Daniel Barker’s exit was neither that of a dignified politician, nor was it subtle and unnoticed.
As the officers dragged him away from the café, he let out a sickening and tormented cry, immediately drawing the attention of everyone inside Borough Market. A crowd gathered around the police officers as people began to recognise what had happened. Camera phones were raised and numerous selfies and videos were taken to capture the event for the world to see.
Giles smiled to herself in satisfaction. The long and embarrassing march of the man who was so nearly been Britain’s Prime Minister would be replayed on social media and video streaming sites for days to come. People would make memes out of it, upload sad music behind it or insert a random cutaway of a screaming goat so that they could mock Barker for years to come.
Barker knew it as well.
He struggled hard against his escorts, staring into phones and cameras as he passed them, loudly proclaiming his innocence. With his hands cuffed tightly behind his back and his eyes blazing with fury, he no longer gave off the impression of a man in control but that of a wild beast caged for the first time.
The sound of his screams echoed around the glass walls long after he disappeared out of the open doorway. It was only then that he ceased struggling and reluctantly began to walk in pace with the arresting officers as he was led to a nearby patrol car. The crowd of interested onlookers swarmed around the car, capturing every moment for posterity.
It will be trending on Twitter in a few minutes…
Giles loitered by the café, watching Barker’s march of disgrace as Harris held a brief conversation with Parsons. When the talking was over, Parson gave a brief, courteous nod to Giles, turned sharply on his heels and paced across the market floor to catch up with the escort party. Harris stood next to Giles, but didn’t say a word. Instead the two detectives just watched in quiet contemplation until the last of the noise had died out and the crowds in the market had fully dispersed.
‘He’s right, you know,’ Harris said, an odd expression on his face. ‘You are a bitch.’
A broad smile crossed Giles’ face and the two detectives shared a little laughter and, for a moment, they both forgot their worries as the aroma of fresh bread wafted towards them from a nearby barkery. When the laughter subsided, Giles placed her wrists together and held them up to Harris.
‘You had better arrest me too,’ she declared, giving a little nod of approval as Harris stared at her. ‘It is only right. I put you through quite an ordeal today. I’m sorry.’
Harris stepped closer to her, staring deep into Giles’ eyes. His hands rose up to meet Giles’ and, before she realised what was happening, he gently lowered them back down to her sides. He smiled at her, a slight twinkle in his eye.
‘We needed a confession from Barker,’ he said, releasing hold of Giles’ hands and holding up her phone. ‘The case was on dodgy ground without it. Thanks to you, we now have one. And if what I’ve heard is true, you are much more valuable out on the streets than disgraced and drummed out of the force.’
He looked out towards the street outside as Parsons gently pushed Barker into the back of a patrol car.
‘This isn’t over.’
Giles nodded. ‘I assume you got my message?’
Harris’ face lit up a little. ‘Yes, I did,’ he replied, beginning to move across the market floor. ‘Miss Carew forwarded your message on to me.’
‘Alison Carew is involved with this.’
Harris stopped and turned to face her, his eyes searching her carefully.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Absolutely. Only two people knew of my destination and my intention to leave the train at East Croydon – you and Alison. There were two men waiting for us when we left the station…’
‘I don’t believe it. If that was the case then why forward the message on to me at all?’
Giles shrugged but her eyes were still keen and thoughtful.
‘It gets worse. One of the men was a policeman – a Detective Sergeant Doyle. And, if what he told me is true, there are more people like him in the force…’
Giles shook her head.
‘I don’t know,’ she replied. ‘Barker tried to run for it when I was interrogating him. I knocked him out and left him in a car park near Croydon station.’
Harris nodded thoughtfully. He placed a hand behind Giles’ back and, with a gentle push, continued their walk across the market.
‘We have to be very careful how we handle this,’ he muttered, looking about him. ‘There’s no telling how far the service has been corrupted…’
‘You believe it too, then?’
‘I don’t want to believe it at all. But after the day you’ve had, it would be hard to believe anything else.’ The two stepped out on to the London street, glancing at the patrol car as Parson climbed in and the engine started up.
‘Did you find out what you were looking for? I mean, did Barker give up any more details?’
‘He wasn’t my informant, if that’s what you mean?’
She turned back to Doyle, enjoying the look of pure confusion on his face.
‘Oh, come on, it’s not so hard to believe. My informant knew who I was when he first called me. That screams of someone whose done their research – and to a man like Barker, my ethnicity would be the first thing that he would’ve noticed. A man known for his racist views seeking help from an Asian detective – I didn’t buy it, did you?’
‘You knew?’ Harris spluttered. ‘All along…’
‘I suspected,’ corrected Giles. ‘But there was always a chance. Either way he knew something about my informant, or else how would he know? Besides, there’s a timing issue…’
‘You mean why draw attention to himself now?’
Giles shook her head.
‘No, I mean why was he gathering proof against this man Haines six months ago? Up until this month, Barker thought Haines was going to make him Prime Minister. By bringing down Haines, surely he is bringing himself down into the bargain.’
‘Your informant had a problem with Haines six months ago.’
‘Exactly,’ replied Giles. ‘Barker couldn’t have been my informant. But he must have known that there was one, and he certainly must have known that I was the contact or else why draw me in to this whole thing?’
Giles rubbed her head and eyed the traffic as it surged by them. Her mind returned to the moment when the two of them were sat on the banks of the River Eden earlier that day…
Everything had been so much simpler then…
‘And what about the Bluebell Killer?’ Harris asked. ‘Was he lying about that too?’
Giles thought for a moment.
In truth she hadn’t asked herself that question yet. Sure, Barker’s story made sense with the facts: it would explain why Donnovan had an alibi for some of the murders and how the killer eluded them for so long.
But then there was the question of this Haines character. Giles had never even heard of him up until now – and gangsters very rarely stayed off the police radar for long.
And then there was the question of Doyle – a police officer who was willing to kill to silence Barker.
Was it really too fanciful to believe that Barker really was caught up in the middle of a conspiracy?
What is truth? What is fiction?
‘We need to track down Detective Sergeant Doyle,’ she said defiantly. ‘He was the one who tried to kill Barker. If we bring him in, he might talk to save his own skin…’
Giles shook her head.
‘I know Alison. She isn’t the type to betray her friends. She could easily have been passing on information under orders from someone higher up without ever knowing what she was doing. That, at least, would explain how you still got the message I sent for you…’
‘Then we bring her in,’ Harris piped up. ‘Ask her ourselves who ordered her to do it.’
‘There’s time for that later. Alison may not know I’m on to her yet. But Doyle definitely knows. If he hasn’t found himself somewhere safe to take shelter, he soon will.’
‘I’ll put out an alert on him,’ Harris replied, taking out his phone and beginning to dial. ‘Only one thing though – he will deny all knowledge. It will be his word against yours. How do you intend to prove your story?’
Giles thought for a moment.
‘Do you have an evidence bag?’
Harris handed over the evidence bag and watched in amazement as Giles retrieved the gun from her pocket and placed it inside. Handing it back to Harris, she said:
‘This gun belonged to his colleague, whoever he was. If you can match the prints to someone other than me and Barker…’
‘Then we might be able to get a confession,’ replied Harris. ‘I’ll get on it.’
Harris shoved the evidence bag in his pocket and stepped away as he made a phone call. A short distance away, the patrol car began to pull out into traffic and move off down the street. In the back seat, the silhouette of Barker still seemed to be moving animatedly as he tried to convince Parsons to let him go. In a minute, it had rounded the corner and Giles could breathe easily once more.
A little way down the street, in a blue transit van, Doyle sat quietly in the passenger seat. The patrol car passed by and turned down a side street, but Doyle’s attention was firmly fixed on two figures a little way behind them. Through the wing mirror, Doyle watched as Giles paced back and forth until her colleague finally hung up the phone and returned to her. The two talked for a few seconds before moving up the street a few metres and climbing into the blue Nissan Micra that was parked there.
In the space behind his seat, Doyle heard a collection of clicks and snaps as the three men in the back loaded and cocked their weapons. The hooded kid in the driver’s seat had been watching the patrol car pass with remarkable calmness and, now that it had disappeared, wasted no time in starting up the engine and beginning their slow and calculated pursuit.
The van pulled out into the road, the kid manoeuvring it down the side street and slotting in behind the patrol car, being careful to allow a couple of cars to stay between them so as not to look too suspicious. In the back seat, Doyle recognised the figure of Barker talking almost endlessly to the detective sat next to him and, for a moment, Doyle wondered why they didn’t simply take the shot now and be on their way…
No, he reminded himself, we must not be hasty.
‘They’re taking him back to Kent,’ he muttered, looking up at the signposts as the patrol car began to head south.
‘Well, we’ll know in a minute or two, won’t we,’ replied the kid.
It was not long before Doyle was proven right. As the patrol car continued past Croydon and on to the Croydon Road, the kid gave a nod of confirmation and called out to those in the back to make ready.
It was a long while before the opportunity presented itself. The road was fully immersed in the countryside and the heavy traffic was now no more than the occasional car passing in the opposite direction. Blind corners and a long descent marked the start of Titsey Hill and, as they snaked their way through the green countryside, the driver of the patrol car began to slow down to avoid skidding from the road.
The source of the River Eden wasn’t far away – a little to the east of their present position. The Bank Holiday sun had been driven out by grey clouds and the first spits of rain began to fall…
For Doyle, the setting couldn’t have been more fitting.
To Giles’ surprise, Harris had never hotwired a vehicle before, nor had he ever driven a ‘commandeered car’.
She led him round to the driver’s seat and gave him a short lesson. Harris watched with boyish glee as Giles instructed him to connect the severed power wires and touch the starter wires together. As the engine sprang into life, Harris looked like a child at Christmas, beaming around graciously as Giles sat back in the passenger seat and watched him shift the stolen car into gear and pull away into the traffic.
They couldn’t have been more than five minutes behind the patrol car, but Harris was a careful driver and Giles suspected he was being even more so considering that he was driving someone else’s car. As they approached the top of Titsey Hill, the sky turned dark and rain began to fall.
Neither of them paid particular attention to the smoke plume that rose up in the distance.
It was on the tightest corner of the lot that Harris slammed on the breaks, bringing the car screeching to a halt. For a moment, Giles was unsure of what had happened but, as she followed Harris’ gaze, she found herself drawn to the grey-black smoke plume that rose up above them. Hidden in amongst the trees at the side of the road, the wrecked patrol car spewed our smoke, but was otherwise still and lifeless.
They were out of the car in seconds, both heading straight for the smoking car. Harris reached it first, his eyes peering in at the vehicle’s passengers as Giles arrived alongside.
‘The driver is dead,’ Harris called out, moving around to the back doors and looking inside. ‘Jesus, Parsons.’
He moved forward and wrenched open the door, placing his fingers against DC Parsons’ neck as his colleague collapsed motionlessly into his arms. A moment later, Harris shook his head violently and began to check the body.
‘Parsons is dead too. Gunshot wound to the chest.’ He glanced up to the next seat over. ‘And Barker is gone.’
Giles heard him, but didn’t turn around. She knelt down on the tarmac, her eyes keenly darting back and forth before spinning towards the crashed car.
‘Skid marks. At least five metres long…’
They had enough time to break then.
‘Bullet casings all over the road…’
She sprang to her feet and raced over to the patrol car, her fingers nimbly examining the punctured tyre before turning her attention to the small holes that riddled the bodywork.
Twenty, no, thirty bullet holes.
She glanced up at the windows along the side of the car.
Single bullet holes. One for the driver. One for Parsons.
‘This was not a luck-of-the-draw attack,’ she announced, taking a few steps back. ‘This was well thought out.’
Giles turned and looked at the ground around her, dropping to her knees once again to examine her surroundings.
Tyre tracks. Only one set off the road.
‘Someone pulled over here recently.’
‘On the edge of tight bend?’
‘Someone pulled over after the car crashed…’
Giles turned back to look up the road, her imagination taking over once again.
‘The patrol car was slowing down for the corner,’ she announced. ‘Behind it was another vehicle, probably a van judging from the spacing on the tyre tracks. The van pulls alongside and peppers the patrol car with gun fire causing the driver to lose control and barrel off the road.’
She stepped over to the track on the ground.
‘They pulled over here and got out, moving quickly over to the patrol car where they shot the driver and Parsons with once bullet a piece.’
‘They took him with them.’
‘How can you be sure?’
‘Well, he didn’t run. Patrol cars have locks to prevent the occupants from bolting for it. If he got out, it was because the attackers let him out.’
Giles stepped closer to the wreckage and looked sombrely on the crumpled figure of DC Parsons.
‘Someone stole him from us.’
There was a moment of silence. The rain clouds overhead were darker and the rain harder. Harris moved over to the patrol car, took one more look at Parsons and then collapsed against the side, slipping down the bodywork until he was sat up against the wreck. He slowly put his hands into his jacket and pulled out his phone, all the while fighting back the tears in his eyes.
As he called for help, Giles bent down and picked up a brass-coloured bullet casing that she rolled around in the palm of her hand.
‘The casing that started it all,’ she muttered.
These men would be alive if you hadn’t…
Giles lowered herself to the ground and sat cross-legged amongst the tracks and fragments of rubber and metal. She didn’t move from that spot until long after the back-up had arrived and, even then, it had taken Harris a fair time to persuade her to leave with him.
Barker was gone. And the scent was cold.