Tag Archives: debut

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!

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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Two

Over the next thirty-odd weeks, I will be releasing my debut novel – The Bluebell Informant – chapter by chapter. If you missed Chapter One, you can find it here.

If you can’t wait for the next instalment, you can download a free Kindle version from here, or download from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. A kindle version is also available on Amazon, currently priced a £0.99 ($1.23) and paperback editions are in the works as well.

Chapter Two

‘You’re DS Giles?’

The officer on duty at the cordon stared down at Giles’ warrant card. He examined her picture for a long time, taking in her long black hair and piercing grey eyes before glancing up once more.

‘Is that a problem?’

The officer shook his head tautly. ‘No. No problem at all. You’re just not what we expected, that’s all…’

He handed the warrant card back to Giles.

‘And what were you expecting, Constable?’

The officer’s eyes squinted in the bright sunshine. Lowering his gaze, he stared off to a point somewhere over Giles’ shoulder where three or four football matches were in session in the great expanse of the recreation ground. He watched the nearest game, his mouth pouting as his mind racked for an appropriate response.

Giles already knew what this was about. It was a testament to the times they were living in. A few months ago, her reputation would have spoken for itself. But now, every time she arrived at a crime scene, she would receive the same suspicious looks – the same guise of thinly veiled disgust.

Unbelievable…

The officer glanced back at her, his eyes lingering on the white, silk scarf around her neck. Then he gave her a quick smile and, as though the uncomfortable moment had never happened, lifted up the cordon tape for her to pass underneath and beckoned her through.

Giles stared for a moment, her whole body itching to lay into him for his disgraceful attitude. He could sense it as well for, as she stepped forward and ducked down, he lowered the cordon ever so slightly forcing her to fumble awkwardly to the ground and wriggle under the tape.

‘Oops,’ he muttered jovially. ‘Sorry, ma’am.’

Scrambling back to her full height, Giles glared at the constable, wanting nothing more than to dress him down right then and there. But prudence got the better of her – sure, she was a superior officer but she knew who would come off worse in such an altercation.

He was in his own patch and she was an undesirable.

‘DI Harris is waiting for you across the bridge.’

Giles gave a curt nod of thanks and made her way towards the thin wooden bridge that crossed into the next field. Behind her, the officer giggled quietly to himself and she could feel his eyes watching her as she moved up the creaking steps and over the sturdy structure. Beneath her feet, a feeble brook flowed down towards a tributary where it joined a larger river in a series of shallow, but ferocious, weirs that crashed its way down stream towards the town of Edenbridge.

Giles reached up and pulled her scarf a little tighter, pulling it as close to her skin as she could bear.

She hadn’t thought much of the town as she had driven through it. True, there was a lot more greenery – trees, open fields, hedgerows – than one might expect from a town with a population of eight thousand people, but the vast majority of the architecture seemed rather bland and unappealing. The exception to this, of course, were the numerous Tudor-style houses that made up the old town which, standing in the shadow of the local church, stood as impressive monuments to the town’s long history.

And a little further down river, Giles knew, was Hever Castle – the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. A grand estate that, in the wake of Anne’s execution for treason against King Henry VIII, had been effectively pawned off by the crown to buy the king’s next divorce. The estate had survived it, but now it stood as a testament to that terrible time – a memorial to how easily power could be ripped from those who would seek to betray.

Giles stepped off the bridge on the other end, her feet landing rigidly on the unforgivingly hard mud. The field in front of her was lined squat shrubs interspersing tall, ash trees on one side, and a collection of beech and oak trees and thickets that flanked the path of the river on the other. Flurries of bluebells grew beneath the shadows of the riverside trees, stretching out towards the edge of the path like a soft, violet carpet. The cool airy freshly cut grass reminded Giles of happier times – sweet, spice and earth – bringing back memories of a childhood long forgotten.

She followed the path, adjusting her step so as not to trip on the hardened imprints of a hundred dog walkers, until a short, rake-like man appeared from around the corner. Dressed in a slightly old and tattered suit, the man headed straight towards her, a large smile enveloping his face – a smile that rapidly diminished as he came within a few feet of Giles. He came to a stuttering halt and glanced curiously at her, his eyes drawn steadfastly to her face as his mouth slowly began to drop open.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles?’

Giles recognised the anxious whining of his voice straight away. She flashed him a brief smile and stepped forward, her hand outstretched.

‘Detective Inspector Harris…’

‘Please, call me Will…’

He almost withdrew from her, as though the touch of her hand might bring about some awful injury. His eyes remained steadfastly locked on her and it was several seconds after he noticed the awkwardness of her smile that he quickly stepped forward and grasped hold of her hand. His fingers were ice-cold and lacked confidence as they wrapped around Giles’ palm, barely grasping a firm enough hold to even hold contact.

Giles smiled. ‘You’ve been out here for a while.’

Harris released his grip and shuffled a couple of steps back.

‘Yes, quite,’ he replied, rubbing his hands together. ‘Our victim was discovered a couple of hours ago. Luckily I only got here shortly after I called you.’

He hesitated. His eyes quivered this way and that as they scanned Giles’ face and his tongue gently licked his top lip.

Giles pulled her silk scarf a little tighter around her neck. Beneath the smooth material, the old scar that ran across her flesh ached although there was no reason for it to. As the wind picked up around them, Giles thought she could hear a voice on the wind. The maniacal cackling of a ghost long gone…

Harris stared in silence as Giles, uncomfortable under his gaze, lowered her face towards the ground a little – concealing the already hidden scar from view.

‘Is there a problem?’ she asked tentatively.

Harris’ eyes registered surprise for only a moment before the broad smile returned, although somewhat half-heartedly.

‘No. Not at all. You are just…’ He hesitated for a moment. ‘You’re just not what I expected.’

A pulse of anger surged through Giles’ body. The scar in her neck ached a little more as her jugular pounded against her skin and her hands impulsively tightened into fists. For all the tension coursing through her body, Giles managed to keep a measure of control, but it was not enough to hide it from Harris. But the detective who, to Giles at least, seemed little more than a nervous excuse of a man, barely reacted to the display. On the contrary, he even raised a small smile towards her – a smile that Giles forced herself to reciprocate.

‘That’s the second time I’ve heard that comment in as many minutes…’

‘I should imagine so,’ he replied. ‘No one in their right mind would ever have suspected that you might turn out to be…’ He hesitated. ‘Well, that you were…’ He paused again. ‘You know?’

‘Asian?’

A slight waft of relief swooped over Harris’ face. ‘Yes, exactly. Asian.’

Giles tried her best to hide her sneer, although the coarse tone of her voice told the whole story:

‘Have you a problem working with Asians, Detective Inspector Harris?’

‘No. Not at all…’ Harris stuttered. ‘I’m just worried that I may have wasted your time…’

‘Because someone like me can’t do the job as well as you white folks…’

‘That’s not what I said at all…’

‘Then what are you saying?’

Harris stared back at Giles, his mouth falling even further open as he looked upon the fiery detective. As Giles glared back at him, she could see his mind racing – the cogs of his brain turning rapidly. He reached up and loosened his tie, pulling his collar out a little to allow the air to get to it and swallowing hard as he tried to form a coherent sentence.

‘I’m not the man you think I am.’

‘I’m not the one passing judgement.’

Harris licked his lips again and sighed heavily. Slowly, he nodded his head in agreement.

‘Somehow, I don’t think explaining myself will do me much good at this stage,’ he said, raising his hand to gesture down the pathway. ‘Maybe it would just be better if I show you.’

He didn’t wait for a reply. As he turned away, Giles saw Harris shaking his head slowly from side to side – whether from his own ineptitude or from his disgust at Giles, she had no way of knowing. She allowed the anger to subside a little and for her fists to unclench before she began to follow him.

They passed a small collection of trees and bushes that was surrounded almost entirely by more bluebells on their way towards the next corner. As Giles passed it by, a slight rustling of breaking twigs and grass caught her attention and, as she peered into the violet mass of flowers, she thought she saw two black eyes peering out at her. No sooner had she moved a few steps further and blinked had the two eyes vanished in amongst the undergrowth.

No time to explore the wildlife, Eve…

‘I know,’ she muttered.

She followed behind Harris as the pathway swooped around, following the course of the river, to reveal a small grassy area that seemed overgrown and unkempt. At the far side of this clearing, a set of bushes and small trees arched and twisted back and forth as they clambered up and around a small, squat, concrete building that sat, cold and lifeless next to the opening through to the next field. Wide, rectangular openings punctured the sides of this hexagonal oddity and the whole structure looked as though it had been half-built into the ground, for the highest point was no higher the head the heads of the SOCO officers that carefully searched the area.

Harris came to a stop at the edge of the clearing and waited for Giles to catch up. As she came alongside him, he stared with pride towards the dilapidated concrete box, puffing out whatever remained of his chest and placing his hands arrogantly on his hips.

‘Beautiful isn’t it?’ he asked, gesturing towards the bunker. ‘It’s an old World War Two pillbox. Built by us to stop the Germans crossing the River Eden in an invasion. There’s hundreds of the buggers lining the river.’

‘Why is it still here?’

‘It’s our heritage, isn’t it? It’s important for us to know where we come from…’

‘I wouldn’t know,’ replied Giles sarcastically.

Harris ignored the quip. ‘Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters. If it keeps them off the street then I say keep the bunkers standing.’

And why am I here?

As if in answer to Giles’ unspoken question, a couple of SOCO officers who had been kneeling down beside the pillbox stood up and back to reveal a crumpled corpse, sprawled up against the wall. The figure, a man that Giles supposed to be in his thirties or possibly forties, lay hard against the pillbox, his head contorted at a strange angle – his face calm and peaceful. Behind his head, blood splatters painted the wall and his clothing, as well as staining a small patch of grass ten or twelve metres in front of him.

Harris led Giles over to the pillbox, stepping around the SOCO photographer as he lined up to take a shot of the corpse. When the photographer was done, Harris moved in a little closer to the body, gesturing for Giles to do the same. As Giles knelt down beside the body, she could feel the eyes of the investigating team burning into the back of her head and the subsided anger began to brew once more.

‘What do you think?’ Harris asked, watching Giles intently.

Giles leaned a little closer, her eyes quickly scanning the body.

White male. Probably late thirties. Head slumped to one side. Large wound to the back of his head…

‘There’s a lot of blood on the wall,’ she said quietly. ‘He either had his head bashed against it or it was a gunshot injury…’

‘We found a bullet in the back of his head,’ confirmed Harris. ‘Go on.’

Very large opening. No obvious exit wound…

‘He was shot at long distance, I reckon. The victim probably turned his head at the last minute judging by the lack of an exit wound. The bullet blew out a large portion of his skull which is why he didn’t survive it…’

‘That’s our assessment as well…’

So what are you asking me for?

Giles turned her attention to his clothes.

Dark green coat – covered in blood. No surprise there.

Black waterproof trousers. Thick socks. Grey leather walking boots.

She leant forward and sniffed his lips.

Mint.

‘Well, he was a regular walker,’ she announced. ‘Probably enjoyed country hikes or geocaching or something like that.’

‘Why’d you figure?’

Giles smiled, gesturing to his clothing.

‘This man came out here for a walk. He’s wearing his waterproofs even though it is a nice sunny day. That implies to me that he wears these clothes out of habit.’ She gestured to his boots, leaning forward to pick some dried mud off the soles. ‘His boots are quite expensive, built for purpose. He has dried mud on them because he recently went out walking in the mud on a wet day.’

Harris chuckled. ‘A regular walker…’

‘Exactly.’

The victim’s features were relatively recognisable amongst the blood. His glazed over, green eyes; his skin tight against his cheekbones and long jaw; his neat brown hair, freshly gelled and styled; the small amount of stubble around his chin.

‘Do you know who he was?’ Giles asked, reaching down for the victim’s right hand.

‘No idea. He had no wallet or anything on him. A woman called the police when she came across him and another man but, so far, neither of them can tell us who he was. I don’t suppose you’ve seen him before, have you?’

‘No, why would I?’

Harris shrugged. ‘Just a punt, I guess.’

Giles sat back up. ‘Well, I can’t tell you who he was, but I can tell you he’d been married for some time.’

Harris stared blankly at her. Giles gestured down to a small, gold wedding ring on the victim’s finger.

‘Wedding ring,’ she explained. ‘His skin is quite tanned, probably as a result of all the walking he does. But the skin under the wedding ring is white as a sheet. Whatever prompted him to take up walking happened after he got married…’

‘I see…’

Harris stared down at the body for a good, long while before he slapped his thighs and sprang to his feet. With a renewed sense of energy, he reached forward and held his hand out for Giles to take, beaming as he did so.

‘Well, thanks for all your help, Giles,’ he said taking her hand a little more roughly than Giles would have liked. ‘You’ve been a great help. I’ll let you get back to your Bank Holiday.’

Before Giles could respond, Harris moved past her and sauntered his way back towards the path, heading in the direction of the next field where a group of uniformed officers were gathered around a tall, smartly dressed, man. Giles glanced back down at the body, racking her memory for any recollection of the poor man at her feet before she finally turned on her heels and chased after the retreating DI.

‘Is that is?’ she called out, overtaking Harris and bringing him to a stop. ‘Is that all you brought me down for?’

‘I told you I thought I had wasted your time,’ he replied, raising his hands defensively. ‘I apologise for the inconvenience…’

He tried to step past her but Giles, with an air of defiance in her eyes, stepped across to block his path.

‘You called me all the way down here to identify a dead man? Couldn’t you just have emailed me the crime scene photographs?’

‘I’m not really one for technology…’

‘So you summoned me down here? An hour driving for this?’

Harris swallowed hard. ‘I prefer the personal touch myself but perhaps on this occasion it wasn’t the most efficient use of anyone’s time…’

He took a step forward, hoping this action would force Giles out of his way. As he made contact with her, Giles stood firm, forcing Harris to retreat back, his face knotted with irritation.

‘What do you want from me, Evelyn?’

‘My friends call me Evelyn, Inspector Harris. You can call me Giles.’

‘Fine,’ Harris shot back. ‘What do you want?’

Giles let the question hang for a moment. She hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. Something about this whole scenario hadn’t made sense from the beginning, and it wasn’t to do with some casual racism either. Something about the death of the man affected Giles personally, or at least there was the potential it could. As she glared back at Harris, she felt his eyes drift over her shoulder as he looked towards the group of officers behind her.

What is it with people looking past me today?

“I think we have one of your informants’. That was what you said.’

Harris nodded. ‘Yes. At the time, that was my thought on the matter…’

‘But now you don’t think that.’

‘Evidently…’

‘But not because I didn’t identify the body,’ Giles said slowly, her eyes narrowing in to watch Harris’ reaction. ‘There was something that made you think you were wrong the moment you laid eyes on me. You already knew I was a woman so it wasn’t that…’ She saw Harris’ lip quiver. ‘It’s something to do with my ethnicity.’

Harris cleared his throat, his eyes darting around to look at anything apart from Giles.

‘I told you I had made a mistake…’

‘But how did you? There was nothing on that body that suggested he disliked Asian people. There was no membership card for the Britain’s Own Party. He wasn’t wearing a t-shirt with the slogan, ‘Britain for Whites’ on it. So how did you…?’ She hesitated. ‘You weren’t talking about the dead man, were you?’

Harris smiled and manoeuvred himself to step around Giles.

‘I’m really sorry but I have work to do. Thanks for coming down.’

This time he made it past her.

Giles span quickly around, walking just behind Harris as the path narrowed before moving in to the next field. Up ahead, the uniformed officers turned to watch as they approached and Giles began to smell the whiffs of smoke from the smartly dressed man’s cigarette.

‘There was another man,’ Giles said. ‘Someone else who you thought might be my informant.’

‘Yes, but we now know that isn’t true…’

‘Why not, sir? There must have been something to link me to this guy, or else you wouldn’t have called me out here…’

‘Yes, there is, but I can categorically say that he isn’t your informant.’

‘How would you know that?’ Giles blurted out, reaching forward and pulling Harris back around to face her. ‘If you don’t let me talk to him, how will you ever know?’

‘Because I already know, alright?’

Harris’ voice was loud enough that everyone stopped to watch. For a moment, the two detectives stood silently, glaring at each other as a smooth, spring breeze began to pick up around them. The leaves began to rustle in the trees and the carpet of bluebells rolled back and forth like a comforting duvet being aired over a bed.

Finally, Harris turned to the group of officers and slapped his thighs in surrender.

‘Fine,’ he muttered. ‘You can talk to him. But, I can guarantee you, you will not enjoy the experience…’

‘Why?’ Giles asked as Harris turned his back and marched towards the group of officers. ‘Who is it that could be so bad?’

Harris didn’t stop to answer. He marched straight up to the group of officers, signalled for a sergeant to come to him and engaged in a short, brief discussion. The sergeant nodded apprehensively before turning to signal for the rest to back away, leaving the smartly dressed man stood alone and isolated in a ring of police officers.

Giles hadn’t looked at him properly before – if she had, she might have realised it sooner. Behind the haze of cigarette smoke, the man stared out at Giles like a dragon considering its prey. His lips curled in disgust and his cold eyes drilled into Giles’ like an unforgiving branding iron. Despite the sunshine, the air around them seemed to grow cold with the breeze and Giles tugged furiously at her scarf, willing it tighter with every tweak.

Harris had been right. She wasn’t going to enjoy the experience.

 

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

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