Giles and Barker stood in absolute silence, staring deep into each other’s eyes as Harris glance from one to the other. With a slight smirk, Barker reached in to his pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. Taking one for himself, he placed the pack back and removed a lighter that he used to light the white stick dangling from his mouth. As the familiar smell of the peculiar cigarette smoke wafted towards Giles, her mind raced and her heart quickened until it was practically pounding inside her chest.
Slowly and with her eyes firmly fixed on Barker, she turned towards Harris.
‘Detective Inspector,’ she said. ‘May I have a moment alone with your suspect?’
Harris’s eyes quivered as his mouth dropped open in confusion. A moment later, he seemed to regain some control over himself and, taking a step or two forward, he straightened his tie and stood a little taller than before. ‘Absolutely not.’
‘This is important…’
‘So is my investigation. This man, at the very least, is a witness to a crime…’
‘Just five minutes,’ Giles said, finally ripping her gaze from Barker and settling firmly on Harris. ‘Five minutes alone. That won’t make much difference will it?’
Harris glanced again between Giles and Barker, his face frowning as he mentally assessed the situation. As his eyes fell back on Giles, he nodded to a spot behind him and took a few steps away from Barker. Giles followed suit, giving one last look at Barker who puffed triumphantly on his cigarette.
When Harris came to a halt, his voice was hushed and more earnest.
‘What the hell are you playing at?’
‘Five minutes, that’s all I’m asking for…’
‘You’re asking for a hell of a lot more than that.’ Harris shot back, his eyes glancing nervously towards Barker. ‘That man is looking at a murder charge. He probably has access to some of the finest lawyers in the country. Any hint that we haven’t done this thing by the book and they will eat us alive.’
‘Daniel Barker didn’t kill that man…’
‘How do you know?’
‘You haven’t got a case.’
Harris laughed. ‘Barker was seen bending over the dead man. His clothes were soaked in the victim’s blood.’
‘All would be true if he was just trying to help…’
‘Most important of all, the shot was not fired from where he said it was fired. As you quite rightly pointed out, it certainly smelled like he’d been smoking in that bunker…’
‘I said someone,’ Giles corrected. ‘That doesn’t mean it was Barker…’
‘The scrap of paper, the mysterious blood stain on the grass, the missing dog – Barker’s story doesn’t make sense…’
A thought flashed across Giles’ mind.
‘Yes,’ she mused, more to herself than to Harris. ‘The missing pieces. I wonder where they went?’
Harris glanced over at Barker.
‘I don’t know who you think that man is, but I am telling you he is a murderer…’ He turned back to Giles. ‘The evidence is clear cut. Barker was supposed to be meeting this guy for some sort of exchange. Something went wrong, or maybe Barker never intended to make the trade, so he shot him in the back of the head at point blank range. Simple. Effective.’
‘What was he exchanging? Half a train ticket and a dog leash?’ Giles shook her head. ‘You haven’t got a case, sir. There’s nothing more than circumstantial evidence. No evidence that anyone attacked him and no evidence that he deliberately shot that man…’
‘Apart from the smell in the bunker. And the scrap of paper…’
‘Circumstantial,’ Giles said, placing a gentle hand on Harris’ arm. ‘The explanations for that evidence could just as easily be used to explain whatever story he comes up with…’
Harris opened his mouth to argue, but he already knew Giles was right. Slinking back into himself, he glared over at Barker. He bit down on his lip and his eyes began to blink erratically.
‘Yes,’ he said eventually. ‘We need a confession, I know. That is precisely why I don’t want anyone contaminating his story by telling him what we know…’
‘I’m not asking to tell him what we know. I just want a chance to find out what he knows…’
The two detectives glanced as one towards the former politician. Barker paced slowly on the spot, pivoting from one patch of grass to another, seemingly strutting around like a peacock. Giles turned back to Harris.
‘Five minutes,’ she said. ‘Let me talk to him for five minutes. Just to find out what he knows - if he really is who I think he is. Anything pertaining to the murder will be strictly off limits, I promise…’
Harris’ eyes remained glued on Barker. ‘And who do you think he is? Clearly not Daniel Barker the extreme politician. Clearly not the man who would have you and everyone like you drummed out of the country…’
Giles smiled warmly back at him. ‘If he is who I think he is, I promise you will have an explanation…’
‘You’ll give me one anyway,’ Harris replied, considering her for a couple of seconds.
Finally, he nodded his head and gestured for her to approach Barker once again. As Giles stepped forward, she heard Harris clap his hands and, as though pulled by a single string, the police officers around Barker stepped back in unison until they were little less than ten metres away. By the time Giles came to a halt in front of him, Barker was staring around, nodding his head in cocky approval.
‘Very nice,’ he said, taking a long drag from the cigarette. ‘The power you must wield, Detective Sergeant Giles…’
‘Who are you?’ Giles replied bluntly.
Barker’s hand paused momentarily as he stared at her, his eyes scanning her furiously. A second later, his face burst out into a grin once more and he flicked the cigarette across the ground where it smoked quietly for a minute or two longer before going out.
‘I didn’t mean to kill him,’ he said soothingly. ‘You have to believe that.’
‘I didn’t ask…’
‘No,’ Barker agreed. ‘But you are curious.’
Giles felt her mouth twitch and the tendons in her neck stretch and swing back again. The smoke from Barker’s cigarette slowly drifted into her nostrils, corrupting her senses and willing her to reach into her own pocket to smoke one herself. She resisted the urge, but the discomfort she felt around Barker only strengthened as time moved on.
‘You know,’ she said, ‘they have all the evidence they need to put you away.’
Barker’s mouth curled with a momentary glimpse of anger. ‘Evidence based on prejudice is no evidence at all.’
‘Coming from a man with you ideological background, that’s really touching…’
Barker paused, took a deep breath and steadied himself. ‘It’s just politics. It’s nothing personal.’
‘Not to you maybe…’
Although she didn’t show it, inside Giles felt like smiling. For the first time since she had laid eyes on Barker, she felt the cautious feeling of triumph moving through her body. Barker, the man who made it acceptable to hate others in Britain, was accused of murder and the evidence was pointing towards a probable conviction. The man who inspired so much ill feeling was facing a lifetime in one of the darkest buildings in Britain…
Good riddance to him…
Deep inside her, a hissing beast wiggled around, willing Giles to turn and walk away.
‘You can’t allow them to take me in,’ Barker protested, crossing his arms and staring confrontationally around at the surrounding officers.
‘I can’t stop them. This isn’t my jurisdiction.’
‘What if I made it your jurisdiction?’
Giles’ patience was wearing thin. ‘Mr Barker, why are both of our names written on that scrap of paper? Why am I here?’
‘Don’t you understand? It’s all linked together. The killer you’re hunting, the man who tried to have me killed – it’s the same person.’
Giles chuckled. ‘The Bluebell Killer is dead. You know that as well as I do.’
‘Then why does he want us both dead?’
Barker glanced around. The ring of uniformed officers didn’t seem to be listening but he didn’t want to take any chances. He stepped a little closer, prompting her to retreat back away from him. His face twisted with exasperation, Barker leant forward a little and whispered:
‘You were so close to bringing him down. So close.’
‘I did bring him down,’ Giles replied. ‘I have my scars to prove it…’
She reached up and touched the scarf around her neck. Barker’s eyes narrowed to look at the silk material, but Giles kept it firmly in place. Barker shook his head.
‘No, he is out there. And you are the only one I trust to bring him down.’
‘Mr Barker, you may have been my informant once – I doubt it, but it’s possible. But if you were, you already know that the Bluebell Killer is dead and gone. I found him. You gave me evidence that led me right to him and I found him – and I shot him dead. There’s nothing more to be said about it…’
‘Eve, do you not understand where you are?’ Barker replied. ‘That man was sent to kill me. He was sent in revenge for the information I passed on to you. He was going to kill me and lie me down amongst the bluebells and no one would be any the wiser.’ He took a deep breath, the air catching in the back of his throat causing him to stutter through the act. ‘The Bluebell Killer is more than just one man. We are talking about a conspiracy here. His spies may be everywhere, even in this very field. And if you don’t do something to stop him, I will be dead and you along with me…’
If there was ever any doubt in Giles’ mind about who Daniel Barker was to her, it had all but gone now. Inside her stomach, the beast wriggled a little and whispered to her.
Is that enough for you?
Giles took a step forward. Had it been any other person, she might have risked a smile. Instead, she stared at him for a moment before giving a short, courteous nod.
Hidden behind a desk in the Kent Force Control Room, Alison Carew peered subtly over the top of her computer. At the next desk in front, Lawrence Heller was doing his usual tea run, moving from desk to desk to take their orders as he did at this time every morning. As he stopped at the desk before Alison’s, Lawrence’s eyes momentarily flickered up to see her peering out at him. With what she hoped was with a casual demeanour, Alison allowed her eyes to wander around the room before she slinked back into her chair and pretended to resume her typing.
She had hoped that this would be the day when Lawrence would extend his generosity as far as her relegated position at the back of the Control Room, that finally she would be accepted as one of the team. But, as he did everyday, Lawrence merely chuckled to himself and went off to grab the beverages for the rest leaving Alison with the cold, hard feeling of undeserved misery and uselessness.
She had never been one of the team. Ever since they found out who her father was, Alison had been the person to avoid. She was the daughter of the Former Prime Minister; the man who not only successfully led the country blindly in to near bankruptcy, but had also flourished his achievement with a couple of illegal wars that torn the straps of Britain’s communal camaraderie to shreds. For those who didn’t like the current government, Edmund Carew was the target of all their abuse and, as his daughter, Alison was no less a focus of the brutal remarks being flung around.
It had been this isolation that had made Alison so eager to run the secretive errands for the top dogs of the Force. Occasionally that meant snitching on the others in her team much to their disgust and irritation but, given her already well-established unpopularity, it had made little difference to her day-to-day existence. Although, the occasional cup of tea would have been nice…
It had been a slow day so far. The only real incident had been the body found by the River Eden earlier that morning. The Bank Holiday usually brought its fair share of drunken scuffles and domestic disturbances but nothing that seriously strained them. Today there had hardly been any so far. But the day was still young and afternoon rush would soon be in full swing…
Alison listened attentively to the radio chatter coming from the scene at Edenbridge, watching jealously as Lawrence returned with a tray full of teas that he dished out gleefully to the rest of the team. She had little to do after the initial call out save for recovering some contact details for a Detective Sergeant Giles for the DI on scene. The waves had been effectively silent ever since.
But now the radio was positively buzzing with activity as the team prepared to pack up and head back.
‘Dispatch Control, do you read me, over?’
Alison cleared her throat and adjusted her headset to bring the microphone closer to her mouth. ‘This is Dispatch, reading you clearly, over.’
‘Please advise the station, we are bringing in a suspect, over.’
Alison’s nimble fingers darted over her keyboard as she typed in the information. ‘Copy that. Central has been advised. What is the identity of the prisoner, over?’
‘Suspect’s name is Daniel Barker, over.’
Alison’s eyes widened and she instinctively drew a large breath of shock. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard as her mind formed an image of the man they had in custody; the man who’s youthful charm and wit had not only ousted her father but made him the most hated man in Britain. Daniel Barker – the man who ruined her father’s career and her life.
Slowly she brought herself back into the conversation and allowed her fingers to type out the name. ‘Copy that. They’ll be ready. Out.’
The radio went silent.
Alison stared at the screen in silence, her fingers slowly reaching for her jacket pocket. From it, she removed a mobile phone that she tucked inside her sleeve as she quietly got to her feet and moved towards the door. From his desk, Lawrence watched her with a mischievous smile as she crossed the office and stepped through the door that led to the kitchen.
When inside, she filled up the kettle and turned it on before taking out her phone and typing a text message.
Daniel Barker to be brought in. Suspected of murder in Edenbridge.
Satisfied, she hit the send button and waited until the message was gone before pocketing the phone. A few moments later, the kettle was boiled and Alison poured herself a cup of tea that she carried delicately back to her desk before continuing with her work.