Tag Archives: thriller

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Twenty

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

Chapter Twenty

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.

‘Alison Carew?’

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?’

Alison nodded.

‘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.’

‘Not now…’

‘Yes, now,’ he shot back. ‘Did you find the phone?’

‘It’s broken.’

‘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.

‘Watch me.’

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.

True justice…

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:

‘Why?’

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.

‘You wouldn’t…’

‘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.

Tick Tock.’

 

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

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

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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Nineteen

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 Nineteen

Claverdale Road was quiet as Giles pulled up into a spare space along the pavement. There wasn’t anyone around, and yet the whole street was packed with cars. Giles drove the entire length of the road before doubling back for another pass before she finally spotted a space large enough to squeeze the tiny Micra into. She clambered out on to the pavement and shot a glance up and down the road before striding off along the row of terraced houses.

The house she was looking for was about a hundred metres up the street. It was a similar size to those that were squashed up on either side of it, but the presence of a small magnolia tree in the tiny front garden made the whole house appear even smaller than its counterparts. As she moved up the long street, Giles felt Barker sidle into place behind her. Through the reflections of the car windows, she watched him peering up and down the street, scrutinising every high window as they made the long walk up to their ultimate destination.

She chuckled to herself in satisfaction and ducked under the branches of the magnolia as she strolled up the garden path. She stopped beside an old metal dustbin and, without pausing for thought, bent down and lifted the whole mass up. She reached under the metallic mass, her fingers pawing at the concrete slabs beneath, until her fingers closed around a small, door key, which she quickly retrieved and shoved into the lock. The lock clicked and the door swung open, blasting the two visitors with a rush of warm air and the faint scent of lavender that came from a dispenser sat on a small table nearby.

Barker stepped in behind her and quickly closed the door. He breathed a heavy sigh before turning his attention to the key in Giles’ hand. With a little nod, he muttered:

‘You lot still do that? How trusting…’

Giles slid the key into her pocket and tapped it confidently.

‘People round here keep a close eye on everyone else,’ she explained, stepping further into the entrance hall. ‘Trust me, you’re in the safest place in London right now.’

She disappeared down the hall, heading for a doorway at the far end, which opened up into a kitchen. Barker peered after her before tentatively stepping further into the house, staring up at a variety of photographs that were hung on the wall leading up to the top floor.

It was rather homely – for a safe house. The photographs seemed to show the same couple: a blonde woman in her late twenties and a slightly older man with darker hair. The man was good looking, despite the horn-rimmed glasses perched on the end of his nose. The house was clean and tidy, and the front room was warm and inviting. By the time Giles returned to it, Barker had settled himself down on the large, white sofa that dominated the room, and was busy staring past the large, flat-screened television and out of the window to the road outside.

‘Make yourself at home,’ Giles said, gesturing to the lace curtains that obscured them from the outside world. ‘You’re perfectly safe. Would you like a tea or anything?’

‘What is this place?’

‘Like I said, you’ll be safe here.’

With an encouraging smile, Giles disappeared back out of the front room, only to return a few moments later carrying a wooden chair that she set down to one side of the room.

Barker peered up at, a look of suspicion flashing across his face.

‘What’s that for?’

‘You’ll find out,’ Giles replied sternly, before retreating back into the kitchen.

 

This place was really unlike any safe house Barker had any seen before. Well, in point of fact, he hadn’t seen any in real life, but he’d seen plenty on television and not a single one looked as detailed as this.

Left to his own devices, he moved across the room to the mantelpiece where a series of photographs sat in immaculately shiny photo frames were perched along the clean surface.

Barker stared at these for a long time.

The family that stared back were the same from the pictures running up the staircase. A good, traditional, white family by the look of them. The blonde woman held a young, giggling girl high above her head whilst her husband cuddled her from behind.

They laughed. They smiled. They were happy.

There were wedding photographs too. And pictures of a young baby – presumably the girl. A whole life was played out on that mantelpiece. The lives of good British people with good British values.

They were so happy…

Giles returned with a cup of tea. She held it out to Barker, who accepted it without hesitation. He hadn’t drunk anything since the morning and any drink – even a poorly made excuse of a cup of tea – was welcome. As he took a sip and nodded towards the pictures.

‘Who lives here then?’ he asked. ‘This place obviously isn’t a safe house.’

Giles hesitated.

‘My sister and her family,’ she replied. ‘They’re away at the moment so we won’t be disturbed…’

‘Your sister?’ Barker repeated, raising his eyebrow as he peered back at the photograph. ‘Well, well. Daddy finally got himself a real daughter…’

Giles’ lip curled in anger.

‘She adopted too,’ she replied, reaching forward and grabbing hold of the photographs.

She squirreled them out of the room, leaving Barker to drink his tea in the relaxed silence of this friendly house. After circling the room several times, he returned back to his seat on the sofa and continued to sip his tea. Having disposed of the photographs, Giles strolled back into the room, moved straight across to the window and peered out through the lace curtains. Barker watched her intently, his eyes snaking their way down her back until they settled on her firm, shapely buttocks.

Such a shame, he thought.

She wasn’t really that bad looking. If she’d been British, he might have tried it on with her. His wife wouldn’t have approved but, then again, when did she ever approve of his extra curricular relationships. He smacked his lips and took a last gulp of tea before setting the cup down on the floor.

‘So,’ he said. ‘What’s your sister’s name?’

‘We’re not talking about it.’

Barker chuckled. ‘Well, it seems we have some time on our hands so we may as well do something. What does she do?’

Giles glanced back at him.

‘She’s a doctor,’ she replied. ‘A paediatrician.’

‘A paediatrician.’ Barker smiled. ‘I bet Daddy was proud.’

‘He’s proud of both of us…’

‘Of course he is. But I bet she has more brownie points, right?’

‘We’re not having this discussion…’

‘Loving husband, a great looking kid. She ticks all the boxes…’

Giles span around, her eyes sparking with bitterness. She took two steps towards Barker, clenching her hands and tensing her arms as though sprawling for a fight.

‘What’s you point?’ she barked.

Barker looked her up and down once more. She really was quite attractive – for a chink…

‘What are we doing here, Giles?’ he asked slyly. ‘What are you trying to prove? You’ve got a good British family so that makes you just as good as the rest of us?’

Giles didn’t answer at first. She didn’t even look angry anymore. In fact, if Barker had to guess, she almost looked triumphant.

She turned back towards the lace curtain and peered outside once more. The next time she moved it was to make her way out of the room and to the front door. It came with no narration and no explanation. The anxiety that took hold of Barker was strong and instantaneous:

‘What are you doing?’ he asked, jumping to his feet.

‘Relax,’ Giles replied, letting loose a small smile. ‘I’ll be back in a moment. You’ll be safe here.’

‘Safe? Why? Where are you going?’

Giles reached the front door. ‘I’ll be back soon. Just watch the television or something…’

She was out the door before Barker had a chance to say any more. As he watched the door slam shut, he was tempted to bolt outside after her. But, as he reached for the door handle, a fear gripped hold of him like metal in a vice. He retreated back away from the door and back into the front room where he stood, frightened and apprehensive, staring through the lace curtains at the world outside.

 

It took Alison several attempts to find a space to pull in. Parallel parking was never her strong point and she didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself by having to make several botched attempts at it. On the third time down the street, she found a space that was far enough from the house that she didn’t mind spending a good few minutes making sure she was parked safely.

With her car safely nestled in amongst the others, she switched off the engine and clambered out. She wasn’t sure which house it was but a quick look at the house numbers gave her clue. She crossed over to the other side of the road and trooped smartly along the street, her eyes searching for the house number.

After a minute or two, she found the right house and, with her best attempt at subtlety, she slowed her pace and walked straight on by, peering at the lace curtains from the corner of her eye.

Something moved behind them, she was sure of it. As she ducked under the magnolia tree, the curtains had flickered slightly revealing a glimpse of a suited man peering back out at her.

She’d recognised him instantly. She had seen him enough times, although she doubted he would ever recognise her. He was one of those smarmy men who always looked past you if you were a woman – unless, of course, you were dressed in a skimpy dress and had the figure of a super model.

She continued on, trying to remain calm although her heart pounded relentlessly in her chest.

She’d been right. Giles hadn’t suspected a thing.

She came to a stop just a little way past the car and reached into her pocket. She pulled out her phone and quickly started to compose a text.

This means promotion for sure, she thought as she frantically typed the message. Finally people will start to take me seriously.

Alison didn’t even notice the footsteps of the person marching up behind her – she was too engrossed in her own excitement. Had she been a little bit quicker, she might have finished the message before she felt the gun barrel pressed into the small of her back.

In her panic, she let go of the phone and it crashed to the floor. It smashed into several pieces as it pummelled against the concrete pavement, but Alison wasn’t concerned. All she could think about was the person with their finger around the trigger – the person who was going to kill her…

‘Hello, Alison,’ Giles whispered, pushing the gun tighter against her friend’s back. ‘I think we need to have a little talk, don’t you?’

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 18

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

Chapter Eighteen

‘How did they find us?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was the whole point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giles chuckled a little to herself.

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

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

‘Are you getting in or not?’

She didn’t wait for a response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giles smiled playfully.

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

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

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

Giles risked a quick glance at him.

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

Barker chuckled and took a long drag of his cigarette.

‘I’ll bear that in mind next time.’

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

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

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

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

‘Did you throw it in the river?’

Barker smiled. ‘Nice try, Giles.’

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

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

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

‘Where is this safehouse anyway?’

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

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

‘Something like that.’

 

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

What have I done?

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

Would she?

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

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

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

Her twenty minutes were up.

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

Shot sharp breaths, she told herself. Quicker.

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

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

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

The display had its desired effect.

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

‘Are you alright, Alison?’

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

‘I’m fine, thank you, Carrie…’

Her body instinctively did the rest.

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

Every second counted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 14

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

Chapter Fourteen

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

Small mercies, he thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hmmm…’

Parsons shuffled awkwardly.

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

Harris didn’t reply.

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

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

Harris wasn’t listening anymore.

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

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

‘Shall I call for that car, sir?’

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

 

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

Giles reported heading for Borough Market. Intercept her there.

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

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

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

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

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

It was just a shame that she was helping Barker…

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

Oh, Evelyn. What have you done now?

 

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

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

He paused, eying Giles closely.

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

He continued:

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

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

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

‘Was he unconscious?’

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

‘But you took his gun?’

Barker nodded.

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

‘Why the nearest?’

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

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

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

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

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

‘But you thought he was armed?’

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

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

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

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

‘Nothing.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe that was the point…

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

Perhaps they were sending a message…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barker smiled.

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

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

Giles leaned in a little closer.

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

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

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

Next stop East Croydon. East Croydon, next stop.

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 13

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

Chapter Thirteen

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

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

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

Giles smiled and shook her head.

This is all for my benefit, she thought.

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

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

So over dramatic.

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

Whatever thoughts were plaguing his mind evaporated in an instant.

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

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

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

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

            Bloody thing.

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

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

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

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

‘Don’t you believe me?’

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

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

‘Running interference.’

‘Interference?’

Giles nodded.

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

‘You don’t need to know.’

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

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

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

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

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

Giles shook her head and cleared her throat.

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

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

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

‘And you trust your team?’

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

Not long before everything had gone wrong for him…

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

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

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

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

Or deported.

It was almost a shame really.

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

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

Giles blinked once.

‘My father was British,’ she replied curtly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet it didn’t feel good.

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

It wasn’t over for her yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giles hesitated.

‘This is important…’

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

Giles’ eyes narrowed.

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

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

‘Who was the man you killed?’

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

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

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

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

‘You did what?’

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

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

‘You bloody fool…’

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

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

‘Oh, stop being so over-dramatic…’

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

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

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

‘Don’t be so naïve…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason could do little else but shake his head.

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

He disappeared into the bedroom and slammed closed the door.

Try defending Daniel Barker for once…

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

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

You might realise how wrong you are…

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

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

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

‘My dignity…’

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

Giles dismissed him with a shake of the head.

It couldn’t hurt…

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

Damp cigarettes or gunpowder?

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

But is there another explanation?

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

Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters…

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

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

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

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

            What was it Harris said?

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

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

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

Self-defence…

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

Giles’ eyes snapped open.

Try defending him for once…

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

‘Why the pillbox?’

‘I don’t understand…’

‘Why did you climb into the pillbox?’

‘I…’ he hesitated ‘… I didn’t.’

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

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

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

Barker’s eyes narrowed with concern.

‘What do you mean?’

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

She glanced towards Barker.

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

‘Planning on doing?’

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

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

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

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

She let out a half-hearted laugh and said:

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

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

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

‘Oh…’ Barker thought hard for a moment.

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

‘Or Harris himself?’ Barker muttered.

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

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

‘I wouldn’t listen.’

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

Giles shook her head.

‘I can’t believe it was Harris…’

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

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

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

Barker’s eyes twitched.

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

 

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

There was truth as well.

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

Not a jot…

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

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

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

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

That was good enough for Barker – for the moment.

Maybe, I might just get what I want…

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 12

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

Chapter Twelve

‘Do you have a car?’

‘What?’

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

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

‘Here?’

‘Yes?’

‘What kind?’

‘What?’

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

‘I don’t think I understand…’

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

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

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

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

Giles sighed heavily. Time was running out.

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

            ‘Is there any other way?’

Not without running cross-country. Think.

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

‘Might?’

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

We might just be able to make it.

            She turned to Barker.

‘Right, wait for my word.’

 

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

‘What are the hell is she playing at?’

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

And then…

The chase.

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

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

Forty seconds.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Is that…?

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

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

They were at the bridge in a matter of seconds.

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

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

He’ll never catch us…

            A horn blared out.

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

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

Just keep breathing.

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

‘Giles!’

Giles risked a glance back.

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

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

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

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

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

            Just keep going.

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

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

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

Then she saw it.

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

The long, sleek train pulled into the station platform.

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

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

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

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

No pain. No hint of fear or failure.

Once a soldier…

            Giles turned back to the train and pressed on…

She was ten metres away.

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

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

The doors began to close.

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

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

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

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

His hands were warm – almost inviting…

SMACK!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost human…

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yours…

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

The dog leash…

The tickets…

The missing bullet casing…

The creature in Giles’ stomach stirred once again.

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

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

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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