Alison Carew wasted little time.
For the next twenty minutes or so, she 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?
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…’
Alison’s 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. Doyle will meet you there. Wait for him.’
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 Doyle and his accomplice. But, for the most part, he remained relaxed in his seat.
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 on 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.
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…
Whatever sleep Barker had slipped into quickly evaporated when he felt the car come to a sudden stop. Blinking his eyes and staring around him, Barker sat up straight in his seat to examine his surroundings as Giles shoved open the driver’s side door. Before he had a chance to say anything she had climbed out as the lines of heavy traffic slid their way past, hooting loudly as they passed the illegally parked car.
Up ahead, a large bridge crossed over the street; the grey twists of cylindrical metal giving it an appearance not unlike a roller coaster. On the opposite side of the street, great creamy-grey buildings rose up into the air, glaring down at the shimmering glass façade of Borough Market right next to where Giles had parked.
Barker knew where he was long before Giles pulled open the passenger side door and, as the door swung open, he sank deep into his seat and glared up at her with fearful, yet menacing, eyes.
‘What are you doing?’ he demanded.
‘I want a coffee,’ Giles replied nodding at the glass building behind her. ‘Are you staying here, or coming with?’
‘Are you crazy? This is London Bridge Station.’
Barker sank further into his chair, staring up at Giles as she casually shrugged and looked towards the entrance to the market.
‘This is where the Edenbridge train stops,’ Barker said. ‘If the plods from Kent are following us by train, this is where they will end up!’
Giles glanced towards the station and shrugged once again. She reached forward to the door and said, ‘suit yourself,’ before slamming it in his face.
Giles span on her heels and headed up the street without looking back at the car. She headed straight for the market entrance and, once inside, looked around for the nearest café, located a little way around the complex with a clear view of the main entrance. She crossed the floor and joined the queue, making sure that she didn’t look back.
When she finally reached the head of the queue, a polite, but somewhat, unhappy waitress showed her to a nearby table. Giles gave her order and the waitress moped off to get the double espresso leaving Giles very much alone. She had positioned herself so that the entrance to market was in view, but didn’t look up at it once.
No looking back…
The waitress had only just reached the counter when he made his appearance, looking breathless and pale as death. He glared down at her with a face like thunder prompting only the most courteous of smiles back.
‘You left me,’ he hissed.
Giles nodded. ‘Yes, I suppose I did. Won’t you sit down? You are drawing attention to yourself.’
Barker glanced around anxiously before doing what he was told. Taking the seat opposite Giles, he perched anxiously on the edge of his chair, his eyes darting around wildly. His breathing was erratic and heavy, his forehead beginning to perspire with his frayed nerves.
‘You left me,’ he repeated.
‘You could have driven yourself away. You had a car after all.’
‘I need you to get me into witness protection,’ 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.’
The waitress returned with Giles’ coffee. She placed it down on the table and began to ask Barker whether he would like something as well when she stopped in her tracks. Her mouth dropped open as she recognised the former politician.
‘My acquaintance won’t be joining me,’ Giles announced in answer to her original question. ‘He’s a little anxious to get away…’
‘I…’ The waitress looked back towards Barker and seemed to give a small nod before quickly turning and trotting away across the café.
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. He watched anxiously as the waitress skipped around behind the counter and spoke rapidly with a suited man, gesturing wildly in their direction. Barker turned his head away and tried to hide his face as the suited man looked towards them. Giles, however, seemed completely oblivious to the attention as she delicately sipped on her espresso.
‘Why are you doing this?’ Barker hissed.
Giles peered over the top of her cup and lowered it down to the table. She picked up a napkin and gently dabbed at her lips as her eyes flashed wildly.
‘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, we may get lucky and they won’t spot us. 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 trust me with the information he promised. 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, his eyes scrutinising every face as sweat dripped slowly down his face. ‘Alright fine, I’ll tell you…’
‘Oh no, I insist on going first,’ replied Giles. ‘I mean, you do want to know how I realised that you were a murderer and not acting in self-defence, didn’t you?’
Barker stared at her, his eyes pleading and close to tears. ‘No, I don’t mind really…’
‘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. Of the two of you, he was the one dressed as though he was ready for a walk in the country and yet you were the one out there for completely innocent reasons. Add to this that he was carrying a 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. ‘But you forget the train ticket. In his pocket, the man had a return train ticket to Edenbridge.’
‘I haven’t forgotten,’ Giles replied, slowing her speech as Barker’s eyes darted around with renewed energy and fear. ‘The train ticket spoke to your alibi. If there was any question about whether our victim had a dog, we would be tempted to think otherwise if he has a train ticket. A man is unlikely to travel forty minutes by train just to take his dog out for a walk, regardless of whether it is a Bank Holiday…’
‘Exactly,’ Barker replied. ‘Can we go now?’
‘Only it wasn’t his ticket, was it? It was yours.’
Barker froze. ‘Mine?’
‘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 apparently 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. And why would he only have one part of the ticket with him. Very strange, wouldn’t you agree?’
Giles settled back in her chair.
‘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. ‘I made a note of every car in the car park when I arrived so I’m sure you should be able to tell me which one is yours – I examined your keys back at the crime scene so, tell me, what type of car is yours?’
Barker sat very still and very quietly. Giles smiled at him and sat back in her seat, sipping from his espresso once again.
‘Do you know what I think happened?’ she asked thoughtfully. ‘I think you were ordered to kill that man. You laid in wait in that bunker, knowing that he would come by walking his dog one day and, when he had passed your position, you shot him once in the back of the head.’
Barker swallowed hard.
‘That’s a lie…’
‘But you didn’t count on Miss Larken being so close by. You thought you’d have enough time to hide the body and make a clean getaway. 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 – I can only presume the other half of that ticket was mistakably thrown into the river along with anything that might identify him – and then promised me information to break you out of police custody.’
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?’