‘You can’t prove a thing.’
Barker stared eagle-eyed out of the bushes at one end of the layby, shakily puffing on a cigarette as he scrutinised each car that passed by. There had been no sign of their pursuers so far, but Giles knew they 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 knowingly.
‘Of course, I can’t,’ she replied, ‘not without a confession. Even with the evidence I have, I suppose you could explain it all away as you did last time. The only real evidence would be that your story keeps changing but given that it has never been recorded it would simply be a matter of our word against yours.’
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.
‘Still,’ she continued, ‘what little evidence I do have points in a very definitive direction – I have little doubt that it’s true.’
The loop reached the door handle. With expert precision, Giles slide the wire across the window, finding the catch of the central locking switch. From there, Giles got to work, fitting the loop over the catch as she tried to force it open.
Barker glared out from the bushes, fascinated by Giles’ illegal display.
‘So what’s your theory then?’ he asked. ‘Tell me what you think happened.’
Giles raised an eyebrow.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘there were several things that struck me almost instantly. The man you killed had not died, as we were led to believe, up against the pillbox wall. The small patch of blood a few feet away in the middle of the open grass proved that much. The bullet casing was inside and the distance between the pillbox and the blood patch is about right for the head wound our victim received…’
‘But I’ve already explained that. None of those facts dispute my story…’
’Your second story,’ Giles replied coyly. ’You are quite right, of course. Your story does fit those facts. But what you story doesn’t explain is the strange smell of smoke inside the pillbox, a smell which I have been aware of several times today – whenever you’ve lit a cigarette in fact.’
Giles looked up to glance at the cigarette in Barker’s hand.
‘Your cigarettes are quite distinctive,’ she said, returning to work on the car. ‘Expensive, hard to come by – the sort of cigarettes a man in your position is likely to smoke. They certainly do not belong to the other occupants of that pillbox, mainly the homeless and beggars who spent occasional nights there.’
She paused her work and turned to face Barker.
‘The fact that you had enough time to smoke a cigarette in that bunker was very revealing. If, indeed, you were hiding from a would-be assassin, it would mean that you were there for at least three to four minutes before he got up to approach you, not the few moments that you described. Besides, I find it hard to believe that a man who is fleeing for his life would instinctively grab a cigarette and have a smoke when he is so close to his attacker. If you were intending to hide from him, sending up smoke signals was hardly the most sensible thing to do…’
‘Perhaps. But that is hardly evidence that would convince a jury.’
’Then there was the bullet wound itself. The bullet entered the back of our man’s head and exited out the front, which implies he was shot from behind. Unless you’re suggesting that our victim was advancing on you menacingly with his back turned to you, it would be a very hard sell to convince a jury of that.
’And then, what was it you said, you only shot at him because his hand went into his pocket? A fact that, should it come to trial, a judge would almost certainly call an act of self-defence. The fact that he had no other weapon in his pocket would probably get overlooked. But the problem with your story isn’t what wasn’t in his pocket, but what was.’
Barker’s eyes quivered.
Smiling once again, Giles gave a little shrug and said:
‘The man only had a train ticket in his pocket. If he was coming to attack you, why was he reaching for a train ticket? What was he hoping to do, fling it at you and kill you that way? Slice and dice you with a series of paper cuts?’
Barker drew a deep breath and nodded slowly, pouting his lips and glancing thoughtfully up at the sky.
‘So you think I killed him in cold blood?’
Giles turned back to the wire and again tried the locking mechanism.
’I don’t think. I know,’ she replied. ‘You shot that man from the bunker whilst his back was turned to you. You murdered a man who, at the time at least, was defenceless.’
‘That doesn’t prove anything,’ Barker returned, his voice filled with venom and spite. ‘There’s nothing to say he hadn’t attacked me first. Maybe I panicked. Maybe I knew I wouldn’t be safe until he was dead. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t attacked first.’
‘Maybe,’ Giles shrugged, finally feeling the hook catch on the locking switch.
‘So you have no proof of your accusation. No proof at all.’
With a gently tug, the locking switch flicked to one side and the central locking clicked the car doors 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.
‘You’re missing the point,’ Giles said calmly.
‘I couldn’t care less. I don’t care if you are some cold-blooded killer or the victim of some brutal attack on your life. I’ve hated you and what you stand for long before I ever clapped eyes on you this morning and it would bring me immense satisfaction to see you go down so all the world can see what a pathetic moron you are. But none of that matters – not now.’
‘So what?’ Barker fired back. ‘You’ll get what you want from me and then feed me to the wolves, is that it?’
Giles could help laughing, shaking her head as she leaned up against the car.
’You don’t get it, do you? I saved you the police cells and I saved you from being bundled into a car and shot. There are people out there hunting you, people who want you six feet in the ground or face down in the Thames. I don’t know who they are; I don’t know what they want from you. But what I do know is that you know everything I need to be able to protect you. You have names and facts and all I know in return is that some of my colleagues may be involved. I don’t know who to trust and I don’t know how far this reaches.’
She paused, glancing back at the road, looking in the direction of Croydon, a sorrowful look crossing her face.
‘Despite loathing you with every fibre of my being, I am still trying to save your life and you won’t even give me what I need to do that.’
She pushed herself off the car and took a few steps away from him.
‘Sooner or later someone will get you, and it won’t be because I haven’t tried to help.’
She turned her back away from him and marched round to the driver’s side of the car. She pulled open the door and stared at him for a moment.
‘Are you getting in or not?’
She didn’t wait for a response.
She lowered herself down into the driver’s seat, closed the door and set to work hotwiring the vehicle. By the time Barker had joined her in the passenger seat, the engine had choked into life and Giles had already shifted it into gear. As they pulled away, Barker fidgeted uncomfortably in the small space and, after a little negotiation, finally managed to push the seat back to give him more legroom.
‘I would have thought you’d go for a speedier car,’ he muttered.
‘You thought wrong,’ came the reply. ‘They know we have their car and they’ll be expecting us to change for another. No one will expect us to be driving round in a blue 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 know they say these things kill you, but I never thought they might nearly get me arrested.’
Giles glanced over and smiled warmly at him. When he lit his cigarette, she reached out towards him and glanced towards the packet. ‘May I?’
Barker passed his lit cigarette to Giles and lit himself another. For a good five minutes, the two smoked in quiet contemplation with the windows slightly ajar. When she finished, Giles flicked her cigarette out of the window and relaxed back into her seat as the tall towers of the capital loomed up ahead of them. Only them did she become aware that Barker was sat, staring directly at her with a look of a man so fascinated by something that he might devote his attention to it for the rest of his life.
‘What?’ she asked, her voice marked with irritation.
‘Nothing,’ Barker replied. ‘I was just wondering…’ He hesitated. ‘You’ve done so much for me today. And you’re right - you have saved my life. You believe my story, don’t you?’
‘I believe that you panicked when you were discovered with the body. I believe you knew there was a chance your story wouldn’t be believed and I believe you knew I was the only person who might be able to help you. So you set about making sure I got called out to come to your aid. You had a pen and a white envelope on you that you used to scribble down both my name and yours. You planted this scrap on our dead man for Harris and his team to find and then deposited the pen and the rest of the envelope through the opening in the bunker hoping, I assume, that no one would think the pillbox was of any significance.’
‘Right on all counts,’ Barker replied, grinning happily. ‘There never was a threat on your life. But I had to do something to summon you without making it look obvious – after all, we weren’t supposed to know each other. Harris came to the conclusion I’d hoped he’d come to – although the look on his face when you turned up…’ He paused, leaning slightly further towards Giles making her feel quite uncomfortable. ‘But you haven’t answered my question.’
‘An odd complaint coming from a politician…’
Barker laughed. ‘I admit it’s a little ironic. But do you believe me?’
Giles turned to glance at him. In that brief moment, Giles could see fear hidden behind the depths of his eyes. His pleading face seemed to quiver with desire. Giles straightened herself up in her seat and tightened her grip on the steering wheel.
‘No,’ she replied without emotion. ‘I don’t believe a word of it.’
Barker’s face dropped and, in an instant, became pale and clammy. He sat back in his seat and stared vacantly out of the windscreen at the grey cityscape ahead of them.
‘But I do believe someone wants to kill you,’ Giles replied. ‘Someone wants to stop you from telling me what you know. So I will do everything I can to keep you alive.’
Barker shook his head slowly from side to side. ‘What on earth makes you think I’m lying?’
‘No, no, Mr. Barker,’ Giles replied waggling a finger at him. ‘I’ve been giving all the information so far. You don’t get any more until you tell me what you know.’