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 with her.

This story is being re-published due to Blogger not letting me update.  The rest of the chapters will be up soon or you can go to

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 on 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 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 to 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 into 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

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