Another summer day. Another murder.
The dark Ford edged slowly through the streets, slowing as shoppers darted out in front of it on their way to Camden Lock Market. The aroma of a dozen different cultural dishes wafted through the window fused intermittently with the slightest hint of marijuana. As the car passed by, eager dealers looked in, hoping to get a bit of trade but, for the most part, its presence went unnoticed.
It passed under the famous Camden Town railway bridge and continued a few hundred feet further down the road before crossing over the canal. It pulled over immediately after, sending a few tourists skimming out of the way as the car mounted the pavement.
Giles clambered out of the passenger side and waited for the others to join her before setting off down to the towpath. Her companions walked a little ahead of her, talking animatedly as they consulted the case file: DI Frank Bolton, strong and commanding, led the discussion, rattling off a list of questions; DC John Scutter, short and fat from his over drinking, listened carefully, flicking through the file, struggling to hold the pages down in the stiff breeze.
Giles had no need to listen in. She knew the case file better than anyone and she had read what little updates there were on the way across town.
She followed the others as descended down to the towpath. Up ahead, a plethora of white-clad SOCOs had set up shop next to the lock and, from where she was, Giles could see two divers slowly climbing up the lock ladders.
A suicide. It has to be.
‘That would be nice,’ Giles muttered.
‘What was that?’
Bolton turned to face her. With an inquisitive eye he glared down at her as Scutter skimmed through the case file.
Bolton nodded and carried on.
The lock was empty, or as empty as it was likely to be with the huge amount of water trying to surge through the old, wooden gates. As they arrived alongside, a female SOCO waved them over and shook hands with each in turn. Dr Susan Harken smiled sweetly when she got to Giles – the dinner party from the night before clearly playing on her mind.
‘Recovered yet?’ Giles asked playfully.
‘I don’t think I will look at dice the same way again…’
Bolton cleared his throat, gesturing to a nearby white tent that had been hastily constructed for their purposes. ‘Shall we get on?’
Harken led the three of them through to the tent where a large, flabby man lay facedown on the ground. As the three detectives filed in, Harken handed Bolton a soggy wallet, which he passed on to Scutter to open up. After a few seconds of searching, Scutter found what he was looking for.
‘Henry Jones. Thirty-six years old,’ he announced, flipping through the wallet. ‘A banker according to his business card. No money missing.’
‘He was found face down in the lock this morning,’ Harken explained, directing her comments towards Giles. ‘I estimate he’d been there since the early hours of the morning.’
Bolton shrugged. ‘So he drunkenly fell in last night?’
Harken shook her head. ‘I’ll run a tox-screen back at the lab, of course, but I don’t see anything to suggest that. Besides…’ she pointed at the victim’s neck ‘…there are ligature marks around his throat.’
‘Suicide?’ piped up Scutter.
Giles coughed. ‘No one tried to strangle themselves and then throws themselves into a lock. It’s too messy.’ She turned back to Harken. ‘We have a murder then. But why call us?’
Harken shot a knowing look and bent down next to the body. Carefully, she placed her fingers under the dead man’s clothing and began to lift it up.
‘I thought you’d be interested, given the circumstances…’
She was right.
As she brought the shirt past the centre of the man’s back, Giles could see the blue-violet flowers strapped to his skin using duct tape. She didn’t react at first, aware that Harken was staring intently up at her, but Scutter was not so veiled.
‘Oh my God,’ he whispered. ‘Not another one.’
Giles let herself into the small apartment, carefully placing the keys down on the side table as she pulled her latex gloves over her fingers.
Henry Jones had been successful in his lifetime, but that success had made him a rather lonely man. His neighbours didn’t know him very well and he had little family to speak of. As Giles walked past the bare walls and shelves devoid of any personal photographs, she somehow felt less sorry for the man.
True he had been murdered but – somehow – Giles wondered whether he would have lasted much longer had that not been the case. The man who had lived here was not a man enjoying life to the full, but a man waiting to die. Waiting for the end of it all.
Maybe he did him a favour…
She made her way through to the study, moving straight across to a large desk at the far side. She flicked through a pile of letters that lay discarded on the desk – nothing particularly intimate, just bills mostly. She opened up a bank statement and casually glanced down the transactions.
Henry Jones may not have been full of the joys of life, but he certainly knew how to party. His debit and credit card bills were littered with the names of nightclubs and off-licenses, fancy restaurants and expensive hotel rooms.
Some of these cash withdrawals must be for a hooker, Giles thought, looking at an amount that had been regularly removed from the account.
She was about to set the letter back down when something caught her eye – a large deposit that had been placed in Jones’ account a week or so before the murder…
Twenty thousand pounds.
‘I wonder what that’s about…’
‘Scutter,’ Giles barked, moving swiftly across the CID office.
Scutter stirred reluctantly, sitting up from his mid-day nap and glaring at Giles as she came to a halt in front of his desk.
Giles handed him the bank statement.
‘I need you to look into that last deposit made into Jones’ account. It was twenty grand from an unnamed account. I need you to see if we can find anything on it.’
‘What for? We already know it was Bluebell who got him.’
‘Just do it, John…’
Giles strode away, acutely aware of Scutter cursing beneath his breath. She made her way quickly across the office and knocked on a large door that led through to Bolton’s personal office space.
Bolton peered up at her with tired eyes.
‘Eve, do we have anything yet?’
‘Nothing new,’ replied Giles, taking a seat opposite him. ‘No one seems to know much about Jones apart from the fact he was a banker. He doesn’t seem to have had any close friends or family.’
Bolton sighed. ‘Well, I don’t imagine it would do us much good anyway. It hasn’t so far.’
‘One possible lead though,’ Giles continued. ‘Jones received a large payment shortly before his death. It might be worth looking in to…’
‘How much are we talking?’
Giles told him. Bolton whistled and rubbed his large forehead, his fingers toying with the fringes of his short, black, curly hair.
‘Alright, it’s worth a shot,’ he said, leaning back in his chair. ’The Commander is screaming to know what’s happening. The last thing he wants is to be in the dark when another ‘Bluebell Killer’ headline appears tomorrow morning…’
In the next room, a phone began to ring. Giles looked up and could see Scutter gesturing wildly towards her desk. Taking the hint, Giles made her excuses and left Bolton’s office, moving swiftly across the floor and taking a seat behind her own desk.
‘Giles,’ she announced down the phone.
‘Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles?’
The voice on the end of the phone was calm and confident, quiet and well-spoken.
‘That’s right,’ Giles replied. ‘Who am I speaking to?’
‘My name is not important. But what I want is.’
Giles hesitated. ‘And what do you want?’
‘To help.’ The voice took a long deep breath. ‘I have information on the man you have come to know as The Bluebell Killer.’ He hesitated. ‘Am I right in thinking you are the person to talk to?’
Giles’ heart skipped a beat.
‘I am working on that investigation, yes…’
‘But I am not the lead detective in charge. Let me transfer you to DI Bolton…’
‘Detective Inspector Frank Bolton cannot be trusted with this information. I fear that many of your colleagues have already been corrupted by what I have to tell you…’
‘I can assure you that DI Bolton is amongst some of the finest officers in the district…’
‘My help is for you. No one else.’ The voice sounded more urgent this time.
Giles glanced around the room. Nobody had been paying attention to her conversation.
Pity. I could use a second set of ears…
‘Alright,’ she said slowly. ‘What information have you got?’
The voice took a deep breath. ‘Henry Jones is confirmed as one of his victims, is he not?’
Giles’ eyes widened. ‘How did you know that?’
The voice hesitated a moment longer. ‘Follow the money.’
The line went dead.
Giles was ready the next time the mysterious caller contacted her. It had been a good few weeks and, during that time, Giles had made it her habit of recording every conversation she had on desk line. As the phone rang this time, she gave little thought to it as she clicked on the recorder and settled back into her chair.
‘Did you find it?’
Giles’ eyes widened. ‘Yes, I did.’
Giles shook her head. ‘If this is going to carry on, I’m going to need a name.’
The voice went quiet as he thought for a moment. ‘You can call me Max,’ he said finally.
‘Not your real name, I’m guessing?’
The voice chuckled. ‘I just had to look around for inspiration. Now, tell me, what did you learn?’
‘I’m not at liberty to discuss that with members of the public…’
‘Then I shall tell you,’ Max interrupted. ‘You discovered that the account that sent that large sum to Mr Jones also sent large sums to several other people, am I correct?’
Giles glanced around furtively before replying. ‘That’s right.’
‘And each of those others are now dead - all victims of the Bluebell Killer, right?’
Giles didn’t reply at first. On a television at the far side of the room, Scutter and another officer were watching the news as the latest updates from the Houses of Parliament flashed across the screen.
‘Why does he pay them first, Max?’ she asked tentatively. ‘What’s the connection?’
‘The account is anonymous and untraceable. You will never find a link back to your killer that way.’
‘Then give me something, anything to go on.’
The voice went silent. ‘The Bluebell Killings are all different. Each method of murder is different from all the others and yet you believe, whole heartedly, that they are all linked somehow.’
‘Because of the bluebells…’
‘Any fool can drop a bunch of bluebells on a corpse, DS Giles.’
‘So what’s the point?’
’The point is that the bluebells are a distraction, a ploy to make you think that the murders have all been committed by the same person…’
Giles’ mind stuttered to a halt.
‘You mean the Bluebell Killer is a collection of different murderers?’
‘No, no, Giles,’ the voice replied playfully. ‘Haven’t you been listening? The Bluebell Killer is one man – one man with the power to influence a dozen others. If he wants them dead, then all he has to do is hire someone to do it for him…’
‘So, why use the bluebells at all? Why provide a link between all the crimes?’
The voice chuckled. ’The bluebells are a warning. ‘Don’t mess with the Bluebell Killer’. The man you seek is powerful and with a great deal of influence…’
‘You mean a gang lord? A mafia type?’
‘In the past, bodies were got rid of quietly,’ Max replied. ‘No body. No questions. The man you seek is a new breed of terror.’
‘But who is he? Who is the Bluebell Killer?’
There was silence on the end of the line. For a moment, Giles thought she could hear the sound of a whimper echoing behind Max, followed by a hiss of quiet. When Max spoke again, his voice sounded more relax – like a great strain had been lifted from his conscience.
‘When I have more proof, I will be in touch.’
And with that, Max was gone.