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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!

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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 14

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 Fourteen

The train had been gone for over ten minutes now, and yet Harris’ heart was still racing. He could feel the blood pulsing through his wrists and, despite the care that he took to dab at his face with his overused handkerchief, sweat still cascaded through his pores. At least his breathing had normalised though:

Small mercies, he thought.

The race across Edenbridge had taken a lot out of him.

A little way up the platform, Parsons strolled out of the ticket office looking as fresh as ever. He gave a cursory glance up the train tracks and stepped up to join his superior. Giving him a sympathetic smile, Harris clapped him supportively on the shoulders and, without a single word of reproach, returned his gaze to the ticking clock on the board.

If Harris was ever known in the force for anything, it was for being fair. And this occasion was no different.

It had been he who had given Giles the opportunity to break Barker out. He had invited Giles down in the first place. And he had hardly proven his own athletic prowess in his failed attempt to keep up with the chase.

If blame were to be exacted, it would be upon him and no one else.

Parsons, following Harris’ gaze, glanced up at the departure board and cleared his throat.

‘The guy at the ticket booth reckons they got the fast train,’ he announced, his voice tinted with an air of bitterness and disgrace. ‘It has only one stop at East Croydon and then straight on into London. They should be there in about half an hour or so.’

‘Hmmm…’

Parsons shuffled awkwardly.

‘I’ve contacted the London boys,’ he continued. ‘They should have enough time to get into position by the time the train arrives. Transport Police have been informed as well. They’re monitoring the train in case they try to pull any emergency stops.’ He gave a small, satisfied smile. ‘I think we have them about cornered.’

Harris didn’t reply.

He renewed his pacing, this time venturing a little further up the platform. Parsons watched silently as Harris span back around and retraced his steps towards him seeming, in one moment, to open his mouth to say something but immediately stopping himself in the next. He span back around and walked away again.

‘You may as well rest, sir,’ Parsons said. ‘By the time the next train arrives, they’ll be coming into London. If I call for a patrol car, we could be there not long after…’

Harris wasn’t listening anymore.

Deep inside his pocket, his phone buzzed twice before falling silent. His hands dived into his pocket and retrieved the phone. With practiced agility, he unlocked the device with a quick stroke of his finger and raised it up to his eyes so that he could read the message it brought.

His eyes widened. The faintest hint of a smile adorned his face. He lowered the phone, shoved it back into his pocket and proceeded to stroll past the waiting detective in the direction of the ticket office.

‘Shall I call for that car, sir?’

‘I don’t think so, John,’ Harris replied as he reached the door. ‘I have a feeling the train will do just as well.’

 

Alison Carew’s phone flickered once more. The text she had sent was gone now and her screen returned to the message she had sent to Detective Inspector Harris.

Giles reported heading for Borough Market. Intercept her there.

She locked her phone and shoved it back in her pocket before marching confidently out of the kitchen and back to her desk. All around her, the rest of the team were busy co-ordinating the search for Giles and the fugitive, Barker, and not a single one of them so much as looked up as she sidled back to her desk and got back to work. Not even Lawrence, with his cunning eye and boyish mischievous nature could be distracted as he frantically spoke with the Transport Police.

‘No. We know it only stops at East Croydon,’ he said urgently, gripping tightly to the microphone on his headset. ‘We just need to know if it stops again.’

Carefully, Alison placed her own headset on and waited for the first rush of radio signals to be put through. Glancing around, she felt a genuine thrill at what was going on around her. The room was full of dispatchers frantically trying to find Giles – desperately trying to predict her next move. Not one of them had thought to ask Alison, and she was the only one with the full picture.

She sat back smugly in her chair as she tried her best to recall the text message she had received from Giles.

They had been school friends when they were growing up and remained close ever since but this had been, to her knowledge, the first time Evelyn Giles had ever asked her for a favour.

It was just a shame that she was helping Barker…

She had forwarded the message on to her contact and had texted Harris as instructed. Now it was just a matter of waiting it out to see what happened.

Oh, Evelyn. What have you done now?

 

Giles finished scribbling her notes and glanced up at Barker. He now sat quite still, his eyes closed and his fingers pressed tightly together as though he was trying to recall some distant memory. His lips and eyes opened as one when he finally latched on to the answer Giles was looking for.

‘He was only a few feet away when I knew something was wrong, he explained. ‘I thought little of him at first – just some athletic type taking a dog for a walk. Then I realised he was following me…’

He paused, eying Giles closely.

Giles stared quietly back at him, giving him a quiet nod of encouragement.

He continued:

‘Then I saw the gun. I only had a moment to make my choice: fight or flight. I was never much of a one for running and I’m not exactly known for backing away from confrontations…’

He paused again, nervously rubbing the back of his neck.

‘So I leapt at him – dived at him before he had a chance to shoot me. It was a fair fight at first, but he was so strong and in control. I’m not sure why but my legs gave way and I ended up collapsing into him. I don’t think he was expecting it. As we fell to the ground, he smacked his head on the ground…’

‘Was he unconscious?’

‘I have no idea. I didn’t wait to find out.’

‘But you took his gun?’

Barker nodded.

‘I ran to the nearest place I could find to hide.’

‘Why the nearest?’

‘I didn’t know how long he’d be out for,’ he replied. ‘I didn’t know if he was even out. I figured I had a better chance of evading him if I hid myself quickly than trying to run across open ground. The bunker was right there; I wouldn’t have to run far. Those things were designed to defend people and I had his gun should I need it so I…’

He paused for breath, his eyes flickering over to the window as the train sped through another station.

‘I don’t know how he knew. I guess he was more with it than I thought. I was barely inside for a second or more before I saw him marching towards me. He was reaching into his other pocket – you have to believe me, I thought he had another gun…’ His voice stuttered and broke. ‘I only meant to fire a warning shot.’

Giles glanced up at him, her eyes staring hard through his. ‘Why did you move the body?’

Barker sighed. ‘I may have been acting in self-defence, but I knew it would look like murder at first glance. I was a man hidden in a bunker shooting at a man outside – no jury alive would believe it wasn’t premeditated. And then when I searched his pockets and found he didn’t have a gun I… Well, I panicked.’

‘But you thought he was armed?’

Barker nodded. ‘Once I got him over to the bunker and out of sight, I decided to search the rest of him. My first thought was that he might something on him that could explain why he should attack me…’

‘Hence why our witness saw you going through his pockets.’

‘Exactly. I saw her straight away of course. I told her to call the police – I figured that if I was going to be arrested for murder, I may as well have someone about who could witness that I was trying to do the right thing. When she went off, I had a chance to look through his possessions before your colleagues arrived…’

‘And you found nothing on him at all? No way of identifying him?’

‘Nothing.’

Giles finished her notes and leant back, tapping her pen against her teeth.

‘So, what is the significance of the dog leash, I wonder?’

Barker’s eyes narrowed slightly. ‘I told you, he was trying to blend in.’

‘But clearly he didn’t have a dog with him,’ Giles explained, leaning a little further forward. ‘And there’s only so long a person can walk around with a dog leash but no dog before he starts to look out of place. Plenty of people use that pathway, not just dog walkers, so why bother at all? And say this was all part of some intricate hit on you, why go through this charade of walking after you when he could just hide in the pillbox himself and wait for you to go past. No risk of being identified. No risk at all that you would sense something was wrong before he had a chance to strike.’

Barker shrugged. ‘Perhaps they were sending a message. Maybe it was referring to me.’

‘But out of the two of you, you were the one sensible enough to chose a decent place to attack from. He was the one sent to do the hit, but you were the one who succeeded…’

Maybe that was the point…

Giles shook her head and dropped the notepad down on the seat next to her. He eyes slowly turned upon Daniel Barker.

Perhaps they were sending a message…

At that instant, the train sped through a tunnel and they were plunged into the semi-darkness of the dimly lit carriage. The two gazed at each other as the sound of the train echoed loudly about them, finally subsiding as it emerged out of the other end of the tunnel.

‘I think you had better tell me what this is all about.’

There was a brief silence in which Barker seemed to carefully consider his position before nodding reluctantly and shifting in his seat once again. His new posture lacked the power and casual nature of his previous demeanour replacing it with a rather distinct look of vulnerability that, despite his fading smile, he was unable to hide.

‘I don’t need to tell you who I am,’ he began. ‘Without sounding too arrogant, you know why I’m special…’

Special? That’s a unique way of describing yourself.

            ‘I don’t think there is anyone in the country who hasn’t heard your story and laughed, Mr Barker,’ Giles replied, flashing a sarcastically sympathetic grin. ‘There hasn’t been a party leader in living memory who has managed to win an election but failed to keep his own seat.’

‘Never in history,’ Barker corrected. ‘It’s a statistical impossibility. People are stupid and vote for the party leader they like the most. If people vote for my party, they are voting for me. The Party itself make it a sure thing by giving the leader a seat that is guaranteed to win come election time.

‘Before this election, everyone expected a coalition government in Downing Street and I was the man who held all the keys. The only way one of the major parties could win was if my party joined them in coalition.’ A slight smile sprang across his face as he recalled the previous year. ‘I was arguably the most powerful man in Britain. But even so, nobody expected us to actually win, let alone outright. Nobody thought the British people would vote for a party that, well let’s face it, was extreme to say the least…’

The smile faded from his face, replaced by a vague look of pain.

‘The election was a shock to everyone. Nobody predicted the outcome. And that was because the vast majority didn’t vote for us at all. Not even the majority of the majority voted for us. It was all staged. The volunteers who counted the ballots were all stooges. The officials were bought off. The MPs who lost their seats were threatened or paid off to keep them quiet and the newspapers didn’t bat an eyelid. That was the agreement I had with Him. He would see to it that my party won the election and in return he would have unlimited influence on the government of this country.’

Giles shook her head, her mouth dropping open. ‘This is absurd…’

‘Absurd?’ Barker repeated. ‘No more absurd than a far-right party coming out of left field to win by a landslide at the polls. No more absurd that the British people voting for a party that would deport skilled workers just to keep the country pure. No more absurd than…’ he paused, considering his next words carefully. ‘No more absurd than a brilliant detective committing a crime for the sake of a man who, for all she knows, might be a murderer.’

Giles stopped writing. As she glanced up, Barker gave a small nod of appreciation and the slightest hint of a smile.

‘Of course, the one thing I neglected to include into the bargain was that I should still hold on to my own seat when the dust had settled. Now, I am without my seat and my party, and at any moment I could be called on to do any manner of devilish things for this man who betrayed me by virtue of omission.’

At this point, Barker glared around the carriage once again as though hunting for any of the occupants who might be listening. He shifted himself a little closer to Giles so that his face was barely inches away from her own and stared intently into her eyes.

‘That is why I want to help you, DS Giles. I am afraid of what he might ask me to do. And I don’t deny that a small part of me seeks vengeance against him.’

‘But what has this got to do with the Bluebell Killer?’

Barker smiled.

‘Don’t you remember, Giles?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you remember how incredibly easy it was for you to track him in the end? After months of nothing the solution just landed in your lap – do you really think that was just luck? The whole thing was staged from the beginning. You were getting too close, so you were fed a killer to get you to back off. The man who manipulated your investigation is the same man who has manipulated the whole country. He conned you and betrayed me – and you can’t touch him without my help.’

Barker retreated back into himself, hunching his shoulders over as though he wanted nothing more than to melt into the seat behind him. His tired, fearful eyes glanced back around the carriage and he almost jumped out of his skin as a loud clatter rang out as the train trundled over a points junction.

Giles leaned in a little closer.

‘Who is he, Mr. Barker?’ she asked in hushed tones. ‘Who is it that has you so afraid?’

Barker swallowed hard. ‘You get me safely into London and to a safe house. When I am there, I will tell you everything you wish to know.’

Giles wanted desperately to argue but she knew there was little point. As she sank back into her seat, she felt the train slow beneath her and, at some distant part of the carriage, a speaker crackled into life.

Next stop East Croydon. East Croydon, next stop.

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 13

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 Thirteen

Barker remained by the carriage doors watching the countryside race by.

He pressed his hand hard against his chest as he attempted to steady his breathing. He wiped the dribbles of sweat from his brow and took a few short, sharp breaths as though he were trying calm himself down. Every so often, he closed his eyes in deep contemplation and then would shake his head, shuffle his feet and lean up against the door as he screwed up his face in some hidden agony.

Giles watched him through the reflection of her window. Barker pushed himself a little up from the doorway and tilted his head towards her. Beneath the shadow of his brow, his keen eyes glanced at her with deceptive coolness before returning to his tormented state.

Giles smiled and shook her head.

This is all for my benefit, she thought.

This act continued for a short while. Giles had to admire the man’s staying power – he was determined that she should see what horror he was going through and seemed reluctant to move away from the door until he’d seen her notice it. Giles might have ignored him for the whole journey were it not for her own need for answers.

She turned her head away from the window and peered cautiously over the seats in front of her. She eyed the politician, willing him to look up so the façade could be over and, sensing her gaze, he too looked up and allowed himself to stare into her eyes. It only lasted for a moment and then, seeming to remember himself, Barker dropped his stare to the floor and began pacing back and forth across the carriage with such over-stated determination that Giles couldn’t help but laugh to herself.

So over dramatic.

However, despite the intensity of his desire for Giles’ attention, there was definitely something troubling Barker. His brow was arched with worry and his hands consistently rose up to his face to rub his temples. Beneath the mask of conceited emotions, there was a man who genuinely struggled with a great problem; a dark worry that had clouded over his mind and turned his skin pale.

Whatever thoughts were plaguing his mind evaporated in an instant.

Barker stared into the carriage window and used his reflection to brush himself down. His back grew straighter and his clothes were repositioned until he almost looked respectable. He glanced up at Giles and confidently stepped away from the train door, swaggering down the carriage towards her. As he collapsed in the chair opposite, he lounged back into it with the air of a man without a care in the world.

Beneath this confident guise, his eyes betrayed the fear in his mind. They slowly crept around the train, surveying each passenger with absolute scrutiny as they made their way along from seat to seat. Once satisfied that he wasn’t in any immediate danger, Barker looked at a point somewhere down the far end of the aisle and remained like that, in absolute stillness, long after Giles lost interest.

Giles had almost recovered from their race to the train. She felt normal for the most part, save for the damp patch of sweat that had accumulated in the small of her back. She squirmed in her seat a little to dispel the discomfort but she could feel it all the same.

Needing a distraction, she removed her phone from her jacket pocket and engaged the Internet browser application. Silently stuttering, the phone tried to open the National Rail webpage but, despite the abundance of signal, the screen remained infuriatingly blank.

            Bloody thing.

She refreshed the browser in the vain, hoping that it might make a difference but – infuriatingly – the progress bar advanced no further.

She felt a small tap on her leg. Barker had leant forward and pressed a single digit on Giles’ knee. He smiled at her coyly and nodded knowingly towards the phone.

‘The 12.15 is a fast train,’ he declared. ‘It has only one stop. East Croydon.’

Giles nodded but continued to concentrate on her phone, closing down the web browser and pulling up her message menu. The smile slowly disappeared from Barker’s face.

‘Don’t you believe me?’

Giles’ eyes flickered up. ‘I believe you…’ Her eyes returned to the phone’s screen.

Barker peered cautiously at her from the opposing seat. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Running interference.’

‘Interference?’

Giles nodded.

‘And what does that mean?’ Barker asked, his face immediately clouding over with suspicion.

‘You don’t need to know.’

Barker collapsed back into his chair, sniggering to himself. ‘You know, you’re going to have to trust me some time.’

‘Quid pro quo, Mister Barker. I don’t have to trust you with anything.’

The comment sounded as blunt as Giles had intended, but she hadn’t banked on the effect it would have on the man sat opposite. His smile lingered for a moment longer before disappearing with a gulp. His face fell – he looked positively crestfallen – and his hands nervously cupped each other as he rubbed the thumb of one against the palm of the other.

Giles glanced up, feeling a pang of guilt. Barker was an enigma. One minute he exuded confidence and the next he retreated into himself like a scolded schoolboy. He was weak, out of control – waiting for his misdemeanours to be tolled against him…

Misdemeanours? Don’t give him your sympathy. He doesn’t deserve it.

Giles shook her head and cleared her throat.

‘We may have a fast route in to London, but there is still very little room for manoeuver,’ she said. ‘If Harris is half as good as I think he is, we will still have a reception committee waiting for us when the train pulls in at London Bridge.’

Barker’s eyes flickered. ‘So what now?’

‘I’ve texted ahead. I need my team on standby to head Harris off. They’ll give us safe passage for the time being…’

‘And you trust your team?’

As though all injury to his pride had been forgotten, Barker leant back against his chair and calmly flung his right hand over the back of the seat beside him. His right leg crossed over his left and started to bounce rhythmically in the air. Giles had seen this image of Barker before – it had been on a late-night chat-show interview not long before the election.

Not long before everything had gone wrong for him…

Barker watched intently as Giles pocketed her phone and leant back in to her chair. There was something of an attractive quality about her, he supposed, although there was never any doubt that she wasn’t remotely his type. Still, as she stared out of the window at the countryside skimming past, he allowed his eyes to slowly wander down her face, skipping over her hidden neck until they arrived on her chest. He felt himself smile as his eyes traced the line of her bosom beneath her cotton shirt before allowing them to saunter further south.

‘You are remarkable woman, DS Giles,’ he announced, quickly flickering his eyes back up to her face before Giles had a chance to glance back towards him. ‘Most other detectives would have thrown me to the wolves and to hell with the consequences. But you risked everything – your whole career – just to protect me.’

Giles stared back at him blankly and said: ‘I still might,’ before returning her gaze back to the window.

Barker smacked his lips. He could see the tension building across Giles’ brow – the unmistakable pulse of frustration and anger. He wondered how difficult this was for her – undoubtedly nowhere near as difficult as it was for him – but probably not a walk in the park all the same. She was no happier about protecting him than he was of being in her debt. Although – she had some added benefits. She would be able to dine out on this story for years, if she didn’t end up in prison first.

Or deported.

It was almost a shame really.

He leant forward a little closer, his eyes shining with mischief.

‘So, Giles is your husband’s name?’ he mused. ‘I bet adopting an English sounding name suited you right down to the ground, didn’t it? Although I imagine your parents did the same thing when they arrived here. They adopted an English name to fit in I suppose?’ Giles’ eyes returned to stare daggers at him. ‘I mean, you hear it all the time – Chinese people giving themselves Western names to try to hide how different they are…’

Giles blinked once.

‘My father was British,’ she replied curtly.

‘Oh, I see,’ Barker replied, beginning to feel a familiar surge of supremacy coursing through his body. He was enjoying himself. ‘He was one of those. Doesn’t mind watering down the blood as long as he gets himself a child who becomes a top doctor or something. He must’ve been so disappointed when he found out you were joining the Police.’ He chuckled quietly. ‘But I bet your mother was happy. She got a free ticket to just wander into this country and enjoy the society that we spent hundreds of years crafting. She ran away from her own homeland because she couldn’t be bothered to change the things that she didn’t agree with – too lazy to make a difference to her own country. I bet she’s living off the state and your father as we speak.’

This time, Giles didn’t blink, although her jaw visibly tightened as she clenched her teeth.

‘My mother died giving birth to me,’ she said, sullenly.

Barker raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, I guess that’s something…’

‘She was a political activist,’ Giles continued, feeling the anger surging through her. ‘She devoted her life to fighting the government in China, to bring about change for her and her people. She wasn’t a militant – never that brutal. She was peaceful. She was kind. She wanted to make a difference. And one day, they arrested her. She was put in a prison where she was raped and tortured for months on end. I was born in that prison and she died bringing me into this world…’

Barker smirked. ‘So, not even a real Brit!’ He clapped his hands together scathingly. ‘I suppose that’s one way to deal with the problem. You were the daughter of an undesirable. They just flung you out and you ended up sponging off my country. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from the Chinese after all…’

A flicker of anger shot across Giles’ face. A surge of triumph filled Barker’s mind.

At last, he thought. Time to see how far DS Giles is willing to go to…

 

Giles stared hard into Barker’s eyes, her fists clenched and shaking with rage. He was trying to provoke her – she knew that. He wanted to test her. He needed her to be able to put aside her own anger for him. He needed to know that he could trust her.

This was a hurdle she had to clear if he was going to give her anything – she knew that all too well. But that didn’t make it any easier.

She could cope with the meaningless flirtation, with the sly smiles that suggested there could be some attraction between the two of them – but listening to his insults was a heavy load and Giles wasn’t sure how much she could bear.

He doesn’t expect you to shrug it off. Don’t try to hide who you are…

‘My father was a good man,’ she replied defiantly. ‘He couldn’t have children of his own, so he came to China to help those less fortunate than himself. He saved me and brought me back here, and now I am working hard to better this country.’

‘You’re only as strong as your weakest link,’ Barker replied casually. ‘If your kind wanted our country to be better, you wouldn’t be sitting on a British train.’

Giles jutted her head towards Barker, her lips snarling with anger.

‘And who are you to make that call? What makes you so damn special that you can discriminate and pass judgement on people just because of the colour of their skin?’

‘It’s not just the colour that makes the weed…’

‘You and your pathetic party of racist bigots – too short sighted to see that the people you attack are people too. Too self-righteous to believe that anyone who isn’t like you can make a positive difference in this world. Too stupid to even realise how pathetically pointless you all really are…’ She paused for a moment to draw breath. ‘You tell me something, what exactly is so great about being British…?’

Barker faked a laugh. ‘There was once a time when the rest of the world was intelligent enough that they didn’t need to ask that question. When our Empire ruled the world, everyone knew their place…’

‘What gives you the right to judge anyone as being inferior? You’re nothing but a criminal…’

Giles turned her head back towards the window. Almost as soon as the rage had appeared, it now began to subside as though the heavy weight had been lifted from her mind. After all these months of ranting into mirrors, imagining conversations and strutting away in triumph she had finally had her moment. She had faced down the man who had encouraged the destruction of her world – of her way of life.

And yet it didn’t feel good.

There was still an empty, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

It wasn’t over for her yet.

‘It’s interesting,’ Barker mused. ‘You have as much anger and disgust for me as I have for you…’

‘Maybe I should’ve left you for the wolves after all…’

‘Maybe you should’ve. But you didn’t.’ Barker’s voice had softened and, when Giles finally looked back at him, his face had relaxed from its mischievous demeanour to something more sincere. ‘You hate everything I stand for and everything about me. You deny my right to believe what I chose to believe and belittle the opinions of the British people. And yet you risk everything to help me…’

‘I don’t have a choice,’ Giles replied bitterly. ‘You have information I need.’

‘There’s always a choice, Giles. The question is, when you get what you want, are you going to be honourable enough to put your anger aside and let me walk free?’

‘I was brought up to be an honourable person…’

‘Not to DI Harris,’ Barker said. ‘You left him well and truly in the lurch. Did it never occur to you that he will probably lose his job over this? That you’ve condemned an innocent man to a lifetime of shame?’

Giles hesitated.

‘This is important…’

‘Important enough to ruin a man’s career?’

Giles’ eyes narrowed.

‘I’m not you,’ she replied firmly, allowing the last of the tension to drain from her body.

They fell into silence. Barker’s eyes covertly drifted away from Giles and began to stare back down the train.

‘Who was the man you killed?’

The question caught Barker off guard. In a flash, his hand rose to his lips and his darting eyes once again took in those around him to see if anyone had heard. With an expression panged with discomfort, he replied: ‘I really have no idea.’

‘Bollocks. He knew who you were. And you knew he was coming.’

Giles fell back into her seat and gazed out of the window. She wasn’t looking at anything in particular – something spectacular could have been happening outside those windows and she wouldn’t have noticed it. She was far away, lost in a river of her own thoughts – a collection of streams; each one filled with its own doubts and fears as it congregated a single image in her mind.

She had hoped to forget that day, but in truth she never could. It was all such a betrayal…

‘You did what?’

Giles stared at Jason, her eyes boring deep into him as her body shook and swelled with unadulterated rage. Standing before her, Jason’s mouth dropped open and he seemed to freeze to the spot as the television in the corner proudly announced the election results.

‘I don’t get what the problem is,’ he replied. ‘It’s not like I’m the only one…’

‘You bloody fool…’

‘Why? For doing what I thought was right?’

‘What was right? Do you have any understanding about what this will do to me?’

‘Oh, stop being so over-dramatic…’

That was his favourite line. Jason often used it when he thought it would win an argument, and today was one of those days. Giles shook her head in utter dismay.

‘Over dramatic?’ she repeated, her eyes ablaze with fury. ‘Did you not listen to any of the things that man was spouting?’

‘They don’t mean you,’ he replied. ‘They mean all the immigrants. You know? The ones who don’t pull their weight…’

‘Don’t be so naïve…’

Jason shook his head and strolled across the room. For a moment this seemed like the end of the argument but, no sooner had he reached the kitchen, Jason turned back around and marched straight over to her.

‘You know what your problem is, Eve? You’re too clever for your own good.’

‘Too clever? How can you be too clever?’

‘You see things as fact and fiction,’ Jason continued, pointing an angry finger at her. ‘You only see the truth you want to see and any other fact is just a lie…’

‘A lie? Jason, Daniel Barker said that there is no such thing as a good foreigner. As a man who married a Chinese-born detective, you would have thought you might see through something like that…’

‘There you go again.’ He slapped his hands on his thighs, before raising them up in victory. ‘Everything has to come back to your job, doesn’t it?’

‘No,’ Giles returned, thrusting her own finger at Jason – he wasn’t going to turn this into something else. Not this time. ‘This is nothing to do with my job – it’s about you making a stupid decision and trusting a man who would have your own wife deported if he had the chance…’

Jason could do little else but shake his head.

‘Maybe I’m not the one being stupid. Maybe – just for once – you can look at a man and, instead of deciding that you know everything there is to know about him, try seeing the world from where he stands.’ He turned towards the bedroom door. ‘Try defending Daniel Barker for once – then you might realise how wrong you are…’

He disappeared into the bedroom and slammed closed the door.

Try defending Daniel Barker for once…

Giles shook the words from her head. It had been such a bitter argument – it had almost torn them apart. In many ways, it still could.

And yet, as Giles’s eyes began to focus on a small collection of buildings on the horizon, his words began to rattle around her head, getting louder and clearer with each passing moment.

You might realise how wrong you are…

Her eyes flickered over to Barker. Maybe Jason was right – maybe she was dealing with Barker in the wrong way. The man was hiding something, that was true enough, but was he really a murderer? Had she found proof of his guilt, or simply found what she wanted to find…?

‘Try seeing the evidence from Barker’s view,’ she muttered under her breath.

It couldn’t hurt, a voice in her head replied. At worst, you’ll convince Barker that you’re willing to back him up. What do you have to lose?

‘My dignity…’

From the opposite seat, Barker’s eyes narrowed on her and his brow fell into a frown. ‘Sorry?’

Giles dismissed him with a shake of the head.

It couldn’t hurt…

She leant back again, her eyes narrowing and glazing over as she remembered the smell in the pillbox. That musky, smoke smell that she struggled to identify…

Damp cigarettes or gunpowder?

            She closed her eyes and concentrated on that smell. As it filled her nostrils, a flood of memories coursed through her mind and she slowly began to piece the crime scene back together. For the first time that day, she was beginning to be honest with herself. She had wanted Barker to be guilty, and everything she’d found at that crime scene had only convinced her of his guilt.

But is there another explanation?

DI Harris had said something about the pillboxes. It was one of the very first things he’d said to her.

Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters…

No, not that. Giles raised a hand to gently massage her temple.

True, there had been evidence of someone staying there, but there had been no sign of a second witness. If Barker had murdered the victim, anyone in the pillbox would have stayed well hidden until the coast was clear. There was no one in there when the police arrived…

So, who was in the pillbox? The voice whispered. What did Harris say?

            Giles screwed up her face and concentrated hard. The pillbox was significant – that smell had to have come from somewhere. Someone must have been in the pillbox, but no one left.

            What was it Harris said?

She replayed the day in her mind – every second from the moment Harris first clapped eyes on her to the second she first saw the body lying collapsed against the pillbox. She remembered every word he’d said – how the pillboxes had been built in the Second World War to defend the River Eden from…

That’s it, the voice muttered triumphantly. Self-defence…

Giles imagined the scene. She was stood in the pillbox, staring out at the SOCOs as they took away the victim’s body. She formed a gun with her fingers and pointed it out towards the patch of blood in the middle of the clearing…

Self-defence…

            She could see him now. Daniel Barker crouching in the pillbox, aiming a gun out at the victim – slowly pulling the trigger and watching as the air around him filled with gun powder smoke.

Giles’ eyes snapped open.

Try defending him for once…

She leant forward and stared hard into Barker’s eyes.

‘Why the pillbox?’

‘I don’t understand…’

‘Why did you climb into the pillbox?’

‘I…’ he hesitated ‘… I didn’t.’

‘There was grey powder on your shoes – powder that’s consistent with the concrete on the floor of the pillbox. The inside smelt of smoke, Barker – smoke from the gun you fired.’

‘No,’ Barker replied, shaking his head violently. ‘It was self-defence.’

‘So, where better to take refuge than a pillbox?’ She leant back in her chair, staring aimlessly at the ceiling. ‘I’ve been such a fool.’

Barker’s eyes narrowed with concern.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I thought the evidence was pointing towards you being the murderer. But I see it now…’

She glanced towards Barker.

‘Someone wanted to stop you from talking. Someone who knew about you and what you were planning on doing…’

‘Planning on doing?’

‘The message,’ Giles shot back. ‘The message you sent me three days ago. ‘Keep an eye on your mailbox’. Someone had to know what you were planning on sending me – someone clever enough to know that if we ever met I would never believe that you were innocent, no matter what the evidence.’ She sighed, shaking her head in shame. ‘I was so wrapped up in my hatred that I didn’t realise that was precisely what they were counting on…’

She let her voice trail off. She didn’t know if she believed any of it – even as she’d constructed the argument for Barker’s innocence, she’d begun to feel sick to the stomach. Even by suggesting it, she was betraying her principles and morals. She was handing Barker a sturdy defence, one that she was sure he’d utilise if the case ever came to trial – and yet, it was as legitimate an explanation as anything she’d believed about him so far. It was no more far fetched than the idea that a politician would commit a murder in such an open place…

            My God, she thought. I’m beginning to sound like him.

She was beginning to feel empty inside, like she’d sacrificed some part of her soul just by thinking it. But this was a necessary evil. If it got Barker to trust her, it was good enough for the moment.

She let out a half-hearted laugh and said:

‘This isn’t just about you, Barker. It’s about both of us. Someone wants to stop you from talking. They sent an assassin to make sure of that. But should it all go wrong and you were able to tell your story, they wanted to make sure that I’d never listen.’

‘The Bluebell Killer,’ Barker replied confidently. ‘I knew he had fingers in the government, but I had no idea he had the police in his pocket as well. He knew you were my contact. There’s nowhere else he could have got that information except through the police…’

Giles shook her head. ‘Not a hope. I kept your involvement a secret. Not even Bolton knew that I had an informant – you made it clear that’s what you wanted…’

‘Oh…’ Barker thought hard for a moment.

‘But it must be true,’ Giles continued, ignoring the awkward silence. ‘How else did the bullet casing vanish from the pillbox? Someone in Harris’ team wanted there to be missing evidence to make us question your version of events – to make sure there was no doubt in our minds that you were guilty…’

‘Or Harris himself?’ Barker muttered.

Giles shook her head. ‘Harris was sure you were innocent. It was only when I turned up that he got convinced otherwise…’

‘Thank God you turned up,’ Barker replied with a grimace. ‘But why did Harris even get your involved? Why did he bring you down to the crime scene? It certainly wasn’t just because I asked for you…’ He paused to think. ‘He needed you there to witness my downfall. He needed you to be convinced that I was nothing more than a liar and a murderer so that when I tried to talk…’

‘I wouldn’t listen.’

Barker nodded, sitting back in his chair with a strange posture – relaxed yet alert at the same time. He seemed almost like a man who’d just won a debate, savouring a moment of victory but ready for the inevitable counter argument.

Giles shook her head.

‘I can’t believe it was Harris…’

‘If not Harris, then someone on his team.’

Giles nodded. Leaning forward, she placed a comforting hand on Barker’s and smiled sweetly as she gazed into his troubled eyes.

‘Who are they, Daniel?’ She asked. ‘Who would go to this much trouble just for a back-up plan?’

Barker’s eyes twitched.

They work for Him,’ he said pointedly. ‘And He is more dangerous than you could possibly imagine.’

 

Barker let his words hang in the air. Giles waited with baited breath for him to continue, her eyes wide and ready to explore the possibilities. Barker had witnessed her mind finally open up to the world, watched as she breathed in a new way of thinking that had finally led her to realise that there was more to all of this than just her belief in his guilt.

There was truth as well.

Did he believe this newfound open-mindedness on her part was genuine?

Not a jot…

It had been all too easy. She’d been too willing to give up her convictions for the benefit of a man she didn’t like let alone trust. It was all too obvious.

She and Barker were two warriors, dancing around each other – each word they uttered was a thrust at each other’s armour; each parry another lie that they told. They were two mortals locked in a battle of wit and deceit from which only one could emerge victorious…

She may even have been as good at it as he was.

Regardless, Giles had demonstrated that she was at least willing to fake trust in him – even if she didn’t really believe it herself.

That was good enough for Barker – for the moment.

Maybe, I might just get what I want…

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 11

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 Eleven

Barker walked with the air of a man being sent to the gallows. To the casual observer, he seemed sullen and lacking in energy. He dragged his feet along the ground, kicking up dust and stones as he plodded along the pathway, whilst keeping his hands firmly bound together in front of his stomach. His head was angled down and yet, in the shadows beneath his brow, his eyes darted energetically about him.

The pair of them – Giles and Barker – moved slowly down the pathway. She muttered frantically, her hands jutting out this way and that as she pleaded with him. He said nothing at all.

Up ahead, Harris and the other detective began to cross the bridge. They stopped halfway across to check on Giles’ progress before disappearing over the other side as they emerged into the playing fields beyond.

A few minutes later, Giles and Barker arrived at the bridge themselves. Despite the melancholic plod in his stride, the politician revealed nothing of his emotions or feelings save for a sudden, uncontrollable shiver that seemed to grip his hands. He was jittery – that much was certain – but Giles observed this apparent display of fear with a cynical and professional eye, content in the knowledge that it was little more than an act for her benefit. She might have continued to believe this had it not been for the sudden crack of twigs in a nearby bush, which prompted the politician to yelp in fright and almost around the side of the bridge and into the shallow stream below.

He gripped a tight hold of the wooden barrier and peered nervously into the bracken as the creature – whatever it was – rustled its way unseen through the twigs and leaves. The longer he stared, the paler his face became. His brow was punctuated with small globules of milky sweat and his skin appeared no longer clean and youthful, but waxy and wrinkled as though premature aging had struck him in that very instant. In a moment or two, the rustling became instinct against the gentle swishing of swaying trees and grass, and Daniel Barker relaxed a little.

But the cracks were showing.

He was terrified.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Giles worked hard to control her breathing as her heart pounded ferociously inside her chest. She had been given a finite time. She had the length of the walk back to the cars to get what she needed from Barker – after that she would have to wait her turn. Beyond the footbridge, she knew she had two hundred metres – two hundred metres of rugby and football pitches – before she would have to hand him over.

They would walk across the fields, avoiding the games being played by the Bank Holiday crowd, and head across to the clubhouse where the fleet of police vehicles would wait in readiness. And when they arrived, a squad of constables would descend on him, pin him up against a patrol car and restrain his hands once more.

Giles didn’t know if Barker would cry out, but she supposed he wouldn’t. With such an audience of sporting fans, he would want to retain some element of dignity. He wouldn’t want to be remembered as the corrupt politician who was dragged away in chains. He’d want to be the noble martyr being led to quietly to his confinement. Wrongfully imprisoned but defiant to the last.

The portrait of an English gentleman…

She allowed Barker to step ahead of her on to the bridge. Her hands trembled with trepidation as they gripped the wooden handrail. This would be her chance – she knew it all too well. Harris would never allow Barker to simply go free – she knew that as well. If Barker didn’t talk now, if he didn’t tell her what she knew, she might never get another chance. He might sulk in silence, clinging on to his last trump card – never playing it as long as he was locked away from the world…

Then all this would have been for nothing…

Her mind flitted back to Jason, his face contorted with anger as he ranted about how her job was taking over her life. He had known she was a career woman when he married her, but something had changed in the past few months. All of his friends now had bouncing babies, families – and Jason had become more than a little broody.

But he knew the deal. Giles would work ten years on the force before she stopped to have children, and there were still three more to go. In truth, Giles couldn’t face the idea of bringing children into the world. Not this world at any rate.

‘If you want my help, you’re going to have to give me something,’ she said, pausing on the bridge to watch the stream trickle quietly below.

The water of the weir crashed loudly a short distance away. The easterly wind whipped up harder through the trees, causing them to sway and creak and rustle. Barker stopped to ponder the nature as well. Standing side by side the two were in perfect isolation – no one could hear them speak or catch them off guard. And yet, despite their remoteness, Giles couldn’t help shaking the feeling that they were being watched.

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

‘You know I can’t do that.’

‘Well, you’re going to have to,’ replied Barker, taking on the air of the party leader once more. ‘If I end up in a police cell, I will be dead before sunrise tomorrow morning.’

‘I can assure you, you will be perfectly safe.’

Barker scoffed. ‘You don’t even know who you are protecting me from.’

‘Then tell me.’

‘I told you, when I’m safely away from here and out of police custody.’

‘Harris’ team are more than capable of protecting you…’

‘And you trust Harris?’

In the distance, Harris stopped and looked back at them, almost as though he’d been beckoned by his own name. He stood watching them for a moment until Giles finally gave Barker a slight nudge and the two descended off the footbridge onto to the perfectly cut grass of the recreation field. The police cordon had long since been removed and already several dog walkers were pacing purposefully across the field in the direction of the bridge.

Barker eyed a Jack Russell suspiciously as it bounded past them, ignoring the curious glances of recognition from its owner. Up ahead, Harris turned again and continued walking, although he continued to throw the occasional glance back at the meandering pair.

‘They have evidence that you committed a murder, Mr Barker. They’re not just going to let me walk you out of here.’

‘Then you have two problems…’

‘So, tell me what I want to know and I will have you in protective custody in a matter of hours.’

Barker laughed again. ‘I spent years relying on other people to protect me. All it ever got me was one great, big, colossal failure on the largest stage in Britain.’ His voice hissed with bitterness:

‘Do you what they told me during the election? They said there was no need to focus on my own constituency – they said it was a sure thing. The public were going to back us to the hilt and all I had to do was focus on discrediting the government.’

Giles shrugged. ‘You needed better advisors…’

Barker scowled. ‘Then, on results day, it was my constituency that didn’t fall into line – myvoters that left me out in the cold. So, I think I’m right in saying that I’ve learnt the hard way that relying on other people leads to nothing but failure. And, when my life is the stake I’m playing for, I don’t much relish the idea of putting my faith of success in someone else’s hands – especially yours…’

‘You don’t really understand your position, do you?’

‘Quid pro quo, Giles,’ he shot back. ‘You need to think of another way to get me out of this mess, because if I’m in a police cell you won’t get what you want. If I’m locked away, my information is locked away with me…’

‘The Bluebell Killer.’

Barker gave her a cold, hard look. ‘You know what? When you killed that boy, he laughed. As he lay dying on the floor, he stared into your eyes and cackled with glee. He was so pleased with himself. – so delighted with what he’d done. He’d played you like a fucking fiddle – and there you were, basking in the triumph of it all…’

It was as though Giles’ whole body shut down. Her feet staggered to a halt as the weight of memories came crashing down around her. She could see him now. Alex Donnovan lying sprawled on the floor, staring up at her as his laughter echoed through the garage. His eyes sparkling with victory.

‘How the hell do you know that?’

Barker turned and smiled. ‘Curious, isn’t it?’

He waited for Giles to take hold of herself and start walking again.

‘Alright, let’s say I believe you,’ Giles muttered. ‘Who is he? Who is the Bluebell Killer if not Donnovan?’

A curious smile crept over Barker’s face. His hand emerged from his right trouser pocket and he waggled a lone finger at the detective, tutting playfully as he did so. ‘Quid pro quo, Giles. You don’t have much time.’

Giles slowed her pace a little more. They passed through the shadow of a rugby post, momentarily flickering their faces into darkness before emerging into the light once again. She stared thoughtfully at Barker. Her hair and scarf fluttered enthusiastically in the breeze as though the wind were strong enough to swoop her right off her feet. And yet, Barker remained perfectly still – his hair didn’t twitch and his clothes didn’t quiver – unmoveable against the elements.

‘You’re not even bothering to proclaim your innocence anymore.’

‘It wouldn’t make any difference if I did,’ Barker replied, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Your situation would still be the same.’ A slight smile crept across his face as his eyes flickered across Giles’ face. ‘They say you Chinese types are good with numbers. Let’s see what odds you can come up with for a successful escape. Tick-tock.

 

Harris came to a halt next to his car and turned back to look across the playing fields. Nearby, a football match had just finished. The players and supporters cheered and applauded each other whilst the two distant figures of Giles and Barker meandered across the far rugby field.

Harris felt Detective Sergeant Parsons slide into the spot next to him.

‘They’re taking their time,’ he observed. ‘Where are they going – a funeral?’

Harris turned to his colleague. Parsons was still relatively inexperienced as a sergeant, but his keen eyes breathed in his surrounding with the air of one who had seen it all. His trimmed muscles bulged beneath his cotton shirt and his neat, short hair spoke of a time before the police force.

Once a soldier…

‘DS Giles is attempting to extract some information from the suspect before he take him in.’

‘Don’t see the point, if you ask me. Anything she gets wouldn’t stand in court.’

‘It’s to do with another case. Giles asked for some time alone with him before he gets lost in a sea of paperwork. I figured it was the least we could do after her work in the pillbox…’

‘We would have got him eventually, sir.’ Parsons’ eyes narrowed on the pair as they made a slight turn towards the bushes at the side of the playing field to lengthen their journey. ‘I don’t like it.’

Harris could see what Parsons meant. Barker was still his prisoner, no matter how much Giles had to do with him getting caught.

His prisoner. His responsibility.

His neck if something went wrong.

He turned to the rest of the team, mostly uniformed officers now, who tried to loiter causally by their patrol cars.

‘Get the rest of the team out of here,’ he ordered. ‘We don’t want Barker clocking our reception committee.’

Parsons barked some clipped orders and the officers clambered into their cars. In a moment, the engines roared into life and the cars disappeared up the lane towards the centre of town. Giles and Harris were still a fair distance away when Parsons returned.

‘How long has Giles got?’

Harris seemed to ignore the question. The footballers were making their preparations to leave the pitch, chanting and singing, clapping and excitedly recalling their own personal highlights.

But, for Harris, the game wasn’t over yet.

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 7

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

Chapter Seven

‘Mister Barker.’

Barker’s face almost dropped when he caught sight of Giles marching towards him. It was understandable enough – the image of Giles walking intently at you was enough to make any suspect squirm. But Barker was different – he had personally offended Giles long before she had ever met him, and that made her dangerous.

And that made him wary.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles,’ he said. ‘Am I right in thinking you’ve changed your mind about me?’

‘I haven’t changed my mind about anything, Barker,’ Giles spat, coming to a halt in front of the former politician. ‘I just wanted to demonstrate to DI Harris here how I got so far so quickly in the service.’

‘Oh?’ Barker eyed Harris curiously. ‘And what has that to do with me?’

‘One name,’ Giles spat. ‘One name that everybody has heard of. Granted, not everyone would necessarily know mine, but I’m sure a little digging through the headlines would come up trumps for you.’ She paused to look around. ‘I got to hand it to you though, it was a good attempt.’

‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about…’

‘You say you were fighting with the victim over the gun, correct?’

Barker blinked twice before nodding. ‘That’s right.’

‘That’s funny, because the bullet wound in the back of his head says something different. In fact, I’d stake my reputation on that bullet being fired from quite a considerable distance – probably from inside the bunker. The same bunker that you crawled into…’ she pointed at his shoes, ‘… hence the dust and powder marks on your shoes.

‘You probably disposed of the bullet casing, the same way you disposed of John Doe’ wallet, keys and phone – chucking them in the river. But you weren’t quite quick enough to hide the body, were you? You got spotted by…’ She turned to Harris. ‘What was the name of the lady who came across them?’

Harris’s hands quickly plunged into his pockets and pulled out a notebook. Rifling through the pages, he searched for the name whilst Barker stood, quivering and afraid beneath Giles’ icy glare.

‘This is ridiculous,’ Barker announced, his voice trembling a little. ‘I have already said, the man attacked me…’

Giles sneered at him. ‘You’re a politician. Lies are second nature to you…’

Beside her, Harris had finally found what he was looking for:

‘Miss Maisy Dawlish…’

‘And what did Miss Dawlish report seeing, sir?’

Harris read a few words before speaking:

‘She saw Mister Barker crouched over the victim, seemingly going through his pockets.’

Giles raised an eyebrow. ‘Going through his pockets?’

‘I had just been attacked,’ Barker pleaded. His eyes scanned all about him as though looking for a way out. ‘I had to be sure he didn’t have any more weapons on him…’

‘Or maybe you were just gathering his belongings,’ Giles said, turning back to Harris and saying: ‘What happened next, sir?’

‘Miss Dawlish said she recognised Mister Barker straight away. He told her there had been a horrible accident and that she needed to call the police…’

‘Yes, I did,’ Barker replied defiantly. ‘I had been targeted by someone, I wasn’t about to just run and leave a body lying about.’

‘You couldn’t run,’ Giles agreed, letting loose a small smirk. ‘You’d already been identified. Short of killing Miss Dawlish herself, you had to stick around to face the music…’

‘That is a preposterous suggestion…’

‘Careful, Giles.’

Giles felt Harris’ cool hand grasp a loose hold of her wrist. As she turned to him, she saw in his eyes a glimmer of fear. Whatever her convictions, this was still Harris’ investigation. Any fall out from Giles’ actions would land firmly on him – she had to tread carefully.

‘So, you sent Miss Dawlish to call for help?’ she asked, her voice a little softer this time.

‘Yes,’ Barker replied, a moment of relief and mild satisfaction crossing his face as he eyed Harris.

‘That’s a little strange. After all, you did have your own phone.’ Giles smiled cynically at him. ‘Why couldn’t you use that?’

Barker stumbled to a halt:

‘I…,’ he stammered. ‘I… Well, I was…’

‘I’ll tell you why,’ Giles interrupted again, beginning to enjoy herself. ‘Because you hadn’t counted on being seen. A well-known scumbag like you committing a murder – you wouldn’t last five minutes once the police had all the facts. You had to improvise. You found the two tickets in John Doe’s pockets…’

‘No,’ Baker replied shaking his head. ‘No, I never…’

‘And you scribbled a name on each – yours on one, mine on the other – to make it look like some sort of professional hit…’

Something snapped in Barker’s mind. Before them all, his fists curled up into balls and he looked, for just a moment, like he would lash out at them all. As his blazing eyes glared down at Giles, she could feel the hatred and anger that fuelled him and his convictions. He wasn’t a psychopath or a man just born to hate – his environment had created him that way.

‘And why do you think I wrote your name, Giles?’ he bellowed, snarling wildly at her.

As the last echoes of his voice disappeared into the distance, the scene fell silent. Everyone, from Harris to the escorting constables, stared motionlessly at Barker as he breathed heavily in and out. For some the realisation was instant, for others it took a little while. From behind her, Giles felt Harris take a step forward to examine Barker.

‘You admit it then?’ he said quietly. ‘You wrote those names on the tickets?’

Barker was the last to realise what he’d done. Even as he glared down at Harris, his eyes seemed to soften as the implication of what he had said planted a seed of terror in his mind. He took a few steps back, his eyes scanning wildly from Giles to Harris as his fingers quivered – ready for a fight.

‘No,’ he murmured. ‘No, I didn’t mean…’

Giles took a step towards him.

‘Like I said, it was a very good attempt; the bluebell fields, my name on the ticket, the brief mention of the Bluebell Killer to Harris here. Had you been anyone else, I might have been convinced.’ She leaned a little closer. ‘But the thing is I don’t like you. I despise what you stand for and nothing will give me greater pleasure than watching you fall…’

She took a step back away from him.

‘The Bluebell Killer is dead, Mister Barker,’ she said loudly for everyone to hear. ‘He isn’t coming back.’

Barker shook his head.

‘How close were you, Evelyn?’ he asked quietly. ‘Did you even know what you were looking for before I gave you a hand?’

Giles’ mind stopped. There was no anger, no disgust, no excitable logic. It was as if all conscious thought had been replaced by a moment of sheer shock and awe. Without even thinking, she stepped a little closer towards Barker, her face no more than a few inches from his. With a hushed whisper, she said:

‘What are you talking about?’

Barker smiled.

‘You think this all ended with Donnovan. You haven’t got the faintest idea what is still out there.’ For a moment, Giles thought he might kiss her as he leant forward – his lips barely an inch away from her face. ‘You were warned before. And if you want to know the rest, you’ll have to get me out of this…’

A flurry of questions rippled through Giles’ head. It forced everything about the day out of her mind. She forgot the body. She forgot the tickets. She even forgot her victorious unmasking of Barker. She forgot it all in the wake of a thousand thoughts and memories – images she had spent the last year trying to force into the back of her mind.

In the midst of the silence, Harris placed a gentle hand back on Giles’ arm and gently pulled her back from Barker. She didn’t resist, she just let herself be led back until Harris was left alone in front of Barker.

Barker – for his part – continued to stare pointedly at Giles. He barely reacted as Harris read out his rights and two uniformed officers cuffed his hands behind his back. And when Harris had finished, he allowed himself to be led over to the side of the clearing where he was sat down whilst Harris held a hurried discussion with his colleagues about what to do next.

But all that was a blur for Giles.

In her mind, she pictured tens of dead bodies. She remembered months of fruitless paperwork. She recalled the lost man-hours chasing shadows through the streets of London.

And through it all, her mind settled on a mental image of a man.

A man sat alone in the dark.

A man making furtive phone calls and collating secretive packages.

A man completely unknown to her – and yet he was closer to her than many others in her life.

But the man she imagined looked nothing like Daniel Barker. He didn’t even sound like him or speak with the same calculated intelligence. There was nothing about him that related to that vile excuse of a man that she watched sitting at the side of the field.

Everything she knew, or thought she knew, of this man shattered into a thousand pieces. Everything she assumed was gone save one thing…

A name.

A single, fake name.

Max…

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Five

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

Chapter Five

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

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

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

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

It’s the only place it could possibly be…

She turned back to constable.

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

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

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

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

‘You’re sure?’

‘Of course, I’m bloody sure.’

‘What about in his wallet?’

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

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

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

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

Giles knew there was only a little more time left.

She had to take her chance now.

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

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

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

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

This sergeant was not one of them.

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

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

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

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

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

‘If you don’t mind, I’ll just check.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I have some questions.’

‘I thought you might.’

‘Are you going to answer them?’

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

‘And why would I do that?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘My husband’s.’

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

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

‘Absolutely.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Unless, of course, I didn’t do it.’

‘I find that hard to believe…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Three

Over the next thirty-odd weeks, I will be releasing my debut novel – The Bluebell Informant – chapter by chapter. If you have missed any chapters, you can find the full list with links here.

If you can’t wait for the next instalment, you can download a free Kindle version from here, or download from SmashwordsBarnes 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 Three

Daniel Barker was taller in person. He stared hard at Giles through the haze left by his cigarette, his short brown hair moving only slightly with the strong breeze.

He stood with his back straight and his hands firmly down by his sides, projecting the archaic but traditional image of an English gentleman. The shirt he wore – with its sleeves rolled up the way politicians do when they want to look casual – was covered in a long streak of blood that started up by his shoulder and crossed his body to his waist like a great ceremonial sash. His jeans were splattered as well, but not to the same extent, and his smart trainers bore no signs of blood, although the soles were covered in a small scattering of grey dust.

Taking a long drag from his cigarette, Barker pondered Giles. He took his time, allowing his eyes to creep down her body, pausing on her breasts and her naval, before blowing out his cigarette smoke and flicking the butt down on to the ground.

‘What’s the story, Harris?’ he said, finally ripping his eyes away from Giles and turning towards the DI, his face seeming to relax the instant he did so.

Harris cleared his throat. ‘I’ve brought someone to see you.’

Barker’s eyes flickered back towards Giles. ‘So I see.’ They returned to Harris. ‘Perhaps you think that this might rattle me somehow?’

Harris didn’t reply. The anxious DI seemed to cower under Barker’s forceful stare. It wasn’t hard to see why. The former politician, whilst he appeared approachable and likeable on the television, had taken on a more commanding veneer. He glared at Harris with public school superiority, tightening his jaw muscles and widening out his shoulders in a primeval display of dominance.

‘I know your superiors, Harris,’ he continued, stepping a little closer, invading Harris’ personal space. ‘Chief Inspector Robshaw is a close personal friend of mine – we play golf once a month at my club. I’m sure he would have a lot to say about your pathetic attempts at psychological mind games…’

‘I assure you that is not the intention…’

‘Spare me your excuses,’ Barker replied, swatting the comment away with an arrogant hand. ‘You know my politics.’ He turned to face Giles. ‘You know my views on the Chinks.’

A ripple of anger crossed Giles’ body. What made it worse was that Barker could see it as well. A small smirk crept across his face and he took a little step forward, angling his body so that he slid in between Giles and Harris effectively cutting her out from the conversation.

‘Now, you want to know what went down here,’ he muttered. ‘I told you that I am not prepared to talk until I have spoken with Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles. I will not utter a word until she is here so I suggest that you stop wasting both of our times with your pathetic excuse at crime solving and start working on bringing DS Giles here. Do you understand?’

Harris opened his mouth to reply, but Giles was quicker off the mark. She cleared her throat, tapped Barker on the shoulder and said:

‘She’s already here.’

Surprisingly, Barker’s face didn’t register the astonishment that she’d hoped. Although she couldn’t see it, she felt him roll his eyes before turning his head to face her again. The smirk was still plastered across his face whilst his eyes burned with loathing.

‘Of course, you are,’ he said, before turning his head back to Harris.

‘I assure you, I am.’

This time, Barker didn’t even both to turn back. ‘A very nice idea,’ he sneered, ‘but DS Giles is British – a hard-working, model detective. Not a scumbag chink with her hands halfway in the welfare pot…’

Giles reached into her pockets whilst she tapped him on the shoulder. He turned his head once more, his face now displaying more than just a mild irritation, his mouth open and ready to lay into her once again. As his eyes fell on the warrant card, his mouth dropped open slightly and all colour vanished from his face. Without his reddish cheeks his face appeared rather gaunter than before and, as he read and reread the name on the warrant card, his lips seemed turn a hint of blue and sink into themselves.

‘You?’ he spluttered. ‘You’re Giles?’

Giles smiled. ‘Everyone seems so surprised by that today. Now I’m beginning to understand why.’

‘But you can’t possibly be…’

Harris stepped beside Giles and said: ‘I assure you she is…’

‘DI Harris has suggested that you might be one of my informants,’ Giles continued, her anger tinted with the slightest hint of enjoyment. ‘But, if I’m honest, I can’t see you ever coming to a chink when there are so many perfectly good, white officers to work with. To be frank, I’m surprised you even stretched as far as a woman…’

Barker stood, his mouth open but no words forming. His eyes fluttered between Harris and Giles, staring intently as though trying to see through their words to find the lie. The sneer had all but gone and what remained was nothing more than abject panic.

How unbelievably satisfying…

Giles flashed a sarcastic smile. ‘Good day to you gentlemen.’

 

Once out of sight of Barker, Giles headed straight across the crime scene to where the SOCOs had set up an evidence table beneath a white, fabric shelter. She ignored the words of protest from the officer stationed here and moved straight past him to stare down at the array of plastic bags containing everything from items of clothing to strands of hair and grass that cascaded over the table top. She had to hand it to the SOCOs here; they did a thorough job.

Bag by bag, Giles made her way along the table, examining each item, even holding some up to the light as she carefully set her mind on the evidence at hand. She didn’t even give any concentration to talking as the SOCO officer coughed beside her and said:

‘Excuse me, ma’am, what are you looking for?’

She simply raised a lone finger at him, not even bothering to tear her eyes away from the table before her. A few moments later, she caught sight of a flash of orange in amongst the translucent bags. With lightning fast speed, her nimble hands swooped down and plucked up the item in question, holding it up to the light.

A train ticket.

Outbound part of a return.

London Bridge to Edenbridge Town.

‘Today’s date?’

Today’s date…

Giles finally turned towards the SOCO stood next to her.

‘This ticket,’ she announced, thrusting it under his nose. ‘Was it found on the victim or did Barker have it?’

‘Sorry?’

‘The ticket. Barker or John Doe?’

The SOCO thought for a moment. ‘John Doe. It was in his pocket…’

Pity…

Giles thrust the ticket back down on the table and resumed her search, feigning ignorance of Harris’ calls as he marched across the crime scene towards her:

‘Giles. What the hell do you think you’re doing?’

Giles shook her head, moving on to the next bag.

Dog leash. Choke chain.

‘Looks new,’ she muttered.

Too new?

She examined the leather of the handle, staring hard down at the edges where the stitching had frayed slightly.

‘It’s been used enough…’

She was out of time. Harris stepped around her and quickly barred her way as she attempted to reach forward for another bag. Staring deep into her eyes, Harris was less of a shadow than he had been before – his firm grip exuded confidence; his voice was firm and steady:

‘Giles, what are you doing?’

Giles pulled herself away from him, trying to reach around for the next bag. With one hand, Harris batted her arm away from the evidence table and, with his other, he forced her back a few steps, taking her well out of reach.

‘This is my crime scene,’ he said, grabbing hold of her wrist and pushing it up against her shoulder.

‘And I’m helping you solve the case…’

With a twist of her wrist, Giles levered herself out of his grip and, with expert agility, pounced around him to approach the table once more. She reached out for the next bag, pulling it sharply towards her and holding it up to examine the jacket inside.

Blood-stained.

‘Blood matches the markings on Barker’s shirt…’

‘Well, it would do, muttered Harris, moving alongside her again. ‘It was the jacket Barker was wearing…’

Giles looked closer.

High-end jacket. Tweed.

‘Tailored?’

She looked closer still.

Tailored…

‘Look, Giles, what the hell are you after?’

Giles set down the jacket and continued to rifle through the rest of the evidence bags, occasionally stopping at something of interest, but otherwise moving briskly through them.

‘Barker seems insistent on drawing me into this thing. I want to know why.’

Harris let loose a single laugh.

‘Well, it’s like he said. He probably thought you were some sexy little thing from the city, not some grizzled dinosaur…’ He hesitated as Giles glared up at him. ‘No offence,’ he muttered. ‘He probably thought you were some home-grown girl that he could manipulate into getting him off the hook. There’s no more to it than that…’

‘I was brought up here, you know?’

‘Yeah,’ Harris replied, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning back on to his heels. ‘But you’re not really one of us, are you?’

He hesitated again under the chill of Giles’ icy stare.

As he went silent, Giles picked up a smaller evidence bag containing a small torn off piece of white and blue patterned paper. She only gave it a second of her attention before depositing it back down with the rest of the bags…

Good old SOCOs, she thought. Everything and anything is evidence

‘Tell me, Inspector Harris,’ she said as she continued rummaging through the bags. ‘Did you vote for him?’

She paused to stare up at him. His face was a picture – somewhere between pride, fear and utter confusion.

‘It’s all right if you did,’ she continued, returning to the bags. ‘Everyone has to vote with their own conscience. Did you vote for him?’

Harris hesitated.

‘Is that really appropriate, Sergeant?’

‘Because if you did, that would change the dynamics of your relationship, would it not? You’re no longer detective and suspect but leader and follower. The roles would be reversed. Under those circumstances, it wouldn’t be unnatural for you to want to believe in him…’

‘Are you suggesting that I would lie to get that man off a murder charge?’

‘I’m suggesting I was brought here for one reason only – to get Daniel Barker off the hook,’ Giles replied, turning to face the DI. ‘You summoned me here – you were most insistent that I come– but the moment you laid eyes on me you couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Why?’

Harris shook his head, his lip curling with disgust.

‘I’m not sure I like your tone, Detective…’

Giles shrugged.

‘You brought me here.’ She turned back to the evidence bags and gave another cursory scan. ‘And don’t worry, I don’t think that’s the case at all. You seem as anxious to get this one right as I am…’

‘Which is precisely why I am getting you off my crime scene, right now…’

Harris signalled to a couple of officers who quickly lumbered over the dodgy ground towards them. Giles ignored their presence, still shifting through the bags as their footsteps got closer and closer.

She reached forward and picked up the most important bag of all – the one containing a Glock 21 semi-automatic pistol. She examined it closely, feeling – with a certain satisfaction – Harris retreat a step or two away from her as he eyed the weapon in her hand. She didn’t take it out of the bag, but did carefully finger the weapon through the plastic, examining every groove and scratch before placing it back down on the table.

‘There was something on this crime scene that convinced you to call me, wasn’t there?’ she muttered, turning slightly towards Harris as she spoke. ‘Something that was undeniably linked to me; that was convincing enough for you to summon me all the way down here…’

Harris gave a brief shake of the head.

‘Like I told you, I was on my way here myself when I called…’

‘Your hands are cold, Harris,’ Giles announced. ‘Too cold to have only been out here for an hour or so. My guess is you’ve been here on site for at least two maybe three, am I right?’ She turned back to the bags. ‘No, there was something amongst this lot that forced you to get me down here. You would never have wanted me here if there wasn’t.’

The two constables arrived next to Harris, staring at him for orders as the DI watched Giles move through the bags once again.

‘I hear you have a good reputation, Giles,’ he announced. ‘But on this occasion, I’m afraid you’re wrong.’ He turned to the two constables. ‘Please escort Detective Sergeant Giles off the crime scene.’

Before Giles had a chance to react, she felt a firm hand on her shoulder and could barely stop herself from being spun back towards the bridge. With an officer pressed in tight on either side, she was marched swiftly back towards the path.

‘I can help you, Harris,’ she protested, resisting as much as she could between the burly arms of the two uniformed men. ‘If Barker has been trying to play you, he’s been trying to play me as well. We can bring him down together…’

Harris remained stood by the evidence table, his hands still firmly in his pockets as he rocked back and forth on his feet. All about him, SOCOs, constables and detectives alike all stood to watch as DS Giles was forcibly removed from the area. As Giles stared wildly back over her shoulder, she thought she could see a faint hint of a smile on Harris’ face.

‘Thanks for the offer, Giles, but I’m sure us small-town, rural boys can take it from here…’

Giles squirmed a little more. With each movement of resistance, the constables’ grip grew tighter on her shoulders. She threw her head back, making the whole scene turn upside down and bellowed:

‘I wouldn’t count on that. You haven’t seen what’s missing yet, have you?’

With that, the officer on her left reached up and threw her head forward, holding it in place as they frog marched her closer to the bridge. With every violent jerk, Giles began to realise the truth. She could no longer look back towards Harris – she could no longer see the crime scene. All she had was her mind and the mental images that she would summon up to remind her of what was there.

Those would fade and all but vanish in a matter of seconds.

And then she would be left with nothing…

‘Wait.’

At the sound of Harris’ voice, the two officers juddered to a halt and waited as Harris jogged up alongside them. He stared hard at Giles, pacing a little back and forth in front of her, kicking up dust and mud from the grass as he did so.

‘What are you talking about?’ he asked eventually. ‘What’s missing?’

Giles laughed.

‘Oh, come on, it’s obvious,’ she replied. ‘A man with a gaping bullet wound in the back of his head. A Glock by the body. Shots fired out on the grass…’

Harris moved a little closer.

‘Tell me.’

Giles smiled.

‘Where’s the bullet casing?’

The question seemed to completely confound Harris. Even as he stood before her, Giles could see his mind turning, trying desperately to recall whether he had seen one. As he had done before, his eyes wandered over Giles’ shoulder, looking back towards the crime scene…

Back towards the body lying slumped against the bunker wall…

His eyes snapped back to her.

‘The bullet casing is missing,’ he muttered, more to himself than in confirmation.

Giles nodded. ‘And that’s not the only thing,’ she replied. ‘But the casing is important…’

Harris shook his head in confusion.

‘You know where it is?’

Giles nodded again. ‘It’s so obvious, you’ll kick yourself when I tell you.’

Harris thought hard, his eyes flickering between Giles and the crime scene. Finally, and with an air of great reluctance, he nodded to the two constables who instantly released Giles. Stretching her neck and arms out, Giles reached up and pulled her scarf tighter about her neck as Harris took a step or two towards her.

‘You show me where it is,’ he demanded.

‘Oh, I’ll show you,’ Giles replied, flicking her hair back playfully. ‘Just as soon as you show me what it was that made you sure enough to bring me down here.’

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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