Sandbrook comes to Broadchurch

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Sandbrook comes to Broadchurch

Rose Tyler has met Lee Ashworth while working as a trainee hairdresser for Claire Ripley in Sandbrook.  Things start to get complicated when they move to a rented house and a young girl dies while her older cousin goes missing.  Alec Hardy is in charge of the case and thinks Rose knows more than she says and offers her protection by moving her to Broadchurch after starting an affair 

Chapter 1

Rose takes the place of Claire Ripley and is not totally innocent, knowing what Lee Ashworth and Ricky Gillespie did that night Pippa died and Lisa only appeared to be missing to everyone else. Lee threatens her if she tells the police after he confesses when she realises he drugged her that night after she came back from Claire's house early.

Rose Tyler always loved helping her mother with her hairdressing business so she decided to get some professional training after the store she'd worked in for a long time finally closed down due to budget cuts. She wouldn't have minded but the store had survived a fire back in 2005 and re-opened but the board of directors had called for the store's closure and Rose was faced with being out of work.

"Never mind Rose," her mother was trying to console her. "Why don't ya try something different?"

"What, like hairdressing?" Rose managed to smile, putting the evening paper down after seeing no jobs advertised she could apply for.

"Why don't ya apply to the hairdressing college? Ya can work while ya train," Jackie suggested.

"Yeah, the pay is abysmal," Rose joked. "Oh, where did ya say cousin Mo had moved to after she got tired of The Peak District?"

"Yeah, funny she suddenly decided to move again? What was the place she went to? Somewhere near Portsmouth was it?" Jackie asked. "Sandbrook, that was the name."

"Never heard of it," Rose laughed. "Call her and ask if there's a hairdressing college then, it'll be cheaper down there and I might get a job easier as a trainee."

"You, leaving home," Jackie remarked. "Never thought I'd see the day."

So two weeks later, Rose packed her bags and got the train to Sandbrook, their cousin being willing to put Rose up in the spare room until she got sorted. Rose found it easy once the course started, having had plenty of practise on the women of the estate she lived on and began to look for a part time job where she'd get time off for college.

She was walking down the main road one morning and wandering down a side street, came across a hairdressers with the name of 'Dragon Scissors' which made Rose smile. There were no ads in the window but she thought she might just take a chance, since the place was busy. She waited by the desk until someone was free.

"We can't fit you in today," a woman with brown hair and a Welsh accent told her as she went to the desk.

"Oh, I'm not wanting an appointment," Rose replied, trying not to look flustered. "I wondered if the owner was around?"

"That's me luv, I hope you've not got a complaint?"

"What? No," Rose replied as who she now knew was the owner took a customer's payment.

"Well don't just stand there, what do you want?" she was asked, the woman shouting 'who's next' over Rose's shoulder. "Just take a seat over there," she carried on telling the other woman.

"I'm enrolled at the hairdressing college, I was just wondering if you had a vacancy for a trainee?"

The woman looked Rose up and down.

"Bit old to be a trainee?" the owner scoffed.

"I started late, I used to work in a department store until it closed down," Rose replied, aware she was keeping the woman from her customer.

"Right. Well, take your coat off then and go wash that woman's hair over there," she pointed to the woman who was waiting.

After the last customer was leaving, Rose had picked up the brush and was sweeping the floor.

"So, who are you then?" the woman Rose had learned was called Claire asked her, since Rose had noticed she called everyone 'Luv'.

"I'm Rose Tyler. This place is busy, to say it's off the main road."

"Must be the name," Claire laughed, the others joining in. "Hey everyone, this is Rose. So, you're from London, what are you doing here?"

"I have a cousin here, who I'm staying with. I thought it would be easier to get a job here, rather than in London," Rose admitted.

"So, how much training have you done?" Claire asked her.

"I used to help my mum so I found the hairdressing college easy. My instructor said I should get some experience."

"Well, Rose. I can't pay you much but you can keep any tips you get and you can work Fridays and Saturdays, if you're free on Friday?" Claire asked her.

"I only have to go to the college for three days a week," Rose replied "I can pick my days. So, how much will I get paid?"

She was rather hoping she could get a place of her own but until she graduated as a hairdresser, she'd have to stay where she was. She soon fitted in at the salon, getting one day off during the week with still going to college and she soon made friends with everyone, even getting invited to join them for a drink after work, though Rose still wasn't getting paid much.

Some of the regular customers Claire was friendly with even invited her to parties and Claire decided to ask Rose to go with her one Saturday night.

"Oh, I couldn't," Rose was insisting.

"Oh come on Rose, never been to a party before?" Claire teased her.

She had but she didn't think Claire knew what parties were like on a London council estate. So she agreed to go, telling her cousin not to wait up for her. Her younger cousin though wondered what had come over her.

"You never stop out late," it was pointed out to her.

"Well, she's my boss so I have to make an effort," Rose smiled as she put clips in her hair.

So getting a taxi to the address Claire had given her of the customer, she was just getting out at her destination as a man was getting out of a car so the cab was in the middle of the road.

"Bloomin' cheek," Rose muttered to herself as she paid the driver.

"Too right," the cabbie agreed. "Parking's terrible at night. They should put no parking signs up."

"Yeah," Rose replied as the man she'd seen getting out of the car seemed to be looking around. "Do ya have a card with the taxi number on?"

The cabbie fished around on the shelf and handed her a card. She thanked him and joined the man on the pavement.

"I don't suppose you're going to a party around here are you?" he asked her.

"You mean Eileen's?" Rose wondered. "Hey thanks for parking there just as my cab arrived."

"There are no parking restrictions, get over it luv," he replied, throwing the remains of his cigarette on the ground. "I don't know why I smoke these things. So, do you know where this party is?"

"Number 23, so I was told. So, do ya know Eileen well then?"

"Nope, I was doing some work for them, new floorboards and they just invited me. What about you?"

"She's a customer at the hair salon I work in. She invited my boss who didn't want to come on her own. It's freezin' out here, that's the house we want just there," Rose spotted the number on the door. "I hope my boss has said I was coming."

"Don't worry too much, they'll probably be letting anyone in," the man grinned at her. "I'm Lee by the way."

"Hi, I'm Rose and yeah, half the neighbours are probably invited so there are no complaints about the music," Rose smiled.

"Shall we?" Lee grinned, leading the way and gesturing towards the driveway.

That was all it took. Lee got them some drinks and was making her laugh at his dry jokes and Claire was giving her filthy looks as if to say she fancied Lee but Rose wasn't about to just give in, not even to her boss. Claire followed her upstairs when Rose excused herself to the bathroom, Lee leaning over to whisper for her not to be long.

"Well, there might be a queue," Rose laughed as he flicked a strand of her hair back, Rose hoping no-one was taking any notice the way he'd been paying attention to her.

So as Rose heard someone behind her on the stairs and saw two women already waiting, she could hardly avoid Claire, who stopped her at the top of the stairs.

"Who's the bloke Rose?" Claire nudged her.

"I don't want to fight with you Claire," Rose told her. "He's just a bloke, I probably won't even see him again."

"Who says I want to fight?" Claire laughed as the other two looked at her and the bathroom door opened.

"Oh, hi Claire," the hostess greeted her. "Who's your friend?"

"This is Rose, she works part-time," Claire told her. "She graduates from the hairdressing college soon, don't know if I'm taking her on full time yet, it depends on a few things."

Rose just hoped giving Claire a chance to get to know Lee wasn't one of them, she was just getting to like him. He was so different to Mickey. When she got back downstairs, Lee complained she'd been gone too long for his liking.

"I did warn ya," Rose smiled, taking her drink back and hoping if he was going to ask to see her again, he wasn't going to be the bossy type.

"Well I suppose I'll have to let you off then," he whispered as he touched her cheek with his finger. "Fancy getting out of here?"

"Sure you should be drivin'?" Rose dared ask as he was on his second glass of lager.

"It's the non-alcoholic and it tastes terrible. There's a pub near my place, if you want to go?" he suggested.

Rose didn't know anyone apart from Claire, who was now busy in a corner snogging the life out of a bloke whom she'd noticed as she'd come back downstairs. Well at least Lee had suggested they left before he tried anything, Rose supposed.

"Yeah, I don't suppose we'll be missed?" Rose replied.

Claire did notice Rose getting her coat and Lee helping her put it on but shrugged her shoulders.

"Leaving so soon?" Claire asked, since she'd managed to detached herself from the man she was with.

"I'm off to the pub with Lee, parties aren't really my thing when I don't know anyone," Rose replied as Lee got his jacket.

"Come on then Rose," he called her, seeing Claire. "This your boss then?"

Rose nodded. "Yeah, this is Claire. Claire, this is Lee. Sorry, didn't catch your last name."

"I never said but neither did you," he reminded her.

"It doesn't bother me," Claire told them as the man she was with was now leaning on her shoulder from behind.

"I should hope not," Lee replied sarcastically as he got his car key out of his pocket.

They finally left, going out into the cold night air and drove off. Ten minutes later, Lee stopped outside a house, passing a pub on the corner.

"Still want to go to the pub or we could go to my bedsit?" Lee asked her.

"Let's go to the pub, we can discuss going to your place," Rose grinned, still not sure about him.

He got them some drinks, Rose had opted to go into what passed as the lounge, since the public bar was crowded and it was standing room only, there was a darts match going on.

"So, we need to discuss going to my place then?" Lee asked her.

"Don't get me wrong," Rose started to tell him. "So, what exactly do you do for a living then?"

"I told you. I do maintenance services, odd jobs like fencing, new floors, the odd bit of painting. I have jobs booked into next month, want to see my diary? I'm registered, just so you know."

"Sorry. It's just half the blokes where I used to live, well they'd never admit they were unemployed," Rose apologised.

"So where's that then? London somewhere?" Lee asked her.

"Somewhere," Rose replied, not sure if she should tell him exactly where but this wasn't the best part of the town either.

"Well I do a lot of sub-contracting," Lee admitted. "I don't tell everyone. I know this bloke, Ricky Gillespie, he has his own business and he finds it easier than taking anyone else on. He's been doing a lot of work on this new estate, just on the outskirts of town."

"I don't know my way around that much," Rose told him.

"Well, that could change, if you want?" Lee replied, putting his arm around her. "So, when do you graduate as a hairdresser then? This Ricky, he was telling me he was going to invest in a couple of houses on the estate and keep one for himself and rent one out. Good places to rent are hard to find, I don't know why I came here."

"You're not from here then?" Rose asked as she finished her drink.

"How did you guess?" Lee replied.

"Well if you don't wanna tell me?" Rose joked.

"That depends if you're going to stick around? Where are you living then?"

"In my cousin's spare room?" Rose smiled. "I can't afford a place of my own."

"Well I'm not allowed to have anyone living with me, visitors have to be out by ten on weekday nights."

Rose giggled, since this was her third glass of white wine with lemonade.

"It's Saturday," she pointed out.

"So it is. Well, want to come back with me? Or are you going to play hard to get?"

Rose thought about it. Lee seemed to be the most decent man she'd met in a long time, apart from a temp who had worked at the store but he hadn't seemed to want to be serious. She liked Lee's dry sense of humour though, it was different. Before she knew it, they were finishing their drinks and had walked back to where he lived, climbing the stairs to the attic room he rented.

Rose hardly knew what had hit her as they tossed and turned under the duvet in his three-quarter sized bed, then as he fished for their underwear, he hovered over her.

"Must have been a while for you?" he grinned.

"You have no idea," Rose laughed. "How come you've not got a girlfriend?"

"She left me. Apparently I wasn't good enough for her circle of friends."

"Huh? She must have been a bit of a snob then?" Rose asked.

"You have no idea," he replied, going to kiss her neck. "So, what do you think? Can I see you again or is this just a one-off? Only I saw this mini-series a while back where this woman took a bloke home and she couldn't get rid of him, it didn't end well. I don't want to seem the pushy type."

"Yeah, I know which programme you mean and no, I don't think you're pushy. Yeah, I want to see you again Lee."

Over the next few weeks, they saw each other twice during the week, when he'd take Rose back to where she was staying, then she would stay over at the weekend. Lee was trying to persuade the landlady there was room for two in his rented attic but he got turned down, being told it wouldn't be fair on the other tenants.

The day Rose got her hairdressing diploma, they went out to celebrate. Since someone was leaving Claire's salon to have a baby, Rose had been offered the job. Lee said they had a double celebration and had taken her to a fancy Italian restaurant.

"Rose, Ricky told me those houses are ready, how do you feel about us taking the one he's thinking of renting out?"

"Wow, you really think he'll rent it to us? Can we afford it?"

"If you've got that job? Work's picked up Rose, he said he wouldn't advertise until I let him know. Your mother was complaining about not being invited down to meet me."

Rose had been dreading the two of them meeting. So they went off to visit Ricky, his wife and daughter the following evening, Ricky showing them around but Lee had done some work on it, laying the laminate flooring so it was mainly for Rose to see.

"So, what do you think?" Lee asked Rose, since Ricky had agreed to supply the electrical appliances in the kitchen and pay for Lee to put them in.

"Yeah I like it. How much is the rent then?" Rose wanted to know, since she wasn't sure how much Claire would be paying her. "Do we need carpets?"

"Rose, there's laminate flooring downstairs and I'll sand and polish the rest. We can just get some rugs. I know it's a big step for you but I think it's right. How about you?" he asked her.

Chapter 2
A/N: Contains some adult themes but not enough to change the rating so be warned. It's just talk between two characters. Also contains speculation from the series that something was going on between Cate and Lee.

Rose went back to her rented room and called her mother after Lee left.

"It's late Rose, what's wrong now?" she was asked.

"I have some news for ya," Rose replied. "We went to look at that house I told ya about, it's ours if we want it."

"That was quick then? So are ya gonna take it?"

"I think so Mum, then ya could come down and meet Lee," Rose suggested.

"Well, it's about time I met him," Jackie replied. "So it's a new house then?"

"Well yeah, some are still empty. It's a friend of Lee's, they've already moved in, they have a young girl, she's really cute, her name's Pippa. She found out I was a hairdresser and got all excited, asking me loads of questions."

So over the next few weeks, Rose was busy cleaning and decorating in the evenings after Lee picked her up from work and they finally moved into their new house. They seemed to get on well with their neighbours and in the late summer, took it in turns to have a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon, meeting Lisa, Pippa's older cousin.

One Sunday afternoon, Rose had washed Pippa's hair and was going to style it for her, Lisa watching.

"You're so lucky Rose, having a job like that," Lisa told her as Pippa was holding the hair pins.

"I want to be a hairdresser," Pippa laughed.

"Yeah?" Rose asked her. "We know. So, you've not changed your mind then?"

"She'll change it again," Lisa laughed, crossing to the window.

Rose put the last hairpin in Pippa's hair and went to join Lisa.

"What's wrong?" Rose asked her as Pippa went to the mirror.

"I hate her," Lisa half laughed as they saw Pippa's mother Cate sat at the garden table with Lee, both of them laughing.

Rose had to frown at the fact Lee seemed to be enjoying Cate's company while she herself wasn't with him.

"I'm sorry but I do," Lisa continued. "Aren't you jealous Rose?"

Rose shrugged her shoulders. Lee did appear to be having too much fun without her. Pippa came to join them.

"Are we going back out?" she asked. "I want to show mum what you've done to my hair. Do you think she'll like it?"

"Yeah, of course she will," Rose smiled, wondering why Lee hadn't come to find her.

When they got back downstairs and went through the gate Lee had made between the two gardens, Rose went to sit on Lee's lap.

"Having fun babe?" she asked him, going for his drink and taking a swig of the bottle of lager.

"Not as much as if you'd been here," he replied, getting a look from Cate. "What took you so long?"

"Oh, you know, Pippa changing her mind what she wanted me to do to her hair. Actually Cate, I had something to ask you, well Lisa as well. You know I like working for Claire but I was thinking of maybe trying to go out on my own, well eventually. Cate, if I decide to put together a portfolio, would you allow me to take some photos of Pippa and use them, for hairstyles?"

"I don't see why not?" Cate replied, still sipping from yet another glass of white wine.

Just then, Ricky called over that the food was ready.

"About time mate," Lee called back to him, trying to get Rose to move. "Come on Rose, let me up."

She had noticed Lee still tended to say things like that to her in front of people, just like when they had first met. The next morning, Cate was rather hung over from drinking all that wine in the afternoon and Pippa was waiting for Rose and Lee to go to work.

"Hi Sweetheart," Rose greeted her as Lee locked the door and Pippa approached them. "What are you doing out here? Is your mum not taking you to school?"

The girl looked upset. "I had to get my own breakfast, mum's got a headache."

Rose went to put her arm around Pippa.

"Sorry. Come on, we'll have time to drop you at school, won't we Lee?"

"Sure, if you can be a few minutes later and miss your coffee when you get to work," he replied, unlocking the car doors.

"Mum will be okay, won't she?" Pippa asked as Rose helped her into the back of the car.

"Yeah, she probably overdid it a bit yesterday," Rose tried to assure her.

"I can drop you first Rose," Lee told her as she got in.

"No, it's fine, let's get her to school. What about getting home?" Rose asked Pippa.

"Can you call my dad for me?" Pippa replied. "If mum can't get me, ask him to come? I don't have any bus fare and I hate the school bus anyway, the boys always fight and the girls try and keep away from them."

"Reminds me of my old school," Rose laughed.

"That must have been fun then?" Lee asked sarcastically.

Rose let it go. They left Pippa by the school gates and when Rose got to work, she told Lee she'd call Ricky in her break time.

"She's doing it even more now," Lee told her.

"Is that why she was flirting with ya yesterday?" Rose dared ask.

"Come off it Rose, I'm not remotely interested in Cate. Lisa though?" he joked.

"Stop it Lee, she's only eighteen," Rose told him as she was getting out of the car.

"Geez Rose, I was just joking. Don't forget to call Ricky, he can phone Cate to see if she's in a fit state to collect Pippa."

Rose would have bet Ricky would end up collecting Pippa, judging by what Cate had been drinking the afternoon before. The next morning, Cate had given Pippa some money for bus fare and since Lee was starting later for the people he was working for, Rose was going for the early bus.

"So I'll make my own way home then?" Rose asked as she was leaving.

"You're getting too used to getting a lift Rose," Lee told her. "You have to get used to me working different hours to suit those who are employing me."

"I know that Lee. See ya tonight, call if you're gonna be really late."

Rose set off, not knowing that Lee had gone through the back gate he'd put in and stood at Cate's patio door.

"What are you doing here Lee?" Cate wanted to know, going to the room door to call Pippa. "Stay out of the way. Pippa, come on, you'll miss the school bus."

"Why can't you take me or why can't I go with Rose and Lee?" Pippa replied from the top of the stairs.

Cate turned to shush Lee as Pippa came down the stairs.

"Bye Sweetheart, have a good day," she told Pippa as she tried to keep the girl from asking what Lee was doing behind the door.

"Bye Mum, see you tonight but I wish you'd come and get me."

"Come back with your friends for a change," Cate laughed. Then she turned to Lee as Pippa closed the door. "So, what are you doing here Lee?"

"You were flirting with me on Sunday, you tell me?" Lee replied.

"I saw Rose watching out of the upstairs window," Cate told him, going to the drinks cabinet.

"A bit early Cate?" he asked her when she offered the bottle to him. "Put it away. So, why were you flirting with me?"

"Was Rose jealous?" Cate laughed, putting the bottle away.

"She mentioned something at the time. She's only my girlfriend Cate, she doesn't have the exclusive. She's a lot younger than me, did you know? She'd only had the one boyfriend before she came here."

"So? Why are you telling me?" she asked him.

"What do you think? I told her I was starting work late."

Rose got to work and made herself a drink.

"No lift today then?" Claire had noticed as she joined Rose.

"He's got a new customer, they wanted him to start a bit later. Claire, can I ask you something?"

Claire nodded. "You want boyfriend advice?" she laughed.

"It's nothing Claire. Well okay, it may be nothing. We went next door to a barbecue and I went inside to do Pippa's hair and when I looked out of the window, Lee was sat with Cate and they were both laughing."

"Come on Rose, it was probably nothing," Claire replied. "It's not like you to let something like that get to you."

"Yeah, you're probably right. It's just with Lee, well I've never had a relationship before where I've lived with someone."

"Then you don't really know what to expect," Claire told her. "You're lucky to have someone like him Rose, don't spoil it over nothing."

Rose smiled and prepared to start work but Claire stopped her.

"So you're doing hair for free then?" Claire asked her.

"It's just a neighbour's daughter," Rose defended herself.

"I'm just joking Rose," Claire burst out laughing, making the others look.

"Pippa wants to be a hairdresser when she's older," Rose admitted.

As Rose went to her first customer, Lee was just getting himself out of Cate's bed.

"I'm sure Rose was looking daggers at us at the barbecue," Cate told him as he got dressed. "Getting tired of your little blonde girlfriend already?"

"I've never lived with a girlfriend before," Lee replied as he fastened his jeans. "It's not like we're married, is it?"

Cate let out a laugh. "Better get used to it Lee and don't creep around the back door, Pippa may have come in the living room this morning."

"So? You could have made up an excuse. I thought you took her to school? She complained you'd given her no bus fare yesterday morning, we had to drop her off. Rose said we couldn't have left her to walk there."

"Thanks for that, Ricky went crazy when he brought her home," Cate replied.

"Well stop getting drunk on a Sunday afternoon then," Lee suggested.

Cate threw his t-shirt at him, though she was admiring him. Lee was watching her, in her flimsy bra-top. Had he made a big mistake asking Rose to live with him? When he thought about it, he'd just wanted to get out of his attic room and have a proper house and Rose had come along at the right time as Ricky was deciding whether to resell the extra house he'd bought or rent it out.

Rose had been easily persuaded since she wanted to get out of where she'd been and his old landlord hadn't liked the idea of Rose moving in though the landlady had blamed her husband. He bet it was the landlady who objected though, she looked a real cow.

"Don't expect to be invited into my bed every morning," Cate called to him as she got out of bed, watching him fasten his jeans.

"I won't. It was just sex Cate," Lee grinned, tucking his t-shirt into his jeans and licking his lips at her in her black flimsy bra-top and her stretchy black knickers.

Cate crossed over to him, lifting his t-shirt and running her finger down his torso.

"Is that what you tell Rose?" she asked him as he flinched when her fingernail almost dug into him.

"Don't go leaving any marks Cate," he told her.

"Why? Does Rose do an inspection?" she teased him, withdrawing her hand.

"Not all the time," he replied. "I told her I wasn't interested in you, she might ask questions. She may even think Lisa made the mark."

Cate raised her hand to slap his face but he caught it just in time.

"Leave Lisa alone," she warned him.

"You don't think she's innocent do you? Rose on the other hand, she doesn't know it but she's still not had her first time."

"I'm not surprised," Cate began to smile. "The way you came onto me, like you'd never had sex before. Why haven't you given Rose her first time then?"

"None of your business Cate," he replied. "If you must know, she tends to back off before I get to that bit. She only had one boyfriend before me, it must have been a bit tame between them. Does Ricky know you play around?"

"None of your business Lee," she mocked him. "You think Ricky doesn't? He's a real ladies man but it seems he now has some competition around here. Like I said though, back off from Lisa, I won't tell you again Lee."

"Huh," Lee just huffed. "Has she got a serious boyfriend or something?"

"She never says. This boy hangs around, waiting for her. I don't know how many times Ricky's chased him off when he's been taking her home," Cate told him.

"So she'll think he's playing the hero?" Lee laughed, picking up his phone where he'd tossed it on the dresser. "Or so he can have a go with her?"

"Get out Lee, I mean it," Cate replied, going across to push him out of the bedroom.

"Come off it Cate, what other reason would there be? You said he's not innocent in that department," he reminded her.

"She's his niece, on his side, not mine, she's his flesh and blood," Cate told him angrily.

Lee let out a laugh. He could tell that wouldn't stop Ricky, it was just a matter of time who got to Lisa first or if someone had already beaten them both to it. He wouldn't mind beating Ricky or anyone else to it, Rose was okay but her reluctance to let him fully enter her was getting tiresome. Maybe he'd have to shake her up a bit and let her catch him with Cate?

Chapter 3
Pippa had caught up with Rose at the bus stop, since her bus was late as usual.

"Hi Rose, why isn't Lee taking you to work this morning?"

Rose had looked up from her phone.

"He's starting late this morning sweetheart. What's wrong with your mum taking you to school?" Rose had asked her.

"She told me to get the school bus, I hope I've not missed it," Pippa had told her. "Mum was acting a bit funny this morning, she told me to be with my friends for a change but she knows I hate catching it. She also stopped me going into the living room."

"It's not passed while I've been here, don't worry. It was probably nothing, she probably didn't want you to miss the bus. Don't tell Lee but I'm thinking about taking driving lessons," Rose had smiled, putting her phone away. "I don't want him to teach me."

Pippa let out a laugh. They'd seen the school bus approaching and Rose had waved goodbye to her young friend. She had wondered why Cate would do such a thing, unless she'd suddenly decided it wasn't worth getting pulled up by the police for drunk driving.

It had bothered her all day though, Claire had been glancing at her all day and stopped her as she was about to leave.

"This isn't like you Rose, what's been wrong with you today?" Claire asked her.

"It's probably nothing Claire. It was just something Pippa said to me this morning and Lee saying he was starting work late," Rose tried to tell her.

"Rose, you've been really good while you've been working here, don't spoil it," Claire replied. "Want to go to the pub for a drink?"

"Yeah, why not?" Rose smiled. "I've no idea what time Lee will be home and I can find something quick to cook."

Claire was feeling sorry for Rose and bought her a drink and they went to sit in the corner.

"Seriously Rose, is everything okay between you and Lee?"

Rose took a sip from her white wine with lemonade.

"Honestly? I don't know Claire. Ever since we started to have more to do with our next door neighbours, he seems to find any excuse to talk to Cate. Maybe he finds her more mature than I am?" Rose wondered.

"Listen to me Rose, there's nothing wrong with you. If he thinks that, then that's his problem, not yours," Claire told her.

Rose tried to shake it off as she got the bus home, then she started doing some spaghetti and kept it on a low setting, waiting for Lee to get home. Lee had been pleased with himself all day, thinking Rose had no idea he'd been next door and had sex with Cate. A few times a week wouldn't go amiss, he could use Rose for practice, she was easy to please, unlike Cate, who had insisted he not fool around and just get on with it.

Maybe he just liked having sex with someone who was as bossy as he was? Still, living with Rose was just about bearable, he had nowhere else to go and he'd made an agreement with Ricky that he wouldn't get out of that easily.

The summer turned into autumn, there were a few warm Sundays where Pippa would call round to say her dad was setting up the barbecue so they would go round, Lisa joining them. Rose asked her one Sunday afternoon if she'd got a job yet.

"No, I'm still waiting," Lisa told her while watching Pippa on her trampoline.

"Then get enrolled on a hairdressing course, it worked for me," Rose advised her. "Seriously Lisa, what have ya got to loose? I can give ya the number if ya want?"

"I suppose so?" Lisa replied. "Look at those two," she pointed to Lee and Cate at the table in the corner. "Why don't you go spoil their fun?"

Rose remained in the patio doorway, seeing Cate lean forward and Lee watching as her v-neck top gave a good view of her cleavage. Ricky was taking no notice, as usual, Rose thought. Apparently, attending the barbecue was his hobby.

Rose was pleased a few weeks later when Lisa called round to tell her she'd got a place at the hairdressing college.

"That's great," Rose told her as she made some drinks. "Well, tell me how ya getting on."

Lee of course had to enter the kitchen to see what was going on.

"You'd better watch out Rose, Lisa may apply for your job," he laughed.

Lisa laughed nervously, until Lee let out a laugh. Rose failed to see the look between Lisa and Lee. Little did Rose know was that Lisa had called round a few times to see Rose when she wasn't in. The first time had been innocent enough a few weeks previously and then the night one of the girls Rose worked with was leaving to have a baby and Rose had been slightly jealous.

Rose had thought she and Lee had been in a relationship long enough to be at least talking about it but after him eyeing Cate openly, she was now in doubt he'd be a good father. Lisa had knocked on the door before going to see Cate and Ricky.

"Hi Lee, is Rose in?" Lisa had asked innocently.

"She's out with her friends from work, she didn't say what time she'd be back. You can come in and wait for her if you want?"

He had opened the door wider and she'd nervously gone inside, after squeezing past him and them touching slightly. Lee wondered what it would be like, if he had a chance with her? He'd experienced Cate, who was more mature, he'd of course experienced Rose, who was hesitant to have her first time with him and then there was Lisa.

He'd let her inside and offered her a glass of white wine that Rose kept in the cabinet.

"What time will Rose be back?" Lisa asked him, sipping from one of the fancy glasses Rose's mother had sent to them when they'd moved in, rather sexily Lee thought.

He'd also thought he used to look at Rose like that, when they'd first met. Now, he had to pretend he wasn't having sex with Cate and contemplating doing the same with Cate's niece, who had been giving him the eye.

He'd been snapped out of his daydream by Rose returning and going into the kitchen to make herself a strong coffee.

"What?" he asked as the two women looked at him after Rose joined them.

Lisa burst out laughing, nudging Rose, who was trying not to join in but failed, pointing to him.

"You were so out of it then," Rose laughed.

"Stop it you two," Lee objected, which just made them worse. "I mean it. Rose, stop it, now."

Rose tried to look serious but failed again.

"Sorry but you were miles away then," she managed to splutter.

"Women," Lee huffed, wishing he still smoked but now the sight of a cigarette made him sick, after Rose had put him on a quit smoking chewing gum just after they'd met. "If you two are going to have a laugh, I'm off to see Ricky."

"Are you going to tell him I'm here?" Lisa asked him, trying to recover but Rose wasn't helping.

"Why should I?" he asked her, hoping Ricky was out and Pippa would be in her room but what then?

They had been playing a dangerous game and they both knew it. If Rose found out, she'd pack up and go back to London but if Ricky found out? He may get violent and also leave Cate and that wouldn't be fair on Pippa, who he was fond of. If Lisa was interested in him, maybe he'd ditch Cate and groom Lisa to how he wanted her, which was the ways he wanted Rose, who wouldn't oblige.

It may be worth his while encouraging Lisa to pay a visit whenever she felt like it, she may even bring Pippa along. The younger cousin was almost twelve, another year and she'd be interested in boys, wouldn't she?

He went off but Ricky answered the door.

"Hello mate, what are you doing here?" Ricky asked him.

"What do you think mate? Your Lisa called to see Rose and two women in the same house is more than enough," Lee laughed.

Ricky patted him on the back.

"Come and have a beer until Lisa leaves. I expect she'll be coming to see Pippa," Ricky told him.

Lee thought more like Ricky was hoping she'd come to see him.

"Is that Lee?" Cate called out to them.

"Yeah, he's come to seek shelter from Rose and our Lisa getting together," Ricky laughed.

"Well when she comes round, ask her about Saturday night," Cate reminded him.

"What about Saturday night?" Lee asked as he invited himself in.

"Some fancy do Cate wants to go to. Why don't you and Rose come along, they'll be some tickets left," Ricky suggested.

"Yeah, I'll ask her shall I? We can leave the two of them and stand at the bar all night," Lee joked.

"Don't you go encouraging him Lee," Cate chastised him. "Did Lisa say when she was coming round? I hope it's before Pippa's bedtime?"

Rose and Lisa had calmed down and were talking.

"Seriously Rose, my uncle gives me the creeps sometimes," Lisa was telling her.

"Why, what's wrong Lisa?" Rose asked worriedly, putting her hand on Lisa's shoulder. "You can tell me, I won't tell Lee."

"Promise?" Lisa asked her. "I only go round for Pippa's sake, poor kid. Uncle Ricky dotes on her though and my aunt treats her like she's still two. She told me she couldn't have any more kids, though I seriously doubt it. I think they only stay together for Pippa's sake."

Rose found that hard to believe but Lisa seemed serious about it. She was getting more worried they were spending too much time with their neighbours, since Cate had invited them round to Sunday lunch this week, now there were no more barbecues. It had seemed rude to turn it down but she expected Ricky would be doing the cooking, if they were having guests. It seemed Ricky liked showing off in the cooking department.

Lisa interrupted her daydreams.

"Rose, you look miles away? Is there something wrong?"

"No, it's fine, really. Are ya off to see Pippa? I've been worried about her recently, Cate's stopped taking her to school, I see Pippa going off early but Lee's never offered to do the same and drop her off. I was gonna see about driving lessons but I don't want Lee to teach me and he wouldn't let me go to a driving school, he says why pay for lessons when he's capable."

"You should learn Rose. Poor Pippa though, when my aunt's got use of the car. I expect it's because she drinks most of the night and she doesn't want to get caught," Lisa told her.

"Is she really that bad?" Rose asked her.

"Sometimes. Well I'd better go before I miss Pippa, she looks forward to me calling in to see her. Have you been invited for lunch this Sunday? Pippa mentioned it, she said she wanted me to practise doing her hair after you've shown me," Lisa laughed.

"Hey, that was my job," Rose laughed back.

So on Saturday night, they all went out, Lisa staying to keep an eye on Pippa but Rose didn't enjoy the evening very much. Ricky was paying more attention to her than to Cate for her liking, then she was left on her own with her.

"You don't have to agree over everything with Ricky you know?" Cate asked her.

"I don't want to seem rude," Rose replied.

"Well that's how he works Rose, just be careful," Cate warned her.

After an uncomfortable evening out and Sunday lunch the next day, Rose and Lee were expected to invite their neighbours back the following Sunday, which Rose was reluctant to do and just before they were due to arrive, they were in the kitchen.

"We're not gonna do this every other weekend?" Rose asked him.

"No but it would have been rude after we were invited to their house last Sunday," Lee reminded her. "What's wrong with you anyway? Don't you like our neighbours?" he teased her.

Rose didn't want to answer him. She wasn't entirely comfortable Lee chose to spend their time with Cate and Ricky but she enjoyed young Pippa's company and when Lisa came to visit, though Lee seemed to be getting a bit too friendly with Lisa for her liking. Lee though thought he was making it perfectly clear to Lisa he was giving her the come-on but Lisa hadn't yet taken the bait.

Lisa had confided in Rose that this young man was hanging around the estate and she'd thought he was waiting for her. She told Rose she'd seen him when going for the bus home if Ricky wasn't in a fit state to drive her and he'd finally approached her to ask her out.

"What do I do Rose?"

"Well, it's up to you Lisa. I met Lee at a party and we got on really well. You won't know until you give him a chance," Rose advised her.

It was now coming up to Christmas and Lee hadn't been happy Rose was inviting her mother down.

"You have to meet her at some point," Rose had told him.

"Maybe so but for the whole holidays?" Lee complained.

He was in a bad mood since Cate had got tired of him and told him not to go round any more after Pippa had gone to school and she'd warned him to stay away from Lisa. So Jackie went down to stay with them over Christmas, having heard all about him though she thought he was a bit old for her daughter.

It hadn't gone down well, since Jackie wanted to take over and he told Rose after her mother left. They'd argued over it and Lee was becoming even more tired of Rose's reluctance now Cate had kicked him out. So over the next few months, Rose noticed his change in mood and finally confronted him about it.

"You're asking what's wrong with me?" he asked her one night. "And what's this with you hanging around with your boss all the time?"

"I don't hang out with Claire that much," Rose replied. "Only when you say you're gonna be working late. I don't wanna be in on my own, that's all."

"Why not?" he wanted to know.

"You really wanna know? Ricky keeps calling to see if you're in, he can't be bothered seeing if your car's there or not, that's why. He gives me the creeps sometimes."

"I thought you'd be interested in him, since you won't go all the way with me," Lee joked.

Rose was about to lash out at him but he caught her arm.

"You never complained before," Rose replied. "Have ya been going elsewhere?"

"Really Rose, what do you take me for? I may have been tempted but you'll give in to me, eventually."

Rose thought sometimes Lee could be full of himself. Did he think she'd never noticed how he looked at Lisa?

Chapter 4
Lisa stopped visiting Rose and Lee so often, Rose figuring she'd either got herself a boyfriend near home, wherever that was or she'd given in to the guy Lisa had said was called Gary who hung around waiting for her. Rose had thought personally it was a bit creepy and was surprised Lisa hadn't told her uncle about him to warn the guy off.

Rose knew sooner or later though that Lee was going to leave her if she didn't give in to him but she didn't know what was holding her back. She had no-one to talk to though, it was not something you talked to your mother about on the phone so she knew it was only a matter of time unless she got some advice.

She was debating whether or not to confide in Claire, who had sort of become her best friend, though Claire showed her no favours where work was concerned.

It was now early April. Rose had been with Lee just over a year and she knew they only stayed together to share the house and a bed, whenever Lee felt like doing more than just sleeping. Rose had suspected he'd been with Cate next door but it had long since finished, since he didn't use any excuses not to drop her at work, no matter where he was working.

She did though suspect he was settling for the wives or girlfriends where he was currently employed and the thought of it made her sick but without going back to a guest house or going back to her mother, there was little she could do. Claire had noticed Rose looked rather fed-up and talked to her one lunch time.

"Rose, is there anything you want to talk about?"

Rose shook her head but Claire persisted.

"Sorry Claire, it's really difficult, it's really personal. I should go pay a visit to my mum or get her to come down," Rose replied sadly.

"Can't you tell your agony-aunt Claire?" Claire laughed. "Is it about Lee? You can talk to me, do you want me to sort him out for you?"

Rose smiled. If only it was that simple.

"It's not easy to talk about Claire. I think Lee's gonna leave me, maybe I should leave him first?"

"Rose, it's been heading that way for a while, I've seen it on your face. You were talking non-stop about him when you met, now you hardly say a word. Why don't you come around one night and we'll talk? How about Saturday night or are you going out?"

"I don't expect so. Cate and Ricky are off to a wedding and Lisa's babysitting Pippa so they'll be in all night and Lee will probably bring some drinks home if he goes into town. Yeah, okay but you might regret it," Rose smiled.

"Rose, my place is only small or I'd offer to put you up if things get bad," Claire told her.

"I know Claire but thanks. I think my only option is maybe go back where I was before. The landlady said I could go back if I need to. Lee was okay until we moved in together."

Claire got up and patted Rose on the shoulder.

"Good job you never got married then?" she smiled.

Rose thought how right her friend was. They had never talked about it, let alone having a family and the girl who had left a while back had been in to show off the baby girl she'd had, everyone fussing over the tiny bundle in a stroller. She'd stayed back out of the way but she'd known Lee would never agree now to discuss it and she wasn't getting any younger.

She got home and told Lee she'd be out on Saturday night.

"Off to pick up a bloke?" Lee asked her.

"No, I'm going to Claire's, unless you want to go out? Cate and Ricky are off to that wedding so they won't be asking if we're going out," Rose replied, trying to ignore his snide remark.

"I was joking about picking up a bloke Rose. Why do you never want to go out unless they're going?" he asked her.

"We don't see much of them," Rose reminded him. "I've not seen much of Lisa either, she must have got a boyfriend."

Lee was hoping not. He was still hoping for a chance with Lisa and now, Rose was possibly handing it to him if she was out on Saturday night and Lisa was looking after Pippa. If Lisa came looking for Rose? She'd have Pippa with her but he could offer to let Pippa spend some time in the spare bedroom then see if Lisa was really interested in him.

On the Friday night, Rose saw Cate on her way home from work. She was struggling with getting bags of shopping out of the car so Rose went to help her.

"I can manage," Cate insisted, trying to close the back door. "If you're looking for Lisa, she's not here."

"No, I was offering to help," Rose replied. "Well have a good time at the wedding tomorrow. Do ya want me to do your hair?"

"No, we're having it done at the hotel when we get there," Cate replied as she locked the car doors, Rose having wondered why she didn't have remote locks.

Cate went off so Rose left her to get on with it and went home, having seen Lee's car parked up. She got a surprise when Lee was cooking.

"Sit down Rose, we need to talk," he greeted her.

Rose took her coat off and went to see what he was cooking and was quite impressed. She knew what was coming, he was going to give her an ultimatum.

"I've given you time Rose, I have needs you know," he began. "Are you going to give in to me or do I have to go elsewhere?"

"Ya mean ya haven't already?" Rose asked quietly. "Cate or Lisa maybe? I've seen the way ya look at them Lee."

"I may look, it doesn't mean I've done anything about it," he replied, stirring the pan.

"Doesn't mean ya haven't either Lee. Look, something's holding me back and I don't know what. I want to Lee, honestly. We've never even really talked about it before, we haven't made any real commitments."

"You want to get married?" he asked her, leaning back on the counter.

"Well get engaged at least. You never tell me that ya love me," Rose replied.

"I'd have thought that was obvious?" Lee asked her.

"To you maybe? If ya said it, maybe I'd feel different about it all. I keep telling you."

"Do you?" he half joked. "I just about hear you when I come away from you, before I've finished. You already seem to have finished without me."

"Everyone's different Lee," Rose replied.

She always got embarrassed talking about sex and tomorrow night, she was going to confide in Claire.

"Yeah, so they say. You're not going to talk about me to your friend are you?" he asked as he turned back to the stove.

"No, of course not Lee. She's the only real friend I've got, I can't talk to my mum on the phone. Maybe she can help explain why I can't give in to you?"

"Well I hope so Rose, it won't be before time. Be careful I don't invite Lisa round while you're out."

Rose looked alarmed and Lee let out a laugh. She hated it when he did that. They got to bed and Lee tried to push her into letting go but she cried out he was hurting her and he eased back again, groaning and landing on his back.

"Geez Rose, anyone would think I was trying to murder you," he complained. "How many times have I told you that once you let go, it won't hurt the next time?"

Rose grabbed her dressing gown and her knickers from above her head and ran to the bathroom to clean herself up. Lee called after her.

"And you wouldn't have to clean yourself up if you let me finish."

Rose sat on the edge of the bath after putting her underwear on when she'd grabbed some wipes to freshen up.

She thought maybe if it didn't hurt, she wouldn't mind so much. Were all men like that? She'd felt like calling back to him and saying as much to him. Maybe if she left Lee, she might find someone more understanding and be gentle with her.

The next morning, she was getting ready for work and Lee had stayed in bed. She saw Cate and Ricky getting into a taxi and Pippa waving them off as she went out.

"Hi Rose," Pippa called cheerfully. "Lisa's staying with me tonight while mum and dad go to a wedding. Can we come round later?"

"I wish you'd asked before sweetheart but I'm off to my friend's house after work. Come round tomorrow afternoon, yeah?"

"Yeah, okay then. I wish I was going with them though but mum said it's grown-ups only."

"Well maybe you'll have more fun being with Lisa than being at a stuffy wedding?" Rose laughed.

Pippa laughed back and got on her pink bike, reminding Rose of the red bike she'd got one year when her mother had said she couldn't afford it but it was on the landing outside their flat. She still had no idea who had bought it for her and her mother had denied she'd saved up for it.

Rose went off to work, looking forward to maybe getting some things off her mind like why she couldn't go all the way with Lee. She was half afraid it was going to hurt, he already hurt her a bit but she had thought it was just part of having sex, since she knew no better.

Was Claire the one to talk it out with though? Well better her than her mother but how did everyone else learn? Maybe she'd just led too much of a sheltered life until meeting Lee? Back on the estate, Cate and Ricky had gone off in a cab to the wedding, them arguing over Ricky taking his hip-flask, Cate knowing exactly what was in it.

"You didn't have to bring that?" she remarked as they found their room, Ricky patting his jacket pocket.

"Well you'll be off your head later, why should it bother you?" he replied.

"Don't think I've never noticed how you look at Lisa and Rose," Cate hissed at him as she hung up her dress.

"Don't think I've not seen you showing off your cleavage to Lee in the corner of the garden," he replied as he hung up his suit.

"Have you ever tried it on with either of them?" Cate asked, not referring to his suit.

"How do you know one of them hasn't already given in? Just go get your hair done Cate. You could have saved time and got Rose to do it for you last night."

"Any excuse to get her or Lisa to come round," Cate huffed.

At the other side of town to the estate, Tess, Daisy and Alec Hardy had just come back from shopping, the latter two arguing and their almost teenage daughter trying to pretend she wasn't with them.

"Mum, Dad, will you stop fighting? Geez, I hope none of my friends saw you in the supermarket. So, can I go to that party later or not?" she asked them.

"Are there going to be a lot of boys there?" Alec asked her as he left his wife to unpack the shopping, since she always complained he put stuff in the wrong place.

"Just as many as there are girls," Daisy replied. "If one of you takes me, I can get a lift back with Katy."

"You can take her," Tess told Alec, who was leaning on the counter, his arms folded. "Are you going to get a shave, just look at you."

Daisy was suppressing a giggle.

"Daisy seems to like it," he objected. "What do you think darlin'?"

"Hey, keep me out of it," Daisy told him. "You do look different though, you just need to mess up your hair."

"Don't you go encouraging him," her mother chastised her.

Tess went off, leaving Alec to finish unpacking.

"She had better not blame me if something is in the wrong place," Alec muttered after her.

"You two should lighten up," Daisy told him.

"It's not easy. Daisy, you know it's not about you?" he asked her.

"I know Dad, sorry. Are you going to leave?"

"What? No, what has your mum been saying?" Alec wanted to know.

"Nothing. Well, I heard her on the phone the other night. You'd better ask her Dad, I can't say."

"Daisy, she was probably talking to one of her friends."

"I didn't know one of her friends was called Dave," Daisy replied, grabbing an apple from the pack she'd just opened and leaving him in the kitchen.

There was a Dave at the station, another DS and he was sure the man kept going by Tess's desk on purpose and Tess had looked up. What was going on?

Lee hadn't been very happy that Rose was going to be late back but lately, she was getting distant from him. Did she suspect he'd been with Cate next door and some of his female clients? Well if she confronted him, he was going to ask what she expected if she wouldn't let him finish what he started? He'd told her several times, how many more hints did she want?

Rose and Claire went off after work, calling for a Chinese takeaway and Claire saying Rose had better tell her what her problems were.

"It's not easy Claire," Rose was telling her. "It's just I'm a bit scared, of Lee."

Claire spluttered as she tried holding a fork full of rice.

"Your Lee looks timid to me," Claire replied. "He's not the bossy type is he?"

"A bit but I don't mean like that. It's just he's different in bed," Rose admitted.

"Oh, I see then? You don't do what he wants then?" Rose had to nod in agreement. "You've not had your first time with him then?"

Rose was sure Claire had asked her that before. She just shook her head.

"That's what I'm scared of Claire. I don't know if I want it with him. Seeing Amy come in with her baby, well if I give in to Lee, I want it to be because he wants to start a family, not just to brag that I gave in to him. What do I do Claire?"

"I don't have an answer for you Rose. I expect a lot of women would fall over each other to bag him?"

"Yeah, Cate for starters," Rose sighed. "Do I want someone who plays around?"

Back on the estate, Lisa had been watching Pippa on her bike and had seen who she knew as Gary hanging around. Pippa went back as she saw him.

"Why is he hanging around Lisa?"

"I don't know Pippa. I mean I went out with him a couple of times but he's a bit creepy, don't you think?" Lisa smiled.

"You never said he'd asked you out and you went!" Pippa laughed.

"Shush Pippa. I wonder why he's got the nerve to come back? Oh, maybe he wants to know if I've asked your dad to help him out. He wants to keep his dad's business going or something," Lisa told her.

"No Lisa, I heard my dad say something about it," Pippa told her.

"Well if he's here later, we'll go see Lee and get him to warn Gary off. Just because I went out with him once or twice doesn't mean I want him to be my boyfriend."

"Yeah, just go see Lee, he'll sort him out," Pippa laughed. "Rose said she was going to her friend's tonight though."

"Well, it doesn't mean we can't go round," Lisa replied. "We'll wait and see if Gary goes away."

Just gone nine, Pippa had gone to get ready for bed and Lisa was looking out of the bedroom window. She thought Gary had gone away but she caught a glimpse of him in the corner of a gateway opposite.

"Lisa, he'll see you," Pippa warned her.

"Pippa, get your dressing gown and we'll go round and get Lee to tell him to go away," Lisa told her.

Picking up the spare key and her phone, Lisa led her younger cousin next door and knocked. Lee was watching the football highlights, a bottle in his hand when he heard the knock. Hoping it wasn't Rose who had forgotten her key, he went to answer.

"Oh, it's you two," he greeted them.

"Lee, that Gary's hanging around over there and he's scaring Pippa," Lisa told him.

"Well you'd better come in then. You should really tell your uncle he's bothering you. Do you want me to call him?" Lee asked Lisa.

"No, he'll be mad if you do, he's at that wedding," Lisa reminded him.

"Well he should be told but please yourself. Why don't you take Pippa to the spare bedroom for a while until he's gone?" Lee asked her. "What did you do to encourage him then?" he grinned.

"Nothing. Well I went out with him a couple of times but he was boring. Not like you Lee," Lisa laughed as Pippa yawned.

"Take her upstairs, you can both stay until he's gone. I'll help you get her back when Rose comes home," Lee told her.

"Lisa, I'm tired," Pippa yawned.

"Take her up then if that bloke's still there, I'll go have a word with him shall I?" Lee asked Lisa.

"Leave it, I'll tell my uncle tomorrow," Lisa replied. "Come on Pippa, let's go. Are you going to call Rose?"

"Why? She'll find out when she gets back," Lee replied. "I've no idea what time she'll be back."

Rose had decided to get the next bus home after Claire couldn't offer any advice over her situation with Lee.

"I can't offer much help, sorry," Claire was telling her.

"It's okay Claire, it's not easy to explain. If he tries to pressurise me, I'm gonna leave but I'll have to save up first. I'll see you on Monday and thanks for trying to help."

"You seemed like you needed help. I noticed when that baby was brought in you were getting all moody," Claire smiled. "I have news for you though, if you don't get over your problem, you can't have a baby."

"I know that much," Rose laughed. "I'll try not to seem so moody on Monday morning."

As Rose was setting off, Lee had been watching who Lisa had called Gary.

"That's enough," Lee told Lisa as they stood in the doorway.

"What are you going to do?" Lisa asked him.

She was standing far too close to him, making Lee want her even more. He was supposed to be with Rose but she wasn't as willing as Lisa looked right now. He'd been amused enough with Cate but something was making it impossible to ignore Lisa anymore.

He went towards the young man stood opposite, who came out of his hiding place.

"I was just leaving," he insisted as Lee walked over.

"You'd better have been, what are you even doing here?" Lee asked.

Chapter 5
Contains a scene of a sexual nature but not enough to change the rating as I have tried to make it as mild as possible.

Lisa was standing in the doorway as Gary ran off after Lee punched his nose.

"Aw, now look what you've done," Lee pointed to blood on his shirt. "Go on, get out of here and leave Lisa alone or it'll be more than your nose next time," he warned the other man as Gary complained Lee had broken his nose.

Lee went back to where Lisa was standing and they closed the door.

"Oh, look, you've got blood on your shirt," Lisa pointed out the obvious.

"Yeah, I did, didn't I? You won't catch me doing that again," Lee grinned as she took hold of his shirt collar.

He wondered what she was trying to do to him, how was he supposed to resist her any longer? Rose wouldn't be back yet, Ricky and Cate were miles away and Lisa was licking her lips at him. What was he supposed to do? Rose wouldn't give in to him and he didn't think she ever would. Why, he didn’t know but maybe it was because he'd not told her he loved her and now, he wasn't sure he ever had.

"You should take it off and wash it, before Rose sees it," Lisa suggested, going to the buttons.

"Rose doesn't think I can program the washing machine," Lee joked as he could feel her fingertips on his skin as she began parting his shirt.

How was he supposed to resist her now? He had his mind made up for him a few minutes later.

"Oops," Lisa smiled as most of his buttons came undone and she was now rubbing her fingers on his bare chest. "What time did you say Rose would be back?"

"I didn't, she never said but the last bus gets to the top of the road at ten past eleven, why do you ask?"

"What if she catches an earlier one?" Lisa teased him, pulling his shirt open.

"Well in that case, we'd better not let her catch us, had we?" he licked his lips at her as she opened her blouse buttons.

He dived down to kiss her cleavage, getting a moan from the young woman. He vaguely registered she was only nineteen, nearly twenty as she ruffled his hair and she led him to the lounge. The long net curtain was part open as was the sliding door, blowing in the night breeze as Lee hadn't bothered since they had a high fence around the back garden and he'd been letting in some fresh air so Rose wouldn't complain about the smell of beer.

"Why do you have to be a bitch and tease me?" Lee asked her as she went for his jeans belt buckle, his shirt and Lisa's blouse on the sofa and she'd taken off her knee-length floral swirling skirt and stepped out of it, which was at her feet.

Lisa was standing in her floral undergarment, her breasts spilling out over the top as he fumbled with his jeans zip, Lisa's hand joining his as he pulled them down and she reached through the gap to grab his manhood through the thin material of his briefs.

He involuntarily moaned and felt a trickle on his underwear, getting another 'oops' from Lisa as she rubbed the spot, making him even worse. His jeans dropped to the floor, along with his underwear as Lisa stood and admired him, just like Rose used to do when they'd first met but it hadn't done anything to encourage her to give in to him.

He'd thought things would be different when they'd moved in together but they hadn't and Rose was still untouched, unlike Lisa, who knew exactly what to do to get him aroused and almost starting without her.

He held onto her bare shoulders to toe off his trainers and stepped out of his jeans, Lisa still teasing him that he felt like he wasn't going to make it until he got her underneath him on the floor.

"Can't keep yourself in check Lee?" she asked him cheekily as she got on her knees.

He stood for a moment, thinking all his Christmases had come at once and Lisa was willing to do what Rose always shied away from but he was disappointed when she pulled him down to join her. She laughed, as if to taunt him and lay down on the floor, her head towards the open patio door.

She encouraged Lee to remove her underwear that gave Lee a good look at her pert behind that he had to blink, as Rose never indicated he should remove her underwear in the same manner, all the time with Lisa smiling at him as she reached for his shoulders, half sitting as he tossed her panties on top of her skirt but leaving her full-length slip on.

He wasn't worried about seeing her breasts just yet, that could wait, he was more interested to see if this wasn't Lisa's first time and if it was, would she have it with him without them arguing over it?

As he leaned forward, Lisa put her arms around his back and without even asking, Lisa laid just how he wanted her to, prompting him to think she had definitely had sex before.

"What if Pippa wakes up?" he asked worriedly as he could tell Lisa was ready for him.

"She'll be fine," Lisa replied, half moaning as she felt him seeking her permission.

After much grunting and groaning on Lee's part, Lisa shushing him when he came away from her, having finally reached his goal and knowing it wasn't her first time but at least she'd let him find out, unlike Rose.

He had just got back onto his knees when suddenly, Lisa shot up, almost colliding with his head as Ricky flung the patio door open.

"Get up, both of you!" Ricky shouted angrily as Lee was naked and obviously embarrassed his best friend had caught him in a compromising position, to say the least.

Lisa was up first and confronted him.

"What are you doing here Ricky?" she asked him. "You're supposed to be at that wedding."

"That's uncle Ricky to you," he replied. "Lee, put your shorts on, you look disgusting. I expect you encouraged him?" he asked her.

"Jealous it's not you?" Lisa laughed at him.

Ricky was about to slap her face but she grabbed his arm.

"Don't think I've not see the way you look at me and Rose," she laughed in his face as she pushed his arm away.

"I'll deal with you later you little tramp. As for you Lee, I thought you were my friend?" Ricky asked him. "Did you encourage her?"

"I didn't need any encouragement," Lisa laughed as Ricky turned back to her, Lisa having gone towards him to face him.

"No, I bet you didn't," Ricky told her. "I came back because I knew you'd find an excuse to come round here with us at the wedding and Rose out for the evening and I was right," he gloated.

"Who told you Rose was going out?" Lee wanted to know, fastening his jeans belt and hoping Lisa had been watching.

"It was a lucky guess," Lisa taunted Ricky. "Well you can't do anything about me and Lee having sex, can you? I know why Cate goes elsewhere, you can't satisfy her, can you?"

"Why you little tramp," Ricky stood right in front of her.

"Go on then, hit me and I'll claim it was you who came back and assaulted me while Pippa was in bed," Lisa screamed at him. "Cate won't give you an alibi, she'll be off her head by now."

That was exactly why Ricky had decided it was worthwhile paying a lot in taxi fares to go back home and finally have his way with his niece and teach her a lesson, whether she meant the way she looked at him or not was an indication she wanted to have sex with him.

He'd spied one of the bridesmaids in the hotel as Cate was sat laughing in a corner with her friends, probably going on about him, so he'd followed who he only knew as Tiffany to her room and invited himself in but she'd drawn a line at what was in his hip-flask when she'd smelt it wasn't whiskey or brandy in the silver container and she'd thrown him out.

So he'd got in a taxi that was dropping someone off and the driver was probably gloating at what he'd charged when they'd pulled up outside the two houses and not been surprised their house was all in darkness and the two girls weren't there. He'd been at boiling point as he'd unlocked the patio door and with light coming from next door, found the gate Lee had put in the fence between the two gardens and knew he shouldn't be surprised to find Lisa and Lee in the middle of having sex.

He'd heard the groaning, mostly from Lee and wondered if Rose knew he'd at least been with Cate, if not a few others. He wasn't going to be the one to tell her but now, maybe it would be amusing to see her reaction, not that she would turn to him for sympathy but if she did, he wouldn't turn her down.

Ricky saw the way Lisa was looking at Lee.

"That's enough from you," Ricky warned her.

"Or what?" Lisa confronted him, one hand on her hip. "You'll force me to have sex with you? You must be joking if you think I'd have it voluntarily. Why do you think Cate has it with Lee or any other man?"

"Leave me out of it," Lee finally joined in, trying to process Ricky had been watching them through the open patio door.

He'd not expected to have an audience when he'd found how supple Lisa was compared to Cate and even Rose, whom at first seemed fitter than his girlfriend before her.

"Shut up Lee, you and I are through being friends, understand?" Ricky asked him, a grave look on his face. "Where's Pippa, you're supposed to be looking after her," he asked Lisa. "Instead, you're down on the floor being his slut."

Lisa suddenly threw herself at him, hitting his chest with both her fists before he could grab them and hold her back. She kept on trying to get her hands free to carry on hitting him but as she did, he began slapping her face, hard, making her cry out and Lee was convinced it would wake Pippa and she'd see it all.

"Get off me you b******," she shouted out loud as Ricky grabbed her still bare shoulders, one of the straps of her undergarment slipping down, then the other and Lee seeing more of her cleavage he'd been saving until later.

Ricky was now shaking her even harder, his hands now around her neck and Lee standing watching him, frozen to the spot. Ricky always intimidated him, which was why he always avoided him at their barbecues and when they'd offered to take Pippa and Lisa to the nearby woods and played hide and seek amongst the trees.

He hadn't cared at the time that Rose hated being left with Cate and not been surprised Rose had gone home when he'd got back. He was about to break out of his trance and pull Ricky off the young woman he'd just had the best sex of his life with when with one final slap that sounded louder than the others, Lisa fell backwards and landed with a loud thud on the floor.

What neither of them knew was that Lisa had landed by the patio door, right where Lee had left a nail sticking out, which Rose had complained about numerous times near where they pulled the curtains across and he'd never got round to hammering it down. Before either Ricky or Lee knew it, Lisa had gone quiet and she was staring blankly at them, blood all over the floor by her head and some on the net curtain that Rose would go crazy about.

"You've killed her," Lee managed to state as they both stood over her.

"It was an accident. That fall shouldn't have killed her. You say anything about it and I'll say I caught you having sex with her and it was you who banged her head on the floor. I bet it was your shoddy work, that you left a nail sticking up," Ricky told him.

Lee already knew by the amount of blood surrounding Lisa. Ricky was still carrying on.

"Where's Pippa? Did you drug her?"

"What? No, they came round 'cos that creep Gary or whatever his name is was hanging around. We should call the police."

"Don't be stupid. If you call them, your DNA is all over her, you had sex with her, they'll believe me, not you and I'll say you'd done with her then killed her. Who do you think they'll believe? I'll go get the van, you check on Pippa and keep her out of here," Ricky told him. "What time will Rose be back?

Lee had lost track of time but it had to be after ten and Rose could be back at any moment. He couldn't let her in the lounge but how was he going to keep her out? He needn't have worried so much as Rose had discovered the bus had missed and she'd gone back to Claire's, Claire laughing and letting her back in.

"Rose, why don't you call Lee to come and pick you up?"

"You're joking, he'll have had a few drinks by now," Rose laughed. "I'll go early for the next one then if that doesn't turn up, I'll be having words with the bus company on Monday morning, I'll have to either risk getting Lee annoyed or get a taxi."

"Well I wouldn't like to be the bus company on Monday morning," Claire laughed.

"They must think nobody gets to the bus stop on time and not ten minutes early," Rose replied.

"Does that one take you straight home?" Claire wondered.

"Yeah, luckily. Good thing I don't have another one to catch," Rose told her.

As Rose was talking with Claire, Ricky had gone to get his van from the yard and Lee was checking Pippa hadn't woken up. He found the young girl was still asleep but she called out as he was leaving.

"Where's Lisa?" Pippa yawned.

"She went off with that Gary," Lee tried to bluff.

"No way Lee, she doesn't like him," Pippa disagreed.

"Just go back to sleep, she'll be back later. You can stay here tonight, I'll tell Rose when she gets home," Lee told her.

"Can I have a drink?" Pippa asked as Lee was trying to leave again.

"Rose will be back soon, I'll get her to make you one," Lee tried to bluff.

He went back downstairs just as Ricky got back. Ricky had brought some old covers in from the van and they began rolling Lisa up in them, Lee now feeling remorse for wanting Lisa so badly it had caused her death. If he'd left her alone and made her go back next door, she'd still be alive.

"Lee, pick her up," Ricky called to him, snapping him out of it. "Was Pippa asleep?"

"She was awake but she's probably gone back to sleep. What are you going to do with Lisa?"

"There's a churchyard I've been working on, I'll take her there and put her in one of the open graves," Ricky replied, showing no remorse. "I'll deal with Pippa in the morning."

"She was your niece Ricky, she deserves better than that," Lee objected. "Leave her where the police will find her. Pippa thinks she went off with that Gary who hangs around."

"Don't be so stupid Lee, I'm the first person they'll suspect," Ricky scoffed. "Which Gary are you talking about? If they can't find Lisa, we can tell the police she went off with him and he'll get the blame."

Lee didn't like the bloke that much but he didn't deserve to get the blame and be the number one suspect in Lisa's disappearance. He helped Ricky put Lisa in the van then went back inside, looking at the blood-stained floor and knowing Rose would kill him for spoiling her net curtain. He got the step-stool and took the curtain down, thankful he knew how to work the washing machine.

He just had to keep Rose out of the lounge when she got back and thought he'd send her to check on Pippa and then Rose would probably go straight to bed. Well that was half the plan anyway. Maybe he'd get some of that stuff Ricky used and put it in her drink, that would give him time to think. He'd also have to give some to Pippa though, if the young girl got curious and went to look for Lisa.

He went to where he kept his work things and found a large tin of woodstain and hoped he'd have enough to cover the floorboards. It would be that or go to his lock-up and get the laminate floorboards he'd bought for that job he had on Monday morning, then he'd have to be at the depot first thing Monday morning to get some more.

Ricky had quickly deposited Lisa's body still wrapped in the covers and let himself back into Rose and Lee's house, where Lee had moved the furniture and had begun staining the floorboards.

"Don't you think Rose will notice?" Ricky asked sarcastically.

"I'll just tell her I fancied a change," Lee laughed, recovering some of his nerve.

He'd always felt intimidated by his friend.

"Well good luck with that mate," Ricky chuckled, standing in the doorway. "I'll call a taxi and get back to the wedding, if Cate's gone to our room, I'll have trouble getting in. She'll be off her head by now."

"You'd best hope Pippa's not heard your voice," Lee warned him.

Ricky was just turning to leave when Rose opened the front door and quickly went back in, not wanting her to start asking questions, which she tended to do. He'd not seen Pippa sat crying at the bottom of the stairs but Rose saw her and rushed towards her.

"Pippa, what are you doing here sweetheart?" Rose bent down to the sobbing girl.

Lee and Ricky were listening at the door.

"Shush, don't let her know you're here," Lee advised Ricky.

"You think I don't know that?" Ricky hissed, trying to listen.

"I think something happened to Lisa," Pippa sobbed.

"What do you mean?" Where is she? Why did she leave you here?" Rose wanted to know.

"She brought me round when that Gary was hanging around. She thought I was asleep but I crept downstairs and I heard her and Lee," Pippa told her.

"What do you mean?" Rose asked her, Lee and Ricky behind the lounge door also wanting to know how much Pippa had heard.

Rose wondered if her fears were true, that Lee had a 'Thing' for Lisa. If so, how could they both betray her?

Chapter 6
Ricky nudged Lee to go find out what Rose and Pippa were talking about. Lee had to reluctantly open the living room door, startling Rose.

"What's Pippa doing here?" Rose turned to him, a hand still on Pippa's shoulder.

"Lisa asked me to watch her while she went off with some bloke who was hanging around outside for her," Lee lied, hoping the younger girl wouldn't say anything.

"Is that right?" Rose asked Pippa.

"I don't know Rose, Lisa thought he was creepy," Pippa replied, rubbing her eyes and thinking maybe she'd imagined Lisa was still there. "Lee said you'd get me a drink."

"Lee, why didn't ya get her one?" Rose wanted to know. "So Lisa went off did she?"

"Well yeah, what was I supposed to do Rose, leave Pippa on her own next door?" Lee asked her.

Pippa decided to stay quiet, she was sure she'd also heard her dad's voice and she had to have imagined that, he'd gone off to a wedding. Maybe she'd just been dreaming and Lisa really had gone off despite what she'd said earlier and she'd used it as an excuse to get Lee to look after her?

"Rose, take her back upstairs," Lee told Rose, trying to push her as Pippa got up. "Go on, I'll bring her some hot chocolate."

He thought that would buy him some time to see what Ricky was going to do about Lisa. It seemed cold to just dump the girl in an empty grave or whatever but if the police discovered her and found out Ricky was working there, he'd be the first person they questioned.

He'd heard through various sources that the lead detective at the local police station was a bit of an hard-ass, whose wife was messing around with another detective so he'd already be pissed off to start with. He surely wouldn't give Ricky an easy time if Lisa was reported missing, let alone finding her in a grave.

Rose led Pippa back upstairs to the spare bedroom, Rose seeing the young girl had already been in bed.

"What were you trying to tell me downstairs Pippa?" Rose asked her as the young girl climbed back into bed.

"I don't know Rose, I'd just woken up. Lee came up to me earlier and I asked him for a drink but he never told me Lisa had gone out," Pippa explained.

Rose sat on the side of the bed next to her, putting her arm around Pippa's shoulder.

"Well if she did, she did the right thing bringing you round here sweetheart, Lee's right she couldn't have left you all alone. Try to go back to sleep when Lee's brought you that drink, yeah?"

Pippa managed a nod.

"I'm still worried about Lisa though, I'm sure I heard voices when I went downstairs," Pippa was convinced.

"Hey, you imagine all sorts of things when ya get woken up," Rose tried to tell her.

"But Rose, I thought I heard her and Lee, then I thought I heard my dad. I crept out earlier, Lee went out to warn that Gary who was hanging around. Then it went quiet and I ran back to bed and pretended I'd been asleep."

Rose was beginning to wonder if Pippa hadn't imagined it but why would Ricky come all the way back from the wedding they'd gone to?

"Rose, I heard some funny noises after Lee came back inside," Pippa continued.

"What kind of noises?" Rose wanted to know and wondering what was taking Lee so long.

Pippa was convinced the noises weren't meant to be heard but they sounded like her mum and dad on a Saturday night when they'd been out and Lisa had stayed over. She tried to look up at Rose, whom she trusted.

"Noises like I've heard coming from my parents when they're having sex," she admitted. "I think she and Lee were having sex Rose."

Rose was about to get up and go confront Lee. So she was right, he and Lisa had betrayed her but how many more had Lee betrayed her with? She heard Lee coming up the stairs and half got up but stopped when he was carrying two mugs.

"I thought I might as well bring you one as well," he told her as he lifted the mug in his left hand.

When he'd got Rose to take Pippa back upstairs, Ricky had taken charge.

"Right, I'll get back to the wedding, it's doubtful Cate will realise I've gone off," he'd told Lee coldly.

"Don't you care you left your niece?" Lee had wanted to know.

"Are you going soft on me?" Ricky then asked him. "We can't go to the police and when they start asking where she is, you say nothing. Remember, your DNA is all over her, they'll arrest you first and ask questions later."

"What about Pippa? She already told Rose she heard something," Lee reminded Ricky.

"I'll deal with her in the morning, we'll tell her she was imagining it. Here, take my flask and put the stuff in her drink, it's tasteless," Ricky insisted as he got the hip-flask out of his jacket pocket and forced Lee into taking it.

"What if Rose believes her?" Lee complained as he took the flask.

"Well put some of that stuff in Rose's drink and she'll have forgotten by morning," Ricky insisted.

"You don't know Rose," Lee muttered to himself as he went off.

The combination of what Pippa had said plus staining the living room floor would surely make her suspicious but they needed Rose out of the way or she'd be asking loads of questions, like she always did.

Now, he was handing out the drinks, being careful to hand Rose the mug with the most stuff in it to knock her out for the night. Just let Ricky complain that the flask was now empty.

"Thanks. I'd have been back earlier but I either missed the bus 'cos it was early or it missed altogether. Feeling better sweetheart?" she asked Pippa, who was swallowing the drink even though it was hot.

"You might as well go straight to bed Rose, I'm thinking of staining the floorboards in the lounge," Lee told her, hoping he'd get away with it.

"Wow, where did ya get that idea from?" Rose laughed, getting a smile from Pippa, who Lee could see was already feeling the effects of the drugs.

"I've been meaning to do it, I was about to start when you got home. Don't worry, it'll be dry by morning, if we don't get up early."

"Pippa, you're staying here all night," Rose told her as Pippa lay down. "Geez, I can't believe Lisa would do such a thing when she'd said she didn't like him hanging around."

"Tell me about it," Lee complained, seeing the drugs were having no effect on Rose yet. He hoped she wasn't immune to them. "I mean she brings Pippa round in just her pyjamas and says that bloke was scaring her. The next minute, while I'm outside having a go at the bloke, she tells me it's okay and goes off with him."

That was a different story to what Pippa had just told her and now, she believed the young girl over her partner. She was suddenly feeling tired though, maybe it was the hot chocolate?

"Rose, go to bed, you look tired," Lee suggested.

"I'm fine," Rose told him as she suppressed a yawn, Pippa already with her eyes half closed.

"Rose, don't leave me," Pippa called out.

Rose finished her drink, thinking it had gone cold quickly.

"It's okay Pippa, go to sleep," Rose yawned, thinking she wouldn't make it to bed at this rate.

"I'll go make a start on that floor then?" Lee suggested.

Rose managed a 'Yeah' as she propped herself up on the bed and moved the other pillow.

Lee waited as he saw her drift off to sleep, he'd move her later or just leave her and say Pippa had gone home, though what Ricky had planned, he didn't know. Turning out the light, he went back downstairs to talk to Ricky.

"Did they finish the drinks?" Ricky asked him, his phone already in his hand to call for a taxi.

"Yeah, they were both out like a light. So, what do I do with Pippa in the morning then?" Lee wanted to know.

"Right, wait until we come back, Cate will see they're both missing and I'll come round here after she calls the police, then I'll convince Pippa that Lisa really did go off. Where's my flask? Cate will get suspicious if I don't have it with me."

Lee went back to the kitchen and returned with the flask, handing it back to Ricky, who shook it.

"You used all of it?" he asked Lee. "Geez are you trying to kill them both?"

"There wasn't that much in," Lee insisted.

"You are joking mate?" Ricky replied, forgetting they were no longer mates but they had to deal with this together. "There was enough in there for me to get half a dozen women to comply. It's only meant to be drunk in small amounts. Rose will have one hell of a headache when she wakes up. Go up and check on them before I leave, I don't know what it will do to Pippa."

"Why should I go?" Lee wanted to know.

"Because if she wakes up and sees me?" Ricky reminded him.

Lee begrudgingly went upstairs, thankful they both seemed to be asleep so he picked Rose up carefully and took her to their room. He wondered though if he should have just left her in the spare room because one of them would be sleeping there from now on. Rose would be bound to believe Pippa if she did actually hear him and Lisa.

He covered Rose over with a spare bedspread then went to check on Pippa. She felt cold when he leaned down to see if she was breathing and he panicked, holding his hand in front of his mouth. Was Ricky right and he'd given her too much? Then why was Rose okay? He heard someone behind him and prayed it wasn't Rose.

"Is she asleep?" Ricky asked him, going to take her hand and feeling how cold she was. "You idiot, I told you that you'd given her too much. Try to revive her, she can't have been like that for long."

Ricky knew basic resuscitation, owning a business and Lee was checking her pulse, which was very faint.

"Stop it Ricky, she'll be okay," he told his friend.

"Are you certain? She'd better be. I'd better get going then. See you in the morning and you'd better make sure Rose doesn't tell anyone I was here, understand?" Ricky threatened him. "Otherwise, I will go to the police and tell them where Lisa is and they'll find out you were the last man she had sex with."

"You didn't have to push her that hard," Lee argued.

"It's done now. We have to maintain normality somehow and most of all, get Pippa to forget what she thought she heard."

"I heard her telling Rose she heard me and Lisa having sex," Lee admitted.

"You idiot, why didn't you say?" Ricky asked him. "How are we going to get her to forget that?"

"Leave it with me," Lee told him, trying to think of a way.

"What are you planning Ashworth?"

"Just get back to the wedding hotel before Cate starts calling," Lee replied.

Once Ricky had left, he went back upstairs. He'd lied about Pippa having a pulse to get the man to leave. Ricky had failed to save her and unless he thought about it fast, the man would lay all the blame on him.

He spied a cushion Rose had placed on the wicker chair and picked it up, covering the young girl's face and held it there for a few minutes, just enough to get the fibres from it. Then, he took the cushion cover off and planned to get rid of it before morning.

He then picked up the girl but decided to leave her there until he moved the car in front of the house and he'd take her to the nearby woods. Once there, he'd leave her by a tree where she could be found and no-one except Ricky would suspect he was involved.

He had one up on Ricky though, he knew the man had killed his niece so they both had to keep quiet. Once he got back from the woods and memorised the spot, he set about first taking the stained with blood net curtain and placing it in the washing machine, then got the tin of woodstain out and a long-handled brush.

He worked through the night, until about three in the morning then went to the spare room, first taking off the sheets and putting fresh ones on and finally, crawling into his own bed besides Rose, first checking she was okay.

He thought the young girl's system wasn't enough to combat the amount of the drugs she'd been given compared to what he'd given Rose. He hoped Ricky had been right and that Rose would only wake up in the morning with a bad headache.

Now, he had to convince Rose that Pippa had misheard and Lisa really had gone off with that Gary. When Ricky couldn't find Pippa in the morning and accused him of getting rid of her, he'd have to convince the man she'd reacted badly to the drugs and he couldn't have called an ambulance, the state the living room floor had been in.

Ricky had got back to the hotel just as the reception was breaking up and Cate spotted him in a corner.

"Where have you been all night?" she asked him. "No, don't bother, you've probably been with half the bridesmaids."

Ricky wanted her to carry on thinking that way, then when Lisa couldn't be found the next day, at least he'd have an alibi.

"Did you call Lisa?" Cate asked as they went to their room.

"Of course I did, everything was okay," he lied. "Don't you trust her?"

Cate just huffed and unlocked the door, Ricky surprised she could find the key. He thought in the morning, he'd have to act normally when Cate rang Lisa's mobile and didn't get an answer. He'd also have to convince Pippa but she should be easy.

He just hoped Lee could handle Rose but that depended if he could convince her he'd not had sex with Lisa while she'd been out.

Lee was up early the next morning to put the net curtain back up and check on the lounge floor, well the floor would have to be dry, otherwise he'd have to explain to Rose why the curtain was down. He heard Rose making a moaning sound as he got out of bed but he knew it would be a few more hours before she emerged.

If any dog walkers ventured down that part of the woods where he'd left Pippa, the police would be knocking on the door by lunchtime. Then he wouldn't have enough time to either convince Rose Pippa was wrong or start getting tough with her.

Two hours later, Cate and Ricky were getting out of the taxi they'd booked to pick them up from outside the hotel. They were arguing as usual.

"I don't know why we bothered going," Ricky was complaining.

Cate noticed the hip flask was now in his inside jacket pocket.

"Get to use that did you?" she accused him.

Ricky tried to ignore her, going to open the door.

"I'm going to check on Pippa before I do anything else," he replied instead, hoping Lee had returned her.

Cate went into the living room, stopping as the double patio doors were open and the curtain blowing in the breeze. Ricky panicked. In his haste to get next door last night, he'd forgotten to close them and then he'd gone off and forgotten to go back.

"Ricky, someone's broken in," Cate almost screamed. "Check nothing's gone missing while I go check on Pippa and why isn't Lisa up yet?"

She went off upstairs before Ricky could stop her and he went to check nothing was missing. Then he heard Cate screaming for him.

"Ricky! Get up here now."

"What's wrong?" he asked, wondering if Lee had failed to bring Pippa home and was going to use the excuse that Lisa had asked if the young girl could stay overnight when he did bring her back.

He rushed upstairs so as not to give Cate any cause to think he already knew the girls were gone. Cate rushed to him as he stood in Pippa's room doorway.

"She's not here Ricky. Where's my baby gone?"

"Calm down Cate. Is she not in Lisa's room?"

"Don't be so stupid Ricky, they'd have heard us by now," Cate replied. "Call the police."

"Don't be so hasty," he told her as she went for her phone. "Maybe they went for an early morning walk?"

"Now you are being stupid," she replied, dialling the emergency number on her phone.

The operator asked what her emergency was.

"I want the police, my daughter and niece are missing."

Cate had broken down once she'd said those words and Ricky took the phone as someone was asking if anyone was there.

"We just got back from a wedding and my niece was supposed to be watching our daughter. We came back and they're both missing," he explained calmly.

"How can you be so calm about it?" Cate asked him angrily.

"Shush Cate. Yes, I'm sure they're missing," Ricky told the officer. "We've checked and the patio doors were wide open when we got back. Someone took them."

As he was telling how they'd left Lisa in charge of Pippa and giving their names and ages, Ricky was having to play along and hope Lee or Rose would bring Pippa back but it still didn't explain where Lisa was.

"Actually, Pippa could be next door," Ricky admitted, Cate hitting his arm. "Yes my wife is just going to check but I don't know why she'd be there, unless Lisa went off last night?" he added.

The call was being monitored as soon as he'd given Pippa's age, someone was already onto the duty officer for the day and unfortunately for them, it was DI Alec Hardy.

"Are you sure they're actually missing?" he was asking the sergeant, holding the phone under one ear and trying to fasten his tie and then abandoned it.

He was already getting a tut from his wife as he stood in front of the hall mirror.

"You're going out?" Tess asked him.

"Daddy, you promised to take me shopping for some new trainers," his daughter was complaining.

"Well you'll have to wait, your father has something more important to do on a Sunday morning," Tess scoffed.

Alec covered the phone with his hand.

"Will you two stop? Daisy, your mother will take you," he told them. "Two girls have gone missing."

By the time he got to the Gillespie house, he was thinking he should have taken Daisy shopping. Tess was thinking almost the same as she got a call to join him after dropping Daisy at her grandmother's house, the almost teenager folding her arms and complaining her parents didn't care about her.

Tess was wondering if her husband had suspected she'd been meeting Dave in secret and the way he'd acted when they'd got to bed last night almost confirmed it. When she'd woken up, he was already getting dressed and she'd asked what he was doing up so early.

"Have you been calling someone named Dave?" he'd asked her.

"Stop being so suspicious Alec. I can't help it if someone from work calls me to ask something," she had bluffed.

"Dave the DS? Why would he call you?" Alec had wanted to know.

Tess had just huffed and gone to the bathroom and by the time she'd got downstairs, he and Daisy were having breakfast and Daisy had talked him into getting her some new trainers.

Now, not only did Alec have to worry his wife was actually having an affair, a young girl around Daisy's age had gone missing, which was all he needed.

Chapter 7
A/N: Since very little is known what actually happened when Pippa and Lisa were presumed missing and the police had to investigate, I may repeat some dialogue and events from some of my other stories. This is my view on what could have happened and now involves Rose keeping Lee's secret, not Claire Ripley.

Rose woke with a panic, trying to focus on the bedside clock, sure she had misread it and it wasn't nine thirty five. She had one hell of a headache and knew she hadn't drunk that much at Claire's last night or had she?

Considering she'd missed the bus she'd gone out for maybe she had? She tried to sit up but felt dizzy so she flopped back down again and closed her eyes. Had she heard Lee saying something about staining the flooring last night? More importantly, he must have picked her up and carried her to her own bed if she'd fallen asleep at the side of Pippa.

"Pippa!" she cried out loud, remembering the young girl was falling asleep beside her last night. She had felt tired all of a sudden and she'd obviously not made it back to their room on her own. Trying not to lose her balance, she got out of bed and also realised she was still dressed, which she was glad about since things were a little 'off' with Lee and headed carefully to the bedroom door.

She'd never felt this bad, even when they got drunk after a night out with Cate and Ricky but she needed to check and see if either Pippa was still asleep or she'd gone home. It was slowly coming back to her about how Lee had tried to convince her that Lisa had gone off and left her young cousin with him.

Now, she was a bit mad at the older teenager for not saying she might go off if that Gary came back looking for her and if it was a last minute thing, she should have still said no and not bundled poor Pippa off.

She peered in the spare bedroom and saw Pippa was gone, thankfully but also noticed the sheets had been changed and the cushion on the wicker chair was missing the cover. What had Lee been up to? Since Pippa appeared to have gone home and she no longer was their responsibility, Rose headed for the bathroom to get a shower to wake herself up properly.

Downstairs, Lee was sure he'd just heard Rose moving around and he'd have some explaining to do and he wasn't ready for it. The enormity of what had taken place last night was just about hitting him and now, he was waiting for Ricky banging on the door and asking where Pippa was.

What was he going to say? That he'd been wrong about her having a pulse and he couldn't wake her up? His worst nightmare was about to happen as he drank his second mug of coffee and there was a loud knock on the door.

Ricky had handed the phone back to Cate and gone himself to see where Pippa was. So as Lee opened the door, Ricky pushed him aside.

"Where's Pippa? You were supposed to be bringing her back," Ricky reminded him with anger in his voice.

"Shush, Rose is already up, keep your voice down," Lee replied.

"Well Cate's on the phone to the police, I couldn't stop her and they'll be on their way. I can hold them off about Lisa for now. Where's Pippa? How much of that stuff did you give her last night?" Ricky wanted to know. "Hold on, will Rose think Pippa's just being lazy? I mean if Rose calls her and Pippa doesn't answer?"

Lee saw his chance, since Ricky still thought he'd given too much of the liquid in his flask to Pippa last night.

"Keep calm mate. After you left last night, well Pippa didn't respond, she's gone."

"What do you mean she's gone?" Ricky wanted to know. "Gone where?"

He saw the look on Lee's face. Lee knew how long it took Rose on a Sunday morning but if she heard raised voices, she'd at least put her dressing gown on and come halfway down the stairs to see what was going on – headache or no headache.

Ricky put his hand over his mouth.

"You lied to me last night? You idiot, I told you that you'd given Pippa too much. What did you do with her?" Ricky demanded to know, trying to keep calm.

"I took her to the woods, where she'll be found. I couldn't call anyone, could I? There was still blood all over the living room floor and Rose will kill me if she finds out it messed up her net curtain. If you tell anyone I overdosed Pippa, I'll tell them you knocked Lisa onto the floor and she hit her head on a nail. Do you understand?"

Ricky nodded, realising what had happened.

"Tell me where you left her," he asked Lee calmly.

"Down the bottom end of the woods, where the river bends. There's a clump of bluebells, I left her lying by a tree. I couldn't wake her up and she'd gone even colder. You had no idea what I had to do to cover it all up when I got back. Rose still might ask questions."

"Well you'd better keep her quiet," Ricky replied. "We both have to keep each other's secrets then? I won't ever forgive you for what you did. I could have dealt with Pippa this morning but instead, Cate's distraught and waiting for the police to arrive. You and I are through being friends but for appearance's sake, I'll let Rose go comfort Cate when she finds out."

Lee nodded and tried to get Ricky to leave.

"Go home Ricky. If Rose has heard you, I'll tell her you came looking for Pippa. What do we tell the police? We'd best hope we don't get that DI, what's his name – Hardy. If we do, don't lie to him, he's a hard-ass. Just tell him you've been round here and we've not seen either of them."

"What about Rose?" Ricky wanted to know.

"Leave her to me, I'll tell her we're not getting involved. Now go, before she comes downstairs," Lee warned him.

"Lee, where's Pippa?" Rose shouted from the bathroom doorway.

"She woke up after you went to sleep and went off with Lisa," he lied, having to think quickly and praying he didn't trip himself up and if he did, he'd have to cover it up just as fast.

He heard her saying something but went off to check all the floor was dry and that by the window, the woodstain had covered the dried blood because he'd not had the time to clean it up properly and wait for the floor to dry.

"Lee, did ya change the sheets in the spare room?" Rose shouted down, Lee thinking did she ever quit asking questions?

He thought apparently not as she wanted to know where the cushion cover was. He was given a few minutes to come up with some answers as she went to put her jeans and a t-shirt on.

"Lee, did ya hear what I said?" she asked him as she went into the kitchen. "Hey, a police car just pulled up next door, what's going on? Did I hear Ricky a few minutes ago?"

This was the moment of truth – to see if he could keep up the lies he and Ricky were about to spin.

"He was looking for Lisa. She wasn't next door and neither was Pippa when they got back from the wedding."

"What?" Rose cried out, abandoning putting some bread in the toaster. "I thought ya said Lisa came back for Pippa last night? Didn't I make it clear she was staying here?"

"Calm down Rose. Lisa came back, Pippa was awake so they went off. How am I supposed to know where they went?" Lee wanted to know. "Cate came back and panicked, there was no answer from Lisa's phone so she called the police," he lied.

He knew Cate would be in no fit state to know and what he said to Rose could be verified.

"I'm going round there now, what's Lisa thinking of when Pippa was half asleep last night?" Rose wanted to know, forgetting she thought Cate had slept with Lee. "Cate must be frantic by now."

"Leave it Rose, if the police are there, wait until they've gone," Lee suggested, not wanting her to be questioned. "Rose, maybe it's best we don't get involved? I mean think of all the questions we'll get asked?"

"Lee, ya want us to lie to the police?" Rose asked, being taken aback.

"Do you want them coming round here every five minutes asking questions? What if word gets out?"

"Well I was with Claire last night, remember?" Rose reminded him, Lee praying no-one would knock on the door just yet.

"Well, you could say they weren't here when you got home," Lee suggested.

"Oh, great idea Lee. What about when Pippa's found and she tells them she was here? Did ya have sex with Lisa then?"

"Rose, this isn't the time to ask me questions like that," Lee objected. "Pippa got it wrong, why would I even contemplate it? She's only young, she imagined hearing things. She even thought her dad was here, come on Rose."

Rose was beginning to wonder if he was right, for a change. She wasn't about to let him off lightly though.

"You've been having sex with Cate though, haven't you Lee?" she asked sadly, pouring some coffee.

"If I said yes?" he asked her, thinking at least he'd get away with Lisa.

Now Lisa was gone though, had it been worth it? She'd still be alive if lust hadn't taken him over last night when she had instigated it.

Rose put the coffee down and rushed towards him, hitting his chest with her fists and him trying to move them.

"You b******, I hate you," she suddenly cried.

"Stop it Rose, don't pretend you never knew. Listen to me carefully. When the police show up, which will probably be soon, you are going to tell them you came home, went to bed and never saw Pippa. Do you understand?" he asked her, shaking her slightly.

Rose nodded.

"Where is Pippa?" Rose asked him through the tears that were forming.

"How do I know? How many more times Rose? Geez. You are going to forget what Pippa told you when we get asked if we've seen them."

"You said that Gary was hanging around Lee, ya can't get him to forget ya went out to him."

He'd forgotten about that. He quickly recovered though.

"Okay, you may have a point," he admitted to her. "I'll say Lisa knocked on the door, I saw him off and they went home. There, satisfied? Nod if you understand."

"You think you're so clever Lee but it'll all fall apart and if it does, I'm not lying to the police."

"You'd better hope it sticks then," Lee scoffed. "If you say anything Rose, I swear you'll regret it. Don't forget, I have something over you."

"What?" Rose wanted to know, going for the coffee machine to warm her drink up.

"You've never given yourself to a man. I swear I'll make sure you have, whether you chose to or not. Remember that."

Rose felt like lashing out to him again but he grabbed her free arm as she raised it while trying to put the mug of coffee down.

"I really hate you Lee. I bet Pippa was right and Ricky did come back last night."

"Don't be stupid Rose, why would he do that? Now, just act normally 'cos a uniformed police officer has just passed the window, act like you just got up and know nothing. I wish I could tell them you were in all last night and we saw neither of them but your boss knows where you were."

"You won't get Claire to play along so easily," Rose replied, trying to dry her eyes.

"Want to bet?" Lee replied dryly. "I might just pay her a visit and tell her I'm getting tired of waiting for you to give in to me," he teased as a loud knock came on the door. "Well, make your toast then and Rose, when I come back, make it look like there's nothing wrong eh?"

As Lee went to answer a second knock, she felt like going upstairs and packing. He had threatened to take her by force, she couldn't pretend things were normal but as Lee called her to the door, she had to put that aside until Lisa and Pippa turned up – hopefully safe and sound and had just been to one of Lisa's friends.

How was she going to remember all that Lee had told her to say to the police? No doubt he'd answer and expected her to just agree. Well, she had no choice at present but if she got the chance, she'd tell the truth if the girls remained missing.

When Ricky had gone back home after finding out Pippa was dead, he'd stopped for a moment to take it all in but then, he'd heard a siren in the distance and knew the police had wasted no time when a twelve year old girl was supposedly missing.

"Where have you been?" Cate asked him.

"To see if they're next door, what do you think?" Ricky replied. "I heard a siren out there, they'll be here soon."

"Are you sure you didn't leave the wedding reception last night?" Cate accused him.

"Why would I? You seemed to think there were enough bridesmaids around. I hope you remember what both of them were wearing yesterday."

"It depends when they went missing. Pippa could have been in her pyjamas," Cate replied as the siren stopped and she assumed the police had arrived.

The police had indeed arrived and Alec Hardy was following the marked car. If had just been a nineteen year old missing, he'd have left it but a young girl, that was different and personal to him.

Two uniformed officers were knocking on the Gillespie's door as he sat there, calling the station to get them to call Tess in case she was needed if they had to set up an incident base.

Ricky was just inviting the two officers inside when he caught a glimpse of Alec, wondering if it was the detective Lee had mentioned. If it was, both himself and Lee had better hope their stories were solid.

"Are you sure both the girls aren't next door?" a woman police officer was asking Cate.

"I've been round, they're not there," Ricky replied, not wanting to say much.

"Well, we'll just go check first then with your permission, we'll need to look around the house, it's standard procedure after another incident recently," the male officer informed them.

They went back outside, nodding to Alec and knocked on Lee and Rose's door.

"Good morning Sir," the male officer greeted Lee as he looked them up and down.

"What's going on?" Lee asked as he saw Alec in the parked car.

"We need to ask you some questions about your next door neighbour's daughter and niece. May we come in?" he was asked.

"Rose, come out here," Lee shouted to her. "What about them?" he asked the officer.

"The two of them have been reported missing Sir," the WPC told him as Rose appeared. "Have you seen them today or last night?"

"Lee, let them in," Rose told him as he kept them on the doorstep. "Sorry, I was out last night, I didn't get home until late, then I went straight to bed," she added, remembering what Lee had told her.

Lee thought she was giving too much information too soon. He moved to one side to let the two officers in, Alec watching from his car as other cars arrived. He'd had a feeling the girls were nowhere local and a search was going to have to be conducted.

Well if he had to work on a Sunday, why shouldn't Tess? He'd called the station to get them to call her to the scene on purpose – so she wouldn't argue on the phone with him. He was already planning how they were going to play this. Tess could handle the young girl's mother and the blonde who had just appeared at the door as the officers were let in next door. Little did he know he was going to get to know the blonde a lot better over time.

He waited until the two officers had gone inside and got out of his car, another officer seeing him and going to knock on Cate and Ricky's door.

"Who are you?" Ricky wanted to know as Alec showed his ID.

"DI Hardy, South Mercia police," Alec replied, holding his other hand out to shake Ricky's. "Officers have gone next door to check with your neighbours."

"I've already been," Ricky almost snapped back, thinking they were wasting their time.

"We have to check. Do you know of anywhere else your niece could have taken your daughter?" Alec wanted to know as he followed Ricky into the living room.

He went to sit opposite Cate, Ricky thankful she didn't have a glass in her hand for a change.

"Lisa wouldn't go off like that," Cate spoke up. "She's looked after Pippa loads of times. I blame him next door, he's always been looking at Lisa." Then she added so Alec could hardly hear her, "Just like Ricky."

Alec just raised his eyebrows and made a note to go see the neighbours. The glimpse he had caught of the blonde gave him the impression she was scared of the man she was with. If that were so, she should be easily persuaded that she would be protected, if the man had something to hide.

"I'd like your permission for officers to search your daughter's room, see if there is any indication she was taken by force," he told them, noting the two of them looked distant.

Had he heard the woman right and she was almost accusing her husband? Well it might be difficult to get them to co-operate so he was definitely getting Tess to handle the pair of them. She should be an expert, considering she knew she'd been found out and this couple were almost a reflection of their marriage, including having a young girl who was caught up in the middle of it.

Maybe her older cousin had seen what was going on and taken her away from it all? He wondered how the officers were getting on next door, maybe he'd pay a visit when Tess arrived and the CSU searched the young girl's room. Geez, since when had he been so bothered there was a young, blonde and scared woman living next to a crime scene?

He heard a knock on the door and assumed Tess had arrived and got up on hearing her voice.

"This is DS Henchard and she'll be your liaison until we find your daughter," Alec told the Gillespies as Tess entered.

Tess just looked at him as if to say since when?

Chapter 8
"Why is he leaving you with us?" Ricky protested as Alec made a hasty retreat.

Tess wondered what difference it made but maybe the man was biased against women in official positions?

"I expect he's gone to check on the progress of the search?" Tess offered, seeing Cate and a picture of Pippa. "That's a lovely photo. Have you given us a recent photo of both girls?"

Cate got up and went to a box.

"Here, help yourself," she told Tess, going to the drinks cabinet.

Tess thought that was not the answer to two girls disappearing.

"Have you any idea who Lisa's friends are?" Tess wanted to know. "Would she take Pippa to stay with any of them?"

"How many people have you got looking for them?" Ricky wanted to know.

"We have more officers on the way. I'm sure DI Hardy's got someone co-ordinating. I'll be keeping you updated, here's my mobile number, call me any time, even if it's only because you are getting more worried," Tess replied as she got a card out of her pocket.

"Do you have kids?" Ricky continued his string of non-related questions.

"Yes, I have a daughter around the same age as Pippa," Tess admitted,

"Oh, you and Hardy are married?" Ricky cracked a smile. "That's why he was so gruff and eager to leave?"

"Stop it Ricky, not everyone's like us," Cate snapped at him.

"It's got nothing to do with your daughter and niece going missing," Tess insisted. "If anything, it makes us the best officers to be in charge."

Meanwhile, Alec had gone to knock on Rose and Lee's door, the WPC opening it.

"How are you getting on here?" Alec asked her.

"My colleague is just looking upstairs Sir and the male occupant raised some objections."

Alec just bet he had. Just as he was heading for the living room, the male officer, who had heard Alec's voice, shouted down to him. Alec rushed upstairs, hoping something had been found but Lee came out and Alec stopped halfway up.

"Hey, you can't just invite yourself in and go upstairs," Lee shouted to Alec. "Who are you?"

"DI Hardy, South Mercia police. Who are you?" Alec replied, seeing Rose behind Lee.

"Lee, let them do their jobs," Rose insisted. "Sorry, I'm Rose Tyler and this is Lee Ashworth," Rose told Alec. "If it helps find Lisa and Pippa go ahead."

Lee was wishing she'd not said that but wondered how to stop them, since they'd been invited in.

"You knew them both well?" Alec wanted to know.

Rose knew Lee didn't want her to say too much.

"We saw them around," Lee replied. "When we used to go next door to barbecues. Rose knew them better."

"Is that right?" Alec asked. "Did either of you see them yesterday?"

Lee thought the other officers had already asked that. Did he admit Lisa came round for help getting rid of the bloke she didn't want to go out with or not? He supposed it would be better to say she had then went off again, it would be easier.

"I saw them yesterday morning, when I was going to work," Rose admitted.

"What time was that?" Alec wanted to know, getting his notebook out and wondering why the two officers didn't already have this information.

"Just after eight, Pippa asked if she could come round later, with her mum and dad being away but I said I was going out after work."

"So that was the only time either of you saw them?" Alec asked, looking mainly at Lee.

Rose was apprehensive, hoping Lee wouldn't turn on her later. Lee decided to stay quiet for now, since Rose had given them something.

"Were you in all night?" Alec asked Lee.

"I was watching the football highlights," Lee admitted. "I was a bit annoyed Rose had decided to go out."

That made Alec raise his eyebrows. He decided to leave it and go see what the male officer had found, going to join him in the spare bedroom.

"Anything unusual?" Alec wanted to know.

He looked at the cushion on the chair, minus the cover but he supposed it would be waiting to be washed.

"No Sir but the male occupant was reluctant to let us in."

"Yes, for someone who's been told a young girl from next door has gone missing. Go find out if any of the other neighbours have got CCTV, take as many officers as you want and get statements from anyone who saw the girls yesterday, including downstairs."

"Yes Sir," the officer replied, wondering what Hardy wanted doing first, knowing the DI's reputation.

Then Hardy wondered why half the station had heard rumours his wife was cheating on him and the other half already knew.

Alec looked at the fresh sheet and pillow case, wondering if they were also in the wash, making a note of it. Then he got suspicious and wondered if the older girl had left her cousin here last night and gone off with someone but why hadn't she come back?

Then he began thinking Lisa had got mixed up in something, got the younger girl on some pretence later that night and things had gone wrong. He sat on the edge of the bed, thinking of what could have happened. What could Lisa have got them both into?

He got up, went downstairs and hoped to get some answers.

"Are you sure you've told us everything Mr Ashworth?" he asked Lee, who was reluctantly giving his contact details after Rose had given hers.

"What? I already told you," Lee insisted, getting annoyed that their Sunday morning was being disrupted.

"And where were you, Miss Tyler?" Alec added, trying to avoid looking at her.

He could tell something was bothering her, maybe Tess would have more luck with her but Tess saw any female as a potential risk to their marriage, maybe that was why she wasn't that bothered he'd worked it out.

Rose came out of her trance. Lee had warned her yet again to say as little as possible but had he been about to admit Lisa and Pippa were here last night? She had suspected there was more to it than Lisa leaving Pippa with Lee.

"I was with my friend, I work for her," she replied, still hiding behind Lee.

Alec noticed.

"So, she can vouch for you?" he asked her.

"Yeah, I can give her details to your officers," Rose replied, thinking Claire would surely thank her if someone went to the salon.

She'd have to risk calling Claire later and warn her. There again, if it was on the news, Claire would already be aware that she might be involved, since she'd mentioned Pippa and Lisa a few times.

Alec wondered why she was being so nervous, maybe it was just with him?

"Yes, we'll need her name and phone number to verify you were with her. So, the last time you saw them was that morning?" he asked her.

Rose nodded, chewing the sleeve of the cardigan she'd hastily put on while Lee was answering the door. Maybe the detective would notice she was nervous though? She couldn't risk Lee carrying out his threat and the mood he was in now, she had no reason to doubt he may.

"Well, thank you for your time," he continued, putting his notebook away. "If you think of anything else, please call the police station." Then he thought he should maybe hand his card out. "Here's my card if the number is busy."

He thought that was a valid excuse, if the man standing opposite didn't tear it up after he'd left. He wondered exactly what this man had over his girlfriend? Still, he wasn't there to discuss the finer points of relationships, he could talk.

Lee wasn't going to take the card so Rose reached her hand out, touching Alec's hand for a brief second. Trying not to make anything of it, she clutched the card in her hand so Alec reached his hand out to shake Lee's.

He could always judge people by the way they shook hands and as Lee reluctantly held his hand out, he knew the man was definitely hiding something and was preventing his girlfriend giving any information.

"The officers will take your statements," Alec added.

"Does it have to be now?" Lee objected. "We were just getting breakfast."

"No, they can come back. Officer, make a note," he turned to the WPC, wishing he had time himself to go back and maybe catching the blonde on her own.

Alec left but Lee rounded on Rose, going for the card. Rose though clung hold of it.

"What do you need that for?" Lee demanded to know.

"I'll put it in a safe place," Rose replied, knowing Lee would throw it away, probably outside so she couldn't get it back.

"You already told them too much and what were they doing upstairs?" Lee wanted to know.

"Well Claire's gonna have to know so I'd better call her and warn her," Rose replied.

Outside, Alec went over to where Tess had based herself.

"Those two are hiding something," he told Tess as he wished someone would get a coffee machine.

How long would they be based here though? The chief had just arrived and Tess went to update him. Alec was staring at the house he'd just been in, trying to forget the young blonde but how could he, when she'd looked way out of it, like she'd either just woken up or she'd had too much to drink last night.

He was very interested to see the statement she gave, maybe she'd admit she'd been drinking with her friend? Tess was heading towards him so he had to concentrate.

"You gave that young officer a lot to do Alec," Tess told him off.

"Well, I told him to get help, not do it all by himself. We all know the timescale for finding missing children Tess, we can't afford to delay. So, what's around here where they might go? Is there a park or any woods?"

"There are some woods, a mile or two away," Tess told him, unfolding the map she'd been given.

"I'm thinking maybe Lisa did go off with someone and it turned bad," Alec admitted.

"You always think the same Alec, you never think positive," Tess huffed.

He was beginning to think maybe he should have been less positive agreeing to them getting married. Goodness knew how long she'd been cheating on him?

"We have to consider it's possible Tess, what if Lisa went off with someone, admitted she was supposed to be looking after her cousin and whoever she was with took advantage?"

"By advantage you mean abducted them?" Tess shuddered to think.

"That's what it's looking like," Alec admitted. "The Gillespies said the patio doors were wide open and the elder girl wouldn't have gone off and left them. I think the neighbours are hiding something, well the man anyway. His girlfriend looks scared to death of him."

Tess let out a laugh.

"Trust you to notice that Alec. Okay, why would she be scared of him?" she now regretted asking him.

"Maybe he did see the girls last night and didn't want her to know?" Alec wondered. "Lisa, the older cousin may have made some advances towards him?"

"Tell me you're not being serious Alec?" Tess asked him but saw the look on his face.

"So, what if she went round, with Pippa and left the young girl watching TV while they went upstairs? The spare room looked like the bedding had just been changed and a cushion was missing its cover."

"Geez Alec, you're really serious?" Tess stared at him. "So, then what?"

"It got out of hand and lost his temper?" Alec suggested. "Let's not think about it just yet, there may be other answers?"

"I hope so," Tess replied as the chief approached them. "I hope non are that they got involved with something."

"So do I Tess," the chief agreed. "So, what's your theory Alec?"

"He thinks the neighbour is somehow involved," Tess laughed.

"Ah, now that would be too easy," the chief laughed back. "You may as well say the father of the youngest girl is also involved."

"Aren't they always?" Alec replied dryly.

"Well some of the neighbours say a young man was hanging around earlier," Tess told them, looking at her notebook. "He was last seen in a corner of the gate just across there."

"Well see if you can get a name from someone," Alec suggested. "He may have seen the girls or maybe he was waiting for the older one?"

"You're suspicious of everyone," Tess reminded him.

"Be fair Tess, he's usually right to be," the chief defended him, getting tired of her trying to bring her husband down.

He'd also heard the rumours and in his book, Alec didn't deserve to be the talk of the station.

Back at the Gillespie house, Cate had taken to the drink and Ricky sat contemplating what Lee had said to him. Had his so-called friend lied to him last night and Pippa had been given too much of the drug to be able to cope with it? He was going to go round later and get the truth out of him, even if it got violent.

If it meant Rose being there, then she'd find out what had gone on but he'd probably been right in keeping out of her way last night, she may have discovered what had happened to Lisa. He also wanted to know how Rose hadn't noticed the taste of the drug in her drink but he bet she had one hell of a headache.

Rose and Lee had eaten their breakfast in silence, Rose drinking plenty of coffee.

"Why does my head ache so much?" she wanted to know as Lee went to the drawer to get some tablets after the WPC had come back for their statements.

"Serves you right for drinking without me last night," he replied as he tossed the strip of tablets at her.

"I swear I only had two glasses of wine while we were talking," she insisted.

"Maybe you lost track? Since you women like to talk. So, did you tell her all your dirty little secrets then?" Lee laughed.

"What secrets? Oh. I've never told anyone about that and why did you threaten me?" she suddenly remembered after the detective in charge had been staring at her, like he knew she had something to hide.

"Come on Rose, that's not a threat, it's my insurance. I have to take precautions, I can't afford to get involved in a police investigation and neither can you. Think about if your boss gets involved?"

"Well I had to give her details to prove where I was," Rose reminded him. "So, would you carry out your threat if I got asked more questions then?"

"What do you think?" Lee replied. "Going back to your mother then?"

"Do ya want me to leave?" Rose wanted to know.

"It's up to you. I can't afford this place on my own and do you really want to admit your mother was right?" he asked.

"How many times did ya sleep with Cate?"

"Does it make any difference? If you don't want me to force you, what do you expect Rose?"

She was about to raise her hand to him but he stopped her.

"I'll move into the spare room then?" Lee continued. "You might like to empty the washing machine, I changed the sheets last night."

"So they wouldn't think Pippa had been here?" Rose asked quietly.

"Good thing I did with that lot barging in. Anyway, I won't carry out my threat as long as you don't say much and you let me sleep with you now and then."

"You have to be joking to think I want to have sex with you if you had sex with Lisa last night," Rose objected. "Geez Lee, why Lisa?"

"Well she started it," Lee defended himself. "She came round saying that Gary was hanging around and scaring Pippa so I let them in," he admitted. "She took Pippa upstairs then I went out to the bloke and warned him."

"You idiot," Rose told him. "So where did Lisa go then? Why have they both been reported missing?"

"How the hell do I know? She made a move on me, we had sex then she went off. You fell asleep and Lisa came back and took her. Maybe Lisa's shacked up with him and they don't realise everyone's looking for them?"

He swore he'd come up with the same story earlier but if Rose's head hurt, maybe she was taking no notice?

"I expect they tried Lisa's mobile?" Rose wondered as she cleared up then looked in the washing machine, seeing he'd put a black and silver cushion cover in as well.

She decided not to ask him why he thought that needed washing, she was already more than mad at him. At present, she had no alternative except to stay with him, go back to the guest house or go back to her mother's. She could maybe keep avoiding him but if he thought she was going to continue having sex with him, he had to be joking.

"Of course Cate will have tried Lisa's mobile," Lee scoffed. "Maybe she left it downstairs while she was sleeping with that Gary?"

"Geez Lee, ya think she had it with you then went with him?"

"She's young, who knows? Weren't you the same at that age?"

This time Rose did hit him and he stumbled back. He figured maybe he deserved it but wasn't going to say so.

"Better now?" he asked, clutching his shoulder. "Geez Rose, come on, you must have had several blokes on the go?"

She was about to ask him how he worked that out but her mobile rang and the display said 'Claire'. She thought surely the police hadn't rung her so early?

Tess had got the number from Rose's statement and had woken Claire up.

"The police?" Claire had asked when her head cleared. "What's it about? Did Rose get home safely last night?"

"Yes, Rose is fine," Tess assured her. "It does concern her though. Can you confirm she was with you last night?"

"Is she in trouble?" Claire wanted to know.

"No but an incident occurred close to where she lives, she claimed she was with you and we want to confirm it," Tess replied.

"Yes, she was with me until late, she went out for a bus but it missed so she came back. I can't remember the time," Claire confirmed. "Why, what happened?"

"Sorry, we can't give any details at this time," Tess replied, looking at Alec, who was staring at the two houses or was it just the one of them?

It was obviously a couple living there, judging by the statements but was he beginning to wander now he'd worked out she was seeing Dave? Since he'd not shaved that morning, how did he expect any woman to take up with him?

So, Claire called Rose to see why she'd been woken up.

"I'm really sorry about it Claire but they wanted to know where I was last night," Rose apologised.

"Well the police won't tell me why they called," Claire complained.

"I don't really know much Claire, they just asked if we'd seen Lisa and Pippa from next door," Rose replied, trying to keep it to a minimum or she'd get into trouble with the police and Lee.

"They're missing?" Claire asked as she tried to fill the kettle with water one-handed. "You're joking."

"I wish I was Claire, I'm worried about them," Rose replied, not being able to say she saw Pippa when she'd got home last night.

She also wanted someone to talk to, now Lee had admitted he'd had sex with Lisa last night and now she was missing.

Shouldn't that raise alarm bells? So that was why he threatened her into saying nothing? The detective hadn't looked like he believed Lee was totally innocent. If only she could talk to him and tell him about it but then, Lee would carry out his threat so she was stuck.

Chapter 9
Rose snapped out of her thoughts as Claire asked if she was still there.

"Sorry Claire. It's just I can't believe either of them would just go off and not tell anyone where they were going," Rose told her, trying not to mention she'd seen Pippa last night but not Lisa.

"I expect they'll turn up and wonder what all the police cars are doing there," Claire laughed. "See you in the morning and I hope they do turn up, safe and well."

Rose then went to join Lee in the living room, hating instantly what he'd done in a hurry to the wooden floor.

"I know you hate it," Lee pointed to the newly stained boards. "I have some floorboards in the van that I got for a job, I'll go get them. You can help me put them down. Well don't just stand there, help me pull these ones up."

Rose rather thought that was a man's job but Ricky would be too concerned about the two missing girls to be bothered ripping up a floor on a Sunday morning. Rose stood there and watched Lee make a start.

"Lee, we have to talk. You're asking a lot of me."

"Not now Rose, stop bitching to your friend as well, don't you dare mention what I told you to her, understand?" he asked, Rose getting worried as another floorboard came loose.

"But Lee," she protested. "I'm gonna leave, as soon as the girls are found."

"No, you're not, you know too much," he objected.

"I'm not gonna say anything, am I?" Rose replied, feeling like she was going to be sick.

Her two friends were missing and all Lee was bothered about was her telling someone he'd been unfaithful with at least Cate and Lisa.

"No Rose, you're not going to say anything. I think that detective already suspected something, you didn't have to look so scared of me."

Rose wanted to say she was scared of him. If Lisa came back though, could she forgive her for cheating with Lee? It was now over between the two of them anyway, if he wasn't going to move into the spare room tonight, then she was.

As the floorboards all came up, Lee went off to his lock-up to bring the new ones. He was pleased that at least with all the floorboards up, Rose wouldn't see anything. When he'd put the new ones down though, he hoped no blood had seeped through to the inside. He'd just have to be careful getting them outside, then he would drive to that place in Portsmouth Ricky had told him had gone bust and burn the floorboards in the furnace. Then Rose wouldn't be able to tell those nosy detectives, she'd have no evidence.

Alec was still worried about the young woman he'd just met, there was something about her that made her look like she wanted to talk. He decided against getting Tess to talk to her as Tess went off to update the Gillespies. She had just been trying to tell him something but he had been miles away.

"Alec, are you even listening to me?" she'd asked him.

"What? Yes, go see the parents then, I'll go join the search team in the woods. When I come back, I'm going to try the neighbours again."

"You mean go see that blonde," Tess scoffed.

"Why are you so bothered? Did you not think word would get around about you and Dave?" he retaliated. "This is business Tess, I'm not the one sneaking off to meet someone. Are we leaving Daisy at your mother's tonight?"

"We may as well, she can go to school with her friends, I'll get my dad to take her home to get her uniform," Tess agreed.

Alec supposed that was one less thing to worry about. Now all he needed to do was get the blonde called Rose off his mind. He had no luck though as the day wore on. The search dogs had been brought in, Cate had provided clothing from both Pippa and Lisa and the search was now concentrated in the main part of the woods.

Alec was checking in with the command post that had been set up in the car park and would-be dog walkers were being given details to look out for the two girls.

"Yes, I agree to getting visitors to look out for them," Alec was telling the chief. "They will maybe wander into other parts of the wood. If the older girl has a phone, why is it switched off?"

"There could be a number of reasons Alec," the chief told him. "She could have got her younger cousin into danger."

"We had better hope not," Alec replied, not liking where this was going. "I say tomorrow, we get the divers to start searching the river."

"Well we'd better keep it quiet then," the chief told him. "If word gets out, who knows what the papers will come up with? Have any details gone out yet?" he asked.

"Tess was organising the press officer, we've put it on standby for now, this all could be just a false alarm."

"We'd best hope it is," the chief had to agree.

Just after four, Alec drove back to the estate and noticed Tess's car had gone, thankfully. He planned on moving his things out of their bedroom when he got home and move them to the small room. There was no point in pretending to keep up the appearance they were still together. He expected Tess would be pleased.

He saw a van parked at the side of the neighbour's house and wondered what had been going on. Lee had just got back from burning the wood, once again telling Rose to keep quiet. He thought though she would be gone when he got back.

"Still here then?" he asked as he finished installing the new flooring.

"You know I won't leave until they find Pippa. Are ya moving into the spare room then?"

"If I have to I suppose? Come on Rose, don't act like you wouldn't take the offer of sex if a young bloke was giving you the eye."

She took him by surprise and went for him but he managed to hold her off.

"I really hate you. You didn't have to corrupt Lisa to have your way with her."

"You think she'd never been with a man before?" Lee laughed as he backed off. "I've got news for you Rose, she had, trust me. What's really holding you back? Is it just me? Oh, it is, isn't it? You don't want me to be your first."

"I never said that," Rose defended herself.

"It's true though. Fine then but don't expect me not to take other offers. Help me get that floor finished."

"Where did ya take the other floorboards Lee?"

"Does it matter? I got rid of them, it was a mistake staining them, these are much better. If those detectives come back, keep them out."

"Why Lee? What are ya hiding?" Rose wanted to know.

"Don't be so suspicious Rose," he grinned. "Maybe one day I'll tell you."

"You know where Lisa went, don't ya?" Rose faced him.

"If I said yes?" he replied. "No, I don't know where she took Pippa when she came back if she didn't take her home."

"Was Ricky here last night? Pippa was convinced he was."

"Hell Rose, the kid was tired and confused when you got home," he reminded her. "In her state, she would have gone anywhere with Lisa. Leave it alone, they'll come back when they're tired and hungry."

Rose could only hope he was right. She set about making something to eat and saw Alec pass by, hoping he wasn't paying a visit but the doorbell went.

"I'll go," Rose offered as Lee was re-arranging the furniture.

"If it's the police, don't invite them in," he told her.

Rose took no notice as she opened the door, just as Alec was going to try knocking.

"Oh hi. Is there any news yet?" Rose asked him.

"May I come in? No, not yet, we're conducting a search of the woods. Mrs Gillespie seems to think the girls were here last night," Alec told her, having talked with Tess.

Tess had told him Cate had been drinking and admitted Lisa fancied Lee and despite being warned not to take Pippa with her if she was going to visit when Pippa should be in bed, she bet they had gone round.

"I told them I would be out," Rose reminded him. "Lee would have said if they had stayed."

Alec wondered if the man would have admitted it though.

"Refresh my memory. Did he say they had called round earlier on Saturday evening?" he tried to bluff, since they were getting nowhere.

"I told you they didn't call round," Lee shouted from the living room.

Alec wasn't going to be defeated.

"A neighbour opposite said he heard shouting and claimed it was you," Alec read from his notebook.

"Well he was wrong, it wasn't me," Lee snapped. "It could have been anyone. Shouldn't you be out looking for them?"

"Don't be so rude Lee," Rose told him. "We have to help if we can."

Alec was glad at least one of them was willing to co-operate. He knew something funny was going on though, this couple were as estranged as the one next door.

"Lee, if you saw them at all, you have to tell him," Rose continued, hoping he'd at least admit that Lisa came to him for help getting rid of Gary.

She didn’t know the young man's surname and from what she could gather, neither did anyone else. Lee was looking at her, she was determined to get him to admit he'd seen Lisa.

"Hang on," Lee told Alec. "I had a few drinks, maybe my head's a bit cloudy? I think Lisa might have knocked on the door to say that bloke was hanging around," he admitted.

Alec was furious this man thought it was a joke and had waited all day to admit it. He tried to keep his temper in check, even though it was only for the fact Rose Tyler was looking at her boyfriend like she wanted to murder him.

"What time was this?" Alec tried to ask calmly.

"I don't know, maybe around nine, I told you, I was watching the football. She came to the door, I went over and warned the bloke and she went back next door when the bloke ran off."

"You never thought that was important enough to mention?" Alec asked him, looking at Rose. "You never told your girlfriend?"

Rose wanted to say Lee could forget about her being his girlfriend, it was over between them and they now only shared a house. If she could afford it, she'd leave but her pay would only get her a room in a boarding house again and she'd had enough of it before, with all the restrictions they imposed.

When she thought back, that was what had been so attractive about moving in with Lee. That was when everything went downhill from there.

"I didn't think anything of it," Lee replied. "I only saw her for a few minutes, does it even count?"

Alec couldn’t understand why the man was being so flippant about it and why he was being so off with Rose. Why was he so bothered though and why was he referring to her as Rose when he referred to the man as Ashworth?

"Everything counts when they are both missing," Alec replied, wondering why he was being so calm about it. "Anything else you recall?"

"I may have bloodied his nose a bit," Lee joked. "Serves him right for being a pervert, hanging around a young girl like that. He even messed up my shirt."

Rose almost gasped. He'd not even mentioned that to her. She hoped the detective, who had been paying close attention to her wouldn't notice. Why was he paying close attention, she wondered. Was he hoping she might say something? Lee hadn't really told her much and she had no idea why he didn't want to admit Pippa had been here last night.

Alec wondered what else the man hadn't told him.

"So, he went off and Lisa went back next door?" Alec asked him. "Nothing else?"

Lee thought the detective was trying to catch him out. The way things were going, he probably would. He'd thrown warning glances at Rose but would she break down and admit what he'd told her so far? He'd told lies anyway and the detective may not even believe her, she was only a slight risk to him.

He decided he'd deal with her later and give her another warning as the detective turned to her.

"You had no idea Lisa had been round?" Alec asked her.

"No, sorry. Lee never mentioned it, I was tired when I got home, he made me some hot chocolate and I went to bed," Rose replied, trying to stick to some of the truth.

Lee was wishing she'd not mentioned the hot chocolate but he'd washed both mugs thoroughly, he hoped. Ricky had taken the flask back, he was very unlikely to admit he'd come back last night so the police couldn't prove anything.

"Yeah, she was so tired I had a right job waking her this morning," Lee grinned. "Goodness knows how much she and her mate drank last night, eh Rose?"

Rose could only put on a smile and nod her head in agreement.

"Yeah, I missed a bus but I could have got the time wrong," Rose admitted, since Claire had mentioned it to the police.

If only she'd caught that bus, the girls may not have gone missing. She'd have made sure if Lisa had gone out that she agreed Pippa would stay with them for the night and not come back and drag the young girl into goodness knew what.

She wished she had the courage to tell the detective what had really happened but she still couldn't risk Lee carrying out his threat. He was a lot bigger than she was and she wouldn't be able to fight him off. If she told the police of the threat, Lee would just laugh it off and besides, she only had Pippa's word that Ricky had come back last night.

Had Lee been bluffing when he'd admitted he'd had sex with Lisa though? Maybe it was wishful thinking but he'd admitted to having it with Cate so maybe he had? Had he been bragging earlier and let her go on about it for his amusement?

"We've spoken to your friend Miss Tyler," Alec told her. "If you remember anything else, please call the number I gave you."

"I should go see Cate," Rose got up from the kitchen chair, wondering why Lee was still standing.

Was he trying to square up to the detective?

"Leave it Rose," Lee told her, Alec thinking he was right, the man had some kind of hold over her. "She'll be off her head by now."

"She drinks a lot?" Alec raised his eyebrows.

"It's not for us to say Lee," Rose chastised him. "Yes, Cate does like to drink but maybe she needs it this time?"

Alec nodded in agreement.

"Well I won't take any more of your time," he told them, putting his notebook away.

Rose had noticed how he seemed to like doing that.

"I must ask you both not to discuss the case with anyone," Alec continued. "Details are being released to the press but we're asking all possible witnesses to keep their part in it quiet. If you do say anything, please keep it to a minimum and let us know, in case it gets back to the press. Oh and please be careful of reporters, they may not admit who they are and try to get you to talk."

"That's a warning to you Rose," Lee grinned. "You women like to gossip in the hairdressers."

"Claire doesn't like us to gossip," Rose defended herself.

"Even so, please be careful," Alec told her.

Lee went to see him out, then returned to the kitchen.

"Leave the cooking Rose, I'll go to the takeaway," he told her as she went back to what she'd been doing. "I need to take the van back."

Rose thought it was just another excuse for him not to eat what she cooked.

"You'd better not have given any clues to that detective," he added as he went for his jacket. "Don't make me carry out that threat."

"You could have told me you hit that Gary," Rose told him.

"Why? I can use the washing machine Rose."

"What was the cushion cover doing in there as well?" she wanted to know.

"Pippa was a bit sick on it," Lee bluffed. "When Lisa came back for her. She must have drunk that hot chocolate too fast."

"Well why did I fall asleep then?" she asked him.

"Blimey Rose, you'd been drinking with Claire, what do you expect?" he tried to convince her, getting the van keys from the counter.

Rose didn't quite believe him though. She tried to remember how much she'd drunk at her friend's place but maybe she had lost track a bit? Claire wouldn't have a clue either so there was no point in asking her she supposed.

When Lee went off, Rose set about cleaning up and went into the lounge, looking at the new floor. Why had he picked today to do it? She remembered him saying last night he was going to stain the other floorboards but they'd only been down since they'd moved in, why had he been so bothered?

Maybe he'd not liked them since then and never said anything? She looked out of the window, seeing Lee reverse the van out onto the street and when she thought he'd be up on the main road, she went to the front door, looking for Alec. Should she risk Lee doing to her what he threatened though, just on the speculation Lee hadn't been joking about Pippa and Pippa being right about hearing Ricky last night and thinking Lee and Lisa had been having sex?

She looked down the street to where there was a police tent, any traffic having to use the other way in and out of the street. She couldn't see Alec or the other detective so she went back inside and picked up the card he'd left earlier from the kitchen drawer. What could she tell him though? Lee had been very careful about it, he was far more clever than she was. He knew she couldn’t afford to live on her own and she now depended on him and how could she leave the town with poor Pippa still missing?

No, she had to stay, whether she still slept with Lee or not. She had to make sure Pippa was okay and find out the truth from Lisa. She had to give her friend the benefit of the doubt, Lee could just be taunting her and making her so jealous, that she'd agree to giving in to him but why would he want that when he could go with Cate any time he wanted?

She had just sat down when Claire rang her.

"Any news yet?" Claire asked her.

"No, sorry. I think the police would have said and they're putting out a press release about it. It's poor Pippa I'm worried about," Rose told her. "We're not supposed to talk about it so we'll have to be careful at work. Claire, just how much did I drink last night?"

Claire let out a laugh.

"I've not got a clue. Maybe that's why you missed the bus? Is it that important you know?"

"I suppose not? It's just I fell asleep as soon as Lee made me a hot drink and he joked about it," she admitted.

"Don't worry about it," Claire advised her. "You're lucky you have someone to make you a hot drink."

Rose detected a hint of sadness in her friend's voice.

"Claire, I didn't mean anything," Rose told her.

"It's not your fault. I had to leave someone behind when I left Wales and I never told him where I was going. It's a long story, I won't bore you with it, you have enough worrying about your friends."

Rose said goodbye and waited for Lee coming back, knowing it was a bit of a walk from the takeaway and wondering if Lee would get a taxi. Did she have time to call the detective and confess she knew more than she'd already told him? She picked up her phone again, looking at the card but if Lee came back and saw her with it, he'd grab the phone to see if she'd been calling the detective. Maybe it would be worth it and Lee would just leave her rather than forcing her to give in to him?

She starting typing in the numbers to Alec's personal number, thinking it would be faster than getting the police station to find him and was about to press the call button when a cab pulled up outside. Her heart skipped as she saw Lee getting out of the back and she hurriedly deleted all the numbers and put her phone down just as he let himself in.

Alec had been back to his office to gather his notes together, thinking back to the look on Rose's face when Ashworth had admitted to getting blood on his shirt. What else didn't she know about him and how he had spent the night before? He found it hard to believe Ashworth had only watched football last night.

Chapter 10
Rose tried not to look guilty as they ate the food Lee had brought back.

"So you don't like my cooking?" she tried not to sound offended.

"The way you looked earlier, I didn't think you wanted to. Besides, that detective put me off, what's he doing asking so many unrelated questions?" Lee wanted to know.

"They might not be unrelated Lee, they might help find Pippa, Lisa's old enough to look after herself. What was she thinking by coming back for Pippa?"

"How do I know?" Lee shrugged his shoulders.

"Are you telling me the truth Lee? What the hell did ya put in my drink last night, I wasn't that bad when I came home. I knew enough to get Pippa back upstairs and talk to her."

"What did you talk about then?" he asked her.

Had Pippa said something else, about Lisa, he wondered. He was glad she'd seemed to have forgotten Ricky might have come back last night.

Rose couldn’t risk telling him what Pippa had told her, that she had heard Ricky's voice. She thought it best she kept that to herself for now. She now just wanted both girls to turn up, then she would give notice on her job and go back to London. Would Lee let her though? She wished she had the courage to call the detective,

Alec got home, gathered what he needed from the main bedroom and stood in the doorway of the spare room, thinking there would be more room up in the attic. How was he going to explain this to Daisy though? Sitting on the single bed, he got his notebook out and tried to make some sense of the few statements they'd got today.

He had got Rose and Lee's phone numbers from Tess, along with Claire's but as he was making notes, he absentmindedly circled Rose's number, reading she was a hairdresser and this Claire was who she worked for. Should he go visit her tomorrow and see if she'd talk away from the man he lived with? He thought it may be worth a try.

Rose went up to the bedroom after Lee had been in to move his things.

"Happy now?" he called from the other room.

"You expect me to act like nothing's happened?" Rose replied. "I can't forget it Lee. How could you?"

"Stop it Rose. What do you expect? I have needs and you were being tight. Why did you take up with me? I thought once we lived together, you'd let go."

"I have feelings as well Lee. I'd only had one boyfriend before you and we never talked about it. I'd feel the same way with anyone else. Maybe if you'd told me you love me but now? Is it true, about you and Lisa?"

"What do you think Rose? Something just gave when I'd seen that bloke off. You wanted me to admit that to the police?" he asked her.

"Is that the reason you wouldn't admit Pippa was here though?" Rose wanted to know.

"We have to keep out of it and if you tell them anything, remember what I said. Don't even think about running back home," he warned her.

Rose went into the bathroom, slamming the door. She felt like risking it and phoning the detective but Lee would only get her back for it. She was trapped and she knew it.

Tess had got home after meeting her lover, thinking Alec would have already moved out of the bedroom. Dave had asked her why Alec had been gruff all day and she'd told him Alec knew about them. Alec was in the kitchen.

"So, are you leaving?" Tess asked him.

"I'll find somewhere to go, you can expect a cut in your housing allowance though, so you will have to make a few savings. You can start by not giving Daisy everything she wants. She has to learn that everything can't be just handed to her."

"Well you can tell her that," Tess huffed.

Alec couldn't be bothered arguing with her, it had been one hell of a day, for everyone. He'd not liked leaving when the girls were still missing, he'd been hoping that the older cousin had got Pippa into something and they had escaped whatever it was.

Now it really was looking like an abduction and not a case of Lisa enticing Pippa away on some promise. He was fairly certain the neighbours had seen her yesterday evening, why would only Lisa go round for help?

The next morning, Rose got up to go to work, thinking she wouldn't see Pippa going off to school, unless both girls had returned. She did see Ricky as she was leaving though.

"Any news Ricky?" she shouted across to him.

"Not yet," he replied, knowing the police were wasting their time.

He was just going to wait for Lee coming out. It had been bad enough he'd accidentally killed Lisa but for Lee to overdose Pippa? He had drugged Rose as well, she'd come out of it alive, how was that fair?

"How's Cate?" Rose continued.

"How do you think he is? She's taken to the booze. You'd best stay away for now," he warned.

"Maybe I could call round after work?" Rose suggested.

Ricky grunted a 'Maybe' so Rose assumed Cate really was off her head or Lee had promised she'd leave Cate alone. What had the two of them been up to after Lee had drugged her? What was it that Lee never told her about the blood on his shirt before the detective asked him about that young man hanging around?

Surely Lisa hadn't gone to Lee with the intention of getting him to have sex with her? Had she just offered herself to Lee hoping he'd see it as she was thanking him? She got to the bus stop, hoping the search for Pippa would be stepped up.

Tess was busy organising the dog handlers at the start of the woods when Alec showed up. He saw the diving unit had just arrived so he went across to them.

"Where are you starting your search?" Alec asked the leader.

"There's a formation of rocks just here," the man showed Alec on the map. "Some of the men are going to wade down the river."

"Right, just carry on and shout if you find anything," Alec told him.

He went over to the command post.

"You're wasting your time searching the river Alec, don't you think it's a bit early at this stage?" Tess asked him.

"No, I don't," he objected. "Anything could have happened overnight. Call me if they find anything."

"Where are you off to?" Tess wanted to know.

"Following some leads," he replied, instead of saying he was going to visit a certain hairdressers.

Tess just mumbled something that resembled he always left her to do all the work. She wondered what he was up to but he always did like doing his own thing, he was never much of a team player.

Alec drove off to the address Rose had given the WPC, going past the end of the lane twice before realising, then he had trouble parking, having to put his 'Police' sign on the dashboard to avoid an over-keen traffic warden giving him a ticket.

He stopped to look in the window of the hair salon, seeing the back of Rose's head as she put curlers in a woman's hair. He'd not been able to stop thinking about her since yesterday morning and he had no idea why. She was just another possible witness to an abduction – or was she?

Had the man she lived with seen both girls last night, Rose had come home and he'd told her to keep quiet about it? That meant Rose had possibly seen one of the girls, if not both. He saw a woman sitting at the desk and went to open the door.

Rose had got to work and Claire had prevented the others going into the staff room.

"I'm surprised you're here," Claire joked.

"Geez Claire, I've had enough, seriously. The police were round three times yesterday, asking questions, like when we last saw Lisa and Pippa," Rose told her boss.

"Well didn't you get home a bit late to see the youngest girl?" Claire asked her.

"Yeah but Lee admitted he saw Lisa earlier. Some bloke was hanging around and she went round for him to warn the bloke off," Rose admitted.

She dare not say any more at this point.

"Well I hope they're both found safe and well. Best get to work though, before the others start gossiping. It's bound to be on the news though so just keep quiet," Claire advised her.

Rose had to agree at this point, though the others may have heard her mention Pippa and Lisa. She could always bluff by saying loads of girls had those names. Her plan was working well – until Alec Hardy walked in and went up to Claire, who was the one at the desk.

Claire looked up, thinking if the dishy bloke wanted a haircut and his beard trimming, she would attend to him personally – stuff seeing who had appointments for the next few days.

"Hi there! Can I do something for you?" she asked in her best voice that meant can she do anything for him personally, not professionally.

Alec knew that tone, in his profession, he didn't get to hear it much though. He went in his jacket pocket for his ID.

"DI Alec Hardy. You have a Rose Tyler working for you?" he asked, seeing her out of the corner of his eye as she moved her customer under the industrial sized hairdryer.

He dreaded to think how much the electric bill was for the salon.

"She's with a customer, you'll have to wait," Claire told him, thinking why did Rose get all the best looking blokes interested in her?

She was still a little jealous her employee had beaten her to Lee.

Rose had seen him and once she'd placed her customer under the dryer was going to dash to the safety of the break room but she heard him saying he'd wait as he sat in front of Claire so he wasn't mistaken he was waiting for a haircut – since it was a unisex salon.

Claire though saw Rose trying to make her escape through the large mirror opposite and called her over.

"Someone to see you Rose. Make it quick though and did you put the timer on Mrs Barker?"

"Yeah, I did," Rose replied, thinking it was a dumb question and as if she'd forget.

Why had the detective sought her out though? Were they that short of witnesses?

As Alec followed her, one of the other stylists, Sadie, went over to Claire.

"What's with her?" Sadie referred to Rose.

"Some police detective, probably about someone complaining she dyed their hair the wrong colour," Claire laughed.

"Oh come on Claire," Sadie protested. "Is it about those two girls disappearing? Doesn't she live out that way?"

Claire just shrugged her shoulders and told her employee to get back to work and not to gossip during working hours. Claire thought though that this was only the beginning and it would get even worse. She got up and called the trainee over and told her to check on Rose's customer when the buzzer went.

Alec had closed the door after following Rose.

"What are ya doing here?" Rose wanted to know. "Have I done something wrong?"

"On the contrary Miss Tyler. I think that yesterday, you wanted to tell me more but something was stopping you. Was there?" he asked her, leaning back on a chair.

"Why would ya think that? I told ya before, I was out all evening, ask my boss."

"We already have," Alec replied. "I'm more interested in what you've not told me. Did you see Lisa or Pippa?"

"How could I have done?" Rose asked him. "Lee said only Lisa came round to our house, before I got home."

Alec was crossing off his questions he had for her, though he'd not yet ticked off had she and her boyfriend just split up?

"As far as you know, would Lisa go off and leave her younger cousin on her own?"

"Geez," Rose thought. "Did he know what Lee had told her?"

"Not that I know of," she told him instead. "I don't think she'd have gone off with that Gary, she told me she doesn't like him much."

"Yes, we have the man's name, no-one knows much about him though," Alec complained. "You looked surprised at the fact your boyfriend got blood on his shirt."

"He just forgot to mention it, that's all. I was tired when I got back. Is this going to take long? I should get back to my customer or she'll complain to Claire and want a discount. Claire won't be happy about it, trust me."

"I will try not to keep you then. Just one more thing though, would Mr Ashworth have told you if both girls had been round?" he asked her.

"Yeah, I think he would have done," Rose tried to bluff.

She could see he didn't really believe her.

"May I call you Rose?" he dared ask. Rose nodded. "Rose, if you know anything else, you should tell me. This is only about finding Pippa and Lisa. They're your friends, are they not?"

"Yeah. I see them more than Lee does and I've no idea why Lisa got him to punch that bloke but that was maybe just Lee and nothing to do with her, if he'd had a few drinks. He was annoyed I'd gone out."

"So he said," Alec recalled, wondering though if Ashworth was jealous of the man hanging around waiting for Lisa.

He had officers trying to locate this Gary Thorp or was it 'Thorp' with an 'E' he wondered as he'd scribbled the name down in his notebook. Most questions though were about Rose, he'd been jotting them down as they'd come into his head when he'd woken early that morning.

It had been quiet, being on his own and not have Tess going on about either Daisy or the fact he showed very little interest in her these days. Maybe he should be glad she'd almost admitted she was having an affair?

"I have to go now," Rose brought him out of his thoughts.

"Yes, sorry to have kept you. Well, if there is anything else, please call the number I gave you, for anything at all."

"Yeah, I will. Have you any idea where they are?" Rose wanted to know.

"No, not yet and please, call me Alec. We have men searching the woods and other areas nearby, just in case though maybe Lisa took Pippa to a friend's house and not realised how much fuss it may cause."

"Maybe? I don't know any of her friends though, sorry," Rose told him, trying to avoid calling him Alec.

What was all that about, she wondered. He was getting on a first name basis with her and he looked like he had plenty more questions to ask her. She made a move to the door, Alec beating her to it so their hands touched the handle at the same time.

"Sorry," Rose said quietly as she moved her hand from the top of his.

He seemed to let it slide. It had just been a coincidence, hadn't it, she thought.

Claire had been about to knock on the door, to tell Rose to get back to work when they both came through it, Alec allowing Rose to go first.

"Try not to make a habit of this," Claire told them both.

Alec just nodded.

"Thank you for your time Miss Tyler," he turned to Rose as she saw her customer was sat in front of the mirror, waiting for the rollers to be taken out of her hair.

Rose felt slightly flushed. Alec went back out to his car, seeing a traffic warden on his way down and thinking the man looked disappointed. He had not asked Rose all the questions he had for her though. One of the main ones was if she was scared of her boyfriend?

Was Ashworth still her boyfriend though? He drove back out to the woods and decided he'd be more useful joining a search team than daydreaming over Rose Tyler.

Lee had heard on the car radio that police were searching the woods and wondered how long it would take them to find Pippa. He'd avoided Ricky, who had given up waiting for him and so far avoided the woman who had been staring at his ass all morning while he'd been pulling up the existing flooring.

He'd been to the timber yard and got more flooring to replace what he'd used at home to cover up the fact he'd made a mistake staining what was already down. He'd only done that to stop anyone seeing what had happened to Lisa.

Fortunately for him, he'd not given the address where he was working today so the nosy detective wouldn't be paying him a visit. Would he be trying to catch Rose on her own though? Her boss wouldn't be too happy about it though.

He suddenly looked up as a pair of shapely legs stood in front of him. The way she was looking at him, if she offered to show him her bedroom, he wasn't going to say no to her, was he? He had Rose under control now, he could put up with living in the same house, at least for now.

Maybe Ricky would demand they left though, after what had happened?

Tess had caught up with Alec.

"Well, get anything useful while you were away?" she asked him.

"Not much. Have the divers found anything?" he wanted to know.

"I told you they were wasting their time," she just replied.

Alec thought maybe they were but they had to try. The search had been extended to the furthest part of the woods and both officers and volunteers were now more spread out, Alec hoping that would do more good as they came to the part where the trees were less dense and there was more space.

What were they hoping to find though? If one or both girls were there, they would be tired and hungry by now and what were they hiding from? Were they hiding from this Gary everyone reported seeing that night or something else?

Cate had been convinced Pippa would only have been wearing her pyjamas so why had they even gone off? Unless they had actually been abducted, Pippa would be suffering by now, even if Lisa wasn't.

It had been raining most of the night and now, it had started again and Alec began to wonder about something. He broke off from the search team and went to join officers on the riverbank, wondering now if there was any evidence the girls had been here it would be washed away.

The river was flowing quite slowly, compare with what it had been and Alec was leaning on a branch when he thought he saw something, apart from bits of trees. No-one was close to him, they had moved further down the river though there were officers on the other side, including Tess, since she didn't want to miss out.

"Have you seen something?" she shouted over.

"I thought I just did, maybe it's just more debris though. Hold on, what's that?" he asked as he leaned further over.

"Wait for the divers to make sure Alec," Tess told him.

She knew Alec never was one for following procedure as he stepped into the water and waded to the middle. Then she saw him stop and stare and she tried to see what it was. She should have known he'd be the one to find something.

Chapter 11
Alec was sitting on the step of the ambulance, the other one having taken the young girl away. He was drinking hot, sweet tea, which he hated but Tess was glaring at him.

"It just had to be you, didn't it Alec?"

"What? No 'sorry it had to be you and the other officers having to drag you out when you nearly went under because the body was dragging you down'?" he asked sarcastically as he held a thermal blanket on his shoulders with his spare hand, though he wanted to throw the tea away.

He knew she had no idea how he felt about it, he'd just waded in the river having seen something and had stared in disbelief as he realised it was Pippa. He'd been looking at her photo constantly, well in-between thinking about Rose Tyler, though why he was thinking about her?

He thought he'd cured that by walking along the riverbank trying to distinguish floating debris from actual physical forms. He'd not though been ready to actually find one. There was not a single person there who would want to be the one to find the missing girls in the water but would have done the same as he had once they had.

"How long had she been there?" he asked Tess once she'd turned back from telling the leader of the diving team they should continue looking for Lisa.

"Maybe since Saturday night?" she offered, not knowing. "No, maybe not but since Sunday night at least. She was probably lying by a tree when the river burst its banks."

"Who the hell leaves a child by a tree in the woods?" Alec shouted out, making everyone still there look at him. "Well?"

They all remained silent.

"Alec, you should go get dried properly," Tess reminded him. "I'll get someone to drive you home. I'm going to finish up here then go tell her parents though I think Ricky went off to work."

Alec thought rather her than him, the Gillespies didn't seem to like Tess when he'd introduced her. Maybe she'd overcome that though, who knew with Tess? She'd certainly got the attention of a certain other DS.

He reluctantly let a male uniformed officer drive his car back home, he was thankful he'd left his phone and wallet in the glove compartment and retrieved them as they drove off.

"Are you okay Sir?" the officer asked him.

"Fine. I don't want to talk about it, just drive, eh?" he replied, knowing he shouldn't take it out on anyone else.

He checked his phone, there were no messages but who was he expecting any from? Certainly not Rose Tyler to tell him thanks for getting her into trouble with her boss for just showing up unannounced.

Once he got home and got dried after taking a proper shower to get the smell of the river off him, he got his phone and called the station, asking for the personnel office.

"Can I help you Sir?" the female officer asked him.

"I want to arrange some accommodation for myself, as soon as possible. Can you get me in a guest house tonight or tomorrow?"

The officer was silent for a few minutes, Alec thinking she was already telling the rest of the office, or the whole station.

"I'm just looking something up for you Sir," she replied. "I'll send you some details when I book you in somewhere. May I ask how long for?"

"A night or two at least. Can you also look up rental agencies and find out any apartments to rent? Use my portion of the housing allowance towards it but keep the rest of the price as low as possible. I do not want anyone else to know about this, understand?" he asked her.

The officer was looking around the office at the others, who were trying to look busy.

"Of course Sir," she replied, not saying his name.

Once he'd done that, he supposed he should get back to work but something made him look at the phone in his hand and bring the number up of where Rose worked. He thought she deserved to know before the news was released to the public, he and Tess would make a statement to the press once she got back.

Claire answered the phone in her best voice.

"May I speak to Rose Tyler?" Alec asked her when she'd recognised his voice and said 'oh it's you again'.

She covered the phone with her hand and shouted "Rose'" over the noise and held the portable phone up. She got up as Rose approached.

"Two minutes Rose and tell him not to keep calling," Claire warned her as Rose sat down in the chair.

Thinking it was Lee, she answered cautiously. She had no idea what he was going to do now she'd confronted him about drugging her, since he'd changed the subject last night.

"Hello?" she asked quietly.

"Rose? This is Alec Hardy. I thought you should know, we just found Pippa."

He gave her a minute for it to sink in.

"Oh. Where did ya find her then?"

"I'm sorry, she was found in the river. There's still no sign of Lisa though. Her parents have been told, in case you want to see them when you get home?"

Rose was still trying to take it in, Alec thinking she'd put the phone down.

"Rose, are you still there?" Rose said a faint 'Yes' so he continued. "We'll be issuing a full statement shortly, I didn't want you to hear it on the radio. Rose, if there's still anything you want to tell me, I can call and see you later."

She just replied with 'Okay' and put the phone in the charger, Claire crossing over to her, having taken over Rose's customer.

"What did he want Rose? Did you tell him not to call you at work?"

Rose felt sick and ran to the restroom, everyone who could move their heads watching her. She leaned over the sink, trying to look in the mirror. That was not the news she'd been expecting when he'd said they'd found Pippa. She heard Claire knocking on the door and asking if she was okay.

She washed her face and turned to unlock the door.

"What is it?" Claire asked her.

"They found Pippa, in the river," Rose told her.

Claire put her hand over her mouth.

"No. Are they sure?"

"It'll be on the news soon, he thought I should hear it first. Claire, if I'd got that earlier bus on Saturday night?"

"Rose, it's not your fault someone took them," Claire tried to tell her. "You still don't know where they went after Lee saw Lisa."

"I might have seen them go off though," Rose replied. Then she thought of something. "That's just it though Claire, I walked from the top road and I didn't see anyone. I mean if they were wandering around?"

She knew it wouldn't have made any difference with Pippa though she may have seen Lisa around. It was a nice quiet estate – or so she thought. If Lisa had come back for Pippa, then where had she been after Pippa had heard her having sex with Lee?

She had no idea what time Lisa left their house and when Pippa went back upstairs, then had crept back down again. How had she been so stupid to not detect Lee had put something in her drink but why hadn't he drugged Pippa?

It never occurred to her that he had.

Claire moved to one side, patting Rose on the shoulder.

"Do you want to go home?" she asked her.

Rose shook her head.

"No, I'd rather go back to work, if that's okay?"

Everyone in the salon stopped when the four o'clock news came on and Rose heard Alec's voice. She thought he sounded cool and calm and had no idea he'd been the one to find Pippa, Alec saying nothing more than what was in the statement he'd prepared earlier.

He'd sat at his desk waiting for Tess coming back and wondered how Rose had taken the news. She'd been very quiet and he suspected she'd be listening to the news broadcast later. He looked up when the chief stood in the doorway.

"Sorry it had to be you who found her Alec," Chief Watson told him.

Alec thought it was better than what Tess had come out with.

"It just happened to be me. I'll be giving a statement to the press shortly. I'll send the cleaning bill to personnel then?"

"You do that Alec but I'm here for another reason, that of your living arrangements. It came to my attention you're moving out?"

Alec thought so much for keeping it quiet.

"Tess and I are no longer together Tom. I can't stay there after I tell Daisy when I get back. You know about Tess and Dave Harris?"

"I'm afraid so Alec, sorry. I had thought it was just gossip but not these last few days. I've approved transfer of your housing allowance when you find something but you'll have to pay towards a couple of nights in a hotel. Sorry Alec."

"It was coming, trust me. Maybe now we'll get along better?"

"Who knows?" the chief smiled.

Alec sat back in his chair, tapping his pen on the desk, which drove Tess mad when he did it. He went back to thinking how Rose had taken the news, it now bothered him and he thought he really should call in on his way home. That though depended if he had to leave home tonight or not.

He sat up when he saw Tess in the outer office. They made their way downstairs to the waiting reporters and TV cameras and he broke the sad news. He answered a few questions and denied a few then said there would be a press conference the next day, once more facts were established.

"Are you coming home to face Daisy tonight?" Tess asked him as they went back inside. "Wendy told me you've been in the personnel office."

"She would," he replied, annoyed Tess had found out but he supposed it had saved him telling her. "When I've finished here. Don't say anything to Daisy before I get there Tess."

Tess just shook her head and went off to her desk. She knew he'd delay and get home as late as he dare. Once he left home though, could she entice Dave to finally leave his wife and move in? If Alec was taking his housing allowance away, he couldn't exactly object.

Rose was still upset as she set off home, staring out of the window of the bus and regretting going out on Saturday night, she could have prevented all this. Now she suspected Pippa had really heard her dad's voice but he must have left before she herself had got home – or had he?

She got off the bus at the top of the road, wishing one on that route went into the estate but she was halfway down when a car stopped beside her and she panicked, walking faster. She didn't realise it was Alec until he let the passenger window down.

"Rose?" he called out, hoping it was her.

She stopped as she recognised the voice, looking into the car.

"Sorry I startled you, I was on my way to see you and the Gillespies. May I offer you a lift?" he asked her.

Rose nodded and got in, Alec waiting for her to fasten the seatbelt. Neither of them looked at each other as he drove off, nor did they say anything until Alec stopped between the two houses. He had to go offer his condolences to Pippa's parents and apologise for not being there earlier.

"Thanks for the ride," Rose managed to say. "You said you wanted to see me?"

"Yes just a few things to clear up, if you have time?"

"Yeah, sure. You said Pippa was found in the river? Who found her?" she wanted to know.

"I'll be round when I've seen Cate and Ricky," he replied.

Rose nodded and got out of the car, wondering what all that was about that he couldn't tell her in the car? Then she dreaded the thought that it might have been him, why else would he not answer? All kinds of things were going through her mind, such as who the hell would leave Pippa in the river or nearby?

Alec finished up next door, Cate losing her temper and telling him he had better find the person who had done that to her daughter and leave them with her. Alec would have gladly done so, had the law allowed victims to deal with those who were guilty.

Ricky saw him to the door once Cate had calmed down. Now he knew what Lee had done and he was going to confront him later. It was far worse than what he himself had done to Lisa. He still didn't know if Lee had killed Pippa in revenge for Lisa being killed though. Had Lee been about to throw Rose out and move Lisa in with him?

Ever since Lee had told him Pippa had reacted badly to the drug he'd put in her drink, he'd wanted to strangle the man with his bare hands. Why had he believed the man that Pippa was okay and gone off without checking himself?

He didn't know what Cate would do once she found out though.

"You find the person who killed my daughter, do you hear?" Ricky told Alec.

Alec already knew there wouldn't be much to go on since Pippa had been in the water for an indeterminate amount of time. The initial report he'd got before he'd left had been at least 24 hours and she could have been left anywhere, since she'd been caught up with the debris.

Alec was just going next door, not knowing Ricky was still watching. Alec knocked on Rose's door, seeing the other door closing just as she answered.

"Hi, come in. So what did ya want to tell me?" Rose asked him as she led him into the lounge.

"It was me, I found her," he admitted as he sat on the other end of the couch.

Rose put her hands over her mouth.

"Oh. I'm sorry it had to be you."

"That's okay, it had to be someone. We're still searching for any clues as to where she was placed or put in the water. I can't tell you much else, sorry Rose."

He saw she was wanting to cry.

"I'll be off then. I'm sure you're expecting Lee home?" he asked.

She was in no condition to tell Alec she and Lee were through and even if she was, why would he be interested in knowing?

"I don't know what time he'll be back these days, he's been starting later to suit his customers. How did Cate take the news?"

"Badly but there again, these things never are taken well. I'm sorry there's no news of Lisa though, there's still hope for her."

"Yeah, let's hope so? Don't let me keep ya," Rose replied.

"You're a long way from home Rose," he smiled.

Why had he said such a stupid thing, he wondered. He had some room to talk.

"Yeah, I moved here about two years ago, met Lee and decided to stay. Is it important you know that Lee and I, well you know, we're not really together any more?"

Alec tried not to look surprised, he had more or less already guessed but Ashworth still had a hold over her.

"No, it's not important but thank you for telling me. May I ask why you're still here though?" he thought was a fair enough question.

Rose wondered that herself.

"I wanted both Pippa and Lisa to be found - alive. I won't leave until Lisa is and I want to help as much as I can."

"You already are, trust me," Alec assured her. "Well if you think of anything else, feel free to call or text me, any time."

He held his hand out to shake hers but he noticed she looked awkward and she hesitated. He was about to take it away when she took it and shook it just the once, moving her head away.

"Why are you so hesitant Rose?" he thought was another fair question.

"It's just, well it was Lee who spoke to ya yesterday," she made the excuse.

"Yes, I had noticed. Rose, did he tell you to leave it to him?"

"What? No. It was just, he likes to take charge, that's all," Rose tried to bluff.

Alec had already seen through it – she was scared to death of the man.

"No matter, it was just an observation. Use my work mobile number, if the station number is busy, for any concerns you may have."

He thought that should cover almost anything – concerns about her friend or her now ex boyfriend. What hold did Ashworth have over her though? He thought in nine out of ten cases, with those who were missing, someone they knew had something to do with it but it wasn't Rose that Lisa had run away from, that he was certain.

She looked like she was the one who wanted to run away. He opened the door and took another card out of his pocket, scribbling another number on the back.

"For if my work mobile is switched off or you can't get through. If there's anything at all you can think of why Lisa might have run off or be hiding somewhere. Could she have run off with this Gary?"

"She didn't like him that much, I don't think she'd have gone far with him, well not after Lee went after him," Rose replied as they stood by the front door.

"Yes, I would have thought he would have got away as fast as possible, after the warning he got," Alec smiled.

He wished he could have got a smile off Rose but she still looked sad. He thought it would take some doing to get her to though. He opened the front door and turned back, thinking he'd best put on a show for the nosy neighbours.

"Well thank you for your time Miss Tyler."

"I wish I could have been of more help," Rose replied, fingering the card he had given her.

He was just going to his car when she turned and saw Lee getting out of his car but Alec carried on.

"What did he want?" Lee asked her.

"Didn't ya hear the news Lee? They found Pippa," she replied, slipping the card in her jeans pocket before he saw it.

"Yeah, I heard but why were you talking to him? Did you let him in?"

"Don't be so heartless Lee. Pippa's dead and you're asking me why I let the police in? Are ya being serious?" she cried, tears now on her face. "I honestly don't know you any more."

Lee brushed past her, waiting in the doorway. She went back inside but he held his arms out.

"Sorry. I didn't hear all the news Rose. What happened, is she alive?" he pretended he didn't already know.

"No, they found her in the river. Why did it have to be her?" Rose cried again. "It's all my fault, I should have stayed in on Saturday night."

"You don't think Lisa led her to the woods that night?" he asked. "If she went after that bloke and got Pippa mixed up with something? What did that detective tell you?"

"Nothing Lee, they don't know much yet. Lisa wouldn't do that, would she? You believe what Pippa told me, that she heard you and Lisa and Lisa didn't want her telling her parents?" Rose asked through the tears. "Geez Lee, Lisa wouldn't go that far as to silencing Pippa, would she?"

Lee offered to comfort her. It was the perfect excuse for throwing her and the police off the truth.

"I don't know Rose, maybe Pippa did tell her when she left and Lisa pushed her in, maybe by accident and that's why she's disappeared?" he tried to bluff.

"We should tell the police," Rose insisted, looking up at him as he held her close.

"Shush Rose, leave it until morning eh? Maybe I'm wrong though, I'm just guessing, they have enough clues already, let's not add any more for them to worry about. Do they know she might have gone off with that bloke, I can't remember if it was mentioned yesterday?" he asked her, thinking she might let him comfort her later as well.

Not that the young woman who had invited him to her bed earlier wasn't enough for one day, she had been quite inventive – unlike Rose. Rose was a challenge.

Chapter 12
A/N: Events have been speeded up and differ from the original.

When it was bedtime though, Lee went off to the spare room again.

"I guess I'm not forgiven?" he asked Rose.

"Nothing's changed Lee, you still slept with Cate and had that one time with Lisa. Oh, was that the first time with Lisa?" she almost choked.

"What do you take me for Rose? Okay, yes, that was the first time with Lisa and both her and Cate were willing, unlike you."

Rose just slammed her bedroom door on him, sitting on the bed trying to hold back the tears. She was trapped because she could never give in to him now but she knew too much already. She couldn't tell Alec Hardy for fear of Lee forcing her, he may even make it rough and hurt her if he were that way inclined.

Lee stood and watched Rose slam the door, a wicked smile on his face. He had to ensure her silence because if she told the police she saw Pippa the other night, they would be round asking more questions. Then he wouldn't have chance to repay her – would he?

Alec had gone back to the spare room as he'd been booked into a nearby guest house the following night on a day to day basis so he tried to avoid Tess when he finally got back and had knocked on his daughter's bedroom door.

"You're late again Dad," Daisy greeted him with her arms folded.

"Sorry darlin' it's this case we're working on."

"I know about it Dad, she was in the class below me," Daisy replied sadly.

Alec had no idea what school Pippa had gone to. Maybe Tess had taken all the details and just not bothered telling him.

"Yes, we have to find who did that to her. You do understand I'd never choose to work late to avoid you? There is something else you should know though."

"You are leaving, aren't you Dad?"

"Honestly? Yes, to avoid the arguments, not to avoid you. So, I will come round every night at this time, if you want?"

"You don't have to come every night Dad," she replied.

"I want to or how about I phone you some nights? Are you mad at me?"

"No Dad, it's better than you and mum pretending you're not arguing in front of me," she managed to smile.

"I try to," he smiled back. "I'm looking for a place to move in to, you can come and visit when I do, if you want?"

"I'll think about it Dad. I heard mum talking to someone again, she's found someone else, hasn't she? Why doesn't she just admit it?"

"I don't know Daisy, maybe she's trying to spare you eh?" he wondered.

"Well she's not, is she? Never mind. What will you do Dad?"

"Let's deal with that if it ever happens eh?" he laughed.

What would she say if he mentioned his attention had been caught by a twenty-something year old blonde lately? At least she didn't hate him, that was something but Tess would be a different matter even though she had a secret boyfriend. Would she be a bitch if he got involved with someone?

He shook his head when Daisy had closed her door and went to get a few more of his things packed so tomorrow, he could go book in the guest house early then come back and see Daisy and collect everything. He didn't want to leave them in his car in case someone got nosy.

Over the next few days, Alec got used to being almost single again, Tess never mentioning the word 'Divorce' but he was expecting a separation order at least. He knew she would go for it in order to stop hiding Dave and make it known she was moving on.

He didn't want to bother Rose again, she was clearly troubled and her boss hadn't taken kindly to him calling to see her and phoning her in the same day.

After Rose's day off , Claire caught her before they started work on Wednesday morning.

"No visits from that detective then?" she smiled wickedly, nudging her. "He seems a bit of alright and he clearly has his eye on you."

"Don't be daft Claire, he was just doing his job. It seems he took the hint though, since he's not been back," Rose sighed.

"Yeah but you know the rules Rose, no personal calls or visitors, well unless they're paying customers and ask for you. If they don't, they'll get served by anyone who's free. Cheer up love though, things still bad with Lee then?" she asked, handing Rose a cup of coffee.

"Yeah, I don't want to talk about it though, if ya don't mind Claire? It's a sore point. Can we go for a drink after work? I don't feel like going straight home?"

"Yeah, sure, as long as you tell Auntie Claire all about it," Claire laughed.

Rose knew she had no-one else to confide in, Claire was her closest friend.

Claire agreed so Rose thought if Lee was home early, he could do the cooking for a change. They went to a bar close by and Claire got the first round, putting Rose's drink in front of her.

"So, how bad are things then?" she asked Rose.

"Where do I start?" Rose tried to smile. "He admitted he slept with Cate and had sex with Lisa before she went missing."

Claire almost spilled her drink.

"Wow and you're still with him?"

"What else can I do Claire? It's stay there or go back to a cheap guest house where I can pay for just the room. I can't do that again. When they find out who killed Pippa, I might go back to my mum's."

"I should think so as well. Why did you never tell me before? I knew you were upset over Pippa but that as well? How did you find that out then? Did you just ask him?"

"It's complicated," Rose replied, sipping her drink through the small black plastic straw.

"Isn't it always?" Claire laughed. "Can't you tell me anything else? Why did he do it anyway?"

"Because I can't give in to him Claire, I don't know why. Maybe it's just because he never said he loved me but now? How can I go back to him and have a proper relationship with him?"

"I don't know Rose, honestly," Claire replied, finishing her drink. "It's your round."

Rose just smiled and nudged her. "Fat lot of good you are."

Claire just sucked on the straw and made a noise back.

When Rose got home, Lee was stirring a pan on the stove.

"You should have said you were going to be late Rose," he told her.

"I had a couple of drinks with Claire," she replied. "I never know when you'll be back so you can talk."

"You know the funny hours I work Rose. At least I have an excuse. Any news on who killed Pippa yet?"

"Don't change the subject Lee. I know why you work funny hours and no, I don't go out to the pub with Claire every night," she replied angrily. "Do ya work the hours to suit your female clients so you can sleep with them when they get home?"

Lee was about to raise his hand to her but clenched his fist instead, only because if he marked her, the police and her boss would notice.

"Watch it Rose," he warned her instead.

"Well, it's true so don't deny it. How do ya think I feel Lee? You could have just kept asking me if I was ready to give in to you. I had to be sure."

"How was I going to make you sure Rose?" he wanted to know as he turned down the stove.

"Why should I tell you Lee? There was a way and you didn't take it."

"How am I supposed to know what it was Rose? You kept pushing me away before I'd finished."

"And the others didn't? Is that it Lee?" she asked. "If you don't know why Lee, I'm not going to tell you. I can't believe Lisa let you."

"Then let me enlighten you Rose, I wasn't her first, trust me," Lee smirked. "Still want to wait for her to turn up so she can confirm it?"

Rose picked the pan up, wishing she could get away with pouring the pasta over his head but that would be a waste of food. Instead she got the spoon and put the food onto the plates.

"I don't think she's coming back Lee, she ran away for a reason. I think she did take Pippa to the woods, pretending they were playing a game and Pippa slipped on a rock and fell in. She was probably still confused from earlier. Did you drug her as well Lee?"

Lee was sure she'd asked him that before.

"Why would I do that Rose?" he replied, hoping it would confuse her even more.

He'd known why she'd never given in to him, as well as being uncertain about him, she was waiting for him to say he loved her. Well he was uncertain about that, unlike her telling him she loved him.

"Don't bother denying it Lee. You drugged us both so when I woke up I wouldn't believe what she told me. You drugged her so when Lisa came back, she'd be confused and not say anything."

Lee knew she was getting too near to the truth and he didn't like it.

"Maybe that stuff's not worn off yet Rose?" he grinned as he ate.

"You drugged a twelve year old girl Lee, what the hell?" she asked furiously.

"She would have told her parents when they got home Rose, what was I supposed to do eh? Giving her a drop of that would have made her think twice, she may have thought she'd imagined it."

"Nice try Lee, it worked so well she died as a result of it," she replied.

Then she dropped her fork on her plate and gulped.

"Lee, did ya give her too much?"

"What? Now you are talking rubbish, why would I do that?"

"To stop her saying anything, why else?" she asked, seeing the look on his face. Then she got up, a feeling of dread coming over her. "That's why you weren't concerned that she was found. It was you, wasn't it? You left her in the woods. How could you Lee?"

With that she ran out of the kitchen and slammed the bathroom door, feeling sick.

Lee got up and followed her. She had worked it out and she would surely risk telling the police. He tried knocking on the bathroom door.

"Rose, okay I admit it but it was an accident. I must have given her too much. Let me explain?" he pleaded with her.

"Go away Lee, I hate you even more right now," she replied, splashing water on her face.

"It was an accident, I swear Rose," he called through the bathroom door. "I gave her as much as you, it must have stopped her breathing. When I went to move you, I didn't check and when I got back, she was all limp. I couldn't revive her Rose, I couldn't leave her here, could I?"

Rose opened the door and took him by surprise by hitting his chest.

"You rat! You could have called an ambulance, they might have been able to revive her. Since when are you a medical expert?" she wanted to know as he tried to grab her arms.

"If I had, the police would have been round," he answered.

"You idiot, the police have been round. She was in the river Lee, with all the rain and that detective was the one who found her. How do ya think he felt when everyone hoped to find her alive?"

"Rose, you can't tell them, they'll arrest me or at least they'll be an inquest. Cate and Ricky will turn on us."

"On you ya mean? I was drugged, remember?"

"They won't believe that Rose, they'll think you knew about it. There won't be any traces left of the drug."

"Won't there? They'll be examining her Lee, it's only a few days ago. I hope they do. Maybe I should go to the hospital to prove I was drugged?"

"Don't you dare Rose, I'm warning you," he replied angrily, pacing the landing.

"What do you expect Lee? That detective already thinks I'm hiding something, I'm sure he does."

"If you go to the hospital, they'll ask questions Rose, what are you going to say? You stay away from there, understand? Need I remind you what I threatened? Go back downstairs and clear the dishes and forget about it."

"How can I forget Lee?" she asked, going to the top of the stairs.

When she finally went to bed, she got her phone out and retrieved the card Alec had given her. It was late, just after eleven and she wondered if when he'd said anytime, he meant it. What would she say though? That Pippa was here that night and Lee drugged them both?

Lee would deny it, even if tests proved both she and Pippa had been drugged, though maybe not with Pippa, where would she have been given it? With herself though, Lee could try and say she had been out drinking but she had an alibi in Claire. If he got off though, he'd come after her.

She tried to memorise Alec's number, she dare not put it in her phone. If she rang now and he asked what she wanted, she would probably clam up though. When he'd visited her at work, she was sure he knew something was wrong, the way he kept asking if she had anything else to tell him. Could she trust him and ask him to arrange a test and keep it quiet?

Maybe though he'd find out Pippa still had some in her system and start asking questions?

She left it and tried to get some sleep but kept imagining Alec finding Pippa in the river. Why did she stay with Lee, how could he have been so heartless? The next morning, she left as usual but when she got on the bus, she put Alec's number in the message box and began to type, asking him to meet her at twelve thirty at the end of the lane where she worked.

She knew Claire would be mad if he called into the salon again and he wasn't there to get a haircut. She got a message back saying he would do his best to be there but if not, he would call at her home after he finished work. She replied that if Lee was at home, she didn't want him to say why he was there. She was relieved when he agreed.

Alec was a little surprised to get her message just after eight fifteen but if she wanted to talk, he was willing to listen. He got to work then called the coroner's office to see if there was any news of how Pippa had ended up in the river.

"Well Sir," the coroner began. "There are no signs of any head wounds so she didn't fall or was pushed into the water. I'd guess she was carried by the river flooding where she was left. There are signs of asphyxiation though, there are very small strands of material embedded in her lips that the water didn't wash away."

"Anything else?" Alec wanted to know, wondering who would smother the girl then leave her in the woods.

"Well Sir, as far as we can tell, she wasn't abused, that's a blessing. We are just analysing her stomach contents, we just found out there was no water in her lungs so she definitely died before entering the river."

"Well keep me informed as to what else you find," Alec replied. Then he remembered his manners and thought how he had done in front of Rose Tyler. "Thanks."

He looked at the pile of papers on his desk, the result of the statements taken on Sunday and Monday on the estate. He was tempted to root through them and bring up Rose's but there were others to read. He gave in, found Rose's and her boyfriend Lee Ashworth's, though was he still her boyfriend, he wondered and put them at the top of the pile.

He then divided the pile, took the bottom half and leaving his office, approached Tess's desk.

"I thought you'd want to see them all?" she asked him as he placed them on her desk.

"You're on this case as well," he reminded her. "I want to talk to you tonight Tess, I've moved out and we need to sort things."

"Everyone knows Alec. I'm not going to hide anything about me and Dave. I suppose you want to talk about Daisy?"

"I agreed I would either call and see her or phone her every night, she was fine about it. She knows you talk to someone, maybe you should tell her? Do you want a separation?"

"To start with," she replied in a low voice. "Any news what happened to Pippa? We're running out of ideas why Lisa hasn't shown up yet. The favourite is she pushed Pippa in somehow and she's gone into hiding."

"The coroner says it's unlikely she was pushed, there was no water in her lungs. She died before the river burst its banks so she was definitely left. There were traces of material on her mouth."

"She was smothered?" Tess almost cried out.

"Maybe, let's see what else they find first. Are you going back to the estate?" he asked her.

"I'm just going to call on Cate, make sure she's okay. What are you doing?"

Alec had noticed a café a few streets away from where Rose worked and planned on taking her so they could talk so he was going nowhere until he had to set off. If Rose had something to tell him, they may get further into the case than they'd done all week.

Chapter 13
Rose tried not to look suspicious when she got to work. Claire was watching her though and at Rose's break time, Claire wandered in, having said nothing when Rose had arrived.

"You were quiet earlier," Claire laughed as she grabbed her mug off the side of the sink.

"I didn't sleep very well. There's still no sign of who killed poor Pippa," Rose tried to bluff.

"You were also concerned about Lisa the other day," Claire reminded her. "Changed your mind? I wouldn't blame you if you had, considering."

"I thought she was my friend but I know she was just trying to get Lee going. Seems it worked. No, I'm annoyed he let her go off without saying where she was going – twice."

"Well maybe when she went back for Pippa, she just wanted to get where she was going? Do ya think they were both kidnapped?" Claire asked her.

"Yeah, seems like it? What the hell did she get into Claire? What was she thinking?"

"Seems we'll just have to wait?" Claire replied. "You look out of it though."

"Geez, thanks Claire," Rose laughed, hoping Alec Hardy wouldn't notice anything.

She thought he noticed everything though. Alec was waiting where Rose had asked him to as she left the salon for her lunch break. She hoped she'd have time for something to eat or did he intend taking her to the café just down the road?

Alec saw her trying to cross the road and waved to her. Tess had asked him where he was going as he was leaving.

"I have some leads to follow," he'd made the excuse.

"Something from those statements?" she wanted to know. "Oh, it's that blonde neighbour?"

"Don't talk daft Tess. If you must know, I'm following the ones who saw that Gary hanging around."

He thought he may get around to it, when he'd met Rose. Did Tess suspect he had an ulterior motive though? Well if she said anything else, he would bring up the fact she couldn't tell everyone fast enough she had found a replacement for him. He just hoped no-one knew Dave Harris's wife. That was Tess's problem, not his though.

Rose got into his car and he drove the short distant to the café, turning into the street at the side. He indicated to a table by the window, handing her the menu.

Rose didn't usually eat that much so she went for the light option, Alec going to order.

"So Rose, I was a little surprised to get your message this morning. What do you want to talk about?"

"I need help, Alec," she replied nervously as their drinks arrived. "Saturday night, when I got back from my friend's, I think Lee put something in my hot drink."

Alec shook his head. It wasn't quite what he expected but she was concerned enough to seek help, albeit several days later.

"What are you trying to say? Why do you need my help?" he wanted to know, mainly so he knew what he was getting into.

"If I was, is there any way to tell? Is it too late? Alec, I went to bed and I've never fallen asleep so fast in my life. I barely remember putting the mug down or maybe Lee did? He was sitting on the end of the bed, like he was waiting for me to finish it. I'm scared Alec, I don't know why he did it or maybe he just wanted me asleep for some reason?"

Alec waited for their meals placing on the table then spoke.

"You think he did so for a reason other than making sure you had a good night's sleep?" he asked her.

Rose nodded.

"Yeah. I asked him and he denied it. He told me to keep quiet about it, that no-one would believe me even if I went to the hospital. I wouldn't ask for your help Alec but with Lisa being missing?"

"I understand Rose. In his statement, he'd not seen her since earlier that evening," Alec recalled. "Are you saying different?"

"No. I just confronted him when I said I'd felt weird when I woke up on Sunday morning. He told me not to make a big thing of it and have the police asking questions again. I'm asking you if you can help me Alec, the hospitals and my doctor's will ask questions. Please, I don't know what else to do."

Alec thought if it helped her to trust him and to maybe talk, then he should help her. Tess was already suspicious so how did he keep it quiet? Then he had an idea.

"Very well, I'll help you. Meet me at the same place when you finish work but you have to trust me. Do you finish at five?"

"Yeah. I have no-one else, I daren't even tell Claire. Will you get into trouble for helping me? You can't tell anyone, please?"

"You have my word I won't tell anyone. I have a friend who will help, just be there You asked me earlier that if I called at your home, not to tell Lee why I was there. Will he be suspicious if you are late home?" he asked her.

"No, it's usually after seven when he gets home but I can use the excuse that Claire dragged me to the pub again, he won't check. What do I do though, if I'm right?" she wanted to know.

"Let's find out first, then we'll take it from there. If it is positive though, then it will be between you and him, for now, until we get further into the investigation. You have to understand Rose, I may not be able to keep it quiet, it may be connected. I will explore everything else first though."

"Thanks. I have to know Alec, will I be able to keep the results?" she asked him.

"I will have to keep a copy, sorry."

They finished their meals in silence, then Alec spoke up.

"I should get you back to work maybe?" he smiled as he pointed to the clock over the counter.

She said goodbye to him when he dropped her off, then she walked quickly back to the salon, hoping no-one would ask any questions. When it was home time, Claire caught her.

"Did you eat out this lunchtime?" Claire grinned at her.

"Yeah, I thought I would treat myself, all I've been living on is pasta at home," Rose joked.

"Come round one evening then and I'll cook something?" Claire suggested.

"Yeah, we'll arrange something then? See ya Saturday, have a good day off then?"

"You know I worry on my day off," Claire laughed. "Sure you can manage without me?"

"Think I can't handle it?" Rose laughed back, thinking Alec would be waiting but she didn't want Claire being suspicious.

"Go on, get out of here," Claire laughed some more.

Alec was waiting across the road. He'd called his friend and physician earlier but had been mysterious about why he wanted a late appointment.

"You know my receptionist asks questions when I stay late," Alistair had laughed upon answering Alec's call and listening to his strange request.

Alec had asked if he could do a test on someone without asking many questions.

"What sort of test?" Alec was asked.

"I can't say on the phone but it's important. I'm helping someone out," Alec had replied.

"Since when did you take on anyone you weren't interrogating Alec?" Alistair had laughed.

"It may have to do with the case I'm working on," he'd had to admit

Alistair had gone quiet on him.

"Well then, come straight to my office at five thirty, no need to go to the waiting room, Liz will stop you if I'm running late."

He knew it was only twenty minutes from where Rose worked so he wasn't too worried she was running a little late. He saw her trying to cross the road and started the car engine. He had thought he himself was going to be late, Tess had been about to question why he was leaving early.

"I have to be somewhere," he had made the excuse. "There may be some apartments that personnel have missed, they are dragging their heels over it."

When he thought about it, he should have heard something from them by now so tomorrow morning, he was going to see the officer and ask what the delay was. If the woman was on Tess's side though, he may have to look himself anyway.

"Hi," Rose greeted him as she got in his car, thinking she was making a habit of this.

"Hello again. Sure you want to do this?" he asked her.

"I have to. I thought about it, he may do it again. If I have proof, I can threaten him with the results. What I said earlier though, about Lisa. I just meant with her being missing. Lee and I, well things have changed."

"He's no longer your boyfriend?" Alec asked her, trying to remember if he'd asked her before and wondering why he was bothered.

He'd just left Tess but Tess was already moving on before the split. Rose wondered where they were going as Alec drove off through the town centre, hitting home-time traffic but Alec thought it would save them waiting in the surgery car park. The lane they were in moved faster than the others so they were soon off again and arrived at their destination, Rose impressed he hadn't used his navigation system.

"This is a friend of mine," he began to tell her. "It will be completely confidential but we may have a few personal questions. Anything you don't want to answer, we will leave it, for now. Ready to go in?"

Rose nodded and got out of the car, wanting to get it over with. She could now hold this over Lee and if he were to carry out his threat, she may be able to fight him off by screaming she had proof he drugged her that night. Following Alec inside, she had no idea what to expect.

"Hello again Alec," his friend greeted him. "You must be Rose? Take a seat and don't be so nervous. Alec tells me you suspect your boyfriend drugged you? Don't worry, I'm not here to judge you. Feel like letting me give you a blood test?"

Rose nodded and he went to get a tray he'd prepared earlier.

"Want to tell us any more?" Alec asked her as he helped her take her jacket off.

"He wouldn't tell me why he drugged me. Are you asking me if….?"

She put her hand over her mouth. She knew he'd drugged her to get Pippa out of the way but what had he done once he'd got back? She covered her mouth, feeling sick and got up and she dashed over to the sink in the corner but nothing happened, she managed to stop it but got a nasty taste in her mouth.

Alec had got up to help her, trying to steady her by taking her arm.

"Are you okay Rose?"

Rose tried not to look embarrassed.

"Sorry. I'm okay now. You think he abused me while I was asleep. How long does that stuff last?"

"It depends on what he used but more importantly, why he used it," Alec replied, sitting her down.

"I can't pronounce it, Ricky gets it when he goes to Holland. It's that stuff, well he likes to show off to women, Lee told me he even asks if they want to use it."

Alec wasn't that surprised, given that Ricky Gillespie had made more fuss than his wife over Pippa's death.

"Does he now?" he raised his eyebrows. "So Lee had got some from him then? Rose, how did you feel the following morning?"

"A bit confused, then we saw the police outside. I don't know if Ricky came around looking for Pippa, I was a while in the bathroom. I never asked Lee if he'd been around, sorry."

"No matter for now," Alec replied, trying to take her attention away from the needle in her arm and Alistair attaching specimen bottles to it.

"All done," Alistair declared, putting the bottles in clear plastic bags with Rose's name and the name of the surgery.

He had smiled to himself Alec was keeping the young woman occupied.

"Rose, can I ask you a few questions?" he continued. "Do you hurt anywhere?"

Rose looked at Alec, not comfortable with him being there now.

"You need to find out if he did anything to you, without your permission," Alec reminded her.

Rose nodded and got up as Alistair pulled a curtain back and put a paper sheet on the couch.

"I have to tell ya that, well me and Lee. We never went the whole way." She turned back to Alec, who was putting her jacket on the chair. "Do ya think he took advantage?"

"Anything is possible? You don't seem to trust him any more," he noted.

"I thought he was okay with it," Rose replied sadly as Alistair pulled the curtain around her. "Instead, he cheated on me, probably with his female clients and Cate."

"So she was getting revenge on Ricky?" Alec wondered.

"Lee only told me recently that Ricky liked to mess around. I never suspected Lee made a move on Cate recently but I think that'll be over now. I confronted him about it, he never denied it."

"That all happened after Pippa and Lisa went missing?" Alec wanted to know.

Rose hadn't thought this was an interview, did he ever stop?

"I can't forgive him, we just live in the same house 'cos I can't afford to move," she admitted.

Alistair examined her for any signs of bruising or she had been forced whilst unconscious and declared nothing was wrong, which was a relief for her. Had he said she'd been abused, Alec might have another murder on his hands.

"Nothing to worry about," she was assured as she got dressed. "I'll send these blood samples off, I should get the results back by Monday, I will mark it urgent. Want me to put it down for the police?" he asked Alec.

"This is not an official visit," Alec reminded him. "Just send the results to me but will anything show up, it was Saturday night when she suspects she was given the drug."

"There may still be traces," Alistair replied. "How's the case going?"

"Slowly," Alec told him as Rose emerged and he picked up her jacket. "They seem to be taking their time examining the girl, she's the key to all this."

"What can they find?" Rose asked as he handed her jacket to her and their hands touched again.

"Plenty, I hope. These things just take time, they have to do a thorough examination, not like on TV. Forensics are also working on what she was wearing. People forget what is going on behind the investigation. Thanks Alistair, Rose didn't know where to go."

"You could have warned me," Rose told him once they were outside. "I mean about Lee, well you know."

"This is serious Rose. He could have abused you and you would never have known or lived with knowing there was a good chance he had taken advantage. It's very rare men use the drug unless they want to commit a sexual assault."

"Yeah. Maybe he changed his mind at the last minute?" she replied, hoping Lee had taken out any sexual frustrations on Lisa. "We sort of had this agreement that we'd wait until I was ready."

"You had doubts he'd keep to it?" Alec asked her as he opened the car door for her.

"Honestly? Not after I found out about Cate. I thought he'd not been able to wait and had gone to her," she replied.

Alec got in and continued. He'd been right, she was hiding something. The slightest thing could help him solve this investigation. Couples falling out and wandering partners always had a reason and he meant to get behind what had happened to Rose.

"Can I ask why you held back?" he asked as he put his seatbelt on.

"That's a bit personal, Alec," Rose smiled. "I never even told Lee. If he didn't know, then he shouldn't wonder why. It would have only taken one little thing but I know now, he would never have acted on it. It doesn't matter, it's over between us. I just need the courage to leave and find a place of my own."

"So do I," he admitted as he drove off in the direction of where Rose lived.

"Can we go somewhere, I don't feel like going home yet. Can we get a drink?"

Now he wished the personnel office would get up off their asses and find him a place to live.

"Ah, we pass a few places on the way," he admitted, coming up to where he was living at present. "I can offer you some coffee, I'm staying just up ahead."

Rose didn't think that was a good idea but did she want to be seen in a bar with him?

"Don't ya want to eat?" she smiled as he turned into the driveway.

Was this such a good idea, she wondered.

"I can eat later unless you feel uncomfortable?" he replied.

It was only just after six so he knew most of the residents would be in the dining room and not taking any notice he was ushering Rose upstairs. Getting her out would be a different matter but you never knew.

He opened his room door, the room being a decent size, since he wasn't paying for it and gestured for Rose to take the chair by the window.

"Rose, I am sorry for what you thought happened to you but sometimes, you don't know the people you think you know," he told her.

"We thought you and that female detective were together," she admitted.

"We were, we just separated, which is why I am here, for now. Rose, you need to get out, before he tries again," he warned her.

"He won't, not now. I've no idea what the hell he was doing that night, I got really confused, very fast. I'm sorry I never told ya on Sunday."

"No need to apologise," he tried to assure her.

"I was scared of him, I knew something was wrong. He said to keep quiet, it was nothing to do with us," she admitted, wanting to tell him the rest.

He put water in the kettle then sat on the bed.

"Rose, this is important. Are you sure there was no sign of Lisa when you returned home that night?" he asked her,

"No, sorry. It was late and Lee said she'd been there earlier, well he told you," she replied. "He never said anything to me about it."

"You looked surprised that Sunday morning, I could tell. Did he say anything when you got up? That Ricky had been around?" he asked again.

"No. Wouldn't Ricky have gone to us first before reporting Pippa was missing?" she wondered.

"Exactly what I was thinking, wouldn't he have gone there first?" he told her.

He already liked her but there was something about her – she asked all the right questions. He still didn't think she'd told him everything though. He made some drinks, apologizing for the small cream containers when they looked strong, Rose offering a weak smile.

"Tell me why you are so scared Rose," he prompted her. "What did Lee say to you that morning?"

"Nothing, I worked it out on Monday and confronted him. He didn't deny it and I was thinking what to do about it. I had nowhere else to go."

She wanted to tell him the real reason but what would Lee do if Alec confronted him?

"You can't tell him I told you, you have to promise Alec," she continued.

"I promise, it will be just between the three of us. You said he warned you not to say anything, why was that?" he wanted to know.

"He just didn't want any fuss I expect. Do you have plenty of clues?"

"I can't say but a lot goes on in the background, both with Pippa and where she was found. One thing though, why would Ricky not ask if you had seen them?"

"I still don't know Alec," Rose replied, blowing on the hot coffee. "I did think it was a bit funny we didn't see him. Alec, what do I do, if that test comes back positive?"

"You have a few options. You can report it but since nothing happened it may not be taken seriously or you can tell Lee you have proof and warn him if he does it again. Why do you stay with him?"

"I can't afford to move just yet. I spent a long time in a place like this, well half the size of this room and when I met Lee, he had a tiny flat. He already knew Ricky and we both jumped at the chance to rent the house. I might be able to afford a bedsit, if all the bills are included."

Alec felt sorry for her. She was trapped in a relationship and Ashworth probably knew. What did he have over her?

"As soon as ya find Pippa's killer and Lisa, I'll probably go back to my mum's for a while. We only have to give one month's notice on the house anyway, I'll tell Lee to go ahead, he can afford another place more than I can."

Alec thought it would be a pity were she to leave town. He got up and put his cup down, offering to take Rose's, then he helped her up, Rose gripping his hand.

"I'll take you home, unless you want dropping on the corner again?" he smiled.

"I don't think he'll be back yet but it will probably be safer if ya don't drop me outside," Rose smiled back.

She was about to let go of his hand but he took it back.

"You can trust me Rose, you said you had no-one else," he reminded her. "You know what happened that night, don't you?"

Rose shook her head, not letting go of his hand.

"Only that he drugged me Alec but what else happened?" she wanted to know.

She had only guessed what had happened, Lee had said it was an accident but why had he taken Pippa to the woods? It made no sense. She only had Lee's word on that, he could be lying but with Pippa being found in the river, maybe she'd been right and Ricky had come back and he'd taken her there?

It seemed heartless even for Lee but for Ricky to have helped him? Alec picked up his mobile and keys and went to open the door, indicating for Rose to go first. She stopped though and turned, Alec touching her arm. Then he took her by surprise by going to kiss her cheek but getting the side of her mouth as she flinched.

Rose went all flushed for a few seconds but caught him back and for another few seconds, he kissed her lightly on the lips.

"You said it was over, with Lee?" he wanted to make sure.

"Yeah, I can't trust him any more. What happened to you and what was her name?"

"It's Tess and she was cheating on me, with another detective. I did not intend to do that."

Rose rolled her tongue around her mouth and studied him.

"I'll let ya off this time," she smiled.

Then she saw his look change.

"Yes but you did kiss me back. Tess is still with that detective Rose and do you know what? It should have bothered me but it never did."

He let her arm go and she touched his.

"Sorry. Hey we can start a cheating partners club?"

"We should get going," he reminded her as he checked the hallway.

"I hope there's no CCTV cameras," Rose joked.

"I should be more worried than you," he replied, trying not to smile.

They got out, unobserved Alec hoped and he opened the car doors.

"What are you going back to?" he asked as he reversed the car.

"I've no idea but I have no choice Alec. Thanks for being so understanding and about the kiss, it was sweet."

Chapter 14
Alec left her on the corner but as he was about to turn around, he was sure Ashworth passed him in a van. He'd not seen a van at the side of the house on previous visits though and wondered if the man had been in a hurry to get home? Perhaps Rose had her mobile on silent and Ashworth wondered why she hadn't answered? Maybe he should go check she was okay?

He waited ten minutes, then drove the rest of the way after calling Daisy, whom he'd not seen since he broke the news to her.

"I thought you were going to call and see me Dad?" she greeted him.

"I know darlin', I will. I've called haven't I?" he defended himself.

"Yeah, I suppose so? You don't want to argue with mum, do you?" she asked him.

Alec thought that could get him off the hook.

"Well yes, has she said anything to you?" he wanted to know, mainly to find out if Tess had been bold enough to take Dave home with her.

"Yeah, mostly about you," Daisy teased him. "No, seriously Dad, what's she thinking? She told me she'd met someone at work, then she brought him round last night. This morning, I asked her how long she'd known him and she wouldn't answer me, she told me it was nothing to do with me."

"I'm sorry about that Daisy. I'll speak to her and tell her you heard her talking to him on the phone and that you deserve to know," he tried to assure her.

"Dad, if you meet someone, you won't do the same to me, will you?" she asked him. "Please Dad?"

He knew he owned her that much.

"Well, to be honest Daisy, there is someone but it's complicated," he replied. "When I mean complicated, well she lives with someone but they've broken up."

He heard his daughter laughing.

"Trust you Dad," she told him, still laughing. "Why is she still there then?"

"She can't afford to move, plus, she lives next door to where the girl who died lived," he tried to explain, hoping that sounded right.

"So is she a witness then?" she wanted to know. "No wonder it's complicated then?"

"She may be, it depends," he replied. "Anyway, nothing may come of it to worry about," he added, not saying knowing his luck, he had stuffed it up by kissing Rose.

So, he was now parked outside where Rose lived, debating to knock on the door or just leave it but what was Ashworth capable of? He got out of the car and if the man asked what he was doing there, he could say he'd been next door, he doubted Ashworth would go and check.

Rose had barely got to the door when Lee pulled in at the side of the house.

"Where the hell have you been?" he wanted to know as Rose opened the door.

"Since when do I have to tell ya if I went out with Claire after work?" Rose decided to rebel.

"I tried calling you, what else would I want to know for? I hope you've not eaten then?" he asked, putting a white bag with takeaway cartons inside on the table.

She was sure he was either getting lazy when she wasn't home before him or he'd gone off her cooking. Well, he could please himself, she wasn't going to make an effort if he wasn't. He had just put the food on the plates when there was a knock on the door.

Rose's heart was pounding, hoping it wasn't either Alec or Ricky. Lee insisted on going to the door.

"It had better not be anyone trying to sell something," he hissed to himself. "Oh, it's you? Hardy was it? What do you want?"

"I was just next door," Alec used the excuse, thinking when did he use that line? "Do you and Miss Tyler have a few minutes?"

"We were just going to eat, can't it wait?" Lee replied.

"Lee, don't be so rude," Rose insisted.

"I was just checking to see if either of you would know what Pippa would be doing out late at night?" Alec asked them, getting his notebook out.

"How would we know?" Lee replied. "Have you asked her mother?"

"Yes, she said she had no idea what went on when Lisa was looking after her," Alec replied, having got that from Tess's report earlier.

"Well neither did we," Lee told him, "Anything else? Our food's getting cold."

With that, Lee left Rose and Alec standing at the door.

"Sorry about that, we just got in," Rose told him, for the sake of anyone who was passing.

"Sorry. Call me, if you think of anything," Alec reminded her. "You have my number."

"Yeah, we will. My food's getting cold as well, thanks for calling."

Alec was now regretting it, what was he thinking of? He stepped away from the door, Rose watching him. She wondered if she'd made a mistake earlier but she needed someone who she could trust.

"As long as everything is okay?" he dared asked.

"Yeah, everything's fine, thanks. I have to go now," she replied, wondering why he'd really called.

He went back to his car and Rose went into the kitchen.

"That's the second time Rose," Lee told her.

"What ya talking about Lee?"

"Getting back at me?" he continued.

"I've no idea what's meant by that Lee and anyway in case you've forgotten, it's over between us Lee," she reminded him. "Are ya gonna give Ricky notice on this place?"

"Maybe I should? I've not seen him since they found Pippa. You'll have to sort your own living arrangements out."

"Don't think I can't Lee, I did before I met you," Rose snapped, going to warm the food up in the microwave.

"So I remember. What happened to us Rose?" he asked her.

"Huh? Well you cheating on me for starters," she replied. "You really don't know why I refused, do ya?"

"How am I supposed to work you women out?" he huffed back. "I've never known a woman who'd held back like you did before."

"Is that supposed to make me jealous?" she asked as she retrieved her food.

"Suit yourself," was his only reply.

When Rose got upstairs, she sent a message to Alec – 'Thanks for checking on me earlier. Sorry about Lee.'

She got one back – 'Don't apologise for him Rose, I wanted to make sure you were okay, I'm concerned about you.'

She wrote back saying 'I'll be fine, thanks.'

'Can I take you for lunch again tomorrow?' he replied.

"I won't get chance – sorry, it's Claire's day off. Maybe Saturday or Monday?' she asked.

'Monday then and Rose, if you need help moving, just say.'

She sent one last message – 'Thanks', waited a few minutes then deleted them all, in case Lee came nosing around. He might see Alec's number though so she went through her call history. Did Alec mean it when he'd said he'd help her move? She'd already overstepped their short friendship or whatever it was earlier today.

Was it a friendship though? Maybe he just felt obliged to help her, if he was trying to get information out of her? That kiss though?

All weekend, Alec tried to get Rose out of his mind but was having no luck. He'd been glad Rose had said Monday so he'd arranged to meet Daisy instead but it had cost him a new pair of trainers or 'sneakers' as some called them.

Claire had invited Rose round on Saturday night so she'd sent Lee a message, getting one back saying using Claire as an excuse was getting stale. She thought she'd be glad when she did move out, so she had to talk to Claire about it.

"I can't afford to give anyone a pay rise Rose," Claire told her over their meal.

"I'm not asking for one Claire, just maybe a small loan, if I have to pay a deposit on somewhere. I can't go back to a guest house."

Claire was feeling sorry for her though.

"Well, I might be able to manage that, you'll just have to keep it quiet. So, you got the courage up to leave Lee then?"

"I've got no choice Claire, he's probably already got something planned," Rose admitted.

"So, how about we go out and celebrate next Saturday night?" Claire asked cheerfully.

"I'm tryin' to save money," Rose laughed back.

"Well, I'll buy the first round," Claire laughed. "So, what about that detective then?"

"What about him?" Rose pretended to yawn.

"Oh come on Rose, he comes in the salon and calls you on the same day?" Claire teased her.

Rose was hoping her friend had forgotten about that. She couldn't believe it had only been a week since that fateful night when Pippa had died and Lisa had disappeared and she still wasn't convinced the older cousin had anything to do with it.

Now, she was beginning to suspect Ricky had come back that night and had stashed Lisa somewhere to keep her quiet and that he had helped Lee by taking Pippa to the woods. She ignored Lee when she got home but she had to face going grocery shopping the next day with him or use public transport and go on her own.

"Have ya seen Ricky then?" she asked on the way to the supermarket.

"I'll see him tomorrow, there's no hurry to give notice," Lee replied. "We've got until the end of the month to do it. Were you really seeing your friend last night?"

"Yeah, I needed to talk to her, does it matter?" Rose wanted to know.

"If I were the suspicious type, I'd think you'd got yourself a new bloke," he replied dryly.

She was about to take the bait but thought better of it, it would only make him worse. Was he suspecting there was something going on between herself and Alec? Was there something going on though? Was Alec showing more than a professional interest in her? She had another lunch date with him, was it going to lead to him asking her out at night? If it did, she'd have to be careful until she left Lee altogether.

The next morning as Rose left for work, Lee called next door.

"Is Ricky in?" he asked when Cate answered the door.

"He's not been home," she told him. "I hardly think he'll be talking to you anyway."

"Why? What have I done?" Lee asked, trying to sound innocent.

"You could have kept an eye on the girls last Saturday night," she replied.

"I did, you never asked. Lisa came and said some bloke was hanging around, so I saw him off for her. Then she and Pippa went off, how did I know they weren't going home?" he wanted to know.

"They did come back, we found the patio doors open when we got back from the wedding," Cate yelled at him. "Someone must have got over the back fence and forced them out. Don't tell me you heard nothing."

"I never heard anything Cate, I had the TV on, Rose was out," he told her. "I'll catch Ricky at his office then?"

"If that's where he's spending his time lately?" Cate replied sarcastically. "He's avoiding me because I confronted him about the wedding we went to. He claims he was in the other bar when he went missing."

Lee didn't say anything. So that was what Ricky had told her and probably the police, unless Cate hadn't dared say anything? Sooner or later though, she'd begin asking questions. He drove off to Ricky's works, seeing him just going back into his office.

"We need to talk," Lee told Ricky as he followed him in.

"What do you want?" Ricky asked him. "So all you could do was leave Pippa in the woods, or was it in the river?"

"In the woods, it's not my fault the river burst its banks. What did you do with Lisa anyway?" Lee asked him.

"I'm not telling you, in case you feel like talking to the cops, I'm not stupid. Cate thinks I was with a bridesmaid that night."

"Does she?" Lee laughed. "It didn't seem like it to me. Anyway, Rose and I are splitting up, I'm giving notice on the house from the end of the month."

"So you got tired of her then?" Ricky seemed amused. "Did she guess about Lisa?"

"Yeah but as far as she's concerned, Lisa is still missing, same as to everyone else. She guessed about Pippa being drugged as well. That's partly why we're splitting up," Lee admitted.

"She'd better not say anything Ashworth. She'd better keep her mouth shut," Ricky warned him.

"Oh, she will, she's been warned," Lee gloated.

"You seem sure of it?" Ricky asked him. "I'll never forgive you Ashworth and remember this – if anything happens and I get arrested, I'll tell them what you did, that you gave Pippa too much."

"Well you told me to give her it," Lee reminded him.

"The police have not said if any of that stuff was found in Pippa." Ricky told him. "They've not told us much."

"They've been hanging around, asking us questions," Lee admitted. "That detective's turned up twice and funnily enough just after Rose got home."

"Sure she's not cheating on you with him?" Ricky scoffed.

"She wouldn't do that, would she?" Lee wondered.

He went off, still wondering if Rose would actually find someone else. If she did, he was sure it wouldn't be that nosy detective, she had too much to hide. She was under threat and splitting up would not get her out of it.

Rose was actually looking forward to meeting Alec for lunch though she tried to hide it. Alec had got to work, caught up with anything that had happened over the weekend then went to the personnel office to get them to hurry in finding him somewhere to live.

The personnel officer dealing with him did have some news for him.

"We've found two apartments and one terraced house with just one bedroom and a bathroom, they are all within your housing allowance Sir," she greeted him before he asked her.

"Good, send me the details and when I can go look at them though I'm not so keen on just one bedroom. I may try and get my daughter to visit," he replied.

"Well I'll let the agency know and arrange a time, hopefully today or tomorrow. Do you want the appointments as late as possible, say around four?" she asked him, hoping to get him sorted as soon as possible.

Alec agreed and went back to his office to read through the phone messages the desk sergeant had greeted him with and whom had told him he really needed to get another phone number out for enquiries about the case. He'd just mumbled he'd see about it and left.

Now, he was more interested in what Rose had to hide, possibly about Ashworth but did she know more? He thought more and more now she was the key to the case so should he even remotely think about pursuing her? He was playing a very dangerous game if she was the one who could end this case.

One thing he did know was she was scared of Ashworth, the way she had looked to him before saying anything and the other night, she'd been reluctant to go home and then not wanted him to drop her outside the house. When it was time to go meet her, should he tell her he was wrong in kissing her the other night and they shouldn't keep meeting? If he did, she may clam up altogether and he didn't want her to do that, he wanted her to talk.

He also wanted her to feel comfortable with him that she'd confide in him, eventually. Tess saw him sneaking out, now getting suspicious he was meeting someone and she bet a month's salary it was the blonde neighbour. Alec was waiting at the end of the lane as he saw Rose coming out of the salon. He knew he was already having feelings for her and he should keep himself in check but he had to smile as she crossed the road and got into the car.

"Hi," she greeted him.

"Hello again, Rose. We need to talk," he replied.

Rose was starting to get worried now. Was it about that kiss the other night or what she was hiding?

Once in the café, Alec went to order and sat across the table from her. He reached for her hand and put his on top.

"If you want to forget about the other night, you just have to say," he told her.

Rose tried to move her hand but he held onto it.

"Do you? Did I get my wires crossed or somethin'?" she wanted to know.

"You were reluctant at first," he reminded her. "You seemed like you were reluctant to go home?"

"I was but I didn't want Lee to throw me out before I found somewhere to live. Then what did ya go and do?" she asked as their drinks arrived.

"I wanted to make sure you were okay, he passed me in his van," Alec said in his defence.

"Well if ya keep doin' that, he will get suspicious," Rose smiled, letting him move his hand after he squeezed hers.

"Sorry but I can't help worrying about you now. I just wanted you to know that you can talk to me, about anything," he reminded her.

As much as she wanted to, she knew she had to keep quiet, at least until she moved out but Lee would still come after her if she told Alec anything.

"Yeah, I know. So, any news yet?" she tried to recover.

"I wish I had something to tell you Rose but there is a lot going on, we should get some results back later. We are now working on the assumption it was someone who knew both girls but we are fairly certain it was not Gary Thorp."

Rose looked surprised they'd even questioned the man.

"I don't think he would have hurt Lisa, he just had a crush on her," Rose told him. "She told me he was harmless but he just wasn't her type. She said he didn't get the message though."

"Did she tell you anything else?" Alec wanted to know when their meals arrived. "You were reluctant to say anything when you were at home, why was that?"

"Lee said not to get involved and that everyone else would have plenty to say," she admitted.

"Did he now?" Alec asked. "I could book him for obstruction."

Rose didn't know if he was serious or not. Then she saw a bit of a smile creep across his face.

"Got any suspects then?" Rose changed the subject.

"I can't say, sorry. So, have you started looking for somewhere to move to?"

"I have to wait until Claire can give me a loan if I have to pay a month in advance," she replied.

"How did you manage when you came here?"

"I had to save up but I was lucky Claire took me on and I was in a B&B so I didn't need to pay in advance. I can't afford a place of my own, I still have to pay another month on the house."

Alec was going to say let Ashworth pay it.

"Rose, if you need help, you only have to ask," he reminded her instead.

"I can't ask you to help me," she replied.

"Meet me tomorrow night and we can discuss it?" he suggested. "I have to go somewhere myself tonight."

He didn't want to say he was trying to get his own accommodation sorted but he could help her, if she asked. He had a feeling she'd take some persuading though.

"Please Rose?" he added.

"Well, okay then I suppose? I'm in no hurry to get home now and I can't drag Claire out every night after work," she smiled.

Chapter 15
"Oh, it's my day off tomorrow though," Rose added. "Can we make it Wednesday?"

"Well, only if you let me buy you lunch again?" he smiled as she got into the car.

"Won't someone notice if ya keep sneakin' out every lunchtime?" Rose wondered.

"Let me worry about that," Alec told her.

After getting back to work, Rose was wondering why she kept agreeing to meet Alec. While it was certainly over with Lee, did she want to jump into another relationship or wasn't that his intention and he was just being friendly? She thought Alec seemed to understand, he didn't have to arrange that test for her and it seemed he'd recently broken up with his wife, which didn't really surprise her, the female detective had seemed a bit frosty.

Now, she really had to speed up finding a place of her own or it was back to another guest house but would a bedsit be any better where you had to share a kitchen and bathroom? At least in a guest house, you got your own small bathroom and there were no bills to pay, it would do until a decent flat was found. Could she impose on Alec to help her move though?

Alec had got some details and was going to see the two apartments, which would delay him yet again and he really needed to go visit Daisy before she got mad with him. He didn't like the first apartment very much, there was limited parking and he thought the hours he worked, he'd end up parking half on the pavement, the second one was much better and he went to take a look inside. The second bedroom was small but it would do for Daisy, if she was still talking to him. He agreed to take it and was told he could collect the keys on Saturday and he had no paperwork to do as they would deal directly with the personnel department.

He called Daisy to give her the news.

"So do you think you'll want to visit?" he asked her nervously.

"I'll think about it Dad. This has all happened so fast, why was mum in such a hurry?"

"I don't know," he replied, brushing his hair back with his fingers and wondering if he should pay a visit as a paying customer to where Rose worked.

Knowing his luck though, he'd get Rose's boss and he would show his disappointment. He started thinking about Rose, being faced with maybe going back to a guest house but that was surely better than being in the same house as Ashworth?

Rose got home and started packing some of her things. Tomorrow was her day off so she had got the local paper and she was going start calling places where she could get room only rates for a few weeks but would that help her save up for a place of her own? Maybe she should pay a bit more for a double room and stay there until Lisa turned up and when she did, maybe she'd tell the truth of what happened that night and she herself would tell her side of the story. Would Alec get the truth out of her before then though?

She sat on the bed, pen in hand and circled a few with good rates so she could maybe persuade them to just include breakfast but it maybe just a single room for now. She should leave before the end of the month before Lee made her pay towards another month's rent. She only had a few days though but knowing Ricky, he'd insist Lee paid another month, whether they stayed or not.

The next day, Rose did all the laundry, putting the cushion cover back on that Lee for some strange reason had decided to wash. She still wondered why he'd done that but there again, he'd been strange by drugging herself and Pippa, then leaving poor Pippa in the woods and not getting help for her.

She decided to call her mother and tell her she'd be moving.

"Have ya tried making up with Lee?" Jackie asked her, Rose thought for the tenth time.

"Mum, I just can't. He admitted he cheated with Cate and goodness knows how many of his female customers," Rose told her.

"I'm sorry sweetheart. Are ya coming home then?"

"No Mum, I have to stay until they find who killed Pippa and Lisa comes back," Rose replied, wishing Lee would just admit what he'd done.

Maybe the police would have believed it was an accident but he'd screwed it up by trying to mislead them. Alec must surely suspect something, judging by how many times he'd asked her if she had anything else to tell him.

"I don't know why ya have to stay," Jackie was telling her.

"I owe it to them Mum. If I'd stayed in that night or got home earlier, maybe I could have prevented whatever happened," Rose replied sadly.

"You couldn't have known Rose," Jackie tried to assure her.

Rose thought when Pippa had asked if she could have come round that night, she should have cancelled with Claire but maybe that wouldn't have made any difference. Maybe Lee would have sneaked upstairs or next door with Lisa anyway?

Alec had got to work, annoyed there was very little progress being made in finding where Lisa had gone or who had left Pippa in the woods. He went to the chief's office to get Tess off his back if he concentrated on Rose.

"So, you think she holds the key to all this?" the chief asked him. "Why is Tess objecting?"

"Seriously?" Alec replied. "We've just split up and she's insinuating every time I say I'm following a lead. I want to try and gain Rose Tyler's confidence and get her to talk."

"I see then? Well if Tess comes in to complain about you, I'll tell her Miss Tyler is helping you with your enquires. If she comes in for anything else, I'm keeping out of it, understood?" the chief asked him.

He left the chief's office, wanting to gloat to Tess but decided not to, she could find out for herself, should she deem to but he knew he had to be careful, it was already spilling over to his personal life – Rose Tyler was getting to him. Just let Tess say anything though. He went back to his office, wishing Rose had agreed to meeting him tonight but he had to stop that way of thinking, he was already walking a very fine line as it was.

The next day, Rose got to work, Claire asking what she'd decided about moving.

"So, are you going back to a guest house then?" she asked Rose at break time.

"Yeah for now, I told Lee last night, it didn't go down well," Rose recalled.

To say it hadn't gone down well was an understatement, Rose thought. Lee had told her he'd find her if she ever told the police what had happened and Rose had thought of using her mother's maiden name to book in somewhere but Lee would probably wait for her after work.

"Don't think you'll be safe anywhere," Lee had said to her.

"You should have got her some help," she had told him tearfully. "Just tell me one thing. Did Ricky come back that night?"

"Don't be so daft Rose, why would he do that?" Lee had denied.

"For Lisa?" she'd dared ask. "Maybe he thought you'd take advantage of him and Cate being away?" She saw the look on his face and thought she was getting too close to the truth. "Oh, he did come back? Did he catch the two of you?"

"Stop it Rose," Lee had warned her. "For you own sake."

"Why, am I gettin' to the truth?" she wanted to know. "Pippa did hear his voice, she thought she was imagining it. She heard you and Lisa, then she said it went quiet and she never mentioned if she'd heard Ricky before or after or even both times because you went and drugged her."

"I thought she'd have forgotten it by morning," Lee admitted. "How was I to know she was allergic to it?"

"She was twelve, you moron, how else did ya expect her to react to it? You could have got help for her. Ricky was here, he told ya to give that stuff to me and her, didn't he? What didn't he want me to know?" she had asked.

"Forget it Rose, I'm warning you," Lee had replied.

"You are joking?" she had almost laughed instead of crying. "Ricky caught you and Lisa, that's why she ran off? No, it's something else. Ricky hit her and she ran off?" she wondered.

Lee had been pacing up and down but suddenly he'd turned to her and grabbed her arms.

"You're going too far Rose, you had better not say anything, to anybody. Yes, Ricky came back and was outside the patio door," he'd admitted.

"You never thought to pull the curtain over?" she'd questioned him.

"The door was open, how the hell was I supposed to know he'd come back and wonder where the girls were?" he'd admitted.

"So did he go after Lisa?" she'd asked him.

"I don't know, you came home and I went out to talk to you," he'd replied. "He'd left the flask, saying he'd deal with Pippa in the morning."

"So the first he knew of Pippa was when they came back and Cate called the police because she and Lisa weren't there? Ricky couldn't have said Pippa was next door, could he?" she'd asked him.

"Of course not, he couldn't say Lisa had run off after he'd caught us either, he had to go along with it. He came round and I told him Pippa had been okay last night but I found her early that morning and I'd taken her where she would be found."

Rose had pulled her arms away from him.

"I'm leaving Lee, I don't want to ever see you again."

"Well if you don't want to see me, don't send that detective after me or I'll carry out my threat, understand? I will come and find you Rose, if I get taken in for anything other than routine questioning."

Rose had believed he would as well so now, it was urgent she moved out as quickly as possible so she had to ask Alec for help when she met him at lunchtime. Claire brought her back to reality.

"So are you disappearing this lunchtime again? Can you keep affording to go to the café?" she asked Rose. "Or are you meeting someone secretly?"

Rose gave herself away so Claire continued her questioning.

"You're not meeting that detective are you? Please say no."

"He was tryin' to find out if I know anything," Rose admitted. "Who am I to turn down a free lunch?"

"Come on Rose, it has to be more than that. Have you told him you're splitting from Lee?" She saw the look on Rose's face. "Oh, you have? Be careful, he might be more than trying to get information from you, he might be trying to get into your knickers," Claire laughed.

"Stop it Claire, it's not like that," Rose told her, trying to forget the brief kiss she'd shared with him.

"If you say so but you can't fool me," Claire told her as she went to wash her cup.

All morning, Rose was just praying Alec wouldn't come in to ask her any questions but she supposed he'd leave that until later. She tried not to give Claire any reason to think she was keen to leave when her lunch hour came around.

Claire already had her suspicions but thought if Rose was no longer involved with Lee, she might make a play for him herself while Rose was obviously chasing the detective. Rose had got into Alec's car, wondering why he was able to get out so often to meet her when there was a full-scale operation going on to find Lisa and they didn't know who had killed Pippa.

After the conversation with Lee last night, how could she live with knowing what happened to Pippa?

"Are you okay?" Alec asked as they drove off. "You seem out of it today? Do you want to stop meeting?"

"What? No, it's not that. It's been a bit tough, tryin' to find somewhere to move to and I told Lee last night that I was leaving. I just don't want to stay there too long, that's all. I've packed all my stuff and I'll ring a B&B tonight and get a taxi after work tomorrow, since it's the end of the month."

"Let me help you Rose?" he offered as he found somewhere to park outside the café.

"You've helped me enough Alec," she replied as she got out. "I've asked too much already."

Alec joined her on the pavement.

"I offered to help you, I meant with anything. If you don't want me to make advances towards you, then say and we can stay professional."

Rose thought he had to be joking. The brief kiss had been nice and certainly memorable, since she'd done nothing but think about it and she'd dreamt last night they'd done more. She stopped him before they went inside.

"No Alec, the kiss was nice, really and I've left Lee. I just feel I'm asking too much of ya."

"No, you're not," he assured her, opening the door for her and putting his hand on her shoulder.

When he came back from ordering, he tried to change the subject.

"I was thinking of maybe getting a haircut," he smiled across the table, trying not to stretch his long legs out and moving slightly in his seat.

"Geez, Claire will think you're there to ask me questions again," Rose smiled back. "She already suspects I'm meeting you when I disappear for an hour."

"Ah but as long as she does not suspect we met the other night and we are meeting tonight," Alec replied.

"She would have said something, trust me. I can't meet ya tonight Alec, I have to arrange some accommodation, remember?"

"Do you have to do that from where you are living now? If you find somewhere, I can take you to see it," he offered. "Then I can take you to collect your things tomorrow. Maybe I can get you a room where I'm staying for a few nights?"

"You are joking Alec? I can't afford their rates and besides, I don't want to have to move again. I was hoping to get a flat but maybe I can find one to share, instead of a bedsit."

"I move into an apartment on Saturday," he admitted when their meals had arrived. "Sorry. I need my own place, in case my daughter wants to visit, I can't take her back to the guest house."

"You took me," Rose reminded him. "It's okay, I can go home tonight."

"We were going to talk," he reminded her. "Unless you don't want to? We can get something to eat on the way back, then you can ring a few places and I'll take you there tomorrow night?" He saw her hesitation. "It will save you money on getting a taxi."

"I'll think about it. So, have ya told your daughter you're getting a place of your own?" she asked him "Did ya mention her name?"

Alec couldn't remember.

"Her name is Daisy, she's just a bit older than Pippa was. Losing Pippa must have impacted the school, she was in a lower class than Daisy. There is a holiday coming up, I was hoping Daisy would want to spend some of it with me."

Rose thought that was his way of telling her his daughter was important to him so maybe he wouldn't want to see her that often anyway, if Daisy took precedence. He reached his hand out and put it on top of hers.

"Rose, I don't want you thinking I will be spending all my time with her."

"That's up to you Alec, she should come first. She's lucky to have ya, I never knew my dad, he died when I was a baby."

"I'm sorry to hear that Rose. Her mother may not allow her to spend a lot of time with me anyway, I'm supposed to be the bad guy," he smiled.

"Has she turned Daisy against you?" Rose asked.

"No, I did that all on my own," he replied sadly. "So are we agreed I help you move?" he changed the subject.

"Fine, if you insist," Rose smiled with her tongue sticking out slightly. "I don't want ya being a grump over it."

"Me, a grump?" he teased her. "You should see me first thing then."

He instantly regretted saying that, what was he thinking?

"Aw, ya having nothing on me in the morning, ask my mum and…" She stopped before she said Lee. "My now ex boyfriend – sorry, I shouldn't have mentioned him."

"You are bound to," he replied. "I'm bound to mention who is now my ex wife, well she will be, if she gets the papers or maybe she's leaving that to me."

He knew that he had to talk to Tess about it. Maybe she thought splitting was enough, since she only suspected he was already involved with Rose?

"I should be gettin' back to work," Rose told him as they finished eating.

"So, I'll wait for you later?" he asked, Rose seeing he wasn't sure about it.

"Well okay then and when I get back, I'm not using Claire as an excuse, if I have to talk to Lee at all."

"You don't have to explain yourself to him Rose. You have told him you are leaving, you can do as you wish," Alec tried to assure her.

"You don't know him Alec. He thinks I don't have the courage to leave before he does."

"Rose, you don't have to be scared of leaving first," he told her as they got up.

"Geez, if he gets back before I leave tomorrow, what if he wants to know why you're there?" she asked as they left.

"Rose, let me worry about that eh? Why are you so worried? What has he told you not to say anything about?"

"Leave it Alec, please?" Rose begged him as he started the car.

"I will, for now anyway. You will feel different when you have left."

Rose just hoped he was right. He stopped to let her out but surprised her by leaning over to kiss her cheek.

"I may come for that haircut later or should I leave it until your boss's day off?" he teased her.

"That may be better, as long as the others don't remember ya," Rose agreed. "Bye then, see ya later."

Alec went off, wondering why exactly Rose was scared of Ashworth. What did she know about him? He went back to his office to see if Lee Ashworth had any criminal record and was disappointed when he found nothing. Had the man just avoided the attention of the police but had been in trouble? He was now worried about Rose going back at all, now Ashworth knew she was leaving.

He got up and called Tess to his office.

"I'm busy Alec, what do you want?" Tess asked him.

"Are you moving Dave in with you?" he asked her.

"Alec? No, of course not but he may be visiting, why? Has Daisy said something?"

"Yes and she's upset at you not telling her how long you've known him. She'd heard you on the phone to him Tess so why deny it?" he wanted to know. "Anyway, what are you wanting to do? Get a separation or a divorce? I don't think there is any chance I will want you back if you are involved with someone."

"You don't even want to fight for me?" Tess joked.

"Be serious Tess. I'm tired of all the arguments and it affects Daisy. I'll go get a separation order, since you left me for him," he suggested.

"Well he won't divorce his wife, she's very religious so unless you have someone stashed away and you want to get married, a separation it is," Tess agreed. "Have you got anyone Alec?"

"Stop it Tess – no," he told her.

"Then why all the sneaking off during working hours and don't tell me you're following leads?" Tess replied. "I was talking to Cate, she thinks the neighbours are splitting up, Lee Ashworth wanted to see Ricky about moving, she didn't say much about it. Have you heard anything, Alec?"

He knew she was trying to find out about Rose.

"I am following leads. I think Rose Tyler knows something, about Ashworth."

"Well you would, she's young and blonde," Tess huffed.

"She's scared of him, you could tell. Maybe once she's away from him, she will talk."

"Don't get close to her Alec, if she does know something," she warned him.

Alec thought it was already too late for that. He was having feelings for Rose and they were both about to be free to do something about it.

Chapter 16
After Tess left, he leaned on the desk, his head in his hands. He'd been trying to ignore he had feelings for Rose, what would he have done if she'd told him she wanted to keep it professional? He went back to work, trying to figure out what sort of person left a young girl in the woods.

He went off to meet Rose from work but after Friday, he'd be moving anyway and he'd have no excuse to see her until next week. He was going to enjoy having her cut his hair if nothing else though.

Rose wasn't so sure now that she was doing the right thing by agreeing to meet Alec after work, she could manage to move on her own, couldn't she? Why was she getting so dependant on him? Lee had never really looked after her as such, she had made her own way and apart from going next door, hadn't really gone out much.

She knew she had to make a decision tonight to carry on seeing Alec or not. If she didn't let him help her move though, he may just say forget it and like it or not, she needed him as an ally against Lee. She had to smile to herself that Alec wanted to annoy Claire by turning up for his hair cutting and asking for her but it was best he waited until Claire's day off on Friday.

Alec was waiting for her when she managed to get out before Claire delayed her.

"Do you want to get something to eat?" Alec suggested as he drove off.

"I can't let ya keep buying my meals," Rose replied, hoping he wouldn't take offence.

"You are trying to save up to move," he reminded her. "There is a pub near where I am staying, we can get something there. I've not eaten much where I'm staying, though meals are included. Have you found somewhere to go? It's best you leave as soon as you can."

"I know, I told him last night I never want to see him again. I can't forgive him for confessing he slept with Cate," she admitted. "What do I do Alec, if I can't find somewhere right away? I can put up with tonight but after that, I don't know if I can bear going back."

"Calm down eh? I will help you, look for somewhere on your phone and ask if you can move in tomorrow evening," he suggested. "There should be plenty of vacancies."

They had arrived at the pub and Alec waited for her to say something.

"Yeah, I have to try I suppose? I'll have to finish packing when I get back so I can't stay out long," she told him.

"I will take you back, no need to worry. At least there is no need for you to cook tonight," Alec smiled as he got out of the car.

Seeing Rose hesitating, he went round and opened the passenger door and offered his hand.

"Do you know anyone around here?" he asked her.

Rose turned to him.

"No, sorry. I guess I'm not used to going out with someone else other than Lee or Claire," she replied as she let him help her.

"It's fine Rose, don't worry about it eh?" he tried to assure her.

Going inside, Alec got them a menu and they went to sit at a corner table.

"You have your freedom now, I promise not to make you spend all your time with me," he told her as he let her have the menu first.

"It's either you or Claire and I need more friends, she must be tired of me relying on her," Rose replied.

"Then consider us friends?" Alec suggested, touching her hand.

"I thought Cate and Lisa were my friends," Rose replied sadly. "Why did Cate have to betray me?"

"Maybe Lee encouraged her?" Alec wondered. "It maybe never took much though? She and Ricky seemed very distant over their daughter's death but everyone copes with a loss differently. I'll go order and then look up some accommodation for you while we wait."

As he went off, Rose thought if only Lee had been as considerate as Alec was being. What on Earth had she been thinking, taking up with Lee and then living with him? Now, she was bound to cave in and let slip about Lisa, she nearly had done when she had told Alec Cate had betrayed her by saying Lisa had as well.

How much longer could she keep the whole sorry thing from Alec and bring Lee down on her? Surely Alec would be able to protect her, if she told him what happened that night? Would he believe her though? She only knew what she had guessed and what Lee had admitted and Lee would say she had been out of it and the most he would get charged with was drugging her that night. Then he would go after her.

Alec had got his phone out and found a few places to call and handed his phone to Rose.

"Call this one first," he suggested as he highlighted the number of a guest house. "If they don't do a room only rate then there are a few more for you to try."

Rose took his phone from him but he was still worried about leaving her on her own. Rose was about to press the green button to call the guest house when he stopped her.

"Rose, if you wait until Saturday, well I am moving into a two bedroom apartment, you could stay with me?" he dared ask her. "I realise you are just getting out of a relationship but I will not put pressure on you, you could stay until you save up to get a place of your own."

They ate their meals in silence, Rose considering his offer.

"I need to get out of there Alec, I could get somewhere for two nights," she told him. "I'm grateful for the offer but I hate to point out that I am sort of involved with your case."

Alec already knew that, he didn't need reminding he was getting too close to her and Tess already suspected something.

"I told you to let me worry about that," he reminded her. "Then let me pay for you to stay where I am? Come back with me and I will see the owners about a single room?"

"I don't know Alec," she hesitated. "What if they don't have any rooms? No, I'll put up with it for a few more nights, Lee might have already left anyway, he hates the thought of me leaving him, he'll try and leave me first."

"Rose, I am really sorry, you were not to know he would do that to you. Let me call where I am staying."

Rose listened while he asked the owner.

"I'm sorry, we're fully book, well until you leave on Saturday," he was told, since he'd already given notice. "Was it urgent?"

"It was for a friend," Alec told her. "Not to worry." He turned back to Rose. "May I suggest you go and get a few things and we will try somewhere else? If not, then you can stay with me, we will sort something out."

"I guess so? Let me see if Lee's there first, he might have gone," Rose replied. "It depends on Ricky anyway, if Lee gave notice and he doesn't pay another month's rent."

"Then you should leave without delay. I would be worried about you facing an angry landlord," Alec smiled. "Have you seen much of him?"

"No, Lee said he came round that morning, looking for Pippa but I'd been in the bathroom. He only told me last night," Rose admitted, trying to remember when Lee had told her.

She was all confused with trying to not give anything away to Alec but was he only offering to help her in the hope she'd slip up?

"Was that all he said Rose?" Alec was asking her. "Why would Ricky think the girls were at your house?"

"I don't know Alec, he never said. I told ya, he said to keep out of it."

"Well surely that does not apply now?" Alec asked as he finished his non-alcoholic drink, which he hated but he was driving and in the middle of a murder investigation. "Rose, whatever you know, you have to tell me. What are you so afraid of? Did he threaten you?"

He saw the look on her face but knew she wouldn't say anything while they were out.

"Let me take you home to get a few things, then you come back to where I am staying. He won't know where you are Rose."

"Alec, ya don't know him. He has contacts all over the place," she replied.

He led her back outside to the car, opening the door for her but Rose turned and caught him by surprise as she went to kiss him. He kissed her back after he fluttered his eyelids and tried to recover, not that it wasn't welcome.

"Can ya really help me Alec?" she continued.

"Yes Rose, he won't hurt you but you have to tell me what he threatened you with."

"Ya can't confront him Alec, please?" she pleaded as she got in the car.

"I can't promise that Rose. Just tell me," he encouraged her.

"Did I tell ya that, well the reason he cheated on me?" she began.

"You may have mentioned it but tell me again," he replied.

"I don't know why but something's been holding me back, from giving myself fully to Lee. He said he was okay with it but now, I think he was cheating long before he went to Cate. He went to her so I'd get to know about it."

"I'm sorry Rose. Can I ask what was holding you back?" he asked her, placing his hand on her leg.

"I don't know, like I wasn't certain I wanted that with him. He got tired of waiting long before he said anything though. There was maybe one thing that would change my mind and it never happened."

"Rose, something like that, you have to be certain, if you love someone otherwise, it means nothing. He was trying to hurt you and make you give in by going with Cate," Alec told her.

"Well he was wrong, it only made me feel sick to know he'd been with other women then came back to me. I just want to get away from him," Rose began to cry.

Alec reached out and put his arm around her.

"Then let me help you?" he offered again. "Come and stay with me tonight, then after you gather everything else, I will take you somewhere else, if you want?"

Rose nodded and Alec took her head in his hands and went to kiss her, grateful he'd parked facing a wall. He had a good idea why Rose hadn't given in to Ashworth, the man didn't seem the type to commit himself to a woman and admit he loved her. He drove her back to the estate and luckily, there was no sign of Lee.

Alec waited in the car as Rose put the rest of her clothes in a bag, she'd left enough out for the following day and she tossed a few toiletries and personal things in and zipped up the bag. As Alec waited next door though, he saw Lee pull in at the side of their house.

Lee began to wonder if Rose would keep her promise of leaving him and thought she didn't have the courage and he'd decided he'd leave the following night before the rent was due. He saw Alec waiting in the car and thought the man was wasting his time if he was waiting to see Ricky. He called as he entered the house.

"Rose, are you in here?" he shouted.

Rose called back from the open bedroom door. He dashed upstairs and saw the packed cases and the bag.

I'll get the rest tomorrow, I've got somewhere to stay tonight," she told him.

"Don't tell me, Claire gave in and felt sorry for you?" he scoffed.

"Yeah, she's a good friend," she used the excuse, since he'd suggested it.

"Well don't talk to that detective outside," he warned her. "Remember what I told you. I'll be gone by tomorrow anyway, if I can find Ricky or he answers his bloody phone. If that detective's waiting for him, he'll be there a while," he grinned. "Don't make me come after you Rose, or you'll really regret it. It's my word against yours, I'll say you were totalled when you got home that night and didn't know what you saw."

Rose gulped. Would Alec believe her if she told him? She hoped so or it was going to be a very long investigation otherwise. Alec had turned the car around and was waiting at the end of the street but Rose thought he'd gone, once he'd seen Lee had come back.

She started to walk down the street and she just hoped he'd be there. She was relieved when she turned the corner.

"I thought ya'd changed ya mind?" she admitted as he took the bag from her.

"I would not break my promise Rose. I thought he would get suspicious if he saw you getting in the car," he replied. "If you are not sure, we can drive around where the guest houses are and look for vacancies?"

"I'm tired Alec, just give me a duvet and I'll sleep on the chairs," Rose suggested.

"I have a better idea. I will sleep on top of the bed?" he smiled as they set off.

After Rose had left, Lee went to the spare room and gathered his things. He'd looked out of the kitchen window and the detective had gone. If Rose had stopped to talk to him, he'd have knocked on the door by now so he thought he was pretty safe for the time being. She wouldn't be so stupid as to do such a thing, would she?

Alec was helping Rose upstairs in the small hotel he was staying at when he was caught by the owner.

"Are you still wanting a single room?" he was asked.

"Ah, not now," he admitted. "It was for my girlfriend, she decided to take me back," he grinned, Rose wondering what he was up to.

Who was he calling his girlfriend?

"So is she going to be sharing your room?" the woman wanted to know, Rose thinking she was going to object.

"That remains to be seen," Alec replied. "It will only be for a few nights if she does. She will probably want evening meals from tomorrow."

"I see then? Well since your room's being paid for, I can hardly object, it was just someone cancelled."

Alec turned to Rose, who was keeping quiet so as not to get them both thrown out.

"Do you want a separate room sweetheart?" he smiled at Rose.

"I'll give it a go," she put on a big smile, thinking he had some explaining to do.

"She went back to her mother's," Alec turned to tell the owner, so as to explain Rose's accent.

Once in Alec's room, Rose put her bag on the chair, thinking the chair may be okay for sitting on but she didn't fancy trying to sleep on it and Alec's legs would be too long for putting another chair in front of it.

"You said I was your girlfriend," she reminded him.

"What was I supposed to say Rose?" he wanted to know. "That you are a possible witness in a murder investigation? I am trying to keep that quiet. I will be honest with you, I want to help you but you have to tell me what you know."

"Is that why ya keep takin' me to lunch and inviting me around?" she asked, her hands on her hips.

"What? No, that is not the reason Rose. It may have been, last week but damn it Rose, you must know I care about you? If you thought that, why did you kiss me earlier?" he wanted to know as he ran his fingers through his hair.

"Is that why ya wanted me to cut your hair?" she tried to change the subject.

"No. Is that why you did not want me asking for you in front of your boss? Stop denying things Rose, I do care about you, not all men are like Lee Ashworth. I know Rose, what it was he did not do. He never told you he loved you. Did he?"

"You're a detective Alec, you tell me? I thought I loved him, I don't think he ever loved me," she replied, feeling the tears forming.

Alec crossed over to her, putting his hands on her shoulders and trying to bring her closer.

"It's okay Rose, I understand but I am nowhere near like Lee. It's okay to be upset, come here."

She leaned into his shoulder as he put his arms around her.

"Sorry, it's like I've only just realised," she admitted. "I've been such an idiot, thinking he'd tell me eventually. I feel sick at the thought he cheated on me all the time we were together. I should have known he only wanted someone to share a house with him."

"You were not to know, don't blame yourself Rose. Stay with me?" he asked her.

Rose looked up at him through her wet, blurry eyes. He leaned down and gently kissed her, waiting for her reaction. Rose felt as though she was melting into his lips, sending her slightly dizzy when it ended.

"Why not unpack?" he suggested. "I will make some drinks then we can watch some TV maybe?"

"Yeah, okay then. Is there any hot chocolate?" she brightened up slightly.

"I think so. I meant it Rose, I do care about you, you have to trust me and tell me what really happened that night. I will try to keep it quiet for now that we are involved so say nothing to your friend eh?" he said with a smile.

"Claire already suspects," she told him.

"So does Tess but I'm holding her off for now. I only have to mention who she cheated on me with and the chief won't put up with her complaining about me."

Why's that?" Rose asked. "Did ya make a deal with him that ya'd get me to talk?" She saw the look on his face. "Ya did? Is that why I'm here, now?" she wanted to know as she tried to back off.

"Rose, it's not like that," he tried to tell her while holding onto her. "I did it to protect you, so that Lee would not carry out whatever he threatened you with. Can you accept that?" he asked hopefully.

"I don't know Alec, I'm all confused," she replied. "I need to know you're not just using me to find out who killed Pippa."

She looked into Alec's eyes and realised he was telling the truth. Then she realised he did suspect Lee.

"You're after Lee, aren't ya? You think he had something to do with Pippa and Lisa?"

"You tell me Rose, did he? Tell me what he threatened you with, that is more important to me. Lee Ashworth is a person of interest to me but he is going nowhere," Alec replied.

"Alec, he is, he's not paying another month's rent, I think he plans on leaving in the morning and I'll have to call Ricky and tell him I'll hand the keys back tomorrow night, to Cate," Rose told him.

"If he leaves, he won't go far, he's too arrogant. He will want to stay, in case you do talk but I won't let anything happen to you Rose. Did he threaten to hurt you?" Alec wanted to know.

Rose knew she had to tell him.

"Alec, he said if I talked to the police and he was arrested that he would force me to give in to him."

"What?" Alec gasped. "He threatened to violate you?" he asked more angrily than anything.

Rose nodded, tears still in her eyes.

"I should go haul him in now," Alec continued.

"Don't Alec, please? You said you'd keep me safe?" she reminded him.

"I will, I promise. I think it's time to have a talk with him. I promise to make it official and only ask pertinent questions, he won't know you told me anything. Now, you unpack, I will make drinks and then, start from the beginning and tell me everything you know," he smiled, kissing her forehead.

Rose reached up and met his lips, the kiss lasting longer than the others.

"About you calling me your girlfriend?" she teased him.

"Did I presume too much?" he smiled, giving her another short peck on the lips.

She pretended to consider it.

"I don't think I've been Lee's girlfriend since we moved in together," she admitted.

"Then I meant it Rose, let me take care of you, starting with asking Lee a few questions?"

Chapter 17
Rose reached up to kiss him.

"Can we just be friends? I mean I'm all mixed up just now."

"Sure, I can live with that. I will still sleep on top of the bed, if you wish?" he offered, trying to be a gentleman and give her some time.

"Nah, it's fine, just don't try anything just yet," she warned him but trying to make it sound like a joke.

Alec pretended to hold his hands up.

"I get it Rose, you need some time to think about where we go from here? I promise I will not pressure you and for now, we keep to just kissing."

"Well we can maybe hug?" Rose smiled.

"Even in bed?" he asked warily, raising his eyebrows that Rose thought made him look cute.

"Mmm, well okay but just hugging – got it?"

"Yes Ma'am," he did a mock salute that got him a tap on his arm.

"Plum," Rose laughed.

She got her nightwear and went into the small bathroom but it was a luxury compared to what she would have got in a bed and breakfast or sharing if she got a bedsit. Was she ready to start sharing with another man though?

She couldn't impose on Claire but if Lee thought she was staying there, then fine, let him keep on believing that. She just hoped he wouldn't ask Claire but there again, he had just assumed it and she'd not corrected him about it.

Alec waited for her coming out of the bathroom, thinking it would be best if he got changed in there while she got into bed. It was still quite early but he expected she'd not slept properly since the whole thing had kicked off almost two weeks ago. He was sure she'd be up for some more kissing before she fell asleep though, well so he hoped. She was very pretty but he did wonder how she'd managed to take up with the completely opposite to her Lee Ashworth. He reckoned the man had just used her and taken advantage of the fact Rose had lived in one room for goodness knew how long and she'd jumped at the chance of getting out.

"Were ya waitin' for the bathroom?" Rose felt guilty as she emerged. "I hope ya don't mind I washed out my undies and put them on the radiator to dry?"

"It's fine Rose, I'm still technically married," he assured her. "Oh, about that?"

"Yeah, that's why I didn't want ya saying I was ya girlfriend," Rose grinned. "I'm becoming the other woman."

"Sorry, I never took that into consideration," he apologised. "Tess has not made a move in that department as of yet. We did touch on the subject earlier, she wanted to know why I wasn't fighting to get her back."

"Do ya want her back?" Rose asked worriedly, putting her clothes on the chair.

"What? No, I don't want her back, how do I know she won't do it again?" he asked. "No, it is definitely over between myself and Tess. Rose, if you tell me anything about Ashworth, she may also want to question you. I will try and keep her away as much as possible but if I do it too much, her suspicions will be founded."

"Yeah, I get that Alec. So, did your boss agree to you spending time gettin' me to talk?" she teased him.

"It's not like that Rose," he defended himself. Then he saw she was toying with him. "Don't think that."

"Did it start out like that though?" she wanted to know.

"Honestly? Maybe it did, at first, on that Sunday morning but the way you acted made me suspicious something was not right. Firstly, the way Ashworth reacted, the way you looked at him, then upstairs. That cushion having no cover on it, in a neat bedroom."

"Yeah, it was in the washing machine, I thought it was a bit weird. Before I fell asleep, he said something about staining the lounge floorboards and we'd never even talked about it," Rose admitted.

"Really? There was also the way he kept me out of there, like he had something to hide," Alec reminded her. "So he stained the floorboards? That was not planned?"

"Alec, there's more," she told him as she sat on the bed in her flowery cotton pyjamas. "He wasn't happy about it so after the police had finished, he told me he was going to take the floorboards up and replace them with some he'd got for a job."

"Did he now?" Alec raised his eyebrows again as he pulled the chair over.

"Yeah, oh and he said he'd cleaned the patio door curtain and he'd hung it back up to dry. He started ripping up the floorboards even though I wasn't convinced the stain had dried."

"So he was in a hurry? I wonder why?" Alec mused.

"He must have used the quick drying stuff then, I mean if he'd done it overnight. It still doesn't explain why he drugged me though," Rose told him.

"No, it does not," Alec had to agree. "Rose, this does not add up."

"Yeah, tell me about it," she laughed. Then she changed her mood. "Alec, if I told ya more, would ya get mad at me?"

"That depends on what you have to tell me and when. What aren't you telling me?"

"I'm not ready yet, I'm still scared what Lee will do," she replied as she got up.

Alec got up with her and went to hug her.

"Don't be scared of him, please Rose. Okay, I will give you some time and whatever it is, I promise not to be mad at you and charge you with obstructing a murder investigation."

Rose tried to stand back.

"Is it that serious, for not saying anything else?" she wanted to know.

"I'm afraid so but under the circumstances, it will be up to me to decide. The chief gave me free reign, well more or less. I told him you seemed scared of Ashworth but at present, I can't say we are more than just acquaintances."

"Will ya get into trouble?"

"Maybe? I could deny it, say that I was only trying to get information out of you?" he wondered.

"No Alec, I don't want to cause any trouble."

"You are not causing trouble Rose. Okay, I could say I was getting close to you for information and something then developed?"

"Stop it Alec. I won't cause you any trouble and that's it. If something does happen between us, we'll have to deny it, I'll have to keep out of the way."

"Rose, we're already being seen together at the café near where you work and your boss is already suspicious, as is Tess. This is what we will do. I will say I am taking you into protective custody and that you are in a bed and breakfast establishment, they cannot check every single one in the town. If we are seen together, then that is what I will say."

"Have ya done this before?" she teased him again.

"What? Stop it Rose," he smiled as she swayed in front of him, wondering what he was letting himself in for.

She was far too young for him.

"Your face!" she laughed. "Seriously though, don't get into trouble just for me Alec."

"There will be no trouble but you may have to go along with anything I suggest. Can you do that?" he asked her.

"Yeah, if it keeps me away from that scumbag. Geez, how did I put up with him when I found out?"

"Don't think about it Rose, you are away from him now. Will he stay away from you?"

"I hope so, unless ya haul him in for questioning. That's what I'm scared of Alec, he could talk his way out of anything and if ya let him go?"

"Why are you worried we will let him go? What do you know about him Rose?" Alec asked her.

"Can we leave it for now?"

"Sure. I will just go get changed and you can get into bed. Put the TV on if you wish."

When he got back, she was sat up in bed trying to find something to watch. He took the remote from her and found a radio channel playing some relaxing music.

"Better?" he asked hopefully as Rose laid back on her pillow.

He got in beside her, she was on the side he usually slept on but thought it would be rather a touchy subject to tell her. They began kissing for a good while until Rose yawned and said she was really tired. He let her get comfortable as she decided to lean on him and fall asleep. He was already awake when she stirred.

"Good morning," he greeted her as he tried to get his arm back.

"Sorry. Hi. What's the time?"

"Relax eh? I won't let you be late for work, you have time for breakfast and I will drop you off. Best not meet at lunchtime though?"

"Yeah, best not," she smiled up at him as he propped himself up. "It should be safe tomorrow though, unless ya don't want your hair cutting?"

She reached to ruffle his hair, just to prove the point.

"I will meet you tonight, we can eat here or go out again?" he asked her.

Rose agreed to eat in the hotel and after they had breakfast, he dropped her near work. Alec just hoped she had everything packed when he took her to collect the rest of her things but there was something he had to ask her – if he could look around the lounge. Since the house was going to be empty, he could do with searching the whole place but he doubted he'd get permission from Ricky Gillespie, unless there was proof Ashworth was somehow involved. His suspicions may not be enough to get a search warrant.

He got to work and thought it was best to cover himself with the chief.

"You are being serious?" the chief was asking him. "You think she will talk by getting her away from Ashworth?"

"Yes, I believe so. If I offer to get her out and put her somewhere safe, she may talk. I will take responsibility for her, no-one else need be involved at this stage. Once she is out, Ashworth will probably leave but I would like the Gillespies permission the search the house."

"Do you think they'll go for it?" the chief wanted to know.

"If we have just cause? If Rose will talk and indicate Ashworth is somehow involved, it may prompt them to do something," Alec replied.

"What do you hope to find?" the chief asked him.

"Signs the girls were there that night, while Rose was out and Ashworth is covering up," was all Alec wanted to give away.

"Well okay then, go ahead but Tess may have something to say," the chief smiled.

"I just bet she will," Alec was convinced. "What will you tell her?"

"To file for divorce," the chief laughed.

"Well I am going over to the court in my lunch break and getting a separation order, for now. She had the nerve to ask if I was going to fight to get her back," Alec told him.

"What did you say?" the chief was amused.

"What do you think?" was all Alec replied. "I am going to concentrate on getting Rose Tyler to talk, Tess will just have to live with it, won't she?"

The chief laughed again and shook his head, wishing Alec good luck with the separation order and getting this Rose Tyler to talk. He just hoped Alec wouldn't get too close to the young woman or else if she knew something, she may be compromised. He also wished Alec and Tess would settle their differences outside the station, everyone was talking either about them or Tess and Dave Harris or whatever his name was.

Alec went to see Tess before he set off to go to the court.

"That's a laugh Alec," Tess scoffed when he told her where he was going.

"Well, you won't do anything so I am. Just expect something in the post."

He was tempted to go meet Rose first but decided against it, she wouldn't be expecting him anyway – would she? It took a little longer than he expected but he came away from the court satisfied that he had made the first move in getting a divorce. Maybe now, Rose would relax more around him and she'd be willing to talk?

He went to collect her when she finished work but Claire was being sneaky by being ready to leave at the same time, which Rose thought was just her luck but Claire had to hand over the keys to the salon. She and Alec had agreed they would go get her things first and now, she just hoped Claire hadn't seen Alec's car before.

"Fancy going out?" Claire asked her.

"Sorry, I have to get moved tonight, before Ricky changes the locks on the house," Rose laughed.

"Can't have that then," Claire laughed back. "We've not been out for a while, that's all."

"Yeah, money's a bit tight Claire, I have to pay for a room, remember?" Rose reminded her.

Rose went off in the other direction, since the lane also led towards the town centre, which was the way Claire had to go to the bank. Rose just left the day's takings in a safe place when Claire wasn't there, she didn't want responsibility for it, despite Claire laughing and saying it was just like using a cash machine to deposit the envelope.

She greeted Alec when she got in his car.

"I thought Claire was gonna insist we went out tonight," she told him. "Well, let's get this over with? Geez, I hope Lee isn't there."

"Don't worry, I will deal with him. I will use the excuse I met you to ask if I could look around the house again."

"You're gettin' too good at using excuses Alec," she teased him.

"Yes, I know. I got the separation order today."

"Does Tess know?" Rose wondered.

"I did warn her, now she will have to take it seriously."

Rose's heart was leaping as they turned the corner of the street and she only calmed down when Lee's car or van weren't there. Alec went inside with her and she opened the lounge door for him.

"You go do some detective work while I get my things," Rose joked.

"Maybe I should have brought my spyglass with me?" he replied dryly as he stepped into the lounge.

He went to the patio door and fingered the long net curtain, gathering it up from the bottom.

"So, he had the patio door open that night? Does he smoke?" Alec wanted to know.

"No, he quit. It was warm that night though, I do remember that."

He looked at the floor where he'd lifted the curtain.

"He fits a lot of flooring then?" Rose nodded, praying Lee wouldn't walk in. "Did he have to cut it to make it fit?"

"Yeah, he had me helping," Rose smiled. "My perfect Sunday afternoon and evening, I was tired afterwards."

"When did you decide to stop sleeping with him?" he asked, catching her by surprise.

"I was upset, so I told him I wanted to sleep on my own," Rose lied, trying to remember. "Everything happened at once."

"I know Rose but there's more, I know there is. Why are you protecting him still?"

"I'm not," she replied.

Alec didn't believe her.

"Rose, you have left him, you no longer have to do as he says," he reminded her.

"I'm scared of him Alec."

"I know you are. Let me help you with your cases?" he offered.

They had just got back downstairs when Lee arrived.

"You need police protection to move?" Lee asked her smugly.

"Stop it Lee. He wanted to look around, since we're moving out, I said he could," Rose snapped at him.

"What do you expect to find?" Lee asked Alec.

"There are a few things I want forensics to examine," Alec replied without any emotion.

"Well you'll have to ask Ricky now," Lee told him. "Give me your keys Rose, I'll take them round to Cate."

"Still finding excuses to see her?" Rose asked sarcastically.

Alec was feeling proud that she was holding up, seeing Ashworth while she was with him.

"I told you, it's over between me and Cate. So, you're not leaving a forwarding address then?" Lee was equally sarcastic.

"You must be joking," Rose spluttered. "I'll go to the post office and get my mail redirected so I'll keep the keys for now, tell Ricky if ya see him."

Alec had a feeling Ashworth wouldn't give the keys back either and he doubted either Cate or Ricky would chase them for it. He thought it would make it easier to send the CSU in to examine a few things, like the net curtain, the wooden flooring under it and the cushion cover, which he'd forgotten if he'd asked Rose if she'd put it back on the cushion. He'd just assumed she had.

"Thank you for allowing me to look around," Alec told her as he opened the door. "May I offer you a ride somewhere?"

"Yeah, thanks, it'll save me calling for a cab. Don't try and find me Lee."

"Don't make me try and find you," Lee warned her.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Alec wanted to know.

"She knows," Lee replied.

"You had better not be threatening her Ashworth," Alec defended her.

Rose wondered if he was purposely letting Lee know they were friends. Then she realised he was being a detective. Alec drove them back to where he was staying and they carried everything upstairs.

"No point in unpacking everything," Rose told him,

"Indeed. I will call Ricky and tell him I asked for your key and if he objects, I will have to persuade my chief to get a search warrant."

He retrieved Ricky's number and called him.

"You've got a nerve," Ricky told him. "Why would I agree to that when Ashworth gave a month's notice?"

"Has he paid for another month?" Alec asked him. Ricky went quiet. "Then how can you object? Do you want to find whoever killed Pippa?"

"You think he had something to do with it?" Ricky wanted to know.

"I don’t know yet but he acted suspiciously the last time I saw him."

"Don't tell me you're running out of clues?" Ricky laughed.

"You have no idea what goes on behind the scenes," Alec retaliated.

"I suppose you want the keys?" Ricky replied as he stopped laughing.

"I can get them, Miss Tyler has agreed to help with our enquiries, since she told me she was leaving."

"Cate said something about them splitting up. She must have got tired of Ashworth screwing around," Ricky laughed again.

That over with, they just got served in the dining room and talked over their meals.

"There is no need for you to be afraid of him again Rose," Alec was telling her.

"I know but he knows where I work. Ya can't be there every time I go out Alec."

"Then just be careful Rose, please? Leave with someone if you can eh?"

"Yeah, I'll try to. So, are ya lettin' me cut your hair tomorrow?"

He saw the smile on her face at the thought.

"How can I turn down such an offer? I would not want to disappoint you."

When it was bedtime, Rose went into the bathroom again but Alec got undressed, putting on some jogging bottoms and a t-shirt again. Once in bed, Rose surprised him.

"Can I come and lie on ya?" she asked him.

"Oh yes Rose, you most certainly can. I won't hurt you, I promise. I was right, Ashworth never really loved you, did he?"

"I don't think so. It doesn't mean I'm off men altogether though," she replied as she moved over onto him.

"Then I am glad to hear it. Just try to relax eh?"

They began kissing, turning onto their sides.

"Alec, those joggers are a bit thick," she giggled.

"Really? I thought I was presuming a lot by just wearing my shorts."

"Nah, shorts are fine. Can we just take it slowly though?"

"Anything you want Rose. Care to help?" he asked hopefully.

Before they knew it, Rose had scrambled out of her pyjama bottoms and she was laid on him, Alec daring to put his hand on her bare back under her vest top she was wearing under the pyjama top. Rose tried fumbling with the buttons, feeling he was trying to help her.

"Are you sure you want to go this far?" he asked, just to be certain.

"Yeah, it's okay Alec. You already know I'm just tryin' to get over Lee."

"Yes, I know. Just say when you want to stop."

"Your wife must be off her head, lettin' ya go," she replied.

"It has been on the cards for a while Rose, don't worry about it eh? If she takes the separation order well, I will take things further, I see no need to involve divorce lawyers. Rose, you have to be certain you want to get involved with me."

"Yeah, I know Alec, I am certain. I know all men aren't like Lee."

"No, we're not. I would very much like to show you, if you would allow me?" he offered.

Rose didn't know quite what happened as she felt the pleasure going through her when he had coaxed her out of her pyjama top and she fully lay on him.

"Okay?" Alec asked nervously, thinking she was going to demand he slept on the chair until he moved out.

"What? Oh, yeah, sorry. I was just tryin' to recover," she replied.

Alec felt pleased with himself. What had started out as trying to get her to confess she knew something about that night Pippa had died was now turning into something serious. He just hoped now they could cover it up and pretend to be detective and possible witness to everyone else without being discovered they were becoming lovers.

He also hoped Tess would get the hint and go for the divorce but if she decided to be awkward about it, he would tell her to accept it or he'd bring her boyfriend into it and she wouldn't like that. As Rose fell asleep on him, he knew she seemed a lot happier than when he had first met her, when she'd looked scared to death of Lee Ashworth.

Chapter 18
Rose was thankful Claire wasn't in the next day or she would have certainly noticed the difference in her mood. Alec had dropped her off as promised because Rose said she'd get lost otherwise and he'd told her not to bother as he was moving out the next day.

As they said goodbye, he said he'd be in later that afternoon to get his hair cut and if not, he'd still collect her later, daring to kiss her as she got out of his car.

"Best get used to that sweetheart," he grinned, feeling much happier than he had been doing.

Rose was also liking the feeling a man cared enough to kiss her goodbye in public. Alec watched her walk off, wishing he could meet her at lunchtime but he supposed with her being in charge for the day, she wouldn't have as much time.

He got to work and was confronted by an angry Tess.

"Did you have to?" she snapped at him as he sat at his desk.

"What are you on about Tess?"

"You know Alec. What was in the post before I left," she replied, pulling a chair out from the other side of his desk.

"Oh, the separation papers arrived then?" he asked sarcastically. "I did warn you Tess."

"You expect me to sign them?" she replied.

"Yes, I do expect you to sign them, it's over Tess, accept it. The sooner you sign, the better or would you rather sign divorce papers instead? I can go back to the court."

"Why are you taking it all so calmly Alec?" she wanted to know.

"I accept it and so should you, then we can both move on," he told her.

"That's a laugh Alec, don't tell me you're doing it for my benefit?" she laughed. "Oh, you have someone as well?"

"Stop it Tess, it won't work," he warned her, not wanting to fall into her trap to find out if he already was or was becoming involved with someone.

"Don't get close to that Rose Tyler Alec. I spoke with the chief, he says you want to protect her from Lee Ashworth, he said you want to get her to talk. I hope it's not going to be pillow talk, if you get involved with her, she won't be believed. You're not using her are you, to have a fling with her?"

"It's time you got back to work Tess," he reminded her, taking a folder from a pile on his desk.

"If you are having a fling with her, you'd better end it Alec. Does the chief know?"

"There is nothing for him to know Tess. I would concentrate on you not compromising the case with Dave. A married officer on a major case having a fling with a fellow officer?"

Tess huffed and got up.

"I'll sign the separation order – for now. No-one knows about me and Dave," she insisted.

"No Tess, except the whole station. Just be careful," he warned her.

"Are you going to be spending time with your possible witness?" she tried to shake him off.

"If I am? What's your point Tess?"

"Don't use her Alec, she could be a valuable witness," she replied.

"You think I don't know that Tess? She has to trust us enough to talk. She is scared of Ashworth, she's already left him," he admitted. "She's in a B&B for now, she has to feel safe."

"Well let's hope it works sooner rather than later Alec, it's around two weeks now. The chief will be getting pressure put on him and if we're not careful, we'll have our budget cut."

"I know that Tess. Now she's away from him, she'll feel safer."

Tess went off, muttering that she hoped Rose wasn't going to be feeling safer with just him.

"She has to trust us all Alec," she called back to him.

Alec shook his head and opened the file containing several reports of supposed sightings of Lisa Newberry for his approval to follow up. He found the number for her mother, wondering why she was being so quiet compared to Ricky Gillespie. He'd learned Lisa had changed her name when she'd turned eighteen to her mother's maiden name, since her parents were now divorced. He'd also learned she didn't get on well with her father so he supposed that was why she hung around with her younger cousin.

Was a nineteen year old's disappearance any less important than finding a killer? Lisa could just be hiding out somewhere and scared she'd get blamed for Pippa's death, couldn't she? He still wondered what Lisa had got Pippa into before she had disappeared. Had they been on their own or with this Gary Thorp?

He called two DS's in and told them to follow up the leads that had landed on his desk and sat back, his hands behind his head. Was Tess right and he shouldn't get involved with Rose? It was too late now though, he'd be letting her down, just when she was beginning to feel safe and trust him.

He didn't have it in him to insist she went back to a B&B, she would be more vulnerable in just a small room and how could he just leave her in one? He was about to call her, since her boss wasn't there but decided he'd wait until later, he wanted to call at the court in his lunch break.

Rose was being kept busy but just as someone went to lunch, Lee walked in and she had nowhere to hide.

"I'm waiting for Rose," Lee winked at Lucy on the desk. "Unless you're free?"

Lucy had no idea he'd split from Rose.

"She'll be free soon, when she's finished with Mrs Chandler," Lucy fluttered her eyelids at him. "I'm stuck on the desk for now."

"Well that's a shame then," Lee grinned, leaning over the desk so Rose could see.

Rose heard Lucy giggling, thinking Lee had a nerve coming in to start with and then flirting. She finished what she was doing and led her client over to the desk.

"What are ya doing here Lee?" she hissed at him as she pulled him away from the desk.

"You only said not to find where you were living, remember?" he asked. "I've moved my stuff out of the house and given the keys to Cate, she wanted to know where yours were."

"I said to say I'll hand them back when I get my mail forwarded," she told him. "Besides, the police still want to look around."

"I thought you looked a little cosy with that detective," Lee grinned.

"Have ya come here to get your hair cut?" Rose changed the subject. "If not, ya'd best go."

"Fine, I'll go. Claire's not here anyway."

He headed for the door, leaving Rose wondering what he meant by it. She went over to the desk.

"Sorry Rose, he's a real charmer," Lucy told her.

"We're not together any more but you'd be best backing off, you have no idea what he's like Lucy," Rose warned her.

Alec got delayed at the court, being told he'd only just got his separation order and only his side had been heard so he left after getting nowhere and thought he'd just have to wait the length of time required. Not that it was going to help his situation with Rose. He'd in a round about way already asked her to move in with him, albeit to protect her from Ashworth but was he any better than the other man? If Rose thought that though, she wouldn't have agreed so readily.

Rose was expecting Alec at any time, pretending to be busy elsewhere when women had come in without an appointment, even though they were quite busy. She relieved Lucy from the desk after a quick lunch she'd got one of the others to bring back for her and sent Alec a quick message – 'Lee has been in this morning', since Alec had told her to let him know if Lee bothered her.

He'd got the message just as he was going in the court building and when he did see it, wished he'd replied sooner.

'What?' he'd sent the message back, which she didn't get until her afternoon break.

She risked calling him, catching him on his way out to find the mysterious Gary, whom more people had confirmed they'd seen him hanging around opposite the Gillespie house on numerous occasions. He'd learned that the young man had taken over his father's business just outside Portsmouth but it had failed and closed down several months ago.

"Rose, is this important?" Alec asked her, forgetting about the text. "What did Ashworth want?" he added.

"He came in Alec, Cate wanted to know why I'd not handed in my key," she told him. "I said the police would want to look around."

"Yes, it would save getting permission from them but it depends if you paid a month in advance or in arrears?"

"I've no idea Alec, Lee dealt with Ricky. We might have paid a deposit or a month in advance when we moved there though. Ya have my permission to search but Lee said he'd moved his stuff out."

"I'm not interested in that, I want to know why he changed the flooring in the lounge and about the curtain and cushion cover," Alec replied.

"Why are ya so interested in them Alec?" she wanted to know.

"I have a hunch they are connected to something," he admitted.

"Geez, ya think Lee had something to do with it?" she dared to ask, thinking he knew for certain and was waiting for her to confirm it.

"Rose, I'm certain of it, I need you to talk to me, please? Whatever you know, I will not let anything happen to you, you have my word."

"Alec, if he came in earlier, there's nothing to stop him coming back," she reminded him.

"I'm sorry about that Rose but if you tell me what you know, I can and will stop him contacting you, I promise love," he assured her, hoping no-one had heard him as he went to the waiting car.

What if they did though, as long as they didn't know who he was talking to.

"Would I get into trouble, for not saying anything?" she asked again.

"I have already told you, the chief knows you are scared of what Ashworth may do, well not in great detail but that he threatened you. Don't be scared into not saying anything."

"Can we talk later, I have to get back to work now," she asked, finishing her drink.

They said goodbye and Alec got in beside Tess.

"Who were you talking to Alec?" Tess asked him.

"None of your business Tess. Do you know where we are going?" he wondered.

They got to where they had found out Gary was working, showing their ID to the man in charge.

"Is he in trouble?" the man wanted to know.

"No, we just want to ask him some questions," Tess replied.

"He'd better not be in trouble," the large man told her, pointing to where Gary was washing a car.

Alec was already walking towards the worried looking man, whom to him looked like he'd fallen on hard times so what was he doing hanging around and stalking a nineteen year old girl?

"Gary Thorp?" Alec asked him, showing his ID. "Do you know a Lisa Newberry?"

"What's this about?" Alec was asked as Tess joined him. "I don't know where she went, if that's what you're getting at?"

"On the evening of 12th April, you were seen watching her from opposite where her cousin lived," Alec reminded him.

"So what? That thug from next door chased me off, he bloodied my nose," Gary recalled. "I only wanted to see Lisa."

"By hanging around in the shadows?" Alec asked him. "That's not normal behaviour."

"We went out a couple of times, I wanted to know why she stopped," Gary told him.

"What happened to your business Gary?" Tess wanted to know.

"I couldn't keep it going," Gary admitted. "Lisa's uncle helped me out but it was too much."

"Did he now?" Alec mused, writing in his notebook that it was another connection. "Did you have any dealings with Lee Ashworth?"

"If he lived next door, he was the one who came out and punched my nose," Gary replied. "Lisa was standing behind him in the doorway."

"Did you see the younger girl that night?" Tess asked him.

Gary shook his head.

"No, only Lisa. Ashworth, if that's his name chased me off."

"Did you meet Lisa and her cousin later?" Alec wanted to know.

"No, I was in hospital," Gary admitted. "I tried to kill myself."

Alec gestured for Tess to leave.

"Thanks for your help but why did you try to kill yourself?" he asked quietly.

"I thought she'd found someone else, the way he had a go at me. He sounded jealous, warning me off like that."

Now Alec was getting a clearer picture at last, why hadn't they found this man earlier? He hadn't been convinced Ashworth had told him the truth, was he cheating on Rose with Lisa?

"What do you make of that?" Tess asked as she fastened her seatbelt.

"Ashworth was jealous of that man. I bet Lisa went back inside and Ashworth made a move on her," he replied.

"You mean cheat on his girlfriend?" Tess laughed.

"Exactly. Come on Tess, Lisa is nineteen, what do you think?" he replied. "How could he resist the offer if his girlfriend was out? I have to get Rose Tyler to talk."

"Want me to try?" Tess offered as they set off back to the station.

Alec let out a nervous laugh. Was his blossoming romance with Rose already beginning to show, especially to someone already having an affair?

"Did you sign those papers?" he asked instead, trying to change the subject.

"I posted them back at lunchtime, I didn't have time to go to the court with them Alec. You took your time though," she remarked.

"I got held up somewhere," he used the excuse, wondering why he was still explaining himself to her. "Stop questioning me Tess."

"Well don't make it so obvious you're up to something then," she replied.

Alec turned away to avoid her glare. Even when she was driving, Tess couldn't half glare at him. He was staring out of the passenger window, thinking about Rose. She had become his number one priority and now it disturbed him Ashworth couldn't leave her alone. No wonder she was so scared of him.

He decided to get her to talk, he'd take her back to a few days before the event, see what she remembered, then he could work up to the more important questions. Did she catch Lisa leaving their house or maybe there were signs Lisa had been there and she had just missed the older teenager and Pippa?

Then he began to wonder what Ashworth was covering up by changing the floorboards and washing things like net curtains and cushion covers. He needed to also ask Rose if he often did things on impulse but was it fair to keep reminding her she had lived with the man? As much as he hated to ask her, to him, it was all connected and that was what he did – connect the slightest thing to get the bigger picture and Gary Thorp had just added to it.

"Alec, did you just hear me?" Tess was asking him, snapping him back to reality. "Do you want me to talk to Rose Tyler?"

"Have a go then, she won't talk to me," he relented, knowing Rose wouldn't thank him for it but Tess was already suspicious.

"Well I'll arrange a time for her to come in and see me then? Was it recorded what day she had off?" Tess wanted to know.

"You will have to check with the officer who took her initial statement," he replied, hoping to throw her off.

"I thought you'd have asked her?" Tess asked sarcastically.

Alec decided to ignore her and not fall into her trap. It got to four thirty and he knew he didn't have time to get his hair cut but he could at least go meet Rose. Tess was watching him as he got ready to leave and stood in his office doorway.

"I could get suspicious of you leaving early Alec."

"I have already told you Tess, besides, I am hoping to get the key to look around next to the Gillespie's house."

"On your own?" Tess smiled.

"For now. I will call forensics if I find anything."

He got to where Rose worked with a few minutes to spare, then realised she had to lock up since she'd been in charge for the day. He got out of the car and walked towards the salon, wishing Ashworth would show up, since he wanted to have a few words with him.

Rose had pulled the blinds down and was putting the day's takings in the place she'd arranged with Claire, who had told her one day next week, she was to go to the bank and see how to deposit the money. Rose had partially objected but since she was supposed to have moved, couldn't use the excuse she didn't go home that way.

Alec approached the door, the security grill halfway down and tapped on the visible glass, making Rose jump. She went cautiously to the door, then realised it may be Alec, raising the blind.

"Hi, come in then," she smiled as she was relieved it was him and not Lee.

"Sorry I made you jump," he smiled back. "No more visits from Ashworth then?"

"No. Geez Alec, he had a nerve coming here. He even chatted Lucy up, in front of me."

"You are well rid of him, trust me. Rose, Tess may want to ask you a few questions, about how Lisa and Pippa were a few days before what happened to them. I can insist on being there. Do you think you can talk to her?"

"I don't know Alec. Will she try and trick me into saying something about you?"

"No, it will be a formal interview and I can stop her at any time, being in charge of the case and trust me, I will," he assured her. "You may get a call from her."

"Oh, I've not checked my phone yet," Rose realised as she picked up her handbag.

She got her phone out and found she had a missed call from an unknown number.

"That could have been her," Alec suggested. "Let her call you back."

"Well I can't call her," Rose smiled, showing him the screen.

They had just got back to where they had been staying when her phone rang again.

"I'd best take it," Rose told him as he closed the room door.

"Don't tell her where you are staying," Alec warned her.

"Why, does she know where you are?" Rose grinned.

"No but she'll know you can't afford to stay here," he replied.

"Ah, good point," Rose laughed as she answered.

"Rose?" Tess asked cautiously. "It's DS Hardy here. Can I ask you a few questions?"

"Actually, is it urgent?" Rose asked back, seeing Alec smile at her nerve. "I'm just packing to move, I found a flat to share," she grinned, seeing Alec's face as if to see how far she could go.

Alec was shaking his head.

"Well, we'll need your new address," Tess insisted. "Rose, how were Pippa and Lisa a few days before the incident?"

"I didn't really see much of Lisa but we saw Pippa a few times. She joined me at the bus stop some mornings and oh, one morning, she was waiting as Lee was taking me to work. She said her mother hadn't given her any bus fare so we dropped her at school and Lee rang Ricky to tell him to collect her after school," Rose recalled.

"Did she say why she'd been given no bus fare?" Tess wanted to know.

"She said her mother just hadn't, we didn't ask," Rose replied, trying to remember what Pippa had said.

"Well if you could remember why, it would be helpful." Tess told her. "What about the day itself, the day Pippa's parents were going off?"

"Yeah, I saw both girls, Pippa seemed fine. She asked if they could come round later but I said I was going to my friend's. I really regret that now, I could have stopped what happened if I'd gone home and they'd come round."

"Rose, don't blame yourself for this, it maybe would have happened anyway, had you been there or not," Tess assured her. "We have a rough time of death for Pippa, it would have depended what time they'd left your house."

"I still feel I could have done something," Rose regretted as Alec put his hand on her shoulder.

"If there's anything else you remember, give me or DI Hardy a call," Tess felt sorry for her feeling it was all her fault. "Rose, none of this is your fault."

Rose thought neither Tess or Alec would say that if they knew what she did. She turned to Alec, who put his arms around her when she ended the call.

"She's right Rose, whatever took place, you couldn't have prevented it, even if they had been with you all night. The patio door was open, which suggests either they were abducted or Lisa had left it open if they'd left in a hurry."

Rose had guessed why the patio door was open that night – Ricky had sneaked round and caught Lee and Lisa having sex on the floor and he'd been so annoyed, he'd forgotten about it when everything kicked off. Lee still hadn't confirmed or denied all of what she'd pieced together though, would Alec believe her?

"Rose, it's okay," he continued. "When you feel like talking, I'm here. Tomorrow, I will take your things with me to the new flat but you made a mistake telling Tess where you were moving to."

"I'll ask one of the girls at work to cover for me," Rose told him.

"That's not a very good idea. Let me book you into a guest house for now, you don't have to stay there. I can get the chief to agree to pay towards it, there will be no cost to you. Just show up there every so often."

"Sure you've not done this before?" Rose managed to smile as she rested on his shoulder. "Won't they get a bit annoyed?"

"Not if I say it's police business. Just leave it all to me eh?" he replied, kissing her forehead.

Trying to get her to relax later on, he began kissing her uncovered skin, daring to dip below the vest top she had chosen to wear. She ruffled his hair so he took it as her approval then she got comfortable and fell asleep on him, a smile on Alec's face.

The next morning, Rose stuffed things in a spare bag and Alec took her to work, him saying he had to collect the keys for the flat anyway. She was early and saw Claire just opening up.

"Wow, you must have moved closer," Claire teased her.

"Yeah, I went back to a B&B for now, I had to get away from Lee," Rose admitted, regretting what she'd told Tess.

"He was that bad?" Claire continued. "You can't forgive him, can you?"

"Seriously? No, I can't forgive him Claire, why should I? I wasn't the one who cheated, was I?"

"I don't know Rose? Did I just see you getting out of a car?"

"That detective was waiting for me, he had some questions," Rose used the excuse.

"I bet he did," Claire replied. "Just watch it Rose."

"I don't have to answer to Lee any more," Rose insisted.

She handed the spare key back and went to make a drink, hoping Alec would sort out where she was supposed to be living.

Tess had wondered why Rose had found somewhere else to live so quickly, reading the notes she'd taken. She was going to leave it until Monday morning anyway, she had no intention of putting in any overtime this week. She knew Alec was right though, Rose Tyler was hiding something.

Had she found another man to live with so soon? She just hoped that it wasn't Alec or if they wanted to use her as a witness, it would make things awkward.

Alec went to the station, hoping to catch the chief and was in luck.

"I wasn't staying long," the chief warned him. "Any news on Rose Tyler talking?"

"I'm working on it. I want to get her somewhere safe to stay, where Ashworth won't bother her, so I will call a bed and breakfast establishment and book her in," Alec explained.

"If that's what's needed but I expect you want to put it on our expenses?" the chief asked wryly. "Go ahead but you might only get half of it and that's if she's willing to talk."

"I also got Tess onto it," Alec admitted.

The chief had to laugh at the idea. He thought Alec was trying to rile Tess on purpose.

"As long as she's not staying where you are?"

"I'm moving today, did I not tell you?" Alec asked him.

"You may have done. Be careful you don't get involved with a possible witness Alec," the chief warned him. Then he saw Alec's face. "Alec, I know you have to get close to her, to get her to trust you but I'm being serious. If she has to testify?"

"I'm being careful but getting her to trust me? She's just left a long-term relationship, remember?" Alec replied.

"I'm aware of that fact Alec, don't let her start another one, with you," the chief replied. "It's too late though, isn't it? Alec, don't let anyone find out and warn her as well, since you've not got her to say what she saw that night. You are convinced she knows something?"

"Yes, I know she does and she'll talk to me, soon I hope." Alec told him. "I'll get Tess to interview her."

"Yes, make sure you do. Really Alec, you aren't even divorced yet," the chief reminded him.

Chapter 19
Alec knew he'd made a mistake with the chief but his boss knew now but how far would he be able to go? He would have to be very careful in future, that he did know.

Rose was counting the hours before Alec came to collect her, to take her to his knew flat. He'd never even mentioned where it was but she didn't know the town that well anyway, she'd have got lost even from where she had been staying with him. The house she'd shared with Lee was on the outskirts of the town, on some reclaimed land that had been unused for years, so Lee had told her. She hadn't missed living there the last few days, it had been just that – somewhere to live, not a home.

She felt more at home in the guest house with Alec than she'd done since she'd met Lee. She knew Lee had never loved her and had she really loved him? Now, she knew she was falling in love with Alec, he was the kindest man she'd ever known and it made no difference he was older than her. She expected it made no difference because she'd never known her father and Alec was already showing he wanted to take care of her, not in a fatherly way though but still lovingly. Now, she just had to put her relationship with Lee behind her and not be so afraid of him.

On her break, Claire caught up with her.

"So, was everything okay yesterday?" she asked Rose as she offered to make the coffee. "Did ya sneak that DI in for a haircut?" she grinned.

"No, he's too busy to come in for a haircut Claire," Rose replied. "Especially during the week."

"Well if he comes in again, it had better be for a haircut, you know what gossip is around here and that's not counting the customers," Claire warned her.

"I know that Claire. Oh, you'll want my new address, won't ya?" Rose dared ask, hoping she'd get away with what Alec had told her. "Can I give ya it on Monday, I'm not sure of the number."

"Seeing it's you and ya had to move in a hurry," Claire told her as she handed Rose her drink. "It's a shame you had to move though, I mean having a nice house and someone to go home to."

"It was okay at the start but recently? When Lee was getting home later, I was suspecting something," Rose had to admit.

"You should have got your revenge," Claire smiled over her coffee mug. "Did ya, with that detective?"

"That's not funny Claire," Rose told her. "I was upset over it, I never even thought about it."

She thought that was true enough. How had she let Alec coax her into sharing a room the last few nights and now, move into a flat with him?

"Maybe Lee thought you were cheating as well, with him coming home late?" Claire wondered. "Maybe that was what he expected so he wasn't that bothered?"

Rose began to worry what sort of relationships Claire had been in, though she never talked about the men she dated. Was that the sort of thing Claire really expected? Maybe things were different in Cardiff or where she came from then? She got a shock when she came out of the break room though, Alec was sitting there next to another man, reading yesterday's newspaper. He'd got the keys for the flat, gathered everything from the guest house and just left everything in the new flat, hoping Rose would be free to cut his hair.

He just hoped she'd no appointments and she wouldn't be too flustered in front of her boss. He saw her talking to Claire as they emerged from their break, having told the Saturday girl Yvonne he hoped Rose was free.

"She can fit you in after her break," the girl had told him, having checked Rose was free for half an hour and she would have been doing the other man's hair.

So he'd gone to sit down, hoping no-one else recognised him except for the staff but two women were sat with curlers in their hair next to the sink and were talking and nodding in his direction. Rose had gone to the desk instead of to Alec, just a formality Claire insisted on if someone came in without an appointment asking for a certain stylist.

"Anyone asking for me?" she asked Yvonne, leaning over the girl's shoulder and looking at the screen where the time slots were and Yvonne had put in 'taken' in Rose's row of appointments for that time.

Claire also had a policy of customers not having to give their names if they didn't want to if they came in off the street but little did anyone know she was about to change all that to comply with the taxman.

"Yeah, that man with over there," she pointed in Alec's direction.

"Which one?" Rose asked, pretending she didn't know but she didn't recognise the other man though she was thankful Lee wasn't being spiteful enough to come in and ruin the day.

"Everyone knows who he is Rose, he's been on the TV," Yvonne laughed. "Don't know why he asked for you though?"

Rose indicated to Alec to take the chair her clients took.

"I did say I would come in," Alec told her as he took his jacket off and checked the pockets.

He put his phone and wallet on the shelf in front of him, where he could see them.

"Good thing I was free then?" Rose smiled at him through the mirror and getting a funny look from Claire, who had taken the other male customer.

Did Claire look disappointed Alec had come in and asked for her?

"Ah, yes," Alec seemed all flustered.

It was strange to him having his hair cut by his potential girlfriend, though they'd not actually established that so far. Did she already think of him as her boyfriend, he wondered as she put a black cape around him then she ruffled his hair. He thought back to the night before, he'd been hoping she would do that then, when they were kissing.

He sat silently while Rose trimmed his hair, her not wanting to make it too short but only because she may regret it, if she did fancy ruffling his hair later. Alec was just glad she'd not met him several weeks ago, when his hair had been plastered back and he'd looked the way Tess had wanted him to look, that of being unattractive to women.

"Is that okay?" Rose asked him nervously.

He looked at himself in the mirror, wondering if he should keep the makings of a beard at that length. He thought he should maybe ask her later, since she was at least kissing him.

"That's fine," he replied as she held another mirror so he could see the back.

Rose brushed the hairs from the back of his neck then took the cape off. She took him over to the desk but didn't have time to talk, since her next appointment had arrived. He did take her to one side though.

"I thought I could at least come in today, as a customer, since I was busy yesterday," he told her.

"Yeah. It was a bit of a surprise," she admitted. "See ya later?"

"I have a few things to get for my new flat," he replied, trying not to say their flat.

He went off to pay and Rose went to her next client, all the while having Claire looking at her.

Just before five, when they were tidying up, Claire caught hold of her.

"So, he finally came in as a customer?" Claire seemed amused.

"You did say if he came in again, he had to be," Rose reminded her.

"Was he supposed to have come in yesterday?" Claire wanted to know.

"How do I know?" Rose dared to reply.

"Stop pretending you don't fancy him Rose," Claire sounded annoyed. "You're a free agent now you've dumped Lee," she continued, so everyone else could hear.

Rose tried not to blush but failed. Was she rushing into something with Alec?

"Claire, he's investigating what happened to Pippa and he's trying to find Lisa, " Rose asked her.

She cringed that she almost knew what happened to Pippa, but where had Lisa gone? Did Lee actually have something to do with her disappearance as well? Had Lisa regretted Lee enticing her or she enticing him to have sex that night and she'd run off for fear of Cate and Ricky finding out? Lisa can't have known what Lee was going to do about it, unless she'd helped him after Ricky had left?

She was all mixed up about it, that was for sure, trying to remember what she had supposed had happened that night, then Lee drugging her. He was so good at talking himself out of anything, had he just gone along with what she thought had happened? Claire snapped her out of it.

"So are you moving tonight or have you already left?" Claire was asking her.

"What? Oh, all my stuff's ready, I just have to move it. I have tomorrow to get sorted."

"You hated being in just one room before, that's how you got talked into sharing with Lee," Claire laughed.

"Don't remind me," Rose told her. "Best get going then?"

Rose walked towards the main road, where Alec was waiting for her. She didn't know Claire had got even more suspicious and had seen her hurrying along but from that distance, Claire couldn't see if Rose was meeting anyone or not. Alec drove them out to their new home and showed off by claiming his parking spot, making Rose laugh.

"So, are ya gonna park here all the time?" Rose asked as they got out, taking a shopping bag from him. "We could have gone to the supermarket later."

"You want to be seen in the supermarket with me?" he smiled as he got the rest of the things.

"I don't care Alec, I don't know that many people around the town anyway. Maybe you might run into someone who knows you though?"

"Don't worry, non of Tess's friends shop at that supermarket," Alec assured her.

"Not posh enough for them?" Rose teased him.

Alec smiled as he let them in, knowing she was already relaxing around him.

"It's not that Rose and you know it. We have to be very careful at present. I booked you into a cheap guest house that won't question your absence, you can have your mail sent there and call in once or twice a week. I just explained you are a witness in an investigation and you needed a mailing address while you were in protective custody."

"You have done this before," Rose teased him as they unpacked the frozen food first.

"It's not that Rose, I need to know it will throw anyone off, if they get any idea we are involved. The chief agreed to keep your whereabouts quiet for now but that could change," he tried to explain.

"Geez, what did I get myself into, living next to Pippa and her parents?" Rose replied.

"You could make it easier on yourself and tell me what else happened that night," he reminded her.

"What makes ya think anything else happened?" she wanted to know, handing him some packets of frozen veg.

"The detective part of me. I know when someone is hiding something," he hesitated to say. "I don't mean to frighten you away Rose but if Ashworth warned you not to say anything, that to me means you know something else. Do you want to tell me or Tess?"

Rose didn't want to tell either of them. She was also afraid Alec would leave her and she really would have to move to where he'd booked her in.

"It's best you tell me," he continued. "I know he told you to stay quiet Rose but you just can't, not if it finds Pippa's killer. Tell Tess you will meet with her on your day off, if you would rather talk to her."

Rose took it the wrong way.

"Fine, if you'd rather I talked to her," Rose huffed as she shoved the rest of the food into his arms and went to sit at the kitchen table.

He hurriedly put them in the freezer and sat opposite her, trying to put his hand on hers but she pulled away.

"I never meant it like that Rose. I would be more than happy to listen to anything else you have to say but we'd best make it official. I promise I will be there when she interviews you so we can leave it for now. Now, we have another decision to make – do you want your own room?" he smiled at her, getting up and holding his hand out to her.

Rose was still in a huff.

"I'll have my own for now – thanks," she told him.

She made a move but he stopped her.

"Rose, let's not start off sharing like this, please?"

Rose started to think maybe she had been a bit off with him.

"Sorry, I didn't mean it," she relented, letting him approach her and put his arms around her shoulders.

"It's okay, you're just nervous and all this has happened so fast. Have you own room if you wish, it's fine."

"I don't want to be on my own Alec, sorry. I'll talk to Tess, I don't want you gettin' in any trouble."

"I'm already in trouble with Tess," he joked. "She's annoyed the chief and I are not letting her in on what we have planned."

"Well she would be annoyed then?" Rose laughed nervously, putting her arms around him, as far as they would go.

He leaned down and kissed her lightly on her lips.

"You are free of Ashworth now, remember that. If he bothers you again, tell me and I will warn him."

"Geez Alec, that could make him worse. I'll just get Claire to ban him."

"He could wait for you but I will try to be there to pick you up," Alec told her.

"Alec, I'm not sure but Claire may make a play for him, she fancied him before I started seeing him," Rose admitted.

"You had best warn her what he's like then," he replied, not liking the idea, if it brought Rose even more trouble.

"She knows Alec and I think she likes the way he acts. She didn't approve of the way he treated me but who knows?"

"Even though she knew he was cheating on you?" Alec wondered.

"That's just it Alec, maybe she wouldn't be bothered? She never talks about her past relationships. Can we call for a takeout, I don't really feel like cooking."

"Well just this once eh?" Alec smiled at her. "Oh, you need both addresses, don't get them mixed up."

"I'll have to learn how to get to town and back on my own you know?" she smiled back.

After they'd eaten and put everything away, they relaxed watching TV for a while then Rose went to get ready for bed, Alec being pleased she'd not chosen to sleep alone. They kissed for a while before Rose got comfortable on him and fell asleep. He hadn't tried to get her to do more, he figured she would come round to it in her own time.

If he pushed her, he'd be no better than the man she'd just left. The next morning, they fooled around for a while, Rose teasing him then decided to take a trip to the shopping mall to get a few furnishing like cushions and Rose wanted a different roller blind in the bathroom, Alec saying it had better be one with the same fittings so he could just change them over.

Just before they set off though, Daisy called him.

"So, can I see your new flat then?" she asked.

"Maybe next weekend eh?" he tried to get out of it.

"Dad, you're not hiding anything are you, like you've actually got a new girlfriend?" she decided to tease him. "Is it the one you talked about before?" she giggled.

"Stop it Daisy, I just have to get things sorted this weekend, I don't want to bore you by dragging you around looking at mirrors and suchlike."

"Yeah, leave me out," Daisy laughed. "You promised you'd tell me if you got a girlfriend though, remember?"

"Yes, I remember and there is someone, though I'm not exactly sure if she thinks of herself as my girlfriend," he smiled at Rose.

He knew that was true, their relationship was still at its early stages.

"Well when you decide, don't forget to tell me," Daisy laughed.

Her mother had heard her and she also wanted to know.

"Mum, he won't admit it," she told Tess.

"He's hiding something Daisy, trust me and it had better not be our star witness," Tess told her.

Tess had decided after her call to Rose that while Alec was right, he was doing very little to get her to talk and she had learned he was going to stash Rose away somewhere. Rose hadn't been very forthcoming about where she was moving to, which made her even more suspicious something was going on between the two of them.

How could Alec be so stupid as to get involved with the one witness who may know what really happened that night, she wondered. She made her mind up to phone Rose first thing on Monday morning and tell her to call into the station for another interview and if Alec were to be present, she'd soon see how the two of them acted around each other.

The question was though, if they were involved, would it jeopardise any chances of Rose being believed, if she knew more than she was letting on? She was sure the chief knew something though, otherwise Alec would have got a stern warning about tampering with a witness and she was worried just how he was already tampering with Rose Tyler. When she'd heard Daisy asking him if he had a new girlfriend, she was just waiting for him to let slip who it was.

On Monday morning, Rose found out the bus into town went from the end of the road so she insisted she'd go on her own and Alec would pick her up. She was just checking the time of the next bus when Tess called her.

"Is it your day off tomorrow?" Tess asked her. "If so, can you come in and answer a few more questions and sign a statement about what I asked you the other day?"

"Yeah, okay but I don't know what there is to ask me about," Rose agreed.

Tess thought she had plenty to ask Rose, one question being was she sleeping with Alec and having sex with him? They had only just separated and he had the nerve to go on about herself and Dave. She went off to work and decided not to confront Alec about it, she would let him think she had no suspicions and let him squirm in front of Daisy next weekend.

When Alec got to his office, he already knew Tess would try to find out if he did have a girlfriend before Daisy did. The chief called him and wanted to confirm where he'd moved Rose to.

"I got a call from personnel, who themselves got told we were paying for a room to be reserved for Miss Tyler at the 'Belle-Vue' guest house in Wilmington Street," the chief told him.

"I had to get her to trust us," Alec defended his actions. "She had to feel safe."

"Well you had better get her to talk Alec and soon. Tess just told me she asked Miss Tyler to come in tomorrow, you'd best hope she can get our witness to talk."

Alec hung up and was about to ask Tess if she was going to tell him about asking Rose to come in when Rose called before she started work.

"Alec, she knows," Rose was trying to tell him.

"It will be a formal interview Rose, she won't ask any personal questions," he tried to assure her.

"Well okay but there's something else. I was right, about Claire fancying Lee. I gave her that address for the guest house and she asked me if the split with Lee was final. She's gonna take up with him Alec, what am I supposed to do? I have to work with her while she goes on about him in front of everyone."

Chapter 20
Alec thought that was all Rose needed – seeing her boss with Lee Ashworth.

"Try not to worry about that yet, let's concentrate on this interview eh?" he asked Rose.

"Easy for you to say," Rose replied quietly. "I'd better go before someone comes in, I don't want anyone to know I'm involved in that case."

"Wait for me after work and if Ashworth turns up, don't talk to him," Alec advised her.

Rose was hoping Lee wouldn't turn up but he had the number of the salon, would he contact Claire? Then she remembered Claire had his number for emergencies and maybe she'd use it? She bumped into Claire as she was going back to work.

"So, how's the guest house then?" Claire asked her.

"It's not much but its okay for now, it's better than facing Lee right now. I feel so angry with him," Rose told her.

"Well if you weren't keeping him happy, what do ya expect?" Claire laughed.

"I thought you were on my side?" Rose asked, a bit surprised. "Anyway, it's over now, I'm not with him any more. Why are ya so bothered anyway?" Rose asked her.

"Well if he keeps coming around looking for ya, I don't want any arguments between the two of ya on the shop floor," Claire replied.

"You won't, trust me," Rose laughed.

Alec was waiting for her after work, Tess no longer saying anything when he left a bit earlier as he'd always given her the same answer anyway. She thought of following him but did she really want to see who he was meeting, though the feeling it was Rose Tyler was getting stronger. She went in to see the chief instead.

"What can I do for you Tess?" the chief asked wearily.

"Alec's leaving earlier than anyone else and I think I know why," Tess told him as she sat down.

"Tess, don't carry over your jealousy at work," the chief warned her. "I expect he has things to do and he takes less time for lunch or whatever or he misses his breaks."

"It's not as simple as that," Tess argued. "I think he's meeting Rose Tyler, the possible witness for the night Pippa died."

"Tess, he had to get her to trust him you know?" the chief pointed out.

"There are other ways of getting her to trust us," Tess replied, not happy the chief was defending her soon to be ex husband.

"Is she coming in for an interview?" the chief wanted to know.

"Yes, some time tomorrow, I'm doing the interview, I want to see how they react around each other," Tess gloated.

"A word of warning Tess, have you considered Alec is only doing this to get her to talk?"

"That remains to be seen, he might be taking it a bit too seriously," Tess admitted. "Do you know about it?"

"He only said he needs to gain her trust Tess," he reminded her, moving the folder Alec had given him about his progress so far with the witness.

He thought he'd best not mention Alec had put Rose Tyler in a guest house to protect her from Lee Ashworth though what she needed protecting from, he'd not asked. If they had parted on bad terms and she was about to implicate the man in what happened that night, she needed to hide.

"Do you know if Alec's hiding her somewhere?" Tess continued.

"You'll have to ask him," the chief smiled.

"I'll find out when she comes in tomorrow, if he's hiding her, it had better not be with him," Tess huffed. "Does he even realise he'll be jeopardising any chance we have of being able to use her testimony?"

"I'm sure he's considered it Tess, there's no proof to the contrary that he has just found her somewhere safe to stay," the chief replied tiredly.

"Well I mean to find out tomorrow," Tess replied with determination.

"Why are you taking it personally Tess?" the chief asked as she got up.

"Really? He has the nerve to talk about me and the fact I cheated on him and he's probably playing around with our witness," Tess reminded him. "We're only separated."

"I'm sure he knows not to get personally involved with her Tess. Like I already said, he's just trying to gain her confidence. If you're so bothered about it, make an official complaint and I'll take him off the case and put you in charge, if that's what you're after?"

Tess did know her limits and she didn't want to be in charge of a murder investigation when the only possible witness wouldn't talk and they'd no suspects as yet.

"No Sir, I don't want to be in charge but if Alec's taken off the case, I suppose I'll have to be. You know how involved he is with her and you're not telling me," Tess accused him.

"Whether or not I know is irrelevant Tess. I'll only let him go so far, if he is more involved than he should be. Just remember, she's not likely to take any notice of him even if he asks her to say something she didn't see. We have to trust she'll tell the truth."

Tess just hoped Alec would sit quietly during the interview and let her ask all the questions. Rose and Alec had got back home and were making dinner when Tess called him, Alec indicating to Rose to stay quiet.

"You know that interview with our witness is my idea?" Tess asked him. "Just how are you gaining her confidence Alec?"

"What are you trying to infer Tess?" he asked as he stirred the contents of the saucepan.

"You know what I mean Alec, we need her to tell us what she knows. If it leads to an arrest, the press will get hold of it and if you're involved with her, think of the implications."

Alec hung up and turned to Rose.

"We need to talk," he said solemnly.

"I know Alec. I should leave and go to that guest house," Rose replied as Alec turned the stove off.

"No, not now Rose. You can move in there if things change, Tess just pointed out the press may get hold of anything you tell us."

"Ya mean they'll start following me? That's just great Alec," she told him as he got the plates out of the cupboard.

"Not yet. Rose, whatever you're hiding, I'll do everything I can to stop your name being released. I promise."

Rose knew she just had to trust him. She had to tell them what she witnessed that night and about how Lee had drugged Pippa as well as herself. What had stopped Lee from getting some help for the young girl? What else was she going to say before Lee had come upstairs with those drinks?

When they got to bed, Rose surprised Alec, making the first move by going to lie on him.

"Alec, can we just try one thing at a time?" she asked him as he held her, placing his hand under her.

"Anything you want," he whispered in her ear, then kissing it. "When you are ready, maybe I can show you how gentle and pleasurable being with a man can be? Rose, did Ashworth hurt you in any way?"

"No, thankfully," Rose sighed as she could feel him through his shorts. "I was hoping one day he'd say he loved me."

"I know love, you told me. Not all men are like him. Don't let his threat stop you telling me what happened, it's probably his insurance you won't talk to us."

Rose wanted to be certain Alec was right about Lee but in the back of her mind she still had doubts. She was certain that Alec was serious about him knowing Lee was somehow involved with what had happened. He was far too clever for her and she hoped he didn't have an ulterior motive for getting involved with her.

The next morning, making breakfast, Alec went over what would happen at the interview.

"How am I gonna stop Tess from asking if I'm involved with you?" she asked worriedly.

"She won't dare ask in front of me so stop worrying eh? Just give your address as the one I set up for you, it's just a formality but if anything happens today, my chief may object to keeping it funded."

"What do ya mean by something happening?" Rose asked.

Alec leaned back on the counter as she buttered the toast and indicated for him to pass the marmalade jar. He absentmindedly picked it up and taking the lid off, stuck a finger in it and was about to put it in his mouth. Rose gave him a look so he passed the jar then licked the substance off. Was that why Tess was divorcing him, Rose mused to herself.

"Rose, if you don't say what really happened that night, she may hold you for withholding information, I'm serious love. We have no-one but Ashworth as a person of interest. He refuses to say anything other than he saw the girls earlier that evening. I need a reason to get him to talk. Think about it before you have the interview, Tess will want all the details of what you did that night and what happened when you go home."

"I already told ya," Rose replied, taking the plate of toast over to the table.

"You told us what Ashworth allowed you to say," he reminded her as he wiped his fingers after washing them and picked up the mugs of tea. "I knew the minute you spoke he'd told you to stay quiet. You admitted he told you not to get involved but you are."

"Then Tess will charge me with withholding information," Rose objected.

"No she won't, she knows Ashworth was stopping you and making you stay quiet. She'll take that into consideration but you have to tell her the truth and tell her what he threatened you with."

"You mean I have to tell her, about how I wouldn't give into him? It's embarrassing," she replied. "I'm not sure I want that going on my statement, it's personal."

"I'm sorry love but there's no other way. Tess will understand you were scared of him and it prevented you coming forward sooner. I know it's personal but it shows what he's capable of and what sort of man he is. Now, you know the address of that guest house?" he asked, just to make sure.

"Yeah, I know but after today, I probably will be staying there so it had better be cheap," Rose told him.

"Don't say that love. Whatever you have to say, I know it was Ashworth's hold over you that stopped you from telling us sooner about it. If we get him in for a formal interview, we can confront him with it."

"Don't say that Alec, please? What if ya let him go and he comes after me?"

"Will we be letting him go?" he asked her. "As long as you tell us the events as far as you know, up until you being drugged and the next morning, we can keep him for a while. Rose, you have to tell us why he changed the floorboards and the other things he did."

"I don't know Alec, honestly I don't. Can we leave this until later?"

"Sorry. I just want an end to this fear you have of him," Alec replied. "Why did you say you may move away?"

"Leave it Alec. It was just ya might not want to be involved with me any more and what if Tess and your chief find out about us?"

"Rose, they already suspect and apart from a warning from my chief, he's left it for now. I have to get going so I will see you there, okay?" he asked as he got up to clear the table.

"Yeah, okay then. I'll resist the urge to give you a great big kiss when I arrive then?" she tried to smile.

After kissing goodbye, Alec went off to try to think of another way of getting Ashworth in other than he being formally arrested, wherever he was. He got Lee's number when he arrived in his office, having thought of a suitable excuse.

"You want me to what?" Lee asked when Alec had asked him to come in for some routine questioning.

"We're asking several men from the area to come in, including the girl's father. We also need a DNA sample, if you've not already provided one," Alec told him, trying to remember if he'd seen anything about it.

"I'm not comfortable with giving DNA samples out just like that," Lee objected.

"Not even if it rules you out as a suspect?" Alec wanted to know, thinking that was a better idea to get the man to come in.

"I didn't know I was a suspect, Hardy is it? Have you been talking to my ex girlfriend?" Lee laughed.

"Should I have been?" Alec was now curious and trying to throw suspicion off Rose. "Maybe we should ask her a few more questions then?"

He hoped that wouldn't prompt the man to try and find Rose but at least if she talked, Ashworth would think he'd forced the truth out of her.

Lee had stopped what he was doing to answer the phone but stood there afterwards. Was Hardy onto him or had Rose already talked? Maybe he should finish up here and go pay a visit to Claire, she might know, since Rose seemed to tell her boss everything.

Making up an excuse he needed more materials to the blonde who had been watching him bend over and his t-shirt had ridden up at the back and he might or might not take her upstairs later, he made his way towards town then parked on the main road opposite the hair salon. Going in, Claire happened to be at the desk.

"Rose isn't in today Lee," she told him.

"I know, it's you I wanted to talk to, if you can spare the time," he replied, looking around.

"Yeah, I can take a break," Claire grinned. "If it's about her breaking up with you though, I had nothing to do with it."

"Did I say that?" Lee leaned forward to whisper in her ear.

Claire flinched as he put his hand on her shoulder and his finger then touched her cheek.

He followed her into the break room and made his move on her. Claire was taken by surprise but kissed him back, Lee running his hands all over her back and going for the zip on her top and she going for his t-shirt, bunching it up as he uncovered her cleavage enough to make contact.

"Not here," Claire whimpered as he went for her black stretchy leggings and she instinctively went for the zip of his jeans.

He just grinned in return, pulled her leggings and underwear down in one go then finished unzipping his jeans, dragging her behind the door so she had her back to it, then lifted her up so her legs were over his hips.

"Keep quiet then," he replied, kissing her hard then feeling no resistance, unlike with Rose, had his way with her.

Claire tried not to make any noise as she let him do what he wanted, knowing he'd cheated on Rose more than once but she had always wanted him to do this to her, even before she started inviting Rose to the same parties. Why hadn't he made a play for her before though, she wondered as she was sure those who weren't styling client's hair were listening at the door for the pair of them moaning and maybe they were trying not to laugh out loud.

She didn't care though as a jolt ran through her, knowing he had hit the mark, so to speak and she tried to come down from her high.

"Gawd Lee, I know you just split from Rose but I thought you'd been cheating on her," Claire managed to gasp as he let her back on her feet.

"Not for the last day or so, no young b*tch*s to pin to the door or get on the floor," Lee laughed.

Claire raised her hand to slap his face but he managed to stop her, his other hand trying to pull up his jeans and zip them up.

She swore at him as she was pulling up her underwear and leggings at the same time. Instead of trying to slap him again she pulled him down, grabbing his belt and hovering on his jeans zip that wasn't quite all the way up.

He stopped her from pulling it down again by tapping her hand.

"Later. Where do you live again?" he asked as he pulled his t-shirt back down and Claire pulled the zip up on her top.

"I never told you. So, why did you really come here Lee? To drown your sorrows over your ex?" she grinned.

"Is that what you think? I'm well rid of her, trust me. Will she suspect anything?" he wanted to know.

"Not from me, don't know about that lot out there," Claire laughed. "Still, they probably thought the same when that detective was in here with her last week."

"Was he now?" Lee asked, thinking he had been right and Rose and Hardy were up to something. "They were in here a while?"

"Yeah, then he rang her later, it was the day they found that young girl," Claire told him, still trying to recover.

She'd had a first time with a boy who had lived near her, back in the Welsh village she'd lived in with her grandmother before getting involved with the wrong people and she'd had to leave. What she'd just experienced with Lee made that seem like it hadn't actually happened.

Lee got his phone out of his jeans pocket and handed it to Claire.

"Put your phone number in then," he suggested.

"Cheek," Claire tried to sound serious as she tapped her number in then saved it. "So are ya gonna call me later then?"

"If I can't find anyone else," he joked. "I'm booked in a guest house for a few nights but maybe I can move in with you?"

"Huh? Not if ya gonna wander off like ya did with Rose and did ya just come here for sex or was there something else?"

"I forgot," Lee grinned, taking his phone back. "Want some company later?"

"I told Rose there wasn't room for two at my place, when she said she was leaving you," Claire admitted.

"Why's that then? Only got one bedroom?" he asked. "That won't be a problem, will it?"

He pinned her up against the door again, kissing her hard so Claire had to catch her breath as she battled his hand that had gone down the front of her underwear. She squirmed as she felt his fingers on her but didn't try to stop him. He stopped suddenly, Claire annoyed he had deprived her of some pleasure.

"I have to get back to work," he reminded himself.

"Don't think you're moving in permanently," she warned him as he moved her away from the door. "You can stay until you find somewhere else but only because you were good."

Lee opened the door, letting Claire go first but feeling her through her thin leggings from behind. Claire was surprised everyone was where they were supposed to be, only maybe a bit too perfectly for her liking and they'd taken it in turns to listen at the door then rushed back to where they should have been. Everyone did look around though as Lee was behind her.

She was going to be having words with them before they left, about eavesdropping during working hours. Lee went off back to his van then to the timber yard, thinking his luck had changed and maybe he should have picked Claire in the first place, instead of Rose. He wouldn't stay with Claire long though, the length of time he'd been with Rose had been too long and he'd finally run out of patience with her.

Just let her try telling the police anything though, he'd still carry out his threat – or would he? Maybe the thought of it would keep Rose scared enough not to say what he'd done that night? Had she and Hardy already taken up with each other or was she holding back like she'd done with him? Maybe Hardy wouldn't be as patient though?

After Alec had left the flat, Rose got ready to go be questioned by Tess but she wasn't looking forward to being face to face with the soon to be ex Mrs Hardy. Was Tess going to bring up that she suspected herself and Alec were already having an affair?

She got on the bus and went past where she worked, not seeing Lee's van parked since she was sitting on the opposite side and got off a few stops later. She was amused by the fact that the police station was next to the town hall and the court building but she was losing her nerve as she went up the few steps and to the front desk and the desk sergeant looked up from writing something.

"Can I help you Miss?" Rose was asked.

"Yeah, I'm here to see DS Hardy," she replied nervously.

"You mean DS Henchard? She went back to her maiden name. Is she expecting you?"

Rose nodded as he picked up the desk phone after asking her name.

Chapter 21
Rose was told to take a seat and Tess would be with her shortly. She wasn't looking forward to this in the slightest and if Alec hadn't said he'd be there, she may have backed out. Despite him assuring her she wouldn't be staying in that guest house tonight, she still wasn't convinced he'd be happy to hear what she'd been hiding.

Tess had told the desk sergeant she'd be down shortly to see Rose then she tapped on Alec's door.

"Rose Tyler's here, are you joining the interview?" she asked him. "As if you'd miss it," she added, being sarcastic Alec thought.

He looked over the top of his rimless glasses, then took them off, rubbing his eyes.

"Not enough sleep?" Tess wondered.

"We're getting nowhere with this case Tess, let's hope she has something valuable for us to use. I thought about bringing Lee Ashworth in. I called him, he's not happy about coming in but he got the message."

"Well you'd better hope he does come in then," Tess replied as Alec put his jacket on.

"You remember me?" Tess asked Rose as she and Alec entered the reception area.

Rose nodded. "Yeah. Is this a formal interview?"

Alec looked at Tess, daring her to say it was.

"No, not just yet. We're only interested in your side of the story the night Pippa was killed and Lisa went missing. We'll go in a less formal room."

Alec indicated for her to go first, trying not to show any emotion and stopping himself from putting his arms around her. After they all got settled, Tess spoke again.

"You told us you were out that night Rose and that you were late home because of the bus services. When you got off the bus and walked from the main road, was anyone around? Did you see any sign of Pippa or Lisa?" Tess asked her.

"No, there was no-one around. It's not far to walk but as I got into the street, no-one was hanging around," Rose told her.

"Was there a light on next door?" Alec asked her.

"Oh. I never noticed," Rose replied, surprised at the question. "It's hard to tell really, the blind's always pulled down."

"Did you see anyone in the shadows across from both houses?" Tess wanted to know before Alec asked any more questions.

"Nothing caught my eye," Rose answered.

"You went inside, then what happened?" Alec asked, daring Tess to stop him. "Where was Lee?"

"I took my jacket off and hung it up at the bottom of the stairs," Rose recalled, which she had, she'd seen Pippa and then hung it up as Pippa was crying.

She knew she'd slip up so maybe it was best to get it over with. Alec sensed she was hesitating to say anything else so he leaned forward.

"Rose, was anyone else there? Did Lee come out into the hallway?"

"Not at first, I've been out before, he usually pops his head around the door," Rose replied nervously.

"Rose, you have to tell us if anyone else was there," Tess reminded her as Rose fidgeted.

Alec was wanting to know the answer, it could finally break the case. The way Ashworth had responded when asked for a DNA sample had already set the alarm bells off, he knew the man had something to do with it and Rose knew it. He was glad he'd documented Ashworth had drugged her but not that she had any tests.

He took a sheet of paper out of the folder he'd brought in with him.

"This is what you told me when I last spoke to you about that evening. You said he'd brought you a drink and you fell asleep and that you suspected he had drugged you," he reminded her.

"Is that true Rose?" Tess asked her, hearing it for the first time and not so surprised Alec had kept it quiet but covered himself.

"Yeah, I was out like a light and mentioned it to him," Rose nodded towards Alec.

"I asked Rose a few questions when I'd been to see Cate Gillespie," Alec used the excuse. "Rose, I know you would not talk in front of Lee but he's not here and we've taken precautions and moved you somewhere safe. Was someone else there when you got home?"

"Yeah," she started to say, running her tongue on her top lip and Alec trying not to stare. "Pippa was sitting on the stairs. Lee threatened me if I said anything, I told Alec, I mean DI Hardy. When the police came the next morning, he told me we shouldn't get involved."

"Why was Pippa there?" Tess now wanted to know.

Alec was not wanting to prompt Rose into saying Lisa had left her there to go after the man Lee had chased off earlier.

"She was crying so I sat next to her, on the bottom step. She said she was worried about Lisa," Rose finally admitted. "She said she'd heard her and Lee, Lisa thought she was upstairs in the spare bedroom."

"She heard Lisa and Lee?" Alec repeated.

"She said she'd crept downstairs, Lisa had put her up there after Lee chased that Gary away." Rose replied.

"Rose, why didn't you tell us this before?" Tess wanted to know.

"She's already told us she was scared of Ashworth," Alec replied for her. "Rose, what did he threaten you with?" he asked her, not wanting to admit he already knew.

"Will it go in my statement?" Rose asked worriedly.

"We'll try and keep it out, for now," Tess replied.

"He said if I told the police anything that got him arrested or questioned for more than routine, he'd force me into giving in to him. I'd always held back, he'd been fine with it but I found out he'd been cheating on me, with his female customers," Rose admitted.

"Was he cheating with anyone else?" Alec asked as he raised his eyebrows.

"He admitted he cheated with Cate when we argued. I told him we should have said Pippa had been there. There's more. Can I have a drink?"

Tess got up.

"We'll take a break then? I'll have some drinks brought in."

Rose said she wanted coffee so as Tess went off, Alec leaned forward and took Rose's hands.

"You're doing fine. Why couldn't you have told me eh?" he asked quietly, letting go of her hands in case Tess came back.

"I couldn't, not after so long Alec. I thought you'd stop seeing me."

"It does not matter how long it had been, you've known that and had to stay quiet about it all this time. You have to tell us the rest when Tess comes back."

"I know but you keep staring at me, it's not helping," Rose managed to smile.

Tess came back, then a WPC knocked on the door, carrying a tray of drinks. They had just talked in general while they had waited then finished their drinks.

"Are you settling in your new accommodation?" Tess was asking Rose.

Rose wondered what to say so she went with what she'd told Claire.

"It's a small room but it's okay. I'll have to see if I can get a flat to share, I don't want to stay there for long."

"Rose, do you think Ashworth was just threatening you into silence or would he carry out the threat?" Alec wanted to know.

"Alec, she's scared enough without you asking that," Tess scolded him.

Alec began to wonder when Tess had suddenly taken Rose's side instead of trying to find out if the two of them were already sleeping with each other.

"Yeah, I believe he would, why do ya think I agreed to be put somewhere?" Rose tried to sound annoyed with him.

She just hoped Tess didn't want all the details as to when and how she'd moved. Then she thought she'd go with what had happened when she was leaving Lee, if she was asked. Maybe that was what Alec intended her to do anyway.

"Tell us what happened with Pippa," Tess prompted her.

"She was crying, saying she was worried 'cos she'd heard Lee and Lisa, in the living room and it had gone quiet. Then Lee came out, he told me to take her back upstairs and he'd make her some hot chocolate. I got her back into bed, she was still upset so I sat beside her."

"What did she say about Lisa and Lee?" Alec wanted to know.

"That she'd heard noises like her mum and dad made when they were having sex," Rose replied, finishing the last drops of her now cold coffee.

"So Ashworth was also cheating on you with Lisa?" Alec asked, thinking she'd omitted to tell him sooner.

"Yeah. She didn't have chance to tell me any more, Lee came up with the drinks and a few minutes later, he took the mug off her as she was falling asleep. Then I felt dizzy and wanted to close my eyes and the next thing I knew, I woke up in my own bedroom. I remembered Pippa had been there and ran into the spare room but she was gone."

"Do you think Lee drugged you and Pippa?" Tess asked her.

Now Alec knew he had some explaining to do. It wasn't fair to expect Rose to do it, he'd told his friend to keep the test Rose had done quiet.

"Ricky liked to use it, he'd given some to Lee so yeah, I'd say he used it," Rose replied. "How else would I have been out like a light?"

Alec was relieved she'd covered it up so well.

"You said Pippa was as well, why would he use it?" he wanted to know.

"I have no idea but we had a row over it, before the police said Pippa was missing," Rose told them. "Why do ya think Lee said to keep quiet? He told me Lisa had come back and taken Pippa with her."

"So she wasn't drugged then?" Tess asked.

"I was never told when Lisa came back, it could have been before I woke up or the night before," Rose answered her.

"Well I think we need to be having a few more words with Lee Ashworth," Alec turned to Tess. "Rose, we will have to make this official now, you need to write all this down, including what happened before you were told not to say anything."

"When did you begin to realise Lisa and Lee had sex?" Tess asked her.

"He finally admitted it. I told him to sleep in the spare room and that I was gonna leave him," Rose replied.

Tess went off to get a WPC to escort Rose to write everything down and Alec called Lee again.

"I need you to come to the station now," Alec told him.

"What's the hurry?" Lee wanted to know. "You got Rose to talk then? What's she been telling you?"

"You know we can't say," Alec replied. "We have some questions for you."

After the call, Alec took over from the WPC and sat opposite Rose.

"Rose, you have to put anything else you know in this statement, then we can ask Lee some questions as to why he drugged you and possibly Pippa," he told her, knowing the cameras were on. "So Lee admitted he and Lisa had sex that night?"

"Yeah, not at first though, he tried to deny it," Rose replied as she stopped writing.

Alec indicated for her to continue.

"So he admitted, about Cate as well? So why did he have the drug?"

"I don't know. I was a bit groggy when I woke up, then the police came round."

"Did Ricky ask you if you'd seen Pippa?" he asked.

"Lee said he'd been round, I was getting up," she replied.

"You should write this all down," he indicated to the large writing pad.

Rose wondered how much of it she was meant to use. He sat back and watched her, sometimes she'd put the end of the pen in her mouth while she was thinking how to put everything into words and then she would lean over the paper and concentrate. He wondered what the hell had happened that day in their house.

Rose wrote down that she vaguely remembered Lee mentioning he was going to stain the living room floorboards and him wanting to then put new ones down and she also mentioned he'd washed the net curtain. Thinking she couldn't write down his admittance he'd given the young girl more of the drug than her body could deal with, she was about to sign the statement.

"I'll get this typed up, then you can go," Alec told her as he skimmed over it. "You don't say why he washed the curtain."

Rose knew he'd asked that before but he couldn't admit it.

"He never said. I've written everything else down," she replied.

She so wanted to go to him right now, for him to put his arms around her and comfort her. She knew if he did though, Tess would make more of it and accuse him of trying to get her to say more than she actually saw.

"One more thing Rose," Alec interrupted her signing the statement when he'd passed it back. "May we search the house you shared with Lee?" he asked, wanting to make it formal.

Rose went in her purse and produced the set of keys she'd kept back and put them on the table.

"I kept them, I've not changed my address at the post office yet. Do ya need me to be there? Lee will have moved all his stuff out."

"It's best you are not present during the search. You mentioned before he had washed the living room curtain, had he washed anything else?" Alec pretended he'd not been told before.

"Yeah, the cushion cover. Didn't ya ask before?"

"I would have to refer to my notes," Alec smiled back. "I may have done. You said Pippa had been in the spare room? When I looked around, the morning the girls were reported missing, I did notice a chair cushion had no cover on it. Would that be the one he washed?"

"Yeah, I don't know why, there was nothing wrong with it, it didn't smell or anything," Rose replied.

Then she started to panic and she knew she was going to have to tell him the rest of it, how she'd accused Lee of giving Pippa too much of that drug and not trying to revive her. She realised he had used the cushion to finish the poor girl off, then washed the cover so no traces of her could be found on it.

She looked across at Alec, she knew he already suspected so maybe he'd believe her but she'd kept quiet all this time. She had only speculated what had happened and thinking Ricky had been there, anything else she could tell him was only that, since she knew Lee couldn't be believed half the time.

"I don't think I should sign this just yet," she told him, putting the pen down.

"Rose, we won't let Ashworth anywhere near you," he promised her yet again.

"It's not that, it's what happened since. You'd better get Tess back in here," Rose replied.

"Rose?" he questioned her. "Why, is there something else you want to tell us?"

Rose moved the pad she'd been writing on and putting her arms on the table, lay on them, glancing up at Alec.

"I confronted Lee, about him having sex with Lisa and why she'd left Pippa with him. Didn't ya think it strange she'd had sex with him and just gone off, like he said she'd done? She had to be still there, when I got home and that's why he drugged me, so Lisa could take Pippa back home."

Alec suddenly got up, getting his phone out.

"You think Lisa knew he was going to drug you, to cover it up?" he asked her.

"Well yeah? I confronted him the next morning though at first not over Lisa, that came later. Then I told him to take the spare room and it was over between us."

He dialled Tess's number and told her to join them.

"You think Lisa was in the living room when you got home?" Tess repeated after Alec told her.

"Yeah. He denied it, the next morning, he told me she'd left Pippa with him and gone off. The thing is, Lee plays these games where he'll let ya say something and make ya think that you're right."

"Does he now?" Alec raised his eyebrows. "So what else did he make you think you were right about then?"

"It was a few days later, the day Pippa was found. He didn't seem bothered, considering she'd lived next door and he knew I'd been worried about her. I accused him of drugging her as well," Rose admitted, trying not to say too much.

"You did?' Tess asked her.

"Yeah, like I said, he plays mind games with ya. I don't know if it was true or not."

She wasn't lying on that point. Lee hadn't said anything, he'd admitted he might have given Pippa too much though. Was that enough?

"Did he admit to drugging Pippa?" Alec wanted to know.

"Sort of," Rose replied quietly. "What happens now?"

"We'll question him," Tess told her.

"What if he denies it?" Rose asked worriedly.

"No-one can continue lying, they trip themselves up, eventually," Alec assured her.

That didn't make her feel any better. Alec was watching her, risking telling her what the coroner had already told them.

"Rose, there were signs that Pippa was smothered and Lee washed a cushion cover the same night. It's not a coincidence."

Tess wondered why he was admitting it to Rose. Was he expecting her to tell them even more?

"He said it was an accident," Rose looked up from where she'd put her head in her hands again. "He said he'd given her some of the drug but he'd given her too much. I told him he should have called for an ambulance. Pippa had been saying she thought she'd heard her dad's voice downstairs."

"She did?" Tess was surprised, since that hadn't come up before.

"Lee must have heard her telling me," Rose replied.

"So he drugged her then smothered her?" Alec put it bluntly. Then he turned to Tess. "Find out where Lee Ashworth and Ricky Gillespie are and get them here – now," he ordered her.

Tess got up to leave, eyeing Rose.

"You should have told us all this before," Tess was a bit annoyed.

"She was scared what Ashworth would do," Alec reminded her.

"You didn't have to live with him or have him threatening you," Rose told Tess. "I wanted to tell ya."

"We got you protection," Tess continued. "So, you think both Lisa and Ricky were there? Ricky was supposed to be at the wedding."

"Call Cate and have her confirm it," Alec suggested.

"She won't remember, she likes to drink," Rose told them.

"All the more to suspect he did leave then," Alec replied. "What if he went back and found Lisa with Lee?"

Chapter 22
Rose knew she couldn't hold out much longer.

"I thought that as well," she admitted as Tess went off.

"Rose, you should have told us all this," Alec told her, wanting to take her hand. "When Tess comes back, tell us everything you thought had gone on and let us decide if it's true or not. Don't be afraid Rose, we won't let him take his revenge on you."

"Alec, ya don't know him. I know I can trust you but what about Tess? She seemed mad just now," Rose replied.

"Don't worry about her. Once Ashworth starts talking, she'll be only too glad to keep you safe," Alec smiled. "It will be official, when he and Ricky are held for questioning, I'll make sure they don't blame you for their being here. Wait for Tess coming back before you say any more," he suggested.

After Tess had organised two units to pick up Lee and Ricky, she made her way back to the interview room, bumping into her new boyfriend, who stood leaning on the corner.

"Why are you interviewing that witness with him Tess?" he wanted to know.

"I got put on the investigation with him, that's all. She's turning out to be a valuable witness, though she's reluctant to say a lot at once."

"Sure he's not already got to her?" Dave grinned as he put his hand on her arm.

"I just wish I could prove it but so far, they're not giving anything away," Tess replied.

"They'll trip themselves up," he replied. "See you for lunch?"

Tess agreed and went back to the interview room.

"Right, Ricky was a bit surprised but he's coming in but Ashworth said you'd already asked him twice this morning," Tess told Alec.

"I said bring them in Tess," Alec wasn't pleased. "Ashworth is avoiding coming in, I want him collecting. Find out where he is."

"He won't say, I already asked him," Tess snapped back at him. "I did tell him to stop what he was doing."

"Well have them both taken to separate interview rooms then, when they arrive. You can interview Ashworth or I may lose my temper with him," Alec replied. "Get someone in with you, preferably not your new boyfriend."

Rose was trying to suppress a laugh.

"There's no need for that attitude," Tess replied indignantly, nodding towards Rose.

"Don't mind me," Rose told her. "I'm just glad someone else is having problems besides me and Lee. Oh, did I mention that my boss used to fancy Lee, before I met him? He might just take up with her, to get revenge."

"You should put it in your statement then," Tess replied, getting annoyed Rose kept adding things. "Anything else we should know about?"

Alec could already sense Tess was getting hostile and she'd not even accused them of having an affair yet. He gave her a warning look.

"She's trying her best Tess, it's not easy for her," he defended Rose.

Rose hoped she wasn't going to get in the middle of a domestic row between the two of them but she had become Tess's rival and even though the other detective had a boyfriend, she still seemed jealous that Alec could also find someone. Wasn't he allowed to? Maybe he was but just not with their number one witness.

"Rose, if there is anything else, you should tell us now," he turned to her.

"Does that include what I suspect?" Rose asked cautiously.

"Anything at all you can think of," Alec replied, glancing at Tess and daring her to contradict him. "You said Ashworth likes to play mind games? What did you ask him that he neither confirmed or denied?"

"Well I already told ya I accused him of having sex with Lisa and drugging poor Pippa? I accused him of giving her too much," Rose replied.

Alec took the statement pad and glanced towards the end.

"Go on," he encouraged her, glad she was writing it down and not him having to remember if she'd told him in bed last night.

"I told him he should have got a paramedic to her," Rose admitted.

"Why would you say that?" Alec wanted to know. "Rose? Where did Pippa go? Did Ricky take her off somewhere?" He turned to Tess. "I want to know the minute he arrives Tess and call Cate again, every single one of them is lying to us. I think Ricky did go back that night, found the house was empty and he was the one who left the patio doors open."

"Cate claimed they were open when they got back and she assumed the girls had gone out," Tess told him. "It was when Lisa didn't answer her phone and they weren't next door that she panicked."

Alec ran his hand through his hair, Tess wondering when he'd started doing that. The last few days, he had drastically changed his appearance, starting with not using hair products to plaster his hair back, not shaving properly and doing strange things like he'd just done. Were they signs he'd already got a girlfriend and she was sitting opposite?

There was only one way to find out and that was to confront him about it but not now and in front of the only candidate. He'd not had time to find anyone else, it had to be her. Maybe she would get more out of Daisy?

"So, Pippa was right and Ricky caught them?" Rose asked, thinking they'd both forgotten she was there and they were having a go at each other.

"Exactly!" Alec declared. "He burst in on them, he and Lisa argued and she ran off,"

"Ya mean after she got dressed?" Rose smiled.

Now they were getting somewhere, she thought. She'd never really thought about it herself, she'd been too upset about Pippa and Lee had been a self-centred prat. She'd been too busy trying to get away from him, plus she'd got involved very quickly with Alec and trying to keep it quiet.

"Yes. So where did she go, if she didn't go off with Gary Thorp?" Alec wanted to know.

"So he wasn't hanging around and that's why I never saw him on my way home?" Rose wondered.

"He was elsewhere at the time," Tess admitted, not wanting to tell Rose where. "His story checked out," she told Alec.

"The plot thickens then?" Rose joked, then seeing Tess wasn't amused. "Well don't look at me, I don't know where she went." Then she went quiet and clasped her hands over her mouth. "She was still there when I got home and Ricky had silenced her."

"In what way?" Alec asked. "Rose, Ashworth washed the curtain and stained the floorboards, at first, then he pulled them up and replaced them."

"What are you getting at Alec?" Tess sounded annoyed.

Rose was staring in disbelief, feeling sick all of a sudden.

"She was still there and Lee tried to cover something up by drugging me and Pippa," she said quietly. "When I woke up, that's why he was acting strangely. Pippa hadn't gone off with Lisa."

"No, she can't have done," Tess suddenly realised.

"Oh lord," Rose gasped again. "I was right."

"About what?" Alec asked her, leaning over.

"Lee wasn't playing mind games with me. I accused him of something else and he made me think maybe I'd guessed wrong. I told ya, he does that," she looked at Tess, then Alec. Alec nodded, unlike Tess. "I told him he should have got a paramedic and at first, he said she was fine and she'd gone off with Lisa."

"You already mentioned that," Tess seemed annoyed.

"Yeah? What I didn't mention yet was I accused him of getting rid of her and leaving her in the woods," Rose swallowed, knowing if that didn't spoil her short romance with Alec, nothing would.

"You did what?" Alec shouted in amazement at the woman he was falling in love with.

"I'm sorry but Lee does that to ya, he makes you think things that aren't true. I didn't want to believe it, I thought maybe Lisa had taken Pippa and with her still being half drugged, she'd slipped into the river and Lisa had got her out and left her there."

"There was no water in Pippa's lungs," Alec admitted, staring blankly at her.

Why hadn't she admitted this earlier? Should he still be involved with her now? His chief would want to know why Rose had held back and why he was getting so close to her.

"That's why he wanted to change the floorboards," Rose stared blankly back at Alec, Tess watching them.

She thought if they were involved, there was nothing like an admission such as that to make it short-lived.

"Let me get this right," Alec replied. "Did Ashworth deny what you accused him of?" he asked Rose. Rose shook her head. "You need to answer out loud, for the record."

"No, he just laughed at first. I'm sorry, I thought he was just trying to get to me, 'cos I'd broken up with him. Am I in trouble?" Rose looked at Tess instead.

"Not as such but now, you'll have to be truthful with us and write everything down that you suspected about what Lee had done," Tess replied.

Alec sat back in his chair, wondering what to do about his new relationship with their now eye-witness, well a slow-burning eye-witness. He knew what his chief would say, to stay well away from her but could he, even though she'd just admitted that Ricky could have killed Lisa and Ashworth had killed Pippa and the latter had cleaned it all up after drugging Rose.

"He was quite busy that night then?" Alec broke his silence but looking at Rose. "He covered up that Ricky had killed Lisa and told him to get back to the wedding, then he'd only stained the floorboards so you wouldn't suspect anything?" he asked her.

"I guess so then?" Rose looked back at him. "He did threaten me ya know, not to get involved when the police came round," she reminded him.

"That was why he was keen to change the floorboards?" Tess asked.

Alec wished Tess would keep up.

"So, Ricky went through the motions of reporting both of them missing?" Alec thought out loud. "Maybe he was the one who suggested that Lee drugged you both?" he then asked Rose. "Only it then went wrong when he gave Pippa too much?"

"That's the only thing that makes any sense," Tess agreed. "What about the next morning then? Like you said Alec, Lee Ashworth was very busy."

"He can stay up all night and not be tired," Rose offered to tell them.

"Can he? So, he took Pippa to the woods, left her by a tree but did Ricky take Lisa somewhere?" Alec wanted to know.

"He had to have done," Tess replied. "They're both covering up for each other."

"Are they?" Alec asked sarcastically. "Yes but Ricky maybe only thought Pippa was drugged before he left?" he suggested. "Otherwise, he might have attacked Lee, if he'd known. Then he went back to the wedding and was told the following morning that Lee had given her too much and he'd taken her where she'd be found."

"Geez, Alec, they're both as guilty as each other," Tess agreed. "It was too late for Ricky to do anything about Lee killing Pippa through overdosing her."

"Hey, hold on," Rose interrupted them. "Am I supposed to write all that down as well?"

"Not unless you confronted Lee about it," Alec replied, since he was on a roll. "Rose, did you speculate with Ashworth that was what happened?"

"Sort of," she had to admit. "I think he used that cushion to finish her off though, why else would he wash the cover?"

Tess and Alec looked at each other. Alec now wondered what he'd got himself into by rescuing Rose and offering to keep her safe by first moving her into the guest house then his new flat and sharing a bed with her. Maybe it was just as well they'd not had sex yet?

Alec picked up Rose's keys she'd left on the table.

"Tess, get these to forensics, I want that cushion cover and the living room curtain thoroughly testing, the cover for Pippa's DNA and the curtain for any remaining traces of blood, maybe it didn't all wash off. If Ricky killed Lisa in a fit of jealousy he'd caught her with Lee, she must have hit her head on something. Maybe some blood seeped through the floorboards so have them ripped up."

Rose was staring at the two of them. She had to hand it to them that they could still work together despite being in the middle of a tacky divorce, well Tess was making it tacky.

"Geez, what is this gonna do to Cate?" Rose wanted to know.

"I thought you'd be annoyed at her for sleeping with Lee?" Tess asked as she got up.

"She lost her daughter and now her niece and she thought Lisa was just missing. Imagine when she finds out her husband may have killed Lisa and her neighbour caused her daughter's death?" Rose replied. "Geez, she won't think I knew about Pippa, will she?" she asked worriedly.

"We won't mention you gave us any information," Tess assured her.

"Yeah, until she accuses me of knowing about Lee," Rose replied.

"We will make it clear you were not involved, in any way," Alec assured her.

"What if ya find blood, under the floorboards?" Rose wanted to know. "Ya can't prove if it was Ricky or if it was Lee who killed Lisa. Where is she though?"

"We will interrogate both of them, play them against each other," Alec replied confidently. "Rose, do you know where Ricky was working?"

Rose shook her head.

"I've no idea. Oh lord, I know he was working at a church a while back, I don't know if he still was."

Rose moved the writing pad again and lay her head down. Alec felt sorry for her, having to live with wondering if she'd been right or not.

"Give both of them a warning when they arrive, make it official. There is no way they are getting out of this," he told Tess as she was leaving. "Tell forensics I want to know right away if the fibres from that cushion cover match those found on Pippa."

As Tess went off again, Rose looked up.

"I was right, he did smother her."

"Sorry but we found fibres around her mouth, that was what aroused my suspicion about the cushion cover in the first place. You said yourself there was no reason for him to wash it when he did."

"They were in the living room, with poor Lisa on the floor when I got back," Rose suddenly realised. "Do ya think Lee gave Pippa an overdose on purpose?" she asked him.

"Maybe he panicked? If Ricky had said he'd deal with Pippa the next morning, maybe he thought she wouldn't be convinced she'd not heard himself and her cousin and would tell her mother she'd also heard her dad's voice?" he wondered.

"What about me though?" Rose asked. "What was he planning on doing?"

"Rose, he threatened you and it worked, up until now," he reminded her. "He must have taken Pippa off early, then got to work on cleaning up on his return. Be thankful he never carried out his threat while you were asleep."

Rose shivered at the thought and was glad she'd had that test done, even though it had been embarrassing and uncomfortable. She knew their conversation was still being recorded.

"I'd best get all that written down then?" she asked him.

"Just write down what he admitted, whether you thought he never meant it or not."

Lee and Ricky had both been annoyed about being asked to call at the station as soon as possible. So after Tess had told Lee yet again and this time it was compulsory, he got a call from Ricky as he got into his van.

"Don't tell me, you got a call to go to the police station?" Lee asked before Ricky had chance to say anything.

"Have you been talking to them?" Ricky wanted to know. "If you have, I'll tell them you overdosed Pippa."

"And I'll tell them you gave me that stuff in the first place," Lee replied. "There was nothing on the label saying to reduce the dosage for kids."

"You idiot, did you think she could have taken the same dose as you gave to Rose? You were only supposed to give her enough to knock her out so she would listen to me the next morning. I could have convinced her not to say anything to Cate."

"She was a smart kid, she wouldn't have gone along with it, not when Rose knew some of it," Lee told him.

"Well you didn't overdose Rose, did you?" Ricky asked him.

"I didn't need to, I threatened her with something else," Lee bragged.

"Well why do the police want to talk to us then?" Ricky was puzzled. "She must have talked."

"Don't worry, just answer their questions," Lee suggested.

"That's easy for you to say," Ricky disagreed. "If you'd taken out your sexual frustrations on your then girlfriend, the girls would still be here."

"You just don't get it Ricky, Rose wasn't as shall we say 'easy' as Lisa," Lee bragged again.

"Stop talking about her like that. I had to convince Cate I hadn't left the wedding and trust me, she'd had enough to believe it but if she's asked any questions, she might admit she didn't know if I'd left at some point or not."

"Well you'd better hope she doesn't remember then," Lee laughed.

"You'd better hope Rose hasn't talked then," Ricky reminded him. "Just remember, I know you drugged Rose and Pippa, we both have to keep each others' secrets."

Lee wished Ricky had never come back that night but he had and he was now sure Pippa had told Rose more than she'd thought she'd heard her dad's voice. Knowing Rose, she would have believed the young girl.

Rose was waiting to be told she could go after signing the rest of her statement. Alec didn't know what to make of it, Rose had kept so much from him and even though she was scared of Ashworth, he'd tried to assure her she'd be safe. He thought that would have been enough for her to tell him what really happened that night.

Ricky arrived at the police station and Tess was showing him to another interview room.

"So what's all this about then?" Ricky wanted to know. "Have you run out of suspects? You have got some suspects?"

"Let's wait for DI Hardy, he's just finishing something," Tess insisted.

"Are you questioning Ashworth?" Ricky asked.

"You know I can't say Ricky," Tess reminded him.

"Where was Rose that night? Did she give him an alibi?" Ricky pretended he didn't know, mainly to throw Tess off. "I went round, the next morning and she wasn't there."

"Maybe she was just getting up?" Tess suggested, trying not to say much.

She wished Alec would hurry up, thinking he was already spending too much time with their witness.

"So, where's Hardy then?" Ricky wanted to know. "Oh, he's the one talking to Rose then?"

Tess remained silent.

"I heard you'd split up," Ricky continued.

Tess was determined she wasn't going to take the bait.

"I heard you and Cate had," she replied, thinking that would keep him quiet.

"I have to go question Ricky," Alec was telling Rose as he got a message from Tess. "I will send someone in, they will make sure you get home."

"Okay, thanks. Will I need to come back?" Rose wanted to know.

"That depends on what Ashworth and Ricky have to say," he replied.

Rose didn't know what was going to happen, once Lee was confronted. She also didn't know what Alec would say when he got home so she was going to be prepared to move into the guest house. Hopefully, she'd get it paid for – for now at least.

She was about to stay where she was as he got up when a policewoman came in. Alec nodded as he took Rose's statement and gave it to the officer.

"Have this typed up as quickly as possible and get a cab for Miss Tyler. Tell the driver to charge it to us."

He left but stopped outside the other interview room and sent a message to Rose, saying he'd get some food on the way back and they needed to talk. Rose thought that was it. He was going to ask why she had kept quiet so long.

Alec entered the interview room, since Ashworth hadn't turned up and he was about to get a warrant for the man's arrest if he wasn't there by the time he'd finished with Ricky. He'd already put out that the man was wanted for questioning.

"So Ricky," Alec began as Tess set the recorder going. "We have reason to believe you left the wedding, on the night Pippa was killed and Lisa went missing. We think you know where she went."

Ricky let out a laugh. "No comment."

"Your daughter was killed, don't no comment me," Alec snapped at him. "We have ways of checking whether you came back or not."

"Why do you suspect I went back then?" Ricky asked.

"Because we have reason to believe Pippa heard you, next door," Alec admitted, waiting for Rose's statement to arrive.

"Pippa had been next door?" Ricky pretended he didn't know.

Alec banged his fist on the table.

"You went back and found Lisa with Ashworth, didn't you Ricky?" Tess asked him.

"What?" Ricky laughed.

"You find it amusing?" Alec asked him. "Your daughter died and now, we suspect Lisa is not actually missing."

Tess looked across at him. This was something new so what had Rose told him after she herself had left them? Alec noticed the man opposite looked slightly off.

"Call Cate then, she'll say I was at the wedding all night," Ricky still insisted.

"Your wife likes to drink," Alec pointed out. "Can you be so sure she will say you were with her?"

"I'd been drinking, why would I risk driving all the way back to check on the girls?" Ricky insisted. "She'll remember we were both in the same room."

"No doubt she will," Alec replied. "What time did the reception finish? Midnight, 1am? I'd say you had plenty of time to take a cab there and back. We'll be checking all the cab companies in the area and also the ones local to where you live. I'll wager a bet most of them keep accurate computer records."

Now, he could see Ricky was squirming.

"You could save us the time by admitting you went back," Tess told Ricky.

"I'm not saying anything until I get a solicitor," Ricky replied, leaning back in his chair.

Alec gathered the notes he'd been taking.

"Fine, we'll make sure you get one. Tess, make sure he gets his phone call," Alec agreed. "Then escort him back here and then check with Cate and get someone to start checking cab companies for that night."

Tess thought he didn't want much, did he? He always barked orders at everyone, never giving them chance to reply or saying a thank you. There again, she knew he thought it a sign of weakness if he were to actually give people time to reply or offer them praise, that was just how he was.

She knew he'd risen through the ranks very quickly and had skipped being a patrol officer altogether. She had done pretty much the same but he'd never had to overcome the obstacles and objections that she was female and therefore had no right to be pushed through as a detective sergeant so quickly. It was now only Alec himself that was keeping her from promotion to becoming a detective inspector, the chief had told her she could take the exam but would maybe have to move as there were already the required number of DI's in the station, Alec being the last one to be promoted while she had been taking time off to raise their daughter.

She went off to organise everything and was surprised as she passed by the reception area that Lee Ashworth was standing at the desk, escorted by two uniformed officers. She had to smile to herself that Alec had run out of patience with the man and had put out an urgent call to all those on the beat to look out for him.

Alec had been informed Lee had arrived and he was escorted to the room Rose had just been in.

"I recognise that perfume," Lee was bragging as Alec entered the room, now followed by Tess. "So Rose did have something to do with why I was picked up and escorted here?"

"You're here because we have some questions for you," Alec replied, now holding the complete statement made by Rose that he'd been handed on the way in.

"What's that little blonde bitch been telling you then?" Lee laughed. "Did she tell you I went to Lisa and Cate because she was being tight?"

Alec wasn't a violent man. Sometimes it seemed he lost his temper, like with Ricky and occasionally banged his fist on the desk but right now, he wanted to have a real go at the smug Lee Ashworth.

Chapter 23
Tess tried to hide her disgust at Lee Ashworth, not so successfully even though she was convinced Rose and her estranged husband were involved.

"We're not here about her," Tess told him as Alec skimmed through Rose's statement. "This is about your neighbour's daughter and her still missing cousin. Maybe you can shed some light on it?"

Alec was watching him over the top of his rimless glasses.

"We already know you may have had something to do with Lisa's disappearance," Alec told him, hoping to get a reaction. "What happened to Lisa, Lee? You never just let her go, not without having sex with her, did you?"

Lee shifted in his seat.

"I never said I had sex with her that night," Lee replied. "Is that what Rose thought? That I was hiding Lisa in the living room when she got back?"

"Was she wrong in thinking so?" Alec wanted to know. "Is that why you drugged Rose and Pippa?"

"What?" Lee laughed nervously. "Is that what that little bitch thought, when I took her a drink? Who said Pippa was there?"

"Rose has already told us she found Pippa when she got home," Tess admitted. "Pippa was upset and you told Rose to take her upstairs. You may as well admit they were there Lee."

"Well I didn't want us to get involved, did I?" Lee replied. "I didn't want you asking any awkward questions and Rose getting the wrong idea."

"A bit late for that," Alec remarked sarcastically. "Tell us what happened Lee."

Lee leaned back on the chair.

"Okay, I cheated on Rose, so what? Serves her right. Lisa put Pippa in the spare room, we had sex then she left," Lee replied.

"You expect us to believe that?" Alec asked him. "We have reason to believe Pippa was crying when Rose got home, she told Rose she was upset. She'd heard you Lee, then it had gone quiet."

"Well it would have done, wouldn't it, if Lisa left?" Lee replied with a grin on his face.

"Did she leave?" Alec raised his eyebrows.

"You took drinks to Rose and Pippa, containing something to knock them out Lee, why was that?" Tess asked him.

"Is that what Rose told you?" Lee laughed. "She'd had a bit to drink when she came back, maybe the drink knocked her out?"

Alec glanced at the statement he'd got from Rose. He needed her to admit she had a test for drugs and that it was positive.

"She claims she was clear headed when she returned home," Alec replied. "Any alcohol would have worn off on her journey home. She may have got an independent report she was drugged that night."

That was news to Tess. Alec thought at least that would cover Rose, if she couldn't be persuaded to admit it. Lee thought that would be just typical of Rose.

"Did you see Ricky that night?" Alec continued.

"What?" Lee asked. "He was at the wedding with Cate, ask her."

"We are doing," Tess looked across at Alec.

"Hold on, did Rose say Pippa heard him?" Lee wanted to know. "The girl was tired, who knows what she imagined."

"So now, you admit she was there, after you claimed you saw neither of the girls that night?" Alec tried to catch him out.

"I told you, I didn't want to get involved," Lee reminded Alec. "I didn't want Cate to know me and Lisa had sex, she might have got jealous."

"You find this amusing?" Alec stared at Lee. "You are astonishing. A young girl died, possibly from being drugged. What did you put in those drinks Lee?"

Rose was on her way to her new home, in a taxi, not knowing what Alec wanted to talk about when he got back. She should have trusted him and told him sooner of what had really happened that night. If she was going to have to leave, she was going to need that loan from Claire.

Claire was busy trying to hide the big grin on her face after Lee had left. She couldn't believe how good he'd been and Rose was a fool firstly for never really experiencing him and secondly for leaving him. She'd thought no man was ever going to be as good as Gareth, the man she'd left behind in Wales with no explanation of why she'd just gone but Lee had proved otherwise. Well more fool Rose, she smiled to herself.

As for him having the nerve to invite himself to move in, well maybe she'd let him for a few days but she now liked being on her own, which was why she'd turned Rose down. She went to answer the phone and found it was Rose.

"Enjoying your day off that much?" she laughed as Rose said hello to her.

"Claire, is it okay to still get that small loan?" Rose asked nervously.

"Sure, just give me a few days notice," Claire replied, wondering why Rose couldn't have waited. "Have you found somewhere?" she wondered, trying to remember.

"I just want to know it's there, if I need it, that's all," Rose replied as she let herself into the flat.

"Fine then you can start looking," Claire laughed. "Lee came looking for you," she added, mainly to see if Rose was really not bothered.

"I don't want to know Claire," Rose replied. "He can do as he likes. He'll probably go find someone else stupid enough to take him on."

"Just because you don't want him," Claire told her.

"What did he want anyway?" Rose changed the subject.

"Don't know, I was busy," Claire lied. "I just reminded him it was your day off, he should've known."

Rose just hoped he wouldn't go back the next day but maybe Alec would be able to charge him over something, even if he didn't charge Lee with causing Pippa's death so soon. She also hoped they'd be holding Ricky.

Ricky's solicitor had arrived so Alec left Tess to finish interviewing Lee, though Alec doubted she'd get any more out of the man at present. He took her to one side before he left.

"Don't let him fool you Tess," he warned her.

"I won't Alec, what do you take me for?" Tess asked indignantly. "I'm not going to let him get to me. I want to read that statement Rose just gave us."

"Sure, when I've finished with Ricky," Alec replied.

"What am I supposed to work on then?" she wanted to know.

"Getting him to admit he overdosed Pippa, then held a cushion over her," Alec replied dryly. "I suppose you'll be getting Dave to sit in on the interview?"

"There's no need for that Alec and while we're at it, there was no need to say anything in front of our witness," she reminded him.

Alec just made one of the faces he used when he was disagreeing with her as he walked off, Tess calling after him.

"What about you and our witness Alec?" she asked him.

"What are you getting at Tess? If you have any objections to me trying to assure her she'll be safe, take it up with the chief. Otherwise, back off," he replied angrily.

"Does he know Alec?" Tess tried to bluff. "Does he know just how close you're getting to her? You make more fuss of her than you ever did with me."

"How do you think you parading around with Dave made me feel, eh?" Alec retorted.

"You could have done something about it," she replied. "You didn't though, you just gave up."

Alec shook his head and turned around again.

"You didn't have to start an affair Tess," he just replied.

Ricky was looking smug that he'd told his solicitor the police thought he was involved in the death of his daughter. The solicitor, who was an old friend had agreed it was ludicrous.

"They can't be serious?" Ricky had been asked.

"You tell me," Ricky had replied. "They think I left the wedding that night."

"You didn't, did you?" his solicitor wanted to make sure.

"Why would I do that? Tell that to the detective, tell him how long I've known you."

"Ricky, that may not help, depending on if they have enough evidence to charge you. If you left Pippa in Lisa's care and she left her with the neighbour, that's not your responsibility, in my eyes. Others though may not agree."

"I left her with who I thought was a responsible person, now, I've found out they went next door," Ricky told him. "Goodness knows what Lisa got up to with him, his girlfriend was out."

"Is that what the police have told you?" Ricky was asked.

"Just now. I went round that morning and was lied to, Ashworth said he'd not seen them. I bet he'd silenced Rose, she was supposed to have been Lisa and Pippa's friend. Unless she knew something herself?" Ricky wondered.

"Let's leave her out of it for now Ricky," his solicitor advised him.

"Well she must've had a hangover, the next morning or Ashworth had told her to be quiet," Ricky replied as the door opened. "Just get me out of this place."

Alec put two folders on the desk, in front of Ricky, then set the recorder going

"This one contains a statement that you were heard next door that night," Alec pointed to Rose's statement.

Then he put his hand on the other folder containing his notes from Lee's interview.

"Your neighbour, Lee Ashworth had his eye on your niece. You came back Ricky and you caught them. Then, did you encourage him to drug his girlfriend and your daughter, to cover it up?"

"Hold on a moment, detective inspector," Ricky's solicitor objected, having been told who Alec was. "You have no proof."

"We will have, shortly. Cab companies are being contacted, if you left that hotel, we will know about it. Did you give Lee Ashworth the drug administered to Miss Tyler and Pippa, Ricky?" Alec wanted know.

"Those are serious accusations," the solicitor pointed out. "Until you have any proof that my client returned home that night, we are out of here."

"Fine, we'll be in touch. You're free to leave Ricky," Alec told him. "By the way, Ashworth admitted having a sexual relationship with Lisa."

Ricky got up, banging his fist on the table and swearing under his breath.

"Don't say that about her Hardy," Ricky warned him.

"You already knew though," Alec added. "Didn't you Ricky? You may as well admit you went home and found her with Lee Ashworth and you got jealous."

"Come on Ricky, we're leaving," his solicitor advised him.

Ricky tried to shrug his friend's hand off his elbow.

"Did you know him and Cate were messing around?" Ricky asked Alec.

"He admitted that as well," Alec replied. "We will get to the truth Ricky. If you were to admit you went back and found him with Lisa, then you got jealous. Did you have sex with her?"

Ricky raised his hand to Alec but his friend grabbed hold of him.

"Leave it Ricky, he's just trying to provoke you."

"She was my niece, I never touched her," Ricky defended himself. "Did Rose know he was cheating on her?"

Alec wondered if he should admit it.

"That's up to her to say," he replied instead.

He was pretty sure Rose wouldn't want him to say anything. They still had to talk, about what she'd admitted in her interview but despite her holding things back from him, he was still falling in love with her. Maybe he should send her another message, telling her?

She must be wondering what it was he wanted them to talk about. She was probably expecting the worse and she may already have packed when he got back tonight. If she had, he would have to convince her to stay, so he could watch out for her.

"If you have no proof my client had any involvement in the events, we're leaving now," Ricky's solicitor reminded Alec.

"Fine, make sure we know where you're working, for if we need to talk to you again," Alec relented about keeping Ricky in for further questioning.

As much as he wanted to, he had no reason to keep Ricky other than Rose had believed young Pippa that night, when she'd got home and all hell had broken loose. Lee Ashworth on the other hand, he wished he could lock the man up and throw away the key, for the way he'd treated Rose.

He'd had very little time to go through Rose's full statement, mainly to see if she'd added any more she'd not told him. He went back in to join Tess, who was having a hard time with Lee.

"Lee, I think you know what happened to Lisa, after you had sex with her," she was telling him, after he'd denied it yet again.

"I don't know where that stupid bitch went to, she may well have gone to find that other bloke for all I know. As for Rose believing Ricky came back though?" Lee laughed. "Why would he come back all that way?"

"Maybe because he was jealous of Lisa being interested in you?" Alec suggested as he sat beside Tess. "Maybe he wanted to catch the two of you? Do you want a solicitor?"

"What for? I've got nothing to hide," Lee replied. "Well not since you got me to admit I did have sex with Lisa that night, that's not a crime is it? Since she's over eighteen?"

Alec wanted to tell Lee that it should be, the man was in his thirties.

"So, you have no proof of anything other than I had sex with Lisa that night?" Lee wanted to make sure. "Stop wasting my time then."

"Hold on," Alec told him as Lee started to get up. "We have proof you drugged Rose Tyler. Why? So she wouldn't go in your living room and find Lisa still there?"

"I told you, Lisa had already left, before Rose got home," Lee insisted.

"Is that right?" Alec wanted to know. "Why did you stain the floorboards, then rip them up and change them?"

"I needed to take my temper out on something," Lee grinned. "I knew Rose wouldn't like the colour I stained them. Anything else? If not, I have a job to finish and you're making me lose money. I should claim for loss of earnings."

Alec thought he'd like to see him try, the chief would just love that, what with paying for extra hours, extra officers and for Rose to supposedly stay somewhere safe.

"Maybe I should get a solicitor then?" Lee added.

"Feel free to engage the services of one," Alec replied, not stopping Lee from getting up this time.

He'd get the man one way or another.

"Just one more thing. We're ripping the floorboards up, where you lived and if we find any sign anything happened to Lisa or Pippa there, we will bring you back for further questioning," Alec added.

He thought he would leave out the fact they were also testing the cushion cover that Lee had washed for no apparent reason.

"You mean you got Ricky to agree to that?" Lee laughed.

"We don't need his permission," Alec replied. "Your ex girlfriend gave us the key, technically, that is all we need at present."

He watched for Lee's reaction.

"Well good luck finding anything, because there's nothing to find," Lee replied, confident he'd removed all traces he'd smothered Pippa and Lisa's blood after Ricky smashed her head.

"What did you do, after you drugged Rose and Pippa?" Tess wanted to know.

"I went back to watching TV," Lee lied.

Alec was leaving the ace up his sleeve that he was fairly confident Lee had taken Pippa to the woods for later.

"You never joked with your then girlfriend that you did something else entirely?" he asked Lee.

"Such as?" Lee laughed. "You mean like I got rid of Lisa and Pippa? Don't call me back in again, unless you have any proof."

"Have you told us where you're staying?" Tess asked him.

"With a friend, for now. Well until I get bored with her," Lee smirked.

Alec was now worried that Rose's fear that her friend fancied the smug Lee Ashworth was coming true and Claire was the one the man was staying with.

"I already dislike that man," Tess was staying as they gathered up the files on the table. "He's too smug, how did Rose put up with him?"

"How indeed?" Alec wondered out loud. "We have a lot of work to do to get both him and Ricky to confess what they did that night Tess."

"You don't say Alec?" Tess agreed. "Why didn't you tell him you already knew about him taking Pippa to the woods?"

"Because we have to be sure that Rose was right about it Tess," he replied. "Look, we both want to believe her but she was drugged and when she confronted him, how do we know he wasn't just playing on that, eh?"

"You seemed to believe her earlier," Tess reminded him.

"She said he liked to play mind games Tess, he may have still been messing with her," he replied sadly. "We may have no proof whatsoever that her version of events is true."

"Did she have a drugs test done?" Tess wanted to know as they went back to his office.

"Yes, she did. Thankfully, Ashworth only overdosed Pippa but I don't think that was what killed the girl. I think Rose was right and he finished her off, with that cushion. Get forensics to give priority to that cover and try to match it with the fibres found on Pippa."

"Is that all we have Alec?" Tess asked him.

"Let's hope not Tess," he replied.

"Have you got the results of Rose's drugs test?" Tess laughed. "You've been working closely with her."

He knew he'd have to give her that one.

"Yes, I know where she had it done, so what?" he replied.

"Oh, you went with her," Tess still sounded amused.

"She came to me, a few days after we found Pippa," he had to admit. "She was worried what else may have happened while she was unconscious. I saw the way she was looking at Ashworth, Tess. She was scared to death of him. He threatened to violate her, if she talked to us, she had to confide in someone."

"It just had to be you Alec, typical," Tess told him, the smile gone from her face. "So you went with her, when she had the test done? Why didn't you tell me?"

"I promised her it would go no further, for now. She knows we may have to use the results if we charge Ashworth," Alec admitted.

"Alec, that could be enough to charge him but we want him to admit he took Pippa to the woods after he smothered her to finish her off," Tess reminded him.

"Yes and we also want him to admit he saw Ricky Gillespie kill Lisa but they must be keeping each others secrets. Maybe Ashworth had convinced Ricky to go back to the wedding by saying Pippa was just sleeping? Then the next morning, threatened him not to say anything when he told him Pippa was dead?"

"So, Rose is right then?" Tess wondered.

"I'd bet on it," Alec replied. "When Ricky went to get Pippa the next morning, Ashworth must have told him where he'd taken Pippa? What did he say had happened though?"

"Well I'd say he didn't admit he finished her off with a cushion," Tess smiled. "Rose said she told him he should have called for help though. What stopped him?"

"Lisa lying dead on his living room floor?" Alec suggested, raising his eyebrows.

"Geez Alec, Rose could have easily had the same fate, so what stopped him?" Tess asked, not that she liked the idea Rose could have met the same fate as the girls, even though now, she suspected the young woman was having an affair with Alec.

If she herself didn't have Dave to turn to, maybe she'd actually be jealous? Alec didn't like Tess's suggestion one bit, Rose could have met the same fate so what had stopped Ashworth from not only violating her but then killing her when he'd done so?

Maybe Ashworth really didn't have the stomach for it and he really had accidentally overdosed Pippa but he had calmly taken her out to the woods and not been affected by it. Maybe Ashworth wouldn't carry out his threat to Rose but that didn't mean either of them could drop their guard.

He wasn't happy Ashworth was getting away with it so far but as he went back to the flat he shared with Rose, he had bigger problems if she was all packed and ready to leave. It could mean she'd no longer be under his protection and she would still be scared of the man that she wouldn't stand up in court if they finally arrested him and Ricky Gillespie.

He opened the door, where Rose had been waiting for him coming back, a takeaway bag in his hand. He was half expecting to see her belongings all piled up but instead, she got up and went to put her arms around his neck then she reached up to kiss him.

Chapter 24
Rose could tell he wasn't expecting to be greeted in the way she had done as she backed off.

"Sorry," she said quietly.

"Rose, don't back off, please?" he urged her as he took her arms and pulled her back to him. "I thought you would have been all packed and ready to leave?"

"Well, I thought about it, after what just happened. Did ya charge them both then?" she asked as he went to put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.

Rose put her arms around his waist.

"No love, sorry but they both know that we are onto them, it may shake them up and then, they will make mistakes," he replied.

"I hope they're not gonna blame me?" Rose asked worriedly.

"No, they will blame each other," he replied confidently. "I just got them thinking their plans were not so clever after all, if they are covering for each other."

"Well I hope you're right?" Rose asked, burying her head in his shoulder.

"I am love. Now you get the food out while I give Daisy a quick call and see if I can still fool her," he smiled.

"Alec, don't try to fool her, please," Rose asked him.

"She may tell her mother, Tess already suspects," he reminded her. "I was surprised that she defended you at one point."

"She did?" Rose smiled at the thought. "Yeah, that's a bit odd, was she tryin' to catch ya out?"

"She may have been trying to get me to admit something but not in front of our suspects. She did tell me off for talking about her new boyfriend, in front of you and no Rose, it's not funny," he replied, seeing her trying not to laugh.

As Alec tried to call his daughter, Lee Ashworth had been waiting for Claire coming out of the salon. She saw him waiting in the narrow lane, leaning on one of the barriers.

"What are you doing here?" she asked him as he went towards her. "Don't let anyone see you or they'll tell Rose."

"So? It's nothing to do with her, is it?" he asked. "Want to call for some food? I'd have waited at your place but you never told me where it was."

"Well you were too busy trying to get in my knickers," Claire laughed.

"You've some room to talk when you couldn't get my zipper down fast enough, could you?" he replied dryly. "I only called in to find out if Rose had said anything to the police. I ended up getting picked up by them today and got questioned by that detective."

"She never said anything," Claire replied as Lee opened the van doors. "Thought you had a car?"

"I may have to sell it, if I keep getting interrupted at work," he replied.

"Who by, the police or you getting into the knickers of your female customers?" Claire laughed.

"So Rose has been talking then?" he replied, trying to stay serious, unlike Claire, who he thought didn't seem that bothered.

Well at least she didn't seemed bothered, unlike Rose.

Tess had got home and was half glad Alec wasn't there any more, since she'd spent most of the afternoon chasing cab companies and then calling Cate to ask if she could call on her in the morning.

"I don't want to talk to anyone, until you find my daughter's killer," Cate had told her, just before she'd left.

"Sorry Cate, I'll try and keep it to a minimum but it's best I talk to you in person, we need to clarify a few things," she had told her.

"About Ricky?" Cate had wanted to know. "While we're at it, when can I have Pippa's things back?"

"As soon as we've finished testing them. I'll try to have them back to you as soon as possible but there are other things to be tested," she'd accidentally told Cate.

"What other things?" Cate had asked. "Have you searched the neighbour's house enough? I saw your people today."

Tess had been surprised the woman had taken any notice.

"I didn't give you permission to search, I expect Ricky did?" Cate had continued. "He'll probably deny it though."

Tess had thought she'd let her think that – for now.

"We have other places to search Cate but it has been established both girls had gone there that night," she'd told her, since Ricky already knew.

"You think Lee had something to do with it?" Cate asked.

"It's too early to say Cate, sorry. We're still searching where Pippa was found as well. There's not much to give you back of Pippa's though, unless she left something next door before she left," Tess admitted.

"You're right, we do need to talk, I never knew they'd been next door that night," Cate told her. "Ricky never said when he'd been to see Lee that morning. Did you find a pendant on Pippa?"

"Not as far as I know Cate, I'll make a note to check in the morning but we can check where she was found, it may have come off and it's lying on the ground," Tess had suggested.

"It could be next door as well," Cate replied as she poured another drink.

Tess heard Daisy's phone ringing and assumed it was Alec calling her. Maybe she should listen in and see if he'd admit to his daughter that he was involved with someone? Teenagers had ways of getting information.

"Dad, you remembered to call me," Daisy teased him.

"Sorry, things have been hectic, with me moving. Why don't you come over on Saturday?" he suggested.

"To sleep over?" Daisy laughed.

"Well let's just do one thing at a time eh?" Alec replied. "There is a spare bedroom but I need to get it sorted."

"Are you sharing with someone Dad?" she teased him further.

"I told you before, there is someone but it's complicated. It's not a good idea you meet her yet," he replied.

"Is she a witness?" Daisy asked him.

Alec was sure she'd asked him that before.

"I can't say," was all he could think of.

Rose put her hand on his free one that was about to lift his fork to his mouth.

"Tell her," Rose mouthed with a smile.

"Dad, you may as well admit it," Daisy was telling him. "I promise I won't say anything to mum, she's done nothing but complain you've been spending too much time with someone called Rose."

"Did she now?" Alec replied with his mouth full of rice.

"Dad, I thought getting involved with a witness meant they couldn't be a witness?" Daisy asked him, finding it amusing that her mother was getting annoyed about it.

"Well technically, if the witness has already given a statement and that statement is not changed, then nothing is wrong. That means nothing can be added or retracted without it then being dismissed. Also, others may not be able to get the witness to change their minds about not being a witness," he tried to explain.

"I get it Dad," Daisy seemed to understand. "I do watch those American detective shows."

"Aye, well this is not an American cop show," he replied, making Rose smile.

"Chill Dad," Daisy laughed. "So as long as you don't get the witness to say something they didn't see or hear, then it's okay?"

"Well yes but my chief may have something to say, should he find out," Alec told her, more for Rose's benefit.

"So, is it this Rose mum keeps mentioning?" Daisy came out and asked him.

"What does your mother say about her?" Alec wanted to know.

"Just she wished you'd paid as much attention to her," Daisy laughed.

"Aye, well, if she hadn't sneaked around behind my back?" Alec replied, not wanting to say any more in front of Rose. "Meet me on Saturday then?"

"Yeah, okay Dad, I'll meet you at that coffee shop then?" Daisy asked.

"Alec, you'd best go on your own," Rose told him as they ate.

"I don't want to hide you Rose," he replied.

"Just let her get used to the idea?" Rose suggested. "Now, I have to tell my mum I'm officially a witness in a murder investigation. If she kills me, you'll know who did it."

"You did what?" Jackie shouted down the phone when Rose had started to tell her. "That's not what ya said at first. Then ya say ya can't tell me anything?"

"Sorry Mum, I really can't," Rose replied, looking at Alec. "I'm okay, the police put me somewhere safe."

Alec had told her she could only tell her mother the bare minimum.

"So, ya left Lee, ya already told me that," her mother recalled. "Will ya make up with him?"

"No Mum, he cheated on me, I can't forgive him. I'm better off without him," Rose replied. "I'll tell ya more, when I can but until the police make an arrest, I have to stay quiet. I had to write down everything I knew from that night and afterwards."

Rose got off the phone and went to lie on the sofa with Alec.

"I wish I could tell her more," she told him.

"Sorry love, it's best you don't," he replied.

"I have to face Claire tomorrow and I bet she'll deny anything about Lee. What do I do about it Alec? I mean if he comes in and starts messing around with her, in front of me? It's gonna be embarrassing."

"I know love. We may want you back for more questioning, if we get Ricky and Ashworth back in. There will be a lot going on tomorrow, we should get the test results back, the cab companies will all have been contacted so we'll know if Ricky did come back and Tess had been asking Cate if he was missing."

"Ya mean whether or not Pippa had been imagining he was there? I don't think she was Alec, when she was so upset. Maybe that was why she was worried? I mean if she'd heard Lisa and Lee, then her dad's voice. She never got to tell me but I bet she was gonna say Ricky's voice was raised, like he'd caught them."

"We can only assume that was what happened," Alec reminded her. "We have to establish the facts."

"I thought ya had?" Rose smile at him.

"If only it was that simple Rose. Until then, we have to believe Ricky when he said he never went back," he reminded her.

"Well you might have to but I don't," Rose replied. "Come on Alec, why else would Pippa hear Lisa and Lee making noises, then her dad's voice? It went quiet because they'd been arguing and something happened to Lisa. Ya don't believe me do ya?"

"Rose, we should not discuss it," he reminded her.

"Fine, take me back to make another statement then," Rose huffed as she sat up.

"Rose, it's only guesswork, we don't know for certain," he replied.

"Well why did Lee keep me out of the living room then? I hope you find something in there that proves I'm right. I should have said something earlier."

Alec thought she'd already said enough earlier. They still hadn't talked about it. Maybe now was the time?

"Rose, about that? Why did you not say anything sooner?" he asked.

"I was scared Alec, ya don't know what Lee's capable of and neither did I until he drugged me. Are ya gonna have to bring in the fact I got tested for it?"

"Tess will want to see the results," he replied. "It will all be taken into account once we establish more of the facts, like what happened in your house and proving Lee did take Pippa to the woods. Until then, we can't charge him with anything."

"I hate the thought of that," Rose told him. "He's smug enough to think he's got away with it."

"He won't, if we can prove it. We just have to piece everything together and connect the dots," he smiled.

He was just going to pull her back towards him when his phone rang, thinking it was a bit late for Tess to be calling when he saw her name on the display.

"Can't it wait?" he answered.

"Am I interrupting something?" Tess taunted him.

"Stop it Tess. What are you calling at this time for?"

"I rang Cate Gillespie earlier, she insists Ricky wouldn't have left the wedding," Tess told him.

"Well we'll see they are both lying if a cab picked Ricky up from the hotel," he reminded her.

"Well he won't have given his name Alec," Tess tried to be clever.

"He did not have to, how many people would have left the hotel, travelled thirty-odd miles and gone to his address?" Alec replied sarcastically.

"I did learn something interesting though," Tess tried to recover. "Pippa was wearing a pendant that day, I'll have to check with forensics if she was wearing one, Cate reckons it's missing."

"I never noticed when I picked her up from the river," Alec replied. "Check first thing in the morning, the killer may have taken it off."

He knew that was another thing they could get Lee Ashworth on, if it was found in the house the man had shared with Rose. He didn't mention it to Rose, it would get her hopes up that Ashworth would get arrested.

The next day, Rose arrived early at work, Alec dropping her off after telling her they may get a lot of questions answered that day.

"Are you still wanting that loan?" Claire asked as they had their coffee.

"I'm not sure Claire, can I put it on hold for now?" Rose replied.

"You like the guest house that much?" Claire laughed.

"I can stay there for now. I just don't want Lee to know where I am," Rose told her. "I mean if he comes here looking for me?"

"I don't know what your problem is with him," Claire tried to be serious.

"You mean ya wouldn't be bothered if he was playing around?" Rose wanted to know.

"That would depend if I was as well," Claire told her.

Rose didn't know whether to laugh or be disgusted by Claire's remark. Instead, she went to get ready to start work, leaving Claire wondering if Rose already knew about herself and Lee. Nothing had been settled as she'd set off that morning, leaving Lee laid in her bed after he'd watched her get dressed. She recalled the conversation they'd had as she washed hers and Rose's cups.

"You've got a dirty mind Claire," Lee had told her as she waited for him getting out of bed.

"You mean you're not going to show off your ass?" she had laughed. "Did you show off to Rose then?"

"She wasn't interested like that," Lee had admitted.

"You expect me to believe you didn't like preening yourself in front of the mirror," she had teased him.

"It would have been a waste of time," Lee replied. "She wouldn't have come up behind me or allowed me to come up behind her."

Claire had spluttered with laughing.

"You do have a dirty mind Claire," he'd told her again. "How are you going to face her at work?"

So on her way there, she'd stared out of the bus window and thought about it and had decided to find out if Rose would actually be jealous or not. If she wasn't, she must have found someone else, maybe that detective who had been hanging around.

Before Rose had left, she had thought of telling Claire she was now a witness and may be needed to go answer more questions but she decided she'd get Alec or Tess to inform her boss. Alec had got to work and was eager to get some answers as Tess was waiting for him.

"Have you moved further away Alec?" Tess greeted him as he sat at his desk.

"Just get on with it Tess. Have they found that pendant?"

"No, I checked with forensics and the coroner's office, she'd not been wearing one when she arrived. Wouldn't you have noticed one?" Tess asked him.

"Tess, you were there, I hardly had the time to notice, I was trying to get to the other side of the river," he replied, trying not to lose his temper with her. "What else did they find?"

"Nothing much, the water had done too much damage to her, you already know there was no water in her lungs so they checked around her mouth and they'd found those traces of some material. I'm just waiting to see if they came from that cushion in Lee Ashworth's house," Tess replied.

"Well I want to know, as soon as they do find out. From what I gathered from our witness, she thought it odd he'd wash it when he did, it was in the spare room and we know Lisa and Rose put Pippa in there. Let's assume Ashworth thought he'd given too much of the drug to the girl and thought he'd make sure by smothering her."

"We don't know that for sure Alec," Tess reminded him. "They've found nothing under the floorboards as of yet though."

"Well, tell them to try nearer the window," Alec insisted. "If Ashworth thinks he's got away with it though, he'll start making mistakes. What if Ricky Gillespie caught them that night, confronted them and Lisa argued with him?"

"We already speculated that Alec," Tess sounded annoyed.

"Yes, well if she fell, that should not have killed her. Have them check for any nails or something sharp on that floor. Maybe that was why he washed that curtain, if she fell on it? How's the search of the cab companies going?"

"Slowly," Tess replied, wishing he'd slow down. "Will you get any more out of our witness?"

"What are you implying Tess?" Alec wanted to know.

"Nothing, unless you have something to hide Alec?" she replied.

Alec knew what she was implying and she'd probably been listening to the conversation he'd had with Daisy last night.

"I may call her back in to clarify a few things. If those fibres match, we know Pippa was killed in that house though. Get the medical examiner to determine a time of death and I will get Rose Tyler's permission to introduce the medical report she got of her also being drugged. We can't let her get caught up in any accusations that may fly around."

"You mean by Ricky and Cate?" Tess asked, seeing his point, for a change.

"Exactly. We will have to prove she and Pippa were both drugged at the same time but any traces of it in Pippa will be long gone. Check again though, something may have been missed."

"Will it make any difference Alec?" Tess asked him.

"It may make all the difference, if she was drugged then smothered," he replied. "It shows she was not killed accidentally, it shows intent."

"You mean if it was Ashworth, he intended to keep her quiet in order to dispose of Lisa? If Ricky was there that night, then how did he transport her? I mean if Ashworth was disposing of Pippa?" Tess asked.

"His works are not far away Tess, it would not take him long to get his van. Then he'd returned to check on Pippa, been convinced she was only sleeping and gone back to the wedding."

"If he did that, he must have been told the next morning that Pippa was dead but why did Ashworth get away with it?" Tess wondered.

"Ashworth knew he'd killed Pippa," Alec reminded her. "Ricky also knew Cate would have been drinking and maybe not notice what the time was."

Tess shook her head.

"How can Ricky keep up the pretence of not knowing?" she wondered.

"Well we know why Ashworth can. He had that hold over Rose so we can't let on he no longer has one," Alec replied.

Just then, his desk phone rang, Tess watching him as he listened to the caller.

"Thanks for letting me know," he said into the phone.

"Well?" Tess asked.

"They have the results from the fibres found around Pippa's mouth and fibres from that cushion cover. Guess what?" he replied dryly.

Chapter 25
Tess got up and went to lean over his shoulder to look at the screen.

"I'll have Lee Ashworth brought in then?" Tess checked with him. "He can try and get out of this one."

"Yes but as much as I want to charge him with something, it's only circumstantial evidence he used the cushion to smother her," Alec replied.

"Whose side are you on Alec?" Tess wondered. "Do you or don't you want to get him for killing Pippa? You said Rose Tyler got the proof she was drugged? Then we can't charge her with being his accomplice, can we?"

"Well no," Alec agreed. "Fetch him in then and take no excuses from him, understand? I'll call Rose and get her to come back in, to keep her up to date and to get her permission to use the report she got about her being drugged."

Tess smiled at the thought he was now using any excuse to get her back in.

"Want me to get her back in?" she suggested.

Alec saw the look on his almost ex-wife's face.

"Stop it Tess. I can't introduce the report until she allows it, it would be betraying her confidence," he replied. "What's happening over Cate Gillespie?"

"I was going to go see her later, to clear up a few things. She'd seen the search going on yesterday, they should be finished up today though," Tess replied.

"Well tell them to pay more attention around the patio doors and find out if there were any stains on that curtain. If Lisa was in that living room that night and Ricky came back and caught her with Ashworth, it may have got violent."

"You think Ricky did kill Lisa, in a fit of temper?" Tess wanted to know.

"Think about it Tess. It's the only explanation that makes any sense. Lisa is not missing, I now am almost certain she was killed and Ricky disposed of her somewhere."

"Then they both had a very busy night," Tess pointed out.

"Didn't they?" Alec raised his eyebrows. "So, Ricky killed Lisa but he didn't know until the following morning about Pippa?"

"How do you know that?" Tess wondered.

"Would he have gone back to the wedding if he had known?" Alec asked her. "No, he must have been convinced by Ashworth she was sleeping but how did he take it so calmly the next day?"

"Because he knew Lee Ashworth had seen him kill Lisa?" Tess suggested.

"We need to find that pendant then, either in the house or if Ashworth transported Pippa to the woods, search his car," Alec snapped out of it.

"So you believe Rose Tyler then?" Tess asked, not being surprised.

"How can we not now?" Alec replied. "She said Ashworth liked to make her believe things, maybe this time he was not joking? We have to treat it seriously now Tess so, get Ashworth back in, under arrest if you have to and I'll get Rose back in. Make sure they don't meet though or she may refuse to talk."

Tess went off and Alec got his phone out to call where Rose worked. Rose just happened to be on the desk.

"Alec?" she asked in a hushed voice.

"Rose, I need you to come to the station, can you put your boss on the phone?" he asked her.

He thought it would be better coming from him. Claire was already interested in Rose talking quietly.

"Claire, it's for you, it's DI Hardy," Rose handed the phone to her.

"What's he want?" Claire mouthed.

Rose just shrugged her shoulders and gestured she didn't know. She needed Alec to explain to Claire she maybe had to go back to answer some more questions. She could of course only hear Claire's side of the conversation.

"I don't know if I can spare her today," Claire was telling Alec. "I have someone off."

"I would not ask if it was not important," Alec replied, wondering if Rose was trying to listen. "Some new information has come to light in the case she has got involved with."

Well he would have assumed Rose had told the woman some of her involvement if she didn't already know.

"When do you need her?" Claire looked at Rose.

After agreeing, she took Rose to one side.

"Is he going to start making a habit of that?" Claire hissed at her.

"Sorry Claire but it must be important, I spent ages there yesterday," Rose apologised.

"Well you can go after the lunch breaks then but he'd better not make a habit of calling you in," Claire replied.

Meanwhile, Tess had contacted Lee and tried not to tell him he was now officially under suspicion of killing Pippa Gillespie. She knew Alec wanted to make sure they could make the charges stick, that of the unlawful killing of the girl and drugging Rose in order to prevent her saying anything.

"When are you people going to stop bothering me?" Lee replied when Tess had asked him.

Tess thought of saying when he was locked up but decided to stay quiet about that.

"We're searching the house you lived in and new evidence has been found that both girls were in there that night," Tess told him, wondering if Alec had mentioned the house was being searched.

"What's that got to do with me then? I wasn't the only one who lived there," Lee replied, eyeing the woman sat on the sofa of where he was about to start work. "I already got badgered into saying they were by that other detective. Don't you talk to each other?"

"Well we need to speak to you again," Tess reminded him, wondering how Rose had managed to put up with the man.

She thought no wonder the young woman was scared of speaking against him.

"It's not an option Lee, if you don't come in, DI Hardy will send officers to escort you here again and he will charge you with obstructing a murder enquiry," she warned him as she continued.

"Fine, I'll come in then. Who do I see about seeking compensation for loss of earnings?" Lee finally agreed.

Tess thought the man wouldn't have to worry about that if everything worked out. After checking with Alec what time Rose was coming in and getting him to agree to hold Lee until she got back from seeing Cate, she set off to visit her.

"Couldn't this have waited?" Cate grumbled as she let Tess in, then picked up a wine bottle.

"Sorry Cate. It's about Ricky and you saying he was at that wedding all night with you. I'm giving you another chance to say he may have been out of your sight for several hours," Tess told her.

"He was out of my view but he came back about twenty minutes later, right at the start of the evening reception," Cate admitted. "One of my friends told me afterwards that he'd followed one of the bridesmaids, Tiffany Evans to her room, he had that flask with him that contained that drug so he probably had a quickie with her and thought he'd sneak back and I wouldn't notice."

This was a new statement, Tess was thinking.

"Why didn't you tell us before Cate?" Tess asked her.

"It's embarrassing, why do you think? Anyway, he wasn't away for long and we're getting divorced, the papers arrived this morning," Cate admitted.

"Cate, we have evidence he left for longer than that, a bit later on," Tess revealed. "We checked with local cab companies and he got one back home, then later on, he got one back to the wedding hotel. The cab companies have computerised systems."

"Well, it's the first I knew about it," Cate replied. "He was there when I wanted the room key, he came up with me."

"What time was that?" Tess asked her.

"After midnight I'd say. So if he went home, what for?" Cate wanted to know.

"You'd have to ask him Cate but he may not tell you the truth. We just need you to admit you lost sight of him for more time than you've just said."

"Not until I know why," Cate disagreed.

"Cate, I can't tell you any more but if he wasn't there, you have to say," Tess reminded her.

"How do they know it was him?" Cate asked, pouring wine into an empty glass. "It could have been anyone we knew Tess, it could have been whoever took Lisa and killed my Pippa. Are you saying Ricky had something to do with it?"

Tess wondered if she admitted it, Cate would give him up. That though was up to Alec, the woman who was now drinking this early in the day obviously didn't want to admit her husband could do anything to hurt their family.

"I'll be back Cate, think about it," Tess urged her. "The longer it goes on, the worse it will get and we do have another witness."

Cate put her glass down.

"You mean Pippa might have seen whoever killed her? What was Lisa doing while my little girl was getting killed? Was she going after that Gary or was she messing around with Lee?"

"We're still not sure Cate," Tess replied, knowing Alec wouldn't want to say anything.

"She was more than likely with Lee," Cate answered her own question. "You need to find her Tess."

Tess thought they already knew Lisa's fate but nothing could be proved, since Cate wasn't giving her husband up, even though they were separated. She left Cate, wondering how the woman got through the day and wondered how Alec was getting on and if Lee Ashworth had been brought to the station.

She'd instructed that on his arrival, Alec was to be informed and Lee wasn't to be told anything. Alec had been informed and was waiting for Tess to get back, having spoken briefly to Rose and telling her not to worry, she wouldn't come face to face with the man she feared.

Claire was showing her annoyance at Rose being wanted to answer some questions.

"You should have done that on your day off," Claire told her during a late break.

"I was there yesterday, I don't know why I'm wanted today," Rose tried to tell her boss. "Maybe they got some new evidence or something?"

"Well on my day off, you'd better not be wanted, maybe I should put someone else in charge?" Claire wondered.

Rose knew she was losing the confidence of her friend and boss and was now sure Lee had got to her.

"Do what ya have to Claire, I can't help it if things are happening now," she replied. "They have to find out who killed Pippa."

"Does it have to involve you all of a sudden?" Claire asked. "Why are they wanting to talk to you so much? Is there something you've not told them?"

Rose knew what Claire was doing. Lee was trying to use her to find out what was going on and she already knew Alec was getting him back in for questioning today. Maybe he'd got the results from the cushion cover being tested or they found something under the floorboards though she dreaded to think what.

Alec was going over the report he'd got regarding the said cushion cover and was pleased they proved it had been used so he could charge Ashworth with Pippa's death, accidental or not. If Pippa had been overdosed with that drug, why couldn't the man have got her some help?
He still needed to talk to Rose over that, she must have been furious with the man for not wanting Pippa to tell her mother about him and Lisa. The young girl may not have even connected the fact she'd heard her dad's voice with Lisa going missing.

The two men had assumed a lot of a twelve year old girl, from what he'd seen and heard, Pippa hadn't been as mature as his own daughter, who didn't seem to miss anything. He looked up and saw Tess was back at her desk and waited for her to say she was ready to start interviewing Lee Ashworth, which Alec was looking forward to.

He hoped to get some pleasure out of saying he had the proof the man drugged Rose, it was just a shame they had no real proof he'd done the same with Pippa. He was still hoping the medical examiner was working on that, he'd said it was urgent that was gone over again. He picked up the desk phone and thought he'd try and find out.

"We've not been able to determine anything resembling drugs," Alec was being told. "What exactly are we looking for?"

"Never mind, you would have found it by now," Alec replied. "Do you have anything else, such as signs she'd been wearing a pendant?"

"It's in my report," the medical examiner replied. "It looked like there were marks of a chain but we didn't find one on her. Thankfully, she didn't appear to have been strangled with one."

Alec was thankful as well but if Cate claimed Pippa was wearing one, where was it? He got up and called Tess over.

"We need to find that pendant Tess, it may have her killer's DNA on it," he told her.

"I have the search team looking for it, in the house and where she was found," Tess told him. "Where else do you suggest we look?"

"In whatever she was transported to the woods in?" Alec suddenly thought. "Find out what Ashworth came in today and either get his permission to search it or get a warrant and if he has a van and a car, search both."

"You think the pendant dropped off when she was taken to the woods?" Tess asked.

Alec raised his eyebrows.

"Now we're getting somewhere Tess, I know we are. Right, let's go see what Ashworth has to say and then ask Rose a few more questions. What did Cate have to say about Ricky?"

"She won't admit he was missing but she gave me a name of a bridesmaid he was chasing at the beginning of the evening," Tess admitted.

"So, he was harassing bridesmaids while his daughter was being drugged and killed was he?" Alec stated. "Get someone to interview her, see what she has to say."

They went off to interview Lee, who was getting impatient.

"About time," he told Alec as they entered the room. "What am I doing here again?"

Alec thought if they were very, very lucky, they'd be arresting him for killing a twelve year old girl.

"Pippa trusted you," Alec began as Tess set the recorder going. "She let Lisa put her in your spare room and when she heard you and Lisa having sex downstairs, you drugged her to keep her quiet."

"You can't prove that," Lee replied smugly.

"Maybe not but to make sure she would not talk, you also smothered her, with a cushion," Alec replied.

"What?" Lee almost stood up. "Why would I do that?"

"To make sure she didn't talk," Tess told him. "We have the cushion cover, from the spare room where you used to live Lee. We tested fibres from it against fibres found around Pippa's mouth, they match."

Alec wasn't going to let Tess have all the luck getting Ashworth to confess but let it go for now.

Lee let out a nervous laugh.

"So, you've still no proof I used it. Rose lived there as well."

"You seem to forget, we know you drugged both of them Ashworth," Alec told him.

"Huh, you can't prove that either Hardy," Lee told him.

"Oh yes we can, we can prove you drugged your then girlfriend and we'll prove you drugged Pippa. We have Rose Tyler's statement, saying she saw young Pippa fall asleep suddenly before she herself felt drowsy and she confronted you the next morning about it."

"That was just her, she'd been drinking with her friend," Lee replied.

Alec opened another folder.

"In here is a report by an independent doctor, stating she was tested and traces of a drug were found in her system. It also states how long the drugs had been in her, which was no longer than the night Pippa died."

Alec watched Lee's reaction.

"We're searching the house you lived in, why not save us some time and tell us what you did with Pippa's pendant," Tess told Lee.

"What pendant?" Lee wanted to know. "I don't know anything about a pendant. I think I want to talk to a solicitor."

"Fine," Alec told him as he gathered the folders. "You are going to need one. Tell them about how you drugged Pippa and your then girlfriend then warned her not to talk to us."

Tess gave him a warning glance.

"You can't prove that," Lee replied.

"Can't we?" Alec asked him. "I would say the doctor's report alone does that. It also contains some other interesting information so you'll have plenty to talk to them about. See he gets his phone call," he turned to Tess.

Tess wondered why he always left everything to her. Rose was just leaving to go answer some more questions regarding what she knew about that night.

"I'm warning you Rose, don't agree to go there on my day off," Claire reminded her as they stood by the door.

"It's not my fault, tell that to them," Rose replied. "Oh and I want to talk to you about something tomorrow."

Rose thought she may as well get it over with and confront Claire about Lee. What if she was wrong though, not that she thought she was. Claire had been fairly quiet all morning and warning her about Friday was unusual.

"Tell me now," Claire replied, looking around.

"You said Lee had been in yesterday, what did he want?" Rose asked.

"He came to ask about you," Claire told her as quiet as she could. "What else would he come here for?"

"I don't know Claire, you tell me?"

"I thought you had somewhere to go?" Claire tried to get out of it. "You think he came to see me?" she laughed.

"Did he? Well if he did, watch out Claire, you have no idea what he can be like," Rose warned her.

"You never used to say that," Claire replied. "See you tomorrow."

Rose wondered exactly how long it would take for her boss to get involved with Lee, if she wasn't already. She walked along the lane which led to the town centre and reached the police station.

"DI Hardy's expecting me," Rose told the desk sergeant and seeing a man in an expensive suit and a briefcase in his hand being let in.

Alec had just been informed Lee Ashworth's solicitor had arrived so when his phone rang again and he was told it was Rose, he had to get the desk sergeant to ask her to wait. After agreeing, Rose went to sit down, knowing Alec wouldn't keep her waiting unless he had to.

Alec thought he would give Ashworth time to talk to whoever was representing him and stopped by Tess's desk.

"Ashworth has arrived, give him five minutes, then start questioning him while I go see if Rose Tyler has arrived."

"What do you want to talk to her for Alec?" she asked him.

"To make sure Ashworth isn't lying, to start with," he replied.

"We know he's been lying Alec," Tess reminded him.

"I know that Tess, I want to see how different his version of events are to hers. Don't forget, she believes that Ricky was there and Ashworth got rid of the evidence by replacing the floorboards, if Ricky killed Lisa. Then there's the fact he took Pippa to the woods and then cleaned away any evidence he'd smothered her to finish her off."

"So you want to hear him say again he's innocent?" Tess smiled.

"What do you think Tess? I want him to lie in front of two police officers, then I'll tell him we know he's lying," Alec replied.

"Won't that put Rose in more danger from him?" Tess asked him.

"No, I'm going to light a fire under him. Find that pendant Tess, it has to be in the house or in his car then have it tested to see if his DNA is on it."

"Maybe he didn't touch it?" Tess wondered.

"Well it will prove it was Pippa's if nothing else and if Cate says she was wearing it that day? Then we have him," Alec replied confidently.

Chapter 26
Tess didn't have the enthusiasm as her almost ex husband had. Alec was banking too much on Rose Tyler as a witness and there could only be one reason for that – they were already sharing a bed. Never mind her being kept safe somewhere, she must have moved into his new place already, where else would she be?

Not that she herself was bothered, she had chosen her new lover over Alec but she was afraid Rose's testimony would be compromised. While Dave gave her more attention in the bedroom department, now she was free to meet with him in the evenings, he still wasn't making a move to separate from his wife, let alone mention the word 'Divorce' to her.

Alec on the other hand seemed to choose a witness to a murder investigation over the catching of the killer and maybe, if they were lucky, they'd find out what happened to Lisa. It was all down to Rose Tyler and she was being compromised but Alec obviously didn't see it that way.

Alec went off to meet Rose in reception while Tess called another DS over to go interview Lee.

"Where's Hardy then?" Lee asked Tess.

"This isn't about him Lee," Tess replied. "I want the truth this time, about the girls being in your house that night. You put Pippa in the spare room and you encouraged Lisa to have sex with you, didn't you?"

"What if I did?" Lee scoffed, after being advised by his solicitor to say what happened.

Well he was only going to tell them enough to keep them happy.

"She's over eighteen," he added.

"Ricky caught you both though, didn't he Lee?" Tess wasn't put off.

"Don't say any more," the solicitor advised.

Lee let out a laugh.

"What makes you think that?" he asked as his solicitor was taking notes.

"We know he did Lee, we checked with the cab companies," Tess replied. "What happened?"

"They argued, after he burst in through the patio doors. She got dressed and went off, he followed her. I assumed it was safer to keep Pippa upstairs but a while later, she came back and woke her up."

"Don't lie Lee," Tess reminded him. "We already have a statement from Rose to say Pippa was there, sitting on the stairs when she got home."

"She would say that," Lee muttered to himself. "Okay, Rose took her upstairs and I made some drinks. I put something in Pippa's to help her sleep, Rose said the girl was upset," he admitted.

"Don't bother denying you drugged Rose as well," Tess told him.

"Fine, she would have gone on about it all night so I put some in hers as well," he further admitted after conferring with the man next to him.

"Before my client says anything else, I want some assurances," the solicitor told Tess.

"Then you'll have to wait for DI Hardy to arrive," Tess replied. "What assurances are we looking at?"

"That he keeps to his side of what happened that night and no-one else's," the solicitor replied.

"I'll see what he says," Tess replied, getting up to go find Alec.

She didn't think Alec would go for it but if they wanted a confession, it was going to have to do for now. They'd just have to get Ricky to confess he went back and somehow get him to include something happened to Lisa.

Meanwhile, Alec was talking to Rose.

"Rose, we just need to go over a few things, okay?" he asked her.

"Claire wasn't pleased I had to leave," she told him. "How long will I be here?"

"We need you to confirm if Lee is telling the truth, amongst other things. Rose, do you know if, when you saw Pippa that morning, was she wearing a pendant?"

"Oh, I didn't notice. She was on her bike, on the road just as I was leaving. Why, is it missing?" Rose wanted to know.

"We can't say," Alec replied. "What else do you remember about that morning?"

"Not much. Lisa was standing behind her, I don't remember her saying anything. It was Pippa who asked about coming over that night. She didn't sound disappointed I was going out though," Rose recalled.

Just then, Tess knocked on the door and went to whisper something to Alec. Rose felt a shiver all over her, thinking how up until recently they had been together and now she was 'the other woman'. Did Tess consider her as such, as a threat?

"Lee Ashworth is ready to talk," Tess was whispering to Alec. "He wants some assurances."

"We're not making any deals with him," Alec told her firmly.

"Do you want him to admit it or not?" Tess huffed.

"Fine, don't go too easy on him though," Alec relented.

"I'm not going to let him get off easily," Tess replied. "When are you coming to join me?" she then asked, glancing at Rose, who was pretending to inspect her fingernails and act like she wasn't bothered Tess was leaning over him.

Rose was bothered, she wished Tess would get out of his face. She thought she'd better not get catty though or Tess may no longer be on her side. She couldn't have the two of them squabbling over her, she needed both of them if she was going to testify against Lee and possibly Ricky. That was if she was right about the whole thing.

Had the drug really affected her that much that she had come up with her own version of what happened that night and Lee hadn't been deceiving her? He could always make her think things when he wanted to though.

"Rose, Tess says Ashworth wants to talk," Alec was telling her when Tess had left.

"What? He's gonna admit what happened?" she asked as she came out of her daze.

"Some of it, yes. Rose, he'll only admit his part in it, meaning he won't say anything about Ricky being there or what happened to Lisa."

"Alec, I know Pippa was right about Ricky being there. Didn't ya check the cab companies?" Rose asked.

"Yes, we did but they never took his name. Tess just pointed out that Cate claims anyone could have left the wedding and gone to their house," he replied. "I'm sorry but there is just no proof it was him, if Cate won't admit he was missing. We also checked cab companies taking whoever it was back to the wedding, Ricky may not have used any of them on a regular basis."

While Tess had been away from interviewing Lee, he'd been granted another phone call and had rung Claire.

"What are you doing there?" Claire had asked him, trying not to repeat where he was.

"They think I drugged Pippa that night and overdosed her," he replied.

"Did you?" Claire wanted to know.

"I swear I only gave her the same as Rose, the girl just reacted badly to it," he admitted. "I think they'll let me out on police bail, will you vouch for me? I have to put an address down."

"You're asking a lot," Claire told him. "What else have you told them?"

"Nothing yet. It's Rose, she's made a big deal out of it, making it sound worse," he started to lie.

"She's not said much," Claire lied back. "So they'll let you out?"

"Yeah, they can't hold me on anything else, I asked for a deal," he bragged.

Alec had just left Rose when he saw Lee on the phone at the end of the corridor, another officer watching him.

"Why has he been allowed another phone call?" he asked the officer.

The officer, who had been slouching against the wall, straightened up when he saw Alec approaching.

"Sir, DS Moody said it was okay," the officer told him. "He was asked for his address and said he had to check, he's just moved."

"Has he now?" Alec now seemed interested.

He wondered if Rose was right and that Ashworth had already moved in with her boss. If so, she was going to have a very difficult time at work. He wondered if she'd want to leave, if it became hostile? He escorted Lee back to the interview room, wondering why Tess hadn't said anything. He indicated for Moody to leave as he left the door open.

"So you admit you overdosed Pippa?" Alec wanted to make sure.

"She was panicking, after Lisa left," Lee claimed.

"I'm not going for that," Alec banged his fist on the table. "Where did Lisa go then? If Lisa left, then why was Pippa missing the next morning? Come on Ashworth, things do not add up."

"My client insists he only admits his part in what happened that night," the solicitor reminded him. "As far as he is concerned, the rest is pure speculation, based on the perception of his ex girlfriend."

"His then girlfriend knows what she saw and heard that night," Alec replied. "We already have her statement. Pippa was gone the next morning Ashworth, was it you who took her to the woods?"

Lee leaned over to consult with the solicitor.

"Do I admit it or not?" Lee hissed.

"If that's what you did?" the man whispered back. "Was she alive when you left her?"

"I'm not a medical expert," Lee half joked. "Maybe she was? I couldn't leave her in the house."

"Come on Lee, either you took Pippa to the woods that night or you didn't," Tess tried to get him to admit.

"I panicked when she wouldn't wake up," Lee finally admitted. "She may have still been alive when I checked."

"My client doesn't admit he placed her in the woods," the solicitor told them after he consulted with Lee again.

"So, you are trying to tell us she somehow got there on her own?" Alec asked, checking Rose's statement. "In that case, you are further charged with withholding evidence. Lee Ashworth, you are under arrest for the unlawful killing of Pippa Gillespie. DS Henchard, read him his rights," Alec turned to Tess.

"Hold on," Lee told them. "Lisa came back and took her."

"You lied before Ashworth, why should we believe you now?" Alec asked him.

"I don't know where Lisa took her," Lee insisted. "I assumed they were going next door."

"So, you're trying to tell us that Lisa left her in the woods?" Tess wanted to know.

"Do I get let out on bail?" Lee wanted to know as the solicitor whispered something to him.

"You are not treating this seriously," Alec told him.

"My client made a grave mistake in allegedly giving the girl too much of the unnamed drug. He poses no other risk," the solicitor argued as he looked towards Alec. "He insists he had nothing more to do with the incident."

"He will be processed first, then we will see," Alec replied, not keen on letting the suspect go in case the first person he tried to find was Rose. "There may be conditions, if he is released on police bail."

"I can guess what they are," Lee laughed as Tess had got up and was about to lead him out. "Are you seeing my ex?"

"What?" Alec exclaimed. "Get him out of here," he told Tess.

"You are, aren't you? You were always hanging around where we used to live. You even helped her move out."

That was news to Tess. She now had a few questions of her own to ask her almost ex husband about Rose Tyler.

"Only because I was there at the time," Alec had to admit, seeing Tess was now looking at him. "What did you expect, for me not to offer her a ride and let her get a cab?"

Alec hoped that was good enough to stop both Ashworth and Tess asking him any further questions. He let them go off, then went back to where Rose was waiting.

"There's no more questions for you at the moment, Ashworth has admitted overdosing Pippa but still insists Lisa took her off," he told her.

"I can't see how," Rose replied. "That's not what he admitted to me."

"I know, you put it in your statement," Alec replied. "We can charge him for now but we'll have to release him, unless we have concrete evidence. We need to find the pendant Pippa was wearing, I have people looking for it. Where would his car be, if he came in his van?"

"At his lock-up probably," Rose replied as she got up.

"Rose, this is important. That night, was the car there or the van?" Alec asked her, wishing he could put his arms around her.

"The car, he never took the van home at the weekend. He must have gone in the car to his lock-up to bring the new floorboards back though," Rose told him.

"Just wait here a while longer while I make sure he's gone," Alec insisted.

He went off, formulating a plan to get Ashworth to admit he did take Pippa to the woods. He caught up with Lee just as he was about to leave.

"We need your permission to search your van and car," Alec told him.

"Good luck with that Hardy," Lee laughed as he put his possessions back in his pocket. "You won't find anything and I've just arranged to sell the car, I only kept it to take that little blonde bitch wherever she wanted to go."

"Don't talk about her like that," Alec warned him. "What have you done with your car?"

"I'm dropping the keys off at a garage, when you lot have finishing playing games. They'll have already collected it from the lock-up by now."

"Well, give me the name of the garage and the keys," Alec insisted, holding his hand out. Then he turned to the desk sergeant. "Get the address and call them, tell them we'll be coming to search it."

"Hold on Hardy, I've not given you my permission yet," Lee replied.

"You insist you didn't take Pippa to the woods," Alec reminded him. "You still need to prove it, by co-operating and giving permission to search it."

Lee was about to get the car keys out of his pocket but stopped.

"How do I know you lot won't plant any evidence?" he asked.

"How do we know there is not already some in it?" Alec replied.

Lee reluctantly handed the keys over and Alec put them on the desk, giving Lee a sheet of paper and a pen the desk sergeant handed to him.

"Write down where it's gone. These are the provisions of your police bail – the first being you stay away from Rose Tyler. If I hear you have approached her and you harass her, you will be locked up – understand? Sergeant, read him the standard conditions of his bail."

"Yes Sir," the sergeant replied, picking up the card he'd already got out of the desk drawer and wondering what all that was about.

Lee scribbled the address of a friend of his, who had arranged to pick the car up and he was to collect the cash on his way back to Claire's. He'd been losing work lately, by having to answer stupid questions that the detective kept coming up with and he really didn't have any need of the car now. He didn't intend running Claire around like he had Rose anyway.

He did wonder what they expected to find in the car though but he was fairly certain there was nothing left of when he'd placed Pippa in the back. He'd already taken the blanket out that he'd hurriedly wrapped her in and put it back in the linen cupboard.

Alec turned to the desk sergeant, after nodding to one of the DC's to follow Lee.

"Get some officers round to that garage and call them, tell them that car is not to be touched until we get there. Get forensics to join us, then arrange to have it brought back here. Where did DS Henchard go?" Alec asked him.

"No idea Sir, she went back towards the interview rooms, I think she was looking for your witness."

Alec never even thanked the sergeant, he was in too much of a hurry to stop Tess asking Rose if the two of them were already sleeping together, after Ashworth brought up the subject.

Tess had found Rose, who was texting her mother.

"Hello again Rose," Tess greeted her. "I thought you would have left by now."

"I'm waiting to make sure Lee's left," Rose replied.

"You should be safe enough, he received a warning to stay away from you, it's part of his police bail conditions," Tess told her. "He did bring up some interesting questions though?"

"Yeah? Such as?" Rose wanted to know, checking her fingernails as if she wasn't bothered.

"When DI Hardy helped you move out," Tess replied, wondering if Alec was looking for her.

"He'd been next door and wanted to check something," Rose recalled, hoping to get away with a simple explanation.

"Did he now?" Tess replied sarcastically. "Where did he take you?"

"To a guest house," Rose replied. "Was there anything else?" she added as Alec appeared behind Tess.

"Yes but it can wait," Tess replied as she heard a sound behind her. "Don't worry Alec, I've not interrogated her."

"Rose, you can leave now, it's safe. I'll have the desk call a taxi for you, are you going back to work?" he asked, which was his way of finding out if Rose wanted picking up later, though he might be busy searching Ashworth's car.

"Not much point now and Claire won't be expecting me back anyway," Rose told him. "What happens, now he's been charged and released?"

"He will have to stay away from you and follow other conditions," Alec repeated. "If you see him watching you or following you, dial the emergency number right away and tell them who you are and to send a car right away. You won't be left on your own."

"Does that mean you'll be visiting her, wherever you have her stashed away?" Tess taunted him.

"Stop it Tess," Alec told her.

"Hey, I'm here," Rose reminded them as Alec stood with his arms folded. "Did ya find out about Lee's car?"

"Yes, we are going to search it," Alec changed the subject. "When was the last time you were in it?"

"I've been in loads of times, after Pippa was found," Rose replied. "Why?"

"Rose, this is important. Did you find anything that may have belonged to Pippa?" he asked her.

"Such as?" Rose wondered.

"I can't say. When was Pippa last in it?" he replied, for Tess's benefit.

"When we gave her a lift to school, the morning Cate was out of it and she had no bus fare. Lee had to call Ricky to pick her up at home time. I think I put it in my statement," Rose recalled. "Oh, you asked me if Pippa had been wearing a pendant that morning, it that's what ya looking for?"

"Yes, it is," Tess admitted. "Why, do you know where it is Rose?"

Rose shook her head.

"No and I want to know where it is as well, I gave her it, as a present."

"You gave her it?" Alec repeated.

"Yeah, last Christmas," Rose replied. "It's difficult buying for an almost teenager. Lisa liked it but I got her something else. Oh, I get it now. If I saw Pippa wearing the pendant that morning and you're looking for it, she either lost it in the house or the car. That proves I was telling ya the truth, that Lee took her to the woods."

"Rose, he's admitted to overdosing Pippa," Alec told her.

Rose heart was leaping. Finally, he'd get what he deserved for killing Pippa and drugging herself.

Chapter 27
Rose's relief was short-lived though.

"Rose, he's only admitting he overdosed you and Pippa, nothing else," Alec told her. "He won't admit what happened with Lisa, after they had sex."

"Great. How are ya gonna prove Ricky may have killed her and got rid of her?" Rose wanted to know.

"We'll get them both, I promise," he tried to assure her. "The main thing is we can charge him and when we find the pendant, which we will, we'll get him for killing Pippa and disposing of her."

Rose waited at the desk for a taxi to arrive to take her home but Tess passed by before she left.

"I still have a few questions for you," Tess told her.

"Such as? I know what ya gettin' at," Rose replied. "I know what you're up to. You're tryin' to get me to admit something's goin' on between me and Alec."

"Is there?" Tess wanted to know.

"I was under the impression you two had split up?" Rose reminded her. "If ya have, why are ya so bothered?"

Tess observed her. Yes. Alec could go for a younger blonde, if he were that way inclined but when it came to messing up a murder investigation to do so, would he risk it? Would he risk compromising Rose's testimony?

"This place you're staying, it's only being paid for because Alec thinks you need keeping safe," Tess reminded her. "Be careful Rose, don't have the chief changing his mind you need protecting from Lee."

"I'm not gonna do anything stupid like go back to Lee," Rose replied. "I think he's involved with my boss and now, I'm scared he'll get her on his side. I don't know what I'll do if Claire starts acting all hostile towards me."

"Try not to worry about it just yet," Tess tried to assure her. "You may be worrying over nothing. Have you given her your new address?"

"Yeah, I had to," Rose replied, covering her mouth. "Do ya think she'll tell Lee? I told ya, he's good at gettin' people to believe him. He might have told her all kinds of things."

"Well, don't let him in and when you leave work, make sure he's not following you," Tess advised her.

Rose thought she already knew that. Fat lot of advice that was.

Alec was just going back to his office as he saw Rose waiting.

"I just got some advice from Tess," Rose told him as no-one was around except the desk sergeant, who was pretending he wasn't interested.

He was but he was used to Tess catching Alec and being catty to him. He just wished they'd keep their domestic squabbles at home or get a divorce and it looked like the young blonde was a candidate to cause even more problems.

"Well just watch out for her, she may pretend to be on your side but she's just trying to find out if there is anything going on between us," Alec warned her.

They were interrupted by the desk sergeant telling Rose her taxi was outside, him shaking his head as he snapped them out of their gazing at each other.

"See you soon and don't worry," Alec told her. "Go back to work as normal tomorrow and call us if there are any problems. DS Henchard will call your boss to smooth things over."

"Does that mean you'll want me to answer more questions?" Rose wanted to know.

"That depends. Don't miss your taxi," Alec replied as he heard a car horn outside.

Rose rather thought that if the police had called for a cab, the driver would know to wait. Alec watched her leave the station, wishing he dared escort her outside and kiss her goodbye but he knew the desk sergeant was watching. Now, he had to go find out what exactly Tess had said to Rose.

"Come on Alec," Tess was telling him. "Don't tell me you've not got your eye on her, in a not so professional way."

"What are you getting at Tess? She's a witness," Alec tried to defend himself. "You have room to talk anyway, you and Dave are not being so professional at work, are you?"

"Fine, have it your way Alec but if we take Lee Ashworth to court and she has to testify, don't let his defence find out or he'll get off. Do we have enough on him yet?" she wanted to know.

"Maybe but we need to find that pendant," Alec replied. "In his car or van, preferably," he added, sweeping his hair back and thinking he'd been to visit where Rose worked and she'd cut it for him.

"Right, we should get to where they are holding Ashworth's car," Alec suddenly got up, just after he'd sat on the edge of Tess's desk.

"How did you get him to hand the keys over so easily?" Tess wanted to know.

"He's trying to prove he's innocent," Alec replied. "He's sure of himself which means he thinks he covered everything when he moved Pippa, if he moved her. Rose said Pippa had been in the car but the girl had worn the pendant the night she died. If it's in there, we have him."

"Be careful he doesn't accuse us of planting it," Tess warned him as she put her jacket on.

"Which is why two senior officers will supervise the search," Alec replied. "Let's see what we can find."

"You may be wrong Alec, then what?" Tess wanted to know.

"Then we start work on Ricky, by getting Cate to admit he wasn't only just missing for half an hour. Has anyone talked to that bridesmaid yet?" Alec asked as they walked off.

"I have someone on it but really Alec, what do you expect her to say?" Tess replied. "We don't want her to say he was there all night or there goes your theory Ricky came back that night."

Alec just wished she wasn't always right. They joined the officers already waiting at the car sales, the owner not impressed people were walking past at a police presence and not looking at the cars for sale.

"How long is this going to take?" the man wanted to know as Tess and Alec were let past, Tess having told them no-one else was to touch the car. "I hope you got the keys?"

Tess had got them from reception on their way out and handed them to the forensics team leader.

"If you find a pendant, do not touch it, I want it leaving exactly where it was, understand?" Alec asked him.

The forensics leader already wasn't keen on Alec to start off with so he grabbed the keys and grunted an 'okay' back at him.

"Go with him while I talk to the owner," Alec turned to Tess.

"When can I start getting the other cars prepared?" the man wanted to know. "I'm losing money here, whoever you are."

"DI Hardy and your lot will have to remain closed until we recover the car but until then, we have to examine it, it's connected to a police incident," Alec told him.

"What? You mean that girl that was killed? I don't want anything to do with the car then, wait until I see Ashworth, he's not getting paid for it," the man replied angrily.

"We can't say at present," Alec didn't want to admit anything just yet. "Has anyone touched it?"

The man shook his head.

"Ashworth left it, my mate drove it round on a pick-up," he replied.

"We'll need to eliminate his fingerprints," Alec told him, getting his phone out and calling Lee.

"Ashworth, you need to drop your van off at the station as soon as possible."

"How am I supposed to get to work?" Lee wanted to know.

"Well pick a time and get a cab back to where you're working then," Alec suggested. "Or you can stay and answer a few more questions," he added for good measure.

"No thanks, I'm losing work because of you," Lee replied, annoyed he'd been interrupted. "What's that blonde bitch been telling you?"

"Don't be so disrespectful," Alec snapped at him.

He heard Lee laughing in the background and hung up, looking to where Tess was standing over the forensics team.

"Anything yet?" he asked her.

"No, these things take time," she reminded him as three men did a fingertip search.

Then one of them called out.

"Sir, we found something."

"The pendant?" Alec dared ask.

"Looks like it Sir, there's a delicate chain jammed behind the back seat, we'll have to be careful it doesn't snap when we release it," the man replied.

"Then do it," Alec replied, standing forward and Tess thinking he'd dive in and yank the item out.

He waited not so patiently as the chain was carefully removed from around the seat mechanism and placed in an evidence bag. The forensics team leader handed the bag to Tess, who had a pen in her hand to write the details on it, then she handed it to Alec.

"Right, I'll take this back to the station, carry on searching the car when you get it back. DS Henchard, stay here until the car's removed."

"I'd be better taking the evidence back, I go that way on my way home," Tess replied, looking at the time.

"Fine, do that then. Make sure you take it straight back," Alec reluctantly agreed.

"What do you think I'm going to do?" Tess huffed at him, amusing those close by.

Alec felt like being sarcastic back but he knew it would only lead to more gossip back at the station.

"Are you seeing Daisy tonight?" she wanted to know, in case Dave was free later.

"I will try, will she be home?" he asked, since she was kept busy with various activities he could never keep up with but paid for them one way or another.

"Yes, she'll be in, she stopped most of her classes Alec," Tess had to remind him. "She was getting nowhere with her swimming class."

"How am I supposed to keep up?" he replied as they walked back to their cars, Alec now glad he'd elected to drive his own.

He'd thought he would surprise Rose and get back early for a change.

"You could make the effort," Tess told him. "I won't tell her, in case you don't get there."

She got in her car after placing the evidence bag in her work bag and putting it on the seat beside her. Alec didn't know how many times he'd told her not to leave it on display but the advice always fell on deaf ears.

Tess watched Alec drive off, mainly to see what direction he went as he'd not given her his new address yet, she'd soon get it though when he filed for divorce, should he do it before she got the chance. She got her personal mobile out of her own purse and called Dave, just as the tow-truck arrived for Lee Ashworth's car.

She was delayed though as the car-lot owner tapped on her car window.

"Can I get back in now?" he indicated to the entrance where a police car was still parked.

"As soon as they finish up," Tess replied, covering the phone.

"Not before time," the man complained as he walked off.

"Dave, sorry," Tess told her new boyfriend. "Can we meet somewhere? I'm on my way back to the station, we found the missing pendant. Want to celebrate?"

After Lee had left the police station, he'd gone straight to Claire's salon.

"I sort of need your help," he told her as she pulled up her underwear and he his jeans as they stood behind the break room door,

"You have a nerve," Claire giggled.

"I was selling my car to a mate of mine but the police want to search it," he began to tell her.

"What am I supposed to do about that?" she laughed as she took hold of his belt.

"I want you to go round and see if they take anything away," he replied, tapping her hand as she placed it on his jeans zip.

"Such as? Geez Lee, I can't just leave work, you go," she replied.

"I can't, they'll see me but you can. Please Claire?" he asked again.

"Well I'll have to get someone to lock up, give me the address," she relented. "It'll cost ya the cab fare."

"Didn't I just pay you?" he grinned back.

She was about to slap his face when there was a knock on the door, one of the staff wanting their break and Claire was still behind it with Lee staring at her cleavage. She moved away and the door opened.

"Sorry love," Claire apologised after she'd fastened the button on her top. "Can you do me a favour and lock up tonight, I have to go somewhere?"

"Sure Claire, no problem," the woman agreed, wondering what they'd been up to and not wanting to know the answer, knowing Claire wouldn't tell what Rose's ex boyfriend was doing there and the door was blocked. It didn't take a genius to work out they'd been engaged in sexual activities.

Lee scribbled the address down and Claire called for a cab.

"You could offer me a lift," Claire hissed at him when they got outside.

"Don't be so daft Claire, then they'd see me," he replied as a cab pulled up. "Call me and tell me what's going on."

So Claire had got there, paid the driver and hoping Lee would pay her back in actual money and not in an afternoon romp in the break room then took up a vantage point across the road where several others were watching with interest.

"I wonder what all that's about?" an older woman asked her.

Claire just shrugged her shoulders and told her she'd no idea. Then a while later, she saw a bag being handed to a woman standing next to the detective who had been to visit Rose. The woman had stood talking to him then they'd got into separate cars. The detective had driven off so she'd watched the woman get her phone out and was about to drive off so luckily for Claire, a cab was passing so she stopped it.

"Where to luv?" the driver asked as Claire got in the back.

"I need you to follow that car, I'm trying to catch up to my friend, she drove off without me," was all she could think of.

"Whatever you want luv," the driver laughed as he set the meter going.

Tess stopped her car and looked to see if there was any room in the car park of the pub she'd arranged to meet Dave at. She drove under the canopy and found a space as Dave got out of his car. The cab carrying Claire had pulled up outside and she got a note out to pay the driver, not getting much change and hoping this was going to be worth it.

Since Claire didn't know Tess, she decided to stand on the corner, her foot on the wall behind her and pretend to be playing with her phone and waiting for someone. She saw Tess go up to Dave, kiss him then he'd put his arm around Tess and they entered the pub, Claire thinking the woman had no taste in men.

She went towards Tess's car and peered inside, thinking some detective this woman was when she left a handbag on the front seat and open. She could see the plastic bag sticking out and wondered what it was so she called Lee.

"What did they take out Claire?" Lee wanted to know as he sat in his van at the lock-up.

"A plastic evidence bag," Claire replied quietly as a couple came out of the pub and she'd walked away from the car.

"Well find out what's in it then and meet me at your place," he replied.

"The stupid woman left it on the front seat of the car," Claire laughed as the couple drove off and she walked back to Tess's. "She's probably even left the door open."

Claire tried it but it was locked but she should have guessed since she'd heard the remote.

"Well smash the window," Lee suggested.

"You come and do it," Claire huffed, looking around for any cameras.

"I can't, I'm on police bail," he had to admit.

"What?" Claire laughed. "You never said that earlier."

"I said when I called you from the police station, didn't I?" he tried to remember. "Well maybe not? Just do it Claire."

"Okay, keep your shorts on," Claire tried to be serious.

"That's not what you were telling me earlier," he smirked to himself.

"Cheeky b******" Claire swore at him, spying a handy brick by a drain and not caring why it was there.

She put her phone away and pulled the hood up on her jacket, just in case she missed a camera, then she put her other arm up after picking up the brick and hoped she wouldn't get hit by any flying glass. If she was successful and got away, she wanted the whole story from Lee because she was now involved with whatever had gone on the night that young girl had been killed.

Had Rose's suspicions about him been right all along? Well it was too late now but she doubted Lee had been on his own in whatever had taken place and maybe he was just protecting that person for some reason.

So she carefully put her arm through the window after throwing the brick away, not wanting to leave any fingerprints on the door or the frame and picking up the bag, pulled it back through the window. She grabbed the plastic evidence bag, stuffed it in her pocket and took Tess's work mobile then walked off to the sound of the alarm going, throwing the bag back through the window.

She caught the attention of another passing cab and gave her home address, hoping Lee would be pleased with her.

"Someone's car alarm's going off out there," someone shouted from the bar.

"Better hope it's not yours," Dave laughed as he moved his arm from behind her.

"Doesn't sound like it but they all sound the same," Tess replied. "I'll just go look and see whose it is, since technically I'm still on duty."

"So that's why you're drinking tonic water?" Dave nudged her as she got up.

"I'm not off duty until I get back with that evidence," she reminded him. "The evidence!" she gasped as she dashed to the door leading to the rear car park.

Dave went off after her, seeing her standing and staring at the smashed window and the empty bag on the seat.

"I'd better call Alec," she told him, a lump in her throat. "He's not going to be happy."

"You can say that again," Dave agreed. "Want me to stay?"

"You'd better go," she replied, getting her personal phone out. "I'll call the station first and get a patrol car here. Any sign of the evidence bag?" she asked him as a crowd stood in the doorway.

"Can't see it," Dave told her as he looked around the car.

"Ask them if they saw anything," Tess suggested.

"I can't get involved Tess, I shouldn't be here," he replied, backing off. "Tell them you called me first, I'm your partner Tess," he then reminded her.

"That won't work with Alec," Tess disagreed as the phone was answered.

She gave the desk sergeant all the details, telling him to get a patrol car out and forensics to dust for prints.

"Do you want me to inform DI Hardy?" the sergeant asked her when he'd got all the details.

"No, I'll call him myself," she decided.

Alec had just got home and been greeted by Rose, who was glad they were now on their own.

"It was so difficult in there," Rose was telling him as they sat down.

"I know but Ashworth will start making mistakes and I have some good news. We found Pippa's pendant," he admitted.

"Great. Was it in Lee's car?" Rose wanted to know.

"Yes but you can't tell anyone Rose, promise me?" Rose nodded. "Tess was taking it back and handing it over. Rose, do you mind if I go out and pay a visit to Daisy?"

"Yeah, ya don't have to ask me," Rose smiled, taking his hand. "Go see her, she's so lucky to have you."

"That's not what Tess thinks," he reminded her, stretching his long legs out.

"Sorry. Why don't ya go now and bring some food back with ya?" she suggested.

"I will ask if she's ready to meet you yet," he replied, leaning over for a kiss as he got up.

He was there ten minutes later, Daisy letting him in.

"Dad, I was going to call you, Mum's not here," Daisy greeted him.

"Well, we had been out and she had to call at the station on her way back but she should be here by now," Alec agreed, getting his mobile out. "Have you just got home?"

"Yeah, I do have a key Dad," Daisy smiled.

"Tess, where are you?" Alec asked as Tess answered.

She had been giving details to the officers who had arrived as she'd been trying to call him, then she'd called an auto glass repairers to come and clean up the mess as forensics dusted the car door and the man had shaken his head, saying there was nothing.

"Alec, I was just going to call you. My car got broken into."

"What? How the hell did that happen? Where are you?" he asked again.

"At The Cross Keys pub, I had to stop on my way back to use the restroom," she lied.

"Have you called for assistance?" he asked, closing the kitchen door as he went into the hallway.

"Yes, uniformed officers, forensics and the auto glass people have just arrived, of course I did. I also called Dave, since you won't answer your phone while you're driving. You should really get a hands-free kit Alec."

"Why, when you'd just argue with me while I'm driving?" he wanted to know, not surprised Dave had turned up. "Tess, tell me you have the evidence bag with you?"

Chapter 28
Alec couldn't believe what he was hearing as Tess broke her silence.

"What are you playing at Tess?" he raised his voice to her when she answered.

"Well you shouldn't have agreed to let me take it," Tess argued. "I had to stop off to use the ladies room, we'd been out so long. What are you doing there anyway?" she tried to change the subject.

"Me?" he asked. "What am I doing here? I came to see Daisy and a good thing I did. I'll drop her at her gran's house then when you get your car window repaired, meet me at the station."

"I was going home Alec," Tess disagreed.

"Without making a report?" he asked. "No you don't Tess, you're responsible now if the case falls apart. You couldn't have waited until you took the evidence back?"

"That's what I said Alec," she replied as an officer was accessing the damage while forensics dusted for fingerprints.

"There are no fingerprints, sorry," he told Tess.

Alec heard.

"Whoever it was must have been wearing gloves," he surmised. "Bit of a coincidence we get evidence Ashworth was the last one to see Pippa then it gets stolen."

"Maybe it was Rose?" Tess dared to suggest. "Maybe she had a change of heart about him?"

"What?" Alec shouted down the phone as he told Daisy to get what she needed.

"No, you wouldn't dare suggest she had anything to do with it," Tess replied.

"I just called in on her, it can't have been her, "Alec defended Rose. "That's why I'm out. I called on her to make sure she was okay, then came to see Daisy."

Well it was true, he thought. He didn't have to tell Tess that Rose was at his new place.

"What are you hiding Alec? Where have you stashed her?" Tess wanted to know. "You've moved her in with you, haven't you?"

"Stop it Tess. Just get finished there and meet me to tell me exactly what happened. This is serious and we may have to let Ashworth go now," he told her sternly.

The only reason he'd tried to remain calm was he didn't want Daisy to hear and he didn't want to take it out of Rose when he got home.

Tess had turned to Dave, who was leaning on his car, watching the auto-glass repairer.

"I have to go give Alec a report," she told him.

"Why do you stay on his team?" Dave wanted to know.

"It's not that easy to leave now I'm on this case with him," Tess replied.

Once her car window was repaired, she set off for the station, not looking forward to getting chewed out for losing their only evidence Lee Ashworth was guilty. Unluckily for Tess, the chief was still there, Alec already talking to him.

"Why didn't you bring it back yourself?" he was being asked.

"She's a senior officer," Alec was defending his decision to leave the evidence with Tess.

"We got one chance of proving Pippa was in that car on the night she disappeared," the chief pointed out. "Tess had better tell me they found some fingerprints on her car."

"It's doubtful," Alec told him. "She had the nerve to suggest Rose Tyler was involved."

"Would she change her mind and try to get Ashworth off?" the chief asked.

"There is no way, she was scared to death of him," Alec defended her. "She was also afraid that Ashworth would try to get to her boss, which makes me wonder."

"Do they know each other?" the chief asked.

"Well they must have met at some point, even if he only met Rose at home time," Alec replied. "It was enough that Rose mentioned she hoped they wouldn't take up with each other and he turned her boss against her. I will ask her how they knew each other."

"Good idea," the chief agreed. "Then we know what we're up against. What the hell was Tess thinking of? Do you believe her?"

"Honestly? Then no, there had to be another reason she stopped. She must have been meeting someone," Alec replied.

"I do know of the rumours Alec," the chief reminded him. "She has some explaining to do."

Just then, Tess knocked on the chief's door.

"Well, what do you have to say for yourself Tess?" he asked her, Alec not even offering his chair or to leave.

"You've just cost us the case Tess," Alec warned her. "You've also put Rose Tyler in danger."

"Oh come on Alec," Tess defended herself. "That's a bit extreme."

"No, it's not," Alec argued. "I think somehow, her boss has taken up with Ashworth and he got her to help him."

"By breaking into my car?" Tess scoffed, getting another chair since Alec wasn't giving his up.

"Alec has a point," the chief agreed. "If Ashworth can't get to Rose Tyler, what better way? Do we have a name?"

"Yes, she was interviewed, about where Rose Tyler was that night," Alec replied.

"So, she gives Rose an alibi, then gets turned against her by Lee Ashworth?" Tess asked, glad she wasn't taking all the blame.

"You have to agree it's possible," Alec argued. "Tomorrow, we pay a visit to the salon and have a few words with her."

"Don't think you're off the hook Tess," Tess was warned by the chief as she got up. "It was a rookie mistake, leaving your bag in the car. I don't care if you did only stop for a bathroom break then have a drink or you stopped to meet someone. You'd better hope we recover that pendant."

"Claire won't be stupid enough to keep it, if it was her," Alec told them. "Find out what phone calls Ashworth made while he was being interviewed and if he made one to her."

"Now?" Tess questioned him. "What about Daisy?"

"She's gone to her gran's. You're the one who put us in this position Tess," Alec reminded her. "Do you have something else to do mmm? You were going to leave Daisy on her own?"

"Don't put that on me Alec," Tess argued.

"Stop it, the both of you," the chief ordered them. "Your domestic arrangements don't interest me but get them sorted outside, not in my office. Tess, do as he says and contact this Claire, see how well she knows Lee Ashworth but don't mention Rose Tyler, understand? I don't want her being put in danger of Ashworth seeking her out."

Tess was still annoyed she had to do it but left, Alec thinking she should be grateful she got out of it so easily. If it had been up to him, she wouldn't have done,

"Go supervise her Alec or do you have something else to do?" the chief suggested.

"I was going to check on our witness," he admitted. "If Claire did break into Tess's car, there is going to be some trouble, it will put Rose in an awkward situation."

"So will this Claire taking up with Lee Ashworth," the chief reminded him.

Alec didn't want to think about it.

"Maybe Rose could take some paid leave?" Alec wondered.

"Yes, suggest she does Alec, it will give us time to get this cleared up. If things don't add up, get this Claire in for a formal interview and revoke Ashworth's bail."

"If I had known he was going to have an accomplice, he never would have got police bail," Alec replied.

"There is one more thing Alec," the chief told him as he got up. "Those higher up warned me that Rose Tyler, while she's a valuable witness, she could also be an accomplice for what happened after she got home that night."

"What?" Alec couldn't believe what he was hearing. "She was drugged, she has a medical report to say the drug was still in her system."

"Only faint traces Alec," he was reminded. "She could have been given it any time."

"Not before that night, according to the report," Alec argued. "The drug would have been gone even one night earlier than when she was given it. It was a shame none was found in Pippa."

Well he didn't recall being told any had been found in the girl.

"Have they checked the girl's body?" the chief had to ask. "Get them to check again. If there was no water in her lungs, which we know already she was killed before she was left in the woods or the river, there may still be a slight trace."

"I will get on to them first thing tomorrow," Alec promised, wanting to get back to Rose and warn her. "I should go inform our witness she may have to take some leave."

"Well get Tess to inform her boss, it would be better to do that before Claire comes in rather than her going back and confronting Rose afterwards for her being interviewed," the chief suggested. "Things could turn nasty if we charge Claire with being an accessory after the fact, let alone breaking into a police officer's car."

Alec thought they were both the same.

"So, we charge her with being Ashworth's accomplice and get Ashworth to admit he was using her? Do you think she will be still taken in by him?" he wondered.

"I expect that will depend on a few things?" the chief replied. "One being was she already jealous of Rose Tyler?"

"Rose has not talked about her boss much," Alec had to admit. "What if Claire knew Ashworth before Rose met him?"

"That would answer a few questions," the chief agreed. "Go talk to Rose and ask her then."

That was exactly what Alec was going to do and he could have kicked himself for not asking Rose sooner. His mistake could cause Rose some grief if Claire turned on her and took Ashworth's side. Before he set off, he called Daisy, to tell her to stay at her gran's house and that he'd see her the next day. He got home after collecting some food and Rose was waiting.

"Rose, did Claire know Lee Ashworth before you met him?" he asked her.

"Well yeah, she did. Alec, I forgot to mention it, I'm so sorry."

"It would have helped if I had known," he replied, trying not to sound angry.

"Are ya mad at me?" Rose dared ask.

"No, sorry. Rose, something happened tonight and we think Claire may have been involved."

"I thought ya were off to see Daisy?"

"I got there and Tess was still out. She should have been back. Rose, we found the missing pendant, in Lee Ashworth's car," he admitted.

"Well, that's good, yeah?" Rose smiled.

"It would have been. Tess offered to take it back and she stopped off at a pub on her way home. Her car was broken into and the evidence was stolen."

"You are kidding me?" Rose was astounded. "Who would have been so stupid to leave it in a car?"

Alec raised his eyebrows.

"She did it on purpose?" Rose asked him.

"I don't know? She said she stopped to use the rest room but I doubt that, the timing is all wrong, unless she just had a drink?" Alec wondered.

"You think she was meeting him?" Rose suggested.

"She said she'd called him first, he could have already been there though?" Alec replied. "Rose, I don't think it was a random smash and grab. Ashworth could have got Claire to follow her. Does she drive?"

"Not that I know of," Rose answered. "So, she's taken up with him?"

She didn't want to believe it.

"Rose, I think it would be a good idea if you took some leave from work. You can't stay there love."

"What do I do then?" Rose wondered.

"I will see about getting you some compensation for loss of earnings but don't worry, I will look after you."

"I can't face her Alec."

"I know, which is why I will arrange for Tess to call Claire," he assured her.

"She'll know you suspect her," Rose reminded him.

"We can deal with her, don't worry so much. If she stole the pendant from Tess's car, she'll hold onto it, as insurance that Lee won't involve her."

Well he hoped so anyway. Claire had got home, not happy about how things were developing. Yes, she'd wanted to get with Lee before Rose had come along but she always thought Lee didn't believe she was good enough for him. It seemed he'd changed his mind or was he just getting back at Rose? She sat at the kitchen table, fingering the pendant through the plastic bag as she heard a knock on the door.

As soon as she let him in, they kissed.

"You got the pendant then?" Lee eyed it on the table.

Claire broke away to grab it before he did.

"What's so important about it then?" she asked. "That copper was easy to follow, she never even noticed a taxi behind her," Claire smiled smugly.

"Well there are loads of taxis around," Lee replied. "Give me the pendant Claire."

Claire held the plastic bag up in the air.

"No, not until you tell me the whole story," she told him. "You were involved in that girl's death, weren't you?"

Lee swore she'd asked him that before.

"It was an accident, nothing more," he insisted. "The girl was panicking about her cousin, I told Rose to take her upstairs and I put something in her drink."

Claire raised her hand to him, Lee grabbing it.

"What did you do Lee? They said the girl was found in the woods. Was it you who left her there?"

"What else could I do?" Lee replied.

"You idiot. I'm keeping this pendant and you step once out of line and I'll hand it in. If you want to stay with me, you'll have to follow my rules," she warned him. "You should have said what the police were after."

"I didn't know Claire," he protested.

"It ties you to the girl's death, that's what they wanted," she told him. "She must have been wearing it the day she died."

"Not necessarily, we gave Pippa a lift to school, when her mother was too drunk to give her a ride or bus fare," he defended himself.

Claire let out a laugh.

"You expect the police to believe that?"

"Rose was there," he insisted.

"Yeah, like she's gonna defend you," Claire reminded him.

"What's she said about me?" he wanted to know.

"You mean about in bed?" Claire was still laughing.

"You have a filthy mind Claire," Lee was not amused.

"I'll tell you something," Claire tried to be serious. "She was getting scared of you."

"Was she now?

"He came to see her in the salon, did I tell ya?" Claire asked.

"You may have done," Lee replied, going for her denim shirt buttons.

Claire smacked his hand but he persisted.

"You're not getting the pendant," she reminded him.

"Who said I was after the pendant?" he replied. "What are you going to do about Rose when she gets to work in the morning?"

"I've no idea, I can't finish her for no reason at all. Maybe she'll leave on her own?" Claire hoped.

The next morning, Alec told Rose not to set off for work and to wait for a phone call from either himself or Tess.

"What am I supposed to do?" Rose asked Alec again.

"Take it easy, go do some shopping and stay away from Claire and Lee," he advised her.

As he kissed her goodbye, saying he'd call if they needed any more information from her, she knew he meant well but if Tess found out they were actually together, would she be as friendly and still keep Lee away?

Chapter 29
Just a short chapter while I get my latest Christmas story done! Watch out for........... 'I hate Christmas because.....'

Tess wasn't happy when Alec said he'd advised Rose to stay off work and she had to phone Claire.

"What?" Claire asked when told, trying to sound surprised. "She's my best stylist, that's a bit short notice."

"Well we need her for our current investigation," Tess had been instructed by Alec to tell her. "She has become a key witness and it will save having to bring her out of work when she's needed. If she has any leave still to come, maybe she could use it?"

"Well, I'll have to check. I might have to get someone in to replace her," Claire replied, wondering if Lee knew they were using his ex girlfriend in such a way. "So, she's officially helping you then?" she wanted to make sure.

Tess knew that would get Claire interested enough though and that Lee Ashworth would get to know. Both she and Alec wanted the man to get too self-assured and start making mistakes.

Once Tess had done that, she went to Alec's office. Did he really think Claire had broken into her car? Meanwhile, Claire went into the break room to call Lee.

"Do ya think she's scared of you?" she asked Lee.

"I hope so," Lee joked as he eyed the woman who had just hired him to do some work. "Are you going to tell me where you hid that pendant?"

He'd seen her go off with it last night but she'd been very careful not to let him see where though.

"What do you think?" Claire laughed. "I told ya, it's my insurance. If Rose is off work and talking to the police though?"

"Don't worry about it," he told her. "She won't say much. They have no proof now that I was involved."

"Well, I want to know the whole story now Lee, I mean it," she warned him.

"I told you enough already," he insisted.

"We'll see," she replied confidently.

At the police station, Alec was sat thinking this had been going on long enough. They'd had a breakthrough finding the pendant then Tess had gone and lost it. Their only hope now was that Rose's testimony would be enough. Now was the time to get Ricky Gillespie back in for questioning and play him and Ashworth against each other. He got up and went to the chief's office.

"Maybe it's time?" the chief agreed, just wanting to get this over with. "Let's get enough to send them both for trial, if you're sure Ricky was involved."

"Rose does and that's good enough for me. It's up to you to sign it off," Alec replied.

**Six weeks later**

Rose was getting nervous. She'd been escorted by Tess to collect her wages, then Tess had found out for certain that Rose was staying with her almost ex husband and refused to help any more. Alec called round to see Daisy one evening and she confronted him.

"You talk about me losing the evidence Alec? You're the one who may lose us this case," Tess reminded him.

"We have Ricky Gillespie now," he defended himself.

"Yes, you're pleased with yourself aren't you Alec?" Tess asked him. "Just because Cate gave him up."

Alec was not pleased the way he had used Rose to get to Cate. He had persuaded his now girlfriend to go back and talk to Cate about what she'd seen and heard that night. He had sat there while Rose had spoken to Pippa's mother.

"You're sure?" Cate had asked Rose.

Rose nodded. "Yeah, I'm so sorry Cate but I told DI Hardy as soon as I could."

"Cate, we need the truth," Alec had told her. "If you lost sight of Ricky for more than an hour, we need to know so we can get him in for questioning. Lee Ashworth is still only giving his side of the story, we can't prove anything else yet. We know he did more."

"I may have lost sight of him but I always thought he'd gone off with that bridesmaid," Cate admitted.

That was all Alec had needed to place Ricky under caution and question him.

"We have Lee Ashworth in custody," Alec had told Ricky, Lee having been picked up again. "He will tell us more of what happened that night, he can't keep it to himself forever."

"Rose told you most of it, didn't she?" Ricky asked. "Did she tell you what that man did to my Pippa?"

"Yes and she is sorry but Ashworth had her under threat if she told anyone. Tell us what happened Ricky," Alec encouraged him.

So now, Alec had a very good picture of what had taken place but things were about to get ugly as Claire stormed into the police station one lunchtime.

"Where's that Alec Hardy?" Claire raised her voice at the front desk.

Tess had heard the commotion.

"What's going on?" she asked the desk sergeant.

"She wants to see DI Hardy," the sergeant replied.

"Is it about those two girls?" Tess asked, remembering Claire from the visit to the salon and when the woman had been questioned.

Claire still hadn't given up the pendant though and she was determined not to.

"No, it's about Lee Ashworth. Why have you arrested him again?" she wanted to know. "He was out on police bail."

"It was revoked when new evidence came to light," Tess told her.

"What new evidence?" Claire asked, knowing she had the pendant tucked away safely.

"We can't discuss that," Tess replied. "I'll tell DI Hardy of your concerns."

"You know Rose Tyler's involved with him?" Claire added as she was about to turn away.

Tess didn't want to be reminded.

"It has no bearing on the case," she replied. "The case is going ahead, the hearing will take place shortly."

Claire had a disappointed look on her face. If there was more new evidence, Rose had been doing more talking. If Lee wouldn't be let out, how could she tell him he was the father of the baby she'd just found out she was having? Now, she had to find someone to either manage or buy the salon. If he was going to be locked up though, maybe she should think about terminating the pregnancy before it was too late, did she want it growing only to be told what its father had done?

The day of the hearing soon arrived and both Lee and Ricky would be entering their pleas. They'd had time to talk in the detention centre, Ricky telling Lee he deserved to be there and Lee asking Ricky if he thought he deserved not to be. Ricky had set about Lee in a fit of temper and warned Lee to stay away from him.

"You started it all Ashworth," Ricky had growled at Lee as they'd been pulled apart by the guards.

Then Alec had been leaving the station one night and Tess had confronted him about him living with Rose.

"Don't you dare let that get in the way of any trial," she was telling him.

"How will it? Rose gave all her testimony before that," Alec argued. "That can't be altered Tess and you know it. Besides, that will never come up, the judge won't be interested."

"He'd better not be," Tess warned him. "Is that Claire Ripley over there?" Tess pointed across the yard. "She came to see you but you weren't around."

"You never said," Alec replied as Claire walked towards them.

Claire had managed to find someone to manage the salon for her – for now anyway and who might be interested in buying the business.

"Can I talk to you?" Claire asked Alec as she reached them. "It's important."

"Come back inside," Alec told her.

"It's nothing official. There's something I need help with. Rose trusted you," Claire replied.

"Go on then," Alec encouraged her as Tess left.

"You have Lee Ashworth locked up, I was with him until then," Claire began to tell him.

"I know," Alec replied. "Your point is?"

"I found out I was pregnant, it's his. Now, I don't know what to do about it. If he stays locked up, I don't want anything to do with it. I contacted a clinic, I have an appointment but it's in the next town. I need someone to take me. Please? I know I should never have got mixed up with him but I'd wanted him since before Rose met him, I just wanted to see what it was like."

"I'll call DS Henchard back, she'll go with you," Alec suggested, seeing Tess drive off.

"I don't trust her, she wouldn't go get you for me the last time I was here," Claire replied.

"Will you appear in court and tell the judge anything Lee told you?" Alec asked her, getting Rose's number up.

"I don't know much, he only told me some of it, then you re-arrested him," Claire admitted. "Don't call Rose, I know you're together."

"I'm only telling her I am going to be late back," he assured her as he waited for Rose to answer. "Hi darlin' I'm going to be a bit late tonight, I have some work to do on the case, to make sure nothing goes wrong," he told Rose.

"Yeah, don't worry about it, you just get it finished," Rose laughed. "They don't call me Tess."

"I am well aware of that love. I will try not to be too late but don't forget Daisy is coming round later."

"I know, we'll swap stories about ya," Rose teased him. "I'm just joking babe. Hey, I saw someone I used to work at the salon with, she said Claire's taking some time off."

"Maybe she is just hiding until all this is over eh?" Alec asked her as Claire looked at him. "I will see you later and maybe bring some food back with me?"

He ended the call and Claire got in the passenger seat.

"Here's the address," she told him, handing a piece of paper to him. "Don't worry, I won't tell your girlfriend what you're really doing."

"You are sure about this?" he asked as they drove off.

"I've thought about it. If Lee's in prison, I don't want him to know. Listen, I know what happened between him and the older cousin who died. She wasn't the first or the last of women who Lee cheated on Rose with. Did she tell you why he cheated on her?" Claire asked him.

"Yes, she did. She said she tried to warn you to stay away from him," he replied.

"I should have listened to her," Claire admitted as she looked out of the window. "She must hate me."

"No, she does not hate you but she was afraid of you and what you might have heard from Lee," Alec told her.

They rode in silence to the next town and Alec found the clinic, just on the outskirts. He parked and Claire was about to get out.

"You don't have to come in," she smiled as he took the keys out of the ignition.

"I'm not here as a police officer," he reminded her.

"Rose was lucky she got away when she did," Claire told him as they went inside. "He kept complaining about her not giving in to him and to be honest, I don't know why he never forced her. Was that what he threatened her with? If she talked to the police?"

"Yes," Alec admitted as they approached the desk. "She nearly refused to give him up. You should tell us what you know about him Claire."

What seemed like hours later, Alec was waiting for Claire to wake up.

"Lee, what are you doing here?" she asked groggily as her eyes opened.

"It's not Lee, it's Alec Hardy, remember?" he asked her.

"Yeah, sorry. Rose is so lucky to have you but I thought Lee couldn’t be that bad. I mean she lived with him all that time."

"Which proves she did not really know him and what he was capable of," Alec replied as he sat on the bed next to her.

"Love isn't all it's made out to be," Claire admitted. "It's good when you're in it, then it just fades away without you even noticing. Do you love Rose?"

"Yes, I do and I like to think she loves me but we've not actually told each other yet," Alec smiled. "It will take her a long time to get over him and what he threatened her with."

"Who knows, you may be the one she gives in to," Claire smiled back. "Thank you for being here, I'll come in to the police station and give a voluntary statement about what Lee told me. I'm taking a big risk though."

"Not as big as Rose is doing," he reminded her as he got up.

"Tell her you love her when you get home," Claire encouraged him as he helped her up.

Claire got her discharge papers and was allowed to leave so Alec took her home then went to his and Rose's flat. Rose and Daisy were laughing over what Alec used to do when Daisy was younger and as they heard the door opening, Rose burst out laughing again.

"What are you laughing about?" Alec asked them both, Daisy with her arm in Rose's and pointing at him.

"Ha! Your face!" Rose spluttered. "Daisy was just telling me something about ya."

"Daisy?" he questioned his daughter.

"When you were building me that doll's house when I was five," Daisy laughed.

"What about it?" Alec wondered if they were going to stop laughing about him.

They both burst out laughing again and he knew he wasn't going to get an answer. He took Daisy home later but he decided to drop the subject, he could always get it out of Rose later.

"Do you like Rose?" he asked as they drove to what had been his home.

"Yeah, she's nice Dad. Are you two serious then?" Daisy smiled.

"Yes, I think we are. She's not been long out of a bad relationship Daisy, we are just taking it slowly."

"Well, I think she'll be good for you," Daisy assured him.

Please forgive any mistakes in my haste to publish! This chapter will be edited shortly.
Chapter 30
Rose had wondered why Alec was slightly late home but it was his job to put away who killed young Pippa. There was no point in going on about it to him, that would make her as bad as Tess. She knew she'd be glad when this was all over though and having nothing to do now was only making her more anxious.

She heard the door and got up to greet the man she was growing to love.

"Daisy seems to like you," he smiled when they'd kissed. "I'm not sure about the two of you laughing about my doll house making skills though."

"Aw, we were just teasing ya," Rose grinned.

"I did gather that Rose. You do know that when she gets old enough, she may decide she wants to live with us?" he asked.

"I know and yeah, if that's what she wants, I've got no objections. Tess might have though?" Rose wondered.

"Don't worry about that eh?" he replied, sneaking another kiss. "Now, just take it easy and don't worry about not working, there is no point in making things worse between you and Claire."

"That's if she's still with Lee?" Rose replied.

"You were with him for quite a while," Alec reminded her.

"I don't even want to think about it Alec. Tell ya what, I'm glad I never gave in to him Alec. Something was stopping me giving away what I'll never get back."

"I know and you will get no pressure from me love, have no fear of that. I did wonder if you may want to explore more ways we can be closer? You can say no."

"I don't know Alec? It was pretty much the same with Lee, he was always saying 'come on Rose, let's try something else', like he was getting bored with me but he wouldn't let me alone. I was glad when I was out of bounds sometimes," Rose recalled.

Alec put his arms around her.

"Rose, that will never happen with us, okay? Whatever you need, if you need time to recover after your monthly then you only have to say and we can find another way of being close. Want to give it a try later, maybe?"

Rose managed to nod her agreement. She'd never had a man who was so considerate before. She went to rest her head on his shoulder as he held her close, he had waited patiently these last few weeks.

"Yeah, I want to try Alec. I mean so far, well it's nice to have no pressure."

"Well I would not want to spoil what we have. You be careful tomorrow that you don't go near that salon."

"It should be her day off, not that I'm going to visit," Rose laughed.

"Well even so, she could make things very difficult for you, even now," he replied, since he'd seen Claire earlier.

Why had Claire gone to him for help? She must have distanced herself from Lee Ashworth then? Had she mentioned it and he'd taken no notice? He thought it was just typical the judge had adjourned the trial and put Ashworth and Ricky Gillespie back on remand, the longer it went on, the longer Rose would be scared they would get off.

He still didn't know who had taken the pendant though, had it just been kids after all? He got to work the next morning and was handed a court document as the desk sergeant called him over.

"This was delivered for you Sir," he told Alec as Alec took it out of the envelope.

Alec hoped it was a court date for the trial. It was a court date but for a divorce hearing. Why had it been delivered here, Alec wondered as he read the details. Surely Tess had given his new address? He went off to confront her.

"My office," he suggested as he stood in front of Tess's desk, Dave showing interest. "Not you, Harris," he added as Tess got up.

"It may concern him," Tess objected.

"Forget it Harris," Alec suggested, not in the mood to play Tess's game.

The last few weeks, Tess had been making snide remarks about himself and Rose and he was tired of it.

"Whatever your game is Tess, it stops, from now," Alec told her as he closed his office door. "We keep work and our divorce separate, understand? I have gone too easy on you but no more. I'm putting the house up for sale, we will split any proceeds so start looking for somewhere else."

"What?" Tess was stunned at his sudden announcement. "That's short notice. Oh, don't tell me Rose is expecting and you want the money?" she scoffed.

"No, nothing of the sort, I have just had enough of your games Tess. Whatever you are planning, forget it, my copy of the court proceedings just came through, strange how they can fit that in and not a trial."

"Those are two different things Alec," Tess replied. "As for me, playing games, I don't know what you mean. What am I supposed to do about finding somewhere else to live? If I have to, you'll have to take Daisy until I do."

"What? Come off it Tess, that's no excuse. Get the personnel office to help re-house you then," he suggested. "I don't want anything in the way when it comes to the trial so, this is what we are going to do," he pointed his finger on the desk. "We are going to court, you are going to agree not to bring Rose into this and in return, I will not bring Dave into it, understand?"

Tess was already fuming at the idea. Yes, she wanted to bring Rose into it but Dave's wife would get to hear.

"So, you're bringing that up?" she asked.

"You started it Tess," he reminded her. "You expect me to do nothing about it? Really? You would spoil any chance of getting a conviction over Lisa and Pippa just to get your revenge on Rose and I? Do you really want that bringing up at the trial? You were careless Tess, someone followed you that day. Are you certain you were not followed?"

Tess sat herself down, trying to let her anger subside.

"There might have been a taxi behind me," she tried to remember. "As I pulled into the pub car park, under the canopy, one might have passed behind me."

"While you were greeting Dave, no doubt?" Alec asked sarcastically.

"Well it's only the same way you greet Rose," she gave as much back.

"Back to the point Tess. Was any CCTV ever retrieved from the pub?" he wanted to know.

"They will have recorded over any footage by now," Tess replied.

"So that means no-one has looked at it? Well, get onto it and find out," he hit his desk with his hand. "Tess, this was all basic procedure, you should have followed that up," he had to remind her.

"I was busy Alec plus the two didn't seem related at the time, I wasn't sure about the taxi, it may have stopped and was just driving off again when I saw it.," she admitted.

"What are you playing at Tess? As if getting a divorce wasn't bad enough, you fail to notice something like that. What about at the car sales that day? Think back, did you notice anyone paying too much attention, anyone who stood out in the crowd or may have stopped a passing cab?"

Tess shook her head, trying to remember. Had she noticed something other than a cab may have followed her? She still wasn't sure even about that.

"Hold on Alec, why would anyone passing the car sales be interested in following me? What did they have to gain? I wasn't carrying anything valuable and how did they know I was going to stop? While we're at it Alec, you should have insisted you took it, instead of you being too interested in Rose," she pointed out.

"Oh, don't give me that Tess, don't pin the blame on me. You are a senior officer and more than capable of returning evidence without stopping off somewhere on the way back," he reminded her. "While we are on the subject, who would be interested enough to follow you, eh?"

"Someone who was interested in the case?" she replied. "Only Ashworth knew we were going to search his car."

"Someone let him place a phone call Tess," Alec remembered because he'd been annoyed about it. "Get onto the custody sergeant and get the phone records for the day we held Lee Ashworth. There's one person he may have called."

"You mean Claire Ripley?" Tess wondered. "Why was she hanging around last night? What did she want with you?"

"Nothing Tess, back to the case," he tried to avoid answering, seeing how she was looking at him. "It was nothing to do with the case, it was a message for Rose," he lied, knowing Tess wouldn't be interested. "Go find out who he called Tess, now, then get Claire in for questioning. If you had remembered that taxi, we may have gone to trial by now."

Alec knew he was right, who else would Ashworth have been calling that day and why hadn't he followed up on it? It had seemed unimportant at the time and like everything else, it had got pushed to one side. He assumed Ashworth had told Claire to get to the car sales, she'd seen Tess drive off and had luckily got a cab and followed. Why had Tess been so careless though, had she been getting back at him?

It was soon established that was what had happened and officers went to pick Claire up from the salon, where she had dragged herself in to work even after the procedure she'd had the day before. Alec was waiting outside.

"What's all this about?" she asked him innocently.

"You already know Claire. Did Ashworth move out?" he replied.

"A few weeks ago, why?" she asked, recalling when she'd asked him to leave, he'd told her he already had something lined up.

"Did he ask you to follow us to where his car had been sold, then you followed DS Henchard?"

"What?" Claire laughed as she got into the police car. "Why would I do that?"

"You know why Claire," he indicated for the WPC to get in beside her. "We have plenty of questions for you."

He could see her staring at him on the way back to the police station, a smile on her face. He just hoped she wouldn't bring up the fact he had gone to the clinic with her last night. He wasn't so lucky though as Tess joined him to question her.

"Why did you follow me that day, from the car sales?" Tess began to ask Claire.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Claire still insisted.

"We talked to your staff, Claire," Alec told her. "They remember you leaving that day."

"So, what if I left? I had somewhere to go," Claire stared at him again. "Why did you go with me last night?" she challenged him.

"What's she talking about Alec?" Tess wanted to know, going to turn the recorder off.

"Leave it. You know why I went with you Claire. Should I tell DS Henchard where you went?"

He saw the smile disappear from Claire's face.

"Does Rose know about us?" Claire then continued.

Tess wanted to hear more but didn't want it recorded but Alec stopped her turning the recorder off again.

"You were with Lee, Claire, there is no us. I will tell everyone where you were last night, so stop playing games," he insisted.

"When we were together, you hurt me, Alec, you forced me to have sex with you and forced me to get an abortion. You shouldn't have done that," Claire carried on.

"Fine, we can stop the interview, you can have me charged and I'll be arrested, is that what you want Claire?" he stared back at her.

Claire went quiet.

"Is any of that true Alec?" Tess turned to him, wondering if he'd been cheating on Rose.

"Of course it isn't Tess," Alec lost his temper. "Have you finished Claire? Lee got you to leave work and see what was going on when we were searching his car. Do you know what we found Claire?" Claire shook her head. "We found evidence that Lee had one of the girls in his car that night. That proves on top of the witness we have that he was responsible for Pippa's death."

"We can charge you with being an accessory Claire," Tess told her. "What's it going to be? Did you break into another car and steal an evidence bag? We can do a deal if you return it, you'll just get a caution but we need that evidence, to put him away."

"If I admit anything, he'll go after me, if he gets out," Claire replied.

"Then you will know how Rose feels," Alec told her. "Where's the pendant Claire?"

When they had finished, Alec had been hoping to take the evidence bag to the chief's office.

"Where is it Alec?" the chief asked him.

"Claire Ripley has it, She still won't admit she followed Tess's car to where she was meeting Dave," Alec replied. "Ashworth was allowed a phone call during his interrogation, for which DS Henchard accepts no responsibility but she does for leaving the evidence unattended. What now?"

"We see if we can get a trial date Alec. Anything else you want to tell me?" the chief didn't seem amused.

"Claire Ripley was pregnant by Ashworth, I took her to a clinic last night to abort it," Alec admitted.

"Why you?" the chief wanted to know.

"She trusted me, for some reason. Maybe because Rose trusts me? Now we have the pendant, I will send it for testing. By the way, Tess and I are proceeding with our divorce, she is not bringing Rose into it."

"I hope not Alec," the chief replied. "We don't want that bringing up during the trial. Carry on."

Alec broke the news to Rose when he got home, including where he'd been last night.

"Ya didn't have to tell me Alec," Rose told him as they'd eaten.

"I did not want her twisting things around Rose. I wanted to be honest with you. You were lucky it never happened to you, when you were with Lee Ashworth. By the way, I am putting the house up for sale, I am not making any more part mortgage payments on it. Daisy may have to stay for a while."

"That's not a problem Alec and yeah, you're doing the right thing, selling the house," Rose assured him. "Ya didn't have to tell me about Claire either."

"I did not want you to hear it elsewhere. Now we still don't have the pendant, we should get a trial date," he replied confidently.

It wasn't long before Rose received notice to attend as a witness and she prayed that her living with Alec wouldn't spoil things. It was all still being kept quiet but Rose had a nasty feeling that because Lee and Ricky knew it was her, the defence wouldn't go easy on her but she only had to attend Lee's. On the first day, Alec had to let Rose make her own way to the court and they had to stay apart until one of them was called.

Alec was in first, giving his account of when he was called to the Gillespie house on the Sunday morning. The defence made a point of asking him what had led him to suspect Lee had seen both girls that night. The prosecution objected, saying this trial was only concerning Pippa and although the two were connected, Alec was relieved. He was in no mood to answer questions about how Rose had led him to believe Lee Ashworth was guilty of killing Pippa and helping to cover up what had happened to Lisa.

He was hoping the wait would soon be over for Rose, he knew she was nervous enough without wondering what was going on in the courtroom. Her mother had wanted to visit but Alec had discouraged her, saying Rose needed to concentrate and he didn't want Jackie Tyler going on at him by saying Rose had been playing with fire leaving Lee for him to which Alec had retaliated by saying did she want her daughter to stay with an abusive partner?

He knew Jackie had objected from the start by telling Rose she shouldn't have got in the middle of a divorce.

Chapter 31
Rose was already nervous. Alec wasn't allowed to tell her anything that happened before she was called as a witness for the prosecution. She'd been instructed how to address the judge and if she got uncomfortable, to ask for a brief break. After all, she was their star witness.

"Your Honour," the prosecution addressed the judge as Rose was finally called to the witness stand. "It has been agreed this witness's name be withheld from the public and the press."

Rose was glad they'd agreed her name wouldn't be splashed all over the news headlines.

"So noted," the judge agreed, reading her notes. "Proceed."

"Tell us in your own words what happened the night Pippa Gillespie was killed," the barrister directed her attention to Rose.

Rose related everything she remembered, then she was asked what happened the next morning and how she discovered Lee Ashworth had been responsible.

"I confronted him," Rose replied truthfully. "A few days later and told the police. I moved out at the same time."

"You had been living with him?" she was asked.

"Yes, I didn't say anything before that because I didn't want to believe it."

"Were you in any way coerced into saying it was Lee Ashworth who admitted killing Pippa?" she was asked, to make sure.

Rose shook her head. "No, Lee threatened me if I told the police, I'm taking a big risk."

When the prosecution had finished, Rose thought she'd be allowed to have a rest but that wasn't to be. She knew Alec was on her side, he was directly across the courtroom from her and she wished she could just go to him.

"I'll keeps this fairly short," the defence told her after looking at her notes. "You were in a relationship with my client?"

"Yeah, until I found out what he did," Rose replied truthfully.

"You never suspected he had anything to do with the girl's death?" she was asked.

"I began to, after I got proof I'd been drugged and then she was found. Then the police started asking me questions."

"You mean they began putting ideas into your head?" the barrister speculated.

"No, that wasn't the case, I'd already began thinking about it," Rose told the court.

After a few more questions, the barrister changed tactics.

"When did you begin your affair with DI Hardy?"

The court then erupted with gasps, including from Alec, who mouthed a 'What?' at no-one in particular.

"What affair?" Rose tried to bluff.

"Come off it, we have it on very good authority you and the detective in charge have a relationship. My client already knew before he was arrested and you told the police he drugged you that night."

"Well he did," Rose insisted.

"Your honour," the prosecution interrupted. "We have medical evidence that the witness had been drugged."

"Which could have been ingested at any time within the limits of the test," the defence insisted. "I put it to you that you began an affair with DI Hardy to get back at my client and to frame him for killing Pippa Gillespie, so the police could end the case."

"That's not true," Rose almost cried.

The defence took hold of the edge of her robe.

"I think it is. No more questions, your Honour."

The court was adjourned for lunch and Rose wanted to run to Alec but Tess got to him first.

"See, what did I tell you?" she pointed her finger at him.

"Don't gloat so much Tess, you may still be called as a witness, despite the chief trying to keep you out of it," he replied.

The prosecution had not been happy about both Alec and Tess having affairs, even though they were now separated.

"Well you'd better hope we can get him having Pippa's pendant and the fact he had Claire steal it back," she replied. "Even though we don't actually have it. Everything Rose told the court of what happened to her is for nothing."

They had failed to get Claire to testify she'd stolen the pendant, she had said Ashworth could threaten her the same way he did with Rose and she wasn't prepared to take the risk. Rose had since learned that her once boss and friend had put the business up for sale.

"Your Honour," the prosecution began after lunch. "We had physical evidence that Pippa Gillespie was in the defendant's car the night she was killed."

There were a few murmurings around the courtroom.

"I will accept the evidence into the proceedings," the judge agreed.

"Your honour, it proves nothing," the defence objected. "My client said he had given the girl a ride to school one morning, she could have lost it then. I have also not seen the evidence."

"Your honour, we have a sworn statement from the mother to say her daughter was wearing it the morning in question. We also have a statement that both the young girl and the defendant's girlfriend at the time were drugged that night and that the defendant confessed he drugged them both. Does the defence need reminding to read their client's statement?"

Rose wanted to let out a giggle but didn't think she'd get away with it.

"Call your next witness," the judge ordered after a few moments.

"The prosecution calls Detective Sergeant Henchard to the stand."

Rose watched as Tess entered. Things had become strained with Tess, herself and Alec had stayed away and Daisy had constantly complained about how much smaller her bedroom was after Tess moved. The house hadn't yet been sold but Alec had told the estate agent he was open to reasonable offers for it. He had already put in for a transfer, without telling Rose or Tess his intensions, he wanted somewhere safe for Rose, in case things turned sour and Ashworth got off.

His boss had argued that no chief would take him if Ashworth wasn't convicted but Alec wasn't going to take the blame on his own.

"Is it true you were formally DS Hardy?" the defence wanted to know, when the prosecution had finished with her.

"Yes," Tess sounded surprised at such a question.

"And are you jealous that your almost ex husband may have taken up with someone else?" she was asked.

"Objection," the prosecution stood up. "What is the relevance of this line of questioning?"

"Exactly," the judge agreed. "Explain the relevance," she turned to the defence.

"Is it true, DS Henchard that when the pendant was found, you were followed and had your car window broken and the pendant you had obtained by searching my client's car was taken?"

"Yes, that's true but later, it was found that the defendant's new girlfriend stole it, at his insistence," Tess defended herself.

"Your honour, how do we know it was the same pendant that was returned?" the defence wanted to know.

"Objection," the prosecution stood again. "The pendant was tested and found to belong to Pippa Gillespie. There is no doubt the pendant is genuine, your Honour."

The judge studied for a moment. Alec ran his hand over his face, Rose was staring blankly and Tess was praying she wouldn't have to explain to the jury why she'd even stopped that day or the fact they had swapped the missing pendant.

"The pendant may be entered into evidence – for now," the judge concluded. "The defence is to ask no more questions as to the authenticity of the pendant. Move on."

Alec let out a sigh of relief, wishing Rose was sitting next to him.

The defence seemed not to be bothered about it and moved on.

"DS Henchard, were you aware your ex husband was having an affair with the main witness?"

Another round of murmurings went around the courtroom, the judge banging the gavel again.

"Were you still married when he began the affair?"

"Your honour, I must object," the prosecution stood again.

"I must agree," the judge replied. "The defence will justify this line of questioning to my satisfaction."

"Your Honour, the witness had left my client for DI Hardy, it is highly relevant," the defence claimed. "My client was somewhat taken aback when they had been in a relationship for some time."

"Your honour, the defendant drugged her," the prosecution reminded the court. "It's hardly any surprise she chose to leave. The prosecution would have seen no wrongdoing as to the witness starting a relationship with the officer in question, if he had already sought a separation order and if it was true. If the witness had already given a statement, her testimony would still have been accepted."

"The defence will move on," the judge ordered, much to Alec's relief.

The defence was determined it was far from over.

"Your honour, the defence moves that the charges against my client should be dropped."

"Silence," the judge ordered as the courtroom erupted. "On what grounds?"

The prosecution was already on her feet again, wondering the same. They had thought on Rose's testimony and the pendant, they had him.

"On the grounds my client cannot get a fair trial, your Honour. His then girlfriend left him, told the police and she then got involved with the lead detective to frame my client."

"Your honour, there is no proof that the witness and the lead detective are involved," the prosecution declared.

Tess was wondering if they'd forgotten she was still in the witness box.

"I have proof, your honour. DS Henchard, I ask you again, under oath, if you were jealous your husband began an affair with the witness. For the record, DS Henchard chose to go back to her maiden name shortly after her split with DI Hardy. Were you so jealous that you warned him to stay away from the witness and that it would compromise the investigation yet he completely ignored it to continue his affair?" the defence seemed pleased Tess's cage had been rattled and Alec was trying to hide, with no success.

"The court will be silent or I will have it cleared," the judge ordered, getting tired of it. "This should have been settled before it was brought into the proceedings. The court will be adjourned and I will see both sides in my chambers."

With that, the court was ordered to stand and Tess assumed she was free to go. Once outside, Alec challenged her.

"If he goes free Tess, it will be on you, not me," he warned her as Rose watched the two of them.

"Alec, it's my fault," Rose insisted. "I should never have delayed telling you about Lee."

"You should have told us and walked away," Tess turned on her.

"Stop it Tess," Alec warned his almost ex wife.

They were interrupted by a furious looking prosecution barrister.

"What are you going to do now?" Alec asked before she could say anything.

"Try to pick up the pieces and get the judge to agree to my looking into whether we can continue. We have a good argument that you were in an abusive relationship," she addressed Rose. "That you were under threat if you told the police and that was why you delayed telling them."

"Will ya have to tell the judge what Lee threatened me with?" Rose was worried.

"You will have to tell me and I will answer for you. The judge may want to see you but I'll try to keep you out of it. I have to go now."

They all watched as she was called and Alec pulled Rose around the corner.

"He's gonna get off Alec, then he'll come after me."

"Rose. Listen to me. If he gets off, I promise, he will go nowhere near you."

"How are you going to do that Alec?" Tess wanted to know, since she had followed them.

"By getting her out, how do you think Tess? Rose, I will take you somewhere he will never find you, I promise."

Rose was stunned when the judge ordered the jury to bring in the verdict of not guilty. She could see Lee Ashworth smirking to himself in the enclosure he'd been sitting in all throughout the trial, he'd not even been required to take the stand and now, she knew the press would be waiting for her outside. She knew Alec would do his best to shield her from it, to try and keep her name out of the papers under the headline of 'Sandbrook trial collapses' and Cate would be waiting for her as well.

She was right as there was a commotion outside the court building and Cate had already been contacted by a journalist to get the scoop of a lifetime.

"I knew he'd get off because of you," Cate confronted her in the doorway.

"Leave her alone Cate," Alec warned her. "Blame the defence team, she had nothing to do with it."

"Of course she did," Cate continued as her name was being shouted by the ever hungry press. "She should have given him up from day one or had she really been drugged by him?"

"Yes, she has proof she was," Alec argued as Rose stood behind him. Then he turned to Rose. "Stay behind me and keep quiet, I will deal with the mob out there and Tess, that goes for you. Do not mention her name, understood?"

Tess was annoyed he was still ordering her around, when they weren't even working.

Despite Alec giving a statement, Cate had given the exclusive to a big city London newspaper reporter and Rose's name was mentioned in the following morning's edition of 'The Herald' newspaper or was it 'The Daily Herald' Alec had wondered as Tess confronted him with it when he arrived at work.

"Take it away Tess," he dismissed her from waving it in front of him. "I had to tell Rose to stay indoors until this blows over. Has that newspaper got no ethics?"

"It's front page news Alec," Tess reminded him. "How are you going to protect her from Ashworth if you can't keep the press away?"

Alec walked past her, grabbing the offending newspaper and knocked on the chief's door.

"I need that transfer, as soon as possible," he told the chief as he placed the newspaper on the desk. "Rose is now in danger, from Ashworth and I promised to protect her, that she would be safe. Can we get him involved in what happened to Lisa?"

"Alec, they were being tried separately," the chief reminded him. "Ashworth wouldn't admit any part in what happened to Lisa."

"Well Ricky Gillespie killed her after seeing her with him, how can he not admit he was involved?" Alec wanted to know. "Why won't Ricky incriminate Ashworth? His wife gave him up."

"I know that Alec. Even if Rose had witnessed that, we can't use her now. Take her somewhere safe, if you have somewhere in mind?" the chief suggested.

"Where's Broadchurch?" Rose wanted to know, after Alec's chief spent most of the day on the phone, calling in favours.

"It's down on the coast, near Weymouth," Alec tried to explain.

"Then why can't we go to Weymouth?" she wanted to know.

"We need to go somewhere quiet, where they won't be bothered about newspaper headlines," he reminded her. "The chief got me an interview there, he used up all his favours in doing so and the chief there may have to pass over a detective sergeant due a promotion in order to offer me the job. We'll go down, this weekend, the interview is on Monday morning."

"That means staying in a hotel, we might be recognised anyway?" Rose wondered.

"There's a caravan park, right on the harbour. We can stay there," Alec suggested.

"Well at least we can have a break?" Rose managed to smile.

Chapter 32
Alec wanted to remind her they were not going off for a break but didn't have the heart to say anything. She was scared and rightly so and he'd found out Ashworth had left the town through a junior officer he'd had watching the man.

"Is Lee still in town?" Rose wanted to know as they packed what they needed for now.

"No, I had someone following him. He sold his van and bought a motorbike and he was seen leaving the town. I have left orders that I'm to be informed if he leaves the country."

"Ya think he will?" Rose stopped to ask.

"Rose, I think you should pack everything and be prepared to stay in Broadchurch. I'll have to come back so I can give notice on the apartment and explain to Daisy. We'll book a caravan for a few weeks and you can use the time finding us somewhere else. If all goes well with my interview," he suggested.

"What about the other person up for the job? I mean they might get priority?" Rose wondered.

"The chief there knows why I've put in for it and besides, I think she will be under orders to take me, since the trial has just collapsed."

"They want ya out the way?" Rose asked as she went back to the drawer.

"Not exactly but they will want me to lie low for a while and keep out of the news. Sending me to a small, quiet seaside town until it all blows over is the best way of doing that."

"So, I stay there until ya settle things here then?" she then asked him.

"It's for the best love."

Alec could tell she wasn't happy about it though.

"You will be better in a caravan than a hotel," he reminded her when she'd packed everything.

"I know Alec. It's just I thought I'd got real home, here, with you?" she replied with a tear in her eye. "When do we have to leave?"

"I know love, sorry but we'll make a home, in Broadchurch, yes?" he smiled as he took hold of her. "Why not invite your mother down when I have to come back?"

Rose smiled at the thought of her mother thinking the so-called quiet seaside town would be like Southend or Margate.

"Oh, it will be too quiet for her," he added as he kissed the top of her head.

Rose took one hand that had been around his waist and began trying to get his shirt buttons undone.

"Do you need cheering up love?" he leaned down to whisper in her ear.

He figured she needed it, after what she'd just gone through.

Alec made a phone call to the caravan park in Broadchurch and told them it was urgent police business he needed a three bedroom comfortable model that was suitable for a long stay and after some negotiations and the promise whatever costs would be covered by the South Mercia police department, they set off just before twelve noon.

"They said the caravan would be ready for four this afternoon," he told Rose as he came out of the kitchen. "I managed to get them to agree for us to keep it as long as we needed."

Rose stayed quiet as they drove towards the south west coast to the sleepy seaside town that would get put on the map – for all the wrong reasons. Alec booked them into the caravan park and after leaving their unpacking, went in search of something to eat.

"I will make sure you have enough money before I leave," Alec then assured her. "You can relax down here, Ashworth won't find you, I promise."

Rose just hoped he was right. They spent the weekend looking around the area and getting groceries so Rose could get anything else from the local shop just outside the camp, next to the swimming pool, which Rose was going to take advantage of and relax a little. It was then soon time for Alec to go face his prospective new chief.

"I'm risking upsetting my DS who's up for promotion," Alec was reminded.

"I realise that and I appreciate you considering me," Alec replied. "I have the witness from the trial that fell apart in Sandbrook, she needs protection."

"So I've been told and she was brave to testify. The thing is Alec, I don't want that case following you down here. Your present chief says you need to lie low but you can only do that by not attracting attention to yourself. Very well, let's give it a trial then? You may find DS Miller to be hostile when she gets back from leave but leave it to me."

"Thank you, it will mean a lot to Rose. Have you been told we are in a relationship?" Alec dared ask.

"Yes, I heard but that wasn't the reason the court case fell apart, was it?" the chief wanted to know.

"No Ma'am, it was a number of things but she wasn't to blame. She risked everything to testify against the man who threatened her with sexual abuse if she spoke up."

"Yes, I was also informed that was a factor Alec. I agree she should be kept safe, at all costs and I will try to explain to DS Miller that it was my decision to take you on. You should introduce her to Rose Tyler, your girlfriend will need all the friends she can get."

"Thank you for taking a chance," Alec replied. "I will need help with housing costs though. I rented a caravan for now, my current chief said the cost will be covered."

"We can sort that out," the chief agreed. "Hiding away in a holiday park seems the best way for now and if it's suitable, I would stay there, rather than registering at rental agencies."

"Yes, I will take your advice, I don't want any gossip if Ashworth does come looking for us," Alec agreed. "He's left the country, for now."

"Indeed not. Let's hope he stays away then?" the chief nodded in agreement. "How much time do you need to move?"

"Ah, I have to give notice on my apartment, Rose will be staying here, for her safety," Alec replied. "I also have the house to sell but I will leave that to the agency, I won't be looking to buy anything else at the moment. I'm in the middle of a divorce."

"Perhaps it's best you do keep your girlfriend here then?" the chief wondered.

That had been in Alec's mind when he'd chosen to leave Sandbrook but he didn't think it would be that soon. He had been wondering where Claire had got to after she'd refused to testify and only admitted Ashworth got her to steal the evidence but Rose was his main concern.

Claire Ripley had packed up, put the salon up for sale and moved further down south to a small village about five miles out of Broadchurch – between there and Dorchester and had rented a holiday cottage at the end of a lane. She'd got a job managing a salon very easily and she tried to forget Lee Ashworth and how she'd had to end her pregnancy. She thought Rose was lucky to have a man like Alec Hardy in her life.

Why had she chosen Lee Ashworth? Had it been because she'd fancied him before Rose met him or because Rose had actually caught him? She'd never stopped to think Rose was right to be scared of him and look where it had got her? Losing her business and getting pregnant. So she'd not moved away out of choice, had she?

Rose was pleased that Alec had got the job he'd applied for.

"We could go out and celebrate?" Rose suggested.

"Yes but I have to go back tomorrow love," Alec reminded her. "I will have to wrap everything up and assign my workload to junior officers and to Tess."

"Well give them all to her to sort out," Rose suggested as she tried not to laugh.

"Rose, do you know how much trouble that will cause?" he asked innocently.

Then he saw Rose cover her mouth.

"You won't be there, will ya?" she giggled.

"I can't," he replied.

"After all the trouble she caused and that's the reason why we're down here?" Rose pointed out. "Do it Alec then give notice on the flat and come back. Aren't ya owed some vacation time?"

"Yes but I was saving that," he admitted. "I could use a few days though?"

"Now ya getting it," Rose smiled, putting her arms around him. "When are ya supposed to start work here?"

Alec went back to Sandbrook the next day, first calling into the personnel department to sort out who was paying for the caravan and pointing out to the person in charge that it cost considerably less than staying in a hotel. He thought he was doing them a favour by saving them some money.

Then after clearing it with his chief, he broke the news to Tess.

"You're what? Tess sat down opposite him. "So that's where you've been?"

"Yes and I've left Rose there to sort everything out. We'll be staying in the caravan park for now, I've got them to agree not to give out any information in case Ashworth cares to check when he's run out of hotels to call. That's if he even finds out we've gone there."

"What are you doing about the house and Daisy?" she wanted to know.

"I'll call at the agency and let them handle it and Daisy can come down whenever she wants to, there is nothing stopping her Tess. I'm handing all the files from Ashworth's case to you, if anything else comes up but I've got an alert out for if he comes back to the area, he may have left the country."

"You expect me to sort everything out Alec?" Tess scoffed.

"What's wrong Tess? Can't handle it?" he asked as he looked over the top of his glasses. "I need to get back down there, I don't like leaving Rose on her own, not with Ashworth out there somewhere."

All was peaceful when he got back and Rose sent him off to work the following Monday morning with a smile and a kiss, going to straighten his tie.

"So, that other detective's not back yet?" she asked him again.

"No, not until the end of next week. What's going to happen here love?" he raised his eyebrows at her.

Rose just hoped he wasn't tempting fate by that statement. They settled down as best they could in the caravan but Rose was on the lookout for something to rent and had her eye on a cottage facing the sea and learned through some of the locals that it was privately rented out during the holiday season. So she got a number for the owners and passed it on to Alec to get the personnel department to look into it.

Rose finally got the go ahead at the end of October, just as the caravan park closed for the winter but they been told they could stay, along with some permanent residents. Jackie had been down at the beginning of September, after Daisy and Alec finally sold the house.

Rose had eventually got on with DS Miller, who had introduced her to a few of her friends and they had decided to try for a baby of their own. The following July, Rose had been having treatment to help her along and they were due to go for another scan, Rose having just missed her monthly. They had been to Ellie's for dinner and Ellie was keen to know the outcome.

"Don't forget to let me know tomorrow," Rose had been reminded as they were leaving.

"Who's having this baby Ell?" her husband had joked.

"I've got enough with Fred," Ellie reminded him, making Rose laugh.

Rose knew Alec was anxious to know the results as they waited at the health centre up in the town.

"Will we have to move?" Rose debated. "I mean if Daisy wants to come down more often? That spare room's really tiny."

"That may mean putting our names down at the agency or go for buying another house," Alec replied.

"It's been over a year Alec, I don't think he'll still be looking for me," Rose told him.

"I hope not love. Looks like it's our turn."

"Good news," they were told as Rose was hooked up for a scan. "Everything's looking fine and we'll be able to tell you more next time. So I'll book you for a normal session and you won't need any more treatment."

"That's great," Rose beamed. "Can I see?"

The monitor was turned towards her, Alec following it as he'd been staring at what was his and Rose's tiny baby. Now, he knew it had been worth the expense but it had still been on his mind as to whether it was him or Rose who had been the cause of having to resort to the fertility clinic as she'd been reluctant to say anything after several doctor's appointments.

As they left the clinic, Alec got a call, the display showing 'Miller'.

"Here, you talk to her," he handed his phone to Rose.

"That's great news Rose," Ellie was pleased. "Now I can go on holiday and not be wondering."

"Have a great time Ellie. We'll have to decide if we're going anywhere," Rose replied.

"Well I hope that boyfriend of yours can hold the fort while I'm away," Ellie laughed as Rose got in the car, Alec helping her and making her smile over him fussing.

Then she almost died on the spot as he put his sunglasses on and she thought how lucky she was to have him. He got in the car and turned to take his phone back.

"Was she telling me I could not handle things without her?" he asked Rose, making her shiver as she stared at him. "Something wrong love?"

"What?" Rose snapped out of it. "No, nothing's wrong. It's just like, wow! We're having a baby Alec."

"Yes love, I saw. Next time you have a scan and you get a photo, get two copies. One for us and one for Miller."

Rose tried to pull him closer and nudged his sunglasses back so she could kiss him.

"Nothing's gonna spoil this Alec. I thought it would never happen, that I was afraid to go that far but you taught me how good the feeling was and I never said thanks – for being gentle with me and us working up to it."

"You don't have to say anything Rose. You were worth waiting for love," he replied, letting go of her.

"Now, I feel sorry for Claire, for her being used to get back at me," Rose told him.

"You never mentioned that before," Alec said as he started the car. "I always thought it was Claire?"

"No Alec, he went with other women to get back at me. I still don't get why she stole for him though."

Things were about to turn sour the following Friday though as events unfolded - that being a young boy being found on the beach that Alec's DS and Rose knew very well and Alec was worried it had upset her.

By evening, he was tired and just wanted to go home and to comfort Rose but he had to attend a hastily convened press conference, which Rose had turned on the TV to watch. Claire Ripley had also been watching the local news and sat up as it was announced the TV station was going live and she saw Alec on the scene. She wondered if he knew she was in the area and had followed her or it was just coincidence? Someone else had been alerted, by the local reporter and had driven down from London. Karen White confronted him as he was leaving.

"What are you doing in charge of this investigation?" she asked as people passed them.

"What are you still doing working as a reporter?" Alec snapped back. "I thought you would be back to writing press releases?"

"You let Cate Gillespie down back in Sandbrook," she reminded him. "You compromised the case by living with the main witness and you left before Ricky Gillespie's court appearance."

"I'm not talking to you," Alec replied as Ellie was waiting for him. "Report on this, if you have to but one wrong word I'll have your editor pull you back, understand? Does he even know that you're here?"

"What was all that about?" Ellie wanted to know. "You told me off for what my nephew did."

"She covered an old case of mine, she must have heard I was here or it was a lucky guess. You can drop me down by the harbour," he replied.

"Are you going back to the station?" Ellie wanted to know. "What about poor Rose? She sounded really upset earlier. Do you want me to come with you?" she offered.

Alec shook his head.

"No, you go see Tom, he must be upset as well," he replied.

The next day, with it being Saturday, Alec planned to catch up on any information that had come in overnight, then go meet Rose across the road for lunch in the catering area but Ellie had caught one of the telephone engineers snooping around on someone's desk and had hauled him into Alec's office.

Alec decided to take it to the interview room, where he soon dismissed the man's claims that the boy who had been killed had 'spoken' to him.

"She forgives you, for the pendant," the man called out to Alec as he left.

"What?" Alec was taken by surprise. "Get him out of here," he then told Ellie.

"What was he talking about?" Ellie then wanted to know.

"That case in Sandbrook, the one I am protecting Rose from," he admitted.

"No way? How could he know about it?" Ellie asked him.

"It was a lucky guess. He could have looked up the case," Alec replied. "Warn him to stay away from Beth Latimer. Rose wanted to go see her but I don't think it's a good idea."

"No, it's not. Beth needs some space right now," Ellie agreed. "I'll give Beth Rose's condolences."

As they discussed it, it was Claire's day off so she caught the bus into Broadchurch and got off at the harbour, having looked up where the police station was. She was curious as to if Rose was still with him and part of her wanted to give up the pendant but she was just as scared as Rose had been of Lee Ashworth.

She knew Lee had been mad when she'd refused to give him the pendant but he'd had to be content with her not giving it to the police. If she handed it in now, they'd issue a warrant for Lee's arrest and he'd know who'd caused it. She had to find out if Alec Hardy would be prepared to protect her.

Chapter 33
Claire had no luck catching Alec, since he went around the back way where his car was parked so Claire went off, determined to go back on Monday, even if it meant having time off her new job. She was out of luck though as she got to work and the owner called to say Claire would have to be in charge as she needed some time off.

She thought maybe Alec would ignore her anyway, if he had a case to solve similar to his last one. Then she had a horrible thought – had Lee come to the area and killed that boy to get hers and Alec's attention? Would he go that far?

Alec was thinking more or less the same as he got to his office on the Monday morning and Ellie knocked on his door.

"How's Rose taking it?" Ellie wanted to know as she was invited to sit.

"She was very quiet over the weekend," he replied. "She was so happy over the baby, well we both were, then this happens."

"Well, I was thinking. Is there any chance that man from your last case followed you?" Ellie was reluctant to ask. "I got thinking about it after that telephone engineer mentioned it."

"That's what I'm afraid of Miller," Alec admitted.

Rose had tried to get him to call her Ellie but to no avail. Poor Ellie had just had to get used to it and often called him Hardy to annoy him. He'd got that he preferred her calling him that as opposed to 'Sir' all the time. He wasn't going to admit it to her though.

"You think it's really him?" Ellie didn't believe she might be right. "What did Danny do to him then? I know why Lee Ashworth killed that girl then covered it up but to leave Danny on the beach? It makes no sense."

"Why would he come back after all this time and kill Danny to get my attention? How did he even know Rose was here?" Alec replied.

Ellie thought about it.

"Maybe he didn't? Maybe he'd somehow got to know you'd moved here and assumed Rose was with you?" she suggested. "Maybe he asked at your old station where you'd gone?"

"Don't be daft Miller, they would never tell him where I was. Maybe Tess did though?" He banged his fist on the table. "If I found out she did?"

"You don't know that," Ellie dismissed the idea. "I don't know, maybe we're wrong but we have a town full of suspects and none of them are being ruled out. At this moment I only trust the men in this station, Joe, Mark and you. Oh, maybe Nigel as well," she added.

"Don't trust anyone Miller," Alec reminded her.

"Well Rose can vouch for you and I can vouch for Joe," Ellie smiled. "Mark will be here soon. Did you really have to catch him out? He's been through enough."

"He was being inconsistent Miller. Besides, it's your fault for saying his fingerprints were found at that hut. Rose was not happy I got called out, trust me."

"Quite right," Ellie smirked at the thought of his six week pregnant girlfriend objecting. "Still, I can't sign things off, that's your job."

"Don't I know it Miller," Alec replied.

"Well make sure she knows you might be called out again, if something crops up," she reminded him.

"Yes and while I'm in the news, that means either Ashworth or Rose's old boss could turn up here," Alec replied. "Which brings us back to the question that Ashworth could be trying to get my attention."

"You mean to tell me he knows you're hiding Rose?" Ellie wanted to now. "Why? I mean besides she stood up in court against him?"

"Come round tonight Miller, it's up to Rose if she wants you to know the real reason why she's hiding from him," Alec told her.

"I think I might just, if you don't keep me working late. My youngest will have forgotten what I look like," Ellie grinned.

Alec led the way to go interview the boy's father. He'd been to see the man before Ellie had called him when she'd been finishing up at the hut.

"What I don't get is, why you would hide things from us," Alec was telling Mark Latimer. "I have a teenage girl and if there was anything involving her, I'd tell the police everything, I just would."

"That's easy for you to say," Mark objected, looking uncomfortable after being told his fingerprints had been found at what could be the crime scene. "You never caught that other kid's killer, did you?"

"That's not fair Mark," Ellie reminded him. "We're talking about your Danny and we'll do everything to catch who killed him."

"Then why do you want to know where I was?" Mark cried out, his head buried in his arms, which were on the table.

"We need to know where everyone was Mark," Alec reminded him. "I was with my girlfriend, DS Miller was with her husband but you told Beth you were out on a job but you weren't. Why did you lie to her Mark?" he wanted to know. "We're you with someone?"

Mark seemed to think about it, then looked up.

"I got mixed up, all the days seem to be running into each other. I met Nige Carter," Mark admitted.

"We will check," Ellie reminded him as she got up.

"Now?" Mark looked at her.

"Is there some reason you don't want us to check now?" Alec raised his eyebrows in surprise. "DS Miller, lock him up while we check it out."

"What?" Mark objected as Ellie went to call the officer outside. "I want a phone call."

Memories of Ashworth calling Claire to steal the pendant for him came rushing back.

"Make sure he's supervised and write down who he calls," Alec told the officer who had entered.

"You don't trust him?" Ellie noticed.

"That's partly how Ashworth walked away," Alec admitted. "Miller, I did not want to bring my old case with me, trust me and for Rose's sake, I hope I'm wrong he followed us here but it seems like the cases are becoming intertwined. Don't tell Rose why you're asking about what happened with her and Ashworth, just say we were talking about it and I thought it was best coming from her."

"Don't worry, I won't say anything," Ellie agreed. "She's never said much to me."

"Yes, well she doesn't like to be reminded of it, it was a bad time in her life," Alec admitted.

"Until she met you, apparently?" Ellie smiled. "You must have turned on the charm Hardy?"

"I never needed to Miller," he replied as they left the interview room and Alec could see Mark on the phone at the end of the corridor.

He hoped the officer with him was eavesdropping.

"How come?" Ellie asked as they went for the lift. "Oh, you rescued her from Ashworth? Did she live with him then?"

"Read up about the case Miller," Alec suggested as the lift arrived and two uniformed officers got out, nodding at him and Ellie.

"I never thought about it much," Ellie admitted. "I thought she might have been his girlfriend or something but is she really that scared of him because she left him for you? I know she was the prosecution's main witness? How did it all go wrong?"

Alec wanted to say ask his ex wife. Ellie went off to check with Mark's friend Nigel Carter but was told by his mother he'd just gone out when she'd not been able to reach him on his mobile. She went in to tell Alec, who was trying to reach the officer who was supposed to inform him where Ashworth was.

"So, it seems like Mark was trying to cook up an alibi?" Alec asked her when told.

"We don't know that, it could be a coincidence?" Ellie wondered.

"You're too trusting Miller. You have to learn to step back," he advised her.

Ellie decided she was going to sit down.

"Like you did with Rose? You more than rescued her and you never stepped back. You let her stand up in court and testify against him despite that. Didn't you have physical evidence?" she wanted to know.

"I thought you'd followed the case Miller?" he asked her.

"Don't worry, I'm going to catch up now because you've just connected the two cases with you and Rose. You have to tell the chief," Ellie told him.

"Not yet Miller, we have no proof yet that there's a connection. Don't fight me on this," he warned her.

"Well, okay for now but if anything else comes up, you have to tell her," Ellie agreed. "I want to hear Rose's side and you have to warn her Lee Ashworth may be around."

They went out to find Nigel Carter was sat in the firm's van outside his house and Alec got two officers to hold him while Ellie went to check with Nigel's mother.

"Did Mark Latimer just ask you to give him an alibi for Thursday night?" Alec was asking Nigel.

"What? No, me and Mark were out that night. We met at the cliff-top hut car park then we went off to the pub – The Fox, late night lock-in," Nigel replied, too hastily for Alec's liking.

"So, they will remember you?" Alec wanted to know, trying to catch Nigel out.

"Yeah, I think so," Nigel gave Alec a goofy smile.

Ellie had just found out the truth and Nigel knew it as she marched up to him.

"Stop messing around Nigel. Your mother said you were in all night apart from you went out for last orders. Did Mark ask you to lie for him?" she asked.

Alec motioned for the two officers who had followed them to take Nigel back for questioning and Alec knew that now, both of them were suspects.

"I told you not to trust anyone," Alec growled as they got in Ellie's car.

"Well, that narrows it down to Rose trusting you and me trusting Joe," Ellie reminded him.

"Rose trusted Lee Ashworth, look where that got her?" Alec replied with that look on his face that Ellie knew he wasn't happy dragging Rose into things.

Just what was it that only Rose could tell her? When they got back, they confronted a tired Mark again.

"Your alibi is rubbish," Alec looked at Mark across the table. "If you're going to get someone to lie for you, don't pick your mate Nigel Carter."

"It'll be better if you tell us the truth," Ellie encouraged him.

"We are going across the corridor to see Nigel, he will probably tell us you called him and asked him to lie for you," Alec told the boy's father.

"How is this catching who killed my Danny?" Mark wanted to know, putting his arms on the table and resting his head.

"We need to know where everyone was," Alec sighed, losing his patience and not seeing why the man was so reluctant. "Were you with someone else and you are trying to protect them?"

He leaned across to Ellie.

"Get Pete to tell Beth her husband is going to be here for a while. Mark Latimer, I am arresting you for obstructing a police investigation. DS Miller, read him his rights."

Alec was running out of patience as Ellie went to get the officer outside to take Mark to the cells.

"What good's that going to do?" Ellie asked as she watched Mark being led away.

"I'm tired of people messing around Miller, if he was with someone, maybe they will come forward?" he replied.

"You think he's cheating on Beth?" Ellie asked in disbelief.

"You know the family better than I do Miller, you tell me?" Alec turned to face her.

"Well it may explain his reluctance to talk?" Ellie agreed. "I would be surprised if he was though."

"Sometimes you don't know people as well as you think you do," Alec told her.

"Thanks for that piece of wisdom, Confucius," Ellie replied sarcastically.

Alec just huffed and walked to the lift, while Ellie called the family liaison officer. She then went to tell Nigel he could go.

"You don't need me then?" Nigel grinned as he got up. "You wasted my time bringing me here Ellie."

"Then you shouldn't have agreed to give Mark an alibi," she told him.

"He's my mate," Nigel objected.

"Go back to work Nigel," Ellie advised him. "Unless you really know where Mark was that night?"

She watched Nigel leave then went back upstairs to see Alec talking to the chief.

"Why are you holding Mark Latimer?" the chief was asking him.

"Excuse me, he won't say where he was the night his own son was killed," Alec defended his decision.

"Is he a suspect?" CS Jenkinson wanted to know.

"Not exactly," Alec had to admit.

"Then let him go Alec," the chief ordered him.

"I can't. I can keep him for 24 hours without charging him," he replied.

"Has he asked for a solicitor?" he was asked. Alec shook his head. "Then if he does, he's out of here, understand? What do you hope to gain by holding him?"

Alec's idea was that someone may come forward and give him an alibi. If the man wasn't prepared to admit he was cheating on his wife, the word would get around that he had been and whoever he'd been with my admit to it.

"It's only about his son being killed. I cannot for the life of me think why he wouldn't say where he was," Alec told her.

"He must have his reasons Alec," the chief told him as she got up. "Bear in mind what I told you about releasing him."

As soon as she left, Ellie wanted to know what it was all about plus she had a message for him.

"Do you know someone called the front desk asking for you?" Ellie asked as she sat down.

"Did you hear my phone ringing?" Alec replied.

Ellie ignored him as usual.

"They never left a name, they just hung up when Bob told whoever it was you were interviewing someone. You don't seem too bothered," she grinned as Alec sat back in his chair, sideways.

Then he suddenly sat up.

"I have to call Rose, now," he told her.

"What for?" Ellie wanted to know.

"Was it a woman asking for me?" he panicked, grabbing his phone.

"Bob never said," Ellie replied, going for his desk phone. "Bob, who asked for DI Hardy?" she asked the sergeant when he answered.

"It was a woman, thought I'd said?" Bob told her.

Alec already knew – Claire Ripley was in town and he had to warn Rose before Claire found her. If she was here, Ashworth may come looking for her, then Rose.

"Rose, sweetheart," he began as Rose answered with a 'watcha' as she always did, which usually made him smile. Not today though. "Listen carefully. Claire may be in town."

The other end went quiet, which was to be expected, he thought.

"Tell me you're kidding?" a stunned Rose replied.

"I wish I were. DS Miller just told me someone asked for me and never left a message," he told Rose.

"How the hell does she know we're here Alec?" Rose wanted to know. "Do ya think she saw ya on TV and came down here? What for though?"

Alec thought that was typical of Rose – always asking questions.

"I don't know love. Just stay in until I get home eh? Then we'll talk about it. It doesn't mean she's looking for you or that Ashworth will come looking for her," he tried to assure Rose.

"I know but I was so happy, being here and now about the baby," Rose told him sadly.

"I know love, I'm sorry but I'll have the call traced. It may just be a coincidence and she saw me on TV. She may also be hiding from Ashworth."

Great. That was all he needed, he thought as he said goodbye to Rose and rubbing his beard.

"Miller, go down and see if you can get a trace on that call," he said to Ellie as she got up.

"I'm on it. What else do you want me to do?" asked a concerned Ellie. "You never told me the name of Rose's old boss though."

"It's Claire Ripley, she turned her back on Rose then took up with Ashworth. She got pregnant and came to me for help. I took her to a clinic but she disappeared, before the trial finished," he told her, trying to recall exactly when Claire had vanished.

"She's no danger to Rose then?" Ellie wondered.

"Well no, maybe not but if Ashworth's looking for her?" Alec replied.

"Why would he be? Is he still looking for Rose?" Ellie asked.

"Maybe? He got off because there was no physical evidence and we always suspected Claire stole the pendant belonging to the girl for him but we had no proof," Alec told her. "We thought Ashworth had got her to steal it for him but she wouldn't hand it over to him."

"So he thinks she still has it?" Ellie wanted to know. "What good will it do now? I mean if he was acquitted?"

"Sometimes I wonder about you Miller. If Claire hands over the pendant and tells us he got her to steal it, there will be another trial. Hers and Rose's testimony will ensure he's convicted this time, the judge will have to believe them."

Ellie thought about it.

"So the judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence?" Ellie asked him, Alec pulling a face. "Because Rose was living with Ashworth?" she tried again.

"Partly," Alec admitted. "Miller, once there is new evidence, Ashworth will know he'll be re-arrested. The judge only half believed Rose was drugged that night."

"Didn't she have proof?" Ellie asked, wanting to hear more.

"Well yes but it was argued she could have been given it another time. Her testimony should have put him away but she only knew his side, not Ricky Gillespie's. Ricky should have turned on Ashworth but he didn't, Miller. That to me proved that they were both in it together, making Rose right."

"Well yeah, it makes sense," Ellie had to agree. "So Ricky took the fall?"

"Indeed Miller but why? Why would he let Ashworth get off and not testify against him? We left it because of the missing pendant and I left Tess in charge."

"Maybe you should get her to re-open Lee Ashworth's part in it?" Ellie suggested.

"She'd never go for it, she won't do me any favours, trust me. Don't get involved Miller, look at what it did to Rose?" he reminded her.

"That's just it Hardy. Rose is my friend and if this Claire's in town, I want to help her. So, tough luck. You brought Sandbrook to Broadchurch."

Chapter 34
He let Ellie go off to trace the mysterious call and thought about what had just been said. How did Claire know he was here and more importantly, did she suspect Rose was with him? It now upset him that they'd been happy about the baby and all the past was going to get dragged up again.

Now, all he wanted to do was make sure Ashworth hadn't found out where they were, get Claire to back off and look forward to the baby coming along. He had never dreamt that his life could change so dramatically and that he'd have another son or daughter. Tess had lost interest after Daisy though he had no idea how it had all turned so sour, even before she'd met Dave.

He reflected on Ellie's words, that he'd brought the Sandbrook case with him to Broadchurch when he thought they were well clear of it and it wasn't fair on Rose. She'd trusted him after her disastrous relationship with Ashworth and he wasn't about to let her down.

He got up from behind his desk and make his way to the chief's office. He had been taken on by Elaine Jenkinson and wasn't about to fail her either.

"Ah, Alec. How is Rose?" the chief asked him.

He knew by now it would be all over the station.

"She's fine at present but all that is about to change," he replied as he sat down. "I didn't want to alarm anyone but Lee Ashworth, from that case in Sandbrook may have found out I'm hiding Rose here."

The chief didn't look very pleased with the news.

"You came here to hide her from him," she reminded Alec.

"I know and I've tried my best Elaine. We have discussed it, well sort of anyway but she seems to think he gave up a long time ago. We are trying to look for a bigger house and now, Rose won't want our names putting down anywhere. Who knows how he gets his information?"

"I understand Alec, really I do," the chief sympathised with him. "If you stay where you are for now though, it means moving Rose when she won't be in a position to help."

"She was looking forward to decorating the nursery, she had it all planned," he replied, rubbing his hands over his face. "What am I supposed to do?"

"Do you think Ashworth is responsible for killing Danny? It's not his method, surely?" Elaine wanted to now.

Alec wanted to get up and pace the floor but he wasn't in his own office. He didn't think he'd get an invitation.

"Alec, are you trying to tell me the two cases are connected now?" she asked him.

"Yes. I hate the thought of it but so does DS Miller. I'm keeping Mark Latimer overnight to see if anyone comes forward with an alibi," he admitted.

"What's the point Alec?" his chief wondered. "Haven't you now got a suspect?"

"Well, maybe? I'll put out for all officers to be on the lookout for him," Alec replied.

"Then what?" Elaine asked him.

"Hope he's not got an alibi for last Thursday night," he replied. "He used to cheat on Rose, when she was with him, then he turned to her boss, Claire Ripley. DS Miller just said someone called the station, asking for me. I told her to trace it but we think it was Claire."

"Why would she be here and asking for you?" Elaine was getting curious.

"Because I helped her out once. Ashworth was angry with Rose because she wouldn't give in to him so he cheated on her with probably most of his female clients. Then he took up with Claire to spite her and stop them from being best friends," Alec began to explain.

"So he may have gone looking for Claire then discovered you and Rose were here?" Elaine guessed.

"Well that's what we think," he replied. "Maybe Danny got in the way?"

It was Elaine's turn to cover her face.

"What the hell has been unleashed Alec?" she demanded to know as her fist struck the desk. "Now, I have to tell the regional commander and goodness knows who else that the two cases are connected and you're right in the middle of it. I'm sorry Alec but you'll have to step back and let Ellie take the lead from now on."

He'd been half expecting that anyway.

"So, I get to stay on the case? You need me," he replied.

"I know but don't boss Ellie around or I'll take you off it, understand?" she ordered him. "What's your next move?"

"I'm waiting to find out if it was Claire asking for me. If it was, I'll find out what she wants. You can bet she's worried Ashworth is after her but is she also in town?" he wondered.

"She has to be, the question is, did she arrive before or after Danny was killed?" Elaine pondered. "You never said why she'd go to you for help."

"I helped her out back in Sandbrook. Ashworth got her pregnant, another message to Rose that he could do it, if he wanted to. I took her to a clinic to terminate it, she didn't want the baby to turn out like him. Despite that though, we always suspected Claire stole the evidence that Tess lost."

"Really? Well yes, that could explain a few things? Did you ever get any evidence that she did?" Elaine wondered.

"No, then she disappeared. She probably chose this place or somewhere nearby at random and I just ended up here, trying to hide Rose," Alec told her.

"Why is Rose still so afraid of him? Was it because she testified against him?" Elaine asked.

"Mainly but I'm sure there is still something she's not told me," Alec replied. "Ashworth threatened to take her by force if she told anyone what happened that night."

"Good lord, no wonder she was scared," Elaine looked horrified. "You must have been very reassuring for her to go through with it?"

"It took some doing," Alec agreed. "The thing is though, she only ever knew one side of what happened. She had no idea what went on with Ricky Gillespie and Lisa Newberry. We left before he went on trial, we thought it was the end of it but I was wrong."

"Don't go blaming yourself Alec," Elaine told him. "I'm sure I remember reading that Ashworth had left the country?"

Alec knew she'd done her homework on him before she took him on.

"He was supposed to have, he must have been under the radar. I should go check on what DS Miller has found out."

Elaine couldn't figure out why he didn't call Ellie by her first name.

"Still so formal with her Alec?" she decided to tease him.

"I learned my lesson with my ex wife," Alec admitted.

"Talking of wives, when are you going to marry your pregnant girlfriend?" she asked as he got up to leave.

"We're happy enough, for now," he replied. "She knows it took some time, getting the divorce, I expect she does not want to rush things."

Elaine nodded to him in agreement and let him go check on what Ellie had found out. He waited in his office for her to join him.

"The call was from an unregistered number," she told him as she sat down.

"Then it has to be her. She wouldn't put her name on a contract, would she?" Alec asked her.

"Good thinking, Einstein," Ellie joked back at him.

He only let her get away with things occasionally and that was the second one in a day.

"The chief is putting you in charge," he admitted.

"I know, she just called me. How do you want to play this?" she asked him.

Sometimes she wondered if she only put up with him because of Rose.

"You will have to be seen as if I have told you to handle the press, other than that, nothing is going to change," he replied.

"Typical," Ellie sounded annoyed. "It's a good thing this is mainly about Rose. From what I know of Ashworth, I don't blame her for getting worried."

"Well, it's up to me to keep her safe Miller," Alec replied.

"Hey, I can keep her safe as well," Ellie objected to being left out.

"Yes, I know but you have your family to protect. If it is Ashworth, he will do anything not to get caught. Go home Miller, it's been a long day."

"You said Rose would tell me why she's hiding," Ellie reminded him.

"It can wait. I have to go home and tell her we will have to delay moving. I dare not have our names on any more agents' waiting lists."

"Can't say I blame you. You could look at private rented houses though," she suggested.

"I will consider it," Alec replied. "We will have to let Mark Latimer go in the morning, if we do, have someone keep an eye on him."

"I have a better idea," Ellie grinned. "Let him out now and have someone follow him."

"He will probably only go home Miller," Alec replied wearily.

"Maybe not? He may go to the person he was with that night. Think about it, it makes sense."

"You know the family Miller," Alec reminded her. "Is he capable of cheating on his wife?"

"I hate to think about it," Ellie replied. "It's like thinking Joe's capable of either killing Danny or cheating on me. What's this murder done to people?"

"I don't know Miller. Okay, let him go and see what happens, have someone follow him," Alec relented.

They were interrupted by Alec's desk phone ringing.

"What?" he asked the caller. "We will be down directly."

"What is it?" Ellie dared asked.

"Becca Fisher is downstairs asking for us," he replied, going for his jacket.

"I forgot about her," Ellie smiled. "I expect it's the only time she can get away?"

"Why is she here?" Alec looked puzzled.

"You've forgotten," Ellie laughed.

Alec wasn't going to admit it. Ellie saw through him though.

"The drugs offence?" she asked him.

"That can wait," he told her.

"I'll go give her a caution shall I?" she offered. "It's only a minor offence and I don't want to have to bring in Chloe."

"You go ahead then, I have to check on Rose," Alec insisted.

"Well I'll have to get someone to follow Mark first. I hate having to spy on my friends," Ellie replied.

"Don't we all Miller?" Alec asked her.

Ellie shook her head and went over to one of the new intake of officers they'd received. When she'd outlined what she wanted, she went down to see Becca.

"Sorry Becca," Ellie apologised as she led the hotel owner to an empty interview room.

Becca just showed Ellie her phone.

"I don't know who sent me this," Becca shoved the screen in Ellie's face. "Is this what the police do here these days?"

"What?" Ellie was surprised and tried to read the message which said 'I know where you were that night – tell the police'.

"Well who else did it come from?" Becca wanted to know. "The number was blocked."

"We don't do things that way," Ellie tried to assure her, though she wasn't that sure about her boss. "Well, where were you then?"

Becca took her phone back but Ellie wanted to hold onto it.

"We need to hold onto this Becca, to see who sent the message," Ellie reached in the desk drawer for an evidence bag.

"Well I hope you don't take long," Becca huffed. "If it wasn't the police? It's kind of creepy then."

"To the point Becca?" Ellie urged her. "It's been a long day and I don't want my boss complaining about me asking for overtime."

"Fine. You really want to know where I was? I was with Mark Latimer. Satisfied?"

Becca folded her arms and sat back on the chair.

"What?" Ellie fumbled for her phone. "Wait there."

Becca looked less pleased than when she'd come in.

"Hardy, get yourself into interview room two," Ellie told him.

"Stop playing games Miller, I'm just going home. I have a lot to tell Rose," Alec replied as he got into his car.

"Then it has to wait. Becca just gave Mark Latimer an alibi," Ellie almost laughed.

Alec reached to switch the car engine off, making the transport officer look in his direction.

"Why didn't she tell us earlier?" he wanted to know. "I'll let Rose know I'm going to be late then?"

"She'll understand," Ellie assured him. "Not like my youngest son."

"I needed to talk to her," Alec reminded his DS as he remote-locked his car and headed up the few steps.

"I know," Ellie sympathised with her boss having to tell her friend that her ex-boyfriend may have come to town and killed again – to get Hardy's attention.

She knew it wasn't going to be easy on either of them with the prospect of having to deal with it. Now though, at least they could rule out Mark Latimer. She opened the door and called the officer just outside.

"Get the desk sergeant to pull back surveillance on Mark Latimer," she told the young man.

"Yes Ma'am but I'm not supposed to leave the interview room," he insisted. "DI Hardy's orders that all interview rooms are to be guarded."

"Well call the front desk," Ellie snapped as she pointed to the phone on the wall a few metres away.

She went back inside, shaking her head. Alec was rushing back to find out what Becca Fisher had to say about Mark Latimer. Ellie was sitting stone-faced as both she and Becca waited for Alec.

"I'm not a bad person," Becca broke the silence.

"You took drugs from a fifteen year old girl," Ellie reminded her.

"I know but it was for some big spenders from London," Becca tried to defend herself. "I was trying to impress them so they'd come back."

"If they had gone back and told their friends you could get them drugs, you would have found yourself an easy target. What the hell were you thinking Becca?" Ellie wanted to know.

Becca put her head in her hands as she leaned on the table. She had been worried someone had found out about her and Mark since she'd got the text earlier. She could only think that if it wasn't from the police, it had to be Chloe, trying to blackmail her into giving her father an alibi.

That had got her thinking that Mark would be the prime suspect in his son's death so despite the threat, she had to get him out.

"Is Mark locked up?" Becca wanted to know.

"He's been released on police bail," Ellie admitted.

"I had to leave one of the staff in charge to come down here," Becca replied. "That text must have come from Chloe."

Ellie was about to reply when Alec entered.

"This had better be good," he told both of them as he sat next to Ellie.

"Becca has some information," Ellie snapped at him.

"Well, let's have it, then we can all go home," Alec replied dryly.

"If Mark's a suspect, then you can clear him. He was with me until after two the next morning," Becca told Alec.

"Was he now?" Alec only half believed. "Doing what?"

"Do I have to draw you a picture?" Becca asked sarcastically. "Having sex, what else?"

Ellie had to restrain herself from bursting out laughing.

"Really?" Alec asked, trying to do the same.

"I know. Worst decision of my life," Becca replied.

"Well, I suppose he's no longer a person of interest," Alec turned to Ellie. "Call off the surveillance."

"I already have," Ellie sounded smug at beating him to it.

"What about that drugs offence?" Becca asked hopefully as she noticed the recording equipment wasn't turned on.

Ellie noticed and switched it on.

"Can you repeat that last statement?" Ellie asked, getting one of Alec's looks.

"I was with Mark Latimer on the night of Danny's death," Becca repeated. "We met at the cliff-top car park and went off in my car and I dropped him back early the next morning. We had sex, in my car."

"Write it down," Alec insisted as he went into the desk drawer and got a statement sheet and a pen out.

"Can I have my phone back?" Becca dared ask.

Alec nodded and Ellie got it out of the evidence bag. He switched off the recording equipment, meaning to have words with his DS.

"We will leave the drugs offence for now, I might just forget about it. You would have saved a lot of time if you had come forward before," he told Becca.

"I didn't know he'd been arrested," Becca insisted. "Do you have to tell Beth?"

"That's up to him," Alec replied. "Finish up here," he told Ellie as he got up.

He went back to his car and drove the short distance home. He didn't want to worry Rose any more than he had to be but she had to be told Claire may be in town.

"How could she know Alec?" Rose asked him after they'd kissed.

"I'll have someone on it tomorrow love," he promised her. "It may not have been her."

"Well, if whoever it was asked for ya?" Rose reminded him. "Could it have been that nosy reporter?"

"I don't think so sweetheart. Let me finish making dinner eh?" he offered.

"You look tired Alec, I can manage," Rose insisted.

"Come and sit down Rose. We just found out that Claire may already be in town."

"What? As if Lee being here's not bad enough? Why do ya think she's here?" Rose wanted to know. "She's not still looking for Lee, is she?"

"I doubt that love," Alec smiled. "Rose, you have to be prepared for both of them being in town. Ellie and I think Ashworth was responsible for killing Danny."

He guided Rose to a chair as he reached out to steady her.

"Tell me you're both wrong?" she managed to ask him.

"I'm sorry Rose, I wish we were."

Chapter 35
After Alec managed to calm Rose down, they lay on the sofa, Alec trying to assure her that he wouldn’t let either Claire or Lee anywhere near her.

"Stay in love and only go out with me," he suggested. "I will try and meet with Claire and see what she wanted."

"Why would she be here Alec? Did she choose this place at random?" Rose wondered.

"She could have been here before we arrived, who knows?" Alec replied, wondering that himself. "I can't see her coming here because she saw me on the news."

"Why not Alec, you helped her once. What if she heard the news about Danny and thought straight away that Lee was responsible? Why do you and Ellie think it was him?" Rose asked as Alec held her tighter.

"He could have changed Rose, maybe he found that killing Pippa gave him a rush? People are unknowable Rose, even though you lived with him, you may not have even known him at all," he tried to explain.

"Seems I didn't so neither would Claire. She could be in danger from him as well, if she really did steal that pendant for him?" Rose replied.

"It's looking more and more likely that she did love," Alec replied thoughtfully. "That's what could be making her worried, that he will try to take it from her by force."

"Geez, ya have to find her Alec, he maybe wouldn't think twice about harming her to get what he wants? He could find her and hurt her. No wonder she's scared. Alec I hate to agree with ya but maybe by Lee trying to find Claire, Danny got in the way?"

Alec sat up suddenly, making Rose jump.

"Rose, what if she agreed to meet him and Danny sneaked out that night, for whatever reason?" Alec wondered.

Rose went deadly white. Alec got off the sofa and called Ellie.

"I'm in the middle of putting my youngest to bed, for a change," Ellie chastised him.

"I know you wanted some time with your family Miller," Alec offered some form of apology, for a change Ellie thought.

"This had better be good Hardy."

Her husband had taken her phone upstairs and had taken over showing young Fred the bedtime storybook Ellie had been reading from. She moved out onto the landing to hear his excuses.

"Is Rose okay?" Ellie added when she was free to talk.

"She was, until I had to tell her both Lee and Claire may be in town," Alec replied as Rose sat up. "Miller, we think maybe Danny got in the way of Lee going after Claire," he admitted.

"Bloody hell Hardy, are you being serious?" Ellie wanted to know.

Then she remembered her eldest son could probably hear and went into her now undecorated bedroom, since her husband had stripped the old wallpaper off six months ago and had done nothing since. She had been meaning to find out exactly why it was still in its current state. What did he do all day?

"You didn't half bring the Sandbrook case here. I hope the chief's chewed you out about it?"

"Not now Miller," Alec replied, wanting her to be serious and not go through a list of her grudges against him. "We have more things to worry about. First thing tomorrow, we have to find Claire and put her in protective custody and I want an officer outside my house, Ashworth may go after Rose."

"Geez Alec, are ya tryin' to scare me to death?" Rose wanted to know, getting up carefully and Alec holding his free hand out to her. "I'll stay in and not answer the door, ya need all your officers if it is Lee who's responsible."

"Well okay then, see how it goes," he relented begrudgingly. "Miller, we have to bring Claire in though. If she has that evidence that could put Ashworth away for killing Pippa?"

"So let me get this right Hardy. You didn’t have any proof she stole that pendant, until now?" Ellie asked him.

"I think we have all the proof we need now Miller, don't you?" Alec smiled at Rose. "The question is, what was Danny doing out at that time of night? Was he meeting someone?"

"Who would he have been meeting?" Ellie wanted to know. "Don't tell me you think it was something bad, like an adult grooming him?"

Her husband had been trying to listen to Ellie's one-sided conversation. Having a detective as a wife should have put him off but his feelings for Danny Latimer had grown stronger, especially being away for three weeks and not been able to see him. So, Joe Miller had called the young boy the evening they had got back from Florida and talked him into meeting at the cliff-top hut and after hugging, Danny had told him it was the last time.

"Don't say that," Joe had told the young boy when told it was over. "We can still meet."

"No, we can't," Danny had been insisting, rubbing his eyes. "I know what you want."

"I don't want anything," Joe had then insisted. "Why did you agree to meet me then?"

"To tell you, I know you want things from me, bad things. I've been reading about men wanting things from boys, on the internet while you've been away," Danny had told him. "Why don't you do those things to Tom?"

"I only wanted to help you, when you couldn't go to your dad," Joe had reminded Danny. "He hit you."

"I'll tell my mum," Danny had replied through his tears. "I'm going home."

Before Joe could stop the boy, Danny had reached the door and tried to unlock it. Danny had sneaked the key from the box his dad kept of keys clients' gave him to complete jobs and the boy had hoped it wouldn't be missed.

"Go," Danny had shouted, now crying openly. "Go on, I'm not being friends with you any more," he'd insisted. "I'm not coming to your house any more either, Tom can come to my house, if he wants to be friends again. I told him I'd got a new friend, he might not want to be."

Joe had then tried to creep up on the boy as Danny had tried to twist the key in the lock but Danny had fought him off and got out of his grasp as Danny had flung the door outwards and made a run towards the edge of the cliff.

"Danny, come away from there," Joe had warned him, not noticing a van in the car park. "Come back inside and talk."

Danny had been staring at the beach below, unaware his finger was bleeding after he'd caught it trying to escape Joe's grip.

"Well okay but don't try anything. What's that van doing here?" Danny had asked after agreeing.

"Someone must have left it," Joe had started to panic, hoping whoever it belonged to hadn't been peeking through the hut's windows. "Let's get back inside?"

They had been about to go inside when they'd heard a woman screaming, apparently at someone called Lee.

"Get off me now Lee," Claire had shouted at the top of her voice.

"You agreed to meet me," Lee was arguing back.

"Only because there are no easy targets around," Claire had then laughed as she tried to fasten her jeans. "What do you want Lee? Besides getting into my knickers."

She had decided not to tell him he'd almost been a father but she'd got rid of it, getting help from Rose Tyler's boyfriend.

"You know something Claire?" Lee had asked her as he stood up when his feet landed on the ground. "I'm surprised you never got pregnant."

"How do ya know I didn't Lee? You just disappeared back in Sandbrook, I could have done," Claire had laughed, both unaware the van had been spotted.

Lee had come across the hut and had been thinking about breaking in and sleeping there. Then earlier, when he'd collected Claire from the bus stop down by the harbour, there had been a light on so that was the end of that idea, at least for tonight.

"Don't talk daft Claire. I know we went all the way but you're not the sort of woman who doesn't take precautions," Lee had scoffed.

"You're just annoyed Rose wouldn't let ya go all the way," Claire had scoffed back. "Get to the point of why we're here Lee."

"I want that pendant you stole for me Claire. I'm going away, for good this time and I don't want extraditing from where I'm going if you decide to give me up," he'd replied.

"No way Lee, I risked getting caught for that pendant," Claire had then reminded him. "That's my insurance policy. I don't know what kind of arrangements you had over getting Rose to keep quiet but it won't work with me."

"Want to bet?" Lee had joked as he got a cigarette out of the packet he'd fumbled in his jacket pocket for.

"I'm glad you never became a father," Claire had then replied as she looked around. "Now I won't be able to get back home, what time is it?" she'd wanted to know as she tried to get her phone.

"What's that supposed to mean Claire?" Lee had asked her. "Oh, you got pregnant, back in Sandbrook?"

"Yes and I got rid of it, there was no way I was bringing up a child of yours, on my own," Claire had then told him.

"Don't make me laugh Claire, where would you go for help to start off with?" he'd asked her. "Oh, you went to Alec Hardy for help?"

"What if I did? I'll tell you now, Rose made the right choice between him and you," she'd laughed, looking at the time. "How am I going to get a taxi to pick me up from here?"

"Ask the person in that hut for ride home," Lee had then joked.

"Be serious Lee. Look, is that a boy running by the edge of the cliff?"

"Get back Claire, don't let them see us," Lee then replied as Joe was talking to Danny and steering Claire back into the rear of the van.

Lee had peered around the corner of the van and saw Joe trying to get Danny to go back inside.

"Get in the front Claire, I'll drop you off somewhere, you don't have to tell me where you live," Lee then continued. "Well, did you go to Alec Hardy for help? I wonder if Rose knows?"

Claire hit his arm just as Joe was locking the door so Danny wouldn't run away again.

"You will not spoil things Danny," Joe was telling him. "Do you understand?"

He'd backed Danny up to the wall and raised his hands to Danny.

"I'm not scared of you," Danny replied. "I'll tell my dad."

"He won't believe you," Joe replied.

"I'll go get help, there was a van out there," Danny told him, running out of ideas.

"There was no-one in it," Joe half laughed, thinking the boy would tell the first person he came across.

"Ha, you're wrong, I saw someone around the back," Danny scoffed.

"It will have been someone up to no good," Joe tried to tell the boy. "Someone looking to rob this place when we leave. They won't be bothered about you."

With that, as Joe backed off slightly, Danny made a run for the door, Joe having left the key in the lock in his haste. The boy quickly turned the key despite Joe trying to stop him and yelled when Danny kicked his shin. As Joe tried to stand on his other foot, Danny flung the door open again and ran around the back of the hut, just as Lee was turning his van around.

"Help!" Danny cried out, waving his arms to get attention. "Help me!"

Joe had caught up with the boy and tried to grab him again.

"Get away from me!" Danny cried out as Joe tried to lift him off the ground.

Claire was looking through the passenger side wing mirror. It had been a full moon earlier, then got cloudy but had since come back out again so there was clear vision.

"Lee, stop the van," Claire called out, grabbing his arm.

"I thought you wanted to go home Claire?" Lee laughed, trying to see where the roadway was from the car park entrance.

"Just stop, he's shouting again and the man we saw is grabbing him," Claire told him as Lee finally stopped.

"Claire, what are we supposed to do about it?" Lee wanted to know as Joe was dragging Danny back and holding Danny tightly around his waist and neck.

"Well look for yourself, that man's choking the poor kid," Claire pointed out as Lee leaned over, Lee thinking so much for not being seen then.

"What do you want me to do about it Claire?" Lee sighed.

"Go after them you idiot," Claire almost screamed at him.

By now, poor Danny had passed out with Joe's hand around his neck, plus he'd not been able to gasp as Joe's grip had tightened around his waist. Joe had just got him inside when Lee appeared in the doorway, Claire now just behind him as she'd caught up.

"Oi you, what are you going to that boy?" Claire shouted as she made Lee move over.

"He's fine, he's just tired," Joe tried to bluff as he lay Danny down.

"Rubbish, I saw you dragging him," Claire still insisted. "Are you his father?"

"Leave it," Lee insisted, not wanting to say her name and putting his hand on her shoulder to try to get her to go back to the van.

"Just leave us," Joe insisted, wanting to check on Danny and hoping he'd not applied too much pressure to the boy's neck.

"Well as long as he okay?" Claire relented.

"You'd make a good mother," Lee whispered in her ear as he led her off, which got him a dig in his ribs, Claire thinking maybe she should have aimed lower down.

When they got back to the van, he sat in the driver's seat.

"You were pregnant," he'd stated.

"Shut up Lee," Claire had replied.

"Don't lie to me Claire," Lee had goaded her. "You did go to Alec Hardy for help but why should he bother helping you?"

"Rose trusted him. We used to be best friends until you came between us," Claire had reminded him. "Are you sure that boy back there was okay?"

"Forget we were even up here Claire. Why the hell were we there anyway?" Lee had wanted to know.

"How the hell do I know?" Claire had also wanted to know. "You drove down this stupid narrow road," she'd reminded him as the road twisted and turned.

"Well it was lighter earlier," Lee had remarked, praying he wouldn't hit the wall or bump into another vehicle on the way up. "Who'd want to live down here?"

Back at the hut, Joe was panicking. The two intruders had seen him and Danny and it wouldn't take them long to put two and two together when Danny was discovered. He'd checked the boy's pulse, twice and was sure Danny no longer had one. He gone to stand by the window and seen more car headlights enter the car park.

He'd not noticed another car had been there because of the white van and he had ducked down to avoid being seen. He'd also not known it was Becca Fisher returning Mark Latimer after they had parked on the beach further up the coast.

"Well, back to the real world," Becca had been laughing as she'd put her arms around Mark.

Joe had peered through the window and seen them kiss and hoped they wouldn't spot his car, tucked away behind the hut. He was trying to think that if somehow they did spot it, he would have to trade the knowledge he'd seen them together against it. He had both of them so it should be easy to ensure their silence, he'd thought as Mark got into his own car, Becca already driving off then Mark following her to what passed as a road.

Then, Joe had got a blanket and covered Danny, somehow thinking the boy would come back to life but after what had seemed like ages, he picked the boy up and was going to put him in the car he shared with Ellie. He'd thought that may not be a good idea, her being a detective so he'd remembered a few people kept boats chained up down below the hut so he looked around for some tools and then picked up Danny.

After that, he'd gone down the coast to the east beach, landed the boat and placed Danny face down, leaving his skateboard planted in the sand. He'd not noticed another figure further down the beach, hidden in the shadows though. He'd got back in the boat, made his way back to the hut and then begun to clean all the surfaces either himself or Danny had touched.

Still full of adrenaline, he'd driven home and when he got upstairs, he was just trying to go into the bathroom when Tom had stopped him.

"Where have you been Dad?" Tom had asked him.

"Downstairs, where else?" Joe had tried to convince him.

"No, you weren't Dad," Tom had challenged him. "I went looking for you. Fred woke up, mum had taken her sleeping pills so I had to try to get him back to sleep."

Joe had run his hands over his face.

"Promise you won't tell your mum? I went out, to catch up with Nigel and Danny's dad at the pub," Joe had lied. "You were all asleep, I saw no harm in it. You can't tell your mum, she won't understand," Joe had pleaded with his eldest son.

"Well, alright," Tom had to agree, wondering if he should try his luck at bribing his dad to ensure his silence. "Dad, I could do with a new skateboard."

Joe had known he was being bribed.

"I'll think about it," Joe had replied. "Now back to bed or I'll tell your mum."

He'd then gone into the bathroom, leaning on the sink. He'd felt sick now reality had caught up with him. Getting into bed beside his wife, he'd tried not to let the tears flow. Now, a few days later, it all came flooding back to him and worst of all, Ellie had a boss who seemed relentless. Ellie went back to join him.

"What's wrong Ell?" he asked her as they went back on the landing.

"Nothing, just hopefully a lead in the case," Ellie replied.

Joe let her go back downstairs, lingering outside the nursery door. What if the two people who had confronted him the other night had come forward, after his wife's boss had put out an appeal for witnesses? Still, they didn't know his name but if they remembered what he looked like? The woman had seemed concerned over Danny though so maybe she'd persuaded the man she'd been with? He would have to be very careful his wife wouldn't figure out anything before he could cover his tracks.

He followed her downstairs, trying to figure out how to make sure they didn't find the boat he'd used, which belonged to his wife's nephew and it would be just his luck her sister would decide to hire it out to make some extra cash to feed her gambling addiction.

Chapter 36
When Joe had thought everyone was asleep, aware that this time his wife hadn't taken any sleeping pills, he crept downstairs and drove down to where his sister-in-law kept the boat. A few nights ago, upon his return from leaving Danny on the beach, he'd tried to make it look like he'd not cut the chain on it and thankfully, it hadn't been disturbed.

The question was, how could he throw suspicion off the fact he'd used it. He looked around and checked all the other boats and found someone had been lazy in putting their own boat away. He put the motor from Lucy's boat onto the other one after eventually towing it.

He had got a petrol can from the back of the car and carefully doused the boat he was disposing of then cutting the rope, he tossed a lighted match and headed back up the coast.

Alec was annoyed when his phone rang just after five in the morning. Rose was trying to ignore it but he had pulled the duvet off her as he'd sat up.

"Inform DS Miller and tell her to meet me there," Alec was telling the caller. "Have a patrol car at my house in ten minutes."

"What's up Alec? I can take ya," she offered.

"You need your rest love," Alec reminded her as he got to his feet.

Rose never could resist staring at his rear at every opportunity she got, even in the early hours of the morning.

"Stop staring at my ass Rose," he added, smiling to himself that he knew she was watching.

"Don't know watcha mean," Rose tried to deny it as she lay on her side. "Where are you off to anyway?"

"There's a boat on fire just off the east cliff. Who would be burning a perfectly good boat, in the middle of the night?" he asked her as he reached in the wardrobe for a shirt.

"The same person who transported Danny from the hut?" Rose suggested. "Put a t-shirt on Alec, it'll be cold outside."

Alec wondered why she took such good care of him sometimes.

"Yes, that's exactly who love. They've been panicking, which is great for us. The coastguard called it in, it's still burning out there."

"Then why aren't they towing it into the harbour?" Rose yawned.

"Good question love. Tell you what, want to take my place?" he joked.

That would normally get him into trouble. He found the last call and rang the desk sergeant back.

"Have them tow that boat into the harbour," Alec told Bob, who had just come on duty.

"Sir? What boat?" a confused Bob asked him, looking at the log sheet.

"The one burning off the coast," Alec tried not to be sarcastic but Rose giggling into the duvet wasn't helping.

"Sir, it could be dangerous, towing the burning boat," Bob warned him and wondering why the DI's girlfriend hadn't already done so.

Everyone in the station had a pretty good idea Rose was pregnant, the way the DI had been acting lately. Alec carried on getting dressed, knowing Rose was peeking from where she was lying.

"You give yourself away love," he teased her as the duvet moved slightly.

"Only to get a better look," Rose replied, knowing better than to try to fool him.

"You know I never go out unless it's urgent," he reminded her.

"I know, don't worry so much about it. Just do what ya have to and I'll see ya for breakfast, yeah?" Rose replied.

Alec thought what a difference there would have been if Rose had not gone through what she had when they'd first met but then he'd never have met her.

"Watcha gonna do about Claire then?" Rose then wanted to know.

"Try to find her or let her come to me?" Alec wondered.

"Depends on if Lee's found her I suppose?" Rose also wondered.

"If he'd found her, it would have been even more urgent," Alec told her.

"Geez Alec, what if he's holding her somewhere?" Rose panicked. "We can't let anything happen to her Alec."

"I won't love but I will ask whoever took the message to recall if she sounded frightened," Alec tried to assure her.

Claire had turned against Rose yet she was still concerned about her old friend. It was Lee Ashworth who had turned Claire against Rose, probably to just get back at him. He went off to meet Ellie on the east beach, Ellie not being very pleased.

"Does it need two of us?" she asked sarcastically.

Then she realised she should maybe send him back to his pregnant girlfriend.

"I can deal with this," she then tried to insist.

"Rose was okay, I told her to go back to sleep," Alec tried to stifle a yawn.

"Don't deny you two would have used the extra time unwisely," Ellie teased him.

"I have no idea what that's supposed to mean, Miller," Alec tried to keep a straight face.

They were interrupted by the head of the forensics team, who hated Alec, for some reason Alec couldn't think of.

"We have to wait until the boat is safe to bring into the harbour," Brian told Ellie. "It could be damaged even more by pouring water on it. The water could wash any proof the boy was in it away."

That wasn't what Alec wanted, he wanted them to start examining the boat as soon as it was safe enough to. If he could get concrete proof Ashworth was responsible for killing Danny, they could re-open Sandbrook then Rose and the two girls would get justice. It had taken a while but Rose had finally wanted to be with him, after the way Ashworth had treated her and he'd been really surprised that Claire, despite knowing what Ashworth was like, had let him get her pregnant.

Rose had been scared to death of the man and quite rightly so, he thought as Ellie interrupted him.

"Why don't you go home, I can wait here," Ellie suggested, knowing what he was thinking, that the Sandbrook case had come back to haunt him. Come back in a few hours?"

He did as she suggested and got a car to take him home but Rose hadn't been able to get back to sleep so she was drinking coffee in the kitchen when she heard him opening the door.

"Alec, I'm in the kitchen," she called out to him.

"There was nothing going on," he told her as he took his jacket off and put it over his chair.

Rose had got up to pour him some coffee, now he'd started drinking it because she did.

"You should have stayed in bed love," he smiled though he still felt tired.

"Can't sleep without ya babe," Rose smiled as she put his favourite mug she'd bought for him on the table.

As forensics started examining the boat later that morning, Ellie leaving them to get on with it, Brian called them down to the harbour just before midday.

"Spectacular," Alec was pleased with what they'd found already. "Keep at it."

"That cheered you up," Ellie grinned as he held the police tape up for her. "We just need to send for details of your case against Lee Ashworth. Want me to call your ex wife?"

Alec thought she had to be joking. Did she think Tess would talk to him? Ellie got back to her desk and used the number Alec had provided for her.

"You think Lee Ashworth was involved with the death of that boy?" Tess asked.

"We think he may be in the area. We also think Claire Ripley may have moved here previously and he came looking for her," Ellie admitted, Alec telling her not to let Tess get the upper hand in all this. "We'd like some information sending, such as fingerprints and DNA samples."

Tess thought the detective didn't want much and Alec had backed out of calling her himself.

"So, you're working with Alec now?" Tess scoffed as she brought up the information Ellie wanted. "How are you getting along with him?'

Ellie thought maybe Rose was right after all in her describing Alec's ex wife as a bit of a cow. Rose had often told of their battle and Tess's remarks, before Rose had even moved in with her ex husband. Now was not the time to bring it up though.

"Can you send me the files, please?" Ellie tried to be polite and not fall into Tess's trap.

"Fine, I'll send you what we have then. So, are those two still together?" Tess tried to ask.

Ellie wasn't sure if her boss had even told his ex wife Rose was expecting.

"I don't think it's for me to comment," Ellie replied, sensing him standing behind her.

"Did she give you any trouble?" Alec wanted to know.

"She was trying to find out a few things," Ellie replied. "Don't you ever talk to her?"

"Only concerning Daisy. Otherwise, there is nothing else she needs to know," Alec told her.

"So, you're just going to spring a new baby onto her?" Ellie grinned as she waited for an email from Tess.

"Why not?" Alec wanted to know.

"She never wanted any more kids then?" Ellie asked as she sat back and folded her arms.

"The subject never came up," was all he was going to say.

Ellie shook her head then leaned forward as she received a new email.

"Let's see what we can find then?" Ellie told him.

"If Ashworth didn't kill Danny, you can bet he knows something about it," Alec suggested. "We were so sure he knew what happened to Lisa Newberry."

"That's what got to you and Rose? Never knowing?" Ellie sounded sympathetic.

"It got to Rose more so. She lived next to Pippa and she's always blamed herself for not being home that night. She said she would have been if her bus had turned up on time."

"Didn't she ever think Ashworth could have got her involved with what was happening?" Ellie asked.

"Don't go there Miller, you don't want to get involved," Alec warned her.

"Well you're getting me involved – Sir," Ellie reminded him as she opened the email from Tess.

Alec shrugged his shoulders and left her to it. He had this feeling that Ashworth had something to do with Danny's death and he couldn't shake it. He'd tried to play it down with Rose but she deserved to know. Tess had been annoyed he'd got someone to call instead of him doing it.

"What's wrong Tess?" Dave asked her as he sat on the edge of her desk.

"Alec, what do you think?" Tess replied. "Can you believe he got his DS to call me, saying they think Lee Ashworth had something to do with killing that boy?"

"That means he's left our area Tess," Dave reminded her. "What about Claire Ripley?"

"Her as well, so DS Miller said. We don't have to worry about them then?" she almost smiled.

"We should go celebrate then?" Dave got up off her desk. "Can Daisy go to your mother's tonight, for a sleepover? I'll come up with some excuse."

Tess was longing for the day he would say he was leaving his wife. That had been mostly why she'd given Alec the divorce he wanted, so she would be free. Why was Dave so afraid to do the same? Was she getting tired of it? What had attracted her to Dave in the first place? She came out of her thoughts, found the files Ellie had wanted then sent them, wondering if Lee Ashworth had really gone to haunt Alec and his girlfriend. She had always blamed Alec for the man suspected of killing young Pippa getting away then not sticking around for the trial of Ricky Gillespie.

Alec had been too busy keeping his promise of getting Rose aware to care, in her opinion. If Claire had ended up in the same town as them, that was his problem. Now, it seemed Lee Ashworth had found them and maybe he had killed that boy as a message?

While Ellie was trying to make sense and tie Lee to Danny's death, Claire had wondered if Alec was ever going to call her back. She'd been lucky and escaped Lee's attention when he'd dropped her back home that night the boy had been killed and she so wanted to tell Alec Hardy that they had seen the man who had. The detective would be thinking it was Lee who had actually done it and quite rightly so.

She looked at her phone on the coffee table in the salon that she ran for a local woman, it was the nearest she could get to owning one, she never knew when she'd have to leave again but it was beginning to get that way. She'd had a few days where she thought Lee would come looking for her and he wouldn't stay away forever.

Being with him again had felt good, just like she remembered but she wasn't going to get caught out this time, she'd been stupid the last time and she'd not meant for things to go that far but Lee had been forceful and she knew he was taking it out on other women the fact Rose wouldn't let him. It seemed Rose had made the right decision. Now, she could only hope her once friend's boyfriend would help.

Alec picked his desk phone up.

"Has anyone traced that call I asked about?" he wanted to know when Bob answered the phone.

"We're working on it Sir, it was a blocked number," Bob reminded him.

Alec was wondering what the difference was between an unregistered and blocked number, everyone called it differently.

"Have you been onto the different providers?" Alec wanted to know.

"It takes time Sir, there are calls coming in all the time, we don't know many details. I'll get back to you when I have something," Bob offered.

"Yes, you do that," Alec tried not to sound annoyed.

He didn't want to ask Rose for Claire's number and she may have changed it anyway. He was just going to check on forensics from the boat when his phone rang again. Claire had five minutes left of her break so she was going to use it wisely.

"Can I speak to Alec Hardy?" Claire asked again. "He's not out again is he?"

"Can I ask who's calling?" Bob asked her.

"He'll know," Claire insisted. "I don't have much time."

He figured this must be the woman who called before and whom Hardy had been trying to trace. It had come up as an unknown number again.

"I'll put you through," Bob agreed, thinking Hardy could get the woman's number from her, since she seemed to know him.

So Alec answered his phone and Claire was put through.

"Hello, Alec," Claire told him when he answered with 'Hardy'. "I need to meet with you."

"Tell me what it's about Claire. Is it about Ashworth?" Alec was keen to find out.

Claire thought she should have known Rose's boyfriend had an idea what she wanted to talk about.

"Yeah. He contacted me, day before that boy was killed. He didn't do it Alec, he was with me," Claire told him, looking at the time.

She would be late back and being late when you're the boss didn't set a good example.

"How can I believe you Claire?" Alec wanted to know, trying to get Ellie's attention and thinking the one time he wanted it, she was busy.

"When have I lied to you?" Claire huffed. "Do you want to know what happened or not?"

"Just tell me Claire. I helped you once, remember?"

"Yeah and he found out anyway," Claire replied sadly. "Okay, we were up at that hut, the one on the cliff, in the back of Lee's van."

Alec really didn't want to know the details but his DS would. He finally got Ellie's attention and he motioned her into his office.

"It's Claire," he told her as he covered the receiver.

"Claire, I'm putting you on speaker. Tell me what happened."

"We were just getting out of the back when we saw a boy come running out of the hut, a man running after him. A few minutes later, they went back inside."

So, Claire had seen Danny that night?

"We were driving off, we'd seen a light on but didn't bother," Claire continued. "I told Lee to stop, I could see the man was doing something to the boy. Lee shouted over but they'd gone back inside so we followed them."

"Did you touch anything while you were there?" Alec wanted to know.

"No," Claire sounded annoyed. "The boy was lying on the floor so Lee asked what had happened. The man said the boy was asleep."

"He probably wasn't asleep Claire," Alec told her.

"We did ask," Claire objected. "Lee said to leave it so we went back to the van. I wanted to do something."

"Claire, this is very important. Can you identify them?" Alec asked.

"The boy from the newspapers," Claire replied, sounding sad. "We could have prevented it by making sure he really was okay. I really hate Lee right now."

"Don't blame yourself Claire," Ellie told her. "This is DS Miller. Can you describe the man you saw? Could you pick him out?"

Alec couldn't believe their luck, that someone had witnessed what happened but could he use Claire and Ashworth? One had walked away from killing a young girl and he suspected Claire of stealing the evidence that got Ashworth off.

Chapter 37
Claire was thinking about it. Lee wasn't going to thank her for getting him involved.

"I had no reason to believe that man was lying about the boy, I'm trying to help you," she reminded them both.

"Yes, we know," Ellie replied, giving her boss a glare.

Alec put the phone on 'Mute'.

"Can I remind you who this is?' Alec glared back at her. "She caused Rose a great deal of anguish by switching sides and taking up with Ashworth."

"Yes but he paid for it, so you said," Ellie replied.

"We can't use her testimony, she's unreliable," Alec told her firmly.

Alec was now regretting letting Rose tell his DS what had happened in Sandbrook but if ever Rose needed a friend and he wasn't around, he wanted the love of his life to have someone she could depend on. He'd had to admit that his DS was the only other person beside himself that he could let Rose trust.

Ellie Miller had surprised him more than once but something was bothering him now. He was waiting for an answer from Claire.

"Claire," he called down the phone as he released it again.

"About time," Claire complained. "I thought you'd gone and I'm wasting my credit here. This man, I can describe him. I suppose you want to show me photos or pick someone out of a line-up?"

"If you got a good look at him, in the dark?" Alec reminded her.

"There was light coming from the hut," Claire insisted. "I got a good look at him when we went inside as well."

"What do you want in return Claire?" Alec wanted to know, not believing she was doing it out of the goodness of her heart. "What were you doing meeting Ashworth anyway?"

Claire was thankful she wasn't on a video chat with the two detectives, or her expression would have surely given her away. Well she had got a good look at the man when he had faced the two of them, trying to convince them the boy was okay. She had felt sick to know the boy may have already been dead as they'd gone to see what was going on.

Now, she knew what it was like as Rose had come to realise Lee may have killed that young girl back in Sandbrook.

"I couldn't help myself when he came looking for me," she had to admit.

"Couldn't you have exercised a little restraint, Claire?" Ellie wanted to know.

"You don't know what he's like Ellie, he's like a drug to me," Claire replied sadly. "He only had to call me and say he'd been looking for me. Anyway, I'm not the one who should be worried he's in town."

Alec suddenly muted the phone again.

"She's right, he may be looking for Rose," he called out suddenly, making Ellie jump.

"You'd better go see Rose then?" Ellie suggested. "You should be worried about her, never mind Claire, she made her choice."

"I was stupid enough to think Ashworth would never bother looking for Rose again, that he'd go after Claire," Alec told her.

"I'll finish the call," Ellie offered. "I'll get her in for a line-up of our suspects and one or two who have been cleared."

"Yes, do that Miller. I have to call Rose and tell her not to go out but I have to go see the chief first. I put Rose in danger when I brought her here."

"Listen, you didn't know Claire had come here when you applied for the job," Ellie told him, resisting the urge to remind him once more that he'd stolen the job from her, now was not the time.

"I know but still?" he questioned himself. "I'll be back in a bit."

Ellie turned the phone volume back on.

"I bet he's gone to warn his girlfriend," Claire laughed.

"His pregnant girlfriend," Ellie corrected Claire. "I'm going to arrange a line up of our suspects, pick a time that's convenient to you."

"He won't use me as a witness, trust me," Claire laughed. "He's not that desperate, whatever your name was?"

"It's DS Miller. He will Claire, if he has a reliable witness," Ellie replied.

"Well he won't use Lee, not that Lee would offer any help," Claire laughed.

"I know that," Ellie replied. "It wasn't hard to work out why he got off, Claire."

"I don't know what you mean, DS Miller," Claire scoffed. "Besides, do you want my help catching the man who killed that boy or not? Which is more important to you? Catching the man who I saw bending over a young boy, in that hut and him saying the boy was fine, when the poor kid had already been killed, probably strangled? Or Lee?"

"How do you know how he was killed, Claire?" Ellie wanted to know, since that detail had never been released to the public, only the family.

"I saw them out on the cliff top, the man looked like he was going for the boy's neck as Lee started to drive off. I saw through the wing mirror before I got Lee to stop the van. Geez, if he'd only stopped or not driven off, we might have saved that poor boy. Look, Ellie, I'm not a vindictive person, I know I turned on Rose but it was Lee who broke up our friendship, he was overpowering," Claire insisted as she turned to face the door when someone called her name.

"Claire, we're busy out here, we could use some help," Elsie, the senior stylist called out after she'd been elected to tell their boss she was well over her lunch break and what the hell was she doing in there?

Claire covered her mobile and went to answer the door.

"I'll be out in a minute," she yelled back. "I'm on an important call."

"Really?" the older woman, who clearly thought she should have been made manager after the owner had wanted to swan off to Tenerife to live with her married boyfriend. "May I remind you we're not supposed to take personal calls while we're working?"

"Not now Elsie, this really is important, it's to do with that boy who was killed. The police are asking questions," Claire tried to tell as little as possible.

"We could all come out with that one," Elsie huffed as she went off.

"Bit of a lame excuse," Paige, the trainee agreed with the other stylists as they carried on seeing to their clients who were under the hairdryers.

"What was all that?" Ellie wanted to know.

"Nothing, I'm just giving a bad impression to those who work under me," Claire sighed. "Okay, tomorrow lunchtime, one and don't hold me up, I won't have a lot of time," she agreed. "I don't know if Lee was guilty or not but he takes you in Ellie, just ask Rose."

"She never talks about it, she trusts Alec Hardy and that's all that matters to him. If he has to take Lee Ashworth down again, I'll be backing him up for what Ashworth did to her. Just be careful Claire," Ellie warned her.

While Ellie had finished the telephone call from Claire, Alec had called Rose on his way to the chief's office.

"So they are both definitely back?" Rose asked, not wanting to believe it before.

"I'm sorry Rose. Listen love, just stay at home until I get there, yes? Claire called us, with regard to seeing Danny, the night he was killed. She and Ashworth may be the two people who can solve the case."

Rose let out a nervous laugh.

"Ya won't get Lee to co-operate ya know?" she asked him as she was looking at baby clothes on a well-known website for babies and young children.

She wanted the both of them to actually go to the store and buy the clothes, she loved being seen out with the lead detective, it was her way of showing her support when things were getting tense in the town.

"I'm not concerned over Ashworth, not about seeing Danny that night anyway. If Claire witnessed the events though? A jury is more likely to believe her than a man who was let off from killing a young girl. Claire was never involved apart from us thinking she stole the pendant for him. Why would she do such a thing?"

"Maybe she had no idea at the time what he was asking of her?" Rose wondered if she'd asked him that before.

Even though her then friend had turned on her, Rose was still defending Claire. He didn't have the heart to ask her why.

"Maybe she has now?" Alec mused. "Anyway, if she saw Danny's killer, we'll find out when she comes in for an ID parade."

"Alec, it may not be one of your existing suspects?" Rose reminded him.

"Which will be why we will throw in a few men we've not interviewed already," Alec let out a nervous laugh.

"Alec, I meant men who you don't even suspect," Rose corrected him. "Ya have to at least consider it's possible? I mean, it had to be someone Danny knew?"

Alec always had loved Rose more for being the one to point out the obvious, that he may have overlooked.

"So, you are saying I should include the vicar and Miller's husband?' Alec tried to joke.

"Be serious Alec," Rose tried to suppress a giggle. "Actually, show the ones already under suspicion that they're not being victimised?"

"I know what you mean Rose. Actually, it's not a bad idea, though you will have to appease your friend?"

"Ya mean by saying it was my idea getting her husband to take part?" Rose finally gave in and laughed. "I know it sounds kinda stupid."

"No love, you are right. I should include those not under any kind of suspicion, for those reasons," Alec agreed. "I will be home soon, to discuss Ashworth being in town."

"I don't think he'll come near me Alec," Rose tried to tell him. "It would have been Claire he was after, if he's trying to get that pendant from her."

"We can't be sure she actually stole it love," he reminded her. "The odds are very high, however."

"You can't say for sure Alec but I can," Rose replied. "She was totally gone on him, she would have done anything he asked her to do, trust me. It was the way he used to say it, like he was tryin' to hypnotise ya."

"You think he did the same to Claire?" Alec asked as he stood outside the chief's office, his foot behind him, on the wall. "It's not easy to hypnotise someone love."

"I can't explain it Alec," Rose gave in. "It was the way he talked to ya. Like it wasn't so much as to him asking ya something, it was like he expected it to be done and ya found ya self doing it."

"I am truly sorry he treated you like that love," Alec tried to assure her. "We can talk about it when I get back."

"Ya don't have to come home Alec, he knows you're in town so he'll figure I'm here as well. He won't want to draw any attention to himself, he won't expect Claire to contact ya."

"I was just worried how you would take it," Alec replied as he tried not to sound disappointed she didn't want him to go home.

Alec knew Rose was right, Ashworth wouldn't do anything stupid, like try to intimidate her. Claire though was a different matter. She had chosen to be with him, after all Rose had told her but maybe she was right, Claire was addicted to him and couldn't break free. He wasn't the one who could help Claire break the addiction, he had Rose to worry about and as soon as he was free of Tess once and for all, he was going to ask the love of his life to marry him.

He had succeeded in getting her to trust him and ever so gently get her to be with him and had crossed that last barrier. He ended the call by saying he loved her as he always did and knocked on the chief's door.

"Well, it's up to you now Alec," the chief had decided. "We can't keep using Claire if she's unreliable. You said she was, back in Sandbrook."

"Yes, she was unreliable back then," Alec had to admit. "The question is, can we rely on her now? If she saw Danny's killer, can we let whoever it was get away because Claire may or may not have stolen that evidence for Lee Ashworth back then?"

"You didn't seem to trust her back then Alec, from what you told me," Elaine Jenkinson reminded him of when he'd confessed to her he was certain Claire had stolen the pendant from Tess's car. "Can I also remind you that Claire and your girlfriend were once friends? Don't let that get in the way either."

"I am trying not to," Alec almost huffed but since he didn't know this chief very well, kept his temper with her. "I spoke to Rose, if Ashworth is here, with Claire, I have to make sure he doesn't go near Rose. She went through enough with him in the past. I say let Claire in for a line-up and see who she picks, if anyone. I suggest a mixture of suspects and non-suspects and maybe a police officer or two?"

Elaine had to let out a smile at her new DI's unorthodox ways of policing.

"Well, let's see how it goes then?" Elaine checked herself. "The other question is, do we get Lee Ashworth in at the same time, to the ID parade?"

"I don't think that's a good idea," Alec admitted. "I know he was let off for lack of evidence but he was charged. If I'm right and Claire did steal the evidence for him, it's quite obvious she never handed it over to him."

"What makes you think that's the case Alec?" Elaine wondered, sitting forward in her chair.

"Why would he come after her, if he got the one thing from her that was keeping him out of prison?" Alec replied. "If she had handed it over to him, he could always assure her silence by threatening her with telling the police she stole the pendant for him. Either way, they would both be locked up and he'd get some pleasure out of it."

Elaine sat back again, thinking about what Alec had just suggested.

"Yes, I see your point Alec but where does that leave your girlfriend? You brought her here to keep her safe and then those two suddenly turn up here," she reminded him.

"I think they will both be busy enough to stay away from her," Alec hoped.

"You had best hope so then?" Elaine had to agree. "Well, arrange for the line up and let's hope Claire is right and not just stalling for time."

Now, Alec was looking forward to seeing who Claire's target would be. If she really did see the person responsible, would she say so or blame someone else? You could never really tell with her, he thought as he went back to his own office.

"Well, who have you chosen to even things out?" he asked Ellie as he stopped by her desk.

Ellie handed him a sheet of paper so he glanced at it.

"Is that all?" he wanted to know. "Get at least another three, we want her to have a good look. I see you have Nigel Carter and the Vicar?

"The question is, who do you class Nigel as?" Ellie asked.

"As a suspect, what do you think?" he replied, resisting the temptation of going back to calling her 'Miller' all the time.

"I suppose you want me to ask my husband to join in?" she told him, Alec wondering if she was joking or not.

"Why not?" he then decided. "Get that psychic in as well while you're at it."

"Are you even being serious?" Ellie wanted to know.

"Think about it?" he questioned her.

"You thought he was a waste of space," Ellie reminded him. "You thought he was getting a little too personal when he mentioned Rose."

"Well, who would not have done?" Alec wanted to know. "Get it organised, then call Claire and get her to agree to the time. You could also go pay her a visit, see if she will talk to you?" he suggested.

"She never left an address, I tried, trust me," Ellie recalled. "I'll have to insist when she comes in for the line-up."

"Yes, make sure you do," Alec agreed.

"I don't know how I'm going to tell my husband we need him to make up the numbers in a line-up. He won't be happy about it. I mean Danny was always round at our house and Tom was always at Danny's. It's heartbreaking things have come to this," Ellie told him sadly.

"I know, Ellie," Alec replied, putting his hand on her shoulder. "I have to tell Rose."

"Maybe you should leave it, until after the line-up? Then you'll have something positive to tell her?" Ellie suggested.

"She already knows Ashworth really is in town," he reminded Ellie. "I don't get why Claire still won't give up the pendant. She does not have to say how she got it or why."

"She doesn't know that," Ellie then reminded him. "Why has your old case suddenly become this town's police force's problem?"

Alec shook his head and went back to his office, feeling his DS glaring at him from behind. He hated to admit that she was right. He had to find out why Claire wouldn't give Ashworth away after all this time.

Claire had ended the phone call to Ellie wondering what she had just got herself into. It had been playing on her mind since that night up on that cliff top and like she'd just told Ellie, it had got to her. If only she'd stopped Lee from driving off, that poor boy might have still been alive. Instead, she'd read the front page of the local newspaper with sadness to see he'd died and been left on the beach over a mile away.

She'd read the boy had been left face down in the sand and now, it haunted her that she'd seen that man hold the boy in his arms and she'd never bothered to check to see if Danny had been alive while they'd been confronting who was more than likely the killer. Still, that was up to the police to prove who herself and Lee had seen arguing with the boy and then holding him had been the one to kill the boy.

For all she knew, the man could have taken the boy up the coast, left him on the beach and the boy could have died later from his injuries, she was no detective – unlike Alec Hardy. Now she had to face the detective yet again when she had thought she'd seen the last of him back in Sandbrook. Why the hell had she chosen to live in Broadchurch?

"Claire, you should practice what you preach," Elsie was daring to confront her over being late back.

"Be careful love, I can still fire you," Claire reminded the older woman.

"Everyone else would leave if you did," Elsie hissed back as they stood behind the reception desk as a woman had just paid for her shampoo and set was leaving. "That was a lame excuse you used by the way."

"Listen, 'love' it's the truth, the police are asking questions about that boy who died. Call them if you don't believe me, ask for DS Miller," Claire replied angrily.

"Ellie Miller?" one of the others interrupted as she waited for her customer to pay. "She comes in every month for her hair doing and she's started bringing her youngest in."

"I never noticed," Claire replied as her temper calmed down.

"You were probably at lunch," she was told.

"That's still no excuse," Elsie wasn't about to give up and now knowing her job was probably on the line.

"You can't get over Claire getting the job you were after," Elsie was reminded as the other woman put her hand on her shoulder to get past her to reach the desk.

Elsie shook the woman's hand off and went to take the next customer.

"This isn't over Claire," she told Claire as she turned away.

"Whatever," Claire tried to brush it off and go back to work. "Who wants to work in a dump like this anyway, I had my own salon back in Sandbrook."

"Did you say Sandbrook?" the woman who had interrupted her and Elsie asked as she was coming away from the desk. "Where those two cousins went missing?"

"Forget it," Claire warned.

"Bet you were involved with that as well," Elsie hissed as she passed, holding a woman's cardigan she was going to hang up

That had made Claire's mind up. She didn't need this kind of garbage. Let Elsie take charge, she'd never wanted to just run a salon, she wanted her own back. Maybe she'd go back to Sandbrook now Alec Hardy and her one-time friend had moved away? She still owned the place, she'd never actually sold it though she'd had offers but only one serious and she expected that was going to fall through as well.

She thought she would call the commercial estate agency and tell them she was taking it off the market. Then once she'd identified the man she'd seen in that cliff-top hut, she would move back to Sandbrook. The only problem was, would Lee try to follow her? Maybe not, why would he risk going back where the parents of that young girl lived? That should be a warning to him to stay away.

The only question left then was what should she do about the pendant she had stupidly agreed to steal for Lee? She had risked everything for Lee Ashworth and he'd finally caught up with her but now Lee knew Alec Hardy was living here, he would soon drift away again. There would be nothing left to keep him here except Rose and she was well protected by Hardy.

She hoped Lee wouldn't be stupid enough to still get revenge on his old girlfriend but that now depended on what Rose had on him. She had been convinced her old friend had more on Lee than she'd ever let on and maybe she'd never even told the detective the whole story.

Ellie had just called her husband to get him to agree to appear in the line-up.

"You are kidding Ell?" her husband Joe was asking her, hoping his wife hadn't detected any panic in his voice.

"Sorry, Hardy's insisting," Ellie was trying to convince him. "You can bring Fred with you, I can watch him while you're in there."

"That's not the point Ell," Joe replied, putting some of Fred's toys in the box as the young boy took his nap.

Was his wife's boss suspicious of him or of men of the town in general? They'd not see Hardy and his girlfriend socially since they'd come back from holiday.

Chapter 38
As Joe got more worried about appearing in the line-up the next day, he tried not to show it when they got to bed.

"So, why did he pick on me to appear in the line-up?" he tried to joke. "Did he ask the vicar as well?"

Ellie let out a laugh.

"Yeah, that's what I said as well and he made me ring Paul. He said it was to throw the suspect off, to make them think we had no proof it was actually them. It's nothing to worry about, we've got others who we don't suspect."

Joe thought that was easy for her to say, she wasn't in the line-up, was she?

"So, you don't think it's a good idea to ask them over for dinner?" Joe asked her. "Only we've not seen them since all this with Danny happened."

"I'll see what he says but Rose is keeping very quiet at the moment, it's freaking her out because we think her old boyfriend might be looking for her," Ellie saw no harm in telling him, since he knew some of why Hardy and Rose had moved there.

"Seriously?" Joe wanted to check. "So is he a suspect in Danny's murder?" he asked, thinking it might be throwing the suspicion elsewhere.

"I can't say, sorry," Ellie told him. "Anyway, if he's in town, Rose has got reason to worry, it didn't end well between them."

"You never told me much," Joe tried to change the subject.

Did Hardy suspect it really had been Ashworth? Maybe so, before Claire said she'd been with him that night but Ashworth could have dropped her off somewhere then gone back to the hut and he could have found Danny. Surely though the person Claire had seen had double-checked on poor Danny and they'd been the one to move Danny down to the harbour, Ellie wondered as she was falling asleep.

Still, they'd find out tomorrow and CSU may still find something, she thought. Alec had got home and tried to assure Rose they might have whoever killed Danny in custody by tomorrow.

"So, Lee was with Claire that night?" Rose had wanted to check. "So he's not in town looking for me, he wanted her all along?" she asked him.

"I think him finding Claire was just pure luck love," Alec replied. "How did he know she was here for starters?"

Claire had only agreed to meeting Ashworth that night after he'd tried her old number and found it was still working. He'd heard Alec had moved somewhere and had bet Rose was with the detective. He'd not got anything out of her though.

Claire was in the tiny flat she rented and was thinking about the next day, the line-up she'd agreed to attend. Her earlier thoughts came to mind from when she'd tried to contact Alec a few days earlier, thinking that Lee was responsible for the death of that boy. It was perfectly reasonable to think he'd gone back after dropping her off on the High Street that he could have gone back to the cliff top hut and the boy had only been unconscious.

Then Lee would have been worried the boy would talk and not only say who almost strangled him but tell the police other people were there as well. He wouldn't be bothered if she was mentioned but he wouldn't want Alec to know he was there, would he, she thought. Was he trying to give them all a message by finishing the boy off?

Maybe she should convey her worries to Alec and that female detective? If Lee got picked up though, he'd immediately know it was her who'd sent the police after him. Then he'd go after her and forget about finding out if Rose was in town. She decided to see what happened the next day, if the person she'd seen with Danny was there or not and see how guilty they looked.

Alec left the next morning, telling Rose she should be okay to go out as long as she stayed where there were plenty of people and to get taxis to and from wherever she was going. He was about to leave when Ellie rang him.

"If Joe comes in for that line-up, he'll have to bring Fred with him," she told him as she was saying goodbye to her youngest.

"Fine, if there's no-one else to watch him then? How do you go on if you're both doing something at the same time?" Alec wanted to know, getting a look from Rose.

"I can come over and watch him," she offered "Or I can come to the station?"

"Rose just volunteered," he told Ellie. "Does Joe want her at your house or the station?"

Ellie relayed the message to her husband, who was wiping Fred's face, the toddler protesting.

"Ah, maybe meet us at the station?" Joe suggested, not wanting his wife's friend snooping around, especially on the laptop if he forgot to log out of his email program, if Fred made him late.

Alec was somewhat relieved. Even though he knew Joe Miller, he didn't trust any of the males in town. Well maybe he sort of trusted the vicar, who might have owned up to it if he'd lost his temper with the boy, since he ran the computer lessons and Miller had told him her boy and Danny attended. They'd been to see the Reverend Paul Coates at the beginning of the investigation and he'd pointed out he and Rose were never at any of the services.

The last one, Rose had been too upset to attend but maybe if the vicar was cleared from the investigation, the man wouldn't be happy he'd been under suspicion. Claire had opened the salon and caught the woman who had questioned her the day before.

"If you do that again today what you did yesterday, you'll be looking for a new job and I don't care who goes with you, understand?" she asked the puzzled woman, who had forgotten about the day before. "Do you want that person who killed that boy to get away with it?"

"What have you got to do with it then?" Claire was asked as the woman recovered.

"How do I know until I've been for an interview?" Claire replied, trying to think of an excuse. "Maybe they want to know if I'm giving anyone an alibi?"

"Have you even got a boyfriend?" Elsie wanted to know, trying to be serious.

"It's non of your business if I have," Claire just replied.

She was already nervous and was glad they wouldn't be getting Lee in for the line-up. Well she hoped not anyway. Lee was already thinking about leaving town. Was Claire even worth it? She hadn't let on where she was living so he had got in a small bed and breakfast for a few nights, since the cliff top was swarming with CSI's or whatever they were called and so was the harbour area.

Maybe he should make an anonymous call to the police and tell them who they were most likely better off looking for? Or had Claire already done that? He wouldn't put it past her to have done. Rose had arrived and told Bob on the desk why she was there.

"Right you are, I'll let DI Hardy know you're here then," Bob told her cheerily. "How are you then?" he added as he waited for Alec to answer.

"Oh, ya know? Still upset about poor Danny," Rose replied, thinking she could use that to cover being more upset Claire and Lee were in town. "I've still not seen Beth Latimer."

"I expect she has plenty of visitors?" Bob replied, just as Alec answered. "Sir, your girlfriend's just arrived," Bob told him.

"Ask her to wait there and when Joe Miller arrives with his youngest son, show them both to the informal interview room, she's going to watch the young boy for a while."

"Oh, is he taking part in the line-up?" Bob wanted to know, a bit puzzled why Ellie Miller's husband was wanted.

He ended the call and turned his attention back to Rose.

"I wouldn't have expected DS Miller's husband to agree to the line-up," Bob told her.

"Yeah, I was a bit surprised," Rose agreed. "I got told this morning, I bet he's not happy about it."

Rose hadn't really got on all that well with her friend's husband, especially the time before their holiday when Ellie wanted to know about her being pregnant.

"Anyway, looking after Fred will be good practice for me," Rose replied, wondering if the whole town knew she was having a baby.

"Oh yes, congratulations," Bob told her. "Looks like someone's here already for the line-up."

Paul Coates had caught up with Nigel Carter, who did not want to be there and had considered not turning up but he didn't want the police asking his mother any more questions.

"This is ridiculous," Nigel was telling the vicar.

"I suppose if it helps catch Danny's killer?" Paul was wondering. "Have you seen Mark?"

"Not much really. I was going to suggest we all get together next Sunday, cheer Beth up a bit," Nigel told him.

They were soon joined by a few others but Joe was running late, trying to get out of being in the line-up and he didn't think it would arouse suspicion if he blamed it on the small boy who was asleep in his baby seat in the back of the car as he pulled into the car park opposite.

Ellie had got the others into the room they used for line-ups, not that they'd ever had many and was waiting for her husband to arrive.

"I'd best call him," she was telling Rose as Alec was looking at his watch again.

"He won't get here any quicker," Rose was telling him.

He pulled one of his faces at her, making her smile.

"Where are you?" Ellie asked as Joe was getting Fred out of the car.

"Across the road," Joe replied.

"Well we're waiting for you," Ellie told him.

This was going to be it, Joe had thought earlier. It had to be that man or woman who had seen him with Danny up at the hut that night and were about to identify him but all they could get him on was meeting Danny, the couple who had intruded didn’t know for certain what had happened to Danny.

He could claim the boy was perfectly okay and that Danny had wanted to be left alone. Then it was up to Ellie and her boss to prove otherwise and Ellie would take his side, surely? He could say he'd made a mistake and he never should have met Danny in the first place but would Ellie believe him? He could say Danny had come to him, like that time his dad had hit him. Ellie might believe that.

Ellie took Fred into the other room for Rose to watch then while she'd been with Rose, Claire had arrived.

"Sure you can do this?" Alec was asking her as she sat at a table and he stood behind her, a uniformed officer turning the laptop on. "Take your time and look at each person carefully then if you recognise the man you saw with Danny that night, say his number."

"Don't I get to walk up and down the line," Claire tried to joke. "He's already seen me, he'll know it's me. I'm back where I started Alec, if he gets off, he might come after me and I'll have to leave. Why do I keep getting involved?"

"Rose lost as much as you Claire," Alec reminded her as the officer stood back. "She had to testify against him."

"She had you to get her away," Claire reminded him as Ellie arrived. "Funny how we all ended up in the same town?"

"Claire, if you'd not come here, neither would Lee Ashworth," he then reminded her. "Just concentrate on those men on the screen, for now."

Ellie knew she'd just interrupted something. She knew a bit about Rose and Claire, how they'd been friends until Ashworth had spoiled it. She showed Claire which keys to press to move the camera along the line of men then stood back with Alec, who was leaning against the wall, his leg behind him and his arms crossed.

"Let's hope she did get a good look," Ellie told him. "This is going to save a lot of time."

"If she did actually see the killer," Alec reminded her. "Don't forget, Danny may only have been unconscious when Claire left. Anyone could have found him afterwards. We could be right and Ashworth is involved."

He wanted to say that they should get Lee Ashworth in but he had no grounds to do so. Ashworth had a good alibi for the night in question and he was looking at it.

"That's the one, number five," Claire called out suddenly, breaking the silence.

She had looked through the line twice even though she'd been sure the first time but she knew Alec would tell her to look again. Ellie covered her mouth, she knew Joe had been given a card with 'five' on.

"Are you certain?" Ellie asked before Alec could.

"Of course I am, I was close to him, the hut was well lit you know?" Claire replied indignantly. "What now? Non of them will see me leaving, will they?"

"No Claire, you'll be escorted out," Alec assured her. "Miller, see she gets a ride back to work. Thanks for coming in Claire, we'll be in touch."

He also knew who was number five but showed no emotion as Claire got up and Ellie looked stunned. She felt sick at the thought Claire was picking out her husband, the man she trusted above all others, how could Claire have seen him before? Now she'd had a good look at Claire, she realised now where she'd seen her before. Although Claire had never cut her son's hair or set her own, she'd seen her in the background.

"I know where I've seen you before," Ellie told Claire as they left.

"What?" Alec heard her, Ellie not intending for him to hear her. "You two know each other?"

"Not exactly?" Claire tried to deny it. "I was reminded you come in the salon sometimes. I've never had her as my client."

"I hope not," Alec replied, wondering how to deal with the news. "Officer, detain number five, tell him we have some questions for him and let the others go. Don't tell him he's been picked out, understand?"

"Yes Sir," the officer replied, wondering what was going on.

"Miller, collect your son from Rose and take him home, don't let him get upset. Then stay there for now while I sort this out," Alec turned to Ellie.

"Hey, what's going on?" Claire wanted to know as she stood in the doorway. "Who's number five? Oh, don't tell me he's your husband Ellie?" she then laughed.

"Go back to work Claire," Alec urged her.

"Thanks for that Alec, I take time to come in, then you just brush me off," Claire argued.

"Yes, thank you for coming in Claire," he replied sarcastically. "We'll call if we have any more questions and we'll pick a time to suit you to make a statement of how you came to pick out the husband of a police officer."

"I didn't know who he was, did I?" Claire replied. "I only know where I last saw him, up at that hut that night, with that boy."

Alec shook his head, wondering whether to believe her or not. He already knew she was unreliable, how many times had he been reminded? Yes, she could possibly help solve this case but why did she have to go and pick Joe Miller? Joe had been detained, the officer who had told him they had more questions for him standing at the door.

"Where's my wife?" Joe wanted to know as he turned around from where he was now sitting at a desk.

"DS Miller is with DI Hardy. He just said he had some questions for you," the officer reminded him.

"Hang on, why am I the only one then?" Joe was starting to panic. "I left my youngest son with a friend, has my wife gone to get him?"

"It was mentioned Sir," the officer admitted.

Joe knew Hardy would be very quiet about everything. Maybe it was that woman from the hut after all and she'd not taken much notice of him and couldn't properly identify him? So Hardy would try and trip him up but Joe thought he was ready to answer anything his wife's boss tossed his way. Ellie had gone to see Rose, still upset over Joe being picked out.

"Hi Ellie," Rose greeted her friend. "Hey Fred, look who's here," she gently nudged the little boy as he played with a puzzle.

"I'm taking him home," Ellie told her, getting the stroller from the corner. "Come on Fred, say 'bye to auntie Rose."

"Oh. Okay Ellie, did Joe have somewhere to go? What about the car?" Rose asked.

"He'll bring it, I'll get a ride home," Ellie insisted. "Officer, make sure my car doesn't get a ticket, it's across the road."

"Yes Ma'am," another officer who had escorted Ellie replied.

Rose knew there was something going on but didn't say anything. Alec would tell her, if he wanted to. Alec had got another DS from the office and they were now sat opposite Joe.

"Was I picked out?" Joe wanted to know after Alec did the introductions on the tape.

"I'm placing you under caution so please state your full name for the records," Alec just replied.

"What? What does that mean?" Joe wanted to know.

Alec thought the man should already know, with his wife being a detective. It was Rose who had made friends with his DS but he didn't treat DS Miller as a friend when they were working.

"Just do it," Alec replied, knowing the man must be bluffing and stalling for time.

Joe stated his name then sat back.

"What were you doing with Danny Latimer up at the hut on Briar Cliff on the night of the 18th July 2013?" Alec then asked him, wondering what the man was going to come out with. When Joe didn't answer, he tried again. "We know you were both there Joe. We have a witness who spoke to you, they were concerned for him when he wasn't moving."

"What?" Joe let out a nervous laugh. "Oh okay, so I met Danny? He was troubled, his dad had been hitting him again," he thought he'd use the excuse, since Danny had gone to him about Mark hitting him once before.

"That late at night?" Alec questioned Joe's reply. "The witness said you were holding him and when they asked about it, you brushed it off, saying he was okay. Why was that person so concerned about Danny?"

"You'll have to ask them," Joe replied.

"I'm asking you," Alec replied, not going to play games with the husband of his DS.

"He was falling asleep, it was late," Joe reminded him. "I woke him up after those two people left, I thought the bloke was going to do something."

So Miller had been scared of Lee Ashworth, Alec wondered. Had Ashworth taken Claire back to the harbour then gone back to the hut? He had plenty of further questions for the man in front of him but first he was going to ask a few direct ones and see if the man would give himself away.

"What had you done to Danny, Joe?" Alec began. "Did Danny call you and you agreed right away to meet him? Why would he have wanted to turn to you?"

"I don't know?" Joe was beginning to crack. "Maybe he had no-one else when his dad was on at him again? If you're going to keep asking me questions, I want a solicitor."

"Fine. I'll make sure you get one," Alec replied, picking up the paperwork he'd brought in, containing what Claire had already told them about that night. "Joe Miller, I'm holding you in connection with the death of Danny Latimer. Read him his rights," he turned to Frank.

"I want to call my wife," Joe objected as Alec got up and Frank was telling him his rights.

"See he gets a phone call," Alec told the officer he'd just asked to come in. "Then put him in a holding cell."

Ellie had just got home when her phone rang.

"Ell, I'm being held," Joe told her. "Call our solicitor."

"What? Let me call Hardy, there has to be a mistake," Ellie wondered. "It is a mistake?" she asked him.

"Of course it is," Joe tried to deny it.

"Tell me you weren't at that hut with Danny?"

Joe was trying to think of something but Hardy would surely tell her? The question was, who would she believe?

"Ellie, you are on my side?" Joe broke his silence, Ellie thinking he'd hung up.

"Yeah, of course I am. I mean you were at home that night, right?" she asked him.

Just then, Tom came into the room.

"Mum, what happened to dad?" the almost teenager wanted to know. "Is it about Danny's death? He's not been arrested has he?"

"What? No Tom, your dad hasn't been arrested," Ellie tried to convince him

"You're asking him if he was home that night," Tom reminded her as Joe was calling her name down the phone line.

"I have to go Ell, I'll call for a solicitor," Joe managed to tell her as he was told his time was up and Alec was pointing to his watch from the end of the corridor.
"Tom, why are you asking?" Ellie wanted to know, putting her hands on Tom's shoulders. "Do you know something, about that night? If you do, you won't be in trouble for saying anything but DI Hardy may want to ask you about it."

"I don't like him Mum, can't I talk to you?" Tom wanted to know.

"No sweetheart, sorry, not if it concerns your dad," Ellie replied, seeing tears in Tom's eyes. "What did you want to say Tom?"

"That night, I had to get up to use the bathroom and I think dad had been out somewhere but I'm not sure. I asked him and he said he'd been in the whole time," Tom told her.

"Tom, is that the truth?" Ellie asked him.

"He made me promise not to tell you," Tom broke down.

"It's okay, you can tell me now but you'd best wait until I call the station," Ellie smiled at him as she held him close. "Look after Fred, eh?"

She dialled the station's number and asked to be put through to her boss, knowing he'd be waiting for Joe's solicitor to arrive. She and Joe had been sensible, when they'd agreed Ellie would be the one to go back to work, that they'd both register with a law firm, in case they ever needed legal advice.

Alec had seen Joe being locked away, then he'd gone to his office. He'd not been there long when the chief knocked on his door and let herself in.

"Was it necessary to arrest DS Miller's husband?" she asked him.

"Yes, he admitted being at the hut with Danny," Alec replied. "Plus, he was picked out in a line-up."

"By someone unreliable, from your old case and who knows you and your girlfriend, Alec," the chief reminded him. "It won't look good, the defence will want their client released immediately, when they find out you've arrested him on those grounds."

"Well, what do you want me to do eh?" Alec asked her. "You want me to let him go, when he could have killed Danny, even if by accident?"

"I'm just saying be careful Alec. What about Lee Ashworth?" she asked him.

"What about him?" Alec wanted to know.

"Well, he won't like you, for you arresting him for killing that girl. Get him to agree Joe Miller was the one with Danny that night, then he can tell any defence team he hates you and he's not doing you any favours," the chief suggested as she sat down.

Alec thought the idea was appealing but the only problem was, he'd have to rely on Claire to convince Ashworth to agree. He was about to tell her and ask if it was such a good idea, when his phone rang and he answered with 'Hardy'.

"Sir, DS Miller's asking to speak to you," Bob told him.

"Well put her through," Alec replied. "Has my girlfriend left?" he looked across at his chief.

"The same time as DS Miller, Sir," Bob told him.

"Alec, what was she doing here?" the chief wanted to know.

"Looking after the Miller's youngest son while he appeared in a line-up," he replied as he waited.

"Really Alec, whose idea was that?" she asked, Alec sure he'd already told her.

"I had to get a cross-section of the town's male population," he defended his decision. "Miller, what did you want? Didn't your husband tell you he was being held?"

The chief took the hint and was about to leave when he stopped her.

"Sir, Tom just told me something, about Joe." Ellie told him, looking at Tom as he watched his younger brother.

Alec put the phone on the speaker.

"The chief is with me, you had better tell us then," he told Ellie.

"Tell him Tom," Ellie encouraged the boy.

"It was late, I was out at the bathroom when dad was coming upstairs. I think I asked him if he'd been somewhere. Then after he said no, he then said not to tell mum but he'd been meeting with Mr Carter and Danny's dad, at the pub."

"Did he now?" Alec was interested to hear. "Anything else Tom?"

"That's enough," Ellie saw Tom was still upset about telling on his dad for the night his friend had died.

"Is my dad in trouble?" Tom wanted to know.

"It's okay Tom, you can go now, I need to talk to your mum," Alec told him.

"It doesn't prove anything," Ellie tried to tell him and the chief. "Joe might have gone out, he didn't know that Mark was with someone else, he could have been meeting anyone."

Alec wanted to ask her if she'd considered what she was implying – that he could have also have been meeting another woman, the same as Mark Latimer.

"Yes Miller but Carter didn't go out for long either," Alec reminded her.

"We could ask Nigel again, if he met Joe late on?" Ellie wondered. "He may not have mentioned it to his mum, if he didn't want me to know he'd been out. Joe knew I'd be mad at him when I'd taken sleeping pills."

"Ellie, you need to sit back on this one," the chief advised her.

"I should sit out?" Ellie was surprised. "What about him? He knows the person who identified Joe, he could have got her to say it was him."

"What?" Alec called out. "Why would I do that Miller? What do I have to gain, eh? Rose is the one who knows you both better than I do and why should she ask me to get Joe identified? Honestly Miller, if I told her, she would be hurt at the very suggestion. What does she have to gain by getting someone she fell out with to lie?"

"I agree with DI Hardy," the chief told her. "This is getting out of hand Ellie, no-one has got anyone to lie, it seems to me. I've already suggested he gets Lee Ashworth in to identify your husband as the one he'd seen with Danny. Would that satisfy you?"

"Sorry Ma'am but good luck getting Ashworth to agree to it," Ellie almost laughed. "Tom's really upset now I've made him tell me," she changed the subject.

"That's up to DI Hardy and this Claire to get Ashworth to agree," the chief replied. "Your son was very brave to come forward with what took place, Ellie. You should be proud of him."

"If Joe's guilty. If not, Tom's told us for nothing. I don't believe Joe meant anything, even if he did see Danny that night. What about you though, Sir?" she addressed Alec. "What if Joe went off and Lee Ashworth had gone back and found Danny?"

"Ellie, what motive would Lee Ashworth have for killing Danny?" the chief wanted to know.

"The same as killing a young girl," Ellie suggested. "He may have seen too much and Ashworth got worried. Ask Hardy why Ashworth killed Pippa Gillespie."

Ellie hung up and the chief turned her questions to Alec.

"Really Alec, this is getting even more complicated. Not only are you and Rose tied to the woman who identified Joe Miller as the one with Danny but Rose's ex boyfriend, who threatened her is also involved. Any defence team would take it apart."

"That's why we need more evidence," Alec reminded her.

"We can't rely on young Tom Miller too much Alec," the chief warned him. "He's already confused as to if his dad had been out at all. Call Nigel Carter then and see if he'll admit he was with Joe Miller that night or ask if he was with anyone at all."

Alec thought it would be best if he mentioned no names at all, he didn't trust Nigel Carter much either, not after he'd lied so easily for Mark Latimer, when Mark was under suspicion of killing his son at the time. The chief left and he found Nigel's number.

"What now?" Nigel asked as he was going back to work.

"Just a few more questions. When you went out, the night Danny died, did you meet anyone?" Alec asked him.

"Checking up on me now?" Nigel sounded annoyed. "It's not enough you try and catch me out about Mark?"

"Just answer the question," Alec tried to keep his temper with the plumber. "I'm not asking you to cover yourself."

That was all he was going to tell Nigel as he waited for an answer.

"No, I never met anyone," Nigel finally replied, after thinking who the detective expected him to be really covering for.

He couldn't think of anyone, who had the detective expected him to say he was with? Joe Miller or the vicar? He laughed to himself as he set off on a job.

That was the answer Alec had been expecting from Nigel anyway so Joe Miller was lying about that, if nothing else. He wondered if Claire had gone back to work yet and called her number anyway. Claire had called for a bite to eat and Alec just caught her.

"What now?" Claire asked wearily. "I have to eat and go back to work, I'm not setting a very good example to the others by being late back you know?" she asked him.

"Claire, this is important. I need you to convince Lee to come in and verify the man you picked out earlier was the same one he remembers as being there that night in the hut."

Claire let out a laugh.

"You must be joking?" she tried to stop laughing.

"I'm serious Claire, there could be a problem if he won't agree," Alec told her.

"Why, don't you believe me?" Claire asked. "My word not good enough for you? I only agreed because of what happened to that poor boy and to prove it wasn't Lee."

"Did you ever believe he killed Pippa?" Alec wanted to know. "Claire, ask him, tell him the man may be getting away if he doesn't."

"He won't care Alec," Claire reminded him. "What's wrong with accepting what I told you? Lee might agree to back my statement, that we went in that hut because I was worried about the boy, when we'd seen that man outside with him."

"You said you saw Danny through the mirror, Claire," Alec reminded her.

"Well Lee might have got a better look, if he was taking any notice," Claire suggested. "Okay, I'll try but he might still say no," she finally agreed. "You have to do something for me though."

"Claire, I'm making no promises. Unless you want to tell me you know where that missing evidence is from Sandbrook? Then we have him for killing Pippa," Alec asked hopefully.

"I can't tell you anything Alec. What I was going to ask was, if Rose will agree to meet me, I want to apologise for what happened between us, about falling out."

Alec was a little surprised at her request but he saw no reason why Rose wouldn't make up with her one-time friend. After all, Claire had been a victim of Lee Ashworth in one sense, she'd not believed what he could be like though and had gone with him anyway, despite Rose warning her.

"Okay, I will ask her tonight but she won't risk Ashworth coming near her, Claire. She's pregnant."

"Really? Well that will really annoy Lee then," Claire almost laughed. "She told me how she'd never given in to him and how it got to him."

"Did she ever tell you what he threatened her with, if she ever told me what happened the night Pippa died?" Alec wanted to know. Claire remained silent. "How could you have been with him, knowing what it might have been? Well Claire?"

"Stop it Alec, it was my choice, she shouldn't have told me, should she? She kept on bragging about him, then she suddenly turned on him. I didn’t think he deserved that."

"You don't know what really happened, do you Claire? I'm not debating it with you, I'll ask Rose, it's up to her. Now ask Ashworth to call me, so we can put Danny's killer away," Alec replied.

Rose had got home and after giving Ellie a bit of time, decided to call her friend. She'd been fussing over young Fred as Ellie had waited for a ride back home.

"What's happened to your car Ellie?" Rose had asked her.

"Joe has to stay behind and answer some more questions," Ellie had tried not to sound upset.

"Oh, well that's a bit surprising," Rose had smiled at young Fred as he was chattering to her. "Hey Fred, are you going home in a police car?" she'd laughed, going to tickle him and Fred laughing.

"You're really looking forward to having a baby," Ellie had tried to change the subject.

"Yeah, we've been hoping for so long Ellie," Rose told her. "Ya should have seen Alec when we went for the scan."

"I can imagine," Ellie had smiled back. "Rose, he's holding Joe about Danny's death," she'd admitted as an unmarked police car pulled up.

The driver got out and helped Ellie take the stroller down and she put Fred in his car seat into the back and fastened him in.

"It'll be nothing Ellie," Rose had tried to tell her. "I'll call ya later."

So Ellie answered but couldn't tell her much more.

"Well if Joe's got a solicitor, he'll be okay," Rose told her.

"No but the worse thing is, Tom admitted he'd seen Joe that night and Joe had said he'd met Nigel and Mark, which makes things worse," Ellie explained.

"Well Mark maybe? Won't Nigel say if he was with him or not?" Rose asked.

"I don't know what he'll say Rose, Nigel can be a bit hit and miss, especially with your boyfriend," Ellie replied.

"So, who picked him out of the line-up?" Rose wanted to know.

"I can't tell you Rose, even though I'm off this part of the investigation. I don't even know if I can stay on it at all now," Ellie admitted. "I could be completely out and put on suspension, if the person who claims he was with Danny that night doesn't change their testimony."

"Alec's not said anything to me," Rose told Ellie. "I know he said Claire was going to do the line-up but why would she have picked out Joe?"

"That's just it Rose, she must have mistaken him for someone?" Ellie wondered.

"Well I always thought Joe and Nigel looked a bit alike," Rose grinned to herself.

"It used to make Joe laugh," Ellie recalled. "That's it Rose, maybe it was Nigel, after his mother saw him come home, he may have gone out again and it was him Claire saw? I have to call Alec and ask him."

"Well, good luck with that and don't worry too much about Joe, for now," Rose tried to assure her.

Ellie got through to Alec again as he was about to interview Joe again.

"What now Miller?" he asked Ellie.

"It could have been Nigel that Claire saw?" she told him without hesitating.

"Claire was insistent it was Joe," he reminded her. "What makes you think about Nigel Carter? I've already asked him some questions after what Tom said, I will have to ask him to come back in."

"Rose and I were talking, that's all," Ellie admitted. "What if it was Nigel? Are you getting him back in right away?"

"Miller, you are off the case, for now," he had to remind her. "I got Claire to agree to ask Ashworth to back her up, over it being Joe that they saw."

"I thought you'd said they're both unreliable?" Ellie couldn't believe it.

"The chief suggested it. Then I can't be accused of relying on someone both Rose and I know. Ashworth hates me, for taking Rose and I made sure I told Claire that Rose is pregnant, she might tell him."

"You idiot," Ellie replied. "Do you think Rose wants him to know? What if he tries to get to her if he loses his temper?"

Alec was ready to answer her.

"Then you can watch out for her, spend some time with her and keep him away from her. You have nothing else to do."

"Thanks for that, I have two boys to watch, thanks to you," Ellie sounded annoyed.

"Well get Rose round to your house then," Alec replied, not wanting to be outdone. "Besides, if Ashworth picks out Nigel Carter, you won't have to worry about your husband, will you? Claire admitted Ashworth may have got a better look at whoever was dragging Danny back into the hut that night. Who knows, he may have been standing nearer when they'd gone inside?"

"Well I hope so and that it wasn't Joe they really saw. Will you be able to use Ashworth's identification, if he won't appear in court?" she wanted to know.

"I don't know? I hope so, I've never come across a situation like this before. It was different over Sandbrook and Rose."

"It can't be doing her any good, those two being in town?" Ellie wondered.

"Well, you can help, if your husband's still picked out by Ashworth," Alec suggested.

"I hope to gawd he's not but I suppose Ashworth has no need to back up Claire on who she thinks she saw that night? I hope our solicitor can get him out of this, Fred's missing his dad already."

"Was Rose okay when you spoke to her?" Alec wanted to know, wishing he'd had time to talk to her before she'd left.

He'd only seen her follow Miller out and not been able to go after her. He worried about her constantly, with Ashworth being confirmed as being in town.

"She seemed okay and just as puzzled as to why Joe was picked out," Ellie replied.

Alec knew that Rose wasn't so keen on Joe Miller or was it she didn't trust men in general? He'd thought that repeatedly though. He went into the room Joe Miller was in to find the man sat next to his solicitor.

"Are you going to charge my client?" the other man asked before Alec could even sit down.

"I need to ask him some more questions first, then I can say if he's to be held in connection with the death of Danny Latimer," Alec replied as the man made notes. "Has your client told you why he's here?"

The other man just nodded. So Alec asked Joe again where he was that night, bearing in mind his eldest son had said he'd seen him.

"I know I saw Tom that night," Joe recalled.

"You asked him not to tell your wife you had been out," Alec reminded him. "Why would you not want your wife to know, Joe?"

"Ellie thought I was watching the boys, she would have been upset I'd left them when she was asleep," Joe told him.

"So, did you try and bribe your son into staying quiet?" Alec wanted to know, not having asked Tom but he guessed that was what had happened, to ensure the boy's silence.

"He mentioned something about a new skateboard. Then when he found out about Danny, he never said anything else about it," Joe replied as his solicitor nodded for him to answer.

"Is all this relevant?" the solicitor wanted to know.

"Very," Alec insisted. "It connects everything up. You said you knew why he was here. If his son challenged him and then he admitted he had been out? Beside that Joe, the two men you picked for alibis are rubbish."

He recalled saying that to Mark Latimer not so long ago as well. What was it with these friends who use each other without checking first?

"We know where both of them really were that night," Alec told Joe, who shifted in his seat.

Then Joe whispered to his solicitor.

"Should I say anything else?" Joe wanted to know.

"What was the rest of your conversation with your son that night, Mr Miller?" the other man wanted to know as they leaned back.

"Ah, I don't remember," Joe lied. "I think it was just not to tell my wife."

"I hope so, Mr Miller," his solicitor replied. "My client has nothing more to add," he then told Alec, who looked at his watch again.

He made a note of what time the interview was terminated after further placing Joe under caution and telling the solicitor they were applying for an extension to hold his client.

"I'm not happy about that," the solicitor argued with Alec, hoping his client would be freed.

"You have to get me out," Joe whispered back into the man's ear.

"I can't let him go until I get a second person who was on the cliff top that night to come in and verify it was your client who was with Danny Latimer," Alec revealed. "If that person cannot confirm it was Joe, I might let him go until we investigate further. We'll have to hold him overnight while we get a second line-up organised, with the same men as before."

Alec was hoping the men would agree but he might have trouble with Nigel Carter.

Chapter 39
Joe Miller was now locked up and wondering how he was going to get out. His solicitor had failed to talk Hardy out of releasing him and he was now stuck there while their other witness confirmed it was him. Well he knew who the other witness was, the man who'd been with their other one and he couldn't even talk to Ellie, to find out how much they knew besides him being with Danny.

He could have said something more during his second interview but he may have incriminated himself. He knew Hardy still had more questions for him but not today. Would Ellie try to get to see him later? Ellie was trying her best after she'd spoken again to Rose.

"I can't let you see him," Alec was insisting as he was trying to leave. "You know it's against the rules Ellie."

"I talked to Rose," she admitted. "She can't understand you arresting Joe any more than I can. I've not told Tom yet but he'll be asking questions."

"I can imagine," Alec sympathised. "I'm sorry, I can't say anything and you would say the same."

"How are you certain it was him up there? Claire let you down before," she reminded him.

"Sandbrook was different. She left town," he reminded her. "Rose was mainly involved with that, don't involve her with this."

Ellie knew she'd hit a touchy subject.

"So, you think Ashworth will agree with Claire then?" Ellie then tried to find out. "Or will he play games with you?" she now hoped.

She knew she was on shaky ground here. If Claire had picked out someone else, she would have been as relentless as Hardy was now being.

"I can't say any more, you know that. Best wait and see what happens," Alec replied, knowing where this was going, trying to undermine Ashworth before he identified Joe.

"That's easy for you to say. Now I have to think of what to tell Tom. I was hoping he wouldn't have told you what he did. When he said he'd seen his dad that night, I didn't expect him to say Joe had admitted he'd been out."

"You did the right thing in calling me," Alec assured her.

"Did I?" Ellie wondered. "I might be convicting my own husband."

Alec thought no, that had been down to Tom and Joe Miller being with Danny in the first place. Now, he had to go over to the Latimer house and tell them they may have a suspect. He had promised to keep them informed so he called the family liaison to warn them.

"DI Hardy's on his way over, he has some news for you," he told Beth. "You may want to get your husband back."

"I don't know where he is," Beth admitted, hoping he'd not sneaked off to meet with Becca Fisher again.

It had been bad enough she'd followed him the other night and she'd then confronted him about it. Mark had promised her they had only met the once, that night and not before. He'd then promised he'd never do it again but she had only half believed him. What had happened to them? She called his mobile and only got his answerphone.

"Mark, get back here now, the police have some news about Danny," she told him. "If you're with Becca Fisher, don't bother coming back," she added.

Chloe had heard her mother get angry and now wished she'd never got Becca involved but she couldn't have left her dad locked up. Her gran noticed her mood.

"This has nothing to do with you Chloe," her gran had heard Beth as well.

"Isn't it Gran? If I'd not been working that night and dad picked me up?" Chloe almost cried.

"It was your dad's choice," Beth told her as she entered the kitchen. "You may as well both know I'm pregnant," she admitted.

"You're telling Mark not to come back?" her mother asked her.

"I can manage without him," Beth replied, going to get some water.

They were all sat in the living room when Alec arrived. He'd called Rose, to tell her he would be a little late.

"Don't worry about it, ya need to tell them," Rose had told him.

"I'll be home as soon as I can," he had replied.

So he grabbed a chair and faced all but Mark Latimer.

"We are holding someone regarding Danny," he told the three women and Pete Lawson. "I thought it should come from me. We had a witness who was up there that night and another witness who may also be willing to come forward. If the second one can confirm they saw this person with Danny, then we have them."

"Then get this other witness," Beth told him as she sat forward.

"We are trying but it's complicated," Alec admitted.

"It always is," Beth told him as she put her head on her hands as she leaned further over. "I hope whoever it is got a good look? Did they see Mark and Becca up there as well?"

"Mum," Chloe called out.

"That's irrelevant," Alec tried to tell her.

"Is it? I know they were together that night, they might have seen something," Beth replied, ignoring Chloe. "Won't you have enough with one witness?"

"We may but it will be better with two. Then it cannot be said the first witness is unreliable," Alec told them.

He already knew that Claire could be unreliable, she was connected to him and Rose but Ashworth hated both of them and wouldn't lie even if he was asked.

He left the Latimer house and since he was running late, decided he'd call at the Miller house, to talk to Tom. Tom was already upset at the fact he may have got his dad locked up. Ellie had just told him Joe was being held so Tom and gone to his room and refused to come out.

"He won't talk to you," Ellie told Alec as she let him in.

"I can try," Alec insisted, hearing noises from the living room as Ellie's youngest watched cartoons on TV. "Call him down."

"I don't want to talk to him Mum," Tom was protesting as she knocked on his bedroom door. "He made me tell on dad."

"Tom, your dad should not have made you keep it a secret that he'd been out," Ellie was trying to convince him as Alec waited downstairs. "He should have told me."

Alec was thinking that may not have been wise, Joe may have aroused suspicion and she may have kept it quiet, thinking it was domestic.

"Come down now and talk to DI Hardy," Ellie then insisted, getting tired of it. "Don't make me come in and get you."

That made Tom open his room door.

"Okay, if I have to?" he said quietly.

"I'm sorry Tom but it's best you talk to him now," Ellie assured him.

Was Miller trying to make him out to be the bad guy, Alec was wondering. Alec tried to explain to the boy that telling the truth about his dad hadn't made Joe get locked up, they already had evidence that he'd been out and that someone had seen him.

"Tom, you need to know that your dad is being held because he was seen with Danny that night," Alec admitted.

"Dad wouldn't go out and meet Danny," Tom tried to tell him.

"I'm sorry sweetheart," Ellie told him, rubbing his shoulders. "Two people saw him up at that hut on the cliff."

They had moved into the other room so Ellie could put young Fred in his playpen.

"Danny did his paper round up there, when someone was staying," Tom told them.

"Did he?" Alec asked, going for his notebook. "It's a bit far up?"

"He went on his bike," Tom told him.

"Do you know when he was last up there?" Alec then asked.

"Sorry, no, he never said. Why would he be there with my dad?"

"That's a good question Tom," Alec admitted, not needing his notebook any more.

That was another one to ask Joe when questioning resumed, should Ashworth confirm he was the one with Danny that night. He also had to ask Ashworth what exactly he'd seen, beside whoever it was dragging Danny back inside and why drag the boy? Why not carry him or why wasn't Danny walking back on his own? Had Danny already been immobilised at that point and if so, why?

Had Danny been running away from Joe, if it had been him and what had they argued about, they had to have argued or Danny would have stayed inside. If that had been the case, they wouldn't have been seen by Claire and Ashworth. He'd never asked either of them what they themselves had been doing in that van but he didn't have to, Claire had volunteered that information already.

He was just thankful they'd chosen that location and the van had been parked there at the time, not so fortunate for Joe Miller though. There was no denying the pair of them had been up there, just Joe trying to deny Claire had seen him. He left for home, finally and held onto Rose as tight as he dared, given her present condition.

"Hey, I won't break ya know?" Rose was laughing as she put her arms around him.

"Sorry love. Well, I am glad you never volunteered to go around to the Miller house earlier," he admitted.

"Geez, why Alec?" she tried to back away.

"He may have said something to you love, then I would have had to question you about it," he replied, wondering what else she thought he'd meant. "This is getting complicated enough as it is. My chief is asking for a second witness to confirm it was Joe Miller who was with Danny."

"Is she? Why, is one not enough?" she wanted to know. "Ellie hinted it was Claire who picked Joe out of the line-up."

"She should never have told you," he replied, leading her to sit down.

"Don't blame her Alec, I guessed, you already sort of gave it away," she reminded him, trying not to laugh. "When you say a second witness? Is she seeing Lee again? I mean we thought she may have been?"

"Yes, she admitted it, she gave in to him, I was not really surprised," he confirmed, not sure how much he should say now Claire was a witness, "The chief does not like the fact Claire is connected to me, through Sandbrook."

"Well so is Lee," Rose reminded him.

"In case you forgot, Ashworth hates me, remember?" he asked her. "I asked Claire to agree to try to get him to identify Joe as who he saw that night. If he does, no-one can say I got him to pick the man out."

He was trying to find a way to tell her that Claire wanted something in return – for him to get her to agree to meet.

"So, is she gonna ask him then?" Rose wanted to know.

"Not yet. She wants something first. She wants me to ask you to meet with her."

"Is she serious? She turned on me Alec, remember?" Rose asked him.

"I know love and I would never make you agree to meet her," he tried to assure her.

"I don't have a lot of choice, do I?" Rose replied. "If I don't agree, what then?"

"My chief insists I get Ashworth to confirm Claire saw Joe Miller. Claire wasted no time pointing him out of the line-up though so she had to have seen him before. The chief thinks Claire is too close and then she found out you had been watching the youngest Miller boy."

Rose couldn't help but see the funny side of things.

"Sorry," she tried to stop from laughing any more. "Ya have to admit it's a bit funny?" Alec shook his head. "Okay. What else did the chief say?"

"To get Ashworth to back Claire up. Ashworth will not lie for Claire or for me. The chief thinks the defence will have it thrown out otherwise. This is serious Rose. So, will you meet with Claire? Please love or Joe Miller may walk away and we will never know if it was him or not and we may never find the real killer, if Ashworth does not agree with Claire."

"Alec, I want to find who killed Danny, really I do but I don't want to believe it may have been Joe. If Lee agrees with Claire, won't they both have to appear in court? Alec, any judge will see they're both unreliable, Lee even more so."

"I don't need reminding Rose. Besides, Ashworth walked free, remember and we have no proof, even until this day that Claire helped him She won't admit she stole the evidence for him."

"What if I meet with her and get her to admit it? Will you protect her from Lee until ya can get him re-arrested?"

"What? Absolutely no way Rose, you are not going to get involved with it. Besides, Tess is in charge up there now, she would never agree to re-opening the case, let alone let you get involved. No, forget it Rose."

"She'd let him get away again, just to spite you?" Rose asked in disbelief that Tess could be so petty.

"You know what she was like with you, when you were our main witness," he then reminded her. "You don't know what Tess is capable of Rose, trust me. If you agree to meet with Claire, do not ask her about the missing pendant, okay?"

"Fine," Rose replied, disappointed he wouldn't let her.

"I know you want to help love but you can't," he kissed the top of her head.

"We could finally get him locked up," Rose told him as she held onto him.

"I know love but I would have to hand the pendant to Tess and she will take all the credit. She won't even admit it was you who got Claire to give it up," he replied sadly. "Claire may even be arrested, I won't be able to help her."

"Geez, what's wrong with Tess? It was all her fault Lee got away in the first place," Rose tried to bury herself in his shoulder.

"Sorry love. Just meet with Claire eh? Then at least I may be able to arrest Danny's killer. If Ashworth does not agree with Claire, then we have to start again," he admitted.

"It could still have been Lee who killed Danny?" Rose wondered.

"I don't think it was, unless he was sending me a message? No-one knows where he went after he left Claire that night though."

"I hate to think about it Alec," Rose told him. "Call Claire and arrange a time for tomorrow morning then you can get your line-up arranged for the afternoon. She'll have to tell Lee it's urgent."

"I always keep thinking I could not love you more," Alec smiled.

He got up and called Claire.

"Okay then, I'll call Lee, I'll take your word for it Rose will meet me," Claire agreed. "You'd better not be trying to cheat me," she added.

"This is too important Claire, you will have to trust me on it. I can put Rose on, if you don't believe me?" he offered as Rose nodded her agreement.

"I knew you two would still be living together," Claire replied. "Tell her to come to the salon tomorrow at one, it's called Barbara's hair and beauty on the High Street, the bottom end where the bus station is, although I never knew who this Barbara is," she joked.

"I will tell her and you will call Ashworth tonight?" Alec wanted to make sure.

"Don't you trust me Alec?" Claire sounded disappointed. "I trusted you once, remember? I could have made it difficult for you, afterwards but I went away instead. How did I know you two would come here, let alone Lee?"

Alec thought the same went for her. Would he have brought Rose here if he'd known? Claire got Lee's number and called him, after thinking about it. He didn't sound happy when he answered. He had got some extra work from the farmer whose barn he was using to park his van and was mending some fences.

"What do you want Claire?" he answered, seeing her name come up.

Why had he put her name on?

"I need you to do something Lee," she greeted him.

"If it's to do with that boy's death, forget it. Hardy will try and pin the blame on me and I'll have to leave. Mind you, that would please you, Claire," he laughed.

"You've got such a big ego Lee," Claire told him. "Why do I care if you leave town?"

"I'm hanging up, Claire," he replied, thinking about it but she must want something?

"It is to do with that boy. Do you want the killer to go free?" she asked him. "Hardy wants you to identify the bloke we saw that night. I bet you got a better look at him dragging that poor boy into the hut than I did?"

"Why would I have done Claire?" he wanted to know, leaning against a post he'd just put in the ground.

"Because I couldn't see that well," she reminded him. "Will you do it?"

"No-one would believe me and I'm not appearing in court," he told her, going for a cigarette.

"No-one's asking you to, you idiot. Of course no-one else will believe you but Hardy will probably keep our identity a secret, like he did with Rose, against you," Claire replied.

"So you followed the case then?" Lee asked as he blew cigarette smoke. "You were quick to disappear, with the evidence," he laughed. "I want the pendant, Claire, then I'll go away."

"Why should I believe you, Lee? You say that now but I have no insurance if I give you it," she reminded him.

"It was my idea, remember? I'll agree to identify that bloke, in exchange for the pendant," he decided, thinking she'd never go for it and Hardy would be already looking for him anyway, if they were looking for a killer.

It wasn't him this time though but he still had to prove it.

"That's not fair Lee," Claire shouted down the phone, hearing him laugh.

"Then you should never have got us involved Claire," he reminded her.

"It was your idea to go up there Lee," she retaliated. "You called me. How did you guess I'd kept my old number?"

"Don't be naïve Claire. You kept it so Rose could keep in touch with you," he tried to be serious.

"Why would she do that?" Claire wanted to know.

Lee suddenly went quiet that Claire thought he'd hung up without agreeing to what she'd asked. She thought he wouldn't agree anyway, without getting the pendant. Why had she ever agreed to steal it in the first place? She had though and it had been easier than she'd thought, with Hardy's then wife being stupid enough to leave the evidence that tied Lee to killing the girl in the car.

"Lee?" she asked after a few seconds silence.

"Let me know where you're living Claire, then I might agree to identify that bloke," he replied.

Claire swallowed, starting to panic. Yes, she'd met with him but not since that night. Letting him know where she lived wasn't part of the plan. If he knew where she lived, would he search for the pendant while she was asleep? She couldn't risk it, what protection did she have from him if he got the pendant? She hung up, Lee saying he'd think about it when she asked him again to identify Joe and hadn't noticed several missed calls from Alec.

"She's not answering," Alec had told Rose several times and put his phone down.

"She may be trying to avoid you now?" Rose wondered.

"Why would she, unless she is talking to Ashworth?" Alec replied, Rose wondering why he never called Lee by his first name. "I will give her time to call back. She will, if she still wants to meet you."

"Maybe she's trying to talk him into it? Give her time Alec," Rose asked him.

"Rose, we don't have time love, remember? I have until tomorrow evening to charge Joe Miller or let him go. Trust me, his solicitor will be watching the time and his wife will be waiting for him, if she does not believe he is guilty," Alec reminded her.

"Ellie doesn't believe he would have met Danny," Rose replied, trying to stop him pacing up and down with the phone now in his hand. "I can't believe it either. You don't trust him, do you?"

"No, I don't trust him. That's why I was glad he wanted to meet you at the station and not his house. That's it Rose, he has something to hide after all. Would you want to drag a young boy out to the police station when someone offers to look after him for a while?" he asked her.

"Alec, it wasn't for long," Rose reminded him. "I wonder where Tom was though? Maybe he was at another friend's house?"

"Maybe?" Alec mused, wanting to try Claire again. "I will ask the chief to get a search warrant for the Miller house, first thing tomorrow and not tell Joe Miller."

"Alec, do ya really think he's hiding something?" Rose asked.

"Why else did he not want you there? Maybe there is something on his computer? I will have to include that in the search warrant."

"Alec do ya know what it'll do to Ellie?" Rose reminded him. "She'll go crazy with ya and she won't trust either of us again."

"I have no choice Rose, I have to find out if it is him, if Ashworth will not identify him," Alec told her.

"I know Alec but there must be another way?" Rose wondered.

Just then, his phone rang and he answered it on one ring, seeing it was Claire, who had been debating if she should call Alec back or not. She was still unsure that if the suspect got free, he'd know it was her and go after her. She'd had enough hiding from Lee after Sandbrook.

"Claire?" Alec wanted to make sure.

"Who else would it be?" Claire sounded tired. "I talked to Lee but he won't agree. He doesn't want to get involved and I should never have done either."

Chapter 40
Rose knew who Alec was talking to as he answered.

"Claire, you have to keep trying," Alec was trying to encourage her.

"I've given it a go, don't make me try again," Claire replied. "We should have just driven off that night."

"You could have seen the boy's killer, Claire. Lee got away once, on a technicality. Did you have anything to do with that?"

"I'm hanging up Alec. I tried but if he won't agree, there's nothing I can do. Why are you still going on about what happened in Sandbrook? That was ages ago and nothing to do with me. Rose was with him when that girl was killed, why aren't you asking her about it?" Claire wanted to know.

"Rose has nothing to do with what happened on that cliff Claire," he reminded her. "We're talking about the present, not what happened back in Sandbrook."

"Then stop asking me if I had anything to do with that then," Claire insisted. "Okay, I'll try again but if Lee's unreasonable, don't blame me. I'm not gonna try again, that's it."

"She's scared of him Alec," Rose observed when Alec hung up.

"I know but why? If they were up on that cliff top, why had she even agreed to meet him?" Alec wondered.

"He does that Alec. Lee gets ya where he wants ya and ya get scared of what he's capable of. Scared enough to do as he says. If it hadn't been for you, I don't know what I'd have done and I don't blame Claire for hiding from him. The question is, why did she go back to him?"

"You need to speak with her Rose, get her to tell you," Alec urged her.

"I said I would Alec but whether she'll tell me everything is another question," Rose replied.

"She wants you to go to where she works, down the other end of the High Street. You should be okay meeting her there, there will be plenty of people around. See what she has to say."

"Okay but won't it be a bit late to organise a line-up with Lee when you're holding a suspect?" Rose wanted to know.

"We should have time but it will be cutting it a bit fine," Alec admitted. "As long as you get Claire to keep her end of the bargain and get Ashworth in for the line-up."

When Claire had hung up, she had to decide if she was willing to let Lee know where she lived. Was it worth it, to catch that boy's killer? Yes, they had got a good look at who had most likely killed who was now known as Danny but did she want to get caught up in another court case, even though she'd never been called as a witness the last time?

The court would never accept either her or Lee as witnesses, not that Lee would let it get that far anyway. It was getting late so she decided she'd think about it overnight and decide in the morning. Lee was doing pretty much the same, he didn't fancy getting caught up in a murder investigation when Claire wasn't really worth all the hassle. He thought he would decide in the morning whether to walk into the police station and identify the man from that night or get on the next ferry back to France.

It had been pure luck Claire had been careless and kept her old phone number and while it had been good seeing her again, it hadn't turned out how he'd wanted. She'd not been willing to part with the evidence that was keeping him from being charged with Pippa's murder but while she had it, the police couldn't still prove it was actually him. They only had Rose's word against his and Rose hadn't been a credible enough witness without the pendant.

The next morning, Alec was warning Rose to be careful about Claire.

"She may still try to defend Ashworth," Alec was telling Rose.

"Yeah, I get it Alec, I'll be careful," Rose replied, already nervous and he was making her worse. "Why is she leaving it so late though? Doesn't she know how important getting Lee involved is?"

"I expect so but she is playing both sides Rose," Alec warned her. "Maybe Ashworth is still convinced she has the pendant and he wants it back?"

"Yeah, that makes sense," Rose had to agree as they sat at the table. "That means he did get her to steal it for him then?"

"We already know that love," Alec had to smile. "Don't go asking her though, she may turn on you again."

"I know, I won't ask her, unless she wants to tell me," Rose smiled back. "What time do you have to let the suspect go?"

"Before five," Alec replied. "I expect his wife will be calling me for an update, not that I will be able to tell her much though."

"Won't she know that? I mean if she's held suspects before?" Rose wanted to know.

Alec gave her one of his looks.

"She has been suspended love, she is on the other side of the fence now, so to speak."

"Sorry. This is just gettin' to everyone."

"I know love but hopefully if Claire gets Ashworth to identify Joe Miller, it will soon be over, except for convicting him."

"Alec, what if it was an accident though?" Rose wondered.

"He will still be charged but the sentence would be shorter. The court will determine that. What matters is the Latimers get justice for their son."

"I suppose so then?" Rose had to agree with him. "Well, best get ready to meet Claire then? It's been a long time, I mean she just went off."

"I expect she did not want Ashworth catching up with her when he was set free?" Alec mused.

"Can't say I blame her really," Rose agreed as she got up. "She had no-one to turn to but she could have come to me."

"She maybe did not think so at the time," Alec replied, gathering the breakfast dishes and smiling that Rose was still in her dressing gown.

Claire was getting ready for work when her mobile rang. Seeing it was an unknown number, she assumed it was either the police or Lee.

"Claire, I'm leaving," Lee told her when she answered.

"Good, you should never have come looking for me Lee, then we wouldn't have got caught up with that boy's death," Claire replied.

"You dragged me into it Claire, I saw no more than you did that night. So why don't the police think your word is enough eh?"

"Alec obviously doesn't trust me enough," Claire admitted.

"What went on Claire? Tell me the truth. You did get pregnant and turned to him for help? Why did he help you though?" Lee wanted to know.

"Rose trusted him so I thought he would help me," Claire further admitted. "Stick to the point Lee."

Lee let out a laugh before continuing.

"On second thoughts, I think I might stick around. I can't go back to Sandbrook though, Hardy's ex wife would be asking too many questions."

"Well you can't stay here," Claire reminded him. "Alec won't be leaving in a hurry, not with Rose being pregnant."

"Don't remind me," Lee joked.

"That's what got to you Lee, the fact you couldn't really have Rose," Claire laughed. "Well I'm glad she was spared, why do ya think I got rid of it when I found out I was pregnant?"

"So you were? I should have known you'd be careless Claire," Lee sounded angry.

"Well you should never have forced me Lee, I didn't want to go that far. How did Rose get away with it?" Claire wanted to know.

"Stop going on about it Claire," Lee didn't want to be reminded how he'd let Rose off, especially towards the end when she'd made him sleep in the other room.

"She went to Alec Hardy instead of you," Claire taunted him. "How did that feel, Lee?" Claire was still laughing at him.

"This is no way to get me to agree to identify that man, Claire," he changed the subject. "Give me the pendant Claire, then I'll go away for good."

"Why should I? Why should you get away with it when we could convict that man? No Lee, that's your punishment for killing Pippa – I keep the pendant then if you ever turn on me, I'll give it up. That's my final decision. Please yourself if you identify that man or not, I should never have agreed to it."

"You're right on that Claire, you should never have dragged us into it but we are by the sound of it. Hardy will come looking for me to back you up, if he wants a conviction. Meet me down at the harbour tonight, same place as last time. We need to discuss what happens next."

"I thought you were going away?" Claire sounded disappointed.

"Wouldn't you love that to be true?" Lee taunted her back. "I'll call Hardy and tell him if he wants that man identifying, I want certain assurances in return."

Lee ended the call to Claire after agreeing a time and found the number for the police station.

"Broadchurch police," a weary Bob answered since he should have already been relieved.

"Let me speak to Alec Hardy or is he not in yet?" Lee asked, thinking Hardy would still be in bed with his girlfriend.

So Rose was indeed pregnant by the sound of it? Well she'd not been that good anyway, had she, he told himself as he got out of bed. He thought he would get something to eat then not renew his room for any longer than tonight, which he'd paid for. Then if Claire wouldn't let him stay with her, he might try his luck at that cliff-top hut, it should be easy to pick the lock and no-one would bother renting it out now, not after it had been a crime scene. People were funny when it came to anything like that, he thought as he waited for Alec to answer the phone.

"Sir, someone called Lee Ashworth wants to talk to you," Bob told Alec after getting Lee to admit who was calling.

Then Bob remembered something about Hardy wanting the man in to identify Ellie Miller's husband. He didn't agree with the husband of a DS being under suspicion, he'd known the DS for years though not socially but still, was Hardy that desperate to convict someone for Danny's death that he'd come to this? Hardy had got several men in, why had that woman settled on Joe Miller?

Alec was thinking this was going to be easier than he'd first thought.

"Put him through," Alec told Bob. "If DS Miller calls, tell her I'll contact her shortly."

He'd been persuaded by Rose before he'd left home that he should give Ellie an explanation as to why he was taking Claire seriously in picking Joe up out of the line-up.

"She'll want to know why Alec," Rose had told him as they said goodbye and Alec warning her again about Claire.

"I know but what can I tell her?" he'd wanted to know. "She know the procedure, she can't see her husband while he's in custody and she can't be part of this case until he's been cleared, if Ashworth does not confirm Joe Miller is the one he saw with Danny, then I'll have to let him go for now. We can't rely on Claire."

Rose thought she supposed that was at least something. The question was, whose side was she on? It had come as a bit of a shock that Joe had been arrested, she still couldn't believe it was him who'd been with Danny that night yet Claire had gone straight to him and picked him out. Claire had never seen him before, she had no reason to just pick him out without considering the others.

Lee had been put through to Alec, who was determined to get Lee in for an identity parade and see if he picked Joe Miller out or if it was just Claire playing games with him.

"Claire said you wanted me to pick out the same bloke as she did," Lee told Alec without even an 'Hello'. "You'd better not be wasting my time."

Alec thought he couldn't expect any less from him.

"It needs to be today, pick a time," Alec replied.

"Fine, make it one and when I'm done, that's it, I'm not getting involved any further. Got it?" Lee asked.

"Just don't leave town," Alec warned Lee. "We might have some questions for you."

"No way Hardy, I've heard all that before. Then the next thing I know, I'm being arrested because you take the word of my ex girlfriend. How is she anyway? I mean now you got her pregnant, which congratulations on getting her to give in to you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Alec wanted to know, forgetting the line-up.

"Exactly what I said, she never gave in to me," Lee replied.

"Because you never treated her right," Alec replied, forgetting what the call was supposed to be about. "You stay away from her."

"Hold on Hardy, do you want me to identify that bloke or not?" Lee asked him. "See you at one and it had better not be that you're tricking me and you put me in the line-up."

"Just you be here," Alec replied before he lost his temper, then Ashworth may go after Rose.

"Tell Rose I said hello," Lee laughed before he hung up.

Alec was now fuming at the nerve of the man. He was going to do no such thing regarding telling Rose, he didn't want her getting upset. She was going to be bad enough when she'd seen Claire again. Why did Ashworth have to pick one to come in? Had Claire told him she was meeting Rose at one and they both knew he couldn't be at the line-up and watching out for Rose at the same time?

Why did it have to be Miller's husband under suspicion? He could have sent her to keep an eye on Rose instead of keeping her away. He was about to try to catch up on what had happened overnight when his work mobile rang and he squinted to see 'Miller' come up on the screen. Why hadn't she rang the station number?

"Miller, what do you want?" he asked, trying to be civil.

"My husband back?" Ellie asked nervously. "I can't believe you kept him in that cell all night like a common criminal," she recovered. "My youngest is really upset."

Alec was thinking and her oldest wasn't? There was something about Tom Miller, like he was hiding something. Maybe Danny had said something to him, like who he'd been meeting and he was afraid to tell his mother. He was sure Tom had wanted to say more yesterday. Maybe he should go back and ask? He doubted the boy's mother would allow it, not now, which was a shame. What else had been said the night Joe Miller had been confronted by Tom about going out?

"The other witness has agreed to come in for a line-up," Alec told her.

"You're getting Ashworth in?" she asked him. "You can't trust the two of them, you already said so," she reminded him. "You'd take the word of them against Joe?"

"Miller, your husband has said nothing yet," Alec reminded her. "He's kept fairly quiet on the advice of his solicitor, which is not helping his defence. If he won't talk to me, we can't eliminate him from the investigation. If he went out that night, why lie about who he was with?"

"You're just trying to get me worried," Ellie replied. "You're trying to make me think either Joe was meeting Danny or even another woman. Well he wouldn't do either, why would he?"

"Sometimes we don't know people as much as we think Miller," Alec tried to tell her. "When I married Tess, I had no idea she was going to cheat on me and get so spiteful that she would allow evidence to be stolen, valuable evidence that would have put Lee Ashworth away. Instead, he's here, in Broadchurch, ready to back Claire up that maybe he saw your husband as well that night."

Ellie went quiet while she thought about it.

"You think he's guilty, don't you? You've already made your mind up. I don't think Rose believes it though," Ellie replied, watching her youngest play with a toy car.

"I can't say for her Miller, you would have to ask her but Rose has enough on. She agreed to meet Claire later, it was the only way Claire would get Ashworth to agree to come in. She was not looking forward to it," Alec admitted.

"I don't know why you're getting her involved, not after Sandbrook," Ellie told him. "I expect you'll be keeping an eye on her?"

"I can't, it's the same time as Ashworth is coming in. You're off this case Miller but you could follow her," Alec suggested, knowing she and Rose were friends.

"Don't go putting that on me," Ellie snapped at him. "That's not fair, you can't kick me off the case then ask me to watch Rose. Are you crazy?" she asked, forgetting to call him 'Sir'.

"I can talk to the chief and ask for you to be reinstated but not on the case?" he offered.

"The answer is no, I'm not coming back until Joe has been cleared," Ellie replied firmly.

"Not even to help your friend?" he asked, hoping it would get to her.

"Stop it, stop trying to make me feel guilty when you have my husband locked up," Ellie told him.

"Rose trusts you, she would feel better about meeting Claire if she knew you were backing her up," Alec reminded her. "It was your son who said Joe had been out that night."

"I know and now, he has to live with that," Ellie sounded upset. "Can you imagine what he's feeling right now?"

"He did the right thing and he knows that. If he'd not said anything and Joe is guilty, we would never know. How would that make you feel?" Alec asked her, knowing he should be getting on with things and hoping someone had called the same men in again as yesterday. "Think about it Miller. Rose will be at the hairdressers at the bottom of the High Street at one, you should be able to find it. Didn't Claire recognise you?" he then remembered.

"Yes, I know where it is but I never said I would go," Ellie told him. "If Ashworth doesn't turn up, what then?"

"I'll have to let Joe out, the chief won't go just on Claire's say-so," he admitted.

He ended the call and went out into the squad room.

"Are the same men as in yesterday's line-up being called back?" he asked no-one in particular.

"Yes Sir," Frank dared to stand up. "We just need a time."

"Well call them and tell them it's at one and hopefully this will be the last time," Alec told him.

"Sir, about DS Miller?" Frank asked, looking around.

"DS Miller is on paid leave while we conclude this part of the investigation," Alec replied, seeing the chief had just joined them. "You're with me during the line-up, it will be a Lee Ashworth coming in as the second witness."

"Sir?" Frank questioned him. "The same Lee Ashworth as in the Sandbrook case? The main suspect? He's here in Broadchurch?"

"Yes, he is here in the town," Alec replied, wondering where the man thought Ashworth was. "He is to be treated as a witness, understand?" he looked directly at Frank then looked around the room. "He was acquitted in the other case but he claims he was on the cliff top that night and saw the person with Danny. We have to see if he chooses the same person as the other witness."

He went back in his office, the chief following him.

"I don't like this Alec, not one bit," the chief told him. "It's not right when the husband or wife of an officer is being accused of something, especially when the witnesses are unreliable."

"What do you want me to do? Let Joe Miller go on the grounds of his wife is a detective sergeant?" Alec asked her.

"I'm not saying that Alec but this investigation is flawed, it's all too connected to your old case. Alec, you even got your girlfriend involved, for goodness sake," she reminded him.

"I know and I like it even less than you do, Ma'am," he remembered his manners. "Rose volunteered to look after the youngest Miller boy, there is a difference."

"Maybe so Alec but if the defence finds out who the witnesses are, should the second one identify Joe Miller? Think what will happen? He will go straight to the crown prosecution service and have the case quashed against his client. Have you not even thought of that?" she wanted to know, taking a seat.

"I know of the possibilities. What do you want me to do about it? Lee Ashworth said he would identify who he saw that night but wants nothing else to do with it, so, I propose to record the line-up and the identification of whom we have in custody, if it is the same as Claire Ripley has identified. Then I will have him make a statement of his own free will which hopefully will be admissible in court."

"Alec, they will still know who the witness is," she reminded him.

Alec was trying to think of a way round it so that Ashworth couldn't be identified.

"We do a recording but not showing his face?" he suggested, wondering if she would go for it.

"Maybe? You would have to be very careful and maybe get him to sign the statement whilst filming him?" the chief added.

"If he will go for it? It's been hard enough getting him to agree to confirm who Claire Ripley saw," Alec replied, not daring to tell the chief Rose had agreed to meet with Claire in exchange for getting Lee to agree to come in for the line-up in the first place. "We will have to see if he will agree to be recorded first. We could tell him that it is standard procedure," he then suggested.

"Well it should be if you ask me," the chief told him. "From now on, make it as such. I don't suppose the other witness was filmed?" she asked, thinking it was asking too much.

"I will have to check. Do all rooms have cameras?"

"Some of them only have audio, then it depends if the recorder had been turned on," the chief sighed, wishing they would all follow guidelines.

He knew his conversations with Claire were being recorded at the time, he could only hope so was her part in identifying Joe Miller.

"Has DS Miller been in touch?" the chief then wanted to know.

"A short time ago, she was anxious for any news. She cannot believe her husband has been accused," Alec admitted.

"It's understandable Alec," the chief sympathised with Ellie.

"About her being reinstated?" Alec asked. "She was asking but under the circumstances it's best she stays off."

"Indeed, she has child care to think of and don't you go suggesting your girlfriend volunteers either," the chief warned him.

"I don't think she would, it's not the same as an hour or so," Alec admitted. "She can't go lifting a young boy around."

"I'm glad we agree," the chief told him. "Is the line-up being organised?"

"I should hope so," Alec replied, not sure of the people he now had to work with.

Then he was hoping Ashworth would actually turn up. Rose was getting ready to meet with Claire and she wasn't looking forward to meeting her old friend and one-time boss. Lee Ashworth was leaving the guest house he'd been staying at, being told they had plenty of rooms should he want to go back. Claire was trying to keep busy and making sure she could make some time when Rose arrived.

Ten minutes before Lee Ashworth was meant to arrive at the police station, Alec was calling Rose to see if she was at the hair salon, wondering if Miller was going to turn up to watch her but he doubted she would, even though she and Rose were friends. He supposed it was asking too much and her loyalties were divided. Rose was just approaching where Claire worked.

"Hey Alec," Rose greeted him. "Checking up on me?"

"Nothing of the kind, Claire can hardly call Ashworth now and tell him not to bother coming in," he replied. "He does not need her telling him to call it off, he will if he wants to."

"Yeah, I know. Well, I'm about to go in, there's a café a few doors down, I'm gonna suggest we go there," Rose told him.

"Ah, good idea love. Have you seen anything of your friend, I mean DS Miller?" he wondered.

"Should I have done? Oh ya weren't gonna get her to spy on me, were ya?" Rose teased him.

"Nothing of the sort, she goes to that salon, she admitted it when Claire recognised her," he tried to defend himself.

"Chill Alec, I'm just kidding ya," Rose laughed as she came to the salon, thinking Claire never owned this, it was tacky at the side of where they used to work in Sandbrook, yet it looked busy.

"Well just you be careful eh? Who knows how she has changed since you last saw her. I mean it Rose, Ashworth could have made her change," Alec warned her.

"I know what he does to ya Alec, remember?" Rose replied as she looked through the window at the busy salon, a young girl sweeping up and another girl gathering towels.

It reminded her of when she'd first started out before Claire had taken her on. At the Miller house half an hour before, Ellie was debating what to do about her boss asking her to keep an eye on Rose. She and Rose had become good friends and she was happy with the fact Rose was pregnant. It still didn't mean that Rose's boyfriend had the nerve to ask a favour of keeping an eye on her while she met with an old friend.

Claire had become a witness to their current case and in her mind, the two should have been separate right from the start but slowly, the Sandbrook case and Danny's murder had become intertwined. Why the hell had Hardy brought the Sandbrook case with him and now, he was dragging her into it.

Chapter 41
Alec was now getting worried about letting Rose go meet Claire on her own, they hadn't seen each other for quite a while. Why did Claire have to make her part of the bargain for getting Ashworth to pick out Joe Miller from a line-up just because she had done? He was still debating when Frank knocked on his office door.

"Sir, we're ready for you, the other witness just arrived."

"Thanks, I will be there shortly," Alec replied.

Why did he always seem off with Miller but no-one else these days?

Lee Ashworth had got himself to the police station and stood in front of a still harassed Bob.

"I'm here to pick a suspect out, Hardy's supposed to be in charge," Lee grinned.

"Right Sir, I'll get someone to take you to the interview room then," Bob replied, picking up the phone then calling behind him to another male officer.

He thought he had best call the other detective rather than Hardy, he still wasn't keen on the fact that the senior detective had Ellie Miller's husband locked up. He had decided he'd believe it if someone else pointed Joe Miller out besides the woman who had originally accused the man of being the one with Danny Latimer that night.

Even if Joe Miller had been with Danny, there still wasn't any proof he'd been the one to kill the boy.

Alec followed the other detective downstairs and saw Lee Ashworth being led into where he would hopefully pick out Joe Miller, if not, this would be a complete waste of time. If Ashworth was going to play games, it would be doubly so. He hoped Claire hadn't called and told Ashworth she made a mistake and he could pick out anyone he wanted for all she cared.

"Ashworth," Alec called out as he followed the officer and Lee into the interview room, where Frank was starting to open up the programme that would show them the line-up.

All the men who had been asked again to attend a line-up hadn't been pleased, especially Nigel Carter, who was bending the vicar's ear yet again.

"How's this getting Danny's killer eh?" Paul Coates was being asked.

"We have to believe it is," Paul was telling him as they were being asked to space out a bit. "If it jogs someone's memory into remembering seeing Danny's killer that night?"

"All they might have done is see who took Danny up there, not who killed him," another man was also questioning why they were there again. "I had to take another hour off work and it doesn't look good."

"Me as well," someone else spoke up. "How long's this going to take?" he asked one of the uniformed officers.

"We're just waiting for two more to arrive," Alec decided to tell them over the intercom, everyone looking around.

Alec had thought that now, he'd get someone else in at exactly the same time as Joe Miller, so as not to place suspicion on his DS's husband or the last person to arrive, whom he didn't know personally, it was just whoever arrived last, Bob had been told to delay them.

Joe had been fetched from the cell he'd spent the night in.

"About time as well," Joe complained. "I'm seeing my solicitor about this treatment."

"Sorry Mr Miller," a young officer was telling him as he stood in the doorway. "This all should be over soon."

"It had better be," Joe replied, looking angry.

He was angry with himself, going over it in his mind overnight that he'd been stupid enough to let Danny run off, just as a van was driving away and they'd been spotted. Then as he'd applied too much pressure to Danny as he'd grabbed hold of the boy, he'd got back inside and was about to lock the door but had felt Danny wasn't breathing. Still holding the boy, two faces had appeared at the door and he'd bluffed his way out of it – or so he'd thought.

The next thing he'd known, they'd left and he'd taken Danny down to the harbour beach and left him, hoping he'd been wrong and the boy would have woken up. He knew how kids could play dead when they wanted to, he'd hoped Danny had just been acting limp.

"What's taking so long?" Lee was also asking. "The person Claire saw not there yet?" he taunted Alec.

Alec didn't want him knowing out of the last two going in, one may well be guilty.

"Turn that off," he nodded to the laptop and Frank.

"Yes Sir," Frank obliged, pressing the sleep button.

"Oh, you don't want me to look at any of those already there?" Lee laughed. "Don't worry, I know who I saw that night."

"You might well have done," Alec agreed. "You should still take a look and make sure."

"I know the ropes Hardy. You had me appear in line-ups, back in Sandbrook. I was rather disappointed you never got Rose in to pick me out."

"Leave her out of it Ashworth, this isn't about her or what happened in Sandbrook," Alec reminded him, hoping the other officers wouldn't ask any awkward questions but he was sure they knew what he was talking about.

"Suit yourself," Ashworth replied calmly. "Once I pick out that bloke, that's it, I'm done," he reminded Alec.

"Fine but I want a statement from you, verbally that it's the man you saw dragging Danny back inside that hut and then holding the boy inside," Alec warned him.

"I might have known you'd want more than I was willing to give, it's always the same with you," Lee replied.

"If you do that, you won't have to appear in court," Alec then revealed, hoping the chief would be able to keep her word.

"You say that now," Lee objected. "What when it comes to the trial, then you drag me into it?"

"I will do my best not to let that happen but I am making no promises," Alec told him.

"Yeah, it's always the same, empty promises. The only one you kept promises to was Rose. What exactly did you say to her to get her to leave me? Did you promise her you wouldn't force her to have sex with you?" Lee laughed.

"Shut it Ashworth," Alec tried to keep his temper. "Remember, she left you because of what you had done."

"You didn't prove anything though did you?" Lee challenged him.

Joe and another man were just finding places in the line-up, having been told to pick a place. Frank put the screen back on and Ashworth sat at the table then after a few seconds rested his eyes on Joe Miller.

"Number four, he's the one I saw in the hut and holding that boy. I told Claire we should never have gone up there that night," Lee told him. "What do you want saying on that recording? Whatever it is, it's the last thing I'm going to say, I'm not repeating it in court.

"Just say you are certain of the number and where you saw him and what he was doing at the time," Alec replied, thinking he was asking a lot.

"You're pushing your luck. How did you persuade Claire to get me to come in today?" Lee wanted to know. "Did she want to see Rose?" he laughed.

"That's none of your business, Ashworth," Alec reminded him.

He didn't want Ashworth leaving and going down to the salon and confronting Rose.

"Oh, she did?" Lee smirked.

"Just make your statement," Alec told him. "Then you can go. Stay away from Rose."

"Don't worry, Claire was miles better than Rose anyway. You should know that," Lee taunted him, getting looks from the other officers. "I meant when you helped Claire back in Sandbrook. I worked it out, Hardy. Claire got pregnant and went to you for help, because she trusted you. Well you won't find her so trusting now. Right, make sure you record this," Lee finished and leaned back in the chair.

Alec had to let Lee go, even though he wanted to knock the smirk off the other man's face. He didn't know what he would do if Lee went anywhere near Rose now. He waited until Lee had formally stated about Joe Miller, then let him go.

"Keep number four somehow but don't make it so obvious," he told Frank. "Let him follow the others then when he gets mixed up with them, get the custody sergeant to get him back in the interview room. He'll want his solicitor."

"Still trying to fool everyone?" Lee asked as he got up. "I'm gone, don't try using Claire against me again."

Alec doubted she'd be used again anyway, he expected her to pack up and leave as soon as this was over. Then he and Rose could get back to some sort of normality and not have Rose's past haunting them. He waited for everyone to leave and called Ellie.

"We're keeping Joe for now, he was picked out again," he told her as Ellie dealt with a cranky toddler.

"So you're taking the word of two people from your past case?" she wanted to know, Alec wishing she'd followed Rose as he had suggested.

He doubted she had taken the young boy making noises in the background along with her.

"We got statements from both of them Miller, what do you expect me to do eh?" he asked her, wishing she'd just accept it.

"They could have just agreed they'd go along with it, Claire could have told him," Ellie suggested.

"How would he know eh?" Alec replied. "The men all had different numbers today. Have you called Rose?"

"No, I've got Fred to deal with, he's missing Joe," she snapped at him.

Alec wondered what the small boy would be like if his mother was at home every day? He expected she'd take some personal time off, then when that ran out, she may move if her husband really was guilty. Why would Claire and Ashworth lie though?

"I'll let you know the outcome, we are waiting for Joe's solicitor to come back," he told Ellie. "I hope Rose will be safe enough meeting Claire, she was nervous when I talked to her earlier."

"Why would she be?" Ellie asked as she finally got Fred quiet.

"Claire turned against her too easily," Alec admitted. "They were good friends when Rose worked for her back in Sandbrook. That was how Rose met Ashworth, through one of Claire's clients at a party."

"So was Claire jealous when Rose and Ashworth got together?" Ellie wondered.

"So Rose said, at first but Claire was quick to take up with him when Rose left him. Rose warned Claire what he was getting like but she took no notice," Alec told her. "Even after he was arrested, we always suspected Claire stole that pendant from Tess's car."

"I don't like this at all," Ellie admitted. "Why are the two cases getting so tangled up? You think she still has the pendant? Do you expect her to give Ashworth up? He must have something on her."

"No, I don't think he has, just the fact he wants to be in the clear," Alec replied, sitting on the corner of the desk. "If he gets the pendant, we have nothing on him, he gets away for good. Claire knows that."

"Yes but why won't she just give him it? She has to have a conscious over it? Oh tell me you're not going to use Rose to persuade Claire to hand it over and admit Ashworth got her to steal it for him?" Ellie was horrified at the thought.

"Rose knows how important it is to prove Ashworth killed the girl she used to be friends with," Alec admitted. "How do you think Rose has been feeling all this time over it, Miller?"

"I can't even imagine but what if Claire won't agree?" Ellie wanted to know.

"I give Claire assurances it will lock Ashworth up, then she and Rose can move on," Alec replied, thinking it was obvious. "Anyway, getting Claire to hand the pendant to us rather than Ashworth is the most important part."

"So Ashworth contacted her again just to get the pendant?" Ellie asked, seeing Fred was asleep in his chair.

"Seems like it?" Alec mused. "How Claire ended up here in Broadchurch is very odd."

"Sure Rose didn't know she was here when you stole my job?" Ellie reminded him.

"Still sore over that?" Alec replied, thinking she would have got over it. "No, Rose was as surprised as I was that Claire was here."

He ended the call and wandered into the interview room Joe was being detained in, where they were still waiting for Joe's solicitor.

"I'm not talking until my solicitor shows up," Joe was adamant, folding his arms.

"Fine, then listen. Two people have picked you up from a line-up Joe, why would they do so, if they had not seen you with Danny that night?"

Joe just shrugged his shoulders.

"How do I know?" was all Joe asked. "Have you called my wife?"

"Yes, she knows," Alec admitted. "Why don't you spare her and just admit you met Danny that night?"

Joe just put his hands on the table as if he was going to get up, the uniformed officer quickly going for him and Joe fending him off.

"Sit down Joe," Alec told him. "How much longer are you going to pretend it wasn't you who killed Danny? Was it just an accident? Both witnesses saw you in that hut with Danny and he wasn't moving. Why did you tell them Danny was okay?"

He had read Claire's statement, it was just a shame Ashworth had missed out the smaller details in his. There again, he'd been lucky to get anything out of Ashworth. He sat opposite Joe, waiting for the solicitor to arrive.

While all that had been going on, Rose had looked around outside where she was meeting Claire, hoping Alec had somehow got away or he'd sent Ellie. She expected Ellie was not in the mood to follow her though, she'd have enough with the two boys wondering where their dad was.

She couldn't believe Joe was the one with Danny that night but she still hadn't got over the fact poor Pippa had been in the house with her that night and she'd never even known what Lee was planning, covering his tracks. Alec had repeatedly told her it wasn't her fault but if only she'd known? Things would be very different right now as she went to open the salon door. She stood at the small reception desk, the screen showing different colours on a chart, Rose thinking they were appointments and free slots.

All the chairs were occupied with women at different stages, some were over by the sinks and some under large hairdryers, reminding her of the one her mother still had as far as she knew. That was something else Rose had to do – tell her mother Sandbrook had come back to haunt herself and Alec.

She'd held off telling Jackie that Claire and Lee were in Broadchurch, for fear her mother would be down on the next train. This was something she and Alec had to face themselves. She jumped slightly as she caught sight of Claire in the mirror as Claire turned around from doing a client's hair. Claire had seen Rose come in and didn't know whether or not she could now face her old friend.

Why had she asked Alec to meet Rose in exchange for getting Lee to agree to pick someone out of a line-up? That had to be the second most stupid idea she'd had recently, the first being taking up with Lee after Rose had warned her about him. Why hadn't she taken Rose's warning that Lee was bad news seriously, instead of rushing in head first and ending up pregnant because she'd been careless?

Then there was her third mistake, Lee calling her from the police station in Sandbrook and asking her to get the pendant from the car he'd just sold before he'd been arrested and she'd foolishly agreed and found herself watching Alec and Tess searching Lee's car in the car lot. Then, she'd seen Alec hand over the pendant in a plastic bag and Tess had got in her car.

She'd had to think quickly and had grabbed a cab as it had been passing and come up with a lame excuse why she had to catch up with Tess's car. Lee could never know the real reason why she had agreed to get the pendant for him, to stop him being charged with Pippa's murder. She had an idea it might be the one she'd given to Rose when Rose had first become her friend but why had Pippa been wearing it that night? She'd never dared ask Rose about it, Rose must have had a very good reason, it had to have been before they had fallen out. Rose would have become suspicious about being asked questions all of a sudden and maybe have told Alec.

"Claire, someone's asking for you," one of the young girls who had stopped sweeping up called over to her, after asking Rose if she had an appointment.

"No, I'm here to see Claire," Rose had replied to the young girl, wishing she'd not come here now.

Claire had almost finished anyway and was just fluffing up the woman's hair with the pointed end of the black comb.

"There you are, Mrs Peters," Claire put on her posh voice. "See you next week then?"

Claire took the black bib from around the woman's neck and went to put it in a netted container and then helped the woman up.

"Yes Claire, thanks, you always do such a great job," the woman was telling her as she picked up her handbag from under the shelf.

Claire put on a false smile and led her over to the desk, Rose having stood to one side.

"I'll be with you in a minute," Claire told Rose, as if Rose was a customer.

Rose hoped Claire wasn't going to treat her as such. The customer having paid went to get her cardigan then left, leaving Rose facing Claire.

"We should go to the café, Claire," Rose suggested, not wanting to be seen talking.

"Fine, I'll get my bag," Claire replied, Rose trying to judge how Claire was.

Rose waited, then they left together and walked silently a few doors down and Claire insisted they sat outside, maybe because she'd been in a stuffy salon all morning, Rose thought.

"I don't usually go out at lunchtime, everyone will be talking about me," Claire admitted as they sat down, hoping someone would come out to them quickly.

"Yeah, I remember what it was like, grabbing a sandwich and stuffing it down quickly," Rose recalled as the café door opened and she grabbed a menu.

After they had ordered, Claire broke the silence.

"Did Alec tell you why I wanted to meet?" Claire asked. "Yeah, of course he did, that's why you're here, anything to help him."

"Don't mock him Claire or I'm gone," Rose told her straight. "You wanted to meet in return for helping him get Lee to identify someone. Why, after all this time are you still defending Lee?"

"He came to me, he still had my phone number," Claire admitted as their drinks arrived.

"You didn't have to see him Claire," Rose reminded her.

"Then Alec wouldn't have got two witnesses that night," Claire huffed. "Don't go on about me seeing Lee, Rose. So, you're still with him then?"

"Why wouldn't I be, Claire?" Rose replied. "We're happy and I'm pregnant."

"He said, I think he was showing off," Claire grinned. "Lee is as mad as hell over it, trust me. You were the one woman he could never really have."

"Are ya sure about that?" Rose asked.

"Come off it Rose, you know you were, admit it? Besides, he never stopped going on about it," Claire told her.

"What did you want Claire, why am I here?" Rose wanted to know. "We can hardly be here just to catch up on old times, after the way things went."

"Lee wants something, that's why he's here," Claire began to admit as the café door opened.

"The pendant?" Rose dared ask before their food was put on the table.

"How did you guess? Alec always suspected I got it back for Lee, after he was desperate," Claire tried to bluff.

"Admit it to Alec, Claire, not to me," Rose urged Claire.

"I need you to talk to Alec for me. We were good friends at one time Rose," Claire sounded sad.

"I can't promise you anything Claire but Alec won't let Lee retaliate, that I do know," Rose half promised. "Why don't I get him to call you, or you can go to the police station, with the pendant? Then, it'll all be over and he'll arrest Lee. I was out of it that night Claire and no-one except Alec believed me. He even took me to get examined for signs of what Lee used on me but it was too late."

"Maybe you should have told him sooner then?" Claire asked, picking at her food.

"You need to eat, Claire," Rose insisted as she put some potato and cheese on her fork

"Is Alec still so skinny?" Claire joked, trying to force herself to eat the baked potato with tuna and salad she'd ordered, when Rose had got hers with cheese.

"Don't change the subject," Rose told Claire. "I never thought he believed me, it wasn't easy to trust him. You trusted Alec once, remember?"

"That was confidential, is nothing a secret between you and Alec?" Claire asked her.

"No, we have no secrets Claire, you and me used to be like that once, we used to tell each other everything. Like when I met Lee, you confessed you liked him but he was never interested in you. You never even seemed jealous over him asking me out."

"I was but why worry about it? I thought it wouldn't last, then you two moved in together. Then it all started to go wrong. I bet I saw it before you did," Claire wondered.

"Why?" Rose wanted to know, trying to think back for any signs.

"Come on Rose, anyone could tell, it wasn't hard to work out. You'd moved next to a couple, everyone knows what goes on, on those posh housing estates."

"Not with me it didn't," Rose insisted. "Ya think Lee was cheating on me before I even said anything to ya?"

"Of course he was, why do ya think he left for work after you did?" Claire laughed.

"I did suspect Claire but you'd have just laughed. I had no-one else to talk to. I wasn't even good friends with Cate, I talked to Pippa and Lisa more than I did her," Rose recalled. "Anyway, get to the point Claire. Why am I here?"

"You're as suspicious as your boyfriend," Claire observed. "He wants you to get me to admit to him I took that pendant, the one I gave you. Why did you even give it to her Rose? That was my grandmother's, she gave it to me before I left…."

She trailed off and went quiet before she told Rose how she'd had to leave not only her home village but Wales itself. She could never go back there, even if she had wanted to. She hadn't even been able to attend her grandmother's funeral, someone had got a message to her about it. She gave up recalling the past.

"I'll make a deal with him then. He has to not charge me with stealing it, then he can get Lee locked up. Then, I want the pendant back, it's literally all I have of my past. Call me if he agrees, I still have my old number but not for much longer. I'll be getting a new sim card tonight on my way home. He has until tonight then. That's my final decision," Claire insisted.

"I'll call him when I've finished eating," Rose agreed. "Talk to him."

Claire nodded her agreement but didn't feel any better about convicting Lee of Pippa's death. Rose was disappointed Claire wanted the pendant back, Cate would probably ask for it, since Pippa had always worn it after she'd seen it in Rose's jewellery box. She had only intended letting Pippa borrow it for a few days but Pippa had kept it over a week and had worn it the night she'd died.

It had all been muddled up, Rose had thought, what with her being drugged as well as Pippa. She'd had no idea the drinks Lee had given them would have killed the young girl and knocked herself out. It still haunted her. Rose got her phone out and called Alec.

"Rose. How are things going? Are you okay?" he wanted to know.

"I'm fine. I'm with Claire, she wants to talk to you," Rose told him.

"Does she now? Is she ready to give the pendant and Ashworth up?" he asked hopefully. "I got him to give a verbal statement about seeing Joe Miller that night, so he can't back out of it. Mind you, I don't know what the chief will make of things, it could be inadmissible in court, especially if Ashworth is convicted of causing Pippa's death after all this time."

"Better hope your chief wants Danny's killer more than Lee then?" Rose wondered. "Anyway, I'll put Claire on shall I?"

Rose passed her phone to Claire, who was looking worried.

"What do I say?" Claire mouthed to Rose as she covered the phone with her hand.

"Just tell him the truth Claire," Rose encouraged her old friend. "Did Lee get ya to steal the pendant for him and if so, why?"

Chapter 42
Claire's newfound courage was now running out.

"Alec? Rose said you'll listen to me?" Claire asked cautiously. "The pendant that Pippa had been wearing that night, I gave it to Rose."

"What? She never told me," Alec was surprised to hear. "Why did neither of you tell me? This is a nightmare, I thought we were over Sandbrook, finally?"

Alec had slipped out of the interview room and was leaning on the wall opposite the door, Joe's solicitor having passed him and had nodded to him.

"Alec says you never told him the pendant was mine," Claire told Rose as she covered the phone.

"Everything was so messed up at the time," Rose admitted. "Tell him why you stole it then?"

"Alec, Lee called me when he was being held at the police station. He said you'd be searching the car he sold and asked me to get it. He never said why," Claire told him, trying not to mention what Lee had actually said.

Did she actually remember what he'd said at the time? He'd called her up and she'd got to the car sales then followed Tess. It was a stroke of luck the stupid woman had left the pendant in the car, otherwise it would have convicted Lee. Well so she'd found out afterwards anyway.

"I didn't know what pendant he was talking about until I saw it. I kept it because it was mine, I somehow thought he wanted it because he thought it was Rose's and he wanted to have some kind of hold over her," Claire continued. "Then after the trial, I realised why he wanted it back so badly. Why does he still want it then?"

"Because I can still convict him, well I thought I could. Now, he could say he wanted it back because it was Rose's? For crying out loud, just when I thought I could get him locked up again, you tell me this?" Alec complained. "Put Rose back on."

"He wants to talk to you. I'll give the pendant to you, come back to the salon with me," Claire told her, wanting to be rid of it.

"Wait until I've talked to Alec," Rose replied as she took her phone back. "Alec? I'm sorry I never told you, I didn't think it was important. I let Pippa borrow it and at the time, I didn't know she had it on that night, you could have been talking about any pendant that had been stolen from Tess's car. This is the first I knew of it."

Alec didn't get why she had kept this from him. Did she have a point though? He'd never gone into details of the pendant that could put Lee away for killing Pippa, Rose didn't have any reason to reveal the contents of her jewellery box to him when she had moved in with him.

Details were never revealed what the pendant that Pippa had worn that night looked like to the public, it was never photographed or processed because of Tess's stupidity of making a rookie mistake of leaving her car unattended in a pub car park. He'd never even seen the pendant close up, it had been put into a sealed evidence bag and he'd scribbled his name on it and handed it to Tess.

Now, three women would be laying claim to it because Cate would want it back, thinking Rose had given it to the girl, not just lent it to her. This was getting more complicated by the minute. Could the pendant even convict Ashworth anymore? Now he had some explaining to do to the chief – and Tess.

He went to join the others who were waiting for him.

"Right Joe, I want the truth. We have two statements from witnesses from that night. They both saw you holding Danny and Danny was still. That was after they saw him running away from you," Alec told Joe, who began whispering to his solicitor.

He just hoped their written and verbal statements would still count. One witness had stolen evidence from another case that could have convicted Ashworth at the time. Now, the said evidence would be in dispute but Rose wasn't wearing the pendant that night, Pippa was but Ashworth could now claim Rose left it in his car and he wanted it back to give to her. He could now also claim he didn't know Rose had lent it to Pippa in the first place, what man knew what was in his wife's or girlfriend's jewellery box?

"My client wishes to say something," the solicitor told Alec and a DS he'd asked to join them, since Ellie Miller had been suspended while her husband was being questioned.

"Does Ellie have to know, if I was with Danny that night?" Joe asked cautiously.

Alec shook his head.

"All we want to know is what happened, she may or may not get to know but I will try and keep it confidential for now," was all Alec could promise.

Joe covered his face with his hands and put his head on the table.

"That's not reassuring," he mumbled. "Whoever thinks they saw me got it wrong."

"Stop playing games Joe," Alec warned him. "I will lock you up for impeding a police investigation and you will go to court. This is a serious matter. Why would two strangers who were up by that hut pick you up out of a line-up eh? They had no reason to do so, unless it was you they saw."

Joe seemed to think about it but remained silent so Alec gathered his folders and got up.

"Joe Miller, I am arresting you for impeding a police enquiry. Read him his rights," he turned to the DS, one who was on loan to them.

"You can't do this," Joe protested as the DS began to recite Joe's rights and Alec was calling the officer from outside the door, who had appeared after Alec finished talking to Rose.

All the officers around the station knew to stay out of Alec's way.

"You can't just lock me up," Joe was still protesting. "Can he?" he turned to his solicitor, who was writing something down, probably how much this was costing, to sit in again on a police interview.

"I'm sorry Mister Miller but they are quite right, this may harm your defence if it goes to court. If you're not straightforward with myself or the investigating officer," the solicitor told him. "Take my advice and think about it, then call me again. I'm sorry DI Hardy, I can't make my client say anything he doesn't want to."

"Some solicitor you are," Joe called behind him as he was led out, in handcuffs. "My wife's a detective sergeant, I know my rights."

"Apparently so?" Alec mused. "You gave up the right to remain silent though, by asking if your wife had to know. You get one phone call, you can tell her you've been arrested."

Joe was led out into the corridor and he and the officer stopped by the phone, Alec just in the interview room doorway.

"Sir, we all got to know DS Miller, everyone was behind her when she got suspended but this puts a different light on the matter," the DS told Alec.

"I know and I don't like it any more than you do, my girlfriend is friends with her so that puts me in a difficult position. I'm being made out to be the bad guy," Alec replied.

Ellie had been on edge all morning. First, Hardy had been a prat by asking her to follow his girlfriend to meet an old friend, a friend who was involved with Rose's ex boyfriend and main suspect in the Sandbrook case. Then Joe had been locked up overnight and Fred had been fretting all night. Now, she was feeling guilty she'd let her friend down but what was Hardy expecting to happen if Rose met Claire in public?

She thought Rose should be safe enough, surely Claire wanted to be friends with Rose again, if she wanted a meeting? Now, she was waiting for Joe coming home and saying Hardy had made a mistake and that Ashworth and Claire had been wrong. Could Ashworth even be trusted, if all he'd come here for was to get Claire back?

Why did she care anyway, she had bigger problems than Hardy wanting to keep tabs on Rose, whether she was pregnant or not. She jumped when her phone rang and it was an unknown number.

"Ellie," Joe answered when Ellie cautiously said hello. "Your boss is keeping me here, he's arrested me."

"What? Why has he done that? Didn't your solicitor get you out? Did you stay silent? Joe?" she asked him.

"I'm sorry Ell. Can't you get me out of here?" Joe sounded upset.

"I can't. I'm no longer on duty," Ellie reminded him. "Just talk to Hardy then, if you went out that night. It doesn't matter if you did or didn't but you should have told me, instead of getting Tom to cover for you. You can see how it looks Joe."

"How do you think it looks?" Joe wanted to know, seeing Alec waiting at the end of the corridor. "He knows I didn't meet who I said I met."

"I'm all confused, I can't think straight any more," Ellie admitted. "Who did you tell him you met?"

"I can't remember Ellie. Does it matter? Where do you think I went?" he asked her.

"I don't know, I was well out of it that night, remember? If you choose to sneak off then tell Tom not to tell me when he catches you coming back?" she questioned him.

"Are you speaking as my wife or a police officer now?" Joe wanted to know.

The other end went silent and he thought she'd hung up on him.

"Ell, I have to go, Hardy's pointing to his watch," Joe told her, hoping she was still there.

Alec was thinking Joe was having far more time than was normally allowed and signalled to the officer with Joe to get him to hang up.

"Joe, just tell him where you were, then decide if you want to tell me. If you don't, don't bother coming back," Ellie warned him. "I won't be lied to like you did, it makes you look guilty."

With that, Ellie did end the call and threw her phone on the sofa, just as Tom came in.

"You didn't mean that, did you Mum?" Tom asked tearfully.

"Come here Tom," Ellie motioned for him to sit next to her. "Your dad lied to us. Whoever he told you he was meeting the night Danny died, it wasn't them. DI Hardy already knew where that person was and it wasn't with your dad."

"But Mum, I think he told me more than one person," Tom tried to remember as the tears flowed and he tried to wipe them with his fingers.

"I'm sorry Tom, neither was the other person with him, we know that. They'd already admitted where they were as part of our early enquiries. Your dad didn't know that," she told him.

"Then why did he not tell you where he was?" Tom wanted to know as Ellie pulled him close.

"I don't know Tom but DI Hardy will find out. When he does, we have to be prepared for the worst. Tom, we think your dad really was meeting Danny that night, he was the last person to see Danny alive," she admitted.

"He can't have been Mum?" Tom replied. "It can't have been him meeting Danny, Danny would have told me."

"What do you mean Tom?" Ellie asked.

"Nothing," Tom went quiet.

"Tom, tell me now. I've had enough that your dad won't say anything," Ellie insisted.

"Danny fell out with me, he said he had a new friend," Tom had to admit.

"What? Tom, why didn't you tell me? Can you see how this looks now? If Danny had a new friend, he could have meant your dad. Now, I have to tell DI Hardy," Ellie told him. "We could be the ones to get your dad locked up, well us and the witnesses who say they saw him with Danny but now?"

Alec was about to go back to his office but Rose called him.

"Alec, do I need to make a statement now, to say the pendant was given to me by Claire and I lent it to Pippa?" she wanted to know. "Claire offered to give the pendant to me."

"Rose, don't touch that evidence, understand?" he warned her. "I'm on my way to meet you, stay where you are. Where exactly are you?"

"Outside the salon, she went back in," Rose told him.

She and Claire had stood talking for a few minutes.

"Are you coming in?" Claire had asked her.

"I'd better call Alec again, see what he wants to do about the pendant. I never actually gave Pippa the pendant, she was playing with my jewellery box one time and she tried it on. I told her she could wear it for a few days but on that Saturday, I didn't see her before I went to work. Sometimes she was outside but her parents were going to that wedding," Rose replied, trying to recall.

"You could have told me, I'd have never done anything if I'd known. Now Alec will want to question me over it," Claire complained. "I'd best get back to work before he does, this is going to be embarrassing."

"I'll ask him to make it look like you're helping over Danny's death," Rose offered.

Claire let out a nervous laugh.

"I already used that excuse. Maybe they believed me? Just as long as they don't lead me out in handcuffs?"

Alec went back upstairs after telling Bob on the desk he wanted a plain car and a marked car with two uniformed officers, one to be female outside in five minutes, leaving Bob scratching his head.

"Where are you going Sir?" Bob wanted to know.

"The hairdressers at the far end of the High Street, a witness to seeing Danny's killer needs speaking to," was all Alec was going to admit.

"Sir, the chief was looking for you again," Bob called after him as the lift door closed behind Alec.

Alec heard and thought the chief was always after him recently. She was just going to love this when he brought evidence back from his old case. He emerged on the next floor and went into the squad room, seeing the DS who had just been with him.

"Come with me, we have to go out and from now on, you're my driver," Alec told the man, not wanting a different one every time and having to explain things again.

Then he disappeared into his office to call Tess, who was the last person he wanted to speak to but she needed to be told.

"What do you want Alec? Is it about Daisy?" Tess wanted to know as she answered her mobile.

"No. You need to get yourself to Broadchurch, you might want to interview Claire Ripley," he replied.

"Whatever for? Oh don't tell me she's in the same town as you and Rose?" Tess laughed, looking for Dave.

"You could say that. So is Ashworth and Claire has the missing pendant," he admitted.

"You are joking Alec?" Tess went serious. "You mean she followed me and broke into my car that time? She knew that could put Lee Ashworth away. Wasn't she supposed to be scared of him?"

Tess was trying to remember how it had all ended, she'd put it out of her mind when everyone had left the town, including Rose and Alec.

"Can't you let things rest Alec? Why are you dragging up the past?" Tess then wanted to know. "Rose won't thank you."

"She knows and it was Claire who wanted to contact Rose but she saw something, the night Danny Latimer was killed," he admitted. "Anyway, I don't have time for this now, I'm on my way to collect the pendant, we can still prove Pippa was wearing it that night if its tested right away. You have to call my chief and tell her you want priority over it, tell her the case is being reopened."

"You know I won't reopen the case Alec, not just on the pendant being found," Tess scoffed.

"Not even if Ashworth's here as well?" Alec repeated, thinking there went their two witnesses to Joe Miller probably killing Danny.

"Are you serious?" Tess asked him, getting her notebook out of her desk drawer. "Both of them followed you and Rose?"

"No, we think Claire chose this place at random, before we got here," Alec replied. "Then Ashworth came looking for Claire and got lucky. They were meeting, the night Danny Latimer died and they saw the person who was with him. The two cases are connected Tess, whether we like it or not. Are you coming down?"

"It's a few hours drive Alec and I have Daisy to think about," Tess reminded him.

"Get a message to her to go to your sister's," Alec suggested. "Do you want in or not? I have to go, Rose is still outside where Claire works."

"Alec, how did you get your girlfriend involved?" Tess had to laugh.

"Claire wanted to meet with her. I should tell you that Claire gave the pendant to Rose, when Rose started working for her and Rose lent it to Pippa."

"This is getting worse by the minute," Tess told him. "Our chiefs are going to hit the roof. You never saw Rose wearing it?"

"Don't be daft Tess, why would I? Rose had no idea Pippa had been wearing the pendant when she died. Rose still maintains Ashworth drugged her that night, she must have assumed the pendant was still in Pippa's room, she had no reason to ask for it back. Besides, if she'd asked Cate, Cate might have refused?" Alec wondered.

Would Cate have wanted to keep it, if Pippa hadn't been wearing it that night, as a memento?

"I'll be down as soon as I can then?" Tess relented. "I'll have to get Claire to admit she broke into my car, she'll be charged on two counts but maybe we can come to an arrangement, that you still get her as a witness to Danny Latimer's death? As for Lee Ashworth though? If Pippa's DNA is still on the pendant, which it should be if Claire's not touched it and it's still in the evidence bag, we can re-arrest him on new evidence coming to light. It will prove Pippa was wearing it that night."

"Well I hope so, we had better be able to re-arrest him on those grounds. We don't want him claiming he thought Rose had left it in the car at some point in the past and claims he was going to give her it back," Alec told her.

"That won't work anyway Alec," Tess told him. "Hadn't they split up a good while beforehand?"

Alec hadn't thought of that, in his haste.

"I suppose not?" was all he was going to admit to Tess.

Tess knew he wasn't going to admit anything, especially where Rose was concerned.

"Congratulations by the way, Daisy told me Rose is pregnant. You never seemed to want any more children, remember? What happened to us Alec?" Tess wanted to know.

"You're asking me?" Alec was surprised she'd dragged up what happened. "Did you go to Dave or was it the other way around, eh?"

"Forget it then, I'm not arguing over Dave with you," Tess replied. "I'll go see the chief then set off, I'll send Daisy a text, she usually checks that social media site with her friends at break time."

"I'm going to meet Rose first, I don't want her waiting too long," Alec told Tess.

He knew the chief would be waiting for him again when he came back with Rose and Claire, this was going to take some explaining and he hoped Elaine wouldn't throw the whole thing out and tell him and Tess not to bring the two cases together. How could he have avoided it though? It was just how things had turned out.

Rose had gone back to the café, though it was getting ready to close as she waited for Alec to arrive.

"Sorry Miss," a young waitress was telling her. "We'll be taking the tables inside soon."

"Oh, I was just waiting for someone, I'll move when ya want to take them," Rose replied, looking at her phone.

Claire was in the salon, trying to concentrate on someone's hair.

"Claire, don't take too much off," a woman was telling her as she stood with the scissors in her hand while clipping back the side she'd just done.

"Oh, is that enough?" Claire tried to cover for herself that she was miles away.

Some of the others were watching her, thinking she was loosing it. Ten minutes later, she was sure a police car had pulled up just past the salon. Was Alec here already for the pendant? Was she ready to give it up when she'd got it back? She'd not dared to take it out of the evidence bag for fear one day, he would connect her with it being stolen. Now she had admitted it, she probably would be charged with stealing it, even though the pendant was hers.

It had been in her family for generations and her grandmother would turn in her grave at the thought she'd got into even more trouble than when she'd had to leave her village. If she'd never been caught up in what had gone on, she would maybe have never left.

Alec got out before his new DS when Rose had got up after seeing him in the plain car. He didn't care who was with him as he hugged Rose.

"This case isn't going away Alec," Rose was telling him.

"It's okay, we'll get it settled once and for all this time. Tess is on her way down and she'll reopen Sandbrook, she has to now."

"What about Danny's killer though?" Rose asked as he led her to the car.

"Don't worry about that, I have an idea love. Just wait in the car while we go see Claire. Why did she offer to give you the pendant though?" Alec wanted to know.

"Maybe because I'd give it to you, instead of you coming to her for it?" Rose wondered. "Go easy on her Alec, she just thought she was helping Lee out, she thought he was going to give it back to me."

"So I gathered," Alec admitted as he helped her into the back of the car.

His new DS opened the salon door, Alec indicating for the two uniformed officers to follow and Claire motioned for another woman to take over finishing off with her customer.

"We need to talk Claire," Alec told her as they all stood near the door.

"Where's Rose?" Claire asked him as the two uniformed officers flanked her. "Do you want the pendant?"

"Go fetch it and get your things Claire. Tess wants to talk to you as well, she's on her way here," Alec told her.

Chapter 43
The woman police officer escorted Claire to the staff room and Claire went into her locker as the WPC put her gloves on to take the pendant from Claire. The officer still didn't know what bearing the pendant had on the current investigation though and assumed it was something only Hardy knew about.

"Why are you looking at me?" Claire asked as she went back in her locker for her jacket after handing the evidence bag over.

"You were the last person to see Danny Latimer alive?" the WPC asked her. "I knew Danny, most of the town did. Don't you want to help catch his killer? What's the pendant got to do with things?"

"Why don't you ask your boss?" Claire tried to evade the question. "It's not up to me to say anything, is it?"

Claire knew why Alec was keeping everything so secretive, because he shouldn't be investigating two crimes at the same time. That was why he'd be referring the one from Sandbrook back to Tess. She'd thought she'd see the last of Alec's pain of an ex wife, they had always been arguing whenever she'd seen them and she was surprised they were still actually talking to each other.

"Is Claire going to be away long?" one of the women working there asked Alec.

"That depends? Claire is helping with an investigation," was all Alec was prepared to say.

He didn't know that Olly had been down that way and had seen the cars outside the salon, then Olly had called Maggie.

"Well find out what all the fuss is about then?" Maggie encouraged him. "Are they arresting someone?"

"Well there's a marked and an unmarked police car here," Olly replied. "I think DI Hardy's in there, he won't be in for a haircut," he laughed.

"Olly. Concentrate," Maggie had to remind him.

Olly kept a safe distance so he'd see anyone coming out, then a few minutes later, Claire was led out by the WPC and helped into the back of the marked car. Then Alec followed them out, the evidence bag in his hand. He thought this was getting interesting as Alec got in the plain car. Then he was sure he could see someone else in the back of the car.

He got his phone out and called his aunt.

"What's DI Hardy doing at the hair salon at the bottom of the High Street?" he asked Ellie.

"Olly, there is no news there, leave it alone," Ellie warned him.

"Is it to do with Danny's death?" Olly persisted.

"Olly, forget it," Ellie warned him again. "I can't help you any more, I'm off the case."

"Fine, I have to go now," Olly replied as he headed for his car.

"Don't go after them," Ellie told him, now talking to herself as he hung up.

She tried to call him back but only got his voicemail, something that was becoming a habit with her nephew. She sometimes wished she wasn't related to him. She dialled Alec's mobile to warn him.

"I think Olly might be following you," she told Alec when he answered his mobile with 'what?'.

"What? For goodness sake, what is it with him?" Alec wanted to know as he turned to his new DS. "Call the other car and have them take Claire around the back and into the underground car park," he suggested. "Miller, stop your nephew."

Ellie was wondering why she always had to deal with her nephew. "Bob," she greeted the desk sergeant. "Stop my nephew following Hardy's car when they arrive."

"Trouble with Olly again?" Bob had to laugh.

"It's okay you laughing, Hardy doesn't chew you out for everything my nephew does when he gets in the way," Ellie reminded him.

Once inside the police garage, Alec helped Rose out of the plain car while Claire watched on.

"Why does she get special treatment then?" she asked the WPC.

"I can't say, Miss," the female officer replied. "He never tells us."

"Oh, I think I know, she's pregnant," Claire replied with a wicked smile on her face. "She tricked me and sent him after me. I mean I get to see her for the first time since I've been in this town and he connects me to an old case as well as the one he's working on now."

"I'm sure DI Hardy will explain it all," the WPC replied as she led Claire back upstairs.

"What's wrong with Claire?" Rose was asking Alec as she got out of the car carefully.

"I have no idea, she asked for a meeting with you," Alec reminded her.

Ellie was annoyed she'd not been able to tell Hardy about what Tom had said so she tried again.

"Miller, I'm busy," Alec finally replied as he and Rose went upstairs. "I'm dealing with Claire."

"Well you have more than that to worry about. Tom just told me something else," Ellie replied.

"As if he's not said enough after all this time?" Alec told her.

"Danny told him he'd made a new friend. That had to be Joe," Ellie replied.

"I will ask him about it. Claire has the pendant from my last case and guess what?" he asked Ellie as they got to the interview room and Claire was being led inside. "The pendant used to be Claire's, she gave it to Rose, who then only lent it to Pippa."

"What? You never knew that?" Ellie asked him.

"I had no reason to, just as Rose had no reason to say anything about it. To her and Claire, it was just a missing pendant, it was never described anywhere. Rose had no idea Pippa had been wearing it that night," Alec explained. "She only saw Pippa for a few minutes when the girl was upset about what may have happened to Lisa."

"Then they both got drugged?" Ellie remembered hearing about the case. "So Pippa knew Lee had hurt Lisa?"

"Well we don't know, Rose never said," he replied as a WPC was leading Rose to another interview room to wait for him. "As far as I know, she took Pippa upstairs and Lee put something in their drinks. Then when Rose woke up, Pippa was gone. I need to ask Rose some more questions, now that some things are beginning to clear up."

"What are you going to do about Joe?" Ellie wanted to know. "Won't you have to charge him today?"

"You've soon changed your tune," Alec noted. "You were so certain he was totally innocent. Now, you are believing your son over him."

"Thanks for reminding me," Ellie got annoyed. "I don't want to choose sides. Tom has no reason to make it up though, he's just as upset at his dad being arrested. I really hate this situation."

"I can understand that Miller. Back in Sandbrook, when Rose and I were getting involved with each other, all I wanted to do was put Lee Ashworth behind bars for what he put Rose through, never mind anything else. Now, I'm trying to get Tess to reopen the case."

"Do you think she will?" Ellie wondered.

"Maybe? She's on her way here anyway. I have more things to worry about now, I may ask for another extension to hold Joe, pending new evidence, that being what your son just told you. I will need to interview Tom formally," he told Ellie.

"I want a solicitor present then," Ellie warned him. "I don't want Tom getting any more upset than he already is. No child should have to give testimony that could lock up one of their parents."

"I don't like it any more than you do Miller but Joe made his choice that night. If he had let Danny run off he may be facing charges but not a murder charge," Alec replied.

"I still can't believe he did anything to Danny," Ellie admitted.

"He won't admit anything Miller, it makes it even more suspicious when we have two witnesses," Alec reminded her.

"Yes and one of your witnesses stole evidence for a murder suspect, your other witness and is about to get him locked up," Ellie reminded him. Then she let out a nervous laugh. "Can you see how this looks?"

Alec had to admit it didn't look good.

"Anything else Tom told you?" Alec wanted to know before going to talk to Claire.

Ellie said no so he went to join the DS and Claire.

"Do you want a solicitor?" Alec asked Claire as he sat down, the evidence bag containing the controversial pedant that now four people plus the police in Sandbrook had an interest in.

Alec had to admit there were that many, since Claire had given it to Rose and Ashworth wanted it back to have a hold over Rose and hide the fact he had Pippa in his car that night. Ashworth though would be surprised when confronted about it that Claire had given it to Rose – or did he already know?

Claire shook her head, Alec thinking all the fight had gone out of her.

"I guess I don't get the pendant back then?" Claire asked him. "I stole it for nothing Alec. I just wanted it back because it was my grandmother's."

"That's beside the point Claire," Alec reminded her. "You said you didn't know at the time the pendant had been yours."

"I meant as soon as I saw it, Alec. Besides, I figured it out when Lee called me, that he was desperate to get it back. It made me think it might be the same one I gave to Rose. What happens now?" she asked, resting her head on her hands.

"Sign a statement saying Lee asked you to steal it for him," Alec replied. "We will send it for testing to see if Pippa's DNA was on it. You have to say where you got it from and if Lee gave you a reason for getting it back for him."

"How do you expect me to remember that, Alec?" Claire wanted to know as she looked up at him.

"Then you had better start remembering," Alec advised her. "Rose now has to give a statement you gave it to her and she lent it to Pippa."

"I didn't give it to her to lend to a kid," Claire objected. "How did I know what was going to happen?"

"You will have to wait here until Tess arrives," Alec told her. "She will want to talk to you about that day, she may press charges when you smashed her car window to steal the evidence bag."

"Didn't she claim on the insurance?" Claire scoffed, making Alec raise his eyebrows.

"You were watching from across the road, were you not?" Alec realised. "When we were searching Ashworth's car?"

"Of course I was Alec, I had to think of something when I saw Tess driving off with it. I had no idea she was going to stop off at that pub though. Was she meeting someone then?" Claire laughed.

"None of your business," Alec replied, not taking the bait.

"Oh she was?" Claire found it amusing, not that she didn't already suspect.

She knew it had been more than Tess meeting up with the bloke she'd seen greet Tess but Alec didn't seem to know.

"Do you want to hear about that?" Claire teased.

"Stop it Claire. Tess and I are divorced, nothing you say is of interest to me," he tried to change the subject. "Do you want to talk about how I helped you?" he then reminded her. "We can do that, if you want? How you came to me when you had no-one else and you had fallen out with Rose."

"You promised me no-one would know, Alec. I bet you told Rose? Yeah, of course you did," Claire replied, sitting up again.

"Stop changing the subject Claire. Sign a statement and when Tess has talked to you, we can take it from there," Alec then told her.

He knew Tess would find it interesting.

"You want me to tell on Lee?" Claire wanted to make sure. "Do ya know what he'll do if he finds out?"

"If you tell us the truth, you may not have to worry," Alec told her. "Think about it. I have someone else to interview."

"You mean your girlfriend? Just to confirm I gave the pendant to her?" Claire asked him. "You would never have known about Lee if Rose hadn't let that girl wear it."

Alec already knew that. If Rose had spotted Pippa wearing it that night, she could have confirmed it to them, that Lee had then disposed of Pippa, not knowing the pendant had belonged to Rose at the time.

"Rose was my best friend," Claire reminded him. "Lee went and spoiled that."

"How do you mean?" Alec wanted to know.

"She used to come round to my place and then she stopped, the week after Pippa was found," Claire told him.

"She was scared of what Lee would do to her," Alec reminded Claire. "Write your statement out Claire, including how you were contacted by Lee to get the pendant back and what he told you at the time."

"He called me from the police station and you never knew," Claire laughed. "How did ya let that one slip by?"

Alec wasn't interested in Claire being so petty, after he'd help her that time.

"Does Lee know you had an abortion?" Alec turned the tables on her.

"Yes and I bet you gave him the idea?" Claire replied.

"Oh no Claire, he never found out from me," Alec defended himself as he got up.

"If you say so," Claire huffed as the WPC who had stayed put a pad and a pen in front of Claire.

Alec went to the door and she called after him.

"Are ya just gonna leave me to face Tess then?" Claire wanted to know.

"You have some explaining to do Claire," Alec reminded her.

Claire realised she wasn't going to get anywhere with Alec so she decided when Tess arrived, she'd try and get the better of her instead. Alec went into the other interview room, leaving Joe Miller for the time being, then he decided to call the desk and arrange to send Joe to the remand centre.

"What did Claire have to say?" Rose wanted to know.

"Nothing much, we'll have to wait until Tess arrives, see if she will talk to her. Rose, I need you to make a short statement, okay?" he asked her. "Just to say Claire gave the pendant to you and you lent it to Pippa. I'll have to contact Cate again, she won't be pleased."

He got his phone out and tried calling Cate.

"What do you want?" Cate didn't seemed pleased he'd called.

"We've had a new development in Pippa's death," he told her, using the word 'death' instead of 'murder' since he was a bit more tactful these days.

"Not before time," Cate replied. "Go on then, have you made an arrest?"

"Not yet but we expect to, shortly. Cate, I need you to confirm that Pippa was wearing a pendant on the morning you went to that wedding," Alec asked her.

"How many more times?" Cate asked. "It was the one she'd come back with when she'd been next door. I remember asking where she'd got it from, she said Rose had let her wear it. I told her she had to return it before Rose asked for it back. Have you found it then?"

"We believe so, it's been identified and gone for testing," Alec had to admit without saying it had been by Claire and Rose.

"So Rose is still with you then?" Cate asked. "Tess has mentioned it a few times, it really pisses her off," she laughed.

Alec was glad Tess had admitted it to someone.

"Leave Rose out of it Cate," Alec reminded her.

"She expects me to believe she didn't know what happened that night?" Cate asked him. "It's funny how she was conveniently drugged as well as Lee drugging my Pippa."

Alec couldn't remember what had come out at the trial and if Cate had been listening anyway. At least Cate did remember Pippa had only borrowed the pendant and wouldn't ask for it back.

"Rose has medical evidence she had been drugged that night," he then reminded Cate.

"If you say so? Let me know when you arrest Lee Ashworth for killing my Pippa," Cate replied before ending the call.

"She is still as hostile as ever," Alec turned towards Rose.

"I don't suppose it'll ever go away?" Rose wondered. "What happens now?"

"That's up to Tess when she arrives. It depends if she thinks there is enough new evidence to arrest Ashworth again. I can't call him back yet or he will get suspicious and go off somewhere," Alec told her. "We just have to wait for Tess to decide."

"Are ya charging Claire with anything?" Rose wanted to know.

"I expect Tess will charge Claire with breaking into her car and stealing the evidence?" Alec assumed. "Maybe conspiracy to impede a police investigation? I won't let Tess ask you any questions, even if she insists since Claire gave the pendant to you."

"Alec, if it helps put Lee away, I don't mind," Rose replied. "Will you be able to be there if she does ask questions?"

"I will try to be, I see no reason why she would object," Alec told her.

"Geez, she'll have plenty of objections," Rose had to laugh. "Best write this statement out then?"

Alec had to smile at her, he often wondered what she saw in him, especially when Tess had been so obsessed with splitting them up. He'd never dared ask Rose why she stayed with him after all they'd been through together, he supposed she would just say she loved him and it was enough.

While Rose wrote her statement, he had Joe Miller officially charged with killing Danny and confirmed the arrangements to move him.

"Can I see my wife?" Joe asked as he stood in the booking area and he was handed his belongings. "Why isn't my solicitor here?"

"You don't need one," Alec told him. "You are being moved to a remand centre, you can call one from there, then you will be able to have visitors."

"You still don't have enough proof to keep me locked up," Joe still protested.

"Yes, we do, you admitted you had been out and tried to force your own son into staying quiet," Alec reminded him.

He had been thinking about what Ellie had said to him.

"Tom will have got confused," Joe tried to tell him. "We'd just come back from holiday, it had been a long day for everyone."

"That's no excuse Joe," Alec told him. "If anything that makes you sound even more guilty. Tom remembers that Danny had told him he'd got a new friend. That was you, wasn't it?"

Joe let out a laugh.

"That's just kids talking, that's no proof," he tried to tell Alec.

"Even so, it all sounds bad on you. You'll have a chance to talk to your solicitor about it once you're on remand," Alec replied, wondering why Tess was taking so long.

He hoped to get Joe out of the station and both Claire and Ashworth charged over Pippa's death before he finished for the day. He watched Joe being led to the police garage to be transferred to Exeter remand centre then went to see how Rose was getting on.

"You can go now, I'll get a car to take you home," he told her. "By the way, don't talk to Ellie Miller about Joe being arrested, will you?"

"If it's important? She's bound to want to talk," Rose reminded him.

"Well if she does, don't agree to anything, will you?" he wanted to make sure. "I will call her and tell her he's been moved."

"It'll make her worse," Rose warned him. "I should maybe go see her? Can the car drop me at her house?"

"I expect so?" Alec agreed. "Just don't let her try to convince you he's innocent. Rose, he's been officially charged now so I can't discuss it with you, if your friend asks."

Rose nodded her agreement and gave him a hug as a uniformed officer said a car was waiting for Rose.

"Do ya wanna call and get some food on your way home?" Rose turned to ask as she was leaving.

Alec agreed then went off to wait for Tess arriving and to call Ellie. Claire was getting bored with waiting and had already drank two cups of coffee and knocked on the door to get the attention of the officer outside.

"What's happening?" Claire wanted to know.

"I can't say Miss, just DI Hardy's instructions you remain here," the male officer replied.

"I need the ladies room," Claire grinned, hoping it would make the male officer blush.

"I'll get a WPC to escort you," he replied, Claire showing her disappointment it hadn't worked.

While Claire was being escorted to the restrooms, Alec was telling Ellie that Rose was coming to see her.

"I don't feel like having visitors," Ellie was telling him.

"Rose is concerned about you," Alec was trying to convince her. "You need someone to talk to."

"Isn't that a conflict of interests?" Ellie wanted to know.

"Not if Rose does not mention what you talk about," Alec thought was safe to assume, not that he'd been in this position before.

Then he compared it to how things had been with him and Rose about what had happened in Sandbrook. How were these two cases getting intertwined with each other time after time and now, he was waiting for his ex wife to arrive to question how Claire had fallen into Lee Ashworth's trap and had agreed to get the pendant she'd given to Rose back, only she'd not known it was the same pendant at the time.

His desk phone rang to say Tess was waiting downstairs for him and he went down to meet her.

"Really Alec, what's going on?" Tess wanted to know. "I'd better speak to your chief and see who has precedence, since I didn't have time before I left."

"I don't care Tess, just get on with it," Alec replied. "All I'm concerned with is getting Danny Latimer's killer locked up, I want the statements from Ashworth and Claire valid enough that they saw the accused up at that hut with Danny Latimer and so a jury will convict him."

"You're asking an awful lot Alec," Tess reminded him. "What if you have to sacrifice one over the other?"

Chapter 44
The final chapter! It took a lot longer to complete than I ever imagined but who knew when I started it what the world was going to go through?

"I wish Alec hadn't done this," the chief admitted.

"Not half has much as I do," Tess agreed. "He called me when he'd brought Claire Ripley in. She was the one who broke into my car and stole the evidence but until now, we had no proof."

"I'm well aware of that, DS Henchard," the chief told Tess.

"Alec told me he wants the case reopened but I'll need to talk to Claire first, to see if she'll go up against Lee Ashworth. She didn't get involved the last time," Tess replied.

"No, that would have been a certain Rose Tyler?" the chief smiled. "I'm also aware that she is Alec's girlfriend."

Tess didn't want to be reminded of that.

"Yes, well. We didn't manage to get a conviction on her testimony alone but with the pendant being found, we may get another trial out of it. It's complicated now though, so I've just been told," Tess told the chief.

"How so? What's got complicated?" the chief asked.

"The missing pendant. It turns out it belonged to Claire, who then gave it to Rose and Rose let Pippa borrow it," Tess explained.

"I see then?" the chief seemed surprised. "Well that does complicate things? So, does the pendant belong to Claire or Rose?"

Tess hadn't thought of that, had she?

"A good question Ma'am, if Claire gave it to Rose, I guess technically it's hers. I'll have to consult with Alec, he was the one who found Claire and brought her in," Tess had to admit. "The other thing is she's apparently tied in with Danny Latimer's murder?"

"Yes, I know," the chief replied. "Her and Lee Ashworth apparently saw the boy with the man accused of his murder."

"I think Alec may have mentioned it," Tess tried to recall, having been in a rush to drive down to Broadchurch. "I knew about Claire. So, am I wasting my time here?" she wanted to know.

"Alec's in charge of the investigation, you'll have to work with him," the chief suggested.

Tess knew that wasn't going to be easy by any means. She thought that had been the end of it when he and Rose had left after the disastrous trial and him compromising the witness, although Alec had sworn that had not been the case.

"I just wanted to know if you wanted the witnesses to Danny's death staying here or you would release them to my custody over Sandbrook?" Tess asked.

"Ideally, we want the conviction of the man who killed Danny," the chief replied. "Have you been told who the suspect is?"

"No, I don't think Alec even mentioned it," Tess tried to remember.

"It's the husband of one of our DS's, Joe Miller. His wife worked with Alec," the chief revealed.

"This is getting better by the minute," Tess was not amused. "She's been relieved of duty though?"

"Of course. I think Alec is still contacting her, something about her son telling her what his dad had said on the night Danny died. I believe he was told not to tell his mother that his dad had been out," the chief revealed.

"So he is guilty then?" Tess asked.

"It's looking like it," the chief agreed. "I want that man proven guilty."

"I know that Ma'am. We'll have to come to some sort of compromise?" Tess suggested.

"Yes, well you had better see what Claire has to tell you?" the chief agreed. "You may want her to tell you how Ashworth got her to agree to steal the evidence from your car. If you don't press charges, Alec can still have her as a witness to seeing Danny's killer."

Tess was annoyed she couldn't charge Claire for smashing her car window that evening and Alec making sure she took responsibility for it. The chief could see Tess wasn't keen on the idea.

"I understand your concerns about it," the chief told Tess. "You can easily explain getting the pendant back or you can get Claire on a lesser charge, give her a warning. We need one credible witness as to Joe Miller being seen with Danny that night. It's the most we have unless he admits it was him and at present, he's not."

"So you would rather Claire be the credible witness?" Tess wanted to make sure.

"I think we can agree she is the most likely?" the chief suggested. "Given that Ashworth was the main suspect in your case and Claire is only just admitting she stole the evidence for him. If it transpires that Claire was also a victim and helped Ashworth unwillingly, she may be accepted as a witness to our case."

"I don't even understand how Alec could have agreed to use them for witnesses," Tess objected.

"If he thought at the time there was no way of convicting Ashworth?" the chief wondered.

"He knows differently now," Tess insisted. "So if I agree and let Claire off?"

"We both get what we want," the chief agreed. "I'll call Alec and have him join us? Or do you want to tell him?"

"I'll go tell him," Tess told her. "I suppose this is the only solution?"

"It would seem so? I'll let you go off and interview Claire then get Alec to call Ashworth in," the chief suggested.

Tess agreed and was shown to Alec's office, where she gave him the news. He could tell right away Tess was disappointed she wouldn't be taking Claire and Ashworth back with her.

"I only agreed so Danny's killer would be convicted," Tess told him.

"Am I suppose to thank you?" Alec wanted to know.

"That's typical of you Alec," Tess wasn't going to let him win. "Just get Lee Ashworth here but don't go telling him I'm here."

"Very well," Alec reluctantly agreed. "Do you want help interviewing Claire?"

"Just lend me one of your DS's," Tess replied, not wanting to do any interviews with him.

Alec was hardly surprised at her answer. He dialled Lee Ashworth's number and told him to be at the station as soon as he could.

"I thought I'd told you everything from that night?" Lee was insisting. "How many more times to you want to hear it? This had better not be some kind of trick. I told you last time that was it."

"I still need you to come in," Alec insisted. "I could make it official."

"I knew I couldn't trust you," Ashworth told him. "What about Claire?"

"She's still here," Alec admitted, looking at Tess. "She had something interesting to tell us."

"Did she now?" Lee asked. "About how I contacted her when I traced her to this town?"

Alec thought he might just get away with this, if he was careful.

"Why did you contact her?" Alec asked.

"I missed her," Lee tried to bluff. "I knew she'd wouldn't be able to resist meeting me, then we saw that bloke with that boy and it was spoiled. So if he gets locked up, it sort of compensates I suppose?"

"Then get yourself here," Alec insisted, before Ashworth hung up.

"I'll think about it," Ashworth replied.

"Today Ashworth," Alec sounded annoyed, not wanting Tess to hang around.

"I do it on my terms," Ashworth also insisted. "Take it or leave it."

Alec had now put the call on the speaker so he muted it.

"I want him here tonight Alec," Tess got annoyed.

"You will just have to wait, if you want to take him back with you," Alec told her. "Beside, you'll need help."

Tess was wondering why he had to be so smug about the fact she didn't want to take Ashworth back on her own and she wouldn't get anyone from Sandbrook until the next day.

"Fine," Alec told Lee. "Be here for nine in the morning. Where are you staying?" he thought he'd try and find out, in case the man didn't show.

"Oh no Hardy, why should I tell you?" Lee wanted to know.

With that, Ashworth ended the call.

"He knew what you were trying to do Alec," Tess gloated. "Where's Claire?"

Claire was getting tired of waiting, even though she'd had some food brought to her.

"Where is everyone?" she'd asked as the food arrived.

"I believe someone just arrived from Sandbrook," the male officer told her.

Claire knew Tess wouldn't mess around, she'd want revenge for her car being broken into. So when Tess finally walked into the room, Claire got a surprise.

"So, you admit to breaking into my car to get the pendant?" Tess asked her.

"I suppose Alec already told you I admitted it?" Claire replied sarcastically. "Did he tell you the pendant was mine and I gave it to Rose?"

Claire was hoping that was news to Tess.

"Yes and you were probably easily led by Lee Ashworth?" Tess was trying to make it easy for her. "If you admit you were only trying to help him, I won't press charges, since you returned the pendant."

"Are you joking?" Claire wanted to know. "So what's the catch?"

"Broadchurch police want Danny Latimer's killer to be charged," Tess reminded Claire. "You can help do that."

"So I say I was up near that hut on my own?" Claire wanted to know.

"No but you won't have to name the person you were with," Tess suggested, wondering if Alec would play along.

Claire was thinking about it. She wouldn't get taken back to Sandbrook and be charged with helping Lee by stealing the evidence against him. Had she known what was going to happen, she'd never have got involved. The only good thing to come out of it was she got the pendant back but she'd never been able to bring herself to take it out of the sealed evidence bag.

She'd had the advantage, Lee had only just found her and he'd been the one who was worried all this time that she would hand it in and he'd be picked up and re-arrested. Did he know she was being questioned not only about the boy's death but over having the evidence in Pippa's death?

So far, all Lee knew was that they'd both almost certainly witnessed the man responsible for killing that young boy and he wouldn't yet be aware Tess was asking about the pendant.

"So why do you want me to agree?" Claire asked Tess. "You want to re-arrest Lee for killing Pippa? He'll know I helped you, what happens then?"

Tess was thinking about what assurances Claire would want in exchange.

"Let me talk to DI Hardy about it," Tess suggested. "We can work something out."

"Fine. So, you let me go as long as I appear as a witness to who I saw with that boy that night?" Claire wanted to make sure.

"I'll have to clear it but yes," Tess replied. "With the pendant, we can prove Lee was with Pippa that night."

"So can I go now?" Claire asked. "You don't need anything from me about how I gave you the pendant back? Will it be returned to me or Rose?"

"If it was yours originally, I'll make sure you get it back," Tess promised her.

"Can you promise me you'll lock Lee up now?" Claire wanted to make sure as she got up.

"I'll be getting someone down from Sandbrook to take Lee back," Tess assured her. "I can arrest him pending new evidence, evidence that will now convict him."

"As long as you keep me out of it," Claire replied.

"I'll make sure you are," Tess promised.

Now, both herself and Alec would get what they wanted, two suspects locked up. With the pendant returned, she could maybe get Rose involved again, to say Pippa was wearing it that day but had Alec already mentioned at some point that Rose didn't see it on the girl that night?

She did wonder how Rose didn't know the pendant they'd been looking for all this time had been the one Claire had given her, it was a bit ironic she supposed. How could Rose not guess it was the same one? How did Alec not know the pendant had been given to Rose who had let Pippa borrow it?

There were a whole new set of questions to be asked. She watched Claire leave then went back to Alec's office and called the station in Sandbrook to get two uniformed officers down the following morning.

"You're sure you can re-arrest Ashworth?" Alec wanted to be certain.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't," Tess replied confidently. "I expect you want to interview him with me?"

"I did not think you would want me there," Alec was surprised. "So where are you staying?"

"I suppose with you and Rose is out of the question?" Tess asked hopefully.

Alec shook his head and called Rose, who was more forgiving than he was.

"Just for one night then?" Rose was debating as she had plans for the spare room.

With the cottage being rented though, she was somewhat limited and they may still get chance to move before the baby came. That was if whoever killed Danny was convicted and right now, his wife was still defending him.

"Well okay then, if it was unexpected and she's not booked anywhere?" Rose relented.

"Thanks love, we just have a few more things to sort out. You need to tell Tess the full story about those pendants," Alec reminded her.

"Geez Alec, everything's so mixed up right now," Rose told him.

"Well at least explain some of it love," Alec tried to persuade her. "In future, maybe I should inspect the contents of your jewellery box?"

Tess wondered what all that was about as Alec tried to look serious.

"So, what are we doing about Claire then?" Tess asked as she sat opposite him. "I said we can work something out and I won't charge her with stealing that pendant. So, which pendant are we even talking about?"

"Rose will try to explain but briefly, Claire gave Rose a pendant, which she let Pippa borrow. Then there was the one she gave Pippa as a Christmas present. Don't ask me," Alec replied.

"You were lucky they could never prove you swapped that other pendant for the missing one," Tess told him. I never said anything to your chief about it."

"Well if someone hadn't stopped on their way back with the original one, we never would have," Alec replied sarcastically.

"Yes Alec, bring that up again why don't you?" Tess huffed.

"Well, I want Claire to testify Joe Miller was the man she saw with Danny," Alec pointed out.

"Don't worry Alec, you will but if she backs out, it won't be because of me," Tess promised.

Alec just hoped for a change, Tess wouldn't mess things up.

Lee had a feeling Claire was behind Hardy's last call to him so he was waiting for her when she finally got home.

"What are you doing here Lee?" Claire wanted to know.

"Take a wild guess Claire," Lee sounded in a bad mood. "Did you know Hardy wants to see me again tomorrow?" he asked as he followed her inside before Claire had chance to stop him.

"How would I know Lee? I've been at work," Claire lied as she'd only been to lock up and she'd just made it.

"Don't lie to me Claire," she was warned. "What have you been telling Hardy?"

"Nothing. Look if he's wanting to speak to you again, it'll only be to make sure you're not backing out of saying who you saw with that boy."

"Leave it out Claire, I already told him that's it, I gave my statement and want nothing else to do with it," Lee replied.

Claire let out a laugh but he backed her into a corner, fingering her denim shirt. She tried to slap his hand away but he was persistent, unfastening the metal button.

"For the final time Claire, give up the pendant," he told her forcefully.

"No chance Lee, why would I do that now?" she asked as he stared at her cleavage.

"Because you want me gone, don't you?" he suggested.

That was true but now, she had no pendant to give up but he didn't know that. So, she would have to bluff her way out as usual.

"I do want you gone Lee but that's the only insurance I have and the police won't go after me now," Claire replied. "Alec's already after you."

"Don't remind me," Lee told her, his hand hovering over the next button.

After he dragged her into the bedroom, they lay together, Claire on her front.

"I'll see what Hardy wants, then I'm off back to France," Lee warned her, rubbing her back.

"Good, is that where you were?" Claire couldn't remember if he'd told her where he'd been hiding since he left Sandbrook.

"I went there to get away from you and to forget Rose, not that I don't owe her as well as you," he admitted. "At least you didn't testify against me, unlike Rose did."

"I bet she told them everything, including how you threatened her," Claire replied.

"How do you know I threatened her?" Lee wanted to know. "Claire?"

He tousled her hair then grabbed hold of it, pulling her head back.

"Get off Lee," Claire warned him. "It was a lucky guess, you would have threatened her with something, knowing you."

Lee suddenly let go and went to get out of bed.

"Not staying then?" Claire asked.

"What do you think?" he replied, going for his shorts.

"Stay if you want?" Claire offered.

"Why not? I have to be at the police station in the morning anyway. How come it's right on the harbour?" Lee wondered.

"Don't ask me," Claire replied.

Alec had got home early, wanting to check on Rose.

"I'm fine," Rose assured him after they'd kissed as Tess was waiting to be let in.

"Sorry to intrude," Tess reminded them she was there.

"It's okay, the hotels will be expensive, they'll be making up for loss of revenue," Rose told her.

"Let's eat early?" Alec suggested as he went to the fridge. "Have you recovered from your meeting with Claire love?" he asked Rose.

"It was good to see her again but I had no idea she'd give up the pendant to ya," Rose admitted.

"So you had no idea she'd come here then?" Tess wanted to check.

"No, not until Alec realised she was here. I use another hairdressers," Rose replied.

"Your friend says she uses it," Alec told Rose.

Both Rose and Tess looked at him.

"Claire recognised her," he added, looking surprised. "How do you think I know?" he further added.

Rose burst out laughing.

"Ha, your face!" Rose was still laughing.

"That's not funny Rose," he tried to tell her, Tess now looking at both of them. "She admitted it, before her husband was arrested. How did your visit to her go?"

"She wasn't that pleased to see me," Rose admitted. "Poor Fred doesn't know what's going on and that his dad might not be going home."

"Are you sure you can rely on Claire?" Tess asked as she sat at the kitchen table.

"If you don't charge her Tess. Then she can testify in court, if her name is clear," Alec told her.

"What about using Lee?" Rose wanted to know.

"That's why I'm here," Tess admitted. "I can't guarantee his statement will be accepted, if I can finally lock him for killing Pippa."

"Are ya sure this time?" Rose asked cautiously.

"You hardly helped last time, both of you," Tess reminded them.

Rose was about to ask her if she was going to sleep on a bench tonight but Alec gave her a warning look not to say anything.

"Oh no Tess, you are not pining the blame on us," Alec reminded her. "If we had tried, we could have got Claire to hand over the real pendant."

"Watcha mean the real pendant?" Rose wondered. "Claire just gave ya the one she gave to me. I'm a bit confused."

"When we said we had the pendant Pippa wore that night, we bluffed," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah, I remember," Rose agreed. "Good thing they didn't want to see it then?"

"Well it would have been his fault," Tess reminded Alec. "Which pendant did you get?"

"I believe it was just a random one I got Cate to hand over," Alec admitted. "I told her it would help."

"Maybe it was the one I gave her for Christmas? I didn't know at the time she was gonna be killed. I must have been confused that night? So, the one I let Pippa borrow was in Lee's car, Cate told ya?"

"Yes, I made sure," Alec replied.

"Did they look almost identical?" Tess wondered.

Rose thought about it.

"Now ya mention it? Yeah, they looked a bit alike I suppose? I don't know why I didn't think of it before?" Rose had to admit.

"Rose, everything was going on at once," Alec reminded her. "You had been drugged, you lost two friends and Ashworth was being hostile to you."

Tess thought Rose wouldn't want to be reminded of the facts. Still, Claire had been certain enough the pendant found in Lee's car had definitely been hers.

"Rose, why did Claire give you the pendant" Tess asked her. "Was there a special reason?"

"We were good friends at one time. She said it had been her grandmother's," Rose recalled. "I didn't want to take it from her at first. She never said why she wanted me to take it. Pippa took a liking to it and I never intended for her to keep it for so long."

"Rose, that night, you never noticed her wearing a pendant at all?" Alec wanted to be certain.

"No, I don't think so but I never saw her for long. She was crying over what she thought she'd heard with Lee and Lisa. I was gonna confront Lee but he knocked me out with that stuff," Rose told him. "I really hate going through all this again. Do I have to stand up in court again?"

"Tess?" Alec turned to his ex wife after putting his arms around Rose.

"No, it should all be on record," Tess replied. "I'll try and keep you out of it, though how I'm going to explain how I got this pendant back, I don't know."

"Well I need Claire to put Joe Miller behind bars," Alec reminded her.

"Hey Tess, why don't you just say there was a mix-up before and the one you put up as evidence was that one all along?" Rose wondered.

"That won't work," Tess insisted, wondering if they were ever going to eat.

"Tess, no-one saw the pendant properly when it was found in Ashworth's car," Alec pointed out as he let go of Rose.

"Then Claire kept it for nothing?" Rose wondered.

"No, she kept it to keep Ashworth from being locked up," Alec replied.

"She must have had some reason?" Rose insisted.

"Well I don't think she'll ever tell us," Tess told them both. "So, I take Ashworth into custody on what? It was all riding on getting the pendant back."

"No-one ever knew the pendant in court was a substitute, apart from us," Alec reminded her.

"Can't ya have the pendant ya got back from Claire tested?" Rose suggested.

"Then what?" Alec asked her.

"Then admit we lied about it?" Tess scoffed.

"No, we tell them Claire substituted them, when your car was broken into," Alec replied.

"Hey, that might work," Rose smiled at her brilliant partner.

"Yes," Alec agreed. "Tess, you admit your car was broken into that night because Claire wanted her pendant back."

"That's all well and good but how do I explain the one in court if Cate gave it to you?" Tess wanted to know.

"Easy," Rose grinned. "You just tell Cate you wanted them for comparison. Did she get the other one back?"

"Well Tess?" Alec asked her. "We left, remember?"

"Yes, you left me to clean it all up," Tess remembered. "I suppose it's worth a try?"

**A few weeks later**

"I still can't believe Joe admitted it," Ellie was trying to come to terms with Joe finally saying he accidentally killed Danny.

Claire had already tried to claim they didn't need her as a witness now but Alec was trying to say nothing had changed.

"Well he did and we have him on recording," Alec was telling Ellie.

"What if Claire doesn't appear though?" Ellie wondered.

"I think she will do the right thing," Alec replied.

Well he hoped Claire would. Tess had successfully charged Lee Ashworth with drugging Rose and Pippa, overdosing the young girl then he admitted leaving her in the woods when he was told that Ricky was about to give him up.

"So we can forget about it, for good?" Rose was asking Alec when they left Ellie.

"Yes love. We can go back to you taking care of yourself and the baby," Alec smiled as he helped her into the car.

"Great. There is one thing though? Why is Claire still scared of Lee?" Rose wondered. "She must have something else on him? He knew she'd been pregnant?"

"Yes, he knew," Alec admitted as he set off home. "Maybe he was just annoyed it was never you?"

"Yuck," Rose replied. "I'm glad it wasn't."

"So am I love," Alec agreed. "I am glad you chose me."

"Yeah, so am I and we can look for another place to live now," Rose agreed.

"Your friend may sell up and move away," Alec hinted. "A large house with three bedrooms and a loft?"

"Nah, I think she'll stay, it wasn't her fault about Joe, was it?" Rose asked.

"I hope the town is as forgiving as you then," Alec just replied.

"Can't be as bad as Sandbrook tryin' to get over what happened, then us bringing it to Broadchurch," Rose mused.

Alec declined to reply. They had merged the two investigations and he was just grateful it had all worked out.

The End!