Tag Archives: crime

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 6

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

Chapter Six

The crime scene was a hive of activity with the pillbox at its centre. No one had notice Giles slip away into the next field – they were all far too preoccupied. She slipped back into the cordon and moved her way through the waiting constables. She stepped up beside Harris who gave her an excited wink before peering into the dark, damp of the pillbox.

‘I owe you an apology, Giles,’ he said casually. ‘You were right about the pillbox.’

‘You found the bullet casing?’

He shook his head. ‘No, not so far. We’re doing a final sweep of the inside but it doesn’t seem to be in there.’

‘But it must be…’

Giles stepped up to the opening and peered inside. It took her eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark and the damp, concrete walls appeared before her. Several SOCOs moved slowly from one side of the bunker to the other, carefully searching the floor with their fingertips – moving aside crisp packets and empty tins, disintegrated leaves and clumps of soil in the search across the pillbox.

It has to be in there.

Harris pushed himself away from the opening and stared curiously at Giles. ‘Not to worry,’ he replied. ‘If it’s there, it will turn up.’ He grabbed her by the arm and gently pulled her away. ‘But we did find something interesting. Follow me.’

He led her over to the forensics table and barked at the evidence officer: ‘Do you have it?’

‘Yes, sir.’

The officer’s hand plunged into the sea of clear bags and plucked one out. He handed it over to Harris who held it up for Giles to see.

‘The missing piece of the puzzle,’ he announced.

Giles’ eyes grew wider as she stared at what was inside – at first glance the small, orange and white ticket appeared no different to the one she’d seen before except that it was crumpled and deformed, but the data printed on it told a different story:

‘You found it,’ she whispered, stepping forward a little to see it more clearly. ‘The second ticket.’

Harris’ eyes widened a little as he nodded excitedly.

‘And is there a name on the back?’

‘Oh, yes.’

Slowly, Harris turned the ticket around to face her. There it was – scrawled inside the endorsements box – the distinct impression of two words. Giles studied the words closely, not immediately seeing what the letters spelt out until she finished translating the first of the two. The second word appeared almost instantaneously and Giles could taste the unpleasant tang of metal on her tongue the moment she recognised it.

‘You have to be joking,’ she said, staring up at Harris, who beamed happily back at her.

‘I have to say I’m relieved,’ he boasted, placing the bag back in the evidence pile. ‘I didn’t much fancy going up against him myself…’

Giles didn’t respond. The words were burned into her mind. Two scrawled collections of letters that had changed everything…

Daniel Barker.

‘He’s not in the clear yet,’ she shot back at Harris, turning back towards the pillbox. ‘You still haven’t found the casing.’

Harris smiled delicately at her – he even placed a comforting hand on her shoulder as he said:

‘Giles, it will turn up. It’s probably just been trampled into the ground by a careless constable or by Barker himself by accident…’

‘Or deliberately thrown away,’ Giles fired back. ‘The appearance of one ticket doesn’t prove his innocence.’

‘No,’ Harris agreed. ‘We’ll need to take his statement first. Perhaps you would like to be in on it as it was you who helped prove there is more to this than meets the eye…’

‘I’ve suffered enough of that man’s lies for one lifetime…’

She marched off in the direction of the pillbox. She didn’t look back to see if Harris was following her, but she was sure he was. As she reached the opening, the last of the SOCOs was already climbing out, grasping in her hand another clear plastic bag.

‘Did you find it?’ Giles demanded, barely waiting for her to finish climbing out of the opening.

The SOCO inspected Giles with an air of irritation as she clambered awkwardly out of the opening and landed gingerly on her feet on the hard ground. Harris stepped out from behind Giles and, giving the SOCO a quick nod, said:

‘It’s all right, Bellamy, answer her questions.’

Bellamy pondered Giles for a moment longer before turning towards Harris.

‘It’s all clear,’ she announced. ‘No bullet casing but it looks like the pillbox has been occupied recently: empty food wrappings, a sodden sleeping bag, a couple of beer bottles…’

‘Anything to suggest someone has been there recently?’

‘Possibly,’ Bellamy replied. ‘There’s a queer smell of smoke in there, almost like someone has been smoking…’

‘Smoking?’ Giles burst out.

‘Yes,’ Bellamy answered, eyeing her with annoyance. ‘But I can’t find any evidence of cigarettes in there. No butts, no ash.’

‘So there is a potentially a witness who hasn’t come forwards?’ Harris mused.

‘Perhaps,’ the SOCO replied. ‘Or another suspect.’

Giles shook her head frantically. ‘Can I see for myself?’

Bellamy shrugged. ‘Be my guest. It’s cleared now so you can pootle around to your heart’s content.’

Giles was already halfway through the opening before Bellamy had finished speaking. As she grabbed hold of the wall and swung her legs up to climb through, Harris said:

‘Don’t you want to hear what Barker has to say?’

Giles didn’t reply. Holding on tightly to the roof of the pillbox, she wiggled her legs through the narrow opening until her feet clattered to the ground. Then she let go of the roof and, with the grace of an acrobat, gently arched her back and slid the rest of her body inside.

Reaching into her pocket, Giles pulled out her smartphone and, with a few flicks of her nimble fingers, quickly found the torch application. The pillbox exploded into white light as the torch lit every corner and crevice of the old structure, even sending Giles’ own shadow dancing across the concrete floor as she manoeuvred it to hold more securely.

The floor was littered with rubbish: crisp packets, empty bottles and tin cans – half packs of mouldy bread, the sleeping bag that Bellamy had mentioned. As her light hit the far wall, a rat scurried around the edge, fleeing the light as it clambered up the wall and disappeared through a tiny hole in the outer wall. The murmurs of discussion outside the walls were somehow muffled by the structure and as Giles turned around to peer through the opening she could see Harris and Bellamy walking away from the pillbox, deep in conversation.

At the far side of the crime scene, a pair of SOCOs walked smartly across the grass towards her, taking care to avoid the patch of blood in the centre of the clearing. They carried a black body bag in their hands, which they unzipped and placed down on the ground just out of sight. Giles couldn’t see the body being moved, but she could hear the grunts as the SOCOs gently lifted it into the rubbery plastic and zipped it back up again.

Giles turned back to face the rest of the pillbox, shining her light towards the back where the entrance had been bricked up. At the foot of the hastily blocked doorway was the red sleeping bag – reeking of sweat and urine and crumpled in a heap against the wall. Giles used this as a starting point as she diligently traced her way across the structure, her eyes glued to the floor and her fingers flicking items out of the way as she made her search.

She did this three or four times before eventually giving up. There was no bullet casing – just as Bellamy had said. Giles moved across the room and stood in the opening, watching as Bellamy’s team carted the body off across the clearing and towards the bridge. As they passed the blood splatter on the ground, Giles raised a hand to form a gun with her index finger and thumb and pointed it at their retreating backs.

‘So question number one,’ Giles muttered to herself. ‘Why did the body end up against the pillbox wall?’

And question number two?

Giles sniffed deeply.

‘The smoke smell…’

Damp cigarettes or gun powder?

‘Exactly…’

 

Giles sat perched on a steep section of the riverbank, watching the water trickle and flow downstream on its way to Edenbridge. The first she noticed of Harris was as he arrived and crouched down beside her. Together they watched as an emerald green dragonfly flitted back and forth between the long grass, floating elegantly towards the carpet of bluebells a little further up river from them.

For a long time he didn’t say anything. It was hard to tell whether he was relieved or troubled. Giles could appreciate his dilemma.

‘Well,’ he muttered, picking a blade of long grass and tossing it towards the river. ‘That was interesting.’

Giles wondered how long it would take Harris to carry on speaking. She certainly wasn’t going to pry into what absurdity Barker had sold him, but she was almost certain that the DI was eager to share his new information. It was almost as though he wanted her approval…

Not that your approval matters.

Harris picked another blade of grass and spun it between his fingers, watching as the green end flickered from side to side.

‘Barker’s story seemed to tally with what he know so far,’ he announced. ‘It seems pretty open-and-shut to me.’

‘Congratulations,’ Giles replied bitterly.

She said nothing more. Her mind was awash with a dozen more questions; facts that didn’t make sense and missing evidence that should be there. It didn’t surprise her that Harris had a theory:

‘Barker said he was attacked by our John Doe and I believe him,’ he said, his eyes flickering to the scarf around Giles’ neck.

She should be used to it by now. She’d had these scars for almost a year now and still it surprised her that people would try to look beyond her scarf to see them. Everyone knew they were there – the papers had made a big deal of them. What made it worse was that Giles was plastered all over the front pages…

And yet, as she sensed Harris staring at her, she instinctively reached up and pulled the silk a little tighter, ensuring her disfigured skin was hidden from view.

Harris turned away again, staring out at the river. It was so serene. The water flowed softly past them, unaware of the terrible scene it was passing by – unaware of the great torrent of crashing weirs that it was pouring towards.

Giles would give anything to feel like that again…

‘It makes sense,’ Harris continued. ‘From what Barker tells me, this John Doe was a bit of a professional. He even carried a dog leash around so that Barker wouldn’t suspect who he was until it was too late.’ He nodded self-approvingly. ‘That would account for his lack of identification. A professional hitman wouldn’t carry around his own wallet and ID – he wouldn’t want anything to link him back to whoever employed him, right?’

Giles shook her head. ‘It doesn’t explain the tickets.’

Harris observed her nervously.

‘I’m afraid it does,’ he replied. ‘This will come as a bit of a shock.’ He paused, waiting until Giles finally turned her head to look at him. ‘We don’t think Daniel Barker was the only target.’

Giles stared blankly back. ‘What the hell are talking about?’

‘The tickets, Giles. We believe the man who attacked Barker had another target in mind as well – you.’

Giles struggled not to howl with laughter.

‘Me?’ she cackled. ‘You really have been taken in by him, haven’t you?’

‘I’m absolutely serious.’

‘What possible reason would anyone have to send someone after me? The whole idea is absurd…’

‘You’re a police detective, Giles,’ he replied forlornly. ‘I’m sure you have plenty of enemies.’

The ridiculousness was unbearable. Giles threw herself back into the grass and lay there sniggering up at the sky as Harris looked on. After a while, her sides began to hurt from the constant laughter, but she kept it up anyway. It wasn’t real – but it was the only thing she could do to stop her mind from giving in to panic. Regardless of how stupid the idea was, Giles knew her mind would eventually start to accept it as reality – and then she would hear the screaming again…

She sat upright, grinning at Harris as he studied her.

‘Don’t tell me, Barker told you this, right?’

Harris’ answer was not what she expected.

‘No,’ he said quietly. ‘Barker only told us what happened. He said he saw the man approaching him, calling out a name – he figured it was just a walker who’d lost his dog until he pulled out the gun. Barker ran at him – they struggled over the weapon and it went off. Barker was about call the police when the young woman found them…’

‘So why me?’ Giles interrupted. ‘Why am I on a hit list all of a sudden?’

Harris gazed at her. It was a look that Giles knew well. It was the look that people gave you when they felt sorry for you, when they would love to help you but there wasn’t anything they could physically do to. It was a look Giles knew all too well.

‘It’s like I said – the tickets. Two tickets – two parts of a return from London. On one ticket was written Barker’s name. On the other was yours…’

Giles shrugged disinterestedly. ‘Who’s to say Barker didn’t write them? He obviously wanted my attention…’

‘I asked him,’ Harris interrupted. ‘He denied it.’

‘Of course he did.’

‘But he didn’t deny knowing who you are. On the contrary, he says he knows what it’s all about, but he will only talk to you about it.’

‘I told you before, I have nothing to say to that man…’

In a smooth movement, she clambered to her feet and began to saunter down the riverbank. Harris sprung up energetically and jogged behind her until he was right alongside.

‘He even gave me a name,’ Harris insisted. ‘He said you’d be interested in what he has to say…’

Giles laughed once again. ‘He’s really spun you a line, hasn’t he? He murdered a man in cold blood and your buying into this rubbish. You said it first, he was obviously hoping I was some easy-to-manipulate bit of skirt that he could use to get himself off – but now that hasn’t worked, it isn’t me he’s got wrapped around his little finger…’

‘He mentioned the Bluebell Killer.’

Giles stopped dead in her tracks. The screaming echo had started…

‘He could’ve read that anywhere,’ she hissed. ‘Everybody knows about it…’

Harris nodded. ‘Well, he claims to know a little bit more.’

‘He really has you right where he wants you, doesn’t he?’

Harris didn’t reply. Some ridiculous things had been said today, but Harris at least seemed confident in himself. He was no longer the nervous, trembling voice on the end of a phone – he was a hero. A man who wanted to save the day – to protect Barker, to protect Giles…

Giles span back towards the pillbox. The SOCOs had all but packed away their equipment and were slowly moving towards the bridge. A short distance behind them, Barker sauntered along the path, escorted by half a dozen constables who stared out at the countryside – wide-eyed and alert. It was as though they expected someone to jump out from a nearby bush at any moment.

‘Come on then,’ Giles announced, pushing off her heels and marching in Barker’s direction.

Harris was taken completely by surprise.

‘What…?’ he muttered. ‘Where are you going?’

Giles kept up her pace but turned to look back at him. Her eyes sparkled and gleamed with excitement.

‘We’re going to talk to Daniel Barker,’ she announced. ‘And I’m going to show you what a liar looks like…’

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 Five

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

Chapter Five

The search was completed and still Giles insisted that they check again. The constables scowled at her from across the evidence table but they did as they were told and systematically went through every pocket, pulling each one inside out so that Giles could see they were empty before moving on to the next.

She had no authority here – Giles knew it, but they didn’t seem to. Giles imagined that if Harris knew what she was doing he would have put a stop to it in an instant. But – at the moment – he was far too distracted by the search of the pillbox to pay her any attention. And besides, it wasn’t like she was tampering with evidence. She’d been sure to allow the officers to do all the handling – if anything ever came of it, there would be no question that she hadn’t handled any of the evidence directly…

She glanced over towards the bunker. Stood by the opening, Harris and his sergeant peered motionlessly in through the opening, watching as the bright torchlight of the SOCO swung back and forth as he made his search.

Part of her hoped that they would find the bullet casing in there. She would hate Harris to think that she’d distracted him just so she could wander around his crime scene unimpeded. Of course that was exactly what she had done, but she didn’t want him to know that. The chances were the bullet casing would be in there – either that or at the bottom of the river – and, if they were, that would put an entirely different spin on the day’s events.

It’s the only place it could possibly be…

She turned back to constable.

‘That’s all, Sarge,’ he said, dropping the trousers back in the evidence bag and dropping it to one side.

Giles stared down at the three items in the bags in front of her, scrutinising them with every analytical skill she possessed.

‘So let’s be clear,’ she muttered. ‘We have a phone, a wallet and a set of keys.’

‘Right,’ the officer replied, rolling his eyes as he leant against the table. ‘And definitely no train ticket.’

‘You’re sure?’

‘Of course, I’m bloody sure.’

‘What about in his wallet?’

‘Not there either,’ he replied, picking up the bag with the wallet inside. Keeping it inside the bag, he carefully opened the wallet and showed Giles the contents. ‘Look, see? A couple of twenties, some loose change, his Britain’s Own Party membership card, National Insurance card, picture of his wife and kid, debit card, credit card and no train ticket.’

Giles stared down at the wallet. She asked him to run through the contents a couple more times before she was finally satisfied. With a nod of thanks she stepped back from the table and stared off towards the pillbox.

‘So, if Barker didn’t have it, there’s only one place it can be…’

She watched for a few moments as the torchlight hovered in the air as the SOCO inside the pillbox scrutinised the floor. A little beyond, Giles could see the swaggering figure of Daniel Barker pacing back and forth, nervously looking towards the hive of activity that was building up around the little concrete structure. Already, Harris was beckoning more SOCOs over to the new site. He helped two more climb in and passed them their equipment before peering anxiously in through the wide opening.

Giles knew there was only a little more time left.

She had to take her chance now.

With a quick glance around, Giles made her way swiftly and silently down the path towards the next field. When she reached the field boundary, she glanced back over her shoulder towards the pillbox before moving stealthily behind the hedgerows. From there, she walked smartly up towards the small group of officers who stood around Barker.

She had no real need to flash her warrant card, but she did so all the same as a burly sergeant moved forward to intercept her.

‘I need to speak to this man, Sergeant,’ she barked with clipped precision.

She had no authority over him – they both knew that. They were both sergeants, just with different responsibilities – but Giles often found that many uniformed officers were a lot more likely to back down if she behaved like she had additional authority over them.

This sergeant was not one of them.

‘I’m sorry, Detective,’ he replied. ‘I can’t let you speak to him without prior approval from Detective Inspector Harris.’

‘But I have approval,’ Giles replied quickly, glancing towards Barker who stood watching the exchange with increasing interest. ‘I was here with Harris only half an hour ago.’

‘I understood that he had you escorted from the scene…’

‘And yet I’m still here,’ Giles fired back. ‘What does that suggest to you, Sergeant?’

The sergeant stared blankly at her, his hands twitching as he reached up for his radio.

‘If you don’t mind, I’ll just check.’

‘Course I don’t mind,’ Giles shrugged, stepping around him. ‘Harris told me I wouldn’t have any problems but if you want to disturb him to prove him wrong then that’s your concern. I’ll just get on with talking with this man whilst you get dressed down.’

It was a gamble and one that she was almost certain wouldn’t work. And yet, as she stepped around the sergeant he made no move to stop her from carrying on straight to Barker. Even when she arrived in front of the former politician, the sergeant still hadn’t called it in, although his hand remained glued to his radio as he stepped away to give them some space.

Now dressed in a cheap shirt and pair of trousers, Barker looked a mere shadow of the man that Giles had come to hate. But his body still stood rigid with the public school boy propriety that had been drilled into him since his formative years. He sucked slowly on a cigarette, pondering Giles with eyes that appeared almost hypnotic now that she could see them up close.

He flashed a smug grin and took a long drag of his cigarette as his eyes wandered up Giles’ body.

‘Well played, Giles,’ he said, exhaling the smoke up into the air above Giles’ head. ‘I have to admit I was sceptical at first, but after seeing that display…’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Giles replied, dismissing him with a wave of her hand.

Barker crooned: ‘Of course not,’ and tapping his nose with his index finger, whispered, ‘mum’s the word.’

Giles scowled, shooting a glance over her shoulder at the sergeant. He was a good ten metres away, but he watched their exchanges like a hunting hawk. She turned back towards Barker.

‘I have some questions.’

‘I thought you might.’

‘Are you going to answer them?’

‘I might. You get me out of this mess and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.’

‘And why would I do that?’

‘Because you didn’t sneak up here and con your way into talking with me to solve a murder.’

Giles hesitated. She could see how the man got so far in politics. He was sharp and blunt – he could almost have been a lawyer in a previous life – and his eyes shone with an intelligence that far surpassed the usual person that Giles would interview day-to-day.

Barker tilted his head to one side, pondering Giles until a shuffle of footsteps from a nearby constable snapped him out of whatever thought he’d been thinking.

‘So,’ he said, clapping his hands together. ‘Shall we begin?’

Giles sneered: ‘You’re not my informant.’

‘And you’re not the detective I thought you were, but we all make mistakes.’ Baker glanced around to check for anyone listening. ‘I must admit, I didn’t do my research thoroughly enough. I knew enough to know that I couldn’t trust your DI with the information, but Giles seemed like a good, strong English name that I never imagined it might belong to a chink…’ He eyed her curiously. ‘Your father’s?’

‘My husband’s.’

‘Yes, of course,’ he replied, glancing down at her wedding ring. ‘It was a mistake that I will not be lightly making again. However, you are who you are – neither of us can help that. And, as it happens, you seem to be rather a capable detective and, more importantly, you are the one I have been dealing with up until now…’

‘You’re fishing…’ Giles muttered, shaking her head knowingly.

‘Absolutely.’

For a moment, his eyes left Giles and drifted across the field towards the pillbox. Giles turned to follow his gaze. They couldn’t see it from where they were – the hedgerows obscured it from view – but it was clear that something was going on. From beyond the hedgerows, Giles could hear the excited calling of Harris marshalling his officers and through the gaps in the bushes she could see the occasional flashes of white overalls as the SOCOs descended on the pillbox.

She turned back towards Barker, noting with satisfaction the look of intensity on his face.

‘It’s only a matter of time, you know,’ she said firmly. ‘They’re tearing that pillbox apart as we speak.’

Barker shrugged. ‘I trust they will do a thorough job.’

Giles chuckled, shaking her head as she tried to control her emotions.

‘You don’t seriously expect to get away with this, do you?’ she asked between laughs. ‘A guy ends up dead with his head blown in and you’re the chief suspect. It’s only a matter of time before the evidence falls overwhelmingly against you. And no golfing experiences with Harris’ superior officer is going to change that…’

‘Unless, of course, I didn’t do it.’

‘I find that hard to believe…’

‘Really?’ Barker interrupted, ripping his attention away from the direction of the pillbox. ‘Then why are you here?’

Giles smiled – an uncomfortable feeling of glee crept into her body, filling her mind with excitement and satisfaction. She had always wondered why good people turned bad and now, with vengeance so close, she could understand it. But she was better than those people – she wouldn’t bring about Barker’s demise. She would just sit back and watch it happen.

‘Because I want to remember,’ she muttered. ‘I want to remember how cocky you looked before Harris finds what he is looking for and wipes that smile from your face. You see I know you murdered that man. I don’t know why, but I don’t really care. I’m just going to be as much help as I can to investigation and know – deep in my heart – that I am helping to bring down the man who brought so much fear and terror to my people. And when you come crashing down, I will be there to see it.’

She waited for a long while, staring hard at Barker, willing him to react. But he didn’t move. He didn’t even blink. He just turned his head away from her and looked back towards the pillbox, his face glowing with confidence.

After a few moments, Giles could feel a surge of anger pulsing through her veins. She turned away from him and began to walk away. It was only when she passed the sergeant that Barker spoke again, calling out to her as she marched back towards the pillbox.

‘I’m a confident man, Detective Giles,’ he shouted. ‘That should tell you everything you need to know.’

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!

Competition: The Cheating Jeweller – Day Three

Welcome to the third of five daily roundups for the first DS Giles Case, ‘The Lamentable Jeweller’ – a chance for you the readers to solve a crime fiction case written by myself for delivery through Twitter.

Solve the crime and be in with a chance to win some cool crime fiction prizes. No entry fee – just your logic is required.

If you missed what happened in the first two days, don’t worry because you can find Day One here and Day Two here.

The story so far.

John Maxwell has been found dead in his apartment, his head bashed in by a blunt instrument. The doors were locked and no one seemed to notice that he was even missing…

We take up the third day from DS Giles herself…

11.00 – Forensics called. Two of the unidentified fingerprints belong to Jake and Molly Batchelor.

11.01 – Two are still unidentified. But one certainly belongs to Maxwell. No match possible due to decomposition.

11.02 – Curiously, the set we think belong to Maxwell have matched those recovered from a drug’s bust a year ago.

11.03 – Looks like the sister was right. He was in to his drugs…

11.22 – I pay a visit to Maxwell’s landlady, Jasmine Kinkade.

11.23 – I ask if there were ever any problems between Maxwell and the neighbours, Jake and Molly.

11.24 – ‘Not that John reported. But then again he kept himself to himself a lot of the time.’

11.25 – What does she mean, ‘That John reported’?

11.26 – ‘Well, they never bothered John. But other people complained about them.’

11.27 – ‘A few months ago, I had to give an official warning letter.’

11.28 – ‘Jake kept playing loud music at all hours of the night.’

11.29 – ‘The neighbour on the other side thought it was so loud that it felt like they were drilling through the wall.’

11.30 – Did this stop after the letter?

11.31 – ‘As far as I know. I didn’t received any more complaints after that.’

11.32 – What’s the name of the other neighbour.

11.33 – ‘Marjory Becker. She’s a sweet, old lady. But a bit too nosy for her own good.’

11.34 – I decide to pay her a call.

12.08 – Marjory Becker makes me a nice pot of tea. I hate tea. But I drink it anyway.

12.09 – ‘Mr Maxwell was such a nice, young man. I saw him occasional but only talked to him once. He was nice to me.’

12.10 – When was this?

12.11 – ‘About three weeks ago. He was leaving his flat and walking into town.’

12.12 – Must have been not long before he was killed…

12.13 – How did he seem?

12.14 – ‘He was alright. He looked a bit flustered but other than that…’

12.15 – Did you ever know of Maxwell having problems with Jake Batchelor?

12.16 – ‘I thought I heard them arguing once – quite a while ago now…’

12.17 – ‘It sounded like John was accusing Jake of spying on him.’

12.18 – ‘I don’t put it past Jake – his eyes are too shifty…’

12.32 – I get a call from Scutter. The judge has granted the warrant to retrieve the deposit box at the bank.

13.15 – Ms Lindsay takes me down to the vault and retrieves the deposit box.

13.16 – ‘It’s funny. I don’t remember seeing Mr Maxwell for a long time.’

13.17 – How long?

13.18 – ‘It must’ve been at least three or four months now.’

13.19 – We open the box…

13.20 – It’s empty.

End of Day Three

That’s all for today. Remember, if you want to keep up with the entries as they come in, you can always follow DS Giles on Twitter here, or follow the hashtag #GilesCase to keep up to date.

Think you know who did it yet?

Competition: The Cheating Jeweller – Day One

So – today Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles started tweeting the first of what I hope will be many cases. For those who missed the last post I wrote about this, Giles’s Twitter account will basically be tweeting updates of a case I have created for her as they happen.

Basically it’s a chance for all those crime thriller readers out there to get inside the mindset of my main character by seeing a case through her eyes. But – more importantly – I also wanted to give those readers a chance to test their own detective skills against my fictional detective.

Every person who follows @DSEvelynGiles or #GilesCase on Twitter will be given the opportunity to solve the case for themselves. Over the course of the next few days, everyone will be given the clues as Giles gets them and – at the end – they will have a chance to identify the killer.

And best yet – out of every person who successfully identifies the killer, one lucky person will win a prize courtesy of yours truly.

Sounds cool, right?

For all of your loyal readers who have been following my blog since it’s earliest days, I will be publishing all of Giles’ tweets at the end of each day so – if you don’t have Twitter or if you miss a tweet – you will be able to quickly review all the evidence available.

So, without further introduction, let me hand over to Detective Giles as she tackles her first public case – “The Lamentable Jeweller”.

09:10 – New crime scene. DC Scutter is driving. Suspected murder – white male, head trauma, found in a sealed apartment.

09.27- Scene sealed by uniform. Crime scene manager already on site. Waiting for briefing from first responders.

09.29 – Crime scene manager is Mary Turner. Victim identified as John Maxwell, jewellery merchant.

09.30 – Cause of death – a single strike wound on the back of the skull from a heavy object.

09.31 – Victim lived alone. Body found in the bedroom in the centre of the apartment. All doors out of the flat were locked.

09.32 – Body discovered by landlady, Jasmine Kinkade, and locksmith, Martin Crow, after breaking in.

09.33 – Judging by decomposition, body has been dead for three weeks or more.

09.34 – No sign of robbery. No sign of a struggle.

10.05 – Interview with Ms Kinkade:

10.06 – ‘Mr Maxwell had fallen well behind on his rent. I posted a notice of eviction two months ago.’

10.07 – ‘I received no response from Mr Maxwell so obtained a court order to break into the apartment.’

10.08 – ‘I found Mr Maxwell on the floor of the bedroom in a pool of blood. It was awful.’

10.10 – Ms Kinkade looks a little shifty. There is something about this story that doesn’t ring true.

10.27 – Interview with the neighbours, Jake and Molly Batchelor:

10.28 – ‘John was alright, I suppose. He was a bit of hermit though.’

10.29 – ‘He’d disappear for months on end – said he was taking work trips to Europe.’

10.30 – ‘When we didn’t see him for a few weeks, we didn’t think much of it.’

10.31 – ‘The last time we saw John alive was five weeks ago.’

10.32 – Something isn’t right with these two – especially the husband, Jake.

10.33 – Jake says that John was angry after he received his eviction notice 8 weeks ago.

10.34 – ‘John was planning on taking Ms Kinkade to court.’

10.35 – I ask what for but he doesn’t know.

10.36 – End of Day One

That’s all for today. Remember, if you want to keep up with the entries as they come in, you can always follow DS Giles on Twitter here, or follow the hashtag #GilesCase to keep up to date.

Think you know who did it yet?

The Cat is out of the Bag…

Yup – the cat is out of the bag!

As many of you will be aware, I will shortly be releasing my debut novel, The Bluebell Informant, as a free ebook download on the 7th April (not long now – getting quite excited). This will be followed up by a print copy that people can buy if they wish (although I haven’t got a release date for that just yet).

However, I received a report from Amazon that someone has managed to get hold of a copy of The Bluebell Informant – and worst yet that paid for it!

How did they manage that?

Well – simply put – in order to make an ebook free on Amazon, you have to first put it up on their sales page as a paid ebook. Once the ebook is live, you then have to find another site where the ebook is free and notify Amazon of this through their price matching scheme. Then – and only then – will Amazon make the book free to download, but that process can take anything from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

Needless to say, I made the book live on Amazon and then started taking the necessary steps to make the book free. It still isn’t free yet, but if you want to have a look at the live sales page for it, feel free to have a look here.

But – here is where it gets interesting – at some point between now and when I made the book live, someone has actually come across it and bought it! Which means that I have so far managed to make a small (and I mean very small – minuscule might be a more appropriate word for it) amount of money of what is intended to be a free ebook!

Now, most of you readers are already aware that the book will be free – and anyone who reads my Facebook or Twitter posts will be aware of it as well – which means that this mystery reader is probably not someone who was aware of me before buying the book. It also means they weren’t to know that it was going to be released for free…

And, whilst I could just take my thirty-odd pence (yes, it really is that little) and run off giggling into the sunset, something about that doesn’t quite feel right.

Why?

Because one of the most terrifying parts of releasing any book is the thought that no one will be interested in it – that all those years you’ve spent slaving away on it will all come to nothing in the end. And yet, before I’ve even had a chance to gear up the publicity on The Bluebell Informant, someone in the UK (who I can only presume is someone who isn’t generally aware of my work, or otherwise is generous enough to pay for something that will shortly be free) has stumbled across my work and has been excited enough by it to go and purchase a copy.

And that simple fact alone has given me one hell of a boost in the run up to the official release of the book. This anonymous person has given me that extra push of confidence and I am – as you might expect – tremendously grateful for that.

And I’d like to show my gratitude. I would like to give that person a signed copy of my prize winning short story Dressed to Deceive as a thank you for buying my book when they didn’t need to. But first I need to hunt down the person who bought the first copy of The Bluebell Informant.

And this is where I need you…

Please share this post. Share the images I will put up on Facebook and Twitter and help me find the person who bought the first copy of The Bluebell Informant. In return, if the buyer is found, I will also provide the person who they heard about my offer from with a signed copy of Dressed to Deceive as well!!

Consider it a gift from a grateful author.

Thank you all – and standby for the official release of The Bluebell Informant. It’s going to be fun!

Photo on 26-03-2017 at 13.42

 

In Search of the Perfect Cover Design

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

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

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

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

And therein lies the problem.

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

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

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

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

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

And then luck stepped in.

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

And then the idea struck me.

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

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

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

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

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

A little update…

Things are really beginning to hot up here. At the moment I am neck deep in a ghost writing project, which should be finished in the next week or two, and then I’ll be ramping up my efforts in preparation for the release of my debut novel, The Bluebell Informant.

Now, as some of you may be aware, I’ll be releasing digital copies of The Bluebell Informant for free on the 7th April – but in the lead up to that I’ll also be releasing one or two little teasers whilst also finally getting round to launching my first ever Giles Case.

As part of the Giles Case, I’ll be challenging you – my readers – to follow the progress of one of Giles’ cases as she tweets each new development and to solve the crime for a chance to win two awesome prizes. The first is a free, signed copy of the limited edition of my highly acclaimed short story, Dressed to Deceive. And the second…?

Well, I’ll leave that announcement for closer to the time. But trust me – it will be worth entering the competition for.

And for those of you worried because you don’t use Twitter, you can still enter as I will be posting each day’s tweets on this blog and on Facebook so you can keep right up to date with all the latest developments.

But that’s not all.

In addition to all this cool stuff going on around the launch of The Bluebell Informant, I am also very pleased to announce that there will be an added bonus for you all to enjoy.

Every person who grabs a copy of The Bluebell Informant will also be able to download a copy of the next DS Giles story, a novelette called Gotcha. Again – for free!!

So – exciting times. So I thought I’d round off this set of announcements with a little look at Gotcha – or at least a look at the cover art for it.

I hope you’re excited as I am for this…

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