Giles headed back to the sports field alone. She had waited at the station for a good hour in the hope of seeing Harris, but he never reappeared again. As the sun began to set, she found herself in a familiar car park staring across the pitches that, only this morning, had been awash with avid footballers. She pulled open the door of her abandoned car and clambered inside. As she settled back into her seat, she admired the red sky overhead and let the day’s events wash over her.
Is he right?
‘Who?’ Giles replied.
‘Of course he isn’t, it’s all just part of the conspiracy…’
And what if there is no conspiracy…?
She looked out across the playing fields, her eyes fixing on the wooden bridge that led through to the bunker.
Giles had no idea why she decided to climb out of the car. It was if some external force was willing her to make the long journey over the fields once again, persuading her to examine the crime scene one last time.
When she arrived at the pillbox, the sky had already darkened and the last glimmers of sunlight were already disappearing from the ground at Giles’ feet. She stared down at the spot where the victim had been killed. The patch of dried blood was all but gone now, washed away by the brief overhead shower of rain…
What was his name?
Giles thought hard. Bolton hadn’t told her, but she had briefly spoken to the desk sergeant who, after a little persuasion had revealed a name…
Giles stayed for a moment, paying silent homage to Tony James.
Did he die for no reason? Was it all just a part of Barker’s game?
Giles shook her head.
‘I don’t know…’
Somewhere behind her, something rustled in the bushes. Giles span around and stared hard in the direction of the weir, trying to drown out the noise of the crashing water to listen to for the movement in the leaves and twigs.
In amongst the bluebells, something yellow and orange fidgeted as it peered out towards her. Two black eyes stared out unblinking and resolutely fixed on Giles as she edged a little closer. Giles turned her hand open-palmed towards the bluebells and slowly lowered her body until she was crouched down on the ground and with a soft tone whispered:
‘It’s alright. You can come out.’
The black eyes stayed perfectly still.
‘Don’t be afraid.’
It happened slowly at first.
One golden paw emerged from the bluebells, followed closely by another. As the creature moved forward, Giles could make out a head, a long body, two back legs and finally a bushy orange tail. As the golden retriever came out of the bluebells, it seemed to relax in the presence of the detective and, as though all fear had evaporated, rushed forward, dancing in and out of Giles’ legs with such excitement that its tail threatened to bruise her with its powerful wagging.
As the dog came to a halt in front of her, Giles gently stroked the back of its head, carefully avoiding the patch of dried blood that had matted its fur. She reached around for the collar and, feeling the identity tag, span it around to get a better look as the dog wiggled with glee.
On one side of the bronze disc was an address in Edenbridge. Giles look at it carefully before turning the disc over. There was only one word written there, but that one word shook the foundations of Giles’ world. For a moment, she was breathless and in that very second she resolved to return the dog to its owner.
With a broad smile on her face, she stroked the happy dog on the side of his face and whispered his name:
Mrs James sat on the sofa, holding Max close to her as he spread himself out and settled down for a nap. Beneath her smile of appreciation, Giles could see she was fighting back the tears and, though her lips never said it, the detective’s presence was not exactly welcome.
‘Thank you for returning him to me,’ she said, stroking Max’s fur as he breathed rhythmically. ‘He’s a rescue dog, you know. Tony got him from Battersea a year or two ago. We wanted to call him Rusty, but his original name was Max – we never could get him to respond so we just left his name as it was…’
Max’s tail wagged a couple of times as Mrs James’ fingers gently weaved in amongst his fur.
‘That’s the problem with rescues. You never know how they’ll react when something like this…’
Her voice faltered.
‘I understand,’ Giles replied, nodding her head. ‘I’m just glad I could bring Max home.’
Mrs James nodded and smiled down at her dog. A single, solitary tear rolled from her left eye and down her cheek. Giles’ mind flashed to the woman’s husband, lying sprawled against the bunker wall, and wondered to herself whether Mrs James would ever be able to pass that spot again. That wasn’t her concern of course, but for some reason it seemed very important in that brief moment.
‘I do have one question though,’ she said delicately. ‘Did Tony ever have any dealings with a man named Tommy Haines?’
Mrs James’ eyes flickered up to Giles and stared hard at her.
‘Why do you ask?’
‘Just following up on a lead. It’s probably nothing…’
‘It won’t be nothing if Tommy Haines is concerned. That’s the second time you lot have asked me about him…’
‘Oh?’ Giles’ heart skipped a beat. With the Chief Inspector and Bolton being so convinced that the Haines story was just a fabrication, it had never occurred to her that they might follow it up.
‘And I’ll tell you what I told him,’ Mrs James continued. ‘Tony had been working for some bloke in the city - someone who wanted Tony to hack into the accounts of a guy who was causing him some grief. Tony started the job and found out something this guy could use. But before he got a chance, the guy was found dead. Tony had no client anymore so he dropped it…’
‘What has that to do with Tommy Haines?’
Mrs James eyes her suspiciously.
‘I overheard him on the phone one night talking with the client. The person who’s account he had hacked was called Tommy Haines...’
‘You’re sure of this?’
‘Dead sure. But as I said, the client died so Tony had no reason to keep going with the hacking. I know it wasn’t exactly legit, but that was how Tony kept us afloat. And I told that to other detective too, so don’t go blackening his name when this gets to trial…’
Giles’s mind was racing. ‘I don’t suppose you know who the client was?’
Mrs James shook her head. ‘No idea.’
‘Or when he died? Or how?’
Mrs James sniffed hard, wiping away the tears as she pulled Max closer in to her.
‘That’s what started it all off,’ she said through the sobs of tears.
‘Started what off?’
‘This obsession. I think he thought he could do something – bring his client’s killer to justice. It was all silly though. If the police couldn’t do it, I don’t understand why he thought he could do any better…’
Giles leaned a little closer.
‘Tony’s client was murdered?’
Mrs James nodded.
‘It was all over the news,’ she replied. ‘They found him face down in the Camden Locks…’
Giles didn’t hear anymore. Her mind flashed back to that summer’s day – the last murder before Max contacted her. The body of the dead man, sodden with canal water and with a single plant taped to his back…
‘Tony thought he knew who the Bluebell Killer was?’
Mrs James’ face threatened to burst with emotion. Her cheeks went bright red and she had to screw up her eyes to fight against the tears.
‘Knew? He was building a case. He described the Bluebell Killer as this centuries’ Jack the Ripper – he was gathering proof so that he could help the police track him down…’
Giles leapt to her feet, leant forward and stared Mrs James straight in the face.
‘Do you mind if I have a quick look at your husband’s files?’
‘Please feel free,’ Mrs James replied, her eyes following Giles out of the room. ‘They’re in the ground floor study. But there’s not much there. The other detective took most of it.’
She was right.
The study was bare save for a few crime reference books and an entire bookcase that seemed to be dedicated solely to the Jack the Ripper murders. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, Giles emerged from the study empty handed and thoroughly disappointed. And yet her mind whirled with excitement and curiosity as she stood in the entrance hall.
Mrs James stepped out and saw her to the door and, after a few words of gratitude once again, saw Giles out.
It was only as the front door began to close behind her that a thought sprung to Giles’ mind. Turning quickly, she caught the closing door and stared hard at Mrs James.
‘One last question, Mrs James,’ she said. ‘What was the name of the detective who was hear before me?’
Mrs James look surprised for a moment. Her eyes dropped down to the ground and her forehead wrinkled as she tried to think. After a few seconds, her face relaxed and she stared up at Giles with a small, satisfied smile on her face.
‘Doyle,’ she replied, with a curt nod. ‘Detective Sergeant Doyle.’
With that, she pushed hard on the door and closed it in Giles’ face.
Detective Sergeant Doyle sat quietly in the darkest corner of the most secluded room he could find. The dark, brown fluid swirled around the bottom of the whiskey glass as he rotated it in the air, thinking about how the day had panned out.
Behind the bar, Tom Richardson cleaned glasses and watched anxiously as Tommy Haines strolled in.
‘Evening, Mr Haines.’
Haines stopped at the bar, ordered two whiskeys and waited as Tom poured them out for him. With a brief nod, he picked up the two glasses and moved in to the next room, taking a seat next to Doyle and pushing one of the whiskeys towards him. Doyle drained his glass and reached down for the one Haines had brought him.
‘Very kind of you, Mr Haines…’
‘No, Doyle, you’ve done a good job for me. It’s the least I can do.’
Doyle shrugged with disinterest. ‘It wasn’t without its problems.’
Haines nodded, reaching into his pocket and pulling out two cigars. He offered one to Doyle who took it greedily and lit them both. As the smoke cloud formed around them, the two sat quietly congratulating themselves on a job well done.
‘What happened to Barker?’ Haines asked.
‘Floating in the Thames with a bullet through his brain,’ Doyle replied. ‘Dealt with that dispatch woman, Carew, as well - only they’ll put that one down to an overdose when they find her at her flat tomorrow.’
‘And Tony James’ files?’
‘His wife let me have the lot. All the hard copies have been burnt, all the digital ones fried. You’re in the clear, Mr Haines.’
Doyle took a large gulp from the whiskey and smacked his lips as the bitter liquid went down.
‘Although, there’s a couple of things I don’t understand.’
‘Why not just kill the James properly? Why try to bring back the Bluebell Killer? You must’ve known Barker was a threat.’
‘Yes, but I didn’t expect him to be caught so easy,’ Haines replied, puffing on his cigar. ‘It’s a shame really. He would have been really useful to me had he not tried to turn evidence.’ He raised an eyebrow to his companion. ‘Never underestimate fear, Mr Doyle. It can make clever men do the most stupid of things…’
‘But why kill Carew? If Giles was the only one who knew she was one of us, then why not get rid of Giles and be done with it?’
Haines sighed. ‘You can never be sure who she’s spoken to. If you kill Giles, you might just convince others that the mad story is true. Kill the only proof she has and she’s got nothing – she loses all credibility. That, my friend, is far more valuable…’
‘But you haven’t killed all the evidence,’ Doyle replied. ‘I’m still here. What does that make me? Valuable?’
He slowly got his feet, put his cigar out in his own whiskey and moved towards the doorway.
‘Enjoy your drink, Mr Doyle.’
He didn’t stop to look back. But by the time he had reached Tom Richardson, he could already hear Doyle gasping as the poison took effect. He handed a wad of fifty pound notes over the bar and gave a wink to the bartender.
‘Sorry about the mess, Tom.’
‘No worries, Mr Haines.’
For the second time that day, the darkness had come for Doyle. As he watched Haines walk out of the pub, he clawed at his neck as his breath seized in his lungs and his blood turned to ice in his veins. In the next instant, he fell to the floor and remembered no more.
By the time Giles got back to her apartment, it was already well past ten at night. She was exhausted beyond belief and the long trudge up the stairs to her front door felt far harder than it ever had done before.
Jason was waiting behind the counter as she stepped inside. He raised a glass of red wine in one hand and a bottle in the other as Giles scattered items of clothing around on the floor and made her way over.
‘Yes, please,’ she muttered as she collapsed on the counter.
Jason dutifully collected another glass and poured the wine, handing it over to Giles who sipped at it gratefully.
‘You have no idea…’
‘But it’s done, right?’
Giles opened her eyes and peered up at Jason. An uncomfortable pang of guilt shot through her as she thought of the Tony James lying dead in the grass, of Parsons and the other officer lying dead in the patrol car and of DI Harris being interrogated by the Chief Inspector.
She leant forward and kissed Jason, finally washing away the argument that had started this terrible day.
‘I have one or two things to do first.’
Jason wasn’t happy, but at least he pretended to be fine with it. Giles was always grateful to him when was like that.
She headed into the small study room, turned on the light and closed the door behind her. Through the closed door, she heard Jason take himself off to bed as Giles wrote notes on cards and stuck them to the corkboard on the wall. With each minute that passed, a web began to form around a single name – Tommy Haines – and it was a long while before Giles began to notice the rumbles of hunger in her stomach.
Food can wait. This is more important.
She was back on the trail. And the scent was warm.
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