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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.
‘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.
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?’
‘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.’
‘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…’
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.
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.
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.
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.’
Another pause on the end of the line.
‘Without Barker, Giles is not a concern. Leave her be.’
The line went dead.
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, this is Detective Inspector Bolton from the Met…’
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.
‘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…
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.’
Nick 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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