Barker remained by the carriage doors, watching as the countryside raced by. His hand palmed the centre of his chest as he attempted to steady his breathing; his eyes were closed in what seemed to be deep concentration.
Giles watched him in the reflection of her window. She smiled to herself as Barker glanced up in her direction before returning to his state of calmness…
This is all for my benefit, she thought.
After a short while, Giles turned her head and peered cautiously over the back of her seat. She stared at the politician, willing him to look up at her once again and, sensing her gaze, he too looked up and allowed himself to gaze 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. It was as if her was struggling with some great problem; a dark worry that had clouded over his mind and turned his skin pale.
This thought, whatever it was, 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 despite the bloodstains on his trousers. He glanced up at Giles and confidently stepped away from the train door. He moved down the carriage towards her and collapsed in the chair opposite, lounging back into it with the air of a man without a care in the world.
Through this confident mask, his eyes betrayed his fear. As he sat in front of Giles, they slowly surveyed the rest of the carriage before locking on some point at the far end of the aisle. They remained there long after Giles lost interest and allowed herself to be lost in the countryside as it barrelled past the window.
Neither spoke for a long while.
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 the 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.
She cursed her phone under her breath, refreshing the browser in the vain hope that it might make a difference, but the progress bar advanced no further.
A small tap on her leg caused Giles to look up at Barker. He smiled at her coyly as he nodded 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?’
Giles nodded, her eyes still firmly glued to her phone screen.
‘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.’
‘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 his thumb of one against the palm of the other.
Giles glanced up, feeling a pang of guilt. The man opposite no longer seemed like the strong, commanding man he had been in the media. He was now weak, out of control – a small boy 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 and turned to look at Giles, his lips pouting as though he were some injured schoolboy. ‘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, following the line of her faultless 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. Giles was no happier about protecting Barker than he was of being in her debt. He leant forward a little closer, his eyes shining with mischief.
‘Your name is unusual,’ he said. ‘Your parents adopted it 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. She was 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 in to this world…’
Barker smirked. ’So, not even a real Brit! So, what? You were the daughter of an undesirable. They just flung you out and you ended up sponging off my country.’
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 help me…
Giles stared hard in to Barker’s eyes, her fists clenched and shaking with rage. He was trying to provoke her – she knew that. He wanted to test her, to see whether she could be trusted to put her personal feelings aside when the time came to let him go free. She knew this was the hurdle she had to clear if he was going to give her anything, 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 straw and Giles wasn’t sure how much the camel could take.
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.’
She jutted her head towards Barker, her lips snarling with anger.
‘What do you do that is so brilliant that you feel you have the right to discriminate? What makes you so damn special that you can pass judgement on someone because of his or her skin colour? 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. ‘What gives you the right to judge anyone as being inferior?’
She 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 in her mind had been lifted. After all these months of believing that she would never have the opportunity to voice her disgust at Barker and his party, she had finally done it - and it felt good. It had almost been worth the argument with Jason…
‘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. And yet you risk everything to help me…’
‘I don’t have a choice,’ Giles replied bitterly. ‘You have information I need and I come from honourable people.’
‘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?’
Giles’ eyes narrowed.
‘I’m not you,’ she replied firmly, allowing the last of the tension to drain from her body.
A moment or two passed in silence before Giles looked back up at Barker and watched as he anxiously scanned the carriage around him. A few moments before he had seemed like a man completely in control, but now, as his eyes darted to each individual face around him, Giles’ mind began to think rationally once more…
‘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…’
She leant back again, her eyes narrowing and glazing over as she remembered the smell in the pillbox. The stench of Barker’s cigarettes clouding against the concrete ceiling. And what was it that Harris had said about the bunkers by the river?
’Besides some of the homeless use them as shelters…’
No, not that. Giles raised a hand to gently massage her temple. Barker said it was self-defence…
That doesn’t mean it was…
Barker’s eyes narrowed on her. ‘Sorry?’
Giles closed her eyes. She was stood in the bunker, her fingers forming an imaginary gun that fired out of the pillbox opening…
Her imagination allowed the dead man to live again. Slowly he walks across the bridge, moving towards the pillbox. A gun in his hand…
No, that’s not right…
‘There would be another gun,’ Giles agreed, forcing her mind to disregard the image.
‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Barker said, his eyes fixed intently on Giles as she concentrated.
Barker and the dead man are fighting now. The dead man has the gun in his hand, but Barker is able to overpower him. With a single strike the man falls down to the ground.
And then what?
Barker scoops up the gun and retreats towards the pillbox. He scouts round the outside and clambers inside, reaching the opening just as the man gets to his feet.
How did he know he was in there?
Giles racked her brains.
Barker trips on a discarded food packet. The man hears the noise and turns to march towards the bunker.
Barker had no choice.
Barker raises the gun towards the opening and fires.
Giles’ eyes snapped open.
‘What’s wrong with you?’
Giles finally looked at Barker. In that moment, she supposed she saw an element of concern in his face although she knew that couldn’t possibly be true.
‘I’ve been such a fool,’ she said slowly. ‘I was so wrapped up in my hatred of you that I didn’t see what was right in front of my face…’
‘What are you talking about?’
Giles took a moment to cement her thoughts. ‘You were right all along…’ She shook her head slowly from side to side. ‘We are nothing more than names on someone’s hit list…’
Barker’s eyes returned to meet Giles’. ‘I think we’re both on somebody’s list,’ he said casually.
‘The Bluebell Killer.’
‘He had fingers in the government - I knew that much already. But they found out I was passing on information to the police. They even knew you were my contact – that suggests he has influence over the police as well.’ He pawed at his face. ‘I had hoped that they would think, given that you are…’
He paused, staring hard at Giles.
‘I have used you, Eve,’ he said slowly. ‘You were my protection. No one was ever going to believe that Daniel Barker would trust important information to chink. If they ever found out, I assumed they’d never believe it…’
He hesitated again.
‘But they do. They mean to stop me from telling you what I know and they intend to stop you from taking the matter further. They will kill me and they will kill…’ he gulped ‘… you.’
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?’
Barker’s eyes twitched. ’They work for Him,’ he said pointedly. ’And He is more dangerous than you could possibly imagine.’