal structure of the car buckled under the strain.

‘Who are you working for?’

‘I work here. I’m based at Croydon Police Station…’

‘But that’s not who you are working for today. Who sent you to pick me and Barker up?’

Doyle chuckled, raising his hands to nurse the injury on his face. ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about…’

His hand returned to the ground with a loud thump as Giles smacked it out of the way. Her grip on his neck tightened until he struggled to breathe and his eyes began to bulge in their sockets.

‘Come now, Doyle. The expensive shirts, designer sunglasses, high-end shoes – someone is paying you a small fortune and I doubt very much it’s the Metropolitan Police…’

Doyle gargled as a small trickle of blood appeared in the corner of his mouth.

‘I had an aunt who died recently,’ he whispered. ‘Inheritance…’

Giles slammed his head against the car door again.

‘Don’t treat me like an idiot, Doyle. I’ve been playing you a lot better than you were me…’ She leant in a little closer with a wry smile on her face. ‘I know you didn’t speak to my DI…’

‘I did…’ Doyle gargled. ‘DI Jacobs’s instructions were very specific…’

Giles smiled and slowly shook her head.

‘There is no Detective Inspector Jacobs, Doyle,’ she muttered. ‘I made him up. So I’ll ask you again, who are you working for?’

The look of surprise didn’t last long. It was almost as though Doyle expected to be caught out – either that or he didn’t care. His face broke out into a wheezy laugh and, even against Giles’ vice-like grip, he managed to shake his head a couple of times.

‘He really hasn’t told you anything, has he? You have no idea what you’re up against.’

‘Why don’t you tell me?’

Doyle smiled again.

‘My boss is a honourable man, you know. If you do a favour for him, I’m sure you’d be rewarded in no time. Hand Barker over to me and, I assure you, you won’t regret it. He pays very well.’

Giles’ grip tightened once more causing Doyle to start choking. ‘I don’t sell my honour.’

‘Do me a favour…’ Doyle whispered through his strained breath. ‘Everyone has a price, even the murderer you are quite happily protecting.’

Doyle’s eyebrows fluttered up and down as he looked at the point behind Giles’ shoulder. Giles’ allowed herself to turn slightly to glance behind her.

Barker was gone – as was the gun.

Doyle chuckled cynically.

‘See, he’s not worth your trouble,’ Doyle whispered. ‘Just you go home and let us deal with him. I promise you’ll be well paid for it. He’ll even arrange for the charges against you to be dropped.’

Giles looked around frantically. Barker was long gone…

Unconsciously, she let her grip on Doyle’s neck go ever so slightly allowing him to breathe normally once again.

‘It’s not like we won’t find him before you anyway. You are one; we are many. He’s as good as dead.’ He shuffled himself a little further upright and removed his hand from under Giles’ to nurse his aching face. ‘You just leave it to us. Go and enjoy the rest of your Bank Holiday with Jason…’

Doyle had no idea that Giles had hit him until it was too late. His head slammed against the side of the car…

… and all turned to black.

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 Fifteen

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 Fifteen

DC Scutter slammed the phone down hard on the desk, leapt to his feet and marched across the room towards Giles’ desk.

‘I’ve got it,’ he announced, thumping a single sheet of report paper down on her desk.

Giles could hardly contain her excitement. Eagerly, she reached at the paper, her eyes scanning the brief. ‘You have?’

‘Henry Jones got into a little bit of trouble a few months back,’ Scutter continued, a grim smile reaching across his face. ‘He lost a large amount of the bank’s money betting the wrong way. By all accounts he fell into a state of depression – he started drinking, taking drugs, the works. A few days later, the money magically reappeared in the bank’s records so he was never investigated.’

Giles set the paper back down on her desk. A glimmer of doubt began to creep into her mind.

‘Twenty thousand pounds doesn’t sound like a large amount of money for a bank to lose.’

‘It isn’t,’ agreed Scutter. ‘It was closer to a million. But Jones used the twenty thousand to invest in a couple of high-risk ventures. Over the course of a few days, he had accumulated enough that the bank barely noticed the discrepancy – if at all.’

‘Sounds like a good run of luck.’

‘A very good run.’

‘This is good,’ Giles agreed, getting to her feet. She reached for her mobile phone and slid it into her pocket as she started to make her way towards Bolton’s office.

‘That’s not all.’

Scutter’s words brought her to a halt. As she turned to face him, she saw him produce another piece of paper – a phone bill by the look of it – that he thrust into her hands.

‘I just got Jones’ telephone records,’ he continued. ‘At the time of his mini breakdown, he made a dozen or so calls to the same number. I just confirmed it with the phone company.’

‘Let me guess…’

‘Alex Donnovan.’ Scutter tapped the phone bill. ‘Here’s our link.’

Giles couldn’t contain her delight.

‘That’s Henry Jones, Mary Crosskey, Derek Batterly and Simon Grole. That’s four victims that we can link together.’

She took one more glance down at the bill. Scutter had taken the liberty of highlighting the number on the bill; the number that Henry Jones had called a dozen times a few months before his death – the number belonging to the man she suspected of being the Bluebell Killer.

‘Let’s bring him in.’

 

Alex Donnovan was a weedy-looking guy – quiet and insular – his dirty, blonde hair dreadlocked down to his shoulders, his fingers yellowed with the stain of roll-up cigarettes. On first glance he didn’t look like much. He certainly didn’t look like the kind of man capable of murdering eighteen people, particularly those who looked like they could’ve handled themselves.

But Giles knew different.

They had been watching Donnovan for some time now. Beneath that weak exterior, he was actually quite a well-built, muscular kind of guy. Every morning, without fail, he would take a jog down to the local gym, give his arm, leg and torso muscles a punishing workout for an hour and then jog back home again just in time to start the business of the day.

Giles was grateful for Max. Had it not been for him, she might never have focussed so much on the money aspect of the case. True, Max had wanted her to follow the mysterious account, but that had been easier said than done. The account had been a dead end and only a few of the victim’s had received the same payment as Henry Jones.

But it had opened Giles’ eyes.

Maybe it was all about money…

Four of the victims had financial dealings with Donnovan of one kind or another – never anything large enough that it would be spotted by a cursory look at their finances – but it was there nonetheless. Giles had no doubt there would be more links with the other victims if she looked hard enough.

There wasn’t a doubt in her mind.

Donnovan was the Bluebell Killer.

DI Bolton took the seat beside Giles and switched on the tape recorder. He and Giles and announced themselves before allowing Donnovan and his lawyer to do the same.

Giles still hadn’t told Bolton about Max. She’d felt a little bad for it for a while. Every inch of progress she had made had been down to him and yet Bolton didn’t even know he existed. He ploughed the praise on to Giles without ever knowing where her spark of inspiration had come from.

It wasn’t fair. But it was what Max wanted.

Bolton allowed the room to sit in silence for a little while before he finally said:

‘You slipped up, Alex,’ he said. ‘We know you sold drugs to Henry Jones. We know you leant money to Derek Batterly and Simon Grole. You were close friends with Mary Crosskey in the lead up to her death; hell, you even seen with her a few hours before she died. We’re running thorough background checks on all the other victims – I’m sure we’ll come across something that links you to all of them. Why don’t you just save us the hassle?’

Beside Donnovan, his lawyer uncurled her hands and seemed to creep out of the shadows. Her glasses bounced the light from the overhead lamp around the room, momentarily blinding Giles as she surveyed the two detectives on the other side of the interview room. Then, with a softly hissing voice, she said:

‘Detective Inspector, I do believe you are clutching at straws.’ She shot off another glimmer of light as she glanced over to Giles. ‘You have tenuous links made even more so by this ridiculous accusation that my client is some sort of drug-dealing moneylender. It simply won’t do…’

‘Your client murdered eighteen people…’

‘Allegedly,’ the lawyer shot back, her thin lips curling into a smile. ‘Which begs another question: do you even have any proof that all these murders are even connected?’

‘We have reason to believe…’

‘Reason to believe?’ the lawyer snorted, settling back into the shadows. ‘My understanding is that none of the murders were committed in the same fashion – in fact, I believe that there is barely anything linking the murders at all…’

Giles butted in:

‘Except the bluebells.’

The lawyer raised her eyebrow as she looked over at Giles.

‘Quite,’ she muttered. ‘But bluebells are commonplace. The killings have been plastered over every tabloid from here to Edinburgh and the name of ‘The Bluebell Killer’ is as well known now as Jack the Ripper. Who’s to say that it’s only one man?’

She chuckled and flashed a triumphant grin at Giles before turning back to Bolton.

‘It would appear that, you can’t even link these murders to each other let alone to my client. It’s not very good, is it?’

As the lawyer prattled along, Donnovan sat in complete silence, staring icily at Giles. He hadn’t said a word – not one word – since he’d been brought in. He hadn’t even spoken to deny anything – he had let the lawyer do that for him. He was stonewalling. And it was working.

Giles’ patience had worn thin. She leant forward and glared hard at Donnovan, ignoring the wittering lawyer, and said:

‘Where were you the night Henry Jones died?’

‘My client doesn’t need to answer that question…’

Bolton piped up: ‘If he’s innocent, he won’t have a problem with it.’

‘Look,’ the lawyer replied, getting slowly to her feet and placing a reptilian hand on Donnovan’s shoulder. ‘Either charge my client or let him go. But he is under no obligation to answer any of your questions. My client will not say a word.’

Giles paid her no attention. She was too busy staring into Donnovan’s cold eyes. She had no doubt that she was looking at the Bluebell Killer, but she knew the lawyer was right – he wasn’t going to say a word.

 

‘What are you doing?’

The tone on the end of the phone was blunt and harsh. Even as she heard Max’s voice, Giles could feel the energy drain from her body.

She knew what this was about.

They had released Donnovan a few hours earlier to the delight and clamour of the public press. She watched the footage of him skulking out of the station and found herself cursing under her breath as the lawyer rabbited on about freedom and justice. Max was almost certainly calling to add his two cents to the mix, not that Giles needed any pressure right now – there had been two more murders since Henry Jones and the world was watching her closely.

‘We are following every line of enquiry…’

‘I mean this man, Donnovan, what has he got to do with this?’

The television began to show highlights from a debate in the House of Commons. The banner across the bottom of the screen read ‘Immigration Crisis Debate’, prompting Giles to turn her back and stare out of the window as she continued talking.

‘Max, I appreciate what you have done so far, really I do,’ she said. ‘But I am not at liberty to divulge the details of our investigation, even to you. You have been a big help to us so far. Your lead put us on to Donnovan, but I think it’s about time you take a step back and let the professionals…’

Max spluttered down the line.

‘Donnovan? Alex Donnovan? He isn’t the Bluebell Killer, not by a long shot. What the hell led you to him? I told you to follow the money…’

‘And then you disappeared,’ cut off Giles, her voice tainted with an air of spitefulness. ‘Look, Max, you gave us a good start, but if you were hoping we would just wait around for you to come up with your own theory, you have another thing coming. People are dying out there and we can’t be expected to wait for your call…’

‘I was gathering evidence,’ he hissed. ‘You wanted proof of who the Bluebell Killer is so I am getting it for you…’

‘And do you have it?’

The line went quiet.

In the silence, Giles swung back towards the television.

Stood in front of the House of Commons, the leader of the Britain’s Own Party, Daniel Barker, was delivering a passionate speech. She couldn’t hear what he was saying, but she could tell by the look on his face and the tension in his arms that he was on one of his rants again. He was probably spouting the same rubbish he’d been giving for the last year: immigrants are destroying our country, we’d be better without them, the economy wouldn’t have collapsed if we kept a closer guard of our borders…

She couldn’t see his appeal.

He looked smart enough – fresh faced and full of energy – but he gave off an aura that seemed distinctly terrifying. You could see the hatred flowing through his body with each word he spoke – it wasn’t passion, it was anger. It was spite. It was dangerous.

What made it worse was that a couple of her colleagues were stood glued to the screen. Smart people – sensible people – nodding their heads as though the man was making sense. They were buying into it. They truly believed that British people were somehow better than everyone else, that all the worlds problems could be eradicated if they were in control of it all…

These people were her friends…

And Barker was there leading the charge – swaying these bright people to his cause.

He’s a Hitler in the making…

Giles paused for a few seconds, feeling the irritation building through her body. She heard a slight catch of breath down the receiver – Max was still on the line. She swung her chair away from the television once more and took a deep breath.

I have bigger problems to deal with…

‘Then stop wasting my time…’

And she hung up the phone.

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 12

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 Twelve

‘Do you have a car?’

‘What?’

            ‘A car,’ Giles muttered urgently. ‘Do you have one?’

Barker stared blankly for a moment and then nodded his head.

‘Here?’

‘Yes?’

‘What kind?’

‘What?’

It was one of those times when the mouth reacted faster than the mind. Barker opened his mouth to answer but a late thought entered his mind causing him to shut it abruptly. His eyes flickered over to the car park and he said:

‘I don’t think I understand…’

‘You want me to get you out of here?’ Giles looked up towards the clubhouse as they drew closer and closer. Most of the officers had driven away now, but Harris and his sergeant were still loitering by their car. ‘My car is by the clubhouse. Harris will have you in cuffs before we even get close. Do you have yours with you?’

Barker followed her eye line until he spotted the two detectives in the car park. With a regrettable shake of the head he said:

‘Same place as yours,’ he muttered, his voice laced with uncertainty. ‘There’s only two of them. Couldn’t we overpower them…?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

Giles sighed heavily. Time was running out.

Two cars. We won’t get to either before Harris is on to us.

            ‘Is there any other way?’

Not without running cross-country. Think.

            Barker nodded to a small footpath, slowly creeping up on their right hand side. ‘That path leads down along the river. If we follow it to the bypass and cut up the High Street…’ He checked his watch. ‘The 12.15 to London arrives in eight minutes. If we run, we might catch it.’

‘Might?’

Giles glanced up towards the car park ahead. A group of footballers were making their way across the field towards the clubhouse, jumping and cheering in their revelry as they moved closer to the two detectives. Giles’ eyes darted across the path. It was thin and surrounded by bushes, barely ten metres away and not easily visible from Harris’ position.

We might just be able to make it.

            She turned to Barker.

‘Right, wait for my word.’

 

From Harris’ position, Giles and Barker seemed to have almost slowed to a stop. Parsons had noticed it too and, with his keen ex-soldier instincts guiding him, he took a couple of steps forwards and raised his face to the sky, as though he was picking up a faint scent in the air.

‘What are the hell is she playing at?’

The troupe of footballers had reached them now. As they paraded past the waiting detectives, they sang out ‘We Are the Champions’ at full volume and jumped around with such energy and excitement that you might have thought they had just won the World Cup. One or two even gave great grinning thumbs up to the two detectives and thanked them for their support, much to the amusement of the rest of the squad.

It was Parsons who sounded the alarm. As the last of the footballers passed them by, he burst forward and began to sprint at full pelt out on to the field.

‘Bugger me,’ he cried. ‘They’ve legged it.’

Harris took a few moments longer to scan the field, but he already knew that Parsons was right. For all intents and purposes, Giles and Barker had vanished.

 

Giles hadn’t stopped to look back. The bushes surrounded them now, but she knew it was only a matter of time.

She imagined the commotion on the field behind them. The surge of footballers passing by. The glimpses of two figures sprinting for the bushes. A moment of sheer panic as Harris and his colleague stare, dumbstruck, at the empty field…

And then…

The chase.

Ten seconds – that’s how much head start Giles and Barker would have had.

And another thirty – the time Giles estimated it would take them to reach the escape route.

Forty seconds.

Giles and Barker were safely on the path, the undergrowth disappearing behind them. They pushed against the hard ground, sprinting as fast as they could in the direction of the road bridge over the river. Behind them, the first cries of Harris’ confusion were all but lost in the air whipping past their ears.            

Jumping outstretched branches, ducking unkempt strands of bush and hopping the awkward patches of hardened mud, Giles pressed hard against her legs to keep pace with the man ahead.

As he rounded the corner, there was a scream of shock as Barker almost ploughed straight into a lady walking a black cocker spaniel. Jumping the lead, Barker surged on leaving Giles to make the hurried apologies as she scooted past the confused woman.

‘Sorry,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Excuse us…’

But the lady paid her no attention. Her eyes were fixed firmly on the retreating back of Barker.

‘Is that…?

Giles didn’t hang around to hear the rest of the question.

Weaving in and out of the criss-cross of various footpaths, Barker headed straight towards the river with the confidence of a man who had travelled this path before. When they arrived at the riverside once more, he wasted no time in turning along the riverbank. Digging his heels hard into the ground, he bounded up the embankment and sprinted hard towards the bridge up ahead with Giles panting with exhaustion behind him.

They were at the bridge in a matter of seconds.

A welcome gap in the traffic allowed them to pass without pause, leaving Giles little time to glance over her shoulder.

On the riverbank behind them, Harris’ colleague pounded the ground like a speeding bull – a single figure in the distance.

He’ll never catch us…

            A horn blared out.

The gap was not as large as Giles had thought. Flinging her hands up in apology, Giles darted out of the way of the speeding car, ignoring the torrent of abuse the driver hurled in her direction. Safely back on the pavement, Giles kicked her heels in to catch up, but Barker was already well ahead.

Another thirty seconds – Barker emerged on the High Street first, speeding around to the left and bursting up the hill. Despite the aching pain in her stomach, Giles forced herself to keep running. The muscles around her diaphragm were cramping up, restricting her breathing and sending a shooting pain up the side of her chest. Her legs began to sting with the effort of smashing the tarmac ground and her breath began to rasp with the strain of it all.

Just keep breathing.

            Hesitating for a moment to look back at Giles, Barker proceeded to climb the long, yet slight, incline of the hill, barely looking at the Tudor façades of the pubs, cafes and charity shops that lined the street. All about them, shoppers scattered as Barker and Giles ploughed past them; some watching with disgust, others frozen with excited curiosity.

‘Giles!’

Giles risked a glance back.

Harris’ colleague had closed the gap. His face was calm – barely showing any sign of the exertion. His legs pounded the pavement with unwavering rhythm, inching him closer and closer to his quarry.

Some way behind him, Harris turned on to the High Street – his face purple and his legs buckling under the strain.

Good. At least that’s one problem I don’t have to deal with.

            Giles turned her head back and pushed hard to build up an extra burst of speed. Taking control of herself, she breathed deep and slowly as the tight sensation crept across her mid-section. Her legs were throbbing and aching, and a strange metallic taste now lingered on her tongue.

With each passing second, she could feel her pace slowing. Her body was starting to give up…

            Just keep going.

Up ahead, Barker gave a quick glance left and right before darting across the road and down a small side street. With a quick glance of her own, Giles crossed the road after him.

The road ahead was long, but the station was in view at the end of it. Gathering as much extra energy as she could muster, Giles forced herself faster as she passed the rows upon rows of parked cars on either side. With every stride, Harris’s colleague gained ground on her whilst Barker inched away.

She was half way down the street now. With each stride, the station got closer. With each couple of beats on the ground, a second ticked away.

Then she saw it.

A flash of green slid between the buildings. A dull, electrical hum wavered in the air as a higher pitched whine slowly lost its tone.

The long, sleek train pulled into the station platform.

As it came to a stop, the doors slid gracefully open, inviting them to come inside.

Barker was already there. He slipped around the side entrance, avoiding the ticket office, and careered on to the platform, bounding effortlessly on to the train.

The deep snarl of Harris’ colleague was closer now. Giles glanced behind her, almost thundering into a parked car as she did.

His arms swayed back and forth with masterful control, pushing through the air like a steam train. His body barely bobbed higher than an inch with each step. His nostrils flared with his heavy breath and his eyes were set, unblinking, on Giles.

No pain. No hint of fear or failure.

Once a soldier…

            Giles turned back to the train and pressed on…

She was ten metres away.

A familiar, high pitched beeping, cut through the air.

Inside the train, Barker beckoned at her, willing her faster as she rounded the side of the station building and out on to the platform.

The doors began to close.

With her last strength, Giles dived forward, her hands landing hard on the train floor and her legs scooting inside the carriage as the door sealed shut behind her.

There were no thoughts to begin with – nothing but the deliriousness of an empty mind. Giles lay, for a moment, on the floor – breathing hard and willing the fuzziness out of her brain.

Next to her, a figure bent down and offered her his hand. Giles took it without question and allowed him to help her up to her feet. Smiling gratefully at her helper, it took Giles a good second or two to realise it was Barker.

His breathing was strained as well, but he still managed his own smile as Giles’ feet finally found the ground again and began to hold her own weight. Two quivering wrecks, they stood staring at each other – her hands resting gently on his shoulders why his hands supported her waist.

His hands were warm – almost inviting…

SMACK!

Giles jumped backwards as a hand banged viciously against the glass of the door.

Harris’ colleague leant up against the train, his calm face now contorted with anger and disappointment as he pounded at the train door. Giles and Barker stared in silence at the snarling detective as the train finally began to move. He jogged alongside, keeping pace as the train picked up speed – yelling something inaudible through the glass as he began to run out of platform.

Giles could see it in his eyes. He knew it was as pointless as she did – but he wasn’t going to give up. He would chase them to the end of the world if he had to…

The last Giles saw of him was his scream of frustration as the end of the platform finally forced him to stutter to a halt. In a moment, the station had vanished from sight and Giles was treated to one last glance at Edenbridge before the train emerged out into the countryside.

Through the pounding of her own heartbeat, Giles could feel the steady beating of another. In her shock she had jumped right into Barker’s arms, pressing her back up against his chest. His hands had stayed rigidly on her shoulders but, after a few moments, his arms curled protectively around her.

Giles pushed herself away from him, stepping across to the other side of the carriage. Maybe it was her exhausted delusion, but as she stared back at him, he seemed like a different man than before. He seemed somehow strong and commanding, yet weak and vulnerable. And, despite the sweat that dribbled down his cheek, his face seemed almost inviting…

Almost human…

It was an odd sensation – one that took a long while to subside.

With a glance out at the passing countryside, Giles finally allowed herself to relax. She didn’t know why she was laughing – all she really knew was that it felt like the right thing to do. Adrenalin was coursing through her body and the triumph of escaping Harris’ men filled her with a strange sense of satisfaction. She could understand why crime appealed to some people – the feeling of victory was so addictive…

Barker could feel it too. His voice rumbled with a low chuckle and, as the two made eye contact, they both felt the urge to break out into a wave of infectious laughter. Even one or two of their fellow passengers joined in – although none of them knew why.

Giles glanced down the carriage at them, noting a couple of disgruntled faces peering out from behind newspapers and books or up from their mobile phones.

‘I think we made a noticeable entrance,’ grunted Barker, his eyes sparkling cheekily.

Giles managed little more than a nod of agreement before she turned away and wandered down the carriage in search of a seat. Her mind flitted to Harris who was doubtlessly just arriving on the empty platform. He had struck her as a worrier from the first time she’d heard his voice – she had little doubt that he would be panicking now as he paced the station platform. Through one act of kindness, he had potentially spelt the end of his career…

And yours…

            Giles slid into a seat, placed her head back against the headrest and tried her best to gather her breath. As she did so, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to think of the dead body lying propped up against the pillbox.

The dog leash…

The tickets…

The missing bullet casing…

The creature in Giles’ stomach stirred once again.

We are in so much trouble, it said spitefully. This had better be worth it.

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 Four

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the first three chapters can be found here.

Chapter Four

God is in the detail…’

It had been a cool, summer’s night – one of those evenings when you could smell the freshness of the air and feel the warmth of the setting sun’s last gasping rays long after the city had been enclosed by darkness. The apartment was clean enough as well – not what the young Detective Constable Giles had expected from her first murder scene. Every item had its place and nothing sinister seemed to grab her as she stepped in through the front door.

Nothing – that is – save for the body of the young woman lying in the middle of the room – blood from a large head wound soaking the white carpet.

Detective Inspector Bolton had been there from the very beginning – guiding her along the way. As Giles stepped into the room, he stopped what he was doing and strode straight over to her. He grasped her by the shoulder and walked her through the apartment, avoiding the body as much as possible.

‘What do you see, Eve?’

Giles’ eyes darted towards the body.

‘No, no, no,’ Bolton said, his hand reaching up and directing her face back away from the body. ‘What do you see?’

It took Giles a while to formulate an answer. She didn’t know if it was the shock of being assigned to her first murder case or the obliqueness of Bolton’s question, but she could find little response apart from a few poorly chosen, muttered words:

‘An apartment,’ she replied. ‘It’s clean. Tidy. Nothing else really…’

Bolton smiled, shaking his head. Her mentor then gestured around the apartment, pointing at almost anything and everything other than the blood-soaked body in the middle of the living room.

‘Everything,’ he whispered. ‘Anything in this room – anything than you can see, you can taste, you can touch or you can hear – any of it could be evidence. Any scrap of paper or flicker of ash, any humming from a ventilation shaft or the smell of deodorant or talcum powder could be a vital clue. But vital clues don’t lead you to your killer – hard and diligent work does that part – but they do open up the possibilities…’

He grabbed hold of Giles and gently manoeuvred her so that she was square in front of him.

‘Vital clues open vital doors,’ he said. ‘Anything can be important. But not everything is. The trick is learning how to pull the vital facts from the world of static irrelevancies around you – find the right keys to the right doors…

‘God is in the detail…’

 

Harris led Giles back towards the forensics table, his head low as he tried to ignore the quizzical stares from his colleagues. Giles knew what he was feeling right now – part of her even felt sorry for him. It was one thing for Harris to demonstrate his authority by throwing Giles off his crime scene – it was quite another for him to admit he was wrong and allow her back again. He was embarrassed and vulnerable – Giles could see it in his body language. But that couldn’t be helped. There was something more important to think about right now.

And yet, in the back of her mind, a small ounce of respect began to flourish for the skinny, little man who stopped by the evidence table. Even as she watched him stroll up to it, Giles felt a newfound fondness for the man she had pegged as a racist only a few minutes before.

A good man…

Flawed.

But good.

‘All right, Giles,’ Harris said, stopping by the collected evidence and gesturing to the bags lining the table. ‘What do you see?’

Giles felt the pang of a long forgotten memory. She didn’t look down at the evidence bags – she could remember every detail.

‘I can tell you what isn’t there that should be,’ she replied, shrugging her shoulders. ‘No wallet. No keys. No identification cards or phone. It’s almost like our John Doe walked into this field like a shadow or an idea. Almost as if he didn’t want anyone to know who he is.’

Harris’ right eye flickered.

‘But what do you see?’

Giles hesitated, her eyes swooping down to the evidence bags.

‘I see a man covered in blood,’ she replied. ‘I see the shadow of a figure stood on a platform in London Bridge, dressed ready to walk his dog in a field with a gun in his pocket. I see a dozen answers to questions we’re not asking and a hundred questions that haven’t been asked yet – and it doesn’t make sense to me…’

‘You’re expanding,’ Harris said calmly, taking a step or two closer. ‘You’re telling me what you think. I just want to know what you see.’

Giles looked for a moment longer. She shook her head, turned back towards the DI and said:

‘I don’t understand.’

Harris considered her thoughtfully. Slowly, and with expert precision, he took his right hand and plunged it in amongst the evidence bags, pulling out a small one that he held out for Giles to take.

Giles recognised it straight away and shrugged.

‘A piece of paper?’ she asked, watching Harris’ eyes closely. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘You know what this is?’

Giles glanced down at the small scrap of paper and described it.

‘A piece of torn off paper. It has a blue and white chequered pattern – it’s probably from an envelope.’

‘Do you know where it was found?’

‘On the ground nearby, I guess?’

Harris shook his head. ‘In the victim’s pocket along with the train ticket.’

Giles shrugged. ‘So, he hadn’t cleaned out his pockets for a while…’

Harris smiled. ‘Did you look at the other side?’ he asked. ‘On the front part of the envelope?’

He held out the bag even closer to Giles his eyes glimmering with an emotion that Giles couldn’t quite place. She glanced down at the translucent evidence bag and looked hard at the envelope.

No, I didn’t look.

 

Tentatively she reached out and grabbed it, holding the evidence bag up into the air and slowly turning it in her hands to reveal the other side of the scrap. It took less than a second, but to Giles it felt like a lifetime. It always seemed the discovery of every vital clue took its own time – like everything would stop so that she could fully appreciate the moment.

She felt a familiar excitement buzz through her veins. Her breathing seemed to all but stop and heart began to pound hard in her chest, threatening to break out of her ribcage and through her skin. Her eyes felt dry and her lips wet with anticipation as she looked down and saw…

‘Nothing,’ she said, curiously staring up at Harris. ‘There’s nothing on there.’

‘Precisely,’ Harris replied, his face flickering with enjoyment as he reached across for another evidence bag.

‘DI Harris, if this is some sort of game…’

‘There is nothing written on that scrap of paper,’ he continued, selecting an evidence bag and holding it close to his chest. ‘No words, no doodles – nothing. It’s just as you said – almost like our John Doe hadn’t cleaned out his pockets for a while – and yet that scrap of paper is perfectly useable, right? I mean – as a last resort – you would use it to write something brief down if you needed to, do you agree?’

Giles glanced back down at scrap. It was a little mottled and frayed around the edges, but otherwise it was still useful as a piece of paper. She turned her eyes up to the bag that Harris had wrapped tightly in his hands.

‘What’s in the other bag?’

Harris’ face beamed with contentment as he handed it over to her.

‘This is what brought you here.’

Giles looked down in her hands. The little, orange train ticket sat in the evidence bag was a little creased around the edges but otherwise in perfect condition.

‘Turn it over.’

Giles did as Harris requested, turning the ticket gently around to look at the opposite side. It took her a moment to see it – her eye was instantly drawn to the large, black magnetic strip that ran the full width – and it was only with her third or fourth glance that she noticed the unfamiliar writing hastily scrawled in the endorsements section.

A queer feeling rippled through her body – starting in her stomach and spreading quickly to her neck. Her scars began to throb beneath her silk scarf and a strong, vile taste of metal began to linger on the back of her tongue.

Her eyes narrowed on Harris.

‘He left me a message.’

Harris shrugged. ‘If you can call a name on a ticket a message. Though why he chose to ignore a fresh scrap of paper is a little curious, wouldn’t you say?’

Giles stared down at the ticket again. The writing was untidy and very small, but the words written there were unmistakeable.

Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles.

In that instant, Giles thought she understood.

‘That’s why you brought me here,’ she muttered. ‘Because he wrote my name.’

Harris nodded. ‘It looked to me like a call for help – ‘Find Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles if anything happens to me.’’

‘Now who’s expanding,’ Giles shot back, allowing herself to smile up at the DI. She turned her attention back to the writing, examining it closely. ‘So, you thought John Doe was one of my informants…’

‘We did,’ Harris replied, taking the evidence bags from her and depositing them back on the table. ‘Or at least someone who knew you personally and trusted you enough to help them if needed. Then something else happened that made the whole thing untenable.’

‘Untenable?’

Harris nodded. ‘Daniel Barker mentioned your name. ‘Find DS Giles,’ he kept saying. He seemed very adamant that you would want to speak with him.’

‘I have nothing to say to that man…’

‘Those were my thoughts the moment I set eyes on you,’ Harris continued, leading Giles away from the evidence table. ‘And that’s why you shouldn’t be here.’

Giles shook her head violently.

‘If anything that ticket is precisely the reason why I should…’

‘Technically speaking, you are now a part of this case. You could be a vital witness or – and I hope you don’t take offence – even a suspect. I shouldn’t even allow you on the crime scene…’

Giles didn’t reply. She wasn’t even listening to Harris’ muttered misgivings. Her attention was drawn to the far field where, once again, Barker was talking with a couple of the police officers holding large evidence bags.

A cigarette was dangling from his mouth and he laughed jovially as he slowly unbuttoned his shirt and placed it inside the bag. He didn’t stop to put on the new shirt the officer was holding out for him, but continued straight on to unbuckling his belt and removing his trousers.

Giles had to hand it to him – beneath the suited exterior, Barker kept reasonable good care of his body. He wasn’t exactly brimming with muscles, but he had the makings of a good six-pack and his chest was flat and broad.

He flung his trousers into the evidence bag and exchanged another joke with the police officer before taking the spare trousers and slowly pulling them up his legs. When they were nearly at his crotch, he seemed to stop and glance around his surroundings – almost as though he were checking to see who was watching. A small smile crossed his face as he caught sight of two, young female officers – who were risking a sneaky glance – before hoisting the trousers up to his waist and buttoning them up.

It was then that he made eye contact with Giles. He froze for a few seconds, staring deep into her eyes even from the distance of the next field, a strange look plastered across his face that made her back shudder uncontrollably. He took his time putting the shirt on, flexing his stomach muscles in her direction as he made the most of putting each arm into the correct sleeve.

There was something familiar about him – about the way he held himself.

Something that reminded her of…

Jason.

She turned her head away, back towards Harris. Her face flushed with embarrassment, but the DI didn’t seem to notice.

‘So,’ he said, staring around the crime scene. ‘Where do you think the bullet casing is?’

‘Sorry?’

Harris’ eyes narrowed. ‘The bullet casing? You said you knew where it was.’

‘Oh, I do,’ she replied, gesturing towards the police officer coming back towards them with two large evidence bags. ‘Can I examine his clothes?’

Harris sounded more irritated as he spoke again:

‘Giles. The bullet casing…’

‘Even if SOCO just go through them. I want to know what’s in his pockets…’

‘Fine,’ Harris growled. ‘But the bullet casing, Giles. Where is it?’

Giles turned back towards him. ‘Hmmm?’

‘The bullet casing? You can’t have a bullet without the casing so where is it?’

It took Giles a moment to understand.

‘Oh, yes,’ she said, the realisation suddenly dawning on her. ‘The bullet casing – sorry, yes, I know where it is.’

With that she span on her heels and marched off across the crime scene, gesturing for Harris to come with her. She couldn’t put her finger on what put a spring in her step but, as they approached the pillbox, Giles definitely began to feel happier – almost as though a moment of pure contentment was just around the corner.

‘You didn’t find it before because you were looking in the wrong place,’ she said animatedly. ‘But, if Barker isn’t a murderer, then it must be there somewhere. If you haven’t found it yet, there is only one place it can be.’ She flashed Harris a comforting smile. ‘It’s like you said, ‘you can’t have a bullet without its casing…’’

She came to a stop not far away from where the body lay crumpled against the pillbox. Her eyes lingered on the dead man, flickering from his clothing up to his cold, lifeless face.

You can’t have one without the other…

‘God is in the detail…’ she whispered.

‘Sorry?’

Giles turned towards Harris. Somewhere in the dark recesses of her mind, a light bulb had been switched on. A flurry of thoughts and ideas cascaded through her mind leaving her overwhelmed for a short time until the images began to mould and form an idea. An idea that she was surprised she hadn’t thought of before…

A brilliant idea…

‘The ticket,’ she said quickly.

Harris sighed despondently. ‘Giles, the casing?’

‘No, no, you don’t understand.’ She glanced down at the body at her feet. ‘The ticket – it had my name on it – a name scrawled on a part of a ticket where no one would think to look…’

‘Yes, I get that…’

‘But you don’t,’ Giles replied, before hastily adding, ‘No offence, but you don’t get it. The ticket was found in John Doe’s pocket, implying that he came down from London, right?’

Harris thought about arguing, but the excitement in Giles’ voice was somewhat infectious and he satisfied himself with collapsing against the pillbox wall, arms folded and with a look of pure surrender on his face.

‘Go on.’

‘He didn’t have a wallet. No phone. No keys. Nothing to identify him. But he does have a ticket on him – a regular, outbound part of a return ticket from London to Edenbridge. And on that ticket, he wrote my name – not on the scrap piece of paper in his pocket, but on the ticket – a valid ticket that he was using that day.’

Giles stared expectantly at Harris, her eyes dancing with excitement. In return, Harris let out a long sigh, kicked himself off the wall of the pillbox and stared around the crime scene with the suggestion of a man pushed beyond his limits. When he finally turned back to Giles, his face was heavy and grey with resignation as he slowly shook his head.

‘Do you even know where the casing is?’ he asked sombrely. ‘Or was this just a clever blind to get back on my crime scene?’

‘Hmmm?’

Harris raised an eyebrow, his eyes almost vacant as they looked her up and down. Giles’ excitement subsided and she felt an echo of resentment as she examined Harris’ face. Her excitement had gotten the better of her – the flicker of an idea had whisked her mind down a tangent and now she was faced with a look of bitter disappointment.

Always the show off, Eve…

She straightened herself upright, pulling her coat down and straightening her scarf as she attempted to regain her professional veneer. Then, with a quick nod to the building behind Harris, she said:

‘The bullet casing is in the pillbox, probably somewhere near one of the openings – get your SOCO guys in there and they’ll probably find it in two seconds flat.’ She flashed a confident – but not cocky – smile towards him. ‘There’s nowhere else it could be.’

Giles hadn’t expected any praise for her deduction, but she had at least anticipated some sort of recognition for her logic – a dropping of his jaw, a widening of his eyes, a shortness of breath. She certainly hadn’t expected the wave of exasperation that shot across his face. The stance he adopted was far more aggressive than grateful and, as he scowled down at the ground, his body resonated with exuded bitterness.

He couldn’t even hide the resentment in his voice.

‘There’s no way of getting in, Giles,’ he said. ‘You didn’t really think we hadn’t already thought of that, did you?’

Giles opened her mouth to reply but something in Harris’ posture warned her away from debating the point further. Instead she glanced down at the cold corpse on the ground and cleared her throat.

‘You’re still missing the point,’ she said abruptly. ‘John Doe bought a return ticket from London Bridge. On the ticket to Edenbridge, he wrote my name.’

‘So?’

‘So, where’s the other ticket? And more to the point…’

‘What might be written on it?’

The bitterness vanished in an instant. Harris’ face filled with colour, his eyes staring down at the dead body in wonder as his mind opened itself up to what was obvious now that Giles had pointed it out.

‘We have to find that ticket,’ he muttered, his eyes dancing back up to meet Giles’. ‘If Barker has it…’

‘I’m on it,’ Giles replied, spinning on her feet and marching off across the crime scene.

It took a good few steps before either one of them remembered that Giles wasn’t supposed to be there. It was Giles who remembered it first, but she didn’t stay her step, hoping that her input had been enough – at least for a little while. It only took Harris a few seconds longer.

‘Giles,’ he called out, waiting for her to stop and turn around. ‘I still can’t have you helping this investigation. It breaks every rule in the book.’

Giles smiled, staring absently down at the ground in search for inspiration.

‘Even the best rules have to be broken every once in a while, sir,’ she said, starting to turn around again.

‘And the casing? Was that just a bluff or did you really think you’d found it where we failed?’

Giles considered her answer carefully before replying.

‘I meant what I said,’ she said defiantly. ‘The bullet casing is in the pillbox. There is no other explanation.’

‘And I meant what I said,’ Harris shot back, taking a step closer to her. ‘The entrance is bricked up. There is no way of getting inside that pillbox.’

‘No way in?’ Giles repeated, a smile spreading cheerfully across her face. ‘So how do the homeless guys get in, I wonder?’

She didn’t wait to see his reaction.

With a new spring in her step, she turned away from him and marched over to the evidence table. As she waited patiently for the officers to start searching Barker’s clothing, she watched with interest as Harris called his sergeant and another SOCO over. He talked frantically with them for a few minutes before the SOCO reluctantly walked up to the pillbox and, with Harris and his sergeant helping to lift him up, scrambled through one of the openings and disappeared inside.

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 Three

Over the next thirty-odd weeks, I will be releasing my debut novel – The Bluebell Informant – chapter by chapter. If you have missed any chapters, you can find the full list with links here.

If you can’t wait for the next instalment, you can download a free Kindle version from here, or download from SmashwordsBarnes 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 Three

Daniel Barker was taller in person. He stared hard at Giles through the haze left by his cigarette, his short brown hair moving only slightly with the strong breeze.

He stood with his back straight and his hands firmly down by his sides, projecting the archaic but traditional image of an English gentleman. The shirt he wore – with its sleeves rolled up the way politicians do when they want to look casual – was covered in a long streak of blood that started up by his shoulder and crossed his body to his waist like a great ceremonial sash. His jeans were splattered as well, but not to the same extent, and his smart trainers bore no signs of blood, although the soles were covered in a small scattering of grey dust.

Taking a long drag from his cigarette, Barker pondered Giles. He took his time, allowing his eyes to creep down her body, pausing on her breasts and her naval, before blowing out his cigarette smoke and flicking the butt down on to the ground.

‘What’s the story, Harris?’ he said, finally ripping his eyes away from Giles and turning towards the DI, his face seeming to relax the instant he did so.

Harris cleared his throat. ‘I’ve brought someone to see you.’

Barker’s eyes flickered back towards Giles. ‘So I see.’ They returned to Harris. ‘Perhaps you think that this might rattle me somehow?’

Harris didn’t reply. The anxious DI seemed to cower under Barker’s forceful stare. It wasn’t hard to see why. The former politician, whilst he appeared approachable and likeable on the television, had taken on a more commanding veneer. He glared at Harris with public school superiority, tightening his jaw muscles and widening out his shoulders in a primeval display of dominance.

‘I know your superiors, Harris,’ he continued, stepping a little closer, invading Harris’ personal space. ‘Chief Inspector Robshaw is a close personal friend of mine – we play golf once a month at my club. I’m sure he would have a lot to say about your pathetic attempts at psychological mind games…’

‘I assure you that is not the intention…’

‘Spare me your excuses,’ Barker replied, swatting the comment away with an arrogant hand. ‘You know my politics.’ He turned to face Giles. ‘You know my views on the Chinks.’

A ripple of anger crossed Giles’ body. What made it worse was that Barker could see it as well. A small smirk crept across his face and he took a little step forward, angling his body so that he slid in between Giles and Harris effectively cutting her out from the conversation.

‘Now, you want to know what went down here,’ he muttered. ‘I told you that I am not prepared to talk until I have spoken with Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles. I will not utter a word until she is here so I suggest that you stop wasting both of our times with your pathetic excuse at crime solving and start working on bringing DS Giles here. Do you understand?’

Harris opened his mouth to reply, but Giles was quicker off the mark. She cleared her throat, tapped Barker on the shoulder and said:

‘She’s already here.’

Surprisingly, Barker’s face didn’t register the astonishment that she’d hoped. Although she couldn’t see it, she felt him roll his eyes before turning his head to face her again. The smirk was still plastered across his face whilst his eyes burned with loathing.

‘Of course, you are,’ he said, before turning his head back to Harris.

‘I assure you, I am.’

This time, Barker didn’t even both to turn back. ‘A very nice idea,’ he sneered, ‘but DS Giles is British – a hard-working, model detective. Not a scumbag chink with her hands halfway in the welfare pot…’

Giles reached into her pockets whilst she tapped him on the shoulder. He turned his head once more, his face now displaying more than just a mild irritation, his mouth open and ready to lay into her once again. As his eyes fell on the warrant card, his mouth dropped open slightly and all colour vanished from his face. Without his reddish cheeks his face appeared rather gaunter than before and, as he read and reread the name on the warrant card, his lips seemed turn a hint of blue and sink into themselves.

‘You?’ he spluttered. ‘You’re Giles?’

Giles smiled. ‘Everyone seems so surprised by that today. Now I’m beginning to understand why.’

‘But you can’t possibly be…’

Harris stepped beside Giles and said: ‘I assure you she is…’

‘DI Harris has suggested that you might be one of my informants,’ Giles continued, her anger tinted with the slightest hint of enjoyment. ‘But, if I’m honest, I can’t see you ever coming to a chink when there are so many perfectly good, white officers to work with. To be frank, I’m surprised you even stretched as far as a woman…’

Barker stood, his mouth open but no words forming. His eyes fluttered between Harris and Giles, staring intently as though trying to see through their words to find the lie. The sneer had all but gone and what remained was nothing more than abject panic.

How unbelievably satisfying…

Giles flashed a sarcastic smile. ‘Good day to you gentlemen.’

 

Once out of sight of Barker, Giles headed straight across the crime scene to where the SOCOs had set up an evidence table beneath a white, fabric shelter. She ignored the words of protest from the officer stationed here and moved straight past him to stare down at the array of plastic bags containing everything from items of clothing to strands of hair and grass that cascaded over the table top. She had to hand it to the SOCOs here; they did a thorough job.

Bag by bag, Giles made her way along the table, examining each item, even holding some up to the light as she carefully set her mind on the evidence at hand. She didn’t even give any concentration to talking as the SOCO officer coughed beside her and said:

‘Excuse me, ma’am, what are you looking for?’

She simply raised a lone finger at him, not even bothering to tear her eyes away from the table before her. A few moments later, she caught sight of a flash of orange in amongst the translucent bags. With lightning fast speed, her nimble hands swooped down and plucked up the item in question, holding it up to the light.

A train ticket.

Outbound part of a return.

London Bridge to Edenbridge Town.

‘Today’s date?’

Today’s date…

Giles finally turned towards the SOCO stood next to her.

‘This ticket,’ she announced, thrusting it under his nose. ‘Was it found on the victim or did Barker have it?’

‘Sorry?’

‘The ticket. Barker or John Doe?’

The SOCO thought for a moment. ‘John Doe. It was in his pocket…’

Pity…

Giles thrust the ticket back down on the table and resumed her search, feigning ignorance of Harris’ calls as he marched across the crime scene towards her:

‘Giles. What the hell do you think you’re doing?’

Giles shook her head, moving on to the next bag.

Dog leash. Choke chain.

‘Looks new,’ she muttered.

Too new?

She examined the leather of the handle, staring hard down at the edges where the stitching had frayed slightly.

‘It’s been used enough…’

She was out of time. Harris stepped around her and quickly barred her way as she attempted to reach forward for another bag. Staring deep into her eyes, Harris was less of a shadow than he had been before – his firm grip exuded confidence; his voice was firm and steady:

‘Giles, what are you doing?’

Giles pulled herself away from him, trying to reach around for the next bag. With one hand, Harris batted her arm away from the evidence table and, with his other, he forced her back a few steps, taking her well out of reach.

‘This is my crime scene,’ he said, grabbing hold of her wrist and pushing it up against her shoulder.

‘And I’m helping you solve the case…’

With a twist of her wrist, Giles levered herself out of his grip and, with expert agility, pounced around him to approach the table once more. She reached out for the next bag, pulling it sharply towards her and holding it up to examine the jacket inside.

Blood-stained.

‘Blood matches the markings on Barker’s shirt…’

‘Well, it would do, muttered Harris, moving alongside her again. ‘It was the jacket Barker was wearing…’

Giles looked closer.

High-end jacket. Tweed.

‘Tailored?’

She looked closer still.

Tailored…

‘Look, Giles, what the hell are you after?’

Giles set down the jacket and continued to rifle through the rest of the evidence bags, occasionally stopping at something of interest, but otherwise moving briskly through them.

‘Barker seems insistent on drawing me into this thing. I want to know why.’

Harris let loose a single laugh.

‘Well, it’s like he said. He probably thought you were some sexy little thing from the city, not some grizzled dinosaur…’ He hesitated as Giles glared up at him. ‘No offence,’ he muttered. ‘He probably thought you were some home-grown girl that he could manipulate into getting him off the hook. There’s no more to it than that…’

‘I was brought up here, you know?’

‘Yeah,’ Harris replied, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning back on to his heels. ‘But you’re not really one of us, are you?’

He hesitated again under the chill of Giles’ icy stare.

As he went silent, Giles picked up a smaller evidence bag containing a small torn off piece of white and blue patterned paper. She only gave it a second of her attention before depositing it back down with the rest of the bags…

Good old SOCOs, she thought. Everything and anything is evidence

‘Tell me, Inspector Harris,’ she said as she continued rummaging through the bags. ‘Did you vote for him?’

She paused to stare up at him. His face was a picture – somewhere between pride, fear and utter confusion.

‘It’s all right if you did,’ she continued, returning to the bags. ‘Everyone has to vote with their own conscience. Did you vote for him?’

Harris hesitated.

‘Is that really appropriate, Sergeant?’

‘Because if you did, that would change the dynamics of your relationship, would it not? You’re no longer detective and suspect but leader and follower. The roles would be reversed. Under those circumstances, it wouldn’t be unnatural for you to want to believe in him…’

‘Are you suggesting that I would lie to get that man off a murder charge?’

‘I’m suggesting I was brought here for one reason only – to get Daniel Barker off the hook,’ Giles replied, turning to face the DI. ‘You summoned me here – you were most insistent that I come– but the moment you laid eyes on me you couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Why?’

Harris shook his head, his lip curling with disgust.

‘I’m not sure I like your tone, Detective…’

Giles shrugged.

‘You brought me here.’ She turned back to the evidence bags and gave another cursory scan. ‘And don’t worry, I don’t think that’s the case at all. You seem as anxious to get this one right as I am…’

‘Which is precisely why I am getting you off my crime scene, right now…’

Harris signalled to a couple of officers who quickly lumbered over the dodgy ground towards them. Giles ignored their presence, still shifting through the bags as their footsteps got closer and closer.

She reached forward and picked up the most important bag of all – the one containing a Glock 21 semi-automatic pistol. She examined it closely, feeling – with a certain satisfaction – Harris retreat a step or two away from her as he eyed the weapon in her hand. She didn’t take it out of the bag, but did carefully finger the weapon through the plastic, examining every groove and scratch before placing it back down on the table.

‘There was something on this crime scene that convinced you to call me, wasn’t there?’ she muttered, turning slightly towards Harris as she spoke. ‘Something that was undeniably linked to me; that was convincing enough for you to summon me all the way down here…’

Harris gave a brief shake of the head.

‘Like I told you, I was on my way here myself when I called…’

‘Your hands are cold, Harris,’ Giles announced. ‘Too cold to have only been out here for an hour or so. My guess is you’ve been here on site for at least two maybe three, am I right?’ She turned back to the bags. ‘No, there was something amongst this lot that forced you to get me down here. You would never have wanted me here if there wasn’t.’

The two constables arrived next to Harris, staring at him for orders as the DI watched Giles move through the bags once again.

‘I hear you have a good reputation, Giles,’ he announced. ‘But on this occasion, I’m afraid you’re wrong.’ He turned to the two constables. ‘Please escort Detective Sergeant Giles off the crime scene.’

Before Giles had a chance to react, she felt a firm hand on her shoulder and could barely stop herself from being spun back towards the bridge. With an officer pressed in tight on either side, she was marched swiftly back towards the path.

‘I can help you, Harris,’ she protested, resisting as much as she could between the burly arms of the two uniformed men. ‘If Barker has been trying to play you, he’s been trying to play me as well. We can bring him down together…’

Harris remained stood by the evidence table, his hands still firmly in his pockets as he rocked back and forth on his feet. All about him, SOCOs, constables and detectives alike all stood to watch as DS Giles was forcibly removed from the area. As Giles stared wildly back over her shoulder, she thought she could see a faint hint of a smile on Harris’ face.

‘Thanks for the offer, Giles, but I’m sure us small-town, rural boys can take it from here…’

Giles squirmed a little more. With each movement of resistance, the constables’ grip grew tighter on her shoulders. She threw her head back, making the whole scene turn upside down and bellowed:

‘I wouldn’t count on that. You haven’t seen what’s missing yet, have you?’

With that, the officer on her left reached up and threw her head forward, holding it in place as they frog marched her closer to the bridge. With every violent jerk, Giles began to realise the truth. She could no longer look back towards Harris – she could no longer see the crime scene. All she had was her mind and the mental images that she would summon up to remind her of what was there.

Those would fade and all but vanish in a matter of seconds.

And then she would be left with nothing…

‘Wait.’

At the sound of Harris’ voice, the two officers juddered to a halt and waited as Harris jogged up alongside them. He stared hard at Giles, pacing a little back and forth in front of her, kicking up dust and mud from the grass as he did so.

‘What are you talking about?’ he asked eventually. ‘What’s missing?’

Giles laughed.

‘Oh, come on, it’s obvious,’ she replied. ‘A man with a gaping bullet wound in the back of his head. A Glock by the body. Shots fired out on the grass…’

Harris moved a little closer.

‘Tell me.’

Giles smiled.

‘Where’s the bullet casing?’

The question seemed to completely confound Harris. Even as he stood before her, Giles could see his mind turning, trying desperately to recall whether he had seen one. As he had done before, his eyes wandered over Giles’ shoulder, looking back towards the crime scene…

Back towards the body lying slumped against the bunker wall…

His eyes snapped back to her.

‘The bullet casing is missing,’ he muttered, more to himself than in confirmation.

Giles nodded. ‘And that’s not the only thing,’ she replied. ‘But the casing is important…’

Harris shook his head in confusion.

‘You know where it is?’

Giles nodded again. ‘It’s so obvious, you’ll kick yourself when I tell you.’

Harris thought hard, his eyes flickering between Giles and the crime scene. Finally, and with an air of great reluctance, he nodded to the two constables who instantly released Giles. Stretching her neck and arms out, Giles reached up and pulled her scarf tighter about her neck as Harris took a step or two towards her.

‘You show me where it is,’ he demanded.

‘Oh, I’ll show you,’ Giles replied, flicking her hair back playfully. ‘Just as soon as you show me what it was that made you sure enough to bring me down here.’

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!