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.

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The woman looked Rose up and down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How did you guess?" Lee replied.

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

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

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

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

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

"It's Saturday," she pointed out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 2
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 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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa was up first and confronted him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ricky saw the way Lisa was looking at Lee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Where's Lisa?" Pippa yawned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He'd always felt intimidated by his friend.

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

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

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

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

Lee and Ricky were listening at the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 6

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

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

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

"Is that right?" Rose asked Pippa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pippa managed a nod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What are you planning Ashworth?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ricky! Get up here now."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The operator asked what her emergency was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alec covered the phone with his hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 7
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 coordinating. 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 time-scale for finding missing children Tess, we can't afford to delay. So, what's around here where they might go? Is there a park or any woods?"

"There are some woods, a mile or two away," Tess told him, unfolding the map she'd been given.

"I'm thinking maybe Lisa did go off with someone and it turned bad," Alec admitted.

"You always think the same Alec, you never think positive," Tess huffed.

He was beginning to think maybe he should have been less positive agreeing to them getting married. Goodness knew how long she'd been cheating on him?

"We have to consider it's possible Tess, what if Lisa went off with someone, admitted she was supposed to be looking after her cousin and whoever she was with took advantage?"

"By advantage you mean abducted them?" Tess shuddered to think.

"That's what it's looking like," Alec admitted. "The Gillespies said the patio doors were wide open and the elder girl wouldn't have gone off and left them. I think the neighbours are hiding something, well the man anyway. His girlfriend looks scared to death of him."

Tess let out a laugh.

"Trust you to notice that Alec. Okay, why would she be scared of him?" she now regretted asking him.

"Maybe he did see the girls last night and didn't want her to know?" Alec wondered. "Lisa, the older cousin may have made some advances towards him?"

"Tell me you're not being serious Alec?" Tess asked him but saw the look on his face.

"So, what if she went round, with Pippa and left the young girl watching TV while they went upstairs? The spare room looked like the bedding had just been changed and a cushion was missing its cover."

"Geez Alec, you're really serious?" Tess stared at him. "So, then what?"

"It got out of hand and lost his temper?" Alec suggested. "Let's not think about it just yet, there may be other answers?"

"I hope so," Tess replied as the chief approached them. "I hope non are that they got involved with something."

"So do I Tess," the chief agreed. "So, what's your theory Alec?"

"He thinks the neighbour is somehow involved," Tess laughed.

"Ah, now that would be too easy," the chief laughed back. "You may as well say the father of the youngest girl is also involved."

"Aren't they always?" Alec replied dryly.

"Well some of the neighbours say a young man was hanging around earlier," Tess told them, looking at her notebook. "He was last seen in a corner of the gate just across there."

"Well see if you can get a name from someone," Alec suggested. "He may have seen the girls or maybe he was waiting for the older one?"

"You're suspicious of everyone," Tess reminded him.

"Be fair Tess, he's usually right to be," the chief defended him, getting tired of her trying to bring her husband down.

He'd also heard the rumours and in his book, Alec didn't deserve to be the talk of the station.

Back at the Gillespie house, Cate had taken to the drink and Ricky sat contemplating what Lee had said to him. Had his so-called friend lied to him last night and Pippa had been given too much of the drug to be able to cope with it? He was going to go round later and get the truth out of him, even if it got violent.

If it meant Rose being there, then she'd find out what had gone on but he'd probably been right in keeping out of her way last night, she may have discovered what had happened to Lisa. He also wanted to know how Rose hadn't noticed the taste of the drug in her drink but he bet she had one hell of a headache.

Rose and Lee had eaten their breakfast in silence, Rose drinking plenty of coffee.

"Why does my head ache so much?" she wanted to know as Lee went to the drawer to get some tablets after the WPC had come back for their statements.

"Serves you right for drinking without me last night," he replied as he tossed the strip of tablets at her.

"I swear I only had two glasses of wine while we were talking," she insisted.

"Maybe you lost track? Since you women like to talk. So, did you tell her all your dirty little secrets then?" Lee laughed.

"What secrets? Oh. I've never told anyone about that and why did you threaten me?" she suddenly remembered after the detective in charge had been staring at her, like he knew she had something to hide.

"Come on Rose, that's not a threat, it's my insurance. I have to take precautions, I can't afford to get involved in a police investigation and neither can you. Think about if your boss gets involved?"

"Well I had to give her details to prove where I was," Rose reminded him. "So, would you carry out your threat if I got asked more questions then?"

"What do you think?" Lee replied. "Going back to your mother then?"

"Do ya want me to leave?" Rose wanted to know.

"It's up to you. I can't afford this place on my own and do you really want to admit your mother was right?" he asked.

"How many times did ya sleep with Cate?"

"Does it make any difference? If you don't want me to force you, what do you expect Rose?"

She was about to raise her hand to him but he stopped her.

"I'll move into the spare room then?" Lee continued. "You might like to empty the washing machine, I changed the sheets last night."

"So they wouldn't think Pippa had been here?" Rose asked quietly.

"Good thing I did with that lot barging in. Anyway, I won't carry out my threat as long as you don't say much and you let me sleep with you now and then."

"You have to be joking to think I want to have sex with you if you had sex with Lisa last night," Rose objected. "Geez Lee, why Lisa?"

"Well she started it," Lee defended himself. "She came round saying that Gary was hanging around and scaring Pippa so I let them in," he admitted. "She took Pippa upstairs then I went out to the bloke and warned him."

"You idiot," Rose told him. "So where did Lisa go then? Why have they both been reported missing?"

"How the hell do I know? She made a move on me, we had sex then she went off. You fell asleep and Lisa came back and took her. Maybe Lisa's shacked up with him and they don't realise everyone's looking for them?"

He swore he'd come up with the same story earlier but if Rose's head hurt, maybe she was taking no notice?

"I expect they tried Lisa's mobile?" Rose wondered as she cleared up then looked in the washing machine, seeing he'd put a black and silver cushion cover in as well.

She decided not to ask him why he thought that needed washing, she was already more than mad at him. At present, she had no alternative except to stay with him, go back to the guest house or go back to her mother's. She could maybe keep avoiding him but if he thought she was going to continue having sex with him, he had to be joking.

"Of course Cate will have tried Lisa's mobile," Lee scoffed. "Maybe she left it downstairs while she was sleeping with that Gary?"

"Geez Lee, ya think she had it with you then went with him?"

"She's young, who knows? Weren't you the same at that age?"

This time Rose did hit him and he stumbled back. He figured maybe he deserved it but wasn't going to say so.

"Better now?" he asked, clutching his shoulder. "Geez Rose, come on, you must have had several blokes on the go?"

She was about to ask him how he worked that out but her mobile rang and the display said 'Claire'. She thought surely the police hadn't rung her so early?

Tess had got the number from Rose's statement and had woken Claire up.

"The police?" Claire had asked when her head cleared. "What's it about? Did Rose get home safely last night?"

"Yes, Rose is fine," Tess assured her. "It does concern her though. Can you confirm she was with you last night?"

"Is she in trouble?" Claire wanted to know.

"No but an incident occurred close to where she lives, she claimed she was with you and we want to confirm it," Tess replied.

"Yes, she was with me until late, she went out for a bus but it missed so she came back. I can't remember the time," Claire confirmed. "Why, what happened?"

"Sorry, we can't give any details at this time," Tess replied, looking at Alec, who was staring at the two houses or was it just the one of them?

It was obviously a couple living there, judging by the statements but was he beginning to wander now he'd worked out she was seeing Dave? Since he'd not shaved that morning, how did he expect any woman to take up with him?

So, Claire called Rose to see why she'd been woken up.

"I'm really sorry about it Claire but they wanted to know where I was last night," Rose apologised.

"Well the police won't tell me why they called," Claire complained.

"I don't really know much Claire, they just asked if we'd seen Lisa and Pippa from next door," Rose replied, trying to keep it to a minimum or she'd get into trouble with the police and Lee.

"They're missing?" Claire asked as she tried to fill the kettle with water one-handed. "You're joking."

"I wish I was Claire, I'm worried about them," Rose replied, not being able to say she saw Pippa when she'd got home last night.

She also wanted someone to talk to, now Lee had admitted he'd had sex with Lisa last night and now she was missing.

Shouldn't that raise alarm bells? So that was why he threatened her into saying nothing? The detective hadn't looked like he believed Lee was totally innocent. If only she could talk to him and tell him about it but then, Lee would carry out his threat so she was stuck.

Chapter 9

Rose snapped out of her thoughts as Claire asked if she was still there.

"Sorry Claire. It's just I can't believe either of them would just go off and not tell anyone where they were going," Rose told her, trying not to mention she'd seen Pippa last night but not Lisa.

"I expect they'll turn up and wonder what all the police cars are doing there," Claire laughed. "See you in the morning and I hope they do turn up, safe and well."

Rose then went to join Lee in the living room, hating instantly what he'd done in a hurry to the wooden floor.

"I know you hate it," Lee pointed to the newly stained boards. "I have some floorboards in the van that I got for a job, I'll go get them. You can help me put them down. Well don't just stand there, help me pull these ones up."

Rose rather thought that was a man's job but Ricky would be too concerned about the two missing girls to be bothered ripping up a floor on a Sunday morning. Rose stood there and watched Lee make a start.

"Lee, we have to talk. You're asking a lot of me."

"Not now Rose, stop bitching to your friend as well, don't you dare mention what I told you to her, understand?" he asked, Rose getting worried as another floorboard came loose.

"But Lee," she protested. "I'm gonna leave, as soon as the girls are found."

"No, you're not, you know too much," he objected.

"I'm not gonna say anything, am I?" Rose replied, feeling like she was going to be sick.

Her two friends were missing and all Lee was bothered about was her telling someone he'd been unfaithful with at least Cate and Lisa.

"No Rose, you're not going to say anything. I think that detective already suspected something, you didn't have to look so scared of me."

Rose wanted to say she was scared of him. If Lisa came back though, could she forgive her for cheating with Lee? It was now over between the two of them anyway, if he wasn't going to move into the spare room tonight, then she was.

As the floorboards all came up, Lee went off to his lock-up to bring the new ones. He was pleased that at least with all the floorboards up, Rose wouldn't see anything. When he'd put the new ones down though, he hoped no blood had seeped through to the inside. He'd just have to be careful getting them outside, then he would drive to that place in Portsmouth Ricky had told him had gone bust and burn the floorboards in the furnace. Then Rose wouldn't be able to tell those nosy detectives, she'd have no evidence.

Alec was still worried about the young woman he'd just met, there was something about her that made her look like she wanted to talk. He decided against getting Tess to talk to her as Tess went off to update the Gillespies. She had just been trying to tell him something but he had been miles away.

"Alec, are you even listening to me?" she'd asked him.

"What? Yes, go see the parents then, I'll go join the search team in the woods. When I come back, I'm going to try the neighbours again."

"You mean go see that blonde," Tess scoffed.

"Why are you so bothered? Did you not think word would get around about you and Dave?" he retaliated. "This is business Tess, I'm not the one sneaking off to meet someone. Are we leaving Daisy at your mother's tonight?"

"We may as well, she can go to school with her friends, I'll get my dad to take her home to get her uniform," Tess agreed.

Alec supposed that was one less thing to worry about. Now all he needed to do was get the blonde called Rose off his mind. He had no luck though as the day wore on. The search dogs had been brought in, Cate had provided clothing from both Pippa and Lisa and the search was now concentrated in the main part of the woods.

Alec was checking in with the command post that had been set up in the car park and would-be dog walkers were being given details to look out for the two girls.

"Yes, I agree to getting visitors to look out for them," Alec was telling the chief. "They will maybe wander into other parts of the wood. If the older girl has a phone, why is it switched off?"

"There could be a number of reasons Alec," the chief told him. "She could have got her younger cousin into danger."

"We had better hope not," Alec replied, not liking where this was going. "I say tomorrow, we get the divers to start searching the river."

"Well we'd better keep it quiet then," the chief told him. "If word gets out, who knows what the papers will come up with? Have any details gone out yet?" he asked.

"Tess was organising the press officer, we've put it on standby for now, this all could be just a false alarm."

"We'd best hope it is," the chief had to agree.

Just after four, Alec drove back to the estate and noticed Tess's car had gone, thankfully. He planned on moving his things out of their bedroom when he got home and move them to the small room. There was no point in pretending to keep up the appearance they were still together. He expected Tess would be pleased.

He saw a van parked at the side of the neighbour's house and wondered what had been going on. Lee had just got back from burning the wood, once again telling Rose to keep quiet. He thought though she would be gone when he got back.

"Still here then?" he asked as he finished installing the new flooring.

"You know I won't leave until they find Pippa. Are ya moving into the spare room then?"

"If I have to I suppose? Come on Rose, don't act like you wouldn't take the offer of sex if a young bloke was giving you the eye."

She took him by surprise and went for him but he managed to hold her off.

"I really hate you. You didn't have to corrupt Lisa to have your way with her."

"You think she'd never been with a man before?" Lee laughed as he backed off. "I've got news for you Rose, she had, trust me. What's really holding you back? Is it just me? Oh, it is, isn't it? You don't want me to be your first."

"I never said that," Rose defended herself.

"It's true though. Fine then but don't expect me not to take other offers. Help me get that floor finished."

"Where did ya take the other floorboards Lee?"

"Does it matter? I got rid of them, it was a mistake staining them, these are much better. If those detectives come back, keep them out."

"Why Lee? What are ya hiding?" Rose wanted to know.

"Don't be so suspicious Rose," he grinned. "Maybe one day I'll tell you."

"You know where Lisa went, don't ya?" Rose faced him.

"If I said yes?" he replied. "No, I don't know where she took Pippa when she came back if she didn't take her home."

"Was Ricky here last night? Pippa was convinced he was."

"Hell Rose, the kid was tired and confused when you got home," he reminded her. "In her state, she would have gone anywhere with Lisa. Leave it alone, they'll come back when they're tired and hungry."

Rose could only hope he was right. She set about making something to eat and saw Alec pass by, hoping he wasn't paying a visit but the doorbell went.

"I'll go," Rose offered as Lee was re-arranging the furniture.

"If it's the police, don't invite them in," he told her.

Rose took no notice as she opened the door, just as Alec was going to try knocking.

"Oh hi. Is there any news yet?" Rose asked him.

"May I come in? No, not yet, we're conducting a search of the woods. Mrs Gillespie seems to think the girls were here last night," Alec told her, having talked with Tess.

Tess had told him Cate had been drinking and admitted Lisa fancied Lee and despite being warned not to take Pippa with her if she was going to visit when Pippa should be in bed, she bet they had gone round.

"I told them I would be out," Rose reminded him. "Lee would have said if they had stayed."

Alec wondered if the man would have admitted it though.

"Refresh my memory. Did he say they had called round earlier on Saturday evening?" he tried to bluff, since they were getting nowhere.

"I told you they didn't call round," Lee shouted from the living room.

Alec wasn't going to be defeated.

"A neighbour opposite said he heard shouting and claimed it was you," Alec read from his notebook.

"Well he was wrong, it wasn't me," Lee snapped. "It could have been anyone. Shouldn't you be out looking for them?"

"Don't be so rude Lee," Rose told him. "We have to help if we can."

Alec was glad at least one of them was willing to co-operate. He knew something funny was going on though, this couple were as estranged as the one next door.

"Lee, if you saw them at all, you have to tell him," Rose continued, hoping he'd at least admit that Lisa came to him for help getting rid of Gary.

She didn’t know the young man's surname and from what she could gather, neither did anyone else. Lee was looking at her, she was determined to get him to admit he'd seen Lisa.

"Hang on," Lee told Alec. "I had a few drinks, maybe my head's a bit cloudy? I think Lisa might have knocked on the door to say that bloke was hanging around," he admitted.

Alec was furious this man thought it was a joke and had waited all day to admit it. He tried to keep his temper in check, even though it was only for the fact Rose Tyler was looking at her boyfriend like she wanted to murder him.

"What time was this?" Alec tried to ask calmly.

"I don't know, maybe around nine, I told you, I was watching the football. She came to the door, I went over and warned the bloke and she went back next door when the bloke ran off."

"You never thought that was important enough to mention?" Alec asked him, looking at Rose. "You never told your girlfriend?"

Rose wanted to say Lee could forget about her being his girlfriend, it was over between them and they now only shared a house. If she could afford it, she'd leave but her pay would only get her a room in a boarding house again and she'd had enough of it before, with all the restrictions they imposed.

When she thought back, that was what had been so attractive about moving in with Lee. That was when everything went downhill from there.

"I didn't think anything of it," Lee replied. "I only saw her for a few minutes, does it even count?"

Alec couldn’t understand why the man was being so flippant about it and why he was being so off with Rose. Why was he so bothered though and why was he referring to her as Rose when he referred to the man as Ashworth?

"Everything counts when they are both missing," Alec replied, wondering why he was being so calm about it. "Anything else you recall?"

"I may have bloodied his nose a bit," Lee joked. "Serves him right for being a pervert, hanging around a young girl like that. He even messed up my shirt."

Rose almost gasped. He'd not even mentioned that to her. She hoped the detective, who had been paying close attention to her wouldn't notice. Why was he paying close attention, she wondered. Was he hoping she might say something? Lee hadn't really told her much and she had no idea why he didn't want to admit Pippa had been here last night.

Alec wondered what else the man hadn't told him.

"So, he went off and Lisa went back next door?" Alec asked him. "Nothing else?"

Lee thought the detective was trying to catch him out. The way things were going, he probably would. He'd thrown warning glances at Rose but would she break down and admit what he'd told her so far? He'd told lies anyway and the detective may not even believe her, she was only a slight risk to him.

He decided he'd deal with her later and give her another warning as the detective turned to her.

"You had no idea Lisa had been round?" Alec asked her.

"No, sorry. Lee never mentioned it, I was tired when I got home, he made me some hot chocolate and I went to bed," Rose replied, trying to stick to some of the truth.

Lee was wishing she'd not mentioned the hot chocolate but he'd washed both mugs thoroughly, he hoped. Ricky had taken the flask back, he was very unlikely to admit he'd come back last night so the police couldn't prove anything.

"Yeah, she was so tired I had a right job waking her this morning," Lee grinned. "Goodness knows how much she and her mate drank last night, eh Rose?"

Rose could only put on a smile and nod her head in agreement.

"Yeah, I missed a bus but I could have got the time wrong," Rose admitted, since Claire had mentioned it to the police.

If only she'd caught that bus, the girls may not have gone missing. She'd have made sure if Lisa had gone out that she agreed Pippa would stay with them for the night and not come back and drag the young girl into goodness knew what.

She wished she had the courage to tell the detective what had really happened but she still couldn't risk Lee carrying out his threat. He was a lot bigger than she was and she wouldn't be able to fight him off. If she told the police of the threat, Lee would just laugh it off and besides, she only had Pippa's word that Ricky had come back last night.

Had Lee been bluffing when he'd admitted he'd had sex with Lisa though? Maybe it was wishful thinking but he'd admitted to having it with Cate so maybe he had? Had he been bragging earlier and let her go on about it for his amusement?

"We've spoken to your friend Miss Tyler," Alec told her. "If you remember anything else, please call the number I gave you."

"I should go see Cate," Rose got up from the kitchen chair, wondering why Lee was still standing.

Was he trying to square up to the detective?

"Leave it Rose," Lee told her, Alec thinking he was right, the man had some kind of hold over her. "She'll be off her head by now."

"She drinks a lot?" Alec raised his eyebrows.

"It's not for us to say Lee," Rose chastised him. "Yes, Cate does like to drink but maybe she needs it this time?"

Alec nodded in agreement.

"Well I won't take any more of your time," he told them, putting his notebook away.

Rose had noticed how he seemed to like doing that.

"I must ask you both not to discuss the case with anyone," Alec continued. "Details are being released to the press but we're asking all possible witnesses to keep their part in it quiet. If you do say anything, please keep it to a minimum and let us know, in case it gets back to the press. Oh and please be careful of reporters, they may not admit who they are and try to get you to talk."

"That's a warning to you Rose," Lee grinned. "You women like to gossip in the hairdressers."

"Claire doesn't like us to gossip," Rose defended herself.

"Even so, please be careful," Alec told her.

Lee went to see him out, then returned to the kitchen.

"Leave the cooking Rose, I'll go to the takeaway," he told her as she went back to what she'd been doing. "I need to take the van back."

Rose thought it was just another excuse for him not to eat what she cooked.

"You'd better not have given any clues to that detective," he added as he went for his jacket. "Don't make me carry out that threat."

"You could have told me you hit that Gary," Rose told him.

"Why? I can use the washing machine Rose."

"What was the cushion cover doing in there as well?" she wanted to know.

"Pippa was a bit sick on it," Lee bluffed. "When Lisa came back for her. She must have drunk that hot chocolate too fast."

"Well why did I fall asleep then?" she asked him.

"Blimey Rose, you'd been drinking with Claire, what do you expect?" he tried to convince her, getting the van keys from the counter.

Rose didn't quite believe him though. She tried to remember how much she'd drunk at her friend's place but maybe she had lost track a bit? Claire wouldn't have a clue either so there was no point in asking her she supposed.

When Lee went off, Rose set about cleaning up and went into the lounge, looking at the new floor. Why had he picked today to do it? She remembered him saying last night he was going to stain the other floorboards but they'd only been down since they'd moved in, why had he been so bothered?

Maybe he'd not liked them since then and never said anything? She looked out of the window, seeing Lee reverse the van out onto the street and when she thought he'd be up on the main road, she went to the front door, looking for Alec. Should she risk Lee doing to her what he threatened though, just on the speculation Lee hadn't been joking about Pippa and Pippa being right about hearing Ricky last night and thinking Lee and Lisa had been having sex?

She looked down the street to where there was a police tent, any traffic having to use the other way in and out of the street. She couldn't see Alec or the other detective so she went back inside and picked up the card he'd left earlier from the kitchen drawer. What could she tell him though? Lee had been very careful about it, he was far more clever than she was. He knew she couldn’t afford to live on her own and she now depended on him and how could she leave the town with poor Pippa still missing?

No, she had to stay, whether she still slept with Lee or not. She had to make sure Pippa was okay and find out the truth from Lisa. She had to give her friend the benefit of the doubt, Lee could just be taunting her and making her so jealous, that she'd agree to giving in to him but why would he want that when he could go with Cate any time he wanted?

She had just sat down when Claire rang her.

"Any news yet?" Claire asked her.

"No, sorry. I think the police would have said and they're putting out a press release about it. It's poor Pippa I'm worried about," Rose told her. "We're not supposed to talk about it so we'll have to be careful at work. Claire, just how much did I drink last night?"

Claire let out a laugh.

"I've not got a clue. Maybe that's why you missed the bus? Is it that important you know?"

"I suppose not? It's just I fell asleep as soon as Lee made me a hot drink and he joked about it," she admitted.

"Don't worry about it," Claire advised her. "You're lucky you have someone to make you a hot drink."

Rose detected a hint of sadness in her friend's voice.

"Claire, I didn't mean anything," Rose told her.

"It's not your fault. I had to leave someone behind when I left Wales and I never told him where I was going. It's a long story, I won't bore you with it, you have enough worrying about your friends."

Rose said goodbye and waited for Lee coming back, knowing it was a bit of a walk from the takeaway and wondering if Lee would get a taxi. Did she have time to call the detective and confess she knew more than she'd already told him? She picked up her phone again, looking at the card but if Lee came back and saw her with it, he'd grab the phone to see if she'd been calling the detective. Maybe it would be worth it and Lee would just leave her rather than forcing her to give in to him?

She starting typing in the numbers to Alec's personal number, thinking it would be faster than getting the police station to find him and was about to press the call button when a cab pulled up outside. Her heart skipped as she saw Lee getting out of the back and she hurriedly deleted all the numbers and put her phone down just as he let himself in.

Alec had been back to his office to gather his notes together, thinking back to the look on Rose's face when Ashworth had admitted to getting blood on his shirt. What else didn't she know about him and how he had spent the night before? He found it hard to believe Ashworth had only watched football last night.

Chapter 10

Rose tried not to look guilty as they ate the food Lee had brought back.

"So you don't like my cooking?" she tried not to sound offended.

"The way you looked earlier, I didn't think you wanted to. Besides, that detective put me off, what's he doing asking so many unrelated questions?" Lee wanted to know.

"They might not be unrelated Lee, they might help find Pippa, Lisa's old enough to look after herself. What was she thinking by coming back for Pippa?"

"How do I know?" Lee shrugged his shoulders.

"Are you telling me the truth Lee? What the hell did ya put in my drink last night, I wasn't that bad when I came home. I knew enough to get Pippa back upstairs and talk to her."

"What did you talk about then?" he asked her.

Had Pippa said something else, about Lisa, he wondered. He was glad she'd seemed to have forgotten Ricky might have come back last night.

Rose couldn’t risk telling him what Pippa had told her, that she had heard Ricky's voice. She thought it best she kept that to herself for now. She now just wanted both girls to turn up, then she would give notice on her job and go back to London. Would Lee let her though? She wished she had the courage to call the detective,

Alec got home, gathered what he needed from the main bedroom and stood in the doorway of the spare room, thinking there would be more room up in the attic. How was he going to explain this to Daisy though? Sitting on the single bed, he got his notebook out and tried to make some sense of the few statements they'd got today.

He had got Rose and Lee's phone numbers from Tess, along with Claire's but as he was making notes, he absent-mindedly 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
Events have been speeded up and differ from the original.

When it was bedtime though, Lee went off to the spare room again.

"I guess I'm not forgiven?" he asked Rose.

"Nothing's changed Lee, you still slept with Cate and had that one time with Lisa. Oh, was that the first time with Lisa?" she almost choked.

"What do you take me for Rose? Okay, yes, that was the first time with Lisa and both her and Cate were willing, unlike you."

Rose just slammed her bedroom door on him, sitting on the bed trying to hold back the tears. She was trapped because she could never give in to him now but she knew too much already. She couldn't tell Alec Hardy for fear of Lee forcing her, he may even make it rough and hurt her if he were that way inclined.

Lee stood and watched Rose slam the door, a wicked smile on his face. He had to ensure her silence because if she told the police she saw Pippa the other night, they would be round asking more questions. Then he wouldn't have chance to repay her – would he?

Alec had gone back to the spare room as he'd been booked into a nearby guest house the following night on a day to day basis so he tried to avoid Tess when he finally got back and had knocked on his daughter's bedroom door.

"You're late again Dad," Daisy greeted him with her arms folded.

"Sorry darlin' it's this case we're working on."

"I know about it Dad, she was in the class below me," Daisy replied sadly.

Alec had no idea what school Pippa had gone to. Maybe Tess had taken all the details and just not bothered telling him.

"Yes, we have to find who did that to her. You do understand I'd never choose to work late to avoid you? There is something else you should know though."

"You are leaving, aren't you Dad?"

"Honestly? Yes, to avoid the arguments, not to avoid you. So, I will come round every night at this time, if you want?"

"You don't have to come every night Dad," she replied.

"I want to or how about I phone you some nights? Are you mad at me?"

"No Dad, it's better than you and mum pretending you're not arguing in front of me," she managed to smile.

"I try to," he smiled back. "I'm looking for a place to move in to, you can come and visit when I do, if you want?"

"I'll think about it Dad. I heard mum talking to someone again, she's found someone else, hasn't she? Why doesn't she just admit it?"

"I don't know Daisy, maybe she's trying to spare you eh?" he wondered.

"Well she's not, is she? Never mind. What will you do Dad?"

"Let's deal with that if it ever happens eh?" he laughed.

What would she say if he mentioned his attention had been caught by a twenty-something year old blonde lately? At least she didn't hate him, that was something but Tess would be a different matter even though she had a secret boyfriend. Would she be a bitch if he got involved with someone?

He shook his head when Daisy had closed her door and went to get a few more of his things packed so tomorrow, he could go book in the guest house early then come back and see Daisy and collect everything. He didn't want to leave them in his car in case someone got nosy.

Over the next few days, Alec got used to being almost single again, Tess never mentioning the word 'Divorce' but he was expecting a separation order at least. He knew she would go for it in order to stop hiding Dave and make it known she was moving on.

He didn't want to bother Rose again, she was clearly troubled and her boss hadn't taken kindly to him calling to see her and phoning her in the same day.

After Rose's day off , Claire caught her before they started work on Wednesday morning.

"No visits from that detective then?" she smiled wickedly, nudging her. "He seems a bit of alright and he clearly has his eye on you."

"Don't be daft Claire, he was just doing his job. It seems he took the hint though, since he's not been back," Rose sighed.

"Yeah but you know the rules Rose, no personal calls or visitors, well unless they're paying customers and ask for you. If they don't, they'll get served by anyone who's free. Cheer up love though, things still bad with Lee then?" she asked, handing Rose a cup of coffee.

"Yeah, I don't want to talk about it though, if ya don't mind Claire? It's a sore point. Can we go for a drink after work? I don't feel like going straight home?"

"Yeah, sure, as long as you tell Auntie Claire all about it," Claire laughed.

Rose knew she had no-one else to confide in, Claire was her closest friend.

Claire agreed so Rose thought if Lee was home early, he could do the cooking for a change. They went to a bar close by and Claire got the first round, putting Rose's drink in front of her.

"So, how bad are things then?" she asked Rose.

"Where do I start?" Rose tried to smile. "He admitted he slept with Cate and had sex with Lisa before she went missing."

Claire almost spilled her drink.

"Wow and you're still with him?"

"What else can I do Claire? It's stay there or go back to a cheap guest house where I can pay for just the room. I can't do that again. When they find out who killed Pippa, I might go back to my mum's."

"I should think so as well. Why did you never tell me before? I knew you were upset over Pippa but that as well? How did you find that out then? Did you just ask him?"

"It's complicated," Rose replied, sipping her drink through the small black plastic straw.

"Isn't it always?" Claire laughed. "Can't you tell me anything else? Why did he do it anyway?"

"Because I can't give in to him Claire, I don't know why. Maybe it's just because he never said he loved me but now? How can I go back to him and have a proper relationship with him?"

"I don't know Rose, honestly," Claire replied, finishing her drink. "It's your round."

Rose just smiled and nudged her. "Fat lot of good you are."

Claire just sucked on the straw and made a noise back.

When Rose got home, Lee was stirring a pan on the stove.

"You should have said you were going to be late Rose," he told her.

"I had a couple of drinks with Claire," she replied. "I never know when you'll be back so you can talk."

"You know the funny hours I work Rose. At least I have an excuse. Any news on who killed Pippa yet?"

"Don't change the subject Lee. I know why you work funny hours and no, I don't go out to the pub with Claire every night," she replied angrily. "Do ya work the hours to suit your female clients so you can sleep with them when they get home?"

Lee was about to raise his hand to her but clenched his fist instead, only because if he marked her, the police and her boss would notice.

"Watch it Rose," he warned her instead.

"Well, it's true so don't deny it. How do ya think I feel Lee? You could have just kept asking me if I was ready to give in to you. I had to be sure."

"How was I going to make you sure Rose?" he wanted to know as he turned down the stove.

"Why should I tell you Lee? There was a way and you didn't take it."

"How am I supposed to know what it was Rose? You kept pushing me away before I'd finished."

"And the others didn't? Is that it Lee?" she asked. "If you don't know why Lee, I'm not going to tell you. I can't believe Lisa let you."

"Then let me enlighten you Rose, I wasn't her first, trust me," Lee smirked. "Still want to wait for her to turn up so she can confirm it?"

Rose picked the pan up, wishing she could get away with pouring the pasta over his head but that would be a waste of food. Instead she got the spoon and put the food onto the plates.

"I don't think she's coming back Lee, she ran away for a reason. I think she did take Pippa to the woods, pretending they were playing a game and Pippa slipped on a rock and fell in. She was probably still confused from earlier. Did you drug her as well Lee?"

Lee was sure she'd asked him that before.

"Why would I do that Rose?" he replied, hoping it would confuse her even more.

He'd known why she'd never given in to him, as well as being uncertain about him, she was waiting for him to say he loved her. Well he was uncertain about that, unlike her telling him she loved him.

"Don't bother denying it Lee. You drugged us both so when I woke up I wouldn't believe what she told me. You drugged her so when Lisa came back, she'd be confused and not say anything."

Lee knew she was getting too near to the truth and he didn't like it.

"Maybe that stuff's not worn off yet Rose?" he grinned as he ate.

"You drugged a twelve year old girl Lee, what the hell?" she asked furiously.

"She would have told her parents when they got home Rose, what was I supposed to do eh? Giving her a drop of that would have made her think twice, she may have thought she'd imagined it."

"Nice try Lee, it worked so well she died as a result of it," she replied.

Then she dropped her fork on her plate and gulped.

"Lee, did ya give her too much?"

"What? Now you are talking rubbish, why would I do that?"

"To stop her saying anything, why else?" she asked, seeing the look on his face. Then she got up, a feeling of dread coming over her. "That's why you weren't concerned that she was found. It was you, wasn't it? You left her in the woods. How could you Lee?"

With that she ran out of the kitchen and slammed the bathroom door, feeling sick.

Lee got up and followed her. She had worked it out and she would surely risk telling the police. He tried knocking on the bathroom door.

"Rose, okay I admit it but it was an accident. I must have given her too much. Let me explain?" he pleaded with her.

"Go away Lee, I hate you even more right now," she replied, splashing water on her face.

"It was an accident, I swear Rose," he called through the bathroom door. "I gave her as much as you, it must have stopped her breathing. When I went to move you, I didn't check and when I got back, she was all limp. I couldn't revive her Rose, I couldn't leave her here, could I?"

Rose opened the door and took him by surprise by hitting his chest.

"You rat! You could have called an ambulance, they might have been able to revive her. Since when are you a medical expert?" she wanted to know as he tried to grab her arms.

"If I had, the police would have been round," he answered.

"You idiot, the police have been round. She was in the river Lee, with all the rain and that detective was the one who found her. How do ya think he felt when everyone hoped to find her alive?"

"Rose, you can't tell them, they'll arrest me or at least they'll be an inquest. Cate and Ricky will turn on us."

"On you ya mean? I was drugged, remember?"

"They won't believe that Rose, they'll think you knew about it. There won't be any traces left of the drug."

"Won't there? They'll be examining her Lee, it's only a few days ago. I hope they do. Maybe I should go to the hospital to prove I was drugged?"

"Don't you dare Rose, I'm warning you," he replied angrily, pacing the landing.

"What do you expect Lee? That detective already thinks I'm hiding something, I'm sure he does."

"If you go to the hospital, they'll ask questions Rose, what are you going to say? You stay away from there, understand? Need I remind you what I threatened? Go back downstairs and clear the dishes and forget about it."

"How can I forget Lee?" she asked, going to the top of the stairs.

When she finally went to bed, she got her phone out and retrieved the card Alec had given her. It was late, just after eleven and she wondered if when he'd said anytime, he meant it. What would she say though? That Pippa was here that night and Lee drugged them both?

Lee would deny it, even if tests proved both she and Pippa had been drugged, though maybe not with Pippa, where would she have been given it? With herself though, Lee could try and say she had been out drinking but she had an alibi in Claire. If he got off though, he'd come after her.

She tried to memorise Alec's number, she dare not put it in her phone. If she rang now and he asked what she wanted, she would probably clam up though. When he'd visited her at work, she was sure he knew something was wrong, the way he kept asking if she had anything else to tell him. Could she trust him and ask him to arrange a test and keep it quiet?

Maybe though he'd find out Pippa still had some in her system and start asking questions?

She left it and tried to get some sleep but kept imagining Alec finding Pippa in the river. Why did she stay with Lee, how could he have been so heartless? The next morning, she left as usual but when she got on the bus, she put Alec's number in the message box and began to type, asking him to meet her at twelve thirty at the end of the lane where she worked.

She knew Claire would be mad if he called into the salon again and he wasn't there to get a haircut. She got a message back saying he would do his best to be there but if not, he would call at her home after he finished work. She replied that if Lee was at home, she didn't want him to say why he was there. She was relieved when he agreed.

Alec was a little surprised to get her message just after eight fifteen but if she wanted to talk, he was willing to listen. He got to work then called the coroner's office to see if there was any news of how Pippa had ended up in the river.

"Well Sir," the coroner began. "There are no signs of any head wounds so she didn't fall or was pushed into the water. I'd guess she was carried by the river flooding where she was left. There are signs of asphyxiation though, there are very small strands of material embedded in her lips that the water didn't wash away."

"Anything else?" Alec wanted to know, wondering who would smother the girl then leave her in the woods.

"Well Sir, as far as we can tell, she wasn't abused, that's a blessing. We are just analysing her stomach contents, we just found out there was no water in her lungs so she definitely died before entering the river."

"Well keep me informed as to what else you find," Alec replied. Then he remembered his manners and thought how he had done in front of Rose Tyler. "Thanks."

He looked at the pile of papers on his desk, the result of the statements taken on Sunday and Monday on the estate. He was tempted to root through them and bring up Rose's but there were others to read. He gave in, found Rose's and her boyfriend Lee Ashworth's, though was he still her boyfriend, he wondered and put them at the top of the pile.

He then divided the pile, took the bottom half and leaving his office, approached Tess's desk.

"I thought you'd want to see them all?" she asked him as he placed them on her desk.

"You're on this case as well," he reminded her. "I want to talk to you tonight Tess, I've moved out and we need to sort things."

"Everyone knows Alec. I'm not going to hide anything about me and Dave. I suppose you want to talk about Daisy?"

"I agreed I would either call and see her or phone her every night, she was fine about it. She knows you talk to someone, maybe you should tell her? Do you want a separation?"

"To start with," she replied in a low voice. "Any news what happened to Pippa? We're running out of ideas why Lisa hasn't shown up yet. The favourite is she pushed Pippa in somehow and she's gone into hiding."

"The coroner says it's unlikely she was pushed, there was no water in her lungs. She died before the river burst its banks so she was definitely left. There were traces of material on her mouth."

"She was smothered?" Tess almost cried out.

"Maybe, let's see what else they find first. Are you going back to the estate?" he asked her.

"I'm just going to call on Cate, make sure she's okay. What are you doing?"

Alec had noticed a café a few streets away from where Rose worked and planned on taking her so they could talk so he was going nowhere until he had to set off. If Rose had something to tell him, they may get further into the case than they'd done all week.

Chapter 13

Rose tried not to look suspicious when she got to work. Claire was watching her though and at Rose's break time, Claire wandered in, having said nothing when Rose had arrived.

"You were quiet earlier," Claire laughed as she grabbed her mug off the side of the sink.

"I didn't sleep very well. There's still no sign of who killed poor Pippa," Rose tried to bluff.

"You were also concerned about Lisa the other day," Claire reminded her. "Changed your mind? I wouldn't blame you if you had, considering."

"I thought she was my friend but I know she was just trying to get Lee going. Seems it worked. No, I'm annoyed he let her go off without saying where she was going – twice."

"Well maybe when she went back for Pippa, she just wanted to get where she was going? Do ya think they were both kidnapped?" Claire asked her.

"Yeah, seems like it? What the hell did she get into Claire? What was she thinking?"

"Seems we'll just have to wait?" Claire replied. "You look out of it though."

"Geez, thanks Claire," Rose laughed, hoping Alec Hardy wouldn't notice anything.

She thought he noticed everything though. Alec was waiting where Rose had asked him to as she left the salon for her lunch break. She hoped she'd have time for something to eat or did he intend taking her to the café just down the road?

Alec saw her trying to cross the road and waved to her. Tess had asked him where he was going as he was leaving.

"I have some leads to follow," he'd made the excuse.

"Something from those statements?" she wanted to know. "Oh, it's that blonde neighbour?"

"Don't talk daft Tess. If you must know, I'm following the ones who saw that Gary hanging around."

He thought he may get around to it, when he'd met Rose. Did Tess suspect he had an ulterior motive though? Well if she said anything else, he would bring up the fact she couldn't tell everyone fast enough she had found a replacement for him. He just hoped no-one knew Dave Harris's wife. That was Tess's problem, not his though.

Rose got into his car and he drove the short distant to the café, turning into the street at the side. He indicated to a table by the window, handing her the menu.

Rose didn't usually eat that much so she went for the light option, Alec going to order.

"So Rose, I was a little surprised to get your message this morning. What do you want to talk about?"

"I need help, Alec," she replied nervously as their drinks arrived. "Saturday night, when I got back from my friend's, I think Lee put something in my hot drink."

Alec shook his head. It wasn't quite what he expected but she was concerned enough to seek help, albeit several days later.

"What are you trying to say? Why do you need my help?" he wanted to know, mainly so he knew what he was getting into.

"If I was, is there any way to tell? Is it too late? Alec, I went to bed and I've never fallen asleep so fast in my life. I barely remember putting the mug down or maybe Lee did? He was sitting on the end of the bed, like he was waiting for me to finish it. I'm scared Alec, I don't know why he did it or maybe he just wanted me asleep for some reason?"

Alec waited for their meals placing on the table then spoke.

"You think he did so for a reason other than making sure you had a good night's sleep?" he asked her.

Rose nodded.

"Yeah. I asked him and he denied it. He told me to keep quiet about it, that no-one would believe me even if I went to the hospital. I wouldn't ask for your help Alec but with Lisa being missing?"

"I understand Rose. In his statement, he'd not seen her since earlier that evening," Alec recalled. "Are you saying different?"

"No. I just confronted him when I said I'd felt weird when I woke up on Sunday morning. He told me not to make a big thing of it and have the police asking questions again. I'm asking you if you can help me Alec, the hospitals and my doctor's will ask questions. Please, I don't know what else to do."

Alec thought if it helped her to trust him and to maybe talk, then he should help her. Tess was already suspicious so how did he keep it quiet? Then he had an idea.

"Very well, I'll help you. Meet me at the same place when you finish work but you have to trust me. Do you finish at five?"

"Yeah. I have no-one else, I daren't even tell Claire. Will you get into trouble for helping me? You can't tell anyone, please?"

"You have my word I won't tell anyone. I have a friend who will help, just be there You asked me earlier that if I called at your home, not to tell Lee why I was there. Will he be suspicious if you are late home?" he asked her.

"No, it's usually after seven when he gets home but I can use the excuse that Claire dragged me to the pub again, he won't check. What do I do though, if I'm right?" she wanted to know.

"Let's find out first, then we'll take it from there. If it is positive though, then it will be between you and him, for now, until we get further into the investigation. You have to understand Rose, I may not be able to keep it quiet, it may be connected. I will explore everything else first though."

"Thanks. I have to know Alec, will I be able to keep the results?" she asked him.

"I will have to keep a copy, sorry."

They finished their meals in silence, then Alec spoke up.

"I should get you back to work maybe?" he smiled as he pointed to the clock over the counter.

She said goodbye to him when he dropped her off, then she walked quickly back to the salon, hoping no-one would ask any questions. When it was home time, Claire caught her.

"Did you eat out this lunchtime?" Claire grinned at her.

"Yeah, I thought I would treat myself, all I've been living on is pasta at home," Rose joked.

"Come round one evening then and I'll cook something?" Claire suggested.

"Yeah, we'll arrange something then? See ya Saturday, have a good day off then?"

"You know I worry on my day off," Claire laughed. "Sure you can manage without me?"

"Think I can't handle it?" Rose laughed back, thinking Alec would be waiting but she didn't want Claire being suspicious.

"Go on, get out of here," Claire laughed some more.

Alec was waiting across the road. He'd called his friend and physician earlier but had been mysterious about why he wanted a late appointment.

"You know my receptionist asks questions when I stay late," Alistair had laughed upon answering Alec's call and listening to his strange request.

Alec had asked if he could do a test on someone without asking many questions.

"What sort of test?" Alec was asked.

"I can't say on the phone but it's important. I'm helping someone out," Alec had replied.

"Since when did you take on anyone you weren't interrogating Alec?" Alistair had laughed.

"It may have to do with the case I'm working on," he'd had to admit

Alistair had gone quiet on him.

"Well then, come straight to my office at five thirty, no need to go to the waiting room, Liz will stop you if I'm running late."

He knew it was only twenty minutes from where Rose worked so he wasn't too worried she was running a little late. He saw her trying to cross the road and started the car engine. He had thought he himself was going to be late, Tess had been about to question why he was leaving early.

"I have to be somewhere," he had made the excuse. "There may be some apartments that personnel have missed, they are dragging their heels over it."

When he thought about it, he should have heard something from them by now so tomorrow morning, he was going to see the officer and ask what the delay was. If the woman was on Tess's side though, he may have to look himself anyway.

"Hi," Rose greeted him as she got in his car, thinking she was making a habit of this.

"Hello again. Sure you want to do this?" he asked her.

"I have to. I thought about it, he may do it again. If I have proof, I can threaten him with the results. What I said earlier though, about Lisa. I just meant with her being missing. Lee and I, well things have changed."

"He's no longer your boyfriend?" Alec asked her, trying to remember if he'd asked her before and wondering why he was bothered.

He'd just left Tess but Tess was already moving on before the split. Rose wondered where they were going as Alec drove off through the town centre, hitting home-time traffic but Alec thought it would save them waiting in the surgery car park. The lane they were in moved faster than the others so they were soon off again and arrived at their destination, Rose impressed he hadn't used his navigation system.

"This is a friend of mine," he began to tell her. "It will be completely confidential but we may have a few personal questions. Anything you don't want to answer, we will leave it, for now. Ready to go in?"

Rose nodded and got out of the car, wanting to get it over with. She could now hold this over Lee and if he were to carry out his threat, she may be able to fight him off by screaming she had proof he drugged her that night. Following Alec inside, she had no idea what to expect.

"Hello again Alec," his friend greeted him. "You must be Rose? Take a seat and don't be so nervous. Alec tells me you suspect your boyfriend drugged you? Don't worry, I'm not here to judge you. Feel like letting me give you a blood test?"

Rose nodded and he went to get a tray he'd prepared earlier.

"Want to tell us any more?" Alec asked her as he helped her take her jacket off.

"He wouldn't tell me why he drugged me. Are you asking me if….?"

She put her hand over her mouth. She knew he'd drugged her to get Pippa out of the way but what had he done once he'd got back? She covered her mouth, feeling sick and got up and she dashed over to the sink in the corner but nothing happened, she managed to stop it but got a nasty taste in her mouth.

Alec had got up to help her, trying to steady her by taking her arm.

"Are you okay Rose?"

Rose tried not to look embarrassed.

"Sorry. I'm okay now. You think he abused me while I was asleep. How long does that stuff last?"

"It depends on what he used but more importantly, why he used it," Alec replied, sitting her down.

"I can't pronounce it, Ricky gets it when he goes to Holland. It's that stuff, well he likes to show off to women, Lee told me he even asks if they want to use it."

Alec wasn't that surprised, given that Ricky Gillespie had made more fuss than his wife over Pippa's death.

"Does he now?" he raised his eyebrows. "So Lee had got some from him then? Rose, how did you feel the following morning?"

"A bit confused, then we saw the police outside. I don't know if Ricky came around looking for Pippa, I was a while in the bathroom. I never asked Lee if he'd been around, sorry."

"No matter for now," Alec replied, trying to take her attention away from the needle in her arm and Alistair attaching specimen bottles to it.

"All done," Alistair declared, putting the bottles in clear plastic bags with Rose's name and the name of the surgery.

He had smiled to himself Alec was keeping the young woman occupied.

"Rose, can I ask you a few questions?" he continued. "Do you hurt anywhere?"

Rose looked at Alec, not comfortable with him being there now.

"You need to find out if he did anything to you, without your permission," Alec reminded her.

Rose nodded and got up as Alistair pulled a curtain back and put a paper sheet on the couch.

"I have to tell ya that, well me and Lee. We never went the whole way." She turned back to Alec, who was putting her jacket on the chair. "Do ya think he took advantage?"

"Anything is possible? You don't seem to trust him any more," he noted.

"I thought he was okay with it," Rose replied sadly as Alistair pulled the curtain around her. "Instead, he cheated on me, probably with his female clients and Cate."

"So she was getting revenge on Ricky?" Alec wondered.

"Lee only told me recently that Ricky liked to mess around. I never suspected Lee made a move on Cate recently but I think that'll be over now. I confronted him about it, he never denied it."

"That all happened after Pippa and Lisa went missing?" Alec wanted to know.

Rose hadn't thought this was an interview, did he ever stop?

"I can't forgive him, we just live in the same house 'cos I can't afford to move," she admitted.

Alistair examined her for any signs of bruising or she had been forced whilst unconscious and declared nothing was wrong, which was a relief for her. Had he said she'd been abused, Alec might have another murder on his hands.

"Nothing to worry about," she was assured as she got dressed. "I'll send these blood samples off, I should get the results back by Monday, I will mark it urgent. Want me to put it down for the police?" he asked Alec.

"This is not an official visit," Alec reminded him. "Just send the results to me but will anything show up, it was Saturday night when she suspects she was given the drug."

"There may still be traces," Alistair replied. "How's the case going?"

"Slowly," Alec told him as Rose emerged and he picked up her jacket. "They seem to be taking their time examining the girl, she's the key to all this."

"What can they find?" Rose asked as he handed her jacket to her and their hands touched again.

"Plenty, I hope. These things just take time, they have to do a thorough examination, not like on TV. Forensics are also working on what she was wearing. People forget what is going on behind the investigation. Thanks Alistair, Rose didn't know where to go."

"You could have warned me," Rose told him once they were outside. "I mean about Lee, well you know."

"This is serious Rose. He could have abused you and you would never have known or lived with knowing there was a good chance he had taken advantage. It's very rare men use the drug unless they want to commit a sexual assault."

"Yeah. Maybe he changed his mind at the last minute?" she replied, hoping Lee had taken out any sexual frustrations on Lisa. "We sort of had this agreement that we'd wait until I was ready."

"You had doubts he'd keep to it?" Alec asked her as he opened the car door for her.

"Honestly? Not after I found out about Cate. I thought he'd not been able to wait and had gone to her," she replied.

Alec got in and continued. He'd been right, she was hiding something. The slightest thing could help him solve this investigation. Couples falling out and wandering partners always had a reason and he meant to get behind what had happened to Rose.

"Can I ask why you held back?" he asked as he put his seatbelt on.

"That's a bit personal, Alec," Rose smiled. "I never even told Lee. If he didn't know, then he shouldn't wonder why. It would have only taken one little thing but I know now, he would never have acted on it. It doesn't matter, it's over between us. I just need the courage to leave and find a place of my own."

"So do I," he admitted as he drove off in the direction of where Rose lived.

"Can we go somewhere, I don't feel like going home yet. Can we get a drink?"

Now he wished the personnel office would get up off their asses and find him a place to live.

"Ah, we pass a few places on the way," he admitted, coming up to where he was living at present. "I can offer you some coffee, I'm staying just up ahead."

Rose didn't think that was a good idea but did she want to be seen in a bar with him?

"Don't ya want to eat?" she smiled as he turned into the driveway.

Was this such a good idea, she wondered.

"I can eat later unless you feel uncomfortable?" he replied.

It was only just after six so he knew most of the residents would be in the dining room and not taking any notice he was ushering Rose upstairs. Getting her out would be a different matter but you never knew.

He opened his room door, the room being a decent size, since he wasn't paying for it and gestured for Rose to take the chair by the window.

"Rose, I am sorry for what you thought happened to you but sometimes, you don't know the people you think you know," he told her.

"We thought you and that female detective were together," she admitted.

"We were, we just separated, which is why I am here, for now. Rose, you need to get out, before he tries again," he warned her.

"He won't, not now. I've no idea what the hell he was doing that night, I got really confused, very fast. I'm sorry I never told ya on Sunday."

"No need to apologise," he tried to assure her.

"I was scared of him, I knew something was wrong. He said to keep quiet, it was nothing to do with us," she admitted, wanting to tell him the rest.

He put water in the kettle then sat on the bed.

"Rose, this is important. Are you sure there was no sign of Lisa when you returned home that night?" he asked her,

"No, sorry. It was late and Lee said she'd been there earlier, well he told you," she replied. "He never said anything to me about it."

"You looked surprised that Sunday morning, I could tell. Did he say anything when you got up? That Ricky had been around?" he asked again.

"No. Wouldn't Ricky have gone to us first before reporting Pippa was missing?" she wondered.

"Exactly what I was thinking, wouldn't he have gone there first?" he told her.

He already liked her but there was something about her – she asked all the right questions. He still didn't think she'd told him everything though. He made some drinks, apologizing for the small cream containers when they looked strong, Rose offering a weak smile.

"Tell me why you are so scared Rose," he prompted her. "What did Lee say to you that morning?"

"Nothing, I worked it out on Monday and confronted him. He didn't deny it and I was thinking what to do about it. I had nowhere else to go."

She wanted to tell him the real reason but what would Lee do if Alec confronted him?

"You can't tell him I told you, you have to promise Alec," she continued.

"I promise, it will be just between the three of us. You said he warned you not to say anything, why was that?" he wanted to know.

"He just didn't want any fuss I expect. Do you have plenty of clues?"

"I can't say but a lot goes on in the background, both with Pippa and where she was found. One thing though, why would Ricky not ask if you had seen them?"

"I still don't know Alec," Rose replied, blowing on the hot coffee. "I did think it was a bit funny we didn't see him. Alec, what do I do, if that test comes back positive?"

"You have a few options. You can report it but since nothing happened it may not be taken seriously or you can tell Lee you have proof and warn him if he does it again. Why do you stay with him?"

"I can't afford to move just yet. I spent a long time in a place like this, well half the size of this room and when I met Lee, he had a tiny flat. He already knew Ricky and we both jumped at the chance to rent the house. I might be able to afford a bedsit, if all the bills are included."

Alec felt sorry for her. She was trapped in a relationship and Ashworth probably knew. What did he have over her?

"As soon as ya find Pippa's killer and Lisa, I'll probably go back to my mum's for a while. We only have to give one month's notice on the house anyway, I'll tell Lee to go ahead, he can afford another place more than I can."

Alec thought it would be a pity were she to leave town. He got up and put his cup down, offering to take Rose's, then he helped her up, Rose gripping his hand.

"I'll take you home, unless you want dropping on the corner again?" he smiled.

"I don't think he'll be back yet but it will probably be safer if ya don't drop me outside," Rose smiled back.

She was about to let go of his hand but he took it back.

"You can trust me Rose, you said you had no-one else," he reminded her. "You know what happened that night, don't you?"

Rose shook her head, not letting go of his hand.

"Only that he drugged me Alec but what else happened?" she wanted to know.

She had only guessed what had happened, Lee had said it was an accident but why had he taken Pippa to the woods? It made no sense. She only had Lee's word on that, he could be lying but with Pippa being found in the river, maybe she'd been right and Ricky had come back and he'd taken her there?

It seemed heartless even for Lee but for Ricky to have helped him? Alec picked up his mobile and keys and went to open the door, indicating for Rose to go first. She stopped though and turned, Alec touching her arm. Then he took her by surprise by going to kiss her cheek but getting the side of her mouth as she flinched.

Rose went all flushed for a few seconds but caught him back and for another few seconds, he kissed her lightly on the lips.

"You said it was over, with Lee?" he wanted to make sure.

"Yeah, I can't trust him any more. What happened to you and what was her name?"

"It's Tess and she was cheating on me, with another detective. I did not intend to do that."

Rose rolled her tongue around her mouth and studied him.

"I'll let ya off this time," she smiled.

Then she saw his look change.

"Yes but you did kiss me back. Tess is still with that detective Rose and do you know what? It should have bothered me but it never did."

He let her arm go and she touched his.

"Sorry. Hey we can start a cheating partners club?"

"We should get going," he reminded her as he checked the hallway.

"I hope there's no CCTV cameras," Rose joked.

"I should be more worried than you," he replied, trying not to smile.

They got out, unobserved Alec hoped and he opened the car doors.

"What are you going back to?" he asked as he reversed the car.

"I've no idea but I have no choice Alec. Thanks for being so understanding and about the kiss, it was sweet."

Chapter 14

Alec left her on the corner but as he was about to turn around, he was sure Ashworth passed him in a van. He'd not seen a van at the side of the house on previous visits though and wondered if the man had been in a hurry to get home? Perhaps Rose had her mobile on silent and Ashworth wondered why she hadn't answered? Maybe he should go check she was okay?

He waited ten minutes, then drove the rest of the way after calling Daisy, whom he'd not seen since he broke the news to her.

"I thought you were going to call and see me Dad?" she greeted him.

"I know darlin', I will. I've called haven't I?" he defended himself.

"Yeah, I suppose so? You don't want to argue with mum, do you?" she asked him.

Alec thought that could get him off the hook.

"Well yes, has she said anything to you?" he wanted to know, mainly to find out if Tess had been bold enough to take Dave home with her.

"Yeah, mostly about you," Daisy teased him. "No, seriously Dad, what's she thinking? She told me she'd met someone at work, then she brought him round last night. This morning, I asked her how long she'd known him and she wouldn't answer me, she told me it was nothing to do with me."

"I'm sorry about that Daisy. I'll speak to her and tell her you heard her talking to him on the phone and that you deserve to know," he tried to assure her.

"Dad, if you meet someone, you won't do the same to me, will you?" she asked him. "Please Dad?"

He knew he owned her that much.

"Well, to be honest Daisy, there is someone but it's complicated," he replied. "When I mean complicated, well she lives with someone but they've broken up."

He heard his daughter laughing.

"Trust you Dad," she told him, still laughing. "Why is she still there then?"

"She can't afford to move, plus, she lives next door to where the girl who died lived," he tried to explain, hoping that sounded right.

"So is she a witness then?" she wanted to know. "No wonder it's complicated then?"

"She may be, it depends," he replied. "Anyway, nothing may come of it to worry about," he added, not saying knowing his luck, he had stuffed it up by kissing Rose.

So, he was now parked outside where Rose lived, debating to knock on the door or just leave it but what was Ashworth capable of? He got out of the car and if the man asked what he was doing there, he could say he'd been next door, he doubted Ashworth would go and check.

Rose had barely got to the door when Lee pulled in at the side of the house.

"Where the hell have you been?" he wanted to know as Rose opened the door.

"Since when do I have to tell ya if I went out with Claire after work?" Rose decided to rebel.

"I tried calling you, what else would I want to know for? I hope you've not eaten then?" he asked, putting a white bag with takeaway cartons inside on the table.

She was sure he was either getting lazy when she wasn't home before him or he'd gone off her cooking. Well, he could please himself, she wasn't going to make an effort if he wasn't. He had just put the food on the plates when there was a knock on the door.

Rose's heart was pounding, hoping it wasn't either Alec or Ricky. Lee insisted on going to the door.

"It had better not be anyone trying to sell something," he hissed to himself. "Oh, it's you? Hardy was it? What do you want?"

"I was just next door," Alec used the excuse, thinking when did he use that line? "Do you and Miss Tyler have a few minutes?"

"We were just going to eat, can't it wait?" Lee replied.

"Lee, don't be so rude," Rose insisted.

"I was just checking to see if either of you would know what Pippa would be doing out late at night?" Alec asked them, getting his notebook out.

"How would we know?" Lee replied. "Have you asked her mother?"

"Yes, she said she had no idea what went on when Lisa was looking after her," Alec replied, having got that from Tess's report earlier.

"Well neither did we," Lee told him, "Anything else? Our food's getting cold."

With that, Lee left Rose and Alec standing at the door.

"Sorry about that, we just got in," Rose told him, for the sake of anyone who was passing.

"Sorry. Call me, if you think of anything," Alec reminded her. "You have my number."

"Yeah, we will. My food's getting cold as well, thanks for calling."

Alec was now regretting it, what was he thinking of? He stepped away from the door, Rose watching him. She wondered if she'd made a mistake earlier but she needed someone who she could trust.

"As long as everything is okay?" he dared asked.

"Yeah, everything's fine, thanks. I have to go now," she replied, wondering why he'd really called.

He went back to his car and Rose went into the kitchen.

"That's the second time Rose," Lee told her.

"What ya talking about Lee?"

"Getting back at me?" he continued.

"I've no idea what's meant by that Lee and anyway in case you've forgotten, it's over between us Lee," she reminded him. "Are ya gonna give Ricky notice on this place?"

"Maybe I should? I've not seen him since they found Pippa. You'll have to sort your own living arrangements out."

"Don't think I can't Lee, I did before I met you," Rose snapped, going to warm the food up in the microwave.

"So I remember. What happened to us Rose?" he asked her.

"Huh? Well you cheating on me for starters," she replied. "You really don't know why I refused, do ya?"

"How am I supposed to work you women out?" he huffed back. "I've never known a woman who'd held back like you did before."

"Is that supposed to make me jealous?" she asked as she retrieved her food.

"Suit yourself," was his only reply.

When Rose got upstairs, she sent a message to Alec – 'Thanks for checking on me earlier. Sorry about Lee.'

She got one back – 'Don't apologise for him Rose, I wanted to make sure you were okay, I'm concerned about you.'

She wrote back saying 'I'll be fine, thanks.'

'Can I take you for lunch again tomorrow?' he replied.

"I won't get chance – sorry, it's Claire's day off. Maybe Saturday or Monday?' she asked.

'Monday then and Rose, if you need help moving, just say.'

She sent one last message – 'Thanks', waited a few minutes then deleted them all, in case Lee came nosing around. He might see Alec's number though so she went through her call history. Did Alec mean it when he'd said he'd help her move? She'd already overstepped their short friendship or whatever it was earlier today.

Was it a friendship though? Maybe he just felt obliged to help her, if he was trying to get information out of her? That kiss though?

All weekend, Alec tried to get Rose out of his mind but was having no luck. He'd been glad Rose had said Monday so he'd arranged to meet Daisy instead but it had cost him a new pair of trainers or 'sneakers' as some called them.

Claire had invited Rose round on Saturday night so she'd sent Lee a message, getting one back saying using Claire as an excuse was getting stale. She thought she'd be glad when she did move out, so she had to talk to Claire about it.

"I can't afford to give anyone a pay rise Rose," Claire told her over their meal.

"I'm not asking for one Claire, just maybe a small loan, if I have to pay a deposit on somewhere. I can't go back to a guest house."

Claire was feeling sorry for her though.

"Well, I might be able to manage that, you'll just have to keep it quiet. So, you got the courage up to leave Lee then?"

"I've got no choice Claire, he's probably already got something planned," Rose admitted.

"So, how about we go out and celebrate next Saturday night?" Claire asked cheerfully.

"I'm tryin' to save money," Rose laughed back.

"Well, I'll buy the first round," Claire laughed. "So, what about that detective then?"

"What about him?" Rose pretended to yawn.

"Oh come on Rose, he comes in the salon and calls you on the same day?" Claire teased her.

Rose was hoping her friend had forgotten about that. She couldn't believe it had only been a week since that fateful night when Pippa had died and Lisa had disappeared and she still wasn't convinced the older cousin had anything to do with it.

Now, she was beginning to suspect Ricky had come back that night and had stashed Lisa somewhere to keep her quiet and that he had helped Lee by taking Pippa to the woods. She ignored Lee when she got home but she had to face going grocery shopping the next day with him or use public transport and go on her own.

"Have ya seen Ricky then?" she asked on the way to the supermarket.

"I'll see him tomorrow, there's no hurry to give notice," Lee replied. "We've got until the end of the month to do it. Were you really seeing your friend last night?"

"Yeah, I needed to talk to her, does it matter?" Rose wanted to know.

"If I were the suspicious type, I'd think you'd got yourself a new bloke," he replied dryly.

She was about to take the bait but thought better of it, it would only make him worse. Was he suspecting there was something going on between herself and Alec? Was there something going on though? Was Alec showing more than a professional interest in her? She had another lunch date with him, was it going to lead to him asking her out at night? If it did, she'd have to be careful until she left Lee altogether.

The next morning as Rose left for work, Lee called next door.

"Is Ricky in?" he asked when Cate answered the door.

"He's not been home," she told him. "I hardly think he'll be talking to you anyway."

"Why? What have I done?" Lee asked, trying to sound innocent.

"You could have kept an eye on the girls last Saturday night," she replied.

"I did, you never asked. Lisa came and said some bloke was hanging around, so I saw him off for her. Then she and Pippa went off, how did I know they weren't going home?" he wanted to know.

"They did come back, we found the patio doors open when we got back from the wedding," Cate yelled at him. "Someone must have got over the back fence and forced them out. Don't tell me you heard nothing."

"I never heard anything Cate, I had the TV on, Rose was out," he told her. "I'll catch Ricky at his office then?"

"If that's where he's spending his time lately?" Cate replied sarcastically. "He's avoiding me because I confronted him about the wedding we went to. He claims he was in the other bar when he went missing."

Lee didn't say anything. So that was what Ricky had told her and probably the police, unless Cate hadn't dared say anything? Sooner or later though, she'd begin asking questions. He drove off to Ricky's works, seeing him just going back into his office.

"We need to talk," Lee told Ricky as he followed him in.

"What do you want?" Ricky asked him. "So all you could do was leave Pippa in the woods, or was it in the river?"

"In the woods, it's not my fault the river burst its banks. What did you do with Lisa anyway?" Lee asked him.

"I'm not telling you, in case you feel like talking to the cops, I'm not stupid. Cate thinks I was with a bridesmaid that night."

"Does she?" Lee laughed. "It didn't seem like it to me. Anyway, Rose and I are splitting up, I'm giving notice on the house from the end of the month."

"So you got tired of her then?" Ricky seemed amused. "Did she guess about Lisa?"

"Yeah but as far as she's concerned, Lisa is still missing, same as to everyone else. She guessed about Pippa being drugged as well. That's partly why we're splitting up," Lee admitted.

"She'd better not say anything Ashworth. She'd better keep her mouth shut," Ricky warned him.

"Oh, she will, she's been warned," Lee gloated.

"You seem sure of it?" Ricky asked him. "I'll never forgive you Ashworth and remember this – if anything happens and I get arrested, I'll tell them what you did, that you gave Pippa too much."

"Well you told me to give her it," Lee reminded him.

"The police have not said if any of that stuff was found in Pippa." Ricky told him. "They've not told us much."

"They've been hanging around, asking us questions," Lee admitted. "That detective's turned up twice and funnily enough just after Rose got home."

"Sure she's not cheating on you with him?" Ricky scoffed.

"She wouldn't do that, would she?" Lee wondered.

He went off, still wondering if Rose would actually find someone else. If she did, he was sure it wouldn't be that nosy detective, she had too much to hide. She was under threat and splitting up would not get her out of it.

Rose was actually looking forward to meeting Alec for lunch though she tried to hide it. Alec had got to work, caught up with anything that had happened over the weekend then went to the personnel office to get them to hurry in finding him somewhere to live.

The personnel officer dealing with him did have some news for him.

"We've found two apartments and one terraced house with just one bedroom and a bathroom, they are all within your housing allowance Sir," she greeted him before he asked her.

"Good, send me the details and when I can go look at them though I'm not so keen on just one bedroom. I may try and get my daughter to visit," he replied.

"Well I'll let the agency know and arrange a time, hopefully today or tomorrow. Do you want the appointments as late as possible, say around four?" she asked him, hoping to get him sorted as soon as possible.

Alec agreed and went back to his office to read through the phone messages the desk sergeant had greeted him with and whom had told him he really needed to get another phone number out for enquiries about the case. He'd just mumbled he'd see about it and left.

Now, he was more interested in what Rose had to hide, possibly about Ashworth but did she know more? He thought more and more now she was the key to the case so should he even remotely think about pursuing her? He was playing a very dangerous game if she was the one who could end this case.

One thing he did know was she was scared of Ashworth, the way she had looked to him before saying anything and the other night, she'd been reluctant to go home and then not wanted him to drop her outside the house. When it was time to go meet her, should he tell her he was wrong in kissing her the other night and they shouldn't keep meeting? If he did, she may clam up altogether and he didn't want her to do that, he wanted her to talk.

He also wanted her to feel comfortable with him that she'd confide in him, eventually. Tess saw him sneaking out, now getting suspicious he was meeting someone and she bet a month's salary it was the blonde neighbour. Alec was waiting at the end of the lane as he saw Rose coming out of the salon. He knew he was already having feelings for her and he should keep himself in check but he had to smile as she crossed the road and got into the car.

"Hi," she greeted him.

"Hello again, Rose. We need to talk," he replied.

Rose was starting to get worried now. Was it about that kiss the other night or what she was hiding?

Once in the café, Alec went to order and sat across the table from her. He reached for her hand and put his on top.

"If you want to forget about the other night, you just have to say," he told her.

Rose tried to move her hand but he held onto it.

"Do you? Did I get my wires crossed or somethin'?" she wanted to know.

"You were reluctant at first," he reminded her. "You seemed like you were reluctant to go home?"

"I was but I didn't want Lee to throw me out before I found somewhere to live. Then what did ya go and do?" she asked as their drinks arrived.

"I wanted to make sure you were okay, he passed me in his van," Alec said in his defence.

"Well if ya keep doin' that, he will get suspicious," Rose smiled, letting him move his hand after he squeezed hers.

"Sorry but I can't help worrying about you now. I just wanted you to know that you can talk to me, about anything," he reminded her.

As much as she wanted to, she knew she had to keep quiet, at least until she moved out but Lee would still come after her if she told Alec anything.

"Yeah, I know. So, any news yet?" she tried to recover.

"I wish I had something to tell you Rose but there is a lot going on, we should get some results back later. We are now working on the assumption it was someone who knew both girls but we are fairly certain it was not Gary Thorp."

Rose looked surprised they'd even questioned the man.

"I don't think he would have hurt Lisa, he just had a crush on her," Rose told him. "She told me he was harmless but he just wasn't her type. She said he didn't get the message though."

"Did she tell you anything else?" Alec wanted to know when their meals arrived. "You were reluctant to say anything when you were at home, why was that?"

"Lee said not to get involved and that everyone else would have plenty to say," she admitted.

"Did he now?" Alec asked. "I could book him for obstruction."

Rose didn't know if he was serious or not. Then she saw a bit of a smile creep across his face.

"Got any suspects then?" Rose changed the subject.

"I can't say, sorry. So, have you started looking for somewhere to move to?"

"I have to wait until Claire can give me a loan if I have to pay a month in advance," she replied.

"How did you manage when you came here?"

"I had to save up but I was lucky Claire took me on and I was in a B&B so I didn't need to pay in advance. I can't afford a place of my own, I still have to pay another month on the house."

Alec was going to say let Ashworth pay it.

"Rose, if you need help, you only have to ask," he reminded her instead.

"I can't ask you to help me," she replied.

"Meet me tomorrow night and we can discuss it?" he suggested. "I have to go somewhere myself tonight."

He didn't want to say he was trying to get his own accommodation sorted but he could help her, if she asked. He had a feeling she'd take some persuading though.

"Please Rose?" he added.

"Well, okay then I suppose? I'm in no hurry to get home now and I can't drag Claire out every night after work," she smiled.

Chapter 15

"Oh, it's my day off tomorrow though," Rose added. "Can we make it Wednesday?"

"Well, only if you let me buy you lunch again?" he smiled as she got into the car.

"Won't someone notice if ya keep sneakin' out every lunchtime?" Rose wondered.

"Let me worry about that," Alec told her.

After getting back to work, Rose was wondering why she kept agreeing to meet Alec. While it was certainly over with Lee, did she want to jump into another relationship or wasn't that his intention and he was just being friendly? She thought Alec seemed to understand, he didn't have to arrange that test for her and it seemed he'd recently broken up with his wife, which didn't really surprise her, the female detective had seemed a bit frosty.

Now, she really had to speed up finding a place of her own or it was back to another guest house but would a bedsit be any better where you had to share a kitchen and bathroom? At least in a guest house, you got your own small bathroom and there were no bills to pay, it would do until a decent flat was found. Could she impose on Alec to help her move though?

Alec had got some details and was going to see the two apartments, which would delay him yet again and he really needed to go visit Daisy before she got mad with him. He didn't like the first apartment very much, there was limited parking and he thought the hours he worked, he'd end up parking half on the pavement, the second one was much better and he went to take a look inside. The second bedroom was small but it would do for Daisy, if she was still talking to him. He agreed to take it and was told he could collect the keys on Saturday and he had no paperwork to do as they would deal directly with the personnel department.

He called Daisy to give her the news.

"So do you think you'll want to visit?" he asked her nervously.

"I'll think about it Dad. This has all happened so fast, why was mum in such a hurry?"

"I don't know," he replied, brushing his hair back with his fingers and wondering if he should pay a visit as a paying customer to where Rose worked.

Knowing his luck though, he'd get Rose's boss and he would show his disappointment. He started thinking about Rose, being faced with maybe going back to a guest house but that was surely better than being in the same house as Ashworth?

Rose got home and started packing some of her things. Tomorrow was her day off so she had got the local paper and she was going start calling places where she could get room only rates for a few weeks but would that help her save up for a place of her own? Maybe she should pay a bit more for a double room and stay there until Lisa turned up and when she did, maybe she'd tell the truth of what happened that night and she herself would tell her side of the story. Would Alec get the truth out of her before then though?

She sat on the bed, pen in hand and circled a few with good rates so she could maybe persuade them to just include breakfast but it maybe just a single room for now. She should leave before the end of the month before Lee made her pay towards another month's rent. She only had a few days though but knowing Ricky, he'd insist Lee paid another month, whether they stayed or not.

The next day, Rose did all the laundry, putting the cushion cover back on that Lee for some strange reason had decided to wash. She still wondered why he'd done that but there again, he'd been strange by drugging herself and Pippa, then leaving poor Pippa in the woods and not getting help for her.

She decided to call her mother and tell her she'd be moving.

"Have ya tried making up with Lee?" Jackie asked her, Rose thought for the tenth time.

"Mum, I just can't. He admitted he cheated with Cate and goodness knows how many of his female customers," Rose told her.

"I'm sorry sweetheart. Are ya coming home then?"

"No Mum, I have to stay until they find who killed Pippa and Lisa comes back," Rose replied, wishing Lee would just admit what he'd done.

Maybe the police would have believed it was an accident but he'd screwed it up by trying to mislead them. Alec must surely suspect something, judging by how many times he'd asked her if she had anything else to tell him.

"I don't know why ya have to stay," Jackie was telling her.

"I owe it to them Mum. If I'd stayed in that night or got home earlier, maybe I could have prevented whatever happened," Rose replied sadly.

"You couldn't have known Rose," Jackie tried to assure her.

Rose thought when Pippa had asked if she could have come round that night, she should have cancelled with Claire but maybe that wouldn't have made any difference. Maybe Lee would have sneaked upstairs or next door with Lisa anyway?

Alec had got to work, annoyed there was very little progress being made in finding where Lisa had gone or who had left Pippa in the woods. He went to the chief's office to get Tess off his back if he concentrated on Rose.

"So, you think she holds the key to all this?" the chief asked him. "Why is Tess objecting?"

"Seriously?" Alec replied. "We've just split up and she's insinuating every time I say I'm following a lead. I want to try and gain Rose Tyler's confidence and get her to talk."

"I see then? Well if Tess comes in to complain about you, I'll tell her Miss Tyler is helping you with your enquires. If she comes in for anything else, I'm keeping out of it, understood?" the chief asked him.

He left the chief's office, wanting to gloat to Tess but decided not to, she could find out for herself, should she deem to but he knew he had to be careful, it was already spilling over to his personal life – Rose Tyler was getting to him. Just let Tess say anything though. He went back to his office, wishing Rose had agreed to meeting him tonight but he had to stop that way of thinking, he was already walking a very fine line as it was.

The next day, Rose got to work, Claire asking what she'd decided about moving.

"So, are you going back to a guest house then?" she asked Rose at break time.

"Yeah for now, I told Lee last night, it didn't go down well," Rose recalled.

To say it hadn't gone down well was an understatement, Rose thought. Lee had told her he'd find her if she ever told the police what had happened and Rose had thought of using her mother's maiden name to book in somewhere but Lee would probably wait for her after work.

"Don't think you'll be safe anywhere," Lee had said to her.

"You should have got her some help," she had told him tearfully. "Just tell me one thing. Did Ricky come back that night?"

"Don't be so daft Rose, why would he do that?" Lee had denied.

"For Lisa?" she'd dared ask. "Maybe he thought you'd take advantage of him and Cate being away?" She saw the look on his face and thought she was getting too close to the truth. "Oh, he did come back? Did he catch the two of you?"

"Stop it Rose," Lee had warned her. "For you own sake."

"Why, am I gettin' to the truth?" she wanted to know. "Pippa did hear his voice, she thought she was imagining it. She heard you and Lisa, then she said it went quiet and she never mentioned if she'd heard Ricky before or after or even both times because you went and drugged her."

"I thought she'd have forgotten it by morning," Lee admitted. "How was I to know she was allergic to it?"

"She was twelve, you moron, how else did ya expect her to react to it? You could have got help for her. Ricky was here, he told ya to give that stuff to me and her, didn't he? What didn't he want me to know?" she had asked.

"Forget it Rose, I'm warning you," Lee had replied.

"You are joking?" she had almost laughed instead of crying. "Ricky caught you and Lisa, that's why she ran off? No, it's something else. Ricky hit her and she ran off?" she wondered.

Lee had been pacing up and down but suddenly he'd turned to her and grabbed her arms.

"You're going too far Rose, you had better not say anything, to anybody. Yes, Ricky came back and was outside the patio door," he'd admitted.

"You never thought to pull the curtain over?" she'd questioned him.

"The door was open, how the hell was I supposed to know he'd come back and wonder where the girls were?" he'd admitted.

"So did he go after Lisa?" she'd asked him.

"I don't know, you came home and I went out to talk to you," he'd replied. "He'd left the flask, saying he'd deal with Pippa in the morning."

"So the first he knew of Pippa was when they came back and Cate called the police because she and Lisa weren't there? Ricky couldn't have said Pippa was next door, could he?" she'd asked him.

"Of course not, he couldn't say Lisa had run off after he'd caught us either, he had to go along with it. He came round and I told him Pippa had been okay last night but I found her early that morning and I'd taken her where she would be found."

Rose had pulled her arms away from him.

"I'm leaving Lee, I don't want to ever see you again."

"Well if you don't want to see me, don't send that detective after me or I'll carry out my threat, understand? I will come and find you Rose, if I get taken in for anything other than routine questioning."

Rose had believed he would as well so now, it was urgent she moved out as quickly as possible so she had to ask Alec for help when she met him at lunchtime. Claire brought her back to reality.

"So are you disappearing this lunchtime again? Can you keep affording to go to the café?" she asked Rose. "Or are you meeting someone secretly?"

Rose gave herself away so Claire continued her questioning.

"You're not meeting that detective are you? Please say no."

"He was tryin' to find out if I know anything," Rose admitted. "Who am I to turn down a free lunch?"

"Come on Rose, it has to be more than that. Have you told him you're splitting from Lee?" She saw the look on Rose's face. "Oh, you have? Be careful, he might be more than trying to get information from you, he might be trying to get into your knickers," Claire laughed.

"Stop it Claire, it's not like that," Rose told her, trying to forget the brief kiss she'd shared with him.

"If you say so but you can't fool me," Claire told her as she went to wash her cup.

All morning, Rose was just praying Alec wouldn't come in to ask her any questions but she supposed he'd leave that until later. She tried not to give Claire any reason to think she was keen to leave when her lunch hour came around.

Claire already had her suspicions but thought if Rose was no longer involved with Lee, she might make a play for him herself while Rose was obviously chasing the detective. Rose had got into Alec's car, wondering why he was able to get out so often to meet her when there was a full-scale operation going on to find Lisa and they didn't know who had killed Pippa.

After the conversation with Lee last night, how could she live with knowing what happened to Pippa?

"Are you okay?" Alec asked as they drove off. "You seem out of it today? Do you want to stop meeting?"

"What? No, it's not that. It's been a bit tough, tryin' to find somewhere to move to and I told Lee last night that I was leaving. I just don't want to stay there too long, that's all. I've packed all my stuff and I'll ring a B&B tonight and get a taxi after work tomorrow, since it's the end of the month."

"Let me help you Rose?" he offered as he found somewhere to park outside the café.

"You've helped me enough Alec," she replied as she got out. "I've asked too much already."

Alec joined her on the pavement.

"I offered to help you, I meant with anything. If you don't want me to make advances towards you, then say and we can stay professional."

Rose thought he had to be joking. The brief kiss had been nice and certainly memorable, since she'd done nothing but think about it and she'd dreamt last night they'd done more. She stopped him before they went inside.

"No Alec, the kiss was nice, really and I've left Lee. I just feel I'm asking too much of ya."

"No, you're not," he assured her, opening the door for her and putting his hand on her shoulder.

When he came back from ordering, he tried to change the subject.

"I was thinking of maybe getting a haircut," he smiled across the table, trying not to stretch his long legs out and moving slightly in his seat.

"Geez, Claire will think you're there to ask me questions again," Rose smiled back. "She already suspects I'm meeting you when I disappear for an hour."

"Ah but as long as she does not suspect we met the other night and we are meeting tonight," Alec replied.

"She would have said something, trust me. I can't meet ya tonight Alec, I have to arrange some accommodation, remember?"

"Do you have to do that from where you are living now? If you find somewhere, I can take you to see it," he offered. "Then I can take you to collect your things tomorrow. Maybe I can get you a room where I'm staying for a few nights?"

"You are joking Alec? I can't afford their rates and besides, I don't want to have to move again. I was hoping to get a flat but maybe I can find one to share, instead of a bedsit."

"I move into an apartment on Saturday," he admitted when their meals had arrived. "Sorry. I need my own place, in case my daughter wants to visit, I can't take her back to the guest house."

"You took me," Rose reminded him. "It's okay, I can go home tonight."

"We were going to talk," he reminded her. "Unless you don't want to? We can get something to eat on the way back, then you can ring a few places and I'll take you there tomorrow night?" He saw her hesitation. "It will save you money on getting a taxi."

"I'll think about it. So, have ya told your daughter you're getting a place of your own?" she asked him "Did ya mention her name?"

Alec couldn't remember.

"Her name is Daisy, she's just a bit older than Pippa was. Losing Pippa must have impacted the school, she was in a lower class than Daisy. There is a holiday coming up, I was hoping Daisy would want to spend some of it with me."

Rose thought that was his way of telling her his daughter was important to him so maybe he wouldn't want to see her that often anyway, if Daisy took precedence. He reached his hand out and put it on top of hers.

"Rose, I don't want you thinking I will be spending all my time with her."

"That's up to you Alec, she should come first. She's lucky to have ya, I never knew my dad, he died when I was a baby."

"I'm sorry to hear that Rose. Her mother may not allow her to spend a lot of time with me anyway, I'm supposed to be the bad guy," he smiled.

"Has she turned Daisy against you?" Rose asked.

"No, I did that all on my own," he replied sadly. "So are we agreed I help you move?" he changed the subject.

"Fine, if you insist," Rose smiled with her tongue sticking out slightly. "I don't want ya being a grump over it."

"Me, a grump?" he teased her. "You should see me first thing then."

He instantly regretted saying that, what was he thinking?

"Aw, ya having nothing on me in the morning, ask my mum and…" She stopped before she said Lee. "My now ex boyfriend – sorry, I shouldn't have mentioned him."

"You are bound to," he replied. "I'm bound to mention who is now my ex wife, well she will be, if she gets the papers or maybe she's leaving that to me."

He knew that he had to talk to Tess about it. Maybe she thought splitting was enough, since she only suspected he was already involved with Rose?

"I should be gettin' back to work," Rose told him as they finished eating.

"So, I'll wait for you later?" he asked, Rose seeing he wasn't sure about it.

"Well okay then and when I get back, I'm not using Claire as an excuse, if I have to talk to Lee at all."

"You don't have to explain yourself to him Rose. You have told him you are leaving, you can do as you wish," Alec tried to assure her.

"You don't know him Alec. He thinks I don't have the courage to leave before he does."

"Rose, you don't have to be scared of leaving first," he told her as they got up.

"Geez, if he gets back before I leave tomorrow, what if he wants to know why you're there?" she asked as they left.

"Rose, let me worry about that eh? Why are you so worried? What has he told you not to say anything about?"

"Leave it Alec, please?" Rose begged him as he started the car.

"I will, for now anyway. You will feel different when you have left."

Rose just hoped he was right. He stopped to let her out but surprised her by leaning over to kiss her cheek.

"I may come for that haircut later or should I leave it until your boss's day off?" he teased her.

"That may be better, as long as the others don't remember ya," Rose agreed. "Bye then, see ya later."

Alec went off, wondering why exactly Rose was scared of Ashworth. What did she know about him? He went back to his office to see if Lee Ashworth had any criminal record and was disappointed when he found nothing. Had the man just avoided the attention of the police but had been in trouble? He was now worried about Rose going back at all, now Ashworth knew she was leaving.

He got up and called Tess to his office.

"I'm busy Alec, what do you want?" Tess asked him.

"Are you moving Dave in with you?" he asked her.

"Alec? No, of course not but he may be visiting, why? Has Daisy said something?"

"Yes and she's upset at you not telling her how long you've known him. She'd heard you on the phone to him Tess so why deny it?" he wanted to know. "Anyway, what are you wanting to do? Get a separation or a divorce? I don't think there is any chance I will want you back if you are involved with someone."

"You don't even want to fight for me?" Tess joked.

"Be serious Tess. I'm tired of all the arguments and it affects Daisy. I'll go get a separation order, since you left me for him," he suggested.

"Well he won't divorce his wife, she's very religious so unless you have someone stashed away and you want to get married, a separation it is," Tess agreed. "Have you got anyone Alec?"

"Stop it Tess – no," he told her.

"Then why all the sneaking off during working hours and don't tell me you're following leads?" Tess replied. "I was talking to Cate, she thinks the neighbours are splitting up, Lee Ashworth wanted to see Ricky about moving, she didn't say much about it. Have you heard anything, Alec?"

He knew she was trying to find out about Rose.

"I am following leads. I think Rose Tyler knows something, about Ashworth."

"Well you would, she's young and blonde," Tess huffed.

"She's scared of him, you could tell. Maybe once she's away from him, she will talk."

"Don't get close to her Alec, if she does know something," she warned him.

Alec thought it was already too late for that. He was having feelings for Rose and they were both about to be free to do something about it.

Chapter 16

After Tess left, he leaned on the desk, his head in his hands. He'd been trying to ignore he had feelings for Rose, what would he have done if she'd told him she wanted to keep it professional? He went back to work, trying to figure out what sort of person left a young girl in the woods.

He went off to meet Rose from work but after Friday, he'd be moving anyway and he'd have no excuse to see her until next week. He was going to enjoy having her cut his hair if nothing else though.

Rose wasn't so sure now that she was doing the right thing by agreeing to meet Alec after work, she could manage to move on her own, couldn't she? Why was she getting so dependant on him? Lee had never really looked after her as such, she had made her own way and apart from going next door, hadn't really gone out much.

She knew she had to make a decision tonight to carry on seeing Alec or not. If she didn't let him help her move though, he may just say forget it and like it or not, she needed him as an ally against Lee. She had to smile to herself that Alec wanted to annoy Claire by turning up for his hair cutting and asking for her but it was best he waited until Claire's day off on Friday.

Alec was waiting for her when she managed to get out before Claire delayed her.

"Do you want to get something to eat?" Alec suggested as he drove off.

"I can't let ya keep buying my meals," Rose replied, hoping he wouldn't take offence.

"You are trying to save up to move," he reminded her. "There is a pub near where I am staying, we can get something there. I've not eaten much where I'm staying, though meals are included. Have you found somewhere to go? It's best you leave as soon as you can."

"I know, I told him last night I never want to see him again. I can't forgive him for confessing he slept with Cate," she admitted. "What do I do Alec, if I can't find somewhere right away? I can put up with tonight but after that, I don't know if I can bear going back."

"Calm down eh? I will help you, look for somewhere on your phone and ask if you can move in tomorrow evening," he suggested. "There should be plenty of vacancies."

They had arrived at the pub and Alec waited for her to say something.

"Yeah, I have to try I suppose? I'll have to finish packing when I get back so I can't stay out long," she told him.

"I will take you back, no need to worry. At least there is no need for you to cook tonight," Alec smiled as he got out of the car.

Seeing Rose hesitating, he went round and opened the passenger door and offered his hand.

"Do you know anyone around here?" he asked her.

Rose turned to him.

"No, sorry. I guess I'm not used to going out with someone else other than Lee or Claire," she replied as she let him help her.

"It's fine Rose, don't worry about it eh?" he tried to assure her.

Going inside, Alec got them a menu and they went to sit at a corner table.

"You have your freedom now, I promise not to make you spend all your time with me," he told her as he let her have the menu first.

"It's either you or Claire and I need more friends, she must be tired of me relying on her," Rose replied.

"Then consider us friends?" Alec suggested, touching her hand.

"I thought Cate and Lisa were my friends," Rose replied sadly. "Why did Cate have to betray me?"

"Maybe Lee encouraged her?" Alec wondered. "It maybe never took much though? She and Ricky seemed very distant over their daughter's death but everyone copes with a loss differently. I'll go order and then look up some accommodation for you while we wait."

As he went off, Rose thought if only Lee had been as considerate as Alec was being. What on Earth had she been thinking, taking up with Lee and then living with him? Now, she was bound to cave in and let slip about Lisa, she nearly had done when she had told Alec Cate had betrayed her by saying Lisa had as well.

How much longer could she keep the whole sorry thing from Alec and bring Lee down on her? Surely Alec would be able to protect her, if she told him what happened that night? Would he believe her though? She only knew what she had guessed and what Lee had admitted and Lee would say she had been out of it and the most he would get charged with was drugging her that night. Then he would go after her.

Alec had got his phone out and found a few places to call and handed his phone to Rose.

"Call this one first," he suggested as he highlighted the number of a guest house. "If they don't do a room only rate then there are a few more for you to try."

Rose took his phone from him but he was still worried about leaving her on her own. Rose was about to press the green button to call the guest house when he stopped her.

"Rose, if you wait until Saturday, well I am moving into a two bedroom apartment, you could stay with me?" he dared ask her. "I realise you are just getting out of a relationship but I will not put pressure on you, you could stay until you save up to get a place of your own."

They ate their meals in silence, Rose considering his offer.

"I need to get out of there Alec, I could get somewhere for two nights," she told him. "I'm grateful for the offer but I hate to point out that I am sort of involved with your case."

Alec already knew that, he didn't need reminding he was getting too close to her and Tess already suspected something.

"I told you to let me worry about that," he reminded her. "Then let me pay for you to stay where I am? Come back with me and I will see the owners about a single room?"

"I don't know Alec," she hesitated. "What if they don't have any rooms? No, I'll put up with it for a few more nights, Lee might have already left anyway, he hates the thought of me leaving him, he'll try and leave me first."

"Rose, I am really sorry, you were not to know he would do that to you. Let me call where I am staying."

Rose listened while he asked the owner.

"I'm sorry, we're fully book, well until you leave on Saturday," he was told, since he'd already given notice. "Was it urgent?"

"It was for a friend," Alec told her. "Not to worry." He turned back to Rose. "May I suggest you go and get a few things and we will try somewhere else? If not, then you can stay with me, we will sort something out."

"I guess so? Let me see if Lee's there first, he might have gone," Rose replied. "It depends on Ricky anyway, if Lee gave notice and he doesn't pay another month's rent."

"Then you should leave without delay. I would be worried about you facing an angry landlord," Alec smiled. "Have you seen much of him?"

"No, Lee said he came round that morning, looking for Pippa but I'd been in the bathroom. He only told me last night," Rose admitted, trying to remember when Lee had told her.

She was all confused with trying to not give anything away to Alec but was he only offering to help her in the hope she'd slip up?

"Was that all he said Rose?" Alec was asking her. "Why would Ricky think the girls were at your house?"

"I don't know Alec, he never said. I told ya, he said to keep out of it."

"Well surely that does not apply now?" Alec asked as he finished his non-alcoholic drink, which he hated but he was driving and in the middle of a murder investigation. "Rose, whatever you know, you have to tell me. What are you so afraid of? Did he threaten you?"

He saw the look on her face but knew she wouldn't say anything while they were out.

"Let me take you home to get a few things, then you come back to where I am staying. He won't know where you are Rose."

"Alec, ya don't know him. He has contacts all over the place," she replied.

He led her back outside to the car, opening the door for her but Rose turned and caught him by surprise as she went to kiss him. He kissed her back after he fluttered his eyelids and tried to recover, not that it wasn't welcome.

"Can ya really help me Alec?" she continued.

"Yes Rose, he won't hurt you but you have to tell me what he threatened you with."

"Ya can't confront him Alec, please?" she pleaded as she got in the car.

"I can't promise that Rose. Just tell me," he encouraged her.

"Did I tell ya that, well the reason he cheated on me?" she began.

"You may have mentioned it but tell me again," he replied.

"I don't know why but something's been holding me back, from giving myself fully to Lee. He said he was okay with it but now, I think he was cheating long before he went to Cate. He went to her so I'd get to know about it."

"I'm sorry Rose. Can I ask what was holding you back?" he asked her, placing his hand on her leg.

"I don't know, like I wasn't certain I wanted that with him. He got tired of waiting long before he said anything though. There was maybe one thing that would change my mind and it never happened."

"Rose, something like that, you have to be certain, if you love someone otherwise, it means nothing. He was trying to hurt you and make you give in by going with Cate," Alec told her.

"Well he was wrong, it only made me feel sick to know he'd been with other women then came back to me. I just want to get away from him," Rose began to cry.

Alec reached out and put his arm around her.

"Then let me help you?" he offered again. "Come and stay with me tonight, then after you gather everything else, I will take you somewhere else, if you want?"

Rose nodded and Alec took her head in his hands and went to kiss her, grateful he'd parked facing a wall. He had a good idea why Rose hadn't given in to Ashworth, the man didn't seem the type to commit himself to a woman and admit he loved her. He drove her back to the estate and luckily, there was no sign of Lee.

Alec waited in the car as Rose put the rest of her clothes in a bag, she'd left enough out for the following day and she tossed a few toiletries and personal things in and zipped up the bag. As Alec waited next door though, he saw Lee pull in at the side of their house.

Lee began to wonder if Rose would keep her promise of leaving him and thought she didn't have the courage and he'd decided he'd leave the following night before the rent was due. He saw Alec waiting in the car and thought the man was wasting his time if he was waiting to see Ricky. He called as he entered the house.

"Rose, are you in here?" he shouted.

Rose called back from the open bedroom door. He dashed upstairs and saw the packed cases and the bag.

I'll get the rest tomorrow, I've got somewhere to stay tonight," she told him.

"Don't tell me, Claire gave in and felt sorry for you?" he scoffed.

"Yeah, she's a good friend," she used the excuse, since he'd suggested it.

"Well don't talk to that detective outside," he warned her. "Remember what I told you. I'll be gone by tomorrow anyway, if I can find Ricky or he answers his bloody phone. If that detective's waiting for him, he'll be there a while," he grinned. "Don't make me come after you Rose, or you'll really regret it. It's my word against yours, I'll say you were totalled when you got home that night and didn't know what you saw."

Rose gulped. Would Alec believe her if she told him? She hoped so or it was going to be a very long investigation otherwise. Alec had turned the car around and was waiting at the end of the street but Rose thought he'd gone, once he'd seen Lee had come back.

She started to walk down the street and she just hoped he'd be there. She was relieved when she turned the corner.

"I thought ya'd changed ya mind?" she admitted as he took the bag from her.

"I would not break my promise Rose. I thought he would get suspicious if he saw you getting in the car," he replied. "If you are not sure, we can drive around where the guest houses are and look for vacancies?"

"I'm tired Alec, just give me a duvet and I'll sleep on the chairs," Rose suggested.

"I have a better idea. I will sleep on top of the bed?" he smiled as they set off.

After Rose had left, Lee went to the spare room and gathered his things. He'd looked out of the kitchen window and the detective had gone. If Rose had stopped to talk to him, he'd have knocked on the door by now so he thought he was pretty safe for the time being. She wouldn't be so stupid as to do such a thing, would she?

Alec was helping Rose upstairs in the small hotel he was staying at when he was caught by the owner.

"Are you still wanting a single room?" he was asked.

"Ah, not now," he admitted. "It was for my girlfriend, she decided to take me back," he grinned, Rose wondering what he was up to.

Who was he calling his girlfriend?

"So is she going to be sharing your room?" the woman wanted to know, Rose thinking she was going to object.

"That remains to be seen," Alec replied. "It will only be for a few nights if she does. She will probably want evening meals from tomorrow."

"I see then? Well since your room's being paid for, I can hardly object, it was just someone cancelled."

Alec turned to Rose, who was keeping quiet so as not to get them both thrown out.

"Do you want a separate room sweetheart?" he smiled at Rose.

"I'll give it a go," she put on a big smile, thinking he had some explaining to do.

"She went back to her mother's," Alec turned to tell the owner, so as to explain Rose's accent.

Once in Alec's room, Rose put her bag on the chair, thinking the chair may be okay for sitting on but she didn't fancy trying to sleep on it and Alec's legs would be too long for putting another chair in front of it.

"You said I was your girlfriend," she reminded him.

"What was I supposed to say Rose?" he wanted to know. "That you are a possible witness in a murder investigation? I am trying to keep that quiet. I will be honest with you, I want to help you but you have to tell me what you know."

"Is that why ya keep takin' me to lunch and inviting me around?" she asked, her hands on her hips.

"What? No, that is not the reason Rose. It may have been, last week but damn it Rose, you must know I care about you? If you thought that, why did you kiss me earlier?" he wanted to know as he ran his fingers through his hair.

"Is that why ya wanted me to cut your hair?" she tried to change the subject.

"No. Is that why you did not want me asking for you in front of your boss? Stop denying things Rose, I do care about you, not all men are like Lee Ashworth. I know Rose, what it was he did not do. He never told you he loved you. Did he?"

"You're a detective Alec, you tell me? I thought I loved him, I don't think he ever loved me," she replied, feeling the tears forming.

Alec crossed over to her, putting his hands on her shoulders and trying to bring her closer.

"It's okay Rose, I understand but I am nowhere near like Lee. It's okay to be upset, come here."

She leaned into his shoulder as he put his arms around her.

"Sorry, it's like I've only just realised," she admitted. "I've been such an idiot, thinking he'd tell me eventually. I feel sick at the thought he cheated on me all the time we were together. I should have known he only wanted someone to share a house with him."

"You were not to know, don't blame yourself Rose. Stay with me?" he asked her.

Rose looked up at him through her wet, blurry eyes. He leaned down and gently kissed her, waiting for her reaction. Rose felt as though she was melting into his lips, sending her slightly dizzy when it ended.

"Why not unpack?" he suggested. "I will make some drinks then we can watch some TV maybe?"

"Yeah, okay then. Is there any hot chocolate?" she brightened up slightly.

"I think so. I meant it Rose, I do care about you, you have to trust me and tell me what really happened that night. I will try to keep it quiet for now that we are involved so say nothing to your friend eh?" he said with a smile.

"Claire already suspects," she told him.

"So does Tess but I'm holding her off for now. I only have to mention who she cheated on me with and the chief won't put up with her complaining about me."

Why's that?" Rose asked. "Did ya make a deal with him that ya'd get me to talk?" She saw the look on his face. "Ya did? Is that why I'm here, now?" she wanted to know as she tried to back off.

"Rose, it's not like that," he tried to tell her while holding onto her. "I did it to protect you, so that Lee would not carry out whatever he threatened you with. Can you accept that?" he asked hopefully.

"I don't know Alec, I'm all confused," she replied. "I need to know you're not just using me to find out who killed Pippa."

She looked into Alec's eyes and realised he was telling the truth. Then she realised he did suspect Lee.

"You're after Lee, aren't ya? You think he had something to do with Pippa and Lisa?"

"You tell me Rose, did he? Tell me what he threatened you with, that is more important to me. Lee Ashworth is a person of interest to me but he is going nowhere," Alec replied.

"Alec, he is, he's not paying another month's rent, I think he plans on leaving in the morning and I'll have to call Ricky and tell him I'll hand the keys back tomorrow night, to Cate," Rose told him.

"If he leaves, he won't go far, he's too arrogant. He will want to stay, in case you do talk but I won't let anything happen to you Rose. Did he threaten to hurt you?" Alec wanted to know.

Rose knew she had to tell him.

"Alec, he said if I talked to the police and he was arrested that he would force me to give in to him."

"What?" Alec gasped. "He threatened to violate you?" he asked more angrily than anything.

Rose nodded, tears still in her eyes.

"I should go haul him in now," Alec continued.

"Don't Alec, please? You said you'd keep me safe?" she reminded him.

"I will, I promise. I think it's time to have a talk with him. I promise to make it official and only ask pertinent questions, he won't know you told me anything. Now, you unpack, I will make drinks and then, start from the beginning and tell me everything you know," he smiled, kissing her forehead.

Rose reached up and met his lips, the kiss lasting longer than the others.

"About you calling me your girlfriend?" she teased him.

"Did I presume too much?" he smiled, giving her another short peck on the lips.

She pretended to consider it.

"I don't think I've been Lee's girlfriend since we moved in together," she admitted.

"Then I meant it Rose, let me take care of you, starting with asking Lee a few questions?"

Chapter 17

Rose reached up to kiss him.

"Can we just be friends? I mean I'm all mixed up just now."

"Sure, I can live with that. I will still sleep on top of the bed, if you wish?" he offered, trying to be a gentleman and give her some time.

"Nah, it's fine, just don't try anything just yet," she warned him but trying to make it sound like a joke.

Alec pretended to hold his hands up.

"I get it Rose, you need some time to think about where we go from here? I promise I will not pressure you and for now, we keep to just kissing."

"Well we can maybe hug?" Rose smiled.

"Even in bed?" he asked warily, raising his eyebrows that Rose thought made him look cute.

"Mmm, well okay but just hugging – got it?"

"Yes Ma'am," he did a mock salute that got him a tap on his arm.

"Plum," Rose laughed.

She got her nightwear and went into the small bathroom but it was a luxury compared to what she would have got in a bed and breakfast or sharing if she got a bedsit. Was she ready to start sharing with another man though?

She couldn't impose on Claire but if Lee thought she was staying there, then fine, let him keep on believing that. She just hoped he wouldn't ask Claire but there again, he had just assumed it and she'd not corrected him about it.

Alec waited for her coming out of the bathroom, thinking it would be best if he got changed in there while she got into bed. It was still quite early but he expected she'd not slept properly since the whole thing had kicked off almost two weeks ago. He was sure she'd be up for some more kissing before she fell asleep though, well so he hoped. She was very pretty but he did wonder how she'd managed to take up with the completely opposite to her Lee Ashworth. He reckoned the man had just used her and taken advantage of the fact Rose had lived in one room for goodness knew how long and she'd jumped at the chance of getting out.

"Were ya waitin' for the bathroom?" Rose felt guilty as she emerged. "I hope ya don't mind I washed out my undies and put them on the radiator to dry?"

"It's fine Rose, I'm still technically married," he assured her. "Oh, about that?"

"Yeah, that's why I didn't want ya saying I was ya girlfriend," Rose grinned. "I'm becoming the other woman."

"Sorry, I never took that into consideration," he apologised. "Tess has not made a move in that department as of yet. We did touch on the subject earlier, she wanted to know why I wasn't fighting to get her back."

"Do ya want her back?" Rose asked worriedly, putting her clothes on the chair.

"What? No, I don't want her back, how do I know she won't do it again?" he asked. "No, it is definitely over between myself and Tess. Rose, if you tell me anything about Ashworth, she may also want to question you. I will try and keep her away as much as possible but if I do it too much, her suspicions will be founded."

"Yeah, I get that Alec. So, did your boss agree to you spending time gettin' me to talk?" she teased him.

"It's not like that Rose," he defended himself. Then he saw she was toying with him. "Don't think that."

"Did it start out like that though?" she wanted to know.

"Honestly? Maybe it did, at first, on that Sunday morning but the way you acted made me suspicious something was not right. Firstly, the way Ashworth reacted, the way you looked at him, then upstairs. That cushion having no cover on it, in a neat bedroom."

"Yeah, it was in the washing machine, I thought it was a bit weird. Before I fell asleep, he said something about staining the lounge floorboards and we'd never even talked about it," Rose admitted.

"Really? There was also the way he kept me out of there, like he had something to hide," Alec reminded her. "So he stained the floorboards? That was not planned?"

"Alec, there's more," she told him as she sat on the bed in her flowery cotton pyjamas. "He wasn't happy about it so after the police had finished, he told me he was going to take the floorboards up and replace them with some he'd got for a job."

"Did he now?" Alec raised his eyebrows again as he pulled the chair over.

"Yeah, oh and he said he'd cleaned the patio door curtain and he'd hung it back up to dry. He started ripping up the floorboards even though I wasn't convinced the stain had dried."

"So he was in a hurry? I wonder why?" Alec mused.

"He must have used the quick drying stuff then, I mean if he'd done it overnight. It still doesn't explain why he drugged me though," Rose told him.

"No, it does not," Alec had to agree. "Rose, this does not add up."

"Yeah, tell me about it," she laughed. Then she changed her mood. "Alec, if I told ya more, would ya get mad at me?"

"That depends on what you have to tell me and when. What aren't you telling me?"

"I'm not ready yet, I'm still scared what Lee will do," she replied as she got up.

Alec got up with her and went to hug her.

"Don't be scared of him, please Rose. Okay, I will give you some time and whatever it is, I promise not to be mad at you and charge you with obstructing a murder investigation."

Rose tried to stand back.

"Is it that serious, for not saying anything else?" she wanted to know.

"I'm afraid so but under the circumstances, it will be up to me to decide. The chief gave me free reign, well more or less. I told him you seemed scared of Ashworth but at present, I can't say we are more than just acquaintances."

"Will ya get into trouble?"

"Maybe? I could deny it, say that I was only trying to get information out of you?" he wondered.

"No Alec, I don't want to cause any trouble."

"You are not causing trouble Rose. Okay, I could say I was getting close to you for information and something then developed?"

"Stop it Alec. I won't cause you any trouble and that's it. If something does happen between us, we'll have to deny it, I'll have to keep out of the way."

"Rose, we're already being seen together at the café near where you work and your boss is already suspicious, as is Tess. This is what we will do. I will say I am taking you into protective custody and that you are in a bed and breakfast establishment, they cannot check every single one in the town. If we are seen together, then that is what I will say."

"Have ya done this before?" she teased him again.

"What? Stop it Rose," he smiled as she swayed in front of him, wondering what he was letting himself in for.

She was far too young for him.

"Your face!" she laughed. "Seriously though, don't get into trouble just for me Alec."

"There will be no trouble but you may have to go along with anything I suggest. Can you do that?" he asked her.

"Yeah, if it keeps me away from that scumbag. Geez, how did I put up with him when I found out?"

"Don't think about it Rose, you are away from him now. Will he stay away from you?"

"I hope so, unless ya haul him in for questioning. That's what I'm scared of Alec, he could talk his way out of anything and if ya let him go?"

"Why are you worried we will let him go? What do you know about him Rose?" Alec asked her.

"Can we leave it for now?"

"Sure. I will just go get changed and you can get into bed. Put the TV on if you wish."

When he got back, she was sat up in bed trying to find something to watch. He took the remote from her and found a radio channel playing some relaxing music.

"Better?" he asked hopefully as Rose laid back on her pillow.

He got in beside her, she was on the side he usually slept on but thought it would be rather a touchy subject to tell her. They began kissing for a good while until Rose yawned and said she was really tired. He let her get comfortable as she decided to lean on him and fall asleep. He was already awake when she stirred.

"Good morning," he greeted her as he tried to get his arm back.

"Sorry. Hi. What's the time?"

"Relax eh? I won't let you be late for work, you have time for breakfast and I will drop you off. Best not meet at lunchtime though?"

"Yeah, best not," she smiled up at him as he propped himself up. "It should be safe tomorrow though, unless ya don't want your hair cutting?"

She reached to ruffle his hair, just to prove the point.

"I will meet you tonight, we can eat here or go out again?" he asked her.

Rose agreed to eat in the hotel and after they had breakfast, he dropped her near work. Alec just hoped she had everything packed when he took her to collect the rest of her things but there was something he had to ask her – if he could look around the lounge. Since the house was going to be empty, he could do with searching the whole place but he doubted he'd get permission from Ricky Gillespie, unless there was proof Ashworth was somehow involved. His suspicions may not be enough to get a search warrant.

He got to work and thought it was best to cover himself with the chief.

"You are being serious?" the chief was asking him. "You think she will talk by getting her away from Ashworth?"

"Yes, I believe so. If I offer to get her out and put her somewhere safe, she may talk. I will take responsibility for her, no-one else need be involved at this stage. Once she is out, Ashworth will probably leave but I would like the Gillespies permission the search the house."

"Do you think they'll go for it?" the chief wanted to know.

"If we have just cause? If Rose will talk and indicate Ashworth is somehow involved, it may prompt them to do something," Alec replied.

"What do you hope to find?" the chief asked him.

"Signs the girls were there that night, while Rose was out and Ashworth is covering up," was all Alec wanted to give away.

"Well okay then, go ahead but Tess may have something to say," the chief smiled.

"I just bet she will," Alec was convinced. "What will you tell her?"

"To file for divorce," the chief laughed.

"Well I am going over to the court in my lunch break and getting a separation order, for now. She had the nerve to ask if I was going to fight to get her back," Alec told him.

"What did you say?" the chief was amused.

"What do you think?" was all Alec replied. "I am going to concentrate on getting Rose Tyler to talk, Tess will just have to live with it, won't she?"

The chief laughed again and shook his head, wishing Alec good luck with the separation order and getting this Rose Tyler to talk. He just hoped Alec wouldn't get too close to the young woman or else if she knew something, she may be compromised. He also wished Alec and Tess would settle their differences outside the station, everyone was talking either about them or Tess and Dave Harris or whatever his name was.

Alec went to see Tess before he set off to go to the court.

"That's a laugh Alec," Tess scoffed when he told her where he was going.

"Well, you won't do anything so I am. Just expect something in the post."

He was tempted to go meet Rose first but decided against it, she wouldn't be expecting him anyway – would she? It took a little longer than he expected but he came away from the court satisfied that he had made the first move in getting a divorce. Maybe now, Rose would relax more around him and she'd be willing to talk?

He went to collect her when she finished work but Claire was being sneaky by being ready to leave at the same time, which Rose thought was just her luck but Claire had to hand over the keys to the salon. She and Alec had agreed they would go get her things first and now, she just hoped Claire hadn't seen Alec's car before.

"Fancy going out?" Claire asked her.

"Sorry, I have to get moved tonight, before Ricky changes the locks on the house," Rose laughed.

"Can't have that then," Claire laughed back. "We've not been out for a while, that's all."

"Yeah, money's a bit tight Claire, I have to pay for a room, remember?" Rose reminded her.

Rose went off in the other direction, since the lane also led towards the town centre, which was the way Claire had to go to the bank. Rose just left the day's takings in a safe place when Claire wasn't there, she didn't want responsibility for it, despite Claire laughing and saying it was just like using a cash machine to deposit the envelope.

She greeted Alec when she got in his car.

"I thought Claire was gonna insist we went out tonight," she told him. "Well, let's get this over with? Geez, I hope Lee isn't there."

"Don't worry, I will deal with him. I will use the excuse I met you to ask if I could look around the house again."

"You're gettin' too good at using excuses Alec," she teased him.

"Yes, I know. I got the separation order today."

"Does Tess know?" Rose wondered.

"I did warn her, now she will have to take it seriously."

Rose's heart was leaping as they turned the corner of the street and she only calmed down when Lee's car or van weren't there. Alec went inside with her and she opened the lounge door for him.

"You go do some detective work while I get my things," Rose joked.

"Maybe I should have brought my spyglass with me?" he replied dryly as he stepped into the lounge.

He went to the patio door and fingered the long net curtain, gathering it up from the bottom.

"So, he had the patio door open that night? Does he smoke?" Alec wanted to know.

"No, he quit. It was warm that night though, I do remember that."

He looked at the floor where he'd lifted the curtain.

"He fits a lot of flooring then?" Rose nodded, praying Lee wouldn't walk in. "Did he have to cut it to make it fit?"

"Yeah, he had me helping," Rose smiled. "My perfect Sunday afternoon and evening, I was tired afterwards."

"When did you decide to stop sleeping with him?" he asked, catching her by surprise.

"I was upset, so I told him I wanted to sleep on my own," Rose lied, trying to remember. "Everything happened at once."

"I know Rose but there's more, I know there is. Why are you protecting him still?"

"I'm not," she replied.

Alec didn't believe her.

"Rose, you have left him, you no longer have to do as he says," he reminded her.

"I'm scared of him Alec."

"I know you are. Let me help you with your cases?" he offered.

They had just got back downstairs when Lee arrived.

"You need police protection to move?" Lee asked her smugly.

"Stop it Lee. He wanted to look around, since we're moving out, I said he could," Rose snapped at him.

"What do you expect to find?" Lee asked Alec.

"There are a few things I want forensics to examine," Alec replied without any emotion.

"Well you'll have to ask Ricky now," Lee told him. "Give me your keys Rose, I'll take them round to Cate."

"Still finding excuses to see her?" Rose asked sarcastically.

Alec was feeling proud that she was holding up, seeing Ashworth while she was with him.

"I told you, it's over between me and Cate. So, you're not leaving a forwarding address then?" Lee was equally sarcastic.

"You must be joking," Rose spluttered. "I'll go to the post office and get my mail redirected so I'll keep the keys for now, tell Ricky if ya see him."

Alec had a feeling Ashworth wouldn't give the keys back either and he doubted either Cate or Ricky would chase them for it. He thought it would make it easier to send the CSU in to examine a few things, like the net curtain, the wooden flooring under it and the cushion cover, which he'd forgotten if he'd asked Rose if she'd put it back on the cushion. He'd just assumed she had.

"Thank you for allowing me to look around," Alec told her as he opened the door. "May I offer you a ride somewhere?"

"Yeah, thanks, it'll save me calling for a cab. Don't try and find me Lee."

"Don't make me try and find you," Lee warned her.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Alec wanted to know.

"She knows," Lee replied.

"You had better not be threatening her Ashworth," Alec defended her.

Rose wondered if he was purposely letting Lee know they were friends. Then she realised he was being a detective. Alec drove them back to where he was staying and they carried everything upstairs.

"No point in unpacking everything," Rose told him,

"Indeed. I will call Ricky and tell him I asked for your key and if he objects, I will have to persuade my chief to get a search warrant."

He retrieved Ricky's number and called him.

"You've got a nerve," Ricky told him. "Why would I agree to that when Ashworth gave a month's notice?"

"Has he paid for another month?" Alec asked him. Ricky went quiet. "Then how can you object? Do you want to find whoever killed Pippa?"

"You think he had something to do with it?" Ricky wanted to know.

"I don’t know yet but he acted suspiciously the last time I saw him."

"Don't tell me you're running out of clues?" Ricky laughed.

"You have no idea what goes on behind the scenes," Alec retaliated.

"I suppose you want the keys?" Ricky replied as he stopped laughing.

"I can get them, Miss Tyler has agreed to help with our enquiries, since she told me she was leaving."

"Cate said something about them splitting up. She must have got tired of Ashworth screwing around," Ricky laughed again.

That over with, they just got served in the dining room and talked over their meals.

"There is no need for you to be afraid of him again Rose," Alec was telling her.

"I know but he knows where I work. Ya can't be there every time I go out Alec."

"Then just be careful Rose, please? Leave with someone if you can eh?"

"Yeah, I'll try to. So, are ya lettin' me cut your hair tomorrow?"

He saw the smile on her face at the thought.

"How can I turn down such an offer? I would not want to disappoint you."

When it was bedtime, Rose went into the bathroom again but Alec got undressed, putting on some jogging bottoms and a t-shirt again. Once in bed, Rose surprised him.

"Can I come and lie on ya?" she asked him.

"Oh yes Rose, you most certainly can. I won't hurt you, I promise. I was right, Ashworth never really loved you, did he?"

"I don't think so. It doesn't mean I'm off men altogether though," she replied as she moved over onto him.

"Then I am glad to hear it. Just try to relax eh?"

They began kissing, turning onto their sides.

"Alec, those joggers are a bit thick," she giggled.

"Really? I thought I was presuming a lot by just wearing my shorts."

"Nah, shorts are fine. Can we just take it slowly though?"

"Anything you want Rose. Care to help?" he asked hopefully.

Before they knew it, Rose had scrambled out of her pyjama bottoms and she was laid on him, Alec daring to put his hand on her bare back under her vest top she was wearing under the pyjama top. Rose tried fumbling with the buttons, feeling he was trying to help her.

"Are you sure you want to go this far?" he asked, just to be certain.

"Yeah, it's okay Alec. You already know I'm just tryin' to get over Lee."

"Yes, I know. Just say when you want to stop."

"Your wife must be off her head, lettin' ya go," she replied.

"It has been on the cards for a while Rose, don't worry about it eh? If she takes the separation order well, I will take things further, I see no need to involve divorce lawyers. Rose, you have to be certain you want to get involved with me."

"Yeah, I know Alec, I am certain. I know all men aren't like Lee."

"No, we're not. I would very much like to show you, if you would allow me?" he offered.

Rose didn't know quite what happened as she felt the pleasure going through her when he had coaxed her out of her pyjama top and she fully lay on him.

"Okay?" Alec asked nervously, thinking she was going to demand he slept on the chair until he moved out.

"What? Oh, yeah, sorry. I was just tryin' to recover," she replied.

Alec felt pleased with himself. What had started out as trying to get her to confess she knew something about that night Pippa had died was now turning into something serious. He just hoped now they could cover it up and pretend to be detective and possible witness to everyone else without being discovered they were becoming lovers.

He also hoped Tess would get the hint and go for the divorce but if she decided to be awkward about it, he would tell her to accept it or he'd bring her boyfriend into it and she wouldn't like that. As Rose fell asleep on him, he knew she seemed a lot happier than when he had first met her, when she'd looked scared to death of Lee Ashworth.

Chapter 18

Rose was thankful Claire wasn't in the next day or she would have certainly noticed the difference in her mood. Alec had dropped her off as promised because Rose said she'd get lost otherwise and he'd told her not to bother as he was moving out the next day.

As they said goodbye, he said he'd be in later that afternoon to get his hair cut and if not, he'd still collect her later, daring to kiss her as she got out of his car.

"Best get used to that sweetheart," he grinned, feeling much happier than he had been doing.

Rose was also liking the feeling a man cared enough to kiss her goodbye in public. Alec watched her walk off, wishing he could meet her at lunchtime but he supposed with her being in charge for the day, she wouldn't have as much time.

He got to work and was confronted by an angry Tess.

"Did you have to?" she snapped at him as he sat at his desk.

"What are you on about Tess?"

"You know Alec. What was in the post before I left," she replied, pulling a chair out from the other side of his desk.

"Oh, the separation papers arrived then?" he asked sarcastically. "I did warn you Tess."

"You expect me to sign them?" she replied.

"Yes, I do expect you to sign them, it's over Tess, accept it. The sooner you sign, the better or would you rather sign divorce papers instead? I can go back to the court."

"Why are you taking it all so calmly Alec?" she wanted to know.

"I accept it and so should you, then we can both move on," he told her.

"That's a laugh Alec, don't tell me you're doing it for my benefit?" she laughed. "Oh, you have someone as well?"

"Stop it Tess, it won't work," he warned her, not wanting to fall into her trap to find out if he already was or was becoming involved with someone.

"Don't get close to that Rose Tyler Alec. I spoke with the chief, he says you want to protect her from Lee Ashworth, he said you want to get her to talk. I hope it's not going to be pillow talk, if you get involved with her, she won't be believed. You're not using her are you, to have a fling with her?"

"It's time you got back to work Tess," he reminded her, taking a folder from a pile on his desk.

"If you are having a fling with her, you'd better end it Alec. Does the chief know?"

"There is nothing for him to know Tess. I would concentrate on you not compromising the case with Dave. A married officer on a major case having a fling with a fellow officer?"

Tess huffed and got up.

"I'll sign the separation order – for now. No-one knows about me and Dave," she insisted.

"No Tess, except the whole station. Just be careful," he warned her.

"Are you going to be spending time with your possible witness?" she tried to shake him off.

"If I am? What's your point Tess?"

"Don't use her Alec, she could be a valuable witness," she replied.

"You think I don't know that Tess? She has to trust us enough to talk. She is scared of Ashworth, she's already left him," he admitted. "She's in a B&B for now, she has to feel safe."

"Well let's hope it works sooner rather than later Alec, it's around two weeks now. The chief will be getting pressure put on him and if we're not careful, we'll have our budget cut."

"I know that Tess. Now she's away from him, she'll feel safer."

Tess went off, muttering that she hoped Rose wasn't going to be feeling safer with just him.

"She has to trust us all Alec," she called back to him.

Alec shook his head and opened the file containing several reports of supposed sightings of Lisa Newberry for his approval to follow up. He found the number for her mother, wondering why she was being so quiet compared to Ricky Gillespie. He'd learned Lisa had changed her name when she'd turned eighteen to her mother's maiden name, since her parents were now divorced. He'd also learned she didn't get on well with her father so he supposed that was why she hung around with her younger cousin.

Was a nineteen year old's disappearance any less important than finding a killer? Lisa could just be hiding out somewhere and scared she'd get blamed for Pippa's death, couldn't she? He still wondered what Lisa had got Pippa into before she had disappeared. Had they been on their own or with this Gary Thorp?

He called two DS's in and told them to follow up the leads that had landed on his desk and sat back, his hands behind his head. Was Tess right and he shouldn't get involved with Rose? It was too late now though, he'd be letting her down, just when she was beginning to feel safe and trust him.

He didn't have it in him to insist she went back to a B&B, she would be more vulnerable in just a small room and how could he just leave her in one? He was about to call her, since her boss wasn't there but decided he'd wait until later, he wanted to call at the court in his lunch break.

Rose was being kept busy but just as someone went to lunch, Lee walked in and she had nowhere to hide.

"I'm waiting for Rose," Lee winked at Lucy on the desk. "Unless you're free?"

Lucy had no idea he'd split from Rose.

"She'll be free soon, when she's finished with Mrs Chandler," Lucy fluttered her eyelids at him. "I'm stuck on the desk for now."

"Well that's a shame then," Lee grinned, leaning over the desk so Rose could see.

Rose heard Lucy giggling, thinking Lee had a nerve coming in to start with and then flirting. She finished what she was doing and led her client over to the desk.

"What are ya doing here Lee?" she hissed at him as she pulled him away from the desk.

"You only said not to find where you were living, remember?" he asked. "I've moved my stuff out of the house and given the keys to Cate, she wanted to know where yours were."

"I said to say I'll hand them back when I get my mail forwarded," she told him. "Besides, the police still want to look around."

"I thought you looked a little cosy with that detective," Lee grinned.

"Have ya come here to get your hair cut?" Rose changed the subject. "If not, ya'd best go."

"Fine, I'll go. Claire's not here anyway."

He headed for the door, leaving Rose wondering what he meant by it. She went over to the desk.

"Sorry Rose, he's a real charmer," Lucy told her.

"We're not together any more but you'd be best backing off, you have no idea what he's like Lucy," Rose warned her.

Alec got delayed at the court, being told he'd only just got his separation order and only his side had been heard so he left after getting nowhere and thought he'd just have to wait the length of time required. Not that it was going to help his situation with Rose. He'd in a round about way already asked her to move in with him, albeit to protect her from Ashworth but was he any better than the other man? If Rose thought that though, she wouldn't have agreed so readily.

Rose was expecting Alec at any time, pretending to be busy elsewhere when women had come in without an appointment, even though they were quite busy. She relieved Lucy from the desk after a quick lunch she'd got one of the others to bring back for her and sent Alec a quick message – 'Lee has been in this morning', since Alec had told her to let him know if Lee bothered her.

He'd got the message just as he was going in the court building and when he did see it, wished he'd replied sooner.

'What?' he'd sent the message back, which she didn't get until her afternoon break.

She risked calling him, catching him on his way out to find the mysterious Gary, whom more people had confirmed they'd seen him hanging around opposite the Gillespie house on numerous occasions. He'd learned that the young man had taken over his father's business just outside Portsmouth but it had failed and closed down several months ago.

"Rose, is this important?" Alec asked her, forgetting about the text. "What did Ashworth want?" he added.

"He came in Alec, Cate wanted to know why I'd not handed in my key," she told him. "I said the police would want to look around."

"Yes, it would save getting permission from them but it depends if you paid a month in advance or in arrears?"

"I've no idea Alec, Lee dealt with Ricky. We might have paid a deposit or a month in advance when we moved there though. Ya have my permission to search but Lee said he'd moved his stuff out."

"I'm not interested in that, I want to know why he changed the flooring in the lounge and about the curtain and cushion cover," Alec replied.

"Why are ya so interested in them Alec?" she wanted to know.

"I have a hunch they are connected to something," he admitted.

"Geez, ya think Lee had something to do with it?" she dared to ask, thinking he knew for certain and was waiting for her to confirm it.

"Rose, I'm certain of it, I need you to talk to me, please? Whatever you know, I will not let anything happen to you, you have my word."

"Alec, if he came in earlier, there's nothing to stop him coming back," she reminded him.

"I'm sorry about that Rose but if you tell me what you know, I can and will stop him contacting you, I promise love," he assured her, hoping no-one had heard him as he went to the waiting car.

What if they did though, as long as they didn't know who he was talking to.

"Would I get into trouble, for not saying anything?" she asked again.

"I have already told you, the chief knows you are scared of what Ashworth may do, well not in great detail but that he threatened you. Don't be scared into not saying anything."

"Can we talk later, I have to get back to work now," she asked, finishing her drink.

They said goodbye and Alec got in beside Tess.

"Who were you talking to Alec?" Tess asked him.

"None of your business Tess. Do you know where we are going?" he wondered.

They got to where they had found out Gary was working, showing their ID to the man in charge.

"Is he in trouble?" the man wanted to know.

"No, we just want to ask him some questions," Tess replied.

"He'd better not be in trouble," the large man told her, pointing to where Gary was washing a car.

Alec was already walking towards the worried looking man, whom to him looked like he'd fallen on hard times so what was he doing hanging around and stalking a nineteen year old girl?

"Gary Thorp?" Alec asked him, showing his ID. "Do you know a Lisa Newberry?"

"What's this about?" Alec was asked as Tess joined him. "I don't know where she went, if that's what you're getting at?"

"On the evening of 12th April, you were seen watching her from opposite where her cousin lived," Alec reminded him.

"So what? That thug from next door chased me off, he bloodied my nose," Gary recalled. "I only wanted to see Lisa."

"By hanging around in the shadows?" Alec asked him. "That's not normal behaviour."

"We went out a couple of times, I wanted to know why she stopped," Gary told him.

"What happened to your business Gary?" Tess wanted to know.

"I couldn't keep it going," Gary admitted. "Lisa's uncle helped me out but it was too much."

"Did he now?" Alec mused, writing in his notebook that it was another connection. "Did you have any dealings with Lee Ashworth?"

"If he lived next door, he was the one who came out and punched my nose," Gary replied. "Lisa was standing behind him in the doorway."

"Did you see the younger girl that night?" Tess asked him.

Gary shook his head.

"No, only Lisa. Ashworth, if that's his name chased me off."

"Did you meet Lisa and her cousin later?" Alec wanted to know.

"No, I was in hospital," Gary admitted. "I tried to kill myself."

Alec gestured for Tess to leave.

"Thanks for your help but why did you try to kill yourself?" he asked quietly.

"I thought she'd found someone else, the way he had a go at me. He sounded jealous, warning me off like that."

Now Alec was getting a clearer picture at last, why hadn't they found this man earlier? He hadn't been convinced Ashworth had told him the truth, was he cheating on Rose with Lisa?

"What do you make of that?" Tess asked as she fastened her seatbelt.

"Ashworth was jealous of that man. I bet Lisa went back inside and Ashworth made a move on her," he replied.

"You mean cheat on his girlfriend?" Tess laughed.

"Exactly. Come on Tess, Lisa is nineteen, what do you think?" he replied. "How could he resist the offer if his girlfriend was out? I have to get Rose Tyler to talk."

"Want me to try?" Tess offered as they set off back to the station.

Alec let out a nervous laugh. Was his blossoming romance with Rose already beginning to show, especially to someone already having an affair?

"Did you sign those papers?" he asked instead, trying to change the subject.

"I posted them back at lunchtime, I didn't have time to go to the court with them Alec. You took your time though," she remarked.

"I got held up somewhere," he used the excuse, wondering why he was still explaining himself to her. "Stop questioning me Tess."

"Well don't make it so obvious you're up to something then," she replied.

Alec turned away to avoid her glare. Even when she was driving, Tess couldn't half glare at him. He was staring out of the passenger window, thinking about Rose. She had become his number one priority and now it disturbed him Ashworth couldn't leave her alone. No wonder she was so scared of him.

He decided to get her to talk, he'd take her back to a few days before the event, see what she remembered, then he could work up to the more important questions. Did she catch Lisa leaving their house or maybe there were signs Lisa had been there and she had just missed the older teenager and Pippa?

Then he began to wonder what Ashworth was covering up by changing the floorboards and washing things like net curtains and cushion covers. He needed to also ask Rose if he often did things on impulse but was it fair to keep reminding her she had lived with the man? As much as he hated to ask her, to him, it was all connected and that was what he did – connect the slightest thing to get the bigger picture and Gary Thorp had just added to it.

"Alec, did you just hear me?" Tess was asking him, snapping him back to reality. "Do you want me to talk to Rose Tyler?"

"Have a go then, she won't talk to me," he relented, knowing Rose wouldn't thank him for it but Tess was already suspicious.

"Well I'll arrange a time for her to come in and see me then? Was it recorded what day she had off?" Tess wanted to know.

"You will have to check with the officer who took her initial statement," he replied, hoping to throw her off.

"I thought you'd have asked her?" Tess asked sarcastically.

Alec decided to ignore her and not fall into her trap. It got to four thirty and he knew he didn't have time to get his hair cut but he could at least go meet Rose. Tess was watching him as he got ready to leave and stood in his office doorway.

"I could get suspicious of you leaving early Alec."

"I have already told you Tess, besides, I am hoping to get the key to look around next to the Gillespie's house."

"On your own?" Tess smiled.

"For now. I will call forensics if I find anything."

He got to where Rose worked with a few minutes to spare, then realised she had to lock up since she'd been in charge for the day. He got out of the car and walked towards the salon, wishing Ashworth would show up, since he wanted to have a few words with him.

Rose had pulled the blinds down and was putting the day's takings in the place she'd arranged with Claire, who had told her one day next week, she was to go to the bank and see how to deposit the money. Rose had partially objected but since she was supposed to have moved, couldn't use the excuse she didn't go home that way.

Alec approached the door, the security grill halfway down and tapped on the visible glass, making Rose jump. She went cautiously to the door, then realised it may be Alec, raising the blind.

"Hi, come in then," she smiled as she was relieved it was him and not Lee.

"Sorry I made you jump," he smiled back. "No more visits from Ashworth then?"

"No. Geez Alec, he had a nerve coming here. He even chatted Lucy up, in front of me."

"You are well rid of him, trust me. Rose, Tess may want to ask you a few questions, about how Lisa and Pippa were a few days before what happened to them. I can insist on being there. Do you think you can talk to her?"

"I don't know Alec. Will she try and trick me into saying something about you?"

"No, it will be a formal interview and I can stop her at any time, being in charge of the case and trust me, I will," he assured her. "You may get a call from her."

"Oh, I've not checked my phone yet," Rose realised as she picked up her handbag.

She got her phone out and found she had a missed call from an unknown number.

"That could have been her," Alec suggested. "Let her call you back."

"Well I can't call her," Rose smiled, showing him the screen.

They had just got back to where they had been staying when her phone rang again.

"I'd best take it," Rose told him as he closed the room door.

"Don't tell her where you are staying," Alec warned her.

"Why, does she know where you are?" Rose grinned.

"No but she'll know you can't afford to stay here," he replied.

"Ah, good point," Rose laughed as she answered.

"Rose?" Tess asked cautiously. "It's DS Hardy here. Can I ask you a few questions?"

"Actually, is it urgent?" Rose asked back, seeing Alec smile at her nerve. "I'm just packing to move, I found a flat to share," she grinned, seeing Alec's face as if to see how far she could go.

Alec was shaking his head.

"Well, we'll need your new address," Tess insisted. "Rose, how were Pippa and Lisa a few days before the incident?"

"I didn't really see much of Lisa but we saw Pippa a few times. She joined me at the bus stop some mornings and oh, one morning, she was waiting as Lee was taking me to work. She said her mother hadn't given her any bus fare so we dropped her at school and Lee rang Ricky to tell him to collect her after school," Rose recalled.

"Did she say why she'd been given no bus fare?" Tess wanted to know.

"She said her mother just hadn't, we didn't ask," Rose replied, trying to remember what Pippa had said.

"Well if you could remember why, it would be helpful." Tess told her. "What about the day itself, the day Pippa's parents were going off?"

"Yeah, I saw both girls, Pippa seemed fine. She asked if they could come round later but I said I was going to my friend's. I really regret that now, I could have stopped what happened if I'd gone home and they'd come round."

"Rose, don't blame yourself for this, it maybe would have happened anyway, had you been there or not," Tess assured her. "We have a rough time of death for Pippa, it would have depended what time they'd left your house."

"I still feel I could have done something," Rose regretted as Alec put his hand on her shoulder.

"If there's anything else you remember, give me or DI Hardy a call," Tess felt sorry for her feeling it was all her fault. "Rose, none of this is your fault."

Rose thought neither Tess or Alec would say that if they knew what she did. She turned to Alec, who put his arms around her when she ended the call.

"She's right Rose, whatever took place, you couldn't have prevented it, even if they had been with you all night. The patio door was open, which suggests either they were abducted or Lisa had left it open if they'd left in a hurry."