Tag Archives: crimefic

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 Twenty

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

Barker leapt several feet backwards when the front door burst open. Before he had a chance to recover, Giles barrelled her way back into the front room, leading a curvy, young woman in by the scruff of her neck. Barker recognised the woman from somewhere, but it took him a moment or two to work out why. It was only as Giles shoved her roughly into the chair that he recognised the daughter of the former Prime Minister.

‘Alison Carew?’

Giles ignored him, pulling Alison back in the seat so that she was sat upright. Her friend didn’t struggle, her eyes were fixed squarely on Barker.

‘Giles,’ the politician barked. ‘What the hell is going on?’

‘Shut up,’ Giles muttered as she retreated back away from Alison with the gun still pointed squarely at her chest.

‘Eve, please,’ Alison protested, her eyes never leaving Barker. ‘I don’t know what’s going on…’

‘I said shut up, Ali.’

Alison had never been a particularly strong personality. She had been very forthright when it came to her father’s politics, but otherwise she was perfectly happy to sit in the background and be unnoticed. That was why Giles liked her – she could always rely on her to be quiet and non-judgmental.

But, now that she looked at her, Alison Carew seemed to be little more than a shadow of the woman she had been before. The normally sweet and caring woman was a wretched mass of spite and bile, all of which was directed across the room at the politician. Then, as the seriousness of her situation began to dawn on her, Alison’s eyes moved slowly towards the gun in Giles’ hands and all pretence of anger and hatred was dropped as she descended, clasping her hands tightly in each other’s grip as she became little more than a quivering wreck. She wrapped herself up tightly into a ball, her face screwed up as tears swelled down her cheeks and her breath struggled to escape her lungs. Every time she dared to open her eyes, they would swing back to the gun barrel and she instantly cowered up against the back of the chair, gripping tightly to the wooden frame as though it might offer some protection.

Barker, in comparison, looked on with absolute stillness. Even when Giles gestured for him to take a seat on the sofa, he remained standing behind her, peering at Alison like through the bars of some zoo enclosure. To say that he was interested would be a step to far, but there was a definite look of glee in his face as his eyes flitted between the gun and Alison – a look that almost completely obscured the dawning terror that he was beginning to experience.

As the commotion died down, Giles slowly lowered the gun, placing it on the mantelpiece behind her before stepping forward. Producing a handkerchief, she gently dabbed at Alison’s face, wiping away the tears until her friend could finally open her eyes and stare into Giles’ face.

‘Eve…’ she whispered with a voice quivering in terror. ‘What is happening? Why are you doing this?’

Giles finished wiping away the tears before setting the handkerchief down on the floor. She smiled at Alison, gently rubbing her hand against her friend’s knee.

‘Ali, I’m going to ask you some questions,’ she said softly. ‘And I need you to answer them for me – it’s important.’

‘Why don’t you just ask me?’ Alison quivered. ‘Why did you need to bring a gun with you?’

Giles breathed out a slow sigh.

‘Because I need you to understand how much trouble you are in. But if you co-operate with me, I can help you, do you understand?’

‘Co-operate?’ Alison’s face began to screw up with tears once again. ‘Co-operate with what?’

‘I could ask the same question,’ Barker chipped in. ‘What’s this all about, Giles? Is this some half-baked attempt to frighten me? Because, if it is, it isn’t working…’

His voice told a different story. If Barker was anything right now, frightened was definitely one of them. But Giles had another goal in mind – Barker was nothing but a side-show at this moment. And she was about to prove it to him…

She nodded to the politician stood behind her.

‘Do you know who this is?’

Alison glanced up at Barker, a definite scowl crossing her face, and nodded firmly.

‘People are trying to kill him, Ali. I need to know why…’

A moment passed and then Alison did something quite unexpected. She laughed. She chuckled for a good twenty seconds, her eyes occasionally flashing up at Barker.

‘Really, Eve?’ she whispered. ‘You really need to know why? I would’ve thought out of everyone you would be the one to understand best. After everything he did to you. After everything he did to my father…’

‘Is that what this is about? Revenge for your father?’

Alison sniggered again. ‘I was doing my job.’

There was a bitterness in her voice, but Giles had no doubt she was telling the truth. She had known Alison for a long time – so long that they used to joke they could never lie to each other. Alison always tried though – but Giles always knew, even if she never said anything.

Giles leaned forward a little closer.

‘Who are you working for?’ she asked. ‘Who made you betray me?’

Alison shook her head. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about…’

‘We don’t have time, Ali,’ Giles replied, her voice laced with a little more urgency. ‘People have tried to kill Barker today. People have tried to kill me. I need to know who you’re working for. Was it just Doyle or were you both working for someone else…?’

‘Working for someone else…?’

‘Just tell me the truth, Ali.’

‘The truth?’ Alison’s face filled with anger. ‘I don’t know who this Doyle is. I don’t what he’s done or who he’s working for. I’ve never betrayed anyone in my life – certainly not you…’

‘Then why did you do it?’

It was hard to remain calm under the circumstances. After the day she’d had, Giles could have grabbed the gun and thrust it under Alison’s chin. She could have pressed it right against her jaw and screamed at her until she told her everything she knew. But Alison was a friend – one of the few Giles had these days. She could never do anything to hurt her.

‘I didn’t do anything,’ Alison replied, a little more forcefully than before. ‘I don’t know anything. If this guy – Doyle – tried to kill you, it had nothing to do with me…’

Something snapped in Giles’ mind. She couldn’t stay calm any longer.

Lurching forward, she brought her face right up against Alison’s. She grabbed hold of the chair and pushed it with all her strength. The woodern structure clattered against the wall with a loud, creaking thus and Alison cowered in terror, whimpering and crying as Giles said:

‘We don’t have time for this, Ali. The only person who knew we were getting off the train was you. There was no other police presence there. The only way they could have known was if you told them…’

‘I didn’t,’ Alison cried. ‘I swear, I didn’t…’

‘You have to start telling me everything, now.’

Giles slammed her hand against the wall, prompting Alison to squeal once again.

‘I didn’t do anything wrong, I swear,’ she muttered. ‘Eve, I would never do anything to hurt you…’

‘Then how do they know?’

Behind her, Barker cleared his throat. ‘Giles, she doesn’t know anything…’

‘How do they know?’

Alison squealed once again.

‘They ordered me to do it…’

‘Who did? Doyle?’

‘No,’ Alison replied, shaking her head violently. ‘The higher ups…’ She paused to take a couple of breaths. ‘A few months ago, I was approached by some of the top brass in the force. They said that I had talent and they wanted to recruit me for special services…’

‘And you believed them?’

Alison stared up into Giles’ angry eyes.

‘They were my bosses, Eve, why wouldn’t I believe them?’ She took a few careful breaths. ‘They wanted me report back if I heard anything come through the dispatch office that might interest them – they gave me a list of names that I was to pay particular attention to. If I heard one of the names, I was to pass the information on by text message…’

‘And Barker was one of them?’

Alison nodded.

‘When I heard he was being taken in, I passed on the information as they asked. And when you told me where you were going, I did the same…’ She hesitated, her eyes widening in terror. ‘You have to believe me, Eve, I never tried to get you in trouble. I was just following my orders…’

Giles nodded, her eyes boring into Alison’s.

‘Where’s your phone now?’

Alison hesitated again. ‘Outside on the pavement. I dropped it when you came up behind me…’

Giles didn’t wait a second longer. She jumped to her feet and raced towards the door, ignoring Barker as he muttered:

‘You’re not seriously believing this rubbish, are you?’

 

Giles barged out of the door and turned sharply on the pavement. She marched the few feet to the spot where she had snuck up on Alison and began her frantic search for the phone. There it was, just as she said – shattered into three or four parts. Picking up the pieces, Giles examined the phone carefully, before removing the SIM card and placing it in her pocket.

By the time she got back to the house, Barker was waiting for her by the front door.

‘Giles,’ he said. ‘A word.’

‘Not now…’

‘Yes, now,’ he shot back. ‘Did you find the phone?’

‘It’s broken.’

‘So, there’s no way of verifying her story?’

‘The SIM is intact,’ Giles fired back, stepping around Barker and moving towards the front room. ‘The numbers will still be logged. With any luck, we may have some saved messages as well…’

Barker reached out and grabbed hold of Giles’ wrist, holding her firmly as she halted in the doorway.

‘You don’t believe her?’

‘She’s my friend,’ Giles replied. ‘Of course, I believe her.’

‘But it’s clearly rubbish…’

‘Maybe,’ Giles returned, twisting her wrist out of his grip. ‘But – so far – she has given me far more than you have. If it comes to a straight choice between who I trust more, her or you, I know which one I’d choose.’ She turned back towards the room. ‘Besides, you haven’t been exactly forthcoming.’

‘But what if she’s lying?’

Giles stopped and turned back around to face him.

‘Like you aren’t?’ she muttered through gritted teeth. ‘I know what you are Mr Barker. And if you think I would let a scumbag like you walk, you have another thing coming. You had your chance at a deal – now I’ve got a better one…’

‘You can’t do that.’

Giles smiled. The anger and exasperation in Barker’s face was worth every second. Alison had been a lot easier to convince to co-operate than he had been – now he was paying the penalty for holding back.

‘Watch me.’

She spun around and waltzed into the front room before Barker could say another word.

As she stepped inside, Alison glanced up – her makeup was blurred down her face where her tears had run. Giles walked straight, crouched down in front of her and grasped hold of her hands. With her spare hand, she gently pushed the hair out of Alison’s face and gave her a sweet, forgiving smile.

‘Ali, I can help you,’ she said. ‘If what you’re saying is true, you haven’t done anything wrong…’

Alison shook her head excitedly.

‘I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s all true…’

‘Good,’ Giles said, her smile even wider. ‘I need you to tell me who ordered you to send that information. Who were you in contact with?’

Alison nodded slowly. ‘OK…’

Game over, Barker.

Giles stroked her friend’s face once more, her fingers gently wiping away some freshly formed tears. It wouldn’t be long now – the nightmare was nearly over. Giles would hand Barker over for punishment and walk away with the information she wanted.

A win, win situation.

True justice…

Alison coughed clear her throat, and mumbled:

‘I was approached by two superior officers…’

The bang was so loud and the effect was instant. In a split second, the bullet struck Alison in the middle of her head, blasting her brains out against the wall behind her. She lurched backward in the chair and clattered against the wall, collapsing in a heavy heap down towards the ground. Giles sprang forward although she already knew it was too late. She grasped hold of Alison’s limp body for a few seconds before the weight finally got the better of her and she had to let go. As Alison thudded to the floor, her eyes rolled back into her head and blood cascaded down her forehead, soaking her face with the red, oozing liquid.

Alison was dead.

It took a moment for it all to sink in. And then, as though everything came together in her mind, Giles span around and snarled at Barker who, gun in hand cowered beside the sofa with the barrel pointed straight at her.

‘Nice and easy, Giles,’ he said soothingly. ‘We don’t want to have three deaths on my conscience today, now do we?’

Giles’ eyes flickered toward the mantelpiece.

The gun was no longer there.

How could I be so stupid?

She glared back at Barker and sprang to her feet. As she did, Barker retreated back a step or two and said:

‘A-ah. Don’t do anything rash.’

Giles’ mind was a blur of anger. She wanted nothing more than to leap over the sofa and tackle Barker to the ground although she knew it wouldn’t do her any good. Stood there, with her hands clenched, Giles breathed hard as she tried to control herself. She felt as though her heart had been ripped out of her – her stomach felt weak and empty and the beast inside her mind thrashed around, willing her to lunge at the coward and to hell with the consequences.

In that moment, with all that torrent of emotion sweeping through her body, Giles could say only one thing:

‘Why?’

Barker smiled, his hands holding the gun a little tighter.

‘We had a deal, Giles,’ he said calmly. ‘You get me immunity and I give you information. It was wrong of you to try and break it…’

‘You killed her…’

Barker chuckled a little. ‘I’ve killed. People are trying to kill me… It’s all relative, really. People will stop dying once I am safely in custody with an immunity agreement in my hand, so why are you wasting time?’

Giles shook her head.

‘If you think I will help you after this…’

‘You don’t have a choice, Giles,’ he sneered. ‘You helped a murderer escape from custody. That makes you my accomplice.’

Giles shook her head, taking a step forward.

‘I’ll never help you…’

Barker pulled back the hammer with a loud click bringing Giles to a halt.

‘Like I said, you don’t have a choice,’ he said. ‘And if you think otherwise, maybe you should consider who is pointing the gun at you. Maybe you should think about what will happen to your sister and her family when they come home and find me sat in their lounge…’

The bottom dropped out of Giles’ stomach.

‘You wouldn’t…’

‘Fulfil your part of the agreement and I won’t have to. But make your decision quickly – I don’t fancy being around here when your colleagues show up…’

He glanced out through the lace curtains. The world outside the house seemed peaceful enough, but Giles had no doubt that the gunshot had echoed all the way down the street. Someone somewhere was already on the phone to the dispatcher – there was always someone who reported a gunshot…

Barker turned back towards her and flicked the gun towards the doorway.

Tick Tock.’

 

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 Nineteen

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 Nineteen

Claverdale Road was quiet as Giles pulled up into a spare space along the pavement. There wasn’t anyone around, and yet the whole street was packed with cars. Giles drove the entire length of the road before doubling back for another pass before she finally spotted a space large enough to squeeze the tiny Micra into. She clambered out on to the pavement and shot a glance up and down the road before striding off along the row of terraced houses.

The house she was looking for was about a hundred metres up the street. It was a similar size to those that were squashed up on either side of it, but the presence of a small magnolia tree in the tiny front garden made the whole house appear even smaller than its counterparts. As she moved up the long street, Giles felt Barker sidle into place behind her. Through the reflections of the car windows, she watched him peering up and down the street, scrutinising every high window as they made the long walk up to their ultimate destination.

She chuckled to herself in satisfaction and ducked under the branches of the magnolia as she strolled up the garden path. She stopped beside an old metal dustbin and, without pausing for thought, bent down and lifted the whole mass up. She reached under the metallic mass, her fingers pawing at the concrete slabs beneath, until her fingers closed around a small, door key, which she quickly retrieved and shoved into the lock. The lock clicked and the door swung open, blasting the two visitors with a rush of warm air and the faint scent of lavender that came from a dispenser sat on a small table nearby.

Barker stepped in behind her and quickly closed the door. He breathed a heavy sigh before turning his attention to the key in Giles’ hand. With a little nod, he muttered:

‘You lot still do that? How trusting…’

Giles slid the key into her pocket and tapped it confidently.

‘People round here keep a close eye on everyone else,’ she explained, stepping further into the entrance hall. ‘Trust me, you’re in the safest place in London right now.’

She disappeared down the hall, heading for a doorway at the far end, which opened up into a kitchen. Barker peered after her before tentatively stepping further into the house, staring up at a variety of photographs that were hung on the wall leading up to the top floor.

It was rather homely – for a safe house. The photographs seemed to show the same couple: a blonde woman in her late twenties and a slightly older man with darker hair. The man was good looking, despite the horn-rimmed glasses perched on the end of his nose. The house was clean and tidy, and the front room was warm and inviting. By the time Giles returned to it, Barker had settled himself down on the large, white sofa that dominated the room, and was busy staring past the large, flat-screened television and out of the window to the road outside.

‘Make yourself at home,’ Giles said, gesturing to the lace curtains that obscured them from the outside world. ‘You’re perfectly safe. Would you like a tea or anything?’

‘What is this place?’

‘Like I said, you’ll be safe here.’

With an encouraging smile, Giles disappeared back out of the front room, only to return a few moments later carrying a wooden chair that she set down to one side of the room.

Barker peered up at, a look of suspicion flashing across his face.

‘What’s that for?’

‘You’ll find out,’ Giles replied sternly, before retreating back into the kitchen.

 

This place was really unlike any safe house Barker had any seen before. Well, in point of fact, he hadn’t seen any in real life, but he’d seen plenty on television and not a single one looked as detailed as this.

Left to his own devices, he moved across the room to the mantelpiece where a series of photographs sat in immaculately shiny photo frames were perched along the clean surface.

Barker stared at these for a long time.

The family that stared back were the same from the pictures running up the staircase. A good, traditional, white family by the look of them. The blonde woman held a young, giggling girl high above her head whilst her husband cuddled her from behind.

They laughed. They smiled. They were happy.

There were wedding photographs too. And pictures of a young baby – presumably the girl. A whole life was played out on that mantelpiece. The lives of good British people with good British values.

They were so happy…

Giles returned with a cup of tea. She held it out to Barker, who accepted it without hesitation. He hadn’t drunk anything since the morning and any drink – even a poorly made excuse of a cup of tea – was welcome. As he took a sip and nodded towards the pictures.

‘Who lives here then?’ he asked. ‘This place obviously isn’t a safe house.’

Giles hesitated.

‘My sister and her family,’ she replied. ‘They’re away at the moment so we won’t be disturbed…’

‘Your sister?’ Barker repeated, raising his eyebrow as he peered back at the photograph. ‘Well, well. Daddy finally got himself a real daughter…’

Giles’ lip curled in anger.

‘She adopted too,’ she replied, reaching forward and grabbing hold of the photographs.

She squirreled them out of the room, leaving Barker to drink his tea in the relaxed silence of this friendly house. After circling the room several times, he returned back to his seat on the sofa and continued to sip his tea. Having disposed of the photographs, Giles strolled back into the room, moved straight across to the window and peered out through the lace curtains. Barker watched her intently, his eyes snaking their way down her back until they settled on her firm, shapely buttocks.

Such a shame, he thought.

She wasn’t really that bad looking. If she’d been British, he might have tried it on with her. His wife wouldn’t have approved but, then again, when did she ever approve of his extra curricular relationships. He smacked his lips and took a last gulp of tea before setting the cup down on the floor.

‘So,’ he said. ‘What’s your sister’s name?’

‘We’re not talking about it.’

Barker chuckled. ‘Well, it seems we have some time on our hands so we may as well do something. What does she do?’

Giles glanced back at him.

‘She’s a doctor,’ she replied. ‘A paediatrician.’

‘A paediatrician.’ Barker smiled. ‘I bet Daddy was proud.’

‘He’s proud of both of us…’

‘Of course he is. But I bet she has more brownie points, right?’

‘We’re not having this discussion…’

‘Loving husband, a great looking kid. She ticks all the boxes…’

Giles span around, her eyes sparking with bitterness. She took two steps towards Barker, clenching her hands and tensing her arms as though sprawling for a fight.

‘What’s you point?’ she barked.

Barker looked her up and down once more. She really was quite attractive – for a chink…

‘What are we doing here, Giles?’ he asked slyly. ‘What are you trying to prove? You’ve got a good British family so that makes you just as good as the rest of us?’

Giles didn’t answer at first. She didn’t even look angry anymore. In fact, if Barker had to guess, she almost looked triumphant.

She turned back towards the lace curtain and peered outside once more. The next time she moved it was to make her way out of the room and to the front door. It came with no narration and no explanation. The anxiety that took hold of Barker was strong and instantaneous:

‘What are you doing?’ he asked, jumping to his feet.

‘Relax,’ Giles replied, letting loose a small smile. ‘I’ll be back in a moment. You’ll be safe here.’

‘Safe? Why? Where are you going?’

Giles reached the front door. ‘I’ll be back soon. Just watch the television or something…’

She was out the door before Barker had a chance to say any more. As he watched the door slam shut, he was tempted to bolt outside after her. But, as he reached for the door handle, a fear gripped hold of him like metal in a vice. He retreated back away from the door and back into the front room where he stood, frightened and apprehensive, staring through the lace curtains at the world outside.

 

It took Alison several attempts to find a space to pull in. Parallel parking was never her strong point and she didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself by having to make several botched attempts at it. On the third time down the street, she found a space that was far enough from the house that she didn’t mind spending a good few minutes making sure she was parked safely.

With her car safely nestled in amongst the others, she switched off the engine and clambered out. She wasn’t sure which house it was but a quick look at the house numbers gave her clue. She crossed over to the other side of the road and trooped smartly along the street, her eyes searching for the house number.

After a minute or two, she found the right house and, with her best attempt at subtlety, she slowed her pace and walked straight on by, peering at the lace curtains from the corner of her eye.

Something moved behind them, she was sure of it. As she ducked under the magnolia tree, the curtains had flickered slightly revealing a glimpse of a suited man peering back out at her.

She’d recognised him instantly. She had seen him enough times, although she doubted he would ever recognise her. He was one of those smarmy men who always looked past you if you were a woman – unless, of course, you were dressed in a skimpy dress and had the figure of a super model.

She continued on, trying to remain calm although her heart pounded relentlessly in her chest.

She’d been right. Giles hadn’t suspected a thing.

She came to a stop just a little way past the car and reached into her pocket. She pulled out her phone and quickly started to compose a text.

This means promotion for sure, she thought as she frantically typed the message. Finally people will start to take me seriously.

Alison didn’t even notice the footsteps of the person marching up behind her – she was too engrossed in her own excitement. Had she been a little bit quicker, she might have finished the message before she felt the gun barrel pressed into the small of her back.

In her panic, she let go of the phone and it crashed to the floor. It smashed into several pieces as it pummelled against the concrete pavement, but Alison wasn’t concerned. All she could think about was the person with their finger around the trigger – the person who was going to kill her…

‘Hello, Alison,’ Giles whispered, pushing the gun tighter against her friend’s back. ‘I think we need to have a little talk, don’t 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 17

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 Seventeen 

Giles wasted no time.

She scooped up the car keys, slammed the back door shut and climbed into the front seat. The Ford’s engine growled into life. A quick shift into reverse and Giles was off.

The car leapt backwards, past the crumpled figures of the two would-be assassins and span quickly around, screeching wildly as the brake pads locked into place.

There was still no sign of Barker when she rounded the corner and approached the exit ramp – and the barrier was closed. She didn’t hesitate. Her foot smashed against the accelerator, and her arms locked straight and true as she careered the car towards the feeble gate. At the last moment, she ducked her head down and took shelter behind the relative safety of the steering wheel as the car clattered against the barricade, shattering the plastic into a dozen pieces and cracking the windscreen with a sickening crunch.

As glass and paintwork scrapped off the car, Giles felt the vehicle lurch upwards and – for one horrible moment – she feared that it had failed to make it passed the feeble barrier. It hovered for a moment, the bonnet pointing up towards the blue sky before – finally – it fell back to the ground and the battered Ford bounced its way out on to the road outside. Pulling herself back upright with one enormous jerk, Giles struggled to steady the vehicle as it swerved one way and then another before coming to a jolting stop in the centre of the road.

Giles glanced up anxiously, her nostrils filled with the smell of burning rubber and her heart pounding in her chest like a freight train. By some quirk of fate, the road had been almost completely empty save for a few figures a short way up the street – neither of who were Daniel Barker. As the young mother and her two children looked on at the beaten vehicle, Giles risked a quick glance back into the car park before shoving the car into gear and tearing up the road in the direction of the main street. She was at the junction in a second and, despite the disapproving glare of the mother, made every effort to safely check her surroundings before smartly pulling out into the afternoon traffic.

The streets were busy with more passengers from the station, but Barker was not hard to find. Sprinting down the street and occasionally throwing terrified glances back behind him, Barker stood out like a sore thumb amongst the calm and professional flow of travellers. Seeing Giles’ car pull out on to the road, he made for the nearest side street and disappeared out of sight. Giles turned down the deserted street and followed him for a hundred yards or so, slowing down as she came up alongside him.

Barker – his eyes frantic with fear – didn’t slow his pace, but simply continued in a straight line parallel to the car, glancing in through the window at Giles with every dozen or so strides.

Giles lowered the window as she slowed to match his pace.

‘Get in.’

‘No.’

‘You’re not safe. Get in.’

‘And I’m safe with you?’

Barker continued to run for a few more metres until he finally slowed to a halt. Giles parked up the car and waited as he glanced nervously back in the direction of the car park.

‘This was a mistake,’ he said. ‘You can’t help me. I’m sorry, but I was wrong to drag you in to this…’

‘I found you in seconds, Daniel. What makes you think you’ll survive any longer without me?’

Barker threw up his hands in exasperation and began to walk away, getting only a few feet before he stopped and turned back around. He placed his hands on his hips and stared absently at the car as he slowly tried to regain his breath. Considering the short distance he had travelled, the athletic Barker looked somehow out of shape. His mind was burdened with troubling thoughts. He had descended from the lofty heights of cold logical thought into the slums of panic and fear – and the tumble had taken a physical toll on him.

Giles pushed open the door and stepped out. She didn’t have anything to say and, no matter how hard she thought about it, her mind simply couldn’t create any words that might provide comfort to the terrified man before her. Every time she seemed to get close, the cynical voice in the back of her mind would whisper through the shadows:

He doesn’t deserve any sympathy…

With all ideas of empathy obliterated from her mind, Giles returned her thoughts to something more familiar – the deep-seated professionalism that had done her so well in life up to this point. She felt her back straighten, her lips purse together and suddenly her mind was clear – cool, calculated and logical. She took another step forward, holding out her hands towards the fugitive who backed away as she approached him.

She intended to take her with him one way or another – whether that meant dragging him back to the car was entirely up to him. And it seemed that Barker could see that in her body language. Giles hadn’t even gotten a few steps before she stuttered to a halt, hesitating nervously as she found herself staring down the barrel of the stolen gun.

Barker stood resolutely in front of her, his face struggling to present a mask of determination to cover the fear in his eyes. He slowly levelled the gun towards her chest and his finger began to press on the trigger.

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore.’

Giles raised her hands, her eyes fixed firmly on the gun barrel. She’d forgotten about the weapon. The effort of neutralising Doyle and pursuing Barker had knocked it right out of her mind. And now she found herself staring death in the face as his fingers slowly itched against the trigger metal.

‘Daniel, you don’t want to shoot me.’

‘How do you know?’ came back the reply. ‘How do you know I wouldn’t murder you in cold blood?’

‘Daniel…’ Giles hesitated, her eyes flickering up to meet Barker’s as she took a slight step towards him and lowered her hands towards the gun. ‘You have only killed one man today and that wasn’t in cold blood. That’s what you want me to believe, isn’t it?’

‘It’s the truth!’

‘Then prove it to me…’

Giles held out her hand inches away from the gun, nodding encouragingly.

‘Show me you’re not what they think you are…’

It couldn’t have been longer than a few seconds, but to Giles it felt like she stood there for hours – her hands inches away from the gun, waiting for it to be handed over or waiting to die. She could feel the adrenalin coursing through her body and, even as she stood staring into Barker’s eyes, she could see her hand start to shake with fright.

For her it was simple – but it was nothing compared to the dilemma that Barker faced. His fingers closed in a little more on the trigger – with each added bit of pressure his own hands shook a little more. He gave another glance towards the main road, his mouth contorting and relaxing as his wild eyes scrutinised every car that passed by.

It happened so quickly and Giles was so focussed that she didn’t even feel it…

Barker took the slightest of steps forward and gently lowered the weapon into her hand. As his fingers released hold of it, he stepped away with his hands cradling his head and he cried out in silent anguish.

Giles gave him a moment – not for him, but for herself. Her fingers closed around the metal and she turned the gun around in her hands, flicking the catch to make it safe. A memory stirred – the sound of screams and the feel of something warm dripping from beneath her chin. Her eyes projected the dark, mouldy walls and the single stream of light illuminated the blood trickling down her neck…

She snapped out of it.

Pocketing the gun, she stepped forward and placed a comforting hand on Barker’s shoulder. As he turned back towards her, she nodded towards the car.

‘Get in.’

 

With Barker safely in the car, Giles continued down the street, scanning her rear view mirror for any sign of their pursuers. As Barker sniffed in the seat beside her, his face pale as milk, she urged the car out of the junction at the end of the road and back into the traffic.

For a little while nothing was said. But soon Barker’s breath began to steady and the colour returned to his face. With a renewed, and yet somewhat uneasy, confidence, he sat up straighter in his seat and looked around earnestly as though expecting Doyle and his associate to appear at any moment.

‘What the hell just happened?’ he asked finally. ‘Who were those guys?’

‘Doyle was precisely who he said he was – a detective,’ replied Giles, calmly negotiating her way through the traffic. ‘The other I’m not so sure about.’

‘Doyle is a copper?’ Barker half-laughed. ‘I don’t think so.’

‘Obviously, our friend Doyle has been moonlighting. The Met didn’t send anyone to escort us to West End Central – for one thing that’s not where I’ll be taking you – they were sent to kill you.’

‘Me? Not us?’

Giles nodded solemnly.

‘Detective Sergeant Doyle told me you were the only target, although I imagine he would have said anything to make me let him go at that point.’

Barker sat perfectly still as his mind turned over this new information.

‘How did they know where we were?’

Giles hesitated.

‘I feel I might have made an error,’ she said delicately. ‘Back on the train, I reached out to someone. Someone who I thought I could trust.’

‘You were let down by your team?’

‘Not my team,’ Giles replied, glancing briefly to note Barker’s confused expression.

She didn’t say any more – and he didn’t ask.

Glancing at the traffic, Giles’ eyes lingered on the large crack that spread across the windscreen. The car was a mess – she was lucky it was even road worthy.

‘We have to get off the streets,’ she muttered.

‘Good idea,’ Barker replied.

Giles nodded. ‘I need you to tell me everything though.’

‘Not a chance…’

‘Daniel there are people out there who want you dead. I suggest you start co-operating with me.’

‘Not until I have my immunity agreement.’

The pig-headed…

            ‘Fine,’ Giles snapped. ‘There’s a safe house nearby. We’ll be safe there for a few hours…’

‘Won’t they think to look for you there?’

‘It’s not that kind of safe house,’ she replied. ‘Besides, you haven’t left me any choice.’

‘What do you mean?’

Giles glared at him from the corner of her eye.

‘I mean, Mr Barker, that there are a lot of things I don’t understand and a lot of answers I need answering. If you won’t tell me, maybe there’s someone else who will…’

‘Like who?’

 

Doyle swam in and out of consciousness. At times, he felt like he was clawing his way out of the darkness, at others he could feel himself falling into the soft tranquillity and comfort of the gloom around him. Through the dark murkiness, a soft voice seemed to call out to him, muffled and distant at first but soon becoming more defined as he felt the soft, cool touch of skin on his forehead.

He opened his eyes, just a fraction, and peered up at the angelic face looking down at him. Her mouth was moving, but the words were somehow lost to the ear piercing shrill that filled his head. Her long blonde hair dangled playfully above his face, gently tickling the end of his nose.

‘Sir?’ the angel called out. ‘Are you alright?’

Doyle’s eyes snapped fully open. The dark gloom retreated into the farthest recesses of his mind, replaced instantly with the greyness of the car park. He sat bolt upright, startling the young mother leaning over him and cried out with such anger that she and her two children bolted in the direction of the exit.

Doyle glared around. His companion was gone; only a small trace of blood splatter remained where Giles had pummelled his head to the ground. Where he had gone to, Doyle had no idea. But wherever he was, he had obviously taken it upon himself to bow out of the chase. Barker had taken the gun when he ran…

This isn’t good.

            His body itching with a dull aching, Doyle gingerly got to his feet and staggered over to a nearby wall, his hand rubbing his forehead to soothe the pain. The other, wet with his own blood, then reached inside his jacket and searched for his mobile phone.

Gone.

            Through all the agony and haziness, the panic took a moment to settle in. His eyes sporadically searched the floor around him. His heart pounded in his chest and a wall seemed to spring up across his mind, separating his thoughts from any logic and calm reasoning.

She can’t have taken it…

It simply wasn’t possible.

That phone contained everything: the numbers of all his contacts, the messages from the man who ordered him to kill Barker…

If Giles had her hands on that, the whole crew would be burst wide open and Doyle would be a target by sundown.

His life wouldn’t be worth living…

He would be hunted down and strung up as a message to all the others:

Don’t let the Boss down…

Tumbling to the ground, Doyle scrambled around on the floor, his hands reaching out as he made his way back towards where his car had been parked. His fingers began to bleed as he desperately clawed at the ground and, even though he was not a crying man, tears began to well up in the corners of his desperate eyes.

Breathing erratic.

Heart pounding.

Dead by sundown…

And then, when all hope had faded from his mind, he felt it.

The smooth case was a welcome relief. As Doyle pulled the phone towards him, he allowed himself to roll on to his back and sit up, cross-legged in the middle of the car park. Laughing gratefully to himself, he fiddled with the scratched screen and rifled through his contacts until he found the right number.

He raised the handset to his ear, jubilantly staring around at his grim surroundings but remaining resolutely sat on the ground.

His feet weren’t ready yet…

‘Is it done?’

‘They got away,’ Doyle muttered. ‘Giles got the drop on us. Your boy scattered before I had a chance to regain consciousness. He was next to useless…’

The voice on the end of the line gave a long, irritated sigh.

‘And Barker?’

Doyle hesitated, all glee quickly evaporating from his mind.

‘Barker got his gun. He’s armed.’

The line went quiet save for the heavy breathing on the other end of the line. Doyle reached back into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief that he placed up against his injured head, wincing slightly as he did so.

‘It doesn’t matter, the voice said finally. ‘We know where they are heading thanks to our contact. I’ve assembled a new team; they will meet you at London Bridge.’

‘The woman, Giles, might already suspect Carew. If she works it out, she may take Barker somewhere else…’

‘If Giles suspects anything we will soon know. She will not change her plans…’

‘How do you know?’

The voice chuckled.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles was on my trail for months. I make it my business to know how someone like that works.’ The voice hummed in self-approval of his logic. ‘Make sure you nab Barker before he can talk.’

‘And Giles?’

Another pause on the end of the line.

‘Without Barker, Giles is not a concern. Leave her be.’

The line went dead.

Lucky bitch.

Doyle pocketed the phone, checked his wound for any more bleeding and strode across the car park in search of a new car.

 

The phone in Harris’ pocket buzzed as he stepped on to the arriving train. The train was not an express service but it would do the job and get them to London on time.

He and Parsons took seats near to the doors as the mixture of sharp beeping and air hissing brought them to a close. Only when he was comfortable did he take his phone out of his pocket and examine the unknown number of the incoming call. He pondered it for a moment before he answered.

‘Harris.’

‘Harris, this is Detective Inspector Bolton from the Met…’

DI Bolton?

Harris instinctively sat up straighter in his chair and loosened his tie.

‘Oh, hullo. How can I help you?’

‘I am hearing conflicting reports up here about one of my team – a Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles.’

Harris’ eyes narrowed. ‘Conflicting reports?’

‘Something about her breaking a prisoner out of custody. Do you know anything about it? Have you come across DS Giles today?’

Harris hesitated for a moment, his eyes flickering towards Parsons who gazed distractedly out of the window as the train moved off.

‘I’m sorry, I don’t know anyone by that name…’

Alison Carew’s phone buzzed again. She’d been expecting a message, but this wasn’t it. She stared around the room and slid off her chair. She was vaguely aware of Lawrence’s curious eyes watching her as she made her way quickly across the control room, but she paid him no attention. She stepped into the kitchen and closed the door behind her, peering through the small window at the rest of her team before she dialled a number and waited for the person on the other end to answer.

‘Ali?’

‘Eve?’ Alison kept her voice at a low whisper. ‘I got your message, what’s wrong?’

Giles’ voice was nervous and panicky – far more than Alison had ever heard her before.

‘Ali, I’ve made a huge mistake…’

‘All right, calm down. Tell me what the problem is…’

‘We were ambushed at the station,’ Giles replied quickly. ‘Some guy called Doyle tried to kill Barker but we got away…’

‘Oh my God.’

The shock was real.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

‘Eve, are you all right? Are you hurt?’

Giles didn’t seem to be listening.

‘Doyle was a detective, Ali,’ she replied. ‘He had the credentials and everything…’

What the hell is going on?

Alison peered back through the glass window. Everyone was where they were meant to be, but that didn’t stop her from feeling very vulnerable.

‘Listen, Eve, you need to get yourself to the nearest police station…’

‘No, I can’t do that,’ Giles fired back. ‘Weren’t you listening? This guy was police. There are people inside our own service who want Barker dead. I can’t risk going to them…’

‘All right, all right. Where are you now?’

There was a slight pause before Giles spoke next.

‘I’m at a safe house in Brixton.’

‘One of ours?’

‘No, no, it’s an empty house on Claverdale Road.’ Giles hesitated. ‘Ali, I need you to get hold of Bolton – he’s the only one I can trust. Get him down here to help me get Barker to safety…’

‘Barker is still with you?’

‘Yes. Will you do it for me?’

Alison thought hard. Her mind whirred with disturbing thoughts and guilt.

‘Give me the address…’

Once she’d hung up the phone, Alison wasted no time in rattling off a quick message. Every fibre of her being was telling her it was wrong, but she did it anyway. After all, it was a superior officer she was texting – it’s not like this Doyle guy had found Giles because of her…

Was it?

It didn’t take long before her phone vibrated and lit up with the reply.

It was not what Alison wanted to see.

She’s on to you. Get out now.

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. 

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