Giles wasted no time.
She scooped up the car keys, slammed the back door of the car 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 sight of Barker as she rounded the corner of the car park and the barrier was closed. Pressing hard on the accelerator, the car punched its way through, shattering the barrier into a dozen pieces as it crashed against the windscreen. The car jolted and a great crack ripped across the windshield as Giles struggled to keep the car straight as it pounced out into the open air.
It juddered to a halt as it reached the main road and, with a quick glance in both directions, Giles pulled the vehicle smartly out into the rest of 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 swerve out onto the road, he made for the nearest side street and disappeared out of sight. Giles was on him in seconds, turning down the deserted street and pulling alongside Barker as he ran frantically for safety.
Giles lowered the window as she slowed to match his pace.
‘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. As Giles pulled alongside him, 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 walked away from the car. Giles threw open the door and stepped out behind him, but Barker had already began to turn back to face her. Giles’ whole body jolted 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 slowly raised her hands, her eyes fixed firmly on the gun barrel. ‘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, don’t you?’
‘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 resolutely 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 doubtlessly had flowing through his mind. As he stood there, 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 as he struggled with an idea in his mind.
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 Giles’ hand. As his fingers released hold of it, he stepped away with his hands cradling his head as he cried out in silent anguish.
Giles gave him a moment – not because he needed it, but because she did. She stared down inquisitively at the weapon in her hand, her mind flitting to the last time she held such a weapon. Her mind replayed the screams and the blood – her eyes projected the dark, mouldy walls and the single stream of light that 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.
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 street and back into the traffic.
For a little while nothing was said. But soon Barker’s breath began to normalise 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’ replied Giles, calmly negotiating her way through the traffic. ‘The other I’m not so sure about.’
‘Doyle is a detective?’ 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 target, although I imagine he would have said anything to make me let him go…’
Barker sat perfectly still as his mind turned over this new information.
‘How did they know where we were?’
‘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. ‘I lied to you. I didn’t contact my team – they may be extremely able and good at their jobs, but I doubt any of them would risk their career on my behalf. So, I contacted a dispatch operator I know. I figured we’d be easily tracked on the train anyway – I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a welcoming committee already at London Bridge station. I thought that if I reached out to her, there might at least be a chance of finding out what our pursuers were up to…’
‘So why did they find us at Croydon?’
Giles glanced guiltily over at him.
‘I told my contact that we were going to jump the train at East Croydon and make the rest of the journey by car. I thought if I could trust anyone it would be Alison Carew…’
‘Carew?’ Barker spluttered. ‘Frank Carew’s daughter? You trusted our location with the daughter of a man I helped destroy?’ He slapped his hand angrily on his thigh. ‘Well, that explains everything.’
‘No, it explains nothing, Mr Barker.’ Giles returned sharply. ‘It doesn’t explain how a legitimate detective appears with a colleague, armed with a pistol, to intercept us. It doesn’t explain how this detective was so sure that they could hunt you down and it definitely doesn’t explain why they want you dead. Somebody, with enough influence to control a handful, if not more, of policemen is doing everything he can to have you killed. This incident at the station is only the beginning – they won’t stop after just one failed attempt. So I suggest you start re-evaluating your position and tell me what you know.’
Barker sat quietly as Giles joined the main road heading towards London and finally relaxed back into his seat. Staring down at his feet, Barker sulked for a few minutes before finally he muttered:
‘This is the second time that someone has tried to kill me, not the first.’
Giles shot an irritated glance across the car and waited until Barker’s eyes rose to meet her’s.
‘Mr Barker,’ she said coldly, ‘you and I both know that isn’t true.’
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.
His eyes opened, just a fraction, peering 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 mind. 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…
That isn’t good.
His body itching with aching pain, 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.
Through all the pain and haziness, the panic took a moment to settle in. Leaning up against the wall, 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.
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 replied. ‘Giles got the drop on us and knocked me out. 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.
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.’
Another pause on the end of the line.
‘Without Barker, Giles is not a concern. Leave her be.’
The line went dead.
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, this is Detective Inspector Bolton from the Met…’
‘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 had been expecting something to arrive but when she opened up the message it was not at all what she was expecting. As she scanned through Giles’ message, her heart began to pound anxiously in her chest.
’Ali, don’t tell anyone about this message. We were ambushed at the station by two detectives. They tried to kill me and Barker. We are changing our plans and going to a safe house in Brixton. Keep an eye out for anyone interested in our location who shouldn’t be. Do not trust anyone. Eve.’
Alison stared nervously around the room, her mind whirring with disturbing thoughts and guilt.
Did Eve nearly die because of me?
Despite every fibre of her body begging her not to do so, Alison forward the message on as she had with the previous one. She remained behind her desk, but she couldn’t bring herself to do any work – the thought of Giles on the run from crazed killers was enough to distract her attention.
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.’