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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 22

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available for free through Amazon.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Barker didn’t say another word for the rest of the journey. Occasionally, he glanced down at the clock on the dashboard or else checked the windows and mirrors for any sign of a police tail. But – for the most part – he remained relaxed in his seat.

He wasn’t even clasping hold of the gun anymore

He was truly a man content with his own protection.

He sat with his eyes closed and a slight smile adorning his face. His fingers gently tapped his thighs and his head rocked gently with the movement of the car. It was as if he knew that nothing could possibly touch him. His guardian angel was right by his side, carefully scooting in and out of traffic. It didn’t seem to matter to him that she was there under duress. She would keep him safe – no matter what.

The great towering building blocks of London had all but enveloped them in a secure safety net. As Giles navigated through the London streets, tiredness overcame Barker and he finally succumbed to the rocking and fell into the most contented sleep.

He had not revealed his hand; that flourish was being saved for the moment when he was safely away from the danger in the witness protection programme. As long as his mouth remained shut, Giles would protect him – they both knew it. And as long as a potential deal was on the cards, he wouldn’t utter a single word…

He was the man in control…

It had been such a long time…

And it felt good…

Even in the deepest recesses of his slumber, Barker felt the car come to a sudden halt. He jolted into consciousness, his eyes spinning this way and that expecting to see some police officer stood beside the window or a gun being pointed in his face…

A gun.

That would have been the worst of it.

To come so far only to be foiled when victory was within his grasp would have been…

Intolerable.

Death at this moment – in this place – would have been so undignified.

Daniel Barker sprawled against the passenger seat, his brains soaking the headrest and his eyes bulging in panic. Pale, blood-soaked…

And in a Micra of all things.

That was not the way Daniel Barker was supposed to go. But the fear of that end was all that gripped his mind as his hand sprang out towards Giles, grasping her arm for comfort.

The gun…

As he took hold of Giles, his spare hand patted at his thigh in search of the weapon. To his surprise, he found it almost instantly – right where he left it. As he scooped it up in his hand, he turned it towards the detective, and pulled back the hammer in what he hoped was a threatening manner.

It took him a moment or two.

Second by second the haziness of his sleep subsided and his surroundings began to swim into view. There was no police officer, no man with a gun. Giles wasn’t trying to pull a fast one – in fact there was nothing to account for Giles’ sudden stop at all.

‘What’s going on?’

There was a glint in her eye as Giles reached across and removed Barker’s grip on her arm, placing it carefully back on his lap. She replied with only a mischievous smile before reaching across for the handle of the driver’s side door and climbing out into the quiet street.

Barker’s eyes followed her as she moved around the front of the car towards the passenger side door. Up ahead, the narrow road was spanned by a brick bridge, wide enough – Barker supposed – to be a railway bridge. A group of tourists emerged from the shadows, moving in the direction of the car and chatting excitedly as they made their way down the road before turning off a side street to Barker’s left. They paid little attention to the man quivering in the car. Instead their eyes were drawn to a large, square tower ahead of them that loomed over the low buildings around it.

Giles reached the passenger side door and pulled it open, peering cheerfully inside.

‘Are you coming?’ she asked playfully.

‘What are you doing?’ he demanded, retreating a little further from the door as a blast of cool air swept inside the car.

He raised the gun as high as he dared until the barrel was pointing directly in Giles’ face…

The detective barely paid it any attention.

‘I want a coffee,’ she replied, nodding back towards the cathedral behind her. ‘Are you staying here, or coming with?’

High on the wall of the building behind her, Barker could see a small, white road sign:

Winchester Walk’.

‘Where are we?’ he asked, turning around in his seat to look down the narrow street behind him.

‘Are you coming?’

Barker turned back to look at the group of tourists. They had nearly reached the far end of the street but, rather than looking up at the grey tower in front of them, their eyes were drawn to something round the corner, beyond a small car park that was covered by a glass roof with green metal supports. Barker narrowed his eyes on a small sign that arched over the car park entrance:

Jubilee Place’

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Barker started to piece everything together. He had been here before – some time ago now – but he had been here. He watched the tourists disappear around the corner, pointing excitedly at something just out of sight. And then he was thrown from his thoughts by a low rumble. Looking up at the bridge ahead of him, he saw the sleek white and green snake of a train rumbling slowly towards the direction of the grey tower.

And then it hit him.

A wave of panic shot through his body like a knife driving through his skin. He turned his head sharply towards Giles, grasping a tighter hold of the gun as he waved it in her face.

He glared up at her and said through gritted teeth:

‘Are you mad?’

‘Are you coming?’

‘That’s Southwark Cathedral,’ Barker said, nodding towards the square tower. ‘Borough Market.’

‘I am aware…’

‘Borough Market is next to London Bridge Station.’

A curious smile leapt across Giles’ face.

‘I know.’

Barker sank further into his chair, staring up at Giles as she casually shrugged and looked down the street to where the tourists had disappeared. Just round that corner, Barker knew there would be a collection of market stalls that run alongside the front of the cathedral, leading up to the giant, glass, arched building of the market entrance. There would be dozens of different stalls from all over the UK selling meat, game, fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread and pastries and cheese. Dozens of tourists and locals intermingling in one or two crowded streets where a person could get lost in the crowd so easily…

He looked down at his watch and took in the time.

5 o’clock.

The market would be closing soon. But they would have enough time to grab a coffee from one of the temporary catering vans parked up at the end of the street. He supposed it would be better than walking into the station itself to grab one from the coffee stores at London Bridge but still…

His next thought struck his brain like a hammer against an anvil. He turned to Giles and made to grab at her. She was too quick for him and, barely had his hand begin to move, she stepped back away from the car door, smirking down at him as he cowered in the front seat.

‘It’s a Bank Holiday,’ he hissed. ‘The market isn’t even open today.’

‘Isn’t it?’ Giles replied, turning up the street as though she hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about. ‘Oh well, I’m sure I can find somewhere to get a drink. If not, we’ll have to venture into the station…’

‘Don’t you dare. This is where the Edenbridge train stops. If the Kent plods are following us by train…’

‘They’ll be arriving here at any moment.’

Barker scowled up at her. He could tell by the sparkle in her eyes that Giles knew exactly what she was doing. She meant to draw him out into the open, make him feel vulnerable and exposed so that she could force information out of him. But he wasn’t going to play – not when he had gotten so far…

He crossed his arms and sank back into his seat.

‘I’m not getting out.’ He raised the gun at her, trying his best to look intimidating. ‘And you’re not either.’

Giles barely blinked.

‘Are you going to shoot me?’

‘I’ve killed two today already…’

‘In the middle of town? In broad daylight?’ Giles laughed. ‘That’s a different ball game entirely.’

Barker crossed his arms even tighter. He felt like a petulant child, but he couldn’t let Giles leave. There was no way she was going to leave him exposed like this. She needed him as much as he needed her – her career would be as good as over if she allowed him to escape.

Giles glanced up at the railway bridge. Another train was starting its slow crossing over the street as it pulled into London Bridge station. She turned back to Barker, shrugged and reached for the door.

‘Suit yourself.’

No sooner had she slammed the door in his face had she span around and strode up Winchester Way, her feet clipping loudly on the tarmac. And Barker was left alone with nothing but his fears – and a gun.

 

Giles headed up the street without looking back at the car. All along the pavement, she eyed the double yellow lines on the tarmac with immense satisfaction. All the streets around here had parking restrictions, particularly the narrow ones like the street she’d pulled up in. It would only be a matter of time before a parking warden would find the car, and probably even less time before Barker would realise the precariousness of his situation.

She made her way straight past the car park to the very base of Southwark Cathedral, before turning right down Cathedral Street. On a normal day, this street would be bustling with bright stalls, sensual aromas and the calls of the market sellers whilst hundreds of customers weaved in and out of the stands. But Barker was right – this being a Bank Holiday, there was barely anyone in sight except the excitable Japanese tourists up ahead who, presumably unaware of the Bank Holiday, had made the trip down to the market anyway.

Cutting down the side street where most of these stalls are usually found, Giles treaded the tarmac and brick floor, heading vaguely in the direction of the railway bridge and The Shard, which towered up above her, seeming to cut through the clouds above like a razor through cotton. To her relief, she found a small mobile coffee store just beneath the railway bridge. She ordered a double espresso and, after giving a particularly generous tip to the server, began to meander her way back towards the cathedral. After a short distance, she stopped and leant up against the wall, tossing her coat in between the railings and enjoying the warm, roasting smell of the coffee in her hands.

She didn’t have to wait long.

She’d only taken her first sip when she spotted him racing around the corner of Cathedral Street, breathing heavily and staring around in wide-eyed panic. He spotted her on the wall and headed straight over, a sense of pure anger radiating from his body as he stamped his feet heavily against the hard ground. He moved swiftly down the small stretch of road, his eyes darting everywhere from the railway bridge to the Shard, and down the street and up at the cathedral tower behind him. He didn’t even attempt to be subtle as he clattered to a halt in front of her, snarling at her and gesturing wildly as he hissed:

‘You left me.’

Giles calmly took a long, exaggerated sip from her espresso.

‘Yes, I suppose I did,’ she replied. ‘Try not to look too nervous you’re drawing attention to yourself.’

She nodded towards the mobile coffee shop. A group of customers were stood beneath the service hatch, staring in their direction. Barker glanced up at them before sitting – as much as he could – against the low, stone wall. Even in his attempts to look relaxed, he looked out of place – much like a teacher trying to blend in with the popular kids at school.

‘You left me,’ he repeated.

‘You could have driven yourself away. You had a car after all. And a gun.’

‘I wasn’t going to leave you behind,’ Barker replied. ‘And besides, I don’t know how to hotwire a car.’

‘Well, I can think of no better time to learn. You may need that skill before the day is out.’

Giles took another sip as the customers from the coffee shop, takeaway cups in hand, walked slowly past them. One of them, an older lady, stared hard at Barker, seemingly stopping for a moment with her mouth dropping open as she recognised the former politician. A swift glare from Barker sent her on their way but she still looked back at them long after she had rounded the corner and moved down the next street.

Giles leant forward to Barker with a wry grin on her face. ‘I wonder if she recognised you,’ she said playfully. ‘The news might be full of it by now.’

Barker shook his head in disbelief.

‘Why are you doing this?’ he hissed.

Giles peered over the top of her cup and lowered it down, placing it carefully on the wall as she peered through the railings up at the cathedral.

‘I broke you away from Harris because you have something I want,’ she explained. ‘I put my career on the line for you. I could go to jail for what I have done. And in return, I got nothing by lies and coy games.’ She stared pointedly at him. ‘I don’t particularly like that arrangement.’

‘It’s the way it has to be,’ Barker replied.

‘No, it’s the way you want it to be. Not the same thing at all.’

Barker leaned forward earnestly. ‘We are exposed here!’

‘Yes, we are,’ replied Giles, beginning to enjoy herself. ‘I’m sure the Kent boys will be arriving at London Bridge any moment now. But, on the plus side, I doubt they’ll think we’d be hiding in a deserted market place. After all, what kind of fugitive stops for a coffee in the spot they are most likely to be?’

‘You are trying my patience.’

‘And you are trying mine,’ replied Giles. ‘I am fed up of running for the sake of a man who won’t give anything in return. Now you killed someone I liked – right in front of my eyes – and I never agreed to let you get away with that. Part of any deal is that we both get what we want, so we will remain here until I get what I want.’

Barker glanced around the market. Another group of people had appeared from underneath the railway bridge, heading swiftly in their direction. Giles turned to look at them, scrutinising their faces as they pounded towards them before deciding that they were probably just a bunch of lads on their way out for the night.

She turned back to Barker who nodded reluctantly as sweat dripped slowly down his face.

‘Alright fine, I’ll tell you…’

‘Oh no, I insist on going first,’ replied Giles. ‘Part of being a detective is you get to have that great revelation moment. You’re taking all the fun out of it if you don’t let me tell you what I know first…’

Barker stared at her, his eyes pleading and close to tears. ‘No, I’ll tell you everything…’

‘You know what it was that gave you away, don’t you? It wasn’t anything to do with you at all, not really. It was the dead man that didn’t make sense. He was dressed in a jacket and walking trousers. He had dried mud on his shoes from constant hikes. Whereas you were dressed in your Sunday best. Of the two of you, he was the one who looked like he belonged out there. Add the presence of that mysterious dog leash and you have the makings an assassin who fitted in better with his environment than the man he was trying to kill…’

Barker shook his head instinctively. ‘It was self-defence.’

‘Daniel, you shot my friend dead in cold blood – with expert marksmanship. Do you really expect anyone to believe that you were the innocent party in all this?’

‘The train ticket,’ Barker replied. ‘That’s my proof…’

Giles allowed herself a small smile. ‘The train tickets? You mean the ones you wrote my name and yours on to?’

‘Alright, so I did that bit to sell the story, but the tickets were still his.’

‘Oh, but they weren’t his tickets, were they?’ Giles shot back curtly. ‘They were yours.’

Barker froze. ‘Mine?’

Giles nodded.

‘No need to be so surprised, Mr Barker. You must have realised that I was on to you once we left the train. Checking your pockets at East Croydon station for a ticket you never brought was a particularly silly error on your part.’ Giles sighed with contentment. ‘It was unlucky that you didn’t think fast enough when I asked you if you had one. No man searches his pockets for a train ticket when he knows he hasn’t brought one that day. Besides which, if the ticket did belong to our victim, how did he buy one when he hadn’t brought a wallet with him? There was no loose change in his pocket to suggest he had just taken money with him. No debit or credit card. Very strange, wouldn’t you agree?’

Giles settled back against the wall.

‘I wonder if you can tell me what kind of car you drove to Edenbridge with today, Mr Barker?’ she said with a clipped precision in her voice.

‘Well…’ he hesitated. ‘I…’

‘I can make it easier for you, if you’d like?’ Giles interrupted, lifting herself up on to the wall and allowing her legs to dangle a few inches above the pavement. ‘I examined your keys back at the crime scene so I think I can narrow down the make…’

Barker sat very still and very quietly. Giles smiled at him and leant back against the railings, picking up her espresso and taking a long sip.

‘It wasn’t self defence at all, was it?’ she asked thoughtfully. ‘You knew that man was going to be out there. I bet he was walking a dog – he probably didn’t have a clue that you were hiding in the pillbox until it was too late. A single shot to the back of the head from that distance. After your demonstration with Alison, I have no doubt that you could have done it…’

Barker swallowed hard.

‘That’s a lie…’

‘But you didn’t count on that witness being so close by. You thought you’d have enough time to hide the body and make a clean getaway. But when she spotted you bent over his body, you had to improvise. You concocted the lie that you were the one who was attacked, emptied your victim’s pockets, scribbled out names on the two parts of the train ticket and then promised me information to break you out of police custody. I know exactly what you did – I never had any doubt in my mind. In fact, the only thing I don’t know is what you did with that bullet casing.’

Barker started to shake his head but was stopped from speaking by a single, solitary finger that Giles held up towards him.

‘You have heard my part. Now we will hear yours. Then, and only then, I will decide whether we continue our little journey together…’

Staring straight into Barker’s eyes, she leaned in closer.

‘Now is the time to be the informant you wanted to be, Mr Barker. What do you know about the Bluebell Killer? What did you want to tell me?’

nick1Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant– the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow. 

To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!

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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 21

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available for free through Amazon.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Twenty-One

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

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

‘Harris.’

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

‘Yes, sir.’

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

Harris shot a glance towards Parsons.

‘Yes, sir,’ he replied hesitantly.

‘Are you tracking Barker now?’

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

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

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

‘Bad news?’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Jesus Christ…’

‘And a close friend of Giles herself.’

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

She was in no hurry.

She needed all the time she could get.

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

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

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

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

‘SIM card,’ he barked.

‘Sorry?’

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

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

‘That girl had a name…’

She winced as Barker pressed the gun in even tighter.

‘SIM card. Now.’

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

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

‘What are you doing?’

Barker glanced triumphantly up at her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You have a deal with me…’

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

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

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

‘And what do we need to do?’

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

 

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

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

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

Did that Carew woman con me?

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

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

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

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

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

It was as Harris had feared.

‘Do they have a CCTV control room there?’

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

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

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

‘Yes, sir, but…’

‘But what, Sergeant?’

Parsons hesitated.

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

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

‘Just do it.’

He hung up the phone and pondered it quietly.

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

It was the only hope he had.

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

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

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

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

Dammit, Giles. Where are you?

nick1Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant– the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow. 

To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 18

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available for free through Amazon.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Eighteen

‘How did they find us?’

Barker peered out of the bushes at one end of the layby. Shakily puffing on a cigarette, he scrutinised each car that passed by. There had been no sign of Doyle so far, but Giles knew he wouldn’t be far behind.

Crouched down behind a blue Nissan Micra, Giles straightened out a coat hanger. There hadn’t been much in the back of the Ford for her to go on – a couple of old magazines, some empty soft drink bottles, an empty popcorn bag – but the spare suit, complete with clothes hangers, had provided her with a much needed opportunity. She straightened out the hanger, looping the end to form a hook, and glanced up at Barker, smiling mischievously.

‘I told my contact that we were going to jump the train at East Croydon. She was the only one know knew…’

‘What about your team? You said you’d contacted them.’

‘Don’t be an idiot,’ Giles shot back. ‘I told you that because I didn’t trust you. I still don’t.’

She took a moment to consider the man loitering in the bushes. The spare suit had been a surprisingly good fit for Barker. He almost looked smart now they had dispensed with the standard issue police trousers and shirt. Only the keenest observer would notice that the trousers were just that little bit too long and the collar just a little bit too tight – but now Barker had it unbuttoned it was barely noticeable anyway. He looked just like everyone else in the city.

That was the whole point.

‘Besides,’ Giles continued. ‘I knew you wouldn’t approve. But if there was anyone I thought I could trust, it would be Alison Carew…’

‘Carew?’ Barker spluttered. ‘Edmund Carew’s daughter?’ He slapped his hand angrily on his thigh. ‘Well, that explains everything.’

‘It doesn’t explain why a legitimate detective wants you dead,’ Giles returned sharply. ‘It doesn’t explain who has the influence and control a handful of police officers. The incident at the station was only the beginning – they won’t stop after just one failed attempt.’

She stood up, the straightened coat hanger in her hand, and carefully fed the wire through the open gap at the top of the passenger side window. Carefully, she lowered the hook down the inside of the window, inching it ever closer to the door handle.

From the shadow of the bushes, Barker watched with interest.

‘This is the second time someone tried to kill me, Giles,’ he said bitterly. ‘Not the first.’

Giles chuckled a little to herself.

‘Mr Barker,’ she said coldly. ‘You and I both know that isn’t true.’

The central locking clicked open. Giles swiftly retracted the wire and opened the passenger side door a fraction and waited for a moment for the sound of alarm. Finally, with a smile of satisfaction, she stepped away from the car and towards Barker who, looking rather flustered, retreated back a few steps.

‘Are you getting in or not?’

She didn’t wait for a response.

She marched around to the driver’s side door and, with a quick glance at the passing traffic, pulled it open and ducked down into the seat. Barker waited nervously by the bushes, scanning the passing traffic wildly until he finally felt confident enough to make a dash for the car. By the time he joined Giles in the passenger seat, she was already well engrossed in hotwiring the vehicle. He pulled shut the door and glanced nervously through the back window just as the engine choked into life. With a small smile of satisfaction, Giles shifted the car into gear and pulled her seatbelt around her body.

‘I haven’t done that in years,’ she said triumphantly.

‘A little thief in your younger years, were you?’

Giles ignored the quip, glanced over her shoulder and gently pulled the car out into the traffic.

Barker fidgeted beside her, examining the variety of levers and switches around the base of the seat. Finally he found what he was looking for, pulled on the lever and pushed the seat back until he’d gained enough legroom to sit comfortably. When he finally got himself settled, he glanced back behind them once again and muttered:

‘I would have thought you’d go for a speedier car.’

‘You thought wrong,’ came the reply. ‘Doyle knows we have his car. He’ll know that I’ll be changing it for another as soon as I can. But no one will expect us to be driving round in a Micra.’

‘And what if they find us? How do you propose to outrun them?’

Giles smiled playfully.

‘No one expects a Micra driver to be fast.’

They said little else to each other until Giles had safely made it back on to the main road towards London. As they merged in amongst the traffic, Giles cruised the car along at the speed limit, checking the rear view mirror periodically. Beside her, Barker took out a cigarette and contemplated it for a moment, chuckling to himself.

‘I assume it was these that gave me away,’ he said jovially.

Giles risked a quick glance at him.

‘Nothing about the pillbox made sense,’ Giles replied. ‘The openings were large enough to crawl through, but not so much that you think to do it in a panic. The inside smelt heavily of gunpowder and damp cigarette – you’d obviously waited around for a cigarette so you weren’t in any hurry. The missing bullet casing was just the final straw.’

Barker chuckled and took a long drag of his cigarette.

‘I’ll bear that in mind next time.’

Giles tried her best to suppress a scowl. She turned over her right shoulder to pretend to look for traffic as she merged into the fast lane and didn’t turn back again until she was sure she was under control. Not that it mattered. Barker was lounging back in the passenger seat like a man without a care in the world. He probably wouldn’t have cared even if he did know what she was thinking.

He’s not even trying to deny it, Giles thought. The sick bastard…

            ‘What did you do with the casing?’ she asked, trying to remain as casual as possible. ‘Just out of interest.’

Barker exhaled smoke through the small gap in the window, raising his eyebrow with coy triumph.

‘Did you throw it in the river?’

Barker smiled. ‘Nice try, Giles.’

‘After all this time, don’t you trust me?’

‘When the ink is dry on my immunity agreement, I will trust you with whatever you want. Until then I’m not saying anything – not about the Bluebell Killer, not about the guy in Edenbridge.’

He took one last drag of his cigarette before tossing it out the window. As he closed the glass behind him, he peered up at the signposts with casual interest.

‘Where is this safehouse anyway?’

‘Just on the fringes of Brixton,’ Giles replied. ‘You’ll be safe there.’

‘Is that where your boss is meeting us?’ Barker fired back. ‘I mean, that’s who you were talking to on the phone, wasn’t it?’

‘Something like that.’

 

For the next twenty minutes or so, Alison Carew sat quietly in her seat, deep in thought.

What have I done?

Was her contact right? Had she really been exposed? Maybe she was the only person that Giles spoke to and she would be suspicious, but they had been friends for years – she wouldn’t really suspect her?

Would she?

It didn’t matter now. The order had been given.

She didn’t attempt to calm herself. It would have done her no good and, besides, it was all part of the plan.

As time ticked on, her heart rate quickened and her hands began to feel clammy with terrified sweat. Her reflection in the computer screen gradually turned pale and ghostly and, she could feel her mind fogging over with confusion.

Her twenty minutes were up.

Alison started to breathe heavily – quietly at first but progressively getting louder as time wore on.

Shot sharp breaths, she told herself. Quicker.

Five minutes later even Lawrence began to notice. With a wry smile on his face, he turned from his desk and stared at her at her quivering body, enjoying every moment right up until she finally took her chance.

Leaping out of her chair, Alison moved swiftly across the control room, heading for the toilets at the end of the adjoining corridor. Cradling her stomach and screwing her face up as hard as she could, she barrelled past people in the corridor and raced through the toilet door, locking herself safely inside one of the cubicles.

Once inside, she turned to face the toilet and bent down onto her knees. With her left hand, she forced her fingers down her throat and waited as her neck pulsed and her mouth wretched.

The display had its desired effect.

As she vomited into the bowl, she heard the toilet door open and a woman’s voice drifted through the cubicle door.

‘Are you alright, Alison?’

It was Carrie Unsworth, the shift supervisor. Shoving her fingers down her throat again, Alison waited until the last possible moment before retrieving them and trying to speak.

‘I’m fine, thank you, Carrie…’

Her body instinctively did the rest.

Ten minutes later, with her permission to leave granted, Alison descended the steps out of the Headquarters building and moved quickly across the car park. The taste of vomit was vile in her mouth, but she hadn’t had time to clear it.

Every second counted.

She was in her car with the engine running when she received the next message.

Go to this address. Someone will meet you there. Wait for him.

She had no idea how much time passed as she peered down at her phone. Her mind was flushed with questions and thoughts. Whatever she had done, it was obviously serious enough for her contact to want to get her out of there.

But it can’t have been illegal, she mused. I’m only following orders, so why the rush to get me to safety?

She locked her phone and slid it into her pocket. She turned on the engine and, as the car vibrated rhythmically beneath her, she rapped her fingers against the warm leather of the steering wheel.

Her contact hadn’t believed that Giles would be heading to a safe house. They thought it was a rouse straight off.

But Eve wouldn’t think that I would do anything to hurt her…

Even as she shifted her car into gear, she still hadn’t quite made up her mind.

What if Eve was telling the truth? What if this is our chance to apprehend Barker?

She pulled out of her parking space and made her way towards the car park exit.

What if I could be the one to catch him? Surely that would make up for what he did to my father?

As she turned out of the car park, there was only a short stretch of the road until the T-junction marked the main road. She knew it well. Turning left would take her south towards the river – towards Vauxhall, Battersea and Brixton. Turning right would take her north towards East Finchley where she’d been told to wait.

She flicked her indicator and pulled out on to the main road – negotiating her way through a series of one-way streets and crossing over the river…

nick1Nick R B Tingley is a crime writer from the UK. After several years working as a ghostwriter, Nick released his debut novel The Bluebell Informant– the first in his DS Evelyn Giles series. He is currently working on the second in the series – The Court of Obsessions – as well as a Victorian-era mystery novella called The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow. 

To stay up to date with Nick’s latest releases, subscribe to his newsletter now. They’ll be no spamming – I promise!

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 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. 

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