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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. 

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 6

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

Chapter Six

The crime scene was a hive of activity with the pillbox at its centre. No one had notice Giles slip away into the next field – they were all far too preoccupied. She slipped back into the cordon and moved her way through the waiting constables. She stepped up beside Harris who gave her an excited wink before peering into the dark, damp of the pillbox.

‘I owe you an apology, Giles,’ he said casually. ‘You were right about the pillbox.’

‘You found the bullet casing?’

He shook his head. ‘No, not so far. We’re doing a final sweep of the inside but it doesn’t seem to be in there.’

‘But it must be…’

Giles stepped up to the opening and peered inside. It took her eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark and the damp, concrete walls appeared before her. Several SOCOs moved slowly from one side of the bunker to the other, carefully searching the floor with their fingertips – moving aside crisp packets and empty tins, disintegrated leaves and clumps of soil in the search across the pillbox.

It has to be in there.

Harris pushed himself away from the opening and stared curiously at Giles. ‘Not to worry,’ he replied. ‘If it’s there, it will turn up.’ He grabbed her by the arm and gently pulled her away. ‘But we did find something interesting. Follow me.’

He led her over to the forensics table and barked at the evidence officer: ‘Do you have it?’

‘Yes, sir.’

The officer’s hand plunged into the sea of clear bags and plucked one out. He handed it over to Harris who held it up for Giles to see.

‘The missing piece of the puzzle,’ he announced.

Giles’ eyes grew wider as she stared at what was inside – at first glance the small, orange and white ticket appeared no different to the one she’d seen before except that it was crumpled and deformed, but the data printed on it told a different story:

‘You found it,’ she whispered, stepping forward a little to see it more clearly. ‘The second ticket.’

Harris’ eyes widened a little as he nodded excitedly.

‘And is there a name on the back?’

‘Oh, yes.’

Slowly, Harris turned the ticket around to face her. There it was – scrawled inside the endorsements box – the distinct impression of two words. Giles studied the words closely, not immediately seeing what the letters spelt out until she finished translating the first of the two. The second word appeared almost instantaneously and Giles could taste the unpleasant tang of metal on her tongue the moment she recognised it.

‘You have to be joking,’ she said, staring up at Harris, who beamed happily back at her.

‘I have to say I’m relieved,’ he boasted, placing the bag back in the evidence pile. ‘I didn’t much fancy going up against him myself…’

Giles didn’t respond. The words were burned into her mind. Two scrawled collections of letters that had changed everything…

Daniel Barker.

‘He’s not in the clear yet,’ she shot back at Harris, turning back towards the pillbox. ‘You still haven’t found the casing.’

Harris smiled delicately at her – he even placed a comforting hand on her shoulder as he said:

‘Giles, it will turn up. It’s probably just been trampled into the ground by a careless constable or by Barker himself by accident…’

‘Or deliberately thrown away,’ Giles fired back. ‘The appearance of one ticket doesn’t prove his innocence.’

‘No,’ Harris agreed. ‘We’ll need to take his statement first. Perhaps you would like to be in on it as it was you who helped prove there is more to this than meets the eye…’

‘I’ve suffered enough of that man’s lies for one lifetime…’

She marched off in the direction of the pillbox. She didn’t look back to see if Harris was following her, but she was sure he was. As she reached the opening, the last of the SOCOs was already climbing out, grasping in her hand another clear plastic bag.

‘Did you find it?’ Giles demanded, barely waiting for her to finish climbing out of the opening.

The SOCO inspected Giles with an air of irritation as she clambered awkwardly out of the opening and landed gingerly on her feet on the hard ground. Harris stepped out from behind Giles and, giving the SOCO a quick nod, said:

‘It’s all right, Bellamy, answer her questions.’

Bellamy pondered Giles for a moment longer before turning towards Harris.

‘It’s all clear,’ she announced. ‘No bullet casing but it looks like the pillbox has been occupied recently: empty food wrappings, a sodden sleeping bag, a couple of beer bottles…’

‘Anything to suggest someone has been there recently?’

‘Possibly,’ Bellamy replied. ‘There’s a queer smell of smoke in there, almost like someone has been smoking…’

‘Smoking?’ Giles burst out.

‘Yes,’ Bellamy answered, eyeing her with annoyance. ‘But I can’t find any evidence of cigarettes in there. No butts, no ash.’

‘So there is a potentially a witness who hasn’t come forwards?’ Harris mused.

‘Perhaps,’ the SOCO replied. ‘Or another suspect.’

Giles shook her head frantically. ‘Can I see for myself?’

Bellamy shrugged. ‘Be my guest. It’s cleared now so you can pootle around to your heart’s content.’

Giles was already halfway through the opening before Bellamy had finished speaking. As she grabbed hold of the wall and swung her legs up to climb through, Harris said:

‘Don’t you want to hear what Barker has to say?’

Giles didn’t reply. Holding on tightly to the roof of the pillbox, she wiggled her legs through the narrow opening until her feet clattered to the ground. Then she let go of the roof and, with the grace of an acrobat, gently arched her back and slid the rest of her body inside.

Reaching into her pocket, Giles pulled out her smartphone and, with a few flicks of her nimble fingers, quickly found the torch application. The pillbox exploded into white light as the torch lit every corner and crevice of the old structure, even sending Giles’ own shadow dancing across the concrete floor as she manoeuvred it to hold more securely.

The floor was littered with rubbish: crisp packets, empty bottles and tin cans – half packs of mouldy bread, the sleeping bag that Bellamy had mentioned. As her light hit the far wall, a rat scurried around the edge, fleeing the light as it clambered up the wall and disappeared through a tiny hole in the outer wall. The murmurs of discussion outside the walls were somehow muffled by the structure and as Giles turned around to peer through the opening she could see Harris and Bellamy walking away from the pillbox, deep in conversation.

At the far side of the crime scene, a pair of SOCOs walked smartly across the grass towards her, taking care to avoid the patch of blood in the centre of the clearing. They carried a black body bag in their hands, which they unzipped and placed down on the ground just out of sight. Giles couldn’t see the body being moved, but she could hear the grunts as the SOCOs gently lifted it into the rubbery plastic and zipped it back up again.

Giles turned back to face the rest of the pillbox, shining her light towards the back where the entrance had been bricked up. At the foot of the hastily blocked doorway was the red sleeping bag – reeking of sweat and urine and crumpled in a heap against the wall. Giles used this as a starting point as she diligently traced her way across the structure, her eyes glued to the floor and her fingers flicking items out of the way as she made her search.

She did this three or four times before eventually giving up. There was no bullet casing – just as Bellamy had said. Giles moved across the room and stood in the opening, watching as Bellamy’s team carted the body off across the clearing and towards the bridge. As they passed the blood splatter on the ground, Giles raised a hand to form a gun with her index finger and thumb and pointed it at their retreating backs.

‘So question number one,’ Giles muttered to herself. ‘Why did the body end up against the pillbox wall?’

And question number two?

Giles sniffed deeply.

‘The smoke smell…’

Damp cigarettes or gun powder?

‘Exactly…’

 

Giles sat perched on a steep section of the riverbank, watching the water trickle and flow downstream on its way to Edenbridge. The first she noticed of Harris was as he arrived and crouched down beside her. Together they watched as an emerald green dragonfly flitted back and forth between the long grass, floating elegantly towards the carpet of bluebells a little further up river from them.

For a long time he didn’t say anything. It was hard to tell whether he was relieved or troubled. Giles could appreciate his dilemma.

‘Well,’ he muttered, picking a blade of long grass and tossing it towards the river. ‘That was interesting.’

Giles wondered how long it would take Harris to carry on speaking. She certainly wasn’t going to pry into what absurdity Barker had sold him, but she was almost certain that the DI was eager to share his new information. It was almost as though he wanted her approval…

Not that your approval matters.

Harris picked another blade of grass and spun it between his fingers, watching as the green end flickered from side to side.

‘Barker’s story seemed to tally with what he know so far,’ he announced. ‘It seems pretty open-and-shut to me.’

‘Congratulations,’ Giles replied bitterly.

She said nothing more. Her mind was awash with a dozen more questions; facts that didn’t make sense and missing evidence that should be there. It didn’t surprise her that Harris had a theory:

‘Barker said he was attacked by our John Doe and I believe him,’ he said, his eyes flickering to the scarf around Giles’ neck.

She should be used to it by now. She’d had these scars for almost a year now and still it surprised her that people would try to look beyond her scarf to see them. Everyone knew they were there – the papers had made a big deal of them. What made it worse was that Giles was plastered all over the front pages…

And yet, as she sensed Harris staring at her, she instinctively reached up and pulled the silk a little tighter, ensuring her disfigured skin was hidden from view.

Harris turned away again, staring out at the river. It was so serene. The water flowed softly past them, unaware of the terrible scene it was passing by – unaware of the great torrent of crashing weirs that it was pouring towards.

Giles would give anything to feel like that again…

‘It makes sense,’ Harris continued. ‘From what Barker tells me, this John Doe was a bit of a professional. He even carried a dog leash around so that Barker wouldn’t suspect who he was until it was too late.’ He nodded self-approvingly. ‘That would account for his lack of identification. A professional hitman wouldn’t carry around his own wallet and ID – he wouldn’t want anything to link him back to whoever employed him, right?’

Giles shook her head. ‘It doesn’t explain the tickets.’

Harris observed her nervously.

‘I’m afraid it does,’ he replied. ‘This will come as a bit of a shock.’ He paused, waiting until Giles finally turned her head to look at him. ‘We don’t think Daniel Barker was the only target.’

Giles stared blankly back. ‘What the hell are talking about?’

‘The tickets, Giles. We believe the man who attacked Barker had another target in mind as well – you.’

Giles struggled not to howl with laughter.

‘Me?’ she cackled. ‘You really have been taken in by him, haven’t you?’

‘I’m absolutely serious.’

‘What possible reason would anyone have to send someone after me? The whole idea is absurd…’

‘You’re a police detective, Giles,’ he replied forlornly. ‘I’m sure you have plenty of enemies.’

The ridiculousness was unbearable. Giles threw herself back into the grass and lay there sniggering up at the sky as Harris looked on. After a while, her sides began to hurt from the constant laughter, but she kept it up anyway. It wasn’t real – but it was the only thing she could do to stop her mind from giving in to panic. Regardless of how stupid the idea was, Giles knew her mind would eventually start to accept it as reality – and then she would hear the screaming again…

She sat upright, grinning at Harris as he studied her.

‘Don’t tell me, Barker told you this, right?’

Harris’ answer was not what she expected.

‘No,’ he said quietly. ‘Barker only told us what happened. He said he saw the man approaching him, calling out a name – he figured it was just a walker who’d lost his dog until he pulled out the gun. Barker ran at him – they struggled over the weapon and it went off. Barker was about call the police when the young woman found them…’

‘So why me?’ Giles interrupted. ‘Why am I on a hit list all of a sudden?’

Harris gazed at her. It was a look that Giles knew well. It was the look that people gave you when they felt sorry for you, when they would love to help you but there wasn’t anything they could physically do to. It was a look Giles knew all too well.

‘It’s like I said – the tickets. Two tickets – two parts of a return from London. On one ticket was written Barker’s name. On the other was yours…’

Giles shrugged disinterestedly. ‘Who’s to say Barker didn’t write them? He obviously wanted my attention…’

‘I asked him,’ Harris interrupted. ‘He denied it.’

‘Of course he did.’

‘But he didn’t deny knowing who you are. On the contrary, he says he knows what it’s all about, but he will only talk to you about it.’

‘I told you before, I have nothing to say to that man…’

In a smooth movement, she clambered to her feet and began to saunter down the riverbank. Harris sprung up energetically and jogged behind her until he was right alongside.

‘He even gave me a name,’ Harris insisted. ‘He said you’d be interested in what he has to say…’

Giles laughed once again. ‘He’s really spun you a line, hasn’t he? He murdered a man in cold blood and your buying into this rubbish. You said it first, he was obviously hoping I was some easy-to-manipulate bit of skirt that he could use to get himself off – but now that hasn’t worked, it isn’t me he’s got wrapped around his little finger…’

‘He mentioned the Bluebell Killer.’

Giles stopped dead in her tracks. The screaming echo had started…

‘He could’ve read that anywhere,’ she hissed. ‘Everybody knows about it…’

Harris nodded. ‘Well, he claims to know a little bit more.’

‘He really has you right where he wants you, doesn’t he?’

Harris didn’t reply. Some ridiculous things had been said today, but Harris at least seemed confident in himself. He was no longer the nervous, trembling voice on the end of a phone – he was a hero. A man who wanted to save the day – to protect Barker, to protect Giles…

Giles span back towards the pillbox. The SOCOs had all but packed away their equipment and were slowly moving towards the bridge. A short distance behind them, Barker sauntered along the path, escorted by half a dozen constables who stared out at the countryside – wide-eyed and alert. It was as though they expected someone to jump out from a nearby bush at any moment.

‘Come on then,’ Giles announced, pushing off her heels and marching in Barker’s direction.

Harris was taken completely by surprise.

‘What…?’ he muttered. ‘Where are you going?’

Giles kept up her pace but turned to look back at him. Her eyes sparkled and gleamed with excitement.

‘We’re going to talk to Daniel Barker,’ she announced. ‘And I’m going to show you what a liar looks like…’

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 Four

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

Chapter Four

God is in the detail…’

It had been a cool, summer’s night – one of those evenings when you could smell the freshness of the air and feel the warmth of the setting sun’s last gasping rays long after the city had been enclosed by darkness. The apartment was clean enough as well – not what the young Detective Constable Giles had expected from her first murder scene. Every item had its place and nothing sinister seemed to grab her as she stepped in through the front door.

Nothing – that is – save for the body of the young woman lying in the middle of the room – blood from a large head wound soaking the white carpet.

Detective Inspector Bolton had been there from the very beginning – guiding her along the way. As Giles stepped into the room, he stopped what he was doing and strode straight over to her. He grasped her by the shoulder and walked her through the apartment, avoiding the body as much as possible.

‘What do you see, Eve?’

Giles’ eyes darted towards the body.

‘No, no, no,’ Bolton said, his hand reaching up and directing her face back away from the body. ‘What do you see?’

It took Giles a while to formulate an answer. She didn’t know if it was the shock of being assigned to her first murder case or the obliqueness of Bolton’s question, but she could find little response apart from a few poorly chosen, muttered words:

‘An apartment,’ she replied. ‘It’s clean. Tidy. Nothing else really…’

Bolton smiled, shaking his head. Her mentor then gestured around the apartment, pointing at almost anything and everything other than the blood-soaked body in the middle of the living room.

‘Everything,’ he whispered. ‘Anything in this room – anything than you can see, you can taste, you can touch or you can hear – any of it could be evidence. Any scrap of paper or flicker of ash, any humming from a ventilation shaft or the smell of deodorant or talcum powder could be a vital clue. But vital clues don’t lead you to your killer – hard and diligent work does that part – but they do open up the possibilities…’

He grabbed hold of Giles and gently manoeuvred her so that she was square in front of him.

‘Vital clues open vital doors,’ he said. ‘Anything can be important. But not everything is. The trick is learning how to pull the vital facts from the world of static irrelevancies around you – find the right keys to the right doors…

‘God is in the detail…’

 

Harris led Giles back towards the forensics table, his head low as he tried to ignore the quizzical stares from his colleagues. Giles knew what he was feeling right now – part of her even felt sorry for him. It was one thing for Harris to demonstrate his authority by throwing Giles off his crime scene – it was quite another for him to admit he was wrong and allow her back again. He was embarrassed and vulnerable – Giles could see it in his body language. But that couldn’t be helped. There was something more important to think about right now.

And yet, in the back of her mind, a small ounce of respect began to flourish for the skinny, little man who stopped by the evidence table. Even as she watched him stroll up to it, Giles felt a newfound fondness for the man she had pegged as a racist only a few minutes before.

A good man…

Flawed.

But good.

‘All right, Giles,’ Harris said, stopping by the collected evidence and gesturing to the bags lining the table. ‘What do you see?’

Giles felt the pang of a long forgotten memory. She didn’t look down at the evidence bags – she could remember every detail.

‘I can tell you what isn’t there that should be,’ she replied, shrugging her shoulders. ‘No wallet. No keys. No identification cards or phone. It’s almost like our John Doe walked into this field like a shadow or an idea. Almost as if he didn’t want anyone to know who he is.’

Harris’ right eye flickered.

‘But what do you see?’

Giles hesitated, her eyes swooping down to the evidence bags.

‘I see a man covered in blood,’ she replied. ‘I see the shadow of a figure stood on a platform in London Bridge, dressed ready to walk his dog in a field with a gun in his pocket. I see a dozen answers to questions we’re not asking and a hundred questions that haven’t been asked yet – and it doesn’t make sense to me…’

‘You’re expanding,’ Harris said calmly, taking a step or two closer. ‘You’re telling me what you think. I just want to know what you see.’

Giles looked for a moment longer. She shook her head, turned back towards the DI and said:

‘I don’t understand.’

Harris considered her thoughtfully. Slowly, and with expert precision, he took his right hand and plunged it in amongst the evidence bags, pulling out a small one that he held out for Giles to take.

Giles recognised it straight away and shrugged.

‘A piece of paper?’ she asked, watching Harris’ eyes closely. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘You know what this is?’

Giles glanced down at the small scrap of paper and described it.

‘A piece of torn off paper. It has a blue and white chequered pattern – it’s probably from an envelope.’

‘Do you know where it was found?’

‘On the ground nearby, I guess?’

Harris shook his head. ‘In the victim’s pocket along with the train ticket.’

Giles shrugged. ‘So, he hadn’t cleaned out his pockets for a while…’

Harris smiled. ‘Did you look at the other side?’ he asked. ‘On the front part of the envelope?’

He held out the bag even closer to Giles his eyes glimmering with an emotion that Giles couldn’t quite place. She glanced down at the translucent evidence bag and looked hard at the envelope.

No, I didn’t look.

 

Tentatively she reached out and grabbed it, holding the evidence bag up into the air and slowly turning it in her hands to reveal the other side of the scrap. It took less than a second, but to Giles it felt like a lifetime. It always seemed the discovery of every vital clue took its own time – like everything would stop so that she could fully appreciate the moment.

She felt a familiar excitement buzz through her veins. Her breathing seemed to all but stop and heart began to pound hard in her chest, threatening to break out of her ribcage and through her skin. Her eyes felt dry and her lips wet with anticipation as she looked down and saw…

‘Nothing,’ she said, curiously staring up at Harris. ‘There’s nothing on there.’

‘Precisely,’ Harris replied, his face flickering with enjoyment as he reached across for another evidence bag.

‘DI Harris, if this is some sort of game…’

‘There is nothing written on that scrap of paper,’ he continued, selecting an evidence bag and holding it close to his chest. ‘No words, no doodles – nothing. It’s just as you said – almost like our John Doe hadn’t cleaned out his pockets for a while – and yet that scrap of paper is perfectly useable, right? I mean – as a last resort – you would use it to write something brief down if you needed to, do you agree?’

Giles glanced back down at scrap. It was a little mottled and frayed around the edges, but otherwise it was still useful as a piece of paper. She turned her eyes up to the bag that Harris had wrapped tightly in his hands.

‘What’s in the other bag?’

Harris’ face beamed with contentment as he handed it over to her.

‘This is what brought you here.’

Giles looked down in her hands. The little, orange train ticket sat in the evidence bag was a little creased around the edges but otherwise in perfect condition.

‘Turn it over.’

Giles did as Harris requested, turning the ticket gently around to look at the opposite side. It took her a moment to see it – her eye was instantly drawn to the large, black magnetic strip that ran the full width – and it was only with her third or fourth glance that she noticed the unfamiliar writing hastily scrawled in the endorsements section.

A queer feeling rippled through her body – starting in her stomach and spreading quickly to her neck. Her scars began to throb beneath her silk scarf and a strong, vile taste of metal began to linger on the back of her tongue.

Her eyes narrowed on Harris.

‘He left me a message.’

Harris shrugged. ‘If you can call a name on a ticket a message. Though why he chose to ignore a fresh scrap of paper is a little curious, wouldn’t you say?’

Giles stared down at the ticket again. The writing was untidy and very small, but the words written there were unmistakeable.

Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles.

In that instant, Giles thought she understood.

‘That’s why you brought me here,’ she muttered. ‘Because he wrote my name.’

Harris nodded. ‘It looked to me like a call for help – ‘Find Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles if anything happens to me.’’

‘Now who’s expanding,’ Giles shot back, allowing herself to smile up at the DI. She turned her attention back to the writing, examining it closely. ‘So, you thought John Doe was one of my informants…’

‘We did,’ Harris replied, taking the evidence bags from her and depositing them back on the table. ‘Or at least someone who knew you personally and trusted you enough to help them if needed. Then something else happened that made the whole thing untenable.’

‘Untenable?’

Harris nodded. ‘Daniel Barker mentioned your name. ‘Find DS Giles,’ he kept saying. He seemed very adamant that you would want to speak with him.’

‘I have nothing to say to that man…’

‘Those were my thoughts the moment I set eyes on you,’ Harris continued, leading Giles away from the evidence table. ‘And that’s why you shouldn’t be here.’

Giles shook her head violently.

‘If anything that ticket is precisely the reason why I should…’

‘Technically speaking, you are now a part of this case. You could be a vital witness or – and I hope you don’t take offence – even a suspect. I shouldn’t even allow you on the crime scene…’

Giles didn’t reply. She wasn’t even listening to Harris’ muttered misgivings. Her attention was drawn to the far field where, once again, Barker was talking with a couple of the police officers holding large evidence bags.

A cigarette was dangling from his mouth and he laughed jovially as he slowly unbuttoned his shirt and placed it inside the bag. He didn’t stop to put on the new shirt the officer was holding out for him, but continued straight on to unbuckling his belt and removing his trousers.

Giles had to hand it to him – beneath the suited exterior, Barker kept reasonable good care of his body. He wasn’t exactly brimming with muscles, but he had the makings of a good six-pack and his chest was flat and broad.

He flung his trousers into the evidence bag and exchanged another joke with the police officer before taking the spare trousers and slowly pulling them up his legs. When they were nearly at his crotch, he seemed to stop and glance around his surroundings – almost as though he were checking to see who was watching. A small smile crossed his face as he caught sight of two, young female officers – who were risking a sneaky glance – before hoisting the trousers up to his waist and buttoning them up.

It was then that he made eye contact with Giles. He froze for a few seconds, staring deep into her eyes even from the distance of the next field, a strange look plastered across his face that made her back shudder uncontrollably. He took his time putting the shirt on, flexing his stomach muscles in her direction as he made the most of putting each arm into the correct sleeve.

There was something familiar about him – about the way he held himself.

Something that reminded her of…

Jason.

She turned her head away, back towards Harris. Her face flushed with embarrassment, but the DI didn’t seem to notice.

‘So,’ he said, staring around the crime scene. ‘Where do you think the bullet casing is?’

‘Sorry?’

Harris’ eyes narrowed. ‘The bullet casing? You said you knew where it was.’

‘Oh, I do,’ she replied, gesturing towards the police officer coming back towards them with two large evidence bags. ‘Can I examine his clothes?’

Harris sounded more irritated as he spoke again:

‘Giles. The bullet casing…’

‘Even if SOCO just go through them. I want to know what’s in his pockets…’

‘Fine,’ Harris growled. ‘But the bullet casing, Giles. Where is it?’

Giles turned back towards him. ‘Hmmm?’

‘The bullet casing? You can’t have a bullet without the casing so where is it?’

It took Giles a moment to understand.

‘Oh, yes,’ she said, the realisation suddenly dawning on her. ‘The bullet casing – sorry, yes, I know where it is.’

With that she span on her heels and marched off across the crime scene, gesturing for Harris to come with her. She couldn’t put her finger on what put a spring in her step but, as they approached the pillbox, Giles definitely began to feel happier – almost as though a moment of pure contentment was just around the corner.

‘You didn’t find it before because you were looking in the wrong place,’ she said animatedly. ‘But, if Barker isn’t a murderer, then it must be there somewhere. If you haven’t found it yet, there is only one place it can be.’ She flashed Harris a comforting smile. ‘It’s like you said, ‘you can’t have a bullet without its casing…’’

She came to a stop not far away from where the body lay crumpled against the pillbox. Her eyes lingered on the dead man, flickering from his clothing up to his cold, lifeless face.

You can’t have one without the other…

‘God is in the detail…’ she whispered.

‘Sorry?’

Giles turned towards Harris. Somewhere in the dark recesses of her mind, a light bulb had been switched on. A flurry of thoughts and ideas cascaded through her mind leaving her overwhelmed for a short time until the images began to mould and form an idea. An idea that she was surprised she hadn’t thought of before…

A brilliant idea…

‘The ticket,’ she said quickly.

Harris sighed despondently. ‘Giles, the casing?’

‘No, no, you don’t understand.’ She glanced down at the body at her feet. ‘The ticket – it had my name on it – a name scrawled on a part of a ticket where no one would think to look…’

‘Yes, I get that…’

‘But you don’t,’ Giles replied, before hastily adding, ‘No offence, but you don’t get it. The ticket was found in John Doe’s pocket, implying that he came down from London, right?’

Harris thought about arguing, but the excitement in Giles’ voice was somewhat infectious and he satisfied himself with collapsing against the pillbox wall, arms folded and with a look of pure surrender on his face.

‘Go on.’

‘He didn’t have a wallet. No phone. No keys. Nothing to identify him. But he does have a ticket on him – a regular, outbound part of a return ticket from London to Edenbridge. And on that ticket, he wrote my name – not on the scrap piece of paper in his pocket, but on the ticket – a valid ticket that he was using that day.’

Giles stared expectantly at Harris, her eyes dancing with excitement. In return, Harris let out a long sigh, kicked himself off the wall of the pillbox and stared around the crime scene with the suggestion of a man pushed beyond his limits. When he finally turned back to Giles, his face was heavy and grey with resignation as he slowly shook his head.

‘Do you even know where the casing is?’ he asked sombrely. ‘Or was this just a clever blind to get back on my crime scene?’

‘Hmmm?’

Harris raised an eyebrow, his eyes almost vacant as they looked her up and down. Giles’ excitement subsided and she felt an echo of resentment as she examined Harris’ face. Her excitement had gotten the better of her – the flicker of an idea had whisked her mind down a tangent and now she was faced with a look of bitter disappointment.

Always the show off, Eve…

She straightened herself upright, pulling her coat down and straightening her scarf as she attempted to regain her professional veneer. Then, with a quick nod to the building behind Harris, she said:

‘The bullet casing is in the pillbox, probably somewhere near one of the openings – get your SOCO guys in there and they’ll probably find it in two seconds flat.’ She flashed a confident – but not cocky – smile towards him. ‘There’s nowhere else it could be.’

Giles hadn’t expected any praise for her deduction, but she had at least anticipated some sort of recognition for her logic – a dropping of his jaw, a widening of his eyes, a shortness of breath. She certainly hadn’t expected the wave of exasperation that shot across his face. The stance he adopted was far more aggressive than grateful and, as he scowled down at the ground, his body resonated with exuded bitterness.

He couldn’t even hide the resentment in his voice.

‘There’s no way of getting in, Giles,’ he said. ‘You didn’t really think we hadn’t already thought of that, did you?’

Giles opened her mouth to reply but something in Harris’ posture warned her away from debating the point further. Instead she glanced down at the cold corpse on the ground and cleared her throat.

‘You’re still missing the point,’ she said abruptly. ‘John Doe bought a return ticket from London Bridge. On the ticket to Edenbridge, he wrote my name.’

‘So?’

‘So, where’s the other ticket? And more to the point…’

‘What might be written on it?’

The bitterness vanished in an instant. Harris’ face filled with colour, his eyes staring down at the dead body in wonder as his mind opened itself up to what was obvious now that Giles had pointed it out.

‘We have to find that ticket,’ he muttered, his eyes dancing back up to meet Giles’. ‘If Barker has it…’

‘I’m on it,’ Giles replied, spinning on her feet and marching off across the crime scene.

It took a good few steps before either one of them remembered that Giles wasn’t supposed to be there. It was Giles who remembered it first, but she didn’t stay her step, hoping that her input had been enough – at least for a little while. It only took Harris a few seconds longer.

‘Giles,’ he called out, waiting for her to stop and turn around. ‘I still can’t have you helping this investigation. It breaks every rule in the book.’

Giles smiled, staring absently down at the ground in search for inspiration.

‘Even the best rules have to be broken every once in a while, sir,’ she said, starting to turn around again.

‘And the casing? Was that just a bluff or did you really think you’d found it where we failed?’

Giles considered her answer carefully before replying.

‘I meant what I said,’ she said defiantly. ‘The bullet casing is in the pillbox. There is no other explanation.’

‘And I meant what I said,’ Harris shot back, taking a step closer to her. ‘The entrance is bricked up. There is no way of getting inside that pillbox.’

‘No way in?’ Giles repeated, a smile spreading cheerfully across her face. ‘So how do the homeless guys get in, I wonder?’

She didn’t wait to see his reaction.

With a new spring in her step, she turned away from him and marched over to the evidence table. As she waited patiently for the officers to start searching Barker’s clothing, she watched with interest as Harris called his sergeant and another SOCO over. He talked frantically with them for a few minutes before the SOCO reluctantly walked up to the pillbox and, with Harris and his sergeant helping to lift him up, scrambled through one of the openings and disappeared inside.

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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The Bluebell Story…

When people ask me about my writing, they tend to ask two things…

Well, three things – but I’m not allowed to give the names of my ghostwriting clients so I can’t really go into that…

They tend to ask (1) why do you write, and (2) why write The Bluebell Informant?

The answer to the first question is quite simple: I enjoy doing it. Even as a youngster I loved making up stories, and every major aspiration I’ve had ever since has had something to do with creating stories – whether that was through theatre, film or books. It just made sense that writing would be something I’d do with my life.

So I embraced it.

Of course, there are other more personal reasons, which I touched upon briefly in my last post, but the long and the short of it is that I love writing and there isn’t really anything else I’d rather be doing.

As for the question of The Bluebell Informant – that’s a slightly different matter, and one that I will go into a little more detail about.

But before I do, let me ask you this.

Have you ever had a thought in your mind that was strong enough that you could think it, but not so fully formed that you could adequately describe it?

That’s what it was like when I first created Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles. She was there – at least the idea of her and what she stood for was there – but she seemed somehow distant, like she wasn’t quite ready yet.

And that was frustrating. 

You hear all these stories of authors who have their main characters wandering into their heads fully formed (J K Rowling being the obvious example). And yet my character was resolutely malformed. In fact she wasn’t even a she. Giles was a he. And not even a good he. He was a jumble of cliches wrapped up in a Sherlock Holmes-like intelligence with fragments of arrogance and smarminess tossed in for good measure.

I’d created a terrible character. A cocky, over-intelligent, white, middle-class, Detective Inspector who I – somehow – believed could portray weakness and humility despite the fact that everything I’d poured into his character said otherwise. I had created a monster – and this monster was supposed to carry my story…

But this was before I started penning The Bluebell Informant. Back then, it was simply a story called Giles – the story of a DI trying to weed out the corruption that seemed to have infested his entire department.

It didn’t take me long to abandon the story.

But Giles clung on – refusing to die, refusing to confine himself to the slush pile of forgotten characters. cropped-img_2652.jpg

And it wasn’t long before I resurrected him. Only now he was a she. And she was only a lowly Detective Sergeant. The Giles of this story was still middle-class, still white and still arrogant – but somehow she was a little bit more believable. As I began writing my second attempt for a Giles story – Obsession – this Giles seemed to become more real with each passing chapter.

But she still wasn’t perfect. She was still cliched to high heaven, stuck-up and a pain to work with. I almost considered killing her off, just to make my life more interesting…

And then the idea came to me. The problem wasn’t with my characterisation of her necessarily – it was with my knowledge of her. Here I had this strong female character who I’d been working with for some time and I didn’t really know anything about her. I didn’t know where she’d come from, what she was like outside her job. Hell – I didn’t even know about the initial events that led her to this story…

It was then that I sat down to write The Bluebell Informant.

It started out as just a theoretical exercise. I was going to write a prequel that explained how Giles got to the events of Obsession – for no one else’s benefit other than my own. I would establish her back story and that would be it.

But Giles wasn’t done with me yet. There was more to The Bluebell Informant than I had originally intended. The more I wrote, the more I began to realise that I was writing about my fears. I was writing about how easily people can be conditioned to hate others. I was writing about how human – and therefore corrupt – politicians and policemen can be. I was writing about a good woman trying to fight the good fight – and having to break a few rules in order to do it.

With each cover-2word I wrote, Giles became more defined. She wasn’t white, middle-class anymore. She was asian and working class. She wasn’t some over-entitled cow – she’d gotten where she was by hard graft and dedication. And by the time I’d finished The Bluebell Informant, I no longer had a character…

I had DS Evelyn Giles.

There are authors in this world that can just dream up characters, but mine had taken hard graft and enough headaches to cripple even the most resolute of human beings. But I could finally see her…

Evelyn Giles.

I don’t think she would’ve let me get away with not writing The Bluebell Informant quite frankly…

Do you?

 

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter One

Daniel Barker sat silently in the darkest corner of the most secluded room he could find.

The whiskey glass in his hand was cold to touch. The ice had long since melted away, but the chill still remained. The light-brown fluid swirled around the base as he rocked the vessel from side to side – his eyes gazing at a spot that even he couldn’t see. His mind dreaming dreams that would never become reality.

He was in grief – or at least what he supposed was grief. Every droplet of happiness had been sucked from what little remained of his soul and the heavy, empty feeling in his chest wounded him more than anything else could ever have done. And yet there was no physical pain – only the dull sadness of knowing that he would never again experience what had made him so contented for all these years.

He had built a career off the backs of his friends. For every speech he made they were there to listen, for every step he took they were by his side. Behind the scenes they formulated plans and schemes, spread fear and distrust and herded people to Barker’s cause.

But none of them were here now.

They were off celebrating in the bright lights and drunken throes of victory. With the glee of triumph had come the bitter pill of defeat, bringing with it fleeting pats on the back and kind words of sympathy. And then, like the parasites that they were, they’d scuttled off into the night leaving Barker alone with his misery.

Anonymity was Barker’s only friend. The only friend he wanted. The wolves of the tabloid press, his one-time allies, were surely out there now, hounding every pub and bar from London to Edinburgh, trying desperately to find him. And find him they would. And when their relentless questions and immoral bluntness had utterly shattered his already fractured ego, they would skulk back to their editorial caves and wait for another day.

For another victim.

Barker had hoped that, for a time at least, the seclusion would somehow shield him from the rest of the world. Keep him hidden until he was ready to stir out of the dark and emerge to fight once more.

But hope wasn’t enough.

The route through to the next room had no door to close and the sounds of the early morning drinkers drifted in, contaminating Barker’s safe haven. One by one, they crept up to the doorway and peered inside, nudging one another gleefully and daring their friends to be the first to step through. Out of the darkness, Barker’s once approachable eyes glared out with ferocity. He forced hard on his cigarette, breathing the toxic smoke deep into his lungs and then, with a great jolt of exertion, expelled the grey, airy mass out of his nostrils and towards his observers.

The vultures at the door giggled quietly – unthreatened and unperturbed.

Recoiling further into the shadows, Barker threw his head back and tossed the last of the whiskey down his throat, barely allowing his tongue to taste the liquid as it cascaded down.

As the glass hit the table, the dull pain returned. His lungs stung and the back of his throat crumpled as he retched and convulsed. His face turned blue and his panicking mind thought of nothing else but death as he struggled for breath.

He clutched hold of his neck and instinctively jumped up from his seat, smashing the table as he did so. The domino-wave of disturbed furniture sent a single bar stool skidding towards the door but Barker didn’t care. His mind was set on one thing along – forcing the whiskey back out of his lungs.

The vultures backed away a little as they watched Barker cough the liquid back up again. No one was interested enough to come to his aid. But nor did they turn their backs as Barker, face purple and contorted, struggled to regain control of himself. After all, they might be about to witness history – perhaps this was to be the end of the Barker Story.

But it wasn’t.

Regaining his breath, Barker slouched back in his chair, delicately wiping his lips where the phlegm had congealed. His blood-shot eyes glared up at the crowd outside the door whilst he breathed steadily, pressing his hand hard against his chest like a man trying to stem a gunshot wound. Little by little, his strength returned to him and the stinging sensation died down.

With the excitement over, the crowd slowly dispersed back into the main bar, occasionally throwing curious glances back towards the smoke-filled room but otherwise leaving Barker in peace. They would not ask any questions today, not if they knew what was good for them.

Barker was grateful for the solitude.

‘Another!’ he called out, banging his glass loudly on the table.

The nearby bartender glared into the gloom with unveiled distaste. He set down the glasses he’d been cleaning, moved over to the optics and poured out another whiskey. He tried hard not to make eye contact as he brought the drink out from behind the bar and deposited it in front of Barker. Through the murkiness of the smoke, Barker thought he heard the young man mutter something about smoking indoors as he retreated back through the door.

Barker had neither the strength nor the compulsion to challenge him. The bartender had already had several opportunities to demand Barker extinguish his cigarettes and he had baulked every time.

No one was going to confront him openly…

Not after the day he’d just had.


He had just finished his fourth whiskey of the day and lit up his ninth cigarette of the afternoon when the silhouette of a large, bald headed man appeared through the smoke. His tailor-made suit clung desperately to his body, moulding the shape of the unsightly man into something akin to attractiveness. A purple tie hung half-tied around his neck and his white shirt bore all the hallmarks of a heavy bout of partying: breadcrumbs, red wine stains and sweat.

He didn’t ask whether Barker wanted company. He simply crossed the room and took the seat next to him, a sneer stretching beneath his disjointed nose. There were no more thoughts of solitude, no more wishes of being left alone. Barker wasn’t going to stop him.

Not this man.

‘I am surprised to find you here,’ the man said, clicking his fingers dramatically. ‘I would have thought you’d be celebrating with the rest of them.’

The bartender promptly jumped out from behind the bar and walked swiftly back into the murky room. The bald man ordered two more whiskeys and, as the bartender turned his back, removed a large Cuban cigar from his jacket pocket and proceeded to light it. The two of them sat quietly as they waited – Barker inhaling from the cigarette, his visitor sucking loudly on his cigar.

The bartender returned with their drinks, keeping his eyes pinned to the floor as he approached. As he set them down, the bald man opened his legs, pointed his large belly towards the bartender and rolled the cigar smoke around in his mouth.

‘What’s your name, boy?’

‘Tom Richardson, Mr Haines.’

The bartender was no boy. To Barker’s eyes, he seemed closer to his early thirties – probably a former student who, like so many graduates, had fallen on hard times and joined the masses of the working class. A man who, despite his intelligence and ambition, had been driven down to the lowest rung of society by betrayal and fear. It was that same fear that controlled him now as he flashed Haines a token smile whilst keeping his eyes firmly glued on the two drinks he was delivering.

Haines felt it as well. Slowly, his hands crept up and down his fat thighs, his tongue licking sickeningly at the side of his mouth.

‘Do you like it here, Tom?’ he asked. ‘Do they pay well?’

‘It’s a good job, Mr Haines.’

‘Maybe you might like to work for me?’

Tom didn’t answer. His eyes flickered with apprehension and – with an unusual sense of haste in his stride – he paced out of the room and into the fresher air. Haines sniggered to himself as the sound of Tom’s coughing and hurling drifted back through the open door. He picked up his glass and, with his eyes still tinted with glee and sparkling with mischief, he raised it in a toast.

‘To your success.’

He took a long sip.

Barker didn’t join him.

Haines couldn’t have failed to notice. But he didn’t react. He finished his sip and set his glass back down on the table. In the silence that followed, Barker was aware only of the rhythmical tapping of the ice against the inside of the whiskey glass and of Haines’ predatory eyes as they watched Tom, now ghostly-pale, pottering around behind the bar. Something about the way Haines toyed with the cigar in his hand made Barker feel distinctly uneasy and, in that moment of quiet contemplation, he wondered how he had never felt it before.

‘You lied to me,’ Barker said. ‘You went back on your word.’

There was little reaction in Haines’s eyes save for a small glimmer of distaste.

‘I disagree. I believe I fulfilled my part most effectively.’

‘The deal was that I would win…’

‘The deal was that your party would win.’ Haines tore his eyes away from the barman. ‘There was never any specific mention of what would become of you.’

‘It was implied…’

‘I don’t do business by implication, Mister Barker.’

Barker sunk back into his seat. All the fight had gone out of him. Even if it hadn’t, there was little that could be done about it now. Haines’ emphasis on the word ‘Mister’ did little to breathe fire back into Barker’s battered ego. Reluctantly, he reached across and took a dose of fresh whiskey, allowing it to slide easily down his throat until the glass was all but drained.

Haines nodded approvingly. He snapped his fingers and ordered two more. When Tom returned this time, Haines paid him no attention. He’d had his fun. Now there was a new game to play.

‘I would have thought you’d be happier,’ he explained. ‘What was it you said during the campaign, ‘Britain needs a party capable of making the tough choices’? Well, you certainly got the British people on your side. Now they have a government capable of making the tough choices. But they didn’t really like you, did they?’ He chuckled, taking another suck on his cigar. ‘I suppose Dobbs would be the best replacement for you. He hasn’t got the same man-of-the-people appeal as you, but he’s been in my pocket a lot longer. In a few weeks, when they do the vote, you’ll be able to relax. No more media attention. No more abuse for the left-wing hippy fascists. Nothing more than a footnote in the history books…’

‘Will you rig that one as well?’

Haines’ eyes sparkled. He took another puff on his cigar.

‘That is no longer your concern,’ he said. His eyebrows flickered up and down as he flashed the briefest of sneers. ‘And, of course, having fulfilled my side of the bargain, I will naturally be expecting you to fulfil yours.’

Haines smiled, sliding one of the whiskeys across the table. Barker peered down at the inviting fluid as it swirled around the semi-transparent rocks of ice. Dashed against them and sinking to the bottom of the glass were all his hopes and dreams; his ambitions and desires for the future…

A sixth won’t hurt.

‘I have nothing left to give, you saw to that…’

He drained the glass, squinting as the bitter taste caught in the back of his throat. Haines leant forward and placed a hand on Barker’s upper thigh, squeezing it tightly.

‘Oh, I don’t think that’s entirely true. Do you, Mister Barker?’

Evelyn Giles let the phone ring.

It was a Bank Holiday and there was no way she was going into work.

Not again.

The world outside was bright and sunny. The crisp, cool air wafted through the open window, floating the suggestion that spring was nearly over and that summer would soon be here. The blue sky, scattered with the merest suggestion of small, puffy clouds, hung like a great protective veil over the city and the cheerful sound of children playing drifted up from the park at the foot of her apartment block.

As the phone shrilled from the lounge, Giles beat the cake mixture a little harder, clattering the wooden spoon against the large ceramic bowl in an attempt to drown out the persistent ringing. She leant a little closer, breathing in the scent of sugar and flour that fused seamlessly with the wholesome aroma of fresh grass and pure air from the outside world. She watched as the light yellow mixture lapped and folded over itself in the bottom of the bowl, slowly becoming thicker as the wooden spoon smashed it about.

The phone continued its relentless cry.

Giles reached out for a bag of chocolate chips and gently distributed them into her mixture. As the last chip fell into the bowl, Giles eyed the phone with renewed irritation. The welcoming heat of the oven beneath the counter begged her to stay put and Giles was not about to argue.

This day off had been a long time coming, and no trouble at work was going to ruin it.

Giles spooned her mixture on to a baking tray and took up her position, crouching down in front of the oven as the dozen or so small blobs slowly melted to form warm and deliciously gooey cookies.

The phone rang again.

Beneath her breath, Giles cursed the obstinacy of the inanimate device but remained at her post by the oven. She didn’t notice the bedroom door swing open, nor did she register Jason crossing the lounge until it was too late. The stocky, thin figure of her husband arrived at the telephone long before Giles could react and she could do little more than watch helplessly as he stood, speaking with whoever was on the other end of the line.

‘I should have taken it off the hook,’ she muttered to herself.

Will I never learn?

Her eyes levelled on Jason’s back. Water from the shower dripped delicately off his bronzed back, disappearing into the neat white towel around his waist. Giles smiled as her eyes continued down to his bare legs – if it came down to a choice of baking or following him back into the shower, she knew which one she would take.

The idea was shattered as he turned to face her.

‘Eve,’ he called out. ‘It’s important.’

Giles took as long as possible to set down her bowl, wash her hands and saunter through to the lounge. As she approached, Jason’s eyes glinted with a curious resignation. No one in the world knew her better than her husband and Jason was wise and patient enough to know there was no point in attempting to intervene. Whoever was on the other end was going to get one hell of a shock. Nothing short of an emergency was going to ruin this Bank Holiday – that was what they had both agreed.

He handed her the phone, planted a delicate kiss on her cheek and headed back towards the bedroom. Giles watched him walk away, her eyes locked firmly on his muscular back until he had disappeared behind the door.

‘Giles,’ she barked into the receiver.

Her smile had vanished and her dulcet tones were now clipped and professional.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles?’

The voice on the other end of the phone belonged to a man. That much was clear. But his words were taut and his pitch was laced with anxiety.

‘Detective Inspector William Harris, Kent Police. I was wondering whether I could steal an hour or so of your time?’

‘I’m afraid that’s not possible. I have plans.’

She didn’t know Harris and perhaps it was this that made it easier for her to rebuke him. She wasn’t often blunt towards senior officers, but on a day like today…

The voice that replied was more confident and steadfast than before, but through the cold, hard plastic of the receiver, Giles could still hear the unease it masked.

‘I think you will break your plans when you hear what I have to say.’

Giles didn’t reply for a moment. Her eyes flickered longingly between the baking in the kitchen and the bedroom door, wanting nothing more than to tell Harris to call again another day. But the fear, and she had no doubt it was fear in his voice, began to sow a familiar, yet unwelcome, seed of interest in her mind.

‘What can I do for you, sir?’

‘There has been a murder just outside of Edenbridge. We were hoping you might come and have a look, if it’s not too much trouble?’

It is too much trouble. This is my day off.

‘With the greatest of respect, sir, a dead body in Kent is a little outside of my patch…’

‘Granted. But the circumstances of the case may well interest you.’

It can wait until tomorrow.

‘What circumstances?’

The door to the bedroom opened and Jason emerged, the towel now replaced by a pair of jeans and a white, open shirt. He peered across at Giles and mouthed: ‘Is there a problem?’

No, there is no problem. Nothing is going to ruin this Bank Holiday.

Giles let loose a small smile before turning away from her husband.

‘Well, I haven’t arrived at the scene yet, but my officers inform me that there is some evidence that may pertain to you or maybe one of your cases…’

It can definitely wait until tomorrow.

‘I don’t understand…’

You don’t need to understand. Deal with it tomorrow.

Harris took a deep breath on the other end of the line.

‘It would appear the victim knew who you were…’

You are off-duty. This can wait until tomorrow.

‘… and I don’t think he was a friend…’

Giles raised her hand and squeezed her temple between her thumb and middle finger, willing the argumentative voice in her head to stop.

‘I don’t want to cause alarm,’ Harris continued. ‘But I think we have one of your informants…’

The breath caught in Giles’ throat. The voice in her head fell silent and, in that short moment, she could think clearly once again.

The decision came swiftly.

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

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It’s Release Day!

It’s been a long time in the planning, but the day is finally here. The Bluebell Informant has finally been officially released to download!! Check it out at Nook and Kobo to get it for free! (If you’re a Kindle reader, here’s the Amazon link – but read on if you want to get it for free!)

That’s right – after nearly two years of work, I’ve finally got the first chapter of the DS Evelyn Giles series out into the world, and so far the response has been awesome.

How do you catch a killer who is already dead?

One year ago, the Bluebell Killer killed his last victim. He was shot and killed, leaving behind a legacy of twenty corpses and a name that people will fear for years to come…

A year later, a man is shot in the back of the head and left in a field of bluebells.
Is it a mugging gone wrong? A copycat killer? Or is the Bluebell Killer still out there, waiting to pounce on his next victim?

For DS Evelyn Giles the solution is simple – it’s just another dirty politician caught committing an unforgiveable crime. But with the evidence stacking up against him, Giles’ suspect has one more surprise in store for her…
And his words will throw everything she knows into question…

‘It’s not over yet.’

The past is coming back to haunt DS Giles. She’s already sacrificed much for the lie. The only question is how much more will she suffer for the truth?

Add on top of that – the first Giles Case is coming to its conclusion today. If you haven’t been following the case so far, check it out now. There is a chance to win some nice little goodies if you can guess the identity of the killer and the motive for murder – perfect for all you crime fiction buffs out there. The competition closes on the 14th April, so make sure you get your entries in by then. It’s free to enter and should be quite fun.

And – as if that wasn’t enough for today – I am delighted to announce that I am currently elbow deep in sorting out a paperback version of The Bluebell Informant, which should be released in the coming months. As some of you may know, I wanted to give the Bluebell Informant away, but a large portion of my readers are keen to have a physical copy even if it will cost them a bit to get it…

What was that rule about giving the people what they want…?

Anyway, more updates on that to follow.

Oh – and on the subject of cost…

Despite their price matching promise, Amazon are still charging for the Kindle version of The Bluebell Informant – for the time being at least. Sure it’s only £0.99 (or $1.23) but that’s still £0.99 more than I wanted to give it away for.

So – being a man of my word – I have set up my own giveaway so that the Kindle readers amongst you can still get a free copy to read. Just follow the link and you will be able to download a copy that you can then send to your Kindle address…

Just follow this link. 

Check it out and – if you get a chance – please take a few moment to leave a review as well. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.