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The Sandbrook affair

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What if Alec Hardy was the one allegedly having the affair during the Sandbrook case?  When DC Rose Tyler is suspected by Alec's wife of having an affair with her husband, Rose is with the team as Alec finds Pippa in the river and she's the one to pull him out.  After he's discharged from hospital, they begin an affair and Rose convinces him his wife is also having an affair.  When the case falls apart, Alec asks for a transfer, having to leave Rose behind until she tells him she's pregnant.  He takes a job in Broadchurch meant for someone else then they both walk into another murder. 



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Chapter 1
A/N:  Alec Hardy looks a bit like he did in the flashbacks in series two in the early stages of the story and we learn he's not so grumpy to start off with but he changes due to the fact his wife thinks he is having an affair and the effects of the two cousins going missing.  Rose had obviously never met the doctor in this story.

Rose Tyler had worked hard to be accepted into the police training academy and upon her graduation, that her mother and her old boyfriend Mickey attended, she was assigned to a station in North London and spent the last two years there until she'd been promoted to detective constable and been told she had a new assignment, in the South Mercia police, in a town called Sandbrook.   Alec Hardy had been promoted, much to his wife's dismay to detective inspector, she had put in for the promotion and been turned down.  It had caused endless rows in the Hardy household and their daughter Daisy was always caught in the middle.

So Rose had arrived at the station on her first day after she had received her promotion to detective constable, being shown an empty locker and told to report to DS Henchard for assignment.  Tess however was not impressed with the new arrival but could find no fault with her record, just the fact she was young and blonde and half the males in the station would be chasing her and since she was paranoid, her husband.

"So, DC Tyler, your first assignment as DC?"

"Yes Ma'am," Rose had replied after her induction.

"Well, we'll see how you get on, you're with DS Moore, he's retiring next week."

Rose wasn't too happy but she needed some experience.  So she had been partnered with the veteran detective sergeant who was about to retire and they had made a name for themselves bringing in a ring of petty thieves who liked to go around waiting for pensioners coming out from collecting their money and he had been the bait, a task the chief had said was perfect for him.

Everyone had patted the detective sergeant on the back and said a 'well done' to Rose but Tess noticed her husband sit up and take a good look at the blonde and she was less than pleased.  Alec though had better things to worry about than a new DC, even if she was young and blonde and was unaware the chief was going to partner her with him. 

Now though, Rose had been there a week, earned her way into the station and Tess had no reason to object to her being made her husband's DC and called her into her office after the chief told her she had the pleasure of informing Rose.  The chief didn't like doing petty things such as telling officers their assignments but since Alec Hardy's DC had just asked for a transfer to be near his girlfriend, he'd had to have a re-think and Tyler was the obvious choice.

So he'd called Tess in for a meeting to see if there were any alternatives but females tended to stay away from the DI because Tess warned them all off.

"Right Tess, you can tell her since you did her induction.  She did well with that pensioner thing, tell her I said so."

"Yes Sir but about her being partnered with Alec?"

"Tess, you are paranoid, do you know that?  Not every female in the station wants to steal your husband from under your nose, get over it.  Ever thought of seeing a marriage guidance counsellor?"

"I'm not that bad, I just don't like the way they all eye him up and he sits in his office and smiles back at them."

"He's their immediate boss Tess, he's all there is between them and me, after you of course."

Tess was far from pleased she had somehow become the chief's go-between and got to get out of the station less and less and do his paperwork for him as she went off to her tiny office that had been found for her since the chief had decided to split the two of them up.  She thought now DS Moore was retiring, she might get his job.

Even though she never used her married name, everyone knew they were married, including Rose, who was about to learn the hard way.  Rose was sitting at her desk, listening to the office talking about the DS's retirement party that night.  He'd invited Rose as well, telling her he couldn't have closed that case and gone out on a high level if not for her.  Tess had got up and called Rose from her office door.

"DC Tyler, you report to DI Hardy on Monday morning."

Rose was a little surprised but she knew the other DC had already sneaked off without any fuss.  She knew the two of them were married but didn't seem to get along, always carefully avoiding each other as they were on the same floor so thinking nothing of it she called  to tell her mother, back in London.

"Hey Mum," she said cheerfully.

"So are you settling down then?"

She hated lying but all she could afford was a room in a boarding house and relied on eating cheaply at the station until her next month's pay went into her dwindling bank account since she'd had to move suddenly when her promotion had come up.

"Oh, you know, I'm getting by.  Got my first big collar here today, been chasing a gang of thieves all week, finally got them locked up.  I just got made the DI's new DC, the other one left.  The thing is though, his wife's a DS and she's made it clear to all the female officers he's off-limits."

"Well that won't be a problem for you, will it?"

Rose had learned her lesson pining after a good-looking DS while she'd been a lowly WPC in the station she'd just been transferred from.  She thought he must have been glad she had left, since he'd shown no interest in her.

She got ready to go out to the retirement party of the DS she'd been working with, not dressing up too much, she'd not really had the money to go out but he should be the one buying the drinks and he did owe her for catching that gang.  She found the pub and hoped she could get a ride home with someone who was passing.  If she got a taxi, it would be more expense and there was almost a week to payday. 

Luckily, she'd got a weekly bus ticket so she'd caught the bus to the station, the pub being just around the corner, conveniently and she'd have to make an excuse to leave in time for the last one, which was 10.45 but if no-one took notice of her or she had to buy her own drinks, that wasn't going to be a problem.

A few of the female officers were in the corner with the DS who was retiring, all laughing and joking when he saw Rose looking around.

"Rose, come and join us, what are you drinking?" he asked.

Well at least she was going to get one drink bought for her, she'd maybe have to make it last.  That was until Alec and Tess Hardy walked in, apart, Rose noticed.  She'd also noticed at the station they hardly acknowledged each other during the day, maybe they made it a point of doing so and made up for it when they got home?  Rose had also learned they had an eleven year old daughter, she'd heard the DS talking with someone about a birthday party next week in the station's canteen the other day.

No wonder she was warning off the female officers then but she seemed very insecure if she felt it was necessary.  Tess went to sit at the next table to the crowd that was gathering at the tables, some of them still at the bar though the men didn't look like they were in a hurry to move.  Rose had been surprised non of them had tried their luck with her yet, her being fresh bait, so to speak.

Rose was sort of sat between two tables, trying to join in the conversation about past arrests of the retiring DS and smiling every now and then but she turned around and Tess nodded to her so she smiled back as Alec brought two drinks to the table, then seeing Rose's glass was almost empty.

"Can I get you a refill?" he offered, Rose not quite being used to him talking to her, he'd barely said half a dozen words all week and she was meant to work with him from Monday.  She hadn't even known he was Scottish until the day before when he'd been talking to Tess outside her office.

Alec had pointed out the new DC, who was gathering information about the robberies and Tess had warned him not to get friendly with her.

"So, who's the new DC then?" he'd asked innocently enough, sipping on the tea he'd just got up to make since he didn't believe in getting any junior officers to do it for him and it got him out of his office for five minutes since the latest case was being dealt with.

"Leave her alone Alec."

"What do you take me for Tess?" he'd asked quietly, at first.  "You warn everyone off why?  I'm surprised anyone wants to work with me and my DC leaves tomorrow."

"Well I don't do assignments around here, I just pass on what the chief wants," she'd told him back.

"I give up," he'd said out loud, passing by Rose's desk and not even looking at her.

Risking bringing Tess down on her she drank up and held out the glass.  "Thanks, a white wine and lemonade, plenty of lemonade."

"Come now, it's a night out, enjoy yourself," he smiled.

Tess was not so pleased.  "Don't encourage people Alec, you're always doing that."

"Well excuse me for being so polite.  Maybe I should sit in my office and be grumpy all day, would that please you?"

He took the glass and went back to the bar, Tess muttering an "I thought you already did that?"

Rose tried not to laugh, they really were like that outside the station after all.  When he handed her the drink, Rose very carefully tried to avoid any contact with him for fear his wife would say something to her and stop her working with him, leaving her to sit at her desk all day.  It had been non-stop over the last week and she'd loved every minute of it, driving the DS around in an unmarked car and keeping surveillance at several post office's in the area where reports had come from until that morning when several units were waiting where the gang were seen heading in the general direction after their 'hits' and they'd all been taken away to be booked.

She caught Alec a few times, trying to avoid looking at her and she wished there was somewhere else to move to but all the seats were taken, apart from one in the corner next to DS Dave Harris and even though she'd only been there a week, he gave her the creeps.  She thought if anyone was playing around, it was bound to be him.

Rose was about to get up to go to the ladies room when Alec got up, saying he was going in the same direction and she dare not follow him but Tess got a phone call so she risked not being noticed but he was coming out of the men's room after she'd picked her way through the pub lounge.

"Hello again," Alec said cheerfully, after he'd had two lagers and a whisky, well that Rose had noticed.

She'd politely said she would drink what she had when he'd last asked her if she wanted another refill.  She knew her limit and wanted to be able to catch the bus in half an hour.  She hoped he was sensible and get a cab home, Tess had also had three drinks though what they were, Rose couldn't tell, something in a tall glass with ice and a black straw she kept moving the ice-cubes around with.  It could have just been lemonade she supposed.

"Enjoying the party?" he asked as he blocked her way.

Maybe Tess had something to worry about after all.  He was very good-looking, a hint that he'd not shaved but was only just showing, his hair thick and brown and instead of his grey suit she'd seen him wearing all week, he was wearing black trousers and a dark blue casual shirt with a tweed jacket and she thought his dress sense was a bit odd.

"Yeah but I've been to livelier ones.  Thanks for the drinks by the way, I wasn't even gonna come here tonight, with just moving I'm a bit short of money."

"Oh, well you came and it was my pleasure to buy your drinks, it would have been rude to bring ours back and not ask you.  Time for another?"

"No thanks, I'll finish that one, I have to go out to catch the last bus soon."

"Nonsense, get a cab."

"I can't really afford one."

"Then Tess and I will drop you off in ours, she will want to leave soon for the minder or she'll get charged another hour.  We will finish our drinks and call a cab."

"Well if you're sure it won't be out of the way?  I'm just in a B&B at the moment, I'm looking for somewhere to share, to keep the costs down."

"Have you tried the notice board in the canteen?"

"No, I never thought of that, thanks."

He let her past and five minutes later when she got back, Tess was getting her jacket on.

"If you want dropping off, you'll have to leave now," Tess told her, not looking happy when Alec had gone back and she'd noticed Rose was missing.  Tess had got a call from the minder that in just over half an hour it was past their agreed time.  She would normally leave Daisy overnight with her mother but she was away for the weekend.  Then she'd been even more annoyed he'd told Rose she could share a taxi with them.

"Tess, it would not be polite to leave her alone at the bus stop, it won't take long to just drop her off where she's staying," he defended himself.

"You know where's she's staying?"

"No, of course not but how many boarding houses can there be within a reasonable distance of the station?"

Rose sat in the front of the cab, since Tess got in first and she didn't fancy sitting in the middle so she gave the address of the boarding house quietly to the driver, hoping her two superior officers in the back wouldn't hear and be taking no notice when she got out.

As the cab pulled up, Alec told the driver they were paying when they got to their destination and he leaned over to Rose as she was getting out.

"See you Monday morning then Rose?"

"Yeah, thanks for the ride home, goodnight Sir."

Alec was about to tell her not to call him that outside work when Tess pulled him back and reminded him they had less than twenty minutes to get home.  He hoped they would get delayed and she had to pay for another hour, it would serve her right for being miserable and telling him he should know better than to buy junior officers drinks and talk to them all night.

Rose let herself into her room, hoping she'd be able to get out soon and would follow the advice she'd been given about sharing a flat or a house.  Once her pay rise came through next week and her allowance for being away from home, she might even be able to get a place of her own.

Tess resumed the argument she'd been having with Alec once she'd paid the sitter but Alec just stormed off and went to bed, not wanting to get into the discussion about him talking to Rose, his new DC all night.  He'd only been told as Tess was leaving the station earlier that he was getting one, since Tess had been otherwise occupied and had been out and she had casually gone in his office before she'd gone to collect Daisy.

"By the way Alec," she'd told him.  "You've been assigned a new DC, Rose Tyler so just treat her like your last one and forget she's blonde."

"What is it with you Tess?" he'd asked as she'd got up to leave.

Monday morning soon came around and Rose had to report to DI Hardy's office, when he called for her.  She had moved her desk around so she would face his what passed as an office, which was slightly bigger than the senior DS's and everyone had looked at her, not that she cared.  Everyone knew she'd drawn the short straw to replace DC Jones, who had suddenly requested a transfer and the whole office thought he and the DI had not been seeing eye-to-eye lately.

Alec Hardy was still reading the reports and arrest sheets of the gang of five who had been plaguing the area attacking pensioners, pleased to see his new DC had played a major part and had been given the credit for it.  He reckoned that the just retired DS had set her off on the right track and he was now looking forward to working with her, even if it was only to give his wife something to complain about – not that she needed anything these days.
Chapter 2
It was quieter in the office than normal, Rose thinking now the excitement had died down everyone was hoping for an easy ride but she'd had a taste and now wanted more.  In her last station she had been given menial tasks which was why she'd found someone to sponsor her for detective constable – the quiet life was not for her.  She wanted to be the middle of it like all the TV cop show re-runs from the seventies but they didn't make them like that any more, the only one she still liked was one about a New York detective and a mystery writer but one about a female deputy chief was her second favourite.

Watching such shows growing up had made her more determined to become part of it.  She was thinking about what could happen next to make things more exciting when Alec Hardy stood in front of her without her realising so she pretended she was reading through some old case files.  She had learnt at her last post how to look like you were doing something even if you weren't and get away with but she wasn't fooling him for a minute.

"Tyler, my office."

Rose got up and followed him after picking up her notebook and pen.  She liked to get everything in writing in case someone changed their mind and tried to trip her up.

"You won't be needing that," Alec quipped, switching off his monitor and rubbing his eyes since he'd not been wearing his specs.

Rose knew he'd given the game away he should be wearing them but didn't want to be seen.

Alec continued.  "So, DC Tyler, quite an entrance you made last week, that gang had been taking thousands of pounds from pensioners, well done."

"Thank you Sir, it was just a matter of watching them, DS Moore was an easy mark for them and when he planted that homing device, it was all cut and dried."

"Yes, well he said he could not have done it without you so make the most of it, they won't all be as easy as that.  I have read your record, you were not content being a WPC?"

"No Sir, the male officers treated me like the tea lady, I could have got an office job if I'd wanted that."

"Well your training officer spoke very highly of you so let us hope you can prove yourself again.  I expect certain things from my DC, the last one did not see things my way."

Rose thought the rumours going around had been right then when his last one suddenly decided he missed his girlfriend after three months.  She was going to need her notebook after all, Alec thinking it was amusing as he rattled off a list in rapid succession, making her head spin.

"Excuse me Sir, can I have a chance to write that down, I don't want to make any mistakes."

"Going too fast for you am I?" he asked, raising his eyebrows as she tried to keep up.

"If you don't mind me saying, you don't give people chance to take things in.  I'm not trying to be rude."

"Point taken Tyler, maybe I should spell each one out for you?"

"That's not necessary Sir," she replied, thinking this was a good start and he would now make her life a misery.

"Finished?" he asked as she clicked the pen off.

Rose tried not to blush.

"Now you have finished writing down the finer points, I have some unwritten rules of my own.  I do not use any junior officer as the tea lady for one thing and another, I expect my DC to keep up with me at all times.  Understood?"

Rose gulped.  She had really put her foot in it now.  He would surely go on at ninety miles an hour and look at her like she had dribbled all down her blue shirt.

He continued.  "I expect my officers to be smart, women to wear trousers so I get no reports of sexual harassment filed and if you don't wear a tie, only one shirt button undone, not several, then I get no reports of male officers trying to look down them?  Clear?"

She nodded, wondering if that was why his wife got so jealous, since all last week she'd worn a skirt and noticed all the other women wore grey or black trousers.

Alec dismissed her, saying he was going out later and for her to go with him and she was driving so she picked up her desk phone and got the transport sergeant to have a car ready at two.  She was glad when it was lunch time, she had to leave early to get some breakfast in the canteen since it was a fraction of the cost compared to the local cafes and that had seemed hours ago.

As she sat at a table, two other female officers came to join her.

"You escaped the lion's den then?" one of them asked

"Yeah, he was giving me a list of do's and don'ts, not that I've not heard them before but he seemed to enjoy laying down the office rules.  I don't know why he just doesn't print them out and stick them on the wall."

"You'll just have to get used to him love.  Annie and I just stay away from him when we can.  So have you had 'The' lecture from his wife yet?"

With a mouthful of mashed potatoes, Rose shook her head.

Annie and the other officer, Peggy, nudged each other.

"Oh, that will come, trust me.  You know why you got to replace his other DC?"

"No," Rose admitted before she took another bite of her slice of steak pie, which she thought was the best she had ever tasted.

"She warned everyone off and so the chief only assigns him male DC's but one just left and the others that are still here are all single with no girlfriend and she thinks they'll encourage him to wander off, not that anyone would blame him, poor bloke.  I hate to think what she's like at home.  Watch out, she's here.  I expect she'll be going on about her daughter's birthday again."

"I heard her last week, she was looking for someone who knew where to hire an entertainer or something," Rose replied.

"Daft cow, can't she entertain her own daughter?" Annie asked quietly as Tess held her tray, trying to find her husband, who was still in the relative safety of his office and was planning on eating when she'd finished.

"I heard all is not well with their domestic arrangements, if you know what I mean?" Peggy asked, pretending she'd not seen Tess, who had given up looking for Alec and was looking for any spare seat where someone would talk to her.

The only spare seats were where DS Dave Harris and his mates were sitting and she didn't fancy that, well maybe Dave on his own, he was her only ally in the place, then she saw the chair next to Rose.

"Mind if I sit here?" Tess asked, taking things off her tray and putting it at the side of the table.

"No, I'm almost done," Rose told her as the other two looked across at her while Tess was messing with her cup of tea.

"So, did DI Hardy talk to you about what he expects from you being his DC?" Tess asked casually.

"Yes Ma'am, he did."

"Good, if you have any problems, come and see me, he can be quite challenging.  He expects people to keep up with him and never gives them a chance, no wonder Jones couldn't get out fast enough last Friday."

Rose just hoped she didn't bring up the subject of having to give her a ride home in the cab last Friday night, not that people wouldn't have seen her leaving with them and the look on Tess's face as Alec had allowed Rose to go in front of him.  Rose also hoped the DS wouldn't start giving her a lecture in public about keeping her hands off the DI.

Rose was just finishing her coffee when Dave Harris had got up and had to pass by their table.

"Afternoon ladies.  Tess, you could have sat with us or do you prefer the lower ranks?"

Rose was about to tell him who did he think he was calling the lower ranks but Peggy mouthed a 'Don't' to her across the table.

"Why would I want to sit with your cronies DS Harris?" Tess replied, Rose noticing she'd left him out of it.

"Suit yourself, maybe the gossip is juicier over here?"

"Maybe it is?  Don't let me keep you."

Rose swore the way they looked at each other was a bit suspicious but surely she wouldn't have anything to do with him, when she was giving female officers single and married the 'back off' treatment?  She went to the ladies room and was just coming out as Alec was about to go into the men's.

"We keep doing this Tyler," he half smiled, looking around in case his wife was hiding somewhere.

"Yes Sir and I apologise for inferring you go on too fast, I should keep up."

"You at least admitted it, maybe that is where I go wrong with any other officer assigned to me?"

"It's not my place to say Sir."

"Yes, well.  Was my wife in the canteen by any chance?"

Rose wanted to say yes, flirting with DS Harris but thought better of it, he probably chatted all the higher ranking officers up but DS Henchard was not looking that flustered and there again, she was a cool character to start off with, if she went around warning other women off.

"Yes Sir, she was at my table.  She was still there five minutes ago, I was sat with two other DC's though they may have also left."

"Oh, maybe I will wait then, she might be talking with them?"

Rose also wanted to say they would probably be glad to be rescued but he looked like he was the one who needed the rescuing.

"Maybe Sir.  Excuse me, I should get back to work."

"Going through old cases?"

"Someone has to, what about all the families who've had no closure after losing their loved ones?  It's one of the reasons I joined the police.  My old boyfriend lost his dad, no-one knew what happened to him.  They thought he'd gone to Spain but there was no proof."

"Sometimes Tyler, people just disappear without a trace, no-one can do anything about it."

"I like to think I can try."

"That's very commendable Tyler but some of them are lost causes, you have to learn the difference."

Rose excused herself before she told him that was why she'd been sent there, to learn from the benefit of his experience but when all said and done, she was there to learn but maybe just not by him.

Tess had given up and was about to leave when she saw Alec join the short queue at the counter, which had reminded Rose of the school canteen and the short spell she'd had before being accepted to the police training academy as a dinner lady.  Tess went by the queue and grabbed his arm.

"Where have you been Alec?  I was looking for you."

"Finishing some work, I have to go out later."

"With your new DC?"

"I need her to drive, you know I don't use my car for work."

"Some poor excuse that is, maybe you should get the chief to give you your own?"

"Why when someone can drive me?  You are going to be late back."

He shrugged her hand away and turned to get served, asking for the special, which Rose had already sampled.

Tess huffed and went back to her office – if Tyler was taking him out for the first time, she was going to get the full works of how she was expected to behave, well as far as Alec was concerned anyway.

Ten minutes before two, Rose was called to Tess's office.

"So, you're driving DI Hardy around as well?"

"Yes.  Is that a problem?"

"Don't let it become one.  Take him where he's going and wait in the car unless he tells you otherwise and from tomorrow, you're expected to wear trousers to work.  You do have some?"

"Yes Ma'am but it was warm, I prefer to wear a skirt."

"Well get some thinner trousers suitable for work.  Did he not tell you?"

"Yes Ma'am, earlier, I was not told on Friday wearing trousers was a requirement."

Rose wanted to scream out that the officer would be better off in the fashion police, not the criminal investigation department of Sandbrook West Police Station.

Rose went down to collect an unmarked car as Alec waited by the front entrance and he got in the front passenger seat and put the seatbelt on.

"Where are we going Sir?" Rose asked, putting the car in the 'Drive' position, thankful she'd been able to get an automatic.

"Just drive Tyler, I will give you directions."

Rose set off thinking he'd better know where he was going, she only knew the route the bus took twice a day.  He gave her instructions until he finally told her to stop in front of a school.

"This is my daughter's school Tyler, her name is Daisy.  If for any reason my wife or myself cannot collect her or if her grandmother cannot be contacted, I will authorise you to be allowed to do so and you will bring her to the station.  Understood?"

Rose was a bit surprised he was trusting her already with such a task.

"Understood Sir."

Alec got his wallet out and showed her a small school photo.

"She's very pretty Sir, how old is she?"

"She will be twelve on Friday.  Have you not heard my wife talking about it in the canteen?  You must be the only one."

"I don't listen to conversations I'm not a part of Sir."

Alec raised his eyebrows again and Rose wished he'd stop doing it.

"So you were being polite last Friday night and joining in with two tables of conversations?"

"That was an exception, I was expected to join in.  I had been working with DS Moore all last week, I was sorry to see him leave."

"You would have preferred to have stayed partnered with him?"

"Yeah, he was nice and I learned a lot, I'd not really done any surveillance before."

"Then what did you do at your last station?"

"Make the tea?" Rose laughed, then straightened her face.

Alec had seen the funny side.

"Well, you had better get used to some real police work Tyler, no time for making the tea now."

"Is that why I was given another pile of folders to go through where cases had not been solved?" she asked, as more had been placed on her desk after her conversation with him earlier.

"You admitted you did not like to see people not getting justice, it should keep you busy.  If you find anything interesting, tell me."

"Yes Sir, I will."

"Did my wife speak to you earlier?"

"Yeah but it's not my place to repeat what she told me."

"She gave you one of her 'keep off my husband' speeches then?"

"Did she need to?"

"She does it with every female officer who enters the building Tyler.  You are not the first and certainly not the last."

"So it's not you she doesn't trust, she doesn't trust how women react around you?"

"Something like that.  You can take us back now before the school report we are watching.  Do not tell my wife we were here, understood?"

"Understood Sir but can I ask you, why does she feel she has to warn women off?"

"Just drive Tyler.  The other reason I brought you here, which was a longer way around, was to test your driving abilities and to test you could take directions, without a satnav or a map.  You never turned the satnav on."

"Well maybe it was because you said you would give directions – Sir?"

Alec let it slide, he'd just asked for that.

"So what do I tell her when she asks where I took you?" Rose wanted to know as she dropped him at the main entrance.

"Tell her to ask me and you work for me, not her.  From now on, you tell her nothing about what I ask you to do or where you take me, clear?"

"Crystal Sir.  I won't tell her anything then but she won't report me will she?"

"Only to me, the chief will throw her out and tell her to get a grip.  Trust me, he is past listening to her gripes about me."

Tess had been livid when first Rose had gone out, followed two minutes later by Alec, putting his jacket on.  He'd been out so fast that'd he'd gone before she got to her office door.  Right, she would ask Tyler when she got back where they had been but as Alec passed her office when he got back, he burst in announced.

"Stop interrogating my DC Tess, I mean it."

"What are you going on about Alec?"

"You know very well.  Where I go is my business, I do not interfere with what you are working on."

"That's a laugh, I'm the chief's personal secretary these days, handing out assignments for him when he finally makes his mind up.  I wish we'd got that other one now, at least he had some idea how to run his staff."

"It's not our place to judge the chief, think yourself lucky if keeps you occupied with enough free time to go pick up Daisy after school."

"About that Alec, we really need some arrangements if my mother can't collect her if there's an emergency."

"I already have it covered, don't ask any questions.  Now about Tyler, back off Tess, I give her orders, not you."

"Well excuse me.  You stop looking at her then, like you do all the others and don't think I've forgotten we had to give her a ride home last Friday, it almost cost me another hour with the sitter."

"Don't go on about it Tess, she could not afford a taxi, she just moved here."

"It should be cheaper than where she just came from."

"Maybe it is but how about extending a welcome to her?"

"She seems to be doing ok on that score Alec.  She was talking with Walker and Ashby in the canteen."

Alec was going to say before she butted in probably, knowing her she'd have seen he wasn't there and picked on someone who was too afraid to tell her to sit elsewhere.  From now on, he planned taking his lunch later, since everyone stared at them and expected an argument to break out, now they didn't keep them exclusively at home for fear of upsetting Daisy.

Rose had come back in and gone to her desk, seeing Alec standing over Tess's desk and her sitting back in the chair.  She just hoped now she'd been partnered with him, he wasn't going to bring all his complaints about his wife with him whenever they went out.
Chapter 3
Tess kept away from Rose for a few days, until Friday afternoon as she'd been about to leave to pick up Daisy for her party and she wanted Alec to be home early.  Rose was in his office, having picked out several old cases she thought were worth looking into.

"Yes right Tyler, Monday morning, you can start making enquiries."

"On my own Sir?"

"That was the idea Tyler, you can handle it?"

"Well yes Sir, thank you."

"Don't thank me yet.  If something else comes along that is more important, you can pass them on to one of the other DC's.  I'm sure they just love old cases."

"If you don't mind me saying Sir, why has no-one looked into them before?"

"Maybe no-one else cared enough?  We only have so many resources Tyler, you were replacing no-one, we just lost a DS and a DC but things are quiet, just hope they stay that way.  Yes, what do you want?" he asked Tess as she opened the door and Rose picked up the folders from his desk he'd just put down instead of handing them to her, in case Tess read something into it, which she would have done.

All week he'd seen her glance across at his DC and thought better than to call her into her office, he had silently been daring her to.  For the first time in a long while, Tess hadn't got her own way in choosing who he was partnered with and he liked it that way.  They had gone out a few times to investigate a few shop break-ins, he could have sent Tess or Harris if he'd wanted to but he liked standing by Rose's desk telling her to have a car outside in ten minutes and the look on Tess's face as they had walked back in.

Rose had her suspicions he was taking these petty cases on purpose, to rile his wife but she'd seen Tess look over several times in her direction, looking for an excuse to pick faults with her and Tess had already been to see the chief about her and been told to stop thinking Alec was chasing anything that resembled a female.

"Really Tess, is that all you've got?" the chief had told her that morning when she'd finally had enough and Alec had said he didn't know if he would home for Daisy's party, since Tess had engaged the services of an entertainer after all and a big tent outside.

"He's getting far too friendly with Tyler, they're always talking when they come back in.  When he had Jones as his DC, Alec would come back in ten minutes before but now he comes in at the same time."

"Tess, I have better things to do than play your guidance counsellor, sort it out of home and stop singling Tyler out.  She's a good DC, give her a chance."

So back in Alec's office, Rose had got up.

"Is that all Sir?"

"Yes Tyler, you follow those cases up."

When she'd gone, Tess wanted to know what it was all about.

"I thought you were leaving early?" Alec asked, putting on his specs since Tess was giving him a headache.

"Are you putting her in charge of a case?"

"Don't be daft Tess, just some old cases that may deserve a second look.  I will supervise the whole thing."

"I bet you will.  So, you will be at Daisy's party?  Don't let her down Alec."

"What time does it start?"

"Four until six so don't be late."

He planned to get there around five thirty, as it was winding down, his daughter would never even notice his absence.

The Monday after Daisy's birthday party, a row had erupted in her office when she'd pulled him up about being late and the chief had got to hear about it so now, he was considering placing Tess in another division but until then, they had both been told to keep their rows at home.  Annie had pointed out that if things were getting this bad, one of them would get moved but Rose secretly hoped it wouldn't be Alec, she didn't fancy breaking in another DI.

The previous week, when they'd been out, Alec had praised her driving, saying she was better than Jones had been and he'd started being driven into the underground parking area and waiting for her but Rose suspected it was for his wife's benefit.

For the next two weeks, nothing much happened.  Rose got a lead on one of the cases but the main suspect in a disappearance had vanished himself so Alec told her to leave it and go onto something else.  Rose however was getting tired of being stared at by Tess and had rearranged her desk again, having her boss creep up on her from behind was slightly better than staring at his apparently jealous wife.

She'd had several conversations with her now two friends, Annie Walker and Peggy Ashby in the canteen and Peggy kept hinting about Dave Harris bragging he was seeing a married female officer behind his wife's and her husband's back but he was careful not to reveal who it was or what rank she held.  The three friends though deduced it was one of several, two in their own department and Tess was the number one suspect.

Tess was still there, despite the threats from the chief if she complained one more time about Rose coming back in with Alec, she'd be the one to get moved and she may not get the same hours and he'd said if she promised to behave reasonably, they could both stay, since he couldn't be bothered finding room for either of them elsewhere.

Rose had been there exactly a month when all hell was about to break loose, affecting not just the station but the whole town.  What had started out one Sunday morning in late September as a missing persons report was about to rip everyone apart.  Two young cousins had been missing when the youngest girl's parents had returned home that morning from a wedding.

With it begin Sunday, uniformed officers had attended, dog units had been brought in and by late afternoon, Daisy had been taken to her grandmother's house as both Alec and Tess had been contacted along with every available DC and DS who answered their phone, Rose being one of them.

She'd got to the station just after four, finding the phones ringing off the hooks but Alec had called her into his office.  Tess had been put in charge of co-ordinating the search, a large map of the area on the wall.

"Tyler, now is the chance to prove yourself.  I will be making a visit to the parents of the youngest cousin, apparently, the eldest did not get on with her father and spent most of her time there.  I want you to observe and see if there is anything suspicious about how they react."

"Sir?  You think they are involved?" Rose asked, having quickly read the initial report.

"Nine times out of ten with a child abduction, a family member or friend is involved, if indeed they are actually missing.  They could have just gone out early before the Gillespies got home and not realised they were causing any problems but it is now after five and they have been gone since at least nine this morning."

"Of course Sir, finding them soon is important.  I've done missing children cases before, all of them ended with them being found, thankfully ok."

"That is how I intend this ending Tyler.  Now get a car and I will get the address."

Tess could only stare as Rose went to her desk to get a car, being told they were all out.

"Well get one now, I'm not telling DI Hardy there isn't one."

"All I can do is have a patrol car collect him in ten minutes."

"Yeah, well I have to go with him so make sure there's room for me.  I suggest you get someone who has their own car to bring one back and make it available during this investigation, otherwise he won't be happy about it."

Tess was listening, maybe she was good at her job after all but did she have to do it with him?

Once out on the estate at the Gillespie house, Rose stood silently while Alec sat talking to the parents of the youngest girl, Pippa, who had just turned twelve, the same age as Alec's daughter.  She was doing as he asked, watching their reaction to the questions he was forced to ask them and Rose felt sorry for them.  The father, Ricky, stormed out and Alec went after him, leaving Rose to comfort the girl's mother.

"I'm really sorry about what happened, Mrs Gillespie but DI Hardy and his team have an excellent record at this kind of thing."

"Aren't you part of his team?" Cate Gillespie asked, pouring herself a large whisky.

"Yes but I've only been with them for a month, I transferred from London."

"Why would you want to come here, of all places?"

"I had no choice, I was assigned here but I've had experience on missing child cases."

Alec had caught up with Ricky and persuaded him to go back inside.  As Alec was going back in, one of the other DS's from another division handed him some keys, reluctantly.

"I've been told to give you these, I've got to start using my own car so your DC can drive you around."

Alec took them, seeing the look on the other man's face.

"Who are you then?"

"DS Hartley, B division.  We're all in this, Sir."

"Any news yet?"

"No Sir, I'm sure your DC will keep you up to date."

The DS turned and got into a squad car, to go back and get his own, not very pleased he was having to do so, since it was automatic and better than his car.  He'd had a call from the transport sergeant as the one he'd taken out a few hours earlier was one of the few automatics and DC Tyler had requested one, trust a woman.

After assuring the anxious parents they were using every available unit to locate the two missing girls, Alec then had Rose drive him to the older girl's house, learning her parents were separated and her mother drank more than Cate Gillespie.  Alec knew right away she'd had nothing to do with their disappearance, which he talked about with Rose on the way back, Rose asking him if they were going back to the station before they set off.

"No, you drop me off home then go home yourself, keep the car and come and pick me up at eight in the morning, my wife has to take our daughter to school."

"Should all parents be worried Sir or do you think this is a isolated incident?"

She was beginning to grow on him, not just because Tess hated her but she asked all the right questions.

He shook his head.  "Could be, we should not treat it as such, I will give a statement to the press in the morning, warning parents to keep a close watch on their children."

"So what did you make of Lisa's mother Sir?"

"She didn't get on with her parents, goodness knows where the father is.  In the morning, get more information about him, this could be just about her and the youngest got caught up in it somehow and they are both hiding.  Also, I want someone to go interview the neighbours, particularly those immediately next door, even if uniforms have already asked them if they have seen the girls, get those two, Walker and Ashby onto it.  I also want a family liaison to keep the Gillespies informed."

"I can keep them informed Sir, it would be better coming from me," Rose suggested, trying to keep in her head what he'd just told her, having left the satnav to find his address he'd mumbled to her as she asked him.

"No Tyler, you are going to be busy enough.  Once the neighbours have been interviewed, then we look further a-field."

It was beginning to rain as Rose reached their destination, a semi on the outskirts of town but about ten minutes from where she lived.  She was getting to find her way around the town, having driven him around a few times.  She was quite pleased he'd told her to keep the car but hoped an alert wouldn't be put out for it when it wasn't returned.

"Tyler, call the station and tell them you are keeping the car, we will be starting an hour earlier from now on and my wife as I said will be dropping Daisy at school.  You have somewhere to park?"

She had been lucky to find someone advertising for a flatmate, a two bedroom one with one of the civilian secretaries who had about to give up hope of finding anyone to share with and had agreed with her boyfriend to move in with him at the end of the month but she'd put Rose's name on the rent book so now, it was Rose who would be advertising for someone.

"Yeah, there's a car park for residents, I got out of the boarding house but now, my flatmate is moving out so I'm not sure I'll be able to afford the rent on my own, maybe I'll be lucky?  I can pay next month's but after that, I might be back at the boarding house."

"I hope you find someone then, it would be a shame if you have to move again so soon.  What about your housing allowance?"

"What housing allowance Sir?"

"You are away from home."

"Yeah, I get a living allowance, is that it?"

"I expect so, Tess sees to all that.  Has she been bothering you again?" he asked, as they sat outside his house, two cars in the driveway and Rose just knowing she was watching out of a window as they talked.

"No, thank goodness though I can feel her staring at my back."

"I wondered why you had moved your desk around.  Don't let her bother you."

"Well she does, I don't like being accused of something I've not done.  She may as well just come out and say it."

"Take no notice of her, the more I tell her the worse she gets.  She will soon realise how paranoid she is now this case has landed on our doorstep.  No-one will have the time to listen to her.  Goodnight Tyler, don't be late in the morning."

"No Sir, goodnight."

She flipped the windscreen wipers as he unfastened his seatbelt and was sure she saw a curtain moving.  Tess had looked out of the window and seen an unfamiliar car and had surmised Tyler had got her way and a car had been found.  Trust Alec to insist she drove him home, now his DC knew where they lived.

The next morning, Alec was out on time as Rose got there with two minutes to spare, it was still raining.  They got to the station, Rose talking to Annie and Peggy, who were absent the day before and were only too happy to get some action.  She also organised someone to find out about Lisa's father but what interested her most was when the two DC's got back and said they were suspicious of the next door neighbours, Claire and Lee Ashworth.

"I tell you Rose, they are well creepy," Peggy was telling her as they waited for Alec to call them into his office, him giving a statement to the local press who had been called.

"What da ya mean by creepy?" Rose asked as the other two leaned on her desk, Tess being busy in her office.

"She seemed really scared of him, you know?  She said she'd been in with him all night but we don't believe her, do we Annie?"

"No Rose, I don't think Hardy will believe it either but I heard he wants to expand the search."

"Yeah, he's with the press, asking for anyone who has seen them or knows anything to call us.  I think it's really bothering him, his daughter is the same age as the youngest."

"Funny how it's not seemed to affect her, I thought she'd keep her kid off school.  She still insinuating things?" Annie asked.

"She stares at me every time I follow him out, she's paranoid, even he says it."

"So you think it is her, with Harris?"

"Nah, we don't have any proof."

"That's what we do Rose, we get proof," Annie smiled, just as three reporters came out of Alec's office.

They were summoned inside and Alec agreed they would follow it up but he'd just ordered the search to include the local woods, which were vast.

"It's the obvious place for two reasons," he was telling then.  "Access, ease of getting in and out without being seen and also if the girls are hiding out in there."

"It's been raining Sir and we have no evidence they took anything with them."

"Good point Tyler.  Walker, Ashby, go back to the Gillespie's and ask if any of Pippa's clothes are missing, or Lisa's, if she was staying overnight.  Also, try and get a better description of what they were wearing, the night before they disappeared.  We also have to try and establish a time-line, what time they left the girls and ask the Ashworth's again if they saw anyone hanging around, we will go with the wife's alibi of him for now."

It was late afternoon before Alec got Rose to drive him back there, forensics still searching the house.

"Why are you putting us through this Hardy?" Ricky wanted to know, his arm around his tearful wife as now, a team had been called in to start digging up the back garden. 

"Nine times out of ten, in these cases, we have to start with the missing person or persons home, we can't leave anything unchecked.  There was a case recently where a mother had hidden her own child and police searched her room several times."

"You're accusing us of hiding our own daughter and niece?" Cate managed to say, Rose knowing she had been drinking again.

"I am not accusing you of anything, we have to be as thorough as we can, that's all.  I am appointing DS Henchard as your liaison, she will be in touch with you shortly, to keep you informed.  She will also pass on any concerns you may have and answer your questions."

"We don't know her, can't DC Tyler do it?" Cate asked.

"DC Tyler can help you best by staying on the case with me and finding your daughter and your niece.  We will do whatever is necessary to bring them back, you have my word."

As they all stood outside in the garden while a team were digging it up, they did not see the next door neighbours, Claire sitting on a lounger drinking tea and her husband sat on the ground, smoking.
Chapter 4
They were lucky they finished digging up the youngest girl's home before the rain came down again, finding nothing.  Alec apologised and said it had been necessary, Ricky not agreeing, telling him and Rose to get out.  Rose now had the job of dropping Alec home, since she had the car but they had gone back to the station.

"That was awful Sir," Rose told him as he called her to his office, Tess having just left, agreeing Daisy would be picked up by her grandmother and stay with her until she could be collected, they were taking no chances, along with every other parent in the town.  It had hit the local evening news and Alec feared the national papers would pick up on it if the girls weren't found in the next day or two.

"How long did it take your old station to find those missing kids?"

"A few days, one boy was found in a cellar, him and his mate had been playing and no-one knew he'd been hiding and another was down by the river, his dad was a fisherman and he was waiting for him coming back."

Alec turned off his monitor and sat back.  Rose thought he looked tired, probably from all the arguments he got from his wife as much as the case was getting to him.

"She's your daughter's age Sir," Rose dared state, looking at the open folder on his desk of all the information other officers had gathered while they had been out, another file for Lisa.

"Yes.  Do you think I am too close to this Tyler?"

"No more than your wife is Sir.  I think it makes you the best person for the job."

"Come on Tyler, there is nothing else we can do today.  Tomorrow, we join the search in the woods, I have a really bad feeling we will find something there."

"Why do you say that Sir?" Rose asked, getting up.

"Call it a gut feeling Tyler.  Drop me home then get some rest."

"I'm not helping, am I?  With your wife."

Since no-one was in the squad room except a few night staff, who didn't really know them, he got up and sat on the corner of the desk, nearer to her.

"Listen to me, Rose.  What is happening between Tess and I was happening before you arrived, you just accelerated it, it would have still happened, maybe at a slower pace but whoever had been assigned here would have got exactly the same treatment as you are unfortunately getting, for which I am very sorry."

He had called her Rose.  It must be serious then.  After she dropped him home, she called her mother, hoping the news hadn't yet reached London.

"Rose, how are things going there, really?  Mickey picked something up on the internet, he has an alert on one of those social sites for Sandbrook."

"Oh trust him, what did he do that for?"

"Maybe because he still hopes you will come back?"

"I'm over him Mum, I wish he'd just move on.  So what did he read?"

"You tell me, something about two missing girls.  Is it true?"

"Yeah but don't spread it around, the DS here already hates me."

"I thought you worked with that DI?"

"I do but she's his wife."

"Is she the one warning everyone off?  Does she think there's something going on then?"

"Yeah, you could say that but it's not true, trust me."

After getting something to eat, Rose was looking out of her living room window on the first floor.  It was pouring down with rain and they all had to take a turn the next day searching the woods and it would be horrendous, the river would be bursting its banks.  It had already been on the news about it so she wasn't looking forward to it and hoped the rain would ease off by the time they got there.

Even some of the male DS's were taking a turn, one of them was Harris she had learned earlier.  She wondered if DS Henchard was also taking a turn but it was most unlikely.  Maybe though if she was organising it, she would prevent her husband from going but if she was the one meeting Harris, why was she sending him out?  Maybe it was to throw everyone off the scent, what better way?

Unluckily for the team going out the next day, the rain didn't really ease up so braving the weather, Rose leaving her personal belongings in her locker except for her ID.  Alec was doing the same, in case he had the misfortune of wading in the river, not that he was expecting to but you never knew.  Borrowing two high visibility coats, Rose drove Alec and DS Harris out to the command post at the edge of the woods, where several marked cars were parked and an ambulance crew on standby. 

The canine unit were still out but the rain was hampering them somewhat, Rose hearing them in the distance, having been given some clothing belonging to the two girls that Tess had secured from having been to visit the Gillespies.  A lot had been going on, unknown to Rose, who had just been doing what her boss had told her and she wouldn't have been surprised to see Tess there but it was another DS, called Thompson who had marked segments of the woods on the map and highlighted where had already been searched.

The rain though was making it even more difficult, bits of wood and branches from trees were floating down the river and there had already been several false sightings before Rose and Hardy had got there, parts of tree trunks looked deceptively like a small child.  Rose had been separated from Hardy though, he was on the other side of the river, well the expanded river but all she could see were figures with large sticks putting them into the water and prodding the debris from further up stream while others behind were still searching the woods.

She could though make out the bluebells which were still just about hanging on but fading fast since they were almost out of season.  She was with another team, moving along the bank but she was concentrating on the muddy ground, glad she was wearing boots.  Alec had found himself nearer the edge, being careful not to slip into the water as he wasn't carrying a stick when he thought he saw something.  Seeing no-one around him, he leaned on a nearby tree, holding one of the lower branches but caught Rose's attention that she stopped.

The uniformed officer she was with saw her and looked across, Alec still trying to see if it was part of a tree or not.

"Have you found something Sir?" Rose shouted across.

With his free hand, he waved.  "No, it's nothing, carry on," he shouted back, wishing he could have worn his specs but he'd left them in his office along with his phone and everything else.

Rose waved back and was about to move off when she heard a splash and saw Alec let go of the tree branch and wade into the river.

"Quick, someone go help him," Rose told the officer with her.

Before he could get a response, Alec was picking something up and Rose panicked.

"Please, no, don't let it be one of the girls."

"Out of the way, let us through," two other officers were telling her, Rose not even bothering they were ordering her around as Alec tried to make his way through the water, holding what now everyone could see was a small body.  Alec seemed to go under for a few seconds as he lost his footing and Rose yelled for someone to go in and help him but two of the officers were already trying to take the body from him and were almost at the river bank.

Other officers had arrived and were pulling the two officers out but Rose saw Alec struggling to keep his balance now the body had been taken from him and as he tried to get out, four arms reaching out to him, he slipped and went under again.  Rose couldn't stand it any longer and jumping in, waded behind him and dragged him up, Alec spluttering and Rose pushing him out as the hands caught hold of him and then someone reached for her and pulled her out.

One of the officers was on the radio, telling the command post to get another ambulance and the coroner as now, everyone could see it was the youngest girl.  Alec was sat on the riverbank, someone put a thermal blanket around him and Rose found herself sitting next to him with one around her shoulders, her yellow coat having been dragged off her without her offering any resistance.

The rain was easing off as two ambulances made their way to where they were but the coroner was already there as word reached those at the command post and everyone was being called back.  Back at the station, Tess had been given the news it was Alec who had found the girl.

"Of course it had to be him," Tess was telling anyone who was listening, marking the area with a large red circle.

"Are you going out there Ma'am?" Annie Walker was asking her.

"Is there any need, I'm sure he'll be on his way back soon."

"Have you not heard Ma'am?  He went under the water a few times, DC Tyler pulled him up and pushed him onto the riverbank while two other officers tried to grab hold of him."

"Well of course she had to, it proves what I was saying since she arrived."

"Ma'am, I'm sure she would have done it for any fellow officer in the same circumstances.  She sent a message, can you meet him at the hospital and take him some dry clothes and his personal belongings from his desk?"

"I suppose so.  Walker, you finish off here, I'll be back.

Annie and Peggy looked as she went to Alec's office.

"What a callous cow," Annie remarked quietly to her friend.  "I hope it is her having the affair, can you believe her?  If we're right, maybe we should let Hardy get to know?"

"No Annie, we can't do that, not until we have proof.  Let's call and see how Rose is?"

Rose was getting in the back of an ambulance with Alec, who had suddenly passed out when he tried to get up.

"I'm going with him," she told Dave Harris, who had suddenly found himself in charge of the scene once the command officer had left to finish up at the hastily erected tent at the start of the woods.

"Right you are then Tyler, call us when he wakes up."

Dave Harris still felt sorry for the man, even though now, he'd successfully caught Tess in the corridor and asked her to go for a drink with him since her daughter was being cared for by her grandmother and she'd said yes after the last week they had been sneaking around but he was sure Tyler and her two friends were onto them.

"Sir, can you call his wife, have her meet him at the hospital with some dry clothes and his belongings?"

"Leave it with me and get yourself checked out while you're there, I'm responsible for you."

"Yes Sir.  I left my things there as well."

"I'll ask one of your friends to bring them, I doubt DS Henchard will want to do it."

"No, she doesn't like me."

"What did you do to her?"

"Become her husband's DC, Sir.  I have to go now," Rose replied as the ambulance attendant tried to close the door as she sat opposite Alec, wrapped in a warm blanket and Alec with a breathing mask over his face.

"Will he be ok?" Rose asked the attendant, who was monitoring him.

"Just swallowed a lot of water, goodness knows what was in it with this rain.  How are you feeling Miss?"

Back at the station, Annie had gone to Rose's locker when Tess approached her.

"Walker, are you taking those to Tyler?"

"Yes Ma'am, DS Harris said she'd asked for them.  He's bringing the car back.  I expect DC Tyler will be back later when she's been checked out."

"Yes, I expect she will come back with DI Hardy, I don't know why I'm wasting my time going home and getting his some clean clothes, his own will soon dry out."

"Ma'am, he went under more than once, from what I know."

Tess went off, shaking her head – of course he had to make a show of it.  Now, it would be difficult to get away to meet Dave before she went to collect Daisy, who was staying at her grandmother's and she could make the excuse she had to work late with the missing girl being found and she was the one who would have to go tell the family and she hoped the press wouldn't beat her to it.

Dropping a large carrier at the hospital desk for her husband, Tess turned around and saw Annie asking about them.

"Walker, I left a bag for DI Hardy, come with me to tell the family."

"Yes Ma'am, I'll be right with you," Annie replied, telling the nurse who they were for.

Rose had been checked out, she was fine, just wet but an officer had brought her a pair of trousers and a jumper and she'd managed to dry her underwear under the dryer in the staff ladies room while they checked Alec out, who was still unconscious.  She went to join him when the nurse brought two bags in, one with some clothes for him and one with a few of her things in, Tess had been handed his wet clothes.

"How's he doing?" Rose asked the nurse worriedly.

"He will be fine, we got all the water out of his lungs, we'll keep him overnight for observation.  How are you feeling?"

"Waiting to be discharged.  Well I think I am."

"I'll go check for you, DC Tyler is it?"

"Yeah but call me Rose."

The young nurse smiled and went off, thinking the poor woman looked worried about her boss and since his wife had just handed over a carrier bag and gone off, someone had to be with him and his DC looked more concerned than she had done.

It was after four when Alec woke up suddenly, waving his arms around and almost pulling the wires out of himself.

"Where am I?" he asked as he realised Rose was leaning on his side having dozed off.

"Tyler?"

"What?  Oh, sorry Sir," she said, getting up as fast as she could and hoping his wife hadn't seen.  "How are you feeling?"

"I am fine, get someone to get me out of these things," he replied, taking the breathing tube out of his nose and pulling a face.

Rose pressed the buzzer she'd been told to use when he woke up and wondered why she'd not been discharged herself.

"What are you still doing here?" he asked as he lay back on the pillow.

"Waiting to be discharged."

"Why?"

"I jumped in behind you to push you out, the others couldn't get a grip of you, it was all muddy on the river bank and as I got in, you went under again, I pulled you up."

"Then I thank you.  Did I drag you under?"

"Almost, that's why they sent me with you."  Well it was half true.  "Your wife brought you some dry clothes, I have them here."

"What about you?"

"A WPC brought me some dry clothes, I'm fine Sir."

The nurse came in and checked Alec's vital signs.

"I'll just get the Sister."

"I'm fine, just let me get dressed," he protested.

"Sir, you took a lot of water, we have to make sure you didn't pick up anything nasty.  I'll be right back."

"What about me?" Rose asked.

"Oh, you can go any time you like Rose, you're all clear."

"How long has that been?"

"Oh, did no-one come back and tell you?  Sorry, you could have left a while ago."

Rose suspected the nurse had done it on purpose, since she'd said Tess had just left his things at the desk.

"You go Tyler, I'll get them to send a car for me.  Go on, go get yourself sorted out."

"I'll wait and see what they say about you."

"Thank you, for saving me.  I don't remember what happened when I got out."

"The rain was easing off, someone put blankets around us, we were sitting on the riverbank when you fell back, just as the ambulance got there.  DS Harris took over and he insisted I got checked out as well."

"What did they do with the girl?"

"The coroner took her to be examined.  I called the station but there's no news yet.  DS Henchard has gone to tell the family."

Alec wished now he'd not appointed Tess as their liaison officer.

"That should be our job Tyler.  Do you have my phone?"

"It's here but I think you should wait, if she's with the family."

He knew she had a point, Tess wouldn't want to be interrupted and if she wanted to take charge, rather her than him, the family would be insufferable.  Ricky Gillespie almost had a go at him outside their home yesterday that two uniformed officers had to grab hold of the man as he'd taken a swing at him but he doubted Tess would have put it gently to them and where was the other girl?

"Any news about Lisa?" he asked Rose as they waited.

"No Sir, sorry but as far as I know, they're still searching."  Well she hoped they were.

The ward sister came in, followed by the nurse.

"We'd like to keep you overnight, just to make sure."

"I'm fine, I will go straight home, Tyler here will make sure I do."

Rose saw him looking at her.

"Yeah, I'll call for a car and make sure he goes home."

Rose somehow doubted his wife would be pleased to see him.
Chapter 5
Tess had gone back to the station.  Dave Harris had been back a while, still having the keys to the car Rose had been driving when he was about to leave to meet Tess for a drink.

"Walker, here, take these keys down to transport for me will you?"

"Yes Sir, are they for the car DC Tyler has been using?"

"Yes, she went in the ambulance with Hardy.  She's been gone a while, they must be making sure she didn't swallow any river water."

"She just called for a car to go pick them up, I can take it to her and get DC Ashby to follow me, it's almost five Sir."

"Yes Walker, you do that.  Have you seen DS Henchard, isn't she picking him up?"

"I don't know Sir, I think she went off to collect her daughter."

Annie went to find Peggy and told her what he'd just said.

"I knew we were right Annie, why would she make a point of saying that?  Let's go take the car to Rose, I hope she's ok."

"She must be or they wouldn't be letting them both out.  Did you hear about her jumping in after him?"

"You told me, remember?  Still, his wife could have shown a bit more concern.  We need more evidence Annie."

"Well who's going to tell Hardy?"

"Not me, that's for certain.  He'll find out but maybe Rose will?"

"They seem to get on well, no wonder his wife thinks the worse."

"You know as well as I do Annie, Henchard warned us all off him ages ago, she's so insecure.  I could have fancied him, before she made him cut his hair like that but the last few days, he's looked different."

"Yeah, I think he forgot to shave Peggy," Annie laughed as they reached the car.

As they were driving out, Dave Harris was outside getting into his car and waved to Annie, Peggy following behind her. 

Tess Henchard was waiting at a fancy bar at the other side of town, having arranged earlier to meet with Dave Harris.  It had started the week before, he'd seen her in the corridor and listened to her list of complaints about Rose, how she always went out and came back with Alec, how he always seemed to pass by her desk and glance at her on his way to getting himself a drink and how to cover up the fact the DC liked him more than as her boss, she'd attempted to move her desk around so she wouldn't stare at him all day and give the game away.

Dave Harris had touched her arm and told her he had every sympathy for her because his wife was always showing off in front of the men in the office she worked in, a tale he told every woman he had his eye on, unknown to his poor wife but Tess was not to know that.  Tess thought finally someone understood her.  She had constantly warned Alec to not get so friendly with the female officers but he obviously didn't see things her way.

She had finally blown up over him being late to Daisy's party when she had made a point of telling him not to and now, to top it off, his annoying DC knew where they lived when he'd had her drive him home after disappearing with her saying he was going to talk to the family of the missing girls and she had just jumped in the river to drag him out.

Dave had been waiting for her the last few nights and tonight, he'd arranged for them to go have a quiet drink and compare spouses.  She had called her mother and said she would be late and since Alec was in the hospital, he would be none the wiser.

At the hospital, Alec was getting dressed and knew Tess would completely ignore him when he got home.  What had got to him was Tyler, leaning on him when he'd woken up, she had risked herself to jump in the river and push him out, almost getting herself pulled under but she'd done it none the less.

"Tyler," he called out from behind the curtain.

"Yes Sir?"

"Did you ask for the car you had been using?"

"I hinted I would rather get it back Sir."

"Well go get it and come back for me."

"Are you not coming out with me?"

"No, I don't want my wife to know I have been discharged."

"Sir, she'll know, I called the station for a car."

"She will have gone to collect Daisy by now.  Please Tyler, just do as I ask?"

He sounded serious.

"OK then, where do you want me to take you?"

"Just get the car first."

Rose went out to reception as Annie walked in.

"Hey Rose, are you alright?  What happened to your clothes?"

"They're in a carrier in Hardy's room, I came to see if he can be discharged, no-one got back to him.  Did you bring that car?"

"Yeah, Peggy's waiting outside for me.  What you go and do a stupid thing like jump in the river for?"

"Because the two officers couldn't reach him without slipping in themselves and he'd already been under once."

"Henchard is fuming because you did that."

"I bet she is but tough, would she rather he drowned?  I wasn't gonna let that happen Annie, he found the youngest."

"We know, it's all over the station.  Better hope it doesn't reach the papers, she'd only just got back from telling the family, she made me go with her.  It was awful Rose, I've never had to do that before and to tell them at the same time there's no sign of Lisa.  Her father stormed out and the mother just stared blankly and poured herself a large drink."

"She did that the other day when we were there and he walked out then as well, Hardy went after him and yesterday, I heard he almost had a go at him outside, when they were digging up the garden."

"Well we went to interview the next door neighbours again, they are both well creepy."

"You can tell me tomorrow, he'll be yelling for me in a minute, he thinks he's going home."

"Poor bloke, what's he got to go back to?  I wouldn't like to be him, she'll probably ask him how he has the nerve not to drown.  We saw Harris before we came here."

"So?" asked Rose, wanting to get out of the place and put some clean underwear on and her own clothes.

"He asked about Henchard and I told him she was picking up her daughter, she made a point of telling us and he asked why she wasn't picking Hardy up."

Alec was sitting on the end of the bed, now dressed in his other suit and a off-white shirt that was a bit creased being shoved in a carrier bag but at least he was now dry and he dreaded to think who had dried him and put a hospital gown on him and hoped it had been a hospital orderly and not Tyler.  He still couldn't shake off the fact she had gone in after him, there was loyalty then there was stupidity and she'd done both something loyal and stupid.

He had no idea where he was going but he wasn't staying in hospital and he certainly wasn't going home to listen to Tess going on about how Tyler had saved him and what was he thinking, going in the river in the first place?  He looked up as Rose knocked on the door and entered.

"I got the car Sir, are you ready to go?"

"Take me anywhere that is not out of your way and if my wife rings, you had to leave me here, I doubt she will ring and check up on me."

Rose picked up the carrier with her still wet clothes in, thinking she would have to wash them when she got home and he opened the door for her, Rose offering him a weak smile.  She put her things in the back of the car and set off in the direction of her flat as she punched in 'Home' on the satnav, having saved it, thinking she was keeping the car.

"So where do I head for?"

"You could invite me in for a decent cup of tea, then I will look up hotels.  One of them has to be better than a night in hospital or my wife pointing out I could have made her a widow."

"Can I say something?"

"You may as well and call me Alec, though I really don't like the name, not since my wife makes a point of using it when she's having a go at me."

"Sorry.  Are things really that bad at home?  Doesn't your daughter make it worthwhile going back, won't she be worried about you?"

"She will be at her grandmother's.  No doubt Tess will leave her there and pick her up later."

Rose was now debating whether to tell him but he didn't deserve to learn she might be meeting Harris.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" he asked, glancing in the mirror.

"Sir, I mean Alec, DC Walker just told me she was going to pick up your daughter, she already left.  Why hasn't she asked if you're out of hospital yet?"

"Keep out of it Rose, trust me."

They arrived at her flat and Rose let them in.

"I'll make you some tea.  Can I get you something to eat?"

"Call the takeaway, I will pay.  While we wait, I will look up hotels."

"I have a spare room, if you don't think I'm being too forward?" Rose asked, getting the local Chinese menu from the drawer after excusing herself to her room and getting clean underwear, a pair of jeans and a purple top and throwing her dirty washing in the machine.

"It's fine, I can find somewhere."

"Then what?  You get a cab there or I take you?"

"Either.  If I take up your offer I still have to go home tomorrow."

"Then at least for one night you get some rest and I am responsible for you."

"You didn't have to do that to get me out of there."

"You made it sound like an order – Alec."

He smiled and tossed his phone on the coffee table, seeing he'd not had one missed call from Tess while he'd been unconscious for a few hours.

"What did she say, when you asked her to bring dry clothes for me?"

"I didn't speak to her, I just left a message.  Do you want me to order the food?"

"Yes but the least I can do is pay, if she brought me any money."

He got his wallet out he'd left in his desk, seeing everything was there, he never carried a lot of cash anyway.

There was an awkward silence as Rose put the evening news on, the speculation of what had happened in the woods and a child's body being found in the swollen river was fuelled by a police spokesperson who had said the family had been notified and asked for privacy at this time, Alec guessing it was Tess or Harris.

"Tomorrow morning, you say you picked me up from the hospital and then I call a press conference.  I expect they will be camping outside the station and the Gillespie house anyway.  We will leave here early, you wait for me while I get changed then we go face the reporters."

"Can't you stop giving orders for five minutes?" Rose smiled, knowing he was a lost cause.
Alec just raised his eyebrows and sat back.

The doorbell rang and Alec handed Rose a ten pound note, thinking it was not a good idea to be seen paying the delivery person when he was going to be all over the news the next day.  As they ate their food, Tess was laughing and joking with Dave Harris, both safe in the knowledge Alec would take over dealing with the media and they wouldn't get their names and faces in tomorrow evening's papers or on the six o'clock local news.

"So Tess, come on, tell me what it's really like for you?  I told you about Lydia."

"You really want to know?  Well it started before Tyler came along, she's just the icing on the cake, the latest in a long line of hopefuls who think being partnered with him will be everything they need to climb the ladder and for him to climb into their beds.  I don't know what to do about it Dave.  There are so many rumours going around that one of the senior male officers is playing around."

Dave took her hand, knowing full well the rumours amongst the women were about him.  He was going to do this slowly, let her think he was on her side but meeting would be awkward though he'd done the same many a time with any married DS or DC in the station and the one he'd been at before, Sandbrook East.  The married ones were more willing to be taken in by his sad story his wife did exactly the same as their husbands – take more notice of other women than they did their wives and Tess Hardy was one of the few left.

As Tess drove to pick up Daisy just after eight, she changed her mind and asked her mother if the girl could stay over, Daisy never objected.  That done, she saw Alec's car in the driveway and went inside, calling for him but got no answer.

"Typical of him, I bet he's lounging in a hospital bed getting the nurses to feel sorry for him," she muttered to herself, picking up the carrier with his wet clothes and putting everything but his suit in the washer, the suit she would have to send to the dry cleaners but he was paying for it. 

She dialled his number but it just kept ringing so she gave up, she would deal with him in the morning if he was going to play at ignoring her.  Even if he had been kept in for observation, he could answer his phone, Dave had told her Walker had taken Tyler's car but they must have changed their minds about letting him out.

After Rose had cleared the plates away and attended to her laundry, she went to make sure the spare room was ready.  She'd changed the bedding when her flatmate had unexpectedly moved out, leaving Rose to face paying a months rent on her own which fortunately coincided with her salary being paid into the bank but it would leave her a little short later in the month so that takeaway was going to be the last for a while and it was back to shopping at the discount frozen food shop and stocking up while she still had the money.

"The room's all yours, when you're ready."

"I think I will go now, get out of your way.  You can do without my company after what went on today."

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked, daring to sit at the other end of the sofa to him.

"No, what is there to talk about?  There will be enough questions about it tomorrow, just leave it."

"If that's what you want?  I just thought it may help, having someone to talk to who was there."

Alec's phone buzzed and seeing it was Tess, ignored it.

"What?" he asked as it stopped and a missed call came up.

"Nothing.  She thinks you're still in hospital."

"Good, it can stay that way, I have nothing to go home to except an interrogation as to why it had to be me to find Pippa.  Why did it have to be me?"

"Because you care, she's the same age as your daughter."  She risked moving across next to him.  "It could have been any of us who found her."

"I promised I would take her back, how was it fair I did not get to tell them?"

"I heard what happened, when the garden was being dug up, if you go near him, you know what he will do.  It was better you sent your wife to tell them."

"Was it?  Excuse me, I will go to my room now."

"Alec, do you want another drink, some hot chocolate?  It will help you sleep."

"Nothing will help me sleep Rose but I may as well, if you are making one."

Tess was making one last attempt just after nine to contact Alec, if he was indeed still at the hospital, she had just assumed he was since he'd not come home but still got no answer.  He and Rose were still talking and he ignored her second call.

"Don't you think you should answer?" Rose asked him.

"Why?  To have her interrogate me down the phone?"

Rose was about to reply when her phone rang.

"If that is her, you left me at the hospital, she won't bother checking."

"I don't know if I can lie to her."  She pressed the answer button and hoped for the best.

"DC Tyler, have you by any chance dropped my husband somewhere?"

"No Ma'am, I've not dropped him anywhere, he told me to leave and go home, when the car was brought to me."

"Were they keeping him overnight?"

"I don't know Ma'am, he was still waiting."  At least that tied in with what she had told her friend.  "Has he not called you?"

"No and he's not answering his phone."

"Maybe they made him turn it off, if he stayed in or he's asleep?" Rose offered, looking at him.

She did feel sorry for him but if his wife found out he'd been discharged, she herself would be the prime suspect in his disappearance.

"If he calls you to pick him up in the morning, tell him I saw the family and it's a good thing he didn't inform them.  What was he thinking, digging up their garden?"

"I expect he wanted to cover every possibility, Ma'am?"

"Well tell him, if you see him before I do and he can explain why I had to leave our daughter with her grandmother overnight, I didn't want her knowing he was in hospital."

Rose thought that was rather odd, considering for one, she didn't know he was staying in and another, she'd made a point of telling people where she was going, according to Annie.
Chapter 6
Rose ended the call, Alec looking at her.

"Well, you did not do that badly."

"Half it was true.  You did tell me to go home, I chose to refuse to leave you and I told my friend you were waiting to see if you were being discharged when she brought the car to me, if your wife cares to check.  I think she sounded mad at you."

"For a change.  What was the rest of it about?"

"Digging up the Gillespie's garden.  He wasn't pleased about the way you sent your wife to tell him but she said it was just as well, he might have had a go at you again."

"How do you know about that?"

"When we were leaving.  Be careful Alec, he's just lost his daughter and possibly his niece.  My friend also told me, she and DC Ashby went to interview the neighbours, the Ashworths, she said they were 'creepy'."

"Define the word creepy for me?" Alec asked her, suddenly feeling tired as he'd not slept properly the last few nights, since this had happened and it could just as well have been Daisy who had gone missing.

"I don't know, she never said but I'll ask her tomorrow.  Maybe the girl's father will have calmed down by tomorrow?"

"Let us hope so and I want to go see them myself tomorrow but thanks for the warning.  I also want to see the Ashworths myself, find out how well they knew the two girls, if they saw them socially.  I'll interview him you can interview his wife."

"On my own?"

"Get one of your friends to help you.  I'm off to bed, I have a headache."

"I'm not surprised but I'll not disturb you, will you manage?"

"I just changed my clothes, remember?"

Rose smiled.  "Yeah, sorry.  Goodnight then, Alec."

"Goodnight Rose and thank you for letting me stay, I could not have faced going home."

"Then why do you stay?"

"For my daughter but having seen her at her birthday party, although I was late."

"She's lucky to have you, I never knew my dad."

"Sorry to hear that.  I lost my mum."

He got up and went to the room Rose had given him for the night, threw off his jacket and went to the bathroom.  Rose was in the kitchen, washing the mugs from the hot chocolate, which she shouldn't have left as they took some cleaning.  He saw her and watched for a few seconds before going to the bathroom.

"Alec, there's a spare toothbrush in the cabinet, if you want it?"

"Thank you.  I did not mean to stare at you just then, I am just not used to it being so quiet."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Never mind, I am not going to drag you into my domestic problems."

"I think it's a bit late for that, your wife has in not so many words accused me of having an affair with you.  I'm surprised she's not actually come out and said it yet."

"Rose, I have tried to tell her, I have done my best but maybe that is the reason she has not come out with it yet."

"Well she'd better not say it.  There are rumours going around that a senior male officer is, you know, playing around but all the women know it's not you."

"Why do they assume that?"

"Because we know who it is but maybe your wife hasn't caught on yet and she thinks it's you?"

"You make a very good case, I will make a DC of you yet.  I've not heard such rumours but there again, I do not listen to gossip, I leave that to you women."

"Thanks for that, Alec," Rose laughed.

Alec had to smile.  Rose thought it changed his whole face and wondered why in the last few days, he'd been trying to push his hair back out of his eyes and was also looking like he had the beginnings of a beard.  It had to have been his wife that chose his hairstyle, probably to try to put women off him.  Now he was beginning to rebel against her, he looked like he'd had enough.

Rose was woken suddenly, she glanced at the digital clock, it was just after two and not used to not having company for the last week it had made her jumpy so when she heard someone call out and a noise, she got out of bed, realising it was her boss.  She knocked on the door but got no reply so she chanced going in, she had told the hospital she would make sure he was ok and he hadn't just sounded it.

"Alec, are you ok?" she asked as he was sat up in bed and realising he'd no t-shirt on, him only having the clothes he'd been wearing.

"I'm fine, go back to bed," he told her, hoping she wouldn't switch the light on.

"What happened?  Do you need to go back to hospital?"

"No, no more hospital, they cannot do anything."

"Then tell me if I can do anything," she told him, realising she only had her pyjamas on.

In the last few weeks the weather had changed and now it was chilly at night but not bad enough to put the heating on, which fortunately was gas and she'd be out most of the day.  If she didn't get someone to share, it would be back to the boarding house, at least everything was included in the price.

"Rose, just go back to bed, there is nothing you can do either, except maybe stop my wife complaining about you."

"Sorry but there's nothing I can do, she won't come out and accuse me so I can't retaliate.  If I say anything, she'll have me in front of the chief for insubordination.  I have to wait for her to actually say something to me."

"Never mind, now is not the time to be discussing this.  Go on, before you get cold, have you no heating?"

"I can't afford it, I told you my flatmate left suddenly, I can only just make the rent."

"Then put it on and I will give you some money towards it, go on."

"Thanks but that's only for one night, I'll manage."

"The offer is there," he told her, getting back under the covers.

"Tell me what woke you."

"Nothing, go back to bed.  Are you going to interrogate me all night?  I could have gone home and let my wife do that."

"Fine, I'll go then.  I can see what her problem is."

With that she closed the door and hurried back to bed, no wonder his wife was like she was.  Alec realised he might have just sent his only friend right now running so he decided he would get up early and make breakfast for her, he was quite used to getting Daisy's.

Rose woke up at seven and could smell something cooking.  She got up and sneaking past the kitchen, saw Alec in just his shirt and trousers cooking bacon and eggs and trying to rescue the toast.

"Good, you're awake, this is almost ready."

"Morning, have you taken over my kitchen?"

"Are you going to interrogate me again?"

"No, sorry.  Last night, I didn't mean it to sound like it was, I was just worried about you."

"I know, I apologise and am making a peace offering and maybe a burnt one," he grinned, scraping the toast.

"Don't worry, I do that every morning, I'm surprised I haven't set the smoke alarm off yet.  I'll just be a few minutes."

She then went to join him, forgetting about getting dressed.

"If I don't find someone to share soon, I'll have to leave so there's no point in putting the heating on.  Were you warm enough?"

"Yes, I don't feel the cold much.  I was only thinking you must be cold."

"These PJ's are quite warm.  Sorry, I should have got dressed."

"No need to apologise, I did not want your breakfast getting cold."

Rose went to get dressed while he cleared up then she drove him to his house, waiting outside but stopped him before he went in.

"Alec, she's still there.  She said she was leaving your daughter at her grandmothers."

"You told me on the way over, it is just her way of getting to me but do you know what?  I do not care any more."

He got out of the car and got his key out, at least she had left it for him.  Tess was finishing in the kitchen.

"Oh. They let you out then?  Did Tyler pass on the message?"

"Which one?  You gave her a list."

"Don't be so clever Alec.  So what was wrong with you they kept you overnight?"

"Observation, I swallowed a lot of water.  You could have phoned to find out."

"I tried, you ignored my calls."

"When was that?" he asked, getting his phone out.

"I've got better things to do Alec, get changed or you'll be late for work, do you want a ride?"

Alec thought she'd not bothered looking out of the window then.

"My DC picked me up, she's waiting outside for me."

"Well she would, wouldn't she?"

"Why don't you just come out and say it Tess?"

"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?"

He shook his head and went to get changed, hoping she would leave Rose alone on the way out but sending Rose a message, warning her to watch out.  Rose got the message as Tess came out of the side door, seeing Rose sitting in the car, listening to the radio.  Tess decided to go talk to her, she still had a few minutes since Alec had declined to get into an argument.

"Tyler, when did you pick DI Hardy up?" she asked Rose as she let her window down.

"Not long ago, he called to say they were letting him out and he didn't want to bother you, he didn't know you had left your daughter with her grandmother."

"I told you to tell him."

"I never got the chance until he asked me to pick him up, it's no bother."

"I bet it isn't."

"Mrs Hardy, I don't know what your problem with me is but we're not at work now so why don't you tell me?"

Alec had seen Tess leaning down to talk to Rose and was hurrying downstairs before one of them lost their temper and it would probably be Tess.

"Come on Tyler, we will be late.  Tess, where is Daisy, did you leave her at your mother's?" he asked as he caught up to them.

"Tyler here was supposed to tell you."

"She may have mentioned it."

"Excuse me Sir but I tried to and we are going to be late."

"You could come with me Alec."

"Why when I already have a driver and she has a car, at my request, it is not just for her benefit."

He got in and put the seatbelt on, Rose pulling away and leaving Tess standing.

"Thanks for the rescue Sir."

"Forget the sir when we are on our own."

"I'll try to remember that."

"What did you need rescuing from?"

"I asked her if she had a problem with me."

"Rose, you should not have done that."

"I have a right to know.  Now we are officially working, I won't mention it again."

Rose did not enjoy interviewing Claire Ashworth, even though Annie was with her.

"Why have you brought me here?" Claire asked, looking at the two DC's.

"We wanted to ask you a few more questions, about Pippa Gillespie and Lisa Newberry."

"I hardly knew them."

"Is that why there are photos of you with Pippa?" Rose asked.

"What do you mean?"

Rose opened a brown envelope and spread out a dozen or so photos the girl's mother had given Tess of her daughter.  Then Rose noticed something but kept quiet.  Pippa was wearing a pendant that Claire had been wearing in another photo and she reckoned if it had been given to her, the girl would have been wearing it when she had been found or Claire would be.

Rose left Claire with a WPC and went to find Alec, who'd been having fun interviewing Lee Ashworth.

"According to the girl's mother, you did her a favour and dropped her at school some mornings yet you told officers you don't know her that well."

"What are you getting at?  Where's my wife?"

"You will get to see her shortly but answer my questions."

"I've answered enough, I want a solicitor."

"You are going to need one," Alec replied, getting another headache since Tess was sat next to him and she wasn't helping much.

Alec got up and Tess followed him.

"Get him a bloody solicitor and find out from Cate Gillespie exactly how many times recently the girl had been with the neighbours, we are not going to get any more out of him.  I'm going to find out how Tyler is getting on."

"I should be the one doing that, under the circumstances."

"Yes, you would just love that Tess.  You make her nervous, back off."

"I make her nervous?  You have some nerve Alec, how do you think she's making me feel?"

"You are making it worse for yourself but now is not the time."

"Then be home early and we can talk about it."

"Every conversation with you is one-sided Tess, I will be home but I'm moving into the spare room."

"You might just as well do."

"I'm glad we agree on something then.  I will talk to Daisy."

"She won't listen to you Alec, I think she's best staying at my mother's for now, I'll take her things later, since you seem to be working all hours or landing yourself in hospital.  Why did they keep you in?"

"Ask them."

He knew she wouldn't so he was pretty safe.  Apart from him almost stuffing things up with Rose by telling her to stop interrogating him, at least she had bothered about him when he'd woken up from his nightmare of still being in the water and the girl's body being taken from him but he still couldn't get the image out of his head it had been Daisy that he'd found and he couldn't talk to Tess about it. 

Maybe Rose would be more understanding and he'd nothing to get back home in a hurry for tonight.  Rose was waiting in his office, with a folder of the transcript of the 'interview' with Claire Ashworth.  Alec sat down and took the folder, Rose not being able to tell how he was taking it that they'd not got much out of her.

"So, she says she was with him all night?"

"Yes Sir, that's what she insists and we gave her the chance to change her mind.  I looked at those photos again and noticed something.  Pippa was wearing a pendant in one photo that Claire was wearing in another, if the girl had been given it, she would have been wearing it the night she disappeared."

"Yes, right.  You go double check and see if it has been found on her and if not, go back and see her mother and ask if she was wearing it when they left to go to that wedding.  Ask her permission to search the house for it if she does not know where it is or the girl was not wearing it, if she refuses, get a search warrant, this could be a vital clue."

Rose thought at last they seemed to be getting somewhere as she got up to leave.

"Well done Tyler."

"Thank you Sir, I was just doing my job.  This is the first time a disappearance has ended in tragedy where I've worked on the case."

"It does not get any easier Tyler, I regret to say.  You were very observant, it may have just saved us a lot of time.  Keep this to yourself for now or DS Henchard will steal it from under your nose."

"Yes Sir but can I get DC Walker to help?"

"Yes, if you wish but tell her the same and you report directly to me, if you are asked, refer everything to me."

Rose went off to find Annie, since she had been the one to interview Claire with her, Tess had taken Peggy with her and while they were out, Tess had a few questions for her.

"Ashby, have you heard those rumours going around?"

"Which are those Ma'am?" Peggy asked, not liking the way Tess drove but she'd insisted they went in her car.

"You know which ones, about a male senior officer."

"Oh, that one.  If you're asking me if I know who it is, you'd have to ask around, no senior male officer has suggested anything to me, I keep out of it."

"You're friends with Tyler?"

"Yes, why?  Are you suggesting she knows?"

"No but despite me warning her, she tends to spend a lot of time with my husband lately."

"No disrespect Ma'am but DC Tyler knows he's her boss, she has to do as he says.  If you don't mind me saying, you should ease up on her and personally, I don't think it's your husband who is the male officer, no-one has ever said anything about him."

The solicitor for Lee Ashworth had arrived and he'd been advised not to answer any more questions about how he knew the family so he'd been released for the time being and had joined his wife outside.

"They know Lee," Claire told him as they got in his truck.  "We have to sell the car, today before they want to search it, to see if Pippa was in it."

"I know that you stupid cow, what did you tell them?"

"Nothing Lee, honestly but what if they find out about the pendant I gave Pippa?  That DC had photos of both Pippa and I wearing it."

"What happened to it Claire?"

"How do I know?  You took Pippa to the woods, I was dealing with Ricky.  Hell Lee, you must have left it on her or it came off somewhere.  Check the car when we get back then go sell it, I don't care how much you get for it."
Chapter 7
Rose drove Alec back out to see the Gillespies since he wanted to see if the Ashworths would try talking to them but luckily, Ricky had gone out though Cate had a drink in her hand.

"Why aren't you out there finding who killed my little girl?"

"We have every available unit out who are not looking for Lisa but can you tell me, was she your niece or your husband's?" Alec asked her as Rose stood beside her.

"Mrs Gillespie, we need to know everything if we are going to find her, who her friends were, where she went but if she's your husband's niece, we need to know why she uses another name."

"She doesn't get on with her father, he left them so she uses her mother's name.  There, are you satisfied now?"

Rose looked across at Alec, who nodded.

"Mrs Gillespie, did Pippa have a pendant she wore all the time?  I saw it in some photos."

"Yes, she did, she hardly took it off.  I think she got it from the neighbour."

"Was she wearing it when you left to go to the wedding?"

There were tears in the woman's eyes and Rose didn't know if it was from the drink or her grief.

"I think she was, why, did you find it?"

"Can you check for us, see if it's in her room?"

"Wouldn't your people have found it, if she was wearing it?"

Rose had done as Alec had requested and gone to the medical examiner and the CSU.

"No, it wasn't found, that's why we need to know.  Would you mind if I looked for it?"

"Suit yourself but if my husband comes back and finds you, I won't be responsible for what happens."

"Then will you come with me?"

"Where's that other officer, Tess is it?"

"Conducting other enquiries.  I can assure you DC Tyler is just as competent," Alec told her.

Cate nodded and got up, almost losing her balance as Rose caught her arm.

"I don't need any help."

Rose put her gloves on and looked through a pink jewellery box with a musical ballerina inside but there was no sign of the pendant she'd seen in the photos.  She carefully sorted through a pile of trinkets on the girl's small dressing table but found nothing, then searched the drawers as the CSU had not at the time been looking for a piece of jewellery.

Rose was lucky she got back downstairs just before the girl's father came back.  Alec had been looking at family photos on the wall and fireplace and was considering sending a team back in to do another search if Rose was unsuccessful but he would need further proof the pendant was actually hers and not Claire Ashworth's.

If he asked the neighbour, she would probably deny she had given the young girl the pendant and proving otherwise and asking her to produce it was another matter. 

Ricky Gillespie burst into the living room, having seen Rose's car outside.

"What are you two doing back here?" he shouted angrily.  "Get out, both of you, now.  Stop harassing us, we did not kill our own daughter."

"No-one is suggesting you did, we are trying to establish some facts," Alec told him.

"Well you can send that other officer, I will not have you coming here, digging up our garden and making everyone think we are under suspicion and when are you going to talk to the neighbours?"

Alec decided now was a good time to find out how close they were. 

"Do you want to tell us something about them?" Alec asked him, getting his notebook out.

"He was always watching out of the upstairs window, when Lisa came around.  Why don't you ask him?"

Alec was fully intending to.  After asking a few other question, he and Rose left but before they drove off, Rose noticed that the car that had been parked earlier at the side of the Ashworth's house had gone but a truck was outside the house.

"Rose, did we have the registration number of the Ashworth's car?"

Rose looked through her notes.  "No, I don't think so Sir, I can check when we get back."

"Get on to the DVLA then, see if you can get it and then, put an alert out to all car sales and garages, in case he tries to sell it."

"You mean if there's any evidence the girls were in it on Saturday night?"

"Exactly.  Well, was there anything else in the girl's room?"

"No, just a few bits of kid's jewellery and some trinkets, probably from the local fair or something but her mother looked nervous, I think she's scared of her husband and so is Claire Ashworth."

"Then I will leave them to you.  Think you can handle them?"

"Yes Sir, I can handle them but what about your wife, she'll keep trying to find out why we're so interested in them."

"She is too busy trying to find out about where Lisa is, I gave her the job earlier, though she protested, as usual.  I told her she was in charge of the continuing search."

"Should we share the information about why Lisa changed her name?"

Alec raised his eyebrows.

"What do you think?  Would she share with us?  Time for lunch, stop somewhere on the way back, my treat.  You must get tired of canteen food."

"It will be all I can afford next week, well that and the discount frozen food store, though some of it's not bad.  I'll stock up on ready made meals."

"Really?  Have you advertised for someone to share?"

"That's why Christine couldn't find anyone until I came along, it's too far out.  Everyone either has a place or doesn't want to move that far but it's easier now I have the car."

"Well when we conclude this investigation, I will tell the transport department I still need the car and make sure you fill it before you leave tonight, I would hate for you to be out of pocket and wait until you next get paid before getting the money back for the fuel."

"I'll try and remember Sir."

"You have forgotten something already, you don't have to call me sir all the time."

"Sorry, Alec."

He spotted a diner on the way back to the station, telling Rose to park behind the place just in case Tess happened to be passing by and he told Rose to order anything she wanted.  When they got back, Rose had plenty to do, getting details of Lee Ashworth's driving licence and vehicle details and she'd just retrieved that and printed it out and had put out an alert that if the car was sold that it was reported to them when Tess came back in and went into Alec's office, since she felt she didn't need an invitation.

"Why have you done this to me Alec?  Putting me in charge of the search for Lisa?"

"I needed a senior officer on it.  Not up to the job?"

"Very amusing Alec.  I'm going to need some help."

"Take one of the other DCs then."

"Oh, you don't want me to take Tyler?"

"She's my DC, not yours.  Take one of the DS's then, I don't care which one."

He really didn't care but something Rose had said came to mind, that one of them was playing around though he'd not been able to get a name but she may be right, Tess could suspect it was him.  Well if only it was.

As Tess left, thinking she may as well use this to her advantage and get Dave to help her, Rose gathered up the files and went into Alec's office.

"So if he has sold the car recently, you have an alert on it?" Alec asked, putting his specs on.

"Yes Sir," she told him, not wanting to chance his wife overhearing her calling him Alec.

"Well that is all we can do for now, if they are panicking, they may just have been out earlier though.  DS Henchard wanted to know why I did not offer your services to help her in the search for Lisa."

"Sir?  You wouldn't do that to me, would you?"

"No, I would not but I told her to take a DS.  Do you know who it is who is messing around?"

"I can't tell you Sir, it's just office gossip, we have no real proof.  Whoever we think it is may confide more in his friends, maybe you should ask around?"

"Yes, I am sure they are going to tell me when I am in charge.  If you get some proof, will you tell me?"

"Yes, I'll tell you but I hope you don't say where you got your information from?"

Alec looked at her. 

Rose had some more work to finish, Tess had gone out with Dave Harris, having convinced him Alec had said she could choose anyone she wanted to help conduct the search for Lisa.  Tess had wanted to drive and they had just finished trying to talk with the elder girl's mother.

Dave stopped her as they were about to set off back to the station.

"So how are things at home Tess?  You can tell me, I'm on your side.  Did Alec get back from the hospital last night?"

"No, he stayed overnight, so he claims."

"Well call the hospital and check."

"Are you kidding?  What will it look like if I don't know if my own husband was kept in for observation, especially since I didn't stay when I took his clean clothes for him.  I was told he was still unconscious and I bet Tyler was with him though she claims when he came round, he told her to go home."

"She will have done Tess, well possibly.  You're probably just worrying over nothing, where would he go if he didn't stay in hospital?"

That was how Dave operated, pretend to be sympathetic, try to sow the seeds of doubt but not directly and he could see it was starting to work.  As they drove back, he suggested they meet again when she said Daisy was staying at her mothers.

"Come on Tess, when did you have some time to yourself?  Alec will be working late, we could go grab a pub meal somewhere?"

"I have to go drop some clothes off for Daisy but I could meet you later?  Do you know what he said to me this morning, while Tyler was waiting outside for him, since he'd called for her to collect him, not me?"

Dave shook his head.

"That he's moving into the spare room.  What's that supposed to mean?"

"My wife told me the same, well she told me to move in the spare room, I do understand how it makes you feel Tess," he assured her.

In truth, his wife had said no such thing since when he got home every night he was trying to convince her she had nothing to worry about him going astray.

Finally, Rose caught up with work and went to knock on Alec's door.

"Sir, I going to go fill up the car for tomorrow.  Do you need a ride home?"

"Yes, I will meet you downstairs, you go ahead.  If you see my wife, don't give her any help if she asks how we are getting on in the case."

"It's like some kind of contest."

"She is capable of getting her own information, I am not asking for her help.  They are two separate investigations so we can conclude faster than everyone working on the same thing.  I find things run smoother that way."

"I'll take your word for that.  I'll see you downstairs."

Tess was just coming back in as Rose was getting her car filled.

"Still here Tyler?"

"Yes Ma'am, just refilling for tomorrow."

"Well I will bring DI Hardy to work tomorrow morning."

"I'll have to let him tell me that Ma'am."

"Is my word not good enough for you?"

"If you tell me not to call for him and he needs to go somewhere, he'll chew me out for it.  With due respect Ma'am, he will have to tell me himself if I pick him up or not."

Tess felt like screaming at the young officer.  It would be just like Alec to decide he'd rather go with his DC than with her.  Well if that was the case, she would go drop off Daisy's things and stay out for a few hours, see how he liked it.

"We just have one more place to go Rose," Alec told her as he got into the silver car.

"Where's that?"

They drove back out to the estate and parked a few doors away from the two houses, one being the Gillespie house and the other, that Rose had learned was rented from them by the Ashworths.  She found out by accident when looking through something and Alec had thought it was worth investigating, since the Ashworths were withholding that information.

"What are we looking for?" Rose asked, since it was almost six and she thought they had called it a day.

"Stay here Rose, I'm going to take a look around the back."

"Don't you want me to come with you?"

"No, it will look suspicious."

"No, you going on your own will look suspicious, two of us, we can say we are considering buying one of the houses and wanted to see it from the back."

"I knew there was a reason I kept you around, come on then.  Look for anything unusual, they should not be able to see us but we can see their upstairs windows and possibly the patio doors.  Tomorrow, I am calling on the Ashworths again, I want their permission to search their property and if they refuse, I want you to persuade the Gillespies as the owners to give us it.  They must have a spare key."

"Do you think the pendant could be in the house?  That would only prove it was Claire's in the first place."

"Yes but with Cate Gillespie saying Pippa was wearing it when they left her, it does prove either she was in their house that night or Claire, possibly her husband had contact with her, enough to prove they did see her."

They both got out of the car and walked around the corner, pretending to be looking at the houses.

"Don't you think we should look like we're together?" Rose asked as they got to where they wanted.

"We are standing together," he objected, thinking now this had been a big mistake.

What was he thinking?  For the last few days she had been getting to him, well if he admitted it, it was rather amusing his wife thought he was cheating on her, with Rose.  She didn’t have to let him stay with her last night but despite waking up thinking he was drowning again, this morning had been the most peaceful breakfast he'd had in a long time where there were no arguments, no rushing Daisy off to school and Rose had thanked him for making her breakfast, though it had only been to show his appreciation and to make up for saying he could have stayed at home and been asked a load of questions but she seemed to have forgiven him.

Alec made a few notes then they walked back to the car.

"Shall I take you home now?"

"If you must."

"By the way, your wife saw me and told me she would bring you to work in the morning and for me not to bother."

"She did?"

"Yeah but I told her I had to ask you first."

"Well, we will be taking another field trip in the morning, in the opposite direction of the station, won't we Rose?"

"We will?  Oh yeah, so we will, to ask permission to search the Ashworth's house.  We're doing that first thing?"

"Why not?"

"Right, get it over with?"

"Exactly and before the Ashworths know we are on to them."

"We are?"

"Keep up Rose, what do we have on them so far?"

"Ah, the pendant, giving Pippa a ride to school, the photos."

"Exactly.  Now we see if the girls left anything around the house, especially the pendant."

Back in the Ashworth's house, Lee had sold the car, not getting what he wanted for it but it was late in the day after they had cleaned it inside and out, checked the glove compartment and made sure nothing was left, well so they thought.  Lee though had no idea Rose had put the word out to all car sales in the area to be on the lookout for it but the plot owner had been in a rush to complete and not checked the latest information, going home for the night after locking the car up.

Rose and Alec had just driven off and Rose had asked him again if he was going home.

"Yes, I have to though I expect nothing but arguments but I need to clear the air."

Rose felt sorry for him as they arrived and Tess had a holdall she was putting on the back seat of her car.  She half thought his wife was throwing him out but it was none of her business.

"Goodnight Sir, I'll pick you up in the morning then."

"Yes, goodnight Tyler, I will inform my wife you are doing so."

Then he got out and waved as Rose drove off.

"Do you have to wave to her Alec?"

"I was being polite.  What's this?"

"Daisy's things, did you think they were yours?  By the way, your muddy suit and coat have gone to the cleaners, someone gave me your coat earlier they had brought back.  You can collect and pay for them, I'll leave the ticket on your desk tomorrow.  I'll be staying with Daisy for a while and explain what's going on."

"About what?"

"The investigation, what do you think?  I'm not telling her you're moving into the spare room, you can do that on your own."

"Well it won't be a problem yet, since she is not here, will it?  Is there anything to eat?" he asked as Tess got into her car.

"I'm sure you'll find something Alec, you're not completely helpless."

He watched Tess drive off and went inside, going into the kitchen but instead of looking in the fridge or the freezer, he found a takeaway menu.  Eating takeout would do him no good but he couldn't be bothered making something for just himself.  Then he had a stupid idea.  He dialled the takeaway and said he would collect, went to get changed into a jumper and casual trousers and set off to collect mushroom omelettes for two and hoped Rose hadn't started making something for herself.

Perhaps he should call her but she'd insist she was already making something for herself but if he turned up, she could always turn off what she was making, couldn't she?
Chapter 8
Rose had got home and gone for a shower, thinking she'd put something quick in the microwave when she finished.  Putting her pyjamas and her dressing gown on, she was about to choose something to eat when the doorbell from downstairs rang.

"Hello, who is it?  If you're selling something I'm not interested," she told whoever it was through the intercom.

"Then can I interest you in some food?" came a familiar Scottish voice.

"Alec?  What are you doing here?"

"I already said, I have brought food."

"Well ok, come up then."

Hoping he wouldn't get reported for parking in the 'Visitors' space, he heard the buzzer and pushed the door and went to the first floor where Rose had taken him last night.  Rose ran into her bedroom and quickly got dressed while she kept him waiting.

"Sorry," she told him as he waited at the door after ringing the other doorbell.  "I'd just been in the shower."

Letting him in, he surprised her by heading for the kitchen and putting the cartons on the counter, found some plates.

"Taking over my kitchen again?" Rose smiled as he went to the drawer for the forks.

"You could make a drink?"

"So, where was she going in such a hurry?" Rose asked as she filled the kettle with water and switched it on, noticing he'd changed into more casual clothing and he'd already taken his brown tweed jacket off.

"Taking clothes to Daisy.  Did you think she had packed my things?" he asked, trying not to make a mess.

"Did you?" Rose asked as she put two teabags into the mugs.

"She said she was going to spend time with her, to explain she had to stay at her grandmother's while this investigation was going on."

"Do you believe her?" Rose asked as she sat at the table.

"Honestly?  I do not know.  Rose, if you know anything about this officer you say is targeting married female officers, you have to tell me."

"I can't Alec, if it gets back then we will all be in trouble if we're wrong.  Why are you asking me?  Do you think he's after your wife?"

"I really do not know, maybe it's things being the way they are."

"With the investigation or at home?"

"Both.  I did not mean to drag you into this."

"Too late, I already am but forget about it.  The way Tess goes on, it's not her, I think that's pretty safe to assume."

"At this present moment, I don't know if I actually care.  I am moving into the spare room when I get back."

"I don't need to know that.  This food is good, where did you go?"

"Beijing Express, near where I live, well if I am there much longer."

"Well I'd better not get used to it, had I?  I'm sorry she picked on me but you said it would have happened anyway?"

"Leave it Rose, maybe it is for the best, while Daisy is not there but if I don't go see her, she will take her mother's side."

"Then tomorrow I'll drop you off there and you can go explain things to her, before it's too late.  Now, eat, no more talking, right?"

They finished their meals and Alec helped her clear up then they went back in the living room.

"So, about you having to leave?  Are you still looking for someone to share?"

"I've not found anyone since last night," she smiled.  "I'll have to go around the local shops on Saturday and put some notices up, there may be some students with transport, I'll have to reduce the price and try and manage or charge full and include the utility bills.  I'll manage somehow."

"Rose, if you need help, just ask, I can have a word with personnel and see if you have any allowances you are not claiming."

"Thanks, I will.  So are we both gonna be a couple of miseries all night?  Tell me about where you come from or is that getting too personal?"

"No but you start, my story is probably more boring and longer."

Rose told him how her mother had raised her on her own and her two failed relationships, one short lived and violent which had inspired her to join the police when she was old enough.

"The thing is though, when I got to the station in north London, I wasn't satisfied with making the tea.  I wanted more so I got a sponsor, this much older DI who took pity on me.  That's why I liked DS Moore, he reminded me of him."

"So it was nothing personal when you got stuck with me?"

"Well at least he didn't have a wife who made it plain she was jealous.  Sorry, I shouldn't be going on about it."

"No, she did it with everyone and I owe them all an apology for her behaviour but I just wanted a quiet life.  You just brought everything to a head and I am going to be making a lot of changes."

"Such as the beard?" Rose smiled.

"You noticed?" he smiled, rubbing his fingers over his chin then through his thick brown hair that didn't look now like it had been plastered with hair cream.

"Don't tell me, your wife didn't want all the female officers fancying you so you acted accordingly?"

"Don't Rose, don't go there, I am done with it."

"I noticed but she's got everyone scared of her, I think you're pretty safe, for now.  Just don't tell everyone you are making a few changes."

"You are very observant."

"I have to work with you.  I think the beard suits you, it makes you look different."

"Good different or bad different?" he asked, not realising where this was going.

"Mmm, just different, younger maybe?  Scruffy beards are 'in' these days and maybe you could loosen your tie a bit, don't look so stuffy."

"Rose, I dress for work, not…"  He stopped.  "Not to attract the opposite sex."

Rose giggled, Alec realising he'd walked straight into that.

"Stop it Rose, I know what you are doing, you are setting me up for Tess making a big scene."

"Maybe you need to?"

"We have a murder and a disappearance to solve, this is not the time."

"Yeah, this is exactly the time Alec, while she's otherwise occupied."

"She is already mad I chose to put her in charge of finding Lisa and if she finds out I withheld information from her, well I won't go into that."

"So you didn't tell her why Lisa changed her name and her father may be the prime suspect in her disappearance, if they had an argument and poor Pippa got in the way."

"What?"

"Oh, you didn't think of that?  It could have happened."

"Yes, it could have happened.  Tomorrow, we should look for Lisa's father, get your friends onto it and follow up on the Ashworths car, if anyone has come across it, if it is not there when we go visit in the morning."

"Don't you ever stop?  You could tell me that tomorrow you know?"

"It was just while I was thinking about it.  I should go now."

"Back to the spare room?"

"Tess will be back by now, I should tell her about Lisa's father, she can follow it up."

"You can tell her tomorrow, you're welcome to stay a bit longer, if you want?"

"No, I do not want to overstay my welcome."

"Well next time, maybe give me some warning?"

Alec got up and went to get his jacket, Rose following him to the door.

"Thanks for the food Alec."

"My pleasure, I did not want to eat on my own."

He put his hand on the door handle but stopped and turned to her.

"Goodnight Rose and thank you, for being so understanding."

He went to kiss her cheek but she mistook it for him trying to kiss her and pulled away.

"It's fine."

"Rose, I was not trying to kiss you, well that was not my intention but we have been spending some time together."

"Alec, sorry, I jumped to the wrong conclusion."

"Maybe not?" he asked, going to try again but this time for her lips but she still stopped him.

"Sorry, Alec, I can't."

"No, of course, I apologise, forget it, I will go.  It was my mistake.  Friends?"

"Yeah, friends, of course.  Alec, I'm not saying I can't, you know, for ever, it's just, you know, things are bad enough right now."

"Yes, I will go, back home to the spare room.  I told Tess before she went off, supposedly to see our daughter."

"You still don't believe her?"

"Not entirely, now you have mentioned it.  Tell me who it is Rose."

"All you need to know is it's not you.  If I tell you and I'm wrong, it will get back to him."

"Maybe it should?  So, we are good then?"

"Yeah, we're good and I meant it Alec, I didn't mean never, things are just difficult."

"Then what do you want me to say?  I am moving into the spare room and she is not persuading me otherwise.  We will talk about this tomorrow then?  You could invite me over and cook something, for me bringing you food tonight?"

"That's not a good idea, how will you explain your absence again?"

"Then you drop me where my daughter is staying and I will go back and get my car or get a cab.  You complain I am taking over your kitchen."

Rose smiled.  "Well, just a meal then?"

"Promise.  Goodnight."

Alec got downstairs and sat in his car before driving off.  How had it come to this?  He was making a move on his DC on a whim that Tess was seeing whoever the rumours were about but it hadn't started out as such, Rose had thought it first, hadn't she or had he started it by barging in with food and making himself at home in her kitchen, like he'd already done at breakfast.  He'd not intended to kiss her though but if the opportunity arose again, well maybe it would just happen, it was clear Tess, despite her jealousy just wanted to keep other women away and not actually wanted him herself.

Maybe he was right to suspect something, what better way to cover it up than accuse someone he worked with of doing the same?  While Alec was sat in his car, Rose was taking stock of what had just happened.  He was only going to kiss her cheek, she had taken it the wrong way and he'd been ok with it, when she'd said she was not saying never but maybe she had been jumping to the wrong conclusion?  He had tried again though, hadn't he or had she forced him into it?

Either way, it couldn't happen while he was still under the same roof as his wife, Tess already had it in for her and if Tess found out, she may lose her job over it or at the very least get transferred.  Maybe if things went wrong and she couldn't face him, that might be for the best though.  Tess had dropped Daisy's things off and told her she was best staying there and that things weren't well at home and the girl had thought it was her fault.

"No Daisy, it's not your fault, it's your father's, he's getting too involved in the case and working overtime."

Well he was getting too involved in working with Tyler anyway and better the girl think it was work.  When she got home, Alec was out and Tess guessed he'd just gone out for the sake of it to get back at her so she got changed and went off to meet Dave.  Alec got back, Tess was still out, probably telling her mother and their daughter lies about him but he would get his side of the story in tomorrow.

Dave had been waiting for her with a drink on the table as she'd walked in.

"Thought you'd changed your mind Tess?"

"No, I went to see Daisy and went home to change, Alec was out."  She had been having second thoughts but going home and Alec being out made her mind up.

"He doesn't care about you Tess, you know that?"

"I'm beginning to see that Dave.  It's him, isn't it, the one the rumours are about and Tyler is his latest victim, though from what I was able to gather earlier, he's been after the married ones.  I never saw it."

"You wouldn't, he's been very clever and he's changed his preference.  Why are you not surprised, have you noticed he's changed his appearance the last few days, to get at you and make himself more attractive to her."

"To Tyler?  Huh, it wouldn't make any difference to her, she was after him when she first arrived.  You think he's changing for her?"

"Think about it Tess?  See how he reacts around her then decide."

"I told her not to pick him up in the morning and, they were only just getting back as I was leaving to see Daisy, they'd left the station the same time as I did so where did they get to?  I bet she still calls for him despite me telling her not to, he'll have told her he wants her to drive him to work, not me."

Dave moved closer and put his arm around her.  "I completely understand Tess."

The next morning, Rose set off to pick Alec up, waiting by his house for him and seeing him coming out, behind his wife, whom he'd just argued with and he was trying not to let it spill over.

"I told Tyler not to bother picking you up this morning," Tess had told him, seeing her waiting for him.

"I tell her whether she calls for me or not, keep out of it Tess."

"And what was all that last night, your things were gone from the bedroom, I thought you were just making a point by sleeping in the spare room last night."

"I told you I was moving in there," he told her, locking the door as Tess remote unlocked her car and threw her shoulder bag in the passenger seat.

"Where were you last night, I came back from seeing Daisy and you were out so I went back."

Well she couldn't tell him she went to meet Dave though she had a good idea where he had been.

"I'm not doing this here Tess, oh and you may be interested, Tyler has something to tell you, about Lisa Newberry, we have somewhere to go first."

He got into Rose's borrowed car and said good morning to her.

"Miss me making breakfast for you?" he asked.  "It was not so pleasant as yesterday morning.  So, we are good then?"

"Yeah, I said we were.  I've already called for a unit to meet us at the Ashworth house."

"Good, let us get them when they least expect it."

The visit didn't go well.  Claire was screaming at them they had no right to go knocking on their door at eight thirty in the morning, asking for permission to search the house but Rose had been to deal with Ricky Gillespie when he came out to go to work, demanding to know what they were doing there.  She had already sent another unit to get a search warrant, just in case, she was taking no chances, to which Alec had said she was very efficient while they were waiting for the warrant.

"Sir, I didn't think it was wise, to get the Gillespie's permission after all."

"Good choice, best be on the safe side, in case we do find something or they may claim the search was illegally conducted," Alec told her while they waited, seeing Claire looking out of the upstairs window.

"Well at least they can't get rid of anything, while we're parked out here," Rose told him, tempted to slap his hand while he played with the car radio, Alec just turning it off.  "Finished?" she asked as he folded his arms, not answering her.

Once they were inside, she got the Ashworth's to wait outside in the garden, Lee glaring at her.

"Think you're going to find something, DC Tyler was it?"

"We wouldn't be here if we didn't think you had more to do with the two girls than you claim you did.  You both lied to us."

Claire sat in the garden chair, which had dried out from the rain of the last few days.

"You won't find anything because there's nothing to find, the girls never came in here," Claire insisted.

"So all those photos with you in them were taken next door then?" Rose asked.  "Where's the pendant Claire?"

"What pendant?" Claire asked, Rose seeing she was nervous.

"The one in the photos, the one both of you were wearing on different occasions."

Claire didn't answer her but Alec came out to join them.

"Do you have a car?" he asked Lee.

"I did but I sold it."

"I want the details then, tell me who you sold it to."

"No, why should I?"

"Then, Lee Ashworth, I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Pippa Gillespie and the disappearance of Lisa Newberry.  DC Tyler, advise Mr Ashworth of his rights."

Rose did so and two uniformed officer came from behind Alec and took him away.

"You can't just arrest him like that," Claire yelled at Alec.

"Yes I can, forensics are on their way and if we find one single trace of either of the girls, you will join him."

"It's nothing to do with me, it was all him," Claire claimed, Rose seeing the woman was panicking.  "He made me say I was with him all that night but I wasn't, I stayed with a friend, he was on his own."

"Will you give a statement to that fact, to DC Tyler here?" Alec asked as an officer came to tell him the forensics team had just arrived.  "Tell them to start upstairs," he turned to tell the officer.

An hour later, Rose and Alec were sat facing Lee Ashworth, who was looking like he wasn't going to tell them anything until his solicitor arrived.  When the woman solicitor did arrive, she advised him not to say anything anyway until the search was concluded.  He was taken to a cell to await the results of the search and for forensics to analyse that hairs found on a pillow hidden in the wardrobe were Pippa's.

While they waited, Alec asked Rose to tell Tess her theory but Tess just laughed it off.

"So what if she has changed her name?  What proof do you have her father had anything to do with her disappearance?  You and my husband are just throwing this to me now when you've made an arrest?"

"There was no sign Lisa had been in their house, only Pippa.  Don't you want to find her?  Excuse me, I have reports to make."

As the day went on and certain facts were established, along with the results that they had indeed found the DNA of Pippa on the pillow and on a cushion in the bedroom, Lee Ashworth was charged with Pippa's murder but he still refused to give details of the sale of his car until Rose got a phone call just before five.  It had been a long day, following procedure and writing reports, mainly by Rose, who when she got the call from a dealer who had just realised the car he'd bought late yesterday and was now in the back of his car lot had a police alert out on it, she rushed into Alec's office to tell him of the conversation she'd just had.

"Don't let anyone else touch it," she'd told the car lot owner.  "I'll have officers there shortly to eliminate the prints of your employee who moved the car Mr Logan.  Can I ask when you bought the car?  An alert went out for it yesterday."

"Like I told your desk sergeant, I bought it late, got Steve to move it out of the way this morning to prepare for it to be checked over and I've only just seen the alert, I've been busy.  No-one else has been near it all day, I was about to advertise it and was checking it wasn't written-off or wanted."

"Well thanks for alerting us.  Has anyone been inside the car other than to move it?"

"No, we had other cars to check first, I run a very busy car lot."

Alec was already getting his jacket and his spare black raincoat, though now, he preferred this one since Tess hadn't chosen it for him, or the light grey suit he now wore, it was time for change and not before time either.
Chapter 9
"Tyler, inform DS Henchard, I need a second senior officer with me to conduct a search on the car properly, I don't want any screw-ups."

"Yes Sir, I'll go inform her.  I've got a unit on the way and someone to eliminate the fingerprints of the staff member who moved the car."

"Did they not know it was wanted?"

"The owner said he took the car in late last night and he'd been busy with other cars during the day but he said no-one else touched it."

"Good, are forensics ready to take the car away?"

"Yes Sir but I thought it best to search the car before it was moved."

"Good thinking.  Go alert DS Henchard."

Tess was already taking notice of what was going on, fuming and whatever it was, he was getting ready to go out again and where had they been that morning in such a hurry?  Surely they wouldn't have raided the Ashworth's home at that time in the morning but they had brought the man in just after ten and as far as she knew, he was still locked up downstairs.  What were they up to?  She'd asked Alec and he'd just told her they were holding him pending enquiries and she knew as well as anyone that could mean anything.

"Ma'am," Rose called as she knocked on Tess's door.

"What now, more 'information' for me?"

"No Ma'am, DI Hardy wants you to come with us, we found a car the Ashworths sold and we're going to search it.  He wants you to conduct the search with him, we believe there could be some vital evidence in it.  We can't find the pendant the girl we found was wearing when she disappeared, we've searched both houses and he thinks it may have come off in the car, it's the only place we've not looked."

"Well he let them go and sell it," Tess muttered, getting up.  "I'll go in my own car Tyler, give me the address."

Rose gave her a piece of paper she'd written the address down on, knowing the DS wouldn't want to go with them and joined Alec at the door.

"So, what did she say?" he asked as they went to the garage, since he no longer insisted she picked him up outside the main entrance.

"She'll meet us there.  Sir, let's hope the pendant was in the car and they never noticed it in their hurry to sell it."

"You can safely assume they will have cleaned it but anyone who is panicking will have forgotten something and, they did not know at the time if the pendant had been recovered."

"Neither did we Sir," Rose smiled as she unlocked the car.

"True but we know where we've looked and at the time they sold the car, they will have been satisfied it was not in the house and only checked the car quickly."

"You think they were both involved?" Rose asked as another unit followed them.

"Let us see if Claire will give the name of the friend she was supposed to have been with but now, we are getting closer to the truth Rose.  I will have to put off my visit to see my daughter tonight now, that gives Tess more time to turn her against me."

"She wouldn't think you've forgotten her, would she?"

"I hope not.  You know where you're going?"

Ten minutes later, they joined another police car at the car lot, forensics were already eliminating staff from any fingerprints remaining on the car but they had not yet searched it on Alec's orders.

"Tyler, you take the front, DS Henchard will take the back seat and I will take the boot," he ordered, putting on the blue plastic gloves he kept in his jacket pocket as Tess stood behind them.

Rose had no luck with the glove box, the obvious choice, under the rubber mats on both sides and under the steering column, using a torch while Tess did the back seats but Alec told her to let the back seat down, Tess going for the catch.  Alec leaned forward as the chain glittered in the light from the back as the seat was let down.

"Right, bag that now and have the car taken to the station.  I will take the evidence back with me and Tyler."

"I have to go back, I'll take it," Tess insisted, wanting some of the glory since he'd put her onto the missing girl and he wanted all the credit.  Taking the evidence bag she placed the pendant inside.

"Make sure you go straight back, no delays."

"Where do you think I'll go?"

"To see your daughter?  I mean it, no stopping off anywhere.  You can sign for it.  Tyler, you heard her, you are witness I am holding her responsible for taking it back to the station."

"Yes Sir.  They're ready to take the car back to the evidence lock-up."

"Let them take it then forensics can go over it tomorrow and have them keep Ashworth at the station, we'll charge him formally tomorrow."

Tess was just leaving when she got a call from Dave Harris.

"Tess, I heard you were going to search a car, any luck?"

"Yes, we found the pendant, well I did but Alec will want to take all the credit."

"Never mind Tess, we'll steal it from him when we find Lisa alive and well.  Fancy a drink to celebrate?"

"Well I'm on my way back to the station with the evidence but I can meet you at The Vine in ten minutes, he won't know but I can't stay long."

"What's your hurry Tess?" Dave laughed.  "The evidence is going nowhere and what have you got to go home to?"

So ten minutes later, Tess had parked under the canopy of the hotel and leaving the evidence in her work bag, went off to join Dave, not noticing a shadowy figure wearing a hoodie get out of a truck.  Claire had been to the station and got her husband to tell her where he had sold the car and that he'd been stupid to not check it properly.

"Lee, tell me where you sold it, they must have an alert out on it by now," Claire told him, hitting his arm as he leaned through the hatch of the cell.

"Ow Claire, stop hitting me."

"You should have gone out of town, you idiot.  Why do I always have to clean up your mess?  If you'd not be shagging Lisa, this would never have happened.  How could you?"

"Well you were grooming her for me, what did you expect?"

"We agreed Lee, that you'd wait but you couldn't keep it in your pants, could you?"

"It's too late now, go break into her car and get it back.  You're sure you have Ricky under control?"

"Yes, he knows I have something on him, he won't talk to the cops." 

"Well it had better be good, go on, I heard them all as they were leaving."

Rose and Alec had finished at the car lot and everyone was leaving.  The car had been taken away and Rose asked him if he was going home.

"You promised to cook for me."

"Yeah but it'll have to be something quick."

"I'm sure you will find something.  If Tess is back at the station, she will find an excuse to eat out or bring something back for herself.  She had the nerve this morning to say she thought I was only trying to prove a point last night, she never expected me to move my things out."

"So why do you have a spare room, if you only have Daisy?" Rose wanted to know.

"Tess wanted it, in case we decided to have more kids but she soon went off that idea.  Change the subject."

"Sorry, I just wondered.  So, we charge Lee Ashworth with Pippa's murder?  When do we tell the Gillespies?"

"After he has been formerly charged and held until we can get him to court.  We should have more results back from forensics examining Pippa for any physical evidence but she had not been abused, thankfully."

"Yeah, be thankful for small mercies.  Why did you want Tess to be there?"

"To get her off my back, why else?  She can't claim I gave her none of the credit.  I don't want any when she finds Lisa."

They arrived back at Rose's apartment and getting some spaghetti from the cupboard, she put it in a pan to boil then got out the pasta sauce.

"We can make this more interesting," Alec told her, going through her cupboards and bringing out some mixed spices in a jar, something that had been there when she'd moved in.

Putting the sauce into a pan, he added the spices and stirred them with a wooden spoon, Rose watching him.

"What?" he asked as he also checked the spaghetti.

"You, being all domestic."

"I never said I was not domestic.  I have to cook for Daisy when Tess is in one of her moods and stays at the station late though now, I am beginning to wonder if she was actually working.  Rose, I swear I will not repeat anything you can tell me about who that male officer is.  Do you trust me?  Is it someone who works in our division?"

"Alec, I'd rather not say."

"Then when we get to the station tomorrow, I am going to order you to tell me and I want an answer."

"Then sorry, you'll have to order my friends as well, they were the ones who told me."

"If that is what I have to do but after we formally charge Ashworth.  We may be able to charge his wife as an accessory, if she refuses to co-operate."

They had just finished eating, Alec telling her to leave the dishes as he wanted to talk to her so sitting next to her on the sofa, he asked what last night had been about, her thinking he was trying to kiss her.

"Yeah, I get it now, you were just kissing my cheek."

"Yes, it started out as that but you know, or you would not have reacted that way.  You were half expecting me to kiss you."

"No I wasn't," Rose tried to insist but she knew deep down she should have seen it coming, Tess had already seen it the day she'd been made his DC.

"Don't deny it Rose, we both knew and it did not start out that way, not at first but Tess going on about you all the time should have made me realise something was happening between us."

"Nothing's happened between us Alec."

"No, not yet, you resisted me twice but the first time, I was aiming for your cheek, the second time, it was intended because I saw something in your eyes.  Rose, I know this is not the ideal time but I am having feelings for you, not just as a work colleague."

"No, nothing can happen between us, she'll know."

"Rose, she already thinks she knows and now, you have made me think she is already involved with whoever you are talking about."

"Don't go blaming me Alec, you made me say something.  I just can't do this."  She tried to get away from him but he held her arm.

"Do what?  Let me try to kiss you?"

"No, I already told you.  I didn't say never, I just meant, well you know what I meant."

"Do I?  Rose, I have moved into the spare room but if you want me leave altogether, give me a reason."

"What do you want me to say?  I'm not gonna demand you leave your wife Alec, I'm not like that."

"Rose, I was leaving anyway, how long do you think I will last there, if I stay in the spare room hmm?  Daisy will start to ask questions and it's best I tell her now."

"Don't leave for me Alec."

"I'm not, I'm leaving for me.  Just give me some indication that you would be interested in me, if I did."

Rose tried to turn away again but looked at him.  He had changed in the last few days from being her boss into her friend.  She had pushed him to safety from the river, given him a place to stay when he couldn't face his wife when he'd been unconscious and she had fallen asleep at his side and refused to leave him when he'd told her to go home.  He'd also changed his appearance from slicked forward hair that made him look older to no hair products and was styling it different but that had happened because he was spending more time with her, out of work and it shouldn't be happening, should it?

"Alec, what can I say?"

He moved closer and touched her hand.

"Anything or we can forget the whole thing and I only see you at work and I will still leave Tess and we will go back to you calling me sir all the time and I will call you Tyler and…"

Rose put her finger on his lips.  "Stop already, I get the message, Alec.  It's just I don't want everyone pointing their fingers at me and saying I broke up your marriage and Tess making my life even more difficult when she finds out it's true."

"Then tell me who that male officer is," he insisted, taking her finger and kissing the tip.

"Dave Harris but don't you dare repeat that or even being my boss won't stop me kicking your ass if it gets around."

Alec sat back, a look of surprise on his face.  He got up and paced the rug on the floor, his hands on his hips, then one hand rubbing his now growing beard, which Rose knew now he was keeping because of what she'd said to him.

"What?  You're not surprised, are you?"

"No and I told Tess she could pick whoever she wanted to help her find Lisa and guess who was not present when we found the pendant earlier?"

"You think it's true then?  Ok, I'll tell you what I know but I didn't hear it directly, it came from one of my friends, who got it from someone she knows who overheard him bragging a few weeks ago he was chasing a married senior officer but it can't have been her then?"

"Why not?  Rose, if he had his eye on her, maybe that is what he does?  You came along, Tess found someone who sympathised with her and he took his time?"

"So, she was already convinced I was after you and if she had someone to listen to her complaining about me to start off with, then you saying you were moving into the spare room." 

Rose got up and faced him.  On her advice he'd left his top button undone, so his tie didn't quite fasten properly and she had noticed he was turning into how she wanted him to look, not how his wife wanted him to appear.  She stepped up to him, grabbing his tie and going to straighten it, Alec grabbing her hand.

"I did change, for you.  You made me see I was all stuffy, as you called it," he smiled, going to see if she'd let him kiss her cheek this time, which she smiled back and let him.

Rose freed her hand and this time, began pulling the tie, Alec with one hand unfastening another button as he'd suddenly figured out he was getting hot and Rose wrapped the end of his tie around her finger, until she reached the gap in his shirt, then with her little finger, touched his bare skin, Alec glancing down and then kissed her little finger.

"You were all stuffy but only because Tess wanted you to look like that.  When did she start warning women off?"

"Long before you arrived and why I let her do it, Rose, I have no idea but if it is her, I gave her my permission by saying she could use anyone she wanted to help find Lisa."

"She almost bit my head off earlier, when I told her my theory as to Lisa's disappearance.  She's jealous of you Alec, not me because you're more senior than she is and you're her boss."

Alec knew deep down that was true and it always had been, since he'd arrived at the station all those years ago from Scotland when they'd both been detective sergeants but he'd been promoted after taking his exams and she had failed but that was a few years ago.  She could have tried again, if she'd wanted but that was her game, making him her boss and getting someone to feel sorry for her but not allowing him to make any friends.  Well it was over.

He leaned down again, putting his hands gently on her shoulders.

"I should never have sent you in to tell her and I am sorry for that."

She let go of his tie and looked at him.  His hair looked much lighter than she thought, almost auburn.

"It's not your fault Alec, stop thinking it is but everyone thinks it is Tess who Dave Harris was talking about, we worked out it could only be her or another officer, you could say we were practising our detective skills."

"Yes, that is what you women do, you work things out and now, Tess thinks the male officer is me and Dave Harris is probably making her think she is right.  So are you going to slap me if I try and kiss you again?"

Rose grabbed his tie again as he went to try to kiss her, very lightly, Rose not responding at first but not slapping him either, then he tried again, a little longer this time and she almost kissed him back so he thought he'd be third time lucky.  He brushed her lips, not knowing every time he was, he was making her stomach do somersaults and this time, she couldn't resist almost kissing him back and he was about to move back, thinking this was all a mistake but she went after him, going for his and letting go of his tie, reached up to put her arms around his neck and initiated the kiss, though only briefly at first until he put his arms around her back.

They repeated the kiss, just short ones at first, Rose's heart beating faster, feeling all hot and bothered and her fingers feeling the back of his neck as he held her closer, short nips at his bottom lip while he nipped her top lip.  They broke off and he was just about to let her take his tie off when his work phone rang and she heard him swear under his breath.

"This had better be good or someone is going to be sorry in the morning."

Rose let go, feeling all flushed and red-faced.

"Hardy.  What?  Are you winding me up?" he asked as Rose tried to guess the other side of the conversation.  "Well of course get someone out there to assist and call forensics, not that they have not got enough to do.  Who reported it?  He did, did he and I suppose he's already on his way?  What?  Yes I am on my way, I will call Tyler to come and collect me.  No, I don't need a unit to collect me and tell them not to touch anything until I get there.  What the hell was she doing there?  Never mind answering that.  Tell me she logged the evidence bag with you?  What do you mean what evidence bag?  The one from the search of Ashworth's car.  You never saw her bring it back?  I do not believe this.  You did what?  What idiot decided he could have a visit from his wife?  Harris?"

Rose got the general idea that Tess had not arrived at the station with the pendant, amongst other things.

"Rose, we have to go out, if anyone says anything, I called you and you came to collect me and I am really, really sorry but for now, we will have to be very, very careful."

"What happened?" she asked as he fastened one of his shirt buttons and pulled his tie as far as he could then got his jacket.

"Tess had her car broken into and guess what was stolen?  Can you believe Harris let Ashworth's wife visit him?"
Chapter 10
Rose couldn't believe what she was hearing as he quickly told her on their way to the pub where he had been told Tess was waiting and Alec couldn't believe she'd had the nerve to call Dave Harris instead of him when realising her car had been broken into.  What the hell had she even been doing there when he had witnesses to say he'd told her to go back directly to the station and that had been over two hours ago.

"So tell me again why he let Ashworth's wife see him?" Rose asked as they were almost there.

"I don't know, that is what I intend on finding out.  What the hell was he thinking?"

"She probably gave him a sob story and he believed it, he believed your wife.  Well that's what me and my friends reckoned anyway, sorry.  I did tell you that was just our theory, it may not be actually true though."

"Yes it is, I know that I gave her enough reason to go to someone and complain about me because she told me to stay away from you and she was trying to find a reason for me to get rid of you as my DC.  I drove her to it."

"No, I did too, stop blaming yourself Alec, that's what she wants, that's what she's been trying to do and you never saw it."

He knew Rose was right, that was exactly what Tess had been doing and now he was doing something about it.

Dave of course had kept Tess in the pub, in a quiet corner where he had slipped his arm around her and tried to kiss her, being lucky the second time.  No-one knew them there which is why when he'd found out where she was he knew the pub was the best place to meet her.  He felt no guilt about it, Hardy was surely fooling around with his little blonde DC and though she was a bit of alright, she wasn't married so he wasn't interested in her himself but he'd had his eye on Tess for a long time and since she'd been upset at her husband taking too much of a liking to Tyler, she was ready to be coaxed into confiding in him.

They'd finally agreed to sneak off the following night to a cheap hotel he knew of to 'spend some time together' so he said and was walking her out to her car and as she was approaching it, could see the broken glass on the ground.  He'd told her not to panic, he'd call the station for her and claim she had just called him and since he didn't live far away, he could claim he'd just got there but if anyone from the pub came out, well he'd have to deal with it but he didn't think anyone had seen them together in the corner.  He just hoped there was no CCTV to prove otherwise or he'd have some explaining to do.

As they waited for everyone to arrive, Dave had sat her in his car.

"What's been stolen Tess?"

Tess put her head in her hands.  "Just my work bag that had my work phone and the evidence bag."

"You are kidding Tess?  You left the pendant in there?"

"How was I to know someone would pick my car to smash their way into?  It's Alec's fault, he told me to take it back to the station, he's probably gone off somewhere with Tyler, he thinks I don't know what he's up to.  Those rumours going around are about him and her, I know they are."

"Calm down Tess, you knew this was coming, you said so when she arrived.  I heard them too and I'm convinced it's him and Tyler, who else could it be?"

They got out of the car as a uniformed patrol arrived, the WPC going to Tess to see if she was ok, thinking she must be in shock.

"I'm fine, really.  I just want my car fixing so I can go home."

"DI Hardy said we had to wait for him and forensics Ma'am, sorry."

"Can't you just write it up for her?" Dave asked.

"Sorry Sir, he insisted she waited here until he arrived."

"I expect he'll be waiting for his DC to pick him up knowing him.  Carry on."

"I have to ask you a few basic questions Ma'am.  When did you park your car?"

Tess thought she might get away with denying the evidence had been in the car but Alec was too clever to believe that and when it wasn't at the station, he'd just go mad with her over it.

"I had to stop to use the ladies room so as I was off-duty, I stayed for a drink.  I never realised what time it was, I'm worried about my daughter having to stay with her grandmother during this investigation."

"Sorry Ma'am."

The forensics team arrived and began going over the car, then Rose pulled in under the lighting, Alec getting out and seeing Dave next to Tess, leaning on his car.

"Were you already here Harris?" he asked, ignoring Tess, who was just asking forensics how long they would be so she could call the auto glass company.

"No Hardy, Tess called me, I'd just got home."

"Why did she call you then?"

"I'm her partner in this investigation."

"So that gives you the right to interfere with mine and allow a visit by Ashworth's wife?"

"I saw no harm in it, she was upset and wanted to see him."

"You should have turned her away and told her to come and see me tomorrow.  Tess, what the hell did I tell you before you went off?  I said go straight back to the station, did I not?  Tyler, come here.  What did I tell DS Henchard before she left the car lot?"

"To go straight back to the station with the evidence we found Sir."

"Yes, you would side with him Tyler," Tess said sarcastically.

"You said you had to go back to the station, we trusted you."

"You let me Alec."

"Tess, you are a detective sergeant, I should be able to trust you to follow orders."

"Oh you love ordering me around, don't you?"

"What the hell do you mean by that?  Forget it, I'm not arguing with you.  So, where's the evidence bag then?"

"It was in my work bag, which was taken."

"I give up.  If you had to go for a drink, could you not have dropped the evidence at the station first or is that too much to ask?"

"I needed to make a stop, I wasn't intending on staying."

"So you called Harris to join you?"

"What about you and Tyler?  Where do you get to?"

"I'm not discussing this here.  Harris, see her car gets repaired and drop it at the station, Tess, you are coming with us.  Have you given your statement?"

"Of course I have and I'm not going with you.  I'll wait for my car, I'll see you at home."

Alec indicated to Rose he wanted to leave.  Forensics cleared Tess's car and she called the glass repair company.

"I cannot believe she was so stupid," Alec was complaining while Rose was asking where he was going.  "Just drop me at home Rose, I'm sorry, we will have to continue later."

"It's ok Alec but why are you giving her the satisfaction of going home?"

"For her to see me packing.  I have had enough, Harris will have met her after she left the car lot, then he has the nerve to say he felt sorry for Claire Ashworth."

"You'd better calm down Alec, before you get home."

"Yes, sorry Rose.  I will see you tomorrow, I will just pack my car and find a hotel for the night."

"I'm still looking for a flatmate."

"No, I have caused you enough trouble."

"Where are you going to go?  You can have the spare room tonight, no charge unless you want to put the heating on."

"I will think about it and I will call you when Tess gets back."

"Are you going to let her try to persuade you to stay?" she asked as they approached his house.

"No, what makes you say that?"

"Won't she use your daughter against you?"

"She will try but nothing will change if I do stay, she will have won.  She will have me where she wants me, agreeing to get someone else made my DC and she will have you transferred.  No, she will not persuade me to stay.  I will call you when I get finished but if she starts an argument, I may just grab a few things.  Actually, I may just do that anyway to save myself getting into one."

Rose pulled up outside his house and he went to get out.  Since there was no sign of Tess yet, he leaned over and kissed her cheek.

"Do you think she meant what she said Alec?  She thinks you like ordering her around at work and that's why she does what she does, tries to boss you around at home?"

"You may just be right Rose, I never looked at it that way before."

"That's because you're too close to it Alec.  We're all gonna be in for it tomorrow when the chief finds out.  We have to find something else out about the Ashworths."

"I know that.  I had best go, I will call you."

"Just come round, I'm not going anywhere.  Alec, you don't think Tess did it on purpose do you?"

"No, I doubt it but, was it a coincidence Ashworth's wife went to visit him then Tess's car got broken into?"

"Now you mention it, it was a bit funny but we can't do anything about it tonight.  See you later then."

Alec had been in nearly an hour before Tess finally got back and in that time, he'd packed a case and a holdall and had them by the kitchen door when she came in.

"Oh, going somewhere?"

"Yes to the nearest hotel.  Are you just trying to ruin any chances of putting Pippa's killer behind bars and in what way do I order you around except as your boss where work is concerned?  You had your chance Tess, you could have made DI if you had wanted.  You are the boss around here and I am done with it.  I am done with you telling me how to dress and style my hair and if I shave or not."

"Yes, I can see about the shaving bit.  See how long you last on your own Alec and what about Daisy?"

"I will collect her tomorrow night and bring her home and talk to her and don't you go trying to turn her against me either.  She can stay at your mother's until you get home during the week, there is no reason why she can't come home though now, you have probably ruined the conviction."

"Don't go blaming it all on me, you could have refused to let me offer to take the evidence back."

"Come on Tess, have you heard yourself?  You made a rookie mistake, who do you think the chief will put the blame on?  I am not taking it to spare you, you chose to stop off, not me.  I have a witness to say you drove off with it after being told to go directly to the station and you chose to ignore it.  Meeting Dave were you?"

"Don't think I've not heard the rumours about you and Tyler Alec."

"What rumours?  What are you talking about?  The rumours a senior male officer is bragging about a senior female officer?  Tyler is not a senior officer, she is a junior officer and if you remember, you warned all the female officers to stay away from me."

"Well who are the rumours about then if you think you are so clever?  Tyler didn't heed my warning though did she?"

Alec began to laugh, putting one hand on his hip and pointing a finger at her.

"You Tess, the rumours are about you and Dave Harris.  Tyler has nothing to do with this, you have no right to tell anyone to stay away and especially not my DC when I give her orders to collect me every morning and you countermand them and if Lee Ashworth walks free over this, you are going down on your own Tess."

"If you don't stick up for me Alec, I'll tell Daisy you're leaving me for another woman."

"It won't work Tess, when do I have time for another woman eh?"

"You and Tyler are getting very friendly."

"So are you and Harris so if you try that little trick with Daisy, expect some payback.  Do you want her to find out because if not from me, she will find out when Ashworth walks free and it gets in the papers.  The chief will put the blame on someone and yes, I was the officer in charge but I took you with me so things would not go wrong and they did.  Expect to be called into his office in the morning, I will see you there."

Tess watched him put his jacket on and pick up his holdall and the suitcase handle.  She knew she had now gone too far, keeping women away from him had been her way of dealing with him bossing her around and it hadn't worked, it had backfired on her.  Now she was on her own with a three bedroomed house to pay for, she would have to go see what allowances she could claim because the funny thing was, she wasn't that bothered about it.

He was right that the rumours could have been about Dave, why hadn't she seen it?  He'd been so good to her, listening to her complaints and saying he understood what she was going through.  Was it going to put her off?  Had he done it before though?

Alec pulled into the car park of Rose's apartment block and took his things out of the back of his car and going to the main entrance, pressed the buzzer.  Rose had been in a while and tidied the spare room again, wondering what she was letting herself in for, saying he could stay the night again but what then?

Had she given him the reason he needed to move out?  Offering him a room for the night might only be the beginning if the kisses earlier were anything to go by.  She'd tried to resist him but he was right, she had felt something and she'd tried to deny it.  Now Tess knew Alec knew about Dave Harris so Rose now expected things to get really messy.  She heard the buzzer and went to answer it.

"Alec is that you?"

"Yes, let me in Rose."

She opened the apartment door and let him in, locking the door behind him.

"You know where the spare room is Alec and I already put the heating on."

Instead of picking up his case and holdall, he turned towards her.

"Rose, I will take the spare room tonight, I don't really want to go find a hotel at this time of night but we need to talk about this."

"I know Alec.  Did you argue with her?"

"No, I told her I was done with it all, the arguments are over.  Thanks for letting me stay."

"You're welcome.  I'll go make some tea while you unpack what you need and there's no rush for you to find somewhere though if I were you, I wouldn't go changing your address with personnel just yet.  I guess I can forget putting an advertisement up in the local shops?"

"I guess you can, just until I find somewhere.  Rose, things are going to get very bad tomorrow, the chief will have everyone concerned in his office but I am not taking the blame and neither are you.  If Ashworth walks out, it will be Tess's fault, not mine."

"We can still get him on the DNA found on the pillow but I was thinking while I was waiting for you.  Dave Harris let Claire in to see her husband, then Tess's car gets broken into.  Ashworth must have told her where he'd sold the car.  What if she saw Tess leaving and followed her?"

"You mean Claire took the pendant back because she knew Pippa had lost it the night she died?"  He took hold of her and kissed her forehead. "Of course, Rose, you are a genius.  All we have to do is go back to their house tomorrow, the search warrant is valid for 48 hrs.  We take her by surprise and search for the evidence bag, she won't be expecting us.  Rose, can we pick up where we left off earlier?"

"Well, ok then but we need a drink first, you go unpack what you need for tonight and hang up your other shirts.  What happened to your other suit and your coat?"

"At the cleaners, I have the ticket somewhere."

"I'll go pick them up for you, give me it tomorrow," she told him, putting her hands on his shoulders.  "You look tired Alec, are you ok?"

"Yes, maybe I should have stayed in the hospital after all?  This stress is no good for me."

"Aw, poor Alec.  Maybe a kiss will help?"

She put her arms around his neck, going for his tie.

"Later, you promised me a kiss."

He thought back to how things had been with Tess when they had just started out, had he really loved her or had they just got together because they were partners?  He didn't want to go making the same mistake again though but Rose was different, he knew she was because it had taken a while with Tess yet with Rose, he'd known the other day when she had shown more concern for him than his wife had done.

They kissed, properly, for the first time, not like earlier.

"We have some talking to do Alec."

"Yes, I am aware of that because this cannot spill over into work, well not in the station and even so, we will have to be careful when we are out."

"I'll ask to be transferred, if it makes things easier?"

"No, then Tess really will have won.  We can be professional at work, can't we?"

"Yeah, I guess so but won't she make trouble?"

"How?  The chief already got tired of her complaining about you."

"Yeah but this time he might believe her."

"Then we tell him and we assure him it will not interfere with our jobs."

"Well tomorrow, all three of us may not have a job, if Ashworth gets let off.  We can still get him, if Claire has the pendant."

"Then let us hope she has.  Now, you go make that tea and do I really have to use the spare room?"

"You are getting ahead of yourself – Sir."

Back at the Ashworth house, Claire had been looking for a safe place to hide the evidence and knew there was only one where no-one would look if they decided to come back should they suspect anything.  DNA would prove Pippa had worn it and that stupid cow Cate would say her daughter had worn it that night but they wouldn't search her so putting it by the bedside, she intended wearing it tomorrow under a high neck jumper and none of them would be any wiser.
Chapter 11
Rose woke up, lying on someone then she remembered it was her boss, who was turning from an ugly duckling into a swan the last few days.  His slick hair that had been combed forward just a few days ago was all over the place, he'd not shaved since Tuesday (It was now Friday) and his beard was coming along nicely though he'd thought he wouldn't let it get too thick or Rose may not like it and he'd found himself wanting to do things to please her which was why he'd subconsciously taken her advice and had become less 'stuffy' since she'd saved his ass from the river.

He just hoped she appreciated his attempts to become more 'trendy' if that was even the right word and he was going to sort out his wardrobe and throw out what Tess had made him buy.  Then he felt her move.

"Morning Tyler," he thought he'd joke to see what she said.

"Hmm, morning Sir, are we gonna start that again?"

"Well you said last night not to get ahead of myself and you called me sir.  Did I get ahead of myself?" he asked moving her so he could kiss her, hoping she wouldn't complain about his growing beard or something else growing in his shorts.

"Ok, truce from the protocol of official titles, I'm gonna give you another name."

"Just as long as you do not call me it instead of sir at work.  You are alright, about last night?"

"Yeah, I wouldn't be still here if I wasn't.  It was really nice but maybe we can put the rest on hold until tonight?" she grinned as she felt him.

"Yes, sorry, I will try not to get carried away, well not too much.  We have a very grim day ahead of us and I wanted to be certain last night was not going to be one of our problems?"

"No, it's not gonna be a problem though you'd better not go around with a look on your face that indicates their might be.  It was a really nice first time but I'm happy we didn't go too far Alec, that would have been a mistake until we sort things out."

"Yes, I do not want things to get complicated between us.  I will stay, until after the weekend at least but by Monday morning, you may see why my wife turned against me."

Rose ruffled his hair some more.  "She's a sadistic cow who wanted to make your home life a misery and she was succeeding and you didn't even know it.  It just took someone from outside to make you realise."

He leaned over to kiss her again, then touched just above the vest top she was wearing over the cotton knickers she'd got up to put on before going to sleep and Alec had slipped his shorts back on but she'd made him leave his t-shirt off.  Now she was making a circle with her finger through his just the right amount of chest hair.

"Well you made me see what she was up to, how did I not see before?  We should have breakfast before we leave, it is going to be a very long day and a lot of accusations are going to fly, Tess will try and make something out of last night, when I left and you will be her prime target."

"Let her, I'll tell everyone we think it's her the rumours are about, you saw them last night, he looked a bit guilty."

"Rose, how could you tell in the dim light?" he asked with a hint of a laugh.

"I know what blokes can be like, trust me, there's something going on."

"Oh, you mean like us being accused of spending too much time together?"

"Well would you prefer the rumours are about us than them?  Everyone will be so busy now when it gets around the station he was with her when uniforms arrived and he stayed behind with her."

Alec leaned down to kiss just above her vest top.  "I am glad you are on my side, DC Tyler."  He kissed her again then got out of bed.  "I will make you breakfast, for allowing me to stay."

"I'll have to call the agency and put your car registration down or it may get towed away."

"Yes, I will have to leave it here or maybe from Monday I will leave it at the police garage."

"Hmm, then Tess will get suspicious," Rose smiled kneeling on the bed and putting her arms around his neck from behind, kissing his cheek and ruffling his hair.  "You should maybe leave your hair like that," she laughed, doing it again.

"Stop it Rose, do you really want to be accused of anything?  I will have to at least try to comb it when you have finished with it," he laughed, grabbing her hand and twisting around, making her fall back on the bed.

He pretended to fall on top of her, placing one hand at the side of her then putting the other under her vest top he lifted it, kissing her tummy.

"Alec, we really should get going, we don't want to be late and have everyone talking about us, do we?"

He placed another kiss then moved, holding out his hand to help her up and catching her, sat at the side of her.  He moved a strand of her hair behind her ear.

"Rose, I don't think I care any longer but it will be better for the time being if we kept this quiet and maybe just inform the chief though he will not be in a very good mood once he hears what happened last night."

"No, he won't.  Alec, he may split us up if we tell him."

"No because if he moves you, I go as well and he won't do that until this case is resolved.  Lisa is still out there somewhere and she may still be the key to it all.  We can still hold Ashworth on suspicion of murder despite losing the pendant.  Maybe the chief will be able to keep it quiet while we try and get it back and allow us time to search the house again?"

Rose leaned into his bare shoulder.  "I hope so Alec, we had him and that stupid wife of yours has screwed it up for all of us.  I really think she left her bag in the car deliberately, don't you?"

Alec helped off the bed, properly this time and put his hands on her shoulders.

"Maybe, I really do not know what goes on in her mind now and I thought I knew her Rose.  You do know we have an extra ten minutes now you do not have to drive over and collect me?"

They set off after breakfast, Rose informing one of her neighbours whom she suspected was the chief busybody that the black SUV type car in one of the visitor parking spaces was her new flatmate's car and she would inform the agency and he would move it when they got back from work.  Rose could have sworn the older woman had a disapproving look on her face as they walked to her silver estate car and she got in the driver's seat and Alec in the passenger side.

Rose burst out laughing as the woman went back inside.

"Rose, that was not funny."

"Oh come on Alec, I bet she saw us the other morning when you stayed.  At least I didn't tell her you were my boyfriend."

"Yes and you had better be careful about that, until I do something about separating from Tess though no doubt she will be the first to do something about it but not today.  We have enough to keep us busy all day but if we are not working tomorrow, I will go seek some legal advice."

"What are you going to say?" she asked as she tried to concentrate on the road and not him running his long fingers through his hair, now it wasn't plastered with hair products.

Rose thought if he didn't stop doing that, she would pull over and jump him.  He looked so cute and sexy now, he'd not fastened his top shirt button again and he'd chosen a blue tie instead of his dark grey one.  If he'd ditched that dark grey raincoat, she would have to watch out herself someone else didn't try and steal him away.  She knew now that Tess needn't have warned women away from him, he'd done quite a good job of putting them off himself but now, the transformation was incredible.

Alec was thinking about how he could begin legal separation but on what grounds?  Cruelty came to mind, well mental cruelty but not only that, if he admitted it, things had been going downhill for a long time and Tess's insecurities had been justified.  He could have had any of the women in the department he'd wanted if he'd been that way inclined but one Casanova was enough, now he knew all the rumours he'd heard in the past and ignored were true and Harris had been going around for years claiming victims.

Now his wife was the latest and he should be fighting for her but now, in the car with Rose, smiling at him now and then when she checked the mirror, he knew he'd purposely tried to put other women off and it had worked nicely until she had come along and saved him from the river.  Had she not got in and pushed him to safety, he could have easily gone under again and been seriously affected by it but she had selflessly got in, not thinking he could have pulled her under with him and all the men trying to reach him had just stood there and let her.

Would it have made any difference if some of them had got in with her though?  It only needed her to give him that push towards the waiting hands of the officers who were trying to pull him out when he'd lost his footing on a stone or something and her keeping hold of him when she'd grabbed him had pulled her out at the same time.

Rose was still waiting for him to answer her as she pulled into the police car park and stopped for the barrier, reaching for the card on the dashboard but Alec got to it first.

"Why don't you have that ready on the approach Rose?" he asked as he handed it to her and the barrier lifted when she'd held the card in front of the sensor.

"Because the card always seems to move and besides, I'm not used to it, I've only had the car a few days.  I'll have to hand it back tonight anyway, you can have my parking space until the agency have been told and I may not get the chance today."

"Your neighbour may do that for you.  Watch out, Tess just came in behind us."

"So?" Rose just grinned, parking the car in a space marked 'Senior officers cars only' and since she deemed she qualified, driving one around, she dared them to tell her to move, since it was nearer the exit than the other spaces.

Tess pulled in next to them, glancing across at Alec, who was grinning back at Rose as she said let them try and move her, she'd been doing it all week when they'd been out but in the mornings when she'd dropped him by the entrance, she'd gone somewhere else and when they got back from anywhere, most of the best spaces were already taken anyway.

"What are you so cheerful at?" Tess asked him as he opened the door.

"Morning to you too Tess, can't I have a joke with my DC now?"

"How long have you been parking there?"

"I am a senior officer Tess.  Tyler here is justified.  They do not have names on them, only the chief and the DCI's have them," he replied, pointing at some spaces at the other side of the gap.

"Find a hotel then or did you share with Tyler?"

"That is none of your business so you can stop right now and treat her with more respect.  I am not answering to you, when we are inside police property, you will address me as sir or DI Hardy from now on, understood?  For your information, before we go see the chief, your threats of telling Daisy anything about me are useless, you had better go find yourself a divorce lawyer, you are going to need one unless you agree to a legal separation.  If you think you can name DC Tyler, I will name DS Harris and his wife will get to know.  Do we understand each other?"

Tess just stared in disbelief.  He was finally standing up for himself when she had been used to walking all over him.  That was what she had liked so much about Dave, he was so self-assured, in and out of work so she'd just found out while Alec had been bossy at work but had lost his nerve at home.  It might be worth fighting Tyler for him but as he was now looking at her, she doubted she would win.

"Come on Tyler, we have work to do and this time, you are not invited Tess."

"Sheesh Alec, that was telling her," Rose remarked as they went up the stairs to the main entrance.  "Anyway, how come you didn't get out before I parked up?"

"If I had, she would have made you move, she is still your superior officer."

"Huh, fine example she gives everyone."

"That is beside the point but I will be having words with her about her behaviour."

"I wouldn't want to be her then."

"She has got away with it for too long, she thought she was safe being married to me.  Well all that is about to change.  Right, you organise forensics and units to meet us at the Ashworth house while I go face the chief.  I may be able to pacify him by saying we can salvage this before it leaks to the press.  Make sure Ashworth stays locked up and no visitors or I will hang the officer responsible out to dry.  Do you have the warrant?"

"Yeah, it's in my bag from last night.  I'll call downstairs and tell the duty officer no visitors and keep him isolated and no phone calls."

"I am glad you are more efficient than Tess.  Go on, I will catch up with you when I have seen the chief and I will stick up for you."

Rose went off to organise everything.  Alec had certainly changed over the last few days and she bet Tess had got a shock and now wished she'd not been stupid enough to let the evidence be stolen but had she left her bag on purpose?  She obviously had no regard of protocol and her own personal life had taken preference to her career, well at least on that point.

Alec knocked on the chief's door and prepared to put his career on the line to defend Rose.

"What the hell went on last night Alec?  I read the report that Tess's car got broken into and her work related items were stolen.  Tell me what happened."

"Well Sir, after we recovered the pendant from Ashworth's car, she said she would bring the evidence back to the station but she decided to stop at a hotel on the way back."

"What?  Were you with her?"

"No, Tyler took me home.  You know what happened?"

"Yes, I know, the evidence bag was stolen along with the other items.  You will have to release Ashworth.  I hope you had a warrant to search the car?"

"Yes, the warrant for the house was valid for any vehicle owned by the Ashworth's and seeing it had not been transferred, it was still valid.  I see no reason why we cannot hold him, we have the pillow with the girl's DNA and he tried to dispose of the car."

"His solicitor will say the DNA on the pillow could have been left at any time."

"Not necessarily, they claimed the girl was never in their house and now, DC Tyler thinks it was his wife who broke into Tess's car and stole the pendant to cover for her husband."

"Does she now?  She's a very bright officer, she'll go a long way.  Well, go search the house again before the wife has the chance to get rid of it."

"Oh, I don't think she will get rid of it Sir.  I think Claire Ashworth will use it as a hold over him to keep him from dragging her into it."

"You think she had something to do with it?"

"Definitely, if she went to all that trouble of trying to get it back, it will be her insurance policy in case things go wrong and if we get him on something else.  She may well be the one behind the whole thing."

"Does your wife subscribe to that theory?  She came to complain about you putting her in charge of finding Lisa Newberry."

"I am aware of that and I have to inform you that Tess and I will be separating."

"Because of this case?" Chief Superintendent Moore asked, picking up the folder about Tess's car incident.

"No Sir, this case just brought the inevitable forward.  I have already moved out."

"To temporary accommodation?  See personnel, they may be able to help with the costs."

"No, I am staying with a friend at the moment."

"Tess allowed you to have friends?  Come on Alec, she used to walk all over you and you let her.  I noticed you'd made a few changes this week."

"Yes and not before time either and I do have one friend."

"You mean Tyler?  So Tess's fears were not unfounded then?  Be careful Alec or it could get ugly.  Do I need to remind you I only agreed to you and Tess working together on the understanding you conducted yourselves in a reasonable manner?  Not that it's been a problem lately."

"I can assure you I know how to conduct myself at work and so can she.  She is organising another search of the Ashworth house so I should go.  What are doing about Tess?"

"You're her senior officer, I take it you have suitably chewed her out for it?"

"She takes no notice of me.  It would be best coming from you."

"Only if you insist.  You know I hate getting involved.  To make it look good I want you all in here when you get back because I want to know why she felt the need to stop at a hotel instead of delivering the evidence.  Have you informed the Gillespies we are holding someone?"

"No, not yet, everything was riding on the pendant being found.  I told Tyler to make sure he was held in isolation so he does not overhear anything."

"Good, the less he knows the better but if his solicitor gets to know, he'll be out before lunch.  For all our sakes, Tyler had better be right about it being Ashworth's wife breaking into Tess's car."

"I'll get her to send someone back to the hotel, there may be something on CCTV, if they had one installed in the car park.  There is another thing, there are rumours going around about two senior officers.  Just so you know, the rumours are not about me and Tyler."

"I never listen to rumours Alec, I had enough of your wife coming in complaining about you."
Chapter 12
Rose had finished telling everyone concerned what Alec wanted, Tess watching from her office.  She had got her two friends to go out to the hotel and see if there was any CCTV footage that would give them a clue as to who could have smashed Tess's car window and if they had followed her or been waiting.  She had forensics and two patrol cars on standby to follow them to the Ashworth's house and she'd called the cells to say Ashworth was to remain where he was and no-one was to talk to him or let him hear them.  She'd also added he'd to have no contact with anyone and no phone calls.

Annie and Peggy had gone off after asking Rose what was going on.

"Nothing much, an officer's car was broken into last night."

"No way!" Annie said, wondering who it was.  "So you want us to get the tape or disk to see who might have broken into the car.  Whose was it?"

"I can't tell you that yet.  Hardy said no-one is to view it, just ask if they have a recording and bring it back to him.  We have to go search the Ashworth's house again, in case we missed anything."

Well she knew Alec wouldn't want anyone to know it was Tess's car and he certainly wouldn't want it seen on CCTV if it showed Tess and Harris walking out of the hotel together.  She was thankful Tess hadn't yet said anything but there was still time and it would all blow up later.

Annie and Peggy were talking about it on their way to the hotel

"So what do you think it's all about Annie?" Peggy asked her as she drove.

"Beats me Peggy but why wouldn't Rose tell us anything?"

"Unless it was Hardy's wife's?  What if they both stopped off after going to search that car?"

"No way, they barely tolerate each other."

"So the rumours are true and Henchard was meeting Harris?"

"Oh, wouldn't you love that to be true Peggy?  Tell you what though, it might not have been her car, it could have been Rose's."

"Seriously?"

"Think about it.  They were the ones to stop at the hotel and they got unlucky."

"Why would they do that unless?  You mean they're having an affair?  But we heard it was two senior officers unless it's both of them?  You heard the rumours though, we heard Harris was bragging and Rose wouldn't have anything to do with him."

"Well it's either one of them or both, take your pick.  Here we are, I'll go find the landlord."

Rose and Alec had followed the two patrol cars but Claire had been expecting them though she tried to act normally.  She wasn't fooling Rose though.

"What do you want now?  You already locked my husband up."

"Claire Ashworth, we have need to search the house again.  DC Tyler, show her the warrant again."

"I've already seen it.  What do you hope to find?"

"Please Claire, just step aside and let the officers do their jobs," Rose asked her.

"Why were you visiting your husband at the police station last night?" Alec wanted to know.

"Because you took him away like a common criminal.  I wanted to make sure he was being treated fairly."

"Were you aware he sold a car recently?"

"Yes, we needed the money because you lot are stopping him from working."

Twenty minutes later, the house had been searched and there was no sign of the evidence bag nor the pendant.  Claire had been out early and disposed of the plastic evidence bag in a neighbour's bin.  Rose was watching the whole time, on the way over, she and Alec had talked about how they were going to handle it.

"I want you to make friends with her Rose."

"She's hiding something, we both know that.  What do you want me to do?"

"So, find anything?" Claire asked, getting up from the kitchen chair where she and Rose had been drinking tea.

Alec had asked her to find out more about how the two of them had got together but Claire didn't seem to want to talk at first as officers worked around them.

"You got a boyfriend then, DC Tyler?"

"Call me Rose and yeah, I just met someone."

"In your line of work?"

"It's difficult sometimes but yeah.  What do you do as a job?"

"I used to be a hairdresser, until I met Lee.  A friend introduced us, we were instantly attracted to each other.  What about you?  How did you meet him?"

"Through work but it took us a while.  You said before we took your husband away that it was him who'd told you to say you were in with him all that night.  Were you trying to protect him from something?"

"Is this an interrogation?"

"No but if you know something, you have to tell us.  We know you gave the pendant to Pippa, she was wearing it the night she died.  If you know what happened Claire, if you're afraid of him, we can help you."

"I'm not afraid of him and I can't help you.  I have no idea what he did before I got home, I swear but there was no-one here."

"Well you know how to contact me if you want to talk."

"Have you charged him?"

"Not formally but we will be doing later."

"You won't tell him what I said, will you?  He still thinks I told you I was with him all night."

"That depends Claire, if he co-operates with us.  We can't force you to testify against him but if you do, we can protect you."

Alec was heading up the search for the pendant, convinced Rose had been right but it wasn't looking good.  He went to find her.

"Tyler, time to leave.  Claire, have you anything you want to tell us that you've not already told DC Tyler?"

"No.  Look I was scared when you took Lee away, I didn't know what I was saying."

"What do you mean Claire?" Rose asked her.

"If you're going to charge him, I want protection."

Alec went to sit at the table.  "If you tell me who you were with that night and what time you got home, I will see what I can do."

Claire remained silent.

"Call us when you have something to say.  Come on Tyler."

They got outside and Rose stopped him getting in the car.

"I'm sure she's still not telling us the truth."

"Rose, there was no evidence bag let alone the pendant.  We got it wrong."

"No, I got it wrong, sorry."

"We tried, maybe it was just an opportunist?  We will have to see if the hotel had a security camera."

Annie and Peggy had no luck, going back empty handed as the camera had no recorder connected to it and the landlord said those who were bothered about their cars usually sat near the screen.  Alec wasn't pleased when they got back and Rose told him.  He put his head in his hands as Rose sat across the desk from him.

"Sir, there is one more thing.  Ashworth doesn't know we lost the evidence."

"You mean bluff him into admitting he killed Pippa?  No, if it comes to court, his solicitor will ask us to produce the pendant."

"Then we don't use the pendant against him, we use his wife.  If we promise to keep her safe, she might testify against him."

Tess had seen them come back and wondered what they were talking about.  How had she not been able to convince herself she was right about the two of them?  Of course he'd gone off to stay with her last night and now, he was bringing Daisy home tonight so she couldn't go and meet Dave.  Her day was about to be made even worse when the chief decided he wanted to see the four of them.

"So Tess, tell me why you didn't do as you were asked and brought the evidence back to the station."

"I already said, I needed to stop so I got a drink while I was there.  When I went out, there was glass everywhere so I called DS Harris."

"Why didn't you call your husband?" 

"Because he moved into the spare room, he was going to leave me."

"I already know that.  It's still no reason why you'd do such a stupid thing like leave vital evidence unattended.  This will go on your record Tess.  DC Tyler, seems your theory about who took the missing evidence didn't work out?"

"No Sir, I got it wrong."

"I backed her Sir, I take part of the responsibility," Alec defended her.

"Well you would stick up for her Alec," Tess huffed.

"This is not the time for you two to argue.  A man is about to walk free because of your incompetence Tess, no-one else is to blame in this except you.  Were you on our own?" the chief asked.

Tess wasn't about to take Dave down with her, he was all she had now it was clear Alec was infatuated with his DC.  "Yes."

"Seriously?" Alec asked.  "Why was Harris with you when we arrived?"

"He's my partner.  Why were you with Tyler?"

"Enough, both of you," the chief told them.  "Alec, go try and see if you can get a confession out of Ashworth.  We'll hold him until his solicitor shows up and we keep quiet about this, understood?"

They all said a "Yes Sir."

Annie and Peggy were watching for them coming back.

"What do you think happened Annie?"

"I'm not sure but I think the evidence they found in a car belonging to the suspect was lost."

"Ouch!  Someone's going to pay for that."

Claire was packing what she could carry into a rucksack.  If they were going to charge Lee, she wanted to be as far away as possible when they did.  He'd find out she told the police she wasn't with him that night and go after her if he did get out.  Even though they didn't have the pendant, they had plenty to hold him on and they would force her to testify, despite what that young officer had to say.  She bet anything that the boyfriend DC Tyler had been talking about was Hardy.

Ricky Gillespie had been late out that morning and seen all the cars next door and asked his wife if she'd seen them arrive, not that she would remember these days.  So he'd gone next door to confront Claire.

"Stop worrying, I'm not going to say anything and neither is Lee," Claire had told him.

Lee had told her how Ricky, in a fit of temper had hit Lisa but what she'd told him at the time about Pippa wasn't the truth and she intended to keep it that way.  He was keeping their secret and they were keeping his and she had an insurance policy against both of them.  Ricky hadn't been satisfied with Claire's explanation and was now convinced his daughter's death was not an accident.

Alec had got the custody sergeant to take Ashworth back to the interview room and Rose had joined him but they were about to ask him again if he'd been with both girls that night when his solicitor arrived.  Twenty minutes later after several arguments, Ashworth was walking out of the front door, released on police bail pending the retrieval of the missing evidence.

Alec went back to his office, Rose following.

"Sorry."

"Why, it was not your fault he got set free."

"So what now?"

"For me?  Tomorrow, I go find a good divorce lawyer, she can forget the separation, let her name you as the other party and I will drag Harris into it."

"It's all my fault."

"How is it?  The chief will hold me responsible, the Gillespies will find out."

"Stop it Alec.  We'll get him another way.  We'll go try his wife again.  If he got out, she'll make a run for it and maybe come to us."

"Then let us hope so.  Watch out."

Tess let herself into his office so Rose left.

"What are you up to Alec?"

"You would know, you let our main suspect walk out of here.  Forget the separation Tess and if you think I am joking, wait and see.  I will go pick Daisy up tonight."

"No, don't bother, I'll get her myself."

"No you won't, you are not telling her lies.  Don't deny you were with Dave Harris last night."

"Well I bet you were with Tyler."

"She let me use her spare room."

Tess let out a laugh.  "You think I believe that?"

"Believe what you like, it is all over.  Now I have to go tell that girl's parents our main suspect has been let go.  You can come with me."

Out in the office, Annie and Peggy were surrounding Rose's desk.

"Come on Rose, you can tell us."

"Tell you what?"

"What those two are arguing about.  Are they splitting up?"

Rose shrugged her shoulders.

Things were tough for everyone over the next few weeks.  Ricky Gillespie had moved out and the Ashworths were nowhere to be found.  Alec had begun divorce proceedings, Tess had signed the papers because she couldn't name Rose or Alec had threatened to bring Dave into it and he and Rose were settling in her apartment but Daisy was refusing to see him.

Rumours were rife in the station and the chief constable of South Mercia Police was determined they were going to get a conviction so a warrant was put out for Lee Ashworth when Claire came forward and said she would tell the truth about what happened that night in return for police protection and more pressure was put on Alec to find him but things had been uncomfortable when Rose's mother had decided to pay her daughter a visit, Rose not yet telling her even a month after Alec had moved in that they were living together.

It had started one Saturday morning when Rose got a phone call while she and Alec were playing around bumping into each other in the kitchen and when her phone had rung she had mouthed "My Mother, shush" at him but he had tried to take the phone off her.

"Rose, you are not going to deny anything are you?"

"Nope, well not exactly but if she finds out you live here, well you being in police will not save you."

He shook his head and went to rescue the toast – again.

"Mum, hi, whatcha doing ringing so early?"

"I'm in the coach station, that's what.  Howard just dropped me off and the coach is in twenty minutes and I'm stuck in a bleedin' queue and if I miss it I'll have two hours to wait."

"Where are you going Mum?" she asked, desperately hoping it wasn't where she was as Alec scraped the toast a bit too loud for her liking.

"To see you sweetheart, whatcha think?  I know you're upset because things didn't work out for you and I want to meet this new fella of yours, you're being very mysterious over him."

She had told her mother there was someone she was seeing but never revealed the details, since it had leaked into the news and had finally hit London.

"Mum, my place is in a mess and I've got someone moving in."

"Since when?" Jackie asked, spying they were preparing at last to open another ticket window and there were five people in front of her and there was a man arguing over how much a ticket to Edinburgh cost.

"Have to go sweetheart, another ticket window's opening.  Love you, see you soon."

Rose was left with the phone in her hand.

"Well?" Alec asked as she put the phone on the table at the same time he put her breakfast down.

"She's on her way down."

"What?  Tell me I heard wrong?  Why is she coming down?"

"Relax lover, her bark is worse than her bite.  I'll tell her you're just staying while you find a place to live and she'll have to stay overnight on the sofa or you could get in her good books and offer her your room and you sleep on the sofa."

"Rose, we share a bed, I am not sleeping on the sofa."

"Just until she goes to bed.  She never gets up early on Sundays, you can be in the kitchen by the time she emerges."

"Have you done this before?" he asked, amazed she had already worked everything out.

"No but I always have a contingency plan, just in case.  No doubt she'll call when she gets to the bus station so I'll borrow your car to pick her up."

"No you will not, I am coming with you.  If she sees me, she will more than likely get the next coach back.  Hopefully."

"Alec, I'm sorry but once she's made her mind up, there's no changing it, even if she does find out I'm shagging my boss."

The visit went better than they expected, once Jackie got over the initial shock her daughter was living with a man who was her boss, older than her and he was getting a messy divorce because they were still in the same division as the chief refused to move anyone despite Alec requesting either he or Tess were moved.

He'd been in the chief's office several times and got the same answer.

"Alec, there is nowhere for either of you to go and now Tess is a single mother, technically, she's requested she not be the one to move because of your daughter's schooling.  I already asked the other station if anyone wants to transfer and you take their place but after what happened here, no-one is volunteering.  The case has tainted both your reputations even though in general, the consensus is she was a senior officer and was therefore responsible for her own actions but it sticks Alec."

"So are you saying there will never be a chance of getting out of here, even in a nearby town?"

"I'm sorry Alec but you'll have to consider a transfer out of the question unless you are prepared to move away completely and I know things are strained enough with your daughter and you won't want to leave your new girlfriend behind."

"If I leave Rose behind, Tess will go off the rails with her, I can't leave her.  I know she's not been here long enough to qualify for a transfer herself, so if I stick it out for a few more months, can you find us somewhere where they will take both of us?"

"That's going to take some doing.  A lot of chief's won't entertain senior and junior officers being involved, especially with a divorce going on.  Maybe by the time it comes through, some vacancies may have come up at the same station but I'm making no promises.  Look, the only thing I can do is maybe move Tyler but she would no longer be your DC, she would be Hartley's, he just got made DI."

"No, she is not working with that arrogant son of a…" he stopped.  He was getting angry again and was realising it wasn't doing him or Rose any good.  "Forget it, we will find another way."

So during Jackie Tyler's short but whirlwind stay with them, she had grilled him several times over his intentions towards her daughter, how they were managing to keep working together, if his wife was going to give him the divorce and of course their sleeping arrangements because despite at the introductions, a mother knows when her daughter's boss is shagging her.

Alec was relieved when at three on the Sunday afternoon they were waiting with her mother for the coach back to London to arrive and Rose had taken her to one side.

"So, what do you think of him then?" Rose asked nervously, glancing at Alec, who gave a weak smile back.

"He's ok I suppose but Rose, what if his divorce doesn't come through?  What if his wife changes her mind?"

"She won't, she hates us both, trust me.  As soon as some transfers come up in the same station, we'll be gone from here."

"Back to London?" her mother asked hopefully, glaring at poor Alec, who swore the clock above the coach stand had got stuck ten minutes ago and there was no sign of the coach and no announcements it was running late.

"I don't know but not if we can help it.  I really don't want to work there again.  Come and say goodbye to him, just for me."

The coach arrived just on time and Rose hugged her mother goodbye.  Alec had to wave her off, since Rose was holding his hand and as they got back into his car, she turned to kiss him.

"Thanks Alec, I know it was a bit daunting but at least she didn't slap you."

"I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies?  It was a bit much having to get up before she did this morning, if she visits again, I am not pretending I slept on the sofa."

Rose smiled and put her hand on his jeans-clad leg.  "You weren't fooling her you know."

"You mean she knew?  Right, Tyler, you are in deep trouble when we get home."
Chapter 13
Over the next few months, Alec became unsettled, even with Rose by his side.  He got to see Daisy once a week but it was strained, going to a fast food restaurant or the bowling alley or even the cinema for a few hours seemed like much longer because he wasn't allowed to take Rose with him.  He and Tess had got the officer of the court to intervene over visitation rights and they were fighting for custody until Daisy was deemed old enough when she turned thirteen in March to choose who she wanted to live with and she chose her mother.

The six months limit on Rose's transfer was up and they were both now trying to wait as patiently as they could to get out of Sandbrook but they had to wait a while longer until Alec was finally called to the chief's office at the end of June.

"Good news Alec."

"You mean Ashworth turned himself in somewhere and confessed?" he asked, he and Rose having given up on the hope of finally getting out of the town.

The first part of his divorce had been granted, he was just awaiting the judge to sign it off.

"No, I thought you were keeping tabs on him?"

"Haven't I got enough to do?  No, I got DC Craig, he's got connections and as far as anyone knows, Ashworth left the country after skipping police bail.  How he got out is anyone's guess.  He probably hitched a ride on a fishing boat or something.  He'll get tired of hiding and come back eventually.  So, what did you call me in for?"

"I got someone to take you off my hands, if you still want to go, well not that you have much choice, since the chief constable is up for re-election and you're still causing him trouble."

"Why me?  My cow of an almost ex wife was the one to blame."

"Yes but he doesn't see it that way, not if he wants to keep his job.  I know it's short notice but there's a job for you down in Dorset, the chief there wants an experienced DI because her only alternative is a DS who is waiting for a promotion."

"Won't the DS in question be a bit annoyed?"

"Not if we time it right, seems the DS is away for three weeks from last Friday.  You could go down next week and be settled in before they come back, take a week to settle."

"What about Rose?  I promised her I would not go without her."

"Ah well, there's only the one job so far but look, I can put her in for a promotion to DS, it might help things along.  It will be up to you to persuade your new chief you two can work together, if you want her to know of your relationship."

"I'll not hide her.  I will talk to her tonight because the divorce will be final soon and Tess will start getting difficult if I just leave her.  What are the arrangements, if I agree?"

"They'll put you up in a hotel until you find somewhere then pay half the cost.  If Rose does go with you, you can apply for her allowance to be put towards it."

Rose was not happy when they got home.

"I know love but if I go there, I can work on getting you to join me."

"How long will that take?"

"I don't know, I can come back at weekends, it won't be so bad.  I promise I will do everything I can to get you a job there and the bank holidays are coming up soon, I can get them off and come back."

"What am I gonna do about this place?  I can't afford it on my own."

"I will still pay half, they will pay for a hotel and I can delay getting a place until I know you are getting transferred.  It's the best the chief can do and he would normally tell you this but he's putting you in for a promotion."

"Well that's no compensation Alec.  Will it help my transfer?"

He put his arms around her.  "It won't do any harm love, I will have to leave on Monday though."

Rose sat down and he joined her on the sofa that had seen some action since he'd moved in.

"Why so soon?"

"Because the chief there wants me to get settled in before the DS who was hoping to get the job comes back from holiday and complains."

"They'll complain anyway, that's hardly fair, sneaking you in like that.  Did he say if your new chief would allow us to work together?"

"I am on my own on that point, I will have to convince her that we can, we have managed so far have we not?"

"Yeah, apart from snogging in the car when there's no-one around."

"That is the best part love."

The thought of finally getting away from Tess cheered Alec up in some ways but not having to leave Rose behind.  All the rest of the week, she clung to him every night, Alec trying to assure her nothing was going to change between them until the Sunday night.

He'd been to see Daisy, to tell her he was moving and it had not gone down well.

"Mum said you didn't care and she's right," the now teenager told him after they had been to the fair that had arrived in the town.

"I do care love, things are just difficult but I will be coming up for the next few weeks anyway, I will still see you."

"You're only coming back to see her."

"That's not true and you know it.  Yes, I will be coming back to see Rose but we can still have time together.  It's up to you how often you want to see me."

When he got back, Rose could see it had not gone well.

"She'll come round Alec, it's not easy for her, I hate to think what Tess has been telling her."

"I know but she thinks I will only be coming back to see you and what happens when you move?"

"Then you come back every two weeks, we both will.  We'll stay overnight somewhere and you still meet her.  I love you Alec, I wouldn't come between you and Daisy."

"I love you too Rose and as soon as the divorce comes through properly, I want you to think about making what we have official."

"Yeah?  Really?  I thought you'd want to be a free man for a while?"

"Ah but with you my love, why would I want to be free?  Are you ok tonight, not too near your monthly?"

"I'm willing to take the risk if you are?  I won't see you until Friday, will I?"

As they tossed and turned under the bedclothes, Rose knew now there was no holding back and Alec noticed when she didn't try and stop him when it was so close to her monthly and she wasn't protected.

She tried not to cry the following morning as he was packing his car.  Rose had arranged for her friend Annie to collect her for work since she no longer qualified for the use of a car until she got her promotion and then she hoped she wouldn't be there long enough to need one.  Alec was ready to leave just before eight even though it would only take a few hours, he had a meeting with his new chief at eleven and he didn't want to wait until Rose had gone to work.

"I will see you on Friday then?" he asked as she rested her head on his shoulder and hoped Mrs Chambers wasn't being her usual nosy self, not that this morning she cared even though she often had to fight Alec off when he wanted to kiss her as she was getting in the car.

"Yeah, I'll miss you like mad and I'm not volunteering to become anyone's else's DC, I have to study for the DS exam."

"You will pass love, I know you will and if you don't, you can re-take it.  I love you Rose now go back inside before our neighbour calls and has us arrested for me getting you up at the side of the car and jumping you."

That made Rose smile at the thought so she kissed him goodbye and stood waving to him until the car disappeared around the corner.  She was just going back inside when the nosy neighbour came out.

"Not going to work today?" the other woman asked as Rose was on the second step.

"Yeah, he had to leave early."

"I know it's none of my business but is he leaving you?"

"What?  No, he's not leaving me.  He got a transfer and he's going to find us a place to live before I join him."

Well so she hoped, if he could convince his new boss they could work together without sneaking in his office for her to grope his cute ass.  Annie arrived and saw the change in her friend's mood.

"Come on Rose, cheer up, it's not forever you know?  He's never going to stop trying to get you a transfer to join him.  Shall I tell you something?"

Rose turned to her friend and nodded.

"That day when it all erupted, you know, well me and Peggy figured out you were seeing him, you had that look about you.  We kept it quiet until everyone else figured it out but we were happy for you.  Serves Henchard right for warning us all off him, we all fancied him before she turned him into an ugly duckling and you brought him out of that."

Rose knew she had changed her boyfriend and lover.  He still dressed smartly at work but refused to fasten his tie properly, leaving the top button of his shirt undone and when he got home, he changed into his slim-fitting jeans and a t-shirt or a jumper and they would fool around for a while before making dinner together.  They had been together almost nine months and now, he'd surprised her by talking about making it official, once the divorce came through.  She decided to ignore Tess when she walked into the office, now she herself was going for a promotion, Tess could no longer boss her around and just let her try.

Alec arrived in what his old chief had described as the sleepy coastal town of Broadchurch where he was told nothing ever happens.  He parked across from the town's police station, which was situated conveniently by the harbour.  He was shown to the chief's office and decided he'd come straight to the point after she told him that DS Miller would not be happy when she got back from her holiday the following Friday.

"You gave me a week to settle in, I would like to use some of it to find a place to rent and then start work.  I am hoping my girlfriend will be able to join me soon."

"Ah, yes.  Your old chief mentioned she was wanting a transfer as well.  I'm sorry Alec but I just can't take on another DC at the moment and DS Miller will be your partner when she gets back though she may be a little hostile at first but she will work with you.  I considered her for the post but she had time off recently on maternity leave and the boy is still young, her husband is taking care of him but that could change.  I don't think she's quite ready to take on the job of DI."

"Yes, well I was hoping that if DC Tyler got her promotion, you might be able to make room for her?"

"I can't make any promises Alec, the department won't raise my budget and unless someone leaves, then my hands are tied.  I'll let you go find your hotel and get settled in and the sooner you get your own place the better.  If you get stuck, there's always the caravan park next door, if neither you or your girlfriend don't mind living in one, at least until you find something else."

"I will bear that in mind but until I find out she is coming to live here, a caravan may be preferable to a hotel, I would have room to move around but I will be away at weekends going back to see her.  You may as well know once my divorce comes through that I intend marrying her, just in case you thought I would get her to come here then leave her."

Getting back in his car, he followed the direction on the navigation system he did nothing but argue with, which made Rose laugh and parked across from the hotel, seeing there was a two hour limit and it was just outside the town's newspaper office.  He crossed the road with his luggage and entered the hotel lobby, seeing a blonde sat at the small desk looking bored out of her mind.

"Oh, hello, you must be Alec Hardy?" she greeted him with an Australian accent and getting up, took a large keyfob from the hook.

"You were expecting me."

"Yeah, it's a bit quiet yet, welcome.  I'll let you get settled in, I've given you one of the larger doubles, no extra cost.  Anyone joining you?" she asked, looking at him and hoping the answer was no or she might have to take up Mark's invitation for a drink one night, now he'd convinced her he was getting bored with his wife.

"Not at the moment but I will be away Friday and Saturday night, I will be going back to see my girlfriend."

"Oh.  Well that won't be a problem, got far to go?"

"Just a few hours from here." 

He took the key and wondered if she had any help around here or if she did everything.  If she did, it would keep her from bothering him every five minutes which had just looked like that was exactly what she would do and he may be going to miss Rose but nothing would make him risk losing her because the flirty Australian hotelier was trying to find out his marital status and hoping it was single.

He sent a message to Rose to say he'd arrived then went to find somewhere else to park his car.  He had expected there to be one behind the hotel but no such luck since there had been some arguments about the land when the owner's boyfriend had left.  Now the hotel shared one with the pub a few doors up which used to be a hotel but no longer took guests and had been turned into two more floors of bars, not that it did The Traders any good.

He then took a walk down the High Street to see if there was a rental agency and when he found one, went inside after looking at a few possibilities but he doubted the police would pay the prices of the rental holiday cottages, well maybe when Rose joined him so the caravan site was looking more appealing.  He left his details that if anything reasonably priced came up they would call him and feeling hungry, wandered into a café that was frequented by the nosy town's reporter, who looked up when he saw Alec walk in, recognising him from the Sandbrook case and wondered what he was doing in the town.

Olly Stevens thought it was a shame his aunt was away on holiday or he could have asked her.  He knew she'd applied for a promotion but it was put on hold until she got back but now Hardy was in town, it looked like she was about to be disappointed and he couldn't even warn her.  She was going to walk right into it when she got back to work and he would get a story out of it.

Alec decided he would call at the caravan site on the off chance they may be willing to do business with the police and after some persuasion and a phone call by them to discuss the payment arrangements, he agreed to take one on a weekly basis until the camp closed at the end of October and his allowance would more than cover the costs.

Pleased with himself, he only had a week to stick it out at the hotel but Friday seemed a long way off to him as he told Rose everything when they talked that night.

"I miss you already Alec.  I was studying most of the day today, have you had any luck with the chief there?"

"No love, not unless someone leaves and I got a female DS for my partner but she is married with two kids so don't go getting worried."

"Why would I do that?  They don't call me Tess."

"I already know that love.  Don't worry, I will be leaving early on Friday, I will have dinner ready for you."

"Can't wait then, the week won't go fast enough.  So, you've got us a caravan?  Maybe I should come down there?"

"No, it will take too long on the coach, you heard your mother complain the last time she was there.  I will come up there and I will leave early on Monday morning."

"That's a bit better Alec but who says I will want to let you go again?"

"Who says I will want to go?  I love you Rose."

After he had his evening meal, he decided to put the TV on to try and forget his first night in nine months he'd not spent it with Rose.  Just after nine, there was a knock on the door and Becca stood with some towels in her arms.

"Oh hi, hope I'm not disturbing you?  Is everything ok?"

He was about to reply with something about until she knocked on his room door but being with Rose, he'd lost a lot of his rudeness.

"Fine.  I meant to tell you in the morning but when I get back after the weekend, I will be moving out so I will just come back at some point on Monday to clear my things out."

"Oh, you found a place to rent?"

"Near enough.  I'm hoping my girlfriend will be able to join me soon."

"You must miss her?  Didn't I see you in the news a while back?"

He had been hoping everyone had forgotten that.

"You may have done.  Was there anything else?"

"No, I'll leave you to it.  The bar's open, if you fancy a drink?"

"I don't think so," he told her, especially if she were the only one there.

"Oh, I wasn't inviting you for one or anything, sorry."

"Right, of course not, I did not take it as such."

He tried to close the door before she invited herself in.

"You must miss your girlfriend though?"

"Yes, even though it has only been a day.  We are getting engaged soon."

Well he hoped they would, she'd said she would want to make it official.

"Oh, well congratulations, she's very lucky.  What's her name?"

"It's Rose.  Don't take this the wrong way but I would appreciate it if you did not keep checking up on me."

"I wasn't, I'll go then?"

"Right, goodnight."

He closed the door and thought himself lucky he had just escaped, he knew when a woman was wanting an excuse to be invited in.  Becca stood at the closed door, he was a tough cookie and obviously loved his girlfriend, what a shame but it had been worth a try.

By Friday morning, he was packing all his things and was just taking what he needed for the weekend.  When he came back on Monday, he planned on missing his lunch break, go pick his caravan keys up at four then collect his things from his hotel room and hand in the key.  Becca saw him on his way out so he decided to leave his key and thought he may as well have just brought everything with him.

"Leaving so soon?"

"I want to get there early and I won't be back Sunday night after all, then I will be checking out on Monday afternoon."

Becca could do without losing the revenue for charging the police for his stay.  Alec made a short stop on his way back to Sandbrook but still made good time so he decided to wait for her after work to surprise her after dropping his things at the apartment but Tess saw him first as she drove out of the parking area and stopped.

"What are you doing back here?"

"Nice to see you too Tess, you've not changed in a week.  Thought you had got rid of me?"

Tess just huffed as she saw Rose come out of the main entrance, talking to her friends.  Alec waved so Rose said goodbye to them and got in his car, giving him a kiss.

"Hi, couldn't wait for me to get home then?"

"What do you think love?"
Chapter 14
Since Alec had to go see Daisy on Saturday afternoon, Rose went shopping for a few hours and was meeting him at their favourite coffee shop at four in the shopping centre.  Alec was there first for a change.

"You're early," Rose greeted him, sitting down and taking the red carton.

"Daisy insisted I took her home early."

"Why, what happened?"

"The usual 'you don't care about me' speech.  I saw Tess before I picked you up yesterday, seems Daisy forgot to tell her I was coming back for visits."

"Tess has done nothing but scowl at me all week.  Seems she's been told to back off since I took my exam yesterday morning."

"You never said love."

"Yeah, I was too busy with us making up for being apart.  I will pass, won't I Alec?"

He reached for her hand across the table, looking over the rim of his sunglasses that Rose had said he looked sexy in.

"You will pass Rose, I have every faith in your abilities."

"Yeah except when I get something wrong."

"You made one mistake and I stuck up for you, let it go love.  We could go out tonight, have a meal and a drink, we will get a cab and then have an early night."

"Yeah, that would be great.  Why don't we go out for the day tomorrow, I'll drive since you drove up here."

They went back to get changed, Alec trying to delay because he wanted to do this properly, having been to a jewellery shop while he'd been waiting for her and bought an engagement ring and a silver fancy chain, in case she wanted to put the ring on it while she was at work but he gave her the chain before they set off.

"It's lovely Alec, thanks.  So what's Broadchurch like then?"

"Sun, sea and never-ending sky and don't forget all the smiley freakin' faces."

"Bah-humbug," Rose laughed as he cracked a smile, putting his arms around her.

"It would be much better if you were there love, then I would think we were on holiday.  Just as long as I stay away from the water."

"You still think about that, don't you?"

"Rose, I may not even be here had it not been for you pushing me out of that river.  Yes, I think about it sometimes but having you with me keeps the nightmares away.  I don't know how much longer I can stay there on my own."

"Let me get my exam results then you have another go at your new chief.  Tell her I'll even take a DC's job if I have to or maybe there's another station close by?  I could always travel."

"I will see her again on Monday though I will have to leave early again to get the caravan keys but since it will cost them less than the hotel, I think they will be happy to save some money.  Shame it will not cover the cost of an extra detective sergeant?"

He pulled her close to kiss her.

"Or a detective constable.  They haven't appointed a new DI yet so Hartley's doing both jobs.  Can you believe he asked for me?"

"I hope you said no?"

"Of course I did Alec.  I was busy all week anyway and they can't make me do it since I'm waiting for my results.  How come you're getting a DS instead?"

"Because she was up for the job."

"Yeah, that's gonna make her happy, rubbing her nose in the fact someone else, an outsider, got her job."

"Whose side are you on here?" he smiled, kissing her cheek.  "I will call for a cab or we will be late for our reservation."

Once in the restaurant, Alec had a word with the head waiter to bring a small bottle of champagne to their table after their desert had arrived.

So as the time approached, Alec thought he'd be getting nervous but he wasn't.  He'd checked up on his divorce and it would be finalised in a few days anyway, though what had taken so long when there were no objections, he didn't know.  He had ordered Rose's favourite Italian dessert that always put her in a good mood and the head waiter himself brought it on a trolley, along with an ice bucket containing the small bottle of champagne.

"What's all this Alec?"

"Just wait and see."

The head waiter opened the champagne and poured it into two long champagne glasses and put one in front of Rose then Alec and then nodding to Alec, left.  People were already looking in their direction at this point as Alec suddenly got up and went to Rose's side of the table, going into his jacket pocket and bringing out a pale blue ring box.

Rose just looked up at him as he opened it and produced a single solitaire diamond ring and getting down on one knee, took her left hand.

"Rose, you know if not for you I would not even be here now.  You saved me in more ways than you could ever imagine.  So, will you do me the honour of marrying me?  When the time is right?"

He couldn't very well say when his divorce was finalised in front of the other restaurant patrons who were now watching and all the waiters had stopped what they were doing.

Rose could only allow him to place the ring on her finger as Alec got up, still holding her hand and waiting for her reply.  Yes, he'd mentioned it but she wasn't expecting him to propose so soon but he'd been away a week and they had both realised it had been too long.  So she just looked up at him and smiled, admiring the ring.

"It's beautiful Alec.  Yes, when the time is right, I'll marry you."

He pulled her to her feet, put his other arm around her and they kissed, to a standing ovation from the diners and the staff.  Rose blushed as she heard them when Alec let go, helping her back in her seat.  Once they were ready to leave and Alec was settling what he thought was going to be an expensive bill with the champagne, he was pleasantly surprised when the head waited said the champagne was on the house and they always did that to couples who got engaged there, it was good for business.

When they got back, Alec insisted on carrying her into their bedroom.  Lying her on the bed, he unzipped the dress she was wearing then removing his suit trousers, Rose moved across the bed to allow him to kneel on the edge.  He removed the silver chain, reaching over to the bedside table then he leaned down to remove her bra, placing a kiss before he did so.

"That was totally unexpected Alec," she told him, holding out her hand and admiring the ring again, not that she hadn't stopped looking at it in the cab on the way home.

"Rose, I am not going back to Broadchurch without knowing you will wait for me to either come back or you get a transfer."

"I would have waited for you, I love you."

She reached to unfasten his shirt and ran her finger down his torso.  He spread himself over her and Rose put her arms around him and they kissed.  They soon got under the bedclothes and called each other's names as they felt the waves crashing over them.  Before they fell asleep, Rose asked him if he'd heard about his divorce.

"Yes, that is why I said carefully when the time is right.  Rose, this is the first time you have asked me about it love."

"Yeah, I never wanted to bother you about it, I knew it was going through.  I also know we'll still have to wait, won't we?"

"It depends on the conditions of the divorce, I never really looked into it, I just wanted to get on with it.  You said you would wait."

"I will Alec, it doesn't matter.  I can't wait to show this off on Monday.'

"Rose, you would be best waiting, until Tess gets the divorce papers through, she could turn really nasty on you.  That was why I got the chain for you, you can wear it under your work blouse and it won't be seen."

"You know I don't want to hide it Alec."

He kissed her cheek and lay her on her back, hovering over her.

"I know love and I really don't want to ask you to but I am only thinking of you.  Tess will just make a scene and tell everyone that I just couldn't wait until the divorce was finalised.  She will make sure everyone in the station knows how you stole me away from her, not that there is anyone left who does not know about us but they don't know all the details.  Please Rose, just for a while, wear it around your neck, just for me?"

"Yeah, ok but as soon as you get the papers, I put it back on my finger, right?"

"Right, now show me how much you love me."

After fooling around at breakfast the next morning, they drove out into the country and stopped at a village pub for lunch then went for a walk down a country lane.  They had an early night because Alec had to leave before six the next morning to get back in time since he needed to finish early to move into the caravan but before they went to bed, he said he was going to talk to the chief again.

"I can't promise she will agree but it might work."

"What might work?" Rose asked as they got ready.

"How about if they put you on standby?  It would mean you only get paid if you work but if someone is off sick or anything, you could fill in for them."

"Really?  Can we manage though?"

"Yes, I will be getting the caravan paid for, we can stay there until the end of October and even then, we might be able to stay longer.  What do you think?"

"That it's a brilliant idea, if she goes for it but it's not a transfer as such, I'll have to stay here until she does agree and calls me to fill in.  Once she does, I'll stay down there."

"It could take a while love, I mean unless there is an emergency but we will manage if I come up every weekend.  You will have to give notice on this place though."

"Yeah but it doesn't mean I have to stay here, does it?  Can I just tell my friends we got engaged?  They won't say anything, they dislike Tess as much as I do.  Did I tell you that Annie said half the women in the station used to fancy you until Tess made you hide yourself away?"

"Is that so?" he asked, fingering the hem of her nightdress.  "Then be grateful she did make me hide away."

Rose went to see him off the next morning, them both having to do it quietly as they kissed at the side of the car furthest from the building.

"I will be back next Friday night love, I promise and you never know, if Jenkinson goes for it, I could be taking you back with me."

"Yeah.  I love you Alec."

As Rose got into Annie's car later, she couldn't contain herself and pulled out the ring on her chain she put on after Alec had left.

"Wow, it's really serious then?  You have to hide it from her though."

"Yeah, I know but as soon as she gets her papers, I'll be wearing it where it belongs."

Alec got to the station in plenty of time to make himself some tea and some toast and take it to his new office.  Then he went to try his luck with his new chief.

"It's a good idea Alec and it wouldn't cost any extra I suppose but what about when no-one is off?"

"Well I was thinking about that on my way down.  Rose stays where she is for now and if someone calls in sick or a family problem, she can be down the next day, I will drive up and get her as long as you clear it with Chief Moore."

"Then I'll see what he says but if she gets her promotion?"

"She is prepared to fill in where needed as long as she keeps her current or new rank."

"Very well, I'll put it to Chief Moore then."

"There is one more thing.  You have to promise me the next vacancy that comes up is hers."

"Leave it with me Alec.  You look very cheerful this morning, any reason?"

"Yes, I asked her to marry me last night, when my divorce comes through and she said yes."

"Then congratulations.  You gave me your assurance you can both work together, I hope you can stick to it?"

After settling in his new caravan that he hoped he wouldn't be alone in for too long, the rest of the week didn't go too badly.  A few petty crimes as the holiday-makers made their way to the town and he'd been assigned a driver until a car could be found for him or until DS Miller came back and Rose more than made him welcome on his next visit but the week after was going to be put on hold and neither of them could have predicted what was going to happen.

Rose had got up on the Friday morning and felt a bit off but thought it was just the excitement of Alec's visit and still went to work as normal but she had to rush out and Annie followed her.  She'd finally found out she hadn't passed the exams and had been talking to Alec every night, him wishing he was there to comfort her but had told her to try again.

"Rose, it's fine love, you'll pass next time."

"Yeah but from Monday, I have a feeling the chief is gonna make me Hartley's DC and I can't stand him."

So when she threw up in the sink, Annie rubbing her back, her friend had her suspicions.

"Something you want to tell me Rose?"

"Such as?" Rose asked, trying to lift her head.

"I know you don't want to be Hartley's DC but this is going a bit far," Annie joked.

"Ha, ha, very funny.  Maybe I ate something in the canteen?"

"Maybe you and Hardy went a bit too far?"

"What?  He's only been gone three weeks.  Mind you, the night before he left, well I wasn't covered, you know."

"Rose, it only takes once you know and if you were making the most of it.  You have to go get tested, I'll go with you at lunchtime."

"Don't tell anyone."

"What do you take me for Rose?  We'll get a kit and bring it back."

"No, I'll go to the pharmacy and wait, I can't do it here."

"Fine, we'll do that.  You'll only bring your lunch back up if you ate anyway."

"I can't be pregnant, can I?  It will only be three weeks on Sunday."

"Rose, it's the only explanation and everyone is different.  My sister knew when she was two weeks, don't ask me how."

"We had this plan, me and Alec that he'd get his chief to call our chief if they were short staffed and I'd go fill in."

"Good idea, did it work?"

"Well obviously not, I'm still here, just about."

She stuck her head in the sink again and prayed Tess wouldn't decide she needed the loo.

While Rose was being sick, Alec had been feeling sick himself, having being taken to Harbour cliff Beach and standing over the body of a twelve year old boy and had already got off to a bad start with DS Ellie Miller and getting back to the station had discovered the boy's name had been released on social media and was praying Rose wouldn't find out, well not yet until he called her.  Maybe now she would be sent for, they were going to need all the help they could get.

Elaine Jenkinson had already been on to the chief constable, who had said get all the extra staff in she needed but the area was already overstretched with three music festivals starting that evening so she had called the chief in Sandbrook to ask if Alec Hardy was free, he could go up and get her overnight.

"Of course Elaine, I'll be happy to let you have her under these terrible circumstances but she's been absent from her desk several times already today, I don't know what's going on with her.  As soon as I can get hold of her, I'll send her home to pack."

"Thanks Andy, well this is what they wanted but it's not ideal, it's too much like their last case and I'm not sure he's the one for the job."

"Elaine, it wasn't his fault, it was his ex wife's.  The divorce papers finally came through, she went home early."

Elaine finally caught up with Alec and dragged him out of the station to buy him an ice cream.

"What's all this for?  I have a murder to solve."

"I want you to think very carefully about taking the lead in this case."

"What for?  It was my now ex wife who screwed the last one up.  Have you sent for Rose?"

"Yes, have you time to go get her?  You'll have to call a press conference later."

"I will go get her as soon as it is over.  You know she failed her DS exam?"

"Yes, I expect she will go for it again?"

"I will encourage her to do so and I want her working with me."

"DS Miller will not be happy about that but under the circumstances, she did work with you before, she can help where necessary but DS Miller remains on the case with you."

"Understood."

"By the way, DC Tyler wasn't around when I called her chief.  Have you spoken to her today?"

"No, I have been too busy.  Did he say anything else?"

"No, maybe you'd better find the time to call her?  By the way, who leaked the boy's name?"

"The town's reporter made a lucky guess."

"Yes, it was a lucky guess considering he is DS Miller's nephew.  Go call your fiancée Alec."

He finally had a minute to call Rose, who wasn't feeling any better when the chief had told her to go home and pack.  She managed to do some packing then went for a lie down and closed her eyes until her phone rang.

"Alec, hi.  I heard what happened, I'm so sorry.  The chief said I was attached to Broadchurch police immediately.  Are you coming to get me?"

"Yes love, I have a press conference then I am setting off.  Jenkinson said when she talked to your chief, you'd been away from your desk."

"Yeah, I think I had a bad Chinese last night or something."

"Rose, don't lie to me.  What's wrong?"

"Alec, just come and get me please?  I can't stay here on my own any more."

"I know love, I will be there as soon as I can and we will stay there tonight and come back in the morning, Miller can hold the fort in the morning until we get back.  I love you Rose and whatever is wrong, we will sort it out.  Are you wearing your ring?"

"Yeah, Tess went home early today."

"I know, she will have got the papers through.  I'm free Rose."

"Yeah, you are.  Why do you want to marry me?"

"You know why.  We will talk about it tonight.  I have to go, it is chaos here and they have never handled anything like this before.  I need your experience on this love."

"See you tonight then?"

"Yes and I want to know what is wrong with you."

Rose had time to think once she'd found out Tess had gone home.  She had guessed the reason since Alec was expecting it all going through very shortly and now he was actually free, he may have time to think how hot-headed he'd been asking her to marry him.
Chapter 15
Alec was slightly puzzled as to Rose's reluctance to tell him what was wrong with her over the phone.  All the time he'd known her she had never tried to lie to him before and he could only think that Tess had finally had a go at her before she'd left.  Now he had to call Daisy to say he wouldn't be able to see her tomorrow, which would just about finish off any relationship as father and daughter that they'd actually had.

Tess would surely try to explain to her that he'd finally left them on their own and thanks to this murder, he wouldn't be able to tell her himself.  Ellie Miller had seen him on his mobile and waited until he put it back in his pocket, figuring it was his personal phone.  She braced herself and knocked on the door, waiting for him to shout at her.  She thought he'd been a proper git all morning since she'd met him on the beach and he'd already chewed her out in front of everyone for allowing her nephew to release the victim's name.

She thought he looked upset over something though and gave him the benefit of the doubt.

"Sir, is anything wrong?"

"Besides a young boy being dead?"

"Sorry.  I'm going to pop home and I'll meet you at the school, can you get a ride there or shall I arrange it for you?"

She had already complained to her husband about her new boss after being told he'd got the job she had more or less been promised but now, she wasn't so sure she would have wanted it.

"No, I will go myself, I have somewhere to go afterwards.  Has the chief spoken to you?"

"About what?"

"We are getting extra help."

"In what way?"

"My DC from Sandbrook will be here tomorrow, I am going to collect her tonight."

"What's she meant to do, steal my job as well?"

"She will not be stealing your job Miller.  She worked on the other case with me, she knows how I operate."

"And I don't?  Is she your girlfriend or something?" Ellie asked, jokingly.

"She was my partner and now she is my fiancée, not that it will interfere with how we work.  The chief knows all about it.  If you have any objections, forget it."

"Wow, no wonder you were in a mood earlier."

"I was supposed to go up there for the weekend Miller, what do you expect?"

"So how did you get the chief to agree to her transfer?"

"It's not exactly a transfer, it is only for the duration of the investigation, then we have to consider what happens next.  Go do whatever you have to do, I will see you at the school."

Alec sat back on his chair and took a moment to recover from what he'd discovered this morning after being taken to the beach.  It was all too much like finding Pippa in the river almost a year ago.  He thought just for one minute that Lee Ashworth was somehow involved, he would see what Rose thought about it tomorrow because when he got back tonight, all that mattered was reassuring her she was coming back with him and she wasn't going to be returning.

This was something he should be able to solve, the circumstances were totally different, it was a boy, not a girl and as far as he knew, no-one was missing.  He got up to go get changed and take a quick shower and pack an overnight bag so he could leave right after the media briefing.  He was just walking across the road to cut through the caravan site to save walking all the way around when Olly Stevens was waiting to be served in the fish and chip shop.

Losing his place in the queue, he ran across the road and caught up with Alec.

"DI Hardy, do you have a minute?"

Alec saw the badge around his neck.

"So, you're the one I have to thank for revealing the boy's name?"

"Look, I'm sorry about that, I was only doing my job."

"Yes and did you stop to think of the impact it would have on the family?  It is the job of the police, not the press to identify victims formally.  Stay out of my way from now on."

"What are you doing here in Broadchurch anyway?"

Alec had reached the row his caravan was on but had no intentions of letting the reporter know which one he was occupying, since he would be bringing Rose back with him in the morning.

"Solving a boy's murder.  Instead of speculating, come to the media briefing and do your reporting in a more respectable manner.  I expect you to go apologise to the family personally and tell your editor if there is any more reporting to be done, she is responsible for you."

"What about that case in Sandbrook?"

Alec was fast losing his temper but he was in the middle of a caravan park.

"Leave it alone Stevens, this is your only warning and you print anything, anything at all, you will not know what hit you, understand?"

Now he'd been delayed, he would have to rush to find the local High School in time and was tempted to call Miller to collect him but he didn't want her to know where he lived either and it would mean another delay setting off for Rose, which he was more bothered about now than anything.

Making the briefing just on time, he hoped Rose would be watching to save him having to explain things to her when he saw her.  After reporters had finished taking his photo and asking questions, Alec read out his prepared statement that if anyone had any information to contact their local police.

Back in Sandbrook, Rose was on the internet trying to find the TV station where the broadcast would be most likely to come from since she didn't think it would have been picked up by the main channels just yet and found a link to watch live.  No doubt if it went on for a while, it would go national.  It was all Alec needed after their last case and the media speculating who was responsible for a suspect walking free, a topic that was churned up every now and then when an editor was out of fresh stories.

As the attention was turned onto Alec, Rose touched his face on the screen.  That same look of determination was there as when they had first started out to find the then two missing girls and she knew it still pained him even though they never talked about it.  Now, when he arrived, she had to face him and risk losing him or maybe her job as well because if she went back to the chief on Monday and said she didn't want to leave, Alec would have returned to Broadchurch on his own and she'd never see him again.

She looked at the ring on her finger.  She'd actually taken it off the chain before she'd left the station after she came back from lunch, the results of the test in her hand and Annie promising she wouldn't even tell Peggy until Rose had told Alec.  Annie had seen her clearing her desk, Peggy had been out.

"So, you're leaving then?"

"Yeah, I'll have to wait for Alec calling me to say when he's coming to collect me.  How am I going to tell him Annie?"

"Just be honest with him Rose, he asked you to marry him.  What happened to Henchard?"

"I think she went home, she must have got the divorce papers through.  At least I don't have to say goodbye to her."

"How come you're getting out of here, did you get asked to go fill in for someone after all?"

"No, I can't say much Annie but you'll find out sooner or later.  A young boy was found on Broadchurch beach early this morning."

"No!  What are the chances he'd get transferred and that would happen?"

So now, Rose was laid on the sofa, drinking soda water to settle her stomach.  At least she'd not been sick since she got home and had concluded it had been extended morning sickness and she intended calling at a pharmacy when they got to Broadchurch to try to get something for it, if she actually went.

Alec had set off and decided he could wait for something to eat, it was only just after seven and he would call for take-out once he got to Sandbrook.  He just wanted to see Rose again.  He pulled into the car park of the apartment building just before nine thirty and getting his overnight bag from the back of the car, let himself in and walked up the steps.  Rose heard the key turn in the door and sat up, not too quickly.

"Rose, sweetheart?"

Rose got up as he turned to close the door and he turned back to go to kiss her.

"Alec.  How was the drive?"

"The roads were quiet.  Got a kiss for me honey?"

He sensed her reluctance as she kissed him lightly on the lips.

"Come on, tell me what is going on Rose."

He picked up his holdall and put it on the chair then led her to the sofa.

"So, I am waiting for an explanation as to why you would not talk on the phone.  Why not?  Why ask me why I want to marry you?  You know why Rose and not just because you may have saved my life that day but you know it was a big factor.  You stayed with me when I told you to go home, you gave me a place to stay when I could not face Tess and I felt at home with you to the point I wanted to take over your kitchen, to make breakfast for you."

He took her hand and played with the ring on her finger.

"When you took me home the next night and Tess was going out, all I thought about was going to see you, I took a big gamble and when you let me in and you mistook that attempt to kiss your cheek, then I realised I was not imagining things were starting to happen.  Rose, you made my life bearable again, you got me through so much and I can never begin to thank you for that.  I love you, you know I do so why can't you tell me what is wrong and why ask me why I want to marry you?"

"Alec, I'm pregnant."

"What?" he asked, getting up, Rose thinking he was going to leave.  "Since when?"

"Since that night before you first went away, when you asked me if it was too near my monthly.  Well it was but at the time I didn't think either of us cared."

"You never stopped me, you always stop me a few days before and when you let me carry on, I think we both knew where it was leading?"

"You're not mad?"

He sat down again and pulled her closer.  "Rose, after the day I have had today, on that beach with my irritating new DS, that is the best thing I have heard.  Why did you think I would be mad?"

"Because you know I should have stopped you that night but I didn't want to.  You were going away and I had no idea how long it would take to get a transfer but after that first weekend you came back, I was hoping I would have got pregnant that night, so it would bring you back.  Alec, I don't care where we live, here or Broadchurch, I want to have this baby with you."

"We have a lot to talk about, giving notice on this place to start with but we can deal with that next weekend.  Just bring what you need for a week and we will come back and I will try to smooth things over with Daisy, she would not answer my call earlier but that will be because Tess will have told her about the divorce."

"Alec, I'm sorry Daisy won't talk to you but she'll come round, it just may take a while.  So beside the sun, the sea and the sky, what's Broadchurch really like?"

"Well tomorrow you will find out for yourself, if you still want to work the case with me?"

"I may run off to be sick now and then."

"I can live with that love.  I suppose a Chinese takeaway is out of the question?"

Rose got up and ran to the bathroom, Alec hearing her throwing up.

"I will take that as a no then?"

59 days later

They knew they were close, Rose had worked it out before Alec had done that something was not right when she had gone with him to retrieve Tom Miller's smashed up laptop from the local vicar.  She had said he was covering something up after speaking with Paul Coates and all they were waiting for was the dead boy's phone to be switched on and for Rose to be sent the exact whereabouts.

They were both on the beach, Ellie Miller was interviewing Nigel Carter, the man who worked with the dead boy's father but Alec had seen Rose wasn't doing so well and wanted her to get some fresh air.  Even though she was now just over two months, she still felt sickly some days.  So he had sat her on a large rock and they had just kissed.

"We shouldn't be sneaking out like this Alec, we promised the chief we would behave."

"It is just the once love.  How are you feeling?"

"Better, I think it's just that building.  You should get back and help Ellie interview Nigel Carter.  He's a bit of a creep but I don't think he had anything to do with it."

"It was just to give her something to do, you know that love.  We could not very well say our prime suspect is her husband, could we?  Come on then, we will go back."

Rose's work phone rang.  She handed it to Alec when the caller said the missing phone was active.  Joe Miller offered no resistance as he was taken away by uniformed officers after confessing to Rose and Alec and Alec went to interrupt Ellie.

"Sit down Miller, it's not him.  Rose, sit with her please."

It was after ten and they were about to go to bed when a knock came on their caravan door.  Ellie had to walk Rose back one day when she wasn't feeling well and the chief had questioned Rose's ability to finish the case.

Alec went to make Ellie a drink and Rose sat with her.

"I should have seen it," Ellie was saying.

"Ellie, how could you?  Our last case, in Sandbrook, the wife of the suspect was covering for him, we know she was but she wouldn't give him up and he's still out there.  We had no reason to think you knew what had happened, did we Alec?"

"Rose is right Miller, we wanted to be wrong about it."

"How are the boys?" Rose asked.

"Olly and my sister are with them, Tom's upset and Fred doesn't know what's going on, thankfully.  Are you two staying now?  There's a job for you Rose."

Rose smiled.  "I can take it for a few months until I have to take maternity leave.  You might be allowed back by then?"

"I can't come back Rose, not now.  How can I face anyone?"

Ellie finally left and they were getting ready for bed.

"We should set a date Rose, we don't want to be getting married when you're having the baby.  We should find out what we are having."

"Yeah, I hope you're coming to the scan with me, I can arrange it now."

"Yes, I am coming with you and now we can go back and tell Daisy, now she actually answered my call."

"See, I told you she'd come around."

"Yes you did love and you got it right this time, about the suspect."

Rose put her arms around him without reaching up as he always made sure she didn't stretch too much.

"Mmm, I always get it right Alec, I was right about you."

"You fancied me when you arrived in Sandbrook?"

"Well not at first when I was working with DS Moore, who I know now was no relation to the chief.  You changed your appearance to please me, did you not think I would still have fallen in love with you had you stayed as you were?"

"Maybe I wanted to change for you love," he told her, putting his arms around her.  "So how about next month?  It will be a year since we got together."

"Perfect but we have to start looking for a place to live."

"Well an apartment is out of the question, a three bedroom house maybe?"

"So we can have a spare bedroom?" Rose smiled.

"Ah but not for me if we have an argument, it will just save us having to move when we have more kids."

"You are getting ahead of yourself again Alec."

The End!

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