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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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Conclave – Robert Harris – A Review

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned…

It has been a year since my last review…

I know – it’s awful, isn’t it? But it’s something I intend to remedy right now.

“We do not need a church that will move with the world, we need a church that will move the world!”

I have always been a fan of Robert Harris’ work – in fact my decision to become a ghost writer largely came about as a result of reading his novel, The Ghost. However his last couple of novels hadn’t quite hit the spot for me – so I had rather drifted away from his work.

That was until I read Conclave.

 The Pope is dead. 

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election. 

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. 

Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

I was initially drawn to this book by it’s subject. I am not a religious man, but something about the Catholic faith does fascinate me to a certain extent – particularly the process of choosing the next Pope. That being said, had it been any other writer, I might have passed over this book – whilst I was sure the process was very interesting, I would’ve doubted another writer’s ability to make the process exciting for a reader, whilst also being respectful to the Church in the process.

But this was Robert Harris – the writer who made the political elections in Imperium and the code breaking in Enigma so utterly tantalising. So, after a fair amount of internal debate, I decided to grab a copy.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

It has been a while since I was unable to put a book down, but this one definitely fits the bill. Harris weaves together a delicate story of religious politics, lying, backstabbing and deceit by making the cardinals so utterly human and – therefore – completely compelling. I’m sure there will be Catholics out there who will find some fault or another with the story, or will be upset by the depiction of the Church, but – as an outsider – I found it to be a very realistic story that actually made me feel a deeper understanding and respect for the religion.

Accurate or not, Harris manages to take the story of one hundred and eighteen old and pious men and turn it into a political thriller as exciting as any with a muscular, ex-military type running around trying to save the world.

A great read – Harris is back on form. 5/5.

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 18

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available for free through Amazon.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Eighteen

‘How did they find us?’

Barker peered out of the bushes at one end of the layby. Shakily puffing on a cigarette, he scrutinised each car that passed by. There had been no sign of Doyle so far, but Giles knew he wouldn’t be far behind.

Crouched down behind a blue Nissan Micra, Giles straightened out a coat hanger. There hadn’t been much in the back of the Ford for her to go on – a couple of old magazines, some empty soft drink bottles, an empty popcorn bag – but the spare suit, complete with clothes hangers, had provided her with a much needed opportunity. She straightened out the hanger, looping the end to form a hook, and glanced up at Barker, smiling mischievously.

‘I told my contact that we were going to jump the train at East Croydon. She was the only one know knew…’

‘What about your team? You said you’d contacted them.’

‘Don’t be an idiot,’ Giles shot back. ‘I told you that because I didn’t trust you. I still don’t.’

She took a moment to consider the man loitering in the bushes. The spare suit had been a surprisingly good fit for Barker. He almost looked smart now they had dispensed with the standard issue police trousers and shirt. Only the keenest observer would notice that the trousers were just that little bit too long and the collar just a little bit too tight – but now Barker had it unbuttoned it was barely noticeable anyway. He looked just like everyone else in the city.

That was the whole point.

‘Besides,’ Giles continued. ‘I knew you wouldn’t approve. But if there was anyone I thought I could trust, it would be Alison Carew…’

‘Carew?’ Barker spluttered. ‘Edmund Carew’s daughter?’ He slapped his hand angrily on his thigh. ‘Well, that explains everything.’

‘It doesn’t explain why a legitimate detective wants you dead,’ Giles returned sharply. ‘It doesn’t explain who has the influence and control a handful of police officers. The incident at the station was only the beginning – they won’t stop after just one failed attempt.’

She stood up, the straightened coat hanger in her hand, and carefully fed the wire through the open gap at the top of the passenger side window. Carefully, she lowered the hook down the inside of the window, inching it ever closer to the door handle.

From the shadow of the bushes, Barker watched with interest.

‘This is the second time someone tried to kill me, Giles,’ he said bitterly. ‘Not the first.’

Giles chuckled a little to herself.

‘Mr Barker,’ she said coldly. ‘You and I both know that isn’t true.’

The central locking clicked open. Giles swiftly retracted the wire and opened the passenger side door a fraction and waited for a moment for the sound of alarm. Finally, with a smile of satisfaction, she stepped away from the car and towards Barker who, looking rather flustered, retreated back a few steps.

‘Are you getting in or not?’

She didn’t wait for a response.

She marched around to the driver’s side door and, with a quick glance at the passing traffic, pulled it open and ducked down into the seat. Barker waited nervously by the bushes, scanning the passing traffic wildly until he finally felt confident enough to make a dash for the car. By the time he joined Giles in the passenger seat, she was already well engrossed in hotwiring the vehicle. He pulled shut the door and glanced nervously through the back window just as the engine choked into life. With a small smile of satisfaction, Giles shifted the car into gear and pulled her seatbelt around her body.

‘I haven’t done that in years,’ she said triumphantly.

‘A little thief in your younger years, were you?’

Giles ignored the quip, glanced over her shoulder and gently pulled the car out into the traffic.

Barker fidgeted beside her, examining the variety of levers and switches around the base of the seat. Finally he found what he was looking for, pulled on the lever and pushed the seat back until he’d gained enough legroom to sit comfortably. When he finally got himself settled, he glanced back behind them once again and muttered:

‘I would have thought you’d go for a speedier car.’

‘You thought wrong,’ came the reply. ‘Doyle knows we have his car. He’ll know that I’ll be changing it for another as soon as I can. But no one will expect us to be driving round in a Micra.’

‘And what if they find us? How do you propose to outrun them?’

Giles smiled playfully.

‘No one expects a Micra driver to be fast.’

They said little else to each other until Giles had safely made it back on to the main road towards London. As they merged in amongst the traffic, Giles cruised the car along at the speed limit, checking the rear view mirror periodically. Beside her, Barker took out a cigarette and contemplated it for a moment, chuckling to himself.

‘I assume it was these that gave me away,’ he said jovially.

Giles risked a quick glance at him.

‘Nothing about the pillbox made sense,’ Giles replied. ‘The openings were large enough to crawl through, but not so much that you think to do it in a panic. The inside smelt heavily of gunpowder and damp cigarette – you’d obviously waited around for a cigarette so you weren’t in any hurry. The missing bullet casing was just the final straw.’

Barker chuckled and took a long drag of his cigarette.

‘I’ll bear that in mind next time.’

Giles tried her best to suppress a scowl. She turned over her right shoulder to pretend to look for traffic as she merged into the fast lane and didn’t turn back again until she was sure she was under control. Not that it mattered. Barker was lounging back in the passenger seat like a man without a care in the world. He probably wouldn’t have cared even if he did know what she was thinking.

He’s not even trying to deny it, Giles thought. The sick bastard…

            ‘What did you do with the casing?’ she asked, trying to remain as casual as possible. ‘Just out of interest.’

Barker exhaled smoke through the small gap in the window, raising his eyebrow with coy triumph.

‘Did you throw it in the river?’

Barker smiled. ‘Nice try, Giles.’

‘After all this time, don’t you trust me?’

‘When the ink is dry on my immunity agreement, I will trust you with whatever you want. Until then I’m not saying anything – not about the Bluebell Killer, not about the guy in Edenbridge.’

He took one last drag of his cigarette before tossing it out the window. As he closed the glass behind him, he peered up at the signposts with casual interest.

‘Where is this safehouse anyway?’

‘Just on the fringes of Brixton,’ Giles replied. ‘You’ll be safe there.’

‘Is that where your boss is meeting us?’ Barker fired back. ‘I mean, that’s who you were talking to on the phone, wasn’t it?’

‘Something like that.’

 

For the next twenty minutes or so, Alison Carew sat quietly in her seat, deep in thought.

What have I done?

Was her contact right? Had she really been exposed? Maybe she was the only person that Giles spoke to and she would be suspicious, but they had been friends for years – she wouldn’t really suspect her?

Would she?

It didn’t matter now. The order had been given.

She didn’t attempt to calm herself. It would have done her no good and, besides, it was all part of the plan.

As time ticked on, her heart rate quickened and her hands began to feel clammy with terrified sweat. Her reflection in the computer screen gradually turned pale and ghostly and, she could feel her mind fogging over with confusion.

Her twenty minutes were up.

Alison started to breathe heavily – quietly at first but progressively getting louder as time wore on.

Shot sharp breaths, she told herself. Quicker.

Five minutes later even Lawrence began to notice. With a wry smile on his face, he turned from his desk and stared at her at her quivering body, enjoying every moment right up until she finally took her chance.

Leaping out of her chair, Alison moved swiftly across the control room, heading for the toilets at the end of the adjoining corridor. Cradling her stomach and screwing her face up as hard as she could, she barrelled past people in the corridor and raced through the toilet door, locking herself safely inside one of the cubicles.

Once inside, she turned to face the toilet and bent down onto her knees. With her left hand, she forced her fingers down her throat and waited as her neck pulsed and her mouth wretched.

The display had its desired effect.

As she vomited into the bowl, she heard the toilet door open and a woman’s voice drifted through the cubicle door.

‘Are you alright, Alison?’

It was Carrie Unsworth, the shift supervisor. Shoving her fingers down her throat again, Alison waited until the last possible moment before retrieving them and trying to speak.

‘I’m fine, thank you, Carrie…’

Her body instinctively did the rest.

Ten minutes later, with her permission to leave granted, Alison descended the steps out of the Headquarters building and moved quickly across the car park. The taste of vomit was vile in her mouth, but she hadn’t had time to clear it.

Every second counted.

She was in her car with the engine running when she received the next message.

Go to this address. Someone will meet you there. Wait for him.

She had no idea how much time passed as she peered down at her phone. Her mind was flushed with questions and thoughts. Whatever she had done, it was obviously serious enough for her contact to want to get her out of there.

But it can’t have been illegal, she mused. I’m only following orders, so why the rush to get me to safety?

She locked her phone and slid it into her pocket. She turned on the engine and, as the car vibrated rhythmically beneath her, she rapped her fingers against the warm leather of the steering wheel.

Her contact hadn’t believed that Giles would be heading to a safe house. They thought it was a rouse straight off.

But Eve wouldn’t think that I would do anything to hurt her…

Even as she shifted her car into gear, she still hadn’t quite made up her mind.

What if Eve was telling the truth? What if this is our chance to apprehend Barker?

She pulled out of her parking space and made her way towards the car park exit.

What if I could be the one to catch him? Surely that would make up for what he did to my father?

As she turned out of the car park, there was only a short stretch of the road until the T-junction marked the main road. She knew it well. Turning left would take her south towards the river – towards Vauxhall, Battersea and Brixton. Turning right would take her north towards East Finchley where she’d been told to wait.

She flicked her indicator and pulled out on to the main road – negotiating her way through a series of one-way streets and crossing over the river…

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 17

If you’re not up to speed on The Bluebell Informant so far, the previous chapters can be found here. Failing that, The Bluebell Informant is now available for free through Amazon.comiBooksKoboNookand Smashwords.

Chapter Seventeen 

Giles wasted no time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Get in.’

‘No.’

‘You’re not safe. Get in.’

‘And I’m safe with you?’

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

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

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

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

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

He doesn’t deserve any sympathy…

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

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

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

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

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

‘Daniel, you don’t want to shoot me.’

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

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

‘It’s the truth!’

‘Then prove it to me…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She snapped out of it.

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

‘Get in.’

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Me? Not us?’

Giles nodded solemnly.

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

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

‘How did they know where we were?’

Giles hesitated.

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

‘You were let down by your team?’

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

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

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

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

‘Good idea,’ Barker replied.

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

‘Not a chance…’

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

‘Not until I have my immunity agreement.’

The pig-headed…

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

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

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

‘What do you mean?’

Giles glared at him from the corner of her eye.

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

‘Like who?’

 

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

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

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

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

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

This isn’t good.

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

Gone.

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

She can’t have taken it…

It simply wasn’t possible.

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

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

His life wouldn’t be worth living…

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

Don’t let the Boss down…

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

Breathing erratic.

Heart pounding.

Dead by sundown…

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

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

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

His feet weren’t ready yet…

‘Is it done?’

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

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

‘And Barker?’

Doyle hesitated, all glee quickly evaporating from his mind.

‘Barker got his gun. He’s armed.’

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

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

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

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

‘How do you know?’

The voice chuckled.

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

‘And Giles?’

Another pause on the end of the line.

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

The line went dead.

Lucky bitch.

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

 

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

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

‘Harris.’

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

DI Bolton?

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

‘Oh, hullo. How can I help you?’

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

Harris’ eyes narrowed. ‘Conflicting reports?’

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

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

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

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

‘Ali?’

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

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

‘Ali, I’ve made a huge mistake…’

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

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

‘Oh my God.’

The shock was real.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

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

Giles didn’t seem to be listening.

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

What the hell is going on?

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

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

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

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

There was a slight pause before Giles spoke next.

‘I’m at a safe house in Brixton.’

‘One of ours?’

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

‘Barker is still with you?’

‘Yes. Will you do it for me?’

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

‘Give me the address…’

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

Was it?

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

It was not what Alison wanted to see.

She’s on to you. Get out now.

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 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 12

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 Twelve

‘Do you have a car?’

‘What?’

            ‘A car,’ Giles muttered urgently. ‘Do you have one?’

Barker stared blankly for a moment and then nodded his head.

‘Here?’

‘Yes?’

‘What kind?’

‘What?’

It was one of those times when the mouth reacted faster than the mind. Barker opened his mouth to answer but a late thought entered his mind causing him to shut it abruptly. His eyes flickered over to the car park and he said:

‘I don’t think I understand…’

‘You want me to get you out of here?’ Giles looked up towards the clubhouse as they drew closer and closer. Most of the officers had driven away now, but Harris and his sergeant were still loitering by their car. ‘My car is by the clubhouse. Harris will have you in cuffs before we even get close. Do you have yours with you?’

Barker followed her eye line until he spotted the two detectives in the car park. With a regrettable shake of the head he said:

‘Same place as yours,’ he muttered, his voice laced with uncertainty. ‘There’s only two of them. Couldn’t we overpower them…?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

Giles sighed heavily. Time was running out.

Two cars. We won’t get to either before Harris is on to us.

            ‘Is there any other way?’

Not without running cross-country. Think.

            Barker nodded to a small footpath, slowly creeping up on their right hand side. ‘That path leads down along the river. If we follow it to the bypass and cut up the High Street…’ He checked his watch. ‘The 12.15 to London arrives in eight minutes. If we run, we might catch it.’

‘Might?’

Giles glanced up towards the car park ahead. A group of footballers were making their way across the field towards the clubhouse, jumping and cheering in their revelry as they moved closer to the two detectives. Giles’ eyes darted across the path. It was thin and surrounded by bushes, barely ten metres away and not easily visible from Harris’ position.

We might just be able to make it.

            She turned to Barker.

‘Right, wait for my word.’

 

From Harris’ position, Giles and Barker seemed to have almost slowed to a stop. Parsons had noticed it too and, with his keen ex-soldier instincts guiding him, he took a couple of steps forwards and raised his face to the sky, as though he was picking up a faint scent in the air.

‘What are the hell is she playing at?’

The troupe of footballers had reached them now. As they paraded past the waiting detectives, they sang out ‘We Are the Champions’ at full volume and jumped around with such energy and excitement that you might have thought they had just won the World Cup. One or two even gave great grinning thumbs up to the two detectives and thanked them for their support, much to the amusement of the rest of the squad.

It was Parsons who sounded the alarm. As the last of the footballers passed them by, he burst forward and began to sprint at full pelt out on to the field.

‘Bugger me,’ he cried. ‘They’ve legged it.’

Harris took a few moments longer to scan the field, but he already knew that Parsons was right. For all intents and purposes, Giles and Barker had vanished.

 

Giles hadn’t stopped to look back. The bushes surrounded them now, but she knew it was only a matter of time.

She imagined the commotion on the field behind them. The surge of footballers passing by. The glimpses of two figures sprinting for the bushes. A moment of sheer panic as Harris and his colleague stare, dumbstruck, at the empty field…

And then…

The chase.

Ten seconds – that’s how much head start Giles and Barker would have had.

And another thirty – the time Giles estimated it would take them to reach the escape route.

Forty seconds.

Giles and Barker were safely on the path, the undergrowth disappearing behind them. They pushed against the hard ground, sprinting as fast as they could in the direction of the road bridge over the river. Behind them, the first cries of Harris’ confusion were all but lost in the air whipping past their ears.            

Jumping outstretched branches, ducking unkempt strands of bush and hopping the awkward patches of hardened mud, Giles pressed hard against her legs to keep pace with the man ahead.

As he rounded the corner, there was a scream of shock as Barker almost ploughed straight into a lady walking a black cocker spaniel. Jumping the lead, Barker surged on leaving Giles to make the hurried apologies as she scooted past the confused woman.

‘Sorry,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Excuse us…’

But the lady paid her no attention. Her eyes were fixed firmly on the retreating back of Barker.

‘Is that…?

Giles didn’t hang around to hear the rest of the question.

Weaving in and out of the criss-cross of various footpaths, Barker headed straight towards the river with the confidence of a man who had travelled this path before. When they arrived at the riverside once more, he wasted no time in turning along the riverbank. Digging his heels hard into the ground, he bounded up the embankment and sprinted hard towards the bridge up ahead with Giles panting with exhaustion behind him.

They were at the bridge in a matter of seconds.

A welcome gap in the traffic allowed them to pass without pause, leaving Giles little time to glance over her shoulder.

On the riverbank behind them, Harris’ colleague pounded the ground like a speeding bull – a single figure in the distance.

He’ll never catch us…

            A horn blared out.

The gap was not as large as Giles had thought. Flinging her hands up in apology, Giles darted out of the way of the speeding car, ignoring the torrent of abuse the driver hurled in her direction. Safely back on the pavement, Giles kicked her heels in to catch up, but Barker was already well ahead.

Another thirty seconds – Barker emerged on the High Street first, speeding around to the left and bursting up the hill. Despite the aching pain in her stomach, Giles forced herself to keep running. The muscles around her diaphragm were cramping up, restricting her breathing and sending a shooting pain up the side of her chest. Her legs began to sting with the effort of smashing the tarmac ground and her breath began to rasp with the strain of it all.

Just keep breathing.

            Hesitating for a moment to look back at Giles, Barker proceeded to climb the long, yet slight, incline of the hill, barely looking at the Tudor façades of the pubs, cafes and charity shops that lined the street. All about them, shoppers scattered as Barker and Giles ploughed past them; some watching with disgust, others frozen with excited curiosity.

‘Giles!’

Giles risked a glance back.

Harris’ colleague had closed the gap. His face was calm – barely showing any sign of the exertion. His legs pounded the pavement with unwavering rhythm, inching him closer and closer to his quarry.

Some way behind him, Harris turned on to the High Street – his face purple and his legs buckling under the strain.

Good. At least that’s one problem I don’t have to deal with.

            Giles turned her head back and pushed hard to build up an extra burst of speed. Taking control of herself, she breathed deep and slowly as the tight sensation crept across her mid-section. Her legs were throbbing and aching, and a strange metallic taste now lingered on her tongue.

With each passing second, she could feel her pace slowing. Her body was starting to give up…

            Just keep going.

Up ahead, Barker gave a quick glance left and right before darting across the road and down a small side street. With a quick glance of her own, Giles crossed the road after him.

The road ahead was long, but the station was in view at the end of it. Gathering as much extra energy as she could muster, Giles forced herself faster as she passed the rows upon rows of parked cars on either side. With every stride, Harris’s colleague gained ground on her whilst Barker inched away.

She was half way down the street now. With each stride, the station got closer. With each couple of beats on the ground, a second ticked away.

Then she saw it.

A flash of green slid between the buildings. A dull, electrical hum wavered in the air as a higher pitched whine slowly lost its tone.

The long, sleek train pulled into the station platform.

As it came to a stop, the doors slid gracefully open, inviting them to come inside.

Barker was already there. He slipped around the side entrance, avoiding the ticket office, and careered on to the platform, bounding effortlessly on to the train.

The deep snarl of Harris’ colleague was closer now. Giles glanced behind her, almost thundering into a parked car as she did.

His arms swayed back and forth with masterful control, pushing through the air like a steam train. His body barely bobbed higher than an inch with each step. His nostrils flared with his heavy breath and his eyes were set, unblinking, on Giles.

No pain. No hint of fear or failure.

Once a soldier…

            Giles turned back to the train and pressed on…

She was ten metres away.

A familiar, high pitched beeping, cut through the air.

Inside the train, Barker beckoned at her, willing her faster as she rounded the side of the station building and out on to the platform.

The doors began to close.

With her last strength, Giles dived forward, her hands landing hard on the train floor and her legs scooting inside the carriage as the door sealed shut behind her.

There were no thoughts to begin with – nothing but the deliriousness of an empty mind. Giles lay, for a moment, on the floor – breathing hard and willing the fuzziness out of her brain.

Next to her, a figure bent down and offered her his hand. Giles took it without question and allowed him to help her up to her feet. Smiling gratefully at her helper, it took Giles a good second or two to realise it was Barker.

His breathing was strained as well, but he still managed his own smile as Giles’ feet finally found the ground again and began to hold her own weight. Two quivering wrecks, they stood staring at each other – her hands resting gently on his shoulders why his hands supported her waist.

His hands were warm – almost inviting…

SMACK!

Giles jumped backwards as a hand banged viciously against the glass of the door.

Harris’ colleague leant up against the train, his calm face now contorted with anger and disappointment as he pounded at the train door. Giles and Barker stared in silence at the snarling detective as the train finally began to move. He jogged alongside, keeping pace as the train picked up speed – yelling something inaudible through the glass as he began to run out of platform.

Giles could see it in his eyes. He knew it was as pointless as she did – but he wasn’t going to give up. He would chase them to the end of the world if he had to…

The last Giles saw of him was his scream of frustration as the end of the platform finally forced him to stutter to a halt. In a moment, the station had vanished from sight and Giles was treated to one last glance at Edenbridge before the train emerged out into the countryside.

Through the pounding of her own heartbeat, Giles could feel the steady beating of another. In her shock she had jumped right into Barker’s arms, pressing her back up against his chest. His hands had stayed rigidly on her shoulders but, after a few moments, his arms curled protectively around her.

Giles pushed herself away from him, stepping across to the other side of the carriage. Maybe it was her exhausted delusion, but as she stared back at him, he seemed like a different man than before. He seemed somehow strong and commanding, yet weak and vulnerable. And, despite the sweat that dribbled down his cheek, his face seemed almost inviting…

Almost human…

It was an odd sensation – one that took a long while to subside.

With a glance out at the passing countryside, Giles finally allowed herself to relax. She didn’t know why she was laughing – all she really knew was that it felt like the right thing to do. Adrenalin was coursing through her body and the triumph of escaping Harris’ men filled her with a strange sense of satisfaction. She could understand why crime appealed to some people – the feeling of victory was so addictive…

Barker could feel it too. His voice rumbled with a low chuckle and, as the two made eye contact, they both felt the urge to break out into a wave of infectious laughter. Even one or two of their fellow passengers joined in – although none of them knew why.

Giles glanced down the carriage at them, noting a couple of disgruntled faces peering out from behind newspapers and books or up from their mobile phones.

‘I think we made a noticeable entrance,’ grunted Barker, his eyes sparkling cheekily.

Giles managed little more than a nod of agreement before she turned away and wandered down the carriage in search of a seat. Her mind flitted to Harris who was doubtlessly just arriving on the empty platform. He had struck her as a worrier from the first time she’d heard his voice – she had little doubt that he would be panicking now as he paced the station platform. Through one act of kindness, he had potentially spelt the end of his career…

And yours…

            Giles slid into a seat, placed her head back against the headrest and tried her best to gather her breath. As she did so, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to think of the dead body lying propped up against the pillbox.

The dog leash…

The tickets…

The missing bullet casing…

The creature in Giles’ stomach stirred once again.

We are in so much trouble, it said spitefully. This had better be worth it.

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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