Tag Archives: writer

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 22

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-Two

Barker didn’t say another word for the rest of the journey. Occasionally, he glanced down at the clock on the dashboard or else checked the windows and mirrors for any sign of a police tail. But – for the most part – he remained relaxed in his seat.

He wasn’t even clasping hold of the gun anymore

He was truly a man content with his own protection.

He sat with his eyes closed and a slight smile adorning his face. His fingers gently tapped his thighs and his head rocked gently with the movement of the car. It was as if he knew that nothing could possibly touch him. His guardian angel was right by his side, carefully scooting in and out of traffic. It didn’t seem to matter to him that she was there under duress. She would keep him safe – no matter what.

The great towering building blocks of London had all but enveloped them in a secure safety net. As Giles navigated through the London streets, tiredness overcame Barker and he finally succumbed to the rocking and fell into the most contented sleep.

He had not revealed his hand; that flourish was being saved for the moment when he was safely away from the danger in the witness protection programme. As long as his mouth remained shut, Giles would protect him – they both knew it. And as long as a potential deal was on the cards, he wouldn’t utter a single word…

He was the man in control…

It had been such a long time…

And it felt good…

Even in the deepest recesses of his slumber, Barker felt the car come to a sudden halt. He jolted into consciousness, his eyes spinning this way and that expecting to see some police officer stood beside the window or a gun being pointed in his face…

A gun.

That would have been the worst of it.

To come so far only to be foiled when victory was within his grasp would have been…

Intolerable.

Death at this moment – in this place – would have been so undignified.

Daniel Barker sprawled against the passenger seat, his brains soaking the headrest and his eyes bulging in panic. Pale, blood-soaked…

And in a Micra of all things.

That was not the way Daniel Barker was supposed to go. But the fear of that end was all that gripped his mind as his hand sprang out towards Giles, grasping her arm for comfort.

The gun…

As he took hold of Giles, his spare hand patted at his thigh in search of the weapon. To his surprise, he found it almost instantly – right where he left it. As he scooped it up in his hand, he turned it towards the detective, and pulled back the hammer in what he hoped was a threatening manner.

It took him a moment or two.

Second by second the haziness of his sleep subsided and his surroundings began to swim into view. There was no police officer, no man with a gun. Giles wasn’t trying to pull a fast one – in fact there was nothing to account for Giles’ sudden stop at all.

‘What’s going on?’

There was a glint in her eye as Giles reached across and removed Barker’s grip on her arm, placing it carefully back on his lap. She replied with only a mischievous smile before reaching across for the handle of the driver’s side door and climbing out into the quiet street.

Barker’s eyes followed her as she moved around the front of the car towards the passenger side door. Up ahead, the narrow road was spanned by a brick bridge, wide enough – Barker supposed – to be a railway bridge. A group of tourists emerged from the shadows, moving in the direction of the car and chatting excitedly as they made their way down the road before turning off a side street to Barker’s left. They paid little attention to the man quivering in the car. Instead their eyes were drawn to a large, square tower ahead of them that loomed over the low buildings around it.

Giles reached the passenger side door and pulled it open, peering cheerfully inside.

‘Are you coming?’ she asked playfully.

‘What are you doing?’ he demanded, retreating a little further from the door as a blast of cool air swept inside the car.

He raised the gun as high as he dared until the barrel was pointing directly in Giles’ face…

The detective barely paid it any attention.

‘I want a coffee,’ she replied, nodding back towards the cathedral behind her. ‘Are you staying here, or coming with?’

High on the wall of the building behind her, Barker could see a small, white road sign:

Winchester Walk’.

‘Where are we?’ he asked, turning around in his seat to look down the narrow street behind him.

‘Are you coming?’

Barker turned back to look at the group of tourists. They had nearly reached the far end of the street but, rather than looking up at the grey tower in front of them, their eyes were drawn to something round the corner, beyond a small car park that was covered by a glass roof with green metal supports. Barker narrowed his eyes on a small sign that arched over the car park entrance:

Jubilee Place’

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Barker started to piece everything together. He had been here before – some time ago now – but he had been here. He watched the tourists disappear around the corner, pointing excitedly at something just out of sight. And then he was thrown from his thoughts by a low rumble. Looking up at the bridge ahead of him, he saw the sleek white and green snake of a train rumbling slowly towards the direction of the grey tower.

And then it hit him.

A wave of panic shot through his body like a knife driving through his skin. He turned his head sharply towards Giles, grasping a tighter hold of the gun as he waved it in her face.

He glared up at her and said through gritted teeth:

‘Are you mad?’

‘Are you coming?’

‘That’s Southwark Cathedral,’ Barker said, nodding towards the square tower. ‘Borough Market.’

‘I am aware…’

‘Borough Market is next to London Bridge Station.’

A curious smile leapt across Giles’ face.

‘I know.’

Barker sank further into his chair, staring up at Giles as she casually shrugged and looked down the street to where the tourists had disappeared. Just round that corner, Barker knew there would be a collection of market stalls that run alongside the front of the cathedral, leading up to the giant, glass, arched building of the market entrance. There would be dozens of different stalls from all over the UK selling meat, game, fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread and pastries and cheese. Dozens of tourists and locals intermingling in one or two crowded streets where a person could get lost in the crowd so easily…

He looked down at his watch and took in the time.

5 o’clock.

The market would be closing soon. But they would have enough time to grab a coffee from one of the temporary catering vans parked up at the end of the street. He supposed it would be better than walking into the station itself to grab one from the coffee stores at London Bridge but still…

His next thought struck his brain like a hammer against an anvil. He turned to Giles and made to grab at her. She was too quick for him and, barely had his hand begin to move, she stepped back away from the car door, smirking down at him as he cowered in the front seat.

‘It’s a Bank Holiday,’ he hissed. ‘The market isn’t even open today.’

‘Isn’t it?’ Giles replied, turning up the street as though she hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about. ‘Oh well, I’m sure I can find somewhere to get a drink. If not, we’ll have to venture into the station…’

‘Don’t you dare. This is where the Edenbridge train stops. If the Kent plods are following us by train…’

‘They’ll be arriving here at any moment.’

Barker scowled up at her. He could tell by the sparkle in her eyes that Giles knew exactly what she was doing. She meant to draw him out into the open, make him feel vulnerable and exposed so that she could force information out of him. But he wasn’t going to play – not when he had gotten so far…

He crossed his arms and sank back into his seat.

‘I’m not getting out.’ He raised the gun at her, trying his best to look intimidating. ‘And you’re not either.’

Giles barely blinked.

‘Are you going to shoot me?’

‘I’ve killed two today already…’

‘In the middle of town? In broad daylight?’ Giles laughed. ‘That’s a different ball game entirely.’

Barker crossed his arms even tighter. He felt like a petulant child, but he couldn’t let Giles leave. There was no way she was going to leave him exposed like this. She needed him as much as he needed her – her career would be as good as over if she allowed him to escape.

Giles glanced up at the railway bridge. Another train was starting its slow crossing over the street as it pulled into London Bridge station. She turned back to Barker, shrugged and reached for the door.

‘Suit yourself.’

No sooner had she slammed the door in his face had she span around and strode up Winchester Way, her feet clipping loudly on the tarmac. And Barker was left alone with nothing but his fears – and a gun.

 

Giles headed up the street without looking back at the car. All along the pavement, she eyed the double yellow lines on the tarmac with immense satisfaction. All the streets around here had parking restrictions, particularly the narrow ones like the street she’d pulled up in. It would only be a matter of time before a parking warden would find the car, and probably even less time before Barker would realise the precariousness of his situation.

She made her way straight past the car park to the very base of Southwark Cathedral, before turning right down Cathedral Street. On a normal day, this street would be bustling with bright stalls, sensual aromas and the calls of the market sellers whilst hundreds of customers weaved in and out of the stands. But Barker was right – this being a Bank Holiday, there was barely anyone in sight except the excitable Japanese tourists up ahead who, presumably unaware of the Bank Holiday, had made the trip down to the market anyway.

Cutting down the side street where most of these stalls are usually found, Giles treaded the tarmac and brick floor, heading vaguely in the direction of the railway bridge and The Shard, which towered up above her, seeming to cut through the clouds above like a razor through cotton. To her relief, she found a small mobile coffee store just beneath the railway bridge. She ordered a double espresso and, after giving a particularly generous tip to the server, began to meander her way back towards the cathedral. After a short distance, she stopped and leant up against the wall, tossing her coat in between the railings and enjoying the warm, roasting smell of the coffee in her hands.

She didn’t have to wait long.

She’d only taken her first sip when she spotted him racing around the corner of Cathedral Street, breathing heavily and staring around in wide-eyed panic. He spotted her on the wall and headed straight over, a sense of pure anger radiating from his body as he stamped his feet heavily against the hard ground. He moved swiftly down the small stretch of road, his eyes darting everywhere from the railway bridge to the Shard, and down the street and up at the cathedral tower behind him. He didn’t even attempt to be subtle as he clattered to a halt in front of her, snarling at her and gesturing wildly as he hissed:

‘You left me.’

Giles calmly took a long, exaggerated sip from her espresso.

‘Yes, I suppose I did,’ she replied. ‘Try not to look too nervous you’re drawing attention to yourself.’

She nodded towards the mobile coffee shop. A group of customers were stood beneath the service hatch, staring in their direction. Barker glanced up at them before sitting – as much as he could – against the low, stone wall. Even in his attempts to look relaxed, he looked out of place – much like a teacher trying to blend in with the popular kids at school.

‘You left me,’ he repeated.

‘You could have driven yourself away. You had a car after all. And a gun.’

‘I wasn’t going to leave you behind,’ Barker replied. ‘And besides, I don’t know how to hotwire a car.’

‘Well, I can think of no better time to learn. You may need that skill before the day is out.’

Giles took another sip as the customers from the coffee shop, takeaway cups in hand, walked slowly past them. One of them, an older lady, stared hard at Barker, seemingly stopping for a moment with her mouth dropping open as she recognised the former politician. A swift glare from Barker sent her on their way but she still looked back at them long after she had rounded the corner and moved down the next street.

Giles leant forward to Barker with a wry grin on her face. ‘I wonder if she recognised you,’ she said playfully. ‘The news might be full of it by now.’

Barker shook his head in disbelief.

‘Why are you doing this?’ he hissed.

Giles peered over the top of her cup and lowered it down, placing it carefully on the wall as she peered through the railings up at the cathedral.

‘I broke you away from Harris because you have something I want,’ she explained. ‘I put my career on the line for you. I could go to jail for what I have done. And in return, I got nothing by lies and coy games.’ She stared pointedly at him. ‘I don’t particularly like that arrangement.’

‘It’s the way it has to be,’ Barker replied.

‘No, it’s the way you want it to be. Not the same thing at all.’

Barker leaned forward earnestly. ‘We are exposed here!’

‘Yes, we are,’ replied Giles, beginning to enjoy herself. ‘I’m sure the Kent boys will be arriving at London Bridge any moment now. But, on the plus side, I doubt they’ll think we’d be hiding in a deserted market place. After all, what kind of fugitive stops for a coffee in the spot they are most likely to be?’

‘You are trying my patience.’

‘And you are trying mine,’ replied Giles. ‘I am fed up of running for the sake of a man who won’t give anything in return. Now you killed someone I liked – right in front of my eyes – and I never agreed to let you get away with that. Part of any deal is that we both get what we want, so we will remain here until I get what I want.’

Barker glanced around the market. Another group of people had appeared from underneath the railway bridge, heading swiftly in their direction. Giles turned to look at them, scrutinising their faces as they pounded towards them before deciding that they were probably just a bunch of lads on their way out for the night.

She turned back to Barker who nodded reluctantly as sweat dripped slowly down his face.

‘Alright fine, I’ll tell you…’

‘Oh no, I insist on going first,’ replied Giles. ‘Part of being a detective is you get to have that great revelation moment. You’re taking all the fun out of it if you don’t let me tell you what I know first…’

Barker stared at her, his eyes pleading and close to tears. ‘No, I’ll tell you everything…’

‘You know what it was that gave you away, don’t you? It wasn’t anything to do with you at all, not really. It was the dead man that didn’t make sense. He was dressed in a jacket and walking trousers. He had dried mud on his shoes from constant hikes. Whereas you were dressed in your Sunday best. Of the two of you, he was the one who looked like he belonged out there. Add the presence of that mysterious dog leash and you have the makings an assassin who fitted in better with his environment than the man he was trying to kill…’

Barker shook his head instinctively. ‘It was self-defence.’

‘Daniel, you shot my friend dead in cold blood – with expert marksmanship. Do you really expect anyone to believe that you were the innocent party in all this?’

‘The train ticket,’ Barker replied. ‘That’s my proof…’

Giles allowed herself a small smile. ‘The train tickets? You mean the ones you wrote my name and yours on to?’

‘Alright, so I did that bit to sell the story, but the tickets were still his.’

‘Oh, but they weren’t his tickets, were they?’ Giles shot back curtly. ‘They were yours.’

Barker froze. ‘Mine?’

Giles nodded.

‘No need to be so surprised, Mr Barker. You must have realised that I was on to you once we left the train. Checking your pockets at East Croydon station for a ticket you never brought was a particularly silly error on your part.’ Giles sighed with contentment. ‘It was unlucky that you didn’t think fast enough when I asked you if you had one. No man searches his pockets for a train ticket when he knows he hasn’t brought one that day. Besides which, if the ticket did belong to our victim, how did he buy one when he hadn’t brought a wallet with him? There was no loose change in his pocket to suggest he had just taken money with him. No debit or credit card. Very strange, wouldn’t you agree?’

Giles settled back against the wall.

‘I wonder if you can tell me what kind of car you drove to Edenbridge with today, Mr Barker?’ she said with a clipped precision in her voice.

‘Well…’ he hesitated. ‘I…’

‘I can make it easier for you, if you’d like?’ Giles interrupted, lifting herself up on to the wall and allowing her legs to dangle a few inches above the pavement. ‘I examined your keys back at the crime scene so I think I can narrow down the make…’

Barker sat very still and very quietly. Giles smiled at him and leant back against the railings, picking up her espresso and taking a long sip.

‘It wasn’t self defence at all, was it?’ she asked thoughtfully. ‘You knew that man was going to be out there. I bet he was walking a dog – he probably didn’t have a clue that you were hiding in the pillbox until it was too late. A single shot to the back of the head from that distance. After your demonstration with Alison, I have no doubt that you could have done it…’

Barker swallowed hard.

‘That’s a lie…’

‘But you didn’t count on that witness being so close by. You thought you’d have enough time to hide the body and make a clean getaway. But when she spotted you bent over his body, you had to improvise. You concocted the lie that you were the one who was attacked, emptied your victim’s pockets, scribbled out names on the two parts of the train ticket and then promised me information to break you out of police custody. I know exactly what you did – I never had any doubt in my mind. In fact, the only thing I don’t know is what you did with that bullet casing.’

Barker started to shake his head but was stopped from speaking by a single, solitary finger that Giles held up towards him.

‘You have heard my part. Now we will hear yours. Then, and only then, I will decide whether we continue our little journey together…’

Staring straight into Barker’s eyes, she leaned in closer.

‘Now is the time to be the informant you wanted to be, Mr Barker. What do you know about the Bluebell Killer? What did you want to tell me?’

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!

Advertisements

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 21

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

Chapter Twenty-One

Harris’ phone buzzed as he stepped off the train. His hand dived into his pocket and he retrieved the vibrating phone as he headed smartly up the platform with Parsons following close behind him. At the end of the platform, a group of armed officers waited for them, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible whilst keeping a sharp look out for the two detectives marching towards them.

Harris didn’t recognise the number, but he answered it anyway:

‘Harris.’

‘Harris, this is Commander Declan,’ the voice on the other end announced. ‘Met Police.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘You are running the Barker case, am I right?’

Harris shot a glance towards Parsons.

‘Yes, sir,’ he replied hesitantly.

‘Are you tracking Barker now?’

‘We believe they are heading towards London Bridge station, sir. We’re here now but no sign so far…’

‘Well, there won’t be, Detective,’ the irritated voice replied. ‘I have some information for you…’

Harris moved through the barrier and hung up the phone. Parson was already a few metres ahead, making their introductions to the armed response team. He knew something was up the moment Harris joined them.

‘Bad news?’

‘Barker,’ Harris replied simply as his mind struggled to find the right words to describe what he just heard. ‘There was a shooting in Brixton. Apparently Barker was seen fleeing the scene with a woman matching Giles’ description…’

Parson bit his lip angrily. ‘I knew we shouldn’t have trusted her.’

‘I’m not so sure,’ Harris replied thoughtfully. ‘The address belongs to Giles’ sister. The victim has been identified as a police dispatch officer – someone called Alison Carew…’

‘Bugger,’ Parsons replied. ‘Not one of ours…’

‘But get this. She was the daughter of Edmund Carew…’

‘Jesus Christ…’

‘And a close friend of Giles herself.’

‘You think she was helping them? That Barker offed her to cover their tracks?’

Harris waved him away – he had something else on his mind. Alison Carew had been the one passing on Giles’ whereabouts. She had been the one to tell them they were heading towards London Bridge station.

Even as Parsons briefed the armed officers, Harris couldn’t help thinking that he had just been massively played…

 

‘Keep going,’ Barker ordered, keeping the gun level with Giles’ waist.

Ever since they left Claverdale Road, Barker had been slumped as low as he could possibly get into the passenger seat of the Micra. Every time he heard a police siren, he pressed the gun tighter into Giles’ body – a helpful reminder that she wasn’t to try attracting anyone’s attention.

Giles drove as sensibly as she could. She knew Barker couldn’t see over the dashboard to work out where they were, but she had an idea that he knew vaguely where she was going. As she drove through the busy streets, she kept her driving as strictly to the speed limit as possible and – wherever she could – she let others pull into the lane in front of her.

She was in no hurry.

She needed all the time she could get.

As the car crept closer to the Thames, Giles’ mind flashed with images of Alison lying sprawled on the floor. The first respondents were sure to have arrived by now – trampling through her sister’s house like it was just another crime scene.

What the hell is she going to say when she gets back?

Giles shook it from her head. There was no time for that now. She had to focus on one thing and one thing only – getting through the rest of the day alive.

It was only after they crossed the junction near to the Brixton Academy that a thought seemed to occur to Barker. With his gun hand still firmly planted in Giles’ waist, he gestured with his spare hand – clicking his fingers at her.

‘SIM card,’ he barked.

‘Sorry?’

Giles knew exactly what Barker was after – that didn’t mean she was going to make it easy for him.

‘The SIM card you took from that girl’s phone,’ he explained. ‘Give it to me, now.’

‘That girl had a name…’

She winced as Barker pressed the gun in even tighter.

‘SIM card. Now.’

There was nothing she could do to resist him anymore. Keeping her eyes set on the road, she reached into her pocket and pulled out the small SIM card, tossing it to her side without even looking for Barker’s hand. As he fumbled to retrieve it, he pressed the gun hard against her skin, relaxing only when the card was safely in his hand.

He examined it for a moment before placing it against the dashboard and smashing it a couple of times with the butt of his gun.

‘What are you doing?’

Barker glanced triumphantly up at her.

‘That card has evidence on it,’ he declared. ‘Now you need to keep me alive.’ He picked up the remnants and dropped them delicately on Giles’ lap. ‘Here, have a souvenir.’

Giles glanced down at the shattered pieces of plastic and metal.

‘They’ll need supporting evidence,’ she muttered. ‘They won’t honour an immunity agreement if you can’t prove it. You’ve just destroyed your chance of freedom…’

‘Don’t worry about it. They’ll get their evidence.’

Barker leant up a little, risking a glance over the dashboard. They were on the other side of Brixton now, but still he didn’t feel safe.

Giles glanced in the rear view mirror – not a police car in sight.

‘You think they’ll just let you walk away?’ she asked. ‘After what you did to Alison and that guy in Edenbridge…’

‘That’s kind of what an immunity agreement is for, Giles,’ Barker smirked. ‘They let me go and I give them something better. Simple trade.’

‘Aren’t you afraid of your conspiracy?’ Giles fired back. ‘How do you know you can trust who I’m taking you to?’

Barker settled himself back down in his seat and peered up at Giles.

‘You know, for all your morals and your hatred of people like me, you aren’t half corrupted yourself. You think that girl… Alison? You think she was innocent in all this? She was up to her neck in it. She was your friend and she nearly had you killed. And as for the guy in Edenbridge, don’t even get me started on what he was. Those people I killed are not deserving of your sympathy – not for one moment. And that’s just what Harris and people like him will think of you if I put a bullet in your head right now – just another chink who broke the rules…’

‘So, who was he?’ Giles fired back. ‘Who was worth you travelling to Edenbridge?’

‘Like I said before, just some hit man who couldn’t do his job properly…’

Giles felt him shuffle his shoulders back as he tried to stretch them out.

‘Why so coy, Daniel?’ she asked. ‘Like you said, you get your immunity either way so what does it matter?’

‘It matters because I haven’t got my deal yet.’ Barker lowered the gun slightly as he swapped hands, stretching out his fingers to restore the blood flow.

‘You have a deal with me…’

‘That you broke when you tried to go around me with that Carew bitch. I don’t trust you, Giles, not after that. I don’t say anything until I have that paper. Signed. In my hands.’

He brought the gun away from her waist and lowered it into his lap. As he relaxed in the passenger seat, his arms shook with nervous tension and his eyes strained hard to try to recognise the passing buildings that towered over the roadside.

‘Do yourself a favour,’ he mumbled. ‘Just drop it. You’re going to drive yourself mad thinking about it. Just focus on what we need to do.’

‘And what do we need to do?’

‘We’re going to Scotland Yard,’ he replied. ‘But we’re going to make damn sure that the world hears my story the same time they do…’

 

The armed response team moved quickly across the station, following behind a couple of plain clothed officers who moved through each section of the terminus in their search for Giles and Barker. Parsons had even sent a few into the nearby Shard building to start sweeping the CCTV cameras there, just in case they had chosen a more obvious place to hide.

Meanwhile, in a small office building that was usually passed unnoticed by the multitude of passengers that traipsed through this station, Harris sat with the station security – watching the screens carefully as a train pulled neatly alongside the platform and the travellers hopped off before heading towards the ticket barrier.

This had been the fifth time that Harris had made them replay the security footage and the operator next to him was starting to get a little restless. Harris scrutinised each passenger’s face, the way they walked and who they were travelling with – and still he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Giles or Barker. And all the while his mind was gripped with a terrible thought – a horrific idea that made him shiver with panic.

Did that Carew woman con me?

For the tenth time in as many minutes, he glanced back down at his phone and reread the message:

‘Giles reported heading for Borough Market. Intercept her there.

He should have known something was up the moment he received that message. It hadn’t occurred to him at the time – he thought it was just some dispatch operator being over efficient – but now his confidence was shaken.

The news that Parsons called in didn’t help either.

‘Sir, we just got to Borough Market. There’s no sign of her.’

It was as Harris had feared.

‘Do they have a CCTV control room there?’

Parson paused for a moment as he spoke to another officer.

‘Yes, sir. There’s a sub station nearby.’

‘Then get in there. I want to be sure that Giles and Barker haven’t been there in the last hour…’

‘Yes, sir, but…’

‘But what, Sergeant?’

Parsons hesitated.

‘But, if Giles and Barker were last seen in Brixton. Why would they still be coming here?’

It was a good question – although Harris didn’t like to admit it.

‘Just do it.’

He hung up the phone and pondered it quietly.

They have to still be on their way here, he thought. They have to be.

It was the only hope he had.

He raised the phone to his tired eyes and scrolled back through his recent calls. One of the Met team had managed to get hold of Giles’ mobile number from one of her team and Harris had already called it three times to no avail.

Whispering a silent prayer, Harris selected the number and raised the phone to his ear. There wasn’t even a ring tone before the number switched to Giles’ voicemail.

This is Evelyn Giles, I’m not available at the moment. Please leave a message and I’ll…

Harris hung up the phone, thrusting it angrily into his pocket.

Dammit, Giles. Where are you?

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

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

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!

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 Fifteen

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 Fifteen

DC Scutter slammed the phone down hard on the desk, leapt to his feet and marched across the room towards Giles’ desk.

‘I’ve got it,’ he announced, thumping a single sheet of report paper down on her desk.

Giles could hardly contain her excitement. Eagerly, she reached at the paper, her eyes scanning the brief. ‘You have?’

‘Henry Jones got into a little bit of trouble a few months back,’ Scutter continued, a grim smile reaching across his face. ‘He lost a large amount of the bank’s money betting the wrong way. By all accounts he fell into a state of depression – he started drinking, taking drugs, the works. A few days later, the money magically reappeared in the bank’s records so he was never investigated.’

Giles set the paper back down on her desk. A glimmer of doubt began to creep into her mind.

‘Twenty thousand pounds doesn’t sound like a large amount of money for a bank to lose.’

‘It isn’t,’ agreed Scutter. ‘It was closer to a million. But Jones used the twenty thousand to invest in a couple of high-risk ventures. Over the course of a few days, he had accumulated enough that the bank barely noticed the discrepancy – if at all.’

‘Sounds like a good run of luck.’

‘A very good run.’

‘This is good,’ Giles agreed, getting to her feet. She reached for her mobile phone and slid it into her pocket as she started to make her way towards Bolton’s office.

‘That’s not all.’

Scutter’s words brought her to a halt. As she turned to face him, she saw him produce another piece of paper – a phone bill by the look of it – that he thrust into her hands.

‘I just got Jones’ telephone records,’ he continued. ‘At the time of his mini breakdown, he made a dozen or so calls to the same number. I just confirmed it with the phone company.’

‘Let me guess…’

‘Alex Donnovan.’ Scutter tapped the phone bill. ‘Here’s our link.’

Giles couldn’t contain her delight.

‘That’s Henry Jones, Mary Crosskey, Derek Batterly and Simon Grole. That’s four victims that we can link together.’

She took one more glance down at the bill. Scutter had taken the liberty of highlighting the number on the bill; the number that Henry Jones had called a dozen times a few months before his death – the number belonging to the man she suspected of being the Bluebell Killer.

‘Let’s bring him in.’

 

Alex Donnovan was a weedy-looking guy – quiet and insular – his dirty, blonde hair dreadlocked down to his shoulders, his fingers yellowed with the stain of roll-up cigarettes. On first glance he didn’t look like much. He certainly didn’t look like the kind of man capable of murdering eighteen people, particularly those who looked like they could’ve handled themselves.

But Giles knew different.

They had been watching Donnovan for some time now. Beneath that weak exterior, he was actually quite a well-built, muscular kind of guy. Every morning, without fail, he would take a jog down to the local gym, give his arm, leg and torso muscles a punishing workout for an hour and then jog back home again just in time to start the business of the day.

Giles was grateful for Max. Had it not been for him, she might never have focussed so much on the money aspect of the case. True, Max had wanted her to follow the mysterious account, but that had been easier said than done. The account had been a dead end and only a few of the victim’s had received the same payment as Henry Jones.

But it had opened Giles’ eyes.

Maybe it was all about money…

Four of the victims had financial dealings with Donnovan of one kind or another – never anything large enough that it would be spotted by a cursory look at their finances – but it was there nonetheless. Giles had no doubt there would be more links with the other victims if she looked hard enough.

There wasn’t a doubt in her mind.

Donnovan was the Bluebell Killer.

DI Bolton took the seat beside Giles and switched on the tape recorder. He and Giles and announced themselves before allowing Donnovan and his lawyer to do the same.

Giles still hadn’t told Bolton about Max. She’d felt a little bad for it for a while. Every inch of progress she had made had been down to him and yet Bolton didn’t even know he existed. He ploughed the praise on to Giles without ever knowing where her spark of inspiration had come from.

It wasn’t fair. But it was what Max wanted.

Bolton allowed the room to sit in silence for a little while before he finally said:

‘You slipped up, Alex,’ he said. ‘We know you sold drugs to Henry Jones. We know you leant money to Derek Batterly and Simon Grole. You were close friends with Mary Crosskey in the lead up to her death; hell, you even seen with her a few hours before she died. We’re running thorough background checks on all the other victims – I’m sure we’ll come across something that links you to all of them. Why don’t you just save us the hassle?’

Beside Donnovan, his lawyer uncurled her hands and seemed to creep out of the shadows. Her glasses bounced the light from the overhead lamp around the room, momentarily blinding Giles as she surveyed the two detectives on the other side of the interview room. Then, with a softly hissing voice, she said:

‘Detective Inspector, I do believe you are clutching at straws.’ She shot off another glimmer of light as she glanced over to Giles. ‘You have tenuous links made even more so by this ridiculous accusation that my client is some sort of drug-dealing moneylender. It simply won’t do…’

‘Your client murdered eighteen people…’

‘Allegedly,’ the lawyer shot back, her thin lips curling into a smile. ‘Which begs another question: do you even have any proof that all these murders are even connected?’

‘We have reason to believe…’

‘Reason to believe?’ the lawyer snorted, settling back into the shadows. ‘My understanding is that none of the murders were committed in the same fashion – in fact, I believe that there is barely anything linking the murders at all…’

Giles butted in:

‘Except the bluebells.’

The lawyer raised her eyebrow as she looked over at Giles.

‘Quite,’ she muttered. ‘But bluebells are commonplace. The killings have been plastered over every tabloid from here to Edinburgh and the name of ‘The Bluebell Killer’ is as well known now as Jack the Ripper. Who’s to say that it’s only one man?’

She chuckled and flashed a triumphant grin at Giles before turning back to Bolton.

‘It would appear that, you can’t even link these murders to each other let alone to my client. It’s not very good, is it?’

As the lawyer prattled along, Donnovan sat in complete silence, staring icily at Giles. He hadn’t said a word – not one word – since he’d been brought in. He hadn’t even spoken to deny anything – he had let the lawyer do that for him. He was stonewalling. And it was working.

Giles’ patience had worn thin. She leant forward and glared hard at Donnovan, ignoring the wittering lawyer, and said:

‘Where were you the night Henry Jones died?’

‘My client doesn’t need to answer that question…’

Bolton piped up: ‘If he’s innocent, he won’t have a problem with it.’

‘Look,’ the lawyer replied, getting slowly to her feet and placing a reptilian hand on Donnovan’s shoulder. ‘Either charge my client or let him go. But he is under no obligation to answer any of your questions. My client will not say a word.’

Giles paid her no attention. She was too busy staring into Donnovan’s cold eyes. She had no doubt that she was looking at the Bluebell Killer, but she knew the lawyer was right – he wasn’t going to say a word.

 

‘What are you doing?’

The tone on the end of the phone was blunt and harsh. Even as she heard Max’s voice, Giles could feel the energy drain from her body.

She knew what this was about.

They had released Donnovan a few hours earlier to the delight and clamour of the public press. She watched the footage of him skulking out of the station and found herself cursing under her breath as the lawyer rabbited on about freedom and justice. Max was almost certainly calling to add his two cents to the mix, not that Giles needed any pressure right now – there had been two more murders since Henry Jones and the world was watching her closely.

‘We are following every line of enquiry…’

‘I mean this man, Donnovan, what has he got to do with this?’

The television began to show highlights from a debate in the House of Commons. The banner across the bottom of the screen read ‘Immigration Crisis Debate’, prompting Giles to turn her back and stare out of the window as she continued talking.

‘Max, I appreciate what you have done so far, really I do,’ she said. ‘But I am not at liberty to divulge the details of our investigation, even to you. You have been a big help to us so far. Your lead put us on to Donnovan, but I think it’s about time you take a step back and let the professionals…’

Max spluttered down the line.

‘Donnovan? Alex Donnovan? He isn’t the Bluebell Killer, not by a long shot. What the hell led you to him? I told you to follow the money…’

‘And then you disappeared,’ cut off Giles, her voice tainted with an air of spitefulness. ‘Look, Max, you gave us a good start, but if you were hoping we would just wait around for you to come up with your own theory, you have another thing coming. People are dying out there and we can’t be expected to wait for your call…’

‘I was gathering evidence,’ he hissed. ‘You wanted proof of who the Bluebell Killer is so I am getting it for you…’

‘And do you have it?’

The line went quiet.

In the silence, Giles swung back towards the television.

Stood in front of the House of Commons, the leader of the Britain’s Own Party, Daniel Barker, was delivering a passionate speech. She couldn’t hear what he was saying, but she could tell by the look on his face and the tension in his arms that he was on one of his rants again. He was probably spouting the same rubbish he’d been giving for the last year: immigrants are destroying our country, we’d be better without them, the economy wouldn’t have collapsed if we kept a closer guard of our borders…

She couldn’t see his appeal.

He looked smart enough – fresh faced and full of energy – but he gave off an aura that seemed distinctly terrifying. You could see the hatred flowing through his body with each word he spoke – it wasn’t passion, it was anger. It was spite. It was dangerous.

What made it worse was that a couple of her colleagues were stood glued to the screen. Smart people – sensible people – nodding their heads as though the man was making sense. They were buying into it. They truly believed that British people were somehow better than everyone else, that all the worlds problems could be eradicated if they were in control of it all…

These people were her friends…

And Barker was there leading the charge – swaying these bright people to his cause.

He’s a Hitler in the making…

Giles paused for a few seconds, feeling the irritation building through her body. She heard a slight catch of breath down the receiver – Max was still on the line. She swung her chair away from the television once more and took a deep breath.

I have bigger problems to deal with…

‘Then stop wasting my time…’

And she hung up the phone.

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!