Daniel Barker was shorter in person. He stared hard at Giles through the haze left by his cigarette, his short brown hair moving only slightly with the strong breeze.
He stood with his back straight and his hands firmly down by his sides, projecting the archaic but traditional image of an English gentleman. The shirt he wore – with its sleeves rolled up the way politicians do when they want to look casual – was covered in a long streak of blood that started up by his shoulder and crossed his body to his waist like a great ceremonial sash. His jeans were splattered as well, but not to the same extent, and his smart trainers bore no signs of blood, although the soles were covered in a small scattering of grey dust.
Taking a long drag from his cigarette, Barker pondered Giles. He took his time, allowing his eyes to creep down her body, pausing on her breasts and her naval, before blowing out his cigarette smoke and flicking the butt down on to the ground.
‘What’s the story, Harris?’ he said, finally ripping his eyes away from Giles, his face seeming to relax the instant he did so.
Harris cleared his throat. ‘I’ve brought someone to see you.’
Barker’s eyes flickered back towards Giles. ‘So I see.’ They returned to Harris. ‘Perhaps you think that this might rattle me somehow?’
Harris didn’t reply. The anxious DI seemed to cower under Barker’s forceful stare. It wasn’t hard to see why. The former politician, whilst he appeared approachable and likeable on the television, had taken on a more commanding veneer. He glared at Harris with public school superiority, tightening his jaw muscles and widening out his shoulders in a primeval display of dominance.
‘I know your superiors, Harris,’ he continued, stepping a little closer, invading Harris’ personal space. ‘Chief Inspector Robshaw is a close personal friend of mine – we play gold once a month at my club. I’m sure he would have a lot to say about your pathetic attempts at psychological mind games…’
‘I assure you that is not the intention…’
‘Spare me your excuses,’ Barker replied, swatting the comment away with an arrogant hand. ‘You know my politics.’ He turned to face Giles. ‘You know my views on the Chinks.’
The anger was coming to a head once more. What made it worse was that Barker could see it as well. A small smirk crept across his face and he took a little step forward, angling his body so that slid in between Giles and Harris effectively cutting her out from the conversation.
‘Now, you want to know what went down here,’ he muttered. ‘I told you that I am not prepared to talk until I have spoken with Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles. I will not utter a word until she is here so I suggest that you stop wasting both of our times with your pathetic excuse at crime solving and start working on bringing DS Giles here. Do you understand?’
Harris opened his mouth to reply, but Giles was quicker off the mark. She cleared her throat, tapped Barker on the shoulder and said:
‘She’s already here.’
Surprisingly, Barker’s face didn’t register the surprise that she’d hoped. Although she couldn’t see it, she felt as though he rolled his eyes before turning his head to face her again. The smirk was still plastered across his face whilst his eyes burned with loathing.
‘Of course, you are,’ he said, before turning his head back to Harris.
‘I assure you, I am.’
This time, Barker didn’t even both to turn back. ‘A very nice idea,’ he sneered, ‘but DS Giles is British – a hard-working, model detective. Not a scumbag chink with her hands half in the welfare pot…’
Giles reached into her pockets whilst she tapped him on the shoulder. He turned his head once more, his face now displaying more than just a mild irritation, his mouth open and ready to lay into her once again. As his eyes fell on the warrant card, his mouth dropped open slightly and all colour vanished from his face. Without his reddish cheeks his face appeared rather gaunter than before and, as he read and reread the name on the warrant card, he looked as though he might be sick on the spot.
‘You?’ he spluttered. ‘You are Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles?’
Giles smiled. ‘Everyone seems so surprised by that today. Now I’m beginning to understand why.’
‘But you can’t possibly be…’
Harris stepped beside Giles and said: ‘I assure you she is…’
‘DI Harris has suggested that you might be one of my informants,’ Giles continued, her anger tinted with the slightest hint of enjoyment. ’But, if I’m honest, I can’t see you ever coming to a chink when there are so many perfectly good, white officers to work with. To be frank, I’m surprised you even stretched as far as a woman…’
Barker stood, his mouth open but no words forming. His eyes fluttered between Harris and Giles, staring intently as though trying to see through their words to find the lie. The sneer had all but gone and what remained was nothing more than abject panic.
How unbelievably satisfying…
Giles flashed a sarcastic smile. ‘Good day to you gentlemen.’
With that, she span around and, giving Harris a small tug, led him off back towards the path and back into the murder site. She didn’t look back, although she felt Harris nervously staring over his shoulder as they proceeded through to the next field. As they moved around the corner, Giles came to an abrupt stop and began pacing backwards and forwards as Harris watched on nervously.
‘Well, that was enjoyable…’
‘I’m sorry,’ Harris replied. ‘I should have told you.’
‘Yes, you should have. That arrogant pig – that self-obsessed bigot. To think that I could ever have an informant like that…’
Harris shrugged. ‘I did tell you I thought I’d wasted your time…’
Giles stopped in front of him, her eyes falling on the body against the wall of the pillbox.
‘So, what do we think? Did he just pick my name out of a newspaper headline? Was he hoping you’d just let him go if he mentioned a detective from another unit?’
Harris shrugged. ‘I guess so. He seemed confident that his story would stand up…’
‘That’s all part of the con, isn’t it? I mean he’s a politician. All politicians are con artists and liars. Particularly him.’
‘I’d agree, but it was the only part of his story that matched the evidence…’
‘To think that pathetic failure tried to use me as his get-out-of-jail card. It makes my skin crawl…’
Giles shook her head, her whole body quivering as a shiver ran down her back. The anger was still pounding through her chest, but the pacing had done its job. She was back in control and, as her breathing slowed to normality, her mind began to re-engage and her thoughts drifted back to man lying sprawled against the concrete wall.
The only part that matched the evidence…
The only part. Why would mentioning you match any evidence here?
Giles turned to face Harris.
He was stood quietly, but his weight was shuffling from foot to foot, his body swaying against the breeze whilst his face remained emotionless. He stared off to a point somewhere on the riverbank, his mind deep in thought, and he slowly bit down on his lip as his concentration intensified.
Her words broke him out of his trance. His face reset itself and curiosity replaced the intensity: ‘Hmmm?’
‘You said there was evidence that backed up my involvement,’ Giles repeated. ‘You found something at this crime scene that linked back to me. What was it?’
Something passed over Harris’ face – a thought or an idea – just for a moment.
‘It’s nothing really…’
‘It was enough for you to bring me out here. It was enough for you to suspect that Barker’s story was true, even if I did shatter it the moment I arrived. What was it?’
‘I shouldn’t really go into details…’
‘What is it?’
Harris blinked. ‘Are you sure you want to know?’
Giles nodded. Something in her mind was beginning to fire off. She wanted nothing more than to turn her back on this whole sorry affair and return back home to Jason, but a small presence in the back of her mind kept her rooted to the spot. Something about this whole affair wasn’t making sense and Giles, for all her frustration and anger, was never going to let it go unanswered.
Harris nodded for her to follow him and led Giles across the grass to where a SOCO station had been set up on a collapsible table. Laid out on the table were numerous clear evidence bags, each labelled and sealed by the forensics team. Giles watched as Harris’ hand swooped over one bag, containing a small, orange and white train ticket with ‘EDENBRIDGE TOWN’ emblazoned across the destination, and another, larger one that contained a new-looking dog leash. His hand finally picked up a small bag at the very end of the table, which seemed to contain a small scrap of paper.
Handing it over to Giles, Harris nodded encouragingly. ‘What do you make of that?’
Giles turned the paper over in her hand.
The edges are frayed on all sides. Not regularly though.
‘Well, it’s been ripped from a larger document,’ she said, bringing the bag closer to her face.
Blue and white – curious pattern, don’t you think?
Harris nodded. ‘Look’s like it. It seems pretty bog standard. Probably from a small letter or something…’
Giles shook her head. ‘No, it’s bigger than that.’
‘How can you tell?’
‘This is from the flap section on one of the edges. The flap is pretty shallow. You only tend to find that with larger envelopes.’ She looked at it again. ‘I’d say A4. This envelope was supposed to hold something pretty substantial.’
Harris raised an eyebrow. ‘Look on the other side.’
Giles turned the bag over and examined the white side of the envelope. The handwritten words were a little scrawled and difficult to decipher, but the first were plainly written, almost as if the writer had wanted there to be no doubt as to their meaning.
Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles.
Giles’ eyes flickered up to Harris. ‘Where did you find this?’
‘On our John Doe.’
‘On the body?’
Harris shook his head. ‘In his pocket.’ He nodded back in the direction of the next field. ‘We didn’t know what to make of it until Barker started sounded off. Then, when he mentioned your name, I figured the best way to get the whole thing sorted out was to bring you down here…’
Giles placed the evidence bag down on the table, disturbing a bagged, blood stained jacket as she did.
‘What exactly did Barker say?’
The confusion was written all across Harris’ face. ‘I thought you had no interest in Barker…’
‘I don’t, but he clearly has an interest in me. Did he say directly that he was my informant?’
‘Not in as many words…’
‘So, what did he say?’
Harris thought for a moment. ‘He said that he was assisting in an on-going investigation with the London police, that he would only speak to you and that this was somehow linked back to it…’
‘How’d he figure?’
‘He said that John Doe attacked him. He suggested that it was part of a professional hit to make sure he stayed quiet…’
Giles’ eyes wandered back to the body. The sprawled man looked athletic enough to suggest that he worked out or took care of his body, but he certainly didn’t seem like the hit man type. And yet, as she stared down at the body, taking in the blood splatters on the wall and the calmness in his eyes, Giles felt the distinct feeling that something was wrong. This feeling grew stronger and more defined the longer she stared at the pillbox until finally she tore her eyes away and turned back towards Harris.
She flung her arm up, her long finger pointing defiantly towards the next field.
‘There is no way in hell that I would have that man as my informant,’ she said, lowering her hand once again. ‘More to the point, he wouldn’t approach me.’
‘I understand that,’ Harris replied, nodding in agreement. ‘But I guess we may as well be thorough. You haven’t got any anonymous informants on your books, have you?’
Giles hesitated. ‘Yes, one.’
‘And could Barker…?’
‘Not a hope in hell.’
‘Alright, alright,’ replied Harris, raising his hands in surrender. ‘I had to ask.’ He turned back towards the table and eyed the evidence bags with resigned uncertainty. ‘But, if he was your informant, would his life be in danger?’
Giles felt an uncomfortable feeling creep into her stomach. Her informant had been a secret to all except a few of Giles’ team back in London – the idea of another detective poking around and asking questions made her feel very uneasy. Slowly, she nodded her head, although she stared at Harris with a new intensity, watching his every reaction, catching his every breath and flicker of an eye.
‘Why are you asking?’
Harris’ right eye flickered. His pupils dilated ever so slightly.
‘It’s just a question.’
Giles proceeded cautiously. ‘I guess, if he was found out, he might have been.’
‘In enough danger for someone to send an assassin to take him out.’
‘I doubt it.’
Harris stumbled on his breath.
He didn’t like that answer.
‘But he could be,’ he said. ‘The case is important enough that someone might come to take a pop at him…’
He’s fishing. He knows something…
‘What’s your point, sir?’
‘My point, Giles, is that I have a dead man here. Mr Barker claims that he was attacked by this man and, given Mr Barker’s celebrity status, that isn’t something I can easily ignore – particularly if I want to keep my job…’
‘How’d the gun go off?’
‘He reckons it happened as he crushed his attacker’s hands against the pillbox wall,’ Harris replied, shaking his head. ‘But that is not the point. The point is that Mr Barker is claiming that someone is out to kill him. We have evidence that backs up that claim but it only holds true if Barker is indeed one of your informants, as he is suggesting. Now, if there is even a shred of truth in this matter, there will be an urgent need to get both you and Mr Barker into protective custody as soon as possible…’
Giles threw her hands up in bewilderment, cutting Harris off as she stared coolly at him.
‘Wait a minute. What evidence? And why the hell would I need protective custody?’
Harris’ face clouded over with concern.
‘Because, if someone has just tried to kill Daniel Barker, you may well be their next target…’
‘Why?’ Giles spluttered, trying her best not to burst out laughing. ‘Ten minutes ago you wanted me out of here. You wanted me to have nothing to do with this case…’
‘Because Barker is clearly lying…’
‘So, why the interest in my informants? What possible need could you have for that information?’
‘I have to follow all the leads, no matter how ridiculous they may be,’ Harris shot back through gritted teeth. ‘I don’t know how you do things in London, but down here we have protocol. I have to follow every lead, no matter how ridiculous that may be – particularly when another detectives’ life could be on the line and when my chief suspect is as well connected as Barker is…’
‘Why would my life be at stake?’ Giles shot out, this time laughing as she spoke. ‘Because my name appears on a scrawled piece of paper? That doesn’t prove anything…’
Harris’s silence stopped Giles in her tracks. She watched as he swallowed hard and leant over to pick the evidence bag back up again. He handed it over to Giles, his eyes brimming with intensity and seriousness.
‘You didn’t see it, did you?’ he asked, allowing Giles to take hold of the bag. ‘Look again.’
‘I really don’t see…’
And then she did see.
Her eyes lingered on the scrawled writing beneath her own name and, one by one, the individual letters began to reveal themselves until they formed two undeniable words.
That can’t be right…
‘You can see it now,’ Harris said, shrugging his shoulders and staring absently towards the dead body.
‘I see it…’
‘Look, this is my case. I may have to follow every blind alley that the evidence leads me down, but there is no need for you to get involved in this. If there is some information you have that might help me then I am all-ears. Otherwise save yourself a lot of trouble and go home.’
He gave her a small smile and held out his hand for her to shake.
‘I’m sorry if I gave the wrong impression earlier,’ he said. ‘That’s really not the kind of guy I am…’
Giles wasn’t paying attention; she was too fixated on the paper in the evidence bag. What had been a mere jumble of pen strokes only moments before now merged seamlessly into the two, easily identifiable words. Staring down at it now, it was hard for Giles to imagine how she hadn’t instantly seen it before now.
She shook her head at Harris, flashing a short smile of gratitude before turning back towards the pillbox.
‘If it’s all the same to you, sir, I think I might stick around.’