No witness protection

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Rose Tyler was staying with a friend on a new estate in Sandbrook when she sees 2 men carry something in a sheet.  Rose learns about an appeal for witnesses when 2 cousins go missing after she gets home, contacts the police but hears nothing.  Alec Hardy is about to see it all fall apart when Rose comes forward.  He then has to keep her safe when the killers go free by taking her to Broadchurch.

Taken from Claire Ripley's comment to Ellie about there being no witness protection when she had to rely on Alec helping her.

Chapter 1
Rose was on the train to a town called Sandbrook, looking forward to seeing her old friend Shareen again after all this time.  Shareen Costello's mother had found herself a rich bloke and gone to live with him in the town Rose had never heard of before her friend had gone off to stay with her and decided it was much nicer than living on the council estate they'd both grown up on.

Rose recalled the telephone conversation she'd had with her old friend a few days before, letting herself be talked into taking a day off from the department store, since she was still owed some holidays and going on the Friday morning, leaving Sunday afternoon and Shareen promising a party across the road at a couple's house where they were spontaneous and always inviting her to barbecues with their next door neighbours. 

As Rose was travelling down to see her friend, Cate and Ricky Gillespie were going over with their niece Lisa that she was staying overnight with her cousin Pippa and that they'd be leaving early the next morning to attend their friend's wedding.

"I know what to do Aunt Cate," Lisa had insisted, smiling at the thought of being able to slip the two of them next door and spend some time with Lee, if Claire was off visiting her friend again.

Lisa had taken Pippa to school, she was off college on a study break and thought about going off to see where Lee was working.  She had just left as Shareen was leaving to go meet Rose at the railway station.

"Hi Lisa, no college today?" Shareen asked her.  

Lisa shook her head.  "How's the job hunting?" she asked Shareen as they walked up the road to the bus stop.

"Still waiting to hear from a few places.  My friend's coming down from London for the weekend.  I mentioned her, Rose," Shareen told her as the bus was already at the terminus and she hoped the driver wouldn't be stupid and leave early.  "How's your hairdressing course doing?"

"Great and Claire's really good, she lets me practice on Saturday normally, gives students a discount but I'm looking after Pippa tomorrow, my aunt and uncle are off to a wedding.  They're staying overnight so I think me and Pippa might nip next door and spend some time with Claire, if Lee's working late."

Shareen looked disappointed there would be no party, after she'd promised Rose.  Lisa noticed.

"Hey, why don't you bring your friend over, to meet Claire?" Lisa suggested as the driver opened the door for them and asked where they were going.

They paid their bus fare, Shareen thinking it was obvious where two women were going, to the shops and went to sit upstairs, mainly so Lisa may see Lee working somewhere on the route into town.  

Shareen agreed she'd bring Rose across to meet Claire and Lee and they started talking about a bloke who'd taken Lisa out just once and she'd found him a bit creepy.

"I mean Shareen, he's been hanging around when I've been looking after Pippa, I daren't tell my uncle, he'll knock the bloke into the middle of next week," Lisa explained, gazing out of the window but now they were getting to the town, she had less chance of seeing Lee.

Shareen tried to be sympathetic.  "Is it that Gary?" she asked her friend.  Lisa nodded without turning away from the window, just in case.  "You should tell Lee then, he'll sort him out."

"Yeah, I might do, he'll knock some sense into the bloke, Ricky will probably just give him a warning.  So, bring your friend over then, have you known her long?" Lisa asked her.

"Only forever, we grew up together.  Right, this is my stop, I hope her train's not late, she might have some money and we can go look around the shops.  When we were kids, we used to skip school and go watch the boys in the mall," Shareen laughed.

"I know what you mean," Lisa smiled, having done the same with Lee Ashworth since her uncle had rented the house next door to the couple.

As Shareen got off the bus and waved at her friend upstairs, little did she know it was going to be the last time they really spoke.  Rose was just getting off the train as Shareen was waving through the crowd, Shareen grabbing hold of her.

"Hey, glad you could make it," Shareen laughed as they got outside the station building.

"So, how've ya been then?" Rose laughed as Shareen headed to the nearest coffee shop, knowing her friend hadn't much money and wanted to spend as little of it as possible.

"Oh, you know, still looking for a job, unlike someone," she nudged Rose as they sat down outside.

"Hey, I was lucky to get my old job back," Rose protested as Shareen messed with the menu.

Taking pity on her friend, Rose went off to order, coming back with two cartons after saying they were for out, which technically, they were.  She'd laughed at her mother saying the cups were more suitable to put soup in.  They spent the rest of the day catching up and Shareen's mother getting all the gossip from the estate, including who Rose's mother was currently seeing, to Rose's embarrassment.  

Rose was getting up the next morning, having slept in Shareen's room on a put-up bed since she didn't facing sleeping in the attic with a pile of junk, waiting for the bathroom to be free and glancing out of the window.  She saw a man and a woman getting into a waiting taxi, them looking like they were arguing.  They were.

Cate was complaining Ricky had put his hip-flask in the small case, knowing what was in it and what he would be up to.

"It's a wedding Ricky, have some respect," Cate was goading him as he went to get in the front of the cab.

Rose smiled as she saw the man ignore his wife and preferred to sit on his own.  After going into town again and Rose buying a new top in the sale and treating her friend to one, they headed back to Shareen's new home, her saying they should call over and see Claire later, since Lisa had mentioned it.  Rose wasn't so keen.

"I thought ya said she was looking after her cousin?" Rose asked, having seen Lisa out in the street with whom she presumed was Pippa riding a bike and Lisa watching her.

Shareen had just waved as they gone back into the house, having just got back from town.

"They often go round, Claire, the woman lets Lisa work at her hair salon sometimes, to get the practice.  Come on, we'll have a laugh, Lee's really funny," Shareen tried to encourage her.

Rose was about to give in a few hours later but they heard a noise out in the street and Shareen's mother's boyfriend, Ken, went to see what was going on, seeing it was the young man Lisa had gone out with.

"It's just that Gary," he told everyone as he came back in.  "You two should stay inside until he's gone, he'll be watching Lisa again and someone will have had a go at him for standing on their lawn."

Shareen wasn't so desperate to seek company, she knew the bloke was a creep.

"We'll give it a miss then?" Shareen suggested as Rose didn't seem that bothered.  

"Yeah, you can introduce them to me tomorrow," Rose suggested.  

Just then her phone rang, it was her mother.

"Rose, are you coming back tomorrow sweetheart?" Jackie asked her.

"Yeah, why?" Rose had to ask.

"Well Jimbo hears there's gonna be massive engineering works, it could take ya hours to get home Rose.  You'd best get an earlier train, some might even be cancelled."

Rose thought it was just her luck her visit would get cut short.

"Bad news?" Shareen asked as her mother tried to fill her glass, since they'd decided not to go out.

"Mum's friend said the trains are gonna be disrupted tomorrow, I'll have to call in the morning and see if mine's been affected."

"Aw, that's bad luck Rose," Shareen tried to console her friend.  "I was gonna introduce you to Lee and Claire, Lee's a bit of a dish, he loves to flirt."

Rose thought that was just her luck as well.  She pretended to take her time over the drink, only her second and just after ten, Shareen had decided she'd had enough and since Rose had to probably leave early, they went to her room.  After giggling about what had happened earlier and Shareen telling her about what Lisa had said, saying to Rose it had been the blonde she'd waved and shouted a 'Hi' to earlier, Rose asked about the younger girl.

"They're cousins, I've known Lisa since I arrived here, Pippa likes to stay in her back yard.  Lisa said she likes to play on her trampoline and with her tennis set.  She also said Lee and Claire sometimes take her to school," Shareen explained, getting into bed and yawning.  "Sorry, must be the drink.  You didn't drink much Rose."

"Gotta have a clear head in the morning, if I've got to contend with engineering works, goodness knows how long it'll take me to get home.  I'll be lucky to get back in time to go back to work on Monday," Rose complained.

Shareen let out a giggle.  "That's being a bit dramatic Rose.  I'm off to sleep, are ya gonna stay at the window all night?  If I didn't know any better, I'd think you want to get a glimpse of Lee."

"Well I wouldn't know if it was him or not since I've not met him yet, would I?" Rose laughed, staying behind the long curtain, it being parted just enough to get a view of the two adjoining houses opposite.  "So, what's with the neighbours then?  I saw two of them arguing as they got into a taxi this morning."

Shareen yawned again, Rose turning away and not seeing a taxi dropping off Ricky Gillespie and him going around the back of the Ashworth's house.

"That'll be Cate and Ricky, they're always arguing.  Lisa says she flirts with Lee more than Lisa herself does.  That's when she's not got a glass in her hand."

"She likes a drink then?" Rose asked, not that she was really interested.  "What's that Claire like then?  I just saw a woman go in."

"She's got long dark hair.  She's probably been to her mate's house, Lisa said something yesterday.  Lisa said her aunt and uncle were going to a wedding today, they're probably staying over and Lisa said her and Pippa would probably go next door.  Don't worry about it."

Rose wasn't going to, she stayed at the window as she turned to see Shareen had turned her back to go to sleep.  In fact, Rose was about to give up, not used to looking out on anything other than the estate she lived on and it was a change from rowdies going home from either a party or a pub on a Saturday night, her mother usually amongst them.

She was about to let the curtain fall back into place when the man she'd seen that morning came out of the Ashworth's house, Rose wondering how he'd got there since his wife seemed to be arguing with him getting into the cab and she also wondered why he hadn't gone to his own house, unless he'd been checking on the two girls.  She'd not seen any cabs or cars but she'd been looking away at Shareen, he could have been there a while.

Not being able to stop looking now, she waited to see if the two girls did indeed follow the man, whom she assumed was called Ricky but the door remained closed as he'd turned not to go home but down the street.  There was no sign of who Shareen had called a creep so she assumed he'd got tired and gone home or someone had forcibly removed him from their front garden and was once again ready to give up when a van pulled up.

She was unable to tell what colour it was under the street lamp but she saw a figure dressed in overalls go back into what she knew was the Ashworth's house.  Wondering if it was the same man coming back or if it was someone else, she waited to see if the man came back out.  

Five minutes later, the door opened and the man she knew was Lee let the other man out first but when she looked again, they appeared to be holding something between them, though the view was partly blocked by the back door of the van but she clearly saw the two men carrying something wrapped in a white dustsheet.

Rose had to admire their nerve, they were probably using the cover of night to get rid of an old carpet or some lino and going to dump it somewhere up near the main road, since she'd seen some spare land that looked like they were preparing to fence off to build on it.  What better way then to let the workmen get rid of unwanted rubbish?  

She still couldn't see the face of the other man as the back door of the van was opened awkwardly by who she could see was Lee though.  She gathered if the two girls had been there earlier, Lisa would have already taken her young cousin home, probably before she herself had gone upstairs.  The van doors closed, the figure in the overalls still had his back to her but his hair looked light, maybe blonde but it could have been a trick of the light she supposed.

Shareen couldn't be woken by anything other than fireworks under her, Rose remembered all the sleepovers they'd had as kids and she'd had more to drink than Rose herself had so there wasn't much point in trying to wake her.  It was probably nothing interesting anyway and if they were dumping anything, she had no idea where since she didn't know the area.

She saw Lee going back to the still open house door, thinking she saw someone moving inside, which was probably the woman she'd seen go in not long ago, the door closing behind him.  She had to smile, him getting the other man to dispose of his rubbish.  She yawned, she should try to get some sleep if she was facing a long journey tomorrow which would be even longer now some idiot had decided to hold the trains up just because they could.

She heard a noise from Shareen and smiled, not turning to see her friend as something caught her eye.  The door opposite opened again, light coming from inside and the woman came out, followed by Lee.  Rose almost gasped as the woman had hurried around the corner and backed out a car, then she rushed back inside for a moment.  Rose thought maybe they were getting rid of other junk and couldn't manage what had looked like a carpet or lino and had got a friend to dispose of it but she couldn't tear herself away as Lee appeared in the doorway, carrying a young girl, who looked like it was Pippa, dressed in pyjamas and her arm dangling.

The woman rushed to open the back door, never looking up towards where Rose was now standing at the side of the curtain but the woman was looking up and down the street while Lee was putting the girl on the back seat.  Rose wondered if the girl had been sick and instead of waiting for an ambulance, were taking her to the hospital but why had she still been there at this time?

There was no sign of the girl's cousin as the woman tossed the car keys to Lee and he got in the driver's seat but she was surprised Claire watched him drive off, going back inside and closing the door.  Rose supposed Lisa could still be in there and they were going to wait for a cab to follow but why?  She heard Shareen call her name.

"Rose?  Whatcha still doing at the window?" she slurred, the drink having taken hold.

"Nothing Shareen.  It's just so quiet around here, not like home," Rose bluffed.  

She assumed her friend had gone back to sleep since she got no answer and turned back to the window.

While all that had been going on, Rose not being able to tear herself away just for her curiosity's sake, on the other side of town, Alec Hardy had just come from the bathroom, hoping his wife had gone to sleep so she wouldn't pick any more faults with him.  They'd argued after their twelve, almost thirteen year old daughter had gone to bed about anything and nothing, although Tess had been going on about a holiday, which he didn't want to go on because it would be a disaster and before he'd gone to seek sanctuary in the bathroom, about him having the makings of a beard so he'd kept it, just to annoy her since he wasn't back at work until Monday morning, barring any emergencies.  

Little did he know that Rose was across town witnessing one as she couldn't stop watching despite yawning herself as the van came back and the woman, whom Shareen had said was called Claire, came out of the house, grabbed the man in the overalls and made him get back in the van.

Chapter 2
This story will not include anything about what happened inside the Ashworth's house that night, what happened in the woods and after Alec is called out to the disappearance of the two girls, only from his point of view.  It will only include dialogue Rose or Alec hear of the two neighbours and what they could have discussed about what happened as very little is known until the end of series 2.

Rose couldn't tear herself from the window as the van, still unidentifiable as to the colour drove off, Rose not knowing which way it went when it was out of view.  She yawned but knew she'd never get to sleep and she wanted to see if who Shareen had described as Lee would come back with the young girl or not.  She could only guess where he'd been taking her, maybe her parents weren't that far away, her father had come back and wanted her taking to wherever they were staying?

She dismissed that as being daft, the man would have taken her himself, unless that was his car?  Her theories were running wild, she was tired and the little she'd had to drink was giving her a headache, she didn't like sherry at the best of times, especially when her mother made her drink it at Christmas.  She leaned back against the wall, it seemed to have gone quiet in the street but she wondered if anyone else had been watching.

It was almost twenty minutes later when she heard a car pull to a stop so she carefully looked out to see Lee getting out of the car but he didn't go into the back seat.  Maybe she'd been right, he'd taken the younger girl to her parents but why had only her father come back, well if it was her father but he'd been arguing with a woman that morning, outside the house.

She'd almost forgotten about Lisa, where had she got to?  She watched Lee go inside, leaving the car on the street and a few minutes later, the van came into view and she just saw the first two letters 'HX' until the van jerked forward slightly just in front of the car and the woman got out of the driver's seat.

Rose saw the woman walk toward the man in the overalls, who was about to open his door but the woman stopped him.

"You have to take the van back Ricky and get back to the wedding before Cate misses you," Claire was telling him.

"She'll be too pissed to take any notice if I'm there or not," Ricky was telling her, unaware they were being watched.  "Give me the keys then Claire, we have to trust each other now, I'll have to report them both missing in the morning.  Not a word or I'll tell the police what Lee did."

"You really caught them?" Claire asked as he turned to go back to the van, a smile on her face.

"Why are you looking so pleased Claire?" Ricky wanted to know, still trying to recover.  "Why did you have to give Pippa all that stuff in the flask?"

"I told you, she reacted badly to it, there was nothing we could do, not with all the mess and you coming back for Lisa.  What happened anyway?"

"Lee lost his temper," Ricky lied, opening the van door.  "We'll say no more, we all have to live with it."

"Well don't forget, I know where your hipflask is buried, you don't say either of them were in our house tonight, you were at the wedding.  Like you said, Cate won't know any different."

Ricky was about to get in the van when Claire grabbed his arm.

"You'd better go back inside and make it look they were taken," she suggested.

Rose could see them talking then just saw a hand go in the man's pocket, bringing out what could have been keys.  She could see the woman refusing to take them, the man trying to get her to take them.

"Claire, go leave the light on and the patio doors open, go on."

"What?" Claire asked, trying to push the keys back to him.

"I can't do it, I have to drop the van off and call a cab back to the hotel," Ricky told her.  "No-one will get in and if they do, all the better, it has to look like they were taken."

"The police might think they came to us," Claire replied.  "I'll have to get Lee to stay quiet."

"He won't be any trouble, if they find Lisa, his DNA's all over her.  Why did he take Pippa to the woods?" Ricky asked her.

"It will take anyone a few days to find her, enough time for us to get rid of any evidence.  You'd better hope Cate didn't miss you."

"She saw me follow one of the bridesmaids earlier, she'll think I'm still in her room, stupid cow," he admitted but not saying the bridesmaid had thrown him out when he'd got his hipflask out, which was why he'd decided to come home.

Rose watched Ricky get into the van and the woman going to the house next door.  She waited for her coming out but when she didn't, Rose was even more confused, unless there was a gate between the two houses but where was Lisa?  She yawned again, she knew she had to get some sleep so she quietly slipped out to the bathroom and got into the tiny fold-bed and fell sleep.

The next thing Rose knew, Shareen was standing over her and grinning.

"Come on Rose, I thought I was the one who'd had too much to drink last night?"

"Yeah, me too," Rose grinned back, trying to move without falling off the bed.

"See anything interesting last night?" Shareen yawned, holding her hand out to help Rose.

"Nah, not nearly as exciting as the estate on a Saturday night," Rose lied, thinking maybe she'd best stay quiet, since she was going home, Shareen had to live there and she may have jumped to too many conclusions.

Shareen's mother was getting breakfast ready while Rose tried to find the phone number for the train station, not being able to get through so Ken switched the laptop on to get the latest rail information.

"Looks like you'd better get going Rose," Ken told her, Rose trying to make sense of the screen that gave live updates.  "Are you going to Waterloo?  If you are then they're also doing work on the platforms."

"Geez, just great," Rose complained.  "Why didn't I see anything when I set off?"

Shareen patted her shoulder.  "Sure you weren't in a hurry and missed the signs?"

"I don't know, maybe there were some but how was I to know it would be affecting this route?"

Shareen smiled at her.  "Never mind, come back another time but check first.  We'll have breakfast then go catch the ten thirty bus, you might not have long to wait."

"Yeah, at least I'll be on the train but I was gonna get a later one.  I wish we'd been able to go out last night, I'd have liked to have met your neighbours."

"There's always next time Rose, when you come back, I'll talk to Claire, make sure they're all gonna be in," Shareen replied.

"Do ya see a lot of them?" Rose asked her as she accepted her plate.

"Yeah, more of Lee and Claire, Cate hardly goes out until the afternoon, I see Pippa going off to school with her dad or them.  I wonder how the wedding went?  I'm sure Cate will have lots of photos, before she got totalled," Shareen laughed.

Rose went to get her things and looked out of the window, thinking back to last night.  Should she say anything?  All her friend would say was maybe she'd had more to drink than she thought, Shareen was hardly taking notice.  She knew she hadn't imagined any of it but was that the same man who came out of the house as the one who came back in the van and wearing overalls?  She was snapped out of her daze.

"Come on then, we'd better walk up for the bus," Shareen suggested.  "I'd get Ken to take you but he'll be going the opposite way for football training."

"It's fine and thanks for inviting me, it's been good to catch up.  I wish I'd been able to stay a bit longer," Rose replied.

"Yeah, they'll probably be having a barbecue later.  I'll catch up with Lisa later though I'm surprised Pippa's not already out on her bike," Shareen told her, looking out of the window, hoping Lee was up and about since they'd not gone over last night with that creep Gary hanging around.

"Do they have barbecues every weekend?" Rose asked, picking up her overnight bag.

"I only get invited to the ones at Lee and Claire's, Cate's a bit stuck up and I usually talk to Lisa and Claire.  You have to watch Ricky, I'm careful not to be on my own with him."

Rose had to smile, since it was obvious she wanted to be on her own with Lee, she'd only seen him at a distance in the dark but he was tall and slim, maybe Shareen's type but not hers, especially when he was married.

They went downstairs, Rose thanking Shareen's mother as Ken was leaving, who apologised and that he'd be late for football.

"It's fine, thanks.  Come on Shareen, best go see if I can get a train, I'll pay your bus fare," Rose offered.

As they set off, Shareen was looking round.  It was just after 10.15 and Rose asked what was wrong.

"Nothing, I thought Lisa and Pippa would be around and Lee's car's parked outside, they normally park it at the side of the house."

"They've probably been to the shops or something?" Rose suggested, not wanting to say she knew why it was there.  She looped her free arm in her friend's.

"You should come back to London when you get a job, mum would love to see you again," Rose told her as they walked around the corner and the bus was just pulling up to the stand.

"I miss the old life Rose but this is a nicer place to live and it's safer.  No drunks on a Saturday night, no guessing who's dating who and pretending you care.  I just wish I could get a job.  I was gonna ask about training as a hairdresser like Lisa, she likes it but I don't think I'd get paid while I'm training."

"You could ask," Rose encouraged her, not liking her friend being out of work.  "You never know.  Come on, let's sit downstairs so I don't have to take this up the steps," Rose smiled, swinging the bag.

The bus set off up to the main road but stopped on the roundabout as they could hear a siren, Rose looking around to see what it was and where it was going and as the bus set off again, the police car went past the bus and towards where they had come from.

"Wonder what that's all about?" Rose nudged her friend.  "Thought ya said it was quieter here than the Powell Estate?"

"It is, I've not seen many police cars around since I've been here.  Must be someone's cat missing," Shareen joked.  "Maybe Gary's been hanging around again and someone got fed-up of him?  I'll have to ask Lisa, she said he's been watching her aunt's house while she's been there, just because they went out once."

"No wonder she thinks he's a creep then," Rose mused as the bus carried on into town.

She thought maybe Shareen was right, that someone had reported this Gary, maybe even Lisa.  Then she had an idea where Lisa had got to last night, she'd gone out with him and she'd left Pippa with the neighbours but how did that explain her being taken, asleep in a car and not coming back?  Maybe she had been taken to her mother?

Shareen nudged her.  "Whatcha thinking about Rose?"

"Oh, nothing, just how long it's gonna take me to get home," Rose bluffed.  

Well it would give her something to think about on the long journey home and she'd have to buy some drinks and sandwiches before she got on the train.  She was lucky as she went in the station concourse, revised train times on a board by the steps to the other platforms and seeing there was one to London in twenty minutes but it would be a slower than the normal service.

"Aw, never mind Rose," Shareen patted her shoulder.  "At least you'll get home today.  The shop's open, you can get something for the journey."

Rose thought great, the prices would be expensive in the well-known chainstore but compared with being hungry, she had little choice and bought the budget sandwiches, two-for-one drinks and some chocolate, grateful she'd had some breakfast.

"So, have a good journey back Rose," Shareen told her as they waited on the platform.  "It was good catching up and I think I will try to get into a training college, it has to be better than job hunting and getting nowhere."

"You'll do great, Shareen and if Lisa's on the course, at least you'll know someone."

"Yeah but I'm older than her, they'll be a bunch of twenty year olds making fun of me," Shareen replied, looking a bit sad.

"Just give it a try Shareen.  Looks like this is my train, at least it's on time here," Rose joked.

"Yeah, it'll be on time if they keep changing it so it looks that way," Shareen suddenly laughed.

Rose turned to give her friend a hug.  "I'll call you soon and Shareen, don't take this the wrong way but are you sure you should fancy a married bloke?"

Anyone other than Rose would have got a slap but she knew her friend meant well.

"Yeah, I suppose you're right but I won't do anything stupid, I promise," Shareen assured her as people were getting off the train.

As they waved goodbye and Rose found a seat, she couldn't help but wonder if the police car had been going to where Shareen lived, maybe not for this Gary but she was jumping to conclusions again, what could happen on a quiet estate like that and everything she saw last night probably had a reasonable explanation.

On the other side of town, a call had been taken from Ricky Gillespie, who had told the operator he and his wife had just returned from a friend's wedding to find their patio door wide open and they'd looked everywhere for their twelve year old daughter and her nineteen year old cousin.  When Shareen got back home after wandering around the shops for an hour, the street was blocked off and she had to convince the officers she lived there and then she only got through because her mother was telling another officer on her side of the police tape.

"What happened Mum?" Shareen asked as a black SUV type car pulled up and the tape was lifted by two officers then stopped in the Gillespie's driveway.

She saw a man and a woman getting out, showing their ID cards to a uniformed officer who was waiting for them.  They seemed to be arguing and Shareen thought they'd fit in around here.  They were arguing.

Just over an hour earlier, Alec and Tess Hardy, or Tess Henchard as she liked to be referred so as to avoid any confusion but Alec knew the real reason, that of them not getting on well and constantly arguing, had just received a call from the station they both worked at, something Alec thought was a big mistake these days.

That had triggered another argument as Daisy had been told to grab her things and be dropped off at her aunt's house by Alec but Tess had said she was old enough to stay on her own.

"Tess, we just got a call to say two girls have gone missing and you want to leave our daughter on her own?" Alec asked her angrily as they waited for Daisy coming downstairs.

"Alec, it's on the other side of town," Tess replied, waiting for her sister to answer.

"She goes Tess, I mean it and if your sister is busy, we'll have to delay and go take her to your mother's house," Alec insisted.

He shook his head and went to start the car, what the hell had he done to deserve this, where his wife didn't even care about their daughter's safety as they were about to attend a double kidnapping?  Well at least for now it was a kidnapping and he hoped by the time they got to the scene, the girls had lost track of time somewhere and had turned up.

He didn't mind getting to the scene for them to be standing there grinning and wondering what all the fuss was about.  So now, they were getting out of his car and were arguing where they started.  An officer knocked on the Gillespie's door and Ricky let them inside, Alec knowing he had sympathy for the man as Daisy was only slightly older than the man's daughter.

After asking the usual questions like when they had last been seen, Alec asked about friends and neighbours the girls could have gone to.

"There's only the couple next door, oh and a young woman across the street Lisa talks to, she sometimes comes over to the barbecues they have next door," Ricky told them.

"You mean Shareen," Cate butted in, a glass of wine in her hand, which she'd figured she deserved Ricky thought.

"We'll need to know what number she lives at," Alec told them, writing it all down.  "What about the neighbours next door?  Did they know the girls well?"

Tess was looking at some photos of Pippa and Lisa.

"Can we take these or some similar ones?" Tess asked Cate.

"I'll get you some more, these are my favourite ones of Pippa," Cate told her, getting up.

Alec could see the woman was taking it harder than Ricky was.  Tess took some photos and Alec got up.

"We'll send someone around to do elimination fingerprints, we have to search the house," Alec informed them.

"You think we're hiding them?" Ricky asked, hoping he wasn't giving anything away.

"A case a while back, a young girl disappeared and her own mother had her stashed under a mattress for days, now we have to be more thorough," Alec explained, putting his notebook away.  "What are your neighbour's names?" 

"Lee and Claire Ashworth," Ricky replied, hoping he didn't sound too keen.  "I've no idea what the young woman across the road's surname is."

"That's because she avoids you," Cate hissed at him, going back to her drink, that Alec thought it was a bit early for.

"No, it's because she and Lisa were always talking and laughing about Lee.  Come on Cate, that's the only reason they both hung around, with Lisa it was only Pippa and Lee that made her keep coming back."

"Think what you like Ricky," Cate pulled a face at him and Alec wondering what all that was about but it wasn't helping find the two girls, these two were just as bad as he and Tess were.

Alec got the number of the house opposite and they left, stopping outside the door.

"You go across and interview the woman, I'll go next door with a WPC, see if they saw the girls last night," Alec told Tess.

"I'm surprised you don't want to interview a woman on your own Alec," Tess jeered at him.

Alec shook his head.  "Is that supposed to mean something?  Do you know anything about the rumours going around the station about two married officers?"

"Yes, I thought you'd know something about it," Tess replied as Alec waved a WPC over.

Chapter 3
Alec was furious.  Two girls were missing, Tess had wanted to put her own daughter in danger and now she was accusing him of being on the end of the rumours.  Maybe he should listen more carefully in future, they were probably about her since things were going from bad to worse lately.  If he admitted it, it wasn't just lately, it was since the last Christmas party when Tess had gone missing for an hour then tried to tell him she'd been in the ladies room talking with some friends.

Now, he'd seen her several times talking to a DS who he couldn't stand and they'd been looking a bit friendly and laughing, probably at him for not seeing what was going on but as yet, he'd no proof they were not just talking.

He went next door to the Ashworth's house, knocking loudly on the door and being greeted by a woman with brown hair and a strong Welsh accent.

"Do you have to knock so loudly?" the woman complained after he'd knocked three times and the WPC, who had been looking upstairs had seen a curtain moving and told him.

"Mrs Ashworth?  I'm DI Hardy from Sandbrook police, may we ask you some question?" Alec asked, remembering to hold his ID out this time but the Gillespies had been too upset to notice as he and Tess had been let in.

"It's not convenient, you woke us up," the woman protested, trying to keep the door closed.  "What's it about?"

"We're knocking on all doors, two girls, including your next door neighbour's have been reported missing at just after 10 am this morning."

"What?" the woman asked, suddenly seeming awake to Alec.  "You mean Pippa and Lisa?"

"Yes, we believe you knew the girls?" Alec asked her, seeing a figure behind her.

"What's going on Claire?" Alec heard a man's voice behind her and the door opened wider.

Alec held his ID card out.  "Mr Ashworth?  We'd like to ask some questions about Pippa Gillespie and Lisa Newberry.  May we come in?"

Alec noticed both of them were dressed so what had all the fuss been about?

"You knew both girls?" Alec asked as they weren't invited into the living room.

Claire and Lee had been arguing upstairs after trying to get rid of all evidence Pippa had been in their spare bedroom and hadn't slept, having to clean up after Lee had used the timber he'd bought for a job to replace the blood-stained floorboards in the living room and the place was still a mess.  
"It's the cops Lee," Claire had called back to him as he stashed the cushion he'd used on Pippa a few hours earlier.  "There are cars all over the street and uniforms everywhere.  What have you started?"

"Me?" Lee had asked.  "Why don't you ask Ricky?  If you think I killed Lisa, why did you help me clean up?"

"Why would Ricky kill his own niece?  He caught you with her and you wanted her to keep quiet about it.  Isn't that the truth Lee?" Claire had asked as another knock came on the door.  "You should have moved the car, now they know we're in."

"Well go get rid of them then.  Ricky killed her in a temper because he saw us.  Happy now?" Lee asked her while changing his shirt.

Claire could never resist him when his shirt was off as she crossed over to him and ran a finger down his bare chest.

"This isn't over Lee, we say nothing and act surprised.  I was out all night at a friend's house, I'll find someone who owes me a favour and you say you never saw either of them last night.  I'll say I got a taxi, you say you went to the shop and left the car out.  Got it?" Claire asked as she let go of him and went downstairs as Alec knocked loudly for the third time.

"Yes, we know them," Lee replied.  "They're missing?  Well they're not here, I've not seen them since yesterday morning when Pippa was riding her bike out in the street."

"I was out all last night, I've not been back long, I was just going to have a lie down," Claire lied, taking Lee's arm.

Alec was glancing around, the room door was closed but he noticed some streaks on the paintwork.  Still, he wasn't there to include it in the glamorous homes magazine.

"Do you always leave your car on the road?" Alec asked.

"I went to get some milk first thing," Lee answered quickly.

Alec got a card out of his pocket.  "Well if you see either of the girls, call me.  We'd like permission to do a search, if they don't return in the next few hours."

"What?  Don't you believe us?" Claire asked, getting a glare from Lee.

"It's not a question of that, we have to establish the facts," Alec told them, getting a bit suspicious.  "We have to establish what time they went missing in the last 24 hours or so and if they are missing or gone to visit someone and lost track of time."

"Claire, we have to help if the girls are missing," Lee told her.  

"Did they spend a lot of time here?" Alec wanted to know.

"Not really, they come around for barbecues some Sunday afternoons or we go next door," Claire replied.  

"Fine.  We may be back," Alec replied, putting his notebook away and wondering how Tess was getting on.

Tess was getting nowhere with Shareen after Ken insisted he was present when being asked about her friends.

"So Shareen, when did you last see Lisa and Pippa?" Tess had asked her.

"Yesterday morning when I came back from town," Shareen told her after Ken had talked to her when he got back, having trouble and leaving his car down the street and hoping he wouldn't get told off for it.

He had told her not to bring Rose into it and that Rose only knew the same as her anyway so there was no need.

"Where did you see them?" Tess asked her after she'd asked her mother.

"They were out in the street, Pippa was on her bike and I waved to them.  I was going over to see Lisa later."

"You didn't see them last night then?" Tess wanted to know.

"No, I was going to go across but Ken said not to bother, there was a bit of a scuffle outside, someone was hanging around."  Ken stared at her.  "He said it was probably someone chasing after a cat or something," she added.

"Anything else?" Tess asked her, hoping Alec was having better luck.

Tess left her card and went off to join Alec at the end of the street where an incident post had been set up.

"You didn't get anything either?" Tess asked as she helped herself to a drink.

"Maybe not but those two neighbours are hiding something," Alec admitted.

"I think that woman knows more than she's letting on but her mother's boyfriend wouldn't let her say.  So, how long do we give them both to show up?" Tess asked him.

"Tess, they are both teenagers, we can't still rule out they went out early and lost track of time but we have to keep looking," Alec replied.  "What time were they reported missing?"

"Cate Gillespie said they got back from a wedding around nine and went to check on the girls when they found the patio door wide open."

"Did they not check next door?" Alec wondered.

"She never said but she probably did," Tess replied.  "Why?"

"Well according to them, they didn't know the girls were missing.  There's a lot about this I don't like Tess," Alec admitted.

"You never like anything Alec," Tess scoffed and went to sit down to write her report, an officer trying not to smile at both of them.

Everyone in the station knew the two of them didn't get on these days and some had never known them when they were getting on.

While inquiries were being conducted, Rose's train had been stopped several times so she was texting her mother and Shareen but getting no replies from Shareen but thinking her friend may still be out window shopping in the town.  She had been lucky and still had a seat to herself, she thought passengers had heeded the warning of delays and stayed at home.

She was still thinking about last night and why the car was still outside and wished she'd been looking out earlier to see if Pippa's parents had come back.  She had decided it was just one of those things that happened on a housing estate and despite the properties being expensive, life wasn't that different than on a council estate after all.  She finally got to her destination, the train having to wait for a free platform even though it was Sunday and made her way back home, greeting her mother when she got in.

"So, how was Shareen then?" her mother asked her.

"Fine but I'm annoyed I had to leave early," Rose replied, making herself a coffee.

"Well don't thank me for warning ya," her mother laughed.  "Is everything okay?  You seem a bit off."

"I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, that fold-up bed was awful," Rose replied, checking to see if Shareen had replied to the numerous texts she'd sent her friend.

Shareen had seen the texts but was ignoring them.  She'd had an idea Rose hadn't stopped looking out of the window last night so if something had been going on opposite, why hadn't she said something?  Yes, she'd had a lot to drink but if Rose had called her over, she'd have taken a look.  Surely Lisa wouldn't have gone off with Gary and leave her younger cousin alone but what time had Cate and Ricky got back this morning?

She was slightly annoyed with Rose that after being invited for the weekend and they used to tell each other everything that she'd not bothered to mention Lee's car had been moved or had he been out earlier?  She knew Lisa fancied him but so did she but would Lisa have gone next door and left her cousin, thinking Pippa wouldn't wake up?

She was now furious with Lisa, wherever she was for getting in with Lee, they could have still had a party without Claire but then Rose would have got to know him as well and since she had to share with Lisa, didn't want Rose getting involved.  Why did Ken want to keep Rose out of it though but did she want her friend coming back after not sharing if she'd seen anything or not?

Tess and Alec had gone back to the station to run the search and Tess finally went to pick up Daisy, who had been complaining on the way back.

"Where's dad?" Daisy asked on the way home.

"Busy with a case, like always," Tess replied, hoping now, their daughter would be on her side and if Dave asked her out for a drink again, this time she wasn't saying no.

Two days later, nothing had been heard of Pippa and Lisa so Alec made the decision to go further than the local newspaper and called another press conference and wondered why it hadn't already hit the news headlines elsewhere.   He soon found out from the chief.

"Alec, we kept it local for a reason," Chief Abbott told him when Alec proposed to go wider.  "If it had been two younger girls then yes but we've not established yet if Lisa lured her cousin away."

"They would have been back by now," Alec tried to argue.  "Why wouldn't she have contacted her mother?"

"I can answer that," Tess interrupted them as she stood in the doorway.  "I've been trying to make friends with Cate Gillespie.  According to her, Lisa doesn't get on with her parents, well her father and she changed her name when she was eighteen to her mother's name.  I talked to her, Lisa spends more time at their house than she does her own."

"Well I think this should go national, make a wider appeal for any information," Alec told them, tired of getting nowhere after two days and Tess was complaining he never bothered shaving and Daisy was in her room when he got home.

"Well they're still not talking to you Alec, not after you had forensics dig up their back garden and patio," Tess replied.  "Really Alec, that was a bit low even for you."

"I authorised that Tess," the chief reminded her.  "Fine, go ahead with the appeal Alec.  Tess, I want you present as well, we'll do it tonight, get it organised with as many involved as you need."

Once outside, Tess stopped Alec.

"Hope you're pleased now Alec, we’ll have calls from all sorts of people now, all the usual cranks will come out."

"Well someone could be prompted to come forward Tess, we have to do something.  I still think the Ashworth's are hiding something, they refused to let a team search their house."

"Well they have the right to refuse.  Are you going to get a search warrant?" Tess asked him.  "By the way, something interesting came back from the lab, you might want to take a look."

By the time they went to the briefing room which was packed with cameras and journalists, Alec had written what they wanted to say and began by saying he and DS Henchard would answer any questions after the statement, not wanting to let on the two of them were married, though for how much longer, he hated to think because he knew by her reactions that something was going on.

Rose had just got home from work and found her mother watching the news.

"Hey Rose, isn't Sandbrook where Shareen lives?" her mother asked her as the announcer said they would be going for a live broadcast shortly that was of interest to the public.

Rose tossed her bag on the chair and went to turn up the volume with the remote, since she didn't think her mother paid any attention to the news normally.

"Yeah, why?  What's going on?"

"Some detective's gonna make a statement, something about two girls going missing."

"What?  When was that?" Rose asked, a dreadful feeling in her stomach.

Jackie noticed the look on her face.  "Rose, do ya know anything about it?"

"I don't know Mum, Saturday night, well there was something going on out in the street," Rose told her.

They both went quiet as the chief handed over to Alec.  He wasted no time giving his well rehearsed statement, since he knew what he wanted to say and he concluded that if anyone had any information to call the number on screen.   Rose went to grab a pen and some paper to write it down.

"Rose, what did ya see?" her mother wanted to know.

"I'm not sure Mum but I think I should call them," she replied as Alec was being asked questions and directed them to Tess.

The press conference over, Tess confronted Alec.

"Thanks for heading the questions my way Alec," Tess told him as she let the press leave first.

"Come on Tess, you know as much as I do and I had to write out that statement.  You go home if you want, I'm staying to see if we get any calls."

"Well since Daisy's at my sister's I'll stay for a while, just to see if anyone was taking any notice but I think it's a waste of time," Tess replied.

Tess had just got back to her desk when someone was holding a phone and waved her over.

"DS Henchard, I think you should take this," the woman told her, the call being put on hold.

Rose was on the other end, fighting the part of herself that was telling her to hang up while she had the chance and not get involved after the person who had answered had told her she was going to get a senior officer when Rose stated she had seen something that night.

"Well, what is it?" Tess asked, not taking the phone.

"Someone claims to have been there the night those two girls went missing," the woman tried to tell her.

"Was someone missed out in the house to house?" Tess wanted to know, since she'd been put in charge of it.

"No Ma'am, not as far as I know, it's a London number."

"I knew this would happen," Tess complained, thinking she'd tried to tell Alec everyone would crawl out of the woodwork with tales they knew what had happened to the girls and it had started not an hour after the appeal had gone out and people were working overtime to answer calls.

"Okay, put it through to my phone," Tess gave in, knowing she'd regret it and she'd make Alec pay for it.

Rose was about to give up, how much did they think calls cost, since it wasn't an regional number and her mother was watching the time.  That was after Jackie had tried to talk her out of it.

"Rose, don't get involved sweetheart," she'd tried to tell her.

"How can I not get involved Mum?" Rose asked after she'd told her what she'd seen.

"You don't know anything for sure Rose, it could have been anything," her mother had replied.

"That's what I tried to tell myself for the last three days Mum but I know what it was now," Rose replied, dialling the number.  "I thought it was nothing, I didn't even say anything to Shareen about it on Sunday morning.  She'd had a few drinks on Saturday night, I didn't want to wake her."

"Sure you didn't have a few as well?" her mother asked her, knowing what the two of them used to be like together.

Rose was waiting for someone to answer.  "No Mum, I had two half glasses, you know I hate sherry.  Blimey, they must have got a lot of calls already."

"Don't be on too long, it had better not be one of those premium numbers Madam, you can pay for it."

"Mum, we're talking about two missing girls and I saw them on Saturday, Shareen waved to them.  The older girl was her friend.  I wonder why Shareen's not answered my calls, unless she's too upset?"

"How well did she know them then?  She's probably told the police what she knows but if she has, why haven't they called you?" her mother asked.

Rose was still in a queue waiting for a call handler, well so she was told.

"Because I never said anything Mum," Rose reminded her.  "She'd have just laughed it off, she saw me at the window and said I was just tryin' to get a look at her dishy neighbour."

"Well were ya?" her mother laughed.

"No, I was being nosy, it being a new place but I know what I saw.  Oh, I think I've finally got through," Rose said as the music went off.

She had told the call handler she had information about the two girls who were missing and was told she'd be put through to a senior officer when she said she'd seen something suspicious being taken out of the neighbours house that night.

"This is DS Henchard," Tess answered when the call was put through.  "I believe you have some information.  Can I take your name?"

"Yeah, I'm Rose Tyler, I was staying with a friend the night the two girls went missing."

Chapter 4
As Rose began to tell Tess what she saw the other night, Tess was writing it down, well some of it as she didn't quite believe it.

"So let me get this right, Miss Tyler, you saw two men carry something wrapped up in a sheet and you've just come forward now?" Tess asked her, looking around and seeing Alec in his office, his head in his hands.

She knew he looked tired but he wouldn't admit it and refused to go home.  Well she only had so much patience with him lately and unlike her husband, Dave was more than willing to listen to her problems.

"Well if I'd called the police and they were just dumping a carpet or something, they would have been annoyed, not to mention the two men, my friend has to live there," Rose replied, wishing she'd never called.

"I suppose that's a reasonable explanation," Tess told her, since it had been a local problem up until now and now she was right, calls would be coming from all over the place.  "So, who were you staying with that night?"

"My friend, Shareen Costello.  I've been tryin' to call her but she was friends with Lisa, she might be upset with her being missing," Rose told Tess.

Tess looked at her notes.  That was the name of the young woman she'd interviewed on Sunday and got nothing out of.

"She never said you were there that night," Tess admitted, wondering why that was.  "Have the two of you fallen out?"

"Not that I know of," Rose replied, getting tired of this and her mother looking at the clock.  "When we were going back to the railway station, we got the bus and a police car was on its way towards where we'd just come from, you must know what time that was, if ya don't believe I was there."

Her mother was shaking her head and mouthing, "I told ya not to get involved Rose."

Rose covered the phone, about to say her mother was right.

"So, one man drove off, came back and a woman got in and they drove off again?" Tess asked wearily, wishing she'd gone home now.  "Could you see them clearly?"

"Only one of them.  My friend said he was called Lee Ashworth," Rose replied.

Now Tess was interested.  If she kept this to herself, she would be one up on Alec.

"Did your friend see what happened?" Tess asked, wanting to catch the other woman out and charging her with obstruction.

"No, she was asleep, she'd had a bit to drink earlier.  We were gonna go out but her mother's boyfriend said some creep was hanging around and told us not to bother.  Shareen was going to introduce me to the Ashworth's."

The word 'drink' flashed alarm bells to Tess.  Maybe this caller had drunk a few too many herself, the whole thing seemed a bit odd, especially for a private estate.

"Did you meet the Ashworths?" Tess asked her.

"No, I told ya, we never went over," Rose repeated.  "She'd described him to me and since he came out of that house, it had to be him.  There was a smaller man with him but I couldn't see his face.  It looked like Pippa's dad, I saw him and her mother getting into a taxi that morning."

"What time was that?" Tess asked, to see if it agreed with what Cate had told her.

"Around nine," Rose replied, thinking she was getting nowhere fast and she'd have to pay for the wasted call.

"But that night, you and your friend had been drinking in her house?" Tess asked as she saw Alec get up as she twisted in her chair.  

She didn't want Alec to get hold of this, he wasn't going to get the glory for it, if the caller was to be believed.

After a few more questions, Tess thanked Rose and said she'd look into it.

"What was that?" Alec asked as Tess closed her notebook.

"I warned you they would be crawling out of the woodwork Alec, it's late, let's go home, we'll leave Daisy where she is, my sister will make sure she gets to school."

Alec just shrugged his shoulders.  Maybe tonight he should make some effort to keep Tess interested but who was he kidding?

Rose sat with the phone in her hand, her mother patting her shoulder.

"Well at least ya tried Rose.  Did ya get the name of the person who took your call?" she asked Rose.

"Yeah, it was the woman sat beside that other detective who spoke," Rose replied, scribbling Tess's name on the pad and the time she called.

"Well maybe they'll make something of it?" her mother suggested.

Rose wasn't so sure about it.  "I don't think she believed me Mum," Rose had to admit.  "Would you believe me if I said me and Shareen had a few drinks?  Why won't Shareen answer my texts?  That detective said she's spoken to her and never even mentioned I'd been there over the weekend."

"Well I expect Shareen didn't want ya to get involved," her mother suggested.

"Well maybe but she knew I'd been looking out of the window, maybe she's annoyed I didn't wake her to see what was going on?" Rose replied.

"Yeah but then, neither of ya would have been believed?  Maybe Shareen was hoping you'd contact the police and would be of some use to them?"

"Maybe Mum but those girls have been missing since the time I saw what was going on opposite and the police don't believe me," Rose said sadly.

"Listen Rose, you've done your best love, maybe you'd have had better luck with the other detective, who knows?  Anyway, they could still turn up, maybe they saw the news, Lisa took her cousin off somewhere and they never realised what bother they were causing?  Lisa could have led her younger cousin on and told Pippa her mother already knew?" her mother suggested.

Rose thought about it.  "Yeah, maybe and maybe the neighbours were just dumping stuff that night but why did Lee take Pippa out to his car and not come back with her?" Rose asked.

"You never mentioned that to the police Rose," her mother reminded her.

"Well she didn't believe the rest of it, why would she believe that?" Rose asked.

The next morning, it was raining in Sandbrook for the second day, the search had been toned down but now they were reluctantly having to step it up to include the nearby woods that were at both sides of a river that had broken its banks as water from the hills poured down into it.

Tess wasn't about to go out again in it but Alec was going and if something happened, he'd get all the praise but she had the witness statement from the night before as an ace up her sleeve if Lee Ashworth and Pippa's father had been doing anything other than illegally dumping rubbish late at night.

She'd been back to ask Ricky if he'd stayed at the wedding all night, to which he'd shouted his annoyance at her for asking stupid questions while his daughter and his niece were still missing.

Cate however was more forthcoming, not wanting to let on there was anything wrong with their marriage.

"I had to look after her all night, she'd had a lot to drink," Ricky agreed when Cate had said they were together all night.

"So you never left?" Tess had asked him, wondering whether to believe the statement from Rose the day before.

Had Rose Tyler seen Ricky?  She'd claimed to have seen him on the Saturday morning but couldn't identify him late at night because she had claimed his back was turned a few times and the other times behind the van, with a partial number plate and not being sure even what colour the van was.

Ricky had lost his temper so Tess had left to go join the search in the woods, opting to stay in the van they were using and wondering if Alec was wandering the riverbank in the pouring rain with the dog-handlers and the rest of the search team, which now included those who could be spared from nearby police stations.

A few hours later, the search was called off for the time being.  Tess went to break the news young Pippa had been found by Alec in the river, the medical examiner having determined she'd been in the water at least two days, the amount of time it had been raining but she'd not necessarily been put in.  She could have been left on the bank somewhere and been carried in when the river had flooded or she could have come from further upstream – it was impossible to determine, so they had been told.

She wasn't that concerned Alec was sat at the back of an ambulance, the other one having taken Pippa to the nearby hospital.  He'd been sat drinking hot tea with a thermal blanket around him and he'd assured everyone he was fine so she'd said she'd go break the news to the family.  When she had left, Alec was given some dry clothes by a DC who had also brought his personal belongings from his office.

"Are you sure you're okay Alec?" Tess had asked before she'd left.

"Yes, you go tell the family, I'll stay and finish up here," he had told her.

The medics were not impressed with him when after getting changed, he'd told them he wasn't going to the hospital, not until they went to see the medical examiner.  Cate and Ricky had of course broken down but Ricky knew the truth.  He knew the Ashworth's were lying about what happened to Pippa and he also knew Lisa was never coming back because he'd killed her in a jealous temper for having sex with Lee.

Now Ricky was determined to help the police in as little way as possible because Claire had him and she knew it.  It wouldn't however stop him from holding a grudge against them, as long as he didn't tell what happened that night.

Rose found out when she got home that night.  Her mother had heard it on the news and was upset herself, even though she'd never met any of them and she knew it would be more upsetting for Rose as she told her.

"I'm so sorry Rose, they found Pippa, in the river," her mother told her as she handed a mug of tea to her.

Rose flopped on the kitchen chair.

"No.  When was that Mum?" Rose asked, tears welling up.

"This morning, they don't know much yet though, if she drowned or she was already dead."

"I've avoided the news all day Mum, maybe they'd have found her sooner if that detective had listened to me?"

"You don't know that sweetheart.  You said you saw her being carried out, she could have already been dead and he was taking her to the woods.  Did she look like she was moving?"

"I couldn't tell Mum but if she was asleep, I wouldn't have known anyway.  I have to call the police again and tell them I missed that part out," she told her mother, reaching for her mobile.

"Don't Rose, what will it look like?" she asked her.  "You could get into trouble for not saying.  Nothing from Shareen yet?  She must be devastated, if she knew the girl but where's Lisa?"

"Lisa can't have known about it Mum," Rose told her.  "She wouldn't have just let Lee take her off like that.  I thought Lisa was in the house but she can't have been.  What did I get into Mum?"

Her mother leaned down to hug her, rubbing her back.

"I don't know sweetheart but you can't say anything, if ya do, they'll be all kinds of questions to be asked and what if you're wrong and those people find out you saw them that night?  Mind you, I'll bet a week's money it was her dad you saw with Lee but what were they doing?  Do ya think it was an accident and he left Lee to deal with it?"

Rose shook her head, not knowing what to think any more.

Tess had seen Alec come back to the station, not looking any worse for wear – well so she thought.  She went into his office, closing the door behind her.

"They're continuing the search for Lisa," she told him, sitting opposite.  "Now we have to find out where Pippa was killed."

"You don't say?" Alec replied sarcastically, not wanting to let on he didn't feel as good as he actually looked.

He'd not bothered when Tess had gone off and left him, he'd not wanted to be there to tell the family Pippa had been found.  When he closed his eyes for a moment, he could still feel the weight of her and going under the water himself as he'd lost his footing as several pairs of hands had been trying to grab hold of him.  Now all that mattered was finding the coward who had left a twelve year old child either in the water or close by and make sure they went away for a very long time.

It had been driven home to him they could have been out looking for Daisy.  Little did he know that Tess had forgotten about the so-called witness from that night.  She had written down a lot of things since that night Rose had told her what she'd seen and had started a new notebook, leaving her old one in the drawer and meaning to get anything important out of it later but later never came as the station suddenly became even more inundated with calls after she gave a statement to the press, Alec telling her to do it this time.

"So Mum, who broke the news then, was it the woman I spoke to?" Rose asked after tea.

"Yeah, she was on her own this time.  Maybe you'd have got further if that man had taken your call?  Are you gonna try and call Shareen?"

She was about to when the doorbell went, her mother getting up and letting Mickey in.

"Rose, isn't Sandbrook where Shareen moved to?" he asked as Jackie made him some tea.

Jackie opened the hatch from the kitchen.  "Tell him Rose."

Mickey listened and got up to grab the phone.

"You have to call them again and get them to take notice.  Try Shareen again as well."

Rose begrudgingly took the phone but got a busy tone, giving up after five minutes of trying.  She tried Shareen's number and was surprised her friend actually answered but she didn't expect the reception she got. 

"Pippa's dead," was all Shareen could say.

"Yeah, I know.  I'm so sorry Shareen.  I've been tryin' to call ya since Sunday.  Why didn't ya answer me?" Rose asked her.

Tess had also called at Shareen's and with both her mum and Ken out, she'd had to tell Tess Rose was there that night but her friend had not said anything about seeing what had happened.

"So Shareen," Tess had said to her after breaking the news to Pippa's parents and now not in the mood for the run-around from neighbours.  "Are you sure you never saw anything on Saturday night?  I've been given information you weren't alone that night so you may as well tell me."

Shareen was furious.  She should have known that Rose was watching after she'd fallen asleep again and her friend had lied.  She'd not answered Rose because she suspected and Ken had said Rose needn't be involved but she was.

"I've no idea what you're talking about, DS Henchard.  Yeah, my friend was down from London, we had a lot to drink instead of going across the road.  Who knows what the silly cow saw?"

After that, Tess had gone back, started a new notebook and thought nothing else of what Rose had said she'd seen that night, if the two of them had been drinking.

"I thought we were friends," Rose was now telling Shareen after she'd told Rose she hated her for saying she'd seen something that night and not told her.

"Friends?  Friends tell each other everything Rose and that woman detective had to tell me you said you saw something across the street that night."

"I thought it was nothing," Rose replied.  "Now I know what it was," she continued, not mentioning she'd seen who she now wondered was Lee or not carrying Pippa.

When she thought about it, she'd not actually seen Lee before, she'd gone on Shareen's description of him but the woman going in had lived there and she must have been Claire, surely?  Now she didn't know what to think.

"Don't try to contact me again Rose, I mean it.  Lisa's still missing and now I have to go to Pippa's funeral and don't you dare turn up for it either," Shareen warned her.

With that, Rose heard her hang up and put her phone on the glass coffee table.

"She's fallen out with me, just because I didn't tell her what I saw," Rose told her mother and Mickey.  "All the time we've been friends, she's mad because she didn't see what I saw.  How could she?"

"Maybe it's for the best?" her mother offered while Mickey tried to console Rose.

"Forget it Rose," Mickey advised her.  "If she's spoken to the police and admitted you were there, they'd have rung you by now."

"Mickey's right," Jackie agreed.  "If she said you'd been drinking and had as much as she'd had, they're not likely to believe ya now."

"I've lost my friend Mum and now I have to live with what I saw that night and only you two believe me.  You do believe me, both of you?" Rose asked, seeing the looks on their faces.

"You have to admit it's a bit far-fetched Rose," Mickey grinned when she shoved him away.  "It's like that vampire film when no-one believed what that kid said about his neighbour being a vampire."

"Great Mickey, that's a big help," Rose told him.

All her mother could say was, "Is that the original or the remake with that Scottish actor Rose likes?"

Chapter 5
A/N I have limited knowledge of how they would have treated Alec at the doctor's and the hospital so I will keep it to a minimum.

Two days later, Ricky Gillespie having been warned to stop calling the station constantly and that when they had some news about Lisa, he'd get to know, he turned up asking for Alec.

"You keep shutting me off when I call," he told Tess and Alec in an interview room, a less formal one.

"You have to let us do our jobs," Alec told him, feeling worse than the day before but not saying anything.

He planned on sneaking off early under some false pretence and go visit his family practitioner later in the afternoon, telling those who were bothered he was following a lead.  That covered a multitude of questions anyone had.

It turned out Ricky wasn't as calm as he'd appeared, banging his fist on the low table.

"That's all I get out of you Hardy.  Tess, tell me anything?" he asked her, since she'd been spending a lot of time at the house and trying to stop Cate from tipping over the edge.

"Sorry Ricky, I wish I had something other than what you already know," Tess told him sympathetically.  "We have a lot of leads to follow since the appeal, it takes time to go through them, to make sure they're genuine."

She half thought about the woman opposite and her friend who had been drinking but she now didn't consider them as 'credible' as the woman's friend could have seen anything.  She didn't want to ask Ricky if he'd been involved with what was thought to have occurred, since he swore he was at the wedding and Cate had vouched for him.  She also wasn't going to ask him in front of Alec, he seemed to bring the worst out in young Pippa's father.

"Are you calling round later?" Ricky asked, getting up.

"Tell Cate I'll call on my way home," Tess assured him.

Alec looked at her, she was getting too personally involved with this.  When Ricky left, he told her so.

"Well someone has to keep them up to date," Tess huffed.

"Well do it on police time, not in your own or they will expect it all the time.  Is your sister still going to have Daisy after school?" he asked, getting up.

"Yes, since you spend more time here than I do, are you calling for her?" Tess asked.

"No, you go collect her, she hardly spoke to me last night," Alec replied, thinking back to the uncomfortable ride home where Daisy hadn't said a word.

"That's because she wants to go straight home, not walk home with her friends who live in the same street as my sister," Tess replied.

"I have somewhere to go later, a lead I got earlier," Alec decided to admit, to see if he could get away with it.  "I'll come back here then try to be home early."

Tess laughed.  "If you say so Alec."

"I had Daisy home for seven last night," Alec replied.

"Only because she rang me and asked when someone was collecting her," Tess told him.

"So why did you send me?" Alec wanted to know.

Tess didn't say anything, she had been talking to Dave and complaining about Alec.

Alec left just after four to go to the surgery near home, wondering if he should go home afterwards but there was still a pile of witness statements to go through that had been passed for him to approve to follow up, not that Tess couldn't do it.  He decided he would go back just to see if Tess left early to see the Gillespies or if she'd wait until later.

"So Alec," his friend and doctor spoke to him as he indicated for Alec to fasten his shirt.  "That heartbeat of yours is a wee bit of a concern.  You say it's been like that since they pulled you out of the river the other day?  Just try and rest over the weekend and see if it calms down," he advised.

"I can't.  Can you give me something for it?" Alec asked, pulling his still knotted tie over his head, not that he ever fastened it properly, causing Daisy to laugh when she was younger, now she called him other names.

"Well, you have early indications of heart arrhythmia Alec, that's not going to help," his friend told him in a stronger Scottish accent than Alec himself had.

"Is that serious?" Alec tried to joke, putting his jacket on and ignoring his phone buzzing, since it was probably Tess.

"It can be.  I'll write a letter for the hospital, just go to emergency and they will see you, you won't need an appointment.  Don't leave it Alec, it'll only get worse.  I won't put a date on the letter, just my concern that I want a second opinion.  I'd get the nurse to put you on the heart-rate monitor but she's left for the day.  Here," he told Alec after scribbling some notes that Alec hoped the hospital could read.  "Don't leave it too long," his friend smiled, knowing what Alec could be like.

Alec took the sheet of paper, folded it and put it in his inside jacket pocket.

"I take it you don't want Tess to know?" his friend smiled.

"What do you think?" Alec tried to joke but his sense of humour was almost non-existent lately.  "So what caused it?"

"Well getting pulled out of the river for a start.  You should have got yourself checked out."

"I couldn't, there was too much to do," Alec replied, wondering if it was worth going back to the station.

It would be quiet at home until Tess got back with Daisy but when she did, it wouldn't help his newly discovered condition.  He had a decision to make and soon.  Take medical advice or let Tess walk all over him for a quiet life – some choice but depending on what he was advised, he could live with it until the case was solved, maybe it wasn't that bad?

He soon found out how bad it was the following morning when Tess said she was taking the weekend off and he said that one of them should show their face so he used the time to present the letter at the hospital's emergency department desk then saw the current waiting time was over an hour.

"I was assured I would not have to wait," Alec pointed out to the over-worked receptionist who was trying to decipher his friend's writing.

"You won't Mr Hardy but we only have so many specialists on duty but a nurse will be with you shortly to take your vitals and put you on a monitor, just take a seat," she told him.

He was about to get a drink when he saw a sign for no eating or drinking prior to being seen so he had to do without, hoping he wouldn't be long and Tess didn't ask anyone at the station if he was in or not.  She wouldn't bother until at least lunchtime, she and Daisy had taken to going shopping on Saturday mornings and even a murder investigation wouldn't stop the pair of them.

As he waited, he thought back over the last hectic week, wondering how things could turn so sour in a short space of time and two families had been ripped apart as there were still no leads on the older missing teenager, whose birthday was coming up and she was either hiding or had been abducted and no-one knew which it was.  Her own family had been no help at all since she'd distanced herself from her father recently and spent more time with her cousin's family.

He was interrupted from his thoughts by his name being called, getting a few looks as he walked past people but he didn't care – they were probably not there for the same reason as his friend had pointed out, his irregular heartbeat could be anything and could be life-threatening but he had things to do and this wasn't going to stop him.

He was walking out two hours later, getting some heart medication and being given the news he would benefit from having a pacemaker fitted at the earliest possible time or he could get worse.

"I can fit you in next week," the cardiologist had told him, typing on his keyboard.

"Am I that bad?" Alec asked.

"The medication will only help if you take it on a regular basis and in your line of work I understand that may be difficult.  I know who you are Alec."

"Great.  I'll think about it but if the medication can get me through this investigation, then I'll stay on it for now," Alec replied.

The specialist shook his head as Alec got up.  "Don't leave it too long, you have a high-pressure job."

Alec thought maybe the man was over-reacting.  As soon as he got a grip on this case, he'd get himself sorted, how long could it take?  If he'd only known Tess had vital information and had thought to share it, the case would have been halfway solved.

Rose had tried to put the incident to the back of her mind, there was nothing else she could do.  Shareen was no longer her friend, she'd tried to get the police to believe her but no-one had even phoned back asking her any more questions so she could only conclude Shareen had claimed they'd both drunk too much that night and she wasn't a reliable witness.  Not only that, her mother and Mickey didn't seem to think going on about it would do any good so she'd not even got anyone to talk to about it.

So Mickey had decided to try to cheer her up and dragged her to the pub on Saturday night and she'd let him when he assured her his team wasn't one of the matches shown on the TV highlights.

"Come on Rose, try and get over it," Mickey tried to encourage her as she sat looking at her drink.

"If we hadn't been drinking last Saturday night, I might have been believed," she told him sadly.  "If we'd gone across the street, maybe those two girls would have been okay."

"You don't know about Lisa," Mickey reminded her.  "She could have run off, remember when you went to Shareen's and you two went off?  Your mum was frantic."

"I know but we both came back, Pippa's not coming back," Rose replied.  "Where was she being taken at that time of night?"

The police, on Alec's orders had not revealed how Pippa had been found so as to not add any speculation so Rose thought she could have maybe done something.

"If we'd been there, maybe nothing would have happened to her," Rose continued.

"Get over it Rose, there's nothing else you can do," Mickey told her.  "Come on, drink up, it's your round," he grinned. 

Rose kicked his leg under the table and reluctantly took a drink, not really being in the mood but she'd not been the week before and now she had to carry the guilt around that she could have prevented what happened and Lisa wouldn't still be missing but what got her the most was losing her friend, the friend who she had made on her first day at school.  

It had not only affected two families, it had brought a lifetime friendship to an end because she and Shareen had shared everything and now Shareen didn't believe she was sorry she hadn't told her.

Over the following weeks, Ricky started causing more trouble, forever trying to put the blame on the neighbours by saying they should have noticed something going on if the two girls had gone out.  Tess was trying to get Cate to admit Ricky wasn't with her all that Saturday night, forgetting she'd got that idea from a not so reliable source but Cate was too embarrassed their marriage was breaking down to the point Ricky had moved out.

"Did you know?" Alec asked Tess as Ricky had informed them of his change of address.

"No but Cate said he spent more time at work, like someone else I know," Tess replied as she sat opposite him in his office.

"Don't bring that into this Tess," Alec reminded her as he was also on the verge of calling it a day or go for the surgery the hospital had reminded him to get, thankfully by text and not letter.  "Right, I want you to have a go at Claire Ashworth."

"Me?" Tess scoffed.  "You might have more luck with her, if you tidied yourself up, you look like that American detective on TV."

"This is not a fashion contest Tess," Alec reminded her, thinking he only did it just to annoy her.  "It seems to me they know more then they are letting on so here is what we will do."

Try as they may, the more they questioned the Ashworth's the more Lee got annoyed and Ricky demanded something was done about his neighbour as he'd told Tess he was convinced now it was him.  The weeks turned into months, Lee had been brought it several times for questioning and Alec had repeatedly put off his surgery and moved out into a one-bedroomed apartment to avoid even more stress with arguing day and night with who was soon to be his ex wife.

Then they finally got a breakthrough.  It was going stale, Alec knew it and this was their chance to prove Lee had something to do with the events and reluctantly the chief had to agree to let Pippa be returned for a funeral as nothing would be gained by delaying it further.

Ricky had argued again with Alec on the day, telling Alec he had a nerve to turn up.

"My daughter's her age, we are doing our best for you," Alec had told him as the small coffin was being put carefully in the back of the Hearst.

"I have nothing more to say to you, stay away from the house, Cate's upset enough," Ricky had warned him.

Then Alec had noticed Claire hiding behind the crowd and approached her.

"Want to change your story?" he asked her as Tess was busy talking to someone.

"Why?  Why don't you just leave Lee alone?" Claire asked him.  

"Maybe because the way he reacts makes me suspicious," Alec replied, wishing he could take his pills.

He knew they weren't doing as well as they should, his friend had warned him several weeks ago they weren't an excuse not to have the pacemaker.

"If you think I'm going to betray my husband, that's never going to happen," Claire replied.

Alec shook his head and went to shake Cate's hand.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.  

Alec thought if he'd not pushed the chief, they wouldn't have been there.

So several weeks went by and now they were preparing to go search a car that Lee had just sold after an alert was put out to hold it.

"Where did the information come from?" Alec asked, trying not to grimace from the stitches in his chest from the operation two days previously.

"I told you Alec, I put an alert out for anything he sold, we still have to find that pendant and I was taking no chances," Tess replied, wondering why he'd been so calm lately and where he'd disappeared to a few afternoons ago.

They successfully retrieved the missing pendant of Pippa's, Alec ordering that Lee be brought in for questioning when they got back as he'd been in custody for several weeks and had been let out again on police bail but had moved into a bedsit.  That small victory was about to be spoiled as Tess met Dave at a nearby hotel.

After they had both been chewed out the next morning by the chief, who threatened to demote the pair of them if they didn't get it back and stop bickering with each other about whose fault it had been, they were now arguing in his office, hoping no-one would tell.

"I'm not taking the blame for you Tess," Alec was telling her.  "There must be something else we can get him on."

"We tried, what is it with you?  If this gets out at the trial, we've nothing and it's only a week away," Tess replied.

"Oh, it will get out at the trial, his bloody solicitor will make a point of it.  See if we can get it put back for a few weeks."

"You are kidding?" Tess asked him.  "On what grounds?"

"On the other evidence we have on him, that Claire admitted she went out that night and didn't get home until late," Alec reminded her.

"Well she wouldn't have done that if I'd not convinced her," Tess replied.

There was a knock on the door and Alec shouted for the person to go away.

"Really Alec," Tess told him, getting up.  "What is it Andy?" she asked the DC, who was always timid around Alec with being newly promoted and been warned about the DI.

"Sir, Ma'am, there's a Claire Ripley at reception needs to speak to both of you urgently."

"Take her to the interview room," Tess told him.  "Coming Alec?"

Alec got up reluctantly.  All he needed was for Ashworth's estranged wife to change her mind about that night.

They sat across the table from Claire.

"So, you two are getting divorced?" Claire commented.  "Now you know how it feels like.  I've thought it over, I can't testify against Lee."

"Claire, you said you were scared he'd find out, he won't," Tess reminded her.

"I know what he'll do if he finds out and I'm pregnant, I've been hiding it.  Don't say you never noticed Tess?" Claire grinned, Tess noticing now the woman was wearing lose clothing.  "I need him."

"It doesn't work like that Claire," Alec told her.  "You can't just revoke your testimony like that, a young girl died, a young girl you knew well."

"I know but I'm not standing up in court, I'm not risking it if he gets off," Claire told them, crossing her arms on the table.  "Say what you like so you'd better release him."

"We can't just release him on your say-so Claire," Alec told her.  "Where were you last night?"

Tess looked at him.

"What?  I was in all night, where else would I have been?  Ask Cate, she knocked on the wall to tell me to turn the TV down, those builders should have built thicker walls."

Alec had to let it go, he'd no proof she had broken into Tess's car but he was going to find out by asking Cate if she did tell her to turn the TV volume down.

"So what are we going to do now?" Tess asked him when Claire had left.

"Find something else.  Go back and see if we missed anything or we missed interviewing someone.  Think Tess, has everyone been seen again?"

He was glad that now they'd begun divorce proceedings they could at least work with each other, even if Daisy was taking her mother's side but he could win her back when this was finally over.

"Well, there may be one thing," Tess admitted.  "I'll meet you in your office, I have to find an old notebook of mine.  There was that neighbour across the street, remember?"

"Yes, I seem to remember you said it was more my field of expertise interviewing women.  Go on, what about her?"

"Well I took her statement but I went back to see her, the day we found Pippa.  I'd had a phone call a few days before from someone who claimed she'd been staying there on the Saturday night and saw something."

"What?" Alec shouted.  "You never thought this was important?  What is wrong with you?"

"The woman said the pair of them had been drinking so I dismissed it as not a credible statement," Tess replied, seeing he was getting angry, something he'd not done for a long time.

"Well go interview the neighbour again and find this person who called you.  Does she live locally?" Alec asked.

"No, it was after you put that appeal out, she lives in London," Tess admitted.

"Well get that notebook and give me the number, why have you not said?" he asked, not quite believing it but was he clasping at straws if it depended on two women who'd had a few drinks the night Pippa and Lisa had gone missing?  "So, do you remember her name?"

"Which one?" Tess asked him, not remembering.

"The one in London.  Get the details now and be in my office in ten minutes, I have now got to go to the chief and tell him we missed something," Alec replied, glad his newly fitted pacemaker seemed to be doing its job.  "No, actually, I'm going to tell him you failed to follow it up and never brought it to my attention," he added.

"Don't do that Alec," Tess asked him.  "You've changed lately, what is it about you?"

"How would you have noticed?" he replied.  "You were too busy with Dave and as for me changing, you could say I finally saw what was going on under my nose but the main reason is that I came to my senses."

Chapter 6
Rose was on her break at the department store, playing with her phone and debating if she should finally delete Shareen's number from her contacts.  She'd not been able to bring herself to do so, in case her friend, well her ex friend decided to forgive her for not sharing.

It had been months since that night, standing at the window and watching who she believed was Lee carry Pippa out to the car and not coming back with her.  It still haunted her she could have done something about it but that woman detective had more or less decided not to follow up on the claim she had seen something and so she'd gone and left that bit out, for fear as her mother and Mickey had pointed out numerous times they either thought she'd made the whole thing up or they'd charge her with obstructing a police enquiry.

She'd given up trying to talk to Mickey about it on the few occasions he'd dragged her out, one being her birthday, which hadn't been the same without Shareen being there.

Tess had found her notebook in the back of a deep drawer and had to accept the fact she had to share the information, even though at the time she'd dismissed it.  The same notebook contained Shareen Costello's details and she supposed Alec would want those too.

"Here, the details are at the back of this," Tess handed the open notebook to him as he put his glasses on, the new rimless ones he'd got after he'd moved out.

She still hated the fact he always had one days beard growth, like he was trying to make himself look different just because they were getting a divorce.  She wondered if he was secretly seeing someone and that accounted for the change?

"Right, you try and see if the woman opposite remembers anything odd about that day," he told Tess.  "Anything at all and in future, I will decide who is a credible witness or not.  Were you having some kind of contest with me?"  

He saw the look on her face as he looked up from copying Rose's mobile number.

"Well you sent me to interview her Alec, I made a decision not to follow it after she concurred the two of them had a few drinks that night," Tess tried to explain.

"Maybe the neighbour had?" Alec asked.  "Her friend however could have been completely sober and seen everything that went on that night.  Did it never occur to you?"

"Don't take the moral high ground with me Alec, I'm the one who still comforts Cate by telling her we won't give up on Lisa," Tess hissed at him.

"Oh, right, so I'm the bad guy who does not care?" he asked as he picked up his desk phone.  "Go find the neighbour and get her in for an interview."

"You don't trust me to do it?" Tess asked as she took her notebook back.

"What do you think?" he replied as he waited for Rose to answer, not knowing if she worked or not.

Rose jumped as her phone buzzed in her hand.  No-one called her during the day, well apart from the 'Unknown Number' and 'Private' that were a dead giveaway they were either trying to sell something or get you to make a claim.

"Hello?" Rose answered warily as she noticed it was a blocked number but thought she'd have the satisfaction of telling the caller not to bother her again.

"Miss Tyler?" a Scottish male voice asked her.  "This is DI Hardy from the Sandbrook police."

"Oh.  You're the detective in charge of Pippa's murder?" she asked, knowing she had to go back on the shop floor in five minutes.

"Yes and I have just been passed your details that say you saw something the night she and her cousin disappeared.  Can I ask you some questions?"

"Well sorry, I'm at work, just finishing my break.  Is it about what I talked to the other detective about months ago?" Rose asked, thinking about time.

"Well yes, can I call you back?" he asked, knowing that not everyone was always free to talk.

"Yeah, I'm home for six or is that too late?" Rose replied, going to her locker.  "I really have to go now or my manager will go mad."

"Yes, sorry," Alec apologised, something he didn't do much of recently.  "I will call back after six.   Just one thing, you know a Shareen Costello?"

"I used to, we fell out," Rose admitted, knowing she didn't have time to nip to the ladies and would have to sneak off later.

"Sorry to hear that.  We'll talk later, thanks for your time," Alec replied.

"Yeah, I'd almost given up," Rose had to admit.  "I'll wait for your call then?"

Alec agreed and let her go, seeing Tess was about to leave.  He opened his office door.

"I'm calling her back later, she's at work.  Where's the statement you wrote from your phone conversation with her?" he asked.

"I didn't write one, I told you, I stopped when she admitted she and her friend were drinking earlier," Tess had to confess.

"What is it with you?  We asked for information, she could have seen everything that night and you thought it was not relevant?" he asked, not believing it after all this time.

"You would have thought the same Alec, don't have a go at me," Tess replied, everyone looking at them.  "Do you want me to visit the neighbour or not?"

"Yes, go.  See what happened and get a proper statement this time.  Did you get one before?" he asked.

"Yes, it's written out somewhere," Tess replied, wanting to get out just to get away from him now he was in a mood.

"Was it passed for another interview?  I don't remember seeing one, all the neighbours saw nothing, though I find that hard to believe, someone must have been looking out of a window."

"There was, the woman you just rang," Tess reminded him.

"Well did she see the whole thing?" he wanted to know since Tess had taken her notebook back.

"Some of it.  She just saw two men who could have been Lee Ashworth and Ricky Gillespie carry something out to a van."

"What?" Alec erupted.  "What are you playing at?  Did you not think that was important enough to follow up?"

"We'll discuss this when I get back Alec," Tess tried to get out of it, wondering if she'd made a mistake.  "It was probably Lee Ashworth and a friend doing some illegal tipping on the spare ground.  Cate said Ricky was with her all night."

"Really?  How would she know?  Her statement said she'd had a lot to drink yet you believe her and not believe a possible eye-witness?" Alec wanted to know.  "What else did she say?"

"Get her to tell you when you call her back," Tess suggested.  "I suppose you'll be late finishing again?  When are you coming round to see Daisy?"

Alec knew everyone in the office had known of their impending divorce and thought the chief would have moved one of them off the case but they had started it together.

"Stop using her as an excuse Tess.  That witness could hold the key to this and you were going to hold her back.  I hope you're pleased?" he asked.

Tess huffed something under her breath and got her shoulder bag.  "Come on Andy," she told the DC from earlier.

Alec followed her out to go see the chief, who if he'd not been mad about losing evidence, he was certainly mad now.

"She did what?" the chief asked when Alec told him Tess had withheld a possible witness.

"She dismissed it because the woman, who lives in London and her friend had a few drinks that night.  I've sent her to bring the neighbour in to answer a few questions and I'm calling the possible witness back later, she was at work," Alec told him.

"Well make sure you're present during the interview," the chief told him.  "What was she thinking not making this known?  Did she just forget about it?"

"Something like that.  She obviously was wanting to take the credit if something came of it but made the decision to not follow up, which was not hers to make.  I've already chewed her out for it."

"I should hope so.  I know it's not ideal you two still working together Alec but you both have to see this through.  Tess made friends with Cate Gillespie?" the chief asked.

"Yes and she took Cate's word Ricky was with her all night yet she did not believe a woman who said she saw two men, one who could have been Ricky take something out of Ashworth's house that night.  You know we've been trying to get Claire to change her story she was with her husband all that night?" Alec asked him, wishing now he'd made Tess leave her old notebook.  "Well she came in earlier and said she won't do it so we don't even have that now."

"Well get Tess onto her, I don't want Claire making a complaint against you Alec.  So this witness in London was only talked to once?"

"Apparently, Tess never followed up and the woman, a Rose Tyler said she thought we'd forgotten about her.  She must have called in after the appeal when we found Pippa," Alec suggested.

"She could have seen even more, we have to talk to her urgently.  Try and find out where she works and have them get her to call us back."

"She was on her break but she may have her phone with her at lunchtime, I'll try again but she'll be with other people, it's not ideal," Alec replied.  "She may be reluctant to say everything over the phone.  Will you let me arrange to have her brought down here?" Alec asked, thinking as long as Tess wasn't there or she'd think the worse.

"You mean pay her expenses?" the chief asked, knowing they'd already gone over-budget and the investigation was on the verge of collapse.

"Well it would only involve refunding the train fare, if she got here mid morning it wouldn't take more than a few hours," Alec replied.

"Yes then, if it gets the full story and we can prove both Ashworth and Ricky Gillespie were putting something in a van but I thought Cate Gillespie said he was with her all night?"

"So she said and yet Tess believed her over a possible witness.  I think Tess intended to get more information and get one up on me then when she found out they'd both been drinking, decided she wasn't going to look foolish," Alec theorised.

"Maybe Alec but if this witness saw the whole thing, how reliable do you think she is?" the chief asked.

Alec shook his head.  "About as reliable as Cate Gillespie but there again, her friend whom she stayed with may not have been counting and she could have drunk a lot less.  I want to see what she knows before asking her to come down, since Tess may have stopped the phone interview at the words 'a few drinks'."

"Did she actually tell you she herself had been drinking?" the chief asked.

"I don't know, since Tess never actually wrote out a statement.  The woman could have been completely clear headed, Tess must have got that from the neighbour.  I bet anything that Tess was going to use it to get one up on me, went to see the neighbour again, she told Tess she'd been drinking and Tess assumed they both had," Alec suggested.

"Well maybe not any drinks but if her friend was drinking?  She may I suppose have just had one to be sociable?" 

Alec bet that was the case and Tess had wasted all this time.

"I'll try her again and if she does not answer, I'll give her my work mobile number, the charges for the information line may be expensive on mobile networks.  I've sent Tess to bring the neighbour back," Alec told him, wondering if he'd already mentioned that.

Tess was just arriving at Shareen's house when an older man was coming out and she saw an older woman in the doorway.  She didn't remember exactly what the woman's mother looked like but she remembered the man who had been there.

"Excuse me?" Tess called across.  "Do you live there?"

"Yes, what of it?" the man asked, unlocking the car door as Tess crossed the street.

"I was looking for Shareen Costello," Tess replied, having gone through her old notebook again.  "Does she live there?"

"No, the last owner moved about a month ago, my wife and I just bought the house.  Were you a friend of theirs?" the man asked, looking at Andy in the driver's seat.

Tess didn't think it wise to say she was investigating a murder and a potential witness had stayed there several months ago.

"No, it's no matter, I'll find where she's moved to," Tess replied instead.  "Don't let me keep you."

"Waste of time Ma'am?" Andy asked her as she got back in the car.

She felt like saying no, her soon ex husband had got the better of her.  It meant more work trying to find where Shareen had moved to since she didn't know the name of her mother's boyfriend.

"I'm going to see how Mrs Gillespie is, you wait here," she told Andy. 

She went to knock on Cate's door, now hoping Alec wouldn't go upsetting her by suggesting Ricky may not have been with her all night.

"I wasn't expecting you Tess," Cate told her as she let her in.  "What brings you round?"

Tess's visits had got rarer as time went on.

"I was in the area," Tess started to tell her.  "Cate, we've had some new leads, we're very hopeful."

"Like you can finally lock those two up next door," Cate nodded to the wall between the houses.  "I had to throw something at the wall last night, don't know why she has the TV on so loud when she's on her own."

"Did she turn it down?" Tess asked.  

"Not until half an hour later," Cate replied, filling her glass and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.

It got Tess wondering but maybe Claire was just being spiteful and ignoring Cate on purpose?  It didn't mean she was responsible for the break-in at her car last night.  Maybe she should tell Alec, she was sure he was going to see the chief about the other matter.

Tess was about to leave.  "Cate, I know you always said Ricky was with you all that night but could he have left at any point?" she asked, hoping to catch Ricky out.

"How can you ask me that Tess?  We know who's responsible, you've had him in enough times," Cate replied.  "So what are these new leads?"

"Sorry Cate, I can't tell you that but we're hoping we'll have something positive very soon," Tess told her.

Alec was trying Rose's mobile again, leaving a message with his work mobile number and keeping it simple.

"Miss Tyler, this is DI Hardy again, it's very urgent I talk to you, can you please call me back?" he asked, reeling of the number.  

He hoped she'd check her phone at lunchtime, we'll she'd be updating her social profile if nothing else.  Rose went to her locker to get her purse and meant to try and find out if there had been any more developments in Pippa's murder since the lead detective wanted to talk to her.  She went up in the lift to the staff canteen, getting her meal and sitting with some of the other girls.

"What's wrong with you Rose?" one of the woman asked her.

"Nothing, why?" Rose replied.

"You look like you've seen a ghost or the past has come back to haunt ya," Alice teased her, making the others laugh.

Rose got up.  "Yeah, something like that," she grinned and went off to a quiet corner to check her email.  

She noticed she had a missed call and a message and since the detective had called her earlier she decided to play the message after seeing the number was missing.  She waited for an answer though she was going to spend the rest of her lunch hour seeking information about the case.

Alec looked at his work mobile as an unknown number came up and hoped it was Rose calling him back.

"Yes?" he asked cautiously in case it wasn't her but normally he would have answered with a 'What?'

"Yeah, it's Rose Tyler, you left a message?"

"Yes," he replied grabbing his notebook and pen.  "Do you have time to talk?" he asked hopefully.

"What about then?  I told that other detective and no-one ever called me back.  I tried again when Pippa was found but I couldn't get through," Rose told him.

"Did you not keep trying?" he asked, wondering why she'd given up so easily.

Rose thought about it.  Would she get into trouble for withholding information?

"My mum said I should forget about it and someone would have called back if what I'd told ya had been important," Rose defended herself.

"Well things have changed Miss Tyler, I am very interested in what you have to say but I can understand your reluctance.  Did you tell DS Henchard everything you saw that night?" he asked her.

"Well, not quite everything," Rose admitted.  "Will I get into trouble for not telling her the rest?"

"Absolutely not," Alec replied, thinking Tess hadn't been so clever after all.  "Can you come down to tell us all that happened that night?  We will pay your train fare," he offered.

"Well it's my day off tomorrow, I can come down.  Will it take long?" she asked.

"Hopefully not, it should only take a few hours of your time.  Maybe you could try and make up with your friend?" he suggested.  "What happened exactly?"

"She didn't like it when I didn't wake her to see what was going on opposite that night," Rose replied, looking at her friends who were all laughing at something.

"Why would you not want someone else to see what was going on?" he wondered out loud, thinking she may have nothing much more to say.

"Because she'd had twice as much to drink as I had, I only had about two half glasses of sherry, I hate the stuff, ask my mum.  She has to force it down me at Christmas," Rose told him, sure she'd already told the other detective that.

That did it for Alec, Tess had made a gross misjudgement of the woman he was talking to.

"Do you know where the police station is?" he asked.

"I'm not sure, I've only been there once.  My visit was supposed to be for us to catch up, I never thought I'd be a witness in an…"  she stopped before she said murder investigation.

"Well I look forward to you telling us what else you saw Miss Tyler.  The station is easy to find, just ask anyone, it's beside the town hall.  Just ask for me at the desk when you arrive then I'll get personnel to refund the train fare.  Until tomorrow then."

"Yeah, I'll be there but what about what I told the other detective?  Why are you suddenly interested?"

Alec couldn't admit they were about to see the case fall apart.

"We are going over some old leads, your details came up," he replied, not sure if he should say Tess had screwed up big time.

Chapter 7
Rose hung up, not believing someone was finally taking notice of her but the other detective had obviously never even written anything down other than her name and phone number.  More importantly, it had come to the attention of the detective in charge and she felt her stomach do back flips.

"Something wrong Rose?" one of the girls asked as she sat there staring at her phone.

Rose shook her head.  "No Natalie, I'm fine, just had an important phone call."

"Shareen?" Natalie asked her, Rose having told her friends they'd lost touch instead of saying Shareen had fallen out with her.

"No, still no luck with that," Rose tried to smile.

She thought about calling her mother but decided to leave it.  Alec had ended the call and thought Rose sounded nervous but it was hardly surprising after all this time when she'd been ignored just because Tess was being spiteful.  He saw Tess come back and called her into his office.

"The potential witness is coming down tomorrow," he told her as Tess leaned on the door.  "So, where's the neighbour?"

"She moved away," Tess had to admit.

"What?" Alec erupted, getting him stared at – again.  "Why was she never followed up Tess?  We have two possible eyewitnesses and now we have lost one of them.  Find out where she went."

"That could be awkward Alec," Tess replied.  "Although we have her name, she lived with her mother and her mother's boyfriend, he was never interviewed so we don't have his name."

Alec sat back in his chair, wiping his hands over his face and shaking his head.

"This is unbelievable.  You screwed up big time Tess.  We're running out of time, we can't keep holding Ashworth if we have nothing new and he'll go crying to his solicitor he wants compensation.  Get people onto it and find the neighbour and I promise you Tess, if Ashworth gets off because of your mistakes, you will go down on your own, understand?" he asked her, thinking he'd be a fool to take the fall with her.  "Then find out from the new occupants who they bought the house from," he added.

"I tried, they had no idea where they went to.  I'll go back and try again but they were on their way out," Tess replied.

"Then ask some of the other neighbours, ask Cate if you have to but don't tell her why," Alec told her.  "You were overstepping your authority by dismissing that witness.  No-one goes without another check from now on, I'll decide who gets let go.  You had better hope this Rose Tyler can give us enough to apply for another extension on Ashworth's custody and have another go at Claire, see if you can get her to change her mind."

Tess had to agree to go see Claire but didn't hold out much hope of getting her to change her mind.

"Oh, I called to see Cate while I was there.  She confirmed Claire had the TV on loud last night, she said it was half an hour before Claire finally turned it down," Tess told him.

"Half an hour?" Alec questioned.  "Half an hour would be all she needed to break into your car Tess."

"You're grasping at straws Alec," Tess replied.  "Why would she break into my car?"

"Come on Tess, she comes in and says she's no longer going to turn on him?  Get a search warrant and go find that pendant, then we'll have something on both of them.  That with the witness's statement when she arrives tomorrow will be enough to take it to court."

"You're wasting your time Alec.  If Claire stole the pendant, she'll have got rid of it, I'm not sure you're right it was her," Tess told him.

"Who else would it be?  Get that warrant and we will see and get someone finding that neighbour.  When you get the warrant, I'll come with you."

He picked up his desk phone and called the chief.

"You think Claire stole the evidence?" the chief asked him.  "Does Tess agree with you?"

"I am no longer concerned with what she thinks," Alec replied.  "The neighbour whom the witness stayed with has left the estate, I've got Tess finding out where she went.  When I spoke with the witness, she said they had fallen out over that night so she has no idea where the woman went.  She probably doesn't even know her friend has moved.  I also think Claire Ashworth broke into Tess's car last night, considering she told us she won't turn on her husband."

"It's a big risk searching the house again Alec," the chief warned him.  "We don't have a lot of time to keep Ashworth locked up.  So what about the witness, has she agreed to give a statement?"

"Yes, she will be here tomorrow sometime, I'll interview her but under the circumstances, I'll take someone else with me.  If we recover the pendant, we'll have Claire as an accomplice if nothing else but when I spoke to Rose Tyler, she seems to have even more to tell us, since Tess cut the phone interview short."

"Well let's hope she saw Claire involved with it then," the chief suggested.

Rose got home and had to break the news to her mother someone finally wanted to talk to her about what happened in Sandbrook that night.

"Rose, are you sure you still want to tell them?" her mother asked her.

"I have to Mum, I know it's been a long time but I can't walk away from this now.  It was the lead detective who called me and he seemed pretty annoyed no-one had followed up before now.  He said it'll only take a few hours.  Maybe I can go see if Shareen will talk to me?" Rose replied.

"Do ya want me to come?" her mother asked as they ate.

"No, I'll be fine.  He offered to give me the train fare back though, which I never expected," Rose admitted.

"They must be desperate then?" her mother asked.  "Well don't let them trick you Rose, I mean into saying something you didn't see."

"Mum, I know what I saw, how can I ever forget it?" she asked.

Tess and Alec finally arrived at the rented house of Claire and Lee Ashworth to find no-one at home.

"Go around the back," Alec ordered one of the uniformed officers.  "She may be just trying to avoid us."

"No, she's not," Tess told him, looking down the street and seeing Claire just coming around the corner.

"Well don't let her get away," Alec told another officer as Claire stood where she was.

Claire was 'Escorted' back to her house.

"What do you want?" Claire asked defiantly.

Tess held out the search warrant but Alec already thought she'd had time to get rid of the evidence, if she had stolen it.

"Why don't you just leave us alone?" Claire asked as she opened the front door.

"Just make it easy for yourself," Alec told her.  "Tell us where the pendant is."

Claire let out a laugh.  "What pendant?"

"You already know Claire," Tess replied.

"I know nothing about a pendant.  Oh, you mean the one Pippa used to wear?" Claire asked.  "Wasn't she wearing it when you found her?"

Alec thought Claire believed she was being clever.  After a thorough search, Alec was told there was no sign of the evidence bag or the pendant.

"Finished?" Claire asked, sitting at the kitchen table and Alec glaring at her.  "Now get out."

Once outside, Tess reminded him she'd said it was a waste of time.

"She's hidden it somewhere Tess, why do you think she was out?" Alec asked her.

Tess turned as Cate's door opened.

"Following your new leads?" Cate asked Tess, Alec thinking she seemed worse for wear.

"Coming to see Daisy?" Tess asked as they got in her car.

Alec wondered how she always seemed to drag their daughter into everything.

The next morning, Rose was up early after getting the train times and was once again on her way to Sandbrook, having thought she'd never go near the place again.  She'd got a separate receipt for the ticket, getting her a funny look from the cashier in the ticket office after queuing rather than go to the machine.

Alec was wondering how Claire had managed to dispose of the evidence, he was now convinced it had been her but if all went well with the new witness, he'd have enough on her to get her as an accomplice with or without the pendant.  He heard a knock on his door and Tess let herself in, holding an envelope.

"You found the evidence?" Alec asked hopefully, taking his glasses off.

"No, my copy of the divorce papers, they were sent here for some reason.  Last chance if you want to convince me to come back to you," Tess taunted him.

"Really?" Alec asked.  "With Dave still hanging around?  I don't think so Tess but I'll be civil for Daisy's sake, not yours."

"Suit yourself Alec, don't say I never asked.  What time will that witness be here?" Tess asked him.

"I'm interviewing her, not you," Alec reminded her.  "You should stay out of it."

"I contacted her, remember?" Tess replied.

"Yes and you almost let her get away.  She's not likely to talk with you there, is she?" he asked, getting a empty folder from the drawer and some interview sheets.  "I'll take one of the other DS's with me."

Rose's train had arrived and she went to the information office to ask where the police station was.  Following the directions, she stopped in front of the building, already losing her nerve and telling herself she had to do this to get justice for Pippa and help find Lisa because two men, one the girl's father were still free. 

She really didn't know how she'd kept it to herself all this time, she would have gone crazy if she'd not confided in her mother and Mickey, who was still trying to get her to start going out with him again after she turned one of the office staff's cousins down again.  She'd seen Donna Noble's geeky cousin in the gent's department, looking at ties and he'd stopped her and asked her opinion after they'd been introduced once at the Christmas party.

She'd pointed to the one he had in his left hand and made a hasty retreat.  Now she thought about it, this detective she was on her way to see bore a slight resemblance to John Noble.  She went inside the building and walked up to the desk just after twelve thirty and hoped the detective had not gone for his lunch or she'd have to wait.

"Yes Miss, can I help you?" the overworked desk sergeant asked her.

"Yeah, I'm here to see DI Hardy, about a witness statement," Rose replied quietly.

"Right then, take a seat and I'll let him know you're here.  You are?" he asked.

"Rose Tyler," she replied, wondering how many other witnesses they were expecting to walk in off the street when the detective had seemed desperate.

She saw the sergeant pick up the phone and went to take a seat.

"Tell her I will be right down," Alec told the sergeant, waving one of the DS's over, the name having escaped him since a lot of new ones had started.

As he walked downstairs, the DS asked him what it was about.

"A new witness came forward recently, she's travelled down from London so I want you to make sure she gets her train fare reimbursed.  What was your name again?" Alec asked.

"Jenkins, Sir.  Tim Jenkins.  I'll see to it before she leaves," the tall DS replied.

"Yes, you do that.  Actually, she's not a new witness as such, she was somehow missed out during the second round of interviews," Alec admitted, thinking why should he defend his almost ex wife?

"How was she missed out?" Jenkins wanted to know.  "Did someone mess up?  I wasn't here then Sir."

"No, you probably weren't," Alec replied dryly.  "A lot of officers got moved off the case, I wish a certain other DS had also been moved but it never happened."

"You mean DS Henchard?" Jenkins grinned.  "I heard you two used to be married, it must be difficult having to work with her still?"

"You have no idea," Alec told him, opening the door to the reception area and seeing a blonde playing with her phone.

Rose had text her mother to say she was waiting to be seen.  She looked up when Alec stood in front of her after the desk sergeant nodded in her direction.

"Miss Tyler?" Alec asked, holding his hand out.

Rose got up, slipping her phone in her jeans pocket.

"Yeah, hi, that's me," she tried to laugh, shaking his hand.

"Don't be nervous, we'll talk first before you give a formal statement," Alec assured her.  "This way.  Jenkins, get Miss Tyler some tea or coffee."

"Thanks, tea's fine, just milk," Rose looked across at Jenkins, who looked as nervous as she felt.

Alec settled her in an informal interview room and put his folder down.

"Is that what I told the other detective?" Rose dared ask as he got a pen out of his jacket pocket

"No, I wanted to get your statement from scratch," Alec replied, wondering why he was defending Tess's decision not to put anything on paper.

"I got the impression she never even wrote anything down," Rose admitted.

"What makes you say that?" he asked her.

"She stopped when I said me and my friend had a few drinks that night.  So why have you asked me down here?"

"May I call you Rose?" he asked, trying to put her at ease.  Rose nodded.  "Rose, whatever the other detective thought, that is not the case with me.  I would like you to start from the beginning of that day, anything to do with Lisa and Pippa and anyone connected to them that you saw or heard.  I'm going to record this to make it easier for later, is that okay?"

Rose nodded again just as Jenkins came in with her drink.

"Take your time Rose," Alec assured her as she put the drink down.  "When did you arrive at your friend's house?"

"I got the Friday off and she met me at the station.  I was gonna stay until Sunday night but I left early 'cos my mum called and said there were rail disruptions.  Shareen, my friend told me about the neighbours opposite, that she was always being invited over for barbecues and if they were having a few drinks but only to Lee and Claire's, she said the other neighbour didn't like her much."

"So she knew them well?" Alec asked, thinking now he was one up on Tess.

"Well from what she said.  I'd not seen her for a few years, since she moved here so we were catching up.  We stayed in on Friday night just talking, her mum was a friend of my mum's so she wanted all the gossip."

"So did you meet any of the neighbours?" Alec asked, watching her take a drink.

"Not exactly, while I was waiting for Shareen coming out of the bathroom the next morning, I saw two people standing outside, they got into a taxi.  They were outside what my friend had said was where Pippa lived.  They looked like they were arguing, he looked totally pissed off and got in the front of the taxi."

Alec raised his eyebrows.  So the Gillespie's had been in a bad mood before the wedding.  Maybe Lisa had run away after all?

"Go on, please take your time," Alec encouraged her, getting a funny look from Jenkins that said he was being too friendly, considering he was almost divorced.

"We went off into town and when we came back, Shareen waved to who she said was Lisa and Pippa, Pippa was on her bike.  It was after one, I don't know the exact time," Rose continued.  "She said we'd go over to Lee and Claire's later and that Lisa had mentioned her aunt and uncle were off to a wedding.  I never thought any more about it."

"So you never spoke to either them or the neighbours?" Alec asked, wondering where this was going.

"Well no, not really.  We were about to go across the road but there was a noise outside and Ken, Shareen's mother's boyfriend went to see what it was."

"This Ken, do you know his surname?" Alec asked hopefully.

"No, sorry, he never said and I really wasn't that bothered.  Is it important?" Rose asked.

"No, please, carry on," Alec encouraged her, hoping this really was going somewhere other than her seeing Ricky and Cate arguing and that all had not been well before Pippa had died.

"He came back in and said someone was hanging around and we shouldn't bother going out.  He said it was someone called Gary, I think."

That was more than a coincidence, Alec was thinking, since the name had cropped up before.

"So you and your friends had a few drinks?" he had to ask.

"Well Shareen and her mother did, I told ya already I hate sherry, I was only taking a few sips at a time.  Ken was drinking lager but he never offered me any," Rose replied.  "Shareen was getting a bit giddy, going on about Lee, the man opposite, saying he was funny and other things."

"Such as?" Alec wanted to know.

"I got the impression she and Lisa fancied him though she never actually admitted it in so many words," Rose replied.  "She said he was a bit of a dish," she admitted, feeling herself going red.  "She also said he liked to flirt.  She said Lisa was probably already there but she'd also said Lisa was looking after Pippa so I assumed they were both there.  Anyway, when we got to Shareen's room I was looking out of the window."

Now Alec thought they were finally getting to what happened that night as Rose took another drink.

"What did you see Rose?" he asked her.

Rose sat back, looking to Alec like she didn't think he was going to believe her.

"Anything you tell us Rose is strictly confidential but it's crucial you leave nothing out.  Tell us what happened."

Chapter 8
Alec could see the young woman looked nervous and he was trying his best to put her at ease.

"Take your time.  Would you prefer I got a female officer to interview you?" he offered.

Rose shook her head.  "You mean the one who didn't believe me?" she asked.  "No but how do I know you'll believe me?"

Alec leaned forward.  "Rose, I will be honest with you.  This investigation has been going on a long time, we have a suspect in custody but we need you to confirm we have the right person.  Can you do that for us?" he asked her.

Rose nodded.  "Yeah.  That other detective, I didn't tell her what else I saw that night.  She asked me why I didn't report two men carrying something out to a van but it could've been anything and I'd have looked like an idiot for wasting police time."

"No, it would not have been a waste Rose but I understand how you can think that.  So what happened while you were standing at the window that night?" Alec asked her.

"I saw a woman go in, Shareen was still awake, I asked her what Claire looked like," Rose began to tell him.  "She said Claire had long brown hair and though it was dark, the woman had long dark hair and she let herself in so it was safe to assume it was her.  I also asked her about Ricky and Cate, she said they were always arguing and I told her I'd seen them that morning."

"Good.  So Claire went into the house, what time was that?" he asked, since Claire still insisted she was in that night and she'd lied.

"After ten.  She told me a bit about Lisa and they both fancied Lee and that Lee and Claire sometimes used to take Pippa to school."

That was news to Alec.  "Did they now?" he asked, making a note.

He was beginning to get a completely different picture and that the Gillespies trusted their neighbours with their daughter.  He now had serious doubts Claire was wholly innocent.

"So, you saw Claire go in the house?  Did you see Lisa and Pippa go in?" he asked.

"No, it was late though, I assumed Pippa was in bed but Shareen teased me about staying at the window 'cos I wanted to see what Lee looked like but I wasn't that interested."

She didn't want to say she wasn't interested in married men – full stop.

"Oh, Shareen did say Lisa and Pippa may have gone round even if Claire was out," she added.

Alec knew there had been more than what everyone was telling the police and now, they'd lost someone who could verify the Ashworths and the Gillespies were good friends before Pippa was killed.  Well Tess had better find this friend of the woman now talking to him.

Rose picked up her cup, the contents now cooling.

"Why don't we take a break Sir?" Jenkins suggested.  "Shall I take Miss Tyler to the staff canteen?"

"I will take her, you go see if DS Henchard is back yet and take Miss Tyler's ticket and get the money for it.  Did you get a receipt?" Alec asked Rose.

Rose went in her shoulder bag and into her purse, bringing the extra ticket out that acted as a receipt.  She handed it to the other man.

"Be back here in half an hour or so and don't hand any money over in the canteen, others could take it the wrong way," Alec ordered him.

Tess had gone back to the house where Shareen used to live and knocked on the door.  A woman answered it.

"You were here yesterday," the woman observed, then saw Tess was holding ID in her hand.

"I'm DS Henchard from Sandbrook police.  May I come in and ask a few question?" Tess replied.

Twenty minutes later, after she was offered tea and biscuits, she was no nearer finding out where the young woman who lived there had gone, since the Morgan's, the present owners had bought the house through an agents and paid cash from their retirement fund.

"What about mail, do you get any for them?" Tess asked hopefully, in case they'd not got around to giving it back and the man's name may be on one of them.

The man shook his head.  "No, they must have had it redirected.  Sorry we can't help.  Is this to do with what happened a while ago?  We heard about it and those two women opposite, well we've hardly seen them, like they keep to themselves."

"We were round asking questions when it happened, we're just following up," was all Tess would admit.

As she left, she now wondered why the previous owner had been in such a hurry to move and maybe they all knew more than they'd let on at the time.  She now regretted not interviewing the man and Alec had the statements from the two Costello women, not that they'd been much use.  She was sure Alec would get out of the other witness that she herself had ended the phone interview suddenly but alarm bells always rang when witnesses admitted they'd been drinking.

Alec had sat Rose down at a table in a corner and Rose had said she'd have whatever he was getting so as not to be awkward, since she bet he'd go for the special.  No-one was paying any attention to her, thankfully.  It hadn't been as bad as she'd thought but now, they were getting to the crunch - the part where she finally had to admit she'd seen who she now knew for certain was Lee.

"Was the train journey pleasant?" Alec asked, at a loss of what to talk about with a witness, in public.

"Yeah, it wasn't that busy really, I must've missed the morning rush," Rose smiled, trying not to look conspicuous that she could be responsible for finally getting Pippa's killer locked up.  "Did ya say ya had someone in custody?"

"Yes, we do but time is running out to keep the suspect there.  Whatever you have to tell us could give us cause to extend that time to investigate further.  Depending on what else you have to say, you may have to come back or do it over the phone, which is not ideal," Alec replied.  "Would your workplace object if you gave us their number so we can contact you?"

"I'm not sure but they have a no personal calls policy except emergencies.  My mum thought that was for me to call and get some shopping on the way home," Rose grinned.

Alec could only imagine.  "Then I'll have someone call and say you are helping us with our enquiries and we may need to contact you urgently.  Most places are willing to co-operate with us in such cases," he assured her.

"This food's really good, thanks," Rose tried to change the subject.

"I don't normally eat in, they must be trying to impress me today," Alec smiled, something he didn't do much of these days.

"You should come in more often then," Rose smiled back.  "Thanks for going easy on me with the interview.  I'd almost given up and my mum and my ex kept telling me if I came forward now, I'd get into trouble.  Will it take much longer?  Only I thought I'd try and see if my friend was at home and try to talk to her.  Not that admitting I've been talking to the police would help."

Now Alec was certain Rose had no idea her friend had moved.

"You would be wasting your time Rose, she's no longer at that address.  Did you not know she had moved?" he asked, wondering if she was going to ask for the dessert.

"No, I told ya, we fell out.  It was horrible, I've known her since I was a kid and just because I never told her what I saw.  She said a detective asked her if she'd seen the same that night."

Alec just knew that had been Tess and her less than tactful interviewing skills.

Rose continued.  "She yelled down the phone at me, saying she shouldn't have heard it from the police."

"She told us you had both been drinking that night.  The detective assumed you both had a lot to drink and I'm sorry, she should not have assumed that," Alec apologised.  "I know that was not the case with you.  I can get you an apology from the detective concerned."

Rose smiled.  "You know who it was then?" she asked, playing with the napkin.

"Can I get you something else?" he offered.

"Mmm, the special dessert's rather tempting," Rose replied, seeing it was her favourite.

Alec smiled back and went off to order, seeing Tess come into the canteen.

"Why are you eating here Alec?" Tess asked him, cutting in front of someone who was taking his time.

"I brought Miss Tyler for something to eat, since she's had a long train journey.  Any luck finding her friend?" he asked as he took a bowl from the hotplate and poured some custard on top of the apple pie, Tess watching him.

"So she doesn't know where her friend went then?" Tess asked, getting her own plate handed to her by the server when she indicated what she wanted.

"She'd not spoken to her for a while, they fell out over her not telling what she'd seen that night.  You made a big mistake Tess, she has plenty more to tell us."

Tess looked around to see who the possible candidate was, then spotted Rose with her phone as she was texting her mother.

"I might have known she'd be blonde," Tess muttered to herself as Alec paid for the dessert.  "You should introduce us Alec," she suggested.

"Why, when you put her off coming forward?" Alec replied, collecting a spoon from the cutlery tray.  "This could have all been over Tess and I'm holding you responsible for it not being."

He went off towards Rose, Tess deciding to leave him to it, the woman probably hadn't remembered that much.

"Thanks," Rose greeted him as he put the dish down.  "Watching your figure?" she grinned when he'd not brought any for himself.

"Something like that," he joked.

"Was that her, the detective who I spoke to?" she asked him as Tess had found a seat at another table.

"Unfortunately yes.  She's also my almost ex wife," Alec replied as he watched Rose eating. 

Why did he have to tell her that, he asked himself.

"So why after all this time do you want to know what I saw?" Rose asked again.  "Oh, I get it, she never told you about me, did she?"

"Honestly?  No, she failed to mention it because she spoke to your friend and decided not to follow up.  It all came up recently, after something happened.  Excuse me a moment, I'll be right back."

He went across to Tess, who was complaining to those who were listening about her almost ex husband.

"I mean," Tess had been saying.  "He drags someone all the way down from London to interview them, how desperate is that?" she asked, not daring to mention any names.

"Tess, a word," Alec asked her as he approached.

"We should get back to work," one of the women told her, nudging her friend.

Alec sat opposite.  "Did you follow up on Claire?" he asked, since he'd told her to pay a visit at the same time as the neighbours opposite.

"She wasn't in," Tess replied, since she'd forgotten about it.  "What's the point anyway?  If she's been lying all this time?  You still think she took the pendant, don't you?"

"Yes, I do and when Miss Tyler over there has finished telling me what she saw, which includes Claire going into her house around ten that night, I'd say we have plenty to ask her, don't you?"

"She could have seen anyone Alec," Tess told him.  "It was late at night, she'd had a drink."

"Sips of two half glasses of sherry, I'd not count that as drinking.  Call her mother to confirm she doesn't like sherry if you don't believe it," Alec offered.

"She told you that?" Tess asked, seeing Rose push the dish away and look across.

"She told me on the phone and she knows why you never followed up.  Are you going back to see if Claire wants to change her story?" he asked her.  "No, leave it for now, I'll see what else Rose Tyler has to say then we'll bring Claire in for questioning but under no circumstances are you to tell her we have a new witness.  Understand?"

"You can't keep your new witness under wraps Alec," Tess told him  "You'd better get back to interviewing her then before she changes her mind."

"She wanted to go see her friend so I had to tell her that she'd moved away, she was surprised," Alec admitted.

"I find that hard to believe somehow," Tess replied.  "They fell out over it?"

"Yes, she seems upset over it.  Get on with finding out where she went, I want to talk to all of them and find that Gary Thorpe, she said her friend's step-dad or whatever he is saw him running off that night."

"He's already been questioned twice Alec," she reminded him.  "He admitted he was waiting for Lisa so maybe she never went out until someone chased him off?  Several people complained about him hanging around before that night."

"Well I want to see him again, Lisa could have been the reason he ran off," Alec surmised.

"Well no-one else admitted they'd chased him off that night, maybe it was Lee Ashworth, if the girls did go to his house.  Your witness saw that?" Tess asked him, a smile on her face that told him she was trying to be clever.

"I will find out when I continue the interview, won't I?" Alec asked, not wanting her to think she was right.

Jenkins had seen Alec talking to his soon to be ex wife and had joined Rose, Alec scowling across the canteen.

"How are you doing Rose?" he asked.  "I have your train fare for you, don't go without it, will you?"

"I'm not likely to.  So have you worked with him long?" she nodded towards Alec, who acknowledged her with a nod back.

"No, I've not been here long, a lot of officers got moved around off the case.  Those two were married, they don't get along very well.  Seems she well and truly got him riled over you.  It's getting to everyone, not knowing what happened to Lisa but he seems to be taking it personally."

"Well at least he's taking me seriously, which is more than she did," Rose replied as Alec got up.  "Guess it's back to grilling me then?" she tried to joke.

Once back in the interview room, Rose was hoping it wasn't going to take much longer as she had to think about getting home.

"Right, shall we continue?" Alec asked when Rose got her train fare back and she'd given her work number, reluctantly.  "What made you stay at the window when who you believe was Claire went inside?"

"I don't know.  I told Shareen it was because it was different to where I lived.  On the estate, there's always some drunks going home or some noise or other.  She went quiet so I thought she'd gone to sleep when I saw Pippa's dad come out of their house."

"What?" Alec asked, trying not to alarm her.  "Are you sure Rose?"

"Well yeah, it was the same man who got in the taxi that morning but I didn't see him arrive, he could have been there a while or got there when I turned to talk to Shareen.  I assumed he'd gone to check on Pippa so then I thought they'd been there all night.  I wish we'd gone over there now."

"If you had Rose, maybe nothing would have changed, if the girl's were not actually there," Alec told her.  "Are you sure your friend said they were staying at the wedding overnight?"

"Yeah, that's why Lisa was there but I just thought he or her mum had got worried but when he came out, I didn't see where he went.  I expected the two girls to come out but they didn't.  I was gonna give up and go to bed but then a van pulled up."

"How much later was that?" Alec asked, thinking it could have been Ricky coming back.

"Not long but I couldn't see if it was the same man or not.  Whoever it was, they were about the same size but I only saw the back of him.  Then I saw Lee follow the man out carrying what looked like a dust sheet rolled up, the van was partly blocking them."

"You clearly saw Lee?" Alec wanted to be certain.  "You never met him though?"

"Well no but since his wife went in and he came out and Pippa's dad had just left, I don't need to be a detective to work out it was him," Rose replied sarcastically.  "Sorry, this is getting me all wound up after all this time."

"No need to apologise Rose, it's understandable.  Go on.  Did you get the van registration?" he asked hopefully.

"No, sorry but it might have had an EX in it and it was under a lamp, it could have been dark blue or black maybe?  The other man was wearing overalls though and I thought Lee had called a mate to help him dump some old lino or whatever.  That's why I didn't report it.  If word got back, they could have made it difficult for Shareen.  Crikey, do ya think they moved because they thought Lee would say something if they talked?"

Alec thought that indeed could be the reason.

"Possibly but in that case, they may have known someone else was there.  If as you say Lisa saw you with your friend, she could have told him the neighbour had company that night."

"Well I hope Shareen never gave her my name then," Rose said worriedly.  "Anyway.  Just the man in the overalls got in the van and drove down the street."

Alec was about to turn the recorder off to send it for a transcript when she looked at him.

"I ain't finished yet, are we having another break?" she asked.

"No, please, carry on," Alec replied, glancing at Jenkins, who was making notes while Alec was just crossing things off.

Things were not adding up in his mind, Claire's statement she'd been in all night for one, Ricky Gillespie not saying he'd been back, even if it was to check on the two girls but why would he, if he trusted Lee and Claire to take Pippa to school?  Why though didn't this friend of Rose's get on with Cate and more importantly, why get Lisa to babysit when they could have left her next door?

No, things were not as they had appeared to be and he looked across at Rose and could judge she still had things to tell him.

"What happened after whoever it was drove off Rose?" Alec asked her.

He knew Ricky had a van but had never seen it.  It was possible he'd walked off to get it, his business wasn't far away.

"Ya have to promise me you'll find Shareen," Rose told him.  "What if they think she'd witnessed everything?"

"Don't worry about them, I have people looking for them but you could be wrong Rose.  What else did you see?"

"Lee went back inside, I saw who I thought was Claire inside then a few minutes later, she came out.  She went to the car at the side of the house and reversed it out, Lee was standing in the doorway.  They both went back inside."

Alec thought now she was grasping at every detail but so far, he had enough to bring both Claire and Ricky in for questioning, just as long as Rose's name wasn't mentioned.

"What did they do then Rose?" Alec asked.  Is that all you saw?"

Rose laughed nervously.  "I wish.  Now I regret even being there 'cos I can't get it out of my mind that I did nothing."

"Rose, you are doing something, isn't she Jenkins?" he asked the other man, making him jump at Alec remembering his name since he'd asked earlier.

Jenkins nodded.  Alec leaned forward.

"You don't get it do ya?" Rose asked.  "I could have done something and I didn't.  I should have woken Shareen, called the police but I didn't because I didn't realise what was happening until I saw it on the news the night I called the other detective.  I've had to live with this for months."

"Calm down Rose," Alec said quietly.  "You saw two men dumping something, you were not to know what it was at the time but what I don't get is why you are so worried I would think you had been withholding something.  Yes, Pippa's father came back and possibly drove the van but we have no reason to think he had anything to do with their disappearance."

"Well ya should," Rose declared boldly.

Alec put his notepad and pen down.

"Then tell me something more Rose," he replied.  "Or did you give up watching after that?"

"I knew you wouldn't believe me.  I thought that all I was doing was watching the weird neighbours until Lee came back out and he was carrying Pippa."

Now she had Alec's attention.

Chapter 9
"I think this would be a good time to make this a formal interview." Alec declared.  "Jenkins, are you taking notes?"

"Yes Sir," Jenkins replied, wondering why the DI wasn't.  "Do you want me to take what we have so far and get it transcribed?"

"No, it can wait.  Miss Tyler, I know you have to think about getting home but please be assured, we will make sure you are returned safely or offer you some accommodation overnight.  If you have to stay, someone will call your workplace and explain.  It that okay with you?"

Rose nodded, a bit surprised but she supposed anything she now had to say was being taken very seriously and had to be checked out.

"Okay.  Up until this point, another man came out and he drove away in a van," Alec recalled.  "Then a woman, who had been described to you as Claire Ashworth backed a car out.  What did she do after that?"

"She opened the back door and he came out, carrying the girl, Pippa.  I'd seen her earlier in the day so I knew it was her," Rose replied.  "He got in the car and drove off down the street after the woman threw the keys to him.  I don't know where it leads, I've not been around there."

"That's fine, don't worry about that," Alec told her, since he knew where Pippa had been taken but no details had been released except she'd been found in the woods.  "Did the girl look awake, asleep?" Alec wondered, since nothing had been established so far.

"I thought she was asleep.  Her arm was dangling, it looked like she was wearing pyjamas but she was still.  I thought maybe she was sick and he was taking her to the hospital after her dad had gone.  Then the woman went back inside and my friend called out to me."

"Did you not tell her anything?" Alec asked her.

"You don't know her, she'd have laughed and told me not to be nosy and leave the neighbours alone.  I thought Lisa was maybe still inside and her and Claire were going to follow after calling Pippa's dad back.  When they didn't come out, I thought maybe Lee was taking Pippa to her parents, at the wedding hotel."

Alec knew Rose hadn't known at the time what she had witnessed.  "So, he drove off?  Did anyone else come out?"

"Yeah, the van came back, Claire came out and she made the man in the overalls get back in and they drove off down the street."

Alec knew Ricky had a building business, he would have a van and overalls for work but Rose hadn't seen the man's face for the van being in the way, which was a pity.

"Did you see any of the registration number?" Alec asked, Jenkins looking back in his notes.

"You said it looked like 'EX'," Jenkins reminded her.

"Did I?  It was difficult to tell, I thought at first it had been HX but now I think about it?  Anyway, I waited, even though I was tired and had a bit of a headache but the car came back and Lee got out on his own, there was no-one in the back.  He left the car on the street and went back inside.  Then a few minutes later, the van came back, Claire was driving."

That was news to Alec that Claire could even drive.

"They were talking for a while then the woman went next door and he drove off," Rose continued.

"Did she let herself in?" Alec asked, since Cate had told them the patio doors were open when they'd returned.

This was getting very interesting, Alec thought.  This shed a whole new light on what happened that night.  He just thought it was a shame Tess had screwed up and had waited so long to admit she'd dismissed this witness.  It seemed all three of them were up to something that night and were keeping each other's secrets.  What did they have on each other though?

"Well she went inside and I didn't see her come out.  I waited but I was tired so I just went to bed, well the camp bed or whatever.  It was quiet the next morning but as we got the bus into town, there was a police car heading that way, the bus driver waited to see where it was going up on the main road.  I told the other detective that."

Alec thought that was probably all Tess remembered, since Rose would have been sober the following morning, had she been drinking.

"You went home and heard it on the news the next day?" Alec asked, hoping he could get her to quickly sign the statement and escort her to the train station.

"My mum told me when I got home so I told her about what I'd seen and she said I should call the police.  I tried to tell the detective but as you already know, she didn't take me seriously," Rose recalled.

"Yes, I know and I'm very sorry for that," Alec told her again.  "We'll get this recording typed up then you can read it and sign it, then you can go.  If we have any questions, we'll call your work."

"Yeah, they'll just love that," Rose tried to joke.

"They will treat it seriously," Alec assured her.  "Who should we speak to about it?"

"You can ask for Miss Noble, she's in the personnel department.  I'd rather not tell the whole store I got involved with this," Rose replied.

"You mother knows everything?" Alec wanted to know.

"Yeah, so does my ex boyfriend, well most of it.  I'd have gone crazy keeping it to myself," Rose admitted.

Alec could only imagine.

"If you will just wait here Rose, I'll have a drink sent in and I'll leave you to write everything in your own words, just to make sure we got it right."

Alec looked at his watch.  It was just after two, she should have plenty of time to get home before the evening rush and now he had to get Ricky and Claire brought in for questioning, without revealing who had witnessed what had taken place that night.

Alec left Rose some statement sheets and went off to find Tess while Jenkins took the tape recording to be typed out and organise a drink for Rose.

"Tess, my office," Alec stood behind her.  "You should have taken notice of her," he told Tess when she'd closed the door.  "She saw Lee Ashworth carry young Pippa out to his car and if you'd not lost the pendant, we'd have enough to charge him with her murder.  Rose Tyler said Pippa looked like she was asleep so he either drugged her and killed her somewhere in the woods or she was already dead when he put her in the car.  I'm betting it was the second."

Alec thought that Tess was lost for words.

"What can I say Alec?" Tess asked him.  "You know my feeling of witnesses who mention the word 'drink' but why did she never call back?"

"She tried, when we found Pippa and couldn't get through, for all the cranks," Alec replied angrily.  "All this time Tess, it would have been over."

"Well would it have been over with Lisa?" Tess asked him.  "Did she see Lisa?"

"Only the day before but what worries me is what were the two of them carrying out to that van?" Alec replied.  "Have Claire Ashworth and Ricky Gillespie brought in, we have some questions for them.  I'll let Rose Tyler go for now, call her work and tell them we may have to call her but only speak to one person about it and the manager, if necessary.  I don't want her name getting back to either the Ashworth's or the Gillespies.  All four of them lied about that night."

Rose had finished writing out her statement, a WPC just outside, who went off when Alec came back.

"All done?" he asked as Rose was sat back.

"Yeah.  It was quicker writing it down than talking," Rose smiled.

"It always seems so," Alec agreed as Jenkins came back in.

Rose signed the typed statement and asked if she could leave.

"I'll take her to the train station," Jenkins offered.

"No, it's fine, I could do with a walk," Alec replied.  "Rose, we may have to ask you to come back to identify those you saw that night so if we do, do you agree to do so?"

"Yeah.  I'm still worried about my friend though.  Have you found her yet?" Rose asked Alec.

"When we do, I will tell her of your concern," he assured her.  "Have you tried calling her?"

"I deleted the number, her phone was always off so I assumed she'd changed the number," Rose replied, getting up.

"This way then," Alec gestured for her to go in front of him.  "Don't worry, if we get a confession, you won't have to identify anyone but if not, they won't see you, we will withhold your identity, even to any solicitors involved.  You will have to testify in court so I advise you look up someone to represent you."

"That'll be a bit expensive," Rose argued.  "How am I supposed to afford one?"

"I'll see if I can get the police to pay for it or you may be able to be represented by the prosecution.  If they confess, there may not be a trial," Alec replied as he led her to the front desk.

Tess was just checking on something and saw them.

"Miss Tyler," Tess addressed Rose.  "I'm sorry I didn't listen to what else you had to say."

Alec thought he was hearing things.

"Yeah, well good job someone did," Rose told her, making Alec crack half a smile.  "Can you take me to the station now, I've no idea when the next train is."

"There should be plenty going back to London," Alec tried to assure her.  "You said you left early that Sunday morning, had you remained, we would have interviewed you when we discovered the two girls were missing."

He directed that more at Tess than Rose and Tess knew it.

"Yeah, blame engineering works," Rose sighed.  "Why didn't you listen?" she asked Tess.  "I proved I was there."

"Never mind," Alec tried to usher her out, not wanting Tess to come out and tell Rose to her face it was because she didn't believe in potentially drunk witnesses.

He led Rose outside and towards his car.

"I'd rather walk," Rose objected.  "I've been sat down for ages and I'll be on the train, if I can get a seat."

"Sorry it took so long," Alec apologised.  "I also had to tell my chief about it."

When he'd sent Tess off, he'd called in to see the chief.

"So, she had plenty to say?" the chief had asked him.

"It seems so.  Tess screwed up big-time.  We have to keep her identity out of it, even if any solicitors insist, it has been done before," Alec told him.

"I agree Alec, if she witnessed everything that night and it gets out who she is, especially if somehow one or more of them talk their way out of it," the chief agreed.

Alec showed Rose a shorter route that took them to the side of the railway station and they stood looking at the departures board.

"That's not bad, another twenty minutes," Rose tried to smile.  "I'll let ya get back to work then?"

"Yes, Claire and Ricky should be on their way in, no doubt under protest," he half smiled and looking at his feet.  "Sure you will be okay?"

"I'll go get a drink and some chocolate, maybe something to read," Rose smiled back as she located the newsstand.

Alec followed her, like he was afraid to let her out of his sight until she got on the train.  Rose got what she wanted, Alec shaking his head that he didn’t want anything and Rose went to find a bench until her train arrived, since the platform was just through the barrier, Alec showing his ID to get through.

"Making sure I leave?" Rose laughed as he stood at the side of the bench.

"No-one will know who gave us the information, Rose," he promised her, giving in and sitting next to her.

Rose didn't even try to move up.  "Promise?" she asked.

"Only those who need to know.  You should tell your manager but they will probably already have been informed.  We'll make sure you don't lose your job."

"There was just one thing.  That car, it was still there the next morning," Rose told him.

"It was there when police arrived," Alec admitted as the train was announced.  "When I visited next door, Claire claimed we'd woken her up."

He knew now that was a lie, she'd been no more asleep that morning than he'd not seen what Tess was up to.

Rose got up as the train approached the platform.

"Thank you for coming forward Rose," Alec told her, holding out his hand.

Rose shook it, she couldn't help notice his hand was warm but didn't know why.

"Yeah, you've no idea how relieved I am," Rose tried to smile.  "Good luck getting them to talk."

He watched her let people off the train and she'd managed to get a window seat and waved to him.  He gave her a little wave back and heard the door alarm that the train was about to leave.  Why was she having such a big impact on him?  As the train set off, Rose giving another wave, he waited until the train was out of sight before moving off, finding he was the only person left except for the guard, who was giving him a funny look.  The man probably thought he'd been seeing off his girlfriend Alec supposed but he wanted to protect Rose now.

She was their one and only witness who'd seen what had gone on outside the two houses that night and he wanted to protect her at all costs.  Now, it was back to the police station and decide who was getting his attention first – Claire or Ricky.  No wonder Claire had changed her mind then, she had too much to lose by admitting she wasn't with Lee that night but he might get her talking if she'd not played that big a part in the whole thing.

Maybe she'd just helped cover it up but she was still an accessory to the events, if Pippa wasn't alive when Lee had brought her out.  He was expecting the new suspects to deny everything and Cate would never dare admit Ricky wasn't with her all night.  Now though, he had a very nasty suspicion about the mysterious item being taken out to that van and who was the accomplice.  Lisa was still missing, it didn't take being a detective to work that out and he had an idea Rose suspected it too.

All the way home, Rose went over things in her mind.  The more she thought about it, the more she convinced herself it had to have been Lisa wrapped up in the sheet and she'd hesitated at the time but it was probably already too late to have done anything.  If only that local stalker hadn't been hanging around, she and Shareen would have gone over but would they have got caught up in whatever had happened?

She wondered if there'd been some kind of argument and things had got out of hand but if Lee had turned nasty for some reason, she and Shareen might not have escaped.  Now, only Shareen knew she'd been standing at the window that night and she'd gone away, probably quite sensibly under the circumstances.  Shareen must have known word would get back to Lee she'd had a visitor and since Rose had been staring out of the window she'd seen something and Lee would go straight for her.

Rose knew Shareen had told Lisa about her and she hoped Lisa had not told Lee or if her name had been mentioned.  Well at least for now she wasn't needed but being asked back to identify three people was asking a lot.  She supposed the police had to be sure, since she'd admitted she'd never met any of them and had been going on how Shareen had described them.

Alec went back to the station, Tess waiting for him.

"So, are we both interviewing Ricky and Claire?" she asked him.  "I should have been with you earlier."

"Why?  She would never have talked to you," Alec replied.

"I'm surprised you don't want to interview Claire on your own," Tess scoffed.

"I'm not the one who was playing around Tess," Alec reminded her.

"You could have fooled me in the canteen," Tess scoffed.  "Couldn't she get her own food?"

"She was a guest Tess, she may have just saved this investigation," Alec replied, glad he'd had the pacemaker as he was fast losing his temper with her.

"She looked more than a guest to me, the way you were talking," Tess huffed.

"Why should you care?  Need I remind you that you chose to be with Dave?" he replied.  "I will be glad when the divorce is finalised but we have a case to finish so put the personal feelings aside.  You take Claire, I'll take Ricky."

Ricky Gillespie was protesting to Jenkins as he was led into the interview room Rose had been in.

"Why did you drag me out of my office?" Ricky wanted to know.

"DI Hardy wants to talk to you, as was explained to you," Jenkins told him.

"When are you going to lock Ashworth up properly?" Ricky then wanted to know.  "I know it was him who killed my little girl, tell Hardy to stop wasting time."

Alec opened the door, a file in his hand containing what Rose had just told them.

"Ricky, I have some more questions for you," Alec told him.

"Enough of the questions and charge Ashworth.  I have a business to run and Cate's in pieces," Ricky replied.

"On the night Lisa and Pippa disappeared, you claim you were at the wedding," Alec stated.

"How many more times?" Ricky asked him.  "I told you Cate had a lot to drink."

"Well that could mean a few things," Alec replied.  "You say she was out of it, so while she was asleep, did you go home?" Alec asked him.

"What?" Ricky laughed.  "You're having a laugh.  Why would I do that?"

"Maybe to pay a visit to your neighbours house?" Alec continued.

"What would I do that for?  What are you getting at?" Ricky asked, Alec watching his reaction.

It was hard to tell, Alec thought.  The man had all this time to perfect the grieving father look and although he'd seemed genuinely affected, was he hiding a secret?

"We have reason to believe after we received new information that you did pay the Ashworths a visit," Alec told him.

"Like I said, why would I be doing that?" Ricky wanted to know.  "If I'd had gone home, why wouldn't I go check on Pippa and Lisa?"

"Maybe they were next door?" Alec asked seeing how the man reacted.  "You have a van?  What colour is it?"

"Dark blue, why?" Ricky admitted.

"It was seen outside your house that night.  Do you have an explanation?" Alec wanted to know.

Tess was having just as much a hard time across the corridor with Claire, who had informed Tess she was going back to being called Claire Ripley.

"Well you've had Lee locked up long enough and everyone knows he's a suspect.  I have to get by," Claire had told Tess.

Tess had read Rose's statement, getting chewed out by the chief for almost letting Rose get away.  When he'd called her to his office, he'd not been kind to her.

"Really Tess, you made a rookie mistake in not taking Rose Tyler seriously.  That and the evidence going missing, from your car, we'll it's not looking good for you," the chief had told her.  "You'd better make up for it and give Alec your full co-operation in interviewing Ricky Gillespie and Claire Ashworth."

So Tess was trying her best but as usual, Claire was giving her the run-around and offered no explanation why as new information had been received, she'd been seen going into the house late that night.

"It's months ago," Claire protested.  "I don't know if I've been coming or going these last months.  Everyone stares at me when I go to work.  It's not easy when your husband's locked up.  So, how are you and Alec getting on?"

"That's none of your business Claire," Tess told her.  "Did you go out that night or not?"

"I may have nipped up to the shop across the other side of the main road at some point, we probably fancied a few drinks," Claire answered.

"Did you have any company?" Tess asked.

"No, just me and Lee, we fancied a quiet night, the neighbours were always coming in, especially that girl across the street.  Lisa was always bringing her over but she was looking after Pippa that night so we assumed they'd be doing their own thing," Claire replied.  "What's this about?  Do I need a solicitor?"

"I don't know Claire, do you?" Tess asked her.  "What about later?  Did you move your car?"

Claire laughed.  "Why would I do that?  Oh, hang on, I might have done, Lee was complaining I always drove it in so he had to reverse.  We might have argued over it so I think I took the keys in a huff and went to move it.  We made up later," she grinned.  "Then your husband was banging on the door loudly the next morning, he woke us up."

Tess thought well that tied up with what Alec had said at the time but so far, Rose Tyler could just have been seeing that and Lee and someone else moving some rubbish.  In Tess's mind, it was all circumstantial so far and the investigation was far from over.

Chapter 10
Alec had waited for an answer from Ricky, the man just shrugging his shoulders and telling Alec he didn't have to explain himself.

"I can't understand why you would not want to help put away the person or persons responsible for killing your daughter," Alec told him, closing the folder.  "If it were my daughter, I'd be doing everything I could to assist.  You keep on asking why Lee Ashworth hasn't been convicted but your hesitation tells me there's something else."

"Say want you like Hardy," Ricky spoke up.  "So I have a blue van, several people have access to the office, they could have easily got the keys for it."

"They all know Lee Ashworth?" Alec wanted to know.

"Some of them," Ricky replied laughingly.  "I told you, I was miles away at a wedding and I can prove it.  I did sneak out, to go see one of the bridesmaids.  There's no point in denying it now, it's over between me and Cate now.  I hear things aren't good with you and Tess, now you know how it feels."

Alec ignored him.  "So, now you say you were with one of the bridesmaids?  Really?  Does she have a name?" Alec asked, seeing Jenkins crack a smile as everyone knew Alec and Tess were just waiting for the papers.

"Tiffany something, you've probably already talked to her?" Ricky replied.  "I'm sure you've already checked we were actually there?  Can I go now?"

"For now but someone will be round to check your van," Alec replied, since now they had a reason to even though it was months ago.

"It's used all the time, what do you expect to find?" Ricky asked him.  "Anyway, why would I go help Ashworth move something late at night and leave a wedding?  Where did your information come from, a nosy neighbour?"

Alec had to let the man go, he did rather have a point that anyone could have used the van to help Ashworth move something that night, since Rose couldn't see a face.  He couldn't tell Ricky anything else without giving the game away.  He went off to find Tess to see how she'd got on with Claire.

"She's not giving him up Alec," Tess told him as they compared notes.  "She said she moved the car out into the street to stop him complaining.  I'll send someone back out when we've gone through the guest list from the wedding, since we know now he was with one of the bridesmaids, we know what to ask."

"Check with taxi companies in that area, see if Ricky called for one.  He would not give an explanation about the van or admit he went back home that night so if it wasn't him, who did Rose Tyler see?" Alec wondered.

"Well you wanted to believe her Alec," Tess reminded him.  "Say she hadn't been drinking much that night, she admits she was never introduced to any of them, it was all her friend's descriptions of them."

"Have someone find out where her friend went to, we need to talk to her," Alec ordered, not wanting to say Rose had been worried about her.  "She did say she saw him and Cate waiting outside their house that Saturday morning, that was how she recognised him later that night.  Why would she say that?  She said they looked like they were arguing over something so admittedly, she assumed it was them but who wouldn't?"

"Well maybe so but saying he came out of the Ashworth's house when she never saw him going in is a bit much," Tess replied.  

"Well she said she turned to talk to her friend Tess, we have to assume he did get a taxi and went to check on the two girls, even if he won't admit it.  Right, this is what I want doing."

Rose went back to work, waiting to be contacted.  Alec called her a few times when he had some questions for her, Rose having to admit to Donna the reason why she was getting called to take a phone call after she'd asked Alec if she could tell the personnel officer.

"Yes then, if you have to," Alec agreed two weeks later during his second call.  "We have a lot going on at present Rose, I just wanted to ask a couple of things, is that okay?"

"Yeah, go ahead," Rose told him, Donna having left her alone after saying Rose had better have a good reason why the detective in a murder case ninety odd miles away would keep calling.

"I want you to think carefully Rose.  Your friend, she confirmed Claire had long dark hair?"

"Yeah, I saw someone walk up to the house and stop, then went inside.  Shareen was still awake so I asked her while the woman was letting herself in," Rose replied.

That put paid to Tess's theory it may not have been Claire and that Lee was fooling around, which everyone thought was the case anyway, since Rose had said Shareen had told her she went to parties and barbecues just for her and Lisa to flirt with him.

"Just one more thing Rose," Alec continued.  "I'd like you to come down when you can and identify the three of them formally."

Rose had been dreading that since he'd mentioned it a few weeks ago.

"We'll have them in a line-up Rose, they won't be able to see you.  I know it was late at night but you have to do your best.  There will be others of a similar height and features, it's not to trick you but before we can proceed, we have to establish those are the three people you saw that night.  I know you can't identify the person who helped carry something to the van though."

"Yeah, sorry," Rose told him.  "I'll do my best though.  Is next Tuesday okay?"

"That's fine, get a receipt again and let me know what time you will be arriving.  Can you remember the way I showed you?  It's shorter than the other way," Alec asked her.

"Yeah, I'll try not to get lost," Rose smiled, seeing Donna looking at her through the glass door.  "Anything else?"

"Not for now.  Try not to be nervous about it.  It tends to put a lot of witnesses off but seeing them in person is better than looking at photos as you may have seen one or more of them from the side.  Just one more thing," Alec wanted to know.  "Pippa's parents, the two you saw waiting for a cab that Saturday morning.  They appeared to be arguing?"

"Yeah, they both looked totally pissed off with each other," Rose confirmed.  "I think he might have gone into his inside pocket but it was casually, like he was checking something."

"I'll make a note of that then.  Anything else you can remember from that weekend, it can all be added to your statement before it goes to court.  The only thing we can't add, well, it goes without saying but I have to tell you.  You can't say anything about how Pippa was carried out other than what was in your statement, you can't speculate if she was alive or not.  You also can't speculate about what was wrapped up in those sheets.  You understand?" he asked her.

"Yeah, I get it.  I wish I'd done something at that point, even after watching something being carried out," Rose admitted.

"Yes, I know Rose, a lot of people feel like that afterwards but the only consolation is, you can help get justice for her," he assured her.  "Thanks for your time Rose, don't worry about your job."

"Yeah, thanks.  Any news about my friend?" she asked him.

"No, I'm sorry Rose but while we can't find her, well if anyone thinks she may have seen something that night, it's taking the idea away there was someone else, which was you.  I know it doesn't help Rose but at present, it's best they don't know there is someone else," he told her.

"Well what about identifying them then?" Rose asked, getting worried Shareen would get accused of it.

"They will be asked to attend a line-up, they already know we have new information.  They will assume it was a neighbour and since they know your friend has moved, they won't necessarily assume it was her," Alec replied.

"Well maybe not at first but they'll start to think it was her, since she knew them," Rose pointed out.

"Hopefully, thinking it is her and her being untraceable will, if they get off, stop them going after her but Ricky and Claire are still free, if Ashworth is indeed guilty, he could get Claire to find out if it is her or not.  That could take a while though."

Rose just hoped he was right.  Donna came back in, wanting to know what was going on.

"Come on Rose, I get a phone call from police in Sandbrook, where those girls went missing?" Donna told her.  "You saw what happened?"

"It was late at night Donna, I'm not sure what exactly I did see.  I told the police, they seemed to think it was important all of a sudden," Rose admitted.

"Well they must have done," Donna told her.  "You need some time off then?"

"Not yet but I might do.  Promise you won't tell anyone?" Rose asked her.

All over the weekend, Rose was getting more nervous about having to pick out three people in a line-up so by Monday night, her mother was trying to convince her to either do it or call the whole thing off.

"I can't Mum I have to do this," Rose told her.

"Well you're making me nervous as well," her mother replied.  "Are they paying your train fare again?  Maybe I should come with ya?"

"I'll be fine Mum I won't be there that long.  I just wish they could find Shareen," Rose replied.

"That Shareen deserted you Rose, you seem to forget," Jackie reminded her.

"She might have got scared Mum," Rose defended her old friend.  "DI Hardy told me those who were involved may think she's the person they got their new information from but it's me.  How can I not be worried about her?"

The next morning, Rose set off early to get the 10.05 train that stopped in Sandbrook and sent a message to Alec's work phone she was on her way.  She was surprised to find him waiting for her just by the barrier.

"Hi, didn't expect to be met," Rose smiled at him.

"I thought we should talk first," he replied, not giving anything away.  "We'll just go here," he pointed to where she and Shareen had gone before all this had kicked off what seemed like ages ago now.

He bought a latte for Rose and a tea for himself and some sandwiches, Rose finding a table at the back.

"Is there something wrong?" Rose asked.

After he'd called Rose, they had tried to include Ricky as a suspect but all he'd admit was that he was with someone else that night and they had failed to find this 'Tiffany' though they were still working on it.

"Maybe?  Rose, we've tried to include the girl's father but he's not admitting he was even there.  The chief told me we have to rule him out of the investigation – sorry," he told her.

"I know it was him, Detective Inspector," Rose sighed.

"Please, call me Alec," he insisted, though he hated his name even more as Tess now used it, since he'd got his copy of the divorce papers and in less than six weeks, he'd be free.  "I know you believe it was him came out of the Ashworth's house that night but we have no proof.  He was asked about the van, he claimed several people have access to it."

Rose leaned back against the wall.  "Well that leaves the other two then?" she asked.

"I'm afraid so but Claire said she'd been out to the off-licence at some point, she could have been in earlier and you saw her returning," Alec told her.

"Well she didn't look like she was carrying anything to me," Rose replied.  "What about moving the car and him carrying…"  She stopped before she said something.  "Sorry.  You know what I mean?"

"Yes, I do Rose and we asked her and they both deny anything.  We told them we had new information, all they said was the informant got it wrong or confused them with someone else or got the night wrong," Alec replied.

He'd been dismayed when both of them had denied they had even seen Pippa that night, let alone carry her out and so far, it was two against one.  When it came to court, if it got that far, Rose's testimony would get cut to pieces, especially with Tess dismissing her at first after Rose admitted drinking, however little it had actually been.

Without her missing friend, the defence would make short work of her testimony.

"So you believe they think it was Shareen who saw them?" she asked, just to make certain.

"Yes so as I said, it's best we don't find her just yet.  I know you wanted any news of her, I'm sorry.  If they think it's her and they get off?" he told her.

"Yeah.  So, what do ya want me to do today?" Rose asked, finishing her drink.

"We have to establish it was Claire and Lee you saw that night.  Then we'll know if we can proceed.  So far, it's all circumstantial but if who we have in custody is the man you saw that night, then we have him and possibly her as an accessory.  So far, they have no idea it wasn't your friend.  We've agreed to keep your name out of it."

"Well that's something, I suppose?" Rose asked.  "So if the man you have and the man I was told was Lee aren't the same person?"

"Then neither you or your friend have anything to worry about and it all starts again," Alec admitted.  "We should have got you to identify him before but it takes time, I wanted to do it weeks ago," Alec told her.

"Well, can we get it over with?" Rose asked.  "If it's neither of them, I've wasted your time."

"No, you can still help Rose, don't think that," Alec assured her.  "We just have to resume looking for those responsible but I have every faith in you."  He reached across the table and touched her arm.  "Whether it was them or not, you saw what happened.  Who else could it have been?  They're both lying Rose, I know they are.  They're all hiding something, trust me."

"Well I have to prove it," Rose reminded him, not bothering his hand was still on her arm.

"Yes, we're asking a lot of you Rose, sorry," he apologised.

They went off to the police station, Alec taking her to his office whilst Lee was fetched and Claire was escorted there, her having moved out of the house next to Cate's.  Tess had gone to collect her and was having one last go.

"So, what's all this about?" Claire asked as they left the hostel Tess had referred her to.

"I can't say anything except we've been following new information," was all Tess would admit.

"The same information when you asked me if Lee went out to the car that night?" Claire asked her.  "What were you even asking us for?  I don't even know why you're still keeping him locked up."

No-one had said anything about the evidence going missing but Tess suspected they couldn't hide the fact much longer.  She just hoped the witness Alec had insisted appeared in person and whom he'd decided to 'escort' from the train station recognised them.  It was still all up in the air though, Ricky had somehow managed to squirm his way out of the investigation and they'd had no choice but to let him go but now, it all rested on one person to say they saw Pippa being put in a car that night.

Alec was just going through what Rose was required to do.

"There will be a line of men, all holding a number," he began to explain.  "You just have to say the number, ask them to step forward or turn to the side.  When you are sure you have the right person, just say.  The same goes for the women.  Do you understand Rose?"

Rose nodded.  "Yeah, I got it.  So, I can't be accused of singling someone out?  I mean the man you have in custody might not be the same person I saw?" she asked, just to clarify.

"That's right," Alec assured her.  "We'll go through once I get the call the men are in place, then the woman will go through but you won't be seen."

Alec's desk phone rang, Jenkins telling him they were ready.  Alec got up and opened the door for Rose, allowing her out first.

"There's nothing to worry about, just take your time," he told her, placing his hand on her shoulder and indicating where to go.

It seemed like ages to Rose as she stood behind the glass, after being told it was only one way.  Jenkins had instructed her further as he'd taken over the supervision of the line-up.

"Take a good look at each of them," Jenkins told her as she looked along the line of six men.  "What distance were you away that night?"

"Across the street," Rose reminded him.  "It was clear though and goodness knows why neither of them looked across, they looked up and down the street, well she did."

Alec was taking notes, making Jenkins smile.  Alec was keen to get the smallest details Rose may have forgotten to tell them up until now.

"Anything else you remember from that night?" Alec asked, doing that thing with his pen that Jenkins found amusing.

"Can ya ask number three to step forward?" Rose asked, Alec hoping she would say that was him, since it was Lee.

Jenkins asked him to stand forward, Lee taking his time.

"Yeah, that's him," Rose confirmed.  "I know my friend only described him but he's the one who carried something wrapped in a sheet with another man, then he came out a bit later carrying Pippa."

"If you go with DI Hardy, I'll have the women brought in," Jenkins told her.

Alec opened the other door and allowed her out first as Jenkins was telling the officer in the other room to wait until she'd gone.

"You can't tell me, can you?" Rose asked Alec as he told a WPC to get Rose a coffee.

"No, sorry Rose.  If I told you, it would have an effect on you identifying Claire.  Have a short break while they get organised, the man you pointed out will be detained," he told her, so as not to give away she'd been right by saying Lee would be questioned further.

Rose tried to look enthusiastic about doing a further identification.

"You're doing fine," Alec assured her as she finished her drink.  "Ready?"

"As I'll ever be.  Best get it over with then?"

Alec led the way, since she looked just as nervous as earlier.  Claire was standing around with the other women, two were police officers to make up the numbers but didn't look much like Claire apart from having long dark hair.  Jenkins had argued with Alec that since it had been dark and Rose had admitted she'd asked her friend what the Ashworths looked like, they were presuming a lot that it had actually been Claire.

Alec had sent Tess to get Claire and he'd just been about to go meet Rose off the train, a last minute decision, getting him a huff from Tess as he'd got his coat off the hook.

"Where are you going?" Tess had asked after Jenkins left.  "He's right you know Alec, we are assuming a lot from your witness."

"Oh, so suddenly Rose Tyler is my witness?" Alec asked, straightening his jacket collar.

"Well you took her over, got an ulterior motive?" she hinted.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he replied, checking his phone what time the train arrived and hoping it was on time.

"You know what I mean Alec," Tess told him as she left.

So now, Tess had left Claire with the other women and saw Alec approaching with Rose.

"Just wait in there Rose," he told her, opening the door.  "I'll be right in."

"Really Alec, she doesn't need special treatment," Tess told him.

"Do you want her to back out now?" he asked her as he pulled the door to.  "You know how much work has gone into this, if she's wrong, we have to start all over again and that's your fault Tess," he reminded her.  "You should not have sided with the chief over delaying the line-ups."

"I was trying to get Claire to admit something, you already know that," Tess defended herself.  "Your witness was watching from a window, at night.  I'd say if I'd got Claire to turn, she would be more reliable."

"Seriously?" Alec asked, raising his eyebrows.  "After she's lied to us several times?"

"Only because your witness claims she saw a woman go into the house, really Alec, it could have been anyone, she admitted her friend told her Lee likes to play around."

Alec wanted to add she knew all about playing around but now was not the time.

"Right now, I trust her more than I do Claire," he replied instead, opening the door.

"Something wrong?" Rose asked nervously, hoping it had been called off but that wouldn't solve anything.

Jenkins joined them, seeing Tess was in a mood, as she tended to be lately, even more so than when he'd first arrived so he'd assumed their divorce was about to be finalized. 

Alec had received his papers shortly after Tess had made a point of having them delivered to the police station and in four weeks or so, it would be official.  Rose followed Jenkins's instructions and after looking carefully, she ruled out three of the women and had asked the first woman to step forward again and then Claire.

"There is no rush, take your time," Alec reminded her, getting a look from Jenkins not to encourage her.

"They both look similar," Rose admitted, not knowing the first woman had been plucked off the street by Tess, who happened to notice the similarity as she'd gone to collect Claire.  "Can they both turn to the side again?"

Jenkins spoke into his mobile, telling the duty officer and Rose looked again.

"Number four, that's the woman I saw, I'm sure now she's turned to the side.  I saw her moving the car that night then she got in the van when it came back," Rose confirmed.

Chapter 11
After being taken back to Alec's office to wait for everyone else to leave and Claire had been cautioned by Tess, Claire ranting on about she'd volunteered for the line-up and what was she doing being cautioned, Rose was waiting to be told she could leave.

Alec came back in and Rose turned to face him.

"You can go now, I'll walk back to the train station with you," he offered, getting his coat.

"I'm really fine walking back on my own," Rose assured him.  "You can't tell me, can you?  If I identified the right people?"

"I wish I could, to assure you but I can't Rose, I'm sorry," he apologised.  "Once we've concluded the investigation, we'll be told if we can take it to court and I'll keep you up to date with things.  We could not have got this far with you Rose."

"I wish it could have been different, I wish I could have somehow stopped them," Rose told him sadly.

"It would have just put you in danger, if you had been in their house that night and things had started to go wrong.  We'll continue looking for your friend, now we have the right people locked up, it will be safe for her to come forward and confirm a few things," Alec replied.

"Like I was drinking with her that night?" Rose tried to joke.

"Don't put yourself down Rose, I know you were telling me the truth about that, never mind what Tess told you," he tried to assure her.  "If there is anything you want to know, don't hesitate to call, I'll give you my personal number, call me any time if you're worried or to ask any questions."

He got a card out of his inside jacket pocket and handed it to her.  Rose got up, taking the arm he offered and he opened the door.  They walked back to the train station, Rose only having twenty minutes to wait so she went to get a coffee from the machine in the newsagents and they walked onto the platform, Alec taking her down to the end.

"You were very brave today Rose," he told her as she sipped from the paper cup, putting his hand on her arm.

"Didn't feel like it," she half smiled.  "How long will it take now?"

"A few weeks to get everything together, if all goes well but now we have positive IDs, we'll get them to talk.  Rose, I meant it, you can call me whenever you feel like talking, it will start getting to you now."

"I'm sure you have other things to do," she told him, hiding her smile behind the paper cup.

"Not any more," he admitted, thinking once the divorce became final, maybe he'd stay away from women for a while.

He wouldn't mind making an exception for the young woman who had saved the investigation though.

"What about your family?" Rose asked innocently.  "Oh, sorry, I forgot, you mentioned something a while back."

"No matter.  Take care of yourself Rose," he told her as her train was announced.  "My divorce becomes final in a few weeks, just, well, if it was of interest and you felt guilty about calling me."

Hell, why had he just come out with that, he wondered.  That would surely drive her away but what was he expecting?

Rose tried to move, Alec moving his hand he hadn't realised was still on her other arm so as he moved it, she reached up and kissed his cheek as the train was approaching the platform.

"Bye Alec, I'll call, if my mum gets tired of listening to me," she smiled, Alec touching his cheek.

She was about to move when he kissed hers back.  "Bye Rose, take care, call me."

"Yeah, you'll regret that," she laughed as the train doors opened.  She was about to get on when he grabbed her arm.

"No, I won't.  Don't miss your train," he smiled as the guard stood watching Rose half in the doorway.

She hurried to find a seat as the doors closed, tapping on the window and waving.  Alec waved back, about to put his hand on the window as the train moved slowly away and he stepped back.  He felt like walking alongside, what the hell had just come over him?

He was left on the platform again, a puzzled look on his face as he heard a male voice behind him.

"Hey, you're making a habit of that," the guard called to him from the office.

"What?" Alec looked around.

"Letting her go like that.  You should tell her," the man advised him.  "She won't wait forever mate."

"Thanks for the advice," Alec replied, trying to make it sound sarcastic but he didn't have it in him. 

Rose was getting to him and he knew it and she shouldn't be.  She was a material witness in a murder investigation and if he asked her opinion, she would agree it was Lisa who she saw wrapped up in the dustsheet that night.  Now he was in danger of compromising her if he wasn't very, very, careful.

He went to sit down, getting his phone out and debating if he should apologise for his behaviour just as she was leaving.

"She'll figure it out," he told himself.  He was about to get up and found himself accessing the messaging on his phone and sent 'I meant it Rose, I won't regret it if you call me.  Alec.' 

Rose heard her message tone.  What had just happened back there on the platform?  As she was about to read it, the guard came round, smiled at her and asked to see her ticket.

"Thought you weren't gonna get on the train Miss," he commented as he clipped the return part of her ticket.

Alec was on his way back to his office when Tess rang him.

"How long does it take to make sure she gets on the train?" she asked him.

"Why would you care Tess?" he replied.

It was going to be a long four weeks until the divorce was finalised and for the first time, he wished the court case would be delayed so that when Rose came back to testify, he would be free.  Why was he even thinking about it like that?  Surely Rose would just brush it off as him trying to make her feel at ease about what was going to be a difficult time for her?

He was worried though that she was discussing the case with her mother but who else did she have to talk to about it?  If her friend hadn't disappeared, the two of them would surely have been talking about it.  He made his way back to the station, avoiding Tess and closing his office door but she saw him creep past her and let herself in a few minutes later.

"You shouldn't give her any special treatment Alec," Tess pointed out.

"Like you're not giving Claire any?  Right, who's first, her or Lee?" he asked, trying to change the subject but knew Tess was right, he was going out of his way to assure Rose.

Maybe next time he spoke to her, he should tell her he treated all witnesses like that but who was he kidding?  Rose was almost home, thinking about how now, she must have correctly identified Lee and Claire, which wasn't bad going to say Shareen's descriptions had been hazy at best.  She took Alec's card out of her pocket, having looked at the message he'd sent and not having replied.

She started composing one but got stuck – what could she say?  What had just happened back on the platform?  The same as what had happened in the café when they'd been talking?  She finally sent a brief message back 'Thanks, I feel better now, I'll try not to bother you' and just hoped she could keep her word.  When she got home, her mother wanted all the details so Rose told her how the identifications had gone but said nothing about afterwards – she was on very shaky ground and she knew it.

Claire was giving Tess and Alec the 'I don't know anything' speech as Alec asked her for the truth about that night.

"Where had you really been Claire?" Alec asked her.  "We have someone who saw you return after ten and you were not carrying anything."

"Well they were wrong, weren't they?" Claire replied, leaning her head on her arms and glancing up at Tess.  "I've had to leave home because of you two, Cate hates me, she threw me out, not that I wanted to stay there when I can't even listen to the TV."

"We checked about that night she complained about it being loud Claire," Tess told her.  "Why did it take you half an hour to turn it down?" she asked, hoping to catch Claire out.

Tess still doubted Claire had been the one to break into her car.  How had she managed it in a short space of time?  Then she realised Cate may have been out of it and maybe woken up from one of her drinking sessions and not realised how much time had actually passed.

They had a short break then turned their attention to Lee, who wasn't saying anything either.

"So Lee, what really happened that night eh?" Alec tried asking him.  "We know Claire went out so were you alone with Lisa and Pippa?"

Tess thought he was asking a bit much, considering.

"I told you Hardy," Lee replied.  "How many more times?  So, where did you get this new information from?"

"You know we can't tell you that," Alec replied.  "Just answer the question.  We have a lot of new information that tells us you weren't telling the truth about that night so you may just as well tell us.  Why were you carrying young Pippa out to your car that night?"

Lee looked up suddenly, glancing at his solicitor.

"Who said my client was carrying anyone out to a car that night?" the solicitor asked Alec.  "Mr Ashworth has already said he and his wife were in on their own that night."

"Then you and your client need to have a re-think," Alec suggested, gathering the folders.  "When you have, Mr Ashworth had better be ready to give us an explanation because someone came forward who saw him.  That and certain other factors prove your client is not telling the entire truth."

Once they were alone, Tess turned to face him.

"You're putting a lot of trust in Rose Tyler," Tess warned him.   "What if you find her friend and she still maintains the two of them were drinking that night and Rose drank more that she admitted?"

"Then her friend knows more than she was telling Rose," Alec replied.  "Think about it Tess.  Rose said her friend knew Lisa quite well so what if Lisa confided in her that she liked Lee a bit more than she led anyone to believe?"

"You mean they were grooming her?" Tess asked.

"Exactly and how many young women and girls know when they are being groomed?  It starts off innocently Tess, you took that course with me of how they do it.  That has to be the reason, that Shareen Costello knew a lot more than she told Rose about them.  That's the reason she tried to convince you Rose had as much to drink as she did that night.  I think Lisa confided in her Tess and she realised what was going on."

"You're serious?" Tess asked him.  "You mean she didn't want her friend to know she was getting mixed up in it?  What did Rose tell you about it?"

"Not much.  I think Rose took it innocently enough but maybe that guy hanging around that night did her a big favour Tess?  What if Rose had been taken over there that night?  I think Claire went out on purpose, to give Lee chance and maybe Pippa wasn't involved but Lisa was?  I bet you anything Ricky got suspicious and went back that night and caught them and he either threw Lisa out or went to get his van to dispose of her if he killed her."

"Whoa Alec, you know where this is going?" Tess asked him.  "Ricky denies being there that night, we can't prove anything, Rose may have mistaken him for one of his employees."

"I seriously doubt that Tess.  Let's go see what the chief thinks and if he agrees, we need to talk to Rose again and double our efforts to find her friend.  Shareen Costello may be more deeply involved than anyone realised.  Tess, if the Ashworth's get set free, they could go after both of them."

Alec though was more concerned about Rose but he knew he shouldn't have been.  Now he wondered how well this Shareen and Lisa really knew each other.  If Lisa thought it was a game with Lee flirting with her and wanted her friend to get involved, maybe Shareen had taken it innocently enough at first but then realised what was involved so she didn't want to get Rose involved?  Maybe her disappearance and her hostility towards Rose was her way of trying to keep her friend out of it?  Well either that or she didn't want Rose spoiling anything and was about to get involved with whatever was going on?

Just why was Cate so hostile towards Shareen Costello though?  From what Rose had told him, Shareen was never invited to anything Cate was organising so maybe Cate was just as bad in that department?  The mystery was deepening and he didn't like where it was going.  As he went to the chief's office to tell him what they had so far, he didn't know how much longer he could go without telling Rose at least some of it.

He wanted to tell her that her friend had innocently got caught up in the events but now, he wasn't so sure.

"So, that's what we think," Alec told his chief.  "I want to step up the search for Shareen Costello, it's vital we speak to her."

"I agree Alec," the chief told him.  "I also want Tess to talk to Cate Gillespie again, why she didn't like her neighbour but tell Tess to do it tactfully." 

Alec thought Tess was about as tactful as a bull in a china shop but she did have her moments.

Back at the Tyler residence, Rose was being asked what had gone on.

"I can't talk about it too much Mum," Rose had told her.  "There's a lot more going on and now, I'm worried Shareen was more involved."

"What do ya mean Rose?" her mother asked.

Rose was reluctant to say anything because she wanted to be wrong about her old friend but it would explain why she'd gone hostile towards her suddenly and it wasn't just about her not telling Shareen what went on that night.

"I have to make a phone call Mum," Rose excused herself after their tea.

She just hoped Alec wouldn't be mad at her for calling him after hours, he may regret giving her his other number.  Alec had just got home and taken his jacket and tie off when his personal mobile rang.  Seeing a number instead of a name, his first thought was maybe Rose had taken advantage of his offer to call him but seriously doubted it.  He answered cautiously, in case some idiot from a call centre had got hold of his number, then he'd tell them they were in serious trouble for bothering a police officer.

"Alec Hardy," he spoke into the phone, waiting for a recorded message or someone who began spouting on before he'd a chance to tell them not to bother.

"Alec?  It's Rose.  You did say I could call?"

"Yes, sorry Rose, what can I do for you?"

"I hope I'm not disturbing ya?  I'm worried about something," Rose admitted.

"What's bothering you?" he asked, opening the fridge and looking to see what he could make to eat that was quick, since he wasn't really in the mood and might just call the takeaway.

"Where do I start?" Rose tried to laugh.  "Okay, I'm worried Shareen may have been caught up in whatever was going on at the Ashworth's house.  Maybe that's why she got angry with me?"

"What do you mean by that?" Alec asked, opening a bottle of water.

He wanted to see if she thought the same as he did, that Shareen may have been jealous of Lisa and used the incident in the street not to let on to her friend she was involved.

"Well, maybe Lisa told her something, about what went on?" Rose suggested, not sure about this now.

"Rose, before you say anything else, I can't discuss this with you.  It's only a theory at best, it may not have been the case.  Unless we find her, we won't know.  I'm sorry, I know you are worried."

"Yeah, I know you can't discuss it, it was a daft idea," Rose had to admit.

"No, it wasn't," Alec tried to assure her.  "Rose, if it helps, we have similar ideas about your friend's involvement but I can't say anything.  I'm sorry but that's all I can tell you."

"Do ya think Shareen told Lisa who I was?  I mean, she must have mentioned I was visiting and I saw Lisa and Pippa out in the street.  I hope she didn't give my name."

Alec was hoping the same but didn't want to worry her even more.

"If she did, then maybe Lisa thought nothing about it?" he tried to assure her.  "We don't even know if Lisa saw the Ashworth's that weekend.  It may have been that she left Pippa with them while she sneaked off somewhere.  Maybe that's why that guy was hanging around?  Maybe he went off after her?"

He still needed to see that person to ask some more questions, if indeed he'd moved off to follow Lisa somewhere.  Maybe there was no person in those dustsheets after all?

"Yeah, maybe?" Rose had to admit, feeling guilty for bothering him and taking advantage of him giving her the number.  "See, I told ya you'd regret giving me this number," she tried to joke.

"No, it was worrying you, I'll let you off," he replied.  "Anything else?" he asked, hoping she wouldn't ask him what the hell all that on the station platform was all about.

"No, sorry, I was just worried.  I'd known her a long time, I don't understand why she'd get annoyed with me for something like that.  We never even fell out over a boy we fancied when we were teenagers," Rose admitted.

"It sounds like it was something deeper than that Rose," Alec tried to tell her.  "Call me if there is anything else worries you."

"Yeah, I will but I'll try to think about it before I do," she replied.  "Alec, can I ask you something?"

"Sure, what is it?"

"Back at the train station, you started to tell me something.  I just realised, you meant about your divorce, in general.  You were just trying to tell me so I wouldn't wonder why you and DS Henchard were a bit hostile."

Alec couldn't recall if he'd even mentioned it was Tess he was getting the divorce from but Rose may have gathered that on her own.  It didn't take much to work it out.

"I was just trying to tell you that if you rang, no-one would get the wrong idea."

Yeah, of course he was, he tried to convince himself.

"Well, I won't keep ya talking all night, I just wanted to escape from my mum's questions," Rose laughed.

"Then I am glad I could rescue you.  Goodnight Rose and try not to worry too much.  We may have some more questions for you but I'll try not to have you come down here again."

"I don't mind, if it helps.  Night then and if I think of anything, I'll let ya know."

"You do that Rose.  Bye for now."

He cursed himself as the call ended.   Hell, he was now looking for any excuse for her to come back to answer a few questions he could ask by phone and he shouldn't be.  Now though, this Gary Thorpe was a person of interest because even if he'd ran off, he could know where Lisa went and who had chased him off.  Maybe it was Lee himself and only one other person knew that – the man who had warned Shareen and Rose not to go out and they had no idea who he was or where he'd gone.  Great.

Well at least it had put the two women off, he could have been investigating more than one death and one disappearance but now, the Ashworths knew they had been seen that night, they would soon work out who it might have been and if Lisa had mentioned it to either of them Shareen was expecting a visitor?

The next morning, Alec went straight to the chief's office.

"I'm worried about our witness, Rose Tyler," Alec admitted to him.

"In what way?" the chief wanted to know.

"I have reason to believe the Ashworths may have got her name from Lisa," Alec replied.  "They know we have new information and that they were seen.  If Lisa mentioned Rose's name?"

"I see.  What do you want Alec?"

"I want to make sure they haven't got her name without giving anything away and should it go to court, I want her name protected," Alec told him, trying to keep his temper.

"You mean witness protection?  You have to face up to it Alec, there's no such thing in these kind of cases.  Her testimony, at best may bring the case to trial but we both know the defence will pull her to pieces.  Are you sure she's up to it?" the chief asked him.

Now Alec wasn't so sure, she'd not sounded too good on the phone the night before and now, he couldn't even tell her she'd be protected, apart from her name being kept out of the proceedings.  Well he was determined she wasn't going to be put in any situation where if they somehow got off, they would go after her – even if he had to do it himself.
Chapter 12
Alec was not pleased when he left the chief's office and slammed his own office door.  Tess got up to see what was wrong, wondering why he was in such a mood if it wasn't about their impending divorce.

"What's wrong now?" Tess asked him as he put his head in his hands.

He then leaned back, putting his arms behind his head.

"This whole stinking system, what else?" he asked.  "A young woman risks everything to come forward with information and I can't even tell her she will remain anonymous."

"Come on Alec, she's not the first and she certainly won't be the last witness to risk something.  We still can't be certain what she saw was actually any of them.  You have to admit it, she was a bit vague, since she never actually met any of them."

"Vague or not, she's the only witness we have, whether it was any of them or not, you can't deny what she saw.  Someone carried Pippa out of the Ashworth's house Tess, that has to account for something and who knows what was wrapped in the sheet?"

"Her imagination working overtime?" Tess queried.  "Okay, Pippa may have been carried out to a car that Claire may or may not have moved but who's to say it was Lee carrying her?  What description did Rose Tyler actually give of him?"

"It's written in her statement Tess, read it," Alec snapped at her.

"If I remember rightly it was something along the lines that her friend said he was a bit of a dish," Tess recalled.

"Oh, so the day she called and you dismissed her for drinking, you did actually take some notice?" Alec asked her, leaning forward and getting up.  "I need coffee."

"You don't drink coffee Alec," Tess reminded him.

"Well I do now," he replied.  "So, what else do you remember from her initial statement that you never bothered to write down?"

"It's a while ago now Alec, how do you expect me to remember?" Tess asked him.  "She said something about a police car holding up the bus on the main road, something about the bus driver waiting to see where it was going."

"Oh and you did not think that was important?" Alec wanted to know, about to open the door.  "That proves she was there Tess."

"I never denied she wasn't there Alec," Tess defended herself.  "I said her recollections may have been scrambled if she'd been drinking."

"Well she wasn't, she assures me of that and since her friend has disappeared, we have to believe her.  Even if we find Shareen Costello, she may still be annoyed with Rose and maintain the pair of them were drinking but now, I'm more interested in what Mrs Costello has to say about that night, she was never asked if Rose had actually drunk as much as was made out she did," Alec reminded her.  "Did you interview her Tess?"

"Not really, she insisted she knew nothing," Tess admitted.

"Yes, well so have the Gillespies and the Ashworths but I don’t believe any of them now, they are all hiding something, I'm sure of it and I want the search for Shareen Costello and the man they lived with, this Ken stepping up.  He may know who chased Gary Thorpe off that night."

"Are you still going on about him Alec?" Tess asked as he put his jacket on.

"Yes, I want him found as well, I want to know who chased him off and non of that nonsense he denies being there.  What is wrong with everyone in this case?" he asked.  "Why is everyone hiding things, except Rose Tyler?"

"She's getting to you Alec, back off a little," Tess tried to warn him.  "Don't get too close to her."

"Someone has to assure her she's being taken seriously Tess," Alec replied, checking his phone to see if Rose had left a message on his personal one but why would she?

Maybe Tess was right, he was getting too close to their only witness and he should back off but something was making him want to be sure she would be safe should those now locked up get set free.  Tess was also right, as much as he hated to admit it that Rose had never actually met any of them but they had to face it, who else would have been going in and out of both houses at that time of night, with keys?

It was a bit far-fetched he had to admit that a bunch of strangers all had keys and were the ones acting strangely but it would be up to the prosecution to prove it was them but their case was resting on Rose's testimony and she was getting scared.  How could he tell her they couldn't offer her any protection once the case was in court and the Ashworths actually got off?

He didn't want to think about it just yet, hopefully they could persuade Claire and Lee they had enough evidence against them and get them both to plead guilty but it still bothered him Ricky was denying anything.  Did Rose get mixed up and it only looked like Pippa's father that night?  Why would Ricky be involved with what happened to his daughter, unless indeed tempers had flared and both girls had got caught up in it?

He was still thankful Rose and her friend had been spared it due to the incident out in the street but he could never forget he was the one to pull Pippa out of the river, it still haunted him and woke him at night.  He went to the kitchen area and found a jar of a cheap brand of coffee and changed his mind.  Seeing Rose drinking it had made him want to try it for some strange reason and he'd given up coffee years ago.

Tess watched him, a smile on her face that she was right – Rose Tyler was getting to him and he'd never admit it and it would be his downfall.  It would soon fade, she thought as he went out, wondering where he was going.  He walked across the courtyard that lead to the train station and went in the café he'd been in with Rose, not knowing what had lead him there.  He got what she had ordered and sat in the corner, wondering if she was at work.

Who was he kidding?  It was just after ten, of course she'd be at work, why was he even wondering?  He spontaneously composed a message, asking her to call him when she could, then he'd have to find an excuse for it when she did.  Now he knew why the station guard had mistaken him twice for someone letting her get away.  He still had to ask her a few things anyway but they could have waited – couldn't they?

Rose had gone to work, hoping Alec wouldn't keep calling her and Donna wouldn't ask her any further questions but that wasn't to be when she saw the personnel officer at break time.

"So, how did your trip go?" Donna asked, making a point of sitting opposite.

"Don't normally see you in here," Rose managed to smile, wondering why Donna was suddenly being friendly when all the time she'd been there, they had hardly talked.  "Yeah, they had some questions and I had to ID someone, well two people and trust me, it was a bit daunting," she tried to joke.  "You haven't told anyone, have ya?"

"Don't be daft Rose," Donna grinned.  "I keep secrets all day long.  You wouldn't believe half the stories some employees come up with so they can have a sneaky little shopping trip.  So far, I'm impressed with you, despite the phone calls.  He's Scottish then, that detective?"

Rose thought that was rather obvious.

"Yeah, have you not seen him on the news?"

"Well yeah but I didn't take any notice, it upset my mum, finding that young girl like that.  Who does something like that?" Donna wondered, sipping the less than desirable coffee and wishing she'd made her own.

Donna had been curious a few days before when Alec had called her and she'd asked him why it was so important Rose was disturbed at work.

"So come on then, Detective Inspector Hardy, give me a good reason why I should keep calling Rose to my office," she'd asked him.

"Because, Miss, whatever your name is," Alec had started, since Donna had reeled her name off rather quickly when the switchboard had put the call through.  "It's urgent I speak to her.  She did explain to you she's helping us with some enquiries about a major investigation?"

"Well yeah, she said something but can't it wait?" she'd asked him.

"Well if it could, I would not be calling her urgently, would I?" Alec had replied, wondering why she'd not applied to be in the police, she asked enough questions.

Rose was trying to avoid answering Donna.

"Sorry Donna, I can't talk about it but I'm trying my best not to have to take any time off.  That might change though, if it goes to court.  Excuse me, I have a message I need to answer."

Rose went off to the ladies room but she only had a few minutes so she sent Alec a message back saying she'd call him at lunchtime, wondering what his cryptic message of 'I need to speak to you' was about.  She'd only called him the night before but she supposed something could have come up.  Maybe they'd found Shareen?

Alec had gone back to work, those in the office being used to him wandering around lately but he went up to Jenkins's desk.

"Can I help you with something Sir?" Jenkins asked him.

"How are you getting on finding the Costello women and this Ken?" Alec asked him, seeing a file on the desk of missing possible witnesses.

He supposed that's what they were really, even though they didn't want to admit it, they were unwitting witnesses, ones who could say for definite Rose hadn't really been drinking and that it was Gary Thorpe out in the street but more importantly, who'd cleared him off.

"I have people on it Sir," Jenkins assured him.  "I found something interesting about Gary Thorpe though, seems that night he admitted himself to the emergency room at the hospital."

"What happened?" Alec asked, seeing there wasn't much in the folder when he'd picked it up and glanced at it.

"Well, it seems he had a bloodied nose to start with but he'd gone in claiming it was self-inflicted.  I think he has a problem and I'm going out later to interview him again.  Seems the business he ran folded and he's working at a car wash place.  I'll see what I can get out of him."

"You do that," Alec replied, wishing Rose would call him back but the longer it was, the more time he had to come up with a reason he'd sent the message.

He heard his message tone on his own phone and read what Rose had sent.  It was all he could do to stop himself replying with 'looking forward to it'.  Since when had all this started?  He had listened to her last night, tried to assure her she was doing the right thing and he was doing everything he could to find her friend.

He turned back to his DC.  "Jenkins, make finding this Shareen Costello a priority."

"Yes Sir," Jenkins replied, glancing at another DC opposite as Alec walked back to his office.

"What's so important about her?" his friend asked.

"Beats me but maybe it'll get him off our backs if we do find her," Jenkins told him.

Before she went to order her lunch, Rose found a quiet corner and called Alec.

"Hi Alec, is it something urgent?" Rose asked, glancing out of the window.

"Ah, Rose.  Thanks for calling me back.  Just a few things really.  You mentioned your friend was never invited to anything at the Gillespie house?"

"Yeah, I thought that was a bit odd really, since she was invited to the Ashworths all the time," Rose had to admit.  "Mind you, Cate could have taken a dislike to her since Lisa hung around with her I suppose?"

"Yes, that could be it," Alec agreed.  "Maybe there was a little jealousy going on if Lisa was supposed to spend time with Pippa?"

"Yeah, could be.  I had Donna trying to find out things earlier, she's not happy being kept in the dark," Rose smiled, even though he couldn't see her.

"Just tell her the minimum.  Oh and about the morning you left, you saw a police car heading to the estate, yes?" he asked.

"Are ya asking to make sure I was actually there?" Rose asked him.

"No, I'm the one who does believe you were there, remember?" he reminded her.  "Sorry, the reason I ask is why that time?  I mean you were on a visit, why leave so early?"

"My mum had warned me about rail engineering works, I didn't want to be back late or have to get a bus replacement service.  We got the bus to the train station because Ken had football training and couldn't give us a lift."

"What?" Alec asked, quickly scanning her statement.  "What football training?  He had a car?"

"Whoa, one question at a time," Rose laughed.

"Sorry.  Rose, where did he go training, did he say?" Alec asked, getting his notebook out and fishing in his pocket for a pen then seeing a silver one under a sheet of paper, one Tess had bought him ages ago.

"No, just in the opposite direction from town and Shareen said it would make him late.  Alec, I'm so sorry, I forgot all about it.  It's important, isn't it?"

"It could help us find your friend, if they are still with him," Alec admitted.  "Rose, I'm sorry but the reason they moved could have only been because they left him.  Your friend may not even be aware of any of this.  She may not think anyone opposite believes she's the one who saw everything that night."

Rose supposed he was right, Shareen had been really annoyed with her and maybe her mother had fallen out with Ken.  She didn't know much about him or where they'd met, only that Shareen's mother had met someone and moved away, in a bit of a whirlwind romance.

"Yeah, she's not come back here though, as far as I know.  You might be able to find out who Ken is though?  There might not be that many football training grounds in the area?" Rose suggested.

"Yes, maybe and don't worry, things will keep coming back to you Rose, just let me know if they do.  That was why I gave you my other phone number.  You surprised me by calling last night, I'd not put your number in my contacts, which I have now corrected.  Can you remember anything else at all, even the slightest thing?" he asked.

"I'll let ya know if I do.  I'd best go get my lunch, everyone eating is making me hungry," Rose laughed.

"Yes, don't let me keep you and I will keep you informed.  Just one thing, what's your work address?" he asked.

Why the hell had he just asked her that, he wondered.

"I'll text it to ya," Rose suggested, feeling hungry and not thinking anything of it.

"Yes, you do that.  Oh, do you know what sort of car this Ken had by any chance?"

"No, sorry, it must have been parked at the side of the house, I didn't go out that much and on the Sunday, he left before we did.  Did I tell ya Shareen told me the neighbours sometimes gave Pippa a lift to school?"

"I'm not sure but I will check," Alec assured her, not recalling it.  "I will add your workplace to your statement, it will show any judge you are employed and not doing this for any financial gain.  Sorry, it does happen, people looking for rewards though I am not suggesting you would do such a thing but it will be on record we paid your train fare so from now on, we'll have to be careful with that."

"Yeah, well you paid the last two, I'll live," Rose replied, getting up.  "Let me know if ya want anything else, I mean if you've any more questions, I'm usually free at this time."

"Yes, I will try and keep the questions for your lunch break from now on, unless it's urgent.  You have been a big help Rose."

Rose went to get her lunch and quickly sent him the store address, wondering why he needed it but if it helped make her seem a more credible witness, then all the better.  Alec received the message and wrote it in her file, keeping the message but didn't know why he needed to.

For the next few days, everyone was kept busy.  No-one had come across any football training grounds that had a member called Ken so Alec wondered if it was his real name, things were getting complicated.  Both Claire and Lee were given another chance to come clean about that night but had declined so now, it was going to be passed to the crown prosecution service and let them decide if Rose's testimony would be enough.

Friday evening, Alec was dismayed to learn Daisy had a really bad cold and wouldn't be meeting him as usual, now they spent the whole of Saturday together over the last few weeks.

"So, tell her to get better soon," Alec had told Tess as they left the police station on the Friday evening.  "Has she been in school?"

"No, she went to my sister's, you were the one who didn't want her being left on her own," Tess reminded him.

"That was when we were searching for a killer Tess," Alec snapped back.

"Are you so sure we have them?" Tess asked, signing out.  "You're putting a lot of faith in your witness Alec."

"I have confidence in her," Alec replied.  "Are you going to the court to get the final judgement on the divorce?"

"No, are you?" Tess asked as she saw Dave waiting by her car.  "Is there any need or are you going to say you don't want it?"

"No, not me, that part of the legal system I do trust.  We should get to know by Monday if there is going to be a trial, I don't need to go to court for anything else except to see those two locked up for good.  I just wish we could have also pinned something on Ricky Gillespie."

"Well we can't, we've tried Alec," Tess reminded him.

So as he went home, he wondered what he was going to do the following day, since he arranged things around his daughter now she was agreeing to see him.  He put his laptop on when he got home and looked at the map of London, trying to see where Rose worked when he put in the postcode and saw it was near the main central area.  Where did he really expect it to be, he wondered.

Before he knew it, he was on the train information website and getting the price of a ticket, since Rose had never said how much it cost and was glad she'd got it back since it was almost thirty pounds even on the weekend rate.  He wondered why the train companies had to have a complicated pricing system but he supposed they made money out of those who had to get to work.  He then saw where the train stopped and booked a hotel for the night, he didn't know what he expected.  

Maybe he'd just go have a wander around and accidentally end up outside the department store.  Maybe he wouldn't go anywhere near it but who was he trying to fool?  He hadn't really needed her work address, had he?  Resisting phoning her, he packed a shoulder bag that was a reasonable size and debated whether to put his shaving kit in.  Hell, what was he thinking? 

Rose had spent the rest of the week phoning her friends to see if anyone had heard anything from Shareen.  She'd avoided it so far but Alec had her wondering now if they'd moved because they had to or Shareen's mother had broken up with Ken.  Maybe they'd fallen out over the events, she had no way of knowing.

"It's no use Rose," Mickey was telling her when he called round on the Friday night.  "No-one's seen her, I asked around for you."

"Thanks Mickey but I'm worried about her now.  I don't know if they threatened her and she left or if it was something else.  Not knowing is more worrying," Rose told him and her mother.

"So, any more visits to Sandbrook coming up?" Mickey asked.

"Not yet, they'll let me know.  Donna's asking a lot of questions, seems she's missed DI Hardy calling me," she laughed.

"Maybe he's finally run out of questions?" Mickey laughed back, nudging her elbow.

"Well he only called me on Wednesday lunchtime, well I called him back.  A lot probably goes on in the background that no-one needs to know about?" Rose wondered.

Thankfully, the next day at work, Donna wasn't working so Rose was able to have her break in peace, since Donna had asked her the last few lunchtimes why no-one had been asking for her.  Rose had laughed a few times at Donna and they seemed to Rose like they'd made friends, after Donna had only been a temp and had stayed.

"So, what's he like then?" Donna had asked the day before.  "Is he all gruff like he was on TV?"

"Donna, give him a break," Rose had laughed.  "He'd just found that poor girl, you'd be gruff as well."

"Well be careful Rose, he might just be ringing you for the sake of it," Donna advised her.

So as Rose had her morning break, Alec was on the train to London, not fancying paying to drive round every area of the city plus for crossing a bridge or going through a tunnel.  He'd printed out a map of where the station, the hotel and the store were and he could get the underground a few stops to Leicester Square and the hotel was only a few yards from the station, then the store was about ten minutes away.

He found his hotel, asking about breakfast and he'd booked a double room and if he could extend the time until around four the following afternoon.  That sorted, he went out to have a look around and see what was on at the cinema and before he knew it, he was waiting outside the department store and standing where he'd see anyone coming out of the side entrance he'd spotted on his arrival.

Rose was talking with some friends as they'd got through the bag check and were going down the stairs, the double doors open with other workers going out and as she turned the corner, she stopped.

"What's wrong Rose?" one of the girls asked her.

"Oh, sorry, it's nothing," she bluffed as she clearly saw Alec on the corner.

"Someone stalking ya?" Bev laughed.

"No.  It's fine, I know him," Rose replied as she walked towards Alec.

"Hi, what are you doing here?" Rose smiled.

Alec was wondering himself what he was doing there.  It had been just his luck the station guard was on duty again and as he'd waited for the train, the man had spoken to him after siding up to him, his flag in his hand.

"Here again then?" the guard had asked him, grinning.  "So, is she arriving soon or are you going to see her?" he continued, seeing Alec's shoulder bag.  "Right, guess you're gonna do something about it then?"

Chapter 13
"Hello Rose.  I have no idea why I'm here, I just got on a train and took a chance you would be working today.  Can I buy you a coffee or something to eat?" he asked her as her friends said goodnight to her.

"Well, yeah but you seem to be making a habit of it," Rose smiled as they found themselves alone.  "You've not come about what happened have you?  Only I had enough the other day and I'd rather forget it for now."

"No, it's not about the case, although it is about the other day, what I said when you were getting on the train.  I wanted to apologise, I did not want to sound personal," was all he could think of.

"Oh, I didn't take it personally, otherwise I wouldn't have rung you when I got home.  I just didn't want to seem like I was gonna call every five minutes over something, I mean if you were busy.  I didn't mean to pry into your personal life.  I can see you and DS Henchard don't get on, you didn't have to explain anything to me.  So you came by train then?" Rose asked as they crossed the road leading back to Leicester Square.

"I did not want to get lost or have to pay excessive charges for bringing the car.  Was I assuming too much by meeting you from work?" he asked, not sure this was such a good idea.

What had he been thinking?  Had he let his imagination run riot because the station guard had assumed Rose was his potential girlfriend?

"I just wasn't expecting you," Rose smiled as they emerged into the busy area.

"Then maybe we could eat then go see a film?  I booked a hotel for the night, I wasn't sure you would even see me.  Have I had a wasted journey?" he asked.

"I wouldn't say wasted exactly but what would people think?" Rose wanted to know.  "Don't you have to be careful, associating with me?"

"As long as we don't talk about the case, I don't see any harm but I did not tell anyone I was coming here today.  My daughter was ill, I usually meet her on Saturdays.  I know, it was not a good idea for me to take advantage and visit you," he had to admit.

"Sorry, I hope I didn't disappoint you?" Rose asked him as they headed for a café.

"What?  No, of course not, I just maybe should have given you some warning?" he replied as he saw people waiting to be seated and wondered if they should go elsewhere but Rose headed for the ladies room, which having caught her coming out of work was understandable.

"I think ya did," Rose smiled as they were found a table when she rejoined him.  "Giving me your other phone number and expecting me to call."

"I supposed I deserved that," Alec smiled as he took a menu.  "I meant it though, if anything was bothering you, you were right to call me, no matter what time.  So, is there a film you may like to see?"

"A few.  I'll have to call my mum and tell her I'll be late back.  She worries since, you know."

"That's understandable, under the circumstances but they don't know who you are, your name has not been mentioned but there is something you should know."

They were interrupted by the waitress, Rose hoping it didn't matter to him how much a place like this cost to eat in.  He didn't seem bothered but she chose something fairly simple, Alec getting the same.

"So, what do I need to know then?" Rose asked.

He didn't know how to tell her.  He thought he'd best be honest with her and hope for the best.

"Rose, we can keep your name out of things but once they see you in court, well, if by some chance they get off, they will know who you are and I'm really sorry but my chief said there's no kind of witness protection in place."

"Seriously?" Rose asked as their drinks arrived.  "So they see me and hear about what I saw that night and if the jury don't believe me and they get off, there's a chance they'll come after me?  What sort of incentive's that?"

"There's every chance they will be convicted Rose," he tried to assure her, touching her arm across the table.

Rose didn't even try and resist.

"They might come after me, then what?  You'll just leave me to it so I have to go into hiding?"

"I won't let that happen Rose," he promised her, not knowing if he could keep his word or not.

"Well at least you warned me I suppose?" she admitted as their food arrived.  "So that's why you're here then?"

"No, that was only part of it but I thought I should be the one to tell you.  I made it clear I was not happy about it.  I'll do everything I can, I promise.  Will this change your mind about testifying?" he asked as the waitress left.

"It should but how can I leave it?  I know what I saw Alec," Rose insisted.

"I know you did, try not to worry about it too much.  I'll work something out, I promise.  Still want to see a film?" he asked, thinking she might finish eating and get the next bus home.

"Yeah, we can still go, I already warned my mum," she smiled, since he'd been wondering why she'd been so long in the ladies room on their arrival as they'd waited for a table. 

"I thought you would have changed your mind?  I know we're asking a lot of you Rose and I will keep on about protecting you but I was told in these sort of cases, it was very rare.  Maybe if you are threatened something will be done?"

"I'd better hope so then.  We could have gone elsewhere to eat," Rose smiled as those around them made her look out of place.

"I did not want to appear like I would just take you to a fast-food place," he smiled as they finished eating and the waitress was descending on them.

"Well I've had enough, thanks but don't let me stop you," Rose smiled back, seeing how skinny he was.  "Maybe some coffee though?"

"Yes, coffee for two if you will?" Alec asked as the waitress looked disappointed and cleared their plates.

Rose sipped her white wine and Alec his low-alcohol lager, which he really hated and decided to leave it, making Rose smile from behind her glass.

"Thought you'd left your car behind?" she asked him.

"I'm still a police officer, I can't be taken seriously in warning you were I to be drinking," he smiled back.

"So you're gonna be a detective all evening then?" she tried to ask seriously.

Alec knew when he was being kidded.

"Not all evening.  You can choose the film or do you trust me?"

They left the restaurant, Rose watching him settle the bill and they headed for the multi-screen cinema, Rose knowing what she wanted to see but wondered if Alec was into the latest of the famous spy film franchise.  He'd already had the idea that was what she would choose and since there was half an hour before the next showing, he went to get the tickets and Rose went to get a place in the queue, since it hadn't been showing for long.

"I can't believe we're into October already," Rose mused as he got back to her, handing her a packet of chocolate pieces and hoping she wouldn't want him going back for drinks and popcorn later.  "I hadn't realised how long it had been since, well you know."

"I know, if I'd known back then, about you, then it would have been all over, well hopefully but it went on too long," he admitted, wondering if she considered this a date as she faced him, touching his arm now and then as people around them chatted.

"It was her, wasn't it?" Rose asked him.  "She was being spiteful, not telling ya she'd talked to me."

"Yes, she was hoping to take the credit," he replied, not sure if they hadn't already gone over who was to blame before.  "I thought we were not discussing this?"

Rose tapped his arm playfully.  "It's not that simple, is it?" she asked as there was no sign of them moving yet.

"No, maybe not?  We should try and forget it for now, nothing can be done about the time we wasted.  Let's just enjoy the film?" he asked.

"Yeah, looks like we might be moving?" Rose nudged him, then grabbed his arm.

Once the film started, Rose grabbed him a few times, once when there was a loud explosion and then nearer the end, she had her arm in his.  Once the credits rolled, Alec helped her up.

"Did you enjoy that?" he asked as they made their way out.

"Yeah, it was sad near the end though.  Can ya wait here a minute?" she asked, indicating to the ladies.

Alec hadn't realised how long the film had been and wondered if Rose would insist she tried to get home.  Had he deliberately delayed her by saying he'd see that long film with her?  Once outside in the square, it had got quite chilly and he was glad his hotel wasn't far but also glad Rose had a jacket on but as they stood, she shivered a little.

"Sorry, I never intended keeping you out so long.  Do you want to go get a hot drink?" he asked, seeing a few places were open.  "Will you be able to get home?"

"Not from here, I'll have to go back to near the store I think, it goes another way, I usually get off there.  I've got time for a drink though."

Alec thought if they were long enough, he may entice her back to his hotel.  Was that what he'd intended when he'd booked a double room?  He was assuming an awful lot really, they hadn't known each other long and she was his star witness.  He really shouldn't be contemplating this at all.  Yes, he wanted to protect her but this was going beyond that.

He went to get some drinks and Rose had found a table by the window.  It was still busy, lots of theatres around and restaurants with people all coming out at the same time.

"I enjoyed that film," Rose smiled from behind the paper cup, reaching out to touch his hand.

"Then I'm glad we went.  Sure you can get home, I would be worried about you."

"You would?" Rose asked, trying not to blush.  "I've not far to go when I get off you know?"

"No, I did not know that," he defended his concern for her.  "If I had brought my car, I could have taken you home."

"Aw, thanks but then like ya said, all those extra road charges?" she reminded him.

He thought maybe it would have been worth it but he'd made the decision.  He noticed she didn't seem in that much of a hurry to see if she could get home.

"So, are ya staying nearby?" Rose continued, stirring the remains of her hot chocolate with the plastic stirrer.

"Not far.  Rose, would you spend the day with me tomorrow?" he asked hopefully.  "Am I asking too much?  I can keep the hotel room until late afternoon, I checked the times of the trains."

"You want me to see you off this time?" Rose smiled.

"If you want?  I was not suggesting you go to the station with me.  When you left the other day, the guard took things the wrong way."

There, he'd almost admitted something.

"Really?" Rose giggled into her empty cup.  "The guard on the train said he thought I wasn't gonna get on.  I suppose it did look a bit odd?"

"Yes, it probably did?  Ready to leave?  We should go find where your bus goes from or if we have to walk back to the store, unless?"

"Unless what?" Rose asked as she let him take her hand to get up, seeing there wasn't a lot of room behind her.

"I expect it's too far to get a taxi?" was all he could think of. 

Rose stood looking at him as they went outside.  She didn't normally stay out late in town, sometimes she'd grab something to eat with the girls but that wasn't very often.  She swayed in front of him, putting her hands on his arms, hitching her bag on her shoulder.  Alec tried to steady her.

"Would you maybe want to come back to my hotel?" he offered.  "I really would be worried about you going home."

"You would?" she asked, letting go with one hand.  "So, you'd feel a lot better if I went with you?"

"I would indeed, it's this way.  You do know I can't just ask you back to my hotel for no other reason?" he asked, just to be clear.

"Yeah, I get it.  If your boss found out it would make things difficult for you?" she asked as they walked along, Alec finding himself putting his arm around her.

"It probably would, if anyone other than you knew I had been here," he agreed as they reached their destination. 

They went to the lift after Alec got his key and went up to his room, not saying anything.  Then as they got inside, they both tried to speak at once.

"So, do you have a spare t-shirt then?" Rose wondered as they stared at each other when Alec allowed her to speak first.

"Just the one I brought with me but you can borrow it.  I could sleep in the chair."

"Rubbish, I do trust ya," Rose smiled.  "So, when I was leaving the other day, that guard thought you were letting me go?"

"Something like that.  I saw him again this morning," Alec replied, getting the t-shirt for her.  "He thought I was putting it right."

"He did?" Rose asked, staring at him.  "So, he's the only one who knows you came after me?  Is that partly why you came here today?"

Alec thought maybe it was.  He had to face facts, what had made him decide to get the train that morning?  The night before he'd made his plans, on the spur of the moment but he'd found himself getting a taxi to the train station and still didn't know why until the guard had spoken to him.  He'd almost backed out, standing waiting for the train and even when he'd got to the hotel, he'd almost not gone to meet her but when he'd seen her emerge from the side door with her friends and she'd agreed to go with him?

"Yes.  How can I put this?" he asked.  "I know I may get into trouble if my chief found out but Rose, trust me, if we are very, very careful, he won't."

Before Rose knew what was happening, she was responding to his kiss.  She fluttered her eyelids, Alec supporting her as she grabbed his arms.

"Hey, did I have such an effect on you?" he smiled.

"I just wasn't expecting that," she smiled back.  "Alec, I don't want to ruin the investigation."

"How can you?  You have told me everything from that weekend?" he asked her.  Rose nodded.  "Then, if you have and add nothing to your statement, neither of us can be accused that I tried to get you to say more."

"Yeah but what if they think you got me to say it in the first place?" Rose asked him, trying to get her heart to calm down.

"Rose, Tess took your call, she wrote it down months before I even knew about you," he replied.  "Besides, there was someone with me when you gave your statement and when you identified Claire and Lee Ashworth."

"Even so, it could be taken the wrong way," Rose protested.

"What are you afraid of Rose?  I promise, if they get free, I will take care of you," he assured her.

Rose relaxed a little and leaned into him.  He kissed her forehead and tried to get her to take her jacket off.

"Go get changed in the bathroom," he suggested, holding out the t-shirt to her.  "Here, take this."

Rose gave him a weak smile, allowing him to take her jacket off and retreated to the bathroom.

He took his own jacket off, wishing he'd brought his overcoat with him but he'd not thought about it when he'd set off.  It was still reasonably warm during the day and he never really went anywhere at night, he had no reason and he'd not intended staying out late tonight.

"Rose, are you okay in there?" he called out five minutes later.

Rose was splashing some water on her face.  The kiss had been unexpected but nice, she could go for more but after all she'd witnessed, if anyone found out, it would all be wasted.  She got herself together, gathered her clothes and opened the bathroom door.

"We can't do this Alec," she stated as she put her clothes down.

"It bothers you I'm still married?" he asked, putting his hands on her shoulders and very aware his t-shirt was just covering her legs.

"No, you told me the divorce would be final in a few weeks, it's not that.  I'm worried how it will affect you and my testimony.  I can't let Pippa have died for nothing Alec and I could help to get them to confess what happened to Lisa."

He had to admire her dedication.

"Rose, I so admire you.  The way you were still willing to talk when Tess brushed you off and made it out you were unreliable, it would have deterred other people.  Let me worry about the rest eh?" he asked, going to kiss her neck.  "Just relax and if you get worried, just say and I'll back off.  I've had no-one since Tess left me, I don't make a habit of asking witnesses to my hotel room," he tried to joke.

"I believe ya.  Can we do some more kissing?"

"Yes, I can go for that," he smiled into her neck, kissing it lightly.  "You're all tense, try to loosen up eh?" he asked, nudging down the neck of the baggy on her t-shirt.

Rose couldn't resist him, she knew she should but the light kisses on her neck felt like melted snow on her, it was so making her want to give in but getting Pippa's killers locked up was the reason she'd got mixed up in this and giving in to her feelings could compromise all that.  She had to trust he knew what he was doing. 

He let go and invited her to unfasten his shirt buttons.

"You have my only spare t-shirt," he smiled as she ran out of buttons and stared at his slightly hairy chest. 

He could see it made her smile, though she was failing miserably at trying not to stare.  He'd tried to keep himself in good shape, he had the good fortune of never seemingly putting any weight on but the way he often skipped lunch probably helped though he'd enjoyed the two lunchtimes he'd spent with Rose.

"Sorry," Rose replied weakly, her fingers on the last button before the shirt came apart, not that she couldn't already see his belly-button and noticing how well-toned he was and was fast running out of all her strength of will not to pull the shirt off and blow the consequences of pushing him on the bed and kissing her way across his middle and his rather prominent chest. 

She was also resisting a 'wow' and making a fool of herself that she'd never seen a man's bare chest before.

She had but never anyone as sexy-looking as Alec Hardy, who was smiling at her and holding her shoulders, under the arms of the baggy t-shirt she'd borrowed.  He let go, seeing she was making no attempt to finish the job so he pulled his shirt out and unfastened the cuffs, leaving Rose to decide what happened next.

"Rose, I won't force myself on you.  I was rather hoping when I set off this morning that you would want to relax a little with me?  Okay, forget about me being the detective in charge of a murder investigation, just for one night.  Can you do that?" he asked, taking her hands that were hovering in front of her, like she was having an internal debate with herself and wanted to be ready once she knew what she wanted.

He put her hands on his bare shoulders, under the shirt and left her to see if she'd pull it off.  He wasn't one to force himself on a woman, certainly not this young woman standing nervously in front of him because if he scared her off, if she got the wrong idea, then there would be consequences.  The case would fall apart again – it was barely hanging on by a thread and that thread was Rose.  She was the vital key to all this and he so wanted to get her into bed.

If she wasn't willing to risk it, he would have to agree with whatever she was comfortable with and trying to judge was difficult.

"So, what do you think?" he suddenly asked, her hands on his shoulders.  "If it makes you feel better, then on Monday, I will try and find out discreetly what would happen if word got out we had become involved.  Would that make you feel better?"

"Yeah, a bit.  It's not just that Alec.  I can live with knowing I tried to get justice for Pippa but I'm worried how it will affect you," Rose replied, not wanting to give in but was on the verge.

"You're worried about me?" Alec smiled.  "Oh Rose, no-one has worried about me for a long time.  Is that what's stopping you?  For one thing, there is no-one to tell.  No-one knows where I am or that I'm with you.  Where did you tell your mother you were?"

"I said I'd made friends with Donna, which I sort of have though she's more interested in why you keep calling me all the time," she admitted.

"Yes, she should think about a career in the police," Alec smiled.  "So your mother doesn't know her, I mean to check up on you?"

"Nope," Rose began to smile, pulling on the shoulder of the shirt then moving one hand, ran a finger down from his now bare arm as she slipped one side of the shirt down his arm.  "Just one thing?" she asked as the sleeve came off and he didn't know whether to pull the other side off or let Rose finish the job.

"What's that?" he asked, looking at her hand.

"You promise if I back off, you'll do the same?"
Chapter 14
"Yes, you have my word.  I would never hurt you Rose.  Just forget who we are for tonight eh?  We'll worry about other things before I leave tomorrow.  I can keep the room until four, you can show me around for a few hours.  Would you come with me?" he dared ask, smiling at her as she hovered her finger above the faint scar from his surgery.

"What's that?" Rose stopped moving her finger, not noticing him slip out of the other side of his shirt.

"I had surgery, a while back.  It's nothing to worry about, I'm perfectly fine now.  The case got to me, before I found out Tess was hiding you from me.  She did it because we were on the verge of a divorce and she was trying to steal the one thing that would have made it seem like I could solve the case on my own."

"She'd do a callous thing like that?" Rose asked, hardly believing Tess could do such a thing.  "So she made it out I was drunk that night and I was making it up?"

"Calm down love," he asked without realising.

"You should report her Alec.  She was so mad with you, she stopped you solving the case weeks ago?  She made me feel like I didn't matter Alec.  My mum and Mickey tried to get me to forget about it but I couldn't."

"You were right not to give up," he agreed as he pulled her head onto his chest.  "We can't let her ruin anything else.  I may not have got my divorce yet but there's only a few more weeks.  It will go through Rose, the thing is though, it only went through so fast because I agreed to keep her new boyfriend out of it.  If she thinks there's anything going on, she may still protest."

"Geez, that's just great," Rose sighed, liking the feeling of resting on him now his shirt was off.  "So now, we have to be even more careful not to give any clues?"

"Nothing's happened yet but you should know what you're getting in to," he warned her.  "Just a few weeks until it's final and by then, we could have a court date.  As soon as the judge hears what you have to say, if they still protest their innocence, he'll order a trial."

"I'm not sure Alec.  If ya say I'll have to face them?"

"They won't know your name," he tried to assure her.  "Now, are we standing here all night?"

All Rose remembered when she woke up, a man's arms around her and her nose itching from his hairy chest was that she was with Alec and he'd done as he promised.  He'd not fought her when she let him go so far and she got him to back away.  All he'd done was eased off and assured her it was fine and that since his surgery, he still wasn't sure how good a job had been done.

They had done a lot of kissing, Rose melting into him, he had kissed her cleavage, having removed the t-shirt she'd borrowed and she'd got to kiss her way across his chest and somehow, she'd lost her underwear and moved on top of him.  Both of them had moved together, Alec getting on top of her and whispering to relax and go with her feelings.

She had done until she realised if they carried on, well she wouldn't be able to stop herself, let alone him.  Alec realised she'd never had her first time and wasn't sure she wanted it to be with him so he'd moved away, taking her with him and kissed her again.

He felt her moving, he was resting his chin on the top of her head then kissed it as she stirred.

"Hi," Rose managed to say, trying not to move so she didn't bump his chin.

He let her move slightly so she could see him.  At that moment, he couldn't remember having woken up to such a beautiful smile as the one Rose was giving him.

"Hello, did I wake you?" he asked as Rose twitched her nose now she'd moved away from his chest.

"No, my itchy nose did.  Hi again.  What time is it?"

He tried to move to reach his phone.  "Don't worry, I checked what time breakfast was, we still won't miss it if we have a repeat of last night."

Rose giggled.  "Yeah, it was really nice and I'm sorry I was so reluctant."

"Don't worry about it Rose.  I respect the fact you made me stop though I admit if you had not done so when you did, any other attempt to tell me may have been too late."

"Yeah, me too.  I mean a bit longer and I might not have wanted ya to stop.  Alec, what happens to us now?  There's no going back, is there?" she asked, leaning on his chest again.

He put his arms around her and kissed her forehead.

"Seems not.  When I go back, I'll have to resist sending for you to answer more questions but I will try and get away again next weekend.  I will bring my car with me."

"Don't do that.  We can meet somewhere, out of the city, there's loads of places or just find a hotel, if ya want?"

"I would like nothing better.  I had been seeing my daughter but she's not been that keen, she may be glad to back off.  I doubt the cold was that bad she needed to cancel this weekend.  Now, are we going to have a debate or are you coming to lie on me?"

After almost an hour, Rose finally got out of bed and hoped she could freshen up her underwear and was glad she always kept a small pack of wipes and some spare liners in her bag.  Alec was grinning as she ran off, knowing she'd embarrassed herself before he'd coaxed her underwear off but it hadn't been too bad as he'd fished beneath the sheets to find them again.

"Where are we going?" Rose asked as she came back, going to find her bra.

"Maybe you should decide?  We could eat out later then come back here for an hour?  The underground takes me back to the station but I will make sure you get your bus home first."

"I can come with ya.  I know how to get back to the store.  Alec, it was really nice, I'm glad I stayed.  I just hope my mum doesn't ask any awkward questions.  She'd only try and talk me out of it and to refuse to help with the case.  Promise me you'll find out, if it's gonna make things complicated?" she asked him.

"I promise.  Not getting changed in the bathroom?" he dared ask.

Rose pretended to be shy.  "Maybe I should?"

"I would be very disappointed if you did.  Let me help?" he asked, getting out of bed and going to fasten her bra from behind.

"Don't need your specs to do that then?" Rose smiled at him through the mirror.

He kissed her neck, his hands on her shoulders.

"I don't think so.  So, where are you going to take me but no boats eh?"

"Right, boats are out then?  I can't imagine what that was like, finding her like that.  I don't think she was alive when Lee carried her out to the car."

"Rose, we can't talk about it love, remember?" he asked, going for his spare clean shirt and thinking of maybe buying some more casual ones and some more t-shirts.  "If we talk about it, I can't use any of it.  If you want to add things you remember about that night then fine but we have to do it officially and you should speak to Jenkins about it.  If I admit we are involved, well there may be a chance they'll take me off the case."

"I can't let that happen Alec.  Seems we're stuck then?  I wish I'd never seen anything now, I should have drunk as much as Shareen and gone to bed."

"Don't say that, we would never have got this far without you Rose," he tried to assure her.  "We will find a way around this."

"Well I don't want Tess taking the credit, not after what she tried to do," Rose replied.

"Well if I step back and let Jenkins deal with you, that should appease the chief somewhat, if they find out.  Let me see how things go when I get back eh?"

After breakfast, they walked around for a while, getting the tube out to Tower Bridge and looking around the Tower of London then after a late lunch, went back to the hotel.  They were just kissing when Rose's phone rang.

"I have to get this or she'll keep trying," Rose sighed at the display.  "What Mum?"

"Don't you what mum me.  Where are ya?" her mother asked, trying to stop Mickey taking the phone after she'd called him, saying Rose had been out all night.

"I told ya I was staying out Mum, I'm not a kid.  I went back to Donna's, we stayed out late."

"Well I hope she didn't try to get you with her cousin again?" Jackie replied, getting a frown from Mickey.  "Since when did ya get so friendly with her anyway?"

"Never mind Mum.  If ya must know, she keeps asking why the police are always calling me, I have to use her office."

She finally got away and Alec put his arms around her.

"Never mind love, we still have a bit of time before I have to leave.  Maybe I should walk you back to the store so you can get home?" he asked.

"No, I want to go to the station with ya, you keep seeing me back to the one in Sandbrook."

"I went to the café there the other day, to get coffee," he admitted.  "I don't drink coffee.  Tess wondered what had come over me." 

Rose put her hands on his shirt buttons.

"She's not suspicious is she?" Rose almost panicked.

"No, I hope not.  I can cover it up, don't worry.  No more talking, it may be a while before we see each other again."

After a repeat of earlier, only just managing to stop themselves going any further, they got dressed and Alec went to hand in his key, paying with his bank card then they walked down to the tube station, since they'd both got day tickets earlier.

"Sure you want to come with me?" he asked as they entered the station.

Rose just smiled and put her arm in his as they walked to the escalator.  They got to the train station and Alec had about twenty minutes to wait so they both got coffee and found a seat.

"So, will ya call me?" Rose asked, sitting touching his knees and holding his hand.

"When I get back.  There will be a lot going on next week, I will try and keep any calls to a minimum, since your friend may be asking more questions," he smiled.

Putting their paper cups in the bin, they walked to where Alec's platform had just opened and he turned to hug her.

"Bye Rose, it was worth the risk," he told her.

"Yeah, sorry I was a bit reluctant but if we got too carried away?" she questioned.

"I know, you were right.  Bye love."

He gave her a light kiss that was just about acceptable in public and showed his ticket to the collector, turning back to see Rose waving.  She wished she could have gone on the platform with him but she wouldn't have wanted him to go.  Alec found a seat to himself, well hopefully and sent a quick message saying 'It was more than nice' and left it at that.  What else could he say?

For the next few days, Rose had to be content Alec would call her late at night, having to take the call in her room so her mother wouldn't hear.  She hated sneaking around but if she didn't, she would have to answer more questions than she was comfortable with.

By Thursday, they were both climbing their respective walls.

"I can't come up there this weekend," Alec had to admit when he got home.  "Daisy wants to meet and if I refuse, well Tess will ask questions and it may put Daisy off."

"Yeah, I understand Alec.  She needs you, she's lucky to have you," Rose replied, upset they wouldn't be meeting.

"I could ask you to come down next Tuesday, if you want?" he suggested, not yet telling her the bit of news he had.

His chief had called him in his office earlier, finally getting word they were going ahead with the court case and it was all hinging on Rose's testimony, since they'd failed to find her friend.

"Tess came to see me earlier," the chief added as Alec was about to leave.  "She seems to think you were getting a bit too close to your star witness."

"Like she got too close to her new boyfriend and lost the evidence?" Alec had scoffed back.  "Like she almost lost the only eyewitness from that night because of her being spiteful and wanting to take the credit?  Then she dropped it and wasted weeks in extra work when Rose Tyler was just waiting for someone to call her who believed her."

"Yes, I know Alec, she was wrong, we all know that.  Just be careful though, getting too close to a witness is treading on very thin ice, in the eyes of the defence.  It's been all we can do to not release her name," his chief had told him.

"Well she'll run if they don't keep her name out of it," Alec had warned him.  "She's already scared as it is at the prospect they will see her face.  If me reassuring her she'll be safe is getting too close then that's too bad.  I need to get her down here again then, if it's going ahead, the prosecution service will want to talk to her."

"Yes, I expect they will, then we'll get a date.  You know things would have been different if the Ashworths had confessed and we weren't relying on just one witness.  We have to be careful though, Tess's initial brush-off may go against Miss Tyler," the chief had told him.  "Yes, get her down here if you have to but paying her costs has to stop now, or the defence may take it the wrong way and Alec, be careful, if you do get too close, I don't want to get to hear about it – understood?"

"I told you, she needs some reassurance if they get off and since the law will do nothing to protect her?  She has already given her statement, if she has anything else to add, Jenkins can interview her, if it makes it seem any better?" Alec suggested as he left.

So now, Rose was asking him if they really needed her or he was finding an excuse.

"Alec, if I come down, it's only for a few hours," she tried to protest.

"Not if you come down the night before?  I mean it Rose, get the train after work, just put a few things in a bag and I'll meet you.  We can at least have the evening together, it has to be worth it love?" he asked.

"So what excuse are ya gonna come up with or don't you really need me at the police station?"

"Easy love.  Yes, the prosecution service will want to interview you, I got word they will be going ahead – if they think you are a credible witness."

"Great, then they'll find out what Tess thought and I've no-one to say otherwise," Rose sighed.

"I believed you, so will they.  They may call your mother, ask about your drinking habits.  Do you often get drunk?" he asked, a hint of humour in his voice.

"Watch I don't slap you when I see you," Rose laughed.  "Only at Christmas and new year, same as everyone else.  I wish you could find my friend."

"I'm sorry Rose but the chief ordered that to be scaled back, now we have to concentrate on what we do have.  Once it becomes public, it may prompt her to come forward though?" he suggested.

"Yeah, great, then she tells everyone I imagined it all, she might still be mad at me," Rose replied.

"No love, she may realise you did see something, she knows how much you drank and like you said, she was upset you saw something she didn't.  If she'd seen the same thing, I would be protecting both of you.  Rose, did you tell her anything that night, about what you were seeing?" he asked, suddenly realising her friend could back her up after all.

"No, not really.  I asked her about Claire, oh and about Cate and Ricky but that's all, sorry.  She just told me a few things about them, I said I'd seen Cate and Ricky arguing that morning.  She teased me I was only watching to get a glimpse of Lee.  She also said Cate liked to flirt with Lee more than Lisa did."

"Did she now?" Alec asked, thinking they should be doing this during working hours.  "Rose, don't say any more to me, we'll go through it when you come down.  Find out the times of the trains, I'll meet you."

"Yeah, I might just be able to manage until then," Rose teased him.  "So, what are the prosecution gonna ask me?"

"They will be on your side Rose, it's the defence you have to worry about, sorry.  The prosecution will recommend to the court that your name remains out of the proceedings, the defence will try and get your name revealed but the court will decide then the judge will rule your name can't be published.  They may also put a ban on all reporting, well any photos at least."

"Well I hope so.  If they get my name Alec, I'm not going ahead."

"I know love, try not to worry too much eh?"

"Easy for you to say," Rose replied.  "See ya Monday night then?"

"Yes love, if Daisy changes her mind, I will call and we can meet, okay?" he asked.

Since he heard nothing from Daisy on Friday night, he went to where they'd been meeting on Saturday morning.  Rose was right, meeting his daughter was important and now he had to juggle her and Rose.  If Daisy wanted to meet every Saturday, it would take some careful planning but maybe he could get a late train to London and meet Rose in the hotel again?  Well that was half a plan, providing the court didn't scare her away by saying her name had to be revealed - then he would never see her again.

He couldn't let that happen so if her name was released, he had to take responsibility for her if the Ashworths got off.  Daisy roused him from his daydream as he waited outside for her.

"Hey, sorry about last week Dad, you didn't want my cold did you?"

"No thank you.  So, how have you been?  How's school?"

He just hoped if they kept meeting on Saturdays that she wouldn't suggest anything else just yet but by the time he'd seen her home, it was already almost seven so maybe next week, he'd plan accordingly and leave his car in a long stay car park near the train station and see what time he'd get to London.  Maybe he'd just leave his car at work, everyone else seemed to.

Rose was getting nervous on her way to work on Monday morning, after admitting to her mother she was needed early for an interview in Sandbrook and she was going the night before.

"So are they paying for it then?" her mother asked, fancying a free trip.

"I don't know Mum, I'll have to see if I can claim it back but I've got the money from last time.  It'll be too much going down there early morning, I don't know what time they'll want to see me, I'd best be there when the court opens.  DI Hardy said he'd meet me there."

They had discussed it a few times over the weekend but when she got to work, Donna called her to her office.

"Been a bit quiet on the phone calls Rose?" Donna remarked.

"It won't be soon, the court case will be coming up.  Anyway, he's managed to catch me at lunchtime," Rose told her.

"Who are you trying to fool Rose?  You like him, don't you?" Donna asked her.  "Be careful, that's all."

Rose didn't need her new friend to tell her that. As she left work and walked to the nearest underground station, that being Leicester Square again, she got to the train station and got her return ticket, glad she had some spare money and she'd not really a hotel to pay for and waited for the train, calling Alec.

"Not changed your mind?" he asked as he was leaving his office but seeing Tess hanging around.

"Nope, should I have done?" Rose asked.

"Then I will see you later.  Sorry love, I have to go."

Rose wondered why he'd cut the call short.  Tess was waiting for Alec as he came out of his office.

"So, you're taking Rose Tyler to see the CPS tomorrow?" Tess asked him.

"So?" Alec asked back.  "What are you implying Tess?  If you'd had your way, they wouldn't even be seeing her would they?  You'd best hope that does not come up Tess, that you withheld a witness."

"You'd let me take the blame, wouldn't you?" Tess asked him, now they were a few weeks away from their divorce.

"It was entirely you Tess," he reminded her.  "You dismissed her and forgot about her.  I'm going to need that notebook of yours again."

"What for?" Tess wanted to know.

"In case you did not tell me everything, about her friend who went missing.  I think you put her off as well Tess, she could prove Rose was not drinking that night."

"Come on Alec, she could also prove you're wrong about Rose," Tess replied.  "She could prove Rose had drunk as much as her that night, then what?  You're being too defensive of her Alec, if you're not careful, you could be the cause of the case to collapse," she warned him.  "I'd back off if I were you, everyone thinks the same, ask them."

Alec looked around at Jenkins in particular, had the DC noticed the last time Rose had been there?  The junior officer maybe wouldn't dare say anything to him but he may have said to Tess how Rose had been treated on her last two visits.

"I have things to do," Alec told her, trying to ignore the insinuation.

Tess shook her head, going to stand by Jenkins's desk.

"Just how was he around Rose Tyler?" Tess asked him.

"You saw him as much as I did Ma'am," Jenkins replied, knowing the two of them were almost divorced and not wanting to get caught taking sides.

Alec set off to go home, then thought maybe he'd wait around for Rose but if Tess saw him as she left?  No, it would be safer to go home, even for a short time, he had to tidy up anyway.  He got home and was about to leave when his doorbell went.  Rose didn't know where he lived and she'd still be on the train for a while longer.

"Daisy, what are you doing here?" he asked as his daughter stood there.

"I had a row with mum, can I stay tonight?" the teenager asked quietly, a small bag on her shoulder.

"Daisy, what happened?  I'm due to go meet someone."

"Great, you leave as well then," the teenager huffed.

"I'm not leaving you, it's just I arranged to meet someone off the train, she'll be here soon," he had to admit.

"Well, is she your girlfriend then?" Daisy wanted to know as he let her in, not leaving him much time to meet Rose's train.

"Well, sort of.  Daisy, can't you make up with your mum?" he asked hopefully.  "Look, I have to go, come with me and I'll drop you home."

"I don't want to go home Dad, mum said you don't care about me, I stuck up for you so now, it seems she's right?" Daisy told him.

"Well come with me and we'll talk later but you'll have to meet Rose," he told her, hoping Tess had not mentioned their star witness's name.

"Dad, tell me it's not the woman mum keeps going on about?" Daisy asked as he hustled her out and locked the door.

He knew Tess shouldn't have mentioned their witness's name, what was she thinking of?

"What exactly did your mother say?" he asked as they reached his car.
Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

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