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