Giles stared coldly at Barker. She didn’t realise it at first but her hand loosened its grip on the gun and her mouth had dropped open just a fraction. In her mind, Donnovan’s laugh echoed around the abandoned mechanics workshop, his curious glee sent a shiver down her spine and the razor wire cut deep into her skin.
Almost as though she made her mind up in an instant, she shook her head from side to side, unaware that tears were beginning to form in her eyes.
‘No,’ she said defiantly, strengthening her grip on the gun once more. ‘You’re not the Bluebell Killer. You can’t be…’
‘Would you deny the evidence right in front of you?’
Barker shrugged and settled back in his chair. He glanced up at the clock on the wall above the café bar and then allowed his eyes to scan the staff who loitered awkwardly, watching and waiting. The suited man flashed a smile at Barker as he looked in their direction – he obviously hoped it was convincing, but it didn’t match the scene in the slightest – and Barker just stared coldly back.
Time was running out for him.
Giles knew it as well as he did.
So it came as no surprise when a few, short seconds later he abruptly turned back towards her and reached out to grab hold of her hand. The fear instinct kicked in and Giles plucked her hand off the table as he reached across, but not before he was able to lay a single, cold, clammy finger on the back of her smooth skin.
‘I will tell you what I know,’ he said. ‘But you must promise to get me to safety the moment I do.’
Giles considered him for a moment.
‘What makes you think you can trust me?’
‘You got me this far,’ he replied. ‘Besides, you will want to keep me alive and on side after you hear what I have to say.’
Giles didn’t respond immediately. Instead she spent a little time examining the crowd around them before finally, she leant back in her chair, stretched her arms up high above her head and shook her head dejectedly.
‘Alright, Mr Barker,’ she said. ‘The Bluebell Killer. Alex Donnovan. You. Tommy Haines. Tell me what you know.’
Barker took a deep breath.
‘The Bluebell Killer is not a single man,’ he began. ‘It is not an individual, but an idea. An idea created by someone who has many enemies that he needs out of his way and many friends that he might need to scare into line…’
‘The Krays did it. The Adams Family did it. The Richardson Gang did it. Any gangster worth their weight has used the tactic to get ahead – and Tommy Haines is the worst of all of them.’
He leant forward, planting his elbows down on the table and staring hard into Giles’ eyes.
’Imagine – if you can – being a man with aspirations of the gangster life. You want people to fear you, to respect you – you don’t want anyone to be cocky enough to want to let you down. But you’re not all that – not yet. You’re not as powerful as you hope to be. You haven’t got the respect or the fear to just walk into a pub and blow the brains out of one of your rival gang members without someone putting the finger on you. You might already be a wealthy man, but you haven’t got the prestige to just get one of your boys to commit a hit for you. And we live in the Internet age now – the danger doesn’t just come from the people you see around you, it can come from anyone – anywhere.
’You need something clever, something unique. You need an idea that eliminates the people who stand in your way and also sends a message out to the people who might disrespect you. You need a hit man who everyone knows about, but no one knows who he is – someone that everybody in the underworld knows works for you, but no one can ever identify. Someone the police can never catch…
‘The Bluebell Killer was that idea.’
Giles shook her head slightly from side to side, her eyes glancing momentarily up at a point somewhere over Barker’s shoulder before tracing back to his face.
‘But we caught him. The Bluebell Killer was Alex Donnovan – the murders stopped after I…’ she hesitated. ‘It can’t be anyone else.’
‘The Bluebell Killer isn’t a man,’ Barker replied. ’Not really. It was just a front he used to get rid of people who were in his way and terrify those who were thinking about it. But Tommy Haines was smart about it all – he knew that if he only killed off the people in his way, you lot would eventually link it back to him. So he sold the MO off to different people – husbands who wanted wives dead, dealers and loan sharks who wanted to send a message – they would pay Haines to use the identity of the Bluebell Killer to off whoever they wanted and, in return, word gets out that Haines has sole control over a vicious serial killer and, with it, as much power and fear as he could ever want. Of course, the added bonus is that the police would never be able to link all the murders back together – so nobody can ever get caught…’
‘So how did you get involved?’
Barker’s eyes narrowed.
‘I told you. I owed Barker – the price was to murder that man.’
‘But not as the Bluebell Killer,’ Giles replied. ‘I mean, the way you killed him was pretty standard. It’s not like you…’
Giles stopped. My mind flitted back to the crime scene: the old pillbox, the rushing waters of the river, the carpet of bluebells leading up to it…
Her breath caught in her mouth and, all at once, the pieces of the puzzle began to slot into place.
‘You see it now,’ Barker muttered, lowering his head remorsefully.
‘If you’re right, then why did the killings stop?’
‘After you killed Donnovan?’
‘He didn’t need it anymore,’ Barker replied, shrugging his shoulders. ‘He had his power and respect and fear. He had a firm hold of my party, with a good plan to get us into government. You were so sure that Donnovan was the killer – having more murders would only risk his operation and he couldn’t have that…’
‘So why more killings now? Why send you?’
Barker thought for a moment, a wry smile crossing his face.
‘Sometimes fear needs to be shaken up a bit,’ he replied. ‘When you killed Donnovan, the Bluebell Killer stopped being a terrifying, ghostly barbarian and became just a man – dead and not at all intimidating. Leave it a couple of months until the following spring and suddenly you either have a copycat on your hands, or the Bluebell Killer has transcended life itself to return to kill again – I can’t think of anything more scary, can you?’
Giles sat back in her chair, staring up at the ceiling. It was true – she couldn’t think of anything more terrifying. She thought that being hung by razor wire was the most horrific thought that her mind was capable of. But the idea that, after hearing Donnovan die in that murky garage, he was capable of rising from the dead to kill again sent shivers down her spine and forced her to grip hold of the gun even tighter than before.
In the recesses of her mind, she could hear him laughing.
That blood, gurgling laughter…
The laugh of a man who wasn’t done yet…
The laugh of a killer who would kill again…
She shook herself out of it. Opposite her, Barker opened up his hands and, with a slight smile, shrugged his shoulders as he settled back into his chair.
‘There,’ he said, with a flourish. ‘That’s everything.’
‘Not everything,’ Giles replied. ‘You still haven’t given me proof.’
Barker’s eyes quivered. ‘Proof?’
‘The last time I spoke to you before today, you were gathering evidence against Haines – evidence that would prove this story of yours. I want to see it.’
He thought for a moment, his eyes glancing around the market. He had become so embroiled in his story that he had forgotten where they were – the very real danger he was in. Now, that realisation flooded through him – Giles could see it by the fear in his eyes – and he lost all pretence of being calm and collected, descending quickly into a quivering and deeply suspicious wreck.
‘No,’ he replied abruptly. ‘I must hold on to something for myself. When I get my immunity you will get everything you need.’
Giles’ eyes narrowed. For the first time since entering the market, Barker seemed resolute and sure of himself, despite his severe anxiety. She slowly rocked back on her chair and chuckled.
‘You don’t have anything for me, do you?’ she asked quietly. ‘You don’t have the evidence…’
‘I do,’ pleaded Barker, reaching out to grab Giles’ hand. ‘I do. Just get me somewhere safe and I’ll…’
‘No,’ interrupted Giles, her eyes staring daggers at him. ‘You’ve been toying with me. This whole day has been one long game of lies and deception. You’re not Matt at all. You’re nothing but a common murderer, trying to cover you crime with this ridiculous story about…’
‘I am. I am Matt. Just get me to the station and I’ll prove it. I am your informant.’
Giles bit her bottom lip and smiled. To catch one person out with this trick today had been a pleasure, but to do it twice had been nothing short of a thrill. Slowly she leaned forward, beaming at the former politician.
‘My informant called himself Max, not Matt.’
She reached forward and grabbed hold of the phone and held it up to show Barker, whose eyes were already widening with the realisation of what was happening. ‘I’m afraid the escape ends here, Mr Barker,’ she said slowly and pointedly, before bringing the phone up to her lips and stating:
It all happened so quickly. Giles glanced towards the group she had spotted before and made eye contact with the man she knew. She gave a deliberate nod and, before Barker could turn to see what was happening, five police officers swarmed around their table. In the midst of his wide-eyed confusion, Barker found himself dragged to his feet and bent over the table as the handcuffs were applied to his wrists. Stepping back from the table, Giles allowed Harris to step forward and read Barker his rights as the policemen struggled to keep him secure and patrons of the café scattered to allow room for the commotion.
When Harris had finished, Giles held out her phone and passed it over to him.
‘His full confession is on here,’ she explained, allowing Harris to take the phone off her. ‘There is some information on there that I would quite like access to if it wouldn’t be too much trouble?’
‘I’ll have copies forwarded to your department,’ Harris replied, pocketing the device with a smile. ‘Thank you DS Giles.’
‘You bitch,’ Barker snarled as the officers pulled him to his feet. His face was bright red with anger and the veins in his neck and forehead protruded so far that they seemed as they might burst out his skin altogether. ‘You conniving bitch. This is entrapment…’
Giles stepped forward, placing one hand on Barker’s shoulder.
‘Come now, Mr Barker. You engaged in this interview perfectly willingly and aware of the presence of the recording device. It would take a really thick jury to be convinced that you didn’t know what you were saying…’
The blood drained from Barker’s face.
‘You said you’d help me…’
Giles shook her head.
‘You didn’t really think I’d put my career in jeopardy just for the sake of a man like you, did you?’ She stepped a little close to him and whispered: ‘You disgust me.’
Whatever anger had been in Barker’s heart now turned back to fear. His lips quivered and his legs began to buckle and give way beneath him, prompting his escort to lower him slowly down to the ground where he cried out in anguish.
‘You have as good as killed me, Detective Giles. Do you know that?’
Giles took a few steps away and stared down at the pathetic man cowering on the floor. There was no sympathy in her mind, only justice. No remorse, only pride.
‘For the sake of your victim, Mr Barker, I hope you’re right.’