Do you remember me?

Rose Tyler had moved to Sandbrook and became a hairdresser with her mother. Tess Hardy was one of her clients as was Cate Gillespie. When Cate's daughter goes missing, Rose is unsure whether to tell Alec Hardy of her conversation with young Pippa just before and what she had overheard between the girl and Cate. How can Alec get Rose to finally tell him what went on?

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Chapter 1

Jackie Tyler had got a two bedroom flat in the town of Sandbrook and had put leaflets through doors in some residential areas and managed to build up a good number of customers for her hairdressing business while Rose was at college. Sometimes Rose accompanied her mother and got away with helping her while she trained.

She finally got her certificates and Jackie offered her a job full time, since Rose had been working another job to earn extra money. Jackie decided to give her two of her clients, Tess Hardy and Cate Gillespie but Cate was unsure how her neighbour would take having a rival.

"You're asking for trouble," her husband warned her.

"Just because Claire lives next door doesn't mean I have to use her," Cate defended herself. "Claire never said anything when Jackie used to do it."

"You said someone else was taking over," Ricky replied.

"You would take notice of that," Cate complained as she heard her daughter calling her.

"Mum, can I go round to see Claire?" Pippa wanted to know.

"You spend too much time there," Ricky reminded her.

"Your father's right," Cate agreed. "Maybe at the weekend. Tomorrow night, I want you to get your hair trimmed, the new hairdresser's coming round."

"But Mum, I like Claire to do it," the young girl complained.

"I don't like it when she does it without asking me first," Cate told her.

"I want to be a hairdresser when I'm older," Pippa replied. "Do I have to get my hair cut?"

"Don't argue with your mother," Ricky raised his voice to her.

Over at the other side of town, Rose had just arrived at Tess Hardy's house, where Tess was trying to find out what time her husband would be home.

"Sorry about that," Tess apologised to Rose. "Anyway, can you show me some new hairstyles, I think I want a change."

"Yeah, I can show some to you," Rose agreed, going into her bag.

What Tess didn't want to say was it wasn't for her husband's benefit but one of the other male DS's on the team, who had been saying it was the same for him at home and that his wife took no notice of him.

"What do you think?" Rose was showing Tess the back of her head in the mirror.

"Yes, I like it," Tess agreed. "You're every bit as good as your mother."

"Thanks. So ya want me to come again?" Rose smiled.

Tess made another booking and Rose was about to leave as Alec opened the kitchen door, making Rose jump back as he reached the door handle at the same time.

"What?" Alec cursed as the handle flipped back up.

"Sorry," Rose mumbled as she saw a man standing there.

"Who are you?" he managed to ask.

"Really Alec, she's the hairdresser," Tess called to him as she puffed her hair up a bit more and hoped she'd be able to recreate the style in the morning.

"I have to get going," Rose reminded Tess as Alec was still in the way.

"Well let her out," Tess chastised him.

Without saying anything else apart from a rushed 'Bye', Rose made her retreat and got into her small car she'd managed to save up for after passing her driving test. Wondering what all that was about, she made her way to the new estate on the edge of town to visit another client, Cate Gillespie.

She really hoped her husband wasn't going to be there, he made her nervous, which wasn't good when you had a pair of scissors in your hand. It was young Pippa who answered the door as Cate was finishing a glass of wine.

"Hi Rose, come in," Pippa greeted her.

She did like Rose but there was something exciting about going next door, Lee always made a fuss over her when he was in.

"Rose, do you have time to trim Pippa's hair as well?" Cate asked her.

"Yeah, you're my last appointment today," Rose agreed.

"You should get a salon," Cate was telling her as they chatted.

"Mum and I decided against it," Rose laughed. "It's easier now I can drive though."

Pippa was getting impatient to know if she could go and see Claire. Why had her mother insisted Rose had cut her hair when she liked Claire to do it?

Rose was just clearing up when Pippa joined them in the kitchen.

"No Pippa, I don't want you going round there," Cate was telling the girl.

"But Mum," Pippa complained.

"Do you want to make another appointment now?" Rose spoke up before she left.

"Can I call you?" Cate replied, not wanting to keep Rose any longer.

"Yeah, if ya want?" Rose had to agree, wondering where the girl meant when she was told she couldn't go somewhere.

Cate was hoping Rose hadn't been taking any notice. When Rose opened the door, Pippa was sitting outside the house.

"Hi there, are ya okay?" Rose stopped to ask the girl.

"Yeah, my mum won't let me go next door," Pippa admitted.

"Maybe she has a reason?" Rose replied as she put her bag in the back of the car.

"She doesn't like me going there but she won't tell me why," Pippa admitted.

Rose wondered why the girl was telling her. Did Pippa think she could trust her?

"Well maybe she thinks ya might be disturbing them?" was all Rose could think of saying.

Pippa shook her head and looked up.

"I don't know. She doesn't mind me seeing them when they come to our house or we all go to theirs," Pippa told her. "Especially when Lee's there."

"Well, you'll just have to ask your mum why," Rose concluded. "Sorry I can't help ya."

"She might let me go if Lisa goes with me," Pippa then told her. "She's my older cousin."

"Yeah, maybe?" Rose smiled at the girl. "See ya."

As Rose was driving off, Cate went to see where Pippa was.

"Were you just talking to someone?" she asked the girl as she saw Rose going off.

"Just the hairdresser," Pippa admitted.

"I hope it was nothing, she doesn't need to know anything," Cate replied.

Rose thought nothing off it until Cate called her for her hair doing for a wedding.

"Are ya sure ya want me to do it?" Rose wanted to make sure.

"I don't talk to the woman next door much," Cate replied. "If that's what you're thinking? Can you come on Friday?"

Rose checked her appointments and noticed Tess had also booked but she would be able to squeeze them both in, they were turning out to be her best clients. She went to visit Tess first and asked how she'd got on with the last style.

"Fine, the girls at the station liked it," Tess told her as Rose was getting set up.

Tess didn't want to say it had done no good trying to dress up a bit for Alec, she was about to give up trying to impress him. Dave had asked her out that evening for a drink and since Daisy was staying with a friend, she could make up the excuse she was going to her mother's.

"I want something different this time," Tess added.

"I got the impression your husband wasn't expecting me to be here the last time," Rose told her as she put some clips in Tess's hair.

"Take no notice of him Rose," Tess laughed. "What does he know? How does he expect me to fit things in when I'm at work?"

Rose knew she was a detective, other than that, she had no idea what her husband did.

"So, does your daughter want to follow ya into the police?" Rose carried on chatting.

"She hasn't decided yet," Tess replied. "She may be put off with us both being in it."

Well that answered that question, Rose supposed. She finished in good time to get to Cate's and wondered if the young girl had got her own way since her last visit. When Rose got there, an older girl answered the door. Lisa was staying over since she was looking after Pippa for the weekend.

"Hi, you must be Rose?" Lisa greeted Rose.

"Oh, are you Pippa's cousin?" Rose asked.

"Yeah, I'm looking after her, no kids allowed at the wedding," Lisa told her. "She doesn't trust them next door."

"Lisa, that's enough," Cate warned her as she entered the kitchen. "Rose isn't interested. Thanks for fitting me in Rose."

"Lisa, I want to go out on my bike," Pippa called from the hallway, where Rose had passed a bike.

"If you go out, don't you take her next door Lisa," Cate warned her as she sat where Rose indicated.

"I never said I was going to," Lisa complained.

"Make sure you keep away while we're gone," Cate reminded her.

Rose was sure she shouldn't even be listening and what would the younger girl's mother think if she found out she'd talked to Pippa outside a few weeks ago? She couldn't get involved, not if she wanted to keep Cate as a client but did she want to keep coming back if she was going to keep hearing more of the same?

"So, are ya looking forward to this wedding?" Rose asked Cate when Lisa had disappeared.

"Yes and no," Cate admitted, not wanting to say Ricky would be up to his usual tricks. "It's the first time we've left Pippa overnight with her cousin."

"Well I'm sure you'll enjoy it once there," Rose replied, stuck for something to say. "It's ages since I went to a wedding."

"I don't know why we have to stay overnight," Cate then complained.

"Better than gettin' caught driving if ya want to have a drink?" Rose thought.

"I suppose so?" Cate agreed, wanting to get another glass of wine.

"Well, hope ya have a good time then. So, is your hair okay?" Rose asked her.

Cate looked in the mirrors and nodded her approval. She got up and went to the drawer where she had saved the money to pay and handed it to Rose.

"I'll call when I want another appointment," Cate told her. "I won't be going next door."

Rose was sure the woman had said that last time. She gathered her things but dared to ask Cate if she could use the bathroom.

"Sure, top of the stairs," Cate told her as she headed for the living room.

As Rose went upstairs, one of the bedroom doors was open, looking like it was Pippa's judging by the pile of clothes on top of the bed. Then she saw a pendant lying in the doorway and debated whether to pick it up but thought better of it, in case she was accused of something.

She went back downstairs, seeing Cate sitting in a chair with a glass in her hand.

"Bye then," Rose called to her.

She got no reply so she went to the front door and saw Pippa in the street as she opened it.

"Did you leave my aunt with a glass in her hand?" Lisa asked Rose.

"It's not my place to say anything," Rose replied.

"I won't say anything," Lisa promised. "I don't get on with her, I only come round to see Pippa, it's not her fault if her mother acts like she does. Cate's only staying out overnight because she won't be in any state to get home."

"Everyone gets totalled at a wedding," Rose joked as Pippa came over to join them.

"Bye Rose," Pippa called to her. "Did I say I want to be a hairdresser when I get older?"

"Ya might have done," Rose smiled at the girl. "That's a great bike, I had a red one when I was younger. My mum thought I was mad wanting one when we lived in a block of flats. She wasn't gonna get me one but then there it was, on the balcony."

"That was lucky then," Pippa laughed.

As Rose drove off, she wondered why that had suddenly come to mind after all that time. Neither herself or her mother had known where it had come from, her mother denying she had anything to do with its appearance. The next day, the pair of them went shopping and compared the clients they'd each had during the past week.

"How are ya getting on with Cate and Tess?" Jackie wanted to know as they'd stopped in a store's café.

"Well Tess doesn't say much," Rose admitted. "Cate's a bit funny though, she keeps going on about the woman next door and telling her daughter to keep away."

"I was always telling you to stay away from people," Jackie recalled. "Well until I got to know them."

They both laughed and thought no more about it until the middle of the following afternoon, when the news came on the radio as they were clearing up after Sunday lunch.

"Shush Mum," Rose urged Jackie as she heard a police appeal for information about two girls being missing.

Tess's morning had been interrupted as she was on callout for any emergencies over the weekend and she was complaining once again to Alec.

"Well, are you coming with me?" Tess wanted to know. "I'll call my mother, see if Daisy can be dropped off."

"Can't deal with on your own?" Alec was annoyed she needed him to go with her.

"Alec, it will look better, we're talking about two young girls being missing," Tess reminded him.

"Fine, Daisy may not be pleased," Alec reluctantly agreed.

Daisy was complaining on the short journey to Tess's mother's house that her parents were always leaving her when something came up.

"Why do you both have to go?" Daisy wanted to know.

"Because a girl around your age has gone missing," Alec replied as they stopped outside the house. "Stay here until we call you. Don't go calling for any of your friends, understand?"

"Did you have to talk like that Alec?" Tess asked when she got back in the car after seeing Daisy inside.

"It's best she knows Tess," Alec told her as he drove off to the estate just outside town.

As they got nearer, Tess wondered if it was the same estate as Rose, her hairdresser sometimes went to but it could be any of the new ones that were springing up all over the place. She forgot all about it as they began to talk to the distraught parents, Cate and Ricky Gillespie, Ricky immediately blaming the girls being missing on their next door neighbours.

"Ricky went round, when we came back," Cate admitted to Tess tearfully. "I said I'd told Lisa not to take Pippa round there."

"Is there any reason Lisa would defy you?" Tess asked. "Cate, I have an almost teenager as well, I know how you feel."

"Lisa has a 'thing' about Lee," Cate admitted, not wanting to say she herself had got involved with him but it had ended badly.

"Well, tell me again where Lisa might have taken her either last night or before you got home," Tess tried to take Cate's mind off the neighbours.

"You think Lisa took her off last night?" Ricky overheard as Alec followed him.

Alec was trying to keep them separated, for now.

"Stop it Ricky, Lisa wouldn't go off with Pippa," Cate told him. "Someone took them."

"Because the patio door was open?" Alec wanted to know. "The girls may have been outside themselves, is there any way around the back?"

"Only a gate to next door," Ricky admitted. "It had to be the Ashworths."

Alec had seen the report from next door, which basically said the couple knew nothing about the girls being missing until Ricky had knocked loudly on the door when they had got back. As time went on, the less likely it was the girls had just wandered off, Alec thought.

Rose was listening carefully, recognising the Scottish voice giving short details and for anyone with information to call a number. She'd only heard him talk briefly before but she recognised it none the less. Should she say anything about what she'd heard at the Gillespie house?

"Hey, I remember there was a young girl called Pippa," Jackie spoke up after the newsreader had moved onto another item. "You'll have seen her Rose."

"She might have just been going out when I got there Mum, I don't remember," Rose bluffed.

She had to think carefully before getting involved in the disappearance of her client's daughter, especially since she'd last seen both girls on Friday night. Surely the police wouldn't be interested in what she'd heard and what Cate had said to her? Cate wouldn't thank her for interfering. Some choice.

Chapter 2

Alec was getting tired of Ricky Gillespie blaming the neighbours all the time. The man had even told a nosy newspaper reporter he blamed them and Alec had gone crazy. It had all started a few days later when Alec had gone under the water to bring the youngest girl to the riverbank after spotting her against the fast moving fallen debris.

Of course, Tess thought trust him to be the one to find Pippa. While he was being checked by the paramedics, she and Dave had to go tell the already upset parents of their discovery.

"Where's Pippa?" Ricky tried to ask calmly. "I want to see my little girl."

"Give them chance Ricky," Tess was trying to tell him. "Let them get her to the hospital, you don't want to see her yet."

"How do you know?" Ricky snapped at her. "Sorry. Are you sure it's her?"

"I'm sorry but yes," Tess had to tell him, thinking how many more missing girls were there he expected them to find a few days after his daughter went missing?

"Let them do their job Ricky," Cate told him, another glass of wine in her hand.

"Who found her?" Ricky then wanted to know.

"It was DI Hardy," Dave told him, since Tess had been less than impressed it had to be him out of all the police officers in the woods.

On the way over, she'd done nothing but complain about her almost ex husband. He'd tried to sympathise with her but all she was bothered about was what she would tell her daughter.

"Is there any reason the girls would be in the woods?" Dave asked Ricky again.

"No, I already told you," Ricky insisted.

"They'll be a car outside to take you to identify Pippa, an officer will let you know," Tess told him. "One of us will meet you there."

"Okay, thanks Tess," Ricky replied, not asking about Alec.

Cate remembered though.

"Is your husband okay, going in to bring Pippa out of the river?"

"He was being checked over when we left," Tess told her. "Don't worry about him Cate."

"Can we make funeral arrangements when Pippa's been identify?" Ricky asked her.

"No, sorry Ricky, there has to be an enquiry and then we have to find out how she got there," Tess explained.

"Well it had better not take long," Ricky told her. "Can we have some time to ourselves now?"

"Of course," Tess apologised for keeping them.

As soon as they had left, Cate turned on Ricky, lashing out at him.

"It's all your fault Ricky, we should never have left them," she was shouting at him.

"You left Lisa in charge," Ricky was trying to blame her. "I said she'd take Pippa next door."

He didn't want her to know the truth, about him coming back and what had taken place. He still blamed Lisa for taunting him by going with Lee and he'd caught them in the act, seeing everything. If Lisa hadn't gloated over it, both girls may still be alive. He could maybe have calmed Pippa down, Lee had no right to deal with her.

Now, Claire was holding evidence against him, just as he was against them, none of them could dare say anything but he didn't have to be happy about it. He could still point the finger next door and there was nothing they could do about it.

It had been nothing to them, they should suffer as well. Alec was back at the police station and had got some dry clothes, having been advised to get checked out properly at the hospital but he had enough to do at present. He was waiting for Tess's report from the coroner, to see if Pippa had drowned or if there had any signs it was more.

Rose got back that evening, having heard the news on the car radio and she'd had to stop as she'd felt sick. Her mother noticed she'd looked a little pale as she sat with a mug of tea.

"You heard?" Jackie asked her. "I'm sorry Rose but it didn't say they'd found her cousin."

"I didn't know her very well but it's still upsetting," Rose admitted.

"What aren't ya tellin' me Rose?" her mother wanted to know. "Ya must have seen her, I saw the invoice from a few week ago, ya trimmed Pippa's hair. Why didn't ya want me to know? It's not like you Rose."

"I'm sorry Mum, really I am. I didn't wanna talk about it. Do ya think I should tell the police, I mean I was there that Friday night before they went missing."

"Oh? I'd be very careful if I were you sweetheart," Jackie told her. "Did ya talk to 'em?"

"For a few minutes, yeah. Pippa wanted Lisa to go outside with her while she rode her bike," Rose told her.

"Well, I expect they want to talk to anyone who saw them before they disappeared?" Jackie wondered.

"I'll call at the police station, tomorrow lunchtime then? As long as I'm not there long," Rose decided.

"Yeah, ya should," Jackie agreed. "Call whoever's your first appointment in the afternoon, if ya get held up."

Feeling a little better, they both watched the extended local evening news, where it showed the debris in the part of the river Pippa had been discovered by Alec in. Then the presenter went over to police headquarters, where Alec had prepared a short statement.

"We urge anyone who may have seen either or both girls prior to their disappearance to contact your local police station. It does not matter how much or how little information you may have, it is important we piece together what happened prior to our discovery."

He then went on to repeat a telephone number, Rose scribbling it down in case she didn't get seen at the police station.

"Look at him Mum," Rose noticed the look in Alec's eyes. "Bet ya he found Pippa."

"What makes ya think that?" Jackie asked as the newsreader came back on. "Bet it's on the national news now as well?"

"He looks tired Mum," Rose told Jackie.

"Rose, they'll all be tired, they've been searching for the last few days," Jackie laughed. "Ya taking this very personally sweetheart."

"How can I not Mum?" Rose replied. "Well, I'll try to tell them tomorrow, bet it'll be busy though?"

"Ya have to at least try," Jackie insisted.

Alec was tired as he went back to his new apartment. It was taking some getting used to but he had to make the most of it, he couldn't have continued to live with Tess. He had more questions for the Gillespies that he thought Tess would have failed to ask, such as any visitors, particularly any new ones and whether Lee Ashworth had ever done any work for them.

He'd heard they used to socialise but not recently and wondered why they had suddenly stopped. If they'd had a fallout, maybe he should dig a little deeper next door? He'd wait and see what Tess had to say first. They still had to work together as best as they could, he'd heard her say trust it to be him who had found Pippa.

The next morning, Ricky was just leaving for work as Claire was going out.

"Stay away from Cate," Ricky warned her. "She doesn't need to know what went on that night. You'd better not say anything to the police, Claire."

"Neither had you," Claire answered him. "Just remember what I told you."

"If Cate suspects anything, she'll talk to that female detective, trust me. What happened with you and Cate anyway?" Ricky wanted to know.

"You have bigger problems than worrying about that," Claire laughed. "Who was that woman who was visiting Cate just before the wedding? I saw her a few weeks before that, getting into a car."

"Hairdresser, who took over from an older woman," Ricky replied.

"So that's why she stopped coming to me?" Claire replied. "She has some nerve," Claire huffed as she unlocked the car door.

Ricky had to laugh to himself, Claire only had herself to blame. Before Claire had gone out, Lee was grilling her.

"Remember what we agreed Claire?" he wanted to make sure.

"Stop it Lee," Claire struck out at him. "It's all your fault, not keeping your hands off Lisa."

"The little tart started it," Lee insisted.

"What did Ricky have over you?" Claire wanted to know.

"You'll be late for work Claire. You'd best go before the police come back," Lee warned her.

"You had better hope no-one notices the new floor Lee," Claire told him. "Did ya have to go back for more material then?"

"They weren't taking any notice Claire, it's a busy place," Lee laughed it off. "If business doesn't start picking up, we'll have to sell the car."

"What?" Claire replied. "How am I going to get to work?"

"You're always complaining there's never anywhere to park," Lee reminded her.

So Claire wasn't in the mood for being stopped by Ricky on her way to work. She'd been annoyed Cate had suddenly turned on her for doing Pippa's hair so she assumed Cate was paying her back by getting a mobile hairdresser in. Then she had stopped Pippa going round on her own unless Lisa was with her.

Rose set off to visit her first client and hoped she'd have the courage to pay a visit to the police station in town but she didn't know where the detective in charge was based so she had to trust someone there would contact him. Her information may not be relevant anyway so she hoped she wouldn't waste their time.

Alec thought he was expecting too much from the appeal he'd put out for information. He was waiting for a junior officer sifting through all the message to see what was important and got a few leads so he set out mid-morning to visit another person on the same estate but around the back.

"I'm glad you’re here, detectives," Miss Spencer who lived in the upstairs flat behind the Ashworths told Alec. "I didn't realise you wanted to speak to anyone around here."

"Any information would be very helpful," Alec told her after she'd insisted on making some tea.

"There's always been something funny about that couple behind me," she admitted. "He put a gate between the two houses, goodness knows what for but I find it rather worrying, since I've seen him using it to go next door."

Now, Alec was very interested in what she had to tell him.

"Did he now?" Alec replied. "Did you see either of the girls using it?"

"On a Sunday, yes," the woman admitted.

"This is very important," Alec stressed. "What about last Saturday?"

"As you can see, the lounge doesn't look out of the back, just the kitchen and bathroom," she replied. "They used to have barbecues last summer as well."

Alec thought that was interesting, since Ricky Gillespie said they didn't have much to do with each other. What had changed, he wondered.

The woman went on for a while and Alec finally got another call and excused himself. He wasn't back as Rose arrived at the police station and was being asked for the details.

"I've told ya, I spoke to Pippa and Lisa before they disappeared," Rose was telling the desk sergeant. "Don't ya have a detective I can talk to?"

"I'm sorry Miss, everyone's busy with that appeal going out. If you'll just give me your contact details, I'll get someone to call you," she was told.

"Well, I can't always answer my phone when I'm working," Rose admitted. "I don't want anyone who calls me to think I'm ignoring them."

"I'll make a note of it. We just don't have anyone spare at the moment, the phone lines have been very busy," the sergeant admitted.

Rose was about to leave as Alec came in but she daren't speak to him, with him being in charge, she expected she'd have to speak to someone else first.

"Sir, there's a pile of messages for you," the desk sergeant called to Alec.

He handed the pile to Alec, him seeing the top one.

"Who left this one?" Alec wanted to know, seeing Rose's name and that she'd seen the two girls.

"The young lady who just left," the sergeant had to admit.

"Then why wasn't she interviewed?" Alec wanted to know. "Get her back, now."

"You heard him Jones," the sergeant turned around to another officer. "Go catch the woman who was just here."

"Right Sarge," the young officer grinned as Alec shook his head.

"We should give more priority if the girls were seen shortly before they disappeared than ones who saw them a week before," Alec pointed out.

Rose was just about to get in her car, hoping she'd not get a parking ticket when she saw a young uniformed officer on the steps, looking around. She thought he could have been looking for anyone as she reversed out of the parking spot.

Not realising, the young officer let her drive off, going back inside.

"She must have already left Sir," he told Alec. "Sorry Sir."

"She can't have left that fast Jones," the sergeant told him as he saw the look on Alec's face. "See if she's still outside, it's important."

Alec waited but the young officer came back in and shook his head.

"Sir, she must have driven off," he told Alec.

"Well give me the details and if she calls back, put her straight through," Alec insisted.

The desk sergeant nodded. If the detective was in, he would put the young woman through but Hardy was more often out than in these days.

"What's wrong with you?" Tess wanted to know as he passed by her desk.

"We could have had vital information had a potential witness not been allowed to leave before giving a statement," he replied.

"Not another one?" Dave muttered to himself as he sat opposite Tess.

"Why are you two in instead of following up any leads?" Alec wanted to know. "I've just interviewed a neighbour behind where the Ashworths live, she had plenty to say."

"Well you would," Tess told him. "So who was this witness that just got away?"

Alec looked at the details.

"Someone called Rose Tyler, who says she saw the two girls before they disappeared," Alec replied, squinting at the writing.

"Did you say Rose Tyler?" Tess wanted to know.

"Yes, why?" Alec turned to look at her.

"She's my hairdresser Alec. She did mention she did someone's hair out on the estate but it could have been anyone. Do you want me to call her?" Tess wondered.

"No, we don't have time for the two of you to be discussing hairstyles," Alec replied dryly, getting a snigger from Dave. "Why didn't you mention her before?" he then asked Tess.

"How was I to know she was the one who went out to the estate and did Cate Gillespie's hair?" Tess wanted to know.

"Did you not put two and two together?" Alec replied. "Is she that young blonde I saw leaving a while back?"

"Who else would it have been?" Tess asked him.

Alec just shrugged his shoulders and went to his office. How was he supposed to know? Now, it fell on him to interview the potential witness, he couldn't have Tess interviewing her own hairdresser.

Rose had gone off disappointed no-one was able to listen to what she had to tell them and hoped that whoever her details had been passed to wouldn't call her while she was with her next client. She thought she should be prepared though, just in case anyone did try to call her. She just hoped it wouldn't be Tess, it would be embarrassing and surely Tess wouldn't be allowed to interview her anyway?

She was about to leave her last client for the day when her personal phone rang, the display saying it was an unknown number. She was always a bit cautious when answering those sort of numbers in case someone had got hold of it and was trying to sell her something. Then she realised it may be the police calling her back.

Answering with a quiet "Hello," she heard a Scottish voice asking if he was speaking to Rose Tyler.

"Yeah, that's me," Rose tried to sound cheerful.

"Miss Tyler, this is DI Hardy, South Mercia police. Are you able to talk?" Alec asked hopefully, since he'd nothing to do and had figured she should be finished working.

Then he remembered he'd seen her leaving where he used to live around this time.

"Yeah, ya just caught me before I was setting off home. Did ya want to talk about when I last saw Pippa and Lisa?"

"Well yes. You saw both of them?" Alec replied, wondering why the sergeant had not written that down instead of 'has information' on the piece of paper. "When was that?"

"Last Friday evening. Sorry, this is a bit strange, since I do your wife's hair," Rose let out a nervous laugh.

"That does not matter, just tell me what happened. You spoke to both of them? How did they seem?" Alec asked.

"Pippa seemed happy enough, she was riding her bike," Rose replied. "I went inside the house, Lisa let me in and Pippa told Lisa she wanted to play on her bike," Rose added, trying to remember if that was when she arrived or as she was leaving. "Then Pippa's mother warned them not to go next door. It seemed a bit odd really. I mean they never mentioned going next door."

"Right, did she now?" Alec finally replied. "When you say warned?" he wondered.

"It was the way she said it, I can't really describe it. I think Pippa might have questioned it, then they went off. I know the woman next door is also a hairdresser, Cate wanted me to do her hair for a wedding the next day. She said something about them falling out," Rose recalled.

"Would you be able to come down to the station and give a statement?" Alec asked her. "We are trying to establish what may have made the two girls go off last Saturday night. You may have noticed something important but not realised. When would be convenient?"

"Well this is the best time, after I finish work," Rose told him.

"Well can you make it tomorrow evening?" Alec asked. "Any time you are free, just tell the desk you are here to see me. Is there anything else you could tell us?" he wanted to make sure.

"Well yeah, there was the time before that, when I spoke to Pippa as I was leaving," Rose replied.

Now, Alec was very interested in what Rose had to say, she could be crucial to this case. The only problem was, she was also Tess's hairdresser and he hoped Rose hadn't already said anything to her about it.

Chapter 3

When Rose got home, she told her mother that she would be late back the following evening.

"I hope ya know what ya gettin' into?" Jackie reminded her.

Rose slumped onto the kitchen table, resting her head on her arms.

"What am I supposed to do Mum?" she wanted to know. "I know what I overheard. Well not overheard, they were talking in front of me, like it was normal for them."

"It was just kids Rose," Jackie tried to tell her.

"Lisa's not exactly a kid Mum," Rose replied. "I don't know the neighbours so I can't say anything, if Pippa should be allowed to see them or not, even if her mother had fallen out with them. I don't know if it's important or not Mum but the police are saying they want any kind of information."

"Well, I suppose if it's not wasting their time?" Jackie wondered. "Does the detective know who you are though?"

"Yeah, I was just leaving one night and he asked who I was. Mum, I hate to ask but can you take the next appointment Tess makes? If they make anything of what I have to tell 'em, it'll look bad if I'm still Tess's hairdresser."

"Rose, she'll probably be too busy now to get some fancy hairstyle," Jackie laughed. "I wonder why she wanted different styles though?"

"No idea Mum," Rose looked up, trying to smile at the thought. "She must be trying something different to get on his good side? Anyway, it's nothing to do with me."

She tried to forget about it and to tell Tess, if she did want an appointment that she couldn't visit and it would have to be her mother. The only thing was that she'd have to get the car back in time and take a cab to her last appointment if it was nearer than Tess's house. She doubted that Cate would want an appointment.

Alec wasn't going to tell Tess that he would be interviewing her hairdresser the following evening, she couldn't be present given that she probably chatted to Rose, mainly about him. Who knew what went on between a hairdresser and their clients? Was he just being paranoid? Anyway, he wouldn't be walking in again and catching Rose leaving and wondering what had been said nor why Tess had yet another new hairstyle.

He was certain it hadn't been him Tess had been trying to impress. The next morning, he was kept busy and managed to avoid Tess, who was wondering what was wrong with him.

"Go ask him Tess," Dave was encouraging her. "What happened to your hair anyway? Not been able to keep up with that fancy style you had?"

Tess patted her hair. So he had been paying attention?

"I barely have time to get Daisy to school," Tess replied. "If we didn't have this investigation, I'd get it fixed but the hairdresser will have finished working by the time I get home."

Dave laughed to himself. Had she been doing it for his benefit? Well judging by recent events, it wouldn't be for Alec's, would it? No, her husband hadn't been able to get out fast enough, had he? Alec had seen all the signs himself and Tess had the beginnings of an affair and had packed his bags. He'd heard from one of the office staff, who had thought he'd fancied her that the DI had got a new place on his own, big enough for him and Daisy, if she wanted to stay over.

Tess had complained that he'd moved out over the weekend before, without any notice and she'd finally had to admit it was over between them.

Rose was getting nervous as the afternoon went on and thinking about backing out but it could be important. She'd been thinking about what Alec had said, that the smallest detail could be important and she could have seen or heard something that no-one else had. She remembered poor Pippa sitting outside her house that night and telling her she liked going next door. Maybe the girl had got to like the woman who lived there?

Alec was waiting for Rose to arrive and not wanting to tell Tess why he was still there as she was leaving.

"Really Alec, there are plenty of other people working on the case," she had reminded him. "When are you calling to see Daisy? She's really upset to find out you've moved out."

"What do you expect me to do Tess? Stay there and pretend nothing has happened?" he asked her. "It was a mistake to get there early that Sunday morning those girls went missing. It was your idea for me to get there early and pretend I was still living there."

"You would say that," Tess complained. "You could have at least explained it better to her."

"What do you want me to tell her Tess?" he wanted to know. "That her mother's cheating by starting an affair with another detective?"

Tess wanted to go round the other side of his desk and slap him, only it was nearer the truth than she cared to admit.

"Dave and I are just friends Alec. He listens to me, unlike you do."

Alec held his hands up.

"You're just fooling yourself Tess, not me. I've heard all the whispering going on, others here already knew there was something going on between the two of you."

"Well if you'd rather believe gossip than me?" Tess asked him. "What do you want to do about it?"

She hoped he'd say they'd try and make up but maybe it was already too late for that? Did she want to, when she was sure he wasn't interested?

"There's someone coming in to give a statement," Alec changed the subject.

"Who is it now?" Tess wondered. "I thought everyone on the estate had been interviewed?"

"So did I, this one called in when we were out yesterday so I gave them a call back," Alec replied. "I will get someone to do the interview with me, don't let me stop you picking Daisy up."

"I should get suspicious you're trying to get rid of me Alec," Tess replied.

"It could be nothing Tess, it doesn't take two senior officers to do the interview," he reminded her. "Not meeting Dave first then?"

Tess stormed out, making Alec smile. Dave was waiting in the entranceway and saw the mood she was in.

"Someone upset you?" he asked innocently.

"Shut up Dave," Tess told him, getting her car keys out of her purse.

"I thought we'd arranged to meet at the pub?" he asked.

"I'm not in the mood Dave, I just left Alec's office and I could have slapped him, honestly," she admitted.

"Don't let him get to you Tess," Dave laughed. "He's just trying to wind you up. Come on, you can call Daisy and get her to stay where she is for another hour, can't you? Tell her you're interviewing someone."

"That's just what Alec's said, that someone's coming in to give a statement. I can't think who it would be that we've not already interviewed," Tess told him.

"Maybe he's using it as an excuse to meet someone?" Dave tried not to laugh again.

Tess hit his arm to get him to move out the way, Dave then following her. He put his hand on the top of her car, preventing her getting in.

"Come on Tess, Daisy can wait and let Alec interview someone on his own or are you jealous he could be meeting someone?" he wanted to know.

"He wouldn't have the nerve to start something, he knows I'd stop Daisy from seeing him if he did," Tess replied. "Okay, I'll call Daisy but I can't stay more than an hour at the pub," she relented.

"I'll go ahead and get a corner seat away from everyone then?" Dave grinned, knowing it wouldn't take much to change her mind.

Maybe if he was lucky he'd get more than a few quick kisses out of her, then go back to his car for a bit more than another quick snog in the back seat. If no-one had already claimed that parking space right at the back of the pub car park, where there was some fencing and no-one would notice them.

He was sure Tess was about to give in to him, if he could get her in the mood for 'it' in the back seat. She'd admitted she and Alec had been drifting away from each other for weeks before he'd actually left her. It might be his lucky night, his wife would never even suspect anything with this case going on. Even then, if she did accuse him of anything, he'd ask her when she thought he had the time for an affair.

Tess had seen the smirk on his face as he moved his hand. Well if Alec was no longer interested in her and Dave was, why should she turn him away? At least he didn't have any expectations of her when he'd noticed her hair but had Alec even noticed when she'd had it done and the hairdresser was just leaving? Then she remembered her conversation with Alec the day before and she bet anything it was the young hairdresser who he was waiting to interview.

What could Rose possible have to say that was worth interviewing her for? Was it just an excuse for him to get to know her? Well good luck to her then, once she found out he was only interested in work these days. She thought it may be worth her while waiting for Rose to arrive but she saw Dave driving off and did she really want to keep him waiting?

Tess had just quickly called Daisy to say she was interviewing someone and had just left as Rose arrived and found somewhere to park marked 'Visitors' rather than a space with someone's name on it or marked for senior personnel only. She walked up to the desk and asked for Alec.

"He's expecting me," Rose added as she gave her name. "He called me to come in, last night."

"Yes Miss, I was told," the desk sergeant told her. "Take a seat and I'll let him know you're here."

Rose watched as the man spoke into the phone, informing Alec his visitor had arrived. Sergeant Mayhew wasn't one for subscribing to idle gossip but word had got around about Hardy's wife and another detective so it was only natural the detective would get his revenge. Now, a likely candidate had just walked in and her being young and blonde made it even more likely he was right.

Alec put his desk phone down and went to meet Rose, after telling one of the young DS's to wait for him in the less formal interview room. He reached the desk and saw Rose waiting, remembering her from a few weeks ago. He'd noticed then she was very pretty but far too young for him to get interested in her.

"Miss Tyler, this way," Alec told her, making her jump as he appeared in front of her.

Rose followed him and he indicated for her to enter the room, Rose noticing it looked informal and another woman sat at the table, thankfully not Tess.

"Don't be nervous Rose, this is just an informal interview," Alec tried to assure her. "We just want to record what you told me on the phone last night and anything else you have to tell us that may have to do with what happened. Can I get you anything to drink?"

He motioned for Rose to sit opposite and the woman got up when Rose asked for coffee.

"I just want to assure you that you knowing DS Hardy has nothing to do with you being able to give a statement," Alec tried to assure Rose. "If anything you have to say has any bearing on what happened, it will be treated as any other statement and that fact will be left out. Is that okay?" he asked Rose.

"Yeah. Sorry, I'm just a bit nervous," Rose tried to smile. "Anyway, I've only done her hair twice, I took over from my mum. I've not seen her recently."

"That's fine Rose, try not to nervous eh? We'll begin shortly and don't think you are wasting our time. A lot of people hold back for that reason, that something they saw or heard wasn't important enough."

Rose settled back once her drink arrived and Alec asked her about the first time she'd visited Cate Gillespie.

"Well, the first time, it was early and Pippa wasn't there but when Cate called me again, she wanted it later so I could trim Pippa's hair at the same time. Pippa seemed like she didn't want her hair trimming and when I was leaving, she was sitting outside. She'd asked her mother if she could go next door and Cate had told her no."

Rose continued to tell him about her following visit then Alec said they should take a break.

"I was wondering why you actually responded when we were asking for information," Alec admitted. "As I said, a lot of people would not have bothered."

"It got to me, that's all," Rose replied. "I mean when ya found Pippa and I'd spoken to her a few times. She seemed okay on that Friday, even though she was told not to go next door. I think Cate must've fallen out with the woman, she never said. What else do ya wanna know, I should be gettin' home."

"It won't take much longer. We'll go through what you've told us then have it typed up and we'll ask you to come in and read it and sign it," Alec told her. "How are you getting home, do you have a car?" Alec wondered.

"Yeah, hope I don't get a fine," Rose smiled, getting one back since the recording equipment was off. "So I'll need to come back then?"

"It will only take a few minutes, we can make it lunchtime if you wish?" Alec told her as the other officer came back. "We can resume now. You were saying about Pippa, as you were leaving that time?"

"Yeah, poor kid, she seemed sad," Rose told him. "I think I told her there must be a reason why she wasn't allowed to go next door. I couldn't help hearing what her mother was saying, Cate didn't seem to mind that I was there."

"Well if she spoke in front of you, that is not really overhearing," Alec assured her. "What about the next time?"

"Well, Lisa was there, she let me in and she didn't seem all that keen I was there. Maybe that was just me?" Rose wondered. "Then Pippa wanted to go out on her bike. That was the last time I saw her. Do ya know anything about Lisa?" she dared ask.

"Not as yet, I cannot tell you much," Alec regretted to say. "So, they both went off?"

"Yeah, I think I waved to them when I was leaving. I know Lisa was there to look after Pippa while Cate went off. Cate had already told me she was going to a wedding."

"How did you learn that?" Alec wanted to know, wondering if there was anything else she'd not mentioned before. "Rose, the purpose of this interview is to determine how both girls were, before they went missing. You can tell us anything, it will be treated sensitively. You have my word."

"Well I don't know what's important and what isn't," Rose had to admit. "Cate told me when she rang me to make an appointment."

"Right. I suppose she would have mentioned it then?" Alec pondered, knowing how women like to brag about such things. "So you were there a while?"

"Not too long, she wanted it so she could manage her hair the next day, at the wedding. The girls had gone off by then and Cate was chatting about the wedding. I wish I'd spoken more to Pippa and Lisa."

"No-one knew what was going to happen Rose," Alec assured her. "Going next door may not have made any difference whether they had done or not. Is there anything else? Just remember, you cannot speculate as to why the girl's mother warned her against going to the neighbour's house. Until now, we were not aware of the fact, so we have you to thank for that. It gives us a bit more insight of how the girls may have been before they disappeared."

"Yeah, okay, I don't know why but Pippa seemed pretty upset by it. I can't help thinking about it. Sorry. Can I ask something? I mean it won't get back to Cate that I told ya anything, will it?"

"No, you have my word Rose, if we have to question her about it, we will put it to her another way," Alec assured her.

Well he would so he'd have to make it clear to Tess that she didn't put her big foot in it and say it was the hairdresser who given them new information. This was something now that they could work with, another angle to take things forward and something more to question the next door neighbours over.

He'd not liked their attitude so far, especially Lee Ashworth. It was as if they were indifferent and not at all concerned a young girl had died. They'd said nothing about how they got on with the Gillespies, only that they'd not seen either girl the night before. Now, it seemed likely they could have done and were not admitting it.

Girls would be girls and they could have been tempted to visit despite being warned to stay away. Lisa was older and should have been capable of looking after her cousin but maybe they'd had trouble and gone next door for help? He'd have to get someone onto finding out if there were any disturbances on that part of the estate that night.

Now, they may be finally getting somewhere and the young woman waiting to be told she could go could have cracked the case wide open. She had given them more and they'd got enough to keep them going for a while longer. He wondered what they would have done if Rose Tyler hadn't come forward? He now just had to stop Tess from making any more hairdresser's appointments, which could ruin everything if she wasn't careful.

Alec got a call to say they were processing Rose's statement,

"That's all for now, thank you again for coming forward," Alec told her.

"I won't get to know if it did any good, will I?" Rose asked him sadly.

"We can't say but if we make an arrest, think of it as it could be part or all your statement that helped," Alec smiled back.

Chapter 4

Rose heard nothing else from the police so she just assumed they had either not used her information or it was a slow process and they were acting upon it.  Did it always take this long, she had wondered.  Her mother said nothing about it, like she hadn't expected anything to come of it and she didn't want to tell Rose she'd told her so.

It wasn't an easy task for Alec either, having to put things another way to both Cate Gillespie and the Ashworths so they wouldn't guess where the line of questioning had come from.  Nothing had been said to either of them of the loss of the evidence, they now how to depend on Cate's word Pippa had been wearing the pendant that night and if need be, asking Rose if she saw the girl wearing it the day before and he hoped that would be enough.

Lee Ashworth had been released on police bail again and Alec had chewed Tess out for going with Claire to the clinic.

"What else was I supposed to do?" Tess had asked him afterwards.  "Would you have been better going with her?  Have you seen that witness again?"

"I have had no reason to," Alec told her.  "If nothing happens before the court date, I may have to ask her a few more questions though," he admitted.

Tess knew she'd catch him out sooner or later.  Alec didn't want to have to involve Rose any more than was necessary, he didn't want to scare her off and if he did need more from her, he hoped she'd be agreeable.

There were now only a few days to the trial and if it didn't collapse on them, Alec thought it would be a small miracle.  He'd not informed Rose of any dates but she'd seen it in the local paper.

"You'd better be careful you're not called to give evidence," Jackie had been warning her.

"Mum, why would they need me?" Rose disagreed.  "I don't even know if they used anything I told them."

"Well I can't take your clients if you're called to the court at a day's notice," Jackie also warned her.  "You'll just have to make up some excuse."

"I know Mum, I'm not gonna just come out with the excuse I've got to give evidence in a murder trial, am I?" Rose replied.  "Why did I have to go and hear all that stuff?"       

"Well, I suppose someone had to hear what those poor girls said?" Jackie relented.  "How were you to know what was gonna happen?"

Rose wondered why her mother had changed her mind all of a sudden.

The first day of the trial was just Lee Ashworth being smug again and pleading not guilty to the charges read out and Alec knew somehow the man was going to get out of it.  Should he risk telling them about Rose, that she may be willing to repeat what she'd heard in court?  Would it make any difference?  

He waited until the proceedings were halted then he waited for the prosecution, who was in a hurry.

"If you want to enter more evidence, you had better say so now," he was told.  "I've not got much to work on as it is now."

Alec wondered if that was intended as a dig at him.

"That statement, the one from Rose Tyler?  Would it do any good if she appeared in person?"

"Her statement only proves that the youngest girl was worried about something," he was further told.  "I suppose if we could prove the Ashworths had something over her, to make her want to keep going back?"

"Well can you make something of it?" Alec wanted to know.  "Anything that proves there was more to them than they are letting on?"

"I'll look over Miss Tyler's testimony, to see it there's anything I can use," Jocelyn Knight replied.  "Have we met before?" she then asked him.

"Not as far as I know," Alec replied, trying to straighten the knot in his tie.

"You seem familiar somehow.  Maybe not then?" she told him.  "There may be nothing I can use of Miss Tyler's though," she added.  "Not without further questioning why the youngest girl's mother never bothered mentioning anything.  Then she'll want to know where it came from."

"I can't let Miss Tyler's name get out unless she is called to give evidence," Alec replied.

"That may not be possible, DI Hardy," he was told.  "I noticed she stated the girl and her cousin spoke freely in front of her?  It was hardly a secret then?" 

"No, I suppose not?  Young Pippa also spoke to her mother in front of Miss Tyler," Alec reminded the barrister.

"Very well, I'll see what I can do," Jocelyn told him.  "Has anything been done further about the pendant?" she then asked, omitting the fact it was missing.

"We had an idea where it went but could never prove it," Alec replied.  "We had no other ideas as to where it could be.  We were sure it was being hidden somewhere."

"Well, if it's not given up, you know as well as I do how this is going to end?  When the defence ask for the item to be produced, it's going to look bad when I tell them."

"I'm aware of that," Alec replied.  "Maybe you should consider calling Cate Gillespie to give evidence Pippa had the item on her that day?"

"The defence will only try to suggest Pippa may have had the item on that morning but could have taken it off at any time during the day.  I suppose they will have trouble proving why it was found in the defendant's car afterwards?  It may work but only if we can throw the defence off somehow?"

"Then should I warn Miss Tyler she may be called?" he then asked.

"Yes, though try not to tell her why she may have to appear," Ms Knight agreed.

Alec went off and retrieved Rose's mobile number from his phone, wondering why he'd even put it in his contacts.

When Rose's own mobile rang, it made her jump and she excused herself from setting a client's hair.

"I won't be long, it's probably my mum," Rose tried to joke.

"How is Jackie anyway?" the woman asked her.

"She's fine, thanks," Rose assured her.

Alec hadn't realised Rose may not remember the number he'd called her on before, it had been some time.

"Who's that?" Rose wanted to know when she didn't recognise who it was.

"Ah, is that Rose?" Alec asked cautiously.  "It's DI Hardy."

Then he could have kicked himself for being so formal and not saying it was Alec.

"Oh.  I never thought I'd hear from ya," Rose admitted.

"Sorry, it has been some time.  I need your help Rose," he told her.

Rose thought she might have know it wasn't a social call.

"Well, go on then," she replied, hoping he wasn't going to take long.  "I'm with a client so make it quick."

Alec thought that he should have known she would be hostile towards him.

"Ah.  Well can we meet somewhere in that case?" he dared ask.  "I did not mean to make it sound like it was any kind of demand."

"Sorry.  It's just I don't normally answer my phone when I'm working," Rose relented.

"If it was not important, I would not have bothered you," Alec apologised, which he didn't do much of these days.

Maybe talking to Rose again had made him soft, he wondered.

"Well, I'm finished after this client," Rose told him. 

"Do you know where the Crystal Palace hotel is, just on the way into town?" he asked.

"Yeah, I've seen it," Rose replied.  "I can be there around five fifteen?"

"Fine, I will wait inside for you.  Rose, I would not be asking to meet with you, were it not important," he assured her.

"Fine, I made a good impression on ya last time then?" she tried to laugh it off.

"I did not mean to make it sound that way," he reassured her.  "Ah, that was a joke?" he then realised.  "Sorry, it has been a rather difficult day.  It was the first day of the hearing and it is already getting to me."

"I'm sorry too, I thought ya'd forgotten all about me," Rose admitted.  "I don't even know if ya managed to use anything that I told ya that time."

"Rose, it is not permitted for me to tell you," Alec tried to explain.  "I should have made that clear."

Maybe he could have at least contacted her to say it was going to court?

"I think ya did tell me.  Anyway, see ya soon?" she replied.

"I hope you are not mad at me in some way?" Alec then asked her.

"No, I'm not mad with ya," Rose replied.  "I have to go now or the lady whose hair I'm doing will need more time."

"Right, I should let you go then?" he asked.  "I mean until later," he corrected himself since he'd already put his big feet in it.

"Yeah, I get what ya mean," Rose laughed.

Now, that meant calling her mother to say she'd be late back and she had some explaining to do.

Alec thought he'd call back at the station then set off to meet Rose.  What had he just inferred to her?  That he wouldn't have called her unless it was about the trial and she already thought they'd used nothing of what she'd told them?

They had used some of it, to try to get Lee Ashworth to talk but all he'd done was say Cate would have said anything to get him to confess he was the one who'd killed her daughter.  The arrogant man had given nothing else away and he'd just stood up in the courtroom and looked directly at himself and Tess as if to say good luck getting a conviction.

Could he ask Rose to consider standing up in court saying what she'd heard or would the defence shoot her down?  The other question was, could he do it to her or let Lee Ashworth walk free.

Rose was getting ready to leave her client, wondering what Alec wanted to talk to her about.  She just hoped he really wasn't wanting her to stand up in court and repeat what the two girls had talked about.  She made her way to the pub after calling her mother, who had wanted to know why she was going to meet Alec.

"Why has he called ya after all this time?" Rose had been asked.

"I don't know Mum, do I?" Rose had told her.  "Maybe he wants me to testify after all?"

"Well, it's a bit late now," Jackie told her.

"I have to hear what he has to say Mum.  What if anything goes wrong and the police need my help?"

Rose was now in the car park behind the pub, getting nervous at meeting Alec after all that time.  Using the rear entrance, she stood and looked around the large room, seeing Alec in the corner.  He got up when he saw her and asked what she was drinking.

"Non-alcoholic," Rose laughed nervously.  "Sorry, I know ya not tryin' to catch me out.  Just a club orange then, with ice, thanks."

Alec went off and Rose sat next to where Alec had been, hoping he'd sit opposite her.  He did when he came back, thinking maybe it would be too much sitting next to her.

"Thank you for meeting me Rose.  Please, don't be nervous, it's not another interview," he tried to put her at ease.

"Ya want me to testify, don't ya?" Rose asked him.

"Rose, I asked you here to see if you would consider it, I will be honest with you," Alec replied.  "I spoke with the prosecution, she is considering including your statement in the proceedings.  I will have to see what she says in the morning."

"What about Cate?  Alec, she knows me, she'll think I was spying on her by getting Pippa to talk.  She'll say it was just a kid talking.  Maybe she'll blame me, for puttin' ideas in Pippa's head?" Rose panicked.

Without thinking, Alec put his hand on hers across the table.       

"Try not to worry Rose.  Cate may not even be present and besides, the prosecution will put the questions in a way that will not blame you anyway.  They will only want to know how the girls were, the day before they went missing," Alec tried to assure her.

"Geez, that's easy for you to say not to worry," Rose told him.  "Sorry.  Do ya mean I won't have to say anything apart from answer their questions?  What if the defence try to trick me?"

"The prosecution will object to it as being irrelevant.  Rose, you may not even be allowed to take the stand but I had to ask you, so it was not a shock if you are summoned."

"Well thanks for the warning then," Rose told him.  "So, if I am called, I'll get a phone call?  What am I supposed to do about my appointments?  Mum won't be able to do them.  Can I tell them all the reason for cancelling?" 

Alec thought she was very practical and she asked all the right questions.

"Just apologise and say the cancellations are beyond your control?" Alec suggested, thinking Rose would be better asking Tess, who was good at putting things off.

"Yeah, I suppose so?  At least if I get to know the day before?  Will you be there?" Rose asked him.

"Yes, I have given testimony already but no doubt I will be called back," Alec told her.  "You will be fine answering a few questions."

"I hope ya right," Rose tried to smile.

"I am, trust me.  It could make a lot of difference," he tried to convince her.

He didn't want to say that she may only be asked because of the stupid mistake Tess had made, in her haste to meet Dave.

"I'd better go now, my mum will wonder where I've got to," Rose decided.

"Then I will walk you to your car.  Rose, I don't want to put any pressure on you, by asking if you are willing to speak up in court," Alec then told her.

"No, it's okay, really.  If that's what it takes, to make sure Pippa's killer gets locked up?  There's just one thing though.  Will my name be kept out of it?  I mean having to face the defendant?"

"I will ask if it can be left out," Alec replied.  "I will also ask if how you knew the girls can also be kept out of it but the judge will want to know."

"Yeah, I expect so?  Well, I suppose I'll have to be prepared then?"

She got up, Alec also standing and let her through the gap.  He indicated for her to go first, then followed her to the exit.

"Can I ask ya something?" Rose wondered as he held the door open for her.  "What happened to Tess?  I mean she wasn't very friendly before, was she?"

"I am sorry about that Rose.  It was nothing to do with you, it was just how she was.  We were splitting up at that time, she was angry with everyone," Alec replied, wondering why he was telling her.

"Oh.  I didn't mean to pry Alec," Rose apologised.

"No, it's fine.  We are in the middle of divorcing, I should not bother you with such things," he tried to smile.

"Well, I hope she's still not hostile towards me then," Rose tried to joke.

"I'm sure she won't be," Alec told her, thinking it would probably make Tess worse if anything.  

Tess had inferred a few things when Rose had last been interviewed and he'd not wanted to admit she may be right about Rose Tyler.

Chapter 5

Rose was still confused as she drove home from her meeting with Alec.  She was wondering what difference her saying how the girls were just before they disappeared but she supposed it would add to the medical evidence.  She thought the police must now be out of options to bring herself into it.

The defendant would see her, even if her name wasn't given out in court and what if the wife still lived next door to Cate?  She wasn't even sure of their names, all that had been on the news about an arrest was it had been a neighbour who had been charged with Pippa's death.

She had always wondered what had happened to poor Lisa but at least she might be still alive, if she took off after what happened to her cousin.  She got home and Jackie asked how her meeting had gone as they got ready to eat.

"It was strange, after all that time," Rose admitted.  "It's a wonder he remembered about me."

"Well, if they're running out of options?" Jackie replied.  "What are ya gonna do, if ya have to go to court?"

"Put everyone off I suppose?  DI Hardy suggested saying something like something beyond my control came up."

Jackie let out a laugh.

"Well it might work," she had to agree.

"Yeah, ya never know," Rose also laughed.

Alec had gone home, hoping he'd not put Rose off appearing for the prosecution.  He just had to hope they could put her in as a witness before the defence had the time to turn her against them but he somehow doubted her head could be turned so easily.

She had seemed genuine enough and she had been concerned about the girls to still think about telling the court what they'd had to say.  He doubted Ms Knight would let the defence get their hands on a reliable witness.  There was still a slim chance the judge might not let Rose speak anyway.

The next morning, he was summoned to the court and waited until the prosecution had finished speaking with the judge.

"Are you sure the witness is reliable?" she was being asked.

"From what the police say," Jocelyn was defending her decision to bring Rose in at such a late stage.  "The girls spoke freely in front of her, she was hardly eavesdropping."

"I do not suppose she was?" the judge pondered.  "Still, when the defence get to know about your witness, they may say otherwise.  Very well, I will allow you to call this witness Ms Knight but she will have to be questioned by the defence as well."

"I don't see what they can discredit her with," Jocelyn replied.

"Did Cate Gillespie know your witness had spoken to Pippa outside the house?" she was asked.

"That will have to be debated, Your Honour.  Cate Gillespie may not remember."

"Yes, we know Mrs Gillespie had a problem back then," the judge had to agree.

Jocelyn thought the woman probably still had a problem, having her only daughter taken from her at such a young age.

Alec was waiting for a decision, then he would have to inform Rose, one way or another.  He hoped if her testimony was accepted, she wouldn't back out now.  Why couldn't she have been included before, was that his doing for forgetting about her or had he been too busy focussing on getting Lee Ashworth to confess?

Maybe it would have been easier to take more notice of how the girls had been up to the events of the night they disappeared.  His boss had wanted a conviction but now, it might all come down to Rose after all.  He saw Jocelyn Knight emerge from the Judge's room and stood up.

She motioned for him to sit down and leaving a gap, sat next to him.

"The judge will allow Miss Tyler to speak in court, about what she heard," Jocelyn told him.  "She won't back out, will she?"

"I don't think so," Alec tried to be positive.  "I will let her know and get a full statement from her."

"Yes, I'll need it before she appears in court," he was told.  "It still may make no difference but that's all we have for now, that the defence doesn't know about."

"Won't they question why Miss Tyler was kept from them?" he asked.

"Let's hope not, Inspector," Jocelyn replied.  "Are you sure we've not met before?" she asked him again.

"No, I'm sure," Alec told her.  "Are you new to the area?"

"I was based in London until recently, I was called to prosecute this case, for some reason," Jocelyn admitted.  "The barrister who was supposed to take it had to back out suddenly, family problems, so I was told."

She didn't want to admit that before she had taken this case, she and the other barrister had been involved in a bitter argument and had parted company.  It had all come to a head when she'd refused to defend her then junior's son.

She was just glad they'd not ended up in opposite roles but it was inevitable they would cross paths one day.  Maybe she should think about retiring back to her home in Dorset after this case was over?

"You don't have long to get Miss Tyler's full statement," Alec was then reminded.  "Get it to me as soon as possible so I can go through it."

Rose was waiting for a call and had to stop herself checking for missed calls while she was with her clients.  She had just finished her second client's hair when she picked up her phone just as it rang.  She excused herself and answered, surprised it was Cate.

"I've been so wrapped up in things, my hair is a complete mess," Cate admitted.

"Well, it's not surprising, with what you're going through," Rose tried to sympathize.  "I can maybe squeeze you in later, after my last booking, I'll have to call you back though."

"Well I suppose, with me leaving it late to ask you," Cate had to agree.  "I expect you've been following what happened?"

"Yeah, sorry.  Pippa was a lovely girl.  I expect you're frantic over Lisa still being missing?"

Rose didn't know what else to say, since if Cate was at the court, if she herself had to take the witness stand and tell the jury what she'd heard, Cate wouldn't be pleased.  Cate may even wait for her afterwards and confront her.  Should she decline to visit Cate?

She'd have to call Alec Hardy and ask him, if he didn't call her first.  She got paid from her client and got into her car and was about to set off when her phone rang again.

"Rose?" Alec asked cautiously in case she was with a client.  "Can you talk?"

Since her car engine wasn't turned on, she considered it was safe.

"Yeah, it's okay.  Did ya get to ask about me going to the court?" she asked nervously.

"Yes.  I'm sorry but you will have to appear but first, I need a full statement of what went on.  Can you come to the station later?" 

"Yeah, I suppose so?  Cate Gillespie just called me, she wants me to do her hair.  I can't now, can I?" Rose told him.

"I'm afraid not Rose.  You will have to give her an excuse.  She has not been present in court but she will get to know that you gave evidence.  It may not be pleasant for you if she does find out."

"Yeah, I guessed that, thanks," Rose tried to joke.  "I'll be at the station as soon as I can, will you be there?  I get a feeling that Tess doesn't think much of me now."

"I would not know that," he replied.  "I will make sure I am there.  Also, you will have to see the prosecution barrister before you appear in court.  She will have more questions for you and to go through the procedure."

"Yeah, okay.  Do ya know when that will be?" Rose asked.

"Probably on Monday now, the judge may adjourn the case until then, pending new evidence.  Rose, try not to worry until then," he replied.

Rose waited an hour then called Cate back.

"Sorry Cate, I can't make it later.  Maybe my mum can fit ya in?" Rose offered.

"It doesn't matter about it being today," Cate told her.

"I'll get mum to call ya, I'm a bit full up at the moment," Rose replied, hoping it would put Cate off.

"Well, if you don't have time for me?" Cate seemed offended.

"It's just a really busy time for me at the moment," Rose tried to tell her.

"No Rose, you said you could fit me in tonight, then you call back and try to get out of it," Cate told her.

"It's not like that Cate," Rose replied.

"I don't need excuses Rose," Cate huffed.  "Oh, don't tell me the police found out you were my hairdresser and want you to testify at the trial?  What is it that you know?  That I complained I didn't like Claire doing my hair?  You were talking to Pippa one night, she was outside and I saw you driving off.  What did she tell you?  Why are the police interested all of a sudden?"

Rose wished Cate would give her chance to reply.

"Cate, it's not like that, really," Rose tried again to tell her.  "Yes, I spoke to Pippa but it was nothing."

"Don't bother Rose, I'll find out if I go to the court and you're there," Cate sounded angry.

With that, Cate had hung up and Rose stared at her phone.  She would have to say something when she went back to give another statement.  So much for Alec telling her not to worry.  She sent a message to her mother, saying she'd be late home again and tried to get back to work.

Finally, she parked outside the police station and went inside, asking for Alec.  Tess was passing near the front desk and saw her.

"What are you doing here Rose?" Tess wanted to know.

"I have to give another statement," Rose told her.

"Are you still doing Cate's hair?" Tess asked.

"No, not after what happened," Rose replied, not wanting to say she'd spoken to Cate earlier.

"So you've not seen her?" Tess then asked,

Rose wondered if she was already being interviewed.

"I'm waiting to speak to your husband," Rose finally told her.

"He's no longer that Rose," Tess admitted.  "I'll leave you to it then."

Rose wondered what that was supposed to mean.  Tess went off and caught Alec coming out of his office when he'd got a call to say Rose was waiting for him.

"What's going on with Rose Tyler?" Tess wanted to know.

"Really Tess?  You expect me to tell you everything?" Alec replied.

"Why do you need to see her?" Tess insisted on knowing.  "I wasn't aware anything came of her statement?"

"In case you had not noticed Tess, things are not going well convicting Lee Ashworth," he reminded her.

"Then we need something else," Tess stated the obvious.  "Preferably not someone who heard the girls talking."

"Then get me something else Tess.  Is there anything you might have missed?" he wanted to make sure.  "What did he do the last time he was out?"

"I'll try and check with Claire, if she knows," Tess gave in.

"She knows more than she's telling us," Alec reminded her.  "She has to be involved in some way."

"We already know that Alec, it's proving it," Tess replied.  "Well, you'd best go see what Rose Tyler has to tell us.  Want me to go with you?"

"I can manage, get on to Claire again and call Cate.  Rose said she was asked to call and do her hair but she has had to put it off to come here.  Don't mention that to Cate though, otherwise she may accuse us of spying on her."

"She may already think that if Rose refused to go see her," Tess told him.

Rose was wondering what was going on as she waited for Alec.  Had he changed his mind about getting her to tell him everything she heard?  She looked up a few minutes later as he approached her.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, this way," he apologised.

She was already nervous and keeping her waiting hadn't done her any good, he thought.

"I wondered what had happened.  I saw Tess when I came in," Rose admitted.

"We were just having a discussion, I apologise," Alec replied.  "Did Cate Gillespie have much to say when you cancelled on her?"

"Ya could say that," Rose admitted.  "She knows I talked to Pippa that evening when I was leaving."

"Tess is going to talk to her.  Hopefully, Cate won't think you were sent to spy on her."

"Geez, she sounded pretty upset when I called her back," Rose further admitted as Alec indicated for her to sit opposite.    

"The case is getting to everyone Rose," Alec assured her.  "It does not seem to be progressing as we planned.  That's why something you may have heard may have a bearing on what happened that night.  If you saw both girls the night before, then you are one of the last people to have done so."

"I didn't think it was gonna be the last time I spoke to them," Rose told him sadly.

"I know Rose,  I am sorry to have to make you go through it all again.  Trust me, if there was another way, we would be taking it.  Tess will try to smooth things over with Cate.  What exactly did she say?"

"Just I was spying on her and the girls I suppose," Rose began to tell him.  "When I said I had to cancel, she wasn't very happy.  I told her I was really busy and that my mum might be able to fit her in."

"What did Cate have to say to that?" he asked her, writing something down.

"That's when she said you were sending me to spy on her.  She said she'd find out if I appeared in court.  How can I stand there and say what Pippa told me that time I was leaving?  I don't think Pippa wanted me to tell anyone."

"I'm sorry Rose but how Pippa was in the time leading up to her going missing can count for a lot.  If it had not been you she talked to, she may have kept it to herself," he reminded her.  "Now, apart from what you already told us, is there anything else you remember.  What about the Friday evening?"

"Well, Lisa let me in then Pippa was saying she wanted to go out on her bike," Rose recalled.

"Did Lisa seem keen to take her cousin out?" he asked.

"I suppose so?" Rose tried to remember.

"What about Cate?  Did she seem to trust Lisa to take Pippa out?" Alec wondered.

"I think so?  She just carried on when they left," Rose told him.

She was asked a few more questions but she didn't think there was anything new to add, until Alec reminded her of something.

"Did I tell ya that Cate told Lisa not to go next door?" Rose asked.

Alec looked through her statement.

"Did she now?" he shook his head.  "I wonder why?  They must have been talking before you arrived then?"

"She'd told Pippa that before, when I was there and did Pippa's hair as well.  Pippa wanted the neighbour, Claire to do it," Rose recalled.

So, Cate's reluctance to let Pippa go next door must go deeper, he wondered.

Chapter 6

How much deeper did it actually go? Did Cate Gillespie think something disturbing had been going on when the two girls went next door? Surely Lisa had more sense than dragging her younger cousin into something? Alec looked up from Rose's statement.

"Sorry. Rose, I know it seems we are going over things but we must get it right," he told her. "It pieces together how Cate was reluctant to let Pippa go next door, so we can eliminate certain factors."

"Geez, I thought ya were gonna say the neighbours are the only suspects," Rose laughed nervously. "Oh, ya do?" she saw the look on Alec's face. "So the papers were right? That makes a change."

"I can't say anything," Alec replied. "I can't influence your side of the story. I can't make it look like any particular person or persons are suspects, only that we have someone under suspicion who are facing a trial. Rose, you cannot tell anyone else what you have told us so far. Do you understand?"

"Yeah, I get it. Was there anything else? I should be gettin' home," Rose told him.

"Yes, of course," Alec replied, getting up after putting her statement in a folder when she had signed it. "Try not to worry about going to court."

He couldn't tell her that if the Ashworths slipped up, they wouldn't be walking free, that was if he could get Tess to trip Claire up. He thought he'd best not make any promises to her.

"Rose, you will be notified when you have to appear but Cate Gillespie may decide to stay away so don't worry too much about facing her," Alec advised her.

"I just don't want her to think I was gonna do her hair for her to get more information," Rose told him.

"Don't worry about that eh? Just concentrate on what you are asked in court and don't let either side get you to say anything that was not true," he warned her.

"Ya mean they'd try?" Rose was now worried.

"Sorry. You have to be prepared," he apologised.

"Yeah, I know. I just watch too much TV," Rose tried to laugh it off.

"Rose, I have to ask you again. Did you leave anything out? Even the slightest thing?" he wondered.

He'd had a feeling she was holding something back but he didn't want her to say anything that wasn't true. The defence would surely try and put words in her mouth as it was.

"No, I already told ya everything, honestly. Do ya think I'd keep something back and let whoever killed Pippa walk free?" Rose replied.

Alec shook his head and got up, going to sit next to her.

"I was not implying that Rose," he assured her, putting his hand on her shoulder.

Rose tried to shrug it off but Alec persisted.

"Sorry, I'm all on edge," Rose apologised. "Geez, I've still got to appear in court yet."

"You will be fine. Are you in a hurry to get home?" he dared ask. "I just wondered if you would like to go for a drink and something to eat, for me keeping you out."

"Is it allowed? I mean I know we met before but that was before ya said I'd actually be standing up in front of the judge," she asked nervously.

"It's only a drink Rose," he tried to laugh it off. "It's not like I am going to ask you to lie in court."

"I know ya wouldn't Alec. I'll have to call my mum and tell her I'll be a bit late," Rose gave in.

"Fine. Shall we meet where we did the last time?" he suggested.

He got up and held her chair and Rose took his offered arm to help her. He knew she might take it the wrong way but she'd not yet slapped him and told him he was getting too friendly. He had to know if she was holding something back, it could be crucial to convicting Lee Ashworth.

While Alec went back to get his jacket and close his laptop, he noticed Tess was missing, thankfully. Rose had gone back to her car and called her mother.

"Blimey Rose, should ya be thinking of going off to meet him, the detective in charge?" Jackie asked her.

"It's fine Mum, we met before, remember?" Rose replied. "How many times do I get to go out? At least you get out a bit."

"Ya call going to bingo going out?" Jackie laughed. "Ya could come with us."

"No thanks Mum," Rose laughed back. "I won't be out that long anyway."

"You be careful Rose, even if he is a police detective," her mother warned her.

While Alec had been interviewing Rose, Tess had reluctantly gone to see Cate.

"Oh, it's you Tess," Cate said when she answered the door. "I though the hairdresser still had the nerve to visit."

"Why, what about the hairdresser?" Tess wondered.

"You should know Tess, you and that husband of yours were sending her to spy on me," Cate replied, going into the lounge and pouring more wine.

"He's no longer my husband Cate," Tess corrected her. "Well he won't be. What happened?"

"Don't pretend you don't know Tess?" Cate laughed. "I asked her to call round and after an hour of leaving her to fit me in, she calls me back and says she's busy. Then she has the nerve to suggest her mother comes instead."

So Cate did have Rose as her hairdresser? She had never been able to be certain.

"It was nothing to do with us Cate, why would it be?" Tess wanted to know.

"I saw her leaving one night when Pippa was outside. Goodness knows what Pippa told her," Cate admitted.

"Why would Pippa tell the hairdresser anything Cate?" Tess wondered.

"Pippa was always getting Claire to do her hair, without asking me first," Cate told her. "I used to go crazy with her."

"My daughter's always at a friend's house and they mess around with each other's hair," Tess admitted. "That's teenagers for you. Anyway, how are you coping Cate?"

Rose was waiting in the car park of the pub for a few minutes before Alec arrived. She still wondered if it was such a good idea to be seen again with him or not but if it got a free meal out of him, she supposed it wouldn't do much harm.

They got a table in the corner by the window and waited for their meals to arrive.

"Can we forget about the case for a while?" Rose asked as she sipped on her drink.

"That would be a good idea," he smiled. "So, what brought you and your mother to Sandbrook then?"

"Just a change. I think mum realised she'd been living on the same estate since she'd got married and it was time to get out," Rose began to tell him. "She insisted I went to hairdressing college then decided to expand. Can I tell ya something? I mean ya can tell me to mind my own business but it's about when I first went to see Tess."

"It makes no difference to me what she told you Rose. We are on the verge of divorce and have been for some time," he admitted.

"Sorry. It's just she wanted a different hairstyle, like she was tryin' to impress somebody. She was, wasn't she? She'd not told ya she was gettin' her hair done, had she?"

"No and I apologise for seeming off with you. It wasn't your fault Rose," he told her, putting his hand on hers. "The truth is Rose, she was seeing someone, behind my back and it was him she was trying to impress."

"I feel really bad about it now Alec," Rose admitted as he moved his hand when the waitress approached.

It was one thing having a meal with Rose but he didn't want anyone getting the wrong idea, were he to be in the news again.

"Don't feel bad Rose, you were not to know," he tried to assure her.

Rose thought that was easy for him to say. She did feel bad about it, though she'd had no idea what Tess had been up to at the time.

"Alec, let's change the subject," Rose suggested. "How's your daughter doing? I mean if you and Tess split up?"

"She's old enough to understand Tess and I don't get on any more," Alec smiled. "I think she will understand I am not going back home. You made it sound like your father was no longer around. What happened Rose?"

"He died, when I was only six months old. He was knocked down by a car when he was on his way to a wedding," Rose explained. "It still makes me sad, mum said it was too late when she'd seen what had happened. No-one was with him."

"I'm sorry Rose. Maybe if you could go back, you could have been with him eh?" Alec smiled.

"Thanks, that's a nice thought Alec," Rose agreed. "Got a time machine have ya?"

"No but if I did have one, I would gladly take you back," he replied.

Rose didn't know what to say. He was really nice and she hated how Tess had been treating him. She had wondered where he was on the other few visits she paid to do Tess's hair. Had she known Tess was messing around with another man, she wouldn't have made such a good job of it.

"I hope my asking you out did not give you the wrong idea?" he then asked her.

"As long as ya don't get into trouble Alec," Rose told him.

"If I do, it will be from the prosecution barrister, she's a bit harsh," Alec joked. "She seems to think she knows me from somewhere."

"Maybe she has ya mixed up with someone else?" Rose suggested as they finished eating and Rose went for the dessert menu, making Alec smile.

"Maybe we meet again in the future?" he went along with it.

"Yeah, sure ya don't have a time machine stashed away somewhere?" Rose laughed.

"Maybe I should have, then I would already know what dessert you are going to order? Let me guess? Something with bananas perhaps?"

"Geez, that's uncanny Alec," Rose was still laughing.

Alec went back to the bar, taking Rose's empty glass but not sure she should be having another drink. He had only been drinking a low alcohol lager that hardly had any taste to it but it was all he dared have, if he now had to worry about getting Rose home.

Maybe he could offer to drive her home then get a taxi back for his own car, if she didn't live too far away? Would that be too much? He just didn't want her to take it the wrong way, he was just making sure she didn't get stopped on her way home.

They talked some more, until Rose said she really must be getting home.

"Rose, I don't want you to get stopped on your way home. Are you sure you will be okay to drive?" he wanted to know.

"I'm fine Alec, really," Rose insisted.

That was until she got outside and Alec steadied her as she went down the step.

"Maybe I should get my mum to come and rescue me?" Rose then laughed, leaning on his arm.

"Well, I could drive you home, then get a cab to pick up my car?" Alec suggested.

"I don't want to put you to any trouble Alec," Rose smiled as he didn't object to her still holding his arm as they walked to her car.

He suddenly stopped.

"Rose, I just had an idea. Let me take you home, then I have to call the station. What was your address again?"

"What did ya think of?" Rose wanted to know as she got her car key out of her purse. "Can ya talk about it?"

Who else did he have to talk to who he could trust?

"The day Pippa died, before her parents went off, she was wearing a pendant but it was missing when she was found a few days later. We searched everywhere for it, even the house next door. We are trying to prove she was killed by the man next door but we can't prove it as he won't talk."

"That's why ya need me?" Rose asked. "To say Pippa was warned not to go next door. Her mum knew something wasn't right, didn't she?"

"We think so," Alec admitted as he opened the passenger door for her.

Rose reluctantly got in, thinking she was now clear-headed enough to drive but she didn't want to argue with him.

"So, ya think the girls still went next door? Maybe Lisa fancied the bloke who lived there? Me and my mate Shareen used to skip classes and sneak to the shopping centre to watch the boys," Rose laughed.

"I just bet you did," Alec smiled as he looked to insert the key then moved the seat back, getting a frown from Rose.

"If the girls did go next door, her pendant must have come off somewhere?" Rose wondered as Alec drove off, hoping he wouldn't get fined for leaving his own car.

He knew where Rose's apartment was, it was only about ten minutes away.

"Yes, we thought it would be in the house but what if was in a car?" Alec asked her. "Pippa was taken to the woods, she must have been in the car and it came off in it. Why did I not think of it before? That's why I have to call the station, to get a search warrant for the neighbour's car. We don't as yet know if his wife is still there and she may not let us near the car anyway."

"I hope ya right Alec," Rose told him as they neared her street. "I mean if ya find the pendant in it, ya have them."

"Yes, we do Rose but we are still going to need you if they won't accept that's enough," he assured her.

"I wanted to help Alec, I'm just glad I was contacted again," Rose admitted.

Alec pulled into the driveway of the apartment block and Rose indicated her parking space.

"Maybe ya should pick your car up first?" she then giggled. "Thanks for bringing me home but I would have been okay to drive."

"Maybe but I encouraged you to have another drink," he reminded her. "Maybe I also wanted to know where you lived?"

"Yeah?" Rose laughed.

"Well, I would not have got the idea of the pendant in the car had I not been helping you in," he wondered. "If Pippa had been carried into the back seat where no-one could see her, the pendant could have caught on something. You can bet whoever was carrying her would never had noticed."

"Yeah and if they didn't know it had come off, they wouldn't have cleaned the car out, would they?" Rose suggested.

"Rose, you have to promise not to say anything," Alec then insisted.

"Aw, don't worry about that," Rose smiled. "So, do ya have a taxi number?"

"Ah, not that I use them much but yes, thank you. Here, let me help you out?" he offered.

He went around the other side and Rose was praying her mother wasn't looking out of the window. Rose allowed him to help her but held onto his arm.

"Thanks for the meal Alec," she told him.

"My pleasure Rose. So, do you go out much at all?" he dared ask her.

"Not really. I've not made a lot of friends since I've been here. It was nice to get out for a change. Thanks again."

She reached over and kissed his cheek, Alec putting his hand on her cheek. He was telling himself not to be an idiot and to tell her he was starting to really like her.

"I hope ya find the pendant Alec. Pippa didn't deserve to die that way. She was left in the woods did ya say?"

Alec nodded, going to kiss her cheek and holding her hair back with his fingers.

"The river carried her downstream after the heavy rain, she was spotted three days after she disappeared."

"It was you that found her?" Rose guessed.

"Yes, I went in to get her," he confirmed. "Do you know what that does to someone Rose?"

"I can't even imagine," Rose had to admit.

She just let him run his finger over her cheek but then rested her head on his shoulder.

"I should get back and retrieve my car," he then remembered.

Rose tried to look up at him, her arms now pinned down.

"Yeah, ya don't wanna let it be towed away," she agreed, trying not to shiver.

"Goodnight then Rose, I will let you get home," he noticed her shivering but it wasn't from the cold and they both knew it.

"Yeah, night then and thanks again for bringing me home Alec. Mum will probably give me a lecture and say I should have called her," Rose replied.

"Then tell her there was really no need," Alec insisted. "Do I make you feel awkward?" he then realised.

"No but what about me being a witness?" she then asked.

"Rose, we don't yet know if you will even be called. If we can find the pendant, there may be no need," he assured her. "Let me worry about that eh?"

He let her move slightly then he leaned down to try and kiss her. Rose resisted at first but went to kiss him back when he tried again. What were the chances she'd even get called to give evidence, she wondered as they kissed again. They may only read it out in court, it still may not be enough to convict Lee Ashworth.

Alec thought the man was too sure of himself and would trip himself up in the end but it would be better if they found the pendant either in the house or as Rose had said maybe it had come off in their car. First thing tomorrow, he was going to apply for a search warrant for the car and hope they were right. If they did it with no warning, the Ashworths wouldn't have time to remove it if was indeed there.

He was pretty sure he was right and he had Rose to thank for the idea. He let her go and she was about to go off.

"Rose. Would you like to go out properly tomorrow night?" he dared ask her. "If we find that pendant, I will have you to thank and we can celebrate?"

"Well, if ya sure it's okay?" she was still in doubt.

"Don't worry so much eh?" he told her again. "I will say I suddenly had the idea about the car, I won't involve you in any way, I promise."

Chapter 7

Alec reluctantly let her go, hoping they hadn't been seen or there would be trouble for him in the morning if he had been recognised.

"Maybe I should call for you tomorrow night?" Alec suggested.

"Yeah, maybe? Night then," Rose replied.

He watched her go inside, tempted to delay her further but by this time, her mother may get suspicious and be looking out of the window. He hoped Rose wouldn't get questioned too much when she got inside. He called for a cab and was soon picking up his car, which thankfully hadn't been towed away or clamped.

He drove to the police station and made the sergeant jump when he appeared at the front desk.

"Thought you'd gone home Sir?" Alec was asked.

"I had a idea and thought I would deal with it in person," Alec told him, trying to keep Rose out of it. "First thing tomorrow morning, I want a search warrant for the Ashworth's car."

"I thought we were through with searching their property Sir?" the sergeant seemed surprised.

Alec thought it would have been if someone had bothered including the car in the first search warrant. Had he really expected the couple to willingly let them search something extra?

"Right, I'll pass it on then," the desk sergeant told him. "Shall I pass it to DS Hardy?"

"Just pass it to any DS," Alec replied, not wanting any mistakes.

He'd have to take both Tess and Dave with him, they were the senior officers on the case.

"Right you are Sir," was the reply. "Anything else?"

"No, I'll leave it with you," Alec told him.

He finally went home, thinking about when he had left Rose outside her apartment. Had he made a bad move by kissing her? He just hoped they'd find the necklace tomorrow or it would be down to her, then they could show no signs something had given between them.

Rose had got inside, praying her mother hadn't been spying on her through the window.

"Rose, thought ya said ya weren't gonna be late back?" Jackie asked her. "Have you been drinking? What did ya do about gettin' home? Ya had better not have been drivin'?"

"Mum, stop it. I got home okay, I'm not that bad. I just had a drink with the meal," Rose protested. "I'm not that late anyway."

"Well, I still think ya made a mistake going out with that detective," her mother reminded her.

"Mum, he said I may not even have to testify," Rose admitted, remembering what Alec had told her. "They could decide against it."

"Well, if whoever did it just admitted it, they wouldn't need ya, would they?" Jackie joked.

Rose wished it was only that simple. She was about to go to her room when her phone buzzed. When she brought it out of her pocket, she saw it was Alec, who wanted to make sure she had recovered.

"Rose. Feeling better now?" he asked her.

"Yeah, I'm fine but thanks for saving me gettin' stopped on the way home," Rose laughed as she closed the door.

"Ah, well. I could hardly let you get stopped, could I?" he replied. "You do know that if we find the pendant tomorrow in the suspect's car, we probably won't need you to testify?"

"Yeah, that'll be a relief," Rose admitted.

"Did I make you feel uncomfortable earlier?" he wondered.

"Well, maybe a little at first but then, I was okay," she told him. "I didn't say anything to my mum, about you bringing me home."

"Maybe it's best we keep quiet for now?" he suggested.

"Yeah, I don't want ya to get into trouble," Rose agreed. "See ya tomorrow then?"

"Yes, I will pick you up, if you still want to go?" he wanted to make sure she would still want to go.

"I hope we can celebrate then," Rose replied.

The next day, Alec got to work early and had left word that as soon as the warrant was ready, he was to be informed. Tess wasn't happy when she found out what he'd arranged the night before.

"You came back to organise a search warrant for the Ashworth's car?" she confronted him.

"Tess, that pendant has to be somewhere," Alec reminded her. "You never had any luck yesterday, did you?"

"I didn't see Claire," Tess had to admit.

Alec just shook his head and indicated she was to leave.

"You and Dave can come with me, to search the car," he then told her.

"There wasn't a car there yesterday, though Claire could have taken it to work with her," Tess replied.

"Why did you not say anything?" Alec wanted to know. "Now we have to find it before the warrant comes through."

"Fine, I'll call her but she may be evasive," Tess suggested.

"Just tell her you called yesterday but the car wasn't there, then see what she says," Alec replied.

Why did he have to do the thinking for her?

"What if she wants to be there when we search it?" Tess than asked.

"Fine but she stays out of the way," Alec relented.

Tess went off to call Claire but wasn't surprised when Claire answered and said she'd sold the car.

"Why do you want to know?" Claire asked her.

"We need to look at it, I can't say why," was all Tess could tell Claire. "Tell me where it is."

Claire reluctantly told Tess where the car was but technically, it was no longer theirs and if they found anything, it may not be admissible in court. She went back to tell Alec.

"When did she sell it?" he wanted to know.

"Yesterday," Tess replied. "If anyone has touched it, you know we can't use whatever we find in it."

"Let me worry about that," Alec replied. "Has the warrant arrived?"

"Just now. Are we going right away before the car's covered in fingerprints?" Tess asked him.

They went off after Tess arranged for forensics to meet them at the car lot. Dave served the warrant to the annoyed car lot owner, who was worried customers would stay away.

"You'd better not take long," the man called to Alec as the car was being located, which he thought was lucky it wasn't already for sale and at the front of the lot.

"How many people have touched the car since it arrived?" Alec wanted to know, ignoring the man's remark.

"No-one, it came in late so I had to find somewhere for it. If I'd not known the man, I would never had accepted it so late but his wife insisted they needed the money. Don't know why he couldn't have come himself," the owner complained.

Lee Ashworth's name had not been in the papers yet, thankfully.

"Why do you want to search it anyway?" the man continued with his grudges.

"It's a police matter," was all Alec was willing to say.

He now wished they'd not had to wait for forensics to turn up, it was getting on for lunchtime and he wanted to call Rose while she was taking a break.

When Claire had taken the car to sell the night before, she had been unaware that Lee had been careless and left the pendant in the glove compartment. He'd found it on the back seat after taking and leaving Pippa in the woods and hoped Claire wouldn't find it.

That morning though, she'd called Lee, who was still being detained.

"What now Claire?" Lee asked her when he was told he had a call.

"I sold the car," she told him.

"What for?" Lee sounded annoyed.

He had forgotten all about the pendant, since it had never been mentioned during his questioning. Then, he suddenly realised.

"Claire, did you take everything out?" he wanted to know.

"Of course I did, I'm not stupid Lee," Claire insisted.

Lee wondered at her sometimes.

"Including the glove compartment?" he asked, wondering if she'd found the pendant, which he knew she'd given to the girl to wear.

"Yes Lee. Why, was I supposed to find something?" she wondered what he was inferring.

He made sure no-one was around before admitting anything.

"That pendant you gave to Pippa," he started to tell her.

"What about it Lee? She was wearing it that night," Claire suddenly realised. "Tell me she was still wearing it when you went off with her?"

"It came off," he had to admit.

"You stupid idiot. Don't tell me you put it in the glove box?"

"Where else was I supposed to put it Claire?" he asked her. "So it's still in there?"

"The light doesn't work in the glove box Lee, how was I supposed to see it? Tess called me this morning," she thought she'd best tell him.

"So? What did she want now? Has her husband got even more questions?" Lee mused.

"She said she called round yesterday and asked where the car was," Claire started to tell him.

"You told her where it was?" Lee got angry.

"I had to, what was I supposed to do?" she replied.

"You'd better see if you can catch them before they start searching," he told her.

"Oh yeah and what am I supposed to do if they found it?" Claire wanted to know.

"Claire, they'll know Pippa was in the car, since Cate would know Pippa was wearing it," Lee replied. "Whatever it takes, get it back."

Well, if he wanted the pendant so badly, he must have been stupid enough to toss it when the police would easily find it, Claire concluded. She had to go open the salon, make sure everyone knew what they were doing then get to the car lot, on the outskirts of the town and just hope the police had been delayed getting a search warrant.

She vaguely knew the owner, which was why she'd been able to sell the car but not well enough to call and tell him to stall the police, if she couldn't get there early enough. Then she had to make up an excuse she'd left something of value in the car and hoped he'd fall for it.

At the car lot, the search was going ahead after forensics made sure no other fingerprints were on it apart from the Ashworths and the lot owner, which Alec wished the man hadn't touched it but at least no-one else had. He was the one who found the pendant in the glove box, thinking Lee Ashworth had been careless tossing it in there when it must have fallen off Pippa, either putting her in or taking her out.

Either way, it made his skin crawl thinking about it. It was bad enough not being certain how the poor girl had died but it hadn't been from drowning, the pathologist suspected suffocation while the girl had slept but had something else caused her to sleep so easily that a pillow or cushion could be placed over her face?

He held the pendant on the end of a pen he had picked it up with, since it was so delicate.

"See if there's anything else we can use to say Pippa was in here," he called out to Tess and Dave, Tess in the back seat and Dave in the back of the car, searching under the wheel arch.

"What else could there be Alec?" Tess sounded annoyed.

"Keep going, the more we have, the better," Alec replied.

He placed the pendant in an evidence bag a uniformed officer handed to him and he filled out the details and made sure he hadn't missed anything. They didn't know they were being observed from the back of the crowd that had gathered. Alec looked up and saw the gathering.

"Get those people out of here," he told the officer next to him, wondering when they had all appeared.

He didn't notice Claire protesting as the crowd was being moved back.

"But I left something in a car I just sold," she was telling the officer.

"Sorry Miss, no-one's allowed in there, this is a police matter," the officer replied. "You will have to wait."

Claire had doubted Tess had missed anything but then noticed Alec was handing a plastic bag to her. Of course it had to be him that had found it, the pendant she had let Pippa wear. She should have noticed it that night while she was comforting the girl, who had been upset about her cousin.

Once she had given the girl the drug Ricky had in the flask, there had been no going back but she'd had to force Lee to finish it. Then she'd had to lie to Ricky and get him to keep quiet about it. He must have been used to lying if he'd fooled Cate and the police ever since.

Alec was on the phone to the prosecution while Tess and Dave were finishing up and getting more details from the car lot owner.

"You have physical evidence?" Alec was being asked by Ms Knight's junior.

"Yes, we just have to take it for testing first. We found it in the suspect's car so it wasn't in the water with the girl," Alec replied.

"Hold on while I inform Ms Knight, I think she may want to talk to you," he was asked.

While he waited, he called Tess over.

"Take this back with you and see it gets to the forensic's lab right away. I'm waiting to talk to the prosecution. Hopefully, it will now save Rose Tyler giving testimony."

"Be careful Alec, you're getting far too close to her you know?" Tess reminded him. "You don't think what she saw and heard is enough do you?" she laughed.

"Stop it Tess. Just sign the evidence bag that it was handed to you before you leave. Better still, do it now," he then insisted, just in case she 'accidentally' forget.

"Really Alec, you don't trust me," Tess huffed.

He ignored her, made sure she was signing for it as he heard Ms Knight called his name.

"Sorry, I was making sure the evidence was on its way back to the station," he apologised.

"Well it had better get there," he was told. "Then I can inform the judge we have solid evidence the girl was in the suspect's car. Otherwise, it will be down to Miss Tyler. Are you sure she's up to it?"

"As best I can be. She is nervous, as anyone else would be under the circumstances," he admitted.

"As long as she tells the truth, she has nothing to worry about," was the reply.

Alec thought it was easy for her to say, she was used to being in court, Rose wasn't. Once the pendant had been examined, he could give Rose the good news and he wouldn't have to keep his feelings for her in check. What he didn't know was that Dave was trying to encourage Tess to stop off on the way back with the evidence.

"Come on Tess, we can call for lunch on the way back then have some time in the back of the car," Dave laughed.

"Alec will go mad if we're late back," Tess told him.

"Since when did you care?" Dave laughed some more. "Meet me at the usual place, no-one parks at the back of the car park at lunchtime."

Tess agreed, seeing Alec was still on the phone and drove off but Claire had still been watching, seeing Tess and Dave talking. Was Tess having an affair, she wondered. If so, she bet they were arranging to meet somewhere. She stopped a passing taxi and told them the name of a nearby pub and hoped she'd get the right one.

Alec was now calling Rose as he saw Tess get in her car. He just hoped he could trust her but the sooner the pendant was tested the better.

"Watcha," Rose greeted him as she was leaving a house.

"Rose. We were right," he told her.

"That's great Alec," Rose replied, being able to tell what he meant.

"We should be certain by the end of the day, when tests have been done. I've informed the court," he explained.

"So I won't get called?" Rose wanted to make sure. "It's okay if they still want me Alec, I still want to help put Pippa's killer away."

That was what he liked so much about her, she was still willing to help.

"I know you do," he told her. "I have to go, I will see you later."

He wished he had the time to meet her somewhere but he needed to call and get something for a late lunch and Rose probably couldn't spare the time anyway. He got back to the station, seeing both Tess and Dave were missing. As long as the pendant had been handed in, he wasn't really bothered any more, Tess would soon be free to do whatever she wanted without trying to hide it and so would he.

Rose had given him the push to hurry things through to end his marriage though he supposed Tess would have gone for it sooner or later.

Tess and Dave were about to go to his car when they had to pass hers, Dave noticing something odd about it.

"Tess, did you leave the driver's window open?" he asked her.

"No, why would I Dave?" she replied, getting closer.

"Tess, it's not open, it's been smashed," he now saw.

"What?" Tess was surprised, since they'd been going there for a while and never had any trouble.

"Tess, tell me the evidence is in your purse?" Dave looked at her. He saw the look on her face. "Don't tell me. Alec is going to go crazy with you."

"Don't blame it all on me Dave. It was your idea to meet here," Tess wasn't about to take all the blame. "You were in a hurry to start kissing when I arrived."

They both peered into the car, her work bag laid on the back seat and things scattered around.

"They took my work phone and coin purse," she turned to Dave.

"I can see that Tess. So, where's the evidence bag?" he asked her.

"Someone took it then," Tess had to admit. "I'd better call it in, just say my car window was smashed."

"You know you'll be asked about the evidence bag," Dave reminded her.

"I can't face him yet, he'll just have to find out when we get back," Tess replied.

"Hey, hold on a minute Tess," Dave objected. "You can't say I was with you."

"Well I wouldn't have stopped on my own," Tess replied. "Well okay, I'll say I called you out and you got here before forensics and uniformed officers then."

"You'd better hope he falls for it Tess," Dave told her as Tess prepared to call it in.

"He's too sure that the evidence being found will get Rose Tyler off the hook of testifying," Tess laughed.

"You mean he's seeing her behind your back Tess?" Dave laughed with her.

"Don't be so stupid Dave, of course he is," Tess tried to be serious as the phone was answered. "This is DS Henchard. My car had just been broken into, get someone out to me right away, I've called DS Harris. Don't let DI Hardy know, I'll call him myself," she told the desk sergeant.

"Very well Ma'am, tell me where you are," the desk sergeant replied.

He knew they'd been out to gather evidence but he couldn't tell if it had been handed in or not. That was up to the officers in charge to handle.

Claire was pleased with herself that Tess had been careless leaving her bag behind and even better, the pendant. She'd made sure no-one had seen her and had run back to the main road to catch another cab back to the salon. She'd told her deputy she had some personal stuff to attend to and hoped the police wouldn't ask any questions.

Chapter 8

Tess and Dave finally got back to the station, Tess's car on the back of a tow truck and taken to the police garage. Alec saw them standing talking and went out to see what had taken them so long.

"What took you two so long?" he asked them both.

"Don't start Alec," Tess warned him, Dave wondering how she dare talk to him like that at work. "I've had enough."

"What does that mean?" he wanted to know, raising his eyebrows.

"I had to go back for her," Dave spoke up. "Tell him Tess."

Tess looked at him as if to say thanks for dropping her right in it.

"I had to stop on the way back to use the ladies room at a pub I was passing," Tess looked at him. "When I came out, my car windows had been smashed."

"What?" Alec erupted, making everyone turn towards him. "In my office, both of you."

They followed him inside, Dave whispering to Tess when he grabbed her arm to hold her back.

"What are you going to tell him?" Dave wondered what she was up to.

"Just go along with it Dave," she told him.

Dave wasn't happy about it as he went in after her, leaning on the door instead of sitting beside her.

"You did what Tess?" Alec was asking her.

"What do you expect? How was I to know there was someone hanging around?" she replied. "I called it in then called Dave back. Tell him Dave."

"It's true, her car window was smashed when I got back," Dave agreed, thinking she owed him for lying to her almost ex husband.

"Was anything taken?" Alec then wanted to know.

He saw Dave glance at Tess and knew something was wrong, besides the man probably being with her when she went back to her car.

"Don't lie to me Harris," Alec warned him. "Were you with her when she found out?"

"So we stopped for lunch," Tess got defensive. "We had to eat, there were plenty of other cars there."

"Then why pick on yours?" he asked her. "Tell me you left nothing on display?"

"I did ask her when we went inside," Dave told him.

"Thanks Dave," Tess half turned to him.

"Well I did," Dave insisted.

"So, what was left on view?" Alec asked her, dreading her reply. "Tell me you handed the evidence in?"

"I never got chance," Tess tried to evade the question.

"What does that mean?" Alec wanted to know. "You still have it?"

She didn't have to reply, he already knew the answer.

"Where's your car Tess?" he then asked her.

"In the garage," she replied quietly. "Forensics are checking it for fingerprints. How was I to know it was a high risk car park?"

"So, what did they get? Beside obviously the handbag the evidence was in or was it just lying on the seat for anyone to see?" Alec snapped at her.

"Of course I never left it on view," Tess snapped back at him.

"So, someone just smashed the window and grabbed the handbag, hoping there was something of value in it? Why your car?" Alec asked as he leaned forward on his elbows.

"How do I know?" Tess replied. "I know I shouldn't have left it in view but no-one saw me leaving the car."

"That's beside the point Tess," Alec told her. "Go check on forensics then join me in the chief's office, both of you."

"Hey, why me?" Dave wanted to know why he was included.

"Because it was probably your idea to stop off there on the way back," Alec told him. "Go with her."

Alec got up, indicating for them to leave. Now he had to go face the chief, to tell him their only hope of convicting Lee Ashworth without Rose's evidence was gone and he'd hoped he had spared her from going to court. How was he going to tell her?

"Tell me she didn't just leave the evidence in her car," the chief was saying.

"I wish I could," Alec replied. "What the hell was she thinking?"

"I should hold you responsible Alec," the chief reminded him.

"They were both capable of bringing the evidence back," Alec defended himself. "They did not need reminding not to stop off on the way back."

"I know Alec but now I have to prove that to headquarters. I'll see what I can do but I'm making no promises," the chief told him. "I'll point out it was their decision to stop off and you knew nothing about it until they got back."

"Well, that's the way it happened," Alec insisted. "I am not going to take the blame."

"I agree Alec, those two are more than capable of bringing an evidence bag back," the chief told him. "It will be down to me to take the blame."

Alec didn't agree, why should either of them have to admit it was a big mistake trusting Tess to do her job properly. He went back to his office and sent a message to Rose for her to call him. She heard the message tone and sneaked a look at the screen while her client was admiring her hair in the mirror.

"You did a great job Rose, my hair was such a mess," she was being told as she held another mirror up to show the back.

"I've seen a lot worse," Rose laughed. "My mum told me a few stories as well. Glad yours wasn't one of them."

She got outside and completed the appointment details and payment then sat in her car and called Alec.

"Is there something wrong?" Rose was worried why he'd text her.

"Rose. I'm sorry, there's no other way of telling you. Tess fouled up and lost the evidence we found in that car."

He waited for her to reply. Rose sat back, not knowing what to make of it.

"Rose, say something," he urged her.

"What can I say? She'd go that far to make me have to testify?" Rose finally told him. "She thinks there's something going on between us, doesn't she?"

Alec was sure she'd said that before but let it slide.

"Rose, she has no grounds to accuse us of anything," Alec assured her. "You can back out of going out with me tonight, if you want?"

He was hoping she still wanted to see him. She was keeping him sane at present.

"What? No, I still want to go out Alec. So, what happens now? Does it just go on what I told ya?"

"I will have to go see the prosecution, she won't be happy," Alec tried to joke.

He thought he'd best go see her in person, rather than be chewed out over the phone.

"I don't believe this," Ms knight told him as he faced her. "It would have been incontestable proof, enough to lock Lee Ashworth up for a long time."

"You don't have to remind me of that," Alec told her. "Now it's all down to Rose Tyler."

"Well as I've already said, she had better be up to it," he was reminded. "Have you been in contact with her, to warn her?"

"She knows and she's not happy about it," Alec admitted.

"You had better not have been compromising her, Inspector," he was warned.

"Tess is the one compromising the case," Alec replied. "I won't take the blame for her."

"Maybe Miss Tyler left something out?' Ms Knight wondered. "See if you can get anything else out of her but do it properly, have someone with you and make the interview formal. I'll see if I can make it admissible in court, by saying it just came to light."

Alec knew they'd have to settle for that, if Rose was indeed holding something back. Maybe Rose didn't have anything more to say but in the back of his mind, she may be holding something back. One thing was sure now, they wouldn't be able to be seen out together after tonight.

If he still wanted to see her, he would have to persuade her to go to his apartment but she may back out altogether until it was all over. Even then, she may not want anything else to do with him for breaking his promise. He couldn't really blame her.

Tess and Dave were plotting when they'd seen the extent of the window damage to her car.

"Tess, I'm telling you, that was not just a random attack," Dave was trying to tell her.

"Don't be stupid Dave. Why would anyone target my car?" Tess disagreed.

"Think about it Tess, who would gain by you losing the evidence?" Dave asked her. "You asked Claire where she'd sold the car."

"Dave, that doesn't mean anything," Tess tried to tell him. "We have to go see her, see if she'll turn against her husband. Just think Dave, she can't be happy about the whole thing."

"Tess, she'll see it as a chance to string us along," Dave laughed.

"Well I don't think she will. It's either that or he walks free. We have to try something Dave," Tess insisted. "We'll have to go in your car."

"Do you think the same as me, that it wasn't a coincidence Claire told you where the car was or not?" Dave wanted to know.

"I don't know Dave. Let's just go see Claire, she should have almost finished at the salon, we'll go wait for her," Tess suggested.

As they waited outside the salon, Claire could see them through the blinds, wondering what Tess was up to. Was she suspicious all of a sudden? She took her time going out as Tess got out of the car.

"What do you want now Tess? I told you where the car was," Claire told her.

"We want to talk to you Claire," Tess replied.

She thought if it had been Claire who had grabbed the evidence bag, it would either be on her or hidden in the salon.

"Where were you earlier Claire?" Tess wanted to know.

"At work, where else would I have been?" Claire huffed as she pressed the button for the window shutters.

"Your staff can vouch for that?' Tess continued.

"Yeah, they can," Claire seemed confident.

"We'll have to come back and get statements in the morning," Tess insisted. "They had better all say the same thing."

"Why did you want to know where the car was?" Claire asked.

"Claire, we believe Pippa was in the car the night she was killed," Tess revealed. "It's being checked over right now. Is there anything you want to tell us?"

"You want me to turn on Lee?" Claire laughed.

"Do you think he was responsible?" Tess asked bluntly.

"Lee?" Claire laughed again. "We hardly had anything to do with Pippa when she wasn't with her parents. We did take her to school as a favour to Cate once or twice."

"When was the last time?" Tess wanted to know.

Now, she wasn't so sure the pendant, wherever it was now had come off Pippa the night she died. If it had come off any time, Ashworth could claim Pippa never asked for it back. Should she tell Alec or let him figure it out for himself? No, he was mad enough with her so she should tell him when she got back, even if he was already involved with Rose Tyler.

She had no proof of that at present but he'd give the game away sooner or later. She waited for Claire to make her mind up if she'd help them or not.

"Well Claire?" Tess asked her.

"I don't remember. You really want me to turn on Lee?" Claire replied. "I want something in return if I do. I want some assurances."

"I'll see what I can do," Tess told her. "Come down to the station tomorrow but you have to make your mind up Claire. We may need you to testify in court, which will be Monday now."

"That soon? I thought the case was on hold?" Claire asked.

"It was," Tess admitted, not wanting to say why it was resuming so quickly. "Until new information came to light."

Now she would see if Claire would admit anything.

"Is that why you wanted the car?" Claire wondered.

"I can't tell you any more," Tess decided she'd given enough away for now.

"I never left anything in it, if that's what ya getting at?" Claire told her.

"I never said you did," Tess replied.

Dave whispered that was enough and they should be getting back. He knew Tess wanted to get back to see if Alec had already left, maybe to meet with their witness. That would be interesting, he thought. Alec Hardy was finally getting his revenge on his cheating wife.

Tess was wondering what Claire was after in return for turning on her husband. If it was something reasonable, Alec might go for it, to save Rose from having to testify. She thought he may do anything to stop that happening and if he went with the idea of it being Claire instead, he was definitely seeing Rose.

Alec thought it was worth waiting to see what Tess had been up to when she didn't get back at her usual time. He saw her and Dave come back into the office, trying to judge what mood she was in. She saw him looking and went into his office.

"Claire might help us after all," she told him. "She said they sometimes took Pippa to school so Lee may claim the pendant had been left by her some other time. He could have put it in the glove compartment any time. So we may not have been able to use it anyway."

"You could be wrong," Alec disagreed. "Pippa would have wanted it back. I will have to ask Rose if she saw the girl wearing it. Didn't Cate say she was wearing it though?"

"I'll have to check. I'll leave Rose to you," Tess replied.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Alec wanted to know.

"You know what I mean Alec. Don't deny there's something going on between the two of you," Tess laughed.

"Just because you were cheating with Dave," Alec told her. "This is not the time Tess. Leave Rose out of it. What else did you find out?"

"She claims she was at the salon when my car window was smashed. I'll check with her staff and I told her to come down here and we'd listen to what she wants in return for turning on her husband."

Alec might have known Claire would want something in return for her help.

"See what she has to say then," he agreed.

If it saved Rose having to stand up in court, he was all for it – within reason. He was not however going to take the bait over Tess's other remarks. He left for the day and went to tidy himself up to meet Rose. That was if she did still want to be seen with him but from now on, they would have to be very careful.

Tess now suspected for sure something was going on but he wasn't going to say anything to Rose about it. He had to get her to fully trust him and get her to tell him what she'd left out of her statement. It had to be something that she thought was betraying the young girl's trust.

How could he make her see it would put Pippa's killer away, that it would do more good than harm? Rose got home and dashed to her room to get changed, not that she had much in her wardrobe so she'd have to mix and match a bit. She was ready with time to spare so she went to catch up on gossip with her mother.

"Rose, if you're gonna keep seeing that detective, don't get in the papers," she warned Rose.

"I'm not gonna Mum," Rose assured her. "I really like him, we'll be careful."

"Well I hope ya will," Jackie replied. "I don't want to hear any gossip amongst my customers."

Rose rather thought it would cheer everyone up but wanted to spare Alec, he was in the papers enough.

The intercom rang and she went to answer it.

"What floor are you on?" Alec wanted to know.

"I'll come down," Rose offered.

"No, I insist. You should introduce me to your mother," Alec decided.

He thought maybe he should get it over and done with, if he were to keep taking Rose out but maybe not in the town after tonight. He would hear in the morning what Claire had to say, then he would call the prosecution to see what she thought of swapping Claire for Rose.

If Claire had been around that night instead of being elsewhere as she claimed to be, it could be their big breakthrough in the case, better than Rose could tell the court unless she was holding something back. He arrived at her door and pressed the buzzer.

"He really came for ya," Jackie laughed.

"Well do ya want meet him or not?" Rose asked her.

Chapter 9

Sorry for such a short chapter. I'm just managing to get this posted by typing one-handed, my other hand is really hurting at present but not through typing. I'll start another chapter of this and the other ongoing story as soon as my other hand gets better. Thanks for sticking around.

As Alec waited for Rose to answer the door, he thought her delay meant she had backed out at the last minute of either going out, meeting her mother or both. He was relieved when the door finally opened as Jackie nodded her agreement of meeting Rose's latest boyfriend.

"Well, I suppose I'd best meet him then?" her mother admitted.

"You'll like him Mum," Rose grinned as she unlocked the door. "Hi Alec, well come in then," she smiled at him as he handed her some flowers he had stopped to buy and some chocolates for her mother.

"Hi Rose," he greeted her with a kiss on the cheek as she took the flowers from him. "Ah, Mrs Tyler, a pleasure to meet you, these are for you," he added as he handed a box to her.

He'd thought he'd best not buy her the cheap ones, since he wanted to make a good impression.

"Well he's a charmer," Jackie turned to Rose. "Ya can call me Jackie," she then told Alec, who was waiting to see if she accepted him or not.

He'd thought of a million reasons why Rose's mother would disapprove of him on his way to where she lived, being too old and still technically married fighting for first place. Jackie Tyler could probably treat them both equally in her objections of him pursuing her daughter.

"Well, we'd best get going then," Rose decided the two of them were having a staring contest and her mother was winning.

"Yes, we should," Alec couldn't agree more as he found his voice again.

He could interrogate suspects all day and not bat an eyelid but Rose's mother was something else. He'd learned his lesson with Tess's mother, who had interfered since the word go when he had called for Tess.

"Well I hope ya gonna bring her back here," Jackie told him.

"Of course," Alec had to agree, hoping she would be in bed by the time he brought Rose home.

He was also hoping Rose would invite him in, if the evening went well. They drove off to a restaurant Alec had located but Rose was quiet all through the meal.

"Are you okay Rose?" Alec became concerned as she looked at the dessert menu.

"Yeah. This place is really nice but expensive," she managed to smile.

"Well you are worth it," Alec assured her. "We could go somewhere else when we leave here?" he then suggested.

"Don't want to face my mum?" Rose teased him, looking at him from behind the menu.

"Nothing of the sort. Your mother is nothing to worry about compared with my almost ex mother-in-law," Alec smiled.

"Yeah, you seemed to have got on my mum's good side," Rose told him. "When I was nineteen, I had this sort of boyfriend back home. His name was Mickey and we'd known each other since we were kids. Mum was always kicking him out when he overstayed his welcome."

"So he became your boyfriend?" Alec was curious.

"Well on and off," Rose admitted, passing him the menu. "I'll have the apple pie and cream, thanks. Don't worry about Mickey, I've not heard from him since we moved here."

"Who said I was worried eh?" Alec replied. "Rose, your ex-boyfriends are the least of my worries," he tried to assure her. "Your mother may think I am too old for you, let alone technically still being married."

"I've never been out with a married man before," Rose teased him.

"Shush, we are trying to stay out of the news, remember?" he thought he'd already told her.

"Oh come on Alec, we may not have to worry if I don't have to go to court," Rose replied. "Do ya think the trial will continue now?"

"That depends," he answered truthfully. "If the prosecution think it is worth it, she will go ahead and then it will be dependant on you. I'm sorry Rose, there is nothing else now, you are all we have left, thanks to Tess's incompetence."

"Geez, I hope I don't let ya down then," Rose went serious.

She put her hand on top of his while he was trying to get a waiter's attention.

"I'm sure you won't," he replied as one approached their table.

He gave their orders and moved to sit next to her.

"How could she do such a thing, ruining any chance of locking that bloke up?" Rose wanted to know. "Do ya think she really did it to get back at you?"

"She may have done but no matter what, she has let the family down. If they ever found out, I hate to think how they will react. It will go on Tess's record and Daisy may find out what her mother did, stopping to meet another man."

"I'm sorry Alec," Rose squeezed his hand. "Maybe Daisy won't find out?"

"Her friends are bound to talk about it at school," Alec replied. "We can only hope the family don't talk to the press and that it doesn't come out in court what really happened."

"Will ya be able to keep it quiet?" Rose wondered.

"Hopefully, the prosecution will try their best to give as little information as possible. You may get a call tomorrow to appear in court. How do you feel about it now?"

"How do ya think?" Rose tried to bluff. "Let's just forget about it for now. We don't have to go somewhere else after we finish here. Can we go to your place? My mum will make excuses to stay up if we go to mine."

"If you want to?" Alec agreed. "Rose, you know I won't do anything to compromise your testimony?"

"Yeah, I know," Rose assured him.

They finished eating then Alec helped her up and they left, Alec opening the car passenger door for her and sneaking a kiss on her cheek.

"I was warned about compromising you," Alec admitted. "I never planned on this happening, that I would want to ask you out properly."

"I never planned it either," Rose laughed nervously.

They arrived at Alec's place and he let Rose go in first, offering to take her jacket.

"Make yourself at home," he smiled as Rose looked around. "Don't you go saying I need to brighten the place up, Daisy already told me."

"I never said anything," Rose grinned.

"I know what you women are like," he teased her.

"Do ya wanna know something?" Alec nodded as they sat down. "I didn't think ya even remembered me, when ya first saw me leaving where ya used to live and when I said I knew something about Pippa. Did ya remember me?"

"Tess mentioned it but yes, I remembered you. Rose, you are not holding anything back, are you? I mean about you talking with Pippa. Did you talk to Lisa as well?"

Rose sat back against the cushion.

"No-one's ever mentioned poor Lisa. Where do ya think she is Alec?" Rose asked him sadly.

"I can't talk about it much but we traced where she last made a phone call from and used her bank card. She may have seen something that night and ran away," Alec admitted.

"Geez, do ya think she could have been next?" Rose was horrified.

"Calm down Rose. She must have seen something and got away in the confusion. A young man had been hanging around that night, he may have helped her get away."

"I hope so. Why have ya not mentioned her to me?" Rose wanted to know.

"Because it is an ongoing investigation, it is different to Pippa's case, that's gone to trial. We are still actively looking for Lisa, we hoped she might come forward when we locked someone up for killing her cousin. So, did you speak to Lisa on that Friday?"

"Just a few words really," Rose confessed. "Pippa did most of the talking. Cate said something to Lisa, I think it was about taking Pippa next door, I'm not sure now."

"It's okay," Alec assured her, taking her hand. "We can't do anything about it unless she is declared missing and at present, we are not treating it as suspicious. Cate is the one who is worried about her the most."

"Alec, did I do the right thing by not agreeing to do Cate's hair?" Rose asked him.

"Yes, she thought I was sending you to spy on her and she may have asked some awkward questions. It would have made things worse," Alec replied. "Had Cate warned Pippa about going next door did you say?"

"Yeah, a few times. Pippa wanted the woman to do her hair for her," Rose reminded him.

"Well, enough of that because I really wanted to kiss you properly," he admitted.

Rose leaned forward and put her arms around him, leaning on his shoulder.

"We have to take this slow, don't we?"

"For now," he replied, putting his finger on her lips.

Just after ten, Rose said she should be going home.

"Ah, you unfastened my shirt buttons," Alec reminded her, still grinning.

"Well, that could take some time," Rose teased him, taking hold of one side of his shirt.

"You want me to drive you home?" he wondered if she meant it or not.

"Sorry, I was being daft," Rose admitted, fingering a button in the middle.

She was still reluctant to fasten the shirt, she was admiring the view.

"Maybe I should finish the job eh?" he offered.

Rose tried not to look embarrassed that she had been caught out.

Chapter 10

As Alec drove her home, Rose was quiet again. Then she spoke up as they got nearer to where she lived.

"You promised mum you'd escort me home," she reminded him.

"I had best not stay long, had I?" he teased her. "Considering what you told me about this Mickey."

"She'll soon get used to ya," Rose laughed as he turned into the driveway. "I don't think she trusted Mickey."

Alec had to wonder what she meant by that, did he have to start worrying Jackie Tyler would judge himself the same? He was sure Rose would stick up for him though. Jackie had been about to go to bed but thought she'd see if Rose came back on her own.

"We're back Mum," Rose called as she left the door for Alec to follow her.

"I was just about to go to bed," her mother claimed as she got off the sofa.

"Yes Mum, Alec came back with me," Rose laughed. "Night then," she added, which meant she knew her mother had stayed up on purpose.

Rose indicated for Alec to sit on the sofa then when her mother had gone, joined him.

"I had best not stay long," Alec told her again as he put his arm around her shoulders.

"Yeah, don't want her checking on us," Rose teased him.

"I had enough of that with Tess's mother," he admitted. "I'm not very good at this dating thing."

"Aw, don't say that," Rose replied as she put her arm in his. "Well at least take off ya jacket."

"That's just it Rose, I am somewhat out of practice," he admitted.

"Ya will soon pick it up again," she encouraged him. "I really don't care if ya are older than I am ya know?"

"Then that helps somewhat," he agreed. "I was hoping that would not put you off but I was also worried because I'm the officer in charge and having to be careful."

"Alec, it's fine," Rose assured him. "It won't put me off. You're the nicest man I've met in a long time."

Alec decided to lean over and see if he could get another kiss out of her. He did and Rose went for his shirt buttons again.

"I have to go, remember?" he had to smile at her enthusiasm.

"Yeah, I was being silly," Rose had to admit.

"No, it was very pleasant earlier," he replied. "Rose, we can't risk being seen out together once the trial is reconvened, it will be all over the news. We will try to keep your name out of it but there will be a lot of reporters around," he warned her. "You had best keep your head down going in and out of the court building and don't answer any questions they may throw at you."

"Thanks for the warning," Rose tried to smile. "I really hope you can get that Claire to testify instead of me ya know."

"We are trying our best to," Alec reminded her. "She was still refusing earlier. There is not much else we can do except hope she will turn up on Monday. We can't force her to give evidence against her husband."

He got up, deciding whether he liked it or not, he had to be the one to end the evening. Rose went to see him out.

"I will let you know what's going on tomorrow," he promised. "I had a very pleasant evening, goodnight Rose."

He leaned down to kiss her goodnight, then trying not to prolong it, he opened the door.

"Night Alec, I had a lovely time," she told him.

Now, she wondered what was going to happen between them if they couldn't go out any more together. Maybe it would put him off and tonight would have been their only real date? She hoped not but she had to face facts, especially if she let him down in court and the defence tore her statement to pieces.

She had watched all the reality shows with her mother to know what went on in a courtroom.

While Rose and Alec had enjoyed a pleasant evening out, Claire had been thinking about what Tess had said to her. Why should she risk everything to prove Lee had killed Pippa that night? It had been no accident, she had given the girl that drug and told her to go to sleep and suggested Lee finished the job. Even though he had betrayed her, she should have known he'd give in to Lisa while she herself had been out.

Hadn't that been the whole point in encouraging the two girls to come round, even though she knew Cate objected? Cate had just been jealous she'd not been invited. Would she have been able to rely on Ricky convincing Pippa she had imagined it all that night?

The best she could do now was try to move on with her life, to run away from it all just like when she'd had to leave the village in Wales she'd grown up in when all the trouble had started there. She still had the pendant she'd discovered Lee had carelessly left in the car he'd sold to try and get out on bail, then Tess had been stupid enough to leave it in her car.

That had been a waste of time, Lee trying to get himself released, she recalled. So, should she turn up at the police station in the morning and say she'd help put Lee away or not? If he got off, he'd go after her and find her wherever she went. Maybe she'd be able to get some help in exchange, should she try Tess or Tess's husband? She might be able to charm him into helping, it didn't seem like he and Tess were together any more.

Alec had just got into his office the following morning when he got a call to say Claire was asking for him at the front desk.

"What did you do that for?" he asked the desk sergeant when told about Claire asking for him and saying he was in. "You should have called DS Henchard," Alec complained and trying to remember if Tess had decided what name she was going to go by.

"Who Sir?" he was asked.

"DS Hardy, though she should make her mind up what she's going to be called by," Alec further complained.

"Sorry Sir but the young lady insisted on seeing you," he was told.

"Put her in an interview room," Alec decided, knowing it wouldn't be Rose calling to see him so it had to be Claire. "Have DS Hardy join me."

"Well, do I get to see him or not?" Claire wanted to know when the desk sergeant put the phone down.

"Yes, he's on his way down," she was told. "I'll have someone show you to an interview room."

She bet anything Hardy would send Tess down, he'd not want to face her. He always sent Tess to ask questions, she could have maybe got around him, she had a way with men, hence marrying Lee. Now she was regretting it, he should never have betrayed her with Lisa, then both girls would still be alive.

She was never going to tell either of the detectives that she knew where Lisa was, if she did, Ricky would tell the police they drugged Pippa and Lee had finished the job. She could put all the blame on Lee and still deny she got home that night to find Pippa sobbing at the bottom of the stairs. Ricky was hardly going to say anything, was he? She looked up when the interview room door opened and Alec walked in, followed by Tess.

Tess had not been happy when she'd been told to report to the interview room and Alec was waiting for her.

"Why do you need me here?" she had wanted to know.

"We're going to give Claire one last chance to come clean," Alec had replied.

"Come on Alec, she's refused so far, what makes you think she's going to make her mind up to help us now?" Tess asked him.

"She has to be the one who broke into your car and stole the pendant," Alec had replied.

"You think it was Claire?" Tess was surprised.

"Think about it Tess. Who had a motive to get it back to save Lee going to prison?"

Tess had thought about it and decided to go along with the idea, it sort of made sense, she supposed.

"Right Claire," Alec started off when he'd set the tape recorder going and shuffled the papers in the file he'd brought with him, which were blank but Claire didn't know that. "One last chance or we charge you with aiding and abetting Lee killing Pippa Gillespie."

"What?" Claire went all serious suddenly. "You are joking?"

Tess just glanced at him. So what was he up to?

"You kept changing your story Claire, so, which is it? Were you there that night and saw what happened?" Alec wanted to know. "Was Pippa alive when you say you got home?"

No-one, including Tess had ever asked her that before, Claire thought. Why was Alec asking now?

"It's true I went out," Claire started to tell them. "It was Lee who made me swear I'd tell the police I was in with him that night. I'm scared of him."

"So what time did you get home Claire?" Alec wanted to know.

"It was about ten," Claire admitted. "Lee poured me a drink and the next thing I knew, it was morning. He must have drugged me."

"So this is a completely different version than from before?" Alec asked her. "Why did you not say so before, instead of first saying you were in with Lee all night, then saying you were out all night."

"I didn't know what else to say," Claire claimed. "I didn't think you'd believe me, that Lee drugged me."

Alec got a sheet of paper out of the folder and passed it to Claire, Tess handing her a pen.

"Write it all down," Alec told Claire. "Including what happened the following morning."

"When I woke up, Lee was cleaning the whole house," Claire told him as she looked at the sheet of paper.

"Stay with her," Alec turned to Tess.

"Where are you going?" Tess objected.

"I have something to do," he just replied.

Tess could guess it had something to do with Rose Tyler. Now Claire had come up with yet another alibi, Rose would be their only witness and it would take some proving in court that Cate wasn't paranoid about the girls going next door. It seemed now, she'd been right to be worried. Rose's testimony still may not be enough.

Alec got outside, annoyed that Claire had come up with yet another story. It wasn't looking good for the prosecution, he now had to call her and Rose to give them the bad news.

"I don't know what you expect me to do now," Ms Knight told Alec. "Rose Tyler's testimony may fall apart."

"I don't need reminding of that," Alec replied. "She is already nervous. I thought we could get Claire to change her mind and testify against her husband."

"We don't get many wives doing that," Ms Knight replied. "Have Rose Tyler here at the court for nine thirty on Monday, so I can talk to her first."

Alec thought Rose was going to love that when he told her. He sent her a message for her to call him and went back to see how Tess was getting on with Claire.

"Do you believe me?" Claire wanted to know, still holding the pen.

"If you're telling the truth," Tess replied, not knowing what Alec thought about it.

"I bet your husband doesn't," Claire told her. "Oh, he's not still your husband, is he?" she added.

"That's not relevant Claire," Tess reminded her.

Claire knew it was a sore point.

"What will happen if I do testify against Lee?" she asked Tess. "Will I get police protection if he still gets off?"

"I can't promise anything," Tess told her bluntly.

"Then how to you expect me to agree?" Claire wanted to know. "What about witness protection then? That's a joke."

"I'm sorry Claire, it's not up to me," Tess replied.

"So I have to take my chances? I'm taking a big risk, having to face Lee in court. Can't I do it remotely?" she asked.

"I don't know about that Claire," Tess knew she was trying to get out of it.

"Can't you check for me?" Claire didn't give up.

Alec was waiting for Rose to call him back. When she did, he knew she wouldn't be happy.

"Monday morning?" Rose had asked him. "I'll have to cancel my bookings for the day but I suppose if I have to go?"

"I'm sorry Rose, I just found out," he apologised.

"It's not your fault Alec. So she hasn't changed her mind about testifying then?"

"Not yet. She just came up with another version of events that night. The prosecution may not even agree to let her appear in court, then it won't matter if she agrees to appear or not. Even if you turn up at court, you may not be called right away, if at all. Sorry love, most of it involves just waiting around."

"Will ya be able to wait with me?" Rose wondered. "Will ya get into trouble if ya do?"

"I can say you are nervous and I am making sure you don't run off," he teased her.

"Geez, thanks," Rose sighed. "I hope they have a coffee machine, I'll need it."

"It depends how the proceedings go as well, the judge may not even agree to hear what you have to say. The prosecution will have to give an account of what your testimony can prove, such as how Cate was refusing to let Pippa go next door and how Pippa herself seemed the day before," he tried to explain. "It is not as easy as it is portrayed on TV."

"I never expected it would be," Rose had to admit. "So I may take the day off and not even be called at all?"

"Sorry, that is just how it is," Alec told her. "Do you want to go out tonight?" he offered.

"Can we leave it until tomorrow? Do ya mind? I'll have to make some calls tonight to cancel my appointments. I can't even tell them why, can I?"

"Not really, sorry," he replied. "I can find somewhere out of town tomorrow night then?" he asked.

"Yeah, okay then. I'll have more time to get ready," Rose replied.

"You looked nice last night," he praised her. "I can pick you up around seven then? Sure I cannot tempt you out just for a while tonight?"

Rose didn't want him to think she was going to expect to be taken out every night. They had to get to know each other properly first, get comfortable with each other but that depended on if she let him down if she was called to give evidence. If she did let him down and the killer was set free, she would probably deserve to be let down by Alec.

"Best not," she answered him after a few moments silence, making Alec think she'd ended the call. "Can I ask ya something?"

"Sure, you can ask me anything," he agreed. "Well within reason," he added.

"Oh. Sorry, it's nothing personal," Rose seemed surprised.

"I did not mean it like that," he regretted saying anything. "Ask what you like. Is it about us seeing each other by any chance? If so, you can say how often we go out you know?"

"Well that was partly what I was gonna say. I mean you won't be offended if I have to say no to going out when ya suggest it, will ya?"

"No, of course not," he replied. "You should know I would not ask you out if I did not enjoy your company. We can take it at whatever pace you want, although you did seem keen last night," he reminded her.

"Don't remind me, sorry," Rose laughed.

"There is no need to apologise Rose, I told you, I enjoyed it. It has been a long time since anyone was as keen to get my shirt off like that," he teased her.

"I feel embarrassed now," Rose admitted. "Are ya busy on Sunday? Come round for lunch, then my mum will see she can trust ya."

"On one condition then," he agreed. "That afterwards, you will let me take you out for a drink, maybe into the countryside somewhere?"

"Yeah, okay then, I'll tell mum. Ya can tell the prosecution I'll be there on Monday and I'll see you tomorrow night then?"

"Yes, though maybe I can call you later?" he hoped.

"Yeah, I'd like that. I have to go now, bye Alec."

Tess was waiting for his return, Claire sitting back on the chair with her arms folded.

"So, this is the truth now?" Alec wanted to be sure as he read Claire's statement.

"Yes. It's the truth. Don't make me face Lee in court. Can't my statement be read out?" Claire asked him.

"I will let you know but be prepared to appear if the answer is no," Alec warned her.

Claire left and Tess turned to him.

"That's what she wanted Alec," she told him.

"What do you want me to do Tess? How many more times would she change her story eh? I doubt very much the judge will agree to let Claire give evidence in person, don't you?"

"So, it's all down to your new girlfriend then?" Tess huffed. "Does the prosecution know you're involved with Rose?"

Chapter 11

Alec got up to leave.

"That has nothing to do with it Tess and you know," he reminded her.

"It's bound to come out Alec," Tess goaded him.

Alec wasn't going to take the bait and Tess knew it.

"Leave it Tess," he then warned her. "Rose can please herself if she chooses to go out with me or not. If she has to appear in court and the defence take her testimony apart, she may never want to see me again."

He didn't want to even think about that. Rose was the only person keeping him sane these days. He wished she had agreed to go out with him tonight but if he overcrowded her, she may back away and he didn't want that. He finally went home, thinking back to the night before when Rose had kissed him. He was about to call her but put his phone on the coffee table.

They had only just established a relationship and he had been the one to say they should be careful about seeing each other and he already wanted to break his own rules. Some example he would be if he couldn't go one night without seeing her.

He had mentioned he may call her though, would she be expecting him to and be disappointed if he didn't? He sent her a message instead and she called him back. She had already warned her mother he was coming over for lunch on Sunday.

"You'll have to help ya know?" her mother was complaining. "I never had to cook anything special for one of your boyfriends ya know?"

"Mum, don't bother doing anything fancy, he won't be expecting it," Rose tried to assure her. "If ya don't want me to invite him, just say."

"I never said that," Jackie reminded her. "I'm sure he's got better table manners than Mickey had."

Rose thought even a chimp had better table manners than Mickey. She now wished she'd not compared them in front of Alec, he might take it the wrong way. So when he sent a text asking if she was busy, she called back instead.

"Hi Alec, miss me already?" she teased him.

That made Alec smile. Yes, he did miss her already.

"What makes you think that?" he decided to tease her back.

"Let me think? You've not rung me since you called me earlier," she replied, hoping it made sense as she couldn't think straight.

Alec knew she was still a bit nervous, going from a detective and a witness to being more than friends could be daunting.

"Rose, there is no need to be nervous when I call you," he tried to assure her.

"Who's nervous?" Rose tried to bluff. "Who am I kidding, yeah, I'm still a bit nervous. Alec, what if things go wrong in court and I let ya down?"

"Rose, you could never let me down," he replied. "You will have done your best, the defence will try to trick you, you know that already."

"Yeah, it came to mind," she told him. "I guess the judge won't be impressed if I answer them sarcastically?"

"I doubt it," Alec laughed. "Just be yourself love," he added, hoping she wouldn't mind him calling her that.

"I'll just have to try then?" Rose replied. "I won't be able to look over at ya either, will I?"

"Sorry, best not," Alec had to tell her. "Just go through your conversations with Pippa and Lisa. You can do that Rose, I have faith in you."

"I'll really try not to let ya down Alec."

"I know. Did you warn your mother I was invited for lunch on Sunday?" he tried to change the subject.

"Yeah, we were just talkin' about it," Rose replied. "I told her not to make anything fancy."

"Good, I would not like to put her to any trouble," he told her. "Would she prefer flowers or chocolates as a thank you for letting me join you both?"

"Aw, either's fine but ya don't have to," Rose laughed.

"Then I will get both and give her first choice," he decided. "I would not like her to think I have no manners," he added.

"Hey, do ya know how to make video calls?" Rose then suggested.

"Daisy taught me," he replied confidently. "I will add you to my call list and maybe next time, we will video call but I would rather see you in person."

"Yeah and all ya will see is me blushing," Rose admitted. "I have to get back to calling my clients for Monday, some didn't answer earlier."

"Then don't let me stop you. I will see you tomorrow night, I look forward to it," he told her.

"Yeah me too Alec. Night then."

Rose leaned back on the sofa, forgetting she had two clients to call and cancel their Monday appointments. She hoped they would understand, the others had been okay and would re-book the appointments. Her mother came in from the kitchen and saw Rose staring into space.

"You're really infatuated with that detective Rose, are ya sure it's not against the rules if he's in charge of that case?" Jackie wanted to know.

"He said we had to be careful but I think his boss knows. The prosecution suspect something," Rose admitted.

"Ya never know what they'll ask ya in court," Jackie reminded her. "Ya'd best be careful Rose."

"We are being careful Mum, he's taking me out of town tomorrow night," Rose replied.

"Yeah, like that's gonna help," her mother laughed. "I'm serious Rose, ya don't want everyone recognising ya when ya have to stand up in court. Ya don't want the newspaper reporters all over ya, asking if ya involved with the lead detective on the case."

"It won't come to that Mum," Rose tried to be confidant.

"Ya'd best hope not," Jackie replied.

Rose had no idea how the press would treat her. They wouldn't know who she was on the way in but they would when she came out of the courtroom. She couldn't even ask Alec to fend them off for her, in case he gave too much away. One hint of them being involved could sway things in the favour of the defence.

Despite Alec's assurance nothing would change between them, she was still worried he might not want all the media attention on them. Then she might end it to save him the embarrassment. Only one thing would end the doubt and from what Alec had told her, the suspect's wife was still unwilling to talk.

After going shopping the following day with her mother, Rose began getting ready for her second date with Alec. She now had a bit more confidence but hoped he wouldn't take her to a posh restaurant and she showed him up.

Alec was hoping Rose wouldn't think he was trying to hide their relationship by taking her out of town but if they weren't careful, someone may recognise them. He finally set off to pick Rose up, flowers and nice chocolates on the seat next to him, not supermarket flowers, ones he'd got from a florists in the town centre. He'd met with Daisy for a few hours but she'd noticed them on the back seat as he'd taken her home.

"Well Dad?" Daisy had teased him. "So all the complaining mum's been doing means you really do have a new girlfriend?"

"I thought I'd already cleared that up?" Alec replied.

"Well she's been going on about it for ages now. How am I supposed to know?" Daisy asked him.

Alec was sure they'd had this conversation before but Daisy was just making sure, he supposed.

"So, is her name Rose?" Daisy continued as Alec kept quiet.

"Yes, her name is Rose, you must have seen her when your mother had her hair done," he reminded her.

"Dad, I never took any notice. I was either doing my homework or at a friend's," Daisy replied. "I remember when mum had her hair done once, she was staring at herself in the mirror when I saw her."

"Was she now?" Alec wondered, since she'd not had it done for him, that was for sure.

"So do I get to meet her?" Daisy wanted to know as they'd neared the house.

"Not just yet but you will," he promised, stopping by the gate.

"Mum says Rose is a witness," Daisy admitted. "Isn't that against the rules Dad?"

"Your mother should not have said anything," he told her. "Rose cannot change her testimony. If she does, the defence will have it thrown out. I would never ask her to risk changing anything."

"I never said you would Dad. See you next week then? When can I come over to your new place then?"

"Soon," he replied as she leaned over to kiss his cheek.

He knew when she got inside, Tess would question her, so he'd had to be careful what he said.

As he set off home, he hoped Rose wouldn't back out of their date. Once he was on his way to pick her up, he began to relax, since she'd not yet called the date off but he may have to face Jackie Tyler at the door if Rose wouldn't come out.

"How do I look Mum?" Rose was asking her mother while looking in the hall mirror. "Should I change these earrings?"

"Stop fussing will ya," Jackie laughed. "Ya look fine. Blimey, where's he taking ya? To The Ritz?"

Rose pulled a face through the mirror and looked down at herself.

"He'll be here soon and I've got butterflies in my stomach," Rose admitted. "Geez Mum, why do I feel like this?"

"I think that's obvious Rose, don't you?" Jackie replied with a serious look on her face. "Ya falling for him."

Rose knew deep down her mother was right. So this is what it felt like? Being nervous, feeling like you're floating when they had kissed and getting the shivers thinking about him. These were all new to her, Alec was her first serious boyfriend and she liked the feeling.

When the buzzer went, she froze.

"Well go let him in," her mother reminded her. "Ya don't want him to think ya backed out."

Jackie took her by the shoulders and steered her towards the buzzer on the wall.

"Hello?" Rose asked nervously.

Jackie just smiled to herself. Who else was Rose expecting? It seemed it was too late, her daughter was smitten with the good-looking detective and she hoped Rose would finally settle down.

"Ah, it's me," Alec replied, thinking he was just as nervous as she was.

"Come on up Alec," Rose recognised his Scottish accent.

Who else did she know who had one?

Jackie saw her hovering her finger over the door button and went over to press it herself.

"You're hopeless," she laughed at Rose going red in the face.

Alec heard the door being released at thought he'd best move before it locked again. Then he'd have to call again and maybe get quizzed by Jackie this time. When had he last felt like a teenager on a first date? He'd not felt like that when he was going out with Tess.

Being in the police back then didn't allow much of a social life and they had sort of been thrown together but this time it was different. At least being a DI meant he could more or less please himself as long as the criminals were caught.

He found himself pressing the doorbell and quickly ran his fingers through his thick hair even though he'd combed it several times before he'd set off, it had a mind of its own.

"Are ya gonna let him in?" Jackie asked a frozen Rose. "Blimey, anyone would think ya'd not been out with him before."

"What?" Rose replied, staring at the door. "Oh, yeah."

She pulled the latch back and found Alec staring at the floor, looking up as she opened it.

"Rose. May I say you look very nice?" he asked as he looked at her.

"Thanks. You look very smart Alec, are we going somewhere posh?" she stuttered as she let him in, Jackie watching from the living room door and shaking her head at the pair of them.

This was a novelty, she thought as Rose and Alec stared at each other. Rose had never been like this with her past boyfriends, that was for sure.

"Is it that bad I am wearing a suit?" he then wondered, looking down at himself.

"What? No, I didn't mean it like that," Rose blushed. "Anyway, say hello to mum before we set off," she tried to recover.

"Ah, Jackie, a pleasure to see you again," Alec made his way towards her, holding out the flowers to see if she'd take them or if she would point to the chocolates.

Jackie couldn't fault her daughter's new boyfriend on his manners.

"These flowers are lovely," Jackie replied as she took the multi-coloured bunch from him, then saw the chocolates.

"Rose, ah, these are for you," he then turned to Rose with the fancy box.

"Oh, thanks. So, where are we going?" Rose seemed to be recovering.

They said goodnight to Jackie and Alec helped Rose into the car. They set off out of town and arrived at a restaurant attached to a country pub and Alec pulled up in a vacant parking space near the entrance, hoping it wasn't reserved or he'd have to put his police sign on the dashboard.

Rose would think he was showing off then.

"This looks nice Alec," Rose said as she waited for him to open the car door, thinking she may as well let him pamper her.

They went inside and stopped in front of the small desk.

"Do you have a reservation Sir?"

Alec hoped the head waiter was not going to show him up in front of his new seemingly girlfriend. Well he now hoped Rose considered herself his girlfriend, she'd not said otherwise. Should he maybe ask her properly instead of just assuming?

"Yes, for two under the name of Hardy," Alec replied quickly before the other man assumed the answer was no and made them wait all night.

The waiter quickly check the list, Alec noting they still did it the old-fashioned way in a fancy ledger.

"Ah, yes," was the reply. "This way, Sir, Madam."

As they followed, Alec really hoped they wouldn't be put by the kitchen door, it would be embarrassing since Rose had got all dressed up. He was relieved when they were shown to a window table, the windows dressed with white draped cotton curtains, an old-fashioned oil lamp converted to power on the low window ledge, flowers either side of it in fancy glass bowls and there was an old gramophone on a fancy stand just at the side.

The waiter produced two menus in red covers and asked if he could get them anything to drink.

"Your best house wine maybe?" Alec replied, looking at Rose.

He thought he would be only able to have a maximum of two glasses to be able to drive them back so he added a non-alcoholic beer to the order and asked Rose what else she wanted.

"Just tonic water with lemon, thanks," Rose peeked over the top of the large menu and hoping it wasn't all written in French or Italian as she couldn't tell by the name on the cover what type of restaurant it was.

"Could we have the wine served with our main course?" Alec then asked, wondering if Rose could manage several courses.

"Of course Sir, I will have the waiter serve your other drinks right away," the head waiter assured him.

When he had gone away, Rose looked over the top of the menu again, glad she had got dressed up.

"I've never been to a place like this before," she admitted. "I hope it's not too expensive?"

"Not for you," Alec smiled back, putting his specs on and hoping Rose wouldn't laugh at him.

He was sure she'd seen him wearing them in the interview room back at the station.

"You look cute in those," Rose told him as she retreated behind the large menu again.

"I do?" he was surprised. "Do you need any help ordering?" he dared ask, hoping he wasn't inferring Rose couldn't choose her own food.

"Yeah, I'm a bit lost," she had to admit as she lowered the menu again and hoping no-one was watching.

"Well, first choose an appetizer, then soup, the main course then dessert," Alec replied. hoping he'd got it right.

"That's a big help Alec," Rose tried not to laugh. "Which is which?"

"They are on separate pages of the menu," Alec replied, thinking she must still be on the drinks menu, which itself was rather daunting.

"What are you having?" Rose wondered, not wanting to show herself up.

Alec looked on the first page, then looked over the top of his glasses at her, making Rose smile. They were interrupted by the waiter with a drinks tray. When the man had left, Alec thought they'd best hurry up and order before someone was hovering over them with a pad and pen in their hands.

"Well, we could have prawn cocktail or melon to start, followed by maybe the vegetable soup?" he offered, trying to see if she was pulling a face at his suggestion if she thought they were boring and wanted to try something else.

"I fancy the breaded mozzarella cheese sticks," Rose grinned. "The soup sounds good. Is this French or Italian?" she then wanted to know.

"Not as far as I know. Shall we place our orders for now or have you chosen a main dish?"

Rose turned the pages and thought she probably wouldn't get as far as dessert.

The meal was going well, after Rose finally decided she did indeed have room for dessert.

"Would you care for coffee served with cheese and biscuits?" their waiter asked them as he cleared the glass dishes away.

"Just coffee for me," Rose managed to reply as she felt full.

Alec ordered the same then leaned over the now clear table to put his hand on top of hers.

"That was really nice Alec," Rose told him. "I could get used to coming here."

"Then we will come again, if it pleases you," Alec replied. "You are worth it Rose."

Rose was sure she was blushing by now.

"So, after we leave, do I take you home or would you maybe want to go back to my apartment?"

He had been planning how to ask her back all evening and hope she wouldn't get up and demand he took her home and maybe that would be the end of her being his girlfriend.

"Well if you take me home and you go in, my mum will be waiting up again, probably?" Rose teased him.

"Will she?" Alec didn't look happy about it.

"It's just a novelty to her, she'll soon get tired of it, trust me," Rose smiled, moving her hand as the waiter came back.

"So, does that mean you will come back with me and I take you home later or I am not invited in if I take you home now?" Alec wondered.

Rose herself didn't know the answer to that one.

Chapter 12

Alec started to get up and held out his hand, Rose taking it.

"Maybe it's better we go to your place Alec?" Rose then suggested.

"Fine but if you want to go home after, then I will take you," he offered.

He went to settle the bill as Rose excused herself to the ladies room, where she was still having a debate with herself. Alec was the best thing that had ever happened to her and she knew it, why spoil it, she wondered. There again, she didn't want to get too dependant on him in case everything fell apart on Monday.

It could be the shortest romance ever if things went wrong in court. She was already nervous, would she be able to stop looking at him all day? She went back out and took Alec's arm as they went out to the car.

"Take a note of my address," Alec broke the silence as some music was playing on the car radio. "Then you know where I live."

Why did he just say that, he then felt embarrassed at the suggestion Rose may want to even see him after tomorrow. For one, Sunday lunch may not go down well and then there was court on Monday. If the first didn't ruin any kind of relationship they had, the other one would.

They arrived at his apartment and he went to open the passenger door for her. Once inside, he offered her some tea to drink and they sat on the sofa. Rose was still flushed at the thought of what had gone on the last time she was here.

"I was being silly last time, wasn't I?" she admitted.

"On the contrary, it was only a natural progression and we could hardly continue at your place, in case your mother made an excuse to walk in on us," Alec smiled, brushing a strand of her hair back to kiss her.

Much later, Rose was laid on top of him, his shirt open and Rose's dress unzipped, her bra fastener undone and the straps halfway down her arms. Alec had managed to make her wriggle out of it as it had been hanging loose at the front so he could take advantage of feeling her next to him.

"Rose," he whispered in her ear as she lay on his bare chest and worrying she had fallen asleep.

"Mmm," Rose managed to reply, now getting comfortable on him and the nice soft spot she had found she liked.

"Do you want me to take you home?" he thought he'd best ask instead of assuming she wanted to stay there all night, not that he minded in the slightest.

"Oh. Well I think my mum half expected I'd either be really late back or stay out," Rose replied, raising her head slightly but not losing full contact with him.

"Does that mean you will stay?" he dared hope. "Rose, I would never do anything without your consent, you must know that?"

"You're really sweet Alec, do ya know that?" she remarked as she lay her head down again. "Can I borrow a t-shirt then?"

He knew she had to be smiling to herself, knowing his t-shirts would be too big for her.

"By all means, whatever you want," he replied, smiling himself at the thought he would be still able to take advantage.

"Ya know, Tess must be off her head giving you up," Rose added.

"Forget it Rose, she accused me of all kinds of things, the latest being starting an affair with you could compromise the case but it can't, you have already given your evidence."

"Do ya think it could all be over on Monday then?" Rose then wondered, making a circle on his shoulder.

"Maybe? There is nothing you can do about it except answer the questions. Unless the accused's wife turns up, it could go either way. Want me to get that t-shirt for you or were you just teasing me about wearing it?"

"Hey, don't get too far ahead of yaself," Rose laughed. "T-shirt tonight, then we'll see in the morning."

"Then I had better behave?" he teased her, trying to get her to move, mainly so he could get a better view other than of her bare shoulders.

Rose had to reluctantly move aside, trying to pull her dress up but not in time as Alec smiled at her, Rose trying not to blush.

"I have seen you before," he reminded her that before she'd settled on him he had helped pull down her bra straps.

"Sorry. I'm just gettin' used to this," Rose smiled back at him. "No point in putting my dress back on, is there?"

"Then stay here and I will get you that t-shirt," he offered.

She pulled her bra back on but decided to leave it unfastened as Alec left his shirt opened and him wondering why she'd not offered to fasten the buttons. What was the point, he supposed. It would save her time unfastening them again, which she seemed to like doing.

He went off to the bedroom, Rose still trying to get used to the fact she was actually going to stay the night with him. Maybe she'd get cold feet if he tried anything, even if she gave her consent? Why couldn't they have a bit of fun, if nothing else?

If he was disappointed at her on Monday if her testimony was dismissed, it would be no worse than breaking up after a few dates with other men, not that she'd had many dates since she'd been in town.

Alec offered her the white t-shirt as Rose pulled her bra straps down again, she had taken her dress off while he'd been away.

"I'll just go to the bathroom while you do that," he told her, in case he wasn't invited to watch her.

"I don't mean to be shy," Rose admitted, biting her bottom lip. "It's just been a while since I had a proper boyfriend."

"Rose, it is a long time since I had a girlfriend," Alec replied. "Please, don't be shy around me eh?"

"I'll try not to be. Maybe I'll feel better about it in the morning?"

"Then I hope you do. Do you want to use the bathroom first? I will wait in the bedroom for you, I will leave the door open for you."

Rose put the t-shirt on and retreated to the bathroom, making Alec smile. Now he knew why he was so taken with her. Rose quickly freshened herself up and looked at herself in the mirror. How far was she willing to let Alec go tonight? Maybe they could work up to it and clear the tension that was building up?

Alec was getting worried that she'd changed her mind and was getting dressed in the bathroom. It wouldn't be the first time a woman had run off on him, Tess being one of them after they'd first got together. He had been a young detective sergeant, Tess had been an even younger detective constable and he'd just got transferred there from Glasgow.

What had made him want to move to Sandbrook when he'd wanted to go to London, he had no idea but there were more job opportunities than in London, so he'd agreed and taken the exam for detective inspector. He had known Tess had her eye on him but he'd dated another DS for a few months but she hadn't liked being under the spotlight as Alec was about to get his promotion.

So, Tess had been happy to console him even though when he'd finally asked her out, she played it cool. Now, Tess was just jealous that he paid more attention to Rose than to her complaining about everything. Rose had given him the courage to get out while he still could, before Tess really took him down. He still didn't know how Daisy was going to react to meeting Rose though.

Maybe his daughter would find it a novelty that he was now dating a younger woman. He looked up when he heard the bathroom door opening, he'd been sitting on the edge of the bed, afraid to get undressed in case she wanted to go home after all.

"Sorry," Rose apologised for taking her time. "Did ya think I'd backed out?"

"Ah, I was unsure," he admitted. "You are still here, however. Give me a few minutes eh?"

He pulled back the duvet then went off, getting another t-shirt out of the drawer and a clean pair of shorts. Maybe he was going to lose the t-shirt when he got into bed but he had to make the gesture. Unless Rose called after him and told him not to bother with it.

Rose smiled and sat on the edge of the bed after finding a hanger for her dress, debating if she should wait for him or get in as he'd suggested. Well she'd got this far, she mused. She waited until the bathroom door closed then got in, pulling the other side of the duvet back for him. She should feel even more nervous but it was beginning to fade.

Alec got cleaned up, brushing his teeth and seeing Rose had helped herself to the toothbrush that had been in a wrapper for when Daisy decided to visit. Trust her to ask now he was seeing Rose, he thought. If all went well tonight, any fears Rose had of letting him down on Monday would maybe fade.

Rose was propped up on the pillows when he entered the bedroom, going for a hanger for his trousers and seeing Rose had hung her dress up.

"Hope it was okay to pinch that toothbrush?" Rose smiled at him as he went to the other side of the bed.

"It was a spare, in case Daisy decided to visit me. I saw her earlier and would you believe she asked when she could come over?" he replied, seeing Rose was about to laugh. "That's not funny Rose. Are you willing to meet her when we have only been together a short time?"

"Chill Alec, I don't mind, really," Rose assured him, moving towards him and putting her arm around him.

She let out a scream as he turned and pulled her on top of him, then she started laughing.

"Ya needn't have bothered with that t-shirt Alec," she teased him when they had kissed for quite a while.

"Now you tell me," Alec laughed at her starting to relax. "Are you going to help me remove it?"

He didn't want to assume she would let him help her take off the one she was wearing but after removing his, she was trying to get her arms out of it.

"Well give me a hand then," Rose giggled as she struggled.

After more kissing, Alec tried to get her on her back, which she didn't seem to mind as she looked up at him and smiled as she ran her finger down his chest.

"You are beautiful, Rose Tyler," he told her when she smiled.

"You're cute Alec," was the reply. "What do ya look like without that beard?"

"You want me to shave some or all of it off?" he wondered.

"Aw, not just for me," she teased him, putting her hand under his chin.

"Maybe I could compromise?" he teased her back. "Rose, do you trust me?"

"Yeah, I trust ya Alec or I would've gone home," she told him.

"Then if I promise to keep my shorts on?" he replied, moving his hand lower down.

Rose agreed and he ventured towards her remaining underwear, making Rose quiver at his touch. It made Alec smile as he could see her in the light from outside and he wondered if she had never been treated this way.

"Alec, ya don't have to keep ya shorts on," she whispered in his ear as he kissed her top half softly.

"Really? Are you sure?" he wanted to be certain she was giving him her consent. "Rose, I promise I will stop if you say so."

"I want to, ya know," Rose replied shyly.

"Do you want me to take the precautions?" he offered.

"Nah, I do take somethin' for other reasons than that," Rose assured him.

"You can lie on me, if you prefer," he offered further.

"Yeah, maybe at first?" Rose agreed, beginning to feel funny.

She could already feel the excitement running through her, she had never felt anything remotely like it before, she had left Mickey partly because things were getting stale between them. Now she had met Alec, she knew she didn't want to be with anyone else.

As Alec gently let her move around on him, he slowly eased her onto her back, making Rose feel even more giddy. It made him happy she was making soft moaning noises as she responded to him but he dare not go too far, it being their first time together.

He felt her shudder as he began to move away, Rose was trying to recover and calm herself. She didn't want to show herself up but it was out of her control.

"Rose? Are you okay?" Alec then wondered as she just lay there as he moved onto his side. "Was it okay?"

"Alec, it was more than okay," Rose replied, putting her hand on his shoulder to move towards him.

He put his arm around her waist to steady her.

"I was afraid I wasn't okay," she then admitted.

"Rose, you did everything right," he assured her.

"Alec, I don't want to be with anyone else, not now," she told him. "Are we now a couple? I mean can I say you're my boyfriend?"

"We still have to be careful, for now," he replied, going to kiss her neck. "We can tell your mother tomorrow though maybe not that we just had sex for the first time eh?" he then laughed.

Rose let out a laugh, telling her mother Alec was her boyfriend was enough for now.

"Where's my underwear?" Rose suddenly asked him, feeling she should run to the bathroom before she did embarrass herself.

"Ah, somewhere down the bottom of the bed?" Alec suggested. "Had enough for tonight?"

"Nah but I have to go to the bathroom," Rose replied. "Pass me the t-shirt then," she added, thinking she'd have to make do with that.

He passed it to her and retrieved his own shorts from the headboard.

"You could have worn my t-shirt," he then offered as she went off in a hurry.

He had to smile to himself, she had most certainly not had a sexual encounter quite like that before if she didn't know what was happening to her was a natural reaction to what had just taken place. Should he tell her? It wouldn't have been fair to assume she would have gone further without him asking her first.

By her reaction, she seemed to have enjoyed the feelings he had just given her and her him. Now, he really felt wanted again. Rose was trying to recover in the bathroom, wondering what it would have been like had Alec not stopped when he did.

Maybe they should work their way up to that, she decided, knowing he was waiting for her going back. She had to smile when he was sat up in bed and was offering to give her underwear back. She shook her head and laughed and he put them back on the pillow.

"Did you mean what you said Rose?" he wanted to be certain. "The part when you said you did not want to be with anyone else?"

"Yeah, I meant it Alec. Why would I now?" she replied, getting comfortable on him.

She smiled when he put his other arm around her as she put her hand on his chest.

"You mean a great deal to me," he admitted. "Rose, please don't run away if things go wrong on Monday."

"Alec, it's gonna be really tough," Rose reminded him.

"I know Rose but just remember, I care about you, a lot."

"I know ya do Alec and I care a lot about you as well," she replied. "Are you gonna tell my mum about us or should I?" she then teased him.

"I suppose it should be me," he admitted, wondering if she was joking.

She reached up to kiss him, Alec making out a smile on her face. He was up first the next morning, after managing to move Rose, who was sprawled out and he woke her up by bringing her some tea.

"Rose, breakfast is almost ready," he said as he tried to wake her.

She didn't stir so he tried running his finger up and down her arm. She tried to waft him away but he persisted, Alec wondering if he should try the same with her leg. That made her jump as she opened her eyes.

"Good morning Rose," he smiled at her.

"Hi Alec, come back here," she waggled her finger at him.

"Then let me delay breakfast?" he suggested, keen to have a repeat of the night before.

He was back in a few minutes, glad he'd not put the bread in the toaster yet. Now, he could see her in the daylight, he thought she was even more lovely. Eventually, they had a quick breakfast before setting off to where Rose lived with her mother.

"How do you think she will react?" Alec was getting worried at them telling Jackie they were now a couple as they got nearer.

Jackie though wasn't that surprised when Rose had failed to go home the night before.

"Well I'm glad ya admitting it," Jackie told Alec, Rose remaining with her arm in his. "Ya'd better look after her."

"I will Jackie, I promise," Alec told her. "Once the court case is over, we won't have to keep it quiet."

Lunch went well, then after offering to clear up, Rose and Alec went off after Rose threw a few things in an overnight bag. Alec said she should return home the following morning to get changed for the court.

"Will it be okay for us to arrive together at the court?" Rose was worried.

"I will say I was escorting you," Alec replied. "Try not to worry eh?"

They were sat in a pub garden by the river, Rose getting a large fruit cocktail that Alec thought had more than enough pieces of fruit on top.

"Need a spoon for that?" he teased her as she picked out a slice of apple.

"Nope, I'm fine, thanks," Rose replied.

He wished she wouldn't make eating a slice of apple a work of art. She was going to take some keeping up with, now she was officially his girlfriend. He would have made her his girlfriend even if nothing had happened last night. He still hoped staying out of the spotlight was going to pay off in the morning.

Chapter 13

Alec was slightly disappointed Rose said she should stay home that night but knew it was maybe for the best. He stayed until late then got up to leave, Jackie having retreated to her room as they didn't want to watch the same TV programmes.

"It's for the best," Alec tried to assure Rose as they kissed goodnight, though it had been Rose's idea. "I will take you to the court tomorrow."

"Yeah, I don't think I'll sleep tonight," Rose agreed. "Last night was really special Alec."

"You had no trouble sleeping on me last night," Alec smiled.

Rose blushed. "What can I say?" she teased him, going to straighten his tie.

He had only recently begun to leave his tie like that. It seemed Rose liked to adjust it when she wasn't trying to unbutton his shirt.

"I had best go," Alec made her snap out of it. "Try to get some sleep eh?"

Rose nodded as she let go of him. They got to the door, Rose trying to delay him by one more kiss.

"When this is over, there will be no need for us to hide," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah, can't wait then," Rose agreed. "See ya in the morning."

Once Alec had left and her mother heard the door closing, she went to join Rose in the kitchen.

"Do ya want me to go with ya tomorrow?" Jackie offered. "I can cancel my appointments."

"No Mum, don't do that," Rose insisted.

"Are ya afraid ya'll mess up?" Jackie asked, filling the kettle with water.

"I don't want to let Alec down but I don't want to let Pippa down either. I wish I could talk about it Mum."

"Pippa always seemed to be happy," Jackie recalled. "Poor kid. She must've been scared of something if ya ask me."

Rose gave in and went to bed to try to sleep, sending Alec a message and getting one back that he wished she was with him. He had thought of calling her but decided it was best he didn't. If things went badly in court, last night could have been the first and last time they had been together.

He lay with his hands under his head, going back not that long ago when Rose had asked if he remembered her from when she used to do Tess's hair. Rose being there in the house where he used to live should have given him a clue at the time what Tess was up to.

Now, he wished he'd taken more notice of Rose's visits. They were both up early the next morning, Jackie fussing over Rose.

"Just answer the questions," Jackie advised her.

"I know that Mum," Rose laughed nervously.

Before Rose knew it, Alec was ringing the doorbell, having let himself in downstairs when Rose had text the code. Rose wasn't making a move so Jackie got up from the kitchen table.

"Come in then," Jackie greeted him. "Want a cup of tea?"

Alec thought he'd best agree so as not to offend her.

"That would be good, thank you," he told her. "How's Rose?"

"Nervous, what do ya think?" Jackie laughed as he followed her into the kitchen.

"Alec," Rose greeted him as she got up and went to him.

She let him put his arms around her, ignoring looks from her mother.

"Okay?" he asked her as he kissed her cheek and indicated for her to sit down.

"If you two wanna talk, I'll leave," Jackie suggested.

"No, it's fine," Alec assured her. "We should not discuss what will take place today, Rose knows what she is up against."

"Yeah, I know," Rose agreed. "Nothing's gonna change my mind about telling what went on with Pippa. I owe her that much. I just wish ya could find Lisa, she could hold all the answers."

"I know, she would change everything. Rose, the suspect's wife may still turn up today, if she has changed her mind," Alec told her, not wanting to get her hopes up by too much. "We should set off in plenty of time, to find somewhere to park and for the prosecution to talk to you. Remember, you are there as their witness, don't let the defence put you off."

Rose was hoping the defence wouldn't bother, there was no way she was changing anything about what she saw or heard at the Gillespie house before Pippa was killed.

"I still can't forget when I heard what happened to Pippa," Rose admitted. "To be one of the few people who had seen her the day before."

Alec put his hand on her shoulder. They sat silently, drinking their tea then Alec suggested they made a move. Twenty minutes later, Rose was sat next to him, people bustling around going into different courtrooms and not even daring to hold his hand.

"We have to wait here until you are called," Alec whispered to her as the prosecution came towards them.

"Miss Tyler?" Rose was asked as she jumped up at their approach. "I'm Jocelyn Knight, please sit."

Alec moved over to let the woman sit to talk to Rose.

"You have nothing to worry about in there," Ms Knight assured her, nodding to the door they were facing. "It shouldn't be long before you're called."

"Can DI Hardy come in with me?" Rose asked nervously.

"Yes, he's already given evidence but try not to make it look like you know each other," Rose was advised.

Alec knew Ms Knight was already onto them, so they had to be extra careful once inside.

"Just answer my questions and recall your conversations with Pippa, that it made you worried enough to come forward and testify on her behalf, which is what I will tell the court. Don't let the defence twist your words," Ms Knight warned Rose.

Rose was now worrying even more what she'd got herself into. The barrister went off after nodding to Alec, who moved a bit closer to Rose but not by too much. Rose just wanted him to squeeze her hand in assurance but knew he daren't.

"You will be fine," Alec assured her as people went inside the courtroom when parties interested in the case were called.

"Should you go in now?" Rose wondered as she looked around the almost empty hallway.

"No, my chief just went inside though I am surprised Tess is not here," Alec half smiled.

"Couldn't she face me?" Rose tried to joke. "Is she that bothered by me?"

"Somewhat. She may turn up at some point if things are not over by lunchtime. You may have to wait, depending what else is brought up before what you heard," Alec warned her.

Rose was somewhat relieved she didn't have to go inside and listen to the arguments.

"I take it that Claire hasn't gone in then?" Rose asked him.

"No and be careful not to use her name when you are questioned about Pippa's neighbours. Did Cate ever mention her?" Alec wanted to know.

"Yeah, once or twice, well Pippa did as well I think. I won't mention it then," Rose replied.

"Just repeat what Pippa told you, you will be fine," Alec assured her.

Rose just hoped he was right as she waited. Over an hour went by before the doors opened and the court usher came out and called Rose inside. Alec got up and indicated for Rose to go first.

"Are you accompanying the witness?" Alec was asked as Rose went ahead, another usher waiting to escort her to the witness box.

"Yes," Alec replied confidently, wanting to follow Rose but she was being led off.

"Take a seat," the usher suggested, indicating to the back seating where everyone was already squashed up.

Then his chief, who was seated near the witness box waved him over, the seat next to him vacant. Alec went over and joined the man.

"I saw you waiting with your witness Alec," the chief told him. "Be careful."

"I am being careful," Alec objected as Rose was being sworn in as a witness.

The court was hushed and everyone focused on poor Rose. The judge was peering over his rimmed glasses.

"Your witness, Ms Knight," the judge prompted Jocelyn.

"My Lord," Jocelyn bowed as she got up. "Miss Tyler, you say you met Pippa Gillespie on several occasions. What made you worried enough to come forward after she died?"

Rose was trying not to look to see where Alec was, she had to do this on her own. As she tried to find her voice, Alec was covering his face, hoping she wouldn't refuse to speak up now.

"Answer the question Miss Tyler," Rose was reminded.

She couldn't let Pippa or Alec down now, Rose thought as she remained standing. She began by saying how she met Pippa at her house and what Cate had warned the girl about going next door. Of course the defence had to object.

"Your Honour, by saying going next door, the girl's mother could have meant either side, not only where my client lived."

Ms Knight got up again, a slight grin on her face as the judge peered down at them.

"Your Honour, the defence cannot substantiate that claim, if they had done research, they would have found the house Pippa lived in and the defendant's house were semi-detached. There was no other side."

"Quite, Ms Knight," the judge had to agree as the usher handed him a sketch of the two houses. "Please stick to the facts," he told the defence.

Rose tried not to smile and say that told them. She was told to continue.

"Pippa's mother mentioned someone called Claire lived next door and that she was also a hairdresser," Rose recalled. "Pippa was outside as I was leaving once, she seemed upset and I asked what was wrong. She said her mother didn't like her going next door and she didn't know why."

"Your Honour, does that not prove the girl was warned to stay away from the neighbour's house?" Ms Knight addressed the judge then turned towards the jury. "Miss Tyler, did you hear anything further of the warning?" she asked Rose.

"Yeah, the day before Cate Gillespie was going to a wedding. Lisa, Pippa's cousin was there when I arrived and mentioned Pippa's mother didn't trust those next door," Rose replied. "Then Pippa wanted to go out on her bike and they were both told not to go there."

"Thank you Miss Tyler. No further questions at this time, Your Honour," Ms knight seemed pleased at getting her point across.

The defence wasted no time getting up and asking Rose the dreaded question.

"Miss Tyler, you only mentioned one neighbour," Rose was reminded.

"I wasn't asked about anyone else," Rose replied. "Pippa said her mother didn't like her going next door, especially when someone called Lee was there."

The defence tried not to look embarrassed. Rose thought well, she did ask. The defence recovered however, catching Rose out.

"Miss Tyler, did you ever meet any of the neighbours?"

Rose was about to ask 'What?' but thought better of it.

"Well no, I always went to do Cate Gillespie's hair late afternoon," Rose began to explain.

"So, you never knew why Pippa was warned never to go to the neighbour's house then?" Rose was then asked. "Was there any indication that it was a warning and not just a girl being told not to bother those living next door?"

Rose tried to look at Alec, who was trying not to listen to the murmurings around the courtroom and putting his hands over his face again.

"Answer the question Miss Tyler," the judge told her again.

"Sorry, Your Honour," Rose replied quietly. "It sounded like a warning."

"It only sounded like a warning?" the defence repeated Rose's words.

"Well Pippa was upset about it," Rose reminded the court.

"She seemed upset to you?" the defence almost laughed, looking around to see the reaction of everyone present. "Did it not occur to you it was just a child's tantrum that she couldn't get her own way?"

"No, it didn't," Rose replied bravely.

"Miss Tyler, be careful," the judge warned her.

Rose thought he should be telling that to the defence, not her. She had looked around enough to see that Cate wasn't present, thankfully.

"Miss Tyler, I put it to you that all you heard was a mother trying to spare the neighbours from being pestered by a young girl all the time. It has been mentioned that the girl was allowed next door by invitation at weekends with her parents. Did you hear Pippa's mother telling her to stay in?"

"Well no," Rose had to admit.

The defence was looking too pleased with herself, Alec was thinking.

"Your honour, if it pleases the court, I find Miss Tyler's testimony nothing more than speculation that the girl was badly done to and that Pippa was just putting on an act in front of her in order to gain sympathy."

There were more murmurings around the courtroom. Then the prosecution stood up and objected, the judge banging the gavel to regain order.

"I must object, Your Honour. The witness is merely stating what she heard the times she visited the Gillespie house in the course of her job as a hairdresser. She was worried for the girl but was not able to say anything for fear of losing a client and had to assume it was for the girl's welfare," Ms Knight declared. "Miss Tyler had no reason to suspect the girl was in any kind of danger at the time."

"So noted, Ms Knight," the judge agreed as he scribbled something on the large pad in front of him. "Is that so, Miss Tyler?" he turned to ask Rose, looking over his specs.

"I was worried about Pippa, Your Honour," Rose admitted. "I was one of the few people to see her the day before she was killed. I was upset when I heard, I felt I had to say something to the police."

"Quite," the judge mumbled. "You may step down if there are no more questions."

Rose got down from the witness box but headed straight for the door, the usher getting up to open it for her. Alec was well and truly stuck, hoping Rose was only going to the drinks machine and would wait for him. Rose was looking for change to get some coffee, not having thought about it when she'd set off earlier.

"Order," the judge shouted above the growing noise.

"What do you think Alec?" the chief was now asking him.

"I did warn her what it would be like," Alec managed to reply.

"I'm sure you did," the chief replied before the judge began to speak again.

"Ms Knight, do you wish to call anyone else?" he wanted to know.

"No, Your Honour, that concludes the case for the prosecution," Jocelyn sounded disappointed Alec thought.

He was sure more questions should have been asked but it seemed no-one was interested in what Rose had to tell.

"Very well," the judge spoke again. "You may begin your closing speech," he told her.

While that was going on, Rose was debating if she should leave but Alec would be worried about her. She didn't feel
like going back inside, to have everyone staring at her. Why had she got caught up in all this?

Jocelyn Knight was finishing her speech.

"One thing you can be sure of," she was addressing the jury. "Pippa Gillespie had the misfortune to be tempted to go to the neighbours house that Saturday night, with or without her cousin and her mother's permission. Remember, ladies and gentlemen of the jury where the poor girl was found, in the river. You have heard all the evidence against the man standing before you who is accused of killing her so if you believe that is true, then you should find him guilty."

Alec was hoping that would be enough to find the smug looking Lee Ashworth sitting facing the judge guilty. The court was dismissed for lunch so Alec scrambled past those taking their time going out and spotted Rose sitting waiting.

"Rose, are you okay?" he asked her, wanting to hug her.

Rose shrugged her shoulders.

"I suppose so. What happened when I left?"

"Just the closing speech for the prosecution. It will be the turn of the defence when the court returns from lunch. Come and get something to eat," Alec suggested.

They found a coffee shop nearby and Rose picked at the sandwich Alec had bought her.

"Rose, there is no point in worrying," he reminded her. "You did your best in there."

"Did I?" Rose wondered. "I wish I'd done more for Pippa. Why didn't I say anything?"

"To who? Rose, there was nothing you could have done. Yes, you were worried but interfering could have meant Cate no longer required your services and you may not have seen Pippa on that day," he reminded her.

He looked up when the door opened and saw the chief looking around then stand by the table.

"Join us?" Alec offered.

"No, you two carry on. You did quite well in there Miss Tyler, as it was your first time in court," he told her.

"I was terrified," Rose admitted. "I hope I never have to do it again. I hope it did some good."

"We'll soon find out," the chief assured her.

That was what Alec was dreading. They finished and while Rose went to the ladies room, Alec joined the chief, who was also about to leave.

"Rose feels like she didn't do enough," Alec admitted.

"Let's hope it was enough Alec," the chief replied as Rose emerged and was looking for Alec.

They got back with a few minutes to spare, passing those who were standing around as Alec spotted two seats across the other side. The courtroom seemed fuller than it had been earlier.

"Why are there more people than earlier?" Rose wanted to know.

"There is always more interest when a verdict is imminent," Alec explained. "I don't expect it will take the jury long to decide, hopefully with the right decision."

The court resumed, everyone listening to the defence.

"And furthermore, my client denies seeing the girl on the night in question and certainly did not put the girl in his car to dispose of her, despite the police allegedly finding the girl's pendant, which they cannot prove since the evidence has not been produced."

That was it, it was all over, Alec knew as Rose reached for his hand. He now didn't care if anyone saw them or not as the jury were told to begin their deliberations after the court erupted again. He had been hoping all this time that the pendant wouldn't be mentioned but they'd not got away with it at the end.

The defence had even speculated that if the police had found a pendant in the defendant's car, there was no proof it had even belonged to Pippa. Rose remained where she was as everyone including Alec got up.

"Rose? What's wrong?" he wanted to know as people passed them.

"I saw Pippa's pendant, on the bedroom floor when I went to use the bathroom. I just realised. It's too late now," she admitted.

"Don't worry eh?" Alec encouraged her, thinking the damage had already been done by Tess, who if she'd not been fooling around would have delivered the pendant to the crime lab and it would have proved it was Pippa's.

Chapter 14

The courtroom was cleared, people were gathering outside after refraining from smoking inside and Alec had gone to the drinks machine again, Rose having found room to sit down.

"Rose, what you said in there," Alec lowered his voice. "If new compelling evidence is produced, there may be a chance we can re-open the case."

"It doesn't prove anything other than it was Pippa's," Rose replied sadly.

"If we could find it again, her mother could identify it again and Pippa had it on that morning. That would prove he was lying about it," Alec told her, not mentioning Lee Ashworth. "I thought we would get away with not producing it," he then smiled as someone next to them moved away.

"Yeah, that was a bit sneaky, leaving it until last," Rose joked, finishing her coffee.

"That is a tactic the defence uses often," Alec recalled.

He let go of her hand as the chief approached them.

"No point in hiding now Alec," the chief smiled. "There's nothing we can do now but wait to see which way it goes. Don't feel bad about it Miss Tyler, you did your best in there."

"Thanks. I feel like I let ya down."

"You did no such thing," the chief insisted.

"I already told her that," Alec agreed, taking Rose's hand again.

"So, we just wait around then?" Rose looked around.

No-one was taking any notice as they sat together, the chief wandering off and leaving them alone.

Two hours later, they were back in court again, waiting for the judge to call the jury back in.

"Have you reached a verdict?" the court clerk asked the appointed spokesperson.

Rose squeezed Alec's hand tightly, not wanting to hear the result.

"We, the jury find the defendant, Lee Ashworth not guilty of killing Pippa Gillespie."

The court erupted as the judge tried to restore order after the same man was asked if that was the verdict of them all.

"Lee Ashworth," the judge addressed the accused. "You have been found not guilty, you are free to leave the court."

"If his wife had just given evidence," Alec was furious.

"She made her choice Alec," the chief reminded him. "Who knows, she may change her mind one day."

Rose suddenly let go of Alec's hand and ran towards the door. Alec was up like a shot, trying to catch up with her but was hindered by everyone else leaving plus the courtroom next door was just emptying so it was difficult. He could just about see her going outside but by the time he got out, she was being driven off in a taxi.

He knew she would be going home so he went to retrieve his car, getting caught as everyone else was trying to get out. He banged his fists on the car steering wheel, wondering if Rose would answer her phone if he tried to call her. There was still a queue to get out so using the car's built-in hands-free kit, he pressed Rose's number after squinting at the screen.

He thought about when Rose had once laughed at him squinting at his phone as he let it ring but she wasn't picking up. Rose could hear her phone in her bag but she knew it would be Alec, wondering what had made her rush out. It had all been for nothing as she heard that the man who had almost certainly killed the young girl she had sort of befriended was to walk free.

How did he get to do that, she had asked herself as she told the taxi driver where she was going.

"Everything okay Miss?" he asked Rose.

"What? Oh, yeah, just in a bit of a rush, that's all," Rose bluffed.

The driver could see she didn't want to talk so when she arrived outside, she was thankful she had some cash on her and she was soon in the apartment. She knew it was likely Alec would follow her but what could she say to him? She got the nerve up to send him a message – 'Please don't call me or come round. Rose.'

Alec saw he had a message and was almost where she lived. He pulled into the driveway just as Jackie was getting out of a cab.

"What are you doing here?" Jackie asked him as he parked in a visitors spot. "Where's Rose?"

"Jackie. Have you heard from her? She ran out of the court before I could stop her," he explained as Jackie put the code in the door.

"What did she do that for?" Jackie wanted to know as she assumed Alec was going to follow her. "Have you two fallen out?" she asked as she pressed for the lift.

"What? No, not as far as I know," he replied as he got in the lift and remembered he had an unread message.

He was surprised when he read it.

"Is that from Rose?" he was asked as the lift stopped.

He followed Jackie out then stood by the lift doors.

"She doesn't want me to call her or see her," he revealed sadly.

"She never!" Jackie couldn't believe it since Rose seemed very keen on the detective despite him being in charge of the case she was giving evidence in. "Why did she say that? Let me talk to her, she'll come round. So, did it go badly?" she asked as she got her key out.

"You could say that," Alec replied, following her and not taking any notice they were at the apartment door. "He walked free Jackie, despite our best efforts."

"Well if ya ask me, he should've been locked up for a long time, that poor kid," Jackie stopped as she put the key in the lock. "So Rose speakin' up did no good then?"

"No, I'm afraid not," Alec told her. "Can you speak to Rose for me? Ask her if I can talk to her?"

"Well ya'd best come in then, I don't want the neighbours being nosy," Jackie laughed as the door opened. "Rose, I'm home and Alec's here," she shouted as Alec closed the door behind him.

She indicated for Alec to go in the kitchen while she knocked on Rose's bedroom door.

"Rose, are ya coming out?" Jackie called out again.

Rose opened her room door slightly.

"What did ya let Alec in for Mum?"

"Speak to him Rose, don't be silly," her mother told her. "What's he supposed to have done then?"

"Nothing. It was me Mum, I let him down and the killer walked free," Rose admitted.

"Don't say that sweetheart," Jackie told her.

"Well it's true Mum," Rose admitted. "I didn't do any good."

"Well what's that got to do with Alec?" her mother was still puzzled. "Talk to him while he's here will ya?"

"I can't Mum, tell him I'm sorry," Rose replied, trying to close the door.

Jackie gave in and went back to Alec.

"It's no good, she won't talk to ya," Jackie told him as he got up. "Give her time Alec, she'll come round," she encouraged him.

"Tell her she didn't let me down, please Jackie," Alec replied, risking still calling her by her first name.

He thought no doubt she would correct him if she thought he was out of place.

"I'll tell her when she comes round," Jackie promised, filling the kettle with water. "Want some tea?"

He thought he'd better not refuse and Rose may come out, even if it was only to see if he had left.

"Thank you. She was out of the courtroom so fast," he told Jackie. "It could have gone either way when the jury went out but the defence tried to trick Rose."

"Well that explains it then," Jackie turned to tell him. "That poor kid though, I can't imagine what Cate's going through. When I used to do her hair, Pippa would come home from school and was always happy."

"Did Rose tell you that she was one of the last people to see Pippa, before she was killed?" Alec asked.

"Oh, she might have done," Jackie tried to remember. "No wonder she's so upset then?"

"I tried to convince Rose that it was important that she spoke up, that Pippa was worried about something," Alec admitted. "Did Cate ever tell Pippa not to go to the neighbour's house?"

"Blimey, I can't remember," Jackie laughed as the kettle turned off. "Is that what Rose heard?"

"Yes, a few times. Cate was warning both Pippa and Lisa, the day before Pippa was killed. That was why I was so sure it was the neighbour who was responsible. It sounded like Cate didn't trust them."

"Can't say I met them," Jackie recalled, putting a mug of tea in front of Alec. "It was funny how Lisa disappeared."

"We are still investigating," Alec told her. "I know it's been hard on Rose."

"Yeah but ya helped her Alec, I don't get how she run off on ya," Jackie replied.

Since Rose was still refusing to come out of her room, Alec had to give in and leave, Jackie promising she would talk to her daughter again when he'd gone. She knocked on Rose's door again, a mug of hot tea in her other hand.

"Rose, Alec's gone," Jackie called out. "Don't know why ya were bothering to hide from him," she added as the door opened slightly.

"I can't face him Mum. All the time sat waiting for the verdict, I got this awful feeling that man was gonna get off," Rose admitted.

"Ya should've told Alec then," Jackie replied. "Are ya gonna have somethin' to eat?"

Rose didn't feel like eating but she was hungry so she went to help prepare something.

"Ya know Alec cares about ya," Jackie reminded her. "He won't think any less of ya."

"I don't know Mum? He must be mad over that man walkin' free," Rose told her.

"Yeah, maybe Rose but he won't be mad at you," her mother tried to convince her.

Alec went home, disappointed not because Rose thought she had let him down, she hadn't but disappointed at the fact twelve jurors had been swayed into thinking Ashworth was innocent just because there was no physical evidence to tie him to Pippa's death.

Now he thought about it, even if the pendant had been entered into evidence, no doubt they would have been talked into believing that the item could have been left in the car at any time. That was now up for debate but Rose was now more important to him.

He'd give her a few days to come round then try calling her again, he wasn't prepared to just let her go, he had to convince her she could never let him down. That was going to be easier said than done as he waited until Friday morning.

He'd tried calling her on Wednesday evening but got no answer and he'd not wanted to bother Jackie again. So getting to work, he decided he was going to call for her that night and see if she would talk to him. If not, he was going to tell her he would wait for her.

Rose hadn't made any appointments and Jackie was getting worried the day after the court hearing when Rose wasn't getting ready to leave so she confronted her the following morning.

"I'm gonna give up mobile hairdressing Mum," Rose informed her at breakfast. "I've been thinkin' about it since Pippa. I can't face makin' friends with someone else's kid."

"I understand, really Rose," Jackie told her. "You do what ya think's best. What do ya think about going back to London though? Forget about what happened here?"

"How are we gonna do that?" Rose wanted to know.

"I can call and see who can put us up while we find somewhere," Jackie suggested.

"I don't know Mum? I'll have to get another job and we'll have to save up," Rose replied.

"Well, we'll do that then," Jackie agreed. "What about Alec though? I was only thinkin' about me goin' back to be honest but if ya wanna come as well?"

"I can't let ya go back on ya own," Rose was surprised.

"Well I thought ya'd maybe wanna stay with him?" Jackie admitted.

"Well it's too late now Mum," Rose replied sadly. "I've been ignoring him when he called earlier."

"What ya do that for?" her mother wanted to know. "Let me talk to him next time."

"Don't Mum, it's too late now," Rose urged her.

Alec waited but when Rose didn't answer her phone or she had called him, he left work early and drove to her apartment. He was greeted by Jackie when he'd let himself in downstairs.

"She's not here Alec," he was told as Jackie opened the door.

"I thought her car was down in the driveway?" Alec replied.

"She got another job, she started yesterday," Jackie admitted.

"What? Why did she do that?" he asked.

"Ya need to ask her that yaself," Jackie told him as she kept him at the door. "I'll try and get her to call ya when she gets back."

"Jackie, I really need to see her," Alec admitted. "Please ask her to call me. I don't understand how she is blaming herself for what happened. Do you know why she gave up her mobile job?"

"Can ya blame her?" Jackie asked him. "She knew that poor kid and she blames herself for not doing anything about it before Pippa was killed."

Alec already knew that, the guilt must have been building up and Lee Ashworth walking free had finally broken her. Now, he needed to see her more than ever. She didn't have to go through it on her own.

"Can you tell Rose not to blame herself?" Alec then asked.

"I'll try," Jackie promised. "I can't tell ya where she's workin' but it's in town, near the supermarket. Don't go telling her I let on."

"Thanks Jackie, I may just catch her if I leave now. Is there a bus stop nearby?"

"She may have left by now, why don't ya wait around the corner for her?" Jackie suggested, hoping Rose would see some sense and that Alec cared for her.

"I will do that then," Alec agreed. "I will leave my car here, she may not want to speak to me."

"I think she will, she's had enough time to think about it," Jackie laughed.

"I hope you're right," Alec replied.

Rose was just leaving her new job. She'd got on fairly well, given that she'd not worked in a salon before. During her break, the owner had called her into what passed as the office.

"How are you getting on Rose?" Roxanne had asked her. "We don't stand on formality, everyone knows who's the boss around here," the woman laughed. "Any problems, you come and see me or Barbara if I'm not here but you seem to be picking up things?"

"Yeah, it's just gettin' used to things," Rose agreed. "Thanks for takin' me on at short notice."

"Well, you've got the qualifications and I'd only just advertised the job," Roxanne laughed. "I'm a bit curious why you left your mobile business though?"

"Personal reasons mainly," Rose admitted. "I got myself involved with something and I don't want a repeat. It was my mum who started it off and we were doin' well."

"Well you might find a few things different here but you have your own chair and bookings are spread evenly unless a client asks for someone. You seem to have made a good impression so far."

"Thanks. Best get back to work then?" Rose had smiled.

So now, she was heading to get the bus home but thought she may risk bringing the car as Roxanne said she parked her car all day with no problems. She would have to see how much difference there was paying bus fare or running the car. She didn't really need her own transport any more, she couldn't go back to visiting clients and seeing young kids there, it would be too much.

She was about to get off the bus and saw someone waiting nearby and she realised it was Alec. Her heart started to pound as the bus came to a stop.

"Hello Rose," Alec greeted her as he stepped forward.

Rose just stood, not knowing what to say as the bus went off.

"What are ya doin' here Alec? Did my mum tell ya what time I got home?" Rose wanted to know.

"Yes but at my insistence. Don't blame her Rose," he told her. "I wanted to talk to you, do you want to go inside or sit in my car?"

"I'd rather go inside Alec," Rose insisted. "What is there to talk about? I let ya down."

Alec stopped. She still thought she was to blame.

"Please Rose, you are in no way to blame," he tried to tell her.

They carried on around the corner and Rose let them in the building.

"Your mother said you had quit your job. I think I know why," he told her as the lift doors opened.

"I couldn't face going to another house where there were kids," Rose admitted. "Poor Pippa wanted to go to the neighbours' house all the time and look how it ended."

As they got out of the lift, Alec was determined he was going to make her feel better about it.

"It was down to Cate," he reminded her. "Pippa and Lisa did not heed her warning, they saw no danger and Lisa probably had a crush on Lee Ashworth. Rose, I can't go into details, with Lisa still being missing but trust me, he played a big part in luring the girls into the house."

Rose didn't want to be reminded of Cate's warnings to the two girls.

"You know he killed Pippa," Rose told him. "You just couldn't prove it."

"Yes, I know it was him and his wife would have helped prove it. Rose, she let me down, not you. Please don't shut me out, you know how I feel about you."

"I thought it was me who let ya down? In the courtroom, it was all too much, seeing him look so smug at gettin' off," Rose told him.

Alec held his arms out and she went towards him. After they kissed for a few minutes, Rose let them into the apartment, where Jackie was waiting for them.

"I hope you two have made up?" she asked with her arms folded.

"I think we have," Alec smiled. "Have we Rose?"

Jackie went to make another drink and left them to talk.

"So are you going to tell me where you work? Only I could do with a haircut," Alec joked.

"I'd be too embarrassed if ya walked in and asked for me," Rose blushed.

"I'm sure you'll get over it love," he laughed.

Jackie made something to eat then Rose took Alec to her room.

"We have a lot to talk about Rose," he reminded her as they kissed. "There may be some trouble now, from Pippa's parents but I don't want to get you involved. If Cate contacts you, refer her to me and hang up."

"Okay, if ya think that's best," Rose agreed. "What kind of trouble Alec?"

"Don't worry about it, I will deal with it love but if things get out of hand, I don't want them seeking you out. I was seriously thinking of going somewhere to forget about it. Rose, I want you to think of going with me?"

"I can't leave mum," Rose told him.

"I did not mean for you to," he assured her.

"Mum was on about goin' back to London," Rose then remembered.

"Will you go with her, or come with me?" he asked her.

Rose got up, not wanting to have to choose.

"She thought I'd want to stay here, with you," she admitted.

"Then stay with me, please Rose?"

A few weeks later, Rose had moved her things into Alec's apartment and Jackie was getting ready to leave. One of her old friends had come down in a van to help her move and she was going to stay with relatives until she got her own place.

Rose and Alec were there on the Saturday morning to see her off.

"When we move somewhere, ya can come and visit," Rose promised.

"Yes Jackie, if things go well, I will get the transfer I put in for. Rose wants to move to the coast, for some reason," Alec smiled.

"Can't think why," Jackie laughed, giving him a hug. "I'll be back for the wedding, don't you worry."

"Wedding?" Rose repeated. "What wedding? Were ya planning on saying something Alec?" she turned to him.

"Well eventually," he recovered from Jackie's hug.

"You think you're so clever, Alec Hardy," Rose laughed. "Well when ya think it's time, you only have to ask. Just one thing though."

"What's that?" he asked as Jackie got in the van.

"You get a transfer to the seaside, promise?"

"I promise love, now wave goodbye to your mother," he suggested. "Where exactly to you want to move to?"

"Well, I was reading about this little seaside town in Dorset," Rose admitted.

"Dorset?" Alec wanted to make sure.

"Yeah, it was in a programme me and mum used to watch."

"Was that actor you like in it?" Alec teased her, now she'd admitted it was someone who slightly resemble himself.

"No, stop it," Rose laughed as she hit his arm playfully.

"You should not have admitted who it was," Alec laughed back.

"Can't have any secrets from you, can I?" Rose replied as she got in the car.

"No love. Now, we should go meet Daisy, since you have the day off."

That was something Rose was going to have to get used to, if Alec was serious about getting married some day but until then, they were happy enough. She was still sad that Lisa hadn't been found and that Pippa had no justice for what happened to her but she trusted that some day, Alec would get it for her and put the guilty man behind bars.

The End!