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The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 7

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

Chapter Seven

‘Mister Barker.’

Barker’s face almost dropped when he caught sight of Giles marching towards him. It was understandable enough – the image of Giles walking intently at you was enough to make any suspect squirm. But Barker was different – he had personally offended Giles long before she had ever met him, and that made her dangerous.

And that made him wary.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles,’ he said. ‘Am I right in thinking you’ve changed your mind about me?’

‘I haven’t changed my mind about anything, Barker,’ Giles spat, coming to a halt in front of the former politician. ‘I just wanted to demonstrate to DI Harris here how I got so far so quickly in the service.’

‘Oh?’ Barker eyed Harris curiously. ‘And what has that to do with me?’

‘One name,’ Giles spat. ‘One name that everybody has heard of. Granted, not everyone would necessarily know mine, but I’m sure a little digging through the headlines would come up trumps for you.’ She paused to look around. ‘I got to hand it to you though, it was a good attempt.’

‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about…’

‘You say you were fighting with the victim over the gun, correct?’

Barker blinked twice before nodding. ‘That’s right.’

‘That’s funny, because the bullet wound in the back of his head says something different. In fact, I’d stake my reputation on that bullet being fired from quite a considerable distance – probably from inside the bunker. The same bunker that you crawled into…’ she pointed at his shoes, ‘… hence the dust and powder marks on your shoes.

‘You probably disposed of the bullet casing, the same way you disposed of John Doe’ wallet, keys and phone – chucking them in the river. But you weren’t quite quick enough to hide the body, were you? You got spotted by…’ She turned to Harris. ‘What was the name of the lady who came across them?’

Harris’s hands quickly plunged into his pockets and pulled out a notebook. Rifling through the pages, he searched for the name whilst Barker stood, quivering and afraid beneath Giles’ icy glare.

‘This is ridiculous,’ Barker announced, his voice trembling a little. ‘I have already said, the man attacked me…’

Giles sneered at him. ‘You’re a politician. Lies are second nature to you…’

Beside her, Harris had finally found what he was looking for:

‘Miss Maisy Dawlish…’

‘And what did Miss Dawlish report seeing, sir?’

Harris read a few words before speaking:

‘She saw Mister Barker crouched over the victim, seemingly going through his pockets.’

Giles raised an eyebrow. ‘Going through his pockets?’

‘I had just been attacked,’ Barker pleaded. His eyes scanned all about him as though looking for a way out. ‘I had to be sure he didn’t have any more weapons on him…’

‘Or maybe you were just gathering his belongings,’ Giles said, turning back to Harris and saying: ‘What happened next, sir?’

‘Miss Dawlish said she recognised Mister Barker straight away. He told her there had been a horrible accident and that she needed to call the police…’

‘Yes, I did,’ Barker replied defiantly. ‘I had been targeted by someone, I wasn’t about to just run and leave a body lying about.’

‘You couldn’t run,’ Giles agreed, letting loose a small smirk. ‘You’d already been identified. Short of killing Miss Dawlish herself, you had to stick around to face the music…’

‘That is a preposterous suggestion…’

‘Careful, Giles.’

Giles felt Harris’ cool hand grasp a loose hold of her wrist. As she turned to him, she saw in his eyes a glimmer of fear. Whatever her convictions, this was still Harris’ investigation. Any fall out from Giles’ actions would land firmly on him – she had to tread carefully.

‘So, you sent Miss Dawlish to call for help?’ she asked, her voice a little softer this time.

‘Yes,’ Barker replied, a moment of relief and mild satisfaction crossing his face as he eyed Harris.

‘That’s a little strange. After all, you did have your own phone.’ Giles smiled cynically at him. ‘Why couldn’t you use that?’

Barker stumbled to a halt:

‘I…,’ he stammered. ‘I… Well, I was…’

‘I’ll tell you why,’ Giles interrupted again, beginning to enjoy herself. ‘Because you hadn’t counted on being seen. A well-known scumbag like you committing a murder – you wouldn’t last five minutes once the police had all the facts. You had to improvise. You found the two tickets in John Doe’s pockets…’

‘No,’ Baker replied shaking his head. ‘No, I never…’

‘And you scribbled a name on each – yours on one, mine on the other – to make it look like some sort of professional hit…’

Something snapped in Barker’s mind. Before them all, his fists curled up into balls and he looked, for just a moment, like he would lash out at them all. As his blazing eyes glared down at Giles, she could feel the hatred and anger that fuelled him and his convictions. He wasn’t a psychopath or a man just born to hate – his environment had created him that way.

‘And why do you think I wrote your name, Giles?’ he bellowed, snarling wildly at her.

As the last echoes of his voice disappeared into the distance, the scene fell silent. Everyone, from Harris to the escorting constables, stared motionlessly at Barker as he breathed heavily in and out. For some the realisation was instant, for others it took a little while. From behind her, Giles felt Harris take a step forward to examine Barker.

‘You admit it then?’ he said quietly. ‘You wrote those names on the tickets?’

Barker was the last to realise what he’d done. Even as he glared down at Harris, his eyes seemed to soften as the implication of what he had said planted a seed of terror in his mind. He took a few steps back, his eyes scanning wildly from Giles to Harris as his fingers quivered – ready for a fight.

‘No,’ he murmured. ‘No, I didn’t mean…’

Giles took a step towards him.

‘Like I said, it was a very good attempt; the bluebell fields, my name on the ticket, the brief mention of the Bluebell Killer to Harris here. Had you been anyone else, I might have been convinced.’ She leaned a little closer. ‘But the thing is I don’t like you. I despise what you stand for and nothing will give me greater pleasure than watching you fall…’

She took a step back away from him.

‘The Bluebell Killer is dead, Mister Barker,’ she said loudly for everyone to hear. ‘He isn’t coming back.’

Barker shook his head.

‘How close were you, Evelyn?’ he asked quietly. ‘Did you even know what you were looking for before I gave you a hand?’

Giles’ mind stopped. There was no anger, no disgust, no excitable logic. It was as if all conscious thought had been replaced by a moment of sheer shock and awe. Without even thinking, she stepped a little closer towards Barker, her face no more than a few inches from his. With a hushed whisper, she said:

‘What are you talking about?’

Barker smiled.

‘You think this all ended with Donnovan. You haven’t got the faintest idea what is still out there.’ For a moment, Giles thought he might kiss her as he leant forward – his lips barely an inch away from her face. ‘You were warned before. And if you want to know the rest, you’ll have to get me out of this…’

A flurry of questions rippled through Giles’ head. It forced everything about the day out of her mind. She forgot the body. She forgot the tickets. She even forgot her victorious unmasking of Barker. She forgot it all in the wake of a thousand thoughts and memories – images she had spent the last year trying to force into the back of her mind.

In the midst of the silence, Harris placed a gentle hand back on Giles’ arm and gently pulled her back from Barker. She didn’t resist, she just let herself be led back until Harris was left alone in front of Barker.

Barker – for his part – continued to stare pointedly at Giles. He barely reacted as Harris read out his rights and two uniformed officers cuffed his hands behind his back. And when Harris had finished, he allowed himself to be led over to the side of the clearing where he was sat down whilst Harris held a hurried discussion with his colleagues about what to do next.

But all that was a blur for Giles.

In her mind, she pictured tens of dead bodies. She remembered months of fruitless paperwork. She recalled the lost man-hours chasing shadows through the streets of London.

And through it all, her mind settled on a mental image of a man.

A man sat alone in the dark.

A man making furtive phone calls and collating secretive packages.

A man completely unknown to her – and yet he was closer to her than many others in her life.

But the man she imagined looked nothing like Daniel Barker. He didn’t even sound like him or speak with the same calculated intelligence. There was nothing about him that related to that vile excuse of a man that she watched sitting at the side of the field.

Everything she knew, or thought she knew, of this man shattered into a thousand pieces. Everything she assumed was gone save one thing…

A name.

A single, fake name.

Max…

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter 6

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

Chapter Six

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

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

‘You found the bullet casing?’

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

‘But it must be…’

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

It has to be in there.

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

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

‘Yes, sir.’

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

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

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

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

Harris’ eyes widened a little as he nodded excitedly.

‘And is there a name on the back?’

‘Oh, yes.’

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

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

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

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

Daniel Barker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Anything to suggest someone has been there recently?’

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

‘Smoking?’ Giles burst out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And question number two?

Giles sniffed deeply.

‘The smoke smell…’

Damp cigarettes or gun powder?

‘Exactly…’

 

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

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

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

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

Not that your approval matters.

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

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

‘Congratulations,’ Giles replied bitterly.

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

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

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

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

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

Giles would give anything to feel like that again…

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

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

Harris observed her nervously.

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

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

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

Giles struggled not to howl with laughter.

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

‘I’m absolutely serious.’

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

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

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

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

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

Harris’ answer was not what she expected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Of course he did.’

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

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

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

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

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

‘He mentioned the Bluebell Killer.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harris was taken completely by surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter Five

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

Chapter Five

The search was completed and still Giles insisted that they check again. The constables scowled at her from across the evidence table but they did as they were told and systematically went through every pocket, pulling each one inside out so that Giles could see they were empty before moving on to the next.

She had no authority here – Giles knew it, but they didn’t seem to. Giles imagined that if Harris knew what she was doing he would have put a stop to it in an instant. But – at the moment – he was far too distracted by the search of the pillbox to pay her any attention. And besides, it wasn’t like she was tampering with evidence. She’d been sure to allow the officers to do all the handling – if anything ever came of it, there would be no question that she hadn’t handled any of the evidence directly…

She glanced over towards the bunker. Stood by the opening, Harris and his sergeant peered motionlessly in through the opening, watching as the bright torchlight of the SOCO swung back and forth as he made his search.

Part of her hoped that they would find the bullet casing in there. She would hate Harris to think that she’d distracted him just so she could wander around his crime scene unimpeded. Of course that was exactly what she had done, but she didn’t want him to know that. The chances were the bullet casing would be in there – either that or at the bottom of the river – and, if they were, that would put an entirely different spin on the day’s events.

It’s the only place it could possibly be…

She turned back to constable.

‘That’s all, Sarge,’ he said, dropping the trousers back in the evidence bag and dropping it to one side.

Giles stared down at the three items in the bags in front of her, scrutinising them with every analytical skill she possessed.

‘So let’s be clear,’ she muttered. ‘We have a phone, a wallet and a set of keys.’

‘Right,’ the officer replied, rolling his eyes as he leant against the table. ‘And definitely no train ticket.’

‘You’re sure?’

‘Of course, I’m bloody sure.’

‘What about in his wallet?’

‘Not there either,’ he replied, picking up the bag with the wallet inside. Keeping it inside the bag, he carefully opened the wallet and showed Giles the contents. ‘Look, see? A couple of twenties, some loose change, his Britain’s Own Party membership card, National Insurance card, picture of his wife and kid, debit card, credit card and no train ticket.’

Giles stared down at the wallet. She asked him to run through the contents a couple more times before she was finally satisfied. With a nod of thanks she stepped back from the table and stared off towards the pillbox.

‘So, if Barker didn’t have it, there’s only one place it can be…’

She watched for a few moments as the torchlight hovered in the air as the SOCO inside the pillbox scrutinised the floor. A little beyond, Giles could see the swaggering figure of Daniel Barker pacing back and forth, nervously looking towards the hive of activity that was building up around the little concrete structure. Already, Harris was beckoning more SOCOs over to the new site. He helped two more climb in and passed them their equipment before peering anxiously in through the wide opening.

Giles knew there was only a little more time left.

She had to take her chance now.

With a quick glance around, Giles made her way swiftly and silently down the path towards the next field. When she reached the field boundary, she glanced back over her shoulder towards the pillbox before moving stealthily behind the hedgerows. From there, she walked smartly up towards the small group of officers who stood around Barker.

She had no real need to flash her warrant card, but she did so all the same as a burly sergeant moved forward to intercept her.

‘I need to speak to this man, Sergeant,’ she barked with clipped precision.

She had no authority over him – they both knew that. They were both sergeants, just with different responsibilities – but Giles often found that many uniformed officers were a lot more likely to back down if she behaved like she had additional authority over them.

This sergeant was not one of them.

‘I’m sorry, Detective,’ he replied. ‘I can’t let you speak to him without prior approval from Detective Inspector Harris.’

‘But I have approval,’ Giles replied quickly, glancing towards Barker who stood watching the exchange with increasing interest. ‘I was here with Harris only half an hour ago.’

‘I understood that he had you escorted from the scene…’

‘And yet I’m still here,’ Giles fired back. ‘What does that suggest to you, Sergeant?’

The sergeant stared blankly at her, his hands twitching as he reached up for his radio.

‘If you don’t mind, I’ll just check.’

‘Course I don’t mind,’ Giles shrugged, stepping around him. ‘Harris told me I wouldn’t have any problems but if you want to disturb him to prove him wrong then that’s your concern. I’ll just get on with talking with this man whilst you get dressed down.’

It was a gamble and one that she was almost certain wouldn’t work. And yet, as she stepped around the sergeant he made no move to stop her from carrying on straight to Barker. Even when she arrived in front of the former politician, the sergeant still hadn’t called it in, although his hand remained glued to his radio as he stepped away to give them some space.

Now dressed in a cheap shirt and pair of trousers, Barker looked a mere shadow of the man that Giles had come to hate. But his body still stood rigid with the public school boy propriety that had been drilled into him since his formative years. He sucked slowly on a cigarette, pondering Giles with eyes that appeared almost hypnotic now that she could see them up close.

He flashed a smug grin and took a long drag of his cigarette as his eyes wandered up Giles’ body.

‘Well played, Giles,’ he said, exhaling the smoke up into the air above Giles’ head. ‘I have to admit I was sceptical at first, but after seeing that display…’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Giles replied, dismissing him with a wave of her hand.

Barker crooned: ‘Of course not,’ and tapping his nose with his index finger, whispered, ‘mum’s the word.’

Giles scowled, shooting a glance over her shoulder at the sergeant. He was a good ten metres away, but he watched their exchanges like a hunting hawk. She turned back towards Barker.

‘I have some questions.’

‘I thought you might.’

‘Are you going to answer them?’

‘I might. You get me out of this mess and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.’

‘And why would I do that?’

‘Because you didn’t sneak up here and con your way into talking with me to solve a murder.’

Giles hesitated. She could see how the man got so far in politics. He was sharp and blunt – he could almost have been a lawyer in a previous life – and his eyes shone with an intelligence that far surpassed the usual person that Giles would interview day-to-day.

Barker tilted his head to one side, pondering Giles until a shuffle of footsteps from a nearby constable snapped him out of whatever thought he’d been thinking.

‘So,’ he said, clapping his hands together. ‘Shall we begin?’

Giles sneered: ‘You’re not my informant.’

‘And you’re not the detective I thought you were, but we all make mistakes.’ Baker glanced around to check for anyone listening. ‘I must admit, I didn’t do my research thoroughly enough. I knew enough to know that I couldn’t trust your DI with the information, but Giles seemed like a good, strong English name that I never imagined it might belong to a chink…’ He eyed her curiously. ‘Your father’s?’

‘My husband’s.’

‘Yes, of course,’ he replied, glancing down at her wedding ring. ‘It was a mistake that I will not be lightly making again. However, you are who you are – neither of us can help that. And, as it happens, you seem to be rather a capable detective and, more importantly, you are the one I have been dealing with up until now…’

‘You’re fishing…’ Giles muttered, shaking her head knowingly.

‘Absolutely.’

For a moment, his eyes left Giles and drifted across the field towards the pillbox. Giles turned to follow his gaze. They couldn’t see it from where they were – the hedgerows obscured it from view – but it was clear that something was going on. From beyond the hedgerows, Giles could hear the excited calling of Harris marshalling his officers and through the gaps in the bushes she could see the occasional flashes of white overalls as the SOCOs descended on the pillbox.

She turned back towards Barker, noting with satisfaction the look of intensity on his face.

‘It’s only a matter of time, you know,’ she said firmly. ‘They’re tearing that pillbox apart as we speak.’

Barker shrugged. ‘I trust they will do a thorough job.’

Giles chuckled, shaking her head as she tried to control her emotions.

‘You don’t seriously expect to get away with this, do you?’ she asked between laughs. ‘A guy ends up dead with his head blown in and you’re the chief suspect. It’s only a matter of time before the evidence falls overwhelmingly against you. And no golfing experiences with Harris’ superior officer is going to change that…’

‘Unless, of course, I didn’t do it.’

‘I find that hard to believe…’

‘Really?’ Barker interrupted, ripping his attention away from the direction of the pillbox. ‘Then why are you here?’

Giles smiled – an uncomfortable feeling of glee crept into her body, filling her mind with excitement and satisfaction. She had always wondered why good people turned bad and now, with vengeance so close, she could understand it. But she was better than those people – she wouldn’t bring about Barker’s demise. She would just sit back and watch it happen.

‘Because I want to remember,’ she muttered. ‘I want to remember how cocky you looked before Harris finds what he is looking for and wipes that smile from your face. You see I know you murdered that man. I don’t know why, but I don’t really care. I’m just going to be as much help as I can to investigation and know – deep in my heart – that I am helping to bring down the man who brought so much fear and terror to my people. And when you come crashing down, I will be there to see it.’

She waited for a long while, staring hard at Barker, willing him to react. But he didn’t move. He didn’t even blink. He just turned his head away from her and looked back towards the pillbox, his face glowing with confidence.

After a few moments, Giles could feel a surge of anger pulsing through her veins. She turned away from him and began to walk away. It was only when she passed the sergeant that Barker spoke again, calling out to her as she marched back towards the pillbox.

‘I’m a confident man, Detective Giles,’ he shouted. ‘That should tell you everything you need to know.’

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!

Competition: The Cheating Jeweller Update

A quick update for you. The first #GilesCase – The Cheating Jeweller is will close for contest entries on Friday at midnight!

This is your chance to pit those detective loving skills of yours against Detective Sergeant Giles and see if you can crack the case before I reveal the solution next week. To enter, all you need to do is tell me who you think the murderer of John Maxwell was, and what his/her/their motive. Entries are completely free – just head here and within a few minutes your entry will be submitted to win some great crime fiction prizes.

If you haven’t caught up with the case yet, you can find all five days’ update here:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

The winning entry will be drawn at random next week and one lucky winner will win a selection of nifty prizes including:

  • A signed copy of my short story, Dressed to Deceive
  • A selection of books from some awesome crime fiction writers from my personal library
  • A special mystery prize

And – to add to that – I am also working on releasing physical copies of The Bluebell Informant in the near future, so I will chuck one of those in for good measure.

So, what are you waiting for? Enter Now!

The Bluebell Story…

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

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

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

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

So I embraced it.

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

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

But before I do, let me ask you this.

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

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

And that was frustrating. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had DS Evelyn Giles.

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

Evelyn Giles.

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

Do you?

 

Why Did I Want to Become a Writer? – Good Question…

 

Picture this.

A young Nick Tingley, still at school – probably about primary age – coming home one day and scooting up to his bedroom. On his bookcase, there are a fair number of books. Some of them have been read to death, others have hardly been touched at all. Occasionally he might stop and look at the whole expanse of vibrant covers. He would spend minutes at a time carefully examining each individual book for what he wanted…

But it was all kind of pointless really. He would invariably reach for the same one every time.

Few of his friends had heard of Gideon Gander Solves The Worlds Greatest Mysteries by David Henry Wilson. Those that had didn’t really make a point of reading it all that often. But Nick absolutely loved it. There was something about this quaint story of a farmyard gander who went around poking his nose into other people’s affairs and solving crimes that didn’t actually exist that inspired that young boy.

In fact, it was that book that fuelled Nick’s love of crime fiction. So I guess David Henry Wilson is to blame for it all…


Flash forward fifteen to twenty years or so. 

Nick Tingley is now grown up. Well, he’s supposed to be grown up – but in reality he still thinks very similarly to that young boy who used to read about Gideon Gander and his adventures. Only I suppose he’s a little wiser and more aware of the world around him.

He still stares at bookshelves for hours on end. Not necessarily because he wants to read something, but more because there is something oddly comforting about them.

You see, Nick Tingley suffers from extreme anxiety – most people would call it OCD. In fact Nick has been known to spend hours attempting to leave his apartment – he seems to get stuck in an endless loop of checking everything from locks to plug sockets. And it’s not because he is an overly cautious person normally – it’s just like there is some sort of demonic being inside his head, constantly poking and prodding at him, questioning every action and decision he makes.

He stares at the books, not because he is looking for something to read – most of the books he stares at are those he has read a dozen times before. No. He stares at them because they are the single fixed point in what is a constantly changing world. Those books will always be there. And they will never be anywhere other than precisely where Nick has put them…

And that is relaxing for him.

The only difference is that Gideon Gander is no longer on the shelves. That book disappeared a long time ago. Nick can’t even remember when and how…

When he’s writing, Nick is at peace. He writes because he enjoys it, he writes because he loves telling a good tale. But he also writes because the world outside is so complicated, and everyone seems to have their own opinion of it, which only serves to make it even more complicated. The stories that Nick writes are his way of explaining the world. He takes all the issues that he sees around him and condenses them down into a single problem. Then – using the narrative of his stories – he solves that problem.

In those hours, he can type away and dream and understand. In those hours, he can fly…

But there is still something not right…


There’s one more place I want to take you. 

A few weeks ago, I just happened to remember Gideon Gander. I recalled those hours I spent devouring that book and reading it again and again until the pages frayed and began to fall out.

I went online and I found it. It’s not been printed for a good time but, by some stroke of luck, someone was selling one second-hand (or third or fourth – I didn’t really care). I bought it and it arrived at my home a few days later. I held it in my hands and admired the front cover.

This was the book that inspired me to write.

This was the book that created my love of crime fiction.

This book allowed me deal with my own problems in a way that was fun, hard work and intensely rewarding.

All those hours and days and weeks and months of diligently ripping apart my own work, breaking it down and starting again; the characters and the plots and the unnervingly real settings all stemmed from the love of a single book.

And now I have it again. Sat on my desk at all times where I can’t miss it.

And it isn’t going anywhere.

 

 

The Bluebell Informant – Chapter One

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

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

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

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

But none of them were here now.

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

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

For another victim.

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

But hope wasn’t enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it wasn’t.

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

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

Barker was grateful for the solitude.

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

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

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

No one was going to confront him openly…

Not after the day he’d just had.


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

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

Not this man.

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

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

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

‘What’s your name, boy?’

‘Tom Richardson, Mr Haines.’

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

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

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

‘It’s a good job, Mr Haines.’

‘Maybe you might like to work for me?’

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

‘To your success.’

He took a long sip.

Barker didn’t join him.

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

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

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

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

‘The deal was that I would win…’

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

‘It was implied…’

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

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

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

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

‘Will you rig that one as well?’

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

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

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

A sixth won’t hurt.

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

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

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

Evelyn Giles let the phone ring.

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

Not again.

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

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

The phone continued its relentless cry.

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

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

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

The phone rang again.

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

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

Will I never learn?

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

The idea was shattered as he turned to face her.

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

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

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

‘Giles,’ she barked into the receiver.

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

‘Detective Sergeant Giles?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘What can I do for you, sir?’

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

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

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

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

It can wait until tomorrow.

‘What circumstances?’

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

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

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

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

It can definitely wait until tomorrow.

‘I don’t understand…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The decision came swiftly.

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

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