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Barker leapt several feet backwards when the front door burst open. Before he had a chance to recover, Giles barrelled her way back into the front room, leading a curvy, young woman in by the scruff of her neck. Barker recognised the woman from somewhere, but it took him a moment or two to work out why. It was only as Giles shoved her roughly into the chair that he recognised the daughter of the former Prime Minister.
Giles ignored him, pulling Alison back in the seat so that she was sat upright. Her friend didn’t struggle, her eyes were fixed squarely on Barker.
‘Giles,’ the politician barked. ‘What the hell is going on?’
‘Shut up,’ Giles muttered as she retreated back away from Alison with the gun still pointed squarely at her chest.
‘Eve, please,’ Alison protested, her eyes never leaving Barker. ‘I don’t know what’s going on…’
‘I said shut up, Ali.’
Alison had never been a particularly strong personality. She had been very forthright when it came to her father’s politics, but otherwise she was perfectly happy to sit in the background and be unnoticed. That was why Giles liked her – she could always rely on her to be quiet and non-judgmental.
But, now that she looked at her, Alison Carew seemed to be little more than a shadow of the woman she had been before. The normally sweet and caring woman was a wretched mass of spite and bile, all of which was directed across the room at the politician. Then, as the seriousness of her situation began to dawn on her, Alison’s eyes moved slowly towards the gun in Giles’ hands and all pretence of anger and hatred was dropped as she descended, clasping her hands tightly in each other’s grip as she became little more than a quivering wreck. She wrapped herself up tightly into a ball, her face screwed up as tears swelled down her cheeks and her breath struggled to escape her lungs. Every time she dared to open her eyes, they would swing back to the gun barrel and she instantly cowered up against the back of the chair, gripping tightly to the wooden frame as though it might offer some protection.
Barker, in comparison, looked on with absolute stillness. Even when Giles gestured for him to take a seat on the sofa, he remained standing behind her, peering at Alison like through the bars of some zoo enclosure. To say that he was interested would be a step to far, but there was a definite look of glee in his face as his eyes flitted between the gun and Alison – a look that almost completely obscured the dawning terror that he was beginning to experience.
As the commotion died down, Giles slowly lowered the gun, placing it on the mantelpiece behind her before stepping forward. Producing a handkerchief, she gently dabbed at Alison’s face, wiping away the tears until her friend could finally open her eyes and stare into Giles’ face.
‘Eve…’ she whispered with a voice quivering in terror. ‘What is happening? Why are you doing this?’
Giles finished wiping away the tears before setting the handkerchief down on the floor. She smiled at Alison, gently rubbing her hand against her friend’s knee.
‘Ali, I’m going to ask you some questions,’ she said softly. ‘And I need you to answer them for me – it’s important.’
‘Why don’t you just ask me?’ Alison quivered. ‘Why did you need to bring a gun with you?’
Giles breathed out a slow sigh.
‘Because I need you to understand how much trouble you are in. But if you co-operate with me, I can help you, do you understand?’
‘Co-operate?’ Alison’s face began to screw up with tears once again. ‘Co-operate with what?’
‘I could ask the same question,’ Barker chipped in. ‘What’s this all about, Giles? Is this some half-baked attempt to frighten me? Because, if it is, it isn’t working…’
His voice told a different story. If Barker was anything right now, frightened was definitely one of them. But Giles had another goal in mind – Barker was nothing but a side-show at this moment. And she was about to prove it to him…
She nodded to the politician stood behind her.
‘Do you know who this is?’
Alison glanced up at Barker, a definite scowl crossing her face, and nodded firmly.
‘People are trying to kill him, Ali. I need to know why…’
A moment passed and then Alison did something quite unexpected. She laughed. She chuckled for a good twenty seconds, her eyes occasionally flashing up at Barker.
‘Really, Eve?’ she whispered. ‘You really need to know why? I would’ve thought out of everyone you would be the one to understand best. After everything he did to you. After everything he did to my father…’
‘Is that what this is about? Revenge for your father?’
Alison sniggered again. ‘I was doing my job.’
There was a bitterness in her voice, but Giles had no doubt she was telling the truth. She had known Alison for a long time – so long that they used to joke they could never lie to each other. Alison always tried though – but Giles always knew, even if she never said anything.
Giles leaned forward a little closer.
‘Who are you working for?’ she asked. ‘Who made you betray me?’
Alison shook her head. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about…’
‘We don’t have time, Ali,’ Giles replied, her voice laced with a little more urgency. ‘People have tried to kill Barker today. People have tried to kill me. I need to know who you’re working for. Was it just Doyle or were you both working for someone else…?’
‘Working for someone else…?’
‘Just tell me the truth, Ali.’
‘The truth?’ Alison’s face filled with anger. ‘I don’t know who this Doyle is. I don’t what he’s done or who he’s working for. I’ve never betrayed anyone in my life – certainly not you…’
‘Then why did you do it?’
It was hard to remain calm under the circumstances. After the day she’d had, Giles could have grabbed the gun and thrust it under Alison’s chin. She could have pressed it right against her jaw and screamed at her until she told her everything she knew. But Alison was a friend – one of the few Giles had these days. She could never do anything to hurt her.
‘I didn’t do anything,’ Alison replied, a little more forcefully than before. ‘I don’t know anything. If this guy – Doyle – tried to kill you, it had nothing to do with me…’
Something snapped in Giles’ mind. She couldn’t stay calm any longer.
Lurching forward, she brought her face right up against Alison’s. She grabbed hold of the chair and pushed it with all her strength. The woodern structure clattered against the wall with a loud, creaking thus and Alison cowered in terror, whimpering and crying as Giles said:
‘We don’t have time for this, Ali. The only person who knew we were getting off the train was you. There was no other police presence there. The only way they could have known was if you told them…’
‘I didn’t,’ Alison cried. ‘I swear, I didn’t…’
‘You have to start telling me everything, now.’
Giles slammed her hand against the wall, prompting Alison to squeal once again.
‘I didn’t do anything wrong, I swear,’ she muttered. ‘Eve, I would never do anything to hurt you…’
‘Then how do they know?’
Behind her, Barker cleared his throat. ‘Giles, she doesn’t know anything…’
‘How do they know?’
Alison squealed once again.
‘They ordered me to do it…’
‘Who did? Doyle?’
‘No,’ Alison replied, shaking her head violently. ‘The higher ups…’ She paused to take a couple of breaths. ‘A few months ago, I was approached by some of the top brass in the force. They said that I had talent and they wanted to recruit me for special services…’
‘And you believed them?’
Alison stared up into Giles’ angry eyes.
‘They were my bosses, Eve, why wouldn’t I believe them?’ She took a few careful breaths. ‘They wanted me report back if I heard anything come through the dispatch office that might interest them – they gave me a list of names that I was to pay particular attention to. If I heard one of the names, I was to pass the information on by text message…’
‘And Barker was one of them?’
‘When I heard he was being taken in, I passed on the information as they asked. And when you told me where you were going, I did the same…’ She hesitated, her eyes widening in terror. ‘You have to believe me, Eve, I never tried to get you in trouble. I was just following my orders…’
Giles nodded, her eyes boring into Alison’s.
‘Where’s your phone now?’
Alison hesitated again. ‘Outside on the pavement. I dropped it when you came up behind me…’
Giles didn’t wait a second longer. She jumped to her feet and raced towards the door, ignoring Barker as he muttered:
‘You’re not seriously believing this rubbish, are you?’
Giles barged out of the door and turned sharply on the pavement. She marched the few feet to the spot where she had snuck up on Alison and began her frantic search for the phone. There it was, just as she said – shattered into three or four parts. Picking up the pieces, Giles examined the phone carefully, before removing the SIM card and placing it in her pocket.
By the time she got back to the house, Barker was waiting for her by the front door.
‘Giles,’ he said. ‘A word.’
‘Yes, now,’ he shot back. ‘Did you find the phone?’
‘So, there’s no way of verifying her story?’
‘The SIM is intact,’ Giles fired back, stepping around Barker and moving towards the front room. ‘The numbers will still be logged. With any luck, we may have some saved messages as well…’
Barker reached out and grabbed hold of Giles’ wrist, holding her firmly as she halted in the doorway.
‘You don’t believe her?’
‘She’s my friend,’ Giles replied. ‘Of course, I believe her.’
‘But it’s clearly rubbish…’
‘Maybe,’ Giles returned, twisting her wrist out of his grip. ‘But – so far – she has given me far more than you have. If it comes to a straight choice between who I trust more, her or you, I know which one I’d choose.’ She turned back towards the room. ‘Besides, you haven’t been exactly forthcoming.’
‘But what if she’s lying?’
Giles stopped and turned back around to face him.
‘Like you aren’t?’ she muttered through gritted teeth. ‘I know what you are Mr Barker. And if you think I would let a scumbag like you walk, you have another thing coming. You had your chance at a deal – now I’ve got a better one…’
‘You can’t do that.’
Giles smiled. The anger and exasperation in Barker’s face was worth every second. Alison had been a lot easier to convince to co-operate than he had been – now he was paying the penalty for holding back.
She spun around and waltzed into the front room before Barker could say another word.
As she stepped inside, Alison glanced up – her makeup was blurred down her face where her tears had run. Giles walked straight, crouched down in front of her and grasped hold of her hands. With her spare hand, she gently pushed the hair out of Alison’s face and gave her a sweet, forgiving smile.
‘Ali, I can help you,’ she said. ‘If what you’re saying is true, you haven’t done anything wrong…’
Alison shook her head excitedly.
‘I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s all true…’
‘Good,’ Giles said, her smile even wider. ‘I need you to tell me who ordered you to send that information. Who were you in contact with?’
Alison nodded slowly. ‘OK…’
Game over, Barker.
Giles stroked her friend’s face once more, her fingers gently wiping away some freshly formed tears. It wouldn’t be long now – the nightmare was nearly over. Giles would hand Barker over for punishment and walk away with the information she wanted.
A win, win situation.
Alison coughed clear her throat, and mumbled:
‘I was approached by two superior officers…’
The bang was so loud and the effect was instant. In a split second, the bullet struck Alison in the middle of her head, blasting her brains out against the wall behind her. She lurched backward in the chair and clattered against the wall, collapsing in a heavy heap down towards the ground. Giles sprang forward although she already knew it was too late. She grasped hold of Alison’s limp body for a few seconds before the weight finally got the better of her and she had to let go. As Alison thudded to the floor, her eyes rolled back into her head and blood cascaded down her forehead, soaking her face with the red, oozing liquid.
Alison was dead.
It took a moment for it all to sink in. And then, as though everything came together in her mind, Giles span around and snarled at Barker who, gun in hand cowered beside the sofa with the barrel pointed straight at her.
‘Nice and easy, Giles,’ he said soothingly. ‘We don’t want to have three deaths on my conscience today, now do we?’
Giles’ eyes flickered toward the mantelpiece.
The gun was no longer there.
How could I be so stupid?
She glared back at Barker and sprang to her feet. As she did, Barker retreated back a step or two and said:
‘A-ah. Don’t do anything rash.’
Giles’ mind was a blur of anger. She wanted nothing more than to leap over the sofa and tackle Barker to the ground although she knew it wouldn’t do her any good. Stood there, with her hands clenched, Giles breathed hard as she tried to control herself. She felt as though her heart had been ripped out of her – her stomach felt weak and empty and the beast inside her mind thrashed around, willing her to lunge at the coward and to hell with the consequences.
In that moment, with all that torrent of emotion sweeping through her body, Giles could say only one thing:
Barker smiled, his hands holding the gun a little tighter.
‘We had a deal, Giles,’ he said calmly. ‘You get me immunity and I give you information. It was wrong of you to try and break it…’
‘You killed her…’
Barker chuckled a little. ‘I’ve killed. People are trying to kill me… It’s all relative, really. People will stop dying once I am safely in custody with an immunity agreement in my hand, so why are you wasting time?’
Giles shook her head.
‘If you think I will help you after this…’
‘You don’t have a choice, Giles,’ he sneered. ‘You helped a murderer escape from custody. That makes you my accomplice.’
Giles shook her head, taking a step forward.
‘I’ll never help you…’
Barker pulled back the hammer with a loud click bringing Giles to a halt.
‘Like I said, you don’t have a choice,’ he said. ‘And if you think otherwise, maybe you should consider who is pointing the gun at you. Maybe you should think about what will happen to your sister and her family when they come home and find me sat in their lounge…’
The bottom dropped out of Giles’ stomach.
‘Fulfil your part of the agreement and I won’t have to. But make your decision quickly – I don’t fancy being around here when your colleagues show up…’
He glanced out through the lace curtains. The world outside the house seemed peaceful enough, but Giles had no doubt that the gunshot had echoed all the way down the street. Someone somewhere was already on the phone to the dispatcher – there was always someone who reported a gunshot…
Barker turned back towards her and flicked the gun towards the doorway.
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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