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The Bluebell Informant

 

The Bluebell Informant (DS Giles Series)

Copyright ©2017 Nick R B Tingley

 

The right of Nick R B Tingley to be identified as the author of the Work has been asserted to him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

First published in Great Britain in 2017.

 

All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

 

This is a first edition.

 

For more information, please visit the author’s website at www.nickrbtingley.com

 

The Bluebell Informant

A DS Giles Story

 

One year ago, the Bluebell Killer breathed his last. He left behind a legacy of twenty corpses…

 

One month ago, Daniel Barker lost the election of a lifetime. He left his political career as a bitter and weak man…

 

Three days ago, a police informant sent a message. His words would throw everything we know into question…

 

It’s not over yet.’

 

For Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles, the past is about to come back to haunt her. She’s already sacrificed much for the lie. The only question is, what more will she risk for the truth?

 

An ingeniously, gripping thriller, The Bluebell Informant is a dark, unexpected and emotionally charged debut.

 

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The case is over, but DS Giles’ biggest test is still yet to come…

 

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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.

 

Chapter Two

 

‘You’re DS Giles?’

The officer on duty at the cordon stared down at Giles’ warrant card. He examined her picture for a long time, taking in her long black hair and piercing grey eyes before glancing up once more.

‘Is that a problem?’

The officer shook his head tautly. ‘No. No problem at all. You’re just not what we expected, that’s all…’

He handed the warrant card back to Giles.

‘And what were you expecting, Constable?’

The officer’s eyes squinted in the bright sunshine. Lowering his gaze, he stared off to a point somewhere over Giles’ shoulder where three or four football matches were in session in the great expanse of the recreation ground. He watched the nearest game, his mouth pouting as his mind racked for an appropriate response.

Giles already knew what this was about. It was a testament to the times they were living in. A few months ago, her reputation would have spoken for itself. But now, every time she arrived at a crime scene, she would receive the same suspicious looks – the same guise of thinly veiled disgust.

[_ Unbelievable…_]

The officer glanced back at her, his eyes lingering on the white, silk scarf around her neck. Then he gave her a quick smile and, as though the uncomfortable moment had never happened, lifted up the cordon tape for her to pass underneath and beckoned her through.

Giles stared for a moment, her whole body itching to lay into him for his disgraceful attitude. He could sense it as well for, as she stepped forward and ducked down, he lowered the cordon ever so slightly forcing her to fumble awkwardly to the ground and wriggle under the tape.

‘Oops,’ he muttered jovially. ‘Sorry, ma’am.’

Scrambling back to her full height, Giles glared at the constable, wanting nothing more than to dress him down right then and there. But prudence got the better of her – sure, she was a superior officer but she knew who would come off worse in such an altercation.

He was in his own patch and she was an undesirable.

‘DI Harris is waiting for you across the bridge.’

Giles gave a curt nod of thanks and made her way towards the thin wooden bridge that crossed into the next field. Behind her, the officer giggled quietly to himself and she could feel his eyes watching her as she moved up the creaking steps and over the sturdy structure. Beneath her feet, a feeble brook flowed down towards a tributary where it joined a larger river in a series of shallow, but ferocious, weirs that crashed its way down stream towards the town of Edenbridge.

Giles reached up and pulled her scarf a little tighter, pulling it as close to her skin as she could bear.

She hadn’t thought much of the town as she had driven through it. True, there was a lot more greenery – trees, open fields, hedgerows – than one might expect from a town with a population of eight thousand people, but the vast majority of the architecture seemed rather bland and unappealing. The exception to this, of course, were the numerous Tudor-style houses that made up the old town which, standing in the shadow of the local church, stood as impressive monuments to the town’s long history.

And a little further down river, Giles knew, was Hever Castle – the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. A grand estate that, in the wake of Anne’s execution for treason against King Henry VIII, had been effectively pawned off by the crown to buy the king’s next divorce. The estate had survived it, but now it stood as a testament to that terrible time – a memorial to how easily power could be ripped from those who would seek to betray.

Giles stepped off the bridge on the other end, her feet landing rigidly on the unforgivingly hard mud. The field in front of her was lined squat shrubs interspersing tall, ash trees on one side, and a collection of beech and oak trees and thickets that flanked the path of the river on the other. Flurries of bluebells grew beneath the shadows of the riverside trees, stretching out towards the edge of the path like a soft, violet carpet. The cool airy freshly cut grass reminded Giles of happier times – sweet, spice and earth – bringing back memories of a childhood long forgotten.

She followed the path, adjusting her step so as not to trip on the hardened imprints of a hundred dog walkers, until a short, rake-like man appeared from around the corner. Dressed in a slightly old and tattered suit, the man headed straight towards her, a large smile enveloping his face – a smile that rapidly diminished as he came within a few feet of Giles. He came to a stuttering halt and glanced curiously at her, his eyes drawn steadfastly to her face as his mouth slowly began to drop open.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles?’

Giles recognised the anxious whining of his voice straight away. She flashed him a brief smile and stepped forward, her hand outstretched.

‘Detective Inspector Harris…’

‘Please, call me Will…’

He almost withdrew from her, as though the touch of her hand might bring about some awful injury. His eyes remained steadfastly locked on her and it was several seconds after he noticed the awkwardness of her smile that he quickly stepped forward and grasped hold of her hand. His fingers were ice-cold and lacked confidence as they wrapped around Giles’ palm, barely grasping a firm enough hold to even hold contact.

Giles smiled. ‘You’ve been out here for a while.’

Harris released his grip and shuffled a couple of steps back.

‘Yes, quite,’ he replied, rubbing his hands together. ‘Our victim was discovered a couple of hours ago. Luckily I only got here shortly after I called you.’

He hesitated. His eyes quivered this way and that as they scanned Giles’ face and his tongue gently licked his top lip.

Giles pulled her silk scarf a little tighter around her neck. Beneath the smooth material, the old scar that ran across her flesh ached although there was no reason for it to. As the wind picked up around them, Giles thought she could hear a voice on the wind. The maniacal cackling of a ghost long gone…

Harris stared in silence as Giles, uncomfortable under his gaze, lowered her face towards the ground a little – concealing the already hidden scar from view.

‘Is there a problem?’ she asked tentatively.

Harris’ eyes registered surprise for only a moment before the broad smile returned, although somewhat half-heartedly.

‘No. Not at all. You are just…’ He hesitated for a moment. ‘You’re just not what I expected.’

A pulse of anger surged through Giles’ body. The scar in her neck ached a little more as her jugular pounded against her skin and her hands impulsively tightened into fists. For all the tension coursing through her body, Giles managed to keep a measure of control, but it was not enough to hide it from Harris. But the detective who, to Giles at least, seemed little more than a nervous excuse of a man, barely reacted to the display. On the contrary, he even raised a small smile towards her – a smile that Giles forced herself to reciprocate.

‘That’s the second time I’ve heard that comment in as many minutes…’

‘I should imagine so,’ he replied. ‘No one in their right mind would ever have suspected that you might turn out to be…’ He hesitated. ‘Well, that you were…’ He paused again. ‘You know?’

‘Asian?’

A slight waft of relief swooped over Harris’ face. ‘Yes, exactly. Asian.’

Giles tried her best to hide her sneer, although the coarse tone of her voice told the whole story:

‘Have you a problem working with Asians, Detective Inspector Harris?’

‘No. Not at all…’ Harris stuttered. ‘I’m just worried that I may have wasted your time…’

‘Because someone like me can’t do the job as well as you white folks…’

‘That’s not what I said at all…’

‘Then what are you saying?’

Harris stared back at Giles, his mouth falling even further open as he looked upon the fiery detective. As Giles glared back at him, she could see his mind racing – the cogs of his brain turning rapidly. He reached up and loosened his tie, pulling his collar out a little to allow the air to get to it and swallowing hard as he tried to form a coherent sentence.

‘I’m not the man you think I am.’

‘I’m not the one passing judgement.’

Harris licked his lips again and sighed heavily. Slowly, he nodded his head in agreement.

‘Somehow, I don’t think explaining myself will do me much good at this stage,’ he said, raising his hand to gesture down the pathway. ‘Maybe it would just be better if I show you.’

He didn’t wait for a reply. As he turned away, Giles saw Harris shaking his head slowly from side to side – whether from his own ineptitude or from his disgust at Giles, she had no way of knowing. She allowed the anger to subside a little and for her fists to unclench before she began to follow him.

They passed a small collection of trees and bushes that was surrounded almost entirely by more bluebells on their way towards the next corner. As Giles passed it by, a slight rustling of breaking twigs and grass caught her attention and, as she peered into the violet mass of flowers, she thought she saw two black eyes peering out at her. No sooner had she moved a few steps further and blinked had the two eyes vanished in amongst the undergrowth.

No time to explore the wildlife, Eve…

‘I know,’ she muttered.

She followed behind Harris as the pathway swooped around, following the course of the river, to reveal a small grassy area that seemed overgrown and unkempt. At the far side of this clearing, a set of bushes and small trees arched and twisted back and forth as they clambered up and around a small, squat, concrete building that sat, cold and lifeless next to the opening through to the next field. Wide, rectangular openings punctured the sides of this hexagonal oddity and the whole structure looked as though it had been half-built into the ground, for the highest point was no higher the head the heads of the SOCO officers that carefully searched the area.

Harris came to a stop at the edge of the clearing and waited for Giles to catch up. As she came alongside him, he stared with pride towards the dilapidated concrete box, puffing out whatever remained of his chest and placing his hands arrogantly on his hips.

‘Beautiful isn’t it?’ he asked, gesturing towards the bunker. ‘It’s an old World War Two pillbox. Built by us to stop the Germans crossing the River Eden in an invasion. There’s hundreds of the buggers lining the river.’

‘Why is it still here?’

‘It’s our heritage, isn’t it? It’s important for us to know where we come from…’

‘I wouldn’t know,’ replied Giles sarcastically.

Harris ignored the quip. ‘Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters. If it keeps them off the street then I say keep the bunkers standing.’

And why am I here?

As if in answer to Giles’ unspoken question, a couple of SOCO officers who had been kneeling down beside the pillbox stood up and back to reveal a crumpled corpse, sprawled up against the wall. The figure, a man that Giles supposed to be in his thirties or possibly forties, lay hard against the pillbox, his head contorted at a strange angle – his face calm and peaceful. Behind his head, blood splatters painted the wall and his clothing, as well as staining a small patch of grass ten or twelve metres in front of him.

Harris led Giles over to the pillbox, stepping around the SOCO photographer as he lined up to take a shot of the corpse. When the photographer was done, Harris moved in a little closer to the body, gesturing for Giles to do the same. As Giles knelt down beside the body, she could feel the eyes of the investigating team burning into the back of her head and the subsided anger began to brew once more.

‘What do you think?’ Harris asked, watching Giles intently.

Giles leaned a little closer, her eyes quickly scanning the body.

White male. Probably late thirties. Head slumped to one side. Large wound to the back of his head…

‘There’s a lot of blood on the wall,’ she said quietly. ‘He either had his head bashed against it or it was a gunshot injury…’

‘We found a bullet in the back of his head,’ confirmed Harris. ‘Go on.’

Very large opening. No obvious exit wound…

‘He was shot at long distance, I reckon. The victim probably turned his head at the last minute judging by the lack of an exit wound. The bullet blew out a large portion of his skull which is why he didn’t survive it…’

‘That’s our assessment as well…’

So what are you asking me for?

Giles turned her attention to his clothes.

Dark green coat – covered in blood. No surprise there.

Black waterproof trousers. Thick socks. Grey leather walking boots.

She leant forward and sniffed his lips.

Mint.

‘Well, he was a regular walker,’ she announced. ‘Probably enjoyed country hikes or geocaching or something like that.’

‘Why’d you figure?’

Giles smiled, gesturing to his clothing.

‘This man came out here for a walk. He’s wearing his waterproofs even though it is a nice sunny day. That implies to me that he wears these clothes out of habit.’ She gestured to his boots, leaning forward to pick some dried mud off the soles. ‘His boots are quite expensive, built for purpose. He has dried mud on them because he recently went out walking in the mud on a wet day.’

Harris chuckled. ‘A regular walker…’

‘Exactly.’

The victim’s features were relatively recognisable amongst the blood. His glazed over, green eyes; his skin tight against his cheekbones and long jaw; his neat brown hair, freshly gelled and styled; the small amount of stubble around his chin.

‘Do you know who he was?’ Giles asked, reaching down for the victim’s right hand.

‘No idea. He had no wallet or anything on him. A woman called the police when she came across him and another man but, so far, neither of them can tell us who he was. I don’t suppose you’ve seen him before, have you?’

‘No, why would I?’

Harris shrugged. ‘Just a punt, I guess.’

Giles sat back up. ‘Well, I can’t tell you who he was, but I can tell you he’d been married for some time.’

Harris stared blankly at her. Giles gestured down to a small, gold wedding ring on the victim’s finger.

‘Wedding ring,’ she explained. ‘His skin is quite tanned, probably as a result of all the walking he does. But the skin under the wedding ring is white as a sheet. Whatever prompted him to take up walking happened after he got married…’

‘I see…’

Harris stared down at the body for a good, long while before he slapped his thighs and sprang to his feet. With a renewed sense of energy, he reached forward and held his hand out for Giles to take, beaming as he did so.

‘Well, thanks for all your help, Giles,’ he said taking her hand a little more roughly than Giles would have liked. ‘You’ve been a great help. I’ll let you get back to your Bank Holiday.’

Before Giles could respond, Harris moved past her and sauntered his way back towards the path, heading in the direction of the next field where a group of uniformed officers were gathered around a tall, smartly dressed, man. Giles glanced back down at the body, racking her memory for any recollection of the poor man at her feet before she finally turned on her heels and chased after the retreating DI.

‘Is that is?’ she called out, overtaking Harris and bringing him to a stop. ‘Is that all you brought me down for?’

‘I told you I thought I had wasted your time,’ he replied, raising his hands defensively. ‘I apologise for the inconvenience…’

He tried to step past her but Giles, with an air of defiance in her eyes, stepped across to block his path.

‘You called me all the way down here to identify a dead man? Couldn’t you just have emailed me the crime scene photographs?’

‘I’m not really one for technology…’

‘So you summoned me down here? An hour driving for this?’

Harris swallowed hard. ‘I prefer the personal touch myself but perhaps on this occasion it wasn’t the most efficient use of anyone’s time…’

He took a step forward, hoping this action would force Giles out of his way. As he made contact with her, Giles stood firm, forcing Harris to retreat back, his face knotted with irritation.

‘What do you want from me, Evelyn?’

‘My friends call me Evelyn, Inspector Harris. You can call me Giles.’

‘Fine,’ Harris shot back. ‘What do you want?’

Giles let the question hang for a moment. She hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. Something about this whole scenario hadn’t made sense from the beginning, and it wasn’t to do with some casual racism either. Something about the death of the man affected Giles personally, or at least there was the potential it could. As she glared back at Harris, she felt his eyes drift over her shoulder as he looked towards the group of officers behind her.

What is it with people looking past me today?

“I think we have one of your informants’. That was what you said.’

Harris nodded. ‘Yes. At the time, that was my thought on the matter…’

‘But now you don’t think that.’

‘Evidently…’

‘But not because I didn’t identify the body,’ Giles said slowly, her eyes narrowing in to watch Harris’ reaction. ‘There was something that made you think you were wrong the moment you laid eyes on me. You already knew I was a woman so it wasn’t that…’ She saw Harris’ lip quiver. ‘It’s something to do with my ethnicity.’

Harris cleared his throat, his eyes darting around to look at anything apart from Giles.

‘I told you I had made a mistake…’

‘But how did you? There was nothing on that body that suggested he disliked Asian people. There was no membership card for the Britain’s Own Party. He wasn’t wearing a t-shirt with the slogan, ‘Britain for Whites’ on it. So how did you…?’ She hesitated. ‘You weren’t talking about the dead man, were you?’

Harris smiled and manoeuvred himself to step around Giles.

‘I’m really sorry but I have work to do. Thanks for coming down.’

This time he made it past her.

Giles span quickly around, walking just behind Harris as the path narrowed before moving in to the next field. Up ahead, the uniformed officers turned to watch as they approached and Giles began to smell the whiffs of smoke from the smartly dressed man’s cigarette.

‘There was another man,’ Giles said. ‘Someone else who you thought might be my informant.’

‘Yes, but we now know that isn’t true…’

‘Why not, sir? There must have been something to link me to this guy, or else you wouldn’t have called me out here…’

‘Yes, there is, but I can categorically say that he isn’t your informant.’

‘How would you know that?’ Giles blurted out, reaching forward and pulling Harris back around to face her. ‘If you don’t let me talk to him, how will you ever know?’

‘Because I already know, alright?’

Harris’ voice was loud enough that everyone stopped to watch. For a moment, the two detectives stood silently, glaring at each other as a smooth, spring breeze began to pick up around them. The leaves began to rustle in the trees and the carpet of bluebells rolled back and forth like a comforting duvet being aired over a bed.

Finally, Harris turned to the group of officers and slapped his thighs in surrender.

‘Fine,’ he muttered. ‘You can talk to him. But, I can guarantee you, you will not enjoy the experience…’

‘Why?’ Giles asked as Harris turned his back and marched towards the group of officers. ‘Who is it that could be so bad?’

Harris didn’t stop to answer. He marched straight up to the group of officers, signalled for a sergeant to come to him and engaged in a short, brief discussion. The sergeant nodded apprehensively before turning to signal for the rest to back away, leaving the smartly dressed man stood alone and isolated in a ring of police officers.

Giles hadn’t looked at him properly before – if she had, she might have realised it sooner. Behind the haze of cigarette smoke, the man stared out at Giles like a dragon considering its prey. His lips curled in disgust and his cold eyes drilled into Giles’ like an unforgiving branding iron. Despite the sunshine, the air around them seemed to grow cold with the breeze and Giles tugged furiously at her scarf, willing it tighter with every tweak.

Harris had been right. She wasn’t going to enjoy the experience.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Daniel Barker was taller in person. He stared hard at Giles through the haze left by his cigarette, his short brown hair moving only slightly with the strong breeze.

He stood with his back straight and his hands firmly down by his sides, projecting the archaic but traditional image of an English gentleman. The shirt he wore – with its sleeves rolled up the way politicians do when they want to look casual – was covered in a long streak of blood that started up by his shoulder and crossed his body to his waist like a great ceremonial sash. His jeans were splattered as well, but not to the same extent, and his smart trainers bore no signs of blood, although the soles were covered in a small scattering of grey dust.

Taking a long drag from his cigarette, Barker pondered Giles. He took his time, allowing his eyes to creep down her body, pausing on her breasts and her naval, before blowing out his cigarette smoke and flicking the butt down on to the ground.

‘What’s the story, Harris?’ he said, finally ripping his eyes away from Giles and turning towards the DI, his face seeming to relax the instant he did so.

Harris cleared his throat. ‘I’ve brought someone to see you.’

Barker’s eyes flickered back towards Giles. ‘So I see.’ They returned to Harris. ‘Perhaps you think that this might rattle me somehow?’

Harris didn’t reply. The anxious DI seemed to cower under Barker’s forceful stare. It wasn’t hard to see why. The former politician, whilst he appeared approachable and likeable on the television, had taken on a more commanding veneer. He glared at Harris with public school superiority, tightening his jaw muscles and widening out his shoulders in a primeval display of dominance.

‘I know your superiors, Harris,’ he continued, stepping a little closer, invading Harris’ personal space. ‘Chief Inspector Robshaw is a close personal friend of mine – we play golf once a month at my club. I’m sure he would have a lot to say about your pathetic attempts at psychological mind games…’

‘I assure you that is not the intention…’

‘Spare me your excuses,’ Barker replied, swatting the comment away with an arrogant hand. ‘You know my politics.’ He turned to face Giles. ‘You know my views on the Chinks.’

A ripple of anger crossed Giles’ body. What made it worse was that Barker could see it as well. A small smirk crept across his face and he took a little step forward, angling his body so that he slid in between Giles and Harris effectively cutting her out from the conversation.

‘Now, you want to know what went down here,’ he muttered. ‘I told you that I am not prepared to talk until I have spoken with Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles. I will not utter a word until she is here so I suggest that you stop wasting both of our times with your pathetic excuse at crime solving and start working on bringing DS Giles here. Do you understand?’

Harris opened his mouth to reply, but Giles was quicker off the mark. She cleared her throat, tapped Barker on the shoulder and said:

‘She’s already here.’

Surprisingly, Barker’s face didn’t register the astonishment that she’d hoped. Although she couldn’t see it, she felt him roll his eyes before turning his head to face her again. The smirk was still plastered across his face whilst his eyes burned with loathing.

‘Of course, you are,’ he said, before turning his head back to Harris.

‘I assure you, I am.’

This time, Barker didn’t even both to turn back. ‘A very nice idea,’ he sneered, ‘but DS Giles is British – a hard-working, model detective. Not a scumbag chink with her hands halfway in the welfare pot…’

Giles reached into her pockets whilst she tapped him on the shoulder. He turned his head once more, his face now displaying more than just a mild irritation, his mouth open and ready to lay into her once again. As his eyes fell on the warrant card, his mouth dropped open slightly and all colour vanished from his face. Without his reddish cheeks his face appeared rather gaunter than before and, as he read and reread the name on the warrant card, his lips seemed turn a hint of blue and sink into themselves.

‘You?’ he spluttered. ‘You’re Giles?’

Giles smiled. ‘Everyone seems so surprised by that today. Now I’m beginning to understand why.’

‘But you can’t possibly be…’

Harris stepped beside Giles and said: ‘I assure you she is…’

‘DI Harris has suggested that you might be one of my informants,’ Giles continued, her anger tinted with the slightest hint of enjoyment. ‘But, if I’m honest, I can’t see you ever coming to a chink when there are so many perfectly good, white officers to work with. To be frank, I’m surprised you even stretched as far as a woman…’

Barker stood, his mouth open but no words forming. His eyes fluttered between Harris and Giles, staring intently as though trying to see through their words to find the lie. The sneer had all but gone and what remained was nothing more than abject panic.

How unbelievably satisfying…

Giles flashed a sarcastic smile. ‘Good day to you gentlemen.’

 

Once out of sight of Barker, Giles headed straight across the crime scene to where the SOCOs had set up an evidence table beneath a white, fabric shelter. She ignored the words of protest from the officer stationed here and moved straight past him to stare down at the array of plastic bags containing everything from items of clothing to strands of hair and grass that cascaded over the table top. She had to hand it to the SOCOs here; they did a thorough job.

Bag by bag, Giles made her way along the table, examining each item, even holding some up to the light as she carefully set her mind on the evidence at hand. She didn’t even give any concentration to talking as the SOCO officer coughed beside her and said:

‘Excuse me, ma’am, what are you looking for?’

She simply raised a lone finger at him, not even bothering to tear her eyes away from the table before her. A few moments later, she caught sight of a flash of orange in amongst the translucent bags. With lightning fast speed, her nimble hands swooped down and plucked up the item in question, holding it up to the light.

A train ticket.

Outbound part of a return.

London Bridge to Edenbridge Town.

‘Today’s date?’

Today’s date…

Giles finally turned towards the SOCO stood next to her.

‘This ticket,’ she announced, thrusting it under his nose. ‘Was it found on the victim or did Barker have it?’

‘Sorry?’

‘The ticket. Barker or John Doe?’

The SOCO thought for a moment. ‘John Doe. It was in his pocket…’

Pity…

Giles thrust the ticket back down on the table and resumed her search, feigning ignorance of Harris’ calls as he marched across the crime scene towards her:

‘Giles. What the hell do you think you’re doing?’

Giles shook her head, moving on to the next bag.

Dog leash. Choke chain.

‘Looks new,’ she muttered.

Too new?

She examined the leather of the handle, staring hard down at the edges where the stitching had frayed slightly.

‘It’s been used enough…’

She was out of time. Harris stepped around her and quickly barred her way as she attempted to reach forward for another bag. Staring deep into her eyes, Harris was less of a shadow than he had been before – his firm grip exuded confidence; his voice was firm and steady:

‘Giles, what are you doing?’

Giles pulled herself away from him, trying to reach around for the next bag. With one hand, Harris batted her arm away from the evidence table and, with his other, he forced her back a few steps, taking her well out of reach.

‘This is my crime scene,’ he said, grabbing hold of her wrist and pushing it up against her shoulder.

‘And I’m helping you solve the case…’

With a twist of her wrist, Giles levered herself out of his grip and, with expert agility, pounced around him to approach the table once more. She reached out for the next bag, pulling it sharply towards her and holding it up to examine the jacket inside.

[_ Blood-stained._]

‘Blood matches the markings on Barker’s shirt…’

‘Well, it would do, muttered Harris, moving alongside her again. ‘It was the jacket Barker was wearing…’

Giles looked closer.

High-end jacket. Tweed.

‘Tailored?’

She looked closer still.

Tailored…

‘Look, Giles, what the hell are you after?’

Giles set down the jacket and continued to rifle through the rest of the evidence bags, occasionally stopping at something of interest, but otherwise moving briskly through them.

‘Barker seems insistent on drawing me into this thing. I want to know why.’

Harris let loose a single laugh.

‘Well, it’s like he said. He probably thought you were some sexy little thing from the city, not some grizzled dinosaur…’ He hesitated as Giles glared up at him. ‘No offence,’ he muttered. ‘He probably thought you were some home-grown girl that he could manipulate into getting him off the hook. There’s no more to it than that…’

‘I was brought up here, you know?’

‘Yeah,’ Harris replied, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning back on to his heels. ‘But you’re not really one of us, are you?’

He hesitated again under the chill of Giles’ icy stare.

As he went silent, Giles picked up a smaller evidence bag containing a small torn off piece of white and blue patterned paper. She only gave it a second of her attention before depositing it back down with the rest of the bags…

Good old SOCOs, she thought. Everything and anything is evidence

‘Tell me, Inspector Harris,’ she said as she continued rummaging through the bags. ‘Did you vote for him?’

She paused to stare up at him. His face was a picture – somewhere between pride, fear and utter confusion.

‘It’s all right if you did,’ she continued, returning to the bags. ‘Everyone has to vote with their own conscience. Did you vote for him?’

Harris hesitated.

‘Is that really appropriate, Sergeant?’

‘Because if you did, that would change the dynamics of your relationship, would it not? You’re no longer detective and suspect but leader and follower. The roles would be reversed. Under those circumstances, it wouldn’t be unnatural for you to want to believe in him…’

‘Are you suggesting that I would lie to get that man off a murder charge?’

‘I’m suggesting I was brought here for one reason only – to get Daniel Barker off the hook,’ Giles replied, turning to face the DI. ‘You summoned me here – you were most insistent that I come– but the moment you laid eyes on me you couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Why?’

Harris shook his head, his lip curling with disgust.

‘I’m not sure I like your tone, Detective…’

Giles shrugged.

‘You brought me here.’ She turned back to the evidence bags and gave another cursory scan. ‘And don’t worry, I don’t think that’s the case at all. You seem as anxious to get this one right as I am…’

‘Which is precisely why I am getting you off my crime scene, right now…’

Harris signalled to a couple of officers who quickly lumbered over the dodgy ground towards them. Giles ignored their presence, still shifting through the bags as their footsteps got closer and closer.

She reached forward and picked up the most important bag of all – the one containing a Glock 21 semi-automatic pistol. She examined it closely, feeling – with a certain satisfaction – Harris retreat a step or two away from her as he eyed the weapon in her hand. She didn’t take it out of the bag, but did carefully finger the weapon through the plastic, examining every groove and scratch before placing it back down on the table.

‘There was something on this crime scene that convinced you to call me, wasn’t there?’ she muttered, turning slightly towards Harris as she spoke. ‘Something that was undeniably linked to me; that was convincing enough for you to summon me all the way down here…’

Harris gave a brief shake of the head.

‘Like I told you, I was on my way here myself when I called…’

‘Your hands are cold, Harris,’ Giles announced. ‘Too cold to have only been out here for an hour or so. My guess is you’ve been here on site for at least two maybe three, am I right?’ She turned back to the bags. ‘No, there was something amongst this lot that forced you to get me down here. You would never have wanted me here if there wasn’t.’

The two constables arrived next to Harris, staring at him for orders as the DI watched Giles move through the bags once again.

‘I hear you have a good reputation, Giles,’ he announced. ‘But on this occasion, I’m afraid you’re wrong.’ He turned to the two constables. ‘Please escort Detective Sergeant Giles off the crime scene.’

Before Giles had a chance to react, she felt a firm hand on her shoulder and could barely stop herself from being spun back towards the bridge. With an officer pressed in tight on either side, she was marched swiftly back towards the path.

‘I can help you, Harris,’ she protested, resisting as much as she could between the burly arms of the two uniformed men. ‘If Barker has been trying to play you, he’s been trying to play me as well. We can bring him down together…’

Harris remained stood by the evidence table, his hands still firmly in his pockets as he rocked back and forth on his feet. All about him, SOCOs, constables and detectives alike all stood to watch as DS Giles was forcibly removed from the area. As Giles stared wildly back over her shoulder, she thought she could see a faint hint of a smile on Harris’ face.

‘Thanks for the offer, Giles, but I’m sure us small-town, rural boys can take it from here…’

Giles squirmed a little more. With each movement of resistance, the constables’ grip grew tighter on her shoulders. She threw her head back, making the whole scene turn upside down and bellowed:

‘I wouldn’t count on that. You haven’t seen what’s missing yet, have you?’

With that, the officer on her left reached up and threw her head forward, holding it in place as they frog marched her closer to the bridge. With every violent jerk, Giles began to realise the truth. She could no longer look back towards Harris – she could no longer see the crime scene. All she had was her mind and the mental images that she would summon up to remind her of what was there.

Those would fade and all but vanish in a matter of seconds.

And then she would be left with nothing…

‘Wait.’

At the sound of Harris’ voice, the two officers juddered to a halt and waited as Harris jogged up alongside them. He stared hard at Giles, pacing a little back and forth in front of her, kicking up dust and mud from the grass as he did so.

‘What are you talking about?’ he asked eventually. ‘What’s missing?’

Giles laughed.

‘Oh, come on, it’s obvious,’ she replied. ‘A man with a gaping bullet wound in the back of his head. A Glock by the body. Shots fired out on the grass…’

Harris moved a little closer.

‘Tell me.’

Giles smiled.

‘Where’s the bullet casing?’

The question seemed to completely confound Harris. Even as he stood before her, Giles could see his mind turning, trying desperately to recall whether he had seen one. As he had done before, his eyes wandered over Giles’ shoulder, looking back towards the crime scene…

Back towards the body lying slumped against the bunker wall…

His eyes snapped back to her.

‘The bullet casing is missing,’ he muttered, more to himself than in confirmation.

Giles nodded. ‘And that’s not the only thing,’ she replied. ‘But the casing is important…’

Harris shook his head in confusion.

‘You know where it is?’

Giles nodded again. ‘It’s so obvious, you’ll kick yourself when I tell you.’

Harris thought hard, his eyes flickering between Giles and the crime scene. Finally, and with an air of great reluctance, he nodded to the two constables who instantly released Giles. Stretching her neck and arms out, Giles reached up and pulled her scarf tighter about her neck as Harris took a step or two towards her.

‘You show me where it is,’ he demanded.

‘Oh, I’ll show you,’ Giles replied, flicking her hair back playfully. ‘Just as soon as you show me what it was that made you sure enough to bring me down here.’

Chapter Four

 

God is in the detail…’

It had been a cool, summer’s night – one of those evenings when you could smell the freshness of the air and feel the warmth of the setting sun’s last gasping rays long after the city had been enclosed by darkness. The apartment was clean enough as well – not what the young Detective Constable Giles had expected from her first murder scene. Every item had its place and nothing sinister seemed to grab her as she stepped in through the front door.

Nothing – that is – save for the body of the young woman lying in the middle of the room – blood from a large head wound soaking the white carpet.

Detective Inspector Bolton had been there from the very beginning – guiding her along the way. As Giles stepped into the room, he stopped what he was doing and strode straight over to her. He grasped her by the shoulder and walked her through the apartment, avoiding the body as much as possible.

What do you see, Eve?’

Giles’ eyes darted towards the body.

No, no, no,’ Bolton said, his hand reaching up and directing her face back away from the body. ‘What do you see?’

It took Giles a while to formulate an answer. She didn’t know if it was the shock of being assigned to her first murder case or the obliqueness of Bolton’s question, but she could find little response apart from a few poorly chosen, muttered words:

An apartment,’ she replied. ‘It’s clean. Tidy. Nothing else really…’

Bolton smiled, shaking his head. Her mentor then gestured around the apartment, pointing at almost anything and everything other than the blood-soaked body in the middle of the living room.

Everything,’ he whispered. ‘Anything in this room – anything than you can see, you can taste, you can touch or you can hear – any of it could be evidence. Any scrap of paper or flicker of ash, any humming from a ventilation shaft or the smell of deodorant or talcum powder could be a vital clue. But vital clues don’t lead you to your killer – hard and diligent work does that part – but they do open up the possibilities…’

He grabbed hold of Giles and gently manoeuvred her so that she was square in front of him.

Vital clues open vital doors,’ he said. ‘Anything can be important. But not everything is. The trick is learning how to pull the vital facts from the world of static irrelevancies around you – find the right keys to the right doors…

God is in the detail…’

 

Harris led Giles back towards the forensics table, his head low as he tried to ignore the quizzical stares from his colleagues. Giles knew what he was feeling right now – part of her even felt sorry for him. It was one thing for Harris to demonstrate his authority by throwing Giles off his crime scene – it was quite another for him to admit he was wrong and allow her back again. He was embarrassed and vulnerable – Giles could see it in his body language. But that couldn’t be helped. There was something more important to think about right now.

And yet, in the back of her mind, a small ounce of respect began to flourish for the skinny, little man who stopped by the evidence table. Even as she watched him stroll up to it, Giles felt a newfound fondness for the man she had pegged as a racist only a few minutes before.

A good man…

Flawed.

But good.

‘All right, Giles,’ Harris said, stopping by the collected evidence and gesturing to the bags lining the table. ‘What do you see?’

Giles felt the pang of a long forgotten memory. She didn’t look down at the evidence bags – she could remember every detail.

‘I can tell you what isn’t there that should be,’ she replied, shrugging her shoulders. ‘No wallet. No keys. No identification cards or phone. It’s almost like our John Doe walked into this field like a shadow or an idea. Almost as if he didn’t want anyone to know who he is.’

Harris’ right eye flickered.

‘But what do you see?’

Giles hesitated, her eyes swooping down to the evidence bags.

‘I see a man covered in blood,’ she replied. ‘I see the shadow of a figure stood on a platform in London Bridge, dressed ready to walk his dog in a field with a gun in his pocket. I see a dozen answers to questions we’re not asking and a hundred questions that haven’t been asked yet – and it doesn’t make sense to me…’

‘You’re expanding,’ Harris said calmly, taking a step or two closer. ‘You’re telling me what you think. I just want to know what you see.’

Giles looked for a moment longer. She shook her head, turned back towards the DI and said:

‘I don’t understand.’

Harris considered her thoughtfully. Slowly, and with expert precision, he took his right hand and plunged it in amongst the evidence bags, pulling out a small one that he held out for Giles to take.

Giles recognised it straight away and shrugged.

‘A piece of paper?’ she asked, watching Harris’ eyes closely. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘You know what this is?’

Giles glanced down at the small scrap of paper and described it.

‘A piece of torn off paper. It has a blue and white chequered pattern – it’s probably from an envelope.’

‘Do you know where it was found?’

‘On the ground nearby, I guess?’

Harris shook his head. ‘In the victim’s pocket along with the train ticket.’

Giles shrugged. ‘So, he hadn’t cleaned out his pockets for a while…’

Harris smiled. ‘Did you look at the other side?’ he asked. ‘On the front part of the envelope?’

He held out the bag even closer to Giles his eyes glimmering with an emotion that Giles couldn’t quite place. She glanced down at the translucent evidence bag and looked hard at the envelope.

No, I didn’t look.

 

Tentatively she reached out and grabbed it, holding the evidence bag up into the air and slowly turning it in her hands to reveal the other side of the scrap. It took less than a second, but to Giles it felt like a lifetime. It always seemed the discovery of every vital clue took its own time – like everything would stop so that she could fully appreciate the moment.

She felt a familiar excitement buzz through her veins. Her breathing seemed to all but stop and heart began to pound hard in her chest, threatening to break out of her ribcage and through her skin. Her eyes felt dry and her lips wet with anticipation as she looked down and saw…

‘Nothing,’ she said, curiously staring up at Harris. ‘There’s nothing on there.’

‘Precisely,’ Harris replied, his face flickering with enjoyment as he reached across for another evidence bag.

‘DI Harris, if this is some sort of game…’

‘There is nothing written on that scrap of paper,’ he continued, selecting an evidence bag and holding it close to his chest. ‘No words, no doodles – nothing. It’s just as you said – almost like our John Doe hadn’t cleaned out his pockets for a while – and yet that scrap of paper is perfectly useable, right? I mean – as a last resort – you would use it to write something brief down if you needed to, do you agree?’

Giles glanced back down at scrap. It was a little mottled and frayed around the edges, but otherwise it was still useful as a piece of paper. She turned her eyes up to the bag that Harris had wrapped tightly in his hands.

‘What’s in the other bag?’

Harris’ face beamed with contentment as he handed it over to her.

‘This is what brought you here.’

Giles looked down in her hands. The little, orange train ticket sat in the evidence bag was a little creased around the edges but otherwise in perfect condition.

‘Turn it over.’

Giles did as Harris requested, turning the ticket gently around to look at the opposite side. It took her a moment to see it – her eye was instantly drawn to the large, black magnetic strip that ran the full width – and it was only with her third or fourth glance that she noticed the unfamiliar writing hastily scrawled in the endorsements section.

A queer feeling rippled through her body – starting in her stomach and spreading quickly to her neck. Her scars began to throb beneath her silk scarf and a strong, vile taste of metal began to linger on the back of her tongue.

Her eyes narrowed on Harris.

‘He left me a message.’

Harris shrugged. ‘If you can call a name on a ticket a message. Though why he chose to ignore a fresh scrap of paper is a little curious, wouldn’t you say?’

Giles stared down at the ticket again. The writing was untidy and very small, but the words written there were unmistakeable.

Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles.

In that instant, Giles thought she understood.

‘That’s why you brought me here,’ she muttered. ‘Because he wrote my name.’

Harris nodded. ‘It looked to me like a call for help – ‘Find Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles if anything happens to me.’’

‘Now who’s expanding,’ Giles shot back, allowing herself to smile up at the DI. She turned her attention back to the writing, examining it closely. ‘So, you thought John Doe was one of my informants…’

‘We did,’ Harris replied, taking the evidence bags from her and depositing them back on the table. ‘Or at least someone who knew you personally and trusted you enough to help them if needed. Then something else happened that made the whole thing untenable.’

‘Untenable?’

Harris nodded. ‘Daniel Barker mentioned your name. ‘Find DS Giles,’ he kept saying. He seemed very adamant that you would want to speak with him.’

‘I have nothing to say to that man…’

‘Those were my thoughts the moment I set eyes on you,’ Harris continued, leading Giles away from the evidence table. ‘And that’s why you shouldn’t be here.’

Giles shook her head violently.

‘If anything that ticket is precisely the reason why I should…’

‘Technically speaking, you are now a part of this case. You could be a vital witness or – and I hope you don’t take offence – even a suspect. I shouldn’t even allow you on the crime scene…’

Giles didn’t reply. She wasn’t even listening to Harris’ muttered misgivings. Her attention was drawn to the far field where, once again, Barker was talking with a couple of the police officers holding large evidence bags.

A cigarette was dangling from his mouth and he laughed jovially as he slowly unbuttoned his shirt and placed it inside the bag. He didn’t stop to put on the new shirt the officer was holding out for him, but continued straight on to unbuckling his belt and removing his trousers.

Giles had to hand it to him – beneath the suited exterior, Barker kept reasonable good care of his body. He wasn’t exactly brimming with muscles, but he had the makings of a good six-pack and his chest was flat and broad.

He flung his trousers into the evidence bag and exchanged another joke with the police officer before taking the spare trousers and slowly pulling them up his legs. When they were nearly at his crotch, he seemed to stop and glance around his surroundings – almost as though he were checking to see who was watching. A small smile crossed his face as he caught sight of two, young female officers – who were risking a sneaky glance – before hoisting the trousers up to his waist and buttoning them up.

It was then that he made eye contact with Giles. He froze for a few seconds, staring deep into her eyes even from the distance of the next field, a strange look plastered across his face that made her back shudder uncontrollably. He took his time putting the shirt on, flexing his stomach muscles in her direction as he made the most of putting each arm into the correct sleeve.

There was something familiar about him – about the way he held himself.

Something that reminded her of…

Jason.

She turned her head away, back towards Harris. Her face flushed with embarrassment, but the DI didn’t seem to notice.

‘So,’ he said, staring around the crime scene. ‘Where do you think the bullet casing is?’

‘Sorry?’

Harris’ eyes narrowed. ‘The bullet casing? You said you knew where it was.’

‘Oh, I do,’ she replied, gesturing towards the police officer coming back towards them with two large evidence bags. ‘Can I examine his clothes?’

Harris sounded more irritated as he spoke again:

‘Giles. The bullet casing…’

‘Even if SOCO just go through them. I want to know what’s in his pockets…’

‘Fine,’ Harris growled. ‘But the bullet casing, Giles. Where is it?’

Giles turned back towards him. ‘Hmmm?’

‘The bullet casing? You can’t have a bullet without the casing so where is it?’

It took Giles a moment to understand.

‘Oh, yes,’ she said, the realisation suddenly dawning on her. ‘The bullet casing – sorry, yes, I know where it is.’

With that she span on her heels and marched off across the crime scene, gesturing for Harris to come with her. She couldn’t put her finger on what put a spring in her step but, as they approached the pillbox, Giles definitely began to feel happier – almost as though a moment of pure contentment was just around the corner.

‘You didn’t find it before because you were looking in the wrong place,’ she said animatedly. ‘But, if Barker isn’t a murderer, then it must be there somewhere. If you haven’t found it yet, there is only one place it can be.’ She flashed Harris a comforting smile. ‘It’s like you said, ‘you can’t have a bullet without its casing…’’

She came to a stop not far away from where the body lay crumpled against the pillbox. Her eyes lingered on the dead man, flickering from his clothing up to his cold, lifeless face.

You can’t have one without the other…

‘God is in the detail…’ she whispered.

‘Sorry?’

Giles turned towards Harris. Somewhere in the dark recesses of her mind, a light bulb had been switched on. A flurry of thoughts and ideas cascaded through her mind leaving her overwhelmed for a short time until the images began to mould and form an idea. An idea that she was surprised she hadn’t thought of before…

A brilliant idea…

‘The ticket,’ she said quickly.

Harris sighed despondently. ‘Giles, the casing?’

‘No, no, you don’t understand.’ She glanced down at the body at her feet. ‘The ticket – it had my name on it – a name scrawled on a part of a ticket where no one would think to look…’

‘Yes, I get that…’

‘But you don’t,’ Giles replied, before hastily adding, ‘No offence, but you don’t get it. The ticket was found in John Doe’s pocket, implying that he came down from London, right?’

Harris thought about arguing, but the excitement in Giles’ voice was somewhat infectious and he satisfied himself with collapsing against the pillbox wall, arms folded and with a look of pure surrender on his face.

‘Go on.’

‘He didn’t have a wallet. No phone. No keys. Nothing to identify him. But he does have a ticket on him – a regular, outbound part of a return ticket from London to Edenbridge. And on that ticket, he wrote my name – not on the scrap piece of paper in his pocket, but on the ticket – a valid ticket that he was using that day.’

Giles stared expectantly at Harris, her eyes dancing with excitement. In return, Harris let out a long sigh, kicked himself off the wall of the pillbox and stared around the crime scene with the suggestion of a man pushed beyond his limits. When he finally turned back to Giles, his face was heavy and grey with resignation as he slowly shook his head.

‘Do you even know where the casing is?’ he asked sombrely. ‘Or was this just a clever blind to get back on my crime scene?’

‘Hmmm?’

Harris raised an eyebrow, his eyes almost vacant as they looked her up and down. Giles’ excitement subsided and she felt an echo of resentment as she examined Harris’ face. Her excitement had gotten the better of her – the flicker of an idea had whisked her mind down a tangent and now she was faced with a look of bitter disappointment.

Always the show off, Eve…

She straightened herself upright, pulling her coat down and straightening her scarf as she attempted to regain her professional veneer. Then, with a quick nod to the building behind Harris, she said:

‘The bullet casing is in the pillbox, probably somewhere near one of the openings – get your SOCO guys in there and they’ll probably find it in two seconds flat.’ She flashed a confident – but not cocky – smile towards him. ‘There’s nowhere else it could be.’

Giles hadn’t expected any praise for her deduction, but she had at least anticipated some sort of recognition for her logic – a dropping of his jaw, a widening of his eyes, a shortness of breath. She certainly hadn’t expected the wave of exasperation that shot across his face. The stance he adopted was far more aggressive than grateful and, as he scowled down at the ground, his body resonated with exuded bitterness.

He couldn’t even hide the resentment in his voice.

‘There’s no way of getting in, Giles,’ he said. ‘You didn’t really think we hadn’t already thought of that, did you?’

Giles opened her mouth to reply but something in Harris’ posture warned her away from debating the point further. Instead she glanced down at the cold corpse on the ground and cleared her throat.

‘You’re still missing the point,’ she said abruptly. ‘John Doe bought a return ticket from London Bridge. On the ticket to Edenbridge, he wrote my name.’

‘So?’

‘So, where’s the other ticket? And more to the point…’

‘What might be written on it?’

The bitterness vanished in an instant. Harris’ face filled with colour, his eyes staring down at the dead body in wonder as his mind opened itself up to what was obvious now that Giles had pointed it out.

‘We have to find that ticket,’ he muttered, his eyes dancing back up to meet Giles’. ‘If Barker has it…’

‘I’m on it,’ Giles replied, spinning on her feet and marching off across the crime scene.

It took a good few steps before either one of them remembered that Giles wasn’t supposed to be there. It was Giles who remembered it first, but she didn’t stay her step, hoping that her input had been enough – at least for a little while. It only took Harris a few seconds longer.

‘Giles,’ he called out, waiting for her to stop and turn around. ‘I still can’t have you helping this investigation. It breaks every rule in the book.’

Giles smiled, staring absently down at the ground in search for inspiration.

‘Even the best rules have to be broken every once in a while, sir,’ she said, starting to turn around again.

‘And the casing? Was that just a bluff or did you really think you’d found it where we failed?’

Giles considered her answer carefully before replying.

‘I meant what I said,’ she said defiantly. ‘The bullet casing is in the pillbox. There is no other explanation.’

‘And I meant what I said,’ Harris shot back, taking a step closer to her. ‘The entrance is bricked up. There is no way of getting inside that pillbox.’

‘No way in?’ Giles repeated, a smile spreading cheerfully across her face. ‘So how do the homeless guys get in, I wonder?’

She didn’t wait to see his reaction.

With a new spring in her step, she turned away from him and marched over to the evidence table. As she waited patiently for the officers to start searching Barker’s clothing, she watched with interest as Harris called his sergeant and another SOCO over. He talked frantically with them for a few minutes before the SOCO reluctantly walked up to the pillbox and, with Harris and his sergeant helping to lift him up, scrambled through one of the openings and disappeared inside.

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.’

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…’

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…

Chapter Eight

 

Another summer’s day. Another murder.

And yet Camden Lock Market carried on as though nothing had happened. The biggest melting pot of a dozen different cultures filled with tourists from countless countries – all of them pouring into the streets as the black BMW edged cautiously through the streets.

Even with the blue lights flashing on the unmarked police car, shoppers darted out in front of it, almost as though they hadn’t noticed it. And as they passed by, the backpack totting gangs of drug dealers retreated into the market stalls and watched quietly until it was safe to emerge again. Hell, not even the traffic up ahead parted to allow it prowl through.

No respect for the police anymore.

In the back of the car, Giles poured over her briefing sheet, trying to ignore the tempting aroma of various Asian dishes infused intermittently with the slightest hint of marijuana. The file was pretty sparse, but Giles already knew all the background. The rumour was the Bluebell Killer had struck again. That would make it sixteen murders since April.

An average of two a week.

The car passed under the famous Camden Town railway bridge and continued a few hundred feet further down the road before crossing over the canal. It pulled over immediately after, sending a few camera-wielding tourists trotting out of the way as the car mounted the pavement.

Giles closed up the file and clambered out of the door and joined the others as they set off down the towpath. Her companions walked a little ahead of her, talking animatedly as they consulted the case file: DI Frank Bolton, strong and commanding, led the discussion, rattling off a list of questions; DC John Scutter, short and fat from his over drinking, listened carefully, flicking through the file, struggling to hold the pages down in the stiff breeze.

Giles had no need to listen in. She knew the case file better than anyone.

She followed the others as descended down to the canal. Up ahead, a plethora of white-clad SOCOs had set up shop next to the lock and, from where she was, Giles could see two divers slowly climbing up the lock ladders.

A suicide. It has to be.

‘That would be nice,’ Giles muttered.

‘What was that?’

Bolton turned to face her.

He was a shadow of the man she had first known when she became a Detective Constable four years ago. He’d lost his enthusiasm – his spark of creativity and ingenuity. Word was that he’d turned down promotion to Detective Superintendent – but Giles knew different. The Met had been slowly phasing out the role of DCI for several years and, with many of his superiors vying for promotion before their role became defunct, Bolton’s brand of creative enthusiasm did not win him any favours.

Now he consigned himself to bureaucratic detective skills – paperwork, thoroughness and diligence. He rarely even visited a crime scene if he could avoid it.

But the Bluebell Killer case was different.

It was his chance to shine.

To be noticed.

Giles flashed a short smile at him.

‘Oh, nothing.’

Bolton nodded and carried on.

The lock was empty, or as empty as it was likely to be with the huge amount of water trying to surge through the old, wooden gates. As they arrived alongside, a female SOCO waved them over and shook hands with each in turn. Dr Susan Harken smiled sweetly when she got to Giles – the dinner party from the night before clearly playing on her mind.

‘Hello Eve.’

‘Recovered yet?’ Giles asked playfully.

‘I don’t think I will look at dice the same way again…’

Bolton cleared his throat, gesturing to a nearby forensics tent. ‘Shall we get on?’

Harken led the three of them through to the tent where a large, flabby man lay facedown on the ground. As the three detectives filed in, Harken handed Bolton a soggy wallet that he passed on to Scutter to open up. Delving through the layers of leather, Scutter soon found what he was looking for.

‘Henry Jones. Thirty-six years old,’ he announced, producing a sodden, white card from the wallet. ‘A banker according to his business card. No money missing.’

‘He was found face down in the lock this morning,’ Harken explained, directing her comments towards Giles. ‘I estimate he’d been there since the early hours of the morning.’

Bolton shrugged. ‘Could he have fallen in? Night on the town, maybe?’

Harken shook her head. ‘I’ll run a tox-screen back at the lab, of course, but I don’t see anything to suggest that. Besides…’ she pointed at the victim’s neck ‘…there are ligature marks around his throat.’

‘Suicide?’ piped up Scutter.

Giles coughed. ‘No one tries to strangle themselves and then throws themselves into a lock. It’s too messy.’ She turned back to Harken. ‘Is it him?’

Harken shot a knowing look and bent down next to the body. Carefully, she placed her fingers under the dead man’s clothing and began to lift it up.

‘I called you as soon as I saw it.’

As she brought the shirt past the centre of the man’s back, Giles could see the blue-violet flowers strapped to his skin using duct tape. She didn’t react at first, aware that Harken was staring intently up at her, but Scutter was not so veiled.

‘Oh my God,’ he whispered. ‘Not another one.’

Giles let herself into the small apartment, carefully placing the keys down on the side table as she pulled her latex gloves over her fingers.

Henry Jones had been successful in his lifetime, but that success had made him a rather lonely man. His neighbours didn’t know him very well and he had little family to speak of. As Giles walked past the bare walls and shelves devoid of any personal photographs, she somehow felt less sorry for the man.

True he had been murdered but – somehow – Giles wondered whether he would have lasted much longer had that not been the case. The man who had lived here was not a man enjoying life to the full, but a man waiting to die. Waiting for the end of it all.

Maybe he did him a favour…

She made her way through to the next room, moving straight across to a large desk at the far side. She flicked through a pile of letters that lay discarded on the desk – nothing particularly intimate, just bills mostly. She opened up a bank statement and casually glanced down the transactions.

Henry Jones may not have been full of the joys of life, but he certainly knew how to party. His debit and credit card bills were littered with the names of nightclubs and off-licenses, fancy restaurants and expensive hotels.

A regular amount had been withdrawn in cash. Always the same – three hundred and fifty pounds on the tenth of each month.

Probably a hooker, Giles thought.

She was about to set the letter back down when something caught her eye – a large deposit that had been placed in Jones’ account a week or so before the murder…

Twenty thousand pounds.

‘I wonder what that’s about…’

I wonder…

 

‘Scutter.’

Scutter stirred reluctantly, sitting up from his mid-day nap and glaring at Giles as she marched across the office towards him. He knew that look well enough – and it usually resulted in more work for him.

‘Yes, boss.’

Giles handed him the bank statement.

‘I need you to look into that last deposit made into Jones’ account. It was twenty grand from an unnamed account. I need you to see if we can find anything on it.’

‘What for? We already know it was Bluebell who got him.’

‘Just do it, John…’

Giles strode away, acutely aware of Scutter cursing beneath his breath. She made her way quickly across the office and knocked on a large door that led through to Bolton’s personal office space.

Bolton peered up at her with tired eyes.

‘Eve, do we have anything yet?’

‘Nothing new,’ replied Giles, taking a seat opposite him. ‘No one seems to know much about Jones apart from the fact he was a banker. He doesn’t seem to have had any close friends or family.’

Bolton sighed. ‘Well, I don’t imagine it would do us much good anyway. It hasn’t so far.’

‘One possible lead though,’ Giles continued. ‘Jones received a large payment shortly before his death. It might be worth looking in to…’

‘How much are we talking?’

Giles told him. Bolton whistled and rubbed his large forehead, his fingers toying with the fringes of his short, black, curly hair.

‘Alright, it’s worth a shot,’ he said, leaning back in his chair. ‘The Commander is screaming to know what’s happening. The last thing he wants is to be in the dark when another ‘Bluebell Killer’ headline appears tomorrow morning…’

‘Yes, sir…’

In the next room, a phone began to ring. Giles looked up and could see Scutter gesturing wildly towards her desk. Taking her cue, Giles made her excuses and left Bolton’s office, moving swiftly across the floor and taking a seat behind her own desk.

‘Giles,’ she announced down the phone.

‘Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles?’

The voice on the end of the phone was calm and confident, quiet but well-spoken.

‘That’s right,’ Giles replied. ‘Whom am I speaking to?’

‘My name is not important. But what I want is.’

Giles hesitated. ‘And what do you want?’

‘To help.’ The voice took a long deep breath. ‘I have information on the man you have come to know as The Bluebell Killer.’ He hesitated. ‘Am I right in thinking you are the person to talk to?’

Giles’ heart skipped a beat. Her eyes darted over to the far side of the room to Bolton’s office. Through the gap in the blinds she could just about make out his strong figure, rocking back and forth on his chair as he flung small balls of paper into the waste paper basket.

‘I’m in charge of the investigation, yes…’

‘Is Frank Bolton no longer on the team?’

Giles hesitated – a pang of guilt flitting across her mind.

‘I meant that DI Bolton doesn’t usually deal with individual informants,’ she lied, reaching forward to the keypad. ‘But, if you’d like, I can see if he would be willing to talk with you…’

‘No,’ the voice replied sharply. ‘Do not trust him with this, do you understand? Do not trust anyone else with this.’

‘I can assure you that DI Bolton and my team are amongst some of the finest officers in the district…’

‘My help is for you. No one else.’ The voice sounded more urgent this time.

Giles glanced around the room. Nobody had been paying attention to her conversation.

Pity. I could use a second set of ears…

‘Alright,’ she said slowly. ‘What information have you got?’

The voice took a deep breath. ‘Henry Jones is confirmed as one of his victims, is he not?’

Giles’ eyes widened. ‘How did you know that?’

The voice hesitated a moment longer. ‘Follow the money.’

The line went dead.

 

Giles was ready the next time the mysterious caller contacted her. It had been a good few weeks and, during that time, Giles had made it her habit of recording every conversation she had on her desk line. As the phone rang this time, she gave little thought to it as she clicked on the recorder and settled back into her chair.

‘Giles.’

‘Did you find it?’

It was him.

‘Yes, I did.’

‘And?’

Giles shook her head. ‘If this is going to carry on, I’m going to need a name.’

The voice went quiet as he thought for a moment. ‘You can call me Max,’ he said finally.

‘Not your real name, I’m guessing?’

The voice chuckled. ‘I just had to look around for inspiration. Now, tell me, what did you learn?’

‘I’m not at liberty to discuss that with members of the public…’

‘Then I shall tell you,’ Max interrupted. ‘You discovered that the account that sent that large sum to Mr Jones also sent large sums to several other people, am I correct?’

Giles glanced around furtively before replying. ‘That’s right.’

‘And each is now dead – all victims of the Bluebell Killer, right?’

Giles didn’t reply at first. On a television at the far side of the room, Scutter and another officer were watching the news as the latest updates from the Houses of Parliament flashed across the screen.

‘Why does he pay them first, Max?’ she asked tentatively. ‘What’s the connection?’

‘The account is anonymous and untraceable. You will never find a link back to your killer that way.’

‘Then give me something, anything to go on.’

The voice went silent. ‘The Bluebell Killings are all different. Each method of murder is different from all the others and yet you believe, whole heartedly, that they are all linked somehow.’

‘Because of the bluebells…’

‘Any fool can drop a bunch of bluebells on a corpse, DS Giles.’

‘So what’s the point?’

‘The point is that the bluebells are a distraction, a ploy to make you think that the murders have all been committed by the same person…’

Giles’ mind stuttered to a halt.

‘What are you trying to tell me?’

The voice chuckled. ‘The bluebells are a warning. ‘Don’t mess with the Bluebell Killer’. The man you seek is powerful and with a great deal of influence…’

‘You mean a gang lord? A mafia type?’

‘In the past, bodies were got rid of quietly,’ Max replied. ‘No body. No questions. The man you seek is a new breed of terror.’

‘But who is he? Who is the Bluebell Killer?’

There was silence on the end of the line. For a moment, Giles thought she could hear the sound of a whimper echoing behind Max, followed by a hiss of quiet. When Max spoke again, his voice sounded more relax – like a great strain had been lifted from his conscience.

‘When I have more proof, I will be in touch.’

And with that, Max was gone.

Chapter Nine

 

Giles had lost track of time in all the excitement and confusion. She had assumed it was a little past eleven but, when she finally looked down at her watch, the hour hand was close to the two. Hours and minutes felt all the same to her and the hustle and bustle of the crime scene passed before her eyes as though it were in a world of its own.

At the far side of the field, sat cross-legged close to bramble bush between the watchful eyes of two constables, Barker glared coldly out at her. He had descended from the elegant heights of public politics to the lowest form of criminal in a matter of weeks – though Giles would argue the transition was not as far as some might suggest. Revealed and isolated, there was little he could do but sit and wait. The last hope he had – the final resort – had been his undoing.

A short distance away, Harris finished up with Bellamy and, with a brief shake of the hand, the two parted ways. With the hard work on the crime scene done, Harris took a moment to breathe it all in – his eyes lingering for one more time on the blood stained pillbox and the crumpled red grass where the body once lay.

Only when he was completely satisfied did he walk smartly towards Giles, stopping a few feet in front of her. He didn’t need to speak his gratitude – his smile had already done that for him – but he said it nonetheless:

‘I couldn’t have done this without you, Giles,’ he said.

‘Eve,’ Giles replied. ‘My name is Eve.’

‘All right… Eve.’

He turned his head to follow Giles’ gaze. Barker hadn’t moved for nearly thirty minutes – as still as a statue, he had been glaring straight at her. But it wasn’t intimidating – that wouldn’t be the right word for it at all – pleadingly might be a more apt description.

‘He’ll be taken back to the station,’ Harris explained. ‘We’ll charge him with murder. I could even toss in a ‘wasting police time’ if you’d like?’

‘It won’t make a difference,’ Giles replied sullenly. ‘You haven’t got enough to convict him.’

Harris sucked at his lips. ‘There’s time. Besides it’s not like we have nothing: there’s the discrepancy of the shot range for starters. And the casing – I’m sure it will turn up eventually…’

Giles shook her head.

‘If you haven’t found it now, you’re not going to. More than likely it’s at the bottom of the river.’

‘Yes,’ Harris replied, although he didn’t seem to be in agreement with her. ‘Well, that’s not your problem anymore.’ He held out a firm hand to her. ‘Thank you for your help. I trust you’ll be available for testimony if we need it?’

Giles ignored the outstretched hand. Over the last thirty minutes an idea had been forming in her mind – an unsettling idea that had gripped hold of her and refused to let go. Despite every conscious attempt on her part to brush it aside, the idea had held firm, festered and spread until every single thought of her’s was consumed by it – consumed by a single question.

What if…?

She snapped her head towards Harris, her face set and unyielding as she said:

‘Detective Inspector, I wonder if I might ask a favour?’

Harris was only too happy to oblige until Giles told him what she wanted. The colour drained from his face and a sense of doom seemed to take hold of him.

‘Absolutely not,’ he replied. ‘This is still my investigation, Giles. This man has been arrested for murder. I can’t possibly…’

‘We both know you haven’t got a case,’ Giles interrupted, speaking quietly so that no one else could hear. ‘Any good lawyer will get it thrown out within the hour, and Daniel Barker will be able to get himself a good lawyer.’

‘But what you’re talking about is madness. He’s been manipulating us from the first moment and now he’s got you right where he had me only an hour ago. I can’t allow you to buy into this…’

‘But he knows something about my case.’

‘Then let us take him in, get him locked down and then I can let you talk to him. Just wait one hour until we have him processed and then you can question him to your heart’s content…’

‘Five minutes.’ She held up the fingers of her left hand. ‘Just five minutes alone with him. That’s all I’m asking for…’

‘I’m going to need a damn sight more than that, Eve,’ Harris replied. ‘This man is looking at a murder charge – any hint that we haven’t done this thing by the book and his lawyers will eat us alive. It’s going to be hard enough to explain why I let you help in the first place without you following your own lines of inquiry into a separate case…’

‘Daniel Barker didn’t kill that man.’

To say that Harris didn’t understand would be a gross understatement. He blinked twice and his mouth dropped open slightly, but no sound came out – nothing distinguishable as sound at any rate. When he finally did speak, it almost seemed as though it had come from somewhere else, as his lips barely moved and his whole body was stiffened with nervous tension.

‘What the hell are you playing at?’

Giles had little time to explain – in truth, she couldn’t really explain it herself. But somewhere in the back of her mind a small voice willed her on.

‘I mean…’ she hesitated, ‘… he might not have killed that man.’

Harris would have laughed if the matter weren’t so serious.

‘Are you out of your mind?’ he spluttered. ‘The whole morning you’ve been on my back, desperate to prove that Barker is a murderer. You’ve finally convinced me and now you’re saying he didn’t do it.’

‘I know it doesn’t make sense…’

‘You even found the evidence that refuted his story for Christ’s sake. You practically got a confession out of him…’

‘But I didn’t, did I?’ Giles fired back. ‘What did he admit to? Nothing? Writing a couple of names on two train tickets and planting them at the scene. That doesn’t mean the rest of his story isn’t true…’

‘It poses a credibility problem if nothing else…’

‘Five minutes. That’s all I need and then he’s all yours, I promise.’

Harris sighed deeply. He had gotten over the shock now and his mind was begging to work. Even now, Giles could see the cogs turning in his brain as the colour returned to his face.

‘You tell me one thing,’ he muttered, moving in menacingly close to Giles. ‘Who is this man to you?’

‘He’s no one…’

‘No, no,’ he interrupted, waggling a rigid finger at her. ‘Don’t give me that. An hour ago you would have made it your mission in life to see Barker ended, now you can’t wait to get him on side. What was it about the Bluebell Killer that made you change your mind?’

‘Five minutes,’ she said. ‘Let me talk to him for five minutes. Just to find out what he knows – if he really is who I think he is. Anything about the murder will be strictly off limits, I promise…’

‘And who do you think he is? Clearly not Daniel Barker the extreme politician. Clearly not the man who would have you and everyone like you drummed out of the country…’

Giles smiled warmly back at him. ‘If he is who I think he is, I promise you will have an explanation…’

‘You’ll give me one anyway.’

He turned to look at Barker and then, with a slight swoop of his hand, he finally relented and gestured for Giles to approach. If appreciation could ever be conveyed by a nod, Giles demonstrated it in that moment. She stepped past him and marched quickly up to Barker, aware that Harris was gesturing something over her shoulders. As though on cue, the two constables stepped away from Barker as she arrived and walked a few metres away, giving them plenty of space.

She didn’t want Barker’s approval – but she got it anyway.

‘Very nice,’ he said, shifting his weight to get slightly more comfortable. ‘The power you must wield Detective Sergeant Giles. You must be a truly formidable opponent…’

‘You would know. That’s how you got into this mess, isn’t it?’ She let the question hang for a few seconds. ‘Who are you?’

A sly grin etched its way across Barker’s face.

‘I didn’t mean to kill him,’ he said soothingly. ‘You have to believe that.’

‘I didn’t ask…’

‘No,’ Barker agreed. ‘But you are curious.’

The silence that followed was almost unbearable. Five minutes is never enough time to do anything and, as the silence ate away at it, Giles’ began to feel the strangest sensation of fear and panic – although she had no real reason to be.

‘You know,’ she said, ‘they have all the evidence they need to put you away.’

Barker’s mouth curled with a momentary glimpse of anger. ‘Evidence based on prejudice is no evidence at all.’

‘Coming from a man with your ideological background, that’s really touching…’

Barker paused, took a deep breath and steadied himself. ‘It’s just politics. It’s nothing personal.’

‘Not to you maybe…’

Although she didn’t show it, inside Giles felt like smiling. For the first time since she had laid eyes on Barker, she felt the cautious feeling of triumph moving through her body. Barker, the man who made it acceptable to hate others in Britain, was accused of murder and the evidence was pointing towards a probable conviction. The man who inspired so much ill feeling was facing a lifetime in one of the darkest buildings in Britain…

Good riddance to him…

Deep inside her, a hissing beast wiggled around, willing Giles to turn and walk away.

‘You can’t allow them to take me in,’ Barker protested, crossing his arms and staring confrontationally around at the surrounding officers.

‘I can’t stop them. This isn’t my jurisdiction.’

‘What if I made it your jurisdiction?’

‘Why am I here?’

‘Don’t you understand? It’s all linked together. The killer you’re hunting, the man who tried to have me killed – it’s the same person.’

Giles chuckled. ‘The Bluebell Killer is dead. You know that as well as I do.’

‘Then why does he want us both dead?’

Barker glanced around. The ring of uniformed officers didn’t seem to be listening but he didn’t want to take any chances. He leant forward a little and whispered:

‘You were so close to bringing him down. So close.’

‘I did bring him down,’ Giles replied. ‘I have my scars to prove it…’

She reached up and touched the scarf around her neck. Barker’s eyes narrowed to look at the silk material, but Giles kept it firmly in place. Barker shook his head.

‘You found Donnovan, but that man is not the whole story,’ he muttered, his eyes narrowing on her. ‘You should really have followed the money…’

If there was ever any doubt in Giles’ mind about who Daniel Barker was to her, it had all but gone now. Inside her stomach, the beast wriggled a little and whispered to her.

Is that enough for you?

Giles took a step forward. Had it been any other person, she might have risked a smile. Instead, she stared at him for a moment before giving a short, courteous nod.

‘Hello, Max.’

 

Hidden behind a desk in the Kent Force Control Room, Alison Carew peered subtly over the top of her computer. At the next desk in front, Lawrence Heller was doing his usual tea run, moving from desk to desk to take their orders as he did at this time every morning. As he stopped at the desk before Alison’s, his eyes momentarily flickered up to see her peering out at him. With what she hoped was with a casual demeanour, Alison allowed her eyes to wander around the room before she slinked back into her chair and pretended to resume her typing.

She had hoped that this would be the day when Lawrence would extend his generosity as far as her relegated position at the back of the Control Room, that finally she would be accepted as one of the team. But, as he did everyday, Lawrence merely chuckled to himself and went off to grab the beverages for the rest leaving Alison with the cold, hard feeling of undeserved misery and uselessness.

She had never been one of the team. Ever since they found out who her father was, Alison had been the person to avoid. She was the daughter of the Former Prime Minister; the man who not only successfully led the country blindly in to near bankruptcy, but had also flourished his achievement with a couple of illegal wars that tore the straps of Britain’s communal camaraderie to shreds. For those who didn’t like the current government, Edmund Carew was the target of all their abuse and, as his daughter, Alison was no less a focus of their brutal remarks.

It had been this isolation that had made Alison so eager to run the secretive errands for the top dogs of the Force. Occasionally that meant snitching on the others in her team much to their disgust and irritation but, given her already well-established unpopularity, it had made little difference to her day-to-day existence.

Although, the occasional cup of tea would have been nice…

It had been a slow day so far. The only real incident had been the body found by the River Eden earlier that morning. The Bank Holiday usually brought its fair share of drunken scuffles and domestic disturbances but nothing that seriously strained them. Today there had hardly been any so far. But the day was still young and afternoon rush would soon be in full swing…

Alison listened attentively to the radio chatter coming from the scene at Edenbridge, watching jealously as Lawrence returned with a tray full of teas that he dished out gleefully to the rest of the team. She had little to do after the initial call out save for recovering some contact details for Detective Sergeant Giles for the DI on scene. The waves had been effectively silent ever since.

But now the radio was positively buzzing with activity as the team packed up to head back.

‘Dispatch Control, do you read me, over?’

Alison cleared her throat and adjusted her headset to bring the microphone closer to her mouth. ‘This is Dispatch, reading you clearly, over.’

‘Please advise the station, we are bringing in a suspect, over.’

Alison’s nimble fingers darted over her keyboard as she typed in the information. ‘Copy that. Central has been advised. What is the identity of the prisoner, over?’

‘Suspect’s name is Daniel Barker, over.’

She couldn’t stop herself. The mere mention of that man’s name caused her to freeze and draw a large breath of shock. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard and her mind formed an image of the man they had in custody; the man who’s youthful charm and wit had not only ousted her father but made him the most hated man in Britain. Daniel Baker – the man who ruined her father’s career…

And her life.

Vengeance comes in all forms. For Alison Carrew, the idea of Barker plunged into a jail cell was justice enough for what he’d done. But she was sure her superiors would want to know about it as well – after all, something as serious as Barker being brought in for murder…

‘Copy that. They’ll be ready. Out.’

The radio went silent.

Alison stared at the screen in silence, her fingers slowly reaching for her jacket pocket. From it, she removed a mobile phone that she tucked inside her sleeve as she quietly got to her feet and moved towards the door. From his desk, Lawrence watched her with a mischievous smile as she crossed the office and stepped through the door that led to the kitchen.

It was a cramped little kitchen, barely large enough for more than a couple of people to squeeze inside. She filled up the kettle and turned it on before taking out her phone and typing a text message.

Daniel Barker to be brought in. Suspected of murder in Edenbridge.

Satisfied, she hit the send button and waited until the message was gone before pocketing the phone. A few moments later, the kettle was boiled and Alison poured herself a cup of tea that she carried delicately back to her desk before continuing with her work.

She had a feeling that today was going to be very satisfying…

 

Chapter Ten

 

‘So who is he then? Who is Daniel Barker to you?’

Harris had been watching as Giles and Barker talked. Giles could understand his scepticism. In the five minutes that he had allowed them, Giles had gone from a commanding figure looking for answers to a near emotional wreck.

There was no doubt in her mind who Barker was – none at all. But the lack of uncertainty only made it worse for her. He represented everything that she hated – she despised. All the time he’d been running for election, Giles had wanted nothing more that to see him fail. She had even wished – although hoped might be a more accurate word for it – that justice would somehow prevail and that he would be exposed for the bigoted and pathetic shit that he was.

She had watched with despair and dismay as the election got closer – noting the polls with uncomfortable despondency as they showed Britain’s First inching further and further ahead. It had to be rubbish – she was almost sure of it. She regularly saw the very worst of humanity but she still couldn’t bring herself to accept that people would be stupid enough to vote for it.

Individuals are bad, she would say to herself. Individuals do selfish things. But fundamentally, people are good.

She believed that right up to the day she woke up to hear the results. The British people had voted in by a clear majority – Britain’s First now formed the government. Everyone she knew seemed to have voted for them…

Even Jason…

‘They don’t mean you,’ he insisted when she found out. ‘They mean all the immigrants. You know? The ones who don’t pull their weight…’

They didn’t speak for a week.

The only silver lining in the whole horrendous affair was that Barker was totally trounced at the polls. Justice had finally prevailed – only it was a little too late.

The world had seemingly changed over night – at least for Giles. Racially motivated crime was on the rise and even her own superiors thought twice before praising her…

And it was all Barker’s fault.

She had been so eager to send him down. The opportunity to pin a murder on him had been too good to resist and the fact that he had made it so easy for her only added to her delight. She had ended him so completely…

And now it turned out he was her informant.

What kind of joke is that?

Giles dragged her eyes away from the man sat handcuffed on the floor. She had, at least, persuaded Harris not to haul him off to the station just yet. But time was wearing thin and there was little more for his team to do there.

‘I’ve never met Daniel Barker before in my life,’ she began, tightening the scarf around her neck. ‘But I’ve dealt with him before. Or – rather – I’ve had dealings with a man who called himself Max.’

‘Max?’

Giles nodded.

‘Until a few moments ago, Max was little more than a voice on the end of a telephone. At the time, I was deep in a murder investigation…’

‘The Bluebell Killer,’ Harris interrupted. ‘I read about it…’

Everybody read about it.

‘Over six months, the Bluebell Killer murdered twenty men and women. Most were successful types: bankers, web designers and entrepreneurs. At each killing he left a small bunch of bluebells on their bodies somewhere – a sort of signature for his kills. But each murder was different. Each unique. It was like he was trying to challenge himself to come up with as many different ways of killing someone…’

Harris smiled. ‘But you got him.’

‘Yes, thanks to Max.’ She glanced over at Barker. ‘The Bluebell Killer had hit his stride. He was offing two – sometimes even three – people a week. Shortly after number sixteen, I got a call. I’d discovered that the latest victim had received a large payment into his account. Max encouraged me to follow the money that led me to six of the other victims – all of whom had received the same bank transfer shortly before they died.

‘The money turned out to be a dead end, but it gave us a connection. Those killings were special. It was almost like the others were designed to disguise them – to hide the real motive for their deaths. And the link led us right to the killer.’

The image of a dark garage flitted across Giles’ mind.

‘It’s funny,’ she mused. ‘Max was always so sure that there was some giant conspiracy to protect the Bluebell Killer from being identified. It never occurred to him that it was just some nutty kid living in his grandmother’s spare room…’

Harris sniffed.

‘But that was nearly a year ago. What’s that got to do with this mess?’

Giles reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone.

‘Max fell off the radar after the bust,’ she explained. She tapped her phone a few times, selecting her text messages. ‘I didn’t hear from him for almost a year. And then, three days ago, I received this.’

She handed the phone over to Harris who stared down at it thoughtfully. The screen showed a text message from a number identified as ‘Max’.

It’s not over yet. Give me a few days and I’ll have proof. Keep an eye on your mailbox.

Harris looked up. ‘And what did he send you?’

Giles shook her head. ‘Nothing so far.’

‘And you think Barker is your informant?’

‘The only people who knew I had an informant on this were Max and myself. I never mentioned him to anyone. If Barker says he’s Max then I have no reason to doubt him…’

Harris threw a glance in Barker’s direction.

‘If he is, he’ll be able to tell you what he was planning to send to you.’

Giles laughed. ‘I’ve just ensured that he goes down for murder. He’s not going to give me anything.’

‘Not a lot I can do about that I’m afraid…’

Harris trailed off as he looked out towards the bridge. Stood by the near side, his sergeant and several constables stood waiting to move on. Everything else was packed up and gone – all they needed now was the suspect.

‘Actually,’ Giles muttered. ‘There is something you can do for me.’

 

Barker’s wrists were beginning to chafe against the harsh metal of the handcuffs. His legs had long since gone dead and his arms felt like they were going the same way. To top it all, he was gasping for a cigarette.

The two officers guarding him did little to help him. Every plea for assistance was met with the same disinterested silence or snide remarks. The only person who seemed remotely interested in even engaging him was Giles, and she wasn’t exactly on his side.

She had been his only bridge, his only life-line, and he – with his callous manner – had burned it before he’d even had the opportunity to use the leverage he held. Her response had been brutal – as though she was descended from Genghis Khan himself…

Was Genghis Khan even Chinese?

Who cares? A chink is a chink.

But he had information that Giles wanted. That would keep him alive…

Had he not spurned her…

Women can be so unreasonable.

Wandering by the pillbox, Giles and Harris walked side-by-side, talking animatedly and occasionally glancing in his direction. Giles had put aside her disliking of him – her irrational hatred – Barker was sure of it. Her face was pulsing with nervous energy and her eyes and voice were pleading to Harris with the manipulative prowess that only a woman can achieve.

He wondered what favours she was promising him – what pleasures she would be parting with to allow Barker to go free. Was she tempting Harris with a night of passion that he would never forget? Was she describing the indulgence of her skin against his, her tongue gently caressing…?

Barker caught himself out. He wiped the smile off his face and tried his best to replace the energetic feeling in his loins with his usual demeanour of distaste…

Chink slut…

He thrust his hands into his pocket and adjusted himself. His jeans were tight against his skin, but not so tight that he could hope to conceal himself from his two guards – not with his hands restrained behind his back and his jacket zipped up in an evidence bag.

Police can be so unreasonable.

Hope is a powerful ally. It was that blind, obedient hope that had seen Barker do so well in life up until recently – the same unproven optimism that told him now that Giles would be convincing enough to win him his freedom.

It was only slight – but it was hope nonetheless.

Giles had done such a good job of pinning the blame on him that it would take a masterstroke for her to undo it all. If Harris was even half-decent at his job, Barker would find himself in a police cell within the hour – locked away behind a solid metal door in a barred room. He would be as good as on display in a public gallery.

And then he would become the Bluebell Killer’s next victim…

But he had that hope.

As repugnant as it was, Giles was his one chance – his one chance of reaching the end of today in one piece.

She would want something in return, of course.

He would give her something to chew on. Something important enough for her to let him go. After all, the gorillas in their white shirts and stab-proof vests had already searched him today; she wouldn’t expect him to produce the evidence immediately…

Would she?

Barker watched the spirited discussion between the two detectives, hearing nothing of it but imagining the toing and froing all the same.

He is a witness to a bigger crime. If the Bluebell Killer is still out there…’

The Bluebell Killer is long gone, you said it yourself.’

But what if he isn’t?’

Then you can have Barker when we’re through with him.’

But by then it might be too late.’

Yes, it would be too late.

Time was not on Barker’s side and the thought of the restricted, small concrete police cell filled him with more dread than a death warrant. He wouldn’t be safe until he was far away from here – out of the reach of Harris of his cronies, out of sight from the public and the do-gooders…

Somewhere where the Bluebell Killer couldn’t find him.

Somewhere safe.

Far from everything…

The debate had come to a close.

Harris turned his back on Giles and marched straight towards Barker, his eyes set and sure, his true emotions hidden behind a mask of professionalism.

As the detective drew closer, Barker’s dead legs swelled with pumping blood as he readied to run. Yes, he would run if he had to. If Giles couldn’t get him out of this, his only hope would be to leg it and hope for the best. He’d been a triathlete in his younger days – he might have a chance of outrunning them all on a normal day. But with his hands fastened behind his back…?

Harris stopped a metre or so away from him, stared hard at Barker for a moment and gestured to the officers around him. Barker braced himself to flee but found to his surprise that – instead of being hoisted to his feet and dragged towards the bridge – they bent down and carefully unfastened his handcuffs before strolling off to join the rest of the team.

Massaging his wrists, Barker stared quizzically up at Harris who, with the most strained smile that Barker had ever thought possible, gave him a subtle nod and said:

‘Thank you, Mister Barker.’

He span on his heels and followed the retreating officers. He didn’t utter a sound as he passed by Giles who slowly walked forward to help the former politician to his feet. Barker would have thrown his arms out in celebration had it not been for the concerned, and somewhat apprehensive, look that was plastered across Giles’ face.

Barker paid it little heed. Whatever Giles had promised to Harris was her own affair.

For the first time in his life, Barker found himself absolutely speechless. He took a victorious deep breath and placed his hands on his hips as he stared about at the Kentish countryside, taking in the view as though he were a new-born experiencing the world for the first time.

‘I knew I could count on you,’ he whispered, smiling to his saviour gratefully and – perhaps for the first time in his life – honestly.

Giles peered cautiously over her shoulder. Harris’s team were slowly trudging over the bridge, shaking their heads in disbelief and utter confusion. Harris himself had stopped at the near side of the bridge to converse angrily with his sergeant. Barker hadn’t even noticed the sly glances they were shooting in his direction until Giles pointed it out to him.

As he looked to see what she was talking about, Giles tilted her head towards the ground and lowered her voice to an almost indistinct murmur.

‘Listen very carefully,’ she muttered. ‘We don’t have much time.’

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Barker walked with the air of a man being sent to the gallows. To the casual observer, he seemed sullen and lacking in energy. He dragged his feet along the ground, kicking up dust and stones as he plodded along the pathway, whilst keeping his hands firmly bound together in front of his stomach. His head was angled down and yet, in the shadows beneath his brow, his eyes darted energetically about him.

The pair of them – Giles and Barker – moved slowly down the pathway. She muttered frantically, her hands jutting out this way and that as she pleaded with him. He said nothing at all.

Up ahead, Harris and the other detective began to cross the bridge. They stopped halfway across to check on Giles’ progress before disappearing over the other side as they emerged into the playing fields beyond.

A few minutes later, Giles and Barker arrived at the bridge themselves. Despite the melancholic plod in his stride, the politician revealed nothing of his emotions or feelings save for a sudden, uncontrollable shiver that seemed to grip his hands. He was jittery – that much was certain – but Giles observed this apparent display of fear with a cynical and professional eye, content in the knowledge that it was little more than an act for her benefit. She might have continued to believe this had it not been for the sudden crack of twigs in a nearby bush, which prompted the politician to yelp in fright and almost around the side of the bridge and into the shallow stream below.

He gripped a tight hold of the wooden barrier and peered nervously into the bracken as the creature – whatever it was – rustled its way unseen through the twigs and leaves. The longer he stared, the paler his face became. His brow was punctuated with small globules of milky sweat and his skin appeared no longer clean and youthful, but waxy and wrinkled as though premature aging had struck him in that very instant. In a moment or two, the rustling became instinct against the gentle swishing of swaying trees and grass, and Daniel Barker relaxed a little.

But the cracks were showing.

He was terrified.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Giles worked hard to control her breathing as her heart pounded ferociously inside her chest. She had been given a finite time. She had the length of the walk back to the cars to get what she needed from Barker – after that she would have to wait her turn. Beyond the footbridge, she knew she had two hundred metres – two hundred metres of rugby and football pitches – before she would have to hand him over.

They would walk across the fields, avoiding the games being played by the Bank Holiday crowd, and head across to the clubhouse where the fleet of police vehicles would wait in readiness. And when they arrived, a squad of constables would descend on him, pin him up against a patrol car and restrain his hands once more.

Giles didn’t know if Barker would cry out, but she supposed he wouldn’t. With such an audience of sporting fans, he would want to retain some element of dignity. He wouldn’t want to be remembered as the corrupt politician who was dragged away in chains. He’d want to be the noble martyr being led to quietly to his confinement. Wrongfully imprisoned but defiant to the last.

The portrait of an English gentleman…

She allowed Barker to step ahead of her on to the bridge. Her hands trembled with trepidation as they gripped the wooden handrail. This would be her chance – she knew it all too well. Harris would never allow Barker to simply go free – she knew that as well. If Barker didn’t talk now, if he didn’t tell her what she knew, she might never get another chance. He might sulk in silence, clinging on to his last trump card – never playing it as long as he was locked away from the world…

Then all this would have been for nothing…

Her mind flitted back to Jason, his face contorted with anger as he ranted about how her job was taking over her life. He had known she was a career woman when he married her, but something had changed in the past few months. All of his friends now had bouncing babies, families – and Jason had become more than a little broody.

But he knew the deal. Giles would work ten years on the force before she stopped to have children, and there were still three more to go. In truth, Giles couldn’t face the idea of bringing children into the world. Not this world at any rate.

‘If you want my help, you’re going to have to give me something,’ she said, pausing on the bridge to watch the stream trickle quietly below.

The water of the weir crashed loudly a short distance away. The easterly wind whipped up harder through the trees, causing them to sway and creak and rustle. Barker stopped to ponder the nature as well. Standing side by side the two were in perfect isolation – no one could hear them speak or catch them off guard. And yet, despite their remoteness, Giles couldn’t help shaking the feeling that they were being watched.

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

‘You know I can’t do that.’

‘Well, you’re going to have to,’ replied Barker, taking on the air of the party leader once more. ‘If I end up in a police cell, I will be dead before sunrise tomorrow morning.’

‘I can assure you, you will be perfectly safe.’

Barker scoffed. ‘You don’t even know who you are protecting me from.’

‘Then tell me.’

‘I told you, when I’m safely away from here and out of police custody.’

‘Harris’ team are more than capable of protecting you…’

‘And you trust Harris?’

In the distance, Harris stopped and looked back at them, almost as though he’d been beckoned by his own name. He stood watching them for a moment until Giles finally gave Barker a slight nudge and the two descended off the footbridge onto to the perfectly cut grass of the recreation field. The police cordon had long since been removed and already several dog walkers were pacing purposefully across the field in the direction of the bridge.

Barker eyed a Jack Russell suspiciously as it bounded past them, ignoring the curious glances of recognition from its owner. Up ahead, Harris turned again and continued walking, although he continued to throw the occasional glance back at the meandering pair.

‘They have evidence that you committed a murder, Mr Barker. They’re not just going to let me walk you out of here.’

‘Then you have two problems…’

‘So, tell me what I want to know and I will have you in protective custody in a matter of hours.’

Barker laughed again. ‘I spent years relying on other people to protect me. All it ever got me was one great, big, colossal failure on the largest stage in Britain.’ His voice hissed with bitterness:

‘Do you what they told me during the election? They said there was no need to focus on my own constituency – they said it was a sure thing. The public were going to back us to the hilt and all I had to do was focus on discrediting the government.’

Giles shrugged. ‘You needed better advisors…’

Barker scowled. ‘Then, on results day, it was my constituency that didn’t fall into line – my voters that left me out in the cold. So, I think I’m right in saying that I’ve learnt the hard way that relying on other people leads to nothing but failure. And, when my life is the stake I’m playing for, I don’t much relish the idea of putting my faith of success in someone else’s hands – especially yours…’

‘You don’t really understand your position, do you?’

‘Quid pro quo, Giles,’ he shot back. ‘You need to think of another way to get me out of this mess, because if I’m in a police cell you won’t get what you want. If I’m locked away, my information is locked away with me…’

‘The Bluebell Killer.’

Barker gave her a cold, hard look. ‘You know what? When you killed that boy, he laughed. As he lay dying on the floor, he stared into your eyes and cackled with glee. He was so pleased with himself. – so delighted with what he’d done. He’d played you like a fucking fiddle – and there you were, basking in the triumph of it all…’

It was as though Giles’ whole body shut down. Her feet staggered to a halt as the weight of memories came crashing down around her. She could see him now. Alex Donnovan lying sprawled on the floor, staring up at her as his laughter echoed through the garage. His eyes sparkling with victory.

‘How the hell do you know that?’

Barker turned and smiled. ‘Curious, isn’t it?’

He waited for Giles to take hold of herself and start walking again.

‘Alright, let’s say I believe you,’ Giles muttered. ‘Who is he? Who is the Bluebell Killer if not Donnovan?’

A curious smile crept over Barker’s face. His hand emerged from his right trouser pocket and he waggled a lone finger at the detective, tutting playfully as he did so. ‘Quid pro quo, Giles. You don’t have much time.’

Giles slowed her pace a little more. They passed through the shadow of a rugby post, momentarily flickering their faces into darkness before emerging into the light once again. She stared thoughtfully at Barker. Her hair and scarf fluttered enthusiastically in the breeze as though the wind were strong enough to swoop her right off her feet. And yet, Barker remained perfectly still – his hair didn’t twitch and his clothes didn’t quiver – unmoveable against the elements.

‘You’re not even bothering to proclaim your innocence anymore.’

‘It wouldn’t make any difference if I did,’ Barker replied, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Your situation would still be the same.’ A slight smile crept across his face as his eyes flickered across Giles’ face. ‘They say you Chinese types are good with numbers. Let’s see what odds you can come up with for a successful escape. Tick-tock.

 

Harris came to a halt next to his car and turned back to look across the playing fields. Nearby, a football match had just finished. The players and supporters cheered and applauded each other whilst the two distant figures of Giles and Barker meandered across the far rugby field.

Harris felt Detective Sergeant Parsons slide into the spot next to him.

‘They’re taking their time,’ he observed. ‘Where are they going – a funeral?’

Harris turned to his colleague. Parsons was still relatively inexperienced as a sergeant, but his keen eyes breathed in his surrounding with the air of one who had seen it all. His trimmed muscles bulged beneath his cotton shirt and his neat, short hair spoke of a time before the police force.

Once a soldier…

‘DS Giles is attempting to extract some information from the suspect before he take him in.’

‘Don’t see the point, if you ask me. Anything she gets wouldn’t stand in court.’

‘It’s to do with another case. Giles asked for some time alone with him before he gets lost in a sea of paperwork. I figured it was the least we could do after her work in the pillbox…’

‘We would have got him eventually, sir.’ Parsons’ eyes narrowed on the pair as they made a slight turn towards the bushes at the side of the playing field to lengthen their journey. ‘I don’t like it.’

Harris could see what Parsons meant. Barker was still his prisoner, no matter how much Giles had to do with him getting caught.

His prisoner. His responsibility.

His neck if something went wrong.

He turned to the rest of the team, mostly uniformed officers now, who tried to loiter causally by their patrol cars.

‘Get the rest of the team out of here,’ he ordered. ‘We don’t want Barker clocking our reception committee.’

Parsons barked some clipped orders and the officers clambered into their cars. In a moment, the engines roared into life and the cars disappeared up the lane towards the centre of town. Giles and Harris were still a fair distance away when Parsons returned.

‘How long has Giles got?’

Harris seemed to ignore the question. The footballers were making their preparations to leave the pitch, chanting and singing, clapping and excitedly recalling their own personal highlights.

But, for Harris, the game wasn’t over yet.

Chapter Twelve

 

‘Do you have a car?’

‘What?’

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

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

‘Here?’

‘Yes?’

‘What kind?’

‘What?’

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

‘I don’t think I understand…’

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

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

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

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

Giles sighed heavily. Time was running out.

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

‘Is there any other way?’

Not without running cross-country. Think.

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

‘Might?’

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

We might just be able to make it.

She turned to Barker.

‘Right, wait for my word.’

 

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

‘What are the hell is she playing at?’

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

And then…

The chase.

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

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

Forty seconds.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Is that…?

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

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

They were at the bridge in a matter of seconds.

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

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

He’ll never catch us…

A horn blared out.

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

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

Just keep breathing.

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

‘Giles!’

Giles risked a glance back.

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

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

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

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

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

Just keep going.

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

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

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

Then she saw it.

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

The long, sleek train pulled into the station platform.

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

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

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

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

No pain. No hint of fear or failure.

Once a soldier…

Giles turned back to the train and pressed on…

She was ten metres away.

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

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

The doors began to close.

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

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

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

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

His hands were warm – almost inviting…

SMACK!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost human…

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yours…

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

The dog leash…

The tickets…

The missing bullet casing…

The creature in Giles’ stomach stirred once again.

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

Chapter Thirteen

 

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

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

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

Giles smiled and shook her head.

This is all for my benefit, she thought.

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

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

So over dramatic.

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

Whatever thoughts were plaguing his mind evaporated in an instant.

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

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

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

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

Bloody thing.

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

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

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

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

‘Don’t you believe me?’

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

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

‘Running interference.’

‘Interference?’

Giles nodded.

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

‘You don’t need to know.’

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

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

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

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

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

Giles shook her head and cleared her throat.

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

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

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

‘And you trust your team?’

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

Not long before everything had gone wrong for him…

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

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

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

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

Or deported.

It was almost a shame really.

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

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

Giles blinked once.

‘My father was British,’ she replied curtly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet it didn’t feel good.

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

It wasn’t over for her yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giles hesitated.

‘This is important…’

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

Giles’ eyes narrowed.

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

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

‘Who was the man you killed?’

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

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

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

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

You did what?’

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

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

You bloody fool…’

Why? For doing what I thought was right?’

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

Oh, stop being so over-dramatic…’

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

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

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

Don’t be so naïve…’

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

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

Too clever? How can you be too clever?’

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

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

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

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

Jason could do little else but shake his head.

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

He disappeared into the bedroom and slammed closed the door.

Try defending Daniel Barker for once…

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

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

You might realise how wrong you are…

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

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

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

‘My dignity…’

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

Giles dismissed him with a shake of the head.

It couldn’t hurt…

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

Damp cigarettes or gunpowder?

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

But is there another explanation?

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

Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters…

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

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

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

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

What was it Harris said?

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

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

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

[_ Self-defence…_]

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

Giles’ eyes snapped open.

Try defending him for once…

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

‘Why the pillbox?’

‘I don’t understand…’

‘Why did you climb into the pillbox?’

‘I…’ he hesitated ‘… I didn’t.’

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

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

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

Barker’s eyes narrowed with concern.

‘What do you mean?’

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

She glanced towards Barker.

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

‘Planning on doing?’

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

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

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

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

She let out a half-hearted laugh and said:

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

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

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

‘Oh…’ Barker thought hard for a moment.

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

‘Or Harris himself?’ Barker muttered.

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

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

‘I wouldn’t listen.’

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

Giles shook her head.

‘I can’t believe it was Harris…’

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

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

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

Barker’s eyes twitched.

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

 

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

There was truth as well.

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

Not a jot…

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

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

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

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

That was good enough for Barker – for the moment.

Maybe, I might just get what I want…

 

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.

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 Baker, 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.

Chapter Sixteen

 

The train glided quietly into the station, whispering as it slowed. It continued to slide along until each carriage had found its place along the platform. Only then did the sleek, green snake of smooth metal finally stutter to a halt.

A sharp beeping filled the entire carriage and the green exit buttons flashed with sickening, yet rhythmical, yellow lights. The doors gently hissed and dropped imperceptibly before sliding open allowing a rush of cool air to sweep through the carriage.

Giles was on her feet in seconds pulling Barker up behind her and darting towards the nearest door. She stopped short of the open doorway and peered out of the windows as a multitude of passengers hustled and bustled their way on and off the train. She felt Barker take a deep breath to speak but she silenced him with a gently nudge in the ribs.

Watching carefully, Giles edged closer towards the doorway, her ears straining for her signal. She doubted there was anyone on the train watching them but, given what little Barker had already said, there was always a chance they were being observed. It was an unnecessary precaution – but one she didn’t mind taking. Besides it was rattling Barker a little…

That might come in handy before the day is out…

Giles’ eyes swooped across the platform. She wasn’t entirely sure what she was looking for, but she was sure she’d see it if it was there: a police uniform, someone who looked out of place, a commuter who seemed hesitant about boarding the train.

She didn’t see anything amiss and she was about to give the nod to Barker when something caught her eye…

Strolling down a platform, wearing a tattered red-chequered jacket and ripped jeans, was a man working his way along the train in search of an emptier carriage. His head bobbed as he walked and his blonde dreadlocks bounced from side to side as he approached the door Giles was stood at…

It can’t be him.

Giles was frozen to the spot. There was no way it could be him.

The laughter had returned. The manic laughter of a dying man as he lay sprawled on the garage floor. He had smiled up at her in those last moments, almost as though he had known that it wasn’t over yet, as his giggling echoed around the garage walls…

It’s impossible.

The man stopped short of Giles’ door. He peered inside, his eyes falling on Giles for only a second before settling on Barker. It wasn’t him. Giles knew that now. The man stood before her was younger and slightly smaller than Donnovan had been – but the resemblance was remarkable. Even the icy stare that he shot at Barker reminded her of that pathetic man…

The dreadlocked man gave Barker an inquisitive look. Giles felt her companion’s fist clench in his pocket and move a little closer behind her so that he was effectively shielded from him. The man continued to stare for a good few moments, pausing intermittently to glance up and down the platform. When they returned to the carriage, his eyes seemed to glare straight past Giles towards Barker and, for the briefest moment he let loose a singular yet unmistakable snarl.

The laughter was getting louder. Giles could feel something tighten around her neck – something metal, something sharp…

The sharp beeping returned and the green buttons flashed yellow once again. The man took one last look up the train and closed his eyes in contemplation as he stepped on to the train.

‘Giles,’ Barker hissed as the man moved quickly passed them, throwing one last hate-filled glance at Barker. ‘Giles.’

The laughing stopped abruptly. Giles was back in the moment. She darted forward, dragging Barker behind her, and jumped off onto the platform just as the doors slid closed behind them.

She didn’t wait to see what became of the dreadlocked man. From the way he was dressed he was probably just some hippie that had as much disliking for Barker’s policies as Giles did. But she didn’t want to take the chance. She strode straight towards the exit ramp and within minutes the two of them were moving along the concourse towards the exit barriers.

Giles hesitated. The barriers were closed.

‘We need a ticket’ she muttered, turning to Barker, her eyes deep with concern. She slowly pulled out her warrant card and nodded apologetically towards the barriers. ‘I can probably blag my way through, but two of us might draw too much attention…’

She looked around as the other passengers passed them by. Already some of them were throwing glances in their direction: some excitable, others in disgust. A slow rise of admiration intertwined with discontent began to slowly bubble up as more people became aware of the politician walking in amongst them. A couple up ahead, hearing the commotion, had even stopped to grab their camera phones to take some selfies of themselves with Barker in the background.

This is getting dangerous…

Giles turned back to Barker. He nervously glanced around at the parade of curious onlookers before turning his gaze back on to Giles. He seemed confused for a moment but, as his eyes focussed on the ticket barrier up ahead, they brightened in an instant and his face began to glow, courtesy of a self-assured smile. He shoved his hands into his pocket and searched for something but, after a moment or two, he paused – slowly retrieving his empty hands as he gazed sheepishly up at Giles.

‘We didn’t have time,’ he said. ‘I’ve never…’

‘No time for that. We’ll just have to improvise.’

She pressed him forward towards the barriers, ignoring the couple as they giggled when Barker passed them by. Giles directed Barker along the line of barriers to where the disabled access was located. She sighed with relief as her eyes settled on the attendant, grateful that, for once, she could find a station employee when she needed one. She approached the barrier, flashing her warrant card as she stopped at the gate.

‘Good afternoon,’ she said, her smile doing well to mask her anxiety. ‘Detective Sergeant Giles. I’m transporting a witness to the local station, but I’m afraid…’ she glanced awkwardly back at Barker. ‘… We were in a rush and didn’t purchase our tickets. I don’t suppose you would mind…?’

The attendant looked at the warrant card and back up at Giles. His bored expression and heavy bags under his eyes told the whole story. He leant on the barrier and shot a half-hearted smile.

‘I’m sorry, I can’t let you through without a ticket.’

Giles stared hard at the man. ‘I’ll be going straight to the ticket office…’

‘That’s neither here nor there,’ replied the attendant, slapping his lips together and smirking the expression of a big fish in a small pond. ‘I’ve got a job to do and rules are rules. If I start letting you through without a ticket, I’ll have every kid and granny from here to the centre of town wanting to get through for free. It’s not worth my job to…’

The speech had been well rehearsed up until that point, almost as though he had been waiting for the moment to exert his authority for a long time. But he stopped short of finishing as his eyes travelled over Giles’ shoulder and settled on the awkward man behind her. A flash of recognition flew across his face and, in that same instant, the bags disappeared and his expression lit up with such excitement that he looked as though he might explode with delight.

‘You…’ he whispered, a grin spreading rapidly across his face as his pudgy fingers pointed in Barker’s direction. ‘Oh my Lord, it’s you. Daniel What’s-his-face…’

The attendants voice was getting louder with the excitement. All about the ticket barriers, passengers and rail workers alike were stopping in their tracks to see what the commotion was about. Glancing around anxiously, Giles did her best to quieten the man but her efforts only seemed to confirm his suspicions.

‘It is you,’ he exclaimed, clapping his hands together with glee. ‘You’re famous, you are. You know I voted you. Well, not for you obviously, you’re not my MP. But I voted for the other guy…’

Barker nodded graciously and, for the first time, Giles felt as though she detected a note of embarrassment behind the politicians’ feeble smile.

The attendant stepped up to the barrier, thrusting his arm over the top to shake Barker’s hand. Barker glanced warily at Giles before slowly giving his hand to accept the gesture, much to the attendant’s delight.

‘It’s such an honour to meet you in person,’ he said, shaking Barker’s hand with vigour. ‘What you’ve done, I mean what your party is going to do, makes such a difference to men like me. My son, bright kid you know, studied English at university. He went for a job as a teacher not long ago. He didn’t get it. You know why?’

Barker shook his head, his eyes glancing around nervously.

The attendant nodded knowingly. ‘Because they hired some Chinese guy. Something about having to fulfil their quota of ethnic minorities. I mean, what is the world coming to?’

His hand slapped down on the barrier just as his eyes glanced over at Giles with a hint of smugness.

‘What is the world coming to, I say? When my boy can’t even get a job teaching English because he is white and English? So, when your lot came along, of course, I voted for you. And my boy too…’

Giles stepped smartly up to the barrier. Although her hands caused no real pressure as she placed them on the attendant’s, he felt something of the tension in her muscles that brought his rambling to an abrupt end.

‘Mr Barker is the witness to a grave miscarriage of justice that may have national implications. We need to get him to safety as soon as possible. Will you please let us through?’

‘National implications, eh? More MPs fiddling expenses, are they?’

Barker flashed that sheepish look once again.

‘Something like that.’

The attendant nodded and knowingly tapped his finger against his nose. ‘There politicians, they’re all the same.’ He turned back to Giles, his face falling to a more professional manner. ‘But I’m afraid I have my duties. I can’t let you past without approval from my supervisor.’

‘We don’t have time…’

‘I’m sorry, lady, those are the rules…’

A voice sounded out from amongst the crowd:

‘It’s all been taken care of.’

A flurry of movement could be seen behind the watching passengers as the occasional flashes of grey flittered amongst the waiting commuters. A hand reached out from the crowd, gently pressing one of the bodies out of the way to reveal the two suited men who stared out towards the barrier. The suits stepped out of the ranks of the waiting crowd and headed straight towards the disabled access, marching with the confident air of real authority.

Both men were tall and athletic-looking – the kind that you wouldn’t necessarily think much of to look at them, but you knew that underneath their pristine, expensive shirts their bodies were toned to high-heaven. They came to a stop in front of the confused attendant, their perfectly waxed shoes snapping hard against the solid, white floor.

The man ahead peered at the attendant with brown eyes that hid beneath an over-extended brow and a shock of blonde hair, whilst his companion loitered behind, his own eyes hidden behind dark, designer sunglasses. He reached into his pocket and produced a warrant card that he flashed briefly in front of the attendant’s nose:

‘Detective Sergeant Doyle, Metropolitan Police.’ He quickly dropped the card back into his jacket pocket and nodded towards Giles and Barker. ‘Myself and my colleague are here to escort Mr Barker to Croydon Police Station.’

The attendant shook his head. ‘I’ll tell you what I told her, I can’t let them through without a ticket…’

‘It’s already been cleared with you superior. Call up if you like.’

There was something in Doyle’s expression that suggested this was not the time to try his patience. For a brief moment, the attendant stood his ground as he clung to his little bit of authority, staring defiantly at the four people stood around him. Finally, the smug smile disappeared and, with his peeved eyes glued to the floor, he reluctantly reached into his pocket, pulled out a swipe card and opened the gates.

Giles gave him a short smile as she stepped through the barrier, feeling Barker fall in closely behind her. She heard him mutter a word of thanks to the unhappy attendant before turning to face the new arrivals.

Doyle held out his hand for Giles to shake. As she did so, she was acutely aware that his eyes never left Barker who hovered awkwardly behind her left shoulder. Doyle flashed a smile, revealing a perfectly formed layer of pearly white teeth:

‘DS Giles,’ he announced. ‘We’ve had a call from your DI.’

‘My DI?’

Doyle gave a single, jutting nod.

‘Yes, ma’am. He was informed immediately after you…’ he shot a sideways glance at Barker. ‘… liberated Mr Barker. It seems when he spoke to the officer in charge, there was some idea that Mr Barker here may have information pertinent to a case you guys were investigating. He also suggested that your lives might be in danger…’

‘Well, the jury isn’t out on that one yet, but it’s a definitely possibility.’ Giles allowed herself a little nervous laugh. ‘DI Jacobs spoke to Harris?’

Doyle nodded.

‘DI Jacobs has instructed us to escort you to our station and then on to West End Central where the Chief Constable will personally oversee an immunity agreement for Mr Barker in exchange for what he knows about the matter you are investigating.’

‘Jacobs said that?’

Doyle nodded again, giving a brief smile.

Giles considered him for a moment before returning the smile. ‘Thank you DS Doyle, your assistance would be most welcome.’

Barker stepped forward defiantly, grasping hold of Giles’ arms in his tight grip.

‘Wait a minute,’ he said. ‘This is not what we agreed.’

Doyle’s eyes flickered and his lips twitched. ‘It’s a pretty good deal, Mr Barker – for both of you. We could always have you both arrested, if you’d prefer.’

‘That won’t be necessary,’ replied Giles, cutting off Barker before he had the chance to speak. ‘Lead the way, Doyle.’

Doyle gave a small bow and turned towards the exit, carving a way through the crowds whilst his partner followed in tow. As soon as their backs had turned, Giles’ face sank. She fell back a little, allowing Barker to come alongside her before leaning subtly over to him.

‘Get ready,’ she whispered.

‘For what?’

‘Just be ready.’

They followed the two detectives outside where they started moving across the busy roads towards a large multi-storey car park located just a short distance from the station. As they turned into the car park, Giles quickened her pace to join Doyle at the head of the group.

‘You Croydon boys are efficient,’ she said casually. ‘I’ve always found Jacobs to be a nightmare to get hold of in a hurry.’

Doyle smiled.

‘The station is only around the corner,’ he replied, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a set of keys.

‘Still, you had to be up and out fairly sharpish…’

‘Jacobs said it was an emergency. We don’t take urgent requests lightly down here.’

Continuing inside the car park, the group moved through the structure seemingly heading towards a dark Ford that was parked up at the far end. Doyle gestured up ahead:

‘It’s just parked up there,’ he said, turning his head slightly to look back behind him. ‘So, are you based in West End Central?’

‘Not at the moment,’ replied Giles. ‘My team has been based out of Camden for the past year or so…’

‘Ah,’ Doyle replied. ‘I thought I recognised you. The Bluebell Killer, right?’

‘I was part of that team, yes…’

‘From what I heard, you practically solved the thing single-handedly.’

‘Do you always believe everything you hear?’

Doyle laughed, reaching into his pocket and producing a key fob. The Ford was only a few feet away and Doyle’s pace slowed to a standstill as he fumbled with the small device.

‘Must’ve been hard, though,’ he continued. ‘I don’t know if I could jump back on the horse after everything that happened…’

His eyes darted to the scarf on Giles’ neck.

‘You must be very brave…’

He raised his key fob, pressed the button and grunted in satisfaction as the Ford’s lights flashed and the car unlocked. Doyle gestured towards the car. ‘Please.’

Giles followed his outstretched hand and moved towards the back door of the car. As she came to a stop she saw Barker hesitate and glance towards the opening out on to the street before being ushered towards the car by Doyle’s associate. Giles waited patiently as Doyle moved around her and pulled open the back door for her. Taking a deep breath, Giles made a step closer towards the door.

Doyle didn’t react in time.

Giles had given no warning.

Her hands darted up and gripped a firm hold of Doyle’s. With a burst of strength, she jerked him forward and reached forward to grab the back of his neck.

‘Hey…’

His voice was silenced in a second as Giles thrust his head hard against the dull edge of the open car door. Doyle gave a quiet grunt of surprise as his head connected with the metal and his body went limp. Cowering in pain and grasping hold of his injured face, he fell to the ground with a dull thud.

The other detective had more time to react, but the viciousness of it all had left him frozen to the spot. As Giles darted round the car towards him, he could do little more than watch her barrel towards him. Too late, he reached inside his pocket for something as Giles tackled him by the midsection. The silenced gun went sprawling out of his hand and clattered across the ground as Giles used all her weight to bring the detective down on to the floor at Barker’s feet.

He groaned in shock as his head crashed against the concrete – but Giles wasn’t done yet.

Hooping her leg over his body, Giles positioned herself on top of him. Her hand reached out for his hair, her fingers looping, tightly in amongst the individual strands and, with the last of her energy, she slammed his loose head repeated against the hard floor.

He groaned once more and his body relaxed.

Giles released hold of his hair and leapt to her feet, looking up at Barker, who stood frozen to the spot – wide-eyed and horrified. Giles pointed down at the unconscious man at her feet and said:

‘Keep an eye on him.’

She turned on her heels and moved back around the car where Doyle was slowly coming to, a trickle of blood dripping down his face from a cut above his right eyebrow. Bending down to him, Giles placed her right hand against his neck and slammed him viciously against the car as her left searched his pockets for another gun. Inside she found nothing but his warrant card and his phone.

‘You bitch,’ he grunted as his eyes tried to focus on her.

Giles smiled as she tossed his phone aside and examined Doyle’s warrant card once again. True enough it was the warrant card of a detective sergeant and the picture on the identification was most definitely Doyle’s. She threw it aside and moved in closer to her victim.

‘Who are you working for, Doyle?’ she asked, squeezing his neck slightly as she leaned forward.

‘What are you talking about…?’

Giles thrust his head hard against the car. The detective groaned in agony as the metal structure of the car buckled under the strain.

‘Who are you working for?’

‘I work here. I’m based at Croydon Police Station…’

‘But that’s not who you are working for today. Who sent you to pick me and Barker up?’

Doyle chuckled, raising his hands to nurse the injury on his face. ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about…’

His hand returned to the ground with a loud thump as Giles smacked it out of the way. Her grip on his neck tightened until he struggled to breathe and his eyes began to bulge in their sockets.

‘Come now, Doyle. The expensive shirts, designer sunglasses, high-end shoes – someone is paying you a small fortune and I doubt very much it’s the Metropolitan Police…’

Doyle gargled as a small trickle of blood appeared in the corner of his mouth.

‘I had an aunt who died recently,’ he whispered. ‘Inheritance…’

Giles slammed his head against the car door again.

‘Don’t treat me like an idiot, Doyle. I’ve been playing you a lot better than you were me…’ She leant in a little closer with a wry smile on her face. ‘I know you didn’t speak to my DI…’

‘I did…’ Doyle gargled. ‘DI Jacobs’s instructions were very specific…’

Giles smiled and slowly shook her head.

‘There is no Detective Inspector Jacobs, Doyle,’ she muttered. ‘I made him up. So I’ll ask you again, who are you working for?’

The look of surprise didn’t last long. It was almost as though Doyle expected to be caught out – either that or he didn’t care. His face broke out into a wheezy laugh and, even against Giles’ vice-like grip, he managed to shake his head a couple of times.

‘He really hasn’t told you anything, has he? You have no idea what you’re up against.’

‘Why don’t you tell me?’

Doyle smiled again.

‘My boss is a honourable man, you know. If you do a favour for him, I’m sure you’d be rewarded in no time. Hand Barker over to me and, I assure you, you won’t regret it. He pays very well.’

Giles’ grip tightened once more causing Doyle to start choking. ‘I don’t sell my honour.’

‘Do me a favour…’ Doyle whispered through his strained breath. ‘Everyone has a price, even the murderer you are quite happily protecting.’

Doyle’s eyebrows fluttered up and down as he looked at the point behind Giles’ shoulder. Giles’ allowed herself to turn slightly to glance behind her.

Barker was gone – as was the gun.

Doyle chuckled cynically.

‘See, he’s not worth your trouble,’ Doyle whispered. ‘Just you go home and let us deal with him. I promise you’ll be well paid for it. He’ll even arrange for the charges against you to be dropped.’

Giles looked around frantically. Barker was long gone…

Unconsciously, she let her grip on Doyle’s neck go ever so slightly allowing him to breathe normally once again.

‘It’s not like we won’t find him before you anyway. You are one; we are many. He’s as good as dead.’ He shuffled himself a little further upright and removed his hand from under Giles’ to nurse his aching face. ‘You just leave it to us. Go and enjoy the rest of your Bank Holiday with Jason…’

Doyle had no idea that Giles had hit him until it was too late. His head slammed against the side of the car…

… and all turned to black.

Chapter Seventeen

 

Giles wasted no time.

She scooped up the car keys, slammed the back door shut and climbed into the front seat. The Ford’s engine growled into life. A quick shift into reverse and Giles was off.

The car leapt backwards, past the crumpled figures of the two would-be assassins and span quickly around, screeching wildly as the brake pads locked into place.

There was still no sign of Barker when she rounded the corner and approached the exit ramp – and the barrier was closed. She didn’t hesitate. Her foot smashed against the accelerator, and her arms locked straight and true as she careered the car towards the feeble gate. At the last moment, she ducked her head down and took shelter behind the relative safety of the steering wheel as the car clattered against the barricade, shattering the plastic into a dozen pieces and cracking the windscreen with a sickening crunch.

As glass and paintwork scrapped off the car, Giles felt the vehicle lurch upwards and – for one horrible moment – she feared that it had failed to make it passed the feeble barrier. It hovered for a moment, the bonnet pointing up towards the blue sky before – finally – it fell back to the ground and the battered Ford bounced its way out on to the road outside. Pulling herself back upright with one enormous jerk, Giles struggled to steady the vehicle as it swerved one way and then another before coming to a jolting stop in the centre of the road.

Giles glanced up anxiously, her nostrils filled with the smell of burning rubber and her heart pounding in her chest like a freight train. By some quirk of fate, the road had been almost completely empty save for a few figures a short way up the street – neither of who were Daniel Barker. As the young mother and her two children looked on at the beaten vehicle, Giles risked a quick glance back into the car park before shoving the car into gear and tearing up the road in the direction of the main street. She was at the junction in a second and, despite the disapproving glare of the mother, made every effort to safely check her surroundings before smartly pulling out into the afternoon traffic.

The streets were busy with more passengers from the station, but Barker was not hard to find. Sprinting down the street and occasionally throwing terrified glances back behind him, Barker stood out like a sore thumb amongst the calm and professional flow of travellers. Seeing Giles’ car pull out on to the road, he made for the nearest side street and disappeared out of sight. Giles turned down the deserted street and followed him for a hundred yards or so, slowing down as she came up alongside him.

Barker – his eyes frantic with fear – didn’t slow his pace, but simply continued in a straight line parallel to the car, glancing in through the window at Giles with every dozen or so strides.

Giles lowered the window as she slowed to match his pace.

‘Get in.’

‘No.’

‘You’re not safe. Get in.’

‘And I’m safe with you?’

Barker continued to run for a few more metres until he finally slowed to a halt. Giles parked up the car and waited as he glanced nervously back in the direction of the car park.

‘This was a mistake,’ he said. ‘You can’t help me. I’m sorry, but I was wrong to drag you in to this…’

‘I found you in seconds, Daniel. What makes you think you’ll survive any longer without me?’

Barker threw up his hands in exasperation and began to walk away, getting only a few feet before he stopped and turned back around. He placed his hands on his hips and stared absently at the car as he slowly tried to regain his breath. Considering the short distance he had travelled, the athletic Barker looked somehow out of shape. His mind was burdened with troubling thoughts. He had descended from the lofty heights of cold logical thought into the slums of panic and fear – and the tumble had taken a physical toll on him.

Giles pushed open the door and stepped out. She didn’t have anything to say and, no matter how hard she thought about it, her mind simply couldn’t create any words that might provide comfort to the terrified man before her. Every time she seemed to get close, the cynical voice in the back of her mind would whisper through the shadows:

He doesn’t deserve any sympathy…

With all ideas of empathy obliterated from her mind, Giles returned her thoughts to something more familiar – the deep-seated professionalism that had done her so well in life up to this point. She felt her back straighten, her lips purse together and suddenly her mind was clear – cool, calculated and logical. She took another step forward, holding out her hands towards the fugitive who backed away as she approached him.

She intended to take her with him one way or another – whether that meant dragging him back to the car was entirely up to him. And it seemed that Barker could see that in her body language. Giles hadn’t even gotten a few steps before she stuttered to a halt, hesitating nervously as she found herself staring down the barrel of the stolen gun.

Barker stood resolutely in front of her, his face struggling to present a mask of determination to cover the fear in his eyes. He slowly levelled the gun towards her chest and his finger began to press on the trigger.

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore.’

Giles raised her hands, her eyes fixed firmly on the gun barrel. She’d forgotten about the weapon. The effort of neutralising Doyle and pursuing Barker had knocked it right out of her mind. And now she found herself staring death in the face as his fingers slowly itched against the trigger metal.

‘Daniel, you don’t want to shoot me.’

‘How do you know?’ came back the reply. ‘How do you know I wouldn’t murder you in cold blood?’

‘Daniel…’ Giles hesitated, her eyes flickering up to meet Barker’s as she took a slight step towards him and lowered her hands towards the gun. ‘You have only killed one man today and that wasn’t in cold blood. That’s what you want me to believe, isn’t it?’

‘It’s the truth!’

‘Then prove it to me…’

Giles held out her hand inches away from the gun, nodding encouragingly.

‘Show me you’re not what they think you are…’

It couldn’t have been longer than a few seconds, but to Giles it felt like she stood there for hours – her hands inches away from the gun, waiting for it to be handed over or waiting to die. She could feel the adrenalin coursing through her body and, even as she stood staring into Barker’s eyes, she could see her hand start to shake with fright.

For her it was simple – but it was nothing compared to the dilemma that Barker faced. His fingers closed in a little more on the trigger – with each added bit of pressure his own hands shook a little more. He gave another glance towards the main road, his mouth contorting and relaxing as his wild eyes scrutinised every car that passed by.

It happened so quickly and Giles was so focussed that she didn’t even feel it…

Barker took the slightest of steps forward and gently lowered the weapon into her hand. As his fingers released hold of it, he stepped away with his hands cradling his head and he cried out in silent anguish.

Giles gave him a moment – not for him, but for herself. Her fingers closed around the metal and she turned the gun around in her hands, flicking the catch to make it safe. A memory stirred – the sound of screams and the feel of something warm dripping from beneath her chin. Her eyes projected the dark, mouldy walls and the single stream of light illuminated the blood trickling down her neck…

She snapped out of it.

Pocketing the gun, she stepped forward and placed a comforting hand on Barker’s shoulder. As he turned back towards her, she nodded towards the car.

‘Get in.’

 

With Barker safely in the car, Giles continued down the street, scanning her rear view mirror for any sign of their pursuers. As Barker sniffed in the seat beside her, his face pale as milk, she urged the car out of the junction at the end of the road and back into the traffic.

For a little while nothing was said. But soon Barker’s breath began to steady and the colour returned to his face. With a renewed, and yet somewhat uneasy, confidence, he sat up straighter in his seat and looked around earnestly as though expecting Doyle and his associate to appear at any moment.

‘What the hell just happened?’ he asked finally. ‘Who were those guys?’

‘Doyle was precisely who he said he was – a detective,’ replied Giles, calmly negotiating her way through the traffic. ‘The other I’m not so sure about.’

‘Doyle is a copper?’ Barker half-laughed. ‘I don’t think so.’

‘Obviously, our friend Doyle has been moonlighting. The Met didn’t send anyone to escort us to West End Central – for one thing that’s not where I’ll be taking you – they were sent to kill you.’

‘Me? Not us?’

Giles nodded solemnly.

‘Detective Sergeant Doyle told me you were the only target, although I imagine he would have said anything to make me let him go at that point.’

Barker sat perfectly still as his mind turned over this new information.

‘How did they know where we were?’

Giles hesitated.

‘I feel I might have made an error,’ she said delicately. ‘Back on the train, I reached out to someone. Someone who I thought I could trust.’

‘You were let down by your team?’

‘Not my team,’ Giles replied, glancing briefly to note Barker’s confused expression.

She didn’t say any more – and he didn’t ask.

Glancing at the traffic, Giles’ eyes lingered on the large crack that spread across the windscreen. The car was a mess – she was lucky it was even road worthy.

‘We have to get off the streets,’ she muttered.

‘Good idea,’ Barker replied.

Giles nodded. ‘I need you to tell me everything though.’

‘Not a chance…’

‘Daniel there are people out there who want you dead. I suggest you start co-operating with me.’

‘Not until I have my immunity agreement.’

The pig-headed…

‘Fine,’ Giles snapped. ‘There’s a safe house nearby. We’ll be safe there for a few hours…’

‘Won’t they think to look for you there?’

‘It’s not that kind of safe house,’ she replied. ‘Besides, you haven’t left me any choice.’

‘What do you mean?’

Giles glared at him from the corner of her eye.

‘I mean, Mr Barker, that there are a lot of things I don’t understand and a lot of answers I need answering. If you won’t tell me, maybe there’s someone else who will…’

‘Like who?’

 

Doyle swam in and out of consciousness. At times, he felt like he was clawing his way out of the darkness, at others he could feel himself falling into the soft tranquillity and comfort of the gloom around him. Through the dark murkiness, a soft voice seemed to call out to him, muffled and distant at first but soon becoming more defined as he felt the soft, cool touch of skin on his forehead.

He opened his eyes, just a fraction, and peered up at the angelic face looking down at him. Her mouth was moving, but the words were somehow lost to the ear piercing shrill that filled his head. Her long blonde hair dangled playfully above his face, gently tickling the end of his nose.

‘Sir?’ the angel called out. ‘Are you alright?’

Doyle’s eyes snapped fully open. The dark gloom retreated into the farthest recesses of his mind, replaced instantly with the greyness of the car park. He sat bolt upright, startling the young mother leaning over him and cried out with such anger that she and her two children bolted in the direction of the exit.

Doyle glared around. His companion was gone; only a small trace of blood splatter remained where Giles had pummelled his head to the ground. Where he had gone to, Doyle had no idea. But wherever he was, he had obviously taken it upon himself to bow out of the chase. Barker had taken the gun when he ran…

This isn’t good.

His body itching with a dull aching, Doyle gingerly got to his feet and staggered over to a nearby wall, his hand rubbing his forehead to soothe the pain. The other, wet with his own blood, then reached inside his jacket and searched for his mobile phone.

Gone.

Through all the agony and haziness, the panic took a moment to settle in. His eyes sporadically searched the floor around him. His heart pounded in his chest and a wall seemed to spring up across his mind, separating his thoughts from any logic and calm reasoning.

She can’t have taken it…

It simply wasn’t possible.

That phone contained everything: the numbers of all his contacts, the messages from the man who ordered him to kill Barker…

If Giles had her hands on that, the whole crew would be burst wide open and Doyle would be a target by sundown.

His life wouldn’t be worth living…

He would be hunted down and strung up as a message to all the others:

Don’t let the Boss down…

Tumbling to the ground, Doyle scrambled around on the floor, his hands reaching out as he made his way back towards where his car had been parked. His fingers began to bleed as he desperately clawed at the ground and, even though he was not a crying man, tears began to well up in the corners of his desperate eyes.

Breathing erratic.

Heart pounding.

Dead by sundown…

And then, when all hope had faded from his mind, he felt it.

The smooth case was a welcome relief. As Doyle pulled the phone towards him, he allowed himself to roll on to his back and sit up, cross-legged in the middle of the car park. Laughing gratefully to himself, he fiddled with the scratched screen and rifled through his contacts until he found the right number.

He raised the handset to his ear, jubilantly staring around at his grim surroundings but remaining resolutely sat on the ground.

His feet weren’t ready yet…

‘Is it done?’

‘They got away,’ Doyle muttered. ‘Giles got the drop on us. Your boy scattered before I had a chance to regain consciousness. He was next to useless…’

The voice on the end of the line gave a long, irritated sigh.

‘And Barker?’

Doyle hesitated, all glee quickly evaporating from his mind.

‘Barker got his gun. He’s armed.’

The line went quiet save for the heavy breathing on the other end of the line. Doyle reached back into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief that he placed up against his injured head, wincing slightly as he did so.

‘It doesn’t matter, the voice said finally. ‘We know where they are heading thanks to our contact. I’ve assembled a new team; they will meet you at London Bridge.’

‘The woman, Giles, might already suspect Carew. If she works it out, she may take Barker somewhere else…’

‘If Giles suspects anything we will soon know. She will not change her plans…’

‘How do you know?’

The voice chuckled.

‘Detective Sergeant Giles was on my trail for months. I make it my business to know how someone like that works.’ The voice hummed in self-approval of his logic. ‘Make sure you nab Barker before he can talk.’

‘And Giles?’

Another pause on the end of the line.

‘Without Barker, Giles is not a concern. Leave her be.’

The line went dead.

Lucky bitch.

Doyle pocketed the phone, checked his wound for any more bleeding and strode across the car park in search of a new car.

 

The phone in Harris’ pocket buzzed as he stepped on to the arriving train. The train was not an express service but it would do the job and get them to London on time.

He and Parsons took seats near to the doors as the mixture of sharp beeping and air hissing brought them to a close. Only when he was comfortable did he take his phone out of his pocket and examine the unknown number of the incoming call. He pondered it for a moment before he answered.

‘Harris.’

‘Harris, this is Detective Inspector Bolton from the Met…’

DI Bolton?

Harris instinctively sat up straighter in his chair and loosened his tie.

‘Oh, hullo. How can I help you?’

‘I am hearing conflicting reports up here about one of my team – a Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles.’

Harris’ eyes narrowed. ‘Conflicting reports?’

‘Something about her breaking a prisoner out of custody. Do you know anything about it? Have you come across DS Giles today?’

Harris hesitated for a moment, his eyes flickering towards Parsons who gazed distractedly out of the window as the train moved off.

‘I’m sorry, I don’t know anyone by that name…’

Alison Carew’s phone buzzed again. She’d been expecting a message, but this wasn’t it. She stared around the room and slid off her chair. She was vaguely aware of Lawrence’s curious eyes watching her as she made her way quickly across the control room, but she paid him no attention. She stepped into the kitchen and closed the door behind her, peering through the small window at the rest of her team before she dialled a number and waited for the person on the other end to answer.

‘Ali?’

‘Eve?’ Alison kept her voice at a low whisper. ‘I got your message, what’s wrong?’

Giles’ voice was nervous and panicky – far more than Alison had ever heard her before.

‘Ali, I’ve made a huge mistake…’

‘All right, calm down. Tell me what the problem is…’

‘We were ambushed at the station,’ Giles replied quickly. ‘Some guy called Doyle tried to kill Barker but we got away…’

‘Oh my God.’

The shock was real.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

‘Eve, are you all right? Are you hurt?’

Giles didn’t seem to be listening.

‘Doyle was a detective, Ali,’ she replied. ‘He had the credentials and everything…’

What the hell is going on?

Alison peered back through the glass window. Everyone was where they were meant to be, but that didn’t stop her from feeling very vulnerable.

‘Listen, Eve, you need to get yourself to the nearest police station…’

‘No, I can’t do that,’ Giles fired back. ‘Weren’t you listening? This guy was police. There are people inside our own service who want Barker dead. I can’t risk going to them…’

‘All right, all right. Where are you now?’

There was a slight pause before Giles spoke next.

‘I’m at a safe house in Brixton.’

‘One of ours?’

‘No, no, it’s an empty house on Claverdale Road.’ Giles hesitated. ‘Ali, I need you to get hold of Bolton – he’s the only one I can trust. Get him down here to help me get Barker to safety…’

‘Barker is still with you?’

‘Yes. Will you do it for me?’

Alison thought hard. Her mind whirred with disturbing thoughts and guilt.

‘Give me the address…’

Once she’d hung up the phone, Alison wasted no time in rattling off a quick message. Every fibre of her being was telling her it was wrong, but she did it anyway. After all, it was a superior officer she was texting – it’s not like this Doyle guy had found Giles because of her…

Was it?

It didn’t take long before her phone vibrated and lit up with the reply.

It was not what Alison wanted to see.

She’s on to you. Get out now.

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…

 

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?’

 

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 band 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.’

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 where 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 Baker 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?

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?’

Chapter Twenty-Three

 

Barker thought long and hard. Giles watched him, scrutinising his every move whilst she sipped at her coffee.

He fiddled with his clothing.

He flicked at the loose dirt on the wall.

He tugged at his ear and stared back down the street towards the entrance to the market.

At every unexpected noise, he turned his head sharply as though expecting some armed assassin to be bearing down on him whilst he grabbed a firm hold of the gun concealed in his pocket. His breathing was intermittent at best and his face had turned so pale and clammy that he looked almost ghostly under the afternoon light.

After a short time, his eyes returned to Giles and, with a certain amount of trepidation in his eyes, he shook his head defiantly.

‘No,’ he answered.

Giles sighed and set her espresso back down on the wall. Her eyes swung over to the mobile coffee shop where, inside the little kiosk, the server stood watching them with interested eyes. Pressed to her head was a mobile phone into which she talked animatedly as her eyes remained glued on Barker. Every so often, a customer would approach to buy something but they were sharply waved away as the server spoke rapidly down her phone.

We’re running out of time.

‘I’m getting tired of this game, Barker…’

‘When I am safely in your custody with an immunity agreement in my hand and a guarantee of witness protection, you will get what you want.’

‘Then I don’t get what I want.’ Giles’ words cut through the air turning Barker even paler than before. ‘But more to the point, you don’t get what you want.’

Barker stared back at her flabbergasted. ‘You can’t mean that…’

‘The Bluebell Killer is dead, Barker. I killed him. I shot him and I watched him die.’

She reached up and plucked the scarf from around her neck, thrusting it angrily on to the wall. She bent her neck towards him and gestured to the scars on her skin.

‘You see these? These were the marks he left on me before he died. So don’t toy with me with stories of how I got the wrong man.’ She thumped a first down on the wall, knocking the espresso cup off the top. She didn’t even glance at it as the takeaway cup tumbled to the ground, spilling what remained of the contents on the grey ground. ‘The wrong man would not have done this to me…’

‘There is more to this than just one man…’

Giles cut him off with a vicious hiss.

‘You see that woman other there,’ she said, allowing Barker time to glance up at the server in the coffee kiosk. ‘She recognised you a few minutes ago. A few seconds later, she picked up her mobile and she’s been talking on it ever since. Now, she could be talking to anyone, but I’d lay even money she’s on the line to a local police dispatch office, what do you think?’

She gave a little shrug of disinterest.

‘Now, one of two things will happen. Either you will be lucky and the policemen who come to get you will be honourable and just arrest you, or we’ll end up with another bent copper like Doyle who will simply put a bullet through your brain. Either way, time is not exactly on your side…’

‘Then we must get out of here, now…’

Barker made to stand up.

Giles hand darted out to stop him.

‘I told you before,’ she said coolly. ‘We are not leaving this place until I get what I want.’

‘I’ll kill you…’

‘Donnovan tried that one. It didn’t go too well for him…’

‘But you’re a police officer…’

‘Well, if you are going down, you might as well do it in style, right? Gun down a defenceless woman in broad daylight – I’m sure the media will lap it up…’

She had played the game well. Barker watched the server finally hang up the phone and retreat a little further into the kiosk.

‘I don’t reckon we have much time, do you?’

Barker turned back to her.

‘What do you want?’

‘The last time you contacted me, before today that is, you said you were gathering proof of who the Bluebell Killer was. You obviously didn’t think it was Donnovan…’

‘I will tell you everything once I am safely in custody…’

‘Then our deal is over.’

Barker eyed her carefully, his face forming in to a slight smile as he examined the detective sitting opposite.

‘You wouldn’t do that. My evidence is too important…’

‘We only have to wait a few more minutes to find out.’

The smile vanished and Barker’s face became nervous and contorted once more. ‘I can give you a name…’

‘I already have a name…’

‘No, I mean the name of the man responsible for all of this. Not Donnovan – the man who put him up to it. I can give you his name…’

Giles pouted at him.

‘You seriously want me to believe that the man who helped your party win the election is the same man who killed over a dozen people last year?’

‘Yes,’ pleaded Barker. ‘And when I give you his name, you’ll understand…’

‘A name is easily acquired,’ shot back Giles. ‘I already have part of your story. I know this man arranged for the Britain’s Own Party to win the election by a landslide, which means he probably invested a fair amount of money in you. I know he has influence over certain people in the police force whose identities are known to me, which means he probably has them on the payroll. I’m sure, if I followed the money, it may well lead me back to him…’

‘He is a smart man. I’m sure he would have something like that covered…’

Giles’ eyebrow rose. ‘Something like that?’

Well, that’s interesting…

‘That certainly is interesting…’

But if that’s the case…

‘That would explain everything…’

Giles’ mind erupted in thought. In the darkest recesses of her memory, she recalled half-whispered conversations and images stretching right the way back to the days of the Bluebell Killer up until the terrible events by the River Eden.

‘You forget,’ she said calmly. ‘Yours is not the only name I have. I can identify DS Doyle. I know Alison had something to do with it. If you will not speak up, I am sure there will be other ways of getting that information.’

Barker’s face turned pale. ‘You can’t do that.’

Giles climbed down from the wall, smiling at Barker as she did so. ‘Watch me.’

She began to walk away towards the railway bridge. She had barely walked a few steps when Barker’s hand darted out to grab her as he came alongside her. She turned to him, feeling the gun jutting half-heartedly into her chest, and looked into his pleading eyes as they began to well up with tears.

With trembling lips, he finally stuttered:

‘Tommy Haines.’ His eyes instantly clouded over with shame. ‘The man you want is Tommy Haines.’

Giles let his words hang in the air. The gambit had worked for the moment, but the next few minutes would be decisive. She quickly nodded towards the wall and led him back to where they had been sitting a few moments before. Under his watchful gaze, she reached inside her coat pocket and produced her phone, which she quickly searched through to find the voice recording function before setting it down on the wall.

‘It’s hardly a formal interview setting,’ she said, ‘but it will do.’

Barker looked – for a moment – like he might object but as Giles pressed the record button and announced herself, he immediately followed suit:

‘Daniel Barker,’ he said clearly. ‘Former leader of the Britain’s Own Party.’

Giles nodded in satisfaction.

‘Tell me about Tommy Haines.’

Barker took a deep breath.

‘Tommy Haines is a businessman with a good reputation amongst those who do legitimate business with him. He started off with nightclubs; he had dozens of them across the UK. Then, once he started getting a bit of success, he moved on to real estate, car mechanics, and airplane parts. If you can name it, he probably has a business interest in there somewhere…’

‘Including politics?’

Barker nodded.

‘I was approached by Haines shortly after the general election five years ago. He assured me that he had the means to make my party a success. At first, I thought he was just talking about money and, for a while that seemed to be all there was to it. But, during the local elections two years ago, after my party made some substantial gains in the number of MPs in Parliament, Haines revealed to me that he had essentially arranged for certain constituencies to fall to us. He had blackmailed and bribed us into a position where we had become the only tangible opposition in Parliament.

‘Flash forward to the General Election – he promised my party would win by a landslide. All I had to do was give him my word that, when Haines decided the time was right, I would repay that debt in anyway He felt necessary. What I failed to realise at the time was that he wasn’t guaranteeing my own position as the leader of this country. The party won, but I lost out.’

Giles nodded her understanding. ‘Did Haines ever tell you why he was willing to go to such lengths to get you into power?’

Barker scoffed.

‘He made no secret of it,’ he replied. ‘It was quite clear from the off – to me at least – that he was doing it to ensure that there was a government in power that he could manipulate to work in his interests. The fact that the Britain’s Own Party’s policies were very closely aligned to Haines’ was, by and large, of little consequence. In the grand scheme of things, our party was a new one. New parties are a lot easier to influence than the old guard…’

He fell back against the wall as though a great weight had been lifted from his mind. Giles stared at him intently before a slight movement by the entrance of the market caught her eye. A group of people had appeared underneath the railway bridge, making their way slowly down the street. One of them stopped at the coffee kiosk and chatted to the server who nodded in Barker’s direction. Following her gaze, the man nodded and the group set off once again.

Near the front of the group was a man Giles recognised.

For the moment, Barker hadn’t seemed to notice them. He had his back towards them and, whenever he seemed lost for words, he would look up at the towering cathedral rather than towards The Shard behind him.

She flicked her eyes back to Barker and, with a little more urgency, asked: ‘And what has this got to do with what happened today?’

Barker looked up at her, his face dropping with shame.

‘The morning after the election, Haines found me in a pub drowning my sorrows. He said he still expected me to fulfil my side of the bargain. I tried to wriggle out of it, told him that he had conned me, but he wasn’t having it. I told him that I had nothing now thanks to him, so there was no way I could repay his debt…’ He sighed, shaking his head remorsefully. ‘The repayment was killing that man down at Edenbridge. That was the debt I was able to pay.’

‘It was a hit?’

Barker’s eyes widened.

‘Under duress, yes. Haines’ men supplied me with a gun, they even taught me how to shoot. They knew this man took a dog out for a walk every morning at the same time and along the same route. They knew he walked past an old bunker and advised that it would be a good hiding place. I went down there this morning. I bought a train ticket to Edenbridge and made my way to the bunker and waited…’

His eyes glazed over. ‘When the time came, it was incredibly easy. He had his back to me, as you guessed already. It only took one shot. I don’t think he even knew what had happened.

‘The rest, you already know. I tried to move the body out of sight but was seen by that lady passing by. I didn’t have much time, either way she was calling the police, so I had to act quickly to create the story that I was the real target. Plenty of people hate me in Britain so it wouldn’t be too hard a sell. I exchanged everything in his pockets with the tickets in my own – scrawling our names on them with a pen I found in the bunker. I tossed his wallet and phone into the river – I even had time to retrieve the bullet casing, which I lobbed in the water as well. Then I rubbed his hand against the gun so that it left his fingerprints on it, punched the pillbox wall a couple of times to make it look like a big fight had happened and then I was just about ready…’

He looked up sheepishly.

‘I sold you the inch of truth so you wouldn’t start to question the bigger lie. I thought if anyone was going to help me, it would be you. And I was right, wasn’t I?’

Giles thought about this for a moment and then nodded solemnly.

‘Except you overplayed your hand,’ she muttered. ‘Harris was ready to acquit you until I turned up. You had no idea what to expect until I arrived on the scene – and that’s when things started going wrong for you. You hadn’t accounted for how much I hated you. You thought you’d brought in an ally, when you’d actually brought in the one person who would put you squarely in the crosshairs.’

Barker chuckled quietly. ‘I think, in hindsight, that was my only major mistake. There’s a moral in there somewhere – never judge a person by their name…’

Giles forced a small smile.

‘Who was the victim? Why was he so important?’

Barker shrugged. ‘They didn’t tell me.’

His eyes drifted to one side as he desperately avoided eye contact.

‘And the Bluebell Killer?’

Barker’s eyes shot back to her in an instant. He drew a deep breath.

‘How sure were you that Donnovan was your man?’

Giles shrugged.

‘The case was getting there,’ she replied. ‘We had him linked to a fair few of the murders…’

‘But there were some that you couldn’t link him to, am I right?’ Barker replied, his face darkening. ‘Some where his alibi was so strong that you considered abandoning the case against him?’

Giles’ eyes quivered.

‘How could you possibly know that?’

‘Every time you thought you were close with a suspect, another murder would happen. But your suspect wouldn’t only have an alibi. More often that not he’d have a police alibi, right? You put them under so much surveillance that they can’t scratch their balls without you knowing and then another murder happens putting them in the clear…’

‘How do you know that?’

‘They know exactly what your protocols are. They play you with your own bloody Murder Book…’

‘How do you know? Tell me.’

Barker closed his eyes and exhaled slowly in a state of pseudo-meditation. When they opened again, he stared straight at her – his eyes seemingly stabbing into her’s with the intensity of his stare.

‘Because you never stopped the Bluebell Killer, Detective Sergeant Giles,’ he said quietly. ‘You can’t have killed him.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because the Bluebell Killer…’ Barker said softly. ‘… is me.’

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

‘Alright, listen up.’

Bolton strode across the office, heading straight towards the whiteboard at the far end. Giles watched as he came to a stop in front of it and stared wistfully up at the complex collection of photographs and notes that made up their case against Alex Donnovan. For a moment, he looked like he was about to grab a pen and add more information, as he had done with each fragment of evidence that had trickled its way into the department. His hand even loitered over the penholder for a few seconds as he considered the intricate web of evidence that had gradually been stacked up again Donnovan.

His elongated fingers reached out and plucked up the board-wiper, which he used to erase the entire case in a blink of an eye.

The team were dumbstruck. With a single action, Bolton had destroyed any hope that the end was in sight – eliminated any dream that finally the case would be solved and they could all move on with their lives. Every single one of them was rendered speechless…

All except Giles:

‘Sir, what are you doing…?’

Bolton silenced her with a quick flutter of his hands. He span around, the tails of his jacket swooping around his body as he came to a stop, and surveyed the room around him. His dull and lacklustre eyes gave off the impression of a man about to impart the most devastating news on to the waiting crowd.

‘Alex Donnovan is no longer a suspect.’

The crowd of detectives all spoke in unison, but Giles only heard her own voice:

‘What? Why?’

‘He has an alibi for the murders of Simon Grole and Mary Crosskeys,’ Bolton explained, once again raising his hand to quell the discontent. ‘Besides which there have been two more murders since we started our surveillance on him and nothing to suggest he left his apartment prior to either of them…’

‘He could have shaken the tail,’ suggested Scutter, standing uneasily towards the side of the room. ‘Just because the plods didn’t see him leave…’

‘He will use that as his defence,’ replied Bolton. ‘Any case we give wouldn’t stand in trial. That’s four murders that he appears to have an alibi for, and we’re providing his alibi for two of them…’

‘What about for the Grole and Crosskeys murders?’ piped up Giles. ‘Surely the alibis can’t be as cast iron as all that?’

‘He was out drinking for one – CCTV picked him up over twenty miles away at the time of the murder – and he was on a plane to Manchester for the other.’

Giles shook her head, reaching across her desk and picking up a small pile of papers. She wove them up in the air and said:

‘But we have found more links between Donnovan and the murder victims: Francis Terrum, Jonathon Pratchett, Daisy Roseberry – we’ve found links to all of them. We have CCTV of him walking away from the canals at Camden shortly after Henry Jones was last seen…’

Bolton shook his head, his lips curling down into a grimace.

‘I’m sorry, Eve,’ he muttered quietly. ‘He’s not our man. I’m afraid it’s back to the drawing board…’

For the next twenty minutes, Bolton continued to brief the team on their next move, but Giles wasn’t paying any attention. Instead she stared down at a CCTV photograph of the cold, grim-looking figure of Alex Donnovan as he skulked down the quiet Camden streets. His face was set, almost professional-like in appearance; his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his black clothing.

I was so sure it was him.

When the briefing finally concluded, Giles returned her attention to the computer screen in front of her. Every window that was open was a piece of the Donnovan puzzle – every clue they had gathered throughout the case was neatly displayed across her screen, interweaving with each other as Giles had attempted to build her own virtual web of intrigue around the case. She stared at it for a long while, manoeuvring her mouse to each window in turn and closing them as she started to file away her investigation.

She hadn’t even noticed that Scutter was stood barely a few feet away from her until he cleared his voice and said:

‘It’s a shame it didn’t work out. I really thought we had him.’

Giles nodded, her eyes still fixed on the computer. ‘So did I.’

‘And here was I thinking I’d just caught a break…’

He sounded sincere – that was unusual. Giles tore her eyes away from the screen and glared up at him. The detective who stood before her swayed cautiously from foot to foot and his eyes flickered frequently in the direction of Bolton’s office. He was harbouring a secret, something that he needed to let go off, but it was clear to Giles that he knew he shouldn’t.

‘What’ve you got?’

Scutter gestured towards Bolton’s office. ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter now…’

‘Of course it matters. If you have something worth getting excited about then it’s important enough for me. What is it?’

Scutter hesitated for a moment, his mouth opening and shutting repeatedly as he tried to form words. On the fourth time of trying, his voice came out, only it was more of a whisper and lacked his usual brash confidence.

‘I thought I’d found the key,’ he said. ‘I thought I’d found the missing piece of the puzzle that proves Donnovan is our man…’

‘Tell me,’ Giles urged, her eyes instinctively glancing around to see if anyone was listening in.

Scutter seemed to halt for a moment before scuttling off to a nearby desk and dragging a chair over to Giles’. Keeping his head low, he sat down and leaned in closer to Giles – so close that Giles could smell the days of unwashed sweat on his neck.

‘You see, I contacted a botanist at Kew Gardens a while back,’ he explained. ‘I figured that bluebells only grow in the spring and, given that he leaves one on each body, the killings would stop come mid-summer, right?’

‘But they didn’t,’ Giles replied. ‘It’s September now and we’re still getting victims…’

Scutter nodded his head, excitedly.

‘Right,’ he said. ‘So I figured that the killer must be getting his Bluebells from somewhere so, using my noggin…’ he tapped his temple a couple of times ‘… I contacted the botanist again to find out if bluebells grow later anywhere else in Europe. I thought that, if they did, we might be able to narrow down suspects by anyone who has been abroad lately…’

‘Please, tell me you found something…’

He looked about him again.

‘The botanist reckons nothing doing. Bluebells are strictly spring plants – in order for them to germinate, they need to be exposed to frost first…’

Giles’ heart skipped a beat.

‘What about the southern hemisphere?’

‘Well, Australia has a variation of them as well, but it’s still winter over there now. They won’t be growing for another few months. Besides, transporting them over would be a nightmare.’

He paused as Giles shook her head despondently.

‘So we really are back to square one…’

‘Not necessarily,’ replied Scutter. ‘My botanist friend did say one interesting thing. Apparently it is possible to artificially grow them – as long as you have somewhere covered by trees to plant them. All you need to do is mix the seeds with wet sand in a plastic bag and chuck them in a fridge for a month or so – that will expose them to the frost element and kick start the growing process.’

Giles’ head exploded with a whirlwind of terrifying thoughts and visions.

‘So, our killer is growing his own bluebells,’ she muttered. ‘So he can keep killing all year round!’ Her eyes flickered back to the desk where the photograph of Donnovan still sat, seeming to toy with her as she looked down at it. ‘Donnovan isn’t a botanist. He wouldn’t know how to do that.’

‘He wouldn’t,’ shot back Scutter, ‘but his sister might.’

He leaned over Giles and started tapping on her keyboard. Giles watched as he loaded the Internet and quickly found a website for a florist supplier based just outside London. He opened up the gallery, which opened up a series of pictures showing open fields, wooded areas and potting sheds that seemed to be centred on a couple of acres of open countryside.

Scutter leaned back triumphantly.

‘Donnovan’s sister, Sara, is a supplier for florists all around the country. She uses land like this to artificially grow plants so that they’re available all year round.’

Giles leaned forward, clicking her way through each of the photographs. She stopped on an image of a large batch of freezing units stored in the shadowy corner of one of the buildings appeared on screen.

‘This could be how he’s getting the bluebells,’ she whispered.

‘More that that, it might be how he’s growing some of his weed to stay in business as well,’ Scutter replied, leaning back in his chair and swinging it from side to side. ‘I thought you might be pleased.’

Giles continued to stare at the screen. She was more than pleased. Scutter had found the new way to nail Donnovan for the Bluebell Killings. All the talk of alibis and false leads fell into the background and, without saying another word, Giles found herself getting to her feet, putting on her coat and walking straight towards the door. A few moments later she was in her car, ignoring the persistent ringing of her mobile, as she made her way out of London.

 

The sun was low in the sky, but it was still just about daylight as Giles pulled up at the gate that lead on to Sara Donnovan’s land. She turned the engine off and checked her watch.

19.10.

She had timed it well.

Whatever work that may have been happening on this land had ended for the day and the place was practically deserted.

Giles climbed out of her car and quickly hopped over the low fence, making her way quickly towards the nearest building that stood adjacent a long line of trees. Skirting around the outside, she made her way straight towards the woodland, glancing nervously up at the sun as it started to dip below the horizon, sending heavy streams of red and orange light across the sky.

She only had to travel a little distance inside the wooded area before she found what she was looking for.

Laid out like a purple carpet in front of her, hundreds of bluebells swayed delicately in the breeze as the leaves in the tree canopy above her rustled gently. She instinctively reached for her phone, brought up the camera function and took a few snaps as she utilised the last of the daylight to wander the idyllic landscape. When the light finally failed her, she pocketed her phone and made her way back towards the building, her heart pounding with elation as her mind wandered to what this meant for the case.

As she skirted round the outside of the building once again, her mind briefly returned to Max – the faceless, nameless wonder who had started her down this path. Max had said before that the Bluebell Killer was a man with the power to influence dozens of others…

Had he been right the whole time?

Was the killer one man manipulating others to help him commit his crimes?

Was Donnovan one of those men?

The thought weighed heavily on Giles’ mind – so much in fact that she barely noticed the building side door as she sidled past it. It was only when she stopped and thought about it that she realised what she had seen and retraced her steps back a few metres to where the door stood ever so slightly ajar.

Reaching around the edges, Giles heaved the door open and peered inside.

It was the building with the freezers – the one that Giles had been so interested in before.

Makes sense, I guess, she thought. You’d want to keep the frozen samples near to where you want to plant them…

But why was the door open?

Giles shook this thought from her head and crept inside, her eyes scanning every inch around her. The building was largely immersed in darkness and there were no light switches nearby that Giles could find. Using her feet to feel a pathway, she crossed the building, moving in and out of raised flowerbeds, as she made a track across to the freezer units.

She didn’t have to look hard to find what she was after. The fridge for storing the bluebell bulbs was clearly marked and, to Giles’ delight, fully stocked. Careful not to disturb her evidence, Giles removed her phone again and took a few photographs of the bulbs before gently removing one, which she placed in her pocket, before closing the fridge door.

The sound was scarcely audible to begin with. A slight shuffling in the dark that got gradually quicker and louder. Giles recognised them as footsteps before she started turning, but her reactions were too slow.

As her eyes stared into the darkness, she caught the briefest glimpse of the metal trowel that struck the side of her head.

She didn’t even remember falling to the ground.

She remembered only the darkness.

Chapter Twenty-Five

 

The dust was the first thing Giles was aware of as she came to. The air was thick with it – the small shards of light that burst through the boarded up windows seemed to twist and turn, almost snake-like in movement, as years of decayed skin cells wafted around the room.

Long before her eyes grew accustomed to the dark, the throbbing pain in her head started again. She wanted to reach up, to press her palm hard against the bruise to try to quell the agony, but she couldn’t get them higher than her chest. It took her a moment to realise why – the knife sharp wire that restrained her hands against her abdomen cut deep into her skin. Her mind may have been dulled with drug-like stupor, but the pain was still excruciating.

She lowered her hands once more and screwed up her eyes. It took a minute or two and she had to steady her breathing, but finally the pain subsided a little. Only then did she open her eyes and take in her surroundings.

She saw the cars first – old, decaying and abandoned. Two or three of them in various states of rust induced dilapidation were placed in the room around her. The broken glass of the windscreens lay shattered across the floor amongst the piles of discarded tools and empty beer cans. In front of her, Giles could see two straight tracks that led directly towards her, separated by a car’s width. She turned her head to examine the hydraulic lift behind her – once again rusted and old, but she feared it more than capable of one or two more lifts before it finally gave up the ghost.

‘You shouldn’t have meddled, Evelyn Giles…’

The high-pitched, whining voice was familiar to Giles – it floated through the air mockingly and once again the pain seared across her temple. She turned her head towards the sound and peered hard into the darkness.

The figure that owned it was sat on a mouldy chair in the corner of the mechanic’s workshop, immersed in shadows but reflected slightly in the shards of glass at his feet. He took a long drag on a cigarette – the smoke billowing up towards a large hole in the corrugated iron roof, drifting past a 1993 calendar with a topless girl to represent March.

‘I was wondering when you might wake up,’ he said, flicking his cigarette to one side and getting to his feet. ‘I was worried I’d hit you too hard…’

He stepped forward, his hand producing a gun that he levelled on Giles. As he stepped through the bursts of light from the streetlamps outside his face was illuminated and a vice of terror gripped hold of Giles’ stomach.

Alex Donnovan continued forward, stopping a few feet in front of her. Slowly, he bent his knees and lowered himself to a crouching position, staring coldly into Giles’ eyes from behind his dirty face. He considered her for a moment, smirking and biting his bottom lip as he did so. Then he leant forward, pressing the barrel of the gun against her face with his right hand whilst his left looped around and gently started to stroke her neck.

Giles couldn’t help but whimper – for all her strength and passion, she had never been in a situation as terrifying as this. She took a deep breath and held it in as the cold gun barrel pressed harder into her cheek.

‘Shh, shh, shh,’ Donnovan whispered, turning his left hand over and drifting back across her neck. ‘It’s all right. It’s all right, really. There is nothing you can do about it now. Nothing at all.’

Tears began to form in Giles’ eyes – warm tears that slowly dripped from the corner of her eye and drifted down her cheek, glazing the gun barrel as they dripped onto the cold metal.

Donnovan smiled, removing the gun from her face but still leaving it trained on her whilst his left hand drifted down her neck and slipped underneath her shirt. He smiled as he gently glided his hand across her chest, never venturing down to her breast, but instead fondling the soft space beneath her collarbone.

‘You know,’ he muttered, ‘you are an exceptionally beautiful woman. Beautiful women have no right meddling in such dark affairs. You should be at home, staying safe…’

Giles finally regained her courage. Staring Donnovan straight in the eye she whispered:

‘Like Mary Crosskey – you dragged her out of her bedroom and threw her off her own balcony.’ She swallowed hard. ‘Or Daisy Roseberry, you stabbed her with a screwdriver on her own doorstep.’

Donnovan’s eyes gave nothing away. His hand slowly withdrew from Giles’ shirt, pulling the two ends back together as he did so. He rose to his feet, exhaling forcefully as he did so, and took three very deliberate steps back. His lip twitched with disgust.

‘I was trying to make you feel better,’ he said casually. ‘I was trying to give you some comfort before I kill you – let you know that it’s nothing personal…’

‘Nothing personal,’ Giles spat. ‘You would kill me because you are too stupid to get away with it…’

Donnovan’s eyes shot back to her. He gripped his gun a little tighter and his voice was laced with anger:

‘Some might say I was doing you a favour,’ he whined. ‘You see the country we are in. It’s only a matter of time before the racist bigots like that Britain’s Own bloke get some sort of power – then people like you will wish you’d never been born in this country…’

Giles laughed bitterly. ‘I wasn’t.’

Donnovan’s eyes quivered.

‘Why?’ he asked, stepping forward once more. ‘Did your parents emigrate?’

Giles shook her head. ‘I never knew my parents. My father was a rapist and my mother died when I very young in China…’

He cocked his head to one side, lowering his gun slightly as he listened intently. Giles had no desire to relive her family misfortunes with this murderer, but if it meant buying some more time until daylight then she would do anything to keep him from killing her. If it really wasn’t anything personal, then the personal touch might be what kept her alive…

Donnovan scratched the back of his neck, his eyes never leaving her.

‘How did your mother die?’ he asked, his voice almost softened with compassion.

‘She was an activist. The government arrested her for it,’ she explained. ‘They imprisoned her, raped her and then, when they finally got bored of it all, they executed her.’

‘I’m sorry,’ Donnovan replied. He seemed genuine enough. ‘How did they do it? Do you know how they killed her?’

Giles nodded her head, feeling the tears brewing in her eyes once more – not the tears of her current pain, but those of long forgotten memories.

‘How did they do it? Firing squad?’

Giles shook her head.

‘She wasn’t worthy enough to waste bullets on. They had something more brutal planned for her…’

‘Tell me…’

He didn’t seem to be getting off on the details, but something in Donnovan’s eyes seemed to sparkle as he leaned a little closer in. The gun was barely a few inches from Giles’ restrained hands…

If I can just draw him in a little closer…

Giles took a deep breath.

‘They… They…’

A little closer.

‘Yes?’

‘They strung her up from a wooden crossbeam with piano wire…’

‘Piano wire, you say?’

Giles nodded, the tears now flooding down her face.

‘They didn’t have any chairs, or maybe they were just vicious like that, so two of them held her up as the wire was placed round her neck and gently lowered her down so that the pain would last longer.’

‘The bastards…’

Giles sniffed loudly.

‘They waited until she was nearly unconscious and lifted her up again for a minute before lowering her back down. They did it four times before she died…’

Donnovan shook his head. ‘That’s terrible,’ he muttered. ‘And that is what happened to your mother?’

Giles nodded. ‘That’s what I’ve been told.’

‘Inspired…’

Without warning, Donnovan jumped to his feet and quickly moved across the workshop.

‘And fortunate as well,’ he called out as he rummaged through some drawers. ‘It would be a shame to miss such an opportunity…’

‘Opportunity?’ There was something unnervingly excitable in his voice. ‘Opportunity for what?’

Donnovan strode back through the shadows, holding something circular in his hands. It took Giles a moment or two to realise what was happening and, when she did, complete fear took over. Frozen and shocked by what she was seeing, she didn’t even begin to struggle until Donnovan had formed the noose out of some razor wire and looped it over her neck.

‘I’m afraid it’s no piano wire,’ he explained as he tied the other end to the hydraulic lift, ‘but it’s the best I can do.’

Giles squirmed hard, the wire in her hands cutting into her skin once again as she tried to worm her way free. As she moved about, the blades of the razor wire began to slice into her neck, wetting her skin with blood. Donnovan bent down in front of her and held her head steady, his face practically touching her’s as she whimpered in pain and fear.

‘Shh, you need to stop doing that,’ he whispered, stroking her cheeks. ‘It will make it more painful than it needs to be.’

He stood up again and made his way over to controls for the lift. It took him a moment or two to find the buttons before he leaned back around and flashed a smile at her.

‘Ready?’ he called out.

‘Please, don’t…’

‘Don’t you see? It’s fitting. Like mother like daughter.’ He stepped out a little way, pressing his hands together in a prayer-like position. ‘It’s like fate or something.’

‘You don’t have to do this…’

Donnovan’s face fell dark.

‘Oh, but I do,’ he spat. ‘Goodbye, Detective Sergeant Giles.’

Giles called out as he pressed down on the button. The lift squealed and shook as years of rust scraped it’s way up and, with a tremendous shudder, the lift slowly rose up into the air. Sobbing silently, Giles placed her feet on the ground and began to stand up as the lift got higher. When she reached her full height, she moved up on to her tip-toes and waited as the razor wire tightened around her neck.

This was the end. Giles knew it. There would only be a few more seconds before the wire would cut into her skin once more and she would face a few minutes of agonising pain before she finally died.

In that time, she didn’t think once of Donnovan, or of the other Bluebell Killer victims. Her mind focussed solely on Jason; her loving husband, the man who watched her day after day as her job consumed her – the man who would soon be stood by her graveside, distraught, bitter and alone.

In those last moments, she promised herself one thing:

If I make it out of here alive, I will make Jason my priority again…

I promise…

She closed her eyes and waited for the agony.

But the agony never came.

Above her head, she heard a giant snap followed by a large crack as the lift juddered to a halt and then fell a few inches. The squealing stopped and all around her was complete silence as the lift gave out the last of its life.

For a moment, Donnovan was speechless. He stared up at the rusted wreck, his face slowly contorting into anger, before stepping forward and smashing the gun against the old metal structure.

‘No, no,’ he cried out, his voice echoing around the abandoned workshop. ‘That’s just not fair.’ He turned to look at Giles. ‘It was perfect, you know? A great way for you to go out…’

He stopped, staring at the ground. His eyes traced their way over to Giles who had managed to lower herself off her toes but was still very much pinned up against the lift. A small smile appeared on his face.

‘No,’ he whispered. ‘This was meant to be. Your mother was raised and lowered…’ He stepped forward until he was right in front of Giles. ‘The same should be true of you…’

Giles shook her head slight, the razor wire digging into her neck.

‘You don’t have to do this…’

Donnovan smiled. ‘Oh, I do…’

With that, he slowly lowered himself down, his left hand reaching for her lower legs as his gun-wielding right rested against her abdomen…

Giles took her chance.

Her hands reached out for the gun, grabbing it from him and spinning it around to face him. With a howl of anger, Donnovan pushed up against her. The razor wire cut deep into her neck and, for a moment, the whole room disappeared behind a wall of darkness. As Donnovan pressed hard against her, Giles felt her fingers find the trigger and, with her last bit of energy, she pulled.

The gunshot echoed around the room.

Donnovan fell backwards, his clothes seeping red from the gunshot wound. He landed on the ground with a thump, his eyes looking up in fear at Giles as she raised the gun, pressed it against the wire and pulled the trigger once again. The wire came loose first time and, cutting her hands as she did so, she removed the makeshift noose and flung it on the body of the dying man.

She didn’t wait to watch him die – she had her own pain to deal with.

She crossed the room, heading for a nearby desk and soon found what she was looking for. Her neck burned with pain as she pressed the old, oily rag against the deep cuts – it wasn’t the most hygienic method, but at least it would stop the bleeding.

The wounds stung against the oil. The pain was immense, like someone had inflicted a thousand paper cuts across her neckline. And even as the bleeding began to slow and halt, Giles could still feel the metal slicing into her skin and the makeshift noose tightening around her neck…

Out of the darkness behind her, a little chuckle – cold and rasping – echoed against the walls of the garage. It grew louder and louder, higher and higher, until the whole room positively shook with the sound of Donnovan’s last laugh.

By the time she returned to Donnovan, he had all but given up the fight. She looked down at him and he looked up at her. And, for a moment, one of them smiled.

But it wasn’t Giles.

Then – as soon as it was there – it was gone and Donnovan’s body relaxed as he breathed no more.

All was still in the garage. The lift no longer creaked and Donnovan no longer gasped. And nothing moved saved for the large pool of dark, red blood that crept slowly towards a nearby iron grate.

Giles kept the gun trained on his chest as she searched his jacket pocket, finding his wallet, keys and a small plastic bag. She examined the contents closely before flinging it on the body and headed over to the corner of the room where she collapsed on the mouldy chair.

For the next few hours, she simply sat and waited for the sun to rise.

Happy.

Content.

The Bluebell Killer was no more.

Chapter Twenty-Six

 

Giles stared coldly at Barker. Her mouth dropped open a fraction – she even forgot that she wasn’t wearing her scarf anymore. Donnovan’s laugh echoed around the abandoned mechanics workshop of her memory, his curious glee sending a shiver down her spine as the razor wire cut deep into her skin…

Tears formed in the corner of her eyes and – despite the gun in Barker’s pocket – she advanced towards him and slapped him firmly around the face.

‘No,’ she said defiantly, slapping him a second time. ‘You’re not the Bluebell Killer. You can’t be…’

Barker didn’t even flinch.

‘Denying the evidence, even when it’s right in front of your face…’

‘You’re lying…’ Giles growled. ‘You’ve been lying since the moment we first met.’

Barker shrugged, glancing up again at the cathedral tower. His eyes lingered on the clock there for a few seconds, the colour returning to his face a little. He was relaxed – sure of himself – as though he had unloaded a great burden from his shoulders. Almost as if he were making his peace with God…

A short way down the street behind him, the group by the coffee shop turned off down different side paths leaving only the man who Giles recognised loitering by the kiosk.

Time was running out.

In her heart Giles was convinced that Barker knew it as well.

So it came as no surprise when a few, short seconds later he abruptly looked back down at her and reached out to grab hold of her hand. The fear instinct kicked in and Giles withdrew a few steps as he reached across, but not before he was able to lay a single, cold, clammy finger on the back of her smooth skin.

‘I will tell you what I know,’ he said. ‘But you must promise to get me to safety the moment I do.’

Giles considered him for a moment.

‘What makes you think you can trust me?’

Barker shrugged.

‘You got me this far,’ he replied. ‘Besides, you will want to keep me alive and on side after you hear what I have to say.’

Giles didn’t respond immediately. She could still feel his finger touching the back of her hand, irritating her skin like a hair underneath her eyelid. When she looked down, she was surprised to see that he was no longer touching her – that the feeling was little more than a memory.

An unpleasant memory.

‘Alright, Mr Barker,’ she said. ‘The Bluebell Killer. Alex Donnovan. You. Tommy Haines. Tell me what you know.’

Barker took a deep breath.

‘The Bluebell Killer is not a single man,’ he began. ‘He’s an idea – an illusion if you will. A concept created for one purpose only – to remove one man’s enemies and scare his friends into line…’

‘Tommy Haines?’

Barker nodded.

‘The Krays did it. The Adams Family did it. The Richardson Gang did it. Any gangster worth their weight has used the tactic to get ahead – and Tommy Haines is the worst of all of them.’

He leant forward, staring over-dramatically into Giles’ eyes.

‘Imagine – if you can – being a man with aspirations of the gangster life. You want people to fear you, to respect you – you don’t want anyone to be cocky enough to want to let you down. But you’re not all that – not yet. You’re not as powerful as you hope to be. You haven’t got the respect or the fear to just walk into a pub and blow the brains out of one of your rival gang members without someone putting the finger on you. You might already be a wealthy man, but you haven’t got the prestige to just get one of your boys to do a hit for you. And we live in the Internet age now – the danger doesn’t just come from the people you see around you, it can come from anyone – anywhere.

‘You need something clever, something unique. You need an idea that eliminates the people who stand in your way and sends a message out to the people who might disrespect you. You need a figure, a hitman – a gangster superhero if you will. A faceless somebody who everybody knows about, but no one could ever identify. A ghost that only you can control – someone that the whole underworld knows about but the police could never catch…

‘The Bluebell Killer was that idea.’

Barker’s eyes sparkled with delight, but Giles was far from convinced. She shook her head slightly and whispered:

‘But we caught him. The Bluebell Killer was Alex Donnovan – the murders stopped after I…’ She hesitated. ‘It can’t be anyone else.’

‘The Bluebell Killer isn’t a man,’ Barker replied. ‘Not really. It was just a front. But Tommy Haines was smart about it. He knew that if he only killed off the people in his way, you lot would eventually link it back to him. So he sold the MO off to different people – husbands who wanted wives dead, dealers and loan sharks who wanted to send a message – they would pay Haines to use the identity of the Bluebell Killer to off whoever they wanted. In return, word gets out that Haines has sole control over a vicious serial killer and, with it, as much power and fear as he could ever want.

‘Of course, the added bonus is that the police can never link all the killings together – so nobody ever gets caught…’

It made sense. In fact, it was brilliant. An idea so utterly simple and yet completely fool proof. It explained a lot: how Giles could never pin all the murders on Donnovan, how he had cast iron alibis for some of the killings, how every suspect they ever had was considered and acquitted in record time…

‘It’s brilliant,’ she muttered, raising her head up to look at the knife-like Shard towering above them. ‘And as long as every killer sticks to the same MO and keeps their mouth shut…’

‘No one ever gets caught,’ Barker finished, smiling grimly.

Except you…

‘So, how did you get involved?’

Barker’s eyes narrowed.

‘I told you. I owed Haines. He wanted me to kill that man and I wasn’t in a position to refuse.’

‘But not as the Bluebell Killer,’ Giles replied. ‘I mean, the way you killed him was pretty standard. It’s not like you…’

Giles stopped. Her mind flitted back to the crime scene: the old pillbox, the rushing waters of the river, the carpet of bluebells leading up to it…

Her breath caught in her mouth and, all at once, the pieces of the puzzle began to slot into place.

‘You see it now,’ Barker muttered, lowering his head remorsefully.

‘If you’re right, then why did the killings stop?’

‘After you killed Donnovan?’

Giles nodded.

‘He didn’t need it anymore,’ Barker replied, shrugging his shoulders. ‘He had his power and respect and fear. He had a firm hold of my party, with a good plan to get us into government. You were so sure that Donnovan was the killer and, after your little torture show, you lot had him as good as convicted. If the murders kept happening, it wouldn’t be long before you’d start to tumble to the idea that there was more than one killer. And how long would it have been before you start asking the most important question: how many killers are there? The whole scheme would come crashing down. It wasn’t worth the risk…’

‘Then, why more killings now? Why send you?’

Barker thought for a moment, a wry smile crossing his face.

‘Sometimes fear needs to be shaken up a bit,’ he replied. ‘When you killed Donnovan, the Bluebell Killer stopped being a terrifying, ghostly barbarian and became just a man – dead and not at all intimidating. But, if he were to make an appearance the following spring, suddenly you either have a copycat on your hands, or the Bluebell Killer has transcended life itself to return to kill again – I can’t think of anything more utterly terrifying, can you?’

Giles sat back against the wall, staring up at the sky.

It was true. She thought that being hung by razor wire was the most horrific thought that her mind was capable of. But the idea that, after hearing Donnovan die in that murky garage, he returned to kill again sent shivers down her spine.

In the recesses of her mind, she could hear him laughing.

That bloody, gurgling laughter…

The laugh of a man who wasn’t done yet…

The laugh of a killer who would kill again…

She shook herself out of it. Beside her, Barker opened up his hands and, with a slight smile, shrugged his shoulders as he settled back against the wall.

‘There,’ he said, with a flourish. ‘That’s everything.’

‘Not everything,’ Giles replied. ‘You still haven’t given me proof.’

Barker’s eyes quivered. ‘Proof?’

‘I want to see your evidence.’

He thought for a moment, his eyes glancing around the market. He had become so embroiled in his story that he had forgotten where they were – the very real danger he was in. Now, that realisation flooded through him – Giles could see it by the fear in his eyes – and he lost all pretence of being calm and collected, descending quickly into a quivering and deeply suspicious wreck. His hand dived back into his pocket and firmly gripped hold of the gun.

‘No,’ he replied abruptly. ‘I must hold on to something for myself. When I get my immunity you will get everything you need.’

Giles’ eyes narrowed. For the first time since entering the market, Barker seemed resolute and sure of himself, despite his severe anxiety. It was almost as though there was nothing on this earth capable of forcing that last bit of information out of him.

Almost as if…

‘Ahh,’ Giles murmured, leaning back up against the railings. ‘Now I see…’

Barker blinked.

‘What?’

Giles chuckled, rubbing the tiredness from her eyes.

‘You don’t have anything for me, do you?’ she asked quietly. ‘You don’t have the evidence…’

‘I do,’ pleaded Barker, reaching out to grab Giles’ hand. ‘I do. Just get me somewhere safe and I’ll…’

‘No,’ interrupted Giles, her eyes staring daggers at him. ‘You’ve been toying with me. This whole day has been one long game of lies and deception. You’re not Matt at all. You’re nothing but a common murderer, trying to cover up your crime with this ridiculous story about…’

‘I am. I am Matt. Just get me to the station and I’ll prove it. I am your informant.’

Giles bit her bottom lip and smiled. To catch one person out with this trick today had been a pleasure, but to do it twice had been nothing short of a thrill. Slowly she leaned forward, beaming at the former politician.

‘My informant called himself Max, not Matt.’

She reached forward and grabbed hold of the phone and held it up to show Barker. He’d forgotten about the recording – Giles was almost certain of it. As she brought the phone back towards her, she watched as Barker feebly reached out to snatch it back, but failed to even raise his hands thanks to the debilitating tremors that took hold of his arm. Giles flashed him a satisfied smile.

‘I’m afraid the escape ends here, Mr Barker,’ she said clearly and deliberately, before bringing the phone up to her lips and stating:

‘Interview terminated.’

It all happened so quickly.

Giles glanced over Barker’s shoulder and made eye contact with the man she’d recognised. She gave a firm nod and, before Barker could turn to see what was happening, five armed police officers swarmed around them, appearing from various side paths on all sides – their guns all pointing at Barker.

Barker leapt back from the wall, his eyes wide with confusion as his body readied to flee, but it was all too late. As his eyes flashed around at the weapons pointed at his chest, he didn’t even have the courage to pluck the gun out of his own pocket. He simply stared around, wide-eyed and confused as they bellowed instructions at him.

‘Put your hands in the air,’ the nearest officer yelled, moving a few feet closer to him. ‘Hands in the air, now.’

Barker obliged without a second of thought, darting his hands as high into the air as he could.

‘Down on the ground,’ the officer ordered. ‘Down. Now.’

Giles stepped forward. ‘He has a gun.’

‘Down on the ground now,’ the officer bellowed with more urgency. ‘Fingers behind your head.’

Barker did what he was told.

‘Do not move.’

The officer moved quickly, stepping alongside Barker with his gun still pointed at the politician’s chest. Swiftly, he bent down and patted Barker’s coat until he found the weapon, which he quickly retrieved before taking a few steps back again.

In a moment, Barker found his arms thrust behind his back as two officers leapt on to him. He barely had time to struggle before the handcuffs were tightened around his wrists and he was hurled back to his feet once again.

Giles watched as the lead officer made the gun safe and held it out to detective in charge. Producing an evidence bag, Harris stepped forward and allows the officer to drop the gun inside before sealing it with a triumphant flourish. He stared down at the weapon for a few moments before he finally turned his attention to Giles.

‘Well, if there was ever any doubt about Edenbridge, Mr Barker,’ he said triumphantly. ‘I’m sure we won’t have any problems linking this to the bullet that killed Alison Carew.’

He passed the gun back to the officer and read Barker his rights. The politician remained resolutely calm and quiet throughout, his eyes staring straight at Giles as Harris spoke. It was only as when Harris stepped back and Giles handed him her phone that Barker made any attempt to struggle vice-like grip of the officers.

‘His full confession is on here,’ Giles explained, allowing Harris to take the phone off her. ‘There is some information on there that I would quite like access to if it wouldn’t be too much trouble?’

‘I’ll have copies forwarded to your department,’ Harris replied, pocketing the device with a smile. ‘Thank you DS Giles.’

Giles smiled and looked back to Barker. In that moment, his eyes told her everything she needed to know. She read in them the dawning realisation that it was no coincidence that Harris had found them here. Little by little, Barker was beginning to realise that – for all his fumbled attempts at deceit and mystery – he had been masterly played by the Asian detective.

‘You bitch,’ he snarled as the officers held him firm. His face was bright red with anger and the veins in his neck and forehead protruded so far that they seemed as they might burst out his skin altogether. ‘You conniving bitch. This is entrapment…’

Giles stepped forward, placing one hand on Barker’s shoulder.

‘Come now, Mr Barker. You engaged in this interview perfectly willingly and aware of the presence of the recording device. It would take a really thick jury to be convinced that you didn’t know what you were saying…’

The blood drained from his face.

‘You said you’d help me…’

Giles shook her head.

‘You didn’t really think I’d put my career in jeopardy just for the sake of a man like you, did you? Besides, I don’t think anyone will question me too thoroughly when they learn you had me at gunpoint…’ She stepped a little close to him, enjoying the look of pure shock that fluttered across his face, and whispered: ‘You disgust me.’

Whatever anger had been in Barker’s heart now turned back to fear. His lips quivered and his legs began to buckle and give way beneath him, prompting his escort to lower him slowly down to the ground where he cried out in anguish.

‘You have as good as killed me, Detective Giles. Do you know that?’

Giles took a few steps away and stared down at the pathetic man cowering on the floor. There was no sympathy in her mind, only justice. No remorse, only pride.

‘For the sake of your victims, Mr Barker, I hope you’re right.’

Chapter Twenty-Seven

 

Daniel Barker’s exit was neither that of a dignified politician, nor was it subtle and unnoticed.

As the officers dragged him away down the street, he let out a sickening and tormented cry, immediately drawing the attention of anyone within earshot of Borough Market. He was quickly led down the street, underneath the railway bridge and in the direction of the main road. As they passed under the bridge, Barker’s screams echoed off the walls, building in volume as they marched closer towards the steady stream of traffic.

By the time they’d reached the main road, a crowd had gathered around the moving mass of police officers as people began to recognise Barker. Camera phones were raised and numerous selfies and videos were taken to capture the event for the whole world to see.

Giles smiled to herself in satisfaction. The long and embarrassing march of the man who was so nearly been Britain’s Prime Minister would be replayed on social media and video streaming sites for days to come. People would make memes out of it, upload sad music behind it or insert a random cutaway of a screaming goat so that they could mock Barker for years to come.

Barker knew it as well.

He struggled hard against his police escorts, staring into phones and cameras as he passed them, loudly proclaiming his innocence. With his hands cuffed tightly behind his back and his eyes blazing with fury, he no longer gave off the impression of a man in control – he was little more than a wild beast.

The sound of his screams could be heard long after the sound of passing traffic began to drown them out. It was only then that he ceased struggling and reluctantly began to walk in pace with the arresting officers as he was led to a nearby patrol car. The crowd of interested onlookers swarmed around them, capturing every moment for posterity.

It will be trending on Twitter in a few minutes…

[_ #BarkerGate_]

[_ #KillerPolitician_]

Giles loitered a little down the street, watching Barker’s march of disgrace as Harris held a brief conversation with Parsons. When the talking was over, Parson gave a brief, courteous nod to Giles, turned sharply on his heels and strode down the street to catch up with the escort party. Harris stood next to Giles, but didn’t say a word. Instead the two detectives just watched in quiet contemplation until the last of the noise had died out and the crowds in the street had fully dispersed.

‘He’s right, you know,’ Harris said, an odd expression on his face. ‘You are a bitch.’

A broad smile crossed Giles’ face and the two detectives shared a little laughter and, for a moment, they both forgot their worries as the aroma of fresh bread wafted towards them from some unseen apartment.

When the laughter subsided, Giles placed her wrists together and held them up to Harris.

‘You had better arrest me too,’ she declared, giving a little nod of approval as Harris stared at her. ‘It is only right. I put you through quite an ordeal today.’

Harris stepped closer to her, staring deep into Giles’ eyes. His hands rose up to meet hers and, before she realised what was happening, he gently lowered them back down to her sides. He smiled at her, a slight twinkle in his eye.

‘We needed a confession from Barker,’ he said, releasing hold of Giles’ hands and holding up her phone. ‘The case was on dodgy ground without it. Thanks to you, we now have one. And if what I’ve heard is true, you are much more valuable out on the streets than disgraced and drummed out of the force.’

He looked out towards the street outside as Parsons gently pushed Barker into the back of a patrol car.

‘This isn’t over.’

Giles nodded. ‘I assume you got my message?’

Harris’ face lit up a little. ‘Yes, I did,’ he replied, turning with Giles to head back towards the cathedral. ‘Miss Carew forwarded your message on to me.’

‘Alison Carew was involved with this.’

Harris stopped and turned to face her, his eyes searching her carefully.

‘Are you sure?’

‘Absolutely. That’s why Barker killed her. Only two people knew of my destination and my intention to leave the train at East Croydon – you and Alison. There were two men waiting for us when we left the station…’

‘Then why did she forward the message on to me at all?’

Giles shrugged but her eyes were still keen and thoughtful.

‘It gets worse. One of the men was a policeman – Detective Sergeant Doyle. And Alison said she was recruited by senior officers in the Met. She was going to tell me the names before Barker…’

She hesitated. The moment replayed in her mind – the neat bullet wound appearing between Alison’s eyes before the force of it flung her back against the wall. Giles hadn’t even had time to grief for her…

Harris raised a bemused eyebrow.

‘You are sure of this?’

‘That’s why Barker killed her – to stop her talking. And everything she said was confirmed by Doyle as well. If what he told me is true, the entire force may be compromised…’

‘Where is he now?’

Giles shook her head.

‘I don’t know,’ she replied. ‘But we have to find him. Barker tried to run for it when I was interrogating him. I knocked him out and left him in a car park near Croydon station.’

Harris nodded thoughtfully. ‘I’ll have a car do a drive-by, but he’s probably long gone by now…’

He placed a hand behind Giles’ back and, with a gentle push, continued their walk along the street. Up above them, Southwark Cathedral seemed to loom over them like a great, gentle giant watching over them, keeping them safe from the knifelike influence of The Shard.

For a moment, Giles glanced over her shoulder at The Shard, remembering the razor cuts to her neck and the scarf that she had worn to hide it for so long. In that moment, she even panicked, thinking of the scarf that still lay abandoned on the wall nearby, thinking of the scars that were meant to be hidden.

She turned to Harris, almost expecting him to be eying them up, repulsed by their vicious ugliness. But, to her surprise, he was paying them no attention whatsoever. Even when he looked at her, his eyes didn’t drop. It was almost as if they weren’t really there.

As they reached the spot on the wall where Giles had been talking with Barker, they came to a natural stop. The scarf was still there, fluttering in the breeze as it unravelled itself from the railings. It would come free in a moment, then it would be gone – a good blast of wind would whip it up into the air and that would be an end to it.

Harris wasn’t watching the scarf, instead he stared up at Southwark Cathedral, admiring its gothic beauty.

‘We have to be very careful how we handle this,’ he muttered, looking about him. ‘There’s no telling how far the service has been corrupted…’

‘You believe it too, then?’

‘I don’t want to believe it at all. But after the day you’ve had, it would be hard to believe anything else.’ He turned back towards her, his eyes flickering over to the scarf as it waved in the breeze. ‘Did you find out what you were looking for? I mean, did Barker give up any more details?’

‘He wasn’t my informant, if that’s what you mean?’

She heard Harris catch his breath. Giles shrugged in return.

‘It’s not so hard to believe. My informant knew who I was when he first called me – he made a point of speaking to me and no one else. That screams of someone who’s done their research – and to a man like Barker, my ethnicity would be the first thing that he would’ve noticed. A man known for his racist views seeking help from an Asian detective – I didn’t buy it, did you?’

‘You knew?’ Harris spluttered. ‘All along…’

‘I suspected,’ corrected Giles. ‘But there was always a chance. Either way he must have known something about my informant. That being said, there’s a timing issue…’

‘You mean why draw attention to himself now?’

Giles shook her head.

‘No. Max was gathering proof against Haines months ago. Up until a few weeks ago, Barker thought Haines was going to make him the Prime Minister. Why would he be plotting to bring down the man who was going to make his career? It didn’t make sense.’

‘Your informant had a problem with Haines six months ago.’

‘Exactly,’ replied Giles. ‘Barker couldn’t have been my informant. But he must have known that there was one, and he certainly must have known that I was the contact or else why draw me in to this whole thing? He’s in this whole thing deeper than he’d like to admit – I just can’t figure out how…’

Giles rubbed her head and eyed the fluttering scarf. Her mind returned to the moment when the two of them were sat on the banks of the River Eden earlier that day…

Everything had been so much simpler then…

‘Max is still out there,’ she whispered. ‘Somewhere…’

‘And what about the Bluebell Killer?’ Harris asked. ‘Was he lying about that too?’

Giles thought for a moment.

In truth she hadn’t asked herself that question yet. Sure, Barker’s story made sense with the facts: it would explain why Donnovan had an alibi for some of the murders and how the killer eluded them for so long.

But then there was the question of this Haines character. Giles had never even heard of him up until now – and gangsters very rarely stayed off the police radar for long.

And Doyle and Alison – two people who proved beyond a doubt that something was interfering with the police force…

Was it really too fanciful to believe that Barker really was caught up in the middle of a conspiracy?

What is truth? What is fiction?

‘We need to track down Detective Sergeant Doyle,’ she muttered. ‘He was the one who tried to kill Barker. If we bring him in, he might talk to save his own skin…’

‘I’ll put out an alert on him,’ Harris replied, taking out his phone and beginning to dial. ‘Only one thing though – he will deny all knowledge. It will be his word against yours. How do you intend to prove your story?’

Giles thought for a moment.

‘Do you still have the gun?’

Harris nodded, gesturing vaguely back the way they came. Giles nodded her understanding.

‘That gun belonged to his colleague, whoever he was. If you can match the prints to someone other than me and Barker…’

‘Then we might be able to get a confession,’ replied Harris, a small smile stretching across his face. ‘I’ll get on it.’

Harris stepped away as he made a phone call. As he spoke down the phone, Giles watched the scarf with quiet interest.

The wind was picking up a little as a rain cloud began to gather in the distance. The silk scarf fluttered this way and that like a white creature itching to be free. With each flutter, the scarf released itself from the railings until one final gust sent it up into the air. Giles watched as it drifted across the façade of the cathedral, moving elegantly towards the river and the stronger air. Soon it would be floating off across the waters of the Thames before finally diving down into the river and drifting out to sea.

But Giles was not to see that. The last she saw of the scarf was as it disappeared down the street, heading towards the riverbank – drifting higher and higher with each gasp of breeze.

And she felt relieved.

 

On the other side of Borough Market, in a blue transit van, Doyle sat quietly in the passenger seat. The patrol car passed by and turned down a side street.

In the space behind his seat, he heard a collection of clicks and snaps as the three men in the back loaded and cocked their weapons. The hooded kid in the driver’s seat had watched the patrol car pass with remarkable calmness and, now that it had disappeared, wasted no time in starting up the engine and beginning their slow and calculated pursuit.

The van pulled out into the road, the kid manoeuvring it down the side street and slotting in behind the patrol car, being careful to allow a couple of cars to stay between them so as not to look too suspicious. In the back seat, Doyle recognised the figure of Barker talking almost endlessly to the detective sat next to him and, for a moment, Doyle wondered why they didn’t simply take the shot now and be on their way…

No, he reminded himself, we must not be hasty.

‘They’re taking him back to Kent,’ he muttered, looking up at the signposts as the patrol car began to head south.

‘Well, we’ll know in a minute or two, won’t we,’ replied the kid.

It was not long before Doyle was proven right. As the patrol car continued past Croydon, the kid gave a nod of confirmation and called out to those in the back to make ready.

It was a long while before the opportunity presented itself. The road was fully immersed in the countryside and the heavy traffic was now no more than the occasional car passing in the opposite direction. Blind corners and a long descent marked the start of Titsey Hill and, as they snaked their way through the green countryside and dark woodlands, the driver of the patrol car began to slow down to avoid skidding from the road.

The source of the River Eden wasn’t far away – a little to the east of their present position. The Bank Holiday sun had been driven out by grey clouds and the first spits of rain began to fall…

For Doyle, the setting couldn’t have been more fitting.

 

To Giles’ surprise, Harris had never hotwired a vehicle before, nor had he ever driven a ‘commandeered car’.

She led him round to the driver’s seat of the Micra and gave him a short lesson. He watched with boyish glee as Giles instructed him to connect the severed power cables and touch the starter wires together. As the engine sprang into life, Harris looked like a child at Christmas, beaming around graciously as Giles sat back in the passenger seat and watched him shift the stolen car into gear and pull away into the traffic.

They couldn’t have been more than five minutes behind the patrol car, but Harris was a careful driver and Giles suspected he was being even more so considering that he was driving someone else’s car. As they approached the top of Titsey Hill, the sky turned dark and rain began to fall.

Neither of them paid particular attention to the smoke plume that rose up in the distance as they were plunged into the woodland. As Harris navigated the tight turns, Giles stared at the tight drops along the side of the road where motorists were protected by only a few sparsely spaced bollards.

It was on the tightest corner of the lot that Harris slammed on the breaks, bringing the car screeching to a halt. A grey-black plume of smoke rose up through the trees below them, drifting across the road ahead. It looked to Giles like the billows of a large bonfire but, as she followed Harris’ gaze down to the hill below them, she finally caught sight of the patrol car, crumpled against a tree thirty feet down the hill. The wreck was still and peaceful with no sign of movement inside.

They were out of the car in seconds, both sliding perilously down the hill as they headed straight for the stricken car. Harris reached it first, his eyes peering in at the vehicle’s passengers as Giles arrived alongside.

‘The driver is dead,’ Harris called out, moving around to the back doors and looking inside. ‘Jesus, Parsons.’

He moved forward and wrenched open the door, placing his fingers against DS Parsons’ neck as his colleague collapsed motionlessly into his arms. Harris shook his head violently and began to check the body.

‘Parsons is dead too. Gunshot wound to the chest.’ He glanced up to the next seat over. ‘And Barker is gone.’

Giles heard him, but didn’t respond. In seconds, she traced the car’s last route down the hill until she was back up on the tarmac of the main road. Her eyes darted keenly back and forth as she traced a path further up the road before spinning back towards the crashed patrol car.

‘Skid marks. At least five metres long…’

They had enough time to break then.

‘Bullet casings all over the road…’

She sprang to her feet and raced back down to the patrol car, her fingers nimbly examining the punctured tyre before turning her attention to the small holes that riddled the bodywork.

Twenty, no, thirty bullet holes.

She glanced up at the windows along the side of the car.

Single bullet holes. One for the driver. One for Parsons.

‘This was not a luck-of-the-draw attack,’ she announced, taking a few steps back. ‘This was well thought out.’

‘An ambush?’

Giles turned and looked at the ground around her, tracing her way back up to the road once again.

Tyre tracks. Only one set off the road.

‘Someone pulled over here recently.’

‘On the edge of tight bend?’

[_ Suggesting?_]

‘They pulled over after they crashed the car…’

‘And Barker?’

‘They took him with them.’

‘How can you be sure?’

‘Well, he didn’t run. Patrol cars have locks to prevent the occupants from bolting for it. If he got out, it was because the attackers let him out.’

Giles stepped closer to the wreckage and looked sombrely on the crumpled figure of DS Parsons.

‘Someone stole him from us.’

There was a moment of silence. The clouds overhead were darker and the rain harder. Harris moved over to the patrol car, took one more look at Parsons and then collapsed against the side, slipping down the bodywork until he was sat up against the wreck. He slowly put his hands into his jacket and pulled out his phone, all the while fighting back the tears in his eyes.

As he called for help, Giles bent down and picked up a brass-coloured bullet casing that she rolled around in the palm of her hand.

A .45.

These men would be alive if you hadn’t…

Giles lowered herself to the ground and sat cross-legged amongst the tracks and fragments of rubber and metal. She didn’t move from that spot until long after the back-up had arrived and, even then, it had taken Harris a fair time to persuade her to leave with him.

Barker was gone. And the scent was cold.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

The interview room was cold, but Giles didn’t mind. Her hair was dishevelled and windswept from the rain, but she didn’t care.

She couldn’t really complain.

People had died – people who didn’t need to die.

Alison Carew – her friend. Her lifelong friend. Shot once to the head because Giles was careless – because she left a gun where Barker could pinch it…

What the hell am I going to say to her father?

Then there were the two officers: Parsons and…

She didn’t even know the name of the other man.

I should find that out.

It wasn’t right. Those people died because of her.

How could I be so stupid?

Several hours had passed since they had discovered the crash site, but everything that had occurred afterwards had shot by as though in a matter of minutes.

When back-up finally arrived, Giles and Harris had been summoned back to Edenbridge station – two good men had died and the Chief Inspector wanted answers. The boss had even made himself personally available to conduct the interviews. Giles had seen this sort of thing happen before. Something had gone terribly wrong and questions had to be answered.

Someone had to take the fall.

Harris had gone first and Giles had been left out in the waiting room, speaking to no one and left with only her own thoughts to piece together what had gone wrong that day. As expected, Harris’ interview had lasted a while. The whole day needed to be scrutinised:

Who’s fault was it that Barker broke free?

How did two police officers and a dispatcher wind up dead?

What happened to Barker?

Giles had been so sure that she was doing the right thing. Yes, she had acted against protocol and her methods were questionable at best, but she got the evidence, didn’t she? The conspiracy was uncovered. Surely, the ends had justified the means?

In fact, with the exception of Barker’s abduction, which could hardly have been blamed on Giles, the day had unfolded fairly well…

Except for Alison…

Poor Ali…

She wasn’t so sure now. With the blank walls of the waiting room bearing down on her, it was hard to justify it all. Had it just been her career, it would have been a different matter but…

Three people died.

She shook the thought away – she wasn’t ready to face her sins just yet. Her mind instead was a whirl of information and thoughts based on half remembered conversations and snippets of visual memories. Unanswered questions and unexplained objects flitted in and out of her mind like streaks of light shooting across a midnight sky…

The dog leash…

By the time that Harris’ interview was over, Giles was relieved to be brought into the interview room where she sat with a cup of coffee in her hand…

Who is Tommy Haines…?

For ten minutes, she sat there stony-faced and staring unwaveringly at the closed door. For ten minutes she waited for her opportunity to explain…

Who is Max…?

The door handle turned and a man stepped into the room, staring down at Giles with a face so bleak that she felt instantly ashamed. She hadn’t expected to see her own DI that day but, what with everything that had happened, she wasn’t particularly surprised.

DI Bolton closed the door behind him and made his way across the room, taking the seat opposite Giles. He looked tired today. His skin clung to his cheekbones as though he was starving although the rest of his physique was that of an athlete. As he settled into his chair, he stared coldly across the table at Giles and remained in a state of absolute motionlessness as his detective slouched over and hanged her head in shame.

He was thorough and ruthless. And Giles had disappointed him.

‘I think you ought to know that DI Harris told the Chief Inspector everything,’ he announced, tapping his thin fingers on the table in front of him.

Giles’ eyes sank lower, settling on his shining Italian shoes that seemed to sparkle in the dim light of the interview room.

‘Oh,’ she replied.

‘The Chief is already talking about suspensions,’ Bolton continued, flexing his hands as a brand new watch slunk out from beneath his shirt cuffs. ‘He’ll have someone’s job by the end of the day.’

‘Right.’

Bolton rubbed his forehead, sending the limited light reflected off his watch face and into Giles’ eyes. She glanced up at him as he slowly shook his head from side to side, exhaling deeply as disappointment oozed from his eyes.

‘Eve, why didn’t you tell me?’

Giles shrugged.

‘I knew you wouldn’t approve.’

‘That is precisely why you should’ve reported him.’

‘Reported him?’

‘Yes,’ exclaimed Bolton, getting to his feet and beginning to pace back and forth across the room. ‘You knew what he was asking you was wrong. You should have reported it instead of going along with the plan. For God’s sake you could have been killed. And as for that poor dispatcher…’

Giles shook her head, feeling her mouth drop open as though of its own accord.

‘I don’t understand.’

‘You’re lucky he was honourable enough to step in to protect you. Had he been any less of a man, he might have offered you up and you would be being charged with aiding the escape of suspected murder suspect. Probably an accomplice to murder as well…’

‘But I did help the prisoner escape…’

‘Under orders, yes,’ Bolton said, coming to a halt and placing both his hands on his waist. ‘I mean, what were you doing following his orders anyway? It’s your day off and he’s not even your superior?’

Giles stared back at him, dumbstruck. Bolton breathed out a sigh and settled back in his chair, leaning forward across the table.

‘The Chief Inspector is looking to press charges against him,’ he continued. ‘And then he produced that recording of you talking with Barker and that was the final straw…’

‘You’ve heard the recording?’

‘Yes, I have. It was a big pile of nonsense Barker was trying to sell you. I’m not at all surprised that you brought a stop to this farcical affair after that. The idea that Tommy Haines would order a hit is just ridiculous…’

‘You know who Tommy Haines is?’

Bolton scoffed. ‘Of course, I know him. The man is a businessman, a rather successful one at that. The idea that a man like that would need to stoop to common murder is nothing short of fantastic.’

‘Daniel Barker believed it.’

Bolton’s eyes stared coldly back at Giles.

‘Daniel Barker was spinning you a tale. And a foolish one at that. Even if Tommy Haines ordered someone to kill this man, it’s absurd. The victim was a nobody…’

‘You know who he was?’

‘We do now,’ replied Bolton, ‘thanks to some thorough police work on the part of a local constable. Whilst DI Harris was running about London playing conspiracies, the real work was being done right here by professional and competent officers…’

Giles looked up.

‘Uniform found out who the victim was?’

Bolton nodded.

‘With some good, old-fashioned, thorough police work.’

A moment of shame crossed Giles’ mind.

Good.

Old Fashioned.

Thorough.

That was pretty much all the things she hadn’t been today.

She took a sip from her coffee and bit gently down on her lower lip.

‘Who was he – The victim I mean?

‘I told you – a nobody. Just some computer software engineer who liked walking his dog in the fields there.’ Bolton leant back in his chair. ‘Absolutely nothing connects him with Haines and, let’s face it, even if there was something, Haines is hardly likely to send a former, failed politician to do the deed, is he? You do know that Haines was backing the Britain’s Own Party in the election, right? He invested millions in the campaign. When Barker lost out on the Prime Minister role, he blamed Haines for not supporting him more personally. He’s been looking for an excuse to bring Haines down for weeks…’

Giles scrunched her face up and shook her head violently from side to side.

‘How do you know all this?’

‘I’ve spent the last hour on a conference call with the new Prime Minister – he filled me in on everything,’ Bolton replied, folding his arms and glaring at Giles. ‘Barker was distraught when he missed out on the PM role. He made no secret of it that he planned to take Haines down…’

‘But he knew things,’ Giles urged, sitting up straighter in her chair to match her boss’ height. ‘He knew about the case I’ve been investigating. He knew about my informant. He knew about Max…’

A cold look crossed Bolton’s face.

‘Yes, I was wondering when we would get to that,’ he muttered. ‘I must say, I am a little curious as to why such an apparently vital informant was kept secret from me.’

Giles could do nothing but stare down at the table. She’d never felt shame like this before.

‘He didn’t want anyone else to know.’

‘I am your boss, Eve. I was running the investigation into the Bluebell Killer. I had a right to know!’

‘He asked me to keep his existence from you. He didn’t trust you…’

‘How convenient.’

‘It’s the truth,’ Giles spat back. ‘Besides, it doesn’t matter anyway. Barker wasn’t my informant. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t know anything. How do you explain how he escaped if he wasn’t telling the truth? It wasn’t random. There was a planned attack to get him out of our custody…’

‘The Prime Minister had an answer for that too,’ Bolton replied. ‘There are plenty of old guard in the Britain’s Own Party who disapprove of the direction he’s taking the government and the party. It’s no tremendous leap of logic to assume they might want to keep Barker out of jail to lead a counter movement. Just as likely is the idea that there are people out there who despise what Barker has done and like as not would love to kill him. I’m sure you can understand that sentiment…’

Giles jumped to her feet. Her head was beginning to ache and her willingness to fight was fading and yet her brain still buzzed with reluctance.

‘But there was more to it,’ she barked, pacing across the room. ‘Someone had to pass on information so that they knew where the patrol car was. Alison Carew already admitted that…’

‘Passing information?’ Bolton interrupted, one eyebrow slowly rising. ‘Yes, Harris already pointed that out, but it’s not surprising there might be lone guns out there. If Barker hadn’t killed her, she’d be facing a lengthy prison sentence as well…’

‘But it wasn’t just her. There’s Detective Sergeant Doyle as well. He was the man who tried to kill Barker. And then there is what he said about the Bluebell Killer. If he’s right, it would explain how…’

Bolton burst out of his chair in an instant. He pulled himself up to his full height and glared menacingly down at Giles. With a sharp tug, he pulled the front of his tailor-made suit closed and turned his neck with a crack.

‘That is enough,’ he hissed. ‘You have been played as a fool. By Barker. By Harris. You’re lucky you haven’t been suspended for your role in this. This has been one big game and I am bringing it to an end, right now.’

He took a few steps forward.

‘You will file your report, exactly as it happened. You will say that Harris ordered you to break Barker free and that Barker’s escape, and everything that happened as a result, is entirely his doing…’

‘I won’t do it…’

‘You have no choice,’ spat Bolton. ‘Not if you want to keep your job.’

The two stared daggers at each other for a few seconds before Bolton finally span around and marched towards the door. It was as he pulled open the door that Giles finally spoke:

‘That’s an expensive suit you’re wearing,’ she said. ‘Nice watch. Top of the range shoes. I didn’t know Detective Inspector’s were paid so much better than Detective Sergeants.’

Bolton stopped in the doorway. He turned back to face inside, his eyes flashing with anger and spite as he glared back at Giles. He was stunned – unable to speak, not even able to roar with rage. She had caught him off guard – and he could do nothing but listen as she whispered:

‘So Haines got to you too.’

The moment passed. He took a step inside the room, his fists curling and his face contorting as he moved a little closer to his detective. Silhouetted by the light above, his thin face became more angular as though all the flesh and muscle had been stripped away leaving nothing but a dark skull, with eyes flashing menacingly.

‘You are on a very tight leash, Detective Sergeant Giles,’ he said eventually. ‘You had best watch you step.’

With that, DI Bolton turned around disappeared out of the door. Giles heard him barking orders outside as he barrelled through the corridor and then all was silent.

A very tight leash…

Chapter Twenty-Nine

 

Giles headed back to the sports field alone. She had waited at the station for a good hour in the hope of seeing Harris, but he never reappeared again. The only person who had even taken the trouble to speak to her was the desk sergeant and even then it was only to hand her the key to the toilets.

As the sun began to set, she found herself in a familiar car park staring across the pitches that, only this morning, had been awash with avid footballers. She pulled open the door of her abandoned car and clambered inside. As she settled back into her seat, she admired the red sky overhead and let the day’s events wash over her.

Is he right?

‘Who?’ Giles replied.

Bolton.

‘Of course he isn’t, it’s all just part of the conspiracy…’

And what if there is no conspiracy…?

She looked out across the playing fields, her eyes fixing on the wooden bridge that led through to the bunker.

Giles had no idea why she decided to climb out of the car. It was if some external force was willing her to make the long journey over the fields once again, persuading her to examine the crime scene one last time.

When she arrived at the pillbox, the sky had already darkened and the last glimmers of sunlight were already disappearing from the ground at Giles’ feet. She stared down at the spot where the victim had been killed. The patch of dried blood was all but gone now, washed away by the brief shower of rain…

What was his name?

Giles thought hard. Bolton hadn’t told her, but the desk sergeant had after a little persuasion…

Tony James…

Giles stayed for a moment, paying silent homage to Tony James.

Did he die for no reason? Was it all just a part of Barker’s game?

Giles shook her head.

‘I don’t know…’ she muttered. ‘I just don’t know.’

Somewhere behind her, something rustled in the bushes. Giles span around and stared hard in the direction of the weir, trying to drown out the noise of the crashing water to listen for the movement in the leaves and twigs.

In amongst the bluebells, something yellow and orange fidgeted as it peered out towards her. Two black eyes stared out unblinking and resolutely fixed on Giles as she edged a little closer. Giles turned her hand open-palmed towards it and slowly lowered her body until she was crouched down on the ground barely a few metres away. With a soft tone, she whispered:

‘It’s all right. You can come out.’

The black eyes stayed perfectly still.

‘Don’t be afraid.’

It happened slowly at first.

One golden paw emerged from the bluebells, followed closely by another. As the creature moved forward, Giles could make out a head, a long body, two back legs and finally a bushy orange tail. As the golden retriever came out of the bluebells, it seemed to relax in the presence of the detective and, as though all fear had evaporated, rushed forward, dancing in and out of Giles’ legs with such excitement that its tail threatened to bruise her with its powerful wagging.

As the dog came to a halt in front of her, Giles gently stroked the back of its head, carefully avoiding the patch of dried blood that had matted its fur. She reached around for the collar and, feeling the identity tag, span it around to get a better look as the dog wiggled with glee.

On one side of the bronze disc was an address in Edenbridge. Giles look at it carefully before turning the disc over. There was only one word written there, but that one word shook the foundations of Giles’ world. She was breathless. Speechless.

With a broad smile on her face, she stroked the happy dog on the side of his face and whispered his name:

‘Max…’

 

Mrs James sat on the sofa, holding Max close to her as he spread himself out and settled down for a nap. Beneath her smile of appreciation, Giles could see she was fighting back the tears and, though her lips never said it, the detective’s presence was not exactly welcome.

‘Thank you for returning him to me,’ she said, stroking Max’s fur as he breathed rhythmically. ‘He’s a rescue dog, you know. Tony got him from Battersea a year or two ago. We wanted to call him Rusty, but his original name was Max – we never could get him to respond so we just left his name as it was…’

Max’s tail wagged a couple of times as Mrs James’ fingers gently weaved in amongst his fur.

‘That’s the problem with rescues. You never know how they’ll react when something like this…’

Her voice faltered.

‘I understand,’ Giles replied, nodding her head. ‘I’m just glad I could bring Max home.’

Mrs James nodded and smiled down at her dog. A single, solitary tear rolled from her left eye and down her cheek. Giles’ mind flashed to the woman’s husband, lying sprawled against the bunker wall, and wondered to herself whether Mrs James would ever be able to pass that spot again. That wasn’t her concern of course, but for some reason it seemed very important in that brief moment.

‘I do have one question though,’ she said delicately. ‘Did Tony ever have any dealings with a man named Tommy Haines?’

Mrs James’ eyes flickered up to Giles and stared hard at her.

‘Why do you ask?’

‘Just following up on a lead. It’s probably nothing…’

‘It won’t be nothing if Tommy Haines is concerned. That’s the second time you lot have asked me about him…’

‘Oh?’ Giles’ heart skipped a beat. With the Chief Inspector and Bolton being so convinced that the Haines story was just a fabrication, it had never occurred to her that they might actually follow it up.

‘And I’ll tell you what I told him,’ Mrs James continued. ‘Tony had been working for some bloke in the city – someone who wanted Tony to hack into the accounts of a guy who was causing him some grief. Tony started the job and found out something this guy could use. But before he got a chance, the guy was found dead. Tony had no client anymore so he dropped it…’

‘What has that got to do with Tommy Haines?’

Mrs James eyed her suspiciously.

‘I overheard him on the phone one night talking with the client. The person who’s account he had hacked was called Tommy Haines…’

‘You’re sure of this?’

‘Dead sure. But as I said, the client died so Tony had no reason to keep going with the job. I know it wasn’t exactly legit, but that was how Tony kept us afloat. And I told that to other detective too, so don’t go blackening his name when this gets to trial…’

Giles’s mind was racing. ‘I don’t suppose you know who the client was?’

Mrs James shook her head. ‘No idea.’

‘Or when he died? Or how?’

Mrs James sniffed hard, wiping away the tears as she pulled Max closer in to her.

‘That’s what started it all off,’ she said through the sobs of tears.

‘Started what off?’

‘This obsession. I think he thought he could do something – bring his client’s killer to justice. It was all silly though. If the police couldn’t do it, I don’t understand why he thought he could do any better…’

Giles leaned a little closer.

‘Tony’s client was murdered?’

Mrs James nodded.

‘It was all over the news,’ she replied. ‘They found him face down in the Camden Locks…’

Giles didn’t hear anymore. Her mind flashed back to that summer’s day – the last murder before Max contacted her. The body of the dead man, sodden with canal water and with a single sprig of bluebells taped to his back…

‘Tony thought he knew who the Bluebell Killer was?’

Mrs James’ face threatened to burst with emotion. Her cheeks went bright red and she had to screw up her eyes to fight against the tears.

‘Knew? He was building a case. He described the Bluebell Killer as this century’s Jack the Ripper – he was gathering proof so that he could help the police track him down…’

Giles leapt to her feet – her heart racing with excitement.

‘Do you mind if I have a quick look at your husband’s files?’

‘Feel free,’ Mrs James replied, her eyes following Giles out of the room. ‘They’re in the ground floor study. But there’s not much there. The other detective took most of it.’

She was right.

The study was bare save for a few crime reference books and an entire bookcase that seemed to be dedicated solely to the Jack the Ripper murders. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, Giles emerged from the study empty handed and thoroughly disappointed. And yet her mind whirled with excitement and curiosity as she stood in the entrance hall.

Mrs James stepped out and saw her to the door and, after a few words of gratitude once again, saw Giles out.

It was only as the front door began to close behind her that a thought sprung to Giles’ mind. Turning quickly, she caught the closing door and stared hard at Mrs James.

‘One last question, Mrs James,’ she said. ‘What was the name of the detective who was here before me?’

Mrs James look surprised for a moment. Her eyes dropped down to the ground and her forehead wrinkled as she tried to think. After a few seconds, her face relaxed and she stared up at Giles with a small, satisfied smile on her face.

‘Doyle,’ she replied, with a curt nod. ‘Detective Sergeant Doyle.’

With that, she pushed hard on the door and closed it on Giles’ face.

 

Detective Sergeant Doyle sat quietly in the darkest corner of the most secluded room he could find. The dark, brown fluid swirled around the bottom of the whiskey glass as he rotated it in the air, thinking about how the day had panned out.

Behind the bar, Tom Richardson cleaned glasses and watched anxiously as Tommy Haines strolled in.

‘Evening, Tom.’

‘Evening, Mr Haines.’

Haines stopped at the bar, ordered two whiskeys and waited as Tom poured them out for him. With a brief nod, he picked them up and moved in to the next room, taking a seat next to Doyle and pushing one of the whiskeys towards him. Doyle drained his glass and reached down for the one Haines had brought him.

‘Very kind of you, Mr Haines…’

‘No, Doyle, you’ve done a good job for me. It’s the least I can do.’

Doyle shrugged with disinterest. ‘It wasn’t without its problems.’

Haines nodded, reaching into his pocket and pulling out two cigars. He offered one to Doyle, who took it greedily, and lit them both. As the smoke cloud formed around them, the two sat quietly congratulating themselves on a job well done.

‘What happened to Barker?’ Haines asked.

‘Floating in the Thames with a bullet through his brain,’ Doyle replied. ‘Would’ve dealt with Carew woman as well, but it seems Barker saved me the trouble…’

‘And Tony James’ files?’

‘His wife let me have the lot. All the hard copies have been burnt, all the digital ones fried. You’re in the clear, Mr Haines.’

Doyle took a large gulp from the whiskey and smacked his lips as the bitter liquid went down.

‘Although, there’s a couple of things I don’t understand.’

Haines smiled to himself. ‘Well, we can’t have that.’

Doyle smiled as well, although he didn’t really know why.

‘Why not just kill Tony James properly? Why try to bring back the Bluebell Killer? You must’ve known Barker was a threat.’

‘I didn’t expect him to be caught so easy,’ Haines replied, puffing on his cigar. ‘It’s a shame really. He would have been really useful to me had he not tried to turn evidence.’ He raised an eyebrow to his companion. ‘Never underestimate fear, Mr Doyle. It can make clever men do the most stupid of things…’

‘I’ll drink to that…’

Doyle drained the rest of his glass.

‘I guess that’s everything, then,’ he muttered with satisfaction, staring down at his empty glass.

Haines smiled.

‘Not quite.’

He slowly got his feet, put his cigar out in his own whiskey and moved towards the doorway.

‘Goodbye, Mr Doyle.’

He didn’t stop to look back. By the time he had reached Tom Richardson, he could already hear Doyle gasping as the poison took effect. He handed a wad of fifty pound notes over the bar and gave a wink to the bartender.

‘Sorry about the mess, Tom.’

‘No worries, Mr Haines.’

For the second time that day, the darkness had come for Doyle. As he watched Haines stroll out of the pub, he clawed at his neck as his breath seized in his lungs and his blood turned to ice in his veins. In the next instant, he fell to the floor and remembered no more.

 

By the time Giles got back to her apartment, it was already well past ten at night. She was exhausted beyond belief and the long trudge up the stairs to her front door felt far harder than it ever had done before.

Jason was waiting behind the counter as she stepped inside. He raised a glass of red wine in one hand and a bottle in the other as Giles scattered items of clothing around on the floor and made her way over.

‘Yes, please,’ she muttered as she collapsed against the counter.

Jason dutifully collected another glass and poured the wine, handing it over to Giles who sipped at it gratefully.

‘Bolton was looking for you,’ he muttered. ‘He tried to call you. I tried to call you. I was so worried…’ He hesitated. ‘Tough day?’

‘You have no idea…’

‘But it’s done, right?’

Giles opened her eyes and peered up at Jason. An uncomfortable pang of guilt shot through her as she thought of the Tony James lying dead in the grass, of Parsons and the other officer lying dead in the patrol car and of DI Harris being interrogated by the Chief Inspector…

Of Alison…

‘Ali Carew is dead.’

‘My God.’ He almost dropped his glass with the shock. ‘What happened?’

Giles struggled to find the words. Her voice was catching in her mouth and, even as she tried to fight back the tears, she realised that she had never stopped to mourn Alison’s death. It had just been one of those things…

She hadn’t had the time…

She leant forward and kissed Jason, finally washing away the argument that had started that terrible day.

‘She thought she was doing the right thing…’

That was the end of the conversation. Jason knew better than to push her any further. Giles would talk about it when she was able to – but that night was not the time.

She hadn’t even thought of what to tell her sister when they returned from holiday to find their house had become a crime scene.

That could wait for tomorrow as well…

After they finished their wines, Jason took Giles by the hand and walked her towards the bedroom. As they reached the door, she stopped dead and stared lovingly into his eyes.

‘I have one or two things to do first.’

Jason wasn’t happy, but at least he pretended to be fine with it. Giles was always grateful to him when was like that.

She headed into the small study room, turned on the light and closed the door behind her. Through the closed door, she heard Jason take himself off to bed and switch off the light. Giles reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. Turning it over in her hands, she removed the back cover and retrieved the SIM card, holding it up to the light to examine it.

She had intended to examine Alison’s SIM card once she’d heard everything there was to hear – that’s why she swapped it for hers in the first place. But after Barker’s impulse to destroy all the evidence, she was glad she had done. He hadn’t even noticed.

She placed the card back in her phone and switched it on. It didn’t take her long to go through Alison’s history – the text messages made it pretty clear who she was passing information to.

She jotted down the numbers on a white card and stuck it up on the corkboard wall in front of her. One by one, she wrote more notes on the cards and stuck them to the wall, slowly filling up the space. With each minute that passed, a web began to form around a single name – Tommy Haines – and it was a long while before Giles began to notice the rumbles of hunger in her stomach.

Food can wait. This is more important.

She was back on the trail. And the scent was warm.

Epilogue

 

Dear Evelyn,

I know you thought Alex Donnovan was your killer – and you were right. He did kill people and he was a vile excuse for a human being – but he was not the only one.

In this package, I have sent you copies of everything I have found on the ‘Bluebell Killer’ to date. Most of it has been found by doing some fairly illegal acts so I’m not sure how much use they will be to you in court – but hopefully you will be able to see the bigger picture by the time you go through it all.

I wish I could find out more for you, but I fear that I have pushed my luck once too often. The trouble with hacking is that it is just as easy for someone to trace it back to you if they have the right resources – and I think this may have happened in my case.

I have to protect my wife now and – for the time being – that means dropping my interest in the Bluebell Killer.

I hope this finds you safely. I’m sending it on Saturday but, what with the Bank Holiday, I doubt it will reach you before Tuesday.

You may not hear from me again so, in case that is true, I just wanted to wish you good luck and good hunting.

And remember…

Follow the money.

Yours most sincerely and respectfully,

Max…

 

Evelyn Giles Will Return

In

The Court of Obsessions

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About the Author

Nick R B Tingley was born and raised in Kent, England. Alongside writing the DS Evelyn Giles series, Nick is also writing The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow historical crime series as well as various other projects under the guise of a ghostwriter.

 

Nick still lives in Kent with his wife and two turtles, where he enjoys playing rugby and taking long walks where the river flows and the bluebells grow beside deserted WWII pillboxes…


The Bluebell Informant

How do you catch a killer who is already dead? One year ago, the Bluebell Killer killed his last victim. He was shot and killed, leaving behind a legacy of twenty corpses and a name that people will fear for years to come… A year later, a man is shot in the back of the head and left in a field of bluebells. Is it a mugging gone wrong? A copycat killer? Or is the Bluebell Killer still out there, waiting to pounce on his next victim? For DS Evelyn Giles the solution is simple – it’s just another dirty politician caught committing an unforgiveable crime. But with the evidence stacking up against him, Giles’ suspect has one more surprise in store for her… And his words will throw everything she knows into question… ‘It’s not over yet.’ The past is coming back to haunt DS Giles. She’s already sacrificed much for the lie. The only question is how much more will she suffer for the truth? An ingeniously, gripping thriller, The Bluebell Informant is a dark, unexpected and emotionally charged debut.

  • ISBN: 9781370584062
  • Author: Nick R B Tingley
  • Published: 2017-04-11 14:35:27
  • Words: 78836
The Bluebell Informant The Bluebell Informant