Giles waited patiently by the forensics table, examining each of the plastic bags in turn. She started with the envelope scrap, turning it over in her hands, scrutinising each fibre of the torn shred of paper – searching vehemently for any thing else that she could glean from it. Aside from a small speck of blood in the top corner of the scrap, there was nothing else to gain from it, but she searched it again anyway just to be sure.
God is in the detail…
Next she moved on to the ticket.
Nothing unusual about that. Just a ticket. Issued from London Bridge for travel to Edenbridge Town. Issued today and stamped so it’s been used…
She peered a little closer.
Part of a Two-Part return. I wonder where the other ticket is then?
Giles looked up.
Harris was loitering by the body, deep in conversation with a SOCO officer. The body was white as a sheet – colourless from hours of blood loss – and the team had already started preparing it to be loaded onto a stretcher.
Giles whistled to a nearby SOCO officer and gestured for him to come over. He thought for a moment, clearly put out from being summoned like a dog, but trudged across to the table all the same. He came to a halt just across from Giles, folded his arms and glared down at her as she waggled the ticket in front of him.
‘Did the victim have anything else in his pockets?’
The SOCO officer sniffed loudly, rolling his eyes and taking the ticket from her hand. ‘Just the train ticket and the dog leash. Nothing else.’
‘Are you sure?’ Giles asked back, watching as the officer casually tossed the evidence bag back on the table. ‘No phone or wallet?’
The officer shook his head. ‘No phone. No wallet. No. No way of identifying him…’
‘Did Barker have anything on him?’
’He had his wallet and his phone.’
‘Any secretive looking documents?’
Giles took a few moments to enjoy the look of confusion on the officer’s face. It took a moment before he got the joke but, rather than laughing, it seemed to make his mood all the more testier.
Giles moved along the table and picked up the large jacket. Even through the plastic of the evidence bag, the jacket felt expensive – the quality of the material was unique and the buttons were not plastic, but horn. Through the delicately woven seams, blood trickled out against the surface of the bag; slowly dripping it’s way down to pool at the bottom.
‘This is Barker’s,’ Giles declared, turning the material until she saw the tailor’s label, bearing a Savile Row address.
‘That’s right,’ replied the SOCO. ‘He must have been drenched in the guy’s blood when the gun went off…’
‘Well, that’s one explanation…’
She set the jacket down and just started to pick up the dog leash when Harris returned.
‘I just spoke to the forensics lead,’ he announced, shoving his hands in his pockets and thrusting his twig-like belly out towards Giles. ‘We’re both in agreement. You can walk the crime scene – they’ve found most of what they need to anyway – but you can’t interfere with the body. I don’t know what you expect to find though…’
‘You’re case hinges on whether Barker is really my informant or not,’ Giles explained, placing the dog leash back down on the table. ‘If I can help you find something to discredit him, then you have your answer, right?’
‘Good, so let’s go.’
With a brief nod to the SOCO officer, Giles span around and strode straight towards the pillbox. A second later, Harris trotted up alongside her, his face turning redder as they got closer to the forensics officer who supervised the bagging of the body.
‘So we’re clear, Giles,’ he muttered, ‘you are here as my guest. This is my investigation and, regardless of your department, I am still a superior officer…’
‘I wish you would make your mind up,’ shot back Giles, stepping carefully around the blood stained grass. ‘First, your desperate for me to be down here, then you can’t get rid of me fast enough. Now you’re doing everything you can to keep me happy. What’s the deal with that?’
‘Honestly?’ Harris replied as they came to stop next to the body. ‘That Barker guy has had me flustered since the moment we arrived…’
‘At least that’s honest.’
Harris gave her a nervous smile before turning to the lead forensics officer. ‘Hey, Doc.’
The officer turned to face the pair of them, revealing an older man’s face – probably that of someone in their late fifties. Behind some square-rimmed glasses, the officer took a moment to see Harris before slowly shuffling towards them, his white overalls dragging noisily through the short grass.
Harris gave a professional nod before gesturing between Giles and the officer. ‘Doctor Thomas Bellamy. Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles.’
Bellamy surveyed Giles through his glasses and gave a slight nod, although he didn’t raise his hand to shake her’s. ‘Sergeant.’
‘Doctor,’ Giles replied, mimicking his curtness. ‘I understand you think you’ve found everything.’
‘It’s looking that way…’
‘So you have the gun then?’
‘Oh, yes, we have the gun…’
Bellamy turned around and signalled to one of his team who dutifully brought over a bagged pistol. He handed it to Giles and allowed her to examine it.
‘Glock 18,’ Harris announced. ‘We found it on the ground right next to the victim’s hand.’
‘Our initial inspection shows two set of fingerprints, which is in keeping with our suspect’s story,’ continued Bellamy, raising his eyebrow to Giles as he took the Glock away from her. ‘And one bullet fired.’
‘Have you found the casing?’
Bellamy’s eyes narrowed on Giles. ‘Well, no, not yet…’
‘Then how can you possibly say you’ve found everything? A missing bullet casing is a pretty big thing to not have found yet, don’t you agree?’
‘Things like that easily get trampled into the soft ground. An over zealous first responder or even Barker himself…’
‘But the ground is rock hard,’ Giles interrupted, stamping her foot. ‘It must be around here somewhere.’
Harris forced his way back into the conversation:
‘What are you suggesting?’
‘That your victim wasn’t killed here.’
Her words drifted through the air, as though projected by the smooth spring wind. In unison, both Harris and Bellamy cracked a smile and stared down at the ground as they tried to regain their composure. Of the two, Bellamy was the first to reply:
‘That is absurd, Sergeant,’ he said with an air of authority in his voice. ‘What about the blood splattered all over the pillbox wall?’
‘What about the blood soaking Barker’s jacket?’ Giles shot back. ‘What about the random blood stain twelve feet away?’ She gestured wildly to the blood stained wall. ‘I’d bet a month’s wages that you found his jacket fibres against that wall…’
Bellamy shrugged. ‘As a matter of fact, we did…’
‘But that makes sense given the struggle…’
Giles batted away Harris’ words. ‘The train ticket with no wallet. The dog leash with no dog. The gun on the ground, but no casing. All of it is a bit suggestive, don’t you think?’
From Harris’ face it was clear that he didn’t think. Neither did Bellamy. The old man shook his head and laughed as he turned his back on Giles muttering: ‘I’ve got enough problems without this.’
He walked away, leaving Harris still staring at Giles. Over his shoulder, Giles could see Barker deep in conversation with a male SOCO officer in the next field. The officer, who grasped hold of a large evidence bag, seemed to be suggesting to Barker that he should remove his shirt – something that Barker seemed reluctant to do.
Serves you right, you arrogant prick.
‘Alright, Giles,’ Harris said, sighing with exasperation. ‘Where do you think the casing is?’
Giles shrugged, staring around the crime scene. ‘Probably in the bottom of the river somewhere…’
Harris’ nodded his understanding. ‘So, you think Barker did it?’
Giles wasn’t listening. She was watching as Bellamy and his team gently lifted the bagged body on to a stretcher. Her eyes gazed past the working officers, falling on the blood-stained wall – travelling up the grey walls and settling on the wide opening just above. Turning around, she stared down at the patch of blood a few feet away and, in her mind, traced a line from that spot back to the pillbox.
Finally, as her thoughts fell into place, she raised a single hand and beckoned for Harris to follow her.
She headed straight for the pillbox, sidestepping the forensics team and coming to a halt right next to the opening. With eyes keen with eagerness, Giles led Harris around the bunker, ignoring each of the small openings where machine guns had once sat, until she finally stopped by what had once been a doorway. The opening, which had once been a doorway, had been bricked up with the exception of a few feet at the top where the stones had crumbles away to make an impromptu entrance.
Harris followed Giles’ eyes and nodded his understanding.
‘It was bricked up a while back,’ he said. ‘The town didn’t want people on the footpath going inside.’
‘But you said the homeless guys shelter here, right?’
Giles examined the top of the opening. ‘So, there must be a way of getting inside.’
No sooner had she spoken than her hands clasped around a long metal bar that ran along the top of the doorway. She gave a slight tug on the bar before stepping back triumphantly.
‘Do you have a torch?’
Reaching into his pocket, Harris produced a small LED that he clicked on and handed over to Giles. She stepped forward and shined the light inside the pillbox, sweeping this way and that until she was sure that no one was in there. Then, with a little difficulty, she reached up and grabbed hold of the bar, pulled herself up and swung her legs inside the opening. As she let go, she felt her back scrape against the brickwork before she landed with a dull thud on the inside of the bunker.
She swung the torchlight around again.
The pillbox was littered with rubbish: crisp packets, empty bottles and tin cans – half packs of mouldy bread, the occasional sodden sleeping bag. As her light hit the far wall, a rat scurried around the edge, fleeing the light as it clambered up the wall and disappeared through a tiny hole in the outer wall.
Behind her, Harris landed with a crack and Giles found herself flung against one of the walls as the DI fell, sprawling, on to the damp floor.
‘Watch yourself,’ Giles hissed.
Giles shone the light back towards the far side of the pillbox and slowly made her way over to it. She found the opening she was looking for and peered out to watch as Bellamy’s team carted the body away. At her feet, a red sleeping back – reeking of urine and sweat – lay abandoned beside the wall and the whole room stank of the aroma of wet cigarettes and alcohol.
Giles waited until Harris joined her before she spoke again.
‘Someone stood here,’ she announced, gesturing to the discarded food wrappers.
‘I’m not surprised,’ Harris replied. ‘They come and go all the time.’
‘No, not the homeless guys. Someone recently stood here. No more than a few hours ago.’
‘How do you know?’
Giles drew a large deep breath, concentrating hard so as not to throw up from the vile stench. She gestured for Harris to do the same. As he did, his face contorted and he immediately fell against a nearby wall, clutching his chest.
‘That’s disgusting,’ he exclaimed.
‘You smell it?’
Giles shook her head. ‘That may be part of it.’
She turned around and shone the light down on the ground. At her feet, five or six fresh cigarette butts sat floating in the thin layer of whatever liquid lined the floor. She bent down to examine them before moving the light on in search of her real quarry.
Harris, finally recovering from the smell, kicked himself off the wall and took a tentative step towards her. ‘A witness?’
Giles glanced up. ‘A murderer.’
She reached down to the ground, picking up a small biro on the floor that, after a cursory examination, she used to fish something out from amongst the rubbish on the floor. When she finally got hold of what she was looking for, she slowly got to her feet and held up the item for Harris to examine.
She watched with excitement as his eyes lit up. The small bullet casing – a .45 ACP - shimmered in the light from the openings, sending orange light dancing around the dull walls.
‘Well, well,’ he whispered, reaching into his pocket for an evidence bag. ‘Our Mr Barker’s story is coming apart quite nicely…’
Giles deposited the casing in the evidence bag and dropped the pen back on the floor. ‘It certainly gives me a bit more leverage…’
Giles flashed him a winning smile and moved back towards the opening. ‘You said that a woman saw Barker with the victim?’
‘Bent over his body, yes…’
‘I was wondering if I might be able to speak with her?’
Maisy Larken sat awkwardly perched on a small, walking stool, balancing precariously as she nodded enthusiastically at Giles. Every now and again, her eyes shot up to the tall, handsome-looking, uniformed officer who had been keeping her company, smiling weakly as though searching for some kind of approval.
She must have answered the same question nearly a dozen times but, when Giles posed it to her, she seemed more than happy to retell her story again.
‘I was out for a run,’ she explained, gesturing to her tight, running gear. ‘I always run the river path every morning. I find it clears my head a little.’
‘And where did you see the two men?’
‘Over by the pillbox,’ she replied. ‘The dead guy was all sprawled up against the wall and the other man, Mr Barker, was leaning over him, his hands inside his jacket – I think he was feeling for a pulse or something, but there was so much blood that I don’t think he could have helped him…’
‘Did Mr Barker take anything off the victim?’
‘Not that I saw. He looked up as soon as I came round the corner and shouted out for me to call for an ambulance.’ She glanced up at the uniformed officer. ‘Like I said to Ted – I mean PC Bright - I didn’t have my phone on me – I mean who would when they go out running?’
‘So, you went off to find one?’
‘Well, of course I did. I ran off and came across a dog walker just at the edge of the recreation ground. I borrowed his phone and called you lot straight away…’
‘Did he have a dog with him?’
‘The dog walker? Well, of course he did?’
‘No, no,’ Giles replied, shaking her head vigorously. ‘The victim. Did you see if he had a dog with him?’
Maisy shrugged. ‘Not that I saw.’
Giles nodded thoughtfully, rubbing her hands awkwardly against her trousers.
‘And then you came back?’
‘Straight away,’ Maisy replied. ‘By the time I got back, Mr Barker was stood back aways – near to the river bank. He looked white as a sheet, like something awful had happened – which I suppose it had in a way…’
‘And you’ve never seen the victim before?’
Maisy thought for a moment.
‘I think I may have done. Once or twice. Only recently though. You’d see him out, skulking down by the river as though he was looking for something…’
Maisy shrugged. ‘The last couple of weeks? I never paid him much mind before. But, if I’d known he was going to get his head blown in, I might have paid more attention. You never do know when these things are going to happen, do you Ted? I mean it’s awful, isn’t it? One minute you’re fine and the next…’
‘Thank you, Miss Larken…’
Giles span around and quickly marched back to where Harris was waiting, an amused expression adorning his face.
‘Spirited one, isn’t she?’ he asked, flashing a small smile. ‘So, what’s your feeling? Did Barker kill him?’
Giles stopped, exhaled heavily and stared off down the path towards the pillbox.
‘Honestly? I have no idea.’
‘Well,’ Harris replied, squeezing Giles’ shoulder slightly as he stepped towards her, ‘you’ve had your fun. Now have a look of what I make of it.’