‘Alright, listen up.’
Bolton strode across the office, heading straight towards the whiteboard at the far end. Giles watched as Bolton 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 slowly been stacked up again Donnovan before he finally reached for the board-wiper and erased 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 eyes, normally so fiery with passion, were now dulled and lacklustre and he 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:
‘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 – and he was on a plane to Rome 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 between Donnovan and 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 skin, 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…’
Giles tore her eyes away from the screen in an instant and glared up at Scutter. 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 took a seat 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 all year round,’ 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 towards the 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.
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 we 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, bringing up the camera function and taking 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 slowly pulled 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 as she slowly crept inside, her eyes scanning every inch around her. The building was largely immersed in darkness and there were no light switches nearby for Giles to utilise. Carefully, 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, and closing the fridge door.
The sound was silent to begin with but, as the footsteps got closer, Giles began to hear them. Scared and her heart racing, Giles turned towards the sound of the figure running across the building, her eyes scanning the darkness for any sign of her would be attacker…
But her reactions were too slow and the metal trowel struck true as the attacker bludgeoned the side of Giles’ head.
She didn’t even remember falling to the ground.
She remembered only the darkness.